Monday, October 27, 2014

Roasted Red PepperTartine & Za'atar







This is a page from the recipe collection I compiled for my niece's bridal shower gift this summer. The book included original art, illustrated recipes and photographs from this blog and personal family photographs. The recipes I chose to include in the collection came right out of this blog. I went back and put together selection of favorite recipes I've gone back to time and time again. I thought I'd share the artwork and revisit some faves. I've also linked back to the original blog post.
I'm a huge fan of toast piled with stuff. I've always got a freezer full of day old bread. I bring a loaf home from the market every couple of days. I slice it in half and double wrap each half in plastic wrap and then seal them in a freezer bag. When I want to thaw it, I wrap a half in foil and toss it in the oven. I'll either leave it in the turned off oven over night or if I need it sooner I'll crank the oven on high for a few minutes then turn it off and let the bread heat through with the residual heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Slice thickly and toast. Rub with a half of a garlic clove and top with your spread of choice.
Za'atar is a middle eastern spice & herb blend that can be purchased dry or made fresh. I used to buy it dry but when I discovered how easy it was to make fresh I've never gone back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Raspberry Lemon Drop

This is a little project I've been working on since handing off my collection of illustrated recipes to my niece for her bridal shower gift.
Yet again, there's been a sad lack of cooking content here, but that is not to say the little kitchen has been inactive but I've been having a lot of fun with the illustrating and cooking and spending way too much time lost in the vortex of Pinterest. Computer issues are also an issue when you're at the mercy of the sloooowwwness of free public wifi and library computers with a mind of their own. I get really impatient.
Anyhoo, I'm going to share some of my illustrations here to keep the blog active.
Some notes about this recipe:
My simple syrup recipe is a cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of sugar, heated in a sauce pan until the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool. It doesn't have to be refrigerated.
My favorite raspberry liqueur is St. George. I find Chambord to be too sweet and cough syrupy. That's just me though. I also just realized that I neglected to note on the illustration that fresh raspberries add a nice touch.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup & A Day on the Farm

This pretty pumpkiny thing is a Kuri squash. I picked it right out of the patch with my own two hands along with the butternut and a whole bunch of onions. I'll get back to this.
Photographing pureed soups is just best left to the experts. I lacked the werewithal to come up with photo friendly garnish strategies because this soup was so damn good that I couldn't bear to let it sit around while I noodled around with what?...chives? fried shallots? squeeze bottle drizzle art? No. None of that because I realized that this soup was not about that particular destination. It's the farm to table journey that bears note.
I went to Sonoma last week to get my first gander at the Bi-Rite Farm. I did more than gander. I harvested. I traveled up the afternoon before with a small caravan of co-workers. We spent the night at my boss Sam's gorgeous weekend home, cooking a lovely meal together in a true chef's kitchen around a ginormous island. 
After our meal of chili & cornbread, a few beers and a round of Cards Against Humanity, we hit the sleeping bags and got out to the farm early the next morning.

I picked this crazy lemon cucumber.
This was really overgrown, at first I thought a melon snuck it's way into the cucumber patch. I'd never seen a lemon cucumber until last year when I started working at Bi-Rite. They are ready to harvest when they are the size of a fat lemon, speckly pale green with a blush of yellow. 

We picked the last of the red beans, then pulled up the plants and mashed them into the compost heap. Amaranth weeds were yanked and  fed to the cows next door, one of which was destined for our market shortly and carrot tops were fed through the fence to the donkeys at the other next door farm. There is virtually no waste here. The pretty stuff goes to the markets and the rest goes to the kitchens.

A new crop to the farm... hops. I was invited to tear into one of these buds and rub it around in my hands. It was like perfume. These are destined for a limited edition Bi-rite brew. I've renewed my love of beer since working at the market. I've had the opportunity and great good fortune to be able to taste a vast array of amazing small craft brews and after 15 years of bloaty beer banishment, I am back and truly in love with all manner of hoppy beers. IPA all the way.
I came home with a couple of squashes, a bunch of red torpedo spring onions and fistful of rosemary. I didn't want to get greedy, thinking of what I was capable of using soon and carrying along with my sleeping bag and other gear once we got back to the city.

The very next day I got this going:

I caramelized most of the onions & roasted up the kuri squash. The great thing about the kuri squash is that you can eat the skin. Here's how this all went down:

Kuri Curry Coconut Soup

1 medium Kuri squash cut into 1" cubes
3 spring onions-caramelized
1 teaspoon of Penzey's Sweet Curry Powder
1 teaspoon cumin
olive oil
salt & pepper
2 large cloves of garlic
4 cups water
1 heaped tablespoon Better than Bouillion Chicken broth base
1 can coconut milk

Cook down the onions first. In general it takes about an hour to get a good caramelization if you go with the low and slow method. These farm fresh onions took even longer because they were so juicy...not like the drier supermarket/produce market onions I'm used to that have been sitting around for god-knows-how-long. It took me a while to figure that out. I cooked the first batch within 8 hours of picking. I was seriously thinking "What is wrong with these onions? Why are they taking so long?" City girl. It was really hard to resist turning up the heat to get them to go faster. I refrained. I'm not sure what difference it would have made to the soup, but I like to think a world of...


Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toss the squash with big glug of olive oil, curry, cumin, salt and pepper. Spread onto parchment lined sheet pans, using as many as needed so as not to crowd the pan. Roast for 15 minutes, toss and roast for another 15 minutes.
I had caramelized the onions the night before, so I reheated them in the bottom of the pot with some chopped garlic. Heat up a pot of water and start a broth with the innards of the squash, cooking for about 30 minutes. Strain and add the chicken broth base and dissolve. Add more water if needed to reach 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil. Add the roasted squash and...it wasn't until this moment that I realized I could have roasted a bunch of garlic with the squash...next time. Maybe. This soup turned out so great that I seriously had to resist over thinking it.
Anyhoo...let the soup simmer for 30 minutes. Puree (carefully-it's super hot). Return to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Done and Delish!
This soup is killer with a grilled cheese sandwich to dunk into it.





Monday, August 11, 2014

Lemon Zucchini Bread

There's been a sad lack of content here these days but that doesn't mean the little kitchen has been inert. In fact, productivity is at an all time high, thanks to the little sister kitchen joining forces with me for a while. It's usually technical difficulties or just plain laziness that inhibits post production. I can't manage to get from the kitchen to the computer, well that's a lie. I get to the computer just fine. Here I enjoy my favorite OCD/ADD procrastination activities along with homemade baked goods. I came home from work last night to a batch of biscotti.
I'm way too easily sucked into that vortex known as Pinterest...not that there's anything wrong with that because that's where I found this little gem at one of my faves, My Baking Addiction. I saw the words lemon & zucchini in the same recipe title and well...the brain went into overdrive thinking about two ginormous lemons one of my co-workers brought me from his tree and that zucchini sitting in the veggie drawer ready for my next round of fritters.
I managed to make it home and make this beautiful bread and it blew me away because it's a rare, rare occasion when I get my mitts on lemons this fresh. I've always been a city girl and small apartment renter. Lemon trees? When was the last time I saw one of those? I don't get out much-but when I come across a recipe that inspires me to commit it to paper right then and there-then it manages to exceed my expectations AND teach me a lesson...well, in my little world, it doesn't get any better.

I learned a lesson about lemons-well, more of a heightened awareness because of course I know that fresh is best. I have this weird thing about lemons. I love them and I always want to have them because I never know when I'm going to be in the mood for popcorn or salad dressing or a spritz in my sparkly water, but every now and then-sad to say-I'll wind up with a lemon or two teetering on the edge of petrification. I've been known to zest up some sad, sad lemons even though they're dry as dirt. 

This was the polar opposite of that.

one ginormous lemon=2 tablespoons zest.

The AHA moment: working the zest into the sugar with my fingertips. The fragrance was out of this world.


Lemon Zucchini Bread
Adapted from allrecipes via My Baking Addiction

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 2 medium lemons)
1 large egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (packed and undrained)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Glaze:
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest, mixing with your fingertips until fragrant. Add the egg, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in zucchini. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake 50-55 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean. Remove pan to wire rack and cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto the wire rack to cool completely.
4. Once bread is cooled, prepare the glaze. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice and vanilla. Drizzle the glaze over the bread.
Notes:
Bread will store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days-if it even lasts that long.


Make this ASAP!! You'll be so glad you did.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zucchini Fritters

I can't get enough of these tasty little fritters-so simple and they're a great do-ahead. Topped with a poached egg...well, they are just the thing.
This recipe is a mash-up of two recipes I love. One from Smitten Kitchen and the other from The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook.

I've made these several times over the last two weeks. I've been playing around with spices. I like to add several grinds of Trader Joe's Everyday Spice Blend to the egg mix. I didn't put it in the recipe because it's not really necessary-I just like using those grinders.  The parsley, cilantro, mint medley came to mind as a really nice herb combo, one I had gleaned from the zucchini burgers I made from Jerusalem. I didn't have any mint though.


Zucchini & Sweet Potato Fritters
inspired by smitten kitchen and The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook

2 medium zucchini
1 small sweet potato-about the same size as the zucchini
1 small yellow onion
1 finely chopped scallion-green part only
1 heaped teaspoon coarse or Kosher salt, plus extra to taste
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley & cilantro-mint would be good here too)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
sunflower oil for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and place a sheet pan inside.
Trim ends off zucchini, peel the sweet potato, slice the onion in half and peel.  Grate everything either on the large holes of a box grater or in the food processor.
In a large bowl, toss the shredded vegetables with 1+ teaspoon coarse salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Line a colander with a clean tea towel and transfer the grated vegetables into the middle of the tea towel. Gather the ends and twist and squeeze out as much liquid as you can-there will be a lot.
Return the grated vegetables to a large bowl and loosen the compact ball with two forks and stir in your chopped herbs. Taste to see if you need more salt. To the beaten egg add stir in some freshly ground black pepper, then add to the shredded vegetables. In another small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder, then stir the mixture into the veg mix as well.
In a large heavy skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. I like to use two forks to form small dollops of the veg mix into the skillet so there’s space between each pattie. Lightly press them flatter with the back of the fork. Cook the fritters over moderately high heat until the edges underneath are golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you find this happening too quickly, reduce the heat to medium. Flip the fritters and fry them on the other side until browned underneath again, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels then transfer to baking sheet and then into the warm oven until needed. Repeat process, keeping the pan well-oiled, with remaining batter. The fritters should continue to cook in the warm oven for another 10 minutes to finish setting and get a little more crisp.
Stack them up and top with a poached egg.
These fritters keep well, chilled in the fridge for a couple of days though they never last that long.They can also be frozen-place a sheet pan in the freezer, place the cooked fritters on the chilled sheet pan and freeze until solid, about an hour. Transfer the frozen fritters into a freezer bag and drawing or pressing out as much air as possible.
When you’re ready, bake them on a sheet pan, in a 325 degree oven until they’re hot and crisp.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Roasted Tomato & Basil Grilled Cheese

These are a few of my favorite things:

Cheese~my favorite food in the whole wide world. Truly. This particular spur of the moment concoction uses my everyday go-to cheese, Cabot Vintage Cheddar. I have the great good fortune to spend my 40 hour work week in the most amazing and inspiring foodie mecca's in San Francisco, Bi-Rite Market, where my exposure to cheese has opened up a whole new world. Gone are the days of supermarket block mild cheddar and jack. I've ventured into the world of stinky cheese and haven't looked back.

Slooowww Roasted Tomatoes~my little kitchen staple.


Basil-nothing..well, almost ...makes me happier than getting basil to grow on my window sill for more than a week. I've got one going now that's lasted over a month.






Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees.
a pint or two of any small tomato you like-sliced in half lengthwise. In large bowl toss the tomatoes with a good glug of olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper and if you want, some dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme or tarragon.
lay a sheet of parchment paper onto sheet pan and spread the tomatoes out evenly, cut side up. Spoon the liquid left in the bowl back into the cut halves that appear hollow. Use two pans if you need to so the tomatoes aren't crowded.
Bake for 45 minutes.





My approach to the grilled cheese:
Turn on the broiler.
In a small ramekin, start with 2 tablespoons of softened butter & stir in a dollop of Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan.
Slather on one side of two thick slices of country loaf bread.
Grate one cup of your favorite cheddar.
In another small ramekin, spoon up some of those slow roasted tomatoes you've got in the fridge, along with the olive oil it's been encased in. Microwave that for about 30 seconds, just to liquefy the oil. Strain this oil into a non-stick skillet and heat on medium. It's going to start spattering, that's the water from the tomatoes-wait until that stops, then place the slices of bread butter side down and let that get all toasty brown.
Transfer the toasty grilled bread, toasty side down on a small sheet pan or broiler pan. Pile on the grated cheese and place it under the broiler for a minute then spread the tomatoes over the melty cheese and broil for another minute. I sprinkled this with za'atar, but fresh ground pepper works just fine.
Remove and let it rest for about a minute and top with some slivered basil.

Friday, July 25, 2014

chicken breasts poached in butter...


...with wine & cream sauce + other recipes from Julia Child.
It may not have been the prettiest girl at the dance but it was pretty damn delicious.

For the last several weeks I’ve been working on a labor of love for my niece’s bridal shower, an illustrated collection of recipes, photos and other kitchen anecdotes which boiled all down to family, friends and food.



Simultaneously, I had returned to “Dearie” the biography of Julia Child I’d started last year, then ADD’d elsewhere. I resumed it at the point she gets to France and the germ of Mastering the Art of French Cooking sprouts. She was relentless in getting each recipe perfect, persevering through battles with her co-authors and the rejections from her first publisher. Her determination and goal-oriented stubbornness paralleled  and motivated my drive to finish my project.
She was obsessed. I was curious. Oddly enough, I've never read Mastering the Art of French Cooking, though I had, somewhere,  The French Chef Cookbook I'd picked up a library book sale years ago. I bookmarked a few things

First up: Supremes de Volaille a Blanc or Chicken breasts poached in butter, with wine and cream sauce. A supreme is the skinless, boneless, breast of a chicken removed raw from the whole bird. The recipe calls for 4 "supremes", I cooked 2 fairly large breasts.
The chicken breasts, rubbed with lemon juice, salt & pepper (white pepper-Julia only used white pepper) are oven poached in butter, then a sauce is made from that same chicken juice infused butter by adding broth, wine and cream-I mean seriously what’s not to love about that?

Julia was first and foremost, a teacher and the recipes are fairly idiot proof, even though I bought half and half instead of cream. I thought it was cream, so my sauce never quite emulsified due to the water in the half in half I’m thinking. I whisked really well and it looked beautiful for about 3 minutes then tiny oily globules started to form…well…live and learn. It tasted amazing though. I’m thinking, in part, because I didn’t skimp on the vermouth. By that I mean quality. I used this:

I cooked two breasts that were rather large so they took longer to cook. I may have over cooked them the teeeensiest bit. I guess I could have cut them in half or even sliced them since that’s what I did after they were cooked, but I think leaving them whole produces more juice which in turn flavors the sauce. I used Smart & Final brand beef bouillion-yeah I know-it’s all I had (I'm a huge fan of the Better Than Bouillion brand). Whatever. They were delicious! The sauce, in spite of my half and half debacle was rich and flavorful.

I also made a delicious risotto from the book. It's finished in the oven-- super low-maintenance. You  need to start it in some kind of casserole dish that can go from stove top to oven. Julia’s recipe calls for plain white rice. I had some Arborio left so I used it. Super simple. Dice onion, sauté in butter, stir in rice and cook for a minute, pour in bouillion, an herb bag or a bouquet garni of parsley thyme & bay leaf and pop in the oven for 18 minutes. Fluff. Done & delish.

Recipe #3 was Haricots Verts au Maitre D’hotel-or fresh green beans tossed with butter, lemon juice and parsley.

The green beans are blanched then tossed in a dry pan to remove the moisture then seasoned with salt & pepper, tossed with butter and then a splash of lemon juice and chopped parsley. Great recipe. A great way to cook green vegetables-broccoli, asparagus etc.



Cooking the Chicken Breasts

4 supremes
 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Big pinch white pepper
4 tablespoons butter
A heavy, covered casserole dish that can go from stovetop to oven
A round of parchment paper cut to fit the casserole
A hot serving dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.



Method:
Rub the chicken breasts with drops of lemon juice, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Heat butter in the casserole until foaming. Quickly roll the chicken breasts in the butter, lay the paper over them, cover the casserole, and place in hot oven. After 6 minutes, press tops of suprêmes with your finger; if still soft and squashy, return to the oven for a minute or two more. They are done when they feel lightly springy and resilient; do not overcook them. Remove the suprêmes to a hot serving dish; cover and keep warm while making the sauce, which will take 2 to 3 minutes.

Wine & Cream Sauce:
1/4 cup white or brown stock or canned beef bouillon
1/4 cup port, Madeira, or dry white vermouth
1 cup heavy cream
Salt, white pepper, and lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Pour the stock or bouillon and the wine into the casserole with the cooking butter, and boil down rapidly over high heat until the liquid is syrupy. Then pour in the cream, and boil rapidly until lightly thickened. Season carefully with salt, pepper, and drops of lemon juice. Pour the sauce over the suprêmes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.




Risotto


1/3 cup finely minced onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup unwashed raw white rice
¼ cup dry white French vermouth, optional
2 cups light chicken stock heated in a small saucepan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bay leaf (or a small herb bouquet—l small bay leaf, 1/8 tsp thyme, and 3 parsley sprigs tied in washed cheesecloth)

Method:

Sauté the onions slowly in the butter for several minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the rice and sauté, slowly stirring, for several minutes more until the grains, which first become translucent, turn a milky white. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking.
Braising. If you are using vermouth, stir it in now and let it boil down for a moment. Blend in the chicken stock, correct seasoning, and add the bay leaf or herb bouquet. Bring to the boil, stir thoroughly, then cover tightly and finish in the oven, baking for 18 minutes. Do not stir it at all during this time. Check to see if there's any liquid at the bottom and return to the oven for another 2 minutes if necessary. Remove the bay leaf or herb bouquet, fluff the rice with a fork, taste & adjust seasoning if needed.


Green Beans


2 pounds of green beans
6-7 quarts boiling water
2 tablespoons salt
3-4 tablespoons butter cut into 3-4 pieces
salt
pepper
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons of minced parsley


Trim the ends off the beans and plunge them into the boiling, salted water. Boil for about 6-8 minutes- I used the skinny French green beans from Trader Joes so they only took 6 minutes to get to a place I like- or until the larger of the beans is tender but still has a slight crunch. This really depends on  the size & quality of your beans. Farm fresh beans will take much less time than beans that have been sitting in the supermarket for a week or whatever. Pluck out a bean, taste it and stop when you like the bite.
Drain immediately and rinse well in cold water. This can be done ahead of time.
When ready to cook, toss the beans in the dry pot over medium heat until any remaining moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and stir in one piece of butter. Alternate additions of butter and lemon juice. Top with parsley just before serving.

I actually watched that episode on You Tube after and learned that it's important to use a big pot of boiling water because it will return to the boil much faster once you've plunged the beans in. The rapid boil and chill is the key to keeping the vegetables al dente and thusly-PERFECTLY cooked!


Old Dog. New Tricks.