Thursday, May 29, 2008

In bianco

It is said that Italians feel that eating food in bianco (white food) serves to settle an upset stomach and give the internal organs a rest.
That is pretty much why I decided to make Spaghetti with garlic, onions & guanciale from Molto Italiano on Tuesday.
We have had a hectic week so I've been making lots of repeats (including that awesome chicken, sausage & sage dish), with a quick trip up to Oregon over the long weekend, so something simple was in order. This dish is basically Amatriciana without the tomato sauce. I used pre-cubed pancetta from Trader Joe's in place of the guanciale (it is on my list of things to do, really!... too many charcuterie plans, so little time). I found that it didn't really crisp up like I wanted it to... next time I'll just use good bacon. This dish was nice, but not spectacular. I also subbed parmesan as I was all out of romano (a situation that has now been remedied).
No picture, it was pretty un-photogenic and looked nothing like the picture in Molto Italiano.
Next up some new stuff, plus I'm baking an old traditional English/Australian pudding today. Yikes!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pantry Shrimp

It was HOT this weekend. Couple that with little league game, MLS game, little league bbq. We were running around like nuts all weekend. I realized that although I had been to the grocery store, we still had no food - it was all for the BBQ on Sunday! We also had a death in the family - our 2003 vintage eMachine computer that was used as a network server, printer server, and online game machine. It bit the dust so we spent Sunday evening and all of Monday rebuilding files. The hard drive was fine, so data was thankfully not lost. But trying to remember the miriad of passwords was another story.
At any rate, cooking was the last thing on my mind. I had frozen shrimp though! And limes, cilantro, garlic, ginger and hot sauces. So I threw together this shrimp marinade:
2 cloves minced garlic
about the same amount of peeled minced ginger
juice of 1 lime
a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro
a few tablespoons of olive oil
a squirt or 2 of Sriracha chili sauce to taste
kosher salt to taste
Marinated the shrimp in this for about as long as it takes to heat the grill, grilled the shrimp until done. Served with jasmine rice, steamed green beans and hot sauce on the side. This went really well with Thai sweet chili sauce as a dipper/sauce for rice.
No pictures, too hot.
Today it's 20 degrees cooler, thankfully. Not much cooking this week, we are off to Oregon!

Monday, May 12, 2008


I put together this carbonara recipe from Mario Batail "Molto Italiano" (halved it for 2 - just me and the boy, it was poker night). This is really the perfect method, hold the peas, hold the cream - no need for these. The egg whites, cheese & bacon drippings (I do usually drain partially although the recipe says not to) make the perfect creamy sauce, the egg yolk that gets stirred in at serving makes the whole thing just luscious. It will be even better when I make my own pancetta or guanciale!!

Chicken has been upstaged by BROWN RICE!

I tried the Crispy Pressed Chicken with Garlic & Mint from "The Flexitarian Table" the other night. The chicken thighs had marinated in a garlic/mint/lemon juice/olive oil mixture much of the day. The recipe calls for cooking in a cast iron pan, but I thought I would bust out my mattone - terra cotta chicken press. That method took a LOT longer than specified - I think I had a few things that didn't work out for me - the mattone does not get as hot as cast iron, the thighs were the really big ones from Costco, I put 6 thighs in, they released a LOT of fat, so didn't really crisp up like in the picture in the book. The alternate protein for this is tofu, which actually looks very yummy in the book, so I may try that next time.
The superstar of this meal, though, was the Creamy Risotto-Style Brown Rice w/Spring Greens & Asiago. I used short grain brown rice, cooked ahead of time in the rice cooker, and used mache & arugula for the greens. It's simple - scallions (or ramps if you are a lucky duck, I was not), garlic & ginger sauteed in some olive oil & butter, add the rice & blanched greens with a bit of the cooking water from the greens, stir in the cheese & presto - healthy and delicious! Everyone had seconds of this, it was excellent. Another side dish from this book that will enter "heavy rotation" along with the polenta. It had the same flavor profile as broccoli rice soup, but even better. I felt like I had eaten something similar before, it was really great.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fregola Risotto-Style w/Chard & Feta, Baby Beets

Another installment from "The Flexitarian Table" - Spring Menu 10: Fregola Risotto-Style with Chard & Feta Cheese, Mache & Pea Shoots w/Baby Beets & Mustard Vinaigrette

I did this last night after hunting over hill & dale (well, all across Irvine anyway) for Fregola Sarda. I found at Whole Paycheck, of course... I could have substitued Israeli couscous at half the price, but the toasted fregola just looked too lovely to pass up.
I started by getting the baby beets roasted for the salad, then peeling & cutting them up into little matchsticks. The vinaigrette is a simple mustard emulsion with the addition of some toasted mustard seed. The beets are then chilled, and later tossed with mache & pea shoots. I actually passed on spending another $8 for mache & pea shoots at WF, maybe next time. I just tossed with a bit of spring greens mix. I didn't realize ahead of time that my husband doesn't like beets, but he said "these were better than I thought they would be". I guess I can take that as a complement. The 9 year old wasn't fond of them either, so this is probably not going to make a repeat performance.
The fregola was pretty prep intensive, lots of veggies to cut up. First mirepoix and the chard stems are sauteed in butter & olive oil until soft:

Next comes the mushrooms, garlic & thyme:

Add the fregola & saute until toasty smelling:

I made the vegetable stock in the book (without the kombu), but I could have used chicken stock - isn't this pretty?
And simmer until the fregola is al dente, then add the chard leaves, and the feta just before serving
I put together the "5 minute bread" the day before, so baked a loaf just before starting to cook dinner, with some whole wheat flour substituted for the regular flour. Nice & chewy, I love the crust on this bread! We all agreed that this meal didn't seem very Spring-like. It was so earthy from the beets, toasted pasta, chard & mushrooms that I might classify it as more of a Fall dish. Despite that, it was very tasty, and terribly healthy.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Grilled Shrimp w/Harissa & Fresh Corn Polenta

This was essentially "summer menu 3" from "The Flexitarian Table". I almost forgot to take any photos until the meal was nearly done, it was one of those afternoons.
I was unable (until 2 days later!) to find caraway seed for making the home made harissa, so I just added a bit more fennel & cumin to the spice mixture. I did toast & grind the whole spices, which I do think makes a huge difference. I marinated the shrimp for a bit longer than directed due to timing, but I think they still fared ok. I used "large" shrimp but next time would want to use "jumbo" I think. The spices were really nice, some heat from the cayenne but the cumin & fennel makes it more warm than spicy hot. A really wonderful flavor. I grilled them on the stove in a grill pan, next time will do over charcoal.
The polenta was OUT OF THIS WORLD good! I was just going to buy frozen corn, as it is really a bit early for me for fresh sweet corn, but I went to the middle eastern market where produce is super cheap and they had some nice looking corn. I finally made polenta that wasn't too thin or too thick! I think I will use this recipe for all of my polenta needs, it was that awesome. It didn't really need any cheese or cream, it was absolutely delicious - no leftovers!. I did the sauteed cherry tomatoes too, which added a little bit of color to the plate. I used tiny grape tomatoes, which are super sweet. They provided a really nice contrast to the richness of the polenta.
The alternate protein for this is poached/fried eggs atop the polenta, which actually might make it into the weeknight rotation in the fall.

I did leave out the grilled zucchini with mint oil this night, but served it with grilled flatiron steak on Sunday night (sorry no picture). Olive oil is simmered with garlic & red pepper flakes just until the garlic is colored, then mint leaves are added. This is brushed onto the zucchini as they grill. The mint flavor was very subtle, but was an interesting contrast, the garlic seemed quite a bit more present. There were not leftovers of this either!