Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On preserving basil

I've spent many Saturday afternoons this summer working on getting the most of the basil harvest this year, preserving what I can in as many ways I can, so that I might be in basil through the winter. I love this stuff!

I did a bit of research, and tried 4 different systems this year.

Drying: I hung mine in an upside down paper bag, to dry in the garage for a few weeks, before stripping the leaves off of the stems and grinding it in mortar and pestle. You don't get a lot of basil bang for your buck this way, an entire bunch seemed to net a few tablespoons.

Oil preserving: This olive oil and basil paste is supposed to last a year, if you're careful about covering the top back up with a thin coat of oil after each use. Just give it stir when you need to use it, then cover with oil again when you're done. Seal it tight.

I haven't blogged about my mini foodsaver yet, but I love that thing. I vacuum-packed and froze quite a few bags of basil leaves.

And more freezing. Another means that provides you with fresh-like leaves in the winter is simply freezing basil in water. I cut mine into thin strips, crammed it into an ice cube tray, covered it with water and froze it.

Pop these out, toss 'em in a plastic bag or container, and you've got basil at your fingertips for the next sauce or fried rice you whip up.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mary's Figs

Lisa, from Champaign Taste,
and I, have decided to whup up these figs that Fightin Mad Mary blogged about. Baby, we have been NETworkin' about where in the heck we can find a Friggin Fresh Fig. I had a tough time finding prosciutto, too, but finally got some at Schnucks, at Lisa's recommendation.

Vacation drawing nigh, I found myself with a frig full of ingredients, and one cookin' night left: The night we sprung a pizza party on a friend "down" with surgery. Pizza and Figs it is, then.

According to Mary:

Take a fig and slice it down one side.

Stuff with goat cheese - a peppery blend works really well for this or just plain.

Wrap with prosciutto

Top with a sprig of rosemary

Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees in a preheated oven.

Doh! I forgot the rosemary, but these little bites were gobbly good. The flavors meld to make a delicious sweet-salty-cheesy pop in your mouth. This is definitely one I'll try again, simple and delicious.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Julia Child's Turkey Orloff

For Champaign-Taste's Julia Child Challenge, I fixed Turkey Orloff, described in Julia Child & Company as
Turkey breast scallopini gratinéed with mushrooms, onion, rice, and cheese.
This recipe serves 8. (I halved it for my experiment.)

1/4 c. plain raw white rice
1-1/2 sticks butter
1 egg + 2 egg yolks
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms
handful fresh parsley (enough to make 3 T. minced)
1/2 t. tarragon
12 or more turkey breast slices
1 T. vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3 cups hot turkey or chicken stock
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 c. lightly pressed down coarsely grated mozzarella cheese

Rice and onion soubise

Preheat oven to 325 deg. Drop the rice into a saucepan with 2 quarts rapidly boiling salted water and boil uncovered for exactly 5 minutes; drain immediately and reserve.

Chop onions roughly, and then mince in food processor. Melt 4 T. butter in a baking dish, stir in the onions, the drained rice, and 1/4 t. salt, mixing well to coat with the butter; cover the dish and bake for 1 hour, stirring up once or twice until the rice is completely tender and beginning to turn a golden yellow. When the rice is done and still warm, beat in the egg; taste carefully and correct seasoning.

Mushroom Duxelles

While rice and onoin soubise is cooking , trim and wash mushrooms. Chop into tiny pieces in the food processor, and remove. Mince the parsley in processor afterward. By handfuls, either twist mushrooms hard in the corner of a towel or squeeze through a potato ricer to extract as much of the juices as possible. Saute the mushrooms in 2 T. butter stirring and tossing until mushroom pieces begin to separate—5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the tarragon and parsley; season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir half of the mixture into the cooked rice and onion soubise; reserve the rest.

Preparing the Turkey Scallopini

Pound the slices between 2 sheets of waxed paper (I used Glad Press & Seal) to expand them about double, and thin them down to half.

Salt and pepper the slices lightly, dredge in flour and shake off excess, saute for about a minute on each side in 1 T. of oil and 2 T butter (more if needed), just to stiffen them and barely cook through. Set slices aside on a plate as you finish them.

The gratenéing sauce

Make a turkey velouté sauce as follows. Melt 4 T. butter over moderate heat; blend in flour, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon until flour and butter foam and froth together for 2 minutes without turning more than a golden yellow. Remover from heat and, when this roux stops bubbling, pour in 2 cups of hot turkey or chicken stock and blend vigorously with a wire whip. Return to heat, stirring and boiling slowly for 2 minutes.

In the food processor or an electric blender, puree the egg yolks with the cottage cheese. Beat the hot sauce into the cheese mixture

Assembling the dish

Butter the inside of the dish, and spread a thin layer of sauce in bottom of dish. Make a neat and slightly overlapping patttern of the turkey slices down the center of the dish, spreading each, as you go, with the soubise. Spoon remaining mushroom duxelles down the sides. Spoon remaining sauce over the turkey and spread the mozzarella cheese on top.

Bake approximately 25 minutes in 400-degree oven.

Should be served promptly.