Rustica.

I’m going to make this one short and sweet, unlike the recipe below, but I’m all about irony and opposites, so who cares.

I’m going to guess that this is going to be my last post for a while. We are headed to Greece (GREECE!!!!!) on Saturday, and you best believe, I won’t be bloggin’ over there. Plus, I swear I haven’t cooked much of anything lately, and I had to dig into a rough draft of this recipe from like, I dunno, a couple of months ago, to have something to share with you today.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve made some stuff – but typically it’s a piece of toasted bread, a fried egg, some cheese, and a couple of slices of avocado (you don’t need a recipe and pictures for that, right?!) or maybe a throw-together version of the best thing in my life food-wise, chilaquiles.

We even went to Portland the other week, and camping/backpacking again (first time since the Lost Coast!) this past weekend, and I could probably share some pictures with you, but I didn’t take that many.

Man, I’m slack.

But if I had a little time on my hands, a little snippet of a morning where I could plan a little, I’d totally make this pie again. If I had any veggies in my fridge, it would totally be the way to use them all up, but I doubt a bunch of celery would be all that good by itself…

I’m hoping you do have a little more time at home this week to make this, because I promise it’s totally worth a little bit of preparation. When I made this thing ages ago (or at least it seems like ages), I made the dough the day before, and when it came time to roll that stuff out and stuff the pie, I added every little piece of veggie that I had left into that thing. Lots of cheese, too. It was marvelous, and we ate it for three days straight, which might be boring to some of you, but to me, it was just delightful each and every time.

And with that, adio! I promise to take pictures in Greece, and maybe make some baklava again, or in the least, something with a good Greek olive oil ;).

Pizza Rustica
adapted from Cooking Light, April 2012; serves 8

time commitment:  2 hours, 30 minutes (about 1 hour active time, includes refrigeration of dough and baking time)

printable version

ingredients
crust
7 3/4 oz all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups), divided
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c water

torta
2 medium red bell peppers
2 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lb kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 T chopped shallots
2 t minced garlic
2 (8-ounce) packages cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
2 oz fontina cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 large egg white
Cooking spray
1 T fat-free milk

instructions
To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon 7.25 ounces flour (about 1 2/3 cups) into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 7.25 ounces flour, 1/2 t salt, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. With processor on, slowly add oil mixture through food chute, and process just until dough begins to form a ball (dough will be crumbly). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 3 minutes; add enough of the remaining 2 tablespoons flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Press each portion into a 5-inch circle on plastic wrap. Cover with additional plastic wrap. Chill at least 30 minutes.
To prepare torta, preheat broiler to high. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 10 minutes or until blackened. Place in a ziploc bag and seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and coarsely chop.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 1 minute or until greens begin to wilt. Place kale and bell peppers in a large bowl. Return pan to medium heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and garlic to pan; cook for 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place mushroom mixture and kale mixture in a fine sieve; let drain 5 minutes. Place vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add ricotta and next 7 ingredients (through egg white) to vegetable mixture, stirring to combine.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp surface. Unwrap one dough portion, and place on plastic wrap. Cover dough with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into an 11-inch circle. Place the dough in freezer for 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can be easily removed. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap; fit dough, plastic wrap side up, into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Spoon vegetable mixture into prepared pie plate.
Repeat with remaining dough and then place over vegetable mixture. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Press the edges of dough together. Fold edges under, and flute. Brush top of dough with milk. Cut several slits in top of dough to allow steam to escape.
Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 30 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges.

decadence, defined

Do you ever get a thought stuck in your noggin’ and you can’t for the life of you let go of it? No matter what you do, no matter what else you think about, that one thought just stays there, following you like those ghosts on Pac-man. I hate those ghosts, and I was never all that good at pac-man anyway.

So instead of running, this particular thought was faced head-on. I made Beef Wellington.

I’ve only “made” beef Wellington once, and by “made” I mean that I assisted as sous chef. My friend, Caroline, made it once at a dinner party that I helped with (I do miss those, C!) and I remember thinking about how lucky those folks were to be eating such a fine fine meal. We, of course, partook in quite a few “scraps” and yeah, it was good stuff.

But for some reason, the idea of making beef Wellington this past weekend was something I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was the weekend of our 6 year wedding anniversary (!), and we’d decided to stay home and take it easy, so a nice, decadent meal seemed like the right thing to do.

Chris and I did burn a few calories on the bikes, anyway, so we had a little extra room for some butter-laden dough, prosciutto, and of course, beef. We finished up our trip through Golden Gate Park, stopped off at Whole Foods, and loaded up on our ingredients as well as some cheese and crackers to tide us over until dinner.

I decided we didn’t quite need to do an entire recipe of beef Wellington, so I made some adjustments to one of “T-Flo’s” recipes, and came up with the most ginormous “individual” portions I’d ever seen.

I’m sure on most days I could have eaten it all then and there, but with the mountain of cheese we ate beforehand, this ended up being a 4-serving dish instead of 2. Which is to say that we managed to drag out the decadence for another night. And it was good, my friends, good indeed. Perfect for a special night in, a dinner party perhaps, or even a holiday dish to replace all of that turkey we folks eat all the dang time.

I guess, also, you could make it on a regular ol’ Tuesday night, too. But that just sounds crazy, and we are sane as can be over here.

“Individual” Beef Wellingtons
Adapted, loosely, from Tyler Florence via The Food Network, serves 2-4

time commitment: less than 2 hours from start to finish

printable version

ingredients
mushrooms, aka “duxelles” & kale
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms
1 shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T unsalted butter
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 c fresh kale

beef
2 6 oz portions of filet mignon, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (truffle salt, if you have it)
4 thin slices prosciutto
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
1 T Dijon mustard
Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
10-12 oz puff pastry, thawed if using frozen
1 large egg, lightly beaten

green peppercorn sauce
1 T olive oil
1/2 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only
1/2 c sherry
2 c beef stock
1 c heavy cream
1 T grainy mustard
3 T green peppercorns

instructions
make the duxelles and kale:
add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for ~6 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool. add kale to pan and sauté until cooked throughout, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

beef:
drizzle filets with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes total. Meanwhile set out 2 slices of prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap on top of your cutting board. Layer the 2 slices of prosciutto onto the plastic wrap. Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with 1/2 of the duxelle mixture. Season the surface of the duxelles with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Add 1/2 of the kale next. When the beef is seared, remove from heat, and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard. Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the duxelles covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap and repeat with the other filet. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut the sheet in half, using each half for each filet. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together. Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic. Set 1 beef filet in the center of the pastry and fold over the longer sides, brushing with egg wash to seal. Trim ends if necessary then brush with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef. Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet and repeat with remaining filet.

Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for ~30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven and rest before cutting in half. Garnish with thyme and sea salt, and serve with green peppercorn sauce, if using.

Make green peppercorn sauce (while beef is cooking):
Add olive oil to pan after removing beef. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then, off heat, add sherry and flambe using a long kitchen match. After flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half. Strain out solids, then add cream and mustard. Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns. Serve alongside beef.

More than Manwich

Having a food blog ultimately means that you care what your food looks like. You pretty things up, attempting to only post recipes of the dishes that are presentable, neat, and well-primped.

But seriously, some things just taste better when they’re messy.

A taco, for instance, should always require a napkin, or your pants if you’re in a pickle. An ice cream cone full of decadent, rich dulce de leche ice cream with fudge on top should always leak through the bottom of the cone, through the paper liner, and down your hand as you eat it, licking furiously. A hot dog should always be stuffed so full that you can barely get your mouth around the whole thing, but when you do, mustard and/or ketchup (depending on where you’re from, I suppose) should almost always squirt from the other end onto the picnic table you’re eating at.

Sloppy Joes are the epitome of this very subject. By definition alone, they are an utter mess. The sandwich is packed, overloaded truthfully, and when the top and bottom halves are pressed together in an effort to take a hefty bite of both bun and meat, the mixture oozes from between the bread in an effort to escape its fate. But fear not – this is when tortilla chips, if you have them (fingers if you don’t), come in handy.

I am a closet fan (no longer) of the Sloppy Joe. I’ll tell you a secret: I used to buy cans of Manwich on the regular, probably as recently as 3 years ago, and I enjoyed every single bite of those runny, goopy, lovely sa’miches. I must have made them a lot, because eventually Chris decided to let me know that they “weren’t his favorite”, which is his nice way of saying he loathes them. Of course I’m stubborn, so I tried a couple more times, but eventually we had to put them to rest, and the Manwich cans were no longer a part of our monthly repertoire.

But now I’ve found the replacement, a sandwich to fill the void, the gap between those days of tofu and pasta. Meaty, hearty, unpretty, and totally messy – this is the solution to a problem I’d pressed out of my mind for quite some time. The best part? I can take a bite, beef splurting out between my fingers, and all the while I can rest assured that it won’t be the last time. The bonus? the ingredients are fresh, sans can, but still just as messy and delicious as I remember, and even more so.

Beef & Mushroom Sloppy Joes
adapted from Cooking Light, June 2011; serves 4-6

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 T olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 lb cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 c onion, medium dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c tomato paste (2 small cans)
1 t dried oregano
2 T red wine vinegar
3 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T molasses
1/4 t salt
3/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1 t hot sauce (Franks)
4-6 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted

instructions
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add beef; cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

While beef cooks, place mushrooms in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to pan; cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to pan; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates. Stir in pepper and hot sauce. Spoon about 1 cup beef mixture on bottom half of each bun; top with top halves of buns.