Monthly Archives: November 2008

Cheesy Mashed Cauliflower

On a recent Saturday morning, I was watching the Produce Pete segment on the Today Show and he was talking about cauliflower, when I realized that I had never cooked cauliflower.  To be honest, I don’t remember ever eating it any way but raw.  I love it raw but, I certainly couldn’t serve it for dinner that way.  So armed with all my tips from the ever-so-helpful Pete, I picked up a pretty little head of cauliflower and set off to find a good recipe.  I was sorely disappointed with my Internet search.  Most of the recipes I found were bland diet recipes.  So I figured if they’re a substitute for mashed potatoes they need cheese and since they are a nice fresh veggie they could benefit from some herbs.  Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients

Cauliflower

Lemon (zest and juice)

Fresh Parsley

Butter

Parmesan Cheese

Milk

Process

Rinse the cauliflower and scrape off any oxidized brown spots with the back of a knife.

0012Then cut the head in half and remove the core and all the greens around the bottom.

0032You can then cut or break the cauliflower into similarly sized florets.

0043Next, place your veggies in a large pot of cool, salted water and bring to a boil.  Allow to boil until just fork tender (soft enough to mash) but, not mushy.

0053While the cauliflower cooks, chop the parsley and finely grate the lemon zest.  You can also gently heat the milk in the microwave (you probably don’t need more than 1/4 cup for one head of cauliflower).

0062When the caulflower is tender, drain very well in a colander and return to the pot, on low heat.  Add the herbs, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Season with salt and pepper and mash with a potato masher.

0072To smooth out even more, remove from heat and place into a bowl, add a couple splashes of milk and lots of cheese, and go at it with your hand mixer.  If you like it chunkier just stir in the milk and cheese.

0091Note:  Cauliflower has a lot of water in it, more than I anticipated, as a result, my finished product was looking a little runny.  If yours comes out like this, return it to the pot and let some of the liquid cook out over medium to medium high heat (keep a close eye on it!).

0102As per the results of my poll (that some of you so graciously voted in) I served the cauliflower with Italian style meatloaf muffins, and of course, another generous sprinkling of parm.

Please excuse the unsightly white speck on the table, apparently the cameraman was off his game...lol.

Please excuse the unsightly white speck on the table, apparently the cameraman was off his game...lol.

Enjoy this tasty and light alternative to mashed potatoes!

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And The Winner Is…

GOOEY PUMPKIN BUTTER CAKE!!!  It’s pretty clear that you, my readers, love Paula Deen, and love butter even more.  I’m all set and ready to bake up a beautiful cake for my family.  Thanks to all for participating in the poll.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com.

Note:  The winner of my most recent poll, was the meatloaf muffins.  I made them Italian style and they were delicious.  I’ll be blogging the cauliflower shortly, so check back soon.

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Oh What To Serve, What To Serve?

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Dirty Jersey Disco Fries

All I can say is YUMMY!  I’ve been eating disco fries, a variation of cheese fries commonly served in the diners of New Jersey and New York, since I was a little girl.  When I was young, there was a giant flea market in the town I grew up in and I loved to go there, mostly because I knew I would be having fresh cut french fries doused in cheese and gravy.  Until recently, I didn’t even know they were called disco fries, apparently that was a term coined in upstate New York, I just knew they tasted like heaven.  It may come as a surprise to some of you who don’t know me personally but, if asked what my favorite foods are, french fries will always be first on my list.  Growing up, I always had them deep fried but, for the most part I make oven fries now, which I’ve discovered get much crispier without all the fat.  Anyway, when I saw that there was going to be a Local Eats challenge on Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, I jumped on the chance to indulge on a long-time favorite.  I did my best to lighten up the dish by using lots of chicken broth for the sauces, part-skim mozzarella, and by baking the fries. The crumbled bacon is what turned this dish into a meal for us.  By the way, I picked up this method for the oven fries from Smitten Kitchen a couple weeks ago, it works beautifully.  Here goes:

Ingredients

Fries:

Russet/Idaho Potatoes (I usually allow two med./lrg. per person but, since it was dinner I threw in an extra)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Gravy:

Flour

Butter

Chicken Broth/Stock

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Mozzarella Sauce:

Pasteurized Mozzarella Cheese

Flour

Butter

Chicken Stock

Milk (whatever you have in your fridge is fine)

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Garnish:

BACON!

Process

Start out by cooking up your bacon as you normally would (I used four slices).  When making bacon to crumble, I usually cut into strips before I fry it, it just makes it less messy when it’s time to crumble it up.

0132When your bacon is fully cooked, set aside on paper towels to drain, and pour out most of the fat from the pan.

0151

In the same pan, allow a couple tablespoons of butter to melt.  To the butter, add equal parts flour and stir until the mixture smooths out.

0142This is your roux, season with salt and pepper and allow to brown, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a shade of brown a little lighter than peanut butter.  As I mentioned in Meatloaf Meatballs, do not leave it unattended!

018While your roux cooks, you can clean up your potatoes.

0113

Cut the potatoes into thick wedges, I find that steak fries hold up better to the gravy and cheese than thinner fries do.

0122Parboil the potatoes in salted water until just fork tender.  Once the water reaches a boil, this should only take a few minutes.

When they reach this point, drain well, and transfer to a large bowl.

0161Coat with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, then toss the potatoes onto a cookie sheet in a single layer (my potatoes did suffer some breakage this time around, but these things happen in the kitchen and the bottom line is, they still taste just as yummy!)

0171Bake the potato wedges in a preheated, 400 degree oven until they are crispy and golden.

Some time while you are prepping the potatoes, your roux will have reached its desired color.  At this point you can add the chicken broth.  Do this while stirring constantly to avoid the dreaded lumps.

019I used about three quarters of the can of chicken broth.  Once all of the liquid is incorporated, let the gravy come to a boil while stirring occasionally.  Once it has reached a rolling boil, it should be a nice consistency.  You can then remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl until ready to serve.  Note:  cover the bowl so the gravy doesn’t lose too much of its heat as it sits.

021Rinse out your pan and start another roux.  This time, just give the flour a few minutes to cook, we don’t want the roux to pick up any color since it’s for a cheese sauce.  Again you can season with a little salt and pepper.  While the roux cooks, you can grate the cheese, I used about half a block.

0221

After the flour has cooked up a bit, add the rest of the can of chicken broth, again, stirring continuously.  Once that has come together, you can add the milk(I use two percent), I used about equal parts broth and milk.

023Congratulations, you have just made a bechamel sauce(albeit lightened up a bit)!  After the mixture has thickened a bit, you can add in the cheese.

024When the cheese is melted, the sauce is done.

Around this time, your potatoes should be reaching the desired level of crispiness.  When they appear to be to your liking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for just a couple of minutes, then transfer to a serving dish.  Pour the gravy and cheese sauce over the fries and sprinkle the top with bacon.

0252

How could you not ENJOY!?!

Note:  for those not afraid to try new things, try them with a little ketchup on the side, it really is good!

A Joelen’s My Kind Of Town Thanksgiving Entry-Check out the Round Up.

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Dan’s #1 Shephard’s Pie

A few years ago, my husband, who is of mixed race, discovered that he is mostly Irish on one side.  In honor of his heritage, I set out to learn some recipes typical of Irish cuisine.  So along with soda bread, corned beef and cabbage and a few others, I learned to make shephard’s pie, which quickly became Dan’s favorite and the dish most requested by my family and friends.

It just so happens that it is also the perfect meal for the current state of our economy.  I’m sure many people are starting to notice that I make a lot of ground beef.  To be honest, it’s not my favorite but there are two reasons that I use it so much.  1.) It is usually the most affordable meat in the grocery store, and we stock up when it’s on sale.  2.)  Dan can’t get enough of it!

This may not be completely traditional but here’s what my recipe has morphed into over the years:

Ingredients

Meat Mixture:

Ground Beef

Onion

Fresh Garlic

Thyme (fresh or dried)

Bay Leaf (fresh or dried)

Paprika

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Tomato Sauce

Hot Sauce

Red Wine

Frozen Veggies (I usually use peas and carrots or mixed)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Potato Topping:

Potatoes (whatever you use for mashed)

Fresh Garlic

Butter

Milk

Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cheddar Cheese (I use extra sharp)

Process

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  You can also shred up your cheddar cheese now so, it will be waiting and ready when you need it.

Start by peeling and chopping your potatoes, I usually allow two potatoes per person.  Place them in a pot and just cover with water (I know they say to use cold water but, I never do, and my mashed potatoes always come out delicious).

0011

Put them over a high fire and bring to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling bowl, add plenty of salt to the pot and allow to cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes cook, begin the meat mixture.  First, in a large skillet heat just a touch of olive oil over a low to medium fire.  While the oil heats, chop the onion and mince the garlic (for about 3/4 lb. of meat I used 1/3 of a medium onion and one large clove of garlic).  A microplane comes in handy for the garlic but, the fine side of a box grater or good knife skills will work too.  Once all the onion is chopped add it to the skillet and allow to begin softening.  A few minutes later, add the garlic (it will burn if you put in too early or if the fire is too high).  Stir the veggies to throughly coat with the olive oil and allow everything to soften up but, not brown.  Note:  as I’ve mentioned before, I like to season every layer of a dish so, at this point, I do lightly season the onion and garlic with s&p.

0021When the onions are just translucent, add the ground beef, break it up with a wooden spoon, and allow to brown on one side before turning.

0031After the meat is browned on one side, turn it and break it up a little more then, add your seasonings.  Salt and pepper, paprika, thyme (no need to chop just pull off the tiny leaves and toss ’em in), bay leaf, tomato sauce, and hot sauce.

0041Stir everything to combine.0052

If there is lots of excess grease in the pan, be sure to drain it off as, it will make your potatoes runny once it’s baking.  (Plus, who needs all the extra fat?)

0061Allow the meat to gently simmer while you finish the potatoes.

When I make this dish, I use my standard mashed potato method.  It’s a little different but, my mom taught me this trick when I was a teenager, and it has proven very handy and time saving.  I put butter (1-2 tbsps, depending on the number of potatoes) to a mug and add a crushed clove of garlic to the butter and then put it in the microwave until the butter is melted and the garlic is toasty (don’t walk away from it, the garlic can burn before you know it if you’re not paying attention), start with about 30 seconds, until you know exactly how long your microwave takes to toast up the garlic.  Here, we are essentially roasting the garlic.

0071I then add my milk to the same mug so that the heat of the mug and the butter will warm the milk, just a bit.  At least in my thinking, ice cold milk will cool down the potatoes too much.

0082Here’s where your multi-tasking abilities will be tested.  By now, your potatoes probably need to be removed from the heat and drained.  It is also the time your meat mixture needs to be finished off.

So, quickly drain the potatoes in a colander and cover with a paper towel (so you don’t lose too much heat and moisture).  Then, add a generous glug of red wine to the meat and stir to incorporate.  Add your veggies to the pan (whatever amount is to your liking, I prefer lots).

009At this point, you can lower the heat and cover while you mash up the potatoes.

Return the drained potatoes to the pan, pour in your butter mixture and begin mashing.  If your masher is effective, it shouldn’t take too long to get them mostly smooth.

0101Add salt and pepper to taste and as much shredded cheddar as your heart desires.

0111Stir with a spoon until the cheese is well-incorporated.  Note:  I like to leave the potato pan on low while I’m preparing them.

0121You’re almost to the finish line now!  You can turn off the potatoes and the meat.  Then pour your meat mixture into a casserole dish.

0131Top with the mashed potatoes and drag the tines of a fork across the potatoes (just for texture’s sake).

0141Sprinkle more cheddar on top of the assembled casserole.

015Place the prepared dish into your oven and allow to bake until cheese and potatoes are browned and bubbly (if you need a shortcut, you can also stick it under the broiler).

016Yuuummmm…Crispy cheese!

017Enjoy!

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The Boss’ Fall Fete

A few weeks ago, Mark, one of my bosses, asked me to make him dinner for his birthday.  Of course, I agreed and shortly after began planning and testing out ideas.  Originally I was thinking steak or fish with risotto and some sort of green veggie.  I decided on butternut squash risotto and when my ideas for fish and steak didn’t work out, dh suggested that I make a roasted, glazed sausage dish that I’ve been making for years.  After pondering the idea for a few moments, the meal came together.  I would make the sausage and then to tie all the fall flavors together, I would garnish with some sauteed apples.

Dan, made his specialty, key lime pie.  Which was absolutely mouth-watering, as usual.

So for nearly a week, Dan, Doug (my other boss), and I kept the menu a secret from Mark, that is until the yummy smells were wafting from his kitchen.

working my magic in mark and doug's beautiful French inspired kitchen.

working my magic in mark and doug's beautiful French inspired kitchen.

Doug’s Tablescape

sparkling stemware

sparkling stemware

a dramatic centerpiece of black baccara roses, black berries, and glowing votives

a dramatic centerpiece of black baccara roses, black berries, and glowing votives

a table setting fit for a king

a table setting fit for a king

The Menu

First Course:

Baby Spinach Salad

baby spinach salad with apples, spiced pecans, goat cheese, and apple cider vinaigrette

baby spinach salad with apples, spiced pecans, goat cheese, and apple cider vinaigrette

Entree:

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Glazed Italian Sausage and Sauteed Apples

risotto made with covey run sauvignon blanc, parmesan cheese, and rosemary

risotto made with covey run sauvignon blanc, parmesan cheese, and rosemary

sausage glazed with apple butter and italian apricot preserves

sausage glazed with apple butter and italian apricot preserves

Dessert:

Key Lime Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream, Lemon Curd, and Chocolate Sauce

a light finish to a rich meal

a light finish to a rich meal

Between the food, the liquor, and they good company, we definitely enjoyed!

I couldn't tell you why I'm facing the camera but not actually looking at it.

I couldn't tell you why I'm facing the camera but not actually looking at it.

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Spicy Kafta With Yogurt Sauce

Low on groceries and even lower on money, I took out some ground beef to defrost this morning.  I’m all out of potatoes and we already had rice and pasta this week, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to make.  I did have about half a box of whole wheat couscous.  So, I’m thinking how in the world am I going to make couscous and ground beef work together?  Then I remember a dish we had at a middle-eastern restaurant, over the summer.  It was called kafta, similar to Greek beefteki, but with its roots in Turkey and Lebanon.  It was delicious…herby and spicy.  I looked up some recipes online and altered what I found to work with the pantry ingredients I had in stock.  Traditionally this dish is grilled and made with ground mutton or lamb but, my grill is officially out of commission until next summer, so I decided that broiling it in my gas oven would be the next best thing.  Here’s what I came up with:

Ingredients

Kafta:

Ground Beef

Fresh Parsley

Red Onion

Kosher salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cinnamon

Goya Sazon

Bread Crumbs

(I know it sounds like an odd combo but, I promise, it worked.  I used the Sazon because it is made mostly of cumin which, is a common ingredient in this dish.)

Yogurt Sauce:

Plain Nonfat Yogurt

Low Fat Sour Cream

Lemon Zest

Fresh Lemon Juice

Fresh Garlic

Kosher Salt

Fresh Parsley

Process

Start by preheating your broiler.  I put mine on the low setting to insure that the meat cooked through before it got too browned.  While it preheats, finely chop some red onion and fresh parsley.

001In a bowl, combine this with the ground beef, bread crumbs, 1/2 pack of sazon, a sprinkle of cinnamon and salt and pepper.

002As I mentioned in Meatloaf Meatballs, be sure not to overmix your meat mixture, so it doesn’t get tough.  With your hands, form handfuls of the meat mixture into flat ovals and place on your pre-heated broiler pan.

003Place pan in pre-heated broiler and allow to cook until patties are browned and spring back when touched.  You will be able to smell the patties when they are close to done.  While they cook, you can prepare the yogurt sauce.  I didn’t have any greek yogurt, so I combined about 2/3 regular plain nonfat yogurt and 1/3 low fat sour cream.

004In a small bowl, combine this with finely chopped parsley, 1/2 a lemon’s worth of zest and its juice, a small clove of finely grated garlic, and salt to taste.

005I served the kafta with the couscous that I seasoned with lemon zest and sazon and peas with olive oil and lemon juice (that I almost burned).

008I was really pleased with the results and will definitely make it again…enjoy!

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