Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Go Go Gadget, Gnocchi Board

I got a new kitchen toy. A gnocchi board, so I can put those great little ridges in my gnocchi. True, a fork can be used, but I seem to have trouble with that. You can also press and flick, but I end up with gnocchi flipped all over the kitchen. So in the interest of flying gnocchi prevention and facilitating sauce retention, I now roll my gnocchi with my palm across a gnocchi board.

And they end up looking like this:

Instead of being all smashed, taking up residence in the sink, flattened against my kitchen wall or worse... Squashed on the kitchen floor then quickly devoured by my little canine child, Otto, who loves anything made with potato... Like some sort of hovering Potato Piranha.

I need to shout out a big thank you to my BakeSpace buddy Joy and her fantastic potato gnocchi recipe. I DID take a couple of liberties with it, but more from a convenience standpoint that anything else. Since it was late and I didn't really have time to boil potatoes I decided to use the baked ones in my refrigerator that were previously slated for hash browns. And while I am almost certain that they were looking forward to fulfilling their destiny as said hash browns, a close encounter with a potato ricer convinced them otherwise.

1 1/2 lbs riced potato (Whether baked or boiled; its your choice)
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 TB unsalted butter; melted
1 egg; lightly beaten with the egg yolk
1 egg yolk; lightly beaten with the egg
1/8 tsp White Pepper; finely ground
1/8 tsp Nutmeg or Mace; ground
1 cup + Bread flour (You may need a little more than a cup, depending on how wet your potatoes are)

Place riced potatoes in a pile on a pasta board (or your cutting board)
Make a well, just like with pasta.
Add egg, melted butter, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of Bread flour.
Begin kneading ingredients together into a mass, adding more flour 1/4 cup at a time until a soft dough is formed.
If the dough seems REALLY sticky after the 1st cup is added, add more flour 2 TB at a time.
The dough will still be just a little sticky just not overly so....
Divide in to 8 pieces.
Re-flour the board as well as your hands, and roll a rope about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick.
Slice the rope into 3/4 inch pieces.
Take each piece and gently roll across the gnocchi board with your palm and onto a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet.
I came out with 110 gnocchi.
Either freeze them on the sheet pan, then move them to a freezer bag (Which I did with 3/4 of them)
or drop into salted boiling water and cook until they float.

What about tossables you ask?

I am a big fan of pesto as well as a simple browned butter and some walnuts.
Tonight though, I browned 2 TB of butter with about 2 tsp of Pine Nuts and added about 1 TB creme fraiche and some basil chiffonade and Voila!

Gnocchi on Foodista

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Tale of 3 Gingerbread Houses and a 5 year old

I was blessed to be able to spend Thanksgiving in Aliso Viejo this year with my godson, Sam, his parents and his "Nanna" and "Pappa". I thought is would be fun this year, since Sam is 5, almost 6, to get him involved in constructing a gingerbread house for the first time. Sam enjoys cooking... A lot... As I found out during one of my visits. I had decided to give his mom, my best friend, a night off for dinner. So I had hauled all of my pizza making equipment with me and a BIG batch of dough, with what seemed like a million toppings. He absolutely LOVED making his own pizza. It was, and I quote, "The bestest pizza ever!!" But I digress and that is another post, that I will have to put up, once I finish editing the pictures.

So armed with something resembling the pieces to a modular home:
I arrived with all the accoutrement to facilitate construction of 3 gingerbread chalets.
The list of candy/cookie decor was as follows:

  • Necco Wafers - Both Multicolored and Chocolate (For Slate Looking Tiles)
  • Chocolate Non-Perils (They look like snow on the roof)
  • Peppermint Straws (Window Sills)
  • Red Hots (Window Trim)
  • M&Ms (Misc. Walkways and trim)
  • Spearmint Leaves (Bushes)
  • Mini Spice gumdrops (Misc roof ridge line and walkway borders)
  • Giant Smarties (Roof ridge line and walkways)
  • Belgian Waffle Cookies (Roofing Tiles)
  • Belgian Tea Cookies (Doors and Shutters)
  • Candy Canes
  • Starlight Mints
  • Old Fashioned Lemon Drops (Crushed and used to make window panes while baking the dough)
  • Extra Miniature and Tiny Gingerbread men & Women fitted with Toothpicks before baking
The recipe for the gingerbread house pieces is located here on

I usually "glue" the pieces together using a dry caramel, I find it holds better than the Royal Icing that is typically used. I waited to assemble while he Sam was taking a quick nap in order to alleviate what would have in
evitably resulted in burns, I should know, I burnt myself twice with hot, sticky caramel so there was NO WAY I wanted Sam anywhere near the kitchen while I was doing that part.

I made a double batch of pseudo Royal icing:

2 boxes (8 cups) C&H powdered sugar
1 cup Crisco (butter may be used, but it doesn't make as white of an icing, and I wasn't going to be eating this anyway)
1/3 cup water (you cannot use milk or the frosting will not harden)
1 tsp Vanilla
Beat all ingredients together until fluffy.
Cover the surface with plastic wrap at room temp until ready to use.

After filling the 2 pastry bags (1 with a #4 writing tip and one with a #32 shell border tip)
and some quick instructions to Sam, his mother and his Nanna which resulted in my hands being covered with frosting, thus no pictures were taken during the process, the fun began.

Sam did very well, and while it was hard for him to squeeze the pastry bag, with some help from his mother, he was more than capable of decorating and having an absolute BLAST doing it.

He even helped me put the walkway, candy canes and "bushes" on the one I made for my friends autistic nephew. (below)

Here is a closeup of Sam's Gingerbread house.

And here is a picture of his Nanna's Gingerbread house.

Good fun and lasting memories were created for all of us. Lot's of laughter and scrambling to find fallen candy before Otto, my dog, could eat it. In my book, a much better activity for a Black Friday, than going shopping and dealing with craziness...


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

These 'shrooms Were Made For Stuffin

I don't make these that often because they are extremely decadent. But hey, Thanksgiving only comes once a year... Sorry for the quick photo, but I was on my way out the door; embarking upon my travel to Aliso Viejo where I would be spending the Thanksgiving holiday, so I was out of time to arrange a shot.

Pesto Stuffed Mushroom Caps

3 oz Pancetta
40 small Crimini mushrooms (or white button)
8 oz Cream Cheese
4 oz Mascarpone
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 TB Pesto Genovese
a couple grinds of Green Pepper
3 1/2 - 4 TB butter; melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Pull stems from mushrooms to leaving the hole in the cap and mince 36 of the stems finely.
Fry up the pancetta until crispy then remove from pan and add the minced stems.
Saute until they give up their liquid and begin browning.
Chop pancetta up fine.
In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mascarpone, paprika, pesto and green pepper.
Beat with an electric mixer until combined.
Add pancetta and sauted stems, then mix again until incorporated.
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a large tip, with the stuffing.
Pipe stuffing into the caps.
Now the bad part... as if the filling wasn't rich enough.
Using a fork, stab mushrooms just below the filling and dip in the melted butter before placing in a glass baking dish.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, let cool about 10 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cranberries... Beyond the sauce

It is the mad baking rush for those of us traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. At some point I will get around to posting the Gingerbread cookie and House madness I have been going through the last couple of days. But for now, a Thanksgiving tradition.. Well at least since 2000.

Carameled Cranberry Pecan Tart 

6 oz Pecans, chopped
3/4 cup sugar - Divided
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 TB unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz fresh cranberries, chopped
1 baked (10-inch) Tart Shell - I use 1/2 batch of Pate Brisee but a Pilsbury ready-made will work too.

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast pecans in a shallow baking pan in middle of oven for 5 minutes.
Leave oven on.
In a 2-quart saucepan melt 1/2 cup sugar over low heat until it begins to melt.
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally with a fork, to assure even melting, until sugar is melted into a deep golden caramel.
Tilt pan and add corn syrup; please do this carefully as it will bubble and steam - The caramel will harden but don't worry, it melts again.
Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until caramel is dissolved.
Remove caramel from flame and add butter, stirring until melted.
Let caramel sit to cool until it stops bubbling.
In a heat proof bowl, whisk eggs with salt, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar.
Add caramel in a stream, whisking constantly.
Spread pecans and cranberries evenly in tart shell and pour caramel over them, tapping pecans and cranberries down to coat thoroughly with caramel-y goodness.
Bake tart until filling is set, about 30 minutes.
Cool completely in pan on a rack before removing rim of pan.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #9 - Squash Recipes

Mission - Squash Recipe - Preferably one ending up on your Thanksgiving table; but not necessarily

Solution - Although it may be considered overdone at this point - Butter Nut Ravioli, with a twist... Apple Cider Gorgonzola
sauce - Sprinkled with browned butter walnuts.

I would like to say that this serves 6; being 6 raviolis per person, but honestly, 6 didn't fill me up, even with sauted asparagus on the side, but when I tried to eat 4 more, I discovered that 10 was too much. I am thinking that about 8 would make a nice main course; 6 makes a healthy first course, with 4 being perfect for appetizers. The only thing I may do different in the future is to use actual semolina pasta and after cooking, I would like to brown them in either butter or olive oil to add a little crispness to them.

1 1/2 cups Roasted Butternut Squash (Cook at 400 degrees for 45 minutes - Until soft)
4 oz Mascarpone (Although Ricotta will work)
3 TB Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 1/2 TB Panko (ground fine)
1/2 tsp Sage (You knew it had to be in there somewhere)
1/4 tsp Ceylon Cinnamon (or 1/8 tsp Saigon - Keep it light)
1/8 tsp Mace
1/8 tsp Chipotle powder (Just a little heat - Cayenne would work, but it's missing the smokiness)
1/4 tsp plus a pinch Salt
1/4 tsp finely ground black pepper

36 Won ton Wrappers

Walnut Garnish:
1/4 cup walnuts roughly chopped
1 1/2 TB Butter

Blue Apple Sauce:
3 TB Butter
1 TB Shallot; finely minced
3 TB Flour
1/2 tsp Dried Tarragon; Crushed
1 Cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Juice (You can use apple cider if you like)
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
3 oz Gorgonzola; crumbled

Simply mix all the "filling" ingredients together with a fork until homogeneous .

I like to do this as quick as possible, so I lay out as many wonton wrappers as possible on my work surface.
Use a small 2 tsp scoop, and drop scoops onto the center of each wrapper.

Working fast, use a pastry brush to apply water to 2 of the sides.
Fold over and, starting with the point, begin pressing the edges together and trying to remove as much air as possible so they do not explode while cooking.

Lay finished raviolis on a baking sheet that has been dusted with cornstarch, to keep them from sticking together.....
Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate until water is ready.

Walnut Garnish:
While water is coming to a boil, heat butter in a small skillet just until foam subsides, add walnuts and stir to coat, cook until butter begins to brown slightly and walnuts are fragrant.
Drain on a paper towel.
Blue Apple Sauce:
In a small saucepan melt butter with shallots, sweating for about 2 minutes.
Add Flour and cook roux with shallots until light brown.

Add Chicken Stock and Apple juice.
Whisk until smooth and cook until thick and bubbly.
Add Heavy cream and blue cheese, stirring until melted.
Remove from heat and cover to keep warm, or leave over ultra-low heat so it doesn't scorch.

Cook and Plate:
Cook raviolis in salted, gently boiling water until they float.
Move 6-8 raviolis from water to each plate with a skimmer,
Drizzle with blue apple sauce and sprinkle with browned butter walnuts.

Deliciously sweet, slightly tangy, delightfully blue cheesy, mysteriously smoky, and subtle with warm spice. If my stomach was larger, I would have sat and ate all 36 raviolis myself... alas, I shall have to wait until tomorrow and Saturday to finish them off.


Friday, October 31, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #8 - Spooky Recipe

The Mission: Make creepy food fitting with the Halloween Season

Solution: Mummy Meringues

I decided I wanted to serve Phantasmal Phalanges, but there are MANY finger shaped cookies (Lady Fingers, Viennese fingers… etc) out there, so it had to be different. Spooky… Odd… and Slightly disgusting. I got the idea from seeing little smokies wrapped with strips of flour tortilla to look like mummy fingers…
I happily plagiarized the idea, but in keeping with the general nature of mummies, being all dehydrated to the point of crumbling to dust with over handling… I decided to make a dessert utilizing a baked meringue to get a mummy finger texture I would be happy with.
A little black food coloring to “Grey” up the egg whites and a broken sliced almond for a fingernail and Voila …!!!!
Mummy meringues for your mandible munching madness.

Mummy Meringues

Special equipment - 2 Pastry bags; small rose petal tip; large round tip (Writing)
3 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 tsp Almond Extract
Black Gel Coloring
sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

Whip Egg whites with salt on low speed until foamy.
Sprinkle Cream of Tarter over the foam and continue to whip at medium speed.
Once soft peaks are achieved, begin sprinkling the sugar over the forming meringue and continuing to whip. Once the peaks are really stiff and glossy, remove about 1/3 cup and place in the pastry bag fitted with teh rose petal tip.
Mix extracts with a little black food coloring and fold into the remaining meringue.
Line baking sheets with parchment and fill a piping bag with a large round tip.
Pipe 3 1/2 inch stripes of grey meringue onto the parchment paper. (Don't worry about them being completely straight and even... It makes them more creepy)
Place an almond slice on one end of each strip for a fingernail. (I placed the almond where I made the Curly-queue as I drew the bag up to cover the little peak)
Wet finger and smooth the meringues where necessary.
Pipe "gauze bandages" over opposite end of the meringue finger with the "white" meringue.

Bake at 200 for 1 hour.
Turn oven off and let the meringues continue drying in the warm oven for another hour.
Serve on a pile of chocolate cookie crumbs to resemble dirt if you like.

‘Bone’ Appetit MUAH HA HA HA HA HA

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Matcha do About Shortbreads

I have discovered Matcha (Green Tea Powder) and not only does it make an incredible cup/bowl of tea (Japanese Tea Ceremony) but it is nice to work with in the kitchen for things like green tea gelato and these delicious green tea shortbread cookies. Now most shortbread is simply flour, butter and sugar with a little flavoring of some sort. A very sticky dough that is easier to handle if rolled into a log, frozen and sliced. However, if powdered sugar is used the cornstarch facilitates rolling and cutting... Granted the dough is still very delicate, but it is possible. The Green tea makes for a not so sweet cookie, the addition of white chocolate with a hint of orange oil, makes a nice addition to tempering the tea flavor and creating a good balance. I wanted a little texture to my acorns, so I used a paint brush (For cake decorating) to apply the white chocolate.

2 cups (10 oz) AP Flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (2 oz) Confectioners' Sugar
2 tsp Green Tea Powder (matcha)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (2 oz) Granulated Sugar
1 tsp St. Germaine or Almond, Orange, Lemon or Lime extract

Whisk Salt, Flour, Green Tea powder and Powdered Sugar in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl beat softened butter with granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the St. Germain or choice of extract, then slowly mix in the dry ingredients.
Divide the dough in half and press into 2 discs.
Wrapped in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325
Flour a board and roll the dough to between 1/8 & 1/4 inch.
Cut with cookie cutter into your desired shape and move to a parchment lined baking sheet with a well floured spatula.
These do not spread when baking so don't worry about crowding the pan.
Bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown.
Move to a cooling rack and prepare chocolate while the cookies cool

If you are going to dip them, melt 6 oz of white chocolate with 1/2 tsp of Orange oil. (Don't use extract, the chocolate will seize)

If you are "painting", like I did, you only need 2 oz of white chocolate with about 1/8 of a tsp of orange oil.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #7 - Polish History Month

Mission: Authentic Polish Recipe - In Honor of Polish History Month

Solution: Tort Orzechowy - special equipment - 7 1/2 - 8 cup Brioche mold...

1 TB unsalted butter, melted
2 Cups finely ground Panko (Or other white bread crumbs)
3/4 cup Honey (I like Orange Blossom)
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
4 Large Eggs; Separated

1 cup Hazelnuts, Toasted and Ground Medium-Fine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 convection)
Brush inside of brioche mold with melted butter.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the fine Panko into the mold and coat the inside of the pan and set aside.
Place honey in a large bowl over simmering water.
Once honey melts, add brown sugar and begin whisking
Add egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking constantly.
Once all egg yolks have been added, continue to whisk the mixture over simmering water until a light custard is formed (Mixture will be quite pale and thickened)

Remove mixture from stove.
Combine Hazelnuts and Panko, then fold this into the honey custard.
In a clean, preferably copper, bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks.
Fold into the rest of the batter, 1/2 at a time.
Carefully spoon batter into the brioche mold. (It's kind of like a nutty angel food cake batter)
Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes
Cake will be golden brown around the edges.

Let cool in pan for about 5-10 minutes
Unmold onto a rack, sprinkle with more nuts and honey when serving.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #6 - 6 Ingredient Entree

Mission: Utilize 6 Ingredients in a dish; These being:
Parmesan cheese
Solution: Stuffed Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin....

1 Tb Olive oil
1/2 of a sweet onion, finely minced
4 oz of Crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup Pinot Grigio
4 oz roughly chopped fresh spinach
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
3 TB Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese; Shredded or Grated
1 1/2 TB Sun dried tomatoes in oil; chopped - Reserve the oil
2 Pork Tenderloins (This is about 2 -2.25 lbs)
For rub
3 TB each Fresh Minced Rosemary, Thyme, Sage (or 4 tsp each if Dried)
2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp black Pepper
Sun Dried Tomato oil for rubbing

Saute onion and mushrooms in a skillet over medium heat in a little olive oil until the mushrooms give up their juices.
Deglaze the pan with white wine.
Add spinach and cover to allow it to steam for about 1 minute.
Remove lid and sprinkle with salt and pepper
Continue cooking another 3-5 minutes of cooking to dry filling out.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Butterfly the tenderloin.
Mix Tomatoes and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Place 1/2 of the filling in each tenderloin.
Roll up and tie
Mix herbs with salt and pepper
Rub tenderloins with oil from the sun dried tomatoes.
Roll tenderloins in herbs.
Cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Now you have 2 choices.
Either bake for 50 minutes in the 400 degree oven until internal temp reaches 143 -or-
Sear tenderloin on all sides until brown in a hot skillet with more of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes.
Finish in the 400 degree oven for 15 -20 minutes, or until temp reaches 143.

Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing on the bias...


Monday, September 15, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #5 - Presidential Recipes

Mission: Presidential Recipe, or favorite food of President

Solution: Abraham Lincoln and his love of oysters

This was a no-brainer for me... Well, at least the IDEA was a no-brainer... Finding decent oysters in San Diego? That proved to be a little more difficult. Now mind you, being from the Pacific Northwest, not just any oyster will do, since I spent my childhood and first part of my adult life being spoiled on the lovely Olympia Oysters coming from Yaquina Bay on the Oregon coast, or shipped down from Hood's Canal in the Puget Sound in Washington. I DID succeed in finding these tiny little mollusks of delectableness, but I had to wait until a shipment came in from Hood's Canal.

Abraham Lincoln was said to not eat that much. That is unless being served oysters, and then he could not get enough.
In the interest of keeping with the theme of "Honest Abe" I present to you, an honest oyster. Simple, uncluttered by Rockafeller and shooter of cocktail sauce. Granted I could have served them raw, but I tend to reserve that for a restaurant just in case. Here they are simply baked in the shell and served with a little UN-salted butter.
And honest mollusk without a lot of flash, but quite delicious.

Here is a picture of my little beauties prior to their exposure to a 500 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Yep, that's right.... Only 10 minutes in an extremely hot oven... They cook in their own liquor and are absolutely divine.
Please line your pan with aluminum foil, as any liquor that leaks out during cooking will pretty much destroy your pan at 500 degrees. Shown is my Oyster knife... Nothing fancy.. Cost me 7 bucks... The only issue I have with it is that the tip is not bent... A bent tip actually makes it easier to get into the oyster's shell...

How delicious does THIS one look... YUM!

As I said, 500 degrees 10 minutes this is the result after shucking.
Sorry I did not provide a play by play of prying the flat top off the oyster, but that is hard to do when there isn't a second person taking pictures. What is THAT delicious looking thing on my plate beside the oysters... Well, THAT my friend in as lovely Crashed Hot Potato, granted I took a few liberties of my own, adding a little homemade pesto, pine nuts and Parmagiano-Reggiano to it. But it was a perfect accompaniment with the Prosecco...

I highly suggest really good Italian Prosecco, not quite as bubbly as Champagne or Asti, the flavor tends to heighten the flavor of the oysters... I don't mean in a mollusk sort of way, but more of an eating the whole entire sea sort of way... If you have ever had GOOD Sea Urchin as a sushi restaurant, this is the type of flavor Nirvana I am talking about.

At the risk of switching this challenge over from recipes of presidents to those of classic novels, after I saw the carnage left over from my feast, I really felt like the Walrus and the Carpenter from Alice in Wonderland.

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?
'But answer came there none—
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Plethora of Pizza

I love pizza … Heck who doesn’t? Especially h o m e m a d e pizza….
Yeah now THAT’S what I am talkin bout!! Super thin, crisp and slightly charred on the bottom. With JUST the right amount of cheese, not enough to throw you into a pizza coma like so much Thanksgiving dinner.

I had decided that it might me fun to throw a little pizza party for my godson in Palm Springs since he is getting old enough to seriously get his hands dirty in the kitchen without the constant worry of hot pots and sharp knives in little hands. So since I was going out to visit one weekend, I made a double batch of dough (see Roasted Potato and Pancetta Pizza) and headed to the desert with my peel, stone, cornmeal and a million toppings so everyone could make their version of the ultimate pizza.

OK, now something that had not occurred to me, since I am usually the one making the pizza FOR people… When you have 5 people all making pizza, it creates a HUGE mess that must be cleaned up. HA!

Everyone has an absolute blast though. Sam, in particular, enjoyed himself immensely, especially the pressing out of the dough.

I was so busy shoveling pizza in and out of the oven that I only got 1 picture of an actual BAKED pizza resting on one of Steph's Pampered Chef stones to cool slightly before cutting.

This was Andy's pizza (above) - Red sauce, pepperoni, Salami, Mushroom, and Black olive; With Fresh Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sam constructed his pizza with Red Sauce, Salami, Pepperoni, Mushrooms, Black Olives, 1 Basil leaf and Parmigiano-Reggiano - With some Herbes de Provence sprinkled on top... (Gourmet Child I must say)

While his father, Alex, went the Hawaiian route with Red Sauce, Ham, Pepperoni and Pineapple with Shredded Dry Mozzarella.

Stephanie, ever daring and always the individual, was the only pesto'ed pizza. Pesto genovese, Tomato, Salami, Mushrooms, Black Olive, Basil leaf, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano and Fresh Mozzarella with Pine Nuts.

While I stayed within my flavor range with only slight enhancements spurred by Stephanie's reckless abandon with her toppings. Olive Oil, Tomato, Mushroom, Basil and Fresh Mozzarella with a sprinkle of Pine Nuts and a touch of Pecorino Romano, lots of Cracked Black Pepper and a tiny sprinkle of Smoked Salt.

I love getting Sam involved in cooking at such an early age. Showing him how easy it really is. He is always so proud of himself while he is eating it. It gives him a sense of accomplishment. I love creating memorable childhood moments for him. If a little self confidence comes along with that, then so much the better.

I hope he will cherish these times as I do my own memories of my grandmother and mom and the fantastic smells and flavors that issued forth from the kitchen. Getting involved in things like cutting sugar cookies, decorating gingerbread houses at Christmas, rolling meatballs, making cinnamon ornaments, spooning divinity onto wax paper as quickly as possible before it dried rock hard and crosshatching the peanut butter cookies with a fork.

Those are some of my most vivid childhood memories; those spent with loved ones in the kitchen… I don’t see my godson as often as I would like. He lives 2 ½ - 3 hours away now that I have had to move back to San Diego. So when I get to visit, it MUST be a quality visit.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Food Forward - Pasta Carbonara

OK, after the labor day holiday BBQ's it is time to revisit the pancetta in my refrigerator, sitting there, lonely and forelorn after being ignored for 24 hours. This is my GoTo Pasta Recipe, some make Classic Tomato Sauce Spaghetti, I make Linguine alla Carbonara (which means Carbon or Coal in Italian), a classic Roman tossed pasta dish of pancetta, eggs, lemon juice, white wine and Pecorino Romano with lots and lots of cracked black pepper, being the "coal" or "carbon".

3-4 oz Pancetta, small cube (You can use bacon if you like)
Kosher salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (Lots and lots of Black Pepper)
16 oz Spaghetti or Linguini (Although all I had this evening was Bucatini)
1 Large egg
3 Large egg yolk
1/3 cup White Wine (Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
4 oz Pecorino Romano, finely grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
6 Sprigs of flat leafed parsley, 3 chopped fine and 3 chopped coarse
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Fill a large kettle with water and bring to a boil with the cover on.
Heat some Extra Virgin Olive oil in a frying pan.
In a bowl place egg, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, fine chopped parsley and 2 oz of the Pecorino; whisk well.

Liberally salt the boiling water and drop the pasta; stir to coat so pasta cooks evenly, Re-cover for about 1-2 minutes to allow the water to come back to a boil, then uncover again.
Add the pancetta to the pan and sauté until crispy.

Deglaze the pan with a 1/3 cup wine scraping the fond from the bottom of the pan.
Let wine reduce slightly too about 1/4 cup.
Remove from heat and mix in a lot of freshly ground pepper.
When the pasta is al dente remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta and add to the bowl along with the wine reduction and toss twice to coat the pasta and incorporate the pancetta.

Add the egg mixture and 1/2 of the remaining Pecorino Romano to the bowl and toss quickly and thoroughly.
The retained heat of the pasta will cook the eggs and thicken the sauce.
If the sauce becomes too ‘thick’ then add some of the reserved cooking water until it becomes smooth and silky.
Sprinkle over the rest of the Pecorino and coarsely chopped Parsley

Serve immediately with a light sprinkle of the remaining Pecorino Romano!

Romano Cheese on Foodista

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Food Forward - Roasted Potato and Pancetta Pizza

This was a flavor tour de force. Truly. Two things happened that brought this recipe about, although there really isn't a "Recipe" for Pizza, unless you are talking about the crust and MAYBE the sauce, if any. But I digress.

This meal came about as a testament to one of my extremely talented friends back in Portland (childhood next door neighbor, actually) and the unparalleled delight of finding an Oregon Pinot Noir in Southern California. My friend, Ian Duncan, is the executive chef of Vino Paradiso in Portland's Pearl District. His philosophy is simple, the purpose of wine is not to compliment
food.... The purpose of food, is to compliment the wine. Which, as far as I am concerned, is how it should be.....

That being said, since I had acquired a delicious Pinot Noir from the Oregon Willamette valley, I was in dire need of a dish that would compliment my bottle of heaven from the vine. I checked out the Vino Paradiso website to peruse Ian's seasonal menu for ideas. He was currently serving a Pancetta, Potato, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Rosemary and black pepper pizza with their current Oregon Pinot Noir offering. Sounded good to me.... So I got creative... and as luck would have it, I still had roasted baby red potatoes left over from my Fondue evening.

The pizza crust recipe I use is one I picked up from my favorite recipe site, BakeSpace. I always have to mention Larry (Coldhitz) and his fantastic dough recipe. I did alter it slightly by using a mixture of High gluten flour and AP Flour to give the crust a little more chew, and I always make my dough 24 hours in advance and let it slow rise in the refrigerator.

1 cup AP flour
2 cups Bread Flour
1 tsp Smoked Salt
1 cup water 110 degrees
1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil; Plus more for rubbing bowl

Heat water to 110 degrees, add yeast and stir, let sit 10 minutes.
Whisk flours and salt together in a medium bowl.
Add water and olive oil to flour mixture and stir until a soft dough is formed.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until a silken elastic dough is formed.
Lubricate a bowl with olive oil, add the dough ball and turn to coat.
Cover dough ball with plastic wrap (on the surface)
Cover the bowl with foil and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Rosemary/Garlic Olive oil
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves minced Garlic
3 branched of Rosemary (About 4 inches long)

Place olive oil in a saucepan, add minced garlic and heat just until garlic begins to color.
Strip the needles from the rosemary branches.
Once garlic begins to turn golden, remove from heat and stir in the rosemary needles.
Cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
If making in advance, store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

To Make the pizza
Heat up your stone in the oven to 500 degrees. (This takes about 1 hour)
Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 4 pieces.
Fry pancetta until crisp.
Slice potatoes thinly.
Grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano
Roll out crust thinly, move to a cornmeal sprinkled peel.
Brush with Rosemary Olive oil.
Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Place sliced potatoes and pancetta.
Sprinkle with a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Top with a few grinds of course black pepper.
Drizzle with a little more Rosemary Olive oil.
Sprinkle Pizza stone with cornmeal.
Slide Pizza from Peel to stone and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Slide peel underneath pizza and remove from oven.
Slide pizza from peel to a cutting board and brush the edges of the crust with more rosemary olive oil.
Let sit about 3 minutes before cutting.

Pour a big glass of Oregon Pinot Noir into a burgundy Grand Cru, but by all means, if you have the Reidel glass, use that, cause it really does make a difference in the wine.

Sit back, relax, play some jazz and enjoy.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

K.I.S.S. Dinner - Radish Sandwich; Apple and Cheese

This is one of my favorite sandwich, very delicious, light and simple. One of the things I miss about growing up on a farm is fresh radishes right out of the ground.

4 slices of a baguette or a long of Sourdough
Sweet (unsalted) butter; Softened
2-3 radishes, depending on size.
Grey salt (Sel Gris)

Spread softened butter over slices of sourdough.
Thinly slice the radishes and layer on 2 slices of bread.
Sprinkle radishes with a little grey salt.
Cover with another piece of buttered bread.

Press together gently and serve.

I love cheese. Too much sometimes. I was blessed with finding a Racelette while at the market. Thus, after my simple dinner of Radish Sandwiches, I decided to up the protein ante by indulging in cheese for dessert. Which consisted of something, yet again, simple, but divinely eloquent at the same time. A chunk of Racelette and Granny Smith apple slices...


Friday, August 29, 2008

Food Forward - Classic Swiss Fondue

I still had 4 oz of Gruyere left over from making the tart last night, and since I happened to have some Emmental as well... and it is Friday before a three day weekend, I decided to splurge a little and give in to the cheese. Although I did decided to forgo using a whole loaf of "day old bread" and opt for roasted vegetables as well as a little bread.
Fondue is surprisingly easy, but it is A LOT of cheese.

And I mean A LOT of Cheese... However, I only made a half batch this time, since it was only me.
As far as the dip-ables go, I simply placed all my vegetables on a baking sheet, sprayed them with olive oil and roasted them for about 20 minutes in a 300 degree oven while I made my fondue.

The recipe is so easy, the trick is adding the shredded cheese very slowly and waiting until it is completely melted before adding any more.

1 Clove of Garlic
8 oz Dry White Wine
1 tsp Lemon Juice
8 oz of Grated Gruyere
8 oz of Grated Emmental (You can use Racelette though)
1 1/2 Tsp Corn Flour
1/4 tsp Curry Powder
1 TB Kirsch (Cherry Liquor)

Rub the inside of your fondue pot(mine is enameled cast iron) with the clove of Garlic.
Pour in the wine and lemon juice and heat gently until it just begins to bubble.
Reduce heat to low and gradually stir in the grated cheeses a little at a time.
Continue heating until the cheese melts and is smooth (This does take awhile)
In a small bowl, blend corn flour, curry powder and kirsch, then stir into the cheese mixture and continue cooking for another 2 - 3 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.
Do not allow the fondue to boil at this point.
Move fondue pot from the stove to your burner stand and keep warm.

The best part is at the end when all that is left in the Caquelon (fondue pot) is whats called Grossmutter in German or La Religieuse in French. The thin crust of fried cheese in the bottom.