Monday, November 28, 2011

Mario Batali's Arista Toscana

Happen to catch a new show on in the day time called "The Chew", a fun cast with varied recipes throughout the program.  Mario Batali prepared this recipe for pork it looked so good and seemed pretty simple to do so that was dinner that night.  I find the biggest stumbling block to cooking is deciding what to make, many times I stare at what I have available and then figure out what I can make without going to the grocery store.  Although I am .7 of a mile to the grocery store there are times you just don't want to go out again.  This was simple & hearty, always great when you can throw something in the oven and then use that baking time to get things done.  I served it with Japanese Sweet Potato mashed with toasted pecans which has a dark purple skin but inside is almost white, it had a slightly milder taste than our traditional orange yam.

Mario Batali's Arista Toscana

---adapted slightly


Garlic Cloves (he calls for 24.....seemed a lot to me so I probably halved it0
2 Fennel bulbs sliced thin
    -----save Fennel tops (fronds), throw out ribs
4 large onions sliced thin
1/2 c olive oil
6-7 pounds Pork Loin Roast (he calls for bone in, I used boneless but would love to try it              again with the bone in cut just couldn't get it that day)  
salt & pepper
3 c whole milk


Preheat oven to 400°

Smash 1/2 of garlic into a paste and put in bottom of roaster pan, add onion slices, fennel.

Make slits into pork and stick garlic cloves into them, salt & pepper generously.  Pour milk, some oil onto onion mixture, then lay pork on top of onion/fennel mixture, lay fennel tops over pork.  Roast 60-75 minutes reaching internal temp of 145° then remove meat to carving board.
Blend 1/2 of onion fennel liquid mixture in blender adding a drizzle of olive oil to form a sauce consistency.
Arrange slices of pork over the rest of sliced onion/fennel and pass blended sauce in gravy dish.

I used the emersion blender.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Spinach Mac & Cheese

Let's face it, just about everyone I know will eat Mac & Cheese anytime so throwing in spinach makes it a step healthier.  This turned out so good!  I am a Mac & Cheese connoisseur, I would love to find out it is the healthiest low calorie thing to eat someday........I'll keep dreaming.
This is just my regular Mac & Cheese recipe with spinach added.  As I have in the original post I like using a variety of cheeses and therefore it always comes out a little different.  This night it was Gruyere (always a good choice & melts nicely), Cheddar, a small bit of Blue Cheese for the intensity, and some Parmesan.  So next time you want to add to that Mac & Cheese or healthy it up a bit through in some dark greens of your choice.

Penne Pasta
2 c skim milk
2T butter
2 T flour
garlic powder
ground mustard
fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 c grated cheese --total Gruyere, Cheddar, Parmesan, Blue Cheese
2 pkgs frozen spinach, cooked, drained and squeezed dry
breadcrumbs or club crackers crumbles for crunchy top 

Boil penne till al dente, drain, set aside.  In same pot melt butter, stir in flour to form rue, let cook 1 minute, stir in milk, spices and let thicken.  If it gets a little to thick slowly add more milk till desired consistency.   Add spinach & cheese stir till blended, mix in penne and spoon into buttered baking dish.  Top with a little more grated Gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs.  Bake till bubbly about 15 min in 350 oven.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Peppermint Cream Bites

Oh yum!  Chocolate & peppermint, chocolate & raspberry, chocolate & peanut butter, all my favorite combos after just plain chocolate of course.  This recipe from Better Homes and Gardens  is so easy and so good you better have other people around to help you eat them or you will eat the whole dish yourself.  Oreo's the loved by all cookie is what I used in the base layer.  The recipe just calls for a chocolate sandwich cookie but we all know if you are gonna splurge on a cookie make it an Oreo.

Peppermint Cream Bites


1 1/2 c crushed Oreo's
3 T butter (I think it need a bit more) melted
2 c powdered sugar
3 T butter softened
3 T milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
6 oz bittersweet chocolate baking bar (I used semi sweet choco chips)
2 tsp shortening


Preheat oven to 350° Line 8 x 8 x 2 pan with foil including up edges.

Pulse cookies in food processor till crumbly, add melted butter then press into bottom of pan.  Bake 8 minutes and cool slightly before adding next layer.

Meanwhile cream together butter & sugar, then add milk and peppermint extract to form a spreadable paste type consistency.  Gently spread over cookie layer, being careful not to loosen crumbs on bottom, I made a bunch of dollops and then spread them together.  Put into freezer for 45 min.

In medium microwave safe bowl combine chocolate and shortening till melted, blend well.  Spread over peppermint layer, allow to set.  Lift the whole thing out of the pan with the foil and cut with a sharp blade to get nice edges.  I used a spatula and had dipped it in hot water.  Store in single layer---if they make it to storage.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Curry & Coconut Soup

We have a number of friends who make the most amazing curry dishes, Rosy's are the best, maybe one of these days I'll get her to let me watch her cook and blog it.  She travels to specific stores twice a year to stock up on special spices & ingredients.  Her get togethers are legendary, always a good time with the most amazing food.  Our daughters who are friends since nursery school were college roommates and wow did Rosy ever keep their freezer stocked. 

We love curry flavor at this house and when I saw this recipe by Faith Durand I had to try it.  Everyone who tasted it said to make it again soon, which I will have to do before the squash season ends.  I did make a number of changes mainly because I didn't have shallots so used onion, red pepper flakes instead of fresh, cut back a bit on the garlic and used already cubed squash since it looked better than the whole ones at the market that day.  The recipe also calls for a Red Kuri Pumpkin but as the recipe says this works with any type squash.  If you like curry you will really enjoy this soup.  Really a healthy & hearty soup.

Roasted Pumpkin Curry & Coconut Soup


4 lb pumpkin or squash
2 T oil
2 cloves garlic
1 med onion chopped fine
1 T grated ginger
2 T tomato paste 
1 tsp curry powder  (I will increase this next time)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
4 c chicken broth
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lime 

Preheat oven to 400° 
Cut pumpkin into quarters, seed, and place in baking dish drizzle with oil and roast  in oven for about an hour.  You could also buy already cubed squash or pumpkin which I find at our local grocer during the season.  If using whole pumpkin when cooled remove skin.

In large soup pot/dutch oven type vessel saute onion, garlic, ginger for about a minute then add tomato paste & stir.  Add curry and red pepper and saute a minute then add squash/pumpkin and saute stirring frequently for about 5 min.  Then add chicken broth and simmer 15 min then add coconut milk and simmer 15 min more.  Puree soup carefully with hand blender.  Stir in lime juice and salt to taste.  Can be garnished with sauteed onions and coconut.  I served with toasted pita.
simmering just before blending

Tip for not making a mess of the immersion blender,
split the paper towel half way and cover pot.