Monday, March 30, 2009

Fish on Friday

During this Lenten season, hubby and I have been visiting our local Irish and English pubs for lunch . For some reason when I have to eat fish on Fridays, I tend to crave a hamburger. So, we decided to make it a little more palatable for us and get our fish and chips at our local pubs. My father in law joined us for de Vere's Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento. Very neat place with lots of atmosphere. The walls are painted in a nicotine yellow and the furniture looks authentic. We had of course the fish and chips and they were fantastic. Overall, not a bad way to spend lunch on a Friday.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge- Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna

I am a day late and a dollar short! The post date for this months challenge changed and I didn't realize it until 2 hours ago. So, my lasagne's is still cooking. I will update my pictures as it finishes cooking.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

The main part of this challenge was to hand roll your own pasta. I was really excited about this challenge. This is the way I usually make my lasagne. I don't usually roll my own pasta, but I do make it with a Bolognese meat sauce and bechamel sauce. I don't use the typical ricotta cheese mixture in my lasagne. I decided to use the recipe I like best, which is an adaption of Nick Stellino's recipe from his book Mediterranean Flavors. We were able to use what our favorite sauce was and this is by far my favorite.

I had never made my own pasta before. It really was quite a challenge. The color was bright and pretty. I did have one mishap, I got a little careless and ended up cutting my finger and nail. Ouch! Thank goodness it wasn't too deep, but it sure does hurt. I just put on a bandage and luckily I had some gloves and I was good to go. Overall a little stressful, but a satisfying challenge.

You can click the link here to get the Daring Bakers recipe for this month. I have listed below the Bolognese Meat sauce and Bechamel sauce I used for this recipe. Here is how I layered it all;

I oiled a casserole dish and put a layer of the spinach noodles down slightly overlapping. Place 1 cup of bolognese meat sauce over noodles followed by 1/2 cup bechamel sauce and 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano. Repeat for 2 more layers. The top layer is simply the remaining noodles covered with the remaining bechamel sauce and parmigiano reggiano. I cooked the lasagne in a 350 degree F oven for 1 hour. Let sit for 10 minutes before cooking.

Bolognese Meat Sauce (adapted from Nick Stellino's Mediterranean Flavors)

5 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 ounces finely diced prosciutto
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan set on high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, celery, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, sage and basil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Raise the heat to high, add the prosciutto, lamb and beef and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the wine, reduce the heat to medium and let it cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and broth and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I usually add to my sauce the rind from parmigiano reggiano cheese that I save. I add it and let if flavor the sauce.

Bechamel Sauce (from Nick Stellino)
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

In a large saucepan set on medium heat, warm the milk until steaming. In another large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the melted butter to form a thick paste or roux. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not let the flour brown. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the nutmeg to the hot milk, then pour a little at a time, into the warm roux, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. When all the milk has been added, return the pan to medium heat and continue whisking until the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, cook a little longer. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside until ready to use.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pay It Forward!

I found this neat idea on my friend, Maria's blog. It is the Pay It Forward Exchange based on the movie Pay It Forward. Here is the the concept: I will send a hand made gift to the first three people who leave a comment to this post on my blog requesting to join the PIF exchange. All gifts will be made and posted out "sometime within the next year". How fun is that! At some point in the year, you will get a nice surprise. Who doesn't love surprises!

What you need to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

This Exchange is only open to those with active websites or blogs.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Oh My, My Ode to Pie

I can't think of a more perfect food! A bold statement, I know, but I believe it to be true. I have always been a fan of pies. All kinds from sweet to savory. Pies come in all sorts of variety, from fruit filled pies like apple and cherry, to vegetable filled like pumpkin and sweet potato to savory pies like quiche, Cornish pasties or shepherds pie. According to Larousse Gastronomique a pie is defined as "a filling topped with a crust and baked". The term pie is believed to come from Magpie. A bird that is known for taking items and hiding it in its nest. The idea that a collection of ingredients hidden under a pie crust seems aptly named after that notorious bird.

I wanted to celebrate the unfussiness of pie. I made two of my favorite sweet pies, cherry streusel and Meyer lemon meringue. The cherry pie recipe was from an old Country Living magazine that featured an article on the Farm Chicks. I love the streusel topping on the cherry pie. The original recipe called for walnuts to be mixed in, but I didn't have any in the house, so I left it out. It still was delicious.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup freshed squeezed Meyer lemon juice
3 egg yolks, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 baked 9 inch pastry shell (recipe below)

In a 2 to 3 quart saucepan, mix sugar, cornstarch and salt together, using a wire whisk. Still using a whisk, gradually blend in the cold water, then lemon juice until smooth. Add beaten egg yolks, blending very thoroughly. Add butter. Add boiling water gradually stirring constantly with a spatula. Gradually bring mixture to full boil; stirring gently and constantly with spatula over medium high heat. Reduce heat slightly as mixture begins to thicken. Boil slowly for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in grated peel. Pour hot filing into baked pastry shell. Let stand, allowing a thin film to form while preparing meringue.


6 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
6 tablespoons sugar

Place egg whites in mixer bowl. Beat with whisk attachment in mixer several seconds until frothy. Add cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until whites have lost there foamy appearance and bend over slightly when beaters are withdrawn, forming soft peaks. Reduce speed to medium while adding sugar, gradually about a tablespoon at a time. Return to high speed and beat until whites are fairly stiff, but glossy and soft peaks are again formed when beaters are withdrawn. Place meringue on the hot filling in several mounds around the edge of the pie. Using a narrow spatula, push meringue gently against inner edge of the pie crust, sealing well. Cover the rest of the filling by spreading meringue from edge of pie to the center, forming decorative swirls with the spatula Bake at 350 degrees F. for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack at room temperature away from drafts for 2 hours before cutting and serving.

Fool Proof Pie Crust

Makes 2 double crust pies

4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup shortening
1 cup butter
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 egg
1/2 cup cold water

Mix together flour, shortening and butter with a pastry blender. Beat remaining ingredients together and combine the two mixtures. Stirring together until all the ingredients are moistened. Then with hands mold dough into a ball. Divide dough into 4 balls and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill dough at least 30 minutes before rolling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Website- The Daring Kitchen

I know I haven't posted is a while. I have been crazy busy with everything that is going on with my folks. I did just want to mention that the Daring Bakers have a new website. It is called the Daring Kitchen and it is really neat. They have everything from book reviews, recipes and even profiles of some daring bakers. Yours truly is one of them that is profiled this month ( I am the one that didn't submit a picture of herself). Give it a look, I think you will enjoy what you see.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Berry Grunt

A berry grunt? Is that what you say when you bend over to pick berries? No, it is a delicious dessert with a ridiculous name. A grunt is a dessert made by dropping a biscuit dough on top of boiling fruit and steaming. I made this one last night and it was yummy. I got the recipe from here. They called it warm berries and dumplings, but I couldn't resist the original name. Truth be told, whatever you want to call it, is was very easy to make and delicious.
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