4/07/2015

Pasta, a Better Lunch than Sandwiches, Faster Too!



 Left-overs are key here.  And, I had some good ones: asparagus, steamed and refrigerated, extra grated Parmesan, fresh pigeon peas, boiled and chilled, a little container of left-over spaghetti pasta and of course, the staples, an Olive Tapenade, which is important to have in your fridge, along with capers, and you could add anchovies, but the base is a combination of the noodles and olive oil, or preferably this great Tapenade, the chunky version with olives of several kinds, peppers, garlic and other spices in olive oil.  Just get some and keep it handy for pasta, pizzas or panini.  Do it, yes!


So all you do is heat a few heaping tablespoons of that wonderful Tapenade over medium, then when it starts to sizzle, add in all your extras with the pasta, toss til heated through and voila.   Is that easy or what?? Top with clippings of fresh parsley or minced basil, or....and the grated cheese.  Best lunch or quick dinner you'll ever have.  Guaranteed!  Sending this post to Beth Fish for her Week-end Cooking collection.

4/06/2015

Marinated Mushrooms and Just Keep Getting Better, Awesome Pickles

 
Since these pickles turned out absolutely fantastic, I'm posting the recipe.  Because y'all are so nice, and totally deserve it.

Also giving the recipe for marinated mushrooms included with a mystery by Mignon F. Ballard, which I just finished. She writes very lightweight little confections, and adds recipes at the end for some of the dishes mentioned in each book.  This one happened to be called Claudia's Marinated Mushrooms.  So you might say it spoke to me.  In more ways than one, since I do love mushrooms (having been known to forage them against the advice of  husband and granddaughter) and marinated or pickled things.


I served the mushrooms as part of an antipasto plate for Resurrection Sunday dinner yesterday, to rave reviews.  Including my own.  Not the most photogenic of subjects, but superlative in taste.  Trust me.

3/27/2015

So Beautiful, Colorful Pasta Bowties for Puttanesca High Hog



I love, love, love this Farfalline Multicolori, it is Specialita for sure.  A bit (uulp) pricey to say the least, but  your spirits will be raised, just looking at the package.  Mine were.  A possible cure for depression.  Color therapy.  A friend was behind me in line, and both she and the checker totally convinced me.  Not that I needed much convincing.  Healthy too, no fake colors in there, they use spinach, turmeric, paprika, beetroot or squid ink.  So colorful.


Having just finished the latest (in our library anyway) set in Venice, Donna Leon mystery, By It's Cover, I was hankering for Italian.   Always enjoy her tantalizing descriptions of meals eaten along the way.  So inspired by the book, did a Puttanesca on the high hog (wearing fancy bow ties, with pork, ha ha) with it last night.  Just added some cubed ham, crisped up in olive oil, garlic, olives, capers, and cream.  Some of the saved pasta water as well.  Also, the colors do not leach out as some other colored pastas have a tendency to.  Lovely and deelish!  Will share this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking.  She is sharing a delightful cookbook with contributions from mystery writers this time.

3/07/2015

Swiss Pumpkin for Cook the Books Club


For our Cook the Books Club this go round, hosted by fellow Hawaii resident and blogger, Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, we read (or in my case re-read) Comfort Me with Apples, a memoir by noted Chef, Food Editor, Restaurant Critic, TV personality, and author, Ruth Reichl.

I must suffer from some sort of medium-term memory loss.  Most of the book seemed new to me.  Had forgotten the long, drawn-out, often sad, business of her marriage break up and affairs, but on the brighter side of honesty, there is humor, good food, more humor and interesting snippets with restaurant personalities and food VIPs.  Do read as well, Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, and Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, they are even better.

There was much in her memoir to tempt and inspire, as well as challenge our cooking skills.  Reichl has the ability to communicate smells and tastes through descriptive writing, aided by an unbelievable palette, which is the premier gifting for a food critic or chef.  I sometimes wish mine could be tuned up a few notches. It would certainly help in the area of wine tasting as well.  I wonder if there is an herb that would help??


It was difficult to decide exactly what to prepare for this round.  So many directions you might go, from California nouvelle, to Chinese or Thai.  The idea of Cook the Books Club, in case you are new here, is to read the current bi-monthly book selection and then to cook and post a recipe inspired by your reading.

2/11/2015

The Year of the Kumquat


 A very small portion of them shown here.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, or in my case Lemon Mead, and when you've been blessed with a load of kumquats, you need to be creative with them.  We haven't really had a whole year of them, it just sounded good, and sometimes feels that way.  Bob has had a strange obsession with the fruit ever since Thanksgiving when I made a Cranberry Kumquat Sauce.  I know it was only partly my delicious creation, with the other driving factor being humor.  Really, the name is not that funny.  He started with Facebook posting a W.C. Fields film clip on kumquats.  Yes, that was funny, ha ha ha.  Then Googling and posting all sorts of information on the fruit, health benefits, recipes and etc.  And which has caused other people to give him kumquats.


Bob notwithstanding, I still needed to deal with the second large bagful of those tasty little citrus, thanks due to Nancy, whom some of you might remember from my fabulous post on chocolate making.  First up was marmalade, which I simplified.  I did not like the sound of most of those lengthy recipes.  So, rather than mincing them all, one at a time, I tossed the halved, seeded fruit into a food processor and voila.

2/03/2015

Chocolate Cake with SECRET GF INGREDIENT


I am posting about this cake for two reasons.  One, due to being absolutely ashamed of myself for neglecting this blog.  Have not been posting consistently, and mean to change that.  Secondly, not only was that cake totally delicious, but gluten free.  Now I'm not "normally" a gluten free person.  My husband, Bob, thinks it the joke of the year to ask at the Natural Foods store if he can have some of that free gluten that's going around.  But when our local supermarket coupon booklet came in the mail, with a GF cake on the cover, that was my heads up, knowing I would be having a group of women over, one of whom is, yes GF.

The Chocolate ganache icing was simplicity itself, consisting of just cream and chocolate chips.  The recipe called for coconut milk, but if you have an opened container of cream on hand, I figure go with it.  And, truly the taste cannot be beaten.  Unless you are also lactose free.

1/24/2015

Pigeon Peas



I walked out in the garden this morning,
  Sun warming my head and arms,
And the green pigeon peas. 
A breath of legume scent teased out by that sun,
   Brought them to my attention.
Picked a handful, then two.
Dropped into boiling salted water
   For 10 minutes or so, cooled in a colander,
   Shelled -  lifted from their
 Plump nurturing pods, some
   Kissed a bit brown by that sun.
Suitable now for our salad,
Or pigeon peas 'n pasta
With basil and tomato.
                                                  C.R.

Well, that was my inspiration (inspired to poetry as well as food) from our latest Cook the Books Club pick, Sustenance & Desire, an anthology of poems, essays and various excerpts, loosely associated with food, edited with paintings by Bascove.  I would give the book mixed reviews.  Overall a bit uneven in quality and interest.  Some of the poems mystifying, some mediocre and several excellent, of course all in my humble opinion.  Among the essay selections, I enjoyed a few, some were okay and a number of others could be done without entirely; for instance the piece on cannibalism.  Did you know that:
"The Aztec cared intensely how they ate people and also who they ate, when, and where."
Not particularly appetizing.  That said however, her art alone was worth the book purchase.  I tried to find any Bascove paintings on ebay, but none were available.  Must all be in private collections or museums.

9/30/2014

Scrumptious Walnut Sauce for Pasta and More

Our current selection for Cook the Books Club is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi.
What a delicious co-mingling of romance, tempting food and place - Venice, of course!  My own stay in La Serenissima a few years ago was all too short.

I especially appreciated it as a later-in-life love story, being later-in-life myself, as well as a sucker for lovely fairy tales come true.  And, so descriptive, so well written.  The woman is a poet.

An American food writer and chef, Marlena is traveling in Italy with two friends when she meets "The Stranger", a Venetian Peter Sellers look-alike, whose shy pursuit ends up enchanting her.

Life is not completely perfect, a real fairy tale has an underside.  Melding cultures and personalities is never easy, especially for mature folks, set in their ways.  Which is actually a good thing.  A jolting out of ruts and character flaw stagnation, into something better, new and stronger, without either partner becoming diminished.  Marriage is meant to do that, and beautiful when it does.


There was much to inspire our cooking, from pastries to Wild Mushrooms Braised in Late-Harvest Wine.  Fabulous food she encounters in Venice, dishes created with local produce, and meals dreamt up and served with passion and imagination.  Hard to choose.  However, in the end it was the Pasta with Roasted Walnut Sauce that grabbed me.

9/14/2014

Sauce Allemande for Daring Cooks


 This month, the Daring Cooks got a little saucy! Jenni from the Gingered Whisk taught us the basics of how to make the five mother-sauces and encouraged us to get creative with them, creating a wide variety of delicious, fresh sauces in our very own kitchens.

As Jenni quotes Julia Child, from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: “Sauces are the splendor and glory of cooking, yet there is nothing serious or mysterious about making them. These are indispensable to the home cook”.  Well, I've been making all sorts of sauces for a great many years, being the old lady that I am, so the real job was to find the untried, the tasteful new horizon. 


I had a nice piece of ahi tuna, left from the previous night's dinner, and wanted to do something other than mash it up and make sandwiches, or slice it onto a big Salade Nicoise, (admittedly tempting in this still hot summer weather).  But just enough for a dinner for two.  Nicely sauced.

A famous French chef of the early 19th century, Antonin Carême said there were 5 classic "mother"sauces: Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Tomato, and from these, which were given for our challenge, listed with their various derivatives, I thought the Sauce Allemande, an off-shoot of Velouté, sounded yummy and just right for that fish.


I first made a batch of stock from my hoarded freezer bag of goodies (mostly chicken bones with some carrot, onion and celery bits), strained it all, then put into the fridge to let the fat rise and harden, for lifting off.  Then you might reduce your stock to concentrate the flavor.



Sauce Allemande
   adapted from Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of stock, chicken, veal or vegetable
salt and pepper
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon capers (optional, but nice with fish)

Melt the butter, add flour and then the stock and seasoning.  Simmer and stir until well combined and thickened.  Off the heat whisk well the egg yolk and cream and add gradually to the sauce whilst whisking.  Stir the sauce until slightly thickened.  Do not re-boil.  Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice, butter and capers.


Made a bit more than needed, but delightful tasting, subtle delicate flavors to aid and albeit a nice piece of fish, or veal would also be good.  Highly recommended.  I have plans to consider for the extra sauce.  And, that recipe made quite a bit of sauce.


Next night report: I ladled it onto steamed new potatoes as a side with tenderloin steaks.  Really, really yummy.