Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce!

Alright, I've been making tomato sauce for years and years and years.  And for a long time, I figured the more ingredients the better, right?   So, sauce with balsamic, and/or carrots, and/or brown sugar, tons of spices, fresh and/or dried, mushrooms occasionally, real tomatoes, canned tomatoes, different kinds of onions, etc. etc. etc.   The more the better right? ................ Wrong, apparently. Not that tomato sauce with a lot of ingredients isn't good, it's just that, sometimes, less is MORE.

I came across an article regarding Marcella Hazan, and her recipe for Tomato Sauce.   Ahem, only three ingredients. Yes, THREE!

What can I tell you. The sauce is amazing!  Bright, and vibrant, and tangy and absolutely delicious. Something about the butter gives the tomato sauce a "mouth feel" that is indulgent. The onion adds just a hint of depth and the tomatoes just are uncluttered by anything else. It tastes like a fresh tomato, I don't know how to describe it. I love this sauce. (I admit I did add some fresh basil, but old habits die hard).

Next up for me is this sauce and my homemade meatballs.

Please give it a try. I bet you are as astounded as I was.

Ingredients and Method:

1 28 oz canned whole or diced tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
1 onion, quartered
1 stick of butter
salt, to taste

Yup, that's it!

Place tomatoes in a large saucepan. Cut up tomatoes if using whole ones. Add the butter. Peel and quarter the onion and place in sauce.

Heat over medium heat until it begins to bubble and then lower heat slightly and let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard onions (or eat separately if you'd like). Taste and add salt if needed. (You may not need it if you used salted butter)

Ladle sauce onto pasta of your choice and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan or even better, Parmesan Reggiano cheese.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Project Food Blog

As some of you know, I'm affiliated with Food Buzz, an online Food Blog Community.

They have initiated a competition for their bloggers called the Project Food Blog and I decided to participate.

It's a 10 step process called Challenges that range from preparing a classic meal to photography, to video, to creating recipes from given ingredients and others.

I decided to enter it because it promises to stretch my blogging talents and force me out of my comfort zone. I welcome the challenge and the opportunity to learn more.

One of the things I pride myself on is publishing recipes that are tried and true. I want them to be foolproof so that you can depend on my blog as a reliable source to supplement you cooking and baking. I also enjoy researching and finding foods I haven't made before, perfecting them, and offering them to you so you can experience them with me.

Anyway, part of the judging is done by YOUR VOTES, so I would appreciate you taking a moment to vote for me and allow me to continue in the challenge. Here's the link to vote: Vote for the Merlin Menu

Or click on the badge on the left hand side of this page.  Thank you for your consideration.

I'll do my best.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guinness Stout Ginger Cake

One of the things I made over the weekend was Guinness Slow Cooker Pot Roast which will be posted in about a week. Since I had some Guinness left over I decided to make a recipe which has been in my archives forever, Guinness Stout Ginger Cake which originated from FOODday of the Oregonian.

Now, I almost never try recipes printed in a newspaper because I've had such horrible luck with them. Ask me to tell you the Mustard Crusted Turkey I made one Thanksgiving.

Anyway, I simply love anything ginger and I read and re-read this recipe and based upon the ingredients, I just couldn't see how it could be anything but delicious.

It was. It was. It was. WOW. Some folks at work, who regularly get to taste my food proclaimed it one of the best I've brought in to them to try.

If you like sweet, tons of frosting, cake with little body, this cake isn't for you.

This one is deep, dark, pungent, with a complex mix of flavors that just linger and make you want more.  Trust me on this. Finally, a newspaper recipe I love.

Ingredients and Method:
1 cup molasses
1 cup Guinness Stout
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
3 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1/ 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons ground ginger (yes, two tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
confectioners sugar for finishing

In a pan, add molasses, stout and slowly bring to a boil. Add the baking soda and immediately turn heat off. It will bubble and roil, just stir, and let settle for a few minutes until cool.

In a mixer bowl or bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until well blended. Add oil and mix thoroughly.

Add the molasses/stout mixture slowly into the eggs while beating.
Add the flour a cup at a time, incorporating fully each time. Add all the spices and baking powder and beat thoroughly. The batter will be a bit thin, that's ok.

Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Use a toothpick to check if it's completely baked.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Dust with confectioner's sugar.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lemon Chicken

Over the years I've always enjoyed cooking a variety of ethnic dishes. One of my favorites is Chinese Food.
I got the urge to do some more Chinese cooking and decided to go to a Restaurant Sales Store and buy an authentic Wok. And did so.

First two dishes were fried rice and a lemon chicken dish. I'm so glad I did, they were delicious. I love fried rice because of the wide variety of items you can add to it. Not all combinations work, but this one did. That being said, see my note at the bottom of this post.

One key to the lemon chicken was to cut the chicken into pieces and let it marinade in soy sauce and sesame oil for 24 hours. The marinade completely saturated the chicken, and when cooked and eaten, the chicken was bursting with that delicious taste combination. Lastly, the lemon sauce had that perfect balance of lightly lemony taste, and a not overly thick sauce. (Adapted from Appetite for China)

You can make these dishes in a large cast iron skillet as I have for years, but it's easier, and more fun with a wok.

Ingredients and Method:
2 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup oil (I use Canola or Peanut)
Sesame seeds for garnish

4 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Lemon Sauce:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon yields 3 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

chopped green onion for garnish

Rinse and dry chicken breasts and cut into 1 inch cubes. Place in bowl and add soy sauce and sesame oil, cover and marinate for at least 8 hours and preferable 24 hours. Stir every few hours to ensure all pieces are marinated evenly.

Blend cornstarch and pepper in a bowl, and dredge chicken directly from the marinade in the cornstarch. Cover completely and place on plate. Continue with remaining chicken.

Add oil to wok or large sauce pan and heat to 360 degrees. Add chicken to oil (8 - 10 pieces at a time, don't crowd) and fry 2 1/2 minutes, turn the chicken over, and fry an additional 2 1/2 minutes. Remove chicken and let drain on paper towels. Let oil return to 360 degrees before cooking additional chicken.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok or pan, add ginger and garlic and sauté briefly, approximately 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, chicken stock and sugar. Heat on medium until sugar is dissolved and then add corn starch and water. Stir until sauce thickens slightly.

Place chicken on plate and drizzle with lemon sauce. Sprinkle with sliced scallions. Serve with white rice.

(Note on rice. I served it with delicious fried rice, but as my dinner guest commented, the flavors in the fried rice competed with the subtle lemon taste of the chicken, and I agree, so I suggest white rice for that reason)


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Grilled Balsamic Peaches with Parmesan

I know it doesn't look that good, but man, these need to be a go-to side dish for you when grilling.

Here's one of my summer efforts that I forgot to post, so I shall now.

I'm always on the lookout for grilled side dishes during the summer and based upon the balsamic grilled tomatoes (link here) I love to make I decided to have a go with peaches.

Oh these were so good. I actually ate one and a half of them before my dinner was even ready. The other thing is, even if the peaches aren't the best, or not quite ripe, because you are grilling them it will make little difference to the final product. They are deliciously sweet, with the tang of balsamic and what really sets it apart I think is, I sprinkled the top with the saltiness of parmesan cheese. The combination of sweet, salty parmesan, and tart balsamic was tremendous.

And, should you happen to try a bite of this along with a bite of your grilled steak which is topped with my award winning sauce?  Then you are living the Merlin Menu best meal I got to offer. (just joking, I got others, but this one is GOOD!)

Do give it a try if you would and let me know what you think.

Ingredients and Method:
2 ripe or close to ripe peaches
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Cut peaches carefully in half around the pit and remove. If the pit is hard to remove, leave it in as you
don't want to crush the peach trying to remove it.

Slash the cut side of the peach diagonally a few times (or cut around the pit if it is still in) and slowly
sprinkle with balsamic so it permeates the slits in the peach.

Place on tinfoil or small pan directly onto a hot grill and grill about 5 minutes until it is very soft.

Remove (it will be very soft so be careful), remove pit now if you left it in, slice each piece in half again,  and  sprinkle with Parmesan and serve immediately.