Sunday, August 23, 2009

Espinacas (Spanish style chick peas and spinach)

Serves 2-4

- 1 T butter
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- One 15-oz can chick peas
- One 10-oz package washed spinach
- 2" piece of spicy, dried chorizo, preferably Palacios brand, cut into a 1/6" to 1/4" dice
- zest of 1/4 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon (fresh), plus more from concentrate (to taste)
- crushed red pepper flakes

Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Once foam subsides, add garlic. Saute, till beginning to soften. Then add spinach to the pan (you'll need to add it in a couple of waves, given the volume). Continue to add spinach and stir until all has been added. Once spinach is all wilted, add chick peas, chorizo, fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. Stir 1 minutes. Add additional lemon juice, either from concentrate or fresh. Stir until spinach is beginning to change color, and all are well incorporated. This will be several minutes (3-5). Sprinkle over crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste.

Goes wonderfully with an Spanish-inspired main. Especially Cod.

Amaretto Spiked Blackberry Cobbler

Serves 6

Topping Ingredients:

2/3 cup corn meal
4/3 cup flour
7 ounces of marzipan paste, crumbled (such as "Odense," usually available in the bakery aisle)
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk

Filling Ingredients:
Four 10 ounce packages frozen blackberries (don't need to be thawed)
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 T lemon juice
1/4 cup amaretto
4 tsp corn startch
3 T cold water

Ice cream: vanilla, pistachio, or marzipan (Mission to Marzipan, by Ben and Jerry's)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Making the filling
Bring blackberries, brown sugar, lemon juice, amaretto to a boil. Turn down and simmer, covered for 5". Continue to simmer until a fair amount of liquid has evaporated, and it is beginning to thicken. Combine the corn starch and the cold water. Mix in and continue cooking until thick and bubbly.

Making the topping
Whisk egg and buttermilk together, set aside. Mix dry ingredients in a food processor, DO NOT include marzipan crumbles. Add marzipan, and process as little as possible, but until evenly distributed. Add butter and mix till completely blended--again as short a time as possible. Slowly add buttermilk/egg mixture until combined.

Making the cobblers
Divide the filling among 6 large (5") ramekins. Spoon topping evenly among the 6 ramekins. place the ramekins on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream.

Notes: Taste the filling. You may want to add some almond extract. It's very hard to get the almond taste to come through.

Panzanella Salad

Serves 4-6

- One 8" foccaccia round, cut into 1" pieces
- 3 very ripe tomatoes, cut into a 1" dice
- 1 bunch of basil, slightly more finely chopped than rough chop
- very good balsamic vinegar--to taste
- every good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)--to taste

- 1/2 red onion sliced very thin--not more than 2 mm wide
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar

Marinate Onions
Combine onions with red wine vinegar, salt and sugar in a ziploc bag. Ensure that sugar and salt are dissolved. Leave in the bag for 1/2 hour, up to 2 hours.

Make Salad
Combine onions (use half to start, and add more to taste), tomatoes, and basil. Liberally douse with balsamic and EVOO. Taste, and add more balsamic, EVOO or salt, to taste. Immediately before serving, mix in foccaccia.

Very nice summer salad, particularly if you have very good tomatoes. We served it with pork, but it would work well as a side with any Italian main, or with a sandwich.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Smoked Salmon, Asparagus and Goat Cheese Risotto

Serves 4

  • 4 ounces good quality smoked salmon, sliced into 1.5" x 0.5" pieces
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, blanched to desired firmness and cut into 1" pieces
  • Zest of 1.5 lemons
  • 2 T fresh dill, minced
  • 2 ounces of soft goat cheese (double if you prefer a richer dish.
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock, heated
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T minced shallots
  • 1.5 cups risotto rice (white short grain—never use brown rice, the husks make it almost impossible for it to absorb the liquid in this method of cooking).
  • ¼ - ½ cup grated parmesan
  • Cracked pepper to taste

Asparagus: Bring water to boiling. Add asparagus and boil for approximately 2 minutes, or until desired tenderness. Cool, then cut into 1" pieces and set aside.

Risotto: Heat pan on high. Reduce heat to medium high. Melt butter. Once foam has subsided, incorporate shallots and sauté till beginning to soften. Add risotto rice and continue stirring in pot until they begin to toast. You will smell this, as well as be able to see the whiteness of the grains increasing and becoming more opaque. Reduce heat to medium-low or low. Add ½ cup chicken broth, and stir until it has been absorbed and there is very little liquid in the pan. Continue to add broth in ½ to 1 cup increments, until the rice has reached your desired texture—al dente is recommended. Once desired texture is achieved, add parmesan cheese to taste. Then incorporate goat cheese, lemon zest, asparagus, and cracked pepper. Stir and adjust seasonings or cheese quantities to taste. Once desired flavor is achieved, add smoked salmon in. If you would like the smoked salmon to taste more "cooked," add it in with the other ingredients, the risotto will continue to cook it.

Serve immediately. Garnish with dill sprigs and lemon slices or twist.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Makes one 16" pizza, with a liberal amount of toppings

  • 1 pound frozen pizza dough
  • 2 T
  • 2 chicken breasts, poached in heavily salted water, then cut into a ¾" to 1" dice
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce—the simpler the better
  • 8 ounces sliced pineapple, canned or fresh
  • ½ medium red onion, cut into a ½" dice
  • 1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup asiago cheese
  • ½ cup minced cilantro

Defrost the pizza dough. Take it out before you leave for work. Put it in a bowl about 4x the volume of the frozen dough. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, ensuring that the plastic wrap is completely in contact with the bowl, as well as the dough—you're goal here is to minimize the amount of air between the plastic wrap and the dough, as air will dry out the parts of the dough with which it is in contact. This will make it challenging to work with. After 8-10 hours, the dough should have thawed and risen, filling most of the bowl.

Oven Preparation: Place the oven rack to its lowest position. Set the oven to "Bake" and pre-heat to 550 degrees, or whatever is the highest temperature on your oven.

Make the crust: Place a liberal amount of flour on a cutting board or other work surface. Remove the dough from the bowl. Form it back into a bowl. Liberally flour the outside of the ball of dough. Then begin expanding it into the crust. Do this by first placing the dough on your closed fist and letting gravity help to attenuate the dough over your fist. Then place your other fist in, and begin, using both fists to form the crust, continuously expanding the diameter of the dough, by expanding the distance of your hands from one another. The motion is somewhat like small, vertical slow-motion boxing jabs, with the fists getting progressively further apart. Whatever you do, DON'T let it get a hole in it. If you get a hole in it, you are going to have a soggy pizza. It's not the end of the world, and my first attempts were all like that, but you want to avoid holes if you can.

Spread the pizza only a pizza stone (pre-heat if you have one) or a 16" pizza pan. Then taking a pastry brush, brush the melted butter over the crust, brushing the rim most liberally brushing the rim. Spread ½ cup of the BBQ sauce over the pizza. This will seem like a small amount, but should be sufficient, and will help to keep the pizza crisp. Sprinkle mozzarella and asiago cheese to taste. It does not need to be covered in cheese. It will seem very cheesy, even if you still see a substantial amount of sauce and crust. Toss chicken with BBQ sauce to coat. Sprinkle over onions and evenly distribute pineapple.

Cook for 6 minutes. Check to see that it is cooking evenly. If cheese is melted and crust is approaching golden brown, remove. Otherwise, continue cooking. Typically, it will take between 7 and 8 minutes to cook in a 550 degree oven.

Remove, sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Recommended Side, Corn and Feta Salad

Adapted from Oasis restaurant in Palo Alto, CA