Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Steamed broccoli w/ caper brown butter, or I would rob stores for capers

Sometimes I wonder if I should just name this blog "shrine to The Gourmet Cookbook , and I may just do that someday. My latest creation from said tome was steamed broccoli with caper brown butter, and it was quite lovely.

It started, as the majority of my veggie dishes do, with a trip to the farmer's market to see what was looking good. This being California, just about everything is in season, so I never know what surprises will lurk in the stalls. I absolutely prefer the Hollywood Farmer's Market, because it draws a more diverse crowd and has a much, much better selection than the Santa Monica Farmer's Market (IMHO), but I do actually live in Santa Monica these days, so Santa Monica it was (the Sunday Santa Monica market, for those who know the different markets around here. The winners that particular day were the strawberries and the broccoli. I bought two heads of broccoli and was off and running.

I would never, left to my own devices, add capers to broccoli, as I am more inclined to experiment with diversity in color and texture. I just wouldn't add green to green, because it doesn't seem visually interesting. Of course, that's why I have cookbooks: to tell me how to do things I wouldn't do otherwise in the kitchen.

While this is a lovely, tasty dish, I have to say I had hoped the caper brown butter would have adhered to the broccoli better. The capers just rolled off of the broccoli, leaving them to be scooped up at the end. That said...I will make it again, and probably again and again. the creaminess of the melted butter and the saltiness of the capers was like crack to me. If you have PMS, it will be like crack to you, too. Salt and fat - I mean come on! Heaven!

1.5 lbs broccoli
3/4 unsalted butter
3 T drained capers, chopped up (oh, I didn't chop them! that's probably why they rolled off!)
3T flat leaf parsley (I always omit the parsley, out of general laziness)
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper

cut up the broccoli, then steam it, in a steamer rack, covered, about 6 minutes (or until tender). I couldn't find a steamer rack, so I just blanched the broccoli for about two minutes and it was cooked perfectly.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in capers and cook, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper.

Toss with broccoli in a bowl.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I had no idea Pasta Caprese could be served hot!

In fact, I really had no idea there was any such caprese dish involving pasta...I had only made caprese salad (which also happens to be a favorite snack of mine). So I was perusing my latest favorite book, The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pasta , and was thrilled to come across this recipe. It's so easy, and so inexpensive, and is even good eaten in bed after clubbing!

Now, I do have a few notes on this one. I actually used 4 cloves of garlic, as I can never get enough garlic, and 2 just didn't seem like enough. Also...the garlic is really not cooked in this, so if you dislike raw garlic...keep that in mind; you might want to reduce the amount of the garlic. While the hot pasta is supposed to heat up the mozzarella and tomatoes, I found that it didn't heat them up enough, so I ended up nuking the meal right before serving. Those caveats aside...this will be worked in to my repertoire of favorites, for sure! Delicious, and clean!

pasta caprese

5 large tomatoes
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1 t balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
pinch of cayenne (I used a splash of tabasco)
1 lb of penne or ziti
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
about 15 fresh basil leaves, finely shredded

Peel and seed the tomatoes (this is not difficult if you blanch the tomatoes first), then cut them into small dice. Drain in colander for about 15 minutes to remove excess liquid.

In a bowl, combine the drained tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cayenne. Set aside at room temp for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the boiling water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, 10-12 minutes.

Drain the pasta and put in a warmed bowl. Add the tomato mixture and toss. Add the cheese and basil and toss again. As the heat from the pasta melts the cheese, taste and adjust seasoning Serve right away.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love this blog! Picked up a recipe for pork medallions...

I stumbled across the most lovely little blog the other day - http://www.poorgirleatswell.com. Her tagline is "how to eat ridiculously well on a miniscule budget" - in other words, this is my kind of blog!

As it turns out the blogger is the daughter of restaurant owners, and she's quite a brilliant cook, who also happens to be, well, broke.

I tried the pork medallions recipe, which was hysterical because it required several phone calls back and forth between me at st., who was purchasing the pork. We had no idea what kind of cut to get, or even what pork would look like. For those of you who are curious, she ended up getting what was a 2 lb. log of meat, and when we were messing around in the kitchen getting ready to cook, she actually hit thwacked me with it, as if it were a baseball bat. Thud. Which of course was good for many, many laughs over the next 24 hours. It's just not often that one gets thwacked with a pork log.

But I digress...

I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into cooking pork (well, with the exception of bacon, which I love) and we figured out pretty quickly that medallions are, well, little pork medals. It was such a simple recipe, and the honey balsamic glaze was delicious, too.

Here's the recipe, (cut and pasted from her blog) along with potato pancakes:

Pork Loin Medallions with Balsamic Honey Glaze over New Potato Pancakes (serves 4; Total Cost: $3/person)

1 lb lean pork loin
10-15 new potatoes (any potato will do in a pinch)
1 egg white
½ c honey
¼ c balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
½ c vegetable oil for frying
¼ t salt
1/8 t ground pepper
Extra pinches of salt & pepper (for potatoes)
Parsley or cilantro for garnish

Make the glaze by combining the balsamic vinegar and honey in a bowl and mixing together well until completely smooth. Set aside.

Peel and shred the potatoes into a large bowl. Since the shredding process will extract quite a bit of liquid from the potatoes, you may need to drain them in a colander. Some moisture is okay, but you want to make sure that they’re as dry as possible. Season with a couple pinches of salt & pepper. Lightly beat the egg white and add to the shredded potatoes, mixing together until completely coated. This will act as a binder to make sure they stay together during the frying process. In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat until it becomes iridescent. You can test the oil’s heat by flicking a couple drops of water (carefully!) and if it starts to pop, you're good to go. Take a small handful of the potato mixture and arrange into a “pancake” about 3” in diameter. Gently place the pancake into the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side or until both sides are a nice golden brown (like hash browns). Once cooked, remove from oil and place on a plate with plenty of paper towels for draining excess oil. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably make 3 or 4 of these at a time.

Cut the pork loin into medallions about ¾” in size. Season both sides of each medallion lightly with salt & pepper. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When pan is heated, add a couple of pork medallions and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the meat is no longer pink on the inside. Do not overcook! When all the pork is cooked, add about half the glaze to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. If you like, you can place the pork back in the pan with hot glaze to coat lightly for extra flavor.

Arrange 3 or 4 potato pancakes on a plate. Top with 3 pork medallions, drizzle dish with remaining glaze, garnish with parsley or cilantro, and enjoy!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

you can call me "homie"...or how eating locally comforts me in this economy

I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.) last year just as the news about the economy started to get really desperate. My friends were getting laid off, some twice in the same year, and the collective anxiety of the country, of the world, really, was (and still is) palpable. It was then that I clung to her words about eating simple meals that are locally grown....there is something comforting about feeding your loved ones delicious meals made from ingredients we can actually pronounce and identify, and come from farmers from our region.

Kingsolver's book, if you are unfamiliar with it, documents the first year that her family pledged to eat only locally grown foods. They each were allowed one cheat food (coffee would be mine), but otherwise sustained themselves with foods they grew in their garden, meats they harvested themselves (the chapters on the mating habits of their Kentucky Bourbon turkeys is hsyterical), and food purchased from local farmer's markets. Many don't realize that before Kingsolver was a successful novelist she was a science writer, and she could write on virtually any subject and make it riveting. She is one of the most compassionate, intelligent humans on the earth, she really must be, and she is a complete inspiration to me, not only for her writing, but mostly for the way she lives her life - so intentionally and thoughtfully.

Which was the lesson I needed, and still am holding on to, for hope during this strange and frightening period.

Now I am going type a phrase here, and I am going to cringe. Simple pleasures. God, that was so painful, I am going to type it again: simple pleasures. Sounds like the title of an Oprah magazine article, or a harlequin romance novel. But really, it's something we need to relearn in this country, and we are obviously going to have to. Enjoying our lives, and our meals, is not about expensive food trucked in from all over the country, and dining in an expensive home. Some of the best meals I had in 2008 were eaten off of plates balancing on our laps, in the modest yet terrifically bohemian and cozy apartments of my friends, made from ingredients we'd purchased that morning at the Hollywood Farmer's market.

And it was lovely.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

from the "don't try this at home, kids" file...

Every so often I try something and it just, well, tanks. Hard.

Last weekend I was geeked and inspired to try something I found on another food blog (which I will not name in this post, as it's a really good blog and I don't want to make its first mention on here a bad one!). Seared scallops, ok, fine, figured those would be great, but it was the citrus risotto that caught my eye...

I have always been adventurous with food but over the past year I have also learned that I love to prepare dishes that fuse together interesting and unexpected ingredients. So I didn't bat an eye when this recipe called for risotto cooked with chicken stock and then enhanced with citrus zest and fruit.


I had never made risotto before, had heard that it was difficult to prepare perfectly, so I was so pleased to watch my risotto cook up to a fluffy, perfect rice dish. I had a flash moment where I thought "Looks so delicious, it seems a shame to mix a bunch of citrus into it"...

Note to self: listen to those flashes.

st. and I spent nearly 30 minutes zesting 1 grapefruit, 2 limes, and an orange, then cutting each piece of fruit into sections (called "supreming" apparently) only to unceremoniously dump it into the bowl of flawless risotto.

It tasted...awkward, like mismatched clothing (if, um, you could taste mismatched clothing, or something...I am sure you get my drift). UNgood. Not terrible, mind you, or even sort of gross, just ungood. The citrus flesh did not shred up and mix in the way I was led to believe it would,
and after each bite I just had a quizzical look on my face. I threw the rest out, and I had a pretty huge pot of it made up. It's a damn shame.

The entire meal wasn't a bust, thankfully, as I made a brilliant red snapper. Red snapper, you ask? Yes, that's right. I couldn't find scallops to save my life, so red snapper it was. I baked it with garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce and a little red wine. Divine.