Beet and carrot jam

And it is time for my second Secret recipe club posting. This time I was assigned to Easily Good Eats. I didn’t know this blog before but I love its philosophy: simple recipes with few ingredients that can be found in your pantry. A number of recipes intrigued me (and here you can see the finalists), but the recipes I keep going back to were the ones on savory jams. I was really intrigued by carrot jam and beet jam: I could imagine serving them with a good cheese board, possibly including some good, salty goat cheese. And when that thought entered my mind, there was no going back. I had to make it. And I had to serve them with something like these crackers (and the above mentioned cheese of course).

So for the jams, I pretty much only weighted out the ingredients instead of measuring them by cups and let the vegetables macerate with the sugar for a while before cooking them. Pre-maceration is something my mom does for all her jams and it cuts down cooking time quite a bit (which is great). Oh and I changed the flavoring of the carrot jam from lemon to ginger. Both jam turned out great and work well with cheese. Particularly very salty cheeses like goat cheese.

And then I tried the crackers, but I added twice the water….. not my best idea. They ended up sticking to the cookie sheet like crazy…. They tasted great, but it was really a pain to get them off the sheet. Next time I will follow the original recipe!!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb carrots cleaned and diced
  • 1/2 lb sugar
  • 1 tsp grated ginger

Directions

  1. Mix the carrots with the sugar and the ginger and let sit to macerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Cook the carrots with all the syrup in which they are macerating and a couple of spoons of water for 20 minutes or until the jam coats a spoon.
  3. Puree if you like a smoother texture.
  4. Place in a jar and serve with cheese and crackers.

3.1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb beet cleaned and diced
  • 1/4 lb sugar

Directions

  1. Mix the beet and the sugar and let it macerate for a couple of hours or overnight.
  2. Cook the beet with all their syrup for 20 minutes or until the beets are soft and the jam coats the back of a spoon.
  3. Put in a jar and serve with cheese and crackers.

3.1

And don’t miss what everyone else did!

Irish whiskey cake recipe

A couple of days ago I was cleaning up the dishes and I was hit by the smell of whiskey coming from one of the glasses from the previous night. It was a rather smoky Irish whiskey and I started thinking it would be great for a cake.

So I started hunting for a recipe for a simple cake with whiskey and I came up with this recipe by Stefania of Nuvole di Farina. And I thought it was perfect. And, come to think of it, also a perfect choice for St. Patrick’s.

When I baked this cake I quartered the doses (because we are only 2 and technically I should be on a pre-summer diet) and I used cranberries instead of raisins because that is what I had on hand, but I think raisins would be better.

My cake had a very distinct whiskey, probably because I used quite a lot of smoky flavored  whiskey. If you want a milder taste, you can use a milder whiskey or you can dilute it with water.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 lb flour
  • 5 oz. flour
  • 5 oz. sugar
  • 3.5 oz. raisins (I used cranberries)
  • peel of an orange or orange essence
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whiskey

Directions

  1. Soak the raisins and the orange peel in the whiskey for at least 2 ours or over night.
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar until is creamy and well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time alternating with the flour.
  4. Add the drained raisins and enough whiskey to get a smooth (but not overly fluid) batter.
  5. Add the baking powder.
  6. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean

Cocoa and gorgonzola ravioli

So a couple of weeks ago Bf’s sister told me about a recipe she made for a dinner with friends. It was home made cocoa pasta dressed with a Gorgonzola based sauce. It got stuck in my head, the way a song does. I don’t know if it happens to you too, but to me it happens quite often. I see something or I get a craving and my mind starts racing and I just have to cook it.

So, I have been thinking about cocoa pasta and blue cheese for a while and yesterday I finally found the time to prepare it. Only I transformed it into ravioli. One of the reasons I decided to go with ravioli, is that I have been meaning to try this technique for cooking ravioli that Teresa of Scatti Golosi suggested in one of her recipes. She observed that, when not cooked immediately, ravioli have a tendency of drying out around the edges and, even worst, going soft in the middle where the filling is. And she found a way of solving the problem.

Cocoa Ravioli with Gorgonzola

The trick is pretty simple, but is also life changing  Parboil the ravioli for a few seconds as you make them, let them dry out and store them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. Easy enough right? And you get some perfect ravioli. And just like the ones you buy per-packaged, they are ready to be cooked whenever you want. Convenient right?

#SundayPasta: cocoa and gorgonzola ravioli

Ingredients

For the pasta:

    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tbsp unswetened cocoa powder
    • 6 oz. AP flower

For the filling:

    • 2 oz. gorgonzola or other blue cheese
    • 2 oz. ricotta

For the sauce

  • 1/2 pear
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • sage
  • butter
  • salt

Directions

For the pasta

    1. Mix all the ingredients and knead them into a smooth dough adding more flour or a bit of water if needed. Place the dough to rest under a bowl for 30 min or so.

For the filling

    1. Blend the ricotta and the gorgonzola together to get a smooth paste.
    2. Place a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil.
    3. Assemble the ravioli. I rolled out the pasta to the thinnest setting and then used a ravioli mold like this, but you can use freform the ravioli or use a round or square cookie cutter too.
    4. As the ravioli are ready, cook them in the boiling water for 10-20 seconds. Fish the ravioli out and place on a board covered with a towel or on a cookie rack to dry. Turn them around a couple of times to make sure they dry out on all sides.
    5. Once the ravioli are well dried, place them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

For the sauce:

  1. Cook the ravioli in boiling water. In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan until brown. Add the sage, the diced pear and the walnuts. Salt to taste.
  2. Dress the ravioli with the sauce and serve them hot.

3.1

Sundried tomato bread

Today I am sharing a bread that smells like summer. It is a simple bread to which I added sundried tomatoes and oregano. The result is a bread that brings summer to all of us who have been fighting the cold and the snow for the last few months and cannot take it anymore!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. flour
  • 1-2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cups dried tomatoes preserved in oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Mix the water with the yeast and add it to the flour.
  2. Add the salt and the oregano and knead everything into a smooth dough. Add more water or more flour if needed. You should get a rather soft but not sticky ball.
  3. Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place to rise for 4-8 hours (I usually use the oven with the light turned on).
  4. When the dough has doubled in volume, knead the tomatoes (drained and cut into stripes) in the dough. Then flatten the dough in a rectangles and roll it up in a tight roll. Attach the two end of the roll to form a circle and let the dough rise again.
  5. Turn on the oven at 450F. When the oven is hot, score the bread with deep cuts all around and bake.
  6. Cook the bread for about 35 minutes or until the smell of summer fills the kitchen (and the bread is golden brown).
  7. For a crusty bread, turn off the oven and let the bread in the oven for another 10 minutes with the door propped slightly open after that let the bread cool down on a cookie rack.
  8. For a soft bread, wrap the hot bread with a towel and let the bread cool down wrapped in the towel.

The secrets of lamb

So this is going to be lamb week. For multiple reasons. First, sunday is Easter and Easter means lamb. Second, yesterday I went to a great class at kitchen in the market were I learned how to perfectly french a lamb rack. Third, the wonderful people of Mountain State Rosen contacted me and sent me a wonderful leg of Cedar Spring Lamb to cook. So this week I am going to post about lamb. Multiple times. Today I am going to start by talking about what I learned about frenching and cooking a rack of lamb and on Sunday I am going to post a recipe for leg of lamb.

And as I mentioned, there is also a giveaway! The wonderful people of Mountain State Rosen are giving away a $50 gift card for Lund’s. That is plenty of lamb (or anything else you’d want to buy). To participate just leave a comment below. You can get extra entries by liking Mountain State Rosen’s facebook page and by sharing this post on google, twitter, pinterest or facebook. If you share the post on a social network remember to mention me (@italianinthemidwest) so that I can thank you and to leave a separate comment below to get that extra entry. The giveaway will close at Midnight (CST) on Thursday April 4th. The giveaway is opened to anyone, but Lund’s is only present in Minnesot amaking it difficult for some of you to use the card,  so let me know if decide to opt out of the giveaway.

As I said I went to this class about primal cuts. This time it was lamb and rabbit, next time it is going to be birds and finally there is cow class (I missed the pork one, but I am sure it was great). Chef Thomas of Corner Table taught us some great things on butchering. And some wonderful tricks about cooking lamb.

The art of butchering is difficult to explain without pictures, so I won’t bother you with meaningless descriptions of what we did, but I will show you a picture:

Frenching lamb

See that? That is how you french a lamb rack!

Yes, that is kitchen twine. And that is basically all you need to get perfectly cleaned ribs. This is what you do: first you cut out the meat by slicing with the knife as close to the bone as you can. Then you attache the twine to something fixed that won’t move (ideally something anchored in the wall. Finally, you wrap the twine around the base of the rib and you pull. The twine will strip all the flesh from the bone and you will have a perfectly clean lamb rib. And I suspect it might work on other animals bone too!

Aren’t these some gorgeous racks, all perfectly frenched?

Crusted lamb rack

As for the recipe of the duo, well that is for chef Thomas’ to disclose, but I will let you know that in that crust there are the trimmings from frenching the rack, plus herbs and breadcrumbs. And that crust is delicious!

Also while you wait for my lamb leg recipe to be posted on Sunday, here a couple of my recipes for lamb: stew, ragu‘ and something rather hearty….