Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pizza Sauce and Mom stories

Mom just got back from an accidentally extended trip to China after she decided to visit Macau on a whim, despite the fact her visa only allowed her one entry to China. Needless to say, the strict Chinese border guards wouldn't let her back into the country, so she missed her flight home last Tuesday.

Eventually, China gave her a new visa and let her back in, but not after she and her friend Shirley ran out of money, which is kind of a sin in one of the gambling capitals of the world. Maybe they really needed that little respite, though. After all, Shirley had just married off her daughter and had been running around during her whole "vacation."

So when they got back to Guangzhou, it was their first chance to really relax during their time there. Which meant they did Mom's favorite thing: They went out to dinner. But although Mom at first acted like she was complaining about going out to eat those last couple of nights, then she said:

"Well, it's not like here," she said. "We had fish head, and you know, the tubes inside the chicken." Um, no, I don't actually. Because they're chicken intestines, which to my Americanized palate makes Chicken Gizzards seem as tame as chicken breasts.

But I'm excited she got to go back to her homeland after so many years. Even if it was a bit horrifying in the end and it's unlikely she will ever return, at least she was able to enjoy the extra time she had there.

All of her talk made me feel extra guilty for making such a boring pizza this weekend, but I'll still share the delicious sauce I made.

Pizza Sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 14.5-oz. cans Italian Recipe Stewed Tomatoes
1/4 c. basil, chopped chiffonade
1/2 t. kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a wide saucepan. Add onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes for last minute. Add tomatoes and simmer for about 30 minutes, uncovered.

Let cool for about 5 minutes, then pulse in a food processor to desired consistency. I like mine still a bit chunky. Add basil and salt, then spoon onto pizza before serving. This is the perfect amount for a 16-inch pizza.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A healthier version of Pasta Carbonara

One of my favorite dishes to whip up in a jiffy is Pasta Carbonara, so when I saw Food & Wine's Spinach Pasta Carbonara recipe, I knew I had to give it a try.

Naturally, I didn't follow the directions quite to a T. Two egg yolks seemed like a bit much, so I used the one egg that the recipe I usually follow calls for, and rather than ruining the recipe I think that I quite perfected it. Here's my rendition:

Spinach Pasta Carbonara
8 oz. spinach-chive linguine from Trader Joe's (or any other spinach pasta)
6 slices bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. dry white wine
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 head spinach leaves, stems removed and rinsed well (or a 5-oz. bag of spinach)

Cook bacon over medium-high heat until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and stir rapidly for about 30 seconds, then add wine and allow to simmer for about 1 minute. Turn heat off burner and let bacon sit there.

Break egg into a large bowl and lightly beat; add parmesan and black pepper and mix well.

Cook pasta according to package directions. In last minute of cooking, add spinach. Drain pasta and spinach, then add to bowl with egg and parmesan cheese and toss rapidly to spread mixture evenly. Turn pan with bacon into the bowl, and continue stirring until everything is well mixed. Serve immediately while it's still warm.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin is always tender

Since the Thai Red-Curry Squash Soup I made over the weekend provides enough to feed an army - or at least a sizable Thanksgiving gathering - I've been having to make Asiany food to go with it for days.

But last night I didn't know if I was going to be around to cook, so I knew I had to prepare something that was relatively easy and also difficult to screw up. Not that I don't have the utmost confidence in Bryan's cooking ability, but he is a bit out of practice, and for that I am entirely to blame.

Easy solution for the night: The always tender pork tenderloin, especially easy since we have a meat thermometer that beeps quite alarmingly when your meat gets to the desired temperature. Better yet, even without the thermometer, it would be hard to overcook this pork tenderloin.

Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin
2 lbs. pork tenderloin
5 T. soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ginger, minced
1 T. sesame oil
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 t. garlic-chili sauce

Mix soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, brown sugar, pepper and chili sauce in a zip-top bag (or do it Mom's thriftier way and use a grocery store produce bag and just be very, very careful) and marinate overnight, turning frequently.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, discard marinade and place the tenderloin in a glass pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 155 degrees. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes (temperature should rise beyond the safety threshold of 160 degrees), then cut into 1/2-inch slices and serve with the pan drippings.

(I served mine with rice and a head of lacinto kale, sliced in 1/2-inch ribbons and sauteed at high heat for a couple of minutes in 2 T. bacon grease with 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 t. kosher salt. Next time, I think I'll add 1-2 T. of oyster sauce. I'll let you know how it turns out!)

Monday, October 25, 2010

And Thanksgiving planning has begun

I might have had a bit too much fun at Oktoberfest because last week I got hit with my first major cold of the season. For most of the week, I was pretty much worthless in the kitchen, although I did manage to make my favorite Big Apple Pancake with hash browns and bacon when my appetite finally began to return.

But even without an appetite, I still wanted to cook so badly that I spent possibly hours scouring November's edition of Food & Wine, and I even woke up early one morning to plan Thanksgiving. I know it's a bit early, but I thought a little forward thinking would give me time to give a few of the dishes a test drive this year.

I was particularly intrigued by the Asian-American Thanksgiving feast from chef Joanne Chang, whose Pan-Asian flavors might appeal a bit more to my Asian relatives than the more traditional Thanksgiving recipes. But one look (it was actually more like six) at the Soy-Sauce-and-Honey-Glazed Turkey and I knew that I would have to be a much more advanced cook to pull that off with a home full of people.

Instead, I think we're going to stick with the brining theme with this Pimenton-Brined Turkey, because it both shortens the cooking time and diminishes the need for frequent basting, which is just more realistic for me. The accompanying side dishes: Smoky Chorizo Stuffing; and Creamed Haricot Vert and Corn Casserole.

Not that I've completely ruled out the Asian-American Thanksgiving, especially after my delicious success last night with its Thai Red-Curry Squash Soup (pictured above with Creamy Chicken-and-Mushroom Fricassee). Considering how much my family loved the last Roasted Butternut Squash soup I made them, this curry-coconut soup that's smooth like butter would definitely be just as much of a hit.

And, of course, there's always next year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The no-fail Spinach Lasagna

We thought about inviting some friends over on Friday night to enjoy our favorite lasagna, but then we decided we wanted it all for ourselves. Selfish, I know, but the first batch of the cold season just tastes so good!

I got this recipe back in 2003 from the Tri-City Herald's Recipe of the Week e-mail and have been making it since. I've even made it with fresh noodles, which was amazing, but this time I used the cookless noodles, which turned out fabulous and was so much easier to put together. The more even your spinach-ricotta cheese mixture it, the better the lasagna tastes, and it's just so much easier to spread it on those uncooked noodles.

Spinach Lasagna

3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. Italian sausage
2 28-oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Spinach filling:
2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3/4 c. ricotta cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg

To finish:
16-oz. package lasagna noodles
8 oz. goat cheese
8-10 oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

For Sauce:
Cook onion and garlic in oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes in a stock pot. Crumble sausage in skillet and cook until done. Pulse tomatoes in a food processor and add to pot, or add them whole and crush them using a wooden spoon. Grind together pepper flakes and fennel, then add with bay leaf, salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper). Simmer for 45 minutes. When sauce loses its watery quality, stir in cheese. Correct seasonings; remove bay leaf and discard.

For Spinach Filling:
Squeeze spinach dry (cheesecloth works best). Add cheeses and eggs. Add salt, pepper (again, about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper) and nutmeg. Refrigerate until needed.

To finish:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan with olive oil, then begin layering, first with coating of sauce, then noodles, then spinach mixture, then dot with goat cheese. Sprinkle with 1/3 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat twice; top with a little more sauce and Parmesan cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Just throwing together Squash Ravioli

Before we took off for Leavenworth, I had a 1-lb. delicata squash I had to get rid of and so I decided to just throw together some ravioli. Obviously, it had been awhile since I'd last made ravioli, because it's not just something one throws together. Bryan had forgotten how much work it was, too, because when he got home from the gym and saw that a tornado had hit the kitchen, he asked a bit apologetically whether he could help. Little late for that!

But as much work as squash ravioli is, it's always worth it. I usually base my recipe off this Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, which believe it or not is the creation of a tiny Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer named Kari Brunson who is pictured here in a stockpot. How cute is that?

I was able to make 64 2-inch raviolis with this recipe, using my awesome VillaWare Ravioli Maker from Chelsea that she thought I'd only use once then decide it wasn't worth the work.

Delicata Squash Ravioli
1-lb. delicata squash
1-1/4 lb. fresh egg pasta
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves

Cut squash in half, discard seeds and cook skin side down in an oven preheated to 350 degrees until tender, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool

Prepare the pasta, which I wouldn't suggest doing unless you have a KitchenAid with a Pasta Roller Set, but I'm only saying that because it's the only way I've ever done it.

Heat the olive oil, then add the shallots and garlic and stir until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

After the delicata has cooled, scoop out the flesh into a food processor, add the cooled shallots and garlic, cheese, egg and spices, and blend until smooth.

Assemble raviolis, then cook in simmering water for about 7-9 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pasta. You can also freeze them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper for later use.

(I usually serve these with Kari's Brown Butter, which is awesome. Her exact filling also comes highly recommended, which makes a bit too much for 1-1/4 lb. of pasta dough, but works great for lasagna. I admit, though, I haven't yet tried this recipe with the won ton wrappers - I'm afraid it would be so easy that I would never make real raviolis again!)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Alright, I realize I've been a bit of a slacker with this blog lately, but I've actually been busy trying to make money blogging, and to do that with Ruining Mom's Recipes, I'd have to actually include some of Mom's recipes.

Well, that's not the real excuse, although I am well aware that I haven't actually been including enough of Mom's recipes. But that's much easier said than done, and to those of you to whom Mom is dear, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Please bear with me, and there will be more to come, I promise!

In the meantime, my real excuse for the extreme slacking is that I've been busy planning my birthday party trip to Leavenworth Oktoberfest, which actually reminded me a lot more of the real Oktoberfest in Munich than I ever would have imagined. The Oktoberfest Bier tasted like the real thing and the gebrannte Mandeln (sugar-roasted almonds) really took me back to all of the outdoor festivals I visited while in Germany.

But I got my biggest dose of Munich before Oktoberfest even started when Bryan, Nicole, Dan and I went to Andreas Keller in downtown Leavenworth and I found one of my favorite dishes on the menu that I haven't had for a decade: Leberkase, which is basically Bavarian meatloaf, but tastes more like a giant piece of delicious fried bologna. Sounds gross, but trust me, the stuff is marvelous.

I also was drooling over Bryan's dish, Sahne Schnitzel, which was similar to one of my favorites that my host mom used to make. Only difference was that Bryan's featured the always beloved Schnitzel, whereas my host mom usually served cut-up pork with the Spaetzle and the same delicious cream sauce. And now the hunt begins for the Sahne sauce recipe ...