Cooking Archives

January 27, 2008

Yellow Thai Curry

Yellow Thai Curry

I love Thai food. It is my favorite next to Mexican. I shied away from cooking it at home for a long time. The ingredients looked too exotic and I thought it would be difficult. Fine Cooking Magazine had a great section on stir frying rice noodles a year ago. It was a great introduction to SE Asian cooking. My favorite dish is Pad Thai. I've tried a couple of different recipes and I want to try it with tamarind paste. I'm going to try Pim's recipe soon.

I've also becoming interested in Thai curry. I used to eat at the Mandalay Cafe in Seattle. They had an awesome Burmese curry. But alas, they have closed. I came across a Goan Fish Stew from Food and Wine. It is quite tasty and easy to make on a work night. I have used both tilapia and shrimp.

I did not realize how easy it is to make a curry. Ms Glaze had a very interesting looking Yellow Thai Curry on her blog. The ingredients looked just right so I gave it a try tonight.

First a quick trip to my local market which has a good supply of Asian food - Shoreline Central Market. I love to go there and search through the shelves for ingredients. I knew they carried lime leaves, thai basil, galangal, and fresh lemongrass. Unfortunately, I didn't know what shrimp paste looked like. I did find a jar but I was a turned off by the plastic purple color on the jar. I should have got it. It was what I needed. I ended up having to substitute anchovy paste.

It was very easy to make. I used a food processor to grind the ingredients for the paste. The aroma of the paste frying brought my hubby into the kitchen. I can not find langoustines here in the NW so I used local rock shrimp and squid. The squid was really good in this curry. I'll make this one again.

By the way, it goes great with a NW Riesling.

February 11, 2008

Squash soup with fried sage leaves


I was cleaning out the cupboard yesterday and came across a couple of winter squashes that I had left over from other dishes. One was a butternut and the other a carnival. What to do? Soup!

I looked through my cook books and came across an interesting recipe from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" that used winter squash and sage. I had some fresh sage and thyme. Perfect.

I wasn't certain how much squash I had. The recipe calls for 2½ to 3 pounds of squash. I think I had about 2 pound which ended up being enough. It also calls for 2 onions which seemed a lot to me so I cut that to 1 onion. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. It was easy and extremely good.

Winter Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves

2½ to 3 pounds Winter Squash
¼ cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 whole sage leaves, plus 2 tbs chopped
2 onions, finely chopped (I used only 1 onion chopped)
Leaves chopped from 4 thyme springs
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
8 cups water
½ cup fontina shredded. (alternatively you can use pecorino or ricotta salata diced)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Halve the squash and scoop out the seeds. Brush the surfaces with oil, stuff the cavities with the garlic and place them cut sides down on a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes.

In a small skillet, heat ¼ oil until nearly smoking, then drop the whole sage leaves and fry until speckled and dark, about 1 minute. Set the leaves aside on a paper town and transfer the oil to a soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Scoop the baked squash flesh into the pot along with any juices. Peel the garlic and add it to the pot along with 1½ tsp salt and the water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, add more water to thin it out. Taste for salt.

Puree the soup until smooth. Ladle into bowls and distribute the cheese over the top. Garnish with the fried sage leaves and pepper. Enjoy!

Serves 4 to 6

February 18, 2008

Rigatoni with Cauliflower in Spicy Pink Sauce


I needed some comfort food tonight. I love baked pasta dishes. I found this recipe a while ago in Fine Cooking. I really like the flavor of cauliflower in the dish. It is nutty and goes really well with the flavor of the Fontina cheese.

I've modified the original recipe to reduce the amount the dish serves. The original makes a large amount that is too much for just two people so I cut the original in half. I've also adapted it to use prepared marinara sauce. I make large batches of marinara sauce and store it in the freezer in one cup containers.

One variation that I've considered is to add a few capers and I often make it a bit spicer by adding an additional 1/4 tsp of pepper flakes. You might also add a bit more cheese if you like it richer.

If you are interested in the original, here is a copy from Meals Matter.

Rigatoni with cauliflower in spicy pink sauce

2 cups Marinara sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lb rigatoni
2 cups cauliflower florets, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup shredded Fontina
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a 7x11 inch baking pan with olive oil.

Combine the marinara sauce and cream in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes until thickened. Add pepper flakes and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add rigatoni and cook about 10 minutes until it is al dente. Remove the pasta with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce. Add the cauliflower to the pasta water and cook until barely tender - about 2 minutes. Drain and add to the sauce.

Add 1/2 of the fontina to the pasta mixture and toss. Transfer to the prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Top with the remaining fontina and the parmigiano.

Bake uncovered until the cheese is golden brown - about 15 minutes. Let rest about 5 minutes and serve.

March 3, 2008

Market House Corned Beef

Market House Corned Beef

Vegetarians - Look away quick!

G doesn't eat meat but I still do. I find it difficult around holidays to avoid traditional meals. At Thanksgiving, I always want to cook a turkey. St. Patrick's Day is coming up soon and I'm feeling the need to have corned beef.

My ancestry is mixed. A little German, a little Scottish but mostly Irish. We always cooked corned beef for St. Patrick's Day when I was growing up. It was not cooked in G's household. I cooked it a couple of times early in our marriage but it never became a tradition in our house. It was easy to give up when G became vegetarian. But there has been that little nagging in the back of my mind in March that it is time to cook corned beef.

I tried it a couple of years ago. I bought one of the major commercial brands and boiled it up as my mother cooked it. Yech! It was so fat and salty. I decided to write it off. But the March nagging persisted.

Metropolitan Market is a local market which has a great selection of choice meats, fish and seafood. I love to shop at the Queen Anne branch during my lunch break. I was shopping last week and noticed that they had Market House Corned Beef. Market House is a small local company that brines their own corned beef. In Seattle, it is considered the best local corned beef and they provide corned beef to many of the local restaurants. I found a small piece and decided to give it a try.

I cooked it on Sunday. The package recommended baking it at 300 degrees covered in a pan with 1/4 water for 3 - 5 1/2 hours. My piece was rather small so I cooked it just about 3 hours.

I cut off a small piece after cooking. Oh my goodness, it was so good! It was not salty at all with a nice spicy taste. I couldn't stop snacking and finished off about 1/4 of it.

Today I had a great sandwich made with whole wheat bread, mayo, horseradish and dijon mustard. I maybe able to get a second sandwich off the small piece I bought. But my craving hasn't been satisfied. I'm making another trip to Metropolitan Market for another piece to cook next week.

For more information on the history of Market House - here is an article from the Stranger newspaper. If I have inspired you to try some yourself, you can order it up until around March 12 from Made in Washington.

March 8, 2008

Vegetarian Cassoulet

Vegetarian Cassoulet

The March 2008 Gourmet is a special issue focusing on French bistro cooking. It has many interesting and easy recipes for many of the typical dishes from French bistros, from steak and fries, roasted chicken to profitroles. The cuisine is not necessarily vegetarian friendly since many of the dishes focus on meat or include some type of pork.

One of the recipes was for a vegetarian version of cassoulet. Cassoulet is a dish from southwestern France that is a stew made from white beans and meat. The meat varies by region with the most famous combination of duck, sausage and white beans. I have wanted to try it but never have since G does not eat meat.

So the recipe for a vegetarian version caught my attention. It was also pretty simple since it used canned beans instead of requiring the long cooking. I also had three cans of white beans that I have been trying to use. Perfect.

Vegetarian Cassoulet

The recipe starts by cooking a mirepoix, a combination of leek, carrot and celery. I could not find leeks at the grocery store so I substituted a shallot and chopped onions. These are cooked first in olive oil with sprigs of aromatic herbs and a bay leaf. The rinsed canned beans are added along with water and cooked for about 30 minutes. The final dish is sprinkled with garlic bread crumbs which added a nice crunchy texture contrast to the smoothness of the white beans.

I just checked the comments on Epicurious. Several of the people commenting added tomatoes but I enjoyed it without the tomatoes. I use tomatoes so much in my cooking - it was a nice change. A very satisfying dish.

Vegetarian Cassoulet from Gourmet

For cassoulet
3 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only)
4 medium carrots, halved
lengthwise and cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
3 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch-wide pieces
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
4 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3 (19-ounce) cans cannellini or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 quart water

For garlic crumbs
4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from a baguette
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces, then wash well and pat dry.

Cook leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herb sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, then water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Make garlic crumbs while cassoulet simmers:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Toss bread crumbs with oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a bowl until well coated. Spread in a baking pan and toast in oven, stirring once halfway through, until crisp and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.

Cool crumbs in pan, then return to bowl and stir in parsley.

Finish cassoulet:
Discard herb sprigs and bay leaf. Mash some of beans in pot with a potato masher or back of a spoon to thicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, sprinkle with garlic crumbs.

Vegetarian Cassoulet

March 9, 2008

Baked Fettuccine with Asparagus, Lemon and Mascarpone


Here is another good baked pasta from Fine Cooking. This one is very rich and it is a little more complicated than it seems at first. It took me four pans to prepare and bake the dish. It is so nice that G will clean up. Once it all comes together, the baking time is short.

I cut the recipe in half but made the full amount of sauce. I only used half of the sauce but it was easier to make the full amount of the sauce than try to cut it in half. The final dish is somewhat dry so some people suggest using double sauce but I think that would be too rich. The left over sauce will make a nice pasta dish for lunch.

There are several variations of this sauce on the web. One suggested adding smoked salmon which sounds great. If you have some lemon vodka on hand, you may also want to try this lemon asparagus fettuccine instead.

Baked Fettuccine with Asparagus, Lemon, Pinenuts and Mascarpone

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lbs asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
8 scallions, sliced
2 lemons, zested
1 lemon, juiced
2-3 sprigs of thyme, chopped
salt, pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup Grana Padano or parmigiano-reggiano cheese, grated
pinch of allspice
pinch of cayenne
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 lb fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease a large shallow baking dish with olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and blanch the asparagus until crisp-tender - about 2 minutes. Transfer with slotted spoon to colander and run under cold water. Drain well. Save water for pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions and saute for 1 minute to soften. Add the asparagus and saute briefly. Remove from heat and add half of the zest, the lemon juice and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and flour over medium heat, whisking until smooth. Cook 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, whisking, until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until smooth and slightly thickened 3-4 minutes.

Turn off heat. Add remaining lemon zest, Mascarpone and 1/2 cup of Grana Padano, whisking until smooth. The texture will be a little grainy. Season with cayenne, allspice, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining Grana Padano cheese. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Return cooking water to boil and cook the fettuccine. Drain well. Return the fettuccine to pan. Add the pine nuts, the mascarpone sauce and the asparagus. Toss and taste for seasoning.

Pour into the baking dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly over the top. Bake uncovered until bubbling and golden, 15-20 minutes. Serve right away.

March 16, 2008

Choclate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie

I was reading Anadamo's post about pie. My Pi post inspired her to try an apple pie. Yeah! Anadamo - your pie sounded great. Congrats on a successful pie from scratch.

I missed making a pie on Pi Day but I thought - what the heck - and decided to make one today. I remembered I had a frozen prebaked small pie dough shell that I made a while back in the freezer. I needed to use it up. That limited my choices to a pie that could use a prebaked shell. Hmmm... cream pie would be good. I asked G and of course he said - chocolate.

Last time I made a chocolate cream pie, I used a recipe that I had been making since high school. It was little bit grainy since it was thickened by flour. I wanted something a bit silkier today. I have another recipe that makes a great banana cream pie. It uses a combination of cornstarch and flour to thicken the filling. That would be better. Much more like a French pastry cream.

I decided to cut it by 1/3 since I had a small pie shell. Eck! I had to use math to figure out how to divide 2 1/2 tbs by 1/3. l ended up taking everything back to teaspoons in order to divide it by 1/3.

Oh but it was soooo good. I had some great bittersweet chocolate left over from the chocolate cake I made a Christmas. I added a bit of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips. It wasn't dark enough so I added a bit of unsweetened chocolate. It really makes a difference to use great chocolate. If you are looking for some great baking chocolate - check out The Chocolate Man website. For bittersweet - Maricaibo by Fechlin is awesome. For unsweetened - Caraque by Cocoa Berry is so good. No bitter taste even though it is unsweetened.

We scarfed down half the pie tonight. I suspect I won't be able to sleep with a bit of caffeine from the chocolate. Oh well, it was so good.

Here is a recipe for the cream pie. You can use it as a base for any type of cream pie. I've included the variations at the bottom. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cream Pie

Cream Pie

2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs flour
3 cups mild
3 egg yolks - slightly beaten
1 tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
whipping cream
9" pie shell, baked

In a sauce pan, combine sugar, salt flour, cornstarch and milk with a wire whisk. Stire constangly over medium heat until the mixture thickens. Boil for 1 minute. Then slowly add egg yolks and bring to a boil once again. (It can help to add a couple of spoons of the hot milk mixture to the eggs first before adding to the hot mixture). Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Chocolate: Add 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate to mixture. Stir until chocolate is melted and combined. Pour into pie shell. Chill and top with whipped cream.

Coconut: 1 cup shreadded coconut, toasted. Spring 1/2 over pie crust. Pour cream mixture over coconut and hill. Cover with whipped cream and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Banana: Put a thin layer of cream mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Slice bananas over the thin layer. Continue alternating cream and bananas. Chill. Cover with whipped cream.

March 24, 2008

French Lentil Soup

French Lentil Soup

I won't like to go out to lunch. I prefer to make something interesting on the weekend and eat at my desk. We have a central lunch room but I usually just microwave something and bring it back to my desk. Since G doesn't eat meat, I usually can indulge during lunch.

It was rainy, windy and wet on Sunday. I didn't really want to go to the store so I dug around through the pantry to come up with something that I could make. Ah hah! Lentils. I had some left over vegetable broth from last weekend's risotto plus the classic mirepoix ingredients (carrots, celery and onion). Perfect. Lentil soup.

Cruising around on Epicurious to see if there was anything different. There really was not but I did find this recipe for French Lentil Soup which used exactly what I had in the house. I decided to make a 1/2 batch and add a bit of spices to the soup - a bit of bay leaf and fresh thyme. It was done in less than an hour and now I have a couple of days of lunch.

French Lentil Soup

3 tablespoons extra–virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped celery stalks plus chopped celery
leaves for garnish
1 cup chopped carrots
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups lentils, rinsed, drained
1 14 1/2–ounce can diced tomatoes in juice

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium–high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

Transfer 2 cups soup (mostly solids) to blender and puree until smooth. Return puree to soup in pan; thin soup with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if too thick. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with celery leaves.

Note: - I added a 1/2 bay leaf and a sprig of thyme. I also added an additional cup of water since my lentils were rather old and needed to cook more. I definitely recommend to puree 1/2 of the soup to give it a better texture.

April 20, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #2 - Sicilian Pistashio Bars

Sicilian Pistachio Bars

Krista came up with a great idea for the bloggers on Slow Travel. dolce.jpg We will pick a recipe from a cookbook and bake it some time during the week. On Sunday, we will all blog the results. Jerry came up with the name - Sunday Slow Bakers.

I missed the first week challenge - Italian Crumbly Cake so I didn't want to miss this week's challenge - Sicilian Pistachio Bars from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma chosen by Deborah.

First challenge was to find shelled unsalted pistachios. Fortunately, we have a great local market which has an excellent bulk food section. They have everything a baker (or cook) needs in bulk form. This save a lot of time and my finger nails.

Sicilian Pistachio Bars

The pistachios are ground fine in a food processor and added to the flour. The butter is creamed with the sugar and eggs. Next add the flavoring, vanilla, almond (extract or amaretto) and lemon. I completely forgot the lemon. I should have zested it before starting the recipe. They were good without it but I think the tangy sour lemon would have added a lot.

The cookies are baked in a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan 18x13 that has been lined with parchement paper. The dough is dense so it can be difficult to spread evenly. The recipe recommends an off-set metal spatula which would have been great. I didn't have one so I used a hard plastic spatula. The cookie dough forms a thin layer. You will want to watch the browning depending upon your oven. My oven is a little cool so the 35 minutes were fine to create a light browning along the edges but lightly golden in the rest of the pan.

Sicilian Pistashio Bars

Let them cool 30 minutes and slice up. Excellent with coffee or milk. These can also be frozen.

Sicilian Pistachio Bars

Here are a few of the other results:

Next week - Babbo's Breadsticks.

April 23, 2008

Aspargus Quiche

Asparagus Quiche

There is nothing that says spring like aspargus. It is season now. The best asparagus comes from the San Joaquin Delta area around Stockton. Juicy fat stalks.

I picked up a bunch at Costco this weekend and I've been using in several different dishes. My favorite and easiest is to drizzle the spears with EVO and pop in a hot oven (400-425) until slightly carmalized. Yumm. Perfect with salmon or fresh Alaska halibut.

I dropped by the University Farmer's Market this weekend. I don't know exactly what I was looking for but I really didn't find much. I did find some lovely organic eggs from Rickman Gulch Farm. The yolks are sunny yellow.

Rickman Gulch Organic Eggs

Asparagus and eggs are a great combination. I picked up some lovely Comté Gruyère from the Resident Cheesemonger in Edmonds and made an aspargus souffle on Sunday. I had a bit more aspargus and Gruyère left over so I made a quiche tonight.

My favorite quiche recipe is from an 'old' recipe book - Sunset Cooking for Two - copyright 1978. G came home tonight was remarked "This book was only $2.95!!". Check out the fashions!

Old cookbook

Old cookbook

Yes, it is a little dated but I love this quiche. Originally the recipe was a Crab quiche but it will work for any filling. I increased the recipe since it is easier to use a 9 inch pan than a 8 inch pan.

"Oh - did you make a pie today?' asked G when he got home.
"No - I made a quiche" I replied.
"That looks great!" he said.

It was.

Aspargus Quiche

Buttery Pastry Shell
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 TBS cold unsalted butter
pinch salt
1 egg yolk
4 TBS cold water

Put the flour into a food processor bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Add a pinch of salt. Pulse until the butter is combined into coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk. Turn on processor and add water. Continue running until it just starts to form a ball.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Form into a ball and roll out to fit a 9" pie pan. Prick dough bottom and side with a fork. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes until lightly brown. Cool.

Quiche filling
1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
8-10 spears aparagus, break off tough ends. Slice on diagonal into 1/2 inch slices.
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp thyme
4 eggs
1 cup half-half
pinch salt

Prepare pastry shell. When cool, evenly sprinkle cheese over bottom of shell. Heat EVO in a saute pan. Add onion and saute until transparent. Add herbs.

While onion is cooking, blanche the asparagus in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and add to cooked onion. Spoon over cheese.

Beat eggs with cream and pour over asparagus. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 35-45 minutes or until custard appears firm when dish is gently shaken. Let stand for a few minutes to cool slightly b efore cutting in wedges to serve.

April 27, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #3 - Babbo Grissini

grissini 006

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our third bake.

This week's selectionis a savory item - Babbo's Breadsticks. I had my doubts about it since I've only had the hard cellophane-wrapped breadsticks. Would it be worth the effort? G had a company party to go to Saturday and signed us up for cheese and crackers. The breadsticks would be great to take along with the cheese so I decided to do them on Saturday.

Sustainable Flour from the PNW I tried to find 00 flour but no luck in my area. I tried Trader Joe's and Central Market and neither store carried it. But I did find an locally grown and milled flour by Stone Buhr. The flour comes from Shepard's Grain , an alliance of family farms who have been certified as "environmentally and socially responsible" by Food Alliance. I think that is so cool that I can find socially responsible local flour here in my grocery store.

The recipe went together easily. I was surprised by the recipe including a 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper. These may have a little spiciness. I don't have a standing mixer to knead the dough so I blended the ingredients and then turned them out onto a floured sheet and hand kneaded them for 5 minutes. The dough handled similar to pizza dough.

Our house is cool so for good measure I warmed a bit of water in a large soup pot and laid a cake rack on top to warm the dough. I placed the towel covered bowl on top the warm pan and left it to raise.

grissini 001

After the dough doubled in size, I punched it down and cut the dough into 1 inch pieces. It took a little bit for me to get the hang of hand rolling the dough into foot long pencil thin strands of dough. I'd always end up with one section really narrow. But the dough is really forgiving and you can push it back together and re-roll it out.

The instructions were to bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes. I had to bake for almost 20 minutes to get them lightly golden in my oven.

They were golden and crispy. The tangy salt with the peppery bite was addictive. G and I ate several right out of the oven. I placed them in a large pint glass and took them to the party. They were definitely attention grabbers and were gobbled up.

grissini 003

Here are a few of the other bloggers results:

Next week: Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

May 4, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #4 - Grappa-soaked Mini Sponge Cakes

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our fourth bake.

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes This week's selection is Grappa-soaked Mini Sponge Cakes from Dolce Italiano by Gina de Palma. This recipe had a couple of different challenges. First, I didn't have a mini-bundt cakes pan. I don't even have a bundt cake pan. I thought I would use a regular tube pan and then I remembered that I have a savarin ring pan. I thought that might be better than a regular tube pan.

Next challenge was to find grappa. I had found some locally produced grappa from Clear Creek in Oregon. But no luck today. So I ended up with some grape brandy from Bulgaria! Next time I'll remember to use the State Liquor Board's web search page.

The recipe went together smoothly. I have not had too good of luck making sponge cakes. First you create a simple syrup of water, grappa and sugar. Sift together the dry ingredients.

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

Next separate 8 eggs. Beat the eggs yolks with sugar and honey until double in size. Add the flavoring (more grappa!) and melted butter.

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

Fold in the dry ingredients. Beat the egg whites until soft folds. Pour into pans and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool cake for 5 minutes and then remove from pan. Brush with the grappa syrup.

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

Serve with berries and whipped cream.

Grappa-soaked mini sponge cakes

May 11, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #5 - Biscotti di Limone e Semolino

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our fifth bake.

Jerry at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants! selected this week's bake - Lemon Semolina Cookies. After reviewing the recipe, I realized these are a lot like a ginger molasses cookie that I make except the focus is on lemon - lemon juice, lemon zest and Lemoncello!

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies

First task was to buy some lemoncello. Another run to the State Liquor Store. Fortunately, they had several in stock. Semolina was easy to find. Central Market had it in bulk so I could buy just what I needed.

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies

First you combine the flour, semolina, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Next cream together the butter, olive oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs.

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies

Zest and juice a lemon. Add to mixture with vanilla and lemoncello. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients.

The dough is much moister than the typical cookie. Chill for an hour first. I went out for a run. Then roll about a teaspoon into a ball and roll in sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I put the dough into the freezer after the first batch to get it firmer to make it easier to roll the second batch.

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookies

Bake in 325 degrees for 15 minutes. My oven is cool so I baked them an additional five minutes. They were very light but cooked. Lemon aroma wafted thoughout the kitchen. I could not wait and bite into one. Yummmmm...

SSB #5 - Lemon Semolina Cookie

May 18, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #6 - Hazelnut and Grape Tart

Hazelnut and Grape Tart

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our sixth bake.

Today's bake is the Hazelnut and Grape Tart from Dolce Italiano selected by Kim. It is very different from the typical fruit tart.

First make the tart crust. This is a nice dough although rather soft. It does not use water but uses egg and cream. For flavoring, vanilla and lemon rind.

First you beat together the egg yolks and sugar. Add grated orange rind and vanilla. Grind the hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor and add to the yolks. This ends with a stiff batter.

Hazelnut and Grape Tart Hazelnut and Grape Tart

Beat eggs whites with a little sugar until stiff and fold into the egg/nut batter. Spread on over the tart shell.

Hazelnut and Grape Tart Hazelnut and Grape Tart

Cut grapes in half and sprinkle with sugar and grappa or your liquor of choice. Arrange the grapes cut side down in a circular pattern. They are a little bit slippery and sticky so be careful. G felt it looked like a cobblestone mosaic.

Hazelnut and Grape Tart Hazelnut and Grape Tart

Bake until golden and cool. It is very rich and interesting. I think it would be good with a light dollop of whip cream.

Hazelnut and Grape Tart

May 25, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #7 - Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake

zucchini olive oil cake

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our seventh bake.

Today's bake is the Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze from Dolce Italiano selected by Jan from Keep your Feet in the Street.

It is early for zucchini here in the Pacific Northwest. We have three plants in our garden and I hope that I will get lots of zucchini this year. I struggle growing zucchini - they never seem to pollinate. My fingers are crossed.

The recipe is very similar to a carrot cake. First sift together the dry ingredients - flour, spice (cinnamon, giner and nutmet) and leavening. Next combine eggs, oil and sugar. The difference in this recipe is it uses olive oil. Then stir in the dry ingredients. Add the zucchini and finely chopped walnuts. Pour into a bundt pan or in my case a tube pan and bake. Drizzle with a sweet lemon glaze. Moist and lovely.

zucchini olive oil cake zucchini olive oil cake
zucchini olive oil cake zucchini olive oil cake
zucchini olive oil cake Zucchini Olive Oil Cake
zucchini olive oil cake

June 1, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #8 - Chocolate and Polenta Tart

Chocolate Polenta Tart

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our eighth bake.

Today's bake is the Chocolate and Polenta Tart from Dolce Italiano selected by Marcia from Happy Trails For Us: My Reluctant Blog.

Chocolate Polenta Tart Chocolate and polenta, what an unusual combination. This time I needed to chase down instant polenta. I have standard polenta which has a coarse grain. One option would be to use cornmeal but I decided to check Central Market. They had several different polentas by Moretti. Unfortunately I didn't look up the different options before running to the store. My Italian is not as good as my French so I stood there for a bit mulling over which one might be instant. Fortunately, there is a translation on the package and I decided to go with the lampo which turns out to be the instant.

Next decision was what chocolate to use. There were multiple choices from different countries and even the single plantation chocolate. As luck would have it, there was a chocolate tasting at the store hosted by our local fair trade chocolatier - Theo Chocolates. I discussed what would be a good bittersweet to use to bake and we decided the 75% Cacao which blended chocolates from Ghana, Panama and Ecuador would be good. BTW, if you are looking for a great blog on Chocolate, take a their Theonistas Unite! blog. Hmmm... I just discovered they have tours. I will check them out.

All the ingredients now located, it was not time to start baking. The crust was similar to a shortbread crust except it included a 1/2 cup of polenta. Combine flour, sugar, polenta and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Then add unsalted butter and pulse until it resembles coarse sand. Next combine egg, olive oil and vanilla. Add to the flour/butter mixture and pulse until it comes together in a ball. Refrigerate for 2 hours and then roll into 10" pan.

That's when my problems began. I found the dough to be very sticky and I didn't use enough flour when rolling it. I put down parchment paper to roll it out on and it stuck to the paper and it came apart when I tried to put it in the pan as you can see below. I have better luck when I put soft dough like this into the freezer. It probably would have been good if I had a marble slab for rolling it on. That would have kept it cool. Fortunately, it seems to be somewhat forgiving and I was able to press it into the pan.

Next melt butter and chocolate over hot water. This is the best way to melt chocolate. It stays somewhat cool and doesn't burn. Beat eggs and sugar until triple in volume. Stir in vanilla and then fold into the chocolate mixture. Sift flour and polenta into the mixture and pour into tart shell. Bake for 25 minutes at 350. Or in my oven's case - 360.

The taste was gorgeous. It was a little drier than I expect and I would be better served warm. G, my resident chocoholic said - "Yummmm... this will be gone in no time".

Chocolate Polenta Tart Chocolate Polenta Tart
Chocolate Polenta Tart Chocolate Polenta Tart
Chocolate Polenta Tart Chocolate Polenta Tart
Chocolate Polenta Tart

June 8, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #9 - Bittersweet Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our eighth bake.

Today's bake is the Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies from Dolce Italiano selected by me! I wanted to make another cookie. I chose chocolate because G loves chocolate.

Chocolate and Hazelnut, this is my favorite combination. I love the chocolate pralines candies from Belgium. One of my favorite chocolates from Italy is Baci - chocolate with a hazelnut in the center. It is also one of my favorite gelato flavors.

I've made a chocolate crinkle cookie that sounded similar and I expected these would be similar but they are not. These are more dense and drier. The cookies didn't raise and crack as much as I expected. I used Lindt 70% chocolate along with Felchlin cocoa. The cookies actually are a bit too chocolate for me. I should have used a bit less intense chocolate since the Felchlin is very dark and strong.

Start by mixing the flour and cocoa together. Chop the hazelnuts medium-fine in a food processor. I lightly roasted them for flavor but I didn't skin them.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add an egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. The mixture will be very stiff. Don't over beat but you'll have to work a bit to combine all the dry ingredients. Chop the bittersweet chocolate finely and add to mixture.

Chill the dough. I was running out of time so I didn't chill it for a full 30 minutes. Roll into 1" balls, flatten slightly into a small disk. Roll in powdered sugar and place on cookie sheet. Bake 8-12 minutes until puffed and cracking.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

June 22, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers #11 - Strawberries in Chianti with Black Pepper Ricotta Cream

Strawberries in Chianti

It is time for Sunday Slow Bakers. We are a group of bakers from Slow Travel who are baking and blogging together each Sunday. The group was organized by Krista and this is our eighth bake.

Today's dessert is Strawberries in Chianti with Black Pepper Ricotta Cream from Dolce Italiano selected by Amy of Destination Anywhere. Perfect choice for June when local strawberries are at their peak. It was also great not to bake and to have a little lighter dessert. I passed on last week's Ricotta Cheesecake.

Strawberries are late this year due to the unusual cold weather we have been having in June here in the Pacific Northwest. We've renamed June to Junuary due to the cold. But fortunately I saw the first batch in my favorite local grocery store. These beauties are locally grown in the rich Skagit Valley just north of Seattle. The grower is the Sakuma Brothers. They have been local farmers for three generations and have been growing strawberries since 1948. Here is another interesting article on the family from Sustainable Northwest.

I picked out a nice basket and carefully carried them home. I didn't want them bruised for the photo shoot.

The recipe is super easy. Wash and quarter the strawberries into a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and add a 1/2 cup Chianti wine and macerate for two hours. Meanwhile beat cream and sugar until forms soft peaks. Add ricotta cheese and cracked pepper. Serve as a parfait.

We really enjoyed it. I loved how different it tasted. Not extremely sweet. I did not crack the pepper but instead coarsely ground the pepper which gave it a milder flavor. In fact, G couldn't tell it was pepper. He thought the spice was cinnamon. I'll make this again.

Strawberries in Chianti Strawberries in Chianti
Strawberries in Chianti Strawberries in Chianti
Strawberries in Chianti Strawberries in Chianti
Strawberries in Chianti Strawberries in Chianti

Strawberries in Chianti

August 2, 2008

Nectarine Berry Crisp

Nectarine Berry Crisp

The local stone fruits are just coming in at the local farmers markets. The berries are at the height of season. There are great selections of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and tayberries in the markets. I have been serving sweetened berries with vanilla ice cream but I got a craving for a crisp. I had several interesting crisps while in California. I like a topping that has a nutty whole grain flavor versus more pie like topping. This month's Bon Appetit had several good summer fruit recipes including this one for Nectarine Raspberry Crisp that caught my eye. It looked very easy especially since it used melted butter instead of creaming in soft butter.

I cut the recipe approximately in half to serve myself and G. I always find it challenging to come up with a pan size that is half of 11x7. I decided to use a round 8" pan instead.

Today I went to our local farmer's market and found some fresh nectarines and tayberries. I made it again and I think the tayberries are even better than raspberries. I love boysenberries and tayberries are similar - a cross between blackberry and raspberries. It smelled wonderful coming out of the oven. I'm going to serve it with a big scoop of Ben and Jerry's Vanilla.

Here are my modifications:


1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
generous pinch of cardamon
2 Tbs finely chopped walnuts
3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly

Fruit Mixture

3 nectarines but into 3/4 inch thick slices
1/2 pint container of fresh berries (boysenberry, tayberries, raspberries or blackberries)
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch

Mix flour, oats, sugars, cinnamon, salt, cardamon and walnuts in a medium bowl. Add melted butter and rub together mixture until it comes together (can use fingers or spoon).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 inch pan. Combine nectarines, berries, sugar and cornstarch. Pour into pan and spring topping eve over fruit. Bake until fruit mixture is bubbling and topping is golden, about 45 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Nectarine Berry Crisp

Nectarine Berry Crisp

August 17, 2008

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Several Slow Travel bloggers have been doing the Omnivore's Hundred Meme started by Andrew on Very Good Taste. Krista was the first Slow Travel blogger to post the meme. Jerry and Kim were next. I love Jerry's cartoon.

Clotilde got into the act today on Chocolate & Zucchini. It is a lot of fun. I don't think of myself as an adventurous eater but I was surprised to see that I've tried many of these on the list.

Here are the rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison (No but I have had gemsbok)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (Everyone makes Blackberry wine in the PNW)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (We grow these ourselves)
22. Fresh wild berries (Yep, they are everywhere in the PNW)
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans (I had this this week!)
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (habenaro yes- but I don't think a scotch bonnet)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (long long ago)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (No but I have been to a tasting of 20 different single malts)
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (no but I'm considering having it here in Seattle)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (Okay... well only durian candy in Singapore)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare (does rabbit count?)
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

August 19, 2008

Creamy Cucumber Soup


I've been saving cooking magazines for ages. I've got several boxes of old Bon Appetites, Gourmets, Fine Cooking, Sunset and others. I used to go back and re-read the older issues. But I've come to realize that everything I really need is on the web especially with Epicurious and Find.MyRecipes.

So I've been going through the old boxes and recycling the old magazines. I usually will go through and review a few that look interesting.

We have an abundance of cucumbers this year. We're growing Orient Express and it has been producing like crazy. I came across this interesting recipe in Sunset for a cold creamy cucumber soup. I had this in France and loved it.


The recipe is very easy. I was surprised to see that it had celery but it added depth to the soup. I'm definitely going to make this one again.

Creamy Cucumber Soup

Creamy Cucumber Soup
Sunset - July 2002

2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound White Rose or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup thickly sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley
1 green onion, rinsed, ends trimmed, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon butter
1 English cucumber (about 12 oz.), rinsed, or regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
About 3/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
About 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

1. Combine 2 1/2 cups broth, potatoes, onion, celery, parsley, green onion, thyme, and butter in a 5- to 6-quart pan; cover and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes mash easily with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice a fourth of the cucumber; wrap airtight and chill. Coarsely chop remaining.

3. Working in batches, whirl potato mixture and chopped cucumber in a blender until smooth; pour into a large bowl. Stir in 3/4 cup crème fraîche, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce. Cover and chill until cold, at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

4. Thin soup with more broth. If desired, add more salt and hot sauce to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced cucumber and more crème fraîche.

October 8, 2008

Squash, Corn and Coconut Soup

Squash, Corn and Coconut Soup

Squash, Corn and Coconut Soup

Last weekend we went for a hike up at Washington Pass which crosses through the North Cascades National Park. It is one of the higher passes here in Washington State at over 5,000 ft. We were searching for larches, beautiful deciduous conifer trees whose needs turn golden at this time of the year. We found them but we also found snow flurries. The pass was dusted with a light coating of snow.

Blue Lake

Tonight's forecast is for more cold. The snow level is to drop to 2,500 ft. It seems early to me - it isn't even mid-October. We checked our records for last year and the first frost was not until October 26th. It may be earlier this year.

We picked up some late harvest corn. I had also bought a butternut squash. I was originally going to make phyllo squash turnovers. I was looking at Epicurious to get an idea of what to do with 10 ears of corn and came across a recipe using both squash and corn.

Their version suggested using either calabaza or kabocha squash but the reviews said it worked well with butternut.

It was very easy to make. Cutting up the squash was the most challenging. It was so delicious - rich, creamy and Asian from the coconut milk. This one is a winner.

Butternut Squash, Corn and Coconut Soup
Based up recipe from Gourmet

For Soup
2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 (~2 1/4lb) butternut squash, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups water
1 1/4 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut mil (12oz)
3 ears of corn (fresh or thawed frozen), kernals cut off and reserved and cobs cut halved crosswise
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne

For Corn Relish
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of sugar
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cups corn kernel from above
2 TBS coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 TBS finally chopped shallot


Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately heat, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften and edges are browned, about 4 minutes. Add cilantro stems and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Add squash pieces and cook, stirring frequently, 3 minutes. Stir in water, coconut milk, corn cobs, salt, and cayenne and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until squash is very tender, about 15 minutes. (It took about 20-30 minutes at a low simmer for the squash to cook)

Prepare corn relish while soup simmers:

Whisk together lime juice, salt, and sugar in a bowl, then add oil and whisk until combined.

Cook corn kernels in a saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a sieve, then rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well, then transfer to dressing along with cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat

Finish soup:
Discard corn cobs, then purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) until smooth, transferring to a 2-quart measure.

Divide soup among bowls and gently stir 1/4 cup corn relish into each.

October 14, 2008

Linguine with Clams in Spicy Pernod Sauce

Linguine with Clams and Pernod

The harvest is almost done here in the Pacific Northwest. G harvested all the tomatoes last week and has them boxed downstairs. He has devised a system to ripen the tomatoes by putting wrapping them in newspaper, storing them stem side down and putting a banana in the box to help ripen.

I have been looking for ways to use the fresh tomatoes. I don't have enough to can so we have been eating them as fast as we can. Judith of Think on It posted that she was hosting this week's Presto Pasta Night. Ah, just the push I needed. I went searching for a pasta recipe that would use some of our fresh tomatoes.

I came across this recipe for Linguine with Clams in spicy Pernod Sauce on Epicurious from Gourmet 2000. I love Pernod and I love linguine with clams. It also used fresh tomatoes.

I reviewed the comments. Several of the reviews mentioned that the instructions cook the clams too long. The clams here in the Northwest are small and will open in just a few minutes. They would be tough if I cooked them 8 minutes. Also it is important to use good dried pasta. I choose Delverde which is one of the better pastas I can find in the stores here in Seattle.

I omitted browning the clams and instead added them at the end. It was perfect.

Linguine with Clams and Pernod Linguine with Clams and Pernod
Linguine with Clams and PernodLinguine with clams and pernod

Linguine with Clams and Pernod

Linguine with Clams in Spicy Pernod Sauce

24 small hard-shelled clams such as littleneck or Manila, well scrubbed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 Tbs shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons Pernod
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
12 oz dried linguine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Bring water for linguine to a boil in an 6-8 quart pan. While water is heating, heat olive oil in a deep heavy skillet over med-high heat. Add fennel seeds and saute quickly for about 1/2 minute. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute, then add tomatoes and garlic. Cook until tomatoes soften 2-3 minutes. Add wine, water, Pernod, and red pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and cook until the clams open - 5 -7 minutes.

When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the linguine and cook until al dente.

Add cooked linguine, butter and parsley to clams and toss over low hear until pasta is covered in sauce. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

October 16, 2008

Braised Lentils

I've been reorganizing my pantry and trying to use up the older food. I came across some Umbrian lentils that I bought several years ago. Hmmm... what should I make.

I pulled out "Everyday Greens" by Annie Somerville. I love "Field of Greens", her first cookbook but I haven't made that many items from this book. But it had a wonderful sounding recipe for Braised Lentils.

It was very easy and extremely good. I served it with a pan fried fillet of Salmon. The earthy flavor the lentils are a perfect foil for the oiliness of the salmon.


Braised Lentils

I didn't have any red wine so I substituted about 1/3 cup of white wine and 3 tbs of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar works extremely well and adds a good sweet-sour to the recipe.

Braised Lentils

2 tbs olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced, about 1 cup
salt and pepper
1 tbs minced garlic
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced, about 3/4 cup
2 celery ribs diced about 3/4 cup
1 medium red or yellow pepper, diced about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup French Lentils
4 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 fresh sage leaves

Heat the oil in a dutch oven. Add the onion, 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. cook over medium heat until they begin to soften, 3-4 minutes. add the garlic, the vegetables, 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of pepper and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until the pan is nearly dry, 3-4 minutes. Add the lentils, water, bay leaf, and herbs and simmer until the beans are completely tender, but still hold their shape, 30-35 minutes. The lentils should be saucy, but not soupy. If the broth is thin, cook the lentils longer to reduce it. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper.

October 22, 2008

Mushroom Polenta

Mushroom Polenta

It was 34 degrees this morning. But the day was brilliantly clear and bright. The bright blue sky contrasted with the red of the Japanese maples.

I'm still working my way through my pantry trying to use up the open packages of staple goods so I can freshen up my cupboard. I found a half used package of instant polenta from when I made the Chocolate Polenta Tart from Dolce Italiano. Warm soft polenta is a great food for a cold fall day.

I decided to top it with mushrooms. They would need to have a strong flavor to stand up to the polenta so I softened some dried porcini mushrooms, diced up a small fresh tomato and finished it with a dash of Marsala. It was just the comfort food we were looking for.

I didn't follow a recipe so here is an approximate recipe for two people.


3/4 lb mushroms, cleaned and sliced
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion or shallot
large pinch salt
1 clove garlic coarsely chopped
2 TBS dried porcini softened in 1 cup of hot water
1 small tomato chopped
1 tbs fresh chopped herbs (combination of sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley)
2 tbs marsala wine

Heat olive in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and saute over medium heat. Add pinch of salt to help the mushrooms to cook.

When the mushrooms have started to reduce, add the garlic and saute a bit longer. Chop the soften porcini and add. Add the chopped tomato. Add about 1/4 cup of liquid from the soaked mushroom and cook until the liquid is mostly reduced. Add herbs and marsala and cook until fully reduced.


1 cup instant Polenta (Moretti)
4 cups of water and mushroom liquid
pinch of salt
1 cup cheese (combination of fontina, gruyere, parmesan)

Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer and slowly whisk in polenta with a wire. whisk. Cook until thickened. Stir in cheese and serve immediately.

Mushroom Polenta

October 29, 2008

Poached Pears with Marsala, Cinnamon, and Vanilla

My friend dropped off some fresh bosc pears this weekend. I wanted to try something different. I have never poached pears in wine but it sounded wonderful especially with some type of cream as an accent. I looked around Epicurious and there were several interesting sounding recipes. They all used different types of wine; fruity red, riesling, sweet muscat.

I decided to try this recipe poaching the pears in Marsala. I made a half batch since I only had a cup of Marsala. The recipe called for dry Marsala and I had sweet so I omitted the sugar. I also peeled and cut my pears in half instead of poaching them whole. It was easier to manage.

They were deelish especially with a dollop of mascarpone cheese. And it made my house smell wonderful while they were cooking.

Poached Pears Poached Pears

Poached Pears with Marsala, Cinnamon, and Vanilla
From Bon Appettit/Epicurious

2 cups dry Marsala
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
2 long strips orange peel
6 7-ounce Bosc pears, peeled, stems left intact

8 ounces mascarpone cheese (optional)

Combine 2 cups dry Marsala, 2 cups water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, split vanilla beans, and orange peel strips in heavy large pot. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peeled Bosc pears. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer until pears are tender, turning pears occasionally, about 40 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to platter. Boil liquid in pot until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 12 minutes. Pour syrup over poached pears. Chill until cold, turning pears occasionally, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Divide poached pears among 6 shallow bowls. Strain syrup; discard solids. Drizzle syrup over pears. Top each with dollop of mascarpone, if desired, and serve.

October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage and Pine Nuts

Fall is starting to be one of my favorite cooking season. I love squashes, nuts, soups and roasted dinners. It is also a great time for vegetarian cooking.

I forgot last week's Presto Pasta Night. This week Chef Melissa of The Cooking Diva is hosting Presto Pasta event. I didn't want to miss it.

We have several great fresh pasta companies here in Seattle. My favorite is Carso's which is available at Central Market in Shoreline. I found pumpkin filled ravioli as their seasonal special this week and decided to make it for this week's Presto Pasta Night.

I love to serve winter squash filled ravioli with a brown butter sauce seasoned with sage and pine nuts. This sauce is very versatile and can be used with other types of ravioli such as a goat cheese stuffed ravioli. If you can find good fresh ravioli - it is also a quick easy pasta meal. Perfect for a Presto Pasta night. I served it with a roasted Romanesco broccoli.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, Pinenuts Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, Pinenuts

Roasted Romanesco Broccoli Pumpkin Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, Pinenuts

Ravioli with Brown Butter, Sage, Pine Nut Sauce

6 Tbs unsalted butter
3 sage leaves, chopped
2 Tbs pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

8 oz ravioli - (butternut, pumpkin or goat cheese filled)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

While the water is coming to a boil, melt butter over low heat. When it starts to slowly bubble but has not darkened, add the sage and pinenuts. Shake the pan from time to time making certain the pine nuts do not burn. Watch closely, once it starts to brown, you may want to remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Once the water comes to a boil, salt and add the ravioli. Cook as directed. Drain and add to brown butter stirring to coat. Serve immediately and top with Parmesan Cheese.

November 3, 2008

Seafood Provencal Stew

Seafood Provencial Soup

I've almost used up all our tomatoes. This weekend I made this tomato soup from Epicurious. G really liked it and it was perfect for our cool gray days.

I thought it would be great with seafood and a little more spice. It would be a take off on both Bouillabaisse and Cioppino. I tried it today and it was great. It is actually a bit more like a seafood stew. I had frozen scallops and shrimp in the freezer so I used those for the fish but it would also great to add a white fish such as snapper and some clams.

Seafood Provencal Stew
Based on Provencal Tomato Soup with Rice on Epicurious

2 lb tomatoes or 28oz can whole tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
Scant 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/4 California
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups water
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (14 fl oz)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch crumbled saffron threads
1/4 cup long-grain white rice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 lb fish or shellfish (I used about 8 large scallops and 8 shrimps) cut into bite size pieces.

If using fresh tomatoes, peel and coarsely chop. If using canned, drain, reserving juice and coarsely chop.

Cook onions, carrot, celery, garlic, thyme, red-pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and bay leaf in oil in a 2 1/2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with reserved juice, tomato paste, water, broth, salt, pepper, and saffron then simmer, uncovered, stirring with a spoon occasionally, 20 minutes. Stir in rice and simmer, uncovered, until rice is tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf and stir in seafood. Cook over low heat until just done. Stir in parsley and basil. Salt to taste.

Serves 2 large bowls or 4 small servings.

Note: The original soup also uses a small amount of orange peel which would also be a nice addition. I didn't have any oranges on hand. Also, if the soup seems a little tart, you can add a small amount of sugar. My vegetable broth is somewhat sweet from carrots and a little sugar so I have not needed to add any.

November 10, 2008



One of my goals has been to try to make gnocchi from scratch. We have a couple of great sources for fresh handmade gnocchi. Pasta and Company makes my favorite - light, easy to cook. Cucina Fresca also makes a pretty good one although it is harder to cook since it tends to absorb more water and gets mushy. Last week I bought some fresh at the Ballard Market and they were really tough and rubbery. I knew I could do better.

I read a couple of recipes on the web and tips on Slow Travel. I decided to make the recipe in The Best Italian Classic from Cook's Illustrated.

They turned out pretty good. They were a little large - each gnocchi took two bites - so next time I want to make them a little bit smaller. They definitely tasted like dumplings so I think they could be a little bit lighter. I had a little challenge figuring out how to roll them. I think the instructions on how to roll them on a fork on this Italian website better than what is in Cook's Illustrated.

Baking the potatoes results in very dry potatoes so it is a little tricky knowing if you have enough flour. The picture below is what the dough looked like after adding 1 1/4 cups of flour. The dough rope broke up so I had to add a bit more to the dough to get it to roll correctly. I also kneaded it a bit more. I hope to do it next time without kneading it as much to make it lighter. Definitely use a potato ricer. You also want the water to be at a low boil so they cook correctly and do not break up.

I cooked half and froze the rest. We'll see how the frozen ones turn out next. I might also try this recipe next just to see if this one can be improved on. I sauced them with a Gorgonzola cream sauce.


2 lbs russet potatoes washed
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the potatoes until done 45 minutes to 1 hour depending upon the size.

2. Hold a potato with a potholder or towel and peel. I found a paring knife works best. Put about 1/2 a potato into a potato ricer and rice the peeled potatoes into a large bowl. Cool until no longer hot, about 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle 1 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt over the warm potatoes. Using your hands, work the mixture into a soft smooth dough. If sticky add more flour - up to 1 1/2 cups total.

4. Pull off a small ball about the size of a tangerine and roll into a long 3/4-inch this rope. If the rope won't hold together, return to the bowl and work in more flour.

5. Cut each rope into 3/4 inch lengths - about the size of your thumb to the first knuckle. Roll each piece on the tines of a fork pressing with your index finger. Place on baking sheet. These can be frozen at this time.

6. To Cook, Bring 4 quarts of water to a low boil in a large pot. Add salt to taste. Add about 1/3 gnocchi and cook until they float, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and sauce.

Gnocchi Gnocchi
Gnocchi Gnocchi
Gnocchi Gnocchi

November 23, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers - Porcini and Chestnut Soup

Porcini and Chestnut Soup

We are starting new group cook-a-long on Slow Travel. Previously we baked from Dolce Italiano and made ice cream from The Perfect Scoop. This time we are making soup. Our group is called the Sunday Slow Soupers.

Logo by KHB

The first soup was selected by Amy at Destination Anywhere . It was a perfect and just in time for Thanksgiving.

It was very easy to make. The hardest thing is to find and prepare the chestnuts. I lucked out and had a package of freeze dried chestnuts that I had purchased at Pasta and Company here in Seattle. They are organic Spanish chestnuts from Sierra Rica.

The soup went together in a snap. First soak dried porcini in hot water. Don't you like the name of our local gourmet mushroom company - Fungus Among Us?

Next saute a classic mirepoix mixture - celery, carrot and onion (or in this case shallot). Add herbs and broth. Strain the mushrooms and add both the soaking broth and soaked mushroom. Oh and don't forget the chestnuts.

Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes - puree - serve. Yum! Thanks Amy for an excellent recipe.

Porcini and Chestnut Soup Porcini and Chestnut Soup
Porcini and Chestnut Soup Porcini and Chestnut Soup

Chestnut and Porcini Soup
Serving: 6-7 cups


1/3 cup dried porcinis
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 medium carrot, diced
1 celery, diced
2 large shallots or ¼ small onion, finely chopped
1 sprig each of bay leaf, thyme and parsley
2 tablespoons butter

2 cans low-sodium chicken broth (or 4 cups homemade) or vegetable broth
1 1/4 pounds coarsely chopped peeled roasted chestnuts or 8-12 ounces bottled/canned/defrosted chestnuts. You want between a cup and 1 1/2 cups chestnuts.
Fresh-ground pepper
2 tablespoons dry sherry, or white wine, or cognac

Creme fraiche or a swirl of heavy cream, for garnish
chopped parsley for garnish

1. Put porcini mushrooms and the hot water in medium bowl. Let stand until porcini mushrooms soften, about 20 minutes.

2. In a large saucepan melt butter and add carrots, celery, and shallots or onions. Saute until tender. Add herbs and chicken broth.

3. Using slotted spoon, transfer porcini mushrooms into saucepan with chicken broth. Add porcini-soaking liquid to saucepan, carefully leaving sediment behind in bowl (I like to pour it through cheesecloth) . Add chestnuts and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove herbs before pureeing.

4. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth, then return soup to the saucepan. Or, just use an immersion blender, being careful to keep it at the bottom of the pot to avoid hot splatters. You may want to add a bit more water or stock if it’s too thick. You want a light soup, with the consistency of milk. Add Sherry, wine or cognac to taste. Bring soup to simmer, correct seasonings adding salt and pepper, to taste. Cool slightly and refrigerate. Can be prepared 2 days ahead or frozen. Re-warm over medium heat, stirring well to recombine if its separated.

Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with a spoonful of crème fraiche, or drizzle a bit of heavy cream in a spiral. Just a touch of parsley for color is nice.

November 24, 2008

Butternut Squash Leek Filo

Butternut Squash Leek Filo

A couple of weeks ago, I made a mushroom leek filo for a pre-Thanksgiving get together. I had a half package of filo left. What to do? I also had a butternut squash and a big package of Gruyere cheese that I picked up at Costco.

I had been looking at making Butternut turnovers from Anne Sommerville's "Fields of Greens" but it used a yeasted tart dough instead of filo. Hmmm.... I decided to combine the two recipes and instead of doing turnovers, layer the butternut squash in the filo similar to the other recipe.

I also wanted to make it a little bit smaller since there are only two of us. The mushroom filo dish makes 9x13 which is good for a crowd but a little bit much for just two of us (even for two days). I decided instead to make it in a 8x8 square pan and lay the filo up the side so it would essentially be a square pie. It worked perfect. And it was great with the porcini-chestnut soup and a salad with a mix of bitter and leaf lettuces. Perfect for fall.

Butternut Squash Leek Filo Butternut Squash Leek Filo
Butternut Squash Leek Filo Butternut Squash Leek Filo

Butternut Squash Leek Filo
4 servings

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes about 3 cups
Salt and pepper
a few fresh thyme springs
2 large leeks, white parts only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced about 3 cups
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (I used only 1 tsp or so)
2 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

16 frozen filo pastry dough sheets
4-6 tablespoon unsalted butter

Remove the filo pastry from the freezer and let it come to room temperature while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine 2 cloves of chopped garlic with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the cubed squash in a baking dish and toss with the garlic oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few pinches of pepper. add the thyme springs, cover and bake until the squash is tender but still holds its shape 25-30 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet; add the leeks, 1/2 tsp salt, a few pinches of pepper and the dried thyme. Saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes until the leeks begin to soften. Add the remaining garlic and cover the pan, allowing the leeks to steam. When tender, after about 8 minutes, add the wine and cook until the pan is nearly dry.

Gently toss the squash and leeks together with the fresh thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Melt butter in a small pan. Unfold the dough and cover with a damp towel to keep it from becoming dry and brittle. Butter the bottom of 8x8 pan. Lay down a piece of filo centering on the pan and letting it over lap evenly on opposite sides. Brush lightly with butter. Lay a second piece of filo evenly on the opposite side letting it overlap. (90 degrees to the first piece). It will be making a cross. Brush lightly with butter. Continue laying filo, brush with butter, lay alternate and brush with butter until you have used 8 pieces of filo.

Spread the squash and leek mixture over the filo and spread evenly. Sprinkle cheese over squash. Fold the filo hanging over the sides back over the filling. You will end up with a square of uncovered filing. Brush the top of the filo with butter.

Lay a piece of filo over the top of the filling. Some of the filo will be hanging over the side. That is fine - you will cut it off before baking. Brush with butter and lay another piece over the top. Continue brushing and laying the filo until you have laid 8 pieces of filo. Trim the sides.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes until golden. Let sit a few minutes and cut. It might be easier to cut before baking but it wasn't too bad since you only need to cut it into 4 pieces.

Tips: I found it worked better in a metal pan than a glass pan. Make certain that you brush the bottom of the pan well with butter.

November 25, 2008

Goan Curried Fish Stew

I mentioned this dish last week during a chat on Slow Travel. I've made this several times. I takes a little preparation but goes together well. I've never made it exactly as it written. I've cut it in half once or twice since there are only two of us. I've also used 1/2 the fish but made all of the sauce because I like to have the sauce with rice.

I've found it does come out a little thin especially when I've only used 1/2 the fish. I don't use the full amount of chili peppers - I usually only use 1 and it is not very hot. I also don't use all the cumin because I don't like cumin. Use any type of white fish or shellfish (prawns, squid, etc). Serves 4. I like it with jasmine rice.

Goan Curried Fish Stew
from Yahoo and Food and Wine

2 pounds sole fillets, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic, smashed
4 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
3/4 cup water

1. In a glass or stainless-steel container, combine the sole, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Let marinate at least 10 minutes.

2. In a blender, puree the garlic and ginger with the coconut milk, coriander, cumin, brown sugar, black pepper, turmeric, and cayenne.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the coconut mixture, the jalapenos, the water, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and bring slowly almost to a simmer, stirring frequently.

4. Add the fish and 1 tablespoon of the marinade. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering until the fish is just done, 1 to 2 minutes.

If you like this also check out :
Yellow Fish Curry

November 26, 2008

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

I love pumpkin pie. It was one of the first things I learned to bake. My mother had an old recipe book from the 20's with a recipe that she always made. It pass down over the years and I've continued to make it. Pumpkin pie is rather straightforward custard pie. Pumpkin, cream, eggs, sugar and spices. What could be easier?

The hard part has always been the crust. I've had a standard crust that I've made over the years that used Crisco. Tried and True - never fails. But as I learned more about trans fats and how Crisco is made, I've been trying to learn how to make a crust using butter.

This year I tried the Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie from November 2008 issue of Fine Cooking. Instead of baking crust with the pumpkin filling, it bakes the pie crust first and then bakes the pumpkin at a low temperature. This makes much more sense. Typically my pie dough ends up soft and tough. The filling is over done.

The dough went together like a dream. It uses a lot of fat so it was easy to work with. It takes a little time and planning since it involves several chilling but it seemed worth while. I haven't tasted it. I will be taking it to friends for dinner tomorrow. But it smells wonderful. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

For the Crust:
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flours
10 tbs cold unsalted butter cut into 1 inch pieces

For the Filling
15 ox can pumpkin
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs brandy
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Pie

Dissolve salt in 1/3 cup very cold water. Put the flour in a food processor and put the butter on top. Pulse until mixture forms large crumbs - about 8 pulses. Add the water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps. Shape the dough into 1 inch thick disk, wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate, easing the dough into pie plate and pressing into place. Trim to a 1/2 inch overhang of dough and crimp

Heat oven to 400. Line pie shell with parchment and fill with dried beans. Bake until the sides have just set and look dry. 16-20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and bake until the edges are light gold and bottom is pale and dry. about 5 minutes. Remove and cool before filling.

Turn oven down to 325 degrees. Whisk the pumpkin, eggs, cream and brandy. Mix the brown sugar and spices together in a small bowl and add to pumpkin mixture.

Pour into cooled piecrust and bake until set around outside - about 1 hour . Top with whipped cream.

December 5, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers #2 - Mexican Shrimp Soup

Mexican Shrimp Soup

It is week 2 of the Sunday Slow Soupers. A group soup cook-a-long on Slow Travel. This week's host is Jerry from Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants.

Jerry's original recipe originally called for turkey and turkey broth. We went out of town and shared Thanksgiving with our good friends in San Francisco. I didn't have left over turkey. Plus G doesn't eat meat. The soup sounded wonderful - roasted corn and tomatoes spiced with smokey chiles and accented with avocado. But what could I use instead of turkey? Shrimp!

Shrimp pairs well with corn, avocado and lime. I thought it would work. And it did.

I used about a dozen medium prawns instead of the 3/4 cup of turkey and vegetable broth instead of turkey broth. George's first words - "Ooh... this is good!".

Mexican Shrimp Soup
(Serves 4)

1-1/2 cups fresh corn niblets (frozen will work but thaw first)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and light-green parts only; reserve dark-green ends to garnish
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp finely chopped, canned chipotle peppers
4 cups vegetable broth
12 shelled and deveined medium prawns (save shells)
1 ripe avocado
2 limes
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp finely chopped, fresh cilantro


Heat stock and shrimp shells over med-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove shells.

In a large pot, dry-roast corn over high heat until lightly charred. Set aside in a small bowl. Repeat process with tomatoes. (note: watch the corn - the sugar will burn the pan easily).
Using same pot, saute onion, garlic and chipotle peppers in vegetable oil over medium heat. Add stock and bring almost to a boil then reduce heat to simmer.

Roughly chop tomatoes and add (with juices) to pot along with corn. Add prawns and cook until the prawns turn pink and are firm. Season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mash avocado with a fork. Mix in juice from 1/2 of one lime and mayonnaise. Stir in chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Serve soup topped with avocado cream, finely chopped dark-green onions and a wedge of lime.

NOTE: Jerry roasts the cherry tomatoes in the oven for about 20 - 30 minutes at 350 rather than pan roast them. I think that might be easier in the future.

Mexican Shrimp Soup Mexican Shrimp Soup
Mexican Shrimp Soup Mexican Shrimp Soup

December 6, 2008

PhotoHunt: Breakfast


zucchini olive oil cake

This week's photohunt is breakfast. Breakfast isn't big in our house. We don't eat the typical American breakfast food except for special occasions. G and I each prepare our own meal. G is big into habit. Same thing. Everyday. Veggie burger, sliced apple, banana and glass of cranberry, raspberry, pomegranate juice. I can't do it. I have to have something different.

I'll have something more varied. Pasta, Leftovers, sandwich. Today I have a cold so it will be chicken soup.

But for the hunt, I choose a picture of eggs, the quintessential ingredient in the American breakfast.

December 7, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers #3 - Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Soup

It is week 3 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group soup cook-a-long on Slow Travel. This week's host is Krista from In and Out of the Garden.

I love butternut squash. It has such a smooth texture and is perfect for soups and gratins. I'm not a fan of acorn squash and pumpkin which I find is much more stringy when cooked. I was excited to try Krista's soup.

Many recipes have you cut and dice the squash which I find very challenging. Elise at Simply Recipes has a great post on how to peel and cut a squash that I am going to try next time I need to dice a butternut squash. This time I only needed to cut it in half which I find daunting enough. I'm not very skilled with a knife and inevitably end up with cut fingers. Plus I could only find a large 4 lb squash which was going to be even more challenging to cut in half.

So I called in G to help. He methodically approached it and used a rubber mallet to help cut the squash. You want to do it slowly so you don't damage your knife but it works. Next time we are going to try cutting off the bottom and top cutting straight down.

After the squash is cut, the soup is very easy. You can do the roasting in advance to save even more time. I omitted the pancetta and used vegetable broth. On a cold frost day, the warm soup is very comforting.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 butternut squash, about 2 pounds each (or 1 acorn squash and 1 butternut)
a little butter (or olive oil)
a couple tablespoons diced pancetta (optional)
1 onion, diced
a dash of red pepper flakes (optional)
5-6 cups of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

optional garnish: a little creme fraiche or plain yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. In a roasting pan, place the squash with a little pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil over each piece. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until completely cooked through.

2. In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, saute the pancetta and onion (or just the onion in some olive oil) until lightly browned. Add some red pepper flakes to taste, if you like a little heat.

3. Scoop the flesh from the roasted squash and add it to the pot. Add 5 cups of vegetable broth and the seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.

3. Using a hand mini blender, puree the soup until it is smooth and creamy. If it is too thick, add up to a cup more of the broth. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.

4. Serve garnished with with the creme fraiche or yogurt and an extra dash of freshly ground pepper.

Serves at least 6

Note: can be successfully doubled and can be made ahead of time and reheated just before serving.

Butternut Soup Butternut Soup
Butternut Soup Butternut Soup
Butternut Soup


Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves
Squash, Corn and Coconut Soup

December 10, 2008

No more recipes in the Seattle Times

The Seattle Times has been shrinking and shrinking over the past few years. I've seen the sections consolidate, columnists and writers disappear, and an increase in syndicated articles. This week even more major changes happened in the Times. There are only three sections now. I don't read Sports so for me - it is down to two small sections. There were 22 pages including 4 full page ads in the first section and 18 in the second section in today's paper.

The reasons, lack of revenue and burden of operating under the Joint Operating Agreement. But it is getting ridiculous. I think they have cut too far now . They are almost asking their readers to leave. We had already started to think about canceling our subscription (after 30 years!) and reading it online.

Today was another disappointing day for the new format. There were no food recipes at all in the paper. It is Wednesday, right? I'm even wondering if there is still a food section. The only hint of the old food section was a column by the food writer, Nancy Leson, which is really more of a local restaurant blog. I never even cared much for the column. They had some little insert about the latest hot cocktail. Hmmm... maybe that might appeal to a younger crowd but I doubt if they even read the newspaper. Oh yeah some article about a new book on "Seattle's Historic Restaurants." But nothing about food.

The article above announcing the changes never said that there wouldn't be a food section but it did say that there would no longer be a NW Life where the food was published. Not only are the recipes gone but also the wine column and the gardening section. I just assumed that they would be reduced and moved in with another section. I guess I was wrong. And I think it is a big mistake.

I went to lunch with a former co-worker and I checked out the Seattle Post Intelligencer. It is our second newspaper and part of the JOA. They had a good page or two devoted to food and several good sounding recipes. They also had a good article on food gifts you could make for Christmas.

I've always liked the PI. It has a more liberal slant compared than the moderate Republican slant of the Seattle Times. But I stayed with the Times because they had more depth and content. Or they did at one time.

But after the latest changes this week - the PI is looking real good. Hell for that matter - even the Everett Herald is looking good.

December 14, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers #4 - Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding Soup

It is week 4 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group soup cook-a-long on Slow Travel. This week's selection is Italian Wedding Soup selected by Slow Travel member Teaberry.

I had never heard of Italian Wedding Soup before. I grew up on the west coast and although we had a large Italian population in the valley I had never come across it. Recently, I saw it canned in the stores under the Progresso brand.

I did a little research on the soup. It is not a soup that is served at an Italian wedding but instead a mistranslation of the Italian name "Minestra maritata" which translates to married soup. The soup originated in southern Italy and the name came from the marrying of the flavor of meat and greens.

The main ingredients in the soup are the meatballs, greens, carrots and chicken broth. Many recipes also add pasta or egg.

I used ground beef as my meat of choice for the meatballs. They have a wonderful flavor from cinnamon and allspice. I haven't made many savory dishes which use these spices so this soup was a new flavor adventure for me. Now I want to try more dishes. They were wonderful with the bitter green arugula.

Several Slow Soupers recommended baking the meatballs instead of frying. You can bake them instead at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I want to try that next time. My soup ended up a little fatty. My meatballs also burned a little bit so my soup ended up darker than several others. I also omitted the bacon.

It is perfect to warm you up on a icy cold December evening.

Italian Wedding Soup


2 eggs beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound ground turkey (or ground meat of choice)
2 tablespoons olive oil
spices: 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together, and roll into 1″ balls. Saute in the olive oil until lightly browned on the outside. Set aside.

Soup ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves minced garlic
3 diced strips of turkey bacon (or regular bacon)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 cup orzo
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 fresh leaves of basil, chopped
3 cups of arugula

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano for garnish

Saute the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in large soup pot for 5 - 6 minutes. Add the turkey bacon and the balsamic vinegar, and let all the flavors mix and blend.

Add the Marsala and let this cook down a little. When it is almost evaporated, add the chicken stock, orzo, meatballs, and oregano. Simmer this for about 15 minutes, til the orzo is soft.

Add the basil and arugula and cook for about 1 more minute. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmigiano for garnish.

December 21, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers #5 - Pumpkin Soup with Cheddar and Parmesan

Pumpkin Cheddar Soup

It is week 5 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's selection is Pumpkin Soup with Cheddar and Parmesan selected by Slow Travel member Nancyhol.

This recipe was originally published in Bon Appetit in 1994. Nancy selected it because it sounded like a good starter for Christmas dinner. It would be great. Several of our recent soups would also be good for a holiday dinner. I'm thinking about making Amy's Chestnut and Porcini Soup again.

This soup was very tasty and easy to make. It came together quickly especially using the canned pumpkin. I made it vegetarian by omitting the bacon and using vegetarian broth. I added a little smoked paprika to give it a little smoky flavor that the bacon would have provided. I also cut the recipe in half since it makes servings for 8 instead of 4.

I added a little sherry at the end to liven the flavors. Cindy Ruth at Baked Alaska suggested adding something to liven the flavor and I think it helped it. I'm not a big fan of savory pumpkin dishes but I do love butternut squash. I think butternut squash is a little sweeter and that helps the flat flavor of canned pumpkin.

Here's the original recipe and my modifications in italics.

Pumpkin Soup with Cheddar & Parmesan

8 Servings

8 bacon slices, chopped (omit bacon for vegetarian version)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth (use vegetarian broth for vegetarian version)
2 16-ounce cans solid pack pumpkin
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

1 cup half and half
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

Saute bacon in heavy large Dutch oven over medium heat until brown, about 8 minutes. Pour off drippings. Add oil to same Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Stir in 8 cups stock, pumpkin and thyme. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in blender. Return to Dutch oven. Mix in half and half and nutmeg. Stir in additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

Combine cheeses in medium bowl. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 cup cheese mixture and serve.

December 23, 2008

Almond Butter Cake

Almond Butter Cake

One of the few things I miss about not working is sharing my baking with my coworkers especially at Christmas. I would get an urge to bake and take batches of cookies and cakes to work. I would have dropped some off but I really don't want to go anywhere in the snow.

The snow also caused us to postpone our get together with our friends. I was planning on baking something for dessert. I decided to go ahead and make something small for G and I.

I've been craving in something almond flavored. I love the cookbook "Baking by Flavor" by Lisa Yockelson. The cookbook is broken out into section by flavor. I've made several items from the Ginger and Spice section. I looked over the almond section and found a recipe for an Almond Butter Cake which sounded lovely.

The recipe calls for a bundt pan but I decided to half the recipe and bake it in a loaf instead. It turned out lovely. The cake is basically a sour cream pound cake flavored with almond and nutmeg. The crumb is perfect. I had some frozen peaches which I heated up. They were not as good with the cake as I thought they would be. They were a little too tart. It would have been perfect with berries. But the cake is definitely a winner.

Here is the recipe as I modified it to make only one loaf cake. It can be doubled and made in a bundt pan instead.

Almond Butter Cake

Modified from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson

1 1/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsifted cake flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/16 (pinch) cream of tartar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbs heavy cream

Almond Syrup (follows)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease an 9x5 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

Sift together flour, cake flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, nutmeg and allspice.

Cream the butter in a large bowl for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in four additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion. Blend in almond and vanilla extracts. Add the eggs, one at a time beating for 30 seconds after each. Scrape down sides of bowl after each egg is added. Blend in almond flour.

On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in 3 addition with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with flour. Blend in the heavy cream. Spoon in to prepared pan and lightly smooth over the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until medium golden and a wooden pick inserted in the cake withdraws clean. While the cake is baking, make the syrup below.

Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5-8 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack with a piece of wax paper underneath to catch the syrup drips.

Immediately while the cake is still hot, brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake. Cool completely before slicing.

Keeps 4 days and can be frozen. If frozen, thaw, slice and toast.

Almond Syrup

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbl water
1/2 cup almond liqueur such as Amaretto
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract

Place the sugar, water and liqueur in a small saucepan. Cover and set over low heat, when sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to high and bring the contents to a boil. Cook the liquid at a medium boil for 7-8 minutes until reduced and concentrated looking. It should measure 1/2 cup. Stir in vanilla and almond extract.

Syrup can be kept refrigerated for 1-2 weeks.

Almond Butter Cake Almond Butter Cake
Almond Butter Cake Almond Butter Cake
Almond Butter Cake Almond Butter Cake

December 29, 2008

Sunday SlowSoupers #6 - Hoppin' John Soup

Hoppin' John Soup

It is week 6 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's soup is Hoppin' John Soup selected by Slow Travel member Shannon

Shannon found this great recipe for Hoppin' John Soup from Kalyn's Kitchen. Hoppin' John is a traditional Southern US dish of black eyed peas (crowder peas), rice and ham. Hoppin' Johns and collard greens is a dish eaten for good luck on New Years. The black eyes of the pea beans represent coins and the green of the collards represent money. Good luck and prosperity. That is something we definitely need this year in our hard economic times.

I had two challenges with this soup. First - I wanted it to be vegetarian so the eliminated the ham and ham broth. I knew it needed to substitute something for the smoky ham flavor. My first thought was to use smoky Spanish paprika. I like it but sometimes it results in a flat taste from the paprika.

I stumbled upon today's article from the Washington Post by Kim O'Donnel for Meatless Monday. She was making a vegetarian version of Hoppin' John and had the same challenge - how to get the smoky flavor without the meat. She used smoked salt. Wow - what a great idea. But I came across the article too late for purchasing some smoked salt. (Note to Marta - find some!). But she also suggested chipotle chile. Kalyn's recipe did call for a pinch of pepper flakes and many of the other recipes suggested a dash or two of Tabasco. Hmmm... I had a bit still from the previous soup. I tried it and it was perfect! Some olive oil and a little bit of butter - I didn't miss the ham at all.

Second challenge - I don't like cooked greens especially collards or mustard greens. I decided to use some milder baby spinach which worked perfect. I only added a handful which was too little. I could have used a couple of handfuls. I also wanted to add some cooked rice but I forgot. But the soup was still great. We both lapped up our bowls.

I made grilled Fontina cheese and mushroom sandwiches along with it and it was the perfect cool December night dinner. Thanks Shannon!

Here is Kayln's recipe and my modifications are on the side in italics. Enjoy!

Hopping John Soup
From Kayln's Kitchen

1 onion, chopped in fairly small pieces
1 cup celery, chopped in fairly small pieces
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
2-3 cups diced ham (cut off the ham rind and save) (Omit for vegetatian)
8 cups homemade chicken stock (Vegetarian Broth or Better than Boullion)
(or use water with chicken soup base or canned chicken broth)
2 16 oz. packages frozen black-eyed peas
(or use 6 cups freshly cooked black-eyed peas)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bunch fresh collard greens, chopped (about 2 cups when measured after chopping, but next time I would use more) (For milder flavor - use baby spinach)
pinch red pepper flakes (optional) (1 tsp chopped chipotle for vegetarian smoky flavor and pinch of smoky paprika)
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, or more to taste (omit if using chipolte)
Optional: ham flavor base if needed, see note at end of the recipe.
Optional: 1/2 cup cooked long grain rice

In large frying pan, saute onion and celery in olive oil about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more, then add ham and saute over very low heat 10 minutes. (Don't skip this step, which concentrates the ham flavor into the vegetables.)
Transfer mixture to large soup pot, add chicken stock, black eyed peas, and ham rinds if available, and cook at very low simmer for one hour. (skip ham if making vegetarian)

After soup has cooked one hour, taste for flavoring. Add more water and ham flavor base if needed. (It will depend on your ham, but I usually add a tiny bit. I added about 2 cups more water to the soup at this point.) Add chopped collard greens, stir into soup and simmer one hour more, or until black-eyed peas are quite soft. (If using spinach - add when beans are almost soft and cook only 15 minutes or so) When black-eyed peas are as soft as you want them, remove pieces of ham rind, then use an immersion blender, food processor, or hand masher to partially process about half the soup. You want a mixture of broken and unbroken black-eyes peas, with some thickening of the soup from the pureeing process. Be careful not to over process. Add red pepper flakes and vinegar ( or chipolte and rice for vegetarian version) and simmer 10 minutes more. Serve hot.

(Makes 6-8 servings, recipe created by Kalyn Denny with inspiration from The Gourmet Cookbook.)

Note: I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped fresh tomatoes about 1/2 way through cooking the beans.

January 4, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #7 - Cindy's Fish Soup

Cindy's Fish Soup

It is week 7 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's soup is Fish Soup selected by Cindy at Baked Alaska.

I knew from the ingredients this was going to be great. We love fish, tomatoes, fennel and Mediterranean spices. Plus it is so simple. I didn't have any of the Dean and Deluca Herbs for fishbut looking at the Dean and Delucca mix on-line, I realized I had all the dried herbs in house. So I mixed pinches of dried summer savory, thyme, fennel seed, sage leaf, marjoram, parsley and bay leaf. I crushed them together and added them to the tomato mixture. Perfect.

There is so much you can do to vary this soup. I decided to make it a little bit more like a bouillabaisse by adding a little bit of saffron and red pepper. Next time I make this soup, I'm going to use shellfish in addition to the white fish and a dash of Pernod along with more saffron and red pepper. Hmmmm... and maybe some rouille.The other variation is to go more like cioppino and use red wine, crab and spices. Any way you make this soup - it is great. Thanks Cindy.

Cindy's Fish Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small head fennel, tops discarded, and bulb chopped
¼ cup wine (can be white or red, whatever you have open, or you can skip this altogether)
2 teaspoons fish seasoning (I use Dean & Deluca brand. If you can’t find, you could substitute Herbs de Provence)
1 15.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 5.5 oz can spicy V-8 juice
1 pound firm white fish such as halibut, cod, or rockfish, cut into 1” cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, fennel, and garlic, and sauté until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add the wine, and continue cooking for a couple of minutes. Add the V-8, tomatoes, and fish seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add the chopped fish. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is cooked through and the flavors have blended, about 15 minutes. Serve with slices of crusty bread that have been toasted in the oven and rubbed with a garlic clove.
Variations: If you would like a spicier soup, you can add a chopped jalapeno to the onions when sautéing, or add some red pepper flakes. I’ve also made this with the addition of potatoes, or with chopped zucchini or yellow squash if I want more veggies in add. I also sometimes season with Sherry Rum Peppers Sauce or a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

January 18, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #9 - Leek and Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Leek Soup

It is week 9 of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's soup is Leek and Asparagus Soup with Fried Leeks and Crushed Amaretti selected by Palma of Palmabella's Passions.

I have been looking forward to this soup. I need something to remind me that Spring will come soon. And just in time the sun came out and it warmed up above 50 degrees. Maybe spring will be here soon.

I couldn't find any amaretti cookies here in North Seattle. I was surprised. I was certain that one of my favorite stores would have them. But I couldn't find them. Maybe I wasn't looking on the correct aisle. Anyway, I decided to substitute a few drops of amaretto instead which worked well. You have to be careful because Amaretto is very sweet so just use a small amount ~ 1/2 tsp. As Palma says - don't miss the toppings.

Leek and Asparagus Soup with Fried Leeks and Crushed Amaretti

This is a Roman dish, traditionally served at Easter time. The recipe is from A Cook’s Tour of Italy by Joe Famularo.

3-4 leeks, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
4 T. butter (or combination of 2 Tbs olive oil and 2 Tbs butter)
2 c. peeled, diced potatoes
1 bunch asparagus, tender parts only, cut into 1 “ pieces
1 ½ quarts chicken broth (6 cups) (I used vegetable broth instead)
seasalt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup half & half
butter or olive oil for frying leeks for garnish
4 Amaretti cookies, crumbled, or grated

*optional: 2-3 oz. chopped, cooked pancetta.

1. Cut leeks in half and wash well, separating the leaves with your fingers while running them under cool water to remove any sand. Drain the leeks and cut them crosswise into thin slices. Reserve about ¼ c. of leeks for frying.

2. In a large saucepan, melt butter and sauté leeks lightly. Add potato cubes and sauté about 4 minutes. Add asparagus, broth and some salt and pepper. If using pancetta, add it now. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Put mixture through a food mill, sieve, or use a blender or immersion blender. Return to saucepan and add half & half. Simmer until mixture is warmed.

To serve, heat some oil or butter in a small saucepan, and fry leeks until crisp. Ladle the soup into warm bowls, sprinkle with crumbled amaretti in the center, and top with some crisp leeks. (Or put a few drops (~1/2 tsp) of amaretto instead).

January 19, 2009

Fish Head Curry - Kari Kepala Ikan

Fish Curry

We have enjoyed trying different recipes for curry from "The Exotic Kitchens of Malaysia". The difference between the recipes have been very subtle. Some include lemongrass and lime leaves, others have tomato and cardamon pods, some have tamarind, others do not. It is all an adventure in eating.

I mentioned before that one of the favorite dishes in Singapore was Fish Head Curry. I didn't try it. I was looking at the recipe and it sounded very good. It added several different spices in addition to curry powder that sounded interesting. It also added tomato and okra. I decided to try it with just a tilapia fish fillet instead of a head.

The recipe called for okra. Okra is common in Malaysian cuisine and it is called "Ladyfingers". That nickname makes me smile. Growing up on the west coast of the US, my only exposure to okra was in Campbell's Chicken Gumbo soup. I picked up a package of frozen baby okra and I decided to give it a try. We loved it.

I didn't have any curry leaves so I will need to try this recipe again. But the addition of the cinnamon, anise and cardamon added a nice touch in addition to the tomato and okra. I think I'm ready to try the fish head in Malaysia.

Fish Head Curry - Kari Kepala Ikan

4 shallots, sliced
a 1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups coconut milk (1 cup coconut milk + 1 cup water)
2 tbs corn oil
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1 whole piece star anise
2 whole cloves
2 tbs curry powder
1 tsp hot red chili powder
2 tbs tamarind paste dissolved in 1/2 cup water
5 fresh or dried curry leaves
2 small tomatoes cut into wedges (1 cup)
3 pounds fish heads, such as salmon, sea bass or similar fish, halved and well rinsed
5 whole okra, tops and bottoms trimmed

Process the shallots, ginger, and garlic to a smooth paste with 1/4 cup of coconut milk.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the spice paste, cinnamon, star anise, cardamon, and cloves and stir-fry over low hear 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, chili powder, and the rest of the coconut milk. Combine well.

Bring the mixture to a boil and add the tamarind liquid, curry leaves, tomatoes, fish heads, and okra. Simmer the curry, covered over low heat for 30-35 minutes. Baste the mixture several times during the cooking but do not stir.

Serve warm with rice.

January 25, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #10 - Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

It is week 1- of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's soup is Seafood Gumbo selected by Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

The secret of a good gumbo is the roux. I'm still too cautious when making a roux. I never let it brown enough. Check out Sandi's - it is almost chocolate in color. Long slow fire makes for a well seasoned roux.

I'm used to making a golden colored roux for enchilada sauce. I toast the flour first until it has tanned and then add the oil. I know the flavor will deepen if I let it brown - I just haven't gotten the confidence to try it yet. This is what my roux looked like:

Seafood Gumbo

After browning the roux, I added the vegetables. G doesn't eat meat and poultry so I had to modify Sandi's recipe. I added more vegetables, yellow onion and celery in addition to green peppers. I continued to brown the mixture while cooking the vegetables. After about 10 minutes, I added garlic, okra and some herbs to the mixture ( pinches of oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, paprika and cayenne pepper) and continued to cook.

Seafood Gumbo

Next I added broths. I took the shells from the shrimps, covered with water and simmered to create a light shrimp broth. I added vegetable broth to this and added to the flour vegetable mix stirring vigorously to combine. Simmer this for about 30 minutes to cook out the flour taste.

Just before serving, add the seafood. I used shrimp and bay scallops. You can also use oysters and white fish. Serve over white rice and Enjoy! Thanks Sandi!

Seafood Gumbo
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup all purpose flour
1# chicken pieces
1# large shrimp, bay scallops, oysters
1# Andouille sausage
32 oz chicken broth
2 bell peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt & pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper (more or less)
chopped parsley
bunch of green onions chopped
In a large pot, saute onions and peppers. Add sausage and brown. Add water, spices, and chicken; simmer until the chicken is cooked through (if you use chicken on the bone you can cool it and pull it now) Use this broth as a part of your chicken broth.

Start the gumbo by making your roux. Use a heavy skillet and stir together flour and oil until it is a cocoa brown and thick, smooth consistency. You will want to start adding some broth to the skillet to thin your roux, then pour the it into the big pot. Stir like hell. Add chicken broth, stir some more until there are no clumps.

Cover and simmer. This will help to thicken the gumbo. Add cleaned shrimp and scallops, cooking on medium heat till shrimp are pink (10 minutes) Add the delicate oysters last. Remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

My modifications:
I referred to the seafood gumbo recipe from the Gumbo Pages for suggestion. I used 3 TBS flour, 3 TBS oil for the roux. I used about 1/2 onion, 1 celery stalk and 1/2 green bell pepper, 2 cloves garlic and about 8 pieces of okra. I added 4 cups of broth, 1/2 lb shrimp and 1/2 lb scallops. This provided a good sized serving for 2 hungry people.

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

January 26, 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Happy Chinese New Year, 4707 the year of the Ox - Gong Xi Fa Cai - Gung Hei Fat Cho

It is the year of the Ox. A strong beast, patient and hopefully a sign to instill confidence in the coming year. I want to wish everyone good luck, good fortune and good health in the coming year.

I decided to make something specifically Chinese to celebrate today. We have been eating mostly Southeast Asian based dishes. I love dishes with coconut milk and spicy chilies. But I felt I should make something Chinese based. I selected Chow Mein from Rasa Malaysia. They had a great post with 12 recipes for Chinese New Year. I can't resist noodles so I went with Chow Mein.

The recipe is extremely simple if you can find the ingredients. Luckily there is a Ranch 99 Asian Market just a mile away. G and I went over there to pick up the ingredients after our quick hike to the beach.

The first challenge was finding the steamed chow mein noodles. After checking out a few packages in the fresh noodle section - Voila - steamed chow mein noodles.

Chow Mein

Next up was dark Chinese soy sauce. I never realized there were different types of soy sauce. I grew up with Kikkoman on table. Was there a difference between soy sauces? Yes. In simplest terms - there is a salty version and a sweet version. In Malaysia and Indonesia - there is Kepap Manis , sweet soy sauce and kecap asin, salty soy sauce. It is similar with chinese soy sauce, light is more salty and dark is more sweet.

Chow Mein

I decided to make a mainly vegetarian version with just a handful of prawn. In addition to the cabbage and carrots called for in the recipe, I also diagonally cut up some celery, left-over choy sum, blanched snow peas and bean sprouts. Cover the noodles with cold water, soak for 5 minutes and drain.

Chow Mein

Chow Mein

Once every thing is assembled and the noodles soaked, it is time to fry. Heat up the oil, add the garlic and quickly stir fry for about 30 sec to 1 minutes. Add celery, cabbage, carrots and shrimp. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the drained noodles and seasoning mix. Stir, add snow peas and bean sprouts and stir again. Serve when headed through and the sauce has been absorbed.

Chow Mein

For the full recipe, see Rasa Malaysia Chow Mein.

For dessert, we had fruit and Azuki ice cream from Maeda-En. We love the ice cream.

Asian Dessert

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

February 3, 2009

Bahmi Goreng - Indonesian Fried Noodles

Bahmi Goreng

I checked the refrigerator after returning from my weekend in Paso Robles and immediately saw that I had half of a package of Chinese egg noodles. I dug around and noticed that I also had some snow peas. Hmmmm.. what to make.

I didn't want to make the chow mein again. I noticed that the oyster sauce contained MSG. I don't get specifically a head ache but I definitely felt a reaction. I felt pressure both at the top of my head and on my face. I didn't really like the feeling so I wanted to avoid MSG.

I searched around and found an interesting sounding recipe on Epicurious for Indonesian Fried Noodles also called Bahmi Goreng or Bami Goreng. I had most of the ingredients. It is similar but different from the Bihun Goreng which used rice noodles. I also liked the combination of soy sauce, fish sauce and sambal to flavor the noodles.

This one is a little more complicated and takes a bit more preparation time. I did vary the recipe. I substituted about 1/3 lbs of shrimp instead of tofu and cut the amount of onion and egg. Next time I will use the full amount of onion. They were very good. I also threw in a handful of cabbage. I also blanched the snow peas and green beans.

The shallot oil adds a lot to the flavor. I also browned the onions a bit and that also added to depth.

Indonesian Fried Noodles

Adapted from Epicurious

3 large shallots (6 ounces)
1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1 pound fresh flat Chinese stir-fry egg noodles (not cooked)
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
3 tablespoons ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) (I used dark Chinese soy sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce), or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu (I used 1/3 lb - 1/2 lb shelled prawns)
4 large eggs
2 large onions, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (4 cups)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh red or green Thai or serrano chile, including seeds (I omitted these)
6 ounce snow peas, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces (2 cups)
6 ounce Chinese long beans or haricots verts, cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups)
2 scallions, cut diagonally into very thin slices

* Garnish: sliced cucumber; sliced tomatoes; lime wedges; sambal oelek or Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)


Cut shallots crosswise into very thin slices (less than 1/8 inch thick).

Heat oil in wok over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallots and reduce heat to moderately low, then fry, stirring frequently, until golden brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Carefully pour shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a heatproof bowl. Transfer shallots to paper towels to drain, reserving shallot oil. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.) Wipe wok clean with paper towels.

Cook noodles in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling unsalted water , stirring to separate, until just tender, 15 seconds to 1 minute. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Shake colander briskly to drain excess water, then drizzle noodles with 2 teaspoons reserved shallot oil and toss to coat.

Stir together broth, ketjap manis, fish sauce, sambal oelek, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl for sauce.

Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes and pat dry.

Beat together eggs and a pinch of salt. Heat 1 tablespoon reserved shallot oil in wok over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add eggs, swirling in wok, and cook until barely set in center, about 2 minutes. Gently slide egg crêpe out onto a cutting board, then roll into a loose cylinder and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (do not unroll). Keep warm, loosely covered with foil.

Heat 3 tablespoons reserved shallot oil in wok over high heat until hot but not smoking, then stir-fry onions with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt until deep golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and chile and stir-fry 1 minute, then add tofu (or shrimp) and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add snow peas and long beans and stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add sauce and bring to a boil, then add noodles and stir-fry (use 2 spatulas to stir if necessary) until noodles are hot. Transfer to a large platter and arrange egg over noodles. Sprinkle with scallions and half of shallots. Serve remaining shallots on the side.

Cooks' notes from Epicurious: ·Shallots can be fried 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Bahmi Goreng
Prepare the vegetables before starting

Bahmi Goreng

Stir frying the onions, cabbage and shrimp (note - that is not egg but shredded cabbage)

Bahmi Goreng

Finished dish

February 8, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #11 - Split Pea and Green Pea Soup

Split Pea and Green Pea Soup

It is week 11 - of the Sunday Slow Soupers ~ a group of Slow Travel members cooking soup and blogging together every Sunday. This week's soup is Split Pea and Green Pea Soup with Dill selected by Marcia of Happy Trails for Us.

This is a great vegetarian soup. The fresh pea make it much lighter than a normal pea soup. We really enjoyed it. Thanks Marcia for a great selection.

Split Pea and Green Pea Soup with Fresh Dill
Yield: Makes 4-6 first-course servings


3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 cup green split peas, rinsed
5 1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided (can use chicken broth, too, or a ham bone for seasoning).

1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill, divided

Shredded Parmesan for garnish


Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium high heat. Add leak and bay leaf. Saute until leek wilts, about three minutes. Add split peas and stir to coat. Add 5 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until split peas are just tender, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat. Transfer 1 cup soup solids, bay leaf and remaining 1/2 cup broth to blender. Add petite peas and 3 Tablespoons dill. Puree until smooth. Return puree to soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon dill and shredded Parmesan for garnish.

(If you like the idea of whole green peas in your soup, then only puree half of the petite green peas, add the other half to the soup).

March 15, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #17 - One-of-Each Soup

I've missed several of the recent Slow Soupers. But I'm back.

This week's selection was chosen by jgk. It was originally published in December of 2001 in Gourmet. It has several interesting ingredients such as banana. Curry with apple is a classic combination but banana was different. The base is pretty much a standard potato so I knew it was going to be good.

We really enjoyed it. The apple and banana really added an interesting flavor to the soup. A lot of the flavor also depends upon your curry mix. I used Spice Island and it was good but a little heavy on the tumeric. I wish I had used my Malaysia curry mix which also has some cinnamon and star anise. I used a half-half mixture for the cream and it was rich.

I served it with a spring salad made of steamed asparagus and a poached egg. It was the first time that I made poached eggs without the little poached egg pan. I definitely need to practice. The whites did not stay together as well as they could on my first egg. I raised the temperature and my second one was better. Practice will make perfect. Smittenkitchen has a great write up on how to poach an egg. I also made some garlicy home made croutons. It was great.

One-of-Each Soup
Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings
Active time: 15 min
Total time: 30 min

1 large boiling potato (1/2 lb), peeled and coarsely chopped (I use Yukon Gold)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery heart (inner pale stalks with leaves), coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 large apple (preferably Granny Smith), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 firm-ripe banana, coarsely chopped
1 pint chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
1 cup heavy cream (I use whole milk)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 rounded teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives (I have used chives or cilantro or a mixture)

Simmer vegetables and fruits in broth in a 3-quart heavy saucepan, covered, until very tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in cream, butter, curry powder, and salt and heat just until hot (do not boil).

Purée soup in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Thin soup with water if desired and serve sprinkled with chives.

Cooks' note:
- Originally, this curried soup was served cold. Given the winter chill in the air, however, we tried it hot and discovered it to be even better.
· Soup can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Ingredients for One-Of-Each Soup

Ingredients for One of Each Soup

One Of Each Soup

Aspargus Salad
Asparagus Poached Egg Crouton Salad

March 20, 2009

Thai Red Curry

Red Thai Curry

Wow! Was that spicy!

I love different Thai curries. My favorite is red but I've never made it before. I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner and checked the cupboard. I found a carton of Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste. Hmmm... Southeast Asian sounds good.

I looked around the web for a recipe using Mae Ploy and found this one. It was great! Definitely as good as what I've had at a Thai restaurant. Definitely use Thai basil - it adds a great taste.

I just re-read the recipe and I realized that I read the recipe wrong. I used two tablespoons and 1 can of coconut milk. No wonder it was hot! But ooooooohhhh so good.

Thai Red Curry

2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1 onion—finely chopped
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste (or 3 teaspoons for a hotter curry)
2 cloves garlic—finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1/2 cup veggies—sliced thin
1 red pepper (capsicum)—julienned
1 cup Jasmine rice
12 oz (360g) uncooked skinless chicken breast fillets—cut into bite-sized pieces
5-6 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh Thai basil leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook the onion for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the curry paste and garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute.
Add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, sugar, then bring to the boil. ADD the veggies, cover with a lid, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 12 minutes.
While the curry simmers, cook jasmine rice.
Add the chicken and Kaffir leaves to the curry and simmer, covered, for a further 8 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and basil.
Serve on a bed of rice.

Variations: This curry tastes equally delicious using any selection of seafood (such as shrimp, scallops or pieces of firm fish), or cubed firm tofu. Adapt the recipe with fresh ingredients and seasonal produce.

Note: I used 2 tablespoons of curry paste, 1 can coconut milk and 1 tbs fish sauce. For vegetables I used sliced carrots, a hand full of canned baby corn and whole frozen green beans. I also used about 1/2 lb of shrimp instead of chicken.

Red Thai Curry

March 22, 2009

Sunday SlowSoupers #1 - Carrot Orange Ginger Soup

This week's selection is a super easy soup. It is Carrot Ginger Soup and was selected by Debrah. It has been her favorite for at least 20 years and she used to make it when she was catering for film crews. My hubby really liked it also.

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup
Serves 4 appetizers or 2 servings.

One large onion - diced
Three cloves garlic minced or crushed
Three inch piece of ginger root - finely diced(you can use more or less depending on preference)
Eight large carrots (diced)
One Large tetra pack of chicken or vegetable broth (4 cups)
One and a half cups of orange juice

Saute onions, garlic and ginger in olive oil on low heat to soften and start to caramelize for only 10 minutes. Put in carrots and saute for 5 minutes to bring out the sugars. Add enough broth to cover the carrots and simmer till carrots are tender.

Remove from heat, place a small amount of broth and all of the carrots into blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into pot, add orange juice and rest of broth (or water) until you get the thickness consistency you desire.

I'm on a salad kick so I served it with an European mix green salad (lettuce, frisee and radicchio) dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette and warm goat cheese medallions . Yummm...

Thanks! Debrah

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup

Green salad with warm goat cheese

April 3, 2009

Tortillitas with Shrimp

Tortillitas with Shrimp

One of my favorite food of Nice and Liguria is Socca. It is basically a crepe made of chickpea or garbanzo flour. Chez Teresa is well known vendor in Cours Saleya. I have fond memories of a warm September morning - waiting for the Socca to arrive by bicycle. They are baked several blocks back into Vieux Nice and loaded into a heated box on the back of a bicycle. It is then ridden through the narrow alleys to the center of Cours Saleya where Teresa stands waiting in front of a 55 gallon drum with a hot hot fire going inside. She is the perfect French proprietress - efficient, friendly, sexy. I remember her heavily kohled eyes smiling while watching for the bicycle to arrive. She slices up the socca pan and scrapes off warm oily crispy slices. Perfect with a rough glass of rose.


It was the chickpea flour ingredient that caught my eye in this week's Minimalist's column in the New York Times. The recipe was for a Spanish tapas called Tortillitas. It is a no-egg pancake made with chickpea flour, shrimp, onion, herbs and olive oil. The recipe is a little different since it uses a mixture of both wheat flour and chickpea flour but still lovely light dinner. It reminded me a lot of egg foo young even though it did not have any egg. I suspect it was because I used green onions.

I reduced the recipe by 1/3 and made just one. It was a little thick but still yummy. Next time I'll either make a full recipe or add a bit more water. If you are looking to try something different from the Mediterranean - try it!

Tortillitas With Shrimp
Yield: 4 or more servings.

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion or scallions
About 1/2 cup raw shrimp, chopped, or scallops or other shellfish or fish
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives, parsley, thyme or cilantro
Olive oil.

1. In a bowl, combine flours and baking powder with salt and pepper. Add a little more than a cup of water and stir to combine; consistency should resemble pancake batter (if batter is too thick, add more water, a little at a time). Stir in the onions, chopped seafood and herbs.

2. Put a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and film its bottom generously with olive oil. When oil is hot, pour in half the batter until it fills center of pan; spread gently with a spoon to form a large pancake.

3. Cook about 3 minutes, or until pancake is set around edges; flip pancake and continue cooking for another 3 minutes, then flip it again and cook for another 30 seconds or so, until it is crisp on outside but still moist inside. Remove from pan and serve immediately, while remaining batter cooks.

Garbanzo Bean Flour


Tortillitas with Shrimp

April 26, 2009



Several people commented about dragonfruit in my post on the Kuching market so I thought I'd talk a bit more about it. We've grown cactus so we were intrigued to find out that Dragonfruit is the fruit of a night bloom cactus of the Hylocereus species.

Night blooming cactus also brings back some fond memories from my childhood. I remember a neighbor had one on their porch. It was a big thing when it bloomed. They called us up and we went over in the late evening to see it in bloom. It also had a heavenly perfume. I never dreamt that one day I would travel the world viewing plants and eating the fruit of a related cactus. I also just came across a picture of that night.


The epiphytic cactus is native of Mexico and Central America. They are grown in many of the tropical countries in Asia and Central America. It is also known as Pitaya and Wikipedia has a good write up of the cultivation. It seems like it might be similar to Prickly Pear cactus which I've seen but never eaten. I think Prickly Pears are known more for their juice than for eating as a fruit.

The fruit inside reminds me somewhat of a kiwi. It is smooth texture with small black seeds. We had two different types in Malaysia, one had white flesh speckled with black seeds and the other had a dark red fuchsia flesh. They both tasted similar. They were very sweet but I've read that the fruit found in the US is often bland and watery. I suspect they pick them too early to ship them to the US but they are wonderful if found in the tropical countries.

To see how to prepare it, here is a step-by-step guide.

October 18, 2009

Cranberry Apple Crisp

Cranberry Apple Crisp

I was looking in the freezer the other day and noticed that I had two packages of frozen fresh cranberries. I froze them last year when we had the snow and were not able to have our friends over for dinner. I had no appetite for cranberries during the summer but now that Fall has arrived - I'm more interested in cooking with cranberries.

I knew that G and I would not eat a full cranberry tart. I wanted something a bit smaller. I did not feel like cranberry bread either.

I recently started following Savory Sweet Life on Twitter. I was looking at her blog and came across a wonderful recipe for Cranberry Apple Crisp. We love crisps. Apples and cranberries also sounded like interesting and seasonal combination. I was also intrigured with the idea of cooking the cranberries in orange juice before combining with the apples.

I cut the recipe in half and put it in a souffle pan instead of a 9x13 pan. I still cooked it 45 minutes and it turned out perfect. Definitely serve it with ice cream since it is a little tart from the cranberries and the ice cream balances the sweetness.

Cranberry Apple Crisp
Fresh cranberries

Cranberry Apple Crisp
Boiled down with orange juice

Cranberry Apple Crisp
Apples and cranberries combined before topping

Cranberry Apple Crisp

November 8, 2009

Dutch Baby Pancakes

Stormy wet November day

Fall has returned with a vengeance. Thursday night we had lightening and thunder along with heavy rain. Leaves have been flying horizontally across the yard in the strong winds. I just want to curl up with the heater. I have also been craving pancakes.

Last week, I made these Buttermilk Pancakes. I was very doubtful about using sour cream in addition to the buttermilk, but they were the best! The batter was very thick but they cooked up very high and fluffy. These are a definitely keeper.

This week I wanted to try something different. I remembered Dutch Baby Pancakes that I used to frequently make but haven't had for several years. I never came across these in California but they seemed very popular here in the Northwest. They are a specialty of The Original Pancake House in Portland and sometimes also called German Pancakes. I have an old recipe from Sunset Magazine that I've used over the years.

The pancake is similar to Yorkshire pudding or popovers. A thin batter of eggs, milk and flour are poured in to a pan with hot melted butter. Baked in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes and magic happens. Sometimes they are cooked with sauteed apples or flavored with vanilla and cinnamon. I like mine plain with cooked fruit and warm maple syrup. I had some poached pears - it was delish!

Here's recipe and pictures follow:

Dutch Baby Pancakes

1/4 cup Butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour

Heat oven to 425 degrees. While oven is heating, put eggs in blender and blend for 1 minute. With motor running, pour in milk, then slowly add flour whirling 30 seconds more. Put butter in a 2-3 quart heavy pan such as a 10" cast iron pan. Put oven in pan. When butter has melted, add the egg/milk batter. Bake until puffy and well browned approximately 20-25 minutes.

Serve immediately. Serves 2 people.

Dutch Baby pancakes
Old recipe card

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

Dutch Baby pancakes

Dutch Baby pancakes
Batter in the oven

Dutch Baby pancakes
Quick - it is falling!

Dutch Baby pancakes

November 15, 2009

Ricotta Pancakes

Bill's Ricotta Pancakes

Last weekend, I made Dutch Baby Pancakes. They were oh-so-good but I wanted to try another recipe for traditional pancakes.

Some people call them hotcakes or flapjacks. I can not remember exactly what my Mother called them. I think she called them hotcakes. She would make them on occasion. I don't remember any particular recipe. Actually, I think she used Bisquick.

I used Bisquick for a bit and later tried a variety of different mixes. One was the local mix from one of our famous Breakfast locations - Snoqualmie Lodge. These are both okay but not my favorite. Another mix that I used to use is from Bette's Diner in Berkeley. The Buckwheat mix is still one of my favorites for waffles. I just can't find it in my local stores any longer.

But there really is no reason to use a mix. It is also comforting to make from scratch and only use a few fresh ingredients - milk, eggs, flour and leavening agent like baking powder. Instead of a long list of mysterious ingredients listed on the mixes. The key is how you mix the ingredients. You do not want to over mix the batter. The second trick is to figure out how hot to have your pan or griddle. That just takes time and experience.

Maya of The Many Walks of Maya posted comment on my Dutch Baby post about Bill's Ricotta Hotcakes. Bill Granger is a well known Australia chef who owns several restaurants in the Sydney area. He is known for the Ricotta hotcakes. Maya blogged about them a couple of months back on her blog.

I just happened to have some ricotta and made them this weekend. They were excellent. The ricotta makes them very tender. The flavor is very slight but very yummy. They are traditionally served with a butter honeycomb but I choose to serve them with loads of butter and warm maple syrup. Excellent.

For the recipe - pop over to Maya's blog and check it out. - Hotcakes

November 16, 2009

Healthy Bread

Health Bread

I've been subscribing to the blog of the authors of "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day". I've been making their recipe for a simple crusty bread for a while.

They have a new book out - "Heathy Bread in 5 minutes" and they recently wrote about their Whole Grain Master Recipe. I have been trying to increase the amount of whole grains in our diet and this would be a perfect addition. The secret ingredient is Vital Wheat Gluten.

I was grocery shopping this weekend and my grocer had a great sale on organic Whole Wheat flour from Bob's Red Mill - $2.50 for 5 lbs. They also had the wheat gluten but it was not as inexpensive - $7/bag. Fortunately - it should go a long way since it only uses a couple of tablespoons.

I made the bread this weekend and it is super easy to make. You mix the dry ingredients first and then pour in the water. It takes a bit longer to rest after removing from the refrigerator - 90 minutes instead of 40 minutes. Otherwise, the methods are very similar. I cut the recipe in 1/2 and it made two nice loaves. I also reduced the amount of yeast and salt by 1/3 and it was fine - even in my cold kitchen.

It is very tasty and filling. It had a moist crumb and firm crust. The two of us were not able to finish the loaf like we are the white variety. We can't resist the softer white bread - especially with olive oil. But it was perfect with soup on a cold rainy night.

If you want to try it yourself - check out their blog - Healthy Bread in 5 minutes.

Health Bread

Health Bread
Finished rising and out of the refrigerator

Health Bread
Shaped loaf resting before baking

Health Bread
Ready for the oven

Health Bread
Wanna slice?

November 22, 2009

Buttermilk Pancakes

Sunday Pancakes

It is Sunday and time for more pancakes. I wanted to make the pancakes I made several weeks ago but didn't blog about. I remembered that they had sour cream but completely forgot buttermilk was also in the recipe. There was no way that I was going to run to the store this morning so I tried the 'emergency substitution' recipe for buttermilk - combine 1 cup of 1% milk with a 1 TBS of white vinegar or lemon juice. I decided to use white vinegar and it worked fine. You do need to remember to put the tablespoon of vinegar in a cup first and then add milk to make 1 cup. Let it stand for about 5 minutes and it will slightly curdle. The main thing was to make certain the batter had enough acid for the two leavening agents the recipe called for - baking soda and baking powder.

I love this recipe. The pancakes are thick, fluffy and very tender. The thickness and fluffy texture comes from both the buttermilk and sour cream while the sugar adds to the tenderness and flavor. I don't use the full amount of vanilla - just a few drops.

It is very easy to make. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Whisk together the wet. Combine until all the flour is mixed in but not too much. I left it lumpy.

One thing I did learn this time was to not try to make these too big. I usually use about 1/3 cup of batter. I made one with about 1/2 cup and it was not only difficult to turn but also ended up with one side a little raw. Stick with using 1/3 cup of batter and I shake the pan a little bit to even the batter. I usually cook them until the top edges are dry and bubbles start to break in the middle of the batter.

I recommend cutting the recipe below in 1/2 but even then it will make 5-6 large thick pancakes so make certain you are hungry.

Buttermilk Pancakes
Bon Appétit | March 1999
Yield: Makes about 18

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups sour cream
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and vanilla in another large bowl. Add to dry ingredients. Stir until batter is just blended but still lumpy (do not overmix).

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter on griddle over medium heat. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle, spacing 2 inches apart. Cook until bubbles break on surface, about 3 minutes. Turn pancakes over. Cook until bottoms are golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to plates. Repeat with remaining batter, adding butter to skillet as needed.

Serve pancakes immediately with butter and Blueberry Compote.

Sunday Pancakes

Sunday Pancakes

November 29, 2009

Banana Macadamia Pancakes

Banana Macadamia Pancakes

Aloha! It is almost time to travel to Hawaii. This week's pancake is a tasty flapjack favored from the islands - Banana Macadamia Pancake. I've been reading about the pancakes at Boots & Kimo's in Kailau - Banana pancakes with a Macadamia nut sauce. I was looking for a different type of pancake to make next and found a recipe on Epicurious for Banana Macadamia Pancake. Purrrrfect!

These were very similar to the previous buttermilk pancakes with the addition of a tablespoon of melted butter. You also folded in chopped banana and macadamia nuts. I couldn't decide if I should mash up the banana or not. I decided not to and instead quartered the banana and added small slices. It was perfect. The cake was able to cook around the fruit. Sometimes if the fruit is too large, the pancake will be raw around the fruit. We enjoyed the crunchiness but they are very rich with the nuts and extra butter. I also made the orange butter which was very good but I highly recommend using unsalted butter. I only had salted and it detracted from the flavor.

These pancakes will definitely "break your mouth"

Banana Macadamia Pancakes with Orange Butter
Gourmet | December 2002
Yield: Makes 15 (4-inch) pancakes

For orange butter
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

For pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ripe large banana
1/2 cup salted roasted macadamia nuts (2 1/2 oz), chopped

Accompaniment: maple syrup

Make orange butter:
Stir together all orange butter ingredients in a small bowl until combined well.

Make pancakes:

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Cut banana into bits and fold into batter along with nuts. (Batter will be very thick.)

Brush a 12-inch nonstick skillet with some of remaining tablespoon melted butter and heat over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 3, pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake into hot skillet and cook until bubbles appear on surface and undersides are golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook until golden brown and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a large plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm, then make more pancakes, brushing skillet with butter for each batch. Serve with orange butter.

Banana Macadamia Pancakes
Batter will be a little more lumpy than regular pancakes

Banana Macadamia Pancakes
Risin' high and fluffy

December 6, 2009

Buckwheat Pancakes

Buckwheat Pancakes

I used to use a mix for making pancakes and waffles. Most were very thin and tasteless. Okay... not completely tasteless - more like cardboard. There was one mix that I really liked was the buckwheat pancake mix from Bette's Ocean View Diner. I can't find it locally any longer so it was time to make buckwheat from scratch.

I picked up some buckwheat flour from Bob's Red Mill and went in search of a good recipe. I really had to search because buckwheat is non-gluten so there were many 'healthy' recipes or recipes which used all buckwheat. I wanted something a bit more like a buttermilk pancake but with the added flavor of buckwheat. Nice and fluffy.

I found two recipes that looked like what I wanted. The Buckwheat-Buttermilk Pancakes on Herbivoracious had a lot of good tips on buckwheat pancakes. The quantity was too large for just the two of us and his recipe is not easy to half. I also came across a recipe for a Blueberry Buckwheat from Sunset Magazine which combined three flours - wheat, buckwheat and corn. It sounded interesting but I wasn't in the mood for corn - plus I mainly had only course cornmeal in house.

I ended up making it very similar to the recipe in Sunset but reduced the leavening. They were yummy. It made 6 large pancakes.

Buckwheat Buttermilk Pancakes

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk

Butter, maple syrup. Blueberries - optional

In a bowl, whisk together buckwheat flourl, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together egg yolks and buttermilk; Stir into dry ingredients making certain not to overmix.

In a deep bowl, whip egg whites with a mixer on high speed just until whites hold stiff peaks. Gently fold whites into batter.

Heat skillet over medium heat. When hot, add a small dab of butter and pour 1/3 cup of batter. Shake pan lightly and cook until edges are dry and bubbles start to break in middle. Flip and cook until done.

Serve with plenty of butter and warm maple syrup. They are also good with a spoon of warmed blueberries.

Buckwheat Pancakes
Batter after stirring in wet ingredients

Buckwheat Pancakes
Folding in the egg whites

Buckwheat Pancakes
Finished pancakes

December 27, 2009

Buttermilk Oatmeal Pancakes

Oatmeal Pancakes

Sunday pancakes are now a habit. I am enjoying trying different types and recipes. There was an interesting recipe recently in the New York Times for Oatmeal Pancakes. It looked very good but a little too healthy using whole wheat flour. We like lighter fluffy pancakes and it sounded a little too dense for our once a week treat.

I searched on the web for another recipe and came across Dee's Oatmeal Pancakes from Simply Recipes. It sounded excellent but it would make a lot more than I wanted to for the two of us. So I searched a bit more and found Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancake from a newspaper in Canada that was very similar but easier to split in half. Both recipes used the technique of soaking the oatmeal overnight in buttermilk.

The pancakes were very oatmealy. The flavor and texture was rather nutty instead of fluffy cake like texture of regular buttermilk pancakes. G really liked them but they were a little dense for me. I also found them a little difficult to cook. The edges did not dry as much as a buttermilk pancakes and they were still a bit liquidy when I flipped them. I used an old-fashion oatmeal from Snoqualmie Falls Lodge. Next time I will try lighter oat such as Quakers Oatmeal.

Here are the portions I used:

Buttermilk Oatmeal Pancakes

Makes about 6-8 pancakes

1 cup large-flake rolled oats
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1/2 Tsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs butter, melted
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Place the oats in a bowl, pour in the buttermilk and stir to combine. Cover, refrigerate and let stand overnight. In the morning, when ready to serve, place the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda in a second bowl and whisk to combine. Mix the eggs, butter, and vanilla into the oatmeal mixture. Mix the flour mixture into the oatmeal mixture until just combined.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Lightly coat the surface with butter. Pour 1/4 - 1/3 cup batter into pan. Cook the pancakes until the surface becomes lightly speckled with bubbles. Flip the pancakes over and cook 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, or until they spring back when touched in the center. Serve cooked pancakes right away or keep warm in 200 F oven.

January 5, 2010

Mee Goreng

Mee Goreng

I've been craving Asian noodles after the excess of the holidays. Yesterday, I made Chow Mein which was very yummy. I had half of the noodles left over so I decided to try a new recipe. I looked over the noodle recipes on Rasa Malaysia - my go-to website for SE Asian dishes and found a recipe for Mee Goreng. We saw this dish at all the hawker stalls when we were in Kuching. I had a similar dish made with just prawns which was quite tasty.

I looked over the recipe and I had most of the ingredients. I did have to purchase a bottle of Sriracha which I had planned on trying. I did not have the thicker steamed noodles - the steamed chow mein noodles are thinner. It would be easy to adapt - just prepare the noodles according to the chow mein recipe but use the sauce from the Mee Goreng. I also had some pea pods so I added this although this is not typical of the dish.

The sauce is interesting. It uses oyster sauce and ketchup in addition to the chili sauce. The ketchup gives it a slightly sweet taste to contrast with the heat from the Sriracha. The noodles end up dark with tinge of red.

First step - prepare all the vegetables and combine the sauce. Next soak the noodles for 5 minutes. I like cooking the egg separately so I scrambled the egg and created an egg pancake which I sliced up to add at the end.

Ready to go - heat the oil, saute the garlic, shrimp, cabbage. Add the drained noodles and bean sprouts - stir to coat with oil. Add the sauce and cook until dry. You might need to add a little bit of water since the sauce is thick. When completed, add the wine and scallions. Serve. Enjoy!

If this sounds good - check out the recipe and great photos on Rasa Malaysia

January 17, 2010

Vegetarian Tamales

Making Tamales

Tamales remind me of Christmas. They are a tradition in G's family. My mother-in-law had 12 in her family. Every Christmas Eve all the brothers and sisters and their children and grandchildren would gather at G's Grandfather's on Christmas Eve. There were up to 100 people! His grandfather would dress up as Santa and pass out gifts to the children. My father-in-law would also put on Mitch Miller record of Christmas Carols and we would sign along. But the best part of the evening was the food. In the kitchen, there would be a huge pot filled with tamales. It was a homemade steamer. The bottom had tin cans and a rack to elevate the tamales. Then it was lined with a flour sack towel and in the towel were lovely nuggets of cornmeal wrapped in corn husks. In the center was shreaded pork cooked in a red chile sauce and a black olive. There was another pan of red chile sauce.

I loved taste of the sweet corn contrasting with the sharp heat of the red chile sauce. I'd sit in the kitchen and eat a half dozen. Later we moved away and I had to learn how to cook my own. I made a batch this Christmas. They are not hard to make but they do take time. It is easier when you break them out into different parts.

Soak the cornhusks

First thing to do is to soak the cornhusks. You can find dried corn husks usually in the Mexican cooking area of your supermarket. I put them in a large pan and cover with warm water. After they have soaked for a bit, separate the husks and continue to soak. It is best to soak overnight.


This is probably the most important part of the tamale. If you have a local Mexican grocer that makes corn tortillas, you can get fresh masa. The fresh masa will be lighter in texture. If not, you can use the packaged masa harina. That is what I usually use.

Most of the recipes have a 3 parts masa to 1 part fat. (6 cups masa, 2 cups fat) The liquid is usually about 1/2 the amount of masa or a bit more. (6 cups masa, 3-3/12 cups broth). Salt depends upon how salty the broth.

I like using lard because it adds extra flavor but G doesn't eat meat. I don't like the idea of using Crisco so checked my local grocer and found a wonderful organic vegetarian shortening. It is made of palm oil. I decided to give it a try this time. It was wonderful.

Have the fat at room temperature and whip it for lighter batter. Then gradually blend in the masa harina which has been mixed with broth. Try for a light and fluffy batter but not too moist. You will need to be able to spread it.

Several recipes suggest testing to see if the masa is light enough. After beating and mixing, take a small piece (1/2 tsp) and drop into a cup of cold water. It should float if enough air has been whipped into the batter. If not beat more with a bit more broth. I tried it but had no luck getting mine to float.

4 cups masa
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 1⁄3 cups vegetable shortening

In a deep bowl, combine the masa, baking powder and salt. Pour the broth into the masa a little at a time, working it in with your fingers.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the vegetable shortening until fluffy; add the masa and combine until just mixed.

Making Tamales

Making Tamales

Making Tamales


Typically you roast and shread pork, beef or chicken for the filling. I wanted a vegetarian filling so I used a mixture that I've used in enchiladas using mushrooms, roasted green chile, onions and zucchini. The mushrooms provide a meaty flavor and texture and are a good substitute for meat.

1 poblano chile, fire roasted, skin and seeds removed
1/2 onion diced
1 lb mushrooms sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped.
1 zucchini, sliced into match sticks

Roast the chile over a flame or under a broiler until charred. Put in a paper bag for about 5 minutes to steam. Remove the skin. Slit and remove the seeds. Chop the chile.

Saute the onion in oil for about 5 minutes until it starts to soften, add the mushrooms and a bit more oil. Cook for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms cook down and start to brown. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for a bit longer until the zucchini is cooked.

Making Tamales

Making Tamales

Making Tamales

Red Sauce

My red chile sauce is similar to gravy - a thickened sauce flavored with red chile powder. The secret is to toast the flour.

4 Tbs flour
4 Tbs vegetable oil
4 cups water or light vegetable broth
1/4 cup New Mexico ground chile powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin

Over medium heat, lightly toast the flour to a tan color. Wisk in vegetable oil and cook for 3-4 minutes. Combine water, chile, salt and cumin. Add to flour oil mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes until thickened.

Assemble the tamales

Spread about 1-2 tablespoons of masa in a rectangle on a corn husk. Spread about 1 tbs filling in the center of the rectangle and a spoon a bit of sauce. Fold the husk together and press the edges of the masa togther on the side and bottom. Fold the bottom of the husk up. Tie with a strip of corn husk and stand.

Stand tamales in a steamer and steam for 45 minutes. If you don't have a big enough steamer, you an stand a rack on some cans with the tops removed. Line the bottom of the steamer with additional corn husks to prevent the water from splashing on the tamales.

You can also freeze the tamales. Put in a ziplock freezer bag and freeze before cooking. You can steam them frozen - just add an additional 10-15 minutes.

The tamales are ready if the corn husk peels easily from the cooked masa. Enjoy!

Making Tamales

Making Tamales

Making Tamales

February 22, 2010

Sunday Slow Suppers - Lamb Tagine with Fennel and Olives

Lamb Tagine with Fennel & Olives

I haven't been participating in the recent Slow Travel cooking theme - Sunday Slow Suppers. They have had several interesting recipes such as Jerry's Crab and Shrimp Risotto. But this week's recipe for Goat Tagine with Fennel and Olives won me over. It has been great reading the angst over how to get the ingredients for the recipe. Goat is starting to become more available in many cities. I've seen it at the Seattle Farmers Markets from Toboton Creek Boers and there are several middle eastern or Mexican stores that also sell it. Some cooks were able to find it. Deborah had quite the story on her purchase.

I want to try it but I noticed at the last minute that my local supermarket had lamb shanks on sale. Sold! I decided to make the recipe with lamb instead. My other challenge was finding preserved lemons. No luck. I didn't want to run around either so I made these quick preserved lemons from Cooking Light. I think they added the right amount of tart and saltiness to the dish but they were a little to bitter to eat.

But the biggest issue I ended up having was my pan was too small. I tried to brown the shanks in my cast iron pan that I use for meat but it didn't do a good job. I did get the meaty tops browned so I went with that. They fortunately fit into an Emil Henri gratin pan that I had.

The recipe is from Figments blog. She adapted the original lamb recipe from Paula Wolfert. I've been interested in trying Moroccan dishes and the spices sounded so interesting. I was a little leery of the amount of ginger and the honey but they both really brought the dish together. I am going to get a copy of the original recipe book - Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco to try more tagines. I'm also thinking of making this Fish Tagine with similar ingredients which G will eat.

I had the lamb for lunch today and it was excellent. I really liked the flavors. I want to thank Deborah for challenging us and opening us up to the cuisine of Morocco.

Pictures after the break (vegetarians beware!)

Continue reading "Sunday Slow Suppers - Lamb Tagine with Fennel and Olives" »

March 7, 2010

Sunday Slow Suppers - Green Chilies Casserole

Green Chili Casserole

I couldn't resist this week's Sunday Slow Supper dish. It is a Green Chile Casserole and the recipe was recommended by Marcia of Happy Trails for Us.

The recipe calls for chicken but I was intrigued by the ingredients and wondered if I could adapt it for G by substituting a fish instead of chicken. It actually worked very well. It was a little richer than what I typically serve with fish but not bad. I used Tilapia which worked well but I think with the rich sauce it would have been better with shellfish such as shrimp. Next time I'll try it with shrimp.

Here is the original recipe and I have notes at the bottom on what I used instead.

Adapted from COOKS.COM

4 chicken breasts, cooked, shredded (or use rotisserie chicken, skinned, boned and cut into small pieces)

1 lg. onion, chopped
4 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. salt
2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. chili powder
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 small can diced tomatoes, drained
Chopped cilantro to taste, @ 2 tblsp.

12 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces

1 c. grated Cheddar cheese
2 c. Monterey Jack cheese (mix cheese together) - lighten dish with low-fat cheeses

Make sauce by first sauteing onions in butter, then add flour, stir to make a roux, add liquids and salt - cook stirring until smooth and slightly thickened. Add chopped green chilies (drained) to sauce. Add chili powder. Add tomatoes to sauce (both well drained). Add cilantro. Taste, and adjust seasonings for "hot" factor.

Place a layer of chicken in bottom of greased 3 quart casserole, then a layer of torn tortillas, then cheese and sauce. Repeat ending with cheese on top. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until bubbling, 20-25 minutes. Let sit 15 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

May be prepared ahead and baked the next day or may be frozen thawed and baked at serving time.

Note: I cut the recipe in half because there are only two of us. It made a 10x7 Creuset stoneware pan. I used about 1 pound of fish in place of the chicken. I pan fried it until lightly browned and then crumbled. I'm thinking of using about a pound of shellfish next time instead.

Green Chili Casserole
Pan fried Tilapia

Green Chili Casserole

Green Chili Casserole
Finished casserole

Cat wanting the fish
Looking for a fish handout

March 22, 2010

Sour Cherry Crisp

Sour Cherry Crisp

It is G's birthday this week. I asked him what he wanted me to bake him for his birthday. I totally expected him to ask for something chocolate but he asked for a fruit cobbler. I was somewhat surprised. He said that chocolate cake is often too heavy and too much to eat. A cake or pie can last for weeks in this house. I try to cut most recipes in half so it will serve the two of us for two days but it can be hard.

We have a great source for frozen local fruit - Remlinger Farms. I have purchased both their frozen berry pies which are excellent and the bagged fruit. They are a great source for sour pie cherries. I priced them at the farmer's market last July and they were running $10 per pound. Yozza! I can get a three pound bag of pitted frozen cherries from Remlinger for between $13-$15. It will make two pies or a couple of small cobblers. I also love their frozen peaches.

I had some of their frozen cherries in the freezer so I made a Sour Cherry Crisp from Cupcake Muffin Blog. I have made it several times and I really love the addition of the almond meal in the topping. Almonds and cherries are perfect partners. It is also a nice dessert to make any time of the year if you have access to pie cherries. Click over to her blog and check it out.

Sour Cherry Crisp

March 25, 2010

Cracked the secret of poached eggs

Aspargus Salad

I love eggs and asparagus. They are food that reminds me of Spring. One of my favorite ways to serve these together is in a salad. I first made this salad last year. Asparagus is on sale and I picked up some fresh pastured eggs.

I tried it last Friday. What a disaster! The egg white went all over and it looked more like Chinese egg drop soup than a poached egg. So I studied the websites again. Some recommended adding vinegar. Some recommend stirring the pot. I don't care for the vinegar taste and stirring the pot added to Friday's disaster.

I gave it a try again. Success! Here are some tips that helped me.

  • Make certain your water is hot enough. Don't be shy. Get that pot almost boiling. I used the tip from this page from What's Cooking in America which suggests checking the temperature of the water and making certain it is between 160-180 degrees. I used my instant read thermometer that I used for baking bread. I realize now that I was misjudging how hot the pan was on Friday and it was too cool. That is why it didn't hold its shape.
  • Use enough water to cover the egg. I used a small saucepan with 2-3 inches of water. I used a larger flat saucepan previously. The bigger pan will work as long as I get the water the right temperature.
  • Put the egg in a Pyrex cup and slip into the water. I slipped it up against the side of the pan to help keep it in place. Use a spatula if it looks like it is starting to stick to the side or bottom of the pan,
  • Adjust heat to make certain it does not start to boil and bubble. Some sites recommend turning off the heat and covering. I just adjusted the heat. Cook until the whites are solid but the yolk is still fluid. This should be about 3 minutes.

For the salad, I toss the greens in a lemony vinaigrette, top with steamed asperagus, two poached eggs and fresh croutons. It is sooo good. Here is a great spring time vinaigrette that really complements the salad.

Lemon Chive Vinaigrette

Inspired by Chive Vinaigrette from Bon Appettit

3 Tbs White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp chopped shallot
1 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp grated lemon rind (using micro-fine grater)
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt

9 Tbs Olive Oil (1/2 cup + 1 TBS)

In a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the oil. While whisking, slowly add the olive oil to make a thickened dressing.

March 28, 2010

Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart

Cauliflower Tart

Cauliflower has been on sale recently. I usually always pick up a head when the price goes below $1.00. I'm always frustrated at the waste. I usually have to cut off at least a good extra half pound or more of stem that I don't use. But I love cauliflower

I came across this recipe for a tart using roasted cauliflower and caramelized onions. I love both with their sweet roasted flavor. It sounded perfect for a spring dinner.

But then I looked at the recipe. Wow! It called for so many heavy fat items. I expected to have eggs and creme but it also calls for 8 oz of mascarpone cheese, 1 cup of Gruyère and almost another cup of Parmesan cheese. I looked over the reviews on Epicurious and some people reduced the Parmesan but in general most people made it as it was written. There was no way I could use 8 oz of mascarpone in a 9 inch tart. I wasn't making a cheesecake!

I ended up cutting all of the cheese in half or more. It was perfectly fine - in fact very tasty. It makes a great vegetarian meal. I used a recipe for a quiche crust and I'll include that here. It is also very rich. It does involve a lot of steps but you can combine several such as roasting the cauliflower and baking the dough at the same time. It does make a very relaxing and satisfying project.

Tart Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tbs cold butter
1 egg yolk
3 Tbs cold water

Cut the butter up into the flour until well blended - the butter will be small pea sized after cut up. Stir in the egg yolk and then add water tablespoon at at time until the dough can form a ball. You may need extra tbs. Roll out to fit a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Prick with a fork.

To prevent shrinking, line with parchment paper and fill with bean to weight down. Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove paper and beans and return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or more until golden brown.

Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart
Bon Appétit | March 2007

1 small head of cauliflower (about 1 pound), cored, cut into 1-inch florets
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon truffle oil*

1 large onion, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 large eggs
1 (7- to 8-ounce) container mascarpone cheese (Italian cream cheese)*
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

One baked 9 inch tart crust (see above)

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 425°F. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil in large bowl. Spread on large rimmed baking sheet, spacing apart. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes; turn florets over. Continue roasting until tender, about 25 minutes longer. Cool cauliflower, then thinly slice. Drizzle with truffle oil; toss. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Store crust at room temperature. Cover and chill cauliflower and onion separately.

Brush bottom and sides of crust with mustard. Spread onion in crust. Arrange cauliflower evenly over. Set tart on rimmed baking sheet. Whisk eggs and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Stir in Gruyère. Pour mixture over filling in tart pan; sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake until tart is golden and center is set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool 15 minutes before serving.

Note: I reduced the cheeses in half. 1/2 container of mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere and 1/2 cup or less of Parmesan cheese. I also omitted the truffle oil since I didn't have any.

Cauliflower Tart
Roasted Cauliflower

Cauliflower Tart
Caramelized Onions

Cauliflower Tart
Empty Tart Shell

Cauliflower Tart
Filled with Cauliflower and Onions

Cauliflower Tart
Ready to bake

Cauliflower Tart
Finished tart

Another good tart or quiche for spring is this asparagus quiche which uses the same dough and a filling without the mascarpone. I bet this recipe would be great using asparagus instead. This is another great spring asparagus dish - Baked Fettuccine with Asparagus, Lemon and Mascarpone.

August 30, 2010

Dilly Beans

Canning - Dilly Beans

Our green and yellow beans have been ripening fast. The weather is also turning cold so the beans are toughening. They are starting to plump up their seeds. The Blue Lakes are still pretty meaty but our Yellow Romanos are getting tough. Sigh... The Yellow wax bush beans are going fast also.

So I needed some way to save a few of these. I froze a couple of quarts. I am not a big fan of pickled food but I decided to pickle a bunch of the green beans. I had a case of half pint jars so I picked a bunch of small green and yellow beans and set out to make some dilly beans.

I liked the sound of these Pickled Yellow Wax Beans and the Dilly Beans from Food in Jars. If you haven't made pickled food before the instructions on The Blueberry Files were excellent - and also an excellent refresher on how to can.

I decided to use the recipe from Food in Jars. I had enough beans for about 5 jars so I cut the brine in half. I decided to use red pepper flakes and a couple of peppercorns instead of the cayenne pepper.

First I started the water boiling in the canner. This takes about 30-45 minutes to get to a rolling boil. This gave me time to prepare the ingredients. I measured out the size of the beans that would fit in the jar leaving a half-inch room and cut the beans. I prepared the garlic and spices. I sterilized the jars once the water was boiling and prepared the brine.

I measured the spices into the jars and then packed in the beans into four jars using the small extra pieces to tightly pack the beans. I used the extra pieces to make a fifth jar of cut beans. I poured the brine to 1/2 inch from the top, and then screwed on the tops. Set them into a water bath and boil for 5 minutes.

They looked great. I could hear them pop and seal as they cooled. I hope they taste good.

Canning - Dilly Beans
Spices for the dilly beans

Canning - Dilly Beans
Water bath

Canning - Dilly Beans

Canning - Dilly Beans
Summer goodness - ready for this winter

September 5, 2010

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

Fall is coming fast in the Pacific Northwest. We have had almost nothing for a summer. June was rainy and cold. July and August was off and on. It is now September and you can tell Fall is approaching fast. The sun is lower, the colors are golden, leaves are turning read and the days are cool and crisp. No, No, No .... it is too soon!

Alas, our tomatoes are barely turning red. I have been itching to can so I decided to get some small canning cucumbers at this Saturday's Edmonds Farmers Market. Gypsy Rows from Silvana had some wonderful looking small pickling cucumbers. I have never made pickles before so I wasn't certain what size cukes to get. I went for the smallest which probably would have made fabulous spears. They also made some darn good bread and butter pickles.

I searched the web for recipes. I have always had good luck with Elise's recipes from Simply Recipe. Her recipe sounded great - Bread and Butter Pickles. Martha also had a version of the pickles. I went with Simply Recipe's version but cut the sugar by 1/4 cup and added 6 black peppercorns.
My cucumbers were really small so they packed in tight. The recipe only made 3 pints instead of 5. I had about 1/4 pint left over and G gobbled most of them down when he got home from work. The other 3 are in the pantry with the dilly beans waiting for a dark day when I need to remember the sun. :)

Bread and Butter Pickles
Aren't they great looking pickling cukes?

Bread and Butter Pickles
Two and half pounds sliced up - didn't take that long!

Bread and Butter Pickles
Slice in some onions and salt them

Bread and Butter Pickles
Don't they look great?

September 8, 2010

Bread and Pasta

Focaccia Bread

Lots of time - that is what you have when you are unemployed. I am taking this opportunity to do more time consuming cooking. Canning has been one project. It is now cooler so I have been more interested in trying different types of bread.

My first project is trying a sourdough starter. I have never worked with a starter but I'm intrigued with it. I love sourdough. I found this recipe for a wild yeast sourdough starter on The Fresh Loaf and started up my culture. I has just about been a week so it may be ready. It hasn't made a lot so I'm going to do more research on it. I'd like to try making bread and waffles or pancakes with the starter. I just find it very intriguing to be able to create bread without yeast. I've tasted several Belgium beers that also use wild yeast and they are so different. Sour but good.

I had a craving for focaccia bread. I found this recipe for Focaccia on The Fresh Loaf and I really wanted to try it. One of my favorite Focaccia bread that I have had was a potato topped Focaccia that I got from a bakery along the Cinque Terre. The combination of thin potatoes, fresh bread, oil and rosemary was heavenly. This recipe isn't for a potato topped Focaccia but instead uses potato in the dough. Several artisan bread companies in Seattle make a potato bread so I though this would be a great second project.

The recipe starts by baking or microwaving potatoes and then grating them. Next you create a sponge. The recipe called for quick acting yeast but I had just regular active yeast. It worked fine. NOTE: The initial post on the recipe gives the wrong amount of yeast. It says 1/2 tsp and it is really 1 1/2 tsp of quick yeast. 1 1/2 tsp of active yeast works fine. Just start the active yeast first in the warm water. I have it about 3-5 minutes before adding the flour and then I waited for about 20-25 minutes until I had a sponge.

Next you add the flour. I do not have a large mixer so I did it by hand. First I added about 2 cups of flour and then added about 1/2 cup more. Then I turned it out and started kneading and added about 1/2 cup more. I used a course grater for the potato so there were a few pieces of potato even when I had finished kneading making it a little knobby.

It took about 1-2 hours for the first rise. It is cool - 65 degrees so I like using a large pan with a small amount of warm water to raise the temperature and assist the rising of the dough. After it had raised, then I punched it down and cut it in half. I knew we could not eat a full sheet of bread so I used a piece of foil to cut my pan down to size. I stretched out the dough into a rectangular shape, topped it with olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt and let it rise again. I baked it for about 25 minutes.

It was wonderful. It wasn't yeasty at all and the potato gave it a good depth. I would have liked a bit more rosemary and salt but otherwise extremely yummy. We didn't eat all so I'm going to try reheating part tonight and then making the other half later this week.

My third flour project was homemade pasta. I tried it for the first time earlier this summer and I wasn't too impressed. But I wanted to try it again. I read over a couple of the threads on Slow Travel and there were several discussion regarding what type of flour to use. You want to use hard durum flour to give the pasta some 'bite'. Last time I think I used 00 flour from Italy. I realize now that it was too 'soft'. I also rolled the pasta too thin. It ended up being a very thin noodle.

I had a bag of Bob's Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour. Some Slow Travelers use only semolina and others have found it to be too dry. I decided to use 1/3 Semolina to 2/3 all purpose flour. The recipe I used was 3/4 cup of flour (1/4 cup semolina and 1/2 cup all purpose flour) and 1 egg. It was so much better. It tasted more like pasta than noodles. It was a little dry but cooked up very tasty. I cooked down some fresh tomatoes along with a bit of vegetarian bouillon, butter and herbs (basil, rosemary and sage). Oh... My... Goodness... I'm going to make it again tonight.

Focaccia Bread
Kneading the Focaccia

Focaccia Bread
Ready for the first rising

Focaccia Bread
Ready to be punched down

Focaccia Bread
Second rising

Homemade Pasta
Homemade pasta

September 12, 2010

Tomato Puree

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes

Well, the trays of tomatoes ripened up and I had enough home grown tomatoes to can. The Aug/Sept2010 issue of Fine Cooking had a good article on canning tomato puree . I had mostly small little Stupice variety tomatoes that would be a pain to peel and can so I decided to try the puree.

First, I had to buy a food mill. My local general one-stop shopping store did not have them. I looked on the web and Ace Hardware came up so I went over to local Tweedy & Pop Ace Hardware in Shoreline. It was about $30 which was in my price range. I have to admit after using it, I am now wondering if it wouldn't have been better to get the Oxo brand for $50 but it did the job.

I stemmed, washed and chopped the tomatoes - that took a good hour. Then heated them until they were soft. Next I used the food mill to puree them using the smallest plate. The Stupice have very tiny seeds so there was no way that I would remove them unless I used a chinois. I decided to go with the seed.

Next I sterilized the pint jars and brought the puree to a boil. My puree is very watery since the Stupice are not very meaty. But that will be fine - I'll just remember to reduce them when I use them. I made 9 pints. And later in the week another batch should ripen for another half dozen pints. Yea! - after a poor tomato year - I'll be able to get at least a dozen or so pints of tomatoes to use this winter.

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Two trays to stem and wash

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Chop the tomatoes

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Heat until soft

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Food Mill

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Pureed Tomatoes

Canning 2010 - Tomatoes
Success - 2010 Tomatoes ready for the pantry

October 12, 2010

Cinnamon Bread

Homemade Cinnamon Bread

Fall is not one of my favorite seasons but I have found that I am enjoying it more and more. There is definitely something wonderful about a crisp Fall day on the trail with sky brilliantly blue. Or the early frost on grasses. And I am finding that I do enjoy the flavors of Fall.

I seem to crave different foods; crisp apples, the pungent flavor of sage, sharp tastes of ripe nuts. I got the craving for cinnamon bread last week. I haven't made a standard loaf of bread in a while. Mostly I've been making the no-kneed artisan bread. But I thought I'd like to try a nice cinnamon raisin bread.

I decided to try Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread from pete bakes!. I halved the recipe to make only one loaf. I had a little problem rolling and crimping the loaf. The recipe suggests to sprinkle the dough with water before sprinkling the cinnamon. It ended up leaking out but no problem. I crimped the ends and squeezed it into the pan to rise a second time.

It was so yummy. I loved it toasted but it was also great in a cheese sandwich on the trail. I used Swiss cheese with a little bit of cream cheese. You can also add a slice of ham if you want meat. Sooo good.

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Ready for the first rise

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Roll out the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Ready for the oven

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Golden brown from the oven

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Love the swirl

Homemade Cinnamon Bread
Perfect for a fall morning

November 15, 2010

Winter squash and Chickpea Stew

Winter Squash and Chickpea Stew

I had one of those Costco moments a couple of months ago. I saw an 8-pack of S&W chickpeas and thought - hey that would be a great buy. Six months later and I still have 5 cans left. What to do... What to do... I decided to try a chickpea stew. I also had several winter squashes from our farmer friends on Vashon - Langley Fine Gardens. So I googled for squash chickpea stew and found this great sounding stew from Pinch My Salt. On top of it it used Israel couscous which I happened to have a box but never tried. And I had canned tomatoes - no need to go to the store.

It is super easy to do. The hardest part is cutting and peeling the squash. I used a Kabocha squash and it was so tasty. I only used about a quarter of the squash ~ 2 cups. I used a handful of raisins instead of dried cherries and added a handful of olives. G loves olives and I can usually get him to eat a new dish if it has olives. ;) I also wanted it thicker so I only used 3 cups of liquid instead of 4 cups.

It took just 30 minutes to cook and made a wonderful one-dish dinner. It was so good - I didn't even get a picture! G loved it. Definitely a keeper. Jump over to Pinch My Salt site and give it a try.

December 21, 2010

Cassata alla Siciliana

Sicilian Cassata

We have a tradition of getting together with our good friends on Vashon Island and celebrating Christmas. We got together this weekend for our celebration. We have done this now for over 10 years. They are one of G's coworkers back to the days of Seattle Garden Center in the market. Neither of us had children at the time and it was a good way to celebrate Christmas together.

We both have grown and changed over the years. They now have a beautiful boy and a bustling farm. We have transitioned between jobs. But taking time each year to get together, enjoy food and time together is the basis of our wonderful friendship.

We usually plan the menu a month or so ahead. This year we decided to have crab and tuna. I usually make dessert because it is the one time of the year that I can make a decadent dessert. Some of the past desserts have been a killer Bûche de Noël. Another year it was rich eclairs. One year it was a wonderful espresso chocolate cake that kept me up all night.

My friend mentioned how much she loved Casatta - a Sicilian ricotta cake. I looked up the cake in Dolce Italiano and found the recipe. It looked time consuming but good. I was a little skeptical about an almond glaze but decided to follow the recipe.

It is not difficult but it does involve many steps and takes a good half day to complete. It was so good. My friend thought it was one of my best dessert and I would definitely make it again. Please check out the book for the recipe but here are some pictures of the steps.

Sicilian Cassata
Gathering the ingredients

Sicilian Cassata
Pistachios are one of the main ingredients of the filling layers

Sicilian Cassata
It takes bit to chop them

Sicilian Cassata
As does grating the chocolate

Sicilian Cassata
Spread the filling between the sponge cake layers

Sicilian Cassata
All of the layers are brushed with a rum syrup

Sicilian Cassata
Final with the almond glaze

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