Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The best of what I've read from the food sections...enjoy!

Braising is my favorite method of cooking.  Slow and low heat transforms tough (and cheap!) cuts of meat into that melt-in-your mouth texture that screams "comfort".  In today's New York Times John Willoughby writes about braising without browning, odd to those of us used to the traditional method of coaxing out flavor from those caramelized meat juices.  Like John, I've made some  Moroccan and Greek stews that skipped the browning step and, I'll admit, they were still damn tasty.  He sums it up well when he calls the flavors "less robust, but equally flavorful, in a gentler way".  Try it out with these Braised Chicken Thighs with Indian Flavors.  Lots of fabulous spices and seasoning are sure to make you forget you skipped the browning, and your splatter-less kitchen will appreciate it too.

Making homemade puff pastry is a chore.  A "laminated" dough means it requires several hours of chilling and turning-a process of folding the dough, rolling it out, chilling it down, and doing it all again and again. It's a labor of love that creates the flaky layers we adore in this dough.  Several years ago I discovered a "quick" method by Nick Malgieri and the LA Times has their own version here.  Using a food processor to cut in the butter eliminates some of the turns and folds but still yields amazing dough that you can use in dozens of ways.  I particularly like the Savory Mushroom Turnovers but if sweets are more up your alley, the Fresh Berry Tart looks like a perfect spring dessert.

Angels on Horseback are traditionally oysters wrapped in bacon and grilled or broiled.  Devils on Horseback subs the oysters for dried fruit.  Dating back over 100 years, you'd think these appetizers were very 21st century-isn't everything wrapped in bacon these days?  Nigel Slater, of the Observer, takes this British nibble and gives it a twist by wrapping prunes in bacon and stuffing them with a bit of mango chutney.  I love the sweet/smoky/savory combination here, and the texture contrast between the crispy bacon and tender fruit.  I've done this with dates and dried figs, stuffed them with cheese and almonds, and used pancetta in place of bacon-it's all good.  Pick your favorite dried fruit, be as simple or as creative as you like with the fillings, and bring on the bacon.  Before you know it you'll have  a whole new version of an appetizer your great, great grandma used to eat. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Good and good for you.  Here's what's cooking in today's food sections.

Jonathan Waxman is a pioneer of sorts.  With culinary roots in the Bay Area (Chez Panisse) and Santa Monica, Waxman ventured east in the mid-80s to open the legendary Jams in New York.  He took a sabbatical from the scene for ten+ years but returned in 2003 to open Barbuto, again in New York, and get back to his love for cooking all things Italian.  I've yet to go but hear he roasts the best chicken around.  Today's New York Times has an insightful profile of Jonathan-trust me, it'll make you hungry.  To channel his amazing cooking, always simple and fresh, try this recipe for Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables and Basil from his new book, Italian My Way

Happy Persian New Year, if you celebrated this week.  If not, it's not too late.  Especially with this recipe from the LA Times for Chickpea and Noodle Soup with Persian Herbs.  Lentils are seasoned with mint and cilantro, fortified with chickpeas and pasta, and topped with kashk-a Persian yogurt that can be found at most Middle Eastern markets (then again, you can of course you regular yogurt).  I love the rib sticking, belly warming nature of this soup.  A one-pot meal that happens to be vegetarian too.  

I'm a huge fan of broccoli rabe, also known as rapini.  You see it in Italian as well as Chinese cooking. It's distinctive flavor can be described as bitter but, a quick blanch usually takes care of that, making it nuttier and delicious.  Believe it or not, it's from the turnip family, not the broccoli family-sure they look alike but the flavor is all together different.  My favorite way to cook it is, after a quick blanch, sauteing it with garlic, chili flakes, anchovy, and good olive oil.  Today's Washington Post, has another idea; Broccoli Rabe and New Potato Salad.  Just when I thought I'd seen every variation of potato salad this recipe crossed my desk.  A simple vinaigrette is tossed with the warm potatoes and rapini, creating that necessary acidic balance.  Warm or room temp I think this is a perfect way change things up when it comes to veggies.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Some stick to your ribs dishes from today's food sections.  Enjoy.

I love leeks.  I think the spring vegetable is under-rated.  This tame sister of the onion family gets delicately sweet when cooked and pairs perfectly with cream and potato, as in Melissa Clark's Potato Leek Gratin in today's New York Times.  A traditional recipe like this reminds us that sometimes you just need comfort food-cheesy, rich, and rooted in French cuisine. 

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and I'd be remiss to get though this blog entry without a nod to the cuisine of Ireland.  Nothing is more traditional (here in the US at least) than Corned Beef and Cabbage.  This succulent version from the LA Times is glazed with bourbon and brown sugar.  It may not be your mom's corned beef but it is sure to please.  To me the best part is the leftovers-Rueben anyone? 

Not just coffee cake but coffee IN the cake.  That's what makes this Irish Coffee Coffee Cake  from the Chicago Tribune a little something special.  With Bailey's and Irish coffee, this cake might be better for dessert than breakfast but, who's really keeping track?  Either way, the tender cake and crumb topping have me hooked already...and it's not even lunch time. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One Family, One Meal

I've had a crazy sweet tooth lately.  I'm blaming it on our drizzly, gray's like a magnet pulling me into my kitchen and begging me to bake.

It started with this Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread from Joy the Baker...unreal:

Next I found this recipe for Lemon Sticky Buns.  I left this one to my friend (and baker extraordinaire) Mindy and lived vicariously through her photos:

Next I got suckered into these, "The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World".  Always on the quest for chocolatey cookies that stay nice and soft, these did the trick (especially when I accidentally added twice as much chocolate):

Finally, my quest took me to my friend Amanda's fantastic website, One Family, One Meal.  Before I get to the cookies, let me just take a second to introduce you to the site, which may quickly become your new best friend.  Amanda takes time every week to test and plan a set of menus.  She posts the family-friendly recipes, along with shopping lists, and it all comes to you for free.  You can save the recipes you like on her site and create shopping lists based on what you decide to cook.  As a busy, working mom of two, Amanda knows what it takes to get a homemade meal on the table.  We share a passion for creating homemade food and sharing it around the table.  She too loves family dinner.  Take a look at what she's created-I think you'll love it.  And, while your there, satisfy you sweet tooth with her Oatmeal Scotchies:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Healthy chicken and homemade Pop's a good day in the world of food writing!  Enjoy.

Melissa Clark does it again with her Sake Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions in today's NY Times.  Succulent from a long steam bath, this chicken cooks entirely unattended, the sauce takes about two minutes to mix up, and I can already imagine the fragrance that hits the plate when this bird comes to dinner.  While the base recipe calls for simply serving the chicken "as is", I love her variation that shreds the chicken, tosses it with Napa cabbage, and adds a ginger soy dressing (maybe some crispy wonton strips too?).  Dinner, tonight.

Look closely.  Those aren't cardboard-like store bought Pop Tarts.  These are homemade pop tarts courtesy of the LA Times.  Hello!  Flaky pie dough filled with any filling your heart desires and, yes, popped in the toaster for that perfect finish.  Here is the crust recipe, plus a few variations to get you going:  frangipane, Nutella, fruit preserves, or chocolate ganache.  And, if you're going for it, they've even created a step by step slide show to walk you through your pop tart construction...who knew?

Comforting soup is one of my favorite all time foods to both make and eat.  I teach a lot of soup classes and always tell my students that homemade soup is a perfect way to motivate yourself to get into the kitchen.  The recipes are flexible (no leeks?  use onion.  no stock? use water), healthful, and lend themselves perfectly to being made in advance.  This Lamb, Leek, and Potato Soup from the Washington Post is a well balanced one pot meal-lamb, barley, and parsnips along with other savory veggies simmer together for a bit over an hour to create an almost stew-like dish.  Crusty bread and you're all set.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Believe it or not, spring is starting to show it's face already.  March is here and it's still raining (or snowing) but, head to the market and signs of the seasons changing are definitely evident.  Here's to sunny skies and lovely produce to come.

 In today's Mercury News, Jackie Burrell tempts the start of spring with her take on my favorite fruit, the ripe and gorgeous strawberry.  We chatted last week about why I love the early season berries (so over pears and apples!) and my favorite ways to use them, Strawberry Creme Fraiche Ice Cream and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.  One read through and you'll be hitting your farmers' market asap to get your hands on a fresh, ripe box. 

Who knew leftover oatmeal could anchor such an amazing looking muffin?  In today's New York Times, Martha Rose Shulman takes a healthy look at muffins (yes, there is such a thing).  Her Steel Cut Oatmeal and Blueberry Muffins are full of buttermilk to keep them moist and tender, plus maple syrup instead of the loads of sugar usually called for in these "cupcakes in disguise".  A combination of steel cut oats, whole wheat flour, and white flour will create a lovely texture and throw in those blueberries...I'm sold.  

Artichokes are a labor of love.  I'm not going to lie to you, they take time and effort to prep if you do anything more than simply steam them but, when these awkward looking thistles come into the market, it's hard to resist (much like the beloved fava beans).  In today's LA Times this indulgent recipe for Baby Artichoke Gratin looks absolutely fantastic.  Yes, there is work involved in prepping these little guys but the baby artichokes are much easier to deal with then their more mature siblings.  A homemade garlic aioli is "lightened" (ha!) with heavy cream, the blanched artichokes get folded in, and the top sprinkled with fresh Parm.  After a quick trip under the broiler you won't believe how fantastically rich and amazing those prickly little vegetables can be.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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