Friday, August 20, 2010

Rosemary Citrus Cream Pasta

The major downfall of this dish is that it looks really boring, but it's not :)

I did not grow up eating cream sauces.  My mom does not like  alfredo, so we never ate it.  When I started going to restaurants with friends Fettucini Alfredo was the go-to choice for a lot of people.  But it's not really something that ever occurs to me to eat.  Then combine that with my fear of all the butter and cream in the sauce (butter and cream are perfectly fine in an occasional dessert, they do not, however, have a place in the main component of an entree) means that I don't really eat or cook cream sauces.  It wasn't until last year sometime that I really realized how little cream is necessary in a "cream" sauce.  You really can get away with only putting cream or butter with come flour, and using the rest of the liquid as fat free milk and it still tastes creamy, thick and wonderful (though admittedly, it probably WOULD be better with whole milk).  My point is: cream sauces don't have to be horribly unhealthy.  They also aren't that hard, but if you can pull one off, some of the terminology makes you sound pretty skilled.

This dish was inspired by a ravioli I had earlier this year.  Unfortunately, it was a special that month, so i can't return to the restaurant to have it again.  But I tried to figure out how to make it anyway.  However, I don't really have the time to commit to making ravioli right now, so I tried to do it "inside out" ie. make pasta with cream sauce.

Serves 2

1 (small) clove garlic, this is not the place to indulge your garlic infatuation, if you want to do that, leave out the citrus
1 tsp fresh rosemary (add it slowly to taste, as I learned the hard way, i had too much so I had to add extra milk to mellow it a little)
2 Tbsp cream (also known as 1/8 c)
2 Tbsp flour
4 oz shell pasta (penne or anything with an opening of some sort that could sort of hold the sauce inside would work, but I thought shells were a great idea)  Also note that I used whole wheat because that's all i buy unless it's for a specific purpose
1-1/12 c milk
1/8-1/4 tsp each lime, lemon and orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

Note that i keep lemon, lime and orange zest in my freezer, zesting citrus whenever i use it.  I have the most orange, so I used the most orange.

1. Make a (white) roux (yup, this is where you sound fancy).  To do this, heat the cream until it is warm but not boiling.  Add the flour and stir.  Over low heat, cook this for about 2 minutes, stirring,  or until the consistency changes a little.  Do not let it brown (that would be the start of brown roux).  Remove from heat, add the milk.  It will be lumpy and weird.

2. Bring the milk to a boil.  While you do that, you should peel and chop your garlic and rosemary (and zest any citrus fruits you may have).  Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to low, you will cook it until it is smooth and thick, but I consider that a separate step.  It should be somewhat smoother after it boils, but it will continue to get better.  I'd add all your flavorings (garlic, a little rosemary, citrus, salt, pepper) now, or as soon as you are done preparing them, as the longer they sit in the cream, the better.  It might be best to add the citrus first, but that's not what I did.  I thought the zests could have steeped a little longer.

3. Cook your pasta however you do.  Though I would recommend undercooking it just slightly.  Apparently the way I cook pasta is not traditional.  Maybe we'll talk about that some other time.

4. Continue cooking your sauce until it is smooth, thick, and tastes how you want it to.  Taste it.  Add some salt and pepper and more citrus or rosemary if you like it stronger.  Once it reaches the desired consistency and flavor, remove from heat and set aside until your pasta is done (make sure you drain the pasta).

5.  Stir the sauce into the pasta and cook for a few minutes, stirring to evenly distribute the sauce and make sure everything is warm and comes together.

6. Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daring Cooks August 2010: PEROGIES

As some long term readers may know, I sometimes have played around with recipes from Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers.  But now I'm officially one!  My first challenge was perogies, which i found infinitely exciting, since it's one of those things that has been on my list of things to make since I realized you can make anything from scratch (or maybe since someone I knew made them and brought them to one of the professors at undergrad and wouldn't share with me).  Either way, they are not as readily available in Atlanta as they were in the midwest.  Westside market had about 20 varieties!  My family ate them for Easter one year.  Obviously perogies are close to my heart... or at least they are one of those things that sort of speak to the fact that I truly am a Midwesterner.  It turns out perogies really aren't that hard.  Who knew?  (plenty of people, I'm sure)

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.  I'll spare you the gory details of what I did for the plain ones because i just followed the recipe for the traditional Russian style Perogies here.
Since I've grown up with perogies, I felt compelled to make them "traditional", though the twist I've thrown on them since I've been eating them as quick freezer food, is sauteing them with peppers and onions (growing up we ate them with marinara like ravioli).  That's how we ate them when my family came to Cleveland.  Then again, truly traditional is with sour cream.  But they need some veggies with them, so why not fry them with the veggies?
My first batch did not turn out well.  I rolled the dough too thin, and probably didn't add enough flour (I also turned off the air conditioning, oops).  They were sticky and hard to fill and didn't hold their shape very well.  They were still pretty tasty though.
Clearly, I had to try again. And I was watching food network Saturday night and Michael Symon was talking about his local favorite Cleveland food: perogies of course! The feature mentioned they use sour cream in the dough, so in the second batch I added some leftover sour cream and used a cup of whole wheat flour instead of a cup of the white. I also made very sure to flour everything very well. In fact, I floured each perogi before i stuffed it, and they were much easier to stuff and ended up looking prettier. They still looked ugly after they boiled though (and I didn't do much to help that, maybe someday I'll learn to make things more attractive). But I tasted one and they were MUCH better because they packed the full potato/onion/cheese punch I'm used to.
But I felt compelled to do something a little seasonal/local. The farmer's market has had figs lately, so, having never worked with them before, I thought this would be a good opportunity. I cut up the figs, mixed in some toasted walnuts and orange and lemon zest (lemon juice might have been better, I wanted them just a little tarter, but I didn't have any lemons, just zest), and added just a little sugar and cinnamon. They were delicious dessert perogies.  I ate a couple for dessert every night for the rest of the week.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Black Beans and Polenta

Another less than photogenic recipe.  So I really like black beans and they are cheap and pretty low maintenance, which is good right now as I prepare for quals and want easy meals with limited grocery store trips.  But I like to try not to bake in summer, so instead of making cornbread, I made polenta.  Polenta is basically like grits (in fact that's what the directions on the package of cornmeal said), unless you decided to refrigerate it and then cut and fry it, in which case it's kind of like, well slightly soggy cornbread?  But in a good way.  I decided to serve Spicy Citrusy Black Beans over Cheesy Jalepeno Polenta.  I'm sure I've seen a recipe for this lately, I thought it was on the cornmeal, but it wasn't.  So I made it up.  Well, I adjusted the recipe for cheesy polenta which used parmesan cheese and italian seasoning.  I also cut it in half, standard recipe should not serve 8.

Cheesy Jalepeno Polenta
(serves 4)
1 1/4 c milk
3/4 c water
2 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 jalepeno, chopped
Salt to taste
1/4c-1/2 c sharp cheddar cheese.
1/2 c cornmeal.

Bring the milk, water, butter, garlic, jalepeno, salt, and cheese to a boil.  Slowly, while stirring, add cornmeal to the mixture and cook 3 minutes or until thickened to the desired consistency.  If you eat it then, it's grits (I think).  To make it polenta, pour it into a 8x8 pan and refrigerate until not runny, the directions said 8 hours, I think it would be fine in just a couple.  Then cut it into pieces and fry it (or don't, I didn't and it was still good, probably because it already had enough flavor).  I tried it both ways and thought it was really good both ways.  That may just be because the beans were really good.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Restaurant Review: Pittypat's Porch

So I realized I haven't been doing restaurant reviews, which may be a disservice to people randomly searching on google, but not really to most people who read this blog but are from out of town.  But if you ever come to Atlanta and want "Southern" food, I have a recommendation: Pittypan's Porch.

This week is downtown restaurant week.  After going over the menus several times, a friend and I decided to go to Pittypat's Porch for dinner, which is good Southern food.  I'm often not aware of the fact that I'm in the south except for the accents and people calling me "ma'am" or strangers calling me "honey" or "sweetheart."  But we walked into Pittypat's Porch and I knew I was in the south.  And it felt like the old south (or all this northern girl's images of the old south), the glasses were pewter, the service was beyond friendly, it was big and welcoming.  And the restaurant week entitles us to an appetizer, main course and dessert.  Also, the entrees came with the salad bar (and unlimited muffins/biscuits/cornbread).  This was a nice start with lots of southern favorites (pickled watermelon rind, my friend identified for me, hoppin' john, pickled okra, etc).  There were only two appetizer options: gumbo and black eyed pea cakes.  We decided to split both.  The gumbo was probably the most disappointing part of the meal, but still okay.  It was salty, but spicy.  The seafood in it was limited, which I appreciate, but I also only got one piece of sausage, so that was pretty limited too.  The black eyed pea cakes, however, were delicious and made me want to go home and try to make them.  I haven't yet, but maybe next week, when I'm home studying.  They were served in a nice peach and tomato sauce.

Somewhere around this point the server came by with a basket of muffins, cornbread, and biscuits.  He encouraged us to take at least one of each.  I stuck to one of each, all of which were very good.  The cornbread was a little dry but soaked up the gumbo broth well.  It's also worth noting that I do not think we were ever without food on the table.  The appetizers were there before we got back from the salad bar.  As soon as we finished the appetizers and munched on biscuits a little, our entrees arrived.  We both ordered ribs, which were steaming and coated in pretty amazing barbecue sauce.  They came with some zucchini and squash cut thin which were very bland but kind of mixed into the barbecue sauce.  They weren't anything special, but they weren't really designed to be.  The ribs also came with mashed sweet potatoes, which tasted good (exceptionally sweet) and had a almost candy like consistency.  I couldn't place what gave them that texture, but had to stop eating them after a few very small bites due to their richness.  A snuck a bite later and realized they were made with cream cheese, which explained why I just couldn't eat them.  But the ribs were so good and satisfying (though at this point I had already had quite a bit of food) that they didn't really need good sides.  And of course the cornbread went to good use again, mopping up leftover barbecue sauce.  The waiter brought us boxes (one without even asking, but we requested another) and then a little cup of gumbo to take home as well as more bread to take home.  Yes, at this point we had consumed a ton of food, and were being given MORE to take home.

Then it was time for dessert.  We ordered key lime pie, which was more like key lime cheesecake, so I wasn't a huge fan, and peach cobbler with cinnamon ice cream, which was of course, very good, but nothing earth changing.  Then again, we were very full at this point and so nothing tasted quite as good as it would have if we had been hungrier.

Altogether, it was great experience (and a great deal).  We consumed tons of food and brought a lot more home.  And the service was exceptionally friendly.   Definitely verified this concept of "Southern Hospitality" I've heard of but never have really been in a position to experience.  Like I said, this is a good place to eat southern food in Atlanta.