Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Today we're talking seafood.  We should all eat more of it, right?  If ever you're concerned about which fish are best to eat (because trust me-many are not so good), check out Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You can even download their app to your phone so when you're at the fish market you know you're making smart decisions.

Cioppino is what you might call San Francisco-Italian-Portuguese food.  The name is derived from the Italian word for "chopped" and the dish dates back as far as the late 1800s.  The different versions of this rich tomato seafood stew are astounding.  It's my dad's favorite and I know he's tried every bowl he can get his hands on, but him making it from scratch is always the best.  So when Russ Parsons of the LA Times decided to tackle cioppino, I knew I had to check it out.  First he writes a general method for creating your own signature batch.  I love when he says "there is not an ingredient that can't be questioned".  In other words, make it your own.  That said, if you're the recipe type and want a base from which to cook, try his actual recipe.  I'd leave out the bell pepper but, I don't think he'd mind.


I love chowder.  It's the Seattle girl in me, no doubt about that, we grew up eating it all the time.  A few years ago I found a recipe for chowder with salmon-I started teaching it in my cooking classes and it was an instant hit.  This Salmon Chowder, from The Washington Post, is equally as simple but the addition of bacon and clam juice will give it even more flavor.  There is also heavy cream, a good cup and half of the stuff, so this isn't your every night soup.   I think half-and-half would work just fine (a little less rich but still nice and thick).  You thicken the soup w/flour and butter at the end so even milk would probably do the trick. 


To round out this seafood edition, how about some coconut shrimp?  Since we paid homage to my dad's favorite dish, I think it's only fair we give my mom some love too.  She is a huge fan of coconut shrimp and can tell you from one bite if they're made with good quality shrimp and if the batter is just right.  They're a splurge in terms of calories but this is Oven Baked Coconut Shrimp, baked instead of fried so you can enjoy them a bit more often.  I like this version because it takes shell-on shrimp and brines them for a few hours first.  This keeps the shrimp nice and moist when they're baked, because no one likes shrimp that tastes like rubber bands.  A little sweet and spicy chili sauce on the side and I think this one might even pass my mom's test.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Old Friends and Cookies

Before I began my career in the culinary world, I spent many years at a desk doing a "real" job.  I have watched lots of ex co-workers climb their respective corporate ladders and seen a few of them do what I did, leave the office behind to follow a dream.

One of those people is Michael Pinckney of Pinckney Cookie Cafe.  Micheal worked his tail off in the corporate world for many years when he realized his signature chocolate chip cookie might just be more interesting to him.  He made the leap and started his cookie business, selling cookies online and in many Whole Foods (if you happen to be in the Seattle area).  We chatted last week and he told me about the business.  He's expanding it to carts, selling cookies along with milk, coffee, and cocoa on the streets of Seattle and beyond (more on that here).   He asked if he could send me some cookies and, if I was a fan, would I write about them.  I admitted I don't usually do this but, he's a friend and I do love a good cookie so here we are.
Here's what I love most about these cookies-they taste homemade.  They are rich, chewy, and not too sweet.  The softness of the cookie flirts with the texture of cookie dough (and, admit it, isn't eating the dough the best part anyways?).  I think they'd be unreal after a minute in a toaster oven. Right out of the package, they taste and feel very fresh, even with no preservatives in the ingredients at all.  And speaking of ingredients, nothing you wont recognize here-same stuff you use to bake cookies at home.  There is the Classic Chocolate Chip but the Coco, Bling Bing, and Pinckney Original introduce things like chocolate infused dough, orange zest, and coconut to the party.  These are no ordinary cookies.

These are store bought cookies you could unwrap, put on a platter, and pass off as your own any day (I promise I wont tell).   If you live in the Seattle area, check your local Whole Foods but if you're not in the area, you can buy some here.   I think you'll love 'em as much as I do. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Rain, wind, colder much for all that bragging I've been doing about sunny California.  Guess it's time to get back in the kitchen.  My remedy yesterday was Tuesday Recipe's amazing homemade chai tea.   Today I'm looking at these:

I'm not a fan of apple desserts.  I'll crunch a crisp cold apple and love good applesauce but cooked apples in tarts, pies, and cakes have never turned me on.  However, I've heard so many amazing things about Huckleberry Cafe in Santa Monica that I might, just might, bite the bullet and give their Whole Wheat Apple Cake a try.  From today's LA Times, the recipe uses almond meal, corn meal, white flour, and whole wheat flour (with a pound of butter, ahem...don't confuse this with healthy) to make a cake full of caramelized apples.  The moisture from the apples probably goes a long way in giving this cake great texture. For you apple dessert fans, give this one a shot and let me know how it is.   Maybe it'll make me a convert.

Hash again! I'm crazy about these veggie-based hash recipes that have become so en vouge, especially when a poached or fried egg shows up on top.  In today's NY Times, Martha Rose Shulman of the "Recipes for Health" column takes on hash and I'm loving this version: Beet Greens and Potato Hash.  The potatoes (and greens) are steamed then sauteed in olive oil for that crunchy exterior.  Steaming them first means a quicker pan fry which in turn means less oil-crisp and still good for you.  Also love the idea of tossing any leftovers with a simple vinaigrette for a fantastic potato salad.  If the beet greens aren't getting you excited, she also has recipes for these variations: Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Winter Squash  or Mushroom with Wild Black Rice.    

Everyone knows we should eat more fish.  Sole is what I'd call the "gateway fish", for those of you out there trying to convince non-fish eaters that it really can be delicious.  In the San Francisco Chronicle, Amanda Gold writes about quick dinners and I love her very simple recipe for Sole with Cara Cara Oranges, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa.  Any sweet oranges work here but the pink color of those Cara Caras is certainly lovely.  Sole, being a flat fish, is sold in very thin fillets that cook in no time, perfect for a weeknight dinner.  However, if you're a fan of another fish, I think this salsa is incredibly flexible and the acidity would pair with anything from salmon to bass.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day

May your day be filled with sweets like these!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I'm cooking dinner for some extended family tonight and found myself at a loss when planning the menu.  The sun is shining bright out here and my usual February braises and stews just don't feel right.  So, I'm bucking the season and fixing a summer-like meal, fit for the weather and plenty delicious-baby back ribs, slaw, a watermelon and feta salad, and parsnip/potato mash (ok, that part is definitely not summery).  So Cal strawberries are at the market too.  Not the finest of the season but after too many months of apples and pears they are tasting delish to me. I'm feeling some shortcake...

Here's what I'm reading today:

My go-to slaw is pretty straight forward-bit of mayo, vinegar, celery seed, sugar, and some s&p.  Sort of looks like the forgotten cousin to his version, Curried Slaw from Mustard's Grill in Yountville, via the LA Times.  Equally as simple, but a hell of a lot more exciting, this is a mayo-free slaw, which I know a lot of people love.  It calls for "prepared Indian curry paste", not something I keep on hand so I'm going to make mine with a bit of Thai red curry paste instead.  I'm sure either would be fine.  Love the idea of stuffing it into a sandwich with shredded chicken too...yum.

My first, and only, real Southern style Shrimp and Grits was at a tiny restaurant on Kiawah Island, South Carolina.  It was sensational, buttery, rich, and amazing (topped only by my next meal of fried chicken livers, grits, and gravy...oh lord).  I've never made the dish because it has felt like one of those things that could never live up to my memory.  Today, however, I read The New York Times article about chef Sean Brock at Charleston's Husk restaurant.  Brock brings modern techniques to Southern classics but this recipe for Shrimp and Grits with Roasted Tomato, Fennel, and Smoked Sausage echos many traditional flavors.  At the restaurant he tops his with braised and fried ribbons of pig's ear but if you want to leave that out of your version, I think it'll be just fine.

If you're feeling like this year is the time to get away from chocolates on Valentine's Day, let The Guardian help you out with these gorgeous Rose Water Turkish Delight candies. Studded with pistachios and just chewy enough, Turkish Delight is not too sweet but still a wonderful homemade treat.  While you're over there you'll also see the recipes for Raspberry and Passion fruit Pastilles (much like French Fruit Gelée) and Pink and White Vanilla Marshmallows, playful and quite adorable I might add. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day (or Any Day) Dinner

I've heard from so many of you that you're planning to make my Valentine's Day menu from Bon Appétit for your sweetie next week.  Personally, I think it's a great dinner for any time so you really don't need to wait for Februrary 14th.  If a delicious steak or indulgent burrata salad sound good tonight, go for it.  It truly is that simple.

Feel free to email me any questions you have about the menu-how to get it all done in time, quick shortcuts, etc.  In return, I want to know how it goes!  Head on over to the Valentine's Day Menu for Two page on Bon Appétit's website and leave your comments.  I'll check in over there and see how you did.  It makes my day to hear about your culinary adventures.

Whether it's Valentine's Day, a birthday, a dinner party, or just a Wednesday...any or all of these recipes will be a hit:

Happy Cooking and Have Fun.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I hope you're keeping cosy where ever you are.  It is days like this, among many others, I am incredibly grateful to live in sunny California.  With a high of 60 and clear blue skies, you can almost forget it's winter.  That is, until you check the weather and realize most of the country is digging out of snow and ice.  To keep your bellys full and warm, here are a few winter recipes to inspire you.  Heck, if you're stuck inside you mine as well cook, right?  Enjoy.

The ideal cold weather food is chili.  This Turkey Chili , from The LA Times, is made with both guajillo and chipotle peppers.  Both smoked, they provide not only heat but a real depth of flavor that will set this chili apart from some of it's more bland brothers.  I always use dark meat ground turkey when I cook because the white meat tends to get really dry really fast.  Also, I only buy ground turkey from a butcher who grinds it on site.  The same applies to any ground meat, for that matter.  I feel better knowing where it was ground, what's in it, and that it is fresh.  Remember, chili is an ideal one pot meal.  Serve it with a big salad and no matter how cold it is outside you'll be happy inside.

On the rare occasion I'm snowed in, I love tackling a kitchen project outside my usual repertoire.  These Mushroom Spring Rolls in Lettuce Cups, a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten in the NY Times are just that kind of recipe.  Definitely not difficult but a bit time consuming (although the recipe makes eight large spring rolls so you wont be rolling all day).  The mushroom filling, spiked with lemon, Thai chili, and fresh chervil, is vegetarian but full of flavor.  You can roll these early in the day and keep them covered in the fridge, even freeze them if they're tightly wrapped.  No getting around the fact that they are fried so if you're diving in, make sure you know the key points of perfect deep frying.  Your oil must be hot enough (if it isn't the rolls will be in the oil far too long, getting greasy instead of crispy).  You also need to be sure you have plenty of oil in your pot.  If it isn't enough (about two-thirds full), it will take extra long to fry, again creating oil-laden spring rolls, not golden brown and crunchy.  The filling is pre cooked so they won't fry too long (about 5 minutes).  And, hey, you don't deep fry often...why not indulge a bit?

I'd be remiss if I didn't include one Super Bowl-worthy recipe today.  Loving this take on salsa verde, Pepita-Tomatillo Dip from The Washington Post.   Crunchy pumpkin seeds and fresh tomatillos are spiked with jalapeno and sweetened with a bit of honey.  Easy, easy and my guess is this one tastes even better the day after you make it.  Fire it up on Saturday, buy a big bag of your favorite chips (I love these), and settle in for the big game.  It's short on time and long on flavor...may the best team win.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!  Stay warm out there...

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