Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oktoberfest, Ja!

I routinely mention my Texan heritage (something I'm fiercely proud of) but that's not the whole story, behind my Texas roots lies a history of immigrants from many places, a large part of that is German (you'll find them on both the maternal and fraternal family trees). I first started to explore my German heritage as a bit of a rebellion in high school, everyone took Spanish, why would I want to be like everyone else? So I took German...for many years in fact, it bled into my college courses as well! It's taken a little time, mainly because my cooking continues to evolve, but finally the German roots are starting to bleed into my cooking as well, first among my January 09 posts with spatzle and red cabbage and now with rouladen.

Rouladen is a classic German staple usually consisting of bacon, onions, mustard and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef, then cooked to perfection. What, may I ask, about that combination isn't to love? Oh, and did I mention a pan gravy, that's right, it can get better! Now, my post may be a little late for Oktoberfest but you'll enjoy this all fall long, it's got a delicious flavor and is perfect for a chilly fall night.

1 1/2 lbs Thinly Sliced Top Round Beef (if you have beef milanese available it's perfect for this)
Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
2 Tsp Dried Marjoram
2 Tsp Dried Thyme
Whole Grain Mustard
1/4 lb Thick Sliced Bacon, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 Large Onion, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 Cup Chives, finely chopped
Six 1/2 inch dill pickle strips
4 Tbsp Butter
1 Carrot, finely diced
1/2 Cup Beef Broth
1 Cup Dry Red Wine
1/2 Tsp All Purpose Flour
1 Tsp water

1. Sprinkle salt, pepper, marjoram and thyme over beef, spread mustard over the tops as well.
2. Combine 1 Cup bacon, half the onion, all of the chives and parsley and toss. Lay even amounts on each beef slice. Place a pickle slice over the top of each, roll and secure with toothpicks.
3. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter over moderate heat, add carrot and remaining onions and bacon, allow veggies to brown for about 10 minutes.
4. In a large, heavy skillet, melt remaining butter over moderate heat and add meat, brown on all sides, remove from skillet. Add broth and wine to skillet and stir to loosen the bits. In a small bowl, blend flour and water then add to skillet and mix well. Return meat and vegetable/bacon mixture to the skillet, cover and reduce heat slightly. Cook for an hour, turn rolls once.

So the same way I whole-heatedly embrace my Texas-roots I proudly salute my German ones too with a Shiner Oktoberfest and a plate of spatzle alongside the rouladen. Prost!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fresh Express: Fresh Pizza Fast!

As a Foodbuzz Featured Publisher I get occasional offers to test out delicious products, recently I was given the chance to test out Fresh Express Salads, among the usual delicious salad I was searching for some creative ways to use some of these terrific ingredients and decided to turn my favorite sandwich into a pizza.

I lucked into getting mom into making the crust, which she did a terrific job on! With her help the pizzas came together in a flash!. We pulled together the crust and then covered it with a simple and tasty spinach-walnut pesto (featuring a bag of Fresh Express Baby Spinach) and then layered sliced tomato, mozarella cheese and of course, chopped bacon atop the crust and popped it in the oven!

Spinch-Walnut Pesto
1 Bag Fresh Express Baby Spinach
1 Cup Walnuts
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Parmesean
2 Cloves Garlic
Salt & Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (yes, I took the easy way out), mix until desired consistency.

In addition to the BLT pizza I served a Roasted Veggie and Goat Cheese pizza, we pan fried a fresh eggplant and roasted a red bell pepper then layered them atop a pizza covered with a mixture of 1 4oz container of whipped softened cream cheese, 1 3oz roll of goat cheese, softened and then over the fresh vegetables we layered additional parmesean cheese, after the pizzas came out of the oven we topped this one with freshly chopped basil.

Family pizza night for grown ups - or a sneaky way to get some veggies for your sophisticated kiddos!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nothin Says Fall Like Pumpkin

At least not to me, I adore pumpkins in their many varieties, shapes and sizes...to the point of spray painting them after Thanksgiving (yes sometimes I still have them then) and putting gold or silver pumpkins under my Christmas tree....I might be crazy, I freely admit that. Needless to say as we round out the middle of October I feel it's now appropriate for me to start posting pumpkin related recipes so that I can fully celebrate one of my favorite vegetables.

The current issue of Bon Appetit has a beautiful recipe for Butternut Squash Gnocchi, I was enthusastic about it, grabbed all the ingredients and then stupidly (because I didn't read the steps in the recipe) thought it could be a Friday night dinner....well when the recipe says overall cook/prep time is 4 hours it's not a Friday night dinner! So, craving the gnocchi and trying to be creative I subbed a can of pumpkin for the squash and voila! Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter emerged!

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter
Based on Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter by Bon Appetit

1 cup pureed pumpkin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled, quartered
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Additional grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer into medium bowl; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato (reserve remaining potato for another use).

2. Mix pumpkin, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls.

3. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.

4. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

6. Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 15 to 17 minutes (gnocchi will float to surface but may come to surface before being fully cooked). Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets.

7. Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan.

While I don't doubt that the original butternut squash was delicious, the pumpking was a great substitute and really allowed a much more savory flavor to the gnocchi than I suspec thte sqaush would have. The recipe was delicious but made far too much for three people, I froze half the pasta for a later use and the half we had easily would've fed four maybe even five people. Needless to say, served alongside a roasted pork loin it was a perfect fall meal.