Archive for June, 2010

I have a girl crush on Ina Garten.  I want to move in with her, into her gorgeous house in the Hamptons, and cook and drink French wine with her and her friends every night.  We’ll pick fresh herbs from the garden, Michael will bring the flowers for our table setting, and Miguel will take the photos for my food blog.  Jeffrey is out of town most of the time, so surely she has room for one more, right?

Until that dream comes true, I will have to live out my fantasies making her recipes from my old kitchen in Berkeley.

This recipe of Ina’s is really good.  It’s fast and simple, since you can prep the other ingredients in the time it takes the pasta to cook.   It’s a really unusual combination, but it works.    When she made it on her show, she included cherry tomatoes.  While the Food Network website’s recipe doesn’t include the tomatoes, I did because I found a pint of this season’s first tomatoes at the farmers market.  I wouldn’t skip them – they add a sweetness that balances nicely with the pepper.  I also used penne instead of noodles because I think the tomatoes mix in a little better with shorter pastas.

Pasta with Pecorino and Pepper
Recipe by Ina Garten

1 tablespoon whole black Tellicherry peppercorns
1/2 pound dried pasta – I used penne, but Ina recommends an Italian egg pasta, such as tagliarelle
1 cup freshly grated aged Pecorino cheese (4 ounces), plus extra for serving
2 tablespoons heavy cream – I used half and half
1 tablespoon unsalted butter – I used about half that amount
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved

Place the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle and crush them until you have a mixture of coarse and fine bits. (You can also grind them in a small food mill or coffee grinder.) Set aside.

Fill a large, heavy-bottomed pot with salted water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, mince the parsley, grate the cheese, and halve the tomatoes.

 When the pasta is done cooking, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water before draining.  After you drain the pasta, return it to the pot.   

Working quickly, with the heat on very low, toss the pasta with 1/2 cup of the grated Pecorino, the crushed peppercorns, cream, butter, parsley, and 1 teaspoon salt, tossing constantly. If the pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved cooking water.  Once everything is combined, turn off the heat, and add the tomatoes and the remaining cheese.    Serve immediately with a big bowl of extra grated Pecorino for sprinkling.

And because at Ina’s house, no meal is complete without a glass of wine, I served it with some lovely sauvignon blanc from St. Supery.  How bad can that be?


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I have always thought that pancakes were the most overrated breakfast food.  There’s nothing objectionable about them, but given the choice between those and other breakfast goodies – waffles, and omelets, and bagels with lox, pancakes just always have seemed boring to me.

I may be coming around though because these were delicious.  Something about the addition of cornmeal in these things made them taste amazing.  They don’t have that weird spongy texture that has always bugged me about pancakes.  They are heartier and have a much nicer flavor.  Complete with sweet, juicy blueberries straight from the farmers market, this made for a really yummy breakfast.

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes
Recipe by Martha Stewart

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for griddle
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups (1 pint) blueberries

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter, and egg. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined (mixture will be lumpy).

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Heat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Toss blueberries with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Brush griddle with melted butter. Spoon batter onto griddle 1/3 cup at a time. Sprinkle with sugared blueberries, about 2 tablespoons per pancake.

Cook until edges are set, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter and blueberries, adding more butter to griddle and keeping prepared pancakes warm on a baking sheet in the oven. Serve with maple syrup and fresh blueberries.

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Pizza with Peas, Favas, and Bacon

A few weeks ago, some friends came to town.  It was their first visit to San Francisco.  After roaming around Ghiradelli Square and checking out the sea lions, we walked down to the Ferry Building.  After getting meat cones at Boccalone, we wanted some drinks.  Market Bar was serving their happy hour menu, so we grabbed a table in the sun and ordered up some snacks and Pimm’s cups.

One of the things we ordered was a pizza with pancetta and fava beans.  It was delicious.  I’ve been dreaming about it ever since and finally decided to make my own.  I tweaked it a bit, leaving off the onion and red sauce, using some delicious bacon from the Fatted Calf instead of pancetta, and adding a bit of mint.   I had some peas leftover from a salad the previous night, so I added those too.  I think the favas and peas here are pretty interchangeable – use one or both, whatever you have on hand.

Pizza with Favas, Peas, and Bacon

Pizza dough
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 strips of thick cut bacon, cut into thin strips
2 cups of shelled peas and or fava beans
a few mint leaves, thinly sliced
Olive oil
a splash of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 425.  After the pizza dough rises, roll it out and brush with a light coating of olive oil.  Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the thing and brush it in so it blends with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Arrange the mozzarella and bacon so its evenly distributed.  Sprinkle with mint and a little more salt and pepper.

Bake for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, toss the peas and favas in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  When 10 minutes have passed, remove the pizza from the oven and add the peas and favas.  Bake again for another 2-3 minutes, until the crust starts to brown and the cheese is melted.

Let the pizza cool for a couple minutes, and slice and serve.

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The best thing about spring is that I get to make this salad.  I adore it.  Fresh peas are absolutely amazing, and this salad has lots of them.  Freshly shelled and left raw, they are sweet and crunchy and perfect with the spinach, feta, and lemony dressing.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef cookbook.  Like most Jamie Oliver recipes, it’s pretty relaxed and not very precise.  Just toss a few handfuls of baby spinach with a handful of fresh shelling peas and crumble some fresh feta over it.  To dress, mix one part lemon juice with two parts olive oil, add a sprinkle of salt, and some freshly cracked pepper and whisk together.  Toss the dressing over the salad and you are good to go.

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Summer is almost here and there’s finally a wide variety of fruit in season again.  I went to a barbeque last weekend and decided to be brave, and not only make pie crust, but attempt a lattice crust.

I survived and the finished product actually looked pretty good, if I do say so myself.  And, even better, it tasted delicious.  There’s not a lot of ingredients here, so it has a very fresh, summery taste to it.

Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Simply Recipes

Enough pie crust dough for two crusts (I used a double batch of Martha Stewart’s pate sucree, because I’ve had luck with that in the past, but use whatever recipe you feel most comfortable with)
6 cups of fresh (or frozen) blueberries, rinsed and stems removed (if using frozen, defrost and drain first)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for thickening)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (which I forgot to add)
2 Tbsp butter (unsalted), cut into small pieces
Plus 1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash

I found my pie to be a little runny, so next time I’d probably add a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch to thicken it up a bit.  If you want a really thick filling that gels, I think its worth a try.

Prepare the crust.  Roll out half of the dough to 1/8-inch-thick circle on a lightly floured work surface, about 13 inches in diameter.  Mine of course didn’t look like a circle, but this part is going on the bottom so it doesn’t matter if its ugly and a little cracked or weird.  Place the dough over a 9 inch pie pan, rolling around a rolling pin to transfer, if its falling apart or too difficult to move.  Trim the edges so you’ve got 1/2 inch or so hanging over all the way around.  Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Gently mix the blueberries, sugar, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Pour them in the chilled bottom crust of the pie pan.   Dot with butter pieces.

Roll out remaining dough to the same size and thickness as the first.  If you want to make a lattice crust, cut the crust into one inch thick strips. Place four or five of the strips on top of the pie in vertical rows.  Weave the remaining strips through horizontally.  The crust isn’t really wet or messy so its easy to fix mistakes and work with the dough on top of the filling.   If I can do it, you can do it.  But, if you don’t wan to try it, just place the entire crust on top of the filling.

Seal the edges of the top layer with the bottom layer and crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork.  Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 425°F.

Whisk egg and milk together to make an egg wash.  Brush the top of the pie with the wash.  If you didn’t make a lattice crust, score the pie with a few cuts or prick with a fork so the steam can escape.  Place the pie on the middle rack on the oven with parchment paper or a silpat on the lower rack to catch any filling that bubbles over.

Bake for 20 minutes at 425°. Reduce heat to 350°F.  Cover the edges with tinfoil if they are starting to burn.  Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes until juices are bubbling and have thickened.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Let cool completely before serving.

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Whenever I walk down the street here in Berkeley, I have this incredible urge to pick things.  Something is always in bloom year round and my neighbors have rose and hydrangea bushes and gorgeous fruit trees.  The good stuff often overhangs their fences, taunting me.  I also have some neighbors who let their very adorable cats roam around outside.  One of these days, I’m going to snap and just come home with flowers tucked in my hair, lemons and avocados crammed in my pockets, and three cats in my arms.

Thankfully for everyone, I do have some self control (and my husband has cat allergies).  And, now I can stock my house with preserved lemons so I’m not tempted to take a few next time I walk around the block.

Preserved lemons are just lemons in a brine.  The recipe is super simple and they’ll last a while in your fridge.  I’ve been dicing up the whole lemon and adding it to couscous salad.  I’ve seen recipes floating around for adding it to chicken or lamb tagines, usually with green olives.  I may need to try something like that out soon.

To make these, I followed the instructions at Simply Recipes and David Lebovitz’s blog. I didn’t add any seasoning to my first batch, though other online recipes suggest adding peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, or cloves.

Preserved Lemons

A bunch of lemons
Kosher Salt


Pour a layer of salt in the bottom of a clean jar so the bottom is completely covered.

Slice a few lemons in quarters, leaving one end in tact (see picture above).  Pour salt in the slices, about a tablespoon per lemon.

Place the lemons in the jar, dumping a bit more salt on top of each one before adding the next.  Press them down a bit, cramming as many as possible.  I got four lemons into a pint jar.

Squeeze juice out of more lemons and pour into the jar so the lemons are covered.  Screw on the top and set aside.  For the next couple days, press the lemons down and add more lemon juice if needed.  Let the lemons sit for three to four weeks until rinds soften.

The lemons will keep in the fridge for about six months.  You can rinse them off before using to get rid of some of the salt, but they shouldn’t taste too salty – more briny, like an olive.

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