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Posts from the ‘Spring’ Category

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham


Oh, March…you don’t really belong to winter…and yet you’re not a full-fledged spring month either.  Sigh…

I don’t know about you, but this time of year, I start craving all things spring.  Ramps, fiddleheads, greens, onions and asparagus, but there is one vegetable in particular that I look forward to the most.  Spring peas.  I think my devotion to the fresh-from-the-garden-spring-peas comes from disliking all peas that were placed in front of me before sometime in my mid-twenties…and is most likely related to the fact that 99% of those were of the frozen or canned variety.

Here’s a revelation.  This Spring Pea soup can be enjoyed any time of year.  Let me say that again, you can enjoy the delightful crisp and sweet taste of spring peas any time you feel like it.  Herein lies the genius of this Spanish Pea Soup with crispy ham and the Barefoot Contessa!  So even if it is still dumping snow in your neck of the woods…it can be springtime in your mouth!

Spanish Pea Soup with Crispy Ham

Good olive oil
½ cup chopped shallots (2 large shallots)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 pounds frozen peas, such as Bird’s Eye Sweet Garden
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or Italian prosciutto

In a deep (8 x 5-inch) heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed, season to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve in shallow bowls with a slice of crispy ham on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve hot.

The ham is an integral part of this dish…a nice salty and crunchy complement to the sweet peas.  We opted to serve some crusty bread alongside and we couldn’t resist yet another Barefoot Contessa recipe for Garlic Roasted Cauliflower to make the dinner a bit heartier.

This is so simple, quick and fresh that it makes a perfect weeknight meal, and leftovers are wonderful, even served cold for lunch with a dollop of creme fraiche and of course the drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt!

What is your favorite spring craving?

 

 

Spring Onion & Leek Crostada with Ricotta and Back Bacon


 

We love brunching, we frequently find ourselves trying out new places in town (like here, here or here) or venturing to old standby’s (including here, here, here and here) when the world is still quiet and sleepy.  Every now and then we are lucky enough to be invited over to friends’ houses where we can nibble bites and sip our coffee at a more leisurely pace.  A few Sunday’s back, we were just in luck and threw together a spring onion and leek crostada with back bacon and ricotta…all thanks to our CSA box from that week.

When I started cooking the back bacon – I’ll explain what it that is in a minute…I didn’t really have a firm plan about when I was making and how it would take shape.  When this happens, sometimes the end product is brilliant…and other times, well…that is when it’s time to stop by a bakery on your way over.  This time, it was lovely!  The spring onions and leeks from our CSA box were too beautiful to not use and they screamed to be the feature of a dish.

So back bacon is not made from pork belly – it is the center cut boneless pork loin and is much leaner and meatier than regular American bacon.  It might also be labeled as Irish bacon.  It can be tricky to find so regular, good ‘ole bacon will do just fine.  We found it at a Fresh & Easy market, whose parent company is British…which explains why they carry it.

I started by washing the leeks and then slicing the leeks and the spring onions into very thin slices.  The ramekin in the back holds none-other than rendered bacon fat.  We always have it in the fridge and it keeps very well.  Whenever you cook bacon, just strain the warm oil that was left in the pan and cool, then place in the fridge.  Dare I say, it makes a decadent grilled cheese and it is very spreadable!  I also prepared a short crust – something like you would use in a tart or a quiche – generally it is just flour, salt, cold butter chunks and a little ice water.  Whenever you are making a pastry dough, it is important to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. Which is plenty of time to slice and cook your onions and leeks and cook the bacon.  I sautéed the onions and leeks in butter and some of the bacon fat for about 5 or 6 minutes as I wanted them to sweat but not gain any color, and I seasoned them with fresh thyme.  Turn the oven on to 350º so it has plenty of time to reheat.

Next, I rolled out the crust and placed it on a piece of parchment on a half-sheet pan.  We had some ricotta left in the fridge which was perfect because this crostada needed something to hold it all together and work as a base.  I thinned the ricotta just a bit with some heavy cream and of course, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little more of the fresh thyme.  Spread it evenly on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1-2 inch border on all sides and top with the back bacon slices leaving at least 1 piece to sprinkle on top.  Next, spread the spring onions and leeks over the top and top with another sprinkle of salt.

Now, fold the pastry in towards the center starting on one edge and working your way around.  A crostada is not a fancy food…so it does not need to be perfect!  Top with the last slice of bacon either sliced or crumbled.  Count yourself lucky if you manage to hide the last piece from your husband who is trying to sneak as many nibbles as he can blaming his actions on pure famine!  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and some of the onions and leeks have crisped on top.

Our CSA box had also arrived full of late harvest citrus and some fresh mint…so we brought those along with us as well.  Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange and then slice the peel and as much of the pith off of all sides.

When serving citrus served like this, it is best to ‘supreme’ the fruit…I can’t figure out an easy way to write up instructions for you…but I found a great video on youtube that will show you exactly how to do it here.  Next, chiffonade some mint and toss it with the segments of orange – very refreshing and easy to eat as there is no pith or seeds to pick out of your teeth.

The crostada is delicious warm or room temperature and was a delightful addition to the brunch buffet.  It was crumbly and savory, with a nice oomph of onions and leeks!

What dishes have you made that turned out surprisingly well despite no real plan when you started?  We are always on the lookout for new recipes that travel well…what are your favorites for a potluck brunch?

 

Panna Cotta – Under Construction! {a little help over here…please!}


Okay readers.  Clearly, I am in need of your help, your collective knowledge and wisdom, your trial and error experience with the seemingly simple (any-idiot-should-be-able-to-make-it) Italian dessert – panna cotta.

Don’t get excited…I did not make this one…

{via}

I made this one.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that a perfect panna cotta is not supposed to look like this…

Seriously…I’ve searched and searched for clues as to why it separated…and I can find none.  I repeat…NONE!  I followed the recipe exactly.

Okay not e-x-a-c-t-l-y…but very close.  Instead of using vanilla, I used Meyer lemons as the flavoring, the juice and some of the zest.  I bloomed the gelatin and heated the milk, stirred it altogether to make sure it was good and mixed…I poured it into little ramekins and let it cool a bit and then put them in the fridge.

(and what’s worse…I served them to my in-laws who were visiting…who were more than polite and delved right in as if eating gelatinized milk with a weird-looking yellowish layer on top was nothing other than sheer delight – luckily they are good-humored individuals!)

It tasted fine as well…but the bi-level layering and the yellowish top layer was a bit hard to get past.

So what happened, huh?

Attempt number two is happening this afternoon…but, if that one doesn’t turn out.  I may have to throw in the panna cotta towel.

{I’m counting on you, readers, to pull me out of panna cotta hell and tell me what went wrong!  Puh-lease!}

oh…and Happy Mother’s Day!

—– UPDATE—–

I made a second batch yesterday afternoon using a Mark Bittman recipe for Vanilla Buttermilk Panna Cotta.  The process varied quite a bit, and I was sure it would work out this time.  Many have thought that my issue may have been caused by the acid in the lemon juice – but yesterday’s recipe contained no lemon at all!  I was feeling very confident and pulled one out of the fridge after dinner and dug my spoon in…only to find that once again…full separation.

At this point, panna cotta and I are in a fight…a big one, and currently, I’m holding a big grudge.  We’ll have to talk it over at some point but I think right now I need some space!  GEEZ!

So I now request your help once again…or I’m going to start email-stalking Bittman himself until he discovers the error of my ways!

Help!

DLW :: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Risotto & Sautéed Kale


Roast a pork tenderloin, make some risotto, sauté some kale and top it all with a little Parmesan…and poof – dinner appears!

Okay, it wasn’t actually that quick, but it was delicious and we had some leftover pork for a meal later in the week!  (stay tuned for details on that…)

What did you eat last week?

 

Hot Cross Bun(nie)s!


What do you get when you our boiling water down a rabbit hole…?

Hot Cross Bunnies! 

Okay, I kid.  But I do love some hot cross buns!  I came across a recipe on the King Arthur Flour site.  It seemed to have a nice balance of spiced dough with just a bit of sweetness not too much dried fruit.

Recipe can be found right here and the only changes I made were that used about half the total dried fruit called for in the recipe and only used currants.

I soaked them in rum as I did not have any apple juice in the house. This is a great trick to make sure that your dried fruit doesn’t steal all the moisture from your dough during the rising process.

No need to worry about the order of mixing either,  I added all the dry ingredients to the bowl, gave it a quick stir with the dough hook and then threw in the wet ingredients – eggs, milk and room temperature butter.

I happen to love the Proof function on my oven…it heats to about 80º (my guess is using the heat of the oven light), but it ensures that my rising dough stays warm and out-of-the-way of any drafts.

Note that it is not a super-puffy rise.

Just as the recipe stated, it makes 12-14 (for me – 14 exactly) and they are about the size of billiard balls.

And since I wanted warm toasty buns on Easter morning without having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get the dough going, I started it the evening before and left them formed in rolls over night in the fridge for the second rise.

I slashed the tops with a razor and let them sit on the counter to take the chill off of them while the oven heated.  Woody tried to get Cleo interested in them…which I don’t approve of.

Last step before the oven is to brush the tops with an egg white mixed with milk to help them brown up.

All seemed to go as planned although I cooked them a bit longer as they were so well chilled that I worried they would turn dark brown without the insides being cooked through.

Poof!  They magically turn into delicious and golden brown rolls,  Okay…maybe an oven was involved – at 375 for 20 minutes and at 350 for the remaining time.  In total, they baked for 30’ish minutes.  I know, very precise.

The dough only has a bit of brown sugar in it, so the icing was a nice addition.  (I can’t believe I actually advocated for icing…as I am almost categorically opposed to it…but I’ll admit…it was needed and delicious!

We are soon headed to a delicious brunch and therefore these were just a morning snack to hold us over until our 2:00 pm reservation.  Add in a steaming cup of coffee and it was a fabulous spring morning!

What are your Easter traditions?  Whatever they are I hope they are filled with delectable items and people you love and hopefully some delightful spring weather!

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

Chicken Gorgonzola Pasta Salad with Bacon


D’Amico & Sons!  Ring a bell…?  If so, you probably live in Minnesota or Florida or have flown through MSP airport and had enough time to wander around for a bite to eat…and if this is so…you know what I’m talking about.

I wasn’t always one for pasta salads.  They were always bland and drenched in oil and vinegar and seemed to be a dumping ground for canned and often ignored veggies.  My nightmare of a pasta salad involves tri-color spiral pasta with a bottle of italian dressing, some canned sliced olives and if we are lucky…a dice of red bell pepper.  If that’s the best thing you can think of to do with some pasta…perhaps you should consider take-out!

Now that I’ve seen the light…I know the potential that lies in a well-thought-out pasta salad.  Think big…you probably can’t go wrong!  Visiting my husband’s family in Minneapolis, I was treated to D’Amico and Sons, and have been recreating various menu items ever since!

The weather has started to turn truly into spring in most of the country and what better way to welcome it than with a totally cold dish of hearty pasta?

Fun Fact:  Add buttermilk to regular mayonnaise and POOF!  You get ranch dressing.  No, really…nothing additional needed, unless you want it to look like ranch dressing, then you could add some things…ya know…like…herbs.  That’s it.  That’s all.  We were shocked – it tastes just exactly like ranch.  After we got over this fun little piece of info…we got on with the cooking chopping and mixing.

All ingredients in our version are just a guess…so we have chicken, not-all-the-way-sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, bacon and gorgonzola dressing.

I know it looks a little like butter…but it is actually really delicious creamy gorgonzola!  The dressing is simple…a little mayo, buttermilk, crumbled gorgonzola, salt and pepper.

Oh yeah, you’ll also need some pasta of your choice…cooked extra al dente!  Add the various components to the bowl, pour dressing over the top and drizzle.  Be conservative at first with the dressing, each piece should have a nice coating…but not be drowning in dressing.  Mix it up…then add the spinach.

Lastly, scoop onto a plate…and top with your perfectly cooked bacon crumbles!

Enjoy!

2011 Meals in Review | part one


As I’m a bit behind these days, I noticed while perusing my photos from the past year in search of a couple photos for a new year’s card to send out, how many delicious moments we had in 2011.  What follows is not only what we made, but what we enjoyed! 

The delicious moments of 2011…


January

Rosemary Sea Salt Dinner Rolls (recipe credit: Pioneer Woman)

Creamy Pheasant and Wild Rice Soup

Orechiette with Pheasant, Bacon and Spinach

Butternut Squash, Shallot and Goat Cheese Pizza

Pot Roast…good the first time, better the second…

Cumin-scented Butternut Squash with Onions and Wild Rice

Pot Roast Ravioli

Homemade Fettuccini

Boboli’s done right…!  (yes, you are correct…that is an egg cracked on top peeking out from underneath the arugula and parm!

 

February

yummm…pancakes

Delicate Scrambled Eggs with Truffle Salt

A Birthday dinner at Bouchon

Cod Brandade with Tomato Confit and Fried Sage Leaves

Frisée aux Lardons et Oeuf Poché

Croque Madame

Back at home…Cheese Soufflé

Lump Crab Cakes

Valentine’s Day Cheese Fondue

Tempura and Cold Soba Noodles

Baby Artichoke Gratin (recipe credit: latimes.com)

 

March

Fancied-Up Burgers

Seared Scallops with Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Welsh Rarebit

 

April

April brought with it a trip to Vienna for Woody’s work…

Käsekrainer – near perfect street food

Beef Tartare with all the appropriate accoutrements

Veal Medallions

Finally in the homeland…a full plate of spätzle just for me!

A celebratory meal at Meinl am Graben began with a Veal Carpaccio for Woody

Tortellini with Consommé and Crisped Prosciutto

Honestly…I can hardly remember what exactly this course entailed…but I DO remember that it  was incredibly amazing!

The third course of our prix fixe…again…perfection!

Although I can’t say the name of the place…the fare was delicious

A trip to Vienna without Viennese coffee would be a crime!

Back at home…Pacific Spiny Lobster with Fava Beans and Meyer Lemon

Grilled Cheese Invitational…who says no to that…?

Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes…there were plenty more sandwiches and a lot more cheese, but most disappeared before I could get a shot!

And of course, an annual batch of Deviled Eggs for Easter!

 

May

Fried Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese

Onion & Bacon Tart

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Another birthday was cause for a trip to the Los Olivos region, some wine tasting and of course a meal or two…

Bistro Burger

Spring Vegetable Pot Roast

Ebelskivers

Savory Lentil Salad

House guests meant a trip to the Original LA Farmer’s Market and an Oyster Po’ Boy

June

Chicken Garlic Sausage & Swiss Chard Flatbread

Potato Salad – Two Ways

Poppyseed Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone Frosting

Part two coming soon…

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini


I love me some summer, and all the light fresh summer dishes that appear at potlucks and barbecues this time of year.  However, I have a confession.  I have a love-hate relationship with peas.  Mushy green things were a common side on my plate growing up and I remember many a night when I sat at the table long after everyone else had finished…and all I had to do was eat 3 more bites of peas.  Gross!  Then I grew up (a little) and met fresh english peas…treated with the respect that such a pretty and perfectly petite vegetable deserved.  I loved them.  I convinced myself that they were two entirely different things that shared no common traits.  I’m still wary of pea dishes and always approach them with suspicion.  This little dish is shockingly simple but more than the sum of its parts.

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Ingredients:

English peas, shelled
Feta (about 8 oz.)
1-2 tbsp.’s of ½ & ½ or milk
Fresh mint
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Baguette or crostini toasts
Sea salt for finishing

Start by blanching the peas in heavily salted boiling water for no more than 2-3 minutes.  Before you toss the peas into the pot, prepare a bowl of ice water and place it in the sink.  When the time is up, remove the peas and pour into a colander and then immediately submerge them in the bowl of ice water.  This will shock those little peas and keep them from overcooking and it sets the bright, fresh green color.  Once they have completely cooled, go ahead and drain the peas.

Next, get the feta, drain it and place it in a medium size mixing bowl.  I used half of a 16 oz. package.  Using a fork, mush up the feta and slowly add the ½ & ½ or milk.  Mix it up until it is a nice consistency for spreading on toasts, err on the side of keeping it a little thicker than you think.  First zest the lemon and then slice in half and squeeze all the juice out into a bowl or measuring cup.  Add in a tbsp. of lemon juice, a tsp. of the lemon zest, a sprinkling of salt and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.  This is a taste-as-you-go-recipe…so keep tasting and adding ingredients as needed.  You want a creamy spreadable feta with a floral lemon notes from the zest and a bit of zing from the juice.  The black pepper can be a prominent flavor as well.

Let the spread chill in the fridge for a bit.  Now grab the cooled peas and throw them in a bowl.  Take 5-10 mint leaves and stack them on top of one another, starting on the long side, roll them up like they are a yoga mat and then slice them very thinly.  Poof!  Chiffonade!  Sprinkle the mint into the peas, add some salt and maybe just a touch of lemon juice.  We brought these over to a barbecue…so I packaged everything separately and built the crostini on location…no one likes a soggy crostini.  Oh…did I mention the crostini/toasts…yeah, make them.  (Slice baguette thinly, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet and then put in a 375º oven for 4-6 minutes – watch them carefully…you want them to dry out a bit and get just barely toasty, remove from oven, flip them over, repeat the drizzling and sprinkling and toss them back in the oven for another few minutes…maybe only 3 – cool completely and store in airtight bags.  Voilá…Crostini!)

Time to assemble the toasts:  spread on lovely layer of feta, place the peas over the top, add a little lemon zest, a little mint and finish with some flaky sea salt.

The other parts of this barbecue are SO worth mentioning…we grilled some white salmon that marinated in 3 mustards, tarragon, olive oil and a little vinegar. we’ve been lucky enough to cook some white king salmon once before!

It’s hard to make asparagus better than when it is lightly oiled and thrown on the grill!

This is Juno, the sweetest Doberman we’ve ever met…she makes our Cleo dog look like a miniature breed.  They are good friends and neither one of them minded when they got to nibble on a little of the cooked salmon skin!

We used some foil under the salmon as we could not bear the thought of losing even the slightest morsel to the slots on the grill.

We finished the salmon with more fresh tarragon and some fresh lemon.  And if you look really closely in the upper right hand corner of the photo…you’ll see some delicious sautéed fennel!  Unfortunately…no other photos are available of the complete dinner since I must have been on a trampoline when I took them – they were THAT blurry!

Sometimes, enjoying the meal with friends, while it is actually hot, is more important than getting the perfect shot!

Bon Appétit!

Black IPA and Heirloom Salsa


The month of May makes me think of sitting outdoors, enjoying the lingering light of the still somewhat cool evenings, having a beer and noshing on some chips and salsa.  What better way to do all of this than with a delicious Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale and some homemade chips and heirloom tomato salsa from one of our favorites…Cacao Mexicatessen in Eagle Rock.

The word salsa almost lacks any kind of specificity…it can mean anything.  This is a perfect variation of unadulterated flavors.  Heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, diced onions peppers.  A little heat, but mostly crisp and fresh tastes of summer!

Beer.  I’m partial to IPA.  I like me some hops.  This takes me overboard.  It’s black as night without any hint of chewyness, it’s hoppy and oh so good!  It might just be my favorite beer of the moment.  It has the right match of malt and hops, along with some noticeably different floral notes.

It’s not for the faint of heart…as the alcohol is 8.7%.  An added benefit, we can find it on draught at Lucky’s up the street.

What dishes make your feel like summer has arrived?

Seared Scallops with Roasted Caulifower Soup, Peppery Olive Oil & Fresh Parsley!


Scallops are like the tenderloin of the sea.  If I spot a seared scallop dish on a menu…it’ll be hard to steer me in another direction.  Seared in butter, with a nutty sweetness and tender texture…I could eat them right out of the pan, but plop them in a delicious soup with a little something extra…and, I’m DONE!  Stick-a-fork-in-me-done!  And just one bowl of soup, simply presented is completely satisfying.

Instructions are simple:

Take one head of cauliflower, cut it up into rough chunks, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 375º oven for 20 minutes, or until brown around the edges and your kitchen smells wonderful.  Prep the scallops by letting them rest on a plate on a counter so they come to room temperature, which helps with sear.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit.  The salt actually helps bring soluble proteins to the surface which will also help develop a nice crust.  Once the cauliflower is cooked, let cool and then toss into a soup pot, add in chicken or vegetable broth to almost cover.  If you want a little more complex flavor, you could sweat some onions in the pot first and then dump the rest in.  Bring it to a boil and then break out your immersion blender.  (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you don’t know what you’re missing…it’s one of my favorite kitchen appliances and is a very inexpensive addition to your culinary toolbox.)  Purée the bejeezus out of it…the silkier the better.  And if you really want to get fancy you can break out a chinois, or strainer and make sure you’ve caught any sneaky chunks.  Season again with salt and pepper and any additional flavors you want; truffle salt would be interesting…maybe some smoked paprika…fresh herbs…you could go a lot of directions.  Keep the soup warm and sear the scallops in butter with at least a touch of oil which will help prevent the butter from burning.  When the pan is hot, add in the scallops, and make sure to not crowd the pan.  Leave the little guys be in the pan…don’t move them around, don’t peek underneath.  Just 2-4 minutes on the first side, flip them and cook for another 2 minutes and they will be done.  DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SCALLOPS!  It would be an atrocity of great proportion and the scallop police would come find you, take you away and feed you rubbery overcooked seafood for the rest of your life to prove a point.  Don’t do it!

Portion the soup out into shallow bowls, drop in the scallops, drizzle with a favorite olive oil and finish with a scattering of parsley and just a touch of sea salt!  Voilá!

You can thank me later!

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