Thursday, December 30, 2010

I will be making this


Often times whole wheat spaghetti does not satisfy the right cravings when I'm in the mood for a pasta dish. That's why I like the way this recipe from the NY Times highlights the strong, nutty flavor of the whole wheat with this particular sauce (if you can call it a sauce) made of prominent flavors like rosemary, hot pepper, and Japanese bonito flakes.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti With Spicy Chickpeas, Rosemary and Bonito Flakes


Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed

1 whole dried hot pepper, piri piri if available

1 sprig rosemary

1 medium white onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 stalk celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice

2 15-ounce cans imported chickpeas

1 pound fresh or dried whole wheat spaghetti, or tonnarelli, if available

2 teaspoons unsalted butter, or as needed

Flaky salt (such as fleur de sel or Maldon) and coarsely ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano, or as needed

2 tablespoons Japanese bonito flakes.

1. Place a large pot filled with lightly salted water over high heat to bring to a boil.

2. Place a large saucepan over medium-low heat and add olive oil, swirling it to coat the bottom. Reduce heat to low, add garlic, and cook it slowly until tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Add hot pepper, rosemary, onion, carrot, and celery and toss to coat well with oil. Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 15 minutes.

3. Discard rosemary and garlic. Add 1 can of chickpeas with the liquid from the can. Drain the second can, reserving the liquid. Add those chickpeas to the saucepan along with one can of water. Raise heat to medium-high and cook until liquid in pan is reduced by half. Discard hot pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.

4. In the boiling water, cook the pasta until almost done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and add to saucepan of chickpeas and vegetables. Cook the pasta in the sauce for 2 to 3 minutes, then add butter. If the mixture seems dry, add a bit of the reserved liquid from the chickpeas. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.

5. To serve, place the pasta in a deep, warmed, platter. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Dust with Parmigiano Reggiano, and sprinkle with bonito flakes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year Food Resolutions

I don't really believe in resolutions...or if I do, it's more or less around my birthday. That is the time when I assess my habits and life direction, goals and achievements. So many people try change habits on January 1, and it makes the gyms entirely too crowded.

Anyway, if I did make resolutions, it would be these:

1. Bake more bread at home. Artisanal bread with 3 week starters, challah, brioche, pizza dough, and all other sorts.

2. Make recipes from my increasingly large library of cookbooks rather than always going to the internet for inspiration.

3. Post more recipes on this blog. Looking over the past year, I realized just how much I blog about topics other than actual recipes. I make delicious new foods all the time...I need to share them with you.

4. Try to shop even less from the grocery store and even more from farms, co ops, and farmers' markets. My goal is to eventually not go to the grocery store at all (I know this probably will never happen, but it's a good goal).

5. Bake treats for people *just because*.

6. Try my hand more at curious things like canning, jarring, preserving, pickling, and brewing.

7. MORE PICTURES!!!! The biggest problem I have as a cook/blogger is that I get so involved with what I am doing in the kitchen that I never remember to pull my camera out....and then when my food is prepared I can't stand to wait for pictures before digging in. Henceforth, I shall take one bite and then take a photo. It will take discipline, but I can to it!

What are your kitchen resolutions?


Monday, December 27, 2010

Greetings from California


For most of you, I'm sure, these past few days, and weeks even, have been very busy ones. It certainly has been with my family. On top of the normal Christmas festivities, I have a new brother who has never seen Los Angeles, it has been raining enough here to not even feel like Los Angeles, and we've got a big wedding reception happening here at my parent's house on New Year's Eve. This is the first time I've even had the chance to sit down and tell you how my Christmas was- epicureanly speaking. I tell you, I was pretty tempted to come to the computer with a glass of wine, but instead I opted for this amazing new tea that my aunt gave me.

There hasn't been that much cooking on my part since we've been here. I've been in vacation mode, letting my mother take the front seat while I happily tune out my loud family and wash the dishes after (not sure when dish washing became therapeutic for me...)

As the previous blog mentioned, on Christmas there were lots of vegetables to be roasted- leeks, brussel sprouts, carrots, and green beans. I forgot to add that to go along with the green bean casserole that I wouldn't make, there was creamed corn to not make also. Good thing I had already tried Edna Lewis' recipe for corn pudding on Thanksgiving and knew that it was delicious (and a perfect substitute). Based on the happy reviews, I think this is a holiday repeater. As a matter of fact, I think maybe it should only be made on holidays, since there is pretty much no excuse for having that much fat and starch in a dish any other day of the year. By the way, I think the secret to making it good when corn is not in season is to get extra cobs and only cut off the tender, sweet tips of the kernels.

And speaking of fat and starch, I am so glad that my friends in Seattle love me enough to not send me bucketfuls of delicious desserts. My mom is not so lucky, and I was forced to help her consume much of what was given. I definitely feel a pudge that was not there two weeks ago...I doubt I'm the only one.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

YUCK!

Monsanto’s Neotame molecule allowed in USDA certified organic foods


"Everyone wants to indulge a sweet tooth at this festive time of year, without suffering the inevitable consequences of weight gain. But, be aware of the hidden (not listed on ingredient labels) dangers of Neotame sweetener in almost everything consumed by humans, and now even in feed for livestock raised for human consumption"

Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I don't do green bean casserole...


My mother in law asked me to make green bean casserole for dinner on Christmas night. I told her I don't do green bean casserole, but I would make a bunch of roasted veggies.


I thought, since this was Christmas after all, that I would actually look up a recipe rather than just making a bunch of veggies on the fly....meh.



No recipes looked good to me, but I did find a lot of good instructions on how to roast perfect veggies. It's my favorite way to cook them, you know, because roasting brings out the sugars and naturally caramelizes the vegetables like no other cooking method can. All it takes is a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. The playing with herbs and spices and other flavors like garlic or bacon can come later.


Martha Stewart has good basic instructions for roasting here.


And here I found an informative (if a bit small) chart of roasting time for a few veggies.



Since that chart was missing a lot of my favorite produce, it inspired me to build on it and compile my own list for you:

Vegetable Roasting Times
{Set your oven to 450 degrees)

Acorn Squash- halved and seeded- 50 minutes
or
Acorn Squash (and any other squash)- 1" cubes- 25 minutes

Asparagus- trimmed- 10 to 15 minutes

Beets- whole- 60 to 90 minutes

Bell Peppers- quartered- 15 minutes

Bok choy- leaves separated- 6 minutes

Broccoli- florets- 10 minutes

Brussels Sprouts- whole- 40 to 45 minutes

Carrots- peeled, 1/2" sticks- 18 to 20 minutes

Cauliflower- florets- 15 minutes

Corn- whole and peeled- 1 hour soaked in water, 8 to 10 minutes in oven

Eggplant- whole, pierced a few times- about 40 minutes
or
Eggplant- 1/2" slices- 20 minutes

Fennel bulb- 1/3" sices- 30 minutes

Green beans- trimmed- 12 minutes

Green onion- whole- 10 to 12 minutes

Jerusalem Artichokes (aka 'sunchokes)- 1/4" slices- 12 to 15 minutes

Leeks- trimmed at green parts and halved- 30 to 35 minutes

Onions- halved- 25 to 30 min

Parsnips- see carrots

Potatoes- 1" cubes or small potatoes- 30 to 35 minutes

Radicchio- quartered lengthwise- 10 to 12 minutes

Rutabaga- 3/4" cubes- 30 to 35 minutes

Shallots- halved- 15 minutes

Sweet potatoes- 3/4" cubes, 25 to 30 minutes

Tomatoes- halved, plum tomato sized- 25 minutes

Zucchini- 1" rounds- 15 minutes






Monday, December 20, 2010

Have You Seen This?

If you must save your budget and not buy totally organic, the USDA put this list out a while back of the produce that was left with the most- and the least- pesticide residue after washing. You can print this and stick it in your purse or wallet.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Perfect Pink Martini Recipe

This post has nothing to do with food.

Except that if you are throwing or attending any Christmas cocktail parties, dinners, brunches, shindigs, extravaganzas, family game nights, or any other kind of get together, this album must be on your playlist. It pairs so well with holiday food.



I love Pink Martini- there is no other band on the market right now with their level of musicality and talent- and I have been lamenting for weeks, months even, about how I wish they would produce a Christmas album. Lo and behold, today my husband gave me an early Christmas gift. This album came out less than a week ago. Let the dinner parties begin!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

They MADE me buy it.


YES I should be Christmas shopping for other people. NO I couldn't control myself when I saw these on Gilt. YES, I bought four of them.

A good mug is hard to find, you know. One that isn't too small to hold a decent cup of tea, but isn't so big that a cup of coffee will keep me wired for five days. One that is juuuust right. With a good, comfy handle. And the cutest art work you've ever seen in your life that makes you think of a happy, summary forest, even in the middle of winter.
(Although, my brother-in-law just burst my bubble ever so slightly by saying the deer looked like dinosaurs).

I just got the mugs, but more details about the entire set is here on the Iittalla website.

Also just purchased for a party I'm having next Saturday:




Can you guess where I got the inspiration for that? You'd think at Christmastime plaid tablecloths would be in abundance. However, I started at lower end stores and worked my way up, and had a hard time finding much of anything. I decided in the end to drop the $$ for this one, because it will make me happy when it comes out with my Christmas decorations year after year after year, and WS quality has proved itself to be good in the past so I think it will last a long time.




Monday, December 06, 2010

I say!

It's time to interrupt the Christmas festivities to bring some news (or perhaps even suggest another gift for the Anglophile in your life). I am going to start with the assumption that you know that Prince William (whom I admittedly have always thought was pretty cute but mainly because he's a prince) is engaged to the deservingly cute Kate Middleton. Don't tell anyone, but I was sure to watch the news special about England's first royal-commoner marriage, with Princess Diana's ring, blah, blah blah....

I honestly can't say if I'm hypothetically envious of Kate (in a "one day I might be queen" kind of way) or if I would never in a million years want to be in her shoes. One thing I do know is that England is crazy about its royals, and ecstatic about its fads, and I would never, ever want an entire country eating off of my face.




...or drinking tea from my head. On top of that, could they have picked a more boring photo of either of them to put on these Aynsley China commemorative plates, the 2010 Engagement Collection? Man, English people are weird. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

Anyway, I couldn't find a price on this collection. But really, can you put a price on this?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

More love.


Trader Joes can really frustrate me sometimes- like when they constantly seem to discontinue my favorite items or when they allow a high fructose or partially hydrogenated ingredient slip into their products. On the other hand, sometimes I wish there really was a Trader Joe so I could kiss him- like when organic baby spinach is $1.99 a bag when elsewhere it's $4.59, or when I bake mini quiches for a party. Today, it's because of the chocolate pictured above.

Bakers an pastry chefs know what a pain it can be to melt chocolate for recipes (such as brownies, truffles, and anything chocolate dipped). Either you have to spend ridiculous amounts of time chopping pounds of chocolate or you have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to buy melting wafers. The only brand that I knew was commonly available was Guittard, and a 1 lb box can run anywhere from $9.99 to $12.99 or more.

So, thank you, thank you, Trader Joes, for marketing your own chocolate wafers, and pricing them at $1.99 for 8 oz. Not only is that price incredible, but the chocolate is good quality and quite amazing in taste. It's 100% cocoa mass (translation: only the basic ingredients of chocolates, with no fillers, preservatives, or emulsifiers), which is surprising enough. Even more shocking to me was how nicely flavored and textured the chocolate is. No seriously, I've been eating the wafers on their own or with a bit of peanut butter spread on top (a dangerous road....)


Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Good Deal


Usually the Lucky Magazine website has a "deal of the day"- a current piece of clothing or accessory on sale for 50% off just for the day. Needless to say, I log on whenever I think about it to see what cute item is posted. Today happens to be this pot. I almost spit out my tea when I thought it was Le Creuset. It isn't- it's a brand I have honestly never heard of called Green Cooking Pots (which is a promising name). However, with the coupon code Lucky is offering (use luckydaily4), it's literally 1/4 the price of a Creuset pot (only $76). If you need some enameled cast iron cook pots, it's worth a go, in my opinion.


Oh, it's only today, by the way, and it's a good Christmas gift!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Love this.

This Tommy Hilfiger ad was on TV last night. I never thought of myself as a Hilfiger lover (usually I'm not that in to Americana), but something about the style of this commercial struck me. Probably the fact that I love to wear cozy knits and to decorate with plaids. At any rate, I want to have a holiday dinner just like this one...rustic picnic style with soft plaid blankets for tablecloths, but juxtaposed with gold rimmed plates, and fancy taper candles in silver holders....What a wonderful mix of fancy and rustic food I could make!



And I feel like I have to confess what a sucker I am: I thought the clothes were so cute that I bought two Tommy Hilfiger sweaters online last night. Oops.