Thursday Night Nicoise Salad

Thursday Night Nicoise Salad
Allow all of your salad stars to shine on their own. Dress each component of your salad individually and pile onto a platter. Simple food is just so darn pretty. Make something like this whatever you have on hand!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bolognese Ragu al Forno


If you read up on the city of Bologna, you will learn that one of it's nicknames is La Grassa (The Fat). I love that. Think mortadella, salame rosa, tortellini, lasagne and tagliatelle. Ohhhhhh my. Bologna is the capital of the region of Emilia~Romagna and to many, the gastronomic capital of all of Italy. Time to hop on another virtual flight. I NEED to go there. Oh, and speaking of wine (were we?), Emilia is known for Lambrusco, while Romagna is known for Sangiovese. And speaking of hogs (were we?), lots of cattle and lots of hogs around there. If I ever make it to Bologna, I will share it ALL with you right here in KPK.

Let's talk about the sauce, shall we? Classic Bolognese ragu' is made with pancetta, beef, carrots, celery, onion, wine, a small amount of tomato sauce, milk, salt & pepper. It's a standard process of beginning with the soffrito, adding ingredients, cooking, simmering and reducing for a long time on the stovetop to really develop the flavors. There are so many versions, it's impossible to write about all of them. Some cooks like to add chicken livers, or ground pork, or some Italian sausage. Fresh or dried herbs can be added. I like to add earthiness with porcini and/or portabella mushrooms if I'm feelin' it. Some people add cream instead of milk for extra richness. The soffrito (onion, carrots, celery) can be started with butter or olive oil. I could go on forever. The truth is that nowadays, folks are calling any meat sauce "Bolognese". This version is definitely another KPK recipe that you can adjust to your liking. If you don't like Rosemary, don't date her. I mean, if you prefer thyme, use thyme. I must admit, when I watched Jamie Oliver (one of my idols) prepare this dish in a 2002 episode of "Oliver's Twist" (which is available for your viewing and educational pleasure on Netflix), I was skeptical of using a large amount of fresh rosemary because I would not ordinarily use fresh rosemary OR dried oregano, for that matter, in a Bolognese sauce. News: I have been converted.

I am really ticked at myself for not snapping photos during the process of making this sauce. It looked and smelled divine and I was more into cooking than I was photography on Tuesday night. Below is the recipe which I have modified to make your life easy. When I watched Jamie make the sauce, he did not give exact quantities, but was really easy to follow and used few ingredients.

Bolognese Ragu al Forno
(Bolognese Sauce in the Oven)

Ingredients (in order of appearance) : )

a drizzle of olive oil (for the pan)
12 oz. center cut bacon, cut into small pieces
5 or 6 stalks of fresh rosemary, stripped from stems and finely chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
dried oregano to taste (about a tablespoon or so)
1-2 large (28 oz.) cans of whole peeled tomatoes (you know I like Dei Fratelli brand)
(I used 1 1/2 cans)
red wine (I used about 1 wineglass)

The Process (I love this)

You'll need an ovenproof vessel. Ideally, something like a casserole type pan that can go from stovetop to oven (like LeCreuset or other enameled, heavy duty casserole). I used a vintage Magnalite roaster from my Amelia DePalma Fioretti collection. Thanks Mom.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

OK. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into the pot/pan. Add the bacon which you have cut into nice small pieces. Cook until the fat renders and the bacon becomes crispy. Add the chopped rosemary. Sniff. Admire. Stir.

Add the onion. Cook a bit. Add the garlic. Cook a bit more. Don't burn.
Add the beef. Cook and brown on medium heat for awhile. Then, add the remaining ingredients. The oregano, the tomatoes and the wine. Break the tomatoes up a bit with a wooden spoon. Bring the whole shebang up to a boil and let it do it's thing for about 5 minutes or so.

Then, here's the part I really like.

Turn off the burner. Place a sheet of parchment paper directly on top of the sauce, covering it completely. You can easily tear or cut the parchment to fit. The parchment will keep the sauce from forming a crusty edge and it will also keep all of the flavor locked in while this delicious and meaty sauce is baking in your oven. Place your parchment-topped, Bolognese-filled casserole on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for one hour.

Here's the other part I really like.

Now, you can drink wine, enjoy your company, wash dishes, tidy up, make a salad, drink more wine and eagerly anticipate the perfection of your finished product. Throw a pot of water on to boil during the last 15 minutes or so. Boil your favorite pasta in the water to which you have added a good amount of kosher salt. Don't skimp on the salt. Unless you like bland pasta. Note: I honestly did not season the sauce with salt because of the salt in the bacon and it turned out beautifully. Pasta Note: Thick and hearty, meaty sauces like this one are better with thicker pastas (in my opinion) even though "Spaghetti Bolognese" is popular worldwide. I would prefer a chunkier pasta or a thicker pasta. The pictured dish above was a beautiful Pappardelle but I think Rigatoni would be nice or that gorgeous Trottole (you can buy Culinary Circle brand at Jewel), or of course, the classic Tagliatelle. When you remove the sauce from the oven, stir it and taste it. I know you'll love it. Toss your pasta with some of the sauce and top each serving with more sauce plus a freshly grated mountain of Parmigiano cheese. Geeeeez, you do know that Parmigiano comes from Parma which is located, guess where? In Emilia~Romagna. And, my friends, if you are making your salad with good balsamic vinegar from Modena, guess where Modena is located? Right. Emilia~Romagna.

Click HERE for a printable version of the recipe (for Sharon M)

Our wine of choice for this dinner was

I know, it's not from Emilia~Romagna, but it is from Tuscany, which is right next door. This was a lovely wine, 80% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 10% Colorino. 100% good. Juicy and delicious from the hills of Fiesole.

WOW! How can you NOT love Italian food?

Make something Italian today.

Amore,
Katarina

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gourmet Caramel Apples 2011





It's apple season and I'm ecstatic. I'm an apple girl all year long, but ESPECIALLY now when I can eat all of the Honeycrisp apples I can handle. Not to mention, dip, roll and drip. Dipped in caramel, rolled in nuts and dripped and drizzled with chocolate galore. Just sit down with a nice sharp knife and a dinner plate and go to town. Delicious, sweet, salty, crunchy, gooey, crisp, tart, fabulous and sure to yank every filling out of your mouth. Mark and I just "tore one up" for a snack. It was a "Toasted Coconut Roasted Pecan Double Chocolate" special. Seriously good. Everyone needs fruit, right? That's what the Diamonds tell us in Fit For Life.

Buy some Honeycrisp apples. Melt some Kraft caramels. (I'm over my need for homemade caramel. I know, but I had to try it a few times to be convinced). Follow the package directions. One bag = 50 caramels. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Melt over medium low heat. Let the caramel cool a bit. Dunk your first apple and get a feel for the caramel. (btw, Kraft provides 5 sticks in each bag). I like to set mine on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Pop in the fridge to set up. If you're into nuts, immediately roll your apple into the nuts; press into the caramel if necessary. You can keep the pan in the fridge and add your apples as you dip and roll......

Here's what I do when I'm ready to make these guys:

1) Buy perfect apples from the farmstand if possible so that you won't have to wash off the wax that's used at the grocery stores. If you buy them at the grocery store, be sure to rinse well in hot water and then wipe vigorously with a kitchen towel. You do that anyway no matter what but it's really important to get that slick waxy stuff off so that the caramel won't completely slide to the bottom.
2) Wash and dry the apples well.
3) Toast nuts in the oven (pecans are awesome, walnuts, hazelnuts, whatever you're into)
4) Buy other nuts also (great ideas: honey roasted peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, dry roasted peanuts, cinnamon almonds, sliced almonds, etc.)
5) Chop nuts as you like them (chunky or fine)
6) Check out your chocolate stash. You can use any of your favorite chocolates. I melt the chocolate in a stainless steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. I use a plastic piping bag or a thick freezer zip bag for the slightly cooled melted chocolate. Snip off a corner and rock-n-roll.

Once you have done the prep work, the actual process is fun and goes quickly. If you've read my previous posts about caramel apples, you'll see that I've done some experimenting. I learn something new each time and I really do love making them.

You'll be able to get about 4-5 apples from one bag of caramel. The temperature of the caramel is a real key to your success. Too hot and it will run down the apple quickly into a pool. Too cool and it's not dippable. You WILL get the feel of it after one or two. After dipping, scrape the bottom excess caramel off and place the apple on the parchment lined sheet. If you're going to roll in nuts, roll immediately. I recommend using paper plates for the nuts instead of bowls because it's easier the roll the apples and easier to use your hands to pile the nuts up and around the apple. Let the apples cool and set up in the fridge, as previously mentioned. You can keep them in longer if you wish and add the chocolate later. In any case, it's a good idea to make sure they have firmly set up before decorating with warm chocolate. Decorate with the chocolate and then keep in a cool place (like the garage or basement) or in the fridge if you like...... If you do store the finished apples in the fridge, you may want to set them out at room temperature for a bit before serving in order to soften up the caramel.

I'll be making more of these this month and if I come up with any new tips or ideas, I'll let ya know. I brought some to NSH today to spread the Octoberyness around the dealership.

Apples from my Apple to Y-O-U

Wishing you love and Honeycrisps,

Katie

KPK Plea: PLEAse don't use Red Delicious apples for your KPK Gourmet Caramel Apples. They were simply misnamed. They should have been named Red Delicious-NOT. Seriously friends, ick. Tasteless, mealy-textured, thick skinned and not at all refreshing to the palate. Nice looking, but that's where it ends. Sorry, I'm not usually that judgmental. LOL. Think tart & crisp. Prettier is definitely not better. Honeycrisps are not shaped as nicely and they have a few flaws and bumps (who doesn't?) but they ROCK! Go to the farmstand or your well-stocked local grocery store and buy one of each apple variety you can find. Now's the best time. Try Cortland, McIntosh, Ida Red, Jonathan, Granny Smith, Rome Beauty, etc. etc. Lots and lots from Michigan right now. Do your own taste-test. It's fun ~ You will be amazed by the differences from one variety to another. You are sure to pick a favorite. Did you know that there are over 7,500 varieties of apples grown throughout the world? Holy _ _ _ _! Amazing!

Mediterranean Fish Stew

Mediterranean Fish Stew
A KPK cross between Spanish style Cod and French Boullabaisse

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup
aka "Got-To-Go" Soup, inspired by Louie

MORE 4 U

From here, you can continue scrolling down to check out some of my favorite dishes and KPK highlights.

For more posts (articles), recipes, stories and pictures, you can scroll up (in the right column under "What You Missed") and click on 2008, 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013. As of June, 2013, there are are total of 139 posts in KPK. You can spend more time here when you know where to look, right?! Another way to enjoy my kitchen is to click on any items of interest in the section entitled "Passion Posts", also up above in the right column.

Love, Katie ~ I am so glad you're here! Stay awhile!

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Click on the image to link to a simple and lovely recipe at Fine Cooking

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an outdoor grill regular at the crib

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Boiled Eggs & Whole Grain Toast ~ Simple Pleasures are the BEST!

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