Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fusilli with Pistachio Cream Sauce

I have been enamored of simple Italian preparations lately - the really traditional ones. Take this one for instance. Onion, pistachios, cream and cheese. Just basic stuff, but amazingly delicious and satisfying!

Use whole wheat pasta if you can, it has a slightly nutty flavor and really holds up to the pistachios and cream. I purposely only made 1/2 a pound of pasta because I knew I would easily eat it all in one setting, given the chance.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pumpkin Pineapple Walnut Bread

The other night I was in the mood for muffins but imagine my shock to find no muffin tin in the kitchen! What's a gal to do? Make a bread (and when there is no bread pan, improvise!) Yes, the mother of invention is necessity and if you do not already know that a round shaped bread tastes no different than a rectangular one, let me be the first to tell you, they do not.

This bread was originally inspired by a ginger beer recipe that a friend from Jamaica told me about - making ginger beer with the rind of a ripe pineapple and and a little added sugar. So then what to do with the remaining pineapple fruit? I realized that it would go wonderfully in a pumpkin walnut muffin/bread. Without the muffin tin, bread it was!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Raw Turnip and Dill Salad

At Co-opportunity I wear many hats. In addition to managing the Cheese, Wine and Specialty department I also write for the store's blog and conduct product trainings for new staff, which I have been doing lately. Part of that training involves ensuring that everyone knows what's what in the produce department. Since it is the middle of winter (even in Southern California) we have an abundance of root vegetables. Talking about turnips inspired this salad.

Too often turnips get short shrift when foodies are making roots. Roasted root vegetable plates usually include celery root, beets, and parsnips, but too often the lowly purple topped turnip does not get an invitation to the party. When I was living in the Midwest, too many people associated turnips with austerity and old fashioned food without flavor, all of which probably had a nugget of truth to it. Since turnips are a vegetable that will keep well in a root cellar and are full of great nutrition including vitamins C and B6, potassium, folate and copper, they were grown extensively in kitchen gardens. I'm sure older folks who grew up eating them throughout the winter probably were tired of them come spring!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fusilli with Romanesco

I have written about romanesco here (almost to the day!) and since it is back in season, I am cooking with it again. I wanted to find a new way to eat it besides roasting. So turning to my trusty Food Blog Search I came across this recipe on a food blog written by the son of Marcella Hazan, the queen of Italian Cookbooks in America.  Apparently he just began writing it late last year, and while this looked too simple to be true, it followed the adage that the Italians know how to make magic with only a few ingredients.

Boil or steam Romanesco, saute it with a little garlic and some red pepper flakes and toss it with fusilli and some parmesan cheese and presto, magic in your mouth! Guiliano used pecorino cheese and he called it broccoflower, but from the picture it was clear that he was talking about my own true love, romanesco.

The romanesco that I had was really small, only about 2 cups once it was broken up, and that was enough for 1/2 a lb of pasta. But you will want to double it because this is so amazingly good! This is a super quick meal that just needs a salad to round it all out.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sardine Rillettes

Sardines - they're usually NOT what's for dinner. But, packed with good stuff like Omega 3s, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, not to mention protein, these little nuggets are worth getting to know better. To top it all off, they are one of the most sustainable fish you can buy because they are so plentiful and multiple so quickly, being at the bottom of the fish food chain.  I have enjoyed them in salads but was thrilled to see that Around My French Table made them into Rillettes, perfect for snacks, light dinners or a party.

Traditionally rillettes are made from slow cooked pork, duck or goose, cooked in its own fat. When I was volunteering at Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley we made some amazing pork rillettes and I have been hooked ever since. But Dorie Greenspan in Around My French Table pointed out that people are making rillettes from not only sardines but salmon as well. It's a whole new world!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates - Datteri Ripeini

Lately, hors d'oeuvres are all I crave. No soups, salads, or entrees. Nope, I just want snack bites of little yummies. I make myself eat salad and stew because I feel better when I have a more balanced diet, but temptation does get the better of me and then I turn to my favorite seducer: prosciutto.

Mention the word "prosciutto" and I'm yours. Wrap it around a sweet and savory little package like dates stuffed with cheese or just herbs and I will pledge myself til the stars go cold and the sun plummets to earth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penne with Winter Pesto

Sometimes, in the dead of winter, you want some summer (even in Los Angeles). You want that fresh, green-ness, just picked from the garden-ness in your dinner bowl, and you want it now! That is what inspired this dinner.

Winter pesto is made with spinach and sometimes parsley, which is what I put in this version. The lovely thing about spinach, unlike basil, is that it stays vibrant green long after it is blended into a pesto. The color itself brightens my meal!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hot Wings with Creamy Dressing

Mazzatta's, the mom and pop Italian restaurant where I had my first job, has been featured several times in this space. But I also worked at Jagger's Restaurant and Pub (as it was known 20 years ago), on the edge of Emory University's campus in Atlanta, GA. There I was a short order cook, frying corn tortillas for freshly made chips for nachos, grilling chicken breasts and burgers, and frying up lots and lots and lots of chicken wings.

Buffalo had nothing on us!

The place was open until 2 am Monday through Saturday and when the clock struck 10 pm, Jagger's famous hot and spicy wings magically became $.10 each (and Milwaukee's Best pitchers of beer were $1.99). It was mayhem. Drunken boys poured out of fraternity houses and flocked to Jaggers to consume hundreds (really, multiple orders of 50 wings each did I prepare) of spicy wings. And woe to the crazy (really drunk) person who sent the wings back to the kitchen claiming they were "Not Hot Enough"! That was when I would mix up my special fire-breathing concoctions to quiet the rabble. Occasionally, I would even cruise the dining room to ensure that tears were indeed streaming down the face of the one would wanted it hotter...They always left satisfied!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Prosciutto Wrapped Jalapenos

Sometimes you just want to eat food that some people will tell you is "bad" for you. Like cured meat, and cheese, and spicy peppers. And when you want to eat them all together at once, well, then you're really going to hell in a hand basket!

I saw these yummy morsels on Very Culinary's blog the same day that I spied Closet Cooking's Jalapeno Popper Cheese Dip and yes, dear reader, I made them both on the same night and ate cheese and jalapenos for dinner. It was a memorable feast, probably a once in a lifetime event - or perhaps just an annual one - kind of like the Superbowl, which inspired them. Decadence at its finest.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca)

Some people dream of chocolate and cake; I dream of fresh caught fish, still salty wet from the ocean. Visions of azure blue seas with houses set into steep hillsides is my idea of paradise. Anywhere in the Mediterranean would do, although I think the Balearic Islands and Menorca in particular is my ideal.

All fantasies aside, I love discovering new ways of cooking fish and this Brazilian Fish Stew was very intriguing. Bell peppers, lime juice, coconut milk, and of course cilantro make a beautiful combination, transforming "bland" fish (as too many people tell me fish is) into a party in your mouth.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Spinach Bean Patties

This is what I call good old-fashioned hippy food. Yup, you read that right, hippy food. The modern wave of vegetarian eating was kicked off by the hippies, the "back to the land" folks and the natural food movement that started the food co-ops that are sprinkled around the country. They wanted to eat what they could grow, live off the land, and withdraw from what they saw as a corrupt, consumer-driven society as much as possible. The Moosewood Collective and their numerous cookbooks are the most popular and utilized cookbooks of this tradition and they served me well. Funny, but so much of their beliefs are echoed in the locavore movement of today. History does repeat itself!

In case you haven't gathered it from my previous posts, I have a deep longing/fantasy to live the back to the land life. My first attempt was the purchase of my small farm in hopes of creating an inn. That episode of my life included a 25 foot square vegetable garden, an 8 foot square herb garden, and several fruit trees that came with the property - two apple, a mulberry and a sour cherry. Needless to say I loved every moment of life there and hope to recreate it somewhere else in the near future. If this sounds like heaven on earth to you also, you can live vicariously by reading Prodigal Summer and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the fictional and non-fictional accounts of this lifestyle as written by Barbara Kingsolver.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lentil and 6 Grain Soup

As you might imagine, being the Cheese, Wine and Specialty Manager I get a few perks, like samples of beer, wine, and cheese. But I also orchestrate the demos of products at the store. Soofoo is one of the those foods and I was fortunate to receive a sample. Not to sound like an advertisement for the product, but having it on hand allowed this soup to come together in a snap.

I was hankering for a good, hearty soup and this great mix of lentils and grains really made it happen. Pulling some lamb stock from the freezer that was demanding to be used and combining it with veggies, bay leaves and a splash of red wine vinegar led to the creation of what will be a new classic in my repertoire.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Cheese Dip

In case you hadn't noticed, the Superbowl is this weekend. Not that I am a huge football fan (not the American version, anyway, but still vaguely rooting for the Packers, Midwest roots and all) but lots of food blogs are listing snacks to make for the big game day. That's why I ran home and made this gorgeous gooey dish of heart-stopping goodness.

Kevin of Closet Cooking loves making cheese dips and many of his recipes are on my to-do list. But this one could not wait. So I didn't. Yummy! The best part was how easy it was to prepare! Easy to prepare has been my primary focus lately - no reason, just want it quick and now!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Farewell to The Minimalist - Bittman's top 25

I came late to the Mark Bittman party - I only discovered him a couple of years ago through his column in the food section of the New York Times, The Minimalist. But I fell instantly in love with him - his personality, his cooking, his simple approach to cooking, and his down-to-earth desire to help everyone learn to cook, well, everything.

This past week he posted his last column for The Minimalist and listed his top 25 dishes (I don't know how he could have chosen, that sounds impossible to me!) I was shocked to realize I had only made one of them and it wasn't even his recipe - No Knead Bread from Jim Leahy. Still, I wanted to mark the occasion of his 13 year column run and so this post.

Thankfully, his food writing career is not over - he'll still be making contributions to the New York Times, although through the Opinion department, writing more about food, its politics, and the shifting culture of it all. Also, he will have a show on the Food Channel, which I am very excited about! His "Spain, On the Road Again" for PBS (along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Mario Batali and Claudia Bassols) was inspiring and entertaining, at least when he and Claudia were talking, eating and sampling, so I trust his new show will be loads of fun as well.

He started out working for America's Test Kitchen (now Cooks' Illustrated) and has written several cookbooks (and this list doesn't even include them all). He's be doing this for 30 plus years, and bless his heart, wants to give us more. That's passion!

Have you got a favorite Bittman recipe, moment or dish that you has a special place in your heart? I'd love to hear about any and all stories. Love that man!