Friday, August 26, 2011

She can cook!!!!

I can be very outgoing, sometimes to a fault. When people tell me they don't know how to cook or they just don't cook, I don't hold back, I ask, why? What do you eat? I am literally confused how adults either choose not to cook or have never been taught to cook. 
Now this is not a finger pointing blame game, I just really don't understand sometimes. 

As kids my brother and I practically lived in the kitchen no matter what family member's house you were at. Even if we didn't know what something was we ate it and liked it, we didn't waste anything. We knew someone worked hard to earn the money for this food and someone else but their time and love into preparing it for us. Food was not something to take lightly. If you were invited to someone's house in my family you were fed, period. Parties are another story, we cook for the whole neighborhood we can't imagine people coming to celebrate something and not be nourished by food. Cooking is truly a labor of love. Everyone speaks the same language in food, it's basic really, but to make and share something to nourish a soul is powerful.

So to show people how to love cooking and enjoy the fruits of their labor I will pretty much try to teach anyone to cook or at least share a recipe to get them excited about the time they take to make something. So I had the pleasure of my friend Jamie come over and we shared a great night of cooking, and eating. I chose to start her off with a basic marinara sauce and meatballs, beacause really if you can do that it coordinates with many other cooking techniques.

 That's A-Lot-A Meatballs
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray
1 pound ground beef( we used grass feed ground chuck)
1 1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1-1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs ( use last 1/2 cup only if meat doesn't hold together)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 small onion, grated
3 tablespoons minced garlic

In a large bowl, mix together beef, cheese, 1 cup breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, herbs, onion, and garlic; season with salt. Hands work the best for mixing this and don't over-mix, once the ingredients are all combined leave it be. Roll meat mixture into 2 1/2-ounce balls; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake at 350 until beef is cooked through and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Nothin' Fancy Spaghetti Sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
12 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and onions look see through and garlic is light brown. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer; let simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and put into a blender to puree. I also like to prepare ahead of time and pour into a jar for later use.

I used spaghetti noodles, but don't limit yourself to that. The whole package of spaghetti can be used. Add 2 tablespoons or so of salt to the water. When the pot is at a rolling boil add dry pasta. Cook only for about 8-10 mins. The best test to know if it is ready to take out is to eat one. If it is a little soft around but still has a firm center when you bite in that is perfect. Al Dente in Italian means to the tooth, I always remembered that and it helps to know how to test your pastas. Strain the pasta in the sink and rinse with water. place pasta back into a large pot. Now you're ready to add sauce, yes add sauce into the pasta. Add one tablespoon of butter to give your pasta a nice glisten. Top with meatballs and you have a masterpiece. 

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did and invite someone new over, they might appreciate a lesson in something you enjoy too! Thanks Jamie for being so sweet, and Mark for having an empty stomach!

God Speed

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Have some of Grandma's cooking and everything will be all right...

Pin It

I recently subscribed to a free email from a website called Tasting Table LA. Besides the website freakin rocking, they send out an email daily from great chefs from all over with amazing recipes. I have had this recipe tugging at my heart for days now and finally have time today and yesterday to make them. These remind me of my husband's Grandmother Marilyn because she loves carrot cake and so does his Grandfather. She makes an amazingly moist and delicious carrot cake from scratch. So I guess I really am making these for her. I also adore whoopie pies and the old time charm so I couldn't resist. I am bringing them to the Family reunion for her mother's side on Saturday at the beach and I think they will be a hit! Pop and Gram this one is for you.

Side Note: if you read this today you will have to get ingredients and prep and then bake tomorrow. The cookies take just a little bit longer to prep and store in fridge.

Pop and Gram Carrot Cake Whoopies
Recipe adapted from Claire Twesten, Talula's Garden, Philadelphia, PA

2 sticks unsalted butter room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped (I couldn't find it so I left it out)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1½ cups of peeled and grated carrots (from about 2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 cup raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
Cream Cheese Icing
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons honey
12 ounces cream cheese, cut into pieces, softened

For the cookies: In a medium bowl mix  together the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until lightened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the eggs one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet, then gently stir in the oats, carrots and raisins. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least six hours or up to overnight. I did overnight. Preheat the oven to 325°. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned and set, my oven took more like 15 minutes but adjust as you need to. Remove from the oven and set the cookies aside to cool. For the icing: In the bowl of a standing mixer or mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in the honey and cream cheese until incorporated. Spoon the frosting onto half of the cookies I used about 3-4 tablespoons on average for each cookie but feel free to add more or less; place the other cookies on top to create sandwiches. Serve immediately or store the cookies and frosting separately for up to 3 days.

Close your eyes while biting into this deliciousness and it takes you to a good place. Places of home and tradition, back to times when people enjoyed having new neighbors and loved sunday day trips. This is the stuff of nostalgia. Pretty FREAKIN' good if you ask me!!!!!!!!

God Speed!

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to make Perfect Homemade French Fries!

It's blazing hot where we live. I have lived here since I was 4 years old and I still complain about the hot summers. Today was about 102 with a lot of humidity and this makes for a crabby mother of three who has to keep her kids mostly indoors or barter with friends for a dip in their pool. So instead of slaving over the stove and heating the house to umpteen degrees we out-smarted the dang heat. We (my mother) threw the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts in the BBQ to slow roast for about an hour and also reheated a nice baguette for our easy sandwiches in there too. I prepared very simple sandwiches with Fries.
I opted to only cook the french fries which I learned how to make from an Anthony Bourdain show on how to perfect simple dishes for every cook. I love his show and I put in the link so you can see the detailed fry recipe. I have come to like more of a home style fry possibly giving In-n-Out the credit, because they truly are my favorite fry. But really at home if you have potatoes that need a place in your food chain here is how you can help them out  a little.

This is how you do it!

 The Perfect Fry
5-6 small to medium size potatoes sliced in long pieces about 12 per potato ( I used the russet)
1-2 quarts vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

It's really funny how simple this is to do, but when I heard how the restaurants cook fries  I realized why mine always came out so bad. I had to pause and give thanks for someone who would enlighten the universe on how to cook GOOD FRIES at home.
 After the potatoes are cut you want to soak them in cold water for a few minutes and rinse them until the water runs clear. Don't skip this part! Get the oil heated in your large pan to about med to high heat. You'll know when small bubbles start to form around the first fry you drop in. You now want to cook them until the almost turn white and slimy about 7 minutes, don't over cook and don't put too many in at a time allow them to lay flat and not pile up. Take them out and drain them on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels. Once you are done cooking all the batches allow them to rest on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes or so. Yes that's right, pour yourself a glass of wine, play catch with your son or water your garden. Remember good food takes time. Now here is the tricky part (not really) do the same thing all over again. You are going to put the fries back in the hot oil and cook until the get that nice golden brown that Mickey-DEES does. Now put them on a new cookie sheet lined with paper towels to drain and salt and pepper them how you like. WOW! can you believe that, all they do is double fry! Maybe it's a good thing I never knew this, I have some time to work off the calories!
This is what the first frying looks like, see white coloring!

Simple Man's Sandwich
4 Roasted chicken breasts sliced
Sliced tomatoes
Mixed greens for topping
Pesto mayo ( 1 teaspoon of your favorite pesto mixed with 1/2 cup mayo)
French baguette enough for 4 people

Spread the warm baguette with the pesto mayo and top with chicken, tomatoes, and greens. A little drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper couldn't hurt any sandwich. 
 I also added a light spread of goat cheese on mine because, well I don't have a reason other than it's whole goodness!
For the roasted chicken please refer to our post for Pseudo Paninis on 6/11
The sandwich board
Proud to have our very own tomatoes from our backyard
 Stay cool my summer companions and try to out smart the sun! Create something new in your home or kitchen this week! Tell me what you did!
God Speed!