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.
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