Saturday, May 19, 2012

Linguini with Roasted Cauliflower, Sausage and Tomato

The weather's been so beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest. This week we've spent a lot of time doing outdoorsy things, like bug hunting (with my youngest) and razor scooter riding (with my oldest). Plus, this week I crossed over the fence from being a long time power-walker to an official jogger. This kind of came out of nowhere, I never actually thought it would be something I'd do, but I was out on a walk the other day with my 1 year-old German Shepherd, Sansa, and she was driving me absolutely nuts pulling on her leash while we walked, so I decided to make her (and my hand) happy and I jogged for the last part of our walk. When I got home I found I felt so great, I decided to just go forward with it, so that's what I've been doing and it's working out beautifully. I gotta say I'm pretty proud of myself.

 We also filled the propane on our grill this week and TWICE we feasted on Ribeye steaks the size of our heads! I think we probably consumed our alotted amount of red meat for the next couple of months, but it was worth it because they were SO good... I think my decision to start working out more aggressively may have been a timely one...

I put this dinner together tonight after yet another bug hunting/razor scooter outing with my family. On an unrelated note, we caught a shrew today. I saw it and my husband caught it in a box. Sometimes we'll find little critters at the park and bring them home long enough to learn a little about them then return them to their homes. We read that shrews can consume up to 125% percent of their body weight each day.  He's a cute little guy, and a ruthless bug killer.

Linguini with Roasted Cauliflower, Sausage and Tomato
~serves 3-4~

Note* If you are short on time, you could skip the homemade breadcrumbs and just serve the pasta with additional parmesan cheese.

1 small or 1/2 of  a large head of cauliflower, broken apart into small bite-sized pieces
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb linguini (I used 51% whole wheat liguini here)
2 slices of hearty white bread, torn into pieces
3/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
3 links of italian sausage (hot or mild is fine, I used mild here), casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. lemon juice 
2 T. minced fresh parsley

1. Roast the cauliflower: Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until cauliflower is browned and tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove beaking sheet from oven and set aside.

2. Make parmesan breadcrumbs. In a food processor, pulse bread to make evenly sized breadcrumbs. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Add breadcrumbs and cook, stirring almost constantly until the breadcrumbs are crisp and browned, about 3 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool, after they have cooled for 5 minutes, stir in 1/4 of the parmesan cheese. Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, make the pasta. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven. When boiling, add pasta and 2 1/2 t. salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside while finishing the recipe.

4. After removing the breadcrumbs from the skillet, add the sausage and cook, over medium-high heat until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour the fat from the skillet and wipe out the skillet lightly with paper towels.

5. Return the skillet to the medium heat, add 1 T. olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add garlic and saute for about 1 minute, until garlic is just beginning to brown. Add drained tomatoes, chicken broth and 1/4 t. salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly, about 2-3 minutes. 

6. To the pasta in the pot add cauliflower, sausage, tomato mixture, remaining 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, lemon juice and parsley. Place the pasta pot over medium heat and stir until mixed together and heated through, adding the reserved pasta cooking water if needed, to loosen the consistency. 

7. Divide pasta among individual bowl and serve, sprinkling with the parmesan breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nebraska Beef Buns

I came across this recipe in the latest issue of Cook's Country  magazine and couldn't resist giving it a try. It's a regional favorite (also known as "runsas" or "bierocks") that features a soft and tender yeast roll that's filled with a mixture of ground beef, cabbage and cheese. It seems like a fussy recipe but in actuality, other than the time it took for the yeast dough to rise, this dish came together quite quickly and easily. Plus the dough was a dream to work with. My brain is already at work thinking about what else I could fill these buns with.

Nebraska Beef Buns
~makes 12~

Note* We liked these buns served with ketchup.

the filling
4 t. canola oil, divided
2 lb. extra-lean ground beef
salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped fine
4 c. finely chopped green cabbage (about 1/2 a small head of cabbage)
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
8 oz. Colby-Jack cheese, shredded (about 2 c.)
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. water
6 T. unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 t. salt
1 egg lightly beaten, plus 1 egg beaten with 1 T. water

1. Make the filling: Heat 2 t. oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil just begins to smoke. Add the ground beef, 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper and cook, breaking up the meat until the liquid evaporates and the meat starts to sizzle, 10-15 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

2. Return the pot to the heat, add the remaining oil and onion. Cook until just starting to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add drained beef, cabbage and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and cook until the liquid completely evaporates and the mixture begins to sizzle again, 5-7 minutes more.

3. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and let cool for 15 minutes, then stir in the cheese and let cool to room temperature.

4. Prepare the dough: Grease a large bowl and set aside. Combine milk, water, butter and sugar in a microwave-safe container. Microwave until it reaches 110 degrees, 1-2 minutes. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or you can do this by hand as well), add 3 1/2 c. flour, yeast and salt. Mix to combine. With the machine running on low, slowly add in the milk-butter mixture, then the lightly beaten egg. Mix until dough comes together, about 3 minutes.

5. Increase speed to medium-low and mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom, about 8 minutes. If at about the 4 minute mark the dough still looks wet and sticky, add in the remaining flour, 1 T. at a time until the dough looks as it should. Transfer dough to the greased bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap, let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 40-60 minutes.

6. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower middle-positions and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes.

7. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the remaining dough covered in plastic wrap while you work. Roll out into an approximate 5 1/2 inch circle. Using a 1/2 c. measure, lightly pack the measuring cup with the beef mixture. Scoop out onto the rolled out dough. Bring the edges of the dough up the sides of the filling and pinch the seams together to close the dough around the filling. Place seam-side down on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Place 6 buns on each baking sheet, placing 2 inches apart. Cover baking sheets with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.

8. When risen, remove plastic wrap and brush each bun with egg/water mixture. Place the baking sheets, one on the upper rack, the other on the lower rack, and bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets, front to back and top to bottom, halfway through the baking time. Remove buns to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Recipe source: adapted barely from Cook's Country Magazine

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Orange-Almond Drop Cookies with Orange Icing

First let me say, a very Happy Mother's day to all you wonderful moms out there. I hope you all got properly spoiled today. I got my Mother's Day booty on Friday when my boys got home from school. My 7 year-old made me a red ceramic dish with a sweet little heart carved in the bottom, along with a homemade card. My 11 year-old made me a super cool black/orange/glittered, mod-podged flower vase out of a glass bottle. Then on Saturday, my husband surprised me with a beautiful potted azalea, a sweet card and some chocolates (which incidentally are now all gone, cause it's Mother's Day and I can do what I want). Unfortunately today my husband is on a trucking layover for work, in Idaho until tomorrow morning, but we have plans to do something special for lunch tomorrow while the kids are at school. Today it's just me and my boys and we are planning on heading out to see Grandma soon for ice cream and fun. Plus we'll be taking her some of these cookies I baked this morning.

Recently while on a thrift-store outing with my mom I picked up this little gem...

I have sort of a collection happening with Betty Crocker cookbooks. It was the main cookbook my mom cooked from when I was growing up, she had two editions, her main one was a 1969 edition, the other was a 1950's edition (the original, I think?) that came from my grandmother. So after I got married it was the obvious cookbook choice for me as a new cook learning the ropes. I used that cookbook a lot in my first years of married life. Now I feel kinda like I need to own all the editions for some reason even though I don't really cook much from the Betty Crocker cookbook anymore. I guess it just hold a lot of sentimental value for me.

So when I saw this little treasure I was very excited to pick it up. Plus the way they spell "cooky" just makes it unforgettable. There are quite a few great sounding "cooky" recipes in here. I started with the second recipe in the book, which is these Orange Drop cookies.

Orange-Almond Drop Cookies with Orange Icing
~makes about 3 dozen cookies~

Note* The recipe called for using all vegetable shortening for the fat component, as opposed to butter, or a mixture of butter and shortening. If you wanted to, I suppose you could substitute half or all the shortening with butter.

for the cookies
2/3 c. shortening
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 c. orange juice
2 T. grated orange zest
2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
for the icing
2 1/2 T. softened butter
1 1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 T. orange juice
2 t. grated orange zest

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or by hand) cream together the shortening and sugar. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add in orange juice and zest, mix thoroughly. Add in the flour mixture. When the flour is almost completely mixed in, add the almonds. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, give the cookie dough one final mix to make sure everything is mixed together.

3. Drop the dough onto an ungreased baking sheets by rounded teaspoons and bake until golden brown around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Remove from and let the cookies set up for a couple of minutes on the baking sheet before removing cookies (with a thin metal spatula) to a wire rack to cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. In a medium bowl blend together butter and powdered sugar. Add in orange juice and zest. mix vigorously until smooth. Ice the cooled cookies, using about 3/4 t. icing per cookie.

Recipe adapted from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turkey Patty Melts

This blog has definitely given me the incentive to make some of those things I've always wanted to but just have never gotten around to. I've never made patty melts at home before today, but I've always been pretty sure that this would be the type of recipe that would be well suited to making at home. Diner food is so yummy, but often times I'll order something with a certain expectation just to be disappointed by what I ultimately get. Usually the complaint for me is that some of these "comfort foods" come out too greasy and/or bland. I was pretty sure that a homemade patty melt held a lot of promise compared to what I might get if I opted to order one from my local diner.

I decided to make my version using ground turkey instead of the standard ground beef. Recently I read a patty melt recipe in a cooking magazine that used torn up rye bread, soaked in milk to make a "panade" or paste to add to the patty mixture. I knew, like a meatloaf or meatballs, that this addition would add tenderness to the burger as well as flavor. Since I typically make both meatloaf and meatballs using ground turkey, I figured it would fit the bill nicely for this application. 

This recipe is pretty fast to throw together, like a "30-minute meal" caliber dinner. I was kinda surprised that it came together so quickly since patty melts are a bit of a multi-step process, caramelize onions, form and cook  burger patties, put together a sandwich and grill it. But it came together swiftly and only dirtied one skillet. 

When I offered up one of these patty melts to my 11-year old son, Caleb, he took one bite and said, "Aw dude, that tastes awesome!". I think that's good enough for me!

Turkey Patty Melts
~makes 4 sandwiches~

2 large onions, thinly sliced
5 t. canola oil, divided
10 slices of rye bread
2 T. milk
1 T. worcestershire sauce
3/4 t. onion powder
1 t. salt, divided
1/2 t. pepper
1 1/4 lb. 93% lean ground turkey 
8 oz. swiss cheese, shredded
8 t. Thousand Island Dressing (plus additional for serving with the sandwiches, if desired)
2 T. salted butter

1. Heat 2 t. of the canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add onions and 1/2 t. salt and cook stirring often until the onions are nicely browned and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Transfer onions to a clean plate and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, form the patties: Tear 2 slices of the bread into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl place bread pieces, milk, worcestershire, onion powder, 1/2 t. salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher until smooth, add ground turkey and using your hands, thoroughly mix. Shape into 4, 4x6-inch patties. When the onions are out of the pan, add remaining 3 t. canola oil. When the oil is shimmering again, add the patties and cook until well browned on the first side, about 5 minutes. Flip patties and reduce the heat to medium and cook until the patties are cooked all the way through, about 7 minutes more. Remove patties from skillet. Wipe out the skillet with paper towel.

3. Assemble the sandwiches: Divide half the cheese between 4 of the bread slices. Top with the turkey burgers and spread each patty with 2 t. Thousand Island dressing. Divide onions between sandwiches and remaining cheese. Top with remaining bread. 

4. Grill the Patty Melts: Melt 1 T. butter in the skillet over medium heat. Add two sandwiches and grill until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining 1 T.butter and the last two sandwiches. Serve with additional Thousand Island dressing, if desired.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fish Tacos

On this eve of Cinco De Mayo I thought I'd share with you my family's own special recipe for fish tacos. It seems like fish tacos are becoming a standard in the dinnertime rotation for American families these days. Everyone has their own unique way of preparing them and I am glad to be able to share my own version here. This meal is definitely in the top 5 favorite dinners for my family.

This recipe is one that has evolved over the course of a few years. I have been tweaking it here and there to perfect the flavors and streamline the preparation. It's really, really good.

Fish Tacos
~serves about 4~

Note* I like to use tortillas that are a blend of corn and flour. You could just use corn tortillas if you can't find these, or even flour tortillas if you want to.

1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, minced
1/2 c. mayonnaise
about 2 T. fresh lime juice (or to taste)
pinch of salt
1.25 oz package taco seasoning
3 T. canola oil
1 1/2 lb. white fish fillets (I like to use tilapia)
15 oz. package (10 count) golden blend tortillas
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 romaine heart, shredded
thinly sliced red onion
cilantro leaves
chopped avocado
lime wedges
hot sauce of your choice

1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl combine minced chipotle, mayonnaise, lime juice and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate until serving. In a large bowl whisk together taco seasoning and oil until smooth. Add fish and coat thoroughly (using your hands works well). Set aside. In another small bowl mix together black beans and corn, set aside.

2. Preheat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Toast the tortillas on the first side about 30 seconds until lightly toasted. Flip and cook on the second side about 10 seconds, until tortilla puffs up and browns. Stack tortillas and wrap in foil until ready to serve. Reduce heat to medium high and add fish, (you may need to cook the fish in 2 batches to keep from overcrowding the pan, if you do, wipe out the skillet between batches) cook 1-3 minutes per side of until fish is well browned and cooked through. (Time will vary depending on what type of fish you use.)

3. To serve. Take a tortilla, spread it with some sauce, top with some fish, black beans and corn, and additional garnishes. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Pinto Beans and "Hot Sauce"

This meal right here is the reason I made homemade flour tortillas yesterday.

These beans and "hot sauce" is another recipe from my childhood. It is a recipe that came from my maternal Grandmother and my mom started making it for us when I was little. It's funny because the original recipe from my Grandma was titled "Chile Verde". I kind of wonder if somewhere along the line someone misread tomatoes for tomatillos because this recipe is basically chile verde with tomatoes instead of tomatillos.

Despite the discrepancy, we grew up just calling it hot sauce.

I changed the recipe a little from the one my mom makes. Mainly the chiles. My mom uses canned diced chiles and I opted to buy fresh Anaheim chiles and roast them under the broiler before adding them to the stew. Canned chiles are okay, but the depth of flavor and additional sweetness from using fresh is definitely worth going to the extra little bit of trouble.

Pinto Beans and "Hot Sauce"
~serves about 8~

Note* You can pretty much use any cut of pork you want for this recipe. Typical choices would be pork shoulder or butt. I have even used lean pork chops with good results. I used pork shoulder steaks here.
Note** To cut up the tomatoes, use a pair of kitchen shears and snip them up right in the can before adding them to the pan.

For the Pinto Beans
1 lb. pinto beans, rinsed, picked over and soaked overnight
2 large onions, peeled and chopped coarse
2 med. or 3 small hamhocks
6 c. water
For the Hot Sauce
1 1/2 lb. Anaheim chilies
2-6 t. vegetable oil
2 1/2 - 3 lb. pork, cut into 3/4 - 1 inch cubes
8 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 serrano chilies, seeds and ribs removed, minced fine
3 T. flour
2 (28 oz.) cans whole tomatoes, roughly cut up
1c. water 
1/2 t. salt
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
pickled jalepenos, chopped, for garnish (optional)

1. For the beans: Add all the ingredients for the beans in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the beans are very tender and breaking down, about 2 1/2 hours. (You'll need to stir the pot more often the thicker the beans become, to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan.) Remove the hamhocks and let them cool enough to handle. Remove the meat, shred and add back to the beans (there might not be very much meat at all).

2. Make the roasted Anaheim chilies: Adjust oven rack to upper middle position and heat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, lay the Anaheims in a single layer. Roast until the skins blister all over and blacken in spots, turning occasionally with tongs, about 20 minutes total. Remove to a heat safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Peel and remove seeds from the chilies and coarsely chop. Set aside.

3. For the hot sauce: Heat 2 t. oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add 1/3 of the pork and brown well on first side, 3-5 minutes. Stir pan and cook another minute or two. Remove pork to a plate. Repeat this process twice more, using an additional 2 t. oil per batch (if necessary). (If the bottom of the pan starts to become too brown, between batches you can add a little bit of water and scrape up the fond in the pan and add to the pork on the plate, Then proceed to the next batch.)

4. Reduce heat to medium. To the drippings left in the pan add garlic and serrano chile, cook stirring constantly until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add roasted Anaheims and tomatoes (undrained), pork, water and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Uncover and simmer for another hour, until the pork is fork tender and the sauce thickens and darkens slightly. Serve in bowls, with beans, garnishing with chopped cilantro and pickled jalepenos.