Friday, August 20, 2010

CORNISH GAME HENS with APRICOTS and PRUNES


I'm in the kitchen making "chicken with apricots and prunes,"  but I'm using Cornish game hens instead.  I love how nice the little hens taste when coated with a glaze. They brown in the oven and they come out delicious. Here is the recipe, which is based on one found in Martha Stewart's web site:


Ingredients:

2 Cornish game hens, cut in half
3/4 cup apricot preserves
8 dried plums, pitted
2 dried apricots, pitted and cut in quarters
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
10 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 onion sliced
30 fresh sage leaves
3 carrots sliced diagonally
Sesame seeds for garnish


Directions:


Preheat oven to 400° F.


Cook the carrots in boiling salted water until they are almost soft. Wash the game hens and dry them well on paper towels. Place them in a roasting pan and toss all the ingredients together with the game hens, including the carrots. The game hens should be evenly coated. Arrange them skin side up in the pan and roast them uncovered, until they are browned and cooked through, about 40 minutes. Stir the ingredients a few times while they are baking so that the plums and apricots don't burn. Garnish with sesame seeds before serving.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

MOUSSAKA


I think every tourist who visits Greece tastes a dish of moussaka. It's a popular Greek summer dish made with layers of eggplant and ground meat, topped with a bechamel sauce and baked until golden. I like making it for company. This recipe is my adaptation of Craig Claiborne's "Moussaka a la Greque" from the New York Time's Cook Book © 1961. It's one of my favorite versions of moussaka to make because of the bechamel sauce, which is absolutely delicious. Moussaka can be prepared in advance, and served lukewarm or at room temperature, making it an ideal candidate for buffets. The flavor of this dish improves on standing one day. Just reheat before serving.

Ingredients:


4 medium eggplants
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
14 oz can of tomatoes
1 1/2 cup red wine
1 cup of chopped parsley, divided in half
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, or double the amount if using fresh

For the bechamel:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, heated
2 eggs, beaten
Tiny pinch cinnamon (optional)
1 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
  • Wash the eggplant and cut off both ends. With a vegetable peeler remove 1/2-inch strips of skin from the eggplant. The end result will be that your eggplant will have a striped appearance, showing stripes of purple skin and white flesh.



  • Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. Season it with salt and pepper on both sides and let it drain for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry.
  • Bake the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 475° F. Brush the eggplant slices on both sides with some canola oil and lay a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Season lightly with salt and pepper and bake until the eggplant is soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Many recipes call for the eggplant to be fried, but I think baking is a healthier way to cook the eggplant. Even the flavor is better. No heavy oily eggplant. Keep an eye on your eggplant while it's baking. You don't want to overcook it. The time in the oven depends on the type of eggplant that you purchase.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is soft.
  • Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink. (Some recipes call for ground lamb, but as far as I know, most Greeks use ground beef. My mother makes a healthier version, God bless her, using ground turkey). Combine the tomato with the wine, oregano, marjoram and 1/2 cup of chopped parsley. Reserve the other 1/2 cup of parsley for later use.. Add this mixture to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.


  • In a sauce pan, over low heat, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk for 5 minutes. Turn up the heat to moderate and add the heated milk in a slow stream, whisking all the while. Simmer for 5 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat. The mixture should be thick. Cool slightly and stir in the eggs, the pinch of cinnamon if using, and feta and ricotta cheeses.



  • Grease an 11 by 16-inch pan and sprinkle the bottom lightly with bread crumbs. Arrange alternating layers of eggplant and meat sauce in the pan, sprinkling each layer with grated Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and the reserved parsley.



  • Pour the white sauce over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and bake for one hour in a preheat 350° F oven, or until the top is golden.



  • Let cool twenty minutes before slicing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

PIEROGI with various fillings: POTATO & CHEESE, CABBAGE & MUSHROOM, FETA CHEESE & SPINACH


We're making pierogi!!! I love them, as I love any type of dumpling! It's just that I never thought I would be making them. From scratch. Buying them ready to eat has been what I've been used to. Until this August 2010. The Daring Cooks’ Challenge, hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen, decreed that ready made would be no more. Make pierogi they said. Make the dough. Make the filling. Then come up with your own filling that best represents the location where you live. When you're done, post everything and let us know how you did. OK, Daring Cooks, and Daring Anula, and Daring Liz. This is Daring Ana telling you that I am up to the challenge. Over and out. You'll find me in the kitchen.



I chose the pierogi dough from Martha Stewart's web site. Martha, who is Polish, learned how to make pierogi from "big Martha," her beloved mother. Several of their favorite, tried and true family recipes are demonstrated and shared on the web site. Since Martha's cooking reputation is solid, and since she raves about this dough, I knew I couldn't go wrong by picking it, and I was right. The dough came out beautiful and very easy to handle. Thank you Martha. Here's how to make it:


Pierogi Dough Ingredients:
1 large egg, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
4 & 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour, some of it to be used for bench surface and for dusting
Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg. Add the sour cream, and whisk until smooth. Add the milk and 1 cup water, and whisk until combined.
  2. Slowly add about 3 cups flour, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and work in about 1 cup flour as you knead. Use a plastic scraper to lift dough as it will stick to the counter before flour is worked in. Continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes, working in another 1/2 cup flour. The dough should be elastic in texture and no longer sticky. Be careful not to add too much flour, as this will toughen dough.
  4. Place dough in a lightly floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let rest while you prepare filling.
Roll out the Dough:


On a floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Make sure you are just rolling the dough and not rolling and pressing.


Using a glass or a cookie cutter measuring 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out as many circles as possible. Cut the circles close together, trying to save as much space as possible. Gather the dough scraps together, roll them out again, and continue cutting.


Fill the Pierogi:






  1. Lay a dry, clean towel on your work surface; set aside.
  2. Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each dough circle.
  3. Holding a circle in your hand, fold dough over the filling, and pinch the edges, forming a well-sealed crescent; transfer to the towel. Continue this process until all dough circles are filled.


Cook the Pierogi:

  1. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to the boil. Drop the pierogi in the boiling water in batches. They will sink to the bottom of the pot and then rise to the top. Once they rise, let them cook for about a minute more.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, cook one stick of butter over medium-high heat until nut-brown in color, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and drizzle the butter onto a serving platter, leaving any burned sediment behind. Remove the pierogi from the pot, and transfer to the buttered platter. By placing the pierogi in a pre-buttered platter you will prevent them from sticking. Serve immediately. You may drizzle some more butter on top.
  3. Note: Some pierogi are fried, some are sauteed in butter, some get butter drizzled over them. I don't really like fried foods, nor do I like to smother foods in butter. Drizzling a bit of butter on top is all right I suppose. I served some pierogi coated with olive oil and they were excellent!
I chose to make three types of filling:
POTATO AND CHEESE FILLING:



  • 3 large potatoes, cooked and mashed
  • 3/4 cup cheese, a mixture of cream cheese and cheddar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients until well incorporated. Reserve the filling until ready to use.


CABBAGE AND MUSHROOM FILLING:




  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 shallot, chopped and sautéed in one tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook the cabbage and carrot in boiling water until they nice and soft. Drain very well and reserve. Sauté the shallot, garlic, ginger and mushrooms in the vegetable oil until the are soft. Add the cabbage mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let cool before filling the pierogi.
Pierogi with Feta cheese and Spinach Filling:


Being of Greek heritage, I love the combination of feta cheese and spinach. After all they are a popular pair in Greek cuisine. This recipe combines feta, spinach and pierogi dough to make a hybrid Greek-Polish dumpling. One of the best things about it is that it contains no butter what so ever! The pierogi are topped with just a bit of olive oil and Parmesan cheese before they are served. Here is the recipe for this filling:
Ingredients:

  • 1 box of chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • some olive oil and Parmesan cheese for topping
  • salt and pepper to taste
Thaw and chop the spinach in small pieces. Even though it's all ready chopped you will need to chop it in smaller pieces. Cook it in a bit of boiling salted water until it is soft. Drain it very well. In a medium skillet heat the vegetable oil and add the shallots. Sauté until the the shallots are is soft. Add the parsley, spinach and mint, and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cheeses and egg. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Let cool before using. When the pierogi is cooked, serve it topped with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RACK of LAMB with PARSLEY-ROSEMARY PESTO


This recipe is a no mess, quick, easy and very delicious way to prepare rack of lamb. I found the recipe on the Epicurious web site, changed a few things around, and now I have a new and tasty way to serve lamb. To make the pesto I used parsley and rosemary from my garden. The ingredients were fresh and bright green and smelled and tasted wonderful. I coated the lamb with the pesto, and then I baked it for about 25 minutes. The meat came out of the oven moist, tender and juicy. So... I really recommend this dish!


Ingredients:

3/4 cup parsley leaves. Pack the parsley in the measuring cup so that you get a generous amount.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus some rosemary sprigs for decoration
2 & 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1 1/2-pound rack of lamb
Marinade for the lamb: Season the lamb with salt, pepper, oregano and a little garlic powder. Sprinkle some olive oil and the juice of half a lemon over the lamb

Directions:

French the rack of lamb. I've embedded a video from YouTube which shows how.



(If the video doesn't play, click on it a few times and you'll be taken to YouTube, where you'll be able to view it without trouble).
As you can see from the picture below, I've removed a lot more fat than Alton Brown does in the video. My bone cleaning technique could have been better. Sometimes, as when company is coming, I use string to pull the excess debris off the bones. Today was not one of those days.



  1. Marinate the lamb in the refrigerator for about an hour. Take it out and let the meat come to room temperature.
  2. Position the cooking rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
  3. Place parsley, chopped rosemary, grated Parmesan cheese and garlic in the food processor. Process to coarse paste. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil. Season the pesto to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the lamb on a small rimmed baking pan.
  5. To make clean up easier, I like to line my pan with aluminum foil. After cooking, I remove it and throw it out. The foil holds the cooking grease, and the pan remains virtually spotless.
  6. Spread all of the pesto over the rounded side of the lamb.


Roast for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and roast to desired doneness, about 15 minutes longer for medium-rare.
Remove to a plate and slice. After slicing, arrange the chops on a serving platter, surround with rosemary and pour the juices from the plate over the lamb.