Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lamb-tastic Voting!

So my lamb post from a few days ago was not just a recipe - it was also an entry into a wonderful contest sponsored by the American Lamb Board! I'm one of just 10 bloggers across the US asked to come up with a lamb recipe fit for Valentine's Day, and a year's worth of lamb (!!) is at stake for the winner.

Won't you help me win some more delicious lamb? If I do, there are bound to be even more lamb recipes here...

You can vote on the Fans of Lamb website through February 28th. I really do appreciate every vote!!

Also, Boston's Lamb Jam is tomorrow - stay tuned for more delicious lamb pictures!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Day Veggie Soup

What, you didn't believe me when I said I like to do cheesy heart-shaped everything for Valentine's Day?!

Over the weekend, trapped in the house due to the blizzard, I figured soup would be a perfect way to stay cozy. I had seen this nifty heart-shaped carrot tutorial and knew I had to incorporate it. Once you get a hang of cutting the carrots, it really doesn't take too long to make. For long carrots, I'd recommend cutting them in half first so they're shorter and more manageable.

Since I also had butternut squash to add to the soup and I knew it would remain pretty solid throughout the cooking, I wanted to make them heart-shaped as well. The technique for these is a little different - cut fat slices of the top (skinnier) section. Cut each of these slices into 6 triangles, like you're cutting a pie. Make a notch in the top of each triangle and use your potato peeler to round edges into a heart shape. Slice into thin pieces like with the carrot.

This soup - whether you make heart-shaped carrots and squash or not - is hearty and filling and delicious! We all went back for seconds and even enjoyed it again the next day!

Heart-y Veggie Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 slices of bacon, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, cut into heart-shaped slices (or diced)
3 celery stalks, diced
about 1/2 lb butternut squash, cut into heart-shaped slices (or diced)
28-oz can peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped, including juice
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 can cannellini (white) beans
3-4 large leaves of kale, chopped and stems removed

In a large pot, heat olive oil, then add bacon and cook until it begins to brown. Add onion, carrots, celery, and squash and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the veggies start to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes and juice, broth, water, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf, then stir in beans and kale. Serve once beans are heated through and kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lamb Kufte is for Lovers

According to the American Lamb Board, February is Lamb Lover's Month. When they reached out to me to create a special Valentine's Day meal for two, there was no way I could say no.

I'm a fan of the typical cheesy Valentine's Day stuff - heart-shaped everything, splashed in red and pink, surrounded by little baby cupids. My Valentine's Pinterest board has more links than my Christmas boards! So forgive me if I went a little overboard with this recipe of heart-shaped kufte. If your heart (ok, that was taking it a bit too far) isn't in it, you could just shape these as patties or meatballs.

I was so happy with this recipe, I would have made a second batch right away to put into the freezer just to have on hand... if we hadn't been in the middle of a huge blizzard here in New England. As it is, I will be making this again in the future. It was relatively quick to make (especially if you make the sauce ahead of time or start it first), and it stretched one pound of meat into enough to fill 4 people. Another plus? It can be made ahead of time, just doing the final bake before you eat - especially helpful when Valentine's Day falls on a weekday ;)

And the sauce! Oh god, the sauce! I wanted to use pomegranate molasses, but I thought the flavors would be even more exciting if I made my own and added some red wine. I could probably eat the sauce all by itself, because it tastes like a very tart and tannic jam. I'd love to try it on other meats as well.

I served my kufte with buttery pilaf topped with fresh pomegranate seeds, although a salad or even some noodles would work.

Heart-Shaped Lamb Kufte with Pomegranate Wine Molasses
1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1/2 cup hot water
1 small onion, minced
1 shallot, minced
large handful of fresh parsley, minced
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sumac
1 lb ground lamb

In a mixing bowl combine bulgur wheat and hot water; let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. If there is any water left after 15 minutes, carefully pour it out. Add onion, shallot, parsley, egg, salt, pepper, allspice, cayenne, and sumac, and mix well. Add lamb and incorporate with the rest of the ingredients. Don't overwork the lamb or it will become tough.

Line a baking sheet with foil. To shape hearts, take a golf ball-size piece of mixture and form it into a triangular patty. Place on baking sheet, then gently use one finger to form an indentation in the top of the triangle (as in the picture above) to form the heart (this may take a bit of coaxing). Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cook kufte in a 350° oven for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with pomegranate wine molasses below.

Pomegranate Wine Molasses
2 cups pomegranate juice
2 cups red wine
1 shallot, minced
2 tsp honey

In a medium saucepan, combine juice, wine, and shallot. Bring to a boil and cook about 45 minutes, until reduced to 1/2-cup or so. Whisk occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking. In the last 5 minutes, add the honey and whisk well. Once the sauce is reduced, add salt to taste and serve with kufte.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday I'm In Love... with Sucré King Cake

I had never had a king cake until a few years ago, when my friend Ann (who went to college in New Orleans) decided that we should try making one. It was a huge success (thanks mostly to Joanne Chang's brioche recipe from her Flour cookbook), but I didn't have much to compare it to.

But when Sucre Bakery asked me to try their king cake, I jumped at the chance. A real king cake, straight from New Orleans? Yes please!  (Here's some history on the king cake if you don't know it.)

I had a hell of a time getting a good picture of Sucre's king cake because it is just too beautiful. Coated in edible glitter (the ONLY kind of glitter I'll stand for) in traditional Mardi Gras colors, this cake will not allow decent pictures to be taken. But in person, it's gorgeous! It would make a stunning addition to a buffet or as a centerpiece (but we just ate it with our hands straight out of the box).

And the taste? Oh so good! I was a little worried about it having a cream cheese filling, but in truth, the cream cheese is very light and not at all cloying. In spots, it was almost absent, while in others, it was a bit thicker. The dough itself is light and chewy, like a perfect breakfast pastry. We enjoyed some of the cake at room temperature, but we also heated some for a few seconds in the microwave (as suggested by Sucre) and that was even better! In fact, I'm drooling just thinking about it.

I was worried that a king cake shipped from the land of Mardi Gras would be crazy expensive, but Sucre's cakes are only $20, so even with shipping, it would hard to find anything in the Boston area at a comparable price (not to mention the taste!). But they only make king cakes from January until Mardi Gras (which this year is only a week and a half away!!!), so order now!

Full Disclosure note: I was sent samples for free by Sucre, but the opinions are all mine.