Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

Sarah Cooks the Books will be back to its regularly scheduled programming next week with a couple of awesome recipes out of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks with Wine

In the meantime, enjoy this epic rap battle:

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen -- Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves

The whole point of this recipe in the cookbook is that the author didn't like meatloaf, but liked meatballs, so the meatballs are called meatloaf?  Or something?

I'm not sure, but these are pretty much meatballs.

I'd never had meatballs with mashed potatoes before, but after this, I'm not sure I'll ever again eat them without mashed potatoes.  This is a really delicious meal.  It's filling, too.  (And, since this is always an important qualification in my meals, the meatballs are also good reheated the next day for lunch.)

The recipe in the book included instructions for brown butter mashed potatoes, but I just used regular ones out of the box.

Interestingly enough, I've always been a real snob when it comes to certain pre-packaged things, but in the last few months, I've discovered the wonderfulness of boxed mashed potatoes and pre-diced garlic, and now I'm not sure how I lived without them previously.

Tomato-glazed Meatballs (without Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes)

Makes 6 servings


4 tsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt

2 slices white bread
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Olive oil for cooking
1 tsp. salt
2 pounds ground beef
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup milk
2 large eggs

First, make the glaze.  Combine all glaze ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, whisking, for about 2 minutes.  Set aside.

To make the meatballs, preheat oven to 350°F. Rip the bread into chunks and place into a food processor.  Process it into breadcrumbs.  Put the breadcrumbs in a medium-sized bowl.  Blend the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in the food processor until they are finely chopped.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Once it's hot, add some olive oil, then the chopped vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 13 minutes.

Add the vegetables to the breadcrumbs and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix with your hands, then form into twelve meatballs, about 3-inches each.

Put the meatballs into a glass baking dish, spaced so they are not touching each other.  Brush each meatball with approximately a teaspoon of the tomato glaze and bake until completely cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Serve with any leftover glaze on mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook -- Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

When I found this recipe, three things jumped out at me.  First of all, I've always been pretty well convinced that cauliflower was something I wanted nothing to do with.  It was bitter, it was boring-looking. . .it had no redeeming qualities.

Secondly, I've never made any kind of pesto before.  This one seemed easy enough.  And there were sun-dried tomatoes involved, which can never be a bad idea.

Third, it reminded me of the show Friends, which I love and pretty much have memorized.  It reminded me of this scene where Phoebe meets Monica's sous chef, and he's making pesto.  They're flirting, and Phoebe says "Is your pesto the best-o?" and the guy says, "I don't know. . .but it's pretty good-o."

That's what I think of every time I hear the word pesto.  And anything that reminds me of Friends can't be bad.

This recipe has a really interesting texture, and Dennis was especially a fan of the texture the almonds added. Incidentally, it's really good reheated the next day (or the day after!), with a salad.

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 small head cauliflower
1 Tbsp. garlic
Large pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup almonds
2 oz. Parmesan cheese
4 to 6 sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 pound linguine

Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor, in batches if you need to.  Transfer the cauliflower to a separate bowl.

Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds, cheese, and tomatoes into the food processor until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Dump this mixture into the bowl with the cauliflower.

Add a few pinches of salt, the vinegar, and the olive oil and hand-mix until combined.

Prepare the linguine according to the directions on the package.  Save 1 cup of the water the linguine was boiled in.  

When it's finished, toss the linguine with the pesto and half the cooking water.  If the pesto is too thick, add more of the cooking water.  (I added the entire cup at the onset.  The texture was great.)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook -- Gnocchi in Tomato Broth

This recipe, in the book, looks more like a lovely pile of gnocchi in a tomato soup-looking concoction.  The thing was, though, that I didn't have the patience or the inclination to put this stuff through the strainer as many times as it would have taken to get it to the same consistency, so Dennis suggested I just put it in the blender for a little while, and then put THAT through the strainer.

It ended up being really good, and although it didn't have the same texture as the original recipe, I also didn't feel like I was wasting the vegetables I put in.  

It was a light meal that we both enjoyed quite a bit.  I had just made this dish a few days before I found out about the book signing, and I was going to tell Deb Perelman that I had just made it, and that it was really good, but. . .well, clearly that conversation didn't happen.  Maybe someday. . .

Also, maybe one of these days I'll make my own gnocchi, but as usual, I used the pre-made stuff for this recipe.

Gnocchi in Tomato Broth
Makes 4 servings


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped or 1/2 cup onion powder
2 Tbsp. garlic
1/2 cup white wine
28-oz. chopped tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package gnocchi

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat.  Add carrot, celery, and onion, if you're using it.  If you're using onion powder instead, don't add this yet.  Cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and wine, scraping any browned pieces from the bottom.  Cook until the wine is reduced by half. 

Mash the tomatoes a little bit, then add them to the pot.  Add the broth, and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 45 minutes.

When the mixture has about 5 minutes to go, begin cooking the gnocchi according to the directions on the package.  (Or, of course, make your own if you're so inclined.)

Once the mixture is thickened, (carefully!) pour into a blender and blend.  Pour the sauce through a fine mesh sieve.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat the tomato mixture on the stovetop with the gnocchi mixed in until heated through.

Serve and enjoy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Smitten Kitchen -- The Book Signing

I have a huge number of food blogs on my Google Reader.  One of my favorites, though, and one that I've followed for years is Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen.  She's not a trained chef or anything, and the pictures she takes to go along with the recipes kind of make you want to forget about cooking and just look at the images.

A bookstore near here, Quail Ridge Books and Music, had a book signing for The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook a couple of weeks ago, and I got to go have my copy of the book signed.

She talked for about an hour, answering questions from the audience and talking about how she does her blog, some things about her family in New York, and how her cookbook came to fruition.

There was a huge turnout, but luckily, I was the 10th person or so back in line, so that wait wasn't too long.

I had it all figured out in my head the wonderful and witty things I was going to say when I got to the front, but of course, it didn't turn out like that.  I said something pat, she said something pat, and then I got a picture taken.

OK, so Deb and I didn't end up as besties and I didn't wow her with my tales of. . .whatever I might have wowed her with tales of, but it was a really great event.  Plus, I got my book signed, and got to see firsthand what happens when a blogger goes big.

This week's cookbook will be The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  Stay tuned!