Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I might be the only person on the planet who isn't watching Oprah's last hurrah but, rest assured I am paying attention to what's happening in food.

Swiss Chard is my go-to vegetable at home.  Around here it means caramelizing an onion with a handful of minced chard stems, adding torn chard leaves to the pan, and quickly sauteing with some salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.  So good and we never have enough.  In today's Los Angeles Times there is a recipe for Swiss Chard with Golden Raisins and Bread Crumbs, a southern Italian take on our local, seasonal produce.  If you haven't cooked chard, this is a perfect way to try it.  It's in the market now-give this one a shot.

Since we're talking good and good for you, I couldn't pass on this Quinoa and Beet Pilaf from the NY Times.  I've waxed poetic about the amazing health properties of quinoa many times (most importantly-it's a complete protein and the only other food that can say that is an egg).  I am also a big fan of roasted beets.  When I make then I do a big batch so I can have them in the fridge all week-perfect for last minute salads.  This combination, cooked into a bright, vibrant pilaf, is pretty lovely, don't you think?  It uses the beet and beet greens, so be sure to buy them fresh so the greens are still attached.  I love the addition of caraway seed and crumbled goat cheese-gorgeous flavors to throw into the mix.

If you don't already follow Heidi Swanson's gorgeous blog, 101 Cookbooks, go bookmark it now.  Her inspiring writing and stunning photos will have you eating healthy without even realizing it.  She's just released her second book, "Super Natural Every Day", and the SF Chronicle loved it in their review on Sunday.  If you don't have your hands on this hot new title yet, check out the article for Heidi's recipe for Orzo Salad.  This is not your mom's pasta salad-we're talking creme fraiche, broccoli, whole wheat orzo, and even some avocado.  You can trust Heidi's recipes to work and taste great.  I'm a big fan...can you tell?

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

The first Thai curry dish I ever had was a Massaman Curry at Thai Kitchen in Bellevue, Washington.  I know, this eastern suburb of Seattle probably doesn't sound like a Thai food destination but the restaurant was open years before Phad Thai and curries infiltrated the American palate.  A friend took me to lunch and introduced me to their mild chicken and potato version of Massaman and I fell in love (with the curry that is).  In today's LA Times they've published a Massaman Curry recipe from Cholada Thai in Thousand Oaks.  It includes a homemade curry paste, which I highly recommend if you live near a good Asian market.  You can find all the ingredients and make a big batch-it'll keep well and you can get your curry fix anytime you like.  In a pinch that same Asian market probably carries Mae Ploy brand curry pastes and I think they're pretty darn tasty too.

Prepping artichokes is probably one step up from prepping fava beans when it comes to tasks my cooking students least like to do.  Funny, because they are always two of the most loved veggies to eat but man do people hate to trim, peel, trim, de-choke, steam, and cut before they finally get a bite.  Of course steaming an artichoke whole means all you have to do is trim those pointy tips from the leaves so you can make it easy on your self and do that.  But, with artichokes in season and, here in Northern California, at the cheapest they'll be, it's worth buying a bunch at the farmers' market and trying this recipe from Melissa Clark in The New York Times:  Artichokes with Fregola, Feta, Toasted Almonds, and Herbs.  She includes a video that is a great primer if you're tackling artichokes for the first time.  Fregola is pasta used often in Sardinia.  The tiny round pieces are much like Israeli couscous, either will work here.  I love the addition of sharp, salty feta and crunchy almonds.  This is a perfect spring dish paired with some fresh greens in a simple vinaigrette. 

Spring peas are another abundant veggie at the market these days.  Snap peas, snow peas, and English peas are as good as they get right now.  In today's Chicago Tribune you'll learn everything you need to know aout picking and cooking peas to perfection.  With cooking methods from all over the world, peas are one of the most versatile veggies in the kitchen.  The recipe for Gnochi with Crab and Peas is spring on a plate.  It calls for store bought gnocchi but you could of course make your own.  Fresh crab is delicate and delicious here but small grilled or sauteed shrimp would also work.  Love the tangy addition of creme fraiche too.  If this doesn't say "spring" I don't know what does!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I know this post is always a peek at what I think are the best recipes of the week from all my favorite newspaper food sections.  Well, this is definitely not a recipe but I couldn't resist.  As spring produce starts to bloom, farmers' markets everywhere are getting busier or just opening up.  Check out this article in the Chicago Tribune so you can be sure not to be "that guy"-you know the one, who asks for change for his hundred or tells the vendor their product is cheaper at Safeway.  The Top 10 Things Not to Say at the Farmers' Market...don't say I didn't warn you. Oh, and while you're there stocking up on strawberries and favas, make sure you have your copy of my book, Cooking from the Farmers' Market, to inspire you when you get back to your kitchen. 

Today's Washington Post reviews James Tanner's new book called Take Five Ingredients.  While the concept of minimal cooking is certainly nothing new, this recipe for a no bake Gingersnap Mascarpone Cheesecake seems revolutionary.   First, there is no oven part.  This usually means gelatin to set things up but, not here. And, if you've ever made a traditional cheesecake you know how much time it takes to bake and cool, not to mention nailing both of those steps to avoid oven browning or cracking.  Then there is the short list of ingredients-it's just sweetened whipped mascarpone cheese and cream with a bit of fresh vanilla bean.  Crumbled gingersnaps get pressed on the top and bottom so for the crust lovers like me, you'll have lots to like.  There is so much beauty in such a simple dish.  I think you can play with it in infinite ways...I'm thinking berries, maple, honey, chocolate, or nuts.  If you give this one a try, let me know how it is and if I beat you to it, I'll report back.

When one meal can do double duty, busy people like me are always more motivated to get into the kitchen.  My family knows I'm not a fan of leftovers but, transforming one dish into something else is an entirely different story.  In today's Boston Globe Sheryl Julian writes about the age old idea of Chicken in a Pot.  Simply said, it's a poached chicken that comes out moist and succulent every time.   She serves it over rice then uses the leftovers to make a belly warming Chicken and Rice Soup.  The soup would freeze beautifully so you can always save it for another time but they both look so delicious I don't think anyone would complain about chicken two nights in a row. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

This photo immediately caught my eye in today's Cinco de Mayo recipe slideshow over at the LA Times.  It is a Tuna Tostada that looks almost identical to the one I love at Tacolicious (in fact, think it is actually the same recipe, from Contramar restaurant in Mexico City, that inspired their version).  These are a perfect appetizer or have two or three and call it dinner.  Crisp tortilla rounds are slathered with chipotle mayo and topped with a generous amount of tuna tartar, leeks,  and avocado.  This version uses wilted leeks but Tacolicious fries their until crispy which I love because the texture contrast is perfection.  Either way, find yourself a piece of sushi grade tuna and this dish will treat you right. 

Homemade cookies are a no-brainer.  Homemade crackers?  Not so much.  But, why not?  They're no more difficult than throwing together a batch of cookies, probably easier as a matter of fact.  If you find yourself adding a bag of Goldfish crackers to your shopping cart every week, take a break and make your own.  These Cheddar Cheese Crackers, from today's NY Times, are absolutely better for you and, with dough that comes together in the food processor, pretty darn easy too. 

I'm a sucker for Indian flavors like chile, ginger, and curry.  I also happen to call crab my favorite food on the planet.  Put them together, in these Curried Crab Cakes from the Chicago Tribune and I'm a happy camper.  To me, a good crab cake needs to be all about the crab without tons of other chopped veggies entering the mix (bell peppers?  ick!).  This recipe lets the crab be the star but uses lots of bold flavors to change it up.  I'm sold!  I think I'll make them small and serve them as appetizers at my next dinner party topped with a bit of yogurt or chutney.

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