Clean out the fridge pasta sauce!

As the title states this is exactly how I made this sauce. I had some lovely fresh ravioli from the Stew Leonard’s store and wanted to have these for dinner. This will be a vegetarian meal. The ravioli are butternut squash and artisan cheese filled. I have never made my own ravioli. I find fresh and/or frozen ravioli is a handy quick meal; the same goes for frozen pirogi. And it is handy to have Artisan Bread dough hanging about in the fridge as well!

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Here’s what I found in my refrigerator and what I threw in the sauce:

  • 1/2 of a large can of tomato puree (a scant two cups?)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 fennel bulb
  • 1 large carrot, all alone
  • a handful of baby spinach leaves, chopped roughly if desired
  • a handful of black olives, cut in halves
  • homemade pesto
  • 1/2 cup water for thinning
  • sprinkle of Italian seasoning
  • sprinkle of dried parsley

Heat a little olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. I use my favorite 10 inch cast iron skillet. Chop the onion, carrot, and fennel. Saute this in the oil for about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree, spinach, seasonings, and water. When this is simmering nicely stir in the pesto (about 1 Tablespoon). Lastly stir in the olives. Continue to simmer for about 20 minutes to blend all the flavors.

The vegetables were al dente. You could cook the onion, carrot, and fennel longer if you want a softer texture. I liked the crunch as contrast to the soft ravioli. I have two cups of sauce leftover and have that waiting in my freezer for another meal.

Must be vegetable week at my house! Now what to do with all the potatoes in my pantry that need cooking?

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French Carrot Salad from an American kitchen

In my everlasting love of cooking and reading I have the charter edition of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine. You will recognize him from America’s Test Kitchen. There are some interesting recipes in here, one of which was grated carrot salad. I have several recipes for this and have made it, adding Craisins in the past and sometimes crushed pineapple. Having matured in my food tastes I can now understand the addition of olive oil. Before I would only add the fruit juice, lemon or orange or combination of both.

Having carrots in the house I thought I would try this. I, naturally, did not have all of the necessary ingredients. I don’t have white balsamic vinegar, nor fresh tarragon. I never let any of these problems stop me, do you? I use a fresh lemon and dried tarragon. So this is not really the recipe from the magazine, but is definitely inspired by it.

  • juice from one lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 carrots, peeled and shredded
  • handful of fresh parsley

Using my food processor with the shredder blade, I shred the carrots. I mix the first five ingredients to make a dressing. Mix that into the shredded carrots. Then chop the parsley, leaves only, and stir that into the salad. Voila!

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Hubby describes it as “hmmm, what did you season it with? Oil and herbs?” Yes! And they like it. And it’s probably good for us, too!

 

Simple Custard with a little Extra

Way back when I had children in my house I made the Baked Custard recipe from my 1978 Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. This became the go to custard to make, although years have gone by without me making it. I was wanting to make a light dessert because we had been overeating and feeling too full and lethargic. I also had many, many eggs in the house and had been asked by my son to have the ingredients necessary for Creme Brulee for when he visits soon. He’s bringing a friend along!

This recipe for custard is nice because it can be cut by 1/3 super simply. Why, might you ask? The recipe makes six custard cups. For some reason I only wanted to make four, most likely because I only had 4 Pyrex custard cups!

Here are the ingredients for 4 custards:

  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • dash of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 2/3 cups milk, scalded

Don’t be scared away by scalded milk. I put the milk (you can use half-and half also) in a glass measuring cup/bowl and nuked it in the microwave for one minute. That’s scalded enough for me.

In medium bowl whisk together the first four ingredients. Stir or whisk in the milk gradually. Pour into the custard cups. Being in the autumn mood, I put a tablespoon of pumpkin flavored chips in the bottom of each cup before pouring. I am not sure what outcome I was expecting but I was pleasantly surprised. I forgot to sprinkle nutmeg on the tops but this worked out well too.

The custard is baked in a bain marie. I find that my four larger custard cups fit nicely in a 9 x  13 inch baking pan. Pour boiling water into the pan to within an inch of the top of the custard cups. Bake for 45 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

(Silly me, I had the weirdest notion that I could bake the dessert while supper was cooking, entirely forgetting that pizza was to be baked for supper! Supper was a little later than planned that evening.)

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The pumpkin-flavored chips floated to the top and made a nice little crust. They also made a bit of goo on the bottom. Very tasty and pleasing textures in every bite.

Birthday pie: lemon meringue

My stepdaughter is having a birthday and then she’s going off to join the Air Force. Wow! It is tradition to have the birthday child to select the type of dinner and cake she/he would like for their celebration. This one likes pie. Apple pie, lemon meringue pie, pie! This year she has selected barbecue ribs (Hubby’s job to grill) and lemon meringue pie which is mine to make.

I have a French cookbook of the coffee table variety which has a wonderful recipe for lemon meringue pie with a lemon curd. That uses butter. I also looked at one of my British baking books which has both a lemon curd tart and a lemon meringue pie. Which to make?

I decide to go with the lemon meringue pie from Home Baking: Cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, bread (Paragon Publishing 2005). I am not following this exactly because…well, just because! Almost, but adding one more egg and one more lemon. Here are my ingredients:

  • single pie crust; I recently made a batch of the apple cider vinegar pie crust and have one disc in the freezer. I thaw this out.
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • juice and grated zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 cup of sugar, divided
  • 3 eggs, separated

The pie crust needs to be pre-baked. i do not do this well. I want to buy some of those pie beans or some such to learn to do this better. But I have to make do with what is available. I do not have dried beans in the pantry. What to do? Last time I tried to pre-bake a crust I put a pot lid on it and this was not successful. It puffed up underneath the lid and the edges shrunk. This time I fit a disposable foil pie tin inside the pie pan and then put the lid on it. The recipe says to prick the crust all over and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. I did this and then uncovered the crust and let it bake for another 10 minutes raising the temperature to 375 F. This worked nicely, light brown, no shrinkage.

20161020_214726222_iosNow for the filling. I do a nice mise en place. I have misplaced/lost the insert to my old-time juicer so juicing the lemons is not as fun or simple as it was before.

Mi the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of the cold water. Put the remaining water in a medium sized pot along with the lemon juice, zest and cornstarch paste. Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly. Stir in 5 tablespoons of sugar and the egg yolks. I temper the egg yolks by stirring in a little of the lemon mixture first so as not to have scrambled eggs in the lemon pudding. Pour all of that into the pie shell.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and then whisk in the remaining sugar. I read up on meringues and later figured there should have been more sugar and I should have waited to put the sugar in and should not have whipped them so stiff. Anyway I then had to spread this carefully over the top of the pie. And since it was so stiff it did not spread easily.

Very lemony taste! I am not sure why the meringue cracked unless it was because i whipped the egg whites too stiff.  It was enjoyed by all!

First Bread

Fall is here and the cooler weather begs for bread baking. A few years ago my son told me about the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. Now this recipe is all over everywhere, even on King Arthur Flour, recipe. I use the recipe for The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf) from the book.

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
  • cornmeal or pizza peel (or baking sheet)

I use an empty 5 quart ice cream tub. And I don’t care if it forms a seal when covered in the refrigerator. This is a super simple bread recipe. It does make an artisan bread so is not the same texture as sandwich bread or the standard bread kneaded with two risings. But it is good. If you are a novice bread baker this is a good bread to begin your bread baking.

Put your water in the tub. Sprinkle on the yeast and the salt. It may not dissolve completely. No worries. Add the flour all at once and mix with a long wooden spoon until no dry spots; all the flour is incorporated. Cover loosely and let sit at room temperature for at least two hours. I forgot about mine and it sat for 4 hours. (Binge watching television shows occupied my time!) And then put in refrigerator. The original recipe says it should be refrigerated at least 3 hours.

I baked the first loaf the next day. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Reach into the tub and pull our about 1/4 of the dough. Oh, flour your hands first and sprinkle cornmeal on your pizza peel if you have a baking stone or on your baking pan. I used a baking pan because last spring my baking stone broke in two and I have not yet replaced it.

Add a little more flour to the dough in your hand and stretch the top onto the bottom shaping into a ball, smooth on top and bunched on the bottom. Put this on your cornmeal sprinkled pan. Let rise and rest about 40 minutes. Depending on how fast your oven preheats you want it to be 450 F when you are ready to bake your bread.

To be authentic there are instructions to heat a pan of hot water at the bottom of the stove but I did not do that for this loaf, nor for the second loaf!

Just before putting it in the oven, sprinkle the top with flour and slash the top with a serrated knife. This allows for an oven rise through the surface. Bake in the 450 F oven for 30 minutes. The loaf should be firm and nicely browned.

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Truth be told this does take more than five minutes per loaf. The actual time you spend with the dough is about that though. With a batch of this dough in my fridge I can come home from work and have bread on the table in just over one hour: 5 minutes shaping, 40 minutes rising, 30 minutes baking.