Friday, January 22, 2010

Cheese tortellini soup with cannellini beans, kielbasa and kale

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We started off with a lot of promise, the wine group and I.   Led by Culinary Program director Stefano at one of the loveliest places on earth, Villa Ferraia in Tuscany, our spirited members fearlessly tackled eggplant parmesan, foccacia, malfatti, ribollita, Sylvia’s amazing torta di cioccolato and many more authentic Tuscan dishes during our weeklong stay.   

Barbara, Helen and yours truly making tagliatelle verdi during our morning wine degustazione!

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But our greatest challenge was tortelloniTortelloni are the larger version of tortellini.  It was smart of Stefano not to ask us to make tiny tortellini – you’ll see why!  Here Teague, Jeff and Helen are adding the leek and pumpkin stuffing before folding each piece and shaping it into a circle with a flip - later to be sautéed with butter and sage leaves and then topped with grated parmesan.  Truly delicious!

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Some of the tortelloni were so dainty and cute.  The shape, as the story goes, was inspired by Lucrezia Borgia’s sensual navel!

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Here’s the first batch sitting pretty by the window.  Not bad.

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But by the time we were done…UGH!  What a mess…tasty yes, but miserably inconsistent in size and shape! 

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Astounded, our patient tutor Stefano holds up the biggest one!  It’s an Amazon’s navel, for goodness sake!

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We realize that we’ll never be able to duplicate what the Italian mamas do on a daily basis, so we reach for the next best thing, fresh stuffed tortellini in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  They’re perfectly shaped (by nothing other than a machine), relatively inexpensive and tasty, and they add flavor and texture to this hearty soup introduced to me by my wine buddies Jeff and Doris…and it doesn’t hurt to include some spicy sausage either!

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Cheese tortellini soup with cannellini beans, kielbasa, and kale, slightly adapted from Bon Appétit, February 2002

Yield: Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces fully cooked, smoked kielbasa (sausage), thinly sliced (I used
Chappell Hill jalapeño sausage)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh fennel bulb (about ½ large bulb. You could use the other half in a fresh salad)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½ - 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
10 cups canned low-salt beef broth (chicken broth is good too)
4 cups chopped kale (1/2 bunch)
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed and drained
1 9-ounce package fresh cheese tortellini
1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Gruyère cheese

garlic bread, toasted (optional)

Heat olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion, fennel, garlic, thyme and red pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and the sausage is brown, about 12 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Stir in kale and cannelloni beans. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the kale is wilted, about 4 minutes. You can make the soup ahead up to this point. Cool and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it. Heat the soup before continuing with the next step.

Add tortellini to hot soup. Simmer until pasta is just tender but still has some bite (al dente), about 5 - 8 minutes.  Ladle soup into bowls. Top with grated cheese of your choice and serve with toasted garlic bread.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Pork Satay with Peanut sauce and Pepper dip

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Indonesian restaurants are a dime a dozen in The Netherlands, but here in sprawling Houston (a city that boasts more ethnic eateries than any other city in the US) it is inconceivable that there are only two (deux, dva, dos, yes only 2) listed.  Compared to Chinese, Vietnamese and Indian restaurants, they are an anomaly.  When visiting my sister and her family during their two stints in Holland, Sama Sebo on Hooftstraat, down the street from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, was our favorite Indonesian restaurant.  With our little boys, we would stop in for an afternoon snack between sight-seeing and the museums and always order the Sateh.  Normally quiet between meals, we had the entire place to ourselves.  They also serve a nice Rijsttafel.

I have longed for the Sama Sebo recipe.  Their Sateh was served accompanied by a dark and spicy peanut sauce (the likes of which I have not had since) and slices of fresh bread.  I believe this recipe comes pretty close to the real deal, but Sama Sebo’s sauce will always be my sentimental favorite!  My nephews were my taste-testers today – one of them the little boy in a stroller in Sama Sebo sixteen years ago!  He is now 6’4” tall and a freshman in college!  Both he and his brother gave this Satay two thumbs up and made me promise to make it again, as well as Jen’s dumplings!

DBKitchen logoThe January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

The recipe below includes my minor changes.  I chose to use pork tenderloin because I like the leanness factor and I was confident the marinade would inject a lot of flavor into the otherwise bland meat.  I was right and it was tender and moist and very flavorful.  The fish sauce in the marinade is optional but I always include it;  what would an Asian dish be without it?  If you want to see the original recipe, please see Cuppy’s link above.

Pork Satay with Peanut sauce and Pepper dip

Satay marinade

1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon ginger root, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ‘lite’ soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or peanut or olive oil)

1 pound pork tenderloin or loin

If you have a food processor, place all ingredients except the pork and blend until smooth.  Otherwise, chop onion, garlic and ginger as fine as you can and mix with the other ingredients until well blended.
Cut pork tenderloin in half crosswise and then into 1 inch wide by 1/2-inch thick strips (the strips should measure about 4 - 5 inches in length).  Place in a bowl or Ziploc bag and add marinade.  Blend together so that the pork strips are completely covered.  Chill for 2 hours for tenderloin and 4 hours and up to 24 hours for less tender cuts.

To cook:

If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak your skewers in warm water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers to try to prevent them from burning.  As you can see from the pictures, my skewers charred, but fortunately they didn’t effect the flavor of the meat.
Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.
Broil or grill at 290°C/550° F for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another few minutes until cooked through.

Peanut sauce

3/4 cup coconut milk (6 oz or 180 mls)  Next time, I will reduce this amount for a thicker sauce.
4 tablespoons peanut butter (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 tablespoons lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 tablespoons ‘lite’ soy sauce (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (2.5 mls)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (2.5 mls)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (as a topping)                                                                

Mix dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.  Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and your soy-lemon-seasoning mix. Mix well with a whisk until the peanut butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. 

Pepper dip

4 tablespoons ‘lite’ soy sauce (2 oz or 60 mls)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (0.5 oz or 15 mls)
1 teaspoon brown sugar (5 mls)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 finely chopped green onion (scallion)

Mix well. Serve chilled or at room temperature with the Peanut sauce and chopped peanuts.

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Thanks to Lis and Ivonne for founding our Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks groups and keeping us on track with great ideas. 


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Slow-roasted BBQ pork sandwiches with Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw from Mustards Grill

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Stacey’s Shredded pork tacos in Colorado last year were spicy and succulent and I have been looking forward to experimenting with a pork ‘butt’ again .   Slow-cooked all day, the pork ‘butt’ is actually part of the shoulder and is the perfect example of an inexpensive cut of meat that turns into wonder when cooked in low heat over a long period of time.  Marbling that runs throughout prevents the pork from drying out and eventually melts away allowing it to be ‘pulled’ or shredded effortlessly.  I have considered becoming a vegetarian many times, but I always reconsider when thoughts of tender smoked ribs, sugar-crusted ham and pulled pork come to mind! 

Having dined at Mustards Grill (an institution in the Napa wine country) our wine group agreed that Cindy Pawlcyn and her crew are experts in preparing pork.  Their BBQ Baby back ribs are marvelous and the Mongolian pork chops with braised red cabbage has been a signature dish for many yearsFortunately for us, the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook was published in 2001 and it remains a favorite until today. 

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It is SOME COOKBOOK!  Our wine group has used it many times:  Hanger steak with watercress sauce and Onion jam at Jeff and Doris’ was to die for and the Crab cakes with red beet and horseradish remoulade and Seared Ahi tuna on sesame crackers with wasabi cream are brilliant appetizers.  Brian and Helen have mastered the Mongolian pork chopsStrawberry-rhubarb cobbler with black pepper biscuits topped with Caramel ice cream, and Lemon-lime meringue pie (with it’s sky high brown sugar meringue) are most impressive – just ask Nina!  Being a person who doesn’t partake of dessert very often, she scarfed a generous slice of the pie down in no time and we’ll never let her forget it!  

Slow-Smoked BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Ooo-Eee! Sauce is a great recipe that requires the meat to be smoked over a period of several hoursHaving endured unusually frigid temperatures in Houston of late, setting up the smoker was out of the question!  I opted to slow-roast it in the oven and was rewarded with sweet, juicy and very tender meat that took no effort to pull apart.  Apply the seasoning rub the night before you plan to roast it, if possible.

Slow-Roasted BBQ Pork Sandwiches with Ooo-Eee! Sauce and Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw adapted from the Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook

1 (2½ - 3 lb) bone-in pork butt or picnic roast (I bought a 7lb picnic roast and doubled the rest of the ingredients)

rind of 1 orange, grated finely

1½ tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons ancho chile powder (or chipotle chile powder – for a spicier finish)

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

½ teaspoon hot paprika

1/4 cup kosher salt

3 tablespoons sugar

Ooo-Eee! Sauce

½ cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

½ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup apple cider

¼ cup sugar

¾ cup water

You will also need:

½ red onion, thinly sliced

6 seeded bread rolls

Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw (see recipe below)

Lay the pork butt skin side up on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the skin off the pork butt through the fatty layer dividing the skin and the meat. Set the skin aside.

In a small bowl, combine the orange peel, black pepper, ancho chile powder, sweet paprika, hot paprika, kosher salt and sugar. Rub this mixture liberally on the pork, using your fingers to push the seasonings into all the crevices and indentations by the bone. Replace the pork skin on the meat and season it as well. Cover the meat and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

To slow-roast: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Place the pork butt in a heavy roaster which is just big enough to fit the roast. You want the roast to fit snugly in the roaster so that the moisture is not dispersed too much. Cover roaster with the lid and place in the oven. Immediately reduce the temperature to 225ºF and allow the meat to roast for about 5-7 hours. You can even do this overnight.

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During the last hour of roasting, remove the lid and allow the pork skin to crisp. Remove from the oven and test for doneness: prick the meat with a fork and twist the fork. If the meat falls apart, it is done! Allow the meat to cool for a little while and then pull it apart, removing any fatty parts that have not melted away.

Towards serving time, combine all the sauce ingredients in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until it is slightly thickened. Carefully add the pulled pork pieces to the sauce and stir together to coat the meat.

To assemble the sandwich: Cut the bread rolls open and remove some of the soft bread inside (this will provide a nice ‘nest’ for the meat). Toast the rolls. Scoop a generous amount of pork on one toasted half of a roll, top with sliced onions, Sweet-and-Sour Coleslaw, and top with the other half of the roll. You can also serve the coleslaw on the side, if you prefer.

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½ to ¾ head of red or green cabbage, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled and grated

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine sliced cabbage, bell pepper and carrots in a large bowl. To make the dressing, combine the sugar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in vinegar and olive oil. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 1 minute. Cool for about 5 minutes and then pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture. Refrigerate until ready to be served.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Poppy seed and Walnut strudels for Eastern Orthodox Christmas

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Mir Božiji, Hristos se rodi!    The peace of God, Christ is born!  That is the greeting you will hear on January 7 across Serbia, other parts of former Yugoslavia and Russia.  Eastern Orthodox Christians remain the last holdouts against change of the theological calendar from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.  Therefore, Christmas (Božić) comes two weeks after the rest of Christianity celebrates the birth of Christ.  Kids being kids, celebrating Christmas twice has never been a problem for our children who are products of an American father and a Serbian mother! 

046-crop v1So when everyone else is back to a normal schedule and on their first diet of the New Year, my parents are in full swing smoking meat and preparing the sour cabbage that has been fermenting for weeks for the sarme (cabbage rolls).  They also roast pork, and Mama makes a delicious Russian salad with chopped ham and vegetables . 

My job for Bož is to not forget to include the lucky coin in the česnica before I bake it!  The kids especially look forward to pulling their piece of bread from the česnica to see if it contains the lucky coin.  And this year I tried my hand at walnut and poppy seed strudels.  They are traditionally baked during the holidays and consist of a rich and buttery yeast dough with a sweet filling of nuts or poppy seeds.   Known as štrudle (pl.) in Serbia, these are also known as Beigli in Hungary, Potica in Slovenia, Povitica in Croatia, and Makowiec in Poland.  I am very pleased at how they turned out, having done a lot of research in books and on the web and finally combining several different recipes to create my own.  These strudels are very moist and can be eaten at any time of day.

Poppy seed and Walnut strudels.  Makes 4 12” rolls (2 walnut and 2 poppy seed)

For the dough:

1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

1 1/2 cups milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks, 8 ozs) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces

6 egg yolks (the egg whites will be used in the walnut filling)

For the walnut filling:

1 1/2 pounds walnuts

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ozs) unsalted butter, cut into 1” pieces

1/2 cup milk

6 egg whites

For the poppy seed filling:

2 cans poppy seed cake and pastry filling (I use Solo brand).  Open them and you’re ready to go!

To make the dough and strudels:

In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast and flour.  Using a paddle attachment, blend the two ingredients at low speed.  Set aside.

Measure milk, sugar, salt and butter in a microwaveable measuring cup.  Heat in microwave at 30 second intervals until the butter is melted and the mixture measures between 110F – 120F.   On low speed, pour the milk and egg yolks into the flour mixture.  Beat until the mixture has formed a sticky mass and the ingredients have blended, about 2 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl;  place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.   Because the dough is very rich with eggs and butter, it may even take up to 1 1/2 hours.

Line a large 12” x 18” baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper (grease parchment with oil).  Turn the dough onto a generously floured surface.  Pat it down with your hands into a large rectangle (photo left). 

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Cut the dough into two equal pieces.  Set one aside.  ***Roll one piece of dough to 1/4-inch thickness or 24” x 16”.  Spread with walnut filling up to about 1 inch of the edges (top right photo). 

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Fold the 1-inch edges over the filling at both short sides (see pictures above).  Starting with one long side, roll the dough tightly to the other end, like a jelly roll.  Cut the roll into two equal 12” strudels.  Pinch the exposed ends to seal the filling inside.  Place each roll on the prepared baking sheet so that the long seams are on the bottom and the rolls fit crosswise on the sheets.  Space the rolls out (you will have 4) so there will be space in between rolls for them to rise.

Now take the dough that has been set aside and roll it out the same way (instructions start here ***).  Fill it with poppy seed filling.  Roll up as instructed above, cut into two and place on baking pan.  You should now have 4 rolls.

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Cut a piece of wax paper large enough to cover the strudels.  Spray or grease one side with oil.  Cover the strudels and allow to rise until doubled in volume.  Gently spread the tops with a little of the beaten egg whites left over from the walnut filling.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.  Cool completely.  Slice into thin sections and using a sieve, dust with confectioner’s sugar.

To make the walnut filling:

Grind walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan.  Add the butter and milk.  Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture is starting to dry.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.  When the walnut mixture has cooled, add about 2/3 of the egg whites to it and fold gently with a spatula until completely combined (you will use the rest of the whites to spread the tops of the strudels before you bake them).  Use this filling as stated above. 

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I have submitted this recipe to Susan’s Yeastspotting roundup.  Check her site for more delicious yeast-driven recipes.

To my Eastern Orthodox family and friends: Želim vam Sretan BoŽić i najlepšu i uspešnu 2010!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Krofne - Serbian doughnuts for good luck in 2010!

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New Year’s Day traditions invariably involve resolutions, a fresh start and the consumption of certain foods which are believed to hold the promise of good luck, good health and prosperity and undoubtedly help to lessen the effects of hangovers!  In the South, black-eyed peas and collard greens are the key ingredients, while in Italy and Brazil it’s lentils.  The Spaniards eat twelve grapes at midnight, one for each coming month, and in Poland and Germany herring and sauerkraut work their magic.

In my native Serbia, the tradition is to eat krofne.  Krofne are sweet and airy doughnuts that are made with a yeast-activated dough similar to beignets, Dutch oliebollen and Polish pączki.  As the yeast feeds on the sugar, the dough rises and so will your good fortune!  Always round in shape, krofne symbolize that we have come full circle and are about to start anew.  

Krofne are delicious hot with just a sprinkling of sugar, or filled with jam, preserves, honey, cinnamon or even Nutella.   Each person fills their own once they are served.  These come with a warning:  once you’ve had one, you have to have another, and another, and another…!

Krofne (Serbian doughnuts)  adapted from Violet Sekulich’s recipe at St Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Merrillville, Indiana.

7 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting and kneading

1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

1 cup milk 

1 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 stick (4 ozs.) unsalted butter, cut up into 1 tablespoon chunks

3 large eggs

1/2 gallon vegetable oil

Blend 7 cups flour and instant yeast in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Combine milk, water, sugar, salt and butter in a microwave-safe bowl (I use a glass measuring bowl).  Microwave at intervals (depending on how strong your microwave is), until the liquids register between 110° – 120°F.   Pour liquids and eggs into flour and yeast mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture in blended and sticky. 

Generously flour a work surface and dump the dough on the flour.  Knead for about 5 minutes, adding flour a little at a time until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky.  Lightly grease a bowl with oil.  Place the dough in the bowl and flip it over so that the entire surface of the dough is covered in oil.  Place the dough in a warm part of the kitchen and allow it to rise until it is double in size.  When the dough has doubled in size, place it on a floured work surface and punch it down with your hands.

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Sprinkle a little flour on top and fold the dough over itself a couple of times.  Knead for a couple of minutes and using a rolling pin, roll the dough until it is about 1/2” thick.  Using a 2.5” cookie cutter dipped in flour, cut dough into rounds as shown below.  Here we’re using an old cookie cutter which is leaving a circular impression in the dough which disappeared as the  doughnuts rose.

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Transfer each dough round onto a floured cookie sheet lined with a silpat, parchment or wax paper.  Allow to rest for about 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a fryer to 350°FFry doughnuts until light brown, flipping them over after about 2 minutes.  Drain for a couple of minutes on a cookie rack that has been placed on newspaper. 

Transfer the doughnuts to a serving platter and dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Serve with your choice of jams or preserves, honey, cinnamon or Nutella.

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I wish all of my readers and their families peace, love, understanding and joy in 2010!