Friday, December 30, 2011

Beef Wellington


I usually make Beef Wellington every Christmas but sometimes I make an exception and make it fora special guest. I developed this recipe over the years starting with the one from Saveur magazine. Here is how I make Beef Wellington.

Ingredients:

2.5-3 lb of beef tenderloin
1 lb of sliced prosciutto
1/2 lb of crimini mushrooms
2 small shallots, minced
1 package of frozen puff pastry (Aussie Bakery brand)
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 cup of beef stock
1/2 cup of red wine
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon of butter
Canola oil spray
1 egg, beaten
fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Flour to roll the pastry dough

Preparation:

1. Defrost frozen puff pastry at a room temperature for about 2 hours before use.

2. Wash and clean mushrooms. Using food processor chop mushrooms finely. Spray generously pan with the canola oil spray. On medium heat fry mushrooms and half of the shallots until all water from the mushrooms has evaporated. Transfer cooked mushrooms into a separate bowl.

3. In the same pan fry beef tenderloin on all sides until brown. Don't wash the pan, keep it for making the sauce.

4. The next step is to assemble prosciutto, mushrooms and beef together. I used a cutting board and put a layer of saran wrap on it. I layered slices of prosciutto first, overlaying them on top of each other. Next spread mushroom-shallot mixture all over the prosciutto and sprinkled with the fresh chopped thyme. I spread mustard on each side of the tenderloin. I placed tenderloin on the edge of the prosciutto-mushroom-shallot layer and then rolled it all up as tight as possible keeping saran wrap on top and using it to make the roll tighter. I next placed tenderloin wrapped in plastic in a fridge for 30 minutes.


5. Preheat oven to 425F. I used both puff pastry layers from the package. Put each dough layer on top of each other and roll it out. Take tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto-mushroom-shallot layer out of the plastic wrap and place it on the rolled out dough. I then eyeballed how much dough I need to get this meat all wrapped up and cut unnecessary dough off. I used egg wash (1 beaten egg) to seal the pastry together and then flipped the tenderloin seam side down. I cut the leaves with a knife from the dough leftovers and placed them on top of the tenderloin and then spread the rest of the egg wash all over the pastry and leaves. Spray the baking sheet with the canola oil spray and place the Beef Wellington on it. Bake for 40 minutes in the oven.


6. After 40 minutes take a measurement of the meat's temperature. We like our meat medium-rare (on a rare side), so 40 minutes was just right.


7. Last step is to make the sauce. Use the same pan (that you have not washed yet) where you fried the beef. Preheat the pan on medium heat, add shallots and fry until translucent. Deglaze the pan with red wine and scrape any leftover beef bits. Add beef stock and chopped fresh thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Simmer until the sauce thickens and is reduced by half. Add cream and stir. Cook the sauce for another 30 seconds to a minute. Take off the heat, add cold butter and mix. Taste the sauce. Slice Beef Wellington into inch and a half slices and serve it with the sauce on top and mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crepes or Russian Blini




Tonight is a very proud night for me - I finally mastered Russian blini. Yes, one would think it is very easy to make this Russian staple food. Not me! After years of attempts to replicate my mother's recipe I finally did it and I am excited to share it.


Ingredients:

2 cups of milk
1 cup of white flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of sugar
butter
canola oil spray
caviar, sour cream, chopped chives and honey for serving

Preparation:

1. In a large bowl beat eggs. Add milk, flour, salt and sugar and mix all ingredients together with a whisk until even and there are no flour clumps.

2. Preheat non-stick regular size pan on medium heat and spray it generously with canola oil spray. Pour almost full ladle of batter into a pan. Swirl the pan to spread the batter evenly. Once you see the ends of the blin (1 crepe) start getting brown, using a spatula flip it and cook on the other side until cooked.

3. Once blin is cooked transfer it to the plate and spread a little bit of butter on top to prevent blini from sticking to each other. Repeat the process. There is no need to spray any more oil if you have a good non-stick pan. If you notice blini to start sticking then use more oil spray. Also, adjust your oven so that blini don't burn. I cooked mine on medium heat.

4. Serve blini with caviar, sour cream and chives or with honey and sour cream.



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Luminous + Spinasse



Evening started with Luminous Exhibit at SAM. The exhibit has been going on for several months now. However, today was finally the day I decided to see it. The top thing for me was multimedia installation by Do Ho Suh.



After the exhibit we went to the Italian restaurant Spinasse. I have heard about this place in my Italian class and I tried to get into it two times before but unsuccessfully - the wait one time was 45 minutes and another 1.5 hours! So, I went ahead and made reservations online for Sunday night. Now that I went to Spinasse I can see why it is so popular. It has been a while since I have enjoyed food this much.


We tried their main specialties recommended by the waiter.



We started with a beet salad and then chose their signature pasta with both types of sauces offered: butter and sage and pork-beef ragu. On a menu it is listed as Tajarin al rag├╣ o burro e salvia. It was delicious!



Following pasta came 3 rabbit meatballs with horseradish and mashed turnips. Yes, they were very tasty.


As for dessert I went with Zuppa Inglese, something similar to tiramisu but not. So, would I recommend this place? Absolutely! Cost wise, it all depends on whether you have alcohol and how much of it. Dishes are reasonably priced.


Christmas 2011 Favorites


It is Christmas time again and I have my favorites for this season. Satsuma mandarins are in season and I have been eating them by a pound. They are sweet and juicy. They remind me of my childhood - mandarins were only available around Christmas and New Year time when I was growing up.


Poinsettia is another symbol of Holidays, which I adopted here in the U.S. Thanks to globalization, you can find them being sold in my home country Lithuania now as well. Get a few and see how your living room transforms to become Holiday ready. Don't forget to water it once in a while. 


Nothing brings on a Holiday spirit like some Christmas carols and music. This year we went to Cathedral Christmas concert by Seattle Choral Company at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle. I found it very festive to listen to the Christmas songs in a Cathedral. The United States does not have Cathedrals that have been standing for centuries. St. Mark's Cathedral has understated look inside, with big windows and gray walls. Light fixtures imitate old candles. During intermission we got served hot apple cider and home baked cookies. And, of course, we were made to sing few carols along with the choir. This was their 5th year of production and I am hoping they will continue this wonderful tradition.


Another surprise this season is getting an arrangement of flowers like this: tropical, summer. Splurge, spoil yourself or ask someone to do it for you :)


Finally, no Christmas is complete without a Christmas Tree. I decorated mine with ornaments that have a meaning to me. Like this piggy - it was my favorite when I was a kid. My family had a set of three of them based on a fairy tale. Now grown up each of us has one pig - me, my mom and my sister. Also, I got a wreath.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dog Apparel for wet Pacific Northwest from Canada


This is my second set of outdoor clothes that I bought for my dog in the last six years and I am staying loyal to the brand Teckelklub. Why do I like it? First, it keeps my short-haired dog warm during cold nights. Second, it keeps his back dry in a rain. Third, it has reflective fabric on it, so you can see us in a dark. And finally, when it is very muddy outside (and those puppies love the mud) it keeps some of the dirt out :)

Teckelklub is a Canadian dog apparel. You can find their outfits in some pet stores around Seattle area but you can also order them directly from the Teckelklub Web site. This is what I did this time. The shipping took 10 days.

I got 2 types of outfits for my dog Tye. First, I got him a fleece "The Fuzzie." I had the same one for the last 6 years but it has shrunk with time (it has been washed and dried a lot) so replacement was in order.


I also got him a new trench coat for those rainy days. Again, it was a replacement.


So, the outfits last a long time (5-6 years in my case), they help little guy stay warm and out of rain and they have reflection, which is so needed at night. Happy Ruffs!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mom's Savory and Sweet Cookies


I used to bake these cookies with my mom when I was a kid and now I bake them with my son. They go well with tea, coffee or a cup of milk. Below is the recipe.


Ingredients:

2 cups of white flour
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of small curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
sugar for later

Preparation:

1. In a large bowl mix together butter and cottage cheese. I usually let butter sit in a room temperature for about 1 hour to get soft and then slice it. Add baking soda and flour into the bowl and combine all the ingredients together. I started by mixing the ingredients with a hand mixer but then finished it by kneading the dough with my hands. Make the dough into a ball and put it in a fridge for 45 minutes or longer.

2. Preheat the oven to 400F. Take the dough from the fridge, cut a small piece and roll it out on a table dusted with flour. Cut circles with a special cookie cutter or (like me) use a wine glass.

3. Take one circle and dip it one side into sugar, then fold it in half with sugar side inside and then fold again - so you get a triangle. Sugar must be inside so that it is does not burn. Repeat.

4. Assemble cookies on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

French Brioche Toast with Preserved Fresh Walnuts


When the weather gets colder it is time for some decadent breakfast like French Toast. In my recipe I use Brioche bread from French Bakery Le Panier in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. This is a perfect breakfast dish for the holidays when you have family over and can splurge on $9 brioche :) My recipe for the French Toast is not unique. As always in my cooking I believe using quality ingredients is a key to any good meal.


Another item that adds holiday spirit to this French Toast is use of Fresh Preserved Walnuts from Harvest Song Ventures. I tried these preserved walnuts on a French Toast at a friend's birthday party 3 years ago and since then I buy them every year in a fall from the Harvest Song Ventures. These walnuts have generated some buzz and been featured in New York Times.


The interesting fact is that these walnuts don't look or taste like walnuts we are used to. See for yourself!


Ingredients:

1 Good Quality Rich Brioche Bread (from Le Panier bakery in my home)
1 whole egg and 1 egg white
1 cup of fat-free milk
1-2 drops of fresh vanilla extract
Canola Oil Spray
Maple Syrup
Fresh Preserved Walnuts
Butter
Fresh Berries



Preparation:

1. Slice brioche into 1 inch thick slices.


2. In a separate bowl whisk eggs first and then add milk and few drops of vanilla extract and whisk all ingredients together.



3. Preheat pan on medium heat. Generously spray the pan with canola oil spray. Dip brioche slices into egg mixture and put into a pan. Fry brioche on both sides until cooked and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes a side depending on the strength of your stove. I also reduce the heat to medium low to prevent bread from burning.


4. Once brioche has cooked, it is time to serve French Toast. On each plate assemble two slices of brioche, add a small slice of butter on top, pour maple syrup and add few slices of preserved walnuts on top. I served this with a side of bacon and fresh strawberries.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Poached Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream



It is fall and pears are being sold everywhere and all kinds: comice, bartlett, bosc and etc. I must have had an inspiration last night since I made quiche for dinner and poached pears for dessert. I found this webpage How to Poach Pears very educational. Here is how I made my dessert.  I really went the simplest cooking route possible and believe me I was very happy with the results.


Ingredients:

2 pears
4 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half
Vanilla Ice Cream for serving

Preparation:

1. The recommendation is to use very firm pears for poaching such as Bosc. I decided to buy not yet ripe firm comice pear and also not very ripe D'Anjou pear. I washed them, quartered, peeled the skin off and removed the seeds.



2. In a large pot I combined water, sugar and vanilla bean. On medium-low heat I let sugar dissolve, 5 minutes or so. Next, I added pears and brought the heat up to medium. Once the the mixture started boiling I reduced heat to low, closed the lid and let pears cook for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes I took pears out, let them cool for about 15 minutes and then served few slices with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was very tasty and nice dessert. Very easy to make. You can add more ingredients in to the syrup but simple vanilla worked for me :)


Quiche with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Spinach


I love quiche for breakfast but try not to eat it often since I know how much half-and-half goes into it. But this weekend I thought it will be a good dinner: quiche and a salad. Making quiche is easy and there are tons of recipes available online. The basic cooking method is the same, the difference is the filling. Here is how I made mine.


Ingredients:

1(one) 9" pie shell (I use Wholly Wholesome Pie Shells)
3 eggs
1 and 1/4 cups of half-and-half
1/2 lb of chanterelles
1/2 of sweet white onion
1 cup of fresh baby spinach
1/2 of swiss cheese, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Prick pie shell surface all over with a fork and put in a freezer for 20-30 minutes. This time I used whole wheat pie shell for more nutritious meal. Though nothing can beat white flour pie crust in taste!


2. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake empty pie shell for 12 minutes and then take it out and let it cool off.

3. While partially baked pie shell is cooling off make a filling. Clean and chop in small pieces chanterelles and onion. Fry them in olive oil on medium heat with a little salt and pepper for about 15-20 minutes or longer until mushrooms are cooked and water has evaporated. Transfer mushrooms and onions on to a plate and let them cool.


4. Wash and chop baby spinach. Some recipes recommend blanching spinach but I decided to skip that part and instead chopped it very finely.


5. This time I chose to use Swiss Cheese and grated 1/2 cup of it.


6. Next step is to whisk eggs and half-and-half together. Recipes warn you not to over beat the egg mixture. I simply whisked eggs first with a hand whisk and then added half-and-half and whisked again until just blended.



7. Once pie shell and mushrooms have cooled off it is time to assemble the quiche. Turn the oven down to 375F. Put mushrooms, cheese and spinach on a bottom of the pie shell. (If you find you have too much filling remove some. The amount of filling is your choice.) Pour egg mixture on top and carefully transfer quiche into the oven and bake for 40 minutes.



8. After 40 minutes quiche should be cooked. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving. I use this time to make a salad. Last night I made baby arugula and tomato salad drizzled with olive oil, added salt and pepper to taste.



9. I served slice of quiche with a side of arugula-tomato salad last night. It was a nice meal and had plenty of left-overs for today's breakfast. I simply reheated quiche for 15 minutes in the oven at 400F.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Shallots


I go to the store and I see brussel sprouts in a vegetables section for sale. Right, it is fall and Thanksgiving is around the corner. I associate brussel sprouts with the Thanksgiving dinner. I decide why wait another 6 weeks and buy some brussel sprouts to cook for dinner. It should go well with bacon and shallots I think. And it did!

Ingredients:

1 and 1/2 lbs of brussel spouts, washed and cleaned
4 slices of bacon, chopped in small pieces
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of water
Salt to taste

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 500F degrees. Cut brussel sprouts in half, transfer into a large bowl. Add oil and water to the bowl and mix with brussel sprouts making sure they are well covered in oil. You can also add salt at this time but since I use bacon later, which is salty, I choose to skip salt.


2. On a cookie sheet arrange brussel sprouts flat side down and bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown and cooked. Check to make sure they are not burning. Lower heat if they are and just cook extra 2 minutes until done.

3. While brussel sprouts are baking in the oven fry bacon and shallot in a separate pan until bacon bits are brown. Transfer bacon and shallot bits into a separate bowl with a slotted spoon and add couple tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan as well.


4. Once brussel sprouts are cooked, transfer them into a large bowl, add fried bacon and shallots and mix. Add salt if needed. Serve immediately with your favorite meat and potatoes.