A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Years Resolutions

Last night we had a wonderful post Christmas feast of Scottadito- an Italian dish of grilled baby lamb chops. The chops are simply seasoned and grilled then a simple sauce of sautéed garlic, reduced wine is added and garnished with a bit of mint. I must admit it was nice to get back to this simple fare.

This week brings in the New Year. After our Christmas eave feast of seven fishes, Christmas day roast beef, and too many Christmas cookies, I begged for simple Japanese food for new years. I will tell you that the Christmas roast was excellent and the Yorkshire puddings were so awful I didn’t even serve them- next year I will stick with tried and true popovers.

In the year to come I hope to try cooking and eating new food items. While I love to cook what I consider to be French bistro fare, I hope to open my kitchen to more Mexican, and Rustic Italian and even Moroccan style fare. A good friend of mine is in the process of moving down south and promised to send some southern recipes to me for the blog.

Happy cooking in the New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Panettone Bread Pudding

Pannettone is a delicious Italian sweet bread studded with fruits and sometimes chocolate. It is most often found in Italian specialty stores around Christmas time. Enjoy extra Panettone toasted for breakfast or as a light dessert with champagne. Even people who think they don’t like bread pudding will enjoy this flavorful holiday dish.

½ of a 2 pound Pannettone (the other have can be sliced and frozen, although I just eat mine for breakfast)- so, take the half of the loaf or 1 pound of pannettone and cut it into ½” cubes set aside in a mixing bowl

In a second smaller bowl whisk together

1cup heavy cream
1 cup half and half
6 egg yolks
Scant ½ teaspoon or regular sugar (not kosher)
Zest of 1 orange plus the juice from ½ orange (about 2 tablespoons of juice)

Whisk the items together then pour over the panettone. Let mixture soak into the bread for a moment or two while you butter a 10 ½” ovenproof dish.

Preheat oven to 325Fill a large roasting dish with a bout 1” water. Place in oven. Scoop the Panettone mixture, including the eggy batter into the baking dish, and then place the baking dish in the oven (inside the roasting dish) to bake for 1hour 15 minutes. (It seems like a pain, but the water bath will keep the mixture from burning or over cooking.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas cookies

This is a beautiful pre-Christmas day. Greeting cards have been sent, presents have been wrapped and now all that is left is the food, the most enjoyable aspect of planning. This past week I bought a new cookbook, well, new to me. The Way to Cook by Julia Child. I was intrigued by a method she used for cooking chicken, she used the broiler. She cut out the chicken’s backbone and flattened the chicken, a method used in Italian cooking for chicken under a brick. Then, Julia basted and broiled the bird. I tried her method yesterday morning and ended up with a beautiful looking, but undercooked bird. The whole thing resulted in me carving up the chicken anyway and sticking the raw pink meat back in the oven to roast. I hated to carve up the bird because it looked so pretty, put there is nothing worse than serving raw chicken meat. Perhaps there is another way. The final “roasted” bird was served with about 3 quarts of chicken stock simmered down to a thick juice and garnished with fresh herbs.

Yesterday afternoon was pasta day. We made grandmas Ravioli.

Last night was French onion soup. I made it and let it cool, today it will get popped in my freezer, because it freezes well, and will be served on Christmas day with Ravioli, roast beef and all of the trimmings.

Today is all fun. Its cookie day! Cookies get started a bit early because I make Biscotti, which tend not to go bad, as they are meant to be crunchy. The day before Christmas we will make Pizelle (you need a special Iron for these Italian treats) and French Madeleines. Which do you think Santa will like best?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shrimp and Chorizo Empanadas

Both children and adults love empanadas. Have them as an after school snack filled with cheese, chocolate or serve them before dinner stuffed with Spanish chorizo sausage and chicken or shrimp. I often make life easy for myself and buy pre formed Empanada dough. The dough that is sold by Goya works well for me because there is paper between each disk. The dough is often sold frozen, so if you don’t find it at your market you might ask them to carry it, or order over the Internet. Defrost before using.

2 packages of Goya Empanada dough
1 pound of shrimp, shells removed
1oz of chorizo sausage, thinly sliced and cut into bite size pieces
A pinch of salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Water or egg wash to seal the dough
Vegetable oil for frying

Place everything except the dough into a food processor. Pulse three or four times until the shrimp is “shredded or chopped” looking.

Place a heaping tablespoon or so of the shrimp mixture onto the center of each disk. Wet the outer perimeter of the dough with water or egg wash to help seal. Fold the top dough over the shrimp and seal with the bottom dough. (Empanadas may be made ahead – store on non stick surface tightly covered until ready to fry)

To fry –
You may fry in a deep fry or in a cast iron skillet filled halfway- if using skillet you will need to turn over the empanadas while cooking. Fry at about 300-320 for a few minutes until golden.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Fish Finds

I woke this morning, turned on the end of a PBS cooking show and in my sleepy state; I thought I heard some fishmonger from Seattle saying something about Chilean Sea Bass/endangered. Nooo, I just had that for dinner Saturday night, could it be? I did a bit of looking into the matter on the Internet, and it turns out that in Seattle many Chefs have taken this fish off the menu. It appears as though Chilean Sea bass is not endangered though, and is fine to eat as long as you make sure it has been legally harvested. Or you could just switch and use another fish, which I will do next time.

Here’s the thing about buying fish, for a while last year some flashy chefs were all putting Diver scallops on the menu. I had planned a dinner party, and on my menu were seared diver scallops. I went to whole foods and was told by their fish department that they had stopped buying diver scallops all together. They prices had risen too high.

You have to be a little bit flexible when cooking fish. I think its best to go into the store with several possible recipes and then pick one according to what fish is available that day. If all else fails ask the man behind the counter. They often have great ideas for how to cook the fish that is in the case that day.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Christmas menu

For the past week or so I have been fussing over a Christmas menu. Every year in early December I make the menu for Christmas day and then, by Christmas, the food selection has changed three or four times at least. The problem is that I want to make everything.

My obsessing over food selections is usually accompanied by the obvious unnecessary purchases of new cookbooks for my collection. Obviously unnecessary, because if you have ever tried to sit on the couch in my living room you know you need to push several cookbooks out of the way to find your seat. Every other spare spot in our house has also been filled by cookbooks. Yet, every December I feel the need to buy more.

Early this morning I woke up, sliced leeks to sweat, reduced a bottle of wine, and wrapped Chilean sea bas in paper thin potato slices which had been dipped in butter that I clarified. This afternoon I might make cake. Yesterday before 8 am I sliced up and packaged mis en place to bring to a friends house to make risotto. So, for me the problem with Christmas is not that I can’t cook, but rather, I love to cook and make way too much food.

This year I have sworn to keep it simple

To start- Pate, cheese selection, crackers, olives, Tapinade, a few hot passed
Hors D’Oeurve (I am thinking Italian rice balls and shrimp and basil wontons)

Once seated-
Cup of soup (sometimes I make tortellini en brodo and skip the pasta, otherwise a light soup in a small cup is a nice start to the meal)

Pasta- I make my own, from my grandmother’s recipe Tortellini or Ravioli

Main course- Roast prime rib, mine is no different than anyone else’s. I will make a nice Duxelles mushroom sauce with demi glaze for the prime rib and serve it with Yorkshire pudding or popovers, perhaps a cauliflower gratin and steamed asparagus.

Dessert- I bought some gelato from Ciao Bella, I might make crème brulee or a Yule log, and might also serve a fruit tart.

You now have my very precise Christmas menu, until I decide to change it about an hour from now.

Oh, I forgot smoked salmon and shrimp cocktail for appetizers. And Christmas cookies....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Potato pancakes

(with Mascarpone cheese and pink peppercorns)

2 large baking potatoes (1 ½ pounds peeled and grated on large holes of grater)
¼ red onion grated
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup flour
1 egg
½ cup canola oil

Place potatoes in a strainer over your sink and press down to rid them of a lot of the potato water. . Place potatoes in mixing bowl and add in onion, salt, flour and egg to bind. Mix mixture with hands until combined.

Heat oil on med to med high in a heavy bottomed skillet. Test a piece of potato batter to make sure oil is hot enough to fry in. Scoop potatoes out in ¼ cups and place gingerly in skillet- flatten just a little. And cook 2-4 minutes per side or until golden- check frequently so as not to over cook.

Makes about 8 pancakes- you can make mixture a day ahead and fry at the last minute- the potatoes will have darkened slightly but will fry up fine. Alternately you can make these in advance and re-heat in oven although you risk eating them all before you need them. They are impossible to resist so I suggest you might want to make at least 2 batches.
Serve with applesauce, sour cream and caviar, or smoked salmon and capers.(or Mascarpone cheese and pink peppercorns)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chocolat Chaud

Hot Chocolate
(Makes at least 4 servings)

4 cups milk
6 ½ oz Bittersweet Chocolate, small chunks
1/3 cup unsweetened Cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar

Place the milk over medium heat – just enough to warm the milk. In a small microwave proof bowl combine the Chocolate chunks, Cocoa powder and sugar. Microwave on medium heat until the chocolate melts, about 3-4 minutes. Stir to combine mixture into a paste. Add the chocolate paste to the warm milk and whisk. Whisk the milk for a minute or so then serve, garnish with marshmallows if you like.