Another Beef Stew and a Potato Torte

Except for those with high cholesterol or digestive disorders, this is high season for beef stew – the ultimate comfort food (ok, right after matzo ball soup) for these cold-blasting winter days.  Since preparing my three favorite stand-bys – Dijon & Cognac Beef Stew, Roni’s Beef Stew, and 21st Centruy Beans & Flanken – I went searching for something new and different on my new favorite food website, cooking.nytimes.com.

Sicilian Beef Ragout stood out proudly from the rest, bedecked gorgeously with quartered roasted Roma tomatoes.  Off to the market for the fourth time in as many weeks for a whole piece of boneless chuck, and the tomatoes, fresh herbs, leek and fennel that were essential for this dish.

I shamelessly repost Florence Fabricant’s recipe from that site, along with her Potato Torte that was the perfect accompaniment.  This is a meal that will warm your soul no matter how many inches of snow nor how loudly the north wind howls:

SICILIAN BEEF RAGOUT

reposted from the NY Times Cooking Site

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My only changes here were to leave the meat in the oven about 2-1/2 hours, and to reduce the sauce a bit with the solids removed.  I kept the roasted tomatoes separate until serving time, when everything was rewarmed and then assembled as shown above.

POTATO TORTE

No changes to this – it was perfect just as written, using a 9″ springform pan heavily buttered and lined on the bottom with buttered parchment paper:

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Patriots AFC Lasagna

Anyone can put together a nice lasagna.  I’ve been doing variations on the theme since my early years as a novice cook, most memorably preparing a giant pan of lasagna as part of the two-day celebration for my husband’s graduation from law school.  Each time, a tweak here or there in the choice of meats, lasagna noodles, sauce or cheese has led to  another better outcome than those that preceded it.

A few years ago when our beloved/much maligned Patriots (depending on where you’re from) were once again playing in the AFC Championship game, I created this recipe for a lasagna that would sate our adrenaline-charged appetites.  As we look to yet another AFC Championship game coming this weekend, this will be on the menu.

The first key to this lasagna is the Trader Joe’s No-Cook made-in-Italy noodles.  No more hassles with those ridiculous curly-edged noodles of yore that would stick to each other unless you boiled them in a pot large enough for four lobsters.  The TJ’s noodles, once baked, are delicate in texture – I’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from fresh-made pasta.  Don’t be alarmed if they don’t reach all the way to the edges of your pan as you lay them out in overlapping layers – they will absorb everything and swell.

Next are the choices of meats, cheeses and sauce.  I use a pound each of lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausages.  For cheeses, a full 32 ounces of whole-milk ricotta, a 12-ounce package of TJ’s Quattro Formaggio, and 1-1/4 cups of grated Pecorino Romano, preferably Locatelli, but TJ’s will do just fine.  For the basis of my sauce, 2 cans of TJ’s Tuscano Low-Fat Marinara – truly the best bargain in the store (next to my favorite Societé Roquefort).  The sauce is almost a bolognese, but with much more tomato-to-meat ratio, and without the long hours of simmering.

OK – the recipe:

PATRIOTS AFC LASAGNA

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 24 no-cook lasagna noodles (a bit more than you get in the 1 lb box of Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cans Trader Joe’s low-fat marinara, or your favorite marinara sauce (26 oz size each)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lb large Italian sweet sausages
  • 1 medium sweet onion chopped
  • 2 plump garlic cloves minced (not crushed)
  • 1 medium carrot chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 2 plump garlic cloves minced
  • 2-1/2 tsp oregano divided
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 32 ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 12 ounce package shredded Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio cheese, or other Italian cheese blend
  • 1-1/4 cups grated pecorino Romano

PREPARATION:

In 5-6 quart Dutch oven, sauté vegetables and garlic until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add 1 tsp of oregano, then the sausage and ground beef one third at a time, breaking up with a wooden spoon to avoid large clumps, and saute over medium heat until well browned. Drain off most of the accumulated fat (easily done with a turkey baster). Add the wine and cook until completely reduced. Add the 2 cans of marinara sauce and let simmer, partially covered, at least a half hour or longer, allowing the flavors to marry. Remove pan from heat and assemble the lasagna. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta with the lightly beaten egg, 1/4 cup Romano, and 1-1/2 tsp oregano.  In a deep roasting pan with high sides – at least 3 inches (mine was 14 x10 x 3) spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom. Lay a row of six no-cook noodles over this, slightly overlapping. Spread almost 1/3 of the sauce mixture over this layer, then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture in dollops sprinkled all over and then smoothed out with a small spatula or back side of a table knife, then 1/3 of the shredded cheese. Repeat two more times, and end with a final layer of noodles spread with remaining one cup of sauce and sprinkled with the remaining cup of Romano cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake in 375 oven for about 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake another ten minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Can be assembled and refrigerated for baking later, but remove from refrigerator at least an hour before baking.

Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake

Ginger is one of my major food cravings and weaknesses – I’ll eat chunks of Reed’s Australian ginger as a snack right out of the bag, request extra ginger in any dish at an Asian restaurant, and add more ginger than called for in most recipes.  Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps is the only cookie out there that understands my need.

Exactly 11 years ago, I discovered this recipe for gingerbread cake from Gramercy Tavern on the Epicurious website, and opted to modify it from bundt-pan size to springform-pan size by reducing the recipe to 3/4 of the original…and adding diced Australian ginger to the batter, of course!  Also, when a recipe calls for x-amount of dark brown sugar, and x-amount of white sugar, I find that using all light-brown sugar works really well.  It helped that my son usually has a can or bottle of stout in the fridge, but I’ve also subbed hard cider in this recipe with perfect results.

It’s a favorite in our family – the gingeriest cake you can imagine, sumptuously moist on its own, or served with a dollop of vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.  We’re having friends over for dinner tomorrow night and I took a poll in the family for what our dessert should be.  Hands-down – this was the winner, and it was fun having my son sous-chef with me as we prepped this for baking:

GRAMERCY TAVERN GINGERBREAD CAKE

(adapted from Epicurious, 3/4 of original recipe)

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup oatmeal stout or Guinness Stout
  • 3.4 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • 2 Jumbo eggs, or 3 large eggs whisked and 2 tbsp poured off (to equal 2-1/4 eggs)
  • 1 -1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • Confectioners sugar for dusting
  • Special equipment:
    • a 10-inch springform pan

PREPARATION

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter pan and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
  • Bring stout and molasses to a boil in a large saucepan and remove from heat. Whisk in baking soda, then cool to room temperature.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk together eggs and sugars. Whisk in oil, then molasses mixture. Add to flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
  • Pour batter into springform pan and rap pan sharply on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs adhering, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool
  • Dust with confectioners sugar

Cake keeps nicely at least 3 days, serve slightly warmed with vanilla ice cream!

Ham, Cheese & Mushroom Frittata

When bagels with smoked salmon with a side of scrambled eggs aren’t on the Sunday morning menu here, I usually turn to a favorite standby, the totally adaptable frittata.

Easier and way quicker than a quiche – no crust required – an 8-egg frittata can serve 4 nicely for breakfast, brunch, or a light supper, with a side of toast and not much more.  A great way use leftover cheese or produce, too – today it was:

HAM, CHEESE & MUSHROOM FRITTATA

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Start by preheating your oven to 425 – I use my countertop Breville convection oven for this because I love how it heats up quickly and uses much less energy than the kitchen oven.

Thinly slice about 5 ounces of crimini mushrooms; chop 1/2 cup red or white onion; dice a cup or so of ham (I used Vermont Cobb-smoked ham from a petite ham from WF); saute the mushrooms and onions in a few tbsp olive oil in a 10″ oven-proof skillet or, as shown above, in a tarte tatin pan over medium low heat until softened.  Meanwhile, beat 8 large eggs with 1/4 cup half & half, a pinch of salt (the cheese will add saltiness), a dash of Tabasco or white pepper, and then stir in about a cup or more of coarsely grated cheese – I had a leftover hunk of smoked gouda and one slice of Vermont cheddar – made a nice flavor combination.

Disperse the diced ham all over the vegetables in the pan and then pour the egg mixture over it.  I decided to also decorate the top with a few leaves of baby spinach.  Let stay on medium low heat a couple of minutes, and then transfer to your oven for 12-15 minutes, until the top is puffed and somewhat browned.

Let sit to cool on a rack about 5 minutes before slicing into four wedges.  It helps to run a thin spatula or knife around the edge to help get those wedges out cleanly.

 

 

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!

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!