Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guest Chefs

My daughter Livy and her friend Ashi made dinner tonight. I kind of finagled them into it so I didn't have to, hee hee hee. I asked them what they were going to do and threw a few ideas out there and also told them there was chicken and a some veggies in the fridge if they wanted to cook and come up with their own creation for dinner. Smart, huh!! They made a yummy, juicy roast chicken with loads of herbs and lemon, romanesco broccoli with caramelized red and yellow onions and parmesan cheese, and steamed quinoa. For dessert they made a blueberry and raspberry cobbler. Ron did the dishes. Call me lady luck tonight!

Words From The Guest Chefs

Ashi: We had so much fun making dinner! It felt like we were real chefs!
Livy: I agree! The kitchen is such a fun and relaxing environment.
Ashi: Except when you get overwhelmed with food being done, or ready for the next step and your in the middle of something else.
Livy: It was especially nice to sit down and eat our delicious dinner after cooking it.
Ashi: My favorite thing to cook was the the chicken.
Livy: My favorite thing to eat was the chicken skin, and to cook it was to sauté the onions with garlic and cheese and the broccoli Ashi made.
Ashi: I think the easiest part was to steam the broccoli because all I had to do was put it in a colander on top of a pot of boiling water! But even though it was so easy it was still very exciting and fun!!!
Livy: I think that making the quinoa was easiest. And like Ashi said it was still very exciting and fun.
Ashi/Livy: It was so much fun to make dinner for the family.
Livy: Check out my blog, click on my name at the top of this post!
Ashi: PS. I am the dirty blonde with braids and I want to be a chef!
Livy: PSS. I am the brunette with hair down and I want to be a fashion designer!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sourdough Starter

My friend Julie gave me some sourdough starter* which she got from a popular bakery which I can't remember the name of. I am extremely grateful to receive this gift. I made a boule, my favorite kind of bread. It is hearty and tasty. I love it toasted and slathered with butter. I was lazy and used my bread machine for making the dough. This is how I did it; I put about 2 cups of the sourdough starter and 1 cup of water in machine. I added about 2 Tablespoons vital gluten (I used my fingers, no measuring spoons) about 3/4 cup dark rye flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 cups all purpose flour, a small pinch of yeast and about a tablespoon of course grey sea salt. Set machine to dough only cycle setting. When cycle was done I removed dough from machine and punched out. I shaped into a round and place on a piece of parchment and covered with a floured towel. I left it for a few hours to rise again. (We went out to dinner) When we returned, I pre-heated the oven to 500 degrees with my le creuset dutch oven inside. When heated, I slashed the top of the bread and lift it up by parchment and dropped the whole loaf parchment and all, into dutch oven and covered with lid**. Baked 30 minutes. Then removed cover and baked 5 additional minutes.

This baking method is part of the Jim Layey no knead bread method as seen in the NYT. Baking in the covered pot catches the steam released from the bread and creates a crisp crust. I think my oven was too hot and next time will cook at 450 degrees as the bottom was quite dark. Other than that, the bread came out very good with good size bubbles and a nice chew.

*Not everyone has a Julie to gift them sourdough starters. You can look on the web for instructions to start your own or buy freeze dried starter. I have started several starters over the years, but I have to admit none have been as good as this one. Thanks Julie!!

**If your Le Creuset or dutch oven lid has a plastic handle on top cover the handle with foil to avoid melting/smoking of plastic. There is a metal substitute available. I covered mine with foil and it was fine.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moqueca - Brazilian Fish Stew

I do follow recipes occasionally and this is one from a blog I subscribe to. It sounded so good and so easy that I followed it pretty closely (I don't measure except when baking) with the exception of the addition of mussels. One pot to clean, tasty and easy. Find the recipe here at Simply Recipes.

Eggs from my neigbor

Just some pictures of the beautiful eggs I purchase weekly from a neighbor.

Beef Shanks with Morels

The Beef shanks in this dinner are from the Black Angus cow I purchased in November. Shanks are very tasty with lots of gelatinous fat between the muscles, which adds richness and flavor, but they need to be braised till fork tender. The Morels were wild foraged by my friends Elizabeth and Danny. They were up in northern California in early winter and foraged a whole grocery bag of morels and boletes. The mushrooms were dried in a dehydrator and I received a quart of morels and a quart of boletes. Just for being me. Aren't I lucky to have such good friends.

I started by seasoning with salt and pepper browning the shanks in a little olive oil till nice and caramelized. While meat is caramelizing, cover a large handful or two of dried morels with boiling water. Once softened cut morels in half and rinse in cold running water to remove any grit. Strain soaking liquid and reserve. Alternately you can add fresh mushrooms of your choice to the pot after caramelizing the meat.

I added 1/2 chopped onion, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, 5 slender carrots halved, a bay leaf and a few sprigs thyme to pot. When the onions were soft I added 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 2 cups red wine and reduced by about half. I added 4 chopped tomatoes from a can of whole peeled tomatoes, 1 cup of very rich beef stock, strained mushroom liquid and water to bring liquid level about 2/3 of the way up the side of the meat. Meat should not be completely immersed in liquid. Add cleaned mushrooms. Bring to a boil, cover with foil and pot lid and put in a cool (310 degree) oven for about 3 hours or till meat is fork tender. Remove meat from pot, skim fat from sauce and if desired separate meat from bones and gelatinous tendons/fat. I don't mind the fat in my dish but my husband and children don't like it. Served with wide noodles.

Enjoy! xo

Monday, March 8, 2010

Arroz Con Pollo with a mediterranean touch

My plan for tonight's dinner started with a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Oh what to do, what to do? I started going through the pantry and came back with this: rice, can of artichoke hearts in water, container of organic chicken stock, a can of whole, peeled tomatoes, kalamata olives and capers. Here is what I did.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Piment d'espelette, (ground chili pepper from Basque country) and lightly dust with flour. In a hot pan add olive oil and brown the chicken pieces. Remove Chicken and add a little more olive oil if needed, 1/2 diced onion and 4 cloves chopped garlic. Sweat till soft and just starting to brown. Chop and add 4 whole peeled tomatoes. Saute a bit then add 1 1/2 to 2 cups rice and saute. add drained and rinsed artichoke hearts, a handful of olives and capers 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups water. Check seasoning and add salt if needed. Arrange the chicken on top, bring to a boil and simmer covered 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove the lid and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.

Sorry no pictures again, but this was pretty delicious for being thrown together quickly and I loved that there was only 1 pan to clean. Or rather my husband loved that there was just 1 pan to clean.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oldie but Goodie, My Favorite Asparagus, Quinoa

Here is one of the first restaurant dishes I put on the menu in the first restaurant I cooked at about 25 years ago. This was back before cooking school. The dish, Chicken Saute Sec was on a lot of restaurant menus way back when. It is simple and tasty and doesn't require a lot of ingredients. Tonight I served it with Red Quinoa with grated carrot, green onions and toasted almonds and Roasted Asparagus.

Chicken Saute Sec

Boneless skinless chicken breast
flour (white flour or whole wheat pastry flour)
shallots, chopped (I used a garlic clove and chopped green onions, because no shallots)
white wine
Salt and Pepper
butter and olive oil

Season the chicken with S&P and dust with flour. Heat a saute pan over high heat, add a little olive oil to cover and a knob of butter. When butter is melted add chicken. Depending on how many servings you are making you may do in batches, avoid overcrowding, brown and turn to brown on other side, reduce heat if necessary. As they are browned remove from pan. When all the chicken is browned, add a little more olive oil of necessary and add the shallots (or onions and garlic). Saute a bit and deglaze with a nice helping of white wine, about a cup. Reduce a bit then add chicken back. Lower heat and and finish cooking chicken turning over to coat and cook both sides. If you like a little more sauce you can add a little water. Done, easy peasy!


You can use regular or red quinoa. Rinse quinoa under cold water. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil on stove. Add a little salt and 1 cup rinsed quinoa. Return to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. While quinoa is cooking grate a large carrot, slice a couple of green onions and chop a handful of toasted almonds and toss together in a bowl. When quinoa is done cooking (quinoa is done when a little spiral opens up and is tender) strain and add to bowl, toss with a little olive oil and season with S & P. Any leftovers are great served cold as a salad the next day. Toss with salad greens if you like.

note; I toasted the almonds over low heat in the saute pan I used later for the chicken. No need to wash before using again.

Roasted Asparagus

With spring coming and asparagus appearing in the market I would like to share my favorite way to cook asparagus.

Break or cut off bottom ends of spear. Soak in cold water to remove any grit. Drain and dry. Line a sheet pan with foil (for easy clean-up, not required) and line up asparagus. Pour on a few splashes of olive oil (I like to use lemon infused olive oil) and season with salt and pepper. You can also grate lemon zest over it. Put in a hot oven about 410 degrees for about 10 minutes. Best with a little brownage on the edges. You can put it under the broiler briefly if you like.

Oops, I forgot to take pictures.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baked Rigatoni with Little Meatballs

I was not really in the mood to cook today, but I knew it would't be wise to suggest eating out as we had pizza last night and I feel guilty not cooking 2 days in a row. Livy is at a sleepover and Henry has his friend Callum over for a sleepover and I know pasta would satisfy them since that is pretty much what they would prefer to eat 7 days a week, Henry's faux palio diet aside. While perusing my google reader I came across this interesting tasty looking recipe from Smitten Kitchen. So when it was decided on pasta I remembered I had about 1/3 of a pound of ground beef left from hamburgers Thursday night and decided to make my own version of Rigatoni with Little Meatballs.

For the meatballs I used the ground beef and the tiniest egg I had and some leftover artichoke roast garlic bread soaked in milk along with a grated garlic clove (I grate garlic cloves on my microplane grater) and a few grates of parmigiano reggiano. Pinched off pieces and rolled and dusted with flour and browned in my cast iron skillet heated with olive oil to cover. I removed them from pan and swiped the pan with a paper towel to remove any burnt pieces.

I opened a can of San Marzano tomatoes and scooped out the tomatoes leaving the liquid behind. I put the tomatoes in a roasting pan and sprinkled with olive oil, S & P. Put in a slow oven (350) to intensify and concentrate the flavor.

I added the meatballs back to the skillet with some olive oil, grated garlic cloves. I added the remaining liquid from the can of tomatoes and simmered covered till almost dry. The tomato sauce will become very concentrated. Add the roasted tomatoes to the sauce and reduce any remaining runny liquid.

While your sauce is cooking boil a box of rigatoni pasta. Drain the pasta into a colander and make a simple bechamel in your pot: Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter and add 3 Tablespoons of flour and S& P. Stir and cook about 2 minutes without browning. Slowly add 2 1/4 cups of milk (I used half whole and half nonfat). Whisk vigorously while adding. Bring to a boil stirring. Sauce will thicken. Lower heat and let simmer a few minutes to cook the flour. Remove from heat and whisk in a shake or grate of nutmeg and about 3/4 cup grated parmagiano reggiano.

Put rigatoni in a baking pan with meatballs and sauce. Cover with Bechamel. Bake in 400 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes until browed.

Buon Appetito

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meyer Lemon Bars

Meyer Lemon Bars just went in the oven. I found the recipe over here. I just checked out the blog for the first time yesterday. I found it through a link in my feeder called tastespotting that collects food pictures and links from all over the web and the world. Lots of interesting recipes and very pretty food photography. I recommend you check it out too. Don't look when your hungry!

Lemon Bars are out of the oven and cooled and we just tried them. Livy and I both agree that they are a little bitter. This recipe is different than most lemon bars. The directions have you put a cut up meyer lemon, skin and all, minus the seeds in the food processor and pulse till roughly chopped. This is what caused the bitterness. I should have tasted the skin and pith of the lemon before this step. Next time I will leave this step out and add some extra juice. They are still good enough to eat though!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pork Stew

My friend DAnny has been raising 2 berkshire pigs and feeding them on the spent grain from the local micro brewery. The pigs are probably about 600 pounds or more. Just after the New Year Danny slaughtered one pig. The day after slaughter he brought the primal cuts and everything else to my house for a day of sausage making, Headcheese and butchery. He also came with 3 very awesome friends, 2 from the Ukraine and one guy from indonesia. We had a long day of cooking and ended up with some very awesome chorizo,german style sausage, blood sausage and head cheese, cured and smoked hams and proscuitto style ham. We also portioned all the fresh meat into family size portions.

Today I am cooking the cut of pork that would be flank on a beef. It is very marbled piece of meat but a little tough. I chopped the meat into 1-2 inch cubes seasoned with grey salt and seared in olive oil in a very hot pan till very brown and caramelized. Then I added 1 course chopped onion, 5 crushed garlic cloves, 1 course chopped poblano chili and a deseeded serano, and 3 course chopped carrots. I deglazed with a little white wine then added about 2 cups water and a few shakes of oregano. Brought to a boil and simmered about 1 hour. Served over rice.

It was very good with a beautiful and tasty clear broth. The meat was dark and rich and the chile's add just a little sweet, mild heat. The kids loved it and since Henry has decided to go on a Palio diet he ate all his veggies and meat, no rice. Since he doesn't quite understand what he is doing and just wants to be like Dad, it didn't bother him that he followed up dinner with a bowl of cheerios and nutella on whole grain bread sandwich. I think he is having a growth spurt. He is very proud of himself today. He started going to bed on his own and reading himself to sleep. He started book 1 in the Bone Series last night, a graphic novel series, and he so proud that he read over 100 pages since he started. I guess it helps that he is suspended from school and has all the time in the world. Whatever, I am happy he is reading and proud of himself, it is just what the boy needs.

Happy to be communicating to you all again.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Missed You, braising beef, and making prepared horseradish

I'm sorry for not posting for such a long time. I've been cooking quite a bit since I last posted, but I was not able to blog. I think it was a mental thing. I actually purchased half a side of organic grass fed black angus beef from my neighbor in late November and I've made some beautiful braised dishes over the cold, wet winter.

At Christmas I received 2 new cookbooks; Ad Hoc by Thomas Keller and Sunday Suppers at Luque's by Suzanne Goin. They are both fantastic and I've used quite a few recipe ideas for my braises. One I especially loved was the Braised Short ribs from Sunday Suppers at Lucque's. The recipe used balsamic vinegar and a whole bottle of wine. It is served with mashed potatoes, horseradish cream and kale. I followed the recipe as written and it was perfect. For the horseradish cream, I used my own prepared horseradish which I made like this: Peel and clean 1 large horseradish root. The root is a very large hairy root. It is very "hot" so be prepared on inhaling that your eyes may tear. Yikes, but it is worth it. Cut the large peeled root into smaller pieces that you can grate in your food processor. Alternately grate by hand. Change to regular processer blade and process grated root with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 tablespoon sea salt. Transfer to glass jars and press down, add additional vinegar if necessary to cover.

Another braise I did was my own recipe that I threw together and it came out fantastic. I had a bone in chuck roast from my cow. It was huge, about 8 pounds, 3 inches think and 12 inches in length. I cut it in half and browned it in my le creuset one at a time till very nicely browned. Then I added 1 onion, julienned, 2 celery stalks chopped and about 4 large carrots chopped. I also threw in a very generous handful of peeled garlic cloves. I deglazed the whole thing with a full bottle of red wine and reduced by half, then added about 2 cups very rich beef stock (again made from my cow). I threw in a handful of thyme sprigs, a chile de arbol and covered the pot with foil and a lid. I cooked for 3-4 hours in a slow oven, about 300 degrees. Cooked until it broke easily apart with a fork. I served this with wide egg noodles. My intention was to cook this for my family and a friend's husband and kids while I went to knit night at my friend's. The message got crossed and friend's husband and kids ate before they came. Well, they had 2 dinners that night and my friend Linda really would like me to teach her to cook this for her man. He loved it.