Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making the Best in a Non-Foodie Town

When my husband suggested renting a cabin in Flagstaff for a week I was more than a little concerned. All I could think of was: where are we going to eat. Flagstaff is not known to be a dining destination that's for sure. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of restaurants and brew pubs but not anything that would make you want to spend a week there.

I started feeling better about things when my husband suggested that we cook most of our meals instead of eating out. I felt better still when I saw him packing some of our favorite cookbooks.

We arrived in Flagstaff on Sunday afternoon; greeted by lots of rain and temperatures in the mid 60's. This was the perfect weather for making comfort food; an opportunity we don't get often living in Phoenix.

So we made things like creamy tomato soup with grilled fontina cheese sandwiches for lunch and baked pasta for dinner. We also popped homemade popcorn and sipped on foamy mugs of hot chocolate.

If I had to pick two favorite meals from everything we cooked that week it would be:

1. Baked Pasta with Ricotta and Ham from Mario Batalli

2. Sausage with Fennel and Olives from Lidia's Italy by Lidia Bastianich.

Sausages with Fennel and Olives

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
12 sweet Italian sausages
1 C dry white wine
6 plump garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1/4 tsp. pepperoncino flakes or to taste
1 C large green olives, squashed to open them and pitted
3 large fennel bulbs (3.5 - 4 lb total), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt or kosher salt

Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into a skillet large enough for your sausages and set over medium-high heat. Lay in the sausages and cook for 5 minutes or more, rolling them over occasionally until nicely browned. Pour in the wine and boil until it is reduced by half. Remove the sausages to a platter and pour the remaining wine sauce over them.

Add the remaining 2 Tbs olive oil to the empty skillet. Toss in the garlic cloves and cook for a minute or so over medium heat until they're sizzling. Drop in the pepperoncino then scatter the squashed olives in the pan. Toss and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the fennel chunks and stir. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, tossing and stirring now and then until the fennel softens, shrinks, and begins to color. Add a bit of water to the pan if the fennel remains hard and resistant to the bite.

When the fennel is cooked through, return the sausages and wine to the skillet. Turn the meat and vegetables together, cook uncovered for another 5 minutes or so, until everything is deeply caramelized and glazed. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot.

All in all it turned out to be a delicious and fun week.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Vegetarian's 100

Last week I posted the Omnivore's 100 list of things that should be tried at least once. Maybelle's Mom of Feeding Maybelle has come up with a similar list for vegetarians. I thought I'd give this one a try too. Looks like I have a lot more I need to try on the vegetarian side. Here are the rules: bold = have eaten unhighlighted = haven't eaten crossed out = won't ever eat If you do do this, please post a comment at Click on the (?) if you are curious what the item is. 1. Edamame (?) 2. Cha Soba (?) 3. Arame (?) 4. Earth Balance Buttercream 5. "Homemade" sprouts 6. Green Bamboo Rice (?) 7. Absinthe 8. Eat at a raw restaurant 9. Fresh (real) wasabi 10. Deep fried pickle 11. Fiddleheads (?) 12. Garlic stuffed olives 13. Smen (?) 14. Goji Berries (?) 15. Shiso or Perilla (?) 16. Amaranth (?) 17. Pomegranate molasses (?) 18. Water convulvulus (Water Spinach) (?) 19. Pea eggplant, Thai eggplant, green eggplant, Japanese eggplant, Indian eggplant, Sicilian eggplant... 20. A Zen Buddhist Vegan Meal (?) 21. Kohya Dofu (?) 22. Wild Asparagus (?) 23. Elderberry (?) 24. Candlenuts (kemiri) (?) 25. Salsify (?) 26. Nutritional Yeast (?) 27. Pandan (?) 28. Roman cauliflower (?) 29. Anything with acorn flour (?) 30. Poi (?) 31. Chaya (tree spinach) (?) 32. Pitahaya (dragon fruit) (?) 33. Asafoetida (?) 34. Fried plantains 35. Basil seeds (?) 36. Cardoon (?) 37. Durian (?) 38. Ground Cherry or cape gooseberry (?) 39. Fresh waterchestnut (?) 40. Cashewnut cheese 41. Nettles (?) 42. Fake duck from a can, tofurky, or any prepared vegetarian product to resemble meat 43. Kimchi (?) 44. Masala Dosa (?) 45. Lotus Seed (?) 46. Matcha (?) 47. Loubie Bzeit (?) 48. Quince (?) 49. Blue Potatoes (?) 50. Injera (?) 51. Nasturtium (?) 52. Turkish Delight or Lokum (?) 53. Spruce tips (?) 54. Breadfruit (?) 55. Mangosteen (?) 56. Swede or Rutabaga (?) 57. Garlic Scapes (?) 58. Lavash (?) 59. Candied Angelica (?) 60. Rambutan (?) 61. Sambal (?) 62. Bhutanes Red Rice (?) 63. Candy-cane or Chioggia beets (?) 64. Mango 65. Ras el Hanout (?) 66. Vegan marshmallow (?) 67. Umeboshi (?) 68. Red Currants (?) 69. Puy or French lentils (?) 70. Millet (?) 71. Fresh Bamboo shoot (?) 72. Jerusalem artichoke (?) 73. Wild strawberry (?) 74. Jambool (?) 75. Po cha or Yak butter Tea (?) 76. Adzuki beans (?) 77. Shirataki (?) 78. Manioc, yuca, cassava (?) 79. Quinoa (?) 80. Ramps (?) 81. Chufa (?) 82. Purslane (?) 83. Curry Leaves (Kadipatta) (?) 84. Sorrel (?) 85. Sumac (?) 86. Vegan cupcake 87. Montreal bagel (?) 88. Peri-peri (?) 89. Syllabub (?) 90. Chartreuse (?) 91. Kamut berries (?) 92. Kalamansi Lime (?) 93. Aloe (?) 94. Morels (?) 95. Raw “bread” 96. Dandelion wine 97. Rosti (?) 98. Loomi (?) 99. Stinky tofu (?) 100. Something grown by you~

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pie In My Eye Adventure

The Challenge: Make a Sweet Pie for the "Pie in My Eye Adventure" over at Joelen's Culinary Adventures

The Pie: Honey & Pine Nut Tart from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano.

Honey and Pine Nut Tart
(Makes One 10-Inch Tart, 8 Servings)

2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups pine nuts

Sweet Tart Crust (recipe below)

On a floured board, roll the tart dough into an 11-inch circle 1/8-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom by rolling the dough around the pin like a carpet and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim it so it is flush with the top of the pan. Chill the tart shell while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 325°F and position a rack in the center.

To make the custard: Place the honey, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and stir to combine them. Add the butter, place the saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl; allow it to cool for 20 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the egg and egg yolk.

Distribute the pine nuts evenly over the bottom of the tart shell and pour the custard into the shell until it reaches the top of the crust. Place the tart on a baking sheet to catch any drips and bake for 30-55 minutes, or until both the crust and the filling have turned light golden brown and the custard is set but slightly jiggly. Allow the tart to cool completely on a rack before carefully removing the sides of the pan.

Serve the tart while slightly warm, or cool it and serve at room temperature. Wrapped in plastic, leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Sweet Tart Crust

2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 small orange
3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks/6 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
A few drops ice water, if necessary

Place the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and citrus zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine the dry ingredients. Add all of the cold, cubed butter to the bowl and pulse to process the mixture until it is sandy and there are no visible lumps of butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract, and heavy cream. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times, or until the dough comes together. If necessary, add some ice water, a few drops at a time, to make the dough come together.

Remove the dough from the food processor and work it out with your hands to even out any dry and wet spots. Form the dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours, before rolling it out. You can also freeze the dough, well wrapped, for up to 2 months.

Friday, August 15, 2008

100 Foods You Should Try at Least Once

Andrew over at Very Good Taste came up with a fun meme. Below is a list of 100 things that every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Want to play along? Here’s what you to do: 1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions. 2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. 3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. 4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results. The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred: 1. Venison 2. Nettle tea 3. Huevos rancheros 4. Steak tartare 5. Crocodile- I've had Alligator 6. Black pudding 7. Cheese fondue 8. Carp 9. Borscht 10. Baba ghanoush 11. Calamari 12. Pho 13. PB&J sandwich 14. Aloo gobi 15. Hot dog from a street cart 16. Epoisses 17. Black truffle 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 19. Steamed pork buns 20. Pistachio ice cream 21. Heirloom tomatoes 22. Fresh wild berries 23. Foie gras 24. Rice and beans 25. Brawn, or head cheese 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper 27. Dulce de leche 28. Oysters 29. Baklava 30. Bagna cauda 31. Wasabi peas 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl 33. Salted lassi 34. Sauerkraut 35. Root beer float 36. Cognac with a fat cigar 37. Clotted cream tea 38. Vodka jelly 39. Gumbo 40. Oxtail 41. Curried goat 42. Whole insects 43. Phaal 44. Goat’s milk 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more 46. Fugu 47. Chicken tikka masala 48. Eel 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut 50. Sea urchin 51. Prickly pear 52. Umeboshi 53. Abalone 54. Paneer 55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal 56. Spaetzle 57. Dirty gin martini 58. Beer above 8% ABV 59. Poutine 60. Carob chips 61. S’mores 62. Sweetbreads 63. Kaolin 64. Currywurst 65. Durian 66. Frogs’ legs 67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake 68. Haggis 69. Fried plantain 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette 71. Gazpacho 72. Caviar and blini 73. Louche absinthe 74. Gjetost, or brunost 75. Roadkill 76. Baijiu 77. Hostess Fruit Pie 78. Snail 79. Lapsang souchong 80. Bellini 81. Tom yum 82. Eggs Benedict 83. Pocky 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. 85. Kobe beef 86. Hare 87. Goulash 88. Flowers 89. Horse 90. Criollo chocolate 91. Spam 92. Soft shell crab 93. Rose harissa 94. Catfish 95. Mole poblano 96. Bagel and lox 97. Lobster Thermidor 98. Polenta 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee 100. Snake I've eaten slightly more than 1/2. I think that's a good start!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Hey Mom...What's for Dinner?

My husband is out of town for a few days on business so I've decided to take a short vacation from cooking until he returns. Tonight I went over to my mom's and enjoyed a huge plate of her famous clams and spaghetti.
I've been trying for years to get a recipe from her but she doesn't really follow one. It's just something she puts together that always turns out delicious. I wonder what's for dinner tomorrow night?