Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

It's 80 degrees and finally summer in San Francisco.  Even so, fall is settling in everywhere and it's time to take inspiration from belly warming dishes that use the best of the season.

I love moussaka but it is seriously rich food.  This vegetarian version from the NY Times, Eggplant, Bulgur, and Tomato Casserole with Yogurt Topping, looks to be lighter, even healthy (and who's ever said that about moussaka?).  It can be made in phases, with the sauce, cooked eggplant, and bulgur all being prepared a day or two in advance.  The topping is yogurt enriched with eggs and Parmesan, giving you that creamy cheesy top without the weight of a traditional bechamel.  I'm getting hungry just looking at the photo.

If you're celebrating Rosh Hashanah this week, happy new year.  It's a time for family and, of course, food and this recipe from the LA Times would be a perfect centerpiece for your meal.  It's Marinated Chicken Stuffed with Grapes and Brown Rice and, frankly, I think it would be lovely for any rustic fall dinner party.  The chicken is marinated overnight in pomegranate molasses with honey and spices and the rice/grape mixture is all cooked outside the bird before it's stuffed inside.  The chicken cooks for about 90 minutes, totally unattended, so this is actually one of those recipes that looks like you've worked forever without having to do much at all. 

As we begin to see signs of fall you can be sure your farmers' market will start brimming with fresh pears.  This Rustic Pear Galette from The Oregonian is a fall dessert anyone can make, especially if you've shied away from making pie crust before.  The crust is rolled and filled with fresh pears and almond paste (a match made in heaven).  Rather than having to form it perfectly into a pie pan, a galette is a free form tart that looks fabulous no matter how you fold over the edges.  The word "rustic" is key here, make it your own and it will look great when it bakes.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Autumn Entertaining @ The Blender

If you haven't checked out The Blender yet, give it a click.  It is a blog from Williams Sonoma, full of cooking tips, recipes, wine info, and tons of other tasty information.

I am guest blogging over there and you can see the full post here.  The full menu looks like this:

Fig and Fromage Blanc Crostini

Roasted Beets with Orange and Herbed Goat Cheese 

Pancetta Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Sautéed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic, Anchovies, and Red Pepper
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay 

Pear Tarte Tatin with Winter Spices
To make it easy I wanted to post each recipe here so you have the entire menu at hand next time you want to throw a dinner party.  After the jump you can see them all...enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I started teaching a new course of Basics One last night.  Welcome to my enthusiastic and passionate group-I can tell it's going to be a great six weeks, full of well cooked food and lots of laughs.  Check out my current classes at Tante Marie's-would love to see you there too.

Okra gets a bad wrap, mostly for the texture it takes on when it cooks.  Some call it slimy, others absolutely love it.  I've always been a fan but lean towards preparations that rid the okra of it's slickness.  Fried, of course, if always fabulous.  I also have a recipe for a Tomato and Okra Stew in New Flavors for Vegetables that will make a lover out of anyone.  In today's NY Times this recipe for Turkish Chicken and Okra Casserole looks amazing.  Chicken is braised in tomatoes while the okra gets a bath in vinegar and salt.  When combined, the okra is cooked until just tender so you get some crunch without the overly-soft bite many people shy away from.  Aleppo pepper, common in many Turkish dishes, kicks it up a bit (if you can't find any try a combo of smoky paprika and cayenne).  The whole recipes takes just over an hour, mostly unattended, and it looks well worth the wait.  Get yourself some okra and give it a try.

I've got a huge sweet tooth.  I always have room for dessert and could eat it with (or instead of) every meal.  Chocolate, Caramel, Nuts, 'em all.  The adoration, however, stops at cooked pears and apples.  I don't know why but, when those winter fruits start to show their faces on dessert menus I am not a happy camper.  Why, then, does this Spiced Apple Pudding Cake with Caramel Sauce in the Washington Post look so damn good? I'm a sucker for pudding cakes and, throw on the caramel-forget about it!  I actually think I could see my way past the apples for this one although while nectarines and plums are still around I may try it with one of those.

If you've been to the farmers' market lately you've probably seen an abundance of gorgeous beans.  And not just your average green beans-scarlett runner beans, fresh borlotti beans, and other pole varieties usually seen the rest of the year only in their dried versions.  Grab fresh beans while you can, they really are a special treat.  This recipe for French Beans with Feta, Walnuts, and Mint, from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in The Guardian, is just one way to cook seasonal beans.  He also has Borlottis with Onion and Garlic (perfect room temp with imported oil-packed tuna) and Runner Beans braised with Cherry Tomatoes (old school beans that are really cooked but full of flavor).   I even saw lovely varieties at my neighborhood Whole Foods yesterday.  Get 'em soon as they don't stay around for long.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Before I get into my favorite recipes of today, let me report back on the Curried Zucchini and Chickpea Soup I posted last week.  I made it last night and it was fantastic and very easy.  The yogurt on top is a must-the tang cuts the starch from the bean/potato combination, and I used chives instead of dill on top.  Give it a try if you haven't already-even my son, who swears he doesn't like zucchini, at the entire bowl.

Fried rice is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think "eating healthy".  Martha Rose Shulman, in today's NY Times, might just change your mind.  Her recipe for Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Poblanos and Edamame may be shy of some of that fat but you wont miss any of the flavor.  The bite from the roasted poblanos (which you can roast and peel at least a day in advance) is perfect with the nutty brown rice and crunchy soy beans.  This is the ideal way to use leftover brown rice when you cook a big batch using this method, which turns out perfect every time.

Tackling a souffle might not be your idea of a quick weeknight dinner but, with the help of an electric mixer and a whisk attachment, anyone can pull one off.  This recipe, from the Washington Post, is a Goat Cheese Souffle with absolutely no fuss.  There are only three main ingredients-eggs, goat cheese, and a pinch of cream of tartar.  The method entails folding together the cheese and yolks then beating your whites to stiff peaks.  After gently combining the batter, the souffles bake about 20 minutes and you're done.  Remember, souffles wait for no one-they are at their finest just out of the oven so have your family or friends at the table when these come out.  Also, with so few ingredients it is critical you use the best goat cheese you can find.  Ask your cheese monger for a Bucheron and don't skimp, you'll be glad you got the good stuff.

Spicy Steak Bahn Mi Sandwiches look well worth the effort.  But, when JeanMarie Brownson of the Chicago Tribune tells you this is how she transforms her leftover steak, they sound even better.  Taking slices of stir fried steak and piling them on a soft roll with pickled veggies and Sriracha mayo is exactly why you should make more meat for dinner than you think you might eat.  Of course chicken, pork, or tofu would all work too-same recipe, same method, same amazing leftovers. 

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Garlic Cheese Bread

These days my inbox is barraged with all the food related newsletters.  I admittedly send many to the trash before reading them but something about the August 16th issue of Tasting Table caught my eye.  It was a recipe from Slice Pizza and Brew in Birmingham, AL for Garlic Cheese Bread.  My love is baking and there is no denying how amazing this looks, right?

I tried the recipe tonight and was thrilled with the results.  I make a lot of homemade pizza, using a version of the Chez Panisse pizza dough, made with regular all-purpose flour.  This dough is made with bread flour, higher in gluten which creates a more elastic dough.  A touch of honey and a pinch of oregano were nice in there too.  It kneads itself in the electic mixer with a dough hook, rises an hour, then rests in the fridge for four hours more.  The result is a beautiful dough that stretches easily into the elongated rectangle shapes you'll want.  Mine was a touch sticky so I made sure to dust it with flour before I wrapped it for the fridge, and dusted my board a bit more before stretching it out.

The only tricky part is transferring the very long rectangle of dough to something like a pizza peel.  It needs to end up on your pizza stone in the oven, so the peel seems like the natural vessel to get it there.  Problem is the rectangles are about twice as long as my pizza peel.  Here's how it looked before it went into the oven (I originally had it on a long wooden cutting board but it wouldn't slide onto the stone, hence the transfer to my cornmeal dusted pizza peel):

I ended up making one just barely fit on the peel and had to cut my second one in half.  Didn't matter, they got to the stone just fine and baked quickly and perfectly.

The dough had the perfect chew-thin but not cracker-like with lots of bubbles around the golden crust.  It's topped simply, with olive oil, garlic, thyme, and grated mozzarella-I sprinkled salt around the edges too.  I'm won over by the crust and will be using it for pizzas..a  lot. 

Thanks Tasting Table-glad your note broke through the clutter.
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