Archive for February, 2010

It’s a lazy Sunday here in Berkeley, and I was getting the cooking itch.  My dinner tonight is easy – meat is marinating and there’s not much left to do.  I was having a cookie craving and decided to whip up a batch of shortbread.  This recipe could not be easier.  As proof, I offer up the fact that it’s just 2 hours since I decided to whip these up, and I’m now on the couch with a couple cookies, a glass of Lemon Verbena Elixir straight from my freezer, my laptop, and a Law & Order SVU on the DVR.

Life is good.

Citrus Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Epicurious

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Finely grated zest from a lemon and an orange
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 300°F.  Butter or grease a 9-inch-diameter springform pan.  Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add the butter and using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers until it starts to come together.  

At this point, the recipe suggests rolling it out, then pressing it into a pan.  I skipped that step and just pressed it evenly right into the greased pan.  Using tip of small sharp knife, score the into 8 equal triangles, then pierce all over with fork.   It’s a little flaky, so just do it gently and carefully. 

Bake until shortbread is cooked through and pale golden, about 40-45 minutes.  At the 30 minute mark, I pulled it out of the oven, re-scored it again to make sure it wouldn’t crumble when I cut it, and gave it a light sprinkling of sugar.

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I don’t really have that much to say about this dish, except that:

1. It’s really good, really easy, and you should make it.  And quickly, because spring is almost here (exhibit A – asparagus at the farmer’s market last week). 

2. It makes a ton and reheats relatively well.

3. Between this and the sweet potato gnocchi with arugula I made a few months back, I’m now convinced that arugula and orange vegetables go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga de dinga a dong.

4.  Leave out the cheese and it’s great for the vegans.  Or, go the other direction and add bacon. Which, since I’m not a vegan, would be the way I’d go. 

Penne with Butternut Squash, Walnuts, and Bitter Greens
Recipe by me

1 pound of penne
1 1/2-2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, and cut into a 1 inch dice
1/2 cup of walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
A few large handfuls of greens.  I used arugula and radicchio, probably about 5 or 6 cups.
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
Grated parmesan to serve

Preheat oven to 425.  Toss the squash cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss in a roasting pan.  Roast for about 30 minutes, turning once or twice, until squash is soft and lightly carmelized around the edges.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil and cook the pasta.  Return the pasta to the pot.  Slowly mix in the squash, along with any juices from the pan.  Add the greens in bunches, stirring until just wilted.  Add the toasted walnuts and stir to combine.

Serve with grated cheese.

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I recently attempted an olive oil polenta cake that was a major fail.  I don’t know if the recipe was bad, if I missed a step, or if it was supposed to taste dry and bland.  So, I won’t be making that again.  What I will be making again is the syrup I drizzled on top.  I wanted to eat this stuff with a spoon.  It’s sweet and thick, and the bay leaf adds an herbal note that rounds it out and makes it interesting.  Drizzle it on cakes, pancakes and waffles, ice cream, or anything you can think of.   I bet it would be fantastic over some goat cheese too. 

Bay Infused Blood Orange Syrup
Recipe by me

5 Blood oranges
1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of honey

Segment the oranges, collecting as much of the juice as possible.  Squeeze out the membranes to gather up more juice.

Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and dissolve the sugar in it.  Add the honey, the orange segments and juice, and the bay leaf.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf, and continue to simmer another 5-10 minutes, until it reaches desired consistency.  Drizzle over anything you like.  It will gel up a bit if it sits for too long, so to thin it out, just reheat with a couple drops of water.

Makes about 1 cup.

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I was having friends over for pizza, and I wanted something not too cheesy or bread based for an appetizer.  I have seen kale chips popping up in the blogs lately and thought they might be just the right thing.  There’s, s a few different recipes going around, but this one by Dan Barber of Blue Hill Farms, which appeared in Bon Appetit, seemed like the way to go.   

They are super easy to prepare.  I whipped them up and they tasted like a potato chip, only more vegetal.  Light, crispy, and a faint vegetable taste to them.  Very crunchy and addictive. 

But, 10 minutes before people arrived, I freaked that they were just a little too hippie to serve to people.  

How would people react to burnt leaves?  

It was too late to change my mind, though. I had nothing else to serve, so the hippie food stayed out.  Thankfully, my risk taking paid off.  While one guest did say, “you can eat those?!”, everyone loved them and the double batch I made was completely gone.  People liked them enough that these may become a party staple of mine.

Tuscan Kale Chips
Recipe from Bon Appetit

12 large Tuscan kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, center ribs and stems removed 
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 250°F.  Toss kale with oil in large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Arrange leaves in single layer on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes for flat leaves and up to 33 minutes for wrinkled leaves.  Transfer leaves to rack to cool.

At this point, you could break them up and have them more chip size, but I liked the presentation in Bon Appetit.  Into a vase they went to be nibbled on with wine, marinated olives, and quick salt and sugar radish pickles

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A couple weeks ago, I signed up for a meat CSA program through Marin Sun Farms.  Once a month, we’ll get a random assortment of braising and roasting cuts and ground meat from grass fed, pasture raised, humanely treated animals.   Our first shipment arrived February 11 and the meat looked amazing.  We celebrated Valentine’s day by cooking up these beef back ribs, which were included in our first shipment.

To go with it,  I decided to try my hand at homemade pasta.  This was the first time I’ve made homemade pasta and it was much, much simpler than I ever imagined.  I’ve got a Kitchenaid pasta roller attachment, bought ages ago with a William Sonoma gift card.  It had languished unused in the box for over a year, but I’m happy to report that its maiden voyage was a smooth one.  I used the recipe that came with the roller and I had no problems whatsoever.   I bought some beautiful mushrooms at the farmers market, but unfortunately, the name of them escapes me.  I sauted those with kale and served that with the beef over the pasta.  Fantastic, especially with a nice bottle of cabernet from Jessup Cellars in Napa.

I didn’t have time this week to prepare a completely local meal, so I’m counting this as my Dark Days contribution for the week.  Everything here is local, except for the flour I used in my pasta.  I realize that’s a pretty substantial exception, so this isn’t the my best work.  But, it is what it is.  For next year’s challenge, I’ll hopefully own a car and I can drive around in search of local flour.  Until then, I’ll just count my local blood, sweat and tears in making it myself.

Braised Beef Back Ribs with Mushrooms and Kale
Recipe by me

1.5-3 pounds of beef back ribs
4 cups of red wine
3 or 4 carrots, sliced in three inch chunks
One onion, cut into large chunks
A few sprigs of thyme
2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch of Tuscan kale, thick stems removed, and chopped into 1 inch ribbons
1 large shallot
1 tablespoon of butter
Olive oil, salt, and pepper
1 pound of pasta, preferably a wide, flat noodle such as pappardelle

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a dutch oven or oven safe pan, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Place the rack of ribs in and brown all over, about 5 minutes.  Add about 3 cups of wine, the carrots, onions, and a few sprigs of thyme.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and put in the oven for about 1.5 hours, checking after an hour or so to see if more liquid is needed, and if so, add a bit more wine or some water. 

When the meat seems tender, take the pot out of the oven, remove the meat, cover, and set aside.  Remove the thyme springs.  Transfer the vegetables and cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, pureeing until smooth.  Add a little more wine if the mixture seems too thick. 

Pour the liquid back in the dutch oven and put the meat on top.  Cover again and put it back in the oven.  If the meat is done enough for you, just set it on warm.  Otherwise, keep it at 325 or so until you are ready to eat.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add one tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter.  When the butter melts, add the diced shallot, and slowly cook until it begins to carmelize.  Add the kale, tossing to coat.  Add one cup of wine and cover.  Simmer over medium low for about 10 minutes, until kale starts to soften.  Add the sliced mushrooms, cover again, and continue to cook another five minutes or so.  Add salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta.  When draining, reserve a cup or so of the water. 

To put everything together, take the meat out of the oven and slice the ribs.  Add a bit of the pasta water to the vegetable puree if needed.  Toss the pasta with the kale and mushrooms, adding a bit of pasta water if needed.  Serve the pasta in bowls, with a rib and some vegetable puree spooned over it.

We cooked a pound of pasta because that’s what the recipe called for, but we only had three beef ribs.  So we just tossed the vegetable puree in with the rest of the pasta and ate it without the meat for leftovers.  But doubling the amount of meat would probably result in 6 hearty portions.

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In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been on a broccoli rabe kick lately.  I have no idea how much longer it’ll be at the farmers market, so I’ve been buying it up like it is going out of style. 

This combo really works.  The bitter lemon and broccoli rabe with the tangy goat cheese – mmm, perfect.  I had some friends over for dinner, and served it along with my winter pizza and a basic margherita sprinkled with a bit of green garlic.   They all ate it up, so I think it’s safe to say that it is actually delicious. 


The recipe comes from Saveur.  Either my rectangular crust is much bigger than what they used or they like scantily dressed pizzas because they had some skimpy topping measurements.  So, I’m printing my portions below.

Pizza with Broccoli Rabe, Lemon, and Goat Cheese
Recipe by Saveur, adjustments by me

1 batch of pizza dough
1 bunch of broccoli rabe, stems and leaves cut into 1-2 inch chunks
zest of 2 lemons (about a 1/4 cup)
3-4 oz goat cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper

In a large skillet, warm up about 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the chopped broccoli rabe and saute over medium heat, about 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.

Roll out pizza dough.  Spread the broccoli rabe evenly all over it.  Sprinkle with the goat cheese and lemon zest.   Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the entire pizza and finish off with a sprinkle of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Bake in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes and serve.


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Last weekend, we went to a housewarming party for friends.  It was a late night, filled with good food and lots of wine and rhubarb mojitos.  So, on Sunday morning when I woke up, I was quite happy I had a fridge full of good, local breakfast making supplies to help take the edge off.

The sausage comes from Fatted Calf in Napa, which can do no wrong.  The frittata I made with local eggs, leeks, garlic, parsley, and homemade ricotta.  Just warm up some olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute a finely sliced leek for a few minutes and add two cloves of minced garlic.  Beat up 4 eggs, a splash of cream, a bit of minced fresh herbs, and a 1/2 cup of ricotta.  Season with salt and pepper and pour over the leek mixture.  Keep it on the stove for a minute or two until the bottom sets up, then stick it under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the edges are crispy and the eggs have cooked through.   Sprinkle a bit of parsley and you are good to go.

Even better when you’ve got slices of local blood oranges to go with it.

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Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make something luxurious for breakfast.  And what is more luxurious than saffron?

To make these, I just followed my standard scone recipe.  I left out the berries, and replaced it with the goodies scraped from a half a vanilla bean and the zest from one lemon. 

To make the glaze, juice half the lemon.  Add about 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar and a pinch of saffron.  Whisk together, adding water or lemon juice by the drop or sugar by the teaspoon, until you reach the desired consistency.  When the scones come out of the oven, place them on a rack to cool and frost with the glaze.  Enjoy with your honey.


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Orecchiette is this cute little ear-shaped pasta that I use in one of my favorite dishes.  My husband got the recipe from an old Italian roommate of his and it was the first meal he cooked for me.  I was also the first time I had ever had broccoli rabe.  I fell in love.  I love it almost as much as arugula.  The broccoli rabe that is.  My husband does actually place before arugula in my heirarchy of awesome. 

The dish also has anchovies in it.  Don’t be afraid.  And don’t skip them.  They add a fabulous briny, rich taste to the sauce that compliments the bitter broccoli rabe perfectly.  Plus, Michael Pollan says to eat your little fishies, and you can’t argue with him.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe
Recipe by some Italian guy

1 pound orecchiette pasta (De Cecco is the only store brand I’ve seen that makes it.  If you can’t find it, I think farfelle would be a good substitute.)
1-2 bunches of broccoli rabe, washed and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 4 ounce tin of anchovies.  If they are really firm, you might want to give them a coarse dice before adding them just to help them disintegrate.
1/4 cup or so of olive oil
4 or so garlic cloves, finely minced
good size pinch of red pepper flakes

In a large pot of salted water, cook the pasta according to the package, and drain, reserving a half cup or so of pasta water.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat.  Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and saute for a couple minutes, until the garlic is golden brown.  Add the anchovies, stirring to help them break down.

Add the broccoli rabe, tossing with the oil so it wilts.   Cook for a few minutes until it is completely incorporated with the oil and has wilted.  Add a little bit of the pasta water if it looks dry. 

Toss with the orecchiette and serve with lots of parmesan cheese.

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A slightly more sophisticated looking dinner than last week, using very similar ingredients.

And, this soup rocked.  Butternut squash, pear, and turnip?  Yes, please.  I already had one standard butternut squash soup recipe, but now it has competition in the rotation.  You can definitely taste the pear in it, though the spicy turnip balances everything out, keeping it from being too sweet.  The recipe looks simple, and I was tempted to add some leeks or garlic or something.  I didn’t, and I found I didn’t need to.  It works perfectly just as it is.

The fancy floating pear was pretty easy to do, so try it out and impress your guests with your oh-so-Martha presentation.

On the side, a mix of mustard greens and salad greens.  I dressed it with olive oil and cider vinegar (not local), with a tiny splash of maple syrup (a local-to-them gift from family in Massachusetts).  The maple dressing was really good on the bitter, spicy mustard greens.

All and all, a delicious winter meal.

Pear and Autumn Vegetable Soup
Recipe by Martha Stewart

4 small Bartlett pears (about 6 ounces each), plus an additional larger pear to use for the garnish
1 sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 turnip (about 3 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sprig fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, white if you have it

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Cut the larger pear into paper thin pieces, using a mandoline or sharp knife.  Pick out the seeds and stem.  Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut 2 medium pears lengthwise into paper-thin slices.  Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake about 1 hour, or until the pears are dry.  Cool completely on a wire rack. 

Peal the remaining pears.  Halve lengthwise and core.  Add the pears, squash or pumpkin, and the turnip to a 4 quart stockpot with the sage and a teaspoon of salt.  Cover with water (at least 4 cups) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Discard the sage.  Carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and puree in batches.   Return the soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the cream, salt, and pepper.   Serve with the dried pears as a garnish.

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