Friday, August 17, 2012

Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Honey

Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Honey

This is one of the first Moroccan Lamb Tagines I created years ago. I started with a rather complicated recipe I found in a North African cookbook and simplified it to maximize taste while keeping ingredients easy to find, most of which I keep on hand. 

Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Honey

2-3 pounds lamb shoulder chops
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, halved and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chicken stock
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 threads saffron, crushed
2 tablespoons honey
12 fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cut lamb into one inch boneless cubes. Season with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in heavy bottom Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add lamb in small batches to allow for plenty of room. Using tongs turn meat and brown on all sides. Remove lamb and set aside. Repeat until all lamb is browned. Set aside.

Add sliced onion and garlic to Dutch oven. Cook until onions are translucent, scraping bottom of pan to release all the browned bits. Add cooked lamb, chicken stock, diced tomatoes, saffron, honey, cilantro, apricots, and raisins to pan.

Remove from stove, cover and place in a 325 degree preheated oven and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is fork tender.   

Serve over jasmine rice or couscous.

Moroccan Tagine with Apricots and Honey

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weeknight Baked Ziti

Weeknight Baked Ziti
Whenever I make Old Fashioned Spaghetti Sauce, I always freeze a couple of pints. These make great back up dinner meals on hectic weeknights. Just thaw, reheat and serve over spaghetti noodles or use to make any number of other pasta dishes.

Baked Ziti

1 pint frozen Old Fashioned Spaghetti Sauce
1 cup dried ziti or penne pasta
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring salted water to a boil. Meanwhile reheat spaghetti sauce over low heat.

Cook pasta as directed on box. Remove from heat and drain. Return noodles to pan, add half of the spaghetti sauce and stir until thoroughly coated. Transfer sauce covered pasta immediately to baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Using a spoon, place dollops of cheese mixture evenly over pasta. Cover with remaining spaghetti sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.

Place baking dish under broiler until cheese has melted and begins to brown.

Serves two.        

Note: I often pop the frozen sauce out of its container and place directly into a small pan to reheat. Just be sure to keep the heat low, stirring often. By the time your noodles are ready, your sauce should be nice and hot. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Old Fashioned Beef Spaghetti Sauce

I have wonderful childhood memories of spaghetti. Of all the dishes my mother fixed, this was one of my favorites. She would always leave the sauce to simmer the day away while Dad read the Sunday paper and watched football on TV. It didn’t take long before I began to associate the smell of spaghetti with family and lazy days at home. Even now when I make spaghetti for my own family, I have an odd craving for the sound of football playing in the background.

Like my Dad, Corey is a no nonsense eater. No onions. Hold the garlic. Nothing fancy. (Of course, unless we are talking desserts. Now that is a different story.) This is one of the many reasons I thoroughly enjoy cooking for the farmers markets. I can explore any ingredient including exotic spices and far away dishes without the face of a picky eater staring me down. So be assured this spaghetti sauce recipe is one that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

Old Fashioned Beef Spaghetti Sauce

1 pound ground beef
2 -28 oz cans tomato sauce
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown beef in 3-4 quart pan over medium heat. Drain fat. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and allow to cook for an additional 30 seconds to season meat.

Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and herbs. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for at least two hours. If sauce begins to bubble, reduce heat slightly.

Serve over angle hair spaghetti.

Note: Pictured is one of the sauces we sell at the farmers market. I took the basic recipe for Old Fashioned Beef Spaghetti Sauce, tweaked it considerably and added onions, minced garlic and carrots to make our Lamb Bolognese Sauce.

Lamb Bolognese Sauce

Lamb Bolognese Sauce

Friday, August 3, 2012

Perfect French Toast

I can only imagine how many thousands of pancakes, waffles, and French toast Corey and I have made in the past twenty five years. With four kids, family breakfasts and quick-n-easy dinners revolved around these stables.

Corey is Breakfast King when it comes to the syrupy dishes. Me, I prefer bacon and eggs. However, when Corey is gone and the kids are craving sugar and starch, I can be persuaded into fix French Toast. Don't tell Corey, but the kids will unanimously admit that my French Toast is the best, at least that is what they assure me when begging for this favorite dish.

Perfect French Toast

2 fresh eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (plus more)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
8 slices bread

In a  medium size bowl (I prefer flat and wide) beat eggs. Add milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Wisk until eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.

Working with one slice of bread at a time, place bread into egg/milk mixture wait 5 seconds. Flip bread over and coat other side in egg/milk mixture, waiting 5 seconds. Add additional cinnamon as necessary.

Place bread into hot pan. Cook until lightly brown on both sides.

Serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar.

Note: For the absolutely best French Toast use thick sliced stale or lightly toasted bread.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food Photography: Digital Heartburn from a Bowl of Chili

For years, our business had a web site with a blog on the side. Our site was professional, informative, and well, not exactly cold, but not warm and engaging either. Bored with our static online presence I was looking for something more dynamic. It was time to give our blog center stage. But that meant I was going to need a continual stream of interesting photos for our new show and tell format. 

So I was on the hunt. I read every web site and article I could find on cameras and food photography. I finally decided on an older model Canon EOS 550D with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens. The price was right and the added features of the newer models were not needed for what I was doing.  

But who would have guessed there was so much involved in still life photography. I think my photos are getting better or at least I hope they are. I find I am naturally starting to think my way through how I want to style a dish as I am cooking. But when the time comes for the photo shoot, there is still so much to consider. What dish shows off the food best? Does it need accessories to better cue the viewer about hidden ingredients? Is the light right or are the shadows too dark? Oh, darn, is that frig in the background too distracting? The list seems to go on and on.

So I have been practicing by taking photos of all the dishes we make in the kitchen for the farmers markets. These won’t necessarily be added to the blog but I can use them as marketing tools. 

The shoot the other day included Three Bean Lamb Chili, one of my favorites. This dish is full of great ingredients including a stout beer. My kitchen window has the best light, so I snapped the shots there and then ran to the office to download the photos. It had been a busy day so after a quick look, I returned to the kitchen and finished cleaning up. It wasn’t until later that I sat down to review each photo. 

I had simply spooned the chili into the bowl, not really moving any of the ingredients around preferring a more natural look. Or so I thought. But then I began to really look at all the photos. How is it that all the tomatoes are on one side of the bowl and all the kidney beans on the other? I mean, how is that possible! It’s hardly noticeable from the front shots, but my favorite shot, of course, is an overhead picture that clearly shows my blunder. Ugh! 

It wasn’t a total loss, as I’ve unquestionably learned the most from my less than successful photos. For example, never, ever rush. Take a breath if necessary, and just enjoy the moment. And always take an extra minute to focus on each of the different elements of the photo.  

Who knew there would be so much to see thru the lens.


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