Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Dinner

I clearly have not gotten the hang of photography in my new kitchen yet. I never thought I would, but oh how I miss the clean blue light of my Viking range hood. Nevertheless dinners are inching up to our old standard.
Tonight I offered James creamy parmesan polenta topped with a pan fried chicken breast cutlet, coated in panko crumbs and plenty of fresh herbs. On the side a sautéed tangle of Romano beans scored at the nearby farmers market. Working loosely off a recipe from Chez Panisse I started some olive oil heating in a pan and flavored it by letting chopped shallot and garlic sauté in the oil for about 3 minutes. I removed the aromatics and added in the beans, cut in to 2 inch lengths, along with a sprig of rosemary, some dried oregano and fresh thyme (the original recipe called for only fresh oregano but we didn't have any)-- and tossed it all around in the oil (here and there) for about 10 minutes until they were just tender and brown in spots. Then I added back in the garlic and shallots along with two small chopped tomatoes and cooked the mixture for about 2 minutes more. After cooling for a minute or so I drizzled the beans with about a tsp of balsamic vinegar and served the dish room temperature over the hot polenta.
James went back for seconds.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pork Potatoes Paprika

It seems my recent trip to Hungary did have some lasting effect, at least culinarily. While trying to decide on a warming, stew dinner dish I kept drifting back to a Goulash recipe I had saved from the LA Times recipe request column. Now I am certainly no expert but I did indulge in a few bowls of goulash while across the pond. In contrast to this recipe from the Blue Jam Cafe in Los Angeles, which the reader swore was the most authentic he had eaten, the goulash I sampled in Hungary was a red-brothed light soup with tender bits of pork served alongside delicious buttery spaetzle. My version, following the restaurant's recipe was thick, full of pork and potatoes, and delicately flavored with caraway and paprika, Hungary's favorite spice. Just the thing for a cool fall night.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pot Of Beans

This has been a soupy week. I'm not sure if it's the nip in the air or that most of my sauté pans are in my old kitchen or the lack of dishwasher (soupy meals are good one pot options) but somehow every night lately dinner has been in a bowl. I tried to break out tonight. No luck. Somehow the Italian sausage in the fridge (another treat from our friends at Chileno valley Ranch) turned into a bean stew with plenty of fresh herbs and tomatoes canned from our garden.
I sautéed smashed garlic cloves in olive oil and then browned sausage meatballs in the hot oil. I added in chopped rosemary, thyme, and crushed red peppers followed by two cans of beans (drained) and then 1 cup of reserved liquid added back in, 2 sage leaves, and a pint jar of tomatoes. I let everything simmer for 15 minutes covered and then another 10 uncovered to try and reduce the sauce.
A little soupy but pretty tasty. You can see not much was left.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's In A Name

I don't have any idea why Mario Batali calls this recipe Bread Soup. There is no bread in the actual soup, just grilled slices served on the side (I topped ours with cheese). No matter, it wasn't the bread in the title that caught my attention. It was farmwife. Farmwife's bread soup Batali called it, as if he was speaking directy to me. I am a sucker for recipes with rustic, cozy names. Grandma's layer cake, Sheepherder's bread, Farmwife bread soup . . . it's just recipe marketing but it always gets my attention. As I said, I am a sucker.
Tonight I fell for this quick recipe. Sliced onions (1) and chopped garlic (2 cloves) are sautéed in plenty of olive oil (1/3 cup) until soft but not colored. Next go in two peeled, chopped potatoes (I cut into about 1/2 in dice), then sea salt, crushed red peppers, and 2 cups of chopped beet greens. Though he wouldn't eat a beet on a dare, James loves the tasty greens. Everything in the pot sautés for a couple minutes and then go in 4 cups of water (Batali called for 2 but I don't see how that is possible) and a bay leaf. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. The original recipe ends there and advises to serve the soup with grated Pecorino Romano cheese on top. I embellished and poached a few eggs in the simmering soup liquid. What farmwife, I reasoned, wouldn't have a few eggs around the kitchen? And, the yolks added a bit of richness to the otherwise slightly spare winter soup.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Don't Eat With Your Eyes

This is undoubtedly one of the least appetizing plates of spaghetti I have ever made. I saw the recipe for Bucatini with Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts in Food and Wine Magazine from Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and knew right away it was a dish James would love. Crisp beautiful vegetables sautéed in olive oil and flavored with thyme, rosemary, garlic and anchovies. The magazine picture, bursting with color and jumping of the page, displayed the perfect winter vegetable dish. Perhaps I left the lid on too long or maybe my veggies cooked too long. Although delicious and a recipe I will definitely repeat -- our "sauce" (or condimento as Mario Batali would say) came out slightly grey. From a distance it almost looked like a bowl of sauerkraut topped with cheese. Nobody wants that. Mercifully James has come to trust me and dug right into the pallid mixture. His faith was rewarded with tender vegetables coated with peppery olive oil, zesty from the anchovies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crock Pot Roast

I'm still a bit unsure about our new oven. I didn't want to chance an oven braise but I did want a worry-free, long cooking, prepare in advance dish for dinner. One pot to wash would be a plus in our new dishwasher-less world. No dishwasher and no spices . . . and still dinner must be made.
I spotted a link of hard chorizo in the fridge and thought that would add some flavor where spice was missing. I chopped that up and let it sauté/ render in a pan until just a bit crisp and then added the chorizo to the crock pot along with several chopped cloves of garlic, 2 sliced onions, 2 small carrots (peeled and cut in to 2 inch lengths), fresh thyme, and fresh bay leaves. I browned the meat (a large piece of boneless chuck) in the fat from the rendered chorizo and placed it over the onions in the pot. Since I had a good bunch of "wild" mushrooms I chopped them up and added them to my pot roast in the making. I covered it all with red wine and set the crock pot on high for about 6 hours. When dinnertime came around all I had to do was boil some spuds for a quick batch of olive oil mashed potatoes and put dinner on a plate.
The challenge of a new kitchen.
Cook 1 kitchen 0 . . . so far.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken In A Pot

James and I both love San Francisco's Zuni Cafe. Who doesn't? The entree to order at Judy Rodgers' Market Street institution is the roast chicken with bread salad, for two. For the full Zuni experience many diners start with fresh oysters and a caesar salad. Everything there is so good and made with such prime fresh ingredients that I am always trying to bring a little of the Zuni dining experience home to our table. I often thumb through Rodgers' lovely cookbook (a gift from James) looking for inspiration and recipes.
While paging through recipes I had collected I found a knock off, a recipe imitating Rodgers' chicken triumph and decided to give it a try. I mixed bread cut into 1 inch cubes, chopped black kale (the recipe called for chard), golden raisins, capers, chopped garlic and sliced shallots with a good quantity of olive oil, S&P and tossed the ingredients toether. I placed that mixture in my cast iron chicken pot and on top placed my chicken cut into 8 pieces. I covered the chicken (after seasoning of course) with parchment paper. With the pot's glass lid tightly on, the dish went into bake at 350º for 40 minutes. Next I raised the temperature to 425º and with the chicken uncovered continued to bake for 20 minutes until the skin was crackling crisp.
No it's not quite Zuni, a pale imposter to be honest. But it didn't take the 2 days that Rodgers' recipes requires or the nearly 2 hours roasting time. In our new little kitchen, still barely unpacked and ill-equiped it was a fond reminder of the good life on Market Street and a promise of many homemade dinners to come.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Della Fattoria: Petaluma, CA

Okay so it was brunch and James wasn't even there but the food at Della Fattoria in downtown Petaluma is so good I can't help but mention it.
Although it's only permanent outpost is hidden in a small downtown cafe (the actually baking location is offsite), primarily Della Fattoria is a bakery. In fact, Bon Appetit Magazine called it one of the 10 Best Bread Bakeries in the country. I heartily agree. Their wood fired breads are chewy on the outside and airy inside. Artsanal loaves so perfect I see no reason to bake bread when I am in the area.
Their Meyer Lemon Rosemary loaf, the bakery's most famous offering, is already legendary. Chewy crumb with a touch of tangy sweetness that makes any sandwich a special event. But the cast of supporting characters from Semolina dusted with insanely fragrant sesame seeds to baguettes with crusts so firm they resist a casual tear and cry out for tangy, hearty cheeses. There is not a bad loaf in the bunch.
I like any excuse to stop in for breakfast or lunch (the cafe is open until 3pm and only Fridays for dinner) and take a loaf to go.
A Bacon and Egg Piadina, toasty flat bread wrapped around poached eggs, Black Pig bacon ( a much beloved Sonoma county artisanal producer), cheese and hot sauce. After one bite we declared it "awesome."
I might have dreams about this breakfast dish. Melt in your mouth, creamy, soft polenta topped with perfectly poached eggs, prosciutto, spinach and crunchy breadcrumbs. This is Della Fattoria after all. This is the kind of dish you can't stop eating. The perfect combination of textures and flavors and the attention to detail that makes quirky Della Fattoria a destination eatery.
To be honest, the cafe is small, the service can be a bit distracted (or just plain slow) but the lattes are piping hot and food is just so good when your order arrives you forget everything but the taste.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Trip To The Country

Taking a break from posting to while away time by the seasonal stream. No internet, no cel phones, no posts. Be back next Friday the 21st with some saved up dinners for you all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Leaving Again

More packing, more traveling. No time for shopping or cooking or sitting. I stared into an almost empty fridge and came up with a platter of salads. Mozzarella with peperonata, arugula salad with grilled artichokes (pre-made I admit it), grilled asparagus and hearty wheat bread. Toast for dinner before the long drive.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Baked Pork Chops

Around four o'clock James called to tell me he was already really hungry. Should he eat something while he was out running errands or could we have dinner on the early side, he wondered. I was just about finished with my chores and started to dream up a dinner I could make happen quickly but would still be satisfying on a nice fall Saturday night. Plus -- we spent a good part of the morning cleaning the house so something I could do and keep the kitchen fairly clean was a bonus.
Somehow I landed on pork chops. I usually cook them in a frying pan but in the interest of my splatter free kitchen I decided to bake the chops with a tasty crunchy crust. I mixed together panko bread crumbs, matzoh meal (okay I had it in the house from a past matzoh ball adventure and used it in spite of the odd combo with pork chops), thyme (both dried and fresh) chopped parsley, onion powder, oregano, lemon zest, S&P, parmesan cheese and crushed red chiles into a coating. I dipped each chop in an egg mixed with buttermilk and then in the crispy coating. The chops baked for about 17 minutes at 350º. The coating (and the buttermilk) protected the meat and what can often be a dry dish was perfectly tender, moist and juicy. Alongside on James' plate were home grown mini potatoes roasted in lemon juice, oregano and olive oil, and roasted broccoli topped with parmesan cheese.
Simple saturday night fare.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cream "Poached" Eggs

Not quite coddled and not quite poached, these are, quite frankly, eggs of my own invention. Delicate and creamy with salty bits of prosciutto. In a small non-stick pan I sautéed bits of prosciutto followed by a handful of fresh spinach in olive oil and butter over medium heat. Next I cracked in two yard fresh eggs. I covered the eggs with a handful of shredded peppered cheddar cheese and a healthy drizzle of fresh cream. After a sprinkle of salt I covered the pan and let it simmer away (medium low heat) for about 5 minutes until the whites of the eggs were just set and the cheese melted. Much easier than boiling water and vinegar these almost poached eggs will be topping salads (with just water and olive oil in the cooking pan) and English muffins around here from now on.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Simple Supper Soup

A rainy early fall day. A perfect time for soup. Sausage, kale and potato (homegrown) soup.
I stared by sautéing the sausages in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes -- until lightly browned on the outside and just about cooked through. Then I removed the sausages and added lots of chopped onions, garlic, and crushed red peppers (also homegrown) to the fat in the pan and let them sauté until the onions were just starting to brown Then I added back in the sliced sausage along with sliced potatoes and coarsely chopped kale. I gave those a few turns in the oil and then added in chicken broth (homemade of course) and brought everything to a boil. I let the soup simmer fro 30 minutes until the potatoes were tender and served it piping hot with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and crispy parmesan croutons.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Old Favorite Made New

Hamburger spaghetti. A simple sauté of onions, garlic, red peppers, fennel seeds, rosemary, thyme and Chileno Valley Ranch ground beef. I finished the dish with a little cream and butter for a super quick, super tasty weekday supper.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not So Pretty But Plenty Tasty

I know most people make risotto with white wine and it does preserve the creamy white color . . . but that dash of red wine instead is just so tasty and a great combination with plain shredded parmesan. Since I had homemade chicken broth in the fridge I whipped up a quick red wine risotto and topped the creamy rice with garlic and red pepper sautéed broccoli, just because James loves it. Easy homerun dinner

Sunday, October 2, 2011

James brought home a special treat. Ground beef from our new friends Mike and Sally Gale of the Chileno Valley Ranch. In addition to offering you-pick apples, running art workshops and hosting occasional weddings at the ranch, the Gales raise what we now know after tonight's burger is delicious natural grass fed beef. I treated it simply to make sure we got the true taste of the ranch's beef. Just a little salt, pepper, and butter as I formed the patties and a drizzle of worcestershire sauce. Underneath sat a crisped square of cornbread topped with peppered cheddar and a shower of sautéed mushrooms. On top rested a dollop of guacamole and thin slices of red onion.
A knife and fork burger from friends.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Together Again

James is finally home. Since he was traveling I made a pot of cider beans, a recipe that doesn't suffer from extra cooking time. Soaked beans are boiled for 30 minutes in apple cider and then baked with onions, salt pork (or slab bacon in this case), molasses and mustard for most of the day. Naturally I whipped up a pan of cornbread to mop of the gently sweet sauce.
Welcome home honey.