Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer Garden Vegetable Bolognese in a Slow Cooker

Whether you are enjoying the bountiful abundance of vegetables from the produce section of your grocery store, your local farmer's market, or your own garden this is a delicious way to infuse more veggies in an otherwise traditional pasta sauce.  Pasta used to be a staple in my life, and now it's a rare carbohydrate splurge. When I make this sauce I feel a lot less guilty! Plus, you can serve this sauce over spaghetti squash, zoodles (zucchini noodles), or your favorite pasta. My husband and I have even eaten this without pasta - just sprinkled with freshly grated cheese. It's that good! You can of course make this in a dutch oven on your stove but I love the idea of coming home on a Saturday or Sunday and having this waiting for you. This makes a great sauce for a large hospitality meal. You can also keep a couple of containers in your freezer for those unexpected guests!





Summer Garden Vegetable Bolognese in a Slow Cooker
3 lbs of ground beef
1 yellow squash
2 peppers (green, yellow, red, or combo)
2 zucchini
3 tomatoes
2 large portabella mushrooms
1 large onion
1/2 to whole head of garlic, depending on taste
7 oz tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon of dried oregano
1 heaping tablespoon of dried basil
1 heaping tablespoon of salt, more to taste later
1 teaspoon of black pepper, more to taste later
fresh parsley, thyme, oregano, basil, or combo for garnish
freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano

1. Place three pounds of ground beef in the bottom of a slow cooker. Sprinkle with 1/2 the salt.



2. I diced the majority of veggies in no particular order starting with the yellow squash. After cutting the squash in 4 quarters I did slice out the corner edge eliminating as many seeds as possible before adding them to the slow cooker.



3. Core the peppers, slice in half, and remove the seeds. Slice the pepper into strips and add to slow cooker.




4. Add minced onion.



5.  Then add the large diced zucchini in the same manner of the yellow squash.



6. Next up the portabella mushrooms.



7. Dice the tomato, add the tomato paste, garlic, the dried herbs, the rest of the salt and pepper.



8. Set the cooker on low for 6 - 8 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. Gently stir the sauce and break up the hamburger meat as desired. Adjust seasoning as needed. Keep warm as you make your desired "pasta." Or, cool for storage in freezer.



9. Top with fresh herbs and cheese.





Friday, June 26, 2015

Tuscan Lemon and Rosemary Spatchcock Chicken on a Gas Grill

I'm so glad grilling season is back. I plan on doing a lot of grilling this summer as long as I can dodge the rain drops. Two of my favorite things about grilling - that open-flame flavor and a clean kitchen stove since it doesn't get dirty! A friend of mine gave me a two foot sprig of fresh rosemary from her garden so I had to figure out how to use it. That's how dinners often start. How am I going to use (fill in the blank). Now if it was winter I would make French Chicken in a Pot with Fresh Herbs and 40 Cloves of Garlic. With the outdoor temperature in the high 70's who wants their oven on for over an hour? Instead, I want those flavors from the grill, with moist chicken and crispy skin. I've made this three times within two weeks. It's that good. Plus, I needed to use up that rosemary!




Tuscan Lemon and Rosemary Spatchcock Chicken on a Gas Grill
1 whole chicken, spatchcocked and brined (see below)
2 Tablespoons of rosemary, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced and smashed
zest from 1 lemon, juice from half (reserve other half of lemon)
1 teaspoon of medium grind pepper
1/2 cup each of kosher salt and sugar for the brine

1. Dry the whole chicken with paper towel so it is easier to handle and place the chicken on a cutting board breast side down with the spine facing up. Using kitchen shears cut along each side of the spine to remove.




2. Crack the breast bone about half way through with a knife in order for the chicken to lay flatter. This will help the chicken cook more evenly.




3. Run a wooden skewer through the thighs and lower part of the breast to make the bird more sturdy for the grill. I actually did this after the brining step the first time, but the next go round I did this step before I put the chicken in the brine. Reason? You are soaking the skewer in the brine rather than in another vessel, thus, condensing two steps into one. (See step 7 for placement reference)

4. Dissolve 1/2 cup each of salt and sugar in a large pot of cool water. Use just enough water to make sure the chicken is submerged about 2 to 3 quarts. Let the chicken brine in the refrigerator for 1 hour.



5. In the mean time mince the rosemary and zest of 1 lemon.



6. Mince the garlic then smash the garlic with salt.





7. Place the rosemary, lemon zest, and garlic in a small bowl. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 of lemon and add the pepper.




8. After 1 hour remove the chicken from the brine, place on cutting board and dry with paper towel. Carefully loosen the skin from the chicken with your fingers and insert the herb mixture between the skin and the chicken.




9. Prepare the grill by heating it on high for 15 minutes then clean the grates with a grill brush. Lighly oil the grates with paper towel coated with olive oil. Leave one side of the grill on high and shut the other side of the grill off. Place the chicken skin side up on the cool side of the grill with the legs towards the hot side. Leave the chicken in this position for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the chicken reaches 155 degrees.



10. When the chicken is almost cooked through at 155 degrees flip the chicken skin side down on the hot side of the grill. Also, place the remaining half of lemon cut side down on the hot side of the grill. The chicken is done when it reaches 165 degrees about 5 to 7 minutes. Let chicken rest skin side up under a loose tin foil tent for 5 minutes. Cut chicken in pieces and squeeze lemon over the chicken right before serving.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Simple Oven-Smoked Bacon

On my foodie bucket list is making Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon. I did make it last winter and it was amazingly tender and flavorful. It lived up to all my expectations and more. I can't wait to make it again and blog about it. I wanted to give myself an extra challenge by making the bacon required by the boeuf bourguignon recipe. I know people will think I'm crazy. However, learning the art of charcuterie is also on my foodie bucket list. I usually try to make recipes a few times before I blog about them. I'm ready to share my homemade version of pork belly bacon. There is so much more that I need to learn about making bacon, but I was thrilled to find out that I do not have to have a smoker to make my own bacon. I owe a lot to these two posts for my success "Ventreche, French Bacon" and "Oven Smoked Bacon Recipe." I call this recipe "Simple" because I didn't think it would be possible to make bacon without a smoker.





Simple Oven-Smoked Bacon
2 - 4 lbs pork belly (I used a 2 lb cut and I would go bigger but I haven't found a bigger cut)
3 oz of sea salt (I used Real Salt's Kosher Salt)
1 tin of trial size Weber wood chips (Someday I will probably have a wood preference but in my experimental phase this worked perfect for me)

1. Day 1 - Sprinkle both sides of the pork belly liberally with salt, place in a plastic bag with zipper seal, and keep in the refrigerator.



2. Day 2 - Flip the belly to the other side.

3. Day 3 - Flip the belly to the other side.

4. Day 3 - Several hours after the last flip, rinse the pork belly, pat dry, and leave on a rack at room temperature for 1 hour.

5. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Wet the wood chips and put them back in the tin. Turn on your hood fan and place the wood chip tin on medium high burner until it starts smoking.





6. Carefully remove wood chip tin from heat. Set aside. I find it's best to have a cookie sheet already prepared with to large strips of tin foil. Big enough to create a tent with the wood chips and pork belly.
Place the wood chips on the foiled lined sheet pan, add the pork belly (with rack) on top of the chips. Crimp the foil creating a tent.





7. Place the belly in the oven 1 1/2 to 4 hours depending on the size of the pork belly until it reaches 150 degrees. (NOTE: the two pound belly was done in 1 1/2 hours)



8. Cool to room temperature, wrap in plastic and cool in refrigerator overnight before slicing.



9. The good news is that you can cut super thick slices and make big bacon bits (lardons).




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