Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Whether you're beating the heat on the west coast or dodging the rain out east, here are a few tasty tidbits to keep you satisfied.

Homemade Ricotta...sound daunting?  Think again!  A few easy steps, and ingredients from your local market, and you're good to go.  Really-it's that easy, and oh so good.  Russ Parsons, known for his thorough and expert testing of recipes, dives into the process and writes all about it in today's LA Times.  The process boils down to this (no pun intended): buttermilk and whole milk are cooked to 185 degrees (less than a boil), a bit of white vinegar is added, and after five short minutes you're skimming gorgeous cheese out of your pot.  It is heads and shoulders above the supermarket stuff.  In fact it is so good it's a shame to use it as an ingredient-it really should be elevated to the star of a dish.  I like mine on toasted baguette with sliced radishes, good olive oil, and sea salt.  Russ gives a few other alternatives too: Roasted Peppers Stuffed with Homemade Ricotta and Ricotta-Honey Gelato with Orange. Whatever you decide to do with it, definitely give it a try.  You'll fall in love with the results.

Seems Roman food is taking the food scene by storm.  High on the critic's lists is Maialino, Danny Meyer's latest venture in Manhattan.   I haven't been but loved reading about Melissa Clark's experience with an incredible bowl of seasonal Minestrone soup.   In fact, she was so satisfied with her seasonal bowl of veggies and broth she tackled the recipe at home and created a more straight forward and rustic version, topped with an almond pistou (French-style pesto).  She adds fresh shell beans (such as the beautiful pink spotted cranberry beans) but if you cant find them at your farmers' market, stirring in canned beans towards the end would work in a pinch. Like Russ at the LA Times, Melissa, at the NY Times writes a thorough and fab recipe yet again.

When schnitzel is done well it is absolute perfection.  Made with veal, pork, or even (bucking tradition entirely) chicken, the boneless meat is pounded thin, coated in breadcrumbs, and quickly fried.  Usually served simply with a drizzle of lemon, my favorite is at Suppenkuche where it's generous, filling, and crunchy every time.  In the San Francisco Chronicle there is a simple do-it-yourself version of Wiener Schnitzel just in time for Oktoberfest.  This is quick weeknight eating at its best and may just show up on my table tonight.  Cheers!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

The latest and greatest from your favorite newspaper food sections.  I'm feeling like these three recipes would make a seriously yummy late summer picnic. 

This post went up on the New York Times site a few days ago.  When I watched Mark Bittman's video, I was sold.  Homemade Almond Apricot Granola Bars that really could not be any easier.  If you can make old fashioned Rice Krispy treats you can surely make these bars.  No baking involved!  His "glue" to pull together the (brown) rice cereal, almonds, granola, and apricots is melted almond butter and honey.  Clearly this recipe is a base that should inspire tons of variations-peanut butter, agave, dried cherries, raisins, pistachios, pecans, even mini chocolate chips if you want to go there.  In any case, making them yourself will leave you that much more confident about what's going in the bars and, frankly, they look a whole lot tastier than anything from the store. 

I have a thing for roasted cauliflower.  Steam the stuff and I want nothing to do with it.  But, pop it in a hot oven and roast it until it caramelizes and I could eat it every night.  It's no surprise I immediately fell for this salad in the LA Times, Curried Cauliflower Salad.  First you toast cashews with a little curry powder and maple syrup (see, you know it's going to be good!).  Then the cauliflower is given some serious seasoning and roasted in a hot oven.  Add bell pepper, peas, dried apricot, and cilantro plus a very basic vinaigrette and this beauty comes together.  I also love the "refrigerate for a couple of hours" part-not only will it taste better but anything I can make in advance always finds a place in my repertoire.

Puff Pastry is a pantry staple.  You should always have a box in your freezer for go to tarts, both sweet and savory.  Find a good brand that's made with as few ingredients as possible-preferably butter, flour, and salt.  That supermarket brand you've probably been buying for years?  Well, believe it or not it has no butter in it at all!  I'm fairly sure any French pastry chef would be appalled at the use of vegetable shortening instead of butter.  Dufour makes a lovely one and occasionally you can find an all butter version at Trader Joe's (a great deal when its around).  In any case, if you've got some in your freezer, thaw it out, roll it into a rectangle, and use this recipe (from The Seattle Times via Everyday Food) to smother it in tomatoes and goat cheese.  A little grainy mustard and sour cream will be lovely with the sweet tomatoes and I think the tart could be served right out of the oven, pizza style, or cooled to room temperature.  Much like the granola bars, a sheet of puff pastry can become the base for infinite kitchen ideas.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wok Smoked Salmon

When I was in culinary school I learned this fantastic method for stove-top smoking.  No special equipment needed and it works well for duck, chicken, name it.   I bought a beautiful piece of salmon this afternoon and I thought I'd smoke it for dinner.

It starts like this...put 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of sugar in a dish and coat your skin-on salmon fillets with the mixture.  Put it in the fridge and let it rest for about 45 minutes.  Rinse the mixture off the fish and pat it very dry.

Next, line your heaviest wok with heavy duty foil, overhanging the sides 2-3 inches all around.  Inside the wok, put about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup of white rice, and which ever aromatics you want to infuse into your fish.  Tonight I used lemon zest but black tea and star anise are two other favorites of mine.  It will look this this:

Next, cover the wok tightly, wrapping the foil around the lid to be sure the seal is tight.  Turn the heat on high.  While you're at it, turn your hood fan on high and open the windows-this baby will (and should) smoke!  The sugar melts and begins to smoke like crazy.  The rice is in there to ensure it doesn't burn.  Once you see a lot of smoke coming from the wok, 3-4 minutes later, take off the lid and make sure you have a molten mixture in the bottom.  Now, put the fish on a small round rack that fits into your wok without touching the sugar/rice mixture.  Place it in, cover the wok again, and wrap the lid with the foil.  For every inch of thickness, your salmon will smoke 6-7 minutes. Here's what you should see:

The fish is done when just a tiny bit of the opaque fat rises to the surface and a knife inserted into the center comes in and out with no resistance.  Turn off the heat and remove the fish with a flat spatula, leaving the skin behind.  It takes on a gorgeous amber hue and the smoke that infuses into the fish is amazing.  Here's what you'll get:

We enjoyed every last morsel of ours with basmati rice and sauteed sugar snap peas.  If you can wait, the fish is also great cold and served with bagels and cream cheese. 

Very impressive and very tasty!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cookbook Club-Rick Bayless

If you're a regular reader of my blog you know about my cookbook club.  Maybe you've read about us gathering to cook from, and chat about, our favorite cookbooks, such as: Ad Hoc at Home, Insalata's Mediterranean Table, A Platter of Figs, or the A16 Cookbook.  This is an amazing group of cooks and diving into a book head first is so much fun when you've got your friends around to do it with you.

This month we took on Rick Bayless.  Rather than limit ourselves to one of his amazing titles, we opened it up to any of them.   If you haven't cooked or eaten Rick's food you're missing out.  His restaurants in Chicago are absolutely stellar and his recipes bring Mexico to your kitchen with detailed instructions and outstanding explanations along the way.  I had the pleasure, along with Kelly who's also in the cookbook club, of doing some food styling for Rick many years ago when he was doing several appearances in the Bay Area.  I can't think of a more gracious or humble food personality (and I've worked with plenty).  James Bead award winner, TV star, chef, restaurateur, cooking teacher, writer, and so much more...he was destined to inspire a wonderful meal.  And it absolutely was.

We ate SO much I'm not entirely sure where to begin.  I'll break it down by book and we'll see how that goes:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Welcome to my weekly post of the best of the best from newspaper food sections.  I read the papers, find what I love, and bring it here.  Saves you the time of culling through everything, and hopefully I'll turn you on to some new dishes you might not have found.  Enjoy!

Fresh herbs and tomatillos are whirled together in the blender to create this vibrant Mexican sauce for shrimp from today's NY Times. Tomatillos, resembling green tomatoes but actually more closely related to the gooseberry, should be bought fresh in the produce section with their husks still attached.  Always rinse them well under warm water as they tend to have a sticky film on their skins.  They can be a bit on the tart side so you'll often see recipes balancing this with a pinch of sugar.  This recipe calls for no sugar but when you taste your sauce, feel free to add a bit if it seems a little too bitter.  Pick up some excellent corn tortillas, make a pot of black beans or a quick cabbage slaw and this dinner will be on your table in under 30 minutes.

For another quick weeknight dinner, try these Kofta Kebabs in the Washington Post.  Ground lamb is given African seasonings, with a big kick of heat, and formed onto metal skewers.  They're a bit like oval shaped meatballs but the habanero, cinnamon, curry powder, and cloves will transport you far, far from Italy.  If the heat of the habanero isn't your thing, a bit of seeded jalapeno can be used in its place to tame the fire.  When I make dishes like this, although they come together very quickly, I like to make the meat mixture early in the morning and let it sit in the fridge all day.  The meat absorbs the spices better and the flavors really shine through.  The Post also has a recipe for Zucchini with Bulgur which would be a lovely companion to the kofta.  

If you've got a bit more time to spend in the kitchen, why not fire up a batch of Rosemary Foccacia?  In London's Guardian Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes all about rosemary.  If you're ever thinking of planting an herb, this one grows like a weed no matter how weak your gardening skills are (take it from one who knows).  Who knew that "Rosemary was burned in courtrooms and hospitals to purify the air and ward off infection, and it was even believed to prevent the bubonic plague – in 1603, when the plague polished off 38,000 Londoners, the price of rosemary rose from one shilling for an armful to six shillings for a few sprigs (and you could buy a pig for about a shilling back then)."  Well, these days the herb has a more humble place, in the kitchen, and I think this foccacia is one of the best places to let it shine.  Warm out of the oven, toasted for breakfast, or crisped for croutons-who doesn't love homemade foccacia? 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Brown Rice and Kale Gratin-from Hippy to Hip

(photo courtesy of Molly at Joie de Vivre)

This recipe should sound like one of those crunchy hippy recipes someone made in a co-op before serving carob brownies for dessert, right?  Think again my friends!  I've grown to love, love, love brown rice over the past few years (my sure-fire method for cooking it is here) and kale is high on the list too.  My tastes have migrated from spinach to chard to kale (and even through in dandelion and beet greens on occasion).  Any of those greens would work in this dish (even broccoli if the kids are more likely to eat it).

When a friend in Seattle told me about the Fresh Kale and Brown Rice gratin from Beecher's Handmade Cheese I was hooked.  Now, I live in San Francisco but my heart is in my hometown of Seattle.  I even know one of the guys behind Beecher's and have followed their massive rise to success over the years.  If you're in Pike Place Market, be sure to check them out, and use their cheese in this recipe if you can get it. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Free Saturday Leads to Sunday Supper

Friday afternoon my husband and son took off on a camping trip.  That left me with most of my weekend totally free.  A luxury, I know.  You might think I'm crazy but I didn't rush to the mall for a shopping extravaganza or check in to the local spa.  I did have dinner with my sweet friend on Friday night but Saturday was definitely a Jodi day.  If that doesn't mean shopping or getting a massage, what does it mean?  Well, if you know me you probably know exactly what I did...rolled up my sleeves and spent the day in the kitchen.  I listened to a lot of this music, all the songs my son and husband roll their eyes at every time they come on...again. 

I'd seen a recipe on the Food &Wine blog this week for Lasagna Verde Alla Bolognese.  Jonathan Benno (of Per Se fame) talked about his upcoming NY restaurant, Lincoln and gave up this signature recipe.  This felt like "cold weather and a fire" dinner,  exactly the opposite of SF on Saturday.  I'm not sure why it grabbed me but it did.    

I have my own Bolognese lasagna, a la Marcella Hazan, that I've been making for years.  Her sauce is a stand out and layered with sheets of fresh pasta its fantastic.  But, hey, why not shake things up and try something new?  The "verde" part of Benno's recipe is the spinach pasta.  I decided to make it from scratch-why not?  No one was home and I had nothing but solo time..ahhh.  I made a two egg batch, adding about 1 cup spinach that I wilted and finely chopped.  A couple cups of flour, a drizzle of extra virign olive oil, and a pinch of salt.  The dough was perfect and rolled out beautifully on my Kitchen Aid pasta roller.  As per the recipe, I did give it a quick boil before layering it in the lasagna (I skipped the "toss in oil" direction and just put the sheets on kitchen towels).  Bugialli and Hazan say the same thing, although I know some people think you can skip this step when using fresh pasta.  Take a peak:

(More after the jump...incl. lots more pictures!)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Now that most kids are back to school, my morning run to the market is full of parents loading their carts.  School lunches, afternoon snacks, and family dinner...I hope today's installment of "What I'm Reading Today" will give you a few new ideas to inspire your home cooking.

Soup is definitely in the air.  I ran into a friend yesterday and we both agreed, looking at the morning fog, it was time to make more soup.  My favorite these days is still this Curried Cauliflower Soup but in today's Los Angeles Times another simple pureed soup caught my eye: Leek, Apple, and Thyme.  A classic combination for fall, this is a study in perfect balance of flavor.  Leeks, tasting of mild onion, sweet early apples, and the citrus flavors of fresh thyme...simmer them together for 45 minutes (throwing in a potato to get that silky smooth consistency) and you've got soup.  This is the type of dish I make in double or triple batches as it freezes beautifully.  I'd even send it to school in the thermos.  This version is topped with some crispy frizzled leeks but I think I'd like mine with a little Gruyere crouton.

When my schedule gets really crazy I often turn to "breakfast for dinner": eggs, pancakes, frittatas, a Dutch Baby, or crepes.  I always have eggs and milk in my fridge so these are the easy standbys.  However, seeing Mark Bittman's Southwestern Potatoes in today's New York Times I may just have another fall back.  I've always got a few potatoes, canned beans, and cheddar at home.  And these days corn is still dirt cheap and mighty sweet, so a few ears are in my market basket each week.  What I love about his recipe is the lesson in patience.  Bad fried potatoes are soft and mushy.  When they're cooked well, they have a crispy, crunchy exterior with tender potato on the inside.  They're hard to find at restaurants because I think many breakfast cooks don't have the time it takes to do them right.  Bittman talks about letting the potatoes cook undisturbed, waiting at least 10 minutes before giving them a flip.  This gives them a chance to really crisp up, making this entire dish that much better.  His crunchy potatoes are topped with black beans, corn, jalapeno, and cilantro.  I'd gild the lily with a poached egg and call that breakfast, lunch, or dinner any day.

(from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster)

One of my all time favorite cookbooks if Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster.  If you're lucky enough to live in Durham, North Carolina maybe you've been to her Foster's Market.  If not, you can live vicariously through her stunning cookbooks.  I was thrilled today to see this recipe for Fried Green Tomato and Red Tomato Salad With Goat Cheese and Basil Vinaigrette nestled amongst a handful of other great tomato recipes in today's Philadephia Inquirer.  This is a perfect vegetarian main course, filling and bursting with flavor.  If it makes your mouth water like it does mine, check out the book.  You'll love it.
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

It's back to school and "normal" life as I know it.  Summer was amazing but it's funny how a parent begins to crave that routine of the school year.  Give me a few weeks...I'm sure I'll be missing those lazy days in no time.

It's warm and sunny in SF but, as we locals know, that doesn't last long.  The next time the fog rolls in I'm making this ragu.  To me "ragu" implies meat that's been cooked slow and low, coaxing out its incredible flavor and creating the melt-in-my-mouth texture I adore.  It's braising at its best and the Italians do it right.  In today's LA Times there is a recipe for Lamb Ragu from Orange County's Pizzeria Ortica.  Slow cooked lamb shanks with red wine and a hint of both cinnamon and juniper...if that doesn't taste like fall I don't know what does.  


Romesco sauce is one of my favorite condiments.  The Spanish sauce is thick and rich, made from a combination of roasted peppers, tomatoes, almonds, and bread.  It's got a bit of a kick but I wouldn't call it spicy.  It's packed with flavor and perfect with the smokiness of anything off the grill.  In today's NY Times Martha Rose Shulman writes about an annual ritual in Catalonia, Spain called cal├žotada.  Fresh spring onions are grilled, wrapped in newspapers to steam, and served in huge piles on tables with tons of romesco for dipping.  She brings the dish state-side for her Grilled Leeks with Romesco, steamed first then grilled for the smoke.  Try to find small leeks for this recipe-they are tender throughout so you'll have a lot more to eat.   And save any leftover'll find plenty of places to use it.

Happy Reading & Happy Cooking!

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