Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Special Event-9/7/05

Hello everyone!

It's time for another Cooking Without Borders special event. For all our new gal pals, this is an opportunity to cook the same meal together on the same night (or within a few days if that night doesn't work for you) and then we all come back together and post comments on what we liked or disliked, etc.

The first event was Cashew Chicken, the second was Tagine Chicken and, sticking with the chicken theme, this time we will do Too Easy Chicken with Leeks. But I have an idea that will make this perfect for a light fish like Tilapia as well. Read on.

We should plan to make dinner on Wednesday, September 7.

The recipe is very easy, VERY EASY! And low fat. And cheap! And yes, it's another Rachel Ray 30 minute meal.

Here's the shopping list:

You ready?

2 Leeks (sometimes the leeks are bundled 2 or 3, that's ok, but you want 2 individual leeks, not two bundles)
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup dry white wine (we like a dry pinot)

Make sure you pantry also has:
Olive Oil

As I mentioned, I think a easy fish like Tilapia might be really good. In which case, we got fillets, individually wrapped and frozen in your grocer's freezer section. Sometimes they are near the deli/meat counter if your store has a fish section. I would just broil the fish with a little lemon, butter, herbs. The package should give directions how. If you go with fresh fish, buy it the day of and ask your fish monger what he suggests for cooking times. The Tilapia can take a beating in the oven or fry pan, but you don't want to broil it for 60 minutes or bake it for that long either.

Leeks can last two to three days in the fridge, so you might want to do your shopping on Monday or Tuesday.

We love to have this with a classic risotto as the side. Yummy, creamy, savory risotto. I'll post my recipe later for that, but what I can remember for your shopping list:

Arborio Rice (1 box--you'll need about a cup)
Stock (veggie or chicken, use your favorite)
Butter/Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese

And if you want to do an "add-in:" Peas, Asparagus, Mushrooms, etc. If you have parsley laying around, chop and throw some in.

Look forward to hearing everyone's comments!

Have a good, safe Labor Day weekend.



Friday, August 26, 2005

Sticky Rice

Last night was a night out for dinner. After reading the transcripts of the live chat on Washington this week, ASK TOM and reading a review, we decided to try RICE.

Go! Go out of your way! It's really worth it. I dare say....the best Thai food I've had. Seriously. Now, that's not to say I'm an aficionado of Thai restaurants, but of the ones I've had, this is the top.

For drinks, I had a glass of white wine, Gruner Vetliner Gmork, 2003 by Anton Bauer of Austria. It was alright. It was a bit flat, ordinary. But not bad, dry. Then I saw the cocktails. I had to try the Kaffir Lime Martini. YUMMY! Just the right sweet, just the right lime. Grrrr!

I got to try one of their appetizers, Pumpkin Empanadas, Rice Style. A sort of pumpkin curry puree in puff pastry with a sort of sweet and sour dipping sauce. Really tasty!!! The pastry was just the right about of flaky and the pumpkin puree was just right, not sweet, but sort of smoky from the curry, just barely mild in heat.

My entree, I followed the review recommendations and had Chicken Cashew. Ok, so I've made a Cashew Chicken and many of us on this blog have tried the recipe. It's really good. This was sublime! Chicken, onions, dried cayenne peppers and the sauce. Perfect. Beautifully served and on a second plate, green long grain sticky rice with a hint of coconut. Now, the waiter said the color comes from the flavoring. I saw blue rice, mine was green, there was another I saw that was orange. It was gorgeous. Formed into this oblong shell shaped and garnished with some black sesame seeds, parsley and a crinkly cut carrot. I wanted to eat the rice alone, but would, every few bits have some with the chicken, very tasty.

The sticky rice @ RICE

Jason had red snapper with some stuff on it. Again, a sort of sweet and sour sauce, but not the red syrup used on chicken at Chinese places. A refined, classy sauce. Claudine, Jason's cousin, and a vegetarian, had the vegetarian pad thai. It comes in a very thin omlette. She loved it, Jason tried it and really liked it as well.

The service was attentive and respectful. They were there when needed and gone when they weren't.

The menu is brief. Sorted into three columns. One is the specialties of the house, heavily influenced by the trends in Thailand. One is the traditional Thai, but in the kicked up classic sense, the dishes you'd get at any Thai restaurant, but better. The third column is the "green" menu, with the focus on vegetables, but not necessarily vegetarian. There was also a special menu, the Flower Menu? I can't remember the full name, but these are the more exotic specialty items. We didn't try any of these, but they did sound delicious. The entrees were around $12-15. Wine and drinks, about $7 to $10. There were two beers, more wine than the review said, so that might have changed.

The restaurant is very clean and modern. We sat at the window so there was plenty of light, but it seemed that back a bit, towards the bar, was darker. The tables were simple adorned with candles and single orchid flowers in bud vases. It's funny because the last time I was there, in the space, it was a ghetto pizza place. 100% different.

I'm very happy with this place and highly recommend it!

Rice Restaurnt & Bar
1608 14th Street NW
Washington DC 20009

PS: the online menu, does not have a current wine list. There were close to 10 reds and 10 whites while there last night. Online has about three of each.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Coriandrum sativum


You're teeth curling? You're mouth watering?

I used to hate the stuff...I could tell when it was used in overabundance in certain Tex-Mex dishes. But slowly I started to really crave it. Now, when I go to the store to buy herbs, I almost always look for fresh cilantro, just sticking my nose in the batches of leafy green herbs. Mostly I'll be disappointed because Giant or Safeway has run out or what they have is a very sad excuse.

As my basil is about done (sad), right at the time my first ripe tomato is about ready (oh boy!), I'm thinking I might follow advice of the article linked below and just plant some cilantro!

"Cilantro" in today's Washington Post. Take a gander and read more about this "Culinary Assault Weapon."


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Grillin' and Chillin'

Sunday night’s dinner was a light meal, perfect for a hot day. I pulled out the tiny propane grill and set about doing some chicken and a light orzo salad. All told, I think I had the stove on for 15 minutes to boil and cook the orzo. The following is from a woman on the food network. I like watching her cook and prepare, but sometimes I want to mute her because of her overzealous use of adjectives, it drives me nuts. So Giadia De Laurentis, thank you for the recipe. I will probably make it again.

Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing
Recipe courtesy Giadia De Laurentis
Yield: 6 servings

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (I used chicken breast tenderloins, they were cheaper)
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a heavy-duty re-sealable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally. (NOTE: make sure to marinate for longer if you can, I did one hour, not that noticeable. Try for 4 hours if you can.)

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to plates. Drizzle the basil sauce over and serve.

Orzo Salad
Recipe courtesy Giadia De Laurentis
Yield: 6 servings

4 cups broth (chicken or veggie)
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (I omitted them, not a fan)
1 1/2 cups red and yellow teardrop tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
About 3/4 cup Red Wine Vinaigrette, recipe follows
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the broth into a heavy large saucepan. Cover the pan and bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Stir in the orzo. Cover partially and cook until the orzo is tender but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Drain the orzo through a strainer. Transfer the orzo to a large wide bowl and toss until the orzo cools slightly. Set aside to cool completely.

Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil, mint, and enough vinaigrette to coat. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.

NOTE on the broth: I used chicken, it's what I had. When I cook with canned broth or dry boullion, I like to add a chunk of onion. I feel it naturalizes the flavor a bit, if in a can, there can be a bit of a metallic taste. If dry boullion, there is an obvious "processed" taste. The onion will help that, not eliminate it, but help take it away.

Red Wine Vinaigrette (Yield: 1 3/4 cups)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender. With the machine running, gradually blend in the oil. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Truck Stop Favorite

This dinner was really tasty, but waaaaay filling. The coating for the steaks is sort of like a tempura and I actually would like to try on some shrimp someday. The gravy is not all that heavy, which suprised me. We had mashed potatoes and corn with the dinner. Also wine, was going to go with a white, but considered that this might be a heavy dinner, so went with a California Zinfandel. It was a perfect match actually. The peppery notes of the wine popped with the peppery notes of the steaks.

Chicken-Fried Steak
from America's Test Kitchen 2004 Cookbook
Serves 6

3 cups all purpose flour
1/8 Cayenne
1 large egg
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
6 cube steaks, pounded to 1/3 inch
4-5 cups peanut oil

Cream Gravy
1 medium onion, minced
1/8 tsp dried thyme
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
3 TB flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch cayenne

1) FOR THE STEAKS: Measure the flour, 5 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and cayenne into a large shallow dish. In a second large shallow dish, beat the egg, baking soda and powder; stir in the buttermilk (the mixture will bubble and foam).

2. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Drop the steaks into the flour and coat. Shake the excess flour from the steak, the, using tongs, dip the steaks into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allow excess to drip off. Coat the steaks with flour again, shake off the excess and place them on the wire rack.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, set a second wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet, and place the sheet on the oven rack: heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a large plate with double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat 1 inch of oil in a large dutch oven or frying pan over medium-high heat to 375 degrees. Place the three steaks in the oil and fry, turning once, until deep golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes (oil temperature will drop to about 335). Transfer the steaks to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then transfer them to the wire rack in the oven. Bring the oil back to 375 and repeat the cooking/draining process with the remaining steaks.

4. FOR THE GRAVY: Carefully pour the hote oil through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. Return the browned bits from the strainer along with 2 TB of frying oil back into the dutch oven. Turn the heat to medium, add the onion and thyme, and cook until the onion has softened and beginning to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the flour to the pan and stir until well combined and starting to dissolve, about 1 minute. Which in the broth, scraping up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper and cayenne; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. The gravy should have a loose consistency, it will thicken as it cools.

5. Transfer the steaks to individual plates. Spoon generous amounts of gravy over each. Serve immediately.

Getting the initial oil temperature to 375 degrees is keep to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip on candy/deep-fry thermometer is also fine. If your Dutch oven measures 11 inches across (as does ours), you will need to fry the steaks in two batches.



Friday, August 19, 2005

Good, but mine is better!

Another tasty treat from the Williams Sonoma pasta cookbook. This is really just a lighter, healthier, version of my own tasty treat, Sausage & Leek Cream Sauce.

Here it is:

Fusilli with Braised Fennel, Sweet Sausage and Pecorino

(4 Main Courses or 6 First Courses)

5 TB Olive Oil
4 Leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 Fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Fennel seeds, ground
S/P to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, bulk, or removed from casings
splash of Sherry Vinegar
1 lb fusilli pasta
leaves from 6 sprigs of tarragon, chopped
handful of fresh chopped parsley
1 cup grated pecorino

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

In a large pan, warm 3 TB olive oil over medium heat, add the leeks, sliced fennel, fennel seeds and salt & pepper. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Generously salt the boiling water, add pasta and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 2 TB olive oil in same pan as before, over high heat. Add sausage, breaking it up and cook until well browned, season with S/P to taste. Pour off most of the fat. Add a splash of sherry vinegar.

Add the fennel/leeks to the sausage, simmer for 1-2 minutes to blend flavors. Make sure to have enough liquid to make a sauce, if not add some water or broth.

Drain the pasta and put in large warmed bowl. Add a drizzle of oil olive, tarragon and parsley and about 3 TB of the cheese. Toss. Add the sausage/fennel/leeks, toss again, serve immediately. Pass the remaining cheese at the table.

It is really tasty, but as I said, mine is better!


Fancy. Tasty! Too much work....

This recipe was Thursday night's dinner. It was delish! But too much work. I didn't have much fun making it. I would make it again, on a weekend, for a special occasion, but not during the week. I'm going to post the recipe as it is in the book. If you're interested in knowing the few things I did differently, let me know. Also, I cut the recipe in half.

This one also comes from White Dog Cafe Cookbook. Again, really tasty, but a pain! And there is a marinade that should work for four to twelve hours...I did one...cause I didn't read the recipe well enough.

Sherry Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Ginger Glaze
(serves 6)

3 pork tenderloins, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup Spicy Asian Marinade (Below)
1 cup dry sherry
1/4 whole lemon
2 TBS coarsley chopped fresh ginger
1 shallot, minced
5 black peppercorns
1 allspice berry
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cup Veal Demi-Glace (Below)
1 TB grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp salt

Spicy Asian Marinade
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 TB grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 tsp chili paste (available in Asian markets/aisles)
1 TB light brown sugar
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 TB vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week. Good for grilled pork, chicken or firm fleshed fish like tuna or swordfish.

Veal Demi-Glace

This is ridiculous...I didn't do it! To do it right...would be 12 hours! I don't have that time. You need to make veal stock with the following stuff: vegetable oil, veal bones, white onion, carrots, celery, tomato paste, water, bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns and dry red wine. This cooks through various stages...ask, I can give you the recipe cooks for up to 7 hours. Then when the veal stock is done, you simmer for three hours until the volume (4 quarts) is reduced by half. Then into a new pot and simmer for another 2 hours until syrupy. That's that. Easy as pie! Is it worth it, I'm sure it is, but I'm not my grandma, wish I was sometimes...but I don't have that time. I know you can buy it at some gourmet stores. I substituted with reduced bouillon and veggies and some other stuff....ask!

OK, back to the real recipe.

1) Place the tenderloin in a shallow dish and cover with the marinade for 4 to 12 hours. Refrigerate.

2) In saucepan, combine sherry, lemon, chopped ginger, shallot, peppercorns, allspice and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower heat. Simmer until most of the liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes.

3) Add the Demi-glace and simmer for 2 minutes. Strain, discard solids. Stir the grated ginger and salt. Keep warm or refrigerate. You'll use this later to put on top of the sliced tenderloin.

4) When ready, preheat oven to 400

5) Place the tenderloins a few inches apart on a roasting pan. Roast in the center of the oven until the interal temperature is 150. Mine took 20 minutes, the book says 12-15. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Temperature will rise to finish cooking.

6) Slice pork into 1/4 inch rounds, top with the reserved glaze.

I served with jasmine rice and ginger glazed carrots.

Again, really good, but lots of work! Enjoy!


Two Wines

Had the two wines below over the past two days!

Dona Isidora
Riesling 2004

Very tasty. I loved this wine. It was $10 bucks at Whole Foods.

Mas Carlot
Rose 2004
Cuvee Tradition

This was a tasty wine to drink, but left a strange metallic taste in your mouth afterwards.

I need to take notes when I drink wine, I can't remember for the life of me what something is tasting like.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rosemary is for remembrance

If you plan to visit Philly, please visit White Dog Cafe. I'm probably going to butcher everything descriptive about this restaurant, but please try for yourself....My understanding is that the restaurant focuses on organic, natural foods. The restaurant also serves as a community building social activism center. The food is amazing. The restaurant is laid out in adjacent row houses near one of the universities in Philly....Duchess of Narbert, HELP, I can't remember which university!?!?!?! I've been twice now and would go back again and again. The price, a little steep ($17-$29), but well worth it. The first time I went with my dear dear Duchess of Narbert (who's getting married very soon!!!) and Lord and Lady Brandenburg-it my first visit to Philly...I ran up the stairs at the museum, ate a cheese steak and had an all around great time...and Le Bus!. That visit, I had some duck with a fruity/savory sauce on a rice pilaf type thing...(oh my!) My second time, I had roasted chicken and mashed potatoes (mama!). Please go, you'll be a happier person for it. That was my cosmopolitan, jet-setting visit...literally I flew into Philly International Airport, was picked up by the Duchess, we had dinner at White Dog, then back to the airport and back home....ok so it was a 3 and half hour layover...shut up!!!

Rosemary is for Remembrance, and some great memories!

The following dish comes from the White Dog cookbook that I picked up after my first visit. There is a gift shop/book shop attached, called The Black Cat. Seriously, do yourself a favor!!!! GO! I know there are people who read this blog who have gone, please post your comments on the restaurant for our non-White Dog Cafe visitors.

Smoked Chicken in Rosemary Cream with Bow-Tie Pasta
from: White Dog Cafe Cookbook by Judy Wicks and Kevin Von Klause
(serves 4 to 6)

1/4 unsalted butter
2 large white onions, thinly sliced

Rosemary Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 small yellow onion, peeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 lb bow-tie pasta
1 TB olive oil
2 TB minced garlic
1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
1 boneless skinless smoked chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1. Carmelize the white onions: heat the butter in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the white onions and cook until golden brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Reserve.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the Rosemary Cream: combine the cream, yellow onion, rosemary, bay leafs, peppercorns and garlic in another saucepan set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain the cream and discard the solids. Keep warm until ready to serve. Otherwise, cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until just firm to the bite, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.

4. In a large saucepan or saute pan set over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it ripples. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken, toss, about 2 minutes. Add the cream, onions, chopped rosemary, cheese, salt and pepper. Toss to combine, and cook, stirring, until heated through, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately on warmed plates or bowls.

From the book: When this many toothsome ingredients are combined, the meal is guaranteed to be a smash hit. If you're not a rosemary fan, try flavoring the cream with basil, thyme or oregano instead. The cream and carmelized onions can be prepared one day in advance. This makes the final assembly quite simple.

NOTES: OK, I didn't have smoked chicken, so I used a pre-roasted chicken from the store, skinned it, and pulled the meat off...barbaric, you bet, but worth it for a weeknight meal. So, one roasted chicken instead of 4 large smoked chicken breasts. Also, the original recipe called for the following, to be added with the cream in step four...I don't like them, so I didn't use them: 3 cups coarsely chopped broccoli rabe, 1 cup sun dried tomatoes, rehydrated and thinly sliced and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted. I can see adding regular broccoli. The rabe is too bitter for my tastes, so I won't use it. I don't love regular broccoli, but could use it. The sundried tomatoes...I've had them and didn't like maybe not. And I don't like walnuts either. Would I substitute for the tomatoes and walnuts...probably not. But as I said, i could see broccoli working out really well.

The chicken, the store bought roasted worked really well, but the final dish had a sweetness to it that, although nice, could have been cut with something. Perhaps a bit extra parmesan cheese? I feel that the natural sweetness in the onions and cream really were pronounced with the rosemary, which is funny because I make an au gratin potatoe with virtually the same cream sauce and they do not taste sweet? Maybe extra Parm or finding a way to smoke the chicken?

OK....that's that...GO TO WHITE DOG IF IN PHILADELPHIA, CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE!!! I'll be there in a week and a half for the wedding of the Duchess to her lovely, sweet soon to be husband! Oy!, I should have had that bottle of wine....or the glass of Frangelico!....LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!!

OH! And happy birthday to Lord Brandenburg...I raise my glass to you! Cheers!

New York Times article

If you have a moment, please take the time to read this lovely article in the New York Times. The author takes the reader to the tip of the heel of the boot of Italy where this lovely little lady cooks. The descriptions used will make your mouth water and heart glow. I would wish this on anyone who wants and a few people who need it!

New York Times: An Ode to Joy: A Trip to Alda's Kitchen by Gabrielle Hamilton


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Penne with Prosciutto & Butter

Wow, this was much better than I anticipated and was really delightful! Highly recommend this one.

The recipe is from the Williams Sonoma pasta cookbook.

1 lb Penne
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 lb thinly sliced prosciutto
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced (Vidalia)
1/2 cup chicken stock/broth
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Fresh ground black pepper
Handful, chopped, parsley
5 sage leaves, chopped
Parmesan Cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the prosciutto of excess fat and cut the slices into narrow strips. Heat the olive oil to high is a saute pan, add the prosciutto and toss, saute for about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In the same pan, over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for about 1 minute, maybe 2. Allow to reduce. Toss in sage, stir to combine.

Drain the pasta well and place in a large, shallow, warmed bowl. Add the prosciutto, lemon zest, nutmeg, pepper to taste, parsley. Pour on the stock/onion mixture and toss well. Add about 3 TB of the cheese and toss again. Garnish with some more parsley and pass remaining cheese at the table.

Serves 4 as a main-course or 6 first-course servings.

The famous sweet salt-cured ham from the Parma region, prosciutto di parma, is now widely available outside of Italy. Other hams can be salty by comparison and less subtle in flavor. When the clerk slices prosciutto for you, make sure it is very thin and the pieces are separated by paper or plastic so that they do not stick together and tear.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A meal with a heart....attack waiting to happen

From: LaBelle Cuisine; Recipes to Sing About by Patti LaBelle

I don't know who turned Elton John on to soul music but I do know who turned him on to soul food. Me. At least I'm pretty sure it was me. Back in the sixties, when Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles was touring London, the British band, Bluesology, played back up to us. Elton, or Reggie Dwight as he was known in those days, was the band's piano player, and he played like no other white boy I have ever heard.

For some reason, Reggie thought he could play cards like he could play keyboards. After our shows, he'd come back to our flat and challenge me to a game of tonk. No matter how many times I beat him--and I beat him all the time--Reggie wouldn't quit until I'd won all his money.

"Just one more game, Patti," he would plead, "and I'll win back all my pounds."

Of course, the only thing he ever won was my sympathy. Not enough to give the money back, of course. But sufficient to make me cook enough food to make sure the kid wouldn't go hungry before payday. After I stashed Reggie's cash, I prepared him a savory, spicy, soul food feast: smothered cabbage, red beans and rice, fried chicken and potato salad--you name it, I cooked it.

It was impossible to eat everything--although Reggie tried. But it was my macaroni and cheese that he loved the most. As you can see from this recipe, I make it with five different kinds of cheese, and that's how many times Reggie went back for more.

He wanted recipes for everything. But, since I kept them top secret until I wrote this book, he had to settle for the food sans the instructions on how to prepare it. I always sent Reg home with enough to feed an army, though. We're talking containers of food. Come to think of it, Boyfriend never did return any of my Tupperware.

By Patti LaBelle, LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About
Serves 4-6

1 lb. elbow macaroni
8 TB, plus 1 TB butter
½ cup shredded Muenster cheese
½ cup shredded mild Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup Velveeta, cut into small cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp seasoned salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly butter a deep 2 ½ quart casserole.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add the macaroni and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well, return to the cooking pot.

In a small saucepan, melt 8 TB of butter. Stir into the macaroni. In a large bowl, mix the first four cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheeses, the Velveeta and the eggs. Season with the salt and pepper. Transfer to the casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese and the remaining dot of TB of butter.

Bake until it’s bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.

Ask anyone who makes incredible macaroni and cheese for his or her recipe, and I bet you that Velveeta will be in there. But my recipe doesn’t stop there. To make my special macaroni and cheese, I also use Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar and Monterey Jack, each one adding its own flavor and melting consistency. If you don’t want to use all five cheeses, you can get away with just the Velveeta and sharp Cheddar—it won’t be over the rainbow, but it will be pretty good. And, on special occasions, I sometimes add an extra stick of butter, in which instance the macaroni goes over the moon! If you use two sticks of butter, substitute milk for the half and half.

UPDATE: Picture and post here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Conchiglie con Finocchio e Gamberetti

What, you don't speak Italian.

Conchiglie-Pasta shells

I think.

Shells with Fennel and Shrimp

In a nutshell, Shrimp Scampi with Fennel.

The recipe is from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich. I was really unimpressed with the dish. Multiple steps, all simple, but still. And really was just scampi.

Try for yourself if you want.

1 Medium Fennel Bulb
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound medium shrimp (about 30), shelled, deveined and cut in half crosswise
1 pound pasta shells
2 TB butter
Crushed hot red pepper

Makes 6 servings

These instructions are my version, the book version is very wordy

Small saucepan of water to a boil. Clean the fronds and outer layer off the fennel, Cut into quarters. Drop into water, bring back to a boil and keep it going for 3 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the water and drain the rest. Rinse in cold water until cool to the touch. Remove the core and slice into quarters, set aside.

Bring big pot of water to a boil for pasta. When boiling....add the salt and pasta. Stir, return to a boil...about 8 minutes until it's done.

Pour oil into a pan and turn to medium heat. Add garlic, smash it first and the hot pepper. Give it three minutes, stirring. At that time, bring the heat to high and add the shrimp. One minute per side. Remove shrimp, with garlic to a bowl.

Lower heat to medium. Add the fennel, butter and reserved water. Give it four minutes. Add the shrimp and garlic back...toss to coat. Your pasta should be done at this point. Drain and toss with shrimp and buttery sauce.

I added a pinch of parsley, just to add some color. Then sprinkled with a bit of parm.

As I said, it was ok, I expected better, not horrible, but not exciting and great either.


Sara Bella

Tonight we opened one of the bottles from Temecula Valley in Southern California.

Maurice Car'rie winery
White Cabernet Sauvignon
Sara Bella

"This has always been one of our best selling wines and one of our favorites, as it is named after one of our four grandchildren."

The wine is a sweet pink, with a full grape flavor. Very light on the nose and the taste. Super drinkable. But if sweet is not your thing, just try a sip, it might be more than you want.



Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Midwestern Mother's Love

Hey there, Hi there, Hello there ladies! Today we have an extra special treat—a guest blogger! A shout out to J-lo for providing a family favorite. On Monday I was listening to Lucky Bitch Radio, a podcast brought to us by a single, sober, unemployed, nearly homeless, drag queen in Minneapolis, Wanda Wisdom. Well, Wanda was talking about Midwestern "hot dish" and I started craving some old school tater tot casserole.

So, Ladies and Germs, without further ado,
Tater Tot Casserole!

This is a true Midwestern dish - so it's not all that veggie (or diet) friendly.

To appreciate this dish, you must understand that the one cuisine native to the Midwest is the casserole. I joke that the only requirements are three things—it must be simple, it must only use one pot and it must use a can of cream of something soup! Where else can you get all four food groups in one vat of gloppy goodness? This is a blank canvas meal—use it anyway you like and enjoy.

1 pound ground beef (you could certainly use chicken)
1 Tbsp minced onion (or chop up some fresh)
1 can french cut green beans (you could certainly use fresh)
1 can cream of celery soup (but use any cream of ___ you have)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (use any cheese, use more or less)

frozen tater totsBrown the meet with the onion. At this point add any spices you might want—salt & pepper, Mrs. Dash, minced garlic, etc. Drain the grease and add to a casserole dish with the beans, soup, and cheese. Top with tater tots. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.

The great debate with this casserole (between Scott and I) is where the cheese goes. He likes it on top—I like it mixed in. Tonight we tried a compromise—half in, half on top.

This dish reheats easily, although that usually ruins the tater tots. I recommend dishing up your leftovers and putting a few new (frozen) tater tots on top for when you reheat it.



Monday, August 08, 2005

Simple, Quick, Low Fat Stir-Fry

Spicy Chicken and Basil Stir-Fry
from: Williams-Sonoma Chicken
Serves 4

6 TB Chicken stock
2 TB Asian fish sauce
2 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 TB vegetable oil
1 large red bell pepper, sliced into strips 1/4 wide
1 or 2 Thai or jalapeno chiles, sliced thinly crosswise into thin rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, but into thin strips
3/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
3 spring onions (green onions) cut into 3 inch lengths

Rice to serve

In a small bowl, whisk together the stock, fish sauce and brown sugar. Add the cornstarch and whisk until the cornstarch and sugar are dissolved. Set aside

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil over high heat. Add the bell pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the chile to taste and the garlic and stir-fry about 20 seconds. Add the chicken and stir-fry until the chicken loses its pink color, about 2 1/2 minutes. Stir in the basil and green onions and stir-fry until the green onions are barely wilted, about 1 minute.

Whisk the sauce mixture again and pour it into the pan. Cook just until the liquid comes to a boil.

Spoon the rice onto plates and top with stir-fry and sauce.

1. I used Hoisin Sauce instead of fish sauce, it's what I had.
2. I used one large orange bell pepper, Safeway's selection of red was very sad.
3. I used one large jalapeno, seeded, to make the heat less intense. Perhaps I should have left at least half of the seeds inside. There was no heat, so therefore, no spicy.
4. I used chicken "tenders." They were on sale and are easy to handle.
5. I used basmati rice, again, what I had on hand.
6. I used about 1/4 cup thinly sliced onion, just an extra flavor. I rinsed them in cold water to help remove some bitterness. Add with the peppers.
7. I might suggest a little salt or soy sauce, very tasty and light, but no "Pop."

Overall, very tasty. The portion sizes I got were 4 'starter' sized portions with about 1/4 cup rice with each. So, really serving for two 'meals.' Yummy!

Easy and Cheap

Last night was Cincinnati Chili for dinner. So darn easy, cheap AND delish! Highly recommend it. And being the middle of the summer with the heat, it's still good! Filling.

Check it out here.

Also this week, I expect to post three new recipes here. A spicy, pepper, basil-y, chicken stir fry. A dish with sauteed shrimp and fennel. And Patti LaBelle's killer Mac & Cheese, delish, but it will kill you!

Stay tuned for a full week.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Obessive Compulsive Much

Hello all,

This website was brought to my attention from one of our readers in NYC, Ms. Mollie. To put it this way, how often do you find yourself not knowing what to make or at the store buying multiples of something you already have 10 of at home. How many boxes of penne do I need?

This intensive projects looks to help homes battle this challenge, to save money and always have tasty things for dinner! If you try the project, let us know how it goes. I'm curious about it and might try it.

Life Hacking Your Grocery List


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Photo Test

Blogger just launched a new site that allows for easy photo posting. This is a test.

Yippee! It appears to work. Bless this child for her sacrifice!


Monday, August 01, 2005

Papardelle alla Genovese Primavera ????

How's that for a name?

This is the pretend name that I'm giving to the pasta dish I mentioned in the post below. I've just made it and devoured a big bowl of it. Very tasty!

As is usually the case, I didn't measure anything, so I will give estimates.

Papardelle alla Genovese Primavera
(for two large servings)

Papardelle pasta (I found mine in the fresh pasta section of our Whole Foods)
1/2 cup of your favorite pesto (I wanted to make my own, but alas, time wasn't allowing it)
1 cup of snow peas, asparagus or green beans (trimmed. if asparagus or green beans, cut into 1-2 inch pieces)
1 Tomato, large dice, seeded
2-4 Red skinned potatoes
Handful or two of pine nuts (lightly toasted in a dry pan over medium heat 3-5 minutes)
Olive Oil
Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano

-Bring pot of water to a boil pasta. I used 'fresh' pasta, so it only took three minutes to cook. Time your pasta accordingly. If using dry, expect 10-14 minutes.
-Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, lightly coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and place in a 450 degree oven. Check at about ten minutes. You want them to get golden brown and tender. When done set aside. Turn the oven to the broil setting
-Clean and prepare your green veg, (beans, peas or asparagus or all if you want to live dangerously)
-On a baking sheet, lighly oil and place your green veg. Place the veg in the broil. In a few minutes they will start to brown, watch carefully after about three minutes. When the green veg are brown, toss on the tomatoes and place back under the broil for another two minutes or so. (Maybe five-seven minutes total).
-Toss al dente pasta with pesto until coated. Toss in the pine nuts, potatoes and veg. Sprinkle with parm. serve.

Do these instructions make any sense? Let me know if you have questions. I really loved this dish. Jason didn't care for the potatoes and pasta, so he would like them omitted. He also thinks he'd prefer asparagus or green beans instead of the pea pods, so I suggest you use which ones you want. Have a little extra olive oil and/or pesto in case the pasta is dry, you can add more to loosen it up. We also might try adding some grilled chicken breast to add a bit more protein.

I think this could be a really versatile dish. Let me know how it goes!!!

Veggie Friendly experiment?

Last Friday, I went to a favorite restaurant of mine, before moving on to an event later that evening. This was probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve been to the restaurant and yet another fine experience. I first ate there about two and a half years ago and wrote a review about my experience, but I can’t find it now. I’ll keep looking for it and post if I find it.

But this time around, I wasn’t really hungry, but knew that if I didn’t get something to nosh, I’d regret it later. Off the menu, I choose a ½ sized portion of a pasta dish, I can’t remember the name, sorry.

It was:

Homemade pasta that were long strips (8-10 inches long) about ¾ of an inch wide. These were tossed with oven-roasted spring pea pods, tomatoes, pine nuts and red potatoes. This whole mess was then tossed with pesto and sprinkled with fresh parm. It was great! The only mark down, the pesto needed a little something extra, perhaps another pinch of salt. This tasty treat was huge for a half sized portion. I’d worry about the full size portion.

Is anyone interested in trying to make this with me, “virtually”? I’m going to be in the area of a Whole Foods store tonight, so I can look for some fresh tasty veggies and either buy pasta, or make it. I don’t have a recipe, so this would totally be an experiment!

Let us know by commenting to this message, if you are interested, or if you try anything. I’ll post what I try to do and let you all know how it comes out!

Oh, the restaurant:

Coppi’s Restaurant
1414 U Street NW
Washington, DC


And I found the review I wrote in 2002. While reading, remember, I was younger and less refined in my use of language! Especially when I comment on belching. :o)


An Unsolicited Opinion About What I Had For Dinner Last Night! 12/13/02

After walking by Coppi’s for the last two months, I finally committed myself to eating at this “Organic” establishment.

I was in for a divine treat.

I was greeted with a beaming smile that was 90% welcome-how-can-I-serve-you and 10% the-manager-needs-to-hire-more-wait-staff.

Coppi’s layout is a cozy rectangle in warm colors and capped by a wood burning oven and open kitchen. The walls are covered with bicycle memorabilia from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s 70’s. (Side note that I read while waiting to be seated--Italy’s most famous bicyclist was named Coppi--the U.S. modern equivalent would be Lance Armstrong.) Anyway, it is my guess that this inviting place seats about 40, maybe 50 at any one time.

OK, the best part of any restaurant visit--when you are first handed the menu. I was greeted by a delicious two-page masterpiece, if only I could eat more than one entrée at a time. These pages were graced with several different options of fish, pasta, pizza, salads and appetizers. I only wish I had a copy now to remind myself what I was drooling over.

I chose one of their pizza’s. The Pollo. Chicken with roasted red peppers, red onions, a cheese I can’t remember the name of--but a common one at nonetheless, and a shake of oregano. I opted out of the cremini mushrooms.

OK, dinner ordered, now I can sit back and enjoy my fine glass of bubbly Diet Coké. But oh no--now comes the plate of lovely little nibbly breads. Yummy. Now, I’m not talking about the plate or basket full of the staff of life you get at other restaurants, but small bites of about three different breads. Enough for one person to feel like they got a nice snack to warm the belly up for what is coming next. A few pieces of foccacia with a tomato puree, plain foccacia and some other crunchy little number. Simply adorned with a small bowl of olives.

Now it’s time for my pizza. It seemed to me that they wheeled the oven to my table, this creation was so hot. And that first bite my eyes rolled back and I said slap Your MOMMA! The crust had to have been touched by the hand of Buddha himself. Perfectly crisp and perfectly chewy. Damn those wood burning ovens know how to bake a pizza! The roasted red peppers, so sweet and slightly smoky. The Pollo itself was something dreams are made of. Well to be more honest, it was not dry and chewy as most chicken-breast-as-pizza-toppings can be. But it had it's taste.

When I finished my happy little pizza I belched a happy little belch and asked for the check. For the size, $10 was a tad steep, but for the taste, atmosphere and sheer delight it was right on the money. If you’ve been to Luna at 17th and P, Coppi’s is all they wish they could be.
Coppi’s Restaurant, 1414 U Street, NW 202/319-7773 (call for reservations and hours)


I still agree with 99% of the review. Although I love Luna and they will always have a place in my belly, I think Coppi's is a finer establishment.