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Archive for February, 2012

Marie-Eve Lasagna

2 packages of fresh lasagna noodles (about 12 sheets) *

+/- 1lb of lean ground beef

2 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes

1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes

Oregano to taste

Thyme to taste

Bay leaves to taste

6 cloves of garlic

1 onion

2-3 lugs of Olive oil (enough to simmer the onions in)

1 package of Fresh basil

2 containers of ricotta cheese (try to get a creamy one. If not, you can add milk and it will make the ricotta creamier)

1egg

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 tbs Brown sugar

Grated mozzarella

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large, thick bottom pot over medium heat. Dice the onion and add to hot oil.

While onion is simmering, chop up the garlic and add to simmering onions. Just as the garlic starts creating little bubbles in the oil, add all three cans of tomatoes. Add thyme, bay leaves and oregano to taste. Let simmer over low heat.


In a large frying pan add 1 lug of oil. When oil is hot, add ground beef, salt and pepper to taste. Go gently on the salt as the tomato sauce will be salty, the amount of salt added to the beef is only to open up the beef favors.

When beef is cooked, drain and add to tomato sauce. Give it a good stir and taste. You might need to add that tbs of brown sugar at this point to cut back the acidity slightly. Let everything simmer over low heat.

Use large bowl and mix the ricotta, eggs and chopped basil together to create a creamy mixture. The mixture should be easily spreadable. Add milk if you find the ricotta isn’t creamy enough.

Use large lasagna dish and start layering using the sauce as the first layer. Then add a layer of noodles, a layer of ricotta, a layer of noodles and repeat starting with the sauce. When you fill your pan, end with a layer of sauce cover with grated mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan.



Bake for 25 mins at 375 F, covered with a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed or oiled to avoid it sticking to the cheese. Remove foil cover and bake for an additional 15 mins. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 mins.


Enjoy!*you will have left over sheets, depending on the size of your pan. Save the sheets and use them for a simple noodle dish by just cutting the sheets up into 1/2″ thick strips. Great served with a pesto or left over lasagna sauce.

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Rosemary and olive oil focaccia before baking

focaccia cut up

Focaccia is a bread, a different kind of bread basically.  The difference is in the process of making the dough.  My focaccia has only ‘one’ raise instead of the traditional ‘two’.

Which mean I let the dough raise only once, and then push it down to get the air out and bake it in very hot oven, just like I would do for a pizza.

Actually my ‘Pizza for two’ recipe here, is used for this Focaccia recipe.  It is the exact same ingredients but the process is a bit different, in order to finish with a completely different product.

Rosemary is one of my favorite herb to use in cooking and baking.  It has a very distinctive smell, that reminds me of spring and cutting grass, early in the morning.  When ever possible, I try to use fresh rosemary but right now, in this recipe, I am using dry rosemary.

Ingredients:

1 cup of warm water

2 3/4 teaspoons of yeast

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

In lukewarm water, dissolve the sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it foam.

Mix the flour, salt and olive oil together.  Add the water yeast and mix well.  Gather the mix on a working surface and work the dough to a firm ball, using more flour if needed.  Divide the dough into two.  Put it in a greased bowl, drop a bit of olive oil on top fo the two bowl and place either a plastic sheet or a clean cloth to cover the bowl, to let it rise until double.

dough for either pizza or focaccia, rising

Do not let it rise longer than 30 minutes.  Remove the cover, punch the dough down with your hand to remove the air inside.  Drop it on a working surface and shape it into a rectangle or a circle, depending if you are making a pizza or a focaccia.

The size will depend to your liking and to the size of the pan used.  Here, I am using a baking round dish.  Usually I would use cornmeal sprinkled at the bottom of the pan prior to the baking, to prevent the dough to stick to the bottom but I am using instead, white flour because I do not have any cornmeal with me here.

Shape the dough to the size of the pan using, using your fingers to poke down the dough and to pull it to the edge.  When done, sprinkle dry rosemary all over the dough.  Drop olive oil on top of the rosemary, here and there, about 1/4 of a cup.

Finish it off by a sprinkle of salt all over.

Bake in a very hot oven of 425F, 220C for 35 to 40 minutes.

Rosemary and olive oil focaccia baked

Let it cool down and cut into serving size.  Could be use as is or served with tomato sauce, spaghetti, etc… Very good!

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Bittersweet Chocolate Truffle Tart

That post will be popular… Chocolate… Truffle… and tart!!!!!

And pictures…

Just the picture would be enough!

A chocolate pie, what better pastry piece could I ask for, when I enter a true bakery, with true bakers at the back of the bakery, baking and baking and baking… gosh I miss home…

But do not despair, Flour baking book to the rescue, here is a wonderful simple chocolate tart to make on days like today, which is a day cold, at the end of a very long cold winter.

That decadence is met to feed the soul, here we go. And the recipe is very easy to make.

Have on hand, an already baked pie shell, which I always seem to have these days, frozen at the back on my very tiny freezer; the size of this freezer is equal of the size of my handbag… welcome to China you people!

114gr chocolate, 75% cacao

90gr heavy cream, whipping cream will do

60gr milk, 3.5%

1 egg yolk

14 gr butter

A pinch of salt

Baked pie shell

Cocoa powder for dusting over the pie when done

Bring the cream and milk to warm over the stove, add the chocolate and let it melt completely while mixing with a wooden spoon.

Add the egg yolk, mix again, and add the butter and salt. Drop the mix in the baked pie shell, up to a warm oven at 350F, for about 15 minutes until the edge of the mix starts to look done and the middle is still in a state of Jell-O moving stuff.

Let it cool down for two hours before dusting the top of the pie with cocoa powder. Serve.

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Soy Sauce

Ah, the mystery of the soy sauce is hunting me. Why? Because I live in China and I am surrounded by shelves upon shelves of soy sauces… I mean literally endless displays of soy sauce in market places.

Where I come from, we use soy sauce as a plain sauce, in almost any meal, mostly for the dark color of the sauce that will be given to the food. Its taste also adds a very nice sweet and salty taste to the dish served. So in public food places, it is normal that I will sit at a table, with the small container of soy sauce there, among the salt, pepper and other sauces. I have learned to use soy sauce as if I were using Ketchup with my food.

One of my favorite foods to have is a bowl of soy noodle, swimming in butter and soy noodle. When I go to any open buffet, I am always at the place where they serve soy noodle. It is not that I will eat tons of those noodles but I just love the taste of it.

My love for soy noodle has not diminished over the years. I have them for breakfast, all day long if I can and I have even developed a sandwich which has soy noodle in it… that bad I know… I love food!

Chili spicy tofu noodle

I crave for soy noodle. Last week, we went to a buffet here, and of course been in this country where noodles are China ‘snack food, not grand enough for restaurants, noodles are a basic home style fare, slurped up a broth, boiled or fired, they are everywhere.

Noodle nest with sweet duck, Peking duck resto, Beijing

Here in northern China, where wheat fields make noodles more of a staple than rice, I can even see fresh noodles being made by hand, at local place.

This is heaven for me!

So yesterday, I took a mini-culinary tour on soy sauce and noodles, and I made soy noodles for dinner.

Soy sauce is the ingredient that adds that unmistakable flavour to most Chinese food, to me anyway. I learned that one of the seven traditional necessities of a Chinese household, soy sauce joins tea, salt, oil, vinegar, rice and firewood.

There is a clear distinction between light and dark soy sauce. Light soy is drawn from the first pressing of soy bean, and is added to white meat, fish and veggies, giving a salty flavor without giving a dark color to the dish.

Dark soy sauce is aged for longer and its stronger, sweeter flavour complements red meats. Many Chinese dishes contain both types of sauces and it is up to the cook/chef to adjust the balance for each dish. That, I did not know it…

The soy noodles I made was just up to my personal taste, using just the right amount of sesame oil, a bit of light soy sauce and a bit of dark soy sauce. I kept the recipe very simple because I wanted to concentrate only on the taste of the sauces here, rather on the veggies and all that I could have added to the dish.

I used a semi cooked noodles for the dish. The noodles can be found in the fridge section of food markets. They come in many lengths and this particular one is a short one.

So I use one garlic clove, remove the peel and the middle center of the clove, chopped it up and let it fry in a bit in sesame oil. I removed the garlic, added a bit more of sesame oil and dropped my noodles in the oil, mix it well and let it cook for about 1 minute.

I then, added the garlic, salt and pepper and then, add bit by little bit the light soy sauce going by taste and finish it up by the dark soy sauce, again bit by bit.

I served it right away… did it meet my expectation you would ask me??? Oh wow, yes it did. So simple to do, it is all in the combination of the sesame oil and both the soy sauces. Why was it so simple to do and yet it took me many years to learn the ‘how’…

 

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Crisco and butter pie shell

Let me have a moment by myself here and… ok, here I go…

I could live on eating pies, literally just eating pies, and my homemade pies that is. There is something mysterious about looking at a pie with a crust on, like a hat on top of a head. The crust covering the pie tells the message of something wonderful hiding underneath, and it is up to me to discover it.

Any pie, either savory pie, sweet dessert pies or meat pies communicate with me. Maybe I was a pie in my previous life or more appealing than that, I was a pie baker. Yep, I prefer the latest one.

Because I make pies very often and because there is no way on this planet that I can eat them all, I always do small recipes for pie shell. That way, I get to make a lot, to give away and get to start all over again.

The last one I did was the Date and Ricotta pie. Pretty simple in all because the cooked fruits was already in a small container in the fridge and that same morning, I made fresh ricotta cheese.

I mixed both the dates and cheese together in a bowl, drop the mixture in a pie shell, used one single layer of cheese slices, layered very nicely on top of the mix, sprinkled homemade granola on top of the cheese slices and cover the entire pie with a second pie shell.

The pie was baked in a warm oven turned at 375F, for about 20 minutes. I removed the pie, brushed the top with whipping cream and add some white sugar on top of the cream to give it an inviting look of: ‘Eat me’ and baked the pie for another 10 minutes or so, until a nice golden brown color came out.

Pretty easy, won’t you say? I love a nice piece of pie, when the inside stays between the two pie shells when it is served. This one stayed very nicely together because of the cheese combination used in this particular recipe.

Here is the recipe:

1 ¼ cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cold

2 tablespoons Crisco (shortening)

2 ½ to 3 tablespoons cold water

Mix together, put for one hour in the fridge. Roll out, put in pie plate and back in the fridge before filling out the pie shell.

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Recycle

Spring wreath

I am doing my little part here, by creating a door wreath out of used newspapers, which are accumulating in my place, right now, this minute.

I mean, there must be something I can do with those besides tossing them all in the garbage. Talking about garbage, I produce too much and I wish I could recycle it all…

I will create a door wreath, yep, right… a door wreath without actually running to the store to buy something to help me with this? Like for instance, glue or strings or something already made that the salesperson will put it in a plastic bag, for me to carry home? Those things will also come already wrapped in something like cardboards, plastic, paper… you name it. Would it be going against what I have started from the beginning which is recycling?

Ok, that been said and written, let me find my artistic side of my brain, open it and use it.

Glue: I will use flour mixed with water. I did this with my children and it is perfect fine glue.

The base form of a wreath: Ok, I will cut out a circle out of a box of cardboard that I have already here. I do not need to buy one already made, right?

Colors, beauty in newspapers: Well this part could become a bit ‘gray’ in color. I will use newspapers to lie down and to cover my circle, done. Now I will use more newspapers with color on them, to add color to my wreath, done.

Now, what else.

Seasons: I want my door wreath to represent seasons, events and add beauty to a plain door. That goes without mentioning of course, the invitation that everyone is welcome to my place.

So I have created a base wreath, with newspapers and clear plastic. On this wreath, I will add, according to the seasons, etc… my personal touch and I will change it here and there as I progress with each passing of the days.

Bingo, I got it.

So here it is: my creation from recycled stuffs I had around the house. I think I did well!

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Ingredients, the right ones,

are important for cooking and specially for baking and I have my ingredients that I cherish, wherever I go. ‘All vegetable shortening’ is one ingredient that falls into this thinking, specially when I am making pie shell.

Yes, I manage to come with a very decent pie shell using only butter in the making, recipe here but for me, shortening will always stay and be part of my cupboards.

When I travel outside China, I will always come back, in my suitcases, with some of those precious ingredients!

Rumford baking powder is another one of mine. This baking powder does not contain any aluminum as after taste because Rumford baking powder is ‘aluminum free’. Some people will taste the aluminum in bakings and others will never taste it. I am tasting it and it is stoping me from appreciating a good ‘biscuit’ or a fresh donut

Whole nutmeg, a spice, does marvellously well, added to anything in cooking and in baking. It is this special taste that we find but just not able to pinpoint when we eat mashed potatoes, crêpes or a good roastbeef. I have whole nutmeg, all the time with me, in my kitchen. A whole nut does last a long time and tastes so much different from the powder form.

Yesterday, I made a new pie shell recipe, using butter and shortening. The flaky shell was just out of this world, so good and yet not greasy at all. The combination of both butter and shortening gave easiness in the manipulation of the dough and the caramel color given to the baked shell was very nice and appealing. Good one!

Ricotta cheese is also another one ingredient, that I have handy around, in my fridge. Ricotta cheese can be used in so many dishes, either main dishes or desserts. Because I do not seem to find around, a good decent ricotta cheese, I make my own, at home. It takes only 5 minutes to do and the secret here is lemon juice and milk 3.5% of fat.

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