Tuesday, November 30, 2010
In case you haven't noticed by now, I have a thing for mildly attractive, slightly insane, totally in-your-face chefs. First, there was Anthony Bourdain who is exactly the kind of guy you would never want to take home to your parents but who you're totally going to sleep with anyway. Just look at the man. You know he's going to give you the best night of your life, followed by steak and pommes frites for breakfast the next morning. Man of my dreams.
Then, there was, is and ever will be Michael Symon. Bald, adorable, unapologetic about his disdain for vegetarian food and absolutely self righteous in his adoration of pork belly and beef cheeks. Gotta love a man with principles. Even if you don't necessarily agree with them. It makes him that much hotter.
And now, after reading Bill Buford's Heat. There is Mario Batali. Who, with his red hair and larger than life persona (and stomach) is the quintessential Italian stallion.
Sure, he may have a slight temper. His behavior may be erratic at best. He may throw things in the kitchen. But none of this really matters once you realize the genius behind the madness and the passion behind that crazed look he gets just before he throws you out of his kitchen (but doesn't really mean it).
Heat is an account of journalist Bill Buford's experience working in a Batali kitchen. However, what starts out as an expose` on what exactly goes down behind the scenes of your average Michelin-starred restaurant becomes so much more when Buford becomes so entranced by the food industry that he decides to leave his job as a writer and learn how to cook Italian. The book recounts not only Buford's experience in the kitchen, but also details the frequent sojourns to Italy that he makes in an attempt to really get to the heart of Italian food, which are interspersed with anecdotes from Mario's past.
Although I thought the book was an interesting read, I never really felt like I connected with Buford. In all honesty, I thought he was a bit frivolous and self-involved. Especially when he did things like decide on a whim to travel to Italy to learn how to make pasta without a thought for his wife or his career. Reckless. And unnecessary.
At least, that is what I tried to prove in making my dish for this month's Cook the Books. I didn't need a visit to the Italian countryside to learn how to make these ravioli. And neither will you.
All you need is some flour, water, and eggs. A trusty pasta maker. Two hands. A hint of intuition. And the image of your favorite celebrity chef (naked) plastered in the back of your mind. Because after stuffing ravioli for over an hour. You'll need something to keep you going.
I made these for some of my friends from college who came to visit over this long weekend and they were a HUGE hit. What I like most about them is that the filling is not your traditional sweet pumpkin-pie-esque stuffing but is instead a balsamic and parmesan infused no-questions-asked Italian stuffing. This, paired with the brown butter sauce, toasted hazelnuts, and amaretti (especially the amaretti. Don't leave these out.). Is truly amazing stuff.
Makes about 40 ravioli, adapted from The Babbo Cookbook
1 medium-sized pumpkin/butternut squash/acorn squash (about 2-2.5 lb)
1/2-1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 1/2-4 cups AP flour
5 large eggs
1/2 tsp olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 450. Cut your winter squash of choice in half. Remove the seeds and place cut side up on a baking sheet. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until fork-tender.
2. When cooked, allow to cool enough to touch. Scoop squash flesh into a bowl. Mash with 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and nutmeg. Add more parmesan cheese to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, eggs, and olive oil. Mix using the bread hook until just combined. Then knead with the hook for about 2 minutes. OR if you don't have a stand mixer, follow Batali's instructions here. Cover dough in plastic wrap and allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Set up your pasta maker. Break off a chunk of pasta dough and stretch it out to as thin a rectangle as you can. If it is wet, as mine was, add more flour just past the point of stickiness. Roll out the dough to the thinnest setting on your pasta machine. Using a biscuit cutter or a water glass, cut out 2-inch circles. Spoon approximately a tsp of filling onto the center half of the rounds and cover with a second round. Press the edges together firmly to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. You will have extra filling. Eat it with a spoon.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage and Toasted Hazelnuts
Serves 4, adapted from Giada de Laurentis
1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts
a few tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 stick salted butter
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 amaretti cookies
1. Preheat oven to 350. Spread hazelnuts on a tray and toast in the oven until brown and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Put in a food processor and chop into small chunks.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add in a bit of vegetable oil so the ravioli don't stick to each other. Add the ravioli to the pot. When they float, remove them using a slotted spoon to a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Reserve the pasta water.
3. In a small saute pan, melt the butter. When butter is sizzling and starts to brown, tear sage leaves into the pan and fry for about 20 seconds. Stir in a ladle of pasta water. Stir in nutmeg and parmesan cheese. Pour sauce over the ravioli and sprinkle with hazelnuts and grated amaretti.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast, the Hearth N Soul Bloghop, Cook the Books, I Heart Cooking Clubs, and Chaya's Meatless Mondays. This has been linked to A Moderate Life's 12 Days of Bloggie-Mas! This has been linked to Marla's Happy Post over at Family Fresh Cooking!
Sunday, November 28, 2010
That is the word that I would use to describe the typical Eats Well With Others family Thanksgiving. (A few others come to mind as well...but it's the holiday season, people. And so I'm trying to play nice.)
There are tequila shot contests. Screaming matches. And it's rare that the meal goes by without someone making an explosive exit, slamming the door behind them as they go, and yelling that they're applying for emancipation the next day because they want nothing to do with this family ever again. Only to return again the next year to perform the same theatrics all over again.
Like I said. "Boisterous".
This year, however. Was different.
My brother and cousin cut themselves off at the point of jovial drunkenness (you know, before the manic rage set in). My father only told my uncle to "get the f*** out of his house" a mere five times instead of the usual thirty-two. And my grandmother didn't accuse a single person of trying to steal her money.
Truly, it was a holiday of miracles.
Err, one miracle to be precise. That being, this cake.
If you follow me on twitter, you know that I spent the three weeks before Thanksgiving in a state of mental torment and indecision. I vacillated between layer cakes, tiramisu, pies, trifles...eventually rejecting each option out of fear that they would not appeal to my family's increasingly picky palates. (Truly, it gets worse every year.)
And then there was this.
I knew it was the one when I ran it by my brother (remember him of "vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting" infamy? Such a dessert minimalist.) and he said that he approved. I believe his exact words were "I can deal with that". Now, for a boy that doesn't ever get excited about anything sweet, that was a huge step.
Back to my original point, which was that this cake is going to bring about world peace. I mean, if it could silence the Eats Well With Others clan to the point that they could actually tolerate each other for a good seven hours. There is nothing that it can't do.
And with homemade caramel, mascarpone buttercream frosting, a dense and unbelievably moist cake core, and approximately 6 sticks of butter. Would you really expect anything less?
Deep, Dark Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (Sauce au Caramel au Beurre Sale)
Makes about 1 1/3 cups, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp salted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Melt the sugar over medium to moderately high heat in the largest post you have. I'm serious. Largest pot. Whisk as you melt to make sure the sugar heats evenly. Cook the sugar to a nice dark copper color.
2. Add the butter all at once, continuously whisking. When it has melted and incorporated, turn off the stove and pour in the heavy cream. The whole mixture will foam and rise up to the top of the pot so it's a good idea to wear gloves during all this. Whisk until you get a smooth sauce.
3. Pour it right away into a glass jar. Use it immediately or store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. If it gets stiff from being in the fridge, just microwave for a few seconds before using it.
Apple-Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing
Serves about 16, adapted from Rebecca Rather's The Pastry Queen Christmas (via Pink Parsley)
For the Cake:
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (original called for regular molasses but i'm not such a fan)
6 large eggs
3 cups cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup sour cream (I used low fat)
3 granny smith apples, peeled and shredded
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
For the icing:
2 batches of caramel
3 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup mascarpone
2 cups pecan pieces, toasted
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Grease either two or three 9-inch cake pans depending on your preference and/or the size of your cake pans. Mine are incredibly deep so I only used two but if yours are not so deep, then you want to use three. Line each pan with parchment paper and grease that as well.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in the molasses and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, only adding the next after the previous one has been thoroughly incorporated.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger. Add the sour cream and flour mixture alternately to the batter, starting and ending with the flour (flour in 3 increments, sour cream in 2). Stir in the shredded apples trying to leave as much juice behind as possible, vanilla, and fresh ginger.
4. Split evenly among your cake pans. If using two cake pans, put on the same rack in the oven. If using three, place two of the pans side by side on one rack and the third on the other rack. Make sure they are staggered so that no pan is directly under the other. Bake 35-40 minutes if using three or 50-55 minutes if using two, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Rearrange the layers about halfway through.
5. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Carefully unmold the cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing. I made these on Wednesday night and then iced on Thursday morning.
6. For the icing - cream the butter on medium-high speed for three minutes or until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar over low speed until combined. Then, add the cream and vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes, or until fluffy. Add the mascarpone and beat over low speed or until just incorporated. Take one of your batches of caramel and heat just until it's a bit liquidy but not so hot that it's scorching. You want it to be around room temperature. Stir into the frosting, using large strokes to create swirls. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or serving plate and spread icing over the top of it. Top with the second cake and repeat. (And then again with the third if using three layers). Cover the cake with an even layer of frosting. **I found this frosting to be less stiff than most so it was hard to get a super pretty frosting job. No matter since you're going to be covering it with pecans and caramel! Ah, the beauty of this cake.** Pat the toasted pecans onto the sides of the cake. Melt your second batch of caramel to just room temperature. Pour of the the top and, using a spoon, spread it almost to the sides of your cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Given the hectic-ness of the holiday season, I am going to extend the deadline for Regional Recipes: BRAZIL to the end of December, this way everyone who wants to participate will have ample time. Thanks to all those who have already submitted entries and to those who are for sure going to now that I've extended it! Ahem. Everyone.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I am thankful.
I am thankful for four day vacations. During which I can spend one day clogging my arteries and the remaining three learning how to figure out what's wrong with them once I do. What kind of heart sounds - mid-systolic clicks, diastolic murmurs, holosystolic rumbles - I should be looking for. What they mean. And what I can do about them once they're there.
This is the problem with becoming a doctor. You know too much.
I am thankful for physical therapists who can make my calves feel almost functional again. Almost human. Almost not completely broken.
And when they say things like, "Yeah, you'll probably be able to run again next week." I'm thankful even more.
I am thankful for 60 degree days in the middle of November (all you Californians. Shhh. Don't burst my bubble.). I am thankful for skirt weather. I am thankful for hot pink leggings weather. Or maybe I'm just thankful for hot pink leggings. Hard to say.
I am thankful for you. And you. Oh yeah, and you guys in the back. Because without you this whole blogging thing wouldn't be quite worth doing. I never realized how much of a sense of belonging this would give me. And how much I would need you to get me through anatomy tests, bad first dates, pelvic stress fractures, failed microscopy experiments, getting out of bed in the morning. At 6AM.
I am thankful for my family.
For my dad who does not read my blog EVER but who tells all of his coworkers to read it. And so if you're out there coworkers - HI! (And can you guys believe that he won't let me make the stuffing. That he's insisting on Stovetop. You need to talk to him about this. It's burning me up inside.)
For my mom who does everything for everyone all the time. And never asks for anything in return. (Except, of course, for grandchildren. She asks for those. Frequently.)
For my sister who drives me crazy, wears her jeans too low, and, at the ripe old age of 14 looks older than I do. Yes, she keeps me young.
For my brother who listens to me complain, gets annoyed when he searches my blog for his name and realizes that he hasn't been mentioned for the past five posts, and is one of the few people I know who really and truly gets me. Without judgment, without reservations. He just does. (It's because we have the same neuroses. And psychoses. And eyes. I know it.)
For my friends. Who love me unconditionally. Even though I stuff them full of cheesecake and nutella frosting far too often for anyone's good.
And last, but not least. I'm thankful for picky eaters. Specifically, those who will be at my parents' house today. Who'll look at this tray of sweet potato and butternut squash mash. And walk away. I'm thinking of manning the doors, turning away anyone who seems to have a predilection for the color orange. More for me, baby. More. For. Me.
All in the name of Thanksgiving, yeah?
Have a good one you guys!
I'm sure all of you already have your menus planned for what is going to go down in, oh, approximately 12 hours depending on which time zone you're in. But if you're looking to spice up that sweet potato dish that you were already planning on making? Set it apart from all those other sweet potato dishes out there. Then this is the way to go. The five-spice powder adds a little extra kick of umami, an undefined sweet-savory flavor, to an otherwise traditional dish. So subtle that you won't explicitly notice it. Other than the fact that you just can't stop eating it. And neither can your supposedly sweet potato-hating family members. (Which is why I'm bouncing them at the door. Pre-emptive strike.)
Smashed Sweet Potatoes and Butternut Squash with Five-Spice Marshmallows
Serves 12-15, adapted from Food & Wine
5 lb sweet potatoes
1 medium butternut squash
3/4 cup almond milk
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows
3/4 tsp chinese five-spice powder
1. Preheat your oven to 425. Prick the sweet potatoes all over and put on a baking sheet. Cut your butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place it on a second baking sheet cut side up. Put both baking sheets in the oven and roast until fork tender, about 45-60 minutes. Let cool slightly.
2. Halve the sweet potatoes and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Scoop out the butternut squash flesh and scoop into the same bowl. Add the milk, butter, and brown sugar and mash until mixed through. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Spread into a 9x13-inch baking dish. Lower the oven to 350.
3. In a medium bowl, toss the marshmallows and the five-spice powder until coated. Scatter the marshmallows over the sweet potatoes and bake for about 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are warm and marshmallows have turned golden brown and are lightly puffed. If you get impatient, put under the broiler once sweet potatoes are warmed through.
I am submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Anh of A Food Lover's Journey.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
This is not dessert.
I know, I know. You read vanilla, you instantly think creme brulee.
And so even though the ingredient list calls for chives. And parmesan cheese.
You are still pretty sure that this will end up with a caramelized sugar crust on top. Somehow.
Let me tell you something else.
It's the holiday season, people. (Officially. Because I said so.) You are going to have false advertising thrown at you left and right. And so you need to learn how to be skeptics. Build up that tough outer shell that I know you have somewhere under that candy-coated crust and milk chocolate center. Become a peanut M&M, I say!
Oh my. All of that homemade caramel has gotten to my head.
(Wrong post, Jo.)
Oops. You didn't read that. Until after Thanksgiving. Right? Right.
Aaah. Got you again!
That, my friends was a shameless ploy at keeping you hanging. Getting you hooked. And then leading you on. I could totally have been a twenty-something year old guy in a former life. Seriously.
(Although there will be homemade caramel coming. Soon. If I don't eat it all before Thanksgiving. Which will be quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.)
Until then. There is risotto. Which still, after all of this, does not taste like creme brulee. But does taste delicious.
It sounds weird, I know. Vanilla? Savory? What? But if you're a vanilla fiend such as myself, or even if you're not. I feel pretty confident in saying that you will love this. You'll be confused at first. You'll bite into it and won't be quite sure what to think. But keep going. Don't give up! Reach for the stars! Because by the end, you'll find that you can't stop eating it. Even though you don't quite know why.
But don't just take my word for it. Be skeptical.
It's the holiday season, after all.
Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side, adapted from Giada's Kitchen
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large vanilla bean
1 medium-sized winter squash (I used delicata), peeled and diced
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped
1. Put the vegetable broth into a medium saucepan and warm over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in half. Scrape out the seeds and add them to the broth. Add in the vanilla bean itself. Simmer, then reduce heat to low.
2. Add the squash to the broth and simmer until it is fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the squash chunks to a dish. Turn the heat on the broth to low and cover to keep warm.
3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Add in the onion and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add in the rice and cook until coated with oil, about one minute. Add in the white wine and simmer, continuously stirring, until all of the wine has evaporated. Then, in 1/2 cup-ish increments, add the broth to the rice, only adding more when the previous batch has almost entirely evaporated. Stir. Stir. Stir.
4. When the rice is tender but still firm to the bite, and creamy, turn off the heat. Mix in the squash and parmesan cheese. Add salt to taste. Add chives.
I am submitting this to this week's IHCC, the theme of which is POTLUCK! And also to the Hearth and Soul Bloghop!
Sunday, November 21, 2010
To all of you diligent, menu-planning people out there. Who have had your Thanksgiving menu planned for months. (Unlike some of us who finalized it...err...who will finalize it next Wednesday at approximately 8PM.)
I am about to throw a wrench in your best-laid plans.
You see, somewhere in the midst of all of my blog hopping and magazine perusing. And after my mother informed me for the tenth time that, really all they wanted was mashed potatoes and stuffing from a box so I shouldn't worry myself about it any more.
I got it into my head that I wanted to make Brussels sprouts on the big day.
Maybe it was the joie de vivre with which Amy espoused her love of the Brussels sprout side dish that she is making for Thursday that pushed me over the edge.
Or maybe it's just my truly vengeful nature. Who knows.
Either way, on Friday I found myself at the Union Square Farmer's Market (the first of two trips this weekend, might I add). Standing in front of a huge pile of sprouts. When an image of that horrible red box filled with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup and everything you do not want to put into your body popped into my head (Why Stovetop! Why!).
And so I said, "To hell with it all". There was going to be at least one dish on that table that I could feel good about eating. So help me.
Truly though, the joke's on me because the sweet nutty flavor of the chestnuts paired with the salty pancetta and utterly addictive marsala wine will have even Brussels sprout haters running to the table. I did a test run yesterday and Sophie, who doesn't even like Brussels sprouts, couldn't keep her fingers out of the bowl.
Revenge literally has never tasted so sweet.
Before I get to the recipe, I just wanted to say that I made the bacon-wrapped
Also, I was definitely wary of putting chestnuts in this recipe after my parents tried to roast them last year. And, well. I really have no idea what they did because sweet and nutty was not the flavor profile I took away from that whole experience. I was especially concerned when I saw how expensive pre-roasted chestnuts were. However, when I spotted a box full of raw (local!) chestnuts at Whole Foods for half the price and double the amount, I decided to just go for it. Let me tell you, these are so easy to roast and SO delicious! Definitely worth the FIFTEEN minutes they take to cook. After this, you'll never buy those vacuum-packed chestnuts ever again.
Homemade Roasted Chestnuts
Preheat oven to 425. Using a sharp paring knife, cut an X on the flatter surface of each of the chestnuts making sure to cut through the shell and the skin. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. When chestnuts are cool enough to touch (but no cooler than that!) peel off the shell and skin. The colder they are, the harder this will be to do so don't let them sit around forever!
Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Pancetta, and Parsley
Serves 8, adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast
2 1/4 lb brussels sprouts
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz pancetta cut into small strips or diced depending on the cut you use (Nigella uses 9 oz)
2 tbsp butter
8-9 oz roasted chestnuts, halved
1/2 cup marsala wine (Nigella uses 1/4 cup but I found this to be too little)
1 large handful parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1. Slice the bottoms off each of the Brussels sprouts. Place the Brussels sprouts into a large saucepan of salted boiling water. Cook the Brussels sprouts for 5 minutes or until they are tender but still have some of a bite. Remove the pan from the heat and drain the excess water. **NOTE - I think that when I make these for Thanksgiving, I'm going to shave the sprouts and saute them in the pancetta fat, this way the flavor will really infuse into them.
2. Heat the oil in a large, clean saucepan. Add the pancetta and cook until crisp and not dried out. Add the butter and chestnuts to the pancetta saucepan. With a wooden spoon or spatula, push down on the chestnuts to break them up into pieces. Once the chestnuts have been warmed through, turn up the heat and add the marsala. Cook until the mixture has reduced and thickened slightly.
3. Add the sprouts and half the parsley to the saucepan. (Unless you decided to shave the sprouts. Then add them right after the pancetta is cooked.) Mix well. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Put the sprouts on a serving plate and sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top.
This is my submission to Reeni's Thanksgiving Side Dish Showdown!
Thursday, November 18, 2010
I like to think I've become an expert on running pains. Really, they come in a lot of flavors. There are the aches and the stabs, the fractures and the strains, the wandering shooting pain that radiates up and down the entirety of your gastrocnemius muscle whenever you stand on your tiptoes or try to walk up and down steps (you know, for example).
I also have a very high threshold for pain tolerance. Which is both good and bad. Good because it means that I might not tell my husband that I wish he were dead quite as much as the average woman during the whole birthing process. (Ahem. Eligible bachelors - are you reading this?) Bad because there are certain pains that you just shouldn't tolerate. And I am not very good at distinguishing those from the ones that are just normal everyday pains because, well. They feel the same to me.
However. All this means is that when I called my orthopedist yesterday to try to make an appointment to talk to him about my calves and how they kind of feel like they're repeatedly being stabbed with a large knife whenever I walk on them. He really should have dropped everything.
Instead, he said (okay, his receptionist said), "Hmmm I have an open appointment on December 21st."
And this was after I told him that I couldn't walk. (A lie. I can totally walk. But sometimes when you're dealing with irrational people like this. You need to say irrational things. Speak to their level of understanding. You know how it is.)
So I tried to play it cool. "Oh, you must mean November 21st," I said.
He chuckled. (Chuckled? Can someone please show me the humor in this. Because to me, crippling pain. Not funny. NOTE - mom, I am not crippled, nor am I in crippling pain. Intense shooting pain, yes. Crippling pain, no. Please do not call me in a panic. Thanks.) "Uh, no. December 21st."
"Uh, yeah," I said. "I will totally make that appointment on December 21st. That will be so useful." In my most sarcastic voice possible. Then I hung up the phone. Because honestly, if this isn't cleared up by December 21st. I will likely have to be placed in some kind of psychiatric asylum. And then he will have to carry that guilt for the rest of his life. Not my problem.
At this point, I was in some kind of manic rage. And the only two things that I could foresee calming me down. Were Pioneer Woman. And pasta. Obviously.
So I headed over to PW Cooks. Read a few of her posts. Laughed out loud a bit too much and..uh..too loudly. And then stuffed myself full of her pasta with tomato-blue cheese sauce.
It has curative carbalicious properties. I know it. And if you use almond milk instead of heavy cream...you won't feel any guilt at all about eating it. Your thighs won't even quiver. I swear it.
(And just in case you were worried. I called one of my coaches and made an appointment at his physical therapy office. For Monday. This Monday. Yeah, he cares about my health and well being. Ain't that something.)
Pasta with Tomato-Blue Cheese Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 lb pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 cup almond milk
1 bundle of spinach from the Farmer's market...probably around 4-5 cups
extra blue cheese for crumbling
1. Set a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
2. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. When shimmering, add the three cloves garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds or until garlic becomes fragrant. Add in the canned diced toamtoes (I used San Marzanos...always the way to go). Season with sugar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. If your water is now boiling, go ahead and add in the pasta. Pour the blue cheese crumbles and the milk into the tomatoes and stir until melted. Put the spinach leaves in the strainer that you're going to use to strain the pasta. Pour the pasta water (and pasta) over these while straining so that the spinach gets cooked instantly. Mix the pasta and now-cooked spinach with the sauce in a large bowl. Season to taste. Serve in bowls, topped with an extra tbsp of blue cheese crumbles.
I am submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted by one of my favorites - Debbi of Debbi Does Dinner Healthy and Low Calorie.
Please send me your entries for REGIONAL RECIPES: BRAZIL by December 1st!
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
When Sophie walked into the kitchen on Sunday morning to find me at the stove cooking four pans of risotto simultaneously she did not realize that she had implicated herself in a very serious, life-altering double blinded randomized control trial. In fact, I'm pretty sure she didn't even bat an eye.
Although she did look at me suspiciously when I handed her a waiver to sign. And asked her to put her hand over her heart and swear on an uncharacteristically cute butternut squash that she was not actually a spy working for a competing risotto rice reviewer and that she would answer all of my questions as truthfully as possible. To the best of her abilities. So help her god.
Hey, if you're going to do a double-blinded randomized control trial in the safety of your own kitchen. You have to do it right. No reason why it shouldn't comply with FDA standards. That is my motto.
At least, such is what I thought when I agreed to do a comprehensive review of four different kinds of risotto rice for MarxFoods. Not only was it an opportunity eat massive amounts of risotto all in the name of good honest research. But it would also help me to hone my clinical trial skillz. (And give me the authority to walk into any Michelin starred restaurant and proffer my opinion on exactly which rice the James Beard award-winning chef should have used. Not gonna lie. That was totally an incentive.)
The first step in any good clinical trial is to define your primary endpoint. In this case, what parameters was I going to use to decide what makes a given risotto rice "good". Was I going for texture, flavor, color, mouth-feel?
It's very important to do this before the trial is performed and also very important not to change it later on when you realize that, actually, the pharmaceutical you are testing does not do anything to cure lung cancer but it did somehow clear up your patients' male pattern baldness. No, you may not change this into a hair growth study. You are stuck with curing cancer. Deal with it.
Alright. So. Risotto for me is all about the texture. Creamy, starchy, almost melt-in-your-mouth rice kernels that seem to have disintegrated almost into one entity but also still maintain their own integrity as individuals. It's a fine balance, to be sure, but one that any good risotto rice has to hold up to. Flavor is important, of course, but decidedly not what I wanted to test in this study. Moving on.
Experimental design. When doing a double blinded randomized control trial, you need the proper controls and variables. In this case, the variable or changing parameter was going to be the risotto rice that was used - one of either arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or integrale. The controlled or unchanging parameter was going to be flavor. I couldn't have any of my testers being skewed by liking or disliking a given flavor. Thus, I prepared each and every risotto the exact same way. Within the limits of human error, of course. Nobody's perfect. Not even an up-and-coming physician scientist such as myself.
Alright so here is how it went down. Four risotto rices. Four batches of risotto. All plated in an identical manner (except for the color of the cocktail glasses. It would be much more preferable to use glasses that are all the same color. But sometimes you just have to make do with what you've got. Just don't tell the FDA.) such that neither Sophie nor Anu had any idea which was which.
(And yes, if this were truly double blinded, I would not have known either. But let's be real. My short term memory is not what it used to be. So I don't think it's really an issue.)
They came. They ate. They rated.
And thus, it is with no further ado that I present to you. The consensus.
We all unanimously declared the vialone nano rice to be our favorite. This rice has extremely small grains and give off starch almost immediately upon being doused with broth, making for an extremely creamy and glutinous risotto. Just the way I like it.
Next up was the classic arborio. Arborio is just so easy to work with and is pretty no-fail when it comes to risotto-making. It gives off just the perfect amount of starch, in my opinion, to make a risotto that really holds itself together. Not as much starch as the vialone nano, but a good amount.
Although carnaroli rice is purported to absorb more flavor and release more starch than arborio, we did not find this to be the case. Hence why it was less of a favorite. While it did hold flavor very well, the risotto never reached that creamy consistency that we desired and expected from a good risotto.
Last and, unfortunately, least came the integrale brown rice. I wanted this to win. I really and truly did, ever the whole grain fanatic that I am. And while this most certainly retained the most of the flavor out of all the rices, it gave off the least starch and so I felt like I was eating rice soup while eating it. Which is fine. If you want to be eating rice soup. But usually, when I'm in the mood for risotto...that's the last thing that I want.
So there you have it. My first double blinded randomized control trial. A veritable success. Next up, trying to figure out a way to apply this in the clinical setting. Can eating massive amounts of risotto prevent cancer? A prospective cohort study in the making. Stay tuned.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Thyme Risotto
Serves 4, adapted from La Belle Cuisine
2 quarts broth (chicken or veggie)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or integrale)
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
4 sun-dried tomatoes
1. Heat the broth in a medium to large pot on the stove, allowing it to stay at a simmer.
2. In a large non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the diced onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the risotto rice and cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring.
3. Add the simmering broth to the rice in half cup-ish increments, only more after the last addition has almost completely evaporated, continuously stirring the entire time. After you add the first batch of broth, add the leaves off of four thyme sprigs to the pan. Cook the rice in this way until tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls or in cocktail glasses (what, I have to use them for something!). Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes.
I am submitting this to the Hearth and Soul Bloghop!
**Disclaimer - Although I was given these rice samples from Marxfoods for free, I received no other compensation for doing this review and my ideas, thoughts, and opinions on the products are all my own.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Yesterday I plunged myself into an ice bath.
It was very out of character. I was living on the wild side.
But sometimes, after you run 13 miles. You just can't predict what you're going to do next.
In my case, I filled the tub halfway with lukewarm water. Got in, wearing nothing but a sweatshirt. And then poured two of those huge bags of ice cubes all over myself. This is what I like to call "icing it where it counts".
My calves are still in serious amounts of pain. So I'm not quite sure that it counted.
After that traumatic experience. Endorphins still coursing through my veins in a better-than-sex kind of way. I decided that what I really needed was a huge stack of pancakes.
But we're not just talking any old flapjack or silver dollar.
No, no, no. I wanted pancakes stuffed with soul.
Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Ginger. The spices that evoke fireplaces, Christmas morning, Thanksgiving dinner, that dream you had where you got locked in a supermarket that was filled entirely with every variety of winter squash in existence and then when the owner found you, he felt so bad that he offered to lug the lot of them over to your apartment in a UHaul. Sigh. If only.
And yes, these pancakes. Bring. It. All.
Especially when topped with maple cinnamon greek yogurt. And sprinkled with ginger salt.
They're the cherry on top of that tub full of ice water you just sat in. I swear it.
**This recipe along with the photos are my entry into MarxFoods's Photography Challenge: Fine Salts. I received five samples of finishing salts - Flor de Sal, Hawaiian Red Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, Ginger Salt, and Espresso Salt. Per the contest's guidelines, I am to submit two photos - one photo must feature at least one of the salts on its own, without food (notice my extremely artistic collage below. You know you want that hanging on your wall) and the second photo must be of a recipe that uses the salt. I chose to make pumpkin pancakes topped with a maple syrup Greek yogurt topping (think whipped cream but healthier), with a bit of ginger salt sprinkled on top to compliment the pumpkin pie spice flavors as well as to cut the sweetness of the topping. Delicious, it was. Although I received these salts for free, I received no monetary compensation for them and my opinions about them are all my own.
Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes
Makes about 12, adapted from Bon Appetit's Fast/Easy/Fresh
1 1/4 cup AP flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups almond milk
3/4 cups canned pumpkin
4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
1/4 cup butter, melted (1/2 stick)
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together the almond milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter, and vanilla. Mix the liquids into the dry ingredients, whisking just until smooth. In a third bowl (or you can clean and dry the second bowl and use that), beat the egg whites with a mixer until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter in 2 additions. Preheat a large nonstick skillet, spraying it with cooking spray or brushing it with vegetable oil. Pour the batter onto the pan in about 1/3 cup increments. Flip the pancakes when bubbles start to form, cooking about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Cinnamon Maple Greek Yogurt and Ginger Salt Topping
Makes 2 cups, an Eats Well With Others Original
2 cups Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
1/3 cup REAL maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Mix the maple syrup and cinnamon into the greek yogurt. Pile three pancakes up on each person's plate. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt mix and a sprinkle of ginger salt.
As these would be perfect for a Thanksgiving breakfast, I am submitting these to Nutmeg Nanny and Edible Mosaic's All Through The Year Cheer: Thanksgiving event! I am also sending these over to Chaya's Meatless Mondays. Because I'm the kind of girl who eats breakfast for dinner. Good stuff.
Remember to submit your entry for Regional Recipes: BRAZIL by December 1st!
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I have what I like to call "perfect timing".
Like, remember when I decided to cook Indian-Style Chili on the exact same day at the exact same time that my lovely adorable Indian roommate happened to invite every single Indian member of our med school class over to eat some Diwali pastries?
No? Really? You couldn't feel my embarrassment from all four corners of the globe? It was palpable. Tactile, even. Cut-it-with-a-knife thick.
There they were. Munching down on halwa and jalebi and some of the other most incredibly delicious sweets on this earth. Gossiping about where one could find the most authentic Indian food in this damn city (my kitchen did not make the list. In case you were wondering).
When I barged in with my coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon. Thinking that I was doing something truly groundbreaking. Indian-style chili? SCORE! was the mantra of the evening and what I had been repeating to myself over and over at the gym as I bribed myself to bike for just one more mile (times 16).
I think they were pretty oblivious to my activities until, eventually, the smell of meat and spice must have permeated the apartment because all of a sudden the whole crew tumbled into the kitchen, peered over the oven, and asked me what I was making.
I looked at the chili. Looked at them. Looked back at the chili. The silence encasing all of us. Compelling me to both speak and not speak, a kind of psychological dystonia if ever there were one.
Until finally one of them looked at the cookbook sitting on the counter and read "Indian-Style Chili" . With beef. Interesting. He said as he looked away. Doing his best not to make eye contact with this obviously confused white girl who had just offended all kinds of centuries-old traditions.
My lovely adorable roommate who loves me with reckless abandon said, brightly, "Well it definitely smells Indian!"
And, yes. That it did.
It smelled Indian and it tasted delicious, especially after a stint in the fridge overnight, as any good chili is wont to do. The currying spices melding so beautifully with the heat of the chile powder and the subtle sweetness of the roasted winter squash.
Will I be making it again? Yes. But perhaps under a new name. "Indian-Spiced Chili with No Resemblance to Any Authentic Indian Dish At All Ever But That is Still Seriously Worth Eating" has a nice ring to it. Don't you think?
Before the recipe, be sure to vote for your favorite winter squash recipe at the contest I'm holding over at MarxFoods!
Indian-Spiced Chili in Winter Squash "Bread" Bowls
Serves 4-5, adapted from Monica Bhide's Modern Spice
2 (2 lb) winter squash - acorn squash, kabocha, or buttercup are ideal
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium red onion, minced
1 tbsp storebought ginger-garlic paste (or puree equal parts ginger and garlic together)
1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (I used the ones from Trader Joes with chiles in them)
1 lb ground beef (I used SUPER lean) or ground turkey
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup dried kidney or trout beans, cooked OR 1 (15 oz) can of beans
1 cup water
1. Preheat oven to 450. Cut winter squash in half lengthwise. De-seed. Spray with cooking spray or rub with a bit of oil. Sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking sheet cut side up and roast for 40-50 minutes or until fork tender. Set aside.
2. In a large lidded skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the cinnamon stick. When the stick begins to sizzle, add the onion and ginger-garlic paste. Saute, stirring, until the onion is golden brown, 7-8 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 15 minutes.
4. Add the beef and cook 10-12 minutes or until browned, breaking up the meat with a spatula.
5. Add the chile powder, turmeric. cinnamon, cloves and coriander. Mix well and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Add the beans and 1 cup water. Cover and cook for another 12-15 minutes or until the beef is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated.
7. Once the chili is cooked, season with salt to taste. Remove the cinnamon stick and spoon chili into each squash bowl. Garnish with finely chopped onion or green chiles if desired. Serve immediately.
This is the 6th recipe in my 12 weeks of winter squash series! I am submitting it to Weekend Herb Blogging which is being hosted by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.