Italian Sausage Testing

Pin It
Dear Readers,
It's been a busy summer, and there's been little blogging. BUT, there's been lots of other stuff. We scoped out Idaho (more on that soon), I've done some traveling for work, and little guy had his first round of swim lesson! And we've been doing plenty of cooking. It's the documenting part that's not happening (sigh).

In other news, the husband will be teaching a class this fall at the Monrovia Community Center (scroll scroll scroll to pg. 31), so he's been perfecting his sausage recipes. Check out his post along with cute pictures of Viggo.

Sausage planning session.

As of late, my sausage making has become an endeavor of refinement rather than been the herculean task it used to be.  Gone are the 12-hour days of manually grinding the meat (I do nostalgically miss you, Porkert) and then cleaning up for another hour or so.  I did cut my teeth with the manual grinder, gaining the fundamentals by taking so much time with each sausage.  But everything changed with the LEM Meat Grinder.  I’m usually not into, you know, “electricity” and stuff with my hobbies, but this ¾ horsepower grinder does it all, and fast.  And clean.  Technology has won me over. This time.

Now that I save literally hours when making sausage, I’ve been afforded the pleasure of honing in on my sausage recipes.  The research and development phase of my sausage making has begun.  With good technique and good meat, the difference in types of sausage is sometimes almost measureless.  For example, instead of once pinch of paprika, it might be two that gets you a sausage that is authentically Hungarian.  This is what I wanted to focus on. 
My Italian sausage has never been what I wanted it to be, which got me researching my sausage tomes, attempting to get the amounts of chili flakes, fennel, and garlic just right.  I purchased 10 pounds of pork shoulder and developed three different recipes that played ever so slightly with the theme of Italian sausage.  And sure enough, when me and the blog lady sat down to try these three samples, they were all the same and all very different.  A clear favorite emerged, though, that has become the basis of my further tinkerings.

The best part of all this sausage testing is that we have a supply on hand to make pasta whenever we need.  The first time, I decided that I would mix in some milk and breadcrumbs into the sausage to make meatballs for a pasta dish.  It worked brilliantly.  The next time, we used it in the Chef John one pan pasta.  Also, delicious.  As Oktoberfest approaches, my next challenge will be to make the best brat recipe.  All pork, perhaps?  A bit of beef added for that Wisconsin style? I’m not sure yet.  Although I’m certain those enjoying the brats will appreciate the study and effort I’ve brought to bear on making them.         
 The new and improved electric grinder (above). Test patties (below).
Using the sausage to make meatballs.
 Little fishy learning to swim at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center.


Chorizo Taco Salad Brunch

Pin It
My go-to brunch meal when I'm hosting is the taco salad. And I make a pretty delicious one, especially if there's homemade chorizo involved (shout out to the husband! He demanded it).

The thing about taco salads is they are super easy, really satisfying and versatile. You can do turkey, ground beef, short ribs, or even roasted vegetables. And then pick toppings that pair well with your meat. Cook and chop before your guests arrive and all you have to do before pouring yourself some (or lots) rosé is assemble the salads. The most time consuming part for me is pre-baking my tortilla shells in the oven. And it's only because I can only do 2-3 at a time.

This was my first chorizo salad, and it was a hit. I cooked up some zucchini from the garden,which I added to my black beans, along with a salsa verde. And for toppings we had shredded lettuce, cotilla cheese, homemade ancho chili salsa (another husband contribution he insisted I mention), avocados and mangos with cilantro and lime. Simple, fun to eat and great with rosé.
Viggo hammock. This guy loved all the attention from the pretty ladies.
We had lots of desserts courtesy of my guests. 
I even made the husband his own salad which he had to eat quickly before taking a really long nap with the little guy. But not before we got this group shot of the brunch crowd with babycakes. 

Chorizo Taco Salads
serves 6

As I mentioned, these salads are open to customization. But here's what I used for this particular brunch.

2 lbs of chorizo, cooked
1 large zucchini, sauted in olive oil with cumin and paprika
2 cans of black beans, warmed with salsa verde
shredded ice berg
cotija cheese
ancho chili salsa
mangos with cilantro and lime
tortilla shells, brushed with olive oil and baked at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes


Cheers to Baby Food and Cocktails

Pin It
It didn't take me long to connect baby food making to cocktails. But, I am a little surprised there isn't already a recipe book out there for this stuff. 

If you've made fruit compotes or purées for your little one, you probably end up with some extra syrup in your pan after cooking down the fruit. And you might just throw that out before blending your fruit, so as not to make your purée too watery. Or you might drink it, like the husband likes to do and then complain how this kid gets all the good stuff, and what about him??? But, you can also add a splash of rum or tequila and some sparkling soda and you have yourself a tropical adult drink. This way, everyone wins! Settle down hubby, the baby IS sharing.

I've been making Viggo food at home. It's a lot easier than I thought it would be, and takes me a couple of hours each Sunday. There's two books I use as a guide, Bébé Gourmet, and Cooking for Baby. Most of the recipes are straight-forward and once you make a few things, you get the hang of it and can experiment. A typical fruit recipe goes like this: slice up your fruit (removing the skins if that's your thing); add a bit of water to the pan covering your fruit 1/3 of the way; cook on medium 5-7 minutes (depending on the fruit). Drain off some of that juice (for yourself!), and blend. 

Our little guy really likes mango and berries combo (which by the way makes for a great cocktail), so I do variations of this purée with cherries, blueberries and strawberries. He likes to eat his fruit mixed in with Greek yogurt, and makes the funniest faces doing so. Other fruit combinations that he seems to enjoy include, apples and cherries (not the greatest for a cocktail), pears with peaches and bananas every which way. 

In case you're wondering, the kid eats more than fruit. It's just green beans and sweet potatoes don't make you want to add rum and pineapple juice to them to enjoy on a hot day.  
Freezer friendly. I typically make a batch of food for the week and take it to his daycare.
This guy likes to sit in the kitchen, and boss us around, waving his drumstick and wooden spoon. Good thing he looks so cute doing it.
Playful monkey. He's so happy to share his fruit purees with us. And that's why we keep him around!
Pear and peach syrup, with pineapple juice, rum and sparkling water.


Swiss Chard Galette for Brunch and Weekend Walks

Pin It
One of our friend's has started a little cooking/eating group that meets for brunch every couple of months. It's been so much fun. Not only do we get to hang out with friends in the kitchen, but we end up tasting a lot of delicious dishes, while only cooking one! A real steal. I particularly enjoyed this last get-together because Viggo dozed for the first hour, and I got to flip tortillas. For like 15 minutes I was transported back in time -- baby-free and drinking Bloody Mary's with a spatula in hand, actually able to help someone in the kitchen. It didn't last long, but it sure was glorious. 

For most of these brunches, I've been taking the lazy way out, and using this baby thing as an excuse. The first time, I made a salad (with like 3 ingredients). The second time, I grilled eggplant for a super easy eggplant dip. But, for this potluck, I wanted to use the husband's Swiss Chard and do something a little more involved. So I recruited him to help, and together we put together this delicious galette. And it wasn't too hard. We made the dough the day before, and I also washed all the chard ahead of time. So on the day of, all I had to do is cook up the chard, roll out the dough and bake.
I like the cornmeal taste of the dough, even though it was still buttery and flaky.
Brunch plate. And brunch drinks!
Brunch aside, the rest of the weekend wasn't too bad either. We like to begin our weekends at home with delicious breakfasts. Sometimes the husband will run over to Lincoln Bakery for pastries, and then put together a fancy fruit plate (like Tulum!). And then we take it easy with work around the house, walks at Descanso or along the Arroyo. Last weekend we walked the Arroyo Seco trail near JPL.
Cool dude with his alien shades. Passerbyers were cracking up at this little face.
These giant monsters are located one street over from us, and we like to visit them on our walks around the neighborhood.
Yum, fake tomato! There's nothing this guy won't put into his mouth right now. 
Ear snuggles for this chub face. I just like to watch him sleep and laugh. Free entertainment.
What a face! Trying to eat out of his baby cage.

Swiss Chard Galette
via Food52
Makes 24 slices 

Cornmeal Galette Dough
2 1/2 cups (320 g) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (102 g) yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 8 tablespoons ice water 

1) In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt until blended. Add the chilled butter to the bowl and pulse until it is evenly distributed but still in large, visible pieces. Add the olive oil and pulse a few times. Add 4 tablespoons of the ice water and pulse until the dough begins to come together, adding water by the tablespoon as needed.) Dump dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Roughly shape the dough into a rectangle. Wrap the disk in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Alternatively, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter using the back of a fork or pastry cutter. Add olive oil and 4 tablespoons of the ice water and mix until dough just comes together, adding ice water as needed.)

Assembling the Galette
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion (I used two leaks instead)
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic
pinches crushed red pepper flakes
2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed (about 500 grams, post-stemming)
1 Cornmeal Galette Dough
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 cup grated Gruyère or Comté
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk or cream 

1) Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or soup pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Pile the chard on top, cover the pan if you are able, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until the leaves begin to wilt. Uncover the pan, use tongs to rearrange the leaves and continue cooking the chard until any liquid evaporates. Taste. This is your chance to season the chard, so add more salt if necessary. 
2) Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 375° F. Line a jelly roll pan with with kitchen parchment paper. 

3) Roll the dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle, about 15- x 21-inches or about an inch or two bigger in length and width than your sheet pan. Flip the dough every so often to ensure it’s not sticking. If it is, dust the surface with more flour. Loosely fold the dough in half and half again and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Unfold the dough and center it to your pan. 

4) Spread a thin layer of ricotta on the bottom of the dough, leaving a two-inch border all the way around. Spread the onion and chard mixture over top in a thin, even layer. Sprinkle the grated cheese over top. Fold the edges of the dough inward over the filling. Pinch together any tears in the dough. Mix together the egg yolk and milk and brush it over the exposed crust. 

5) Bake until the crust has browned and the cheese has melted, 35 to 45 minutes. Slide the galette off the parchment and onto a cooling rack or cutting board. Let cool for 10 minutes. Cut the galette into 24 pieces (or less of larger sizes!)


Ricotta Berry Cake

Pin It
I was always one of those people who preferred seconds to sweets/dessert. When I'd hear someone say "sweets are my weakness" I would often scoff and reply, "seriously? get a real weakness, pal". But then I got pregnant. And somewhere at the start of my second trimester, after a shameful episode of craving hot pockets, which luckily passed as soon as I had a hot pocket, I started craving cheesecake. If you're thinking what an upgrade, hot pocket to cheesecake? You are right, and no one was more relived than the husband, who was utterly disgusted with me for months after I ate the hot pocket, even though I was carrying his child.

But, back to cake. It started with cheesecake, then once I satisfied my craving with several slices, I forgot all about it, until month 7 or 8, when I wanted cake, ALL THE FREAKEN TIME. It wasn't that I wanted one sort of cake. Instead I ate whatever cake came my way (and by came my way, I mean whatever the husband decided to pick up on the way home, after me asking him several times throughout the day, "are you getting cake?" And then following up with "yum, cake" texts).

Then we had the baby, and I was pregnant no more. I was hopeful I'd also want cake no more. But, that didn't happen. And I still wanted cake, ALL THE FREAKEN TIME. There came a point where the husband would refuse me, "It's Tuesday, we can't just have cake. It's not even anyone's birthday." I was obviously mad about this sort of logic. I had given him a child, the least he could do is get me cake, everyday. I made sure he was aware of this reasoning, and he often caved, bringing me a slice of some sort on his way home.

Eventually, cake just got expensive. A slice from Whole Foods several times a week wasn't good for the wallet, especially with all these new baby expenses. So, I decided if I wanted cake, I should bake it, hoping my hate of baking would prevent me from eating cake all the time. And it has! I am proud to say, I now eat cake occasionally, although still more often than I probably should since discovering this simple and delicious recipe for ricotta berry cake, which is almost not really baking at all.
 This guy knows what's up.
This cake is so easy, and it's super good, and almost impossible to mess up. The last time I made it, I ran out of ricotta and just added sour cream instead, not even measuring. Then the husband and I had "communication issues" and forgot adding the baking powder at the right time. And still the cake was good. You should probably follow the recipe for the first time, but this cake leads itself to some interpretation, should you feel tempted down the road.

Now I'm going to take a moment, share some Viggo pics, and ask: how is this baby of mine ALREADY eight months old?! Have I really been eating cake for over eight months??? Sigh.
It's been fun cooking for and feeding this guy. I'm only confused by one thing, who does not like avocados?
Teeth peaking through. Teeth!!!
And he's crawling.
Feel free to stop growing now. Ok, thanks!
Ricotta Berry Cake
via Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup frozen raspberries or blackberries, divided (I’ve only used fresh berries. Blackberries and strawberries)
1 tbsp lemon zest or dried orange peel (this is my own addition, which I think adds a nice freshness)

1)  Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray.
2) Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
3) Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, zest (if using), followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries.
4) Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries over top. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.

Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.


One Pan Chorizo Pasta with Greens

Pin It

Dear Readers,
There's another post from the husband! Back-to-back. Now I just need to teach him how to use his iphone and I'll be pushed out of this blog and my housewife fantasy for sure.

A few weeks ago, the husband made some chorizo with our friend. And we've been using chorizo weekly in everything from tacos to nachos to chili (photos of that deliciousness at the end). But, this pasta and chorizo dish is really the star and takes minimum effort. 

I want to mention that this particular dish featured both swiss chard AND beet greens. I also want to point out, that I don't think the husband has ever cooked this recipe, although he's definitely been around while I prepared it, and claims to have stirred, A LOT, during one of those times.

Chef John, I think I found you and this pasta recipe of yours at the perfect time.  One day, I was idly scrolling for Netflix films (this was before they started releasing some excellent name brand shows), when I grew frustrated with it's paltry offerings.  Normally in such cases, I back out of Netflix and navigate through my Roku channels and find This Old House on PBS (I never thought I'd be this person, but technology and home-ownership have conspired against me).  But this time, I saw the All Recipes channel and thought I'd give it a try.

Aside from Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and a handful of other chefs, I mostly avoid food TV.  Particularly the tripe served up on the Food Channel because there's so very little to learn from it.  Anyway, without much thought I clicked on a recipe entitled "one pan orrechiette pasta." Immediately, I was won over by the simplicity of this recipe and its rich flavors.  I was also won over by Chef John's non-pretentious approach to food and skewed humor. I've since watched many, many of his videos and learned a host of interesting tips from Chef John.  But me and the blog-lady always come back to this one and keep improvising on it. Here's the original:

The addition of the greens is what balances the richness of the broth-infused pasta.  Do not skip it this part!  Arugula, kale, spinach, whatever.  Lately, I've had a garden surplus of swiss chard that I'm trying to keep up with.  I also have whole lot of chorizo that my good friend helped me make a week ago. After making a bean soup with the chard (recipe coming soon), I still had tons of greens left over.  The one pan pasta recipe seemed like a perfect way to use everything we had on hand.  Better yet, it allowed us to plan a simple, delicious dinner while still hanging out with the little guy during the evening.

Start with the original recipe, master it (the hardest part is the stirring), and then start messing around with the recipe however you'd like.  And don't forget, as Chef John likes to kindly remind, to "En-joy."
I cannot believe this dude will be turning eight months old tomorrow!