Pasta Puttanesca

60 Comments

I recently looked at my recipe index for pasta ideas, because a girlfriend was visiting. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, served with a salad. A perfect meal.

Creamy and cheesy pasta always comes to mind. But of course pasta with various types of red sauces, raw or cooked then pop into my brain… and I began dreaming of pasta puttanesca. It’s not something I can make for my husband because he is not fond of olives and capers… but my girlfriend is.

So, I looked up my own blog post for pasta puttanesca, because I knew I’d made it early on in my blog, and it was missing! All I had were these photos.

The “finished” pasta photos don’t look horrible, which many photos of mine did in the “early” days (2012-2014…) but for some reason the post had disappeared. And this pasta is my favorite pasta if you had a gun to my head.

Well, I got to make it again! And my girlfriend and I enjoyed it immensely.

The recipe I used is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook “Kitchen,” – the story of her love affair with the kitchen.

Quote from Lady Nigella regarding pasta puttanesca: “Well, how could I resist this translation of pasta alla puttanesca, whore’s pasta as it usually is described in English? The general consensus seems to be that this is the sort of dish cooked by slatterns who don’t go to market to get their ingredients fresh, but are happy to use stuff out of jars and tins. I hold my hands up to that. Or maybe one should just attribute the name gamely to the fiery tang and robust saltiness of the dish?

I really wish I could talk and write like Ms. Lawson.

Pasta Puttanesca
Aka whore’s pasta
Printable recipe below
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons strong extra-virgin olive oil, like Hojasanta
8 anchovies (drained and finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon cayenne chile pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti (I used linguine)
14 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 1/4 cups pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons small capers, rinsed, dried
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)

Put water for pasta on to boil, though you don’t need to get started on the sauce until it is pretty well boiling.

Pour the oil into a wide, shallowish frying pan, casserole or wok, and put on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped anchovies and cook for about 3 minutes, pressing and pushing with a wooden spoon, until the anchovies have almost “melted”, then add the garlic and cayenne flakes and cook, stirring for another minute.


This is probably the stage at which you will want to be salting the boiling pasta water and adding the spaghetti to cook according to package instructions.

Add the tomatoes, olives and capers to the garlic-anchovy mixture, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and again, by which time it will have thicken slightly. Taste for seasoning.

Just before the pasta is ready, remove about an espresso cupful of cooking water, and reserve it. When the pasta is cooked as desired, drain and add the spaghetti to the sauce in your wok or pan, adding a little reserved pasta water, if needed, to help amalgamate the sauce. (I don’t do this step.)

Scatter with chopped parsley, if there’s some to hand, and serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson-painted lips.

What’s slatternly? No idea.

I served the pasta with a pinot noir. It was perfect.

 

 

Butternut Squash and Feta

39 Comments

When I read a review of The New Rules, by Christopher Kimball, I just knew I had to own it. It is a book of “recipes that will change the way you cook.”

This is part of his introduction: Rules are a mixed blessing. They are useful in building a foundation of knowledge, whether in music or cooking. But they also create boundaries that can dampen improvisation. The New Rules is our attempt to do both, to create a communal starting point for a new way to cook… while also inspiring home cooks to abandon rigid culinary notions.

A few examples – Water for stock. Putting the sweet back into savory. Blooming spices. Bitter and charred as flavors. Herbs as greens.. and etc.

I’ve already made one recipe from this book – spicy stir fried green beans – which was really good.

For the blog I chose to make this butternut squash dish because Mr. Kimball states that “a sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese balances the dish with sharp, salty notes and dill adds a fresh flavor and fragrance.”

Sorry Chris, but I’m just not fond of dill.

The lesson in this dish is caramelizing, or toasting the couscous prior to cooking to enhance its flavor.

This is obviously a vegetarian dish, but grilled chicken or pork could be added, or this can be a side dish to those proteins. To serve this, I chose a pesto-slathered chicken breast.

Butternut Squash and Feta, with Toasted Pearl Couscous

4 tablespoons extra-virgin oil, divided
1 cup pearl couscous
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2” cubes
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
2 cups water (I used broth)
1 – 15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons chopped dill, divided

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.


In the same pot over medium high, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil until shimmering. Add the squash, then stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

The last time I cut up a butternut squash my hand almost fell off, so I decided to test out this frozen kabocha (pumpkin) instead. It was completely thawed first.

Distribute in an even layer and cook without stirring until well browned, 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally and continue to cook until a skewer inserted into the largest piece meets no resistance, another 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the pot to medium-high. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic begins to brown, 2-3 minutes. Add the cumin and bay, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Stir in 2 cups of water and the couscous. Cover and simmer until the couscous is tender but not mushy, about 7 minutes.

Off heat, remove and discard the bay. Stir in the chickpeas, squash, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of dill.

Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon dill and the feta.


Serve with lemon wedges.

As I mentioned, I omitted the dill.


This is truly fabulous. The couscous holds up really well, and the frozen butternut squash did as well.

If I have to be honest I wouldn’t like the butternut squash mixture as much without the feta, but that’s just me!

Tuscan Pot Roast

30 Comments

I’m not an avid cooking show watcher. Mostly because I don’t watch TV to speak of, but i think I’m also just picky. If a show’s host has an irritating voice, then there’s no way I can watch. Or listen.

Now, Rachael Ray (did you guess it?) is a little ball of fire who became successful because she worked hard, and is extremely passionate about food and cooking. Her parents owned restaurants, so she came by the cooking thing naturally. With all of her experience, she still considers herself a self-taught cook.

Ms. Ray supports many charities, loves dogs, and seems nice enough, but I just can’t watch her show.

Recently, a fellow blogger, Jennifer Guerrero, posted on Rachael’s new cookbook, called Rachael Ray 50 – Memories and Meals from a Sweet and Savoy Life. It coincides with her turning 50.

As a side note, if you don’t want to keep finding out about cookbooks, don’t follow Jennifer’s blog, because she’s constantly posting on cookbooks that I must buy!

Rachel Ray 50 is a sweet book, in my humble opinion – part memoir, part recipes – written by a truly accomplished human being. There’s a lot of redundancy in Ms. Ray’s writing, but that part, isn’t why I bought the book. I wanted to know what recipes she chose for this particular book.

A funny part in RR’s writing is when she discusses a website created by her non-fans. #ihaterachaelray. Goodness, I had no idea that she had to endure such hatred. People can really be crazy. I just don’t like her voice! And, she talks over people a lot, which also bother me.

The reason I chose her Tuscan pot roast recipe to make is that I’ve never made a pot roast. Did you choke? I really have never ever. I’m not sure why, it’s probably because of seeing it at my college cafeteria or something. But it’s time!

Tuscan Pot Roast
Serves 6-8

6 pounds meaty chuck roast, well trimmed, about 3 – 3 1/2” thick, at room temperature (mine was 5 pounds)
About 3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 onions, root end intact, cut into wedges
3 ribs celery with leafy tops, thick cut on the bias
2 parsnips, thick cut on the bias (I had to sub potatoes)
4 medium carrots, thick cut on the bias (aobut1 pound total)
2 bulbs garlic, end cut off to expose the cloves
4 generous sprigs of rosemary
2 large, fresh bay leaves
1 small bundle of fresh thyme, parsley, and carrot tops, tied with string
10-12 juniper berries
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato paste
1/2 bottle Italian red wine, such as Rossi di Montalcino
3 cups beef stock
Charred bread or roasted potato wedges with olive oil and rosemary, crushed garlic, and salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper.


Brown the meat on both sides and the edges and remove the meat to a platter.

Add the butter to the pot and melt it. When it foams, add the onions, celery, parsnips, carrots, garlic bulbs, rosemary, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper

Add the herb bundle and juniper berries. Reduce the heat to medium and partially cover the pot. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes to soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the tomato paste, then add the wine and bring to a bubble. Scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot and add the beef.

Add stock just to come up to the meat’s edge. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place in the oven.

Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pot roast to a carving board and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Slice the meat against the grain. Remove and discard the bay leaves, herb bundle, garlic skins, and rosemary stems.

Serve the sliced meat on a platter or in shallow bowls with the vegetables alongside. I put everything on the same plate, and dabbed some of the jus on the meat.


Use the charred bread or roasted potatoes for mopping the sauce.

Okay, so it turns out I don’t like pot roast.

My husband liked it.

But, he suggested making a gravy for the pot roast, so I strained the vegetables from the really lovely tomatoey-wine-broth, and made a light gravy from it. And he said it was perfect. I haven’t tasted the meat with the gravy yet…

Next time I’ll just sous vide the chuck roast!

Aligot

56 Comments

Recently I was looking something up on the internet, and came across photos of melted cheese. That is exactly the way to get my attention – melted cheese. It didn’t look quite like raclette or fondue, and I read that it was Aligot. Why have I never heard of this?

Aligot (ah-lee-go) is a specialty of the Auvergne region of central France – a potato purée beaten together with cheese to make a stretchy mixture. Stretchy indeed!

The following photo is from the French cooking blog Papilles et Pupilles.

From a New York Times article, “somewhere between buttery mashed potatoes and pure melted cheese lies aligot, the comforting, cheese-enhanced mashed-potato dish.”

The recipe I’m using is from the book, The Food of France – a journey for food lovers, published in 2001. I was gifted this book but used it mostly as a coffee table book because it’s so beautiful. This recipe and the one from Papilles et Pupilles are very similar.


Aligot
Slightly adapted
Printable recipe below

1 1/2 pounds floury potatoes, cut into even-sized pieces
4 ounces butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 ounces cream
10 ounces Cantal, grated

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 20-30 minutes, or until tender. I weighed both the potatoes and cheese to make sure I had the correct ratio, not knowing if it was that critical or not.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and add the garlic.

Mash the potatoes using a ricer or food mill; don’t use a food processor or they will become fluent.

Place the riced potatoes in the saucepan over gentle heat and add the cream.

Mix together well and then add the cheese, handful by handful, beating vigorously with each addition.

Once the cheese has melted the mixture will be stretchy.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

It starts out a little lumpy, but indeed, with serious stirring, the potato and cheese mixture becomes smooth.

This dish is meant to be a “backdrop” side dish, so yes, stronger aged cheeses like a cave-aged Gruyere can be used, but I think it’s important to stick with authenticity. By using the proper cheese, aligot is similar to a plain polenta, that lets the sausages, or daube, or coq au vin “shine”.

Serve as quickly as you can, because it does stiffen when cooling.

I served the aligot with sausage and a lightly dressed green salad.

Aligot is basically cheesy mashed potatoes on crack! Crazy good. And a fabulous cheese that I’d never tried before. So much excitement on this end!!!

And now I need to travel to the Auvergne region of France to see what else I’ve been missing.

 

 

Foriana Sauce

119 Comments

Soon after starting my blog, I posted on this miraculous concoction called Foriana sauce. I’d never heard of it before which is what I love about food and cooking. There is always something to discover.

The recipe is in the cookbook, “Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods” by Eugenia Bone. She claims its origin is a little island off of the coast of Naples. I definitely need to visit this island to see what other culinary treasures they’re keeping from me!

51ljADbi6VL._SX414_BO1,204,203,200_

So I posted on foriana sauce back when I had about 3 followers, and it’s just too good to keep to myself. So this is a re-post of sorts.

foriana sauce

foriana sauce

Foriana Sauce

1 cup walnuts
1 cup pine nuts
10 good-sized cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup golden raisins
More olive oil

Place the walnuts, pine nuts,and garlic cloves in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts look like “dry granola.” Add the oregano and pulse a few more times.

for4

Heat a skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. Add the nut-garlic mixture and the raisins and cook on the stove, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. The nuts and raisins will caramelize a bit.


Divide the mixture between 3 – half pint jars that have just come out of the dishwasher (sanitized) with their lids. Let the mixture cool. Tamp it down a bit to limit air pockets, then pour in olive oil until there’s about 1/2″ of oil over the nut-raisin mixture. When cooled completely, cover and refrigerate until use.

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

foriana sauce cooling off in the jars

After using, replace some of the olive oil on the top to protect the sauce.

To test it out, we spread chèvre on baguette slices and topped it with the foriana sauce. Everyone fell in love with this stuff. I quickly gave the other two jars away so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat more of it!

for1a

Then, that Christmas, I made foriana sauce again, but this time with two different kinds of dried cranberries instead of the raisins, just to make it more festive! Plus, I processed the nuts a bit more to make the sauce more spreadable. And once again, I can share with you that this stuff is heavenly!

for2

I tested it with a variety of cheeses, for the sake of research, and I found foriana sauce especially good with warmed bleu cheese!

I hope you try this extraordinary “condiment” of sorts for the holidays, or any time of year. You will not regret it!

for4

note: I can see this foriana sauce spread on chicken or fish, or added to lamb meatballs, or added to a curry. The author also has suggestions as to how to incorporate foriana sauce into various dishes.

Raisin Bread Stuffing with Cranberries

71 Comments

The recipe below is one I’ve saved for years to remind myself to use raisin bread as a stuffing base, a great option from cornbread or sourdough. And finally I decided to try it.

However, I could only find raisin bread with cinnamon, which isn’t an ingredient I wanted in the stuffing, mostly because I wanted it for turkey, not duck or goose. Did there used to be commercial raisin bread without cinnamon?

I considered making my own cinnamon bread by making panettone or challah and adding raisins, but then discovered a cheat mix for brioche online (at Amazon, of course) from King Arthur’s flour. It makes 1 – 1.5 pound – 9 x 5” loaf and turned out delicious. All you add is butter and warm water; the yeast came with the mix.

So in the end, I’m not really using raisin bread as a base for this stuffing, but I refuse to change the name of the recipe! One day I will find cinnamon-less raisin bread. Or, am I weird and do you think cinnamon belongs in stuffing?

Raisin Bread Stuffing with Cranberries
printable recipe below

1.5 pound loaf prepared brioche
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Scant 1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup raisins
Heaping 1/2 cup dried whole cranberries
Chopped parsley, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the crust of the prepared brioche if necessary. Cut into cubes about 1″ in diameter and place the cubes on a jelly-roll pan. (In retrospect I’d make 1/2″ cubes.)

Bake the bread cubes until golden and slightly crusty, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

f you’re wondering why I didn’t include raisins in the brioche, since I was so gung-ho on using raisin bread, it was because I decided I didn’t want the cranberries dried out from the toasting step. Adding them at the last minute assured that they remained plump. The cranberries I use are from nuts.com. They are whole dried cranberries.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.

In a medium-sized skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, allspice, salt, and white pepper, and remove the skillet from the heat.

Place the cooled bread cubes in a large bowl. Add orange juice, drizzling over all of the cubes as much as possible. The bread should be soft, but not soggy.

Stir in the vegetable mixture.

Gently incorporate the raisins, cranberries, and cream. You can add the parsley at this point, but I decided to sprinkle it on before serving instead.

 

Place the dressing in an 8 x 10.5” baking dish covered tightly with foil.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove the foil, then continue until the top is golden brown, about 5-6 minutes.

I served the stuffing with turkey from a whole turkey breast I roasted in the oven. A perfect pairing.


This stuffing came out absolutely perfect, in spite of the absence of actual raisin bread.

Overall the stuffing isn’t sweet except for the brioche and the bit of orange juice. Even the raisins didn’t pop out as sweet. I think I could have added more allspice, but the savory components were perfect.

I hadn’t yet made cranberry sauce or chutney this year, so I opened a jar of NM prickly pear and jalapeno jelly I bought in old town Albuquerque a while back. I discovered the maker of this jelly here. It’s good stuff!

Please tell me if you know of raisin bread without cinnamon!

 

 

Smoked Trout Salad

51 Comments

When my husband went on an Alaskan fishing trip in 2019, he brought home trout as well as the expected salmon. I really had to think about what to do with the trout.

I’ve fished for trout often over the years in Utah and Colorado mostly, and my favorite way to prepare it is… at a cabin! I don’t care if I cook it inside on a rickety stove, or outside over a campfire. To me, it’s more of the ambiance of being in the mountains by a creek that makes just-caught trout so good.

My mother taught me how to fish. Sometimes, we didn’t plan on fishing, but we’d walk along a river and Mom would invariably find leftover line and a hook, then make disparaging remarks about the fishermen who left the mess. Then she’d dig up some kind of worm covered in pebbles, and voila. Trout dinner.

This is a picture from the last time my mother and I fished together in Utah, back when she was 70.

I contemplated what to do with this Alaskan trout, called Dolly Varden, and decided to smoke it. My immediate thought for a resourse was Hank Shaw, whose blog is Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. Mr. Shaw is also the author of Buck Buck Moose, Duck Duck Goose, Pheasant, Quail, Cottontail, and Hunt, Gather, Cook, all of which have won awards.

This trout weighed 1 pound and 3 ounces and measured 12″ without its head.

Hank Shaw recommends drying the fish in a cool place overnight, which creates a sticky surface on the fish called a pellicle. This helps the smoke adhere to the fish. So I dried the trout overnight on a rack in the refrigerator, using a couple of toothpicks to hold the fish open. The next day I brought the fish close to room temperature before smoking.

I used alder wood chips, placed the trout on the rack, started the smoker over fairly high heat to get the wood smoking, then turned down the heat and let the smoke happen.

Thirty minutes worked perfectly. According to Mr. Shaw, the trout’s internal temperature should read between 175 and 200 degrees F, and mine was exactly at 175.

Let the trout cool slightly then remove the skin gently, and pull out the backbone.

The smoked trout is cooked, smokey, and tender. Perfection.

Break up the pieces of trout, removing any stray bones. Cover lightly with foil to keep the fish warm and proceed with the salad recipe.

Warm Smoked Trout Salad
2 hefty servings or 4 first course servings

6 fingerling potatoes, halved
1 can great northern white beans
2 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Smoked trout, about 1 pound
Fresh parsley
French vinaigrette consisting of equal parts olive oil and a mild vinegar, chopped fresh garlic, Dijon mustard, and salt.
Grilled bread, for serving

Cook the potatoes until tender, then place them in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss gently.

Drain the beans well then add to the potatoes and toss gently. Allow the hot potatoes to warm the beans, then place them in a serving dish.


Add the hard-boiled eggs, and then top the salad with the warm trout.


Sprinkle with chopped parsley and add the vinaigrette to taste.


Serve grilled bread on the side.


There are so many variations possible with this salad.

You could cover the platter in butter lettuce leaves first, and include fresh tomatoes or steamed green beans or even beets.

This salad is very mild in flavor, created to let the smoked trout shine. If you want a flavor pop, add chives or parsley to the vinaigrette.

Although not quite the same, high-quality smoked trout can be purchased on Amazon. I’ve used the one shown below left for smoked trout and shrimp paté.

I highly recommend the Cameron stove-top smoker. It works especially well with fish.

Here is the smoked trout recipe from Hank Shaw’s website; he uses a Traeger grill.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

57 Comments

Méridionnale is the southern region of France famous for its ratatouille, classic in that it contains tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, but unusual in that it is cooked gently in the oven, not on the stovetop. This, according to Daniel Boulud, in his cookbook, “Café Boulud Cookbook,” published in 1999.


I bought the cookbook after going to Café Boulud in New York City, not once, but twice during the same visit back in 2010. My daughter and I stayed at the Surrey Hotel, located adjacent to the restaurant. I had accompanied my daughter to New York City for a major interview, which all turned out well.

To make our first night easy I’d made a reservation at Café Boulud, and it was so perfect that went went the next day for lunch. The food, the service, the ambiance – all was truly perfection. One thing that I remember is that when you were brought the check, it came with just-out-of-the-oven Madeleines.

The cookbook is uniquely divided into four parts.
1. La Tradition – the traditional dishes of French cooking
2. La Saison – the seasonal specialties of the market
3. Le Voyage – dishes from lands far and near, and
4. Le Potager – vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden.

So many recipes jumped out at me when I first read the book. A roasted chicken stuffed with a Tuscan bread filling that included chicken livers and prosciutto, for example, and veal chops stuffed with fontina and porcini. But I chose this ratatouille recipe, from the “La Tradition” section.

Right now my garden is abundant with most all of the ingredients in this hearty vegetable dish, so there’s no better time than the present to make ratatouille.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, split, and germ removed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, cut into 1” chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, as above
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small eggplant, about 4 ounces, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 zucchini, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 yellow squash, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the vegetables to retain their distinctive flavors, you will need either to cook them in batches or to cook them in two separate sauté pans.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 clove of garlic, the onion, and the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften a bit but don’t take on color, about 5 minutes.

Either remove the vegetables and wipe out the pan or, while the peppers are cooking, take another sauté pan and warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the second clove of garlic, the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, this time allowing the vegetables to color a bit.

Combine the sautéed vegetables in one large ovenproof sauté pan or baking dish and stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper, pressing the paper against the vegetables.


Put the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the ratatouille every 15 minutes or so.

The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are meltingly tender but still retain their shape. Remove the bay leaves and garlic.

Serve while it’s hot, or when it reaches room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and the squirt of lemon juice.

The ratatouille can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, bring it to room temperature or warm it gently in a slow oven.

I served the ratatouille with roasted chicken. Simple and delicious.

I was really surprised after all the cooking time as well as stirring that the pieces of vegetables remained intact. I have seen many a ratatouille look like mush.

So it’s for that reason alone that I will make this recipe for ratatouille again. It’s pretty, delicious, and perfect for a glut of ripe vegetables.

Marinades

45 Comments

Marinades are a wonderful way to flavor meat. They can be simple or involved, depending on your desires, but they’re also a great way to use up ingredients. Have some leftover parsley? Make a marinade. Tomatoes? Make a marinade. An orange? You get the idea.

Generally, a marinade is composed of three parts: the oil, the acid, and the flavoring. The oil is simply the carrier. It can be a neutral oil like grape seed, an extra-virgin olive oil, or an infused oil.

The acidic option depends on what food you’re preparing. If I’m marinating beef for fajitas, I’d choose lime juice as my acid. If I’m marinating chicken for a stir fry, I’d choose sake or mirin. But there are other options as well. Orange juice? Pineapple juice? A ripe tomato? Sure! They all work.

The third part of creating a marinade is the most fun, because you can get really creative. Garlic is always important to me. There’s not one cuisine I can think of that doesn’t utilize this wonderfully pungent allium, be it Indian, Asian, Mexican, and so forth. Ginger is also perfect in Asian- and Indian -inspired marinades.

The next option for me would be fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, or parsley. They provide beautiful color and freshness to a marinade.

Chile peppers puréed in a marinade provide wonderful heat as well as flavor. Just remove the stem of fresh jalapeños, for example, and pop them into the blender with the other ingredients. Alternatively, use roasted peppers or chile pepper purée, of which there are many varieties.

Here are some spice options for marinades: Cumin, chili powder, smoky or sweet paprika, coriander, Chinese 5-spice powder, curry powder, cayenne, chipotle, ancho chile pepper.

Other ingredients to flavor marinades include pesto, miso, ketchup, soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, berbere, harissa, romesco, mustard, honey, maple syrup, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce… the list is literally endless.

The following marinade is basically a red wine-based vinaigrette, seasoned with garlic, dried herbs, and cayenne pepper flakes.

Here is a marinade made with olive oil, lime juice, garlic and parsley puréed together for chicken breasts. The combination makes a wonderful green marinade, which colors the chicken beautifully after grilling.

For a beef tri-tip, I created an Asian-inspired marinade. I used soy sauce, sake, sesame seed oil, chile paste (Sambal oelek), ginger and garlic. After 24 hours I seared the thin slices of beef in peanut oil for a quick dinner. It’s that simple.

Yogurt can also be used as the “carrier oil,” which you learn about quickly when you indulge yourself in Indian cuisines. So for my final example of a marinated meat, I’m using a mixture of yogurt and harissa.

For a more involved Indian-inspired marinade, I would include garlic, ginger, and curry powder, but I wanted to show how easy it is to create a flavorful and unique marinade. It took10 seconds to prepare and you don’t even need to use a blender.

I’m simply smothering a pork tenderloin with the marinade, waiting a few hours, and then roasting it in the oven.

Marinating requires very little work. It’s just about planning. Try different variations and see what magic you can come up with!

Season

44 Comments

In his first book, entitled Season, published in 2018, Nik Sharma writes the following.

“I take pride in incorporating flavors, techniques, and ingredients in new and exciting ways. This, my first book, celebrates diverse cultural influences and, I hope, helps to erase labels like “ethnic” and “exotic” in the West by shedding more light on some of these ingredients. Season is a collection of flavors from my two worlds – India and America.”

Sharma’s story is fascinating. Born in India to bi-cultural parents, he came to the USA as a young man to study molecular genetics. Eventually his love of food and cooking averted his career path and he started his now famous, award-winning blog, a Brown Table.

He also became a weekly food columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and is working on his second cookbook, entitled A Brown Table.

Reading Season (I love that title!) and studying the recipes was a fascinating experience for me. Sharma’s food truly is fusion food, but unlike the “let’s see how many weird ingredients we can put together” attitude that I find smug and pretentious of many chefs, Sharma’s approach obviously came from his love of foods from his homeland, blended with what he discovered after moving away.

Examples of such fusion dishes include Caprese Salad with Sweet Tamarind Dressing, Turmeric and Lime Mussel Broth, and Hot Green Chutney Roasted Chicken. But the recipe I wanted to make was Chouriço Potato Salad, using freshly made chouriço, or sausage from the Goan region of India. Goa is a state on the west coast of India, on the Arabian Sea.


According to Sharma, “This (salad) is great for breakfast with a couple of fried eggs, or in a taco, or by itself for lunch.”

Chouriço Potato Salad

8 ounces chouriço, (recipe below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
1/4 cup crumbled Paneer*
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/4 fresh lime juice
1 lime, quartered, for garnish

Break the meat into small pieces and set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 5 – 6 minutes. Sprinkle with the chipotle chile and paprika and fold to coat evenly.

Add the chouriço, and cook for another 4 – 5 minutes, or until the sausage is browned and cooked through, stirring frequently.


Add the pumpkin seeds and cook for 1 minute longer.

Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to a large bowl. Cool for 5 minutes. Gently stir the chives, paneer, cilantro, and lime juice into the warm potatoes.

Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve warm or at room temperature with lime wedges, if desired.

I can’t describe well enough how wonderful this potato and sausage salad is, besides wonderful. The sausage along is exquisite, but with the potatoes it’s, well, magical.

You taste the spiciness immediately, the creaminess of the potatoes, the flavorful sausage, the freshness of the cilantro and lime, and the slight crunch of the pepitas.


*Paneer is easy to prepare, but the author recommended a swap of crumbled Cotija or queso fresco, which I happened to have on hand.

Homemade Goan-Style Chouriço

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 whole cloves
1 pound ground pork, preferably with fat
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 – 1” piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon Kashmiri chile
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Grind the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, and cloves with a mortar and pestle and transfer to a large bowl.


Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a fork to blend well. Shape into a log, wrap with wax paper, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, and preferably overnight.