Archive for January, 2010

I am embarrassed to be putting this picture up because it just is not an attractive meal.  But, this was my local meal for the week, and I’ve committed to talking about it.  So, let’s just get the ugly photo out of the way.

Yeah.  Sorry about that. 

It’s a butternut squash pancake with smoked cheddar cheese and braised dandelion greens with garlic and lemon.  All local ingredients. Other than that, I’ll spare you the details.  Let’s just say the pancake tasted a lot better than it looked.  The dandelion greens did not.

Finally, I must add that my wonderful husband is a trooper.  I felt so horrible putting such a hideous looking plate down before him, and he graciously ate it up with compliments, not complaints.  I don’t know if many people could be so supportive of my weird cooking attempts, so I’ll just say that he rocks.

I promise something more appetizing looking very soon.

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So, I think we are all in agreement that pasta is delicious and wine is delicious.   Well, imagine having them together.  Not just a glass with your pasta, but all in one, delicious, winey-carby bite?  Yes, such a dream is possible with this Michael Chiarello recipe.

I don’t really have much else to say about it, except that this is delicious.  The bitterness of the broccoli rabe goes so perfectly with the spicy zinfandel and red pepper flakes, and there’s garlic. 


Red Wine Pasta with Broccoli Rabe
Recipe by Michael Chiarello

1 3/4 pounds broccoli rabe, thick stems discarded – I used two big bunches from the farmers’ market, which seemed to be just the right amount.
1 pound spaghetti – I used linguini.  Use a reasonably good brand here like Barilla or De Cecco.  I think some of the cheaper brands wouldn’t hold up as well during the cooking process.
1 bottle red wine (750 ml – preferably Zinfandel) – I used a $4 bottle of “Old Moon” Zinfandel from Trader Joe’s, which worked just fine.  A better quality wine would probably give it a richer flavor, but I liked how this one worked.
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes – I used this much, but next time I’ll halve it.  It was just a bit too spicy.
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Chop the broccoli rabe into 1 inch, bite size pieces.  If your broccoli rabe has a lot of florets and is fairly thick and sturdy, you’ll want to blanch it in boiling water for a minute or two, then transfer to a colander to drain, reserving the liquid.  Mine was leafy and a little more delicate, so I skipped the blanching phase. 

Bring water to a boil (or bring the broccoli rabe water back up to a boil and cook the pasta for about 5 minutes.  The pasta won’t be cooked at this point.  Reserve one cup of the pasta water and drain in a colander.  

In that same pot, add the wine and sugar and bring to a boil.  Boil over high heat for about 2-3 minutes, until it starts to reduce.  Add the pasta to the wine and continue to boil.  Stir gently with tongs to ensure it doesn’t stick, and cook for about 6 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, warm a deep skillet or saute pan over low heat.  Add the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes,  stirring to ensure they don’t burn, and cook until garlic is pale golden, about 5 minutes.  Add the broccoli rabe, salt, and pepper and stir together while keeping the skillet on low, about 1-2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and simmer for another minute or so.

Pour the broccoli rabe mixture into the pot of pasta and wine, and toss together with thongs.   Cook while stirring, about 2 minutes or until most of the liquid has boiled off.   Remove from heat, season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, if you like.  Add the grated cheese and serve immediately.

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For this week’s Dark Days challenge, I tried out two new recipes.  The first comes from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, a really wonderful cookbook that a friend lent to me and I’ve been hoarding for way too long.  Deborah Madison was the genius behind the delicious goat cheese and leek tart, and this recipe for onion and smoked cheddar custard looked particularly delicious.  I really liked the finished product – for a vegetarian dish, it had an amazing meaty flavor.  Or, umami if you prefer the technical term.  The recipe calls for it to be baked in six 1/2 cup ramekins.  I used 4 one cup ramekins because that’s what I had and it seemed like a better size for one serving anyway. 

I served it with braised escarole, using a recipe from Tyler Florence.  Escarole isn’t really a vegetable I’m too familar with, but they were on full display at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I thought about a salad, but felt like experimenting and opted to cook it.  If you had told me that what was essentially boiled lettuce would taste good, I would have thought you were joking.  But, wow.  The recipe said it served four, but we had no problem finishing it off, it was that good.  Thank you, Tyler Florence. 

Just about everything here is local, with the exceptions being the flour in the custard, the oil, and the red pepper flakes.

Savory Custards with Carmelized Onion and Smoked Cheddar
Recipe by Deborah Madison, Local Flavors

1 tablespoon butter, plus butter for the ramekins
large yellow onions cut into a medium dice
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large market eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (2 % will taste fine) or light cream
pinch of nutmeg
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup finely grated smoked Cheddar cheese

Heat a large skillet with the butter.  I didn’t have a large enough non-stick one, which is what the recipe recommended, so I used stainless steel.  Add the onions and mix well with the melted butter.  Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cover.  Cook over medium heat until the onions are very soft, about one hour.  During this time, you’ll need to give them a stir every 5-10 minutes.  I found I needed to add 1/4 cup of water a couple times during the cooking because they were starting to stick.  It could have been because I didn’t use a nonstick pan or because my stove runs hot.  In any event, just keep an eye on it, and if it’s starting to burn or stick, a good splash of water isn’t going to hurt them.  After an hour and the onions are nice and carmelized, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. 

Preheat the oven to 375.  Boil water for the baking dish.  Grease the ramekins.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk in the milk, nutmeg, flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a grating of pepper.  Split the onions and cheese among the ramekins and pour in the custard.  

Stir the contents of the ramekins to mix up the onions and cheese.  Put them in a baking dish and add the boiling water so that it comes up to at least an inch up the sides.  Bake them in the middle of the oven until golden and well set, about 50 minutes.  The tops should puff up a bit.  The recipe said that they shouldn’t brown but mine did.  

With the custards, I made the braised escarole.

Braised Escarole with Garlic and Lemon
Recipe by Tyler Florence

1 head escarole, about 1 pound
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1/2 lemon, cut in thin slices
2 cups water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
Pinch sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break off the leaves of the escarole and wash them carefully.  They will likely be very dirty, so this might take a while.  Dry the leaves, and slice them crosswise into 1 1/2 wide ribbons.  

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and lemon slices.  Saute for a couple of minutes, until the lemon starts to get soft and the garlic gets golden. 

Add the escarole, sauteing it until it starts to wilt, about 2 minutes.  Add a sprinkle of sugar, salt, and pepper.   Add the water or broth and cover.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the escarole is tender.  I removed the lid around 18 minutes because there was a lot of liquid in the pot and I wanted to boil some of it off. 

I served it along side the custard with a couple slices of ciabatta from a local bakery to soak up the juices from the escarole.  So good!

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These ugly looking things are celery root.  I’ve never cooked with celery root, and not even sure if I’ve ever eaten it.  Nevertheless, this recipe for celery root soup has intrigued me ever since I saw it in Food and Wine last year.

I’m not  a huge fan of celery, mostly because it’s just stringy and weird.  When I cut the root open and discovered it smelled exactly like celery, I got a little nervous.  I wound up doctoring the recipe a bit to try to balance out the celery flavor.  Lucky for me, this soup was indeed good.  While celery root smells like celery, it tastes a little earthier and, even better, no weird strings.  I will definitely cook with it again.  The version below is my version.

The original recipe in Food and Wine suggested pairing it with clementine toasts.  I had picked up a bunch of satsuma mandarins at the farmers’ market, so I thought I’d try pulling it off.  The relish was really, really good.  Sort of like a marmalade-chutney type of spread.  However, segmenting satsumas is something I will never, ever do again.  Lots of work to produce about a teaspoon of segment from one mandarin.  Argh.  I used about seven of them, when the recipe recommended two, and made a giant mess in my kitchen.  So, while delicious, I recommend trying this with normal sized oranges.

Everything here is local, except for the mustard seeds.  The bread comes from Acme bakery, the wine from St. Supery in Napa, all produce comes from the farmers’ market, and the dairy from Clover Stornetta in Petaluma.

Celery Root Soup
Inspired by Food and Wine, original recipe can be found here.

2 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 medium leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2-3 pounds celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
Salt, pepper, and parsley to serve

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the leeks and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes.  

Add the garlic and the white wine, scraping up any bits that have accumulated on the bottom.  Add the celery root, broth and water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the celery root is tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.  Return to the saucepan and stir in the cream.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.

Mandarin Relish Toasts
Inspired by Food and Wine, original recipe can be found here.

2-8 firm clementines, mandarins, or oranges
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
Toasted slices of bread

Remove the peel and white pith from the oranges.  Working over a skillet, cut between the membranes to release the sections and squeeze the juice from the membranes into the skillet.  It’s hard for me to estimate how many you’ll need.  It depends on the orange, your citrus segmenting skills, and how many toasts you want.  The relish is really good, so I recommend making a decent amount and aiming to have about 1/2 cup of segments plus juice in your pan.  

Add the shallot, vinegar and mustard seeds.  Cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until most of the juice has evaporated and the fruit has started to break down, about 2 minutes.

Let the relish cool to room temperature.  Season with salt. Spread the relish over the toasts and serve with the soup.

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The other night, I had big plans to make my Winter Pizza again.  While the dough was rising, I carmelized the shallots, prepped the squash, and grated the cheese.

Then I looked at the dough.

It was a hot mess.  It was hard as a rock and hadn’t really risen.  It seems there was a problem with the yeast.  I had no idea how to salvage it and I was starving.  So, I threw out the dough and did some quick thinking. 

Arborio rice in the pantry, vegetable stock in the freezer, and an open bottle of white wine in the fridge meant my new risotto recipe was born.

I made a butternut squash risotto last year.  This one is much more complex, so I recommend ignoring that one and opting for this.  While it wasn’t pizza, it was still pretty damn good.

Butternut Squash and Carmelized Shallot Risotto

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2-3 cups of  butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch chunks
3-4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely diced sage leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock, or a mix of stock and water
a couple tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese and grated fontina cheese


Bring the stock to a simmer.

In a separate, heavy pot over medium high heat, add tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the shallots and saute for about 8 minutes or so, until they become golden brown and carmelized. 

Add the rest of the olive oil, and the diced butternut squash and the sage.  Start cooking the squash, and after 3 or 4 minutes, add the arborio rice.  Stir to coat the rice.

Add the wine, stirring and cook until almost all liquid has been absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of broth into the rice and stir, until almost all liquid is absorbed.  In 1-2 ladle increments, slowly add the rest of the broth, stirring and letting it absorb until adding more.  This should take about 20-30 minutes.

Stir in the fontina and the parmesan.  Salt and pepper to taste.

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The challenge with relying on the farmers market is that you never know what you are going to get.  When I made my trip yesterday, it was my first in nearly a month and things had changed a little.  Some of the vendors that I rely on weren’t there and a few others were carrying a different mix of produce.  I had gone with the expectation that I’d make some sort of vegetable enchiladas with my favorite roasted tomatillo salsa.  Except no tomatillos or chilies were to be found yesterday.

So, I loaded up my backpack with a bunch of stuff and tried to think through a plan on my walk home.  A quick look in my Flavor Bible confirmed my suspicion that fennel and apple would taste nicely together and I set to work.

I relied on this recipe from Food & Wine in executing my vision.  The fennel sausage comes from The Fatted Calf and all the other produce comes from various vendors at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  The salad is a mix of arugula, radicchio, and delicious local walnuts, dressed with a lemon vinagrette (though my olive oil is not local).  While the cider is from the Farmers’ Market as well, the wine I used, admittedly, was purchased at Trader Joe’s, but hails from Healdsburg.

Braised Sausage with Fennel and Apple
Inspired by this recipe from Food and Wine

4 fennel sausages, approximately 1 pound total
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
1-2 heads of fennel, thinly sliced.  Mine were quite small so I used two, but if you find a big one, it’s probably enough.
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 cup of cider
1/4 cup of dry white wine (or more cider, chicken stock, or even just water)
a pat of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Place the sausages in a large skillet.  Add a half cup of cider and a half cup or so of water…just enough so they are at least halfway covered, but not so much that they are completely covered.  Simmer on medium high heat for about 7-8 minutes or so.  Remove from pan, cover, and set aside.  At this point, there may still be some liquid in the pan, but either way, it’s OK.

Reduce heat to medium and add a pat of butter.  Add the leek and saute for a few minutes.  Add the wine and let that simmer, scraping up the carmelized bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the apples and fennel, and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occassionally.  When they start to soften, add the remaining cider.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for another minute or two, until it starts to reduce.

Add the sausage and any juices that are on the plate.  Cook for another minute or two, until the sausages are warmed up again, and you are ready to serve.

I garnished mine with a few fennel fronds just before serving.  I really liked the dish.  I’ve never been a big fennel fan, but I liked it here.  I think the apples made it sweet and the fennel cut the sweetness of the apple, so it didn’t taste sugary.  Great combo!

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I’m on Twitter!

New decade, new social media.

Come follow me on Twitter!  Find me at:  http://twitter.com/arugulove

I must confess, I’m still a little confused over there.  So if you try to signal me with some series of letters, numbers, and symbols, and I don’t respond right away, please don’t take it personally!

And if there’s any Twitter feeds you think I should be checking out, please let me know!

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Happy new year!  I’ve been travelling around visiting family for the holidays and very behind on my blog posting.  Hopefully, you all were busy with your own holiday plans to miss me too much. 

I made this soup right before Christmas, and since it used all local ingredients, it’s my submission for the Week 7 Dark Days Challenge (sadly, I missed week 6 because of travels).  I got the idea from fellow Dark Days Challenge participant, Married With Dinner, who made Emeril Lagasse’s Potato Leek Soup a few weeks back.  I’ve never made potato leek soup before, but this version looked so good that I had to try it out.  It was absolutely delicious.  Next time, I am going to make a double batch and freeze half of it.

Everything I used here except the salt and pepper are local.  All the produce comes from the farmer’s market.   For stock, I used homemade vegetable broth that I had made and froze a while ago, using an onion, carrot, leek trimmings, herbs, and whatever other things happened to be in my produce drawer that afternoon.  The bacon comes from Fatted Calf, the dairy from Clover Stornetta Farms in Sonoma, and the wine is a sauvignon blanc that my husband picked up at St. Supery in Napa on a recent trip. 

Potato Leek Soup
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse

1 large or 2 small leeks, about 1 pound, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
20 black peppercorns (I just ground up a bunch)
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
2 strips bacon, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock  (I used vegetable)
1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, diced  (I used Yukon gold)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon white pepper (I skipped)
1/2 to 3/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream (I used half and half)
2 tablespoons snipped chives


The original recipe calls for creating a bouquet garni using some leek trimmings to make a packet that you fill with the peppercorns, bay leaves, and thyme.  That is way too much work for a Tuesday night, so I just skipped that step.  I just tossed the bay leaves and thyme right into the broth and fished them out before blending, then just ground in lots of fresh pepper.  So much easier for essentially the same thing.   Just be sure to count the bay leaves as you put them in and take them out because you don’t want to grind one of those up.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the chopped up pieces of bacon.  Stir occassionally, cooking for about 5 to 6 minutes, until the bacon is very soft and has rendered most of its fat. 

Add the leeks and stir gently until wilted, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Add the bay and thyme, or the bouquet garni if you are using, the stock, potatoes, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and falling apart.

Remove the bouquet garni or fish out the herbs.  Working in batches, puree the soup, using a a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.   Stir in the cream or creme fraiche and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Sprinkle some of the snipped chives on top to serve. 

Particularly delicious on a cold night with a glass of the wine you poured in (can’t let it go bad!) and a hunk of bread from a local bakery.

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