Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Parsnip Pancakes

When I posted last week's What I'm Reading Today I included a recipe for Parsnip Fritters. 

I don't make these recipes before I post them, hence the article is called "What I'm Reading" and not "What I'm Cooking".  I go back to them over time, as you hopefully do, and cook them when I can.  I tackled the parsnip fritters as part of a mostly vegetarian dinner mid-week last week.

When you read the recipe, you quickly realize this is basically a latke with parsnips subbing for potatoes.  I think of a fritter as savory fried dough where as these are more parsnip heavy, with a bit of flour and egg to bind it-hence I'm renaming them Parsnip Pancakes.

They came together very fast. I opted to grate my parsnips on the grater blade of my food processor which saved loads of time.  I mixed the batter together and because parsnips don't oxidize (read: turn brown) nearly as fast as potatoes, I could let it sit on the counter for a couple of hours before dinner.

I cooked them in a nonstick saute pan in a thin layer of olive oil, transferring them to a paper-towel lined plate between batches.  The boys arrived a little late so to make sure they'd be nice and crispy for dinner I popped them in a 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes just before we ate-worked pefectly.

The original recipe calls for topping them with horseradish cream.  I LOVE horseradish but the one I had at home was loaded with way too much vinegar so when I made the cream it was much too acidic.  Next time a pinch of salt, a few more green onions, and I think I'm good to go.  Give 'em a try...not sure why but they feel a bit less guilty that good old fashioned latkes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

I've had a crazy week and am thrilled my Wednesday is here.  Keep on the lookout for my new Chow.com video on making crepes.  And, don't forget to join my fan page on Facebook (Jodi Liano).  My students are taking some fantastic photos in class so you can check out what we're doing.  If you can't make it to Tante Marie's in person, the page let's you do it vicariously.  Enjoy!

With asparagus so abundant at the market these days, I'm rarely shopping without a bundle or two in my cart.  My go-to method is a simple high-heat oven roast with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I always watch those spears carefully as overcooked asparagus is one of my least favorite things-limp, slimy, blech!  In today's New York Times Melissa Clark explores another method for getting the veggie just right- steaming in parchment packets (what the French call "en papillote").  The bundles are made up of asparagus spears, herbs, mushrooms, and prosciutto, drizzled with olive oil, then tightly wrapped and baked for ONE HOUR at 200 degrees. I know, it sounds crazy but she claims (and I for one trust whatever Melissa claims!) that the slow method creates asparagus perfection and infuses the herbs and prosciutto into every bite.  Remember, Baked Asparagus with Shitake, Prosciutto, and Couscous may feel like it takes a long time but it is largely unattended cooking. Wrap it up, pop it in the oven, and put your feet up with a big glass of wine.  Before you know it dinner will be ready!

Spending time in Thailand last year made me love the food of Southeast Asia even more than I did before.  The constant balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet makes every meal a pleasure to eat.  I also love how the dishes vary so much in temperature and texture, particularly the ever present salads.  In today's Washington Post there is a recipe for a Vietnamese Chicken Salad that is as healthy as it is simple.  The nuoc cham, or seasoned fish sauce, is key to giving this salad its distinct flavor.  Fish sauce is the "salt" ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking, much like soy is used in China and Japan.  
Made from fermented anchovies, to say it is pungent is putting it mildly.  Mixed with lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chilies it makes nuoc cham, a staple condiment that not only provides the dressing base for this salad but can be used for other things as well.  I love it drizzled over fish, as a dip for veggies, or as a marinade for flank steak.  It keeps for several days in the fridge so have a batch on hand and the salad will come together in minutes.

Looking like pale creamy carrots, parsnips are root veggies that seem to be finally having their day.  I never ate them growing up so as an adult I love experimenting with different ways of cooking parsnips.  They have a texture that is a cross between a carrot and a potato and a light, almost herbacious flavor.  They're full of potassium and fiber too, meaning we should all add a few to our menus each week.  When roasted they caramelize beautifully and become sweet and lovely.   I saw the recipe for Spring Parsnip Fritters with Horseradish Cream in today's Seattle Times and I knew it was a keeper.  Much like potato pancakes, these pan fried fritters are made with grated parsnips, egg, and a bit of flour.  While they would be a great side to your next Sunday dinner, I like the idea of making them silver dollar size and serving them as appetizers.  Horseradish cream and maybe even a bit of smoked trout on top, mmmm.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Hope the spring sun is shining upon you where ever you may be!  Happy Wednesday.

A friend once asked me what my favorite scent was.  I didn't need to think long-fresh, and I mean really fresh, strawberries. Inhaling that sweet fragrance is divine and now is the time to do it.  In Southern California, the berries are at their peak now with the season rolling up the west coast over the next couple of months.  In today's LA Times David Karp writes about using your taste buds to pick the best berries.  Visual clues are of course important-humongous berries with hollow or white centers are a sure sign of a tasteless disappointment.  David said these bigger berries are the first to flower on the plant.  Growers like them because they are cheaper to harvest-less is more.   I always prefer the small or medium fruit to those engineered looking monsters and find the best ones are at my farmers' market.  Look for fully red berries that smell strongly of strawberry-I know, that sounds pretty obvious.  But, next time you're at the supermarket, pick up the plastic container of conventional strawberries and take whiff.  When it smells like nothing you'll know exactly what I'm taking about.  The best ways to eat fresh strawberries?  Quickly and straight up!  Strawberry Rhubarb tarts will do too.

A tagine is a North African braised dish, usually made with very slow cooked meat and served over couscous.  The fragrant spices, like cinnamon and cumin, give it a distinctive flavor while the slow braise gives the meat its melt-in-your-mouth consistency.  In today's NY Times Mark Bittman expedites the tagine by using chicken thighs, which cook much more quickly than the traditional lamb shoulder.  With the addition of chickpeas, dried apricots, and bulgur instead of couscous this is a one pot meal at its best.  Tagine is the name of the dish and the cooking vessel it is usually made in.  Bittman cooks his in a heavy saucepan instead, something all of us are more likely to have around.  The net?  Accessible and reasonably priced ingredients make this a stew that will transport you to Morocco in just about 45 minutes.

Meatballs are a sure fire family favorite at my house.  We eat them as-is, over pasta, or on top of polenta.  I make mine with a combination of beef, pork, and veal and always make sure I don't overmix so I get them nice and light.  In today's Chicago Tribune Diane Worthington writes about her version of simple and light meatballs.  The trick?  A combination of turkey and veal.  I have another friend who does this and I'll tell you from a taste test, they were amazing.  Generally not a fan of the turkey meatball (so dry!), I was won over by the addition of veal as it kept everything nice and tender.  Worthington goes a few steps further by adding Parmesan and Dijon along with grated carrots and zucchini.  The veggies give off moisture as they keep, keeping the meatballs from drying out.  Love the idea of this trick and I'm definitely trying it asap. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pizza Night

Pizza night at my house can mean one of three things: walking up the hill to Pizzeria Delfina, driving over to Little Star and picking up take-out, or making it all from scratch.  All three options are damn tasty, our decision depends on timing and our mood.  Tonight we opted for scratch and we were oh so glad we did.

For years I've been making a dough I adapted from an old Chez Panisse recipe.  The original recipe called for rye or whole wheat flour along with the white flour, I use only white.  I also find that in a place as humid as San Francisco I'm always adding a bit of extra flour to get the dough just right.  I also make 6 thin crust pies out of the recipe, which originally made 1 large one.  They are decidedly California style pizzas-very thin, super crisp around the edges, and not topped to the gills.

I made my dough around 1pm today and it rested and rose all afternoon. I find really fresh yeast and a slow rise always yield a dough that has better texture.  You can even let it rest in the fridge over night, just be sure it has an hour or two to come to room temp before you use it or it'll shrink up on you like crazy when you try to roll/stretch it.

We all like to make our own pies so I set out bowls of toppings to choose from.  Here's what I had tonight: spinach, arugula, tomato sauce (not pizza sauce!), sausage-partially cooked, thinly sliced zucchini, crumbled feta, grated mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, sliced cherry tomatoes, Bariani olive oil, and (not pictured)-sea salt and fresh mint.

Some more photos of our pizzas-

Zucchini, Feta, Grated Mozz, Mint, Arugula, and Olive Oil

Sausage. Spinach, Grated Mozz, and Tomato Sauce

Sausage, Cherry Tomatoes, Grated Mozz, and Fresh Spinach

If you haven't made homemade pizza, give it a try.  Here is my dough recipe-let me know what you think.

Homemade Pizza Dough (makes 6 8-inch very thin crust pizzas)
2 teaspoons dry yeast (or 1 envelope)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs warm water (about 100-105 degrees-not hotter)
2 cups flour
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
cornmeal, for pizza peel or cookie sheet

Combine the yeast, ¼ cup of the water and ¼ cup of the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Mix gently with a fork and let stand for 30-60 minutes to proof.  By the time it is finished resting small bubbles should form on the top to indicate your yeast is active (if this does not happen, use new yeast and try again).  Add the remaining ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of water, remaining 1¾ cups flour, olive oil, and salt.  Using the paddle attachment, mix until the dough ingredients are well incorporated.  Change to the dough hook and mix until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl without sticking, 3-5 minutes.  If the dough is still very sticky at this point, add a bit more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is tacky but not sticky-you may need as much as 1/4 cup additional flour.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead by hand for a minute or two until the dough is smooth.  Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl, turning it around to oil it on all sides.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size, at least 1-1/2 hours.  If not using dough right away, the covered bowl can be refrigerated overnight or, the unrisen dough can be frozen.  Bring dough to room temperature and rise before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Place your oven rack on the lowest part of the oven and put your pizza stone on the rack.  Preheat the oven to as hot as your oven goes (not "broil") for at least 30 minutes-it should be screaming hot!  When ready to make your pizzas, divide the dough into 6 even pieces.  Place them on a lightly floured work surface and cover with a lightly floured clean kitchen towel.  Remove one piece of dough and roll it into a rough circle, about 6 inches (shape isn't really a big deal).  Pick up the dough and holding the edges, gently turn it in a circle, stretching it a bit as you go-it should be about 2 inches larger when you are done-very thin so you can see through it but no holes.  Cover a wooden pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet with a thin layer of cornmeal (or flour).  Transfer the dough to the peel and shake it gently to be sure the dough is loose and not sticking anywhere.  Brush the edges of the dough with oil (or the entire thing if not using tomato sauce) and top as desired.  Open the oven and slide the dough off the peel and onto the stone, starting at the back of the oven and pulling the peel forwards.  Cook until the pizza is nicely browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Remove it from the oven using two large spatulas or another pizza peel.  Let the pizza rest for about 1 minutes before slicing the repeat the process with the remaining dough and toppings.


Staying in Touch

In these days of electronic media, it seems we can stay in touch every moment of the day.  I've resisted much of it, feeling old and slow, but finally realize it's about time I get with the program.

In addition to this blog, I've created a few other outposts from which you can keep up to speed on what I'm doing in the world of food: classes, book signings, new dishes, etc. 

On Facebook, there is now a Jodi Liano fan page.  Check it out and become a fan.

On Twitter, you can follow me here (@cookingteach)

Hope you'll stay in touch!

Happy cooking...Jodi

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Reporting from sunny Santa Monica today!  Had some amazing food at Tavern in Bretnwood last night.  It is Suzanne Goin's most recent project-the room is just stunning and the standout dish?  A poached egg dredged in buttered bread crumbs and fried, perched atop huge spears of grilled asparagus and soft polenta.  The dish was topped with shaves of fresh Parm and when we broke into the egg and ate a bite of everything together it was heaven.  Even my son said "we better order another one of these!"

Speaking of L.A. and asparagus, Russ Parsons, in today's LA Times explores the ease of this vegetable, at its peak right now.  When you go to the market to pick some up, be sure to look for spears with tight flowers on top-as they get old the flower begins to open and sprout, not a good sign.  I used to be a fan of the pencil thin spears but have realized over the years that the big ol' thick ones are packed with a lot more flavor.  Be sure to cut off the bottom inch of two of the stem and if the spear looks to be much thicker on the bottom than the top, use a vegetable peeler to shave it down so it's all even.  For a new, and very easy, way to cook your spears, try Russ' version of Steamed Asparagus with Brown Butter Sauce.  Simple on its own, he also mentions the variation he tried by topping it with a poached (or fried) egg.  Break that yolk and it'll combine with the brown butter sauce to taste as rich as hollandaise.  Add a big salad and you've got dinner (although some bread to drag through that sauce might be necessary too).  Remember, asparagus has about one month of high season and this is it-head to your farmers' market and get some soon.

I love Melissa Clark's "Good Appetite" column in the NY Times. She knows how real people cook and her Carrot and Tahini Soup with Pita Crisps is no exception.  Her inspiration for creating the recipe?  It was her daughter's love of hummus and her sneaking suspicion that she could get those flavors into other, more nutritional dishes.  Kids love soup-I am a huge fan of packing them full of veggies and grains.  Melissa's soup combines fresh carrots with tahini, the sesame paste used to turn chickpeas into hummus.  It's easy to find at any market these days-look for it by the peanut butters, and is full of nutrients much like other nuts and seeds.   This soup uses loads of garlic plus coriander and a dash of turmeric to bring out that vibrant carrot-orange.  The verdict?  Melissa was a huge fan but her toddler still wanted her hummus.  If I know Melissa, she'll keep trying on this one but in the meantime, she'll enjoy the soup herself.  And you should too.

When I was in culinary school we had to make so much pate au choux I swore I'd never make, or eat, the stuff again.  This is the dough that transforms from butter/water/flour/eggs into gougeres, profiteroles, or cream puffs.  The problem is, the dough is so simple and bakes up so beautifully, it's hard to avoid.  I've had the amazing version at Delfina, filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds-it's well worth an exception to my rule.  I've also made many a gougere, a savory version full of Gruyere cheese and perfect with a glass of champagne.  The San Francisco Chronicle looks at how Bay Area chefs bake up their pate au choux.  Tons of recipes to motivate even me to make it again: Gnocchi a la Parisienne (poached pate au choux served with a rich cheese sauce), Gougeres (those savory cheese puffs, which you can freeze unbaked and pop in the oven when you need them), Profiteroles a la Delfina (make that chocolate sauce and fill 'em with coffee ice cream), and even Beignets from Gerald Hirigoyen (a fried version dusted with sugar and flavored with orange blossom).  Time to bring back the pate au choux!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Monday, April 5, 2010


Farro is a native Italian grain that you should absolutely have in your pantry.  Think barley's big brother-each grain is a bit larger and a bit more toothsome, much like spelt or a wheat berry.  The brand I buy is the Bartolini Farro-it always cooks perfectly and I'm finding it in more and more markets these days.  When we're all trying to eat more whole grains, it's a must to keep a few kinds on hands for soups, stews, and side dishes. 

Tonight I used a basic risotto technique to cook my farro-farrotto.  I began by par-boiling the grain for 15 minutes which helps it absorb stock and cook more quickly.  After draining it, I tossed it with a drizzle of good olive oil and set it aside for a few hours (always prepping ahead!).  When it came time for dinner, I sauteed some minced garlic in olive oil over medium low heat, just until fragrant.  I tossed in a pint of halved cherry tomatoes (come summer this will be mixed colors of heirlooms).  A quick stir and in went 2 cups of the farro.  I made sure to mix it enough so that each grain was coated with olive oil (and a good pinch of salt and pepper).  In another pot I heated 3-4 cups of chicken stock (veggie broth would work well too).  Just like risotto, I added the warm stock, 1 ladleful at a time, until the farro absorbed all the liquid.  About 20 minutes later, the farro was perfectly al dente and had absorbed all my ladles of stock.  It was tender with just a bit of a bite.  I folded in about 1/4 cup of fresh pesto and a handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

The result was delicious.  My son loved it, my guests loved it, and I loved it.  Look for farro at your market and let me know what you do with it.  I'm sure it'll become a new favorite, if it isn't already.

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