Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Hope you've recovered from your spring holidays and that you had some wonderful meals to celebrate.  Time for some new recipes?  I've got you covered.

Could anything be better than roast pork?  Good question, Russ Parsons, and I think not.  In the LA Times the esteemed Mr. Parsons shares his secret to a perfect roasted pork shoulder, and a photo of his own beauty from his Easter dinner.  Pork shoulder might just be my all time favorite cut of meat.  It's succulent, flavorful, and inexpensive.  Yes, it's a tough cut which means it needs slow and low cooking but, this is absolutely low maintenance cooking if I've ever seen it.  325 for a few hours then 450 at the end for that crackling skin-be sure you have an instant read thermometer and you're set.  Remember, this is a shoulder on the bone and you want to be sure you buy it from a good butcher.  This will ensure you get nice quality meat and that layer of fat on top that not only crisps up in the oven but naturally bastes the meat as it cooks.  

I tweeted about this recipe last week after I literally drooled at the sight of the photo.  Melissa Clark, who writes the Good Appetite column in the NY Times (and this wonderful book), is someone to watch.  She writes incredibly well tested recipes (they always work) with a keen eye on the busy home cook.  She's about honest flavors, simple food, and preparations that make sense to anyone.  Trust me, read a few columns or pick up her book and this is someone you'll want to meet over a glass of vino.  She wrote this recipe, for a Silky Caramel Rice Flan, after craving a Catalan dish she remembered making years ago.  It's a custard based rice pudding cooked like a flan, in a souffle dish lined with a deep, nutty caramel.  Inverted onto a plate it looks much like a traditional flan but put your fork in and you're rewarded with a texture that, to me, is a lot tastier and more interesting to eat.  I'm a rice pudding nut and when you add that caramel, oh man...  Can not wait to make this dessert.  Who's coming over?

Fast and healthy are two words my students love to hear when I introduce them to new recipes.  Problem is they are often synonymous with bland.  Not this time.  In the Washington Post, I found this recipe for Moo Shu Vegetables and it's lacking nothing when it comes to flavor.  In addition to sesame oil, ginger, and hoisin, the real secret here is the shredded veggies. Think cabbage, carrots, and zucchini-veggies that stay crunchy after a quick cook.  I'd buy them whole and julienne them by hand, but I happen to love that part of cooking.  If you haven't sharpened your knife lately (what are you waiting for?) or just need to speed things along, look for a bag of shredded veggies in your produce department.  They'll be just fine here and before you know it, your Chinese take out will be on the table in less time than it would've taken the delivery guy to get to your house.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Was visiting family in sunny Palm Desert so I apologize for coming at you one day late this week.  Back to reality, and back in the kitchen.

If you're hosting brunch or dinner this Easter, let the season inspire your menu.  Asparagus, strawberries, wild salmon, spring onions, and more...hit the farmers' market and see what grabs you. The Los Angeles Times has a lovely slideshow of seasonal dishes for your table.  I'm looking at this Stawberry Crostata and the Asparagus with Lemon Aioli.  Keeping it fresh and seasonal means simple, delicious food every time.

Grilled Tuna Steak with Provencal Vinaigrette is a weeknight dinner full of big flavors with little work.  From The Washington Post, I'm reminded that the flavors of Provence lend themselves ideally to simply grilled fish.  Tuna works because it's steak-like texture holds up to the grill but this relish-like condiment would be nice with halibut or salmon too.  Tomato, capers, olives, and roasted peppers are tossed with the vinaigrette for texture and lots of acidity.  The fish is grilled but if it's not nice enough to fire up your outdoor grill, try a grill pan.  You'll get a little less of that smoky flavor but it still works in a pinch.  

Lamb is the "protein of the season"- Passover or Easter, it is the centerpiece of many tables this week.  Most recipes are for slow roasted legs but this version, Honey Glazed Loin Chops, from The San Francisco Chronicle, shaves off hours of time.  It's elegant enough for a holiday meal yet quick enough for a Wednesday night.  Who say's lamb's just for Easter? 

Happy Spring, Happy Holidays, and Happy Reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Since spring is here, today's favorites all stem from lovely seasonal veggies.  Hit your farmers' market and enjoy!

Spinach and Parmesan Tart from the LA Times.  The marriage of a homemade crust with that creamy rich filling is a match made in heaven.  Any greens would work here, I'd love to try it with chard and sub Pecorino for the Parm.  Use your imagination-it's really a method to work from and you can let your pantry be your guide.  My son was reading over my shoulder as I wrote this and said, "Mom, that would be a lot better with berries and sugar".  Yes, you can try a sweet version too.

The words "rice bowl" conjour up images of hippy food for me.  Time to think again.  Martha Rose Shulman, who writes the Recipes for Health column in The New York Times talks today about sprouted brown rice.  I'm already a convert to brown rice-love the nutty taste and texture, especially when perfectly cooked using this method. Sure, sprouted brown rice is healthier but, Martha is a fan because she says it is "sweeter and more delicate" than regular brown rice.  It can be found at health food stores and is packaged just like the traditional variety-it's dried after it has been sprouted so it isn't so perishable (you can even make your own).   I'm hunting some down so I can make her modern rice bowl-lemon infused olive oil (I like Round Pond's), spinach, and smoked trout.  

Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables.  Also called anise, it has a faint licorice scent but don't let that steer you away.  Black licorice is not my thing-you can take my Ouzo and Sambuca from me any day.  This is a sweeter flavor-very subtle but unique in its own right.  Raw or cooked, I'll take it either way.  Diane Rossen Worthington, in today's Chicago Tribune, shares her very simple method for roasting fennel.  Cut in big wedges and paired with some leek, garlic, and olive oil it caramelizes beautifully and you'll be amazed how fantastic it is.  A perfect spring side with lamb or fish, give it a try if you haven't before. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Happy's what I'm loving in the food sections today.

Last night was the final class in my six-week Basics One series.  We went around the table talking about our dream meals, the last one we'd have if we could eat anything at all.  Tim, near the end. said he'd have a rack of amazing BBQ ribs-of course this caused a handful of other people to quickly change their minds and switch to ribs too.  There's just something about sweet, smoky, succulent pork ribs...mmm.  In today's NY Times I saw this recipe for Sweet-Sour Balsamic Glazed Ribs, adapted from the carnivorous Animal restaurant in Los Angeles.  One step not to be missed is removing the membrane from the back of the rack.  If you forget to do this (or ask your butcher to do it for you), each rib will have a sticky skin that is all together unpleasant at the table (take it from one who knows).  These ribs are cooked in the oven, first at a low heat then very high to crisp them up.  You could also finish them on the grill for an extra smoky flavor but Jon and Vinny, the dudes at Animal, swear by the all-oven method. 

Butterscotch Brownies?  Oh my.   In today's LA Times they reveal the recipe for Clementine Bakery's version of the Blondie.  Made with lots of brown sugar, a touch of salt, toasted walnuts, and no chocolate, this sweet bar would make an ideal afternoon snack or lunch box surprise.  I think I'd substitute pecans for the walnuts-to me they are just a better match for that butterscotch flavor, almost maple-like on their own.  

Sugar cookies aren't just for decorating at the holidays.  Even though that's when most of us generally pullout the recipe, why not eat them today?  This recipe, in today's Washington Post and drawn from the new cookbook Bite Me, by Toronto sisters Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat, is glazed simply with powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Rather than topping them with sugary icing, like we do at the holidays, I love the idea of the soft cookies being glazed with lemon (I'd use Meyer lemon, but that's just me).  I've always found that sugar cookies keep well in a tin too so make a batch and they'll last you a while. Yeah, right-let's see how long they'll last.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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