Archive for May, 2009

We went to this fancy dinner event last weekend and listed on the menu was “Wild Mushroom Risotto,” which made me salivate, and I started developing expectations for how it would taste. Well, then it arrived and I tasted it – flavorless! For shame! So what’s a girl to do? Go to the fancy grocery store, procure about 5 kinds of exotic mushrooms, and set the old tastebuds right. THIS risotto created a party in my mouth, which was what I was looking for all along.

Exotic Mushroom Risotto

2 Tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp salt

1 lb mushrooms (mix as many different kinds of exotic ones as you can find at the store – if all you can find is portobellos or shitakes, that will suffice)

1 tsp pepper (black, fresh ground)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

5 – 10 sage leaves, to taste, thinly sliced

1.5 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken broth)

1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese

1 lb scallops (optional)

  1. Heat butter, add onions and salt. When the onions wilt, add garlic.
  2. When the onions begin to brown, add your mushrooms, all chopped or sliced. If using portabellos, scrape the black gills out with a butter knife, so that your risotto doesn’t turn gray. You can leave them in if you want, as this is for purely aesthetic reasons (gray is not the most appetizing color).
  3. Add spices.
  4. Cook this mixture, stirring periodically, until the mushrooms begin to wilt and make a broth in the pot.
  5. Add rice, and cook until it is transparent, stirring frequently so nothing sticks on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add wine, and cook until the rice has absorbed it.
  7. Add 1 cup of hot broth, and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, stirring frequently.
  8. Continue this process until all of the broth has been added and absorbed.
  9. If you are using scallops, add them when you pour in the last cup of broth.
  10. Stir in the cheese before serving. Taste, and add salt if necessary (may depend on how salty the broth is).

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100_1191Here is a bell pepper stuffed with chicken apple sausage, bread, rhinette cheese, Roquefort, fennel, pecans, marjoram, mushrooms, and a few dried cherries. It’s baked in a wine bath with caramelized onions (shown on top of the bell pepper), and served with a salad. This was another exercise in “what do I have in my fridge that would taste delicious together?”

Savory and Sweet Stuffed Bell Peppers

3 bell peppers, halved, stems, seeds, and pith removed

For the Stuffing:

1/2 lb chicken apple sausage (uncooked, casings removed)

2 cups stale bread, cubed (I used a whole wheat crusty French bread)*

2 eggs

2 T olive oil

1/2 cup Rhinette cheese, cubed

1 T Roquefort

4 T chopped pecans

2 T chopped dried cherries (dried cranberries could be substituted if you prefer)

1/2 large portobello or 2 small crimini (baby portobellos), chopped

1 T grated fennel

1/2 tsp marjoram

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

For the wine bath:

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1 tsp sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup white wine

  1. Preaheat oven to 375
  2. Wash the bell peppers, cut them in half, and remove stems, seeds, and pith. Set aside.
  3. Mix stuffing. Place bread, eggs, oil, and sausage in a large bowl and knead with your hands. Set aside, and add the rest of the stuffing ingredients to the stuffing bowl as you chop them.
  4. Knead the stuffing with your hands, and then let it sit while you make your wine bath.
  5. Heat oil in a large heavy sauce pan (if you do not have an oven safe sauce pan, then you will need to transfer everything to a baking dish later).
  6. Add onions and salt, and cook until onions begin to wilt, stirring occasionally.
  7. As the onions are cooking, shove the stuffing into the bell pepper halves and set aside.
  8. Add garlic, and cook until the onions start to caramelize.
  9. Add wine, and bring to a boil. Stir.
  10. If you are using an oven safe sauce pan, add the bell peppers directly to the pan, pepper side down (stuffing side up), cover, and place in oven. If you do not have an oven safe sauce pan, pour the contents of the pot into a baking dish, and then arrange the peppers on top of that. Cover with foil and place in oven.
  11. Bake for about 30 minutes covered (the stuffing should spring back when you poke it, indicating that the eggs are done, and the pepper should be tender), and then about 15 minutes uncovered (to get everything nice and crispy).
  12. Place on dish, and spoon the wine/onion sauce over the top of the pepper, as shown. Serve with salad.

*Gluten Haters

I’m working on a gluten free version of this that includes wild rice instead of bread. I’m thinking 1 cup of wild rice and an extra egg would do the trick and perhaps be more delicious than simply substituting gluten free bread product.

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Fava beans are in season! And they are still tender enough that you don’t have to do that thing where you par-boil them and then peel them a second time. That’s tedious, and who has time for it, anyway? Also, in honor of Hannibal Lecter, since this dish has fava beans in it, I recommend having it with a nice chianti.

Farfalle with Fava Beans, Pancetta, and Mushrooms

4 oz pancetta, cubed

Olive Oil, as needed (see below)

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp sal

1.2 lb portobellos, cubed

1.5 lbs fava beans, shelled and rinsed (1.5 lbs before shelling)

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Dash red pepper flakes, if desired

1/2 lb farfalle, cooked al dente in salted water

Freshly grated parmesan for the top

  • Place pancetta in large heavy sauce pan and brown slightly over medium heat.
  • Remove pancetta from pan, and set aside.
  • If you are not concerned with healthy vs unhealthy fats and would like to incorporate the deliciousness of the pancetta juices into your sauce, leave the pancetta juice in the pan and caramelize your onions in that, adding a drizzle of olive oil if you do not have enough pancetta oil in the pan to coat the onions.
  • If you ARE concerned with healthy fats and would like to forgo the deliciousness of the pancetta juices, remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, discard the juices, and drizzle some olive oil in the pan for onion caramelization.
  • When the onions are transparent, add the garlic.
  • Just as the onions begin to brown, add the pancetta back into the pot. Stir frequently as everything caramelizes.
  • Add the mushrooms, fava beans, and spices.
  • Stir, and then cover the pot.
  • Stir occasionally as the mushrooms get juicy and saucy.
  • When the mushrooms are tender and there’s liquid in the pan (from the mushrooms), keep the pot covered and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add chicken broth or water if you need extra liquid (i.e. if it evaporates). The idea is to steam the fava beans in the juices from the other ingredients, but if those juices cook off, you might need to add extra liquid.
  • Cook your pasta, drain your pasta, then put the pasta in the pot with the sauce, stir everything together, dish up, and top with parmesan.

I have a lot of this left over from the smoked ribs party we had yesterday, and I am planning on making ricotta tonight, so I’m working on a baked pasta solution that incorporates this and the fresh ricotta…I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Dan smoked some ribs yesterday, and they were DELICIOUS! I can’t really take credit for anything but helpful comments such as “So what if that’s what the recipe says? We don’t need to do it that way” and “Um, no, we’re not using store bought barbecue sauce. We’re making our own.”

Ribs waiting to be smoked with their friends The Salmons, also waiting to be smoked

Ribs waiting to be smoked with their friends The Salmons, also waiting to be smoked

Sorry, we don’t have pictures of the finished products because they just didn’t last long enough to take any. I’ve eaten a LOT of ribs in my life, and those were absolutely the best ribs I’ve ever had. I’m not even kidding.

Here’s the link to the recipe he used: http://virtualweberbullet.com/rib1.html, except that we omitted the MSG because MSG scares us, and we did not remove the membranes because they make us feel like cavemen, and we like that feeling.

Here’s the recipe for the barbecue sauce. I’m not totally uncompromising, so we did use regular store bought ketchup (rather than figuring out how to make that from scratch too). We did make a few adjustments, so I’ll write what we did below, but here is the original recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Bourbon-Barbecue-Sauce-103642 (from Bon App├ętit, July 2000).

Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup dark unsulphured molasses

1/3 cup bourbon

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon habanero sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup honey

  • Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.
  • Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until sauce thickens and flavors blend, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes or so.
  • Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; chill.

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Back in my working days, I used to make a pot of this minestrone each week and eat it for lunch every day. It really is delicious, and it turns out a little bit different each time. This recipe can be made vegetarian- and vegan- friendly as well and still maintain the deliciosness of the original recipe.

2 – 4 Tbsp olive oil

1/3 – 1/4 of a stick of butter (omit for the vegan version)

1 large yellow onion, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

Sprinkling of sea salt (maybe about 1 tsp)

—saute for a few minutes, then just add the rest as you chop:

3 red or yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed*

1 lb Green beans, chopped

2-3 large carrots, peeled and chopped

3 -4 small Zucchini, chopped

28-oz can of whole tomatoes with juice, chopped

1 lb bag of fresh baby spinach

2 (32 oz) boxes of chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegan/vegetarian renditions)

1 can each of white and red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 lb browned ground beef (omit for vegan/vegetarian)

red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and course ground pepper to taste

  1. Select a large pot (about 8 qt), preferably with a thicker bottom.
  2. Saute your bunions, and then turn down the heat and throw the rest of the vegetables into the pot as you chop them, in the order specified above.
  3. After you’ve added the broth, turn up the heat to high, and add your rinsed and drained beans, pre-browned meat, and seasonings.
  4. I usually let it simmer for about an hour, turn off the stove, go to bed, then refrigerate it in the morning.

*If you know you are going to freeze this (it makes a really large pot), you may want to substitute 1/2 cup dry quinoa, which you’ll pour in at the end, after you’ve added your chicken or vegetable broth.

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100_1183I was in a hurry and remembered reading this yummy looking recipe from Edible East Bay, but didn’t quite have what I needed to make them, or the time to make them. So I improvised:

2 cups white flour

2 Tbsp brown sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter, unsalted, directly from the fridge, nuked for 30 seconds on high

1 cup buttermilk

1 cup frozen blackberries

evaporated cane juice

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir with a fork.
  3. Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk.
  4. Gradually incorporate the buttermilk with the fork.
  5. Add the butter and stir.
  6. Add the blackberries (you could use frozen raspberries or blueberries, or a combination thereof) and stir.
  7. Spoon dough onto greased cookie sheets.
  8. Sprinkle evaporated cane juice or coarse sugar on top of scones.
  9. Bake for about 30 minutes until dough springs back when you poke it with your finger, and the scones are nice and golden brown. Check at 15 minutes to make sure nothing is burning.

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This salad is obviously very dramatic, as you can tell from the dramatic lighting.

This salad is obviously very dramatic, as you can tell from the dramatic lighting.

This refreshing salad is yummy. That is all.


Lettuce (ideally, a small head of butter lettuce, or 1/2 bag of pre-washed arugula)

2 navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, and sections halved

1/2 large avocado or one whole small avocado

handful of pistachio meats (maybe 1/4 cup)


1/2 tsp salt

1/2 to 1 tsp pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp dill (fresh is best, but dehydrated will do)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

3 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp grapeseed oil

  1. Wash and dry lettuce, then tear into bite sized pieces and place in large bowl.
  2. Cut oranges and avocado into bite sized pieces and place in bowl with lettuce.
  3. Sprinkle pistachio meats on salad.
  4. If you don’t like to measure your dressing ingredients, just sprinkle/pour/drizzle them directly onto the salad in the bowl. If you do like to measure them, mix them in a separate bowl or jar, and then pour all over the top of the salad.
  5. Toss the salad.
  6. Eat the salad.

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