Kale, Sausage and Vegetable Soup

Before kale started getting into everything from cookies to treats for dogs, there was kale soup – a hearty concoction that takes no special talent to prepare.  All that’s needed – the ingredients, a large soup pot, and the bit of time it takes to chop, sauté and simmer.

I combed the web for a version of this soup I recall from many years ago when our friend and neighbor Mariyln Fuller hosted a Sunday night soup party.  Damned if I can recall what the other two soups were, because that’s the one that stuck in my mind – I went back for seconds, forsaking the others I’d tried.  The taste memory was so intense that I knew it would be easier to reinvent it myself than try to find her version from an ancient issue of Gourmet.

And so it goes.  This makes a huge pot and can certainly be halved:

RONI’S KALE, SAUSAGE AND VEGETABLE SOUPIMG_2843

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 very large sweet onion, 2 large carrots, and 2 celery stalks chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 12-ounce package Trader Joe’s Andouille Chicken Sausages, sliced thinly

1 10-ounce package Trader Joe’s chopped kale

1 15-ounce can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium russet potato peeled and chopped

1 28-ounce can tomatoes diced (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted), undrained

8 cups chicken stock

1/4 tsp black pepper & 1/2 tsp salt

PREPARATION:

In large soup pot or dutch oven, sauté onions, carrots & celery on medium heat about 10 minutes until softened.  Add garlic and kale, cover, reduce heat to medium low and cook about 2 minutes.  Stir in all other ingredients, cover and simmer on medium low about 30 minutes.  Serve with a dash of Tabasco if you like a bit more spice.

I’m just finishing off a bowl as I write this – to be enjoyed for the rest of the week.  Try it – Winter has come!

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Pizza Bolognese

What to do when there’s leftover bolognese sauce that needs to be used and you just don’t feel like pasta?  Why not use it on a pizza?  That’s the thought that hit me like a bolt last night, and sent me running to my quick no-rise-necessary pizza crust recipe.

About 20 minutes of prep time and another 15 minutes in the oven and bingo!  Meaty, cheesey pizza heaven!

PIZZA BOLOGNESE

Pizza Bolognese

FIRST STEPS:  Preheat oven to 450, lightly grease a cookie sheet or pizza pan and sprinkle it with cornmeal.

FOR THE CRUST:

In a medium bowl, dissolve 1/4 ounce active dry yeast and 1 tsp sugar in 1 cup lukewarm water.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Stir in 2-1/2 cups bread flour*, 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil. (*I used 1 cup semolina flour, 1-1/2 cups AP flour, and 2-1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten).  Beat until smooth, or knead together by hand in the bowl.  Let it rest for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (or bread board) and roll or shape into a round or rectangle.  Transfer to the prepared pan.

TOPPINGS:

Spread your bolognese (about 3 cups) to within 1/2″ of the edge, then sprinkle all over with your choice of cheese.  I used about 1 cup shredded mozzarella mixed with 1 cup grated Romano.

Bake about 15 minutes.  Then let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Of course this pizza crust works with any toppings you choose – it’s perfect for a spontaneous pizza craving, and yields on very large crust.  A purchased pizza of this size would run $18 or more; I figued my cost, all-inclusive, was closer to $6-$7.  And tasted way better.

Yogurt & Grapefruit Marmalade Poundcake

I have a favorite recipe from Epicurious for Yogurt Cake with Marmalade Glaze – all the satisfaction of a pound cake without the ton of butter, laced with lemon rind and topped with lemon marmalade.  But yesterday, Melissa Clark’s recipe on the NYT site inspired me to incorporate one of her ideas for her Orange Marmalade Cake to create something new, which I knew would turn out beautifully in my new W-S gold touch loaf pan.

YOGURT & GRAPEFRUIT MARMALADE POUND CAKE

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INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I use goat milk yogurt)

3/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cup pink grapefruit marmalade, divided (or lemon or orange marmalade – but be sure it’s high quality with lots of thick cut pieces of citrus)

grated rind of 1 lemon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp water

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly butter an8-1/2 x 4-1/2 (or 9 x 5) loaf pan

In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  In large bowl, combine yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon peel and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Then add 1/4 cup of the marmalade and whisk again.  Add the vegetable oil and fold in until completely incorporated.  Gradually whisk in dry ingredients and pour batter into prepared pan.  Place loaf pan on a baking sheet in center of oven and bake about 50-55 minutes until golden brown and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.

Let cool on a rack about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely before glazing.  Gently heat the remaining marmalade with 1 tsp water and brush all over the cake.

Enjoy!

Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew on Christmas Eve

Back in March I posted my recipe for Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew, a dish I discovered in Bon Appetit about 34 years ago, and which has been a winter staple ever since,  Stop reading now if you don’t like mushrooms – this dish has a full pound of meaty crimini and/or portabellos.

This is the comfort food I chose to make today, Christmas eve, while everyone else was forking over their week’s salary for humungous standing rib roasts and whole tenderloins.  I saw one tenderloin the size of a whale calf at the little shop where I stopped for a Cabernet for this dish – you’d think that after paying $204 for a cut of meat, the customer would have been given something other than those puny plastic bags barely big enough to hold a bag of potato chips.  It should have been gift-wrapped.  Whole Foods would have done that, but then the price would have been closer to $300.

I saw another customer at Stop & Shop measuring his standing rib roast with a tape measure while the butcher held it in place for him.  Apparently he was following a recipe for a specific dimension.  If I were paying over $100 for a cut of meat, I’d measure it too.

But, as a Jew who spends Christmas day at the movies either preceded or followed by an Asian meal, I was not about to splurge on either a tenderloin roast or any of the other fantastical cuts of meat one rarely sees other than at this time of year.  Racks of lamb, crown roasts of pork, duck, veal roasts, goose, D’Artagnan Duck Bacon.  No, my aim was to procure a nice 3.5-4lb whole chuck roast to cut to my specifications (large chunks, not cat-food sized) , a pound of mushrooms, and the whole grain mustard I’d run out of for my comfort dish for the two of us.  There will be leftovers for sure – the dish serves 6-8.  For added specialness, I also picked up a dozen cooked enormous shrimp for a shrimp cocktail first course.

Further thriftiness came into play when I decided against the $4.99 chunk of salt pork this dish usually requires and opted instead to use 6 ounces of the Trader Joe’s bacon I had at home.  The stew is simmering now for 2-1/2 hours as I sip the Cabernet I used, and there’s ample down time before the mushrooms and carrots need to be added.  The house smells like company’s coming, but that’s not to be.  A Christmas Eve dinner alone with my honey and our menagerie of miniature schnauzers and kitties.  I’m loving it.

Here’s the link to the dish – Dijon and Cognac Beef stew – as it’s simmering beautifully (cover removed just for photo):

DIJON AND COGNAC BEEF STEW

 

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And done!  With buttered egg noodles and sauteed broccoli.

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Panera Cobblestone Knock-offs

We have a passion here for those cobblestone miniature coffee cakes at Panera.  Some call them oversized muffins, but that doesn’t do them justice.  They’ve got all the components of an excellent coffee cake or bubka – raised dough made with milk, butter, eggs and sugar; filling of raisins, nuts and apples if you wish; a heavy hand with brown sugar and cinnamon, and finished with a drizzling of icing.

I found several knock-off recipes on the web, detemined to try my hand at these with my new Williams-Sonoma gold touch extra large muffin tin – each well holding one full cup of liquid.  The perfect vessel for this endeavor.  I rejected those that called for a batter rather than a dough – this is definitely NOT a muffin, people!

The inspriration came from Shugary Sweets – another food blog devoted entirely to baked goods.  Downsizing and tweaking the recipe yielded almost exactly what I wanted.  There were diced apples in the recipe which, next time, I might leave out or minimize:

RONI’S PANERA COBBLESTONE KNOCK-OFFS

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Timeline for preparation:  You’ll be making a dough that needs at least 60-90 minutes to rise in a  warm place, so set that up first, and then continue with the rest of your mise en place.  Start-to-finish, including baking and cooling time is close to 3 hours, most of it unattended.  But your patience will pay off!  This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s really not.  Just needs some explanation:

DOUGH:  In a large mixing bowl, stir 1 pkg quick-rising yeast (12.5 grams) in one cup of warmed skim milk; beat in 2 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt by hand.  Continue beating by hand as you add 4 tbsp unsalted melted  butter and then 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour in small increments.  Do not overmix.  Turn out the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place.  Tip – when mine wasn’t rising much after 60 minutes, I placed it next to a measuring cup of boiled water inside the microwave, where it could stay warm – and the magic happened!

While your dough is rising, prepare the Coating and Filling:

COATING: 1/2 cup each dark brown sugar and white sugar combined with 2 tbsp cinnamon in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl, 6 tbsp melted unsalted butter.

FILLING:  Combine in a small bowl 1 medium to large apple diced, not necessarily peeled, and tossed with a bit of lemon juice to keep color; 1/2 cup golden raisins; 1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (you can leave out the apples or raisins if you wish, or the nuts; but not all three!  For those with a raisin-aversion, do the apples and nuts; nutallergy?  apples and raisins.  Me?  All three)

ASSEMBLY: Preheat oven to 350 and line the bottoms of your oversized muffin tins with cupcake liners.  The regular size liners will work if you schmeer the outside with a bit of butter to get them pressed against the insides of the muffin tins.  It’s only necessary line the bottom and a little up the sides, as they do at Panera, to hold things together.

Pinch off pieces of the dough about 1-1/2 tbsp, to roll into balls in your hand, dip each into the butter then into the sugar/cinnamon coating, and place three each in the bottom of the muffin tins.  Then top all with the filling, using about 2/3 of it.  Make four more smaller balls of dough for each one, dipped in butter and coating, and arrange on the top of each.  Finally, sprinkle a bit of the remaining filling on top.  Press down lightly so it adheres, and bake for about 25 minutes.

Allow to cool on a rack a few minutes, then remove to a platter to cool completely and finally drizzle with icing.

ICING: 1/2 cup powdered sugar mixed with 2 tbsp half & half.  Make your own powdered sugar in a blender – easy.

WHAT I LEARNED:  These taste as good as the original, but next time I would try adding a bit of the filling to each of the dough balls rather than sprinkling it over them.  The Panera image looks to have that teatment.  Nevertheless, I’m thrilled with how they turned out.

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Original Panera Cobblestone

Bodacious Bourbon Cream Cheese Brownies

My mother was a baker extraordinaire, unanimously admired by family and her vast circle of friends for the pastries and confections she’d bring to every gathering and celebration.  Platters of rugelach, strudel, pecan tartlets, sugary toasted walnuts, brownies, and more.  There was always an ample supply of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, nuts, dried fruits and cream cheese in our pantry so she could jump into action whenever inspiration arose.

I am now, more than ever, my mother’s daughter.  Yesterday I was committed to finding that recipe for her cream cheese brownies that set us all to swooning with their rich, dark chocolate marbled with a cheescake-like filling.  They were the dessert counterpart to marble rye, and they never lasted more than a day.  Having everything on hand, I set out to research the various versions on the web, and truly struck gold with a recipe posted on Bake or Break, another food blog written by Jennifer McHenry.  The clincher was Ms McHenry’s shared affinity for adding a touch of spirits to her baked goods – in this case, bourbon, my current spirit of choice.

What a treat putting these bodacious brownies together while sipping on Knob Creek 9-year old bourbon on the rocks.  I followed the recipe exactly, with just a small change in the baking pan.  Instead of the recommended 9″ square pan, I used an 8″ Emile Henry baker, lined with parchment as she recommends, and adjusted the baking time to 50-55 minutes.  I used Trader Joe’s 72% Cacao dark chocolate, the stuff that comes in a 17.6-ounce bar, which is not only superb for baking, but also very nice to let melt in your mouth with a cup of coffee:

BOURBON CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES

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We each enjoyed one while still slightly warm, and the rest are under wraps for another day. The taste sensation brought me back to girlhood in Jennie’s kitchen –  I must freeze a few of these for when my son and his GF come home from their vacation in Seattle on Thursday.  Otherwise, they’d be gone by then.

Ricotta Obsession

Ever since I found the 2-lb container of whole milk ricotta on sale at Hannaford’s last week I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of what to do with it.  Inspiration came from so many web cooking sources – pasta dishes, cheesecakes, pound cakes, quick mousses, blintzes!

Yesterday the solution came in the form of both a dinner entreé and a dessert – Baked Penne with a ricotta, mozzarella and romano cheese blend (yay, another excuse to use the new Emile Henry Rectangular Baker!) , and lemony ricotta pound cake adapted from Giada’s poundcake recipe.  Together the two dishes would require the exact contents of that container, leaving no sad little leftover dollops of ricotta cheese to repurpose some other day.

I mixed the cheese blend for the ziti early in the day and there it waited for full dish assembly while the poundcake baked and filled the house with a sweet lemony aroma.  The batter on the spatula was just as I’d hoped – creamy and refreshing – so my hopes for the poundcake were high.  Unfortunately, the decision to use my Breville countertop oven versus the Big Oven produced a cake that browned on top but sank in the middle and was underdone except for some of the slices pictured below.  Even with a toothpick coming out clean, I was duped – but the baked-through portion told me this was worth repeating.  Very much like the lemony yogurt poundcake I’ve made many times – light, moist, lovely on its own but also screaming for a raspberry or strawberry garnish:

LEMONY RICOTTA POUNDCAKE

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Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups cake flour (or take 3 tbsp of AP flour out of the quantity and substituted cornstarch for cake flour in a pinch)

2-1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1-1/2 cups whole milk ricotta

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest and juice from one lemon (2 tbsp juice)

Confectioners sugar, about 1 tbsp

Preparation:

Butter a 9 x 5″ loaf pan and place a piece of parchment on the bottom to make release of the cake easy.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a small mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream together the ricotta, butter and sugar about 3 minutes.  then add the eggs one at a time while continuing to mix.  Add vanilla, lemon juice & zest and then gradually add in the flour, beating until well blended.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake about 50 minutes until top is golden brown and sides pull a bit away from pan.  Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of the pan to cool completely.  When completely cooled, dust with confectioners sugar.

Much better results with the baked penne, a recipe I adapted from The Splendid Table:

BAKED PENNE WITH RICOTTA

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Ingredients:

About 5 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (when not making my own, it’s Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Tuscano Marinara)

2 cups whole milk ricotta

8 ounces shredded whole milk mozzarella

1/2 cup + 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano

2 large eggs lightly beaten

2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)

A few grinds of white pepper

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine the ricotta, mozzarella, and 1/2 cup of romano with the eggs, parsley, oregano and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Cook the penne in salted boiling water until al dente, and drain.  Toss the pasta with a bit of the marinara, just enough to lightly coat, and then add 1/3 of it in a layer to your 9 x 13 rectangular baker.  Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture in dollops and then 1/3 of your sauce.  Repeat this two times, and finish off by sprinkling with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated romano.

NOTE:  While this was essentially a meatless dish, I did add a couple of slices of rosemary ham chopped up – not enough for a sandwich, but just enough for a flavor boost when inserted atop one of the middle layers)

Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes.  Let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.