A look into the daily agenda of the average American.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The ROOT of Deliciousness! The Jerusalem Artichoke.


     Contrary to the name, Jerusalem artichokes are a native of eastern North America including here in Florida.  They have been cultivated by native Americans for centuries. They are comprised of about 10% protein, no fat, and a very low starch content.  They are thought to be a good food for people wanting to lose weight and people with type 2 diabetes because of the high inulin (the stored fructose) levels.   Fructose is easier on the body than is sucrose since fructose doesn't stimulate the pancreas hardly at all.

     Most recipes I found called for peeling and boiling the artichokes, which was the method I chose for this recipe.  I consulted one of my cooking bibles, "The Silver Spoon", for this.  There are a few pages with different recipes but I was drawn to the one where you boil them in cream.  Earlier today I made a trip to my favorite market, Mazzaro's Italian Market, here in St Pete, FL where I purchased a delicious fig sage cream sauce and also the artichokes, some fresh homemade pasta, and some yummy organic rainbow carrots.

Here are the Jerusalem artichokes.  After peeling them add
them to a bowl of cold water so they don't oxidize and turn black.
After you are done peeling them, chop them into bite sized pieces.
This will make them cook at a uniformed rate.
Ain't nobody got time for overcooked or
undercooked Jerusalem artichokes!!

I heated the delicious Fig Sage Sauce in a little sauce pan
then I added the artichokes.  I turned it down to low and very
gently simmered them for about 10 min or until they were fork tender.
They can get mushy if overcooked.  Unless, of course, that was your
goal… then by all means cook the crap out of them!

Set the sauce aside off the heat and finish up the rest of the meal.
These are freaking fantastic!
One of my favorite root vegetables, the rainbow carrot.
Since they are organic I just washed them really well and chopped of the ends.
 I don't like to peel organic produce since the skin often hold extra nutrients,
plus they look great when they are left in their natural state.
Chop them in half, coat in olive oil and kosher salt and throw into a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 min
or till they are caramelized and delicious.  
What planet did these come from you ask?  They are clusters of alien offspring
ready to sprout into full grown….
…just kidding, they are mushrooms.
These are brown beech mushrooms or shimeji mushrooms.
These are available in specialty markets (like Mazzaro's)
and also in most Asian markets (such as Lin Farmers Market where I got these).  I often get a bag of both the brown and
the white mushrooms, as I always enjoy the look.
Either that or I am really OCD and just have to have it that way. :)

After you have chopped the mushrooms off their clustered inedible base throw
them in a hot pan with a few tablespoons of butter.  Throw in a clove or two (or three)
of chopped garlic, just don't burn it!  Beech mushrooms need to be cooked
or they taste bitter and unpleasant.  After cooking, however, they are delightful and
nutty.  
At this point you should already have a large pot of boiling water salted and ready to receive
whatever portion of pasta you have chosen.  I am using fresh homemade whole wheat
pasta which only takes a few minutes to cook.

Reserva a little pasta water in case you need to loosen up your sauce.
Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the beech mushrooms which should be
getting a little seared coloring on the outside.
Now add the fig sage sauce that has the Jerusalem artichokes in it.
Toss together and keep the heat on if the sauce is too thin.
You can also add some ricotta (I used fresh ricotta impastata which melts
like an angel in a bath of searing hot lava) to make the sauce more
thick and rich, maybe about 2-4 tablespoons.

I tossed a few extra dried figs I had in with the pasta sauce.
There were some in there, but I wanted
a really fabulously figgy sauce.

The last photo is the finished product
plated up with the simple roast carrots.

It was really simple, I promise!! :)







Saturday, December 8, 2012

Stabilized Whipped Cream: The Perfect Cupcake Topper

Stabilized Whipped Cream: 
  Have you ever tried to use whipped cream as a lower sugar alternative frosting for cakes, cupcakes, or other desserts?  This recipe keeps the whipped cream stable at room temperature and above for hours.  Obviously, you don't want to leave cream out at room temp for too many hours but this recipe will at least assure it won't melt off your cupcakes and will hold its pretty piped on appearance.  

       Start with 1/2 a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of cold water.  This will soften the gelatin.  Next, scald two tablespoons of cream and stir into the gelatin, make sure you stir until all of the gelatin is dissolved.  Put this concoction into the fridge for a few minutes until it appears to be the consistency of uncooked egg whites.  Whip it a little with a whisk to smooth it out.  Finally, whip 1 cup of cream with 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt.  Once it has been whipped to your liking (nice peaks) mix in the gelatin mixture thoroughly.  You are ready for your delicious stabilized whipped cream to be used in any number of desserts!




       I find folks who want a cupcake but don't want too much sugar enjoy this recipe.  They can indulge in a nice topping that is very lightly sweetened.   



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Tired of Turkey? How about soup?

       Gobble gobble gobble!!  Turkey broth!

       We all spent the past week reflecting on what we are thankful for in life, as well as gorging on delicious holiday fare.  These days after Thanksgiving we eat tons of leftovers, from delicious roasted veggies, mashed potatoes with gravy, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, stuffing (my favorite!), and of course the turkey.  Now most of us, the omnivores at least, have a turkey carcass floating around in the fridge somewhere.  I know carcass conjures up images of something only vultures would be picking at, but in fact a turkey carcass is a beautiful thing which makes the best broth for these cold wintery days!

     
       First thing you want to do is ready yourself a mirepoix (onions, celery, and carrots).   In a large stock pot lightly fry the mirepoix to release the flavors.  Now, put that turkey carcass into the pot and just cover with water.  Fritz recommends using boiling water, which he heated in the electric kettle.  It makes the broth come to a boil much faster, obviously.  If you need to disassemble the bird a bit to get it to fit into the pot better feel free, this will also allow you to use less water.

       After the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer on low for at least an hour to break down the connective tissue which will give your broth that amazing taste.  You can add any spices you want to your broth, depending on the flavor you want.  A little thyme often goes well with poultry, but for this broth Fritz used more exotic spices such as star anise, juniper berries, bay leaf, and allspice.

     
       The final step for this broth is just to strain the solids out, after which you can pull the rest of the meat off the bones, and save whatever veggies you would like to be in your soup.  This recipe is meant to be very simple.  That is pretty much it.  You can now add anything else you want to your soup.  I was getting over a little cold so I enjoyed mine a bit  more brothy, but we also added orzo which makes it a little more substantial.

       Be creative and enjoy your holidays!! :)












This is the finished soup with orzo in it.  ----->
Some discard their veggies,  I like them and always return them!  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sauerbraten

Sauerbraten


sau·er·bra·ten/ˈsou(ə)rˌbrätn/


       If you love deliciously tender beef braised for hours, then sauerbraten is for you.  Go find a German grandmother and kiss her right now, because this recipe is amazing.  As a general rule, if Alton Brown has his name on a recipe, IT WILL WORK!!  I often type a recipe into a search engine with his name just to see what advice he has to offer. 
       Back to sauerbraten now.  It is a traditional German meal, as is schnitzel, and according to Wikipedia (and my German boyfriend) they are two of their national dishes.  So get crackin' and go make some sauerbraten! 
       Please take note that I doubled the recipe in the photos.  I was making extra to feed my hungry rabid co-workers.  Your pot should not be this close to overflowing if you just follow this recipe.  :) 
Ingredients: 









  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, additional for seasoning meat
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) bottom round
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 18 dark old-fashioned gingersnaps (about 5 ounces), crushed
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins, optional



  • Directions

    In a large saucepan over high heat combine the water, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper, and mustard seeds. Cover and bring this to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

    Pat the bottom round dry and rub with vegetable oil and salt on all sides. Heat a large saute pan over high heat; add the meat and brown on all sides, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.

    When the marinade has cooled to a point where you can stick your finger in it and not be burned, place the meat in a non-reactive vessel and pour over the marinade. Place into the refrigerator for 3 days. If the meat is not completely submerged in the liquid, turn it over once a day.

    After 3 days of marinating, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

    Add the sugar to the meat and marinade, cover and place on the middle rack of the oven and cook until tender, approximately 4 hours.


    Remove the meat from the vessel and keep warm.  Strain the liquid to remove the solids. Return the liquid to the pan and place over medium-high heat. Whisk in the gingersnaps and cook until thickened, stirring occasionally. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Add the raisins if desired. Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.






    
    I was crushing the gingersnaps in the ziptop bag with a rolling pin.  I got bored
    and decided that a finer ground ginger snap might make a smoother sauce...  soooo........
    ..... so I threw the crumbled cookies into the vitamix.  It quickly pulverized
    the little gingery delights into a "gingersnap flour".  It made the sauce come
    together much quicker and was deliciously easy

    
    










           Here is the finished sauce made from the marinade/braising liquid and gingersnaps.  It was thick and beautiful.  Such an amazing recipe!  Next time I will try the full 5 days in the refrigerator, I stuck with three days and it was delicious enough. 

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Limoncello


     
    Limoncello
     

           Ah, limoncello!  The mere name ushers a pulsating salivary moment.  It is clean, lemony, and soothing at its best, however, many imitators use cheap trickery employing such methods as lemon extract and other horrible nightmares I dare not mention.
     
           Take heart, for you have the power to remedy this situation.  With just a few days and a few ingredients you are well on  your way to a decadent after dinner digestif.
     
           The following recipe is once again from the almighty Alton Brown.  I do recommend looking at several recipes beforehand to make sure you like the technique they are using. 
     
           In my case today I am using an extremely fragrant Buddha's hand citron, also known as a fingered citron.  Yes, I said fingered citron.  The truly magical thing about the Buddha's hand is that the whole interior consists of a white pith that, unlike other lemons, is not bitter!  This means I am using a good portion of the citron to flavor my vodka.  Remember, get a decent vodka, something you might actually drink, so you don't end up with cough syrup or "lemon pledge".  Now, to the best of your ability, follow the following recipe:
     
     

    Limoncello

    Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2009 from FoodNetwork.com

    Ingredients


    • 2 pounds lemons, about 8 to 10
    •       (or in my case 1 Buddha's hand citron!)
    • 750 ml vodka, 100 proof  
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 2/3 cup sugar

    Directions

    Carefully remove the zest from the lemons using a microplane or rasp grater, being careful not to remove any of the white pith. Reserve the lemons to make lemonade or squeeze and freeze the juice for later use.
     
    Put the lemon zest into a lidded glass container that is at least 2-quarts in size. Pour the vodka over the zest, and let sit in a cool dark place for 7 days.
     
    After 7 days, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with muslin or several layers of cheesecloth and return the vodka to the container.
    Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan set over high heat and cook, stirring continually, until the sugar is completely dissolved, approximately 3 minutes. Once completely cool, add the sugar syrup to the vodka, and stir to combine.
    Cover and put the container in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Limoncello can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
     
     
     
     
    I hope this batch turns out great.  I will update you later to show how I will be packaging these bottles as Christmas gifts.  Imagine how memorable a bottle of homemade limoncello can be.  Show you care, make limoncello!

    Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Jamaican Style Banana Fritters

    This meal is simple and quick, so let's not waste any more time.  I halved this recipe since I was only cooking for two...

    Ingredients

    • 6 ripe bananas
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

    Directions

    In a large bowl, mash the bananas and blend in the eggs. Stir in the flour. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Drop spoonfuls (2 to 3 inches in diameter) of the batter into the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium. When bubbles begin to appear, turn and cook the other side until golden brown. Repeat the process until all the batter is used up, keeping the cooked fritters in a warm oven. Serve them with maple syrup or honey.
     
     


     
    The warm gooey banana fritters needed something,
    so I added some delicious crunchy cashews.
    I also had some maple syrup which I had to add. 
    Enjoy!
     
     
     
     
     
    Of course, I got this recipe from my mentor. Check out her site ;) http://www.marthastewart.com/349036/banana-fritters
     
     

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Origami Chocolate Gift Box

    This is the origami 'box within a box'.  I talked briefly about origami and an amazing website to use with detailed instructions in a previous post.  Here is the link to the instructions for this box... http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-box-in-a-box.html
    Ater folding the box from a 12" x 12" paper (I used scrapbook sheets), I then lined it with two strips of wax paper.  The wax paper was cut to be as wide at the inner box.  The wax paper serves several uses.  First, it protects the paper from getting stains.  Second, it fills the space in above the truffles keeping them in place when transporting them.  Finally, it will keep the chocolates from drying out to quickly, so they can be enjoyed longer (if you don't eat em all in one sitting). 
    Place your chocolates in the inner box.  Now just embellish and tie up your box to keep the chocolates inside!  I found these free printable Halloween lables on Pinterest, but I think I will actually be giving these away for Christmas this year. 
    Remember, there are many other boxes on the origami website you can try out, I just liked this one alot.  Please be creative and enjoy!