Sunday, December 27, 2020

Warm Escarole and Parsnip Salad with Walnuts and Gorgonzola


Living on the northern coast of California means mild winters, but lately it's been changing. Frost! Temperatures below 40 degrees! I know, we are spoiled, but it is a shock to the system. As someone who loves salads, this is when I start to think about parsnips!

Yes, parsnips! I was the kid who wouldn’t eat spaghetti but eagerly awaited parsnip season. If you think they are boring, allow me to tempt you with this fun winter dish of pan fried escarole, sweet and creamy parsnips, and a tangy sweet balsamic vinaigrette. Fun garnishes are what make salads special, so there are a few bites of gorgonzola and walnut pieces tossed in there as well. Yum!

If you have yet to pan fry your bitter greens, get that cast iron pan heating! Basically an indoor version of grilling, warm salads are so wonderful in the colder seasons. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

White Pizza with Mushrooms and Parsley Pesto

During this Shelter in Place I have much to be thankful for: I have a job I go to everyday, I do not have to homeschool my children, I have no children at home, and I am healthy. But for those of you at home, particularly with kids, this is for you.

If you are running out of ideas of what to feed your family and your kids in particular, try the white pizza. It is a chance to sneak some vegetables into your meals (pesto made from spinach!) and if you have dough - admit it, you've been experimenting with sourdough because what else have you got but time - this comes together in a snap. You can even cheat and buy premade dough (I did!) The "white" part can be as simple as just mozzarella or use up leftovers like sour cream or cottage cheese that is about to turn; pureed together and you have a "sauce" for your white pizza, which is what I did with the addition of some feta, yum!

For those of you without finicky eaters, get creative and make parsley pesto to add more greens and iron to your diet in a tasty way. Keeping the white sauce, I just dabbed the parsley pesto around the pizza since mushrooms, garlic and parsley are a match made in heaven. You know your eaters, make them happy!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Cucina Povera - Peasant Food - A New Series

Whenever young people ask me how I learned to cook, my response is, "Poverty is the best teacher." True story. I became a serious cook in graduate school when I was receiving Food Stamps.

In Indiana in 1995 the maximum amount a single person could receive was $100 a month. It didn't last the month, and quickly I learned that a 5 lb bag of flour and some yeast cost so much less that buying bread. So I began to make my own bread, and my own quiche crust, and pasta, and the list goes on.

Later I discovered the term "Cucina Povera" which in Italian means "Poor cooking," referring to how people with little learn to stretch meals and still make them taste good. That resonated with me since it was what I termed "Peasant Food" which I loved best: quiche from France, pasta from Italy, quesadillas from Mexico, dal from India, sushi (with tofu) from Japan, fried rice from China (ok, so fried rice is sooo Chinese American, but I didn't know at the time!)

Because meat was beyond my budget and tofu was cheap, I became a vegetarian. Vegetarian cookbooks from the '70s were big on whole grains and not so great on flavor, so I learned to vegetarianize meat dishes to satisfy my need for tasty food. And along the way I became a pretty good cook.

So when people ask me, "But HOW did you learn to cook?" I tell them by doing it for years. To help nudge new cooks into cooking more I'm starting Cucina Povera: simple preparations, inexpensive ingredients, tasty food. The ingredients should become staples in your pantry so that a quick meal is always just a cupboard a way. That's Cucina Povera in a nutshell!

While most new cooks know about pasta and red sauce, here's something to change it up for you:  - rice noodles with soy sauce, garlic, ginger and mirin (rice wine, key ingredient in sushi rice). You can add scallions or tofu or whatever floats your boat. But this is a nice change from Italian style pasta!

Fried Rice Stick Noodles with Garlic