Sunday, February 28, 2016

Smoky Swiss Chard with Caesar Dressing and Garlic Breadcrumbs

When I lived in Los Angeles my sister and I started our own eating out club, trying fun and more high end restaurants so we could eat good food, dress up, and have a sisters' night out. On one of those nights we ate at Gjelina in Venice Beach, on Abbott Kinney Boulevard and a love affair began.

Small plates, amazing pizza, great wine list, fun people watching and just mind blowing food, every single time. And then 101 Cookbooks posted a recipe from Gjelina the cookbook. Who knew! Bought the book immediately and made this; it felt like I was sitting in that noisy corner restaurant again only we're more than 1,000 miles away. I can't rave enough, so I'll just sit back and let you all enjoy discovering the magic.

Reading through the book cover to cover in one sitting, no joke, I realized again the importance of garnishes and sauces for making a dish special. The vegetables really are the stars although there are chapters on meat and fish; but don't be fooled into thinking vegetarians won't adore this book as well. What chef Travis Lett does with condiments will split your head open like you had inhaled pop rocks!

Lett grills lots of greens in the restaurant and many of the recipes include this technique. While I made the dressing exactly as the recipe directed, I used the swiss chard that I had and grilled it on a flattop cast iron pan (it's round like a pan but has no sides) and it produced an incredibly smoky flavor with the chard. When summer comes, grilling greens (kale, lettuces, chicories) will surly become a staple.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Huevos Rancheros

Growing up on the East Coast in the 1970s huevos rancheros were not a part of my world. They were never on menus and it wasn't until at least 2009 that I became aware of their existence, after moving to California of course. Native Californians (my husband in particular) truly do not believe me. Honest to god truth!

While fried eggs have been very low on my totem pole - childhood trauma, no need for explanations - getting over food ickies is high on my list, so I made huevos rancheros.

They were good, they were great! Life became more interesting and I conquered a fear! So now they make a regular rotation on our weekend brunches. Good thing because they are quick, easy and tasty.

A friend of hubby - Hi Luciano! - pours the beans and salsa on top of the eggs as they cook to make an even more delightful concoction. It seems to work best with individual pans for each serving.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Arancini - Rice Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce

Arancini are street food of the gods...or so they tell me. While I have not actually eaten them on the streets of Italy, once discovered about 25 years ago they have made the regular rounds in my cooking repertoire.

Arriving at the table looking like meatballs in sauce, they are actually crunchy morsels of rice wrapped around a cube of mozzarella and doused in your favorite tomato sauce. Such deliciousness!

It was shocking to realize that there was no arancini post on this blog, so naturally I whipped up a batch to remedy the situation. These are stuffed with cheese, but apparently the Italians will stuff them with ragu (meat and tomato sauce), or peas and mozzarella, which all sound tasty but too complicated for me.

For this meal I also made a grilled smoky chard dish that had garlic breadcrumbs so I showered some on the arancini, great move!

Traditional arancini are usually made with white rice but brown rice has always been my choice. I like the nubby nutty texture and taste better than white rice, and it makes for a healthier meal (despite frying them in oil!)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pan Fried Salmon with Aioli

Once I discovered how easy it was to make aioli, it has been a struggle not to make it all the time. It could make an old shoe taste good! Imagine what it does for a gorgeous piece of Sockeye Salmon like that pictured above. It boggles the mind!

This dish is almost too simple to be an actual recipe, more of a suggestion. So if you need another excuse to make aioli (or force yourself to learn) here is the link to my post with all the tips to ensure success.

As for cooking salmon perfectly, make sure your pan is really hot and that you have a cover for the pan (preferably one that does not fit snugly). Unless you are blackening the salmon, only cook it on one side, skin side down, and cover it to steam it so that it doesn't dry out. Remember that salmon is similar to any meat you cook and will continue to cook once removed from the heat source. Once the white stuff begins to ooze out of the flesh (which you can scrape off for a more appealing presentation), it is getting close to being done. Don't be afraid to stick a knife in the center to see if it is cooked through. The flesh will turn a slightly duller color when it is cooked and you can also feel how the flesh is firmer once cooked. You do want the color to change all the way through the fillet but just barely so that it is not dry.