thegingerchef

Recipes from My Kitchen

Meat and Fruit. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.

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All of my cooking magazines that I get have decided to go “light” for January, for all you resolutioners out there. Which, sometimes I find the recipes are less-than-appealing, but this year they were very fruit-heavy, lots of citrus. And I *love* citrus fruit. As I made my grocery list for the week, I tried to think about ingredients I already had on hand, as I scoured my recipe archives. It’s also a good time to try new recipes (I have a queue), and the citrus fruits of the colorful pages were calling me. And I had a grapefruit. It was $1. You can’t beat that, not even with a stick.

So I started off with Meat. I have a Greek book (I think I’ve told you about these cheap-o books before, I got them at Barnes & Noble in the discount table section for $2 and $3, they’re slightly British, but they have really good recipes), and it had a beef and onion casserole. Truth be told it was a roast, with some pearl onions, and a red wine/vinegar sauce. The hard part was smelling the deliciousness while it cooked…for over an hour. But, worth it in the end.

I’m not listing ingredients for this one because I’m trying to remember what I put in the dish (egads, my book is at home!!). That’s the beauty of cooking vs. baking: baking is an exact art, cooking is not. You’d think with a chemistry/lab background I’d have this baking thing down pat… even though I enjoy making baked goods for people, I think I would rather stab myself with a fork, I’m just not very exact (I’m more of a “pinch,” “dash,” and “have a swig” kind of girl).

Anyway, onto the dish… Take a beef roast (or whatever you have handy – the roasts at the store were either way too pricey or just not what I wanted, so I went with a gigantic steak; you really just need a good, thick cut of meat). Cut the meat into 1-inch chunks and brown in some hot oil, both sides; remove from pan and set aside (you might need more than one round of searing, if you have a lot of meat). When it’s all cooked, throw the meat (and juices!) back into the pan. Add a stick of cinnamon, some diced up garlic cloves and cook for just a minute. Throw on some cumin (I think? Just a dash…) and then add in 2/3 C red wine, and 2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar. Mix 2 Tbsp of tomato paste with some hot water to dissolve (the recipe called for a lot, I used a little – about 2 cups, add as you see fit). Toss in a couple crunched up bay leaves, and simmer for about an hour.

In the meantime, cut up some pearl onions. I didn’t have a ton on hand (and they make me cry, they are strong suckers!), so I just peeled the few I had and halved them – worked perfectly. When the hour of simmering the meat is up, add in the onions, cover with a few pinches of sugar, then do not disturb. Cook for about 30 more minutes. You can salt and pepper to your liking, but you probably won’t need much. The tomato paste turns the juices into this great, thick sauce. The onions soften, the meat (if it’s a roast) just falls apart. I served mine with (instant, ha ha) mashed potatoes. If you wanted to, you could probably toss in some diced/sliced mushrooms about 5-10 minutes before you remove from the heat, just for a little something extra.

Now to the highlight of my meal. This was really delicious. Sometimes Rachael Ray has the best foods, and sometimes her magazine just promotes make-up. Today was a recipe-keeper (I have another recipe for a Kale and Grapefruit salad…stay tuned, I’ll try to make it this week). This “salad” is so simple, the ingredients aren’t difficult (I had almost everything on hand) and it’s a great counter to the richness of the meat casserole.

Since it was just for me, I only used half a grapefruit (which was plenty) and will use the other half later for something else. Cut the fruit in half, then try to peel it like an orange. Don’t be discouraged if your slices fall apart, it’ll make it easier to fork up later. Spread the fruit over a plate. Mix 2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar with 2 Tbsp of olive oil (or however much you think you’ll need, just make them equal ratios). Thinly, thinly slice up a purple onion – you don’t need more than a few sliced rings, a handful or so. Sprinkle that, and some fresh (or jarred, either way) tarragon over the fruit. Top with some almost slivers (trust me, you’ll want the crunch), and then pour the vinegar/oil dressing over it. With all this cold weather, it’s a great summer-time reminder.

Here is a link to the grapefruit salad, if you want to see a second picture…
http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipe/tarragon-grapefruit-salad/

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The power of cinnamon.

I have made quite a few good meals recently, but I cook so fast some evenings that I forgot to document what I’m doing until I’m halfway through dinner!  So I apologize that you’ve missed out on all my foodie-goodness :-p!!

Tonight, I forgot to take during-photos, but since the whole meal was made in one pot I took one when it was all finished.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe, and even though some of hers are rather exotic this one only *sounds* exotic, but the taste is incredible.  Cinnamon.  It’s truly underrated in cooking.  Generally you think of it as something sweet – coffee cake, french toast, cookies.  But it’s a main ingredient in a lot of lamb and beef dishes – and it’s such a unique flavor.  I browned the beef in the skillet, then cooked the veggies, and finally added the beef back in.  Making it all in one dish makes dinner so much easier.  I also did what the recipe suggested and made a side of couscous – I’m sure you could also make white or brown rice, or nothing at all (if preferred).  I served this with some roasted cauliflower, just because it’s also delicious 🙂

http://www.marthastewart.com/1043867/north-african-beef-and-carrot-stew-mint

North African Beef-and-Carrot Stew with Mint

Ingredients

1 1/4 lb boneless sirloin steak, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
5 med carrots, cut on a bias (I used baby carrots, and cut them in half, long-ways)
1/4 C tomato paste (I used one whole small can)
3/4 tsp Cinnamon (yum!!!)
1/4 tsp Cayenne (gives great heat!!)
2 C chicken broth
1/4 C fresh mint leaves

Couscous for serving

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  1. Season sirloin with salt and pepper. Heat a large, wide shallow pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon oil, add steak in a single layer, and cook, turning a few times, until browned and medium-rare, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan and cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden in places, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook 1 minute. Add spices and cook until fragrant, 15 seconds. Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Return sirloin and any accumulated juices to pan; cook until warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with mint. Serve over couscous.
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Meatball Soup

I loooove new recipe night!  Since it’s getting colder out, it was only fitting to have a hot soup.  The recipe calls for frozen meatballs – saves a lot of time in cooking – but I prefer the homemade kind.  I took a photo…sorry it’s of my leftovers, but it was so good I ate two bowls before I could get the camera out.  It was even *better* when I added a sprinkle of blue cheese over the top.  This is so easy to make.

 

Italian Meatball Soup

2 Medium carrots (I used the already shredded in a bag, cause it’s what I had on hand)
2 stalks celery (sliced and diced pretty fine)
1 small onion
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning mix
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
1.5 cups water
Meatballs (I used a one pound pack)
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice and dice the celery pretty thinly – I usually cut my stalks into three long strips before slicing, makes more bite-sized pieces that are easier to eat.  Put the diced onion, carrots, and celery in a stock pot with a little oil, and turn up the heat, stirring occasionally.

When the veggies are translucent, push them over to the side and add the tomato paste, cook for a couple minutes.  Add in the pressed garlic and seasoning mix (I don’t have an Italian mix, but I had poultry seasoning…close enough 🙂 ).  Stir in the tomatoes.  I only had one can of crushed, so I added a can of whole tomatoes.  Seemed to taste just fine to me!!  Add in the broth, a little water, and simmer.

For the meatballs – you can either used frozen ones (thawed and sliced in half), or you can make some – super easy.  Mix 1# of ground beef with some breadcrumbs (panko) and an egg.  Roll into small walnut-sized balls and place into a mini muffin tin (I’ve always wanted to try baking them like this!).  I baked at 350 for 10 minutes.  If they’re not quite cooked all the way through, don’t worry – they will finish cooking in the simmering soup.

Add meatballs to the soup when it’s simmering, cook about 10 more minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I only added a pinch of each).  I sprinkled some blue cheese over the top of the soup – and it was so hot I couldn’t stop eating it.  But the blue cheese definitely added some great flavor!!  You can also use some bread to dip into the soup, or bake the bread into croutons to place in the bowl.  So many options – good thing it made a lot!!

 

20131023_204026Do not be dissuaded by my tupperware – the soup was delicious!!

 

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Mongolian Beef – nom nom nom!!

Tonight was one of those “I’m so hungry, what’s quick?!?!?” kind of nights.   Answer?  Mongolian Beef.  This is a tried-and-true recipe and very easy to make.  I have no idea where I got it, but thank you, whoever you are 🙂

Ingredients:

1 lb Flank steak, thinly sliced
1/4 C cornstarch
3 tsp EVOO
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 C water
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Green onions, thinly sliced

Slice the steak very thin, make sure it’s dry (pat it with a paper towel if you need to) and toss it with the cornstarch.  You need to coat it pretty thoroughly, it will cook up much better this way.  Heat up some of the oil in a pan, and add in the garlic and ginger – cook a minute or two until it smells delicious.    Add in the water, soy sauce, brown sugar, and pepper – cook for a minute or two, then remove to a bowl.  I don’t do well with real ginger root – I love it, and will use it in some dishes, but I never use it all fast enough (and the knobby root is difficult to peel and cut).  So when I can find it, I buy the tube-o-ginger (squeezes out like toothpaste :-p).  Gives the taste you want, without the hassle of the knobby root.

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Add more oil to the pan and stir fry the beef – only needs a min or so on each side.  You don’t have to cook it thoroughly, just brown it, you can finish cooking it in the next step.

When the meat is browned sufficiently, add the liquid mix back in and cook until you reach the desired consistency.  Add in some of the sliced green onions, saving some of them for a garnish.

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I served mine over brown rice.  I hate to say it tastes like take-out, but it does – just really, really good take-out.    So there you go, a quick meal when you’re running behind that’s a real crowd pleaser 🙂

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Been gone, too long…

Sooo sorry that I haven’t been around!  The last few weeks have been busy ones, and really, I haven’t felt much like posting.  But I’m back!  I have about 5 posts in the queue and I will try to get them finished up this week so I at least have things to post, even when I don’t feel like it.

Today, however, I felt like making cupcakes!!  Really, I have since Christmas – my cousin’s girlfriend made cake balls using strawberry cake mix and they were heavenly.  So when I got back home I went straight to the store and got strawberry cake mix.  And there it sat in my pantry for 2+ months.  *sigh – I need to be better about baking!!!

Anyway, today sounded like a great day for cupcakes (I know my husband’s office-mates love when I bake, they usually are the benefactors).  But since it’s really just a mix from a box, with a little icing, I thought “what can I do to make these a little more special?”  Idea!!  I had some leftover melting chocolate from Christmas and decided I would make chocolate strawberries to top the cupcakes with.  As it turns out, I can’t draw a strawberry with icing to save my life 🙂  but the general idea comes through and they look pretty good.  And they’re very tasty!!

The easiest way to do this is lay out a sheet of wax paper.  Melt a few of the chocolates in a ziploc bag (30-40 second intervals so you don’t burn the chocolate).  Then pipe it onto the wax paper and stick it in the fridge to harden.  Then, eat the rest of the melted chocolate out of the ziploc bag, because, well, it’s spectacular.   When you assemble the cupcake, stick a knife in the middle to make a space for the chocolate to go – otherwise you will break the chocolates (good thing I made extra!!!)

 

 

Then, for dinner, I made an open-faced steak sammich.  We originally had this in an Irish place a while ago, and I’ve made it twice since.  It’s really messy, but delicious!! (And super easy – do I ever make anything not easy?? 🙂 )

I bought a big chunk of flank steak and only used half of it.  Salt and pepper on each side, then broiled on High ~5-6 minutes on each side (turning twice).  Then I cut off a few slices of bread and lightly broiled them.

I sautéed a few slices of white onion in a little butter, then made a gravy.  Now the gravy is the only complicated part of this – and I had to make it twice, since I screwed it up the first time :-p  Mix a little dark beer (you only need a cup or so) with some flour, then cook on low until it thickens (should happen pretty quick – if it gets too thick, add a little water or more beer to thin).  It will have a slightly dull taste to it, so you will probably need to add some salt and pepper to it to taste.

To assemble the sandwich – Lay the bread on a plate, top with a few pieces of Romaine lettuce.  Slice the steak very thin, then layer on the lettuce.  Add on the onion pieces, drizzle on some gravy, and top with blue cheese.  Delicious!!

 

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Cheese-Filled Meatballs!

Lastnight Tony made chili for work and had lots of leftover hamburger meat.  So tonight was Gorgonzola Stuffed Meatballs!  This is a really easy recipe (I got it from Rachael Ray:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/gorgonzola-filled-meatballs-bay-and-onion-creamy-tomato-gravy-recipe/index.html) and makes for great leftovers.

As always, I assembled the ingredients first (besides the fact this is a good habit to get into, my mom and I are famous for starting to make something and realize halfway through we are missing key items!!).

Mix the raw meat with the salt, pepper, minced garlic, egg, parmesan cheese (I use the kind from a can), and bread crumbs (I used panko).  The recipe calls for a mix of veal and ground beef, but I just use ground beef.   When it’s all mixed, make large baseball-sized meatballs and lay into a baking dish.  Punch a hole in the middle of the meat and fill with Gorgonzola (although I love this cheese, I had some leftover Feta that was calling my name, so I did a 50/50 mix of the two, and it turned out great!).  Splash a tad of olive oil on them, and bake at 400 for ~20 minutes.

While the meat is cooking, heat up the butter and oil in a pot.  Add in the diced onion, bay leaves, salt, and pepper.  After they’ve cooked a bit, add in a can of crushed tomatoes (my favorite!) and 1/2 C or so of chicken broth.  I don’t add the full cup because it makes the sauce too loose – I prefer a thicker sauce.  Then add the cream; tonight I used sour cream instead of heavy cream, just because I had it handy in the fridge.

When the meat is done cooking, put it in a bowl/on a plate, and cover with the sauce.  Makes great leftovers!!!

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