Sunday, August 15, 2010

Anchovy Bread Crumb Pasta

I have to admit, I never liked anchovies. At least not the very fishy ones that always managed to find their way onto my half of the pizza. But white anchovies? With the light, clean "seawater" taste? Okay, those I like. Once again, I remember that maybe if you don't like something the first time, well, you should always be open to second chances.

This recipe is especially nice with heirloom cherry tomatoes that are in season now. You can really taste the tomatoes, lightly cooked instead of the long-simmered traditional pasta sauces.

Pasta with Anchovy Bread Crumb Topping

6 slices rustic Italian bread

1.5 lbs. cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
6-8 white anchovies
2 tbs. fresh oregano
2 tbs. olive oil, plus 1 tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. pasta
4 oz. parmesan grated
2 tbs. chopped fresh parsley, optional

Heat the oven to 400.

Pulse the bread slices in the food processor. Spread on baking sheet. Place the tomatoes, shallot, oregano and salt and pepper on another baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Bake the bread crumbs for about 3-5 minutes or just until golden. Remove from oven. Roast the tomato mixture, checking often and tossing to prevent burning. About 10 minutes, toss, another 5-10. Just until a bit golden on the edges.

Heat the remaining 1 tbs. olive oil in a skillet. add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the anchovies, breaking the anchovies up with the garlic as you saute them for another 2-3 minutes. Then mix in the breadcrumbs.

Prepare the pasta. Toss the pasta with tomatoes and the breadcrumb mixture. You may need to add 1-2 tbs. of the pasta cooking water to keep the dish moist. Top with parmesan and parsley.

Summer Fruit: Sweet Bounty Goes Savory

I went to a farm to table dinner this summer, with a local beer pairing for each course. The long table was set at an angle so we could watch the full moon rise as light faded from the flowering garden. In this perfect setting, I had the company of the most lovely of friends, new friends and the farmers who grew the food seated all around. Next to us a trio of violinists played Swedish folk music, and the warm summer day was kept bearable by a cool breeze.

In short, it was perfect.

The chef's favorite course was a cherry soup made fresh from morello cherries on the farm. You can read more about that original version of the soup here, written by my lovely friend, Simran. I also liked the beet vinaigrette on the salad of mixed greens and herbs with crisp bits of pork belly and a soft egg.

These are my versions of two of the favorites from that dinner.

Summer Cherry Soup
3 lbs. pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
3 cups cherry juice, (no sugar added brand like "Just Tart Cherry")
3 cups red wine, a shiraz or syrah, big with cherry and blackberry works best
Juice of 1 lemon, plus teaspoon of zest
1 sprig rosemary
2 star anise, whole
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. white cardamom
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
pinch salt
2 tsp. corn starch, mixed well with 1 tablespoon of water
1/2 cup whole milk Greek-style yogurt, plus 1/4 cup for garnish

Place ingredients cherries through the pinch salt in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes to cook the fruit a bit and marry the spices. Remove the cinnamon stick, rosemary sprig and star anise.

Use an immersion blender and carefully blend the soup to a puree with some bits of cherry for texture. Carefully, unless your walls happen to be a nice dark red, that is. Add the corn starch "slurry" and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Cool the soup to room temperature. Mix the yogurt in with the blender. Chill well for at least four hours before serving. For each bowl, add a dollop of the yogurt to garnish, or use sour cream if you want to have more tanginess. Serves 10. And, you can freeze the leftovers into some really tasty popsicles ...

Beet Vinaigrette
1 large beet, roasted and peeled (see below)
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the beet, wash it well. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast in 400 degree oven until fork tender, about 40 minutes depending on size of beet. Unwrap beet and take an old kitchen towel or paper towel and wipe the beet to remove the peel.

Place ingredients in blender. Again, be sure the cap is on unless you have dark red walls. Blend to a nice, thick dressing. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Try It, You'll Like It

I guess I had it coming. You can't put a new recipe, vegetable, food substance in front of your kid almost daily without it coming back around to bite you in the butt. This is the day your five-year-old makes her own "recipes."

Maybe it was the time I put curried baby squid in front of her (she ate it). The endless variations of sweet potato dishes during the Battle of Orange Food. Or, just the cumulative impact of last 300 new recipes. Yeah, I had it coming.

I let her "cook" her own dish as I was preparing dinner one night. I saw a lot of different jars from "too old" spices I keep around. Some odds and ends from the overloaded condiment shelves of the fridge door. A lot of lemon juice. Who knows what else. I lost track. Perhaps I should have paid more attention.

I didn't realize she was going to expect me to EAT it.

Because really, I'm not sure I want the same person creating recipes for me who:
  • once licked a gas station bathroom door
  • also licked a trash can at the store
  • drank water off a manhole cover

But there it was. IN FRONT OF ME. It occurred to me this is one of the parent "learning moments." Here is what I learned:

  • some of the stuff I have put in front of her probably looked just as weird as this does.
  • heck, some of it may have tasted just as bad to her.
  • maybe I should limit the ingredient list for these experiments if I am the guinea pig
  • enough straight lemon juice will kill off your taste buds at least temporarily
  • never let someone who drinks her own bath water prepare your meal

I better teach her how to cook sooner rather than later.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

August Book Giveaway

Iiiiiitttt's baaaack! The book giveaway.
This month's freebie puts me in mind of every neighborhood picnic, church social, and potluck party. There's always that one dish that everyone loves. It's nothing fancy or trendy. When you ask for the recipe, you find it's a pretty basic list of ingredients and some of them as easy and accessible as a pre-made pie crust. The recipes are all favorites like this, likely written down from dog-eared, hand-written, stained recipe cards that have been shared among family and friends for generations.

Leave a comment confessing your favorite family-style recipe and you'll be entered for the drawing to win this book. I'll post the name of the winner at the end of the month with details on how to get your book mailed to you.

I'll try and make it worth the return visit. I have several new recipes to post this week including Cherry Soup, Anchovy and Bread Crumb Pasta, and a Spanish-spiced take on a Zucchini Gratin that's perfect for using up a few of those very abundant zucchini about now.

Book provided by Andrews McMeel Publishing

At Our Table

Favorite Recipes to Share with the People You Love

by Roxie Kelley, Shelly Reeves Smith

Price: $24.99
ISBN-13: 978-0-7407-8346-3
ISBN-10: 0-7407-8346-7
Format: Hardcover
Size: 8 x 10 in.
Page Count: 176 pages

Friday, August 06, 2010

Learning Spanish: The Barcelona Cookbook

I promised myself when I got our book writing done, I would take a break from testing and re-testing my own recipes, and cook something new. Try some different food cultures, expand my culinary vocabulary and explore. After a tapas meal in Chicago, I found myself pocketing the menu and vowing to learn Spanish (food).

As usual, I tucked the menu away. Who knows where it went. But, like magic, The Barcelona Cookbook showed up on my doorstep. In an act that is COMPLETELY out of character for me, I actually made a couple of the recipes exactly as written. The first pick was the Romesco sauce on page 133. It calls for an entire head of garlic plus three raw cloves. I love garlic. I love Romesco sauce now.

The second recipe we tried was Costillas de Cerdo, a braised pork short rib with a citrusy, anise and smoked paprika sauce. I brought this to a girls' night dinner. There were some dainty salads and veggies gracing the table. But, the reaction was joy when I thunked down two slabs of RIBS. Girls gotta eat, too. They were devoured happily and without forks.

I've marked a few recipes more to try and have been spending some quality time with the section on Spanish wines, the guide to cured meats, and essay on the tradition of Asados. This actually a tradition from author Sasa Mahr-Batuz' home in Argentina. The asado is a large weekend barbecue where everything is casual except for the amazing food with a grill at the center. I love this section. It reminds me of the very casual way we entertain, often making the call to guests just hours ahead and always serving up the best of the season.

Authors Mahr-Batuz and Andy Pforzheimer should know a few things about entertaining. The two are owners of the Barcelona restaurant group. Most of the dishes in the book have graced the highly-praised restaurants' menus as well. For my first venture into Spanish, the two are very fluent and capable tour guides.

Tomorrow night? Goat Cheese with Mojo Verde.

Book provided for review by Andrews McMeel Publishing

The Barcelona Cookbook

A Celebration of Food, Wine, and Life

by Sasa Mahr-Batuz, Andy Pforzheimer

Price: $29.99
ISBN-13: 978-0-7407-7394-5
ISBN-10: 0-7407-7394-1
Format: Hardcover
Size: 9 x 10 in.
Page Count: 224 pages

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Book Reports Overdue

It's like being in school again, only I never got this late on my book reports then. Time to play catch up. On the good side, I am actually reading the books before I review. Just takes forever!

This book arrived on the same day as my first CSA box this year. Which is very fitting. The book is targeted to people who shop at farmers markets or have a CSA subscription. Inside are recipes organized by produce item alphabetically and designed to help home cooks get the most from their local produce. The book contains classic versions of recipes shared among CSA members such as Kale Chips and Portuguese Potato and Kale Soup.

I nod my head as I flip through the pages. The photos of family farms feel authentic and not forced. The food photos are lovely. The recipes read with familiar flavors, all the ingredients are actually in season together as paired. This is the book that would have been a gift seven years ago when I started my own local food path. I will say I am grateful for the experience of finding my own way, however. But I'm just wired that way.

The best of the book for me is the new recipes for the ingredients I am familiar with. Dishes such as Sweet Potatoes on the Grill, Braised Peas and Fennel with Pecorino, and Parsnip Soup with Fried Sage. It's a good reminder that eating locally and seasonally never ceases to be a learning experience, an exploration and an adventure.

Book provided for review by Andrews McMeel Publishing
320 pages