Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vegetables are Funny

In my first blog post I promised that I'd be funny. I have to admit, the blog has been long on recipes and photos, but definitely short on the funny. And for that, I am sorry.

My brother gave this great magnet for a Christmas present. It proves that vegetables can be funny.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Perfecting Pizza

There is more than one way to do just about anything. Although Aaron has shared favorite pizza dough recipes in the past, we both felt that the end result, although tasty, was missing what our favorite restaurant pizzas attain; chewy, steamy, puffy edges. Aaron is one giant step closer to those delicious ambitions. Making the task of taster that much more enjoyable for me, the wife. Not only did this dough culminate in my favorite pizza crust characteristics, but it also made three 12" pies which is handy for leftovers and accommodates toppings for discerning (and diverging) palettes.

The biggest differences in this recipe from previous postings is that (1) Aaron used an electric mixer to make a starter dough and (2) he let the dough rest for hours. I think both steps improve the end result, increasing elasticity. This recipe also brings us back to the summer, as he used basil pesto that had I made and froze at the end of the summer, to top one of the pies. Other toppings he used; prosciutto & roasted red peppers, and red sauce. You can find the dough recipe here. It is worth the extra rest-time and there is a video that explains it all.

At the end of the summer we had lots of basil growing in our yard; more than we could eat immediately. I harvested it and made a pesto using apricot kernels, rather than pine nuts. I bought the apricot kernels at Trader Joe's out of curiosity. I haven't quite acquired a taste for them. They look like almonds, but are smaller and a little sweet. When I went to make the pesto I realized I had no pine nuts, almonds, etc. and threw these in instead. They made a nice, crunchier-than-normal pesto that was fantastic on this crust with fresh mozerella.

Basil Pesto
Apricot Kernels (we happened to have these)
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
~2 Cloves of garlic

Shred the Parmesan cheese. Rinse and dry basil leaves. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until you achieve the taste/consistency that you like. Use right away or store. To store, keep in fridge with a layer of oil on top to prevent color change, or freeze to have a little summer in the winter.

Red Sauce (Aaron's basic sauce)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp oregano
salt & pepper

Saute garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil. Once soft add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 2 tbsp oregano, the sugar, the remaining olive oil, salt & pepper to taste and simmer for 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guest Blogger's Baked Lemon Pudding

I am 'unemployed guy's' wife. Today I had a lunch meeting that took me to Lynnfield, MA to explore the new home of the Lynnfield Historical Commission, nestled away from the road behind the Lynnfield Common and historic Meeting House. Lynnfield, the great Essex County community and beyond are lucky to have committed individuals thoughtfully caring for and cataloging its assets. My hosts also graciously welcomed me to their homes, historic Massachusetts houses with all the character and charm you would expect, plus! It was an exceptional experience and I am grateful for all they shared about their homes and community. And although I knew we would be enjoying a meal together, I was not anticipating the thoughtfully prepared culinary adventure that was presented.

Lunch began with tea and progressed to a creamy, curried butternut squash soup accompanied by a salad of curly lettuce topped with chicken, citrus fruit slices and pomegranate seeds. Lunch was followed by a tour of our host's house, a former parsonage in Lynnfield Center. The conversation was so lively I didn't manage to get a recipe. The next stop was dessert, but first a tour of the older of the two homes. Here, first period architectural components were prominently preserved, despite centuries of change. At the end of the day, as we were heading for the door, after feeding our minds and bellies, I parted with a recipe (I think she said it came from an old Betty Crocker Cook Book). I got home and made it.

Baked Lemon Pudding
Preheat to 350. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Sift together
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
Beat the whites until stiff. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar, one teaspoon at a time. Set aside. Without washing the beater, beat the yolks until light.
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
Stir into the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. Add the beaten whites and fold gently until no white flecks show. Pour into the baking dish. Set in a pan of hot water 1/2 inch deep. Bake 45 minutes. Chill at least 1 hour. Serve with fruit; raspberries, blueberries, or whipped cream.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Traditions in Food & Family

I take some liberties with my blog when I don't have access to fresh grown/CSA veggies that I had during the growing season. Instead of farm, I will share some family.

Christmas. Not so long ago I celebrated Christmas with my family and new wife. For the first time in many years my family enjoyed Christmas morning all together, my parents, my brother and sister. Although I have known my wife for 12 years, this is the first Christmas morning we woke up to celebrate together.

She brought with her a family food tradition to share with my family and my family shared ours. I was raised in a household rich in Irish and Italian heritage. On Christmas Eve we enjoyed the feast of seven fishes, including; smelt, scallops, calamari, bacalla (salted cod), salmon and more, all prepared by my mom. Christmas day offered the opportunity for a hearty and lovingly prepared breakfast of Irish steel cut oatmeal and dried fruit made by my parents and coffeecake prepared by my wife (a Betty Crocker recipe her family has made for ~20 years).

Irish Oatmeal Recipe
Irish steel cut oats
dried fruit & nuts
honey or maple syrup

Boil water, add oats, simmer for ~30 minutes. Add fruit towards the end. Reheat for late arrivals, add a little water if dry. My dad made oatmeal with fresh sliced bananas which get sweet when they are heated. You can't go wrong, unless you under cook it.

Betty Crocker Candy Cane Coffee Cake
(makes 3, 1 for the table, 2 for gifts or whatever)

For Sour Cream Yeast Dough:
2 cups sour cream
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
6 cups all-purpose flour, about

Option 1 Filling for cake (from original recipe)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped dried apricots
1 1/2 cups finely chopped maraschino cherries
soft butter or margarine

Option 2 Filling for cake (my wife's experimental cinnamon bun version)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 stick melted butter
chopped nuts
1 tbsp cinnamon

Thin Icing:
2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons water

Heat sour cream over low heat just until lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in the warm water. Stir in sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make it easy to handle.Turn dough onto well-floured board. Knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl. Turn once to bring greased side up. Cover. Let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. To test for rising, stick two fingers in dough. If holes remain but top stays smooth, dough is ready.

Make cake:
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Punch down dough. Divide into three equal parts. Roll each part into a rectangle, 15 x 6 inches. Place on greased baking sheet. With scissors, make 2-inch cuts at 1/2-inch intervals on both long sides of the rectangles. Combine apricots and cherries. Spread 1/3 of the fruit mixture down the center of each of the rectangles. Crisscross strips over the filling, pinching strips together in the center. (One bread always looks a little funny, she gives away the 'prettiest one' we ate the funny looking one see photo right). Stretch dough to 22 inches. Curve to form a "cane." Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. While warm, brush with butter and drizzle canes with Thin Icing. If desired, decorate with cherry halves or pieces.

For thin icing: Blend 2 cups powdered sugar with about 2 tablespoons water. If icing is too stiff, add water a drop at a time. If too thin, add more powdered sugar a little at a time.

(Does not contain candy cane or coffee. FYI this is the old version of the recipe, from a duct taped together, falling apart Betty Crocker cookbook - the Betty Crocker website offers a new take on this recipe which we won't try for the sake of nostalgia. Add to this to oatmeal, scrambled eggs and a sausage ring, found in Joy of Cooking, throw in a few presents, and you have a Flanagan/Rankin family Christmas and a full belly.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fresh Gnocchi with Creamy Mushroom Wine Sauce

Tonight I used dehydrated mushrooms that we received as a gift to make a creamy wine sauce served over homemade ricotta gnocchi. It is super easy and very good. Fresh pasta is sure to impress and can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to cook. Gnocchi recipe was found here.


1 Pound Full Fat Ricotta
1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Egg

Boil a big pot of water. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and work the dough on the counter until manageable well combined and not sticky. Don't over work it. Make dough balls and then roll them into snakes and cut them into uniform 1/2" x 1/2" pieces. Boil until they float (2-4 minutes).

Creamy Mushroom Wine Sauce (I made this up)
1 package of dehydrated mushrooms
2 cups white wine
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
olive oil
1 cup cream or half & half
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

Soak mushrooms in wine for 5-8 hours to rehydrate. Heat oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Finely chop shallot, add to skillet, follow with finely chopped garlic. Saute for ~5 minutes. Drain mushrooms, reserve the wine. Add mushrooms to the skillet and saute a bit. Add wine. Reduce a bit. Add cream. Serve over gnocchi, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Wedding Pumpkin Pudding (or pie)

For our wedding we were presented with many thoughtful gifts. One of our favorite gifts were a threesome of lovingly home grown pumpkins from our friends' garden in San Anselmo, CA, who traveled with the pumpkins to Massachusetts. They became beautiful additions to our home and table, which we enjoyed throughout the fall and holidays.

Last weekend during a three day snow, I decided it was time to enjoy the Cinderella pumpkin more fully. I didn't feel like making a crust, but found a simple fresh pumpkin pie recipe on the food network website which I adjusted slightly when I discovered I had more pumpkin than the recipe called for (after roasting and mashing). In addition, I baked the recipe in ramekins in a bath as pudding, sans crust. The result was simple, individual and delicious pumpkin puddings. We saved some seeds hoping to grow them this summer and pass the love to friends.

One roasted pumpkin (2 cups)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat to 400. Halve pumpkin, lay cut-side down in adequate baking dish, include ~1 inch of cooking liquid. I used cider, water is fine. Pierce the skin of the pumpkin with a fork a few times, bake for 30-45 minutes until nice and soft. Remove from the oven. Let cool. Scoop pumpkin flesh into a large mixing bowl and mash/puree to desired consistency (if you leave chunks there will be chunks in the pudding/pie). Add all remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake in ramekins in a water bath (half way up ramekins) on the lower oven rack at 400 until the edges of the filling are set, but the center is still slightly soft, about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool. Serve room temperature or slightly warm. Makes 6-8 servings. Serve warm. I topped mine with vanilla ice cream, whip cream is good too.

Note: If you prefer pie use the 'all-butter pie dough' recipe posted in the Dec. 1, 2009 entry of this blog, also found at Food & Wine here. You will need to roll out the crust and fit to 9 inch pie plate and follow Food & Wine directions: 'Line the pie shell with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the center of the oven until nearly set, about 25 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake until the crust is pale golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.' Then fill with pumpkin mixture and bake using pudding directions above.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pasta y Fagioli

Finding a good pasta y fagiloi recipe has been as difficult as finding a good pizza dough recipe. My quest ended yesterday after I found an Olive Garden knock-off recipe that I tweaked by using ground turkey and chicken stock instead of beef products. The end product was top notch, and I am proud to share.

Pasta y Fagioli

1-1/2 tbs olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 lb ground turkey
5 cups chicken stock
24 oz. canned crushed or pureed tomatoes
3 tsp parsley
3 tsp oregano
splish-splosh of pepper sauce (Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot)
1/2 dry ditalini pasta

Cook the pasta per directions on the box and rinse with cold water. Put aside.

In a large dutch oven, add the EVOO and turn heat to medium. Add the trilogy, (the carrots, celery, and onion) and saute for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the ground turkey and brown. When the turkey is cooked, add the stock, tomatoes, beans, oregano, parsley, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for forty-five minutes stirring occasionally. Then add the pasta, bring back to a boil, and serve. Top with parmesan or romano cheese and serve with some crusty bread.

Beer Recommendation

My wife and I love stouts, and the holiday season delivers one of our favorites. The Santa's Little Helper Imperial Stout is a delicious imperial stout with hints of espresso and chocolate with a slight smoky flavor. It's perfect for an appetizer when you're gathering with friends. Unfortunately it's a seasonal offering, so get it while you can. In Newburyport, it is still available at Leary's Fine Wines and Spirits.