Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fresh from the Refrigerator: Naan Bread Pizza

We were in the mood for pizza the other night for dinner so I looked in the refrigerator to see what was available. I found some large naan bread, pizza sauce, parmesan cheese and provolone cheese. Here are the 3 different types of pizza I came up with.

Cilantro Beef: Cilantro-Caesar dressing, parmesan, provolone, cumin-coriander beef, cilantro, green onion

Sausage and Bell Pepper: Parmesan, provolone, pizza sauce, red bell pepper, red bell pepper and onion sausage

Pepperoni: Parmesan, provolone, pizza sauce, pepperoni

The naan bread provided the perfect pizza dough and the toppings were wonderful! I love all the options that can be thrown together to make wonderful pizza.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta. It can be so luxurious, creamy and delicious when it is made properly. And when made improperly its not something you really want to eat. I was experimenting with a few recipes and while the idea was great the execution wasn't. I added too much gelatin and the result was great flavor, terrible texture. But the flavor combination was so good that I will try again until I get the recipe right!

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Raspberry Mousse and Strawberry Gelee

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fresh from the Freezer: Florentine Meat Ragu

At least once a year I purchase about 40 pounds of grass-fed, dry-aged beef from Lazy69 ranch in Northern California. That is quite a lot of beef for 2 people but it is the most delicious, meaty-flavored beef I have ever eaten. When I place my order I'm able to customize certain cuts of beef and also get the standard cuts. I get quite a large amount of ground beef and normally use it for hamburgers but this time I decided to try a meat ragu.

This ragu started by sauteeing onion, celery and carrots. Then fresh rosemary, parsley and garlic were added. The ground beef was browned and red wine was added and reduced. Tomatoes, red pepper flakes and lemon zest along with chicken broth were the last ingredients in the pan. It was then slowly simmered for about 2 hours and ended up rich, slightly sweet and very hearty meat sauce. The meat ragu was mixed with penne pasta, parmesan cheese, butter and a little parsley.

I served it with a spinach-arugula salad tossed with radish, bell pepper, radicchio, carrots, green onion, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The only items I needed to purchase from the store for this meal were the wine, spinach and arugula. Everything else was taken from my freezer, refrigerator or pantry!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fresh from the Refrigerator: Corn Cakes

In my efforts to be less wasteful of food, I also took inventory of my refrigerator and pantry in addition to the freezer. The first Fresh from the Freezer meal was delicious and this time I decided to try a little appetizer with ingredients from my refrigerator, pantry and garden. I came across the recipe for these cornmeal cakes and adapted the toppings slightly based on what I had on hand.

The cakes were light corn flavor, doughy and balanced perfectly with the tangy goat cheese, sweet honey and fresh thyme. I enjoyed these appetizers for lunch and think they would pair well with a nice white wine. Next time I will add some crisp prosciutto or maybe diced red bell pepper. I think my pulled pork would also be wonderful with this corn cake. So many options!

Corn Cakes with Goat Cheese, Honey and Thyme
Makes approximately 12 mini cakes
Adapted from The Food of Northern Spain by Jenny Chandler

1/2 cup masa harina (you can also use cornmeal or polenta)
1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup boiling water
6 ounces goat cheese (roquefort or other cheeses can be substituted)
5 tbs wildflower honey
2 tbs thyme

Combine masa, flour and salt in bowl. Add boiling water and mix until dough is formed, adding more water if necessary.

Let sit until cool enough to handle. Roll into walnut-sized balls and with dampened hands flatten to 1/2" thick.

Heat olive oil in skillet. Add cakes and fry until completely golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Top with cheese, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Color Series: Reds with Fruits, Vegetables and Flowers

I'm starting to photograph fruits, vegetables and flowers in different color palettes. Red is my first and I love it. I'm looking forward to the bright yellows, vivid oranges, gorgeous greens, pure whites, vibrant purples/blues, and whatever else I can find!


Strawberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries

Radish, tulip, rhubarb, radicchio


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fresh from the Freezer and Pantry: Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I have an over abundance of food in my freezer and pantry. Some items in large quantities, some in small. I'm trying to be less wasteful of food so I freeze whatever I can to save for later and that can be wasteful as well--if the food is in the back of the freezer it is forgotten about then disposed of once it is past its prime. So I decided that I am going to use the food I have in my freezer, pantry and refrigerator as my main base for meals and purchase fresh foods or ingredients that are crucial to the meal.

I went through my freezer and did an inventory of the food in there and it ranges from whole chicken, duck fat, andouille sausages, chili, soups, grass-fed beef, smoked duck and goes on and on. The pantry is also stocked full of rice, pasta, canned beans, coconut milk, flavorings and probably a few items that are shoved in the back that I can't get to. The refrigerator is a little better, the basic condiments, seasonings, vegetables, fruit, cheese and meats.

The first meal I made was Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Southern Sally Lunn Bread. All the ingredients were on hand with the exception of a can of crushed tomatoes, so all in all a very affordable meal! I had a 5 1/2 pound pork shoulder roast that I cooked for 3 1/2 hours bathed in a sauce of crushed tomatoes, caramelized onions, pimenton, honey and vinegar. This made quite a lot of pork for two people so I froze half of the pork which I can use later for tacos or more sandwiches. I knew that I would need a good bread to go along with the pork so I made Sally Lunn bread. Sally Lunn bread is the Southern version of Brioche. A sweet bread made with lots of butter and is absolutely delicious!

I've found that the flavor of pulled pork changes drastically based on the sauce that it is served with. Some have more vinegar, some are sweeter, some are more tomato based. And mine was different from all the others I tried, due in most part to the smoked paprika (pimenton) that was used. Very good, but very different flavors than you will find at a BBQ place around Los Angeles.

I wanted to make baked beans and collard greens to go along with this but didn't have those ingredients and wasn't ready to make a trip to the store--next time.

I'm looking forward to the next meal I will make with food from the freezer!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Aprons: Sometimes Cheezy, Sometimes Cute and Always Practical

I think I've always loved aprons. I remember as a child whenever I would cook with my mom she would open the bottom drawer in the kitchen and I would choose an apron to wear. The one I remember most was yellow and white with front pockets and it buttoned in the back. I think it was homemade but I'm not sure, I'm going to find out if she still has that one! I have a small collection of pretty aprons (mostly from Anthropologie)--I even sewed one awhile back--and then of course my practical work aprons. But I am always looking for new cute aprons that I can wear both at home and at work. Here are a few aprons I found that inspire me to want to get in the kitchen and cook!

Butcher Apron, Sara Smedley

Candied Ginger Chefs Apron, BellaBeeDesigns

Yellow Birds Vintage Apron, bambinoamore

Sassy Chic Apron, SugarPieChic

I also had to share a few adorable kids aprons--my niece would love these!

Left: Little Birdies Cooking Apron, artandphilantrophy Right: Brown Owl Pinafore, humblebea

A few books on the subject of Aprons

The Apron Book by EllynAnne Geisel; Aprons of the Mid-20th Century by Judy Florence

And checkout this wonderful blog dedicated to Aprons at The Apronista.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Homemade Cinnamon-Vanilla Nut Granola

I've been on a kick lately of eating Greek-style yogurt with fresh fruit and granola. Once I realized how simple it was to make my own granola I decided to try it out...and it is incredible! I'm able to customize the flavors to my own tastes and the variety of options are unlimited. This cinnamon-vanilla combination has a perfect balance of salty and sweet.

Cinnamon-Vanilla Nut Granola

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (I like to use a multi grain mixture that contains oats, rye, barley and wheat)
1/2-1 cup sliced almonds (or any combination of nuts)
1/4 cup whole flaxseeds
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (use less if using salted nuts)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup honey (spray measuring cup with cooking oil so the honey will not stick and will flow out easily)
Optional: dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300.

Combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Melt the butter and stir into the honey along with the vanilla. Pour the butter-honey mixture over the oats and mix until thoroughly moistened.

Pour onto 2 baking sheets (coat with cooking oil or line with parchment) with rims.

Bake until evenly toasted, 30-40 minutes. Halfway through baking, stir and put back into the oven to finish baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cook. If using fruit, stir in after cool. Store in airtight container.

Enjoy with milk, over yogurt or on its own! It would also be a great base for granola bars or a topping for blueberry muffins.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chocolate "Le Kit Cat" Bar

I recently blogged about one of my favorite cookbooks, Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard. The recipes sound incredible and Friday night I was able to dine at his restaurant Citrus at Social in Hollywood. I was so excited to try his food and as part of dineLA restaurant week a 3-course dinner was $34 plus $15 for wine pairing. My dishes were very good...Goat Cheese Caesar Salad, Arctic Char and the Chocolate Bar. But the best course was dessert! The flavors were reminiscent of Kit Kat Bar combined with Ferrero Rocher chocolate. I remembered that there was a recipe for this in his cookbook and I couldn't wait to make it.

This is a very simple dessert and doesn't require any baking. The bottom layer is peanut butter, milk chocolate and crushed cornflakes or rice crisps. I tried a spoonful of this and wanted to just eat the entire bowl. The milk chocolate added just a bit of sweetness, the peanut butter flavor wasn't overpowering and the rice crisps were the perfect texture. I'm trying to think of other desserts that I can pair with this combination...a chocolate truffle would be wonderful!

The top layer is whipped cream folded into melted dark chocolate. This is layered on top of the peanut butter and chilled for 4 hours.

How does mine compare with what I had at the restaurant? The texture is different but the one I made at home is just perfect! And the best part is I can make it anytime I have a craving!

Le Kit Cat (Adapted from Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard)
Makes approximately 16 bars

Bottom Layer:
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons peanut oil
7 ounces milk chocolate, melted and at body temperature
1 1/4 cups crushed brown rice crisps

Top Layer:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
5 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, melted and at body temperature

Line an 8" square pan with plastic wrap, letting it overhang on all sides.

For the bottom layer, place the peanut butter and oil in mixer (use whisk attachment). Whip on medium speed until combined and light in color, 2-3 minutes. Reduce to low, add the chocolate and mix until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the rice crisps.

Pour into prepared pan, spread into an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

For the top layer, whip the cream (using whisk attachment) until soft peaks form. Place chocolate in a large bowl. Fold half of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold in the remaining cream.

Pour mixture over the bottom layer and spread evenly. Bang the pan against the work surface to eliminate air bubbles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove from pan and remove the plastic. Cut into sixteen 4-by-1-inch bars. Cut the bars with warm large knife, clean and dry in between cuts. Dust the tops with cocoa powder and top with chopped hazelnuts.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Asparagus and Potato Risotto

I recently learned how to make Risotto and it's one of my favorite comfort foods to make. It's really not as complicated or involved as people may think. It comes together easily and you don't have to stir constantly. I had some fresh asparagus and potatoes from the farmers market and thought that would be a hearty combination.

The ingredients for Risotto:
1. Potatoes and asparagus
2. Diced shallots, minced garlic, butter, salt, pepper
3. Parmesan cheese, lemon rind, arborio rice
4. Lemon and Parmesan cheese
White wine, olive oil (not shown)

The process:
Simmer water (with crushed garlic cloves) or stock in pot.
5. Add butter and olive oil to skillet, melt butter
6. Add shallots and saute until caramelized. Add garlic.
7. Add potatoes and rice, saute 1 minute until grains are coated with oil and butter.
8. Stir. And the beautiful custom spoon was a gift from my friend--so fun having my business name on something I use everyday!

9. Add white wine. Stir until absorbed.
10. Add hot water/stock one ladle-full at a time until each is absorbed. Stir.
11. Once all the liquid has been added and rice is al dente, add asparagus.
12. Add one last ladle of liquid along with the salt, pepper, lemon zest and Parmesan. Cover with lid and remove from heat. Let sit for 1-2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve.

The finished product was delicious! Creamy, with just a touch of lemon, the flavors are very fresh and comforting. And I love these red Le Cruset petite casserole dishes and try to find any excuse to use them.

There are many ingredients that can be added to a basic Risotto...mushrooms, brocolli, shrimp, pumpkin, peas, pretty much anything you can imagine. Enjoy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree

This past Saturday I catered a 5-Course Dinner Party for a 40th Wedding Anniversary. The menu included Butternut Squash Soup; Blue Cheese, Pear and Candied Walnut Salad; Broccoli Rabe and Burrata Cheese Salad; Braised Beef Short Ribs with Potato Puree and Horseradish Cream; Pear Clafouti with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Everything was amazing but the short ribs were the best.

The short ribs were browned in a hot skillet then placed in a braising pan along with carrots, celery, onions, veal stock and red wine. Then they braised in a low oven for 3 hours. After the 3 hours they were tender and falling off the bone. The potatoes were put through a ricer and combined with hot milk, cream and butter which made the texture free of lumps, velvety and delicious. Creme fraice was combined with horseradish for a wonderful topping.

Just wonderful paired with a hearty red wine. Winter is the perfect time to make a comforting dish like this!


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