Sunday, February 8, 2009

Baked Ziti and Blackened Black Fish

By a fluke of scheduling I didn't have to work Thursday night so I got to cook! Evan had a yen for baked ziti and I was glad to oblige. Keegan and George came over as well, and Keegan brought some black fish, which is a local grouper. When Evan and I were coming home from our honeymoon in Barbados over the summer, we had a layover in Jamaica and we purchased a bunch of spices in the airport. One such spice, pictured below, Keegan won in a poker game. He decided to finally use it (one of the first ingredients, by the way, is MSG).

Keegan had two large fiillets and coated the fish in the cock flavored seasoning.

Then he cooked the fish in a little olive oil until it was blackened on the outside. There were even a few flame-ups...

As our first course, we each had a piece of blackened black fish with a salad. The fish was tender and delicious. The seasoning was powerful and terrifically savory.

In the meantime, I made garlic bread. Simply slice a baguette in half, then in half lengthwise. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and mix in chopped garlic and about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brush this mixture on the bread, wrap it up in tin foil, and bake in a 350-450 oven for about 10-15 minutes until warm and crispy (in this case I baked it alongside the ziti).

I made two baked zitis - one vegetarian and one with meat. With the exception of the meat, the recipe is the same for the two (which I adapted from Martha Stewart).

1 pound ziti rigate or penne
2 cans (24-26 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes with juice2 cups part-skim ricotta
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 poundlean ground beef
1 1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 pounds shredded fresh mozzerella

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta until al dente. Put about 1/3 of canned tomatoes in a sauce pot to cook. In a larger saucepan cook the beef, breaking it up, until browned. Add the remaining tomatoes and juice and simmer on low.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup Parmesan, and half the mozzarella; season with salt and pepper. Mix the some ziti with each sauce. You should have two baking pans, one large and one small. Spread about half the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Top with ziti, then ricotta mixture and remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan, mozerella, and ricotta mixture.

Bake until the top is slightly browned and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy! The leftovers reheat brilliantly as well.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

In the winter time I love my slow cooker. It's true. I haven't entered into the realm of making lasagna and cookies using the device. Rather, I appreciate my crockpot for allowing me to slow cook stews and other meat dishes with my busy schedule. I can plug it in in the morning and come home to delicious stew. Perfect.

For this stew I simply threw together cubed stew meat, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, carrots, red wine, beef stock, rosemary, salt, and pepper. I put it on low before I left for work and came home to find tender meat and satisfying flavors.

Because I didn't have time to sear the meat first in the morning, I threw it in a hot pan for a few minutes when I came home. Then I deglazed the pan with a little red wine, added some butter, and drained the liquids from the crock pot into the pan to reduce the sauce. This makes for a thicker, heartier stew.

Return the thickened sauce to the crock pot and mix to combine.

Serve in large bowls and enjoy! Pair with the red wine you cooked with, or a cold dark beer.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Recipes to Rival - Beet Leaf Holopchi

This month, Katbaro of A Good Appetite and Giz & Psychgrad from Equal Opportunity Kitchen are the hosts of Recipes to Rival. Last month I sadly completed only half of the challenge, but the gougeres were such a success I felt satisfied. This month I was determined to complete the challenge - and with a dish that requires three risings and 5 to 6 hours, this was no easy feat.

This month's challenge is a Ukrainian dish, hearty and comforting for winter, called beet leaf holopchi. I followed the suggestions of another Recipe to Rivaler and quartered the original recipe - I can't even imagine how much that made! As it was, I filled a large baking pan and had enough extra dough to bake a loaf of bread! I also used red chard rather than beet leaves. You can see another posting on this dish here.

Beet Leaf Holopchi

from The Keld Community Ladies Club in Ashville, Manitoba (1976).

1/4 t sugar
2 T warm water
1 1/8 t instant yeast
1/2 c scalded (or simply heated) milk
1 c warm water
1 T melted butter
2 c flour
2 T beaten egg
1/2 T salt
1 t sugar
1 1/2 c flour plus more as needed

Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in 1/2 cup tepid water, sprinkle with yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. To the milk-water liquid add the melted butter, dissolved yeast and 2 cups flour.

Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Add salt, beaten eggs, sugar and remaining flour; add up to 1/2 cup additional flour until mixture is smooth, not sticky.

Knead well until dough is smooth and top with melted butter or oil. Place in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk. It will take about 2 hours. Punch down.

When dough has risen to double in bulk, place a piece of dough, the size of a walnut on a beet leaf and roll up (leaving sides open) Place holopchi loosely in a pot to allow for dough to rise to double in bulk again (about an hour).

Arrange in layers, dotting each layer with butter. Cover tightly, bake in a moderate oven of 350 F for 3/4 to 1 hour. Serve with dill sauce or cream and onion sauce (below). (Katbaro recommends cooking the holopchi with the sauce but you don't have to. You can add it later - just make sure you have enough butter in roasting pan before layering your beet leaf rolls.)

1/2 cup butter
2 cups whipping cream
8 small onions (such as chives)
2 handfuls of chopped fresh dill (this makes the whole dish)
2-4 large cloves of garlic, chopped fine

Melt butter in saucepan. Add onions (chives) garlic, dill and cream. Let it come to a boil and then turn down the heat. Katbaro cooks the holopchi with the sauce but you don't have to. You can add it later - just make sure you have enough butter in roasting pan before layering your beet leaf rolls.