Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ad Hoc Side Dish, Upstaged By Simple Shrimp

I'd been saving this recipe for quite some time. I saw it in the LA times. A reader wrote in and requested the recipe for Ad Hoc's (Thomas Keller's family style Napa restaurant) side dish of roasted cauliflower and rice. It's pretty simple really, cauliflower florets are tossed with canola oil and S&P and roasted in a 400º oven for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile rice is cooked with chili flakes until just tender. The drained rice is set in a 250º to dry for 5 minutes and then quickly mixed with olive oil. The cauliflower is tossed with curry powder. The rice is mixed in and stirred through with butter and chopped green onions just before serving. Phew!
I happened to have some shrimp in the fridge and the last bit of olive oil from some herb marinated olives I made up for a party a while back. On a whim I tossed that flavored olive oil in a frying pan, added in the peeled shrimp and cooked them over high heat until just pink. I plated the shrimp on the rice and drizzled the remaining olive oil over the rice.
"The sauce makes this," James said referring to the heavily flavored warm oil.
That's a simple flavor step I have to remember.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Turkey Meatballs, One More Time

James is pretty easy to please. He is willing to try and like just about anything but when it comes down to it, he likes pizza (well, melted cheese on just about anything), potatoes, hamburgers, spaghetti, and perhaps above all meatballs. Spaghetti and meatballs is always a sure fire hit. Plus, I've been trying to stock up the freezer since work is taking me out of town for a bit so meatballs seemed like an easy to reheat future dinner for the big man.
I made up a quick tomato sauce -- olive oil, garlic, onion, carrot, canned tomatoes, fresh oregano (I pulled out the basil plant last week) and let that bubble on the stove until it was nice and thick. Then I mixed ground turkey, a few links of leftover turkey Italian sausage, bread crumbs, 1 egg, grated Parmesan cheese, diced onion, chopped parsley, minced garlic, a couple TBs of ketchup (I know it's crazy but it helps keep them moist and delicious), and S&P and formed the mixture into bigger than golf ball sized meatballs. Taking a cue from Thomas Keller --and not wanting to clean yet another pan, instead of frying these meatballs I baked them at 450º for about 15 minutes and them popped them in the sauce to wait until the spaghetti was cooked.
Spaghetti and meatballs at our house = happy man.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Never Say Never

So much for sweeping statements.
Just a little while ago I mentioned how I never make carrot cake, "I don't like it so I don't know if James likes it or not". Written right here on this blog.
Call it my Rumsfeld moment, but we are in the information age and here already a few within a few weeks I have been proven a liar.
Well, we were going to some friends' house for dinner and I thought I'd bring dessert. I was feeling pretty lazy. I've been busy filling the freezer for James while I am out of town so, oddly enough, cooking for "day of" has taken somewhat of a backseat. And, I needed to clear out the space being taken up by that tub of delicious cream cheese frosting. Anyway, I just didn't feel up to my usual 3 layer red velvet cake -- too many pans to wash I figured. And so I pondered other cakes that take well to cream cheese frosting and landed on the dreaded carrot cake. Not the least of reasons was the 10lb bag of Bunny Love James had deposited in the fridge from his last "I'm going to start juicing again" run to Costco.
Simple, quick, and, I have to admit, not too bad. I used a simple serve in the cake pan recipe from the kitchen stalwart The King Arthur Flour Baking Book.
First I beat together 4 eggs and 1 1/2 cups of canola oil until they were light and -- as the recipe called for but I didn't really see, full of bubbles. Then I added 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup at time -- beating well after each addition, and 2 tsp of vanilla. In a separate bowl I mixed 2 cups of all purpose flour, 1 TB of cinnamon, 2 tsps of baking soda and 1 tsp of salt. I gently mixed the dry ingredients into the wet, folded in 3 sups of finely grated carrots and 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, and popped the pan in to a 350º oven for about 50 minutes.
Easy one pan snack cake -- but barely a dent in the carrot supply.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pizza: Sullivan Street Style

To most American's Jim Lahey's idea of pizza would seem as foreign as our beloved spaghetti and meatballs or chicken parmesan subs would seem to most Italians. But, I remember, back in my Florentine school days, waiting for the bus and grabbing a thick square of "pizza" topped simply with tomato sauce and anchovies or thin slices of fried eggplant from the corner "bar". Jim Lahey's recipe is a tasty reminder of a sweet time.
I stretched half a recipe of Lahey's simple, no-knead pizza dough thin across a olive oil coated rimmed baking sheet. The topping, as written in My Bread (Lahey's cookbook I have pledged to bake my way through) is thinly sliced cremini mushrooms (1 1/4 lb), chopped thyme, and diced onion (1 1/2 cup) tossed together. I spread the mushroom mixture thickly on top of the waiting crust, drizzled with ample olive oil and coarse salt, and baked in a hot oven (500º) for about 25 minutes.
Earthy, nutty, delicious. I can hardly wait to try this with a mix of mushrooms -- and maybe some cheese (sorry Jim!).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

I am a child of the TV age. I can't deny it.
Flipping the channels I saw some host making chicken noodle soup -- not at all in the way I usually make it -- and nearly immediately ran upstairs to give it a try. We had a rare rainy day here in LA that just called out for soup.
First I sautéed big chunks of carrots, celery, rutabagas (not called for on TV but I had just pulled these from our garden and had already forgotten them in one dish so I didn't want to chance them going to waste) and a diced onion in butter and olive oil. After those vegetables were soft I tossed in a few cloves of chopped garlic, stirred them around and doused the mixture with a few tablespoons of flour, stirring to make a paste. I poured in about 8 cups of chicken broth, a dash of tabasco, a dash of worcestershire, and a bay leaf and allowed the soup to bubble slightly for about 15 minutes. Next I stirred in big chunks of boneless chicken breast, egg noodles, a bag of frozen peas, and a large handful of chopped dill and let the pot cook very gently until the chicken was poached and the noodles were soft.
Old fashioned chicken noodle soup -- just what the doctor -- and the weatherman -- ordered.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Thank You Saveur

Saveur Magazine's recent issue focused on the great, famous and not so known, places to eat in LA. I've long thought that New York, Chicago or even San Francisco might have the edge on high -end Michelin starred, white table cloth type of restaurants (I'm not sure that's so true anymore) but LA has the greatest assortment of authentic ethnic eateries, unique flavors, and middle price family restaurants (American trattorias) in the country. One of our long beloved -- recently celebrating 25 years of hearty, rustic dishes and maybe the best rolls in town -- is Angeli Caffe, a place I like in spite of it's second f. Chef owner Evan Kleinman was local before it was a trend. Her food was "slow" well before there was an organization to celebrate it.
This simple lemon roast chicken is a popular menu regular and now, thanks to Saveur -- I've whipped it up at home.
I marinated a chicken cut up into 8 parts in 1/2 cup olive oil, 10 sliced cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, chopped pulp on one lemon (no peel or pith) and 1 hearty handful or dried oregano. Okay -- Chef Kleinman uses 1/2 cup of fresh rosemary (and I probably will next time) but it was raining and dark and our rosemary is at the far end of the garden (what's a good whine to go with chicken?) so I went a little more Greek than Italian for a minute. The chef marinates her chicken for an hour -- I was prepping dinner for the next night before I went to bed so I left the chicken to marinate in the fridge overnight and asked James to take it out to come to room temperature while he pre-heated the oven.
Just before baking I mixed in brussels sprouts I had trimmed and cut in half and some quartered new potatoes. I tossed everything -- including all of the marinade in a roasting pan and baked at 475º (turning over the chicken and vegetables halfway through) for 40 minutes until the skin was crisp and the vegetables tender.
Not fancy, not complicated. Just plain good. Slow food at home, in a hurry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Onion Pizza

Thin, crispy and heavy on the toppings -- that's what Jim Lahey calls pizza. It would never sell with the 30 minutes or less crowd but, no matter what you call it, it's pretty tasty. Thinly sliced onions, chopped thyme, and a good sized dash of cream are piled on top of Lahey's super easy no-knead crust -- stretched thin on an oiled baking sheet -- and baked in a super hot oven (500º) until the onions are lightly browned and just a bit sweet. Next time I'll mix in a little browned bacon or a sprinkle of gruyere cheese -- hmm pizza Alsace?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Scalloped Scallops

I've made the bistro dish Coquille St Jacques dozens of times. His Highness loves scallops and just when you think there is no way to make the tender mollusk better, the French step it by bathing the tender scallops in cream sauce tempered with sautéed mushrooms and a bit of nutty Gruyere cheese. The mixture is layered into a ramekin or more often a scallop shell and baked or broiled until the sauce is bubbly, the scallops are just barely cooked and the top is slightly crisp. Although it's a dish I've made many times I decided to change things a bit and try a new recipe. This time I looked to Thomas Keller. I'm not sure if its the time the dish waited for me (okay I took some on-line advice and actually froze the ramekins and then thawed before cooking) or the recipe itself, but I am going back to the tried and true, Anthony Bourdain's (yes that guy) cheesy creamy delicious version.
The real star of this dinner was the fresh salad -- greens from our garden, fresh strawberries from the farmers market, blood orange sections from our front yard tree (the last precious orange) slivered almonds, and a tart vinaigrette made of blood orange juice, olive oil, minced shallots, and S&P. A taste of early spring.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not Dinner But Still Pretty Delish

It's early strawberry season in Southern California and of course I went a little overboard at the farmer's market. Berries were starting to pile up in the fridge so I figured that was a good excuse to whip up a breakfast treat for the big man.
These are just a basic muffin recipe. I mixed the dry ingredients in a bowl (2 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 TB brown sugar, 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp salt) and added 2 cups f chopped strawberries. In a separate bowl I mixed 1 egg, 3/4 cup of buttermilk 2/3 cup of canola oil and 1 tsp of vanilla extract). I lightly folded the wet ingredients into the "dry", filled a 12 muffin tin and baked for about 22 minutes in a preheated 375º oven.
Perfect with morning coffee.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

White Beans and Sausages

Another tough work week and I am back to my crock pot ways.
I'm not sure why but I decided to cook the beans first which made this seemingly simple supper a two day effort. I guess it did add some favor.
I cooked the white beans in water with a splash of olive oil, an unpeeled whole head of garlic (cut in half), and a spring of sage (and plenty of cracked black pepper) and left the crock pot on low for about 12 hours.
The next day, based on a recipe I saw in Bon Appétit, I added the drained beans, 1/2 cup of the bean cooking liquid, a 14 1/2 oz can of diced tomatoes with their liquid, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1/2 cup of water, 2 sprigs of sage, S&P, and sausages I had browned in a skillet. I left that whole mixture to cook for about 8 hours on low. The big man loves sausage so this dish was a hit with him. the beans were tender and tasty but the real appeal for me is that this will freeze well and I can package it up in single serving sizes for James to heat up while I am out of town.
Franks and beans -- Italian style.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Move Over Nancy Silverton: Homemade Olive Bread

Okay I admit it -- weight does matter.
Last week I was watching some cooking extravaganza on TV and heard the MC say that European bakers are better than American bakers because they weigh their ingredients. I have a scale. But somehow I like the slapdash idea of tossing ingredients into a bowl.
I shouldn't be so lazy.
Right then and there I vowed not to be bested by my unknown European baking companions and set out to test my latest Jim Lahey recipe with my scale. I measured the flour, but I still dashed in the yeast and the salt. I used a cup measure for the water.
In the past when I've posted about Lahey's recipes I've mentioned always needing more water. Not this time. I made a perfectly sticky dough that rose up tall with just the prescribed 400 grams of flour and 1 1/2 cups of water.
This loaf was one of my best. Light, lots of air holes inside, a genuinely crunchy exterior, and a fresh almost delicate texture.
Although he loves olive oil and even the occasional tapenade, James is not a big fan of olives themselves. I thought for sure he would ignore this bread or at best tolerate it as another kitchen experiment he has to suffer through. Instead the evening brought a variety of reasons to wander through the kitchen each time grabbing a thin slice.
Following the rules really does work out better . . . sometimes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carrot Bread

At first I thought "well this is just a weird idea . . . but I'll try it." I have a hard time not completing a list when I've set my mind to it and Jim Lahey's cookbook keeps glaring at me from the kitchen bookshelf, taunting me with recipes yet untried. So, I dove in.
Basically this artisan style bread is Lahey's regular recipe with fresh carrot juice replacing the water and mixing in currants (okay I used raisins -- I just never seem to have currants in the house, I somehow can't remember to buy them) and walnuts. James asked for raisin bread the other day so it seemed like the right time for this recipe.
At first glance the bright orange crumb of this loaf seems like a natural for Halloween gatherings and I timidly tasted what I feared would be a loaf style carrot cake (I can't help it, I just don't like carrot cake -- I don't know if James does or not, I never make it for him). Instead the loaf had a subtle sweetness that seemed more like a faint brown sugar or molasses flavor. Although there is no granulated sugar in this recipe the natural sugars in the juice seem to make the loaf brown more easily and I think next time I would shorten the uncovered baking time-- but yes, there will be a next time.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Better With Bacon

Somehow I feel if there is slab bacon in the house we will always have something for dinner. And, the bacon from Nueske's is so insanely delicious (yes there really is a difference) that I could serve boiled cardboard with lardons of the Wisconsin smokehouse's specialty and still get rave reviews. In short it is the perfect ingredient when creativity wanes, James is hungry and we need dinner in a hurry. Salad, spaghetti, meatballs, soups, macaroni and cheese -- let's face it, bacon makes it better.
Tonight's quick fix was bacon and onions cooked slowly in a bit of olive oil with a sprinkling of fennel seeds, crushed red pepper, black pepper and garlic. I let that cook while the water boiled (and the pasta cooked) until the bacon was nice and crisp. Halfway through the pasta cooking I added a couple handfuls of chopped broccoli and let the spaghetti and vegetables continue cooking together. After I drained the pasta (and reserved a cup of the pasta cooking water -- kitchen gold I tell you!) I put the spaghetti, broccoli, bacon mixture, the reserved cooking water and a heavy mound of grated parmesan and hard goat's cheese into the cooking pot and gave it a stir over medium heat until the cheese had melted into a light (if you can call anything about a dish with this much pig in it "light") sauce. Season with salt and serve, sprinkled with a bit more grated cheese.
A hurry up weeknight dinner -- courtesy of the "gateway meat."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Gamberoni Casalinga

A musical sounding name with a less than melodic translation -- house wife style jumbo shrimp. Doesn't exactly jump off the menu, but this simple, richly flavored dish (a variation of a Mario Batali recipe which was his variation of a recipe from the author of The Flavors of Sicily) is about the join the regular rotation (and maybe even the "company dinner" recipe file) at our house.
In a good quantity (about /4 cup) of olive oil heating in a pan I sautéed 1 diced red onion and one chopped stalk of celery and let them soften. To the vegetables I added 4 roughly chopped plum tomatoes, 1 TB of golden raisins (I'd have used currants if I'd had them), 1 TB slivered almonds (I'd have used pine nuts if I'd had them), 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers, 2 TB rinsed capers, and one 1 cup dry marsala wine and brought the mixture to a boil. I let the sauce cook for about a minute and then layered in about 1 1/2 pounds of peeled deveined shrimp, S&P, and about 1 1/2 TB of butter, gave it a stir, covered the pan, and turned the heat to low. In about 5 minutes the shrimp are just cooked through and ready to be served with toasted bread or over rice.
Sweetly spiced and super simple -- flavors of Sicily at home, any night.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Leftovers Italian Style: Pasta Frittata

Another easy way to serve pasta. Another way to hide leftovers.
The "girls" have been pretty busy these days and the eggs are stacking up in the fridge. We've made sure all the neighbors have enough for breakfast and still the carton count is growing. The perfect antidote to too many eggs and leftover pasta in the fridge -- spaghetti omelette (or in this case penne frittata). I started the way dinner usually does around here with a glug of olive oil heating in a pan (make sure it's oven proof). I added chopped a diced onion, and a few cloves of garlic (pretty standard so far), and let them soften and added in a couple ounces of chopped prosciutto and a variety of sliced mushrooms and let the mixture cook over medium heat until the mushrooms were tender. Add in the pasta -- sauce and all and stir around the pan. Next I beat eggs (in this case 8 since I was planning for leftovers) with grated parmesan cheese and S&P and poured it into the pan. After the eggs were just set I popped the pan under the broiler for just a minute or two to finish off.
Pasta frittata -- dinner from nothing, equally good hot or cold.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I've made hoards of flatbreads over the years. But, this is the first time -- following Jim Lahey's easy instructions that I've gone through the steps to add potato into the dough. Ideally I'd use leftover potatoes. I assume that's how the bread started being made. But the texture and subtle flavor from a bit of yukon gold in the dough makes the extra time boiling and blending your spuds well worth while. Unlike Lahey's other breads this crisp flat loaf was a quick rise (only 3 hours for the first rise I think) and baked up golden brown in a regular baking sheet, in just about 20 minutes.
Easy, delicious and still no-knead. If anything next time I might use a little less oil on top of the loaf and a little more seasoning. I went with just coarse salt and pepper but this one cries out for rosemary or even fresh oregano. Either way -- makes a pretty nice snack sandwich with a thin slice of prosciutto or with a little cheese melted on top.