Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 2

In part 1 we selected our beef, cut it into cubes, seasoned and then marinated it with a whole bottle of Chianti

After marinating the beef, I caramelized 2 yellow onions and 4 cloves of garlic. I wanted to extract the sugars and condense them. This is a sweet dish using only the natural sugars that exists in the onions, garlic and tomatoes. Burner was set to medium.

Remember my sun dried tomatoes? I chopped up about 3/4 cup of them and tossed in. Use a can of tomato paste otherwise.

I then added a pint of our canned tomatoes and Basil.

Transfer onions, tomatoes etc to a small mixing bowl and transfer about 25% of the drained beef into the Dutch oven and turn the heat to high. Transfer browned beef to another mixing bowl and repeat ’til all the beef has been seared.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the reserved Chianti to deglaze the Dutch oven. Scrape all the great flavors from the bottom and sides.

The beef was salt and peppered when I marinated it so the only seasoning to add now will be the herbs. I used a tablespoon of our Italian mix.

Place Dutch Oven in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/2 hours, check tenderness, remove when beef is tender. Different cuts take different times. This is one of those dishes that you prefer a stew cut because the longer the cook, the better the melding of flavors.

This is a stew cooked to the consistency  of a good chili, not thinned

Ready to serve? If you made our tomato and spinach pasta, this would be an excellent time to use it.  The added flavors of the pasta along side the Chianti and tomato beef go great together.

Of course a second bottle of Chianti would also go well with this dish.

Enjoy.

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Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 1

This is more Greek than Italian,. Maybe if Odysseus had been lured by the wonderful smell of this stew he would not have had himself bound to the mast but would have succumbed to the Sirens. He may have never returned to Penelope.

I am a fan of good stew beef but sometimes a bargain comes along and you have to make do :-).

I lucked out and found on sale Choice Sirloin Petite steaks for $2.99 a pound. Of course you need to expect the hidden fat but that just adds to the flavor.

Assemble your tools, good cutting block, beef, a good slicer and of course a bottle of Chianti. Medium price works great. If you are thirsty, have a beer instead.

Cut steaks into 1 inch cubes trimming excess fat at the same time.

After cutting, weigh the remaining beef. I had 4 pounds 10 ounces so I separated out 2 pounds and froze for a good Astoria Stew.

 

I like to weight the trash so I know what to expect in the future. I also like to weight the meat being used as it will help me determine the amount of seasoning and herbs used.

Trash pickup was 3 hours ago, bag the garbage to keep the rodents away. After all there will be 7 days to attract them.

Now I use a gallon zip lock bag to marinate the stew in. Pour in the entire 750 ml bottle of Chianti or any other red blend you like, add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Double bag and refrigerate for several hours. I prefer overnight.

Most of the time a recipe will call for 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine. We use an entire 750 ml bottle here.  Think of this as a Red Wine Stew instead of a Stew with Red Wine. There isn’t any comparison between the two. I would have still used the whole bottle if this was a normal 2lbs of beef stew.

Please go to Part 2 for the actual assembly of the stew.

 

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We made the dough, now what do we do with it?

We got our hands sticky, we did something different, we made pasta dough. Not just any pasta dough but dough that has sun dried tomatoes and spinach blended into it. 

Working with dough is pretty straight forward, nothing about it should be intimating. First thing I do after setting up my Kitchen Aid mixer and attaching the pasta roller attachment is to get my floured work surface set up.

I then split the single batch of dough into thirds.

Set the roller to 0, the largest opening and the mixer to slow, start running your ball of dough through it. Leave the roller at 0 until you have a consistent and smooth  ribbon of dough.

You may have to add a little more flour if the dough is sticky or spray a mist of water onto the dough if it is to dry and crumbly.  This just takes practice to get the hang of it.

Now start feeding the dough through the roller  and close the gap as well. I usually skip a number each time. 0, 2, 4, 6 the 7. You would stop before seven for lasagna dough, etc. I like my spaghetti like angel hair.

This is harder to do with a dough that has had anything like tomato or spinach added to it. The additional vegetable infusion makes the dough less elastic than plain pasta dough would be.

When you have your desired thickness attach the pasta cutter of choice, here I have the spaghetti cutter attached. On slow speed feed the pasta ribbons you made through the cutter and then hang to dry. Here I use a pasta drying rack, very expensive and folds up flat for storage.

Store your fresh pasta in the refrigerator, It’s hasn’t dried to the commercial pasta level and will mold if sealed in an airtight container and left or stored at room temperatures.

Fresh pasta will cook in just 2 to 3 minutes, not the 20 for dried pasta.

 

Here is our homemade pasta served in a quick marinara made with our own canned tomatoes and homemade meatballs. I got a little messy with the Parmigiano Reggiano

 

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Pasta, green pasta, maybe red pasta, good pasta

The stuff you learn along the way, so simple now, why didn’t I think of it before.

We aren’t health nuts but we do like to hedge our bets a bit. For years I have made spinach pasta and sun dried tomato pasta, messy and wet pasta, pasta that wasn’t very good because of that spinach and because of those tomatoes.

See, I would make my basic pasta then throw in a handful of fresh spinach, the water in the spinach would then mess up the flour consistency and I would have to start adding flour till I had that nice ball of raw pasta dough.

For the sun dried version, I would throw in a handful of sun dried tomatoes in oil, and then start adding flour till it looked like pasta dough.

Doing this would always mess up the basic flour, egg, oil and water ratios. and I ended up with a boiled flour mixture that looked like pasta.

But now I have learned and it’s time to make a pasta dish and I said to myself ‘self, why not use your dried tomatoes, just put a cup of flour and 1/2 cup of dried tomatoes in the blender and get tomato flour’

Did it and I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of tomato flour. Then I said to myself ‘Don’t be corny, just get to the point and the point being to spread a 3 pound bag of power greens (spinach, kale and chard) on the drying shelves of your food drier and dry, then use the ground up greens with the flour’

It needs to be noted that 3 pounds of fresh greens produced 1 and 1/2 cups of dried, crumbled greens.

1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of greens, in the blender and now I have power greens flour.

From this point, I just made pasta dough.

recipe:

  • The power greens flour plus enough cake four to have three cups of flour
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/8th teaspoon salt

Put all in a food processor and start processing, add water by the tablespoon  till you get a dough that sticks together, but isn’t sticky.

Put coarse dough on your work surface and kneed about 6 to 7 minutes, This helps with consistency and the ability to hold its’ shape by stretching and working the gluten in the flour.

Form a ball of dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the tomato pasta dough, just repeat the above steps.

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Green Tomato Relish or Chow Chow

As the nights get colder and our days get shorted those lovely tomatoes stop ripening and we are left with Green Tomatoes. Those hard and flavorless reminders of what will not come. Now is the time to make hard choices, try hanging them on the vine in the garage and see what happens, toss them in the compost bin, or make Green Tomato relish.

These tomatoes are generally not green beefsteaks or other large tomato that would lend itself to breading and frying. They are Roma’s, Willamette valley etc. They didn’t start growing on the vine until late in the season, so they didn’t have time to ripen before the season was over.

A few years ago we had a horrid season.  There were more un-ripened tomatoes than ripened ones. Very disappointing. I went on an internet search and discovered Chow Chow and Green Tomato Relish. The difference between Green Tomato Relish and Chow Chow is that Chow Chow includes cabbage and hot peppers. Over the years I have thought of making a true Chow Chow but opted for the easier preference of a semi sweet relish, much like a pickle relish.

We no longer buy pickle relish and use our tomato relish for hamburgers, hot dogs, tuna fish salad or anything you would use a pickle relish for.

The tomatoes can be orange or red, they do not all have to be green to end up in the jar.

The Green Tomato Relish is super easy to make. Simply chop tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, onions, and add salt, sugar and vinegar, mustard seed and celery seed. Combine all finely chopped ingredients and simmer for 5 minutes or more, then can the relish.

Use the following ingredient quantities and adjust for how many tomatoes you have.

  • 5 pounds green tomatoes
  • 3 red and 3 green bell peppers
  • 2 1/2 pounds onions
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons each of mustard seed and celery seeds

Chow Chow is a spicier southern version. The recipe I would like to try is from the internet site Taste of Southern. It takes longer to prep and cook but the results look fabulous.

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Last of the tomatoes, red and juicy, just right for crushed tomatoes

Too many to just eat, but not enough for a major canning job. We have canned tomatoes for sauce for years but there is always the end of season leftovers..

Here we are dealing with the last of the ripe tomatoes. Next we will deal with the green tomatoes still hanging on the vine.

All of our quart containers are in use so that helped with the decision to make some ‘crushed’ tomatoes with basil. Simply clean and quarter the tomatoes, then put a quarter of them on the stove and bring to a light boil with onion, salt, pepper and dried herbs to taste, we always blend our herbs after the individual tins have been filled (oregano, marjoram, basil, savory and thyme).

Turn off the heat and take the boat motor (hand blender) to the tomatoes to puree them..

Add the rest of the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

For canning, I used our last pint and half pint jars. Put a teaspoon or so of lemon juice and a sprig of fresh basil in the jar, then fill to 1/2 inch of the top and can as usual.

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Roasted Marinara, thick and tasty

Canning season is here, so get Peter Piper’s Pickles picked and go to work. Well, we like pickles but not that much. What we do love is a great tomato sauce.

A great tomato sauce? Yes a sauce for all occasions, with a tomato flavor to knock your socks off. The only way that’s going to happen, is to use farm fresh tomatoes, and make it yourself.

We purchased our tomatoes, yes purchased. Our little garden consists of 10 tomato plants that get half the sunlight they need, great for our table use, some drying and a little canning, but not enough for the pantry.

We went to Wilco, a local farm hardware and supply for their once a year canning sale. We purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of onions, and a case of apples for Francene’s applesauce.

The preparation is pretty straight forward, but does take most of the day.

Pick your weapon of choice. I would love to tell you which one, but everyone has their preference and hand size. I opted for the Nakiri and a paring knife, and a 10″ chef’s knife for the onions. Francene used her 5″ Petite Santoku.

Half or quarter, depending on tomato size and remove most of the seeds. Also, do a very rough or large chop of as many onions as you would care to have in your Marinara sauce, same with bell peppers. We did probably 8 pounds of onions and 6 large peppers.

Now start the roasting, I use a little sea salt and some of our garden herb mix.  Place on cooling racks on baking sheets and roast for 30 minutes at 425° . Remove from oven and transfer to a container large enough to hold everything. Continue for the next several hours. If you know you will be seasoning towards a Latin flavor or Italian flavor you might as well have an appropriate drink or two along the way.

After everything has been roasted, transfer the roasted tomatoes, onions and peppers with a large slotted spoon leaving the liquid behind.

We now ran the batch through a food processor to achieve a coarse consistency. Then we brought everything up to a simmer on the stove top, seasoned to taste remembering that the final use hadn’t been decided. In other words, allow for a re-seasoning appropriate for the dish it will be used in.

Follow the canning instructions for your canning equipment. We show both the large pot and the pressure cooker. We use the pressure cooker as a second large pot.

We ended up with 12 quarts of marinara.  With that great hindsight most of us have, we should have gone for 24 pints of a very rich and thick marinara sauce. Probably about 1/3  of the way between a normal marinara and paste.

This allows us to use full thickness, or thin with water or use either stock or wine as a thinner.

I must add that I always just cooked my tomatoes, seasoned them and canned them. But my friend, Kris Horn, told me how she likes to roast the marinara ingredients and also adds what ever strikes her fancy at the time. You could add most anything like carrots, artichoke hearts etc. to end up with YOUR sauce..

I tried roasting and then freezing two years ago, cooking and canning last year, and this year roasting and canning. I think this will be the preferable way from now on.

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Perfect poached eggs

The coffee has brewed, the mugs are full and you’re a little bit hungry. A couple of poached eggs sound pretty darn good.

They also sound kinda boring. So lets get our skillet out, the one with a lid. Good start. Now didn’t Francene say something about a pound of chorizo she picked up, probably hiding in the refrigerator. So far this sounds like a good start.

Back from the pantry with a quart of last years tomato sauce and a can of chopped and stewed tomatoes. A plan has been made.

Break up the uncased sausage and start a slow cook, add the tomato sauce and stewed chunks, a little salt, a little pepper and cover. Simmer on low for 20 minutes to get all those flavors doing a happy dance. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks

Time for those eggs, carefully break and slide onto the sauce and put cover back on for a couple of minutes for the eggs to poach.

Whites are still semi soft, yoke looks perfect. Carefully spoon eggs and sauce into bowl and serve with a couple of warm tortillas.

So this is my take on eggs ranchero or Huevos Rancheros.

Sure sounds and looks better than a couple of runny eggs on a piece of toast to me.

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes, well not really dried in the sun but close enough, besides no flies in the dehydrator or oven.

This is a pleasant way to spend some time outside and put the dehydrator to use after the herbs are dry and removed. Of course you can use your oven set to it’s lowest setting, generally 180 or 200 degrees.

Our pictures show us prepping Green Zebras, Dorthy’s Delight, Roma and Willamette tomatoes. Of all the varieties shown, the Roma’s have the least meat after fingering out the seeds. Tools needed, a couple of knives, one to cut the tomatoes into wedges or in half and the other, a pairing knife to remove the stem core. A long paring knife will work for all needs.

Wash the bird stuff off the tomatoes, slice tomatoes into desired sizes, use your finger (wash hands first) to remove the bulk of the seeds. That’s it. That was the hard part. Layer your dehydrator shelves or your cookie sheets if using the oven. Leave some room for air circulation (if using cookie sheets put a cooling rack inside to hold tomatoes off the sheet.

Herbs in the upper left being replaces with Green Zebra’s quartered and seeded.

Layers getting ready to be seasoned and then dried.

Tomatoes that have been dried to a leathery texture

Here is where you need to decide what you future uses will be. If to eat like jerky as a snack, you will want a little more salt. If to added to sauces and soups then less salt or you will over salt your dish right from the beginning.

You can also use finally chopped or ground herbs, or something like a salt less seasoning of choice. The choices are yours but a little preplanning will make the dried tomatoes more versatile.

Depending on method used, they will be dry when they get leathery. I prefer to remove all of them when most are dry and some are still with some moisture. I store them in a airtight container together and the drier tomatoes will draw moisture from the others. The tomatoes can also be stored frozen and if so, they can still be holding onto some moisture or less dry.

I re-hydrate in the sauce or soup they have been added to. I also do a coarse chop before adding them. I do not like sun dried tomatoes stored or re-hydrated in olive oil, they just seem oily and your adding more olive oil to your dish then may want.

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Hang on little tomato

Welcome to the world of goodness, the great tomato. Have you ever eaten a fresh tomato, ripened on the bush and picked yourself so you know it’s freshness? Sadly for many the answer is probably ‘no’.

For most of us, the tomato is that tasteless commodity picked from the grocers shelf. Picked green and then gassed till red. Even worse is you only could chose between a table of Romas, Red Cherry and a couple others.

Every variety has a difference, maybe taste, maybe texture, the amount of solids, etc. Here is the list from Rutgers. To bad you have only experienced 3 or 4 unripened varieties.

Tomato’s from home gardens, farmers markets are only available for a short time every summer but they are plentiful. We like to dry them in our food dehydrator, cut in half with a little sea salt or salt less seasoning they make a great jerky like snack. Better yet, these dried tomatoes can be re-hydrated and added to many of our recipes.

Re-hydrated tomatoes will not have that same fresh look, but will have a great concentrated flavor, the flavor that only fresh ripened tomatoes can have.

Of course you can always sauce or dice them and then can them, or oven roast and freeze them. But drying the fruit (yes, fruit, not a vegetable) should be considered, a daily snack, easily stored, easily re-hydrated and just downright tasty in any way you use them.

Tomatoes can be re-hydrated with water or oil, generally olive oil. Our choice is water, usually the liquid already in the pan or soup base.

Dried

Green Zebra's dried and waiting for that next soup or sause.
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