Thursday, May 26, 2016

Serrano Ham and Leek Gratin

     Dear Daughter looked a little skeptical last night when I told her what was for dinner.  Fortunately, she dug right in and loved it.  Unfortunately, she dug in before any pictures were taken.  What I can say is that there were no leftovers to savor today for lunch.

     This is so easy and really, really decadent.  For some reason, it was nice to have a  bit of comfort food during this busy Spring.

Serrano Ham and Leek Gratin

3T butter
3T flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
5 oz Serrano ham coarsely sliced
4 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 clove garlic, halved

1.  In a skillet, heat 1T butter over medium heat.  Add the leeks and a bit of salt and pepper.  Cook until translucent, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

2.  In a pot, melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat.  Add the flour, stir to combine and cook for one minute. Slowly whisk in the milk.  Reduce heat to low and continue to whisk to get a creamy consistency.  If need be, add a bit more milk.  I think that I ended up using another 1/4 cup.  You want a very creamy consistency.  Once you achieve this, season and add a pinch of nutmeg.  Set aside.

3.  Rub the cut side of the garlic inside a gratin dish.  Add the leeks.  Cover with the slices of Serrano ham.  Then pour the béchamel sauce over the top making sure it covers the entire dish.  Sprinkle on the cheese.

4.  Broil until bubbly and a little brown on top.  Serve with a simple green salad.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce

     It is nice to be surprised.  Earlier this week, I was scrolling through Twitter and I noticed an article posted by one of my favorite bloggers,  This site is run by a Canadian couple, who relocated to Brussels, decided to roam around Europe in a camper but when a family member became sick, they returned to Canada.  The topic of the article seemed familiar to me and when I clicked on it, there was one of my previous guest blogposts.  Nice to relive the memory.

     Then yesterday, while at work (I was taking a break!), I clicked on, a new site created by Stars and Stripes in Europe.  As I roamed around both the travel and food sections, I noticed that several articles seemed familiar.  I clicked on them...and there was my byline. Wow!  I relived lots of memories yesterday.

     Surprise #3 came this morning.  I had ventured into the Strip District to do a bit of food shopping. I didn't have a lot of time but, then again, I didn't need a lot of time.  While in one of my favorite stores, I ordered a half pound of Spanish Iberico Jamon, which is perfect for a Spanish breakfast.  The young man sliced the ham for my order and then declared that he was giving me the remainder of the leg as it was close to the end.  I ended up with 6 ounces of additional ham, and at $50 a pound, I felt like I had just won the jackpot!

     So surprises can help the psyche, I think.  This dish is another surprise.  It is extremely easy to make and tastes even better several days later.  I love that many of the spices in the meatballs are also in the sauce. I made this on Sunday and served it last night alongside sautéed spinach and slices of fresh pita bread.

Lamb Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Sauce
By Sam Sifton, NY Times


For the Meatballs
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
pinch red pepper flakes
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 lbs gound lamb
salt and pepper
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 c chopped parsley

For the Sauce
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3T olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
red pepper flakes to taste
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
1/2 t ground cumin
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 t white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
salt and pepper

4 ounces feta, crumbled
2 t sliced mint leaves

1.  Preheat broiler.  In a large bowl, mix together the onion, cream, egg yolks, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper and cayenne.  Put the lamb in the bowl, and season aggressively with salt and pepper.  Add the bread crumbs and parsley and combine the mixture well.  Shape the meat into balls that are a little larger than golf balls.

2.  Grease a baking pan with olive oil, and put the meatballs onto it, spaced evenly. Place under a broiler and cook, turning once or twice, until the meatballs are well browned, approximately 5 to 7 minutes, then set meatballs aside.  Reduce heat to 400.

3.  Make the sauce.  Whizz the tomatoes quickly through a food processor.  Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat for a minute, then add olive oil, rosemary and red pepper.  Shake to combine.  Cook another minute, then add onion, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and bay leaf and sauce until onions are translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Add tomatoes, sugar, orange juice and salt and pepper.

4.  Cook for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until reduced by a third.  Adjust seasoning.

5.  Pour tomato sauce into a baking dish.  Transfer the meatballs to the sauce.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the meatballs are cooked through.

6.  Top with crumbled feta and scattered mint.  Serve with sautéed spinach and warmed pita.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pizza Lunch: White Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula

It has been a while.  I have missed writing but at the same time, I am having a block...a sort of writer's funk.  Yesterday, I had a fleeting thought..."Perhaps, I could write tomorrow."  And so, I did.  I started a new article this afternoon, which I hope will get picked up some publication.  I did a workout just after dropping Dear Daughter off at school.  I have been doing simple walks early in the morning and following that up with more demanding walks in the afternoon followed by some weight training.  It seems that the older I get, the harder it is to lose...even with how careful I am.  After my workout, I planted my container garden, which was another workout in itself.  Given that we do not have a place in our yard for a proper garden, I decided that this year, I would try to have a container garden.

In Europe, it was one of my greatest joys...having a proper vegetable garden in the summer.  I was fairly successful except for the elusive tomato.  I have never been able to grow a tomato.  Maybe this year will be different.  So with a combination of well-established and my own seedlings, I planted my garden this morning.  

It doesn't look like much but I have some long boxes filled with lettuces, radishes and green onions.  Several tomato and pepper plants are in their own round containers along with some container cucumber and zucchini plants.  I even found Brussels sprouts seedlings yesterday and could not resist.  In the corner, you will see a very large leafed plant.  We are not really sure what you call them in French or English...only that this was one of our favorite plants in France and we have been bringing seeds back for over a decade...only to have no success in raising them. Finally, Dear Husband has been able to cultivate two.  It will be interesting to see how they develop over the summer.  We handle them as though they were babies.

With planting completed, it was nearly time for lunch.  I know that I have written about my favorite pizza before and that I have even shared its recipe.  It seemed a bit extravagant for lunch but who cares...  I recently found a pretty good, thin pizza crust which comes in a snack size.  The crust is only 150 calories...not much more than two pieces of bread for a sandwich.  While I love sandwiches, this was way better.

Whenever I have pizza out, I always look for this pizza.  While every pizzeria in Germany and Belgium had this pizza, here in Pittsburgh, it can be difficult to find.  Perhaps another article in the future will be...  Who had the best Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza?  So far, I have had it a Piccolo Forno, Della Terra Italian Bistro, and Il Pizzaiolo.  

I have found these crusts in both the Strip District and at Giant Eagle.  These snack-sized ones are about the size of a salad plate...perfect for a light lunch.  I lightly coated the top of the crust with a bit of chili oil just to give it a bit of a pop. Over the top, I layered two types of mozzarella.  The pizza stone was heating in the oven at a temp of 425F.  I slid the pizza into the oven for about 5-7 minutes. 

When the pizza was browned around the crust, I took it out and quickly added some slices of prosciutto and a handful of super peppery arugula.  I drizzled a bit of balsamic glaze over the top and Voila...White Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula...and this blogspot!  I just may be back...