Tag Archives: sauce

Creamy Pumpkin Rigatoni

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The seasonal obsession with pumpkin definitely caters to those with a sweet tooth. Flavored lattes, baked goods, and even the scent from a candle all represent the squash’s affiliation with dessert. While its natural flavor when cooked is mildly sweet, similar to that of butternut squash, the flavor most of us lust after this time of year isn’t really pumpkin at all. The spice squad of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and allspice, collectively known as pumpkin pie spice, are all used to create that notable “pumpkin” taste we’re so familiar with.

I’m not one to pass up a pumpkin scone, but I actually prefer mine in hearty recipes, like soups or sauces. This pasta recipe uses autumnal herbs to flavor a rich sauce and coax canned pumpkin to the savory side.

fall ingredients

Best of the fall.

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Clean Plate in Paris

Joe and I just returned from our belated honeymoon voyage to London and Paris. Having something else to look forward to after the wedding planning madness died down was exciting, and it gave us the opportunity to schedule and plan enough things to do to cover two weeks across the globe. Our itinerary was evenly dispersed while still allowing for time to get lost in the two cities and live like the locals do. We cheered on West Ham at a “football match” in East London, had fresh oysters from Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House, saw priceless works of art in both cities, toured Paris by boat in the Seine River, and went to a late evening mass at Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. Of course, we ate some amazing food. And lots of it.

Oysters from Wright Bros.

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Party People: Homemade Sloppy Joes

Being asked to make a feature dish for a 14-year-old’s wiffle ball themed party, where the guest list included ten hungry teenage boys, is somewhat of an overwhelming request. The foodie in me wanted to go beyond hamburgers and hotdogs for my brother’s birthday party; however, I couldn’t think too far outside the box since 14-year-old taste buds probably wouldn’t enjoy a recipe with obscure ingredients. The other factor in deciding a recipe was the love affair I have with my new 5.5 quart Dutch oven which is still going strong, and I was waiting for an opportunity to use it again.

My mom and I were discussing ideas, and she stressed that when young boys are hungry, they want something simple and will probably have thirds. She suggested the ever faithful Sloppy Joe, and when I plugged in that classic dish with “Dutch oven” in a search engine, I found a website perfect for my obsession with my new kitchen toy: Justdutchovenrecipes.com.

The actual recipe I based my creation on was titled “Sloppy Joes for 100.”  While I don’t think I have ever made food for a group that large, the number wasn’t entirely off for my brother and his friends after second, third or fourth helpings. Still, with the help of some mental math (and maybe a calculator or conversion chart here and there) I adapted my recipe below from the one provided to serve twenty, and mad a few changes to the ingredients list.

Sloppy Joes

Adapted from Just Dutch Oven Recipes

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion; finely diced

1 medium green pepper; finely diced

1/2 c. celery; finely diced

1/2 c. carrot; finely diced

4 lb. ground beef

1/4 c. molasses

1/4 c. spicy brown mustard

1 c. ketchup

8 oz. can tomato sauce

1/4 c. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 400˚

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and cook onion, green pepper, celery and carrot until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add ground beef and cook until browned, stirring often.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a large roasting pan; add the next 7 ingredients. Stir sauce throughout, and add pan to preheated oven. Cook at 400˚, uncovered, for 1 ½ hours, stirring every half hour.

Dicing the vegetables finely can be extremely tedious; however, I felt it necessary to make the dish appealing to my audience of teenage boys. Another benefit to this, other than them not being able to pick them out of their sandwiches, is the small cuts of veggies filter through the meat into every sandwich and flavor the beef more than I realized. The sauce was light and tangy, which I attribute to the cider vinegar and tomato sauce. Just Dutch Oven Recipe’s sweet ingredient was brown sugar, which I substituted with molasses – I feel it adds a deeper taste while still contributing sweetness to the sauce.

The ultimate test to a Sloppy Joe recipe is how well the loose meat works on a bun. This recipe is certainly sloppy enough; however, it does not leave you with a soggy roll and a drippy sandwich. After taking the first (eagerly anticipated) bite of my sandwich, I noticed the sauce soaked through into the bun just enough; there was no danger that my roll would disintegrate in my hand as I devoured my Sloppy Joe.

My recipe for homemade Sloppy Joes was a hit with my brother and his friends not once, but twice – considering they each went back for seconds.

I Hate to Brag, But…: Martha Stewart 5.5 Qt. Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I hate to brag, but I am the proud owner of a new 5.5 quart Martha Stewart Dutch oven. It’s a solid piece of cast iron, a sturdy new kitchen toy, versatile and just plain beautiful. Quite frankly, I’ve been pining for a Dutch oven for months, so much so that my desire for one would creep up on me as I looked through cookbooks and magazines. Recipes that called for using the pot gravitated towards me, almost taunting me because I didn’t have one. Granted, I realize there are instances where another hefty pot could be substituted, but it got to the point where I just had to have a Dutch oven, once and for all.

Macy’s was having an awesome “one day sale” around the Easter holiday, and as soon as I could get to a computer, I checked the status of the Martha Stewart inventory. Her products are reliable and affordable, and if I found a Dutch oven with those characteristics that was on sale I’d pretty much take it as a sign that it was meant to be. The selection was pretty extensive with various sized of enameled cast iron pots, and a few colors to choose from. The sunny, happy mustard pot caught my eye, and I quickly added it to my online shopping cart. As if I needed any more assurance that this Dutch oven and I were made for each other, regular shipping at Macy’s.com had it in my possession in three days, way sooner than expected.

The hardest part about the entire process was finding the perfect recipe to christen my new toy. After perusing the many recipes I once had to pass on due to a lack of the feature tool, I decided on a delicious Bolognese to accompany homemade pasta.

Bolognese Sauce

From Gourmet Magazine, 2002

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground by butcher or thinly sliced and pulsed in food processor until finely chopped

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground pork (not lean)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cook onions, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add pancetta, veal, and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, milk, wine, water, and thyme and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Frozen, it keeps for 1 month.

The end result had many levels of flavor without being too complicated. As soon as I smelled the aroma of the onions, carrots, garlic and celery as they cooked down, I knew I had chosen the right recipe to begin my Dutch oven love affair. Instead of pancetta, I added bacon, which really stood out but was not too overbearing. The wine, tomato paste and milk elevate the Bolognese to another level of flavor, and allowing the three to simmer into the meat for about an hour gives the liquids the opportunity to develop, combined, their own unique taste.

Cooking with the Dutch oven was as fun as I thought it would be, and it really retained heat while the ingredients didn’t stick to the bottom or sides at all. This certainly would not have been the case with the other hefty, stock pots I own. Clean up was just as easy, as the remnants from the Bolognese just wiped easily off the inside surface of the Dutch oven.

The Bolognese was delicious, and though I definitely would like to make it again in the future, I can’t make any promises it will happen soon. I have many, many recipes I once passed on that I can now make with my beautiful, perfect, new Dutch oven.

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