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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

lasagna-style strozzapretti (AKA my favorite food)

This is one of my all-time favorites. It's super easy to make, and it actually *tastes better* if you make it at least a day ahead of time. I've adapted this from a recipe I originally saw in Food & Wine magazine.

Start by boiling a pound of pasta. The original recipe called for pennette or ditali, but I've recently been fixated on strozzapretti. I had it for the first time at a little restaurant in Atlanta called Sotto Sotto. My waiter told me that the word means "priest-strangler", and traditionally it's made with a rich meat or bolognese style sauce. When priests used to go begging for food, they'd get a bowl of this, and it would fill them up so much that they'd not be hungry for a while.

In as big a saucepan as you have, heat some olive oil. Saute a chopped onion for a few minutes, then add about 2 pounds meat. This time I tried a new combination: half veal, half... bison (!!), which is supposedly healthier than chicken breast. I've also made this with veal + lamb and veal + sirloin, all great. Cook the meat until it's no longer pink, usually 10+ minutes. Turn off the heat, then stir in 1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, drained, 1 T tomato paste, a couple of sprigs chopped marjoram, and a handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley. Salt and pepper a good amount. When the pasta is done, drain it and stir it into the sauce if your pan is large enough to hold it all.

Final step -- and this is what makes it so different-- make the white sauce. Melt a stick of butter, add 3/4 c flour, then keep stirring while slowly adding a quart of whole milk, a little at a time. This will make a thick bechamel-type sauce. When you're done with the milk, bring it to a just-barely-boil, then turn off the heat. Stir in 1 cup of grated parmesan, then 2 egg yolks.

Take half the sauce and dump it into the pasta mixture, stir, then put all of this into a big baking pan. I use this giant lasagna pan, which works great. If you only have a 9 x 13 pyrex dish to work with, you may want to reduce this whole recipe by about 1/4 (i.e. 1.5 pounds of meat, use 3/4 stick butter w/ 1/2 cup flour, only 3/4 pound pasta, etc). Then spread the rest of the cheese sauce across the top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

When you're ready to cook it -- technically it can be cooked immediately after preparing, I've done it before and it's still delicious -- bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees, until it's bubbly. Turn on the broiler right at the end to brown the cheese on top (move the pan up to the top rack), only 3-4 minutes. Like any lasagna, let it sit out for about 10 minutes before digging in.

On the side: wilted spinach with walnuts & cranberries. I use a big 10 oz box of fresh spinach, & cook it in a big pan over medium-high heat in olive oil. Keep turning the spinach to help it wilt faster. Add the walnuts, the juice of 1 lemon, s&p, and the dried cranberries. It only takes a couple of minutes for the whole batch -- I made it while the lasagna was resting.

hoisin pork roast with rice and sesame broccoli

I'm a little obsessed with my slow cooker (known around my house as the silver bullet, although I'm not sure if I can continue calling it that now that my friend Teddy has pointed out what the term "silver bullet" means around her own establishment...). I just got it 2 months ago, so I'm still in that phase of wanting to try everything at least once. If you put a slow cooker recipe in front of me, I'm compelled to make it.

This one I saw in a Rachael Ray magazine. It turned out well enough, but I'm personally not as big a fan of hoisin sauce as I thought. I think I'll try this recipe again but with a sweeter sauce. Or, like I do with barbeque pork ribs in the silver bullet, make a batch of fresh sauce when the cooking is done. This one calls for the sauce left in the cooker to be reused, and maybe that just grossed me out a bit?

Here's the recipe: tie up one big (2-3#) pork loin roast (it won't look like it needs to be tied when it's raw, but trust me, it will fall completely apart when it starts to cook if you don't tie it at least a couple of times), the put in the slow cooker. Mix sauce in a bowl: 1 bottle (10 oz) hoisin sauce or duck sauce -- I'll have to try the duck sauce next time, bet it's sweeter -- plus 3 smashed garlic cloves, 2 T grated fresh ginger, 1 T chili paste, 1 T rice wine vinegar, 1 T soy sauce, 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 4 tsp cornstarch. Pour this over the meat, set the cooker for 8 hours on low.

When it's done, you take the roast out and set on a platter for a few minutes to rest, then slice it, sprinkle with a little chopped scallions and cilantro, serve over jasmine rice w/extra sauce.

I also made a simple recipe for broccoli from the Moosewood cookbook -- steam a bunch of broccoli florets, then toss with a simple dressing made of 2 parts rice wine vinegar + 1 part dark sesame oil. Salt, pepper, a few red pepper flakes, and shake some sesame seeds on top = nice new way to have broccoli.
(Here's a pic of the silver bullet. What a beautiful baby.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

healthy-ish meatloaf and rosemary roasted potatoes

Meatloaf is one of those things that I don't follow a recipe for, and I don't necessarily make it the same way every time. Whenever I see a new meatloaf recipe, I may incorporate some of the ingredients the next time I make it. The basic foundation is meat + something bread-y + eggs + some kind of vegetables + seasoning + some kind of sauce on top. Here's what I did this time, with alternates that I've tried before:

For the vegetable base I chopped up 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery and about 4-5 garlic cloves (I always use way too much garlic, I love it). I cooked it first in butter and olive oil (1 T each), for about 5 minutes, then stirred in 1/3 cup ketchup and a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.

While that cools, and the oven is preheating to 350 degrees, I mixed up the rest. I used a pound of ground sirloin, and a pound of sausage. Tonight I tried fresh spicy italian turkey sausage from WF. I've used regular pork sausage before, and you can tell the meatloaf is a little juicier. But with the difference in calories/bad stuff, I can't justify not trying the turkey version. It worked pretty well. Just remember if you use fresh sausage you have to peel off the skin (slice it down one side long ways, and the meat should pop right out).

Anyway, beat 2 eggs to add to the meat. Then either use a slice or 2 of white bread (no crusts), crumbled w/a splash of milk, OR use 1/2 to 2/3 cup of breadcrumbs (either plain or italian works, I used the latter this time). I chopped a handful of parsley to add as well. Add the cooled vegetable mix to all of this, then start mushing it all up with your hands.

You just form it into a loaf shape -- I use a medium size pyrex dish, not a loaf pan, b/c I don't like the loaf to touch the sides of the pan. This time I covered the meatloaf with ketchup, but I've used marinara sauce before and I think I like that better. Bake for an hour.

When the meatloaf comes out, it has to sit for at least 10 minutes. I turn the oven up to 450, throw in the potatoes and roast them for 20 minutes, then everything is ready to eat at the same time. (I quartered the baby potatoes so they cook faster, then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a chopped sprig of rosemary; line a cookie sheet with foil and dump all the potatoes on top.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

tilapia po boys

I tried a recipe tonight from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook (a great recommendation from my friend Lydia -- even though it's a vegetarian cookbook, it's not at all limited to veggies). It was super easy, just shake a few fillets of fish in a ziploc bag with 1/4 c cornmeal and 3 T Old Bay. This made for almost-spicy fish, so if you don't like spicy, cut back on the OB. I used tilapia because it's about 1/4th the cost of other mild white fish. The tartar sauce, also a recipe from MW, was just 1/2 c mayo + 1/4 c dill relish + juice of 1 lemon.

On the side -- sweet potato fries. Except they were out of sweet potatoes so I had to use yams. Thanks to the produce guy, I now know that the more red the skin of the yam, the sweeter (and thus more like sweet potatoes) they are.

Anyway, to make these, you just slice a couple of potatoes in french fry shape, put them in a big bowl, drizzle with olive oil, then a generous dose of salt, pepper & garlic powder. Toss all this in the bowl till everything is evenly coated, then spread into a big roasting pan (I line the pan with foil for a lot easier clean-up). 20-25 minutes at 450 degrees, flipping the fries every 10 minutes. I think they get crispier and cook better when you cook them on the bottom rack.

mozzarella and tomato salad -- in february

One of my favorite salads is the easiest thing ever to make -- sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, and torn pieces of basil. This time I found purple basil, which I didn't even know existed. Drizzle a little olive oil, a drop of balsamic = heaven.

And yes, it would be better if it were summer, but the heirloom tomatoes at WF were still delicious...

my MCFE*, morgan

I'm really lucky to have a best friend who is also the most creative artist ever. I can ask her for a graphic-arts-favor, and she'll come back with something 1000 times better than I imagined. And she seems to do this in about 1/1000th of the time I would expect it to take. I really admire her. And thanks for the header artwork mo!

(*most creative friend ever)