Jan 26, 2010

Coming Soon...

In my ideal blogging world, I would update at least twice a week with a new recipe. But this week my immune system and I have been swamped. When I am sick, I can deal with the amount of tissues that litter my floor or the bottle of water glued to my hand but I HATE the little vacation my taste buds take. It seems my chamomile taste receptors are the only ones with me through thick and thin. Don't give up on me yet, I have big plans for soon to be posts! Here's just a little taste (you can taste this polaroid about as much as I can taste my dinner right now!)

*That is fresh pasta, camouflaging into my cutting board

Jan 24, 2010

Food for Thought

Have you ever wondered why it is that all of the Food Network guru’s tell us time after time to use ‘kosher salt’? I do! And while this thought may only last half as long as it actually takes to say ‘I wonder why I have to use kosher salt?’, every time I hear those words… a big flashing why scrolls across a marquee in my head. We add kosher salt to EVERYTHING… food, water, snow, rims of drinks, snails (I did this once as a kid, it was terrible and I cried) etc., so shouldn’t we know what the name is all about??

In school, teachers always say that if you have a question, ask it! Because chances are someone else is wondering the same thing, but they are too afraid to ask. I was always the latter student. So now I’m going out on that limb. I am asking and hopefully those teachers were right and you all are wondering what in the salty world ‘kosher salt’ really means. If not... here is a picture of my two adorable love sponges to make this post worth while for you...


Kosher salt (as opposed to table salt) is larger grain salt and does not contain the additive iodine.  Kosher, in this case, is short for koshering. Sources differ on their explanation, but most agree that the name came from it’s koshering properties. This salt was used to make meats kosher, by helping to extract the blood. The larger grain helped it do this, since the meat absorbed smaller grains too easily. According to Bon Appetit, table salt and kosher salt are not created equal. 1 tsp. of table salt is equal to 1 ½ Tablespoons of Kosher salt.  WHO KNEW?? Not me!
Since the words of Ina, Giada, and Alton have been ingrained (pun intended) in my mind, I always use kosher salt when a recipe calls for ‘salt’. I can’t say that ive tested the 1 tsp. table salt = 1 ½ Tbls. Kosher salt theory either. Whether its baking or cooking, when I list ‘salt’ in a recipe, I am referring to kosher salt.

So there's your food for thought Friday… on Sunday :) I hope you can rest (and cook) better, knowing the truth behind the name…*cue law & order sound…DUN DUN*  KOSHER SALT. 

I don’t want to leave you without a recipe… so here is one that’s short and simple.
Olive Oil Toasts

Cut as many 1/2 inch slices from a baguette as you would like. Toast them for a few minutes in the broiler until slightly golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle each with the freshest olive oil you can buy**. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt, and viola! Perfect snack/appetizer!

It may sound boring, but the quality of the olive oil really makes these great! The better the olive oil, the better these little toasts will be.

**Olive oil has been freshly pressed recently, so now is the time to find the real deal. You can find FRESH olive oil at most Italian specialty stores. If you are in the bay area, go to the Pasta Shop in Berkeley. I recently purchased a great newly pressed olive oil there and it is fantastic. And unlike wine, olive oil does NOT get better with age. The younger the better!!

Jan 20, 2010

Why Cook Spaghetti In Water When You Can Cook It In Wine?

     For 8 months in 2008/09 I lived in Florence, Italy. From September to April I ate my way through Florence, then through Italy, and eventually through 14 other countries. I think it’s safe to say it was the best time of my life.  I kept  journals and wrote in them daily. Instead of filling the pages with stories of delicious, cute, hott Italian boys or things I missed about home, I wrote about what I ate and how amazing it was. I wish I had them with me right now to quote some of it because I am sure I sounded like a school girl in love, but really… I was writing about food. What amazes me is how much I can remember about a place or time, just by thinking about what I ate. For example, say to me ‘Ricciarelli’ and I will think of ALL the things I remember about Siena, not just the cookie (as delicious as it was). Or say ‘Spaghetti dell'ubriacone’ and I think of EVERYTHING about Florence.

While living and travelling in Europe, I fell in love with streets and trees, sculptures and buildings everyday. But my true love was the food. Anywhere and everywhere I went I made sure to fully experience the country through its food. My culinary inspiration grew each day, as did waistline. I could write for days about those 8 months, but I will stick with one dish in particular for this post.

I have a long list of favorite places to eat in Florence. If you are ever planning a trip there, email me and I will fill you in on all you need to know about eating in Florence. This book was a big help. One of my favorite places is Osteria de Benci. I can’t count the number of times I went there, but I can tell you that I ordered the same thing EVERY time. Usually I venture out at restaurants that I love, wanting to experience all they have to offer. But I was too in love with this one dish. On the walk over to the osteria, I always tried to convince the taste buds in the frontal lobe of my brain to give the rest of the menu a shot and just when I was about convinced to try something new, the personified plate of purple spaghetti appeared on my shoulder with big doe eyes and I knew I couldn’t reject him. Lucky for me, I had a system down with my friends. I ordered the spaghetti dell'ubriacone (drunk spaghetti) while someone else ordered the eliche del profeta (a cheesy fusili pasta tossed with olive oil, oregano and fresh tomatoes), and another ordered the strawberry risotto (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it). I got the best of all three worlds every time.

Of all the images, tastes, and smells that pop into my head when I think of Florence, the spaghetti dell'ubriacone is near the top. I miss osteria de benci almost as much as I missed my family while I was living so far away. That is why this pasta has become one of my staples.

The first time I heard of this red wine pasta, I thought it was weird. You might think its weird too, but try it. Then as you slurp up your last drunken noodle, book your flight to Florence and have the real deal. While I can tell you how to make the pasta, I can't give you the experience of enjoying it in the city herself, which only adds to the flavor of my memory of this dish.

Just because the spaghetti is purple, doesn’t make this is difficult to make. It might seem difficult, but read through it and you will see it is actually quiet simple.

This does not do the original spaghetti dell’ubracione much justice. In Michael Chiarello’s recipe on food network, he adds broccoli rabe to this pasta. I add broccolini instead and add pine nuts as well.

Red Wine Pasta

Serves 4

•One bunch broccolini (most of the stems trimmed off)
•1 pound spaghetti
•2 bottles red wine of your liking (1 for the spaghetti to drink and 1 for you to drink)
•1 big pinch of sugar (or about a teaspoon is you wish to measure)
•1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
•5 garlic cloves, chopped (use 4 for a milder garlic flavor)
•1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this has a mild spice, I like to add a bit more though)
•salt & pepper
•½ c pine nuts, toasted slightly
•½ c. grated Parmesan (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. When the water has come to a boil, add in the broccolini, only for about 2-3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain. DO NOT DRAIN, save the water to cook the spaghetti in! (if you got caught up in the steamy broccolini moment and drained it all, that’s ok. Just fill the pot back up with water).

Return the water to a boil and cook the spaghetti for 5 minutes. Reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Now you can drain the whole pot into the colander (take out the broccolini and set aside before you drain the spaghetti!)

Return the now empty pasta pot to the stove. Add one entire bottle of wine to the pot along with the sugar. Bring this to a boil and let it boil vigorously for about 2 minutes to allow the wine to concentrate and cook down a bit.

Add the spaghetti to the boiling wine and stir**. Boil the pasta in this wine for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until most of the wine is absorbed and the noodles are al dente (almost like cooking risotto).

**Right when you add the spaghetti to the wine, cook the garlic and pepper flakes in the olive oil in a LARGE deep skillet or pan (large enough to hold all the spaghetti). Cook over med-low heat so the garlic does not burn and become bitter. Cook until the garlic is a light golden color (about 5 min.). Now add the broccolini and a pinch of salt and pepper to this. Cook together about another minute. Add ½ c. of the reserved pasta water.

When the spaghetti is finished cooking, add in the pine nuts and pour the whole pot into to the broccolini mixture. Toss together. Cook another minute or 2. Remove from the stove. Add more salt and pepper, a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if you so well please.

Buon Appetito!

Jan 15, 2010

Food For Thought Friday

I love Fridays!!! Every Friday I am going to try and make a point of posting something for readers to give some thought to. Sometimes ill it'll be an interesting fact or quote and other times it will be a question or a thought that has popped up in my head. Either way I hope it is something that gets your foodie noggin wheels turning! I encourage you take take a minute or so to THINK and post a comment with your thoughts or reactions because we can learn something from everyone. Hope your holiday weekend is relaxing and filled with good food. 

Americans eat less than .25% of the known edible food on the planet.

Besides thinking about this, please keep the people of Haiti in your thoughts. The earthquake has left thousands suffering from grief, homelessness and hunger. I have been thinking about what I can do or ways I can help. I do not have a large sum to donate, but I do know that I spend an unnecessary sum of money on small luxuries every week. Luxuries which I can live without for a while. So I have decided to take the money I usually spend weekly on coffee breaks and donate it to the World Food Programme to help the hungry in Haiti. What can you do to help? 

If you are interested in donating to the World Food Programme here is the link: Help the Hungry in Haiti

Jan 13, 2010

If at First You Don't Succeed... Make Brownies

Before I say anything else I need to get something off my chest. I [insert favorite expletive here] hate my oven! A few days ago, I uncovered what looked to be like a fantastic scone recipe. Well, it looked like a good scone recipe, but I wanted to make it fantastic. So to make a long story short, the world will never know if they were fantastic because of my [use the same or second favorite expletive here] oven hates me. It burns up the flesh of everything I stick in there,  leaving the inside doughy enough to throw at the second story window of any building and have it stick. Trust me on that.

So in a nutshell, the scones didn’t pass the taste test. But if at first a practicing foodie doesn’t succeed… she makes brownies.

There is something so nostalgic about brownies. Maybe it's an evolutionary thing since I would argue most humans come out of the womb loving brownies. While that may be a stretch, I really don’t understand why brownies get me so weak in the knees!

Although I am a practicing foodie, cooking hasn’t always been my biggest obsession. My obsessive personaility trait all started off with stickers I believe. I was a 10 year old sticker junkie. I had an encyclopedias worth of sticker books. Why? I don’t know. What did I do with them all? nothing. Then there was my Spongebob phase. Besides day dreaming of being a little old lady with a ‘bikini bottoms’ mural painted on my bedroom wall, I had a shrine dedicated to him in my closet. Then came an obsession with Clay (no. not the sculpting kind. More like the American Idol kind). MOVING ON! Then I went away to college and a funny thing happened. I was in a shoebox of a room with a microwave, mini fridge, a can opener, and all I wanted to do was BAKE. So I worked with what I had. I made pudding pie (store bought graham cracker crust and Jell-O pudding packs) and created my own innovations. I took marshmallows, rolled them in melted chocolate, and then rolled them in graham cracker crumbs. I always left them along with chocolate covered strawberries in the dorm lounge, greeting whoever walked in. Then I tried scones (from a mix). I found a working oven, conveniently placed right next to the washer and dryer. Besides a slight hint of laundry detergent, they were GOOD scones. Now that those dorm days are long gone I can smile because life is way better in the world of apartments with kitchens.

Okay back to the brownies!!! These brownies remind me of my first college years because they are so simple and would have been perfect to make in my little shoebox . This requires ONE microwavable bowl.  ONE 8 x 8 inch baking pan. And ONE oven, preferably not a [first expletive here] oven.

I took these out of the oven two hours ago, and the aroma is still clinging to the walls. One day ill invent brownie room spray ( hmm… I see a new obsession in my future).

While these bake I suggest closing all windows and doors in order to marinate your self in the delicious air. Close your eyes and I bet you will be able to smell each individual ingredient: the butter, the cocoa, the sugar, the NUTELLA as they bake together into a beautiful 8 x 8 brownie.

The Practicing Foodie Brownie

•    10 Tbs. Butter (always unsalted)
•    1 Cup + 3 Tbs. Sugar
•    ¾ Cup + 2 Tbs. Cocoa Powder
•    ¼ tsp. Salt
•    1 ½  tsp. vanilla
•    2 eggs (I used Large)- room temp!!
•    ½ Cup Flour
•    Nuts (OPTIONAL)
•    A nice big spoonful of Nutella                               

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 x 8 inch baking pan

In a large glass bowl (I used a 4-cup glass measuring cup) stir together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Then cut the butter into chunks and add it to the sugar mixture.

Place this  in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Remove and stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. Do this until the butter is melted and incorporated.

Now stir in the vanilla and Nutella while it is still warm so the Nutella melts nicely. Wait for it to cool down for a couple of minutes so the heat doesn't cook the eggs when you add them. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat vigorously until well mixed. Add the second egg and stir vigorously again, until the batter is thick and shiny and everything is incorporated well.

Now add the flour and mix, stirring really well for about 30 seconds.  This can be a bit of a work out.

Now add the nuts, if you want too. I usually add walnuts, but since I was out of walnuts I used some pistachios I had. This was an experiment so I only sprinkled the pistachios on 1/3 of the pan once the brownie mix was poured in. I must say, I thought the chocolate pistachio flavor was great! Next time I may add the pistachios into the batter!! If you are skeptical, pour half the batter into one side of the pan, add pistachios to the remaining batter and pour it to the other half of the pan. One of my mottos is to do one thing that scares you everyday. This could be your one thing!

Pop this into the oven… I hesitate to give you a time since your oven is probably going to cook much different than mine (I envy you). I bake mine exactly 20 minutes and they are perfect. You should bake them until a toothpick comes out nearly clean, except for a little rawness at the bottom.

Sit down, relax and enjoy the foodie aromatherapy.

I suggest waiting until they are completely cool before cutting them. But if you cant wait that long… I understand.

Happy baking.

Click this picture to print

Jan 10, 2010

Cooking For One

 I live in a house with three of my best girlfriends and thank GOD they love to eat! And even better, they love to cook! And if it weren’t for their encouragement and constant inspiration, I’m not sure this blog would have gotten its feet off the ground. I am so very grateful to have them. With all of our different schedules, there are times when there is no one home to be in the kitchen with me. These are rare and sad times, but when Jason Mraz starts playing through the speakers, everything is fine.

Tonight was the first night of the year that I cooked dinner alone. Each time I cook alone is different. Sometimes I pull on my comfort snuggie and make an omelet with whatever is in the fridge. Other times I see it as the prefect opportunity to try something new. I don't need to worry about the outcome. If it’s terrible, nobody else will have to know about it! Right!? And while I do love help and collaboration in the kitchen, cooking alone can be very zen for me. Anyhow tonight, I turned up the volume to ‘Make It Mine’, threw my comfort snuggie aside and poured myself a big glass of wine (I do need it for the recipe after all), I knew it was a night to try out something new, solo.

A couple weeks back I was reading through some old Chez Panisse cookbooks
. I LOVE these cookbooks!! I want to cut out every print and frame it. Heck I want to frame all the recipes too! They are written so beautifully and I am instantly lured into them. There is one recipe that has been on my mind since. It sounded delightfully rich, fairly simple, and perfect.

It was a recipe for sautéed mushrooms, spooned over thick slices of crusty bread.  As I opened the fridge tonight, mushrooms were the first things I saw and yummy sautéed mushrooms were the first things I thought of.

The recipe came from the Chez Panisse Café cookbook, but I followed the technique more so than the ingredients, personalizing it to my tastes, since it was only I eating it tonight!

The result was, for lack of a better word, DELICIOUS. I cannot think of a time when I have made something so delectable…ever. I literally closed my eyes, hoping that taking away my sense of sight would make my senses of smell and taste that much stronger. I want this as the first course to my last meal, whenever it may be. These mushrooms had such a smooth, velvety texture to them. They were just creamy enough without being too creamy. All the ingredients joined together in a prefect medley of flavors.

While I enjoyed my dinner for one tonight, I wish I could have shared it with a full house. I almost felt guilty having it all to myself. But the guilt lasted all of two seconds.

Marvelous Sauteed Mushrooms [serves 1-4 people]

½-1 Tablespoon butter

extra virgin olive oil

½ a yellow onion (small/med), diced

1 Tablespoon red wine (one that’s good enough to drink)

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

¼ cup mascarpone cheese, close to room temp. (like an Italian cream cheese, found in most any grocery store)

1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

10 oz. pack or sliced cremini mushrooms

Slices of crusty bread

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt together the butter and about a Tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized sauté pan. Once melted, add the diced onion and sauté over med. heat, cooking until it is a light brown color, stirring frequently. Once browned, add the wine, wait until it has evaporated a bit (less than a minute), then add the white wine vinegar, sauté another minute or so, and season with salt and pepper (a pinch of each). Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese until well-incorporated, let sit.

Take the sliced mushrooms and toss them together with 2-3 tablespoon olive oil, the thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Pour this into a stoneware baking dish. I used a  11” oval sized dish, you can use a larger one, but don’t go much smaller. Pop it in the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, stirring it every 5 minutes or so. They are done when they are nice and tender and have released their juices.

Then, add the mascarpone mixture to the mushrooms, mix together, and pop back in the oven for another couple minutes.

While this is going on, cut up some slices of nice crusty bread and toast them.

When the mushrooms are done cooking, take them out of the oven and grate just a tablespoon or so of Parmesan and mix. Spoon the mushrooms over the toasted bread, making sure to get some of the juices with it. Close your eyes and bite. :)

I adapted this from a recipe in the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook. I encourage you to make your own changes or adaptations and make this your own!

** To Print This Recipe Without Printing The Whole Blog, Click The Picture Below And Print That Page**

Jan 8, 2010

What is it to be a practing foodie?

     Some people practice medicine, some practice law, but as for me, I practice FOOD. I live to Eat. Sleep. Drink. Breathe FOOD. I go to bed excited for breakfast, and at breakfast I am thinking about lunch and dinner. Practicing law involves giving legal advice to clients. Practicing food involves sharing love, passion, and insights on everything about food. Whether it's what kind of food to eat, where to eat, or what to cook... i have something to blog about. I spend more time reading cookbooks than textbooks and Santa was at his best when he left me a kitchen aid under the tree (even though the year of a hundred beanie babies equipped with tag-protectors was damn good too, but we don't talk about that anymore).
     Everything about food inspires me. It is a creative outlet and reduces any type of stress (except when attempting Indian food, I get stressed trying to succeed at making Indian food). My good friend Merriam Webster considers a 'foodie' to be a person having an avid interest in food. For me, 'avid' doesn't even cover it. 
     So for all you food junkies out there (not to be confused with junk foodies)... this is for you! I hope it inspires you, or at least entertains you for some time :)

'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,' said Piglet at last, 'whats the first thing you say to yourself?'
'Whats for breakfast?' said Pooh. 'What do you say Piglet?'
'I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?' said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
'It's the same thing' he said.
        -- A.A. Milne