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12 posts from October 2019

10/31/2019

~Instead of Taco Tuesday, Taco-Bowl Salad Thursday~

IMG_5535Taco Tuesday.  I'm clueless as to who started it, but, I thank them profoundly.  Like pizza and cheeseburgers, it's downright difficult to find a man, woman or child who is disappointed at the sight of tacos on their lunch or dinner menu.  Other than needing a fork, taco salad is not much different than eating tacos. Served in a large, deep-fried, edible flour-tortilla shell, anything and everything one would expect to find in a pick-it-up-to-eat taco can be served in a taco salad.

Serving taco salad in edible bowls is mealtime fun.  While they lend a festive, impressive "you cared enough to make the bowls" touch to the meal, they allow family and friends to add crunch to their salad as they work their way down, through and around all the goodies in the bowl. Speaking of goodies, taco salads come fully-loaded.  Pick and choose your favorite store-bought or made-from-scratch ingredients.  There's no right or wrong way to make taco salad -- just make it.

A taco salad is a divinely delicious & decadent meal.

IMG_5417Served in a large, edible, deep-fried, flour-tortilla shell.

The most common ingredients in any taco salad (also called a taco bowl) are: Tex-Mex-spiced ground beef, shredded steak or chicken (small shrimp are good too). The list goes on:  crumbled Mexican cotija- or queso fresco- or shredded queso blanco- cheese (jalapeño Jack, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack or cheddar are often used in their place), crispy iceberg or romaine lettuce, sliced green or black olives, corn kernels or Mexican rice, black beans or refried beans, pico de gallo (salsa fresca or fresh salsa), Mexican crema or sour cream, and, sliced avocado or guacamole -- and let's not forget those cilantro or scallion garnishes too.  With all or even some of that going on, make no mistake, while every forkful of a taco salad is divinely delicious, it is decadent -- "healthy" or "light" are hardly the words I would use to describe this meal.

From a small tacup, the large taco salad was born. 

IMG_5431The history of the taco-bowl salad, as per this book, Taco USA, How Mexican Food Conquered America:

The earliest record of taco salad dates back to the 1960's, with its predecessor being the small teacup-sized Tacup:  Ground beef, beans, sour cream and cheese served in a small bowl made entirely of Fritos.  

The Tacup was the creation of Fritos founder Elmer Doolin*, who invented all sorts of "strange stuff" spinned-off his Fritos: Frito sauce for meat, Frito Jell-O pie, Frito salad dressing, and, the Tacup (short for taco cup).  

Tacups were first served in Dallas, TX (where Doolin headquartered Frito), in the early 1950's, and by 1955, he was selling them in Fritos' flagship restaurant, Casa de Fritos, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.

The Tacup became popular enough that folks decided to make it bigger -- the taco salad, served in a full, main-dish-sized bowl was born.

*Doolin founded Fritos, bit its worth note that Fritos were a wholly Mexican creation, invented by an Oaxacon immigrant who sold his recipe and machine to Doolin in the 1930's.  It's also worth note that heading the Casa de Fritos were members of the Morales family, known for their XLNT tamale brand, and their family would go on to invent Doritos and the famous Doritos taco salad.

No pressure.  Go as scratch-made or homemade as you want.

IMG_5515Taco-Salad Tuesday is all about having fun w/family.

For each salad (listed in order of addition):

1  deep-fried tortilla bowl

1 1/2-2  cups chiffonade of iceberg or romaine lettuce

1-1 1/2  tablespoons minced, fresh cilantro

1 1/2-2  tablespoons thinly-sliced scallions, white and light-green parts only

1/4  cup well-drained and rinsed black beans or red kidney beans

2  tablespoons well-drained whole corn kernels

1/4  cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes

1/4  cup  shredded jalapeño Jack, Monterey Jack, or colby Jack cheese

1- 1/2  tablespoons sliced black olives

6-8 small thin slices pickled jalapeño peppers

1/3-1/2  cup (6-8 tablespoons) warm ground beef taco filling 

2  tablespoons warm refried bean dip

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9136615970b1  tablespoon avocado crema (a spicy food processor processed mixture of 1 cup Hass avocado, 6 tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream, 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt), or, 1 tablespoon guacamole or high-quality store-bought guacamole such as Wholly Guacamole, or, 3-4 fresh avocado slices

1  tablespoon Mexican crema

1  tablespoon pico de gallo (salsa fresca/fresh salsa)

1/4  cup flour tortilla wisps, for garnish 

IMG_5519 IMG_5519 IMG_5519 IMG_5519~Step 1.  In bottom taco bowl, place the lettuce chiffonade, minced cilantro and sliced scallions. Scatter the black or kidney beans, corn kernels and quartered tomatoes over the top of the lettuce mixture, followed by the shredded cheese, sliced black olives and pickled jalapeño peppers.

IMG_5531 IMG_5531~ Step 2.  Place a measured scoop of the warmed beef mixture in the center of the top of salad. Decoratively dollop the determined condiments on top of the beef filling:  the refried bean dip, avocado crema (or guacamole or sliced avocado), Mexican crema (or sour cream) and pico de gallo.  Garnish with deep-fried flour tortilla wisps.

Serve immediately.  Stick a fork in it &, have at it: 

IMG_5541Instead of Taco Tuesday, Taco-Bowl Salad Thursday:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many taco salads, served in edible bowls, as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; small colander; hand-held box grater 

IMG_5512Cook's Note:  Not a fearless fryer? That's ok.  Lot's of folks fear frying. The good news, there's another way to go about making your own edible bowls using inexpensive bowl molds in the oven.  Learn ~ How to Make Baked Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls ~.  Your family and friends will thank you. 

"We are all in this food world together."  ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/28/2019

~How to Make My Crispy Crunchy Flour Tortilla Wisps~

IMG_5702Like corn tortillas, flour tortillas do great in the deep-fryer.  They fry up really fast, in less than three minutes, and, come out super-crispy and light and airy too, meaning:  they're not nearly as dense as corn tortillas.  They almost melt in your mouth.  Because flour tortillas are a bit too fragile to make traditionally shaped taco shells, they're traditionally deep-fried whole, in a molded fryer-basket, to make large-edible bowls for serving taco salad.  That said, in my kitchen I like to make these fun little wisps, to use to garnish Tex-Mex-style soups, salads and 'burgers.

Fry these fun little wisps to garnish soups, salads & 'burgers.

IMG_543210  6"-round "fajita size" flour tortillas (Note:  Any size flour tortillas may be used, I just find the small ones the easiest to work with.)

freshly ground sea salt

corn or peanut oil, heated to 375º in deep-fryer (or in a 4-quart saucepan on the stovetop) according to manufacturer's instructions

IMG_5439 IMG_5439 IMG_5439~Step 1. Stack and thinly slice five flour tortillas in half. Stack and thinly slice the second five tortillas in half. Each of the four stacks of halves will be one batch.  Slice each stack of halves into thin strips, as thin as you can.

IMG_5471 IMG_5471 IMG_5471 IMG_5471~Step 2.  Preheat oil in deep fryer to 375º.  Ready a large pan or baking sheet by lining it with 2-3 layers of paper towels.  Working in a series of four batches, drop the first batch (one handful) into hot oil of in deep fryer, close the lid and fry for 2 1/2 minutes.  Lift the fryer basket up and out of the deep-fryer and transfer the crispy wisps (invert the basket) to the paper-towel-lined pan. Season wisps with a generous grinding of sea salt.  Repeat with remaining three batches. 

Cool & store in an airtight container for up to one week:

IMG_5483How to Make My Crispy Crunchy Flour Tortilla Wisps:  Recipe yields about 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer or 4-quart saucepan and candy-type or digital thermometer; disposable aluminum pan or baking sheet; paper towels

IMG_5417Cook's Note: If you prepare taco salad often enough to merit wanting to serve it restaurant-style, in the traditional deep-fried, flour tortilla bowl, I highly suggest making a small investment, $15.00-ish, in a metal, one- or two-piece fryer-basket that will not only make this task easy, it will keep you from getting burned by jury-rigged crack-pot methods -- puns intended.  Read ~ How to Deep-Fry Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls ~, then, have some safety-first taco-Tuesday fun with your family and friends.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/25/2019

~ Making Baked Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls ~

IMG_5512When you're in a Mexican restaurant, if a taco salad, the kind served in an edible deep-fried flour tortilla bowl, is one of your favorite menu items, or, if you prepare taco salad at home often enough to merit wanting to serve it restaurant-style, in an edible bowl, you should know there is an alternative to deep-frying them.   A small investment of about $15.00 will get you four fluted bowl molds that will enable you to bake professional looking tortilla bowls in the oven.

Not a fearless fryer?  Baked is the way to go.

IMG_5493Serving taco salad in edible bowls is mealtime fun.  While they lend a festive, impressive "you cared enough to make the bowls" touch to the meal, they allow family and friends to add crunch to their salad as they work their way down, through and around all the goodies in the bowl.  By using a set or two of tortilla bowl molds, the bowls all bake at the same, at the same rate of speed, and emerge uniform in color and shape -- they can even be stacked like plates for a party.

Fold & place 1, 8" flour tortilla in bottom of each mold:

IMG_5497Open tortillas & gently press into the fluted perimeters:

IMG_5499Place molds directly on center rack of preheated 350º oven:

IMG_5503Bake until lightly & nicely browned, about 10 minutes:

IMG_5506Cool in pans 5-6 minutes, remove from pans & use:

IMG_5509Have some mealtime fun.  Serve fully-loaded taco salads:

IMG_5563Making Baked Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls:  Recipe yields instructions to bake as many taco salad bowls as you want to. 

Special Equipment List:  4-8 fluted bowl molds

IMG_5417Cook's Note:  I am a fearless fryer, and, while deep-frying tortilla bowls is admittedly a little harder than baking them, nothing compares to a tortilla bowl fresh out of the fryer. That said, once again, a small investment, $15.00-ish, in a metal, one- or two-piece fryer-basket will make this task easy-as-pie.  Learn ~ How to Deep-Fry Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls ~.  Your family and friends will thank you.  Each bowl, from start to finish, only takes 2 1/2 minutes, and, they can be made 1-2 days ahead of serving too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/23/2019

~How to Deep-Fry Restaurant-Style Taco Salad Bowls~

IMG_5421If you prepare taco salad often enough to merit wanting to serve it restaurant-style, in the traditional deep-fried, flour tortilla bowl, I highly suggest making a small investment, $15.00-ish, in a metal, one- or two-piece fryer-basket that will not only make this task easy-as-pie, it will keep you or yours from getting burned by jury-rigged crack-pot methods -- puns intended.  All kidding aside, regulating the heat on an open pot of hot oil on the stovetop, while maneuvering a tin can placed inside a larger can to form the taco bowl, is an accident waiting to happen.

Serving taco salad in edible, fried or baked bowls is mealtime fun.  While they lend a festive, impressive "you cared enough to make the bowls" touch to the meal, they allow family and friends to add crunch to their salad as they work their way down, through and around all the goodies in the bowl.  By choosing and using the tool best suited to you, the bowls deep-fry, one-at-a-time, in a very short time (2 1/2 minutes) and emerge uniform in color, even-sized and similar in shape.

Three similarly-priced taco-bowl fryer-basket gadgets...

IMG_5358... three similarly-sized, great-to-eat taco bowls:

IMG_5416One, two, three (in order of my favorite gadgets):

IMG_5361 IMG_5361~ Step 1.  Remove fryer-basket from deep fryer. Preheat corn or peanut oil in deep-fryer, according to manufacturer's instructions, to 375º. Place two-three layers of paper towels in bottom of a large pan or baking pan.  Ready a 3-minute "egg" timer, and, depending on the gadget you're using, a metal spoon and a pair of tongs too.

IMG_5370 IMG_5370 IMG_5370~ Step 2.  In gadget of choice (#1, #2, or #3), position 1, 8"-round flour tortilla in the bottom to form a bowl. In the case of gadget #1, a two-piece fryer basket (and my favorite), this means placing the flour tortilla in between the two pieces, which will hold the tortilla securely in place during the frying process.

IMG_5380 IMG_5380 IMG_5380~ Step 3A.  To deep fry in gadget #1, lower the fryer-basket into the preheated deep-fryer.  With fryer-lid open, fry the taco bowl until lightly-browned and firm, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Lift basket from hot oil.  Remove the top from the fryer-basket and the invert taco bowl onto paper-towels to drain and cool.  Sprinkle inside of bowl with salt or sea salt the moment it comes out of the fryer basket.  Easy peasy perfection.

IMG_5389 IMG_5389 IMG_5389 IMG_5389~Step 3B. To deep fry in gadget #2, lower the fryer-basket into the preheated deep-fryer.  Place the back side of a large metal spoon into the bottom of the tortilla, to keep the bowl from prematurely floating to the top.  With fryer-lid open, fry the taco bowl, with spoon in place, until lightly-browned and firm, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Lift basket from hot oil.  Invert the taco bowl onto paper-towels to drain and cool. Sprinkle inside of bowl with salt or sea salt the moment it comes out of the fryer basket.  This basket works fine, but, it requires being hands-on the entire time.

IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403Step 3C. To deep fry in gadget #3, with a spoon placed in the bottom of the fryer-basket, lower the fryer-basket into the preheated deep-fryer.  With the spoon in the bottom of the tortilla, to keep the bowl from prematurely floating to the top, with fryer-lid open, fry the taco bowl, repositioning the spoon as necessary (several times) in the the bottom of the taco bowl, until lightly-browned and firm, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Lift basket from hot oil.  Invert the taco bowl onto paper-towels to drain and cool. Sprinkle inside of bowl with salt or sea salt the moment it comes out of the fryer basket.  This fryer basket works just fine too, but it requires being hands-on and "on your game" the entire time.

Be smart.  Be safe.  Use a fryer-basket to fry taco bowls:     

IMG_5417Have some mealtime fun.  Serve fully-loaded taco salads:

IMG_5541How to Deep-Fry Restaurant-style Taco Salad Bowls:  Recipe yields instructions for deep-frying as many taco salad bowls as you want to, plus recommendations for purchasing fryer-baskets.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer; taco-bowl-shaped fryer-basket insert to use in a pot or a deep-fryer; 3-minute "egg" timer; large disposable pan or baking sheet; paper towels; large spoon (optional); tongs (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d10e0e73970cCook's Note: For those of you who love to eat and cook your own Tex-Mex food, I'm going to suggest this:  next time you make your favorite chili, bean dip or a bowl of chile con queso, take 20 extra minutes and deep-fry some tortilla chips (in corn oil). Tortilla chips deep-fried at home are head-over-heels better than any that come out of any $4-$6 bag of any generic-to-gourmet brand.  Take 3 minutes for ~ Deep-Fried & Crispy Corn Tortilla Chips (Totopos) ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright/2019)

10/20/2019

~ Pucker Up for Buttery Lemon & Yogurt Pound Cake ~

IMG_5487Pucker up.  I am an eternal sourpuss.  Lemonade, lemon sorbet, lemon meringue pie, lemon tart, lemon cheesecake, lemon shortbread, etc.  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, these are a few of my lemony favorites.  As a lover of all things tart and citrusy, I consider the lemon the diva of all citrus.  I'm never without lemons in my refrigerator and lemon oil in my pantry, because, like salt, fresh lemon zest and juice, and, textureless bold-flavored oil just makes everything taste better. I'm not a lemon snob though.  I prefer the ordinary, tart, supermarket lemon to the "sweet" Meyer lemon -- Gourmets will say they are "sweet", while in reality, they're just less acidic.    

That said, when it comes to how I achieve lemon flavor in my sweet treats and savory things, I do have my preferences.  I like fresh zest and fresh juice used in "wet" concoctions -- like sweet puddings and pies, or savory salad dressings and sauces.  When it comes to "dry" baked goods, like sweet cakes and cookies, or savory breads and quick breads, I prefer the textureless, full-throttle lemon oil -- a little goes a long way, and, that pesty zest isn't muddling around amongst the crumb(s).  What about lemon extract?  Hey, I'm not going to call the food police if that's all you can find, but, if it is pure lemon flavor you're after, extracted from the zest, oil is the ticket.   

Pucker up for my buttery lemon & yogurt pound cake:

IMG_5287For the cake:

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

8  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup Greek yogurt, at room temperature

2  teaspoons pure lemon oil, not extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2  cups sugar

1  3.4-ounce package instant lemon pudding

1  teaspoon salt

6  large eggs, at room temperature

10  ounces cake flour (about 2 1/2 cups)

1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing bundt pan

IMG_5339For the glaze:

1 1/2  cups Confectioners' sugar

1  teaspoon pure lemon oil

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3-4  tablespoons milk

1-2  drops egg-shade (yellow) food coloring (optional) 

4  tablespoons finely-ground walnuts, for topping cake

IMG_5294 IMG_5294~Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, place the very soft butter, cream cheese, room temperature yogurt, lemon oil and extract.  Starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working your way up to high speed, cream until smooth, about 1 1/2-2 full minutes, scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula the entire time.

IMG_5299 IMG_5299~Step 2.  Turn mixer off.  Add sugar,  pudding and salt.  Over low speed,  incorporate sugar mixture, then, increase mixer speed to high and continue to beat for 1 full minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula the entire time.

IMG_5303 IMG_5303~Step 3.  Reduce mixer speed to low again and add the eggs.  Thoroughly incorporate the eggs, then, increase speed to high and continue to beat for another full minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula the entire time.

IMG_5307 IMG_5307~Step 4.  Turn mixer off.  Add flour and baking powder.  On low mixer speed, fold the flour into the wet mixture.  Work up to high speed and continue to beat, about 1 1/2-2 full minutes, scraping down sides of bowl the entire time. 

IMG_5313 IMG_5313 IMG_5313~Step 5.  Lightly-spray a 12-cup bundt pan with no-stick cooking spray.  Using a large spoon and working your way around the pan in a circle, dollop spoonfuls of batter into the prepared pan.  Give the pan a few vigorous back-and-forth shakes on the counter to even the batter out.  Bake cake on center rack of preheated 325º oven for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, or until a cake tester placed deep into the center in several spots comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place cake on a wire rack.  All cake to cool, in pan on rack, for 30-40 minutes.  Loosen external and internal sides of cake with a sharp knife. Invert cake onto wire rack to cool completely, about 2 hours, before glazing as directed below.

IMG_5321 IMG_5321~Step 6.  To glaze cake, in a 2-cup measuring container, place Confectioners' sugar and extracts. Add 3 tablespoons of the milk and stir. Add the 1-2 drops optional food coloring and stir again. Continue adding additional milk, if necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time until a drizzly consistency is reached. Cover measuring container with plastic wrap and set glaze aside for about 15 minutes -- this will ensure an extremely smooth glaze.  If you have a plastic squeeze bottle, transfer the glaze to it.  To glaze the cake, using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle the glaze over the surface of the cake.  Sprinkle the walnuts over top.

Allow the glaze to "dry" (harden up a bit -- about 2 hours):.

IMG_5328Slice, serve & pucker up for every luscious lemon bite:

IMG_5340Pucker Up for Buttery Lemon & Yogurt Pound Cake:  Recipe yields 1, 10" bundt cake, and, depending on how thick or thin you slice it, 16-20 servings.

Special Equipment List: large rubber spatula; 1, standard-size 12-cup bundt pan; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack; sharp paring knife; 2-cup measuring container; spoon; plastic wrap; plastic squeeze bottle (optional); serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01a73d731445970d 6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcb810db970bCook's Note: Looking for a lemon pie that will hold its own against all other lemon pie recipes? Bursting with lemon flavor and piled high with light, airy meringue, this recipe is all about:  ~ My Love Affair w/Lemon & Lemon Meringue Pie ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/18/2019

~ Stewed-Tomato Gravy for Mom's All-Beef Meatloaf ~

IMG_5272Meatloaf is personal.  We all have a favorite recipe.  That said, there's no other way to say this:  I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf.  I know many of you do too, because you've made it and you've told me so. Both my mother and grandmother used beef exclusively to make meatloaf -- never a combination of beef, pork and veal.  My grandmother, who owned a mom and pop grocery store during the Depression era, simply did not like the gelatinous texture that comes from adding mild-flavored veal and did not approve of mixing pork and beef together -- no bacon strips were ever draped over a meatloaf (to muddle up the flavor) in any of my family's kitchens.

Stewed tomatoes w/onions, celery & green peppers, makes for an amazing accompaniment to mom's meatloaf. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27640d2970cMom never glazed her meatloaf with anything.  On nights when mom was serving meatloaf with mashed potatoes, mom would mix the precious-few beefy meat drippings with some seasoned flour and a can of beef broth to whip up some brown gravy to drizzle over the top.  On nights when mom was serving meatloaf with macaroni and cheese, she would mix the precious-few beefy meat drippings with some seasoned flour and a can of stewed tomatoes to drizzle over the top.  

We affectionately referred to it as:  stewed tomato gravy.  

IMG_52521/4  cup beef drippings from mom's meatloaf

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon celery salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

2  tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  14 1/2-ounce can "original-style" stewed tomatoes w/onions, celery and green peppers, NOT, Italian-style stewed tomatoes with my mom's all-beef meatloaf 

IMG_5256 IMG_5259 IMG_5260 IMG_5261~Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, place meatloaf drippings.  Stir in seasonings (onion powder, celery salt and black pepper).  Heat over medium until drippings are bubbling.  Add the flour.

IMG_5263 IMG_5263 IMG_5268 IMG_5269~Step 2.  Increase heat to medium-high and stir constantly until a thick, pasty roux forms, about 30 seconds.  Add stewed tomatoes.  Reduce heat to simmer gently and cook, breaking tomatoes into smaller pieces with side of spoon, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and serve.

Serve gravy w/meatloaf & mac-'n-cheese please:

IMG_5278Stewed-Tomato Gravy for Mom's All-Beef Meatloaf:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups tomato gravy.

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-quart saucepan; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a9986d200bCook's Note:  For another meatloaf my mom would occasionally make, just for us kids, check out my ~ Kid's Stuff:  Souper Fix-Quick Bowling-Night Meatloaf ~.  This quick-to-throw-together-recipe uses a package of store-bought meatloaf mix, and, it gets its tomato-y flavor from Campbell's condensed tomato soup.  My brother and I adored it. And yes, you guessed it, this recipe goes great with stewed-tomato gravy drizzled on top too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/15/2019

~ About Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix & My Copycat Recipe ~

IMG_5100This blast-from-my-past box of versatile, dependable baking goodness allowed me, as a young girl, to hone my skills with yeast dough and bread.  While I have many refined recipes for specialty breads and rolls in my repertoire (which, as a young adult I learned hands-on from my grandmother and mother), that was not always the case.  There was a time in my life, as a young pre-teen, ages 9-12 give-or-take, when I expressed a serious interest in experimenting, on my own, with my own creations, to imitate the recipes of my grandmother and mother.

IMG_5111I was a remarkably meticulous child, meaning:  If left alone in my mom's kitchen, I maintained a clean kitchen -- downright spotless.  Yes, even at that young age, I wasn't playing games in the kitchen.  For those reasons, my mom (encouragingly) kept a box or two of hot roll mix in our pantry -- for me and my yeast-bread-baking experiments.  It allowed me, unsupervised, to practice the techniques required for making and baking bread loaves and dinner rolls, and filled sweet rolls like honey buns, frosted cinnamon-raisin rolls, and, "her" poppyseed- and nut-rolls.  

At some point, mom sent away for a copy of the Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix Baking Book too, which, I still have. Besides containing over 100 recipes, it contained a lot of added information, which "upped by game" substantially.  I was on my way. 

IMG_5112Sure, I had failures.  First I put too much filling in a nut roll, the next time not enough, but, because of the easy-to-follow instructions on the box and the tips in their book, the bready end result was always edible. I learned how dry yeast works, and, got to practice the techniques necessary for working with yeast dough after it rises.  I also learned the importance of having a versatile, dependable, basic bread dough recipe. After a while, mom's investment had paid off.  

For novice bakers, this mix is "a catalyst for success".

IMG_5104The box mix = 15 1/2 oz. flour mixture + 1/2 oz. granulated yeast. After adding 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons butter & 1 egg, it yields 28 oz. dough.

IMG_5115For my copycat boxed mix, to be used in place of, and, as per instructions on boxed mix:

15 1/2-16  ounces unbleached, all purpose flour (about 3 cups)

2  ounces granulated sugar (about 1/4 cup)

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  ounces instant nonfat powdered/dry milk (about 1/2 cup)

2  1/4-ounce packets dry yeast granules (do not mix with dry ingredients until ready to bake)

1  cup warm water (to be stirred in when ready to bake)

IMG_5123Note:  When it's time to bake, you'll need to add 1 cup hot water2 tablespoons salted butter and 1 large egg to the dry mix and yeast (as per box's directions/see Cook's Note below). When kneading and/or rolling dough, you'll need about 1/2-3/4 cup additional bench flour too. To make their glazed cinnamon rolls as per the box, you'll need a few other additions as well.  As always, always follow the directions of the recipe you're making. 

In a 1-gallon ziplock bag mix all ingredients, except the yeast.  Seal.  Store in pantry for 3-4 months or in freezer for 6-8 months.

IMG_5129 IMG_5129 IMG_5129 IMG_5129~Step 1.  Place all of the dry  mix in a large bowl.  Add the yeast.  Using a spoon, stir the yeast into the flour mixture and fashion a well in the center of the bowl.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat 1 cup of water in the microwave.  Add butter to hot water and stir until butter melts.

IMG_5140 IMG_5140 IMG_5140 IMG_5140~Step 2.  Pour water mixture into well of flour.  Using a fork, beat the egg in the measuring container, then add the egg to the well too.  Using the spoon, stir until a soft dough forms.

IMG_5149 IMG_5149 IMG_5149 IMG_5149~Step 3.  Spread some bench flour on a large wooden pastry board.  Turn dough out onto board and knead until a smooth-surfaced ball of dough forms, adding a bit of extra flour, if necessary to reduce stickiness, about 5-6 minutes.  Cover the ball of dough with the bowl and rest, 5-6 minutes.  You will have 28 ounces of really-easy-to-work-with dough.  Amongst other things, this is enough to make 12 dinner rolls, or 12 cinnamon rolls, or 2 nut or poppyseed-type rolls.

Use a kitchen scale to divide dough into 2-12 portions:

IMG_5242Use as directed in the recipes from on boxed mix:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a492da54200cOr, use as directed in your own family recipes:

IMG_5224Nut & poppyseed rolls are two of my favorites:

IMG_5355About Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix & My Copycat Recipe:  Recipe yields 20 ounces dry, hot roll mix/28 ounces dough (after the addition of the wet ingredients).

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale or measuring cups and spoons; ziplock bag; tablespoon; fork; large wooden pastry board

IMG_5120Cook's Note:  Here is a photo of the instructions, from the back of the box, for their dinner rolls.  Their cinnamon roll and pizza crust recipes are on the box too. Because of that, I recommend purchasing and using a box of the hot roll mix, at least once.  First, you will get "a feel" for how this mix works. Second, after clipping the box apart, you get a copy of all of the instructions that appear on the box for future reference.  Have fun! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/13/2019

~Cinnamon-Swirl Turkey, Apple & Apple Butter Panini~

IMG_5050Do you need a fancy-schmancy panini press to make a panini sandwich?  No, you don't.  Simply place your sandwich in a grill pan and place a heavy (cast-iron works great) skillet on top and you'll get the similar results, except, unlike cooking on a panini press, you will have to stop to flip the sandwich over half way through the process.  Don't have a grill pan either?  Worry not.  Use a nonstick skillet with a cast iron skillet on top.  As long as the sandwich is pressed, you can still call it a panini -- even without the grill marks.  Without the pressing, it's an ordinary grilled sandwich.

Panini is the Italian word for a press-grilled sandwich made with the same type of firm, crusty bread (or rolls) used to make bruschetta and crostini.  "One panino, two panini" are the singular and plural forms of the word (which derive from the Italian "pane" and Latin "panis", referring to bread), but the use of panino is uncommon and unused nowadays.  Panini sandwiches, served hot off the grill, were traditionally filled with the same thin-sliced specialty deli-meats and cheese served with or on bruschetta and crostini (ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, etc.), meaning they were associated with Italian fare, but, nowadays a panini can find itself fused with any cuisine.

IMG_2214A panini press is basically a double-sided contact grill that cooks both sides of a sandwich at once. Much like a grill pan, the grids of a panini press give these sandwiches their signature grill marks.  There are several good brands, in all price ranges, on the market.  My Cuisinart Griddler is about 5 years old.  It doesn't take up too much space, controls heat perfectly, and, I love it. This gadget has earned its rightful place on my kitchen counter.

One panino, two panini, go preheat your panini press:

IMG_5017For two panini sandwiches/4 half sandwiches:

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing panini press

4  slices cinnamon-raisin swirl bread

6  slices cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese

2-3  tablespoons apple butter

1/2 of 1  thin-sliced unpeeled apple, your favorite type

6  strips crisply-fried bacon

1/2 pound super-thinly-sliced deli-turkey breast, your favorite type and brand

20-30  baby arugula leaves

IMG_5018 IMG_5018~Step 1.  To assemble sandwiches, place two slices of cheese on two slices of bread (the bottom half, where remaining ingredients will be layered), and, one slice on the other two slices.  Set the two slices of bread with two slices of cheese aside.

IMG_5024 IMG_5024 IMG_5024 IMG_5024~Step 2.  On the two bottom halves, slather the cheese with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons apple butter. It's tempting, but, don't be inclined to slather the bread slices with the apple butter first or bread will become soggy before you can finish assembling the sandwiches -- this is the right order of things. Place a layer of apple slices atop the apple butter on two slices of bread, 4-5 slices on each.

IMG_5034 IMG_5034 IMG_5034 IMG_5034~Step 3.  Place three bacon strips atop apples on each sandwich, followed by an even distribution of 1/4 pound of turkey breast.  Lastly, place a few baby arugula leaves atop turkey, 15-20 leaves on each sandwich.  Invert and place the remaining two cheese-topped slices of bread on top of the arugula and gently press down on the tops of sandwiches with palms of hands.

IMG_5044~Step 4.  Wrap sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes, so all ingredients are at the same temperature when grilled -- this will also keep them fresh if you are grilling and serving several at a time.  Just prior to grilling as directed below, vertically slice the sandwich into two halves.  Remove the plastic wrap after slicing.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bca8200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b7535b200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bcb4200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad397bcb4200d IMG_5047~Step 5.  Spray grill grids of panini press, top and bottom with no-stick cooking spray.  Close grill and preheat, according to manufacturer's specifications, to medium-high on grill-panini setting.  When green light turns on, place 2-4 half-sandwiches on hot grill grids.  I'm demonstrating two halves, because it is easier to photograph than four.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b753da200b~Step 6.  Place top of press on sandwich halves. Firmly, but gently, using the press's handle, press down for 30-45 seconds.  You're NOT trying to squish the sandwich, but, you are trying to put just enough pressure on it to steam and crisp bread a bit.  Let go.  Grill 3-4 minutes, until cheese is oozing and bread is crispy.  If they don't look perfect, they're perfect.

Transfer from grill, wait 1-1 1/2 minutes, slice on a diagonal...

IMG_5057... & serve, as is & unembellished, as the star of any party:

IMG_5083Cinnamon-Raisin Turkey, Apple & Apple Butter Swirl:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; serrated bread knife; panini contact-grill; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3717f8b200cCook's Note: Panini-croissant-crostini.  That's a lot to digest, and if you're of Italian-heritage, simmer down, lighten up, and read my post before criticizing my fun-loving play on these three mouth-watering words. Sandwich-press-grilled panini, full of cured Italian meats and cheese, substituting mini-croissants for the traditional rustic Italian bread (I've affectionately added the word crostini to describe them, because I serve them, crostini-style, as 3-4 bite appetizers), are crowd-pleasing snacks that get gobbled up at a tailgate party faster than beer flows at a fraternity house. ~ Grillmarked:  Italian-Style Panini-Croissant-Crostini ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/10/2019

~ Sausage & Egg w/Cheddar, Apple & Apple Butter ~

IMG_4983Can one ever have too many breakfast sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal, hell no. A sweet sausage patty with a fried, poached or scrambled egg and a slice of yellow American cheese served on thick-sliced Texas-type toast, a gnarly bagel, a craggy-edged nook-and-crannied English muffin, or a flaky buttery biscuit is one of my year-round favorite ways to start the day.  It's safe to assume it's a favorite with most of America too, as all breakfast-all-day drive-through fast-food joints and all-night sit-down-at-the-counter diners serve some version of a sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich.  It's hard to compete with its completeness.

That said, as a big fan of sweet and savory combinations, when Fall arrives, I like to change mine up a bit by placing my sausage, egg and cheese on a cinnamon-raisin bagel (sometimes a cinnamon-raisin English muffin) with a slice of cheddar-Jack, sautéed apple slices and a slather of apple butter.  Topped with a few baby arugula leaves, it's downright impressive, gourmet fare. Yes, it does take a little extra-time to "do this sandwich up right".  Tick-tock, yawn and wake up 10-15 minutes earlier on days when you're making them, but, if it's breakfast for dinner you wish to celebrate, this'll take less time than a full-blown meal.  Either way, this is worth the effort.

IMG_4939For 4 sandwiches:

4  high-quality New York-style same-day-baked cinnamon-raisin bagels, or English muffins

1 pound sweet sausage, divided into 4, 4-ounce portions

1  apple, cored and thinly-sliced horizontally

4  jumbo eggs

8 slices yellow cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese 

4  tablespoons apple butter

40-48  baby arugula leaves

IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940 IMG_4940~Step 1.  Divide the pound of sausage into four equal parts, 4 ounces each.  Pat and press each portion into a 4 1/2" round disc, placing the sausage patties, slightly-overlapping in a 10" nonstick skillet as you form them.  Over medium- medium-high heat, fry the patties until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, turning only once, 5-6 minutes per side.  Using a spatula transfer patties to a paper towel lined plate.  Turn heat off.

IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950 IMG_4950~Step 2.  Using an apple corer, remove core from apple.  Slice a small portion of the top and bottom of the apple off.  Cut the rest into 8 discs, about 1/4" thick.  Over medium- medium-high heat, sauté the apple slices in the sausage drippings, 45-60 seconds per side.  Remove apples from pan drippings and place on a paper-towel lined plate.  Set aside.

IMG_4932 IMG_4932 IMG_4932~Step 3.  Crack eggs into hot skillet of remaining drippings.  Over medium- medium-high heat, fry eggs to desired doneness -- soft and runny centers, or semi-firm centers, your choice.  Cover skillet and remove from heat.

IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962 IMG_4962~Step 4.  Lightly-toast the cinnamon-raisin bagels. To assemble the sandwiches, on each of four plates, place two slices of cheese on the bottom half of each bagel.  Slather 1 tablespoon apple butter atop the cheese slices. Place two apple slices atop the apple butter, followed by a sausage patty and an egg.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place in microwave to melt the cheese, about 30 seconds.  Remove plastic wrap and garnish each with 10-12 arugula leaves.  Place top on sandwich and serve ASAP.

Place the top on each sandwich & slice it in half:

IMG_4980 2Enjoy each & every apple-buttery applicious bite of Fall: 

 

IMG_4996Got room for the other half?  You can bet I do:

IMG_5001Sausage & Egg w/Cheddar, Apple & Apple Butter:  Recipe yields 4 hearty breakfast sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale; 10" nonstick skillet w/lid; spatula; paper towels; apple corer; cutting board; chef's knife; toaster or toaster oven; plastic wrap   

IMG_4915Cook's Note: Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  For another one of my perfect-for-Fall sandwiches, try my ~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/07/2019

~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula ~

IMG_4908Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  As a fan of sweet and savory combinations, when I combine the two with a slather of apple butter and some delicate, slightly-peppery greens in between, magic happens.  It's perfect for Fall.  It's simple, straightforward and uncomplicated 'wichcraft.

It's simple, straightforward & uncomplicated 'witchcraft.

IMG_4844For two sandwiches:

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  slices caraway-seeded rye bread

10  slices cheddar or cheddar-Jack cheese

4-6  tablespoons apple butter

1  thin-sliced unpeeled apple, your favorite type

1/2  pound super-thinly-sliced deli-ham, your favorite type and brand

30-40  baby arugula leaves

sliced, dehydrated apple chips, or regular potato chips, for accompaniment

IMG_4846 IMG_4846 IMG_4846 IMG_4846~Step 1.  To assemble the sandwiches, place three slices of cheese on two slices of the bread (the bottom half, where the remaining ingredients will be layered), and, two slices on the other two (the top half) slices of bread.  Set the two slices of bread with two slices of cheese aside.

IMG_4856 IMG_4856 IMG_4856 IMG_4856~Step 2.  On the two bottom halves, slather the cheese with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons apple butter. It's tempting, but, don't be inclined to slather the bread slices with the apple butter first or bread will become soggy before you can finish assembling the sandwiches -- this is the right order of things. Place a layer of apple slices atop the apple butter on two slices of bread, 8-10 slices on each.

IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4876 IMG_4876~Step 3.  Layer 1/4 pound of ham atop apple slices, followed by baby arugula leaves,15-20 leaves on each.  Invert and place the remaining two cheese-topped slices of bread on top of the arugula and gently press with the palms of hands.

IMG_4879 IMG_4879 IMG_4879 IMG_4879~Step 4.  Wrap sandwiches tightly in plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes, so all ingredients are at the same temperature when grilled.  Just prior to grilling as directed below, vertically slice the two sandwiches into four halves and secure each half with a toothpick.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, clip each toothpick so it is level with the top of the bread -- this will make the sandwiches super-easy to flip over while cooking in the hot skillet.

IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891 IMG_4891~Step 5.  To grill the sandwiches, melt the butter in a 10" nonstick skillet over low heat.  Remove the plastic wrap from the sandwich halves and place them in the warm skillet.  Increase heat to medium and grill until golden brown on the bottoms and bottom layer of cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the sandwiches over and grill on the second sides until they too are golden and the cheese is melted, 3-4 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Wait not a moment, serve these sandwiches ASAP...

IMG_4915... & enjoy a taste of Fall in every sweet & savory bite: 

IMG_4926Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar, Apple and Arugula:  Recipe yields 2 hearty sandwiches/2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 4 toothpicks; kitchen shears; 10" nonstick skillet; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2b2d8b1970cCook's Note: The best apple pie recipes aren't fancy -- they're special.  Just put one in the oven and see what happens.  Word travels fast.  Everyone wants a slice of old-fashioned appleiscious goodness.  ~ Nothing Fancy:  Old-Fashioned Autumn Apple Pie ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/05/2019

~ Hungarian Gulyás: Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup ~

IMG_4837American-style goulash is made with ground beef and macaroni.  It's tasty, it's filling, it's easy to prepare, and, has the added bonus of being kid-friendly.  It's a stewy take on Hungarian goulash, but, aside from containing meat (originally ground beef, but nowadays chicken or turkey are sometimes substituted), a few vegetables (typically green bell pepper, onion and tomato sauce) and pasta (usually elbow-type macaroni or corkscrews), it all-too-often tastes resemblant of Italian-American spaghetti with meat sauce -- the flavor profile is hardly Hungarian.

A not-so-short but informative bit about Hungarian Gulyás: 

Hungarian gulyás (pronounced goulēus and meaning herdsmen) is the national dish of Hungary, and, the most famous Hungarian dish cooked outside of Hungary.  That said, even in Hungary, recipes vary from cook to cook and chef to chef, and, every one will claim theirs authentic. Gulyás dates back to the 9th Century cattle herders and stockmen and began as a basic well-seasoned, sun-dried meat and onion stew prepared in iron cauldrons -- all they needed to do was add water and cook it.  Over time, gulyás evolved, as cooks began adding additional vegetables (cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, potatoes etc.).  That said, many Hungarian cooks and experts argue that true gulyás uses no thickening agents and contains no grains (rice, barley, etc.) or starch (potatoes, noodles, dumplings, etc.)   In the 16th Century, the invading Ottoman Turks introduced paprika to Hungary.  The rest of Europe remained indifferent to the spice, but Hungary embraced it, and it eventually became a defining element of their cuisine and their gulyás.

Gulyás contains no starchy thickeners to achieve consistency -- which is why it's considered a soup rather than a stew.

IMG_4836Hungarian gulyás, while usually prepared with beef, can be prepared with veal, pork or lamb, or a combination of meats.  Typical cuts include inexpensive shank, shin or shoulder.  As a result, goulash derives its thickness from tough, well-exercised muscles rich in collagen (which convert to gelatin during the cooking process), instead of a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch. Vegetables (usually red bell pepper, carrot, potato, tomato and onion) are commonly added to the meat and the mixture is cooked in a paprika-laced slightly-thickened "in between" broth that is neither too thin nor too thick -- I describe it as a rich sauce. Some versions of gulyás are very rustic, containing large chunks of meat and vegetables, resemblant of a classic beef stew. Other versions are quite sophisticated, containing small-diced pieces of meat and vegetables.  All versions contain a healthy dose of sweet Hungarian paprika (a copious amount, more than you'd think), and, genuine imported sweet Hungarian paprika paprika is essential.

A bit about gulyás recipes in general & my recipe:

Authentically prepared Hungarian gulyés is like a brilliant star in the sky of soups and stews, meaning: take a taste and allow your taste buds to see the light.  Some versions are thicker, some versions are thinner, all are silky-smooth and sauce-like, but, none contain starchy thickening agents (just stop with the flour and cornstarch concoctions, they just muddy up the flavor).  The consistency control factor is the length of time the mixture simmers on the stovetop -- this is why, in Hungary, this dish is looked upon and referenced as a soup, rather than a stew.  I do add potatoes to my version (which is not uncommon is any modern day version), because my mother added them and I adored it -- that choice is yours.  When properly prepared, this rustic, easier-to-make-than-a-stew is perhaps one of the most refined soups you will ever experience.

IMG_47883  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, from 1, 3-3 1/2 pound chuck roast or chuck steak

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/2  pounds peeled and 1/2"-diced yellow or sweet onions

8  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  cup sweet Hungarian paprika, not smoked or hot paprika

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

6  cups beef stock, preferably homemade

2  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  whole bay leaves

"the seasonings", aka, 1 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, dried rosemary leaves, dried thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

6  ounces 1/4"-1/2" diced celery stalks

8  ounces 1/4"-1/2" peeled and diced carrots

12-ounces  1/2"-diced red bell peppers

1 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/2"-3/4" diced gold potatoes (optional)

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

IMG_4604 IMG_4604Important note before starting:  Achieving the signature saucelike consistency gulyás is famous for, without relying on a thickening agent or adding a starch isn't as tricky as one might think.  Great gulyás starts with homemade beef stock, one that is rich in collagen, one that becomes gelatinous when refrigerated, is important.

IMG_4769 IMG_4769 IMG_4769~ Step 1.  To prep the roast, start by slicing it in half vertically -- this will make it more manageable. Place the flat side of each half down, and slice each half into 6-7 3/4"-1" pieces.  Cut each piece into 3/4"-1" cubes, removing and discarding the large pockets of fat as you continue to work.  

IMG_4465 IMG_4465 IMG_4792 IMG_4792 IMG_4792~Step 2. In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt butter into oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add beef cubes, then season with 1 teaspoon each sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Using a large spatula to keep the meat moving, sauté until it has lost its pink color and is swimming around in quite a bit of flavorful beef juices, 6-8 minutes.

IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799 IMG_4799~Step 3.  Add the onion and garlic.  Continue to sauté, stirring constantly, until onion is tender, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in the paprika and tomato paste.  Stirring constantly, cook 3 more minutes.

IMG_4808 IMG_4808 IMG_4808Step 4.  Add the beef stock, bay leaves and seasonings.  Stir thoroughly.  Adjust heat to the gentlest of steady simmers and continue to cook, uncovered, for 1 full hour.  If you plan to add potatoes to your gulyás, peel and cube them as directed during the last 30 minutes of simmering time.

IMG_4817 IMG_4817~ Step 5.  Add the celery, carrots, red bell pepper and optional potatoes to the simmering soup. Continue to cook until potatoes and carrots are just cooked through, 15-20 additional minutes.  If you have the time, turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow soup to steep for 30-60 minutes, to allow the flavors time to marry prior to serving.  

Ladle into bowls & garnish w/minced, fresh parsley:

IMG_4825Hungarian Gulyás:  Beef, Vegetable & Paprika Soup:  Recipe yields 5 quarts hearty soup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; vegetable peeler; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; large slotted spoon or spatula; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088aee56970dCook's Note: My encounters with Hungarian cuisine have all been good, and authentic too.  While my family is not Hungarian, we are Eastern European (Slovak), meaning the food of other Eastern European countries is often similar, appealing to our appetites.  Thanks to a recipe mom got from a Hungarian co-worker, she made great gulyás.  As for paprikas, that recipe I got from my neighbor's mom who immigrated here from Hungary in the 1950's.  Try: ~ Mrs. Varga's Hungarian Paprikas Recipe ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

10/03/2019

~ Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad ~

IMG_4747Watermelon salad in October?  You betcha.  It's been unseasonably warm here in the Northeast, with unusually mild-to-hot Summer temperatures lasting into our four-seasoned Fall.  While most (but not all) of our garden has indeed met its end-for-this-year (Summer basil, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, etc.), the extra growing time has rendered it a stellar year for watermelon, which, in honesty, doesn't do well when the the days grow short and the temperatures go low.

Twenty-plus years ago, watermelon salad was trendy everywhere.  One of my favorite versions was served in a now defunct high-end French restaurant right here in Happy Valley:  The Victorian Manor.  It appeared on their menu every Summer for several years.  That said, watermelon salad was/is pretty much the same everywhere, meaning, there are no surprises:  A well-balanced, sweet, savory and salty mixture of baby arugula leaves, chunks of watermelon, thin-shaved red onion, crumbled feta cheese and torn mint leaves, tossed in a refreshingly-light citrusy vinaigrette.

I believe my version is better, uh, way-better than "the typical ones".  I know, that's bragging, but, hear me out, as I believe my reasoning to be sound.  Instead of using a combination of orange and lemon juice to make the vinaigrette, mine is full-throttle lemon-flavored.  Orange juice is ok, but lemon-infused olive oil is the bomb, and, when mixed with white balsamic vinegar, it takes my salad over-the-top.  When it comes to this salad, it is all about the dressing, and, this one is spectacular.  On a personal note, I added dried mint flakes to the dressing, instead of minced, fresh mint to the salad, because, while I'm a fan of subtle mint flavor, I am not a fan of fresh mint.

IMG_4756We're celebrating our harvest w/watermelon salad tonight.

IMG_4720 2Watermelon salad -- just in time for Oktoberfest!

6a0120a8551282970b0240a490dbbc200dFor the lemon-infused, white balsamic vinaigrette:

1/2  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused olive oil

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

1  teaspoon each: dried herbes de Provence & mint flakes

Step 1.  In a 1-cup container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, place all ingredients. Vigorously shake until well-combined.  Use as a marinade and/or dress salad and store leftovers in refrigerator.

IMG_4727For two salads:

1  6-ounce bag baby arugula leaves  

1  cup shaved red onion cut into half-moon shapes

1  cup feta cheese crumbles

8-10 tablespoons vinaigrette

4  cups 1" watermelon balls or cubes

freshly-ground peppercorn blend, for garnish

IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731 IMG_4731~Step 1.  Place the arugula, red onion and feta in a large bowl.  Add 6 tablespoons of the lemon vinaigrette.  Toss to coat these ingredients in the dressing.  Add the watermelon and the remaining 2-4 tablespoons vinaigrette.  Toss again and serve immediately*.  I mean ASAP.  Why? Arugula, like spinach, is a tender green, and will begin to wilt quickly.

IMG_4759*Note:  When I'm cutting into one of these big, long watermelons, I like to make and use "rind rings" as natural vessels to hold each portion of salad.  Simply slice the watermelon into 3" lengths, to form 3" tall discs. Cut around the inside perimeter of each disk, and gently remove the fruit from the rind.  Slice the fruit into cubes or use a melon baller to fashion round balls.  Place each "rind ring" on a flat salad-sized plate. Portion the salad into the open-bottomed salad bowls and serve.

Serve the moment this succulent salad gets tossed:

IMG_4761Lemon-Dressed Arugula, Watermelon & Feta Salad:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup vinaigrette and 2 salads.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container w/tight fitting lid and pourer top; cutting board; chef's knife; melon baller (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49029ab200dCook's Note:  My lemon-infused white-balsamic vinaigrette is great with vegetables too.  For example: lemon and asparagus go hand-in-hand.  It's a classic combination. My ~ Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Balsamic Vinaigrette ~ is another quick-to-make salad too. A salad without lettuce?  There's no law against it, and, in the case of this salad, lettuce is just in the way.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)