Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Holmes Brew

Kevin has been talking about making a "Holmes Brew" for quite some time now. Williams-Sonoma promoted a home brew making kit at the start of summer and I jumped at the opportunity of picking one up. Clearly, with everything going on the last few months I was a bit late on the gifting...but almost one month post birthday it arrived! In about 3 weeks time we will have a delicious "Everyday IPA" from Brooklyn Brew Shop to look forward to. I better start brainstorming some food or cheese pairings. Yum.

I love the box's marketing: "If you can make oatmeal, you can make beer, but we've made more friends with cold beer than warm oatmeal. We think you will, too."

Check out this product on Williams-Sonoma.com.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Orecchiette Made with Semolina

There are few things as therapeutic as making pasta by hand. I was watching Mario Batali over the weekend on the Cooking Channel and was impressed and inspired by his handmade Orecchiette with broccoli rabe. The Orecchiette was rustic, fun to make and delicious!

Orecchiette Made with Semolina
2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1 1/4 cups tepid water

Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen. Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. Roll the dough into long dowels about 3 to 4 inches thick. Cut the dough into flat disks about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Press the center of each disk with your thumb to form saucer-shaped pasta. Place the orecchiette on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.

I left the pasta on the baking sheet, put it in the freezer overnight, then transferred the frozen pasta to ziploc bags. I set out to make the complete dish the following night, using a portion of the pasta I had made. Batali states that he prefers to braise the Broccoli Rabe, and I followed his lead. Personally, I found the broccoli almost too bitter when prepared this way and I really enjoy bitter greens. Next time I would stick with my usual method of quickly blanching the veggie first. Although left out in this variation, orecchiette with rabe commonly has crumbled Italian sausage in it as well, and since I had some leftover I crumbled it in for extra protein for Kevin.

Broccoli Rabe Sauce
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch broccoli rabe, tough stems removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 crushed tomatoes and their juices
1 pound pasta, cooked
Pinch of chili flakes
Aged Pecorino di Roma for serving

In a large saute pan heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the onion, then the garlic. Let them get soft but not browned. Roughly chop the broccoli rabe and add to the pan. Season with salt and toss with the onions and garlic. Add 1/4 cup pasta cooking water and a splash of olive oil. Let cook for 2 minutes, then push to 1 side of the pan and add the tomatoes to the other side. Reduce the tomatoes for 2 minutes, then toss together with the broccoli rabe. Add cooked pasta, pinch of chili flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil. Grate some Pecorino di Roma onto the pasta and toss to coat for 1 minute Divide evenly among 6 warm pasta bowls, grate more cheese over each bowl and serve immediately.

Linguine Nero

My friend Natalie brought me back from Linguine Nero from Italy and I was "saving it" until I came across the right recipe. I decided on a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp. The linguine has just the slightest hint of squid ink that highlights seafood flavors.

14 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (I like mine spicy)
1lb wild shrimp peeled and deveined
Flat leaf parsley for garnish
1/2 cup of white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a large pan saute the garlic with chili flakes and olive oil being careful not to burn
Add the white wine and heat through for a minute to cook off alcohol
Add diced tomatoes and simmer for 1o mins til slightly reduced
Add wild shrimp (roast in oven with salt and pepper until just barely cooked - the shrimp with continue to cook in the sauce)
Add cooked linguine to the shrimp + tomato sauce tossing together in pan
Reserve some of the pasta water and use if sauce needs more liquid. This will also help the sauce come together.
Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley and a pull of fruity extra virgin olive oil if desired.

I love parmigiano reggiano on ANY pasta even if it is seafood based- but true Italians would probably omit.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Veggie Box Tuesday!

I love Tuesdays! Every Tuesday I get a delivery from my CSA in Capay Valley (1 hour north of San Francisco). It's called Farm Fresh to You. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is a great way to get fresh, organic food and know exactly where your produce is coming from. I have a hard time going to the farmer's market on Saturdays; I would much rather get in a workout with a girl friend and grab brunch after than run errands! I love getting a delivery to my building during the beginning part of the week. I plan ahead by coming straight home from work and getting right to washing and prepping all my veggies so they are ready to utilize for meals throughout the week.

What is great about Farm Fresh to You is that you have an account online and can set all kinds of produce preferences. You also know what you are going to be receiving the Friday before your delivery. I don't care for getting lettuces, so instead of lettuce my box came with BEETS! Are those not the most beautiful beets ever? I have never seen such a gorgeous spiral of colors in a beet before! The CSA beets barely needed to be peeled, the skin was super thin. I sliced them up in thin half-moons and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 450F for about 20-25 minutes. They came out yummy and caramelized. This is my favorite way to cook beets thus far. I have tried roasting them in foil, unpeeled and then rubbing the skins off later. Way too time consuming! I highly recommend the thinly sliced roasting as it significantly cuts down on cooking time -- which is great for a weeknight meal.

After roasting the beets I made a yummy beet salad for dinner and saved the rest for a healthy lunch! I love beets with oranges, goat cheese, fennel, walnuts, you name it! What are your favorite beet recipes?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Do Try These At Home!

There are a few kitchen basics that I always need to have around the house. I also discovered that making them at home, from scratch, saves me money while improving the quality of the final recipe they're used in dramatically! I'm talking about chicken stock and pasta sauces. I keep frozen ice cubes of chicken stock in the freezer and pesto and marinara sauce in the fridge at all times.

When I made a Thanksgiving turkey last November, I set up to save the carcass and make a yummy stock out of it. Buying organic poultry is pricey, so I was extra committed to getting as much out of the bird as possible. I used the Barefoot Contessa chicken stock recipe and it makes the whole condo smell absolutely delicious. After the stock is done, I cool it down, ladle it into ice cube trays and freeze. This is the best way to store the broth. It's great when I only want to use a little bit for braising greens or making a light sauce. I love making it on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Same goes for staple pasta sauces.

Back when Kevin and I lived in Santa Clara, we started a small veggie and herb garden on our communal patio. We had an entire planter box of basil and I made pesto in mass quantities. For Basil Pesto...
  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano*
Puree all ingredients together in the food processor adding the oil in gradually at the end, then the cheese last. Season with Salt and Pepper to taste. *Note: Do be sure to add the parmesan last, because the heat of the processor blade can tweak the texture of the cheese

I no longer buy pesto from the jar (it's flavorless) and the fresh stuff from the store will cost you a pretty penny! I buy pine nuts in big bags, splurge on the most fabulous extra virgin olive oil and parmesan reggiano. At the moment I am obsessed with LAPAS Extra-Virgin olive oil ($18 for 750ml at Whole Foods). As long as you have an food processor and the aforementioned ingredients you will never go back to the jarred stuff! I also love the versatility and flexibility that homemade pesto offers. No basil? No pinenuts? Make a fabulous arugula and pecan pesto or artichoke and walnut with sundried tomatoes...the options are endless :-)

Same goes for marinara or pomodoro. I just dicovered this utterly comforting Pomodoro a la Tyler Florence.
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserved
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes) and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

I'd love to hear what home made kitchen basics you always have on hand!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Soup Night: Butternut Squash & Apple

Soup Night
I am so excited that spring is finally here! I knew the weather was was turning warmer at last, so last weekend I had one final binge of yummy wintery foods. I heard about the Barefoot Contessa's Butternut Squash Apple Soup and thought it would be a perfect cozy meal.

I really liked the soup overall. It has a unusual kick from the curry powder (which is not just one spice, but typically a combination of: coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and red pepper among others) that balances nicely with the sweetness of the apple.

Since the soup requires several apples peeled and diced I opted for pre-cut Butternut Squash from Trader Joe's so I wouldn't be chopping and peeling all weekend. Other than the dicing and slicing the soup didn't take too long. Instead of adding all that sugar from the apple juice I opted to do half juice and half chicken stock. If I was to make the soup again though, I think I might omit the apple juice all together as I didn't find it really added a depth of flavor. I was munching the soup prior to adding the juice/stock (for seasoning purposes, of course ;-) and felt it was plenty delicious if not more so prior to the addition. After about 40 mins the squash and apples have cooked down and then the soup must be puréed.

One seemingly frivolous kitchen appliance that is actually my Kitchen MVP is the Immersion Blender. Yes, and it doesn't hurt that it's also available in my favorite color yellow! Soups are easy to make and healthy but that annoying last step of dumping the contents into a conventional blender in batches is a pain. My blender is also super crappy and plastic so I prefer to wait for the cooked soup to cool down, which adds on to overall cooking time. Lame. That's where the immersion blender comes in. It's fabulous and also works for smoothies, salad dressings everything. Love it.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Yield: 3 1/2 quarts
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 2 tablespoons good olive oil
* 4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large)
* 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
* 5 pounds butternut squash (2 large)
* 1 1/2 pounds sweet apples, such as McIntosh (4 apples)
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 2 cups water
* 2 cups good apple cider or juice

* Warm the butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot uncovered over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are tender. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.
* Peel the squash, cut in half, and remove the seeds. Cut the squash into chunks. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut into chunks.
* Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Process the soup with a food processor or immersion blender.
* Pour the soup back into the pot. Add the apple cider or juice and enough water to make the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Check the salt and pepper and serve hot.