Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Last Chance

For those brave cooks out there with a little extra time on your hands, I still have a few recipes that need testing for my new book.

1. Mole Verde/Green Mole - this recipe does have 22 ingredients and requires a bit of stamina.
2. Classic Escargots - snails, anyone?
3. Basque Tortilla - a simple potato and egg dish
4. Panak Paneer - this recipe has been adapted for Western kitchens
5. Coconut Bread - from the South Pacific
6. Satay Lilit (Minced Seafood Satay) - good for the BBQ

Let me know if you're up to a challenge! And thanks to all who have or are testing recipes for me. Can't wait for your feedback!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Last Supper (of the week)

I’m off to Los Angeles tomorrow to visit my good friend Jen Leo . We’ll be working on the PR and marketing for my book. Then I get 24 hours with my brother and his family before flying home. Maybe we’ll get to have another tea party.

So, on to tonite’s menu, which features Creamy Corn Polenta, courtesy of a January 1996 issue of Sunset magazine. (I am a recipe clipper from way back….) Since everyone at my house likes corn chowder (and I have a great recipe for that), I thought this would go over well. Of course there are only 3 people living in our house now, so it’s not too hard to please everyone. This is a vegetarian dish, and most pantries include the ingredients, as it requires nothing special. Start to finish is 30 minutes, although there is a shortcut listed below if you wish. It is a rather tame recipe, in that it isn’t spicy or redolent of any particular herb. It is simple comfort food, good even for babies. You could kick it up a notch by adding some fire roasted peppers, some hot salsa, or even by substituting pepper jack for the teleme.

1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup polenta
2 15-oz. cans creamed corn
6 ounces teleme or muenster, thinly sliced
fresh ground pepper

In a 3- to 4-quart pot, mix broth and polenta. Bring toa boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and stir often until polenta is creamy and smooth, about 13 minutes. Stir in creamed corn and heath through, stirring often.

Spoon polenta into bowls, Lay ¼ of cheese on each bowl of polenta and top with a garnish of
thinly sliced green onion, minced tomatoes, or thin strips of roasted red pepper. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Note: you can substitute instant polenta, which cooks in about 5 minutes. Simply cook according to package directions, then stir in corn and heat through.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday's Table

Today’s new recipe is Warm Lentil Salad with Sausage. This originally appeared in 1991 Gourmet mag. We love dried beans, and the French lentils cook quickly and have a great flavor. And I made the trip over to Schaub’s, where my son Grant works as an apprentice butcher, to pick up some of their nice smoked brats to add. It took me between 35 and 40 minutes from the time I walked in the kitchen, although in all fairness, I was trying to multi-task doing some laundry in the garage, so I maybe could have shaved a few minutes off if I tried.

Everyone loved it—hubby, son, son’s friend. It makes enough for at least 6, possibly 8 people. It didn’t take any great culinary skills. It is healthy and you could leave the sausage off if you are vegetarian. And, boy, am I looking forward to leftovers tomorrow for lunch.

2 cups French green lentils
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, cut into ½-inch dice
3 celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
¼ teaspoon back pepper
½ cup pus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 pound smoked Kiebalsa or other smoked sausage, cut crosswise into ¼-inch slices

Bring lentils, water and bay leaf to a boil in a 2- to 3-quart pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until almost tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in salt, then simmer for another 3-5 minutes, until tender.

While lentils are simmering, chop veggies. Heat large fry pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, 7-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, make vinaigrette by whisking together vinegar, mustard, and remaining 1/.4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add remaining ½ cup oil in slow stream while whisking. Set aside.

When veggies are done, take out of fry pan, and put sausage in to fry.

When lentils are done, strain and return to pot. Add veggies and toss with vinaigrette. Add sausage and serve.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Monday's Menu

Today’s quick menu item is Ligurian Shrimp Stew. Took 5 minutes of prep, less than 20 minutes cooking. I served it with a salad and some crusty artisan break. Finger-Lickin’ good!

I took a shortcut, by substituting 1 cup pre-made pesto for the first 5 ingredients. The grocery store didn't have any decent-looking basil and I didn't make it to the farmer's market. If only my garden would grow faster.....

2 cups basil leaves
1 garlic clove
1 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
salt and pepper to taste
2 leeks (white part only), thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
juice of ½ lemon
2 large tomatoes, seeded, chopped
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Put basil and garlic in a food processor or blender and chop coarsely. Add 6 tablespoons of the olive oil and process until mixture is finely chopped. Mix in cheese and sat and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Saute leeks and minced garlic in remaining oil until softened. Add wine and boil vigorously for 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes begin to release their liquid. Add shrimp. Toss well and simmer 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp are uniformly pink and firm. Stir in pesto mixture and adjust seasoning.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Recipes for the Week

So, this week I am focusing blog posts on new recipes that won’t take a lot of your time. While I normally try to do my weekly cooking on Sundays, to help relieve the pressure of cooking each night, I do realize that approach isn’t for everyone. So this week, I am testing four different recipes. The ingredients should be readily available to most everyone (I found everything at my local Safeway). Prep time—actual time slaving—is in the 30-minute range for each (although some of the recipes do cook for longer than that).

Tonight’s recipe, special for Sunday dinner, is Short Ribs in Coffee-Ancho Chile Sauce. The preparation of the sauce and pre-cooking of the short ribs took just about 30 minutes. Then they went into the oven for 3 hours. Kind of like that commercial tag line, “Set it and forget it.” No turning, no stirring. Gotta love it.

4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded
2 cups boiling water
1 medium onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
2 teaspoons adobo sauce (from chipotles)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons salt
6 pounds beef short ribs
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup brewed coffee

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Soak ancho chiles in boiling water for 20 minutes to soften. Pat ribs dry and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and teaspoon of pepper. Heat oil in large skillet and fry 4 at a time, browning on all sides, for about 5 minutes. Transfer ribs to a roasting pan that will snugly fit all ribs. Cook ribs in batches until all are browned.

While ribs are browning, put onion, garlic, chipotles, adobo, syrup, lime juice and 1 teaspoon salt into blender. Drain chiles, reserving liquid. Add softened ancho chiles to the blender and puree.

Once the ribs are browned, put ancho sauce into the fry pan and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups of the soaking water and the coffee and bring to a boil. Pour over the short ribs. Cover with foil, place pan in the oven and cook for 3 to 3 ½ hours.
Serve with creamy polenta, mashed potatoes, or rice.

I rarely cook with short ribs. They used to be a cheap cut of meat until restaurants and food mags started featuring them. Then they got somewhat pricey in my area, so I pretty much ignored any recipe using them. But this recipe with chiles and coffee caught my eye. The prep was easy, the cooking was easy. Once I pulled it from the oven, the meat was just about falling off the bone. You do have to skim the grease out of the sauce, but leave a little in, as it has some kick to it.

Everyone thought the short ribs were tasty and they did have a kick. Probably not suitable for the average under-14 crowd. More of an adult food. I served it with plain rice, but I do think that polenta would be a better choice as an accompaniment. The recipe serves 6, but the original recipe mentioned that the dish was better after a day or two, so it can make a good leftover. Good thing, as two of my children were out of town this weekend, leaving just the three of us to make a dent.

I definitely think this is worth trying. Might work for an informal dinner party, as you can enjoy your guests as it cooks. Let me know what you think…

Upcoming recipes this week include: Ligurian Shrimp Stew, Warm Lentil Salad with Sausage, and Creamy Corn Polenta. Mmmmm, can’t wait.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Final Push

I am so close to being finished with the book I am editing, The World is a Kitchen. This labor of love is meant to inspire its readers to pursue food in a new way, exploring new lands, new cultures, and new cuisines. The book focuses on first-person cooking experiences while traveling, whether they be funny, illuminating, adventurous, strange, or frightening. These stories, by chefs, travel/food writers, and dedicated foodies reflect that unique alchemy that occurs when you enter unfamiliar territory and begin to see the world differently as a result. Topics include teaching the culinary arts in a foreign country, adventures on culinary tours, learning to cook at traditional cooking schools, specialty schools, and at private homes. In addition to the stories, the book includes recipes and an extensive resource and reference section for finding cooking schools, classes, and culinary vacations.

Today I am expecting the book back from the interior designer, typeset in its final form. Within 6 weeks it will be at the printer, and in August it will be a reality. This book is a long time coming, and I couldn’t be more excited. However, there are a lot of things still to be done. Marketing, booking tour events, final proofreading, permissions…and the list goes on.

One of the most important things on the list is to test the recipes. This is where you come in. I would love to ask anyone who is interested to email me for a recipe to test and provide feedback. I can provide you with a recipe from a specific continent, or I can surprise you. The recipes need to be tested within the next 2-3 weeks, so you have time to decide and get your test kitchen ready. I am happy to provide one free copy of the book upon publication to anyone willing to pitch in during this frenzied time.

So if you have ever wanted to try pelmeni, a classic tarte tatin, a Bahian fish stew, or are just feeling adventurous, let me know!

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Quickie

Lately I have been a bit preoccupied. In addition to the normal workload I experience, the woman who has been cleaning my house twice a month for ten years has disappeared, I have a big deadline for my food book (more about this later), and I had to find a car. Weekends have been spent vacuum in hand, perusing Craigslist and Autotrader.com, and trolling the used car lots on El Camino, as well as writing, researching, and reading. I have fallen off my game in the dinner department. With the sun finally making an appearance, my husband is willing to grill food, which helps some, but it’s just not the same as getting in the kitchen myself, even if it is just for a short period of time. So I dug around in my archives and found a really wonderful hearty soup, that is supposedly heart-healthy and low in cholesterol. Start to finish 35 minutes. Makes enough for two meals, or a dinner and lunches. Although beware, the longer this soup sits in the fridge, the thicker it gets, due to the tortellini and rice. Still great tasting though.

So if you are tight on time, here’s a winner:

Tortellini & Chicken Soup
10-12 servings

4 qts or 3 cans (49.4 oz) chicken broth
1 pkg (9 oz) fresh cheese-filled spinach tortellini (dried works as well)
1 pound fresh spinach, rinsed and coarsely chopped (just throw it in whole!)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced (you can even buy them this way)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup cooked rice
2 t dry tarragon leaves
Parmesan cheese

In 8-10 quart pan, bring broth to a boil, covered, over high heat. Add tortellini, reduce heat, and boil gently, uncovered, just until tender – about 6 minutes. Add spinach, chicken, mushrooms, bell pepper, rice and tarragon. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until chicken is no longer pink in center – 3-5 minutes. Ladle soup into large bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Spring Garden

I never really grew up with a vegetable garden. It wasn’t until I was a senior in college and went to live with my godparents in San Jose for a summer, that I realized how wonderful they are. Tucked behind their garage were tomatoes, onions, peppers, zucchini, and all sorts of wonderful things. They would can tomato sauce, pizza sauce, peppers. My godmother would stuff zucchini blossoms, my godfather would fry up okra and make pepper paste. It was a bit of heaven.

When we bought our first home in the burbs in 1987, we were blessed with a 10 x 20 foot plot on the far side of the driveway – perfect for a garden. We built a raised bed for herbs, amended the soil, and filled it every single spring. We had a bounty from May through October. I kept a journal of what I planted, where I planted it, and how well it did. By this time my godparents had moved up the road to the family home on 2 acres in Woodside. Our own bounty was supplemented, and usually overshadowed, by the harvest at their home.

When my godmother’s family home had been built in the 1950s, one of every common fruit tree was planted: lemon, orange, grapefruit, apple, apricot, peach, nectarine, plum, pear, persimmon, pomegranate, fig. Even an avocado tree. In addition to the fruit, there were prize-winning onions, artichokes, lettuce, chard, okra, garlic, peppers, tomatoes…too many things to list. When my children came to swim, as they did regularly each summer, they could pull a peach right off the tree or a carrot right out of the ground. I learned to can, taking advantage of everything, trying not to let anything go to waste.

This continued until about 5 years ago. My godparents sold the home, and my life got too hectic. I recently realized that I really miss it and that this habit needs to be resurrected. With the passing of my godfather, I also feel it is a tradition I would like to continue, in honor of him.

So, I have been biding my time. Waiting, waiting, waiting for the deluge to cease. My son actually cleared 80% of the weeds and winter growth several weeks ago during a brief dry spell, but the main garden portion was still overgrown. Finally, last Thursday he was able to finish up and headed off to the nursery for my plants.

I am starting small this year, since it’s been awhile. So there are 5 Roma tomatoes, 6 basil, rosemary, and mint. (I have several other herbs already growing in the garden.) I will be going back for 3 pepper plants next—jalapeno and Anaheim. I am dreaming of all the wonderful things I can make. Sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato pesto, salsa, pepper paste, basil pesto, mojitos, mint syrup for iced tea. And I am excited about finding new ways to use these ingredients. Suggestions will be welcome. I’ll keep you posted on the progress of my mini-garden.