Borscht

Eat your beets.

That's a very full pot!

I don’t think I’ll give this recipe a ton of introduction. I’ll just say that I really like beets and have been cooking with them quite a bit in the last year. I made this stew recently, a huge vat of it, and it provided Brandon and me with nearly a full week of food. It’s hearty and vegetable-y and flavorful. Admittedly, it’s probably a far better cold weather dish than a bagizzillion degree weather dish. But hey. Beets are in season. Why wait around?

This recipe is a fusion of this beet and cabbage stew recipe that I originally intended to make, this vegetarian borscht recipe that I tracked down once I realized the first recipe called for zero spices, and my general beet know-how.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 large beets
  • 2 lbs stew meat, cubed
  • 2 24 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cabbage
  • 6 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 6 celery stalks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 1 Tbs ground tumeric
  • 1 Tbs ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 lemons (or to taste)
  • ½ sugar (or to taste)

Instructions

  • Let’s start with those beets. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Chop off the stalks and save the greens for another use. Place each beet on a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and wrap tightly in the foil. Set the foil/beets packets in a baking dish and bake until the beets are easily pierced with a fork. For the larger beets, this will take some time, probably around 90 minutes, maybe more. Just check on them periodically. It’s better to let them go a little longer than to take them out too soon, as they get significantly easier to peel the more tender they are. Once they’re good and fork-pierce-able, take them out of the oven and let them cool until you can comfortably handle them. At that point, you should be able to push the skin right off with your thumbs. Wear gloves while you do this if you’re afraid of your hands turning fuchsia. I like to embrace the crazy red messiness and just get beet juice all over me, but you do what you like.
  • While the beets are in the oven, start cooking the meat. In a large dutch oven, heat some oil and brown the meat. Add the crushed tomatoes and a similar quantity of water. Stir and bring to a strong simmer.
  • While the meat and beets are cooking, get to work on prepping everything else. Chop the cabbage, carrots, onion, and celery. Mince the garlic. Squeeze the lemons. Measure out the spices and the sugar.
  • After the meat has been simmering for between an hour and 90 minutes, add all of the vegetables (except the beets which are still in the oven) to the dutch oven.
  • Add the cumin, tumeric, allspice, coriander, chili powder, cayenne, and salt. Mix well.
  • Finish peeling and cubing the beets. When the simmering vegetables are soft, add the beets and stir well. Add lemon juice and sugar to taste. Cook for five more minutes, and it’s done!

Summer Strawberry Cake

Now look at all those strawberries!

This past weekend Brandon and I bought a couple pints of strawberries at the Bloomington Farmer’s Market. When we got home, we sat down with our wonderful “Farmer’s Market Desserts” cookbook, hopeful to find an amazing strawberry recipe or two to choose from. Amazing recipes we found, but each called for some specific type of flour or yogurt that just wasn’t in stock in our sad little kitchen at the time.

The week went on. We ate our strawberries by the handful as snacks. We made smoothies. But by Friday, we still had about ¾ of a pint left. A few were starting to get mushy, and we were getting anxious. So I turned to the Internet and found this great recipe with simple, standard ingredients that we could throw together in a hurry. The recipe, provided below, comes to you ever-so-slightly altered from Pixelated Crumb.

Neither Brandon nor I are traditionally huge cake fans. Honestly, I think we were both just a little disappointed that our beautiful strawberries were going to end up in cake land. But this cake turned out to be a more than fitting home. It’s good! It’s wonderfully moist, and thanks to our tendency to cut back on sugar, the strawberries were still tart. The orange zest and the vanilla really come through to add a little something special. The dessert on the whole is not overly sweet — just sweet enough. If you’ve got some berries (of any kind, really) lying around your kitchen, I strongly encourage you to try this out. And if you don’t have any strawberries on hand, go out and get some while you still can. Summer’s flying, folks.

Ingredients

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbs for sprinkling on strawberries
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp orange zest
  • 1½-2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Butter a 9-inch, deep-dish pie pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a medium-large bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, milk, vanilla, and orange zest, and beat until just combined. Add the dry mixture gradually, beating until just smooth.
  • Pour batter into prepared pie plate.
  • Arrange strawberries (cut side down) in a single layer on top of the batter (Brandon preferred to hold them up as high as he could and drop them, one by one, into the batter, letting them plop where they may).
  • Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbs sugar over the berries.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 350°F. Reduce heat to 325°F and continue to bake until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean, about 50-60 additional minutes.
  • Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack.
  • Cut into wedges and serve. It’s delicious by itself, but we imagine some ice cream or whipped cream probably wouldn’t hurt anything.

Corn Muffins with Honey, Balsamic, Rosemary, and More!

We’re Back! with our favorite muffin recipe. . .

Sorry to have been gone so long! With Brandon starting a movie blog with his brother (check it out!) & going through the grueling process of applying to MFA schools and Kimberly wrapping up her final year of college & fervently applying for jobs, we’ve had a hard time keeping up with our sad friend Mr. Red Skillet. But even though we abandoned this blog for awhile, we never abandoned our cooking. Since we’ve been gone, Brandon has perfected salmon, Kimberly’s become obsessed with beets, and we’ve made variations of this particular muffins recipe probably half a dozen times. We’ve many food things to share, so stay tuned as we attempt to rejuvenate Red Skillet.

Now, onto those muffins.

Look at all those blueberries.

I have my pal Laura to thank for this recipe. She’s a far better baker than either Brandon or I, so I turned to her when in need of a reliable muffin recipe to make for a potluck brunch. She sent me several, but this one in particular caught my eye. With rosemary, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and honey as main ingredients, it was one of the more intriguing muffin recipes I’d ever seen. They were simple and quick to make, and they turned out just as delicious and interesting as I’d hoped. The flavors are complex and surprising, but not weird at all. Friends and family members of all weird-food-tolerance-levels have gobbled these up gladly.

When the recipe was first sent my way, it called for 3/4 cup of sugar in addition to 1/4 cup of honey. While they were still great muffins, they were a little sweet for my liking, so I’ve since cut back on the sugar significantly. Sometimes I throw in a tablespoon or two, sometimes I don’t use any sugar at all and just rely on the honey to add some subtle sweetness. Apparently you can make these as sweet or as savory as you like without messing up a thing.

My most recent tweak to the recipe has been to add blueberries. They add some moisture and really help bring out the balsamic vinegar. If you decide to go with a lot of blueberries, you might want to cut back a bit on some of the other liquid, perhaps the lemon juice, so they don’t get soggy on you.

Here’s the recipe! Please make it.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed/powdered as fine as you can
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or up to 3/4 cup sugar if you’re looking for something sweeter)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2-3 cups blueberries (optional, though highly recommended)

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease and flour a 12-muffin muffin pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cornmeal.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, milk, olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and vanilla extract until frothy. Add the sugar and honey, and whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and whisk until the batter is smooth. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven until golden around the edges. In our oven, this generally takes about 10-15 minutes.

Let the cakes cool in the pan, then remove, and enjoy.

Ice Cream, Meet My Good Friend Bourbon

Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream with Brown Sugar Bananas

Ingredients:

For the ice cream:

1 3/4 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean

7 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoon honey for topping (optional)

For the bananas:

2 bananas, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch thick rounds

3 tablespoons brown sugar


Instructions:

1.

Combine cream and milk in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the cream mixture.

2.

Add the vanilla bean to the cream mixture and bring to just under a boil over medium heat. Remove the cream from the heat and steep, covered, for 20 minutes.

3.

Combine the egg yolks with the sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  Whisk until the color lightens.  Slowly whisk 1/4 cup of the hot cream into the egg mixture to temper it, then whisk the egg mixture back into the cream mixture.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon without running.

4.

Remove from heat and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve.  Add the vanilla extract and the bourbon.

5.

Chill completely (minimum 5 hours, but overnight is best) in the refrigerator, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

6.  While the ice cream maker is doing its thing, place the chopped bananas into a skillet on medium-high heat.  Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar.  Cook until brown sugar is melted and caramelized, making sure not to cook too long (the bananas will get mushy after more than a few minutes).  You can always brush off any unmelted brown sugar if necessary.

7. When ice cream is set to desired consistency, serve with cooked fruit on the side.  Drizzle ice cream and bananas lightly with honey, if desired.

As an alternative, bake the bananas and brown sugar with some sliced and peeled apples in ramekins, or replace the bananas with apples altogether– but be forewarned, when baked in ramekins, the brown sugar tends to run off the fruit and not coat evenly.  Also, if you choose this method, whatever you do, don’t serve the ice cream on top of the fruit in the ramekin; your ice cream will melt before you can move it from the kitchen to the table.  (Yes, I did this once.  Laugh it up.)

I treat the bananas in the skillet as I would a piece of good steak– high heat for a short amount of time, to keep a firm, fresh texture on the fruit.  This stovetop strategy has done me well so far when I need a quick caramelizing effect on fruit.  Here‘s where I found the original recipe for the ice cream.

-Brandon

Football Season Means More Meat

Asian Flank Steak with Parsnip Puree and Sweet and Spicy Slaw

Asian Flank Steak, Slaw, and Parsnip Puree

Okay, so this isn’t exactly the barbecue ribs and mashed potatoes that comes to most people’s minds when they think of football Sunday.  But I thought it was time to mix it up a little.

I’d tried a parsnip puree as part of a duo of sides for a filet mignon dish I made once, so I thought I’d try it again.  This time I teamed it up with a recipe I found online for flank steak and Asian slaw.  The buttery, rich flavor of the puree really helps tame the spicy, tangy, acidic quality of the slaw, and provides a slightly sweet, hearty counterpart to the sharp Asian flavors on the other side of the plate.

Be sure to cut away the excess fat from your steak, if there is any, to save your guests from unwelcome gummy bits in their meat.

Also, for our family and followers– sorry about the long hiatus.  Applying to graduate schools has consumed most of my free time since August.  But now that the process is almost over, it’s about time we get back down to some cooking.

Grilled Flank Steak

Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce

5 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger, divided

1 garlic clove, pressed

1 1 1/2-pound flank steak

Instructions:

1. Set grill to medium high heat.

2. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, oil, 3 teaspoons ginger, and garlic in resealable plastic bag. Add flank steak and seal bag; turn to coat.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

5. Grill steak until cooked to desired doneness, about 6-9 minutes per side for medium-rare, depending on thickness.  Transfer to work surface.  Let rest 10 minutes.  Slice steak thinly against grain.

Sweet and Spicy Asian Slaw

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 red jalapeños, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage

3/4 cup chopped green onions, divided

Instructions:

1. Stir sugar and vinegar in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves; remove from heat.  Add jalapeños and remaining 2 teaspoons ginger.

2. Place cabbage and 1/2 cup green onions in medium bowl.  Pour the sugar and vinegar mixture over the cabbage and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Sprinkle 1/4 cup green onions over slaw.

Parsnip Puree

Ingredients:

10 medium parsnips (4 pounds total), peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch-thick slices

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

1. In large pot, combine parsnips with enough cold water to cover.  Place over medium-high heat, cover, and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.  Drain.

2. In a blender, add half the hot parsnips, half the butter, and half the chicken stock or broth.  Pureé until smooth.  Repeat with the other half of the ingredients.  (Of course, you could always use your immersion or stick blender instead, if you’re lucky enough to have one).

3. Stir in salt and pepper.  Portion puree evenly onto each plate (there might be some leftover).  Serve immediately.

I’ve been experimenting with flank steak quite a bit over the last few months.  Though it’s not “cheap,” it’s not terribly expensive as far as steaks go, and it’s one of the simpler steaks to prepare, in my opinion.  Here’s the original recipe for the slaw and steak , virtually identical to mine; they got it right the first time.  🙂

Also, I hope to be able to suggest wine pairings with these dishes very soon.  I still don’t quite trust my fast-growing wine palate yet, but it’s getting there.

Vegetable Parmesan Pizza with Mustard Sauce

Pizza!

Turning Pantry Scraps into Pizza Genius

This surprisingly delicious pizza I invented on the fly, when my little brother Logy and I were in a pinch.  We had a couple hours to make Kimberly some dinner before she got home.  Only problem was, we were virtually out of food.  So we had to get creative and use all the resources we could, and it wound up being one of the better meals we’ve had at home in the last couple months.

It was especially great for Kimberly because she’s always trying to find ways to remove the meat from our entrees; luckily for her, we had none at our disposal this time.  So this wound up to be a strictly vegetarian pizza.  Logy, a fellow carnivore, was worried at first, but the carrot topping really adds its own hearty “meatiness” if you will.  So don’t shy away, even if you’re like me and usually start snoring at the sound of a veggie pizza.  The flavor more than makes up for it.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheet

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the sauce:

¼ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

½ teaspoon dried dill

1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the toppings:

2 tablespoons roasted red peppers (canned works fine), chopped

¼ cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup frozen chopped spinach

1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and rinsed

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded provolone cheese (or use mozzarella)

fresh dill

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

salt

pepper

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove frozen puff pastry sheet from the freezer.  Thaw according to instructions, about 30 to 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet until fragrant and butter is melted.  Add whole carrot, coating in the olive oil/butter mixture.  Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until there is light browning on each side.  Remove carrot, cut into bite-sized circles.  Place carrot pieces back into skillet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium heat until tender, turning once, about 8 minutes.

3. Cook frozen spinach according to instructions.  I cooked mine in the microwave 3-4 minutes.  Season lightly with salt and pepper, stir, cover, and set aside.

4. Add all sauce ingredients in a bowl.  Stir to combine.

5. Brush a light coating of melted butter over thawed puff pastry sheet.  Bake in oven for 5 minutes.

6.  Remove the crust from the oven.  If it puffed up a little, let it cool and fall back down.  Add sauce to the crust with a ladle or rubber spatula, spreading in a circular motion until evenly coated.

7.  Add about ¼ cup of the shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese to the crust.  Add chopped pepper and onion.  Follow with remaining provolone or mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon of the parmesan.  Then add spinach.  Top off with remaining parmesan, followed by the carrots as the very top layer.  Garnish with a few pinches of fresh or dried dill, if desired.

8. Bake in the 350 degree oven until crust is light brown on the edges and puffing up slightly, and cheese is melted, about 6-10 minutes.  Let cool about 5 minutes before cutting.  Makes 6 pieces.

Chef’s Note: You may of course go the conventional (and perhaps yummier) route and simply make a pizza dough instead of using a frozen puff pastry sheet.  And really, if you use a puff pastry sheet, you should brush it with egg, not butter, before baking.  But in order to stay true to our mad dash use-all-our-scraps recipe (we had no eggs at the time), I had to include the puff pastry in the recipe instead, and brush it with some butter to give it a nice buttery crust.  Feel free to mix it up, though; everybody’s kitchen scraps are different.  🙂

-Brandon

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy

Beer and Lemonade, Together at Last

Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy

As far as beer breweries go, it doesn’t get too much better, for me, than Leinenkugel’s.  I don’t sample beers as frequently as I used to, but after seeing a big fat case of this stuff in the fridge of a chef whose palette I respect, I had to try it.

At first, the beer fills my mouth with a strong taste of citrus and hops, neither flavor overpowering the other.  This particular beer is more carbonated and harsher than other Leinenkugel beers I’ve tried– however, to give it credit, I did drink this one of the bottle, and not out of a glass.  No doubt the mouthfeel would be enhanced by pouring it into a glass first; I suggest that to all of you out there curious to try it.

The strong citrus taste doesn’t refine itself to strictly lemon until the tail, when the taste turns sharply away from hops toward sour, bitter lemon.  I can’t say it was altogether off-putting, but it wasn’t that fresh, lemon-squeezed sunshine taste that I expect from a beer with “Summer” in the title.  “Beer with natural lemonade flavor” is the tagline under the label.

All in all I’d have to say this isn’t even Leinenkugel’s best hot-weather beer; their Honey Weiss is lighter, more drinkable, and doesn’t leave a sour, pungent, cleaner-like taste in your mouth.