Sunday, November 25, 2007

Strata d'epinards et feta avec des noix

Without a doubt, Spinach is my favorite vegetable, so whenever I'm at a loss as to what to prepare for dinner one night, my failsafe is usually Spinach lightly sauteed with Garlic and Olive Oil. Sometimes, though, especially with a lighter main dish, I prefer to make my Spinach into a heartier dish. The last time I did this, I combined the Spinach with Eggs and Cheese and created my Frittata d'epinards, oeufs et trois fromages. While that was delicious, I decided I wanted something lighter and a little tangier this time around. Looking through the fridge for inspiration (this recipe also succeeded in using up several odds and ends), I alighted on Feta cheese with Mediterranean spices that I had bought at Trader Joe's a week before. Although usually served cold in Salad, I decided to try cooking it, to truly excellent results. Finally I added some Walnuts, to keep the texture interesting. This was purely decided by the fact that I had just bought a huge bag of Walnuts, since I normally eat them raw or, if cooked, in cookies. Finally, I've decided to call this a Strata, as opposed to a Frittata, or crustless quiche. A Strata is basically the Italian word for an egg casserole and, therefore, sounds so much more enticing.

This would also make a delicious Brunch dish, I'm sure.

Strata d'epinards et feta avec des noix

Preoven to 400 F.

Heat Olive Oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add Leeks, Chives and Garlic and saute about 3 minutes, until mostly soft. Turn off heat and add Spinach, Parsley and Feta. Mix well.

Whisk together Milk, Ricotta Cheese, Salt, Pepper and Chinese Five-Spice Powder in a bowl. Add Egg and Egg Whites and continue whisking until well-combined (an electric egg-beater makes this much easier). Pour over Spinach, followed by Bread. Stir. Bake for 12 minutes. Add Walnuts and bake an additional 8 minutes, until the top is lightly golden.

Thoughts: Check out this Hawaiian band I've recently discoverd. Not bad, huh?

Reves: If I ever have a backyard, I want an outdoor Smoker and Grill, like this one.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Epices melangees a l'Amalthea

Here's another very simple recipe--a spice rub. I was actually inspired to make this by a recipe on the back of a box of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt on Friday night when I wanted an exciting new flavoring for my Duck. Luckily, I made quite a lot of this rub, so I've had the opportunity to try it on Duck Magret, Lamb Chops and Trout. And there's plenty of rub left! I'm looking forward to trying it on Fish, especially a strong-flavored, fatty one. I've also finally found the perfect use for the Trattoria Jar in the photo above. I may even make smaller batches of the rub and package it in little jars to give as Chanukah presents.
This rub is delicious, but very strongly flavored. I used 1 tablespoon rub per Duck Breast and found it a little to strong, whereas the Boy really liked it. The Lamb Chops were far more successful in my opinion (though the Boy preferred the Duck), using 1 tablespoon of rub for all six chops. Basically, taste the rub before using it and keep in mind that it is strong (the primary flavor is my new favorite spice, Smoked Paprika). It's also even better ground with a clove or two of Garlic before using, either with a Mortar and Pestle or a Spice Grinder. Enjoy and let me know about your favorite spice rub and how you use it!
Epices melangees a l'Amalthea

Combine ingredients in a jar. Mix well. Store in a cool, dry place. Use 1/2 tablespoon per serving of all Lamb and Poultry before cooking.

Thoughts & Reves: Check out this fun online Cartoon.

And this great blog I've just discovered: Porcini Chronicles.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bouillon de legumes

I promised to post a recipe for Vegetable Broth and here it is. Vegetable Broth is extremely versatile and great to keep in the fridge or freezer until you need it. I use it the same way I would Chicken Broth, especially when I'm making something with Fish or Vegetarian and don't want that stronger Chicken taste. If you're only going to make one Broth from scratch, I highly recommend choosing Vegetable Broth; the canned varieties are far inferior to those of Chicken Broth. Also, Vegetable Broth takes much less time to make than Chicken Broth and is a fabulous way to use up some vegetables that are past their prime. It freezes beautifully, so what I do is make a big batch, then pour it into plastic take-out containers (that we have many of since we order in Chinese soup fairly often). I freeze all but one of the containers and just make sure I always have one in the fridge.

Use this recipe as a guideline and substitute in vegetables you have hanging around your house. Just beware of using stronger-flavored ones, since that flavor will absolutely carry into your Broth. This recipe was inspired by one in The Compassionate Cook, delightfully easy Vegan cookbook. Enjoy!

Bouillon de legumes

Place everything into a stockpot. Add enough Water to cover (this will depend partly on how big your stockpot is). Uncovered, bring to a boil over high flame. Lower to a medium-low flame, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

When ready, strain the Broth. I found the easiest way to do this was to put a very large mixing bowl underneath my colander in the sink and carefully pour the Broth through the colander. Empty the solids out of the colander as often as necessary. If your bowl is not large enough, strain in batches. Freeze or refrigerate until ready to use.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Garden-Cook-Event: Topinambours a la boulangere

When I was living in Paris, one of my favorite things to do was to buy a previously untasted vegetable and then devise a way to eat it for dinner. Usually, with the help of the internet, this proved to be a successful adventure. And, every so often, I'd find a vegetable that I not only loved but that was easy to prepare and to find in the US.

One such vegetable was Jerusalem Artichokes. We first had them when at a market in Bayeux where we thought they looked like a cross between Ginger and Potatoes. We bought 1/2 kilo, brought them home, cleaned them and boiled them a few days later. They were delicious--lighter than Potatoes and considerably sweeter, but still with a pleasant crunch. They are one of the few winter vegetables I look forward to eating. For the Boy's birthday about a month ago, we had a wonderful dinner at Perilla, Harold Dieterle's restaurant, where they served a Sunchoke-Creamed Spinach that was absolutely divine.

Unfortunately, sunchokes aren't carried at the Food Emporium near me, so I hadn't yet cooked with them this season. However, when I saw Paulchen's Foodblog announce that the theme for this month's Garden Cook Event was Jerusalem Artichokes, I knew I had to take part.

What I ended up making was my take on a popular French Potato recipe--Pommes de terre a la boulangere--which were traditionally made by cooking potatoes underneath roasts so they could catch all the tasty drippings. The only meat I used in my lighter version is Chicken Broth, but, if I have time, I might try it again using Smoked Bacon and, perhaps, Beef Stock.

Unfortunately, it didn't come out quite as well as I had planned, so I tweaked the recipe a little more and came up with this one, which I much prefer. This time, there is no meat involved; just homemade Vegetable Broth, for which I promise to post a recipe very soon. Enjoy!

Topinambours a la boulangere

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Add Butter to a saute pan and melt over a medium flame. Add Red Onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Lightly grease a baking pan. Add Jerusalem Artichoke Slices and Onions, combing well. Pour Broth on top. Season Generously with Salt and Pepper.

Bake for 1 hour, until Onions and Jerusalem Artichokes are soft and tasty. Serve with slices of Lemon and instruct diners to squeeze generously. Yum!

Reve: Why are broken cars called Lemons? I quite enjoy the Citrus; it seems a shame to name an abnormal car after it, no?

Update: Check out Astride's fabulous round-up as well as the voting. The prize is 50 Euros, so choose carefully!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Salade de tomates ailles, ricotte et roquette

I know, I know. My silence has been long and inexcusable. And, believe me, a lot has happened in the past three months. But very little of it has been cooking. Or, I should so, very little has been good cooking. According to the Boy, we've finally become "Americans," (no offense) ordering in food or eating mostly prepared food that takes as little time as possible to make it from the fridge to the table. Trader Joe's has become my best friend for this reason, because at least I know their food doesn't have all kinds of artificial crap in it. Yuck! My excuse for all this is that I work in theatre, as an actress and a stage manager, and, lately, I've had a lot of work, which means nighttime rehearsals, which means getting home late at night with neither the desire nor the energy to cook. That, and the stores are all closed.

But everything changed on November 9. That was my 23rd birthday and, as one of my presents, the Boy presented me with Tom Colicchio's new book, Craft of Cooking. That night, we had dinner at Craft, the first restaurant of Colicchio's empire. I devoured the book, then the meal and was reminded of why I got into good cooking, good eating and began this blog in the first place. This was quite possibly the best meal I've ever had and Colicchio's food theory--let the ingredients shine; the chef's job is to bring out the ingredients to the best of his/her capability and not to show off--is the same as mine. Upon returning home, slightly tipsy, full and very happy, I began planning meals for the upcoming weeks. Not all of them are complicated, of course. But they are exciting in some way, at least to me. So stay tuned and thanks for your patience!

This salad was inspired by a trip to the Greenmarket where the last of the season's Heirloom Tomatoes were trying valiantly to survive. I also found Ricotta Cheese made out of Goat's Milk by Patches of Star Dairy. And, finally, I used Wild Arugula, which I much prefer to regular. Of course, I'm sure this salad would also be delicious with the more "normal" versions of these ingredients. Enjoy!

Salade de tomates ailles, ricotte et roquette

Pre-heat Broiler.

Mix together Olive Oil, Garlic, Kosher Salt, Pepper and Cinnamon in a glass bowl. Add Tomatoes and toss to coat. Place Tomatoes, cut side up, on a broiler pan (cover with Aluminum Foil to make clean-up easier). drizzle with Garlic-Oil mixture from bowl and broil 5 minutes.

In the same bowl (don't clean it), mix together Ricotta, Lemon Peel, Fleur de Sel, Pepper, Cinnamon and Arugula. Add cooked Tomatoes and toss. Serve while Tomatoes are still slightly warm.