New Years' Hoppin' John Risotto

 This is the year I decided to do it.  That famous and traditional (in the American South anyway) New Years' good luck, Hoppin' John business.  With a West Coast riff.  Well what else do you expect from a California girl, transplanted in Hawaii??  The unconventional I hope.  May bother sincere Southerners and Italians alike. 

Hoppin' John with the rice cooked right in it, a risotto, spiked with black-eyed peas, where you add the broth in two big glops, instead of dribbling in a bit at a time, stirring, dribble, stir, etc. This fabulous idea is the brainchild of Charlene Rollins of New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro, in Talent Oregon.  Another West Coaster of course.  It comes to us via Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today cookbook.  An amazing cotillion of diverse recipes from all over the dad blamed place, which I will never, even if I live to be 200, be able to work my way through.

And, by the way, this post is dedicated to my friend Nancy, a native of Mississippi, who this very evening is leaving Hawaii after only 10 days?? and returning to Alaska?? to teach probably ungrateful hooligans, which is another story. When she (and her husband) retire in a year or so, they'll be here to stay.  Hey Nancy, have some Hoppin' John on me.  Though, as we're having it for New Year's Eve, I guess any left for tomorrow, as per tradition, will be Skippin' Jenny. I don't make this stuff up.  Or Skippin' Town Nancy.

Our lovely version includes, apart from the requisite rice and black-eyed peas, caramelized onions, pancetta, and bacon, so how could you go wrong.  Though, I couldn't find pancetta, and just substituted coppa for it. All you need for...


Extra Holiday Brisket? Make Shredded Beef Tacos

  Okay, so I made extra.  But having more than enough is a good thing.  Especially with something as delicious as braised in brown ale Beef Brisket.  I got the recipe from Adam's site, the Amateur Gourmet, who truth be told, is no longer all that much of an amateur.  We had a sort of pot luck Christmas dinner, in that people brought things, without any duplication, and pretty much all the niches were taken care of.  Shredded pork, leg of lamb, and my brisket being the meat section.

After resting in the fridge, the fat is easy to remove, the beef can be shredded, and a bit of seasoning tossed in.  Well, lots of zippy Mexican style spices, onion, garlic, and a few tomatoes were all fried together.  Now you have the basic filling for some super tacos.

Serve with little side dishes of things people can add as they like: diced onion, cilantro leaves, hot sauce, roughly shredded lettuce, grated Oxaca cheese (or Monteray Jack).  And, of course the warmed corn tortillas.


Happy Christmas! Hawaiian Gold Bars

 This recipe is sooo old.  How old?  It's written on a recipe card.  In an actual file box.  That's how old.  I've made it many times over the years, varying only the type of nuts I used and the kind of jam.  To be honest, the recipe was formerly named California Gold Bars, however we are no longer in the location of my birth.  For quite some time now, so a new name was in order.

A rich shortbread bar, the crunch of nuts, with preserves sandwiched in between two layers.  Quite good, if I do say so.  An added benefit is the seductive aroma drifting through your house, of butter and jam baking together.  If you happen to have a house for sale, you might put these into the oven and hold an open house.  Can you tell I'm married to a Realtor?  On to the recipe...


Sexy Pumpkin Moons with Brie and Marjoram

 It happens a lot. I'll read something online, somewhere out in the blogosphere, and go merrily on my way.  Then, later (could be the very same day) I'll wonder where did I just read that bit?  Who said it?  And, in reference to what?  Which is how it happened that I "read somewhere," that "someone said," that marjoram is the sexy herb.  Yes indeed, and it made me think.  I don't have any of that herb.  Never use it.  Could it change my life?  I looked marjoram up in my Rodale's Herbs, and discovered that it was popular at Greek weddings, being as how it was precious to Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  You see, right there the root of the rumor.
How sexy is that marjoram?
I seem to have been in an herbal rut.  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Okay, a few Asian ones thrown in.  And, Oregano, dill, chives, and basil.  But, you know what I mean.  I don't ever use tarragon either.  So, after a trip to the Nursery where I picked up some lonely looking pots of marjoram and tarragon, we are set to begin broadening our herbal horizons around here. New relationships loom.  I'm sure there are a lot more I would take in, if they could only be found in this remote region of the galaxy.

Pumpkin and Feta Lune (moons) or Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce was what I had in mind.  Though, we've all been seeing takes on that combo just about everywhere lately.  Pumpkins are ubiquitous at this time of year, so it's not surprising. You buy a pumpkin, and voila, next day left-over pumpkin.  We're just going with the flow.  My love theme take used marjoram instead of the more traditional sage, and a good splash of Amaretto di Santo in the butter, in place of Mario's crumbled Amaretti cookies (I'm working my way through the Babbo Cookbook).  Besides, it says right on the bottle that Amaretto is known as the drink of love. 


Loose Canons .... er... Eggs Benedict

 If you can eat breakfast at the venerable Halekulani Hotel in Waikiki, overlooking the sea, with crisp white linens on the table, flowers, and charming wait staff at your beck and call, that is the absolute best way to have Eggs Benedict.  However, we can't always get over there, and must do it ourselves. Sigh... Especially when it is the Month's challenge for Daring Cooks.  I have made this before, awhile back, so the process wasn't totally unfamiliar, but still always a bit of a trial, the poaching part anyway.  Yes, I have finally joined up.  So I can be more daring. 

For December, Jenn and Jill have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg.  They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato and Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I chose to do the (not so) simple Eggs Benedict recipe.  Then, wanting to challenge myself more, made up a batch of sourdough English Muffins, and did it all again.  Just to see the difference.  As far as poaching goes, I've been eating eggs every day trying to get it right, having decided that the egg poacher wasn't strictly poaching, since the eggs do not touch water.    Now I remember why it was I had to have that egg poacher. Poaching is not a challenge, just poaching EGGS.


Guavas in Coconut Cobbler

 These were guavas I had frozen from our summer overload.  Cleaning out the freezer, I determined to use them, like now.  Doesn't Guava Cobbler sounded like a good idea for breakfast.  And, dessert later.  If there's any left.

Remembering the 1/2 cup or so of coconut milk left from that Adobo, it seemed a natural substitution for  cream in the Cream Biscuits topping crust

The Cream Biscuits are from Alice Waters' fine cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.  The Guava Filling is from the school of trial and error.  I always forget just how tart guavas are, so extra sugar is necessary. Her recipe for Peach Cobbler calls for "1 tablespoon sugar (if needed)."  Think closer to rhubarb here.  But, I suppose where one grows, the other does not.


Chicken (or Pork) Adobo

 Years ago, in a land far far away - actually it was the Island of Oahu, on the North Shore where that famous big winter surf is, we lived in a little beach house (a rental) right on the edge of the sea.  In fact, during a few bad storms the water washed sand up into the yard and the occasional wave gave a slap at our sliding glass door.

Next door to us lived a very interesting neighbor, a former Las Vegas nightclub entertainer.  He was a limbo dancer, who had performed under that flaming, and very low bar.  A Filipino man with an ever changing line up of pretty young (live in) baby sitters for his two kids.  To make a long story shorter, over the course of time, he shared a few of his recipes with me.  One, being Pork Adobo.  I've since used the recipe for chicken as well, and have added in various vegetables. 

I will give his original recipe, which is the pork version, as it has the fat rendering information, which was something I was unfamiliar with at the time and found useful.  You don't have to cook all the veggies in the vinegar and shoyu broth, but can add some in later, as I did here with the cubes of butternut squash.  The peppers were cooked with the chicken.


Cauliflower and Pennes from Heaven

Adam, the cute and funny Amateur Gourmet, posted about this winning combination last January.  I just got around to making it when finally, some nice looking cauliflowers were spotted in our market.  And, believe me, it is a fairly rare occurrence around here.  The cauliflowers we usually see have splotches of gross mold on them.  Not very appealing.

If produce is not healthy looking and wearing happy faces, I don't think I'm up to making it all better in my kitchen.  You need to start with something that's good.  Same with people.  If the attitude is off, I stay away.

Like today.  I was helping at our Church Bazaar (in the fruits and plants area) and a chef guy who had made the Thai Curry was talking to us.  He said the curry was all sold out.  This was before noon even.  Later I went over to see what food was still available, and there were two big pots of curry - two different kinds.  You have to wonder what that was all about??


Brazilian Shrimp Stew - Moqueca de Camarao - with Black Beans

Two dishes going out to Joanne (also known as the Energizer Bunny), for her Regional Recipes get together, featuring Brazil this month.  Since I had  black beans that needed to be used muy pronto.  And, shrimpies in the freezer, whipping up some Feijoada to go with a Brazilian Shrimp Stew,  was  definitely doable.

The stew was slightly adapted from a recipe in Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today, They substituted black pepper for the malagueta pepper and I used Hawaiian chili pepper.  Also, an orange and a yellow bell pepper for the green one, being what I had on hand.

As far as dendê oil goes, with a bit of research, I realized that it is not a product of coconut palms or coconuts, as I had assumed, but of a particular African oil palm, Elaesis oleifera if we're being scientific, grown in Africa and in Brazil.  The oil is thick, dark, reddish-orange (like the nuts) and strong-flavored. Extensively used in cooking in West Africa and in Brazil, particularly in Bahia.  I love how trying the foods of other lands introduces us to flavors and ingredients we would never have known.  Now, if only I can find some dendê oil, to try..  And, preferably without paying a $45 shipping charge.  Using a bit of turmeric for the color was my substitution.

Moqueca de Camarao originates from the  Brazilian state of Bahia, hot and tropical, as it is located below the equator.  Most dishes from Bahia, called “comida baiana”, are very spicy, just as in many other hot places of the world.  Probably to fire up our drooping taste buds.  I think the Black Beans dish, or Feijoada, is popular all throughout Brazil, though it also originates from the south east of the country.  In preparing that recipe I was inspired by a video demo at Cuca Brazuca.  However, I didn't add in all the hog bits.  Just a little Canadian Bacon for some pork flavor.

For lovely visuals of Bahia, Brazil, check out this site. You may decide to visit and try their food first hand.


Cod and Asparagus in a Packet of Parchment

My CSA friend, Sarah, introduced me to a wonderful concept.  New to me, perhaps not to you.  A piece of parchment paper enfolds a meal.  I must have heard about this at some point, but never acted on it?  Anyway, what a brilliant idea.  No pots or pans to clean up, tasty, simple and easy.  Who could ask for anything more?  For those of you who like watching it done, I found this video version by Jaden over at Steamy Kitchen.

A French method of cooking, called en papillote, it is almost infinitely variable.  What type of fish you use (or chicken even), vegetables, herbs, spices, added fats (olive oil, coconut cream, butter) or none at all.  I am smitten with the idea.  Will be doing it lots.

These packets contained cod, asparagus, red onion, and from our garden, lemon slices, thyme, and chives. Super good.  You should definitely do this.  I'm thinking next maybe a version of  Laulau, which is a Hawaiian dish, usually done with pork, butterfish, and  luau (taro) leaves, all enclosed in banana or ti leaves, and steamed.  A curried take would also be wonderful, with coconut cream (just a tad) and Indian spices.  Or, how about salmon with sliced fennel, topped with a sprinkling of fennel pollen?

A benefit of doing individual parcels is the little thrill of opening up your very own packet, maybe with your initial on the outside.  That way if a (clueless) person does not want any vegetables they can have the one with only tomato sauce in it.  Some kids do not realize that tomato sauce (like on pizza??) contains vegetables.   Perhaps an individual would prefer not to have carrots, or you name it, in theirs. I put a "B" on Bob's so he could have the bigger piece of fish.  Because he's bigger.


Corkscrews with Lentils and Kale

Hope all you U.S. folks are having a wonderful Thanksgiving.  This recipe (which has nothing to do with the Holiday) was adapted from my beautiful Gourmet Today cookbook.  Thank you Sunny.  I say adapted because we did actually start out with the exact version (above photo), which Bob thought was fine, but to me tasted boring.  Yes, I said the b... word,  forbidden in my childhood.  We were (all 7 of us) told not to use it, and vehemently exhorted, "Only the bores are bored."  Which, I can actually understand coming from a mother with seven children and not having a lot of excess time to be in entertainment mode.  But what is under discussion here is taste, or lack of it.  The caramelized onion note was missing from the symphony.  I was ready for dinner before they were completely golden brown.  So....   not enough oomph.  I like some gusto in my food, flavor that sings to me.  And,  I'm not sure if that missing element would have been sufficient by itself.  Not saucy enough for my taste either.

Thus, we have reprise #1:
Since the recipe made a gargantuan amount, I tried a portion for lunch to see what might be done.  Added some fresh arugula, and avocado, a squeeze of kafir lime, salt, and a splash of my vinaigrette.  Now, that was great, served as a yummy cold salad for lunch. This Reprise #1, I'm linking to Let's Do Lunch this week, over at My Sweet and Savory.

I will give the original recipe and you can vary it if you like, as I did in reprise 1, or reprise 2 - the dinner, which follows.


Millet, Lamb and Vegetable Soup

This is another one of those dishes that arrive by mischance, or serendipity.  A better word for it.

I bought a packet of lamb loin chops, which according to the Pioneer lady would be fabulous baked up Italian style with fresh tomatoes.  Okay, maybe on her planet.  Or, the lamb I bought was inferior.  Don't really know, but I do know that I won't be buying any more of that particular cut or anyway from that ranch.

To make a long story longer, the tough, hardly any meat, gristly bones were plucked out of the nice sauce, boiled up for awhile longer in my chicken stock, with some added millet, and more veggies, at which point  the original sauce was added back in, and they became a whole new thang.  A better thang too. Topped off with fresh mint from my garden.  A hearty, tasty stew/soup for those chilly Fall days.

To be honest, I was looking for barley and realized we were totally out.  However, there being an exact cup of millet that needed desperately to be used.....  it was.


Passionate Starfruit Cranberry Chutney

 I normally have passion fruit off and on during the year, but some kind soul dropped off a bag of the purple ones, at our office yesterday, which needed to be used, yesterday.  So, I just whipped up a batch of passion fruit syrup, which is excellent on cheese cake, as well as pancakes.  And, there was a tad extra.....so.....

Next we have starfruit, or carambola, dropping off the tree.  You see where this is going, combined with a smallish basket of imported pricey cranberries, this should make a totally excellent chutney.  Maybe some hot pepper flakes, a bit of ginger and cardamom could be added in. Yes, I do think so.  A different take from the one I made last year.


Hawaiian Mushroom Reprise

Some mushrooms just call out to have their photos taken.  Popping up between other plants....odd little mycelium stools for wandering toads.  And, what a pretty net skirt, and strange brain-like head. My goodness.

It's supposed to be edible, when in this early stage.  But, anything called an orange-netted stinkhorn is not something I want to put in my mouth.  Especially with a notation in Mushrooms of Hawaii that reads:  "Odor strongly fetid."  I do want to cultivate some known, tasty, edible mushroom, since my great shitake experiment was a total failure.  Not one of the little plugs produced anything.  However, I did read today (whilst trying to identify some of these) that oyster mushrooms are the easiest to cultivate.....so......we shall try.

Now this one is harder to identify. I'm working on it.  Indoors, we can do a spore print, look at the gills and annulus or lack of, etc.  There are some little nibbles out of one.  Apparently the snails think it's tasty.  Even with the book, I'm not sure here.

Another odd fellow.  He's a sort of a black coral guy.  Can't find him in either of my books, but for now will call it Black Coral Fungus.  The photo doesn't really do them justice.  They are definitely black, with lighter tips, but I need a better camera, looks like.  If any of you can identify this sort, leave a comment.  Growing in mulch under a Wi Apple seedling.

These are the mushrooms that did grow, on the logs into which I carefully stuck shitake plugs. Turkey-tail Polypore.  Very seasonal.  They are beautiful, as a bright side to the story.  And a variety now known to be an immune system enhancer.  Has been used in China to treat various types of cancer. The little fallen blossoms are cacao.


Aztec Spinach and Teriyaki Tofu

 At one time I considered doing a "Meat free Monday" event, but then figured I didn't need any more things with deadlines in my life.  Just eating less meat, semi-consistently will be enough, besides which those events are being done now.

I try to have tofu on hand, as an easy meatless alternative.  If you have a block, slice into about 3-4 equal sized wedges, slip them in a small freezer bag, and  freeze;  it will be ready whenever you are, and no need to worry about it going stinky in your fridge.  Mainly though, freezing alters the texture (for the better), and makes it more absorptive.

When you're ready to use the tofu, get a large pot of water boiling.  I use a big pasta pot.  Turn off the heat, then slip in your tofu slices.  After about 15 minutes, they will be thawed, so you can lift them out with a slotted spoon and remove to a colander to drain.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water.  Now you have some little protein sponges, ready to soak up whatever marinade you want. Keep that pot of hot water for a quick blanch of some Aztec Spinach, chard or regular spinach in a bit.

Aztec Spinach - until now another veg I'd never heard of.  It was in our CSA box last week, and what fun!  I love trying new things.  This was not only beautiful, but so tender and delicious.  It reminded me of Swiss Chard more than spinach.


Black and White Orzo Cheesey Bean Bake

 The inspiration for this delectable bake was a bag of black and white orzo (actually labeled tuxedo orzo), which I had purchased on a whim.  It sounded fun.  Then the bag sort of sat around, despondently, waiting for me to do something clever with it. Today, wanting some pasta for dinner, I remembered that orzo, and decided  it should be the star of a new feature.  One involving lots of cheese - some ricotta that needs to be used pronto, some (white) cheddar, a bit of Parmesan - and keeping with the black and white theme, how about black beans?  They would also round out the protein factor.  Onions are white, thus they could be included, and garlic.  There you have it, the growth of a theme recipe.
Here in Hilo we have, about this time of year, what is known as Black and White Night, a Friday evening and actually, I do believe it was last week, so I missed it again.  Ah well, the idea  must have been floating around in the ether, and I only just picked up on it.  Once in a while we even go out and catch one.  I'll wear black and white tonight when I serve this meal.

Salt and pepper are black and white, and allowed in.  Black olives, maybe white bread crumbs.  But, they don't stay white, so maybe not.  We're being really strict here.  Racking my brains for tasty inclusions......creating a recipe.


Ginger Salt on Double Chocolate Cookies

If you (like me) are one of those bloggers who did NOT get sent any Ginger Salt, fear not.  There is a solution.  One which does not involve traipsing from  grocery store to supermarket,  looking for it in the spices section, or finding and ordering online.  You might say to yourself, as I did, "I can do that...."

What does it take, after all?  Salt and ginger.  You grate the ginger, then mix with Kosher salt.

Simplicity itself.

Spread your mixture out in a glass baking dish (I was afraid the raw ginger might react with metal, but could be wrong on that), and let it dry at a low temperature in your oven.  Easy, peasey.

Then, if you're the sort who saves empty jars, you might fill a few.  And, if you want to remember what the heck it is, put on a label even.  Now all that's left is to sprinkle it on top of a roasted puimpkin, rib-eye steak, a baked potato with sour cream, a filet of mahi mahi, etc., etc., etc. I'll leave where to put it up to your imagination.  Very nice on our tenderloin last night.  But, the piece de resistance might just be these Double Chocolate Cookies, topped with Ginger Salt.

Originally Pierre Hermé's recipe, they were called Korova Cookies by Dorrie Greenspan in her book, Paris Sweets: Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops.  She named them after Hermé's restaurant Korova on the Champs-Élysées.  In a more recent book, she calls them World Peace Cookies.  I found them when Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted the recipe. Though, I just noticed they were also in my Sept. issue of Bon Appetit.  So, these oft named and copied cookies have been around the block and back.  A few times.  I like the idea of world peace spreading as everyone eats a few cookies.  Realistically speaking, they are more likely to cause a few minor wars over possession.  Because they are to die for.  Especially with a sprinkling of Ginger Salt on top.  I apologize in advance for these seriously addicting little items.  Perhaps should be called Butter and Chocolate Overload Cookies.


Roasted Pumpkin Feta Cake

I have recently been admiring those French savory cakes, and especially the cauliflower one Ottolenghi did and, which Deb of Smitten Kitchen adapted, hers with added black sesame seeds on the sides.  The guy who does the ordering at our grocery says there is some sort of disease affecting those seeds, so no supply for the time being.  And, I did like the way it looked.  Pooh.  Perhaps poppy seeds would work. Also, the cauliflower here hasn't been all that appealing.   So......... what I had was left-over, spicy roasted pumpkin, which would normally  go right into a Pumpkin Curry Soup.  But hey, we've been there and done that enough times to have a yen for something different.

You may have been hearing good things lately about Ottolenghi, London restaurant owner, author of the cutting edge cookbook, Plenty, and Guardian columnist.   I tried a few of his very creative dishes when the Guardian did a special feature about his book, including numerous recipes.  One was an awesome salad of fried white beans, sorrel and feta, which I should do again and post about.

This savory sort of cake is, apparently a traditional French  thing, a crustless variation on the quiche.  We Americans are more used to the Impossible Pie Bisquick version, at least those of us old enough to remember when we, or our mothers made them, back in the day.


Heat by Bill Buford

 Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, by Bill Buford, our current Cook the Books Club selection, was a fascinating glimpse into life behind the scenes, at the three-star New York restaurant, Babbo.  Buford, a reporter and editor at the New Yorker, took on the commission of a profile on Mario Batali, larger than life, restaurant owner, Chef, TV personality, and author, with an extreme dedication.  This book is his account of the experience, which brought him to not only hook up with Batali, but to work for him, learning the food business firsthand, which he continued to do, even after his profile, The Secret of Excess, was completed.  Heat incorporates all that and much more, with  frequently humorous reflections on food, cultural influences and history.

I truly admire Buford's incredible verisimilitude in reporting.  To go through learning all the steps, from hours, months of mundane prep work, to apprenticing at the stations for pasta, grill work and plating, not to mention, of course, enduring the intense heat (physically and emotionally) back there in the kitchen, including real abuse from some of the chefs.  His book could have alternatively been titled, Life on the Line.  It sounded like hell to me.  Not anywhere I'd want to be.  Though, I'm glad he did, so we could read about it.  An outstanding read, which I truly enjoyed, perhaps excepting only the last section of the book, where for further hands on experience, he apprentices with a butcher in Tuscany.  Vegetarians should be forewarned. Too much gory detail, but hey, at least he got to hear Dante quoted in between times.  Didn't Dante write about hell?

All of which brought to mind a recent article in Bon Appetit, written by Molly Wizenberg, of the popular blog Orangette, entitled, "If you can't stand the heat...."  It was penned shortly after she had worked four months as a cook at Delanceys, Seattle, the restaurant Wizenberg and her husband had just opened.  As she tells it:
"But a restaurant kitchen operates at a speed and on a scale that few home kitchens will ever know...Great restaurant cooks thrive under pressure.  They're performers.  They may swear and sweat, but they like the challenge, the intensity, the urgency.  I am not a great restaurant cook.  I don't know if it's a matter of genes or temperament or both, but when faced with a dozen orders, I do not get an adrenaline rush.  I get weepy....
I didn't understand this until I worked in our restaurant, but for me, cooking is not a performance.  It's more intimate, more private than that.  I like a small kitchen."
Yes, exactly, as I frequently feel that way in my very own, quiet, little kitchen.  I often want out of there, it's just too darn hot.  And, the pressure!  I mean, getting a meal on the table that tastes good, is composed in a balanced way, and served some time before The Late Show?  As intense as I want to get.  Actually, to be honest, I don't like entertaining all that much, for the above reasons.  It's not entertaining me any.  I'd rather go out, let someone else do the sweating.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy cooking, trying new things, serving delicious food to the people I love, .....eating.  But, no pressure.  Mixed feelings, I guess.


Shrimp and Gumbo Spirals

 Gumbo, after all, is another name for okra, one of my favorite vegetables, and as it is being supplied by our CSA, on a fairly regular basis, we are eating it more often.  But, it was those gumbo spices of  hearty soup/stew fame that inspired me here.  The red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano, basil and garlic, the shrimp stock, butter, wine, and shrimpies, oh yes. 

I decided to make a shrimp stock for this dish.  That's pepper on the cooking stock, not little bugs.  Just so you know.  Reserve all your shells, heads, whatever, and add a bit of minced carrot, celery and onion, salt and pepper.  Cover with water and simmer about 30 minutes.  Then, strain and add about a 1/2 cup of white wine.  Now, reduce the heck out of it while you're assembling the rest of the dish.


The Velvet Devil Spaghetti

Yes, the spaghetti is named after the wine.  I couldn't resist, and  it does contribute that special bit of extra zip and depth.  To a cognoscenti, I'm sure there is way too much of the ragu to the amount of pasta on that plate, but when the "condiment" is to die for, it is excusable.  Use as much as you like.

Everyone has their favorite recipe, or do they?  I seem to change mine a bit every time I make a beef spaghetti sauce.  If there are zucchini on hand, in they go.  Celery (if I have it), olives, onions (of course) and garlic (lots) along with the ground beef.  And, a good red wine.  In this case, The Velvet Devil.  Bet they sell cases of that on the name alone.  At any rate, I'll share this version, since it was soooo good.


They Can't Be That Easy Pickled Vegetables

That was my exact thought when I read Michael Ruhlman's recipe for naturally pickled vegetables, in his book, Ratio.  No way.  Don't I need to get my pressure cooker out?  Do something else??  That's IT?  Just make a simple brine and stick my vegetables in there?  Well, apparently yes, as it worked magnificently, beautifully and best of all, easily.  Though, this photo was taken after a good quantity of the vegetables had been removed and eaten.

You may be tired (all 2 of you) of hearing the ways I have been trying to use up my CSA veggies during the week, but this was another of those last ditch attempts. And, a great, quick alternative, or addition to salad for a side dish.

I had some bok choy, to which I added zucchini, onion, carrots, and a few other things.  Use what you have on hand.  Some Cauliflower would be delightful, as would your old standard, baby cucumbers.


Presto Pasta Nights #185 Roundup

When Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast, founder and sustaining force behind Presto Pasta Nights,  asked me to host this week's event, I was excited to jump in.  You get more noodles here on a weekly basis than can be believed.

 First up was amazing Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, another fellow food blogger from Hawaii, with a comforting Bean and Pasta soup, Pasta e Fagioli.  Cooler weather is welcome when it brings in these delicious soups and I can't wait to try this one.

Next, we have Madge, Vegetarian Casserole Queen, with her Mediterranean Pasta Salad, which she says is on her family's monthly rota and should be destined for mine as well.  We love pasta salads around here, and this one looks so tasty.

Amritha of AK's Vegetarian Recipe World sends us her light and healthy Spaghetti in Tomato Basil Saute.  This should be just the quick and easy thing to fix when you're in a rush or feeling tired.

From Australia we have Teriyaki Lamb Macaroni, dished up by Daphne of More Than Words.  I love lamb, and this stir-fry meal would be fantastic for any left-overs from a nice roasted leg, so colorful with all the vegetables and flavorful with spices.

Corina of Searching for Spice, has sent us her personalized version of a Chicken Pad Thai.  Soooo yummy, and I can't wait to try this recipe myself, as we love Pad Thai at our house.

From Yasmeen's Health Nut blog, another colorful, tasty dish, and right from her amazing garden, Garden Fresh Vegetable Rotini Salad.   I am jealous of anyone able to grow all those vegetables at home.

Ruth, our fearless leader, of Once Upon a Feast, has made a unique and onolicious (Hawaiian word meaning yummy) sounding Whole Wheat with  Pumpkin Mac 'N Cheese.  Boy, I'll have my grandkids over for that one.  And, in time for Halloween too.

Finally, my, Honey From Rock contribution of a Dairy Free Beef Stroganoff, which was finished with reduced almond milk.  I was a little disappointed that more almond flavor didn't come through, but I suppose that would have competed with the lovely flavors of tender beef and mushrooms.

All in all, a well-rounded potluck gathering of delightful dishes from around the world.  Thanks everyone for sending in your contributions, and I for one, am going to enjoy trying them all! 
Next week our host will be Claire of Chez Cayenne.