Thursday, February 26, 2015

"The Hollywood Cookbook - Cooking for Causes" - Mediterranean Chicken and Coconut Rice Pudding for the Oscars!

Date I made these recipes:  February 22, 2015 – Oscar Night!

The Hollywood Cookbook – Cooking for Causes by Jackie Zabel and Morgan Most
Published by:  Silverback Books, Inc.
ISBN:  13: 978-1-56937-083-8; © 2006
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipes:  Mediterranean Chicken (Anne Hathaway's) – p. 116 and Coconut Rice Pudding – p. 157

Tonight was the 87th Academy Awards show and the Oscar went to...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Clocking in at 3.5 hours, this sucker was long and might I say boring?  And predictable.  And boring.  Wait, I said that.

Once upon a time, when I actually went to a movie theater (not since 2003 folks and it seems even longer than that) and watched most if not all the Oscar contenders for Best Picture, that horse race was fun.  Heck, I even snuck in a foreign films along the way just to keep my hand in the game and for bragging rights:  "Why yes, I did see that Icelandic horror story, thank you very much.  Two words:  Total shoe-in!"  Back then though, my movie viewing had a purpose and that was to win, finally, my friend Mike's Oscar pool. You think the actual Oscars are a battle? Ha! Try winning that damned pool. Some years I came so close to winning it all (and my plastic Oscar)  it was ridiculous.  And I had my speech all ready to go, damn it, and of course it was totally original, unlike most "plug and play" speeches we hear today (well, except this year):  "I'd like to thank my [producers] [directors] [the good folks at craft food service]...."

But then.  But then everything got boring and predictable and was there any doubt about who would win anything (in a major category) this year?  No, there was not.  In fact, so slow-moving was this train that toward the end, when I was desperately fighting off sleep (and the accompanying mouth drool), I was momentarily dismayed (confused?) to see that Patricia Arquette wasn't pictured along with the rest of the ladies up for Best Actress.  And that's because she won her award for Best Supporting Actress what – days earlier?  It seemed so. 

And G-Bless Neil Patrick Harris but he did not help matters along at all.  Now, if he would have tap danced, if he would have created a work-out video or if he magically (because he is a magician) made the entire auditorium disappear (save for Oprah who never goes anywhere because she's well...Oprah!), well then maybe I might have sat up straighter and paid better attention.  But he didn't so I didn't and so there you go.

And I can't even blame my drowsiness on the fact that Andy and I ate a heavy pre-Oscar meal because we didn't.  Well okay, the coconut rice pudding wasn't exactly the lightest thing on the planet but it was dessert and we had just a small taste so we would not do what in fact we did anyway – snooze!  Poor Andy bailed 3 hours in, recognizing that he would miss out (not really) on the Best of the Best of the...whatever...categories that remained but the guy has to get up for work in the morning and as excuses go, I don't think the boss would be tickled with "Well, I was up too late watching the never-ending Oscars and then I overslept and...."  Okay, small lie:  that might work with me if I was his boss but not in a machine shop full of guys.  Just sayin'...

Okay, well, I could go on and on (and believe me, post-awards I do go on and on about the fashion), but let's get to this cookbook.

The title, if you will, is somewhat misleading because it's The Hollywood Cookbook and to some – okay me – "Hollywood" still means films.  Films that are celebrated on a night like tonight at the Oscars.  Yet this book is filled with mostly TV actors who, of course, work in Hollywood but yet it's not the same.  This is why TV actors are celebrated with the Emmy's and movie actors are celebrated with the Oscars and the twain never shall meet, or at least didn't until the Golden Globes and the Screen Actor's Guild Awards were created to split the difference.  Or at least that's the answer that I'm going with for today.

Now, the purpose of this book can be found in the subtitle "Cooking for Causes."  And so each actor, actress, or chef, listed here gives us the charity/cause they support and they are all worthy.  In some cases, I was tempted to select a recipe based on the cause and not necessarily the actor.  Then other times, I flipped it and was learning toward the actor instead of the cause.  Well, luckily, I have Mr. Not-All-That-Interested for a spouse and so I handed him the book and let him select the recipe he wanted—which really is the point of this blog, right?  And when he handed it back, it was with the caveat that he didn't care what else I made from the book, he wanted the Coconut Rice Pudding.  He loves rice pudding and he loves it so much that despite the fact that we were grocery shopping for ingredients to make this rice pudding, he was still going to buy some at Trader Joe's.  I reminded him of dinner and he put the package back.  "Another day, dear. You can buy it another day."

As to the main dish, he was leaning toward, Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford's (once married, now divorced) recipe for slow cooker cassoulet until I pointed out to him that it calls for duck (I don't like duck) and that even if we substituted that item, it called for a lot of meat and a lot of meat means a lot of money.  So I made the Mediterranean Chicken instead.  That's how well roll the week before payday!

Before we get to the recipes, here's a look at a few stars who submitted recipes, the movie they are most likely known for and their charity:

  • Thora Birch - "American Beauty."  Charity: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation).
  • Michael J. Fox - "Back to the Future," of course.  Charity: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
  • Brendan Fraser  - "Blast From the Past." Charity: P.S. Arts.
  • Anne Hathaway (Mediterranean Chicken) – "Les Miserables (Best Actress winner, 2013)."  Charity: Lollipop Theater Network.
  • Ron Howard – director of too many films to name but my favorite is "Apollo 13"...not to mention the star of TV shows like "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Happy Days."  Charity:  Boys and Girls Club of America.
  • Jane Kaczmarek and Bradley Whitford (Coconut Rice Pudding) – Mostly TV roles, she for "Malcolm in the Middle," he for "The West Wing."   Charity is one they founded:  Clothes Off Our Back.
  • Esai Morales – "La Bamba."  Charity:  TreePeople.
  • Wolfgang Puck – none listed but he donates a lot of time and attention to several worthy causes as well as caters the Oscar's Governor's Ball every year.
  • Treat Williams – mostly known for Broadway and TV roles like Stanley Kowalski in a TV remake of "A Streetcar Named Desire" ("Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.....").  Charity:  Save the Children

...and more.

As a PS, actor James Denton – Desperate Housewives – is also included in this book and I nearly went for his southern treats before my husband decided otherwise.  James is married to a woman from MN and has been living in a Twin Cities suburb for the past couple years.  He has also been very active in Twin Cities theater productions.

Okay, so as to the recipes, both were good and I loved that I could make up the base for each, pop it in the fridge and then proceed to forget about them for a couple of hours.  Actual cooking time was minimal and so for once I was able to time them to get done at the same time – woot!

As to the chicken dish, it was tasty but I must say that the marinade was interesting.  It contained oil and vinegar and that was okay but then you added a bunch of savory items like garlic and capers and oregano and then topped it off with fruit and then topped it off further with brown sugar.  Huh.  The taste was great but you wouldn't have thought so at first blush.

The one little quibble I have is that if you look at the photo included in the book (which never seems to look like my finished product), you'd swear there were onions in this recipe.  And yet I read the instructions and the ingredient list several times and no onions were mentioned.  So there's that mystery.

And the instructions for the rice pudding puzzled as well.  The ingredients call for "1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean (scraped)."  Have we all got that?  But then there's the instruction "Remove vanilla bean pod and refrigerate..."  It almost sounded like I should leave the bean pod whole but I wasn't sure.  So I showed it to Andy who also had no idea. And so I put the entire bean pod in the mixture and removed it before chilling.   This might not have been right but it's my blog and I'll cook like I want to!

And the Oscar for this evening goes to...the food.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean Chicken – Serves 6 – Note:  marinate for 4 hours or overnight
6 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets (3 whole breasts)
¾ cup red wine vinegar
3/34 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano leaves (Ann's Note:  Not to sound like an idiot but I've never heard of fresh oregano leaves, only dried.  Still, my Rainbow grocery story carried them, bless their hearts, and so I bought them.)
2 tablespoons capers
1/3 cup dried apricots
1/3 cup pitted prunes
1 handful pitted green or black olives
3 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup white wine
½ cup brown sugar
6 cups salad mix or rice

Place chicken in a large baking dish.  In a bowl, combine vinegar, oil, garlic, oregano, capers, apricots, prunes, olives, and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts and place, covered, in refrigerator.  Allow chicken to marinate for 4 hours or overnight.  Ann's Note:  The oil will "set" when refrigerated but no worries, it's fine.  Odd-looking, but fine.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Remove chicken dish from refrigerator and discard bay leaves.  Pour wine over the top of chicken and sprinkle with sugar.

Place dish in oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Serve chicken breasts on a bed of rice or salad.

Coconut Rice Pudding – Serves 6 – Note:  allow one hour for milk mixture to cool, 4 hours to overnight for mixture to be refrigerated before finishing the recipe
1 cup cream, whipping
1 ¼ cups unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken
2 cups milk
3 black cardamom pods (Ann's Note:  you can get these at a co-op or Whole Foods but I couldn't find black, only green.)
1 ½ tablespoons grated lemon zest
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cold cooked rice (preferably medium-grain)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon vanilla bean (scraped)
Toasted coconut shavings, for sprinkling

Combine the milks, cardamom pods, vanilla bean and lemon zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Remove from heat, cool for one hour.  Remove vanilla bean pod and refrigerate for 4 hours (or overnight).

Strain the cardamom mixture into a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar, salt and rice, and bring to a boil over medium-low heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thick and creamy, about 40 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla extract and serve warm or chilled.  Garnish with coconut shavings.

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Jazz Cooks - Portraits and Recipes of the Greats" - Harry Connick, Jr.'s Red Beans and Rice for Mardi Gras 2015

Date I made this recipe:  (Tuesday) February 17, 2015 – Fat Tuesday!

Jazz Cooks – Portraits and Recipes of the Greats by Bob Young and Al Stankus
Published by: Stewart Tabori & Chang
ISBN:  1-55670-192-6
Purchased at Strand (Bookstore), NYC
Recipe:  Harry Connick Jr.'s Red Beans and Rice – 186-187

People, I try normally to make a dish to commemorate a holiday or two during any given month but this month is insane!  First we had Valentine's Day, then two days later, President's Day, then the next day (today) is Fat Tuesday, kicking off Mardi Gras, then this coming Thursday the Chinese New Year gets underway.  And to cap off my cooking pain, on Sunday we have the Oscars.  Who planned this?!  So I'm telling you right now that if I am a tad behind on my dish of the day, you'll just have to live with it. 

So okay, today I have a lock and load on Mardi Gras and am using a newly-acquired but already-a-favorite cookbook, Jazz Cooks – Portraits and Recipes of the Greats.  I bought this at the Strand (Bookstore) in NYC last summer for all of $6.00 – sweet deal!  And sure, you get the recipes but you also get biographies and a brief discography of some of the greatest players/singers from the jazz world. What's not to love about this?

The book is separated into sections by instrument and since I am a woodwind player (clarinet and sax), I wanted to show respect by sticking to that section...except there were so many other greats in other instrument sections (brass, percussion, strings, keyboards) that I thought I would have to switch camps.  And then, just as I was approaching near-meltdown, I got to the vocals and people, there I stayed.

When it comes to music, as with other things in my life, I was a late bloomer. Piano lessons got underway when I was in 6th grade.  I "learned" (if we can call it that) to play the clarinet and sax as an adult student of MacPhail Center for Music.  But voice – now there's something I had from the get-go.  I'll have you know I was a proud member of the Sacred Heart Catholic School Children's Chorus, participating in a community musical event in 6th grade.  Prior to that though, I made my mark in various grade school productions and was even one of six students who sang at daily mass during the "guitar-mass" portion of our program in the late 60's.  "Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya..."

Anywho, I had a love and a (I'll just go ahead and say it) talent for singing at an early age and the more I listened to vocalists like Doris Day and Frank Sinatra on my parents albums, the more in love I fell.  And so what the heck - as long as I was taking clarinet and saxophone lessons at MacPhail, I signed up for some vocal lessons as well, performing in many studio recitals along with several other "jazz" vocal students.  Oh, the fun.

So I was especially enamored with the Vocals section of this cookbook and might have gone with a recipe by a female vocalist like Shirley Horn, Abbey Lincoln or even Nancy Wilson but then along came Harry Connick, Jr. and his Red Beans and Rice recipe and that was that.

First, how much more Mardi Gras/New Orleans can you get with that recipe and second, I love his voice.  In fact, hearing him sing It Had to be You on the When Harry Met Sally Soundtrack prompted me to instruct my wedding band to play that as the bridal party dance number at my 1991 wedding.  It almost took top honors for the bride and groom's first dance but we reserved "Embraceable You" for that spotlight moment.  My husband, bless his heart, means well when it comes to dancing but anything faster than a slow sway is asking for trouble.  Embraceable You is a slow sway; It Had to be You is not.

No doubt many of you only know Harry from his recent stint on American Idol but what you missed is that he was a child prodigy who was playing and singing in New Orleans' jazz halls from a very early age.  I mean for crying out loud, the guy "joined the musicians' union at nine!" What were you doing at age 9? (I tell you what I was doing:  singing The Lonely Goatherd from The Sound of Music, that's what! Oh, if only there was an American Idol for kiddies back then.).

So.  Our Harry went out and did some really cool stuff and is now on American Idol and all is well with the world.  Oh, and he stared in a few movies to boot.  Honestly, I should hate him....

Before we get to this recipe, let me just whet your appetite for this cookbook and some jazz by listing some of the other jazz greats in this book:

Reeds: Pacquito D'Rivera (clarinet, saxophone); Illinois Jacquet (tenor saxophone)
Brass: Nat Adderly; Mario Bauza; Terence Blanchard; Mercer Ellington; Dizzy Gillespie; Wynton Marsalis; Doc Severinsen; Clark Terry
Percussion: Tito Puente
Strings: I must confess that I don't recognize any names which means I have homework!
Keyboards: Dave Brubeck; *Dave Frishberg; Marcus Roberts; George Shearing; McCoy Tyner (*I heard the late, great singer, Blossom Dearie, perform a bunch of Frishberg's compositions a few years before she died and my favorite song of his/hers is "My Attorney Bernie."  As an attorney, this amuses me to no end, especially this refrain "Bernie tells me what to do, Bernie lays it on the line, Bernie says we sue, we sue, Bernie says we sign...we sign.")
Vocals: Harry Connick, Jr.; Shirley Horn; Abbey Lincoln; Helen Merrill; Joe Williams; Nancy Wilson

And folks, these are just the ones I know and/or whose CDs!  So if you have a chance to score this book off the internet, start searching!

Okay then, as to the recipe, Red Beans and Rice is pretty damned easy and in fact, Harry Connick, Jr. says that you can either go by the instructions on the package of beans (his favorite brand is Carmellia) or you can customize it like he does.  I went with his version and really liked it.  I'm giving you both so you can choose but honestly, it's rather tough.  Just decide already, then sit back and listen to some Preservation Hall Jazz if you have it, or Harry Connick, Jr., if you have that or some other jazz that tickles your fancy.  New Orleans is all about good food, good music and, if you are so inclined, a good cocktail.  Have at it!

Red Beans and Rice – serves 4 to 6
1 pound red kidney beans, preferably Carmellia brand
½ pound ham
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
8 to 10 cups water
1 large bay leaf
Salt and pepper

The package version:
Soak the beans overnight in enough water to completely cover them.  In the morning, drain, rinse the beans, and discard any debris.  Render the ham in the skillet by cooking until the fat becomes liquid, and remove the meat and place to the side.  In the fat that remains, sauté the onion, garlic, celery and parsley. 

In a large pot, combine the beans, water, meat, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Bring to a slow boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for about 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender.  (If necessary, add more water).  Remove the bay leaf and serve over rice.

Harry's version:
Make a stock using ham bones.  Soak the beans in the cooled stock overnight.  "This gives the beans a really great flavor," Connick says.  (Ann's Note:  I didn't have a hambone so I didn't make a ham stock but I did have frozen leftover Easter ham and that added a lot of great flavor.)

"Also, I grate my onions – usually two – and don't usually sauté any of the ingredients.  I just put them into the pot uncooked with the beans.  I also allow my beans to cook until they begin to get creamy."

Ann's Note:  I hate grating onions – what a mess – so instead, I use a mini-food processor and pretty much puree the onions in small batches until I get the consistency I'm looking for.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Cooking with Love by Carla Hall (Top Chef/The Chew) and "The Big Chocolate Book" - Valentine's Day 2015

Date I made these recipes:  February 14, 2015 – Valentine's Day!

Cooking with Love – Comfort Food that Hugs You by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
Published by:  Free Press
ISBN:  978-1-4516-6220-7
Recipe:  Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout – p. 196-170 for the pork and 99 for the ragout

The Big Chocolate Cookbook by Gertrude Parke
Published by:  Funk & Wagnalls
© 1968
Purchased at Talk Story Book Store, Hanapepe, (Kauai) Hawaii  (Talk Story is "The Western-Most Bookstore in the United States)
Recipe:  Cocoa Cream Cake – p. 56-57

And now time for a quiz:  When I say "Hootie Hoo!" you say:
a)     Did you just swear at me?
b)     Is this a new secret ingredient on Chopped?
c)      Carla Hall

If you chose c) Carla Hall, give yourself a pat on the back.

Those of you who are fans of Top Chef should remember Season 5 when Carla Hall competed as a cheftestant on that show.  She won me over with her sunny personality and southern-based comfort foods and came "this close" to winning Season 5 only to be beat out by that year's Top Chef, Hosea Rosenberg.  Poor Carla—had she stuck to cooking what she knew instead of going off in a different direction, she would have nailed it.

Not to be deterred, Carla came back for more kitchen fun and frolic on Season 8 – All Stars – but was eliminated in episode 13 of 16.  Dammit!  Seems to me though that she won "Fan Favorite" somewhere along the line and although it's not the same as winning the big show, it will do. She was certainly one of my favorites from both seasons.

It was on Season 5 that we learned that Carla's catchphrase, Hootie Hoo!, was created as a way that Carla and her husband could locate each other more easily when out in public.  It probably beats the heck out of yelling "Matthew!  Hey Matthew" (her husband's name) in a store filled most likely with several other Matthews.  I may have to try that with my husband, Andy.

And perhaps capitalizing on her newfound popularity, she became one of five co-hosts on ABC's TV show, The Chew, that premiered in 2011.  Carla, along with fellow chefs Mario Batali and Michael Symon, natural food foodist and author Daphne Oz and host Clinton Kelly (he of What Not To Wear Fame), chat about food and entertaining and decorating and everything in between, Monday through Friday, much to the delight of their collective fans. 

No doubt these same fans – like me – were giddy when Carla published her first cookbook, Cooking with Love (how appropriate for our theme, right?) and then her follow up, Carla's Comfort Foods:  Favorite Dishes from Around the World.  I must confess that I do not yet own the comfort food book, but no worries, I will undoubtedly acquire it soon.  Maybe as early as this afternoon? 

So many of Carla's recipes sounded so good that it was hard to settle but ultimately, I decided on Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout.  What Andy and I both loved about this dish is that it tasted great plus made us feel somewhat heart-healthy.  The pork was marinated in orange juice and you can't go wrong with roasted root vegetables tossed with healthy herbs.  The fact that I also made a chocolate cake for dessert from another cookbook is beside the point.  It's Valentine's Day people.  Time to indulge!

Compared to selecting Carla's pork and vegetable ragout, selecting just the right chocolate dessert for Valentine's Day was an exercise in torture.  I have several chocolate books and went through each of them very carefully but my eyes started to glaze over and I was in danger of becoming overwhelmed.  I mean, one recipe was for a Sachertorte and damn, while this is one good dessert (made famous in Austria), the assembly made this a no go.  Same with a few other recipes.

At then at long last, I came across this easy but delicious recipe for Cocoa Cream Cake from the cookbook The Big Chocolate Cookbook, published in 1968.  Baked in a loaf pan, this cake is similar to a pound cake except it contains cream instead of butter making it much lighter and therefore healthier, right?  Exactly.

And so after slicing and dicing and sifting and folding, Andy and I ended up with one lovely dinner for our Valentine's Day repast.  And the bonus is that we have leftovers.  Yum!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Root Vegetable Ragout – Serves 6
Note:  You will need to marinate the pork for at least 2 hours.

For the pork:
*2 whole pork tenderloins (each about ¾ pound)
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon honey
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
For the ragout:
2 medium carrots
2 medium parsnips
1 small rutabaga
1 medium turnip
1 medium Yukon gold potato
2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 small yellow onion cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ cup Chicken Stock (page 54) or store-bought unsalted chicken broth
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

*And now a word from Ann about the pork tenderloins:  I am not a fan of pre-wrapped tenderloins that are injected with up to 12% saline solution.  Sure, it makes the pork last longer but in my opinion, it screws with the flavor.  Unfortunately, the number of grocery stores that carry non-treated pork products (even chops) is shrinking.  Luckily, Target carries "au naturel" pork and I used that and you should too, if you have the chance.

Back to our directions, start by marinating the pork for at least two hours.  If the pork still has silverskin (the thin silvery white membrane on the meat), trim it off.  Rinse the pork well, then pat dry with paper towels.  Cut each tenderloin crosswise into 2-inch-thick medallions.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the juice, garlic, mustard, honey and Worcestershire. Add the pork, seal the bag, and turn to coat well.  Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Remove the pork from the marinade and wipe off any excess; discard the marinade.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Heat half of the oil.  Add half the pork and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a half sheet pan.  Repeat with the remaining oil and pork.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the pork is medium in the center, 140F, about 13 minutes.  Serve over the Root Vegetable Ragout and drizzle with the pan juices.

Ann's Notes:  I could have sworn that we had a jar of Gulden's (spicy mustard) in the fridge but we did not.  Gulden's was my dad's favorite mustard but when I was growing up, we could only get it when we visited my grandma in New Jersey.  Naturally, we stocked up on that and everything else my hometown grocery stores didn't carry.  I tell you what, I still chuckle every time I think about how low to the ground the back of that car was on the way home!  Anyway, without Gulden's, I was forced to use Grey Poupon which was fine even if it wasn't quite correct.

Also, in the perfect culinary world, I would have either roasted the vegetables first at 425F before turning down the oven to 350F to make the cake and the tenderloins or vice versa.  Note that I said "perfect world."  In reality, I wanted to get the cake out of the way first so I did and then turned the oven up to 425F to roast the veggies since they took a while and then turned down the oven to make the tenderloins.  And this is why Carla Hall is on TV and I am not!

As to the vegetables, leave ample time to slice and dice your way to a ½-inch dice, making them as even as possible to ensure consistent roasting. 

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Peel the carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, turnip, and potato and cut them into ½-inch dice.  Combine them on a half sheet pan, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with salt.  Spread the vegetables in a single layer.

Roast, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until tender and golden, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the butter until it melts, then stir in the roasted vegetables.  Add the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until the stock thickens and coats the vegetables, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the parsley, thyme, and lemon zest.  Serve hot or warm.

Ann's Note:  My grocery store moved a lot of the produce section around (when I wasn't looking) and so I had to work hard to find the rutabagas.  And although I am no expert, I have cooked with this vegetable enough that what I bought didn't look like a rutabaga but it was under the "Rutabaga" sign so I brought it home.  And then I cut it and was definitely puzzled as the texture was nothing like a regular rutabaga.  So I used it sparingly and that was probably best because it tasted kind of crunchy—sort of like jicama only not.  So I don't know what it was but it was actually pretty good!  Meanwhile, Carla says to use one and only one Yukon gold potato and that is one potato too few so I made up for the lack of rutabaga by adding another potato.  So sue me!

Cocoa Cream Cake – makes a 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan)
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Butter a loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3 inches) and dust with cocoa.

Whip the cream until it is stiff.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together.  Sift gradually over the batter, folding as you sift.  Pour into the prepared pan.

Bake in a 350F over for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch and shrinks from the side of the pan.  Remove to a cake rack, and after 10 minutes turn the cake out to cool. 

Serve this with sherbet or ice cream or use it as a base for any dessert, preferably one topped with chocolate sauce.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"I Like Food, Food Tastes Good - In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands" - Pasta Bolognese for Grammy Award Night!

Date I made this recipe:  February 8, 2015 – Grammy night!

I Like Food, Food Tastes Good – In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands by Kara Zuaro
Published by:  Hyperion
ISBN:  1-4013-0847-0
Recipe: Pasta Bolognese submitted by John Navin – The Aluminum Group – p. 75-76

So for once I was ahead of the 8-ball and found this recipe a good week before the Grammy's.  And I even made it up in advance, finishing it off Sunday night.  But people, I must confess that I did not watch this year's awards program.  I know, right?

Here's the deal:  Although I like many of the songs that are nominated and I know many of the bands that were featured, both as presenters and performers and winners, I'm at the point where I just feel like I'm watching a circus sideshow. 

First, let's talk (or not) about the outfits.  My gawd in heaven, when Madonna can come in looking like I don't know what wearing a "butt bra" (yup, check out the pictures), then the civilized world as we know it has come to an end.  For whatever reason, the Grammy's bring out the worst fashions in people and I am not limiting my meow moments to just the women because I'm talking to you, Joe Jonas!  WHITE shoes?  Are we kidding??

And then, let me just say it, there was Kanye West, who apparently repeated his "Let me just interrupt your acceptance speech, Taylor Swift," this time going after Beck who beat out Beyonce for Album of the Year.  What IS it with Kanye and Beyonce anyway?  News reports differ – he was kidding/not kidding - but regardless, you don't see Oscar contenders doing that, now do you?  No, you do not!  And speaking of which, to compare and contrast, Sunday night was also the night for the BAFTA Awards (British version of the Oscars) and let me tell you, when a real Prince (William) shows up, albeit via video broadcast, you do not wear a dress resembling a crocheted toilet paper cover, circa 1950, do you Rhianna!  (Goggle crotched toilet paper cover Barbie.)

And seeing as how I can read and reread and watch and re-watch and judge and judge some more all the celebrity photos on the internet the next day, why tune in for real?  Exactly.

Secondary reason for not watching?  Because the movie,  Marvel (comics) The Avengers, was on at the same time.  I am not a Marvel comic gal (Superman was a DC Comic) but I have seen all the Iron Man movies (Marvel) and am quite enamored with a new ABC show, Marvel's Agent Carter which can be seen on  Tuesday nights at 9, 8 Central Time.  I LOVE Peggy Carter.  I especially love seeing her kick the crap out of the evil men she encounters because she is just a super, super agent!  But.  I do feel like I'm missing something by not knowing my Marvel characters and back stories so when the opportunity came up to tune in to The Avengers, it was a no-brainer choice.

Okay, then, so now that we've established why I played hokey, let's talk about this book.  I am quite chuffed to say that I've heard of/listened to several of the bands listed here which is quite the accomplishment because these groups are not exactly getting a ton of playing time on pop radio stations.  But where they are being played is on Minnesota Public Radio's alternative station, the one, the only, 89.3 The CurrentThe Current just celebrated 10 years on the air.  The Current also experienced a little kerfuffle a couple weeks ago when they laid off one of my (and others) favorite DJ's and I'm still trying to get over it but in the meantime, this is the station I listen to all day, every day.

The Current format is pretty fun—a few top 40 hits (although not many), a lot of alternative, garage and indie bands, and then there are moments where the DJ's just play whatever the hell they want and so one minute you can hear Frank Sinatra, the next, Curt Cobain, and one fine afternoon, The Osmond Brothers.  When the Osmonds came on, I was so psyched to hear a band from my middle-youth years that I almost drove my car off the road.  Now THAT is fine radio programming, people!

As to the cookbook, here's a sample of bands you might know along with their recipes:

  • Calexico (Tofu Scramble – p. 6)
  • Death Cab for Cutie (Veggie Sausage and Peanut Butter Sandwich – p. 64)
  • Franz Ferdinand (Lemon Ginger Flapjacks – p. 209)
  • My Morning Jacket (The "You Can Care if You Wanna" Sandwich – p. 71)
  • Pelican (Oatmeal Cake – p. 224)
  • The Decemberists (Oh, how I love this group) (Pork Loin with Poblano Chilies – p. 77)
  • The Hold Steady (Midwestern-Style Bratwurst – p. 81)
  • The Violent Femmes (Wild Boar Ragu – p. 95)
  • They Might Be Giants (Countrypolitan (drink) – p. 193)

And so on and so on.  If nothing else, I have the makings for my next playlist!  But alas, I could not possibly make all 105 recipes from this book or I'd be here all day and then some.  So after careful perusal, and the sad elimination of Nick Query's (from The Decemberists) recipe because it involved peppers (see my last blog for a word about hot peppers), the votes were in and the Grammy Award Recipe of the Night went to...Pasta Bolognese from John Navin of The Aluminum Group.  Congratulations! (Winners, let's get some photos. Losers, there are no losers, only those who did not win.  And see also Kayne.  But I digress...)

All right then:  The Aluminum Group...discuss!  Per my friend, and yours, Wikipeida, The Aluminum Group is an "American pop group from Chicago, Illinois, centered on brothers John and Frank Navin."  Their sound is sort of reminiscent of 80's songs in that it's got that lounge sound to it yet it's not.  This cookbook probably said it best though, in that they "make shimmering synth-pop."  So there you go – rather hard to describe but fun to listen to.   Sadly, The Current does not list them in their playlists.  This must be rectified.

Apparently, these brothers really enjoy cooking and it shows in this classic Bolognese sauce that I selected for the Grammy Awards repast.  This was yummy! 

Unlike a regular  tomato-based pasta sauce, Bolognese differs in several regards:  it is meat-heavy, often involving several cuts of meat; it can, as this recipe did, involve cream and butter, and spices are non-existent.  You want basil or oregano, go find yourself another sauce. 

Another thing that is important to know about Bolognese sauce is that not only is it meat-heavy, it is heavy, period and so don't plan to serve this up with a "petite" pasta like Angel hair or you will be crying and likely wiping sauce stains off your pants. A light pasta will "crumble" under the weight of this sauce.  The brothers suggested spaghetti but for whatever reason, I am just not a huge spaghetti fan as I find it to be rather dull compared to other pastas and so I opted for rigatoni, those very large tubes that pair well with a heavy sauce. 

Now, in order to do justice to a Bolognese sauce, you must plan to simmer this for a few hours – in this case, three.  And I tell you what, I'm waiting for the day when an invention is created where I can put my sauce on the stove, leave my house to run errands, and still come home to find the structure still standing (i.e. not burned down!).  Until that happens, I carved out three hours and did other things around the house.

In closing ("I'd like to thank Grammy voters for this award..."), here's what The Aluminum Group's John Navin had to say about this recipe:

"okay, so this is one of the finest and most classic pasta sauces in the world!!!  you go buy a couple of bottles of a good red Tuscan wine, a baguette of crusty Italian bread, whip up this sauce – and man, man-oh-man, you can't lose, in fact, you'll instantly charm the pants (or skirt) off the one you're with, seriously!"

We are charmed, for sure.

Pasta Bolognese – Serves 4
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of finely minced onion
2 tablespoons of finely minced celery
2 tablespoons of finely minced carrots
¾ pound ground veal
1 cup of organic whole milk
1 cup of dry white wine
One (28-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 pound spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt

Heat the butter in a sauce pan and add the onion, celery, and carrots, and
cook for approximately 6 minutes. Add the ground veal and sauté for another 3 minutes.  Add milk and bring to a simmer, continuing until the milk evaporates and only the clear fat remains.  Add white wine and repeat simmering process, until the wine has evaporated.  Ann's Note:  The milk evaporated pretty quickly but I can't recall how long it took.  Ten minutes?  The wine was harder to judge because it is clear to begin with and so who knows how long to simmer?  Maybe 10-15?

Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer at very, very low heat, covered for 3 hours.

When cooking your pasta, reserve about half a cup of the pasta water to add back when you're mixing the Bolognese sauce with the pasta – a little water helps to distribute the sauce evenly.  Sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan and kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.  Do not pepper the sauce while cooking, 3 hours of simmering turns pepper bitter!

Buon appetito!  Con amor.  Il Aluminum Gruppo!  Ciao!  Baci!  (Good eating – or eat well – with love, The Aluminum Group.  Bye!  Kisses!

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Betty Crocker's All-Time Favorites" - Fiesta Tamale Pie

Date I made this recipe:  January 26, 2015

Betty Crocker's All-Time Favorites by Betty Crocker
Published by:  Golden Press
© 1971; Third Printing 1972
Purchased at Hennepin County Library Used Book Sale
Recipe:  Fiesta Tamale Pie – p. 18

Welcome to the Battle of the Betty's!

In this corner, weighing in at a whopping 94 years of culinary experience, the one, the only, the author of "Big Red," the most beloved cookbook ever, Betty Crocker!  [Crowd goes wild].

And in this corner, the newcomer restaurant on the block, the "red-headed stepchild" of Psycho Suzi's, a "bitchin'" Minneapolis restaurant, Betty Danger's Country Club:  a country club on crack! [Crowd goes wild].

Last weekend, my husband and I girded our loins and tried out the new restaurant on the block, Betty Danger's Country Club:  a country club on crack. Betty's is the third restaurant opened by Leslie Bock in the up-and-coming Northeast (or Nordeast, as the natives call it) neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Just down the street is Leslie's first restaurant, the crazy-fun, tiki-centric Psycho Suzi's and Donny Dirk's Zombie Den.  All three of these restaurants can be visited by hopping on the – I love this – Tiki Tram!  Leslie is just a creative genius.

 Betty's, which just opened in late December, sports, among other things, a Ferris wheel (called, The Danger) on the corner of its lot.  Should you be so inclined (spring, summer and fall), you can dine in one of the cars as the wheel turns.  Lit up in country club colors of pink and green, the Ferris wheel is visible for miles, making your GPS temporarily obsolete.  That Betty—how thoughtful.

For the golf-minded, Betty's provides Betty Danger's Monetary Correction Golf Course, a "put-put" golf course located on the property.  And for the literary and library set, there's Betty Danger's Library dining room, filled to the rim with people reading eating and drinking themselves silly amongst books and horse and hound wallpaper that makes you feel like you should be the proud owner of an English estate...except you're not.   For now.

While all three restaurants serve up their own brand of theme food, Betty's gives us the flavors from the mythical village of "Mexampton" – country club food with a Mexican twist.

It is here where the Battle of the Betty begins. For lo, though I do like a bit of Mexican flavors here and there, Betty Danger's lived up to her name, giving me a painful case of heartburn.  And the thing is, nothing in and of itself was that hot, such that we had to gulp pitchers of beer, it was just that everything came with a pepper...or 12...causing a slow burn.

And so this kids, is what made momma reach out to her other Betty, Betty Crocker.  You cannot go wrong with a recipe by Betty C.  You cannot.  Betty C. doesn't make a lasagna with Pepper Jack Cheese.  Betty C. would find this unseemly.  Betty D. might do something so foolish as that, but Betty C. would never.

Betty C. would also never put jalapenos on a Sloppy Joe (Sloppy Wog) or in a pot pie or in a shrimp salad.  But of course, all bets are off when you live in Mexampton.  Mexamptonites apparently love peppers; "regular" (not that there is such a thing) Hamptonites probably do not.

And lest you think it was just me, my husband, who has a high tolerance for heat, was rather exasperated with the menu as well, particularly with whatever (hot) dip came with our basket of fries.  I honestly thought the man was going to throw down his napkin in disgust and make like a tree and leaf, but he stayed the course.

So when we got home, I started searching for a recipe that would soothe my soul and my ravaged esophagus and of course, Betty had the answer.  Betty's Fiesta Tamale Pie is so innocuous you could probably feed it to a newborn and it would go down, stay down. Betty C. only uses 2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder.  Betty C. does not use jalapenos.  Betty C. recommends you top this concoction with shredded American cheese.  That's practically Velveeta, people!  Betty C. does not believe in shredding our stomachs.  Betty C. is clearly looking out for us.  Betty D. is giving us a wild ride.

This cookbook – All-Time Favorites – is full of similar recipes sure to please and comfort and soothe and I don't think you can go wrong with anything here but I must say, it was rather hilarious to see the recipe for the Fiesta Tamale Pie.  Nothing against Betty D. because the food was good if not a little spicy, but an entire meal of that is just asking for it.  "Danger" is right!  I even started eyeballing my martini to see if that really was an olive in my drink or just another pepper in disguise.

So:  for an easy, no-spice meal, go with Betty C.  For a fun time in the city's new hotspot, go with Danger.  Betty Danger. 

Fiesta Tamale Pie – 6 to 8 servings
1 pound ground beef
¼ pound bulk pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes
1 can (16 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
20 to 24 pitted ripe olives
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup shredded American cheese

Heat oven to 350F.  In a large skillet, cook and stir ground beef, pork sausage, onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender.  Drain off fat.  Stir in the tomatoes, corn, olives and seasonings and heat to boiling.

Pour into an ungreased baking dish, 8x8x2 or 11 ½ x 7 ½ x 1 ½ inches, or a 2-quart casserole.  Mix cornmeal, milk and eggs and pour over meat mixture.  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown.

Note:  The meat mixture can be prepared ahead of time and kept, covered, in the refrigerator.