Monday, April 30, 2012

Afternoon Cookies

I still have plenty of apple sauce from the canning extravaganza brought on by our prolific backyard tree. I decided to use a bit with these applesauce oatmeal cookies (adapted from a recipe by baking guru Nick Maglieri). It's always nice to have  full cookie jar and a bit emptier pantry.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sunday Soup

James was feeling a little under the weather so soup seemed just the thing. Plus he loves broccoli rabe and I happened to have an easy recipe tucked away for lentil soup topped with the tasty, bitter vegetable.
First I started chopped onion (1), 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots carrot, 1 plum tomato and 3 cloves of garlic sautéing in olive oil (I started the onion first and then added the other vegetables to give the onion a chance to soften). Then I added in two cups of green lentils, 4 cups of chicken broth, 4 1/2 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, S&P, and several sprigs of thyme. I brought the soup up to a boil and let it simmer for 30 minutes, just until the lentils were tender. I had some cooked rice in the fridge so I added that into the pot and heated it through. When the soup was finished I added a splash of lemon juice to the pot for a little acidity.
Meanwhile I boiled the chopped broccoli rabe in salted water for about 4 minutes. I topped the soup with a sprinkle of goat cheese, broccoli rate, and a drizzle of flavorful olive oil.
Mmmmm soup.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stuffed Artichokes

 I love artichokes but honestly I don't like the bother of cleaning them. Spiny and prickly and in need of a good rubbing with lemon juice to keep the edible thistles an appetizing color. But artichokes are in season and compared to the exorbitant prices I am seeing for organic vegetables -- a relative bargain. I picked up a few globes and found a new technique on the internet. I blanched the whole artichokes in boiling water  (4 quarts) with a bit of lemon juice (2 TB) for 20 minutes. When drained and cooled I easily peeled off the lower leaves, snipped the spines and cut each in half to remove the choke with the edge of a spoon. Much easier.
To serve I mixed up a stuffing of cooked Italian sausage (another gift from our pig raising neighbors), chopped garlic, parmesan cheese, crushed red peppers, bread crumbs and olive oil. I filled the leaves and the cavity of the artichokes with this savory stuffing and baked the vegetables, sprinkled with more parmesan and drizzled with olive oil,  for 45 minutes at 375º.
A surprisingly hearty and surprisingly popular easily made supper.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pizza Before And After

I rarely take before photos but tonight's pizza just seemed so cheerful, springy and kind of pretty I couldn't resist. Bright green pesto and pink prosciutto, thinly sliced potatoes and lots of chopped garlic, parsley, oregano, crushed red peppers all topped with a spinkle of parmesan and delicious shreds of fresh mozzarella cheese. Before and after weekend pizza night.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Polenta And Greens

Another play for my super easy oven-baked polenta. While the cornmeal cooked (without stirring or any work from me) in the oven, I sautéed Italian sausage with garlic and crushed red peppers. When the sausage was browned I took it out of the skillet and rendered some chopped pancetta for a little extra flavor. Then I tossed in ribbons of kale a splash of water and a sprinkle of salt. The kale cooked, covered, for 5 minutes until well wilted. To finish I added the sausage back in along with a good dollop of olive oil, about 3/4 cup of cooked cannellini beans and nearly 1 cup of the bean cooking liquid. I let the mixture simmer for a couple minutes while I served up the creamy polenta.
Hearty cold weather food for a brisk April night.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The View From Our Kitchen

Our new raised beds ready for planting and just a bit beyond the cows that moved in today.
A great day here at home.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Meat Free Tuesday

I can hardly call this cooking. Baked sweet potatoes topped with goat cheese, thyme and crushed red peppers. I even forgot the drizzle of honey I meant to finish with. Barely a dinner and not cooking at all.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Baked, Roasted But Certainly Not Fried

Oven fried chicken. We all know there is no such thing.
Soaked in buttermilk (or in my case buttermilk, hot sauce, sliced onion, mustard and plenty of minced garlic) like real fried chicken but coated in breadcrumbs (or in my case breadcrumbs, flour, grated parmesan cheese, thyme, cayenne pepper) before baking in a hot (425º) oven. No it's not fried chicken but it something maybe somewhat close that I can stretch to fit my diet and still make James happy. Besides, like real fried chicken, it's pretty darn good cold the next day.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meatballs And Rice

I'm not sure where tonight's dinner came from. I had no idea and then there I was by the stove seasoning ground beef. I briefly thought I was heading towards Swedish meatballs but somehow I found myself chopping pancetta and salami and grating in parmesan cheese. That pancetta was from my adventure looking for Hobbs bacon (they make a variety of smoked and preserved meats and sausages I have yet to find). Before I knew it I had chopped a few slices and toss them in a skillet to render. Next came a little butter and then the meatballs I formed from the seasoned meat (S&P, garlic, onion, salami, pancetta, crushed red peppers, bread crumbs, eggs, a splash of milk, parmesan, rosemary and thyme). When the meatballs had browned in the skillet I took them out to wait until i had made the sauce. I tossed in some flour and cooked that in the remaining bacon fat and then deglazed the pan with some red wine. I poured in milk and cream (I was trying to use them up before ether went bad I think) and let the sauce thicken. I added the meatballs back into the skillet to cook through as the sauce simmered.  And so, meatballs and rice. A little unusual I guess but satisfying all the same. Just another Sunday supper.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Quick Pesto Spaghetti

A pile of radishes in the vegetable drawer -- green too bright and fresh to toss into the compost. I whipped up a batch of radish green (and a bit of spinach since I didn't have that many radishes) pesto. Greens, almonds, parmesan cheese, S&P, and olive oil whirled into a paste in the food processor. I wasn't sure what to do with it (I did spread some on a sandwich), But I knew it would come in handy.
Tonight when I looked into what may have been our emptiest fridge ever (I've been out of town for the last 4 nights) I spied that pesto and dinner was made.
I boiled up some of James' favorite spaghetti. Mixed in some pesto and a splash of the pasta cooking water and topped the dish with a pair of olive oil poached eggs. A dash of chili flakes and a sprinkle of peppery cheese and dinner was served. Something easy for a saturday night.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Comes To The Garden

A hard winter pruning for a long neglected tree and our new yard's apple is bursting with beautiful pink and white blossoms.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Red Wine Cauliflower Risotto

It all started with a recipe I saw from Jamie Oliver where he very cleverly used the chopped cauliflower stalks in the risotto -- sautéing them with the onion and celery. I also liked his crunchy topping of anchovies and breadcrumbs. I borrowed those tricks from the English chef but them made my basic cauliflower risotto -- with red wine instead of white (that accounts for the less that stellar color I suppose) and folding in pre-roasted cauliflower at the end with cheese, butter, and a bit of cream (because we had it in the fridge).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Soup

April still has a chill in the air up here. Seemed like a good day for soup. And to use up some leftovers hogging space in the freezer.
First I sautéed some Italian sausage ( a gift from our pig-raising neighbors) in olive oil, then tossed in two chopped onions, several cloves of sliced garlic, and a big pinch of crushed red peppers. When the onions were soft and translucent I added in a cup or so of red wine and let that cook down until the pan was almost dry. Next went in about 2 quarts of chicken broth (I made that from the bag of parts I'd been collecting in the freezer), a bunch of chopped kale, and about 3 cups of cooked cannelini beans with some of their cooking liquid (also found in the freezer). I brought the pot up to boil and let it simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. This soup needed plenty of salt and pepper so I seasoned to taste. Then the step I am most proud of. Last time I made lasagna I had more noodles than room in my pan. I sliced those into ribbons and put them away in the freezer for a day like today. I added the thawed noodles to the soup and let them heat through before serving. I topped James' bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped parsley and a shards of parmesan cheese.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Welcome Home Honey

Every now and then James decides he is going to juice. And he does . . . for a bit. But then I am invariably left with giant bags of carrots or apples filling up our very small fridge. Today I decided to use up some of those apples and welcome James home at the same time with this maple walnut apple upside down cake.
Upside down cakes are on of my favorite easy desserts. For this maple version (starting from an old Food and Wine Magazine recipe) I boiled down a cup of maple syrup to make a thick toping. I poured the reduced syrup into a 10" buttered and floured cake pan and topped the syrup with thinly sliced apples and chopped walnuts. To cover the fruit I poured a batter of 1 1/2 sticks butter creamed with 1 1/3 cup sugar I mixed together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and a tsp of salt in one bowl. In another bowl I mixed almost 3/4 cup of milk with a dash of vinegar (about 2 tsp -- no buttermilk in the house), 3 eggs and about 1 TB of bourbon. I added the dry and wet ingredients (alternating) to the creamed butter and then spread the batter over the waiting fruit and syrup. The cake baked for 1 1/2 hours at 350º and then cooled for 45 minutes in the pan before I unmolded the sticky, apple dessert.
Maybe a little wintery for a chilly April day but it's nice to have the room in the fridge (and James back too).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Carrie Called It, "Secret Single Behavior"

James is out of town. I'm home doing all the things I don't do when James is around -- catching up on some sewing, wearing pajamas 'til noon, watching "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding", eating Chinese food. Tonight I made a simple tofu and broccoli stir-fry. Delicious and diet-friendly.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The End Of A Culinary Quest

About three years ago I read an article where Thomas Keller called Hobbs bacon "the best in the word." I have been looking for it ever since. Whenever a fellow food fan friend came up to the bay area I would ask him/her to look for it. Endless reports of the smoked delight's whereabouts proved to be false. I always kept the search in the back of my mind. Today the holy grail was captured during a brief stop over in Mill Valley. Taste test reports to follow.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kind Of An American Classic

Not quite the way grandma made but still an all-american chicken dinner. I roasted the chicken whole at high heat, 50 minutes at 450º, seasoned simply with olive oil and S&P. The cavity stuffed with lemon halves, garlic cloves, and parsley stems. Alongside the chicken I baked whole sweet potatoes. Beautiful yellow, super sweet, tubers. For a vegetable I sautéed chard and mushrooms in a light cream sauce. I thought that would be a big winner with James but he seemed to miss the chard's bitter edge. So much for dressing up the greens, my boy likes 'em straight.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Winter Squash

Winter squash, I find, though it is something I love is also -- at least according to Weight Watchers -- diet friendly. Amazing. One of my favorites is the slightly dry but super sweet kabocha, bright orange flesh with edible green skin. No peeling. I decided to roast up slices and build our dinner from there.
Most often I see kabocha squash in Japanese of vaguely Asian "health food" meals. I decided to head down that path and pull out one of my favorite (though I suspect it is more of a good for you chore for James) rice cooker recipes, courtesy of Martha Stewart Living. Brown rice, mushrooms, tofu and spinach steamed together and dressed with just a dash of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. I steam 1 1/2 cups brown rice, 1/2 ounce dried mushrooms (shitake if I have them), 8 oz cubed firm tofu, and a dash of salt in a rice cooker until done (about 45 minutes). I let the mixture steam for 15 minutes more and then add in about 4 cups of baby spinach, close the lid and let the spinach steam in the rice cooker (about 2 minutes), Just before serving I mix through chopped scallions, chopped cilantro (tonight it was parsley), 2 1/2 TB soy sauce, 1 1/2 TB rice wine vinegar and 1 tsp sesame oil. Very diet friendly indeed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Antipasto Salad

There ar precious few things James actually misses about our life in LA. Pretty high on the list is the antipasto salad from Casa Bianca. These days with everyone all worked up (us included) about farm to table and local ingredients and modern cuisine, something simple like an old Italian-American, red checkered table cloth ready antipasto salad can be pretty tough to find. I chopped prosciutto, salami, turkey, peperoncini, artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, garbanzo beans, and big chunks of cheese into a bowl with lettuce and cucumbers (James is not a fan of raw tomatoes) and tossed it all with a red win vinegar - oregano dressing. Not quite Casa Bianca but a lot closer to home.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mini Easter

I'm trying to stay somewhat on the diet so James had a mini-Easter for one. A single serving potato gratin delicately scented with lemon thyme, brown sugar - mustard glazed ham steak, and fresh buttered peas.
I meant to make an Easter bread but got all involved weeding a garden patch in front of the house and settled for a pan of biscuits. Pretty nice with salty ham.
For dessert, a single serving lemon pudding cake. Fresh and light and a pretty low calorie treat.
Happy Easter 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Call It Anything Else

"Stoop." She calls it "stoop."
Her legions of fans sit mesmerized by her boundless cheerfulness and seemingly endless recipes for lasagna roll ups but I can't stand the sound of her voice. The slap-dash quality of her food. The very boundless cheer others admire. But "stoop," although I can't bring myself to say it out loud, is a useful word. I often get over ambitious while whipping up some soup for James and end up with something too thick for soup, not quite stew, a dinner bowl . . . a "stoop." Though I would never call it such.
Tonight with a pot of cooked white beans and a container of leftover braised chard I ventured out to make a chard and white bean soup. I started with shallots, celery, carrots, and garlic sautéing in olive oil. When they were soft added in about 1 cup of red wine (I would have used white if we'd had some open) and let that cook down. Next into the pot went 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 small can of tomatoes I put up last summer, a bay leaf, about 2 cups of the white beans with a bit of their flavorful cooking liquid, and about 3/4 cup of rice (A bit too much I see now). After coming up to a boil the whole mixture simmered for about 25 minutes. Because the chard was already cooked I just stirred it in to heat through. Off the heat I stirred in a TB of sherry vinegar for a bit of tang and then served James' dinner soup with crusty bread for dipping and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Foiled By Technology

One small disadvantage of our new home is the not up to urban parr internet service. On a good day it's slow and on a bad day -- well you can wait quite a while for repairs. So, James' dinner has been a blog free secret for the last couple meals.
Tonight I am back with a real winner: spaghetti with squid, broccoli, and chckpeas. Simple and something slightly different. I started with hot olive oil in a pan and sautéed sliced garlic, crushed red peppers, 3 anchovy filets. I mashed the anchovies into the oil and tossed in the squid sliced into rings (or manageable tentacle pieces) for just a few seconds really until the squid picked up a little color. Then I added a drained can of chickpeas, chopped parsley and a splash of white wine and let the squid simmer until just cooked. meanwhile I was cooking the spaghetti along with the broccoli florets in boiling salted water. n a departure from my usual process I put the broccoli in the pot when I added the pasta so it would cook down and be extra soft. When I added the drained noodles and veg to the sauce the extra soft broccoli formed a light green sauce -- almost like a pesto -- that clung to the noodles deliciously.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Oven Baked Polenta

I'd heard it was possible. I was skeptical. How could polenta left on its own in the oven come close to the creamy sublime texture brought forth from near ceaseless stirring?
With a whisk I mixed one cup of polenta, two cups of chicken broth (okay not traditional but I thought it would make my "diet" portion a little more flavorful), 2 cups of water, a few sprigs of thyme, S&P and a crushed clove of garlic in a 2 quart pot. After 50 minutes (uncovered) in a 350º oven I stirred in a pat of butter. On a normal non-diet day I would have mixed in some grated cheese or milk too. Ten minutes later I had creamy soft luscious polenta. No one would ever guess how easy it was. I'm gonna try this one for guests -- just when you need your hands free. I topped James' "hands-off" polenta with braised chard and buttery seared scallops.