Friday, January 14, 2011

Ny Strip Steak, Fennel Risotto, Mushroom Ragout and Rapini

Friday night and what better way to unwind from the week and kick off the weekend than to spend some quality time in the kitchen with Jason!

We were both craving some red meat and the strip steaks at whole foods looked delicious.  The most recent issue of Food & Wine featued Stephanie Izard's recipe for Mixed Mushroom Ragout which we had been wanting to try, and I am a sucker for anything with fennel, resulting in our fennel risotto.  We had some rapini in the fridge that needed to be used and added the perfect amount of green to the plate!

Jason decided to break out the molecular gastronomy kit to use up some leftover coconut milk I had in the fridge and create a delicious and beautiful dessert with blackberries and a little hand done whipped cream!

Mixed Mushroom Ragout

Stephanie Izard's recipe for mixed mushroom ragout was featured in the most recent issue of Food & Wine. It was addictive. Cheers.


1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 pound shiitake mushrooms—stems discarded, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound mixed mushrooms such as cremini, sliced 1/8 inch thick, and oyster mushrooms, caps quartered
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon harissa
2 teaspoons miso
1 tablespoon golden raisins (optional)
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 cup chicken stock

- In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp oil. Add the shiitake mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

- Heat 1 Tbsp oil in the skillet over medium high heat. Add the mixed mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has evaporated.

- Add the onion and another 1 Tbsp of oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

- Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes

- Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes

- Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 4 minutes

- In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, mustard, harissa, and miso. Add to the skillet along with the shiitake, capers and stock (raisins if using).

- Simmer over low heat until thickened, about 4-5 minutes.  

Fennel and Fontina Risotto

I love fennel and anything fennel flavored.  I was committed to making this fennel risotto before we had even decided what the rest of the meal would entail.  Luckily, it was a great compliment to the strip steaks and mushroom ragout.  I was afraid it might end up a little bland, especially with the stronger flavors of the rest of the meal, but the fennel flavor really comes through, enhanced by the fontina and the dish stood out on its own.

You can also watch Jason plating the risotto with his new ring molds here

For the recipe follow the link

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oat Soda Bread

I did it!  I actually baked something!  I came across this recipe at 101 Cookbooks and in conjunction with In Jennie's Kitchen I came up with a recipe and method to make this bread. 

I liked the idea of using oat flour, which I made easily from scratch.  Just take rolled oats, pulse a couple of times in the food processor and then process for about 2 minutes.  The conversion factor is 1-to-1, 1 cup rolled oats equals 1 cup oat flour.  What really caught my eye was the sprinkling of seeds on top of the bread before baking. 

I'm enjoying my last couple of days of freedom before 3 days of CPS test proctoring followed by a return to school, so I decided to take advantage of my free time!  The bread was very dense and pretty yummy served with some butter.


7 oz rolled oats (or 7 oz oat flour if you have it on hand)
10 oz unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt
2 cups buttermilk, plus 2 Tbsp for brushing
2 Tbsp mixed seeds - I used carraway, sesame and flax

--Preheat oven to 400

--Butter a 9x5x3 baking pan and line with parchment paper

--To make the oat flour, add oats to food processor and pulse a few times.  Then process for about 2 minutes until you have a fine powder

--Sift both of the flours, the salt and baking soda into a large bowl and whisk to combine

--Add the buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until everything comes together

--Lay the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute

--Deposit the dough into the baking pan and brush all over with the extra buttermilk

--Sprinkle the bread with the seeds and with a knife make a few cuts across the top of the bread

--On the middle rack, bake the bread for about 27 minutes.  Then, moving quickly, move the rack and bread to the second to top rack and bake for another 18 minutes.

--Remove the bread from the oven and pan, and let cool on a wire rack for about an hour

Borlotti Bean and Farro Soup

Shopping with my mom at a west suburban Italian grocery store I came across a treat, fresh borlotti beans!  I talked about the dried version here and my husband's new found obsession with them.  Finding them fresh was quite a treat and I gave them to Jason as a present!

As you can see the borlotti pods and beans, also known as cranberry beans or roman beans are a beautiful mottled cranberry red and off-white color.  They have a slightly nutty flavor which works great with the nuttiness of the farro.

Browsing at Crate & Barrel the other day I saw a recipe for a borlotti bean and farro soup in a tuscan cook book which inspired this dish.  I did some online searching and created a hybrid of recipes I saw along with the availability of what was in my fridge at the time, which included the fresh borlotti beans!

If you do not have fresh borlotti beans, you can always use dried beans.  Soak them overnight and then simmer for an 1 - 1 1/2 hours until tender.  You may have to adjust some of the cooking times in this recipe, I feel like the fresh beans took a little longer to tenderize during the first part of this recipe, than if I had used cooked dried beans.  However, as with most soup recipes, times and quantities are approximate, adjust as you see fit!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Venison Ragu with Polenta

We were lucky enough to be given a pound of ground venison from a co-worker of Jason's.  After some deliberation we decided to try out a ragu served over polenta.  The ragu took much longer to cook than I had expected!  I tried to have the dish ready by the time Jason got home after 8:00pm and it still wasn't ready.  We had to leave the pot simmering very low and run to the local bar for a burger for dinner!

Luckily, the ragu finally came together and we had the pleasure of inviting a few friends over the following evening to test out the recipe.  I must admit I was quite proud of myself with this one!  The ragu was really delicious, and I usually do not cook the meat in our house.  I also finally got the polenta cooked properly, something I have struggled with!  Ground beef could be substituted for the venison.


1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 clove garlic minced
1-2 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 lb ground venison
1/2 cup red wine
1 bay leaf
1 can (14 oz) crushed roma tomatoes
3 oz cremini mushrooms sliced

2 tsp salt
7 cups water
scant 2 cups polenta (not instant)

--Ragu:  in a heavy bottomed pot (le creuset ideally) heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, season with a little salt and pepper and saute 15 minutes

--Add the venison and rosemary, and break up the venison with a wooden spoon to distribute the meat throughout the pot

--Raise heat to high and stir well, cooking until meat is browned

--Add the wine and cook until alcohol is evaporated (I go by smell)

--Add 1 1/2cups water and bay leaf and bring to a boil

--Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer about 45 minutes

--Add the tomatoes, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook over low heat until the sauce starts to become integrated. 

**This took a couple of hours over low heat but I was not using the ideal heavy bottomed pot.  I let the sauce go for quite awhile, letting the vegetables break down and waiting for the liquid to acquire a reddish-brownish tint.  I let the ragu cool and put the pot in the fridge overnight

--TO REHEAT:  Put pot back on stove top, add a little more red wine and water and heat over med-low heat


--Bring 7 cups water and salt to a boil in a large pot

--Add the polenta slowly, whisking constantly

--Reduce the heat to medium for about 5 minutes, until the polenta begins to thicken, then reduce the heat to low

--Cook stirring almost constantly with a long handled wooden spoon until the polenta comes away easily from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes

--Add a couple of thin slices of butter to polenta and stir.  Season with salt and pepper

Serve ragu over a polenta with a nice salad on the side!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lentils, Celery & Caraway Beef Broth Soup

I wish I had a more creative name for this dish.  I've been dreaming about the flavor combination of celery and caraway ever since I made the lima bean soup with celery and caraway which obviously was the basis of my inspiration here.  But I had an overabundance of celery tops I had saved, tons of thyme, some spare carrots and a bit of leftover onion as well as some lentils I had cooked earlier in the week.  I decided to try to change it up by using beef broth which I had in the pantry.  I thought the lentil, beef and caraway might be a nice combination and while I can get overwhelmed by the flavor of thyme I thought it would really help round out the flavors.  So while this is a true kitchen sink soup, didn't leave the house to get anything, I think it turned out pretty well!


Approx. 2 stalks celery finely diced
1/4 red onion finely diced
1 medium carrot finely diced
0live oil
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (if you don't have pre-cooked you can rinse and add the lentils to the soup to cook)
hot sauce
red wine vinegar

--In a heavy bottom pot heat oil over medium and add the carrot, celery and onion with a bit of salt and pepper.  Saute about 10 minutes

--Add the garlic and caraway and saute another 10 minutes or so

--Turn the heat to high and add a splash of the beef broth to scrape up any bits that have formed on the bottom of the pot

--Add the rest of the beef broth, 1 cup water, 1 bay leaf, thyme sprigs and a couple splashes of hot sauce

--Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and add the lentils

--Let simmer for almost an hour, tasting and adjusting seasoning as you go.  Add more water if necessary.

--About halfway through I added some more hot sauce and a splash of red wine vinegar and a little Worcestershire at the end. 

--Pull out the bay leaf and thyme sprigs before serving

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas Eve

This year marked the 5th year that Jason and I have cooked Christmas Eve dinner.  I have to say, I think it was one of our best ever!  Instead of cooking at our house, dinner was served at my in-laws due to the ever increasing family!  More than anything, the meal seemed to be the most well-rounded and cohesive meal that we have served.  We started with a plated salad and then served everything else right at the table.  A couple of bottles of wine, great food and family, just what the holidays are all about!

We were sad not to spend the evening with my family who usually joins us at our place, but it gave my mom some extra time to prepare for the amazing beef tenderloin dinner she served us on Christmas day!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 and Emeril's Apple Slaw

What a wonderful  year 2010 turned out to be!  Capped off by great parties on New Years Eve and New Years day.  For the New Year Eve party the main course included pulled pork sandwiched with a whole variety of sides and snacks.  We brought the savory rosemary and parmesan madelines, cooked properly in the madeline pan I got Jason for Christmas! 

Our New Years Day hosts cooked up a giant ham, homemade macaroni and cheese and other savory treats.  At our hostess' request, I made the Apple Slaw that we had served at a holiday party we hosted a few years ago to compliment our ham.  I had forgotten how delicious and tangy and kind of unexpected the flavors of this slaw were.  I felt it was a little too heavy on the onion, so in this version I've reduced the onion a bit.