Monday, April 27, 2009

Pimento Cheese

For those of you that didn't grow up with mass quantities of pimento cheese in your fridge at all times, I'm sorry. My mom always has this stuff on hand and there are a million ways you can enjoy it. While bacon-pimento grilled cheeses are dy-no-mite, sometimes a little spread on a cracker can really go a long way. Better yet, a little spoonful over a bowl of chicken tortilla soup or clam chowder never hurt anyone. So do yourself a favor and whip up a batch of this cheesy goodness. It can last for up to a week in the fridge (although I assure you it will be gone in 2 days) and you'll put it on everything!

Pimento Cheese
Food & Wine Magazine
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup small Vidalia onion, finely chopped
  3. 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  4. 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
  5. 1/2 cup diced drained pimientos (from one 7-ounce jar)


  1. In a food processor, blend the mayonnaise, onion and hot sauce. Add the shredded cheese and pulse until finely chopped. Add the pimientos and pulse until combined. Transfer the pimento cheese to a bowl. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.


Seared Scallops and Corn Cakes with Bacon Vinaigrette

Seared scallops are a favorite of mine so I am always up for trying new recipes that call for them. While this recipe has a long list of ingredients, you should have most of these items in your pantry already so don't stress. When I lived in Chicago, I could never find frisée in stores but that is not the case in California. If you can't find any frisée, just sub with some spring greens or baby arugula.

Seared Scallops and Corn Cakes with Bacon Vinaigrette

  1. 1/4 pound thickly sliced bacon, diced
  2. 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 small shallot, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  5. 1/4 cup chicken stock
  6. 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  7. 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  8. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  9. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  10. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  11. Pinch of cayenne pepper
  12. 3/4 cup milk
  13. 2 eggs, separated
  14. 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  15. 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels
  16. 12 jumbo sea scallops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  17. 1 head of frisée, leaves torn


  1. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a bowl and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the shallot to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shallot is softened. Add the vinegar and stock and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the Dijon and whole-grain mustards. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the cayenne. In another bowl, whisk the milk, egg yolks and melted butter. Stir in the dry ingredients and the corn. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the corn batter.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°. In a large skillets, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add several 2-tablespoon-size dollops of batter to the skillet, forming 3-inch cakes. Cook over moderate heat until the edges are deeply browned and the tops are bubbling, about 2 minutes. Flip the cakes and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes longer. Drain the corn cakes on paper towels and repeat with the remaining batter, adding up to 2 more tablespoons of oil to the skillet. Transfer the corn cakes to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet. Cook over high heat, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the scallops and cook until golden, about 3 minutes longer.
  5. Stir the bacon into the vinaigrette. In a medium bowl, toss the frisée with 2 tablespoons of the dressing and mound on 4 plates. Arrange the scallops and corn cakes on the plates and drizzle with the rest of the dressing. Serve right away.
    The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature. Reheat the corn cakes before serving.


Artichoke Tea Sandwiches

My very best friend is having a baby so I'm off to Boston in a couple weeks to lend a helping hand for 6 days. I've also been put in charge of the majority of the food for the shower which will surely include some of my killer quiches but I'm also thinking that a simple tea sandwich can be just what the doctor ordered. I was just reading last month's edition of Saveur and I read a fabulous article about artichokes. The piece included several recipes including this quick and easy one. I'm sure it will be a hit at the baby shower!

Artichoke Tea Sandwiches

2 14-oz. cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
1 1/4 cups mayonnaise
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

20 slices white or wheat sandwich bread

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the artichokes, mayonnaise, onion powder, garlic powder, dried parsley, and cayenne and season with salt and pepper.

2. Divide mixture evenly between 10 slices sandwich bread, top each with remaining bread slices, and cut off crusts with a serrated-blade knife. Cut each sandwich square diagonally to create 2 triangles.

3. Transfer to a platter and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight to soften before serving.


Monday, April 20, 2009

In My Next Life...

...I want to cook for celebrities and live in New York City just like my friend Andrew...

Andrew is one of the biggest foodies I know and writes an awesome blog called End of Fork. Check it out in my blogroll. Congrats, Andrew!


Since we've moved to California, Drew and I have been in 5th gear trying to find jobs, make friends and explore a place we've only visited a handful of times and try to make it feel like home. Needless to say, it takes it's taken a toll. Last week, we did a quick search for hotels on the central coast and sure enough we were able to score a deal in Monterey that wouldn't break the bank. Didn't hurt that the weather forecast projected numbers in the 80's. Sold. Asked for the weekend off from the winery and hopped in th car to eat, drink and beach it.

Ironically, my brother and his wife were Carmel earlier in the week and he had mentioned that his 'favorite' restaurant in Carmel was Casanova. Being that my brother likes to eat and drink as much as I do, I did what I never do which is made a reservation without looking at the menu online. That's trust.

I haven't written about a restaurant in a long time and the truth is that I haven't had an experience that was blog worthy. Well that's until now. If you visiting California's Central Coast, I highly recommend that you and a loved one do yourself a favor and check this spot out. It has an approachable 3 course pre-fix menu with a wine list that's over 20 pages. Casanova has a bright and romantic personality that is infectious. The restaurant is actually a tiny English inspired cottage where each room has been converted into an intimate dining room.

I've been dying to try Brown Estate's Zinfandel so when I saw it on the list I ordered it right away. It was surprisingly light bodied for a Zin which suited us since we had some pasta dishes headed in our direction. The first course was a simple asparagus salad with some marinated garlic, shaved pecorino and balsamic. For the second course, Drew went for the stuffed mushrooms and I went for the gnocchi that server said was a house specialty. OK, this dish was so friggin' good. The gnocchi were so light that they melted in your mouth. I asked our waiter for the trick and, just as I assumed, they beat the egg whites and folded them in mixture. Every time I have made gnocchi it's sat in my stomach and made me want to take a nap. Next time I'll be doing it the Casanova way.

Since we were on the coast, I ordered the seafood pasta and Drew went for the rabbit dish. If there is rabbit on the menu, Drew will order it. These dishes were just as good and the portions were very generous so we decided to skip dessert and walk off the meal by touring the immense amount of galleries that stay open late in downtown Carmel. A perfect end to a perfect night.

Wild Boar Ragu

My brother has become quite the hunter these days so when he told me he shot a 200lb wild boar I wasn't too surprised. He had his kill broken down by a local butcher and he generously gave out cuts to family and friends. I was just home for Easter and my sister offered some ground meat that was in her fridge so I rushed home and made some homemade pasta and a ragu.

Ragu recipes are quite simple and you can play around with them a lot. The meat is the real star here so you want to make sure your sauce doesn't overpower. I made a homemade pasta that was a little wider than parpadelle to serve the sauce over. I let the sauce simmer for over 2 hours so the flavors would meld together. Before serving, I just sprinkled with some chopped parsley and Parmesan shavings.

Wild Boar Ragu

1lb ground wild boar (sub pork)

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 tbsp olive oil
chili flakes to taste
2 28-ounce cans tomato puree, Red Pack brand if possible
1 28-ounce. can crushed tomatoes, Red Pack brand if possible
1 tbsp tomato paste, Red Pack brand if possible
1 tsp sugar
1 cup chicken stock
red pepper flakes to taste
salt to taste

1. Cook the meat, garlic and onion in the olive oil in a sauce pot over a medium-low flame, about 10 minutes or until garlic is tender, meat is browned and onions translucent, not brown (this is called "sweating" because it will draw out a lot of moisture and flavor). Add the chili flakes to taste.

2. Add all the tomato products. Pour the chicken stock into one of the 28-oz cans. Fill it the rest of the way with water and add that and the sugar to the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer. Taste and season with salt and cover. Simmer the sauce for about 1 hour. The sauce should be fairly thin, but not watery and very smooth. Uncover and simmer for 3 minutes if it is too thin for your taste; add a little water if it seems thick.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Saute of Fresh Fava Beans, Onions and Fennel

Fava beans and lima beans really get a bad rap so it was no surprise that family members winced when they saw that this was our contributing dish to our Easter pot luck. My mom put my sister and me in charge of 'greens'. Lucille found this recipe knowing that fava beans were in season and we decided to give it a go.

We couldn't make it to the farmers market so we ended up getting lima beans from the grocery store. We tweaked the recipe a bit and cooked bacon instead of pancetta (since we had some in the fridge already) and tossed it in at the very end to add some crunch. I had left overs for lunch this morning and thought it tasted even better so making a day ahead of time is probably best so the flavors can meld together even more. Come on, give beans a chance.

Saute of Fresh Fava Beans, Onions and Fennel
  • 3 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled, or 3 cups frozen baby lima beans, thawed
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in spice grinder
  • 1 1/3 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta*
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook fava beans in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, cool and peel outer skins (do not cook or peel lima beans).

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel bulb; sauté 5 minutes. Add favas or lima beans and fennel seeds; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 cup broth and 2 tablespoons dill; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in pancetta and savory, adding more broth if mixture is dry. Simmer until favas are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Best Food Writing 2008

Hey fellow foodies! Just picked this up at my local bookstore and I am blowing through it. Best Food Writing 2008 is a wonderful compilation of culinary insights from chefs and the best writers in the biz. Highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My First Passover

I have to hand it to my friend Steph, last night's Passover dinner was amazing! When we were invited, I didn't know what to expect. Bring Kosher wine? But what's Kosher mean? Should I wear a dress? Am I supposed to bring a gift? Will Drew be wearing a yamika?

I went a little early because I donated my supper club set up to help seat the 18 people that attended. Now, 18 people for ANYTHING is aggressive especially in a San Francisco apartment. She had converted her entire living room and hallway into a dinning room. This was a valiant effort given that Steph's not Jewish AND it was her birthday. And that was truly the best part of the evening.

Steph has been studying Judaism and is serious about converting. Is it for her boyfriend of 5 years? Nope. She just digs it and reads up on it like a historian. Every questions I asked had an answer. But what I found most interesting was the meal and the ceremony around it. This was a group of young adults that called their parents for traditional recipes and took great pride in their dishes. Russ showed up with a brisket that had been simmering in caramelized onions and tomatoes for over 5 hours. Let me tell you, this thing was good. And, he said, Jews eat leftover brisket for days just like a Thanksgiving turkey. Ideas for brisket sandwiches bounced around my head...a toasted baguette with horseradish, brisket, caramelized onions and arugula. Yum.

But the star of the night was the Matzo ball soup. I think the combination of being pretty hungry coupled with reading the Haggadah and the 4 glasses of wine your instructed to consume during the ceremony had something to do with it but it really hit the spot. I made a joke that waiting so long to eat was torture but I guess that's what you are supposed to feel. You see, Jews honor their history and suffrage. I was supposed to starve in remembrance. La chaim!

Matzo Ball Soup
  1. 8 large eggs, beaten
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 1 cup seltzer or club soda
  4. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  7. 2 cups matzo meal (10 ounces)
  1. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 1 cup coarsely chopped dill
  3. 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. 1 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  7. 1 medium turnip, peeled and finely diced
  8. 1 celery rib, finely diced
  9. 1 large carrot, finely diced
  10. 5 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  11. 8 cups diced chicken (3/4 inch), from two 3 1/2-pound chickens


  1. Make the Matzo Balls: In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the olive oil, seltzer, salt, white pepper and ginger. Add the matzo meal and stir until moistened. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Scoop the matzo meal mixture into fifty 1-inch balls. Using lightly moistened hands, roll the matzo balls until smooth. Transfer to the baking sheets and refrigerate the matzo balls briefly.
  3. Meanwhile, Make the Pistou: In a blender or food processor, pulse the olive oil with the dill, fresh horseradish, garlic, salt and white pepper until the dill is finely chopped and a sauce has formed.
  4. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the turnip, celery and carrot and cook the vegetables until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water.
  5. In a large pot of boiling salted water, simmer the matzo balls over very low heat, covered, until they are plump and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the stock with the vegetables. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to the soup; simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken and cook until heated through. Serve the soup in bowls with a dollop of the dill pistou.
    The recipe can be prepared through Step 3; refrigerate overnight.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Asparagus and Crab Salad

The nice thing about living in California is the access to fresh seafood. Asparagus are in season and even though they are available year-round this is the time to really get your fill. Pairing them with fresh crabmeat is always a great idea especially when you give it a Thai spin. The is a light dish with layers or flavors that make it great for lunch or as a starter for your next dinner party.

Asparagus and Crab Salad
  • 1/2 pound cooked lump crabmeat
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 Thai chile, finely minced
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 pound thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1/4 cup honey-roasted chopped nuts of your choice
  1. Combine crabmeat, rice wine, soy sauce, lemon juice, chili, and green onion.
  2. Blanch asparagus in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water until chilled.
  3. Toss asparagus and crabmeat mixture in a salad bowl. Top with nuts and serve.


Sausage and Peppers

Last night I was tasked with making a quick dinner for four. We ran into the store and my boyfriend suggested recreating one of my favorite dishes from an Italian restaurant in Chicago, sausage and peppers. This is a very easy dinner to make that is packed with flavor. I buy store bought sausages, usually spicy ones. A meat grinder with casings are on my Christmas list this year. You can cut up the sausages or keep them whole. I like to serve mine over flat noodle pasta drenched in marinara sauce. If I had more time, I would make sauce from scratch but in a pinch store bought can do the trick.

Sausage and Peppers
  • 6 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil (I love basil so adding more is always good)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  1. Place the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, and brown on all sides. Remove from skillet, and slice.
  2. Melt butter in the skillet. Stir in the yellow onion, red onion, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in red bell pepper and green bell pepper. Season with basil, and oregano. Stir in white wine. Continue to cook and stir until peppers and onions are tender.
  3. Return sausage slices to skillet with the vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes, or until sausage is heated through.
Serve over pasta with marinara