Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thin, breaded, crispy cutlets toasted with cheese and served golden brown. Whether it was in fact invented in Milan or just wears that city's name, it may be (perhaps rivaled only by fashion and risotto) that city's most famous export. Across Europe (well France calls it a paillard) and into Argentina, diners know these quick cooking treats as Milanese. For me it's dinner in a hurry.
Take a thin pounded cutlet of pork (I was using up the last pork chop), turkey, veal, or chicken, dip it in beaten egg and coat it it seasoned bread crumbs (this time for me it was salt, pepper, dried basil, onion powder, garlic powder, ad chili flakes) mixed with grated parmesan cheese. Press the bread crumbs onto the meat to make it adhere and coat it generously. Then pan fry in a mixture of olive oil and butter for extra flavor. Sometimes I top these cutlets with a slice of prosciutto and mozzarella or tomato sauce, or with a simple bright salad like these dandelion leaves.
May all your days be crispy and bright.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sausage Pizza

Kind of a leftover night. I browned all the lats bits of sausage from the week's cooking projects in a little olive oil with onions, garlic, oregano, white wine, and just a bit of tomato paste. I spread mozzarella on top of the herb garlic crust, laid the sausage mixture on top, and covered with a good coating of parmesan cheese. 18 minutes later dinner was ready to go.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Asparagus Pasta

I needed something quick and easy that would use up the asparagus I had nearly forgotten about in the vegetable bin. That says pasta and I started salted water boiling. I blanched the cut asparagus in the water for about 2 minutes and then added in into a skillet where I had sautéed a chopped shallot and one minced clove of garlic in olive oil and butter. I poured in just a bit of heavy cream and a couple cubes -- minus the rind, of delicious, dense goat's milk clochette cheese. I cooked that for just a few minutes, added in the drained pasta (long ziti today, although I think the shorter shapes are better with a sauce like this, James loves the long round noodles), salt, pepper, and a bit of grated lemon zest. After a couple turns in the pan dinner was served.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pork Cutlets In Mushroom Sauce

It's hard to think of something new. Meats and sides run through my head until I just pull something off the shelf and decide to work around it.
Although James will say he doesn't like pork (hmm perhaps he isn't aware that bacon, prosciutto, and the roast he practically licked off the plate from our neighbor Joyce were all pork). I think what he doesn't like, and quite reasonably so, is dry, overcooked, flavorless pork. What James doesn't like is bad food and that knowledge haunts every trip to the grocery store.
And so I set out on my pork chop challenge.
I pulled out boneless loin chops and sliced and pounded them into thin cutlets. I dredged the cutlets in seasoned flour and lightly browned them (not cooked through) in a combination of hot oil and butter. I set the meat aside and added chopped onions and sliced mushrooms to the pan and let it cook until the mushrooms were a bit soft and had given up their liquid. Then I poured in about 1/2 cup of white wine, deglazed the pan, and cooked down until the wine was just about gone. Then I poured in some heavy cream -- just enough to get a nice color to the sauce and let the whole mixture simmer for about five minutes. I added the pork back into the skillet and let the meat heat through (and finish cooking at the same time).
James cleaned his plate -- even dragging the green beans through the rich sauce. "This was really good," he said. "And, I don't even like pork."

Friday, November 26, 2010

Baked Pasta

I had to clean out the pantry. Half bags of this and that taking up space that could be devoted to once a year Holiday goodies. James likes spaghetti, white round spaghetti, so I knew that box of whole wheat rotelli would need some attention to clear it off the shelves.
I made a quick mornay sauce (melt butter, add in flour in equal measure and milk -- whisking all the way -- until the consistency is creamy and smooth -- add shredded cheese to melt in the sauce) flavored with gruyère and goat's milk cheddar (I was cleaning through the cheese drawer too). Into the half-cooked pasta and sauce I added chopped ham and sautéed kale and beet greens with just a hint of garlic. I poured it all into a baking dish, topped the dish with bread crumbs sliver of butter and more grated cheese and popped it into the oven (375º) to bake for about 35 minutes nil the top was crispy, the cheese melted and the sauce bubbling.
Macaroni and cheese gets a quick dinner upgrade -- James never noticed the whole wheat.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Remains Of The Day

Today marks the start of the annual eating season with my favorite holiday -- Thanksgiving. I love cooking the meal, I love the flavors and aromas, I love the parade and Miracle on 34th Street (the original of course). I love the chestnuts. It's my kind of day.
We went to our friend Shelly's for a great meal and great company.
Happy Thanksgiving one and all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Well, It's Still Corn

"Honey," James called sweetly from downstairs. "Can we have dinner early tonight?'
I know that means he didn't eat lunch and couldn't see his way through the fridge to find a snack. I hadn't given one thought to dinner yet. "Of course," I said and then scrambled to come up with an idea.
Hmmm two birds with one stone? Two meals with one dish? Maybe I could get ahead on the holiday. I'm bringing the stuffing (although I guess it's not really stuffing since it's coming without the bird) to our event tomorrow. For me, stuffing calls for cornbread and so I made a double batch to have some for tomorrow and some for James' dinner tonight (maybe even some for breakfast) -- win, win, as they say. I still had a few links of that delicious Basque Sausage in the fridge and a bunch of broccolini so I sautéed the sausage (out of the casing) in a splash of olive oil and tossed in a good bit of chopped garlic and some leftover white beans I had cooked earlier in the week (bean and greens soup I think it was), just as the cornbread was coming out of the oven I stirred in some lightly blanched broccoli and gave it all a good turn before nestling it on the plate next to a good sized hunk of cornbread.
Normally I would serve a sauté like this with polenta, but this airy cornbread (4 Tb butter melted in a baking dish in the oven -- 1 1/2 cups corn meal, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, blended, mix in 1 1/4 cup milk and 1 egg whisked together -- mix wet ingredients into dry and pour into baking pan over the melted butter -- bake 30 minutes at 375º) had the right flavor, stood up to the zesty mix, and made tomorrow (and tonight) a little easier.
"You can make this for me any time," James declared between bites. Win. Win. Win.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It All Started With Sausage

Over the weekend I picked up a package of Basque sausage. Having no idea what I would use it for, I was nonetheless filled with fond memories of happy evenings in Nevada's homey Basque dinner houses.
There's aways pasta, or a sauté with broccoli rabe but those just didn't seem to pay enough tribute to my little treasure. I wandered around the internet when suddenly it hit me, a basque style paella. Contrary to my usual food form nothing style I dashed down to the store for a few crowning touches ad came home to invent my baked -- just too much work to stand at the stove or grill -- paella. First I browned seasoned chicken thighs and legs in plenty of olive oil and removed them from the pan. Next I browned the sausages, cut them into one inch pieces and set them aside. I wiped out the pan added more olive oil and sautéed chopped onion, red pepper, garlic, and a good dose of pimenton dulce until the onion was transparent and soft. I added in 2 cups of arborio rice (well it's Italian but a close substitute) and let the rice toast in the oil. Next went in a few slices of Jamon Serrano, chopped, a handful of green olives, some grilled artichoke hearts, chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup of wine I had dissolved a good sized pinch of saffron threads in and 1 1/4 cup of chicken broth. I nestled the browned chicken and sausages down in the rice along with mussels, clams, and jumbo shrimp. I brought the liquid up to a boil and popped the whole dish in the oven for about 35 minutes at 450º.
"Wow," James said. "I don't think anyone else is getting a dinner like this."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Trader Joe's Pizza Crust

Some nights I wonder how we ever made it through the week without Trader Joe's. For dinner I grabbed package of their herb and garlic pizza crust and pile on all the things James likes best. Thinly sliced potatoes (from our garden -- I had to make up for that crust somehow), prosciutto, rings of red onions, plenty of olive oil, chopped garlic, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Baked fro 16 minutes at 500) it's a quick dinner that still feels special.
Oh and look below for another little thing I picked up at Trader Joe's.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gifts From Grant

James' friend Grant has a yard full of fruits and flowers from his native Australia (or other tropical regions). We've had avocados, grapefruit, guavas which quickly became a couple small jars of jam and most recently bright orange Hachiya persimmons just ripe enough for a batch of cookies.
I creamed one stick of butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar and added in one beaten egg. the pulp of one large persimmon, and a dash of brandy (about 1 tsp). Into the well mixed liquids I sifted in two cups of flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and a pinch of cloves and gave it a good stir. Next I added in about 1 cup of raisins, mixed them in and dropped the batter by rounded teaspoons onto a silpat lined cookie sheet to bake for 15 minutes at 350º. When the cookies had cooled just a bit I dusted them with powdered sugar.
Thanks Grant!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Clams A New Way

In Spain, I'm told, in the area known as Galicia famous for it's seafood a full meal might be a variety of simply cooked seafood and crusty bread. Sounds like our kind of place.
For a little of the Spanish coast at home I stirred up clams with an unusual thickened wine and broth sauce, called Fisherman style -- at least by Food and Wine magazine.
I sautéed a chopped onion and three minced cloves of garlic in olive oil for about 4 minutes, and then stirred in about 1/2 TB of flour and made a sort of quick roux. Into the flour went 1 cup of clam juice into which I had crushed a pinch of saffron threads (and let sit for 10 minutes) and about 1/4 cup of dry white wine. When the liquid came to a simmer (while I was stirring) I added in a pile of scrubbed Manila clams, covered the pot and let it cook over high heat for about 6 minutes until all the clams had opened. I added in some salt and pepper, gave everything a good stir, and brought dinner -- right in the pot to the table, along with a warm loaf of bread.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Beans and Greens

With dried beans in the house and an onion or two dinner is always just a couple hours away. I cooked up some white beans with sage, onion, bay leaf, and garlic until they were tender (about 1 1/2 hours) and added some chopped greens (mustard, collards, chard) I foraged out of our still struggling along winter garden for the last 4 minutes or so. In a separate pot I sautéed some thinly sliced salami (too hard to eat in a sandwich at this point) some pancetta, carrot and celery until they were starting to soften. I added in the beans, greens, more garlic, about 3 TB of shredded parmesan, some of the cooking liquid and let our soup bubble for another half hour or so and served them with thick slices of crusty bread and parmesan cheese.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Right Off The Plane

"I'm glad you're back," James said with a smile in his voice. "Now come home and make me lunch!"
A food from nothing challenge right over the cel phone.
I quickly scanned what might be in our surely bare (I have been gone for almost two weeks now) larder and told James to put a pot of water on to boil. I remembered a large chunk of pecorino cheese -- much larger than I wanted but when it was sliced and bigger than I expected I was too embarrassed to ask the cheese monger to cut it again, so I was sure there would be some left. We always have some dried pasta and and since on the plane I had been reading about Roman cuisine being the Italian style of the moment I planned a quick Cacio E Pepe. The original 5 ingredient marvel -- spaghetti, grated pecorino cheese, cracked black pepper (I cheat use a little crushed red too), a dash of olive oil (optional), and water from the cooked pasta.
Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and add a large (a cup or so to a pound) of grated pecorino, about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, a good quantity of cracked black pepper
(a heavy TB) to taste, a pinch of crushed red peppers, and stir vigorously until the cheese and water bind into a nearly creamy sauce. I sprinkled on some sea salt and a few fresh oregano leaves left in our winter garden.
Still a favorite of Roman trattorias and home cooks a like. Cucina povera at it's best.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dinner Without James

I'm still up in Vancouver without a kitchen and James is at home eating from my latest "fridgeventory" of pre-cooked frozen dinners I left for him.
Much like LA, Vancouver is filled with all types of great Asian food (maybe not quite the wonderland of regional Chinese we have in Monterey Park) with much less traffic. I popped into the food court at the local H Mart Asian supermarket for a quick Korean seafood pancake -- the only white face in a sea of hungry shoppers. Not bad at all and a short walk from the hotel.

Monday, November 8, 2010

In The Footsteps of Anthony Bourdain

I don't generally try to walk where Bourdain has walked. I don't see a meal of seal in my future or even cobra heart. But here in Vancouver I found myself literally across the street from one of the milder weird food outlets he has profiled, the local phenom known as Japadog. That's right, hot dogs (and brats, sausages, veggie and turkey dogs) done Japanese style with wasabi mayo, teriyaki sauce, bonito flakes, grated radish, edamame -- all the usual suspects layered on a toasty bun. The photo above shows our Tonkatsu -- fried pork cutlet (instead of a dog), below is one of today's specials -- a rice cake instead of a roll and really delicious stewed beef (Japanese chili?) on a waiting frank. On the side? Shaken fries treated to your choice of topping. We went for chopped crisp seaweed -- now that's a snack worth going back for.
That little yellow bag? Just one store down waits a great Japanese import. The custom filled, painfully delicious, cream puff's from Beard Papa on a great lunch block in Vancouver, BC.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baked in Butter

I constantly hear people say that in Italy diners never have cheese with fish or seafood. Spaghetti with clam sauce in authentic restaurants is more likely to be topped with toasted breadcrumbs. To some extent it's true. In some traditionally poorer regions (Sicily and Puglia for example) cheese was just too expensive and less available than fish. But on the small island of Sardinia where sheep are nearly as plentiful as treats from the ocean (and preferred among the locals), traditional dishes -- like the one that inspired James' dinner tonight -- combine the fruits of the sea with the rustic products of the rugged terrain, wild herbs, butter, and tangy, strong, almost funky pecorino cheese.
In a buttered baking dish I lay filets of sole, each one folded over a nice big pink shrimp. I scattered a few extra shrimp around the dish and covered everything with slices of butter (about 3 TB all together), leaves of thyme (about 2 tsp), 1 TB chopped parsley, S&P, and drizzled it all with about 2 TB of olive oil. I baked the dish for 10 minutes at 350º until the fish was just cooked through, scattered the top with about 1/3 cup of shredded pecorino cheese (I had pecorino Romano instead of pecorino Sardo as this dish would authentically used have but the end result is just as delicious) and placed it under the broiler for 2 minutes until the cheese was just toasted. The success of a dish this simple relies solely on quality of ingredients used, use good oil, good cheese, nice sweet butter.
"This is really good, just perfect," James muttered between bites. It's the first time I've ever heard that for a fish dinner -- it must be the cheese.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


I admit it. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I watch cooking show while James and the dogs sleep happily next to me. Today I happened to catch Tyler Florence whipping up a soup and sandwich combo -- but it was the soup that caught my attention. A rich, thick, sausage minestrone. Head still on the pillow, I made a quick mental inventory of our fridge and realized we had just about everything near at hand (I had to pop down to the store for the sausage). I just couldn't stop thinking about that soup until I started the pot on the stove.
First I simmered a rosemary sprig, a stalk of thyme and 8 sage leaves in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Next I tossed in a pound of sweet Italian sausage (out of the casings) and continued to cook over medium heat until the sausage was broken up and browned. I chopped two carrots, two stalks of celery and one red onion in the food processor and added them to the pot. The vegetables cooked for about 4 minutes before I added in some tomatoes (about 4 cups) I puréed in the food processor (Tyler called for canned tomatoes but I still have garden fresh so I didn't see any reason not to use them), 1 quart of homemade chicken broth I had in the freezer, about 2 tsp chopped garlic. 1 bay leaf, half a head of chopped cabbage (my addition but it did help clean up the vegetable drawer) and 3 drained cans of cannelini beans and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile I cooked some cut bucatini and when they were still very al dente. I added the drained pasta to the soup to simmer for the last couple minutes of cooking. Now Tyler only used 1/2 lb of pasta but I went ahead and used the whole bag -- so our soup is really more of a wet stew, James didn't really seem to mind, especially when I, as Tyler did, toasted up a few parmesan croutons for the top.

Friday, November 5, 2010

House Specialty With Shelly and Drew

Now that we've discovered our "specialty", it's pretty much clams for every guest. Of all the recipes James' favorite is still the tried and true spaghetti with clam sauce. So I whipped up a pot last night when our friends Shelly and Drew came over to discuss Thanksgiving plans. Because we were having guests, and because I know Shelly loves it I added a loaf of buttery garlic bread/ I split the loaf down the middle and covered with a mixture of butter, garlic, parsley, S&P, olive oil and oregano. I wrapped the closed loaf up in tin foil and baked it for about 25 minutes at 400º.
Same old recipe with a little bacon added in the beginning for extra flavor. I sautéed pancetta in olive oil over a low flame until crisp. I added in 5 large cloves of garlic (sliced thin) and a good sized pinch of chili flakes and stirred them around in the hot oil for about 2 minutes. Next came 1 1/2 cups of a mixture of wine and clam juice, a handful of chopped parsley, and the juice of two lemons (I was making a big pot so this was probably double the amounts - except for the garlic -- I generally use). I brought the liquid up to a boil. Then came close to 4 lbs of clams and a big knob of butter. I covered the pot and let the little Manilla clams steam over high heat for about 7 minutes.
When the pasta was drained I added it to the pot with the clams, along with another handful of chopped parsley and about 6 TB of butter. I gave everything a good stir, poured the pasta into a serving bowl and topped with a thin drizzle of olive oil.
I like a little bitter salad to go with the rich pasta. I usually do some kind of arugula combination but this time I decided to try a simple recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook -- shredded radicchio combined with toasted bread crumbs and sieved hard boiled eggs, in a piquant anchovy dressing. Delicious. This salad was a big winner with me and James didn't even taste it. "Honey," he explained " You can't expect me to eat salad when there are clams and spaghetti and bread on the table." Words of a lifelong thin man.
For dessert I tried something simple and vaguely Italian. Pears baked in red wine with toasted almond gelato and pignoli cookies. The pears had been sitting in our fridge so I quickly peeled them, and popped them in a covered baking dish with 1 bottle of fruity red wine, 2 cinnamon sticks, zest of one orange, 4 cloves, and about 1/2 cup brown sugar. That baked for 45 minutes in a 350º oven. I removed the cover and baked for another 45º until the pears were soft and the wine had reduced to a slightly syrupy consistency. Left over from a past recipe I found a tub of almond paste on the shelves in the kitchen. I combined 8 ounces of that with 3/4 cup of powdered sugar in the food processor until it was broken up into tiny, sandy bits. I then mixed in 1 egg white and a TB of honey. I piped that dough out onto parchment covered baking trays, pressed pine nuts into the dough and baked for about 12 minutes (watching very closely) at 350º.
Dinner with friends to plan a dinner with friends.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ham Steaks and Sweet Potatoes

A while back, sauntering through the grocery store I plopped a thick Niman Ranch ham steak in my cart, thinking one night that will make a good quick dinner. Tonight was the night. I wasn't actually late getting home or in a particular hurry but it just sounded good. Something unusual for us, a little more "midwestern covered dish" or "meat and three" than I usually go in for but it just sounded good.
First things first. I peeled and, on my mandolin, cut a combination of sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, and purple Japanese sweet potatoes in 1/4 slices. I layered those in a baking dish adding salt, pepper, (chili flakes on one layer) and little pats of butter between the layers. I poured milk over the potatoes (use cream if you have it -- the milk will separate in the oven and taste fine but not look so pretty). I covered the dish with tin foil and set it to bake for 45 minutes at 350º. I uncovered the potatoes and let them bake or another half hour.
For the ham I mixed up a glaze based on a recipe by that ketchup loving French chef Jacques Pepin -- 2 TB of ketchup, 1 1/2 TB of brown sugar (I went a little heavier than Jacques), a drop of hot sauce to taste and a 1/4 tsp dry mustard. I brushed the glaze on the room temperature steak and put it under the broiler for about five minutes, to caramelize the glaze. Steamed buttered cauliflower sat on the side.
Cozy Americana suggested by the French.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Crock Pot Corned Beef

The crock pot is the perfect way to cook corned beef -- a dinner James loves. All I have to do is pile in little red potatoes, the meat coated in a spread of mustard and brown sugar, thick wedges of cabbage, a couple carrots, a stalk of celery, a handful of peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, all covered in a bottle of beer. That cooks for 10 hours on low in the slow moist heat of my trusty crock pot. Once the meat is cooked, we remove the meat, pour on a glaze made of 1 cup of orange marmalade, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of dijon mustard and pop it in a 350º over for 30 minutes.
Simple glazed corned beef,