Thursday, March 25, 2010

artichoke beet pizza

i haven't cooked beets in a long time, and i don't even know how it's possible they slipped my mind. i saw this beet risotto on jessica's blog, apples and butter, and the beet invaded my mind like aliens taking over a host body. i made the risotto immediately, but it was so quickly polished off, there was no time for pictures. i'll make it again, it was kinda brilliant. the thing is, i got a bit carried away and i roasted a whole sheet of baby beets, a lot more than i needed for one dish. that's how this one got to be - a cross between the leftover beets and my daughter whining for pizza. the combo of beet and marinated artichoke is surprisingly good. it's excellent.

initially i didn't want to cook it, i was afraid these two have too much moisture and i'll end up with a soggy pie. it's all good as long as you keep them in a strainer for 15-20 minutes. as an alternative to roasting the beets, you can steam them. get small ones if possible, they cook faster and they're easier to peel. be careful with them, that juice staines right to the bone. once they're cooked and cooled, slice them thinly and put them in a mesh with the artichokes.

stretch the dough to the size and shape of your baking vehicle. spread with tomato-based pizza sauce. sprinkle a good handful of grated parmesan over it. then alternate slices of beet, artichoke and mushroom. don't overcrowd it. then take 4 or 5 springs of thyme and run your fingers against the stem to get the tiny leaves off, and sprinkle them evenly. i also used some chopped sage, but that's not as vital as the thyme. give it a grind of pepper and bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes.

it's the best of both worlds. your kid gets pizzzzaaaaa! and you get a few veggies in her, and a grown-up lunch. the spinach is dressed simply with olive oil, champagne vinegar, dijon and honey. it makes a great companion for the pizza but doesn't steal its thunder. i think it would be lovely with a few dots of goat cheese, and/or a few asparagus tips. i plan to turn all these ingredients into a panzanella, stat. the aliens are still eating my brain.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

creamy coconut rice

we had a wonderful morning today. it was sunny and warm, so we went out right after breakfast. we planted 30 gladioli, we covered the driveway in abstract chalk and we played ball. the crust of dirt on zhara's hands when we walked inside was like the fur of a bear, only petrified. the bulbs require a good drench when they're planted and she took that to heart: dirt, water. dirt, water. let's wash your hands, babe. here's the pickaxe. i was going to stop her, but she saw it coming, and she did the bit that always reduces me to a puddle of touchy-feely goop. she says i love you, i say i love you, too;  then she says, i love you tutu. sure you can water the flowers, clean is overrated, and anyway you're too cute for boundaries.
we got inside in a fantastic mood. the risotto i had planned seemed lackluster - zhara likes a reduced number of dishes, as many toddlers do, and i'm dead bored with the stuff. i've never made this before, but it's in the circuit now, because she loved it so much she asked for it at dinner, too. i've seen a lot of coconut rice done with peas, but in our house they take the stage only as villains in a play where the villains never win. the villains are promptly booed off the stage in shame.

1/2 cup pearl rice, or basmati, or brown
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup frozen soybeans, or peas
1 inch piece ginger, quartered
2 lime leaves
1 ts orange zest
pinch nutmeg
salt, pepper
crushed peanuts, optional
heat a little olive oil and saute  the onion until translucent. add the rice and and cook a few minutes to toast it. pour in the milk and water, add the leaves and ginger root and bring to boil. cover and reduce to a simmer. after 10 minutes add the frozen peas. we used this mix from trader joe's that has corn, soy beans and red pepper. it's zhara's favourite. cover again and cook until the rice is cooked and the liquid mostly gone, about 8 minutes. remove and discard the leaves and the ginger. add the citrus zest and season to your liking. garnish with peanuts on amenable plates.

the coconut taste is mild, like a lazy afterthought, and the citrus punch brightens it up. i love how creamy it is, and i'm already thinking what a great dessert this will make in its sweet incarnation. but until dessert, next time i'll treat it with some shrimp for a delightful one pot meal.

serves two.

Monday, March 22, 2010

sundried tomato zucchini pasta

a dish as bright as the day outside. thankfully, most of the snow has melted, and though it's not warm, it's sunny, and the heavy clouds that were forcing lassitude on me have cleared the sky. i'm starting my tomatoes today. i found some great heirloom tomato seeds, and decided to give them a shot. i don't much like to use seeds for tomatoes, i always buy small plants that i can put directly in the ground. seeds are fussy, they need at least six weeks inside, but i'm determined to follow through. ever had cream of heirloom tomato soup? it's worth every bit of impatient gardening i can muster. at least until those hang on the vine i have sundried tomatoes, the next best thing. they can brighten up the blandest of dishes, plus i love the color they give to sauces. this is a 15 minute lunch for zhara. let's just breeze over the inordinate quantity i consumed, it's not healthy to dwell in the past.

1 lb pasta
2 large zucchini, grated
8 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, finely sliced
2 large roasted red peppers, finely sliced
4 oz bulgarian feta cheese, crumbled
a few parmesan shavings, optional

boil the pasta according to package instructions. prep the vegetables while that's happening. drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the water. stir in all the veggies at once, and let it cook together for a few minutes. the zucchini will give off their juices, as will the peppers and tomatoes. add the cheese and mix well. the cheese will melt to form a wonderful sauce, and everything will take on a pale golden colour from the tomatoes. you may need a bit of pasta water, it all depends on how much juice the zucchini gives off. thin it to your preffered consistency, season with salt and pepper, plate and garnish with parmesan. enjoy at once.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

fried bay scallops

i honestly thought i was done with food braised, fried or sauced. we had a few warm days, very conducive to light fare, salads dressed brightly in lemony vinaigrettes, grilled fish and vegetables. zhara welcomed the absence of scarfs, mittens and winter boots, and the arrival of the first spring flowers. which were promptly burried in snow yesterday.

yet even before the weather turned, i only cooked comfort food. matzo ball soup, hungarian goulash over spaetzle and these cheese pastries with plump raisins that zhara loves.  we did have fish one night, but pan-fried with vegetables drowned in balsamic buttersauce. perhaps it's understandable, considering the week we had. and speaking of which: thanks again to everyone who called or wrote, it was all very kind of you.

 tonight i'll try to keep things light, but first these scallops: sweet and crunchy, with a slight kick. we absolutely loved them.

1 lb bay scallops
4 tb all-purpose flour
1 ts ground ginger
1/2 ts smoked hot paprika
1/2 ts garlic powder
salt, pepper to taste
1 egg
2 tb milk
1 cup panko, possibly more

heat oil in the widest pan you have. no olive oil, something neutre like canola, sunflower or vegetable oil. mix the flour with the condiments. beat the egg with a glug of milk and a pinch of salt. line up the plates of flour, egg and panko. pat the scallops dry. put them all in the flour at the same time, but only lift a handful at a time and shake them well to remove any excess. put them through the egg, roll around in panko and fry till golden. they go very fast, about 3 minutes on side one, another 2 after they're flipped. you want the oil to come up half-way around them so you only have to turn them once. do not crowd the pan - you have to be able to see it in between the scallops. you shouldn't fry more than two batches in the same oil, panko will fall behind and burn, so use your widest pan. remove to paper towel. they're absolutely delicious, great hot or room temp. goes great with baked fries or rice. plum sauce really puts it in context. when you dip, you get a layer of crunchy spicy sweet panko, then mild scallop, almost creamy against the breading, it's a great contrast and a nice pairing of tastes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

counting my blessings: there are many.

we got up today to a beautiful morning. a true, it's-really-spring morning, sunny, incredibly warm, that made me open windows immediately and skip about the house - well, at least in my head i did, we all know i'm not that much of a morning person. it gave me a mad craving for a citrus dessert, as cheerful as the weather. i poured a cup of coffee, gave zhara her milk and made some waffles. i was having trouble deciding if i should clean the house and bake bread or dump it all and just go for a walk in the forest preserve. that's when the phone rang. my husband called, using someone else's phone, to tell me there had been an accident. he's fine. but he did not sound fine. my sunny disposition evaporated, knees made out of playdough, i told him i was on my way. oh, god, please. the prayer of all wives, even a wife without a god. his phone had shattered, so i grabbed an older one we hadn't tossed. i had so many questions, but he could only talk for a minute. he had borrowed a phone from someone, and i could hear the clammoring of cops? doctors? in the background. never before have i resented every single car on the road like i did today. i wanted to roll down my window and shout. i'm a bit uncomfortable recalling how the speed limit signs were blurring past, seeing i had zhara in the back. though it's not even close to how fast i used to drive, before i had her. it was never supposed to be him, the one to get in an accident. he's the calm, patient one. he's the one who drives for a living. i couldn't believe it happened, really, all winter long i worry about ice on the road and blizzards and today? seriously?

i got there. it happened, allright. all 18 wheels up in the air. cabin smashed, windshield crushed some 15 feet away. our livelihood a big blob of scrape metal on the side of the road. him, whole. thank god, not a scratch. it could have been so much worse. he was transporting a big coil of industrial chain. luckily the whole thing went down on a ramp, and when the coil got loose it rolled off onto the empty patch in between the two highways. and not in the traffic behind. it could've been disastrous.

it's been hours, but clearly i need a shot of get-it-together-you-damn-fool in the coffee i'm drinking, cause i can't stop obssesing about might've happened. if his seatbealt weren't buckled. if other cars were closer. this week we were going to finally launch our own business. we only needed some numbers from the DOT, we had a charter almost set up, we've been working so long for this. this is not a setback, it's possibly a deal-breaker. and still. he got away intact. we're all healthy. we're not in haiti. we'll be fine.

i drove back, zhara singing 'twinkle, twinkle little star' all the way home. i asked her if she wanted to bake with mommy, for what else could i do? she was enthuziastic as always. we also made a quick risotto while the apple cake was baking. she's such a blessing.

unvelibable! onion has a fever!

if you're as indispensible to your resident as i am to mine, you can cheat on the constant stirring. let it simmer covered instead. no one will know. or care. follow the recipe for risotto milanese, but add the chicken broth right away, bring to boil and after 10 minutes of simmering, add frozen soybeans; after another 5, the asparagus and 1 tb chopped sage.

the asparagus needs 3 to 5 minutes, depending on its thickness, then stir in the cheese and you're done. meanwhile panfry a few sage leafs, 30 seconds, if that, don't carbonize it. serve at once, with a few leafs on top. maybe skip those on the doctor's plate.

the cake really is amazing, i've made this a lot since seeing it at smitten kitchen, it's very moist and the outside gets almost caramelized. wondrous, but the dessert to restore my appetite today has yet ot be invented. so i don't have a picture of a slice, or not a slice of the one i made today. it will probably go to my neighbours, but baking it has calmed me, to way it always does.

these were taken last september? october? or around there; zhara had a grand time stealing cake, she was walking around on her tippy toes trying to look innocent, with crumbs everywhere around her mouth and on her shirt.

Monday, March 15, 2010

cabbage soup on a smoked turkey drumstick

another soup that wafts memories of home and childhood. my mom made it often, with or without meat, smoked or not, but always tomato-based. this is the soup i ate on the evening of my first culinary disaster. or rather, couldn't eat because anything remotely sour was too raw on my wounded taste buds. it was a few days after the beginning of first grade. mom was at work. i got home from school, and even though i had prepared food in the fridge, i wanted fried eggs. so i cracked two in a pan, and fried them over easy, still in my uniform. then i seasoned them with salt and pepper. i got a napkin out - one of the 'good' ones, which i wasn't supposed to use - and wanting to be fancy through and through, i used another condiment on the eggs. quite a bit of it, and it was white vinegar. i swear it hurt to even smell the stuff for years afterward. i chucked the foul dish, pushing back the guilt of wasting food, put back the unused napkin, and went to diligently pursue homework in lieu of penance.

even now i only use white vinegar for cleaning and for the rare poached egg. for cooking i have red, rice and champagne vinegars that i find less aggresive. happier memories are tied with this soup, too, like the time we made it out of scraps leftover from canning cabbage-stuffed peppers all day long, and that we ate at 1 am after a couple hours of board games. bad puns were made about me being as sour as the soup. (i lost every single game, what are the odds?! and to be gracious about it? hardly in my least i admit to being a sore loser, which my mom will never do, even though she's worse than i am.)

turkey legs did not exist in my childhood, that is a new addition, and i think an improvement. this is a far better choice than any smoked ham hock i could find, and i'm sure i'll come up with other uses, we loved this meat! so first you bring the leg to boil and then add root vegetables - carrots, parsley root, celery, and onion, a couple bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, and simmer until the meat is easy to pull apart with a fork, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size of your drumstick. in the meantime finely chop a cabbage of decent size. when the meat is ready take everything out using a spider and throw the cabbage in the broth. discard the vegetables and pull the meat from the bone, cut it bite-size and put it back in the pot. slice a couple carrots and add them to the cabbage. simmer gently for another 10 minutes, then add 6 to 8 oz tomato sauce/juice and 1 tb tomato paste. simmer 5 minutes more. correct seasoning, add 3 tb chopped dill and a squeeze of lemon juice and turn off the heat. serve with sour cream and hearty bread.

zhara loved it and had it for lunch on three consecutive days. i usually don't make soup in industrial quantities, but that was one big leg, so i had to pull out the big pot, and didn't have the sense to freeze half the stock for another use. so even with a portion sent to the neighbors, and my husband's appetite at the ready, the soup lasted three days. not a bad thing if you have a crowd - the turkey leg was $3.50, the cabbage $1.20, so the whole thing costs about $7 to make.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

caramel coconut flan

i made this especially for a friend who was going to visit today. after stuffing her full of flan we were going to see 'alice in wonderland', but yet another migraine made the whole plan go down in plumes of dissapointment. i simply couldn't face 2 hours of blaring sorround and flickering lights, not if johnny depp was signing autographs at the door. [not the time to call me on it!] so no movie for me, and no flan for my friend obviously translates into double flan for both me and my husband. sweet mother of consolation!

the recipe i used comes from a restaurant in philadelphia, azafran - i'm pretty sure that's the name, i've never been there and i got the recipe from a friend who swears 'it's the best'. i really did love the consistency, but as far as taste goes, to me it seemed more creme brulee than anything else. you couldn't really taste the coconut, i definetely recommend adding finely grated coconut or extract to it to perk it up. probably extract though, i wouldn't want to mess up a perfect texture.

5 eggs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1/8 ts salt
1/2 ts vanilla
1 ts coconut extract

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/3 cup water

mix the sugar and the water in a heavy-bottomed pan and place on high heat to caramelize. stir until sugar is dissolved, then continue boiling on high heat, tilting the pan occasionally, but no more stirring. use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan. when you reach a deep amber color pour immediately into 6 ramekins, twirling each ramekin to get the caramel in an even coat on the bottom and on the sides. drizzle the rest of the caramel on wax paper to use for decoration.


preheat the oven to 350F. beat the eggs with the salt until well combined. add the condensed milk and the coconut milk and mix well. divide equally between the six ramekins. place them in a roasting pan and pour enough hot water to come up half-way around the ramekins. bake until just set but still jiggly in the center, 35 to 40 minutes. do not overcook.

the good news is, this stuff can be prepared three days in advance. when it's time to serve put each ramekin in a bowl of hot water for half a minute to loosen the caramel, run a knife along the side, then invert on a plate. you can also make it in a pie dish if you can't be bothered with individual flans. i have yet to meet someone who doesn't like this, even my creme brulee-hating husband is a convert! it has the smoothest texture, and it tastes like love: warm even when served cold, moist and airy, buttery light, sweetly overwhelming everything else as long as you have a spoon in hand.

Monday, March 8, 2010

scallop gratin

this is a dish fancy enough to entertain, but is remarkably easy to prepare, especially if you have a two year old to do all the sprinkling for you. it's a barefoot contessa recipe that i've been meaning to prepare for ages. it looks very pretty in individual dishes, but the taste won't be in any way diminished in a larger dish.

i had to adapt the recipe to fit what i had in the fridge, which did not contain pernod - nor will it ever, because i don't appreciate anise-flavoured beverages - and so i used only a demisec romanian white wine, which worked quite well. i don't believe it suffered at all. also omitted the shallot and substituted the fresh parsley with dried herbes de provence. and i don't like to dirty up the mixer when the job is easily done by hand. the official dishwasher isn't home.

please use the link above if you care to see the recipe. scale it, adapt it, do what you like but do not give up the garlic, the prosciutto, the lemon, and do use panko. regular breadcrumbs will never work as well. i skipped the wine on the bottom, and i added an extra layer of panko mixed with parmesan on top. zhara had a ton of fun, and once the gratin was in the oven she refused to get down, saying she's not done cooking. so i finally could take a few pictures of her.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

lemon veggie orzo

ever since she managed to land a sprinkle on a cookie and not on the floor, zhara has become very interested in what goes on in the kitchen. at first it was just about decorating, then also the making of cookies. after a while she demaned to attend the preparation of all desserts. now it's simply understood that we cook together. whenever i announce i'll be making lunch, or dinner, she pushes up a chair by the counter and gathers her plastic cutlery. then she asks what we're making and immitates my every gesture on her set of pans (aka spare measuring cups).

today we made this orzo, it's one of her favourite dishes and i'm sorry i don't have an extra hand to photograph her while she's working. she gets very focused, narrates everything she does and when she's pleased she smiles and her eyebrows go up in wonder of what she has achieved. i write off the state of my kitchen as collateral, and enjoy her having fun. plus she's more inclined to eat something she helped prepare.

i make this more than one way, sometime with pancetta or sausage, or maybe corn instead of zucchini. the method stays the same, the meat would be pan-fried first and the rest is the same. first sautee the onion and when it's soft add 3/4 cup orzo and cook, stirring often, until it's starting to color. add finely chopped red bell pepper, just a half if it's huge, and sautee a couple minutes. add 2 cups water, bring to boil and throw in 3/4 cup frozen shelled edamame. bring to boil again, cover and simmer 6 minutes. add one grated zucchini and cook another 2 minutes. the water should be almost absorbed, only a couple tablespoons left. add 1/3 cup grated parmesan, the zest of one lemon very finely grated and mix well to combine. correct seasoning. turn off the heat, cover and let it sit five minutes. serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side.
zhara loves everything lemony, and while you can always add a squeeze of lemon juice to give it a more enhanced flavour, i like it with zest only. there's not a sour note, only wonderful perfume, a subtitle, an afterthought. and it's creamy, but not overly cheesy, and the orzo spends 10 minutes in the pan. sold.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

baked potato millefeuille

i'm the kind of person who finds comfort in certain routines. our nights are set in stone: dinner, play/read, bath. one final cartoon. then zhara goes to bed, at eight. and then i have a few hours just for myself, even if sometimes that just means cleaning the house or other chores. i try hard to have dinner with zhara at 5:30 and to not eat late, but i rarely succed. today what did me in was these insane baked potatoes. i remember seeing them done on some show - tyler florence? emeril?  - a while back, but i managed to get it out of my mind, until today i saw them on alina's blog.

i have a terrible weakness for baked potatoes of any kind, little wonder i couldn't resist these! while zhara watched her cartoon i got them ready for the oven, and then no other chore for momma but to chow these down while watching a movie. as usual, i couldn't resist tinkering with the concept, so my version involves a sage garlic cream glaze and a topper of parmesan and chopped sage. i used prosciutto, both crudo and cotto to stuff these, and the only cheese i had - munchee, but i recommend something sharp(er). i believe firmly in using what i have on hand, so it's not a big deal. i wanted to try bacon as well, but by the time my excitement for the prosciutto-sage combo wavered down i was out of potatoes.

preheat oven to 400F. line a tray with foil. peel the potatoes and slice them thinly three quarters down so they're still attached at the bottom. fill the gaps between the slices, alternating, with pieces of cheese and meat. season with salt and pepper. place two thin butter pats on each potato and wrap thightly in foil.

bake 45 minutes. in the meantime, finely chop fresh sage - 1 leaf per potato. finely grate parmesan cheese - 1 tb per potato. measure 1 tb cream per potato and steep it with more sage and a crushed garlic clove. when the potatoes are ready, open the foil packets and paint cream all over the top. use a pastry brush to ensure you get every slice. sprinkle parmesan and chopped sage and bake again until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown. serve hot with a dollop of sour cream.

by 20 minutes in the oven, your house will be filled with the most tempting aroma. by 40, you'll be patrolling the kitchen, patience nearly gone, exhausted with the anticipation of the first bite. or at least i did. i did not have enough restraint to wait for them to brown, so i put them under the broiler. i burned my tongue. it was worth it.
p.s. in case you're less ocd than me: you don't have to alternate the meat/cheese, you can put both in each slice, or just cheese (i'm going to have to try that) and if you're going to try prosciutto cotto use oregano on top, i find that sage works much better with the prosciutto crudo. either way, but try it!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

cauliflower mac and cheese

picky eaters or not, children have such an instinctive distaste for this vegetable and its relatives, it's like an international conspiracy is imbeded in their genetic code. i am one of the few spared. as i kid i loved it fried, in a light batter of egg and flour, and my mother's cauliflower gratin qualified as holiday. i tried them all, plus soups and stews for zhara, but i can beg till the cows come home. she just says no, in a voice very much prophesizing the teenager she'll be. well, she may be stubborn, but i have decades of practice on her.

the ideea is to make a fine cauliflower puree which then goes in your kid's favourite pasta sauce. i've made this a few times to get it right, and for zhara it only works if i use a sauce mornay made with munchee - it's the only cheese she'll eat. we also use miniature pasta, she's just more amenable especially if they have cute shapes, like animal or letters. 

i don't know if you can tell looking at the picture, but it's all bite size, the penne are less than 1 inch, and the meatballs are barely the size of a quarter. so first you break the cauliflower into small florets and you boil it until easily pierced with a fork. while it boils, prep your sauce and boil the pasta. you can either do a bechamel, by making a roux out 2 tb each butter and flour and then streaming in 1 cup milk, or you can use jarred alfredo sauce. either way, add to it 1/2 cup packed grated cheese. when it's melted add the cauliflower puree, season with salt and pepper and pinch of italian seasoning. i have to use equal quatities of sauce and cauliflower puree, any less sauce and she won't eat it. one cup sauce plus one cup puree is sufficient for 3/4 lb pasta. 

zhara enjoys it very much. she ate so much of it for lunch that she couldn't touch her usual second course of fresh fruit. the meatballs didn't fly, but i don't care, this is still such progress for her!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

osso bucco with sour cherry gremolata

recipe adapted from tyler florence.

this is hands down one of my favourite comfort foods. i have made it with veal shanks for a long time, until one day my butcher only had beef shanks. nice guy, my butcher, thoroughly competent except for his tendency to ma'am people without cause. yes, ma'am. here you go, ma'am. a good day to you too, ma'am. what the heck?! made me feel like the patron saint of mothballs and wooden walkers. i smiled back and said nothing, cause he always cuts my meat exactly the way i ask for it, he trims everything, he even deveined shrimp for me. a good butcher is priceless.

4 beef shanks
4 tb all-purpose flour
2 tb butter
2 onions
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
3 garlic cloves
1 cup red wine
zest of one lemon, finely grated
2 bay leaves
1 14oz whole canned tomatoes, preferably san marzano
beef stock

3 tb chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tb orange zest, finely grated
2 tb dried sour cherries, diced

let the meat sit on the counter for half hour so it can come to room temp. give it a quick rinse in cold water to remove bone splinters and pat dry. season the flour generously with salt and pepper. heat 2 tb oil with the butter in a large pan. dredge the meat through the flour, on all sides. shake off excess flour and sear the meat until good and brown, on all sides. do not crowd the pan, do it in batches if you have to. remove the meat to a plate and add onions to same pan. saute a couple minutes and add carrots, celery, garlic, lemon zest and bay leaves. cook another 5 minutes, then pour the wine  - whatever red you have, so long as it's good enough to drink, never buy those labeled 'for cooking'. nest the meat back in the pot and cook the wine until reduced by half. crush the san marzanos by hand and add them to the pot, with enough beef stock to just cover the meat. [i've done it using water a few times, and it's just as good, so if you don't have stock it's no biggie.] bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently, partially covered for 2 hours. check every now and then, and taste the meat after 1 1/2 hours. you can also braise it in the oven, once you've got it boiling cover it and put it in at 375F.

for the gremolata simply mix all the ingredients together. serve the osso bucco hot over mashed potatoes, and about 1 1/2 ts gremolata sprinkled over the whole thing. it really is a thing of wonder how such a humble cut of meat becomes nothing short of exquisite, because that great marbling of connective tissue breaks down into sweet, melted comfort. the sauce has amazing depth thanks to the reduced wine and the quality tomatoes. eat, enjoy, loosen belt. do the dishes in the morning.

Monday, March 1, 2010

zucchini stuffed mushrooms

lately dinner with the princess involved games and tricks, begging and imploring, threats and tears, and enough bribery to make the sopranos look like innocent kittens. i'm concerned she's not getting enough nutritive elements, since all she wants to eat is yoghurt and fruit. and crackers. so i do what any good mother does: find a weakness and exploit its full potential. as it happens, my daughter has three: pickles, mustard and tortilla chips. and it turns out, she'll eat anything if it's perched on a chip or pickle slice or it's sitting in a blob of mustard. i made these stuffed mushrooms and she wouldn't even look at them, but when i put them on tortillas, that was a new story entirely.

typically i make these with spinach, but i wanted something new. i used zucchini instead, finely grated. you end up with about the same texture. first i panfried some bacon, and in the fat rendered i sauteed a mountain of onion. then i added a bit of garlic and some red and green peppers.
my mushrooms were medium sized portobellos, which seemed thick to me, so i parbaked them while this was happening. when the pepper was slightly softened i added the finely grated zucchini, gently drained, and seasoned with white pepper and very little salt. off heat i crumbled in the bacon and some feta.

i mixed in chopped parsley and after i stuffed the mushrooms i sprinkled grated parmesan over the top. since everything was half cooked it took no time at all to finish in the oven. and i must say, they go well quartered and balanced on tortilla chips. now the drama accompanying the dish, not so good for the digestion.

dark chocolate cake with goat cheese mousse and raspberries

a few nights ago i watched 'chocolat' again. it's one of my favourite movies, and each time i see it it puts me in a good mood. the actors are all among my faves - juliette binoche, judy dench, alfred molina. a village in southern france and all the chocolate you can carry makes for good entertainment in my book. not to mention the tastiest morsel - johnny depp and his chocolate skin. now i'm not the kind of gal who indulges idle infatuations on distant characters, real or imaginary, but when it comes to johnny depp i think everybody is entitled to a healthy dose of fanatic adoration. well. let's put that particular pot on the back burner so i can tell you about this cake.

i can't post the recipe yet cause it's not quite perfected and i know how dissapointed i am when i try to make a recipe and it's not all it promises. but i was so excited with the idea and the taste of it, i simply couldn't wait. i'm very happy with the cake, it's very moist, did not need any syrup, and i thought the taste very well balanced. the filling is a goat cheese-white chocolate mousse, and it requires some further tinkering, cause it was kinda soft set. now my fridge has been acting up, and it doesn't seem as cold as it should be, so i really must remake it to see where the problem is. but i was very excited with the taste.  i simply love it. the dark chocolate isn't overpowering, its bittersweet works great with the raspberries and the mousse! the mousse is lovely, not too sweet, with just a bit of tang from the cheese, very delicate and in total harmony with the dark chocolate. i tossed the raspberries in a little hot jam to coat, and i poured a thin layer of dark chocolate glaze over the top.

i'm happy to say it keeps well, even in my questionable fridge. the first picture was taken when the glaze was barely set, but by the time we cut it the light had gone, so i took the picture of a slice the next day. i didn't even cover it, and it was just as soft and moist as the day before, so it's perfect to make ahead.
only thing left to do is see if i need more gelatin in the mousse or a new fridge. either way, something tells me this will need several batches to perfect... and possibly new pants.
zhara loved it, today she got up from her nap and demanded it right away. and well, it's got cheese and fruit! so it counts as a snack. and dark chocolate has antioxidants. so there.