yearoffood

Just another WordPress.com site

Month: January, 2012

Goldilocks and the Three Bears – sort of!!

by yearoffood

An Intruder has been in my house.

Early last evening I went into the spare room next to the kitchen to put away some squash I had  purchased from Green Strings Farm. I have a basket on a shelf in that side room where I often store squash just to keep it out of the way.  As I approached the basket I noticed something looked funny in the basket.  There was a huge hole in the side of the acorn squash; it kind of looked like the squash had exploded and shot seeds everywhere.  When I got closer and picked up the squash I noticed TEETH MARKS.  I was actually stunned into incomprehension.  Suddenly, as I was beginning to get the picture that this squash hadn’t done this to itself.  I slowly began to take a look around, maybe for a pair of eyes staring back at me.   Rat – was my first thought – but with a hole this size, this would have been a pretty large rat – which was even more disgusting.  I didn’t see any sign of animal life nearby,  I just didn’t get it.  Then it hit me – two days ago I woke to find my cat, Tyson, strolling in from outside without hearing him paw at the door to be let in.  I went to the kitchen and found the door to the next room blown wide open.  I did have a fleeting thought that anyone or anything could have entered the house, but then I dismissed it.  O.K. – here is the question – Who did enter and who gnawed away at my squash ?  I mean look at the hole and look at the teeth marks.  I just kept thinking that I have trouble cutting into an acorn squash myself.  So after searching the house several more times, I did bag the squash and continue with dinner plans but I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.  I think I have settled on the invader – a squirrel (or 2 or 3 or 4 for all I know – a party jumping up on the selves).  We do have squirrels dashing across the yard every day, eating my oranges as their first choice.  I am way happier with the image of a squirrel than I am a rat, but of course it is just a guess.

I opened a bottle of Chardonnay and  made a smoked trout mousse to have on crackers with radish and cucumber quick pickle, from Good Fish by Becky Selengut.  Very nice – an “8”.

Then I made the Leek Fritters with Cilantro Yogurt sauce from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I really liked them.  I did short cut one step – of whipping an egg white to soft peaks – I sort of whipped it to soft – not easy to peaks by hand.  I mean I didn’t even think of pulling out the Kitchen Aid to whip up one egg white.  I have made this once before and I do think the batter was a little lighter and it made for a fluffier fritter that time.  I know I still whipped the egg white by hand but my arm may have been stronger.  I had a left over fritter for lunch today,  reheated in a skillet and served it with an arugula salad both dressed with the yogurt sauce.   I gave it an “8” – Stuart said “7.”

 

 

One final thought – that little acorn squash meal must have taken some time.  Did my intruder just jump, hop, slither up to the self, sit in the basket and enjoy himself?  I actually got up in the middle of the night just to be sure that door was still closed.

Tomato Soup

by yearoffood

There are 3 tomato soup recipes that I have made in the past that I think we have all liked;
One is from Dinosaur Barbecue and it was great.
One is from Martha Stewart Tuscan Tomato Soup – which was delicious
One is from the Diva’s Slow cooker book – also delicious
I can’t remember which one we liked the very best, but I think the last one I made was the slow cooker one – it is the easiest one also.
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
2 cans 28 oz whole tomatoes – drained
1/2 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 cu chopped red onion
6 cloves garlic coarsely chopped 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup veg or chicken broth
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup when finished (or transfer to blender)
serve with grated Parmesan or spinach pesto
Martha’s  Tuscan Tomato doesn’t take 6 hours:
Heat butter and oil in heavy pot. Cook carrots, celery and onion over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.  Do not brown them.
Add tomatoes, sugar and half the basil to pot and cook 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in remaining basil, season with salt and pepper.  sprinkle with cheese if desired.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely minced
2 stalks celery, finely minced
2 onions, finely minced
2 quarts canned tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped basil
salt & pepper, pinch of sugar
I think these were both delicious!!! I made a note on Martha’s that a few days later I added olives and capers and used it as a wow sauce on linguine.

Crostini with Bellwether Farms Ricotta & My Pan is Fixed!!!!!

by yearoffood

Ridiculously Rich Ricotta – Honestly I can’t even really describe how fresh and wonderful this cheese is.  I usually buy small containers of Bellwether Farms Ricotta from Sonoma Market that they have repackaged but yesterday I found something new for me.  Bellwether Farms Basket Ricotta – hand-dipped whole milk ricotta made from Pure Jersey Cow Milk that comes in packaged by Bellwether Farms.  Ok – the recipe – simply make crostini, top it with the ricotta, drizzle it with some honey and a small amount of lemon olive oil. Wow – the taste is amazing. It couldn’t be easier and the flavors together are luscious – sort of like you are eating cheesecake but that is probably misleading.  Anyway – a “9” for me and a definite do again.  By the way – the package has a recipe printed on it for Lemon Ricotta Pancakes – My Oh My that sounds good.  Of course Bellwether Farms is a local farm for me – have fun searching for one in your area.

Ernesto is a magician – my mineral pan is back to normal (Thanks to Barkeeper’s Friend cleaner).

Beautiful Paella but Burned Pan

by yearoffood

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert

Albacore Tuna, Ahi Tuna, Prawns, Mussels, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers – how can you go wrong?  The paella tasted as wonderful as it looked.  I was using my new Debuyer mineral pan made in France – go gorgeous – heavy as lead – made of iron – 100% natural mineral material.  Supposedly it is indestructible and will actually become naturally non-stick the more you use it.  I have loved just looking at and holding the pan and am quite dismayed that I may actually have done the impossible – wrecked the non-wreckable pan.  This pan is designed to be used at very high heat, searing food without burning. For some reason I was thinking that paella should have sort of a crusty rice bottom so I cranked up the heat to get that result.  I did get a crust – a burned, black crust that couldn’t be eaten.  The good news is that it didn’t affect the rest of the dish at all.  I scraped out the burned rice but my new pan now has some weird black marks on the bottom that I am pretty sure shouldn’t be there.  I am now waiting for instructions to see what I might need to do to my pan to fix it.  Anyway – the paella was a great success – a “9” from both of us.  Just finished it up today – a squeeze of fresh lemon and a warm gorgeous looking and tasting lunch.

I made Martha’s Hot and Sour Soup for lunch and loved it again. It tastes so much like it’s from a Chinese restaurant, which isn’t always a compliment, but in this case it is. I wonder if it would still be as good if canned chicken broth, which the recipe calls for, was used instead of my broth.

It can’t be the end of pomegranate season – can it??  I didn’t see them in the store yesterday and I became immediately depressed. Having mastered the magic technique for seeding them, I have been gobbling them up on everything lately. I am actually sort of addicted to these crunchy, bursting with bright flavor seeds.  I had just been thinking that I love the taste of fresh pomegranates as much as I love fresh strawberries in season – now that is really saying something.  I couldn’t believe there weren’t any at the market.  It just never dawned on me that they had a season, like everything else, and that one day that season would be over.   Hopefully there is a few weeks left to enjoy them.

Morning Prep Time

by yearoffood

JAZZ ON THE PLAZA last night – I can’t believe we actually went down to the Bistro for wine and dinner and music.  Larry Dunlop was playing and it sounded like a great idea early in the day, but —-   I tried to beg out of it at the last minute but Snack Man really wanted to go – it turned out to be great fun.  I don’t know if that is what energized me but this morning, as I sipped my French Roast, but I began to prep a few things.  First I put on a large pot of our famous vegetable broth, which of course is a snap to do.  Then I roasted peppers, plum tomatoes, onions and garlic and made that wonderful salsa from Rich Bayless.  OK – the oven was on so why stop here – I am now roasting a yam and also an acorn squash that will be done shortly.  I also seeded 2 pomegranates.
There is only one problem with trying to plan ahead meals for a week (or even a few days).  If you don’t actually make them you end up with a fridge crowded with food that will probably end up being thrown out.  So I just began to dig through the fridge and got to work.  So what am I going to do with pomegranate seeds, salsa, acorn squash and broth? Not really sure if I can combine the recipes these are all part of into one, but I’m thinking of Huevos Rancheros for brunch today.   I was already soaking Black beans to cook when Snack Man asked for the Indian Sheppard’s Pie, so I cooked the beans anyway and they are also in the fridge. The squash was supposed to be for a recipe from Cakebread Cellars (Acorn Squash Soup with Puff Pastry); I thought if I at least got the squash and yam cooked I might have a chance at making this soon. The broth I just felt like and wanted to use up some fennel (which I always have in the fridge but this one was looking a bit sad), onions, carrots, etc.   Off to get the squash.

xo Spicy Diva

Dry Spiced Dal – What a Great Lunch – Definitely not my normal

by yearoffood

The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla
I made this recipe last night in the slow cooker.  No wonder every room reeked of strong spices.  I decided to cook the lentils, to be used in the Shepherds’ Pie recipe, in the slow cooker using a vegetarian recipe.  I choose one that would only take 2 hours as that was all the time I had.  I wasn’t too sure about the word Dry in the title – but went for it anyway.  Very easy to do and good.  At least I think it was pretty good last night but honestly with all the spices in the air I am not sure if I really tasted it.  I had it today for lunch and Wow it was wonderful.  A big bowl of warm lentils topped with Eggplant relish (I always have some kind of chutney in the fridge) and Paratha.  The back of the Paratha package says “a farm fresh taste reminiscent of the traditional roadside “Dhaba” restaurants of Indian.”  I can’t say how true that is but I definitely recommend having these wonderful stuffed breads in the freezer at all times.  Can’t wait to get back to the Indian Grocery in Rohnert Park to stock up.  Fun to have such a different lunch.  Also so glad that the house smells normal again – I mean I love those spices but they are pretty powerful.

xo Spicy Diva

Indian Shepherd’s Pie – Disappointing

by yearoffood

Snack Man pulled up a recipe on line that he wanted me to try. Indian Shepherd’s Pie – Really?  This definitely didn’t sound right to me.  Within a few minutes of beginning this recipe the entire house smelled like a curry restaurant.  Actually when the pie came out of the oven it did look wonderful – a very English Pub dinner.  Snack Man took one bite and gave it a “4”.  Well, that wasn’t a good sign.  Later when he asked for a second helping – I reminded him of the “4”.  Evidently it did taste quite good (7 or 8) but just not Indian.  Next week I’ll try a Chicken Tikka Masala for an Indian meal and we’ll let Shepherd’s Pie stay British.

xo Spicy Diva

Hutterite White Bean Soup: Delicious Lunch – Very Indian tasting

by yearoffood

Rancho Gordo Cooking

I used the rest of my cooked beans to make this soup for lunch on Wednesday. The recipe didn’t seem too distinctive – onions, carrots, celery, etc. but I was game to try it as it had been included in my bean box.  I guess I really didn’t read the ingredients carefully before I started because pretty soon I was dumping in cumin, coriander, jalapeno, paprika and chili sauce – not exactly the normal fare.   The soup was delicious but far from what I picture as a white bean soup – this one was spicy and very Indian.  We actually had it for lunch again yesterday – a “9” from both of us for both days.

xo Spicy Diva

Baked Stuffed Shells – A complete disaster with two surprises

by yearoffood

Lidia’s Italy in America
The watery limp mess that came out of my oven was nothing like the cheesy, crusty dish that Lidia prepared on her show.  I have been dying to try this dish for so long – and I was so disappointed that I was pretty sure this food journal had reached an end.  It was no fun to even think about recording this failure.  This morning, with my mug of coffee, I watched the darn video again.  OK so here is one of the surprises.  This dish looks so good that I am actually going to try to make it again very soon.   Why try again?  It just looks so good.  I reread the recipe and saw that I was supposed to slosh out the tomato can with some water to add to the sauce – not fill the entire 28 ounce can with water.  That could change things.  Actually in the video Lidia just adds a few ladles of water from the pasta and her sauce is thick and beautiful.  The other surprise it the light taste this dish had.  While I was making it – cheese, cheese, and cheese as the main ingredients I was thinking that this dish would be decadently rich and heavy.  Quit the opposite – the dish was quite light tasting – light tasting and runny but still light tasting.  I guess it is the ricotta that produces this.  I use a wonderful local ricotta from Bellwether Farms in Sonoma and I think it deserves another chance.  This is a 360 degree turn around from last night when I refused to even rate the meal.  Honestly, that video deserves an Oscar.

xo Spicy Diva

White Bean Puree on Crostini – A Little Salty but very, very nice

by yearoffood

My first shipment from Rancho Gordo in my Year of Beans Club

I have joined the Year of Beans Club in its inaugural season and my first shipment arrived yesterday.  I will be receiving a box of various kinds of beans and a few surprises 4 times a year.   So exciting – this shipment contained a couple of heirloom beans that I haven’t tried yet.  I cooked up a pot of the Hutterite White Beans which I will use for a soup another day and today made a puree that was wonderful.  Recipe – put cooked white beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper in a food processor and puree.  Then add chopped parsley and serve on crostini.  Top the puree with toasted pine nuts and an anchovy fillet.  Now this either makes your mouth water or you think it is disgusting – depending on you love of not of anchovies.  I loved the simple but wonderful taste.  This recipe actually comes from a very friendly worker at the Napa Rancho Gordo store that told me her favorite way to use white beans.

Crostini is so easy to make and so good with all kinds of toppings. I always have a loaf of French bread in the freezer – I toss it in just in the paper wrapping – and when I want fresh French bread I take it out and defrost it quickly and it tastes like I just bought it.  To make crostini – slice the bread, brush on a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  So easy and addictive.

Ratings – 8  I am not sure that 8 always means the same thing, but here it means that it was great and a definite do again periodically.

xo Spicy Diva