Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sweet and Springy Thingy

Something tells me that there is a good chance that one or both of my kids could one day find a career in food writing or critiquing.  This recipe that is a must share was described by my 9 year old as "Sweet and Springy" followed by my 7 year old's declaration that I made "a really good dish".  They were both right on, so without further ado, I will afford you the know how so you can receive such rave reviews.  This was actually on the cover of the September 2011 issue of Food Network Magazine.  It is simple to make and really delicious.  It is great on it's own or could make a perfect side dish to some grilled chicken or fish.  They call it Pappardelle with Corn but I used tagliatelle.  Whatever works.
There are not a ton of ingredients in this dish so I feel that using fresh tomatoes, fresh corn are key.  I made this last summer and have been waiting for the tomatoes in the store to improve before making it again.  I am sure we'll have this more than once this summer.  You will also need, garlic, white wine, chicken broth and some fresh grated parm and scallions.
You will need to cook two ears of corn until slightly tender, about 3 min or so.  Use that time to chop 3 cups of grape tomatoes (I used 2 medium tomatoes instead), and a couple of cloves of garlic.
While your corn is cooling off, you'll melt some butter in a skillet and add your tomatoes and salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 4 min.  Then you will add some white wine and garlic and cook until it's reduced by half.  Now is probably a good time to mention how difficult it is to take a decent picture of a very steamy pan of food.  It is very difficult.
While you're reducing, you can cook your pasta in the corn water according to the label.  I think this tagliatelle only took 6 min if I remember that right.
When the corn cools off enough so you can handle it, cut it off the cobs.
And if that starving kid that's hovering around the stove begs to chew on those naked cobs, let him.
Now you will add the corn and some chicken broth to the (steamy) pan and bring to a simmer.
Next you will add the pasta, a few sliced scallions, some parm and a little more butter (which I cut down from the recipe). Toss to combine, season with salt and pepper (use reserved pasta water if you need to loosen it up a little) and get ready to eat! 
It really doesn't look like much but this truly is a lovely little meal.  Mmmm.

Tagliatelle with Corn (From Food Network Magazine and a couple of adjustments!)

Kosher salt
2 ears corn, shucked
4 Tbs unsalted butter
3 cups grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup white wine
12 oz tagliatelle (or pappardelle) pasta
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 small bunch scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
torn basil for topping

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the corn and cook until slightly tender, about 3 min.  Remove with tongs, reserving boiling water.  Let corn cool enough to handle and cut off the kernels.

Melt 2 Tbs butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the tomatoes, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and cook until tomatoes soften, about 4 min.  Add the garlic and cook 1 min.  Add wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 min.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in the corn water according to the label.  Reserve 1 cup cooking water then drain pasta.  Add the chicken broth and corn kernels to the skillet and bring to a simmer.

Add the pasta to the skillet along with remaining 2 Tbs butter, scallions, Parmesan and 1/2 tsp salt.  Toss to combine, adding reserved cooking water as needed.  Season with fresh cracked pepper.  Serve topped with a sprinkle of parm and fresh basil.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Will Farro?

It's Memorial Day weekend and chances are you've been invited to a BBQ or two.  You might need to bring a dish to pass so I thought I'd share a really good salad that I tried this week.  I'm actually going three events and am making a different salad for each.  I'll be bringing this Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs to my Mom's house on Sunday.  I had never had farro before this week and had found a recipe on Food Network's website but the exact same recipe appeared on the back of the package!
If you are unfamiliar with farro, it is a grain.  It's super easy to prepare and is an excellent source of fiber, protein and iron.  My mom was not impressed with this description but upon (reluctantly) giving it a taste, she gave me the go ahead to bring it to her affair.
You cook the farro according to directions, very easy.  Boil in salted water basically.  Then you drain it well and transfer to a bowl.
Add tomatoes, onion, chives and parsley and toss to combine.
Then you whip up a little dressing of garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Again, nothing tricky going on here.
Add the dressing and toss.  Serve at room temperature.  This can be made ahead and refrigerated but should be served at room temp.  There, that was a snap and I bet someone else won't show up with the exact same salad!

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs (various sources)

4 cups water
12 oz farro
2 tsp salt
1 lb tomatoes chopped
1/2 sweet onion chopped (walla walla)
1/4 cup diced chives
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large clove of garlic minced
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine water and farro in a medium saucepan with 2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to medium-low and and cover, simmer until the farro is tender  about 15-20 min.  Drain well and transfer to a large bowl and cover.  Add the tomatoes, onion, chives and parsley to the farro and toss to combine.  In a medium bowl whisk together garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss again.  Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Revolution Day

On Saturday May 19, 2012 was the first Food Revolution Day.  Pioneered by Jamie Oliver and his efforts to fight the obesity epidemic, this was a day that people took time to celebrate real food all over the world.  I did intend to host a mini event of my own but when I had no takers on my first couple of attempts, I decided that we would celebrate by going to the Farmers Market and seeing what new and exciting things we could try.
We started with lunch from our favorite Laotian/Thai place, Lao Village.  It's such a bonus that they have a booth at the Farmers Market.  This Pad Thai is so good and about a hundred times better than getting the run of the mill, everything tastes greasy and the same Chinese food.
We also had my favorite, Panang Chicken.  Red curry and coconut milk is pure genius as far as I'm concerned.
After a bite to eat we went in search of some fresh herbs for planting.  Hayden really impressed me with his ability to guess some of them by smell.  This kid loves his food.
We did get there a little late due to the soccer games in the morning.  Many of the vendors were packing up shortly after we finished eating....
Which makes for the perfect time to visit the fish monger.  He gives some great deals at the end of the day.
He gave us these blue crab for a steal.  We had never cooked them before so we thought it might be a good time to try them out.  I think we got 15 crabs for $8.00.  He also gave us a great deal on some sea trout and porgy (I think that's what they were called).
When we got home we planted the oregano and Thyme in the flower boxes.  I find that a little goes a long way with these herbs so it's not necessary to plant them in the garden.
Who's got the thyme?  I do.  And it smells really good.  These are planted together in the same flower box.
Once all the planting and other yard work was done we called my Dad to come over for some food.  Busted out the steamer and the Old Bay and got ready to give this thing a whirl.
Nelsy cleaned the fish.  I suppose that can be the tricky part about buying your fish at the market.
Hayden thoroughly enjoyed the process.  I think it's important that kids understand where their food comes from.  If you don't talk about it they can be surprisingly clueless.  I recently read something about a large percentage of kids thinking that pasta came from an animal.  For real.
Say cheese!  I'm pretty sure he's smiling but I could be wrong.
As it would happen, the Run for the Black Eyed Susan's was taking place in Baltimore that day.  How fitting.  I think I'll Have Another.
The boys and I worked pretty hard on those crabs.  I think we all agreed that it was a lot of work for very little reward, and we probably won't buy them again.  But we tried something new and had fun doing it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cold-Noodles Warm Heart

One thing I love about living in a place with a change of seasons, is that it also acts as a cue to change the menu.  Not only would a non-changing climate bore me, but how would I know when its soup season?  Every fall I get excited when its time to pull out the sweaters and start making soups and stews and other warm dishes that take the chill out of your bones.  The same is true for spring and summer.  I look forward to more dinners cooked on the grill and really good salads that you can pretty much make a meal out of.  Last night we had a really nice summer meal and it was easy and quick to make.  My friend Kristin has been waiting a while for this one...Cold Curry Peanut Noodles from the trusty Food TV Magazine Cookbook.  I made it for a brunch a while back and she has mentioned a few cravings since.  My friend Jen has a similar recipe that I love but I'm told you need a whole giant list of ingredients for it.  This one, not so much.
The sauce is made from crunchy peanut butter, curry paste, rice vinegar, lime and cilantro.  I don't use a ton of rice vinegar but it is nice to have on hand.  It seems to last forever too, so eventually you will get around to using it.
Red curry paste is probably not something you have on hand (unless you're freaks for Thai food, like us).  This can be found in the Asian section at most grocery stores and it is really tasty but has a lot of heat to it.  The recipe calls for 1 to 2 Tablespoons.  The first time I made it I used 1 and it wasn't spicy at all, this time I used 2 (I may have even had a little more because I didn't make them level) and it was pretty hot.  I think next time I'll go with 1 1/2.  I put the rest in the freezer for another day.
Before you get started throw on a pot of salted water and cook some whole wheat spaghetti according to the directions on the box.  The sauce is as easy as throwing the ingredients in the food processor (or blender) and processing until smooth.  This stuff smells really good!

Once your sauce is done you can thinly slice some carrot.  I did this with my new mandolin slicer that I got for Mother's day.  It worked like a champ.
Do the same with a cucumber.  Next time I will do them a little thicker, they kind of got lost in the salad.  Thin strips with a knife will be just right. You will also need to slice a couple of scallions.
Once the noodles are done, save about a cup of the pasta water and drain.  Rinse with cold water.
Then you toss them all together and season with a little salt as needed.  I may add a dash of soy sauce next time instead.  I'm thinking that might be a nice addition.  You can also add some thin strips of red or orange bell pepper to this as well.  If you're making a meal of it, the more veggies the merrier.

Cold Curry-Peanut Noodles (Food TV)

Kosher salt
12 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 to 2 Tbs red curry paste
2 tsp rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for sprinkling
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 large carrot, coarsely grated or sliced into thin strips

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the spaghetti and cook as label directs.  Reserve about 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.  Shake off excess water.

Meanwhile, puree the peanut butter, curry paste, vinegar, lime juice, cilantro, 1/2 cup water and 1 tsp salt in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Toss the spaghetti with the peanut sauce, scallions, carrot and cucumber in a large bowl until well coated.  Season with salt and reserved cooking water if needed to loosen.
This was a lovely accompaniment to a little grilled swordfish.  Good stuff my friends.  Good stuff.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Little Slice of Love

Many times certain smells and foods remind us of our loved ones who are no longer with us.  I love to hear stories of people with Italian, Polish or Cuban grandparents that "spent all day cooking multi-course meals for the family and neighbors" on any random Sunday.  My Gram was not one of these people.  She was a Murphy.  Now don't get all offended me lads and lassies, but it's no secret that the Irish are not exactly known for their fine cuisine.  My Gram was far from a bad cook, but our meals like many other suburbanites in the '70's were pretty ordinary.   She did however have a few standouts.  Things that only Gram could make the way we liked it.  Probably the most famous is her Apple Pie.  I'm not much of a pie eater, and even less of a baker but lucky for the rest of the family Nelsy has managed to pull it off.  Gram and Nels always had a mutual fondness for each other and so it seems she had bequeathed to him, the gift of pie.  Don't get me wrong, he was born with the pie gene (my mother in law is the pie master).  But still.  One of her other specialties was Scalloped Potatoes.  My kids LOVE when I make them and we talk about Gram over every meal they they appear at.  It makes us all feel warm and fuzzy, like we were able to have her over for dinner just one more time. 
Awww, here we are on my wedding day!  She's so cute, and I really miss the o'll gal.  It was nothing short of the perfect idea that Nelsy had to make another of Gram's specialties for breakfast on Mother's Day.  Coffee Cake.  She was really good at coffee cake.
Her hand written recipe on hand, Phoebe and Rob did a fantastic job of bringing Gram to the table once again.  My mother in law insists on having recipes hand written by the person passing them on, and I think it's a very wise tradition.  Even her recipe box in Oregon has a couple of Gram's handwritten recipes in it (almost forgot about the banana bread!).  I recommend doing this when you can (these days we are always e-mailing and photo copying but they are really nice reminders when you're cooking with love).
Hayden said to me at breakfast, "Did Gram ever make this for you?"  "All the time!" I said.  "But was is ever this good?" he asked. "Every time!" I said.  If you'll notice the upper right of the card says V.G., that was Gram code for very good.  And so it is.

Gram's Coffee Cake

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter (1/4 lb)
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups flour
1/2 pt sour cream
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1level tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar (it says optional but I'm sure she used it)

Place 1/2 the batter in a greased angel food pan, then half the nut mixture.  Repeat with remaining batter and nut mixture.  Bake at 350 for 45 min.  "Do not use cooking spray! In a baking tin Crisco
is best".

Mother's day breakfast, I swear you could taste the love!  And these berries were a fine addition too!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pho The Love of Poik

I made what is possibly the easiest dinner ever last week.  I'm not kidding you, I was sure I was missing something because it was so easy.  So easy, I added an extra step because I had all this time to spare.  Not only was it a snap to make, it was really, really good.  Ask my sister, she was slurping it down like she'd been on Survivor for the past two months.  Slow-Cooker Pork with Noodles is a delicious weeknight dinner that is perfect for when you have 50 things going on and you needed dinner done 15 minutes ago.  I found this on the Food Network website while having a hankering for some poik (that's how Phoebe used to say pork when she was little and it still cracks me up).  I also don't have a bunch of step by step pictures, because the steps were so minimal there wasn't much to photograph.  I made a couple of small adjustments but I'll note them in the recipe.  If you like Asian food, you're going to love this!

Slow-Cooker Pork with Noodles (adapted from

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry (or rice wine)
2 Tbs packed light brown sugar (calls for 3)
4 cloves of garlic smashed
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger peeled and sliced
1/2 piece of star anise (calls for 2 pieces but seemed like too much)
kosher salt
3 lbs pork shoulder
1 head bok choy, roughly chopped
3 1/2 oz dried rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and star anise and 1/2 tsp salt in a 5-6 qt slow cooker.  Add the pork, cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove the pork from the crock pot to a plate or cutting board and add the bok choy to the pot, cover and cook for 20 more min.  Then add the noodles making sure they are fully submerged, cook for 10 more min.  Add most of the cilantro in as well.

Meanwhile shred the pork with two forks and add back to the pot when the noodles are done.  Serve in bowls with a little of the broth sprinkle with remaining cilantro and if you like a little spice add a dash of Siracha or hot sauce of choice.

See what I mean? Easy.  Slicing ginger is the hardest part of this whole recipe.  I had a few pieces of broccolini (left from the risotto) and carrot in the fridge so I chopped them up and gave them a quick stir fry and added them into the crock pot along with the bok choy.  You could probably skip the stir fry and just toss them in a little earlier so they aren't too crunchy when you're ready to eat.  I will be making this again (and having my sister over too since she only had a sample).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Big Red Pot of Yum!

Sometimes when I'm feeling really under the weather, (that kind of sick where you just can't get off the couch and you wish for the old days when your Mom or Gram made you food and covered you with blankets) I wish someone would just hand me a warm bowl of something yummy (preferably involving cheese).  Well I'm not sick or under the weather but I believe I know what I want that bowl to contain the next time I am!
It has been a busy week already at our house so last night I busted out (my favorite) big red pot for an easy one pot meal that had to be ready to go when everyone got home.  Out of my trusty Food TV Magazine I tried Sausage and Broccolini Risotto for the second time.  The first time was a bust but due to my own error, I will do my best to make sure you do not make the same mistake I did.
I tried this recipe this winter but was unfamiliar with broccolini.  Since the store I was in didn't have any such vegetable by any such name, I figured I would substitute broccoli rabe.  No good.  That stuff is totally bitter and no one liked this dinner at all.  You could tell though, between the bitter bites that this was worth another try.  Broccolini (as I just learned moments ago) is actually a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese chard (no shocker there, I do love the chard) and it's sweet not bitter.
Before getting started I like to get prepped to avoid any last minute scrambling while the butter burns (true story, forgot I started the butter, was chopping onions and helping with homework-had to start anew because burnt butter is not yummy).  So you chop your broccolini, some onion, a carrot and some garlic.  Get out the risotto (arborio Rice) and your sausage.  When you're ready melt some butter in your pot and stir fry the broccolini for about 4 min.
When it's just tender, remove it from to pot to a plate or bowl. Next you'll add the sausage (removed from casing), onion and carrot to the pot and cook until browned, about 5 min.
Then you will add the garlic and the arborio rice and cook, stirring for about a minute.  Now is a good time to mention that this recipe calls for sweet Italian sausage but you can save a boatload of calories by using mild turkey sausage, tastes just as good, less greasy.
Next you'll add a little white wine.  It only calls for 1/3 cup so get something you like!  We're not big white wine drinkers, so we go for cheap.  After the wine evaporates you will add 1 can chicken broth and 1 can diced tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Then you'll put it in a pre-heated oven for about 15 min.
While that's in the oven, shred one cup of fontina cheese (O.M.G. I love fontina cheese).  Good news!  You'll have about half (or more) of this hunk left to use in something else (yay!).  Now is also a good time to address those pressing homework questions, games of hangman and what not.
When the pot comes out of the oven you stir in a little more butter, the cooked broccolini and the cheese.  Now my friends, it is time to eat!
This is definitely on my list of favorites! And you can't beat risotto that doesn't need constant stirring!  Serve with a salad and you're good to go.

Sausage and Broccolini Risotto (Food TV Magazine)

3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 bunch broccolini, rough chopped (about 8oz)
12 oz mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1/2 med onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup grated fontina cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 450.  Heat 1 tbs butter in an oven proof dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the broccolini and stir-fry until just tender, about 4 min.  Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Add the sausage, onion and carrot to the pot (I added a touch of olive oil because the meat was very lean) and cook stirring, breaking up the meat until browned, about 5 min.  Add the rice and garlic and cook stirring 1 more min.

Add white wine to the pot and cook until evaporated.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes and 1 cup water; cover and bring to a boil.  Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until the rice is tender, about 15 min.

Remove the pot from the oven.  Vigorously stir in the remaining 2 tbs butter and cheese until creamy, stir in the broccolini and serve.

I did my own calorie count on this because I used turkey sausage instead of pork.  Also the magazine calls this 4 servings, I call that a bit much.  So with my sausage and 5 generous servings this comes out to be 402 calories per serving.  Not bad for a bowl of cheesy goodness.