Monday, December 31, 2018

Beef Bourguignon

MY HUSBAND AND I DECIDED to spend the afternoon in the kitchen making Beef Bourguignon,
He wanted to make it in honor of a beloved chef and I wanted to make it because I had never eaten it, much less cooked it, and felt that was a gaping hole in my culinary experience.

We wanted this to be authentic and were happy and willing to spend the time sourcing ingredients and cooking. I did a lot of reading about the history of this dish, and reviewing recipes. I also watched videos, including one of Julia Child herself making this.

Julia recommended serving the Beef Bourguignon with buttered and parslied new potatoes and French green beans (haricot vert). Ina recommended toasting slices of French bread and rubbing with a garlic clove to soak up the scrumptious gravy, so we did that too.

We were both very happy with the way this amazing dish turned out. It is easy to  see   taste why this has become a well loved classic. I can truly say this was the best meal I have ever eaten.

Beef Bourguinon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

6 ounces bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slices
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound carrots, sliced into chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 bottle medium bodied dry red wine (we used Pinot Noir)
2 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
5 Tbsp. room temperature butter, divided
3 Tbsp. flour
1 pound fresh baby onions, peeled
1 pound fresh mushrooms, halved or quartered

In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove bacon to a plate.

While the bacon is cooking, dry the beef chunks very well. Salt and pepper generously.

Cook the beef in the fat in the pan, in batches, until well-browned on all sides. Place on plate with the bacon.

Place the carrots and onions in the pan, adding a little olive oil if needed. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons pepper. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the meat back to the pan with the vegetables. Add the wine, the beef broth, tomato paste,  and the thyme. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a tight fitting lid and place in oven for about 3 hours, until the meat and vegetables are very tender. Check after 2 hours.

Stir together 3 tablespoons butter with the flour, until smooth. When the stew comes out of the oven, stir in the mixture until smooth.

Saute mushroom, in remaining butter, for about 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add to the stew. Add the baby onions to the pan and cook until almost tender. Add them to the stew. Simmer, on top of the stove, for about 15 minutes. Season to taste.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Japanese Fruit Cake

I REMEMBER MY GRANDMOTHER MAKING this lovely celebration cake each year for the holidays. As a girl I thought this was the most impressive and beautiful cake I had ever seen! After my grandmother passed away, the cake stopped appearing at our holiday gatherings.

For years, I asked family members, especially some of the older aunts, if they had the recipe. I searched through old southern cookbooks.

Last summer, because she knows my interest in heirloom recipes, Mama gave me a cookbooklet she had found in some of her aunt's belongings. The booklet was published in 1952 by a community group in Chambers County, Alabama. Imagine my delight when I turned to the cake chapter and there was the recipe for Japanese Fruit Cake!

 I have no idea why this cake has such a mysterious name. I don't believe it is remotely Japanese and it is not a fruit cake in the traditional sense. The fruits in the cake are coconut, lemon, and raisins. There are two moist and fluffy yellow layers and two spice layers with pecans, raisins, cinnamon and allspice. The cake is topped with a luscious lemony coconut glaze.

I loved making this cake!

Japanese Fruit Cake
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped raisins
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter and flour four 8-inch cake pans.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the chopped raisins, pecans, cinnamon, and allspice.

I mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar; beat with mixer to combine them well. Add eggs one and a time, beating after each addition, to make a smooth, fluffy mixture.

Stir the vanilla into the milk. Add about half the flour mixture, the half the milk, beating at low speed just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and milk.

Divide half the batter between 2 of the pans. Stir the raisin and spice mixture into the remaining batter. Divide this mixture between the remaining 2 pans. Set all 4 pans in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, until the layers are golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pans, and spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool the cakes on wire racks for 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto the wire racks to cool completely, top side up.

Lemon Coconut Icing
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
3 1/2 cups (approx.) frozen shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water

In heavy, medium saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and zest, and the coconut. Bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle boil, and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir cornstarch into the 1/2 cup water, stir well and add to the pan, mixing to dissolve. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until thickened and clear. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature, stirring from time to time.

To assemble the cake, place a plain layer, top side down, on a cake stand, or serving plate. Poke little holes all over and spread about one fourth of the icing over the layer, spreading all the way to the edges. Place a spice layer over the icing and spread another 1/4 of the icing. Continue layering with the remaining layers and icing. Place the last spice layer, right side up and pour all the remaining icing over the layer so that some of the icing cascades down the sides of the cake. Let stand for several hours, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove cake from refrigerator about 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Celery Salad with Dates and Roasted Pecans

THIS SUPER SIMPLE SALAD MADE with only a few ingredients is surprisingly delicious. I got the recipe from my long-time blogging buddy, Rosie Hawthorne of Kitchens are Monkey Business. At her blog she speaks of her discovery of Medjool dates and shares some date history. Check it out!

I have found that most good produce departments have Medjool dates but sometimes you have to ask because they are not always obvious.   I have posted a few date recipes before, always using Medjool dates, though not specifying. Here is a lovely summer dessert, Stuffed Dates. Here is another stuffed date recipe; one of my favorites and one of my favorite photographs

Celery Salad with Dates and Roasted Pecans
4 stalks celery, sliced on a diagonal
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup roasted pecans
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon joice
2 -3 Tbsp. good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (approx.) shaved Parmesan cheese

Combine celery, dates, pecans, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Stir well. Garnish with Parmesan.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Vegetarian Gravy

THERE IS NOTHING I LOVE MORE THAN A VEGETABLE PLATE.  I am not a vegetarian, I just love vegetables--all vegetables. I was this way even as a kid. I was the nerdy kid who liked rutabagas, beets, brussels sprouts. I especially love greens and beans of all kinds.   

For this vegetable plate, I cooked fresh turnips with turnip greens and fresh black eye peas, all of which I got at the Farmers Market. I know rice is technically not a vegetable, but it is a plant based food. Plus I was craving gravy (which I often do) and needed something to serve it over. Also, I think rice is lovely with beans.

Vegetarian Gravy
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 1/2 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp thyme
generous salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet

Melt butter, in a medium skillet. Stir in flour until well blended, the add the finely minced onion. Cook over medium low heat until onion is tender. Slowly stir in milk. Add bay leaf, sage, thyme, and salt and pepper. Cook and stir until thickened to desired consistency. Remove bay leaf and stir in Kitchen Bouquet. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Serve hot.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Peach and Orzo Salad with Mango Viniagrette

OVER THE PAST COUPLE OF WEEKS, I HAVE made several pasta salads. Loaded with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, they seem to be perfect for a light supper on a hot summer evening. The combinations are endless with the varieties of pasta shapes available as well as the abundance of summer produce.

This was one of our favorites. Our Southern peaches from South Carolina and Georgia have been outstanding this year--perfectly juicy with intense peach flavor. This salad uses those flavorful peaches along with small mozzarella balls and toasted pecans as well as other vegetables. The mango dressing really ties everything together.

Peach and Orzo Salad with Mango Viniagrette
8 ounces orzo, cooked according to package directions, drained
2 large peaches, peeled and chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
8 ounces small fresh mozzarella balls
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup mango chutney
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large serving bowl, combine cooled orzo, peaches, scallions, celery, bell pepper, cheese, pecans, and parsley.

Add mango chutney, olive oil, and red wine vinegar to a mason jar and shake vigorously to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake again.

Pour the dressing over the salad and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or vinegar if needed.