Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I spent the morning talking Eggs with Betsy Karetnick of Everyday Food on Martha Stewart Radio.  She's fantastic and if you have satellite radio, take the time to tune into her show.  It's full of great, practical tips you'll use all the time in your kitchen.  Dial it up and check it out.  In the meantime, here's what I'm reading today.

In Sunday's NY Times Pete Wells wrote about the ubiquitous chicken nugget and how fascinated our kids are with the crispy mystery meat.  While taking a stance not to serve them at home, he set about trying to find an alternative his boys would love.  I'm totally sold on his pick, Brooklyn Bowl Fried Chicken.  The recipe skips all those extra steps of brining, buttermilk soaking, marinating, etc. and simply takes bone-on chicken pieces and dips them in egg whites then a mix of matzoh meal and flour.  Fried in veg oil then coated with a simple spice mixture, he drizzles it with honey and, come on, who could resist that?  It's my next fried chicken project and my son better love it as much as his did because I've got a feeling it'll become a regular around here.

More chicken?  Well, I couldn't resist this Cuban version from El Colmao in Los Angeles, via the LA Times.  Pollo al Comao is chicken that's baked slowly then braised on the stove top with a chile spiked tomato sauce.  Finished with briny olives, and served with black beans and rice, it's hearty cold weather food at its finest.  Just look at it--Yum.

You know I love pureed vegetable soups and cauliflower might be my fave.  This very simple vegetarian Cauliflower Pesto Soup from The Washington Post is topped with a deconstructed pesto (read: basil and toasted pine nuts) but that easy garnish is what makes it special.  The crunch of the nuts and the freshness of the basil will be perfection with the silky soup.  Pair it with a crunchy salad (I'm loving this escarole salad from the February Bon Appetit) and you've got dinner.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Martha Stewart Radio...and Me!

 Did you know Martha Stewart had her own station on satellite radio?  Of course you did, she's got it going on all over the place.  Well, this Tuesday I'll be interviewed on the "Everyday Food" show, 9:15 pacific time and 12:15 eastern.  The topic will be Eggs for Dinner and since my book, Eggs, is being released (outside of Williams Sonoma) this March, they figured I might be able to shed a little light on the subject.

If you have Sirius radio, it's channel 112 and on XM radio it's channel 157.  If you are not a subscriber, the best and only way to listen is to get a free 30 day subscription at here**. 

Hope you'll give me a listen.
**Be sure to read the fine print and cancel at the end of your trial period if you don't want to be automatically billed.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bon Appétit

Many of you have heard of the changes taking place at Bon Appétit .  I for one am anxious and excited to see what becomes of the magazine with Adam Rapoport at the helm.  I mean who doesn't need a style make-over from the former style editor at GQ, right?

The February issue begins the transition to the new team and I am thrilled to be part of it. 

If you have your issue, turn to page 68 to see my article.  Called Without Reservations, I created a Valentine's dinner menu for two to keep you from the hassles of those overbooked and overpriced  restaurants that never end up being as great as you'd hoped.  This year make dinner for your sweetie and eat in.  How does this menu sound?

It's my first article in the magazine, hopefully more to come.  Bon Appétit is a magazine I grew up with and I still feel it's the best place for home cooks to turn for weeknight inspiration as well as special recipes that wow.  It's cooking from the pantry at its finest and I look forward to seeing it move onto this next phase of its life.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Well, it is.  Protein in the morning kick starts your day like nothing else, giving you the energy you need when the caffeine wears off and keeping you on track for the chaos that is your morning.  Eggs are a great bet, like the Balsamic Fried Eggs from San Francisco's Foreign Cinema.  But that's not all...in today's San Francisco Chonicle you'll find a slide show with 15 different easy breakfast ideas, from Green Smoothies to Ricotta Pancakes, even a Quinoa and Berry Parfait.  After reading this article recently where it mentions one in five of us get our breakfast at McDonald's I think everyone deserves a little kitchen inspiration when it comes to that oh so important meal. 

I taught a class all about veggies last night and the favorite recipe of the evening was a celery root soup-made very simply with celery root, shallots, and celery sauteed in butter until tender, simmered in water, and pureed.  The citrus flavor that comes from celery root manages to be rich and light at the same time.  In today's New York Times this Celery Root, Potato, and Apple Puree caught my eye.    I've been loving Martha Rose Shulman's "Recipes for Health" column lately because she manages to write healthful recipes that actually look, sound, and taste appealing-no sacrificing taste for nutrition here.  This mashed potato alternative will not only be lighter than your usual butter and cream filled batch (not that there's anything wrong with those), but the apple and celery root create a dish that has big flavor.  I think mashed potatoes are often a vehicle for something else-sauces or stews-but not necessarily tasty on their own.  Adding celery root and apple makes this a dish that can now stand on it's own...welcome to the table mashed potatoes.

Over in the UK, the Guardian's Marcus Wareing writes a series of quick and easy dinner recipes.  I particularly liked today's Brussels Sprouts, Chorizo, and Barley "Hot Pot".  Not a hot pot in the true Asian sense but, an almost-one-pot meal that needs little else to become a filling and delicious dinner.  Pearl barley is simmered while chorizo and caramelized onions mingle with a little tomato and smoky paprika.  It all gets tossed together with golden Brussels sprouts to become almost paella like in its flavors by the end.  I love his suggestion to substitute sun dried tomatoes for the chorizo if you want to keep this vegetarian, but I can't personally imagine forgoing the chorizo...that's just me.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls

In the January issue of Food & Wine, their amazing recipe czar Grace Parisi wrote about using frozen fruit in the winter.  I loved it because apple and pears start to wear on me pretty quickly, and I always keep my freezer stocked with IQF berries.  IQF means individually quick frozen which means they were frozen individually before being packaged, preventing a giant ice block of berries and keeping each one nice and distinct from the rest. 

The recipe that grabbed me were these Raspberry Swirl Sweet Rolls.  Being a total sucker for an amazing cinnamon roll, I knew I'd have to try them.  Think cinnamon roll dough stuffed with juicy berries instead of gooey sugar.  The dough was perfection-brioche like with eggs and butter and super easy to work with every step of the way.  The filling is simply berries, sugar, and a bit of cornstarch.  I rolled and cut mine, put them in the fridge over night, and let them rise again on the counter this morning.  After baking and frosting them I have to tell you, WOW!  The dough it light and not too sweet and the filling is all about the berries.  I think the best part is the juice from the berries that sunk to the bottom of the pan.  It soaks into the buns so that each bite you take is bursting with sweet raspberry juiciness...heavenly. 

Instead of inverting the finished rolls, I cut them apart and put them on a sil-pat lined baking sheet (I didn't want that gooey raspberry bottom sticking to anything).  I frosted them with the glaze and we'll see how long they last.  While the last thing we need around here is a big batch of sweet rolls, I've got a feeling these might vanish before I can give them away.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Soup-er Way to Eat your Veggies

Cooking without a recipe is something I'd love to see everyone do more of in 2011.  Start here with pureed vegetable soup-nothing could be easier.  Etching the basic steps in your memory will allow you to raid your fridge and pantry and pull together a fantastic meal any day of the week, no recipes needed.

The first step is to think about what's in season.  Right now that means winter squash, root vegetables, mushrooms, broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower (like my Curried Cauliflower Soup, above), and anything else that grabs you at the farmers' market. If you're a smart shopper some of these veg are already in your kitchen, right?  Good answer!

Next, start with a dice of onion and celery.  If you want, a bit of minced garlic, shallot, or a diced carrot go along way in adding flavor too.  If you don't have them, no worries.  Saute these aromatics in some olive oil and/or butter (with a pinch of salt) until they're tender.  Now, pick your veg of choice and cut it into bite sized pieces.  Remember, this soup will get pureed so perfect knife skills don't matter here but the more evenly sized the pieces are the more likely they'll cook at the same rate (plus, smaller pieces cook much faster).  Saute the veg pieces with the aromatics for a few minutes then add your liquid.  This can be stock (chicken, beef, veggie, or mushroom all work) or even water.  Stock contributes great flavor while water lets the veg be the true star.  A combination of both works too.  Add enough liquid to submerge your veggies, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are very tender.  The time it takes depends on what you're cooking-squash will take a whole lot longer than mushrooms.  Just taste them occasionally and you'll get there in 15-30 minutes.  Once everything is very soft, puree the soup with an immersion blender or by transferring it (in batches) to a regular blender.  Return the soup to the pot, taste it and season with salt and pepper (a squeeze of lemon is nice too).  Occasionally it's too thick and needs a bit more liquid.  If it isn't thick enough for you, continue to simmer it, reducing it down for a bit more depth.  Another trick is to add a peeled, diced potato to the soup before pureeing-this gives it a lot more body and, in my opinion, a lovely, silky mouth feel at the end.

Once you have the technique down you can play with lots of flavors.  Adding curry paste to the aromatics and using some coconut milk for the liquid creates a nice Thai influence.  Miso and dashi go beautifully with mushrooms for a Japanese influenced soup.  Chili flakes and anchovy paste punch up broccoli or broccoli rabe-drizzle with lemon juice and your favorite olive oil here too.

Because pureed soups are very smooth, I like to garnish them with something that adds a bit of texture-buttery toasted croutons, fried sage leaves, roasted nuts, or thin crisp breadsticks.  Add a lightly dressed bowl of greens and dinner is done. 

Would love to hear about your favorite veggie soup-what's cooking at your house?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Sorry for the delayed post.  I spent my morning speaking at my son's school on the importance of family dinners and cooking at home.   It was a good reality check for me as I often forget that many, many people depend on restaurants, deli counters, and take out for dinner, eating their food on the run and rarely sitting down for a home cooked meal.  Make it a goal in 2011 to sit down and eat with your family or friends more often.  It's amazing what happens when you enjoy a home cooked meal together!

I talked a lot this morning about incorporating whole grains into meals and the idea that soups are the perfect vehicle for them, especially grains like quinoa, bulgar, farro, or rice.  In today's NY Times Martha Rose Shulman, who's ears must have been burning, writes about Healthy Soups with Grains.  These are what I call "whole meal" soups, dishes you can call dinner without making sides and salads to go along with them them.  They're deeply satisfying and good for you, what's better than that in the middle of winter?  I'm loving the Chicken Soup with Lemon and Bulgar as well as the Farro and Vegetable Soup with dried porcinis for deep, rich umami flavor.   Keep whole grains on hand and soups like these are incredibly simple to put together any night of the week.

Green enchiladas work well for family dinner because you can adjust the heat to please those pickier taste buds, you can prepare them (in large part) ahead of time, and with some warmed black beans and a jicama salad, dinner is served!  From the LA Times, this recipe is anchored by a homemade salsa verde, loaded with tomatillos.  It calls for 8-10 serranos, which would pack an insane amount of heat so I'd suggest starting with a few less and passing the rest on the side for those brave eaters at your table.  And remember, always make your enchiladas with corn tortillas.  Trying this with the flour-based version will bake up into a mushy mess that wont be nearly as beautiful as it should be. 

If you're trying to cut down on the red meat (a good new year's resolution for all of us), this Turkey Scaloppine with Steakhouse Mushrooms and Onions will absolutely satisfy your cravings.   Turkey cutlets, pieces of the breast, are pounded out very thin and quickly browned in a saute pan.  The mushrooms and onions roast in the oven for lots of caramelization and it's another quick weeknight dinner, thanks to The Washington Post.  I'd serve mine with some broccoli or Swiss chard and a big salad.  Who needs a steak, let alone a steak house, when you can cook like this at home?

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Welcome to 2011.  If you're new to my site, I'm glad you're here.  My Wednesday posts are my take on the best of the best in the week's food media.  Traditionally, food stories are printed each Wednesday in major newspapers.  While this has changed in some cities, I still think it is the perfect day to be inspired by new recipes.  I cull through what's out there and pick the three recipes I think my readers would most enjoy-delicious and fresh, usually simple but I'll occasionally throw in a challenge.  Saving you the time it takes to wade through everything, here's your curated version of this Wednesday in food.  Enjoy.

Melissa Clark, of The New York Times, never dissapoints.  Her "A Good Appetite" column always has recipes for the busy cook that are exactly what I love to eat.  This week it's a Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Walnuts, Watercress, and Gruyere.  Roasting cauliflower is the perfect way to bring out it's sweetness and I think it converts people who swear they don't eat the stuff to fans after just one bite.  In the time it takes the cauliflower to roast (about 30 minutes) you can prep the rest of the salad, pour a glass of wine, and toast some crusty bread.  It's the ideal dinner on a Meatless Monday or serve it with a braised winter stew for a more hearty meal.

I read many food magazines from the UK and Australia.  One thing that always strikes me is the inherent assumption that readers have at least a clue about cooking.  Directions are always less intensive, terms like "deglaze" and "cream together" are used without three additional sentences explaining exactly what to do.  When I read this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Mud Cake in The London Observer what struck me was not only how easy it is but that in the US this recipe would probably have had five more steps of explicit directions.  This is what scares people away from baking. But, read through it and you'll realize a moist, chocolatey, rum frosted cake is just a couple bowls and one hour away-and all that in one paragraph of a recipe.  

For an uber-quick weeknight meal, here is Honey Mustard Glazed Grilled Salmon, from The Atlanta Journal Constitution.  Love recipes that take less than a half-hour to make, especially when you can throw the rest of your meal together at the same time.  With four ingredients you're sure to have on hand, a beautiful piece of fish can be glazed and grilled (even broiling or roasting would work) in about 15 minutes.  I'd serve mine with a salad of avocado and grapefruit and some quinoa or brown rice.  Any fish works here too-sure, everyone loves salmon, but ask your fish monger for his or her recommendations based on the best local fish in your area.  If you have an iphone, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Seafood Watch" app is the perfect way to educate yourself about smart fish choices.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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