Monday, March 29, 2010

beef and mushroom barley stew

I love me some stew. 
But I am usually more of a chicken or veggie stew kind of gal.  I rarely make beef stew.
This is the exception.
Meaty bits of lean beef, chewy kernels of barley and the lovely taste and texture of mushrooms make this stew absolutely fabulous. 
And, get ready for's low fat!  If you get lean stewing beef, (or even leftover steak works great!) it really becomes quite healthy for you!  Filled with nutrients too! 
But, come on, that's not why we are making stew is it?
So, take another look at the picture above and get in the kitchen.

Beef and Mushroom Barley Stew
Serves 6.
3/4 -1 pound lean beef stewing meat, cut into 1/2 - 1" chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion
8 ounces button mushrooms
2 medium carrots
2 cloves garlic
6 cups beef stock
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup hulled barley
3 sprigs of thyme

Season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed, Dutch oven and brown the meat, until browned all over, in batches, if necessary.

When it looks like this, you know it's ready!

Transfer beef to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Dice all the veggies and saute in the Dutch oven until softened and lightly browned.

Add the stock, tomatoes, browned meat, barley, and thyme and bring to a boil. 

Reduce to heat to low, cover, and simmer until the barley is cooked and the meat is tender, about an hour.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Friday, March 26, 2010

panna cotta with berry coulis

It's Spring, right?  Time for some lighter desserts in order to lighten our waistlines.  (To go with all those heavy stews and rich, meaty dishes I've been feeding you, right?  Ha.)
But really, it's all about balance. 
So, here we are.  So easy and very elegant.  Easy enough to make for you and your family tonight but fancy enough to invite your boss over for dinner. 
The berry coulis is even easier and necessary.  If you don't like berries, use a chocolate sauce or a dulce de leche.  I love panna cotta but, and don't tell anyone! but I find it sometimes boring.  So, the berry coulis, for me is vital.  And, come on, it takes less than 10 minutes.  It's worth it.

Panna Cotta
Serves 6.
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups mixed berries; if frozen, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
1 lime

Place the milk in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let stand for 3-5 minutes to soften.

Pour milk mixture into a heavy saucepan and stir over medium heat just until the gelatin dissolves but the milk does not boil, about 5 minutes.

Add the cream, honey, sugar and salt.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Pour into 6 ramekins, small glasses, or wine glasses.  Cool slightly.  Refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours.

Meanwhile, make the berry coulis.  Combine the berries with the sugar in a medium saucepan.

Juice the lime into the mix and bring to a bubble over medium heat.

Simmer for about 5-10 minutes then strain through a fine sieve.  Cool slightly then refrigerate until completely cool.

When ready to serve, pour the coulis over the panna cotta and enjoy!

Make sure to get it all!

Monday, March 22, 2010

stuffed shells

Ooo, gooey, melty, cheesy....need I say more?  Let's stuff some shells!!

Stuffed Shells
Serves 6.
12 ounces jumbo pasta shells
5-6 links hot Italian sausage
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups marinara sauce
2 15 ounce containers ricotta cheese
1 1/3 cups Parmigianno Reggiano
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Lightly oil a big piece of parchment paper and set aside.
Partially cook the pasta shells in a large pot of boiling, salted water until slightly tender but still pretty firm, about 4-6 minutes.  Drain and spread the shells out on the oiled parchment so that they don't stick.

Cut a slit in the sausage and remove casings.  Set aside.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. 

Add the minced garlic and saute until just fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.

Add reserved sausage to the skillet and break up with a wooden paddle spatula.

If you need help, use a potato masher!

Once the sausage is almost cooked, add the marinara sauce.  Bring the sauce to a simmer, stirring often.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parm, egg yolks, herbs, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350*.
Spoon 1 1/4 cups of the sausage sauce over a 9x12" baking dish.

Fill the cooked shells with the cheese mixture, about 2 tablespoons per shell.  Arrange the shells in the prepared dish. 

Spoon the remaining sauce over the shells, then sprinkle with the mozzarella.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until filling is heated through and the top is bubbly and golden brown.  Serve hot!

Friday, March 19, 2010

butter pecan buttermilk pancakes

Sometimes, when it's the middle of the....let's see...take your pick: semester? workweek? tax season? just need a pancake.
And not just any pancake. 
The best darn pancake you've ever eaten.
The fluffiest, springiest, (is that a word?) most delicate yet tangy pancake ever.
Pancakes are my comfort.  If I've had a bad day, (or week) the best thing I can possibly imagine is perfect pancakes for dinner.
Come home, change into pjs, put on some jazz and whip these babies up. 
Alone, they are fantastic.
And with this butter pecan topping? 
Move over, ice cream.

Butter Pecan Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 17.
2 cups pecans
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup maple syrup
Pinch of salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Chop the pecans and set aside.  Melt the butter with the maple syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add nuts.  Swirl to coat the pecans and then lower the temperature to low and keep warm.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk and eggs.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. 

Whisk gently until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated; stop before the batter is evenly moistened.  Add the cooled melted butter and mix just until the batter is evenly moistened - there will be lumps and it will be very thick.  Don't be tempted to add milk.  It'll be fine, I promise.  Let the batter rest while you heat the griddle.

Heat a griddle or a large skillet over medium heat.  Lightly oil the griddle.  Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle for each pancake, spacing them about 1 inch apart.  Let cook until bubbles rise to the surface and the edges look dry, 1-2 minutes. 

Check the underside of each pancake to make sure it's nicely browned; then flip.  Cook until the second side is browned, about 1 more minute.  Transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200* oven while you finish.

Don't they look great? 
But let's add our lovely butter pecan topping, shall we?

Mmm, enjoy while piping hot!

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