Stalk Up on Spring Rhubarb | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 April 2015 15:12

042315fFellow rhubarb lovers, it’s our season again. Those bright red stalks have started showing up at Farmers’ Markets and grocery produce bins, and that means it’s time for pie!

For those who’ve never tasted rhubarb — and there are a lot of you out there — you’ve been missing one of the real treats of spring.

While technically a vegetable, rhubarb is mainly eaten as a fruit in desserts, usually pie.

The plant makes a beautiful addition to any garden with its huge green, crinkly leaves, although it does take up a lot of room. One caution about those leaves—they’re toxic. That’s why they’re removed before the stalks show up in the market.

Buy rhubarb that is firm, crisp and well-colored (pink or red), avoiding any stalks that are limp or pithy. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate it unwashed as soon as you bring it home.

Use it as soon as possible, washing the stalks at that time and removing any leaf remnants. Young stalks don’t need to be peeled.

A pound of rhubarb yields about three cups sliced. The general guideline for sweetening is 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar per pound, but it is a matter of variety and personal preference.

ELEGANT RHUBARB CUSTARD PIE

Filling:
1-1/2 pounds rhubarb (about 4 cups), cut into 1/4-inch slices
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 9-inch single-crust pastry
Topping:
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar

For the filling, combine rhubarb slices with sugar, flour, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Toss to mix and turn into pie shell. Bake in hot oven at 400°F for 20 minutes.

For the topping, beat eggs slightly in a bowl. Stir in cream, butter and nutmeg to blend. Pour over rhubarb in pie shell and bake another 10 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and bake 10 more minutes or until the top is browned.

Cool before cutting. Yields 6 servings.

RHUBARB CHIFFON PIE

Pastry for 9-inch double-crust pie
3 large stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Put rhubarb chunks in pie shell. Mix sugar, flour and butter, add eggs and orange rind and mix. Pour over rhubarb chunks, top with crust, sealing edges, and bake in preheated 400°F oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until done.

RHUBARB & STRAWBERRY PIE

1 cup sugar
3 cups rhubarb stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and sliced
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of grated orange peel
Unbaked pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix rhubarb and strawberries with the sugar, tapioca, salt, and orange rind. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Turn into a pastry lined pan. Top with the pastry, trim the edge, and crimp the top and bottom edges together. Cut slits in the top for the steam to escape.

Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350°F, and bake an additional 30-40 minutes longer. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or cold. If you do cool to room temperature, the juices will have more time to thicken.

RHUBARB CHEESECAKE

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
3 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb with 1/2 cup of sugar and the flour. Pour into the pie shell. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove, and allow to cool. Lower oven temperature to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of sugar until smooth. Stir in the eggs one at a time until each is blended. Pour this mixture over the rhubarb in the crust.

Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Remove from the oven, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla. Spread over the top of the pie while it is hot. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled before serving. Serves 8.

RHUBARB SAUCE

In a small saucepan, bring 1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil. Add 2-1/4 cups sliced rhubarb; cook and stir for 5-10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat; stir in 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Yields 1-1/4 cups. Serve warm over ice cream.

 

 
RICE – The Long and Short of It | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2015 14:06

041615fRice has been around for a long time. It dates back to at least 7000 B.C., feeding billions of people and becoming the staple for half the world’s population.

Technically a grass, rice is available in three basic styles: long-, medium- or short-grained.

Short-grain rice is high in starch and stickier than other rices and is often used in Asian cooking. Arborio, a prized short-grain rice, is a mainstay in risotto.

Medium-grain rice is slightly sticky. It cooks up tender and plump with a mild flavor and can be used in a variety of dishes.

Long-grain white rice is the most common variety used in America. It has a neutral taste and firm texture, and remains separate and fluffy when cooked. Such long-grain rices as jasmine and basmati are aromatic and are good paired with stir-fry and other Asian and Indian dishes, or used in pilafs.

BASIC RISOTTO

Risotto is a popular Northern Italian method of cooking short-grained arborio rice in a broth to a creamy consistency.

1/4 cup onions, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups arborio rice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water

Sauté onions in olive oil until they are soft. Add the rice, stirring for 2 minutes to coat the rice. Add 1/4 cup of the stock and simmer, stirring. When most of the stock has been absorbed, add 3/4 cup water. Stir until the water is almost gone. Add remaining stock and simmer until it is absorbed. Add water and repeat. Taste. If rice is still hard, add more water or stock and continue to simmer and stir until done. Serves 4.

Enrichments: Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese when cooked. Add white wine in place of water.

MUSHROOM RICE

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup long-grained rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock

Cook mushrooms in butter in large, heavy saucepan until tender and any liquid is absorbed. Add rice, salt and chicken stock and stir. Bring to boil, cover lightly and cook over very low heat until rice is tender and stock is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 4 to 6.

CHINESE RICE WITH VEGETABLES

1 cup uncooked white rice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups any combination of:
• frozen mixed vegetables
• julienned carrots
• chopped green pepper
• broccoli flowerets
Salt and black pepper

Combine rice, water, soy sauce and oil in 2 to 3-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir once or twice. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Add vegetables. Cover; simmer 5 minutes or until rice and vegetables are tender and liquid is absorbed. Season to taste. Serves 6.

SPANISH RICE

1 medium onion, chopped
1 (28-oz) can chopped tomatoes
1 green pepper, finely chopped
6 slices bacon
1 cup water
3/4 cup long grain rice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
5 drops hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder

In a large skillet, cook bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Crumble the bacon and set it  aside. Save 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings and add the  onion and green pepper. Cook until tender but still crispy.

Stir in the can of tomatoes with juice, cold water, long grain rice, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, chili powder, pepper and hot sauce.

Reduce heat to low, cover with a tight fitting lid, simmer 30 minutes until rice is done. Top with bacon. Serves 4.

DIRTY RICE

1/2 pound bacon
1/2 pound ground pork
1 pound ground chicken livers
1 large onion, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
5 cups cooked rice, at room temperature
4 green onions & tops, minced
1/4 cup parsley, minced

In a heavy Dutch oven, saute bacon, pork and livers until very brown. Let the meat stick to the skillet a bit before stirring. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook until they are wilted.

Add chicken broth, bay leaf, thyme, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Add rice and toss the mixture until rice is hot. Stir in green onions and parsley. Adjust seasonings.  Serves 8 to 10.

 

 
Walnuts – Even Healthier Than We Thought | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 09 April 2015 13:21

040915fWhile all nuts and seeds are significant contributors to good health, walnuts appear to be the flagship nuts in the SuperFood category, ranking above some of the more popular nuts like almonds, peanuts, pecans and pistachios.

Rich in high-quality protein, they have double the amount of antioxidants compared to other nuts.

One of the reasons many people shun them is because they are very high in calories. But researchers say that’s because of their high content of “good fats,” in particular those that are mono saturated and polyunsaturated.

While healthiest when eaten raw, walnuts – like other nuts – are tastier when they are toasted.

To toast, heat oven to 350°F. Arrange walnuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently. On the stovetop, cook walnuts in a skillet at medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

SPINACH, WALNUT & APPLE SALAD

2 Golden Delicious apples, cored, cut into large dice 4tablespoons lemon juice
8 cups baby spinach leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Toss apples with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

Place spinach in a large bowl; remove long stems and bruised leaves. Whisk together remaining lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, and ground pepper to taste.

Toss spinach with apples and dressing. Divide between four bowls. Top with cheese and walnuts. Serves 4.

ROASTED VEGETABLES WITH WALNUTS

1/2 red bell pepper, small, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 orange bell pepper, small, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 red onion, medium, cut into 1-inch cubes, separated
4 ounces baby Portabella mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar snap peas
1 zucchini, small, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 yellow summer squash, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh basil, snipped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place bell peppers, onion and mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and salt. Place in a single layer on a large baking sheet, making sure not to crowd vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes. Add snap peas, zucchini, yellow squash and garlic and stir lightly. Top with walnuts and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more or until all vegetables are crisp-tender and walnuts are toasted. Drizzle with balsamic and toss well. Sprinkle with basil. Serves 5.

MUESLI WITH APPLES & WALNUT CRUMBLE

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups  chopped walnuts
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup plump raisins
1 crisp apple, grated
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Honey
Walnut Crumble
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon raw sugar
Splash of water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Toss together the oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds, olive oil, salt, and cinnamon and spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet/tray. Toast until fragrant and slightly golden; 5 minutes. Cool.

While the muesli bakes, make the walnut crumble. Toss together walnuts, sugar and a splash of water in a small pan over medium heat until the sugar caramelizes and glazes the walnuts lightly. Set aside to cool and roughly chop.

Fill four bowls with 1/2 cup muesli each. Garnish with raisins, grated apple, and top with yogurt or kefir. Sprinkle each bowl with walnut crumble. Stir together and eat, with a touch of honey if desired. Serves 4.

(The remaining muesli and crumble can be stored in an airtight container.)

SPICED WALNUTS

1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups walnut halves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large nonstick skillet, heat honey, oil, and 1 tablespoon water over medium heat. Add walnuts; toss to coat.

Sprinkle the sugar, salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne over the nuts. Cook, tossing and stirring until the nuts are well coated and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet to cool completely.

CANDIED WALNUTS

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3/4 cups walnut halves

Combine first 5 ingredients in a saucepan. Cook, stirring often, to 236°F on candy thermometer or until a little of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts. Stir until sugary. Turn at once onto waxed paper and separate nuts.

Makes 1/4 pound of Candied Walnuts.

WALNUT PESTO

3 packed cups fresh basil leaves
3 large cloves garlic
1⁄3 cup lightly toasted walnuts
1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: additional extra virgin olive oil (for storage)

Place the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor or blender and mix well. Add the walnuts and continue to blend until the nuts are finely ground.

Keep the machine running as you drizzle in the olive oil. When you have a smooth paste, transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you are not going to use the pesto right away, place in a container that has a tight-fitting lid. Smooth out the top surface of the pesto and pour on enough olive oil to cover it completely. This creates an airproof seal that helps preserve it well.

Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator.

 

 
Important Religious Holidays Coming Up This Weekend | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 02 April 2015 12:12

040215fFor Jews and Christians, the weekend ahead will be filled with some of the most important religious holidays of the year.

The eight-day Passover holiday begins at sundown on Friday, celebrating the redemption of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

The basic rules for Passover are universal. Nothing that includes any leavening may be served during the eight days, including grains, cereals, bean and legumes. That’s because the faithful identify with the Israelites who fled Egypt in such haste they had no time to let their bread rise.

Christians will observe Good Friday at the end of the week and Easter on Sunday, commemorating the Resurrection of Christ.

Although Easter has no particular ceremonial foods, baked ham has become the traditional fare for Sunday’s dinner.

Easter

Since most hams we buy today are fully cooked, creating a meal around one doesn’t require all the preparation that the annual Thanksgiving turkey does. To be served warm, a fully-cooked ham need only be reheated in a 325°F-oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F.

But there are many ways to “customize” the reheating process with glazes and sauces. Brush glaze on during the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time.

LEMON-DIJON GLAZED HAM & PINEAPPLE

1 cup Dijon mustard
2/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 (6 to 8-pound) spiral-cut fully cooked ham
1 fresh pineapple, cored and sliced into 1/2-inch rings
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives, optional

Blend mustard, lemon juice and brown sugar in small bowl for glaze. Reserve 1/2 cup.

Place ham flat side down in large non-aluminum roasting pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Remove from oven; remove foil and turn ham onto its side.

Place pineapple slices in pan around ham. Generously brush ham and pineapple with glaze. Return to oven and bake 45 minutes longer or until meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of ham reads 140°F, turning pineapple slices and brushing ham and pineapple with additional glaze.

Stir chives into remaining glaze if desired. Serve ham and pineapple with glaze. Serves 12 to 18.

Passover

Matzo is one of the best-known Passover foods. Cakes, cookies and dumpling for Passover are made from either potato starch or matzo meal made from ground matzos or a more finely ground version called cake meal.

The Seder dinner, with its traditional dishes, is held on the first night of Passover and is the principal ceremony of the festival.

POTATO KUGEL GRATIN

Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
6 large peeled russet potatoes
5 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus more
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup unsalted matzo meal
Sea salt for serving

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in upper third.

Combine 4 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

Oil a 2-1/2 quart baking dish and sprinkle bottom with some salt-and-pepper mixture.

Cut potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices vertically in baking dish. Wedge in shallots and sprinkle thyme throughout. Brush with oil and season between potato slices with remaining salt-and-pepper mixture. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet.

Whisk together eggs, broth, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a medium bowl. Add matzo meal and stir to combine. Pour mixture evenly over potatoes, tapping baking sheet on the counter to make sure mixture settles to bottom of baking dish.

Cover with parchment, then with foil, and transfer to oven. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and parchment, rotate baking sheet, and continue baking until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 40 minutes more. Increase heat to broil and broil until golden brown, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully to prevent overbrowning.)

Garnish with thyme and sea salt. Let rest at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes.

Yields 10 servings.

 

 
State of the Onion | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 March 2015 13:55

032615fNothing is simple anymore, not even buying an onion. This spring, depending on the exact time and place you’re shopping, you may have to consult at atlas before picking one.

Will it be from Maui, Hawaii or Vidalia, Georgia? Walla Walla, Washington or Southeast Texas?

In fact – except for the Walla Walla – they are all more or less hybrids of the same onion. Although there certainly are differences, in many cases they are interchangeable in recipes with little discernible variation in taste.

The most common cooking onion is the yellow globe, the workhorse of cookery and good in any heated dish or any other recipe in which subtlety is not an issue. It is usually the lowest-priced and, because it is a storage onion, available year-round.

ONION CASSEROLE

6 cups water
Salt
1/2 cup rice
1/2 stick) butter, plus extra
4 large onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
2/3 cup milk

Bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil over high heat. Slowly stir in rice. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Drain rice and put in bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent, 10 to 12 minutes. Add to rice. Add cheese, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and stir until well combined. Spread rice mixture in 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake at 325°F until lightly golden, about 1 hour. Yields 6 servings.

BEER-BATTERED ONION RINGS

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Cayenne pepper
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup beer
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 cups Vegetable oil, for frying
2 large white onions, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, separated into rings

Combine flour, salt, and a pinch of cayenne in a medium bowl. Whisk in buttermilk, beer, egg, and finely-grated lemon zest, and let stand for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Place a baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Heat oil to 380°F in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.

Dip a few slices of onion in batter, turning to coat. Gently drop slices into oil. Cook, turning once with a wire-mesh skimmer, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Transfer rings to paper towels, season with salt immediately, then transfer onions to the baking sheet to keep warm. Repeat with remaining onions. (Adjust heat as necessary to keep oil at a steady temperature.) Yields 6 servings.

ROASTED ONIONS

4 medium unpeeled yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position; heat to 425°F.

Cut onions in half; toss with oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Place, cut-side down, on a lipped cookie sheet.

Roast until tender and cut surfaces are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings; drizzle sparingly with balsamic vinegar. Serves 4.

CLASSIC ONION PIE

5 cups onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup ham, diced
1 cup low fat Swiss cheese, grated
3 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Saute onions in olive oil until tender and translucent. Add ham and grated cheese. Combine sugar and flour with seasonings, and add to slightly beaten eggs. Add milk to egg mixture.

Put sauteed onion, ham, and cheese in a pie shell; pour milk and egg mixture over onions. Bake in pre-heated oven at 425°F for 35 minutes or until custard is set and golden brown. Serve warm. Yields 6 to 8 servings.

FRENCH ONION SOUP

6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups of beef stock
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
Salt and pepper
8 slices of toasted French bread
1-1/2 cups of grated Swiss, Gruyere and a little grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30-40 minutes (or longer). Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, white wine, bay leaf, and thyme. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.

To serve you can either use individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish. Ladle the soup into the bowls or casserole dish. Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350°F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

GLAZED ONION FRITTATA

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large onions, peeled, quartered, then sliced crosswise about 1/4-inch thick
2 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 eggs, whisked with 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
3 tablespoons butter

Warm the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet, add onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until gold, about 30 minutes.

Add half the vinegar, raise the heat and reduce while stirring. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, a few twists of pepper and ground cloves.

Preheat the broiler.

Add several pinches of salt to the eggs and beat with water. Stir in onions and parsley. Melt half the butter in 10-inch skillet. When it’s sizzling, add the eggs. Cover and cook over low heat until eggs are set, 8 to 10 minutes. Slide the pan under the broiler until eggs are golden. Tip frittata onto serving dish and return the pan to the stove. Add remaining butter and, when it begins to foam, add remaining vinegar. Slide pan back and forth to emulsify the two, then pour it over the eggs. Add a few pinches of choppe parsley and serve. Serves 4.

 

 
Spring for Some Lamb | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 19 March 2015 14:51

031915fAlthough high-quality California lamb is available year-round, sales more than double this time of year as families gather for Easter and Passover feasts.

A culinary bridge across cultures, lamb is a common staple of spring cooking that dates back to ancient times and is rooted in a number of religious traditions.

It is the most popular meat consumed worldwide, but in this country it still ranks below beef, pork and poultry.

Lamb is simple to cook. One way to prepare leg of lamb is by sprinkling the outside with granulated garlic, black pepper, leaf thyme and a little rosemary; another way is with a Dijon mustard sauce. The lamb is baked at about 350°F for 30 minutes to the pound.

Probably the worst thing people do to lamb is overcook it or to smother it in mint jelly.

Lamb should not be cooked past an internal temperature of 150°F. Mint jelly overpowers the taste of the meat. Instead, try serving lamb with  Mint Sauce that’s much lighter than the jelly.

Health-wise, lamb contains very  little marbling, so the fat can easily be trimmed. It has about the same number of calories as beef and it is high in B vitamins, niacin, zinc and iron.

MARINATED LEG OF LAMB

2/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup wine vinegar
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 teaspoon ginger spice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (4- to 5-pound) leg of lamb

In bowl, combine oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper and mix well. Pour over lamb in shallow dish and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, turning lamb occasionally. Drain lamb, reserving marinade, and place meat on rack in shallow roasting pan.

Roast at 325°F for about 2-1/2 hours or until done as desired, basting frequently with marinade. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Add more sugar or vinegar as needed.

LAMB SHANKS WITH LENTILS

1 pound dried lentils, rinsed
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 sprigs thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 bottle red win
4 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400°F. Combine first 7 ingredients in roasting pan or casserole and stir; bring to a boil on top of stove, then nestle lamb shanks among lentils, cover pan and put in oven. Lower heat to 350°F and let cook, undisturbed, for about an hour.

Uncover and stir lentils gently; season with salt and pepper. Recover and cook about an hour more, until lentils are very tender and meat begins to pull away from bone. Don’t worry about overcooking the lentils. When lamb is tender, uncover pan, raise heat to 400°F and cook for another 15 minutes, just to brown top of shanks a bit. Makes 4 servings.

LAMB CHOPS WITH ROSEMARY

4 (1-1/2 inch thick) lamb chops
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons minced parsley
1/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Brown chops in hot oil in large skillet. Turn heat to low and cook to desired doneness, about 7 minutes on each side for medium. Remove to warm platter.

Add rosemary, parsley and wine to skillet, heat to boiling and reduce slightly. Add butter and stir in. Return lamb to pan and coat with sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

LAMB STEW WITH DILL

2 pounds boneless lamb from shoulder or breast, cut into roughly 1-1/2 inch chunks
8 shallot, peeled
12 very small new potatoes, washed
Salt and pepper
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen green peas
8 scallions, trimmed and cut into 2-inch sections
1/2 cup snipped dill leaves (or more, to taste)
Lemon wedges

Put lamb in a broad skillet over high heat; let sear, undisturbed, about 2 minutes, or until underside is nicely browned. Stir and add shallots and potatoes. Cook a couple of minutes longer, and add salt and pepper and a cup of water. Stir, scraping bottom if necessary to loosen any meat bits that are sticking.

Turn heat to low, cover and simmer about 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Uncover and add carrots; stir once, re-cover and let simmer about 15 minutes more, or until lamb and potatoes are tender.

Uncover, add peas and scallions. Raise heat to boil away excess liquid. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve garnished with dill and accompanied by lemon wedges. Makes 4 servings.

LAMB CHOP & MUSHROOM SKILLET

8 lamb chops, about 2-1/2 pounds
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Flour
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
6 green onions, sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup red wine (such as pinot noir)

Sprinkle lamb chops with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Lightly coat chops with flour; place in hot skillet.

Sear until well browned, turning once. Remove to a plate and set aside. Reduce heat to medium.

To the skillet add the mushrooms, green onions, garlic, and butter. Cook the vegetables, stirring, for 4 minutes. Add beef broth and red wine and simmer until reduced by about 1/3.

Add lamb chops, cover skillet, and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until lamb chops are done as desired. Serves 4.

MINT SAUCE FOR ROAST LAMB

1 cup very finely chopped fresh mint leaves, washed, dried
2 tablespoons sugar
4-6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Combine sugar with 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar in a small nonreactive saucepan with 1/4 cup water. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over mint and toss well. Add sugar if necessary.

 

 
A Simple Feast for St. Patrick’s Day | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 March 2015 15:37

031215fSaint Patrick’s Day is next Tuesday and corned beef and cabbage is the traditional feast...in the United States, anyway (many in Ireland will be having turkey).

Often referred to as New England boiled dinner,  corned beef is one of the easiest dishes to prepare. All you have to do is boil away and occasionally check the vegetables for doneness.

Prepare it with potatoes and other root vegetables and serve with a mound of creamy, eye-watering horseradish.

Scotch pudding adds a nice touch for dessert.

TRADITIONAL CORNED BEEF & CABBAGE

3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
10 small red potatoes
5 carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 large head cabbage, cut into small wedges

Rinse corned beef, then place it in large pot or Dutch oven and cover with water. Add the spice packet that came with the corned beef.

Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer approximately 50 minutes per pound or until tender.

Add whole potatoes and carrots, and cook until the vegetables are almost tender. Then, add cabbage and cook for 15 more minutes. Remove meat and let rest 15 minutes.

Place vegetables in a bowl and cover. Add as much broth (cooking liquid reserved in the Dutch oven or large pot) as you want. Slice meat across the grain. Yields 5 servings.

Cook’s Tip: If seasoning packet is not included with corned beef brisket, substitute 1-1/4 teaspoons pickling spice, or just add 15 peppercorns, 8 whole cloves and a bay leaf.

IRISH SODA BREAD

2-1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup buttermilk*
2/3 cup raisins, chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch round layer-cake pan.

In foot-processor bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 3 tablespoons sugar and caraway seeds. Add butter and process until mixture resembles oatmeal. Put into medium-size bowl.

Make a well in center of flour mixture; pour in buttermilk and add raisins. Mix lightly.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead gently a few times. Shape into a 5-inch round loaf and place in prepared pan.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough crosswise into quarters, about one-third of the way through. Brush top surface with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining sugar that has been mixed with the cinnamon. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with butter. Makes 1 loaf.

*If you don’t have buttermilk, put 1 tablespoon plain vinegar in measuring cup and add milk to make 1 cup.

CORN O’BRIEN

2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped
2 cups whole kernel corn, drained
1 tablespoon chopped pimento peppers
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the grease in the skillet.

Stir the onion and bell pepper into the skillet, and cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the corn, pimentos, and reserved bacon. Cook and stir until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before serving. Yields 6 servings.

SCOTCH PUDDING

4 large Pippin or similar apples, peeled, cored and cut into 16 pieces
1 cup regular rolled oats
3/4 cup light-brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups milk
Vanilla ice cream, light cream or favorite whipped topping

Arrange half of apple slices in buttered 10-inch round deep-dish pan.

In bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, walnuts, salt and cinnamon. Sprinkle half of oat mixture over apple slices. Dot top of apples with 2 tablespoons butter.

Arrange another layer of apple slices on top. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture and butter. Pour milk over top as evenly as possible.

Bake, uncovered, at 350°F until edges of pudding are brown and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, light cream or whipped topping. Serves 8.

 

 
Stuck on Peanut Butter | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 05 March 2015 14:41

030515fPeanut butter is a staple in most American homes and for good reason. Besides being tasty, it is an excellent source of protein and healthy fat that comes in natural creamy or chunky forms.

It finds its greatest use in sandwiches where it is usually paired with jam or jelly. But it can be combined with many snacks including apples, celery, carrots, bananas, and many more.

And, of course, there are peanut butter cookies, sauces, cakes, pies, ice cream and hundreds of other desserts.

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 2 large baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter with both sugars for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth and well combined. Beat in peanut butter. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low and beat in flour mixture in 2 batches, until just combined.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheets. Flatten each ball by pressing with tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern. Bake, switching pans halfway through, 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown on bottom and barely colored on top. Cool on pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. Yields about 80 cookies.

CREAM OF PEANUT SOUP

1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1⁄4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups smooth peanut butter
1-3⁄4 cups light cream
Peanuts, chopped, for garnish

Sauté onion and celery in butter until soft. Do not brown. Stir in the flour until well blended. Add chicken broth/stock, stirring constantly and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat. Let cool for 10 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender. Add peanut butter and cream, stirring to blend thoroughly. Return to low heat and heat just until hot. Do not boil.

Serve garnished with chopped peanuts. Yields 10 servings

PEANUT BUTTER PANCAKES

1 cup pancake mix
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
1/3 cup water
Honey Butter Syrup:
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons honey

In a large bowl, combine pancake mix and sugar. In a small bowl, beat egg and peanut butter; add milk and water. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased medium-hot griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes; cook until second side is golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with warm honey-butter. Yields10 pancakes.

HEALTHY PEANUT BUTTER MUFFINS

2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
Cinnamon sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Lightly spray muffin tins with canola oil.

Mix the wet ingredients together, mashed banana, honey, peanut butter, yogurt, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, flax seed, sugar and cinnamon). Add the wet and dry together and stir until just combined.

Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, add the batter into the muffin tin until the cups are 3/4 full, sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar on each muffin, and bake on the middle rack of  the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Yields: 12-16.

CHICKEN WITH PEANUT SAUCE

1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 teaspoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons white wine vinegar
Dash crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh gingerroot
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 cup hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, combine the first five ingredients; set aside. In a large skillet, saute the chicken, garlic and ginger in oil for 5 minutes. Add peanut butter mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until chicken juices run clear, stirring frequently.

Serve with rice; sprinkle with thinly-sliced green onions if desired. Yield: 2 servings.

PEANUT BUTTER  FUDGE

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup natural peanut butter

Put sugar and milk in pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 2-1/2 minutes. Remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir just until well mixed. Pour into buttered pan, cool and cut into squares. The smaller the pan, the thicker the fudge will be.

PEANUT BUTTER HOT COCOA

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Warm milk and cream in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add chocolate, and whisk until melted and combined. Continue to warm mixture until thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Yields 3-1/2 cups.

 

 
Rooting for Carrots | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 26 February 2015 14:51

022615fCarrots are one of those Plain-Jane, ho-hum vegetables that nobody gets excited about. But aside from being a very nutritious side dish, there may be no vegetable that rivals the carrot when it comes to adding flavor, sweetness and moisture to all manner of baked goods.

CARROT & RAISIN SALAD

5 cups of shredded carrots
1-1⁄2 cups of celery, chopped
1-1⁄2 cups of mayonnaise
3⁄4 cup of raisins
3⁄4 cup of walnuts, chopped
2 teaspoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon of salt

In a bowl, combine the carrots, celery, raisins and walnuts. Add the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Serve on lettuce leaves. Yields 6 servings.

CARROT COOKIES

1 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup cooked, mashed carrots
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Orange Icing:
Juice of 1/2 orange (3 to 4 tablespoons)
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 tablespoon butter
1-1/4 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

Beat shortening; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg, carrots and vanilla, beating well after each addition. Sift together dry ingredients; stir into carrot mixture and mix well. Stir in chopped nuts, if using. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

For the icing, combine juice and orange rind with butter; stir in sifted confectioners’ sugar until desired spreading consistency is reached. Add more juice or confectioners’ sugar as needed.

Ice cookies with Orange Icing while still warm.

CARROT-PINEAPPLE BARS

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
Topping:
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter
1-1/2 cups finely shredded carrots
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter with brown sugar, then stir in the flour and oats; mix until crumbly. Press over the bottom and up the sides of an 8-inch square pan. Prick with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

To make the topping while the crust is baking, mix together the pineapple and lemon rind; set aside. Mix together the sugar, egg, melted butter, carrots and nuts.

Remove the crust from the oven and spread the pineapple over it. Spread the carrot mixture over the pineapple and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes longer.

Cool on a rack, then cut into bars. Yields 12 to 16 bars.

BUTTERED CARROTS

1 pound carrots, trimmed and scraped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Cut the carrots into very thin slices. Place them in a small skillet and add salt, pepper, sugar, water and butter.

Cover the pan and cook over medium heat, shaking the skillet occasionally. Cook about 8 minutes until the carrots are tender, the liquid has disappeared, and the carrots are slightly glazed. Take care they do not burn. Sprinkle the parsley over them and serve.

Yields 4 servings.

OLD-FASHIONED CARROT CAKE

Butter, for pans
2 cups flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups grated carrots
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
Frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick salted butter, room temperature
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round pans; Line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and pecans, if using.

Pour into pans. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy using a hand mixer. Stir in the nuts. Spread frosting on top of each cake layer. Stack the cakes on a serving plate and serve.

 

 
Celebrating a New Year! | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 19 February 2015 12:24

021915fChinese New Year (the Lunar Year 4713) begins today. Also known as the Spring Festival, it is widely regarded as the most important celebration in China and is given official public holiday status.

Celebrations   around the world – both literal and symbolic – are underway. Spring cleaning started about a month prior to the new year and must have been completed before the celebrations begin.

Foods during the holiday are symbolic as well. Typically red meat isn’t served and one is careful not to serve or eat from a chipped or cracked plate.

Fish is eaten to ensure long life and good fortune. Oranges and tangerines symbolize wealth and good fortune.

WONTON SOUP

1⁄4 pound lean ground pork
2ounces medium raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and minced
2 tablespoons minced green onions and tops
4 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1⁄2 teaspoon cornstarch
1⁄4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
24 wonton wrappers
3 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1⁄4 cup dry sherry
1⁄2 pound bok choy
2 tablespoons chopped green onions and tops
1⁄2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Combine pork, shrimp, minced green onions, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, cornstarch and ginger in medium bowl; mix well.

Arrange several wonton wrappers on clean surface; cover remaining wrappers to prevent drying out. Place 1 teaspoon pork mixture in center of each wrapper. Fold wrapper over filling to form a triangle. Gently fold center point down and moisten left corner with water. Twist and overlap opposite corner over moistened corner; press firmly to seal.

Repeat with remaining pork mixture and wrappers.

Bring 4 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add wontons. Simmer 3 minutes; remove with slotted spoon. Discard water; pour broth and sherry into same saucepan. Cut bok choy crosswise into 1⁄2-inch slices, separating stems from leaves. Add stems to broth mixture; bring to boil. Add wontons; simmer 1 minute. Add bok choy leaves and chopped green onions; simmer 1 minute longer. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 teaspoons soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

SESAME-GINGER NOODLES

1 pound uncooked fresh Chinese-style egg noodles (or spaghetti, vermicelli or linguine)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup sliced green onions and tops
2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt; drain, rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly.

Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, sugar, cornstarch and water. Heat vegetable oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add green onions and stir-fry 10 seconds. Add soy sauce mixture; cook, stirring, until sauce comes to a boil. Add noodles; cook, stirring, 1 minute or until sauce returns to boil and noodles are evenly coated with sauce. Remove from heat. Add sesame oil and sesame seeds; toss well to combine. Serves 4.

GOOD FORTUNE SEA BASS

1/2 pound skinless sea bass fillet
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sweet & sour sauce
2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce

Sprinkle the sea bass with salt, pepper, ginger and garlic and let stand for 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator.

Heat a skillet or wok over high heat. Add the oil and sea bass and pan-fry until both sides are browned, about 2 minutes per side. Add the stir-fry sauce and heat until bubbling. Turn sea bass again and cook an additional minute (6 minutes in all). Remove from pan, garnish with green onions and serve immediately. Serves 2.

QUICK ORANGE-LEMON CHICKEN

3/4 pound boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
2 teaspoons finely chopped orange zest
2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cold water
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped green onions

Remove skin from chicken and cut meat into long, thin strips. Blanch chicken 30 seconds in pan of boiling, salted water. Drain and set aside.

Heat wok until hot. Add oil, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry 10 seconds. Add orange and lemon zests and juices, soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch mixed with cold water, chili bean sauce, sesame oil and green onions. Bring to simmer. Add chicken and cook through. Serves 2.

 

 
On Valentine’s Day, Let Them Eat Cake! | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 12 February 2015 14:45

021215fSaturday is Valentine’s Day, and if you haven’t found the perfect gifts for your loved ones, you probably couldn’t go too far wrong with one of these luscious homemade chocolate cakes.

RED VELVET CAKE

For the cake:
1-1/2 sticks) butter, softened, plus more for the pans
3 cups cake flour (sift before measuring)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon red food coloring
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
For the frosting:
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
2 pounds (about 8 cups) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper; butter the parchment.

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.

Beat the granulated sugar, 12 tablespoons butter and the vegetable oil in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the food coloring, vinegar and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, until just combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on racks, then turn the cakes out onto the racks to cool completely. Using a long serrated knife, carefully slice each cake in half horizontally to make 2 even layers.

To make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and salt; beat until smooth.

Put 1 cake layer on a platter; spread 1-1/4 cups frosting on top. Repeat to make 4 layers, ending with the cake. Cover the top and sides with a thin layer of frosting (this is the “crumb coat”; it doesn’t have to be perfect). Chill 15 minutes, then cover with the remaining frosting. Top each slice with a milk chocolate heart and decorate with raspberries, if desired.

DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE

For the cake:
3 sticks butter, plus more for the pan
1-1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1-1/4 cups hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
For the frosting:
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons hot water
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 pound semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled

To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-by-2-inch round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter paper. Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat, and transfer to a mixer. Beat on medium-low speed until cooled, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla and cocoa-powder mixture. Reduce speed to low.

Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined.

Divide batter between pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack, peel off parchment, and let cool completely.

To make the frosting: Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. Beat butter, sugar, and salt in a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.

Reduce to medium-low speed; slowly add melted chocolate and cocoa-powder mixture, and beat until combined. If frosting is not set, let stand, stirring occasionally until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cake layers to make level. Transfer one cake layer to a cake stand, and spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer, and coat top and sides with remaining frosting, spreading it in a swirling motion.

CHOCOLATE SOUR CREAM CAKE

2 cups sifted cake flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups sour cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Frosting:
3 tablespoons soft butter
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup unsweetend cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk

Combine first 5 ingredients  in large mixing bowl and, on low speed of mixer, blend in butter, sour cream, eggs and vanilla Beat 3 minutes on medium speed. Pour batter into two greased 9-inch layer pans. Bake at 350°F 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Remove from pans, cool and frost.

To make frosting, combine ingredients and beat to spreading consistency.

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

1 (4-ounce) package Baker’s German’s sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Coconut-pecan frosting

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt chocolate in water and cool.

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolks. Stir in vanilla and

chocolate.

Mix flour, soda and salt. Beat in flour mixture, alternately with buttermilk.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold into batter. Pour batter into three 9-inch layer pans, lined on bottoms with waxed paper.

Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in center Cool 15 minutes; remove and cool on rack.

 

 
Our Love Affair with Spaghetti | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 05 February 2015 15:28

020515fAmericans engage in the occasional fling with quinoa and arugula, but pasta, especially spaghetti, has become a long-term love affair.

The average family enjoys spaghetti about once a week, usually made with a heat-and-serve red sauce.

But few bottled sauces can compare with the flavor of homemade. Simple to make, spaghetti sauce typically uses common and inexpensive everyday ingredients. And like soup, it can be customized to suit a family’s taste.

SAVORY SPAGHETTI SAUCE

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried  
2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Hot cooked spaghetti
Fresh oregano, optional

In a Dutch oven, cook ground beef and onion until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain. Add the next eight ingredients; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf. Serve with spaghetti. Garnish with oregano if desired. Yields 4-6 servings (about 1 quart).

QUICK-TO-FIX SPAGHETTI SAUCE

3/4 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 cup dehydrate onion
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces fresh mushroom, sliced
1-1/2 cups water
Cooked pasta
Grated Parmesan, optional

Brown ground beef in large skillet with lid. drain well. Add garlic, tomato paste, tomato sauce, onion, basil, onion powder, salt, pepper, cornstarch, sugar, mushrooms and water. Stir to mix.

Simmer sauce for 30 minutes, covered, stirring frequently. Served over cooked pasta. Top with Parmesan. Serves 4.

MEATLESS SPAGHETTI SAUCE

4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces red wine
2 tablespoons dried basil
1-2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Place a 4 quart pot over medium high heat, add olive oil and red pepper flakes, stirring for approximately 1 minute.

Lower heat to medium and add onion, sauteing until onion begins to be translucent. Add garlic and saute for additional 2 minutes.

Add both cans tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, sugar, and wine. Add spices, blending thoroughly. Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, then taste test and add more wine if too thick and re season as desired.

Simmer, covered, for an additional hour. Can be slow cooked in crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. Yields 10 servings.

Cooked ground beef or turkey or cooked Italian sausage may be added upon serving if desired.

This recipe freezes well.

FAUX BEEF SPAGHETTI SAUCE

1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 large can tomato sauce
3 small cans tomato sauce
1 cup soy burger
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon basil spice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
Parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups water

Sauté onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, celery and garlic in olive oil until slightly tender. Add all other ingredients and simmer for about 4 hours. Add water as needed if mixture becomes too thick or dry. Serves 8 to 10. As you serve this sauce over pasta, sprinkle with a little freshly grated Parmesan.

NARSAI DAVID’S PASTA A LA AMATRICIANA

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 pound pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Heat oil in a saucepan. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add red pepper flakes and tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until ad dente. Drain and rinse with hot water. Toss pasta with sauce and sprinkle cheese on top. Serves 4 as main course or 8 as an appetizer.

SWEET SPICE SPAGHETTI SAUCE

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
4 medium onions, chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons mince parsley
Spice Blend (recipe follows)
3 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

In a 6-quart pan over medium high heat, stir bacon and beef frequently until well browned, about 15 minutes. Discard fat. Add onions, celery, garlic, parsley and spice blend. Stir often until onions are limp, about 20 minutes. Add tomato sauce and paste, and vinegar. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 quarts, about 1 hour. Makes 2 quarts.

To make Spice Blend, combine 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, dry oregano leaves, pepper, rubbed sage, and dry thyme leaves. Add 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and ground nutmeg.

 

 

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