Saturday, November 24, 2012

Taco Loaf

This recipe did not come out exactly the way I'd hoped it would.  It was supposed to be a lovely baked pastry roll, not a loaf.  But, while I live and learn from my mistakes, this loaf tastes pretty amazing, I have to say.  I was inspired to try this recipe based on a tv commercial using crescent roll pastry dough.  My mistake was that I overfilled it before rolling the dough.  Note to self:  don't be greedy, don't overfill before rolling the dough.  Check.

Mistakes aside, this was great as a snack.  Slice as thick or thinly as you please, just be ready for a Mexican flavor rush, and enjoy it hot or cold.  Here's the starting line up:

 1 small onion, finely chopped;  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated; 2 serrano chilis, finely chopped; 1 four ounce can of diced, roasted green chili; 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground; 1 tablespoon coriander; 2 tablespoons paprika; 2 teaspoons oregano, ground or crushed in your palms; salt and pepper, pinch of each; the zest and juice of one lime; 2 packages of your favorite crescent roll pastry dough*; all purpose flour; your favorite grated cheese (I used a store-bough Mexican blend); 1 pound lean ground beef; 1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; a quarter cup of water.   

*You may be able to find crescent or pastry roll sheets that are not pre-cut, at many grocery stores.
*You can always make this recipe meatless, adding roasted peppers.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, center rack. 

In large skillet, add the evoo over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the onions and a pinch of salt to help the onions sweat and soften.  After three-to-five minutes, add the garlic and saute for another five minutes.  Add the can of green chilis, the spices, the lime zest and juice, and saute another few minutes.  Once the onions are cooked, remove the first part of the filling to a bowl and set aside.  Add the ground beef, brown, and add back the ingredients from the bowl.  Add a pinch more salt and pepper, a quarter cup of water, and let simmer over low heat for about ten minutes, allowing all of the flavors to incorporate.

*In reality, you could start with the oil and beef, then add the onion, garlic and all, especially if you are in a hurry. 

Once the beef has fully cooked and the ingredients have incorporated well, remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

On a cutting board or a granite counter top, add a dusting of all purpose flour.  Place the crescent roll dough on the flour, gently pull apart and roll it out.  Dust lightly with more flour, just a good pinch, and, using a rolling pin, flatten out the dough to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick.  Not making my mistake, add a dusting of grated cheese (I would use a finely grated blend of jack and cheddar, or thinly grated Mexican cheese blend), followed by a scattered layer of the taco filling.  Sprinkle more cheese over the dough and roll.

Place parchment paper or foil onto a baking pan and place the rolls/loaves, seam down, and bake for 18 - 30 minutes (depending on your oven).  Remove and let the loaves rest.  Slice and serve as you please!


Friday, November 23, 2012

My Roasted Veggie and Linguica Pasta

Every chef I have ever read or seen has a roasted  vegetable pasta, all of which have been amazing.  Roasting vegetables has become a family favorite, particularly roasting broccoli and cauliflower with extra virgin olive oil, fresh grated garlic, and a little salt and pepper. Tremendous flavors!  In this recipe, I roasted cherry and grape tomatoes (red and yellow-orange, for color and flavor), broccoli, and green beans, all with evoo and grated fresh garlic, salt and pepper.  The aroma that fills the house with these vegetable combinations is amazing, and inspiring.  And while I have enjoyed several great vegetable pastas, I am a sucker for a spicy meat that stands out amidst the vegetable flavors.  I decided to use Linguica sausage, which did the trick perfectly.  

Here's my starting line-up:
2 cups fresh broccoli, sliced
1 or 2 cups prepped fresh green beans, halved
1 cup of finely sliced Linguica
1 small yellow, white or red onion, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, grated, separated into fourths
2 pints of cherry and/or grape tomatoes 
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon Paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed in the palms of your hands upon adding to the sauce)
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil (wash ahead of time, place in a cup of water, and chop just before you use it) 
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 8 - 10 tablespoons, separated 
2 - 3 tabs of butter 
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or Red Wine vinegar
Zest and Juice of one lemon
1 cup (at least) of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 pound of your favorite pasta  (I used spaghetti)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)

As the photos above indicate, roast the vegetables tossed in evoo, grated garlic and salt and pepper on a baking pan at 400 degrees for about fifteen minutes, or until you can smell the garlic.  I used two cloves of garlic per vegetable.  Trust me, it's a wonderfully memorable aroma.  The same applies to the tomatoes.  Roast them for ten minutes, just before they pop.  If they do pop, however, not to worry, as the juices become the sauce.  When the veggies are out of the oven, set them aside or place them all into a bowl to use shortly.

While the vegetables are roasting, add two tablespoons evoo to a high-sided pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil begins to ripple, add the Linguica and saute until a crust forms around the sides.  Add the onions and last part of the garlic.  Add a pinch of salt to the onions, but not a lot, as the Linguica has a bit of salt content.  When the onions start to soften and become a bit translucent, add all of the other vegetables.  Toss and add pepper, the Italian seasoning, the paprika, the lemon zest and juice, and the vinegar. Toss and saute over medium heat.  Once the fluids reduce half way, reduce the heat to medium-low, or low.  

While the sauce flavors are marrying, which will smell "out of this world Happy", add about four quarts of water to a large pot and bring the water to a boil.  Once the water boils, liberally salt the water.  Add the pasta, stir, and boil until just about al dente, or, just before done; that should be eight to then minutes. Tip:  While the pasta is cooking, this would be a good time to stack, roll and chop the basil leaves to add to both the sauce and as a flavorful garnish when you plate the pasta.  Save half or a whole cup of the pasta water and set aside for a moment.  Drain the pasta in a colander.  Add two tablespoons of evoo, or, two-three tabs of butter (you can now buy a whipped "Tuscan" butter, which I used for a glossy finish to the sauce), and add the pasta to the high-sided pan holding the vegetables.  Add half of the pasta water and turn the heat to high.  Add half of the fresh basil to the sauce.  Toss the pasta with the vegetables with tongs.  Mix the pasta and the vegetables well.  As the pasta water reduces, reduce the heat to low, or, just turn it off.  

Here's the great part:  add a quarter of the parmigian-reggiano to the pasta and sauce and toss.  Repeat until you have used the next two quarters of cheese.  Save a quarter of the cup of cheese  to top the pasta service.  So good!  When you are ready to plate, whether it is served family style or singularly, top with the parm and basil and enjoy!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mexican Meatloaves with Poblano Pesto, Potato Stacks, and Marinated Lamb Chops

My son will be very upset with me, but I am not a big fan of meat loaf.  He is, particularly with savory barbeque sauce.  I wanted to make mini personal  meat loaves, but with a whole new flavor makeover.  I decided to make a Poblano Pesto, based on a creamy sauce I saw on Rachael Ray, just minus the cream sauce base.  The pesto can be used for just about anything, it is that versatile.  Here's how I made it:

Poblano Pesto
1/2 an onion (I used a yellow onion)
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 Poblano/Pasilla  peppers
1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon thyme, ground in a small mortar and pestle
The juice of one lime
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 - 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (or the juice of a second lime, or lemon)
salt and pepper

Seed and de-rib, and coarsely chop the Poblano/Pasilla peppers, chop the onion and finely dice the garlic on a chopping block.  Place all of the vegetable ingredients and the seeds into a food processor or blender with the lime juice.  Pulse until the vegetables have been broken down.  Begin drizzling in the evoo until it becomes a thick, smooth texture.  Taste before adding the red wine vinegar (if you do) and add salt and pepper to taste.  Keep in  mind, this is not going to taste like basil pesto.  It will have the same consistency, but not the same flavor. But people, it is goooooood!

Place the pesto in a bowl and place in the refrigerator, allowing the flavors to fully marry. 

Mexican Meatloaves

What you will need from the store:
1.5 pound package of hamburger  (sirloin and chuck mix)
1/2 onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/2 cup of the Poblano Pesto
2/3 cup of bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1/2 palm full of Smoked Paprika
1 teaspoon ground mustard (for the fun of it)
Salt and Pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup diced  Oaxaca Cheese and 1+ cup Mexican Blend preshredded, packaged cheese

Add the meat to a large bowl.  Add the cumin seeds, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper (pinch of S&P), Worcestershire sauce, onion, garlic, cilantro, bread crumbs and egg to the meat.  Mix thoroughly but without overdoing it.  Score the meat into four equal parts with your hand.  Let the meat sit for about ten minutes to allow the flavors to marry.  In the meantime, set your oven to 400 degrees. 

I chose to use a cast iron skillet for this, instead of a deep sided pan, or broiler pan.  I decided to allow the meat loaves to render in their own juices to keep the meat moist.  That turned out to be a good idea;  more on that at the end of this recipe. 

Take one quarter of the meat and shape it into a torpedo, then, using your fingers, hollow out the center of the torpedo and curl up the sides.  (Sorry, I forgot to have a picture of that taken, but I do have a stuffed example).  Place cubes or slices of the Oaxaca cheese and the Mexican Blend cheese into the center, along with a couple of teaspoons of the Poblano Pesto. Pinch the top of the meat loaf together.  Tip:  Do not leave the shape of the meat loaf like a torpedo, but round it.  


Place the meat loaves in the skillet, or whatever you decide to cook them in, and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Top with some of the shredded cheese and a couple of teaspoons of the pesto and place back into the oven for 15 - 20 minutes.  Remove and place the meat loaves on cooling racks and allow them to rest for a few minutes before serving.  

Tips:  As I mentioned earlier, round the sides of the meatloaves, rather than keep it in a torpedo shape.  Otherwise, the ends will be dry, but the center moist and flavorful.  We want the whole loaf moist and flavorful!  

What about sides for this dish?  I have just the thing!  My bacon, garlic, rosemary, cheesy potato stacks! 

 These amazing potato stacks are simple as can be.  I cannot take credit for inventing them, by any means. I have seen several chefs make versions of this tasty, savory side. Some have used russet potatoes shaped by cut outs, some have used baby Yukon Golds, and I used red New Potatoes.  Wash, dry and slice the potatoes about an eighth of an inch thick.  Spray the cups of a regular sized muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, add 1 cup of your favorite shredded white cheese (I used more of the Mexican Blend), along with a large sprig of rosemary, finely diced, two cloves or garlic, grated, three or four strips of bacon, fried or baked extra crispy, and 1/2 cup of shredded or grated parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly.  Place one of the larger potato rounds on the bottom of the muffin cup.  Add some of the cheesy, bacon mixture. Top with another potato round, more cheese, and repeat until you have used about five potato rounds topped with cheese.  Bake at 400 degrees until the top of the stacks are golden brown.  Remove the tin and allow them to cool, which allows the cheese to gently firm up the stacks, holding them together. 

Serve with the meat loaves, or any other dish you plan to serve.  That might include my next dish, my Marinated Lamb Chops!

My Rosemary, Garlic and Herb Marinated Lamb Chops

1 package lamb chops (however many people you are feeding)
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
4- 6 tablespoons evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
Pinch of salt and pepper, each
Juice of one lime

Add all of the ingredients to either a large gallon sized zip-lock plastic bag, or to a shallow square baking dish.  I add all of the ingredients, less the chops, to a bowl, mix it thoroughly, add half of the marinade to the bag or dish, add the chops, and cover the rest with the marinade.  I allowed my chops to marinate for thirty minutes in the refrigerator, and another fifteen minutes out of the refrigerator, so as not to shock the meat when cooking.  

Add 2 - 3 tablespoons of evoo (two or three rounds around the fry pan or skillet) over medium-high heat.  When the oil ripples, add the chops.  You should hear sizzling immediately.  That is what you want! Cook the chops until medium or medium-well.  Serve with the potato stacks or a favorite side dish you enjoy!


I hope you will enjoy some or all of these recipes.  I sure had great fun making them all last night (had friends over), and learning what worked well, what I could have done better, so as to improve next time, and oh, my gentle readers, there will be a next time!!! 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bacon Cheese 'n Egg Bistro Burger

Sometimes, when I am a bit stressed or down, I crave an amazing burger to take my mind off of things.  It's comfort food!  I came up with this late last night to comfort my busy mind, and extended the idea, minus the burger, to a breakfast sammy which I will feature next.  First, let's talk about this fantastic, tasty burger. 

In the Line-up:
1/2  of a red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 red jalapeno, seeded, and finely chopped
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon Chipotle or Pasilla Chili Powder, separated
Ground black pepper
2 - 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 slices Jalapeno White Cheddar Cheese slices
4-6 slices bacon, halved (four halves for each burger: and you have to have some for snacking on!)
4 eggs (2 per burger;  I made two)
1.5 pound package ground beef  (80/20 fat ratio)
Sandwich spread and Spicy Whole Grain Mustard  (or whatever favorite condiments you wish) 
Your favorite hamburger buns (I used cheesy dutch crunch buns)

You will need one large fry skillet, two sharp culinary knives, a chopping block and cutting board (one for veggies, one for the bacon), a large bowl for mixing the meat,  teaspoon and tablespoon measuring spoons (unless you are able to eyeball it, as I do much of the time), a garbage bowl, a large flat spatula to flip the burgers, and about an hour. 

On the cutting board, using one of the knives, cut the bacon in to halves and fry them or bake them until just crispy, about fifteen minutes (at 400 if you are baking on a rack over a baking sided sheet in the oven).  I like to sprinkle some of the chili powder over the bacon to spice it up a little.  In the meantime, finely chop the half red onion, the garlic, and seed and finely chop the two peppers.  Add the meat to the large bowl, along with the peppers and aromatics.  Sprinkle the paprika and the rest of the Chipotle or Pasilla chili poweder to the meat, and add the Worcestershire Sauce. Using your hands (your best kitchen tools) mix the meat thoroughly with the other ingredients.  Score the meat in to fourths, and you will be able to make 6 large burgers, or 8 medium-sized burgers.  Yes, I made six.  What else did you expect.  Four?  Hmmm......

Form your patties, and make sure to dent the top of each burger patty. 

Because I had planned on (unhealthily) frying the burgers in some of the bacon fat, I did not add salt to any part of this burger.  The bacon fat had more than enough. 
The rest is easy street.  Place the bacon on a paper towel to soak up the extra grease until you're ready to use it.  Remove half to three-fourths of the bacon fat and dispose of properly.  Or, like my Grandma P, save it for future use!  Place the burgers in the skillet or fry pan over medium-high heat, let cook and form a bacony crust for about five or six minutes.  Flip and reduce the heat to medium heat.  Place on slice of the Jalapeno White Cheddar cheese to the burger.  

Meanwhile, toast up your buns. I added the spicy whole grain mustard to the bun, placed another slice of the cheese over that, and let it wait for the burgers.  

In a medium skillet, add a teaspoon or two of saved bacon fat, or, a couple of tabs of butter. Crack your eggs into the skillet when the butter is foamy or when the bacon grease runs smoothly over the surface of the pan.  Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of the chili powder and fry to your liking. Place four bacon halves over the bun and cheese, the egg over the bacon and a finished burger, cheese-side over the bacon.  I spread some tangy sandwich spread over the bun bottom and, voi la, I was ready to chow!

Of course, you can change this up in Any form you wish.  Comfort food is about making something you love, something to make you feel better, so make it Yours.  I hope you enjoy this labor of love!

Stay tuned!  Search below the page break (which is an accident, but a useful one) to find how I made an extremely tasty and spicy breakfast sammy with all of the above, and then some, minus the burger!