Portuguese Bifanas Casserole

Portuguese Bifanas Casserole

Prep Time:               24 hours

Cook Time:               25 minutes

Servings:          4

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs Pork Bifanas (made with a pork loin sliced in half, lengthwise)

Marinade:

  • 4 clove Garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp Flaked or Coarse Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 2 Tbs Piri-Piri Sauce, or Tabasco
  • ¼ C White Vinegar
  • 1 C White Wine, I use Chardonnay or Moscato.

Casserole:

  • 1 lbs Fresh Large Mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Yellow Onion, large – cut in ½ and then thick sliced
  • 4 oz Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tbs Butter
  • ½ C Port Wine (100 ml)
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt (to taste)
  • ¼ tsp Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (to taste)   

Directions:

  1. Thin slice (½ – 1 mm) 1 ½ lbs pork loin cut in half lengthwise, remove fat and set aside. Mix together the garlic, salt,  paprika, piri-piri sauce, vinegar,  wine and the bay leaf in a large press-seal bag or lidded plastic container. Add the pork, mix well and marinate overnight.

 

  1. Remove Pork from marinade, drain and heat a skillet (medium heat) with lard (or butter) and when hot, fry the pork fillets on both sides. Remove the pork fillets and set aside.

 

  1. Add the mushrooms and onion to the skillet and sauté until onions begin to caramelize.

 

  1. Add the Port wine, tomato paste, season with salt and pepper, and add the pork fillets back in the skillet and let it simmer for a bit. Garnish with fresh parsley.
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Sausage and Sweet Potato Shakshouka

Sausage and Sweet Potato Shakshouka

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 oz Pork Sausage
1 Yellow Onion, finely diced
2 clove Garlic, finely diced
1 Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped into small chunks
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Ground Coriander
1 tsp Chili Flakes
14 oz Diced Tomatoes
2 Eggs
1 bunch Fresh Coriander (in most groceries sold as Cilantro)
1 tsp Fennel Seed
½ tsp each Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

Directions:

1. Season the sausage meat with fennel, salt and pepper and shape into approximately 8 meatballs.

2. Heat up the olive oil in a 12 inch cast iron skillet on a medium heat and then fry the meatballs off until they have browned up a little. Remove them from the pan and set to one side.

3. Remove the leaves from the coriander stalks and then finely slice the stalks, while sausage balls are cooking. Add them to the pan alongside the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes until soft. There should be enough oil from the sausages in the pan but if not add a little more olive oil. Pour the sweet potato to the pan and then add 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chili flakes and 1 tsp of ground coriander. Fry for another five minutes and then pour the tomato sauce over everything, season with salt, pepper and the remaining spices and stir to combine.

4. Heat oven to 400˚

5. Place the sausage meat balls in the tomato sauce. Put the skillet in the 400˚ oven and cook for 20 minutes.

6. Remove the skillet from the oven. Use the back of a wooden spoon to make wells in the sauce and then crack the eggs into the wells. Replace the skillet into the oven and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

7. Sprinkle a little sea salt and fresh cracked pepper over the top and serve with crusty bread for a delicious and warming dish perfect for any time of day!

Papa Scott’s Cooking Tips: Why Do We Cook at 350˚

Step into your kitchen right now and turn the oven to BAKE. Does it automatically set the temperature to 350° (176.67C)? Why do appliance manufacturers preset their ovens to that temperature?

Well, it’s all about chemistry. Known as the Maillard Reaction, it’s a process that creates a browning effect and gives flavor to our foods. When amino acids and sugars get together, it’s a match made in cooking heaven. It was named for the chemist Louis Camille Maillard.

His discovery was made in 1912 while he was studying proteins and how they synthesize. The process is responsible for the way food smells when it’s fried, grilled, or baked. That distinct aroma you smell that wets your appetite, is the process taking place. The Maillard reaction also differentiates taste profiles when various cooking methods are used such as boiling, roasting, or steaming. It was studied and co-opted by the culinary industry as a term to describe what happens to food.

During the process, molecules production and movement skyrocket when something’s getting cooked up, and it seems that 350° is the sweet spot to unleash the succulence in just about any food.

Many recipes call for the oven to be heated to 350°; this is to ensure even heating and to avoid burning. It’s considered to be a moderate temperature for an oven. To avoid burning your food is the real importance of the Maillard reaction.

My grandmother, Pauline Starzinger Brundage had two stoves in her kitchen; A 1920’s electric range with oven and a wood burning stove. She used the electric range for storage of pots and pans. I remember, as a child sitting in her kitchen when she was cooking. She always had a pot of coffee and pot of water on the wood burning stove, one for drinking and the other for moisture. One day, I saw her put a piece of paper in the oven. I asked her why she did that. She told me that the time it took to brown and curl the edges told her if it was at the proper cooking temperature. She could never get used to turning a dial to get to that right temperature. Thanks to technology, we don’t have to take those steps anymore and 350° became the standard through new technology. However, it’s still possible that our ovens need to be tested for hot spots and accuracy.

The Maillard reaction doesn’t just take place in ovens. Foods cooked in skillets or on the grill undergo the same process when water starts to evaporate from their surfaces. Flavors and aromas are unlocked!

Don’t get this process confused with caramelization which involves only the breakdown of sugars. It’s the presence of proteins (and carbs) combined with sugars that cause the Maillard reaction.

Bakers, roasters, all-around chef taste-makers, and BBQ Masters have learned how to manipulate the Maillard reaction while executing their favorite dishes. They sometimes combine cooking methods or fiddle with the temperature until their desired effect is achieved – either slowly or quickly.

Keep in mind that 350° isn’t a hard-set rule for ovens when it comes to baked treats. Breads, muffins, and some pastries rise and brown better when the temperature is set higher. What should you do? Pay attention to your recipe instructions and preheat at the proper temperature. While 350° is safe, you may be disappointed if you bake everything at that level.

You also may notice that your cake box tells you which temp to use if you’re using dark pans versus shiny pans. Heat is distributed quickly in darker pans so beware when baking and keep an eye out for the Maillard reaction.

Did you know about the Maillard reaction? Do you have any tips on how to trigger it like a chef? What lessons have you learned about 350°?

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup 01

Prep Time:               30 minutes

Cook Time:               2 ¾ hours

Servings:          7 quarts

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 Lrg. Carrots, chopped
  • 3 Stalk Celery, chopped
  • 5 clv. Garlic, minced
  • 1 lrg. Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • ¼ C Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Oregano, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 2 Tbs Fresh Sage, chopped
  • 5 Sprig Fresh Thyme
  • 1 – 32 oz. can Diced Tomatoes (I usually use fire-roasted or Italian-style)
  • 3 oz Tomato Paste
  • 4 C Vegetable Broth
  • 2 C Chicken Stock
  • 4 C Water ( use only as much is needed)
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Med. Zucchini (around 1 1/2 cups), diced into bite size pieces
  • 15 oz. Can Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. Can Cannellini Beans or Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ C Small Shell Dried
  • 3 C Fresh or Frozen Kale or Spinach, chopped.
  • 1 ½ tsp Balsamic Vinegar

 

Directions:

  Preheat oven to 250˚.

Add carrots, celery, garlic, onions, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and bay leaves to the Dutch Oven. Stir in vegetable broth, chicken stock, balsamic vinegar and into Dutch Oven. Cover with lid and cook on low for 2 hours.

   Raise oven temperature to 350˚ 45 minutes before serving, Stir in water, zucchini, kidney beans, cannellini beans, kale and pasta and cook 45 minutes or until pasta is tender. Be prepared to add more water as the pasta will drink most of what is used.

Papa Scott’s Notes:

  1. 2017, I had a bumper crop of Kale. I got 4 harvests from 4 plants. I froze nearly 30 cups of torn Kale leaves; so I am using in place of spinach on my recipes and it tastes wonderful, while adding a nice cabbage flavor.

 

  1. You may also use a slow cooker. This year, 2017 I used my Dutch Oven because it holds more and then before adding the water, I pulled out my soup pot which holds even more – 7 quarts vs 6 quarts. I canned all 7 quarts; which will make some nice meals when the temperatures dip below zero this winter.

Italian Mac N Cheese

Italian Mac N Cheese

This is a family favorite. The flavor if wonderful. The picture shows how you can have fun with this recipe; it includes Sweet Italian Sausage and Broccoli Flowerets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbs Butter
  • ¼ C Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 C Milk (2% or whole)
  • 1 lbs Mini Penne Pasta, uncooked
  • 4 oz. Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz. Provolone Cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz. Romano, Asiago, or Fontina Cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 C Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tbs Dried Italian Seasoning   

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente.  Scoop the pasta from the pot once it is cooked. Work on the next step while your pasta is cooking; so you can add the pasta to the sauce once it is cooked to al dente.

Meanwhile, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat melt butter, add flour and Italian seasoning and whisk for about 2 minutes to cook out the ‘flour-y’ taste. Add milk and continue to whisk occasionally, allowing the mixture to thicken. Add cheeses and whisk until fully combined. If the sauce is too thick, add pasta water one tablespoon at a time until it is the right consistency. Remember that this type of sauce will thicken as it sits.

Recipe Notes:

The first key to cooking good pasta is to NEVER dump the pasta to drain through a strainer; scoop it out and set the pasta water aside in case it is needed. I use a basket scoop made for a Wok to scoop out my large pastas. Secondly, never rinse your pasta; your sauce will not stick to rinsed pasta and you will ruin the flavor.

You may use pre-shredded cheese from your local store. You can buy them individually or as an Italian Blend. You will have the best results using freshly grated cheeses. Make sure that you use at least 4 oz. of Mozzarella.

You can add meat to this. Our favorites are sliced and cooked Italian Sausage or Linguiça Sausage. Any left-overs will work – everything from chicken to pork to steak. Get inventive with what you have on hand.

Don’t hesitate to use frozen vegetables; such as peas, peas & carrots or broccoli. You can also add in fresh greens; such as Baby Spinach, torn Kale Leaves or Dandelion Greens. Again be resourceful, use what you have on hand or some other vegetable that is a family favorite

This nice thing about recipes like this is that you can combine meats and vegetables together to make a full meal in one dish. Enjoy your kitchen adventure

Artisan Rye Bread

Aritsan Rye Bread.jpg

For this particular recipe you may want to invest in a cooking stone and peel.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ Tbs yeast
  • 2 C warm water
  • 1½ tsp Sea Salt
  • 2 Tbs Caraway Seeds
  • 1 ½ C Rye Flour
  • 3+ C Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ C Cornmeal, for dusting the Peel     

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, water, salt, caraway, and rye flour. Add in all-purpose flour 1 cup at a time, adding more if necessary to form a dough ball that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. Dough should be soft, not stiff, but should hold together on its own without being overly sticky.

 

  1. Transfer to a lightly greased large bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

 

  1. Shape it into a loaf by stretching the dough from the top center of the dough ball over the edges, and then underneath. It should look and feel like you are holding the loaf with two hands and are pulling the dough inside out with your thumbs. Give several of those pulls with your thumbs until you have a nice looking little loaf.

 

  1. Dust a pizza peel or wooden cutting board with cornmeal. Put the loaf on the prepared board and let it rise for another 40 minutes.

 

  1. Preheat a pizza/baking stone in the oven to 450 degrees. Place a shallow pan on the rack below the baking stone.

 

  1. Bake the loaf directly on the stone. When you put the loaf in, pour a tall glass of water into the shallow pan below. It’ll pop and sizzle and steam, so watch your hands. Close the oven door. Reduce the oven temperature to 400˚ (375˚ for convection oven) and bake for 30 minutes.

Papa Scott’s Cooking Tips Bleached vs Unbleached Flour

A while back, I switched to using unbleached flour for all my baking needs. I started hearing about the health benefits for doing this. I also decided to start using it because I like sourdough bread. Wild Yeast* is the key ingredient in sourdough bread and it can be used as a substitute for what I call quick yeast you buy in foil packets in the store. The use of unbleached flour and wild yeast is also a way to help steer away from developing gluten intolerance.

If you thought all flour was the same, think again. Many people know that white flour isn’t good for our health. However, bleached flour is even worse. At some point in history, milled flour was always unbleached. This old school flour comes out in a pale yellow color and it is aged for about 12 weeks. This aging process allows for the proteins and gluten develop, which makes it better for baking. Also, during this process, the flour bleaches and becomes whiter naturally.

However, we are impatient people, we want everything right now. So in the 1900’s a scientist invented a process which allowed us to bleach the flour within 48 hours, instead of several months. And thus, (the chemical process for) bleached flour was invented.

Below, I have taken some time to research the differences and to gather some important information so you can make your own decision on which flour will be best to use for your family.

Bleached Flour

When bleached flour was introduced, it was widely opposed. Dr. Wiley was one of the people that opposed it. He believed that foods can cause more harm than some drugs. He even took the matter to the Supreme Court, although they ruled in his favor (disallowing bleaching or altering of flour), it was never enforced. FDA was formed and the focus shifted to drugs. Bleached flour lived on.

The problem with bleached flour is that during the bleaching process, a byproduct called alloxan is produced. Alloxan** is used to produce diabetes in lab animals (rat and mice) so they can study diabetes treatments. FDA still allows chemical processes to be used without food that produces alloxan. Also, as with any refined foods, A LOT of nutrients are lost in the process. There are too many lost nutrients to list, but here’s a small portion:

  • Half of the beneficial unsaturated fatty acids
  • Virtually all of the vitamin E
  • Fifty percent of the calcium
  • Seventy percent of the phosphorus
  • Eighty percent of the iron
  • Ninety eight percent of the magnesium
  • Fifty to 80 percent of the B vitamins

 

Some of the bleaching agents used in the bleaching process include Chlorine Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide, Chlorine, Calcium Peroxide, Azodicarbonamide***, and Benzoyl Peroxide. The nutrients and vitamins that are lost during this bleaching process are then often added and made into what’s called “enriched” flour. However, most of the nutrients are still missing, and very little amounts are actually replaced. These nutrients are often added along with toxic additives. Metallic iron fillings have been found in “enriched” and “fortified” products.

Unbleached Flour

When you look at the label of your flour and it is not labeled as bleached or unbleached, it is bleached. However, due to people starting to pay attention and educating themselves, the demand for good old unbleached flour has increased. If a product is labeled as “unbleached” it has not been chemically bleached. Unbleached flour is making a comeback. Unbleached flour contains more nutrients and is better for your health. However, try to limit your intake of white flour. Wheat contains gluten and can often contain pesticides, etc. USDA found 16 different pesticide residues on wheat.

Fresh flour straight from the mill isn’t actually quite ready to be used in baking and actually improves with a little aging. During the aging time, flour undergoes a chemical process where oxygen in the air reacts with the glutenin proteins (which eventually work to form gluten) to form even longer chains of gluten. This means that doughs made with aged flour will have more elasticity and structure.

Fresh flour is also slightly yellowish to start off with, but then becomes paler as pigments in the flour oxidize during aging. The color change doesn’t affect anything chemically within the flour, but was originally an indicator that the flour had been aged for a certain period.

Around the beginning of the 20th century, it became common to use certain chemicals to speed up the aging process, allowing milling facilities to produce more flour and save on storage space. Potassium bromate was commonly used to speed aging, and then bleaches like benzoil peroxide and chlorine dioxide were used to approximate the whiteness of naturally aged flour.

In more recent history, medical concerns have risen over the consumption of potassium bromate, so it has been mostly replaced with ascorbic acid. Although bleaching hasn’t been raised into question medically, it does seem to affect the structure and flavor of the flour itself.

* Wild Yeast:

Any of various yeasts occurring naturally in the air or on surfaces especially of fruits and grains as distinguished from those selected and artificially cultured. For more information about Wild Yeast visit my blog on Wild Yeast.

** Alloxan, sometimes referred to as alloxan hydrate, refers to the organic compound with the formula OC(N(H)CO)2C(OH)2. It is classified as a derivative of pyrimidine. The anhydrous derivative (OC(N(H)CO)2CO is also known as well as a dimeric derivative. These are some of the earliest known organic compounds. They also exhibit a variety of biological activities.

 

Alloxan is a toxic glucose analogue, which selectively destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (that is beta cells) when administered to rodents and many other animal species. This causes an insulin-dependent diabetes (called “alloxan diabetes”) in these animals, with characteristics similar to type 1 diabetes in humans. Alloxan is selectively toxic to insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells because it preferentially accumulates in beta cells through uptake via the GLUT2 glucose transporter. Alloxan, in the presence of intracellular thiols, generates reactive oxygen species (ROS) in a cyclic reaction with its reduction product, dialuric acid. The beta cell toxic action of alloxan is initiated by free radicals formed in this redox reaction. Studies suggest that alloxan does not cause diabetes in humans. Others found a significant difference in alloxan plasma levels in children with and without diabetes Type 1.

 

*** Azodicarbonamide From the FDA Website: 

  1. What is azodicarbonamide (ADA)?

Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is a chemical substance approved for use as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner in bread baking.

  1. On what basis did FDA approve the use of ADA?

FDA approved the use of ADA as a food additive in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner based on a comprehensive review of safety studies, including multi-year feeding studies.

  1. What has FDA done to continue to ensure the safe use of ADA in foods?

FDA has continued to evaluate the safe use of ADA in foods. In 2016, the agency conducted a comprehensive exposure assessment of semicarbazide (SEM) – a breakdown chemical that forms from ADA during bread making. This assessment was based on (1) the amount of SEM from the use of ADA from the analysis of over 250 representative bread and bread products, and (2) data from two different sets of food consumption data: a) the combined 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2-day dietary intake survey; and b) the 2007-2010 NPD Group, Inc. National Eating Trends-Nutrient Intake Database (NPD NET-NID) 10-14 day data using the proprietary Foods Analysis and Residue Evaluation-National Eating Trends (FARE-NET) program.

Based on this information, FDA developed exposure estimates for SEM for the U.S. population aged 2 years or more and children aged 2-5 years. Children aged 2-5 years were chosen because they would be expected to have the highest exposure to SEM per body weight. This exposure assessment was presented at the 251st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, on March 15, 2016. See the Exposure Estimate for Semicarbazide from the Use of Azodicarbonamide in Bread for the U.S. Population poster (PDF: 664KB).

  1. What about studies that show breakdown products of ADA, specifically semicarbazide, to be a carcinogen?

During bread making, ADA completely breaks down to form other chemicals, one of which is SEM. At high levels, SEM has been shown to increase the incident of tumors when fed to female mice, but not to male mice or either gender of rat. These studies were conducted in rodents at levels of SEM that far exceed estimates of human exposure from the consumption of ADA-treated flour or bread products.

  1. Does FDA recommend consumers change their diets?

Based on the science, FDA is not recommending that consumers change their diets because of exposure to ADA/SEM. FDA considers ADA a safe food additive when used for the purposes and at the levels specified in the FDA regulations.

  1. How do I know whether bread products contain ADA?

ADA, like all ingredients intentionally added to food, must be listed on the ingredient label. Consumers are able to identify the addition of ADA by looking for “azodicarbonamide” on the label.

  1. Is ADA necessary to make bread?

No. The use of ADA as a whitening agent and dough conditioner is not necessary to make bread and there are alternative ingredients approved for use available.

  1. Does ADA have other uses?

Yes, ADA is also authorized for use as a blowing agent in sealing caps for food containers such as ketchup bottles. In 2005, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessed the risk from the use of ADA as a blowing agent and concluded that it is not of concern for human health given the levels that have been found in foods packaged in glass jars and bottles. However, EFSA had also noted that exposure to SEM should be limited where possible, and the European Union banned this use of ADA.