Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beef Goulash (Healthy!)

In August of 2007 I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the Porteus brothers on a trip to Eastern Europe. Jim's brother Sam was in the Czech Republic teaching conversational English, and the rest of us couldn't resist jumping at the chance to visit him.

We spent most of our time in Most, CZ. We then traveled down through Prague, to Budapest, and spent a week in Slovenia before making our way back up. To date, that trip was the most fun I've had, and an amazing experience. I can't wait to pack up my backpack and a weeks worth of clothes to do it again.

Of course, I could never tread new ground without taking in the culinary experiences to be offered. Eastern Europe is a very "meat-and-potatoes" area. Most of the meals consisted of a meat with some sort of gravy and a heavy starch. We quickly became fond of knedliky (Czech Dumplings), Svickova (marinated beef and gravy), and duck dishes.

Throughout our travels, on every menu we came to glimpse upon, there was always Goulash. Beef Goulash varies a little from country to country, but essentially is a beef and red pepper stew. Not only does this warm my bones in the winter, but it takes me back to those wonderful times I had with Jim and his brothers gallivanting through Europe.

I've tried multiple recipes, and what I've ended up with is bits and pieces of my favorite recipes, plus my own additions, ending up with a really fantastic dish.

Sam said it was some of the best goulash he's ever had, and he should know he lived in traveled through Eastern Europe for over a year (eating a lot of goulash).

Beef Goulash
7 slices Center-Cut Bacon (chopped)
3 Beef Shanks
2 lbs. Stewing Beef (plus) 1 lb. Marrow Bones
2 tsp Sea Salt
6 cloves Garlic (chopped)
1 large Leek (chopped)
1 tblsp Caraway Seeds
2 tblsp Flour
4 Roasted Peppers (chopped)
3 tblsp Paprika
1/4 cup Red Wine
15 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
2 cups Beef Broth
5 Yukon Gold Potaos (cubed)
chopped Parsley

1) In a large pot, over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pot and drain.

2) Add to rendered bacon fat, chopped garlic, leeks, and caraway seeds. Saute until leeks and garlic are soft.

3) Add beef and marrow bones, salt with sea salt. Let cook until brown on all sides. *If using shanks, cut meat off the bone and into 2 inch cubes after browned and return to the pot.

4) Slowly add flour with a sifter, mixing intermittently to avoid clumping. Let cook for about two more minutes.

5) Add, bacon, roasted peppers, and paprika. Saute to combine.

6) Add red wine to deglaze the pot, scraping up bits that might be stuck to the bottom.

7) Add tomatoes and beef stock, turn heat to high and bring to a boil.

8) Add potatoes, turn heat to low, cover and simmer.

9) Cook covered, over low heat, for two hours until beef and potatoes become very tender. Remove bones.

10) Serve with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines Day Dinner II: Roasted Garlic Bruschetta (Healthy!)

A great accompaniment to a dish like broccoli rabe is roasted garlic bruschetta. Essentially you roast the garlic in its bulb until the garlic becomes so soft and sweet that you can squeeze it out of it's clove. It's SO much better than butter!

Roasted Garlic Bruschetta
1 bulb Garlic
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 loaf Italian Bread, sliced
Aluminum Foil

Preheat the oven to 350*f
1) Place the garlic in the center of a piece of tin foil.

2) Drizzle 1 tsp. olive oil on to the garlic.

3) Close the foil around the garlic so that it is completely encased.

4) Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until soft.

After that comes out...

5) Arrange sliced Italian bread on a baking sheet.

6) Brush each piece with the remaining 1/4 cup of oil.

7) Bake until they begin to turn golden brown (about 10-15 minutes).

Now the garlic should be cool enough to handle, and you can spread it on the bread. I like to leave the garlic in the bulb and put it in a small bowl. That way people can pick the piece they want, and the inner cloves continue to soften from the heat.

Cooking garlic like this makes a great appetizer or side. It's wonderful for parties, too, because it takes very little preparation but looks and tastes impressive. You don't have to tell anyone that the garlic did all the work!

This meal is another that takes very little effort, but will stand up to the critics. Spending Valentines Day at home? Cooking for your honey? It doesn't get much more romantic than this!

Valentines Day Dinner Part I: Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Aioli (Healthy!)

This dish is one of my Grandma Leonard's favorites. She gets it from an Italian restaurant in Huntington, Long Island, called Sal D's. They know my Grandma well there, she and my Pop-pop have been patrons for years.

After Pop passed (2005), we were out visiting Grandma. Trying to decide what we wanted for lunch, Grandma said that she wanted Broccoli Rabe Aioli from Sal's. It was the first time I had ever tried it, and it immediately became one of my favorites.

With tons of garlic, caramelized nice and slowly in olive oil, sweet fennel sausage, and leafy broccoli rabe, this dish is hearty but not heavy. Add roasted garlic bruschetta, a good glass of white wine, and a few candles, and you might as well be sitting in a Sicilian bistro.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Aioli
1 pack Sweet Italian Sausage
1 bunch Broccoli Rabe
5 cloves Garlic, smashed
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tblsp Red Pepper Flakes

1) In an 8x8 baking pan, cook the whole sausage in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

This first step is important. If you don't cook the whole sausages before you go to cut them for the dish, they won't hold their form and you won't be able to slice them as thinly.

2) Slice your sausages into 1/4 inch pieces.

3) In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.

4) Saute garlic and sausage until the sausage is brown and starts to crisp.

*It is also important to keep the stove on a medium to low heat. Cooking the garlic slowly will ensure that your garlic tastes sweet, and not sharp or burnt. It also helps to caramelize the garlic, and sausage.

5) Remove the sausage from the pan.

6) Add broccoli rabe. Continuously toss with tongs in the oil until the leaves wilt, the stems are al dente, and the heads soften.

Some people cut half the stems off. The stem probably holds the most bitterness in this vegetable, but it's up to your personal preference. These flavors all compliment each other very nicely, so I tend to keep the stems on.

7) After the broccoli rabe is cooked, add the sausages and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Saute until incorporated.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Roasted Peppers (Healthy!)

Ok, ok, ok. I know it's been a while, but there's been lots going on! I have some great new recipes in the works for you (goulash, hummus, and more!), and a new website is in the works! It's all very exciting, but it doesn't leave much room for posting.

Over the holidays, I got a lot of e-mails asking about appetizers and sides. In my responses I completely neglected one of the greatest antipasti elements of all time: Roasted Peppers.

If you're like me, and you have two Italian grandmothers, you eat a lot of antipasti dishes. Particularly at my Grandma Crowley's house I can rely on a hefty tray of olives, salamis, cheeses, and of course, roasted peppers.

Your typical margarita salad has fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and tomatoes. I like to use roasted peppers instead. After years of picking them up at the deli or grocery store, my mom decided to start making and jarring her own peppers. I learned the process by watching her, and was surprised to find that it's actually really easy. Now you can do it too.

Roasted Peppers

7 Red Bell Peppers, seeded and cut in half
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2) In a food processor, pulverize the olive oil and garlic.

3) Arrange pepper halves on a baking tray, fitting as many as you can.
Unless you want a designated pepper pan, make sure you line your pan. The sugar from the peppers WILL ruin your non-stick cookie sheet!

4) Brush the peppers with the garlic/oil mix so they are completely coated.

5) Bake at 400* until the peppers begin to shrivel and the skins start to burn, about 20 minutes.

6) Let them cool until they can be handled.

7) Peel off the skins.
The skins should have started separating from the peppers already, so it should not be hard to peel them. If the skins haven't started to separate, stick them back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes.

Once your peppers are peeled you're ready to go! Put them in a bowl, or a jar. They'll go great on a sandwich or by themselves. Eat them with eggplant or cheese! They are so versatile, you can't go wrong!

Another great thing: Sometimes red peppers are on sale for a relatively cheap price. Buy a ton of them! You can roast them and jar them in oil. They will have a longer shelf life, you'll stretch out your dollar, AND you'll always have roasted peppers!