Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Roasty and Toasty

This is a lovely pork roast, tied up, seasoned and cooked. The rosemary is added prior to serving as part of the presentation. At home we present everything sliced and placed on a platter. Much easier and less pressure for the cook. You decide how to present your roasted chicken, turkey, beef or pork roast, but no matter what you choose, please remove the twine before slicing. (insert smiling emoji here)

My family tradition is to have turkey at Thanksgiving and roast beef at Christmas. My choice for roast beef has been a whole top sirloin. Averaging weight is somewhere between 10 and 12 lbs, so our family of eight people also gets to have seconds or take thick slabs home for a hearty roast beef sandwich. We like this cut because sirloin has a stronger beef flavor and, while sirloin is not as tender as the rib cut, the top sirloin is the most tender and is a better value than Prime Rib or Filet.

When I'm ready to begin the roasting process, what I usually do is bring out the roast one to two hours prior to the time I set it into the oven. I rub it generously with a light drizzle of olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt. Nice and simple so we can enjoy the meaty flavor. Thirty minutes prior to cooking time, I pre-heat the oven to the highest possible temperature, which for home ovens is somewhere between 500 and 550 F. I put the roast on a rack set onto a baking sheet and wait for the oven to get good and hot, then I plop the whole thing onto the middle rack of the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. This high heat may cause a little smoking, but don't be alarmed. The high temp will brown the roast so that it's toasty looking. Once the timer goes off, turn down the temperature to 325 and calculate an additional 12-15 minutes of cooking time per pound, but--BUT--because all ovens vary in temperature, always check the roast much earlier than the time you expect it to be ready, and use a good meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. When  the temp is 100-115F, remove the roast from the oven, cover well with heavy foil and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes. It will continue to cook and reach a temperature of 125F, which is medium rare, my family's preference. And don't worry about those who want their meat a little warmer. The end slices will do nicely for them, always being just a tad more done than the rest of the roast.

How to check the temperature? Aim for the center of the roast (the last place to increase in temperature) and avoid bones, which always heat up faster than the meat. And if you want to learn more about roasting meats, you can't go wrong with this free downloadable roasting guide offered by Jamie Oliver.

Roast beef with Yorkshire Pudding

What to serve with a nice roasty-toasty slice of beef? Try Yorkshire Pudding using this simple version by Tyler Florence, and a mix of steamed vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, green beans or asparagus). Steam the veggies, toss with a little butter and chopped parsley at the end. Collect some of the pan drippings to use in Tyler's recipe by pouring off halfway through cooking time.

For my family, I make sure there's plenty of Horseradish Sauce, roasted potatoes or my version of Potatoes Dauphinoise, and something green like steamed asparagus or green beans.

Horseradish Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup Duke's mayonnaise
1/4 t Dijon mustard
1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup prepared horseradish.
1 T chopped fresh dill

Combine everything except dill. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Just prior to serving, stir in fresh dill.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

For the Love of Eggplant

I love eggplant!

You don't hear that very often--never, actually.

Eggplant is one of those questionable food items that people love or hate. It's in the same category as chicken livers and lima beans. Many people just don't like the texture--that creamy, feel-good taste rolling around on the tongue. I love that texture!

For me, the easiest way to prepare and enjoy eggplant is to cut off the ends, peel the tough skin, slice lengthwise and put under the broiler. I brush each slice with olive oil and sprinkle on a teeny bit of salt. Golden-brown on one side, flip the slices and return to the broiler for golden-brown goodness on the other side. Transfer to a platter and dust with grated Parmesan. That's it! I find that the eggplant tastes sweet when cooked this way. That sweetness goes perfectly with the salty topping of cheese.

In the Mediterranean, eggplant rules! You have Ratatouille in France. There's Moussaka in Greece. There's Eggplant Rollatini in Italy. That's my recipe for today. For a printable recipe, click here.

Despina's Eggplant Rollatini

The Eggplant Preparation:
3 large eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise into ¼ “slices
salt and olive oil
Place on a large baking sheet and drizzle or brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place under a hot broiler. Once the top side has browned, flip to the other side and set under the broiler again to brown that side also.
To Fill Rollatini:
2 c fresh full milk ricotta
1 ½ c shredded Italian cheese blend (usually called six-cheese Italian)
1 c grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 large clove garlic finely chopped
½ t ground oregano
½ t ground basil
1 egg, whisked
few grinds black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and keep refrigerated until ready to assemble.
 To Sprinkle Over the Rollatini:
½ c shredded Italian cheese blend
2 T grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 t finely chopped Italian parsley or fresh basil
Combine everything.
To Assemble:

Pre-heat oven to 375F. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of cheese filling onto the thickest part of each eggplant slice. Roll eggplant over the filling and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle the top of the Rollatini with most of the cheese-herb mixture, saving a little to finish on the serving dish or individual plates. Bake for 10-15 minutes. We’re looking for the cheese to melt and brown lightly and for the filling to heat and set. Remove pan from the oven and allow to sit for no more than five minutes.
The Sauce:
8 medium tomatoes, cored and skin removed*
¼ c extra virgin olive oil
½ t salt
1 t sugar

Cut skinned and cored tomatoes into small dice. Heat oil in pan and gently stir in the diced tomatoes, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Taste for salt and add a pinch or two more if needed.
To view a video of the sauce cooking, click here.
*To remove the skin from a fresh tomato, cut an x at the bottom and place into a pot of boiling water. After about one minute, remove whole tomato and allow to cool enough to handle. The skin will come right off. This is also the time to cut out the hard core.

To Serve:

You can serve on a large platter with a bed of the sauce, serving everyone at the table, or you can serve directly onto the dinner plates with a little of the sauce beside the Rollatini.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Fast Fast Soup

Periodically, especially after eating out or following holiday-eating "allowances"--the extra calories or bad foods that you don't normally allow into your diet--my husband and I do a form of intermittent fasting as outlined by Dr. Michael Mosley. I'm not trying to encourage you, although, aside from the weight loss, this is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. Our version of fasting involves fasting every other day and keeping calories down to 500 for women and 600 for men.

The fast is not difficult, and I don't find myself feeling hungry, but I do get bored with the food options. On one of my recent fast days, I had a burst of creativity, which led to developing this soup. It's fast to prepare and it's prepared during my fast days, so I call it Fast Fast Soup. We like it so much that I make this even when we're not fasting.

After posting a photo of this soup on Facebook, I received many requests for a recipe, which I didn't have. I made a list of the ingredients and the amounts that I "thought" I'd used, but I had to prepare it again and again and again until the recipe turned out delicious each time. With cooler temperatures approaching, this fast-to-prepare soup is a great weeknight dinner. Heart- and body-warming. Now that I've got the recipe thoroughly tested and re-tested, I thought I'd share it with you.

For a printable recipe, click here.

Baby greens stirred in at the end.
The browned mushrooms and onions add another dimension of flavor without the calories of fat.

Shaved cabbage adds a sweet note and gut-cleaning roughage.
The secret weapon in keeping this recipe low in calories is olive oil spray.

2 (32 oz) containers organic chicken stock (or your own bone turkey or chicken bone broth)
1 large yellow onion, shaved (will yield about 2 cups)
3 cups shaved white button mushrooms
3 chicken tenderloins, thinly sliced
2 cups shaved cabbage
4 green onions sliced on the diagonal
1 (8 oz) packet pre-washed baby greens like kale, chard and spinach *
4 T light soy sauce
2 t Sriracha
Olive oil spray (I use Bertoli)
Salt and pepper

In a large non-stick pan over high heat, use 3-4 sprays of olive oil and toss in the onions. Add a bit of salt and pepper and cook until softened and lightly browned (caramelized). Remove to plate. Do likewise with the mushrooms. Set aside with onions.

Use 4-6 sprays of the olive oil and add the chicken pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Deglaze the pan with about one cup of chicken stock and pour into a soup pot. Pour in the remaining stock and stir in onions, mushrooms and cabbage (zucchini too if using). Bring to a boil and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, just long enough to cook the cabbage and chicken.

Stir in green onions, baby greens, soy sauce and Sriracha. Cook 3 minutes longer and remove from heat.

Serve with soy sauce and Sriracha on the side for anyone who wants to spice up their bowl of soup.

*Sometimes I use only 4 oz/half bag of greens and replace with one small zucchini, which yields about 1 cup shaved. If you use this option, add zucchini to the pot along with cabbage.