Friday, March 30, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Tonight we were hungry for some Italian food. Like most of the things I cook my version of Italian food has a lot of influences and most true Italians would probably call my food bastardized. Oh well. You can't please everyone. I'm not cooking for Italians, I am cooking for my family, who happen to be Americans with an interest in foods from around the world. The way I cook Italian food is heavily influenced by my upbringing as well as two or three cookbooks. The book I will mention today is from a restaraunt in New York. There is a restaraunt there called Rao's.
It is a little 10 table joint in New York that is a lot like the restaraunt in the movie The Godfather.
You know, the one where Michael shoots the guy in the forehead and the cop in the throat? Anyway Rao's is exclusive and you and I can't eat there. All of the tables have regulars for every night of the week with standing reservations. You can't eat there unless you're famous. When people get divorced they fight over who gets to keep the table at Rao's. Is it that good? I don't know. In Chicago there were excellent little 10 table Italian restaraunts all over the place. We used to go to one on north Broadway called Angelina's. But I most likely will never eat at Rao's. Luckily the chef printed a couple cookbooks. I own one cookbook from Rao's.
I can vouch for the recipes in that cookbook and it has had a huge influence on my cooking. Tonight I made a recipe for marinara that I found out about from one of my patients. She saw it on Good Morning America way back when. I looked it up online, tried it at home and the technique opened up whole new vistas of food for me. I modified the recipe for tonight by adding Italian sausage.
1 pork chop
1/2 onion, very finely diced up in a food processor
3 cloves garlic
2 big cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferrably San Marzano if you can get them.
a dash of MSG (as an homage to our Chinese friends and readers)
a very healthy amount of fresh ground black pepper (I like Tellicherry)
sea salt to taste
about 1 t oregano
about 1 t basil or a few fresh leaves
Italian sausages, already cooked to well done and sliced.
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or similar cooking device over medium heat. Add in a good amount of olive oil, at least several tablespoons. Fry the pork chop very well on both sides and remove from heat, set aside. Next saute the onion and garlic in the porkified olive oil. Add the tomatoes and crush up with a potato masher or by hand. Return the pork chop to the pan. Add a buttload of pepper and a dash of MSG (as an homage to our Chinese friends and readers). Cover and simmer for about an hour. At the end of the hour taste the sauce. If it needs salt add a little. Add the spices and the sausage and turn off the heat.
A trick: if you don't like the size of the tomatoes and prefer a smoother sauce, scoop some of the tomatoes out and put them in the food processor - its dirty anyway! Return them to the sauce when they are well chopped up.
Being that it is now Spring, its time to think about one of my favorite vegitables - asparagus. I used to go out in the ditches by my grandpas farm to collect asparagus in the spring.
I was back there a week or so ago and the bridge to the farm was all washed out! Here is a photo from Kentucky snapped a few days later:
Quite a difference eh?
Anyway my wife found some asparagus in the store and I decided to make it in the pseudo-Italian style
a few tablespoons of garlic butter
fresh ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan or Romano cheese
a few pieces of pancetta (Italian bacon) or regular bacon, fried and crumbled.
Steam up your asparagus. Don't let it get overdone. You must be careful. To make the garlic butter, take a few tablespoons of butter and melt them in a saucepan. Press one clove of garlic into the butter and simmer for a minute or two until the garlic is soft. To serve, put the asparagus on the servind dish and drizzle the butter over. Then shake a little salt over the asparagus. Put your crumbled bacon over the top of the asparagus. Grate a little parmesan or Romano cheese over the top and grind some black pepper over the whole affair. Serve immediately.
As an aside, I was reading up on Italian law the other day. I came across the reason why you should always serve garlic bread with Italian food. In 1598, King Lucenzo declared that "Italian food must be served with garlic bread to prevent the formation of Dirky Plates." Curious as to what a 'Dirky Plate' might be, I polled my two men in the field. One is from Ledyard and the other is an actual chef, not just a cook like your author. Both of them were very acquainted with the term 'Dirky plate'. My chef man in the field (kitchen) described it this way:
"A dirky plate is a supper plate of Dirk's at holiday gatherings 30 plus years ago after he piled on the various food forms - jello, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, meat, stuffing, buns, butter, etc...and what it looked like after he started eating and how all the food melded together. The most immediate visual is to think of what an oil painter's palette (sp?) looks like upon completion of a lengthy project. In other words, his plate was one big compilation of all the food melted together with absolutely no differentiation of what was what."Here is a photo of the Italian version of a Dirky Plate:
And here is a photo of Italian law being carried out:
And here is a rebel, who will NEVER comply with Italian law concerning Dirky plates.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
German style Food
I decided to make up some German style food. Louisville has a fairly strong German heritage. There are a lot of German restaurants but I haven't been to any yet. What got me hungry for German food was looking through The Elvis Presley Cookbook. A lot of the recipes in that book come from Elvis' chef. There seem to be a lot of German style recipes in the The Elvis Presley Cookbook. There is another Elvis cookbook that I am looking into but haven't purchased yet. Why Elvis you ask? Did you see how fat he was? Obviously he knew about good food.
One of the recipes I made from the book is the recipe for cheese grits. Although not even remotely a German recipe, it just seemed to fit well with eating German style food in Louisville. I also made a beer bread that has just a touch of rye flour in it. For desert we had apple dumplings.
1 T sugar
2 1/2 cups bread flour (13.5 ounces)
3 T rye flour (1 ounce)
9 ounces dark beer at room temperature - today I used Paulaner Salvator Double Bock
1 1/4 t salt
Combine flours, sugar and yeast in the mixer. Pour in the beer and knead with the dough hook for 1 minute. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and knead at medium speed for 7 minutes. Form into a ball, cover, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
Preheat oven to 450 with a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven with a baking stone on the bottom rack.
Meanwhile press the dough down and reform it into a ball. Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and place the dough ball on the paper. Lightly oil a piece of plastic wrap and let the dough rise until about double in size. Slash the dough in your favorite slash pattern. Slide the parchment paper and dough onto the baking stone. Throw a handful of ice into the cast iron skillet. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400 and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.
Alternatively you can let the dough rise the second time in a banneton like I did to get a nice spiral pattern on the loaf.
While the bread was baking the baby and I took a walk around Steamer Cove. You can really tell it is spring around here.
She got chased by a bee.
Elvis' Cheese Grits
4 cups boiling water
1 t salt
1 cup instant grits
1/2 c butter
1 6 ounce roll garlic cheese (see picture below)
Bring pan of salted water to a boil. Stir in the grits. Cook for a few minutes until they start to thicken up. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese. In a measuring cup mix eggs and milk so that the volume is 1 cup. Add to the grits mixture. Pour grits into a casserole dish and bake at 300 for an hour or until they brown a little on top and are thickened up.
Bratwurst with Sauerkraut Dinner
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 slices cooked bacon, cut up
1 cup beer
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons spicy mustard
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 large rutabaga, peeled & cut into 1" cubes
1 pound fully cooked bratwurst or knockwurst, bias-sliced into 2- to 2-1/2-inch pieces
2 medium cooking apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
1 16-ounce can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
In a Dutch oven or large pot cook onion and bacon until onion is tender but not brown. Stir in beer. In a 2-cup glass measure combine the water, cornstarch, brown mustard, molasses, caraway seed, allspice, and pepper; stir into bacon mixture. Cook and stir util thickened and bubbly. Add rutabaga; cover and cook 15 minutes. Stir in the knockwurst, apple wedges, and sauerkraut. Cook, covered, 15 to 20 minutes more or until apples are tender.
For the pastry:
1/2 cup allvegetable shortening
3 1/2 cups allpurpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
8 to 12 tablespoons ice water
For the apples:
4 small tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1 tablespoon raisins
1 tablespoons dark rum
4 teaspoons unsalted butter
Mixture of cinnamon/sugar/nutmeg – a little of each.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 drops red food coloring
3 tablespoons butter
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, water, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and food coloring. bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Set aside.
2. To make the pastry, combine the shortening, flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Using on and off pulsing action, combine until the mixture resembles fine meal. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces, and pulse a few times, or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 4 tablespoons of the ice water, and pulse a few times. The mixture should hold together when pinched. Add more water, if necessary. (This can also be done using a pastry blender or two knives.)
Scrape the pastry onto a floured board, form it into a ball, and wrap it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. While the pastry is chilling, peel and core the apples. Divide the raisins and rum into the core holes, and place 1 teaspoon of butter in each core hole.
4. Divide the pastry into 4 parts. Form one part into a ball, and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. Flatten with your hands into a "pancake." Roll the pastry into a circle large enough to cover the apple. Place an apple in the center, and dust with sugar/cinnamon/nutmeg mixture. Bring up the sides to encase it. Pinch the top together, holding the dough with a little water. If the folds seem thick, trim them off and seal the seams with water. Repeat with the remaining apples.
5. Pour the syrup over the dumplings and sprinkle with additional sugar, if desired. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, until apples are tender.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Bernheim Forest Hike
We went on a family hike today through the Bernheim Forest. It is a nature preserve south of Louisville a ways. Part of the nature preserve is a large valley which is filled with a tallgrass prarie.
It was about 4 feet tall in parts and almost impossible to walk through. There were lots of different kinds of grasses.
There were the beginnings of wildflowers in the forest. I only found one patch on the sunny side of a hill.
We also found a flowering shrub of some sort.
The trees haven't started budding yet but there is one kind of tree in the forest that never loses its leaves. You can see them scattered about in the photo below.
Dining at the Kasbah
We went on a huge nature hike with the baby today (team coverage to follow). After the hike we were hungry for something tasty yet healthy. I was at Sam's Club and I found a 3.5 pound boneless leg of New Zealand lamb for $13.
Long term readers of this blog will remember a Moroccan food bender I went on several years ago. I found an excellent cookbook Cooking at the Kasbah and I have made a lot of the food out of that book. Recently we were walking through the mall and found a huge display on Moroccan cooking at Williams Sonoma. A few years late, but it was still nice to find a source for a few key Moroccan ingredients.
I decided to make my favorite recipe for Moroccan Kabobs, with a new little trick. One of my old general surgery attendings was from Iraq and he recommended mixing beef chunks in with the lamb. I also made a Moroccan eggplant dish, some special couscous, a Moroccan bread, grilled vegetables and garlic yogurt sauce. I didn't have time to make any harissa, the quintessential North African Hot Sauce, so I bought some at Willams Sonoma. If you have time, I recommend making your own well ahead of time.
The chilies from which this sauce is made are not indigenous to the region. Spanish conquistadors introduced them to the Old World in the early 1500's upon their return from the Americas. How about them apples?
Makes 1 cup
12 dried chilies
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1 t salt, or to taste
1 t ground cumin, or more to taste
Open the chilies and remove the seeds. Cut into small pieces, place into warm water and soak until they soften, 25 to 30 minutes. Squeeze the water out of the chilies. Place everything in a blender and blend until very smooth. Transfer to a clean pint jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.
Hobz Belboula (Barley Bread with Cumin)
1 package yeast
1/2 t sugar
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 cups barley flour
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t salt
2 t cumin seed, toasted in a skillet and coursely ground
Mix yeast, water and sugar in the mixer and let sit until the mixture bubbles. Add everything else and knead very well in the mixer. At the end of kneading, the dough should be slightly tacky. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Spread some parchment paper out on a cooky sheet. Squash doughballs down so that the dough forms about a 6 inch circle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until about double in size. Preheat oven to 450. Bake on a baking stone until crusty and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Zahlouk (cooked Eggplant and Tomato Salad)
1 firm eggplant (about 1 pound)
2 T olive oil
4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 t Hungarian paprika
1 t ground cumin
2 T flat leaf parsley, minced
2 T minced fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 T fresh lemon juice
Roast eggplant in oven until soft. Let the eggplant cool. Split it and scoop out the flesh. In a saucepan, cook the tomatoes for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except lemon juice, reduce heat to low. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid evaporates - 20 to 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and season with lemon juice. Serve at room temperature.
1 diced red bell pepper
1/2 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 to 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro
1 t paprika
1/2 t cumin
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 c instant couscous
Saute the onion, red pepper and celery in olive oil in a pan with garlic, paprika and cumin. Transfer the pan juices to a measuring cup. Set the pepper, onion and celery aside. Add enough chicken broth to make 1 1/2 cups liquid. Bring the liquid to a boil. Gradually add the couscous, stirring and remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir the peppers, celery and onion into the couscous along with the cilantro. Let cool to room temperature and serve.
Garlic Yogurt Sauce
For garlic yogurt sauce, take 1 cup yogurt and add 2 cloves garlic, pressed. Add a little salt and refrigerate to combine the flavors.
Shish Kabobs Marrakesh Style
3 pounds of lamb cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T minced cilantro
2 T minced flat leaf parsley (or regular)
1/2 onion, grated
1 T paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 t pepper
Combine everything in a ziplock bag and marinate overnight in the fridge or for as long as you want. When ready to grill put onto skewers and grill away!