Friday, April 30, 2010

Did you know...

that Alinea welcomes vegetarians-- even vegans?? I was curious about what sort of innovative out-of-this-world tasting menu the Alinea kitchen could possibly come up without bacon, foie gras, fish, pork belly, or duck. Then I found this blog:

For the sake of comparison, here is the current tasting menu at Alinea:

Trotter's vegetable menu and Per Se's Tasting of Vegetables are other examples of exquisite tasting menus highlighting vegetables from renowned restaurants. I am beyond impressed and cannot wait for my next culinary adventure!

Herbed Parmesan Crisps


I love these little parmesan crisps. They can be made any size or shape and make an excellent garnish for a salad or soup, either whole or broken up. They can also be shaped into a cup and used to hold a filling, like a salad such as spinach salad or eggplant salad. I like to add freshly ground black pepper and an herb, such as rosemary, to the cheese, but the crisps are also wonderful when made simply with freshly shredded parmigiano reggiano. Enjoy!

Herbed Parmesan Crisps
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano, shredded
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. It is recommended to use a Silpat to keep the cheese from sticking. Alternatively you could grease the parchment paper with butter but the cheese already has a lot of oil so it can be rather greasy. Place a tablespoon of cheese on the sheet. Use your fingers to spread and flatten the mound into a circle 2" in diameter. Repeat with remaining cheese, leaving a 2" space between each mound. Season with pepper and sprinkle rosemary on top. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove from oven. Carefully remove crisp with a spatula and transfer to a power towel. Let cool. Use as garnish in salad or soup. Makes about 8 crisps.

For parmesan cups
Preheat oven to 325. To make 6 cups requires 1.5 cups of grated parmesan. Place 1/4 cup mound of parmesan on the parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet and flatten until mound is flat and 4.5 to 5" in diameter. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove from oven. Quickly use a thin spatula to remove the warm cheese and drape over the bottom of a small cup or into the empty cup of an egg carton, gently pressing into shape. Let cool. Can fill with salad and serve as an appetizer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wine: Frog's Leap Merlot

Even if you swore off Merlot after watching Sideways, Frog's Leap Merlot 2006 just might be the one that makes you go back to the shunned grape. The wine shows good fruit- plum, cherry, and currant- with an undertone of earthy herbs all integrated with cedar and cigar box notes. It has well-structured tannins and good acidity to pair with food. The icing on top: Frog's Leap winery farms organically in Rutherford, Napa Valley. $30.

Image from K&L

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes with crème fraîche and chives


I have been wanting to eat roasted potatoes lately. I realize that it is probably the last thing you want to eat when there are piles of green Spring vegetables everywhere, but humor me. I tossed fingerling potatoes with aromatic rosemary and garlic and roasted them until they were crisp and golden on the outside and tender on the inside. These yummy roasted potatoes can be served as an appetizer with crème fraîche and chives (and caviar, if desired) or as a fantastic accompaniment to a main course. Either way, they will disappear quickly!

Roasted fingerling potatoes with crème fraîche and chives
1 lb fingerling potatoes, about a dozen
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 + 1 tbsp olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

for serving
1/2 cup chilled crème fraîche
1 tbsp chives, minced
optional 1 oz black caviar (if use, skip the garlic)

Preheat oven to 400. Cut potatoes in half. In a medium bowl, combine potatoes with 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Toss until well coated.

Brush rimmed baking sheet with 1 tbsp oil. Arrange potatoes cut side down in a single layer on the prepared sheet. Roast for 35-40 min, until crisp and golden. Shake the pan at least twice during roasting to prevent from sticking, may need to use tongs to loosen.

Remove from oven. Season to taste, and serve hot as a side dish. Serves 4.

Or let cool slightly and arrange on platter and serve with bowls of creme fraiche and minced chives as a self-service hors d'oeuvre. Or can spread each potato with creme fraiche, top with chives, and serve pre-assembled on a platter. If desire, can serve with 1 oz black caviar, but be sure to skip the garlic.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Linguini with shiitake, garlic, and thyme

A while back, my mission to eat at Babbo was fulfilled: I decided to walk-in on a Thursday night and was prepared to wait as long as it took to get a table. I was unbelievably lucky to be seated within 20 minutes. The Babbo experience was even more amazing than I had imagined. Sure there's no fancy plating or formal service (who wants that anyway), but the food is perfectly executed and delicious. My absolute favorite dish of the night was the Garganelli with Funghi Trifolati: porcini mushrooms prepared in olive oil, garlic, and parsley with a delicate homemade tubular pasta, tossed in a weightless butter and wine sauce and doused tableside with freshly grated aged goat cheese. It was simply amazing. I loved the way the intense mushroom and garlic flavors persisted in every bite.

Inspired by the dish I had at Babbo, I wanted to create a simple pasta dish highlighting the strong flavor of earthy mushrooms. I am not a big fan of parsley, so I used thyme instead. I prepared shiitake mushrooms with olive oil, garlic, shallot, and thyme and tossed it with linguine in a light cream and wine sauce. I topped it off with a healthy grating of fresh parmigiano reggiano (after taking a picture). The result was pretty darn delicious!

Linguini with shiitake, garlic, and thyme
1 shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 oz shiitake mushrooms (or porcini if you can find them)
2 tsp fresh thyme (about 8-9 sprigs), minced (or parsley)
1 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb linguine or your choice of pasta

Boil water for pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Wash mushrooms thoroughly. Remove stems. Slice into 1/2" thick slices.

In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic, sauté for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Add mushrooms and thyme, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring continuously, until mushrooms are brown and tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Increase heat to high. Add wine and simmer for 3 minutes, until liquid is almost evaporated. Add heavy cream, simmer until sauce reduces to a consistency where it coats the back of a spoon. Add pasta, stir to coat well, cook about one minute to heat through. Add some of the reserved cooking water with pasta if necessary. Remove from heat and serve immediately with freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.

Serves 4.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar


Lately I find myself eating bowls of strawberries as a snack, even though they are not quite at their peak yet. To change things up, I made strawberries with balsamic vinegar. The result was intruguing, light, and tasty. The balsamic vinegar brings out the flavors of the strawberry, even if it is not the sweetest berry to start. And the liquid left at the bottom is so very wonderful. It feels silly to write a recipe for such a simple combination, but here is one to get you started.

Strawberries with balsamic vinegar
8 oz strawberries, washed, hulled, and quartered
1 tsp sugar, or to taste
1/4 tsp balsamic vinegar, the best you can afford
two quick grinds of black pepper
optional fresh mint leaves for garnish

Gently toss strawberries with sugar and let sit for 10 minutes up to an hour in a non-metallic bowl. Do not refrigerate. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, toss gently to coat well. Adjust sugar and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with a grind or two of black pepper, toss again. Serve in a glass garnished mint.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dal Makhani


Dal Makhani is a North Indian delicacy that is slow cooked over a low flame. It is made from whole black gram, urad, and kidney beans, rajma. This is my most favorite dal. I LOVE the creaminess of the slow cooked lentils and the mouthwatering flavors of the garlic and onion. Roasted cumin and ground coriander add a fragrant, subtle sweetness to the dal, tomato sauce adds a little acidity, and finishing with garam masala brightens the dish with complex, aromatic spices.

The dish is traditionally very rich in butter and cream... it's no coincidence that makhani means butter in Hindi. Of course when you cook it at home, you can adjust the amount of butter and cream to taste.

Dal Makhani
1/2 cup udad (whole black gram)
2 tbsp rajma (red kidney beans)
6 oz canned tomato sauce (unsalted)
1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp table salt (if used unsalted tomato sauce, otherwise to taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter, unsalted

For tempering
1.5 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chilis
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1" ginger, finely minced or shredded (about 1 tbsp)

Pick over dal and wash thoroughly four times. Soak in very hot water and keep covered for at least an hour. Pressure cook dal for about 20 minutes with 2 cups of water. If you don't have a pressure cooker, soak the dal overnight. Bring to a boil with 3 cups of water and let simmer for about 2 hours. Stir frequently and add water as needed. Cook until kidney beans are soft and black gram starts to break apart.

In a separate saucepan, heat 1.5 tbsp butter over medium heat. When starts to foam, add cumin seeds and dried red chilis. Once cumin becomes darker, add onion and cook until golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.

Stir in ginger and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, 1/4 tsp red cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp coriander powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to distribute the spices. Cook until sauce is reduced and thickly coats the onion mixture, about 4 minutes.

Add cooked dal with liquid, stir until well combined. Add another 1/2 tsp salt as necessary. (I used unsalted tomato sauce and added 1 tsp of table salt in total).  Simmer on medium low heat until dal is very soft, about 30-45 minutes, adding 1/2 cup of water at a time as needed. The steam made it difficult to take a picture but you get the idea...

When dal is cooked, reduce heat to low. Stir in 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1 tbsp butter, and 1/8 cup cream. Let simmer for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Serve hot with rice, naan, or roti. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wine: Lambert Bridge Viognier

I first tasted this wine at Lambert Bridge winery in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. The winery is set amongst beautiful grounds but the actual tasting area is rather sterile and filled with unfriendly staff. Honestly the winery dog greeted us more warmly and with more enthusiasm than any of the staff...

Anyway, back to the tasting. I have limited exposure to Viognier but, from what I have tasted, I find it to generally have high minerality and stone fruits. At Lambert Bridge, I found the presence of oak in the Viognier delightful and purchased a bottle of the 2007 vintage (for $32) thinking it would pair well with spicy food, especially as the weather warms up. We opened the bottle with some Indian food and it was a lovely combination. The crisp wine shows subtle peach and apricot, a hint of minerality, and bright acidity. Pronounced oak gives the wine good weight in the mouth and smooth texture. The finish is long and creamy. I wish the wine showed more fruit but overall it was a pleasant accompaniment to a spicy meal.

Image from Lambert Bridge

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chili Garlic Green Beans


A friend and I were just reminiscing about a plate of fiery hot, garlicky Sichuan green beans we shared at Big Bowl. As much as I love green beans tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and toasted almonds or with fresh herbs and butter, our conversation made my mouth water for the oh-so-wonderful combination of ginger, garlic, red chilis, sesame oil, and soy sauce. In my quick Asian-inspired dish, I used dried red chilis, but I think fresh red chilis would add a nice texture (and some color) to the dish. Flash frying the green beans allows them to retain their color and snap, but if you prefer to boil the green beans, do so until they are crisp tender.

Chili Garlic Green Beans
1 lb green beans, ends trimmed and discarded
2-3 dried or fresh red chilis, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
1 tbsp canola oil + 2 tbsp for frying
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar, unseasoned
2 tbsp hosin sauce
optional 1/2 tbsp hot chili garlic sauce
for garnish 2 tbsp peanuts, chopped or 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Prepare greens by trimming ends. Heat 2 tbsp canola oil in a wok over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add green beans. For crunchy beans, fry in batches for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcrowd the beans in the wok or they will steam. For soft, wrinkled beans, fry in batches for 5-6 minutes until shriveled and slightly browned. Remove with slotted spoon and drain in a paper-towel lined bowl. Repeat until all green beans are used.

If you don't want to fry the beans, you can boil them until crisp tender. Bring water to a boil, add green beans and cook uncovered for 6-7 minutes. Drain and plunge beans into an ice bath to stop cooking for about a minute. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp canola oil over medium high heat. Add chopped red chilis. Stir, frying for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger and garlic. Fry until garlic becomes fragrant and lightly browns, about 2 minutes. Add seasame oil, toast for about a minute.

Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, and hosin sauce, stir to combine well. Quickly toss in green beans and mix to coat well. Remove from heat.

Serve garnished with chopped peanuts (or toasted sesame seeds). Serves 4 as a side, but seriously, I could probably eat a pound of beans like this.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Brownie Husband: The perfect blend of rich fudge and emotional intimacy

I heart Tina Fey. In case you haven't seen it yet, this is kind of awesome:

And to my RSS subscribers, I can't figure out how to get the video to show in the feed. So for now you will have to click through to the post to see the video. Let me know if you have a solution!

Grilled Cheese Academy

Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food (especially with tomato basil soup, mmm). You loved it as a kid. An old roommate once told me that as a child she called it a "GIRL" cheese sandwich and thought boys weren't allowed to eat it. How adorable is that? It may have even been the first thing you ever cooked on your own.

Regardless of how you feel about white bread and Kraft singles, the Wisconsin dairy farmers want to convince you that melted cheese on grilled bread can be grown-up and gourmet.

Introducing the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Academy, a site that pays homage to the most tasty, interesting, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches you could ever imagine. And it even has tips on how to make the perfect grilled cheese. Check out the recipes and jazz up your sandwich. My favorite of the bunch was The Sergeant Pepper with pepper jack and cheddar cheese, roasted cauliflower, and caramelized onion on sourdough. Is it lunchtime yet?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sukha Aloo (Indian-spiced sauteed potatoes)


I so wish this picture was scratch 'n sniff so that you could savor the aromas of the sukha aloo (Hindi for dry potatoes). Think perfectly seasoned potatoes with a nicely formed crust of ground coriander and dried mango powder and dusted with roasted cumin, mustard, and coriander seeds. This dish is inspired by my mom's sukha aloo, a favorite lunchtime dish served with hot pooris, fried flatbread. The amchur (dried mango powder) adds a certain tartness/sourness to the dish that is unmatchable by lemon, tamarind, or vinegar. I love using whole spices in a dry dish- it adds a noticeable texture to every bite as opposed to grinding the spices into powder.

Sukha aloo is a prime example of why I love cooking Indian food... you start with the simplest ingredients and create phenomenal, hearty dishes full of complex flavors that satisfy your cravings in a ridiculously healthy way. Seriously it will blow your expectations of potatoes out of the water.

If you cannot find amchur (it is available at Indian grocery stores), you may substitute lemon juice. I used 2 large russet potatoes because it was what I had on hand, but I recommend using any variety of potato that will keep shape after boiling, such as fingerling, new potatoes, or round white potatoes.

Sukha Aloo (Indian-spiced Sauteed Potatoes)
1.5 lb potatoes
2 tbsp canola oil
pinch of hing (asofetida)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 serrano chili, seeded and quartered lengthwise
1/2" ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add 1 tsp for a spicier dish)
2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Boil potatoes (or microwave) until can pierce with a fork through the center. Do not overcook. Let cool. Peel and cut into large 3/4" to 1" chunks. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Once oil is hot and shimmery, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, add a pinch of asofetida. Add ginger and green chili, skin side down. Let cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add potatoes. Season with salt and spices- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 2 tbsp coriander powder, and 1/2 tbsp mango powder. Stir to coat evenly. Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet with lid, cooking for 5-10 minutes until potatoes are soft.

Once potatoes are done, remove lid and turn heat up to high. Drizzle with a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, stir. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp of coriander powder and 1/2 tsp mango powder. Stir to distribute spices. Cook uncovered for another 2-3 minutes to crisp the potatoes.

Remove from heat. Serve with plain yogurt.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Best New Chefs 2010


F&W just announced their best new chefs for 2010 and the list of winners includes Chicago's very own Mike Sheerin at Blackbird! Sheerin came to Blackbird from Wylie Dufresne's WD-50 and is clearly a chef to be watched closely. If it is any indication, the beloved Paul Kahan was bestowed the same honor at Blackbird in 1999, the first of many accolades. According to Kahan's bio:
After a brief, post-college stint as a computer scientist, Kahan took a job in the kitchen of Erwin Drechsler’s Metropolis, where Kahan quickly realized his own true calling. Throughout his 15-year apprenticeship and advancement in Drechsler’s kitchens at Metropolis and erwin, Kahan developed his own relationships with Midwestern farmers and integrated many of their offerings into dishes that he created for those restaurants, and later for award-winning chef Rick Bayless at Topolobampo.

In 1999, shortly after Blackbird opened, Food & Wine placed Kahan on their Best New Chefs list, recognizing his highly individual approach to cooking and the talent that Chicago diners have celebrated for years. Years of accolades and awards followed until, in 2007, Kahan was honored with a nomination for James Beard Outstanding Chef, an amazing achievement for a chef from a small restaurant without a cookbook or TV show to promote his name nationally. Paul earned his nomination by working five days a week in the kitchen with “his guys,” commuting year-round on his bicycle.
Image from The Publican

And NY folks, Missy Robbins at a voce also won best new chef. Have any of you been to a voce? I just might have to check it out the next time I'm in town!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The end is right there.

A very big day for me is exactly one month away. It is exciting, frightening, and surreal all at the same time. I have dreamt about this moment for years and cannot believe it is finally coming to fruition... The next month is going to be absolutely crazy, but hopefully come noon on May 5th there will be wonderful things to celebrate. The occasion might even call for some fine champagne. Perrier-Jouët anyone?

I have a good feeling about this, after all cinco de mayo is already one of my favorite days of the year. ♥

On a totally unrelated note, my pre-ordered copy of Mario Batali's new cookbook Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking arrived yesterday. I am not allowed to open it until I meet a super important deadline in exactly two weeks! Such torture.

Image from Amazon

Baked eggs with thyme, rosemary, and parmesan


Meet the star of my Easter brunch- baked eggs with fresh herbs and parmesan. It is WONDERFUL, looks elegant, and is a refreshing change from eggs as usual. The flavors of the fresh herb-parmesan mixture are still lingering in my mouth. So if you are tired of the same old way of eating eggs, you must try this ridiculously tasty and super easy recipe.

Baked eggs with thyme, rosemary, and parmesan (Adapted from Ina Garten)
4 large organic eggs
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
1.5 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tbsp butter
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat broiler for 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, thyme, garlic, and parmigiano reggiano and set aside. Crack two eggs each into two small bowls without breaking the yolk. Place two ovensafe ramekins onto a baking sheet. Add 3/4 tbsp heavy cream and 1/4 tbsp butter to each ramekin. Place baking sheet under broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Carefully remove baking sheet. Quickly pour two eggs into each ramekin. Sprinkle parmesan-herb-garlic mixture evenly on top. Generously season with salt and pepper.

Place under broiler for 6 more minutes, until the whites are set and top is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let sit for one minute. The eggs will continue to cook. Serve hot with toasted brioche and a side of fruit.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roasted Asparagus, Three Ways

Piles of asparagus = Spring is here. Here are three simple roasted asparagus recipes to get your mouth watering just in time for asparagus season. What is your favorite way to prepare asparagus?

Roasted Asparagus with Garlic and Lemon Zest
1 lb asparagus (about 15 medium spears), tough ends removed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, very thinly sliced crosswise
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
zest of one lemon, finely grated

Preheat oven to 425. Lay asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss garlic over the spears. Season with salt and pepper. Roll spears in mixture to make sure evenly coated. Sprinkle lemon zest on top. Roast asparagus for 15-18 min until tender and lightly browned, shaking the pan a few times to flip asparagus. Remove from oven. Transfer asparagus to serving platter with tongs. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Vinegar
Preheat oven to 500. Toss asparagus with 1.5 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper until well coated. Roast asparagus for about 10 minutes, shaking pan every 2 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Remove from oven and drizzle with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat well.

Roasted Asparagus with Toasted Almonds
Preheat oven to 425. Toss asparagus with 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 thinly sliced garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 15-18 minutes until tender and lightly browned, shaking pan a few times. Remove from oven and toss with 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Walnut Pesto, Basil Pesto


My mom used to always tell me to eat more walnuts because they are so rich in omega-3s. I would occasionally toss walnuts into my salad but never really liked them. That is until I had fresh walnuts... I was captivated by the delicate sweetness laced with a slightly tannic bitterness. So now I try to incorporate walnuts into more dishes.

On a side note, the high polyunsaturated fat content of walnuts makes them highly perishable, so they get rancid quickly. You can read more about how to properly select and store walnuts here.

Anyway, I really like the wild mushroom ravioli at Fox & Obel. There's no cheese in the stuffing so the wild mushroom flavor is quite pronounced and requires a delicate and not so overpowering sauce.

I previously tossed the ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce with toasted walnuts, and it was a beautiful combination. I also thought it was fantastic with a simple white wine sauce. Saute garlic, shallot, and fresh thyme in unsalted butter until fragrant, season with salt and pepper, add a glug or two of dry white wine and reduce, finishing with just a touch of cream. It is light but packed with flavor and lets the mushrooms stand out. I loved it!

This time I decided to try the wild mushroom ravioli with a walnut pesto. It was tasty and complemented the mushrooms quite well, but I found the walnut pesto to be a bit too rich for Spring. It would be a perfect hearty meal for a cold dreary day. Plus I have to admit... when it comes to pesto, basil pesto (garlicky not lemony) is still my absolute favorite.

Wild Mushroom ravioli with Walnut Pesto
1 lb wild mushroom ravioli
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 cup walnut pesto, see below

Boil water for pasta. Cook ravioli as directed and drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Pour walnut pesto into skillet and stir in heavy cream. Quickly add ravioli and toss to coat well. If needed, add some of the reserved liquid. Remove from heat. Serve immediately, garnishing with walnuts.

Walnut Pesto
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and cooled
optional 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted and cooled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, coarsely grind walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic. Continue to pulse while pouring the olive oil into the blender until fully incorporated and smooth. Add cheese and puree for a minute. Season with salt and pepper.  If you are not using all of the walnut pesto, you can refrigerate or freeze it in an air tight container with a thin layer of oil on top. You can use the walnut pesto as you would any other pesto- on crostini, pasta, pizza, or meat/fish. Makes about 1 cup.

Basil Pesto
1/8 cup walnuts
1/8 cup pine nuts
4 cloves of garlic (I told you, I like mine garlicky)
2 cups of fresh basil leaves, packed
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

In a blender, coarsely grind walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic. Add basil. Pulse until finely chopped. Continue to pulse while pouring the olive oil into the blender until fully incorporated and smooth. Add cheese and puree for a minute. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or store in refrigerator or freezer in an air tight container with a thin layer of oil on top.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Marinated Feta with fresh herbs


Long before I ever tried Yarra Valley Persian Fetta, I have loved marinated feta. Yes, I meant to type fetta with two t's instead of one... apparently only the Greek variety can be called feta with one t. Marinated feta makes an excellent antipasto or salad addition. And you can find many uses for the flavorful olive oil used as a marinade-- can toss it with pasta, use it in a dressing for mixed greens, or use it as dipping oil for bread.

I found Greek feta at my favorite cheese shop... there were huge chunks stored in a vat covered in brine. It was perfect. I did a taste comparison with French fetta, which was waaay creamier than the Greek kind. For the purpose of marinating the cubes, I opted to stick to the authentic Greek kind but I don't think it really matters.

A basic way to marinate feta is with fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme, bay leaves, fresh lemon zest, and of course good extra virgin olive oil. I like to throw in red chilis and slightly cracked peppercorns for a little kick.

Variations are easy (don't be shy), but be careful if you add garlic because it *must* be consumed within a few days (otherwise it can lead to food poisoning). Another excellent antipasto is feta with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh rosemary, red chilis, black peppercorns, dried oregano, and coriander seeds. You want to store the marinated feta in a tightly sealed sterile jar (run it through the dishwasher to sterilize).

Marinated feta with fresh herbs
8 oz Greek feta, cut into large 1" cubes
lots of sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
3 bay leaves (I used dried)
zest of one lemon
4 red chilis (I used dried)
1 heaping tbsp black peppercorns, slightly cracked
1 cup good extra virgin olive oil

Place cubed feta in sterile jar, layering herbs, red chilis, and peppercorns in between. Add lemon zest.

Pour olive oil into the jar until the feta is covered. Keep in fridge and consume within two weeks. It tastes better every day, but I can hardly make it last that long!

Marinated feta with sun-dried tomatoes
Skip the bay leaves, thyme, and lemon zest. Add 1 tbsp dried oregano, 1 tsp coriander seeds, and 4 oz sun-dried tomatoes (not the kind that's packed in olive oil). Layer cubed feta, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs, and spices as before. Cover with good olive oil. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli


I have been craving broccoli something fierce. You can imagine my delight when I spotted extremely fresh broccoli at the grocery store. I was in the mood for crispy, well-seasoned broccoli so I turned to Ina Garten's fabulous recipe for parmesan-roasted broccoli.

I am now convinced that this is the best way to prepare broccoli. I have a feeling that even my nephew would eat broccoli this way and his favorite food is cheeto. I loved it so much that I will have to make it again tomorrow!

Ina's original recipe calls for pine nuts and fresh basil, but I left those out. Make sure the broccoli florets are thoroughly dried. If there is residual moisture, the florets will NOT get crispy in the oven. And crispy broccoli is what makes this dish so deliciously wonderful.

Roasted Broccoli (Adapted from Ina Garten)
2 lb broccoli florets (thoroughly dried)
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3.5 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp parmigiano reggiano, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 425. Place broccoli florets on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 2.5 tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle garlic over the florets. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until florets are well coated. Be sure the florets are in a single layer on the baking sheet, otherwise they might steam rather than roast. Roast in oven 20-25 minutes until broccoli are crisp tender and tips are browned like below. I shook the pan to flip the broccoli after about 10 minutes in the oven.

Remove from oven. Transfer to large bowl. Immediately toss with 1 tbsp olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and parmigiano reggiano. Serve hot.

Serves 2-3 as a side.
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