Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sweet Paris: Tarte aux Pommes and Chocolat Chaud


I'm in love. With anything French. I love the language, I love the country, I love the films, and of course the food. I have a nice collection of French-themed cookbooks in my arsenal. You really can't have enough. I believe that. Most recently, I received a copy of Sweet Paris, a book focusing on the sweeter side of the capital city. It's published by Hardie Grant Books, but distributed here in the US by Rizzoli.

The book only contains about 2 dozen recipes, so beware of that if purchasing yourself a copy. Also, the recipes are mainly written using weights and not volumes. I love this, but it's important to note for others who may not own a kitchen scale. It's not as intensive recipe-wise as other books may be. Where Sweet Paris shines is in offering a beautiful tour of the highlights in Parisian sweets. Discussions range from chocolate bars and bonbons to madeleines and financiers and all the way to ice cream, gelato and sorbet. A myriad of Parisian desserts are defined along with lovely photographs. A select few of these special treats are included as recipes in the book.

I believe this book is more of a collectors piece as opposed to a traditional cookbook. You will find recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth, but even more so it may satisfy your longings for Paris (or spark them into an actual trip). The photographs are really beautiful. I can picture myself eating my way through Paris as I peruse them.

The recipes themselves cover quite a nice range of French desserts. The book begins with a recipe for chocolate truffles and ends with one for pastry crust, two very French traditions. In between, you will find everything from eclairs to brioche to chocolate mousse. It's a nice selection, but not overwhelming. The book is a bit expensive considering the lack of recipes, but you can find some great deals online! It's perhaps more of a coffee table book with recipes than a straightforward cookbook.

I made a couple treats from the book. Both were lovely. I had trouble deciding which to share, so I'm including both. First up is the Traditional Tarte aux Pommes, or apple tart. It is simple and sometimes rustic, but it is an excellent treat for family or guests. The lovely arrangement of apple slices make it incredibly eye-appealing as well. An almond frangipane filling adds another layer of flavor. My only issues with the actual recipe were that I had to make a few adjustments for the recipe to work.

I added a bit of water to the crust for it to actually come together. I only needed half as many apples as the recipe suggested. The tart baked nearly twice as long as it was supposed to. I required less of the glaze as well. I have included my own adjustments to the recipe below.

The second recipe I will be sharing is so quick and simple that I couldn't imagine leaving it out. It's also absolute perfection on a cold winter's day. I'm talking about Chocolat Chaud, or hot chocolate. I made some adjustments to this recipe too, mainly because of what I had on hand. I used low-fat milk and heavy cream instead of whole milk and light cream, but made some adjustments to the quantities to allow for a similar fat content (used less cream and more milk).

I also flip-flopped the amounts for the bittersweet chocolate and milk chocolate, but only because of what I had in my pantry. I am writing the recipe, for the most part, as it appears in the book. Feel free to make adjustments as you need to, just as I did. It's pretty hard to screw this one up! It's so rich and delicious that it's hard to resist. You will never make hot chocolate any other way after you've tried this!

Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)
Makes 1 (9-inch) tart
(Adapted from Sweet Paris)

Pâte Sucrée:
200 g (7 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
75 g (2 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
Pinch sea salt
90 g (3 oz) unsalted butter, diced and chilled
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
2 T. cold water

Frangipane Filling:
100 g (3 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
50 g (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
100 g (3 1/2 oz) ground almonds or almond meal
2 large eggs

Apple Filling:
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, quartered, and thinly sliced
25 g (.9 oz) melted butter
1/2 egg, beaten

2 T. apricot jam
1 T. water

To make the pâte sucrée: Add the flour, sugar and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse again until the mixture is crumbly. Add the egg yolks and pulse again until combined. While the food processor is running, slowly add the water until the mixture just comes together.

Remove the dough to a work surface and knead gently to bring it together into a smooth ball. Shape the pastry into a flat disc and wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (alternatively, it can be frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator when needed).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out the chilled pastry until it is about 1/8-inch thick. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin and then gently unfold it over a 9-inch fluted tart pan. Gently fit the pastry into the pan against the sides and trim away excess dough. Prick the bottom with a fork. Place the crust in the fridge for at least 2 hours to stop shrinkage when baking.

Remove from the fridge, line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or uncooked beans or rice. Blind bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from the oven, cool on a rack, and then refrigerate.

For the frangipane filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand if you're feeling adventurous), combine the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Then add the ground almonds and mix until smooth. Finally add the eggs and combine well. Spoon the frangipane filling into the tart shell, smoothing it out evenly.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Starting from the outside, arrange the apple slices in a spiral pattern, overlapping one another until the entire surface is covered. Bake for 5 minutes and then brush the top with the melted butter. Continue to bake for about 45 minutes longer until the filling begins to brown. Then lightly brush the top with the beaten egg and return to the oven for another 5 minutes (giving you a total of about 55 minutes baking time).

To make the glaze, heat the apricot jam and water in a small pan and strain into a bowl. Remove the tart from the oven and, while still warm, use a pastry brush to coat the apples with the warm glaze. Serve either hot or cold plain, with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Chocolat Chaud (Hot Chocolate)
Serves 4
(Adapted from Sweet Paris)

600 ml (20 fl oz) whole milk
250 ml (9 fl oz) light cream
2 T. light brown sugar
Pinch sea salt
150 g (5 1/2 oz) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
100 g (3 1/2 oz) milk chocolate, finely chopped
300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) heavy cream, whipped, to serve (optional)

Add the milk, cream, brown sugar, and salt to a large saucepan. Warm over medium heat and bring to a simmer, but don't boil.

Remove from the heat and add the chocolates, stirring until they melt and the mixture becomes smooth. At this point, start whisking the mixture for a couple minutes until the chocolate is smooth and a little frothy.

Return to the heat and bring it back to a simmer, but not a boil. Pour the mixture into cups and serve with whipped cream, if desired.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese (and a Giveaway from Barilla!)


Pasta and cheese are probably my two biggest weaknesses when I'm trying to eat healthy. They are perhaps the two "naughty" foods I could never give up. Ever. I have determined that you can still avoid the guilt if you eat the things you love in moderation. Also, keeping portions small helps too. If you want to indulge in your favorite things, don't eat them regularly and eat less than you typically may. This is a good way to stay on track.

Another way to work pasta back into your diet if you are trying to watch what you eat is to select healthier pasta options and prepare them with less added fat. Fortunately for all of us, Barilla offers lots of healthy pasta options that can aid in this process. I exclusively purchase their Whole Grain pastas when I'm looking for ways eat healthier pasta. I think Barilla's Whole Grain pasta tastes much better than the alternative brands and tastes less "grainy," giving the illusion that you're eating regular pasta.

Recently, Barilla sent me a bunch of their healthy pasta varieties to try out. Although I was already familiar with their Whole Grain variety, I was really excited to try a few of the others. They sent me boxes of Whole Grain, PLUS, Veggie, and White Fiber pastas to test out. They are also sending some boxes to a couple lucky winners of a giveaway I am hosting! Details to follow.

Here's some info on Barilla's healthy pastas...

Barilla Whole Grain: Made with 51 percent whole wheat, Barilla Whole Grain is all natural and an excellent source of fiber. It offers 28g of whole grains and 6g of fiber per serving, which is three times the fiber of traditional pasta. It is the ideal pasta for anyone seeking to increase their intake of fiber and whole grains without sacrificing taste. It comes in 8 different varieties, from spaghetti to penne, rotini, and more.

Barilla PLUS: A nutrient-rich, complex carbohydrate that is a good source of thiamin, folic acid, iron, riboflavin and niacin. It’s low in sodium and naturally cholesterol free. Barilla PLUS offers a taste, color and texture as good as traditional Barilla pastas, and is a good source of protein, ALA omega-3 and fiber. It delivers 44 percent more protein and almost twice as much fiber than traditional pasta. It is lower in fat than other protein sources like ground beef, salmon and eggs. Made from a unique multigrain blend that includes semolina (coarse durum wheat), oats, spelt and barley, as well as legumes, ground flaxseeds and oat fiber, Barilla PLUS offers a well-rounded approach to balanced nutrition with the great taste and premium ingredients expected from Barilla.

Barilla Veggie: Available in three delicious varieties- Farfalle made with Carrots & Squash, Rotini made with Zucchini & Spinach, and Penne made with Tomatoes & Carrots. Made with 25% pureed vegetables, each 3.5oz portion provides 1 full serving of vegetables.

Barilla White Fiber: Available in three varieties- Mini Rotini, Mini Shells and Mini Penne, Barilla White Fiber looks and tastes just like regular pasta, letting your whole family enjoy their favorite pasta meals, while also providing them with a hidden boost of the fiber and whole grains they need. With three times the amount of fiber of regular pasta, a 100g serving provides over 40% of the DRV of fiber and over 30% of the DRV for whole grains, all from natural ingredients.

All of these pastas are excellent options to enjoy while living a healthier lifestyle. Preparing these pastas in relatively healthy ways is another step in the right direction. In the past, I have shared quite a few pasta recipes that highlight vegetables or utilize other healthy preparations. Here are a few of my favorites: Fettuccine with Pureed Carrot Sauce, Asparagus, Peas, and Wild Mushrooms, Penne with Roasted Red Peppers, Farfalle with Zucchini Sauce, Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach, Whole Wheat Pasta Puttanesca, and Spaghetti with Beet Greens and Garlic.

Today I will be sharing yet another slimmed-down pasta dish. This one puts a healthier spin on my absolute favorite guilty pleasure: macaroni and cheese. I mean, think about it. This one dish includes my two favorite ingredients in one delicious place. Typically, macaroni and cheese starts off with a decadent bechamel sauce, started with equal parts butter and flour, and then finished with milk (traditionally whole milk, but I always use low-fat). I also usually use more cheese than pasta. Yes, I'm serious. If I start with 1 pound of pasta, I will typically use over 1 pound of cheese. I realize this isn't healthy. This is where a pureed cauliflower sauce comes into play.

The smooth creamy texture of cauliflower puree takes the place of the typical bechamel. A more reasonable amount of cheese gives the dish some cheesiness without all the fat and calories. It's a good way to feel gluttonous without harming your waistline. I used Barilla's White Fiber pasta for this particular dish because it features mini pasta shapes that are perfect for mac and cheese.

Like I mentioned earlier, Barilla has agreed to send a couple lucky winners some boxes of their healthy pasta along with a fun Barilla apron. The giveaway is open to US residents and starts now and ends on February 1, at 11:59pm. To enter, leave a comment telling me which healthy Barilla pasta you are most anxious to try. I will randomly select two winners. It's as easy as that. Good luck!

Creamy Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 8

1 head cauliflower (about 3 1/2 lbs), trimmed and cut into florets
4 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
Kosher salt
12 oz Barilla White Fiber pasta (or other healthy pasta)
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, heated
8 oz sharp white cheddar, grated
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tsp. dry mustard
Pinch cayenne pepper
Pinch grated nutmeg
1/2 cup panko
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the cauliflower and garlic. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until very tender. Remove the cauliflower and garlic with a slotted spoon.

Bring the water back to a boil, re-salt the water if needed and add the pasta. Cook it only half as long as the package suggests (or even less time). It will continue to cook in the oven. In this case, the package says 6 to 7 minutes so cook it 3 minutes maximum (I actually cooked mine for 4 minutes and felt it was overcooked after baking, so don't make the same mistake). Drain and set aside.

In batches, add the cauliflower, garlic, broth, 6 oz of the cheddar, parmesan, mustard, cayenne, and nutmeg in batches to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Continue working in batches until until all the cauliflower is pureed. Season the mixture with salt and then combine it with the par-cooked pasta. Pour the mixture into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 oz grated cheddar cheese.

Mix together the panko with the olive oil and top the pasta with the mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes until bubbly and then broil for another few minutes to get a nice golden crust. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Pulled Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches (with Homemade Burger Buns!)


The Super Bowl is coming up. I'm a little bitter because my team totally blew it. But I'm looking forward to next season, because that's what you gotta do. I'm used to my teams winning many many championships, but I'm also used to disappointment. It's the world we live in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Regardless of your team allegiances, chances are you or someone you know will be tuning into the big game. OR they like to eat food. That's where I come in.

I made these burger buns from scratch recently for some tasty pulled Buffalo chicken sandwiches which I served with homemade blue cheese dressing and sliced celery. The buns would be excellent for burgers as well... obviously. I fully realize that most "normal" people buy their buns, but these are actually so easy to make that I'd totally judge you for not giving it a whirl in your own kitchen. You don't want to be judged by me. Seriously.

The pulled Buffalo chicken recipe makes more than you will need for the 12 buns. I actually loved using the leftovers to make Buffalo chicken nachos. Use your imagination. It's Buffalo chicken. You can't possibly go wrong because it will taste good on EVERYTHING.

I am submitting this post to Yeastspotting.

Burger Buns
Makes 12
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

3/4 to 1 cup (170 to 227g) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons (28g) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
3 1/2 cups (418g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 tablespoons (43g) melted butter

*For best results (a smooth, slightly soft dough), use the smaller amount of water in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate); and something in between the rest of the time.

Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients except for the melted butter by hand or an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook until a soft, smooth dough forms. Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces. A good idea is to weigh the dough, divide that number by 12 and cut into pieces that weigh that much. Each of my pieces were roughly 65g. Shape each piece into a round ball, then flatten it to a squat round blob about 2 1/2 inches across.

Place the buns on a lightly buttered or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter and bake until golden, 18 to 22 minutes. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the remaining melted butter, which will lend the buns a satiny, buttery crust. Place the buns on a wire rack to cool completely.

*Note* You can divide the dough into 8 equal pieces for larger buns or into 24 small pieces for slider buns. Adjust baking time accordingly.

Pulled Buffalo Chicken
Makes about 8 cups

6 chicken breast halves (about 4 pounds)
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) hot sauce (such as Frank's Red Hot)
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter

Put all the ingredients in a crock pot on low for 8 hours. Remove the meat and use two forks to shred it. Return to the crock pot and continue to cook for another hour to help soak up the juices and create more of a sauce.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


I have a thing for pineapple. I enjoy it in my cake and in my cocktails. I love it in fried rice and on pizza. Pineapple is the perfect fruit for both sweet and savory applications. It also transcends me immediately to some of the lovely tropical islands I've had the pleasure of visiting.

I'm sure everyone has had pineapple upside-down cake at some point in their cake-eating careers. It's typically made with tinny pineapple rings out of a can, glow-in-the-dark artificial red maraschino cherries, and many times a box cake mix. This is sadly the usual, but not in my kitchen. I knew that in making a pineapple upside-down cake, it would be better than all the rest.

I would cut fresh pineapple, make my batter from scratch, omit the kitschy cherries, and even spike the whole thing with some delicious rum. Because rum and pineapple are just made for each other. I actually used some nice spiced rum from Cane Garden Bay in Tortola (British Virgin Islands). My family took a trip there last year and discovered this delicious rum... made by a local woman in her bathtub. It's better than it sounds. Trust me :)

The cake as a whole is just fantastic. My sister claims it's officially her new favorite cake and insists I make it for her upcoming birthday. It was easily one of the most popular desserts I served recently at my nephew's Christening. Who doesn't love a really well-made, fresh pineapple upside-down cake?

**All photos updated on 3/11/17**

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, February 2000 (via Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 1 cake

1/2 medium pineapple, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cored
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice

2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling/brushing over cake

Special equipment: A well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet. If you lack a cast-iron skillet of this size, make the caramel in a small pot and scrape it into the bottom of a similarly-sized cake pan, such as a 9-inch round cake pan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Make topping: Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, four minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly. Alternatively, pour sugar mixture into cake pan and arrange pineapple slices on top.

Make batter: Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended.

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet five minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle or brush rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

Do ahead: Cake may be made one day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Nime Chow: Vegan Challenge


I'm not gonna lie. I wasn't too happy when the Creative Cooking Crew announced the theme for January's challenge. Vegan. Soooo not my cup of tea. I love vegetables. I eat them all the time. But the idea of replacing "real" ingredients with "vegan" ones was not something I was willing to do. I would not be purchasing vegan butter, nor vegan cheese. These items do not belong in my kitchen. I decided that if I was going to participate, I had to do it on my own terms by making something that is naturally vegan.

Nime Chow is a personal favorite dish that I order regularly at local Asian restaurants. It's a raw spring roll, sometimes called a summer roll. The recipe states that it has Cambodian origins, but I have also seen Vietnamese references, so I'm not 100% sure who made it first. All I know is that I love it with its slightly chewy exterior and fresh and crunchy filling of fresh vegetables. And the peanut sauce... it's just bomb.

The skin is made of rice paper that is soaked in water to soften. It is then filled with bean sprouts, bean threads (or cellophane noodles), and veggies. Sometimes it also contains shrimp, but being a vegan challenge I omitted that. The peanut sauce also traditionally contains fish sauce, so I included that as an optional ingredient if being truly vegan isn't much of an issue for you. If you want the sauce to be vegan like the rolls, simply omit the fish sauce.

I was actually most excited that this recipe came from a local restaurant in my home town! How random is that? I Googled and this is what came up. The current owners make their Nime Chow differently from this older recipe, and to be honest I don't really like it anymore. It's all bean threads and hardly anything else. I prefer the Nime Chow at some other restaurants in town, but I used this original recipe and made a few tweaks to make it the way I like it.

The good thing about this dish is that you can easily switch up some of the filling ingredients. Also, the dish doesn't require any actual cooking! Just soaking and assembling, so it would be really nice to prepare on a hot summer day. Sigh... a hot summer day would be nice right about now...

Next time, I would double the amount of bean threads. It was a bit skimpy, in my opinion. I'd like a bit more in there, but once again, the fun of these rolls is that you can make them to your liking. Just adjust the filling as you wish. And don't forget the deliciously sweet-and-sour peanut-laced sauce. It's not your typical peanut sauce but it is the perfect dressing for these fresh and healthy rolls.

Nime Chow
Makes 8 rolls
(Adapted from Galaxie Restaurant)

1 ounce uncooked bean threads (cellophane noodles)
12 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
2 cups thinly sliced curly leaf lettuce
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
24 medium basil leaves

Peanut Sauce:
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional for a non-vegan sauce)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts

Combine bean threads and 2 cups hot water in a bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Drain; cut into 2-inch lengths with scissors.

Add cold water to a large shallow dish to a depth of 1 inch. Cut 4 rice paper sheets in half, leaving remaining 8 sheets whole. Place 1 whole rice paper sheet and 1 half rice paper sheet in dish of water. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes or until soft (but don't over soak because then it will tear easily and be harder to work with). Remove sheets from water.

Place whole rice paper sheet on a flat surface; top with half sheet, lining up edges of both sheets. Place 1/4 cup lettuce over half sheet, leaving a 1/2-inch border around outer edge of half sheet. Arrange 2 tablespoons grated carrot, 1 tablespoon bean threads, 2 tablespoons bean sprouts, and 3 basil leaves over lettuce. Fold sides of rice paper sheets over filling; roll up tightly, jelly-roll fashion. Gently press seam to seal; place, seam side down, on a serving platter (cover to keep from drying). Repeat procedure with remaining rice paper sheets, lettuce, carrot, bean threads, bean sprouts, and basil.

Cut each roll in half crosswise.

To make the sauce, combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir well. Cool completely. Stir in remaining ingredients and serve with the rolls.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sulu Manti (Manti Soup) + Giveaway!


Last month I participated in the Made With Love Virtual Dinner Party and created a delicious vegetarian entree submitted to the book by Martha Stewart. It was her mother's pierogi recipe. When the folks at Benbella Books contacted me recently and asked if I'd like to give away a copy of this book as well, I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only share the book with a lucky reader, but also share one of my beloved family recipes.

This one comes from my maternal grandmother. Sulu Manti is the soup version of regular, or Sini Manti. In Turkish the word "sulu" means soup and "sini" means pan. Hence the difference between the two dumplings. The pan version of these dumplings is my absolute favorite thing in the world. The soup version showcases the same delicious dumplings (albeit in a slightly different shape) but boils them in a delicious tomato-infused broth along with the optional addition of chickpeas.

Although it's a bit more work than a standard chicken noodle, this soup is total comfort in the wintertime. Even if you didn't grow up with these flavors on your palate on a cold winter's day, you will totally see where I'm coming from if you extend the effort to make this soup for your family. You will taste the love and effort with every bite. Me... I simply taste my grandmother's cooking, and my childhood.

Here are the rules for the Made with Love cookbook giveaway... giveaway starts right now and lasts until January 22nd at 11:59pm. I will randomly pick one winner from all the comments on this post. US residents only, please.

To enter...

1. Leave a comment telling me which family recipe you would have contributed to the Made with Love cookbook if you had the opportunity. You can just tell me what it's called with a short description. No need to post the actual recipe in a comment :)
2. Like Mission: Food on Facebook. Leave a comment telling me you did.
3. Follow @missionfood on Twitter. Leave a comment telling me you did.
4. Follow Mission: Food on Pinterest. Leave a comment telling me you did.

That gives you 4 chances to win the book! You don't need to do all 4 methods, just as many as you'd like, but the more you do the more chances you have to win. Good luck!!

Sulu Manti (Manti Soup)
Serves 8

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup water
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, minced (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 T. paprika

5 T. unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups crushed or ground peeled tomatoes
5 1/4 cups chicken broth
7 cups water
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 T. + 1 tsp. kosher salt
1 T. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 (15.5 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 T. dried mint

To make the dough, fill a large mixing bowl with the flour and make a well in the center. Beat together the eggs, salt, water, and olive oil. Add the wet ingredients to the well.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients until a ball of dough is formed (alternatively add the flour to the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, add the wet ingredients, and use the dough hook attachment to make the dough). The dough will be somewhat sticky so add a bit of flour as needed, and knead the dough until smooth. Cover the dough with a tea towel and set aside for 30 minutes.

Mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, salt, pepper, and paprika until well incorporated.

Lightly dust several baking sheets with flour to keep the manti from sticking until they are ready to be boiled.

Using a pasta roller or a rolling pin, in batches roll out the dough until it very thin, dusting the dough with flour as needed (using the Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment, roll until #5 for thickness). Cut each strip of dough into 1 1/2 inch squares. Place 1 teaspoon of meat filling into the center of each square.

You can shape the manti a couple different ways. For the first shape, pinch the two ends with your fingers as if you are going to form a canoe-shape, but then bring the two ends together in the middle to form a satchel, slightly twisting the dough together in the center to seal it.

Alternatively, fold the manti into a triangle, sealing all the edges well. Pinch together the two opposite ends of the triangle to form a tortellini-like shape. Place the manti on the baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough and meat filling.

Start the soup by melting the butter over medium heat in an 8-quart stockpot. Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes to heat through. Add the chicken broth, water, garlic, lemon juice, salt, paprika, and black pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. When the mixture comes to a boil, carefully add the manti to the soup along with the chickpeas, if using. Cook the manti for about 10 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Add the dried mint and serve.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna


I love butternut squash. I better. My winter CSA has already sent several butternut squashes in our bi-weekly boxes and I have butternut squash coming out of my ears. I had been recently toying with the notion of making butternut squash ravioli, but then when the slightly easier comfort of a butternut squash lasagna entered my mind, I knew this would be the direction I headed.

Long ago, I had seen Giada DeLaurentiis make this lasagna on her show. I kept it in the back of my mind, but remembered she had used some inferior products such as no-boil lasagna sheets and pre-shredded mozzarella cheese. I decided to go all out and make fresh pasta (I had plenty of extra yolks on hand that needed to be used) as well as using fresh mozzarella, which just has such a superior flavor and texture.
Using my mixer to both mix and roll out the pasta sheets is a huge time saver. I have made pasta by hand and rolled it out the almost-old-fashioned way in a hand cranked machine, but once you've utilized your stand mixer to its full potential, you won't want to go back. Trust me. It makes making your fresh pasta the easiest part of this entire process. Well, almost.

The fresh egg yolk-enriched pasta is layered with vibrant butternut squash puree, green-hued basil-bechamel sauce, chunks of melty and chewy fresh mozzarella, and topped with a final layer of tender pasta, mozzarella, and salty Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The lasagna isn't nearly as rich as it sounds because the squash puree really lightens it up. The bechamel isn't overly rich as well, especially if you use a lighter milk as I did.

I served the lasagna with a light salad composed of baby spinach and pea greens (also from my CSA) tossed lightly with a homemade Dijon-balsamic vinaigrette. The acid from the vinaigrette and freshness of the greens were the perfect balance to complement this creamy layered pasta. Everyone had second helpings. Enough said.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Makes 8 to 10 servings
(Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups milk
Pinch nutmeg
3/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
1 lb fresh lasagna noodles, boiled to al dente (will only take a couple minutes)*
1 lb fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a blender  or food processor and puree. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender**. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Lightly butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange a few lasagna noodles (depending on their size) on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/4 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/5 of the mozzarella cheese cubes. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering until you have a total of 4 layers exactly like the first one. Top with a final (fifth) layer of noodles.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

*For the noodles, I adapted Thomas Keller's 7 Yolk Pasta recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook. I tweaked a few ingredients and made mine in my Kitchenaid mixer fitted with the dough hook and then rolled out the dough with my Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment to the #5 thickness setting. Then I cut my noodles into lengths just smaller than my pan, as they would expand when boiled. Once boiled, I laid them on lightly olive oiled sheet pans to keep them from sticking while I assembled my lasagna. For more details on mixing and rolling out the pasta dough (as well as an alternative pasta recipe that uses whole eggs as opposed to mainly yolks), feel free to check out my Zucchini Lasagna recipe.

**When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.


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