Saturday, November 27, 2010

Soup Saturday: Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Soup

My obsession with everything Hungarian has everything to do with this book ...

At this point, I have lost count of how many times that I've read this book.  I have given away copies of this book (sending one to Russia, I might add) and if ANYONE asks me for a book recommendation, 9 times out of ten I will recommend this book.  It is the literary equivalent of mashed potatoes in my mind - totally satisfying and comforting ... even if the subject matter is Dracula.

So when I was trolling Food Network's site the other night, I stumbled across this Rachael Ray recipe and although it seems like the only thing Hungarian about this is the paprika that I used to season it, this is a very decent dish.

A couple of headnotes ... I ended up tweaking this recipe because when I originally made it, it seemed like a grocery store exploded into my mouth.  Italian Sausage!  Lentils!  Portabella mushrooms!  Potatoes!  Too many really good things were crowded into one meager bowl and this soup seemed like it would work better if flavors weren't crowding to get my attention.  So I swaped the 'bella mushrooms for white button mushrooms (portabellas are meaty ... they are used in vegetarian burgers, for Pete's sake!  It was stealing the spotlight from the Italian sausage ... ).  I was happy with this substitution, since it also makes this dish easier on my pocket book.  I omitted the potato all together ... this dish has enough starchiness in it with the lentils.

Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Soup
original recipe by Rachael Ray

    * 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    * 12 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage (**can substitute mild)
    * 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    * 1 medium onion, chopped
    * 8 oz. white button mushrooms, chopped
    * 3 carrots, chopped
    * 1 cup lentils
    * Salt and pepper
    * 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
    * 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute a mix of 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika and 2 pinches cayenne pepper ... I actually use Hungarian hot paprika ... love it!)
    * 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, intact on stems
    * 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    * 6 cups vegetable stock
    * 4 cups baby spinach
Heat a medium soup pot over medium high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, then add sausage to pot and brown and crumble it, then add garlic, onions and mushrooms. Cook a few minutes, then add carrots, lentils, , salt and pepper, bay leaf, paprika or substitute mixture and rosemary (leaves will fall from stems as soup cooks). Add tomatoes and broth and cover pot then raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Uncover pot and place heat back a bit but keep soup at a good rolling boil. Cook 15 minutes until lentils and carrots are tender. Wilt in greens in small bunches, remove rosemary stems and turn off heat. Let stand 5 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

This recipe made me fall in love with the concept of a gingerbread crust ...

OK ... this isn't the sexiest picture I've ever taken, but this a last ditch attempt to snap a picture of this decadence before it was decimated by my husband and I.
Pumpkin Cheesecake
original recipe by Rachael Ray

    * Cooking spray
    * 25 gingersnap cookies
    * 1-3/4 cups sugar
    * 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    * Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
    * 5 large eggs, at room temperature
    * One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
    * 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    * 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * Boiling water

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°. Lightly coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Using a food processor, grind the cookies with 1/4 cup sugar. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press the mixture into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the prepared pan. Bake until firm, 3 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and remaining 1-1/2 cups sugar until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in eggs until blended. Add the pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin-pie spice and salt and beat until combined, 2 minutes.

Set the springform pan with the cooled crust on a double layer of heavy-duty foil and wrap the foil tightly around the bottom and sides; set in a roasting pan. Pour the cheesecake filling into the crust. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and fill with enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake until the center is slightly wobbly but the edges are firm to the touch, about 1-1/4 hours.

Transfer the roasting pan with the cheesecake to a rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan, discard the foil and let the cheesecake cool on the rack for 3 hours. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake. Wrap the pan in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 4 hours. Run a knife under the bottom of the cake to release it, then slide onto a serving platter.

** A note ... the original recipe was "pumpkin swirl" cheesecake.  I couldn't get this damn thing to swirl for love nor money, so I've modified this to take out the "swirl" part of it.

** Another note ... Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pickle Dip

This is one of my latest obsessions when it comes to something that's easy to make, but has one hell of an impact on the tastebuds.

This recipe came from my coworkers who like to call it "tickle dip."  Because they are slightly perverted, which makes me adore them.  Despite the dubious name and the nature of this recipe, do not stop, pass go or collect $200 until you make this recipe.

Pickle Dip

1 tall jar of baby dills, drained and chopped
1 pkg. of Hillshire Farms honey ham, chopped
1 pkg. of Hillshire Farms corned beef, chopped (I could not find this, so I ended up using 2 packages of the Carl Buddig stuff)
1 8 oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. mayo

Take all of these ingredients.  Dump them into your food processor.  Blend until incorporated.  Serve with crackers.  Try not to eat the entire dish in one serving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

... Also known as those "f*!@ing" apple pie bars

I'll let you in on a little secret ... there are times when not all goes well in ShelleyBakes land.  Usually, the "not so good" things are when I try out a new recipe and it isn't what I expect it to be.  And yes, there are occasions where I burn things.  Or drop things.  Or the pictures don't turn out.

And then there are those times when things just simply do not want to work out.  And this, my friends, was one of those times.  Here's a bit of back story on this particular recipe ... this dessert is hands down one of the best things that my mom made during my childhood - apple pie in flaky pastry bar form with powdered sugar frosting drizzled on top.  This recipe is my BIRTHRIGHT, shouldn't be a problem to recreate it in my kitchen, should it?

One word for that misconception: Whatever.  After struggling for 45 minutes to get the bottom crust of the bars to roll out properly, I sent a profane text to my mom.  I believe it said: "I HATE these f*cking apple pie bars!!!!"  And then my mom called me.  Laughing.

"Oh honey, I forgot to tell you what a pain in the ass those are."


Regardless of my failure to properly execute this dish (the bottom crust - laughable, then I forgot the layer of crushed cornflakes and then I couldn't get the top crust to roll out at ALL, so I got pissed off and started flinging bits of pastry on top of the bars), I have to admit ... it still tasted really good.  Good enough that they were inhaled within a half hour of my bringing them into work.

If you are brave and noble with a rolling pin, try these if you dare.  I will begrudgingly admit that they are worth it and that I will make these annually until I master these bastards.

This is one section that actually got a covering of dough! 

Danish Pastry Apple Pie Bars

2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 c. shortening (**note from my mama ... use lard.  Don't be afraid of it, do not substitute Crisco.  Otherwise, these will not reach the flaky consistency that will forever adhere to your thighs.)
1 egg yolk (note: Save the white!)
1 c. crushed cornflakes (**note from me ... if you forget, it's OK.  The bottom crust will just get a little soggy from the apple-y goodness that's to come)
8-10 Macintosh apples (pared and thinly sliced)
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Here's the shortcut that I took with the crust ... I blitzed it together using my food processor.  Those ingredients are the flour, salt and shortening.  After that was put together, I kept my processor running and I added this mixture:  one egg yolk and enough milk to make 2/3 of a cup of liquid. 

On a (heavily) floured surface, take half of the dough (**) and roll to 17 x 12 inches and put into and up the sides of a 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 1 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle with cornflakes.

In another bowl, slice up the apples and then coat with the sugar/cinnamon mixture until well incorporated.  Put into prepared pan and roll out the remainder of the dough to place on the top.  Beat the egg white a little and brush over the top.  Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.  The drizzle with some powdered sugar frosting.  (I don't really have a recipe for this - I just take powdered sugar, enough milk to make it runny and some vanilla for flavoring ...)

And on the left hand side, you can see where I got pissed off and just started flinging dough to cover the fracking pan.
** Something that you will figure out during the course of the epic struggle known as rolling out this fracking pastry dough is this:  The dough that's produced is really, really sticky.  At first I thought that I had done something wrong (not enough flour?) and then I was worried that my dough wouldn't be crumbly and pliable because it took an epic amount of flour to get it from sticking to my counter and rolling pin.  But during my therapy session with my mama, she told me that it does take an inordinate amount of flour to get the dough to roll out.