Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Best Gnocchi Ever

On my way back from the airport, I stopped at Filippi's on India Street and picked up a package of Emma Gnocchetti (among other things).

Seriously? Best gnocchi I've ever had. Pillowy clouds of happiness.

Heat your favorite tomato sauce. Bring a pot of water to boil, then add salt and the gnocchi. Cook until all the gnocchi float. Drain. Heat some olive oil, and dump in the gnocchi and however much minced garlic you like. Cook at medium-high-ish heat, enough to toast the gnocchi, but not enough to burn the garlic. Don't stir constantly, just every now and then, or you won't get the yummy crispy bits. Top gnocchi with sauce, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese.

I will definitely make this again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I'm a Bad Blogger

It's not that I haven't been cooking, I have. Kind of. I just can't seem to take a decent picture.

So, here's a rundown of what I've been making lately, using photographs that I didn't take (with one exception).

I made fresh garbanzo beans with chili garlic sauce, using the sauce from the Chili Garlic Edamame recipe from 28 Cooks. The flavor was good, of course (it's the only way I make edamame), but the garbanzo pods were kind of a pain in the butt to eat that way.

I made Japanese curry with tonkatsu, using Eat a Duck I Must!'s recipe and Bull-Dog tonkatsu sauce. Hubby used Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce. They taste amazingly similar.

I made a sandwich with an everything bagel, salami, American cheese, and an overeasy egg. Obviously not the sandwich in the picture, but I like that picture. And it was a great sandwich too.

I made a chicken rogan josh, using a packaged Tasty Bite sauce, served with sauteed Swiss chard leaves. It was ok, but I've had better packaged sauces, notably Tean's Chicken Curry Paste from Asian Supermarket 365, which I posted about here. With the Swiss chard stems, I did my go-to "Chinese" stir-fry, and had it over rice for lunch.

I made Gramercy Tavern's Gingerbread. But I goofed and sugared the pans instead of floured them, and the weather was all weird, so the breads deflated and stuck to the pans. Still tasted good, though.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grains of Paradise

I sometimes get mildly obsessed with unobtainable ingredients. This time, it was grains of paradise. I kept reading about them, their peppery herbiness, all the wonderful things you could do with them. I searched exhaustively, but hadn't been able to locate them, and was about to resort to buying them online.

But then I got a sample baggie from Marx Foods. What joy! What excitement! What the heck do I do with them?

By the way, you can read more about grains of paradise at Foodista.

Grains Of Paradise on FoodistaGrains Of Paradise

The first thing I did was inhale. Yum. Reminded me a little of cedar. Next, I popped one in my mouth. Not too peppery at first, it comes on gradually. Plus there's some kind of lemony thing going on. And something else indescribable (at least to me).

On to actual cooking. I had a handful of fresh fava beans (thank you Northgate Market!) blanched and peeled. And I had some caramelized onions. And of course there's bacon in the freezer. Mix it all up (sauté in residual bacon fat, of course), a little salt, and crushed grains of paradise.

The verdict? Loved it. The lemony zing was lost, I think because of the overpowering flavors of the bacon and onion. But the tingly pepperyness was there, slightly different from white or black pepper. Delicious. I can't wait to see what else my brain comes up with for the little seeds.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saveur, April 2009

April's issue of Saveur didn't have too many recipes that jumped out at me. Here are the 2 I've bookmarked:
  • Puerco en Mole Negro - I love mole, but have never made my own from scratch. Time to remedy that.
  • Canlis Salad - Seasoned croutons, vinaigrette, lettuce, veggies, cheese, and, most importantly, bacon. I'm not sure about the method of cooking the bacon - simmering in water until the water evaporates, then cooking until crisp - but you never know.
However, this was meant to be a special restaurant issue. And at that, they've definitely succeeded.

Check out the book review piece, which covers The Big Fat Duck, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin, Au Pied de Cochon: The Album, A Day at El Bulli, Alinea, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, On the Line, A16 Food + Wine, A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, and Urban Italian. All of which I want. Seriously.

Then there's the 9 Signature Dishes article, showcasing, you guessed it, nine signature dishes of famous restaurants around the country. House Smoked Salmon Pizza from Spago, Chicken for Two Roasted in the Brick Oven from Zuni Cafe, to name 2.

And 12 Restaurants That Matter, including Joël Robuchon, Topolobampo, and Gramercy Tavern (I love their gingerbread). I wish I was independently wealthy so I could travel to all 12.

So, maybe I didn't bookmark a ton of recipes (which is probably a good thing anyway), but this issue is definitely drool-worthy.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Inari, Onigiri, and Leftover Stir-Fry

On my last trip down to Nijiya and Marukai, I picked up a package of inari wrappers and a bag of pickled mustard greens.

The first night, I made inari, sprinkled with a little furikake and sesame seeds, and onigiri. Some of the onigiri were filled with pickled mustard greens and wrapped with nori, and others (for Youngest) were filled with pickled ginger and seaweed-less.

The second night, I cut up the remaining inari wrappers, and chopped up a couple leaves of the greens. I mixed up my usual stir-fry sauce, consisting of soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, hot bean paste, Chinese black vinegar, shao xing cooking wine, oyster sauce, and fish sauce (and a little cornstarch to thicken). Quickly stir-fry some garlic, ginger and green onion bottoms, add the mustard greens and inari, toss it up, add the sauce, boil, simmer, done. This time I sprinkled chopped green onion tops, cilantro, and sesame seeds on top.

Both were a hit! Hubby swore I couldn't make inari, but he ended up loving them. He also swore he wouldn't like the pickled mustard greens, but he couldn't stop raving about the stir-fry.

I love it when I have no idea what I'm doing, and it still turns out delicious.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Grandma's Custard

After my grandmother passed away at the impressive age of 97, I got to thinking about the dishes she made that I remembered most. One of them was custard.

I had never made custard before - well, that's not exactly true, since ice cream starts with a custard base, but I had never made custard as a stand-alone entity before.

I got the recipe from my parents, whose notes said you can make it in the microwave. I'm sure you can, and I'm sure it's good, but I'll stick to the stovetop. The recipe also called for margarine, which will never make its way through my door. Use butter, please.

This custard is great on its own or sprinkled with berries. You could also use it to fill little cream puffs or eclairs.
My Grandma's Custard

6T flour
2/3 c sugar
1/4 t salt
2 c milk
2 beaten eggs
1 t vanilla
2 t butter

Combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add milk and eggs. Whisk. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly until nicely thick, about 10 minutes.

When thickened, add vanilla and butter. Pour into dishes and cool.
I'm submitting this recipe to Grandma's Recipes, hosted by Laura at The Spiced Life. If you have any of your grandma's favorite recipes, please join in the event!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Food & Wine, April 2009

April's Food & Wine is chock full of good stuff! Here are my picks:
Phew! Writing that made me hungry.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Bon Appétit, April 2009

Hot off the presses, here are my picks from April's issue of Bon Appétit:
As always, if you make it, let me know!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Quotes from the WIP Household, Part II


"We live like the Mafia, only with less spaghetti."


"I'm nice and toasty in my leather jacket. No wonder cows never get cold."


"I was having trouble speaking, because my pants were bothering me."


"Nice shirt, Dad. Got some pants to go with it?"


"Don't be looking it up and then clicking on it, 'cause I ain't listening to it."


Monday, March 9, 2009

Lamb Shanks with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans

I made my favorite lamb shank recipe yesterday. Actually, it's my only lamb shank recipe, since I refuse to try another one, because this one is just too damn good (although not terribly photogenic, at least when I make it).

The shanks are browned, and then braised for hours with veggies, wine, broth, spices, and anchovies. Yes, use the anchovies. They disappear after 3 hours of braising. You won't know they're there, but they add a little oomph to the sauce. Trust me.

After everything's deliciously tender, you mash the veggies through a strainer, and combine the mash with the braising liquid. I love the resulting sauce. I've found myself going back to the kitchen repeatedly to dip a piece of bread into the pot. I (almost!) don't even need the lamb.

If your shanks are small, you can serve them on the bone, topped with sauce. Mine were Huge(!), and there's lots of yucky bits on a shank that most people don't appreciate, so I removed the meat and added it back in chunks to the sauce. (Feed the yucky bits to the dogs, they'll love you forever.)

This is one of those dishes that's better the 2nd day. Please don't be alarmed when the sauce solidifies in the refrigerator overnight. It'll melt right back up.

For the white beans, I drained a can, tossed 'em in a dish with some very thinly sliced garlic and a little beef broth, and warmed them in the oven (covered with foil) while the lamb cooked.

The broccoli rabe was blanched, then sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes, finished with a bit of cider vinegar.

I'm full. And happy. And so are the puppies.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mortadella and Provolone Sandwich with Giardiniera

This is one of the best sandwiches I've ever made.

It helps that I smuggled back a jar of Il Primo giardiniera from Chicago.

Slice a good baguette in half, and remove most of the fluff. Spread one side with mustard, or better yet, Trader Joe's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce. Top with a slice of provolone. Put 2 slices (or 4, if you're feeling especially porky) of mortadella on the other half. Stick both halves in your oven and turn it on to 350. Let the cheese get melty and the bread get toasty. Put giardiniera on top of the cheese. Assemble, smoosh together, and eat.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Linguine with Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Olives and Capers

Given the success of my sautéed tortellini salad, Hubby requested another pasta dish.

This time I went with linguine, some hot Italian sausage, zucchini, black and green olives, capers and tomatoes. And parmesan cheese, of course.

The recipe that follows is what I did, but I think next time I might add 2 more chopped tomatoes, at the same time the sausage is added.

Linguine with Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Olives and Capers

3/4 lb linguine
3-4 links Italian sausage
1 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
small handful black and green olives
2 t capers, drained
olive oil

Cook linguine. Drain, saving some of the pasta water. Parboil sausages, remove casings, and chop into bite-size pieces. In your largest skillet, fry the sausages to cook all the way through and to start getting some nice caramelization. Drain on paper towels.

Sauté the zucchini, garlic and tomatoes in the sausage fat remaining in the skillet, adding more olive oil if necessary. When the zucchini is done to your liking, the tomatoes will most likely have broken down and started to create a sauce. Add the sausage, olives, capers, some parmesan (or a lot), and salt to taste. Splash in some pasta water, enough to create as much saucy goodness as you like.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, and toss. Serve with more parmesan cheese.
Here's proof that children will eat this, even if they do pick out the olives.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sautéed Tortellini Salad

My parents have made this tortellini salad for as long as I can remember. Cooked tortellini, crisped up in a skillet with some veggies, the obligatory pork, and topped with parmesan cheese. Yum.

My brother recently made this dish for the first time, and said it just didn't turn out the same - my father told him he didn't use the secret ingredient - ground fennel! I immediately shuddered when I heard that's what made the salad taste so good. I hate fennel. With a passion. It was (I thought) banned from my house. I hate fennel so much that I don't eat Italian sausage too often, because of those horrible little seeds that crazy people like to put in their sausages. Ick.

But...apparently when fennel is ground to a powder, it's completely different. I raided my spices, and found a little baggie of fennel seeds. How the heck did they get there? I swear I didn't buy them. I ground some up. Yeah, it smelled like licorice. I almost didn't put the powder in the salad. But I persevered, trusting in the wisdom of my parents, and the fact that I had eaten it before, fennel and all, and loved it.

I've given the quantities that I used - if there's no number by the ingredient, just add to taste.

Sautéed Tortellini Salad

1 bag small tortellini, any flavor
olive oil
1 onion, sliced (next time I'd probably add a 2nd small onion)
~<1/4 c pancetta, sopressata, bacon, etc., diced small
carrots, julienned
frozen peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 teaspoon fennel powder
parmesan cheese
red pepper flakes
black pepper

Cook the tortellini according to package directions, but subtract a couple minutes from the boiling time.

Caramelize the onions, along with the chopped cured pork, in some olive oil mixed with butter, until the onions are brown and silky. Or not that brown, if you prefer them that way.

Raise the heat, and add the garlic, carrots and cooked tortellini. Mix it up, then let it sit undisturbed for a bit to get some crusty parts on the pasta. Sprinkle with the fennel, some parmesan, a lot of black pepper, and some red pepper flakes if you wish. Toss it around, then let sit some more. Keep doing this until the carrots are cooked and the pasta has yummy brown spots, about 5-10 minutes.

You can add a little pasta water to thicken the "sauce" if desired - the water, combined with the parmesan, gives a lovely coating to the pasta. You can also add some additional olive oil or butter.

Throw in the peas at the last minute, and let heat through. Serve with more parmesan & pepper flakes.
When I told Hubby I was going to make this dish, he didn't sound too enthusiastic. As a matter of fact, after dinner he told me that when I first explained the dish, he thought it "didn't sound good at all" and that while I was cooking, he was already making plans to get something out.

But...the man needs to learn to just shut up and eat what I cook him, because after his first bite, he couldn't stop raving about it. He even packed the leftovers and took them to work for lunch the next day. (That rarely happens.) And he did the dishes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Hush Puppies

I had a craving for hush puppies, but can't stand the local fast food joint, so had to make my own. I used a recipe from Homesick Texan, and added a little more salt and a pinch of sugar.

They were missing a little something, I think it's because I used milk instead of buttermilk. But with some hot sauce, and alongside my plantain fritters, these made for a great snack.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Plantain Fritters

I picked up a couple plantains from the market the other day, thinking about making tostones. But then I found Morsels & Musings' recipe for Plantain Fritters.

One word - yum! Crunchy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside. Drizzled with a bit of honey, these made a perfect snack.