Monday, August 17, 2009

Lovin’ That Ginger

I do love ginger. I find any excuse to use it, be it powdered, fresh or crystallized. I use it in simple syrup to make ice tea a wee bit tastier and put a few slices in when simmering my homemade chai tea. I have a great recipe for triple ginger cookies that uses grated, powdered and crystallized ginger. I also add it to stir fry dishes, fruit salads, hot oatmeal, cakes, jam,and anything else I can think of. So it was with great pleasure that I found a recipe combining two of my favorite things: ginger and sparkling wine.

Originally featured in Gourmet magazine’s December 2007 issue, this Sparkling Ginger Cocktail is a perfect summer drink. Light, refreshing, full of golden bubbles, it has a clean flavor enhanced by a ginger/sugar coating on the rim of the martini glass. While I enjoyed it sitting on my porch on a hot summer evening, this cocktail would work for a bridal shower, brunch, or as an accompaniment to a formal afternoon tea (champagne and strawberries are so passé!).

Make sure that the prosecco and ginger syrup are ice cold, and it doesn’t hurt to chill the glasses, either. This can be served in either martini or champagne glasses (not flutes).

I neglected to take a picture in my rush to imbibe, but here is a link to the original picture in Gourmet.

Sparkling Ginger Cocktail

3/4 cup water
1/2 cup sliced fresh ginger (2 ounces)
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 lemon wedges
2 (750-ml) bottles chilled Prosecco

Simmer water, fresh ginger, and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan, uncovered, 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Chill until cold.

Finely grind crystallized ginger with remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a blender or food processor, then spread on a small plate.

Run lemon wedges around rims of glasses, then dip rims into ginger sugar. Put 1 tablespoon syrup into each glass and top off with Prosecco.

TIP: Don't use the softer, gummy crystallized ginger, as it will not grind fine enough for the glass (although that did not deter me). Try and find the harder, smaller crystallized ginger, that will powder more easily.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday Dinner: Stuffed Meatloaf

Sometimes food ideas hit me and make me wanna run to the kitchen and set to work. Lately, I have had a number of bright ideas rattling around in my head, but with the garden planting and the canning, I haven’t been able to put my thoughts into actions.

Come to find out, some of my bright ideas aren’t mine at all. First I thought of a stuffed meatloaf. I’m thinking ricotta, spinach, herbs, sundried tomatoes. I’m also thinking it has never been done before. Silly me. Just because it isn’t in one of my 100 cookbooks, or that I haven’t seen it on the Food Network, or read it in a food blog doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done. Brilliant Daughter informed me that Guy Fieri does a cornbread-stuffed meatloaf. My bubble deflated rapidly.

Since I still wanted to try my hand at a stuffed meatloaf, I figured I would give Guy’s recipe a go first. Then I could modify it to be more what I had in mind to begin with. So for Sunday dinner I served up the gigantic oversized 20-pound loaf, along with baked potatoes/sour cream/fresh bacon bits, and our own green beans cooked with onion and garlic and some of my newly canned herbed tomato sauce. It was a hit. In fact, it continues to be a hit 3 days later, as we whittle it down by making meatloaf sandwiches every day!

Honestly, the recipe does make one large meatloaf (more line 4 pounds, not 20). Probably enough to feed at least 8-10 people generously. It consists of 2 pounds of ground meat, 1 pound of ground pork, plus the stuffing. Costwise, this probably isn’t the cheapest thing to make once all is said and done. It probably cost me close to $15. And it is rather time consuming, because you have to make the cornbread, then once it is baked you have to break it up and toast the crumbs. So it takes about an hour of prep, plus an hour and a half to cook. But it is not a difficult recipe by any means and the result was very tasty, so I did want to share.
TIP: Place stale bread or the heels of a loaf under your meatloaf to soak up the excess dripping. That way the meatloaf isn’t swimming around in unhealthy fat. Once you serve the meatloaf, the leftover bread (plus any bits stuck to it) are a real treat for the canine members of your family.

Guy Fieri’s Cornbread-Stuffed Meatloaf

* 2 large or 5 small corn muffins (2 to 3 cups), crumbled by hand
* 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, diced
* 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* Salt and pepper
* 1 egg, beaten

For the stuffing: Preheat oven to 275 to 300 degrees F. Spread the cornbread crumbs on a sheet pan and let toast for about 20 minutes, or until lightly toasted and dry. Turn oven up to 350 degrees F. In a skillet brown the bacon until crispy. Drain. To the same skillet add the red pepper, jalapeno, and garlic and cook until soft. In a bowl, combine the cornbread crumbs, bacon, and vegetable mixture. Add parsley and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.


* 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
* 1 cup diced red onion
* 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno
* 2 tablespoons minced garlic
* 2 pounds ground beef
* 1 pound ground pork
* 2 teaspoons sea salt
* 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
* 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
* 1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
* 1 teaspoon dry mustard
* 1/4 cup ketchup
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* 2 eggs
* 6 ounces sliced Cheddar

In medium skillet over medium heat add oil, red onions, jalapeno and garlic. Cook until caramelized, remove from heat and let cool.

In a bowl combine the meat, salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, mustard, ketchup Worcestershire, and eggs and thoroughly mix. Divide the meat mixture in half. Shape 1 half into a rectangle, creating a canoe, and then loosely fill with stuffing. Do not pack it in. Use the other half of the meat to fully enclose the stuffing. Transfer to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Layer the cheese slices on top and bake for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut into thick slices and serve.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Finally, My Own Garden Again

Since my children were small, I have had a vegetable garden. I started small in our first duplex in Palo Alto, with tomatoes and zucchini. When we bought our first house, we had a plot the size of a double-wide driveway, plus room in the back for peppers and melons. We had an herb box and grew lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, carrots, melons. We also had peach trees in the back that graced us with the most heavenly peaches ever. We also had the good fortune of sharing in the bounty of my godparent’s garden. (In fact, much of what I know about growing a garden I learned from my godfather.) They had 1 1/2 acres at the edge of suburbia with 10 kinds of fruit trees, as well as a big plot and a greenhouse. Much of our food came from these two sources.

When we moved to our current home fourteen years ago, it took us awhile to get a garden going. The back yard (as well as the house) was a terrible mess and took two years before we had a good garden started. This continued until a few years ago, when work and serious family stuff got in the way. I’ve had the odd tomato plant or two, some peppers and herbs, but it has been rather pathetic. The lack of a proper garden made me very sad.

Earlier this year Mr. B and I planted a raised bed for some friends in Carlsbad. We filled the bed, set up a whole drip system on timer, and planted half the bed with tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, carrots and herbs. When they started harvesting, I got a bit jealous. I’ve been making do with two unusable planting areas. One is adjacent to the driveway where Mr. B planted string beans on a whim. The second is alongside house where I grow my herbs. Both of these are 8 inches wide. Something had to be done. Soon. Sooner than soon.

Brilliant Daughter had been complaining about some unsightly plantings in the backyard. She thought they were 3 1/2 foot weeds. (Like I’d let that happen!) The plant was pretty in its heyday, but had become overgrown and an eyesore. Consultation with Mr. B and Butcher Son resulted in an agreement to rip it and its companion plants out in favor of a garden. I researched what would be best to put in this time of year, and we agreed on a list. This put a big smile on my face.

I set about to get seeds and start pots, so we would be ready. Lettuce, cilantro and two types of pumpkins started to spring to life. Carrots, radishes, and sorrel seeds would go right into the ground once prepared. We also wanted broccoli, cauliflower and beets. I’m thinking of adding horseradish, too.

Butcher Son spent his first day off removing the offending plants and the second day rototilling his little heart out. Rototil, weed, rototil, add amendment, rototil. I watched gratefully from the sidelines, spread out on a chaise longue, proofreading a manuscript, again with a smile on my face. You can see the end result below. I've located the garden next to Mr. B's Kaffir lime (bought in memory of my godfather), and my two remaining lemon bushes (we sadly lost one this spring).

So the day has come. It’s time to plant and set up the drip system. So you can imagine what we will be doing this weekend.