Wednesday, September 30, 2009

White Bean Soup w/ Pan Fried Salami

white bean soup

I feel a cold coming on. That always happens when the seasons change.
Sore throat, runny nose, blah.

I guess it's the start of soup season.

I love having soup in the freezer all winter long, it's like having money in the bank.

This was a quick invention, and I was lucky enough to have 2 containers of frozen homemade chicken stock in my freezer leftover from the spring.

If you can find good Italian salami, the dried kind with a rind, usually sold in a net bag at Italian specialty markets, then please buy that, not the deli sliced garbage.

White Bean Soup w/ Pan Fried Salami:

5-6 cups of chicken stock (if you don't have homemade, then Swanson's Natural Goodness is a good brand, comes in a box)

Two 14 oz. cans of white beans, cannelini or any other kind of white bean is fine, drained and rinsed

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 small dried salami, rind removed, cubed

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and add your carrots, onion, garlic and salami and cook for a few minutes until onions are translucent.

Remove the salami pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add your chicken broth and beans and bring to a boil. Add your rosemary sprig (to be removed later).

Simmer soup for about 15 minutes until vegetables are getting soft.

Puree half of the solids in a food processor. Be very careful when using hot liquids in a food processor, you may want to wait for it to cool down a bit.

Transfer the contents of the food processor back into the soup pot and add the pan fried salami back into the soup.

This soup freezes well and makes plenty. Stay healthy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Beautiful Date: Wrap Me in Bacon

bacon dates

Isn't everything better with bacon?

What is this dried little brown thing anyway?
It's not what you think it is. Get your mind out of the toilet.

It is a Medjool date. The best, plumpest dates you will ever eat. Grown in California, but named after a Mediterranean variety.
I guess this goes with my love of figs, I also love dates.

Since I had so much goat cheese from my cheese contest win, I decided to stuff something with them, so why not a date?

Try and find the Medjool variety, because they are larger in size and are better for stuffing.

Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Bacon: how bad can this be?

Medjool dates (remove the pits by making a small slit in each date and popping out the pit).
a small log of goat cheese (soft chevre)
a few slices of LEAN bacon, cut in half and sliced into strips

After removing the pits from the dates, with a small knife, spread a small amount of goat cheese in the middle of each date and press together.

Now wrap a strip of bacon around each date and place on a baking sheet.

Bake at 425F for about 15-20 minutes until the bacon is crisp.

Remove with a thin spatula and drain on paper towels.

These are best served warm, however, they can be made an hour ahead and kept out at room temperature.


Monday, September 28, 2009

One Pan Dinner Party: Chicken with Artichokes & Tomatoes

artichoke chicken

Here is a simple one pan meal that can be made ahead and is so delish.

Mel from bitchencamero made an artichoke chicken dish much like mine.
Since I hadn't made it in forever, I decided to make it for a recent dinner party, because it was an easy main dish, and I could concentrate on the appetizers and sides.

It's almost like a stew, you can serve it over polenta, or with hunks of good Italian bread to mop of the sauce.

It's perfect at room temperature and can be made well in advance.

Artichoke Chicken in a Skillet:

10 piece package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cans of artichokes in water, drained and halved
2 14 oz. cans of fire roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
handful of capers
handful of kalamata olives, chopped
dash of hot pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
fresh parsley for garnish

Season your chicken thighs with kosher salt and pepper and brown them 4 minutes per side in a heavy skillet w/ olive oil.

To the skillet, add garlic and onions, cook another minute or two, until vegetables are starting to soften.

Next, add your tomatoes, artichoke halves, capers & olives.
Turn heat down to low and simmer 20 minutes until chicken is cooked and sauce starts to thicken.

Serve in bowls and garnish with more capers, if desired.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cake Revisited

choc chip cake4

Months back I made Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake, which is very close to my grandmother's sour cream coffee cake.

Today, I decided to do it Debra's way and bake it in a 9 x 13" glass Pyrex pan. I usually make my cake in a bundt or tube pan.

I'm not one to mess around with baking recipes. Measurements usually have to be exact.
However, today I made her recipe substituting 16 oz. of plain yogurt for her 16 oz. of sour cream (because that is what I had in the house).

The results were fantastic. I love yogurt in cakes, they come out so moist and light (& a bit healthier?).

Another change in the recipe I made was I mixed the 3 eggs together, instead of beating the whites separately and folding them in later (because I am lazy).

Well, I will never make this cake in a tube pan again! No wonder she calls this "cubes of collossal cheer!". The results in the glass casserole dish were excellent! No sticking to the cake pan. Just slice up the squares and dish them out.

Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces sour cream (I used yogurt)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

12 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda and baking powder together into a separate bowl. Alternately add sour cream and then dry ingredients into butter mixture. Beat eggs whites until stiff, then fold into batter. Mix last 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.

In a greased 9″x13″ pan, pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and half of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips.

Bake 40-45 minutes until tester comes out clean.

This is the best breakfast cake of all time. My sister in law calls this cake "evil" because she eats too much of it!
Not hard to do.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Green Bean Salad w/ Hazelnuts

hazelnut beans5

I never buy hazelnuts, but I had 2 tomato recipes bookmarked, both called for hazelnuts, so I figured I would splurge!

I saw this simple recipe on 101 Cookbooks and I loved the nuts with the green beans, yellow cherry tomatoes and honey in the dressing.

If you can still get some good farmers' market tomatoes, then this will taste like summer, though it is definitely fall.

Summer Green Bean Salad (from 101 Cookbooks)

3/4 pound green beans, stems pinched off
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
tiny pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
a handful of frisee (I skipped the lettuce, because I had none!)
a handful of small cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1/2 cup hazelnuts, smashed and toasted

Start by making the dressing. Whisk together the chives, thyme, shallots, lemon juice, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil & honey with a fork, stirring until everything comes together. Set aside.

In the meantime, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Salt generously and stir in the green beans. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Just until the beans brighten up and soften a touch. (101 Cookbooks likes her beans only cooked a minute or so, but I like mine cooked a bit longer).

In a large bowl toss the green beans with the frisee, about 1/2 of the hazelnuts, with a big splash of the dressing. Toss well. Taste, and add more dressing, salt or pepper at this point. Toss again if needed. Add the tomatoes and toss very gently.
You can turn this out onto a platter or plate individually topped with the remaining hazelnuts.

Serves about 4.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Two Dudes & Some Cauliflower


Since my purchase of Two Dudes One Pan I have tried a few of the recipes from the book.

They all seem to be bursting with flavor and are pretty simple to prepare.

Me like this book.

Cauliflower is such a misunderstood vegetable in the U.S.
It's kind of ugly to begin with and it seems that the only way I ate it growing up was choking on it boiled, or with a cheese sauce.
Kill me now.

In Italy it seems to be a popular and highly respected vegetable.
The Italians know how to make me love this vegetable. For years I have been making a pasta sauce with pan roasted cauliflower, garlic, anchovies and golden raisins. I know it sounds weird, but it's so good. I throw some toasted bread crumbs on top and I am transported to Sicily.

Let's stick with today's recipe......I am day dreaming again.

During the winter months, I roast cauliflower weekly at 400F with just some kosher salt and olive oil. It becomes sweet and nutty.
Sort of like me.

Well, these 2 Dudes had a better idea, I guess that's why they published a cookbook, and I didn't.

They roasted the cauliflower florets the same way I do, but after taking the baking sheet out of the oven, threw in some capers, a dash of red pepper flakes and grated parmesan cheese.

This was a whole new ball of wax. We LOVED this! I am always looking for new ways to serve my cauliflower.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pain D'Epice: Alsatian Spice Bread

I love honey cake and I love spice cake, and I love Paris.

What do the first 2 loves have to do with the third love?

Pain D'epice = French spice bread, offered all over Paris and Alsace. Every boulangerie seems to have a different recipe.
You can buy a loaf, or buy a square, either way, it is sort of like a spice bread or gingerbread, not too sweet and wonderful in the a.m. for breakfast with coffee.

I bought a huge chunk of it in Paris last week, because it stays fresh all week, so we could have some with our coffee each morning.

I found a few recipes for Pain d'Epice that I liked, all with different amounts of honey, some had butter, some did not. Each recipe used a different combination of spices. I incorporated the best of all of them to make my own!

I made Flo Braker's basic recipe and did half orange preserves and half honey (she said I could!), and instead of orange zest, I took Anne Willan's idea of using 1 tbsp of candied orange peel. The results were sensational.

It made my kitchen smell heavenly. All the spices, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and ginger were intoxicating.

Flo Braker's Pain D'epice: (adapted from David Lebovitz's site)

3 1/2 cups (455g) flour
1/2 cup (60g) dark rye flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds (whole)
2 ounces (55g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup (340g) honey
1 tablespoon finely-grated orange zest
1 cup (240ml) water

1. Preheat the oven to 350º (180ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) loaf pan, dust it with flour, then tap out any excess.

2. Sift together the flour, rye flour, baking soda, the ground spices and salt in a bowl. Sprinkle in the anise seeds.

3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or by hand, mix together the butter, egg, honey (or honey and jam), and orange zest.

4. Add the water, then add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets mixed in evenly.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top will bake to a somewhat dark color, which is normal.

6. Cool 10 minutes, then tip the cake out of the loaf pan. Let cool completely before slicing.

Storage: Pain d'épices can be wrapped in plastic and stored for at least a week, during which time the flavors will meld and it'll get denser.
This is not a cake, but more of a bread, best served with a swipe of sweet butter!

I look forward to waking up in the a.m. for a slice of this!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to Reality

No real post today.
It's back to reality.

I have to unpack, grocery shop for the week, plan some menus and I would like to bake a pain d'epice for tomorrow's blog post, so I had better get busy.

I will leave you with the rest of the photos from our wonderful Paris trip.
You can also view them in a slideshow.

Click on this link to view the album.

See you tomorrow.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Paris Doors

Beauty surrounds you everywhere you turn here, especially the architecture.
The iron window railings, shutters and buildings are pieces of artwork.

Every building has a massive wooden door, some with elaborate carvings and in beautiful color pallettes. The door knockers are all original hardware dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

You could make a coffee table book just on the doors of Paris (I am sure that there is one out there!).

I will back in my New Jersey kitchen cooking on Tuesday and have some good ideas.

I think I will try a pain d'epice, as well as a duck cassoulet with the duck confit that I am smuggling in my luggage (didn't I learn my lesson from last year's duck

Au Revoir Paris! Until next year!
Thanks for checking out my blog posts from this beautiful city.

See you with some recipes mid week.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paris Window Shopping

I am really only here to eat and drink, but the gorgeous window displays can be tempting.

This is a city of the most beautiful and fashionable people.
They look elegant just walking to the grocery store and riding their bicycles with high heels and a baguette in their basket.

How do they do that?

Even the children look beautiful! They are dressed in the most beautiful outfits that I have ever seen.

No, I don't wear a fanny pack or sneakers that scream "I am a tourist!", but my husband being 6 ft. 5" with muscles and me being 5 ft 8" with big boobs, look like BIG, healthy Americans walking down the street.
You can see us comin'.

We can't hide.
They even hand us menus in English.

Oh well, I may as well embrace it.
I was never small boned like the French.

The windows are filled with the most beautiful handbags, apparel and shoes.
Especially the children's' shops. These kids wear the best ensembles you have ever seen!

In France, I am a size LARGE, Grande, and nothing fits me, though I am only an American size 6.

I have given up and will spend my money on food instead.

We enjoyed looking in the kitchen supply stores.....I have never seen so many white dishes, casseroles, tart pans and madeleine molds. Every shape and size you can imagine!

I wish I had an extra suitcase to bring some of this stuff home!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Paris: Scenes from the City of Light

Our rented apartment is next to the Jardin du Luxembourg.

There are beautiful fountains, sculpture, flower gardens, bee hives, marionette puppet theatres, heirloom pear trees and rental boats for children daily here.

It is my favorite spot in all of Paris.

Beautiful metro stations with gorgeous Art Nouveau ironworks abound.

Typical teenagers, sitting around laughing, and smiling in large groups.
We have NEVER seen a young person texting on a cell phone and NO ONE carries a water bottle or cup of coffee to go. How refreshing!

A visit to Rue Mouffetard, a fantastic marketplace in Paris is a must.

A beautiful cobblestone street is lined with fantastic fromageries (cheese shops), boucheries (specialty butchers), boulangeries (bakeries), cafes and outdoor produce markets.

There was a place just for quiches called Mouffe Tarte! I tried the fig and chevre and the Provencal with eggplant and tomatoes.......DIVINE!

Julien Davin is one of the few remaining horse butchers in the city. Yes, the French eat horsemeat (and any other kind of meat, for that matter), though it is slowly declining. The city has 32 chevalines left, 20 years ago there were over 100.
Horse meat is banned in restaurants, but I guess the old school French people still desire it.

Though I could peek into the shop and see the butcher at work, there were iron gates down, to discourage animal rights protestors.

Read this interesting article on horse meat in Paris, it explains a lot.
This is one thing I will be not be eating anytime soon (or ever!).

and lastly, what would a trip be without me finding fresh figs?

They were all over the markets and the size of small apples. Each one heavy with sweetness, ripe and the perfect pairing to wine and cheese each evening.