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Showing posts from December, 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

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 d

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

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

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. 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. 19) Allegrin

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 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 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 int

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. 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. 3) Tamari Almonds - I basically live on these little gems as a quick snack. I have tried a lot

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. I t 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

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 bak

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, 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 Buckingham Palace . You can see the Changing of the Guard and then visit both. The

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 c

Jalapeno and Sweet Corn Bread

Jalapeno and Sweet Corn Bread This is one of my favorite sides to have with either chili or fried chicken. It is great and quick. You can adjust the heat by seeding the jalapenos or not, as desired. You may bake this as individual muffins or as a pan of cornbread. Follow the directions for the corn bread mix, but probably it's a good idea to grease the pans with some vegetable oil. Ingredients     2 boxes of Corn Bread mix, follow the instructions on the box. 1 can of yellow Corn, drained well Jalapenos to taste, about one half a cup chopped is about right for most spice hounds. Mix together the corn bread mixture omitting ¼ of the wet ingredients (in other words, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of milk, then only use ¾ of a cup).  Then mix in the corn and jalapenos and bake as recommended. You may need to increase your baking time slightly, due to the whole corn in the mix.

Roadhouse Chili - The perfect way to use your new chili powder.

“Roadhouse Chili” This is one of many chili recipes I have tested, and I have refined it until I believe it’s just right.  It’s made with chicken, but could just as easily be made with any meat you desire. It is also really good with beef. I like it because it is different, and doesn’t taste like your “run of the mill” chili.  As you will notice, it has no beans, and rightfully so.  Real chili does not have beans, just meat, as any Texan will tell you. Of course, if your not from Texas, you can feel free to add beans. Ingredients  1 lb. Chicken Thighs, cubed or 1 lb cubed Beef 4 cloves Garlic chopped 1 large Onion, chopped 1 large Red Pepper, chopped 3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil 2-4  Tbsp. Chili Powder 1  Tbsp. Ground Cumin, only if you have not made your own chili powder. 1 Tsp. Ground Coriander 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce 1 can of Tomato Paste  ¼ cup Cider Vinegar 1 bottle Beer 2 Tbsp. Tequila, optional 1 cup of strong chicken stock

How to make you own Chili Powder

By chili powder, I mean a powder to make chili or add a Mexican flavor to chicken, a roast or blackened dishes. Really, the options are endless. This is not a super spicy cayenne type product. I have found that trying to buy chili powder is expensive and unless you buy the same type every time, you get all sorts of different mixes and the flavor is completely different. In addition, most of them are ground in bulk, so they are not fresh and the flavor has long since faded. I think making your own is much preferable and you can adjust the powder to your own taste. Here is my recipe for a medium heat chili powder. You will need a spice grinder, which is just a small coffee grinder, but one reserved just for grinding spices. I can promise you that you will not want to use the same one for coffee and spices! Krups makes a good one, which is sturdy and not expensive. You will need to buy the dried chilies and I have the perfect place, The Spice House in Chicago. www.thespicehous