favorite cookbook

September 25th, 2008

I was listening to a Splendid Table podcast a while back and she had a guest on who was talking about her cookbook collection. She was a caterer and had accumulated quite a collection of cookbooks, but when she decided to move, she realized there wasn’t enough room to take them all. The thing is, how do you choose which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of? She came up with a system where the one you just can’t live without goes in the center, then you build it out on either side based on criteria that goes from broad to narrow. So something like joy of cooking would be on the inside, but something about cupcakes would go on the outside. Anyways, that was a bit of a long introduction to basically say, I cleaned my pantry. And that included organizing my cookbooks and weeding out a few old magazines and such. But it also made me sit back and think about my little cookbook collection and the ones I really rely on.

I have this cookbook that is like my heart. It’s actually my first cookbook, one that my mother hand wrote all her favorite recipes along with the recipes she knew I loved. You can bet it was smack in the center of all my cookbooks. When she gave it to me, I was in college, living in my first apartment and quite frankly not that into cooking. I’d refer to it every once in awhile, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I really began to look at it and try some of the recipes. Over the years I’ve added a few recipes to it, ones that have stood the test of time and deserve to be remembered. Now it’s my go-to book when I want something comforting or something that will come out just right. What cookbook would be in the middle of your stack?

kitchen caravan

September 24th, 2008

Aaron sent me a link to Kitchen Caravan recently and I’m kind of in love. The web site is full of great recipes, interesting articles and informative videos. I especially like this one with Senator Tom Harkin explaining the farm bill and this one about how to make and freeze tomato sauce. Check it out and see for yourself!

pesto risotto

September 24th, 2008

I’ve had risotto on my mind for a while now. I made it earlier this year for the first time, and although that recipe didn’t quite do it for me, I felt like I needed to give risotto another try with something a little safer. When I saw a recipe for pesto risotto in “How To Eat Supper”, I knew that would be right up my alley.

I’ve been picking up basil throughout the summer and making pesto, then freezing it. So I didn’t follow the recipe for pesto, I just took some out of the freezer and let it thaw. I did however follow the recipe for making risotto that included boiling it in chicken broth, adding a cup at a time until it was cooked all the way. Oh boy, the result was just what I was looking for. I absolutely loved the freshness of the pesto with the warm, comforting softness of the risotto. And while the risotto takes a little tending, it’s a nice departure from other pastas, making the extra attention worth it.

As if it couldn’t get any better, Lynne Rossetto Kasper gave an additional recipe for the leftovers, fried risotto patties. Ummm, key to my heart. I came home from work all tired and a little ornery, but then I remembered this recipe for fried risotto patties and the night started looking up. I pulled out my day old risotto, made a few little patties, dipped them in egg wash then some panko crumbs and I was minutes away from risotto indulgence. The outside got golden and crispy while the inside remained a little gooey and soft, full of flavor from the pesto. It was a tasty and easy treat after a long day.

pesto risotto
based on a recipe from “How To Eat Supper”

pesto, such as this recipe

3 Tablespoons butter or good-tasting extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced*
salt and fresh-ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 heaping cup Italian Arborio or Canaroli rice
1/4 cup dry white wine*
3 1/2-4 cups chicken broth

garnish with pine nuts

* I didn’t have either of these and it still turned out tasty.

Prepare pesto and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter or oil over medium heat. Add onions and salt and pepper. Saute until onions are soft and clear, about 3 minutes.
Blend in garlic and rice, cook about 3 minutes, stirring often.
Raise the heat to medium high. Stir in the wine until it’s absorbed. (If you don’t have wine just skip to next step)
Begin adding broth, 1 cup at a time, simmering and stirring each addition until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. Never cover the pot. Once you’ve started adding the broth, the cook time is about 15 minutes.
Afrer cooking about 3 cups, start adding the broth in 1/2 cup portions and begin tasting the risotto.
When it’s ready, the rice should be close to tender, with a little more firmness to the bite than you’d like, and it should be nearly soupy (it will continue cooking and absorb a little more broth in the next step). Never cook the rice to a mush.
Immediately remove the pot from the heat, let it stand for 3 minutes. Fold in the pesto, sprinkle with pine nuts and eat up.


September 22nd, 2008

Fall is here! It’s definitely my favorite season… I just love the colors and the temperature and wearing a comfy sweater outside. With fall comes apples, lots and lots of apples. I thought my first apple recipe of the season would be something pretty straight-forward, good old applesauce.

I picked up a variety of apples at the market this weekend to prepare. Once I was ready I peeled, cored and sliced the apples and tossed them in a pot with some water and lemon juice. I added some sugar and spices and from there it’s pretty easy. About 20 minutes later my apples were nice and soft and sending a lovely fall aroma throughout the apartment. The result was better than I hoped for. The applesauce was super appley, had a nice spice to it, but wasn’t sweet either. Honestly, it was just perfect, definitley the best applesauce I’ve ever eaten.

Ahhh, I just love fall.

Fresh Applesauce
makes 8 cups

9 medium size apples, a few different varieties
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice (or about 1 lemon)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all-spice

Pour water and lemon juice into a heavy saucepan.
Peel, core and cut apples into 1-inch pieces. Toss immediately into saucepan to prevent browning.
Add sugar, salt and spices and put over medium-high heat.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, until apples get soft.
Remove from heat and mash with potato masher.
Pour into containers and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

my favorites

September 21st, 2008

Brooklyn: Sixpoint brewery

September 19th, 2008

Sweet goodness I’m so happy it’s Friday! Today’s happy hour focuses on a producer of delicious brews, Sixpoint Brewery based in Red Hook Brooklyn. We took a tour of their brewery last weekend (during the Added Value event) and it was really great to see where the magic happens. I think the last brewery tour I took was the Miller Brewery in Milwaukee back when I was about 14. The differences couldn’t be greater, thank goodness. Sixpoint is a tiny operation, based in a small brick building about the size of our apartment and started by a couple of guys from Wisconsin. But what they lack in size, they more than make up for in spirit and good tastes. The brewers taught us about different types of hops, even letting us taste different types, some that were fresh and others that were cooked for longer and had a deeper flavor. It was interesting to understand how much the flavor of beer is influenced by those little seeds.

Perhaps the best part of the tour came after it was over and the beer started pouring. We tried four of their best brews, brownstone, a nice slighty darker and nuttier beer, bengali tiger IPA, a super hoppy beer, Righteous Ale, a wheat beer and sweet reaction, a special edition of sweet action, a slightly more citrusy beer. Unfortunately Sixpoint doesn’t bottle their beer yet, but if your in the New York area, look for sixpoint at your local bar, it’s good stuff.

Cheers! Have a fablulous weekend!

maple balsamic salad

September 18th, 2008

Last weekend we went to an amazing dinner at an urban farm called Added Value in Red Hook Brooklyn. Hopefully I’ll get my thoughts together on that whole shebang next week, but in the meantime I haven’t been able to get this salad we had off my mind. It was composed of a fresh mixture of greens, some tiny fried green tomatoes, a little bacon and the best part, maple balsamic dressing. I love a little sweet in my salad, so this kind of rocked my world. I decided to try my own little take on it at home and I’m pretty happy with the results. Instead of adding the savory items, I tossed in some walnuts and marcona almonds and blue cheese and mmmm! so good! It was of course different from the original, but the maple paired with the blue cheese just worked really well together.

Maple Balsamic Dressing
makes 3-4 servings

2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
2 Tablespoons Balsamic
1/4 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients together,
Toss in with a salad made of fresh greens, a little blue cheese, pecans or marcona almonds OR fresh heirloom tomatoes, bacon. Really it’s whatever floats your boat, but this dressing is delicious!

coconut brownies

September 17th, 2008

I saw these brownies over at taste and tell and I felt compelled to make them. It’s been a while since I made brownies and the addition of coconut in the recipe just sounded perfect. I ended up using my favorite brownie recipe for the base of this and followed the instructions for the coconut mixture.

I’m a little biased when it comes to brownies, I hardly ever taste one I don’t like and things haven’t changed with this recipe. The coconut adds another level of richness in already decadent brownies, so a little goes a long way, but man, oh man are they tasty. You’ll definitely need a glass of milk though.

coconut brownies

base recipe
3/4 cups butter, melted
1 1/2 cup natural sugar* (like sugar in the raw)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

*I’ve recently started using raw sugar and I think it has a bit more depth… sometimes it even adds a little crystalization. If you don’t have it, just go with regular sugar.

coconut mixture
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 egg white
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven 350°
Grease 8x8x2 pan
In medium bowl, blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add eggs and beat well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.
Gradually add dry mixture to egg mixture. Beat until well blended.
In another small bowl, stir together the coconut mixture.
Pour 1/3 of the chocolate mixture into the greased pan. Spoon dollops of the coconut mixture over top, about 1 inch apart from eachother. Add remaining chocolate mixture over top and dollop remaining coconut over top.
Using a butter knife, run it horizontally, then vertically across the pan to gently swirl the coconut with the chocolate.
Place in oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.