Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen:Manicotti with Arrabbiata Sauce

Pasta dishes make great delicious meals - I was initially going to make stuffed shells using an Arrabbiata pasta sauce, but I couldn't track down jumbo stuffed shells, thus I bought some manicotti noodles instead. This is a healthy pasta dish as well, since I used part skim milk ricotta and part skim milk mozzarella. It is important for a dish like this to use shredded mozzarella, and not the lovely homemade rounds of mozzarella that are so good to eat in other dishes. The flavors here were excellent - and the sauce, which I have refined a bit since I posted my blog post on spagetti all'arrabbiata is a winner. This was a great new pasta dish, and one that I will certainly make again.

Sasha's Manicotti Arrabbiata
1 box of manicotti
3 T olive oil
1 15oz container part-skim milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (part skim)
3 cans stewed tomatoes (15oz cans)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1 pureed roasted red pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (add more if desired to taste)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

To make this dish, lightly oil a 12 by 9 inch lasagna pan. Set aside. Cook the box of manicotti according to the package instructions, or about 4 to 6 minutes, in salted boiling water. They should be slightly firm when done, so be careful not to overcook them, as they will continue cooking later when you bake the dish in the oven. Drain the manicotti.

To prepare the sauce, saute the onions and garlic in the canola oil until they shimmer, about 5 minutes. Then add the pureed red pepper, and mix well. Add the stewed tomatoes and desired amount of red pepper flakes for some heat, and simmer until the sauce has the right consistency. Stir in the panko towards the end.

In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, egg yolks, parsley, mint, salt and pepper. Fill the manicotti with the cheese mixture, being careful not to tear the manicotti. Arrange the manicotti in the pan and cover with about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of the Arrabbiata sauce. Sprinkle with the mozzarella and bake for about 30 minutes at 350.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Potato Risotto

I haven't had the chance to post yet this week, as I have been busy with my pre-birthday festivities with my husband. But I have plenty of new recipes that I just need the time to write up. This recipe is one that I found on Epicurious. I had bought medallions of petit filet from Fresh Direct because they looked good and were a lot less expensive than Filet Mignon, so certainly worth a try. I was doing some research on the best way to prepare them and came across a recipe for beef tenderloin medallions with a potato risotto and I was intrigued.  I love traditional risottos and thought that making a risotto style dish using potatoes instead of rice/pasta would be a fun and delicious variation. So I decided to give it a try. I seasoned the meat much differently than in the original recipe, so I am including my variations in the write-up below. The original recipe is here, and is from a February 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.

Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Potato Risotto
1 T butter or olive oil
2 cup finely chopped onion
1 lb mini Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely diced chives
4 6 oz beef tenderloin steaks
thyme, salt, pepper, rosemary and oregano for seasoning the meat

Melt the butter (or olive oil) in a large sauce pan and add the onion. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, for about seven minutes. Add the potato cubes and the pinch of cayenne, while seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium until the potatoes are almost tender. Add more chicken broth if needed, if the potatoes are too dry. Don't add extra though, or you run the risk of over-mushing the potatoes in the risotto. It is a delicate balance! Simmer for about 10 minutes, and then add the cream. Simmer until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape, stirring often, for about ten minutes. Stir in the chives and parmesan cheese. This can be made ahead of time.

For the medallions, season the steaks with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and oregano to taste. Heat some olive oil in your grill pan and cook the steaks until done over medium heat, adding more oil if necessary.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Designer Handbag Cupcakes

Next up in my cupcake series (this might be my last for a bit, as we are going on vacation over the holidays somewhere warm), I decided to do handbag cupcakes. I had thought about this for awhile, and had always considered making small handbags out of fondant or gum paste. However, I wanted to make these a bit more taste-friendly (I always take off the fondant to eat the cupcakes), so instead I decided to make each cupcake look like the front of a designer purse. I had initially planned on using either pipe cleaners or red shoestring licorice to create a handle as well, but couldn't find either in a pinch. I didn't really matter - I think they came out great. I bought some fine tips for my pastry bag so that I could pipe out the icing colors that I made to get detail on the handbags, and I used a tube for the black and red (all the other colors are homemade). And the cupcakes? They are delicious - I made chocolate peanut butter cupcakes with two kinds of frosting - chocolate and plain buttercream (which I dyed every color imaginable with my Ateco  gel food colorings). I will share the recipe below, but first, the cupcakes:

First, I did a couple of different Louis Vuitton styles (also pictured at the top).

Next I did a couple of Chanel cupcakes, which were pretty simple:

The Gucci ones were my favorites:

I did a colorful Birkin bag

And I also did a couple of Fendi ones too:

And now for the recipe - Its from my favorite cupcake book, Julie Hasson's 125 Best Cupcakes, with my own frosting recipes.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes (I did 1.5x the recipe below)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk (I used skim)

First, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In the basin of your electric stand mixer, beat the sugars with the butter until smooth and combined, on high for about five minutes. Beat in the peanut butter until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then alternatively add and beat in the dry ingredients and the milk. Scoop batter into lined silicon cupcake molds (about 3/4 to the top) and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean when you test them.

For my frostings: The chocolate frosting: 1 stick butter, 2 cups confectioner's sugar, 1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa, 1/4 cup heavy cream

Buttercream frosting: 1 stick butter, 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, 2 T heavy cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

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