Monday, July 25, 2011

"Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals 2" - Spanish Beef and Rice and Spicy Chopped Salad with Tortillas

Date I made this recipe: July 24, 2011

Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals 2 by Rachel Ray
Published by: Lake Isle Press, Inc.
ISBN: 1-891105-10-8
Recipe: Spanish Beef and Rice on top of Spicy Chopped Salad with Tortillas – p. 138-139

People, how cosmic is this: the day I decided to finally make a Rachel Ray recipe, she makes an appearance on the Food Network Star. It’s like I subconsciously planned this because until the FNS aired, I had completely forgotten that she would be on that episode.

When I first started watching the Food Network, our Rachel was a rising star. And, believe it or don’t, there just wasn’t that much programming (or at least it seemed to me) on the Food Network at that time, at least not anything like there is now. There are so many new shows popping up that even I can’t keep track.

At any rate, when she was first on, I liked her. She had lots of energy, lots of humor and recipes that could be made in 30 minutes. Loved it! But then the bloom fell off the rose for a while (as it did with Paula Deen) and I tuned out. Too many silly words like “stoup” for soup/stew kept cropping up, and that danged EVOO even made the dictionary. Enough, already! But of course, Rachel kept on going. Now she has an empire with her shows, cookbooks, cookware, a magazine and her own talk show. We can all thank (or blame, depending on how you look at it) Oprah for that one. She took a liking to Rachel and there was no turning back. So note to Oprah: my friends tell me I am absolutely hilarious, I’m a decent cook with a fantastic cook book collection and I’m half Sicilian. Call me!

At any rate, as conflicted as I feel about Rachel (although I do subscribe to her magazine), her cookbooks have a wide variety of recipes. And I needed a wide variety because I was getting together with a group of friends and one of the friends does not eat dairy. And we were supposed to bring Tex-Mex food. I know--you were like me, right, thinking cheese and sour cream and whatnot. So rather than succumb to making salsa, I went on the hunt.

After looking through my four Rachel Ray cookbooks (well, one is sort of a cookbook – it’s her $40 a Day book), I found a perfect recipe that contained not one drop of dairy AND it was darned tasty to boot. Like really tasty. Like I had to tell myself to quit nibbling prior to this party or there wouldn’t be any left.

The beauty of these two recipes is that each one can stand on its own. You can make the Spanish Beef and Rice and call it a day or you can just make the salad. But if you make the rice, then know that Rachel intends for half of it to be used for a Stuffed Chili recipe on p. 139. I could have easily cut down the rice mixture as I did not intend to make the other recipe (although it sounded good).

As to the salad, my palate does not tolerate a lot of heat and given that I was serving this to others, I cut way back on the amount of chilies she used. In fact, I used one, fresh jalapeno and that was that. I opened a can of green chilies but decided that was too much heat. I thought the one jalapeno I used was perfect, but if you’re sure you can stand the heat, fire away!

One more note before I go: the group of friends I got together with is comprised of four other attorneys and me, who worked together on a legal work project that was so bad we dubbed it “The Gulag.” Over time, instead of referring to ourselves as The Gulagees, we became “The G’s.”

One of our mates, nicknamed Tex, was back from Texas, where she now lives, for a short visit and a fellow G, nicknamed TEA, held a Tex-Mex picnic in Tex’s honor in her back yard. Actually, that should have been a “Don’t Mex with Tex” party as this little lady has been busy rounding up, I kid you not, rattlesnakes from some of her neighbors’ yards. Take that, snake! (There is no amount of money in the world that will get me near a snake, much less a rattler. She's a better woman that I, that Tex!)

Anyway, it was great to be all back together again. We email each other constantly (almost always starting the email with "G's..." and have some of the most hilarious war stories ever. One of these days, we’re going to get those suckers published but in the meantime, I have the blog and you have two really good recipes. (Or, as Rachel would say, two really "delish" recipes!) Enjoy!

Spanish Beef and Rice (warning: serves 8!)
2 cups beef stock
1 and ¾ cups water
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups white enriched rice (Note: I looked up “enriched rice” but really couldn’t figure out what the difference was. I used “regular” white rice and it was fine.)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (once around the pan)
1 & 2/3 pounds ground sirloin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cumin (2/3 palmful)
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (a couple of handfuls)

Bring beef stock, water, and butter to a full boil in a medium-size pot. Add rice, reduce heat and cover pot. Cook 20 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid absorbed.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, 2 or 3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and Worcestershire. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, until veggies are just tender. Add tomato sauce, cloves, cumin, and parsley. Bring up to a bubble, then reduce heat to low.

Combine cooked rice with meat mixture and serve with Spicy Chopped Salad with Tortillas and taco dressing. (Ann’s Note: If you make the entire batch, reserve half of the beef and rice for the stuffed pepper recipe – Double-Duty Dinner: Stuffed Chilies with Beef, Rice, Spinach, and Cheese, p. 139)

Spicy Chopped Salad with Tortillas – makes 4 servings

2 hearts romaine lettuce, chopped
3 tablespoons canned or jarred slice jalapenos, drained (Ann’s warning: this would have made this salad spicy, all right! I used one, fresh jalapeno and it was fine.)
3 tablespoons salad olives, Manzanilla with pimento, drained
1 vine-ripened tomato, seeded and chopped
½ red onion, chopped
1 cup broken tortilla chips (any variety)
2 tablespoons jarred taco sauce
The juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh flat-leaf parsley (Ann’s Note: some people do not like cilantro and since I had the fresh flat-leaf parsley on hand, I used that).
¼ cup olive oil (eyeball it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine first five ingredients in a bowl, and toss with tortilla chip pieces. In a second bowl, combine taco sauce, lime juice and cilantro or parsley. Whisk in olive oil in a slow stream until dressing is well combined. Toss salad with dressing to coat ingredients evenly, and serve.

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Mmmmm - A Feastiary" & "The Rainbow Cooks" -Lemon Ribs and Potato Salad - July 4, 2011

Date I made this recipe: July 3, 2011

Mmmmm – A Feastiary by Ruth Reichl
Published by: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
© 1972
Recipe: Lemon Ribs – p. 107

The Rainbow Cooks – Soups, Salads & Specialties by The Rainbow
Published by: The Rainbow
© 1974
Recipe: Potato Salad – p. 30

People, where to begin this blog? Perhaps first with a rousing “Happy Fourth of July?” Or how about “And now a word or two…or twenty about Ruth Reichl?” Or how about a word or two about shopping for used cookbooks (now numbering 1,304…and growing)?

How about I tell you everything and call it a day?!

Let’s start with the 4th of July, a date that cries out for picnic food. I actually selected the Lemon Ribs recipe weeks ago, not necessarily for the 4th, but seeing as how I was out of town so much, and seeing as how the recipe was for ribs, it was a perfect entree for the national holiday. So perfect that meatballs dunked in a vat of this sauce might just replace my go-to holiday party meatball recipe. It was beyond yummy…or rather, Mmmmm good!

The potato salad was a last minute Hail Mary as my husband is not exactly fond of the stuff. But as I told him, it’s not the 4th of July without potato salad or baked beans (he’s not a fan of those, either) and so choose one! Period.! Wouldn’t you know, he actually liked this potato salad?! And so we had ourselves a tasty feast while, hahaha, watching (The Next) Food Network Star where they were showcasing 4th of July food—go figure!

And so on to the books!

I could write volumes about Ruth Reichl: former New York Times Restaurant Critic, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief, author of several books, including perhaps, her most well-known book, Tender at the Bone, and as of this season, one of the judges on Top Chef Masters. But I had no idea that she wrote today’s featured book, Mmmmm – A Festiary until I made my (at that time) annual pilgrimage to Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in NYC and found this tucked away on a shelf. As I am wont to do, I uttered (with almost disbelief) “Who knew?” I had no idea Ruth had written anything before Tender at the Bone. I really should get out more. (And people, can I tell you how giddy I am that I’m finally heading back to NYC this week and am practically chomping at the bit to land, already, so I can go shopping at Bonnie’s? Better news: she ships!!).

Anyway, what I especially loved was reading Ruth’s bio on the back book jacket, written long before she became mega famous: “Ruth Reichl has been a book designer, cooked for a co-op of fifty, managed a shore store, had a three-line speaking part in Z. Brought up in New York City and Norwalk, Connecticut, she attended College Marie de France in Montreal and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She now lives in New York."!! From designing books to the editor of Gourmet? I want that job trajectory!

As to the book, I absolutely love it, from the artwork to the photos to the recipes. As this book is now out of print, I feel fortunate that I nabbed it when I did but sad that some of you may have to work a bit to find it. Trust me, it’s worth the hunt.

And before I leave my unabashed adoration of Ruth (“Ruthfest 2011”), let me just say that I really loved having her as a judge on Top Chef Masters because she was critical but kind. I found myself nodding my head in agreement at her critique of the food prepared by well-know chefs and the damned thing is, I didn’t even get to taste any of it! Note to self: see about getting on the show as a guest judge….

Okay, so enough of that book and on to The Rainbow Cooks cookbook. The fact that this book was in the shape of a rainbow was what sold me although until I bought it, I had never heard of this organization – The Rainbow. But people, if you read The Rainbow Story, you’ll see that the proceeds of this book were used for The Amie Karen Cancer Fund for Children at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California. And so even though it’s years later, I still felt like I was cooking for a cause.

I found this treasure at an estate sale last October. The homeowner, an older woman who was moving to an assisted living facility, had a huge collection of cookbooks. The sale was conducted by a church organization that helped the elderly move – yet another cause I can get behind.

And speaking of charitable causes, for the past two months, I have been on the road, back and forth to Michigan, my home state, to pack up my dad’s estate and to get things ready for an estate sale. A good portion of the contents were donated to two public libraries in the area, St. Vincent DePaul’s thrift stores in the area and in Minneapolis, Arc’s Value Village thrift stores. In theory, I should just donate and run but I can’t help moseying over to the cookbook section and, well, the last trip the other day yielded 6 new cookbooks for my collection. But since all proceeds support individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families, I don’t feel guilty at all about my new “donate then shop” routine!

Okay, so, about the cookbook (yes, I know, once again I digress…), all the recipes in here sounded really good but as previously mentioned, it’s not the 4th of July with potato salad so this selection was a no-brainer. It is not heavy on the mayonnaise, and that’s good as I hate a goopy potato salad, but has a little more salt than I’m used to. Still, did that render it inedible? No. In fact, dear reader, I just polished off a small bowl of it while writing this.

Although I have no evidence to support my theory, it seems to me that you were either brought up in a “potato salad with relish added household” or you weren’t. Mine was a definite “weren’t.” Mom made hers with potatoes, celery, onions, hard-boiled eggs and radishes, topped with paprika. And okay, don’t jump on me for this, but she used Miracle Whip. It’s all we had in the house!

But I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve seen, including this one, where pickles were added. And all I can say about the pickles in this recipe was that I wish I had added more. In fact, I wish I had more on hand but I used up all the sweet pickles (all three of them!) in the refrigerator on this recipe. Damn! Live and learn.

For fun, I bought “Teeny tiny potatoes” (yes, that’s the label) from Trader Joe’s that were about the size of a baby carrot. Cut then in two, and you had the perfect bite.

Before I conclude and get to the recipes, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Falling Rock Café in my hometown of Munising, Michigan as it has been a constant and great source of fun cookbooks for me for the past several years (I mean, who else has the Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook or Madam Wu’s Art of Chinese Cooking cookbook??!).

Now that my dad is gone and the house is for sale, there’s no need for me to make a butt-busting 8-hour (one-way) car trip to the area and I am bereft at the thought of missing out on a stop at the café. Lucky for me (and you) they are on Amazon and Alibris so check them out! And in an “It’s a small world after all” moment, I recently discovered that Nancy, Falling Rock’s owner, and I have both shopped at Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York. It’s no wonder, then, that their cookbook section is a veritable treasure trove of fun stuff. So if you happen to be in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula anytime soon (and why wouldn’t you be?), be sure to stop and shop, get a phenomenal sandwich, locally-made ice cream and a great cup of coffee and relax in one of their many comfy chairs. Trust me, all the world’s stresses will melt away in mere minutes.

So happy eating everyone and happy 4th!

Lemon Ribs – serves 4-6 (instead of 4 pounds, we used 1 and it was perfect for two people)
4 pounds spare ribs
1 can frozen lemonade
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup jelly (Ruth’s note: Try different kinds – I prefer marmalade, but apple is good as is currant. For a real treat, try chutney. Ann’s note: we used grape and it was outstanding!)
1 lemon, sliced

Parboil ribs 10 minutes. This removes most of the excess fat, but it’s not absolutely necessary, so don’t if you don’t feel like it. (Ann’s note: not only did I not feel like it but today’s meat is so devoid of any fat that parboiling them wouldn’t have rid the meat of anything! Sad—fat can be a good thing!)

Meanwhile, mix lemonade, sugar, and jelly in a pot, stir to boiling, reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes.

Place ribs in a large pan. Cover with lemon slices and brush with glaze. Bake in 350 oven for 1 hour, brushing every now and then with more glaze.

Potato Salad – serves 6
3 c. cooked, peeled potatoes, chilled, then diced
1 tsp. vinegar
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. sugar
½ c. chopped onion
¾ c. mayonnaise
2 hard boiled eggs
1 stalk celery, diced
½ c. chopped sweet gherkin pickles

Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar, salt, celery seed and sugar. Cover and refrigerate (overnight if you wish) until 1 hour before serving.

Add onion, mayonnaise, celery and chopped pickles to marinated potatoes. Coarsely chop eggs and fold in last. Garnish with paprika and parsley and refrigerate until served.