Sunday, January 31, 2010

Menu for January 31

Baby, it's cold outside. This is kind of weather that just makes me want to sit by the woodstove and read a book and eat a few of these minipies. These little pastries are, as we say in the vernacular up here, wicked-stinkin' cute. I made little pies in half pint mason jars. They're a perfect serving size for us an after dinner treat. Even better, I made up a dozen of them, so nine little pielettes are waiting in the freezer for when temptation strikes. Though I wish I could lay claim to this idea, I point you to Our Best Bites and their post. They used pint jars for their pies, but I prefer the smaller half-pint (although the smaller jars *are* more fiddly).

I'm trying something new and exciting this weekend. Tonight I'll be cooking along with Food52 in their first Sunday Supper. A group of us (maybe you too?) will be preparing Shrimp Biryani together. I've never participated in a group cooking event before and am interested to see how it goes. You can play along if you'd like: just go to F00d52 and sign up.

Yesterday, I attended a sake tasting led by Richard Auffrey, The Passionate Foodie. If you have a chance to attend a tasting he leads, go. He's clearly passionate about the subject of sake and did a great job of demystifying a beverage most of us don't know much about. I'll be drinking one of my purchases, a bottle of Kurosawa Jun-Mai Kimoto tonight. Will let you know how it goes.

Menu for the Week
Blood orange and avocado salad

Sweet potato soup
Baked feta with sesame and sumac
Whole-wheat flatbread

Baked pasta with fresh ricotta
Green salad

Dinner out at Eastern Standard

Macaroni and cheese
Green salad


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gnudi, or Ravioli With Their Clothes Off

Call them what you like: gnudi, ricotta gnocchi or naked ravioli, I have tried to make these little dumplings many times and have not met with much, if any, success.

However, when I saw Jennifer Hess's recipe for Gnudi (in the issue of Edible Rhody that I picked up this weekend) I felt like I'd give them another try.

Her recipe is now up online here and you can read her post about them (and see her much more attractive picture) here. From her picture, you can also see that my portion size is about twice hers. Jen's recipe says it will feed 4-6, and I think that's appropriate - fill out your meal with vegetables, bread and salad. The gnudi will feel light (like little clouds) and you'll want to keep eating them, but as they are pretty much straight ricotta, they are rather rich.

I have tried to make similar recipes before and failed. The trick is to get your ricotta dry and well-drained. The fresh ricotta I purchased was very dry - even after 3 hours in a strainer, it had only released a tablespoon of liquid. In the past, I used ricotta I made myself and even after a long draining period I never got it dry enough and my gnudi always fell apart. This time, they held together beautifully and each made it to the plate in one piece.

If you look at Jen's picture you'll also see that my breadcrumbs were much larger than hers - that's me being lazy. Grind your breadcrumbs up nice and fine and they'll make for a nice crispy contrast to the gnudi's lightness. I used beet tops as the greens in these gnudi and they worked really well. We ate the beets as a salad course, topped with fennel and white anchovies.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Detox: Stat!

So Dave and I went to Providence, Rhode Island this weekend. I'm sure Providence has a lot to offer: museums, great architecture, shopping, etc. but we went for the food. I'll be recapping the whole weekend shortly, but let's leave it here for now: we ate a lot. A. LOT.

When we got home Sunday, we felt a little, well ... bilious. I decided to go 100% vegetarian for dinner and make a vegetarian stew for us. This was a much better detox than a smoothie or juice-base dinner. We felt satisfied but not overly full. The gremolata made it taste really fresh.

Weekend Detox Winter Vegetable Stew
Modify this based on what vegetables you have on hand. I used chickpeas in this version, but you could use another bean, or lentil, or leave the beans out altogether.
Serves 3-4
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3-4 baby turnips, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 large can drained and rinsed)
  • juice of 1 lemon (reserve the zest for the gremolata, below)
  • juice of 1 orange (reserve the zest for the gremolata, below)
  • salt and pepper
Saute the onion with some olive oil in a large skillet until softened. Add the sweet potato, turnips, parsnips and carrots. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Stir the vegetables in the skillet, over medium-high heat until starting to brown. Add the chicken broth and let the stew simmer until the vegetables are softened (but they should still have a little bite to them). Add a little water if the stew starts to stick. How much time this takes will depend on the size of your vegetables - the smaller the pieces, the shorter the cook time.

Stir in the chickpeas. Stir in the juices and check the seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with gremolata.

Blood Orange Gremolata
This was a nice fresh topper for the stew. It would be lovely over some broiled or grilled seafood too. Gremolata is traditionally made only with lemon zest, but the orange zest gave this a really interesting new dimension.

Yields about 3/4 cup of gremolata.
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups parsley leaves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 blood orange (or an orange if no blood oranges are to be found)
  • olive oil
  • salt
Either by hand, or in a mini food processor, chop together the parsley, garlic and zests until they are finely minced together. Stir in a little olive oil to loosen up the puree and make it more saucy. Season to taste with salt.

Menu for the Week of January 24

Okay, so I'm a few days late posting this menu, but I swear it was written up on Sunday. We went to Providence, Rhode Island for the weekend and I picked up some marvelous ingredients to cook with this week. This picture is from one of our two breakfasts at Nick's on Broadway: it's a sausage-biscuit-bread pudding, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise. Delicious and fortifying. We also had this beautiful fruit salad. Not only was the fruit was cut to order, it was cut with care (the angles on those pieces of fruit were razor sharp!)

Menu for the Week
Weekend detox winter root vegetable stew

Gnudi with lemon butter (thanks to Jennifer Hess at Last Night's Dinner for the recipe)
Beets with white anchovies and fennel

Pizza (leftover pizza from our drive home on Sunday)
Vegetable slaw


Indian potato-lentil curry
Cauliflower with cilantro chutney
Basmati rice

Pierogies (hopefully homemade) with sour cream and onions

Friday, January 22, 2010

Drink of the Week: Old Pal

I saw the Old Pal in a beverage magazine we receive although it can be found in old bar books and on many cocktail menus. It's a cross between a dry Manhattan and a Negroni. I used rye in this drink, but you could use bourbon if you prefer.

Please make sure you are using fresh dry vermouth (yes, it does spoil - or at a minimum, go stale - over time). But small bottles if you don't use it often and keep it cool or in the fridge.

There's a lot of Campari in this drink, but the vermouth really tones it back down so you won't get walloped with its bitterness.

Old Pal Cocktail
Combine in an iced mixing glass:
  • 1 ounce rye or bourbon
  • 3/4 ounce dry vermouth
  • 3/4 ounce Campari
Stir until well chilled. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Black Bean Soup with Savory Cream

Boy, do I like bean soups:
  • they're cheap to make
  • they're easy to make (once that pot's bubbling, you can head off to do whatever else you want
  • they're satisfying
  • they freeze exceptionally well, so you can always have a dinner on hand in the freezer
  • they taste better the day after they're made - perfect for a weekend cook day that results in a weeknight dinner
I didn't think I'd posted a black bean soup recipe before, but I did - almost three (!) years ago. This recipe is a little different from that one. To garnish, I'm using a savory whipped cream that I flavored with lime zest and cumin. It was a nice switch from sour cream and I usually have heavy cream on hand. The lovely ladies at food52 posted on this idea a few weeks ago. I recommend a visit to their site to learn about other savory whipped cream ideas.

Weekends are perfect for whipping up a batch of bean soup, so here are a few others to try:
Black Bean Soup
serves 4-6 - the soup doubles (or even quadruples!) really well
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
  • 1 pound black beans, picked over (sometime there's a stone or two in that bag) and rinsed until water runs clear
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Saute onion over medium-high in a a little oil until softened. Add the garlic, cumin and a healthy sprinkle of salt. Stir and saute a few minutes until fragrant. Add black beans, tomatoes (if using) and cover with water by 1". Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let soup simmer until beans are very soft. Depending on the age of the beans you're using, this could take anywhere from 1-3 hours. Stir the soup occasionally to make sure it's not sticking to the bottoom of the pot. Also, add water as needed, to keep things "soupy".

When the beans are cooked down the soup is pretty much done. Taste the soup for salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning as needed.

To garnish with the whipped cream: whip the heavy cream, lime zest and cumin with a whisk or electric mixer until it forms soft peaks.

Serve the soup topped with the cream - I sprinkled a little cilantro across our soup, but that's not required of course.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooking Classes!

If you're in the Newburyport, MA area, I'd love to have you join me at one of the cooking classes I'm teaching in the next few months. Get all the info over here at my business website. We'll be cooking Thai food, baking bread, preparing fresh seafood and visiting Northern Italy.

Hope to see you there!

Menu for the Week of January 17

This was a week of taking stock: I cleaned out my freezers (yes, I have more than one) and threw out those items that were a) unidentifiable, b) really old (3 years old is old), and/or c) visibly freezer-burned. I was really horrified after tossing a full garbage bag of food (throwing out money really ticks me off) so I decided to reinstitute the freezer inventory sheets I used to keep. With everything out of the freezer it was pretty easy to jot everything down in a spreadsheet (I'm sort of a computer nerd - no handwritten lists here).

Now I have a list of what's in the freezer (four pages!) hanging off the side of the fridge. My meal-planning goal for the next few weeks is to cook this list down, particularly focusing on things like the meat and fish I have on hand. Then I ran through my spice cabinet and took stock of what I need to order to restock it. I also tossed some ill-advised spice purchases (when the seasoning mix tastes bad, it just tastes bad). Later today, I'm hoping I'll be able to do the same thing with my dry-goods pantry. I have tons of rice, beans and other legumes in that closet - time to get them cooking!

This means that most of my shopping should be perishables like fruit, vegetables and dairy. Since that's what I love shopping for anyway, hopefully shopping trips will be that much more pleasant.

Menu for the Week
Veal saltimbocca (veal from the freezer via Kellie Brook Farm)
Spinach risotto (spinach from freezer, rice from pantry)

Black bean soup (beans from the pantry)
Skillet cornbread

Chickpeas and pasta with sage and garlic (a Deborah Madison recipe)

Bao: dumplings with tenderloin (from the freezer) and vegetables
Cucumber salad with chilies and peanuts

Pizza night

Field trip! More to come. ;-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Delicious. That's all I gotta say. This recipe for borrachos (drunken beans) is from Jen at Last Night's Dinner. Her blog is loaded with gorgeous pictures of the food she prepares for herself and her husband.

Until recently, Jen only posted pictures of her dinners and we had to live without her recipes. But she is one of the contributors to the recipe site Food52 and posted this recipe in the "Best Bean Dish" category. Her recipe and its history can be found here. Check out her other recipes while you're there: her dishes are interesting and delicious.

I made a few small changes to this recipe based on what I had on hand: I used a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilies instead of diced tomatoes, and I used Greek oregano instead of Mexican. I also used my own home-cured bacon instead of store-bought slab bacon. I'm sure it will be just as good with store-bought bacon, but this was a great way to showcase my homemade stuff!

The beans made a filling and satisfying dinner: I served them as an entree with a quick slaw (finely shredded cabbage with lime, cilantro and salt) and homemade corn tortillas. I drizzled some creme fraiche over the top of the beans and sprinkled some fresh cilantro over the top. As expected, they were even more fabulous the next day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Drink of the Week: The Nonantum

Continuing on the Red Hook variation trail I started to follow last week, here's a local take: The Nonantum. For those who live outside the Boston area, Nonantum, also called Silver Lake, is one the thirteen villages that make up the town of Newton, MA. A very interesting feature of Nonantum is "Lake Talk", a dialect spoken by locals in the area. Check out the Nonantum link about for a list of Lake dialect lingo.

The Nonantum calls for Strega, an apertivo, that is lightly scented with orange. I actually happen to own a bottle of Strega and am never quite sure what to do with it, so I was grateful to find this drink. I used it in a cocktail I invented called The Good Witch Bad Witch.

Evan Harrison of The Independent, a bar in Somerville, MA, is the creator of this cocktail. If you'd like to see him make one, click over here to How2Heroes to watch him in action.

The Nonantum
Combine in an iced mixing glass:
  • 1 1/2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce Punt e Mes
  • 3/4 ounce Strega
  • dash Angostura
  • dash orange bitters
Stir until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu for the Week of January 10

Ain't that a beaut? That, my friends, is a persimmon pudding (cake, really). We had our friends Ann and Jim over for an impromptu dinner of CSF pollock last night and I decided to jazz things up with a fun dessert. I'll post the recipe and method later, but I basically used this recipe from Martha Stewart, scaled down for my pudding mold.

The highlight of the weekend, other than dinner with friends of course, was the visit I made to the winter farmers' market in Exeter, NH. My camera crapped out the second I got there, so no pictures unfortunately. I was thrilled to see that the market was mobbed! There weren't tons of vegetables, but I did pick up some gorgeous turnips, turnip greens, parsnips, potatoes, a duck, eggs, lamb shanks, wine and sunflower seed oil. I'm looking forward to the next one on the 23rd.

I decided to let the market drive my menu as best as I could. Also, since I really need to make room in the freezer, I've decided that I'm not buying any conventionally produced (read: supermarket-sourced) meat or seafood until I've exhausted what's already in the freezer. I am making an exception for any farmers' market purchases.

Menu for the Week
Oysters on the half-shell (oysters! from a farmers' market, who knew!)
Turnip green and leek ravioli, sauced with braised turnips

Borrachos (thank you Last Night's Dinner)
Corn tortillas
Shredded cabbage salad

Vegetable and sausage lasagna

Pureed chickpea soup with chickpea fritters and Indian spices
Pickled vegetables

Baccala croquettes (made with baccala I made this summer with our CSF codfish - thanks Last Night's Dinner for the recipe)
White bean salad with pickled onions
Big green salad

Jim Lahey's no-knead pizza dough pizza: 1 tomato, 1 onion
Green salad

Friday, January 8, 2010

Drink of the Week: The Bensonhurst

Over the holidays I added a new bottle to our liquor cabinet. Cynar is an amaro, an Italian liqueur known as a disgestivo. Amari and digestivi are traditionally drunk after a meal, to help you digest the abundance you've consumed. (I grew to love one of the most famously lethal of these, Fernet Branca, after I was a given a shot of it at the conclusion of an incredibly rich, salumi-laden meal.)

Anyway, back to Cynar. On its own, it is sweeter and a little less bitter than Fernet, but not as sweet as Averna, another amaro you might see. Cynar is flavored with an infusion of artichoke as well as several other herbs. I've been enjoying it, in small doses, as an after dinner sipper but wanted to try it in a cocktail.

I am a huge fan of the Red Hook (first mixed Milk & Honey in New York City) and its variations (such as the Prospect Park). This variation using Cynar was designed by Chad Solomon of Cuffs and Buttons is called The Bensonhurst.

The Bensonhurst
Combine in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 2 ounces rye
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur
  • 1 teaspoon Cynar
Stir until will chilled and strain into a cocktail glass.

You talkin' to me?


Ribollita is a Tuscan stew, named for the fact that it's "reboiled". What's more important for you and me, is that it's a super delicious soup/stew and a perfect weeknight meal.

The traditional approach to ribollita is to take leftover minestrone soup and stale bread and boil them together to thicken the soup. This can make a really THICK soup - I hav a recipe for leftover ribollita that suggest you cut the leftovers into slices and fry them up. I didn't have any leftover minestrone, but I had stale bread on hand (I have been cooking from Jim Lahey's My Bread like a demon - thus, lots of stale bread. more to come on My Bread shortly.).

The recipe I'm giving you is based on what I did for dinner; I make no claims as to its authenticity as it's a much faster version of what should be a two-day dish. Substitute whatever vegetables and beans you have on hand. If you don't have stale bread, you can use fresh bread and dunk it instead. Whatever bread you use, make sure it's a "rustic" style loaf - it should have a sturdy crumb and can be white or whole wheat.

Weeknight Ribollita
Serves 3-4 hearty appetites
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • piece of parmesan rind, optional - this is the hard rind on a hunk of parmesan
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes
  • 2 small cans (15 oz.) of kidney beans, drained - I used dried beans that I had cooked and stored in the freezer for this, but I figure most of you would use canned beans (as I would if I didn't have cooked beans on hand)
  • large bag of frozen chopped spinach - use cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli rabe, or any other combination of greens. This is what I had on hand.
  • 2-3 thick slices of stale bread, from a rustic loaf, see note above
  • salt and pepper
  • good quality olive oil
In a soup kettle or large pot, saute the onion, celery and carrots in a little olive oil until starting to soften, but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute or two, until fragrant.

Chop the tomatoes up and add to the pot (the easiest way to do this is crush the tomatoes with your hands as you add them to the pot, second easiest is to cut them up in the can with a pair of scissors). Add the beans and parmesan rind, if using, to the pot. If using cabbage or another tough green, add it to the pot now. If the pot seems too dry add a little water to the pot. Stir, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes; the carrots should be tender.

Add the chopped spinach to the pot, if using, and simmer another 5 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the texture of the soup with water: it should be on the soupy side of stew as it will thicken up once you add the bread. Check again for salt and adjust if necessary.

Tear the slices of bread into crouton-sized pieces and lay into the bottom of soup bowls. Ladle the soup over the bread and then drizzle with olive oil. Don't eat the parmesan rind.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin