Sunday, May 20, 2012

Borsh la Kazakha

Borsh is one of the few dishes I crave, especially on a cold winter day nothing can replace the meatiness, richness, and comfort of this soup. While most people think borsh is a Russian dish, the origins of this soup come from Ukraine. There are endless variation of borsh: beef, pork, vegetarian, “green”, etc. This might not be the classical recipe, but this is a recipe I grew up with.
.5 pound of beef stew bones
1 large carrot cut in a half
1 large onion cut in a half
Olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 pound of fatty large cuts of beef
1 tsp whole peppercorns

2 cups of shredded cabbage
¾ cup shredded red beet
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup shredded carrots
1 large red tomato chopped
3 cloves of garlic chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp white wine vinegar
3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes cubed
Black pepper

1.     To make a stock, preheat the oven to 400F. Place bones, carrots, and onions in a large roasting pan. Pour over olive oil  so all ingredients are evenly covered with a thin layer of oil. Roast for 30 minutes turning the bones half way. The bones should be caramelized, but not fully charred.
2.     Remove the pot from the oven and pour 1 cup of water in the pan scraping the bottom to remove all of the brown pieces. Strain the mixture into a large stock pot reserving bones and vegetables. Place bones, carrot, onion, meat, peppercorns, and bay leave in the stock pot. Fill the pot with 8 cups of cold water, cover and simmer skimming off excess fat for at least 1 hour.
3.     Strain the broth discarding bones and reserving the meat. Cut the meat into smaller pieces about 1 inch each; set the meat aside.
4.     Return the broth into the pot adding cabbage, bay leaf, and 2 tsp of salt. Cover and bring to simmer. Cook for 5-7 minutes and add potatoes cubes.
5.     Preheat oil on a large skillet over medium heat. Add beets and carrots cooking the vegetables until they soften. Add garlic and cook for another minute before tossing in tomato, tomato paste, and 1 tsp of salt. Cook the mixture for 3-5 minutes until tomato juice evaporates. Add vinegar and let it evaporate. Turn the heat off.
6.     At this point potatoes should be already cooked. Turn the heat off, add vegetables from the skillet and meat. Let borsh cool a bit, then add salt and pepper to taste.
7.     Traditionally, borsh is topped with chopped dill and a heaping teaspoon of sour cream. Serve it with potato pirozhki (Russian empanadas pictured below) or good Russian rye. Borsh will taste even better the next day. Priyatnogo appetitaJ

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spaghetti Amatriciana

Some of you may know that magic happens when tomatoes are left to simmer with some good fat. It also seems clear that Italians really figured out this magic. This is evidenced by the Marcella Hazan's brilliant tomato-butter sauce and, as we discovered last weekend, by Amatriciana. Amatriciana uses the simplest of ingredients - pork fat from guanciale, good tomatoes, a slip of onion, maybe a bit of grated hard cheese, and transforms them into a rich, deeply satisfying, and savory sauce that we could not stop eating.
This version is adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook, known as the Bible of Italian cooking. I know I am probably committing some sort of grave food sin by "adapting" the book's recipe, but we loved our version. Instead of guanciale, we used local jowl bacon, which gave our all'Amatriciana a touch of smokiness. I didn't have a fresh Fresno chile or red chile flakes, so we tossed in some Aleppo pepper. We added a single minced garlic clove. We used good canned tomatoes instead of fresh. Then we let is all simmer, while we enjoyed each other's company, snacked on salty cheese and honey (tip: Manchego + honey + bubbly = brilliant snack!), and had our patience abundantly rewarded. So go, make it next time you have an hour to kick around the house. I know that from here on I will be sure to keep jowl bacon in the freezer and canned tomatoes in the pantry, to make sure we have have Amatriciana any time we want.

Spaghetti Amatriciana
Adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook
Recipe says it serves 4, but the two of us finished it, although we were very hungry

Generous 1/2 cup jowl bacon, guanciale, or pancetta, finely diced. This is easier if the meat is slightly frozen
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
28-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, torn into small pieces or ground peeled tomatoes (good brand is recommended; we used Muir Glen)
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red chile flakes
3/4-pound spaghetti
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large deep frying pan gently cook the bacon over low heat to render out the fat and crisp the bacon, which should take about 10 minutes. I like to start with a cold pan. This takes longer, but more of the fat runs out. You can also cover the pan with the lid to prevent the bacon pieces from burning. Add the onion and garlic, increase the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally for another 10 - 15 minutes until the onions are soft and lightly browned. Stir in tomatoes and Aleppo pepper, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for at least 40 minutes. Add a splash of water if the sauce starts to thicken too much or crack the lid open if it is too watery. We like a slightly thicker sauce, which will get diluted a bit with the water clinging to the cooked spaghetti. Taste the finished sauce for salt and add a bit of salt and pepper, if needed. About 30 minutes before dinner, boil a large pot of water. Salt the boiling water well and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Transfer the spaghetti to the pan with the sauce and toss over medium heat for 2 - 3 minutes so that the pasta can absorb some of the sauce. I find the step really important in this dish. Serve with a bit of grated Parmesan, if desired.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pear galette with pear-caramel ice cream

Hello! Well, it has certainly been a while, hasn't it. Honestly, we have no exciting excuses for absence. Its not that we've been jetting off to exotic locales, although there was an afternoon in Istanbul and a quick stop by Bishkek between the two of us. We've been busy. While that does not mean we eat badly, it does mean that we eat late, which makes for terrible, terrible pictures. Personally, I (Madina), also get very cranky when hungry, so the last thing I want to do is to have to take a picture to share. But this ends now. I am resolved to not let hungry impatience get the best of me and to do a much better job with actually sharing our cooking efforts.

Ok, now that the apology is out of the way, let's get to the real reason we are all here - the eats. I was craving caramel ice cream last week, which led me to finding the perfect recipe in David Lebovitz's delightful book . It combines pears and caramel, delivering a bit of bitterness and a tiny bit of pear texture, which I happen to love. It was delicious, but not pear-y enough for me.

The search for a more pronounced pear flavor had me explore poached pears, but instead I decided to bake a galette. Simple, rich, and flaky dough borrowed from Smitten Kitchen surrounded the pears, which tasted like better version of themselves, cooked in rich juices and enhanced with cinnamon and lemon. The galette delivered the pear punch I wanted and was perfect with the caramel ice cream. Bonus tip - a bit of Cognac is really excellent with this desert. I wonder if this combination makes me sound like a Victorian maid? Maybe the Forsyte Saga is having its influence.

Pear-Caramel Ice Cream
Barely adapted from David Lebovitz. His recipe is perfect; I just added a bit more salt.

3 medium ripe pears, peeled and cored. I used Bartlett
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Add 1/4 teaspoon if you want the salty caramel flavor
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dice the pears into small, even pieces.
Spread the sugar in a large, nonreactive saucepan and cook over medium heat, keeping a close eye on it. When the sugar begins to liquify and darken around the edges, gently stir it with a spatula towards the center. You will find that the edges will caramelize quicker than the center, so stirring helps keep the process even.
Once the sugar is deep amber, add in the pear pieces. Give the whole thing a stir. Do not worry if some of the caramel seizes and hardens; it will melt again soon enough. Cook over medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes until the pears are very soft and can be mashed with the back of a spoon.
Remove the pot from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of heavy cream, then add the rest of the cream, the salt, and the lemon juice. Stir well.
Let cook to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth. I found that the mixture is too liquid for an immersion blender and makes a bit of a mess of one's stovetop. The original recipe calls for straining the pureed mixture, but I did not bother. I like the texture from the tiny bits of pear still floating around.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then churn per your ice cream maker instructions. Serve in generous scoops over warm pear galette or on its own.

Pear Galette
Dough adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the dough:
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces about 1/4 inch each
1 1/4 cup All-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche
2 teaspoons lemon juice, from about 1/4 lemon
1/4 - 1/3 cup ice water

In a medium bowl, cut the butter, sugar, and flour together with a pastry cutter, 2 table knives, or your fingers until butter is coated with flour and is in bits the size of peas. Mix the sour cream, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup ice water and drizzle the mixture onto the flour, all the while mixing with a fork. Remove large clumps of dough onto a lightly floured table surface. Add ice water, a teaspoon at a time to the remaining flour in the bowl until it holds together when squeezed in your hand. The dough should be more dry than wet. Dump the bowl content onto the table and knead it all together, until it comes into a somewhat cohesive ball. Flatten with the palm of your hand (this will make rolling easier later), wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, but ideally overnight. You can also double this recipe, using 1 half for the pear galette and freezing the other for another day you crave flaky richness.

For the filling:
4 medium-large Bosc pears, peeled and cored. I find that Bosc pears keep their shape well during baking
1 tablespoon lemon juice, from about 1/3 lemon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 - 3 tablespoons sugar, depending on the sweetness of your pears
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar for sprinkling, optional but really nice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, set the rack in the middle, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon pad.
Cut the pears in half and the slice each half, lengthwise into 8 - 10 slices. Mix the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Gently toss the slices pears with the lemon/sugar/cinnamon mixture and let stand while you roll out the dough.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out, on a well-floured surface until about 12 inches in diameter. Put the dough in the middle of the baking sheet. Mound the filling in the middle of the dough, leaving about a 2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling decoratively, if you would like and sprinkle the border with turbinado sugar. Slide the baking sheet into the hot oven and bake 35 - 45 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the galette is nicely browned. Let cool to room temperature before serving.