Open that Bottle Night!!!!

Tonight is Open that Bottle NIght.  It was started by the wine critics for the Wall Street Journal and is to promote opening the bottle that you have been saving.  Wine is meant to be enjoyed, so invite friends or family and OPEN THAT BOTTLE!!

 

Italian Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I really don’t like regular Mac ‘n’ Cheese.  I guess the whole Velveeta just throws me.  Plastic is for buying food, not making food.

I do like baked pasta, and after all that’s what it really is.  So why can’t it be made with good cheese, like Parmesano reggiano  and Gorgonzola.  Top it with some crispy prosciutto and now we’re talking!

These baked pastas are really easy.  All you have to do is boil the pasta type you want until it is “al dente”.  In the meantime make a Bechamel sauce.  Add some Parmesano and Gorgonzola.  Combine the pasta and the sauce.  Place in an oven proof dish, sprinkle cheese on top, put in the oven at about 350 and bake until the cheese is melted and slightly brown.  Crumple crisp prosciutto on top just before serving.    Now that’s real food.

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Béchamel

Béchamel or white sauce is one of the Master sauces.  It is the cornerstone of French cooking.  It is also the basis of many different sauces.

It is said that this sauce was named after Louis de Béchameil who became majordomo to Louis XIV.  It is unlikely that he was the creator, instead it was probably a variation on a recipe by one of the King’s cooks.

It is a sauce that is made by combining warm milk to a flour, butter mixture.  It is best to make this with a whisk to avoid lumps, and having the milk warm and the pan not so hot seems to help also.

The basic ratio is 3 Tablespoons butter, 6 Tablespoons flour and 2 cups milk.

Melt the butter and add the flour, in a heavy saucepan.  This is the roux.  For a white sauce, it should cook enough to get rid of the raw flour taste but not brown.  Other sauces may require a browned roux.

Begin to add the milk slowly, whisking all the time.  You can add seasoning to the milk while you warm it or afterwards.  The easiest way to do it is to add nutmeg and salt and pepper once all the milk has been incorporated.  Other seasoning you can add to the warming milk would be bay leaves, garlic or onions.  Let the sauce simmer until it thickens.  Check for seasoning.

Practice makes perfect.  I now don’t even measure now.  This was the first sauce I learned as a young girl.  It is also the first sauce I taught my children.  If you learn how to make this, you can make many, many dishes.

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Sweet Pea Soup with Mint

When I went to the market yesterday, I was looking for a vegetable to make a nice soup.  To my surprise, I found some fresh English peas.  It almost seemed a shame to put them in soup, but…I had a hankering for some soup.

Sweet Pea Soup with Mint

1 shallot chopped

2 cups fresh English peas preferred but frozen can work as well

1 small bunch of mint

1/4 cup of orange juice

Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Saute the shallots in the olive oil until translucent.   Add peas and water to cover the peas.  Add a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the peas are just tender, about 5 minutes.  Frozen peas only take 3 minutes.  Place the peas and the mint in a blender, add the orange juice and enough of the cooking water to create the consistency needed.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  This can be served either hot or cold.

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Stuffed Red Peppers

I found the most wonderful bright red peppers.  I had to do something that was going to maintain the integrity of the vegetable. My idea was to stuff it!

I took 1/2 of and onion and  sauteed it.  I added 1 Lb. of ground sirloin.  I  brown this well.  I add some homemade tomato sauce and check for seasoning.  I chopped some fresh parsley and mixed it all together.  I added about 1/2 of a cup of cooked Quinoa to give it some texture.  I stuffed the peppers and placed them in an oven proof dish.  Add some hot chicken stock a quarter of the way up the peppers.  Place in a 350 degree oven for about 20 mins.

This was a perfect supper for a sunset picnic.

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Short Ribs

Short Ribs are not a cut of meat that I use often.  I have always have been afraid of the fat content. But when they are braised, they literally fall apart and there is very little fat on the meat.

3Tbs olive oil

4 Lbs short ribs

1 large tomato

1 onion

4 celery sticks

3 garlic cloves

thyme and  oregano sprigs

2 cups red wine

Salt and Pepper

Brown the ribs on all sides in a heavy pan that has a lid.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Take all vegetables (no herbs) and puree them in a processor.  Saute the puree and add the wine and the herbs.  Cook for about 5 min. then place the browned ribs in a single layer.  Cover and place in a preheated oven at 350 until the meat is tender.  That should take about 3 hours. Serve.

 

Chef Jimmy’s dinner party

The other night we had dinner at my friend Chef Jimmy’s house.  He has been working everyday that week and still wanted to cook for us.  Now that’s true dedication!

Chef Jimmy is a personal chef who also has a line of spices.  Check out his website..   www.foodislove.com

Our first course was a shrimp cocktail.

The main course was rack of lamb.  He cooked them in a smoker.  There was tons of smoke…

Chef Jimmy also created a “Bibb and Blue” salad.  It was beautiful and delicious.

The finished plate was really wonderful.  A very good time was had by all.  Thank you Chef Jimmy and Food is Love!

www.foodislove.com

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Flan

Flan is a very traditional Mexican dessert.  In fact there is a custard like dessert in most cultures.  France has it’s Creme Caramel, Italy has it’s Panna Cotta even Japan has an egg custard.

I have had flan all my life, but I never made it myself.  I was asked to take flan to a party and panic set it….     I had to call home and get advice.

What I found out was that, as most traditional recipes, there are sooooo many ways to make it.  Here is the most simple one I have found.

I also was serving this for many people and did not have individual dishes so I had to do it on a greater scale.  It looks much better done individually.

Flan

1 cup sugar for caramel

6 large eggs

1 1/2 14oz. cans of sweetened condensed mik

1  14 oz can of milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  You could use 6 individual ramekins or 1 large oven proof dish.

Pour the sugar in a warm pan over medium heat.  Stir the sugar until it turns brown and becomes a caramel.  Pour a few tablespoons into each ramekin and swirl around.  Be patient with the caramel. It takes some time to brown and melt.  Don’t be tempted to add water, it just slows the process down.  also it’s best to make it in a teflon pan.  After you have finished, you can boil water in it to melt the leftover sugar and add soap and clean that way.  Hey, clean up is important.  Don’t I wish I had someone that would clean up after my cooking…those were the days.

With a mixer combine the eggs and the milks with the vanilla.  Blend smooth.  Pour in the ramekin and place them in a larger pan with a water bath of 1-2 inches.  Bake for 50 mins and check to make sure that a knife comes out clean.  When I did it in the larger pan, I sprinkled cinnamon on top because it looked bare.  Can’t have a naked flan, now can we?

To serve, run a knife around the edges and turn onto a plate.   I don’t know why, but the caramel magically sticks to the custard and what is left over is a syrup.  The top of the custard gets a saturation of the sugar mixture that makes it yummmy.

I did not really know how easy it is to do.  It takes no time to put together.  It may be my new dessert.

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Airport Breakfast

Now, Caviar is one of the “other” food groups, isn’t it?  Talk about the ultimate Umami taste.  But for breakfast?  I don’t think so.  But if you are at Heathrow airport at 9am and have not had breakfast, you have to check out the Caviar House.

Scrambled eggs and salmon…more of a brunch meal.  But it certainly felt decadent as you sit in the airport looking at 10+ hours of flight.  And just think… you won’t be hungry and want to eat the horrid airplane meal.

Next time, it will have to be Caviar!!

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