Friday, November 20, 2009

To Do

1. Road test desserts using apples. Maple Apple Pandowdy (what a funny name) was tried last weekend - and delicious. I'm going to try a pear crostata tonight. Or maybe gingerbread with sauteed pears?

2. Go back and get the H1N1 shot - my gp has it - please let it remain there until Monday!

3. Pray that photo proofs come soon so that I can order Christmas cards.

4. DECLUTTER! I am a clutter magnet. It is frightening.

5. Start brainstorming Christmas gifts that can be purchased online - and try to avoid the mall this holiday season.

6. Anyone interested in posting a lot about Christmas cookie recipes? I like sugar cookies and gingerbread men, but I kind of want to try something new.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Friday!

If you are in LA, I highly recommend checking out the silver sale at Geary's - I was able to get a pasta server in my pattern (Towle Chippendale). K loves getting out and about in BH, so we also purchased some "Famous Cupcakes" to sample later. I'll report back if they are good - but the store gets props for being adorable!

Anyway, tonight we're going to eat roast chicken with some potatoes and salad. I don't need to tell you how to roast a chicken (I stuff mine with fresh rosemary, garlic, thyme and a lemon - a la Nigella's recipe from "Feast") because I'm sure there are other delicious ways of doing it - hint - please share with me! The recipe that I wanted to share is Ina Garten's pot roast from her "Back to Basics" cookbook.

I didn't grow up a huge fan of pot roast. My mother didn't make it very often, and I was one of those picky kids who needed all elements of a meal placed separately on the plate. I was so wrong. What was I missing all those years? A delicious and relatively nutritious dinner that is easy to assemble, and cooks quietly all by itself, so you can play with a baby, do laundry, phone calls, or whatever else you want!

This recipe also makes a tremendous amount - it would be a perfect dinner for 6-8 of you. As we are only two adults, it makes dinner for about four nights.

Ina Garten's Pot Roast

1 4-5 lb prime beef chuck roast, tied
1 onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups carrots2-4 carrots, chopped to your preferred thickness (I like a smallish cut)
2-4 ribs celery, again, the cut is your preference
2-4 leeks (WASH them very well - I soak in water for about 10 minutes then drain and rinse again)
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bunch rosemary and thyme (tied or throw them in loose, but remember to fish out the stems at the end)
2 cups red Burgundy (pick a wine that you'd like to drink - you definitely taste it)
2 TBS cognac or brandy
1 28 oz can of whole plum tomatoes in puree
1 cup chicken stock
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 TBS unsalted butter at room temperature
salt, pepper and flour for dredging

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a LARGE dutch oven, heat about 2 TBS of olive oil on medium heat. Pat the roast dry, season all over with salt and pepper, then dredge through flour. Add roast to pan and sear about 4-5 minutes each side. Remove roast from pan and set aside on a large plate.

2. Add more oil to pan (if necessary - Ina tends to use oil with a much heavier hand than I do) and add carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 TBS salt and 1 1/2 tsp pepper. Cook over medium heat 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, but not browned. Then add the wine and cognac and bring to a boil.

3. When the vegetables and wine mixture are boiling, add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, thyme and rosemary. Put the roast back in the pot and bring the whole mixture to a boil and cover. Place the pot in the oven for 2.5 hours, or until the meat is "fork tender" (about 165 degrees internally). Turn heat down to 265 degrees after about 1 hour of cooking to keep the sauce simmering.

4. Remove roast to carving board. Remove and discard herbs. Skim off as much fat as possible. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. For safety, and to make it easier to skim the fat, I recommend waiting maybe 15-20 minutes to allow the sauce to cool down a bit. Pour the puree back into the pot, place on stove over low heat and return to simmer.

5. In small bowl, mix the 2 TBS room temperature butter and 2 TBS flour with a fork until all combined. Stir into sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes or until thickened. Taste for seasoning. Remove the string from the roast and slice meat. Serve warm with sauce spooned over.

This is great made ahead, and any extra sauce makes a really fantastic base for pasta sauce. Happy winter cooking with this one!

Monday, November 2, 2009

A treat for you - the most delicious plum tart!

It's cool here at night now. K has gone to bed (she never got the memo about daylight savings), so I'm enjoying a nice cup of tea and a piece of plum tart. This is hands down the easiest recipe. I can throw it together in about 15 minutes (not counting taking the butter out early to soften). It's pretty enough for company, and homey enough to bake just for you. It also freezes like a dream. We devoured the tart pictured above, so I don't have any pictures of it baked - but it's gorgeous. The plums turn a dark reddish purple, and your house smells like plums and cinnamon.
Have I convinced you?
Here's the recipe for the New York Times Plum Tart:
1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
3/4 c. sugar plus 1TBS set aside for sprinkling
1 t. vanilla (this is my addition - I like vanilla in almost all cakes)
1 c. unbleached flour, sifted
1 t. baking powder
2 eggs
pinch salt
12 Italian prune plums, pitted and split into halves (you can use regular purple plums too)
1. Preheat oven to 350 and place rack in lower third of oven. Grease a 9" spring form pan and set aside.
2. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder and salt. (I mix these together in a separate bowl and set aside, but you can just dump them in - this recipe is very forgiving!)
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a spoon. This is a thick batter, so you may think you messed up - just spread it out as best you can. Then, arrange the plum halves in a decorative pattern around the top. Sprinkle with sugar and a little cinnamon. I bet some nutmeg would be good sprinkled on top too.
4. Bake 40-50 minutes or until tester inserted in the middle of the tart comes out clean. This is great warm or at room temperature. I'd serve with vanilla ice cream, or some of that Haagen Daaz brown sugar ice cream.

The Great Pumpkin

Happy Monday! Halloween was fun - and the great pumpkin had a pretty good time. Unfortunately, the introduction of rice cereal wasn't such a big hit - but we'll keep trying!