December 31, 2008

Best of 2008

2008 was a year of changes for me. My divorce was final in January (bittersweet after a year of separation), I quit my job at the winery to work at Kitchen Conservatory in April, I starting teaching cooking classes there in June, and I was hired to teach high school English (a job for which I left my college teaching job) in August.

Through it all, though, I kept cooking. I joined a couple online baking groups, Tuesdays with Dorie and Daring Bakers, which have forced me to learn to make pies and cakes galore. Earlier in the year, I participated in several blogging events, such as Weekend Herb Blogging and Taste & Create. I've met other food bloggers in the St. Louis area, whose encouragement is must appreciated.

Looking over the past year on this blog, I've complied my favorite recipes, posts, & pictures. Enjoy...and Happy New Year!

Favorite Recipes:

Armenian Meat Pies - My foray into dough making.
No Knead Bread - Helped me to overcome my fear of bread baking.
Vacation Shrimps - Fresh seafood in an impromptu sauce made for one good vacation lunch.
The Ultimate Mac & Cheese - In my search for the best mac & cheese recipe, this one came out a winner.
Asparagus & Meyer Lemon Risotto - My first successful risotto.
Fig & Ginger Glazed Ribs - Oh. My. God. These were good.
Sopa Seca de Fideo - A recipe learned from Diana Kennedy herself.
French Chocolate Brownies - My first from-scratch brownies, so good I made two batches!
Sour Cherry Pie - I finally conquered pie dough.
Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter & Basil - I liked this so much, I made it three days in a row.
Ginger Peach Galette - I was loving the fruit pastries this summer.
Black-and-White Banana Loaf - Who knew banana bread could be so good!
Shredded Pork Tacos - Also makes for a kick-ass plate of nachos.
Cincinnati Chili - Simply yum.
Duck Hunter's Pie - My best wild duck recipe.
Turkey Breast Roulade - I may never roast a whole turkey at Thanksgiving again!
Ravioli & Meat Sauce - A new Christmas Eve tradition.

Favorite Posts:

Carbonara: Italian for "Fuck it, let's eat."
Cucina d'amore
Whine & Food
Spring Shrooms
Dessert for the Broken-Hearted
What Momma Used to Make
(I wish I was in) Florida...Pie
Learning to Make Croissants

Favorite Pics:

December 29, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Cake

Earlier this year, I had a dream about a cake...a single-layer chocolate cake with peaks of fluffy white icing and a topping of crushed candy canes...and I knew I'd have to make that cake around Christmas.

It didn't, however, turn out to be the cake of my dreams. The 7-minute frosting wasn't light and fluffy (I'm not sure what I did wrong). So, instead of icing the entire cake, I just drizzled the icing (which still tasted good!) over each piece & sprinkled on the crushed peppermint canes.

Even though Christmas is over, I'll bet you still have a few candy canes left on the tree. This is a yummy--and easy--way to use up them up before (or after) you take down the tree.

Chocolate Peppermint Cake
adapted from David Lebovitz's Devil's Food Cake
& Smitten Kitchen's Seven Minute Frosting

For the cake:
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 stick butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
  • Sift the cocoa, flour, salt, baking soda, & baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the butter & sugar until light & fluffy.
  • Add the egg & mix until incorporated.
  • Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients, then the water & milk, then the rest of the flour...mixing each addition in fully.
  • Pour batter into a buttered 9-inch cake pan with a parchment circle on the bottom (butter underneath & on top of the parchment).
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minute or so, then remove from pan and continue cooling on a rack.
For the icing:
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Combine frosting ingredients with a pinch of salt in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy, 6 to 7 minutes.
  • Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until slightly cooled.

December 28, 2008

Homemade Ravioli & Meat Sauce

After reading Laura Schenone's The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken, Jerad's mom decided she wanted to make ravioli on Christmas Eve, like the Italian families do in the book.


Schenone's story revolves around her search for the origins of her family ravioli recipe. After learning that the recipe calls for cream cheese in the filling, she take off to Italy to find out what original ingredients her ancestors would have used. Certainly, she assumes, it wasn't originally made with cream cheese. However, finding no real alternative to the famous Philadelphia spread, she accepts the ingredients as written.

It was very fun--and satisfying--to make homemade ravioli and meat sauce with Jerad & his mom. And, I'm looking forward to eating the leftovers I have in the freezer.

A few notes...

1. The filling recipe made way more filling than we needed, but we froze it for next time.

2. The meat sauce is REALLY good. It will be my "go to" recipe for pasta sauce from now on.

3. The pork & veal in the filling should be ground twice so that the meat is a finer ground. Ask your butcher to do that if you don't have a grinder at home.

4. If you don't have a pasta roller or ravioli pin, you can still make this recipe. Simply roll the pasta out with a regular rolling pin. You can then dollop the filling on and cut out with a pasta roller to make the ravioli shapes OR cut the pasta into squares with a pizza cutter, add a small spoonful of filling, then fold over into a triangle & seal the edges with the tines of a fork.

Ravioli Pin

Pasta Cutter

5. Likewise, you can make the pasta dough without a stand mixer. Mound the flour and add the add into the center. Slowly mix the flour into the center with a fork, adding water when needed to form a smooth & elastic dough.

No matter how you do it, you really should try this recipe sometime. It's a fun thing to do with family or friends.

Christmas Eve Ravioli

adapted from "Adalgiza and Tessie's Ravioli" recipe
in Laura Schenone's The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

For the pasta:
5 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups water
  • Add the flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  • Turn on the motor, using a low speed. Add the eggs and a little bit of the water to create a ball.
  • Gradually increase the speed and work the dough. Sprinkle in water to add the amount necessary. (I ended up using almost 2 cups.)
  • When the dough becomes soft & elastic, take it out of the mixer and knead it for a few more minutes until it is satiny. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for a least half an hour before you roll it out.

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 box of frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed of excess water
1 pound veal, ground twice
1 pound pork, ground twice
salt & pepper
dash nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 cup parmesan cheese
3 eggs
  • In a large bowl, cream the cheese until it is soft.
  • Add the spinach, then the raw meats & seasonings. Mix well with a wooded spoon to combine.
  • Add the parmesan & eggs.
  • Cut the pasta dough into quarters. & roll out very thin. I used the pasta machine attachment of a KitchenAide mixer. Roll it through on the first setting, fold it in half & roll again, then fold in half & roll again. Now, roll once through settings 2, 3, & 4.
  • Spread half the dough with the filling, but not too thick. Fold the other half of the dough over the top.
  • Press with a ravioli pin & cut out with a pasta wheel.
  • Dry at least a half hour on a tablecloth or sheet (or freeze the ravioli on cookie sheets, then transfer them to a plastic bag for later use).
We made A LOT of ravioli!
  • Cook in slightly boiling, salted water for about 7 minutes (1o minutes if they're frozen).
  • Serve with meat sauce (recipe below).

For the meat sauce:

3 pounds beef pot roast (boneless chuck shoulder, top round, or bottom round)
salt & pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, minced small
1 stalk celery, minced small
1 small handful dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water (strained)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper the meat, then brown it in the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove to a plate.
  • Add the onion, garlic, carrot & celery to the pan. Cook over medium heat until soft, being careful not the brown the garlic.
  • Return the meat to the pot. Add the mushrooms (roughly chopped), wine, & tomatoes (squish them in your hands as you add them to the pot).
  • Cover the pit and cook it in a 300 degree oven for at least 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender.
  • Remove the meat from the pot, then puree the sauce with an immersion blender (or in a regular blender).
  • You can serve the ravioli with the pot roast, use the meat in the filling instead of pork & veal, or eat the next day.

December 23, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Buttery (& Gingery) Jam Cookies

Heather of Randomosity and the Girl chose Buttery Jam Cookies for last week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.
I decided to make those cookies at Andy's annual cookie-baking & booze-drinking party...and they were a big hit!

The holidays are all about friends and champagne.

Erin is very excited about cookie baking.

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of jam, so I used ginger spread for a little holiday flair. I scooped the cookie dough with a small disher, and they turned out as perfectly round, little cakey domes. I think these would be good with bits of candied ginger mixed in, too!

And, they were really tasty with a glass of bubbly (aka Holiday Happiness)!

December 9, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Sugar Cookies

I have a confession to make.

I am a sugar cookie virgin.

Or, at least I was before Saturday.

You seen, I'd never made sugar cookies before. Not from scratch. Not by myself.

So, I was looking forward to this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe for sugar cookies, which was chosen by Ulrike of K├╝chenlatein (By the way, I just learned that blog name translates to "kitchen latin" in English).

Just for the occasion, I bought two cookie cutters, a snowflake & a snowman, and black & white (opal, really) sprinkles at work on Friday. I made the dough Saturday afternoon, rolled/cut/baked the cookies that evening & decorated them late that night.

And, it was fun! Therapeutic even.

I experimented by sprinkling some with the decorating sugar before baking and icing/sprinkling the others after they baked. I like the iced cookies the best.


December 6, 2008

Turkey Breast Roulade

Do you roulade? You should. All the cool kids are doin' it.

"The word roulade originates from the French "rouler" meaning "to roll". Typically, a roulade is a European dish consisting of a slice of meat rolled around a filling, such as cheese, vegetables, or other meats. A roulade, like a braised dish, is often browned then covered with wine or stock and cooked. Such a roulade is commonly secured with a toothpick or metal skewer, piece of string or twine. The roulade is then sliced into rounds and served. [...] The second most common form of roulade consists of a souffle-type mixture baked in a flat pan rolled around a filling. Appropriate to the meaning of the word however, a roulade may refer to any such "rolled" dish, such as sushi, and is not limited strictly to the European dishes."

Culinate is currently featuring a recipe for Fennel-Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with instructions on how to butterfly a boneless pork loin in preparation for stuffing and rolling.

Last weekend, I made a turkey breast roulade stuffed with sauteed leeks. The recipe came out of Tyler's Ultimate cookbook. It was easy to prepare, the meat was juicy & tender, and it made for an impressive presentation. I am very happy with this dish, and I think I'll make it for Thanksgiving again next year instead of roasting a whole bird. Though, this is easy enough to make anytime with a whole chicken breast.

The original recipe (below) calls for golden raisins & dried apricots, but I omitted the fruit. I also sauteed the leeks in bacon fat, because I was out of butter.

Turkey Breast Roulade

1 whole boneless turkey breast, butterflied

2 whole leeks, roots trimmed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Leaves from 2 fresh thyme sprigs (I used rosemary)

salt & pepper

  • Trim off most of the green part of the leeks & cut the leeks almost in half lengthwise, leaving the halves attached at the root end. Rinse under running water to get all the sand out. Pat dry.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks & cook for about 10 minutes, turning every now and then, until the leeks are softened by not colored. Take the leeks out of the pan and let cool.
  • Spread the butterflied turkey breast out flat. Season the inside with salt, pepper, & chopped herbs (save some for the outside, too!).
  • Lay the leeks vertically on one side of the turkey. Starting with that side, roll the turkey up into a cylinder.
  • Drizzle the outside of the breast with a bit of olive oil & season with salt/pepper/herbs. Tie in four places with butcher's twine.
  • Roast in a 400 degree oven until the meat registers 160 on a thermometer.
  • Let the turkey rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

December 3, 2008

Chestnut & Potato Soup

I roasted some chestnuts last weekend in an attempt to get into the holiday know, the whole "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" thing.

Roasting chestnuts. *sigh* It seems like such a swoony, romantic thing to do. Yeah, well, in reality...not so much.

I roasted the chestnuts in the oven instead of over an open fire. To do so, you cut an X into the rounded side of the nut. Then, roast them (cut side up) at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Peel the chestnuts when they are cool enough to handle.

Chestnut, pre-roasting

Roast chestnut, peeled.

The warm chestnuts are tender and sweet, but they were not something I enjoyed just eating by themselves. So, I asked my tweeps (my Twitter followers) for suggestions of what to do with the rest of the chestnuts. Emphatically, several people replied and told me to try chestnut soup.

I browsed recipes online and settled on two choices: Mark Bittman's Roasted Chestnut Soup and Food Blogga's Creamy Cauliflower Chestnut Soup. In the end, I decided to go with Susan's (aka Food Blogga) recipe because it was heartier (ie chunkier...I'm not much of a smooth soup kind of gal) than Bittman's.

Excited, and with printed recipe in hand, I got home from school yesterday to discover that I didn't have any cauliflower like I thought I did. So, I improvised and made...

Chestnut & Potato Soup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large red-skinned potato, peeled & diced
1/2 cup roasted & peeled chestnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half & half (or heavy cream)
sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
  • Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Saute the celery & scallions until just soft. Season with a bit of salt & pepper.
  • Add the bay leaf, potato, chestnuts, rosemary, & stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low & simmer 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  • Puree half the soup in a blender & return it to the pan or break up some of the chunks with an immersion blender. I just used the back of the spoon to mash some of the potatoes. I wanted the soup to be a bit chunky. If you want a creamy soup, puree all of it.
  • Add the cream, a light sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg (like 1/8 teaspoon), and check for seasoning. Add salt & pepper if needed.