Monday, February 29, 2016

Mafaldine with Goat Milk Yogurt Sauce, Arugula, Tomato and Feta

     A Modern Mediterranean Style Healthy Pasta That Provides Comfort!
     Goat Milk Yogurt has a sharp flavor that adds zest to today's pasta.  The peppery flavor of arugula and tomatoes naturally go well with a Goats Milk Cheese and Yogurt sauce.
     Goat Milk Yogurt and Feta Cheese are fat free, so a pasta entrée that is made with these items is a healthier choice than a similar pasta that is made with cows milk dairy products.
     Because Goat Milk is fat free, Feta cheese will not melt.  Feta Cheese will soften when heated in a liquid and it will only partially combine with the liquid.  A Goat Milk Yogurt sauce can degrade (break and separate from protein coagulation) if it is cooked at too high of a temperature for too long, especially is acidic ingredients are part of the sauce, like tomatoes or lemon.  
     It is best to make today's pasta sauce shortly before it is needed (a la minute).  A Goat Milk Yogurt and Feta sauce should be simmered at a low temperature and stirred often, so the fat free cheese has a chance to soften, so it partially combines with the body of the yogurt sauce.  In other words, today's sauce should be made while the Mafaldine Pasta is cooking!

     Since when is a pasta that is made with a yogurt sauce categorized as comfort food?  Hot or cold yogurt sauces have been made in the Middle East for thousands of years.  This modern age is full of gullible hypochondriac consumers that buy into every health food craze that is marketed by Madison Avenue.  Those who take a saner approach to healthy eating, usually take interest in the traditional food of other cultures that has been proven to be healthy throughout history.  Today's recipe proves that a modern Mediterranean style healthy pasta that is made with traditional ingredients can provide a high level of comfort.        
     Mafaldine with Goat Milk Yogurt Sauce, Arugula, Tomato and Feta: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Mafaldine Pasta can be found in Italian food markets and delicatessens.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Mafaldine Pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off the pasta a set it aside.  
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Sauté till the garlic is a golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/3 cup of chopped seeded and peeled plum tomato.
     Add 1/4 cup of imported Italian canned crushed tomato.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 small pinch of coarsely ground black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 3 pinches of chopped Italian Parsley.
     Sauté the tomato mixture till it becomes hot and aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of light vegetable broth.   
     Add 1/3 cup of finely crumbled feta cheese while stirring.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 2/3 cup of goat milk yogurt (Greek Yogurt) while stirring.
     Bring the sauce to gentle simmer.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of baby arugula leaves.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add the prepared Mafaldine Pasta to the sauce.
     Toss the sauce and pasta together.
     Gently simmer and toss till the sauce easily clings to the pasta.
     Step 8:  Mound the pasta on a plate or pasta bowl.
     Serve with a coarse grind pepper mill on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!  
     This is a zesty tasting pasta!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

English Cottage Pie

     Hearty English Comfort Food For Cold Clammy Weather!
     I was the chef at an English Pub for two years.  I cooked thousands of orders of Savory Pies, Pasties, Bangers and Fish 'n' Chips.  When I was hired, the pub had a bad food reputation and they only served 7 customers a night.  When I left that English Pub two years later, the pub had over 200 customers per night!  Thats not bad, for a small kitchen that only had enough room for one cook.

     Originally, Cottage Pies were a casserole style pie that was covered with sliced potatoes.  The sliced potato topping resembled the wood shingle roofs of cottages that workers lived in.  That is how Cottage Pie got its name!  In modern times, Cottage Pie are usually topped with whipped potato instead of sliced potato.
     The definition of Shepherd's Pie and Cottage Pie can be confusing.  Cottage Pies are made with bits and pieces of beef, not ground beef.  A Cottage Pie that is topped with whipped potato, is also topped with one or more slices of tomato.
     English Shepherds pie is always made with ground lamb.  To complicate the matter even further, Irish Shepherds pie is always made with bits of beef or ground beef.  A poor folks Shepherd's Pie version is also made with any leftover scraps of food from a previous meal.

     I prepared both the whipped potato topping and shingled potato topping for photo examples of today's Cottage Pie recipe.  The choice of presentation styles is up to the readers.
     For a great Cottage Pie gravy, use rich beef stock.  The beef in the Cottage Pie is always a cheaper cut of beef with some fat marbling in the grain of the meat, to keep the meat tender.  Beef Chuck (shoulder) is a good choice.  Top Round and Bottom Round are also good thrifty priced choices.
     *The choice of Cottage Pie topping is yours to make.  Both potato topping styles are described in the presentations.

     English Cottage Pie Meat Filling:
     This recipe yield 2 hearty portions.  (About 3 1/4 cups.)    
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped salt pork.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Render the grease from the salt pork.  Sauté till the lardon bits are are golden brown.
     Step 2:  Add 14 ounces of bite size diced beef.
     *A piece of chuck roast, top round or a sirloin cut is best.  
     Sauté till the beef is browned on all sides.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1/3 cup chopped white part of a leek.
     Add 1/2 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of small chopped Button Cave Mushroom.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.  The Salt Pork will release plenty of salt, so taste before adding salt.)
     Saute till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add just enough flour, while stirring, to absorb the excess grease and to make a roux.  About 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons.
     Stir till the roux starts to cook.
     Step 5:  Add 2 1/2 cups of beef stock while stirring.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally as the gravy thickens to a thin sauce consistency.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 pinches of marjoram.
     Simmer and reduce the gravy it is a medium thin consistency that easily clings to the meat and vegetables.
     Step 7:  Add 1/2 cup of frozen peas.
     Briefly simmer till the peas are hot.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the Cottage Pie Meat Filling warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Original "Potato Shingle" Cottage Pie: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Par boil 1 peeled large russet potato, till it is almost halfway cooked.  The potato should still be firm.
     Cool the par boiled potato under cold running water.
     Step 2:  Select oven proof single portion casserole dish.
     Spoon the Cottage Pie Meat Filling into the casserole dish till it is almost full.
     Step 3:  Cut the par boiled potato into 3/16" thick slices.
     Place the slices on the cottage pie filling, so they are an overlapping shingle pattern.
     Step 4:  Lightly brush the potato slices with melted unsalted butter.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of sea salt over the sliced potato topping.
     Bake in a 350ºF oven till the potatoes are fully cooked and golden brown highlights appear.
     Place the cottage pie on a doily lined serving platter.
     Whipped Potato Topping:
     This recipe yields enough for 1 entrée.
     Step 1:  Place an 8 ounce peeled russet potato in a sauce pot.
     Cover the potato with water.
     Boil till the potato is fully cooked and soft.
     Step 2:  Completely drain the water off of the potato.
     Keep the sauce pot on a warm stove top.
     Add 2 tablespoons of milk.
     Add 1 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Thoroughly mash and whip the potato mixture till it is smooth.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of whisked egg.
     Whisk till the mixture is blended.
     Step 4:  Load the whipped potato topping into a star tipped pastry bag and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 5:  Select an oven proof single portion ceramic crock.
     Spoon the Cottage Pie Meat Filling into the crock till it is almost full.
     Step 6:  Use the star tipped pastry bag to pipe the whipped potato on top of the cottage pie filling.
     Step 7:  Press 1 slice of plum tomato onto the center of the whipped potato topping.
     Place 1/2 teaspoon of unsalted butter on the tomato.
     Bake in a 350ºF oven till golden brown highlights appear on the whipped potato topping.
     Step 8:  Place the Cottage Pie on a doily lined serving platter.
     When serving, allow the Cottage Pie to cool for a couple minutes, so the filling reaches a safe serving temperature.  The aroma and flavor of a good Cottage pie spells comfort! 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pork Hocks und Weinsauerkraut

     Schweinshaxe und Weinsauerkraut!
     Country style food is a recurring theme in every cuisine around the globe.  Country style food tends to be hearty simple food that is served up family style.  Big platters of food are placed on the table and everybody helps themselves to big hearty portions. 
     The problem is that not everybody lives with a big family on a farm in the country.  This does not mean that an individual has to take a pass on cooking up good old fashioned simple country style food.  All it takes is scaling back the amount of food that is cooked, but few want to do baker's math.  This is why I usually write single portion recipes and when it comes to country style food, the portion size is enough to satisfy!         
     Yes, there is plenty of farm country in Germany and there is plenty country style food that is served in heaping portions.  Sauerkraut and secondary pork cuts or sausage are a main staple in German farm country style cuisine.  Just like in America, pork hocks (ham hocks) are simple everyday country folk food.     
     The health benefits of eating sauerkraut is well known.  Sauerkraut helps to fight off colds and influenza, just like Korean Cabbage Kimchi.  Wine Packed Sauerkraut is not salty or sweet.  It has a very gentle flavor.  Wine packed sauerkraut is usually sold in glass jars and the juice in the jar actually tastes good enough to flavor other food preparations. 

     Pork Hocks und Weinsauerkraut:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty portion.
     Pork Hocks are not cured or smoked.  Hocks are usually the knee joint section of the hind legs or cross sections of the upper fore legs.  
     A whole pork hock can be rather large.  Some butchers (especially at Asian butcher shops) will cut extra meaty pork hocks through the bone, so each slice is less than 1/2" thick.  This style of pork hock cut was used to make today's recipe.  As one can see, there is plenty of meat on Asian style pork hocks.       
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 slice of smoked bacon that coarsely chopped.
     Sauté the bacon till a small amount of grease is rendered and the bacon starts to become crisp.
     Step 2:  Add 2 cups of Wine Packed Sauerkraut with its own juices.  (Wine Packed Sauerkraut does not need to be rinsed with water!)
     Add 6 thick pieces carrot that are 1" long.
     Add 1 pinch of marjoram.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Gently simmer the wine packed weinsauerkraut mixture till it becomes hot.
     Step 3:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Mound the weinsauerkraut in a shallow single portion casserole dish.  Try to expose the carrot pieces on the surface.
     Step 4:  Select 2 fresh pork hock slices that are about 1/2" thick.  (The pork hock slices should weigh about 8 ounces apiece, because they are nearly 50% bone.)
     Place the pork hocks on the sauerkraut.  
     Place 1 slice of Bermuda Onion (about 1/4" thick) on top of the bone on each pork hock.
     Step 5:  Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of marjoram over each pork hock.
     Place 1 teaspoon of unsalted butter on the slice of onion on each pork hock.
     Step 6:  Cover the casserole dish with a lid or foil.  
     Bake in a 300ºF oven till the pork hocks are fully cooked and the meat starts to become tender.
     Step 7:  Remove the lid.
     Continue baking till the onion and pork hocks are lightly browned.  
     Step 8:  Place the casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig.
     Serve with a potato of your choice on the side.
     *Serve with Bavarian style bread too! 

     A nice simple German country style entrée for a chilly day!  

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Linguettine Carbonara e Pollo

     Linguettine Pasta Carbonara With Chicken!
     Chicken Carbonara has been a popular Italian style pasta in recent years at chain restaurants and privately owned restaurants that mimic hot selling chain restaurant food items.  Unfortunately, the quality of mass produced chain restaurant style Chicken Carbonara is pretty bad, because so many shortcuts are used.  For example, a famous Italian theme national restaurant chain makes all of their cream sauces with powdered freeze dried instant cream sauce mix.  That is enough to make any traditionalist gag.
     Some national chain restaurants may have Italian sounding names, but they are not really authentic Italian restaurants.  Many Italian American restaurant owners despise the national chain restaurants that have Italian themes, because the big corporate chains nearly always employ a campaign of monopolizing the local market with no respect for existing locally owned restaurants.
     Corporate chains pave their way with investment capital that ends up in local business regulator pockets.  Chain restaurants overwhelm the competition by opening multiple locations in an effort to flood a local market, they maintain high saturation advertising campaigns and they give away millions of dollars worth of coupons to undercut all existing prices.  Corporate monopolization tactics are nothing new and the end result causes small restaurant owners to close up shop, then the overall quality of food in the region plummets.
     Chicken Carbonara is a menu item that the big Italian look-alike chain restaurants offer.  A chain restaurant version of Chicken Carbonara really misses the mark as far as quality is concerned.  Versions of this pasta are much better at locally owned and operated restaurants.
     Chicken Carbonara is not a traditional Italian pasta, but it was a popular entrée at cafés, diners and casual restaurants in the 1980's and 1990's.  A few real Italian American restaurants offered Chicken Carbonara as a lunch special back in those days too, because it was a good selling trendy item.
     I sold plenty of Chicken Carbonara Pastas as a lunch special du jour in French cafés back in the 1980's.  Today's recipe is the same as what I prepared in a professional kitchen and the quality will please those who have been disappointed with the quality of Carbonara at chain restaurants.  This is a good selling pasta when the weather is cold, because Carbonara Sauce is so heavy.

     Linguettine Carbonara e Pollo:
This recipe yields 1 large portion. 
     • Linguettine is not always easy to find.  Fettuccine, Linguine or Spaghetti can be substituted. 
     • The best way to make Carbonara Sauce is to mince the basic ingredients together, till they are like a thick paste.  This is easy to do with a food processor or meat grinder.  Mincing the ingredients with a chef knife takes much more time and effort. 
     • Using high quality imported Italian Pancetta and Prosciutto really makes a difference in flavor. 
     • Only enough sauce should be made to coat the pasta with flavor.  The pasta should not be swimming in the sauce!
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of linguettine pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till it is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Toss the pasta with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil, so it does not stick together.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Place these ingredients in a food processor:
     - 3 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Pancetta
     - 2 ounces of coarse chopped Italian Prosciutto
     - 2/3 cup of coarse chopped onion
     - 3 garlic cloves
     Pulse the food processor till the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture looks like thick paste.
     Place the minced ingredients in a container and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add the minced Pancetta, Prosciutto, garlic and onion mixture.
     Sauté and stir occasionally till the ingredients till a few golden highlights just start to appear.
     Step 4:  Add a 5 ounce chicken breast filet that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Sauté till the pancetta is lightly browned and the chicken is almost fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Drain the excess grease out of the pan.  (Leave about a teaspoon of grease in the pan for flavor.)
     Step 6:  Return the pan to medium/medium low heat.
      Add 1 1/4 cups of chicken broth.
     Use a whisk to scrape and deglaze the brown bits that are stuck to the pan.
     Step 7:  Simmer and reduce the chicken broth, till only about 2/3 cup remains.
     Step 8:  Add 1 1/4 cups of cream.
     Bring the cream to a gentle boil.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of coarse ground black pepper.  (Taste and only add sea salt if necessary.)
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 10:  Place 2 tablespoons of cream in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 yolk from a large egg.
     Mix the cream and egg yolk together.
     Step 10:  Add the egg yolk and cream mixture to the sauce, while constantly stirring with a whisk.
     Step 11:  Immediately add the prepared linguettine pasta.
     Quickly toss the pasta and sauce together, till the pasta is reheated and the egg yolk tightens the sauce.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Step 1:  Use a long tine carving fork to coil the pasta and mound the pasta on a plate.
     Try to place a few pieces of the chicken on the surface so they can be seen.
     Spoon any extra sauce over the pasta.
     Step 2:  Sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1/2 of a hard boiled egg that is finely grated over the pasta.
     Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of finely chopped Italian Parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley Sprig.
     *Be sure to offer a coarse grind pepper mill at the table!

     Viola!  A great tasting Pasta Carbonara with Chicken! 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baked Ziti

     Classic New York Italian Style Baked Ziti!
     Baked Ziti is easy to make.  A good Baked Ziti has unbroken al dente pasta, some olive oil aroma from the tomato sauce, plenty of gooey cheese and no dark brown burnt tips color on the pasta.  
     A cook cannot just throw a Baked Ziti in a hot oven and hope for the best!  Baked Ziti has to be assembled in a way that helps to prevent scorching.  The oven temperature has to be just.  A cook needs to know when the Baked Ziti has baked for just the right amount of time, so it is hot in the center and the cheese is not overcooked on the outside.  
     The formula for a cooking a great Baked Ziti is:  
     • Moderate oven temperature
     • A great tomato sauce
     • High quality Italian cheese 
     • Unbroken Ziti Pasta that are cooked al dente      

     Baked Ziti is overwhelmingly aromatic and it is very filling!  The flavor is so good, that it is hard to stop eating after the first bite.
     It is very easy to end up eating way too much Baked Ziti.  Eating too much baked ziti may result in not being able to do much more than sit in a chair while moaning about the belly being overstuffed.  Needless to say, dessert is rarely an option after having Baked Ziti for dinner.  Baked Ziti truly is the heavy weight pasta champion of the world!
     Salsa di Pomodoro:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website.
     • Salsa di Pomodoro  
     Tre Formaggi:
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups of Italian 3 Cheese Mix. 
     Never add salt and pepper to any ricotta cheese mixture or the sweet fresh flavor of the ricotta will be overwhelmed.  Salt will also change the texture of the fresh ricotta cheese curds.            
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of  ricotta cheese in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese.
     Add 1/2 cup of fine grated Parmigiana Cheese.
     Add 1 raw large egg.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced basil.  (optional)
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Step 2:  Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate the Italian 3 Cheese Mixture to 41ºF, so the texture becomes stiff.

     Baked Ziti:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     It is best to use an oven proof casserole dish or oven proof pasta bowl.  Baked Ziti can be cooked on a baking pan, then it can be transferred to a plate, like the Baked Ziti in the photos, but this method is difficult to do and it is easy to end up with a big mess.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of ziti pasta in boiling water in a pot over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the ziti pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the ziti pasta.
     Step 2:  Place the al dente ziti pasta in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 cups the Italian 3 Cheese Mixture.
     Add 3/4 cup of Salsa Pomodoro.
     Gently fold the ingredients together, but do not over mix.  There should be a few blobs of the cheese mixture showing.
     Step 3:  Spoon 1/2 cup of Salsa Pomodoro into an individual size casserole dish or an oven proof dinner plate.  The casserole dish should be about 8" wide.
     Spread the sauce evenly as a bed for the baked ziti mixture.
     Step 4:  Mound the ziti mixture on the tomato sauce.
     Spoon 1/2 cup of Salsa Pomodoro over the mound of ziti mixture.
     Step 5:  Place the casserole dish in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake the ziti mixture till it starts to become hot.  (The sauce and cheese will start to bubble.)
     Step 6:  Remove the baked ziti casserole dish from the oven.
     Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mixed of Grated Mozzarella Cheese and Grated Provolone Cheese over the mound of baked ziti.
     Step 7:  Return the baked ziti to the oven.
     Bake the ziti, till the cheese melts and golden highlights appear.  (Do not excessively brown the cheese or it will taste bitter!)
     *The baked ziti should be piping hot.  A probe thermometer placed in the center should read at least 165ºF.
     Step 8:  Allow the baked ziti to rest on a stovetop for a few minutes, till it reaches a safe serving temperature.
     Place the baked ziti casserole dish on a doily lined serving plate.
     *Remind your guests that the baking dish is hot!
     No garnish is necessary.

     The aroma of Baked Ziti is so nice!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Svenska Köttbullar with Butter Chive Mashed Potatoes

     Swedish Meatballs!
     Swedish Meatballs is an old familiar recipe that occasionally rises in popularity.  Swedish Meatballs can be served as an appetizer or as hors d'oeuvres on a tray with frill picks.  Swedish Meatballs served over egg noodles is hearty meal when the weather is cold.  In Scandinavian countries, Swedish Meatballs are traditionally served with mashed potatoes and pickles.
     Low quality restaurant buffets rely on pre-made frozen food products in order to maintain quality.  These places tend to use cheap frozen meatballs.  Swedish Meatballs that are made with a frozen meatball product are really not worth writing home about.    
     Hand crafted Swedish Meatballs that are made from scratch are the best!  Good Swedish Meatballs that are made from scratch are a traditional Smorgasbord item and they are offered at higher quality restaurant buffets.  In fact, the last time that I made Swedish Meatballs professionally was on buffet night at an exclusive yacht club.  This shows what kind of clientele still likes this classic Swedish specialty.

     In many Scandinavian countries, hunting is still the best way to put meat on the table.  Minced venison can be used to make Swedish Meatballs and it is possible that deer meat was used to make the original recipe.  In modern times, lean ground beef is the top choice of meat.
     Swedish Meatballs can be defined as being meatballs that are braised in a cream sauce.  Usually the cream sauce is made with crème fraîche or sour cream.  The pan drippings from cooking the meatballs flavors the sauce and beef broth can be added to enrich the flavor.

     Sliced pickles and lingonberry preserves or other berry fruit jams are commonly served with Swedish Meatballs & Mashed Potatoes during the winter months.  There is quite a difference  between Swedish summer food and Swedish winter cuisine.  During the summer, nearly every meal is eaten outdoors in Sweden and emphasis is placed upon garden fresh ingredients.  Swedish cooks also like to use plenty of fresh herbs during summer months.  Fresh herbs can be added to the Swedish Meatball recipe to increase the appeal when the weather is warm.
     Butter Chive Mashed Potatoes:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 12 ounces of red bliss potatoes in a sauce pot.  (Leave the skins on the potatoes.)
     Cover the potatoes with water.
     Boil the potatoes over medium high heat till they are fully cooked and tender.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the potatoes.
     Return the potatoes to the sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over very low heat.
     Step 3:  Add 2 ounces of chilled unsalted butter pats.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced chives.
     Mash the potato mixture till it is fairly smooth with a few coarse bits of potato intact.
     Step 4:  Keep the butter chive mashed potatoes warm on a stove top or in a 135ºF bain marie.
     Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs):
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of lean ground beef in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced white onion.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard.
     Add 2 tablespoons of plain fine French breadcrumbs.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Thoroughly mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Divide the meat mixture into walnut size portions.
     Roll the meat portions into smooth round meatball shapes.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Place the meatballs in the pan.
     Shake the pan occasionally, so the meatballs cook evenly.
     Sauté the till the meatballs are lightly browned all over.
     Step 4:  Remove the meatballs from the pan and set them aside.
     Drain the excess grease out of the pan, but leave about 1 tablespoon in the pan.
     Step 5:  Return the pan to medium/medium low heat.
     Add just enough flour while constantly stirring to make a small amount of roux.  (About 2 teaspoons.)
     Stir till the roux is a blonde color.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/4 cups of beef stock.
     Occasionally stir with a whisk as the sauce comes to a gentle boil and thickens.  Try to scrape the brown bits that are stuck to the pan.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce a very thin consistency that can barely glaze a spoon.
     Step 8:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of sour cream while stirring with a whisk.  Whisk till the sauce is blended.
     Step 9:  Return the meatballs to the sauce.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is medium thin consistency that easily clings to the meatballs.
     Svenska Köttbullar with Butter Chive Mashed Potatoes:
     Place a mound of the butter chive mashed potatoes on a plate.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of finely chopped Italian Parsley over the potatoes.
     Place the Swedish Meatballs on the plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the meatballs.
     Garnish the plate with an Italian Parsley sprig and sliced pickles.
     Serve with a ramekin of lingonberry preserves or your favorite berry preserves on the side.
     Swedish Meatballs taste so good, that it is easy to crave more!

Ditali Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers and Fava Beans en Tahini Herb Sauce with Garlic Eggplant

     A Tasty Mediterranean Style Vegetarian Pasta!
     Tahini is sesame paste.  Tahini Paste is available at many common grocery stores.  Plain Tahini Paste that has no added flavor it is the correct choice for today's pasta recipe.  
     It is easy to confuse Tahini Paste with Tahini Sauce.  Pre-made Tahini Sauce looks almost like plain Tahini Paste.  Tahini Sauce is flavored with lemon, olive oil, garlic, sumac berry spice and a few other ingredients.  Pre-made Tahini Sauce is a nice convenience for making Hummus, but the flavor may be too strong for other applications, like today's pasta sauce.

     When water or broth is add to Tahini Paste, the fine ground sesame seeds readily absorb the liquid.  A sauce made with water and Tahini Paste actually looks like a smooth velvety cream sauce.  
     Many vegetarians are familiar with Almond Milk.  The fine ground almond powder reacts with water the same way as sesame paste.  After nuts or seeds are ground to a fine paste, the paste will readily absorbs liquid.  This is because nuts are dried before being processed and the nut oil prevents moisture from being drawn in from the air.  
     A very small amount of sesame paste can easily make a cup of hot water look like milk.  Adding a little bit more sesame paste will make the water look like a rich cream sauce consistency.  It is important to gradually add small amounts of sesame paste when making a sauce, because it takes time for the paste to absorb liquid.  Adding too much sesame paste too quickly, will result in a sauce that is as thick as mud.  
     Ditali Pasta was actually one of the first pasta shapes that were made when Arabic mechanical pasta makers were introduced a few hundred years ago.  Mechanized pasta machines were introduced to Italy by Arabic traders and the Italians eventually brought this food technology to perfection by advancing the extruded pasta making process.  The shape of Ditali Pasta easily picks up a sauce.  Ditali is a popular pasta shape in North Africa, the Middle East and Italy. 
     Fava Beans are in the pea vine family of plants.  Raw fresh Fava Beans or dried Fava Beans must be cooked at 175ºF for 17 minutes, so the harmful toxins are neutralized.  Canned Fava Beans are ready to serve.
     Fava Beans originated as wild bean somewhere in Afghanistan and they became a domesticated bean in Egypt sometime around the age of the Pharaohs.  Fava Beans have been a Middle Eastern tradition ever since.  Fava Beans have a rich hearty flavor that is perfect for today's pasta recipe!
     Eggplant is a main staple vegetable everywhere in Mediterranean region.  Pan seared or grilled large bite chunks of eggplant with whole garlic cloves are commonly served on their own as a vegetable.  Garlic Eggplant adds a nice flavor to this recipe.   
     Lemon Juice adds enough acidity to bring the Tahini pasta sauce to life.  Good olive oil is used in place of ghee (clarified butter) to give recipe 100% vegetarian status.  Nobody ever said that vegetarian food has to be boring raw or steamed plain vegetables.  Mediterranean cuisine offers plenty of great tasting vegetarian recipes and there is no end to the great flavor combinations! 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 hearty portion!  Arabic spices, Ditali Pasta, Fava Beans and Tahini Paste can be found in Mediterranean food markets.  

     Ditali Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of ditali pasta in a pot of boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.  
     Drain the water off of the pasta and set it aside.
     Garlic Eggplant:
     Eggplant will absorb plenty of olive oil while it is cooked.  Be prepare to add more olive oil if necessary.  Just like mushrooms, eggplant will release some of the olive oil after it becomes fully cooked.  The excess olive oil can then be drained off and used to start the pasta sauce.
     The garlic cloves will finish cooking first, so they must be removed from the pan and set aside!
     Step 1:  Heat a seasoned sauté pan or non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of blended olive oil. 
     Add 8 large thick bite size pieces of eggplant.  (Leave the skin attached.)
     Add 5 whole cloves of garlic that are partially crushed.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 2:  Turn the eggplant pieces occasionally, till the eggplant is golden brown on all sides.
     The garlic will finish first.  Use tongs to remove the garlic cloves after they are lightly browned.  
     Set the caramelized garlic cloves aside in a container and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped onion.
     Gently sauté till the eggplant is fully cooked and the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the finished eggplant and onions in the container with the garlic.
     Keep the garlic, onions and eggplant warm on a stove top.

     Ditali Pasta, Roasted Red Peppers and Fava Beans en Tahini Herb Sauce with Garlic Eggplant:
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Sauté till the onion turns clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Saute for a few seconds, so the ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of cardamom.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini while stirring with a whisk.  (plain sesame paste)
     *It is better to add too little tahini paste, than too much.  Sesame paste will thicken a sauce just like a roux.  More can be added to thicken the sauce if necessary, after the sauce simmers and reduces.
     Stir till the tahini is blended with the liquid.
     Step 5:  Add 2 teaspoons of crushed dried fenugreek leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of Wild Thyme.  (Or a Za'atar Spice Mix that contains wild Thyme.  European Thyme is not the same as Wild Thyme.) 
     Add 1 pinch of basil. 
     Add 1 pinch of dried mint.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced Italian Parsley.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of honey.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 1/3 cup of rinsed cooked fava beans or rinsed canned fava beans.
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  The finished volume of sauce be enough sauce to generously coat the pasta.  (About 1 1/2 cups.)
      *If the sauce is too thin, then add 1/2 teaspoon of sesame paste at a time while stirring, then simmer till the sauce becomes a medium thin consistency.
     Step 7:  Add the reserved prepared ditali pasta to the sauce. 
     Toss the ingredients together as the pasta heats.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the sauced pasta on a plate or shallow pasta bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of Sumac Berry Spice over the pasta.
     Place the reserved sautéed garlic cloves and onion pieces on the top center of the pasta.
     Arrange the eggplant pieces on the pasta around the garlic.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig or cilantro sprig.

     This Mediterranean style vegetarian pasta is loaded with great flavor.  Alternating bites of the rich pasta with the garlic eggplant creates a nice sensation!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rotelle, Broccoli and Ham with Parmigiana Crema

     Wagon Wheel Pasta!
     Rotelle, Broccoli and Ham with Parmigiana Crema is a nice home style pasta.  Rotelle is also called Wagon Wheel Pasta.  I actually have offered today's simple pasta as a lunch special du dour at a French café when the weather was chilly and this item sold well.  Sometimes customers find simple food to be quite appealing when they seek comfort.   
     There are many Italian pasta recipes that require specific varieties of Italian ham.  Prosciutto Ham usually takes the limelight, but Italians like plain roasted cured ham too.  Standard cured roasted ham is used in today's recipe, because the gentle flavor tastes nice with broccoli and Parmigiana Cheese Sauce.

      "Ziti With Broccoli" is a traditional Italian cream sauce pasta that is similar to today's recipe.  The mother sauce is Besciamella, which is nearly the same thing as French Béchamel Sauce or American style Milk Gravy.  Besciamella can be made ahead of time or it can be made to order.
     Simmering and reducing heavy cream to make a cream sauce is taboo in Italian cuisine.  This method may be very easy to do, but the high price of cream will drive food costs up.  Reduced cream sauces also are not healthy for customers, because cream is basically nothing more than butter fat.  It is better to make a simple Besciamella Sauce, then add cheese when making sauce for pasta.
     Why not call today's pasta sauce by the name "Alfredo Sauce?"  Many restaurant chefs call a Parmigiana Crema Sauce an Alfredo Sauce, but this kind of is deceptive marketing practice.  A real Alfreado Sauce is made only with butter, Parmigiana Cheese and black pepper, that is slowly stirred over very low heat for nearly 1 hour, till the cheese and butter combines.  There actually is no cream in an authentic Alfredo Sauce recipe.  This is why it is better to call today's sauce what it really is, rather than call it an Alfredo Sauce!  Today's pasta sauce should be called Parmigiana Crema, Parmigiana Besciamella or in plain English, Parmesan Cheese Sauce.    

     *This entire recipe yields 1 pasta entrée!
     Rotelle Pasta:
     Cook 1 portion of Rotelle Pasta in boiling water over high heat till the pasta is al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.

     Rotelle, Broccoli and Ham with Parmigiana Crema:
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky looking.)
     Stir till the roux is white color.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/4 cups of milk while stirring.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.  Stir occasionally as the sauce thickens to a thin consistency.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of finely grated Parmigiana Cheese while stirring with a whisk.
     Add 2 pinches of coarsely ground black pepper.
     Stir till the cheese melts into the sauce.
     Step 5:  Add 3 ounces of hand torn small bite size pieces of roasted cured ham.
     Add 3/4 cup of small broccoli florets.
     Simmer till the broccoli is tender and the sauce reduces to a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the prepared Rotelle Pasta to the sauce.
     Gently toss the ingredients together till the pasta is hot.
     Step 7:  Mound the pasta on a plate or shallow pasta bowl.
     Serve with some fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     This home style pasta has a comfortable rich flavor!