3/27/2015

So Beautiful, Colorful Pasta Bowties for Puttanesca High Hog



I love, love, love this Farfalline Multicolori, it is Specialita for sure.  A bit (uulp) pricey to say the least, but it will raise your spirits, just looking at the package.  It did mine.  A friend was behind me in line, and both she and the checker totally convinced me.  Not that I needed much convincing.  Healthy too, no fake colors in there, they use spinach, turmeric, paprika, beetroot or squid ink.  So colorful.


Having just finished the latest (in our library anyway) set in Venice, Donna Leon mystery, By It's Cover, I was hankering for Italian.   Always enjoy her tantalizing descriptions of meals eaten along the way.  So inspired by the book, did a Puttanesca on the high hog (wearing bow ties, with pork, ha ha) with it last night.  Just added some cubed ham, crisped up in olive oil, garlic, olives, capers, and cream.  Some of the saved pasta water as well.  Also, the colors do not leach out as some other colored pastas have a tendency to.  Lovely and deelish!  Will share this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.  She is sharing a delightful cookbook with contributions from mystery writers this time.

3/07/2015

Swiss Pumpkin for Cook the Books Club


For our Cook the Books Club this go round, hosted by fellow Hawaii resident and blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, we read (or in my case re-read) Comfort Me with Apples, a memoir by noted Chef, Food Editor, Restaurant Critic, TV personality, and author, Ruth Reichl.

I must suffer from some sort of medium-term memory loss.  Most of the book seemed new to me.  Had forgotten the long, drawn-out, often sad, business of her marriage break up and affairs, but on the brighter side of honesty, there is humor, good food, more humor and interesting snippets with restaurant personalities and food VIPs.  Do read as well, Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, they are even better.

There was much in her memoir to tempt and inspire, as well as challenge our cooking skills.  Reichl has the ability to communicate smells and tastes through descriptive writing, aided by an unbelievable palette, which is the premier gifting for a food critic or chef.  I sometimes wish mine could be tuned up a few notches. It would certainly help in the area of wine tasting as well.  I wonder if there is an herb that would help??


It was difficult to decide exactly what to prepare for this round.  So many directions you might go, from California nouvelle, to Chinese or Thai.  The idea of Cook the Books Club, in case you are new here, is to read the current bi-monthly book selection and then to cook and post a recipe inspired by your reading.

2/11/2015

The Year of the Kumquat


 A very small portion of them shown here.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or in my case Lemon Mead, and when you've been blessed with a load of kumquats, you need to be creative with them.  We haven't really had a whole year of them, it just sounded good, and sometimes feels that way.  Bob has had a strange obsession with the fruit ever since Thanksgiving when I made a Cranberry Kumquat Sauce.  I know it was only partly my delicious creation, with the other driving factor being humor.  Really, the name is not that funny.  He started with Facebook posting a W.C. Fields film clip on kumquats.  Yes, that was funny, ha ha ha.  Then Googling and posting all sorts of information on the fruit, health benefits, recipes and etc.  And which has caused other people to give him kumquats.


Bob notwithstanding, I still needed to deal with the second large bagful of those tasty little citrus, thanks due to Nancy, whom some of you might remember from my fabulous post on chocolate making.  First up was marmalade, which I simplified.  I did not like the sound of most of those lengthy recipes.  So, rather than mincing them all, one at a time, I tossed the halved, seeded fruit into a food processor and voila.

2/03/2015

Chocolate Cake with SECRET GF INGREDIENT


I am posting about this cake for two reasons.  One, due to being absolutely ashamed of myself for neglecting this blog.  Have not been posting consistently, and mean to change that.  Secondly, not only was that cake totally delicious, but gluten free.  Now I'm not "normally" a gluten free person.  My husband, Bob, thinks it the joke of the year to ask at the Natural Foods store if he can have some of that free gluten that's going around.  But when our local supermarket coupon booklet came in the mail, with a GF cake on the cover, that was my heads up, knowing I would be having a group of women over, one of whom is, yes GF.

The Chocolate ganache icing was simplicity itself, consisting of just cream and chocolate chips.  The recipe called for coconut milk, but if you have an opened container of cream on hand, I figure go with it.  And, truly the taste cannot be beaten.  Unless you are also lactose free.

1/24/2015

Pigeon Peas



I walked out in the garden this morning,
  Sun warming my head and arms,
And the green pigeon peas. 
A breath of legume scent teased out by that sun,
   Brought them to my attention.
Picked a handful, then two.
Dropped into boiling salted water
   For 10 minutes or so, cooled in a colander,
   Shelled -  lifted from their
 Plump nurturing pods, some
   Kissed a bit brown by that sun.
Suitable now for our salad,
Or pigeon peas 'n pasta
With basil and tomato.
                                                  C.R.

Well, that was my inspiration (inspired to poetry as well as food) from our latest Cook the Books Club pick, Sustenance & Desire, an anthology of poems, essays and various excerpts, loosely associated with food, edited with paintings by Bascove.  I would give the book mixed reviews.  Overall a bit uneven in quality and interest.  Some of the poems mystifying, some mediocre and several excellent, of course all in my humble opinion.  Among the essay selections, I enjoyed a few, some were okay and a number of others could be done without entirely; for instance the piece on cannibalism.  Did you know that:
"The Aztec cared intensely how they ate people and also who they ate, when, and where."
Not particularly appetizing.  That said however, her art alone was worth the book purchase.  I tried to find any Bascove paintings on ebay, but none were available.  Must all be in private collections or museums.

9/30/2014

Scrumptious Walnut Sauce for Pasta and More

Our current selection for Cook the Books Club is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi.
What a delicious co-mingling of romance, tempting food and place - Venice, of course!  My own stay in La Serenissima a few years ago was all too short.

I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true.  And, so descriptive, so well written.  The woman is a poet.

An American food writer and chef, Marlena is traveling in Italy with two friends when she meets "The Stranger", a Venetian Peter Sellers look-alike, whose shy pursuit ends up enchanting her.

Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside.  Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways.  Which is actually a good thing.  A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished.  Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.


There was much to inspire our cooking, from pastries to Wild Mushrooms Braised in Late-Harvest Wine.  Fabulous food she encounters in Venice, dishes created with local produce, and meals dreamt up and served with passion and imagination.  Hard to choose.  However, in the end it was the Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce that grabbed me.

9/14/2014

Sauce Allemande for Daring Cooks


 This month, the Daring Cooks got a little saucy! Jenni from the Gingered Whisk taught us the basics of how to make the five mother-sauces and encouraged us to get creative with them, creating a wide variety of delicious, fresh sauces in our very own kitchens.

As Jenni quotes Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: “Sauces are the splendor and glory of cooking, yet there is nothing serious or mysterious about making them. These are indispensable to the home cook”.  Well, I've been making all sorts of sauces for a great many years, being the old lady that I am, so the real job was to find the untried, the tasteful new horizon. 


I had a nice piece of ahi tuna, left from the previous night's dinner, and wanted to do something other than mash it up and make sandwiches, or slice it onto a big Salade Nicoise, (admittedly tempting in this still hot summer weather).  But just enough for a dinner for two.  Nicely sauced.

A famous French chef of the early 19th century, Antonin Carême said there were 5 classic "mother"sauces: Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato, and from these, which were given for our challenge, listed with their various derivatives, I thought the Sauce Allemande, an off-shoot of Velouté, sounded yummy and just right for that fish.


I first made a batch of stock from my hoarded freezer bag of goodies (mostly chicken bones with some carrot, onion and celery bits), strained it all, then put into the fridge to let the fat rise and harden, for lifting off.  Then you might reduce your stock to concentrate the flavor.



Sauce Allemande
   adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of stock, chicken, veal or vegetable
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon capers (optional, but nice with fish)

Melt the butter, add flour and then the stock and seasoning.  Simmer and stir until well combined and thickened.  Off the heat whisk well the egg yolk and cream and add gradually to the sauce whilst whisking.  Stir the sauce until slightly thickened.  Do not re-boil.  Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice, butter and capers.


Made a bit more than needed, but delightful tasting, subtle delicate flavors to aid and albeit a nice piece of fish, or veal would also be good.  Highly recommended.  I have plans to consider for the extra sauce.  And, that recipe made quite a bit of sauce.


Next night report: I ladled it onto steamed new potatoes as a side with tenderloin steaks.  Really, really yummy.

8/19/2014

Green Mango Clafoutis


This is being posted just to encourage you all to try, if you haven't already, a Dutch Baby, often known as Clafoutis, or just big puffy pancake with fruit of some sort on the bottom.  In my case sliced green mangoes.  You may also use green apples, tart plums or what have you.

Part of this is a sad commentary on human nature.  We had lots of green mangoes at our market, and when I asked where all the ripe ones were, was told, ripped off from the orchards!  People steal fruit in the night.  Unbelievable.  Well not really, thievery being what it has always been.

So we got green ones, as I had used them before in pies (just like tart green apples) as well as for Dutch Babies.  Just fantastic, tartness with sweetness, the caramelized fruit in a bit of butter, topped with puffy cream puff like pancake. 

This breakfast treat is simplicity itself, whips up so easily, trust me, and is nicely impressive, served at once.  You don't want to let it wait and deflate.



Green Mango Clafoutis

2-3 cups sliced tart fruit (depending on the size of your skillet - you want to cover the bottom)
1-2 tablespoons butter, plus 1/4 cup butter
1- 2  tablespoons sugar

Set oven to 425 F.  Melt the 2 tablespoons butter in an oven-proof skillet, add fruit and sugar.  Cook and stir until slightly softened, then add remaining butter, let melt and stir.

For the Clafoutis batter:
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour

Meanwhile, put eggs into blender and run at hi speed for 1 minute, with blender still running, add milk gradually.  Then slowly add the flour and continue whirling for 30 seconds more.  Pour batter over fruit.  Now bake until puffy and browned, about 30 minutes. 


That's all, enjoy!  Especially nice if your sous chef has fried sausages or bacon to accompany it.

7/19/2014

Potato Turnip Galette with Roast Chicken


Our current - June/July - read at Cook the Books Club is The Apprentice, My Life in the Kitchen, by Jacques Pépin, and what an entertaining writer he is!  I have to think when I've so much enjoyed a memoir.   From his time during the war years, frequently shuffled off to farms in the country for safety, working in his mother's series of restaurants, then a three year chef's apprenticeship at age 13, (you have to love that cover photo), on to cooking at Le Plaza Athénée, interrupted by the draft, which led to Pépin's serving as chef for France's new president, Charles de Gaulle, and eventually to life in America, including his adventures with famous chefs, research and development work for Howard Johnson, marriage, restaurant mangement, teaching, television appearances and writing numerous books on cooking.

The idea at Cook the Books Club is to read our bimonthly selection and post about whatever we are inspired by the book to cook.  What came most powerfully to mind for me was the lovely smell of roasting chicken, I don't know why.  Especially when liberally covered with chopped garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper, inside and out.  I roast my chicken for 1 1/2 hours at 400F in a cast iron pan. 

As Pépin states at the close of his memoir, "While I do enjoy the esoteric, refined food of the great restaurants, I eat that food only occasionally.  My everyday tastes tend to a fare of roast chicken, braised pork..."  Have to agree with that.

Note - Bob had carved off a leg before I got my shot.

Then Pépin's mention of serving "this roast with a gratin made of potatoes, a touch of garlic, cream, milk and cheese, which is called Gratin Dauphinois", caught my attention.  Even though the roast in question was lamb, that had to be my accompaniment.  In another place he writes of a galette (a flat cake) made of potatoes and mushrooms, so I decided to do a combination galette/gratin, one layer of grated potatoes and turnips, with a bit of onion, and milk, topped with Gruyere cheese, to go with the roast chicken.


I poured about 1 cup of whole milk over all, with some salt and pepper, and cooked my galette along with the chicken, thereby saving gas.  The cheese was added 15 minutes before finish (1 hour).


 Topped with chopped chives when it came out of the oven, this was a perfect side dish to the roast.  I would possibly coat the pan with more duck fat or butter next time to make serving easier.  Delicious!


All you need is a bit of salad for the final touch.  There are so many more recipes and ideas that I want to try from this wonderful memoir.  So sweet that he included several of his mother's favorites as well.  Do stop by and see what's cooking from the other contributors or read the book and cook something yourself before the 31st.