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Month: February, 2012

Potato Salad Wars – American style or German?

by yearoffood

A newspaper recipe based on Julia Child
Mayo or not to Mayo – that is the question.  This simple recipe has been my very favorite potato salad for years and it is pretty much a blend of an American mayo style salad and a German warm vinegar salad.  Julia’s trick is to save some of the potato cooking water to mix with cider vinegar and then toss on the hot cooked potatoes before adding a mayo and Dijon mixture.  This allows you to have a lighter hand with the mayonnaise.  The only other ingredients are then added – chopped red bell pepper, scallions and chopped pickles.  You could add other things – hard boiled eggs, olives, etc. but I never do.  I love to serve this warm for dinner – last night it was with grilled Tri Tip – and often on a bed of crunchy greens – last night it was sunflower sprouts.  So delicious – I just love this salad and when I haven’t had it for a while I really crave it.  Always an “8 ½” for me.


Sunchoke Bisque for Breakfast & Sunchoke Bisque for Lunch

by yearoffood

Sunchoke Bisque from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors

Every time I open the fridge the sunchokes stare out at me wondering why in the world I bought them if I was never going to make the bisque.  This morning was my breaking point and I just decided to use them up and start the soup while I was having my coffee.  It is so easy to make – brown some chopped red potatoes, onions, celery and a pound of scrubbed sunchokes all cut the same size for about 10 minutes.  Then add garlic, bay leaves and 6 cups of broth and cook for about 20 minutes and you are done.  I was going to put this in the fridge and then heat it up for lunch or dinner – adding a little cream to thin it as the recipe states – but it smelled so good that we had mugs of it for breakfast. We had it again for lunch, adding the cream, but I think I prefer it without any added cream.  I sprinkled the lunch soup with sunflower sprouts copying Lee’s presentation the other night and loved it all over again.  It is the most unusual taste – really wonderful.  This is a definite “9” for both of us.  This would be a lovely starter soup except that I almost never serve dinner in courses with a starter – maybe a Christmas dinner.  It just seems like a starter item but it is quite filling and satisfying as a meal.  Sunchokes – so sorry to be so long getting to you – you were wonderful.

Kung Pao Prawns

by yearoffood

Kung Pao Prawns By Joyce Jue

Wow – what a success.  Snackman gave it a “10” and it was at least a “9” for me.  The dish looked beautiful and it tasted fantastic.   I found this recipe on line as I was searching for a place to purchase a wok.  I’m just finishing the book The Last Chinese Chef and I’m ready for a wok and recipes to try.   I threw out my old wok years ago as a rusty piece of junk that burned everything and haven’t cooked in once since.  Kung Pao Prawns are my long standing favorite Chinese takeout choice and I couldn’t resist giving this recipe a try.    The items were very easy to prep and of course the cooking took no time at all.  I used my large mineral pan that sort of looks like a wok and can take very high heat and it seemed to do the job.   I think the sides of a wok are supposed to be a different temperature than the bottom so you can push cooked food up on the sides as you toss other ingredients on the bottom.  I am not actually sure of this and so far my stir fry style is to just push everything around in the pan as I add each new ingredient.  My next book is The Breath of a Wok – Unlocking the spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking through Recipes and Lore by Grace Young – so I should know more soon.  It is such a beautiful book and I can’t wait to get into it.  Planning a trip to San Francisco Chinatown on Friday to explore and hopefully come home with a new wok.  Hopefully I’ve unlocked the wok spirit by then.

xoxo, Spicy Diva


Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon AND Penne in Vodka Cream Sauce with Brussels and Bacon

by yearoffood

Kale chips are slipping in the polls – not as good as the first time I made them.  I think we prefer the smaller leaves as some of these larger leaves were very curly and didn’t really dry out and become as crunchy as I would like.  We still gobbled them up but just not the highlight they were yesterday.  I’ll definitely take a few days off and then try these again.

Penne in Vodka Cream Sauce with Brussels and Bacon
T’s take on Diane Phillips recipe

I’ve been thinking constantly about T’s’ Valentine Dinner for N and I couldn’t wait any longer to try it- so the sun choke soup is put off for another night.  The pasta was fabulous – a definite “9” (although I think T gave himself an “11” for this creation).  I’ve made the original recipe before and it was nothing to write home about but this version was such a delight.  Who would have thought that adding Brussels could make such a difference?   Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts sautéed with garlic and crisp bacon elevated the dish and made it a real hit.  I didn’t have fresh basil – that would have made it even more elegant.

Grilled Tuscan Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon
Great Fast Food by Martha Stewart

The chicken was quick and easy and it looked and smelled delicious.  Rosemary – you have to love it!  Cut a few sprigs from the yard, steep it in hot water, and then toss it in a blender with garlic and olive oil to marinate the chicken.  Basting with lemon juice as the chicken grills adds the finishing touch.   I don’t think I have ever made a dish with Rosemary that didn’t turn out wonderful. Snackman gave the chicken a 9” also.

Maile’s Kale Chips – My, My –My – So Good AND Fantastic Fritto Misto (Seasonal Tempura)

by yearoffood

Kale Chips – Really?  I would never have tried these if Maile hadn’t given me the easiest recipe in the world and assured me that they were fantastically delicious.   Wow – a definite “10” – what a surprise.   A potato chip like munch that was truly delicious and so good for you.  I had small just picked baby kale from Green Strings Farm which was very fresh but which had very small leaves.  For the recipe you simply cut out the stems, toss the leaves lightly in olive oil, put them on a cookie sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Roast them in a low oven, 200 degrees, for 20 to 25 minutes.  That’s it.  My leaves were so small they almost fell apart as I picked them up to eat – but wow what flavor.  We munched them up in seconds – can’t wait to try them again with a larger bunch of kale.


Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

The tempura, which I call Fritto Misto, was another winner.  The dipping sauce was sensational; the most amazing flavor! The recipe calls for 4 limes which I didn’t have so I had to substitute lemons for 2 of them.  Limes and lemons are really not interchangeable, especially when you want the tang and smell of limes, but that was all I had on hand and the sauce still turned out to be “out of the world”.   I loved the idea of using beets and other winter vegetables in a tempura dish.  The batter is perfect in texture and flavor and cooks up beautifully.  I butterflied some prawns to include and they were a nice addition.  Everything was really delicious but the beets and leeks were especially wonderful.  Snackman rated this as a “9” and it is a “9 ½” for me.  What a great night of food.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

by yearoffood

Bellwether Farms Recipe

Wow! Now that is a reason to jump out of bed.  What a delicious breakfast – even better that it was such a lazy morning and a late leisurely meal.  Light and fluffy doesn’t even do justice to the wonderful texture of these little gems.  I served them drizzled with a mixture of pomegranate molasses and blueberry preserves.  The kitchen aide waiting on the counter top – now that is a lonely picture – a machine not sure what is coming next.  It has been so long since I have carted it out – I had to wash the dust off everything and then call N about what insert to use to whip egg whites. Once I got the machine set up it was really quite a simple recipe and so worth making.  When I asked Snackman what he thought he gave a big smile and said, “Oh, yes!”  When I insisted on his rating number – he gave it an “8”.  Now what does”8” have to do with “Oh, Yes!”  It is a definite “9” for me.  I immediately started thinking of the perfect time to makes these – How about a magical Christmas morning or maybe a sunny summer morning with fresh picked strawberries or maybe just any time at all.

Tuscan Ribollita Soup with White Beans

by yearoffood

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo by Steve Sando

Tuscan Ribollita Soup with White Beans is one of my favorite soups full of kale, cabbage, veggies, hearty broth and white beans all baked in the oven with crostini on top sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.  Yum.  I make this soup fairly often and always love it.  I crisp the bread in the oven before putting it on the soup to bake and I think it comes out perfectly.  The top of the bread is very crisp and the bottom is melting into the soup – very much like French Onion Soup.  It looks great coming out of the oven and I love the taste of it.  I watched Snackman take his first few mouthfuls of mostly soggy bread and I realized he wasn’t ready to rate this lunch yet.  I gave him a refilled bowl of hot soup with no bread and he definitely liked it better.  He still only gave it a “7” – bummer.  It is always a strong “8” for me.  Good thing I love it because it makes enough for an army and I will be having it for lunch for several days – actually I can’t wait.  The soup tastes wonderful even without baking it in the oven and that is usually how I have it for lunch after the first day.  I am not sure if it would freeze well with all the greens in it but I may give it a try.

Believe it or not I am thinking of a spicy tofu dinner tonight – I have been thinking of it for several day now and still haven’t made it so we will see.

xoxo, Spicy Diva

Breakfast – Broccoli-Rabe (without the Rabe) and Ricotta Frittata

by yearoffood

Ricotta Frittata chock full of greens for breakfast – quite good.  I was so excited to see a recipe for Broccoli-Rabe and thought finally I would have a chance to make this vegetable for the first time.  Of course – there was no broccoli-rabe in the market.  I went to Green Strings Farm and even they didn’t have it.  The farm intern there helped me decide on an alternate mixture of fresh broccoli, an Italian broccoli green that hadn’t flowered and was a little peppery, and a strangely named green that was like a spicy bok choy.  These greens were delicious in the recipe, a perfect combination.   I loved the different textures of the greens and would always recommend a combination like this.  Another “8”.  Since the frittata bakes in the oven for 20 minutes – this is a very easy, delicious and healthy way to start the day.

Thai Stone Crab Tostadas

by yearoffood

Cakebread Cellars by Brian Streeter

Still crying a little because pomegranate season seems to be over, but so very excited that Dungeness crab abounds.  Crab dinners are definitely the most fun for me to make because of all the sweet little tastes I sneak as I clean the crab.  The tangy crab and cabbage slaw was wonderful.  Crazy, but the hardest part of the whole recipe was frying the wontons.  I had to throw away the first few because I just couldn’t get them to brown.  I ended up serving this as a salad surrounded by the crisp wontons – Snack Man took one bite and his first words were “8 Plus” – I agree.

I’m not sure the pictures do justice to the dishes – they look so good in the camera when I snap them but not always the best when I actually see them blown up on my computer screen.  Of course – I always have only seconds to plate the dinner, snap a quick picture and serve it up to eat.  Nothing like being a real food photographer with proper lighting, etc.  I do love some of the pictures but some are rather average.  I do think it is fun to see a picture with the notes even if it isn’t magazine quality.  It will probably be like my cooking – always just a chance that it might turn out great.

Italian Marrow Beans with Tuna

by yearoffood

Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo by Steve Sando

I loved this salad- just a few ingredients but such a flavorful result.  Instead of marrow beans I used a package of Alubia Blanca, small white, beans – heritage beans grown on small Mexican farms.  The Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc joint project promotes the continued farming of heritage beans on these local farms.   I cooked the beans in my gorgeous red clay pot and then made the salad.  The recipe warns you not to skimp on any of the ingredients and I didn’t.   I used local B.R.Cohn Tuscan Olive oil, B.R.Cohn Chardonnay vinegar, celery, sweet onion, celery, parsley and canned tuna.  The recipe suggests Italian or Spanish Tuna packet in olive oil but I used wild caught (dolphin safe) tuna packed in water and it was fantastic.  We had this salad for dinner last night with some crusty French bread and roast chicken for Snack Man.  This morning I grabbed a handful of cooked beans from the fridge and made a quick batch to pack in my backpack for lunch today on the trail.  High in the chaparral, this crunch bean salad tasted wonderful.   It’s not that the flavor of the salad jumps out at you – it just has the most amazing   fresh, clean and delicious taste.  I will definitely make this again – at least an “8”.  I asked Snack Man to rate it last night, but he had his mouth sort of full and just mumbled “yes!”  Of course today he can’t really dredge up that taste again to give it a numerical rating so I have to leave his rating as “yes”.

Off to clean crab – yummy – going to try the thai crab tosadas from Cakebread.  Hope all is well.

xo, Spicy Diva