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Posts Tagged ‘Herbs’

I served these at my New Year’s Eve party.  They were one of those, rare “please please please let this idea in my head work” hail marys that actually turned out exactly as I had imagined.  A Festivus Miracle indeed.

I don’t have a recipe, but I can tell you they were easier than they looked.  First, I cut a butternut squash in half, oiled it, and roasted it in the oven until it was soft.  Scraped out the insides and threw it in the food processor.

To make the polenta, I heated 2 cups of whole milk,  1 cup of water, and about 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and added 1 cup of polenta over medium heat.  I whisked and stirred for a good ten minutes, then added about a 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash puree to the mix, as well as a good heaping teaspoon of salt.  Stir until it starts to get firm and the corn tastes cooked.

Pour the mixture into an oiled 9X13 pan and refrigerate over night.  The next day, I heated an oven to 350 and baked it for a good 30 minutes or so, until the top began to brown.  Let it cool, then cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.

To make the pesto, I cut a small chunk of parmesan cheese (probably about 1-2 ounces) and 5 or 6 large sage leaves and pounded the hell out of them in a mortar and pestle.  Add a bunch of salt and pepper and about 1 1/2 cups of walnuts.  Pound away until you reach the desired consistency and taste.  If it’s too sagey, add more walnuts.  If it’s not sage-y enough, mince some and add it in.  It’s really trial and error here.  Once the balance is right, mix in some olive oil until it gets to a pesto consistency.

To serve, dollop the pesto and a bit of mascarpone cheese on each square.  Surprisingly, they still looked and tasted fine well past midnight, so you can make these a bit in advance and serve at room temperature without a problem.

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It has been freezing here in Berkeley for the last week or two and a warm bowl of soup was just what I needed.  I found some lovely San Marzano tomatoes at the farmers’ market and this recipe from Epicurious got rave reviews, so I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s a lovely soup.  The recipe calls for 6 cups of stock, which is way too much.  Use 4 to get a thick, hearty soup.  It would be a good base for a minestrone or to add a small pasta noodle shape to it, in which case, the extra broth would probably be needed.  Don’t skimp on the herbs and use good, firm plum tomatoes to make this. 

Roasted Tomato Soup
Recipe from Epicurious

Ingredients
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
8 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more) dried crushed red pepper
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and grated parmesan, to serve

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Transfer tomatoes and any accumulated juices to processor. Using on/off turns, process until slightly chunky.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, rosemary, thyme and dried crushed red pepper. Add chicken stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat. 

To serve, season with salt and pepper, stir in the chopped, and a bit of grated parmesan. 

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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 bought some lovely, sweet corn at the farmers market last week.  The first night, we grilled all six ears, which is an obscene amount for 2 people.  I wanted the extra corn because I had seen a recipe for Corn and Basil Fritters from Eating Well in the blog montcarte and had been dreaming about it ever since.   She had some issues with the flavor, but I really liked the concept and wanted it to work.  I tinkered with it, omitting the basil, using the grilled corn, and adding jalapeno and scallions.  The tinkering was a success!  They turned out excellent.  With a tomato and avocado salad, they were a super satisfying vegetarian dinner.  I’d even make them in smaller sizes as a little party appetizer.

Corn and Basil Pancakes
loosely adapted from Eating Well

Ingredients
1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 large ears, grilled first for about 10-15 minutes if you’d like)
1 small jalapeno, finely minced
6 or so scallions, white and light green parts only, minced.
A few tablespoons of creme fraiche, sour cream, or plain yogurt
A tablespoon of minced fresh chives
Salt and pepper

Directions

Mix together the chives, creme fraiche, and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Whisk flour, milk, eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in corn, jalapeno, and scallions.

Brush a large nonstick skillet lightly with some of the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; heat over medium heat until hot (but not smoking). Cook 4 cakes at a time, using about 1/4 cup batter for each, making them about 3 inches wide.  Cook until the edges are dry, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 1 to 3 minutes more.  Repeat with the remaining oil and batter, making 10 cakes total.  Reduce the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

When the cakes are done, serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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We had a small group of friends over for drinks recently.  A few old friends, a few new friends, lots of wine and Hangar One raspberry vodka.  And of course, food.

Dates wrapped in bacon is sort of a party stand-by of mine, but I wanted something a little more seasonal.  I saw this idea on Epicurious and thought it would be perfect.  I skipped the use of sugar and cumin to keep it simple and substituted prosciutto for the serrano ham.  It was a lovely summery appetizer.

To make it, I cut peaches into 8 wedges.  I wrapped each with a small strip of prosciutto and secured them with a small basil leaf and a toothpick.  After I arranged them on a platter, I drizzled a splash of sherry vinegar.   They held up really well at room temperature while out for a couple hours, so I’d say they could be made a few hours in advance without a problem, though I’d probably add the vinegar just before serving.

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I recently came across some lovely blue potatoes.  But, unlike most blue potatoes, they had white flesh.  I thought they’d make a great potato salad.  I had a bunch of herbs in my fridge and just tossed everything together and hoped for the best.  It turned out delicious – much lighter and fresher than typical potato salad.

It’s fairly simple and I didn’t really measure anything out.  Just use what you have and trust your instincts.

Potato Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

Ingredients
Potatoes – I used about 2 pounds
A bunch of herbs- I used about a cup and a half of mixed parsley, dill, and chives
Olive oil
White wine vinegar
zest of a lemon

Directions
Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.  Drain and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking.

Mince the herbs and toss into a large bowl.  Add some olive oil, a couple tablespoons or so, and a good splash of vinegar.  Add the lemon zest and some salt and pepper and whisk together.

Peel the potatoes if you want and slice into coins.  Toss with the herb mixture.  Chill for a couple hours or overnight.

I served mine with a grilled bratwurst sausage from Marin Sun Farms and a pint of Fat Tire beer.  Perfect summer meal.

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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

Ingredients
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

Directions
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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