Beef & Veggie Bolognese

I have a confession to make.  It’s really quite scandalous, but I feel like you all need to know this about me.  I can’t eat plain white rice.  Wow, I know, It’s like I’ve rocked the very foundation of all you thought you knew about me.  What?  The girl who loves all things Asian doesn’t even like to eat rice?

I hang my head in shame, believe me.  I tried to shake the habit in Taiwan, attempting to enjoy many bowls of the stuff, but to no avail.  If you serve a meal that is accompanied by rice, there’s an incredibly high chance that those tiny grains will never see my plate.

The reason I’m bringing up my strange aversion for this one carb is…well I’m not quite sure.  One thing I do know, is that this aversion does not extend to pasta, or bread for that matter.  I eat plain bread all the time, and have been known to start my meal of pasta directly from the steaming hot colander.  Something about pasta (and noodles!) are so appealing to me. Perhaps it’s their length, allowing me to slurp and suck in mouthfuls at a time, twirling them around my fork like yarn wrapped in a skein.

And you can’t forget the sauce.  You should have seen the look on Luke’s face when I announced the completion of a “beef bolognese” dinner.  “What’s the orange stuff?” he asked.  “Um…that’s carrot,” I replied happily.  “Oh.”  10 minutes later I was staring at a plate empty of everything except for the carrot bits.  Oh well, more Vitamin A for me!

I liked the addition of vegetables in this recipe, as I like my sauces to have more body and flavor.  Luke thought it was great too, even if his arch nemesis, carrot, was involved.  Feel free to take out some of the veggies, in which case, decrease the amount of crushed tomatoes so the meat flavor can still shine.

Beef & Veggie Bolognese

Adapted from Kitchen Trial & Error

Makes 4-6 servings

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 medium carrots, diced

1/2 pound ground beef or 1 pound quartered mushrooms

28 oz crushed tomatoes

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook until the vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes.  Add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese.  Serve over pasta, and garnish with extra cheese!

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Tomato Basil Rolls

A model bunny for Hop Day.  To me, this pose says “No, darling I don’t mind if you take my picture, just don’t bother me, I’m trying to work on my tan.”  Maybe I should have photoshoped in some sunglasses.  Either way, Izzy is looking mighty fine in this one.  Just look at those little bunny legs.  Adorable.

I know earlier this week I talked about my disdain for certain vegetables.  First on the list is a red, juicy item that is ubiquitous in many kitchens around the world…except for mine.  Nope, you will never find a tomato in my kitchen, unless it’s been diced, crushed or sauced and then shoved in a can.   Or in the fridge in a clear plastic bottle.

You see, the thing I can’t stand about tomatoes is their texture.  Their skin is firm, but their insides are mushy, and the taste of fresh tomato has just never appealed to me.  I can however, tolerate cooked tomato, as long as there aren’t big chunks of the vegetable floating around.  Yep, I’m that person that picks tomato chunks out of their pasta sauce.

Also, I’ve been known to put ketchup on pretty much any protein source.  I know it doesn’t count since it’s mostly vinegar and high fructose corn syrup, but I’m just trying to prove a point.  As long as they’ve been mashed up and cooked, I’m ok with tomatoes.

Which brings me to these rolls.  They get their tomato flavor (and awesome color) from tomato paste, which is totally fine in my book.  Add in some dried basil, and you’ve got yourself one delicious bread bun.

Eat one with a slice of fresh mozzarella, and you’ve got a Caprese salad!  Well…maybe not.  But they are fabulously tasty with pasta, or as a snack.

Tomato Basil Rolls

Adapted from Thyme

Makes about 12 rolls

2 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup hot water
6 oz tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
4 ¾ cups bread flour (or all purpose)
A beaten egg and freshly grated parmesan for garnish (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, water, tomato paste, basil, oil, and butter. Let sit for 3 minutes, until the yeast is dissolved and frothy. Add the sugar, salt and then the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-5 mins until the dough is elastic. Put dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease it. Form the dough into balls and place on the baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 15 minutes more. Brush with egg and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired. Bake at 425º for about 10 minutes.  Let cool for 10 mins and serve!


Lasagna

Where’s the first place I’m going today?  Oh yeah, CVS, my post-holiday candy Nirvana.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll score a Russell Stover box as big as my head.

Last night, Luke and I went out to a Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of town.  The food was really good, good enough for me to break my “no eating baby animals rule.” Yes, I had lamb.  It’s Mediterranean food…how was I not going to eat lamb?

But now the holiday is over and I am thrilled to stop seeing cutesy decorations on every blog I visit.  I am not, I repeat, not a girly girl, nor have I ever been one, nor will I ever be one, so when the onslaught of red and pink hearts and kisses is put away for another year, I rejoice.  And make layered pasta covered in meat sauce and cheese.

Lasagna seems like a ubiquitous food, everybody has their own recipe, and can dress up the dish with their personal touches.  There’s spinach lasagna, mushroom lasagna, white lasagna, veggie lasagna, quadruple meat lasagna…oh boy that last one sounds like a heart attack waiting to happen.

But mine, is just lasagna.   Noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan; there you go.  Easy, scrumptious, and makes enough to feed two people for an alarming number of days.

Lasagna

Adapted from A Foodie Affair

Makes about 8 servings

1 box lasagna noodles
1 lb ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 onion, chopped
2 – 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
oregano, basil, parsley, touch of sugar, salt & pepper
1 – 2 lb. container of ricotta
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp dried parsley
8 oz shredded 6 cheese Italian cheese blend (or more mozzarella)
8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese

Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, brown onion in a little oil until slightly tender and add ground beef. Continue cooking ground beef until slightly browned. Add crushed tomatoes, garlic, spices, and a touch of sugar. Cook approx. 15-20 minutes, or until sauce is slightly thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parsley, parmesan cheese, and eggs. Mix until combined.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a 13″ X 9″ baking dish, put a little meat sauce in the bottom (just to make sure the noodles don’t stick). Layer one layer of cooked noodles. Put a generous layer of ricotta cheese mixture and sprinkle a little of the Italian shredded cheese mixture on top of the ricotta. Top with a little of the meat sauce.

Continue to repeat the above steps ending with noodles. Top the noodles with meat sauce and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

Top the casserole with aluminum foil and cook in the oven for approximately 35-45 minutes.

Remove the foil from the top and top entire casserole with 8 oz. package of grated mozzarella cheese. Put back in to the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is just melted.  Make sure you don’t leave it in too long, you don’t want the cheese to brown.


Braised Beef

My first birthday bake for the office was a success!  Luke says everyone gave it “two-thumbs up” and that I should order business cards so people can refer my services.  Maybe he’s on to something.  I mean, baking for profit and seeing others enjoy my goodies sounds like a pretty sweet gig.  We’ll see what happens.

This past weekend, Luke and I had an engagement photo shoot with his mom.  Here are a couple of my favorite photos.

And now bring on the food.  I think of myself as a baker before cook, even though I enjoy both equally.  Still, working with meat, especially red meat, always makes me a teensy bit nervous because I have less experience with it.  I’m always worried about undercooking and giving Luke food poisoning, or overcooking and dulling my knives trying to saw through it.

Veggies…I used a large shallot in place of some of the onions

That’s why I really like braising meat.  It’ll definitely be cooked thoroughly, and it’ll be tender and delicious.  Plus, it guarantees an included sauce, so…. bonus.  I saw this recipe in the October 2011 issue of Bon Appetit.  It was a little fancier than I wanted, and used lamb, but since I can’t bring myself to eat baby animals, I substituted the lamb for beef.  I still found the dish incredibly tasty, with a lot of umami goodness.  I’ll definitely be making this again in the future.

Yum time.

Braised Beef in Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 4 servings

2 lbs beef (I used stew meat) trimmed & cut into 1 ½”-2” cubes

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

6 garlic cloves, chopped

¾ cup dry red wine

2 cups canned tomato juice

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika

Season beef with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Working in batches, cook beef until golden brown on all sides, 7-8 minutes per batch.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer browned beef to a medium bowl and set aside.

 Add onions to the same pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened and light golden, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 1 minute.  Add wine and reserved browned beef along with any accumulated juices.  Simmer beef until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in tomato juice, chicken broth, ground cumin, paprika and ½ cup water; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  (I cooked it uncovered for about an hour instead)

I served it over basmati rice.