Monday, December 19, 2011

Bean and Chile Pupusas

I lived in Washington, D.C. for six years, three of which were in Mount Pleasant, a small neighborhood home to many of the Central American political refugees who arrived in the nation's Capitol in the early 1980s. True of many recent immigrant communities, they simply recreated their culture where they landed. Although Mount Pleasant street is only about eight blocks long, stepping onto it off of Columbia Road was like walking into a Latin American country. Latino men sat along the sidewalks all hours of the day, discussing anyone passing by, the weather, politics, or whatever took their fancy. In the little square towards the north end of the street it was not unusual to hear a trio or quartet playing guitar and singing traditional songs from whatever homeland from which they were estranged. Bodegas and restaurants doted the street and fresh fruit vendors hawked cut papayas, pineapple and mangos throughout the seasons. It was on this street that I first ate pupusas.

Quintessential street food, pupusas are little pockets of masa wrapped around refried beans and cheese or slow cooked pork, fried golden and crispy. Masa is the lyme-cooked cornmeal that is the staple of so many latino cuisines, central to making tamales and fresh made corn tortillas. And trust me when I tell you nothing compares to homemade. Having purchased some masa recently I decided to try my hand at making my own.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Refried Bean Tostadas

I have met people who will not eat Mexican food because they claim it's too messy. While that sounds like a silly reason for refusing a whole cuisine, I have to agree that tostadas certainly are a case in point: pile a fried corn tortilla high with beans, salsa, avocado, onions, cilantro and whatever else you fancy and take a bite. Pretty much guaranteed that something will not make it into your mouth!

But for me that is all the fun. First you get a taste of this open-faced delight and as some parts fall onto your plate you get to scoop up some more with your fork or a fried corn chip, reminding you of just how fun this meal is.

An additional bonus is that this can be a pantry meal - canned beans, salsa, guacamole - and that makes dinner super fast. On the other hand, with a bit of planning you can make your own homemade refried beans and feel pretty satisfied with your Mexican cooking know-how.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chipotle Kale Pasta

What do you make when hunger hits you over the head and you are too lazy to go any further than your pantry? For me pasta is almost always the answer.

For this quick pantry dish I fished out some locally smoked jalapenos AKA chipotles, rehydrated them and sauteed them with a healthy dose of garlic and kale. The smokiness of the peppers was soothingly comforting on a chilly night and the heat - yup, they're still jalapenos! - warmed my bones on a deeper level.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Soy-rizo - Vegan Chorizo

Have you ever made a dish that you haven't made in ages but you remember as the most amazing food ever, only to find that time has not been kind and that your memories are much rosier than reality?

Not the case here!

This Soyrizo (soy chorizo) was one of my favorites years ago and when I made it again recently I feel in love all over again. Big happy sigh...I love it when that happens!

From The Best 125 Meatless Mexican Dishes, it is simple and almost a pantry dish, as long as you have dried ancho peppers in your pantry. After trying this, you will make it a point to never be without them! Ancho peppers are dried and smoked poblano peppers, dark red with a smoky flavor and just a bit of heat, they are the heart of this dish. You can find them in any latino grocery store or good spice store like Penzey's Spices.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk waiting to be used up in the fridge?       Check.

Maple syrup looking a tad old?          Check.

Easy as pie recipe?                  Check.

Enter Maple Buttermilk Pie from 101 Cookbooks. So simple, so delicious, and if you bought the crust, a snap to make!

Of course being the DIY Queen that I am, the crust was homemade, and vegan at that! Chocolate and Zucchini featured a olive oil crust a while back and I have been waiting for the perfect time to make it. Ok, really, I have been putting it off, but when I finally did get around to it, I was sold! Really easy, so much less fat than a butter crust, and it is good both with a savory tart as well as this sweet treat.

Even if you think you're not a fan of maple syrup give this pie a try. With its 6 egg yolks it is more like custard; the maple syrup is more of a sweetener and with the lemon zest, the maple flavor does not overwhelm. Of course, knowing my palate, this is not a really sweet dessert. Definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions: Part 2 - Appetizers and Desserts

Welcome to Part Deux of my Thanksgiving round up; Appetizers and Desserts. Let's dig in!

Marinated Olives Moroccan Style
Wow! These were so easy I almost felt guilty taking credit for them. They look so exotic but they are made with a few pantry items. Toss them all together and allow to marinate for 2 days and bring them to room temperature, and voila, you have fancy marinated olives!

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates
Ah, these were a lovely experiment that turned out beautifully. While the end result is less than gorgeous the taste is phenomenal! Slit dates open and stuff with goat cheese, wrap in decadence aka prosciutto and bake. Delicious!

Double Salmon Dip
This is a real treat for the salmon lovers - smoked and poached salmon is combined with herbs and cream to make this luscious dip. Make sure to get fresh herbs since they make all the difference!

Maple Rosemary Glazed Walnuts
These nuts are so simple and easy to whip up but so gourmet tasting! Be sure to make a large batch since they are so addictive people won't be able to stop eating them!

Classic Stuffed Mushrooms
These are simplicity itself - saute mushroom stems with garlic, butter, parsley and bread crumbs and stuff into the caps with some cheese and bake. While I have listed these as an appetizer, they could easily come to the big table as a side.

Almond Cake
As I mentioned in my original post, this dessert really wowed me. If you like almonds in your desserts then do yourself a favor and make this cake. Super easy and so delicious! It would be great with whipped cream, ice cream, or just some fruit as shown here. It makes a lovely alternative to the traditional apple or pumpkin pie or simply another choice!

Chocolate Ricotta Tart
Ricotta in desserts was a discovery of the Italians; whether the Sicilians can claim that particular brilliance I do not know, but it was Sicilian Americans who introduced it to me in the form of canolis. Thus, I pay tribute to them regardless of the authenticity! Either way, this tart is stupendous - rich, creamy and dense. If you're making something chocolate for your feast, make it this tart.

Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette This was one of my first fruit tart/galettes and I was so proud of how nicely it turned out. It has a rustic crust but inside is hidden so much elegant goodness that it will pleasantly surprise your diners. Choose bosc pears - yellow or red - for best results since they are ripe no matter how soft or hard they feel.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you enjoy every morsel and drop!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions: Part 1 - Sides

And so it begins! If you are still planning your Thanksgiving feast, allow me to present a few dishes for your consideration. There were so many to choose from that I created two posts; first one is dedicated to sides - my personal favorite part of the meal. Next look for hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Enjoy!
Cornbread and Smoked Oyster Stuffing
The star of this dish is the smoked oysters - it takes only a few but they infuse the stuffing with amazing flavor and yummyness! Truly a show stopper!

Fennel, Celery and Herb Salad
is a fantastic side dish to cut through all of the richness of the turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and creamed onions and need I go on? This is bracingly crisp and crunchy and just enough acid to refresh your taste buds for another round of all of the above!

Potatoes and Green Beans with Dijon Vinaigrette
Green beans always make an appearance on our feast table and this dish is a bit different. A fantastic homemade Dijon vinaigrette tossed with some warm potatoes.

Swiss Chard, Onion and Potato Gratin
Gratin usually means cream and cheese and a few veggies thrown in for good measure. Not this one. This is veggie goodness with out any dairy and trust me, it is stupendous. Having some vegans attending? Include this dish and they will be singing your praises into the new year!

Basque Beet Salad with Garlic and Parsley
If you are trying to cook seasonally, this beet salad is just the ticket. It is simple, easy and quick to make - let someone else put it together as you make the gravy - and wow folks with your elegant simplicity!

Braised Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Mint
Not only is this a gorgeous color, but the dried cranberries and mint are a match made in heaven. Red cabbage is sweeter than its green cousin and this simple saute is another delicious seasonal vegetable that just makes your table look pretty.

Cauliflower Gratin
Ahh, the decadence of cauliflower gratin. Really. This dish will make people swoon, fall out of their chairs in rapture. Be sure to make lots of it because it will astound you! A butter bread crumb topping over nutty melt in your mouth cauliflower with just a smattering of cheese. It's slap-your-neighbor's-hand-so-you-get-the-last-serving good. Don't say I didn't warn you!

And saving the best for last,  Caramelized Shredded Brussels Sprouts. Thanksgiving is just not thanksgiving without a huge bowl of these beauties. This is essentially a quick saute but if you make a big batch (2-3lbs depending on how many we're serving) they will take more like 15 minutes to cook up. But they are food of the gods, making a Brussels Sprouts lover out of any naysayer.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! May your gratitude and love abound and live through the whole year!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Manchego and Sorrel Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese - is it possible that it is more American and apple pie? Quite possibly, but I am sure there are those who will dispute it. My savory tooth will always gravitate towards cheese rather than pie (and do not even talk to me about cheddar cheese with your apple pie! That abomination is not even acknowledged in my presence!) But this story is really about setting tradition aside for discovering interesting combinations and hiding healthy in cheesy goodness.

Sorrel, the distinctively French and lemony green, has made its fall appearance in the farmers' market. Last year I made a traditional sorrel soup and while it was delicious I was looking for a more substantial meal and thought of tucking it into some mac and cheese. The strong lemony flavor definitely needed some tempering and an aged manchego was just the cheese for the job.

Manchego is made from the raw milk of sheep that have fed on the mountainous hillsides of the La Mancha region in Spain. Aged manchego has the dry, nutty flavor of parmesan and melts unevenly like the Italian cheese. It also is perfect on a cheese plate and you have yet to try it, treat yourself and delight your guests!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Refried Bean Enchiladas

During my adventurous cooking years - that would be my 7 years of poverty as a grad student - homemade refried beans were a staple. Once I discovered a recipe in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, I was hooked. Their secret ingredient was soy sauce and it just makes them sing! Cooking up a batch of dried beans always makes me smug - pennies for such good food - and I love the smell of beans simmering on the stove. It has been a while since I made them and so when I had a hankering for bean enchiladas it reminded me that it was time to make a batch.

Being the DIYer I am, I also made the enchilada sauce, which was simple and shockingly easy. Pulling a few items from the pantry - tomato paste, chipotle in adobo (homemade sitting the frig) and some spices, I whipped up a delicious sauce in no time. My motto is why buy it when you can make it! I just have such a hard time spending money for someone else's labor. Of course, I just love the satisfaction of making it myself, so don't let me peculiarities get the way, buy sauce if you like!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rosemary and Juniper Brined Pork Chops

Growing up, pork chops were in the regular rotation of my mother's go-to meals. They were definitely one of my favorites but I have no idea how she made them or why they were so good (she doesn't remember doing anything particularly's a mystery!) But as I began eating meat again 3 years ago after a 15 year hiatus, today's pork chops were not meeting the rosy memories of my childhood. Until I discovered brine and marinades.

Pork may be the other white meat, but like the original white meat it generally needs some doctoring to boost its flavor. Marinades can provide lots of flavor like my  Miracle Marinade but I was looking for a more porkier tasting chop. That's where brine comes to the rescue. A simple brine of salt water and a few herbs ensures that your chop stays moist when you cook it and highlights the pork flavor. Delicious!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kale and Slow Roasted Tomato Fusili

Someone on the Food Network has a show that is all about "five ingredients or less." While I"m a fan of short and easy recipes, there are plenty of dishes that are well worth the intimidation factor when it comes to a long list of ingredients. Fortunately for those who want short and sweet, this is the dish for you.

This was another quick and easy meal that uses the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes that I stashed in the freezer - thanks again to Eve of Garden of Eating for turning me on to this method. Of course sun-dried tomatoes would make a decent substitute, as long as they are well rehydrated. But the slow roasted tomatoes are just this side of dried, still soft and slightly plump but with that sweetness that sun-dried ones have. Preserved lemon adds some zip and zing but again is not necessary; substitute some fresh lemon zest after tossing all of the ingredients and you will get the same effect.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Strawberry Topped Lemon Cake-Muffins

Let's play a game. Say there is an ingredient sitting in your refrigerator that needs to be used up or it will be tossed upon the mountain of guiltily-thrown-away-food that lingers in your conscience. For this round of the game let's say the ingredient is buttermilk. You look through your saved-to-make blog posts and put a few aside, but none of them really get you jazzed. So then you use your favorite search engine, Food Blog Search and that pulls up some interesting cakes and biscuits and even a few brunch bread items, but they still don't stick. Then you notice that it is Sunday night and there is no bread in the house for your morning toast, no yogurt to go with your granola and the half and half will barely get you through your morning coffee let alone serve as milk for some granola. Muffins! That's the ticket! Use up that buttermilk and make some yummy muffins.

Finding Smitten Kitchen's brilliant new muffin recipe made it all sound too perfect. At last, the pieces were falling into place. But then you realize that your hand-held beater is still missing the piece that keeps the beaters in place and you have only one lemon. So McGyver it Miss Cook!

And that should be the name of this game. Did it turn out? Mostly, but what Deb of Smitten Kitchen didn't quite communicate is this is such a fabulous muffin because it's really cake disguised as a muffin. Cream 1 cup of sugar and 1 stick of butter? Sounds like the making of a cake to me! But it certainly is delicious! Of course, most muffin recipes are pretty high on the calorie scale, but just know that I warned you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eggplant "Bruschetta" Sans Bread

This post is for everyone south of the border or living in a temperate climate where it still feels like summer on a good day and spring on a "cool" day. I have been meaning to give Deb of Smitten Kitchen's recipe a try ever since I can across it. And as usual, she does not disappoint!

While her version called for fresh tomatoes, these beauties from a post by Eve of Garden of Eating were waiting to be devoured. Substituting them was a stroke of creative invention. I loved how the sweetness and chewiness of the roasted tomatoes paired with the briny capers and red wine vinegar.  You could easily leave out the ricotta salata to make it vegan - there is such an abundance of flavor that you won't miss it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan White Chili

I first came across "white chili" while living in Minnesota. Usually, it is white beans, chicken and some chilies, although not too much. Minnesotans don't like too much heat, at least in their food! But lately I've been challenging myself to cook vegan and the idea of making a vegan white chili popped into my head.

Cooking with tempeh is a great vegan protein. A fermented soy product, it is easier to digest because it is fermented, but unlike other fermented products, does not have a sour or acidic taste. Similar to tofu, it absorbs the flavors it is cooked with. Tempeh has a nutty flavor, that is tempered by how much spice you add to it. In this chili I simmered it for about 30 minutes and the green salsa flavor really permeated it. Delicious!

As always, do not skimp on the garnish, it really makes all the flavors pop!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mushroom Sugo with Rotini

 If you have not already visited Elise's blog Simply Recipes, you should. She has a huge repertoire of recipes and she does a fantastic job of describing them, well, in a word, simply. Not only does the blog update nearly every day, but she has introduced me to so many new things when I thought that I had heard it all. This Mushroom stew is a perfect case in point.

Made similarly to Bolognese meat sauce without the milk or cream, it is a slow simmered creation that allows the porcini mushrooms to shine. Since it only calls for 1 oz of dried porcini, this is really an economical meal while tasting luxuriously gourmet. Just my style!

Although I followed this recipe almost to the letter, I did make a slight change. Dried or powered bouillon cubes are just never in my pantry so I tossed in some kombu (seaweed I use for cooking dried beans) since it adds that umami flavor that beef adds. Worked like a charm!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Leek and Kale Potage

I have two younger sisters who have denounced my tendency to "make stuff up," as they judge it, in terms of knowledge of a wide variety of things. It is true, that when I was younger I would say things very authoritatively without full confirmation of actuality. I called it guesstimations; they had a less polite phrase for it. Needless to say this little story pertains to today's recipe.

After whipping up this thick soup the other night and deciding that it was blog-worthy, I dubbed it a "potage" because that just felt right. Low and behold when I did a bit of internet searching it turns out my instincts were right. Vindication of my guesstimation abilities!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Presto Pasta Night #235

Welcome to Presto Pasta Night No. 235. It's the middle of October, do you know where your year went? I certainly don't! Thank the pasta gods that these delicious meals will always ground me! Happy reading and eating!

First is Tandy from Lavender and Lime with Coppa and Courgette Pasta with Exotic Mushrooms. Tandy made this fun and exciting pasta from her pantry - I want her pantry that has coppa just sitting around in it! Internal struggles of whether or not to to tell friends a hard truth is not easy. But this pasta looks both comforting and easy to make as you're stewing over whatever dilemmas float into your life.
Bitter Melon Egg Drop Soup comes to us courtesy of Tigerfish of Teczcape-An Escape to Food. Her Bitter Melon Egg Drop soup is chock full of goodness. Flavored with boiled dried anchovies, onions, ginger and tomato, a simple stock and some herb garnishes make this noodley soup a winner! Unknown to me, bitter foods help speed metabolism, so eat up your bitter melon, broccoli and greens. Just another reason to eat my favorite veggies!

Oooh, a new blog introduced to me by PPN! One of the best parts of hosting! Deepali Jain writes at at Confusion Cook and brings us Creamy Spinach Pasta.  When Deepali isn't busy being the Jill-of-all-trades for her home and energetic 2 year old, she is blog-hopping - sounds like fun! Here is her first foray into pasta and aren't we the lucky ones! Cream, spinach, onions and of course some red pepper flakes transforms pasta into green creamy deliciousness. 

Val of More Than Burnt Toast made Skillet Butternut Squash and Italian Sausage Lasagna. Val's blog is another great that I discovered through Preto Pasta Nights. She's always so creative; writing since 2006 she's got plenty to explore on her site! Here she uses one pot, combining my favorite fall ingredients - hard squash and sausage - to make this inspired lasagna! Who doesn't love one pot meals and the savory melding of butternut squash with sweet Italian sausage is brilliant.

Next is Haalo of Cook Almost Anything with Ravioli del Plin Con Tartufo Bianco. Ok, I will have to confess right now that I would have done just about anything to have shared this meal with Haalo!  Fresh, meat filled ravioli (that she didn't have to make) with shaved white truffles, while sitting somewhere in Italy....big, big, BIG sigh! I suppose if I make it myself I could convince myself that I was actually there...I do have a powerful imagination. Either way, thanks for sharing Haalo! Good to have you back at PPN.

Ahhh, one of favorites that I discovered at PPN - do you sense a trend here! Joanne of Eats Well With Others brings us her Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables and it lives up to the hype. Fontina, Mozzarella, Parmesan, oh and of course the stars of the show. lots of summer squash! Good luck Joanne with the no-exercise-for-2-months. We're rooting for you, as always!

And now prepare to swoon (at least if you are an omnivore) as Ruth of Once Upon A Feast presents Lamb and Couscous Dinner. Wow! That is a stunning looking dish! I would have loved to have been present for that fast-breaking dish! It would be enough to make me fast every day if that was the breaker! Check out the rest of Ruth's post with her Challah and the rest of the goodies served over the High Holidays.

Here's one final entry from a good friend, Eve writes at the Garden of Eating (of course!) and she brings us Roasted Delicata Squash and Tortellini Salad with Greens, Cranberries and Pepitas. Wow, that's an amazing combination. Colorful, seasonal, tasty and healthy to boot! 

Lastly is my entry of Spicy Lamb Broth with Ravioli and Gremolata. Bone broth is not only delicious and easy to make but chock full of nutrition pulled from the marrow of the bones when simmered to make stock. While I cheated with store-bought ravioli and the gremolata is so simple to make, don't even think of buying it. Just pop that wilting bunch of parsley into your food processor with salt, garlic, lemon zest and olive oil and it will keep for a couple of weeks. Having it around to spread on crackers, stir into soups and stews just makes me feel gourmet without much work!

Thank you to everyone who sent an entry, it's a gorgeous bunch of dishes! Please play again next week when HoneyB of the Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honey Bunch will be hosting. Until then, happy pasta eating!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spicy Lamb Broth with Ravioli and Gremolata - Presto Pasta Night #235!

This is a very humble dish that I found in The Southern Italian Table, a wonderful cookbook about the "cucina povera" - poor people's cooking of Southern Italy. Arthur Schwartz is an American Expat living with his partner in Sicily, giving food classes and touring the South looking for quintessential Southern dishes from everywhere south of Rome. Delightful!

This spicy lamb broth combines a few key ingredients - lamb bones, garlic, red pepper flakes - which is then boiled for a few hours to create a very flavorful and nutritious broth perfect for whatever pasta you want to add to it.

I first learned of the Italian tradition of putting stuffed pastas like ravioli, agnolotti, tortellini in broth after watching the movie The Story of Boys and Girls, which centers on the creation of a feast for an engagement party. Instead of slathering richly filled pastas with more rich sauce, serve them in a simple broth. Brilliant!

For my version I added some gremolata, because I had it and I wanted a little herby goodness in the broth. The ravioli I will admit are store bought, but really good (Rising Moon Organics, if you're curious).

And in case you haven't figured it out, I will be hosting Presto Pasta Night next Friday so please email me your entries - blog link, photo - kirstenmlindquist AT gmail DOT com and cc Ruth AT 4everykitchen DOT com by next Thursday, October 13 by 9pm pacific time and check back for the round up!

Spicy Lamb Broth with Ravioli and Gremolata  (from The Southern Italian Table)
(serves 2-3)

3-4 cooked lamb chops (save them and freeze after eating lamb chops)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
few grinds black pepper
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
8 cups water
5-8 raviolis per serving
gremolata for serving

Combined first 7 ingredients in large stock pot and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 2 hours. Strain and pour into glass jars and cap and refrigerate. It is easiest to skim off the fat once the broth has cooled since it will all congeal at the top. Skim fat and reheat broth. Cook ravioli in broth according to instructions. Ladle broth and ravioli into bowls and pass gremolata for garnish.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fennel, Celery and Herb Salad

Whooosh! Hear that? It's the sound of fall blowing into Southern California. The winds pick up, the air chills (a few degrees or so) and the sky gets threatening with dark clouds and sometimes spits a few rain drops on us mere mortals. That also means it's time to get creative with fall salads. Here is the first of many.

Fennel and celery are the stars of this lovefest. Both have a juicy crunch that I adore and keeping it simple with just some fresh cilantro for a little punch keeps the veggies front and center. This is a bit of a riff on this salad, first introduced to me by Mark Bittman - not personally of course, I can only dream! He added shaved parmesan and used red wine vinegar. This version is lighter, taste wise, with just a squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper and olive oil. It really brings out the fresh flavor of the fennel and celery.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cannelini Bean Crostini with Magic Herb Sauce

Ummmmmm.............that would the sound of me speechless. When I read about Heidi's Magic Sauce on 101 Cookbooks, I had no doubt it would be good. But really, words fail me. So amazingly good, that I probably should confess that I licked the plate clean, but no one was watching, so I will never tell!

With some freshly made cannelini beans in the frig I knew crostini were the perfect match for the sauce; you will want something to mop up all of the tiniest of oil drops. Really, it is that good.

After frying up the bread in a thinly coated skillet, I tossed in the white beans and shook the pan for 60 seconds, just to warm up the beans. Adding in some Slow-Roasted Tomatoes inspired by Eve at the Garden of Eating and tossing them with the beans and a couple tablespoons of the magic sauce added a little savory sweetness to the mix. Spooning the mixture over of the bread and adding another pour of the magic sauce over each crostini made one of the most perfect Saturday afternoon meals I have had in ages.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Roasted Pepper Roll-Ups

Until recently, roasted peppers were not high on my list of fun and exciting ingredients. Something about the smell of jarred peppers just did not sit right with me, along with their slimy texture. But after roasting ancho peppers to make Chile Rellenos I fell in love with the scent of roasting peppers in my kitchen. How funny life can be!  Since then, roasted pepper recipes hold more attraction for me and spying this recipe in Molto Italiano, I decided to give it a try.

Savory fillings (without any cheese and easily made vegan without the anchovy) encased in smokey red pepper wrappers were melt in your mouth deliciousness. If you can, keep the anchovy, it definitely added the je ne sais quois that made this a surprisingly tasty morsel. The hydrated raisins and the crunch of the pine nuts was just amazing!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Allow me to introduce you to the one cult that most Minnesotans would unabashedly claim membership to: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup. It is to Minnesota what BBQ is to Texas, a national obsession, if Minnesota was its only country.

Real wild rice is harvested by hand, from canoes by the Ojibwe tribes who live on the shores of the lakes where the authentic rice (a seed of a lake grass) actually grows. See my Double Mushroom and Wild Rice post for more details. Rarely available outside of the Upper Midwest because of its exorbitant price ($15 per lb, compared to $1.99 for regular rice), Co-opportunity here in Santa Monica sells something called wild rice, produced in California by Lundberg Family Rice company, but it isn't the Minnesota real deal. Sure, it has that earthy smell and taste, but Ojibwe rice when cooked curls up like little worms. While upon first viewing this phenomenon, novices may feel a bit queasy, after one taste it is all dispelled because this soup just tastes so good!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Herbed Ricotta Savory Tart

My new addiction is making fresh ricotta. I love it so much so let me count the ways.  

One: It's so easy to make and so gourmet tasting drizzled with olive oil and salt and pepper.  

Two: It fits well with my entertaining style - a bowl of fresh ricotta along with bread, marinated olives, baby roma tomatoes from the garden, and dinner is served!

Three: Substituting it in recipes here and there to showcase its versatility gives me the joy of making it over and over again!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Eggplant Involtini with Fresh Ricotta and Scallions

Eggplant usually divides people into separate camps - love it! hate it! And then there are the fence sitters who will reflexively say they don't like eggplant, "it's slimy" or "I don't like the seeds." Here's another one for getting them off the fence.

Gently fried slices of eggplant rolled around ricotta (fresh if you got it) and baked with a simply tomato sauce. With scallions and nutmeg the only addition to the ricotta, you may wonder if it needs embellishment. Fear not; this filling is genius and simplicity at its best.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baked Chicken with Leeks, Cabbage and Raisins

"Life happens" is something we say when deadlines get missed and blogs don't post in their usual fashion. Likewise, death happens, anticipated or not. And suddenly your lens on the world shifts, maybe only by a little, but everything tilts and you see things differently. That was my experience this past week. So I spent lots of time with family, sharing silences and deep hugs along with reminiscences and preparing meals for those feeling the pain of loss. They were not fancy eats, but comforting, satisfying nourishing food that went well with the glasses of wine that seemed to flow like water.

Grief is a strange experience, sadness mixed with happy memories and a potent reminder that whenever time is shared, especially meals, making food that tastes good and brings pleasure is as important as the joy we find in each others company.