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Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

I have seen both Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver make white crudite platters.  And they looked soooo beautiful.  Even Jamie’s, who’s food usually looks delicious, but well, not like Martha’s, to say the least.  So, I wanted to do that.  Either they have whiter vegetables than me, or they were photographed through some magic whitening lens because this is not white.    So, this is my shades of beige crudite platter.

The vegetables are endives, steamed potatoes, radish, and carrots.  The white (ish) carrots and radishes were procured by my amazing husband, who went to Berkeley Bowl and searched for the best white vegetables he could possible find, just for me.  Totally made my day that he came back with awesome stuff and not boring old cauliflower.   The potatoes were inspired by a friend of mine, who served steamed potatoes and siracha aioli at her housewarming, and it was so delicious.  But since siracha aioli is not white, I did not make it.  Instead, I made roasted garlic aioli.

Roasted Garlic Aioli
Recipe from the this website, reprinted from the Mustards: Napa Valley Cookbook by Ciny Pawlcyn.

Ingredients
1 large head garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, mashed to a paste
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Cut a thin slice off the very top of the head of garlic to expose the tops of all the cloves. Set the garlic head in a shallow baking dish. Pour the oil slowly over and into the head. Season with the salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1-3/4 hours, until the garlic is very soft and tender. Don’t rush it; older garlic may take longer. Drain and reserve the oil, and set the garlic aside.

When cool, squeeze the pulp out of the roasted garlic into a food processor or blender and add the egg yolks, garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, and cayenne pepper. Purée until smooth. With the motor running, add the reserved roasting oil and the additional 1-1/2 cups oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until emulsified.

Makes about 2 cups

This was my first time making my own mayo, and I couldn’t believe how easy it was and how delicious it tasted.  I used half the mayo at the party.  The other half went into a potato salad with fingerling potatoes, scallions, and arugula, which was amazing, and a bit on some burgers.

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Twas the night before Christmas, and my husband and I were enjoying the glorious peace and quiet of a holiday alone.  I made a lovely Italian-themed dinner, but before that, we had our own cocktail party.  On the menu, roasted olives and fennel, blue cheese cookies (cut in the shape of stars, to be festive), and negronis.

Roasted Olives and Fennel

I am a huge olive fan.  Love them.  But, there is only one thing better than olives, and that is warm olives.  To make them, I rinsed off a mix of olives from the olive bar at the store.  I then zested an orange and lemon, removing the zest in big chunks, then juiced each of them.  Toss the olives in the juice.  Then, take a fennel bulb (or part of one, depending on how big and how much you like fennel), cut it in strips, and toss that in.  Add a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic smashed up.  Toss it all together with a drizzle of olive oil.  Preheat the oven and stick them in.  This is not an exact science, so if your oven is already on for something else, that’s fine.  In general, I’d say a good 12-15 minutes or so at 375 or so ought to do the trick.  You want to heat them up, and cook the rawness out of the fennel.  And voila, warm yummy olives.

Negroni

Now on to the drinkies.  I am not a huge cocktail person.  Wine is my vice.  But, I make an exception for these.  They are just lovely.  The Campari is bitter, but it’s cut nicely by the vermouth. Not too sweet, not too harsh, just right. To make one, put one ounce each of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari in a shaker with some ice, shake it up, and serve with an orange wedge.  Cheers!

 

 

 

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I had never heard of champvallon before but if Martha Stewart says it’s a real dish, I believe her.  Apparently, it’s a French dish of stewed lamb and potatoes that may have been invented by a wife of Louis XIV.  It seems to me more like peasant food than a dish of kings, but wherever it came from, it’s delicious.  And, for a dish that’s just a pile of meat and potatoes, surprisingly light, though that could be my super delicious Marin Sun Farms lamb talking.

Champvallon
Recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for sprinkling
5 to 6 russet potatoes, peeled

Directions
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season lamb generously with salt and pepper.  Cook a third of the lamb, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to a bowl.  Stir in cup stock, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom.  Pour liquid over browned lamb.  Repeat with oil, lamb, and stock.  After the last batch, do not pour out stock.

Add onions, garlic, and rosemary to pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Return browned lamb and juices from bowl to pot.  Add remaining stock and  bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer until meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice potatoes as thin as possible.  If you have a mandoline, even better.  I don’t, but managed to get about 1/8 inch slices with a good knife and some patience.  Rinse, then pat dry.  Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Cover bottom of a 12-inch dish with half the potato slices.  The recipe recommends a gratin dish, I found a good wide pie plate worked fine.  With the potatoes, start at outer edge, overlap each potato by half, working in concentric circles toward center.  Spoon lamb and broth over top, then repeat arrangement with remaining potato slices on top of lamb. Sprinkle with rosemary, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until top is gold, edges are crisp, and juices are bubbling, about 1 hour.  Let cool slightly before serving.

The resulting dish was delicious. The potatoes on top get crispy and brown and the ones on that bottom soak up all the juices from the lamb and the rosemary infused broth.

Because this is a French dish, I thought French wine would be fitting.  But, with all my jaunts to Napa and Sonoma, there’s just no French wine anywhere in my house.  Fortunately, we had on hand some lovely French style pinot noir from Freeman Winery in Sonoma.  Ken Freeman and his wife Akiko have built this beautiful little winery in Sebastopol, complete with a spectacular wine cave.  They make lovely French style wines, and some of the best Chardonnay I’ve ever had.  I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.  And, if you are not in the area, I recommend seeking out some of this Sonoma Coast pinot to drink with your champvallon.  It was a perfect combo.

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As I have mentioned a few times, I’m signed up for a CSA through Marin Sun Farms.  Each month, I get 4 pounds of a braising or roasting cut and 5 pounds of ground meat.  It’s taken me a few months to find a variety of things to do with the ground meat.  I can only make so many burgers, meat sauce, and chili.  Shepherd’s Pie is now in my regular repertoire and now, I’ve got these.

They are really good and really easy.  The ingredients list looks long, but it really isn’t too complicated.  I read online that lemongrass can be frozen, which is a trick I haven’t tried yet, but I’m planning on buying a bunch and experimenting so I don’t have to make a special trip to a store that sells it just to make these.

And don’t skip the sugary coating.  That’s the best part.

Vietnamese Meatballs in Lettuce Wraps
Recipe from Food and Wine

Ingredients
For the meatballs
1 pound ground meat (I use ground pork, the recipe recommends chicken)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (I skipped this)
3 small shallots, finely chopped (I used onions)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender white inner bulb only, minced
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup granulated sugar
To Assemble
1 head Boston or red leaf lettuce, leaves separated
Thinly sliced cucumber, radish, and/or red onion
Sprigs of cilantro and mint
1 small seedless cucumber—peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
Asian chili sauce, if you want, but I don’t think you need it

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the ground meat with the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, chopped cilantro and mint, cornstarch, salt and pepper, and fish sauce, if you are using it, and mix with your hands.

Spread the sugar on a plate.  Form the meat into small 1 1/2 balls, roll in the sugar, and place on the baking sheet.  You should have about 16 balls.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes.  Serve the meatballs on a platter with the lettuce and other goodies.  Particularly delicious with a cool glass of sauvignon blanc.

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I got some really lovely chicken from Marin Sun Farms and really wanted to make a delicious, summery meal to go with it.  I left the chicken simple, just with a bit of rosemary sea salt rubbed on it, and my husband threw it on the grill.  With it, a big bowl of pickled tomatoes and some fresh homemade cornbread

To make the cornbread, I borrowed from two recipes.  The pickled tomatoes were spicy, so I skipped the “firecracker” part of 101 Cookbook’s Firecracker Cornbread recipe, which I selected because I could use some fresh, sweet corn in it.  To make the cornbread more interesting, I borrowed an idea for honey butter from a Martha Stewart cornbread recipe.  With the chicken, the spicy tomatoes, and a cool glass of Simi viognier, I had myself a perfect summer dinner.

Fresh Corn Cornbread with Honey Butter
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 cup instant cornmeal (or instant polenta) or fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh (or at room temperature if previously frozen)

For the honey butter, mix a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of salt with 3 tablespoons of room temperature butter

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and pour into a 9-inch pie tin and place in the hot oven.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined.  Now very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven.  Brush the butter up around the edges a bit to make sure its evenly coating the pan.  Carefully fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Remove and brush on the honey butter before slicing.

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I’ve been buying up elephant garlic from Happy Boy Farm at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  Elephant garlic is about the size of a normal head of garlic, except it’s just one giant clove.  Apparently, it’s not really garlic, but closer to a leek or onion.  It tastes like garlic, except a little more mild.  And it’s delicious roasted.

To roast the garlic, I preheated the oven to 400.  Then, I wrapped each head individually in tin foil with a drizzle of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary.  I put the cloves in a baking dish (they might leak and you don’t want garlic oil burning at the bottom of your oven) and baked them for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven, unwrap, let them cool, then remove the skin.

At this point, you can mash them up and do whatever you want with them, like spread on crostini.  To make the pesto, I tossed three heads of the roasted elephant garlic in the food processor with the roasted rosemary needles, a half a cup of walnuts, and about two ounces of parmesan cheese.  I pulsed it a few times until it started to come together, then slowly added some olive oil, about 1/3 of a cup or so, lots of freshly cracked pepper, and a large pinch of salt.

To serve, I tossed it over some linguine with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts.  It should make enough to cover about two pounds of pasta.  I wound up freezing half the pesto to use for another meal.

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I’m cheating a bit here because my husband made the hard part of this.

In case you couldn’t tell by my infrequent posts lately, I’ve had a hectic few weeks.  Crazy deadlines at work, trip to Sonoma with friends, more chaos at work, and friends from out of town.   Somewhere in the middle of that, I managed to flip through the current issue of Saveur, saw this amazing Lidia Bastianich recipe, and realized I had everything I needed to make it.  Unfortunately, the night that I had planned to make it, I was buried in work, so my amazing husband made the bread.  When I finally pulled myself away from my laptop to make the filling, that came together easily and dinner was ready.

So, I can’t really speak to how easy the bread was, but it didn’t look too difficult and it was delicious.   It was simple and delicate and would probably go well with a variety of fillings.

If you can’t find broccoli rabe, I think Swiss chard would probably go well here.

Umbrian Flatbread Sandwiches with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Recipe by Lidia Bastianich from Saveur

Ingredients

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
4 cups broccoli rabe
1 1/2 lbs pork sausage (I used sweet Italian)

Directions

In a small bowl, stir together yeast and 10 tbsp. water heated to 115°; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a food processor; pulse to blend. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to yeast mixture and, with food processor running, pour in yeast mixture. Process until a dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; knead for 6 minutes. Form dough into a ball; transfer to a large oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1⁄2 hours.

Punch the dough down; divide in half. Lightly flour one piece of dough and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 9″ disk. Place disk on a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover dough with a damp towel; let sit for 15 minutes. Heat a 12″ cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, cook each dough disk, flipping occasionally, until light brown, about 10 minutes.
To cook the sausage, fill a skillet with some water, add the sausage, and simmer until the sausage is cooked through.  Remove the sausage from the skillet and set aside.   Heat 3 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat in the skillet.  Add the garlic and chile flakes and stir for a minute.   Add the broccoli rabe and cook until hot, about 3-5 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the sausage and return to the skillet.  Stir in with the broccoli rabe until the rabe is cooked and everything is incorporated.

Slice each flat bread in half horizontally to create two rounds – this is easier than it sounds!  Arrange broccoli rabe and sausages on bottom half of bread, drizzle with a little oil if you’d like, and top with other half. Cut sandwiches into wedges and serve.

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