Saturday, August 22, 2009

Potato Gratin

A gratin is basically a baked dish you can create with any vegetable (tomato, zuchinni, eggplant). I made this dish for our anniversary as our side. It's easy and so good.

Yukon gold potatoes, about 4 large ones
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (i fresh grate mine)
1 cup cheddar cheese (i used sharp, but white cheddar would be gorgeous)

Heat the cream and milk in a large dish. Slice the potatoes so they are very thin and all around the same size. Add the herbs, salt, pepper + nutmeg into the cream. Simmer until the liquid is very hot. Put the potatoes in the cream and cook for 5 minutes. Butter a baking dish and then pour the potatoes and cream mixture into the dish. Top with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Puffy German Pancakes

This is a recipe I grew up with. It's one of the easiest breakfasts! The best part is that you blend everything and just dump it in a pan, so there's no hassle of flipping individual pancakes. You just bake, cut and serve.

Preheat oven to 400
Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a 9 x 13 baking pan and put it in the oven

In a blender put:
4 eggs
2/3 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (i use kosher)
2/3 cup milk
Blend and pour over the melted butter in the 9 x 13

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes
Then turn down the oven to 350 and bake for about 15 more minutes. Check it periodically. You want the sides to be puffy and the center to be firm. That's how you'll know it's done.

Tomato Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 carrots peeled and diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 pounds tomatoes on the vine- peeled
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves
3 cups chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

I boiled my tomatoes in hot water for about 1-2 minutes, then took them out of the boiling water to cool. I peeled all of them so that the skins don't get into the soup. Then I chopped them up.

Saute carrots, onion, salt and pepper in the olive oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes. Add sugar, tomato paste, basil and stock. Simmer on low for 40 minutes. You want the tomatoes to be very tender. Ideally you'd want to use a hand blender at this point to blend up the soup. I don't have one so I just ladled small portions into my regular blender and blitzed it up. You have to be careful with blending hot things because the heat and pressure can blow the top off of the blender (so I held a kitchen towel over the top of the whole blender while blending. You can also use a food processor. Once it's blended as thin as you like it, reheat it and eat!

I served the soup with a drizzle of cream on top, because the soup is already so rich.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Favorite Vinaigrette

I made this salad for Thanksgiving one year and fell in love with the dressing. I found it on the Food Network website under Rachael Ray's recipes. I always have all of the ingredients on hand so it's always a go-to.

Here's the vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon orange marmalade (I've also made it with apricot jam)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (I like to chop it up a bit)
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix it all together in a bowl with a whisk. I like to make vinaigrette instead of buying bottled dressings- I haven't found a bottled dressing that I really love.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kitchen Essentials

I saw a post about what you need in your kitchen. This is a really good thing to know, especially if you are engaged and planning on registering soon. I didn't know everything that I needed, but I had a pretty good idea of the basics... there are a few things I would have changed though.

#1 If I registered all over again I wouldn't register at Target. Their return policies are a can only exchange something for another item in the same was a nightmare.

#2 I would not get a pot & pan set. Ours is from Crate and Barrel, and I love it, but I have a lot of small pans that I don't really use. I would recommend registering for individual pieces, as in a large stock pot, a large non-stick skillet, another non-stick skillet with higher sides, and a sauce pot. Those are the ones I mostly use, and I cook 6/7 nights. Later, if you realize you might use it, I would recommend getting something in cast iron. I have a smaller dutch oven style cast iron pot and a cast iron skillet that are Le Creuset and I'm obsessed with them :)

What I recommend:
2 pairs of tongs
2 spatulas (for flipping things such as pancakes) I have one that is rubber material and one that is metal.
2 bowl scrapers (I actually own 4 and use them all often)
2 ladles
1 pasta grabber
1 hand held strainer
1 potato masher
1 cookie scoop
2-3 cookie sheets (I use these for cookies but also things like roasting potatoes)
1-2 loaf pans
2 9 x 13 baking pans for cakes
1 rolling pin (I like wooden ones)
1 vegetable peeler
1 pair of kitchen scissors
1 pie pan
1 cooling rack (perfect for cookies)
4-8 mixing bowls (I own a lot. I have melamine, glass and plastic ones.)
2-3 whisks (I have 3 in different sizes)
1 large colander
1 microplane (for grating zest, nutmeg)]
1 stand grater (I recommend investing in a good sturdy, sharp one. I hate grating)
2 cutting boards (I use mine every single day. It's a really nice one from Crate & Barrel. Make sure you pick one that has a non-slippery surface...I hate when a knife can slide around on the board. Also pick one that has some kind of grippage at the bottom so it doesn't slide on you. Very dangerous!)
3 wooden spoons(Again, I love mine from C & B. I also recommend some kind of flat edged wooden utensil for breaking up ground meat when you're browning it)

I have a set of Kitchen Aid knives that we got for our wedding, and they are really good. There are better brands that I like more, and will get someday. Wusthoff seems to be my favorite ones right now- I only own their bread knife at this point. If you don't want to splurge on a set, the most important knife I use is a chef's knife. I like the ones with indentation so that the food you chop doesn't stick to your knife. I prefer a blade that is rounded at the end on top and straight along the bottom. It's my go-to knife.

My favorite appliances:
kitchen aid mixer- I use this for making all of my cookies, cakes, and even breads. I also have the pasta making attachments. You can use a hand mixer just as well, but the stand mixer lets me walk away and come back without having to turn it off.

food processor- mine broke recently. It wasn't the best quality and I used it at least once a week. My favorite brand of processor is Cuisinart. They make large ones and small ones- I would like to own both. If you don't have a large family, the small one would be perfect. I use it to make pesto, pastry dough, sauces...

rice cooker- not a necessity, but I use it often. We have rice every week and I love being able to turn it on and leave it alone. It stops cooking when it's done and keeps the rice warm.

bread maker- I use this once a week too- to make homemade pizza dough! I used to make bread in it a lot, until I mastered my mom's homemade recipe. If you like homemade bread but are afraid to do it by hand, I would definitely recommend one. Mine cost about $50 so it's not a huge splurge.

What can you not live without in the kitchen?
Here's my fave:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pasta Fagioli

It's about time for another post! I feel like we've been eating the same things for the past few weeks, but I realized last night that my favorite soup recipe isn't on my blog. Here it is!

Pasta Fagioli Soup

This is a hearty vegetable, ground beef, pasta and bean soup. It's easy and really good.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped (any color. I like yellow because I think it's sweeter)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 pound ground beef or turkey or italian sausage
1 small zuchinni, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (cannelini or white northern)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup small pasta (ditalini, macaroni)
1 can stewed tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt (salt as you go, and taste at the end)
1 teaspoon pepper

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions + celery and a little bit of salt (this helps the onions sweat and release their juice). Cook 3 minutes. Add chopped garlic. Cook 2 minutes. Add in ground meat. Break it up and brown. Once there is no more pink in the meat, add the grated veggies.

Stir in the chicken broth (I like to use bullion cubes or canned broth. either one is fine) canned tomatoes, herbs, salt + pepper, + beans. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add in the pasta and cook for 15 more minutes, or until the pasta is soft.

Serve in bowls with some parmesan over the top, or more pepper- thats how I prefer it :)