Friday, January 28, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I have mixed feelings writing this introduction because I have to admit that this was one of my least favorite dishes growing up. As children my sister and I never really got into our Russian food heritage. My mom would tell us we were having stroganoff for dinner and Sasha and I would groan and then start looking for something we considered "better tasting" to fill up on before dinner. Eventually my poor mom and dad got sick of our complaints and just stopped making and eating this dish. So now that I am older (definitely) and wiser (maybe), with a more developed and adventurous palate, I have been cooking up Russian classics and resurrecting the lost dishes of my youth. This week I made beef stroganoff. The result? Love at first bite!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Made It! French Onion Soup

When people ask me what is my specialty dish, I usually say this French Onion Soup recipe. Like Lisa mentioned, our family has been making it for years. But the family tradition is not the only reason why it's my specialty - it's the fantastic flavors. The broth is so rich and earthy; the bread is gooey and crispy at the same time; the cheese is the perfect addition to the top. The best part about this recipe is that it doesn't take years to perfect. It's so simple and easy you're guaranteed to have a wonderful soup the first time you make it. The only tip I have for this recipe is to make sure that when you are placing the toasted bread on top of the broth you overlap the toasts so that some of the bread soaks up the broth, while other pieces remain crispy. I hope you give this recipe a try and fall in love with it as much as our family has done.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Cherries and Bacon

I have had a lifelong love for brussel sprouts, and this is my favorite recipe - fast and packed with flavor. I usually get a huge bag of them from Costco, and since these hearty greens can be refrigerated for weeks (especially in a vacuum sealed container) they are always handy for a quick side dish. These little cabbage-like vegetables are so healthy, packed with nutrients and vitamins, and when cooked properly are a tasty delight. I like to use one slice of high quality bacon to help flavor this dish. The bacon and fat impart an underlying saltiness and smokiness, which pairs nicely with the bitterness of the sprouts and sweetness of the dried cherries. If you don't want to use bacon, feel free to substitute with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. The end result is a bowl full of deliciousness!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good Eats: Bacon

Crisp bacon is a perfect bite - salty, smoky, crunchy, and fatty. Even though I like to cook healthfully, I use it quite often in my recipes. I just can't resist the flavor punch that bacon gives my food. So here are my techniques for maximizing flavor while minimizing guilt from eating such a decadent pork product.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Head over Heels: Vacuum Wine Saver

I am head over heels for my Vacu Vin wine saver, a wine bottle vacuum pump that extracts the air out of the bottle while resealing it with a reusable stopper. This gadget is great! It keeps previously opened wines fresh and tasty for weeks by removing air from the bottle, therefore decreasing the oxidation rate of the wine.

I have been using these stoppers for years to keep my wines fresh. I can keep bottles of red and white wine in my fridge for weeks without having to worry that it will turn into vinegar. Now it's easier to use wine as a cooking staple - always available to give soups, stews, or sauces extra flavor, or just for that one much-needed glass after a long day.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

French Onion Soup

When I was younger I thought French onion soup was out of my league cooking-wise, and the only way to get my fix was to order it in a restaurant. But I remember the moment when my view of this delicious comfort food changed forever. About 15 years ago, watching Jacques Pepin with my family, he showed us that French onion soup is actually simple and easy to make. Immediately after watching him demystify things, my family and I scrambled to the kitchen to cook up a batch. Since then I have made this version of French onion soup hundreds of times. I love it! It is one of my true staple dishes, and since I usually have all the ingredients on hand, I can easily pull it together at the last minute.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Made It! Spaghetti and Meatballs

I made this Spaghetti and Meatball recipe the other day. Overall, I thought it was a good recipe. I liked the subtlety of the cinnamon; it provided enough interesting flavor without being too overwhelming. There were, however, certain things I would do differently next time. First, I would add more panade to the meatball mixture for a softer texture. Second, I think I added too much sugar in the beginning (about twice the amount Lisa called for). I thought the canned tomatoes were on the sour side, so I kept adding sugar until I achieved the flavor I liked. I didn't realize that as the sauce simmers for hours, all the flavors become more concentrated (including the sugar). When I was ready to serve the sauce, it was slightly on the sweet side. My biggest tip for this recipe is not to overdo the seasoning in the beginning. Develop a good base flavor and then season to perfection before serving.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Chicken Stock

Along with a well-stocked pantry, I love a well-stocked freezer. It gives me the option to create meals on the fly and to save precious left-overs before ever getting sick of them. When it's my fourth meal of spaghetti and meat balls in a row, it's just not quite as exciting. In my book, one of the most essential components for a well-stocked freezer is chicken stock. I like the convenience of stock in cartons (generally higher quality than canned stock), but homemade stock tastes so much better, is easy to make, saves money, and allows me to use up my leftover vegetables rather than throwing them away. Plus, whenever I open one of those cartons of stock I end up throwing half of it away because it sits in my fridge just a bit too long. So when I am relaxing at home on a crisp cold day, I will sometimes have a large pot of stock simmering on the stove top. Freezing it into meal-sized portions or individual cubes in zip-lock bags allows for months of convenient use in tasty meals.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs

I am back in my DC kitchen, and after eight (incredible) weeks of eating mostly rice-based dishes my thoughts have been consumed by spaghetti and meatballs since landing in the USA. This dish is tasty, hearty and flavorful. I usually make a huge batch and freeze the leftovers for a quick home cooked meal when my days get crazy.  My sauce has a slightly unusual addition - read more and hopefully you will be inspired to try my version of spaghetti and meatballs.