Sunday, January 30, 2011

Winter Vegetable Saute with Caraway

People seem stumped as to what vegetables to eat in the winter time. While roots - pureed, roasted, in soups - have a place in my kitchen I still love to toss together quick sautees like this one when I need something quick for lunch. Using red cabbage and fennel ensures the dish is on the sweeter side but still savory enough for my sour-loving palate.

I intended to add this to some cooked grains but realized that it would also make a great side dish for dinner. Pair it with a pork chop or cutlet or some sweet Italian sausage and you have a great meal.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mixed Olive Tapenade

As I posted recently, I have cured some olives at home. The only trouble was there were a lot of them, and they turned out to olives which are not a particular favorite (Manzanilla are the Spanish olive easily found in any store stuffed with a red pimento). Not the end of the world, but not my chosen olive for eating as a snack. I immediately thought of making some tapenade to put them to good use.

When I spied this recipe I knew I had a winner. It is a nice mix of a variety of olives plus with the addition of the basil and roasted red pepper it props up the briney-ness of the olives and adds some sweetness. It was perfect for the array of small plates I put out for company who came to watch the Golden Globes a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Capellini with Moroccan Style Sundried Tomato Pesto

Capellini (angel hair) pasta is one of my favorite types of pasta. I like its texture much better than spaghetti or linguini - there is less to it so I get more taste of the sauce.

This past weekend I bought a classic Moroccan cookbook, Paula Wolfert's Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco and have been devouring it as I do all great cookbooks. While there are plenty of recipes, she also gives tremendous details about the culture, history and markets of Morocco and I am eating it up!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chicken a Diable (French Spicy Chicken)

I know, I know, many of you are thinking that I got mixed up with this recipe, whispering to yourself - Doesn't she mean Fra Diablo? Made with tomatoes and hot pepper flakes? Fear not, lovely reader, this is the correct spelling, the correct recipe and the correct ingredients, according to Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.

I, too, was confused when I first read the recipe. But, as it turns out, the Italians are not the only ones to equate spicy with the devil. The French version uses spicy mustard, not the "spice" most people think of but this was taste bud tingle-worthy for sure!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wine Vinegars - Red and White - Made At Home

A couple of years back when I bought a farm and was going to turn it into an inn I was obsessed with making everything from scratch. It was a serious back-to-the-land itch that I scratched as much as possible. I learned how to make mustard, mayonnaise, canned vegetables, fruits, made pickles of all sorts and even aspired to making country wine (dandelion was my choice - it didn't work out). But my favorite venture was learning how to make cider vinegar.  I had a few apples trees that provided just enough juice to create cider vinegar. I added some raw cider vinegar to the existing juice and let it work its magic. It was so easy it almost felt like a let down.

When I moved to California and found that red wine becomes vinegar faster than you can say 49iners, I realized there was a reason that red wine vinegar was the vinegar of choice in Mediterranean recipes (and why apple cider vinegar is so prevalent in northern climate dishes since apples grow so well in colder weather). I've been making it ever since, and pass it along to anyone who will take a bottle off my hands.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Easy Dark Chocolate and Walnut Fudge

I have been meaning to make this easy dark chocolate fudge recipe since the beginning of December. What was holding me back? While I am not your typical choco-holic, I do like fudge, and I feared for my waistline if I did make it. So, with evil, I mean graciousness in my heart, I waited until I had guests to enjoy it with me. This week's Golden Globe Awards seemed the perfect time to spring these delicious morsels on unsuspecting innocents. It worked! Everyone loved the fudge which is just creamy enough to feel decadent but not overly rich to make you feel queasy with remorse for eating more than one piece.

For my part, the ease and quickness of preparation made me just a tad smug. Fortunately for my guests, I'm an decent actress when it comes to appearing humble about what I cook. No one was the wiser!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deconstructed (Lazy Cook's) Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

Mark Bittman recently blogged about quick and easy homemade pasta made in the food processor. At first I was horrified (really, a food processor? Mark, this is too minimalist for me.) Then, I took a step back and thought about the shortcuts I have used and remembered this recipe.

At the beginning of my cooking life I was obsessed with spinach, ricotta and parmesan cheese as a combination and would spread it on toasts, baguettes and, of course, tossed it with pasta. After thinking about Bittman's recipe, I realized that this recipe was really a lazy cook's version of spinach and cheese ravioli. This was a staple all though grad school when I was too lazy to make homemade pasta. Thinking back on those days, when much time was spent reading post-modern theory and talking about deconstruction it dawned on me that this was a deconstructed ravioli!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shredded Carrots with Harissa, Feta and Mint

As a child I ate tons of carrots, so much so that once I finished a 1 lb bag in one day and my mom called the doctor to ensure I wasn't going to get some sort of Vitamin A poisoning.

When I saw these gorgeous carrots at the farmers market, I knew this was a marriage made in heaven. These are Nantes carrots, which are not usually found in stores, and are especially sweet and crisp. A few years ago I grew them in my garden and have been hooked on them ever since.

I still love carrots and eat them raw whenever I want a good snack. But I also love to gussy them up once in a while and this recipe is fantastic. When I read this recipe and saw that Smitten Kitchen had made a carrot salad with harissa, I knew I would be, well, smitten.

Smitten Kitchen prepared the dressing a bit differently, sauteing all of the ingredients together at once. But I was inspired by the harissa to use more of a Maghreb/Moroccan style of preparation so I decided to mash garlic, cumin, caraway and sugar in a mortar and pestle before sauteing in oil. Add some lemon juice and you have an amazing dressing that sings with heat and savory-ness.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Home-brined Olives (Manzanilla)

One of the primary reasons I moved to California was the fact that I could buy local olives and olive oil (don't tell my family - they think I moved here for them!)

Olives are my favorite food, Ever! I could eat them every day for every meal. I never tire of them. So when I found fresh, raw olives at the farmers' market this fall I scooped them up faster than you could say olive-holic.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Korean Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Poultry and I have a cagey relationship. (I know, bad pun) I like the taste of chicken, but I so rarely buy it or eat it. I enjoy game fowl - pheasant, quail - but don't hunt or have a hunter friend (I will accept frozen gifts if anyone is interested in sending something my way.) So when I do cook with chicken, I usually have to search for recipes. Enter this easy and delicious Asian bake.

I am unsure what makes it "Korean" other than the original author's experience of eating it at her Korean friend's house. I do know that it has classic flavors of soy, sweet, garlic and ginger and that's hard to argue with! I added some chili oil to ensure there was some heat, but the agave (or honey if you prefer) definitely tempers it!

Korean Sweet and Spicy Chicken 
(from Dinosaur Dishes)

6 chicken thighs bone in and skin on
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (I used the punch hole side of an upright grater)
3 tablespoons agave
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
9 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chili oil

Combine all and mix well. Pour over chicken wings (in glass dish or plastic zip lock bag) and marinate for 24 hours (cover the dish if using it). Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake chicken for 30-40 minutes until done. Serve.


Recipes currently inspiring me:
Meyer Lemon Curd at Sprouted Kitchen
Rack of Lamb with Pimenton at The Minimalist
Black Bean Cakes with Simple Guacamole at Stacey Snacks

Monday, January 10, 2011

Homemade Vegetable Broth - Good for What Ails You

Apparently, the chicken soup cure has been around for a long time. When I searched the internet for scientific evidence that it actually helped people feel better some site claimed ancient Egyptians used it. Medicine wise, even Mayo Clinic weighed in (saying yes, it does have properties that help.) But what to do if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet? The answer, my friends, is homemade vegetable stock.

When you are feeling low, run-down or just achy and fluey, drink some homemade vegetable stock and let nature take its course. Liquid is the fastest way for your body to absorb nutrients and boiling vegetables is the quickest (and cheapest) way to put them into liquid form.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Homemade Merguez Sausage

In the last years of my 15 year stint as a vegetarian, two things conspired against my resolve to be meat free: work travel and sausages. Traveling every 2-3 weeks for a year on end meant eating in airports, hotels or grabbing food on the go in unfamiliar cities wreaked havoc on my vegetarian diet. I got pretty sick of cheese sandwiches and hummus (5 years ago, that was the standard fare; I'm guessing it hasn't changed much).

Sausage was another story, entirely my own failing.

I grew up on sausage - kielbasa, bratwurst, Italian, summer - you name it, our German heritage family ate it. With my DIY bent I tried several times to make my own veggie sausage, mainly because of the cost and my concerns about all of the ingredients in store-bought patties that did not look like edible food stuff. It never worked well. So I caved and started eating sausage on the sly - never bought it at the store - but did not refuse it when it was offered, especially homemade.

My sisters started calling me a "sausag-tarian." It was mortifying but too true!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Quick Cheese and Dill Beer Bread

Bread is truly one of the most amazing foods on earth. Not only does it come in so many different forms - yeast breads, flat breads, pizza, quick breads - but it literally has endless variations based on regional cultures and ingredients. I never cease to be amazed, fascinated and enthralled with this food item. And I am always so excited to find a new one, especially one as quick and easy to make as this.

Eve of The Garden of Eating posted Cheddar Dill Beer Bread a few weeks ago and I knew that recipe would not languish long in my to-do pile. Although cheddar cheese rarely finds its way into my refrigerator (yes, despite the fact that my mother is a defacto "cheddar-head" having been born and raised in Wisconsin), this bread would be worth buying some just to make it. Since I was feeling impatient, I made it with muenster and some already grated romano that needed to be used up, but I trust Eve's suggestion that the sharp cheddar is the best choice.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Prosciutto and Sage Wrapped Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are the easy part of a cut of chicken - flavorful, quick cooking, and simple to prepare. After Stacey Snacks posted this easy and delicious looking recipe and there was some prosciutto in my refrigerator that needed to be used up, I  knew this would be on the menu soon.

Stacey's version called for fresh rosemary but I had a hankering for sage, so I swapped out the herbs. In her version she pan fried them but noted that a commenter had baked them to the effect of a lot less grease splatter to clean up.  Less fuss, less mess, I went with the baked method and they turned out wonderfully!

Prosciutto and Sage Wrapped Chicken Thighs

2 Chicken Thighs (bone in or not)
2 slices prosciutto
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
12 small (or 6 large) fresh sage leaves
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove skin for chicken if need be. Massage a little olive oil on the chicken, add pepper and divide garlic and sage leaves between two thighs and place on top. Carefully wrap prosciutto around, with ends tucked under. Baked for 30-40 minutes until chicken is done (depends on the size of the thighs). Serve.


Recipes currently inspiring me:

Scandinavian Rosettes at Pinch My Salt
Vegetarian Sausage Patties at An Edible Mosaic
Risotto with Salmon and Prosciutto at Eats Well With Others

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gougeres - Around My French Table

French cooking has always intimidated me. It's the sauces, there are always sauces, and the giant tomes of French Cookbooks. And the lack of vegetables. Do I sound like I'm complaining? It isn't intentional, but I find that the feeling of intimidation - no matter the subject matter - includes an element of desire, of longing to be a part of something and yet fearful of rejection or exclusion. Well, now I feel welcome to the French Cooking party, merci a Dorie Greenspan.

Such a French name, Dorie Greenspan (wink!) and yet her latest cookbook makes it all seem so doable, approachable, almost inviting. Definitely the opposite of intimidating!

Around My French Table was at the top of my Christmas list because it was topping everyone's favorite new cookbook list and the blogspere seemed inundated with her take on all things French. Happily, it did not disappoint. While the descriptions of the recipe procedures looks long at first glance, Dorie is telling you all of the important side tidbits that lead to a successful dish; things that are often left out of other cookbooks misleadingly claiming to provide "simple" "quick" or "easy" recipes.