Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today's guest blogger is Colleen. Thanks, Colleen!

Both of my 10 year old twin girls are home sick. They are watching endless episodes of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody on Deck (think Love Boat. Think Teenagers. Think it is too early to start drinking.)

So the alternative, while trapped: Carrot Soup

Making soup. Of course, one is limited to what is on hand. I have onions, celery, some shredded carrots, some baby carrots, and a giant can of chicken stock. I also have some turmeric which I bought because I seem to remember that this spice is supposed to do wonderful things for you. Of course you probably have to eat a cup a day, but still.

While the onions, celery and shredded carrots are softening in some olive oil, I went online to see if carrots should spend time with turmeric. Wolfgang Puck has a recipe that involves both, plus some ginger – Pan Puck Asian. I am not in possession of ginger. I’m going to just stick with garlic.

Results to follow.

Added 1 ½ teaspoons turmeric with two minced garlic cloves to the sautéed veggies. Then added chopped carrots and 6 cups chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Cooked for about 30 minutes. It needed something, and as some of you know, I don’t do cilantro, so I put in some chopped basil and cooked a bit longer. Blended the whole thing up (but not too smooth – I like a bit of texture) and added about 2 Tablespoons butter (on principle). I can’t tell exactly if it needs something else. I tried a little lemon zest with about ¼ cup in a small bowl – too overpowering. I think I’m leaving it as is. A nice, comforting soup. And mostly healthy – as it has only 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Not bad for a giant Le Creuset pot of soup!

The girls have moved onto What a Girl Wants – a sweet movie starring Amanda Bynes and the incomparable Colin Firth. Walt D. would have liked it. There are some marvelous British character actors – it is a guilty pleasure for me and a huge improvement on Zack and Cody. Afternoon is saved!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Grilled Lamb with Onions & Rosemary-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Last Friday Christine had Ted & Laddie over for dinner since they were in town for their annual visit to the cattle show in Denver. C and I talked in advanced about her menu --- that's one of my favorite things to do --- and she settled on trying out a new lamb recipe, roasted veggies and a salad with our Moroccan dressing* to finish. Here are two recipes she'd like to share. Thanks, C!
* I'll post this at a later date. It's an unusual, memorable dressing.

Grilled Lamb with Onions
1 leg of lamb, 4 to 6 lbs., boned and butterflied
6 medium-size onions, peeled and left whole
1 c. peanut oil
2 c. dry red wine
6 cloves garlic, chopped coarse
2 t. cracked peppercorns
2 t. salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 t. dried tarragon
1/2 t. dried basil
Prick onion to allow marinade absorption. Place meat and onions in a big bag or pan for marinating. Combine all of the remaining ingredients to make marinade and pour over meat and onions. Marinate at least 6 hours. Turn often. Put onions on grill first -- depending on size, between 20 - 30 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Concurrently, grill lamb for about 8 minutes per side, a total of 16 minutes, for rare.
Adapted from a Jr. League Cookbook, The Cotton Country Collection, Monroe, LA

Rosemary - Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 pounds, about 3, white sweet potatoes (not yams), peeled cut lengthwise, into 1/4 inch thick spears
2 T. canola oil
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil 2 rimmed baking sheets. Combine potato spears, oil, rosemary, cumin, salt and cayenne and toss well to coat. Arrange potato spears in a single layer on the baking sheets. Roast potatoes, rotating pans, and tossing potatoes every 10 minutes, until lightly golden and tender, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

White Bean Puree with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Today's guest blogger is Jeanne. She's sharing a recipe that she made recently to take to a dinner party with her friends. Sounds yummy.

Here’s the recipe….I don’t think you need all the salt. Pita bread is hard to find in Taipei so I just served it with toasted baguette slices…worked just fine--- Jeanne

White Bean Purée with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Bon Appétit March 2004

A twist on hummus, this sunset-colored dip also makes a delicious sandwich spread. Allow time for soaking the beans overnight.

Yield: Makes 4 cups

1 cup dried Great Northern beans
4 cups water
1/2 small onion, quartered
2 4-inch-long fresh rosemary sprigs
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup (or more) boiling water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Lemon wedges
Toasted pita triangles

Place beans in medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover beans by 3 inches. Let stand overnight.

Drain beans well. Return to saucepan. Add 4 cups water, onion, and rosemary sprigs. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are soft, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs. Drain beans and onion; cool to room temperature.

Using on/off turns, puree drained beans and onion, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and chopped rosemary in processor until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Puree until blended. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup boiling water. Thin with more water by tablespoonfuls if necessary. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Transfer white bean puree to wide shallow bowl; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with parsley. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with toasted pita triangles.

Place beans in medium saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover beans by 3 inches. Let stand overnight.

Drain beans well. Return to saucepan. Add 4 cups water, onion, and rosemary sprigs. Bring to boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are soft, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs. Drain beans and onion; cool to room temperature.

Using on/off turns, puree drained beans and onion, sun-dried tomatoes, shallots, and chopped rosemary in processor until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Puree until blended. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup boiling water. Thin with more water by tablespoonfuls if necessary. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Transfer white bean puree to wide shallow bowl; drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with parsley. Garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with toasted pita triangles. © CondéNet, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pasta Experiment on a Snow Day

I've been talking about making fresh pasta for so long that Tom gives me grief about it every time I bring it up. He gave me a pasta machine for Christmas --oh, somewhere between 7 and 10 years ago. Well, now it's officially been used, and it will go back in the closet to collect dust again. Molto Mario I am not!

Won Ton wrappers are so much easier to use for making ravioli. But it was fun making a mess, I'll admit. And the fillings and sauce I made are recipes worth keeping.

We had another snowstorm today, so I used what I had at home instead of venturing out. I like the challenge of creating something from what's in the fridge and the pantry.

The pasta dough is simple to make but requires a Cuisinart which I rarely use these days.

Egg Pasta
4 eggs
2 cups flour plus 1/2 cup
2 tsp. olive oil

Per the Williams -Sonoma cookbook on pasta I used, whiz it until it forms a ball, stopping every 10 pulses to add 1 Tbsp. of flour at a time until it isn't sticky. Knead it on a floured surface for 1 to 1 minutes then form it into a ball. Put it under a bowl and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, I cobbled together a sauce from things I had.

Chunky Tomato Sauce

1 onion chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots chopped
1 tsp. celery seed (I didn't have any fresh celery)
1 small can diced tomatoes with Italian flavors (basil, garlic, etc.)
1 large can crushed tomatoes with Italian flavors

Saute onion and carrots until translucent, add celery seed and continue to cook until barely beginning to brown. Add tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes.

The fillings were made using leftovers and adapting Williams-Sonoma recipes.

Chicken Ravioli Filling

1 lb. cooked chicken (I used leftover rotisserie chicken and a can of chicken)
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg
2 T. minced fresh parsley ( I used dry)
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper

Pulse the chicken only until it is minced. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until just combined. Turn into a bowl and cool in the fridge for 1 hour before using.

Mushroom Ravioli Filling

Olive oil for sauteing
1 lb cleaned mushrooms, sliced ( I used shitake, baby bella, porcini but white are fine)
1 t. fresh thyme ( I used dry)
1 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 large egg yolk

Saute the mushrooms and add the thyme and salt and pepper until juices evaporate and they are golden brown, approximately 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Scrape the mixture into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse just until blended. Turn into a bowl and chill for at least an hour.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Steel Cut Oatmeal by Guest Blogger, Mary

Our neighbor and friend, Mary, is the guest blogger today. Thanks, Mary!

I have a confession to make. I have two wonderful cats, but one is a milkaholic. She, Mittens, has me trained first thing in the morning, to give her a little milk in a bowl. I give her just a tablespoon. All she has to do is stand by the refrigerator, look cute, and meow. And she has me at meow.....and she does complete me.

After this ritual, Mittens sits on the counter and watches me prepare breakfast and pack Patrick's lunch. Lately I have been interested in anything-and-everything that Oprah's Dr. Oz says. I heard him on XM radio last week talking about what he eats for breakfast, i.e., a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with flax seed oil. It sounded interesting, so I thought that I would try these steel cut oats. Wegman's has a wonderful natural foods department, and a fellow named Charlie helped me to find a tin of John McCann's Oatmeal and a bottle of organic flaxseed oil.

Steel cut oats are the inner part of the oat grain and they are wonderfully chewy and nutritious.....more B vitamins, protein, calcium, and fiber than other oats. And don't we all love fiber these days????? Flaxseed oil is a good source of Omega 3 fatty acid.

Cooking steel cut oats takes longer than regular oatmeal. But I made the regular recipe last night (four servings) and then put it into the fridge. This morning I scooped out a portion, added about a tsp. of flaxseed oil, and warmed it in the microwave. I will say, I thought that these steel cut oats were delicious!!!!!! A nutty flavor, chewy, filling. Yum, yum, yum.

Below is the very simple recipe. See what you think!

How to Cook Steel Cut Oats
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly stir in 1 cup of oats and heat on high until the oatmeal begins to thicken (about 4-6 minutes). Then reduce the hear, cover the pan with a lid, and simmer for about half an hour. Serve with flaxseed oil or fresh fruit (blueberries, rasberries), or add a little milk, honey or brown sugar. Heaven!

There is a way to reduce the preparation time for busy mornings. The night before, boil 4 cups of water in the saucepan and then turn off the heat. Stir in a cup of oats, cover the pan, and let sit overnight. In the morning, you'll just need to cook the oatmeal over low heat for 10 mintues or so.

So voila! Onto getting out of my jammies and seizing the day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Food Blog, Are You Crazy?

Just a little crazy, but here are some reasons why I started this blog:
  • It's winter here, and very, very cold. This is something fun to do inside.

  • If I blog about food, then maybe I will eat less --and better.
  • Selfishly, I want to encourage Tom to cook a lot after he retires. And he likes an audience; therefore, the blog.

  • It's a way to channel my obsessive, need-to-do-something-new personality without doing something as ridiculous as I did last winter when I made the photo book/show without a clue.

  • I miss my faraway family and friends-- so I thought I could rope them into doing this with me-- so we can stay connected.

  • I have visions of being invited into other people's kitchen-- or them coming to mine-- to cook together -- like Julia & Jacques --and documenting it for fun ---like when Jeanne showed me her grandmother's Italian cooking methods.

  • It will be an easy place for me to post recipes that people ask for.

  • And then I can find the recipes easily in the blog index. I often forget how I do things or which book has what recipe and this will be a good way to capture them for future use.

  • Our kids are starting to show some interest in cooking-- just a glimmer --and we want to encourage them.

  • I can play with color photography! And practice using my little camera.

  • It will help me learn my Lightroom 2 program, especially if I have to do it daily.

  • I needed some relief. I saw Arianna Huffington interviewed about blogging and she said that the secret is to blog about something you are passionate about; hence, food! Up to this point, I have been blogging on my art blog, but it is way too serious sometimes.

  • Anne, my art buddy, said 2009 is going to be a year of fun for her. And that clicked with me. This blog is purely for fun. (But indirectly I think it will fuel my other work.)

  • Mary, a.k.a., mittensinthekitchen, gave me an article that says happy people are often in a zone called "flow." They're absorbed in a challenging, but not overwhelming, task.

  • Blogging is really easy -- once you get the hang of it. And therapeutic. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tom's Dinosaur BBQ Meat Loaf

Tom's favorite meatloaf recipe is in the Dinosaur BBQ cookbook that Sarah gave him. He's been making variations of it since 2002. As he is known to do, he doctored the recipe again when he made it on Sunday. This time he added chopped bacon and used store bought croutons instead of bread. This recipe takes a while to make and bake, so he usually does it while watching football or the like. Plan on 3 hours from start to putting it on the table.

You'll need an extra large mixing bowl for assembly and baking sheets to go under the loaf pans or your oven will be a mess.

This recipe is so fail proof that it tastes good even when you leave the eggs out like Tom did this time. Must have been an engrossing football game.

So, here's Tom's way of making---

Not Your Mama's Meatloaf
pg 47, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Cookbook

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1.5-2 cups chopped onions
1 -1.5 cups chopped peppers (he prefers orange, or red, in addition to green)
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (his addition)(omit if you don't like the heat)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
1 heaping Tbsp. minced garlic
1.5 lbs. ground beef (sometimes he uses a mix of beef, pork & veal)
3/4 to 1 lb. bulk sweet Italian sausage (he uses hot)
5 slices soft white bread (he uses whatever we have;this time it was croutons)
1 1/4 cups of Dinosaur BBQ Mutha Sauce (available in the grocery store,or recipe is pg 165 which I can provide if there is interest)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Saute onions and peppers with a pinch of salt and pepper until soft. Add garlic and cook a little longer. Scrape into a large bowl. Crumble in the ground beef and sausage and mix it all together with your hands.

Wet the bread with water, then squeeze out all of the liquid. Chop it up and mix into the meat mixture. Pour in 3/4 cup of the Mutha Sauce and sprinkle on the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, 1 Tbsp. salt, and lots of pepper. Mix with your hands. Add the eggs and mix it up one more time.

Depending on how much mixture you have, use one large or two smaller loaf pans. Press the mixture in to the pan(s) and slather the remaining sauce on top. Place pan(s) on a cookie sheet to catch drippings. Bake for 1.5 hours. Remove and let sit for 20 minutes. Resting is important if you want to be able to slice it. Drain any extra fat before serving.

We baked both loaves and froze the extra one for future use.

Serves 6 to 8 plus leftovers

Monday, January 19, 2009

Science of Cilantro

The guest blogger today is Colleen and here's what she has to share. Thanks, Colleen!

Cilantro is noxious to some, pure happiness to others.

I actually SPOKE to the food genius Harold McGee (he wrote the food bible the Science of Food) about this when he spoke at a Palo Alto library function. He said something along the lines of everyone has their own individual universe of taste in his or her mouth.

So although most of us can agree upon chocolate and potato chips, you will always find exceptions, because everyone experiences a food individually and uniquely. And cilantro has chemical properties similar to those found in soap, which is why some people think they’ve mistakenly taken a swig from the Pantene bottle when they taste cilantro.

Interestingly, the same chemicals do not appear in coriander, the dried form of cilantro, and I eat that with no problem. So QED.

I will tell you that Ina Garten doesn’t like cilantro either and once I found that out I was able to get over my shame spiral about this most unfortunate shortcoming of mine.

The real name of the book is On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. The entry on cilantro is as follows:

"Coriander. Coriander or cilantro is said to be the world’s most widely consumed fresh herb. Coriandrum sativum is a native of the Middle East. Its seed has been found in Bronze Age settlements and in the tomb of King Tut; it was taken early to China, India, and Southeast Asia, and later to Latin America, and its rounded, notched, tender leaves are popular in all these regions. In Central and South America they came to replace Culantro, an indigenous relative with very similar flavor, but with large tough leaves. Coriander herb is not very popular in the Mediterranean and Europe, where its aroma is sometimes described as “soapy.” The main component of the aroma is a fatty aldehyde, decenal, which also provides the “waxy” note in orange peel. Decenal is very reactive, so coriander leaf quickly loses its aroma when heated. It’s therefore used most often as a garnish or in uncooked preparations. In Thailand, the root of the herb is an ingredient in some pounded spice pastes; the root contains no decenal and instead contributes woody and green notes, something like parsley."

Page 407, copyright 2004, Scribner.

This book, in case you are not familiar with it, is NOT a recipe book.

It is like an encyclopedia about food and the process of cooking. Almost all serious professional chefs have a copy in the kitchen. It is a tremendously useful book to have and comes in handy for science reports, too.

It is the sort of book you pull down and leaf through and find out the most interesting facts such as the daily caffeine consumption in milligrams per capita of Northern European countries as compared to the United States, sauce recipes from ancient Rome, how to temper chocolate, and a chart of Poisonings Caused by Toxic Algae.

Really, how can you go another day without a copy?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tomorrow's Special Guest Blogger Is ....

Colleen, a great cook, and a witty, wonderful writer who happens to be my sister-in-law.

She doesn't blog--- yet ---so I am coercing her into it by making her my first guest blogger. She is going to share some of her cooking knowledge and unique spin on life tomorrow and I hope many times in the future.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Good Rice Makes a Difference

When I worked at Dansk Designs eons ago, the owner, Ted Nierenberg inspired me in many ways. He loved to cook. He loved to travel. He loved photography. He loved to garden. He loved his family. He loved running his business. He and I had a lot in common. But one of the ways he may not realize he inspired me was his attention to the little things that make everyday eating better.

One of these things is rice. I remember him taking me to a food market lined with stalls --someplace in Westchester that I can no longer recall--and showing me the bins of rice and how different they can be. This was long before the nice grocery stores we have now. He sought out places like this. A long grain basmati was our mission that day.

Up to that point, I was a Uncle Ben's girl. I had survived on it, mixed with a can of beans, during my poorest days when I was without a real job. I took home my bag of good basmati and discovered the difference. It was aromatic, and more flavorful, with a slightly nutty taste.

Don't get me wrong, Uncle Ben's is fine. But good rice is better. I couldn't get anything else for a long time after I moved to rural New York. Then I found a place in Louisiana where I could mail order a 10 lb. bag and it was fantastic rice.

Eventually, we got a Wegman's and the food supply in general improved, so we now have great rice choices. This is our everyday rice, an excellent brand, Texmati, sold nationwide. It's an American rice from Alvin, Texas. It smells great when it's cooking, a little like popcorn. They were the first to successfully grow basmati rice in the U.S. and they grow it in a sustainable, organic way, according to their website.

Growing up (in suburban Houston) there were rice paddies near my home, but I never appreciated what a good product Texan rice was and is.