Friday, August 19, 2011

Roasting vegetables

Sometimes the cauliflower at the market is just too beautiful to be ignored. Huge heads with tight flowerets – so bright white.  It captures my attention and even though I was not thinking of cooking cauliflower – I change my mind. I get inspired.

That happened yesterday, at the family-owned produce market just a couple blocks from my house. It was the rock bottom price that caught my attention. The wonderful cauliflower rewarded my decision.
It’s simple to roast vegetables.  Turn your oven to its hottest setting. Then clean and trim your vegetables, but don’t cut them too small or thin. Toss everything with a crushed garlic/bay leaf/olive oil mixture. (Not too much, you are not frying things…) Add salt and pepper.
I like to use a very heavy pan that is large enough to hold everything with some room left over – and also heavy enough so that it will distribute the heat evenly. A simple aluminum pan may be problematic – but you can deal with that with more attention…
Put your oil/herb-covered vegetables into the HOT oven and let them roast. Stir/toss them every 20 minutes or so (more frequently if your quantity is small). Keep an eye on it.  I say – let ‘em roast a little longer than you may think is right. Get that braised char on the vegetables.
Plate beautifully, maybe add more salt and pepper – then enjoy your roasted vegetables.
These days cauliflower is in season, but this works for every firm vegetable, and even soft ones like zucchini. Go for it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American Style Lasagna

Let me be perfectly clear: I love Brazilian cuisine. A good moqueca, an amazing pudim, BBQ’d  liver – all of it. Yum.

But nasty knock-offs (compared to my experience)? … no thank you.
In this case I am referring to the Brazilian version of lasagna. It’s too slippery-creamy and has a layer of sliced ham. No, no, no.
Give me my momma’s lasagna any time (every time).
Here’s a recipe for a corn-fed US Midwestern lasagna that put the MAN in Manwich. Your Brazilian friends will be a bit confused at first, but it will win over the more open minded.
I recently made this in a small portion for just the two of us, so you may want to double things.

The sauce -
1 good size onion, chopped
several cloves of garlic, minced
300 grams ground meat (more or less)
some mushrooms (I find the dried varieties here of a better flavor than the jarred buttons)
fresh basil
a pouch of tomato sauce
3 fresh tomatoes
salt and pepper

The main event -
6 lasagna noodles
200 grms Ricotta cheese (smooth)
200 grms Mozzeralla cheese, grated
1oo grms Parmesan cheese, grated
one egg

Brown the ground meat (add some canola oil if things are too dry), add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is clear. Add the minced garlic and chopped mushrooms. Cook a bit. Then add the tomato sauce and simmer. You may want to add some water – a little bit – to give it enough liquid to evaporate but still be fluid.

I like to take the skin off the fresh tomatoes before adding them to the sauce. Do this by boiling a pot of water, add the fresh tomatoes to boiling water and par-boil them until the skin splits (maybe a minute longer). Then remove the tomatoes from the water, and plunge them into a bath of cold water. When it is safe to touch them, simply peel off the skin. Then core the tomatoes, chop ‘em up, and add them to your sauce.

Add your spices and let it simmer for as long as possible, one hour is good, but you can get away with just 20 minutes or so. Add water if things are getting too dense.

Now boil a pot of water for your noodles. The trick for a dry lasagna (not one that spills all over your plate) is to NOT fully cook your noodles. Just cook them for a couple minutes, let them remain firm and under-cooked. They will finish their cooking while surrounded by your sauce in the final product. It makes the noodles taste better (they absorb your sauce) and they will absorb the excess liquid that can sometimes make your lasagna runny.

Beat one egg into your ricotta cheese. This will also help hold everything together
Assemble your lasagna by placing about  ½ cup of your sauce in the bottom of the Pyrex you are using. Then a layer of noodles, then a layer of ricotta, then a layer of sauce, then a layer of mozzarella. Repeat this. Finish with a layer of sauce. Then on top sprinkle your grated parmesan cheese.

Put this wonderful creation into a hot oven - 375 degrees or so - for about 35 minutes. Watch that the top does not brown too much. But a little crisp is good.
Pull it out, let it set a few minutes, then please your family.

Note: I had a lot of extra sauce, which we will reuse for pasteis or  panqueca. No worries.

Corinne's Mango Bread

Hi everyone!

Blogger buddy and new friend Corinne (we finally got to meet in Rio!) has submitted a recipe for mango bread. Sounds interesting and doable! Here's what Corinne has to say about it:

Here is an easy quick bread recipe that does not require any fancy equipment.  I like it as is, but the ginger and cinnamon do make this more like a mango spice bread, so if that is not your thing, I would reduce the ginger to 1 tsp and the cinnamon to 1/2 tsp.

Fresh Mango Bread 
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 cups diced mango (from 1 large peeled and pitted mango) - it has always taken me 1 1/2 mangos
  • 3/4 cup moist, plump golden raisins
  • grated zest of half a lime
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees (180C). Spray an 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper (I just spray with non-cooking spray). Put the pan on an insulated baking sheet or on two rectangular baking sheets stacked one on top of the other. (The extra insulation will keep the bottom of the bread from burning.)
  2. Whisk the eggs and oil together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Rub the brown sugar between your palms into the bowl, breaking up any lumps, then stir it in. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, switch to a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, and mix until blended. The batter will be very thick, more like a dough than batter. Stir in the mango, raisins, and zest. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake the bread for 80 to 90 minutes, until it is golden brown and a wooden stick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If, after 50 to 60 minutes, the bread looks as if it’s getting too brown as it bakes, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before using the parchment paper to lift the bread out of the pan. Cool to room temperature.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Easy metric conversions

I found this site that has a super simple recipe metric conversion engine.  Weight, volume and temperature.

Bookmark it.  =8^)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Recipe Dump

So I've been cooking a ton lately, but none of the recipes have been mine, specifically, nor anything I've modified significantly enough to take pictures and type it all up on here. So I'm just going to share some links with you for what I've been making:

My sweetest friend Crystal introduced me to Big Girls Small Kitchen, who, in turn, inspired me with these recipes:

*A delicious roasted chicken that I mix with the Pioneer Woman's stuffing recipe. DELICIOUS. I make this about once a week now with a fresh frango caipira from the farmer's market -- so fresh I have to clean out the organs and throw away the head that comes stuffed inside. Intense.

*A chicken with snow peas and rice recipe, as well as a spicy beef salad recipe (which I modified a bit for lack of ingredients).

Those recipes got me on an Asian food kick, so I researched and then learned how to make pretty tempura using this video.

Then I made my own taco seasoning using this recipe. I did take a picture of that one:
Yeah, I'm obviously not a food blog photographer of any kind, but you can get an idea of the pretty colors. It was so tasty. Even better than the packaged stuff we have begged our families to send to us.

Alexandre and I bought a George Foreman grill, which has been super fun to experiment with. I covered some chicken breasts with that taco seasoning and grilled 'em up with some bell peppers. Yum.

Let's see...what else? Oh, there's the garlic and potato soup that's easily modifiable. I've added broccoli and taken out the pork, for example.

Then, of course, there's the tikka masala that Lindsey and I made from scratch, and the cream cheese frosting recipe that I halved and still managed to gorge myself on.

I hope something on this list helps you out. Let's all give a big thank you to my friend Crystal, who sends me 90% of the recipes I end up cooking.

What have you been cooking lately?