I used black forest ham in this picture and it reacted a bit like bacon so it’s a bit crispy and very browned. However, it was delicious, much more economical than prosciutto and still very tasty—always trying to be economical here in my kitchen. This dish was made in an aluminum pan for a friend who had just injured herself in a down hill ski accident.
Asparagus and Prosciutto Strata (an overnight casserole dish)
It’s always such a great pleasure to host a breakfast for a group of people and have them enjoy your cooking efforts with big smiles on their faces. That’s part of what was so rewarding in having been an inn keeper at my B&B and now that I have the privilege of writing articles for our wonderful local Weekly Sun, they allow me to play inn keeper every now and then. That’s what just recently happened at our January get together and this is one of the items which I prepared. Of course I want to share this with my readers as well.
Here though, before you get to the recipe, are a few little known facts about the asparagus that might be of interest to you. In France, Louis XIV had a special greenhouses built for growing it. The finest texture and the strongest yet most delicate taste which is in the asparagus tips, were called, once again in France, “Les points d’amour (love tips)”. Leave it to the French to make a love connection to the asparagus tips. They were served as a delicacy to Madame de Pompadour. Asparagus was pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C. Romans would even freeze this healthy vegetable high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus reserved the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action. As well, asparagus is often grown in conjunction with tomatoes because: the tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle while the asparagus repels some harmful root nematodes that affect the tomato plants. So here’s a salute to that “Point D’Amour”.
- One Lb. asparagus, tough stem ends snapped off and the remainder cut in 2 inch pieces.
- 1 loaf 3/4 lb. crusty artisan style bread, cut into 1 inch pieces. I use a French bread loaf
- 3 ounces thinly sliced Prosciutto cut into 1/2 –inch thick strips
- 1 ¼ C. shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese
- 1/2 C. chopped chives
- 1 Tblsp. grated lemon peel
- 6 eggs
- 3 ½ C. milk
- 1/2 Tsp. salt
- 1/2 Tsp. pepper
- In a medium pan bring about 2 quarts water to a boil; add asparagus and cook for about 3 minutes-till they are bright green and barely tender. Immerse them in cold water to stop them from cooking more.
- In a lightly oiled or sprayed 9 X 13 Pyrex or other oven proof dish spread half of the bread cubes.
- There will be 4 layers. Top the first layer of bread cubes with 1/2 of the following ingredients:
- Prosciutto or some sort of thin sliced ham–smoked or not
- Shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese.
- Now place the other half of the bread crumbs on top and layer again as above in #3.
- In a blender blend the eggs, milk, S&P and lemon peel and pour over the layered ingredients.
- Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 and bake until center of strata is set and the top is lightly browned (40-50 minutes).
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
The Magic of Beets
Beets weren’t one of my most favorite veggies, however, when I started encountering the golden and other colored milder tasting beets, I became very fond of them. So, when I saw these three gold beets at the market, I couldn’t resist. Beets are truly multi faceted because not only can you use the root but the greens as well. So for dinner last night, I devoured both and it was truly divine.
The history of beets is very interesting. It has had a long history of cultivation stretching back to the second millennium BC. Aristotle and Theophrastus mention them. This little root has been used for food, sugar, fodder, food color, medicine and health, as an aphrodisiac, juice, and wine. It can be consumed deliciously cold or hot. Various countries of our world have made this root into a specialty dish and it’s even used as an integral part of a Jewish prayer for Rosh Hashanah. And that is just the root—because the tops are delectable as well. So here are two of my favorite recipes for this miraculous vegetable.
Beets Baked in Foil (oh so easy and delicious—try to buy beets which are uniform in size so that they’ll cook evenly. Additionally, you can store just the uncooked roots in a plastic bag in the frig and they’ll last for weeks.)
- Preheat the oven to 400.
- Wash/scrub the beets well and leave an inch or so of the green top on to minimize bleeding.
- Wrap them individually in foil and place them on a baking sheet.
- Cook, undisturbed, for 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours—until a think-bladed knife pierces the beet with little resistance. (They may cook at different rates—so watch for that.)
- You can peel them right away and serve them sliced or whole with butter or olive oil, any vinaigrette, or freshly squeezed lemon juice. I like them with just butter or olive oil.
- You can also remove, cool and refrigerate them in their foil until ready to peel and use. They’ll last for several days. Then you could serve them cold with a good dressing; or sliced mixed with olive oil, balsamic, ground pepper and salt served over some Greek yogurt. A bit of fresh chervil to top this last suggestion will make this a perfect dish.
Beet Greens: They actually were “the in- green” eons ago—that is until spinach came along.
- Wash the beet leaves, cut and then chop the stems. Separately chop the leaves.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil; salt it. Cook the stems until they are almost tender (about 5 minutes) and then add the leaves. Cook a couple minutes more or until it’s tender. Add butter or olive oil at the very end as well as S&P to your taste. Additionally you can also add the ingredients in the optional #4 paragraph below.
- Optional: add sunflower seeds (or other seeds of your desire) and raisins at the very end. If you wish you can pre- soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes. Also, you can pre- roast the seeds in a pan.
6 servings for a 3 pound beef tongue
Ok, I bet a lot of you are going EWIE, but I know that some of you are going to be interested in this recipe. I remember when I was a little girl being totally freaked out when my mother brought to our dining table “the tongue” and it was a big one—unpeeled. She peeled it in front of me and I thought that I would get sick. But I braved it and ever since have enjoyed the lesser loved dishes including sweet breads, liver, kidneys, snails and well, you get the picture. So, when I saw 4 pork tongues at the grocery
store the other day, I was happy indeed. This was my first experience with pork tongues. They turned out delicious however they were much harder to peel than the other tongues I had encountered. There are many ways of cooking a tongue but this recipe is one which ends up having a nice sweet sauce on it and I think that even first timers may enjoy it.
Ingredients for boiling the tongue:
- One fresh beef tongue (3 lbs.) but I cooked my 2 lbs. of 4 pork tongues
- 1 Tsp. salt
- 1 onion studded with 3-4 cloves
- 6 sprigs of fresh parsley
- 3 celery stalks with leaves
- 2 peeled carrots cut into large pieces
- Few whole pepper corns
- 1 bay leaf
- Water to cover
Instructions for boiling the tongue:
- Place the tongue and the ingredients above in a tall pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pot and simmer until the tongue(s) are fork tender—about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
- Remove the tongue(s) from the water and cool slightly.
- When cool, if need be, cut of bones and gristle at the thick end; slit the skin from the thick end to the tip on the underside. Use a paring knife to loosen the skin at the thick end pull and peel off the skin from the thick end to the tip.
- At this point you can slice it and serve it with mustard, horseradish or whatever you enjoy with tongue. You can eat it hot or cold. However, after slicing this is what I do if I don’t feel like just having slice tongue with a homemade mustard, horseradish, piquant or nice vinaigrette sauce:
Ingredients for the spiced tongue sauce:
- 3 strips of lemon peel
- 1 Tsp. cinnamon
- 2 Tsp. brown sugar
- 1/8 Tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 2 C. white wine or dry vermouth
- 1/2 C. raisins (optional)
- 1/2 C. Blackberry or currant or cranberry jelly or sauce (optional)
Instructions for the spiced tongue sauce:
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Simmer (but don’t boil) the sauce ingredients so that they are mixed well.
- Place the tongue slices in an oven proof casserole dish and add the sauce ingredients and bake, covered in the 375 degree oven until the meat absorbs nearly all the liquid—about 35 minutes.
- I serve this with roasted fingerling potatoes and a nice side vegetable.