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Showing posts from 2010

Roman Comfort Food, Pasta Puttanesca

Italian food has a wonderful variety of different regions and styles. In my travels, I have learned to appreciate the delicacy and subtlety of the various regional cuisines. This is one of the recipes that reflects true home style Italian cooking of Rome.



The actual translation of this dish is, “pasta of the whores”. I don’t know exactly why it has this name, but I have heard that it was a quick dish to throw together, and as such it was popular with the “ladies of the evening”.
Ingredients
1 large finely chopped Onion 4 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped 2- 28 oz. cans of crushed Tomatoes, or whole tomatoes that are lightly chopped in the processor. San Marzano’s are the best.
4 Tbsp Olive Oil 3 tsp. Red Pepper flakes or a few whole red peppers
4 to 6 Anchovy filets, leave out if you want it to be vegan ¼ cup of Capers, (Try to get the salted capers and prepare them by rinsing and then soaking for 30 minutes. it's worth the extra effort, as the flavor is vastly superior to the brined capers…

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Tart

I was asked to post this recipe by a friend who enjoyed it at my home and wanted to make it himself  This is a very simple dish to prepare and is perfect with a salad to create a full meal or as a side to round out a meal. 


It is a convenient way to quickly throw together a meal. Basically it is a version of a traditional quiche, but with different ingredients than the typical French treatment.

Ingredients

1 Piecrust, either home made or store bought 8 oz of Broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces ¾ cup and 2 Tbsp of Heavy Cream, or Whipping Cream
4 Eggs 5 oz of Blue Cheese, Pt Reyes Blue, Maytag Blue, or Stilton, cubed into ½ inch pieces Salt and pepper to taste Parchment Paper Dried beans, approx 2 cups
Begin by blind baking the crust. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, use a fork to gently prick the crust on the bottom and on the sides.
Cut a piece of parchment paper so it overlaps the crust slightly and lay it onto the unbaked crust, and fill with dried beans. Push them so you have more beans …

Vanilla Extract-How to make your own-Update- Day 12

Okay, we are now on 12 days since we began making the vanilla extract. The extract is changing color rapidly. I'd say it's the color of light maple syrup at this point, and it has a very strong vanilla aroma, with clear under tones of the different beans. The Tonga beans are clearly more fig and earthy, while the Tahitian beans definitely have a floral and fruity aroma. I'll keep you updated.


For those of you who haven't had a chance to read the Best of 2010 post yet, here is an excerpt.


Vanilla Bean Sugar- This is one of those simple things you can do to vastly improve you baking. Take a bag of pure cane sugar and fill a glass container half way. Add two whole vanilla beans and then fill with the other half of the sugar. In two days, you will have the most wonderfully flavored vanilla sugar and when you need a bean, you can just reach into your sugar and use one. You can find a vast selection of high quality vanilla beans at www.beanilla.com

Risotto alla Parmigiano Reggiano, the perfect rice dish?

Risotto is one of the most amazing dishes known to man. It is a simple combination of butter, stock and rice, which when properly prepared rises to an art form.
Many people do not know this, but in Italy rice is raised in the north in two main areas, the Piemonte (think Milan and Turin) and the Veneto, which is the area of Venice. 




The north of Italy has always been more of a rice centric region while the south was more of a pasta centric region.
While not complicated to make, for an authentic risotto, the ingredients and cooking process must be followed carefully. I have seen many variations on this theme, but a basic recipe is a good place to start.
There are a few things you must remember to make a good risotto:
Only use true Italian Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice, other rice just doesn’t give equal results. If you’re in a pinch, medium grain rice will give you vastly superior results to long grain rice, but it's not quite the same. These rices can be purchased in most grocery store…

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice)

This is one of those dishes that is a perfect example of comfort food. It is almost a national dish and will instantly remind you of sunny Spain. It is also my niece and nephews favorite dish, so it must be good!
There are so many variations on this dish, each reflecting the unique regional produce. I thoroughly enjoy this one and feel it is unique enough to be worth mentioning.



There are a few ingredients here that I feel are indispensable. One is the smoked sweet paprika and the other is the green olives. Both of these ingredients add something that can’t really be substituted.

Ingredients 
8 Chicken thighs or one whole roaster cut up 6 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil 2 cloves of Garlic, sliced One Large Onion, chopped One Red Pepper, chopped 2 cups of medium grain Rice, a Spanish arroz or paella rice is perfect as well. 4 cups of Chicken stock, warmed 2 Bay Leaves 2 Tbsp of smoked sweet Paprika 2 dried whole Chilies, if desired. Juice of one Lemon, ends cut off and reserved ¼ cup of Madeira 1 sma…

The Best of 2010, Final

And here are the last few thoughts on 2010.


17) Tien Tien Chili Peppers - An essential part of Szechuan cooking, I use these peppers in all sorts of dishes. They have a lively fruity flavor which is somewhat smoky. Just one quickly sauteed and removed adds a nuance of quick heat and a smoky flavor that I've not been able to find anywhere else. Of course if you like it hot, you can leave them in. These can be ordered from the fantastic Spice House. www.spicehouse.com


18) Smoked Paprika- Yes, I am once again bringing up smoked paprika, because I still find so many people do not have it in their kitchens and it is so versatile for everything from deviled eggs to Spanish arroz con pollo to chili. So once again, get some and start experimenting. I know you will find many uses. To encourage you, I will post my niece and nephews favorite Spanish dish which uses this wonderful spice. If it's good enough for them, I'm sure you will love it. www.spicehouse.com


19) Allegrini and Hazan R…

The Best of 2010, Part Two

And the list continues:


9) Colatura, Nettuno Brand- This is an amazing fermented fish based sauce and somewhat similar to Thai fish sauce but softer and richer. It adds a wonderful depth to sauces, and pastas and risottos. As it says on the Gustiamo website, take a few Tbsp of EVO, a clove of crushed garlic and one teaspoon of Colatura and toss over spaghetti. No cheese will be needed. Experiment and enjoy it, but use sparingly as it is quite salty. You can find this at www.gustiamo.com


10) Nunez de Prado EVO - This is just stunning. It has the fruitiness and grassy flavors of the Tuscan oils without the peppery bite. While that Tuscan flavor is wonderful in some dishes, I find that the subtleness of this Spanish oil is perfect when you want finesse. You can find this online at www.deandeluca.com


11) Aleppo Chile Pepper - From southern Syria and the ancient city of Aleppo, this chili pepper is subtle and with a savory after taste and medium heat. I find that it adds an interesting nuance…

The Best of 2010, Part One

As we move closer to year end, I enjoy looking at the new ingredients and ideas I've found over the past year and sharing some of the essential ingredients I always have in my kitchen or refrigerator.


I find that sometimes the most simple ingredients can send you down a path of discovery with a new cuisine or a new direction in trying new ideas and challenging yourself.


1) White Truffle Salt - What was I thinking? I should have bought this years ago. I can't imagine anything that wouldn't taste better with this fabulous salt. It makes mashed potatoes that are sublime. www.deananddeluca.com


2) Sil Pat Silicone Pads - I know these have been around for a long time, but I finally tried them this year and they are really handy. It makes baking so much easier and no more hassling with parchment paper and it's more economically friendly as well. www.williams-sonoma.com


3) Tamari Almonds - I basically live on these little gems as a quick snack. I have tried a lot of them, but I fi…

A Cheese Shop in Pasadena? Yes and it's great!

Well, it's Christmas morning and we have just finished our traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and green onions. Just perfect!

And I have momentous news, we finally have a proper cheese shop in Pasadena. This is music to my ears and a joy to my taste buds.

The Cheese Store of Pasadena officially opened it's doors on October 10, 2010. Founded by husband and wife team, Louis and Natalia Pastis, it is a very welcome addition to our neighborhood.

It is light, airy, smells lovely and has a wonderful selection of cheeses from the rare and exotic to the basics. A knowledgeable staff, of which special mention must be made of Heidi and Sebastian, rounds out this perfect shop.

They offer more than ample samples of whatever strikes your fancy and generously offer up tastes of what everyone else is trying as well, so you have a mini cheese tasting while you try and decide what you want to take home. The key word here is try.

I chose a mixture of my favorite washed rind c…

Kung Pao Chicken and Beef with Broccoli - A pair of Chinese classics

Kung Pao Chicken 
This is a wonderful dish, which combines the smoky flavor of dark soy sauce, the freshness of green onion and the crunch of peanuts.




It is a fusion dish, as it often shows up on Szechwan menus, but is actually a dish from the Beijing region. Always a favorite of mine from Chinese take away, I finally worked out the recipe to make it at home.
Ingredients 
1.5 lbs of boneless Chicken Breast, cut into cubes 2 Tbsp Cornstarch 1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce 1 Tbsp Rice Vinegar 1 Egg White 1 Tbsp Mirin, or dry Sherry
Mix all ingredients together and marinade in refrigerator for at least one hour prior to cooking.
Prepare the sauce mixture just before beginning to cook and set it aside.
Sauce Mixture: 2 Tbsp of Mirin, or dry Sherry 1 Tbsp of Chili Garlic Paste, or 6-8 dried whole red chilies 2 tsp of Worstershire Sauce 2 Tbsp of Dark Soy Sauce 2 tsp of Toasted Sesame Oil 1 Tbsp of Light Brown Sugar 2 Tbsp of Water 1 Tbsp of Cornstarch

4 cloves of Garlic, roughly chopped ¼ - ½ cup of unsalted Chicken S…

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie
On a trip down to our farm in Southern Virginia, I bought some sweet potato fried pies from a woman at a summer fair out at the elementary school.
As we walked and looked at all the booths, we finished them off and they were so good that we came back and bought all she had. 



A great day for her and certainly a diet buster for us. This is the larger pie version of her recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/2 pound of white Sweet Potatoes or Yams cooked until tender but not mushy 6 Tbsp. of Butter 1 cup of Sugar 1 tsp. Nutmeg 1 tsp Cinnamon 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 1/3 cup evaporated Milk  2 Eggs beaten well

After the potatoes are cooked until just tender, drain them and transfer them to a large bowl and blend well with the butter using a  potato masher. 
Add  the remaining ingredients except the eggs and allow the mixture to cool. When sufficiently cool , add the eggs and blend well and pour into a 9 inch deep dish pie crust and bake at 350 for 45 to 55 minutes. Allow to cool thoroughly before servi…

Top Tips for London

I know that most people are desperately trying to get out of London, and we feel for them one and all. However, if you have to be stranded in a city, this is one of the best. 
Having lived in London, I am often asked for tips when people are visiting. Here are some great restaurants, some top sights and a few things to remember about London:
Sights
If you are interested in history, do not miss Hampton Court. It was just the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII, so they have many things going on. You will need a day, but well worth it. If you buy this all inclusive ticket you can see all five palaces, including the Tower of London and the Banqueting house (amazing). Well worth the money,  http://89.151.104.52/supportus/membership/default.aspx
If you want to go a bit off the track the Royal Mews (Carriages and royal coaches) and the Queen’s Gallery are very good. Both are next to BuckinghamPalace. You can see the Changing of the Guard and then visit both.
The top museums are the NationalMuseum, N…

Cheese in the US

I adore cheese and I enjoy finding new cheeses and trying out new types.
Certainly some areas in the world are known for making world famous cheeses, and of course I will talk about those in future posts.
However, to start,  I wanted to stay in tune with my strong belief in supporting local farmers and artisans and want to help you discover some of the wonderful cheeses we have in our own backyard.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and books could be and probably have been written on this subject alone. However, I thought I would share a few of my favorites.
Cypress Grove Chevre Arcata CA
This cheeses are some of my absolute favorites and so unique and really reflect their terroir (derived from French for earth, meaning distinctly reflecting attributes from where that come).
·Humboldt Fog, a ripened goat’s cheese with a layer of ash and perfectly tangy. Quintessential chevre (Goat’s Cheese) with ash.
·Purple Haze, a fresh chevre with lavender and fennel pollen which gives this cheese a swe…