Sunday, January 23, 2011

Beef Stir Fry with Crispy Parsnips

This recipe is a riff off of a traditional Chinese recipe from one of my cookbooks. Felt like a Chinese-ish dinner last night.  This would be a perfect toss it together meal for a week night.

6 oz beef,sliced thin
3 small turnips, julienne
1 large carrot, sliced
2 T diced red pepper
1 bok choi, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 T oil
1 T sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
2 t pepper sauce
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 t fresh sliced Ginger
Salt & pepper to taste

Dry fry the parsnips, set aside. Add oil and garlic and Ginger. Then add beef and cook until brown, add water as needed. Add salt, pepper, and pepper sauce. Add in carrots and zucchini. Cook for 15-20 mins. Then add bok choi, sesame oil, and red pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 mins more. Add parsnips back in. Serve hot over brown rice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grandpa's Buttermilk Pancakes

My mother grew up in a large family.  Everything was done on a budget.  Most of the younger kids' clothes were hand-me-downs.  My grandma, as most mothers did back then, cooked almost all of the meals.  The weekends were special.  On some weekends, my grandpa would make his buttermilk pancakes for the whole crew.

This recipe makes everything stretch - the small amount of sugar and fat and eggs - it was the perfect budget recipe for a big family.  I could recall this recipe in my sleep.  

On the weekends in my family, we had grandpa's buttermilk pancakes with wild blueberries from the blueberry bogs in the back end of our property.  I grew up on 50 acres of woodlands in Sanford, Michigan.  It was an absolutely magical childhood and I have so much respect and undying love for the forest.  I'm grateful to have had such an opportunity to enjoy the world around me. 

Anyways...some weekends we had a breakfast of blueberry buttermilk pancakes, and, if we were lucky a few pieces of crispy bacon.  The maple syrup we put on top of the pancakes soaked into every inch of fluffy goodness and made your blood sing with the natural sugar rush.  Yeah, that incredible elixir was made by my dad with help from my sister and I.  My family makes their own maple syrup from the maple trees in our backyard.  

These pancakes are so special to me because they embody my family.  I hope you take the time to try them and make weekend breakfasts for family and friends.  Take time to linger in those moments.

Grandpa's Buttermilk Pancakes (feeds 4 or so)
1 cup and 2 T flour (I use half white, half whole wheat)
1 cup of buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of oil or melted butter

Combine the buttermilk and egg, beat well.  Add the sugar and melted butter/oil.  Mix the dry ingredients and then add them to the wet mixture.  Stir gently to combine - just until the lumps are gone.  Do not over stir as that would make the gluten form and make chewy pancakes!  Heat a skillet to medium heat.  

Drop 1-3 tablespoons (just depends on size you want) of batter to create 1 pancake.  If you want to add blueberries or chocolate chips, drop them onto the batter in the pan at this stage (this keeps you from making BLUE pancake batter by stiring them in!).

Pancakes are ready to flip when you see tiny bubbles around the edge of the pancake.  This typically takes 1-3 minutes. Flip one and check for an awesome golden color - is it there?  If so, you're safe to flip the rest, and cook an additional 1-3 minutes on the second side.

Drizzle or drench with maple syrup and then devour.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

NYE 2011 - Ad Hoc at Home

As I'm catching up on all of the food blogs I like to read, my husband walks in and says "you're addicted to food."  I guess that is true.  Isn't everyone?  Food is important to our ability to live.  Food is an integral part of every culture.  Food is what brings us together to share our stories.  It is completely fair of him to say that...because while I'm reading the food blogs, I have vegan gluten free banana bars baking in the oven for my yoga community to enjoy later today, and I spent 3 hours cooking last night!  I refuse to see my addiction as a negative.

I love cooking and baking for others.  It's one gift and talent I have cultivated that allows me to show people just how much I care about them.  I enjoy nourishing others through quality food.  Good food nourishes every aspect of a human being.  And, good food, can be made cheaply.

Last night was New Year's Eve and we faced the dilemma of going out to eat or staying in.  My husband has been sick all week so that was one for the "stay in" side of things.  The other objection to going out was the amount of money a good dinner costs.  Did we really need to spend $60-80 on a nice meal for the two of us?  Cooking is fun for me.  Why not just go to the grocery store and buy what I need to make a stellar meal at home?  This is how I ended up at a local grocery store at 3pm on New Year's Eve - note to self: go before NYE in the future...

I found two recipes in my new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller, and a dessert recipe from Giada's Kitchen - New Italian Favorites.  Both books were recent Christmas gifts so I figured I might as well use them!  My NYE 2011 menu consisted of:

Braised oxtail and mushroom tartine
Sauteed broccoli with garlic and red pepper flakes
Espresso chocolate mousse with grapefruit ricotta whipped cream

YUM!  Off to the grocery store I went to wade amongst my fellow shoppers for the last - literally the very last - loaf of ciabatta bread and package of oxtails.  Who knew oxtails would be a popular item?  Oxtails are actually beef tail.  Mildly creepy but Thomas Keller promised they would be "...simple and it's really, really good (you could probably put it between slices of Wonder Bread and it would still be delicious)."  

I altered each recipe to use what I had available and I also reduced the main dishes to feed 3-4 people instead of 6.  I wanted leftovers, but not that many leftovers!

The first important step of making a complex dish is to read through the recipe in it's entirety.  Failure to do this can result in complete and total failure.  I read through the recipes before I hit the grocery store and I read through them again when I went to prepare everything in order to judge what to prepare first.  Even though I did this...I failed to see why I needed to turn the oven on...luckily ovens heat up quickly and the oxtail was still in the oven by a decent time!  Because the dessert needs to rest in the refrigerator for 3 hours, I started there.  The grocery store did not carry marscapone cheese so I opted for part-skim ricotta.  I had skim milk I needed to use up so I opted for that instead of purchasing whole milk.  I had incredible red grapefruits so I used them instead of the oranges the recipe called for.  The recipe is printed below with my alterations!

Espresso Chocolate Mousse (with Grapefruit Ricotta Cream)
1/2 cup of skim milk 
3 T sugar
1 packet of instant coffee powder
1.5 large bars of bittersweet chocolate (buy the good stuff!  It makes all the difference)
3 large egg whites

Grapefruit Ricotta Cream
1/4 cup ricotta cheese (part skim)
2 T freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 cup of heavy cream
2 T powdered sugar

In a small saucepan, stir the milk together with the sugar and the coffee powder.  Heat until steam comes off of the mixture but not until it boils.  Place the chocolate bars (broken up) into a bowl or into the bowl of your mixer.  Pour the hot mixture over the chocolate and turn the mixer on or use a hand mixer until the chocolate has melted.  Separate 3 egg whites, reserving the yolks for something else another day, and add the whites to the bowl.  Blend with a whisk attachment on high for about 3 minutes.  Set in 4 small ramekins or dishes, in the refrigerator, for 3-4 hours.

For the cream, beat the ricotta with the grapefruit juice and powdered sugar.  Then add the heavy cream.  Use the whisk attachment and beat until you get stiff peaks (about 5 minutes).  Set aside in the refrigerator until serving time!

While the dessert was setting up, I moved on to the oxtails, as they needed to braise in the oven for 2.5 hours.  Recipe below with my many alterations:

Braised Oxtail and Mushroom Tartine
4-5 pieces of oxtail (1 package)
salt and black pepper
canola oil
4 cups of water
2 cups of sliced mushrooms (I used "baby portobella")
2 T finely minced shallots
1 t dried thyme
1 T butter
1/2 loaf of ciabatta bread
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Season the oxtails with salt and pepper.  Using a cast iron pan, brown the oxtails on all sides in a bit of canola oil.  Place the oxtails on paper towels to drain excess fat.  Add the oxtails back into the pan and fill it with water half way up the oxtails (this was approximately 4 cups of water for me, in a large cast iron pan).  Cover and place in the oven for 2.5 - 3 hours. (note - I checked the water level every hour to ensure there was enough liquid, there was).

Remove the oxtails from the oven and flip them each over to the other side.  Let rest on top of your stove for 30 minutes.  Then, painstakingly pick the meat off of the bones, and toss out all of the fat and cartilage.  I tried using a fork and knife.  It didn't work.  Just get your hands in there, get sticky, and get it done!

Pour the cooking liquid out of the pan into a bowl to reserve.  Wash out the pan.  Add a bit of canola oil and saute the mushrooms until golden on both sides.  Then add the shallots and cook until they are soft.  Add the thyme.  Add the liquid back into the pan.  Add the meat back into the pan.  Cook 5-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced (note - I didn't have much liquid and simply cooked it for 5 minutes to reheat!).

Meanwhile, preheat your oven broiler.  Cut the half loaf of ciabatta in half.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top and place on a cookie sheet.  Broil until golden brown on the top and edges.  Remove.  Add the cooked meat and mushroom mixture to the top.  Slice into 4 pieces and serve!

So while the meat was finishing up, I cooked the vegetable side dish, and I made sure to pick an easy one because I knew I would have to focus on the meat!  The original recipe called for broccolini but that stuff is $2.99 for a tiny package and one head of broccoli was $1 and I already had some in my refrigerator.

Sauteed Broccoli with Garlic and Red Pepper Flakes
1 head of broccoli, cut into large pieces
1 T olive oil
1 T sliced garlic
pinch of red pepper flakes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Plunge the broccoli into cold water (I used my sink, Mr. Keller recommends a bowl).  Dump the water out of the pot, add olive oil, and heat it to medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.  Add the red pepper flakes.  Add the broccoli and cook 3-5 minutes.  Ta da - you're done!

I probably spent about $20 on the entire meal - all three courses - and about 1 hour of actual work.  Some of the items I purchased I didn't use all of (ricotta, shallots, and heavy cream) The rest of the time was waiting on braising and chilling.  Everything was amazing.  I'll post a picture of the dessert when we make up the other two later this evening!

I hope that everyone had a joyous New Year's Eve and is looking forward to an incredible 2011.