Saturday, March 31, 2007


As my spring break comes to an abrupt close, I take another look at my 'to-do' list and weigh the damage. Despite the fact that my parents made an impromptu visit, I've managed to complete the vast majority of my list. One of my main objectives for the break was to master the art of dough.

First I wanted to make use of my spring form pan by making a deep dish pizza pie. Conveniently I stumbled upon this recipe which helped me move in the right direction for dough making. I was pleased with the outcome for the dough. It may have been a tad dull and flavorless but the process of kneading, rising, rolling was quite a success. The contents and overall product were great. I look forward to making more dough to maybe freeze for future pizza parties. It sure beats take-out.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Ugli Duckling

I remember many a Parks and Rec soccer game halftime. We all rushed over to our benches and devoured slice after slice of juicy oranges. Sadly, when I got to Varsity soccer we just had water or Gatorade and the oranges were no more.

When I was in the grocery store the other day, I couldn't resist picking up this Ugli citrus. I had no idea what it was but I knew that it would be a surprise ugly duckling. Wiki tells me that the ugli is part grapefruit, part tangerine. After eating it, I'm not sure I agree. There is virtually no acidity like a grapefruit, it also lacks large seeds, and is the juiciest thing I've had in a long time. After devouring it, I was sticky all the way down to my elbows. It may look ugly on the outside but inside is wonderful, soft fruit. The texture is cloud-like and just melts in the mouth. Have lots of paper towels ready -- you will need them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A 10-minute Wonder

I just finished a week of steady studying so there wasn't much time to cook much less blog about it. For spring break next week I've managed to write a 2-page 'to-do' list. It consists mainly of boring things like cleaning, catching up on reading, and doing a few others mundane things I've been putting off. Although half of the list I think consists of recipes to try out. I'm not entirely sure who is going to eat everything I'm going to make but we'll see how it goes.

So last week when I was terribly short on time and energy, I made P's favorite sausage and penne pasta. Forget about 30-minute meals, this one will take about 10 minutes and I think it even tastes great as leftovers (this coming from someone who hates leftovers!).

Sausage Penne
3 Italian sausage links, squeezed from their casings
1/2 lb penne
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
12 oz of your favorite bottled pasta sauce (unless you want to make your own!) I like Bertolli with Cabernet
1 Tsp (or so) of Red Pepper Flake
Tbsp of Balsamic vinegar (optional)
Handful of roughly chopped parsley
Grated Parmesan for serving

1 Boil a big pot of salted water. Cook the penne when it starts to boil.
2 Fry the bits of sausage in a small amount of oil. Break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
3 Drain most of the fat from the sausage. Push the sausage to the edges of the skillet and add the garlic and onion in the middle. Cook until translucent then stir it all back together.
3 Add the sauce and bring the heat down to a low simmer to let all the flavors come together.
4 Add the red pepper flake and vinegar if you'd like. Taste for salt and pepper.
5 Drain the pasta when it is al dente then return it to the same pot and drizzle it with a bit of oil to coat. Add the pasta to the pan and throw in the parsley. Mix and serve with lots of cheese and maybe a crusty bit of bread.

Rachel Ray couldn't make it any faster.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Plate Full of Worms

Instead of having green food for St. Patrick's Day today, we went for some black squid ink spaghetti. How gross does a plate of this look? I was reminded of the scene from Lost Boys where their Chinese takeout turns into worms and maggots. I had to let that thought escape my mind when I took a bite of this stuff. It was delicious!

I contemplated a sauce for this for quite awhile and wanted to just dress it simply so I could get a good taste of the ink itself. The pasta cooked just as long as regular spaghetti and then I tossed it with some lightly sauteed garlic, shallots, red pepper flake and roasted tomatoes all in olive oil. If I had some white wine I would've added it to make it even better. A nice big handful of chopped parsley right before serving completed it. Not bad at all and it took less than 10 minutes. I will definitely buy this worm-y looking pasta again.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Mushroom Risotto and White Asparagus

I used to think that risotto was this super precise, overly complicated dish. In reality, it is a piece of cake to make and so versatile you can really put anything in it. My favorite is probably red wine risotto but I've also make it a couple other ways. I think my new favorite is loaded with mushrooms and parsley. As long as you're willing to give it a stir now and then, risotto in any of it's forms should be part of everyone's side dish toolbox.

Mushroom Risotto
1 C arborio rice
2 tblsp butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 small onion (I like to use shallots instead)
2 C sliced mushrooms (any kind you like)
1/4 C dry white wine
3 1/2 C chicken broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 C grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
handful chopped parsley

1 In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth and soy sauce to a simmer.
2 Melt the butter with a little olive oil then add the garlic and shallot until translucent
3 Add the mushrooms and cook until soft
4 Add the wine and let it simmer until it is reduced by half then add the rice and stir to coat the grains
5 Add 2/3 C of chicken broth to the pan and stir. Lower the heat a tad and just stir and add broth until all the broth is used up. You don't want to drown it and you don't want it sticking to the pan so 'water' it as needed and stir as needed.
6 The rice will get nice and creamy and tender then add the cheese and everything else to taste.

White asparagus is just regular green asparagus that has been denied sunlight and instead exposed more to ultraviolet light during growth. There is also purple asparagus but that is completely different than the green and white and I've yet to find any of it. I've always seen the white in the store but never bought any until yesterday. To be honest, I'm a little asparagus'ed out. I mean how many posts on here have pictures of asparagus? Would you believe that I used to despise it because it made your pee smell funny? I think it has replaced broccoli as my new favorite vegetable. Asparagus and I need to take a break though. I enjoyed the white but I think I would have liked it even more if I hadn't overdosed on those lovely green stalks.

See you again in a few weeks asparagus.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Garbanzo

Lunch is one of my least favorite meals of the day. Breakfast is my number 1 least favorite. I'm not sure what I eat! But I do enjoy making my own hummus for a lunchtime fix of protein. I've had a lot of practice at this and I've concluded there really is only 1 secret ingredient - the food processor. If I could only keep 1 kitchen gadget I think it would have to be my food processor. You can pulse food until your heart is content. I make hummus all of the time. I get requests for my hummus so I thought I'd share my 'secrets' to the world. (fyi: there is no secret, it is the easiest thing you'll ever make and you'll never want to buy store bought again)

*note: If you don't have a food processor, get one. A blender just isn't going to cut it.

à la Food Speak
1 can garbanzo beans (washed off and remove some of the hull or leave them on it really doesn't matter)

2 cloves garlic (add more if no one will be around to smell your breath)

1 heaping tbsp tahini (if you can't find it in the store don't worry, just omit it)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp red pepper flake (I add this to everything but it is completely optional)
1/4 C olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 First blend those garlic cloves. Then add the garbanzos. You have to do it in this order so the cloves really get all minced up.
2 Add the spices, lemon juice, and tahini. Pulse.
3 Drizzle in the oil if you have a spout, otherwise just eyeball it. You want to get the texture right -- not too runny not too dry. It should look something like this:

4 Add anything you want. Sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, cilantro, the possibilities are truly endless.
5 Add salt and pepper to taste.
6 Garnish it with a drizzle of oil and/or some paprika if you want to be traditional.

I like mine smeared on a whole wheat bagel or some pita lightly toasted in the oven, even carrots. Not into garbanzo? Then try canellini or even edamame. Go make some hummus and take to the streets. Everyone will love it.


Spring. Ok, I guess it is more like Summer here in FL, but the sun is out everyday which always puts folks in a good mood. I, on the other hand, am less focused on the weather and more focused on the foods and flavors of summer. Basil, cilantro, mangoes, fish, tomatoes... Gone are the days of heavy, wintertime comfort food.

Give me watermelons! Seedless watermelons are wonderful (unless you want to have a seed spitting contest). They are even better when they are on sale. I was thinking sorbet but since the water content of watermelon is so high compared to the sugar, this turned out to be more of a granita made in an ice cream maker. It is made very simply by blending all the fruit in the blender then adding simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar dissolved). You might have to adjust the syrup level depending on the sweetness of the fruit. You can use an ice cream maker or just pour it in a large pan (you'll be surprised at how much you get from 1 watermelon!) and set it in the freezer for a few hours. Scrap the surface with a fork when you first see ice crystals forming on the topmost layer then repeat until it freezes all the way through and is nicely textured. That takes way too long for me and requires some careful freezer temperature monitoring as well.

Experiment with all the summer flavors now available. If I could actually grow enough basil, that would be the first thing I'd try.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Another Fred Flinstone Meal

For some reason I'm pretty darn good at cooking meat. This is truly a mystery. I'm not a huge meat eater/lover and I certainly don't have much practice or guidance and I haven't read up on anything (although I really want to read Daniel Boulud's book on braising). For this reason, I like to cook really large pieces of meat well, just because I can. This week I took on a super 6 lb chicken and handsomely won. Then there were the giant Fred Flinstone sized turkey drumsticks.

I had been craving mashed potatoes too so I mixed these up with some of the tasty (and nutritious) red skins still on. Since my chive plant is taking over my planter, I threw in a big handful on those too. The little flecks of purple and green were just perfect and more than satisfied my craving. Asparagus has become my new favorite vegetable. I love to roast it with lemon zest grated over it like freshly fallen snow.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
1 lb (more or less) thick fresh asparagus
7-8 tbslp olive oil
2 pinches of kosher salt
several turns on your peppermill
fine lemon zest of 1 medium-sized lemon

Depending on how nice your asparagus is, trim the ends and just peel with a vegetable peeler the woody outside part. This make it quite a bit tender on the ends and you don't have to waste the ends as much as you would if you did the 'bend-the-stalk-and-see-where-it-snaps' method. Lay the stalks out in a pan lined with foil for easy clean up. Drizzle lots of olive oil over the top but don't drown the asparagus. You want all the stalks to be covered so get your hands in there and mix it all around. Sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper and again get your hands dirty. I use a fine microplane (PamperedChef what?) to get a good fine snow-like zest. You can get a lot more this way than with a zester and you don't have to bother with fine chopping or big pieces of zest. Sometimes I also finely grate Parmesan over the top and mix it all together too. Fontina is also good or even some crushed garlic. Just lemon is simple and tastes so fresh alone. Roast in the oven on about 350 I guess until it is fork tender or to whatever doneness preferred. Please don't overcook to mushy! The fresh lemon smell will hit you when you open the door.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Getting back the Mojo

I've been pretty lazy lately -- haven't had much of an appetite either for some reason. Bike Week is upon us yet again so I've been trying to stay inside to avoid the chaos and the noise. Today I managed to get out to get some groceries and make something nice for dinner for the first (second?) time all week.

1.5 cups of orange juice, 1/2 cup of blood orange juice, and 1 cup of giant lemons (I call them 'giant' because they are in fact bigger than a grapefruit. I'm not sure the official name, but they taste much sweeter and less acidic.) made up my mojo sauce. Throw in some garlic and red pepper flake too. I reduced all that down to about half. In a sauce pan I sauteed roughly chopped shallots in butter then cooked the shrimp. I spooned in the mojo and let all the flavors come together. Very tasty. To accompany the shrimp, some pan fried, cumin-laden yuca went alongside. The flavors really worked nicely together.

When I'm in a food funk, I pretty much go all out to make up for it. This means several hours in the kitchen to regroup and get back in the habit again. Or beating egg whites until my arm falls off? I have been wanting to make this souffle from the cover of Gourmet since I got the issue last month. The Meyer lemon souffle was just too pretty to pass up. Instead of Meyer's, I again used that giant lemon and the zest of regular lemons to make a smooth, fluffy lemon cloud. Meyer's are in fact readily available around here (Diana has a tree!) but I wanted to try the giant lemons because they are so...gigantic. I burnt it a bit on the top because I didn't anticipate just how much it would expand. Otherwise it tasted lovely, like a fluffy lemon pound cake.