Sunday, October 13, 2013

Ultimate Winter Couscous

Ultimate Winter Couscous recipe

Couscous is actually a background ingredient to this hearty and flavorful dish. Savory root vegetables, butternut squash, chickpeas and sweet caramelized shallots get dressed up with a plethora of savory, sweet and spicy ingredients that make this dish just that. Ingredients like cinnamon, star anise, paprika, turmeric, harissa and preserved lemon - all personal favorites on their own - come together beautifully in this truly amazing dish. 

Yes the ingredient list is lengthy but if you cook with any sort of regularity you are already in possession of most of the items...and pulling this dish together will happen sooner than you imagine. And in the end you will have an ideal vegetarian meal.

Ultimate Winter Couscous

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 T olive oil
1/2 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground turmeric
1/4 t hot paprika
1/4 t chili flakes
2 c + 1/2 c cubed butternut squash
1/2 c dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas
1 c + 1/2 c chickpea liquid and water
1 c couscous
large pinch saffron
1 c boiling vegetable stock
3 T butter, broken into pieces
2 T harissa paste
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 c cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place carrots, parsnips, shallots, cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 T olive oil, 3/4 t salt and all other spices in a large oven proof dish. Mix well and cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the butternut squash and cook for 35 minutes. Add the apricots, chickpeas and their liquid. Cook for 10 more minutes.

About 15 minutes before the vegetables are done, place the couscous in a heatproof bowl  with the remaining 1 T olive oil, saffron and 1/2 t salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.  Let sit for 10 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed. Fluff and stir in butter with a fork until melted. Cover to keep warm.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and stir in the harissa and preserved lemon. Taste and add more salt if you like.

To serve, spoon couscous into individual bowls, top with vegetables and sprinkle with plenty of cilantro leaves.

Serves 6.
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Source: Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Vegetable-Bean Soup With Herb-Infused Olive Oil

Vegetable-Bean Soup With Herb Infused Olive Oil Recipe

It's 88 degrees here and I thought, there is no better day than today to make a big pot of piping hot vegetable soup.

Actually not. This was to have been lunch last week and the poor vegetables sat in the refrigerator completely ignored while we were running around the city entertaining ourselves during Mr. SSS's chunk of free time {a career transition}.  

So today I cranked up the A/C and declared that we would lunch at home and eat lightly in preparation for a feast tonight with friends {that would be Stefanie, who can cook like an Italian grandma}. 

So soup for lunch it was and I hope you'll consider this an early gift as you can safely bet that right around the corner is cold weather and with teeth chattering we will all say in earnest, there is no better day than today to make a big pot of piping hot vegetable soup. 

This recipe comes from Jamie's Food Revolution, which is one of those rare cookbooks. The kind you come across once a decade - where every single recipe turns out well with no adjustments necessary. The soup itself is a solid, hearty vegetable soup but what makes it special is the herb-infused olive oil, which is used to finish the soup right before serving. 

Vegetable-Bean Soup With Herb Infused Olive Oil

2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 quart + 3/4 quart vegetable broth
olive oil
one 15 oz can cannellini beans
2 c cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
2 c broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
salt and pepper
1 T freshly chopped sage leaves
1 T freshly chopped rosemary
1 T fresh thyme leaves
7 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

Place the broth in a medium size pot and bring to a rolling boil.

While the broth is heating, heat 2 T olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Stir and then cook, with the lid askew, for 12 minutes. Add the boiling broth to the stock pot and then add the beans, cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer low for 10 minutes with the lid on.

While the soup is simmering, heat 4 T olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the fresh herbs and a small pinch of salt and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the spinach to the soup and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Depending on the chunkiness of soup you prefer, remove 1/4 to 1/2 of the soup and puree in a blender, food processor or by hand with an immersion blender. Add the pureed soup back into the stock pot with the soup and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper {I used 2 t salt and 1 t pepper, but the amount you use will depend upon the sodium content of your broth and your own personal preference}. 

To serve, ladle soup in 6 bowls. Add 2 pinches of grated cheese per bowl. Drizzle each bowl with the herb-infused olive oil. 

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Source: Adapted from Jamie's Food Revolution, Jamie Oliver

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Farfelle With Asparagus, Mushrooms And Goat Cheese

Farfelle With Asparagus, Morel and Chanterelle Mushrooms And Goat Cheese
In my humble opinion, there is nothing greater when you don't feel like cooking than heading out to your favorite restaurant. But sometimes during a hectic work week one simply can't rally the troops to get up and go and then one must take one for the team and slog it to the market.

In my humble opinion, there is also nothing greater than hastily putting together a meal under the guise of let's just get this over with only to be surprisingly rewarded with a truly good meal in the end. As in a meal that is better than what you would have received had you had your druthers and dined out.

And that is where this recipe comes into play. Granted, an amazing blend of piping hot farfalle pasta, chanterelle mushrooms, morel mushrooms, asparagus and creamy goat cheese graced the Savory, Sweet & Spicy kitchen over a week ago and since then I have enjoyed a tiny, unplanned break from this blog. And since then I have yet to stop thinking about this recipe. 

The original recipe calls for 1 oz dried morel mushrooms and if spending $30.00 on mushrooms for a single recipe is your idea of a good time, I really admire you! As for me, I labored {and labored and labored and labored} at the market as to whether to go for it or to pull a substitute. And the little voice inside me, the one who has lived through the great recession, said don't be a fool. So I grabbed 1/2 oz morel mushrooms and 1/2 oz chanterelle mushrooms and left the market smugly reveling in my new-found sense of fiscal responsibility. And I can't say that I would do anything differently next time. I think using two different mushrooms ended up being a nice touch. In my humble opinion, that is.

Farfelle With Asparagus, Mushrooms And Goat Cheese

1 oz dried morel mushrooms {or 1/2 oz dried morel mushrooms and 1/2 oz dried chanterelle mushrooms}
kosher salt
8 oz farfalle
1 lb thin asparagus spears
3 T olive oil
1 T fresh minced garlic
1 heaping T fresh minced shallots
6 oz fresh goat cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover them. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, reserving 1 c of the water the mushrooms were soaked in.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Stir in the farfalle and cook according to packaging instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, snap each asparagus spear at the natural break, reserving the tips and discarding the tough ends. Cut the spears {reserved tips} at a diagonal, 1" wide.

Heat the olive oil, garlic, shallots and a pinch of salt  in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly until the garlic is soft and fragrant but not brown, approximately 1 1/2 minutes. Turn the heat to high and stir in asparagus and another pinch of salt. Stirring constantly, cook for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and reserved water and simmer until the liquid is reduced by one third. 

Using tongs, lift the pasta out of the water and quickly transfer to the skillet. You'll want some of the water dripping from the pasta to carry over to the skillet. Place the skillet over high heat and stir gently to coat the pasta. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the pasta and fold in until warm and creamy, about 1 minute. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

To serve, divide pasta among 4 plates or bowls. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

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Source: Adapted from A Twist Of The Wrist, Nancy Silverton

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stuffed Zucchini With Farro, Red Pepper And Feta

Stuffed Zucchini With Farro, Red Pepper And Feta recipe

Have you ever torn out a recipe from a publication half-heartedly, thinking this might be decent ... mehmaybe I'll try this someday? And then you prepare the recipe and it surpasses your expectations ten-fold? Yes, I am referring to this recipe.

It was a week or so ago and I was leafing through the Saturday LA Times - yes we still receive a real, live copy of our local newspaper's weekend editions. I suspect we are the last subscribers on earth and we really don't want or need the little bundle of printed news enshrined in plastic that I trip over each weekend as I make my way outside bright and early to walk the dogs. But every time we call to cancel, they beg us to stay and they keep reducing the price to embarrassing levels. This has been going on for years and I think by now they are paying us to continue receiving. But I have to admit, I do enjoy the Saturday edition - at least the lifestyle section - which is predominately dedicated to food and is a fabulous resource for new recipes. 

I am a pushover for anything Mediterranean so it is no wonder I chose to retain this recipe. Zucchini stuffed with a dressing of farro, onion, garlic, basil, red pepper, mushroom, pine nuts, crushed red pepper and feta. But what really makes the recipe shine is this: sauteing {and sauteing and sauteing and sauteing} the stuffing down into a completely dry state. This requires patience, plenty of stirring and a tempering of heat so as to not burn the vegetables. Then when white wine is added to the skillet it sizzles like mad and evaporates in a mili-second, creating a sweet, nearly caramelized stuffing. Finishing is easy. Simply complete the stuffing, spoon it into the hollowed-out zucchini shells, sprinkle with a little bit of extra feta and bake until the tops are bubbly and brown.. 

Although I am sharing the entire recipe below, I made 1/3 of the recipe as I am cooking for two and it turned out perfectly. So much so that it left us wanting more. Note to self: prepare the full recipe next time. 

Stuffed Zucchini With Farro, Red Pepper And Feta

1/4 c farro
olive oil
2 lbs + 1/4 lb zucchini
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
1/4 lb mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c white wine
1/4 c pine nuts
1/2 c crumbled feta, plus more for topping
1 c water

Cook farro in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and cool.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a large gratin dish with olive oil.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and use a melon baller to hollow out the flesh, leaving about 1/4" flesh on the sides and a little more on the bottom. Transfer the pulp to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Season the insides of the hollowed-out zucchini with salt and steam until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Set zucchini in gratin dish to cool.

Heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped zucchini pulp and basil and saute until dry. At this point, I turned the heat to half-way between medium and medium-low and stirred frequently for about 17 minutes.

When the vegetables are completely dry and reduced, increase the heat to high and add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates - this happened in a few seconds for me.

Remove from heat and let cool. Stir the farro, pine nuts and feta into the cooled vegetable mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into the hollowed-out zucchini. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra feta. Pour the water into the baking side along the sides so it covers the bottom. Bake until tops are brown, about 20 minutes.

To serve, transfer to a platter and drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve warm.

Serves 6.

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Source: Adapted from The LA Times 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar recipe

Anybody who lives in Los Angeles and cares an iota about food considers the chef and restaurateur Nancy Silverton a household name. She who made her name baking {La Brea Bakery} and then proved her prowess as a savory chef {Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza-in partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich}. 

She has published a few cookbooks and one that I have talked about in the past is A Twist Of The Wrist. I received a copy a few years ago-a surprise gift for no reason than just because from my very good friend Helen. On a regular basis, I pick it up, leaf through it and am reminded that I should simply start from page one and work my way through this treasure trove of recipes. Honestly, each recipe I have made be it soup...crostini...salads...has been phenomenal. Where the book {which is actually a collection of rustic recipes NS has culled  from herself and a host of other well-known chefs} may excel most is in the areas of frittatas and pasta. As the weather turns colder I am making a commitment to focus on this cookbook. Like now.

Frittata or pasta? Pasta. And whether you eat pasta regularly or on occasion, this dish is for you. It's comfort food featuring orzo, the tiny little pasta that resembles rice. The end result is suspiciously similar to risotto but the preparation does not require 30 minutes of patient stirring as risotto typically does. This is an easy dinner but one that resembles something you would get in a fine Italian restaurant. Porcini mushrooms are definitely the star. The radicchio, which is quite bitter raw, cooks down to an ingredient that is wholly mellow -  providing color and texture more than else. In terms of other ingredients: don't invest in expensive "extra vecchio" balsamic vinegar as the affordable aged variety in your grocery store is perfectly fine; do invest in Parmigiano-Reggiano - yes there is a marked difference between this and plain old Parmesan cheese.

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
kosher salt
1 c orzo
3 T olive oil
1 T minced fresh garlic
1 T minced shallot
2 c shredded radicchio leaves {about 3/4 of a head}
1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
4 T butter
high quality olive oil for drizzling
4 t aged balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover them. Cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes and continually remind yourself that when you drain them you must reserve some of the liquid. Drain, reserving 1 c of liquid.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a generous bit of kosher salt. Add the orzo, return to a boil and stir occasionally to prevent the orzo from sticking together. Cook until just tender, per the packaging instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 3 T olive oil, garlic, shallots and a pinch of kosher salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir constantly to prevent browning,  cooking until the shallots and garlic are soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat to high and stir in the 1 c reserved liquid from the mushrooms, the mushrooms and radicchio. Turn off the heat.

Reserve 1/4 c pasta water and drain the pasta, transferring quickly to the skillet while it is still dripping with water. Turn the heat to high and stir in the reserved pasta water and cheese. Lower the heat and cook for 30 seconds. Add the butter and stir to melt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

To serve, spoon pasta on 4 plates or in 4 bowls. Drizzle with high quality olive oil and 1 t of balsamic vinegar per plate. Grate a small amount of cheese on top of each plate and finish with freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

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Source: A Twist Of The Wrist, Nancy Silverton

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Butternut Squash Salad With Walnuts, Gorgonzola & Fried Sage

Butternut Squash Salad With Walnuts, Gorgonzola & Fried Sage recipe

In a bit of a hurry today but whipped this salad up for lunch as a result of creative foraging and ended up developing a dish that we enjoyed very much. I always associate sweet butternut squash and earthy sage with fall and the two together compliment each other wonderfully. It's the perfect lunch for a slightly chilly, overcast day. Originally conceived as a side dish, this salad has enough flavor, texture and heft to serve as a satisfying entree.  Hope you enjoy.

Butternut Squash Salad With Walnuts, Gorgonzola & Fried Sage

1 c uncooked brown rice
1 c diced butternut squash
5 T olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper
14 medium size fresh sage leaves, cut into slivers
generous half cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 T fresh lemon juice
4 heaping T crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place butternut squash on top. Drizzle with 2 T olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, arranging squash in a single layer. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and continue to roast until squash is tender and slightly golden, approximately 15 additional minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the rice according to packaging instructions. Set aside and allow to cool.

Heat 2 T olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add sage leaves and allow to saute until underside is slightly brown and crisp, approximately 45 seconds. Turn leaves with tongs and repeat saute on remaining side until slightly brown and crisp. Transfer sage to a plate and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together 1 T olive oil, 1 T lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. 

Place rice, squash, sage, walnuts and Gorgonzola in a large bowl. Gently fold in vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4.

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Source: Jill Crusenberry

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ranger Cookies

Ranger Cookies Recipe

Do not make these cookies if you plan on having just one while you graciously allow the rest to disappear as family and friends indulge. It just doesn't work out that way, at least not with these cookies. You'll want to have one when they are warm, minutes out of the oven. And then another one to judge whether they are good or great, and then another one because you are still not sure. And then, oh what the hell, three more before you go to bed to ensure that good nights sleep. And did I mention how well a few of these cookies go with a piping hot cup of coffee first thing the morning as you are gathering your wits and morphing back into a recognizable human being? You see where I am going with this. These cookies spell trouble.

Classic chocolate chip cookie dough with shortening instead of butter, which yields a thicker, more compact cookie. Plus milk chocolate chips, oatmeal, whole grain cereal flakes and coconut. The result?  A sweet, crunchy, textured cookie that leaves you reaching for just one more. 

Life is too short...sometimes we need to eat cookies...with no guilt attached.  

Ranger Cookies

2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c vegetable shortening {Spectrum makes an organic, non-hydrogenated version}
1 c granulated sugar
1 c packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 t vanilla
2 c quick-cooking rolled oats
2 c whole grain cereal flakes
11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips
1 c sweetened flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Beat together shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in flour mixture on low speed until just combined. Stir in oats, cereal flakes, chocolate chips and coconut.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop rounded tablespoons of batter 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, and then remove from oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheets for another minute. Remove cookies to cool and repeat with remaining batter.

Yields approximately 5 dozen cookies.

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Source: Adapted from Gourmet
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