Posted by: timscooking | January 24, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage, Deconstructed

I can remember years ago, going to my grandparents’ house on a Sunday and my grandmother serving up a feast that looked somewhat like what might have been at a Polish wedding. There would be chicken noodle soup, meatballs and mushroom gravy, kielbasa and saurkraut, all of the side dishes you could imagine and my favorite, stuffed cabbage.

When she made the stuffed cabbage, Grandma would literally fill a 7 quart roaster with the cabbage rolls, steaming the cabbage leaves, making the meat filling, and rolling between 40 and 50 of the rolls. Her reasoning was that if you were going to make them at all, you may as well make a lot!

That philosophy held true until she was no longer able and was practical when there might be anywhere from 8 to 12 people dropping in on a Sunday, but with today’s lifestyle and our much smaller family spread across town and across the globe, most days I’m cooking for two. This dish has all of the components of Grandma’s stuffed cabbage and smells and tastes exactly like hers with only about 20 minutes prep time. I didn’t use the rice which was a traditional ingredient in the stuffing and I suppose this would be just as good topping a plate of wide egg noodles. I’ll leave that up to you.

Stuffed Cabbage, Deconstructed

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh kielbasa

2 lb. cabbage, sliced ¼” thick

1 large onion, large dice

28 oz. can tomato sauce

1 cup red wine (pinot noir, merlot, or meritage)

1 cup long-grain rice (optional)

Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roast the kielbasa. Place the fresh sausage in a glass baking dish and add enough water to bring the level half way up the side of the sausage. Roast for 1 hour, turning the sausage over after 30 minutes. Removed from the oven and place the roasted sausage on a cutting board to cool. Cut into ½” pieces.

In a large casserole dish, spread ½ cup of the tomato sauce, place a layer of cabbage slices, spread 1/3 of the diced onion, 1 tsp. salt and 3 or 4 grinds of black pepper and 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Repeat until all of the cabbage and onions are layered, top with 1 cup red wine and the remaining tomato sauce. Take the kielbasa slices and spread them over the top and gentle press them into the cabbage and onion mixture.

Cover tightly with foil and roast for 1 ½ hours. If you are serving this with rice, prepare according to package instructions.

Place ½ cup cooked rice on each plate and top with 1 cup of the cabbage and sausage. Serve with a farm white or rye bread to sop up the tomato gravy.

Since my wife was scheduled to be on call for work on New Year’s day, we decided it would be best to spend a quiet day at home. As always. I’m in charge of the day’s menu. On inspecting the fridge, I remembered that we still had the remnants of our holiday ham sitting at the back, waiting to be put to good use. Having already had ham dinner, ham sandwiches, ham and cheese omelets, and ham chowder, I decided that soup was about all that I make from the leftover ham and ham shank.

Remembering the bag of dried navy beans I had bought at the farmers’ market on one of our last trips in the fall, I figured that now was the time to experiment with navy bean soup. The ingredients and prep are simple and while I used our leftover ham, this could be just as easily made with a smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or with some good smoked bacon. You can cut down on the prep time also, by using 2 jars of navy beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly. This recipe is pretty traditional except for the addition of cumin I included to intensify the smoky quality of the ham.

Note: Most packages of dry beans give you alternative methods for reconstituting the beans. The first calls for soaking the beans overnight. I used the quick boil-and-let-sit for 1 hour method since I hardly ever plan that far ahead.

Ingredients

2 c. dried navy beans

1 c. diced ham

1 ham shank

2 carrots, diced

2 medium onions, diced

2 medium potatoes, diced

1 tsp. cumin

salt and pepper

Directions

Prepare the navy beans according to package instructions.

In a large 6-7 quart dutch oven, add the beans and the remaining ingredients, except for the salt and pepper, along with 6 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking until the beans are tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from the heat and use a stick blender or potato masher to break up about half of the cooked beans and vegetables. Return to the heat, stir the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Posted by: timscooking | January 6, 2011

2010 in review

Happy New Year! The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 52 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 74 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 65mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was January 29th with 33 views. The most popular post that day was Polenta with Two Sauces.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, digg.com, bitten.blogs.nytimes.com, slashingtongue.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for pappardelle with butternut squash and blue cheese, househusband guide to cooking, butternut squash and blue cheese pasta, timscooking, and house husband guide.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Polenta with Two Sauces January 2010
1 comment

2

Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese October 2010

3

About November 2009
4 comments

4

A Taste of California Sunshine February 2010
3 comments

5

Tomatoes in Winter January 2010
2 comments

Thanks to all who visited in 2010. I hope to be writing even more in 2011!

Posted by: timscooking | November 15, 2010

Pear and Walnut Dinner Salad

Just because fall is here, there is no excuse for not eating fresh and local. Farmers here in Michigan are still selling the last of their harvest and you can get some great deals on local fruit, apples and pears in particular, and an assortment of root vegetables, potatoes, carrots and all varieties of onions.

On one of our recent “no meat” days, I decided that rather than the usual pasta or vegetable soup, we would have a dinner salad. This one turned out pretty good, using only what I had in the pantry. Dinner was ready in 20 minutes. Take that, Rachel.

I used Bosc pears, but any variety of pears or apples could be substituted. Also, I had some local Amish blue cheese but you could use any good quality blue cheese in this dish. I used a mix of lettuces but use whatever you have in the fridge.

Pear and Walnut Salad

6 c. chopped lettuce (Romaine, escarole, endive)

1 Bosc pear, 1″ cubes

1 c. walnut halves, toasted and rough chop

1 c. dried cranberries, soak for 15 min. in hot water

2 slices large red onion, separated into rings

1 c. blue cheese, crumbled

6 slices, french baguette or 3 slices hearty bread halved

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Dressing

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the first 5 dressing ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking as you do until all of the oil has been incorporated.

Place the walnut halves on a sheet pan, and toast in the oven for 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove and reserve. Place the bread slices on the pan, drizzle with the tbsp. of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Chop the lettuce, dice the pear and slice the onion. Drizzle 1 tsp. of the dressing over the pears to keep them from browning. Roughly chop the walnuts.

Place the lettuce in a large bowl and toss with half of the dressing. Divide among 2 dinner plates. Place half of the walnuts, cranberries, red onion and blue cheese on each salad and drizzle with a tbsp. of the reserved dressing. Serve with the toasted bread.

Posted by: timscooking | October 21, 2010

Pappardelle with Roasted Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Our trip to Shanghai with all of its street markets got me longing for our own Eastern Market and all of its variety. I mentioned to my wife, as we made the 13 hour flight home, that a trip to the market on the following Saturday was in order.

That Saturday morning, we were greeted with an amazing array of produce and fall flowers. The local farmers were selling the last of the summer harvest; tomatoes, corn, and fresh beans and bringing in the fall crop of root vegetables; potatoes, carrots, parsnips, a huge assortment of squashes and the fall harvest of fruit, including locally grown apples, pears and wine grapes. In addition, the market was awash with the color of thousands of chrysanthemums in full bloom.

All of which, brings me back to the butternut squash. I bought it with the specific intention of making a squash risotto, which my wife loves, but it was large enough that I only needed half that day for the recipe and a week later, the other half was still greeting me as I opened the crisper drawer in the refrigerator. I had thought about just roasting and mashing the other half to use as a side with some pork chops, But as I’ve found before, inspiration can come from any where and I found a recipe from celebrity cook, Nigella Lawson  for a pasta dish using butternut squash in  Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

I did alter the recipe a bit to make it for two rather than six. I used 1 1/2 pounds of peeled and cubed squash.  I roasted the squash in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 minutes with some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper before adding it to the pan to make the sauce. This produced a creamier sauce that coated the noodles with the squash. The pan roasting she describes will yield a sauce with distinct pieces of squash throughout. Also, I used only 8 ounces of pasta, a whole wheat noodle, rather than the 16 ounces recommended, some might object to the ratio of sauce to noodle but that’s the way we like it and the pasta police did not come knocking on our door.

Nigella Lawson’s Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1  large  butternut squash, 2-3/4- 3-1/4 lbs., or 1-3/4 lbs. ready-cubed (6 cups)
  • 1  large  onion, finely chopped
  • 2  Tbsp.  olive oil
  • 3/4  tsp.  smoked paprika
  • 1  Tbsp.  unsalted butter
  • 3  Tbsp.  Marsala
  • 1/2  cup  water
  • 2/3  cup  pine nuts
  • 1  lb.  pappardelle or other robust pasta
  • 6    fresh sage leaves
  • 5  oz.  soft blue cheese, such as Saint Agur

Directions

1. Peel, halve, and seed the butternut squash; cut into roughly 1-inch cubes.

2. Cook onion in olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan that can accommodate the pasta later. When the onion starts to become golden, add the paprika.

3. Stir butter and squash into onion mixture in pan. Add Marsala and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 10 minutes or until squash is tender but still holds its shape.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to boiling; add hefty pinch of salt. Cook pasta according to package directions. Toast pine nuts in a hot, dry frying pan o the stove top until dark gold. Pour them into a bowl or onto a plate to cool.

5. Lightly season squash mixture to taste with salt (the blue cheese will add additional saltiness). Remove from heat.

6. Finely chop sage; sprinkle over the squash, reserving some for serving.

7. Remove about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water with a ladle or mug; drain pasta. Add drained pasta to the squash mixture. Gently stir to combine. If sauce is too dry or mixture won’t come together, add some of the reserved cooking water; the starch in it encourages the sauce to emulsify and cling to the pasta. Stir in most of the pine nuts and blue cheese. Transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining sage, pine nuts, and cheese. Makes 6 (1-1/2 cup) servings plus leftovers.

We just returned from a 9 day trip to Shanghai to visit our daughter and son-in-law.  As usual, one of the first things people ask when we tell them about our visit is, “What did you eat?” This is often accompanied by looks of anticipation that we became Andrew Zimmern-like in our quest for the most bizarre food we could find. They seem almost crest-fallen when we described our diet because it seemed pretty ordinary in comparison to what the Travel Channel presents on a nightly basis. Truth is that in Shanghai today and to some extent in most of the larger cities in China, it is not uncommon to find most of the major fast food chains common to the U.S., if you are so inclined In addition, there are a number of restaurants and cafes owned and operated by expatriates from the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

Our daughter met us with a driver at the airport and after dropping off our luggage at their apartment, we met up with our son-in-law and two of his friends at a neighborhood bar, Blue Frog, for 2 for 1 burger night. Burgers, fries and two beers later, we headed back to the apartment to unpack and to plan out our week’s activities.

Every morning, I would walk around the corner from the apartment to La Casbah for coffee. This is a small chain of cafes’, only four locations in Shanghai, which serve espresso and other coffee drinks. Two breakfast items and an assortment of soups, sandwiches and 9 different pizzas for lunch and dinner make up the menu out of a 300 square foot space.

My son-in-law and daughter are also big fans of the 24hour delivery service provided by many of the local restaurants and fast food chains; McDonald’s being one of their favorites, along with others that deliver everything from New York-style pizza to giant burritos.

Another night, we dined at an Italian restaurant next to Blue Frog called, Pane e Vino.

Afterwards, we were walking home when my daughter spotted a new restaurant called, El Patio. It looked closed but, always being the adventurous one, she rang the bell at the gate and was greeted by the maitre‘d who informed her that the kitchen was closed. She asked if the bar was still open for drinks and we were escorted into a beautiful old mansion that had been converted to a high end Mexican restaurant.

While in Shanghai, we did also eat at a traditional dim sum restaurant one Sunday. Dim sum is similar to the American brunch, consisting of small plates of delicately prepared food to be shared by all at the table. We also had dinner at a hot pot restaurant where diners share large bowls of steaming broth (your choice: chicken, beef or vegetable) in which you cook raw vegetables or small strips of meat, accompanied by rice, noodles, and various sauces.

On our last afternoon before returning home, the kids had to do some work from home, so my wife and I did some walking in the neighborhood with the intention of going out for lunch. As luck would have it, the two Irish pubs my daughter recommended were closed for lunch that day, so we ended up at a restaurant called, Azul, which specializes in Spanish inspired dishes. We had eaten brunch there two years earlier on e our first visit. Lunch was good – dessert, a flan, and drinks capped off our afternoon adventure.

Next up: Food shopping in Shanghai

Posted by: timscooking | September 1, 2010

What To Do With All Those Fresh Market Finds

For the past few weeks my wife and I have been experimenting with various techniques for preserving all of the produce we’ve been hauling home from the farmer’s market. One solution I found, which I throughly endorse because it is about the easiest, is freezing the vegetables after some simple preparation.

How much you can store will depend on the capacity of your freezer(s). For all you house husbands out there, this is a great way to utilize the freezer of your beer fridge in the basement or in the garage. Get rid of that six month old bag of ice and fill the freezer with freshly frozen vegetables that you can use all winter long. You’ll be saving money and you’ll be supporting your local farmers rather than some corporation.

The steps for freezing are: clean; blanch; shock; dry; bag; and freeze. That’s it! No sterilizing jars, no stressing over temperatures, no expensive equipment, just a large pot, a sink or basin of ice water and some inexpensive freezer bags ( I buy mine by the case at Costco). I found a handy website called OChef that outlines these steps and also gives you a time chart indicating how long to blanch the vegetables before moving them to the ice bath.

So far, we’ve frozen corn off the cob, carrots, red, yellow and green bell peppers, broccoli and the broccoli stems (which I’ll use for soup), green beans, and whole peeled tomatoes. On our trip to the market last week, we saw that yellow wax beans are starting to come in so we will be freezing some of those in the near future.

You can freeze the corn on the cob, I just find it easier to store and to use if you cut the kernels off the cob before bagging.

One step I added to the process for the tomatoes, after cooling and peeling the tomatoes, I set them so they were not touching each other on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper and covered them lightly with aluminum foil. I then placed the baking sheet in the freezer for one hour. This allowed the tomatoes to freeze separately and made them easier to store in the freezer bags so that when I need some, I don’t have to defrost the whole bag, I can just remove what I need for the dish.

I also made some tomato sauce and a summer squash dish that I froze. More about that in my next post.

Posted by: timscooking | August 16, 2010

Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone and Tarragon

The tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! That’s the buzz all over southern Michigan as tomato season is in full swing. With the abundance of fruit at the market, I was able to pick up a whole peck (about 15 pounds) of tomatoes for $4. I’ve also gotten dozens of “gifts” of tomatoes from friends and friends of friends who just can’t use all of the tomatoes they’ve grown. Reminds me of my father-in-law, who would put in 8-10 tomato plants in his yard in Detroit which would invariably produce over a hundred pounds of tomatoes, more than he and my mother-in-law could eat in a year.

I do plan on making and freezing tomato sauce this year, along with eating as many fresh as possible. My wife loves tomatoes on toasted bagels with cream cheese and I’m sure that we’ll be having more than one BLT in the coming days for lunch or dinner.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that in researching some tomato recipes I had come across a tomato galette, essentially a simple tomato pie and at that time I also saw a number of tomato soup recipes. There were the basic creamy tomato soups which are great in the fall and winter and of course, gazpacho, the ubiquitous chilled Spanish soup that is on many recipe websites and in current food magazines, but I was looking for something that was a bit more versatile and came up with this recipe that you can use as a basis for countless variations throughout the fresh tomato season and could even adapt using canned plum tomatoes this winter.

The base is peeled, seeded tomatoes, onion, garlic, and tomato juice. From that, you can add whatever you want, depending on whether you want a savory or sweet flavor profile. This basic recipe can also be served hot, chilled, or at room temperature. I used mascarpone cheese, a sweet Italian cream cheese, and tarragon which has a distinctive anise flavor, but you could just as easily use sour cream and basil or chives. If you leaning more to a savory flavor, I would swap the sweet vermouth for a dry white wine or dry vermouth in the recipe.

Experiment with various flavor combinations and you can enjoy tomato soup throughout the year.

Ingredients:

  • • 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin, plus more for drizzling
  • • 1 large Spanish onion, minced (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • • 6 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (6-7 large, see Note)
  •   ½ cup sweet vermouth ( I use Martini&Rossi Rosso)
  • • 2 cups tomato juice
  • • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • • ½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • • Mascarpone cheese, for garnish
  • • Leaves from 4 sprigs tarragon, torn, for garnish (1 tablespoon)

Directions:

Combine the oil, onion and garlic in a large pot over low to medium-low heat; cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and slightly browned on the edges.

Add the vermouth and continue cooking until the liquid is reduced by half.

Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use an immersion blender and puree some of the chopped tomatoes or remove about 3 cups of the soup and puree in your kitchen blender. Be sure to remove the center cap and hold a towel over the hole to allow the steam to escape.

Divide among individual bowls; place a tablespoon-size dollop of mascarpone on the center of each portion, then sprinkle with tarragon, drizzle with oil and serve immediately. Alternatively, let the ungarnished soup cool to room temperature and serve, or transfer it to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; serve cold.

NOTE: To peel tomatoes, use a sharp knife to score a shallow “X” on the bottom of each one. Place in a pot of boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pot and immerse in ice water bath. When cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the loosened skins. Cut into wedges and use your thumb to remove seeds. Give the wedges a rough chop.

Posted by: timscooking | August 9, 2010

Peach and Blueberry Yogurt Swirl

On our trip to the market this week, we found an abundance of Michigan peaches by the pound and berries of all kinds for as little as $2 for 3 pints. But what to do with all that luscious fruit? Sure, you can eat it out of hand, but with only the two of us at home, you would need to eat fruit morning, noon and night. My wife did promise to make a blueberry pie, and blueberries or peaches on the morning bowl of Cheerios is always a treat. Still, that’s a lot of fruit to use in a week’s time.

I started to do some searching and came across a number of recipes for different swirls, basically fresh berries or stone fruit mixed with thickened yogurt and served as is or in parfaits. What follows is my take on this great summertime dish.

This was good by itself, with granola for breakfast, or layered with more fruit or crushed shortbread cookies in a parfait for dessert.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup good honey (clover is good, tupelo is better!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup peach nectar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries plus more for garnish

Directions

Line a sieve with paper towels and suspend it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and allow it to drain, refrigerated, for 3 hours or overnight.

Place the thickened yogurt into a medium bowl and add the almonds, honey, and vanilla. Thin with peach nectar until it is a desirable consistency.

Add the raisins, peaches and blueberries (reserving 2 tablespoons for garnish). Garnish with the reserved blueberries.

This will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days 

The other day, we decided to take a road trip to Ann Arbor to visit Zingerman’s Deli and its various operations. If you don’t know about Zingerman’s, check out their website at www.zingermans.com. It started out as a simple deli on the north end of the University of Michigan campus and has steadily grown into one of the most revered food emporiums in the Midwest. I’ve talked before about their selection of olive oils from the Mediterranean countries and from California, but they are also known for their imported salumi and cheeses, vinegars, condiments, and spices, in addition to their own artisanal cheeses and breads.

We started the afternoon off with lunch at the Roadhouse restaurant and then made our way to the creamery, where we picked up some Detroit St. Brick, a goats’ milk cheese laced with black pepper, the Pimento Cheese, which is made with Mas Portell piquillo peppers and tellicherry black pepper, and also some smoked mozzarella. We then stopped at the bakery and purchased some Challah that I planned on using for french toast and then to the deli for more Pasolivio olive oil from California and some Dulce de Leche caramel sauce from Argentina.

That evening, since we were still feeling the effects of our Roadhouse lunch, I decided to use some of the tomatoes from the farmers’ market and summer squash that my mom gave me from her neighbor’s garden to make a simple galette for dinner.

A galette is a rustic French dish that uses a pastry crust and can either be savory, like my tomato and summer squash variety, or sweet, filled with peaches and blueberries or apples. I layered the vegetables with slices of the smoked mozzarella for a simple dinner entree that we had with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. I’ve also seen savory galette recipes that use sliced potatoes. sweet Vidalia onions, zucchini and eggplant. The filling really depends on what you like or what you have on hand. This looks so great when done that it will impress last minute guests as a first course or a side with your entree.

You can make your own pastry crust but I always use store-bought refrigerated crusts.

Ingredients

1 refrigerated pie crust, thawed

1 large tomato, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 large summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 oz. smoked mozzarella, sliced 1/4 thick

1/2 medium onion, cut into 1/4 rounds

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

1 tsp. snipped chives for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degress F.

Roll the pie dough out to a 14 inch circle. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Begin layering the tomato, onion, squash and cheese in a circle, leaving a 2 inch border, until the center of the dough is filled. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully fold the dough edge over  the vegetables, leaving the center exposed. Brush edges with olive oil and drizzle the remaining oil over the vegetables.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the crust is set and slightly golden. Remove from the oven. Garnish with the snipped chives and let cool for at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to set.

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