Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet N Tart Citrus Salad with Persian Mint

Ten plus years ago when I began frequenting Farmers' Market I was always seduced by the lush displays and inevitably brought home too much food for a single person household. Too often I ended up tossing out vegetables that had gone bad because I had not been able to cook them before they died a sad death in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator. I finally wised up and began limiting the amount of cash that I brought with me during my market outings - limited cash meant limited produce. I had to choose wisely and resist multiple impulse buys.

While I still stick to the limited cash strategy (although my limit has increased a bit!) I do allow myself the freedom of buying what is new in the market, and am not as regimented as before.

Herbs, however, are always my downfall.

It's so easy to be seduced by a new herb bundle here and there, and they're small, so I don't worry about them taking up too much space in the refrigerator. This past week a lovely man introduced me to Persian mint and after trying a piece I was hooked. I knew its citrusy flavor would pair gorgeously with the last of the season's blood oranges and kumquats at the market.

Blood oranges have a much tarter flavor than regular oranges, and paired with the grapefruit and kumquats this is not your typical fruit salad. I added the agave nectar since it was too tart without it, even for me with my sour tooth. I served it with some grilled marinated pork chops and the combination was divine!

Sweet N Tart Citrus Salad with Mint

1 grapefruit
4 blood oranges
1 tablespoon mint, minced
1-2 tablespoon agave nectar
5-7 kumquats,
1 tablespoon lime juice
lime zest from 1/2 lime

Carve off all of the peel and the white pith. Cut in slices, quartering slices. Do the same with the blood oranges, only cutting them in slices. Mix with kumquats, mint and agave. Grate in lime zest and lime juice and stir well. Serve at room temperature.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Kale, Chick Pea and Cheese Phyllo Pie

For years and years when I mostly lived alone I would make soups or chili or stews and then lament because I would have so much leftover and inevitably have to freeze it. And inevitably I would end up throwing out said frozen food because it was just no longer appetizing. Finally, in the past few years I have learned to cook much smaller portions, for 1-2 people at the most. Yet every once in a while portion control gets away from me.

This soup was one example. I ended up with two quarts of it and after finishing the first quart (eating it for three lunches straight) I knew I couldn't do anymore. It languished in the refrigerator for a couple of days, becoming more of a stew than a soup. I was loath to freeze it (greens in soup do not freeze well), and then I realized it would make a perfect filling for a phyllo pie; add some cheese, bake it up and voila!

Usually phyllo pies include beaten eggs and milk to create a solid casing for the cheese or greens that you stuff the phyllo with, but I just drained off some of the broth of the soup. Mixed up with the cheddar cheese and feta it created a perfect layering between the phyllo sheets. If phyllo intimidates you, visit my posting here to learn the tricks to easily mastering this great ingredient.

This was a perfect solution to my leftover doldrums and a delicious new version for phyllo pie!

Kale, Chick Pea and Cheese Phyllo Pie

1 quart (3 cups soup, drained of broth)
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 roll phyllo dough
black pepper (1-2 teaspoons to taste)
olive oil or butter for brushing sheets of phyllo

Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Combine stew with cheeses, salt and pepper in bowl. Spray 9 x 13 baking pan or dish with olive oil. Lay down two sheets of phyllo and spray with oil. Lay down two more sheets and spray with oil. Spoon 1/4 of filling around phyllo. Top with 2 more sheets of phyllo and spray with oil. Repeat, ending with 4 layers of phyllo to finish. Spray well with olive oil. Cut pie into 12 pieces and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes to cool.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marinated Artichokes, Pickled Jalapeňos

Preserving the harvest or "putting up" as they say in the Midwest is usually associated with preserved fruit and canned vegetables, all of which were essential for people living in colder climates who needed to preserve for the winter when nothing would grow. But it turns out, people in warmer climates also put away for the reduced growing season months, whether it is drying tomatoes and peppers or pickling vegetables in vinegars. Here are a couple of examples, marinated artichokes and pickled jalapeňos.

Several weeks ago the Farmers' Market had baby purple artichokes and, as I am want to do, I bought a bunch without thinking what I would do with them. Instead of gobbling them all down in a couple of sittings, I realized I could put up, southern climate style. So I roasted them with garlic and topped them with olive oil to await my eating pleasure later in the year.

Pickled jalapenos are an ingredient I love to toss in pasta, on pizza or in this white bean hummus. Once I realized that making my own was a snap - slice and cover with equal parts cider vinegar and water - I always have some of these lovelies on hand. It is best to put them up in the summer when they are so abundant and cheap in the market!

Marinated Baby Artichokes

2 lbs baby artichokes
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim bottom leaves off of artichoke and cut at least 1/2 to 1 inch off top. Cut in half or quarter depending on size. Place in bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning. After you finish cutting all, drain and dry well in cloth dish towel. Toss with olive oil, garlic and salt and roast for 20-25 minutes until outer leaves are tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Place in mason jar and tamp down to pack tightly. Cover with olive oil and set in cool, dark pantry space. Once opened, refrigerate.

Pickled Jalapeňos

1 lb jalapeňos, sliced 1/2 inch thick
cider vinegar

Place jalapenos in jar that fits all slices with at least 1 inch of space at top. combine equal parts of vinegar and water and pour over slices and make sure they are completely covered. Cap and store in cool dark pantry space; refrigerate once opened again.

NOTE: If you notice that there is some whitish looking stuff at the top, that is simply the natural live culture of the cider vinegar interacting with the pepper. You can just rinse it off if it bothers you.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Farmers' Market Bounty - March 24

I forgot to bring my camera to the market yesterday so this photo at home will have to suffice. I am planning on grilling the asparagus and green garlic (what looks like extra large spring onions) and will post that recipe later.

The herb bunch is Persian mint, which is similar to spearmint (my favorite of the mints) but has a somewhat citrusy flavor, which is why it was paired with the kumquats and other citrus fruits in a salad that will show up in a few days.

But my most exciting find was the fresh lemongrass (to the left of center) which I will use in a Thai soup or curry to appear in a future post. There is absolutely nothing like that flavor and I can't wait to make that recipe!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spinach, Mushroom and Scallion Breakfast Burrito

If you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I play fast and loose with recipes. Essentially, I am a frugal cook (or lazy, depending on your perspective). I like to cook with what I have and hate running out to the store just because I don't have one specific ingredient for which a recipe requires. My version of Colcannon or Red Quinoa Tabbouleh are all recent examples of this tendency. I like to think this makes a better cook, able to substitute within reason and sometimes create a better or new dish. But sometimes you need to stick to the ingredient list because it matters that some particular ingredients are combined. This burrito is a case in point.

Gently cooked cremini mushrooms in butter with the late addition of green onions and some already steamed spinach, stirred into an egg scramble and then wrapped up with a good Swiss style cheese in a hearty flour tortilla makes a brilliant flavor combination. You get the earthy mushrooms with the green of the spinach and the slight oniony sting of the scallions, tempered by the savory eggs and cheese. Top it off with your favorite hot sauce if you are so inclined and enjoy at any meal!

Spinach, Mushroom and Scallion Breakfast Burrito

2 flour tortillas
2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
2 large cremini mushrooms
2 tablespoons steamed spinach
1 tablespoon butter
2 scallions, cut in 1/2 inch slices
1/3 cup shredded Swiss Cheese (I used Jarlsberg)

In heave skillet heat butter over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until they begin to darken and release their aroma. Add spinach and green onions and cook another minute. Place tortillas in toaster oven and set toaster on light. Add the beaten eggs and swirl to cover pan, turn heat down to medium and allow eggs to cook and set for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and when bottom of eggs browns, flip in sections to insure well cooked (or to your liking). Remove tortillas from toaster and sprinkle half the cheese on each one, across the middle. Distribute egg mixture equally among tortillas on top of cheese. To roll the burrito, fold in sides and roll up from side closest to you; allow to rest for about a minute with seam side down so that cheese melts.


Monday, March 22, 2010

New York Strip Steak with Red Wine Reduction

I recently had one of the most amazing food experiences, at Mario Batali's Los Angeles restaurant, Osteria Mozza. My sister and I signed up for a wine tasting dinner, an extravagant indulgence for me ($95 for four courses with accompanying wines) but an incredible experience. The focus was on Southern Italian wines from the Campania region, and, of course, the food was outstanding. I didn't have the presence of mind to bring my camera to take pictures so my descriptions will have to suffice. The menu was as follows:

Mozzrella Trio: Burrata, Bufala, Fior di Latte
Terrantica - Greco di Tufo, I Favati Vineyard
Fiorduva - Campania Marisa Cuomo Vineyard

Spot Prawns with Sunchokes and Salsa Verde
Antece, Campania De Conciliis Vineyard
Pietramara, Fiano di Avellino, I Favati Vineyard

Bistecca with Radicchio al Forno
Terzotratto, Taurasi, I Favati Vineyard
Naima, Campania Paestum Aglianico, De Conciliis Vineyard

Meyer Lemon Panna Cotta with Saba
Profuni della Costiera Limoncello, Ravello Costa di Amalfi

It was one of those charmed evenings of eating amazing food and drinking wine specifically paired to create the ultimate gastronomic experience. It was beyond inspiring; it was life altering. The three different fresh mozzarellas changed flavors with different sips of wine. And the wood-fired grilled prawns with the salsa verde were exquiste, not to mention the roasted sunchokes that simply melted in my mouth. The meyer lemon panna cotta was silken on my tongue but it was the bistecca that stole my heart. It was a Nebraska grass-fed beef served with pancetta wrapped radicchio grilled over a wood fire. I'm sure the wine was the perfect pairing, but all I remember was the stunning steak. The steak was encrusted with porcini dust and served with a balsamic and red wine reduction.

While I bow down to the brilliance of Batali and his business associates I decided finally to attempt steak with a red wine reduction. While I did not have the porcini dust, I am happy to say that I was thrilled with my attempt!

It is a simple recipe but one worth writing down since it is really does work out best when followed correctly.

Steak with Red Wine Reduction

1 4-6 oz good quality, grass-fed steak
3 tablespoons red wine

Make sure the steaks are at room temperature. Salt each side and place at the ready near the pan. Heat a very heavy bottom skillet, like a cast iron pan, over high heat for at least 3-4 minutes. I used my cast iron skillet and really let it get hot. Place the steak in the pan and allow it to cook on each side for at least 5 minutes, turning it only once. Remove the steak from the heat and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze the pan with the wine. Scrape up what little bits are on the bottom of the pan and spoon over the steak. Season with pepper and salt as desired.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Algerian Style Baked Potato Wedges

In case you notice such things, I've added several new blogs to my blogroll on the left hand side of the blog. These are the blogs that inspire me and I read regularly. A new one that has really piqued my interest lately is 64 sq ft kitchen, written by Warda, a self-proclaimed Algerian woman living in southern Michigan. I found her site through Soup Chick, a new blog by Lydia of The Perfect Pantry, which is one of my favorite blogs.

In reading through 64 sq ft Kitchen (Fantastic name!) I discovered this baked potato wedge recipe and, knowing my love of Morrocan food, had to try it.


Food from the Gods!

I will have to restrain myself from making these every night. I never would have thought to add seasonings after baking the potatoes, but what a spectacular idea! Mouth watering doesn't even begin to describe my behavior in anticipation of bringing these beauties out of the oven. Sacrilegious as it sounds, they even heat up OK in a microwave, assuming there are leftovers!

Algerian Style Baked Potato Wedges

4-5 red or yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
juice 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes with olive oil, harissa, salt, cumin and paprika and bake for 20 minutes or until crisp on the outside. Place in bowl and squeeze lemon juice over potatoes and toss with garlic, parsley and cilantro.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mediterranean Style Chick Pea, Kale and Tomato Soup

Chick peas, garbanzo beans, or "ceci" are all names of one of the only legumes native to Europe and the Mediterranean area in particular. They are also the ingredient for March's No Croutons Required challenge.

I loved this challenge because I struggle being creative with chick peas, usually just making hummus out of them. So I definitely can't wait to see what other folks come up with.

This was one of those "kitchen sink" soups where I kept adding ingredients to get rid of some leftovers in the refrigerator. I had some leftover tomato sauce from making ravioli and added that to the soup along with some kale that needed to be used up. Happily, kale is the ingredient for Co-opportunity's recipe of the month, so this soup works for two challenges.

Mediterranean Style Chick Pea, Kale and Tomato Soup

1 can chick peas with liquid (or 1 1/2 cup cooked with liquid)
1 small bunch kale, washed, torn into small pieces (without stalks)
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
1 small onion
1 small shallot
olive oil
2 cups water
1 cup tomato sauce (recipe here)
OR 1 cup tomato sauce with 2 tablespoons cream or 1/2 and 1/2
juice of 1 lemon or 1 teaspoon preserved lemon, minced

Saute onion and shallots in olive oil until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook another 3-4 minutes until softened. Add chick peas and liquid and bring to boil. Add tomato sauce and bring back to boil. Add in kale, preserved lemon or lemon juice and cook 2-3 minutes until kale becomes bright green. Season with salt and pepper (carefully if you use preserved lemon which is already very salty).


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Colcannon for Saint Patrick

Colcannon (pronounced "CULkennan" with the accent on the first syllable), was a staple of the Irish farmer peasant's diet - mashed potatoes with onion (or leeks) and cabbage. It was nearly a nutritionally complete meal since the potato and cabbage provide so many vitamin and minerals. I would imagine that eating it day in and day out would be a bit boring, but making it now with butter, cream or half and half, and your favorite green, it feels quite decadent!

If you're celebrating Saint Patrick's day make sure to check out The Daily Spud for a round up of Saint Patrick inspired dishes, including food and drink!

Since I had some mâche on hand (and it even mimics clover!) I used it instead of the traditional cabbage. Green cabbage definitely adds a touch of sweetness to it, but I was quite happy with my mâche substitution.

Mâche (pronounced "much") is one of those greens that seems exotic (because it is uncommon) but is really just a better version of spinach, in my humble opinion. Raw or cooked it has a little more substance than spinach but a similar mild flavor. Raw mâche tastes similar to butter lettuce with a little more green flavor. Cooked, it is silky like spinach but it doesn't disintegrate as much as spinach does. I buy it whenever it is available! Make sure to wash it well as it is one of those greens that often as some soil attached to its roots.

Colcannon with Mâche

1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 oz mâche, washed
4-5 red or yellow potatoes, cut in equal pieces
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup half and half or cream

Place potatoes in pot of boiling water and cook until tender. Mash with butter, half and half and salt and pepper to desired taste and consistency. Saute onion in olive oil and when translucent and soft, add mâche and allow to cook down, about 3-4 minutes. Add to mashed potatoes and incorporate well. Adjust salt and pepper (both greens and potatoes need plenty of salt so don't skimp!)


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

I have been slow to come to preserving fruit because it requires so much sugar and I have such a limited sweet tooth. But I am so enamored of Rhubarb that I knew I had to make some preserves just to have some on hand when it was no longer available fresh in the market.

In case you are wondering, the differences between jelly, jam and preserves is the following. Jelly is made from fruit juice boiled with sugar, jam is fruit mixed with juice and sugar and put through a food mill and pureed. Lastly, preserves are mostly whole fruits mixed with juice and sugar and boiled to create preserves. The best part about preserves is that it looks and tastes like fruit suspended in jelled syrup, more fruit like than pureed fruit.

I found a great recipe here . While I didn't follow it to the letter, it did work out nicely.

Don't let the timeline of making the preserves daunt you, it is totally worth it. The preserves are a perfect balance of sweet and tart, with the chunks of strawberries and rhubarb suspended in the jellied syrup.

A note on "jell point" when you're boiling the syrup. If you don't have a candy thermometer, drop the syrup onto a freezer-chilled plate and you'll notice that the syrup starts to jell. This generally happens after 5 minutes of boiling.

Rhubarb Strawberry Preserves

1.5 lbs strawberries
2 cups sugar
1 lemon juiced
1 1/2 lbs rhubarb, cut in 1 inch pieces
2 cups sugar
1 lemon juiced


Day 1
1. Wash and hull strawberries cutting any extra large ones into uniform size. Place in a non-reactive bowl with sugar and lemon juice and macerate over night or until sugar is dissolved.

Day 2
2. Strain, reserving the fruit in the bowl. Boil the syrup for 5 minutes, skimming as needed till you reach the gel point, 220-222 on a candy thermometer. Pour syrup back over strawberries and let soak again overnight. This allows the berries to absorb the syrup.

3. Prepare Rhubarb for maceration at this time. Wash and trim rhubarb and cut into 1” pieces (or larger to match your strawberry proportion). Place in a non-reactive bowl with sugar and lemon juice and macerate over night or until sugar is dissolved.

Day 3

4. Bring strawberries and syrup to a boil, skimming as needed. Immediately turn off heat. Repeat this once more cooling in between.

5. Strain the rhubarb syrup into a preserving pan and bring to a boil. Skim. Continue boiling and skimming till you reach the gel point, 220-222 on a candy thermometer.

6. Add the rhubarb to its syrup and return to a boil. Skim. Continue cooking for 3-5 minutes, stirring, carefully to maintain the integrity of the fruit.

7. Combine strawberry and rhubarb preparations in one preserving pan (make sure pan is large enough to accommodate both and allow for boiling). Boil for 3-5 minutes stirring carefully. Skim.

8. Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal and process in hot water canning bath for 20 minutes. Make sure lids sealed and label.

Makes 5-6 1/2 pint jars.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Presto Pasta Night #154 - The Round Up

Welcome to Presto Pasta Night! I'm so excited to be hosting the first week of the fourth year. This is a wonderful array of pasta dishes, literally from around the world, including Asian and Greek inspired dishes, in addition to the traditional Italian ones. Check out all of the lovely offerings in this week's round up.

Cynthia of Kitchen Slave loves pasta and Asian style curries, particularly red Thai curry. She created her own Asian fusion dish,Red Curry Fettuccini with Chicken, Bamboo Shoots and Green Beans. The pasta served as an excellent backdrop to the spicy Thai curry and the bamboo shoots and green beans provided some crunch and texture, all to splendid effect.

Ruth of Once Upon a Feast - Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories made Eggplant Roll-ups, her answer to a need for a pastaless pasta dish in preparation for Passover. Velvety eggplant makes a superb replacement for silky pasta, creating the illusion of elegant canneloni. This is a great recipe for folks looking for gluten-free alternatives as well.

Katerina of Culinary Flavors of Athens, Greece wanted a lighter version of mac and cheese than what she found in a box so she created her own version. Combining three different cheeses - gruyere, emental, and regato - and adding some mushrooms she created Macaroni and Cheese My Way

Mansi and I were channeling the same pasta gods of roasted tomatoes and garlic, but her dish ups the ante with spinach fettuccine and champagne. Her recipe for Fettuccine in Roasted Garlic Tomato & Champagne Sauce, is on her blog at Fun and Food Cafe. Using wine (or champagne) always adds depth of flavor to any dish, and makes everything feel just a little fancier!

Over at Lemon and Cheese, Nic, continues her attempts to find new cauliflower recipes to excite her taste buds. For this week's round up she made Cauliflower Cheese and Spinach Pasta Bake. While she still isn't counting cauliflower as her new favorite ingredient, this dish was a winner.

Pam, who writes at Sidewalk Shoes, sent in Pasta with Chicken and Spinach and Feta. Here is one of those "mother of invention" dishes; too worn down to make the meal she had planned earlier in the week, Pam pulls from the freezer, pantry and refrigerator a luscious pasta dish that is both satisfying and delicious. She even included the empty wine glass for you to fill with your own favorite vintage!

Martha of Seaside Simplicity had a scrambled menu week similar to Pam - luckily the "mother of invention" makes housecalls! Instead of using ricotta to stuff shells, she combined it with bacon, mozzarella and cheddar and whipped up this Italian Mac and Cheese and everyone ate happily ever after.

Reeni who blogs at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice had a dream and followed it, literally, to create Cheesy Lemon Pasta with Salami, Olives & Spinach. This is a gal after my own Mediterranean loving heart - cheese, olives, salami and spinach. She lovingly calls it "Kitchen Sink" pasta but it sounds like it was heaven sent!

Joanne of Eats Well with Others, made Pioneer Woman's Baked Lemon Pasta. This very busy woman - Med School Student, Ardent Runner, Foodie Extraordinaire - delves into Pioneer Woman's Cookbook to make this simple but delicious dish and we're the beneficiaries!

Christine writes at Kit's Chow and she sent in Spaghetti with Fried Zucchini. Cooking from her pantry, this dish is both easy and inexpensive and is one that she notes every newbie cook needs to have in their repertoire. Combine pasta with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, accent with a fresh vegetable like zucchini and you have a fabulous meal. It is a great reminder of how simple pasta is both delicious and easy on the wallet!

Cool Lassie brought us Pulled Chicken Noodle Soup from her blog, Pan Gravy Kudai Curry. Although she was feeling under the weather, Cool Lassie managed to put up a fantastic chicken noodle soup to enter in today's round-up. Check out her take on homemade chicken stock, it looks like one of the best I've ever seen.

Sherra, writing at Our Taste of Life, wins the prize for the most creative time for serving pasta - Breakfast! She put together this quick Corned Beef Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes for her kids who promptly ate it all up! So even when you're running late and trying to get out the door (instead of just walking in after a long day) pasta comes to the rescue!

Chaya at Chaya's Comfy Cook was on the same wavelength as Ruth, thinking ahead to Passover meals. Faced with lots of baby carrots, she got really creative and made her gluten-free Carrot Pasta. Adding cherry tomatoes, red onion and parmesan cheese to peeled baby carrots she produced a colorful and light pasta dish that pleased her most important customer, her husband!

Lastly, my own entry is Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce. Pulling homemade ravioli out of the freezer is a singular joy that never fails to make me feel just a bit smug. I served them with a roasted cherry tomato and garlic sauce I have been playing around with, blending in avocado to achieve a creamy sauce. Frozen ravioli can be tossed into boiling water without defrosting, so convenient!

Thanks to everyone for participating! Next week's round up is hosted by Aquadaze from Served with Love. Send your entries to aquadaze (at) rediffmail (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by March 18. Check back for the roundup on March 19!


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

As I've mentioned in past posts, I never ate pasta or tomatoes as a child. So ironic since that is some of my favorite pairings when it comes to simple pasta dishes. Looking through my blog, I've come a long way! Friday I am hosting Presto Pasta Night #154 and this is my entry.

In this recipe I worked with the roasted tomatoes that I have been making lately. Whirling them in the blender and adding some surprising ingredients to make a creamy, comfort food with healthy ingredients. While I did not have any kids around to confirm my hunch, I think this dish is pretty close to the omnipresent Chef Boyardee of my younger years! I can confirm that it is absolutely delicious!

Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Tomato Sauce

1 batch of cheese ravioli (see here)
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 avocado
3-4 sundried tomatoes, rehydrated in 1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half and toss with garlic, salt and olive oil and bake for 20 minutes in single layer in large baking dish. Remove from oven and in blender or food processor blend with rehydrated tomatoes and half the soaking water. Slowly add olive oil to blend completely. Add lemon juice and avocado and blend thoroughly and adjust salt. Serve over hot cooked ravioli.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pizza

In the dead of winter (no matter what climate you live in) I usually cringe when I see people buying fresh tomatoes. I'm not a "loco" locavore, but the idea of eating those orangish looking things that claim to be tomatoes in February or March just seems sad and so out of place. When tomatoes come through my check out line at Co-opportunity they look anemic, like they haven't gotten enough heat and sunshine to bloom into the beautiful fruit/vegetable that they can be.

However, I subcumbed to buying tomatoes in February after watching Giada di Laurentiis on the Food Network make magic with cherry tomatoes. Cutting them in half, she roasted them in the oven with garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper, and then tossed them with pasta and fresh mozzarella. While I'm usually not a huge fan of the cherry or grape tomatoes, I had to try this dish and the grape tomatoes looked like real tomatoes so I went for it.

What a delight they were! Instead of pasta I mashed them up and used them as a sauce for pizza. Topping the pizza with spinach and mozzarella and fontina cheese made the most perfect pizza I've made yet!

Roasted Tomato and Spinach Pizza

Dough to cover a cookie sheet
coarse cornmeal to sprinkle
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 cup steamed spinach
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fontina cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400. Cut tomatoes in half and toss with olive oil, minced garlic and salt and place in roasting pan large enough so that tomatoes are in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes and remove. While tomatoes are roasting, sprinkle cornmeal on cookie sheet and stretch pizza dough over it as thinly as possible. When tomatoes are done, mash with a fork in the pan and then scrape onto dough. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Sprinkle mozzarella over all, dot top with spinach and top with fontina cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until crust is browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool a few minutes before cutting.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Presto Pasta Night #154

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love, love, love Italian cooking and pasta in particular. That's why I was so excited when I came across this blogging roundup. Presto Pasta Night was started by Ruth Daniels of Once Upon A Feast - Every Kitchen Tells its Stories and this week I am hosting the 154 week.

Here's how this works. Make a fabulous pasta dish, take a picture of it and post it on your blog and send me the link at kirstenmlindquist AT gmail DOT com and I'll include you in this week's roundup. Please also CC ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com. It's no limits, no holds barred pasta, any way you like it. What an easy, fun way to learn about more pasta dishes!

Please send me your link information no later than Thursday, March 11. Can't wait to see all of the exciting dishes you create!


Friday, March 5, 2010

Farmers' Market Bounty - March 3

I am still getting used to the fact that I live in Southern California. Our "winter" is nearly over, and it was considered a dousy because of the tremendous rain we have received in the past two months (almost the entire year's rainfall in that time). And while I know my friends in the four season climates are probably tired of me moaning about the sunshine and heat (as they brace for another couple of feet of snow) I still feel a little like Alice in Wonderland when I'm finding local oysters, mussels and clams at the Farmers' Market alongside winter squash, zucchini blossoms and baby purple eggplant. Incredible!

I quartered and roasted the artichokes in order to marinated them in garlic olive oil, recipe forth coming.

Stuffed squash blossoms are something I've always wanted to attempt but was too intimidated. If these are at the market next week, I'm charging through that fear!

This picture makes me think of October and November on the east coast, waiting for the leaves to drop and decay, one of my favorite smells in the world.

Do you understand my climatic confusion?


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Purple Potato Salad with Tarragon and Aioli

In the U.S. condiments are most often associated with hamburgers and hot dogs, such as mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and pickle relish. But don't let that limit you. Condiments from other cuisines are usually intensely flavored sauces or pastes that are added to stews, soups and vegetable dishes to create complexly flavored dishes. Condiments in small doses pack a wallop of flavor and can change a dish on a dime. Think of Indian chutneys, Mexican hot sauces, or Moroccan harissa to name a few. Since I am currently in love with making condiments, I wanted to share how I use them in creative ways.

Here is a somewhat traditional potato salad - mayonnaise and vegetables - with a twist. Using Aioli instead of plain mayonnaise along with the tarragon green peppercorn mustard I recently made, plain old potato salad takes a whole new turn and feels spectacularly exciting. Using purple potatoes just made it so beautiful!

Purple Potato Salad with Tarragon and Aioli

4 fist size purple potatoes
1 tablespoon red onion, finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons aioli
1 teaspoon tarragon green peppercorn mustard
ground pepper

Cut potatoes into quarters and bring to boil in twice as much water to cover them. Drain when tender and place in mixing bowl. Cut into smaller pieces and sprinkle with cider vinegar and a pinch or two of salt and toss to coat. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill to allow flavors to marry but serve at room temperature.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Easy, Homemade Mustards

Making mustard is kind of like an exciting chemistry project that is hard to screw up. The foundation of all mustard is to soak mustard seeds in either vinegar or white wine, mash or blend them, and allow the mixture to ferment at room temperature for several days. That's all there is to it, and that is the long process.

You can add herbs, flavored vinegar, sugar or other sweetners to create different flavored mustards. For this round, I wanted to make a simple spicy mustard as well as a more mild herb flavored one. I found a spicy mustard recipe here and was so excited that it was only two ingredients, mustard seeds and wine. That's it. The taste was all in the wine and fermentation process.

Spicy White Wine Mustard

1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup white wine (chardonnay)

Combine in glass jar and cover tightly. Allow to ferment for 24-48 hours. Drain off all put a teaspoon of liquid and reserve. Mash seeds in mortar and pestle for a couple of minutes until the mustard reaches the consistency you desire in a coarse mustard. Add more of the reserved liquid if mash is too dry. Return to the jar and cover tightly and allow to ferment for at least a week. Leaving the jar in a warm temperature will allow the spiciness to increase. Refrigerate when you decide to use it or want to stop the fermentation process.

Since I was already making tarragon vinegar I was thrilled to find a recipe for tarragon green peppercorn mustard on Mother Earth News' website. Not until I came across this recipe did I think to explore the nuances between peppercorns. I had heard that white pepper was slightly hotter and less coarse than black pepper but I thought my palate was too peasant-like to tell the difference. Wrong. Since the only green peppercorns I could find were in a mixture I bought some and separated out the colors. There truly was a difference in taste and scent, albeit very nuanced.

Tarragon Green Peppercorn Mustard

1/4 cup light or dark mustard seeds
1/3 cup tarragon white wine vinegar*
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon green peppercorns, crushed in mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Combine mustard seeds, vinegar, water and wine in a glass or ceramic bowl. Let sit for 4 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a blender or food processor. Process to the desired consistency, from slightly course to creamy. Pour into the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour into sterilized jars, cap tightly, and allow to ferment at room temperature for several days.

*You can make your own tarragon white wine vinegar by steeping fresh tarragon in good white wine vinegar.