Thursday, March 26, 2009


While listening to a food blog during my workout the other day I heard about a bread similar to stromboli and decided to make some that night to go along with orecchiette primavera that I was making for dinner. I took a couple of recipes and used them as examples and then created my own version. I used a basic bread recipe:
2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
Proofed the dough until doubled, punched down and let rest for 10 minutes, then shaped into rectangle, which I let rest for 10 minutes before topping with:
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp dried basil
1/3 cup fresh chopped basil
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
Then I rolled the dough up jelly roll style, placed it onto a greased baking sheet and poked holes all over it with a meat fork, drizzled with 1 tbsp olive oil, topped with 2 tbsp rosemary, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. I baked it for 1 hour in a preheated oven at 400˚ and cooled it about 10 minutes before topping with 2 tbsp olive oil drizzled all over.
You need to let this cool for quite a while and resist temptation to eat it immediately because the dough will still be cooking on the counter top. Trust me, it's super good reheated or eaten at room temperature.
I would recommend using a more flavorful cheese, but I had mozzarella on hand so that's what I used. You can make all sorts of variations of this, using different herbs, spices and toppings.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Corning Beef

This year I decided to try making my own corned beef...that is, corning the beef brisket rather than purchasing a corned beef brisket. This way I was able to purchase a local, organic beef brisket to ensure the quality of the meat. So I set about searching for corning methods as usual, on various food websites. Most of the recipes are similar and super easy, but making your own corned beef does require advance can't do it today for tomorrow. I've had mine in the brine for several days and at that I probably got a late start. Tomorrow I'll slow cook the corned beef in my crockpot and the yummy smell will be in the house all day.

Here's the recipe I used--I mix my own pickling spices, but you can purchase pickling spices already mixed at the store as well. I used a 3-lb brisket but this brine is sufficient for up to 8 lbs of brisket.

For the brine:

Place the following ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar are dissolved in the mixture. Take off heat and cool before using.

6 cups water
2 cups amber beer
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pickling spices

Recipe for pickling spices:

1 t Allspice Berries
1 t Coriander Seeds
1 t Dill Seeds
1/2 t yellow Mustard Seed
1/2 t brown Mustard Seed
6 Whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon Stick
2-1" pieces Dried Ginger
1 Bay Leaf
1 t Black Peppercorns

Trim any excess fat off the brisket and pierce all over so that the brine will soak in better. Place brisket in a glass or plastic container and cover with brine. Weight down the brisket with a couple of plates so that it stays submerged and refrigerate. Ideally you want to brine the brisket for 10 days, but can do as few as 4. On the 4th, and 8th day remove the brisket from the brine and rinse it with water and then place it back into the brine. On the last day rinse the brisket before slow cooking. Brisket is a meat that is best served by slowly braising over a low temperature. A slow cooker is perfect. Just place the brisket and any desired vegetables in the pot and add a couple of cups of liquid (I'm using stout beer), cover and leave it for several hours. It should be fork tender when you get back to it. If you don't have a slow cooker or crockpot, you can achieve he same thing in a covered dutch oven or roasting pot in the oven at about 225° for about 6 hours.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lamb and Bean Soup

Working on my lamb recipes, while cleaning out my spice rack I came across a batch of dried bean and vegetable soup mix. So...I took out some lamb stew meat from the freezer and thawed that and then made the following soup. Tim swears it's one of my best soups ever, but he says that about all my soups now that I finally got the broth down to perfection.
1 lb cubed lamb or lamb stew meat
1/2 cup seasoned flour for dredging
olive oil
1 part dried bean soup mix to 8 parts liquid (I used a mixture of lamb broth and tomato water I reserved from thawing my tomatoes)
3 carrots cut into 1/2 inch slices
2 stalks celerey cut into 1/2 inch slices
1-2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 frozen tomatoes, thawed and skinned (or 1 can whole stewed tomatoes)
2-3 T ground cumin
2 T ground coriander
2 T ground chili powder
1 T ground cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup wine or sherry
lemon juice to finish
Optional: chopped greens to add just before finishing soup
Place a large stock pot or soup kettle over medium heat with a couple Tablespoons of olive oil.
Dredge the meat in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and then brown meat in the olive oil.
Set aside the meat and then add a couple more T olive oil to pan and saute onions, carrots and celerey until the onions are transluscent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1-2 more minutes. Add the spices EXCEPT salt and pepper and stir. Add the meat, tomatoes and the bean soup mixture into the pot, and stir, then add liquid. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours or until the beans are softened. Once the beans are soft, turn the heat back up to medium, wine and then salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 10 minutes, then add 2 T lemon juice and chopped greens, if desired. During the summer and fall when all the sauteeing greens are in abundance I chop and blanch them then drain them, cool them and freeze in plastic freezer bags. I then have local greens on hand all winter for adding to casseroles, soups and stews.
This soup is awesome the second, third and fourth day!
Serve with crusty french bread to soak up all the yummy broth.

Friday, March 6, 2009


It feels like spring now...I know, we haven't had high school basketball tournaments yet, so there's sure to be at least one more snowstorm...but it won't last long and soon the little bulbs will be poking up and the blossoms on the trees. For me, March is all about lamb. St. Paddy's day lamb and Guinness stew for sure, and that always gets me rolling on other lamb recipes. So this month I'll share some of them as I come across them in my search for the perfect lamb dish. Last week I made lamb shanks in the slow about easy and absolutely delicious and tender. I was always afraid of shanks...didn't really know what to do with them and apparently the same is true of some restaurant chefs because I've tried them in cities around the world and always been disappointed, but recently I saw an episode on Food TV while riding my stationary bicycle and decided to give them a try (food tv keeps me from the boredom of the stationary). We purchased a whole lamb from Jordandal Farms and it's been great fun making dishes we normally make with other meats using the lamb instead. If you've never had local lamb, you really ought to try the lamb at Jordandal if you get the chance. They are grass fed, tender, lean and downright delicious. Last spring I went out to the farm and took photos of the sheep in the pasture--they were quite camera shy, but I found that if I sat down in the field they would come a little closer to me. Anyway, back to lamb's my recipe:
2 lamb shanks
olive oil
coarse sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper
2-3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2-3 medium onions, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 tbsp herbs de provence
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup red wine
water or broth to cover
Take the lamb shanks by the bone end and using a knife, scrape the meat down from the end of the bone, just a bit--about 1-2 inches. This helps them stay moist and tender as they shrink up
during cooking. Pat the shanks dry and then generously coat with the coarse sea salt and coarsely ground pepper. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven or saute pan and then sear the shanks about 3-5 minutes on all sides. Transfer shanks to slow cooker. Add another 2 tbsp to pan and saute carrots, celery and onions until just transluscent. Add wine to pan and deglaze. Pour this mixture in the slow cooker with the shanks, add the garlic and herbs de provence and bay leaf, then cover with water or broth. (TIP: I save the water from when I skin my frozen tomatoes and use that for my water or broth in many recipes. It has some of the nutrients and bits from the tomato also. If you have no clue what I'm talking about...I freeze tomatoes during the peak season so that I have tomatoes on hand all winter to use for sauces, soups, stews etc. It's super easy...just wash, dry, and freeze on a sheet pan until hard, then place in a freezer bag and viola...frozen tomatoes. When you're ready to use them, place them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. The skins slip right off and you can use them in your recipes.)
Cook the shanks on medium-low heat for 6-8 hours. Before serving, remove shanks and thicken up the sauce to use as a gravy by adding some roux or cornstarch to the sauce. These were so incredibly tender and flavorful, I was in heaven...practically drank the sauce! And bonus--there was enough sauce left over to make lamb meatballs using the sauce--two delicious meals! Enjoy!