Thursday, April 28, 2011

Basque Beet Salad with Garlic and Parsley

Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook recently asked me a bunch of questions pertaining to food and blogging, one of which was, "What ingredients are you never without?" My answer, while honest, sounded a tad boring to me: garlic, flat leaf parsley, vinegars, and olive oil. Sure, they are the basics, but kind of blah, right?

Wrong. This beet salad from Wrightfood involves all of those basic ingredients plus 1, beets. Amazing food! I sometimes forget to listen to my own wise ways that it is simple peasant food that often is the best. The recipe came from a Basque tapas restaurant in Seattle so it falls squarely in the peasant food realm, and in my favorite part of the world, the Mediterranean.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage Butter

Several weeks ago, I had some leftover pumpkin puree languishing in the refrigerator. Not being a baker inspiration was slow to come until I came across this recipe. I love pumpkin in ravioli so why not in gnocchi!

Following Steamy Kitchen's instructions was easy with her step by step photos, but the brown butter balsamic glaze she ended with was a hot mess all over my stove. Luckily, the recipe produced lots of gnocchi, so I popped the remainder in the freezer for another day.

Today was another day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Celery Root Remoulade and some random questions...

Ever since I first dug a celery root out of the ground my fascination with it has grown.

It was 1997 and I was volunteering on a 1 acre organic farm and my friend and I were told, "See that row of plants that looks like celery, go dig them up, preserving the root." I was dumbfounded. Celery root or Celeriac was a totally new vegetable for me, and having been vegetarian for more than 6 years at that point, I thought I had met most of them. Hairy and knobby, looking somewhat like a shrunken head, it certainly is not the most appealing vegetable. But slice off its hairy nubby exterior and you are rewarded with an earthy, green scent that is subtle and strangely alluring.

The classic French preparation is with a homemade mayonnaise tossed with matchstick-thin slices. A touch of salt, pepper and parsley and it is one of those simple but addictive salads. Be careful not to over sauce it or it will get droopy.

On a completely different note, I want to thank Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook for including me in her *8 Questions for 8 ~. Such fun!  Here are my answers and see below for the *8 Questions for 8 that I have tagged.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Penne with Escarole and Bacon

I recently fell in love...with escarole. It is one of those odd vegetables that people do not know what to do with. Fresh, it looks like lettuce, but biting into it raw will bring a nasty grimace to your face! It is part of the chicory family, so bitter is its calling card. But saute or wilt it as I did here and you transform it into instant deliciousness.

Apparently, making a soup with white beans is one of the most traditional ways Italians make escarole (scarole) and that is on my list to try. But this night I wanted some comfort food so penne it was! I have to admit that penne may have not been the best shape to capture the ribbons of escarole; farfalle might have been better. But it tasted great just the same.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pan Fried Haluomi with Mushrooms and Warm Vinaigrette

Haloumi (ha-loom-e) is a cheese from Cyprus, salty like feta but fry-able or grill-able. It has been on my "I have to try that" list for too long and when Pam posted a recipe at Sidewalk Shoes, I didn't wait any longer.

Now I'm sure that grilled haluomi is great all on its own but add sauteed mushrooms and a warm red wine and lemon zest vinaigrette to an arugula salad and Wow! Toss in some bread and you have a very satisfying one pot meal that even has salad greens!

While the picture is a salad (and I did eat it that way) I could have easily stuffed it all into a baguette, arugula, vinaigrette and all. This one is a serious keeper! It has already graced my dinner table twice in the past week and will be shared with everyone I talk to in the near future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Linguini with Garlic, Anchovies and Capers

At first glance this recipe doesn't sound all that exciting - and possibly a little repulsive to anchovy haters. But hear me out, this dish is true alchemy. Really. No hyperbole here.

Pan roast whole garlic cloves in olive oil, add some anchovies, capers and red pepper flakes, toss with linguini and garnish with parsley. It actually produced a totally different flavor comprised of these humble ingredients. Alchemy, pure and simple.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Baked Spinach with Feta and Parmesan

Spring is spinach time, whether you live in Santa Monica or Minneapolis. After all of the baked and roasted vegetables of winter it is nice to have some fresh spinach, especially for salads and tossing in pasta. And yet, that is not what I did with the first bunch of spring spinach that dangled itself in front of my face. I had to make this baked spinach that Smitten Kitchen offered up a few weeks ago.

Uh boy. A French style, creamy, steamed spinach baked with cheese and bread crumbs. She called it "the best baked spinach" ever. And since I generally fall in line with her palate like an obedient pup, I knew this would be a winner. Right she was!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Homemade Rosemary & Cracked Pepper Flatbread

Homemade crackers - in some ways you would assume they were easy to make. Combine flour, water, salt, leavening agent and some seasonings, bake and voila! Crackers! At least that was my thought until I tried out a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Sure it was only a few ingredients, but I had issues with the rolling out of the dough and baking the flatbread (not the eating, thankfully!)

Maybe I played a little to fast and loose with measurements (I am not a precise cook) but the flatbread crackers did not look as pretty as Smitten Kitchen's did. My version looked alright, a little too close to pizza dough with seasonings on it. And while it wasn't downright awful, it led me to ponder; did she make them several times, perfecting them so to speak, before posting about them? She is a professional blogger, whereas I am not. Just made me wonder, and if she left out any tips for making them as thin as possible (mine got crinkled up in the parchment paper since I used a top and bottom piece to roll them out.)

I also considered making these from 101 Cookbooks, but thought that her use of a pasta machine to get them really really thin would increase my handicap too much. I was concerned about over-rolling the dough with a rolling pin for fear of making the dough tough but didn't know if that even was an issue for making crackers.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Farro, Bean and Kale Soup

Bean soups are very simple, definitely peasant fare, but oh so delicious! After seeing this one at 101 Cookbooks I knew it was time to make my own.

My version included what I had in the vegetable drawer - carrots, celery, onion and fennel - plus some bacon for a bit of smoky flavor. I had made some kidney beans a few days ago and used the water I cooked them in for stock. This soup came together in the time it took me to finish cleaning up the kitchen!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Italian Sausage and Kale Pie

I learned how to make all of the so called "difficult things" from books - polenta, risotto, pie crusts. No one told me told me they were supposed to be hard to do and obviously I got good instructions. Perhaps the key to all of these is patience. Waiting for the polenta to pull away from the side of the pan when you have been continuously stirring it for 20-30 minutes; the same is true of risotto. With pie crust, if making without a food processor, you need the flour and butter to be evenly distributed and have a consistency of coarse cornmeal. I used to be so proud of my inadvertent accomplishments. But now, I cheat with the best of them, particularly since I discovered Hot Water Pastry. It is just too easy!

Bring water to a boil, add butter, salt and flour and stir well and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Then roll it out. That simple, that fool-proof!