Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Delicious Treat from the Mediterranean Coast

This is a pan of farinata (if you're on the Ligurian coast) or socca (if you're in Nice). It's basically a crepe made of chickpea flour, salt, water and a touch of olive oil. This was part of an Italian dinner that also included sauteed escarole and a few slices of salami and mortadella.

I was introduced to socca through Julia Child (one of her cookbooks of course: From Julia's Kitchen) and still use her basic proportions to make the batter. I baked mine in a very hot oven, but for a more authentic flavor you can make your farinata on a very hot grill or in your fireplace: in Liguria, we saw huge wood burning pizza ovens that were used to make farinata. There farinata is sold by weight, in huge slices scraped up from the enormous pans (30 inches across, at least) it's baked in.

I had the good fortune to dine at Rose Pistola restaurant in San Francisco several times. Rose Pistola specializes in Ligurian cuisine. The chef, Reed Hearon, prepares a traditional farinata and versions with additional flavors. I took inspiration from him for this batch and added torn oil-cured olives and chopped marjoram.

Farinata is insanely easy to make. The most challenging part of the process is finding the essential chickpea flour. Your local Italian market may have it and Indian markets definitely do. (In Indian markets it may be labeled besan flour).

Serves 2-4 (in our house this serves two as a main-course side dish)
  • 2/3 cup chickpea flour, sifted if lumpy
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pan(s)
  • additional flavorings (optional): no more than two of: chopped herbs, cut or torn olives, anchovies, shredded radicchio, etc.
Make the batter: Place the flour in a bowl (be sure to sift it if it's really lumpy). Slowly whisk in the water, making sure to whisk out any lumps. If you add the water slowly, whisking well after each addition, you should end up with a smooth (very thin) batter. Whisk in the salt and olive oil. Set the batter aside until you're ready to cook the farinata. You can make the batter as far a day ahead - store it in the refrigerator if you're making it more than half an hour ahead of time.

About 30-45 minutes before baking the farinata, select your pan(s): This quantity of batter will make a thin 12" crepe or two 8" crepes, or a thicker 10" crepe. I prefer thinner crepes, but thicker seems to be more traditional. Cast iron or steel are best, do NOT use non-stick.

Now that you've made your pan selection, heat that sucker up: Put it in a 400-degree oven and let it heat for about 30 minutes.

Pull the hot pan out of the oven and drizzle a little olive oil into the pan. Pour the batter into the pan, if necessary, swirl the pan to cover the bottom with the batter. Scatter the flavorings over the top, if you're using them. Put the pan into the oven and bake until the farinata is set, about 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until the farinata is golden brown in spots and a little burned in others, about 3 minutes (depending on your broiler).

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the farniata with salt. Serve the farinata in rough slices: use a spatula or scraper to pull the slices off the pan (they shouldn't stick) - this will not be a graceful presenation.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Scurvy-Fighting Slaw for a Snow Day

I haven't been able to make it to the supermarket in about a week. At this stage of the game, the larder is pretty bare and the produce supply is rather meager. Fortunately, several of my vegetable pantry staples were still in attendance.

When I'm craving salad, but am out of greens, I turn to some variation on a slaw. Tonight's version was a colorful concoction of red cabbage, carrots and parsley.

Scurvy-Fighting Slaw for a Snow Day
serves about 4
  • 1 quarter of a head of red cabbage, sliced thin or shredded
  • 3 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3 large handfuls of parsley leaves, large stems removed
  • 1 orange
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper
Toss the vegetables together. Squeeze the orange over the salad and toss to combine. Drizzle olive oil over (about two-three circular passes over the bowl) and toss. Taste and add vinegar (if needed) and salt and pepper to taste.

Delicious, easy and healthful. A great companion to the corn and clam chowder we had for supper. Were I to serve this salad to "company" I would slightly increase the fussy factor and shred the cabbage very fine and pulled all the parsley into individual leaflets.


Been snowing for about 48 hours straight (ergo the French Toast Warning in the sidebar).

It's amazing how much you can accomplish when you can't leave the house:
  • Did three loads of laundry
  • Wrapped of all our Christmas gifts
  • Reorganized my salt collection (seriously)
  • Made a batch of no-knead bread
  • Made a batch of baguettes (still in process, technically)
  • Made a batch of brandy-soaked dried fruit
  • Simmered up a batch of corn chowder for dinner (thank heaven for a well stocked freezer)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Little Nibbles of Cheddary Goodness

If you still are looking for something to give to that person who has everything, may I recommend Cheez-Thats? Technically, they're just cheese crackers, but if you push the dough through your cookie press, you get little "Cheez-It"-like crackers. They are way better than Cheez-Its though, so I call them Cheez-Thats. Hee.

Mine are punched up with chipotle chili powder, so they have a spicy, smoky flavor. You can use a variety of spices to enliven these. Mustard powder and/or seeds would be an interesting addtion as would finely minced chives or cumin seeds. They're just fine plain too.

If you put them in a pretty bag, box or jar they make a lovely hostess gift. Package them alongside a bottle of red wine and you have a charming gift.

(adapted from Paula Deen's Zesty Cheese Straws)
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or cayenne, or smoked paprika (depending on how spicy you want these to be - taste the dough to see if you've put enough spice in)
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth dough. (Use a combination of pulsing and steady processing to make sure everything is well combined.)

You can do this without a food processor too - just cream the butter and cheese together with a spatula and then work in the flour and seasonings until you have a dough. In this method, you may have some threads of shredded cheese throughout the dough - that's a fine option as well

You can use a cookie press to form the crackers: Scoop the dough into a cookie press fitted with a ridged plate. Pipe out long strips of dough onto a baking sheet and then cut the strips into squares.


You can use the chill and slice method to form the crackers: Form the dough into a log (give it a square cross-section if you want to keep the Cheez-It metaphor going). Chill until firm and then slice into 1/8" thick pieces. Lay crackers on baking sheet.

Bake at 325 for about 10 minutes, or until gently browned. Your kitchen will be perfumed with the fragrance of toasted Cheddar cheese. The cheese flavor really shines at room temperature though, so hold off devouring them until they cool off.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Garlic Confit and What to do With It

Hi, it's me. Back again. I hope y'all are, like me, being swept up in holiday planning and fun and haven't really noticed that I haven't posted in nearly two weeks (eek!).

As penance for my lag in posting, I thought I would give you not one recipe, but two! The first recipe isn't really a recipe, more a technique, but anyhoo ...

Garlic Confit is a really nice treat to have on hand. Technically a confit is some sort of animal protein (like chicken, duck or turkey) slowly cooked in its own fat until tender. In recent years, the term confit has been extended to cover vegetables slowly cooked in oil (usually olive oil) until tender and silky. So, this method is for garlic confit but you can apply the same principles to onions, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, etc.

Garlic Confit
  • Garlic cloves, peeled (as many as you want - I cooked up about three cups)
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs or a few dried chilies, optional
  • Olive oil, to cover
Put the garlic into a heavy saucepan with herbs and chilies, if using. Pour enough olive oil over to just cover. Place the saucepan over low heat and let garlic cook until soft. The oil will sputter a little as the moisture in the garlic cooks off. Depending on the heat and the age of the garlic, the confit will be done in 30 minutes to an hour. The cloves will be a light golden brown and tended enough to provide no resistance when you try to stick a toothpick through one.

Let the confit cool and then transfer to clean glass jars. The confit should be stored covered with oil and stored in the refrigerator - any extra oil should be strained and stored in the refrigerator. Use your confit and garlic oil within a week. (See the comments below for why.)

Now you have a jar full of garlic confit in your fridge, so what do you do with it? You can spread the cloves on grilled or toasted bread, use them in a roast beef sandwich, bake them into foccacia or add them to pasta. I used some of my confit to make this soothing, warming bean stew:

Cannellini Bean Stew with Garlic Confit
Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups dried cannellini beans, cooked or 3 cans cannellini beans, drained with some liquid reserved
  • 6 canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth, canned is fine
  • 1/2 cup garlic confit
  • minced rosemary, optional
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 pieces of pancetta or bacon, chopped fine
  • handful grated parmesan
Over medium heat, saute the onion in a little olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the cooked beans, tomatoes, confit and a little chicken broth (you want the mixture to be a little soupy). Simmer until the tomatoes break down, adding more chicken broth or canned bean liquid to keep the mixture from drying out. The goal is a thick stew-like mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add some minced rosemary, if using.

While the stew is cooking, make the crispy breadcrumb topping: Saute the bacon or pancetta until crispy. Toast the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil until golden brown (do this in a skillet or on a baking sheet in your oven). Toss the breadcrumbs, bacon and cheese together.

When the bean stew looks and tastes right to you (the tomatoes should have broken down and are part of the sauce binding the beans and confit together - think Italianate baked beans). Served, topped with a handful of the breadcrumb mixture.

This is a really soul-satisfying dish. The beans are super-creamy and each smooth bite is punctuated with hits of garlic and crunchy bites of breadcrumb. It's super-easy to make this dish vegetarian by leaving out the bacon.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Wrap-Up: Stuffing

Another major first at our Thanksgiving table this year was cornbread stuffing (the smoked turkey being the other first). I'm more of a bread stuffing/dressing kind of gal and I thought the idea of cornbread stuffing was great: the sweetness of cornmeal, the briny hit of the olives, porky sausage, etc. etc. Well, yeah, no ...

This stuffing had good flavor, but the texture was just off. The cornbread just absorbed the broth I used to moisten the stuffing and it got sorta mushy. The stuffing ended up being more pudding-like than stuffing-like.

Now I will admit that several million Southerners can't be wrong about the wondrousness of cornbread dressin' but my mother, who is quite the accomplished cook herself, made a similar stuffing for this Thanksgiving and had a response that was similar to mine.

Any cornbread stuffing lovers out there? Tell me what I missed, 'cause I have a rather open mind on this topic. At this point, I'm going back to my traditional bread stuffing for next year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Wrap-Up: Turkey

So how was your holiday? Beppo and I spend our Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us. Every year I face the challenge of how to satisfy the Thanksgiving food cravings we both have, without overloading our plates, bellies or the refrigerator.

This means I have to limit the number of dishes on the table, and generally rules out turkey. Historically, we've had a chicken instead and that has satisfied our bird requirements. This year though, I became enraptured with the thought of having a locally-raised turkey. Tendercrop Farms, our local (year-round) farm market sells their own turkeys, and on a whim, I ordered one. The smallest turkey available weighed in at 11.5 pounds so I decided we'd cook the breast on Thanksgiving and I'd confit the legs and wings later (once I collect enough fat to do that with).

I cut the bird apart into its various parts and promptly put the neck, giblets and backbone into the stockpot. The legs and wings went into bags for freezer storage and the breast went into a brine solution in the fridge.

I thought it would be fun to try smoking the breast meat, so I turned to the web and settled on Steven Raichlen's method. I brined the breast and smoked it for about 1.5 hours (until the thermometer read 150).

This method worked wonderfully: the breast meat was juicy and flavorful and the oven was freed up for everything else that needed to go into it. I was also thrilled with the turkey's flavor. (I purchased a "natural" turkey breast at Whole Foods years ago: the flavor was unpleasantly gamy.) This bird was juicy and tasted wonderfully turkey-ish.

The drawbacks: the skin never browned so the presentation was sorta crappy and the applewood chips didn't seem to give much flavor at all (a benefit too: I can still make broth from the carcass).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Love Japanese Candy

Don't you wish all menu descriptions read like this enticing candy copy?

If you're cooking tomorrow, here's hoping your Thanksgiving dinner earns you the admiring feeling of a graceful lady.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drink of the Week: Cranberry Jack

This is a quick little riff on a Jack Rose. I thought that cranberries would make a nice substitute for lemon juice. They're certainly seasonal (and local ... to we Massachusetts dwellers). The cranberries certainly make for a beautiful drink.

Cranberry Jack
In a mixing glass, muddle together:
  • handful of fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 ounce of grenadine
Add ice, and then add:
  • 2 ounces Applejack
Shake well to combine and chill. Double strain (through a julep and fine-meshed strainer - the cranberry seeds are small) into an iced cocktail glass. Garnish with a cranberry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Onion Soup

According to a number of articles I have read lately, we're more and more interested in preparing cheap meals these days. I don't know about you, but one of the reasons I have always cooked for myself and my family is to save money (and to have more nutritious food and because I love to cook, etc. etc. etc.), so let's agree that most of us have been ahead of the cost-saving curve for a while.

One of the cheapest, most soul-satisfying soups I make is onion soup. Most of us are familiar with the spongy breaded, plastic-cheese encapsulated, super salty versions available at restaurants. It's quite easy to make your own version at home, yielding a much more delicious bowl of soup. I also think it's amazing that such a delicious dinner can come from such a short (and cheap) ingredient list.

Instead of crowning my soup with a slice of bread and melted cheese, I keep my garnishes on the side. I usually serve it with cheese toast (slices of toasted bread with some cheese melted on top) or slices of bread and cheese. This has the advantage of the diner getting to choose just how soaked they want their bread. Plus, since you aren't gently sliding soup bowls topped with molten cheese in and out of the oven, it is much easier to manage at dinner time.

This is a recipe, but a very loose one - substitute leeks, shallots, cipolline, and/or garlic for some of the onions. You can use sweet onions, Spanish onions, red onions, white onions ...

You can use broth or water and you can deglaze with wine, brandy or broth. Use soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to boost flavor if needed. The only non-negotiable is the multiple deglazings. You want those onions to give up all of their flavor and deglazing 2 or 3 (or even 4) times is the way to make that happen. It takes a long time to cook the onions, but it's mostly hands-off and you can do other things while they're sizzling away. This soup tastes even better the next day so it's a great make-ahead.

Onion Soup
Serves 3-6, depending on serving size
  • 4 large onions, peeled (softball sized) - or substitute some shallots and/or leeks and/or garlic, half the vegetables should be onion
  • 1 cup red wine - or brandy or use broth
  • 1 quart chicken or beef broth - or use water
  • 2 cups water
  • optional: bay leaf, dried thyme
  • optional flavor boosters: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Maggi, etc.
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cut the onions in half (or quarters if they are very large). Slice the onions very thin. Saute the onions over medium heat in a small stockpot or large saucepan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are browned and very soft. This may take as long as an hour.

When the onions are browned and soft, turn the heat up and pour about 1/3 of the wine over the onion. Scrape up any browned bits. Simmer until all the wine is cooked off. Repeat the degalzing process 2 more times, each time cooking the wine off. Pour in the broth and water and add any dried herbs you want. Simmer the onion and broth together and taste for seasoning. If the flavor is flat (you'll know if it is - it should taste like something you want to eat) add soy or Worcestershire sauce, a few dashes at a time, until the flavor is better.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve with cheese toast if you like.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Ragus

The "The Way We Eat" section of the New York Times' Sunday Magazine can be a hit or miss proposition for me. That's not say that I don't the stories aren't interesting or compelling. But often I find myself reading the article saying to myself "well I'll never make this ... interesting though." (The recent story on curried pork katsu being a prime example.)

In February though, Christine Muhlke's story on ragus sent most of the foodie blogosphere, myself included, scurrying for their kitchens. I've now made two of the ragus (the beef and the lamb) in the story twice and encourage you to jump on the ragu-makin' wagon.

The benefits: These recipes yield sauces with incredible deep flavor and richness. Just a cupful or two makes for a decandent and satisfying pasta dish. They freeze *very* well so you can double or triple the recipe and stockpile these glorious sauces in your freezer.

The negatives: If you double the recipe (as I have), it takes a long time to make. The sauce should simmer for at least 3 hours to develop the full flavors and silky texture you want in a ragu. However, once you double the recipe, you should extend that simmer time to at least four hours, if not longer. But before you even get that far, everything needs to be browned, and reduced and browned again. That takes time, a lot of time. Use two frying pans to speed up the browning step, deglaze with the wine called for in the recipe, and then chuck everything into a big stockpot. Worth it though.

I have used these ragus to sauce homemade fresh pasta, artisan-quality dried pasta and regular old Barilla from a box. Each has resulted in a gorgeous meal. My finest moment was when I took lamb ragu, layered it between slices of roasted eggplant and then topped it with bechamel: a moussaka to please the gods (and since the sauce came from the freezer, it took about half and hour to pull together).

The link to the recipes is here. As the weather chills down and you start to shiver, go and try these sauces out, you won't be sorry.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Week of November 9

Our dinner tonight was a shining example of never judging a book by its cover. How great could this dish be? Just broth, onions, cheese and butternut squash. Good maybe, but great?

However, Luisa at The Wednesday Chef raved about this panade
recipe. Aside from halving the ingredients to make a smaller amount, I followed the recipe as she provided it. The best way to describe this dish is that it's like really good French onion soup, but not very soupy. Not a stellar endorsement, but trust me, it was delicious. The only recommendation I would give you is to make the casserole on a sheet pan - mine dripped and bubbled all over the place. Without the sheet pan, my smoke alarm would have been going off all day.

Menu for the Week


Panade of Butternut Squash, Onion and Wine (courtesy of Chez Panisse via The Wednesday Chef)
Salad of shaved celery, mushrooms and radicchio with toasted walnuts and sherry vinegar

Some chicken thing (dunno what yet, whole chickens were on sale - wicked cheap)
Sauteed spinach
Millet pilaf

Chorizo and potato tacos
Refried beans
Corn salsa
Red cabbage slaw
Chicken negima
Steamed bok choy
White rice


Poached eggs on chicken hash

Drink of the Week: Widow's Kiss

I was introduced to The Widow's Kiss by the duo over at Married ... with Dinner. We actually drank this last week as a sort of Halloween-y treat. I thought it sounded spooky at the time.

After drinking it, I would say it's not so much spooky as sweeeeeet. I shouldn't have been surprised: apple brandy and Benedictine and Chartreuse. Wow. We tossed in a few extra dashes of bitters and that tempered the sweetness. (Does that make it a Bitter Widow's Kiss?)

I can't say it's going to go into regular rotation, but every now and then I think the good widow may make an appearance.

The Widow's Kiss

In an iced mixing glass, combine:
  • 1 1/2 oz Calvados
  • 3/4 oz Benedictine
  • 3/4 oz yellow Chartreuse
  • 2-5 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir until super cold and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Taste of Philadelphia

Full disclaimer: I have never eaten one of these sandwiches in its natural habitat of Philadelphia. But the combo of roast pork, provolone, broccoli rabe and garlic sounded so great, I couldn't wait for a trip to the city of brotherly love.

The sandwich is pretty easy to make, though I make no claims to its authenticity. You take a split roll or baguette, top it with slices of roast pork loin (great way to use leftovers), melt some provolone over it. Then you put a big ol' pile of sauteed broccoli rabe (with garlic) over the whole shebang. Fold and eat.

We scarfed these sandwiches with a side of sweet potato fries. Not Philly-traditional, but pretty darn delicious.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Week of November (!) 2

When did this year get so close to being over? It seems like just a few days ago I was making my annually-blown-off New Year's resolutions.

Anyway, business is picking up; I have several holiday clients lined up and am teaching some classes in the next few weeks. If you'd like to take one of my classes on Cooking From the Pantry (this Thursday, November 6) or Pestos and Salsas (November 13), click over to Newburyport Adult Education and sign up!

This picture is of one of the souvenirs from our fabulous Italian vacation. It's a corzetti stamp. Corzetti are a traditional pasta from Genoa. According to the recipe I was given (in Italian) it's traditionally served with a meat sauce. We had it with pesto (also Genoese) since I had the basil handy. The stamp allows you to imprint a round of pasta with a pattern on both sides. The indentations and ridges catch the sauce. This picture of the pressed pasta is pretty lousy, sorry, I flipped a setting on my camera without noticing.

Menu for the Week
Beppo and I did a mini-photo shoot for promotional mailings and my business site this weekend. So this week, we're eating the leftovers. I also have a few final recipes to test for Thursday's class, so those will be put into the dinner roster as well. (Translation: Random assortment of meals this week and no advance menu posted.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Curried Cauliflower Soup

I developed this recipe this summer when the kitchen I was working in needed to use up a lot of extra cauliflower. Due to our clientele's dietary needs, it also needed to be low-fat and law-salt (and vegetarian).

Like most soups and stews, this soup tastes even better the next day. Since it contains no dairy (except as an optional garnish) or potatoes it also freezes really well.

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4-6
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 or 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 rib of celery, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/4 (or more) teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • salt and and pepper to taste
Heat a large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat and add the oil and vegetables. Saute the vegetables until softened and brown. Add the curry powder and cayenne and saute for three more minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes and enough water to the pan to nearly cover the vegetables. Cover the pan and simmer until vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion stick blender until the soup is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro, a drizzle of cream, and/or a wedge of lime.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Winter-Friendly Grilled Pizza

With the cold weather starting to creep in, the pleasure Beppo and I take in certain outdoor cooking activities starts to wane. Don't get me wrong, we'll grill all winter long if we can (or until the snowdrifts cover the grill), but sometimes, we just don't want to stand out in the cold waiting for the perfect sear.

One item I really enjoyed cooking on the grill this summer was pizza. The flavor is great, the crust gets nice and crispy and I don't have to preheat my oven to "incinerate" for 45 minutes just for 8 minutes of baking. I recently bought a grill pan (a cheap one, at Marshalls, for about $20) and thought to give stovetop grilled pizza a try.

It worked really well, and with a little top-side broiling, the pizza was everything we wanted in a pie. Even better, no 45-minute oven-preheat, so I had our dinner on the table in less than half an hour. No smoky flavor, but that was an acceptable tradeoff. You could approximate smokiness with the gourmet's version of liquid smoke: smoked paprika sprinkled over the pizza.

Very rudimentary recipe for pan-grilled pizza
  • 1 ball pizza dough
  • 1 large grill pan or skillet (you could also do this in two or three smaller pans, or free form on a stove top grill)
  • olive oil
  • toppings of choice (don't put too much on: my pizza was topped with tomato paste, sauteed swiss chard, spicy olives and mozzarella and asiago cheeses)
Roll the dough into a circle about the size of your grill pan (a little smaller is better since the dough will stretch when you lift it).

Heat the grill pan until very hot. Drizzle on some olive oil. Drape the dough round into the pan. You should be able to flatten it out if it wrinkles; try to get it mostly flat in the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook the dough round until the underside is crisp and speckled with brown.

Using tongs, flip the dough round over to cook the other side. Reduce the heat to medium to medium-low. (This depends on the thickness of your crust, you want it to cook through but not burn. The thicker the crust, the lower the heat.)

While the underside is cooking, dress the top of your pizza with your topping choices. When the bottom of the pizza is cooked (use your tongs to help you take a peek) and the crust is evenly golden, the pizza is done. I ran the pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes to get the cheese all nice and bubbly, but that's not a requirement.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Week of October 26

Whew! I think I'm back in the routine again. I've been stretched like this octopus-like radicchio (radicchio trevisano).

So, this week this is what we're eating:

Menu for the Week

Sopa seca de fideos with chipotle peppers and greens (from the Boston Globe Sunday magazine)
Red cabbage slaw with scallions and lime

Pizza with burrata, caramelized onions and swiss chard

Curried cauliflower soup with wheat crackers

Joe Jackson concert in Portsmouth (yay!)

Crozetti (Genoese pasta) with pesto
Red peppers with bagna cauda

White bean soup with prosciutto and greens

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mi dispiace ...

or, "I'm so very sorry." We're back, but I am in the middle of a lot of work assignments. New and exciting posts to come soon, I promise.

In the meantime, here's a picture of Beppo and his new car.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Drink of the Week: Green Velvet Cocktail

Another drink from Food and Wine Cocktails 2007. The Green Velvet was created by Rajat Parr, the wine director at Michael Mina in San Francisco. It is another drink that shows how wonderfully Chartreuse and rye work together (see the Scoff Law Cocktail for another drink that successfully pairs these two spirits).

Green Velvet Cocktail
Combine in an iced mixing glass:
  • 3 ounces rye
  • 2 dashes of orange bitters
  • 3/4 ounce Punt Y Mes
  • 3/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
Stir until well chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Still Traveling

Not much time or brainpower to post with. But there are pretty pictures going up on my Flickr photostream.

Ciao ciao.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drink of the Week: Between the Sheets

When looking for cocktail inspiration, we frequently turn to the Food and Wine Cocktails book. We have the 2007 version of this annually-released cocktail guide. I recommend you pick up a copy to enhance your cocktail research. Each drink comes from a bartender and has a little blurb discussing its history. The guide is organized by spirit and we decided to make this little item from the brandy section.

Since first mixing this version of a Between the Sheets (recipe courtesy of Bin 54 in Chapel Hill, NC), I've discovered that the most common version of this drink is made with rum, not gin. Ah well, a drink for another time. A great summary of various Between the Sheets recipes can be found over at Kaiser Penguin. Give it a browse to see how small tweaks in the recipe dramatically change the final result.

In our mixed brandy drinks we use Christian Brothers. It's a small step above rotgut but works well in Sidecars, sours and the like. If you're living larger than we are, try this with Hennessy or another higher-end VS or VSOP brandy.

Between the Sheets (gin variation)
Combine in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 3/4 ounce brandy
  • 3/4 ounce gin
  • 3/4 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/4 ounce lemon juice
  • simple syrup to taste (not called for in the original recipe, but our drink was too sour, so we squirted in some syrup, maybe a 1/2 teaspoon, to smooth it out)
Shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Monday, October 6, 2008


So here we are, off on our Italian vacation. We're visiting two regions in northern Italy: Piedmont and Liguria. Our style of travel has us setting up shop in one spot and exploring out from there. If you're the kind of person who likes to hit all the hot spots in one trip, you may find the way we travel to be a little strange. We tend to travel on our stomachs and this directs our itineraries in a major way. We're also not driven to see museums, churches or major cultural sites (although we'll visit them if they present themselves for inspection).

Piedmont, you see, is the home of white truffles (and great wines and fabulous cheese). Every October and November, the city of Alba is perfumed with the fragrance of white truffles and black summer truffles. Liguria is the home of pesto (and fabulous street food like farinata (a chickpea crepe cooked in a woodburning oven) and amazing seafood). You see how easy this decision was to make?

We're spending about a week in each province and are starting off the trip in Piedmont. This picture is of a shop window displaying truffles for sale. They may look expensive, but buying your own truffle is the way to go for economy's sake. Restaurants here charge a supplement of about 30 euros for a shaving of truffles on your pasta. You can buy a walnut-sized truffle for about 50 euros. If you have a kitchen at your disposal, as we do(!), you can eat all you want of one of Italy's finest culinary treats.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Drink of the Week: Scoff Law Cocktail

The lovely ladies of LUPEC* Boston are running a monthly column highlighting an endangered cocktail. This month's spotlight falls upon the Scoff Law Cocktail. According to Ted Haigh's book Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails, the Scoff Law was created during Prohibition in honor of those who kept their spirits (ahem) high despite the regulations.

I liked that the ladies gave us a variation in case there was no real pomegranate grenadine at hand. I did have to chuckle a wee bit though since the variation called for Green Chartreuse. In my neck of the woods, if there's no house-made grenadine at the bar, there is a snowball's chance in hell that the bar will have Chartreuse in their inventory.

Fortunately we have both in our bar so in the spirit of experimentation we made both versions. The grenadine version reminded me a little of a Jack Rose. Very drinkable, not too sweet, definitely going into rotation. The Chartreuse version had more complexity due to the herbal nature of that liqueur. Amazingly, the sweetness in this well-balanced drink was just right.

Scoff Law Cocktail
Combine in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 1 1/2 ounces rye
  • 1 ounce vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce grenadine (real grenadine that you or someone else made with real pomegrante juice, not Rose's)
  • 3/4 lemon juice
Shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.

For the Chartreuse variation substitute 3/4 ounce of Green Chartreuse for the grenadine.

* Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Check 'em out: LUPEC Founding Chapter, my local chapter.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Salad of Eggplant Two Ways

I'm going to to provide you with an outline for creating this salad as opposed to an actual recipe. This salad is made up of roasted and raw eggplant seasoned to your taste.

Try an Italian version with basil, tomatoes, and diced mozzarella. Or go Thai-style with lime, fish sauce, cilantro, mint and chilies. How about Indian, with lemon, cilantro, chilies, and toasted mustard and cumin seeds? There are so many ways to try this. Just remember that there will be a slight bitterness from the raw eggplant that you'll need to counteract with the flavors you use (acid and/or sugar).

This salad was inspired by an appetizer we had at B&G Oysters in Boston's South End. It was a salad of roasted and raw(!) eggplant topped with a lemony vinaigrette, oh and a huge seared scallop. I was shocked by how good the raw eggplant was in the salad and decided to try it at home.

Proportion-wise, you'll want about 75% of the eggplant to be roasted slices. The remainder is very thinly sliced raw eggplant. Use very small, firm, fresh eggplants - especially for the raw slices. Toss the eggplant with seasonings and dressing to taste. If your dressing is sufficiently acidic the raw eggplant won't discolor much at all.

Give this dish a try while you can still get fresh local eggplant.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week of ...

Sorry guys, I have been very distracted. Can you guess why? :-)

This weekend was spent cleaning up for the housesitter, getting enough cat food into the house to feed the fellas and putting the garden to rights (Ha! Maybe I'll be able to get out there tomorrow ...).

I am trying to use up what's in the fridge, so I can't really give you a menu per se. I think I'll have a week of mostly the last of our garden vegetables with pasta, bread or rice. I'll probably toss in an egg or some cheese for protein.

Tonight's dinner was fried green tomatoes, corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes, ham slices and cornbread.

I will try to post for you while I am away, but I am not making any guarantees. I'll be carrying laptop, camera and assorted cables and hope to post now and then, but I am not certain I'll able to do much in the way of detailed posting. I will be setting up some posts to go up while we're gone, but expect to not hear much from me for a little bit.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Week of September 21

Meet my lovely friends Butter and Sugar, Silver Queen and Gourmet Yellow. We are so fortunate to have a local farmer who grows several varieties of corn. In a comparative tasting, we decided that they all were delicious in different ways.

Silver Queen was the snappiest of the three. The kernels almost bit back as we ate them. The corn flavor was the most subtle.

Butter and Sugar has a classic corny taste. The kernels were a little softer than Silver Queen. Butter and Sugar was the sweetest of the three we tried.

Gourmet Yellow is the classic corn on the cob. It has bright yellow kernels and really good flavor. This is the best variety for grilling as the kernel's skin was a tiny bit tougher and would hold up to direct heat well.

Anyhoo, lotsa corn eatin' going on. Fall is here, so make sure you get your fill before it's all gone and we have to go back to frozen kernels. (Boooo.)

Menu for the Week
First Course: Chicken ravioli with sherry vinegared brown butter
Second Courses:
Sauteed green beans and turnips
Beet and watermelon salad with feta and fennel
Roasted cherry tomatoes with parmesan
Whole wheat french bread
Dorie Greenspan's Buttermilk cocoa cake with malted chocolate buttercream

Teriyaki marinated grilled pork belly
Sauteed greens and cabbage
Grilled corn on the cob
Jasmine rice

Smoked bluefish salad plate

Butternut and radicchio lasagna
Shaved turnip salad
Green salad

Potato leek soup
Ham and cheese turnovers

Jerked chicken
Swiss chard salad

Friday, September 19, 2008

Drink of the Week: Corpse Reviver, No. 1

Let's start out with the basic definition and use of corpse reviver cocktails. These were drunk as pick-me-ups or eye-openers the morning after a night of drinking. Think of them as late 19th-early 2oth century Bloody Marys or Mimosas.

There are a few recipes that survive, mainly thanks to Henry Craddock' The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. As Mr. Craddock states in his book, "[the Corpse Reviver is] to be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed."

The most popular corpse reviver variation is Corpse Reviver No. 2, which is a gin and cointreau-based drink. Thanks to Eric at the Underhill Lounge*, I learned about variation No. 1 and it looked rather nice, albeit hardly what I'd call a morning pick-me-up.

Corpse Reviver No. 1
Combine in an iced mixing glass:
  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 ounce Calvados
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • dash of Angostura bitters (not in the original recipe but recommended by Eric)
Stir until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass.

* Eric is mixing every drink in The Savoy Cocktail Book, from Abbey to Zed. If you're looking for cocktail inspiration, visit the Lounge. At the time of this writing, he was up to the Dunhill Cocktail.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thai-Spiced Meatballs with Chili Sauce

I read about these meatballs a few weeks ago and thought they sounded interesting and delicious. I made them as a part of a pseudo-Thai dinner we had on Sunday night and I am looking forward to serving them again. I'm not going to post the recipe because you can get it over here at Serious Eats.

First off, the sauce is great. It's not too spicy and I think it would be great as a dipping sauce for spring rolls (both fried and fresh). I did not have any scallions on hand so I used very thinly sliced shallots instead.

I also used shallots in the meatballs and they turned out well. (I think these would be really great with ground pork instead). I did not have any Thai basil either, so I wrapped the meatballs in a basil leaf with a little cilantro tucked inside; a very nice substitution indeed.

One other recipe note: we grilled these on a grill rack. The recipe called for skewering the meatballs and putting them right onto the grill, but since they are sorta log-shaped, they spun around the skewer and I felt we'd risk losing them to flames without a grill rack.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clam and Sausage Stew

This picture does not do this dish justice. (I really have to work on my food styling. Does anyone have any tips on how to get your food looking gorgeous when you are starving and just want to eat it? Anyhoo ...)

This dish was inspired by a traditional Portuguese dish of pork and clams. In that dish, the pork is usually shoulder meat that has been braised tender before the clams are added. I thought sausage would be a fast, easy, non-braised substitution.

One mandatory side for this brothy dish is crusty bread. We used a big loaf of ciabatta from Anna Rosa's bakery in Newburyport to soak up the juices. Delicious!

A word about clams: Most people are familiar with hardshell clams. Hardshells are graded by size: countnecks, littlenecks, topnencks, cherrystones, quahogs (from smallest to largest). In this dish, I prefer the smaller clams called countnecks (although littlenecks and topnecks can be used). Cherrystones are usually eaten raw or stuffed and baked. Quahogs are used for chowder. You may also see softshell clams in your market. Softshells are usually served steamed with clam broth and butter. You could use steamers in this dish if you wish, but they would not be my choice. If you've never eaten steamers, this is not the dish with which to make your introduction to them.

Clam and Sausage Stew
Serves 2 (generously) - 4 (as a starter)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, with juice and seeds (if fresh tomatoes are not available, use canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 2-3 pounds hardshell clams, shells scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, dill, cilantro or parsley
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the sausage until cooked through. You may need to add some olive oil to lubricate the pan and keep the sausage moving around. Remove the sausage and set it aside while you make the rest of the dish.

Drain off the sausage fat if there's a lot of it. Add a little olive oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until they break down to a saucy consistency.

Add the sausage back to the pan. Add the clams and butter to the pan and cover the pan. The clams will start to open in about 3 minutes or so. Keep and eye on the pan and when all the clams are open, add the minced herb. If a clam does not open, remove it and throw it out.

Taste the sauce for salt and add some if necessary. The liquid that clams give off tends to be fairly salty so you may not need any additional salt.

Dish the stew up into bowls and serve with a crunchy green salad and some crusty bread.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week of September 14

Those beautiful bivalves are not shown actual size. They are "countnecks" which is a name for the smallest size of hardshell clam. More to come on the clam front - I'll be posting a great recipe tomorrow.

This week's meals are the fruit of some serious digging through my Google Reader's starred folder. I am always tagging recipes and ideas to try and quite a few new ideas made it into the queue this week. I'll let y'all know how they turn out.

Menu for the Week
Thai beef rolls with sweet chili sauce (from Serious Eats)
Grilled eggplant
Tomato salad with cilantro and roasted peanuts
Jasmine rice
Peach hand pies (inspired by, but not following Smitten Kitchen's recipe)

Turkey burger sliders
Cole slaw

Zucchini-ricotta cheesecake (courtesy of 101 Cookbooks)
Green salad

Out on the town

Broccoli rabe ravioli (from our trip to Venda ravioli in Providence) with tomato sauce
Green salad

Grilled hot dogs
Cole slaw
Truffle fries (thanks Jaden's Steamy Kitchen and Cookthink!)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Drink of the Week: Basil Smash

With the summer drawing to a close (it was in the low 40s yesterday morning), I am trying cram in a few more herbed cocktails while I can still pluck fresh herbs from the garden.

This is a basil-y take on a mint julep, and since I just found a bottle of Jim Beam rye, I thought I'd try rye instead of the traditional bourbon. There's also a drink, another julep variation, we've both had (and loved) at the Eastern Standard called the Whiskey Smash. The Smash calls for lemon slices to be added in with the mint.

So here's my variation on the Mint Julep and Whiskey Smash. Both drinks are traditionally served over crushed ice. I didn't feel like pulling out the ice crusher (yes, I own one), so I took the "up" road instead.

Basil Smash

In a mixing glass, muddle together:
  • 2 1/4" slices of lemon
  • large sprig of basil
  • 1/4 ounce of simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons sugar)
Add ice, and
  • 2 ounces rye
Shake until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a basil leaf and lemon twist.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: The Riverview

The Riverview
20 Estes St, Ipswich, MA (978) 356-0500 (no web site)
Cash only

The Riverview is an Ipswich landmark and a hidden gem. Locals know it, but outside the Ipswich area, it's pretty unknown.

The Riverview is good at pizza. Really good at it, which is a good thing because that's all they make. Their pizza is a thin crust style, which depending on where you grew up might be called "New England" or "Greek-style". Their sauce is flavorful and not too sweet and the kitchen is liberal with the toppings.

The menu is pretty easy to figure out, and, as you might be able to see, the Riverview is very reasonable. One pizza with an assortment of toppings will run you about $7.00. For most folks, a single pizza is enough for one. It does reheat well though, so feel free to order enough to take home.

Beware, when your pizza comes to your table, you will be starving (there can be a bit of a wait when the place is hopping - all weekend really). Watch out; the sauce will be molten, so don't scarf that first slice down if you value your tongue and tastebuds. Pull a slice onto your "plate" - really a sheet of waxed paper - and let it cool off a little first.

If you're in the area, do stop in for a bite. The Riverview's got a full bar so you have a drink while you wait for dinner. They do a lot of takeout also, so feel free to call ahead if you'd rather eat at home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday's Tomato Haul

This is a collection small and cherry tomatoes I picked today. The little round yellow ones are Sun Golds, the yellow oval ones are Yellow Pear and the red ones are Juliet.

I cannot endorse Juliet enough. She is a mini-plum tomato. Incredibly prolific, early ripening and its actually tastes good, even raw.

I ended up slicing the Yellow Pear and Juliets in half, tossing them with oil and salt and roasting them for an hour to make an oven-roasted version of a sundried tomato (and forgot to take any pictures of the process, sigh).

The Sun Golds get eaten raw or put into martinis.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Night Corn on the Cob

Thank goodness for gardens. Dinner tonight was a nice plate of tomatoes and corn, with some cheese and salami on the side.

Farmer Bob had two kinds of corn today: Silver Queen and Butter and Sugar. I got three of each so we could hold a comparative tasting during dinner.

That was the plan anyway. We pretty much just scarfed it all down. From what I remember, the Silver Queen had a more pleasing "snap" to the kernels, but the Butter and Sugar tasted "cornier".

Either way, both varieties were delicious and made for a lovely centerpiece to our dinner. Go get some local corn before it's all gone for the season!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week of September 7

Ok then. I have no idea what we're eating this week, because I was at this glorious place all weekend with great friends. Lucky me. :-)

I think it may be a "clean the fridge out" kind of week. Fortunately, with the garden and the local farm stand, I should be able to make some very delicious things.

Tonight we both were craving vegetables (many beverages and lots of fried food were consumed over the weekend). So I gave us a vegetable-centric meal of:
  • sliced tomatoes with lemon oil and fleur de sel
  • leftover roast pork au poivre
  • eggplant and cauliflower salad (with red bell peppers and capers)
  • boiled shell (cranberry) beans with rosemary
Dave had a cheater's peanut butter cup for dinner: a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Drink of the Week: Jack Rose

I can't believe I have not made the Jack Rose a Drink of the Week yet. We drink our first Jack Roses at The Eastern Standard. It's since become a standard go-to cocktail for us. It's sweet, tart and not too strong, so it makes a nice pre-meal nip.

The Jack Rose is a good gateway drink into the world of classic cocktails. In fact, I am going to be serving it to a group of ladies this evening and I think it was make them very happy. Think of it as an old school Appletini, without artificial coloring or flavors.

Jack Rose
Combine in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 1 1/2 ounces applejack
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
Shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.
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