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So unbelievably easy I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before.

So we ended up a whole jar of olives from a care package for Martha.  BTW, she is doing really well.  She is starting to ween herself off of the crutches.  Mainly just around the apartment, but it is a start.  Like I was saying, we had this entire jar of olives that I didn’t know what to do with.  Then it occurred to me that I had all of the things around to make a tapenade.  Ted Allen to the rescue!  Some time ago I picked up his book The Food You Want To Eat.  I haven’t done many recipes out of it, but the ones that I have tried were all really good.  So it made sense that this was where I looked first for a tapenade recipe.  Lo and behold, Ted came through for me with style!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint Green Olives; pitted and not stuffed
  • 1 Garlic clove (I used 3)
  • 2 tsp Anchovy Paste (I used about 3 fillets)
  • 2 tsp Capers (I used a Tbs)
  • Grated zest of 1 Lemon (didn’t have, so I used about 2 tsp of lemon juice)
  • Grated zest of 1 Orange – optional (didn’t have, so didn’t use)
  • 5 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until a rough paste.

I used my crappy blender because I don't have a food processor. Hence the less than stellar physical appearance.

 

Like I said, this recipe is pathetically easy and tastes unbelievably good.  In fact, after making this on my own, I’m a little pissed that I’ve spent so much money at restaurants and stores to get my tapenade fix.

R.I.P. Auntie Theresia

Last Saturday, my great-aunt passed away at the ripe ol’ age of 94.  (The obit is here.)  I have met very few people who were always genuinely happy to see you and Theresia was one of those.  Even if our family visits weren’t the most regular.  For most of my life, she and Grandma Rose (they are sisters) lived in the same apartment building and later in the same assisted living housing, so it was really easy to duck in and say “Hi.”  The catch was that she wasn’t at home all that much because she was off visiting somebody, or shopping, or doing something at church, or out for heaven knows what reason.  One of Auntie Theresia’s passions was baking.  As an added bonus, she was unbelievable good at it.  Her two signature desserts, angel food cake and coffee cake, are the gold standards in our family.  It is considered high praise if someone said that you came close to Auntie Theresia’s version.  Like all great cooks, she loved to share her creations and we were more than happy to oblige.  She was also very prolific in her baking.  When we did manage to cross paths and visit, she always had some kind of treat already sitting on the counter or she pulled something out of the freezer to thaw even before you had a chance to sit down.  And if you were really lucky, you managed to catch her when she was cleaning out the freezer and she would send something home with you.

Many people in my family have tried to reproduce her recipes.  Most have had decent luck with the angel food cake.  No one has been able to nail her coffee cake recipe though.  My sister Michelle probably comes the closest with a version that’s about 87% of Theresia’s sinfully delicious coffee cake.  All the different fillings that Theresia used were wonderful, but the one that everyone fought over was the poppy seed filled one.  It had so much poppy seed in it, you couldn’t pass a drug test for a year after only one piece.  There would be a layer of three-quarters of an inch of poppy seed across the whole cake.  Combined with milk and sugar, the poppy seed layer was always the best part.  As a very close second, was the crumb that she put on top of the cake.  It is a combination of sugar, flour, butter, and lard that approaches foodie nirvana.  Remember fat equals flavor!

I have never worked up the nerves to try this recipe, but here is Auntie Theresia’s Poppy Seed Coffee Cake recipe (as found in the Holy Trinity Centennial Cookbook, Royalton, MN):

Ingredients – Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Milk – scalded
  • 1 1/4 C Lard
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 10 C Flour

2 yeast cakes and 1 package yeast dissolved in 1 C lukewarm water, 2 tsp vanilla and 2 tsp sugar add to above ingredients.

Mix and let rise, punch down and let rise again.  Divide dough in greased 10″ round or 7″ square pans.  Spread filling (see below).  Gather sides to the the middle, pinch together and press down.  Spread on dough (beat 1 egg and 2 Tbs sugar mixed so crumbs stick).

Crumbs:

  • 5 C Flour
  • 1 C Butter
  • 1 Tbs Vanilla
  • 2 C Sugar
  • 1 C Lard

Mix until crumbly and spread on dough.

Poppy Seed Filling:

  • 6 C Milk
  • 1 C Half & Half

Bring to boil and add 2 lbs ground poppy seed, 6 C sugar, 1 Tbs Vanilla;  boil slowly for 1 hour stirring frequently; let cool.

Bake at 350 F degrees for 30-35 until brown.

Mind you, this is verbatim from the church cookbook and I’ve never done this before, so if you have questions, ask Michelle.  She is getting better as the years go by.  Michelle did want me to say that this is a very sticky dough, so be warned.

Not Theresia's coffee cake, but it's the closest picture I could find.

As a very strange aside, I find comfort in that Fr. Virnig will be co-officiating the funeral.  He was the priest at Mom and Dad’s church while I was growing up, and then he moved over to Royalton where Grandma and Theresia lived.  Then when Grandma passed, he was one of the officiants at her funeral with my cousin, Fr. Tom.  I guess I just like the continuity.

I just want to leave saying that Auntie Theresia will be missed, and more than just for her food.

My favorite roast chicken plus a couple of new side dishes

This happened around a month ago, so the details are a bit sketchy in my brain.  I know someone came over and ate with us, I recently went grocery shopping, and I needed to use the chicken because it wouldn’t fit in the freezer anymore.  Other than that, make up whatever back story you want.  It probably will be more interesting than what really happened.  Just for the record, I’m not excluding the possibility of a ninja attack.  They’re sneaky like that.

So, the roast chicken recipe is hands-down my favorite one that I have ever done.  I try to do it on a regular basis since I can get great birds from Mom (she raises some for butchering every year).  The recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef, one of my first cookbook purchases way back around the turn of the century.  Also one of my favorites that I constantly turn to first for ideas.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken, whole; about 3 lbs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbs each of Basil, Parsley, and Marjoram; mixed together (I use dried, if you use fresh go with a small handful of each and finely chop them)
  • 1/4 C Olive Oil
  • 1 Lemon; quartered
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tbs of Rosemary (again I use dried, go with 2 sprigs if you have fresh)

Preheat the oven and a roasting pan to 425 F degrees.  Clean up any odd bits of the chicken, i.e. pin feathers, excess fat, anything that got missed inside of the cavity, etc.  Rinse the chicken, inside and out, and pat dry.  Rub the cavity with salt.  I usually use around a couple of teaspoons.  Gently grab the skin, breast side, by the neck and separate the skin from the breast.  The easiest way to do this is to poke a couple of fingers down in between.  Just be careful not to rip the skin.  The skin is attached better between the breasts, instead of trying to separate things, I just leave it as two tunnels.  Sprinkle a couple of pinches of salt down in the tunnels, followed by most of the herb mixture and a drizzle of olive oil into each.  Stuff the cavity with the lemon, bay, and rosemary.  Tuck the wings under themselves and truss up the bird with some kitchen twine.  I won’t go into how to truss the bird because I’ve done it numerous ways and still haven’t found a method that I like and works well.  I’m assuming that it’s more user error than actual methodology.

Make a three or four shallow cuts into the thighs to help the heat penetrate (dark meat takes longer to cook than white) and rub in the remaining herb mixture you have left.  Rub the entire chicken with a little olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.  Remove the hot roasting pan and add a little oil.  Place the chicken on one side, breast down, and put back into the oven for five minutes.  Switch to the other side, again breast down for another five minutes.  Finally, flip the bird onto its back and cook for approximately one more hour.  When the chicken is done, let it rest for ten minutes or so.  That way the juices can absorb back into the meat instead of ending up on the cutting board.  The skin ends up nice and crispy, while the meat is juicy and flavorful.

For side dishes I adapted two recipes from the book I’m currently reading, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright.  I’m only about a hundred pages into it, but so far it is a great history of food of the entire Mediterranean area.  There is plenty of emphasis on the food of the poor (which doesn’t get talked about a lot, period) as well as the over the top feasts like when we think of de Medici’s and the like.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in food history.  The first recipe I did almost verbatim from the book, the second, well, not so much.

The first recipe that I did is called Salatat al-Malfuf from Syria.  It is a pretty basic cabbage salad, but I would like to make some tweaks the next time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head Savoy Cabbage (about 1 lb); damaged leaves removed, cored, and shredded
  • 1/4 C Sea Salt
  • 6 Garlic Cloves; minced
  • 2 Tbs Lemon Juice
  • 6 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried Mint (I didn’t use this because I didn’t have any, but I think it would be great in here)

Toss the shredded cabbage in a large bowl with the salt and let it sit for an hour.  Thoroughly wash the salt off of the cabbage by dunking it in water.  Taste a piece to make sure the salt is washed off.  Place in a clean bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients.  Serve at room temp within an hour.

I like the idea of this recipe, but letting the cabbage sit that long with that much salt wilted the hell out of it.  I think the next time I do this, I will go lighter on the salt and definitely lighter on the time it sits.  Also, I think the “dressing” of lemon juice and olive oil could be cut in half because there was a lot sitting in the bottom of the bowl when everything was eaten.

The second recipe is called Col-i-flor from Catalonia (the very northeast corner of Spain).  Surprisingly enough, this is a cauliflower recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lbs Potatoes; peeled and cut to the same size as the cauliflower florets
  • 10 oz Cauliflower florets (about one small head)
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp White Wine Vinegar

Place the potatoes and cauliflower in a large saucepan and cover with two inches of slightly salted cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until both are easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a serving dish.  Mix the oil, vinegar, and salt to taste.  Pour over  the cauliflower and potatoes and mix, breaking them up a bit.  Serve immediately.

So that’s the recipe from the book.  Here’s how I did it:

  • I skipped the potatoes and just doubled up on the cauliflower because I had a very large head
  • I added a pound of fried and chopped bacon because everything is better with bacon
  • I ended up using 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar just to give it the punch I think it needed

Assuming that you just didn’t skip down to the end, here’s your reward for reading this really long post:

Well worth the effort in the kitchen.

Roasted Squash Risotto

A week ago I was looking through the fridge seeing what needed to get used up.  I had some butternut squash that I never got around to roasting.  I then looked in Rice & Risotto: a collection of over 100 essential recipes and found one that called for squash.  Sounded like a plan to me.  (The copy that I have has a different cover, but the ISBN number is the same).  I started with this cookbook because Lindsay has been requesting more rice and veggies in our meals.  Guess not everyone prefers protein and starch heavy farm meals.  *shrug*

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1 Tbs dried Basil
  • 1 Tbs dried Oregano
  • 1 Tbs Butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Onions
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 3/4 C dry White Wine
  • 5 C Veggie stock
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Put the squash into a roasting pan.  Mix 1 Tbs of oil and the honey together and pour over the squash.  Mix until everything is coated.  Put the squash into the oven for 30-35 minutes or until tender.

Heat the veggie stock in a pot until simmering.  In a small bowl, mix the basil, oregano, and 2 Tbs of oil together and set aside.  Heat the butter and remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook for 8 minutes, or until soft and golden.  Stirring occasionally.  Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the rice in the oil mixture.  Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly.  Once the wine is mostly absorbed, add enough stock to cover the rice and cook over medium-low heat.  Here the recipe calls for stirring constantly, but I find that everything comes out just fine if you thoroughly stir it a couple of times a minutes.  Again add enough stock to cover the rice when the first batch is almost completely absorbed.  Repeat until you have used up the stock.  About 20 minutes.  After you have added all of the stock and the risotto is still a little bit soupy, add the herb oil and squash.  Gently, but thoroughly mix everything together.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until the rice is creamy and cooked, but still retaining a little bite in the center.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Easy and tasty. What more could you ask for?

The reason you want to heat the veggie stock up is so when you add it to the cooking risotto, you don’t dramatically drop the temperature and cause the cooking time to skyrocket.

Categories: cookbook, recipes, supper, vegan Tags: ,

A bit of crock pot cookery

One of my most under-utilized kitchen appliances is my slow cooker.  It’s an unbelievably easy way to have supper ready when Lindsay and I get home from a long day and neither of us feel like doing anything more than throwing in a frozen pizza.  I think the problem lies in that I need to get it prepped the night before and throw it together before I head out to work.  I’ve got my mornings timed to the last minute so I can sleep as late as possible.  I know the obvious solution would be to go to bed earlier, but that never seems appealing to me.  Around a month ago, a friend was coming over to dinner after work and I needed to have something ready to eat basically when I got home.  Fortunately, I had swiped a roast from my folks over Christmas so I had a very easy out with the crock pot.  I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before or not, but Mom and Dad have a dairy farm up by St. Cloud and every year they save a steer for butchering.  It’s a much cheaper alternative to buying meat all the time at the grocery store.  Also, in my ever so humble opinion, it is a much tastier option as well as healthier, both because I know where the meat comes from and what the steer gets fed.  (For reference, it is probably closest to organic beef, or as my little sis labels them when she sells the calves, all natural, because she hasn’t gotten the certification).

I was looking for a beef roast recipe that works in a slow cooker.  Specifically I was looking for how long it needed to cook on which setting.  As a starting point, I referred to mini-cookbook that came with it.  And to my surprise, I found a recipe that sounded really good.  Naturally, I tweaked it to suite my tastes, but it was mainly the ratios that I adjusted and added some ginger since I had it in the fridge.

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb Roast
  • 2 tsp ground peppercorns
  • 1/2 bulb Garlic, minced
  • 3.5 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp Mustard Powder
  • 2 thumb sized pieces of Ginger, minced
  • choice of Vegetables, cut large  (I used baby cut carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions)

Place the roast in the center of the slow cooker and arrange the vegetables around it.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl and pour over the roast.  Cook on High for 4-5 hours, or on Low for 8-10 hours.

I know, it's the same pic as a couple of posts ago, but it's the only decent one that I have.

I checked the roast when I got home (total cooking time of 9 hours) and the roast was amazingly tender.  All of the intramuscular fat and sinew had completely dissolved and the meat was literally falling apart as I took it out of the crock pot.  One thing that I would change is to add the veggies later on in the cooking process because after nine hours, they were a little bit mushy.  I guess turning them into a puree or mash would be an option too.  I’m not sure what to do about the dark tint all of the veggies took on because of the cooking liquid.  I guess either accept it as is or cook them separately.  The one thing the I did change when writing down the ingredients above is that I corrected a mistake that I made when I was reading the recipe initially.  I put in a full tablespoon of ground pepper instead of getting a tablespoon of peppercorns then grinding.  It tasted great, it just was on the peppery side.

New Cookbook!!!

A couple of weeks ago, I got a new cookbook!

The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook is a compilation of the last eleven years of recipes from America’s Test Kitchen.  This is my new favorite cookbook because ATK tests and retests recipes to make them the easiest and most foolproof as possible.  Plus they give a brief explanation of why the recipe works better the way they printed it.  They explain the science of cooking without losing any of the fun of preparing really amazing meals.  That’s the other reason why I love this cookbook; the meals cause you to drool like my in-laws dog Ty.  Even though there are some pretty high-brow dishes in this book, all of the recipes call for ingredients that can be purchased at most supermarkets.  The ones that are harder to find, can be substituted pretty easily with other things.  See my previous post about the Horseradish Crusted Beef as an example.

Do yourself a favor and purchase this book (cover price of $39.95) or at the very least, flip through it the next time you are at a bookstore.

Categories: cookbook Tags: ,