Let’s start this Monday off with a little game of two truths and a lie. Guess which of these is my lie.
- Courtesy of a nasty case of jet lag, I’m a walking zombie today. Staring at my bedroom ceiling at 3:45 in the morning is not a good way to start off the week.
- Despite said jet lag, I’m still a-glow from one helluva vacation.
- I’m not even remotely upset to be back in winter weather after basking in 2 weeks of summer glow.
Tough one to spot, I know. So, while I would normally consider this a slacker post, my standards are a tad lower until I get back into the swing of reality and it seems only appropriate to post about tomatoes. We aren’t going to see beautiful ripe tomatoes for months around here, but having enjoyed amazing summer foods in Australia, I’m craving more.
It wasn’t until late last summer that I discovered the beauty of roasted tomatoes. In fact, Mr. KC and I have been surviving on remnants of roasted tomatoes that I canned at the end of the summer. But you don’t need summer tomatoes to make this. Roasting is the perfect way to bring out the best of the less-than-perfect tomatoes of winter.
- olive oil
- coarse salt
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Chop tomatoes into uniform pieces. For reference, I would generally quarter my roma tomatoes or halve cherry tomatoes (you could even leave those whole if you wanted)
- Lay out tomato pieces in a uniform layer on a roasting pan and coat with a healthy drizzle of olive oil.
- Sprinkle on coarse salt, add basil leaves and whole garlic cloves (you don’t even need to peel these)
- Roast in oven for about 25 minutes at which point, check in on these to see how they’re doing. You want them to look like they are on their way to being sun-dried tomatoes. I generally take mine out around 35-40 minutes, but like to start checking in on them earlier to avoid over-charring them.
- When ready, remove from oven and use as a side or topping for pasta (great with fresh mozzarella and some shredded fresh basil and arugula) or for whatever you would normally use tomatoes.
- Most importantly: make sure you don’t ditch those lovely roasted garlic cloves. They should be golden and soft. Mash them up with some butter and salt and you have the ideal topping for bread.
We are still on the road, but thought I would share a quick pic from this lovely country. From the hospitality to the food (oh, the food) this trip has treated us so very well. We are heading back to a rainy Sydney for one last evening of fun before embarking in the long flight home. Here’s to hoping spring will greet us when we arrive.
It seems only appropriate right now to share a recipe from a cookbook I purchased the last time I was in Australia. I say last time because Mr. KC and I are on a much needed holiday down undah. After an arduous 20 plus hours in Dante’s lost circle of hell (otherwise known as economy class on a United flight from SFO to Sydney), we’re finally taking in the sun, drinking wine at lunch and forgetting that we actually have to work for a living. Isn’t that what vacation is all about?
So, here’s a lovely recipe from one of my favorite Aussie cooks, Bill Grainger. Enjoy it with sunshine if you have it and even if you don’t, enjoy despite not having summer weather yet knowing that it’ll be here before you know it.
More to come when we’re back. Cheers, mate!
spicy shrimp and arugula pasta
From bill’s everyday food
- 250g/8oz linguine
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 10 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 small red chilies, finely chopped
- 25g butter/2tbsps butter
- 50g/1.5oz arugula washed and dried (estimate about a cup or so)
- Cook linguine in salted water according to instructions
- Heat oil in large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
- Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add garlic and chilies, cook for another minute.
- Add butter and reduce heat to low.
- Add arugula and cooked linguine.
- Toss linguine through sauce until coated.
- Divide pasta between 2 bowls. Garnish with additional arugula.
Not exactly my idea of a cupcake, but I admit I just adapted the name of the original recipe. Ever since I learned how easy the perfect polenta can be, polenta recipes are more tempting than ever. Inspired by a Food and Wine recipe for individual lasagna cakes, I thought polenta might be a nice substitute (spoiler alert: for once, I was right).
This is not a light dinner. This is a stick-to-your-ribs, baby-it’s-cold-outside, where-are-my-pj-pants, kind of recipe. Of course, serve a salad on the side and tell yourself that it all balances out in the end.
savory polenta cupcakes
inspired by and adapted from food and wine
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the ramekins
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- 2 cups polenta
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup snipped chives
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 8 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
- 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely diced
- Freshly ground pepper
- Cook the polenta.
- Spread out cooked polenta in a thin layer (no more than an inch) over a baking sheet and allow to cool.
- Using a measuring cup that is slightly smaller than your ramekin, cut out your polenta layers.
- Preheat the oven to 350°.
- Butter ramekins and coat with Parmigiano; tap out the excess. Place the ramekins on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet.
- In a large saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and whisk over moderately high heat for 1 minute. Add the milk and whisk over moderate heat until the sauce is bubbling and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg, chives, parsley and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano. Let cool slightly, then stir in the Fontina and prosciutto. Season the filling with pepper.
- Arrange 1 polenta round in the bottom of each ramekin. Spoon filling into each ramekin and top with another polenta round; press to flatten slightly. Note: Number of layers you can fit will depend on how thin you were able to spread out your polenta. The thicken the polenta round, the fewer the layers.
- Top with the remaining filling and polenta round. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmigiano and cover loosely with foil.
- Bake the cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes, until the filling is just bubbling.
- Remove the foil and bake for about 10 minutes longer, until slightly puffed and the tops and sides are golden. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Run a knife around each “cupcake” and invert onto plates, tapping firmly to release them. Serve with that feel-good green salad on the side.
Winter isn’t exactly the season everyone thinks of when they think farmer’s markets, but the bounty of root vegetables and hearty greens is enough to keep me happy until the fruits of summer return. Purple carrots are a seasonal favorite. Often, I think that it’s because of pure aesthetics that I gravitate to purple carrots, but the more I eat them, I genuinely believe there’s something more to it. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I can’t get enough of them.
This soup recipe comes courtesy of one of my favorite bloggers, Joy the Baker. I love her recipes, but her food styling and writing brings me back time and again. How can you not love a blog post entitled “Don’t be a Sexy Panda for Halloween“. I’m going to add that to this list of things I’m writing to my 18-year old self–it’s actually becoming a long list, turns out a have some choice words for that chickee.
But more relevant is her recipe for carrot ginger soup. I kid you not when I say that I had just purchased some purple carrots for the sole purpose of making carrot ginger soup and logged into my Google Reader before searching for recipes. First recipe to pop up? Carrot ginger soup. Funny and clairvoyant–nuts!
So, whether you are enjoying spring-like weather or a cold front, make this soup. And make it with purple carrots, if you can. Heating up leftovers at work and getting weird looks as someone thinks you’re reheating blueberry soup is pretty awesome.
carrot ginger soup
from Joy the Baker
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons minced ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4-5 cups diced carrots, preferably purple carrots
- 3 cups vegetable broth, keep more on hand to thin soup as needed
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add onions and saute until onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add ginger and saute for another 4-5 minutes, until softened and fragrant.
- Add coriander, cayenne pepper and diced carrots. Stir to incorporate.
- Add vegetable broth, reduce heat, and simmer mixture until carrots are completely softened, about 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes.
- Using a blender, blend soup in batches until smooth. If you have an immersion blender, simply blend in the pot. If you don’t have an immersion blender, please think about whether or not your life is complete without one. I know mine isn’t and doesn’t everyone deserve a life complete with an immersion blender? I think so.
- Once blender, stir in coconut milk and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional: I thought my soup was on the thick side for what I wanted when completed, so I added more broth until I reached the desired thickness. I found myself thinning it out again when reheating. I recommended keeping some extra vegetable broth on hand to do this.
For most people, the thought of Paris makes them swoon and don’t get me wrong, this girl loves Paris. Who wouldn’t. But for me, la bell’Italia steals my heart every time.
When most people think Rome, they think Vatican, churches, Spanish Steps. And if it’s your first time to Rome, you need to do all of that. But the Rome that I dream of involves sleeping in, coffees outside, late lunches and even later dinners. Somehow every time I’ve made it to Rome, it’s been hotter than Hades. So, it’s no surprise that the Rome I love is Rome at night. In the evening, the city seems to take on a whole new persona. So, this isn’t a post about the best time to see museums or even which restaurant to dine in. This post is more a tribute to Rome I daydream of, Rome at night.
I could apologize for being a slacker, but more likely I should probably accept that gone are the days of being able to do it all in one evening and be at peace with knowing that I’ do things on a different schedule now. In Switzerland, my commute was 5 minutes at most and I always left on time, which meant that I could cook dinner, go to the gym and blog all in one evening. What a novelty!
Of course, my time in the kitchen is still as valuable to me as ever and I keep my camera handy, so I promise there are recipes to be shared and I will get them to you–just not at the pace I could once keep. This one was a recent one that stole my heart and Mr. KC’s. Word of warning: Quick chicken dumpling soup this is not. I chose it because I thought “Huh, soup? That’ll be easy.” I started it at 8pm on Saturday night having just come home from a long day of errand-running and gym-going. I promised Mr. KC it would likely be on the table by 9 and we could enjoy a glass of wine, dinner and a movie. At about 8:30 I realized I really need to start reading recipes and that we would need to order pizza if we wanted to eat before 11. I ended up splitting the recipe into two steps and would recommend the same. I’ve adjust the directions accordingly.
Is it worth the effort? Heck yeah.
Thomas Keller’s Chicken Dumpling Soup
from ad hoc cookbook
- 8 tbsps unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
- 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
- 1 cup coarsely chopped leeks
- Kosher salt
- 4 quarts Chicken Stock
- 5 stalks celery, cut into thin, diagonally-cut slices*
- 3 large carrots, cut into even, bite-sized pieces*
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed, skin left on
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) roux
- 2 cups cooked shredded chicken (dark or white meat)
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced chives
step (day) 1: make soup base and roux: approximately 90 minutes
- Melt the butter in an 8- to 10-quart stockpot over medium heat.
- Add the carrots, celery, onions, and leeks, season with salt, and cover.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, 30 to 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the chicken stock to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain the soup base into another pot and discard the vegetables.
- To make the roux: Put the butter in a small skillet or saucepan and set it over medium heat. When it is almost melted, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly and adjusting the heat as necessary so the roux bubbles but does not brown (3-4 minutes). Transfer to a bowl to cool. Will keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Please note: this makes 2/3 of a cup and the recipe only calls for 1/2 cup. You will have some leftovers.There’s a good deal of waiting time here, so I recommend while you wait, you prep your ingredients for step 2 (i.e. shred chicken, chop carrots and slice celery )
step (day) 2: make dumplings and finish the soup 60-90 minutes
make the dumplings:
- Fill a wide deep pot with salted water and bring to a simmer.
- Set up a stand mixer ﬁtted with the paddle attachment.
- Combine the water, butter, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- Reduce the heat to medium, add the ﬂour all at once, and stir rapidly with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean.
- The dough should be glossy and smooth but still moist; enough moisture must evaporate from the dough to allow it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added.
- Continue to stir for 4 to 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from coloring; a thin coating of dough will form on the bottom and sides of the pan–that’s okay!
- When you start to notice a little steam rising from the dough and a faint nutty aroma of cooked ﬂour, you’re done.
- Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl. Add the mustard and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix for a few seconds to incorporate the ingredients and release some of the heat.
- With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating until the ﬁrst egg is completely incorporated before adding the second and incorporating it.
- Then add the chives and incorporate. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Shape the dumplings using two soup spoons to shape and then drop them into the simmering water.
- Cook the dumplings in batches to avoid crowding the pot and allow them to cook evenly.
- Once the dumplings rise to the surface (about 5 minutes) remove one and break it open to make sure it is cooked. If it is, then remove all with a slotted spoon, transfer the dumplings to the baking sheet, and cook the remaining dumplings.
- Once the dumplings have cooled, cut into desired size (I ended up quartering mine).
finish the soup:
- Celery: If you haven’t already, cut each stalk crosswise on the diagonal into thin slices about 11/2 inches long. As you get to the wider lower part of the stalk, adjust the angle of your knife to keep the pieces relatively the same size. You need about 1 1/2 cups celery for this recipe (reserve any extra for another use). Cook the celery in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain, cool in an ice bath, and drain again.
- Carrots: Cut carrots lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into bite-sized pieces. As each carrot widens, adjust the size of the cut to keep the pieces bite sized. You need about 1 1/2 cups carrots for this recipe (reserve any extra for another use). Put the carrots in a saucepan, add the honey, bay leaf, thyme, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the carrots are tender but slightly resistant to the tooth. Drain and transfer to paper towels.
- Bring the soup base to a simmer and whisk in the roux a little at a time until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon; you may not use all the roux. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming often—this is necessary to remove all impurities from the roux. (The soup will continue to thicken as it simmers.)
- Add the dumplings, chicken, carrots, celery, and chives to the soup and heat through. Season with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a large serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley leaves.