Creamy Beet Potato Gratin

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The combination of beets and potatoes have been a favorite ever since I had a creamy potato salad with beets in the Cayman Islands. I recreated this salad in a post last year.

This gratin shows off beets and potatoes both, baked in cream with cheese and a little rosemary. I think this would be a great side dish any time of year! And look how pink it turned out!

From the look of the print on this copied, cut and pasted recipe, I most likely got it from a library cookbook. When I couldn’t afford cookbooks I would check them out from the library and copy recipes I liked. I never thought to record the sources, sadly.

I’m so glad I finally made this gratin. It’s fabulous, and pretty!

Creamy Beet and Potato Gratin

3 pounds beets, unpeeled (I used 6)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes, unpeeled (I used 3)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup grated Gruyère
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup fine dried bread crumbs, preferably homemade

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the beets on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam until tender when pierced with a knife, 30-40 minutes. Remove from the rack and set aside. Steam the potatoes separately in the same way; they should also be tender in 20-30 minutes.

When the beets and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1/4” thick slices, still keeping them separated. A friend taught me how to remove beet peels using a paper towel years ago, and it works so well.

Select a gratin dish just large enough to hold three layers of the sliced vegetables. Grease it with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Arrange half of the beets on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the Parmesan and Gruyere, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Arrange all of the potatoes in a layer atop the beets. Sprinkle with half to the remaining cheeses, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Dot with 1 tablespoon of the butter.

Layer the remaining beet slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary.

In a vessel with a spout, combine the cream and milk and pour the mixture evenly over the top. Strew the bread crumbs over the surface and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

Place in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve hot or warm, scooping out portions with a spoon.

Pair this fabulous gratin with a roasted chicken, or shrimp skewers. Obviously, I roasted chicken.

What a fabulous combination. I think any grilled meat would be good, as well as white fish and shrimp.

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

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Back in May when my strawberry plants were thriving, I thought about what to do with the berries, besides gorge on them! (And share.) There’s nothing quite like that just-ripened strawberry, picked from its plant.

Then I remembered a milk shake my mother made, maybe in 1968 or 1969. We lived on Long Island, New York, at the time, and where we lived wasn’t populated. We had the Long Island Sound in the front, hills behind us, a lovely creek, and lots of green space.

My mother’s idol was Euell Gibbons back then, and she foraged everything. At the time I wasn’t fond of a lot that she foraged, like mushrooms and watercress, but I loved when the local strawberries were in full force. She picked these little strawberries and blended them with good vanilla ice cream.

These particular strawberries are what I’d tasted before in France, thanks to my mother. They have a strong perfume as well as a strawberry goodness and they’re called fraises des bois, or strawberries of the woods. Below is a photo I found online of these strawberries, on the left. I had some in my garden in the early days, but the larger, more common variety of strawberry has taken over, sadly. They spread easily.

After thinking about a strawberry shake, it was a given that I’d make strawberry ice cream with my berries. I pulled out my book The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz, published in 2007; there’s an updated version published in 2018. Sure enough, I found a perfect recipe using fresh strawberries. It’s even a little boozy!

I ended up not having enough from my garden, thanks to some pests and too much rain, so most of the strawberries I used for this recipe are store-bought. But they were good ones.

Here’s the author’s description of the ice cream recipe: Brilliant pink fresh strawberry ice cream is a classic flavor and, along with chocolate and vanilla, is an American favorite. I’m a big fan of any kind of berries served with tangy sour cream, but I think strawberries are the most delicious, especially when frozen into a soft, rosy red scoop of ice cream. Macerating the strawberries beforehand magically transforms even so-so berries into fruits that are brilliantly red. Try to eat this ice cream soon after it’s been churned.

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/4 quarts
printable recipe below

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vodka or kirsch (I used kirsch)*
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice the strawberries and toss them in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch, stirring until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.

Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but still slightly chunky.

Refrigerate for 1 hour then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

My Cuisinart ice cream maker has two bowls, which is handy. Especially if you’ve ever poured too much into one!

The ice cream is good. You can taste a little zing from the sour cream. But I think I prefer a full fat ice cream; all heavy cream.

The other thing is…. I think I’d prefer a fresh strawberry shake. What I didn’t like in the ice cream was the frozen strawberry bits. They were icy and cold to eat.

And I don’t freeze my ice cream hard. I like it on the softer side and creamy.

So I learned a lesson here. Overall it’s a great recipe, but one I won’t repeat. My mother had the right idea using the fraises des bois in a milk shake!

*If you don’t want alcohol in your ice cream, a tablespoon of grenadine would be nice, and pretty!

 

 

 

A Seasonal Risotto

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I love making dishes that I can add stuff to, like pancakes, yeasted breads, risottos, mashed potatoes… well I guess just about any home-cooked dish! It’s one thing I enjoy and am good at. I didn’t learn creativity in culinary school, since I didn’t attend any cooking school ever. It actually comes from being financially strapped and never wanting to waste anything. Got a carrot? Juice it and put it in a soup, grate it and put it in a meat loaf, purée it and add to potato mash… and so forth.

But also, since I grew up experiencing various cuisines, I figured out that it’s easy to be creative by turning any random dish into an inspired-by cuisine. Take a potato soup, for example. Add chorizo, chipotle, and fresh cilantro and you’ve got a Southwestern-inspired soup. Use ricotta in the potato soup and top it with a spoonful of basil pesto, and you’ve got an Italian-inspired soup. And so forth. Every week you can make a “different” potato soup!

So that’s how I have fun in my kitchen, when I’m not following specific recipes.

Which brings me to risotto. I was looking over old blog posts a while back, and I came upon my Paprika Cream Risotto. It’s just a “plain” risotto with the addition of paprika cream. Simple, yet fabulous. The photos could be updated, of course, but what caught my attention were my own notes on suggestions of seasonal risottos.

Spring: Lemony goat cheese risotto with salmon, peas, and basil

Summer: Tomato and tomatillo risotto with chorizo and cilantro

Fall: Brussels sprouts risotto topped with grilled sausages

Winter: Smoked gouda risotto topped with short ribs and pickled onions

Damn. Those are great ideas! The Italian purists wouldn’t appreciate these recipes, but I have no problem with this kind of inspired cooking. Especially when the outcome is so wonderful!

I decided to start with the spring version, cause it’s spring! Now, this combination isn’t unique for springtime flavors, but they are really good together! Begin with the salmon, then keep the filets warm while you prepare the risotto, then put the final dish together.

After receiving a gift of a variety of fish from my daughter at Christmas from Sitka Salmon Shares, it has become my source for fish; their salmon is perfection.

Easy Sautéed Salmon Filets
Serves 2

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 salmon filets, not steaks
Salt
Finely ground pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let it brown slightly.

Season the flesh sides of the filets, then place the filets in the skillet, flesh side up. Cook for about 2 minutes, then gently flip over.

Lower the heat slightly and cook the skin-up filets for a about 4 minutes. At this point you can easily remove the skins using a thin spatula.

Turn them over for one last time so the fish cooks under the skin more, about 2-3 minutes over the lowest heat. Place them on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm, then prepare risotto.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas
Generously serves 2

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Riesling or other non-dry white
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 or 4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 cup prepared green peas (or sliced steamed asparagus if you prefer)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shallots and sauté for about 4-5 minutes; don’t allow much caramelization.

Add the rice to the pot and stir it around in the butter and shallots until all the grains are coated. Pour in the white wine. Stir as the rice cooks in the wine and it gradually gets absorbed.

Without letting the pot go completely dry, add some of the broth, about 1/3 cup at a time, and repeat the stirring process, without allowing any burning or sticking. Turn down the heat if you think the rice is cooking too fast; it’s always best to go slower. You can see the risotto is cooking but not ready quite yet.

When you’re down to the end of the broth, turn off the heat and gradually fold in 3 ounces of goat cheese until well distributed.

Add the salt and white pepper and taste for seasoning. If you’re satisfied, gently add the peas, lemon juice and zest, cover the pot, and set it aside.

Lemony Goat Cheese Risotto with Peas Served with Salmon

2 tablespoons goat cheese, at room temperature
Lemon zest from 1 lemon
A chiffonade of basil leaves

Strain the reserved butter in the skillet into a small bowl. There should be at least 1 tablespoon of melted browned butter. Add the 2 tablespoons of goat cheese into the butter by gently whisking until smooth. If you don’t like this idea, just put a small dollop of soft goat cheese on each filet before serving.

To serve, divide the risotto into two pasta bowls. Top each serving with a salmon filet. Divide the goat cheese-butter mixture between the filets.

Divide the lemon zest between both servings, and finish with the basil chiffonade.

I loved the goat cheese, lemon, and basil flavors together!

If you’re not familiar with the term salmon “filet,” here are photos of the two most common individual cuts – the thinner filet, and the thicker steak. Filets can be trimmed so their thickness is uniform. Save the scraps!

Thanks to Cooks Illustrated for these photos!

Walnut Cream Gnocchi

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Years ago my husband and I vacationed in Italy, visiting Lake Como, Venice, Verona, the Dolomites, Varenna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Umbria, Siena, and Rome, plus delightful villages in between. One day we had lunch in the beautiful and historically fascinating city of Siena. I remember it like it was yesterday – not only the city but also my lunch.


We had walked away from the touristy part of town, and discovered a restaurant-filled alley. We checked out posted menus, and finally just picked one eeny-meeny-miney-mo style. Honestly all of the restaurants had fabulous menus.

I ordered gnocchi with a walnut cream sauce, which could definitely be my last meal on earth if I had a choice in the matter. The gnocchi were bite-sized pillows – just what you’d expect in Tuscany. But the walnut cream sauce was heavenly.

I took before and after photos of my lunch, and fortunately, have never deleted them from my computer. They’ve been a constant reminder to try and duplicate the sauce. And yes, I left one gnocchi just to not feel piggy! But seriously, look at that serving?!

Once home, I pondered the different ways you can make a walnut cream sauce. It really depends how thick or thin you want it; one of my options was to make a walnut bechamel, but I chose to make a somewhat thinner sauce.

To keep it simple, I used gnocchi from the store. This is a fabulous product.

So here is my recipe for gnocchi in a simple walnut cream sauce, subtly infused with garlic. The prepared gnocchi can be served tossed in the sauce, with grated Parmesan passed around, or baked with the sauce and cheese first. Your choice!

Walnut Cream Sauce for Gnocchi
serves 2 or 4

6 ounces walnuts
12 ounces heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
4 ounces unsalted butter or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
16 ounces gnocchi
Grated Parmesan

Toast the walnuts in a heavy skillet just until lightly browned. Let cool. I try to avoid the nut dust after toasting them.

Combine the walnuts and the cream in the blender jar. Process until smooth. You can see how thick the walnut cream becomes.

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees F if you’re going to bake the gnocchi. See * below. Prepare the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and gently warm it in the butter for a few minutes. Add the walnut cream to the garlic butter and whisk until combined.

* Fold in the prepared gnocchi gently, making sure they are all coated with the cream. Add the salt and taste. Once heated through, place them in a serving dish.

At this point the gnocchi can be enjoyed as is, with grated Parmesan passed around. This is how I had it in Siena.

For the baked version, pour the walnut-cream covered gnocchi into a buttered baking dish, and generously top with Parmesan.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until there’s some bubbling and browning. The baking dish could alternatively be placed under the broiler for a few minutes prior to serving.

I have to add that this isn’t the prettiest sauce in the world. The walnuts make the cream a bit off in color, but it’s so good I’m not sure anyone would care.

I also think some panko bread crumbs could be used on top for a little crunch, but next time…

Since creating this recipe, I’ve repeated it for company using 3 pounds of gnocchi, and for the sauce used 16 ounces of walnuts and 1 quart (32 ounces) of cream. It worked out perfectly, so I don’t think the nut-to-cream ratio is that critical.

This recipe is so good, and I’m stating that even though I “created“ it. Duplicating delicious meals, especially from traveling, is always fun.

Both versions, the baked and non-baked are fabulous. If you want to taste most closely what I had in Siena, don’t bake the gnocchi!

Fettuccine al Burro

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I didn’t grow up with Italian cuisine, which is interesting, considering my French mother cooked various global cuisines over the years, like Ethiopian and Chinese, as well as French. Somehow, Italian got overlooked.

It could have been on purpose now that I think of it. Her first husband, my father, was from Sicily. That marriage didn’t end well.

Fortunately, thanks to the comprehensive Time-Life Foods of the world set of cookbooks that my mother gave me when I got married, I gradually learned about the world of Italian cuisine.

My exploration taught me quickly that the cuisine was not anything like Americanized Italian food that I’d experienced at “bad” Italian restaurants.

Creating Osso Buco and Scaloppine al Marsala, and discovering pesto, were revelations. But one recipe really stood out in “The Cooking of Italy” cookbook, and that was Fettuccine al Burro.

It was and is still for me one of those “to die for” recipes. Practically equal parts butter, cream and cheese melted into fettuccine. What’s not to love?

This recipe is probably what’s better known as Alfredo sauce, but I’ll always call it by the name I first learned, which translates to fettuccine in butter.

Fettuccine al Burro
Egg Noodles with Butter and Cheese
Slightly adapted

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream, plus a little more
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces fettuccine
1 canned white truffle, sliced very thin, optional
Extra freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoons at a time, beat in 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Set aside.

Bring the water and salt to a bubbling boil in a large soup pot. Drop in the fettuccine and stir it gently with a wooden fork for a few moments to prevent the strands from sticking to one another.

Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally until the pasta is tender. Use the package instructions for guidance.

Immediately drain the fettuccine into a colander then transfer it at once to the bowl the toss until every strand is well coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper. I use white pepper.

Stir in the optional truffle, if using. I know for a fact that 30+ years ago I never used truffles because I was pretty confused as to why one would put chocolate in pasta!!! I also could never have afforded them…

Serve the fettuccine at once.


Pass the extra grated cheese in a separate bowl.

If the fettuccine dries up a little before serving, add a little more cream, cover the bowl, and let the pasta sit.

Some day it would be fun to add some lovely slices of white truffle to this pasta, but it’s certainly rich and satisfying as is.

note: I typically buy a 4-5 pound chunk of Parmesan Reggiano at Whole Foods and store it for when I need to freshly grate some. For some odd reason, this really irks them, and I have no idea why. But how people can be happy with little 3 ounces plastic-wrapped chunks of Parmesan that are obviously cut along the rind is beyond me. So I break down my large chunk when I get home, store it in cheese bags, and grate as needed.

I love this gadget that I got at Amazon, of course, and it’s easier on the hands than a traditional grater. It’s a manual rotary cheese grater with 3 different graters. Just FYI.

Risotto with Pork Shanks

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On the last season of Masterchef US, season 10, the 4th runner up went home. His name is Noah Sims and he was a favorite. What sent him home was a risotto topped with venison loin. The venison was overcooked, unfortunately for him, but what sent him home was a profound learning experience to me.

Risotto is a dish. It is a meal. It can be enhanced with an endless number of ingredients, from mushrooms to tomatoes and squash, and seasoned accordingly. It also can be served with protein of just about any kind, for a more involved meal. However, the protein is a separate dish from the risotto.

So, you have risotto, and the added protein, and according to Joe Bastianich, the son of Italian cuisine expert Lidia Bastianich, something has to tie them together. Otherwise it’s like serving a chili dog on a plate of cacio de pepe. (not his quote.) Two completely different dishes.

What Mr. Bastianich suggested was that if Noah had been able to prepare a venison stock to use in the risotto, the overall meal would have worked.

I found this to be quite revelatory. Because although my husband doesn’t mind, I’ve put just about any kind of meat or seafood over his risotto. Now, they have to “go” together. Now I know.

So I created this risotto dish topped with braised pork chops in order to use pork broth in the risotto. Start in the morning, and don’t plan on serving the dish until the next day.

Braised Pork Shanks
4 servings

4 – 1 1/2 pound Berkshire pork shanks
Salt
Pepper
Grapeseed oil, about 1/4 cup total
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Parsley
Bay leaves
Rosemary branch
Thyme branch
Sprig of sage

Begin by coating the pork with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy cast-iron pot over high heat. Brown the tops and bottoms of all four shanks, one at a time.

After browning, place the shanks in a large, deep and heavy pot, like a Le Creuset; set aside.

Turn down the heat under the pot to medium. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring up all of that meaty goodness.

Stir in the garlic for a minute, then add the wine and broth.

Add all of the herbs to the pot with the broth. Heat up the liquid in the pot, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot well and cook for 30 more minutes.

Let the liquid cool enough to handle the pot, then strain the liquid through a fine colander into the pot with the shanks. Add more wine or broth if necessary. The meat should just be covered.

At this point you can check the seasoning. The broth should be rich with flavor.

Place the pot over a medium-high heat and simmer the shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the shanks over halfway through cooking.

When you’re ready to collect the pork broth and proceed with the risotto, remove the shanks and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Taste the broth. If it’s watery, spend at least 30-45 minutes reducing it. Store it in a pourable pot, then make the risotto (recipe below).

 

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Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

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My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

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The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.

Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.

I really love my concocted dish!


And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

Spaghetti Bolognese

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This post came about in a funny way. My virtual food blogger sister-friend Linda Duffin, of the impressive blog Mrs. Portly’s Kitchen and I were commenting back and forth one day discussing the cooking of our mothers.

Linda wrote, “And don’t get me started on her spag bol.” Now, Linda is British, and I’ve spent many months-worth of time in the UK, or whatever it’s called now, and I have always tried local specialties in the various countries, whether Cullen Skink, Bedfordshire Clanger or, my favorite – Spotted Dick. But I’d never heard of Spag Bol.

Linda, probably thinking I’m an unsophisticated daftie, explained that spag bol was simply short for Spaghetti Bolognese. Of course.

Which then got me thinking that I’ve never made spaghetti bolognese in all of my years cooking. The cookbook I immediately grabbed, was Giuliani Buglialli’s Buglialli on Pasta, published in 1988.

Buglialli is so strictly Italian, and he’s so familiar with Italy’s regional cooking, that I knew he would be the proper resource. When I call him strict, I’m not kidding. He practically yells at you from the pages of his cookbooks if you dare grab a chunk of Parmesan.

“One should not indiscriminately sprinkle Parmigiano over everything if all dishes are not to melt into an unappealing sameness.”

On his research in studying and documenting authentic Italian recipes: “Arriving at an authentic version of a recipe with a long tradition requires work. The dish as prepared at one regional restaurant or by one family from an area is not necessarily an authentic version of that region’s preparation. It is important to compare many different sources, printed and oral, especially the oldest available ones. But let us not forget that even some Italian grandmothers are poor cooks.”

I find him really entertaining, and I love his passion. And there it was, in the cookbook, Tagliatelle al Ragu alla Bolognese.

“The famous Bolognese ragu is one of several meat sauces and the most popular. Its distinctive features are the sautéing of the meat together with the aromatic chopped vegetables, the omission of garlic, the combination of snipped, chopped, or ground beef and pork, the use of white rather than red wine, and the use of heavy cream.”

Furthermore: “I should like to remind once again that pasta with meat sauce is not automatically alla bolognese. Only those pastas specifically using a Bolognese meat sauce are such; the many employing such sauces from other regions would never be considered alla bolognese.”

I looked online for any recent information on Buglialli, and did find his website, called Buglialli Foods of Italy, and under his cooking courses, held at his farmhouse in Tuscany, none are listed beyond 2015. If he is still alive, it’s estimated that Buglialli is approximately 80 years old. Seems like his date of birth was always kept a secret.

Ragu Alla Bolognese
printable recipe below

1 medium-sized red onion, peeled
1 medium-sized carrot, scraped
1 large stalk celery
3 ounces pancetta, cut into cubes
6 ounces lean boneless beef, in cubes
6 ounces boneless pork, in cubes
4 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ripe, fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup lukewarm beef broth
3/4 cup heavy cream

Finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.

Coarsely grind the pancetta, beef, and pork all together in a meat grinder. (I used my food processor.)

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy, flameproof casserole over medium heat. When the oil mixture is warm, add the chopped vegetables and ground meats, and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Pass the tomatoes through a food mill, using the disc with smallest holes, into a glass bowl.

Add the wine to the casserole and let it evaporate for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Then add the broth. Cover the casserole and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon.

Add the cream, mix very well, lower the heat, and reduce for 20 minutes; for the last 5 minutes, remove the lid.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let rest until cool, about 1 hour.

Tagliatelle Al Ragu Alla Bolognese, from Bologna

Cook the pasta according to package directions, although Buglialli suggests fresh tagliatelle. (I used pappardelle.)

Place 4 tablespoons of sweet butter in serving bowl; add a little boiling water to melt the butter.

When ready, drain the pasta, transfer to the serving bowl, and mix well with the melted butter.

Pour the sauce all over, mix and serve immediately.

Pass freshly grated Parmigiano cheese at the table.

This ragu is fabulous. If you close your eyes, it’s like you’re eating blended lasagna!

My only regret is not making a quadruple batch of this luscious sauce.

 

Lime Ice Cream

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When it comes to home cooking, I rarely make the same thing twice, let alone multiple times. It’s just how I roll, thus my motto, “so much food, so little time!” There’s just too much out there to try!

But this ice cream is one major exception. I’ve been making it for years. My kids always got mad that I wasn’t making chocolate ice cream when they were little, but instead one lime-flavored. However, they loved it, too!

Here’s the recipe I cut out of a magazine so many years ago.

One doesn’t expect lime ice cream, perhaps a sorbet instead. So it’s unique in that sense. Hope you like it as much as we do!

Lime Ice Cream

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup filtered water
Zest from 5 limes
Juice from 5 limes, about 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
2 c superfine sugar
Pinch of salt

Pour the cream and water into a large blender jar. Add the zest and lime juice.

Add the sugar and salt, and give it a good blend.

Place the blender jar in the refrigerator and leave it there overnight. You really want to get the limey flavor dispersed into the cream.

When it’s time to make the ice cream, follow the directions for your machine.

Freeze the container until ready to serve.

I love to serve this ice cream with piroline cookies.

lime3

If you love lime, you will adore this ice cream!

It’s limey, but it’s also creamy. Fabulous!

This ice cream is perfect after a Mexican meal, or a traditional summer barbecue.

And just in case you’re still thinking this is not a creamy ice cream, take a look at this!