Destination: Italy ~

26 02 2011

The month of February was Destination: Italy over at My Kitchen, My World.  As much as I cook Italian food these days, I couldn’t miss this one!  I could literally load any one of a dozen or more recipes for Italian food from my archives alone.  But..that wouldn’t be fair!  LOL!  So…setting the Hazan family Italian food collection aside, I reached for some of my other Italian cookbooks.  I settled on Williams and Sonoma’s Italian Favorites.

It didn’t take long to find a nice recipe for brunch…eggs, cheese, cream, pasta and some sauteed leeks to pull it all together.  That’s not a bad way to greet midday!  The recipe is titled, “Angel Hair with Eggs, Leeks and Cream.”  Those are pretty much all of the ingredients…you’ll also need butter to saute the thinly sliced leeks, and some Parmesan cheese to mix with the eggs and cream, and that’s the whole ingredient list.  Put the pasta water on, slice and wash the leeks, saute them in the butter, and set them aside when they’re nice and translucent.  Cook the pasta just until it’s barely cooked…a little firmness will disappear before it gets to the plate.  Trust me.  Drain the pasta, and add it to the skillet with the leeks, toss the mixture to combine and stir in the eggs, cream and cheese.  Cook together until the egg is set, but not dry.  Serve with additional freshly grated Parmesan on the side, and you’ve got a great dish!

Tasting Notes~
Bruce was a little skeptical when I asked if he’d like this dish for brunch…but he’s a good sport and said if it sounded good to me, fulfilled a posting need, and I was up for fixing it…knock my socks off!  Then he decided this is a really good dish for brunch, and if I ever feel so inclined again, to please give this another go!  There’s a bit of sweetness coming from the leeks and the cream…and it foils nicely with the pasta salted from the water and just enough at serving time to bring the flavors all the way up.  This is a smooth, creamy, comforting dish.  A bit carb-heavy for midday, but great if you’re really wanting that nap!  It would team really nicely with a bottle of chilled Prosecco as an Italian “champagne” brunch!  I’ll remember that for next time!


FFwD: Short Ribs~

26 02 2011

One of the first things I learned to cook successfully as a young bride was short ribs.  In the mid 70’s they were cheaper than cheap…but then in the mid 70’s a lot of things were cheaper than…let’s not go there.  That’s a whole “nuther” post!  Short ribs have a wonderful flavor and truly benefit from long, slow braising.

Now, I want to confess straight up, I went just a bit astray from the recipe in a couple of places…  I dusted my short ribs with flour before searing them…I didn’t use port…but pretty much beyond that, we were running about the same.  I used a Cabernet for my red wine…I didn’t want to use Chianti, which was the red wine I had open at the moment.  Yes…wine actually gets to serve more than one recipe here! LOL!  I seared my ribs on all sides in a 5 qt. cast iron casserole, then added the chopped veggies and a bit more oil (I’m using rice bran oil and I love it! I just wish someone local carried it!) and stirred things around a bit before adding the cooking liquids.  I have my own beef stock canned, so I used that and the wine to season the pot.  And waited 3 incredibly long hours (you’ll understand when you start smelling it).  I did need to add a little water part way through, because I didn’t use the foil seal.  I used a 5 qt. cast iron dutch oven for a third of the recipe.  You’ll want something a bit larger…7 1/2 qt. or bigger, for a full recipe.

Tasting Notes~
This dish pretty much cried out for mashed potatoes…couldn’t help myself!  The carrots cooked up perfectly in the dutch oven with the ribs.  I started the potatoes about 20 minutes before the ribs were due out of the oven, and we were right on target.  This is one of those melt-in-your-mouth dishes.  Deeply soul-satisfying, home-cooked, comfort food at it’s best.  There wasn’t anything but a bit of gravy left of this dinner.   Note to self…watch for short rib sales!  It was so worth the wait!

I remember the first time we approached the Rendezvous Inn… Kim was preparing short ribs… I knew that was what I wanted for dinner!  Oh my heavens!  The aroma that wafted out into their garden!  I still haven’t had his short ribs.  They sell out quickly every time he makes them.  This dish reminds me of that.

Essentially…absolutely a keeper…whether the recipe is followed precisely or not.

Thirty Minute Thursdays: Linguine al Gamberi (Linguine with Shrimp)~

24 02 2011

I have to tell you that it feels good to want food again and feel like creating some!  That was a rough one! LOL!  We both had it…upper respiratory guck with body aches and fever…no fun!  So…it’s good to be back in the kitchen again!

This week, I’ve made Linguine with Shrimp, from a different Giuliano Hazan cookbook, Every Night Italian.  Although the recipe doesn’t appear in Thirty Minute Pasta, it still requires only 30 minutes to put together.   That 30 minutes will yield lots of compliments afterward…so relax and enjoy!

The recipe calls for just a few ingredients…tomatoes with a flicker of red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil for the pan, linguine, cream and shrimp.  That’s all.   It goes together really fast and it was wonderfully creamy and full of full tomato flavor.  I did depart from the recipe ever so slightly…  I found I had no linguine in the pantry, so I used fettuccine.  It was a little heavy, but the sauce was solid enough to hold up to it.  The other departure had to do with subbing home canned tomatoes for insipid, out of season tomatoes from the grocery.  I have San Marzano tomatoes canned from last summer.  I don’t hesitate to use them!

Tasting Notes~
This sauce is close to a vodka sauce, but not quite.  It’s incredibly creamy rich, and so full of tomato flavor, with just a hint of garlic and underlying heat that stays in the mouth just a tiny bit.  We both really enjoyed this dish, and agreed it was a keeper.  I keep frozen shrimp around…usually uncooked so I can cook them fresh and the way I want to…so this works together in mere moments.  In the time it takes to heat cold cooked shrimp in the sauce, you could be having fresh.  It’s that quick.  I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to guests.  It’s really light in flavor and without tremendous spice or oil.  The cream in the sauce is minimal…just enough to change the color and texture.  Make this.  Eat it with a friend or loved one, and let them pat you on the back…you deserve it!

Look Who’s Cooking!~
Welcome to our newest guest chef, Chaya from Bizzy B. Bakes!  Chaya just found us, and we’re thrilled to have her join up with us!  Her first dish is Fettuccine with Zucchini and Onions.  Yumm!!  Chaya uses alternative pasta which is gluten free.  Chaya…it’s great to have you with us!  I can’t wait see what you select to cook next!  The recipes in this book are indeed, low in fats, and full of fresh flavors!  I got hooked when I had way too many tomatoes all coming ripe at one time.  I could manage to avoid canning on a work night by cooking up a batch of something with a tomato sauce.  We fell in love!  I hope you do too!

Anyone else out there this week?  Let me know…I’ll add your link as well!

Until next week…Let’s remember our friends in New Zealand, and in Christchurch in particular…so many have lost so much…

On Sick Leave…

19 02 2011

We apologize for any inconvenience…however our kitchen is currently closed due to the flu.  We’ll be fine…as soon as these bugs get out of our bed and go live with someone else or DIE!  There just isn’t much cooking going on..and I’m totally off schedule with everything, and I do mean everything! I made it to work one day this week…  Quickie soups are about the extent of my energy level.  We play thermometer roulette for major chores…the one with the lowest temp gets to do the chore of the hour!  We feel lousy, but we’re managing to survive!  We’re being doted upon by our loving and protective dog, Jasmine.  If I could only teach her to do some of the other chores too… Right now, she specializes in bed-warming and pillow stealing.  But she’s a love…until she kicks me in the face in the middle of the night! *giggle*cough-cough-cough*  Wish I could kick the symptoms!  I’ll be back on deck, cooking up a storm as soon as I can…

Anyone with TMT posts is still welcome to send them in to me for round-up!!  I can manage to round up the participants meals, even if I can’t toss one together myself just yet!  That will probably be one of the first meals I attempt though…something easy and soothing…  See you back here real soon!

Cooking Italy: Fried Calamari~

13 02 2011

The first recipe on our February Cooking Italy schedule is Fried Calamari, by Marcella Hazan, as presented in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  The recipe is beyond simplicity…it’s far more work to finish cleaning the calamari!  The result is a light, airy breading that still has plenty of crunch, but doesn’t compete with the very delicate calamari flavor.

I shouldn’t complain about cleaning the calamari.  The tubes were pretty much ready to go… a few still had little flaps attached.  Don’t fret…they pull off very easily and should be added to your cookable collection.  I needed to clean the tentacles a little better. There were still a number of beaks in place.  Simply cut out the beak portion, even up the tentacles and add both sides to your cookables.  The stringy pieces are edible, but kind of make a mess…I sacrificed them.

Now…I could have made things easier on myself by buying rings ready to go, but I found such a great deal on a 3# block of calamari frozen in water that I couldn’t turn it down.  It would have fed 4 nicely, or the 2 of us twice.  I let it melt in its bag in cold water until I was able to start separating the tubes without tearing them.  The tentacles were the worst to separate! LOL!  Half of the package was resealed with a Food Saver (drain as much water away as you can, then fold a paper towel up so it spans the width of the bag.  Put the paper towel in the bag, between the calamari and the seal, and seal.  The paper towel will catch most of the liquid remaining in the bag before it reaches the vacuum chamber.

Tasting Notes~
Very, very light and delicate… Salt is added at the last minute before serving…I couldn’t resist adding a bit of freshly grated parmesan and a bit of parsley for color.  There was sooooo much white!  My oil was really fresh…that’s why there isn’t much browning.   These were fried at 350°-375°.  They cook very quickly!  I served them with a lemon and herb aioli…although marinara is very popular too.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use this recipe again…especially if this sounds really good and I’m tired!  I would like to investigate other recipes now…now that I know where to get the calamari AND how easy this is to do!  I simply love fried calamari, and have made a meal of them more than once!  I love the Chinese version our local restaurant makes too…hmmmm…!  Watch this space!  LOL!  Essentially, this is a keeper and will visit our house again and again!

And the Winner is….

11 02 2011

I’m honored and tickled pink to announce that I was selected winner of the most recent Cook the Books round-up!  We read Untangling My Chopsticks, and I cooked an attempt at a Japanese Kaiseki meal.  The post is here.  I’m especially honored because the author of the book is the one who selected me!

Excerpt from Cook the Books ~

Here’s what our fabulous featured author, Victoria Abbott Riccardi has to say about our last Cook the Books roundup.

“First, I am honored and delighted that you chose my book for your group. I was so glad to read from your various members that Untangling My Chopsticks either brought back fond memories of their time in Japan or sparked the desire to go there. Japan is, indeed, a magical (and very tasty!) place.

Choosing a Cook the Book winner was very hard! Everyone had a fascinating story to accompany the recipe they made and it was obvious that people put significant time and energy into creating something pretty and tasty. I know that it’s not always easy to find Japanese ingredients, so substitutions are often necessary.

Since you left the criteria up to me, I decided I would choose a winner based on who best managed to get into the spirit Japanese cooking, both in terms of the recipe they submitted and their story. As I said, this wasn’t easy. In the end, however, I chose Glennis of Can’t Believe We Ate. Glennis ran the culinary marathon, so to speak, by preparing her four-course feast. She really seemed eager to create an authentic Japanese meal, beginning with her dashi soup and ending with the very impressive shabu-shabu! I also loved her genuine enthusiasm as she described the various dishes she made.

For example, for her miso soup, she writes, “I was so tickled to actually find light miso paste!  I’ve looked before, and not been able to find anything but red, so this was delightful!”

Then, she writes, “Next up was Chicken Yakitori. Oh my!  Simply oh my!”

Finally, in talking about enjoying the rich broth left over from cooking all the veggies and meat for the shabu-shaby she writes, “At the end of the meal, the noodles would be added to the pot, and finished in the steaming soup.  This was fascinating and warrants trying again!”

Congratulations, Glennis. I am so glad you enjoyed my book and preparing your various dishes. What a lovely way to ring in the New Year, which, for all of you I hope brings many memorable moments around the table.

All best,

My goodness!  I really did enjoy this book, and I love the culture behind the Japanese cuisine…  I guess it really shows!  Thank you Victoria!  It’s purely my honor to be named winner of this round up!

French Fridays with Dorie: Basque Potato Tortilla~

4 02 2011

For the moment, I’m on schedule with French Fridays with Dorie!  That doesn’t happen often, so I’m enjoying it while I can!  The recipe of the week comes from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan.  Just buy it.  You deserve it, and you know you want it.  Your family will thank you again and again!

Back to the dish…I cooked my potato mixture in one pan, and switched to a smaller pan for the actual tortilla making.  I reduced the recipe by half…that is, I only put half of the potatoes in the “tortilla”, which looks and cooks strangely like a Frittata, but we won’t tell!  I used half as many eggs as the recipe asked and poured the mixture into a smaller nonstick skillet, generously oiled with a good olive oil.   The edges bubbled up and set quickly, and with an adjustment to the heat, we had controlled cooking to set the remaining tortilla.

At this point we have the set edges, and just a jiggly center…time for the broiler!

I used the advice given about wrapping the handle of the pan with foil…that worked well.  I knew my cast iron skillet was jut too big for this dish halved.   I kept the broiler door open so I could control the contact with the heat.  In retrospect, I should have rotated the tortilla inside the pan so it got toasted all over on top.  Next time.  Because there will be a next time.

I didn’t have any problems with removing the tortilla from the pan.  I had been running the spatula around the edges as instructed, but just before going into the oven, I loosened the tortilla from the bottom too.  By that time the edges were completely set, and lightly browned.  A few minutes under the broiler, and we were ready to plate.

Tasting Notes~
This was easy, a bit time consuming, but not too bad, and it’s a great base to build on.  I was disappointed in the lack of flavor.  I seasoned my eggs with all of the ingredients, I seasoned my potatoes as well.  Still…it lacked a bit of something…umami.   We ate it fresh from the oven for brunch, and enjoyed it, but we were wanting for some other taste that simply wasn’t there.  I know eggs are great when Bruce doesn’t reach for Tabasco sauce.  This had him reaching for the ketchup as well…and me too, I’m almost ashamed to admit!  We both felt a bit of bacon or ham…sausage…something with a more pronounced flavor would be helpful.  Still…we wouldn’t hesitate to fix this again, but as more of a base element rather than the whole rodeo.

Thirty Minute Thursdays: Fusilli with sausage and cream~

4 02 2011

Whenever I’m pressed for time, this recipe comes to mind… Fusilli with sausage and cream from Giuliano Hazan’s Thirty Minute Pasta… The sausage is made by hand with few ingredients…I wouldn’t worry about having a meat grinder.  Finely chop some pork in your food processor.  If you put it in the freezer, just until it gets firm but not at all hard, it will chop beautifully.  Mix the pork with the remaining ingredients and set aside.  I know Giuliano recommends letting it sit overnight.  That’s best, but it still works out great if it gets just a short marinating time.  This is another recipe that cooks very quickly and will be finished inside the 30 minutes, easily!

Tasting Notes~
As I said, this is a great quick supper meal.  It’s soothing…the cream makes it so comforting on a cold night!  I added a few mushrooms to this particular pan…we had fresh mushrooms from a kit, and it seemed like a nice place for them!  The cream and the cheese blend nicely into a sauce that pulls in the homemade sausage, and the fusilli captures a nice bit of sauce with a few bits of sausage for a lovely, creamy, soul-satisfying bite.

Look Who’s Cooking!
It’s official!  Abby has joined us for Thirty Minute Thursdays!  Welcome to you Abby!  Your dishes have been looking marvelous!  This week, Abby made Fusilli with Sausage and Zucchini, and it looks scrumptious!

Kayte from Grandma’s Kitchen Table made Penne with four cheeses… Kayte said, “my oh my oh my is this one decadent and delicious.  Did I say it was good?  Oh yeah, and by the way, this is really good.  Great really.”  If that’s not a huge recommendation for a recipe, I don’t know what is! LOL!  Love it Kayte!

If you’d like to join us, drop me an email, and send me your URL, if you’re a blogger.  Pick up a copy of Thirty Minute Pasta, and choose a recipe!  It doesn’t matter which day is your “30 minute” day.  I collect everyone’s posts for a round-up on Thursdays.  Tuesday is my “30 minute” day.  Check the sidebar for my email, and come cook with us!