Saturday, May 28, 2011

Planning a Wedding and Oh yeah, cooking too - Greek Ziti Ragu

When Zach and I got engaged, I thought I would end up blogging away about the wedding planning process.

I thought food blog readers were a similar target audience so it would be nice to sort things out via this blog, with a recipe to accompany every step of the way. I am now two months in to my 6 month engagement, and I do not think I have really mentioned the crazy world of wedding planning. If this is not something that interests you, forgive me for starting now.

You do not need a lot of time to plan a wedding. In fact, I prefer the condensed process which will all start and end before there is too much time to dwell on all the things I am including and not including in the process. What you do need is a lot of advance notice.

Every vendor, specifically the ceremony and reception venues need to be booked so far ahead time. I found myself running out of options for a reception venue before I even started looking. And the date we picked, the Florida Gator Football bye weekend of October 22nd? Forget it.

We started throwing out alternate dates, pending the availability of the reception spaces we were drawn to. By the time we found the location we ended up booking, there were two dates available within months of our original date: September 18th (a Sunday) and September 11th (a Sunday). For obvious reasons, we went with September 18th.

Our wedding celebration will be at the Winter Park Farmers’ market in Orlando, Florida, a location originally brought up by Zach’s mom (who originated several other successful ideas like the greyhound breed of dog we ended up adopting, my beloved cast iron skillet, my sewing hobby and the easy-peasy crock pot). The place is perfect for us. It is nice enough for an event such as a wedding, but not stuffy or cookie-cutter the way so many reception locations can be. The farmers’ market has loads of character and old-school charm with its red brick structure and hanging bulb lights. It used to be a train station, but has been converted to serve as a venue for weddings and other events as well as a farmers’ market every Saturday. Zach and I are big fans of farmers’ markets in general so it just seems really appropriate that we celebrate or marriage at one.

The ceremony will be at Loch Haven Park which is just behind the Menello Museum of Art, about 10 minutes away from the market. The criteria for a ceremony location for was “a big tree”. I just wanted to get married under a big tree. This is of course, weather permitting which means a lot more in Florida during hurricane season than it would somewhere like California in the fall.

We made a "save the date" movie trailer instead of the traditional save the date postcards. I am posting it below for your viewing pleasure...

I am well beyond the venue booking at this point in the process, but more on that later. For now, I will leave you with THIS:

Greek Ziti Ragu

(a recipe by Rachel Ray - makes 5-6 servings

2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb (I used beef)
Fine sea salt and black pepper
2 sprigs fresh oregano or marjoram, leaves finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 onion, finely chopped
1 large fresh bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 small red chile pepper, such as fresno or cherry, finely chopped
About 3 tablespoons tomato paste
A small handful pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons black olive tapenade
1 cup dry white wine 1 1/2 cups whole milk
A few grates fresh nutmeg
1 pound ziti pasta
1/2 pound brick greek feta cheese, drained and finely crumbled
A handful each flat-leaf parsley and fresh mint, finely chopped

Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Add the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, and the lamb; brown the lamb, caramelizing the meat to deep brown. Add lots of black pepper, sea salt, the oregano (or marjoram for a milder taste), garlic, onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick and chile pepper and cook for 7 to 8 minutes to soften.

Add the tomato paste and olives (or tapenade) and stir for 30 seconds. Add the wine and deglaze the pan; add the milk and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add nutmeg to taste and simmer the ragù while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Return the pasta to the hot pot with half of the finely crumbled feta. Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Add the ragù to the ziti and stir, adding in the pasta cooking water as necessary to move the heavy ragù around the pasta. Serve in shallow bowls topped with the remaining feta and the finely chopped parsley and mint.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Don't You Forget About Me - Brunch Club May

I thought of a new excuse for not posting in a while.

Brunch club nearly disappeared after the last one that was sometime last year! Sue heroically revived it, and the newlyweds, Robily, graciously hosted at their new cool apartment in Pasadena. It was delightful to meet back up again. It had certainly been a while. With the return of brunch club, I am inspired to make a return to blogging after, well let's call it a sabbatical.

The club-goers (the brunch club goers that is) depend on us to bring the hearty egg-type dishes to the event so I made this little breakfast calzone I have been meaning to try from my recipe binder.

I made two, one with sausage/jack cheese/egg/peppers/onions

...and the other with feta/sun-dried tomato/egg/spinach/mushroom/onion.

The former was from the recipe, the latter was a creation of mine not only to accommodate the vegetarians in the group, but also to experiment with the concept to see if it would work with other ingredients. The feta/spinach one was actually better in my opinion.

It is almost unnecessary to bore you with a recipe for this because you can do whatever you want with these things. I used Pillsbury pizza dough which comes in one of those scary pop-open cans (doyouknowwhatimean? of those cans where you slowly peel away the wrapping on the outside until the can bursts open like BLAM!)
You can stuff the thing up with anything you want. I will definitely use more eggs next time. You can almost just make scrambled eggs with anything you like to add and then roll it up in that dough, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Instead of a traditional recipe, I will simply give you some tips for this:

*Cook or saute whatever meat or vegetables you will be using until the meat is brown or the vegetables are slightly tender.
*Mix together about 4-5 eggs, and scramble them with whatever filling (meat/veggies/cheese) you are using
*Roll out your pizza dough into more of a long rectangle so once the filling is added and folded it, you will have a log-shaped calzone that you can cut across.
*Add the egg filling down the center of the dough rectangle.
*You can fold the edges it and pinch them together at the top.
*Brush the dough with an egg white wash OR just use some cooking spray to lightly coat the dough (I used olive oil spray)
*Use the timing/temperature on whatever pizza dough package you use. Just make surethe dough is cooked all the way through. I believe I did about 20 minutes at 350 F.
Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into the calzone.