Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Broccoli Rabe with Sausage and Orrechiette

These "little ears" don't do any listening at all . . . they just sit quietly and lap up all the spice of the sausage and the gentle bite of the broccoli rabe in this dish.  The way that Italians named pasta is so intriguing, isn't it?  Orecchiettte is such a pretty sounding word.  (One of these days, I'm going to buy Rosetta Stone and learn Italian; I'll have to if I'm ever going to get there.)

Even though the word means "little ears," to me they kind of look like the helmets American  soldiers wore in World War I.  (I have World War I on the brain, because I'm getting ready to teach "All Quiet on the Western Front" to high school sophomores.  Did I hear you say, "Good luck with that."?)

Whatever they're called, or whatever they look like, they are the perfect vehicle for this cargo of sausage and greens.  A shake of crushed red pepper, a bit of Parmesan cheese and dinner's ready.   Whenever I find this pasta, I sock it away in the pantry.  And whenever I find broccoli rabe (sometimes called rapini) at the market, I buy it -- and I make this.  Fresh and fast for a weeknight meal.

There are a lot of ways to prepare this dish, which is pretty traditional.  I prefer to dunk the rabe in a pot of boiling salted water and then shocking it in ice water.  A bit of hassle that's worth it.  (Thanks for teaching me that, Lynn.)

Make this orecchiette and listen for the kudos

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons salt
2 bunches broccoli rabe (about 1 pound)
8 ounces orrecchiette
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage
2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
crushed red pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli rabe.  Cook the greens briefly, just a minute or two.  Remove with tongs to a large container filled with ice water. Swish around for a minute or two and remove to a colander.  Chop into about two inch pieces.

Bring the same water to a oil and add the pasta.  Cook for about 8 minutes and drain, but reserve some of the pasta water.

Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat, breaking it up as you go.  Reduce the heat and add the broccoli rabe and saute together for a minute.  Add the pasta and combine.  Add pasta water, if needed.  Stir in the cheese, sprinkle with the pepper and serve.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maple Bacon Marshmallows from "Marshmallow Madness"

Photo by Leigh Beisch

I fell in love today, of all days, with marshmallows, of all things. To be quite honest, I was never a fan of marshmallows. No s'more fan here.  But then I got this book -- Marshmallow Madness, by Shauna Sever, from Quirk Books and I'm a believer.

Even though my fear of confection-making ranks right up there with all things yeast, the book quickly reeled me in, with everything from the feel of the book cover (It's puffy!) to the lip-smacking pictures, especially of the one I chose to make -- Maple Bacon Marshmallows -- to the very thorough step-by-step directions.  

After I got over the initial  "What?!?!?  You can make marshmallows -- at home?"  I evolved into "Well, I do have everything I need" and capped it with "Let's go!"

I read the recipe several times.  I read and reread the basics of marshmallow making. I declared myself on a mission to conquer confection.  I gathered my equipment.  Tested my candy thermometer (and blessed my hoarding self for keeping it all these years.)  I candied the bacon.  (Delicious on its own, of course.)  I mixed the coating.  I got out the ingredients  and  -- poof! -- in under an hour, I had indeed made marshmallows!  Me!  Whodathunkit?

It was a bit of a sticky mess and it took paying attention to detail but it was fun to do and the results were worth it.  These marshmallows aren't like the commercial kind at all -- all that my limited exposure knows.  They're light and airy but they have a bit of texture that really makes them seem like fairy food, not fairy fluff. 

And the flavor of maple  and bacon and cinnamon together? Heaven.  Just like your favorite breakfast in a mouth sized portion.  I've always loved the mix of sweet and savory and although this leans more toward sweet, the bacon saves it (for me) from a sugar overdose.

Now that I have this success under my belt, I just may have to branch out and explore more of the book:  Sea Salt Caramel Swirls would be pretty close to these and so would Salted Peanut ones.  Pineapple Rosemary?  Maybe.  Margarita Marshmallows.  Very intriguing.  Chocolate Malt.  Mango-Chile-Lime.   A lot of choices.  Of course, there's also Strawberry and Vanilla.  And great ideas for decorating and making desserts with your marshmallows. There's a lot of inspiration in this book.  

And although I don't think these will quite cut it this summer when the grandsons want to roast marshmallows by the fire, I'm still pretty tickled.  

Props to Shauna Sever, who blogs at Piece of Cake, for creating such delectable concoctions and for providing such clear step-by-steps.  And the photography from Leigh Beisch is simply outstanding.  And thanks to Quirk Books for the review copy.  The enthusiasm for the book is  my own, and genuine.

Maple Bacon Marshmallows
from Marshmallow Madness
makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2 inch marshmallows
4 1/2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup Grade A dark or Grade B maple syrup
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped candied bacon*
1/2 cup Classic Coating**

(Before anything, check all your equipment, especially your candy thermometer, and make the Candied Bacon and the Classic Coating.  Then you can get started.)

Lightly coat an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together the gelatin and cold water in a bowl and let soften.
Stir together the sugar, ample syrup, corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until it hits 240 degrees F.  (Be prepared to lower the heat as need -- this syrup has a tendency to bubble up.) Microwave the gelatin on high until completely melted, about 30 seconds.  Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Set the mixer to low and keep it running till you're ready to add the syrup.
When the syrup has reached 240 degrees F., slowly pour it into the mixer owl.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.  Increase to medium high and beat for 3 more minutes.  Add the cinnamon, increase to the highest speed. and beat for 1 minute more.  Quickly fold in the bacon bits.  Pour into the prepared pan.  Sift coating over top.  Let it set in a cool dry place for 6 hours.  
Use a knife to loosed the marshmallow from the edges of the pan.  Invert the slab onto a work surface. Cut into piece and dust again with more coating. Eat 'em up!

*To make candied bacon, lay 6 or 7 slices on a wire rack set over a sheet pan lined with foil.  Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.  Rub over both sides of bacon.  Bake at 350 degrees F until deeply caramelized, 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool before chopping into bits.

**Classic Coating: Sift 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar with 1 cup corn or potato starch.  (Store extra tightly covered.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Just Crazy Good Brussels Sprouts

I'm really impressed with the PR firm Brussels sprouts hired.   Once upon a time, Brussels sprouts were on the very lowest rung of veggies to celebrate   From little kids to wizened curmudgeons, all noses were turned up against them.   

Now they've earned their rightful place as a star ingredient in the cook's repertoire.  Look at all the places they're sprouting up  - - here and here and here.

I haven't always loved sprouts.  Growing up, all I recall were mushy balls of green stuff that didn't smell too appetizing.  It wasn't until I cooked them fresh did I fall in love with them.  These days (and I'm lucky Mr. Rosemary agrees with me) they show up on our plates at least every other week.  
And I often choose to bring them to family gatherings.  I was a little nervous the first time I did, because (of course) I ever heard anyone crave them the way they do Liz's sweet potatoes.   One Easter, I brought a creamy gratin of sprouts and -- much to my surprise -- learned that there were lots of sprouts lovers.  Then again, what's not to love about cheese and cream?

Then last Christmas time, I volunteered to take this sprouts dish to my sister's house.  Once again, rave reviews!  Who's going to argue with that!

I found this recipe from blogger Emily at Five and Spice, whose over-the-top description made me want to run to the store, then the kitchen and whip these babies up.  They are very, very easy and very, very tasty.  Just a little caramelizing from the molasses makes them look like little pieces of mahogany and taste like nutty candy.

I often roast the sprouts, but I think I've been convinced that this is my new preferred way to cook them. Crazy.

Aren't you glad Brussels sprouts have come out of the closet?

Crazy Good Brussels Sprouts

1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoons molasses

In a very large skillet, heat butter and oil over medium high heat until butter is bubbling.  Add sprouts, cut side down.  Leave alone to cook – without any stirring – for several minutes until the cut undersides get a brown crust.  Then, quickly flip them all over.  Sprinkle with salt, add garlic and continue to cook for another couple of minutes. Add the molasses and two tablespoons of water.  Turn heat down to medium and cook stirring frequently to coat all sides.  Cook for a few more minutes or until tender to your taste.