Beef and Barley Soup and Pumpkin Buns

Tough day at work.  What’s the best thing to do for that?  Come home and cook!

I love the way cooking a new and complex dish helps me to forget the day and feel better about life.  The beef and barley soup was borrowed from a recipe by Martha Stewart.  It has a true depth of flavor and was very hearty!  The pumpkins buns were fluffy and delicious.  They do not have a very heavy and sweet pumpkin flavor.  Instead, they had just a hint of pumpkin.  When they came out of the oven, the butter and brown sugar mixture was bubbly and syrupy.  So delicious.  They were so good, that I woke up early the next morning to bake the other tray for my co-workers.  I felt ridiculous carrying a tray of food into work wrapped in towels so I wouldn’t burn myself, but my co-workers positive feedback made it well worth it.  I hope you enjoy both recipes!

 

Beef and Barley Soup

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine

2 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Lb  London broil, cut into 3/4 inch cubes (season with salt and pepper)

1 Large onion, chopped

2 Shallots, chopped

1 Carrot, chopped

8 Oz. baby bella mushrooms

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3/4 Dry red wine

5 Cups chicken stock

3 Cups water

3/4 Cup barley, rinsed and drained

Parsley and Parmesan, to garnish

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven, and cook beef (approximately 5-7 minutes).  Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.  Reduce the heat to medium, and add more olive oil.  Cook the onion, shallot, carrots, and mushrooms until golden (approximately 12-15 minutes).  Add garlic and tomato paste and cook down.  Remove from the heat, and add red wine (scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot).  Cook until mixture is reduced by half.

Add the beef back to the pot, along with the stock, water and barely.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for approximately 1.25 hours.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Finish with chopped parsley and grated parmesan.

Pumpkin Buns

Recipe taken from http://www.parents.com/recipes

1 Envelope of active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)

1 Tsp + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

2 Eggs

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 Can solid packed pumpkin (15 oz.)

5 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

3/4 Tsp salt

Filling

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 Cup granulated sugar

1 Cup packed light brown sugar

1 Tbsp cinnamon

Glaze

2 Cups confectioner’s sugar

3 Tbsp milk

Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl.  Add 1 tsp of the granulated sugar; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in remaining 2 tbsp sugar, the eggs, butter, and pumpkin.

Gradually add 5 cups of the flour and the salt, scraping the side of the bowl, until soft dough forms.  Turn out onto floured surface and knead remaining 1/2 cup of flour into dough, adding more if sticky.  Knead 10 minutes, until smooth.  Dough will be soft.

Grease bowl; add dough.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

Coat two 13×9 inch baking pans with nonstick cooking spray.  Make filling; mix butter, granulated and brown sugars, and cinnamon in a bowl.

Punch dough down.  Roll out half onto a lightly floured surface to form a 16 x 10 inch rectangle.  Spread with half of the filling.  Starting on one long side, roll up jelly-roll fashion.  Pinch seam to close.  Repeat with second half of dough and filling.

Cut each log crosswise into 12 pieces.  Arrange pieces, cut-side down, in each prepared pan.  Cover with plastic wrap; let sit in a warm spot until buns double in size (about 30-45 minutes).  [You can refrigerate one pan overnight or cover with plastic and freeze at this point.  Thaw overnight.]

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Uncover pans and bake buns until golden brown and bubbly (28-33 minutes).  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Glaze; blend confectioner’s sugar with milk, whisk until smooth.  Drizzle over buns.  Serve warm.

Mushroom Rague

Bountiful Harvest from the Farmer's Market

We picked up some delicious goodies from the Farmer’s Market this weekend.  The artisinal breads were fabulous!  We also picked up some Honey Crisp apples from upstate that are to die for.  They are just the right amount of sweet, tart, and juicy.  Roasted Acorn squash was another great find!  And don’t forget the Fennel and Shallots (which are a new favorite).  I put shallots in everything now – they are delicious!!

 

Mushroom Rague

Red Wine

Dried Oyster Mushrooms (or fresh, if you can find them)

Olive oil

2 Shallots

1 Small onion

2 Cloves of garlic

8 oz Sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 Tbsp butter

1/4 cup Parsley

Polenta, sliced

Reconstitute mushrooms in warm water and wine for approximately 30 minutes (save the this mushroom liquid for later).  Saute chopped shallots, onion, and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  Add baby bella mushrooms and sliced oyster mushrooms, along with some of the leftover mushroom liquid and approximately 1/2 cup of wine.  Cook mixture down for approximately 20 minutes, while adding more of the mushroom liquid.  Finish with some butter and parsley. Serve over grilled polenta rounds.

 

Proof of the Beauty on Long Island

I thought I would share some of the pictures that I have taken while poking around Long Island.  

There are some really beautiful spots!

Fire Island Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Moses

Robert Moses

Duck Walk Vineyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Planting Field Arboretum

Old Field Winery

Lavender By The Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a pretty view ...

Gilgo Beach

Who Doesn’t Love Mussels?!

Sunday is above all Farmer’s Market Day.  This week we scored some incredible things.  The best being a homemade Chorizo from a Polish Deli in Queens.  This Chorizo was delicious.  It was the perfect combination of spicy and smokey.  It was lean, with just enough fat to add flavor to a dish.  So, I was confronted with the task of creating a tasty meal to highlight this Chorizo.  Walking through the Farmer’s market, I also purchased some fresh Mussels from the Sound.  I thought, why not make Mussels with a Chorizo and Red Wine broth.  We purchased the rest of the ingredients, homemade semolina bread, shallots, and parsley, and were on our way to a delicious dinner … hope you enjoy my creation!  We certainly did, which is why there is no picture (it tasted too good to stop eating and take a picture).

Mussels with Red Wine and Chorizo

3 Large shallots, minced

1/2 lb. Chorizo, chopped

1 bottle of clam juice

1 cup red wine (we used a Malbec)

1/2-1 cup water

1 lb. Mussels, cleaned

Chopped parsley

(served with crusty bread and corn on the cob)

Saute chorizo in a small bit of olive oil until it renders some fat.  Add shallots, and cooks until translucent.  Add the bottle of clam juice, red wine, and water.  Cook down, approximately 10 minutes to work off the alcohol.  Add the mussels, and cook for approximately 9 minutes.  Finish with some freshly chopped parsley.

On a side note, I would love to post a link of a recipe for one of the most delicious desserts I have ever eaten.  I found this amazing S’mores Cookie Bar recipe that is to die for!  I brought it to a cook out, and everyone was asking for the recipe.  Here is the website: http://bakingbites.com/2007/08/smore-cookie-bars/

Farmer’s Market Favorite

Every weekend, my husband and I wake up early on Sunday to head down to the Farmer’s Market.  Now, you can’t get any more green than walking across the street to buy organic vegetables.  Honestly, I can say that we live in one of the best neighborhoods in the area.  I didn’t know that there was a Farmer’s Market across the street when I took the apartment.  I only knew that there was a BEAUTIFUL gas range and a HUGE walk-in pantry.  A cook’s dream …

Anyway, so this weekend I picked up some beautiful organic carrots to make my husband’s favorite soup.  Cream of carrot top soup.  I find that I must make the most of all these beautiful, local ingredients until the Farmer’s Market ends in November.  That is a very sad weekend for me.  I became a big fan of eating local while reading a book entitled,The Locavores Diet.  We are able to get our vegetables, fruit, pasta, coffee, chicken, and eggs all within a few mile radius.  It’s a beautiful thing!

Unfortunately, I am not quite sure where I picked up this recipe for cream of carrot top soup, so I am unable to give the creator acknowledgment.  This week has been a very rainy week, so there is no better meal for a rainy evening than soup, salad and popovers!  Because we had a busy week, I didn’t get a chance to blanche the carrot tops.  The soup is just as delicious if your supermarket does not sell carrots with tops, or you just don’t have time for an extra step.

 

 

Cream of Carrot Top Soup

4 Tbsp. butter, divided

1 Large onion, diced

3 Cloves of garlic, chopped

1 Tsp of dried thyme

4 Cups of chicken stock

6 Large carrots, chopped

2 Medium potatoes, chopped

1 Bay leaf

1 Cup milk

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

3 Cups of carrot tops

3/4 cups of yogurt cheese, or heavy whipping cream*

Salt and Pepper

*Yogurt cheese is strained, non-fat plain yogurt.  It can be strained through a cheese cloth or a yogurt stainer, which can be purchased in most stores carrying specialty kitchen items.  You can use either yogurt cheese or heavy whipping cream, depending on how healthy or unhealthy you want to be!

Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a large sauce pan.  Add the onions and garlic, and saute until translucent.  Add thyme and cook 1 minute more.

Add chicken stock, carrots, potatoes, bay leaf, salt/pepper and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, and puree carrot mixture in the food processor in batches (or use an immersion blender).  Return the pureed mixtures to the pan, and thin with milk and remaining 2 Tbsp of butter.  Add parsley and keep warm.

In the mean time, blanche carrot tops in a pot of heavily-salted boiling water.  Drain the carrot tops, and puree with 2 cups of the carrot mixture.

Fill the soup bowls with the carrot soup mixture, the carrot top mixture, and a dollop of yogurt cheese/dizzle of heavy whipping cream.

Popovers

Modified from the Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition Cookbook

Nonstick cooking spray

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup all purpose flour

1 Tsp thyme

Salt/Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degree F.  Liberally grease a popover pan.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, canola oil, flour, thyme, and salt/pepper.  Whisk until smooth.

Fill each cup of the popover pan half-way.  Bake 30 minutes, or until browned.

Labor Day Weekend Recipes

Mom’s Vodka Sauce Recipe

serves 4 first course plates

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Medium onion, diced

1 Large clove of garlic, minced

1 Can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, half left whole and half pureed

1/2 cup good vodka

1/2 pint heavy cream

basil

Salt and pepper

Melt butter and sauteed onion and garlic until translucent.  Add tomatoes, simmer for several minutes.  Add vodka and cook down a good bit.  Add heavy cream, and continue to cook down.  Sauce should be thickening.  Puree half the mixture in the blend, return to pot and add basil.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Boil pasta of your liking in heavily salted water (about 1-2 tbsp).

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

Serves 4, with some leftovers (see chicken salad recipe below)

3-4lb Whole roasting chicken

1 Lemon

Herbs (I used fresh Parsley and dried Oregano)

2 Cloves garlic

3 Tbsp butter

Salt and Pepper

For better results, season chicken several hours before cooking.  Clean chicken, and pat down to dry.  Season whole chicken with salt and pepper.  Gently pull skin from breast of chicken, and place smashed garlic cloves and herbs below skin.  Add the remainder of herbs to the inside cavity of the chicken, and squeeze half of the lemon inside (also add the whole lemon half inside chicken cavity).  Refrigerate until ready to cook.

Allow chicken to come to room temperature, while preheating the oven to 450 degrees.  Place chicken in a roasting pan, on top of carrots or sliced onions.  Squeeze other half of lemon on chicken.  Back at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, and lower the heat to 400 degrees.  Cook for approximately 1.25 hours, or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh reads 160 degree.  Let chicken rest for 15 minutes (thermometer will then read approximately 170 degree).

Chicken Salad

Left over chicken from above recipe, cubed

Mayonnaise and non-fat plain yogurt, mixed

Dried cranberries

Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients, mix, and serve!


The Beginning.

My love of cooking started at a young age.  I remember watching my mother as she made dinner, just marveling at all the amazing things she would create.  I can still recall the smell of walking into the house after school on her days off from work.  I always knew that I was in for a treat and something amazing would be simmering on the stove.  My favorite smell was that of homemade chicken soup on the first, crisp days of Fall.  If we were lucky, there might also be some chocolate pudding pie with a graham cracker crust.  Ahh … sweet memories!

When cooking with my mother, my sister and I were always given small tasks to perform to help with meal; peel the carrots, chop the onions, boil the water.  My mother was always a healthful cook, and is even more today.  I can remember making chocolate chip cookies with her.  When the recipe called for 1 cup of sugar, she would make us put “just a little bit less” in the dough.  Even now, my sister and I still laugh that she puts ground flax seed or wheat germ in her pancake and muffin batter.  I laugh, but the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.  I get Eating Well magazine, and get WAY too excited when I walk into a Farmer’s Market or health food store.

My mother always encouraged me to cook.  As a child, I could remember standing at the island in our kitchen, pretending to be presenting a recipe on a cooking show.  I put all the ingredients in little ramekins, and explained each step to the imaginary camera filming the scene.  My first official recipe was called “Elegant Roast Beef for One.”  My mom still has a copy of the original recipe in her cookbook, or memory box.  With some leftover roast beef, diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, onion, and oregano, I made a pretty tasty dish.

I can’t say that cooking was always such an important part of my life.  But it has always been there, looming in the background.  Like in college, when my roommate and I celebrated the weekend with a homemade meal and a few bottles of wine.  However, it wasn’t until graduate school that my true love of cooking emerged.  I can honestly say that my roommate and I used cooking as an excuse to get out of doing work.  Earning a doctorate can be pretty time consuming, leaving little time for anything.  But, a girl’s got to eat, right?  Living in a house with 4 people usually meant big Sunday dinner, grilling in the summer, and desserts for no reason at all!  How I miss those days … not the work, but the enjoyment of taking a well-deserved break with some delicious food, and great friends.

So, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!  That is how I ended up where I am today, an index full of recipes in my head … looking for some hungry bellies to feed.  Stayed tuned for recipes from this Holiday Weekend.

The Menu

Mom’s Vodka Sauce Recipe

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

Come On, Irene …

Well, this is my first official post as a “blogger.”  I guess there is no better time to start a blog than during one of the worst forecasted hurricanes in the last 25 years.  Luckily, we only lost power for a short time.  Albeit, while making a vegetable soup, with everything but the kitchen sink (recipe suggestion to follow).

I love food.  I love to cook.  And I love to feed my family and friends.  I find it difficult to follow recipes, instead I like to use them as guidelines or suggestions for future meals (of course, as long as I am not baking).  Many of my cookbooks are laced with markings, or improvements, I have made to recipes.  Therefore, I decided a blog dedicated to the pursuit of good food would be only fitting.

So, back to the hurricane … down-graded to tropical storm.  My family was evacuated from their home due to the storm, and were planning on staying with myself and my husband.  Of course, in my mind this means dinner party.  While other people were plundering the grocery store for non-perishable items, I thought, “My gas stove will still work once the power is out”, “Looks like we’re making chili, vegetable soup, and fried zucchini flowers.”  Two nights before the hurricane was to make landfall, we went for a final emergency shopping session.  My husband asked me to write down the essentials.

“Parsley?”  He said.  “Do we really need Parsley during a hurricane?”  Well, of course!

The next day, I was still unsatisfied with all the vegetables I had picked up for the weekend, and was feeling really disappointed that our Farmer’s Market would be rained out on Sunday.  I remembered there was another Farmer’s Market two towns over, where I found organic zucchini flowers, leeks, and squash.  Delicious!

Luckily, our weekend ended safely.  I was able to feed some family and friends that lost power during the storm, and I couldn’t have been happier.  Below you can find the recipes for vegetable soup and fried zucchini flowers (a personal favorite growing up, and my husband’s favorite while honeymooning in Italy).

Everything, but the Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 Onion, diced

2 Cloves of garlic, minced

1 Leek, thinly sliced

3 Carrots, sliced

2 Celery stalks, sliced

2 Zucchini or summer squash large dice

4 Cups of low-sodium chicken stock

1 Can diced tomatoes

1 Can, drained and rinsed cannellini beans

1 Bay leaf

2 Tsp thyme

Juice from one lemon

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Saute onion, garlic, and leek in olive oil until onions are translucent.  Add carrots, celery, and zucchini and saute for 4-5 minutes more.  Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, bay leaf, thyme, lemon juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook approximately 20-30 minutes (or until vegetable are al dente).

Fried Zucchini Flowers

10-12 Zucchini flower

1 Cup flour

3/4 Cup warm water

1/2 Tsp Herbs de Provence

Pinch of Salt

1 Egg

Pinch of baking soda

Combine flour, water, Herbs de Provence, and pinch of salt.  Let mixture sit for approximately 1/2 hour.  Add egg and pinch of baking soda.  Dip zucchini flowers into batter, and fry in canola oil.

ENJOY!