Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Loving Leftovers - Part 1: Tortilla Rollups

Memorial Day was a gorgeous sunny day here in Colorado, so Jamie and I spent the afternoon at Castlewood Canyon.  After a few hours of hiking, we stopped for a snack of grapes, red pears, apricots and tortilla rolls.  On a recent episode of Extra Virgin, Debi and Gabriele had a romantic little picnic in the park with homemade biscotti, among other things they'd made.  I was envisioning our picnic spread out on a blanket, a little relaxing in the sun, some fun pictures...  but there really were no nice grassy areas at Castlewood Canyon, so we had to sit at one of the picnic benches on the trail instead.  One of these weekends, hopefully I'll get my romantic picnic, though!

Tortilla Rollups are one of those items that show up at just about every picnic or potluck, and it may be that they're just so easy to make, or that they're a good way to use up bits of ingredients that aren't much use in anything else.  They're also incredibly versatile, and you can use ingredients in just about any flavor combination you like!

leftover ingredients:
  • whole milk
  • heavy cream
  • fresh dill
  • salmon
  • tuna
  • lunchmeat turkey

To use up the milk and cream (leftover from a failed caramel-making attempt), I made a fresh batch of ricotta cheese, then mixed it with the fresh dill and some chopped shallots.  I then used my creamy ricotta spread in place of the traditional cream cheese usually used in tortilla rollups.

After spreading the ricotta on three tortillas, I made a few different combinations:  a spicy tuna and cucumber roll, a salmon and cucumber roll (tuna and salmon leftover from sushi night), and the third with turkey, maple-smoked cheddar and a dash of pesto.

A quick and tasty snack that doesn't waste leftover ingredients leaves more time for other things like a fun day in the sun!

Braising with Le Creuset: Braised Beef Short Ribs and Veal Shanks, with Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Jamie is now the happy owner of a Le Creuset dutch oven, which bumps our collection of Le Creuset cookware from one item up to two, our first being a beautiful green enameled stockpot he gave me our first Christmas together.  (I've seen differing opinions on whether or not Le Creuset actually makes dutch ovens--some say they only make "french" ovens--but there seems to be little difference, and the one that Williams Sonoma sells is called a dutch oven.)

At any rate, Jamie enjoys the process of braising, cooking tough cuts of meat low and slow, until they're fall-off-the-bone tender.  

The first step is to sear the meat in a little olive oil.  

Then vegetables, broth and seasoning are added, all of which slowly cooks for hours on low heat, in order to tenderize the meat.  

Finally, the cooking liquid and some of the vegetables are pureed to create a rich broth which is served on top of the meat and vegetables.  (Note that although we used a dutch oven for this dish, a delicious result could also easily be achieved using a crock pot.)

Braised Beef Short Ribs and Veal Shanks
  • 4 beef short ribs
  • 2 veal shanks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 3 carrots, bite-sized pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • leeks (1 stalk), diced
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bottle red wine (the better the wine, the better the broth...)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon
  • 1 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in the dutch oven on medium heat.  Sear the meat for 2 minutes each side.  Remove meat from dutch oven and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil to dutch oven, and cook carrots, celery, leeks and onion until softened, about 7-10 minutes.

Nestle the meat down in the vegetables, so that the meat is resting on the bottom of the dutch oven.  Pour 1/2 of the bottle of red wine and all of the beef broth into the dutch oven.

Cover and cook for one hour, on medium low heat.  After an hour, add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, tarragon, tomatoes, and the remainder of the wine.  Simmer on low for 4-5 hours, until meat is very tender.

Remove meat and bones and half of the vegetables from the dutch oven and set aside.  Using an immersion blender, blend the remainder of the vegetables and cooking liquid in the dutch oven; turn the heat up to medium high and reduce liquid until thick, about 5-10 minutes.

Arrange meat and vegetables on a serving dish, and top with the reduced broth.

 Stuffed Portobella Mushrooms
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/4 pound ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup diced shallot
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 3-4 tablespoons grated cheese (I used maple smoked cheddar)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
Preheat oven to 350.  Arrange a piece of foil on a baking sheet.  Place portobello mushrooms upside down on the baking sheet.

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet.  On medium heat, cook sausage, shallot and celery, until sausage is fully cooked, 7-10 minutes.  

Transfer cooked mixture to a bowl; add beaten egg, bread crumbs, grated cheese, and salt and pepper.  Combine thoroughly; pile on top of the portobello mushrooms.  Top with parmesan cheese.  Drizzle each with a teaspoon of olive oil.  

Bake for 30 minutes, until hot through, and cheese is melted and browned.

 And for one of our favorite appetizers, season and steam a fresh artichoke, and serve with a little aioli.