Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grilled Cheese on Beer Bread with Dijon and Caramelized Onions

Did you know that April is National Grilled Cheese month? Neither did I, nor do I understand why, but I sure am a happy camper now that I've found out. I am a big grilled cheese fan and I grew up with my father making the sandwiches fried in a pan. I once went to my friend's house and tried her mother's version which was a slice of cheese on bread put in the toaster- yikes! That was just a sorry substitute for the real thing-its like putting ketchup and cheese on a rice cake and calling it pizza. But I digress. Anyway, for what feels like most of April I have been staying away from bread but now I'm happy to get in a grilled cheese to celebrate this very important (read: interesting) milestone on the calender- and let me tell you, this is a grilled cheese for the books! Made from fresh beer bread this sandwich is elevated to new heights. Beer and Cheddar cheese are one of those flavor combinations that are timeless and the slightly sweet bread with the sharp Dijon, melted onions, and oozing Cheddar is HEAVENLY. Take a bite of this rustic yet gourmet sandwich experience and feel free to call and say thank you.

For two sandwiches:
4 Slices Beer Bread
2 tsp good quality Dijon mustard
4 Slices Cheddar cheese
1 small onion, sliced
pinch of dried thyme
2 Tbl oil
salt and pepper
Sliced tomato, optional
Butter, for grilling

Start by slicing the onion and letting it saute in a pan with the 2 Tbl oil, thyme and a little salt and pepper until caramelized.  Spread 1 teaspoon of Dijon on one side of each of the sandwich. Layer on the onions and cheddar and tomato and close the sandwich. Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter in the pan you fried the onions in- place the sandwiches in and press down with a plate or weight until the cheese starts to melt and the bread starts to crisp. Turn the sandwich over and crisp the other side as well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beer Bread

Pesach is over- BRING ON ALL THAT IS LEAVENED! This bread has been on my to-do list for a long time- the fact that there is no yeast in it makes it so appealing to I who am yeast challenged. The cool thing is that the beer itself acts as the yeast component and contributes to its rising to beautiful fluffiness. Its quick and easy to put together and has such a subtle but great beer flavor with just a little sweetness. The texture is a little denser than real bread but the soft inside and the great crunch on the outside makes it easy to fall in love with. To be really honest, though, the real reason for making this bread was to make the sandwich that I used it for- stay tuned....

3 cups flour
2 Tbl Sugar
1 Tbl  baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl honey, warmed
12 oz beer
6 Tbl butter, melted (or margarine to make it pareve although butter gives it better flavor)

Pre-heat the oven to 350. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Pour in the honey and beer and mix until just combined- don't over mix! Pour 3 Tablespoons of the melted butter into a loaf pan and pour the batter in. Pour the rest of the butter on top and bake for about 35-45 minutes or until it is golden brown and cooked through. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

French Toast Matzah Brei

When it comes to matzah brei there are lots of different opinions about how to make it and everyone feels very strongly that it can only be eaten their way. Some like it savory with salt and pepper and some insist it be sweet. Some make it like a big pancake and cut it into wedges and some prefer it more like scrambled eggs, all broken up. I think it's pretty obvious what camp I fall into. My father was the matzah brei maker in our house and we always had it sweet, either served with sugar and cinnamon or with jam and it was usually broken up pieces which are just more fun to eat. While I can do without chametz for 7 days I was making matzah brei for breakfast and thought, "why not channel French toast?". The result certainly doesn't have the texture of French toast but tastes just as good. Enjoy!

5 Eggs
5-6 Boards of Matzah
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbl brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 Tbl butter
Sugar and Cinnamon
Maple Syrup

Whisk the eggs, milk, brown sugar and cinnamon together with a pinch of salt. Break the matzah into pieces and let them soak in the mixture till it softens-about 5 minutes. Heat the butter in a frying pan and add the mixture letting it set for about a minute and then breaking it up with a spatula like you would do for scrambled eggs. Let it cook another 5 minutes or so mixing every so often till it is fully cooked. Serve with sugar and cinnamon or maple syrup and butter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brisket Sandwich with Horseradish Aioli

There is lots of cooking going on here and one of the things cooking is brisket- a huge, abnormal sized slab of animal flesh that must have come from a genetically mutated giant cow. So with lots of brisket to spare, and fresh horseradish in abundance in the supermarket this time of year I came up with this sandwich. Personally, I am usually not a fan of tomato in sandwiches- I find they make sandwiches soggy- but for some reason the tomato in this sandwich works perfectly and its slight sweetness offsets the spiciness of the horseradish as does the meltingly delicious caramelized onions. I recommend arugula for this sandwich but since there was none to be found I used some crunchy romaine. A simple sandwich that was simply divine. Enjoy!

For the Sandwich:
1 Baguette cut into 4
Sliced cold brisket
Sliced tomato
Caramelized onions (onions cooked down for about half an hour with a little oil, sugar, salt, and pepper)
Horseradish Aioli

Spread the Aioli on both sides of the bread. Layer on the onions, tomato, brisket and lettuce.

Horseradish Aioli:
1-2 Tablespoons freshly grated horseradish or prepared white horseradish (depends on how strong you want it)
1/3 cup mayonaise
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 big clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper

Mix everything together and let it sit for about half an hour to let the flavors meld.

Think of this while your eating your matzah and cream cheese...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Merguez Sausages with Tehina Sauce

This is another great use for Harissa. I love Merguez sausages and if it's on a menu in a restaurant I will almost always get it. Merguez is a fresh sausage made with lamb, beef or a combination of the two and flavored with Harissa. It is spicy,super flavorful and delicious and it goes great with tehina which cools it off a little bit. I serve these often as an appetizer for Shabbat lunch and they are always a big hit. Enjoy!

For the Sausage Patties:
1 pound ground lamb or a mixture of beef and lamb
1/3 cup Harissa
1/2 of a medium onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
Mix the meat with the remaining ingredients until everything is combined but don't over mix . Shape the mixture into patties and pan fry in a little oil until browned on each side and cooked through.

Tehina Sauce:
1/3 cup prepared Tehina
2-3 Tbl lemon juice
1 clove garlic, grated
Mix all together adding a little water if necessary to make it sauce consistency. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mini Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Another Gourmet Lunch Wednesday, another yummy meal. Baby eggplant slices breaded and fried to perfection, smothered with home-made marinara that simmered for hours and topped with Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese- I'm telling you I have dreams about this dish. This is just a mini version of my famous Eggplant Parmesan and though it definitely requires more work then just throwing it all in a big pan, everything just looks better in mini. Unfortunately, however, I cannot reveal the recipe for this delectable dish as it is highly coveted and closely guarded-but since I have received lots of feedback about how much people look forward to hearing about Gourmet Lunch Wednesday I decided to to at least share the picture. Enjoy (the picture at least)!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shredded Beef and Dumplings

To me, this is comfort food at its best. Slow braised meat that just falls apart at the touch, served with its own gravy over dumplings- the description alone is comforting. Chuck Roast is a cheap cut of meat that is usually sold in a net and requires a hefty amount of cooking time to make it tender but pays off big time in the flavor department. I just discovered a new company aptly called "Fleish" that sells their meat with actual names on it and I did a jig in the store because I don't know about you, but the number system does nothing for me except give me a migraine. Who knew seeing simple words like chuck roast, london broil and french roast could thrill me so much (yes, I need to get out more often.) What these dumplings are really called are Knuckelach but since I ran that name by most people only to be greeted by blank stares and awkward chuckles I settled for the more generic name. I grew up with Knuckelach which are basically a version of the German Spaetzle, a simple dough cooked in boiling water that when served with gravy makes you want to sing. Spaetzle is typically made by pushing the dough through small holes to make small, tender dumplings but in my family we like them big and doughy so we just lop the dough into the water. You can choose to make them as thin or thick as you want but personally I think the bigger ones hold up better to the gravy.

For the meat:
1 Chuck Roast (3-4 lbs) (you can also use brisket or any other meat that needs to be slow braised)
1 can of beer
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbl brown sugar
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika

Lay half of the onions on the bottom of a roasting pan Place meat on top and season with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and brown sugar. Top with the rest of the onions and pour the beer over. Cover tightly and cook at 350 for 3-4 hours or until very tender. Using two forks pull the meat apart, it should come apart easily. Serve it over the dumplings and pour the gravy on top.

For the Dumplings:
2 3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 Tbl oil

Mix flour, eggs and salt in a bowl. Add the water until it is well combined. Bring a pot of water to boil with the oil and some salt. Drop the dough by the teaspoonful into the water and let it cook in the boiling water. They are ready when they float to the top.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Moroccan Grilled Chicken

The weather outside has been GLORIOUS- I have actually been able to use my outdoor grill instead of using my stove top grill and my imagination while standing on a beach towel. If you like spicy this is the chicken for you and by spicy I don't mean -dunk your tongue in yogurt -spicy (isn't that what you do when your mouth is on fire?)- I mean, full of flavor and spice-spicy although it does have plenty of heat as well. Harissa is a North African chili sauce also used in Moroccan cooking that is made with garlic, cumin, chili peppers, coriander and other spices depending on whose making it and it is full flavored and yummy. A little goes a long way but it is great to spread on bread or as a condiment with fish and goes great with lamb and other meats. You can of course make your own but I bought mine pre-made which you can find in any Israeli supermarket in the refrigerator section, usually next to the chummus ( and we all know you stop there often) or at upscale markets in America. I decided to grill the chicken as grilling often mellows the intensity of the spices but feel free to roast the chicken instead. Happy Dunking!

1/4 cup Harissa
Juice of 1 lemon
3-4 Tbl chopped fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl olive oil
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
4 Chicken bottoms, separated

Mix all of the above together and add the chicken making sure to get the chicken well coated in the marinade. Let marinade for at least an hour but preferably 2-3 hours. Grill chicken or roast open in the oven at 350 for an hour and a half.

                   ( Apparently, I subconsciously was channeling Seder plate here)