Sunday, November 23, 2008

almost empanadas

a few weeks ago we were invited to a tapas housewarming party. i thought it was the perfect opportunity to make mini empanadas!

i decided to do a potato-spinach-caramelized onion filling. it was a few weeks ago and i didn't write anything down but, from memory, i think it went something like this:

4 medium sized potatoes (i used yukon gold)
2 bunches of spinach
1 medium sized onion
salt and pepper
nutritional yeast
red pepper flakes
green chili powder

to caramelize the onion:
slice the onion and put in a pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. cooking over high heat, stir occasionally until the onions turn dark brown in color.

to cook the potatoes:
slice each potato in half lengthwise and then cut each half into slices (so you have a bunch of half circles). put a little olive oil in a pan with the potatoes and cover. cook over medium/low heat until the potatoes are soft. check occasionally to make sure they are not sticking too much.

sautee the spinach in a pot until wilted.

once everything is cooked mix it all together and season to your liking. i listed the spices that i remember using but there might have been a little dash of something else. anyway, season until it tastes good to you.

i searched around on the internet for a dough recipe. i looked at lots of different ones and i don't remember where i found the one that i used but that's ok because i would not recommend it. most of the recipes had butter or oil or shortening....some sort of fat to make the dough nice and flaky. that should have been a hint to me that that is the right way to do it. however, i chose a recipe that was only flour, salt and water cause it seemed easiest. not so. the dough i ended up with was so stiff it was really difficult to work with and roll out. i got a really good workout for my arm muscles. the end result was really tasty but the dough baked into more of a cracker than a nice flaky crust. so pick a dough with some sort of fat in it. after you have your dough all set, do this:

divide dough into little balls and roll out and cut into nice little circles (i used a glass to cut them out)

once you have your circles, plop a little bit of the filling on top (careful not to stuff to much in there or they pop open during baking). fold in half and crimp the edges closed with a fork. place them on a baking sheet and poke the top with a fork so the steam can get out while they bake. sprinkle the tops with a little bit of coarse salt. the dough recipe you choose will probably tell you temperature and baking time and all that good stuff.

i definitely want to try these again with a better dough. although these were not bad (they all got eaten at the party!) i want a flakier empanada next time around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

shepard's pie resurrected

when i was growing up we made shepard's pie quite a bit. it's such a comforting, delicious and pretty easy to put together meal. i don't know why i completely forgot about it, but i did until just a few weeks ago.

a couple of months ago while on a weekend trip to portland kris and i bought a little cookbook called "hot damn and hell yeah: the dirty south cookbook" it's actually two cookbooks in one! i never much liked southern food while growing up in the south (mushy veggies cooked with bacon was never my thing) but now i find myself itching to chicken fry some tofu (whatever that means....) and whip up some biscuits and gravy. while looking through the book for a dinner idea a couple weeks ago we decided on shepard's pie. their version and method are a little different from what we did when i was younger but i thought i'd shake things up and give it a try.

armed with fresh loot from the farmer's market, i sort of followed their recipe, sort of did what i remembered from long ago and ended up with a very tasty concoction. i really liked it cause it was filling but not too heavy and it also was yummy for lunch the next day (which is important to me cause i really hate buying lunch). now, on to the recipe!

*just a note...i had a good amount of veggies left that wouldn't fit in my baking pan. you could probably cut out a carrot here, a turnip there etc. and have the perfect amount.

2 lbs potatoes (i used little yellow potatoes)
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 turnips
1 bell pepper
1 bunch spinach or bag of baby spinach
2 ears corn
1/3 can of pumpkin (or however much you happen to have on hand after baking pumpkin cupcakes)
1 tomato
1 T flour
1 cup vegetable stock or soymilk (i don't remember which i used)
1 T fresh thyme, minced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
nutritional yeast
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
3 T margarine
olive oil for sauteeing
salt and pepper

heat oven to 400.

cut the potatoes into quarters and boil until soft. mash then with the milk and margarine and salt and pepper to taste. mix in the canned pumpkin. set aside.

while the potatoes are cooking, heat some oil in a deep skillet or pot and add the onion and garlic. after a few minutes add all of the other veggies (chopped into smallish cubes). cook until veggies are soft (but not mushy!)

in a small pot heat 2-3T olive oil and add the flour, stock/milk, rosemary and thyme and salt and pepper. whisk until smooth and let cook on low heat until thick. add this to the vegetable mixture and place in a baking pan. spread the mashed potatoes on top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. top with tomato slices.

bake for 30 minutes at 400.

if you love cheese you can sprinkle with that instead of the nutritional yeast.

- d.

Monday, November 17, 2008

grown-up psuedo mac and cheese

I must admit to a serious addiction. To cheese. By itself, in cheesy snacks, on crackers, baked - like brie en croute - grated over pasta. The list goes on. Cheese and I are involved in a life long love affair. I never want it to end. SO, of course I had to make the Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche from the October issue of Bon Appetit. I know what you are thinking, cauliflower in my mac and cheese?!? But honestly, it's delcious, and given the overwhelming quantity of dairy in this dish, it helps to lighten it a bit. This recipe is totally vegetarian, but is a little difficult to vegan-ize, given that the dish is based around cheese. That said, I think you could safely substitute a vegan cheddar-like cheese, omit the cream and creme fraiche and have tasty results!

* A note on the cheese - Bon Appetit recommends Comte, or a Gruyere/Fontina blend. I opted for a Comte/Gruyere blend, and was happy with the results. I would, however, decrease the amount of creme fraiche, as the end result was a bit soupier than I would have liked.

Cheesy Baked Penne with Cauliflower and Creme Fraiche
From Bon Appetit, October 2008
Serves 8

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets (I used a delighful orange cauliflower, but standard white cauliflower works as well!)

2 large heirloom tomatoes

5 tbsp of butter, divided

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Coarse kosher salt

2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

3 cups coarsely grated Comte (or half Gruyere and half Fontina) divided

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 cup creme fraiche

1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard

10 ounces penne
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (from crustless French bread ground in food processor)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over
medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; saute until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and green onions. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream, and cooking - and whisking occassionally - until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups of Comte (or the Gruyere blend); whisk until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then creme fraiche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Return reserved pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain; return pasta to same pot. Stir in cauliflower mixture and sauce.

Spoon half of pasta mixture into 13x9x2 baking dish (I used an oval Emile Henry baker); sprinkle with 1/2 cup of Comte cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup Comte cheese. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Remove from heat; mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Sprinkle crumbs over pasta.

Bake in 350 degree oven until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

ode to easy bread

i thought it would be fitting to begin my yum coast culinary chronicle with a discovery that has changed my life (really!) and inspired many of my recent cooking endeavors.

easy bread

i love bread. a lot. but never thought to make it myself because i thought it was difficult and so i was scared. early this year, erin and i visited a friend in LA and during that trip i heard about the easy bread video. when i got home i watched and thought "yeah....i think i can handle that."

success!!! it was so easy and came out delicious! fluffy on the inside with a nice crust. i immediately began thinking about different kinds of bread i could make from this base. olive bread and rosemary bread (and olive rosemary bread!) were first time successes. my branch out to whole wheat bread was more of a learning experience. in my first attempt i replaced all the white flour with whole wheat flour. this resulted in a very heavy, dense loaf of bread that was not so good for sandwiches (but made great toast!). i did a half white half wheat loaf and that worked out much better. throw in some red grapes and walnuts for a fantastic breakfast loaf.
as i said, this bread is perfect for sandwiches. earlier in the week i bought two small eggplants at the farmer's market that i put in the oven when the easy bread went in. i left them in for 5-10 minutes after the bread came out to make sure they were nice and wrinkly and soft to the touch but not totally mushy. after they cooled for a few minutes i peeled off the skin (which i find really fun) and sliced them up. we also had some olive artichoke tapenade in the fridge that kris whipped up last weekend. combined with the eggplant, a sprinkle of rosemary salt and pepper, some sliced up baby tomatoes and a few leaves of butter lettuce this was a tasty dinner (and lunch).

since baking my first loaf of easy bread i think i have spread the word to almost everyone i have had a conversation with (whether they wanted to hear about it or not....). easy bread made me conquer my bread baking fear and has created a sort of bread-product baking monster. i have many bready adventures that i can't wait to share....

Thursday, November 13, 2008

the next episode

How to begin . . . this blog is the result of a life-long passions for food, the desire for a new creative outlet, and one wine-fueled discussion at a wedding. The conversation went something like this: Erin: "So I've been thinking about starting a food blog." Jill: "OMG did you see Darcy's pictures??" (received in email that week, images of kitchen exploits, including delicious vegan cupcakes!) Erin: "Mmmhmm." (drinks more wine. Glug glug) Jill: "You two should start a blog TOGETHER!!" (you have yet to meet Jill, but the Italian is very demanding) Erin texts Darcy in wine-induced haze. Blog is born! Which brings us just about up to speed . . . I really wish we had a better blog creation myth, but them's the breaks. We are here to share our ridiculousness and our kitchens and hopefully learn a bit in the process. But for now, let's start with the basics, and one of my all time favorite, easy to make recipes - Spaghetti Carbonara. Yum. Carbonara is a mythical creation. Lots of different groups want to claim responsibility for the dish, but my personal favorite story, and the one that i embrace as the truth is this: the American soldiers who liberated Rome in WWII somehow came upon a few select ingredients - bacon, eggs - and an Italian cook whipped up a dish, and voila! Carbonara was born. Now, some cooks and restaurants use cream in their Carbonara, but that makes it an alfredo sauce and a whole other story! So sticking to the basics, here is my favorite version, courtesy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Enjoy!

Carbonara (yields 6 servings) 1/2 lb. pancetta 4 garlic cloves 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1/4 c. dry white wine 2 large eggs 1/4 c. freshly grated romano cheese 1/2 c. freshly grated parmigiano reggiano Freshly ground black pepper Chopped parsley 1 1/4 lbs. spaghetti 1. Cut pancetta (or bacon) into 1/4 inch strips 2. Lightly mash the garlic with the flat of your knife, enough to loosen the skin, which you will discard. Put the garlic and olive oil in a small saute pan and turn the heat to medium high. Saute until the garlic is a deep golden color, then remove and discard it. 3. Add strips of pancetta (or bacon) to the pan, and cook until the edges just begin to crisp. Add the wine, and let it bubble away for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn off the heat. 4. Break the eggs into the serving bowl in which you will subsequently toss the pasta. Beat them lightly with a fork, then add the two grated cheeses, a liberal grind of pepper and chopped parsley. Mix well. 5. Add cooked, drained spaghetti to the bowl, and toss rapidly, coating all strands of pasta. 6. Briefly reheat pancetta (or bacon) over high heat, turn out the entire contents of pan into bowl, toss again, and serve immediately! * a wee note. If you happen to be particularly crunched for time, as i was this evening, here is the shortcut version: while the pasta is boiling, crisp your bacon in a pan. Whisk up your eggs in a separate bowl, seasoning them with pepper, a dash of parsley (if you have it) and your cheese. After you drain the pasta, add it directly into the saute pan of bacon, pour in the egg mixture, toss the whole thing together, and you have no-hassle Carbonara.