Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pasta- just for me!

Although I love cooking for friends and family, I know I could never cook for a living or cater events due to my lack of confidence to please the masses. So the odd time I can prepare a dinner just for me, I really take pleasure in it. Glen has been working a lot of extra hours this week, and most of those nights I admit to being quite lazy with cooking, but one night I came up with a pasta dish just for me. Some of my favorite pasta dishes have evolved this way, and here is my new favorite: Fettuccini with Mushrooms & Black Olives.
I picked up some fresh cremini and oyster mushrooms at the market but went home a little unsure of what to add to them to make the perfect pasta. I picked up one of my favorite books, Claudia Roden's Food of Italy and got inspired by her Tagliatelle with Olive & Mushroom Sauce (from Umbria). If you love olives and mushrooms, you have to try this!
I sauteed my mushrooms in some olive oil until they were slightly browned and soft. I added a splash of white wine and let that cook for a minute or so. Then I took a few spoons of a really flavourful black olive tapenade I had in the fridge and added that to the pan. I let it coat the mushroom mixture and then added fettuccini, parsley and loads of grated parmesan cheese.
The night before, I mixed up the dough to the famous No Knead Bread from the NY Times. It was baked just in time to have with my pasta. It really is the best bread's the link for the recipe.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Nantucket Season!

Although I didn`t actually visit Nantucket, I was in Cape Cod this past June. It was everything I had imagined it would be.....calm, peaceful, full of seafood shacks and wood shingled homes and cottages. Blue skies, salt air and ocean, friendly people and mystery novel worthy lighthouses. I had read somewhere that Cape Cod is a vacation spot opposite of the Hampton`s.......meaning not a Hummer or designer bag in sight. I did spot a designer bag or two, but it really did lack any pretentiousness that I like to avoid especially while on holiday.
I waited until this trip to finally pick up Sarah Leah Chase`s Nantucket Open House Cookbook. I had heard about it and read great reviews and thought it would be a great souvenir (I like to pick up cookbooks when I travel). I haven`t had time to really look long and hard at it until recently inspired by Lisa and Michelle. I`ve spent the entire long weekend going through it cover to cover and it is excellent. I love it and would recommend it to anyone who loves to cook or eat.
The Orange Shortbread recipe is in the Christmas section of her book, but I couldn`t wait until December to try it. It was delicious and made such a large quantity of cookies which I think is great (I feel like it`s time well spent to have so many left for the week). They are buttery, soft and light with a lingering orange flavour. I`m adding them to my Christmas baking assortment without a doubt. I think they might be nice half dipped in chocolate for a little over the top decoration or presentation too.

The recipe was a cinch, I have it in memory already which is saying a lot for me.

Orange Shortbread from Nantucket Open House Cookbook
2 cups Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
1.5 cups of Brown Sugar
4 cups All Purpose Flour
pinch of salt
Zest of 2 Oranges
2 eggs, whisked
2 TBSP water

Cream the butter and sugar. Add in the flour and salt, bit by bit, until completely incorporated )it should be a fairly stiff dough). Mix in the orange zest. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a half an inch thickness and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with the egg and water wash. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks and try not to eat a dozen like I did.
They are oh, so good!

James and the Giant Peach

Well, maybe not giant, but James and the peach it was for dinner. We had my favorite recipe for Pork Tenderloin and grilled peaches alongside. The pork has a dry rub that's a little bit spicy courtesy of some cayenne pepper. It's cooked on the barbeque (off to one side with no fire underneath, and the temperature high on the opposite side). I first tasted this at a friend's house last summer and have been making it ever since. It's hard to stop shoving it in your mouth, and is just as good on a bun in sandwich form the next day. It's a recipe from Rob Rainford (Licence to Grill) that I've adapted slightly to suit the little people in our house. Here's the recipe:
Cajun Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
30ml coarse salt (kosher or sea)
3 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried sage leaves
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all together and rub all over 2 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed, and let them rest in the rub a few hours if possible. Preheat one side of your grill to high and leave the other side off. Put the pork on the side with no heat and leave for about 40-45 minutes turning over once or twice. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing on the diagonal.
On the side I made rice, broccoli and grilled peaches. The Broccoli with balsamic butter sauce and was my first recipe attempt from a fairly new book....Nantucket Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. It was a success as I think many of her recipes will prove to be. I've spent this entire long weekend flipping through the book over and over and am so excited to make more more more! I've shoved sticky notes in about half of the book and am debating what to try next. I think Ms. Chase is gonna keep me busy in the kitchen for awhile. More on that coming soon....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Weekly Pizza Tradition

My Mom used to make pizzas every week. They were always rectangular and had different sections with various toppings to please everyone in the house. She'd pair the pizzas with a large tray of Italian sausages roasted in the oven & served with peppers and buns. That way there would be enough leftover pizza for lunch the next day too.
I've been making versions of her pizza since I got married. It was probably the first thing I learned to make. I've kept it pretty similar to Mama Lucy's version, using the same base ingredients and seasonings but have made a couple of changes along the way. I prefer using stonewear which I think browns the crust really well (and never sticks if there is a little tomato leakage). I also started making my own pizza dough which is super easy in the food processor. I also make 2 large ones so that if anyone pops in, there's more than enough to go around and we're guaranteed a lunch the next day.

While I was baking the pizza, I decided to make a quick dessert. Crepes with Strawberries and Star Anise Syrup. I found the recipe/idea in a cookbook I got from a Pampered Chef party and thought it sounded quick enough for a weeknight.
First I made a crepe batter and refrigerated it. Then I threw some freshly squeezed orange juice into a saucepan with some sugar and 4 star anise. Brought it to a boil, turned off the heat, removed the star anise and added the zest of the whole orange too.
I cut up some strawberries and made some whipped cream with vanilla and assembled everything together. The star anise syrup was delicious drizzled over the top. I would serve this any day and will try it with the originally suggested blueberries next time.

I'm keeping the weekly pizza tradition alive!