Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Arugula and Lemon with Asparagus Pesto Pasta

Spring has truly sprung with early summer offerings already available at many bay area farmer's markets.  From asparagus to zucchini I just can't seem to get enough inside my belly before it disappears.  I was at the Marin main farmer's market last Sunday only to discover my favorite asparagus farm Zuckerman's had already ended it's season.  This was right after I had discovered this recipe, therefore I have been sourcing asparagus anywhere I can to make this recipe over and over until I'm sick of it.  I bet it would freeze well, note to self to do such a batch.  I adapted this recipe out of Sunset magazine's May issue.  It's by chef Michael Chiarello who just opened a new restaurant in San Francisco called Coqueta.  His recipe was for a Insalata Piadine, an Italian specialty of a "crisp warm dough with a highly flavored sauce and a cool salad".  It was delicious, but this version was a bit easier to tackle on a Tuesday night for my family.  Essentially, I made mine with whole wheat gemini pasta (corkscrews), where his was served over something resembling a pizza crust.  I recommend trying both versions.

Here is what you will need:

2 heads garlic
About 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
About 1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
About 2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 cups loosely packed arugula
1 chilled firm lemon, sliced very thin and seeds removed
3/4 oz. pecorino cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler (to yield about 1/4 cup)

Kosher salt
3/4 lb. asparagus, about 1/2 inch thickness
1 1/2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons minced green garlic (or garlic)
2 pinches coarse sea salt
About 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
12 oz whole wheat gemini pasta

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut tops off of garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap in foil and roast in oven for 1 hour.  Let cool, then squeeze cloves out from skins.

To make pesto: Bring a large pot of water (same one to cook pasta in) to a boil and salt generously
with kosher salt.  Boil asparagus about 3 minutes, or until tender; remove and spread out to cool.
Cut asparagus into thirds and save tips for salad.  In a food processor, pulse together asparagus stalks, pine nuts, basil, sea salt, and pepper to taste.  With machine running, drizzle in olive oil.  Add parmesan in batches, pulsing after each batch (pesto should be thick).  If cheese begins to clump, add water, 1 tsp. at a time, until it loosens.  Cover with plastic wrap, smoothing it against surface of pesto while removing all air pockets.

Finish salad: In a small bowl, whisk 2 1/2 tbsp. oil, vinegar, 1/4 tsp. sea salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper; set aside.  Put asparagus tips, arugula, roasted garlic gloves and lemons in a large bowl.

Cook pasta according to al-dente directions.  Drain and mix in pesto.  Top with salad tossed with dressing and pecorino slices.

Serves 4 - 6

  When I was a kid I didn't like many vegetables, especially the green ones.  From avocados, to artichokes, brussels sprouts and zucchini, they all had this stigma attached to them.  My how times have changed, but it seems my children may have picked up these same traits.  I don't judge them, just thoughtfully offer them what I think is delicious.  Someday I hope they will feel the same.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pozole with Tomatoes and Rancho Gordo Beans

I promise to post more often as I truly love cooking and writing about it.  I'm getting ready to take off on a week long yoga and hiking retreat in the Malibu hills with one of my dearest friends.  I couldn't be more thrilled about it, but these last few days have had me more nervous than excited.  It's called The Ashram and is quite well known for bringing out a whole new you.  It is a gift to myself for turning 40 this year.  I will be gone from my family for 6 whole days.  My twins will turn 3 this Saturday which means I haven't been without them for more than 24 hours in 3 years.  Wow, I never thought about it that way.  I guess I can't ever use the excuse of being lonely, the word exhaustion come to mind instead.  Part of the retreat requires no caffeine, alcohol, sugar or loud music (just kidding on the last part).  But in all seriousness I will be waking at 5:30am in the morning to practice my yoga, breakfast, long hikes through the hills with breath taking views of the ocean, lunch, massages, weight training, more yoga, dinner, group activities, then fall into bed around 9:30 pm.  6 days of this sounds like bliss while typing, but I'm a bit afraid of it all.  Most days I am so exhausted by 5pm as the twins take so much of my chi, prana, energy, all of it.  I've begun removing caffeine and sugar from my diet so far.  The wine will go next week.  It's no easy task, but I can already see the benefit in my eating patterns which brings us to our recipe.

Pozole or posole is a traditional Mexican stew made with hominy.  This recipe does require a bit of work, but if you plan it right by soaking the beans and hominy the night before you can pull it off over a weekend and the payoff is well worth it.  This recipe is made with chicken stock and chicken, but could easily be made vegan if you substitute veggie broth and omit the chicken all together.  I imagine it would still taste divine.

Look for prepared or dry posole in your health food store or gourmet shop.  I know both Rainbow Grocery and BiRite Market carry Rancho Gordo's brand which is an heirloom variety.   You don't want to use the canned variety as it has a rubbery and gummy texture in my opinion.  The beans I used were Good Mother Stallard, also a heirloom Rancho Gordo variety.  These plump up nicely and provide a flavorful stock.  You could substitute any pintolike bean for a similar flavor.

Recipe slightly adapted from Heirloom Beans, Rancho Gordo, Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington
Serves 6 - 8

Here is what you will need:

1 medium white onion, quartered
2/3 cup dry hominy or posole (the name is interchangeable)
3 dried new mexico chiles
2 Tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 tsp dried mexican oregano
4 cups homemade or purchased chicken broth
2 cups drained, cooked Good Mother Stallard beans (about 8 oz dried)
4 large tomatoes or a 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken
freshly ground pepper
corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced, for serving
1 lime, quartered for serving
1/2 chopped cilantro leaves for serving

Night before:
Place beans and posole in separate medium stock pots or sauce pans, cover with water by 1 inch and let soak several hours or overnight.

Rinse and recover beans and posole with 2 inches of water.  Cook beans until tender (about 1 - 3 hours) depending on how old they are.  Boil them for the first 5 minutes and remove any scum which floats to the top.  Then reduce to a gentle simmer.  You will know they are close when the smell emits a deep bean aroma.  I like to add a chopped up small onion and a garlic clove sautéed in 1Tbs olive oil to the pot to add additional flavor to the beans.  You could also add a chopped up carrot and celery stick for more flavor.  Add 1 tsp salt 15min prior to finish.  Adding salt too early will only delay the cooking process.  Once the beans start to taste tender is when I add it, go slowly as salt can take up to 15minute to penetrate the beans.  For the posole, add 1 chopped onion quarter, and simmer over a medium low heat covered until tender, about 3 hours.   Season with salt toward the end of cooking and add water as needed to keep the posole covered.

Slit the chiles and remove the seeds and stems.  Heat a small, heavy skillet over medium high heat and toast the chiles until they puff slightly and emit a spicy fragrance, about 15 seconds per side.  Watch closely as burnt chiles taste bitter.  Place the chiles in a small bowl and cover with boiling water (I used a bit of the hominy stock).  Let soak for 20 to 30 minutes.

 In a blender, puree the chiles with enough of the soaking water to make a puree with the consistency of orange juice.

Cut 2 onion quarters into thin slices.  In a large stock or soup pot heat oil over medium heat and add onions and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the oregano, chicken broth, chili puree, and the tomatoes.  Add the posole with 1 cup of it's cooking liquid.  Bring to a boil and add a little salt if needed.  Add the beans and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.  Add the chicken and stir to warm through.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the remaining onion quarter into small dice, ladle the soup into deep bowls and top with onion, lime, avocado and cilantro.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Sables

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.  I've had my fair share of good valentine's days and bad ones.   My husband and I went on our first lunch date without realizing it until the day of (it was a Tuesday and only lunch).   That was a good one, I've also had a well planned one with rack of lamb, chocolate cake, the works, only to have it fall completely apart, but made into one of my most memorable to date with several ladies and a suitcase full of costumes.

This year I wasn't planning anything until I saw smitten kitchen's posting for intensely chocolate sables.
This seemed to fit perfectly as I don't allow my children a ton of sugar, but wanted something a little sweet to give my sweeties today.

 Here is what you will need:

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutched cocoa power
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup (100 to 135 grams) granulated sugar (I used less for more of a bittersweet cookie)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate finely chopped into a fine power in a food processor
Course sugar (turbinato/sugar in the raw or decorative) for sprinkling

Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a medium bowl.  Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 4min on med).  Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined while scraping down the sides.  Add dry ingredients,  powered chocolate and mix until well combined.  I had to use my hands in the end to incorporate all the fine powered materials.  I more of less kneaded the dough until it all came together into a ball.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and using the palm of your hand flatten into a disc about an inch and a half.  Refrigerate no more than 30 - 45 min as it does not need to get fully hard or it will be harder to roll out.  The dough can be refrigerated until needed (a day or two, or up to 6months in the freezer).  Just be sure to allow it some rest time to warm up and soften before rolling it out.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  On a floured surface, roll dough out gently until it is 1/8 inch thick.  I would suggest flipping it over after every 2-3 rolls to ensure it doesn't stick and to replace any cracks which may have formed.  It's pretty malleable so don't worry about working it too hard.  Cut into desired shapes and space 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with decorative sugar and bake for 8 - 10 min.  Leave cookies on baking sheet to cool for a couple of minutes before gently and carefully transferring them to cool completely on a rack as they are fragile.
Store in an airtight container for up to two week, if they last that long.