Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi

Sunday September 27
Daughter Jill and family came over for brunch today. I made a wonderful Italian sausage egg casserole with green chiles for the main course. Instead of potatoes as a side, I chose a pasta dish out of Jasper Mirabile's new cookbook - Ricotta Gnocchi. I served it over pesto. It was a beautiful emerald green ( I make my pesto with garlic chives and the color is a brilliant green like grass.) AND - I didn't take a picture! I showed my granddaughter Tori how to make it and roll it into a rope. She watched as I cut it and then dropped it into the boiling water (and then you turn it down to a good simmer). So after a lovely morning complete with our favorite family brunch drink - Da Das, which are a mimosa-style drink served over the rocks with a splash of apricot brandy that smooths the acidity of the OJ. If you drink too many of them, as you try to speak, you trip on your tongue and say, "Da, da, da, da....!"


I plan to make the gnocchi again this Sunday when my bridge girlfriends come over. I'll make it with bechamel, marinara and also with pesto - So we'll call it "Triple Sauce Ricotta Gnocchi" from Jasper's Kitchen Cookbook! And we'll post a picture or two

Just to make you salivate a bit, here are some photos of the gnocci courtesy of Jasper Mirabile. (Thanks Jasper!)

By the way, did I mention who the we are? Myself writing the text and my niece Lauren McKay, who is inputting and designing my blog and also helping with my e-newsletter. Right now the e-newsletter features all of the cookbooks that I carry. I try to include a recipe here and there. If you'd like to sign up for the newsletter, add your email to the box on the right of the page. Then you'll get an email confirming your subscription!

After the family leaves it is Round 3 of Boeuf Bourguignon (for the 3 classes scheduled for Sept 28, 30, and Oct 1). I'm getting to the point where I don't even pay attention to the recipe anymore. As Julia would say, "Establish your own relationship." So I cook and taste. If it doesn't look like there are enough onions or carrots - I add more. If it lacks a bit of zing - I add more thyme and a microplane full of lemon zest. The end result every time is YUM!

Supper tonight is steak soup from my friend Donna Gerber Missimer. It is good and even better when I add some leftover Boeuf Bourguignon to it!


Boeuf Bourguignon x 3

Saturday September 26
This is going to be my marathon weekend of preparing 3 triple batches of boeuf bourguignon for the 3 classes I have scheduled at my friend Jet's cooking school in Lee's Summit, A Thyme for Everything.

So I begin the morning early and bake off some of the artisan bread dough that I have in the refrigerator. I need plenty of bread to serve with the home made herb butter and also to sop up the delicious red wine and beef stock sauce that makes the beef burgundy. Did I tell you that everyone has gone mad for this bread recipe? It is from my best friend Judith's new cookbook, 200 Fast and Easy Artisan Bread Recipes, "No-Knead, One Bowl." The bread mixes in a bowl - then rises for 2 hours - then is ready to shape (no-knead) and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on how thick or thin the loaves of bread are that you shape.

I meet my girlfriends Susan and Shelley for coffee and then go off to co-host "In The Kitchen with Jasper" radio show with Jasper Mirabile. This is the first time that I have ever co-hosted a radio show. The script is easy to follow and the show is in 4 segments. The segment with Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet is taped so I don't get to speak with her. She is coming to Kansas City for a book signing this month.

So back in the kitchen and I now prepare the cooktop and floor with newspapers and towels to absorb all the grease that splatters. I use a grease catcher, too, but browning 27 pounds of beef is messy. So I begin with the first recipe and brown the meat, add the carrot and onion, season and sprinkle with flour. Then it goes into a 450 degree oven for 4 minutes uncovered to roast the flour. You stir it again and put it back in the hot oven for another 4 minutes then put it on the cooktop and add the red wine and beef broth or stock. I found a dandy Cabernet Sauvignon that is relatively inexpensive yet has high marks from Wine Spectator. It retails for around $6 to $8 dollars and is perfect to cook with and also to drink. So the real reason I chose it over some of the other wines at the store is because I loved the giant 47 pound rooster on the label - you know... the rooster is very French. I think Julia would approve.   

Okay triple batch number one (actually this will be for classes number 5, 6, and 7!) is in the oven and I take a break. Beautiful day in the 70s and the raspberries are still growing. The tomatoes are still turning red. The zukes are gone - and didn't perform well this year. I make a mental note to use the blossoms next year if the squash aren't producing. Dogs are having a raucous play day outside. My husband is an avid bird hunter and we have always had dogs - mainly English pointers. Rocky is a big 70 pound beautifully marked black & white pointer. He has both eyes and ears in black with some freckles on his nose. And he is a very sweet dog. Lady is a bit of a challenge. She is almost pure white with freckled light brown ears. She got spooked by fireworks a couple of years ago and she has never been the same. Jumps if you drop something in the house and if there is equipment outside like mowers or saws - she is a basket case. Needless to see, my husbands dogs have turned into house pets.

Onto the second triple batch - it is around 4:30 now. I get the first batch out of the oven and place the second batch in the oven... I can't face the third batch and call it quits and clean up the kitchen. I must tell you that the newspapers and towels made clean up so much easier! Have a nice evening.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

September Happenings

September 4th: First Classic Julia Class
We had so much fun last night. 24 students and 3 helpers made for a lot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Things rolled along a a very good pace with this 3 hour class, lasting exactly 3 hours with a 15 minute break in the middle. The homemade bread from Judith Fertig's new 200 Easy Artisan Breads received high praise as did the Artisan Butter (homemade from whipping cream) that I doctored up with salt, garlic, and snipped chives and basil chiffonade.
I read some passages from My Life in France and we all had a laugh over sister Dort's anxiety when she was rear-ended while driving on the Place de la Concorde. Her bad French turned into something like, "Officer, he spat in my rear end!"

My story of bad French was in Joigny, while staying at Chateau du Fey (the former home Anne Willan and  La Varenne Cooking School). Judith and I were doing a dry run to the train station. We kept going in circles in the Centre de Ville. So we rolled down our windows to try and ask for directions from numerous people who were on the sidewalks that day. We'd say, "Ou est la gare? Ou est la gare?" But know one would look at us much less answer us. On our own, we found it. Went back to the chateau and told the story to our friends while trying to figure out what we did wrong. So we repeated, "Ou est la guerre? Ou est la guerre?" YES, we were asking "Where is the war?" No wonder no one would look at us!

Class number one down and 10 more to go!
September 7th: Labor Day
So I am in the kitchen most of the day, baking bread, browning onions, mushrooms, and browning 18 pounds of beef cubes to get ahead. Popping one triple recipe into the oven for the mandatory 2 1/2 hours, I feel like I have accomplished quite a bit. Clean-up is no fun. Lots of grease... but a friend suggested putting newspaper on the floor. I did that and also draped some towels carefully around the cooktop to catch the most grease. It worked pretty well, and clean-up was much easier.

Yesterday we were in Waterville, Kansas visiting our friends the Roepke's. Every Sunday of Labor Day weekend they have a champagne brunch. We were included and I brought Gooey Butter Cake (a St. Louis coffeecake). We started at 9:30 with a low ling fog and a temperature around 70. The sun came out and it cleared into a most gorgeous day. Our view of the Northern Flint Hills was spectacular and food and company were the best. My friend LueAnn made homemade maple syrup using Karo syrup and maple extract. I consider myself a true maple syrup connoisseur and this was excellent. LueAnn shared her recipe and I plan to teach it in my "Gifts from the Kitchen" cooking class this November.

We also discussed the newly renovated Weaver Hotel, a historic hotel along the railroad, of which many attending the brunch are board members. I shared the fun my students and I had at last week's Julia class. I think I may come back next year and offer my Classic Julia cooking class as a fundraiser for them!

September 11th
My husband just left for work and asked me to put out our US Flags (little ones that like nice along the edge of our front lawn). Watched some of the 9/11 memorials and cried. Maybe I'm weepy from being a little tired from cooking two classes in a row the last two nights.

On Wednesday (9/9), a reporter from the Lee's Summit Journal came to our class. She was not a cook at all, but seemed to have a great time. Here is her article.

Class on Thursday (9/10) was a hoot. People from all over the city are coming to these classes in little old Lee's Summit (where I attended high school).  I described the continuing series of Julia Classes that we've scheduled for Jan/Feb 2010. When I mentioned the Coq au Vin class, a table of ladies swooned repeating my words in a sweet cry, "Coq au Vin!" Then we all laughed. These classes take a lot of time to prepare the food, but they are so enjoyable and all the students seem to smile and are excited about real cooking. We talked about recreating part of Julia's first meal in Rouen, France... the Rye Bread with homemade butter and sole meuniere.

At the office, we are still waiting for Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way to Cook. Both are in reprints, but we should have by the end of next week - finally!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Classic Julia Photos

Thanks to Lynda Passiglia for passing along photos from last week's Classic Julia class

And guess what? We just added our TENTH and ELEVENTH Classic Julia classes!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Labor Day Weekend - Potato Salad Recipes

I was on Jasper’s Kitchen Radio Show today. For the Labor Day weekend grill, I shared 3 different and delicious potato salads. They are not your store bought fluorescent yellow creamy globs of potatoes and unidentified objects, but rather fresh and all with a European flair.

French Herbed Potato Salad

This reminds me of a tangy vinaigrette, but rather than dress a bowl of salad greens, the boiled potatoes get napped.
Serves 8
6 large russet potatoes
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 bunch green onions, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
1. Boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water for 20  minutes or until done. Remove from the water and cool.
2.Peel and slice ¼-inch thick and arrange in a casserole dish. Sprinkle the tarragon vinegar over the sliced potatoes. Evenly distribute the green onions over the potatoes.
3. Mix the garlic with the oil and evenly distribute over the potatoes. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Flame-Seared Potato and Fennel Salad

Fennel takes on more flavor when caramelized over the grill. The potatoes have a hint of smokiness from the grill, too. Arranged on a platter, the presentation is WOW!
Oiled grill rack or basket
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
Grated zest and juice from 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 baking potatoes, thinly sliced lengthwise
Olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
1. Prepare a hot fire in your grill.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the green onions, garlic, mayonnaise, zest and juice of the lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set Aside.
3. Lightly brush potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill rack or basket. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes preside or until golden and charred.
4. Brush fennel with olive oil and grill directly over the hot fire for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until fork tender.
5. Place fennel in the center of a large platter and surround with the potatoes. Drizzle the sauce over all and place an remaining in a side bowl.
Tapas-Style Grilled Fingerlings with Portuguese Aioli

The robust ingredients in the aioli make an unforgettable statement. You’ll make this for a sandwich spread, a dip for raw vegetables or chips, a sauce for shrimp or dollop over fish or shellfish. Serves 8

Portuguese Aioli:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon tomato puree (or paste)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon smoked or sweet Hungarian paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 pounds fingerling or new potatoes, pierced several times with a fork
Grill basket or wok, lightly greased
1. Prepare the Aioli: In a large bowl combine all of the Aioli ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve
2. Prepare a medium-hot fire in your grill.
3. Brush potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the basket or wok in batches, grilling for about 15 minutes, turning often, until fork tender. Serve them hot with the aioli.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Classic Julia Cooking Classes

Hi – I’m a cooking teacher, admirer of Julia Child and love all things French – so way before the Julie & Julia movie came out, I read Appetite for Life-The Biography of Julia Child by Noel Riley Fitch (probably in the year 2000). Then I purchased The Way to Cook. Next to read was Julie & Julia by Julie Powell when it was only in hardcover because my dear friend Roxanne Wyss chose it for our cookbook club. When My Life in France came out – I read it too, but found the biography by Fitch and this one to have lots of overlap – but hey – that’s fine.

I have also been lucky enough to meet Julia when she visited Kansas City to promote our AIWF chapter during her 80th birthday tour. I even sat next to her at lunch, but was in such awe – I could hardly string a sentence together. But I did watch her polish off a savory Goat Cheese Timbale and devour 4 or 5 delicious lamb chops at a special luncheon prepared by the Johnson County Community College Culinary students.

So in early August I asked my good friend Jet Pabst (owner of A Thyme For Everything kitchen shop and cooking school) if she would like me to teach a Julia Child Class on Boeuf Bourgignon. She said write it up. The movie came out on August 7th. My class was written up in the Kansas City Star the following Friday (August 14) and the class filled by the following day. SO we added a second class (which filled in another day, a third class, 1 fourth class...) – and we are now at a total of 9 classes!

AND – I have never prepared Julia’s classic recipe, but am accomplished in the kitchen, and am not worried.

With 24 students in each class, 2 helpers, and Jet... I will be feeding 27 people at each class!

Friday August 28, 2009
Shopping for Chuck Steak:
Boeuf Bourgignon needs nice 2-inch square chunks of beef. I decided to butcher the meat myself because stew meat in the grocery store is often too small. Since I have cooked delicious French Daube’s several times from Patricia Wells and Susan Herrmann Loomis’ wonderful French cookbooks, I am up for the task of this 2-page recipe (plus an additional 2 pages for browning the onions and the mushrooms).
I decide to buy a whole chuck roast (22 pounds) and butcher it myself. I took my time butchering the roast – and accomplished the task in about an hour. I had 6 pounds of waste and 16 pounds of beautiful 2-inch cubes (almost all of them were 2-inch squares).
A single recipe calls for 3 pounds of beef. So I carefully packaged 3-pounds of cubes per plastic bag and set in the refrigerator. My husbands’ business partner is solo this weekend with his wife out of town – so we call him to have dinner with us Saturday Night for a test run.

Saturday August 29, 2009
Making My First Recipe of Julia’s Boeuf Bourgignon:
I know that the dish has to bake in the oven for about 2 1/2 hours. So, no problem. I do some housecleaning, ironing, play with the dogs (2 English Pointers) and meet my friend Brenda for lunch. We are co-captains of our block and are checking out our neighbor’s new restaurant – The Well in Waldo. It is a beautiful day. 70 degrees. The restaurant has a rooftop and back patio, but we opt for the indoor dining room which is just as nice as the patio doors are wide open and we are right beside it. Have a great lunch – French Dip with delicious ciabatta rolls and I get home after 2pm.
Yikes – I have to brown 3 pounds of beef cubes, sautee chopped carrots and onions, brown additional 1-inch onions and mushrooms. I got the meat done in batches following Julia’s instructions to dry each piece of meat so that it browns properly. Then I cheated. I used 2 pieces of crisply fried bacon and the bacon grease rather than the chunk of bacon. Peel little onions? Are you crazy – I’ve done that before and it takes too much time and I figure that the pearl onions that you can buy in the freezer section of the grocery store will do quite nicely. So I brown them.

Oh! and I forgot the mushrooms – We’ll do those next week for my class, but skipping for tonight....

Everything gets in the heavy Dutch oven and then you toss and coat the meat with salt, pepper and flour. Place in a preheated 450 degree oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat again and back in the hot oven for another 4 minutes. This is amazing – the mess that you make when you dredge the meat in flour and then brown – is totally avoided and the roasting of the meat with the light dusting of flour is perfect and the flour even browns!

In goes the herbs, red wine, brown stock and tomato paste. Oven temp is lowered to about 300 and we slow cook for about 3 hours.

Ron arrives, we have a cocktail, watch a little football and I serve a wedge of iceberg with cherry tomatoes from our garden and a homemade Maytag Blue Cheese Dressing – a little retro to go with our retro dinner.

Voila! The Boeuf Bougignon is served with light and airy mashed potatoes in a pretty oval bowl, family style (not what Julia recommended – rather classic accompaniments would be boiled potatoes, egg noodles or rice). We have a nice bottle of wine (vintage and name – later). And the dish is declared a success! Imagine when I do it the correct way!