Saturday, February 7, 2015

Moussaka



I have been doing some experimental cooking since the holidays using eggplants and some other less commonly used (for me) ingredients.  I got a one pound package of ground goat (!) at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago and decided it might be good as part of a moussaka casserole.  I haven't made moussaka in decades.  When looking online for ideas for using the ground goat, moussaka was recommended.  I spotted a Bobby Flay recipe for moussaka and was inspired by his recipe but took quite a number of liberties based on the ingredients I had available.  Here is a link to his recipe.  
First, some of these things can be assembled in advance. I would recommend mixing the cheese ingredients (except for the Manchego) in advance and refrigerate.  Also, I think you could cook the ground meat mixture in advance and refrigerate (or even freeze!) until the actual assembly of the dish.  There are a lot of ingredients, so be sure to look over the list before you dive in (unlike me).  
A note about spices:  if you haven't updated your spice shelf in a while, do it!  It makes all the difference.  I pulled out a container of ground allspice and opened it.  I couldn't even smell the spice.  Then I opened a package of whole allspice and ground them in my spice grinder.  Oh my goodness.  Night and day. It is worth updating them every 6 months.  You won't believe the difference it makes in the quality of your cooking.


Moussaka
One pount ground lamb, beef goat, or pork (or a combo)
Olive oil
½ tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground cardamom (optional)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ onion thinly sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves finely minced
1 cup red wine
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
salt

1 eggplant, peeled & cut crosswise into ¼ inch slices and brushed with olive oil.

ricotta or similar cheese, about one cup
goat cheese, about 1/2 cup or use what you have..
fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley to taste and appearance
¼ cup pesto
2 or 3 egg yolks

1 cup of semi hard cheese such as manchego, or similar.

Combine the ricotta, goat cheese, chopped parsley, pesto, and egg yolks and set aside. 
Sautee the ground meat(s) in a pan with the various spices and salt. Remove from the pan and allow the juices to drip into a bowl.  Discard juices.
Add a bit more olive oil and sauté the onions until translucent.  Add garlic and continue cooking for one minute.  Add meat back into the pan, and add the wine and the tomato paste.  Cook until most of the fluid is evaporated.  Remove from pan into a bowl and cool.

In a skillet heated to medium-high add a bit more olive oil and sautee the  eggplant slices until golden brown on each side.  Remove to a paper towel to drain and allow to cool.

Coat the inside of a casserole with olive oil.  Layer half of the eggplant slices, then half of the meat mixture, then half of the cheese mixture.
Scatter half of the lemon zest over the top.  Repeat.

On the surface scatter the grated cheese.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.
Eggplant slices are brushed with olive oil before browning in a skillet.

Here the meat is being mixed with the sautéed onions and garlic.

First layer of sautéed eggplant going into the casserole dish.


First meat layer.


Then the cheese-egg layer.

More eggplant and I put half of the lemon zest over it (because I forgot to do it on the cheese layer!)

Spreading the final cheese-egg layer


Now sprinkling the layer of Manchego cheese on the top.

I served it with a tossed green salad. 
It was delicious!  I was pleasantly surprised about the ground goat:  it was really good.
I think ground lamb or beef would have been very tasty in this dish, too.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Steve's World Famous Spaghetti Recipe

My husband, Steve, makes the best spaghetti, so I thought I would share his famous recipe with all of our readers.  It's a double batch.  He's made it for our family, friends, big dinner parties, and everyone loves it.  Enjoy!

STEVE’S WORLD FAMOUS DOUBLE SPAGHETTI RECIPE

4 Lawry’s Dry Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Packets

2- 4 oz. cans of Tomato Paste

2 – 14.5 oz. cans Diced Stewed Tomatoes

1 Red or Orange Bell Pepper


2 sweet onions, diced

2 boxes of mushrooms or more

1-1/2 lb. Sweet Italian Sausage and 1-1/2 lb hamburger meat

Put water in large pot or Dutch oven at low heat.  Stir in the 3 packets of dry seasoning until dissolved (ignore the directions on the seasoning package).  Stir in the 2 cans of tomato paste until dissolved. 

Pour the 2 cans of stewed tomatoes and stir.  Stir in the sugar, and start with ½ T, tasting the sauce as you go.  Dice the bell peppers and onions, slice the mushrooms and peel the garlic.

Put enough oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom on medium heat.  Add the bell peppers and sauté until they are translucent.  Throw into the sauce pot and stir.

Add some olive oil and butter to the frying plan.  Sauté the onions until translucent, stirring to make sure that they don’t get over cooked.  Garlic.  I use a garlic press, but you can finely chop them.  Add the garlic to the pan in the last few minutes from the onions being done, otherwise the garlic burns.  Stir to blend in with the onions, and then add the onions and garlic to the sauce pot.  Butter the frying pan, and sauté the mushrooms, and then add to the sauce pot.  TASTE THE SAUCE.

Brown the ground beef (I salt and pepper it).  Good meat stays in ¼ inch clumps.  Drain off the oil, and add the meat to the sauce pot.

Cut the casing off the sausage and tear the sausage into ¼ inch clumps.  Brown and add to the sauce pot.

Note:  Sometimes when I made this, 3 packets of Lawry’s spices works perfectly.   However, the last time

I made this, in tasting the sauce, I got a sharp tomato taste when I tasted it before I put the meat and sausage in.  I ended up adding almost a fourth package of Lawry’s Seasoning, more than a tablespoon of oregano and almost another tablespoon of sugar.  The sugar cuts the acid taste in the tomatoes, but you want to be careful so that it is not too sweet.  Getting to the right flavor is somewhat of an adjust as you go.  A little bit of Italian seasoning doesn’t hurt, but the sauce does not have to taste perfect before the meat goes in, because the meat and sausage increase the taste, so final adjustments should be made after all of the ingredients are in the spaghetti.  I have also added some parmessan cheese in the past to mellow the flavor.  


You can make the spaghetti sauce the day of your dinner, but you can also make it the day before because letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator actually improves the flavor.

If there is a reddish oil on top of the sauce, spoon it off and get rid of it.  TASTE THE SAUCE.

Note:  Variations: You can make veggie spaghetti by just adding chopped zucchini and more, and different mushrooms, instead of meat.  


Freezing:  I always make a double recipe so I can freeze the rest.  I put enough for two in freezer containers (usually 3 or 4).  It freezes with no problem for up to six months.

8 cloves of garlic

4 – 4-1/2 cups water

Olive Oil

Butter

Salt, Pepper

Dry Oregano, Bay Leaf, if you want

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Up to 1 Tablespoon of sugar

Friday, July 18, 2014

Saving Heirloom Tomato Seeds


The following is derived from a post originally at The Sustainable Food Center:
Every heirloom tomato you buy at the Farmers' Market comes with a fairy-tale prize inside: generation after generation of tomato plants, neatly packed away within each one! Heirloom tomatoes are treasured for their flavor and variety, and, like the keys to a kingdom, their seeds are shared and passed down from grower to grower like the priceless inheritance they are. With just a little effort and knowledge, you'll be starting your own tomato dynasty soon enough. Read on for the basics of what you need to know to start saving seeds right now! (hint: now is the time--once tomatoes go out of season, you'll have to wait another year)

HOW TO SAVE HEIRLOOM TOMATO SEEDS:
  1. Harvest seeds: Cut the tomato in half. Use your finger or a knife to scoop out the seeds and juice from their cavities, or squeeze the tomato over a glass jar. Use a small jar, such as a jelly jar, if you are only saving seed from one or two tomatoes. Once the seeds and all their juice is in the jar, add no more than 25% water and slosh it around.
  2. Let them sit: Place the jar somewhere warm for two or three days, stirring occasionally.
  3. Check for readiness: After a few days (depending on the weather), a mold should form on the top. This method mimics the rotting of the tomato in nature or the actions of the digestive system of an animal and breaks down the clear gel coating around the seeds, which prevents the seed from sprouting inside the tomato. Once the mold covers the entire top of the liquid and the seeds have begun to sink, the gel coating has been broken down and they are ready for cleaning.
  4. Separate: You know seeds are ready for their final cleaning when most of them have sunk to the bottom of the jar. Add water to fill the jar and slosh it around. Let it settle for a moment. Carefully pour the water out of the jar. The mold, pulp, and immature seeds should sink and stay in the jar.
  5. Clean: Repeat this decanting process two to five times until you have only clean seeds and clean water. Pour out as much water as you can without losing the seeds or pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Dry: Pat dry through the strainer and then scoop the seeds out onto a small plate (like the lid from a yogurt container). Allow to dry without intense heat.
  7. Store: When they are very dry, store the seeds in a moisture-proof container in a cool, dry place. It is very important to label the container with variety and date. Tomato seeds can last for ten years or more if stored in a cool, dry spot.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Love

The following post is reposted from The Sustainable Food Center, in Austin Texas.  Please visit this wonderful site/blog as it is a wealth of information about food:  growing it and preparing it!
I adore heirloom tomatoes and get excited when I start to see them in the local farmer's market and at our beloved Central Market store.  They are what tomatoes are "supposed" to taste like.
I grew up in the midwest with a garden in my back yard that always had a bountiful supply of tomatoes, among other things, all summer long.  I didn't realize that a lot of people didn't grow vegetables and eat fresh things until I got a bit older.  How sad!
When I saw the photograph contained in this article I just had to share.  A follow-up to this post will be information on how to save the heirloom tomato seeds.

What's so special about heirloom tomatoes? In a world where flavor and color are sacrificed for uniform, homogenous tomatoes bred for their ability to withstand the rigors of long-distance shipping, locally-grown, proudly diverse, and shockingly flavorful tomatoes are a precious rarity. And they're worth the wait. We are willing to forgo fresh tomatoes (often sad, forgettable rounds of pale pink on a sandwich or in a salad) all year for the pleasures of a sun-ripened, carefully-tended real tomato, either tart or a little sweet, dripping with juice and full of character and complexity. Farmers have their favorite varieties, and they'll tell you all about them. Here's a list of some of our favorites we've spied recently at SFC Farmers' Markets--now is the time to visit, try them all, and choose your favorites!
  • Black Krim - Dark reddish-purple, juicy heirloom tomato from the Black Sea area in Russia. Tangy, rich, and sweet. 
  • Brandywine - A big, beefsteak, "pink" tomato, dating back to 1885, Brandywines are fantastically sweet with a mild acidity. 
  • Cherokee Purple - An old Cherokee heirloom with a deep, dusky red hue; sweet, dense, and juicy.
  • Green Zebra - Bright chartreuese with darker green stripes, these tomatoes are rich and sweet with a tangy zing.
  • San Marzano - An Italian heirloom, first grown in the volcanic soils under Mt. Vesuvius, San Marzanos are a "paste" tomato, best for making sauce. 
  • Sungold - Actually a hybrid and not an heirloom, we included them here because their thin skins mean you probably won't find them in the grocery store--and because we love them so. These small, bright tangerine-colored cherry tomatoes are explosively sweet and flavorful--we guarantee you can't eat just one! 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yummy Sugar Free Tart Frozen Yogurt

I fell in love with tart frozen yogurt many years ago when I had my first bite of tart gelato in Italy.  This is not exactly gelato, but it is extremely tasty.  Since I'm watching my sugar intake I took a recipe I found online and modified it.  The following recipe is the original, and includes my modifications just in case you prefer not to use sugar substitute.
Tangy and creamy Tart Frozen Yogurt 
Ingredients
    8 ounces (1 cup) 2% plain greek yogurt
    8 ounces (1 cup) nonfat vanilla greek yogurt
    5 3/8 ounces (5/8 cup) lowfat buttermilk
    4 1/8 ounces (1/2 cup) heavy cream
    2 5/8 ounces (3/8 cup) granulated sugar
    1 tablespoon vodka
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    pinch of salt
Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir together until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.*
2. Churn in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once done churning, transfer to an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap placed directly on top of the frozen yogurt, under the lid of the container.
Take frozen yogurt out of freezer 10-20 minutes before serving, allowing it to soften at room temperature until scoopable. Makes about 1 quart
My modifications:
*I added 1 tsp vanilla to 16 oz plain whole milk yogurt.  Beware of "low fat" yogurt if your concern in sugar, as the low fat varieties that are flavored have more carbohydrates.
*buttermilk was made from adding 1 T lemon juice to milk and allowed to stand for 5 minutes.
*sugar was substituted with same amount of combo (erythritol, stevia, splenda).  I need to 
mention that, if I were strictly using stevia or Splenda, I would reduce the amount as I find it quite a lot sweeter in amounts equal to sugar.  Erythritol is my favorite:  more closely resembles sugar and about 70% as sweet as sugar.  Hard to find in stores, but you can get it on amazon.  Link here.





(for the 2nd batch I bought some at the grocery store!)

Why vodka?  At first, I thought it was to help keep the frozen yogurt a bit softer.
I am not convinced it matters.


Sugar substitute added.

This is a Cuisinart ice cream maker.  I have had the base in the freezer for several hours 
prior to adding the ice cream ingredients.



The ice cream maker ran for 20 minutes...
After it finished blending I put the frozen yogurt (still in the blending base) back in the freezer for an hour before serving.
Here is my first batch!  Yum!

I served it with slices of a fresh peach.


In the second batch I mashed about 1/4 cup fresh blackberries and used the zest of a Meyer lemon and about 2 tablespoon of the juice, added right at the end of the blending.



This, too, is absolutely delicious.  It still has that tart yogurt taste, but the fruit and zest 
give it a little "zing"!



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Creme Fraiche Mustard Sauce for Fish

My husband wanted a "mustard' flavor fish sauce, so he googled it and got one by Ina Garten on the Food Network. You can view the original recipe here.   I made some adjustments because I didn't have whole grain mustard.  I am not a 'sauce' person, but more of a purest when it comes to fish.

I am cooking for 2, and had one large piece of Halibut.  So, the ingredients I used were 4 oz of Creme Fraiche, 3T Dijon Country Mustard, 2 shallots (from the garden) minced, and 2 t capers.  Kosher salt and pepper.  I know this is way more than I need, so next time, I will make a smaller batch.  I kept thinking of what else I could use it on, it was that good.

Here's my lovely piece of Halibut, in a glass pan that has been sprayed with olive oil.  I sprinkled salt and pepper on the bottom of the pan, before adding the fish.

Slather the top of the fish with the sauce and bake at 375 for 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  It was absolutely delicious.  Flavorful and tender.  I wanted to lick my plate. I served it with steamed asparagus and a green salad, with broccoli slaw, celery and watermelon in a Mango Chipolte dressing.  Alot of good flavors going on here!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Goat cheese & sesame asparagus

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and I was lucky enough to get a freshly picked bunch at the farmers market the other day before it was all gone. 



Gorgeous long bright green stalks just picked the day before that I knew would be wonderful paired with the fresh goat cheese that I bought at the first market stall that I visited.


 Ingredients:

Asparagus - 1 small bunch
Shallots - 2 tablespoons sliced
Goat cheese - 2 to 3 tablespoons crumbled
Toasted sesame seeds - 1 tablespoon
White wine - 2 tablespoons
Grape seed or olive oil - 2 tablespoons

Directions:

Wash and dry the asparagus and trim off any tough woody bottom stems.  In a non stick skillet heat 2 the grape seed (or olive oil) and add the shallots and asparagus.  Sauté for a couple of minutes until the shallots being to wilt a little.  Add the white wine and cook uncovered for 30 seconds.  Cover the pan and let the asparagus steam in the white wine for a few minutes until they’re crisp tender.  Remove the lid and add the sesame seeds and the goat cheese.  Toss to combine, season with salt and pepper and serve!