Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday Night Menu, It's all Greek to Me, September 23, 2011

This whole menu came from Mo Rocca's show Foodography on the cooking channel.  It was all about Greek food and after watching it I was inspired.  I never heard of some of this stuff...Moussaka...dolma...galaktoboureko????  I had to find out...


As I was making this, it felt like I was making an eggplant lasagna in a way.  It's rounds of eggplant that you fry ahead of time and on the show the lady said you make a meat sauce heavily seasoned with cinnamon and allspice.  You layer the eggplant, then the meat sauce, eggplant and meat sauce, then it's topped with a bechamel cream sauce.  Here is how I made the three components.

For the meat sauce I started by making a flavorful tomato sauce.  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan and add 1 or 2 garlic cloves minced with a pinch of red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic is very fragrant but not browning, one or two minutes; add a 32 oz can of plum tomatoes that you've pureed (or just buy it that way); add a good pinch of kosher salt and dried oregano; I let this cook down for about 1 1/2 hours but 1/2 hour is OK.  Now for the "meat" part of the sauce in another pan I heated olive oil and 1/2 onion chopped, a pinch of salt; cook until the onion is translucent and softened; add about 1/2 lb of ground beef and brown; add about 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1-2 tsp freshly ground all spice and 1/4 tsp salt; I added about 1/2 cup milk and let that cook down (not something I usually do but think it might help to tenderize) all the way; add tomato sauce to desired sauce-ey-ness. 

For the eggplant I heated about 1/2 inch of canola oil in the bottom of a large skillet and over medium-high heat let it get hot but not smoking; meanwhile cut the eggplant in 1/3 inch slices and fry without overcrowding the pan and brown on both sides; once they turn golden brown remove to paper towels to drain and season with salt immediately.

For the Bechamel I was making a small portion so I only made a small amount of this sauce.  Heat 5 oz of milk or 1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup in a small pan; In a medium skillet melt 1 tbsp butter then add 1 tbsp flour and whisk together; cook this mixture for a couple of minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste and slightly brown the mixtue; slowly whisk in the hot milk and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper to taste; this is where I stopped but you can add cheese to enrich the sauce if you like; I added a sprinkling of sheeps milk greek melting cheese (that I found at Whole Foods) to the top after assembly.

I assembled this in a small earthenware dish (desribed above) and cooked it uncovered in a 350 oven for about 35-45 minutes until it turned brown on top.

I served this with tzatziki and pita.

For the tzatziki I whisked together 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar and 3 Tbsp olive oil, salt, fresh garlic minced to taste, 1 cup of greek yogurt; add finely chopped cucumber that's been seeded and peeled; I let that sit a few hours to marry the flavors.


These are the stuffed grape leaves that are stacked on top of each other and slowly steamed for an hour or so until tender.  I bought the jar of grape leaves at Whole Foods and on the jar the instructions are to rince the leaves and boil for a minute to remove the excess salt from the grape leaves.  I made the filling mixture by kind-of following the way the lady made them on foodography (they don't give the full recipe) and my own thoughts.  So this is what I did...

For the filling mixture I heated a few Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and let it get hot but not smoking; add 1/2 onion finely chopped, 1/2 fennel bulb finely chopped and 1/2 tsp kosher salt; cook the vegetables until softened about 5-6 minutes; add 1 scant cup of white wine and let that cook down to about 1/4 cup; add 1 full cup of chicken stock; add cooked brown rice ( I cooked 1 cup of rice ahead); mix this together and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.

To assemble the grape leaves I boiled them as I described above, drained them and let them cool slightly; lay one leaf down so the bottom of the stem is facing you; put about 1-2 tbsp of filling and roll them as you would a burrito and place them side by side in a casserole or baking dish; keep rolling and stack them as you go; place a few slices of lemon on top of the dolma's and pour about 1 inch of heated water into the baking dish; cover and bake in a 350 oven for about an hour.

Grilled Skin-on Haddock over Greek Potato Salad and topped with Ladolemono

This was on the foodography show but they were using a fish that you can't get here in the US.  Come to find out later on while watching the show a second time, the perfect substitute would have been a sea bass but it's just as well, I have been wanting to try haddock (since that was one I hadn't had yet; still working on trying new fish' after not likeing fish for the first 38 years of my life).  The chef on the show was grilling the fish with the skin-on, skin side down on a hot grill and not ever flipping it, just cooking it on that one side the whole time (that's what I did and it worked well).  He served it over a potato salad and topped the fish with something called "ladolemono", which I have made many times with out realizing it.

For the potato salad I boiled small white potatoes whole, until just cooked through and while they boiled I got the other ingredients for the salad together; I cut little grape tomatoes in half and placed in a bowl along with about 12-15 Kalamata olives, 3 scallions chopped, a handful of chopped parsley and Tbsp of capers that have been drained; the dressing was the juice of one lemon, whisk in olive oil to taste, salt, pepper, minced garlic and a few tablespoons of greek yogurt and a tablespoon of dijon mustard; when the potatoes are done, drain them and remove the skin when it's cool enough to handle; cut into bite sized pieces and drop into a serving bowl; sprinkle on a handful of greek feta cheese and add all the vegetables; mix gently then add the dressing and mix gently again; check for salt and pepper.  Next time I would leave out the feta if I am serving it with the fish.

To make the ladolemono it's very easy and I made it in a small mason jar.  It's 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil and salt, pepper and dried oragano to taste; shake the jar and it's done.

Galaktoboureko [ghah-lahk-toh-BOO-reh-koh]

I was looking for greek desserts on my phone and this picture popped up and looked good so after reading the description I had to try it.  It's layers of baked fillo with a custard layer in between ( "you had me at custard"...).  Here is the recipe.  It was not as sweet as you may be used to but it was very easy and different.  I thought it was interesting that the custard is not made the "normal" way, it's thickened with semolina flour... very good! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Friday Night Bites #13, Sept 17, 2011

It was one of those weeks where I found myself with no idea's for this weeks Friday Night. I thought I will see what looks good at the store, then I would plan the menu. I was at work and had a thought... I would go to Trader Joe's in Framingham, it's out of the way but I need new ingredients to work with. I had only been there a couple times and I love it, especial the prices compared to Whole Foods. The problem with Trader Joe's; even more out of the way and there is no meat counter, just pre packaged meats. I grabbed some pork tenderloin, ground beef and cute little hamburger buns, cheese and chutney, bread, garlic and herb pizza dough and prosciutto, fresh blueberries along with a few other things. So here are the "Friday Night Bites" I came up with.
Fried Dough Triangles
I saw this kind of thing on Molto Mario. I missed exactly what he did and I really wasn't paying attention, but he made a dough ( I think it was just flour, water, salt and maybe olive oil. No yeast like you find in pizza dough). I thought "well let's do this idea but with pizza dough. He rolled out the dough pretty thin and cut it like a pizza then took the pieces of dough and fried them in olive oil. He spread a very soft cheese on them and topped them with prosciutto. So I did the same thing but with canola oil for frying (which takes about 2 minutes on each side). He said you could substitute the cheese he was using, because it's hard to get in the US, with a brie or Telleggio. I found this cheese a Trader Joe's, soft like a brie and come to find out acted like butter but had the taste of a very mild blue cheese, it was imported from France and it was a triple cream.. dolche.. somethingorother... So good. So to assemble I spread some of that buttery cheese on the dough triangles and topped them with prosciutto, it was delicious!!
Beef Slider's with Ginger-Mango Chutney and Goat Cheese with Plantain Fries
When we went to Naples Florida a few weeks back, we had slider's two different times and they were both very good. It made us both say..."we should make slider's again"... While I walked though Trader Joe's I came across these great looking mini burger buns and so I had this idea right away. I came across the chutney's and something told me to get this ginger mango chutney and that could go on the slider..."I have goat cheese at home that will be good too..." I simply formed the mini burger's with 85% cold ground beef, without mashing it all too much and chilled until ready to cook. I heated my cast iron skillet and seasoned the beef patties with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. I drizzled olive oil on then and seared on each side for two minutes then into a hot oven for 5 minutes and they were perfectly medium. I toasted the mini buns in a pan with butter then assembled them using the chutney and goat cheese. It brought us right back to Naples!! I had an idea to make plantain fries but Trader Joe's didn't have any plantains. I happened to go into an Indian market and saw some but they were very unripe. I wanted the yellow and black ones (those are ripe and much sweeter and a little softer) and all they had were very green ones (which are more dry and not sweet at all). I peeled them and slow roasted them to soften them and just before this course I deep fried them. They were just OK.
"Filet" of Pork Tenderloin and Apple-Cranberry Sauce over Sweet Potato Puree
I just cut the pork tenderloin like they do beef tenderloin, in order to get a filet mignon. You cut about a two inch section and put it down on the flat side and press down slightly to about a 1 and a half inch thickness. I just seared it in my cast iron pan and put it in the oven to finish cooking. For the apple-cranberry sauce I followed this recipe that looked good. For the sweet potato I peeled, cut into about 1 inch dice and boiled until tender. Drain and mashed in some butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne pepper and sparkling apple cider. I really mashed and whipped it with the masher to get it creamy and smooth (without getting out the blender or processor).
Blueberry Pie A`la Mode
I did have an idea that I would make a blueberry pie, after just seeing Laura Calder do one on the cooking channel so I got 4-6 oz packages. I had planned to do the one I saw her make but the weather changed today and it's starting to feel like fall. The one Laura made was a pre baked pie crust with a lightened cream cheese base and uncooked macerated blueberries on top and it's done. I felt like that was too summer-ey, I needed something more fall-ey. I don't think I ever made a blueberry pie before (if you can believe that), so I looked it up and there was one that had 721 reviews. It was a total of 4.5 stars out of 5 which is good, but more importantly 721 is my lucky number. I immediately checked out this recipe and proceeded with it. I made my own pastry dough which I have in my head already and don't need a recipe for.
Dice 14 Tbsp of unsalted butter into 1/2 inch dice
1 Tablespoon of shortening
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup ice water
Put the butter and shortening on a small dish and put it in the freezer. Put the water in a glass measure cup and put in freezer. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor with the sharp blade attachment, or combine these ingredients in a bowl and do it by hand. After the butter has had a good 5-10 minutes in the freezer add it to the bowl of the food processor and pulse about 12-14 times until you get course pea sized crumbs, or do this with a hand held pastry blender. Slowly drizzle and pulse the water into the flour mixture just enough, so when you squeeze the mixture in your hand it clumps together. If you are doing it by hand use a fork to evenly incorporate the water. Bring it together and wrap it in plastic wrap, forming into a disk. You want the dough to still be cold, don't over work the dough or you won't get a flaky crust. Refrigerate the dough for an hour.
I decorated the top crust by cutting small circles out to mimic a bunch of blueberries on a stem. I bushed the top with heavy cream and sprinkled with turbinado sugar.
I served the pie with some vanilla ice cream that I had in the freezer and it was goooood!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Beer Bird, September 9,2011

So I was watching "French Food at Home", the Woodland Feast episode on the cooking channel, and this week's Friday Night Menu was born. I made everything on the show except for the fiddle head soup. I am sure it's delicious but it was an extra course that seemed too warm and unnecessary for this night's dinner.
Stuffed Mushroom Caps
I am loving mushrooms lately, but it small bites. I wasn't sure if I should do these (big bites), but they have goat's cheese at the base of each cap and a crunchy top which sounded appealing to me, not to mention the balsamic glaze on the side to dip each bite into. I wasn't sure if the sprouts were necessary or if it was mostly a garnish, but I liked that too! Here is the recipe. For the balsamic glaze I poured maybe 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar into a small pot and put it over med-high heat until it reduces or cooks down about 2/3rds of the way. It will become thicker and more concentrated then add about a Tbsp of cold butter into the vinegar and swirl the pan off the heat until the butter melts. This thickens it further, add shine and stops it from cooking down any more (butter always makes it better too). I loved them!
Beer Bird
I always do what I can for Friday Night Dinner early in the day and start to bring everything together just before we eat. This whole menu really had to wait until later, and everything was very fast, I was board! I started this part with the beer bird around 5:00 and 15 minutes later I was done, it went into the refrigerator to wait. That's good for most people. The recipe is made with a guinea hen cut up, but I just used 4 bone-in chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks. The combination of ingredients makes the house smell fantastic, so if you want people to come into your house and say "Oh it smells so good in here", make this recipe. It's garlic, bacon, bay leaves, rosemary, juniper berries and beer. She says on her show that it doesn't matter what kind of beer you use anything will work. But in her book (It happened to be in the one cookbook I have of hers), she says to use a double malt beer. I can see how that would give even more flavor then the Corona beer I used. She also says if it doesn't reduce into a thick sauce in the oven you may have to transfer the liquid to a sauce pan and reduce it on the stove top, and that is what I had to do. Loved this one too!! Here is the recipe.
Celeriac Puree
I love celeriac. You treat it as you would potato, for mashed potatoes. It takes slightly longer to cook then potatoes. I never did the trick that she describes to make the final puree very white, so I had to try it. She says to put about 1/4 cup of milk into a sauce pan along with the juice of a half a lemon, salt and water, enough water to cover a celeriac that you've peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks. Boil until very tender and drain. Blend with heavy cream and butter and puree in a blender or if you have a stick blender (which is what I used) use that until it's a very smooth puree.
Blackberry Millefeuille [meel-FWEE]
This is so simple and light and perfect for a summer dessert. You buy the phyllo sheets in the freezer section of the super market and defrost them. Lay out one sheet at a time, brushing with butter and sprinkling with sugar and chopped hazelnuts in between. Cut into desired size and bake them off. Whip the cream and then it's just assembling a phyllo layer, then whipped cream then blackberries, more whipped cream and top it with another phyllo layer. Dust the top with confectioners' sugar and enjoy. Here is the recipe.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Night,Swordfish Steak Au Poivre, August 26,2011

I am typing this three weeks late, I hate when I do that because I may forget some of what I did, but I will do my best. We left for Florida the day after I made this dinner and I didn't have time to tell you about it before we left that Saturday. I was in Florida last Friday so I didn't do a Friday Night Dinner last week. Here I am about to start this weeks Friday Night Dinner that I will tell you about in the next post.
Citrus Marinated Olives with Crusty Bread and Gooey Cheese
This was in the new Bon Appetit September 11 issue. They reminded me of the olives I love at Whole Foods that I get once in a while in the cheese department. The ones at Whole Foods have a lemon and garlic flavor, these are orange and coriander. I served the olives with Boucheron Cheese and crostini toasts, all together this appetizer went well with drinks. I made a whole batch (knowing we wouldn't eat them all that night) thinking they will last in the refrigerator while we are on vacation and they will probably be better after sitting a week in the marinade. Well hurricane Irene came the next day and our electricity was out for 3 days, we ended up throwing out the olives when we got back, along with a lot of other food. I will make this same idea using garlic and lemon flavors to try and reproduce the olives at Whole Foods. Here's the link to this recipe.
Swordfish Steak Au Poivre, Soft Polenta and Portobello Mushrooms Sauteed in Butter and Fresh Thyme
One day I was sitting out on the patio looking through a cookbook for ideas and I came across this idea. We have had "beef" steak au poivre a few times and it's coarsely ground black pepper corns just pressed into the meat. This swordfish steak au poivre is the same idea, between 2 sward fish steaks I used 1 Tbsp of crushed pepper corns (I used black, white and pink peppercorns because I had them in the pantry) and pressed it into the flesh. I heated a cast iron pan on the stove top until it was very hot. Place the swordfish steaks in the dry cast iron pan and sear 4 minutes per side. I served them over polenta and topped them with portobello mushrooms that I sauteed in butter and fresh thyme. I did make a dill aioli sauce that I forgot to serve with the sward fish, we had it the next morning with eggs.
Craggy Top Chocolate Cake with Fig Ice Cream
On Laura Calder's French Food at Home show, I keep seeing this "Cook for a Chef" episode with this cake, and I keep wanting to make it so here it is. I used a slightly larger cake pan so it wasn't as high as I wanted but it was easy and delicious. Here is the link to this recipe. I was amazed at the limited ingredients in this recipe, just chocolate, butter, eggs and sugar. Tony had just gone out to a dinner two nights before, with some people from work to send his boss off to retirement. Someone ordered a dessert that included fig ice cream and after sharing it with the table, everyone raved about it. I thought I would try to make some for tonight's dinner. I started by chopping up a pint of black mission fresh figs and cooking them in a small saucepan covered in port wine and some sugar. I let that go until the figs were very soft, about 30 minutes. I had planned to make a basic vanilla ice cream recipe and kind of fold this fig mixture in. Worried that wouldn't come out right I looked up fig ice cream to get an idea and see if I was on the right track. I found this recipe and working with the port and fig mixture I added lemon, more sugar and heavy cream. I didn't need to use eggs like I was going to do.