Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Culinary Pilgrim is Moving!

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Goodbye Blogspot...we had a nice run.

Sweet Tomato Pasta

I like to learn. If money and a nagging guilty feeling didn’t create a necessary road block, I could very easily be one of those people who become a permanent student. Therefore, when I come in contact with something new that I like (be it a chemistry fact, music, or person), I become temporarily obsessive. I want to know all that there is to know about it/them [note to self: buy stock in Google]. I try to conceal this fact as best as possible from society (as intensity can freak people out), but it’s true nonetheless. So yes, I confess: my mind is full of trivial knowledge, that I probably locked myself in a room for a day or two to acquire, that means nothing to anyone save me. My latest “kick?”

Jamie Oliver

I’ve been cooking through his “Jamie’s Dinners” cookbook (the “Green One” for those of you who, like me, forget names of things and simple call them the “blue Weezer album” or the “pink Barefoot book”).

This is wonderful aaaaaaand easy:

1 Onion, chopped

3 Cloves Garlic, chopped and peeled

1 t. Dried Oregano

1 Crushed Red Chili

1 T. Butter

Olive Oil

½ lb. Ricotta Cheese

Handful fresh Basil

24oz Can (good) Plum Tomatoes

3 T. Balsamic Vinegar

1 t. Sugar


½ lb. Pasta

Handful Parmesan Cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400F. Place Ricotta in a small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, oregano, and red chili. Bake for 20 min. until firm. While the Ricotta is cooking, fry onions and garlic with the butter till cooked in a med size fry pan (about 4 min). Add tomatoes and cook for 15 min or so, breaking the tomatoes up with the back of a spoon. Add basil, vinegar, and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, bring enough water to a boil in a pot to cook pasta. Add salt to water and cook pasta according to package instructions. When cooked, add Parmesan, drained pasta, and crumble cooked Ricotta mix over. Enjoy the cheesy goodness.

**If you want to add a splash of red wine to the sauce and have some open (like I did last night), go ahead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Lemon Cake

Coats, gloves, and the like are being pulled out of storage across the country, but not here in Sunny California. With weather still in the 80s, October has been beautiful. Yet, I find myself missing the more stark seasonal changes of the mid-west. Don’t get me wrong—Chicago I still far too cold (at least to not have more snow…the only thing that makes cold worthwhile in my mind), but I truly started to love watching the colors change and the crispness in the air. All that said—I’m ready for the fall…whatever that looks like here. So, as I say goodbye to what will probably be the last “warm” week of weather, here is a wonderful light cake from the Barefoot Contessa as my final tribute to the fleeting beauty of the sun.

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Friday, October 10, 2008

If You are What You Eat....

...then right now I'm ginger. A rather appropriate description (minus the hair)-- I could probably do worse than being spicy, earthy, and well paired with something sweet. So you'll have to excuse me if you've noticed a repeating theme to my recent posts.

This is my variation of the Barefoot Contessa's Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart. I've traded the graham cracker crust for ginger snaps and added a few additional spices. Don't let the banana throw you--this is as good as pumpkin pie, if not better! This is also wonderful with a little whipped cream.

Pumpkin Mousse Tart

For the crust:

  • 2 cups Ginger Snap crumbs (14 crackers)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1 package (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 ripe banana, finely mashed
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the Ginger snap crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl and mix well. Pour into an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press evenly into the sides and then the bottom. Bake for 10 minutes and then cool to room temperature.

For the filling, heat the half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water until hot, about 5 minutes. Whisk the egg yolks in another bowl, stir some of the hot pumpkin into the egg yolks to heat them, then pour the egg-pumpkin mixture back into the double boiler and stir well. Heat the mixture over the simmering water for another 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken, stirring constantly. You don't want the eggs to scramble. Remove from the heat.

Dissolve the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water. Add the dissolved gelatin, banana, and orange zest to the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Whip the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture and pour it into the cooled tart shell. Chill for 2 hours or overnight. Serve chilled.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Vodka, Removable Noses, and Blustery Days

Here's the key word: Potatoes. Whether they are making Vodka, being the face of a childhood chocking-hazard toy (read: Mr. Potato Head), or being used in a savory soup to complement a blustery day, Potatoes seem to have the chameleon thing down. I thought I would experiment around with a few recipes for Potato-Leek soup I had and see what I could come up with. So here's another offering from this Culinary Pilgrim:

Potato Leek Soup

Chop, Chop, Chop

..and Chop

and sweat...

and simmer...

and puree...

and ENJOY.

2 Large Onions
3 Large Leeks
4 Cloves Garlic
4 lb. Red Potatoes
Olive Oil
1/2 t. Cayenne
2 t. Chopped Rosemary
3 Q. Chicken Stock
1 C. half and half

Preheat oven to 425F. Chop potatoes and garlic, place in a casserole dish or cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven 30min. Meanwhile, chop onions and leeks and drizzle with a couple tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot. Cook 10-15min over Medium heat, until onions are translucent. Dump roasted potato mixture into stock pot with other veggies. Add 1 tsp. salt, 2 t. pepper, cayenne, rosemary, and stock. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer 30 min. In a food processor (working in small batches), or if you're lucky enough to have a stick immersion blender, puree the soup. Return soup to pot, add cream, and season to taste.

*** I happened to have a small handful of mushrooms that we going to go bad if I didn't use them, so I chopped them up and threw them in as well. A nice savory touch, but optional.

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