Croûte de Fromage for the Distinguished Individual

This recipe is from French Farmhouse and it’s basically fancy grilled cheese.

The author of this cookbook describes this dish like a dating app profile,

Hearty yet sophisticated, it fits with the craggy mountains where hikers crowd the slopes in summer and winter brings cross-country and downhill skiers.

Don’t you get the feeling this dish is an outdoor adventure loving seeker who also enjoys long walks on the beach? I mean, I’d go out with it.

What you’ll need.

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of light fruity wine or Riesling
  • Sea salt and pepper
  • 3 long slices of Sourdough Bread cut in half crosswise
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of mild vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of grated Gruyere or Comte cheese
  • 1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley leaves

The first step is to whisk the eggs, wine, a fair amount of salt, and a touch of pepper together. Once whisked, transfer this mixture to a shallow bowl for dipping purposes.

Place the bread slices in this dish until it is thoroughly soaked. Flip sides if necessary for even soaking.

Next, heat butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Place the soaked bread into this pan and add a generous amount of the grated cheese on top.

Cook the slices for a little over three minutes or until the cheese is half way melted. Then make these slices into full on sandwiches and flip sides until cheese is fully melted.

Once this is complete, remove from the skillet, cut crosswise and sprinkle with parsley.

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The final result is quite good, not that I’m surprised. Grilled cheese has always been a simple, yet effective comfort food. When you combine that simplicity with the best of cheeses it can only get better.

Soaking the bread in the Riesling also gives it a tangy taste which is toned down nicely with the parsley.

If you feel like stepping up your grilled cheese game or starting your own food truck, than this is a sandwich you should try.

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Mozzarella Lasagna

I may have mentioned this before, but I don’t like ricotta cheese. It is not appeasing to me. To me it’s dry cottage cheese with little flavor. I’m not a fan and I don’t understand why people like it.

As a result, I haven’t been a big fan of lasagna either. I was pleased to see that this recipe from my hometown cookbook, Little Italy Festival Town is anti ricotta.

After a light bask in my pleased feelings, I started to wonder. Since this recipe is from an Italian lady, does that mean ricotta in lasagna is not authentic to Italian recipes? After some quick searching, it appears that adding ricotta was an American thing to do.

All this time, I felt odd for not being a fan of ricotta in my lasagna. Maybe my Italian side was trying to tell me something.

What you’ll need

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 cans of tomato paste
  • 2 cans of water
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 X 8 X 2-inch baking pan

The first step is boiling the lasagna by preparing 8 quarts of water, 1/4 cup of salt, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Side note. I have never heard of boiling pasta with olive oil before, but I imagine with thicker pasta it will more likely absorb the oil and add to the taste.

Boil the pasta for 15 minutes and strain the water when done.

Next, heat a skillet with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the ground beef as well as the remaining ingredients. You will simmer this meat sauce for about 35 minutes. Add additional water as needed when it cooks down.

Once the pasta and sauce are ready, you can start layering it up by placing a layer of sauce on the bottom, followed by a layer of pasta, and then a 1/4 of a cup of Parmesan.

Continue this layering until all the pasta has been used and then top this with the sauce, followed by the Parmesan.

Bake this at 350 for 30 minutes. Once those minutes are up remove from oven and top with strips of mozzarella. Cover this with foil as soon as it covered in cheese and then set it aside for 20 minutes.

The final result is quite satisfying.

I’m always shocked how good simple recipes can be. It’s such a pleasant surprise. These days, everything is being made with bells and whistles. Sometimes that turns out well, but it’s so common place now that I forget simple can be good.

That being said, I do think it would be fun to layer this up with even more types of cheese, but if you want to keep it simple, it will turn out well.

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Mrs. Lloyd’s Curry Dip

This curry dip from Tastes of Monroe County is making my spider senses tingle.

First off, it was submitted by a Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez, but it’s called Mrs. Lloyd’s Curry Dip.

Who was this Mrs. Lloyd to the Fernandez family? Was she a babysitter, a neighbor, or a legendary pirate?

I mean, she could be a legendary pirate. One-Eyed Willy made it to Oregon and hid all of his treasure there in a cave. A pirate named Mrs. Lloyd could have settled in Indiana with her curry dip recipe which is actually a code leading to secret treasure.

It’s possible.

I will have to interview Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez about one Mrs. Lloyd later. For now though…

What you’ll need.

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 1-5 teaspoons of horseradish (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of tarragon vinegar

Despite the mystery surrounding this recipe, making it is self-explanatory and simple. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. That’s it.

It is recommended to add the horseradish teaspoon by teaspoon to test what you can handle, but that’s about it.

No booby traps, no skeleton organs, no mobster families, no Baby Ruths, and most importantly, no secret code leading to treasure.

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I like that it matches my bathroom counter, yes that’s my bathroom counter.

Yes, no secret mystery was found, but I did discover a new dip and that is an adventure in itself.

The cookbook suggests you use this as a dip with vegetables, but I think it would be amazing as a sandwich spread. It’s got a honey mustard vibe to it. A curry infused one, yes, but they are both tangy and delicious on a chicken sandwich.

I do think it’s an adventure to try this dish, despite the pirates.

Still wish there were pirates though.

 

Amatriciana with Bucantini

My next recipe comes from a cooking class my family took together a few years back. It was a Christmas present for my family and it ranks as one of my favorite presents.

Not only did it involve good food, but it was a bonding experience with the whole family. I think we need to do it again. It’s way better than any item someone can give you. Plus not only is it entertaining, but you learn a skill while you’re being entertained.

The cooking instructors supplied Proseco while we cooked too, which I’m sure had nothing to do with all the fun we had.

My favorite memory of the experience was all of us taking turns making our own pasta by turning the crank on the pasta machine.

My brother was probably the most delighted by it. I’ll never forget his face

The cooking instructors planned out a multiple coarse meal with 3 different types of pasta dishes for us, as well as salad with dressing we made ourselves and dessert.

I’m not going to go over each course today and will just focus on one of those meals which was Amatriciana. Amatriciana is a pork based red sauce traditionally made with pork jowl, but this recipe is Americanized and uses a different area of the pig.

This is the same recipe we used that winter night a few years ago and was given to us at the end of our lesson and meal.

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 pound of pancetta or bacon cut into 1 inch slices
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large onions finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 2 cans of 28oz tomatoes crushed
  • 2/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons of parsley, chopped
  •  1 pound of bucantini pasta
  • 1 cup of Parmesan cheese grated

The first step is to cook the pancetta in a wide frying pan over medium heat until crisp and lightly browned. Once the meat is cooked, remove from the pan and drain the greasy fat out except for a 1/2 cup’s worth. This will be used to cook with the onions.

With the reserved grease, cook the onion and pepper flakes until the onions soften which should take around 6 minutes. Then add garlic, tomatoes with the liquid, wine, and parsley. Allow this mixture to boil for 10-15 minutes.

As the sauce cooks, prepare a pot to cook your pasta in. Most Italians and myself recommend to cook the pasta al dente and to follow the instructions on the packaging.

Once the pasta is cooked, add the pancetta back into the sauce and season with salt and pepper. You are now ready to serve, like so!

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This is a simple pasta dish that doesn’t land too far from the tree of spaghetti bolognese or meat sauce for those of you who aren’t in the Italian know how.

Pancetta is a crisper version of bacon and bucantini for the most part is a tube version of spaghetti. One could say that it’s for people who love spaghetti bolognese but want a little bit of a change in their pasta consumption.

I personally am a fan of both sauces, but I admittedly don’t care all that much for bucantini. It’s fine, it doesn’t taste bad. I mean it’s pasta. I’m just not into tube pastas and bucantini makes me feel like I’m eating overcooked soggy spaghetti.

The sauce is easy to make and definitely satisfying to the taste buds. I do reccomend you give this dish a try, especially if you’re in a spaghetti and meat sauce rut.

*In case you’re curious, we did not make our own bucantini pasta. I do remember making ravioli, but I can’t recall if we used boxed bucantini or if we made our own spaghetti for this dish. My memory is a little fuzzy there. I blame the proseco bubbles.

 

 

 

 

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

When I was growing up, there were always TV shows were kids were like, “Ugh, Brussels sprouts! Why are you trying to kill me Mom?!”

I can’t recall if my mother ever made us Brussels sprouts, but I’m sure if she ever did I protested it. I’m sure I explained to her that t.v. had taught me that this was an evil green vegetable and was probably Jolly Green Giant’s mortal enemy.

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He’s probably just a double agent, right?

As I got older and more open, refining my taste for vegetables, I discovered that not only did I not hate Brussels sprouts, but that I freakin love them.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, this love of Brussels sprouts is not as passionate and as deep as my love for spice and cheese, but every once in awhile that green eyed beauty of a vegetable gives me a little wink and I can’t help myself. It’s an on and off again torrid affair, I’m telling you.

My first encounter with Brussels was when I was working at a pizza place that had seasonal menus and pizzas with toppings from local farmers. Every time we changed the menu, we had a special meeting where we would test out the food so we could give the proper recommendations to customers. That’s when I was introduced to Brussells sprouts and bacon pizza.

Yes, you read that right.

I know it sounds weird, but it was amazing.

We also had a side dish of Brussel sprouts sautéed in garlic with this slightly peppery ranch dressing that was to die for. Sometimes for my lunch meal, I’d get that and a side of meatballs.

Best perk working there was the food, let me tell ya.

If you reside in LA, that place is called Pitfire Pizza and you should definitely check it out.

Anyway, thanks to Pitfire, I developed a love for Brussels sprouts and this meal below, from Portlandia is similar to Pitfire’s Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza. It’s got bacon, Brussels sprouts, and it’s heavenly.

What you’ll need

  • 1/2 cup of hazelnuts
  • 1 pound of medium-sized Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar

The first step is my favorite step. Pre-heating the oven to 350. If it was 400, it’d be my second favorite step.

Next step is to spread the hazelnuts on a pan and toast them for about 12 minutes. You’ll know they’re ready when the shells are cracking a bit. Allow them to cool after the toasting and then rub them with a towel to peel off the shell skin completely. After this step, you will chop them into itty bitty bits.

Next, you will coat your sprouts with oil, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss this mixture until they are evenly glazed.

Meanwhile, place a skillet on your stove top and set that sucker to some high heat. Once the skillet is hotter than a Texas summer, place the sprouts in the skillet with the cut side down. After about 5 minutes, the sprouts should be sufficiently browned and flipped over. Once flipped, cover and cook until they are crisp, yet tender. This should take about 3 minutes.

Remove the sprouts from the pan and replace with bacon. Scale back to a California summer heat setting (medium in case you don’t know) and cook for about 5 minutes.

The shallots are the next item to add to the pan. Cook those puppies while stirring for another 5 minutes.

We are now ready to tag back-in the Brussels sprouts. Toss and combine a couple of times and then add the vinegar. Cook the vinegar until it just about evaporates and then add the nuts and serve right away!

Or…..

You can add an egg, over easy or over medium, however you prefer on top. I did and I highly recommend it.

It’ll probably come to no surprise that I loved this recipe. As I mentioned, bacon and Brussels sprouts pair nicely together. They are both crisp and crunchy but in different ways that compliment each other.

The hazelnuts give it even more texture and add a bit of a salty taste which settles in nicely with the vinegar.

Then there’s the egg. You can’t go wrong with an egg in a skillet dish. At least for me anyway.

Since I’m plugging LA restaurants, I might as well add that this recipe is almost exactly like a breakfast item at The Brite Spot in Echo Park. It’s called the Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash and it is to die for!

The major difference is that this dish has potatoes. It’s basically a high end version of Denny’s breakfast skillets. I’m telling you, it’s a simple dish, but there is something they are doing that I can’t figure out and I need to, sorely.

For now, I am more than content with this recipe from Portlandia. 

How could anyone ever hate you Brussels sprouts?

 

 

Rosh Hashanah Cabbage Soup

This Rosh Hashanah soup comes from The Scent of Orange Blossoms. It’s a hearty and comforting soup traditionally served during Rosh Hashanah, but I think it’s probably okay to eat it other days of the year.

If I’m wrong, by all means speak your peace.

What you need

  • 1 small to medium green cabbage
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 10 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish

The first step is to slice your cabbage. To do so, cut it in half, remove the core and slice into thin strips.

Cut all of your other ingredients now and then combine everything on the list, minus the cilantro. It’s garnish, people, not an ingredient.

Bring this concoction to a boil. When foam begins to appear, skim this off.

Have you ever wondered why recipes constantly ask to skim off foam. I mean, what did foam ever do to a soup. A lot, apparently. I looked it up.

The foam causes a greenhouse effect on your soup, which is a no-no to the cooking process because simmering is important in soup cooking. Otherwise you get overcooked soup and then people start debating about whether or not global warming is a real thing.

It’s just bad, so get rid of it.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the foam, minimize the heat to medium so the soup can simmer. Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Basically, we want to cook until the meat is tender.

When the meat is tender, you are ready to serve and garnish with cilantro.

As you might have observed, this soup is effortless and straightforward to make. It’s also delicious. This dish ranks high on my list of meals to make again for those reasons. Sure, I like gourmet food, but if it’s labor intensive, I don’t want to make it all the time. What American who works over 8 hours a day and never gets month off vacations in August has time for that?

I’m jealous. I should move to Europe.

 

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Skimming that foam!

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Mediterranean Beef Stew

Isa’s Babushka Borscht

I enjoy Isa from Isa Does It. She throws in little slices of humor and tips for lazy cooks. Plus, she has a deep connection with her heritage, which I appreciate and relate to.

This particular recipe is a vegan alternative to borscht and I’m guessing it comes from her grandmother since babushka means grandmother or elderly woman in Russian. I do know at the very least that her ancestors are Russian and that she loves imagining them eating and preparing this dish. As I like to do with my own ancestors whenever I make pasta.

What you’ll need

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of red beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 chunks
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • several pinches of ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • cashew cream (optional)
  • fresh dill, for garnish

Before I lay down the cooking steps, let me side track into how to make the cashew cream.

It’s simple, but it takes some planning ahead. All you do is take one cup of cashews and soak them in water for two hours. Drain the water and place the nuts in a blender with 1 1/2 cups of water. Blend until it’s smooth and creamy. Isa also notes you can spice it up with salt and lemon juice if you desire.

If you are not vegan, however, a friend of mine who spent some time in Russia likes to make his borscht with sour cream. I have yet to try his borscht recipe, but I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the cashew cream. If you are a corrupted animal product dairy lover like myself, you also might find it preferable.

The first step, beyond the cream, is to pre-heat the oil in your largest soup pot. Saute the onion with some salt for about 5-7 minutes. The onions should be slightly soft and translucent in color. Add the garlic next, and cook for only 30 seconds.

Now we will add just about all the remaining ingredients. The lemon juice, dill, and cream are the only ingredients left out at this time.

Cover the pot and allow it to boil. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat, leave the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for about 35 minutes or until the beets are tender.

Once the beets have been tendered, add the lemon juice and then serve individually with garnished cream and dill.

My final results turned out ok. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t too happy with the cashew cream. I think I would have preferred a dairy product of some sort. I made her cashew cream for another recipe, however, and thought it was delicious. It’s possible I didn’t blend well enough this time or maybe the cashews were fresher the first time I made it.

Other than that, I found this soup to not only be healthy, but full-filling. Beets aren’t magical fruits, but they are magical vegetables with numerous health benefits.

Which is probably why I want to corrupt this soup with sour cream. Without sour cream, it’s just too good for me and I don’t deserve it unless I knock it down a peg.

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