Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cooking: Cranberry Sauce and Green Bean Casserole


You may wonder what a vegetarian that does not eat faux meat eats at a meat-eaters thanksgiving feast. Well the answer is: I had plenty, actually, way more food than I needed. My sister-in-law made stuffing for me with veggie broth and there was corn, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and broccoli rabe. I also made two items I knew I could eat and that I had been craving; green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. First off, its not Thanksgiving to me without cranberry sauce and secondly, I haven’t had green bean casserole in years since I avoid overly processed foods. 

When searching for my recipes for green bean casserole I took notes from Martha Stewart and Guy Fieri to create my own recipe. In the end mine looks nothing and I’m sure taste nothing like there’s but reminds me of the old school green bean casserole I used to love,. Except, much better, fresher, and better for you. I will never go back to eating the green bean casserole from canned goods.

For the cranberry sauce, I used a combo of my mom’s and one I found on allrecipes. I knew I had to incorporate spiced rum, it just seemed more festive than regular rum!

I’m so thankful for my family and getting to share Thanksgiving with them! Oh and have awesome veg items to eat at Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Sauce
1 bag of cranberries
1 cup of raw sugar
½ a peel of a Clementine, or orange zest
1 tsp of nutmeg
2 tsp of cinnamon
2/3 cup of captain morgan spiced rum
Combine all ingredients and cook until mixture is thickened and reduced. Then either leave whole or use a blender or an immersion blender to make the sauce thick and creamy. I used an immersion blender on mine. (NOTE: For the captain morgan rum it may have been more like a cup, I started at ¼ cup and started adding more and more until it tasted right)

 Cranberry Sauce

Green Bean Casserole
For the green beans and mushrooms:
1 ½ lbs of green beans 4 cups
1-2 tbs of butter
1 medium onion diced
1 lb of button mushrooms sliced stems removed
1 tsp of dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

First put a large a pot of salted water on to boil.  Next clean your green beans and if you are brave French cut them (cutting them lengthwise, note: this takes a long time and is tedious, but well worth it). Now blanch your green beans until they are tender but not mushy. Then clean your mushrooms and slice them and dice your onions. Sautee the onions and mushrooms in about 1-2 tbs of butter. After they are soft add pepper and salt to taste. Then add your green beans and your b├ęchamel sauce and mix together. When you are ready to eat: preheat oven to 350, butter a glass or ceramic 9 x 13, and heat the mixture all of the way through about 15 mins. Then add your French fried green beans to the top and place your onion on broil just to re-crisp the onions.

B├ęchamel Sauce
¼ cup of butter
¼ cup of flour
2 cups of milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

First start by making a roux, melt ¼ cup of butter on low and mix in the flour. Cook it for a few minutes to get the flour taste out of it. Then slowly add your milk. Cook your mixture until it has reduced and thickened. Then season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

French Fried Onion Topping
1 onion thinly sliced
1 cup of milk or enough to cover the onions
A few splashes of Tabasco
4 cups of canola oil
Flour for dredging:
1 cup of flour
Salt and pepper
Pinch of paprika

First thinly slice your onions, I recommend using a mandolin if you have one, I couldn’t find mine so I sliced them by hand. Soak the onions in the milk and Tabasco mixture for a few minutes and then dredge in the flour mixture. When your oil is ready (bubbles at the end of a wooden spoon) start frying your onions in batches. Once you take them out of the oil let them drain and cool on a paper towel. Once they are cooled if you are traveling you can put them in an air tight container. This makes a really light and crispy onion.

 Green Bean Casserole after we already dug in

All together the green bean casserole was a HUGE hit and the people who liked cranberry sauce enjoyed my rendition. So it was a success, another happy thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sette Luna

My husband and I ate at Sette Luna for our first wedding anniversary, which was about a month ago, but I just had to post a review since I fell in love with his restaurant. We decided to eat at Sette Luna after hearing rave reviews and the restaurant definitely lived up to its expectations! It was phenomenal! We started at the bar because they do not take reservations and we were definitely going to wait. We got drinks at the bar, which was really nice. My husband had white wine and I had a dirty martini. It was one of the best martini’s I've ever had. Then before we knew it we were ready to be seated. After we received our menus they brought us complimentary olives, Delish! More restaurants should offer olives or peppers instead of bread or just bread. For starters we had to try the pizza, since we’d smelled while sitting at the bar. We decided on the Torino Bianca, which is evoo garlic pesto, potatoes and parmigiano regiano. It came out super crisp and absolutely divine! The crust is super thin and the pesto and potatoes blend perfectly. It was a little garlicky for a date night but my husband and I don't mind that. This pizza is a must try! We didn’t finish the whole pizza since we wanted to try more of the menu. Next, I got the arugula salad and it was a perfect salad in my eyes. I love simple ingredients that let the greens shine and this salad was perfect in my eyes. It's a bed of arugula dressed in evoo salt and lemon and topped with shaved Parm! Yumm! For dinner my husband had the Bistecca which is grilled NY strip topped with gorgonzola, he opted to get risotto on the side instead of the spinach salad (he’s not really one for greens) and he said it was amazing! I had the Agnolotti con Zucca aka butternut squash ravioli. I asked if this was vegetarian and they said it wasn't but they could use pasta water instead of chicken broth for the sauce. It was good but I could see how the chicken broth would make this dish amazing. The table next to us had the homemade fettuccini one with bolognaise and the other with Alfredo sauce. I will definitely try the Fettuccini Alfredo on my next visit, which hopefully is soon. I really wish I still lived in the area because they are bringing in some wonderful restaurants and this is a must try!


Olives

Torino Bianca

Risotto

Bistecca

Agnolotti con Zucca

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

I love risotto but have been intimidated to make it for awhile. The last good risotto, was the best I’d ever had. It was made by my husband’s aunt in Italy when we were visiting and it was perfect. She made it with porcini’s and it was divine.  I was going to attempt making this but never got the guts to do so, so I put it off. I have had risotto since then but it hasn’t been good so I figured I needed to attempt my own. I was planning on making butternut squash ravioli but I ordered them at a restaurant a few days before, so I figured a risotto would be perfect. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked so once again I created my own.
6 cups of vegetable stock (I used homemade) or chicken stock
1 ½ tbs of butter or butter substitute
2 cups of aborio rice
3 cups of butternut squash (peeled, seeded, cut into ½ chunks and roasted
2 tsp of nutmeg
Salt to taste
2 tbs of fresh sage

First Peel and seed your butternut squash. You can either roast it in halves like this or cut it into chunks and then roast it. I was going to cook the squash in the risotto, but I changed my mind so mine was cubed and then roasted, just plain no evoo or s&p.
Begin the risotto by heating your vegetable broth. Once it is warm put the butter in a large pan. When the butter is melted stir in the rice, make sure the rice is completely coated and brown for a minute, while stirring. Ladle in ½ cup of veg stock and stir until it is absorbed by the rice. Repeat ½ cup at a time until the rice is cooked and creamy, about 40-45 minutes.
Add the nutmeg and salt to the rice and stir. Next add the butternut squash to the pan and mix together. You can either stir the sage in at this point or use the sage as garnish. I stirred it in because I Iike the flavor.
It was not as good as the mushroom risotto in Italy, but my aunt has been making that for years, so I could never expect to outshine her on my first attempt, but it was good. The nutmeg and roasted butternut squash gave it perfect sweetness and the arborio rice with the stock made it so creamy and beautiful and the sage added the perfect amount of freshness to the dish.
I did not have parmigiano reggiano cheese so I did not add any, but it would be great with this risotto. Also, by omitting the cheese and the butter this dish is vegan. For you meat-eaters out there feel free to use a chicken stock with this because butternut squash pairs wonderfully with chicken stock.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Veggie Stock

So I’ve tried a ton of veggie stocks but none of them appeal to me. For some reason they all taste like the cardboard box they come in. My only solution was to make my own vegetable stock.  I’ve been making beef, ham, chicken and turkey stock since I was a little girl so I knew how to make a stock. I also found an interesting article in vegetarian times that suggested I keep away from broccoli and other items that can overpower a soup. It’s a great article and I highly suggest reading it. However, when it comes to a stock I believe there are certain must haves: celery carrot and onion, which is also known as a mirepoix in French cooking. Then by adding other veggies and aromatics you can create any type of broth you desire. I wanted to make a large batch and freeze into single servings so that I could use the stock more than once so I kept mine as simple as possible.
6 ribs of celery
2 whole onions skins removed and cut in half
7 small carrots (use your judgment here mine were very small so I could have even added more but sometimes 3-4 will be fine if you have the large ones.
2 leeks just the white part cut in quarters
12 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled
2 large potatoes washed with skins on and cut in half
1 ½ tsp of pepper corns
2 tsp of sea salt
A bunch of fresh parsely
A bunch of fresh oregano
A bunch of fresh savory
20 cups of water
Now keep in mind that while cooking this isn’t going to smell wonderful, unless you like the smell of boiling vegetables. Remember if you add an animal to the mix, ie chicken it may even smell worse, but the end result is fabulous!
For you meat eaters you would add your meat to the stock and just make sure the meat is fully cooked, which will be when the juices run clear.
Now bring this mixture to a boil and after its boiling turn it down to medium for 45 minutes to one hour until the veggies are tender. Try not to simmer until the veggies are mush because straining will become much harder. Once the veggies are tender turn the stove off and strain your soup.
I strain my soup two ways. The first with a large colander to get the large pieces of veggies out and then with a small mesh strainer to get all the bits of onion and potato and full peppercorns out. Then I completely cool the stock before I portion it out and freeze it.  This will last a long time and trust me this is still much much better than any canned or boxed broth you can get.
Now I keep the potatoes and carrots because frankly I love boiled soup potatoes and carrots and have grown up eating them. Plus it pains me to throw away perfectly good vegetables. Heck feed them to your dog if you want. You can even eat the celery and onion if you desire, but I do not. I like to separate the potatoes and carrots from the other items which I discard and allow them to cool a bit. Then I will eat them that night and later for leftovers with just some salt and pepper and sometimes with mustard chow-chow (picked veg in mustard) it’s a PA dutch thing that everyone must try at least once!