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Archive for the ‘Beef’ Category

When Rachael and I started The Mimi Project, we compiled a list of recipes – with the help of other family members – that we wanted to re-create.  Mimi died at Christmas last year, and Rachael and I inherited her treasured recipe box.  Every time I talked to Mimi in the months before her death, she told us that she was busy getting the recipes cards organized for us, a fact our Aunt Mary Anne confirmed.  Mimi spent hours at the dining room table, combing through those cards, ostensibly trying to get them in some kind of order.  I think the exercise might have been more about reminiscing, thinking about all the good things she had cooked and all the things she would still like to cook.  Lord knows, she cooked until the end!  After reading Rachael’s post about failed ice-box cookies, Mimi baked us a batch – they were fresh and waiting for us on Christmas morning just days after her death.

Thinking of Mimi lovingly mixing and forming and baking cookies for us even as she was dying, it’s clear to me why I feel such a connection between food, love, and family.  I was touched, then, to discover a recipe attributed to my brother Michele as I sorted through Mimi’s cards.  Rachael, Michele, and I share the same mom (and thus the same Mimi!) – but Michele’s dad is not ours.  Michele’s dad Maurizio is Italian, from Florence, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him my whole life as he now lives in Tallahassee, Florida.  He is a sweet man, an accomplished scholar/designer (he’s been working on the Large Hadron Collider!) and a wonderful cook.  I remember distinctly finding a jar of Barilla pasta sauce in my mom’s fridge many years ago – it was a new brand to our area back then, and I wanted to try it.  It was delicious – just like home-made – and I excitedly bought another jar on my next trip to the grocery store.  Imagine my disappointment when I opened that jar to discover the flavorless, processed stuff that I should have expected – and I realized immediately that the jar I’d found in my mom’s fridge had been a gift from Maurizio, homemade marinara sauce re-packaged in a recycled jar.

Michele’s sauce-making abilities rival those of his dad, so when I found this marinara sauce attributed to Michele among Mimi’s recipes, I knew immediately I had to make it.  I found the perfect use for the sauce when I came across another of Mimi’s recipes, for “zucchini lasagna.”  It wasn’t until I was in the middle of cooking the zucchini lasagna that I realized that there are no lasagna noodles – the whole point is to replace the pasta with vegetables.  It’s simple, surprisingly good, and a great use for all those squash and zucchini at the farmer’s markets right now.  And of course, for me, it’s a casserole that represents the layers of love and family that I connect to through cooking.

Michele's Tomato Sauce

Michele’s Tomato (Marinara) Sauce

1 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I like organic San Marzanos, like these)
2/3 tbsp olive oil
Half an onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
Cayenne
Salt and pepper

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Do not let the onions or garlic get browned or crisp.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, a dash of cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste.  Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and cook over low-medium heat until the tomatoes are broken down and flavors are melded, at least 30 minutes.  Taste for salt, adjust as needed, and serve.

Mimi’s Zucchini Lasagna
Serves 6-8

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (or equivalent homemade – which is preferred!)
4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into rounds – I used a combination of zucchini and summer squash
2 tbsp. flour, divided
1 (12 oz.) container of cottage cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saute pan, cook onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add ground beef, browning and stirring to crumble.  Add tomato sauce, taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning as needed.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set cooked ground beef and tomato sauce aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute zucchini – I used a non-stick skillet and basically no olive oil.  The squash and zucchini cooked nicely and even browned a little bit.

Spray a 12″ x 8″ x 2″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil in a mister.  Combine cottage cheese and egg.  Start with a layer of zucchini on the bottom of the pan.  Then sprinkle with 1 tbsp of the flour.  Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture, then spoon half of the meat sauce over the cottage cheese.  Repeat layers.  Bake casserole at 375 degrees for 35 minutes (until hot and bubbling).  Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese begins to brown.  Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.  I garnished it with a chiffonade of basil – but it’s wonderful on its own, too!

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I remember a question that a classmate/friend of mine asked me during the fall semester.  She said, “What’s your goal with the blog?” Of course my next question was, “What do you mean?”  As we got further into the discussion, I realized that she was asking about whether or not I was pursuing a revenue model and if so, what it might look like.  Obviously, what other question would a fellow MBA student in my High-Tech Marketing class ask?  And while it was completely appropriate  – even expected, it shocked me that people might assume that I had a motive behind this blog other than the one I had in mind – which was to connect with my sister over food, from a distance, and in a new way.  In my head, the blog was the next best thing to cooking in person with my sister.  Somewhere along this last year it has become even more – it has become a creative outlet for me to share with friends and family about something I enjoy – food.  And when Mike gave me this amazing camera, it fueled my excitement for taking simple, beautiful photos of food and telling people about it.

Here’s the fun and unexpected surprise….

While business school didn’t exactly pave the clearest career path, it did inadvertently encourage me to re-connect with my love of food.  Following a professor’s recommendation, I volunteered last year on this fundraising committee to get involved in the Boulder food world. Here’s my plug for this event that has become so near and dear to me.  The event is called Boulder Chef’s Up Front, which is a program run by a larger nationally based organization called Share Our StrengthBoulder Chef’s Up Front is a culinary event aimed at raising money to support healthy child nutrition in Boulder County.  I felt like I scored by joining this committee for so many reasons: I was able to “give back”, the people are great, the cause is near and dear to  my heart, and the event itself is an evening fueled with flavors and talent from some of the best chefs in Boulder.

And so, without hesitation, I am volunteering again this year. Much to my surprise, the Chair of our planning committee has asked yours truly to be the photographer for the event! So while I had no personal goals for this blog other than the ones I have already acknowledged, it turns out that it has led me to this exciting opportunity.  Who knows what other things will come.

So here’s my plug: please come!  And if you can’t, please enjoy the photos on my blog afterward!  This year’s event will boast the head chefs from A Spice of LifeBoulder ChophouseCentro Latin KitchenColterraL’Atellier/RadexQ’s at the BoulderadoRadda/MateoSALT – the bistroTerroir and The Kitchen Café.

Shifting gears, of course, I can’t leave you without some eye candy although I have no recipes for you today.  Below are some photos that I took of various cooking and food shopping on my recent trip to Toronto to visit Mike’s family.  His sister Eva took me to this fantastic market called the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

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