Sunday, October 31, 2010

I'm moving into my new house!

...And it's chaos, as you might imagine. Real recipes soon, I promise.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cookbook review: Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow is the brainchild of Stephanie O'Dea, founder of the blog A Year of Slow Cooking.

Usually CrockPot cookbooks involve a lot of recipes with cream-of-something soup or jarred salsa. You know, a lot of beans, a lot of beef stew, maybe some mulled wine. This is the first one I've seen that has recipes for yogurt, lobster bisque, cedar-planked salmon, ginger teriyaki tofu, pho, breakfast risotto. There are even recipes for play dough and crayons (yes, apparently you can make crayons in your CrockPot. Who knew?). And not a can of cream-of-something soup in sight.

So I'll definitely be getting a lot of use out of this one. After all, winter is coming, and winter is the perfect time of year to bust out the CrockPot. Especially if it's to make something other than the standard beef stew.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cookbook review: Speakeasy

Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined, from New York's Employees Only Bar is one of those fancy cocktail books that makes me want to go buy crazy obscure things at the liquor store. There are your basic cocktail books--Mr. Boston and so on--and then there are these, the kind with carefully lit photos, that employ Black Mission figs and Campari and Pimm's No. 1 and egg white foam in the drinks (those aren't all in the same drink, thank God).

The main problem with books like that is that normal people don't stock Barsol Pisco Quebranta brandy or Benedictine or Ricard pastis in their home bars. So the opportunity for recreating these drinks is minimal. However, I've been to Employees Only. The drinks there are awesome, and while not quite at the mixology level of, say, Death and Company, they are still profoundly complicated and yummy.

My husband has converted me to the Land of the Cocktail. Before him, I was a drink purist. Two ingredients only, and one of the ingredients was usually ice. Grey Goose on the rocks normally, perhaps some Woodford Reserve neat in the winter. But now we experiment with St. Germain and Cointreau and chocolate bitters, and it's great. So I asked him to peruse this book and tell me what he thought.

He determined that he wanted to try a Negroni--a classic drink, which in this incarnation calls for Plymouth gin, Campari, Cinzano sweet vermouth, and an orange twist.

So if you're a beginner home bartender, I recommend sticking with Mr. Boston. If you're stocking Chartreuse in your home bar, then this might be a good book for you. It's definitely for someone interested in, and familiar with, mixology.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cookbook review: Eat Tweet

Eat Tweet by Maureen Evans is the world's first cookbook rendered in Tweet (is that a language?), compiled from her Twitter feed, in which she Tweets entire recipes in 140 characters or less. (Follow her Twitter feed here.)

So, for example, Summer Lasaga is rendered as:
Slice eggplant&zuke/4 oz mozz; oil, s+p, broil veg. Lyr3x c TomSauce/cookdlasagnanoodle/veg/mozz/basil, +1/2c sauce&parm. h@325F.

Got that? So you'd slice eggplant and zucchini, plus 4 oz mozzarella, and broil the vegetables in oil with salt and pepper. Then you'd layer those with p tomato sauce, cooked lasagna noodles, basil, and the mozzarella, and top with parmesan. Bake one hour at 325.

If you're not fluent in Twitter abbreviations, interpreting the cookbook can be a bit of challenge. But it's fun to see recipes boiled down to their essentials (no pun intended). It's a tiny little thing, no pictures, but with a ton of great recipes--and a handy decoding chart, just in case.

It took a few minutes for my brain to settle into full decoding mode, but once it did, I really loved this cookbook. It's different, it's fun, it's little. And I'm excited to see the new recipes on her Twitter feed.

And speaking of Twitter feeds, follow mine here!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Toasted chickpeas

This makes for a great snack, or salad topping. You can use canned chickpeas, but their texture tends to be mushy; I'd recommend using dried for this if at all possible. (Soaked and cooked, of course.)

2 cups cooked (or canned) chickpeas
2 tablespoons olive oil
A sprinkling of paprika

Pour the olive oil into a casserole/Pyrex type dish, and add the chickpeas. Swirl them around so they're coated in the olive oil, and spread them out in a single layer. Sprinkle with paprika and a little salt. Roast at 400 for 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lemon focaccia with lime-coconut salt

I used to date this guy who baked amazing focaccia bread. At the time, I thought that was the sexiest trait I'd ever seen in a man. Then one day he dumped me, for still-murky reasons. But hey, I got a good focaccia recipe out of it. Here it is.

I added a few slices of thinly-sliced lemon to the top (make sure you wash it well, to get off the wax) and a couple teaspoons of a lime-coconut smoked salt I bought on my travels last summer. Be sure to add the olive oil to the pan before the salt: I reversed the order and ended up with really salty crusts, because the olive oil washed all the salt to the sides. I took it to a brunch in Boston and it was a big hit!

I recommend making two batches, because you'll need to taste some "just to make sure it turned out right," and then before you know it, you'll have eaten most of the pan.

Monday, October 25, 2010

And the winner is...

Danielle! Danielle, send an email with your address to by midnight tonight to claim your copy of The Silver Spoon for Children!

Chicken noodle soup

Easy peasy!

Chicken soup is naturally bland; because my husband was sick, I left it that way. But if you're not sick, feel free to jazz up this recipe with more spices or whatever.
  • One chopped onion and a few chopped cloves of garlic, sauteed in olive oil until soft.
  • Add to that a few chopped carrots and stalks of celery.
  • After it's all soft, deglaze with a splash of white wine and add some already cooked chicken (I used four chicken thighs, cut up and then cooked).
  • Add a package of penne or other pasta.
  • Add enough chicken broth to float the entire thing, plus more as the pasta will soak up a lot.
  • Add seasonings: salt, pepper, dried red pepper flakes, a little cumin.
  • Let that all cook down for a while, until the pasta is cooked through.
  • Add a frozen package of peas.
  • Wait two more minutes.
  • Serve.
All told, a few minutes of pre-chopping and 20-30 minutes of cooking. I promise it'll taste a hell of a lot better than the canned stuff.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cookbook review: The Silver Spoon for Children

The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes has been adapted from the much larger cookbook The Silver Spoon. It says "for children." I think what it really means is "for teenagers," or possibly "for very small gourmands." I don't know any children--my 11-year-old stepson included--who could be forced to choke down Baked Cod with Vegetables or Tuna and Bean Salad. Not even under pain of death. Certainly he could not tortured into actually touching an eggplant, much less eating one.

However, if your children are among the enlightened few, this is a beautifully illustrated and laid-out cookbook, with step-by-step instructions on making Italian favorites--pizza, lasagna, roast lamb. I could probably talk my stepson into helping me make fresh pasta dough, to be made into cheese ravioli, but it's a toss-up as to whether he would eat any of it. It's definitely not a cookbook for beginner child chefs. But it could be a cookbook for beginner adult chefs who are interested in Italian food. Or the afore-mentioned teenagers.

And I'm giving away a copy, dear readers! Leave a comment as to your child's favorite dish (or niece, or nephew, or any other child in your life) by midnight EST and I'll randomly select a winner!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

And the winner is...

...Jessica! Who loves making her own pizza. Jessica, send an email with your address to by midnight tonight to claim your prize!

Wine from my collection: Elena Cabernet Franc 2008

Elena Cabernet Franc 2008 ($15.99, though I got it for $9.99 on sale) is pretty good for a $10-15 bottle of cab franc. It's not too tannic, fruity, well-balanced. A little dark for my taste, but also not too spicy. I'm not sure I'd bother seeking it out again, but this bottle is going down pretty easily. Certainly better than the cheap pinot noir I was trying to get through.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cookbook review: What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby

What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby is the second cookbook you should have in your library (next to The Joy of Cooking).

This is a cookbook for beginners, in the best sense of the word. Big, beautiful, and best of all, every step has a photo. Yep. Every one. Which means each recipe runs multiple pages, but hey, the photography is so pretty, and the recipes so simple, that it doesn't matter. It covers the basics (omelets, risotto, pizza) as well as slightly more advanced options (pad thai, coq au vin, eggplant parm). It also includes a photo of all the ingredients you'll need, which is especially neat--you can see exactly what you need before you ever get started (also helps in identifying new ingredients, like chard or chorizo, so you don't look like a complete idiot in the grocery store). There's even a section on menu planning. It claims to be "fool-proof"; it's the first cookbook I've seen that might actually be. If you're an advanced home chef, it probably won't tell you anything you don't already know; but it's still really pretty.

And this marks my 350th post! As a celebration, I'm giving away this cookbook! Leave a comment about your favorite recipe/post from my blog thus far (by midnight EST), and I'll randomly select a winner, to be announced tomorrow!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cookbook review: Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia

Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller features a lot of the food I grew up on: country ham, coleslaw, sweet potato pie, fried okra, chicken noodle casserole, burgoo, collard greens. I'm from Southern Appalachia (with a healthy dose of Tidewater Virginia thrown in), so I was curious to see this collection of recipes.

In addition to what you'd expect (fried chicken, green tomato pickles, redeye gravy), there are also old Cherokee recipes (pepper pot soup, fry bread, yam cakes), and representative recipes from the other groups of settlers over the years (Africans, Shakers, German, Irish). Some of the recipes involve what I always hated about Southern cooking: a dependence on name brand/pre-packaged ingredients. The Cream of Pear Soup calls for frozen white grape juice concentrate and French Vanilla Cool Whip; Cowboy Gravy requires two cans of corned beef hash (cans! of corned beef hash! ewww); the Party Ham requires a can of fruit cocktail, with juice.

But there's also Bacon Muffins with Sweet Onion Butter; Trout Cakes; Corncob Jelly; Grilled Okra with Pine Nuts; and Cider Beans (which, for the uninitiated, are pinto beans slow-cooked in fresh apple cider with salt pork and molasses). Which I'll be making, 'cause it's that time of year. I was pleasantly surprised to see unfamiliar recipes, and modern twists on old classics (Grilled Okra with Pine Nuts, for example); I was a little afraid it would be all Jell-O salad and squirrel gumbo. Fortunately, not a box of Jell-O in sight. It's a great introduction to that part of the world.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cookbook review: My New Orleans by John Besh

You know, I used to be a somewhat normal person. (Stop laughing.) I used to get excited by normal things: pretty shoes, drinks out, a new dress, the new Chuck Palahniuk. Then one day, I realized I was walking right past Jimmy Choo to go drool inside Williams Sonoma. I quit buying cashmere sweaters and started buying Le Creuset. Now when I have money to spend on books, I skip the front of the bookstore entirely and make a beeline straight for the cookbooks section. I haven't spent money on an actual book in at least two years--I get those from the library. But cookbooks? Kitchen stuff? Fancy salt and stinky cheese and wild boar sausage? Fuggedaboutit. It's like crack.

And if regular cookbooks are like crack, My New Orleans by John Besh is like...heroin. A fresh batch of crystal meth. Chocolate. Insert insanely addictive substance here. It's food porn at its best. It's a 374-page monstrosity, with over 200 of his recipes, along with stories and some of the most beautiful food and landscape photography I've ever seen in a cookbook. It doesn't hurt that New Orleans cuisine is near and dear to my heart. (I probably wouldn't get nearly as excited over a cookbook featuring, say, Russian cuisine.) Plus I'm now in a place where I can get fresh seafood, so I got that going for me now.

It's not a beginner cookbook, but it's also not a complicated or difficult cookbook. If you know what a roux is, you'll get good use out of this one. (I've already got shrimp gravy stains on several pages.) If you don't know what a roux is, but know that you like gumbo (or etouffee, or jambalaya, or beignets), it's still a great book to have. If you've ever been to New Orleans, or wanted to go, see above.

I also love the fact that Besh features regional specialties: mayhaw jelly, rabbit, redfish, frogs, turtle soup, head cheese. Not that I'll be making head cheese anytime soon: but it's nice to know that these old recipes are being preserved and utilized somewhere in the world. New Orleans is one of the few cities left in the country that can be said to have its own cuisine, which is why I love the Big Easy so much; most of America has succumbed to a particularly bland food hegemony in the form of fast food and big-box chain restaurants (Applebee's, Chili's) in which quality has been sacrificed for predictability. It's the Wal-mart-ization of food, and it sucks. Don't get me started.

Besh has also included some modern touches in the old standbys--lemongrass in the shrimp creole, for instance. Which I've gotta try. Grilled redfish with a corn and ginger salad. Truffled spoonbread. Crab fat butter. I ate at Restaurant August, his flagship restaurant in New Orleans, a couple of years ago. The service was off that night, but the food was great. At the time, the menu there was much more high cuisine (foie gras, venison) and not so much adaptations of home cookin'/regional specialties. The menu now seems much more like the stuff in this cookbook. I may have to go again.

Anyway. Five stars on this cookbook. I foresee an immediate weight gain of at least five pounds. Much as I love New Orleans, I don't think I could ever live there without getting enormously fat.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bulgur wheat "risotto" with corn and shrimp

Turns out you can make risotto with arborio rice, pearled barley, or bulgur wheat! Best of all, if you leave off the shrimp in this recipe, you can create a fully vegan risotto.

I keep bulgur wheat around to make tabbouleh, but with fresh tomatoes out of season now, I needed something else to do with it. You make this risotto ("risotto") the same way you make any other, to wit:

Saute a finely chopped onion (or a couple shallots) in olive oil until translucent. Add a cup of bulgur wheat, stir, and cook an additional minute. Deglaze with a little white wine. Add chicken broth (or veggie broth), a little at a time, until the bulgur wheat is cooked through and most of the liquid is gone.

Then add a package of frozen corn, and a couple handfuls of shrimp (fresh or frozen) if you're using them. Cook until the shrimp are just pink, then remove from the heat and add the juice of a lime, a bunch of chopped cilantro, and salt.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Barley risotto

Made the same way as regular risotto, but with pearled barley instead of rice!

Saute a finely chopped onion (or a couple shallots) in olive oil until translucent. Add a cup of pearled barley (or arborio rice), stir, and cook an additional minute. Deglaze with a little white wine. Add chicken broth (or veggie broth), a little at a time, until the barley is cooked through and most of the liquid is gone. Add a handful or two of freshly grated parmesan, stir, and serve.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wine from my collection: Arancio Pinot Noir 2007

Arancio Pinot Noir ($9.99) is...well, it's fine. It's not great. It's not bad, either. It's fruity, but a bit too tannic, and the alcohol taste is too strong. Overall it lacks depth. Pinot is a tricky wine, and while it's very possible to find a good one under $25, it's very hard to find a good one under $10. I drank part, and used the rest of the bottle for cooking.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Boneless pork ribs

Mmmm...boneless pork ribs.

I picked these up at Sam's Club, reduced down to $5 (for 2.5 lbs). Boneless ribs are a bit of a misnomer, I know, but hey, they're still good.

Mix together in a casserole dish:
2 parts barbecue sauce
1 part Worchestershire
1 part soy sauce

Coat the ribs in the mixture, both sides, and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 275 for 2 or 2 1/2 hours (or until done). Try to resist the temptation to remove the foil to check on them. The marinade makes a good sauce to serve with them when done.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cookbook review: The Indian Slow Cooker

I love Indian food, and I love my CrockPot. The Indian Slow Cooker ($14.36 at Amazon) would seem to be the perfect combination of those things, especially since I keep meaning to experiment more with Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines.

But I think I will have to test-run a couple of these recipes first. I like the concept, but I think the cookbook has been written for people already familiar with Indian food and not with relative novices like me--many of the recipes include hard-to-find ingredients like black lentils, black chickpeas, pigeon peas, and tamarind paste. Then again, it doesn't include nearly so many weird ingredients as some Indian cookbooks I've seen. The vast majority of the spices are easily obtainable (garam masala, turmeric, cumin), and the recipes with weird stuff have easily obtainable substitutions (you could use another color lentil instead of black lentils, for example, though I assume the end result won't be exactly the same).

So I'm going to test-run a couple before I offer up my final verdict. Perhaps some potato curry or chicken tikka masala. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Molasses bread

Here is Mark Bittman's recipe for whole wheat and molasses bread. What better way to use some of that fresh molasses I got in Vermont?

A few notes: I used the milk + vinegar method, as I didn't have any buttermilk. The finished product was very dense but flavorful, although it could have used a little more salt.

Excellent (and healthy) breakfast toast!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Lobster Pot, and Wellfleet oysters

This weekend my hubby and I explored Cape Cod, all the way up to Provincetown. It was our first time in Cape Cod. I imagine it's a zoo in the summer, but in the off-season, it was quite lovely and not at all crowded. Of course, mid-October in Massachusetts is a bit chilly, especially at the beach.

We drove through many of the quaint little towns, explored the national park seashore, and stopped in Provincetown for some super-fresh seafood at The Lobster Pot. The place was a little touristy, and very busy, but hey, we got a waterfront view. He had lobster, I had fresh Wellfleet oysters and halibut. Quite possibly the best oysters I've ever had. Combined with the fresh-out-of-the-tree maple syrup we'd had with our breakfast, he declared it to be "one of the best food days ever."

I'm definitely going to be searching out Wellfleet oysters from now on. Sweet, but also pleasantly briny, very firm and meaty, with a clean, fresh aftertaste. Three Michelin stars from me.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roasted root vegetable soup

Here are the root vegetables I roasted:
1 butternut squash
2 celeriac
3 rutabagas
1 big white turnip
1 big parsnip
2 heads of garlic
Several potatoes

To roast them, just cut them in half and place them cut side down on a little olive oil in a 375-degree oven. Roast until you can put a fork all the way through them. Let cool and peel, then chop roughly.

I sauteed an onion in olive oil, then added all the cut-up roasted vegetables, with enough vegetable broth to float the whole thing. I let that cook down for a little while, to blend the flavors, then pureed the whole thing in my food processor (in batches, mind you) and put it back in the pan. I added a little more broth to the puree, then the seasonings: mainly curry powder, with some cumin and paprika, and salt and pepper. I served it with a sprinkling of parmesan, and some sauteed rainbow chard on top. Yum!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Black bean and butternut squash chili

You could also use sweet potatoes in this.

1 roasted butternut squash, peeled and diced
Maybe 4 cups of black beans
1 14.5 oz can tomatoes
1 diced onion
1 head of garlic, chopped
Chicken or vegetable broth
Seasonings: cumin, chili powder, paprika, dried red pepper flakes, cayenne, salt
Optional: peppers (green, jalapeno, etc.)

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft. You could deglaze with a little white wine here. Add the can of tomatoes, then the squash, then everything else, with enough broth to float the whole thing. Let cook down over medium-low heat until the beans are done. Season to taste.

I added some chopped leftover salami, which was pretty darn good. But you could easily leave the meat out to make this vegetarian or vegan (with veggie broth instead of chicken). Either way, it was delicious! A perfect fall soup, and very easy.

Cost: $2.50 for the squash (it was pretty big) and maybe 75 cents for the dried beans. 90 cents for the can of tomatoes. Let's say 20 cents for the onion and garlic, purchased in bulk, and another 15 cents for spices. I'll leave out the cost of the broth (homemade) and the optional meat/peppers. So $4.50 total, and I got six adult servings out of this, easy. Maybe more. Total cost per serving: 75 cents or less.

Butternut Squash on FoodistaButternut Squash

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Good ol' French toast

Nothing says "Saturday morning" like French toast and Bugs Bunny. To me, anyway.

Plus, I had a whole bottle of fresh-from-the-tree maple syrup from Vermont, which just cried out to be sampled. Turns out? Best. Syrup. Ever.

You probably already know how to make French toast. Whip together an egg or two with a little milk and a splash of vanilla, maybe a little cinnamon. Soak bread slices in this, then fry on both sides in some melted butter in a medium-hot skillet. Serve with butter and syrup.

And please, please, for the love of God, make sure it's REAL syrup. Aunt Jemima and other brand-name syrups are merely flavored corn syrup. If you check the label, there's never been a molecule of real maple syrup anywhere near that bottle. Real maple syrup (especially the fresh kind) is to Aunt Jemima what fresh fried chicken is to a week-old, lint-and-cat-hair-encrusted chicken nugget you found in the sofa cushions and ate anyway. It's a little more expensive, but it's money very, very well spent.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cookbook review: The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook

Well, if there were ever a cookbook that sounds perfect for me, this is it. The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour ($13.64 at Amazon). You all know of my deep and abiding love for bacon (eclipsed, perhaps, only by my love for my husband), and I can generally find a way to slip bacon or bacon fat into most everything. But we also know I'm not one of those meat-and-three fanatics that has to have a big slab of meat at every meal. I like vegetables, too. So I was pretty excited to peruse this cookbook.

The layout takes some getting used to; it groups vegetarian dishes into groups, suitable for a meal. Example: Beets and Greens Quesadillas + Roasted Red Pepper Soup, or Black Bean-Sweet Potato Chili + Skillet Corn Bread, so that the recipes for one meal might flow over several pages. It's a more intuitive layout, but takes some adjustment if you're used to the single recipe-single page format. They're also divided up by season (summer, fall, winter, spring) so you can take advantage of seasonal produce.

Happily, it's got some great recipes and great combinations. I hadn't yet thought to put a chard-lentil filling into shepherd's pie, or beets and greens into quesadillas, or making "crab cakes" out of chickpeas. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, and it's not all tofu and beans like a lot of vegetarian cookbooks. There are also plenty of vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-optional recipes.

"Vegetarian" has gotten a bad rap, mostly because people don't have the slightest idea what to do with most vegetables. Can you identify a rutabaga, a turnip, tell chard from kale from collard from mustard greens, peel an artichoke, cook and serve spaghetti squash? "Vegetarian" usually conjures up two images: the skinny chick who eats nothing but salad, and the fat chick who thinks vegetarian means eating cheese pizza and SpaghettiOs all the time. Either way, most people think cutting out meat means they're suddenly going to have to go hippie, eating a lot of lentil loaf and mung bean sprouts and tofu. It's not true--it is possibly to eat a lot of vegetables and have filling, nutrient- and protein-rich, tasty meals (without ever once eating veggie burgers or tofurkey). I'll never go fully vegetarian, but I am a less-meat-itarian. It's cheaper, it's healthier, it's more creative.

And this cookbook is great for beginner less-meat-itarians.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mushroom soup

This is a really easy recipe, and you can make it vegan if you want.

1 chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter (or you can substitute a little less olive oil)
Fresh mushrooms (I used three large portobello mushrooms caps; an equivalent amount of any other kind of mushroom, including button mushrooms, will work just fine)
1/2 cup or so dried mushrooms, reconstituted (again, any kind)
Broth (chicken or veggie is fine)

And that's it. Saute the onion in the butter until soft. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook down for 5-10 minutes. Add the dried mushrooms, with juice, and add enough broth to float the whole thing. Let simmer for an hour. Puree in your food processor, add salt and pepper, and serve with fresh bread.

Despite the hour of simmering time, this is a great thing to make on weekdays. A minimum number of ingredients and steps, and the flavor is really deep for something with only five ingredients. If you want to get fancy, you can throw in a dollop of sherry at the end (Anthony Bourdain has a similar mushroom soup recipe that uses sherry).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Shrimp and corn risotto

They may only be frozen shrimp from Sam's Club, but hey, I couldn't get even that in California. Yay for shrimp!

A good risotto is basically a template. Saute an onion or a couple of shallots in some oil. Add a cup of arborio rice and cook for another minute. Start adding liquid (I like to start with a little white wine and then use some kind of broth for the rest) and stir often. Keep adding liquid until the rice is creamy and cooked through and most of the liquid is gone. Add parmesan cheese at the end.

You can make a basic risotto just like that; or you can add almost anything else to it, somewhere in the middle. Asparagus; mushrooms; canned/sundried/fresh tomatoes; beets; winter greens; spinach; seafood; the list goes on and on.

For this one, I used the leftover crawfish broth from when I made crawfish etouffee (plus white wine, and rounded that out with chicken broth), and added a bag of frozen corn in the middle. I added two handfuls of frozen shrimp right at the end, and let those cook until just thawed/cooked through. I added fresh parsley, and voila! Shrimp and corn risotto.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wine from my collection: Headstand Chardonnay 2008

Headstand Chardonnay 2008 ($12.99) is pretty decent, as far as chardonnays go. I'm not a huge fan of chard--and true to form, this one is a bit oakey for my taste--but it's also very floral and tangy, with a nice apple aftertaste. Better with food than alone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brattleboro Food Co-op, VT

This weekend DH and I went on a little field trip. As everyone keeps telling me, the best part of living in New England is the fall. Which--hey!--it is right now. So we drove up through New Hampshire and Vermont to see the leaves.

We were a bit early for prime leaf color, but the leaves were still changing and the colors were still pretty. We drove through the White Mountains of NH and near the Green Mountains of VT, and came within 70 miles of the Canadian border. The last time I drove through NH and VT (last summer's road trip), it was pouring, so I didn't get a good sense of the scenery. Yesterday I did. It was one of those perfect fall days--55 degrees, crisp, sunny, and not a cloud in the sky. Gorgeous, just gorgeous.

We stopped off at the Brattleboro Food Co-op, where I purchased fresh maple syrup on tap (as well as molasses and honey), several fresh local Vermont cheeses, and some beautiful organic locally grown root vegetables (parsnips, white turnips, celeriac, butternut squash, and rutabagas, as well as some kale and rainbow chard). I was dismayed to discover DH could not correctly identify any of the vegetables I bought. Then I realized that unfortunately, most adults would be hard-pressed to correctly identify a rutabaga. I comforted myself with local goat cheese, made on a fully organic, wind- and solar-powered farm.

(Not that the farm's energy source had any affect on the cheese's taste. But I felt so crunchy and liberal eating it!)

So I'll be featuring various root vegetables coming up, including what they look like and how to use them. Also--fresh maple syrup!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Poached pears

The mangoes in Massachusetts are terrible, but the apples and pears are great! A ripe, juicy pear is one of the best things on earth, but unfortunately there's only about a ten-minute window of perfect for a pear. Miss that ten minutes, and they're either too hard or too soft.

But too-soft pears can be put to other uses, namely, poaching them in wine. Be sure to have lots of vanilla ice cream on hand to serve them with--some almond cookies wouldn't hurt, either.

Peel and core six to seven small pears. In a pan, combine 1/2 cup OJ, most of a bottle of a good red wine (I used Two-Buck Chuck; we could debate whether that's a "good" wine, but it did the trick), a cup of water, and some cardamom and cinnamon. Let it boil, add the pears, then simmer on low until the pears have absorbed some of the liquid and are a pleasing wine color (30 to 45 minutes). Remove the pears and bring the sauce back to a boil; let it reduce until there's only about a cup or so of liquid left. Pour that over the pears and ice cream, and enjoy.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mushroom risotto

I've finally found a decent use for all the dried shittake mushrooms I had floating around in my pantry.

I brought them with me to the hotel room because, well, they're dried. It's not like they're taking up a lot of room. And the other day I picked up some portobello mushrooms from Sam's Club ($4.98 for four HUGE portobello caps). And then I thought: mushroom risotto!

I took out maybe a cup of the dried mushrooms and put them in a bowl, and poured boiling water over them. I let that sit for a while, to let the 'shrooms reconstitute. Then I sauteed two diced shallots in some truffle oil in a big pan, and added a cup of arborio rice to that. Let the rice soak up some of the oil, maybe one minute. I then added 3/4 cup white wine and the mushroom juice from the bowl.

Risotto is just a matter of letting the rice soak up the liquid. Keep adding liquid in small batches (in this case, white wine; mushroom juice; and chicken broth, in that order, although you could use veggie broth and keep this vegan/vegetarian) and stir often until the rice is plump and cooked through and the liquid is mostly gone. Add one chopped portobello mushroom cap about halfway through the process.

At the end, add a little cream and two handfuls of grated parmesan, stir well, and salt and pepper to taste. A little fresh parsley on top won't hurt, either.

1 cup dried mushrooms
1 large portobello mushroom cap
1 cup arborio rice
Around 3 cups total liquid (wine/broth)
2 diced shallots
Truffle or olive oil
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 handfuls grated parmesan

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Poached egg salad with truffle oil

This makes a yummy, healthy, and fast breakfast. It's just greenery (lettuce, spinach, arugula, mixed salad greens, what have you) with a poached egg on top. Add a splash of truffle oil and tarragon vinegar, and some freshly grated parmesan. Add good salt and pepper. Enjoy.

Lightly poaching an egg will take about two minutes, so this takes less time to get ready than toaster waffles. Tastes better, too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wine from my collection: Francis Coppola Petite Sirah 2007

Yes, that Francis Coppola, as in Francis Ford Coppola. This is his Petite Sirah (around $16.99 retail). It's very berry-ish, a little spicy, a little smoky. It's deep and intense, a little much for drinking by itself, but it's a very good food wine. Just make sure you're drinking it with something that can stand up to it--red meat, or mushroom soup, or something like that.