Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

 (photo from Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times)

Happy February 24th.  Not only is today the birthday of my sweet friend Tori but it's also National Margarita Day!  Who knew?  Whether you like yours blended or on the rocks, salted or not, you must admit, most days are good days for margaritas.  While the traditional blend is generally tequila, lime, and triple sec, today's LA Times uses some winter fruit to "shake things up" a bit.  Start with a guava margarita, move to blood orange, and finish it off with grapefruit.  Yum, yum, and yum again. 

 (photo from Evan Sung / New York TImes)

 When India meets Spain and they both knock on Mark Bittman's door, you know what comes out of that kitchen is going to be tasty.  A simple eight ingredients, including the salt and pepper, make up this dish of Fried Chickpeas with Chorizo and Spinach.  What makes this a perfect one pot meal is that everything could (should) be on hand in your kitchen.  Spanish style chorizo keeps well since its already cured.  Spinach should grace your produce drawer at all times. And, as far as beans in a can go, chickpeas are a pantry staple.  Frying the chickpeas, a treat I first tried at the Blue Plate and have loved ever since, makes them totally and utterly addictive.   The trick is to get them completely dry before they go in the oil, paper towels will do the trick just don't skip this step.  I think I'd add a slice of crusty bread and a tall glass of Rioja and this would be an amazing dinner.

(photo from the Philadelphia Inquirer)

I grew up in Seattle which was, as far as a family road trip's concerned, a stone's throw from Vancouver, B.C.   We made many trips up north and I've always loved the city.  One recipe my mom adopted from our travels is for a cookie called a Nanaimo Bar, seen in today's Philadephia Inquirer.  Now I don't think anyone in my family ever went to Nanaimo, B.C. but legend has it the creator of this recipe called the town her home when she won a prize baking it for a cook off.    Now the bars are all over B.C. and have clearly extended pass the border.  Usually baked in a 9 x 13 pan, the cookies are cut into bars (although the Olympic motif, above, is clever).  The base is a coconut graham cracker crust-sweet and very candy-bar like.  The filling is a powdered sugar buttercream (in this case with "pudding powder" which I never saw on my mom's recipe card) and the top is bittersweet chocolate.  These are sweet but, a small bar definitely satisfies the sweetest of sweet tooth. 

 Happy Reading and Happy Cooking (and Happy Margarita Day!).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Look What I Found?

Coming to a Williams Sonoma near you on June's the latest and greatest by me-Cooking from the Farmers' Market

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Can Take it With You

(photo from stock.xchng)

I don't know about your kids but mine gets a week off in February called "ski week".  I never had ski week growing up.  We had one day off for President's Day followed by a return to school and some project with cherry pie filling to honor George Washington.  These days the masses head to the mountains and for the first time we went along.  We shared a rental with some friends and being about 20 minutes from the closest grocery store, we brought all our food with us.  Seemed a little crazy, packing coolers full of milk, eggs, and yogurt but it was so worth it.  We split the meals between us and everyone pitched in with prep, dishes, and the short order breakfast line we swore wouldn't happen each morning.

When preparing food to take with you, weather it's to the mountains, a summer cabin, or a friend's house, there are a few things to keep in mind.  First off, it's great to pick dishes that you can't overcook-think about things that stay nice and juicy when you reheat them like soups, stews, and chili.  Second, do as much prep ahead of time but if some last minute cooking will make for a better dish, plan for that too.  This means dishes like homemade mac and cheese or Mexican enchiladas should get their final cooking just before you eat them.  The enchiladas we had needed a 20-30 minute oven trip and they were perfect.  If you cook mac and cheese ahead then reheat it for your dinner later it gets way too dry-prep it all then bake it later.  Third, one pot meals are best.  When you only have to make a salad and/or veggie to go with dinner it leaves you a lot more time to drink wine, play hearts, or beat the kids in foosball.

All those rules aside, I prepared two dinners from beginning to end, hoping I'd get the nights when we were home early.  I lucked out once and the other night we just ate late.  Sometimes nothing beats the smell of something braising in the oven for a few hours so I couldn't resist.  I went for Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken Thighs and a Milk Braised Pork Loin.  Having no meat thermometer, my pork loin overcooked (ok, maybe it was being mid-Scrabble with a great glass of wine in hand that distracted me).  The chicken, however, came out great.  This is a recipe I found years ago in, I think, the New York Times and I've been making it from memory ever since.  If Meyer Lemons aren't available I'd recommend using half oranges and half lemons, but regular lemons will work in a pinch.  This is no-fuss at its best-the oven does all your work for you, leaving you time to enjoy your own game of Scrabble.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  It's easily doubled for a crowd too.

Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemons (adapted from, I think, Amanda Hesser in The New York Times)
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, excess fat removed
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
2-3 medium Meyer Lemons, cut into eight chunks (skin on)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Choose a large oven-proof saute pan that will fit all the thighs comfortably (it's okay if they're a bit snug).  Place the thighs in the pan and add a generous pinch each of salt and pepper, tossing them around to be sure each piece of chicken is well coated.  Add the garlic cloves, lemon pieces, rosemary, thyme, wine, and olive oil and toss again, making sure all the chicken pieces are skin side up.  Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid (or foil) and place in the oven.  Cook until the chicken is very tender, about two hours.  You don't need to stir or check on it until the time is just about up.

Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove the lid from the pan.  Cook until the chicken pieces are nicely browned, 20-30 minutes more.  

Transfer the chicken pieces to a large platter and pour all the juices, lemon chunks, and garlic pieces over the top.  Serve family style with a big salad and crusty bread for those roasted garlic pieces.

Happy Cooking.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Few Blogs to Check Out

I try to keep up on the latest and greatest in the world of food blogs but the list is never ending and I just can't catch up.  I've pointed out a few of my faves before and thought I'd add a handful of new names to the list (well, new to me at least).  Enjoy.

17 and Baking:  17 year old Elissa is a high school senior in Seattle (rumor has it she goes to the same high school I did).  You will quickly see that she is wise well beyond her years.  She is not only an amazing writer and photographer but, her baking is just stunning.  Frankly, I'm hooked.  Keep it up Elissa and you'll go great places!

Kiss My Spatula:  First off, love the name.  Second, the pictures-absolutely gorgeous.  Third, the recipes-simple, fresh, and ultra appealing. 

Paper and Cake:  OK, not a blog but if you bake you'll drool over the accessories on this site.  The best part, it's all printable!  Yep-fabulous cupcake wrappers, birthday hats, candy labels, and more.  It'll bring out the crafty in anyone.

Food at  Salon has recently added a food section which I love for keeping up on the latest news, trends, recipes, and tips.  Writers are top notch, including their food editor, Francis Lam, who you may recognize from his days writing for Gourmet.

Lottie and Doof:  Beautifully art directed and deliciously written, a weekly stop on my regular blog readings.

Z Tasty Life:  Sweet Amelia from Atlanta, by way of Italy, is adorable.  She works full time, runs her family, cooks like crazy, and takes book-worthy pictures.  I am so glad she finally started a blog.  I love reading about what she's cooking.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Sweet Valentines

I was all ready to make heart cookies decorated with things like "kiss me" and "cutie pie" when I came to the realization that it always sounds better in my head.  I am not a decorator.  My worst day of culinary school was wedding cake decorating, talk about tension.  I make a damn good cookie and bake great cakes but when it comes to the fine art of fancy decorations, I call in reinforcements. 

So, when I got the call to bake for a school bake sale today, I thew out the cookie idea and went for cupcakes.  I used my favorite recipe from Magnolia Bakery and the little lovelies turned out quite cute.  Maybe not the most obvious of Valentines but sweet none the less.  What do you think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

I'm back from a mini-vacation in Mexico that felt so much like a long vacation it's taken me a while to return to reality.  Here I am...sorry it's been a while.

This picture caught my eye in today's NY Times.  Crispy Lamb with Cumin, Scallions, and Red Chiles looks fantastic for several reasons.  One, it uses Lamb Shoulder, a tougher (hence, cheaper) cut of the lamb that happens to be meltingly tender when cooked just right.  Second, fire-this dish is packed with red chiles for heat.  This dish is Dongbei, which means it is from the northeastern part of China, lesser known for its food but none the less still delicious. Influenced by Mongolian flavors, the cumin seeds might surprise you in a Chinese dish.  If you happen to be around Queens in New York you can go get this dish at a restaurant called Northeast Taste.  If not, give it a shot at home-simple, spicy, and belly warming. (photo from Evan Sung for The New York Times)

Flourless Chocolate Cake has always been one my favorite desserts.  Its dense and moist, almost like a chocolate truffle.  It keeps well, in fact I think it actually tastes better the day after you make it. In the Portland Oregonian a recipe for Flourless Chcolate Torte is hidden under the banner of a gluten-free Valentine's dessert but don't let that scare you.  With a simple ingredient list of chocolate, eggs, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla, this is a cake any sweet lover would swoon over.  Remember, intensely chocolatey recipes like this call for the best chocolate and cocoa you can find.  Avoid the "baking chocolate" you see in the market and head for the bars you want to eat.  Bittersweet or Semisweet work best and I love the Scharffenberger 70%.

Tonno del Chianti (or "tuna" of Chianti) is not really tuna at all.  It's actually slow cooked pork, simmered in lots of olive oil with pepper and fennel seed and shredded like tuna.  Now that's my kind of tuna!  The process is long, with an overnight marinade and a few hours of slow cooking but imagine the results...luscious, tender pork that you can put on crostini with picked onions (like the photo), scatter on top of a salad, or just eat straight up.  The recipe calls for a lean pork shoulder, my favorite cut for its melt in your mouth texture. (photo by Glenn Koenig for The Los Angeles Times)

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


In lieu of the usual Wednesday round up, I wanted to introduce you to a new latest book!

That's right, I arrived home from work last night to find 5 copies of "eggs" by yours truly.  Here it is:

Rumor has it you can find it now at Williams Sonoma but I haven't checked yet. I will surely be there today moving each and every copy to the front of the store. 

If you pick up one yourself, some of my favorite recipes are the Chilaquiles, Tarts with Butternut Squash, Swiss Chard, and Egg, and of course the Toad in a Hole.

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