Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Moroccan Beef Tagine with Honey, Apricots and Butternut Squash

I recently received a gift card from ShopRite to do some holiday grocery shopping, and discovered that ShopRite had a huge selection of Kosher meats that were perfect for Passover. I picked up a cut of Kosher pot roast, that looked to be perfect for cooking for a holiday meal. I decided to use it in preparing a moroccan beef tagine, a lovely, cinnamon and fruit flavored Moroccan dish that is named after the type of pot it is traditionally cooked in. When we were in Paris last summer, I had hoped to try some of the tagines at many of Paris's Northern African restaurants but we didn't have time, and the one I had really wanted to try was closed for August vacation.  Never mind, it's actually not that hard to make at home, and you will have plenty of leftovers from this meal to avoid having to cook the next night. This would be perfect with couscous, which I left out since it's Passover now. The process for cooking the meat, as well as the high quality cut of Kosher pot roast from ShopRite that I used resulted in a very tender dish. Yum! This is perfect for just about any holiday meal, and was a big hit with my husband.

Sasha's Beef Tagine
2 lb lean pot roast or shoulder roast
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp coriander
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, diced
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
pinch of saffron threads
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried apricots, halved
2 T honey
1/4 tsp pepper
1 granny smith apple peeled and diced
1/3 cup almond slivers
2 cups chopped butternut squash

Cut the beef pot roast or shoulder roast into 1 1/2 inch cubes using a butcher's knife. Place in a bowl. Mix 1 1/2 tsp of the cinnamon with the ginger, salt, coriander and turmeric (be careful, as turmeric stains), and toss to coat the meat. Add 3 T of olive oil to your dutch oven and cook the mean until browned on all sides over high heat, for about five minutes. Add the diced onions and cook over medium heat for about three minutes, before adding the garlic and cooking for another minute. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock and saffron, and bring the mixture to a boil. I used a bottle of lovely Spanish saffron brought home from Madrid. Bring to a boil and the reduce to medium low, and cook, covered, for about an hour and a half, until cooked through and tender.

Strain out the meat/tomatoes/onion and reserve the broth. Return the broth to the pot. Add the apricots (after soaking the apricots first in hot water for half an hour). Add the butternut squash and diced apple, as well as 2 tablespoons of honey and a tablespoon of cinnamon. I have some great honey that was made by a family friend who raises his own bees and makes his own honey, so I used that. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the squash is tender (but not mushy) and the sauce thickens a bit. Then add the beef back to the dutch oven. Serve hot.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Passover Chocolate Orange Brownies

Here's a delicious Passover dessert recipe that I wanted to share with all of you folks who are struggling to keep Passover and can't do your usual baking this week. I am always quite critical of Passover baked goods, but this recipe actually turned out really good and wasn't too heavy, which is the flaw with most Passover baking experiments. I was really pleased with how these turned out and will certainly make them again next year. The orange zest added a bit of lovely orange flavor which is perfect in combination with the chocolate. Stay tuned for an upcoming roast recipe made with some of my favorite products that I got at ShopRite for the holiday as part of my participation in the Potluck blog panel.

Sasha's Passover Chocolate Orange Brownies
6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (you can weigh it out on a baker's scale if you have one, or just estimate)
1/3 cup canola oil (or 1 stick melted butter or margarine - I used canola oil which is what I recommend)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
zest of half of a large orange, freshly grated
3/4 cup finely ground matzo meal (or matzo cake meal)

Here's a bit of a money saving trick - you don't need to get all fancy and buy matzo cake meal specially to bake this recipe, as you can just put regular matzo meal in the food processor. Alternatively, you can buy finely ground matzo meal like I did, which works perfectly for both these brownies and for my signature matzo ball soup.

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch square brownie pan, or line with wax paper. Melt the chocolate and canola oil/ margarine/butter in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (you can also use a double boiler if you have one), stirring until smooth. Remove from hear and whisk to combine in full. Beat the eggs, sugar and salt in a stand mixer or handheld mixer at high speed until pale and thick, Beat in the chocolate on low speed. Stir in the matzo meal until blended, and mix in the orange zest.

Spread the batter in your prepared baking pan and bake until firm and a toothpick comes out clean, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool and slice. If you used wax paper (rather than Pam, you can just invert the brownies into a platter and slice).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Apple-Sweet Potato Matzo Kugel

Tonight, for the second night of Passover, I am sharing a new recipe that I tried out for our second night seder - an apple sweet potato matzo kugel. There's two types of kugels for passover, and egg noodle kugel like the one I made last year, and matzo kugel. This kugel was fantastic, and shows why I prefer a matzo kugel to a noodle kugel. This recipe has already been requested by one of my family members, so I am posting it right away on A Kitchen In Brooklyn. The apples, cinnamon, raisins and sweet potato give quite a bit of flavor to the matzo in this kugel.

Sasha's Apple-Sweet Potato Matzo Kugel
3 large gala apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider
5 plain matzos
6 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 T canola oil
3/4 cup raisons
2 T butter or margarine, cut into small pieces (I used butter)

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the apples, sweet potato , cider and brown sugar in a bowl and set aside.  Break up the matzo into 2-3 inch pieces, and soak in one cup of warm water until soft but not mushy. The matzo should absorb the water. Beat the eggs with a whisk, and add the salt, granulated sugar, cinnamon, canola oil and raisons. Add the matzo to the egg mixture, and add in the apple mixture. Combine the three mixtures, and add to a well greased casserole dish (a 9x4 or 10x4 casserole). Dot with the 2T of butter or margarine along the top. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the kugel from the oven and cool. Serve slightly warm.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Spring Vegetable Risotto

Spring is in the air, which means that Passover is around the corner - no leavened bread or items that can be used to make bread for eight days (or in my lazy case, six or seven). This also means no rice, grains, corn etc. But, before Passover starts tomorrow tonight, I decided to get in one more fabulous grain dish, and one that is just *oh*so*perfect* for spring, a spring vegetable risotto. Thus, this was our Sunday night dinner. Risotto is fairly simple to make and vary recipes once you get the technique down of slowly cooking the risotto while reducing the wine and chicken broth. At that point, you can pretty much add just about anything to risotto. I have made the gamut of risottos, from tomato thyme risotto to asparagus risotto to various mushroom risottos to even truffle risotto. This time, I decided to prepare a risotto that is inspired by the spring - one that uses just about ever fresh spring vegetable that I could get my hands on (plus some pattypan squash, which is more of a summer vegetable, but I couldn't resist). This turned a delicious risotto that is perfect for the springtime, and also pretty healthy as well.

Sasha's Spring Vegetable Risotto
1 1/2 cups arborio (risotto) rice
4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup thinly sliced sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
1 1/2  cups sweet peas or English peas
1 1/3 cup thinly sliced pattypan squash (stems sliced off)
1 large handfulls fresh baby spinach
8 stalks white asparagus, chopped into small pieces, bottom ends of stalk discarded
2 cloves of garlic, diced
4 T olive oil
6 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

First, prepare the vegetables to they will be read to add to the risotto at the right time. The different vegetables will take different amount of times to cook, so it is important to add them in the proper order. First, slice the sunchokes and saute over medium to medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons oil for about ten minutes. Then add the pattypan squash and saute over medium heat for another five minutes before adding the white asparagus, garlic and peas. Saute until everything is just cooked (but not overcooked and mushy) for about 5 to 10 more minutes. If you need to, you can add additional olive oil to the pan.

Meanwhile, prepare the risotto by adding the arborio rice to the remaining tow tablespoons of olive oil, cooking for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Add the white wine over medium heat and allow the wine to reduce for about five minutes, at least by half, before adding the first cup of chicken stock. Simmer over medium heat to reduce each cup of chicken stock before adding the next. You should need about three and a half to four cups in total (about one quart). Once the last cup of chicken stock is almost reduced, stir in the vegetables. Add two large handfulls of baby spinach, which will shrink a couple minutes after it is added to the pot. Continue until the chicken stock is reduced to the texture of risotto (not too runny) and then stir in the parmesan cheese (you can leave this out if you prefer ). Serve hot. Note: you can use vegetable or mushroom stock in lieu of chicken stock to make this dish vegetarian.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Tie Dye Grateful Dead Cupcakes

My first concert that I went to was in the eighth grade and it was a Grateful Dead concert at the old Rich Stadium in Buffalo, NY, only a couple years before Jerry Garcia died. I've always been a fan of both 60-/70s music, and also 90s music (which was kind of a throwback in many ways), so I'm still a big fan of the Dead. I am now digressing quite a bit from cooking, you are probably thinking. But, it was the Grateful Dead that inspired my latest cupcake design. These aren't  dancing bear cupcakes, but they are tie dye vanilla cupcakes, that were inspired by the psychedelic look of the Dead. I added a peace sign on some of them for good measure. The recipe makes a dozen, and I probably should add, that they are Grateful Dead cupcakes in look only, as they are really just vanilla cupcakes.

Sasha's Tie Dye Grateful Dead Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup skim milk
4 gel food coloring colors in pink, green blue and yellow

Sasha's Vanilla Buttercream
1 1/2 sticks of butter
1 small box confectioner's sugar
2 T of heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
drop of pink food coloring

To make the cupcakes, beat the butter and sugar in the basin of the mixer on high until blended, about three minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and alternate adding the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) with the milk. Divide the batter into four bowls and color each deeply with the food coloring. Fill each cupcake liner with a little under a tablespoon of each color, layered on top, and swirl gently using a toothpick. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes (this varies from oven to oven) until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To frost the cupcakes, beat the butter and confectioners sugar, with the cream until smooth (you really can't beat it too long). Then add food coloring and vanilla. Frost using a frosting bag with a flared tip. The peace sign, I drew on top using a tube of sparkly Wilton food coloring.

I leave you with the music to one of my favorite Grateful Dead songs, China Cat Sunflower.
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