Wednesday, March 5, 2014

3 favorite comfort food recipes from Rec&Ed cooking instructors

Guest blogger Linda Brzezinski, Adult Enrichment Supervisor

By now most of us are pretty tired of winter with all the sub zero wind chills and shoveling snow. What better way to warm up than cooking? Rec&Ed has offered some tasty classes this winter with a few more on the horizon. I wanted to share three of my favorite recipes from the classes I have visited. See three more favorite recipes on my own Rec&Ed cooking blog.

1. New Rec&Ed cooking instructor shares a Turkish delight

Ruhsar Kaplan is Rec&Ed's newest instructor. She is a software engineer by trade who has recently moved to this country from Turkey. In a recent class she made a savory filled bun called Pogaca. The dough was made with yogurt and had a wonderful soft, puffy texture. (She will repeat this recipe in a spring class that is designed for a hands on experience – watch for it!) She also has her own food blog that features many foods from her native country. Take a look:

2 cups of plain yogurt
1 cup of olive oil
3 teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt (very little)
Flour (start with 2 cups)
Cheese (I prefer feta cheese but you can use your favorite cheese)
Chopped Parsley
Black pepper
Crushed breadcrumbs

Step 1: Prepare the filling: Slice or crumble the feta cheese. Add the parsley and black pepper and mix together.
Step 2: Prepare the dough: Put the yogurt, olive oil, baking powder and salt into a wide and shallow bowl. Add flour and knead the mixture using your hands. You should have a paste as soft as your earlobe. (This is a widely used Turkish definition for pastries to define the softness.) Add more flour as needed.
Step 3: Make small balls by rolling them in the palms of your hands. Balls should be as big as an egg.
Step 4: Press each ball flat using the palms of you hand.
Step 5: Put about one tablespoon of filling in the center of your flattened dough.
Step 6: Close the sides of your dough around the filling. Repeat steps 4-6 for the remaining dough.
Step 7: Roll the filled balls in breadcrumbs and put them on a cookie sheet.
Step 8: Preheat the oven to 370 Fahrenheit and bake the pastries till they have a light brown-pink color.

2. Quick and easy Chinese comfort food

My favorite Chinese Chef Tom Lin made a delicious and amazingly simple Hot and Sour soup that really hit the spot on a recent wintery evening.

Hot & Sour Soup
4-5 oz. chopped chicken
4-5 cups of chicken stock
½ cup of sliced Wood Ear mushrooms (don’t use stems) 
1 cup of sliced button mushrooms
½ cup of bamboo shoots
4 oz tofu cubed
½ cup shredded carrot
1/3 cup chopped green onion (garnish)
2 beaten eggs
½ tsp. minced ginger
½ tsp. chili paste
dash of soy sauce
dash of white vinegar
white pepper to taste
3 Tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 3 oz. water
drizzle of sesame oil

Heat the chicken stock in a large pot over medium high heat until it boils. Add ginger, chili paste, both mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tofu, and carrot. Cook and stir for two minutes to infuse the flavor. Now add the soy sauce, white vinegar and white pepper. Add the cornstarch mix to thicken the soup. Very slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a thin stream. Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and the green onion.

3. Warm your family with this simple, delicious Italian casserole  

There's a reason why long-time Rec&Ed cooking instructor Francesca has developed such a loyal following. The most common testimonials I see on her evaluation sheets state: “…her warm, friendly personality” and “The recipes are simple and I feel I can make them at home now.” On a recent winter evening she warmed up the class with a baked Sicilian pasta that was to die for.

Maccheroni alla Siciliana
Baked Sicilian pasta:
Serves 6 - 8:
4 - Italian sausages
2 - large eggplant cut into 1" pieces
2 - mozzarella balls, sliced thin
1 - cup parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 - lbs penne pasta, rigatoni, or ziti.

2 - 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, puree in a processor
3/4 - cup red wine
3 - cloves of chopped garlic
6 - Tbs olive oil
1 - medium sized onion chopped small
Small bunch basil
Salt & pepper.

Step 1: Using a medium sized pan add your olive oil and get it hot. Add the sausage and cook till light brown. When done remove and set aside. 
Step 2: Using the same pan add the onions and garlic. Sauté till brown and then add the tomatoes, wine, basil, salt, pepper and sausage. Bring this to a low simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. 
Step 3: Use this time to prepare the eggplant. Cut into small pieces and soak in cold salted water for 30 minutes. When done, squeeze the water out and fry them in canola oil to a golden brown. Remove from the oil and place on paper towel to absorb the excess oil. 
Step 4: Now boil your pasta. Cook half way. Drain well and place them in a mixing bowl. Add just enough oil to coat the pasta and set aside. Remove the sausage out of the sauce, cut into small pieces and set aside. It’s time to assemble the whole thing.
Step 5: First, add two ladles of sauce to the pasta and mix this well. Add some of the cheese, mix again. Now take half of this and place in the bottom of your baking dish. On top of this add some of the eggplant, sausage and mozzarella. Cover with sauce. Add the rest of the pasta and cover with the rest of the sauce and the parmigiano cheese. 
Step 6: Place this in a preheated oven of 375. Bake for 30 minutes. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Check out our tasty, crowd-pleasing Rec&Ed spring cooking classes!

Click on the classes below for more information and to register.

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