Royal Foodie Joust: Sweet Potato, Orange and Garlic~

31 10 2010

The past 2 months combined, the Royal Foodie Joust ingredients have been sweet potatoes, garlic and orange.  Wow…what a combination!  Although I waited until the last minute…I knew what I was doing from the very start…ravioli!  I just had to have the right day to be able to roast my sweet potatoes and make pasta! LOL!  Ok..what else are you going to do on Halloween Day when you have neither children nor trick or treaters??

First, I roasted sweet potatoes as though I were making filling for Marcella Hazan’s Cappellacci.  We made this recipe from Marcella Hazan’s Essential Italian Cookbook in Cooking Italy in October of last year.  I loved the recipe then, but my pasta came out so tough I canned the whole thing.  So this year…when sweet potatoes came up…my mind went here immediately!  I adapted her recipe so I didn’t have an enormous quantity of the filling… I used 1 cup of roasted sweet potato, the rind of 1 large orange and 1 large garlic clove, sauteed slowly in butter until it caramelized.  I mixed the ingredients together with about 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of panko bread crumbs seasoned with a few drops of almond extract and a teaspoon of Grand Marnier, and 1 egg yolk.

Save the egg white to brush on the pasta to seal the ravioli better.  Add a touch of salt and pepper to taste, and set aside while making her “yellow” pasta to her specifications.  I rest my pasta between rolling it out so it becomes very smooth and elastic.   Spoon little morsels of filling along a pasta sheet, paint the intervals with egg white and divide with a ravioli stamp or a rolling cutter.  Just make sure you do your best to squeeze all the air out of the filling so it doesn’t try to explode during cooking.   We found half the recipe of pasta was plenty for the two of us.

I served the ravioli with Marcella’s Butter and Cream sauce from the same book.  It called for butter, cream and parmesan cheese…and it went very nicely with this ravioli.

Tasting Notes~
This is a true pasta you’d anticipate having a main entree follow…and you’d appreciate it, and want it.  This filling is mystifying.  It’s the essence of flavors you expect to be sweet, but that really aren’t, that leave your tongue slightly puzzled about the flavors while it’s purring over the silky smooth texture.  The cream sauce is silky, the filling is as soft as eiderdown, and the pasta is as light as a feather, barely containing the filling.  I knew the orange and sweet potato would work well…but went out on a limb a bit by adding the garlic in the ravioli filling.  Once it caramelized, even slightly, it became another layer of flavor that kept the ravioli filling savory, but just barely.  Although a lot of work…this is considered a keeper, and a definite “show off” dish.  It’s also a great way to use up extra baked sweet potatoes!


FFwD: Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake~

31 10 2010

As I was watching my fellow group members post about this cake, I kept waiting for someone, anyone, to say there was something, some one little thing they didn’t care about in this cake.  Admittedly, I haven’t read each and every person’s post…yet.  That actually sounds like a nice challenge.  The point being, this recipe was getting incredibly high raves.  Yes, Dorie gets a lot of high raves, but there are high raves and there are ø¤º°¨ HIGH RAVES ¨°º¤ ! This is one of the latter.  There are loads of exquisite apple chunks held together by a custardy batter…kind of like clafoutis.  This is utterly heavenly, and worth the price of the book!

L to R, Back to Front: Back- Honey Crisp, Gala, Fuji; Front- McIntosh, Gravenstein.

The recipe calls for a diversity of apples.  The 5 that I selected were Honey Spice (also known as Honeycrisp)- which was sweet and not at all acidic by comparison; Gala-which is a nice eating apple (I like them for caramel apples); Fuji- a more tart fresh or pie apple; McIntosh- a pie apple, rather tart with a spicy apple flavor; and Gravenstein- a spicy sweet apple with a touch of acid that makes them fabulous for applesauce.  The idea is to have a variety of flavors and textures throughout the cake, while the base is always apple.

While the recipe calls for using a spring-form pan…please don’t deny yourself the pleasure of this cake just because you don’t have a spring-from pan.  Lightly grease the sides  and bottom of an 8 inch cake pan, cut a parchment circle for the inside bottom of the pan, and strips for the sides that are 2 inches high.  Press them into place, and butter the insides where the batter will be well.  When the baking has concluded,  let the cake cool at least 5 minutes, then invert (face-down) onto a plate, and gently peel away the parchment paper, taking care not to tear the pastry.  Place a serving plate over the bottom of the cake and invert, remove the plate from the face of the cake, and gently remove the parchment from the sides of the cake.  Take care not to pull any apples from the inside of the cake.  Then, put on a pot of fresh coffee, and call me.  Well…it does need to cool down a little!  *Ü*

Tasting Notes~
I’m serious…worth the price of the book.  This one is addicting.  This could be an ice-breaker with a new neighbor…an apology…a get-well gift…a hostess gift…This one is simply that easy and that good.  I’m having an incredibly difficult time staying out of it.  That’s kind of scary, because I don’t get that way about a lot of sweet things.  I’ve got a whole plate of maple scones in there that I’m not even having a yen for by comparison!  I’ll be happy to make another when this one is gone…I did buy enough apples!

Reading Blog posts…

30 10 2010

One of the things I absolutely love about reading foodie blog posts is the vast diversity of peoples, cultures, and customs we represent and the wonderful things that are laid out there for us to discover about each other.  I truly enjoy visiting the kitchens of ladies I’ve never met, and likely will never meet.   Occasionally, I’ll stumble across something that particularly touches my heart…which is what this post is about today.

As I was perusing the recent French Fridays with Dorie posts, I dropped by to visit one of the members’ sites to see how her version of our recipe turned out.   When I popped onto Simple Girl‘s website, I was greeted by the most colorful caterpillars and butterflies!  LOL!   It was Bug Day at her daughter’s 2nd grade class…what a joyful day they must have had!! How incredibly inventive of the teacher…and how supportive of Mom!!

I know I’m a little, bitty blog with a little bitty readership, but I care about all of us.  That’s just me.  I also love making cute little graphic goodies.  So…I’m going to when my heart tells me to!  If you have a particular wish to send, let me know…I’ll see if I can help you out!   You’re welcome to use this one if you like.

The very first one is being awarded to (drum roll please….) Simple Girl!!  You can see by the smiles on the kiddos’ faces that they had a fabulous time, who wouldn’t love one of those yummy looking cupcakes!!  Caterpillars for the boys – oh yeah! BUGS!  Butterflies for the girls…who’d try not to eat their butterflies…but they’d start melting in their fingers, and were ever so tempting…they just couldn’t help it!  LOL!  I can just feel the joy bubbling around their room!  Did you know I’m an elementary school secretary?   Yep.  And it’s a small school…less than 200 students on my end (we also have 4 preschool classes at the other end of the campus).  Anyway…  Congrats!!

Thirty Minute Thursday…Went to “Mom’s” for Dinner!

28 10 2010

This is the story of how Thirty Minute Thursday went “home” to “Mom’s” for dinner…

While I was doing the “fresh” marketing for the week, I stumbled upon an incredible veal sale at my local market.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!!  For a store that rarely carries any form of veal, there were pounds and pounds of ground veal, veal shanks for osso bucco and some other puzzling cuts that didn’t appeal to me.  I was totally blown away at the price…$4.59 USD per pound.  The last time I looked at veal osso bucco, the last time I actually SAW veal shank, it was $10.00 per pound!  Needless to say, I snatched up a couple packages with my sights on Friday night…until I saw the date on the package.  It wouldn’t be such a good idea to push the shanks until Friday.  Hmm.  Oh well…Thirty Minute Thursday will just have to stretch to Two Hours!!  Sure enough…Osso bucco is one of the dishes I had to take a pass on last year with Cooking Italy.  In the Cooking Italy group, we cook from the Marcella Hazan’s Essential Italian Cooking…and she’s Giuliano’s mother, and that’s how that all works out.  Fasten your seat belts…we’re going to “Mom’s” for this dish!

We turned this into a team-effort.  Since I work throughout the day, my beloved husband, Bruce, agreed to chop the veggies for me so I could work fast when I got in from work, because I only had about 30 minutes to get this prepped and into the oven before I needed to be at another meeting.  When I flew in the door, he lit the oven, I started the veggies, and tied and dredged the veal.  We got it all together and into the oven and I was only a little bit late… I forgot to ask him to pick some thyme for me.  So, I ran short on time because I needed to pick thyme.  Don’t you just love the English language??  Bless Bruce, he kept an eye on the shanks and turned them and basted them as needed while I was away.  I got home just in time to fix some rice, though not risotto…this time.  Rice sounded good to Bruce, so we ran that play, because I knew I could make it all work.  I opted for the gremolada…and loved the flavors!

This is an easy dish to prepare.  It just takes a little time, and some TLC.  We really liked the Milanese version.  I’ll try the Bianco version one of these days.  Maybe I’ll try it the next time I see a sale on veal.  There wasn’t anything I could make scallopini out of.  I checked.  That was another cut I would have been interested in.  I’d think about going back for some of the ground veal…I’m just not sure what I’d use it for…yet.  As soon as I can’t get it, I’ll find 2 dozen recipes that NEED it.  Because that’s How these things work.

Tasting Notes~
This dish is full of complex flavors and textures.  There is an decadent unctuousness that is purely sensuous in almost every bite.  The meat becomes so incredibly tender you don’t need much more than a fork to eat with, but do use your knife to make sure you get every morsel of marrow from the bones.  After simmering in a mirepoix with wine and tomatoes, the marrow has soaked up flavor like you wouldn’t believe.  Think of it as Super Butter.  It’s best to get hindquarter shanks, however forequarter shanks will work nicely too.  Plan for 3/4 – 1 pound per person depending on the size of the center bone.  And don’t forget to call me.

FFwD: Hachis Parmentier

24 10 2010

I know…I know…Ha…what?  Ok, try this…slow and easy…  HA-shee PAR-men-tee-yay…  Hash with cheesy potato topping, French style.  Nothing too scary about that.  And look at that lovely cheesy potato crust.  Dorie hit it right on the head. That is the best part!

There’s a lot that goes into this…a bit of beef, a bit of veg…  Simmer, simmer…  Actually, taking 2 days to make it let the flavors meld together nicely. Especially since I didn’t have sausage and had to make some on the fly.  I already had ground pork loin, I just needed to season it.  Then the meat and sausage are cooked together and placed in a baking dish and topped with cheesy mashed potatoes and baked to a crispy golden brown.  There are are few other steps, but you really should buy the book so you get all the rest of Dorie’s wonderful recipes too.

Tasting Notes~
This is a solid, soul-warming dish, that has lots of flavor and interesting texture, but reminded me too much of Hamburger Helper for me to really be happy with all the work that went into it.  While it might be a wonderful potluck dish, it won’t be one of mine.  I truly love to cook.  I truly love to play in other cuisines too.  Sometimes, a recipe just isn’t a personal favorite.  This one is that…not a personal favorite.  I appreciate it for what it is, and would give it a chance done slightly differently…perhaps as a way to use up the heel of a roast.  However, to cook from scratch with as much time and effort, I’m going to have something a little more exciting to set on my table than a sort of meat and mashed pie.  Sorry…  If I’m anything, I’m honest.  Bruce said he could eat it again, sometime, but even he could appreciate what I was saying.  Oh well.  You win some, and lose a few along the way!  Remember, I said it’s ok…just that I wasn’t bowled over by it.

Thirty Minute Thursday meets PTO Bake Sale

23 10 2010

This photo was taken about 11 pm on Thursday night…and you can believe I appreciated that Giuliano Hazan wrote Thirty Minute Pasta about that time!  Clockwise from back left we have Cranberry scones with Orange glaze, Congo Squares, pasta water, pasta sauce, Blueberry scones with Lemon glaze and Coffee cake from the Cafe Beaujolais in Mendocino, CA.  Yes… I was a busy woman.   All but a few of my Congo Squares sold out.  Yay!  If they’d known what was in the Congo Squares, they wouldn’t have been hanging around though!

This week’s Thirty Minute Pasta recipe was Penne with Tomatoes and Prosciutto on page 152.  This cooked a bit, but retained a lovely red color.  It was as absolutely simple as most of the recipes are, but for us…screamed for MORE something.  It felt like a very nice base sauce, but like it would be happy to frame some thing else… Perhaps a vegetable?  Not necessarily shrimp…but maybe calamari rings.  I’m not sure, but I’ll mess with it some more.  We really liked the sauce though.  And thankfully…it only took about 3o minutes!

French Fridays with Dorie: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

15 10 2010

I love Tom Kha Gai soup…which is the Thai version of this soup.   Since I dabble in Southeast Asian cuisine, I have ingredients most people might not have…palm sugar, kaffir lime leaves and galanga in particular.  Still, I didn’t want to go to far off the recipe from Dorie’s Around My French Table.  I didn’t have any bean sprouts handy, but I did have some nice mushrooms, so they went in instead.  That being said, we really enjoyed this version of Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup!  It got an 8 on a 10 scale from the man of the house, and that’s pretty darn good!

I really liked using the roasted chicken breast.   I was fully under control of how cooked it was, the whole time.  The bits and pieces all went together pretty quickly.  I was making a half batch, but dividing a can of coconut milk in half wasn’t going to work terribly well.  One thing we know from dining in Thai restaurants is that there’s a particular richness that we find in some Tom Kha Gai soup that we don’t always find.  It has to do with the ratio of broth to coconut milk in the soup.   I didn’t have any super hot dry chilies…I tend to be really careful of those anyway, it’s hard to get the heat out if you overdo it!  I used crushed red chilies for heat and passed Siracha at the table if anyone wanted more heat.  As it was, we had a really nice balance of hot and sour with a little sweet underlying.  It’s a keeper…and will be my go-to recipe until something better comes along – yeah, right!

Thirty Minute Thursdays: Pasta e Fagioli~

14 10 2010

This is one recipe from Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta that takes more than 30 minutes.  I don’t know how much more, because I was really engrossed in the creation of the soup, but cooking times alone ran 30 minutes after the first major steps.  There’s a potato to be cooked, then riced, beans to be riced, veggies to be diced and browned lightly…then pasta to be cooked, broth to be added to the beans and simmered along with the riced potato…but don’t let that put you off.  Just make sure you choose your time for making this recipe when you have a little extra time and energy because it’s oh, so worth it.

Lael Hazan, Giuliano’s wife, posted this soup and the recipe for it just about a week ago on their blog, Educated Palate.   Ironically, I made the soup the very next night being totally unaware of her post!  Isn’t the internet the most bizarre information source?  I have to admit, canned cranberry beans are virtually impossible to come by here, and even cranberry beans are difficult to come by, so my soup was made with cannellini beans, but we loved it.

There’s still another fun twist coming up…  In another cooking group, one that actually spawned this effort, Cooking Italy, we’ll be making Marcella Hazan’s version of Pasta e Fagioli before the end of the month.   It will be a lot of fun to see how the two versions differ in taste.  I’ve prepared some of each of their recipes in the past, and while Marcella’s is the time honored, slow prep method,there’s not a lot of difference in taste between her version of many sauces and Giuliano’s.  Either way, it will be a fun taste test, because it can’t be bad!

Thirty Minute Thursday: Linguini with Zucchini and Onions

7 10 2010

This week, I chose a vegetarian recipe from Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta, Linguini with Zucchini and Onions.  The recipe didn’t call for much more than the title leads you to believe, and it was pretty ready in 30 minutes…the first time I made it.  This is my second time making the recipe and this time I got off somewhere and my sauce was ready before my pasta was.  I ended up needing just a bit of the pasta water to help mix the pasta properly when the time came.

I’m finding the more I cook pasta, the more I’m getting to the point of being able to look at it and know if it’s done.  What an amazing thing!!  I never thought I’d see that happen!  It doesn’t just work with spaghetti, but with linguini and fettucini too!  That’s kind of fun!

Tasting Notes~
Another score for Giuliano!  This was great as it was, and I wouldn’t hesitate to change up the summer squash to something different (which is what I did previously).    Although there’s no garlic in this particular recipe, my hand certainly was ready to add some, as well as some herbs.  But…that would totally change the recipe.  That’s one of the things I love about this book though, you can work from these base recipes, and venture to other areas of Italy by changing up the herbs and spices that you use.  Adding a bit of prosciutto or pancetta would add a totally different aspect to this dish.  Again, that would be a complete recipe change from the way this recipe is written, but it sure is a fun idea for being playful in the kitchen!

Introducing Thirty Minute Thursday~

4 10 2010

Thanks to Spinach Tiger, Angela Roberts, who introduced me to authentic Italian food through her group Cooking Italy, and then to Giuliano Hazan in particular and his book, Thirty Minute Pasta, we now view Italian food as something other than spaghetti or lasagna, AND we happily have pasta at least once a week, usually on a Thursday when my energy is waning.  I always seem to reach for the same cookbook every Thursday night, and we’ve never been disappointed yet…  That book is Giuliano Hazan’s, Thirty Minute Pasta, and that is how Thirty Minute Thursday was born.

I’d like to invite you to cook with me, but I don’t want to be strict about this.  I know, being a working woman, that time is precious, and inspiration and ingredients don’t always mesh!  So here’s my proposition…  YOU get to choose a recipe of your choice from Thirty Minute Pasta, send your link to me at (you’ll need to change at to @ and remove the no spam twice).    I’ll post the round up with the pictures that are available.  Drop in cooks are welcome.  Please visit and cook when you can!  I’ve already cooked a dozen or so of Giuliano’s recipes, but did I take pictures???  Heck no!  LOL!  Don’t worry though, they’ve all been good, and true to the 30 minutes!

October 7th is our launch date…come join me if you like!  Please feel free to copy the logo from the sidebar, or email me and I’ll send it to you directly.  I’m excited to be making it official!  I’ve really loved this cookbook and it’s starting to show a few love spatters to prove it!  LOL!  The pacing is fabulous.  Giuliano has it down to a fine science there!  Follow his lead, and you’ll be right on the mark every time.  You’ll find you start gaining confidence after a few recipes…and you can start to change up and add different ingredients to suit yourself and what you have on hand, and it still works!  I’m excited to see what you come up with in your Thirty Minutes on Thursday!