Friday, April 25, 2014

Pork Ragu - Pressure Cooker Style

I have been anxious to share this recipe with all of you. I held back sharing this recipe for a few weeks, because I was afraid that many of you would think "she's really gone into a pressure cooking phase-- and I don't have a pressure cooker"! Well, yes, it's true. After 15 years of pressure cooking, I've had a true revival for this misunderstood kitchen tool.

Maybe the word "pressure" makes people thing it's going to explode, and so it strikes terror into your cooking hearts?  What else would we call this? How about "Instant Slow Cooker"?  If you don't own a pressure cooker, but own a slow cooker, you can easily adapt this recipe. Or, go ahead and make this the more stove top conventional way. It'll be great. I'm serious.

So, what is a ragu? Very simple. In Italian cuisine, it's a meat-based sauce that is commonly served with pasta.  This recipe uses country style pork ribs.  Typically, this type of ragu would take a couple of hours to simmer (or slow roast in the oven) so that the meat becomes fall-apart tender.

 But, a pressure cooker can make this happen in 20 minutes. How cool is that?

These ribs didn't come boneless. No big.

With a good boning knife and a few extra minutes, these were cut into 1-inch pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper.

You can make this on the stove and then slow cook this. No problem. However, with my pressure cooker, I used the browning cycle to cook half the pork and lightly brown them. Next, chopped onions are added and cooked until softened, for about another 5 minutes.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Italian-Style "Easter" Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies

Easter Sunday is tomorrow, and I'm a week behind sharing this recipe. Sorry. For the last week and a half, my husband and I shared a cold, that morphed into a nagging cough. We're on the mend, but this week we've been experiencing avery low energy once we get home from work.  I had every intention of making cute carrot shaped sugar cookies, but alas... time has run out.

These aren't an authentic Italian cookie, but they are my own take on a traditional Italian citrus flavor cookie, that are shaped in knots or wreaths and sprinkled with multi-colored confetti.

King Arthur Flour sells a Fiori di Sicilia baking flavor that has notes of vanilla and citrus.  I recently purchased an OXO Cookie Press, and thought I'd make a cream cheese version of spritz cookies.  I have a tried and true all-butter version of spritz cookies that is one of our favorites. The cookies turn out crispy and buttery, and the dough is very easy to work with.  It's so easy, that I can easily bake dozens of cookies in a very short time.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hummingbird Cake-- A Classic Southern Treat

I love bananas. They're one of my favorite "power snacks", sliced and mounded atop non-fat cottage cheese, with a few raisins sprinkled in. That might sound a little weird to some people, but it's my mid-morning snack at the office-- and, certainly, a lot healthier than a doughnut!

I am a bit fussy about my bananas, though.

When they start looking like this, I don't want to eat them anymore. They are usually peeled and frozen for future fruit smoothies. I'm not the biggest fan of banana bread-- with the exception of some freshly baked banana bread that I had on the road to Hana, Maui. That's not to say that I don't like banana bread, but  I find it to be a bit unexciting.

The April/May 2014 issue of "Cook's Country Magazine" featured a classic Southern cake called  "Hummingbird Cake" recipe. I eyed the very ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl, and I decided I would see what the fuss is about this cake.  Cook's Country is in the same family as "Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen", and they strive to improve recipes.  I did a little internet research and the common ingredients are pineapple, pecans (or walnuts), and very ripe bananas. Yes, oil and eggs were found in every heirloom recipe that I found.  Cook's Country said "...Reducing the oil was the first logical step, and tweaking the leavener finished the job. Mashing the bananas proved a better approach than simply stirring in chunks, and toasting the pecans went far in improving flavor. To amp up wan pineapple flavor, we more than doubled the amount of fruit, boiling down the juices to concentrate flavor and prevent leaden layers."

The first thing I noticed, is that I didn't need a cake mixer. Sweet! So, I began by draining a can of pineapple and reducing the syrup to about 1/3 cup.  

The dry ingredients were sifted, the pecans toasted...

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs - 15 minutes (Pressure Cooker Style)


Yes, dear readers. Once again, I'm sharing another success story with my beloved pressure cooker. I can't help myself. Pressure cooking has become "hip again, and I'll take any way I can join that movement.

This recipe can be adapted for a slow cooker, for those of you who don't own a pressure cooker. You just need to wait for a zillion more hours-- well, okay, like six or eight hours.  I've made them, this way, with bottled BBQ sauce. They're pretty good. But, nothing beats slow grilling ribs on a Weber.
Even grilled ribs take 1-1/2 hours to be tender and ready to dig in.

I'm still having a love affair with America's Test Kitchen's cookbook, "Pressure Cooking Perfection".  Several of the recipes, in this cookbook, have been adapted from their recipes that are made in a more "conventional" way.  I've made at least a half dozen of their recipes (a few more are yet to be shared with y'all).

While my Boston Baked Beans were slow baking in the oven, I pondered what to make with them.  It was a raining, like nuts, and so grilling was out of the question.  That's when I remembered that I bookmarked this rib recipe.  The rub took only minutes to put together.

I do love a rub that has brown sugar.  It gives the ribs a beautiful color, and a nice layer of flavor. The rest of the aromatics are paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper and salt & pepper.

I bought just one rack of ribs, since I was cooking for two.  I own an 8-Quart oval electric pressure cooker (no longer made, I'm sorry to say) so I could have cut the rack in half.

ATK adapts their recipes for a stovetop Pressure Cooker, so the ribs are cut into two-rib sections.

 Press the rub in, generously...

I'm going to preface how I made the sauce, by saying it's incredibly good! I just love it.

Better yet, it doesn't take a lot of time to make. The most time spent is in dicing onion and mincing garlic. The rest of the ingredients are molasses, apple cider vinegar, water, Dijon mustard, water and ketchup.  This barbecue sauce is so good, that the recipe stands alone-- all by it's glorious self. Make it. Bottle it. You'll love it.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Boston Baked Beans-- Bake 'em Low and Slow!

I like to record food shows on my local PBS station-- especially now that I've grown bored with Food Network's programming, lately. Recently,  I watched an episode of "Martha Stewart Cooking School", where Martha shares her recipe for Boston Baked Beans.  I was so intrigued by the bean pot that she used, and at how simple it looked to make these beans.  Because of that show, I became obsessed with wanting a bean pot for myself!  I was able to find one, made in the USA, on Etsy for less than $30.00. (Beware, many of them are made in China!)

I've posted many recipes for beans, because they are one of my favorite legumes that is good anytime of year.  I try to keep a can of Bush's Baked Beans in our pantry.  They are a perfect side dish with hot dogs or burgers.   I love the taste of the sweetness from the brown sugar and molasses and the saltiness from the pork.

NOTE: It isn't mandatory to have a bean pot. My favorite method of cooking beans is in a Dutch oven, simmering them on a stove. My pressure cooker is another great way to make beans, in a fraction of the time.  I've never cooked beans in the oven, over a period of six hours! I've read that this technique produces beans with a lot of flavor. It was time to test this method.  ONE MORE NOTE: I do not recommend making these in a slower cooker, though. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never had luck making really good beans in a slow cooker.

 We begin with one sliced onion, as the bottom layer.  Martha uses canned plum tomatoes. She mentions (with a slight hint of disdain, "one could use ketchup".) However, I had some fresh Roma tomatoes, that needed to be used...or they wouldn't be quite so fresh any longer. I think Martha would approve.

Why not? So, they go in next.  For aromatics, we add some bay leaves and whole cloves.

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