Archives for January 2013

Day 3 – Tomato Sauce (because we are having leftovers)

Tomato Sauce – Red Sauce – Spaghetti Sauce

Can’t help it but I have a refrigerator full of food that needs to be eaten, a son and daughter who each have evening activities…. so despite the fact that it is only day three, we need to have leftovers not something great to blog about.

One of the decisions I made when I was thinking about this is that I was going to blog what I do, not do so I could blog.  In other words, I want this to be “real life.”

So today I thought I would blog about tomato sauce…

Tomato sauce or red sauce is an amazing thing.  It is so simple, just a few possible ingredients, yet different sauces taste VERY different.  It always amazes me how a basic cheese pizza – three basic ingredients (crust, sauce, cheese)  can taste so very different depending on the pizza joint.  In fact, pizza is like snowflakes – no two pizza joint pizzas taste the same. Of course this isn’t true for chains because they work so hard to make sure everything tastes the same everywhere. But real pizza shops which serve real pizza (sorry chains) vary gratefully from shop to shop.

Tomato Sauce is similar it is tomatoes and spices yet I have had very good red sauce and some awful red sauce.  From talking to Italians, cooking with them whenever possible, the best sauce is the simplest sauce.

It seems to me like finding the right blend of spices for your palette is one key, the other is letting your sauce simmer for a few hours so the flavors marry.

Here is my general recipe.  What is your recipe? I have heard of people using things like white sugar, brown sugar, vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Do you put anything in your sauce that is out of the ordinary.

My sauce recipe:

a couple of small glugs olive oil – enough to gently saute some diced onion (small handful) and minced garlic (a couple of cloves).  I keep the heat very low for this part.  Saute for 5-10 minutes or so.

two 28 oz can of tomato sauce, puree, chunky – based on the dish and my mood.

stir well to incorporate the oil into the sauce.

Then I add spices:

  • a small handful of dried, fresh basil (I dry the fresh basil from the farmers market and/or my garden by hanging it upsidedown from a hook above a bright window)
  • a few pinches of each garlic powder and white onion powder
  • a small pinch of oregano (I love oregano but Lisa hates it.  I find it a “sweet spice” she finds it very bitter)
  • a small pinch or two of your best sea salt
  • a very small amount of fresh pepper

Let this simmer for two or three hours for a great sauce!

Please leave your sauce recipe in the comment section, I’d love to try it!!

Cook On!

 

 

Day 2 – January 2 – Red, White and Green (Card) Lasagna

lasagna-dinnerAs any good, self-respecting, person of British-Canadian heritage who loves food would do, I married an Italian girl with a mother who could really cook!  Since then I have joked that I am trying to earn my red, white and green card.  Tonight’s meal is part of that attempt.

Red, White and Green Lasagna with Salad and Parmesan Bread

I am going to mix a white lasagna with a Béchamel sauce and spinach in one layer with a layer of red lasagna with beef to create my desired red, white and green lasagna.  I have yummy home made croutons from last nights Cream of Broccoli Soup which will add a nice compliment to a side salad.  Since I have some great day-old bakery fresh bread I will also serve a nice toasted Parmesan bread on the side too.

White Sauce:

I will mix up a quick rue with butter (3 tablespoons), in which I will saute the onions (one small onion diced), and add a little flour (1/4 cup) and milk (1 cup) and one cup Greek Yogurt, until it is a nice white Béchamel sauce. Add some parmesan/pecorino/romano until it tastes more like an Alfredo sauce than a Béchamel sauce. I use Greek yogurt because I like it and I can reduce the fat without reducing the flavor.

Red Sauce:

A nice simple sauce from tomato puree, basil, olive oil, a little chopped onion, and a hint of oregano.

Spinach:

The fresh spinach looked awful at the market today so I settled on frozen spinach :*( which I will cook with a couple tablespoons butter and three cloves minced garlic, some garlic powder and onion powder. Enough spice and you might not even know it is frozen spinach. (Yes, you will, but I digress)

Beef:

I have some really nice fresh ground beef from Predel’s which I will cook just until done.

Lasagna Noodles:

I precook the noodles for just a couple of minutes so that they are soft but not cooked entirely.

Once that is all prepped, here is the assembly: (see pictures below)

  1. A little red sauce on the bottom
  2. A layer of lasagna noodles
  3. A little more red sauce to cover the noodles
  4. Some ricotta Cheese, the meat, some mozzarella cheese
  5. A little red sauce
  6. A layer of lasagna noodles
  7. Some of the white sauce
  8. The spinach
  9. Some ricotta and mozzarella cheese, some grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, romano)
  10. The top layer of lasagna noodles
  11. Cover in white sauce and sprinkle with basil

Bake this at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes…. top with a little mozzarella, and cook 10-15 minutes more.

When done, remove from oven…and a HUGE lesson I learned from my Italian Mother-in-Law – is that it needs 15-20 minutes to rest before cutting and serving. So many foods need to set it is amazing but the difference is worth waiting for.

Serve with salad and garlic bread! (YUMMY!!!)

Photo Steps for those of you who might like them:

lasagna-1A little red sauce on the bottom

lasagna2A layer of lasagna noodles

A little more red sauce to cover the noodles, some ricotta Cheese, the meat, some mozzarella cheese, and a little more red sauce

lasagna3lasagna4lasagna5lasagna6

lasagna7A layer of lasagna noodles

lasagna8Some of the white sauce and ricotta

lasagna9The spinach

lasagna10Some ricotta and mozzarella cheese, some grated cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, romano)

The top layer of lasagna noodles

lasagna11Cover in white sauce and sprinkle with basil

finished-lasagnaAll done and out of the oven… setting.

Day 1 – January 1, 2013 – Cream of Broccoli Soup

broc-soup-finishedI wake up thinking about food.  Because today is a holiday and the family is home my schedule is different than most days.  Usually I get up, make some coffee and sit for a few minutes enjoying the newspapers and a couple cups of coffee.

As a website designer and marketing consultant, I work from home. With my wife at work and kids at school I take advantage of the quiet house to get some work done.  Usually by about 11am or noon I am ready for a break in the action and take my “lunch break” by going to the supermarket, bank, and running my “out errands.”  That get’s me back home with at least a couple of hours to work before the kids get home and I lose my nice quiet office.

By 9am I have usually had a few texts wife my wife Lisa about what she might like for dinner.  Often she is “distracted by her work and can’t focus on food” or doesn’t have any great ideas.  In the “Iron Chef” tradition I often ask her for the “mystery ingredient” she would like in the meal or ask her to decide on anything she doesn’t want.

I tried to think today about which meal I wanted to be “first” in my attempt to blog dinner for an entire year, but quickly realized this isn’t about “showing off” just about “blogging what we’re eating.”

Today is a chilly day with a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground.  The family is home and transitioning from Christmas back to our real life.  I thought soup would be a good meal for tonight and I love the smell wafting through the house during the day.  PLUS, I got an immersion blender for Christmas and I am anxious to put it to use.

I am going to start with this recipie: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/broccoli-and-cheese-soup-with-croutons-recipe/index.html

A few major differences between what I plan to do versus the Emeril recipe. He suggest nutmeg and I am a little sick of nutmeg in savory dishes so I am opting for a spice combination of garlic,thyme,celery leaf, and Spanish smoked paprika.

I will make the crutons in the Emeril recipie with french bread and Emerils spices.  I use his recipe almost exactly and it makes amazing croutons.  Serve with fresh bread from the Price Chopper Bakery and you have a warm meal that fills your home with wonderful smells as it cooks and your bellies with a warm yummy meal for a cool winter day!

Off to the market to get what I need….

Getting it started:

1. I start my “cream soups” off with a nice little chicken stock rue:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt or Kosher Sea Salt
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

I simmer these ingredients for 10 minutes or so on really low heat to let the onions get translucent and the flavors marry.  When it is done, I add:

  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon celery leaf

I let these simmer together for a bit so they smell nice and seem well blended.

To complete the rue, add:

1/4 cup flour and stir until clumpy and well mixed

then add:

3.5 cups salt-free chicken stock – I usually make my own…okay about 50% of the time… I have found Basic Foods has great super low salt stock and Price Chopper carries Swanson Unsalted Cooking Stock for about $3.50 for 26oz which is what you need for this recipie.  I am not salt-free but I prefer to use my good salts to the MSG added by most manufacturers.  The Swanson’s unsalted Chicken stock has 130 mg of sodium per serving compared with 700mg-900mg in most commercial chicken stocks.

Boil this mixture and bring back down to a simmer.  Stir fairly often and let it thicken some.  It might not thicken like a traditional flour and milk rue but you will notice it will get thicker in 10 minutes or so.

Add:

  • 2 of the three crowns ( or 2/3rds) of the broccoli, chopped getting mostly the flourets.  Cook this for about 10 minutes.

broc soup 1 boc-soup2

Puree! HURRAY!!! I get to use my new immersion blender!! If you don’t have one then use a food processor to puree this whole deal.

Add:

  • 1.5 cups Greek Yogurt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino/ramano/parmesan cheese or other strong hard cheese.
  • 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (I think this helps “mask” that I use yougurt and not cream or sour cream called for in most recipies
  • optionally add: 1/2 teaspoon paprika or smoked paprika or cayenne powder. I used Spanish Smoked Hot Paprika for this adventure.

simmer for about 60 minutes, stirring often.  Many recipies call for very little simmer time.  I like to let things like soup and chili simmer several times for a while to really let the flavors marry together.  Many times soups and chilis tasted better the second day so I decided to try letting things simmer longer and in most cases it now tastes as good on the first serving!

add cheese:

I add different cheeses dirfferent times I make soups like this one.  The stronger and harder the cheese the better.  French Gruyere Cheese is good, more parmesan, pecorino, romano if you like.  And some cheddar. Use what you like.  For tonight I am going to use:

  • 1.5 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Fontinella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Swiss

Simmer for at least thirty minutes so cheese is fully incorporated.  Add more cheese, cream, or spices to taste.

broc-soup4

Add the last florets of broccoli about 15 minutes before serving.  It will be cooked but someone crisp and not soggy.

I’ll let you know what the family thinks… (added after dinner) They loved it!! (Phew. It would have been a wicked bummer if the first meal was bad!)

Cook On!

Home Made Butter

Just like I keep several grades of olive oil for different uses, I use store bought butter for most cooking a baking – Price Chopper Butter from Price Chopper and Amish Butter from Predel’s.

I like to make Home Made Butter for times when I want to serve fresh bread and butter.

  • 1 pt Fresh Cream
  • 1 pinch salt

Mix with blender or Kitchen-aid Blender for about 5-7 minutes until it forms light, fluffy butter.

butter2butter-done

Fresh, Homemade butter takes less than 10 minutes and is the most amazing butter you will ever taste.  It’s greatness get’s lost when cooking or baking with it.

Home Made Croutons

I love croutons but the store bought one’s are nothing like home made.  For soups and salads, there is nothing like Emeril’s croutons with my twist.

croutons21. Get a french loaf of bread and cut into slices one to one and a half inches thick.  Then Quarter there slices.

2. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with yummy olive oil.croutons1

3. Place a smaller bowl over the top of the main bowl and shake a few times until all the croutons are basically coated with olive oil.  It won’t be even and it doesn’t need to be.

croutons3

4. Sprinkle on 1 tablespoon of your favorite spice mixture…. see Emeril’s Spice Mixture below.croutons1

5. Place on Cookie Sheet and bake at 400 degrees and bak for six minutes.  Mix/Stir Once or twice. Bake again 4 minutes.

croutons5

6 Allow to cool – These will store well but without the preservatives of store bought brands, not as long as store bought croutons.

 

Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning Mixture:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt, finely ground
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder.

Combine mixture.  You will only need a a tablespoon of this for each batch of croutons.