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Here I am, a few days off a WHOPPER of a DB Challenge, and I have another new (to me that is) recipe for all of ya!!

Now I am well aware that I have a bio page here and I am also well aware that said bio page hasn’t been dealt with, so I feel the need for a quick back ground on myself. First, I am born and raised American but I am of primarily Italian descent with a smattering of German to fuel the fires! I was raised in a very ethnic area just outside of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I have a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, that come in every color, flavor and background possible. However, my social circle and extended family does not include anyone of the Jewish faith, so I have not been exposed to much Jewish Cuisine. Sure, I know Challah and Matzoh but that about exhausts my knowledge.

Earlier this year during Lent, I was surfing and cruising and happened upon something regarding Passover. Now, I love me some internet and I love me some food and I really really like to learn new things; typically when trying to learn about those I am unfamiliar with, I go right for the food, the cook books, the generations old handed down recipes. So I perused recipes from simple to very involved, my interest was piqued. I must mention that Ray and I were in a bit of a food rut; we had been working very long hours, he was beginning to get ill, I was trying to figure out this world of blogs and blogging so our food intake consisted mainly of the tried and true old stand-by home recipes or the even more convenient take-out! In other words, we were in definite need of a food makeover!! And here is what I found….

Romanian Garlicky Sausages with sour pickle vinaigrette & roasted sweet peppers…Carnatzlach, from the book

Jewish Holiday Cooking:
A Food Lover’s Treasury of Classics and Improvisations

by Jayne Cohen

Spicy sausages with tons of garlic, ok so Ray isn’t a big fan of the ole “G” but I am Italian and dammit, Garlic will not be banned from my cookin!!! We own a candy/fudge shoppe and yes, I have made garlic fudge (Actually, mighty tasty once you get past the initial shock)!! This recipe requires a little time for flavors to blend, so I started it and planned on making it for dinner the following day. Well, next day found Ray in hospital (all is well), so I went to work, ran home whipped these up and then ran off to visit him. Needless to say he didn’t get a chance to try them, so now that the dust has settled and all is as normal as normal gets for us, I thought I needed to let him have a shot at them, as other than the garlic I thought this would be a winner for his taste. As per usual, I was correct!!!

Some comments before the recipe…

  • Simple and easy prep!
  • Smells heavenly when initially mixed and even more so when cooking!
  • The vinaigrette is refreshing beyond words.
  • The mix of spicy, sour and sweet is not anything I expected in a Jewish recipe, most wonderful.

Without, further ado…

I have never been to Temple but I have been to Carnatzlach!! ( Here’s your high five if ya got that Disco reference!!!)(and here’s the remix in case you didn’t get it.)

Garlicky Romanian Sausage w Sour Pickle Vinaigrette

Romanian Garlicky Ground Meat Sausages
(Carnatzlach)
with Sour Pickle Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Peppers

Yield: 4 to 5 Servings

I love pickles, though they never live up to their smell: a siren song of heady garlic, spicy peppercorns, and other enticing aromatics. Crunchy and cold, they provide refreshing respite from the dryness and density of unsauced meats, especially in sandwiches and simple grills.

Eating carnatzlach, I grew tired of alternating one bite of barbequed meat with a juicy chew of pickle, so I turned the pickle into this sauce.

This garlicky Romanian grill is wonderful anytime, but it is particularly appealing for casual Indian summer meals during the holiday. If you’re cutting down on beef, well-seasoned turkey is a good substitute here.

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • About 1 teaspoon salt (more if using ground turkey)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; or fresh,
    hot but not searing, chile (preferably Fresno or serrano,
    but Hungarian wax, jalapeno, or other varieties will do fine),
    roasted (see Cook’s Note), peeled and finely chopped
    (be sure to use rubber gloves when preparing)
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef (you can substitute ground
    turkey-the ground thigh meat will work best-with fineresults,
    but you may want to increase the seasoning slightly)
  • Oil for greasing the broiler rack or pan, if needed

Accompaniments:

2 large red bell peppers, roasted (see Cook’s Note), cut into strips, and seasoned well with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and a little vinegar or lemon juice to taste; chopped scallions (both white and green parts); Sour Pickle Vinaigrette (recipe follows); half-sour or garlic dill pickles, sliced lengthwise; garlic dill tomatoes

In a food processor combine the garlic, paprika, salt, oregano or marjoram, allspice, black pepper or chile, and 14 cup water and pulse until the garlic is chopped very fine. Add a third of the meat and process until thoroughly incorporated with the seasoning. Add another third of the meat and pulse a few times. Add the final third and continue pulsing, stopping to scrape down the bowl, if necessary, until the mixture is well combined, very soft, and almost pasty.

Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overn1g~t so that all the vibrant flavors will meld together.

When ready to cook the carnatzlach, set out a small bowl of cold water and a large platter. Moisten your hands with the water, take a small lump of the meat mixture, and roll it into a sausage 3- to 4-inches long and i-inch wide (about the size of your middle finger, but a little wider). Place the shaped carnatzl on the platter and continue making more, wetting your hands as necessary, until all the meat is rolled. You’ll have approximately 14 to 17 sausages.

Preheat the broiler, outdoor grill, or (my choice) a heavy ridged cast-iron skillet on top of the stove, to high temperature. (Spray rack or pan lightly with oil first, if not nonstick.) Grill or broil the sausages until beautifully browned, crusty, and cooked to desired doneness, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

To serve, arrange some roasted red pepper strips and chopped scallions on a plate. Nestle a few carnatzlach attractively over them, and spoon a generous amount of sour pickle vinaigrette over everything. Garnish with pickles and garlic dill tomatoes.

Cook’s Note: To roast peppers, spear them with a long-handled fork, and roast like marshmallows over an open flame (a gas burner or outdoor fire). Or place the peppers on a roasting rack set directly over the flame. Keep turning the peppers until the skins are lightly charred on all sides. You can also roast them under the broiler. Place the peppers on a foil-lined rack under a preheated broiler, as close as possible to the heat source. Turn the peppers as the skins blister and blacken.

Put charred peppers in a paper bag and twist the bag closed, or put them in a covered bowl. Let them steam until cool enough to handle-this will make them easier to peel. Rub the skins off with your fingers (if preparing chiles, make sure you are wearing rubber gloves). Don’t worry if you don’t remove every piece of charred skin-a few bits here and there will add smoky flavor. Although this is messy and the peel will stick to your fingers, I don’t recommend peeling the peppers underwater, as some suggest, because it washes away the flavorful oils, making the peppers soggy and flat-tasting. Instead, dip your hands into a bowl of water every so often or wipe them on a paper towel to clean them. Pull out and discard the stem, seeds, and ribs. The peppers are ready to be used in a recipe.

Sour Pickle Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 to 5 Servings

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped half-sour or garlic-dill pickles
  • 2 tablespoons liquid from pickle jar
    (include peppercorns and other flavorings, if desired)
  • 3 tablespoons best-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh lemon juice

Place the pickles and pickle liquid in a blender and process at high speed until pureed. With the machine on, slowly add the oil. Continue processing another minute or two, until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Transfer to a bowl, and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice as needed. You can serve the sauce right away, but it’s best to allow the flavors to mellow for a while in the refrigerator. Stir the vinaigrette before serving.

As you can see in the photo, I served this with a simple buttered noodle, tossed with paprika and oregano…now forgive me if this isn’t the correct side to go with this, but being my first foray into Jewish cookery, it was the only thing that struck me.

Try it, you gonna like it!!!!!

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So, here I am at Daring Baker reveal time, it is my 2nd challenge. Despite some contention with regards to measurements and a few revisions of the recipe all went very well for me. I decided that being new to the group I was going to follow the original recipe as it stood, I am but a casual baker, by no means trained that I am confident enough to change something that I have not done in past. So on I marched….

Initially, I had a very clear direction, L’Opéra a’la Brennan’s Bananas Foster. Let me back peddle for a minute here. The Challenge was to “lighten” the traditional Opera cake, a deep dark rich dream with coffee and chocolate and turn it into something to Honor the Lance Armstrong Foundation “LiveSTRONG” and Barbara. Light and bright was the direction to go. Hmmm, snag number 1, is cinnamon light and bright? Let me fire off a question to the powers that be, this months Hostesses Fran, Ivonne, Lis and Shea…I got a few “go for its” but the deciding reply was…”Ultimately we’re asking you to keep to light flavours and colours but if you want to use cinnamon as an accent, there’s nothing stopping you.” Hmmmm, not really a no but not really a yes, what to do? Well, I like this bunch and I decided to err on the side of caution, I am not a fan of the boot, so out went the Bananas Foster! (Truthfully, I am pleased I did so, my end result was…in the words of one taster “da bomb” but more on that in a bit)

Back to the drawing board it seemed, although it wasn’t long before I hit on what I thought was a winner. Kiwi, star fruit and macadamia nut!! Yum Yum Yum!!!! The kiwi and macadamia were easily located but star fruit was elusive as a white stag!!! A walk through the produce section put the final piece in place, rounding a corner I was struck by the sweet, sunshiney scent of ripe pineapple!! Viola!!!

I first thought that I would “do” the cake in stages as was suggested, but life, or at least my life doesn’t work that way. A twist here and a turn there and I was not on schedule. When the time finally fell at my feet I began. Now, I am not sure if I was a lucky one but it seemed everything was flowing so well that I went start to finish in one sitting!!! All but the glaze that is, that would be reserved till the night before service.

Alrighty, enough of the suspense and prelude, let’s get to L’Opéra. As mentioned earlier, I used the original posted recipe, which can be found on my DB Challenge Recipes page, with no revisions, other than flavorings.

  • For the joconde I replaced the almonds with macadamia nuts, to make the “meal” I added some of the flour for the cake as well as a TBS. of sugar and it processed nicely, perhaps it could have been more fine but what small amounts of unprocessed nuts just added to the texture of the final product.
  • For the simple syrup I only replaced the H2O with pineapple juice.
  • The glaze was as written.
  • The buttercream had some minor adjustments, as I was concerned flavoring after it was made would somehow cause it to fail. What I decided upon doing was to make a kiwi pureé and use it in place of the H2O in the syrup, I then cooked it to the required 225 degrees. Heaven!!!!! I did add small dice kiwi just for visual appeal at the end but the pureé syrup really imparted the kiwi flavor I sought.
  • For the mousse, also a minor adjustment, actually more of an addition. I made the mousse as written but then I whipped up a box of sunshine pineapple jello using half the required H2O. Once the jello was partially set, I folded in 1/4 of the mousse then folded that back into the remaining mousse.

Assembly was a breeze. Off to the fridge it went to set up. When time came for the glaze, that too was a rather simple endeavor. I did, however, have a certain design in mind, random green polka dots, I hoped that when I glazed the entire top with untinted glaze it would have remained liquid enough that when I added the “dots” they would have flowed and leveled with the surface of the untinted glaze. Alas, not to be!! Now that wasn’t such a bad thing, it didn’t look exactly as I envisioned but it looked pretty darned good. Lesson learned there was, in future (and yes this cake has a future!!!), I will reverse the order and do the polka dots first, let them set up, then pour the untinted glaze and twist and turn the cake till the glaze fills around the dots.

My thoughts on this challenge are that its bark (the actual recipe…7 long printed pages) was much worse than its bite (implementing it). When it was presented the crowd hushed and when it was consumed it received a long standing ovation, just as any well written Opera should!!!!

We were asked to perhaps dedicate this challenge to Barbara and LiveSTRONG, truthfully being new here I am really not familiar with Barbara but I am familiar with LiveSTRONG and I assume that this foundation is dear to her …so for

  • Barbara
  • Lance
  • and all who LiveSTRONG…

macadmai nut, kiwi and pineapple Opera cake

Ok, so call me psychotic but….as this was all said and done and set to auto post at midnight the 28th, I got a wild hair up the ole who-haw about 7:30 pm on the 27th. So what was this wild hair? The original Bananas Foster version I was gonna do, with some minor changes….“MILK CHOCOLATE”!!! It is now 11pm on the 27th and I am waiting for the cake to chill enough to add the mousse on top. I am hoping I can get it glazed as well by post time (with the possibility of a quick photo before it is trimmed).

As I found this cake to be actually a fairly cut and dry task and since everyone else, myself included, found it to be a very great tasting cake, I figured I would go for it and see if I could beat the clock!!! I think I am winning but only time will tell!! Bad pun!!

Since the above cake was dedicated to Barbara and LiveSTRONG, this one is dedicated to all you Daring Bakers and one wild woman with a bad back!!!! I am following exactly as I had initially planned other than I am now going to replace the white chocolate glaze with a milk chocolate one!!!

So here is what I did with this one…

  • Joconde- Pecan Meal and Cinnamon
  • Buttercream-Banana and Rum- I did the same as I did with the kiwi and created a banana rum pureé. This time I replaced the granulated sugar with brown sugar, again cooked to 225 degrees.
  • Mousse- White Chocolate Banana Cream- I made a dense banana pudding then added the melted white chocolate then folded that into the whipped cream.
  • Glaze-Recipe as from original but….MILK CHOCOLATE. Call me a rebel!!!

Pictures to come!!!!

11:55pm- 5minutes to post, the mousse is on but not chilled enough for the glaze, I guess I didn’t beat the clock…to hell with timepieces anyway!!!! The mousse tells me it’s a winner regardless!!

Updates coming!!!

2:08 am FINISHED!! Glazed cake earlier, took a power nap and then woke to trim and photograph!! The scraps are quite tasty, I am not sure there was enough cinnamon for my taste but the mousse (I plan on posting that recipe, as it really is faboo!!) and glaze were really really good together!! Here is a photo for you all…

Bananas Foster Opera Cake

…and now that the fat lady, er guy, has sung; it is now time for bed!

The key to great entertaining is to razzle dazzle your guests. The key to sane entertaining is to produce that razzle dazzle with minimal FRAZZLE!!!! Impossible you say, well not with this 3 ingredient Wow’em cake!!!! Technically it is more a dessert but with it’s presentation one can easily call it a cake and get away with it.

Years back, I made the mistake of toting this with me to a friend’s Mardi Gras Party. These folks have 2 events a year, Mardi Gras and July 4th and to this day I am not allowed admittance without this cake by my side. Now I am not a stupid boy, these folks put on a great spread so I am most definitely gonna make sure I have at least 2 of these ready to go! I must confess, this is to be my first time sharing this recipe and I am laden with guilt; again these folks are no strangers to the kitchen yet for whatever reason they think this cake to be a marvel of science and engineering…this is for you guys!!!!

Chocolate Mousse Cake

  • 1 cup Chocolate chips (semi, milk, white or any combo)
  • 3 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups oreo cookie crumbs
  • Dash salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Process cookie crumbs, drizzle in a few drops of cream just till moist, press into bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Place 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/4 cup cream in a microwave safe bowl, heat on high for 2 mins, stirring after 30 second intervals till smooth and incorporated. Whip remaining 3 cups heavy cream with salt and vanilla till stiff (careful as homemade butter is a few seconds past stiff!!). Add about 1/4 of the whipped cream to the chocolate and fold till uniform. Add this mix to remaining whipped cream and gently fold together. “Pour” this into springform pan and smooth top level. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Yep, that’s it kids, 3 ingredients (the salt and vanilla don’t really count), less than 20 mins kitchen time and still way under 10 bucks!!!!!

Now that’s one Helluva Cake!!!!!!!

Today being my day off and the flower beds dug and ready for planting, it was my intent to run and buy flats of flowers and get the outside in order…however it seems April Showers are running behind schedule and May flowers need to wait. Now, it really isn’t a gloom and doom kinda day but it is mighty grey , I really was hopin’ for SUN!!!!!

The house being in order, the trash out already for tomorrow’s pick-up and not much else to do, I set my sights to dinner. Still wanting sun, and currently not winning the battle, the grill came to mind. Rummaging through the kitchen, I find some chicken breasts, rice, pineapple…there it is my sun at last!!!

Now I am really not one for recipes when cooking so I will try my best with what I did for…

Pineapple Chicken Kabobs with Coconut Rice

Pineapple Chicken Kabobs with Coconut Rice

Marinade:

  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs gr. ginger
  • 2-3 threads saffron
  • gr. pepper to taste (around here it is ALOT!)

Reserve a 1/4 cup marinade for brushing the kabobs as they grill. Marinade 1 chicken breast (cut in 1 inch cubes) per person in remaining juice for an hour (ish). Assemble the Kabobs using whatever suits your taste… today I used simply

  • chicken cubes
  • pineapple chunks
  • yellow onion quarters (trim but don’t remove root end, keeps them together)
  • sweet baby bell peppers

In the past I have used

  • shrimp in place of chicken
  • blanched sweet potatoe cubes
  • mangoe
  • orange segments (not really the easiest but tasty as all get out)
  • and other things that struck my fancy

Place kabobs on heated (med/high) grill turning and brushing frequently with reserved marinade, till nicely caremelized and cooked though (20-25mins approx).

Coconut Rice:

  • 1 cup rice (long grain, brown, wild, just nothing too terribly starchy)
  • 1 med yellow onion fine dice
  • 1 cup chicken stock (vegetable stock or H2O work as well)
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup toasted coconut
  • 2-3 Tbs olive oil
  • S&P to taste

Heat oil to smoking, add onion, saute till fragrant, add rice and continue sauteing till translucent (I actually let the rice brown a bit). Add chicken stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil, cover and then reduce heat to minimum. Let cook 15 mins, turn off heat and let rest another 15 mins. Toss in toasted coconut (reserve some for garnish) and “fluff” rice with a fork.

Assemble plate, I mold my rice in ramekins and then place kabobs around (but then my skewers are circular), so basically make it a “pretty” plate, sprinkle with reserved coconut and chow down!!!!

We are eating late, as Ray worked till 9 pm but I finally got my SUN!!!!

Just a couple asides on this post…

For dessert we had a white chocolate mousse with tropical fruit folded in, save some toasted coconut to top it off!

I accompanied the kabobs with a Sauvignon Blanc from a local vintner. Christian W. Klay winery is located in Chalk Hill Pa, “who’da thunk” wine from Pennsylvania!! Sharon does a great job with her wines and if you are ever in this neck off the woods check out the winery, she does great events!

The dinnerware is also from a local company, Riverside Design Group, in Pittsburgh Pa. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Luckily someone out there likes me and got me a service for 8.

So this whole blogging thing now has me intrigued. Initially, I thought I would do something along the lines of “A Daily Dose of…” but that really didn’t pan out, not that I couldn’t come up with good copy, but I really didn’t want to “gripe” all the time. Trust me, it’s not that I couldn’t, actually I am rather good at it but all in all I figure anyone that may find their way here probably wouldn’t want to hear it!!!!

So I stumble upon the Daring Bakers and I joined up. Food, now there is something I am good at, as is evidenced by my waistline!!! Maybe a few posts a month on food and a healthy bitchfest or two, as well. Sounds like a plan, and TaDa “Sleeping Bear’s Grumblings” was born. However, the more I thought about blogging, my schedule and the Daring Bakers, the more I thought, perhaps just go the Food Blog route. I am here to tell you first off, I am not, I repeat NOT, trained formally by any means. I have said it in the past “that I taught Martha Stewart everything she knows” but the truth be told, I might hold my own against her in the kitchen, I wouldn’t want to go head to head, as I know she would slap me down!!! I am not one for recipes, aside from baking that is, if it strikes me I do it!!! Which has been the cause of many a raised eyebrow from family and friends but usually it works out well.

Now I mentioned my schedule earlier, unfortunately at this time I am not afforded as much kitchen time as I would like. This gave me the idea to concentrate solely on a food blog at this time, one daring baker’s challenge a month and then force myself into 2 or 3 other food endeavors and I could actually find time to write a fairly “edible” blog!!! So grab your whisk and zester and welcome aboard!!!