Archive for category Fancy
Well, it seems that I am still a completely unreliable blogger. Some things may never change. Since my last apology for not posting often enough, my wonderful boyfriend and my almost as wonderful best friend and cooking partner have gotten an apartment together. Which leads to the introduction of a new series here at Engineer Food, Dinner for Three, in which me and Larry and sometimes Will prepare a recipe (often from Bon Apetite or the NY Times) and tell you what we think. This being the first installment, however, I feel no need to stick to an established pattern. I’m funny like that.
This time I am going to tell you about a fantastic birthday present that Larry gave me:
That’s right folks, a very fancy, Williams-Sonoma cheese making kit. I meant to take pictures the whole way, but I was completely occupied with the whole making mozzarella thing. Sue me. While I was separating my curds and whey and slowly cooking in the microwave. Larry sliced up some tomatoes and bread and retrieved basil from the fridge.
Anyway, about 50 minutes after that horrific picture of me was taken, one gallon of whole pasteurized (but not ultra-pasteurized) milk was turned (with the careful addition of citric acid, rennet and some cheese salt) into one pound of mozzarella cheese.
For Caprese Salad:
- 2 Ripe Jersey Tomatoes, sliced
- 1 Loaf of Bread, sliced
- 1 Sprig of Basil
- 1 lb Mozzarella Cheese (Making it at home optional)
- Kosher Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
Difficulty Level-Extraordinarily Easy
Before eating, generously salt and pepper the tomato slices.
Cut each slice of bread in half, if they are significantly bigger than the tomatoes. On each half, place several small pieces of mozzarella, a tomato slice, some basil and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Eat with a fork and knife or be a savage and just dig right on in. Enjoy with a light white whine (chilled Chardonnay pictured above).
I have some very exciting news for those of you who have been silently bemoaning how completely shitty my photography is. I (finally) got a Cannon DSLR! So now I can take pictures like this:
Anyway…for the past few months, I have been searching high and low for the perfect pesto recipe. Last night, I found it. If you haven’t made Ina Garten’s (aka The Barefoot Contessa) Pesto, you need to. It is a religious experience. Words simply can not describe.
All you do, is take some basil, salt and pepper, nuts, cheese and garlic
And process them for a few mintes in ye-olde food processor.
After I made this wonderous dish, I thought to myself: “Self,” I thought, “you should throw some of that deliciousness down on some chicken.”
And then I remembered something that everyone on the internet knows. Bacon is awesome, so I wrapped it all up in bacon and threw it in the oven.
Chicken with Pesto and Bacon:
- 1 1/2 cups Basil, packed
- 1tbs Walnuts
- 1tbs Pine Nuts
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil
- 3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
- 1/3 cup Grated Parmesean Cheese
- 1 pinch each Salt and Pepper
- 3 Chicken Breasts, halved
- 1lb Bacon
For the Pesto:
Combine nuts in the food processor and process for 15 seconds. Add Garlic, Basil and Salt and Pepper. While processing, slowly add the Olive Oil and blend until the basil pieces get as small as they are going to. Add the Cheese and blend until combined. Makes 1 Cup.
For the Chicken:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread about 1tbs of Pesto over each piece of Chicken. Wrap in two to three strips of Bacon, and bake until bacon is browned and chicken is cooked (~45 minutes).
- For the sauce:
- Several cans of different brands of diced and pureed tomatoes. You will need about two large cans for every three people you are planning on feeding. It is important to have multiple brands because each company treats their tomatoes slightly differently, so you will get a greater variety of flavor combinations.
- 1/2 a medium onion finely diced.
- One clove of garlic, sliced very thin. (People who have followed my recipes know that I generally try to vampire-proof my recipes, garlic wise. Don’t worry, we’ll get there)
- Salt, Pepper, Basil, Oregano and any other spices that suit your fancy
- For the meats:
- Equal parts ground veal, pork and beef. The Shoprite near me has a “meatloaf mix” where you can buy all three in one package
- One pound chuck steak
- Six to Eight Sweet Italian Sausages
- Any other meats that strike your fancy. I got some spare pork ribs, but they didn’t fit in my pot. Try to plan so that about a third to a half of the total volume of your gravy is meat.
- A head of garlic (less one clove)
- Two eggs and about two cups of bread crumbs for every pound of ground meat
- The same spices as above
- If you have an immersion blender, go ahead and plunge it into the cans of chopped tomato to puree it a bit. If you don’t have one, get one because immersion blenders are awesome, but in the mean time blend it in a blender.
- Take the biggest sauce/stock pot you have. Yes, that one that belonged to your great-grandmother and has been sitting in the back of your cabinet for months after that one time you used it to make sangria. Put it on the stove and turn the heat on to high.
- Into the dry pot, drop the sliced garlic and the diced onion, and stir it around until you begin to get little caramelized marks at the bottom of the pot. Add in a bit of salt, a lot of pepper, some basil and a touch of oregano. When you can just smell the spices start to singe, add in all of your tomatoes and re-add each of the herbs and such you added before.
- Bring it to a boil and then lower the heat and let it simmer. Get started on the meatballs.
- Let it simmer for as many hours as you can. Stir it often to keep it from burning or sticking to the pot
- Preheat the oven to 375F
- Get yourself a large mixing bowl and a foil pan
- Put your ground meats, your eggs and breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt, a bunch of pepper a lot of basil and some oregano. (As a side note, and in no way related to my last batch of mildly disappointing meatballs, dried basil and dried oregano look very similar. Check the labels.)
- Wash your hands
- Get your hands dirty in that bowl and mix everything together until you have one gross, homogeneous ball of meat
- Shape the meatballs by hand. I make about 2″ balls, but you can make them smaller if you find that intimidatingly large. Place them directly in the tin pan. You don’t have to keep them from touching, but also don’t pack them super tight (I was able to get a dozen in a large pan).
- Wash your hands
- Put the rest of your meats in foil pans. If for some reason you actually like the environment more than your convenience, you can use cookie sheets or keep the pans and wash them.
- Take the head of garlic and remove cloves but leave them unpeeled. Scatter three to five pieces in each pan of meat and meatballs.
- Put all of that in the oven for about two hours, or until all of the meat is cooked.
- Take out the meat and put it in the tomato sauce (which has, by now, been simmering for about 2-1/2 hours)
- Let that simmer for at least another three hours if not longer
|Not visible: the pile of sand at the bottom of that pot.|
Next (or while your boyfriend is cleaning the mussels), begin preparing an arrabiata sauce.
Combine in a pot one small can of tomato paste, two small cans of chunked tomatoes, one small (tomato paste sized) can of water, a small. diced onion, salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper and a couple splashes of tobasco sauce (I would have used sriracha, but I couldn’t find any at my supermarket), and bring it to a boil for twenty minutes, then lower it to a simmer.
|Warning, this is spicy|
|Savory and spicy|
|How could you not love this?|
|Sausages even look good raw.|
While your sausages are cooking, cut a green pepper into centimeter wide strips and chop up an onion into chunks. Once the sausages are singed on the outside, remove them from the pan and cut them into quarters. Throw them back into the pan along with the vegetables, some olive oil, salt, pepper and a huge amount of garlic powder (or, if you are a vampire, no garlic). Cover it and let it cook on medium high, stirring occationally, until the onions are translucent, the peppers are soft and the sausage is cooked through.
|As a non-vampire, I can never have too much garlic.|
Take a small sub roll (or a hoagie roll if you are a heathen) and cut it open and in half and rip out the delicious doughy insides. If you can resist eating that now, you can dry it for some great bread crumbs. Place the mixture into the roll and eat it now or wrap in tinfoil and take it to go, Italian style.
|I’m salivating with the memory|
Hey all! Long time no see! Before the complaints begin rolling in, I am aware that I have completely failed in my daily posting. Sadly the summer is over, which means I no longer have vast swaths of free time to shop, cook, take pictures and blog every single day. So, I will do my best to post something new and exciting once a week for your culinary pleasure.
Anyway, updates! Since my last post, I finished my thirty meals in thirty days. If you want the recipes for my stab a chili, toppings-in burgers, hearty veggie sandwiches, pizza rolls, chicken cacciatorre or cold orzo salad, please let me know and I would be happy to oblige.
In other news, I finally made the hajj to Mario Batali’s Eatily. Let me just say, I am very lucky that I went with my boyfriend because I would have spent all of my money on gourmet cheese and pasta. As it was, I managed to pick up the most beautiful cremini mushrooms and the best looking onion I have been able to find in weeks. (One of the most heart wrenching trade-offs about the end of summer is that I lose my tomatoes but gain squashes and zucchini.)
With these gorgeous vegetables, I planned out a beef sauce.
|Warning: This may be the best thing I have ever made|
I supplemented my findings with two pounds of chuck meat, a small jar of tomato puree and some fettuccine from Shop Rite.
I decided that I was going to make this sauce while actually using the proper cooking methods for each individual step. Which, in this particular case, means lots and lots of butter.
|Like, seriously, a lot.|
I hate the idea of using butter in cooking, but you can’t argue with the results. While a touch more finicky than oil, (it has a tendency to burn) the lower boiling point of butter means that foods cook more evenly.
I caramelized the onions and browned the mushrooms at the same time in two different pans.
To caramelize onions: This is a time consuming process but simple enough to do. In a pot, melt about three tablespoons of butter (on medium heat, it will burn!). Mix in salt, pepper, a crushed clove of garlic and a touch of basil. Pour into the pot a largish onion sliced in quarters and then across the grain so that you have strips of onion about 10 cm in length by 1 cm width. Keep it on medium or low heat, stirring occasionally. You want them to turn clear, and then wilt, and then turn a light brown.
To brown mushrooms: Slice the onions into 1 mm pieces and place in one sparse layer in a dry pan. Turn on the pan to medium low heat and let the mushrooms “sweat” out their moisture. Stir occasionally but try to keep them in one layer. A common mistake when preparing mushrooms in this style is to “crowd” the mushrooms in the pan. The trick is to give them plenty of room between each mushroom, due to the minuscule size of my pan, I ended up doing them in three batches. After the final batch was completed, I put all of them back in the pan with a small pat of butter on high heat to sear in the flavor. When they are finished, throw them in the pan with the onions.
When you are finished, your onion pot should look something like this:
|I’ll give you a second to roll your tongue back into your mouth|
This is a simple appetizer that is easy to make
I lucked out and was able to get some prosciutto at a reasonable price, so I couldn’t resist trying this idea out on an especially hectic Wednesday when I left the house at 6am and get back at midnight.
For this you will need bread, prosciutto, strawberries and olive oil.
Put some olive oil in a dish
|Apologies for the pictures, I was too tired to set up even the half-assed lighting I usually have|
Crush in some strawberries and salt lightly
|Crushing the strawberries is a fantastic source of catharsis.|
Put some prosciutto on a chunk of bread with the dressing.
|Simple but delicious|
Today was hot. Not in the attractive or enjoyable way either. It was sticky and gross and my air conditioner was doing little to help the situation. It was so hot, in fact, that the thought of an open flame or hot oven in my kitchen was repulsive. I cannot stress this enough. I almost never make a meal with no actual cooking (mostly because I think fire is cool). It was gross.
Fortunately, it being summer (hence the whole heat thing), everything I needed to make a five color bruchetta was in season. For this, you will need four plum tomatoes, a medium onion, a green pepper, a yellow pepper and some olives (pitted, for the love of your fingers, don’t try to chop olives with pits. Aggravation will ensue). Also, a loaf of baguette sliced into half inch slices.
|Isn’t it amazing how I magically have everything I need?|
A note about picking vegetables for this recipe: you want an approximately even amount of each of the peppers, the tomatoes and the onion (the olives should be pungent enough that you will only need a quarter part of them). Remember a simple rule of thumb. Tomatoes are solid but not dense, so they will chop to about their apparent volume. Onions are solid and dense, so there will be more onion than you expect. Peppers are hollow, meaning there will be less than you think. Also, a short squat pepper will give you about the same amount of usable fruit as a taller skinnier one. Don’t ask me how.
Now its time to dice away! Shoot for about quarter inch (half centimeter) pieces.
|Hey look! There are five stripes of color!|
Dump the vegetables into a waiting bowl. This is when I fall in love with my flexible cutting board all over again because it happens to act like a funnel, minimizing spillage.
Now it’s time to season your veggies. I used (from left to right) olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder (not garlic salt; if you only have garlic salt then omit the regular salt) basil and balsamic vinegar.
|My pepper bottle is kind of mutilated|
Mix everything in and together until its approximately homogeneous
|Fine, homogeneity is ok….|
Serve over bread. If you can look at a oven, you can toast the individual slices.
|An actual cutting board works better for this than my usual thin sheet of plastic.|
It is better to cover it with a piece of saran wrap when you start to take the mallet to it. Otherwise you will get chicken everywhere. I promise. It will be nasty.
|Raw chicken is gross.|
Once all of your chicken is thoroughly pounded,
|I had to put the head back on my mallet|
Slice them in halves
|Yup, still nasty|
Place down a slice of ham down, then a slice of swiss topped by one of your chicken halves.
|The fun part was how I had to keep washing my hands between each packet.|
Roll up the pile so that the ham and swiss are wrapped around the chicken
|Now clean to handle.|
Repeat for the rest of the chicken slices.
|The neat little piles are not necessary, but they are encouraged.|
Now if your are a sane person, you will discard the filo dough and buy some puff pastry instead. If you are like me and insist on doing this the classy way, take to heart these lessons I learned about filo dough in the twenty minutes it took me to make eight pockets.
Firstly, the sheets will rip. It doesn’t matter how careful you are being, they have the durability of a bubble floating next to a five-year-old. You will try to prevent it but, at the end of the day, it would take the placidity of a Buddhist monk to not become frustrated.
Secondly you will need much more olive oil than you think you will. You will also need a paint brush.
Now, for those unfamiliar with the process of preparing filo dough, you must first remove a roll of what appears to be rice paper from its packaging. Next you must lay a sheet down across a flat surface and paint it with melted butter.
|If I am adding that much fat to something, however, it will be in the form of olive oil, thankyouverymuch.|
Once the first sheet is thoroughly doused, repeat the process until you have a pile four sheets high. Be sure to cover the top piece because you need to put oil anywhere the dough will touch itself.
|Above: Five minutes of trying, fruitlessly, to keep the sheets from ripping.|
Slice the sheets down the middle, so you have two wraps. In the middle of each, place one of your meat and cheese fold-overs, along with some mustard, salt and pepper.
Next you will proceed to make a burrito out of your dough by folding in the sets of opposite corners. Looking at the above picture, fold in east and west, then south then roll north down so that it wraps around the entire pocket
|It really does look like a tiny burrito.|
Place your wraps on a cookie sheet. Make sure that cookie sheet is lined. I forgot to do that and my clean up became much more difficult.
|As you can see, I tried several wrapping methods. None of them kept the melted cheese in.|
|And now they look like egg-rolls. I really do need a better camera.|
Warning: These contain molten cheese. Let them cool!