Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Turkey Ragu with Fresh Basil

I don't have any unique or humorous stories to tell. I felt like trying to create something using marinara and the mascarpone cheese in my fridge. So, taking a cue from a technique I've seen Giada do a couple times, I came up this quick, satisfying dish.

Turkey Ragu

Serves 4
Cook Time - about 20 min

1 lb pasta (I used rigtoni)
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb ground turkey
red wine, for de-glazing
1 jar chunky marinara sauce (or make your own)
8 oz mascarpone cheese
A few basil leaves, torn

Cook noodes to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook about 3 minutes. Add ground turkey and brown.

Turn heat to high and add a bit of red wine to de-glaze the pan.

Turn heat to medium-low and add marinara sauce (should be about 3-4 cups). Simmer about 10 minutes.

Add mascarpone and basil and mix together until well blended. Once blended, add pasta and toss until well-coated.

**I think this sauce would be great with some small chunks of fresh veggies - maybe some zucchini, carrots, celery, and green/red peppers.**

Fresh Raspberries

This past weekend, we went up to the lake where I basically grew up.

You're jealous, aren't you?

When I was growing up, summers were the time to go out and pick fresh berries. Apparently that isn't common when you grow up in the city, as my husband had never picked berries before.

So, my mom, husband, and I drove even further into the country to a berry farm and picked some gorgeous fresh raspberries.

Aren't they purdy?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Steak au Poivre

I believe I've mentioned before that I discovered a love of steak less than a year ago. It's stuck with me. I've been trying to perfect my pan frying technique to produce the optimal medium rare steak. I think I'm finally getting the hang of it.

Earlier this week, I decided to give steak with a pan sauce a go and found Ina Garten's recipe for Filet au Poivre. I figured you can't go wrong with Ina.

This recipe is super simple and pretty fun to make. In all, I think I'm more of a steak purist and prefer them without any sauce, but it was a nice change and I would definitely recommend this to friends. I do recommend, however, using a less expensive cut of meat than a filet.

Filet of Beef au Poivre

Recipe by Ina Garten
Serves 6 (I cut the recipe down by half)
Total Cook & Prep Time - 25 min

6 filet mignon, cut 1 1/4 inches thick (I used 2 - I don't remember the cut)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped shallots (3 to 4 shallots)
1 cup canned beef broth
1/2 cup good Cognac or brandy (I used brandy)

Place the filets on a board and pat them dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the filets with salt and then press the black pepper evenly on both sides. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until the butter almost smokes. Place the steaks in the pan and lower the heat to medium. Saute the steaks for 4 minutes on 1 side and then for 3 minutes on the other side, for medium rare. Remove the steaks to a serving platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Meanwhile, pour all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the saute pan. Add the shallots and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the beef broth and cook over high heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until reduced by half, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the Cognac/brandy and cook for 2 more minutes (NOTE - do not lean over the pan and inhale as the alcohol is burning off. Trust me on that one). Off the heat, swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Serve the steaks hot with the sauce poured on top.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mascarpone Mac & Cheese

Sometimes, you just feel like mac & cheese, don't you? Yeah... I know you do. I do too. I'm a sucker for the stuff. Considering this week already sucks, mac & cheese was a necessity.

Most of my readers should know by now that coming up with my own recipes really isn't my thing, but I gave it a go tonight, and I must say, I impressed myself. In fact, so much so that I'm going to submit it to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Kate at Thyme for Cooking. I didn't really measure, so the recipe below is an approximation.

Mascarpone Mac & Cheese
Serves 4

Cook Time - 20 minutes


3/4 lb elbow macaroni
2 TBSP butter
8 oz mascarpone cheese, softened
3/4 cup grated Fontina cheese

3 TBP butter
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 - 3/4 tsp salt
3 TBSP flour

Boil noodles to al dente. Drain & set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the béchamel by melting the butter in a medium saucepan. Add milk & cream. Whisk in remaining ingredients and simmer until slightly thickened.

In another saucepan or medium skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter. Once melted, add mascarpone cheese and whisk until melted and smooth. Add the fontina and mix until smooth.

Add the noodles to the cheese mixture and stir until well mixed. Add the béchamel and mix until it reaches your desired level of creaminess. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Gelato di Lampone

What a better way to celebrate my 100th post than with a new gelato recipe! As I wrote about before, I've been searching for a good gelato in the U.S. for about the past 9 years. My husband joined me on that quest almost two years ago after we returned from Italy. Last night, we decided to try our hand at our favorite flavor - raspberry.

For those of you who haven't had real gelato before, I suggest you go out and find some now (but don't buy it at the grocery store. That stuff is all crap). It's similar to ice cream, but has a higher milk concentration (rather than cream) so it is more dense and much more flavorful. A real raspberry gelato should taste just like you're eating a smooth, cold raspberry.

After doing a lot of searching online, I came across a recipe for strawberry gelato that looked like it could be easily modified for raspberry (and by the picture, it looked delicious). Our review: super simple. It was delicious, but had a little too much of a dairy after-taste, so we'll cut down on the dairy a bit the next time we make it. So, the search continues, but minimally.

Raspberry Gelato
Gelato di Lampone

1 lb. fresh raspberries
12 oz. granulated sugar, about 1.5 cups
1.5 cup cold whipping cream
1.5 cup cold water
dash of lemon juice (only if fruit isn’t “bright” enough)


Wash berries.

Put berries, sugar and water into a blender or food processor and blend until liquid and smooth. (This is also where you’ll add lemon juice if necessary.) (I suggest straining the blended mixture to remove the seeds. It's more authentic that way, and I think it tastes better).

Whip the cream until slightly thickened - like the consistency of buttermilk.

Combine the cream with the raspberry mixture and mix thoroughly until blended.

Freeze as indicated by the manufacturer of your ice cream maker. (I suggest going out and buying the Cuisinart ice cream maker. It's wonderful).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet #10

It's time for the next round-up of Homegrown Gourmet. I was the winner of Homegrown Gourmet 9 with my Swedish Meatball recipe. As such, I have the honor of hosting this round, which means I get to pick the food topic.

First the rules:

Anyone can play!

A theme will be picked by the host. Participants will make a dish that follows the theme and that somehow represents their home region- town, state, area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist.

Participants will have 3-4 weeks (host discretion) to complete their recipes and post them to their blog (or email the pics and text), and notify the host. The host will then post the results and then let everyone know via email or message board the results are up! An explanation of your dish is required; it can be a story about the local custom or ingredient, how you came about eating/ making the recipe, or an explanation about how your creative dish fits the theme.

Fresh and local foods are encouraged!

When the round is done, the host will announce their favorite dish by updating their blog. Favorite is completely subjective to the host- no one expects the host to make and taste test all the dishes, it is just something that strikes the host’s fancy! The creator of the fave gets the honor of hosting the next round, if they so choose!

Now, onto the fun part:

The theme for this round-up is...






I hope you all have fun with this topic and put your culinary creativity to work. I'm anxious to see what you come up with (and hopefully, I'll get some great new pizza recipes to try out). If you've never participated before, don't be shy.

To participate, please send an email to elizabethscookingAThotmailDOTcom with “HomeGrown Gourmet 10″ in the subject, with your name, blog name and URL, location, and permalink to your entry. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please submit your recipe and pictures to the above email and I will post them for you. Please try to have a picture of your dish in your post. Deadline for the event is Monday, August 25, 2008. I can’t wait to see all of your entries and pick a winner for the next round!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chicken in Tomato Sauce

Sometimes I decide what to cook for dinner based on what side dish I'm in the mood for. I was in the mood for garlic bread yesterday. That lead me to something in a tomato-based sauce. My husband is always in the mood for both. So, while he was outside playing tennis in the 95 degree heat, I thumbed through my recipe print-out book, and I settled on the unfortunately-named "Get Yo Man Chicken" from the Food Network show Down Home with the Neely's.

Stupid name aside, this dish is great. The Neelys are now three for three in our house. It reminded me a bit of chicken cacciatore, only without peppers and with rosemary. The flavors complimented each other perfectly. I recommend using fresh herbs instead of dried, if you can. I think fresh herbs give food a little extra something. I'd definitely make it again and would recommend it to anyone who wants a healthy, hearty dish (yes, I know that sounds contradictory). Enjoy!

Get Yo Man Chicken
Recipe by The Neely's
Serves 4-6 (I cut down the recipe for 2)

2 TBSP olive oil
6 chicken thighs, skinless (I used boneless thighs)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
1 tsp dried thyme (I used basil)
1/2 TBSP dried rosemary (I used fresh)
1 TBSP lemon-pepper
Hot buttered rice*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper (I also used garlic powder). Brown the chicken, meat-side down first, and turning once, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate to reserve.

Pour off all but 1 TBSP of oil from the pan.

Add onion to the pan and saute until tender, roughly 3 minutes. Add the stock and wine and stir, scrapping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to high and reduce by half, about 3 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and add the herbs and lemon pepper. Add the chicken thighs back in. Cover and cook on medium low for about 40 minutes.

Remove chicken from liquid and serve on hot buttered rice. Ladle the sauce on top and garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

*I make this recipe exactly, except I omit the shallots and thyme.

And the Winner is... Me!

I recently found out that I'm the winner of Homegrown Gourmet 9. The theme was pasta, and I submitted my Swedish Meatball recipe. I'm totally, completely honored. Thanks, Meghan!

Now, this means that I get to host the next round. Check back soon - I'll be posting the details of the next roundup within the next 10 days

Sunday, July 13, 2008


It's been a while since I've been tagged. Joelen at Joelen's Culinary Adventures tagged me. So, now, I have to share a little big about me. Here are the Tagging Rules:

Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What was I doing ten years ago?
I was just getting ready to start my senior year of high school, working very part time at a local video store.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today?
1. Grocery shop (just did that)
2. (Rental) house hunt
3. Play with cats
4. Cook dinner
5. Watch TV

Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Nachos
2. Cherries
3. Chips
4. Chocolate chip cookies
5. Cheese & crackers

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Quit working
2. Move to Ireland
3. Travel
4. Travel
5. Travel

Places I’ve lived:
1. Fergus Falls, MN
2. St. Paul, MN
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. London, England
5. Bloomington, MN

Jobs I’ve had:
1. Cashier/clerk @ small-town video store
2. Music librarian
3. Salesperson @ Eddie Bauer
4. Public Defender law clerk
5. Attorney

I will be tagging:
1. Annie at Well, that would be telling
2. Annie at Annie's Eats
3. Samantha at Sweet Sam
4. Sarah at The Good Wife
5. Carrie at Carrie's Sweet Life

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicken Marsala

If you know me at all, you probably think this is a weird choice for me to make, given that I don't like mushrooms. Yeah, you read that right. I don't like mushrooms. I think it's a texture issue. However, ever since I got my America's Test Kitchen cookbook, this recipe has intrigued me. I used to love Chicken Marsala way back when I liked mushrooms and thought The Olive Garden was gourmet (give me a break, I grew up in the sticks).
Anyway, I've had this dish on my "to make" list for at least a couple of months, but I couldn't find Marsala wine at any liquor store in my area. Then, on Saturday, I decided to ask an employee at Trader Joe's. He'd never heard of it, but when I explained it's a fortified wine similar to a sherry, he pointed me to where he thought it might be, if they had it. To my delight, there it was, on the very bottom shelf.

So, I got out of work at a reasonable hour and decided tonight was the night. My husband somewhat begrudgingly went along (he doesn't like mushrooms either).

In the end, I liked it, but it's probably not something I'll put in my regular rotation, unless I discover that the sauce tastes similar without the mushrooms and Marsala wine becomes more readily available. However, I still don't like mushrooms. They're just weird. While it was really good, it was a bit too labor intensive for a regular, weeknight meal. I do hope you enjoy it, but consider yourself warned that it takes longer than it seems it should. I served this with some roasted garlic mashed potatoes with fresh rosemary (which ended up being a little too pine-y tasting Note to self: add less rosemary next time) and steamed broccoli tossed in a bit of oil.

Chicken Marsala
from America's Test Kitchen, adapted
Serves 2-3

4 chicken breast halves, pounded lightly (I used boneless, skinless thighs)
flour, for dredging
Salt & pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
2 oz pancetta (I'm not sure what this adds)
8 oz mushrooms, sliced (I used 4 oz canned mushrooms)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups Marsala wine
4 TBSP butter

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.

Season the chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour. Add to the pan once oil is hot and shimmering, but not smoking. Pan fry until no longer pink, or about 3-4 min per side. Remove from pan and cover with tin foil to keep warm.

Add pancetta to the pan and fry until lightly crispy (again, not sure what this added and will probably omit if I make this recipe again). Add mushrooms about 1/2 way through cooking the pancetta. Stir frequently, scraping up any brown bits. Once the mushrooms are brown and their juices have released, add the garlic and tomato paste and stir. Cook about 1 minute, or until the tomato paste just begins to brown.

Remove from heat and add the wine. Turn heat to high and keep stirring until the alcohol burns off and wine reduces and starts turning syrup-y. Once it reduces to about 1 1/2 cups of liquid, add the butter and stir. If the sauce isn't to your desired consistency, whisk in a couple tsp of flour.

Transfer to a plate and spoon sauce over the chicken and enjoy!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dirty Risotto

At work yesterday, I was thinking about making either Chicken Marsala or an Italian-style Paella for dinner. Then, I got home and remembered I had Italian sausage and pancetta in the fridge and a brand new box of arborio rice in the cupboard that was just dying to be used. So, with input from my husband, I decided to try my hand at Giada's Dirty Risotto.

I've never made risotto before. Well, I've never made it intentionally, that is. That time I sort of accidentally turned basmati rice into risotto doesn't exactly count. Coincidentally, I've also never made or even eaten dirty rice.

This recipe was really easy. I found it a little annoying to need to stand over the stove and stir constantly for about 25 minutes, but that was only a small issue. We both really liked this dish and I will definitely make it again, though probably on a less hot day, or when/if we finally get central air.

Dirty Risotto
Recipe by Giada de Laurentiis, adapted
Serves 4-6
Total Cook & Prep Time - about an hour

5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP butter
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
6 oz Italian turkey sausage
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper (I used a mix of red & green)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 TBSP chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat. I'm not sure this was necessary, as I started with room-temperature broth.

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sausage and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice and stir to coat.

Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.

Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total. Remove from the heat.

Stir in 3/4 of the Parmesan. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the parsley and remaining Parmesan and serve immediately.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Caramel Rolls

I think Sunday morning is a great day for a leisurely breakfast. My favorites are a quasi-Irish breakfast and caramel rolls (not together). Don't laugh, Husband. I didn't say I'm up cooking full breakfasts often, just that I like to (see, I changed that wording for you to make it more clear). This recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. It makes an appearance at every holiday and family function, and we all love them... Well, I love them when no one screws them up by adding walnuts to the caramel sauce... I always feel a bit Sandra Lee-ish when making them, but I get over it quickly because they're so wonderful. I promise you'll like them. The best part (aside from the delicious flavor) is that they come together in less than 5 minutes of prep time.

Just out of the oven -
Top View

Flipped over

Caramel Rolls

Family Recipe (true source unknown)
Serves 4-8

18 Rhodes frozen roll dough balls
1 package butterscotch cook & serve pudding (NOT INSTANT)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Grease a bundt cake pan.

Place the frozen dough balls in the bottom of the pan. I like to do it so there is an inner and an outer layer when it cooks.

Sprinkle the dry pudding mix on top of the dough.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and combine it with the brown sugar. Once mixed together, pour over the top of the dough and dry pudding mix.

Place in a cold oven overnight (or about 8 hrs, if not overnight). Turn on oven to 350 and bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Don't bother to take them out to pre-heat the oven. Just turn it on and set a timer for 25 minutes and walk away. When the timer goes off, the caramel rolls should be done.

*Let them sit about 10 minutes before flipping and removing them from the bundt pan. When it's time to do so, I suggest covering the top of the pan with a plate and flipping the whole thing over as fast as you can. Make sure to keep watch for any caramel that slips out the sides.


I love gelato. I developed the obsession about 9 years ago on my first trip to Italy (and then subsequently re-affirmed the obsession on the second, third, and fourth trips). In fact, I'd go back to Venice just to eat gelato at our favorite gelateria, Boutique del Gelato. Since flying to Venice every time we get a craving isn't feasible, and the store-bought stuff just tastes like glorified ice cream, we decided to try our hand at making it at home for the Fourth of July. It was rather tasty, if we do say so. In fact, after a trip to the grocery store today, we're going to be making a second batch.

Chocolate Gelato
Makes about 3 cups
Recipe from Mangia Bene

1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk, divided
5 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped*
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, & salt. Gradually whisk in 1/4 cup of milk to dissolve the cornstarch.

Gradually stir in the rest of the milk.

Cook over medium heat until it thickens and begins to boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate and allow to sit for 1 minute. Whisk together until the mixture is smooth. Add cream and vanilla and whisk.

Refridgerate for at least 2 hrs. Transfer to an ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer's directions.

*Use the best chocolate available to you. If you use cheap American chocolate, your gelato will taste like just slightly better than your average American chocolate ice cream.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chicken Piccata Pasta

Three hearings in four days, including one day working very late meant I didn't cook this week (I'm sorry Husband). I felt like starting off the long weekend with some light, brothy pasta, but didn't feel like putting forth a whole lot of effort. Don't let the fact this is a Rachael Ray recipe deter you - it's actually really good! I even made very few changes to the original recipe. The best part is that it came together in about 20 minutes and only used one pot and one pan. I hope you enjoy it. I think I might submit it to Ruth for the next Presto Pasta Nights, once I figure out who's hosting this week.

Chicken Piccata Pasta
Recipe by Rachael Ray
Serves 4

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
One boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small strips
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 TBSP butter
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 TBSP flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cup chicken broth or stock
1 TBSP capers, drained
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2/3 - 3/4 lb penne pasta, cooked to al dente
Chopped or snipped chives, for garnish

Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat a deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the chicken to the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken until lightly golden all over, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and return the skillet to the heat.

Reduce heat to medium. Add another tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter, the garlic and shallots to the skillet. Saute garlic and shallots 3 minutes.

Add flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and reduce liquid 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth into sauce.

Stir in capers and parsley. When the liquid comes to a bubble, add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauce.

Add chicken back to the pan and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Toss hot pasta with chicken and sauce and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to your taste. Top with fresh snipped chives and Parmesan cheese.

* I really wouldn't do much differently. While the chicken was a nice touch, I don't think it was necessary. I don't think you'd be missing much by leaving it out or putting some veggies in its place. I want to try this with boneless skinless thighs in the next time, given that they have slightly more flavor.