Monday, May 30, 2011

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

I am not even going to try and hide it, I am a fan of Rachael Ray. Many have spoken out against her, but even the likes of Anthony Bourdain have turned a new page in acceptance of Rachael. I give her credit for teaching me a lot of what I know about cooking, and for inspiring me to constantly search for new recipes. I will admit that I don't turn to her as much as I used to. I have gotten a touch tired of watching her prep onions... necessary in just about every meal, but oh so dull to watch over and over and over. But once and a while I manage to sneak a few minutes with the Food Network and check out what is new. Rachael was on, whipping up this dish. Puttanesca sauce is a traditional spicy Italian tomato sauce made with anchovies, capers and olives. As Rachael says, "the anchovies just melt away." There is no lingering fishy flavor just increase depth in flavor. One of my favorite things about Rachael's recipes is that they are incredibly manageable. When I do catch her show I find that I can often make a recipe with what I have on hand, or I can pick up a few ingredients at any grocery store and still have dinner ready within the hour. This recipe is no different. Quick, simple and absolutely delicious.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca adapted from Rachael Ray

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 anchovies fillets from a tin
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken or seafood stock, or water
Freshly ground black pepper
A few tablespoons caper, drained
A handful pitted kalamata olives
1/2 cup basil leaves, shredded

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook to al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add anchovies and stir into oil until they melt. Add the garlic, turn heat down and saute for a couple minutes.
3. Stir in the tomatoes crushing them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add your stock or water. Season with a little black pepper, add caper and olives and simmer for a few minutes.
4. Stir the spaghetti into sauce. Top spaghetti with shredded basil.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Almond-Lemon Torte

The gluten-free cake: otherwise known as the the brick of a cake, not worth eating if your life depended on it. However, sometimes there are fundraiser desserts to be made, and lovely gluten-intolerant people to feed. So I did some searching and found an amazing almond cake in a list of bookmarked Passover recipes. Passover desserts never include flour but are still fit for a celebration. There are so many great Passover desserts, I don't understand why we can't celebrate the holiday more than once a year. This cake is inexplicably light, moist and refreshing. The almond meal is flavored with a liberal amount of lemon and orange zest, and lifted with the help of a bowl full of stiff-peak egg whites. This is a great base cake, I served it with a fresh strawberry rhubarb sauce but it would also be amazing with fresh whipped cream, ice cream or fresh fruit.
Almond-Lemon Torte adapted from Bon Appetit

6 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the pan
2 cups almond flour or almond meal
1 cup sugar, divided
6 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon orange zest (from about half an orange)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Brush a 10-inch-diameter springform pan with oil. Make sure it is oil really well, this cake likes to stick.
2. Combine the almond meal and 1/3 cup of sugar in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.
3. Separate the eggs. Place egg white in a medium sized bowl; and the eggs yolks in a separate large bowl.
4. Add 1/2 teaspoon to the egg whites; using clean dry beaters; use an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks from. Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
5. Add 1/3 cup sugar to yolks. Beat with the electric mixer until yolk mixture is thick and fluffy. Beat in 6 tablepsoons oil, them lemon zest, lemon juice and orange zest.
6. Mix dry ingredients into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold egg whites into the batter in 3 additions.
7. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle almonds evenly over the top.
8. Bake cake until golden brown and tester inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place cake on a rack and allow cake to cool completely in pan.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Coconut, and Hazelnut Cookies

I have been on the search for the best oatmeal cookie for a long time. I love, absolutely love oatmeal cookies. A roommate and I have spent many an evening trying to perfect the healthy oatmeal cookies using bananas to replace butter. One of my favorite coffee shops makes some great oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips, pecans and coconut. I have tried a lot of oatmeal cookies and this recipe has quickly become my favorite. It does have a healthy amount of butter, because really, all great cookie recipes have to. They are chock full of chocolate chips, toasted nuts and coconut. They are hearty and super flavorful with the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest. I had to hide some of they delicious morsels so there would be some left when I got home from work and I am so glad I did. They are by far one of my favorite cookies and I really wish there were more in my secret hidden delicious treats drawer right now.
Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, Coconut and Hazelnut Cookies adapted from Katy Sparks and Andrea Strong

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup hazelnuts*, lightly toasted in a frying pan, chopped finely
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit . Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric mixer or a rubber spatula beat the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla, and beat until well mixed. Stir in the eggs, one at a time.
3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in a separate bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the butter and combine. Then add the second half. Combine until just incorporated.
4. Stir in the oats, hazelnuts, coconut, orange zest, and chocolate chips.
5. Drop the dough, by the tablespoon, onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minute or until golden around the edges.
6. Let cook on a rack, store at room temperature in an airtight container.

*I use Holmquist hazelnuts which have a really thin skin, so I don't worry to much about removing it. With other hazelnuts toast them until they are fragrant, then dump them onto half of a clean dish towel. Fold the towel in half at rub until the skins fall off. Any other nut can also be used in place of the hazelnut, pecans would be great.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Corona del Mar, CA Farmers Market

While the sun is finally shining in Seattle, I escaped last weekend to Southern California where the sun is (almost) always shining. While visiting some family I had the chance to stop by the Corona Del Mar Farmers Market (Saturdays, 9-1, Pacific Coast Highway and Marguerite). I was blown away for many reasons. The main one being that all that sun makes their spring market looks like a late summer Seattle market with the additional beautiful citrus fruits and avocados! Berries are already in season. Beautiful strawberries, blueberries and cherries were lined up next to bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes!
The abundance of available produce really made me think about the difference between the food system in places like California vs the Pacific Northwest. Shopping locally is so much easier there, almost everything grows in California. You don't have to eat root vegetables all winter in order to support local farmers and greens and most produce is cheaper than the same products found in Seattle markets. Locality becomes less of an issue because everything is local. I think the greater concern in Southern California would be to ensure that you are support small farmers with organic practices so that they can continue to survive amid the sea of industrial farms dominating the countryside. Also note below: the difference in flora, some additional sunshine sure does allow some exquisite flowers to grow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring Asparagus and Prosciutto Hash

This month has been absolutely overwhelming in terms of being way to busy for my own good. I started a new job, have yet to quit my first job, have a mere few weeks of school left and in order to accomplish all of these things I have been forced into neglecting friendships, my cookbooks, and my kitchen. It is getting more and more frustrating and I hope that I can return to a more relaxed pace of life soon, one that will allow me to spend much more time trying new recipes and utilizing the bumper crop of spring rhubarb that has appeared at Seattle farmers markets. Luckily, amid travels last week I was able to spend some time with my Mom on Mother's Day. While driving through Eastern Washington I was appointed the person to make breakfast and with only my Dad's smartphone handy I turned to my most trusted Internet source. And with a few clicks I found a perfect recipe. The prosciutto adds extraordinary flavor and is really a nice surprise mixed in with the crisp potatoes and fresh asparagus. This hash has everything necessary for a great breakfast, and is infinitely adaptable to include any fresh green vegetable or root vegetable.
Spring Asparagus and Prosciutto Hash adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 4 servings

1/4 pound proscuitto, cut into 1/4- inch dice (diced pancetta can also be used)
1 pound Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 small yellow onion, chopped small
1/2 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed, and cut into 1-inch segments
Salt and pepper to taste (if using proscuitto, very little salt will be needed)
4 eggs for serving (optional)

1. Heat a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat. Fry the prosciutto, turning it frequently so that it browns and crisps evenly; this takes about 10 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain it on paper towels.
2. Add a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil to the pan. Add the potatoes and don't move then for a couple minutes. Season them with lots of black pepper and a very light sprinkle of salt. When they are brown on the bottom, stir them around.
3. When the potatoes are about three-fourths as crisped and brown as you'd like them- this should take about 15 minutes- add the onion. Cook for an additional 5 minutes.
4. Add the asparagus, cover the pan and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until crisply cooked.
5. Remove the lid, return the proscuitto to the pan for another minutes, to reheat. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
6. Fry up the eggs, divided the hash into four portions. Top each with an egg and serve immediately.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Novella Carpenter in Seattle

Novella Carpenter was in Seattle last week and it was phenomenal. She spoke as a part of an Essential Arts, Art + Agriculture lecture focusing on urban farming. It was complete with music, a panel discussion and an urban agriculture bazaar featuring some great local organizations. However, I went to Novella and it was so worth it. I raved about her book Farm City, a few months ago and I could not wait to see her live. She has even better stories and is even more hilarious in person. She informed us that she has now been squating on the vacant lot next to her house for 8 year and now has goats, which the neighbors enjoy much more than the pigs. The pigs by they way who, "like anyone who live in the Bay area to long, became mighty picky about their diet." Even after many set backs and some pending lawsuits, she is still hopeful for the future of urban farming. She stated that The White House kitchen garden is helping break the stigma of vegetable gardens being an eyesore because, "Mrs. Obama is the epitome of not tacky." Novella is full of hope, happiness, laughter and spectacular adventures. So I just want to reiterate, read the book, if you can see her live, do it.