Saturday night – 04/25/2015

Smaller than usual gathering this week with one family away.

Menu
Braised lamb shank with cardamon and orange
Risotto
Carrots and fennel with warm spices
Homemade Focaccia

Lemon Squares

Notes under the cut

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Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts

Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Servings: 4
Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, medium dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. spinach, well rinsed
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cover the raisins with ~1/2 hot water and allow to sit for 30 minutes to hydrate.
  2. Place pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until nuts are golden brown; shaking pan periodically.
  3. Wipe out skillet, return to medium heat and add the oil. Heat until shimmering; add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat with oil and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped garlic, toss and cook until fragrant (about 1 minutes).
  5. Add spinach, another generous pinch of salt and cover the pan. Cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the cover. Stir onions and spinach together. Continue to cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes or until moisture has evaporated.
  7. Add lemon juice, raisins and pine nuts; stir to incorporate. Taste; add pepper and salt as desired.

Notes:
If a lemon isn’t available add 1 tablespoon of cider or white vinegar.

Sauteed Cauliflower with Pancetta

Growing up there were always 3 side dishes on the table for ‘holiday’ dinners. One was mashed potatoes; the other two were something green and then something not green. Two green side veggies was just not done. Salad didn’t count by the way. Don’t ask me why, it just didn’t.

As an adult I try not to have two green veggies as side dishes. Witness the traumas inflicted upon our childhood psyche without effort or intent. 🙂 Carrots get boring, yellow summer squash is for summer time and pureed butternut squash leaves me wanting something more. Today I turned to cauliflower; which I would normally roast. We were roasting asparagus though and I didn’t want all matchy-matchy side dishes. I never claimed my psyche was undamaged.

Sauteed Cauliflower with Pancetta
Servings: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, core and leaves removed, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 6 oz. pancetta, 1/8″ dice
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place in a steamer basket set in a pot and fill with water to just below the basket. Bring water to a boil. Spread cauliflower around basket, sprinkle with salt and steam for 5 minutes. Cauliflower will still have a bit of give to it.
  2. While the cauliflower steams heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with the diced pancetta in it. Cook for ~5 minutes until fat is rendered from the pancetta; the pancetta should be crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined dish and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to the skillet to increase total fat to about 3 tablespoons. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Heat over low heat until garlic is fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add steamed cauliflower to the skillet. Toss to coat with oil. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute or two.
  5. Check cauliflower for doneness. When done to your liking add the crisped pancetta, toss to combine and taste; add salt & pepper as desired.
  6. Transfer to a warmed bowl and serve.

Notes:
I used an orange hued cauliflower. Purple, green or even the original off-white would work just as well. Of course if you use green then you might end up with 2 green veggie side dishes. The horrors.

Bacon can be substituted for pancetta; just cut it into thin strips. You’ll likely get more fat from the bacon. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons before adding the cauliflower.

If the skillet becomes a bit dry while cooking the cauliflower you can add a tablespoon of water after stirring.

Simple Buttercream Frosting

This is the frosting, or cake icing, that I grew up on. While it isn’t a true buttercream it is delicious in my book and what I think of when making a cake.

Simple Buttercream Frosting
Servings: 1 2-layer cake or 12 cupcakes with a bit leftover
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-3 Tbsp. milk or cream

Directions:

  1. Add butter to the bowl of stand mixer. Beat, on medium-high, for 2-3 minutes until lightened in color.
  2. Reduce speed to lowest setting and add 1/3 of the sugar plus the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of milk. Allow to combine before adding the next 1/3 of sugar and another tablespoon of milk.
  3. Add the remaining sugar and allow to combine. If it looks too dry then add a bit more milk.
  4. Increase speed to medium-high, a bit at a time, and beat for 5 minutes. Frosting should increase in volume.

Notes:
You can replace the milk/cream with another liquid. Orange juice makes a nicely flavored frosting. If you are using fresh squeezed OJ then zest the orange before squeezing and add the zest to the frosting before the final beating.

Want chocolate frosting?  Add 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the first third of the sugar and follow the remainder of the recipe.