Category: pantry

Try Something New -Homemade Pasta Edition!

In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.

I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.

Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.

I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!

Homemade Pasta Dough
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Homemade Pasta Dough
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
  2. As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
  3. I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
  4. Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
  6. If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
  7. At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
  8. Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
  9. Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
  10. To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
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Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce

Picada is like a pesto. Made with chocolate and almonds it is lovely on the palate!

Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Charred Cauliflower with Picada Sauce
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat oven broiler to high
  2. Toss florets with 2 T. olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil, turning once, half way through, until charred and tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat garlic and remaining oil in skillet an cook, over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch and stir, so garlic doesn't burn. Transfer oil and garlic to a a medium bowl an let cool.
  4. Stir almonds, parsley, chocolate, sherry, salt and pepper into garlic oil. Toss with cauliflower while it is still hot. Garnish and serve immediately.
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Valentines Day Chocolates!

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I know you are still wondering what to do. We all spend a lot of time looking for something new and creative to do. We all want to “keep it fresh”. Well, I’ve been married for almost 20 years and let me tell you it gets hard. I am a devotee of the classics. Let’s do a romantic dinner. That’s not to say we can’t shake things up a little bit. If you or your significant other are certified chocoholics, like me, how about a meal that has chocolate in every single course?

There is so much to love about chocolate but what you need to know here is that it starts out as cacao, which is mouth wincing bitter. Don’t be scared, that gives you control. That bitter cacao nib is a chameleon. Once add sugar, fat and cream, with a little mixing, you can have the sweet Hershey Kiss from your childhood or a complex and award winning delicacy.

In a typical three-course meal, you’ll start with salad. Let’s make milk chocolate vinaigrette. The milk chocolate is an emulsifier that creates a welcome creaminess. Serve the vinaigrette it over greens that included purple radicchio. Radicchio is a little bitter so it cuts the sweetness. Spinach adds necessary balance. To round out the salad add Asian pear for a tart crunch and diced cranberries for their sweet chewy flavor.

The star of the main course is a fennel seed and cacao nib rubbed pork tenderloin. The secret really is the rub. The rub is a blend of cacao nibs, fennel seeds, cinnamon and cayenne with cocoa powder and brown sugar bounces all over your mouth. The recipe calls for grinding the nibs and seeds in a mortar and pestle. The result will be quite coarse. If you’d like a finer texture you can use a coffee grinder or food processor. Remember though, the finer the rub, the less pungent the flavor. Is the rub sweet or spicy? The rub will seal your juices in while cooking so you won’t need any other sauce than the glorious juices as they pour out when sliced.

In keeping with the play on sweet and spicy the pork is served with a charred cauliflower in a picada sauce. Picada is similar to a pesto. This recipe uses; bitter dark chocolate, Marcona almonds, garlic, parsley and a touch of sweet sherry. The cauliflower should be tender, almost creamy, inside and just charred on the outside. There are so many great textures in your mouth.

In moments of humility and mistakes often come our greatest success and sweetness. Dessert comes from one of those moments. I misread a recipe that called for teaspoons of flour and sugar as tablespoons and the result is more like a rich, incredible brownie than cake. It won’t look so pretty when you first turn it out, so decorate with abandon. You can try whatever fresh berries in season. For a more elegant presentation, sift some powdered sugar through a lace doily and add some fresh herbs. I always say if it smells good together it will taste good together so get creative; how about some tarragon or thyme? If you are short on time a dollop of fresh whipped cream will work too.

Here’s the truth, I did not take pictures the last time I made this and don’t want to use stock pictures from the internet. I promise to post pictures as soon as I can. Finally, it appears I can only do one recipe per post so I will send the recipes one after the other.

I wish you and your loved one a very meaningful Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Melt chocolate and stir until smooth. Whisk in vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. While whisking continuously, drizzle in oil until thickened and combined.
  2. Divide arugula/spinach among plates. Top with pear, cranberries and drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
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Winter’s Colorful Citrus

Winter knows how to hook you. That first nip of cold air gets you excited and all the sweaters come out. When you are sick of rain the snow starts and when you think you can’t handle the grey skies anymore, Peonies show up and the citrus is ripe for the picking.

The Peonies I had to find in NYC while looking at colleges for my daughter. They were a welcome sight on a slushy, grey street in Chelsea. The citrus, in the form Cara Cara oranges greeted me when I came home to Los Angeles. They were bursting with juice and practically leapt off their trees when I went out to pick them.

Cara Cara oranges are wonderfully sweet and have specks of dark red hinting of a relationship to blood oranges. You can juice them and cook with them. This year they were too sweet not to use in everything! First, I peeled, sliced and served them on a beautiful platter on their own. Delicious! Then I tried a variation on lemon curd. It is literally sunshine is a jar. You can use any way you would lemon curd or, like me, just eat with a spoon.


Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Cara Cara Orange Curd
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Bring the orange juice to a simmer in a small saucepan, over a medium high heat and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in zest. Cool to room temperature.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in cooled juice mixture. Once combined, pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it starts to thicken and it reaches a temperature of 180°. This should take 6 - 8 minutes.
  3. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into another bowl and stir in butter, until it is completely melted. Cool completely and place plastic right on surface of curd, to prevent skin forming. Place in refrigerator until well chilled.
  4. Store in airtight in refrigerator for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, before use, if frozen.
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Try Something New! Graham Cracker Edition

When I read a post where the first thing the author does is make an excuse, I have to admit it is a huge turn off.  Julia used to say something to the effect of don’t make excuses for your food whether it’s bad or good, everybody already know’s. Well, Julia, true that but sometimes life just rushes by and you get behind.  The ironic thing is I have been writing like crazy, because I have so much to say!  It’s the cooking and picture that seem to set me back.  So here I am to catch up and I think this first one is a good one.

We finally got a little cold snap her in Los Angeles.  I love to think that means we can have a fire in the fire place and snuggle up.  I mean what else can you do when it is 50 degrees out (pause for groan from the east coast)? A fire in the fireplace almost always means S’mores.  So tonight it meant making my own graham crackers.


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I don’t know why I wanted to make my own graham crackers. There was something so intriguing to me. I imagined it would be very complicated so it never occurred to me that I would share it here, under try something new. It was super easy!

I went looking for “Graham” flour. Guess what? Its really just whole-wheat flour that is not sifted during the milling process and is ground coarsely. You can find graham flour in some health food stores. For my purposes I used plain whole-wheat flour. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour Company. I made the first batch exactly as directed. One of my daughters is not a big cinnamon fan and I thought it could be a little more “wheaty” so I made some adjustments and the following is my recipe. It really is simple.

My advice is to be patient when rolling out the dough. You do want to get them very thin. You also will want to have a ruler handy, if measuring out as squares, which is the proper graham shape. I admit I got bored of that and made some squares and some circles with a biscuit cutter. Finally don’t forgo the pricking with a fork. This helps them keep their shape, without puffing up.

Homemade Graham Crackers
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Homemade Graham Crackers
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking powder in a medium bowl. I used a stand-up mixer fitted with a dough hook.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, honey and milk. Blend into flour mixture, until a ball starts to form. Add an additional tablespoon of milk if necessary.
  3. Wrap and chill the dough for about an hour. Turn the chilled dough out onto a lightly floured board an knead gently for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease or line with parchment, 2 baking sheets.
  5. Roll the dough to 1/16"; make sure the board stays floured so the crackers transfer easily.
  6. Cut the dough into 3X# square and prick them with a fork several times. Place on prepared pans and brush tops with a little milk. You can sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if you wish.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool completely, on rack. They will keep well wrapped at room temperature for a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
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I’m Going to Julia’s!

There’s that icebreaker question, “If you could invite any 3 people, dead or alive, for dinner; who would it be?” My answer is simple. Julia Child, Julia Child and Julia Child. I even know what I’d make, my Osso Bucco and Parmesan Ricotta Gnocchi.

You may think that Julia is the obvious choice for a chef but there is more to my choice than just that. Cooking is a lifetime sport, you never stop learning or playing with your food. There is always room for improvement or a new technique. Julia herself was well into her forties before she enrolled in the Cordon bleu. Which is why she is one of my biggest inspirations.

I am often asked how long I’ve been cooking. I can honestly say I’ve been cooking since I was 2 years old. I finally formalized my education when I was 23. The last few years of writing this blog, with your support and feedback has really fueled my desire to continue my education and to educate you.

Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to travel to La Pitchoune, Julia and Paul Child’s home in the south of France. I will be going with a small group of women writers and an amazing mentor, for a 10-day retreat. I can’t wait! I feel like a kid anticipating Disneyland. I know when I come back I will have so much more to share with you.

I want to share those recipes with you that I would have cooked for Julia, had I been given the chance. I hope I am posting often from France too, but this should keep you day dreaming while I’m away. As Julia would say “Bon Appétit”!

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Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Osso Buco
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Osso Buco
Gnocchi Verde
Servings:
Instructions
Osso Bucco
  1. Rub veal shanks lightly with olive oil , season with salt & pepper and chopped herbs.
  2. Dust each shank shank with seasoned flour and set aside.
  3. Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet and heat. Do not let the oil smoke. Brown shanks on all sides. You may add small amounts of oil if needed, be careful not to overdo it.
  4. Add the wine, tomatoes and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
  5. Cover pan and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  6. Test for tenderness. Fork should pierce meat easily.
  7. Sauce should be thick. If not , remove meat and hold, let sauce reduce uncovered over low heat.
Gnocchi Verde
  1. Remove stems and veins of spinach and wash thoroughly. Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch spinach for 1 minute and then drop in ice water to stop cooking. Squeeze ALL moisture out and let air dry. You want spinach to be bone dry. Chop spinach fine.
  2. Saute onion and pancetta in butter. Add spinach and saute until dry. Cool until cool to touch.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and fold all together.
  4. Flour your hands and form 1" - 2" balls. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel. You can hold here for up to 6 hours.
  5. When you are ready to cook: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil oil and salt the water. Add the gnocchi a few at a time and cook until puffed and cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. They should rise to the surface. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to remove, GENTLY, from water.
  6. Place in a buttered dish in a single layer. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan.
  7. Broil for 5 minutes until just browned. They are great served as is or with your favorite tomato sauce.
Recipe Notes
  • You can chop and slice the fresh vegetables by hand. I use a food processor and the chopping and slicing blades. This save a lot of time.
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Baked Kale and Rice

Baked Kale and Rice
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This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Baked Kale and Rice
Print Recipe
This is a great Vegetarian main course. You can add chicken if you are not a vegetarian or use it as a side dish.
Servings
6 people
Servings
6 people
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Cook the kale in a large pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Then immediately drop in ice water.
  2. Squeeze dry and chop. Make sure all moisture is removed before you bake.
  3. Using the same cooking water, for flavor, boil the rice for 10 minutes. Drain and spread out to let cool. I use a baking sheet lined with paper towels. When cool, transfer to large a bowl.
  4. Preheat over to 375° and butter a baking dish. Dust baking dish with 2 Tbs. of parmesan.
  5. Melt 2 Tbs. of butter in a small sauce pan and add almonds. stir until golden and add to rice bowl. Season with Salt and pepper lightly.
  6. Add remaining parmesan, ricotta, jarlsberg, nutmeg, lemon zest, thyme an sage to rice. Add chopped kale and toss well. I use my hands to get every thing mixed in well.
  7. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes until browned.
  8. Serve immediately.
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Simple Pleasures

Swimming in Lake Tahoe.
Swimming in Lake Tahoe.

As a young mother, MANY years ago, I was very idealistic. My children were not going to eat chocolate, too early. High fructose corn syrup would never pass their lips and they would never have frozen or processed foods. Ha! Last summer we vacationed in Lake Tahoe, and were concentrating on the simpler pleasures. We hiked and spent days on the lake. Our nighttime activities were nothing more than dinner out and a movie in the hotel room.

One night, while we were waiting for our table, at dinner, my kids and husband were playing beanbag toss. I must have been in a dreamlike state, when I had a vision of those little girls and the meals I use to make for them. I don’t think there is a kid out there that doesn’t like chicken tenders or nuggets. In an effort to get my kids to be happy campers at dinner I developed my own recipe for chicken nuggets. It was a hit! I always served them with whatever fresh fruit was in season and some sort of potato. I admit that I was too lazy to make my own French fries so I often used a wholesome frozen variety.

As we get back into the busy days of fall, I hope you and your family will take a moment to slow down and enjoy a simple pleasure like homemade chicken nuggets. Oh and we are planning our next Lake vacation.

Chicken Nuggets
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chicken Nuggets
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken into 2 bite pieces
  2. In a large ziplock bag combine flour, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt & pepper.
  3. Add chicken pieces to bag a few at a time. Shake to coat and then set aside.
  4. In a shallow bowl stir milk and egg. Put crushed crackers in another bowl.
  5. Dip floured chicken pieces in egg mixture then crackers to coat well. Then place on baking sheet, in a single layer.
  6. Bake at 425° for 10 - 12 minutes, until golden brown
Recipe Notes

My kids love these with ranch dressing homemade or not.

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A Pantry in Three Parts

To paraphrase Julia Child you should never makes excuses for your food.  Whether it is good or bad everybody already knows.  After a five month absence, I’m back.  This is for you Carl!

My pantry is my comfort zone, a larder that has evolved over twenty years of cooking every day. It is my haven and where I go to feel safe. I can look at my pantry and see nothing; my sister looks in my pantry and thinks, “This is where I’m going after the apocalypse.” My pantry is where I go to get my creative juices flowing. It is often where I go to have fun. I can always find a spice, or some ingredient that will spark whimsy and often a party.

There is no one size fits all. You have to start with a few rapid-fire questions. I mean it! Don’t think about your answers. Say the first thing that comes to your mind.

1- what is your (family’s) favorite home cooked meal?

2- what is your breakfast, every morning?

3- what is the meal you cook every week? This may not be the same answer as #1.

4- when asked to bake for a bake sale or office party, what is your go to recipe?

5- when you stand in front of your pantry or refrigerator, what do most often eat as a snack?

6- what is the one recipe that gets the most reaction, wow factor, when you serve it?

Write the ingredients from all your answers down. This is where you will start building your pantry. Be honest with yourself, too. When I was single I may never have thought of turkey burgers. I sleep soundly, now, knowing I have my go to ingredients on hand.

Now I face the conundrum of the well-stocked pantry. Mine is in three parts: Everyday, Panic and Entertaining. Everyday- Here I am a Mom that feeds her family. I can make lunch, snacks, and dinner for my family. This pantry makes me feel nurturing. Panic- this pantry may well have some overlap with Everyday.   It has the most basic of ingredients for a quick breakfast and at least chocolate chip cookies for a last minute bake sale. This pantry makes me feel safe. My last pantry is for Entertaining. Here you may find an atypical ingredient, like cherry preserves or capers, in mine. This is the pantry that may get stocked when a specialty ingredient is on sale or as the holidays approach and you know you will be living it up. This pantry excites me. For me some days are utilitarian and on other days I just want to have fun. My pantry in three parts lets me indulge any mood.

Your Everyday pantry will be very personal to you. Here is a glimpse into my Everyday pantry

A quick breakfast item – For me this is grits. For you it may be cereal or pancake ingredients. I like to keep these items at waist high level. That way the kids can be a part of the decision.

We always have PB&J at home – that means not only the best quality peanut butter, but also an almond butter to swipe on a banana for a snack. Because this gets used so often it is on the same shelf that includes the snack items, like dried fruit, or pita chips (for hummus)

A few dinner ingredients – I always have dried pasta on hand and some sundried tomato paste.   Sometimes you just have to throw it together quickly and that means dried pasta and jar sauce. I keep sundried tomato paste to stir into jar sauce and give it a richness and fresher taste. I try to keep my pastas, sauces and rice all on the same shelf.

Basics – I always keep cans of tuna (I like the Italian kind canned in olive oil). I like to keep chicken and vegetable broth on hand. They are both great for adding flavor to cooked rice, pasta and vegetables, instead of water. We love tomato soup with grilled cheese so there is usually a box or two of Pacific brand tomato soup. I also use the sundried tomato paste in here and maybe some Pomi diced tomatoes to doctor it up. These items I like to keep all on one shelf.

Baking – I always have flour, sugar, baking soda and baking powder on hand. I also make sure there is always a bag of chocolate chips. This makes it easy to do a cake, muffins or cookies at a moments notice.

Spices – I am pretty selective about what spices I will keep on hand. I have small shelves built into the side of my pantry, just right for holding an array of small bottles and jars. However, spices can go bad or lose their potency, quickly. For that reason I try to only “stock up” on the ones I go through quickly. You can see I need to do a New Year purge.There are spice stores popping up that you can but in small, or customized quantities, even some farmer’s markets have spice vendors. I love flake salt so Maldon Salt is always on hand. I love the way a fresh grind of nutmeg can add a secret flavor to cheese dishes so I usually have a couple of whole nutmeg in the house. My husband loves heat so we always have a large container of chili flakes. My daughters love cinnamon and I love garlic so these are staples too. For the cinnamon I give in and buy the Cinnabon cinnamon. They love it so why not? I love a product called Garlic Gold. It is chopped, roasted and then freeze-dried garlic that has amazing flavor. You can buy it dry or packed in olive oil. I use both versions.

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Speaking of oils, here is my take. I always have a vegetable oil. I don’t really have a preference of canola or corn. I have a less expensive olive oil for cooking and I have a really high-end olive oil for dressing. When I say high end, I mean you would and could just eat a spoonful of it. It taste that good. One I really like is Laudemio. It has a beautiful green color and a peppery taste.

Alright, get started! To help inspire you, here’s my recipe for Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins. It’s one of my favorites from my everyday pantry.

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Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
Print Recipe
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Oatmeal Buttermilk Muffins
Print Recipe
This is an easy muffin to make with your well-stocked pantry. This is also a great recipe to add some mix-ins, like chocolate chips or dried fruit.
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Servings
12 muffins
Cook Time
12 minutes
Ingredients
Topping
Servings: muffins
Instructions
  1. Soak oats in buttermilk, for 15 minutes, in a large bowl.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder,baking soda, salt and cinnamon, in a small bowl.
  3. Stir egg, sugar, oil and vanilla into oat mixture.
  4. Add dry ingredients to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Don't overwork.
  5. Line muffin tin with paper liners. Use an ice cream scoop to fill each cup so they are uniform size.
  6. For Topping, stir together butter, oats and brown sugar. Sprinkle over each muffin before baking.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.
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