Monday, December 12, 2011

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel

     Recently, I purchased a new cookbook: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck.  Had it not been on a top-ten of 2011 cookbook list, I don't know that I ever would have picked it up.  I had just come across another top-ten list: the worst things to eat for good health.  I have to admit that none of them was surprising, but of that list, I only eat one on a regular basis.  That item is white flour.  I really rather like products made with it, and I am the antitheses of gluten free.  I love rice for sure, as you've seen in previous blog posts, but a good rustic loaf right from the oven brings childhood memories that are only brought on by the scent of warm wheat and butter.  I decided I ought to find a way to satisfy my periodic fresh-bread cravings while alleviating the need for so highly-refined a product.  That, and whole grains are super trendy right now, so I decided to order the book.


     This is the first recipe I am trying out of Ancient Grains, and I am pretty pleased.  Below is the recipe, as it is written in the book and on epicurious.com.  Instead of sunflower seeds I used millet that was soaked for about two hours, and I did not include any whole grains (all I could find in the cupboard was some expensive heirloom farro...).  My last change was that I did the final proof in a very well floured banneton, then turned the loaf onto parchment and baked it on a well heated stone at 400F until the interior was 200F. 
     It is indeed a very dense, aromatic loaf that would be epic toasted slightly with fresh butter and orange marmalade slathered on 
(the spices used to scent the bread all have distinct citrus notes and affinity for those fruits).  

Aroma Bread with Coriander and Fennel
yield: 1 2-pound loaf

  • 3 cups whole grain spelt flour (12 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole grain rye flour (3 3/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup coarse or medium stone-ground whole grain cornmeal (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup flax or sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
    1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1/2 tablespoon caraway
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat, rye, Kamut, or spelt berries, soaked overnight and drained (optional)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling


To prepare the dough, start at least 12 hours ahead. Whisk together all the ingredients except the whole grain berries and the water in a large bowl. Scatter the grain berries on top and add almost all the water. Stir with a dough whisk or a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. The dough should be wet and sticky to the touch, like firm oatmeal; otherwise, add a bit more water. But don't worry too much about the liquid-to-flour ratio, as this is a forgiving dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature to ferment for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours.

The next day, finish the bread. Sprinkle a linen or cotton kitchen towel (not terry cloth) with cornmeal and generously flour your work surface. Using a bench scraper or a rubber spatula, scrape the stringy, bubbly dough onto the work surface. Using floured hands, fold it exactly 4 times, always toward the center — from the right and from the left, as well as from the top and the bottom. Turn the loaf upside down so the fold is at the bottom, and set it on the kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the loaf to cover, and let sit for about 1 hour.
3 After about 30 minutes, position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 475°F. Place a 4 1/2- to 5 1/2-quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with its lid in the center of the rack. After about 1 hour, your loaf should have nicely risen. (When you press it with your finger about 1/4 inch deep, the dimple should remain; if not, wait 15 more minutes.) But again, don't worry too much — I have sometimes been less than precise and still succeeded.

Using thick pot holders, carefully remove the cast-iron pot from the oven and place it on a couple of folded kitchen towels (to avoid cracking); uncover. Unwrap the dough, sprinkle with a bit more cornmeal, and invert directly from the kitchen towel into the pot, seam side up (it might look a bit wiggly; that's normal). If the dough doesn't drop into the center, shake the pot once or twice (use caution, it is hot!).

Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the loaf is nicely browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 200°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Using thick pot holders, remove the loaf from the cast-iron pot and transfer to a wire rack. If you can resist, allow to cool completely, about 3 hours, before cutting the loaf with a sharp serrated knife. And a sharp knife it must be — this is a German-style bread, after all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

in case you haven't heard...


...kale is the "it" ingredient right now...  

This green is incredibly nutrient dense, it tastes good, and it grows like a weed in our mild northwest climate.  We have it in our garden for at least nine months out of the year, so believe me when I say that I'm always looking for new things to do with it (over the summer, it was kale smoothies)!  It's great braised, sauteed, used in soups, and much to my surprise, raw.  

Right now, we have tender leaves about six inches long hanging out in the greenhouse, so I just had to do something that highlighted their delicate flavor.  Kale, like many plants in the cabbage family, develops a wonderful sweetness as the weather turns chilly, becoming especially delectable after the first frost.  This recipe was inspired by one I saw originally in a Tasting Table newsletter, but I have adapted it to suit my tastes using my favorite caesar dressing.  I served this recipe tonight to rave reviews, accompanied by eggs from our chickens poached in tomato sauce (eggs in purgatory).      

Raw Kale Caesar
yield: 4-5 servings

For the kale:
1 # cavolo nero (tuscan) kale, washed and dried

For the dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained
1 t dijon mustard
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T plain yogurt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

To garnish:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4-5 slices rustic bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted under the broiler

To prepare the kale: holding the thick stem in your non-dominant hand (your left if you are right handed), slide the blade of a knife down then stem to shed the leaves from the fibrous, tough interior ribs.  Once you have removed the main rib, roll the leaves up like a cigar (maybe five or six at a time), and cut very finely to create 1/8"-1/4" wide strips that are the width of the leaf.  Continue until all of the leaves are shredded, and transfer them to a mixing bowl.  Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to use.  

To make the dressing, combine everything in a blender and run until smooth and creamy.  

Just before serving, dress the kale to your taste (I kind of like it juicy), arrange on chilled plates, and garnish with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a toast.   

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina

One of the biggest joys and challenges with holiday entertaining is coming up with something a little different for cocktail hour.  It's not like summer where you can pick something fresh out of the garden or farmer's market, do something minimal to it, and have a perfect representation of the season.  Winter demands more time, attention, and heat.

In this case, I decided to raid the freezer in which we preserved the bounty of our gardens and the items we foraged and caught.  We've got however many cubic feet of smoked salmon, leeks, green beans, and chanterelles put up for the winter (not to mention the obscene number of quarts of zucchini pickles, apple butter, and currant jelly, carrots, beets, potatoes, and butternuts in the back pantry).

I took two of these items: leeks and chanterelles.  From there, I decided to marry them together with a bit of fontina cheese and hold them with phyllo dough.  To start, since I had the leeks and mushrooms already cooked and frozen, I thawed them out together in a small saute pan and cooked them over low heat until they were fairly dry.  When you're working with phyllo, you don't want too much moisture in the filling or the dough will become soggy and may rupture during baking.  I added salt to taste, but it seemed a little flat.  Both leeks and chanterelles have some natural sweetness to them, so I decided to go with nutmeg to liven up the flavor profile a bit.  It rounded everything out nicely.  The flavors here are subtle yet satisfying in a delicate way.

Phyllo with Leeks, Chanterelles, and Fontina 
yield: 18-20 pieces

2 T butter, plus 4T melted and reserved
3 leeks, dark parts and root trimmed
2-2 1/2 cups chopped chanterelles
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 scant cup grated fontina
8 sheets phyllo dough

To clean the leeks, have a bowl of ice water ready to the side.  Cut the leeks lengthwise, and then crosswise into 1/4" half-moons.  Immerse the pieces in the water and agitate every few minutes to help dislodge the sand particles tucked in between the layers.  The leeks will float, and the sand will sink, so when you feel the leeks are clean, just lift them off the top of the water into a new vessel.

In a medium saute pan, melt the 2 T of butter and saute the mushrooms until all of the moisture has been released.  Add the leeks and cook over low heat until tender.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then allow to cool slightly.  You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups cooked filling.

On a clean board, lay out two sheets of phyllo, keeping the rest under a tea towel to prevent them from drying out.  Brush generously with butter, then add two more sheets, and brush those as well (you don't have to brush in between each layer unless you really feel like it).  Brush a baking sheet with a bit of butter so you have somewhere to land.  Along one of the longer edges, make a log out of about 3/4 cup of the leek mixture, and top with half of the fontina.  Roll snugly and place on the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Brush with butter, then score the phyllo to create nine or ten pieces.  You don't have to cut all the way through- cutting about half way reduces breakage and flaking after you've baked them and are ready to separate the pieces.  Repeat with the second half of the ingredients.

At this point, you can either cover and refrigerate the rolls for up to 24 hours, or you can bake them off immediately in a 400F oven.  It should take 15-20 minutes to get the phyllo nice and browned, and the filling nice and hot.  After removing from the oven, cool slightly, then transfer to a cutting board and cut the rest of the way through.  Serve warm with something dry and sparkling.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Spicy Lemongrass Tofu : dau hu xa ot

This recipe goes out to all those who think tofu dishes are boring...!

Personally, I love tofu. I enjoy the texture, the mild flavor, the versatility, and during the down years, the great economy of it. At East Asia market in Tacoma, I think it's about $1.30 for enough tofu to feed 3-4 people as part of a meal with rice.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite Vietnamese chefs- Mai Pham. I had the pleasure to work with her a few times during my time at the CIA and learned many tips about the Vietnamese kitchen.  The following recipe is a quick, satisfying dish that will delight the taste buds and bring the aroma of the Vietnamese kitchen to your home.

Spicy Lemongrass Tofu
yield: 4 servings

2 lemongrass stalks, outer layers peeled, bottom white part thinly sliced and finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons chopped Thai bird chilies or another fresh chili
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
10 la lot, or pepper leaves, shredded, or 2/3 cup loosely packed Asian basil leaves

Combine the lemongrass, soy sauce, chilies, chili flakes, turmeric, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the tofu cubes and turn to coat them evenly. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat half of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat. Add the onion, shallot and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Wipe the pan clean and heat the remaining oil over moderate heat. Add the tofu mixture and, using chopstick or wooden spoons, turn so it cooks evenly, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture and cook, uncovered, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add half the peanuts and all the pepper leaves.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with the remaining peanuts and serve immediately.

**I have served this over plain steamed rice or blanched fresh rice noodles tossed with saw-tooth herb, cilantro, red perilla, Thai basil, and a bit of lime juice and fish sauce.

**If you have the opportunity, pressing tofu that has been packed in water is a good habit to get in to. Place the tofu between two plates and weight it with a can of tomatoes (or similar) for about an hour. You'll be surprised by how much liquid comes out!! At the very least, be sure to pat the tofu dry before marinating it.

**East Asia Market
602 S 38th St
Tacoma, WA 98418

**Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham on Amazon

Monday, October 24, 2011

mango-kale-matcha smoothie

Green smoothies have been popular for quite some time, but I am just now starting to experiment and enjoy them. So far, I think this is the most healthful (and caffeinated!!) combination I have come up with. I like the addition of mango to the mix because it gives a hint of floral/tropical fruitiness and contributes a super creamy texture that banana alone somehow cannot achieve.

Nutrition-wise, this is packed with antioxidants from the green tea, fiber and vitamins A, K, and C from the kale, mango and almonds, and there is also a good amount of calcium, iron, manganese and protein.

One glass in the morning another mid-day will get me through to dinner time.

For two servings:

-3 large leaves of Russian or Tuscan kale, ribs discarded and leaves roughly torn

-1/2 ripe mango, peeled and diced

-1/2 ripe banana

-3 T raw almonds, preferably soaked in water overnight

-1 heaping teaspoon matcha powder

-1/4 cup low fat yogurt

-enough almond, soy, or cow's milk or orange juice to get everything moving in the blender

Put everything in the blender and process on high speed until the almonds are completely pulverized and everything is smooth.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Pursuit of English Muffin Perfection

Ok, so I think I've finally got it.  Not that I was ever a huge fan of english muffins, but after so many mediocre breakfasts based on these often hockey-puck-like dough balls, I think I understand why they really should be popular...  I mean, if they always were as they are now, why would anyone choose a muffin over a piece of nice whole grain toast?

So I went on a little odyssey and after a few tries, a few revisions, and a few really gooey results, I have achieved a good muffin, worthy of eggs benedict or the best butter and currant jelly you can find.  With this recipe I ended up with a good tasting product with a respectable amount of the ubiquitous "nooks and crannies."  This is a combination of a few different recipes collected from a few different books and blogs.

English Muffins
yield: 13 3" muffins

2 oz unsalted butter
1/2 T sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 t active dry yeast
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound bread flour (approximately four cups)
1/2 t kosher salt
2 t baking powder dissolved in 1 T of water
cornmeal & butter or pan spray for the rings

Special equipment: 3" english muffin rings (tuna cans with the top and bottom cut out work too...if you happen to have that many tuna cans laying around)

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the sugar and milk and warm over the flame until 110F and the sugar is dissolved.  Add the yeast, stir to dissolve, then allow to sit for five minutes. 


Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt.  Pour in the liquid ingredients and add the egg.  Using a dough hook, mix until homogenous, but you don't have to worry about too much gluten development.  The dough will be very gloppy, like an extremely thick pancake batter.  Cover the bowl and place in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about an hour and a half.  If you are making these for a special breakfast, you can mix the ingredients and allow them to proof overnight in the refrigerator, letting the dough warm for about 45 minutes at room temperature before using.

Preheat a large skillet or griddle (stainless steel or cast iron is best here) over medium heat.  Grease the muffin rings and place as many as you can fit comfortably on the surface and allow those to preheat too.  Remember not to crowd them too much as you are going to have to flip these guys over.  Sprinkle about 1/2 T of cornmeal into each ring to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan. 

While the pan is heating, mix the baking powder with the water and immediately mix it into the dough.  Do not worry about deflating the dough as it will recover over the heat.  Scoop a shy 1/3 cup of dough into each ring, then, with wet fingers, pat the dough out to fill the circle (BE CAREFUL- the rings will be hot by this point!). 

Allow to cook over medium-low heat for about seven minutes, then, using a towel or hot pad to protect your hands, try to pull the rings off the muffins.  If the rings don't come off, don't worry, just leave them there.  Carefully turn each muffin over and allow to cook for another seven to ten minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack, remove any stubborn rings, and allow to cool completely before splitting with a fork, toasting lightly, and enjoying...
 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Harvest Time

No matter where I've lived, fall has always been my favorite time of year.  In Napa, it meant the crush, the entire valley perfumed with ripe grapes...  In Tahoe it was the beginning of crisp days with the aspen leaves starting to turn and the excitement of the first fat snowflakes...  Here in the Northwest, it is mushroom season.  With our lush forests and mild climate, we experience an autumn bounty, ripe for the taking by anyone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty.  It's a touch bittersweet, hailing the end of beautiful weather and perfect produce, soon we will be back to cooler temperatures, kale, cabbages and winter squash...

twenty pounds of chanterelles in about an hour...not bad!!

One of the most common questions I get from guests at dinner parties is how to coax more flavor out of mushrooms.  People complain that their mushroom dishes turn out watery and tasteless, but they know that if treated right, mushrooms have an intense umami flavor and a meatiness that rivals many beef dishes.

The trick for mushrooms is this:

In a heavy skillet (cast iron is best), heat a copious amount of butter or olive oil until very hot.  You will be walking a fine line here between creating a good sear and burning the butter/oil solids.  While your pan is heating, cut up your mushrooms into bite-sized chunks: halves or quarters for button mushrooms and random geometric shapes for larger varieties.  Add just enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan- do not crowd them, and then do not touch them for at least three minutes.  After they have had time to brown on one side, turn them and repeat the same act of patience.  If your mushrooms are very watery, this will take a bit longer as all of the liquid will have to cook out before the pieces can begin to brown.  When the mushrooms are brown on all sides, remove them to a bowl, wipe out the pan, add more fat, and continue until you have as much as you need.  If you want to incorporate garlic or fresh herbs, add them towards the end of the last batch.  The high heat needed to sear the mushrooms will burn the garlic and kill the flavor of the herbs long before the mushrooms are cooked if added too early, and salt towards then end of the cooking time.  Salting early on draws out too much moisture and slows things down. 


Once you have the mushrooms seared, you can fold them into or use them to top just about anything...pasta with a bit of cream and tarragon, an omelet, mac'n'cheese, or, as I did last night, on top of soft polenta enrobed in taleggio cheese with thyme, rosemary,  tarragon and parsley.  Oh, and a dash of truffle oil for good measure!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Chicken Chronicles III: Our First Eggs

Since I last wrote about our little chickies, all sorts of progress has been made towards the reason we raised them up.

Unfortunately, we did end up loosing one to an unknown issue.  The odd thing about the loss of this particular chicken is that she was the dominant one from the beginning, she was the only one that was a different color than her sisters, she was the friendliest, and she was the prettiest of them all...  She had the most lovely silver and black feathers that were purple and green edged in the sunlight.  One day she seemed depressed, and then her tail feathers fell out, and then one day she "went to the farm upstate."  Oh well.  I bet she would have laid a tasty egg...

Aside from loosing the one hen, everything else is going very well.  After a few initial hiccups (laying outside the nest, laying eggs without shells, laying eggs while sitting on the roost so they drop more than a foot), things seem to be going smoothly.  It appears that the first couple of eggs a chicken lays have a few issues, either logistically or with their development, but by the time egg number four or five comes out, the girls seem to get the hang of it.  I have to say though, it is very amusing how after they lay their first egg, they seem startled, and then strut around all special-like. 

Today was our most productive egg day so far, with five of the nine chickens coming on line.  Some of the eggs weren't keepers, but it's a sign that we will be flush with eggs very soon.  The first eggs that some of them are laying are just the sweetest little things ever...about half the size of a regular large AA egg, they're just darling.  And Stumpy, the hen that we had to quarantine with leg problems, lays the cutest eggs of all.  She's a bit smaller than the other chickens and lays proportionally petite eggs.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

My Best Lemon Cake

Aside from chocolate, this is my most often requested flavor for a celebration cake.  I like to make a citrus pound cake, soak it with lemon syrup, and layer it with lemon cream and white chocolate mousse, then top it off with fluffy torched meringue!  Depending on the season and the preferences of the client, I'll often infuse the mousse with a touch of herbal flavor- both rosemary and lavender provide a wonderful counterpart to the sweetness of the meringue and the tangy lemon cream.
Citrus Pound Cake
yield: 1 8" cake

4 eggs
1 3/4 c sugar
3/4 c plus 1 T vegetable oil
3/4 c thick plain yogurt
zest of 2 lemons
2 T orange liquor
1 t vanilla
2 3/4 c all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line an 8"x3" round pan with parchment on the bottom.  Do not grease the sides.

In a stand mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, and oil and whisk until thick ribbons fall from the whip.  Add the yogurt, zest, liquor and vanilla and mix to combine.  In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients then fold into the egg mixture.  Pour the batter into the ready pan and bake until a tester comes out clean.  It will take about an hour, but I would start testing at 45 minutes and probably cover with foil to prevent excessive browning.  Once fully cooked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes before unmolding.  Cool completely at room temperature.  Wash and dry the cake pan- you will need it to assemble the cake.  Wrapped well this cake will keep for a few days at room temperature.


Lemon Cream (adapted from Tartine)
yield: enough for filling one layer of one 8" cake

3 1/2 oz lemon juice
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3 2/3 oz sugar
5 oz butter, cut into 10 pieces

Set up a double boiler.  In a medium metal bowl (not aluminum) or the top of the double boiler, combine the eggs, sugar and them lemon juice until well combined.  Continue whisking over boiling water until the mixture reaches 180F and is thick.  Immediately remove from heat, transfer to a blender,  and allow to cool, stirring frequently, until 140F.  Once the cream has reached the proper temperature, turn on the blender and begin to add the butter, one piece at a time, allowing each piece to become completely incorporated before adding the next.  This will create a thick, opaque cream that is rich and light at the same time.  Once all of the butter has been incorporated, transfer to a non-reactive container and refrigerate until ready to use.  


White Chocolate Mousse 
yield: enough to fill one 8" cake layer with a bit left over (about 2 3/4 c)

**note: this must be done as you are assembling the cake- get everything ready so you can spread the mousse before the gelatin sets**

3.5 grams gelatin
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 c heavy cream, chilled

Bloom the gelatin in 2 T cold water for 10 minutes.  Bring 1/2 c cream to a boil, remove from heat, then add the gelatin to dissolve.  Pour over the chopped white chocolate and allow to sit, untouched, for five minutes.  Stir gently to melt all the chocolate and allow to cool until thick ribbons fall from a spoon when lifted.  Meanwhile, whip the remaining cream to soft peaks.  Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, whip into the cream.  If your chocolate is too warm, it will deflate the cream a bit, but don't worry too much- put the bowl in the cooler for a while until the mixture is cool to the touch (but not set), then whip until it's light and fluffy.  Use immediately.


Lemon Syrup 
yield: for 1 8" cake

1 c sugar
3/4 c water
juice of 1 lemon

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then add the lemon juice.


Italian Meringue (adapted from Tartine)
yield: for 1 8" cake

**have the cake assembled and chilled before making the meringue**

7 oz egg whites
306 grams sugar
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Over a pan of boiling water, whisk the mixture until it is hot to the touch (120F) and frothy.  Remove from the heat, return to the stand, and begin mixing on medium-high speed until you have a rich, glossy mass that holds stiff peaks.


To assemble:
Line the cake pan with enough plastic wrap to have 3" hanging over each side.  Cut the domed top off the cake and then cut into three even layers.  Place the bottom layer, bottom side down, in the cake pan, then soak with about 1/3 of the lemon syrup.  Pour in the mousse and smooth with an offset spatula.  Add the next cake layer and soak with more syrup, then top with the lemon cream.  To finish add the last layer and soak with some lemon syrup.  Wrap very well and allow to set up in the refrigerator for at least four hours or over night.  At this point, you can frost the cake with the meringue, torch it gently with a propane torch, and serve immediately or keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. 

When time allows, I like to let the cake temper on the counter for about 20 minutes before frosting and serving.  There's a delicate balance between pound cake and cream fillings- the pound cake is best when not completely cold, but the fillings will melt if allowed to get too warm...so use your best judgement.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fresh Chickpea Falafel

Freshly made falafel is, in my opinion, one of the simple pleasures in life (kind of like a California super burrito).  I have made it a few times using a few different recipes and so far this is my favorite.  This particular recipe employs both fresh (green) chickpeas and dried, though if you don't have access to green chickpeas you can substitute in more dried ones, you just don't get the same bright color.  As an alternative, I have seen frozen chickpeas periodically at Costco and almost always at Whole Foods.


Fresh Chickpea Falafel
yield: 4 servings
1 1/4 c fresh chickpeas
2 c dried chickpeas, cooked and drained
6 T bulgur wheat
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T ground cumin
1 T baking soda
1/4 c mixed mint, cilantro and parsley, chopped
salt to taste

In a food processor, pulse the onion, garlic and bulgur until finely chopped.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until the mixture comes together into a medium-smooth paste, scraping down the sides frequently.  Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the paste into patties about 2" in diameter and 1/2" thick.  Press the mixture firmly together so it will hold it's shape when you fry them.  To cook, heat a heavy skillet and add about 1/4" of oil (canola or other neutral oil).  When the oil begins to shimmer, add in the patties and cook until well browned on each side.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with pita, tzatziki, tomatoes and your favorite accompaniments.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival 2011

Good times!  If you missed the Gig Harbor Wine & Food Festival this year, make sure to attend in 2012.  This year was the second time around for this event, and I think I can safely say that all of the attendees enjoyed themselves.  With thirty-something wineries, a couple of breweries, and at least fifteen different local food businesses to get tasty samples from, how could you go wrong?

On top of all of the food and (very generous) wine pours, there were all sorts of demonstrations and classes going on- culminating with an Iron Chef-style cook off between Chefs Kevin Gillespie (from Top Chef) and Thad Lyman (from our own Brix 25)!  I haven't heard yet which man won...

Bookmark the festival's website here and keep an eye out for next year's date!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Plenty

As you all know, I rarely plug or review cookbooks on this blog.  However, this book, new to my collection, is worth mention for a few key reasons.  Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi has great recipes with lots of creativity, heavily relying on spice blends and flavors that are still uncommon in most American homes.  I would say that this book has been my best buy over the last few years.  Usually, when I purchase a cookbook, I'm happy if there are five items I want to try.  In this book, I want to cook and eat every recipe.  And it doesn't hurt that the photography is beautiful!   

This is a vegetable book- it's not about being vegetarian, it's just vegetable based; and most dishes can stand on their own or go great next to a nice cut of meat.  So far every recipe I've tried has turned out beautifully, with (sometimes unexpected) synergistic flavors and nice balance between different components and textures. 

If you don't have a well stocked spice cabinet, it would be hard to get started with this book.  Most recipes have a few different spices as well as fresh herbs.  Once you have all the components on hand, you'll find the flavor combinations addictive.  I chose to share the recipe below since the ingredient list is pretty accessible.

Chickpea sauté with Greek yogurt

3/4 # swiss chard

5 T olive oil
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ lemon, juiced
1 T fresh mint, chopped
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 T olive oil


Wash the chard, separate the stalks from the leaves, blanch the stalks for five minutes and the leaves for two, then chop both into ½cm dice.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan, add the carrots and caraway seeds, and sauté for five minutes. Add the chard and chickpeas, sauté for six minutes, then stir in the garlic, lemon juice, herbs, salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

To serve, mix the yogurt, tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt. When the vegetables are warmish or even room temperature, pile them on plates and top with a tablespoon of the yogurt mix. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and some more oil.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Zucchini Pickle Recipe

Due to popular demand...! 
Here is the zucchini pickle recipe I used- alter the sugar to your taste, I always cut it back a little bit.

Pickled Zucchini
this should make enough for four quarts

2 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
3 c sugar
1/4 c salt
1/2 t turmeric powder

Prepare your quart canning jars as usual (clean, sterilize and hold hot), meanwhile, bring the above ingredients to a boil.

Into each jar, place:
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1/2 t each black peppercorns and coriander
a pinch of red pepper
2 allspice berries

Pack in zucchini slices until the jar is almost full to the threads.  Have ready a boiling water bath, then fill each with the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/3-1/2" of headspace.  If you're paranoid like me, use a pH strip to test the acid content of the liquid- it should be below 4.6.  Top with your hot, sterile lids and rings, and process for 12-15 minutes. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Chicken Chronicles II: Officially Teenagers

When we started out on this little poultry adventure, I was sure it would be super exciting, drama filled, and labor intensive.  Not so much!  Since raising chickens has turned out to be really easy (just feed them and make sure to lock them up at night), I haven't had much to write about.

We did end up with one black rooster (we started out with for black australorps and four easter-egger/ameracaunas).  Initially, we weren't sure how we were going to determine which of the chicks were male, but it turned out to be really rather easy.  For a few weeks during their development, we were sure that we had at least three roosters.  But at about six weeks of age, this one just looked like a boy.  We put an ad on Craigslist, and a farmer came to collect him a few days later with a pickup truck full of goats, dogs, and full grown roosters...  He went to a good home.  The farmer was looking for a boy to keep her girls company.

So then we were down to seven chicks.  That wasn't good enough for my husband.  He had built this crazy chicken palace and seven is too weird a number anyway, so he went and procured three rhode island red ladies.  Ten is a much better number than seven.  You can see our chicken variety pack in the photo above. 

If you look closely, you'll see in the photo that one of the redheads is missing...  We had one hen who developed some sort of issue with her legs.  For about a week she couldn't/wouldn't bear weight on at least one of her legs.  We didn't know if she had some crazy disease or something, so we quarantined her for a few days and once she recovered, we reintroduced her back to the flock.  Aside from that, the only issue we've had is a bit of a protein deficiency due to too many treats (akin to feeding your kids nothing but candy and then wondering why they don't behave quite right...).  A few of the chickens started eating the feathers of the other birds- this was a bit disturbing since one would chase another pulling feathers out of it's back.  We fixed this by giving them lots of salmon trim (they love salmon) for a few days.  Now, everything is fine again.

Next time I write about chickens, hopefully it is because we have our first organic homegrown egg...  They are in their mid-teens now (in chicken years of course), and should start laying in the early fall.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Smokin' Hot (or cold) !

No, not the weather you silly goose!  While out for an afternoon stroll my husband and I came across a Little Chief Smoker for an awesome-just-couldn't-refuse price; we've been looking at getting a smoker for a while but just didn't want to shell out the $150 for the one I really wanted.  In the meantime, this one will certainly do!  It's an electric model with four racks and an insulating jacket, I think the only thing this model is missing is a thermostat, but I found an external monitor left over from some beer making, so I think I'm in business!

My first project is to smoke some salmon.  On our way home we found some exceptionally fresh whole Copper River sockeye for $5.99/#.  Crazy- it was cheaper than the regular sockeye...and I figured with the higher fat content, I simply couldn't go wrong.  Below you will find the standard CIA salmon cure with basic instructions on how to get started with smoking fish.  This cure is a little sweeter than I usually care for, but it is a great starting point.

Smoked Salmon Cure- for 3# salmon fillet, skin on

Combine:
8 oz salt
4 oz sugar
4 g onion powder
1.5 g ground cloves
1.5 g crushed bay leaves
1.5 g ground mace
1.5 g ground allspice

  • Remove the pin bones and place the salmon skin side down in a pan with high sides.  Pack the cure ingredients onto the flesh of the salmon, putting a bit less as the fillet gets thin near the tail end.  Wrap loosely and cure the salmon under refrigeration for 12-24 hours.  Rinse off the cure with cool water and blot dry with paper towels.
  • Lay flat on a rack and allow to air dry overnight in the refrigerator (I cheat by placing the fillet in a cool place and running a fan onto it).  This is an incredibly important step as it forms the pellicle- a tacky dry skin that develops on top of the cured item that not only protects as the item is being smoked, but helps to capture the smokey flavor.  
    • After you have a sufficient pellicle formed (the fish should feel almost dry), for a tender lox-like texture, cold smoke the fish for 4-6 hours at 100F or less.  Smoked salmon, wrapped well, will keep for one week in the refrigerator. 
     Or, you can eat it right away, on a freshly baked bialy with capers, red onion, lemon, cream cheese and some leaves of parsley.  Yum!  The recipe for bialys will be another story for another day...

      Tuesday, June 21, 2011

      A Warm Welcome to Summer

      For those of you who also live in the Northwest, I think you can agree, it's about time!  After trudging through the coldest spring ever (well, not really, but you know what I mean) this sunny day was more than appreciated, and it was fitting that it's the solstice.  As an ode to the coming season and the ripe pineapple I had on the counter, this is what I fixed for dinner:
      I topped some white rice and black beans with prawns that had been tossed lightly with some olive oil, aleppo pepper, and curry powder, then grilled.  To give the meal a Caribbean twist, I made a simple salsa of diced pineapple, brunoise of sweet pepper, lime juice and cilantro.  Tasty!

      Monday, May 30, 2011

      Sometimes, I forget how much I love pie...

      ..and then a little bit of rhubarb and a few strawberries make their way into my hands, and before I know it, this glory has happened...!
      I was inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal post.  I liked the addition of allspice, bitters, and orange zest to the filling.

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Spicy Eggplant

      This is one of my favorite recipes, and it's good even if you don't make it spicy.  It's originally from the book "The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers."  I think the book is a good introduction for Indian food beginners, it was my first Indian cookbook, and I have had good luck with most of the recipes.  This one is super and makes the whole book worth while.

      Spicy Eggplant
      yield: six servings

      Puree:
      14 ounces ripe diced tomatoes (peeled and seeded if fresh)
      1" of ginger, peeled and minced
      6 cloves garlic, crushed

      Fry to brown in oil then reserve:
      1 3/4 # Japanese or Indian eggplants, cut into 2" section

      Have ready:
      1 t fennel seeds
      1/2 t kalonji (nigella) seeds
      1 T ground coriander
      1/4 t turmeric
      1/2 t cayenne

      In a deep frying pan, heat a light film of oil until it begins to shimmer.  Add the fennel and kalonji, allowing them to pop for a few seconds.  Add the tomato mixture and the remaining spices.  Be careful, it will spatter!  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently then add the eggplant.  Cover and simmer for about ten minutes, until the eggplant is fully cooked.  Season with salt as desired.  At this point, it is ready to serve, or can be held in the refrigerator for two days.  It does get better with time!   

      Monday, May 2, 2011

      Shucking for Dummies

      I came across some lovely oysters this afternoon at Metropolitan Market and decided to splurge since it's the end of prime oyster season.  Even though the rule about only eating raw oysters during months with an "R" in them (i.e. absolutely in September but not in June), doesn't always hold true, the texture of the oysters is generally superior during the cooler months.  Some varieties like Kumamoto are lovely in the summertime as well, but unless I'm cooking them, I tend to enjoy these bivalves during the cooler months.

      No matter where I am, I like to seek out local varieties and producers.  Being a West coast girl, I am very fortunate to have many fantastic options.  In Washington, I look for Hama Hamas, Kumamotos, and Olympia oysters.  In California, anything from Hog Island Oyster Company is great (but especially the sweetwaters when toted to the beach and eaten while watching the sunset...).  The above mentioned kinds are perfect for eating raw.  If you're going to cook them, go for a medium sized Pacific oyster of good quality- you don't have to be too specific since you won't be able to taste the subtle nuances through all the bacon you're going to put on top...

      Now, on to the technical part:

      Fold a towel as shown above, creating a bolster to hold the oyster at a perfect shucking angle while leaving enough towel for you to protect your hand with while holding the shell.


      Place the oyster in the towel with the flatter shell on top.  You want the hinge exposed and the more curved half to hold all of the liquor inside the shell.

      Next, work the very tip of your oyster knife into the hinge, trying not to flake any bits of the shell (these will inevitably end up in the part you want to eat...).  Make sure to use an oyster knife.  Really.  Not a screwdriver.  Not a butter knife.  And certainly not a regular kitchen knife.



      Once you've got the knife into the hinge, twist gently until the shell pops open.  You will hear when the seal gives way, kind of like a champagne bottle (any coincidence that champagne goes perfectly with oysters??).  As you lift the top shell, you will need to run your knife along the side to cut the adductor muscle, and then the shell will open.

      Remove the top shell and enjoy the view.



      You then need to very gently slide the knife under the other side of the adductor (it looks like a little scallop inside the oyster...by the way, the part you eat of the scallop is actually an oversized adductor muscle).  Now the oyster is free of it's shell and you can eat it as is or carry on with a topping and some heat.


      You know which path I chose.

      Sunday, April 17, 2011

      The TKO

      For any of you who live near a Bouchon Bakery, you are probably familiar with this cookie.  The acronym TKO stands for Thomas Keller Oreo.  Put TK's name on any food item, and it gets glitzy, right?   Use really good ingredients (like Scharffen Berger cocoa and Callebaut chocolate...) and you do get a remarkably tasty cookie.

      TKOs
      yield: will depend on your cutter size, I usually get 20-24 sandwiches

      8 oz white chocolate, chopped fine
      1/2 c heavy cream

      11/2 c + 3 T all purpose flour
      3/4 c sugar
      3/4 c + 1 T cocoa
      1/2 t baking soda
      1 1/2 t salt
      15 T butter, at room temperature, cut into 15 pieces

      The night before making the cookies, bring the cream to a simmer and pour over the white chocolate.  Let rest for five minutes, then whisk until smooth.  Cover and chill completely.

      For the cookie dough, combine and sift all of the dry ingredients.  In a stand mixer on low speed, incorporate the butter pieces one by one, continuing to mix until the butter is evenly distributed.  The dough will be granular and may not come into a ball.  Transfer half of the dough to a clean counter and knead lightly to help the dough come together. 

      Roll out to about 1/8" thick and cut with your favorite sized circle cutter.  Arrange the dough on a Silpat or parchment lined sheet, leaving 1/2" in between each cookie.  Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes.  Repeat with the second half.

      Once the cookies are fully cooled, sandwich a bit of the chocolate between two cookies and enjoy!


      *note: the thickness of the ganache will vary depending on the brand of white chocolate you use

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Shrimp Alhinho

      This recipe is an awesome riff on the traditional combination of shrimp and garlic that you find all over the Iberian peninsula.  It's from George Mendes, the chef/owner of Aldea in New York.  The menu there is Portuguese inspired, but definitely not traditional...

      If you're pinched for time, the shrimp are awfully good just on their own.

      For the sauce base:
      2 pounds shrimp heads
      canola oil, as needed
      ½ onion, sliced thinly
      5 shallots, sliced thinly
      ½ bulb fennel, sliced thinly
      2 ribs celery, sliced thinly
      3 cloves garlic, crushed
      1 tbsp. fennel seed
      1 pod star anise
      1 tbsp. saffron
      ½ cup brandy
      ½ cup Pernod
      1 tbsp. tomato paste
      2 sprigs tarragon, roughly chopped
      2 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
      .2% xantham gum (by weight of finished, strained sauce)


      For the shrimp:
      32 shrimp, cleaned and de-veined
      1/4 cup olive oil, divided
      6 garlic cloves, minced
      ½ tbsp. paprika
      1 sprig parsley, minced
      1 sprig cilantro, minced
      1 lemon, juiced
      salt and pepper as needed

      Make the sauce base:

      Toast the shrimp heads in canola oil. Add the onion, shallots, garlic, fennel, celery, saffron, fennel seeds and star anise.  Sweat until the vegetables start to soften.  Add the tomato paste and cook for one minute. Deglaze first with the brandy, then with the Pernod.  Cover with water and simmer 30 minutes. Take off the stove, add the herbs, and infuse 15 minutes.  Strain through a chinois.  Reduce over high heat if the flavor is not concentrated enough.

      Add .2% xantham gum by total weight of the sauce and mix with an immersion blender.

      Make the shrimp:

      Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and sear in 1 tbsp. olive oil for 30 seconds on each side.

      Lower the heat and add the remaining olive oil and minced garlic. Cook the garlic slowly until golden. Add the paprika and mix well. Add the chopped parsley, cilantro, and lemon juice.

      Heat the shrimp base and divide between eight warm shallow bowls.  Place 4 shrimp in center of each dish. Spoon a small amount the garlic-olive oil mixture over the shrimp and then top with the minced herbs.

      Saturday, April 2, 2011

      Curry Powder & Spice Sourcing


      This is for those of you that took my vegetarian class last night!

      Jasmine's Curry Powder
      yield: 3 cups (that's a lot!)

      50 g turmeric
      44 g brown mustard seeds 
      40 g fenugreek
      40 g fennel seeds
      40 g coriander seeds
      32 g cumin seeds
      28 g powdered ginger
      24 g black peppercorns
      16 g cinnamon
      12 g paprika
      8 g cardamom 
      8 g mace
      8 g star anise
      8 g crushed red pepper
      4 g allspice, whole
      4 g cloves, whole
      4 g nutmeg
      2 g asafoetida
      2 g dry bay leaf

      To make the curry, toast each whole spice separately in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, then set aside to cool.  Be very careful not to scorch the spices as this will cause a strong bitter flavor to invade your finished product.  After all are toasted and cooled, transfer everything to a spice grinder and grind until very fine.  You can sift the mixture if you like to get a very even texture but it's not absolutely necessary.  At this point you can use the powder or store in an airtight container.   

      *This is my adaptation, feel free to adjust to suit your family's palates.  You can increase different ingredients or leave some out depending on your personal taste.  And, if there are one or two small items that you do not have handy, don't worry. 

      *If you don't already have a good source for bulk spices, check out Big John's PFI in SODO.  It's the best I've found- good turnover so the spices are usually fresh and a huge selection at very reasonable prices.  Besides, they carry an awesome array of cheeses and imported European stuff.  It's also the best place to buy good quality bulk chocolate.

      Monday, March 28, 2011

      Good Morning, Sunshine

      Spring is officially here, and every once in a while the sun actually comes out!  I don't think today is going to be an epic sunny one, but it was encouraging to see a partly clear sky and few rain drops.  Even though I'm typically a no-breakfast person (cappuccino please!) sometimes I get a hankering for some baked goods, and let's face it, in Gig Harbor, there's not much to choose from that's fresh and good...  This morning I made some low-fat citrus blueberry muffins.  They're one of my favorites, and even though they have nothing to do with springtime, the fresh, bright flavors remind me of this time of year anyway.

      Lower-Fat Citrus Blueberry Muffins
      yield: 12 regular sized muffins

      Whisk together in a medium bowl:
      2 c all purpose flour (or a combination with white whole-wheat)
      1/2 c sugar
      4 tsp baking powder
      1/4 tsp baking soda
      1/2 tsp salt
      a pinch of cinnamon

      Combine in another bowl:
      1 large egg
      3 T canola oil, olive oil, or melted butter
      1 c fat free yogurt (thinned with milk if needed)
      zest of 1 orange
      zest of 1 lemon
      1 tsp vanilla extract

      Set aside:
      1 1/2 c blueberries, frozen or fresh

      Preheat the oven to 400F and prepare a 12-cup muffin tin (either grease well or line with papers).  Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then fold in the blueberries.  Portion into the muffin cups, and bake for 15 minutes and check for progress.  If you've used fresh berries, the muffins should be done.  Frozen berries will add at least an extra five minutes, but monitor carefully, you don't want to overbake them.

      Sunday, March 20, 2011

      A Lasting Influence

      For dinner tonight, my husband wanted roast chicken.  Even though a whole bird looks grand coming right out of the oven with crackling brown skin and beautiful aromas, I wanted to do something a little different.  Let's face it, chicken is the base line that everyone compares neutral flavors to.  Regardless of what the meat really is, when confronted with a new bland item, the response is often "dunno, tastes like chicken."  Now, this doesn't mean that a perfectly roasted chicken doesn't make for a fantastic meal...

      So, in my quest for something new (and more complicated?), I went old-school.  Old school French, and old school CIA.  I mean, really, who makes a chicken galantine on a Sunday afternoon?  And thus the title of this post.  No matter what I do, the CIA Pro-Chef still resides on my bookshelf, and my culinary education, my foundation, will always have an impact on who I am as a cook.

      The dish I ended up with is a classic preparation of bird - think the original Turducken.  You take your fowl, and put it breast side down on the cutting board.  You then score down the spine and gently cut and pull the skin away from the entire bird in one piece.  You cut around the ankle and wing to free the skin and voila, you have a chicken wrapper.  Next, carve the breasts off, remove the tenders, and pound the breasts to an even 3/8".  Roughly dice the tenders.  Remove the remaining meat from the legs, back and wings, and dice as well.  Save the carcass for some tasty stock.

      In a food processor or meat grinder, bring down the meat into a rough paste.  You'll want to add a binder (breadcrumbs, cream, eggs, cooked rice...) and some flavorings.  I used rice, rosemary, and some sauteed mushrooms with Madeira to give flavor and hold everything together.  The filling is much prettier if you use colorful things like pistachios or dried cherries.  Fold in your garnishes and binder, and get ready to roll.  Make sure you're seasoning with salt at each step.

      Lay out your skin, insides side up.  The skin should be trimmed of any excess fat or ickyness.  Place the two breasts so they are close to the most raggedy edge of the skin.  Put a log of filling on top of the breasts, then roll snugly until the filling is encased in breast meat, and the meat is encased in skin.  Now, you'll want to do a running truss to hold the shape, and refrigerate until ready to use.  I roasted mine at 375F in a convection oven for about 40 minutes, until the internal temperature was 165F.  I basted with olive oil throughout, then let it rest for a few, and topped it with some beech mushrooms cooked down with shallots and more Madeira.  You could also poach this item and serve cold. 

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      The Chicken Chronicles I: We're Going to be Farmers!

      If you read back in this blog about a year, you'll find a post about my super-enthusiastic husband and his garden.  In short, he covered the entire yard with raised beds and succeeded in growing all of the produce we could eat during the summer and fall last year.  With the weather here in the winter, it's difficult to grow stuff year-round, and spring comes a little late, so we've been purchasing produce for the last five months.  Let me tell you, the difference is astounding and I can't wait for our little seedlings to take off.  We have leeks, arugula, and things of that sort started already on the windowsill.

      Having exhausted all the flat, sunny land in our yard, the next logical step is to find something to do with the shady parts.  And what better than to build a chicken coop!  Our supply of fresh eggs recently ran out (due to raccoons...) and we figured it was our turn.  We went down to the feed store just to find out some information about chicks- when they'd be in, what breeds work well up here, etc, and much to our surprise, we were informed the types we wanted would be in the next day...  So, we went to Home Depot and bought a big plastic tub for them to live in while the coop gets started and finished.  We've been hearing all of these horror stories of eagles snatching, raccoons strangling, and some unnamed blood-sucking vampire weasel draining the life out of local chickens.  With Tomek's penchant for over-engineering things, I hope that won't happen to us.

      We're starting out with eight chicks- four each of Black Australorp and Ameraucana.  In this photo, the Ameraucana are about a week old and the Black's a bit younger.  Even at this point, they're developing their own little chicken personalities and odd little chicken habits.  Hopefully they'll all survive, and all be girls.  There's a 10% failure rate in sexing the chickens when they hatch, so there's a good chance that we'll have a rooster in the bunch.  I hope it's not the super fluffy one that looks like a chipmunk.  (S)he's the friendliest... 

      Wednesday, March 9, 2011

      Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Salad

      I don't know about you, but by this time of winter in the North West, I'm ready for some sunshine and summer produce.  However, we have at least two more months of root vegetables and kale to contend with- it's time for new flavors! 

      Recently, in an endless quest to find new things to do with parsnips, I came across this recipe.  The dish is originally by Maria Helm Sinskey, a chef and winery owner in the Napa Valley.  I genuinely like her food; she respects seasonality and takes advantage of what every time of year has to offer.  Granted, that's a lot easier in California than many other places in the country!   I love this salad for the inherent sweetness of the vegetables; and the beautiful synergy between the curry, pine nuts and currants.

      Here is the recipe, which can also be found on the Food & Wine website:

      3 pounds slender carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
      2 pounds slender parsnips, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
      1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
      Salt and freshly ground pepper
      1/2 cup pine nuts
      3 tablespoons Banyuls vinegar or red wine vinegar
      2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
      1/4 cup dried currants
      2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

      Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large roasting pan, toss the carrots and parsnips with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring a few times, until tender and lightly caramelized in spots.

      Remove from the oven. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and toast for 5 minutes, or until golden.

      In a bowl, whisk the vinegar and curry powder; whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup of oil. Add the roasted vegetables, pine nuts, currants and parsley; season with salt and pepper and toss well. Serve warm.

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      March cooking classes with Chef Jasmine

      The following cooking classes are still available for March:

      Fri, March 11th - 6PM: Friday Night Tapas Party
      Sun, March 13th - 5PM: Luxe Comfort Food
      Sun, March 20th - 5PM: Learn how to make fresh pasta
      Fri, March 25th - 6PM: Introduction to French Cuisine


      For more information and reservation please visit  Bella Kitchen Online Reservations

      Hope we see you there!

      Tuesday, March 1, 2011

      Midori no Yaki Yasai Salada

      Ok, since I just published this for the world to see, I hope the translation in this cookbook is correct and the title actually means "Grilled Green Salad!"

      This recipe intrigued me because it's a cool salad, with a standard vinaigrette, but all the vegetables are cooked- some grilled, some blanched.  It's adapted from Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook.  I'm trying to get a grasp on more aspects of Japanese cuisine- I'm not sure how traditional this salad is, but it seems authentic to the restaurant it's from.  My only changes to this recipe were regarding a few varieties of the vegetables.

      Grilled Green Salad
      serves 4

      Component 1:
      8 oz spinach, gai lan, or other green
      8 oz mizuna leaves

      Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, and blanch each green vegetable separately.  Shock immediately to stop the cooking and set the color.  Drain, then squeeze gently to remove the excess water.  Cut into 2" sections.

      Component 2:
      1 cucumber, peeled if needed and sliced into 1/2" rounds
      1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" wedges
      4 oz green beans (or chinese long beans)
      8 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed
      4 shiitake mushrooms

      Heat a grill or cast iron grill pan until moderately hot.  Grill each vegetable variety individually, until lightly charred and tender.  Set aside.

      Component 3:
      2 T champagne vinegar
      2 t shallot
      6 T neutral oil
      salt and pepper to taste
      2 T chopped toasted pistachios

      In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and shallots.  Slowly whisk in the oil to emulsify, then season with salt and pepper.

      To serve, arrange all the vegetables on a nice serving plate, dress with the vinaigrette, then top with the toasted pistachios.

      Friday, February 25, 2011

      Momofuku in My House: Pan Roasted Asparagus, Poached Egg, Miso Butter

      Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found thee.  Ah! I know at last the secret of it all!  Ok, so maybe not quite...but at least I had an awesome dinner. 

      Having come to terms with the fact that I may never make it to New York, last month I finally broke down and bought a copy of Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan (of the NY Times).  David Chang is a rockin' New York chef of Korean heritage that has helped bring new flavors to the forefront of American food trends for the last couple of years.  He's earned all sorts of accolades, and is well known for his potty mouth and bad-boy attitude.

      This is the first item I've made completely from the book- I've used it for reference a couple of times but this dish is 100%.  It's really rather straight forward- a take on the classic Italian asparagus with a fried egg over the top.

      For the miso butter:
      Combine 5T unsalted butter with 1/2 cup white miso.  Mix it until it's completely homogeneous: nobody likes lumpy sauce...  Directly before serving, heat a splash (about 2 t) of sherry vinegar in a small sauce pan, reduce slightly, then add in the miso butter just to loosen, and set aside in a warm place.  (this proportion is supposed to make four servings) 

      For the eggs:
      Poach in the shell for 45 minutes, completely immersed in water between 140 and 145F.  This is really easy if you have an immersion circulator, if you don't, keep them on low heat in a large pot, adjusting the temperature as needed with hot water and ice cubes.  Also, you will want to keep the eggs off the bottom of the pan- I use a steamer basket.  After 45 minutes, crack onto a plate and let the thin white fall away, then transfer to your serving plate.  Top with a generous grind of black pepper.  

      For the asparagus:
      Wash, trim and peel the asparagus as desired.  In a large skillet over medium high heat, roast asparagus with some butter until nicely browned and perfectly cooked.  Season as desired, but remember that miso is a little salty.

      Thursday, February 24, 2011

      Tasting Notes from Las Vegas: Jaleo

      A few nights ago I had the pleasure of eating at Jaleo, one of the restaurants by well-known Spanish chef Jose Andres.  Most of his career has been here in the US, he's got at least six restaurants, a bunch of cookbooks, and a PBS series called "Made in Spain."  If you're not familiar with him, I'd highly recommend you check out his show and particularly his book Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America.  I've enjoyed this book as a good introduction to tapas - nothing too intimidating and most of the ingredients are easily accessible.

      Now, on to the good part...I wish I had a camera so I could show you exactly what we ate instead of just telling you about it.  Here's the menu if you want to see all of the offerings.

      Empanadillas with Brandade and Honey
      These were slightly different than most of the empanadas I've had in the past- they used a wonton like wrapper instead of a short dough...  I can't say that I loved this alteration, but the filling made up for it!  I've never had brandade so smooth, so creamy, and so rich before.  It was the texture of warm, ripe, brie.  And it was spectacular with the honey drizzled over it.  (Brandade is typically a puree of salt cod, potato, garlic, and olive oil.)

      White Asparagus with Idziabal, Lemon, and ThymeThe most interesting thing about this dish was the presentation.  The combination of flavors was good as well, and I love Idziabal cheese.  It was served in an oval sardine can sort of thing, with the lid set off to the side.  Very nifty.

      Gazpacho
      I was hesitant about ordering this, considering it's February, but when a bowl arrived at the table next to us, I just couldn't resist.  I could smell it from where I was, and they obviously enjoyed it entirely.  It was intense cucumber, pepper, and tomato.  It was ridiculous how smooth the soup was, and the amount of sherry vinegar was very bold- on the border of being too much, but in the end, just right.

      Brussels Sprout Salad with Apricots, Apple and Serrano Ham

      Out of all the dishes, this was the least interesting.  It was all nicely prepared, but wasn't as exciting as many of the other things we ate. 

      Veal Cheeks with Morels and Olive Oil Potato Puree
      Yum!  Even in my mostly-vegetarian state, those veal cheeks hit the spot!  They were perfectly cooked (I'm guessing sous-vide), and over the super silky potato puree they were sublime.  A handful of baby morels topped off the dish in a lovely manner.

      Mussel Fritters
      Though a little heavy, these were awesome...  The mussels seemed to be minced, then folded into a breadcrumb mixture and deep fried.  After they came out of the fryer, a perfect little mussel shell was stuck into each one as a garnish/handle.  Super cute. 

      Rabbit Confit with Apricot Puree
      This dish was good, though it could have used a touch of acid.  The rabbit was cooked with a ton of rosemary, which I just loved, and I really enjoyed the combination of the herby-resiny rosemary with the intense sweetness of the apricot.

      Papas Arrugas
      Something so simple- new potatoes boiled in salt water until wrinkled like prunes, perfectly tender, with a dusting of salt crystals on the outside.  They really were good, especially with the accompanying sauces- a chimichurri type herb puree, and a sauce of smoked paprika and garlic.

      And lastly...possibly my favorite dish of the night...

      Olive Oil Ice Cream with Grapefruit
      Really good, creamy, intensely flavored olive oil ice cream over grapefruit granita that was amazingly devoid of bitterness, on a bed of fresh grapefruit supremes.  Topped with a little bit of honey and honestly, I could have eaten three portions...