Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Simple Tomato Sauce

I have to admit that my attention has been rather scattered lately. I was working like mad in November and December, with barely time to breathe ... then I took some planned time off. Then some un-planned time. Then I decided to re-arrange my pantry and kitchen.

And now there are things hanging in various states of completion. Every once in a while, I think, gee, I need to use that stuff in a recipe. Or I'm putting a gadget away and I think, "I ought to review this."

Or I re-arrange some random stuff and a cookbook called  Dairy Made Easy falls out of the middle of the pile.


There was a bookmark sticking out. I vaguely remembered wanting to try the recipe, but for the life of me, I don't recall where I got the book. It might have come from the publisher, but maybe I bought it. Maybe someone gave it to me. Maybe it ... spontaneously transported itself to my "to-do" pile.

In any case, I decided that since I had bookmarked that particular recipe, I might as well make it right away. I mean, I had almost all of the ingredients, and I had a good substitute for the one I didn't have.

While the title, Dairy Made Easy, sounds like it might be a book about dairy products, it's actually about cooking kosher - and in this case, dairy-containing dishes rather than meat-containing dishes. But you don't need to be keeping kosher for this book to be appealing - it's great for meatless meals any old time.

And let's face it, there are plenty of dishes we serve that are naturally meatless. Or that are side dishes to meat. Because if you're not keeping kosher, you could do that, too.

The dish I chose was a simple tomato sauce for pasta, with richness from butter rather than meat.

This was a really fast sauce - done in the time it took to boil the water and cook the pasta - and it's a blank canvas for adding other flavors. Next time, I might add fresh basil at the end. Or dried oregano at the beginning.

Instead of the garlic cloves (I used my last cloves for another recipe) I used Mezzetta Garlic Spread. I used my last couple cloves of garlic for another recipe, and didn't want to use garlic powder. The Mezzetta spread is milder than fresh garlic, but it's still got good garlic flavor.

Classic Spaghetti with Buttery Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Dairy Made Easy by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek

1 pound dry spaghetti
5 tablespoons butter, divived
2 garlic cloves crushed (I used a garlic spread)
2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
Pinch of sugar
Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling (optional)

Start the water boiling for the pasta and cook it while you're working on the sauce

Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a saute pan and add the garlic and cook for a minute to soften it, stirring constantly. You don't want it to brown because the next step is burning, so if it starts browning, take it off the heat..

Add the tomatoes and salt and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring as needed.

Add the the tomato sauce and sugar. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring once in a while.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine.

Serve hot, Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Red Cabbage Slaw

I'm pretty sure than if you were blindfolded, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between standard green cabbage and its more colorful relative - red cabbage.

Or, really, it's purple. And while we're talking about colors, some people refer to green cabbage as white cabbage.

But I digress.

While green cabbage and red cabbage taste pretty much the same, they're often used in their own specific recipes - green cabbage ends up in cole slaw, sauerkraut, and stuffed cabbage, while red cabbage is often used for a braised sweet-sour recipe that shows up as a German side dish, right next to the spaetzle.

While I like cole slaw, sometimes I switch things up and use red cabbage, just because the color is so stunning. Chances are, there's nothing else on the table that color, while green and white are pretty common food colors.

The little secret ingredient in this slaw is the horseradish - it gives the slaw a little bit of a kick - but it's subtle. The slaw shouldn't be spicy - it should just be less-than-bland.

Commercial prepared horseradish varies in strength, so feel free to adjust as needed. Start small and add more, after you taste it.

Red Cabbage Slaw

1/2 medium head red cabbage
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise

Cut the cabbage as desired  some folks like thin shreds while other prefer a chopped slaw. Place in a large bowl.

Add the cider vinegar, salt, sugar, and horseradish. Stir to combine. Set aside at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally. The cabbage will lose liquid and soften just a little.

Drain the liquid from the slaw and add the yogurt and mayonnaise. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you prefer a creamier slaw, add more yogurt and/or mayonnaise.

You can serve immediately, or refrigerate until needed. The dressing will be white when first mixed, but it will turn pink/purple as it sits.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Grilled Barbecue and Ham Pizza #Evergriller #sponsored

When I was growing up in the Chicago area, winters meant snow, mittens, freezing cold, and hibernation. When I moved to the Denver(ish) area of Colorado, I found out that winter doesn't necessarily mean "white." It snows here, but most often in the spring than in the dead of winter.

And of course it gets cold, but not as bitter as Chicago winters. And when it's sunny - which it often is - it can be pretty pleasant outside. Not shorts and flip-flops pleasant, but pleasant enough to do some grilling without turning into an icicle.

Yup, if you've got a yen for grilling, the smart thing to do is pick a sunny day, and, well, grill in the sunshine. If you wait until after dark, it feels a lot chillier.

When I got an offer through Clever Girls to work with Kraft on an outdoor, out-of-season grilling recipe, I figured it would be a no-brainer. I love barbecue sauce, and the grill was waiting. They sent along some of their revamped barbecue sauce (which they said features high-quality ingredients like tomatoes, sweet molasses, cider vinegar and cane sugar. And  NO high fructose corn syrup).

I received the Original, Hickory Smoke, and Sweet Honey; the other flavors are Mesquite Smoke (oooh, I need to try that!), Sweet Brown Sugar, Sweet & Spicy, Spicy Honey, and Thick & Spicy.

Besides the sauce, they sent some grilling gear, including an ingenious mitt called the Evergriller Grill 'N' Flip Mitt that has a pocket-like mouth on the front end, so you can insert the handle of your chosen barbecue tool and grab onto it while keeping your hand safe from both the heat of the grill and the chill of winter air. And from the chill of the barbecue tool, if you left it outside in a snowbank, I guess.

Armed with sauce and swag, I tried to decide what to make.

For inspiration, I opened the Hickory Smoke sauce first, because I was curious if I'd like it or not. A lot of hickory-flavored sauces taste fake to me, but this one was pretty darned good. As in, I'll probably buy a whole lot more of it.

I slathered the sauce on chicken wings and baked it onto chicken thighs - got to do some quality control tests, right? I was thinking about buying some ribs for the official test and post, but I thought ribs might be way too simple.

I wanted to do something different. Creative.

Then the idea hit me. Pizza. But not just any pizza. Pizza with HAM.

The idea of combining ham with barbecue sauce came from a sandwich served one of my favorite places in Chicago that served a barbecue ham sandwich. I know it's not traditional, but it's really good.

And I figured that pizza would be a perfect vehicle for my barbecue sauce and ham, because it gave me an excuse to add some melty cheese.

For my crust, I used a flour tortilla, to make a super-thin-super-crunchy crust. I used the smallest ones - labeled "fajita" size - about 5 1/2 inches in diameter. While you could use a larger tortilla for larger pizzas - the burrito size are pretty big - the smaller ones are easier to handle, and you can customize the toppings, if you like. And since these are small, two of them make a nice serving size.

The key to these little pizzas is to prep the tortillas ahead of time, cooking and flipping them on the grill until they've become somewhat crisp. That can be done ahead of time, and then the pizzas can be topped and finished as needed.

Grilled Barbecue and Ham Pizza

For each pizza:
1 flour tortilla, about 5 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon Kraft Hickory Smoke barbecue sauce
1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) shredded cheese (I used the Kraft Mexican four-cheese blend)
1/2 of a slice of deli ham, torn or sliced

Figure out how many pizzas you're going to need and multiply the ingredients accordingly. You can adjust quantities to taste, but I thought this ratio worked well. Extra tortillas won't go to waste, if you grill them until they're crisp. You can break them up to make crackers, or save them for another day of pizza-making.

Make sure you've got the grill set up with direct heat to pre-cook the tortillas, and indirect heat for finishing the pizzas.

Over direct heat on your grill, cook the tortillas, flipping them regularly so they cook and get grill marks, but they don't burn.

The tortillas are done when you can pick one up and it's rigid rather than floppy. They don't need to be completely solid - just rigid enough to hold their shape.

Remove the tortillas from the grill (if it's freakishly cold out, bring the finished tortillas indoors to prep them.Spread the barbecue sauce on top of each one, almost to the edge. Top with ham and cheese.

Place the pizzas back on the grill over indirect heat and close the lid. Let them cook until the cheese has melted and the ham has warmed - this takes just a minute or two, depending on your grill.

These are nice served with a green salad, but if you want to offer additional toppings on the pizzas themselves, then diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and pickled jalapeno peppers would work well.

About that MITT:

If you're interested in winning your very own Evergriller Grill ‘N’ Flip Mitt, along with a year’s supply of Kraft Barbecue Sauce, go to GrillinFools.com between now and January 30. The winner will be randomly selected at the close of the giveaway.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and provided product samples by Kraft Foods, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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