Tuesday, December 30, 2008

World's BEST Extra Virgin Olive Oil

My mom and I first tasted this amazing olive oil at a cooking convention in DC. We were immediately enamored and bought a bottle. The Mosto oil is first cold pressed, resulting in a rich amber green color that doesn't carry the bitter taste embodied by other extra virgin olive oils. Instead, you'll find the unfiltered oil is balanced, herby, fruity, and has great depth. It's best served raw or used in a salad dressing. Cooking the unfiltered oil just covers its natural fruitiness. For a quality olive oil, it's a steal at $19.95 for a 500 ml bottle and includes shipping to most of the States.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Home for Christmas

Time for the Christmas food rundown!

Hors d'Oeuvres:

Brie with Fig Preserves
Bagna Cauda: an Italian dip made with olive oil, butter, anchovies, sardines, and butter. It sounds peculiar but it's delicious!

Main Dishes:
Deep fried marinaded pork roast: Just look at the color of that skin! My dad marinaded it for 24 hours in a mix of cajun spices, garlic, mustard, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, etc. He must give me the exact measurements. Everyone moaned with each bite. That's the best part of food: Seeing people's enjoyment! And man was this the highlight of the meal!
Prime Rib: Look at that color and juice! We had a horseradish sour cream sauce to accompany the meat.
Roasted asparagus and cauliflower: Roasting just brings out the sweetness in every vegetable. This picture shows the vegetables coated in extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper right before it went in the oven.

My Christmas Dinner Plate: Roasted asparagus and cauliflower in the back, mashed potatoes in the middle, prime rib with horseradish sauce to the bottom left, fried pork roast with homemade BBQ sauce at the bottom, and a dollop of bagna cauda to the right. YUM!


Biscotti with Candied Fruits, Pistachio Fingers, and Chocolate Gobs with Creamy Filling
Pizzelles: Italian wafer cookies flavored with anise. They are SO good with a cup of tea! Super light and a welcome contrast to the heavier desserts.
The Table Setting: Complete with eggnog! Admitedly, I didn't like eggnog until this Christmas. For a lighter eggnog, add a splash of ginger ale. The ginger doesn't add much flavor, but it definitely lightens up the heavy and creamy texture of traditional eggnog.

So there you have it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Caldo Verde

Or perhaps mine is more aptly called Caldo Vermelho.
Today was below 30 degrees. It was that kind of cold that cuts through to the bone. After work I was trying to warm up and came upon an article about the Portuguese soup Caldo Verde on Slashfood when I became inspired. I was planning on having my typical dinner of oatmeal--yes, even us foodies are unimaginative from time to time--when I thought to make a quick version of my own. Typical Caldo Verde uses chicken broth, chorizo or kielbasa, kale, and potatoes. Potatoes? No. Kale. No. Chicken broth? No. Okay. So to the pantry I ventured. I had beef stock, frozen spinach, and sliced cooked chorizo. Close enough, right?

I brought the beef stock to a boil and added the chorizo, and spinach. Then went in the garlic clove I turned into a paste by mashing the chopped garlic (with a generous amount of salt to work as an abrasive) with the flat end of my knife. Within minutes the chorizo began to render its fat and add a reddish, shimmery hue to the top of the stock. Being Italian I added pastina. I was out of potatoes and wanted to add some type of starch to the soup. Boil for 6 minutes and presto! The easiest and tastiest 8 minute soup you'll ever taste! I'm hardly a soup expert and I couldn't believe how much flavor was in this quick soup. It's definitely going into my file for a quick, warm, and hearty soup.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowballs: The Edible Kind

Being the holiday season, I partook in a common seasonal activity: cookie baking! The funny thing is that I'm, admittedly, not the biggest cookie fan. But I needed to give cookies to a coworker so I had to get over my cookie apathy. So we have Coconut Orange Snowballs.

Coconut-Orange Snowballs
recipe from epicurious.com

1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablepoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake coconut on rimmed baking sheet until light golden, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and both extracts in bowl to blend well. Beat in flour, orange peel, and salt. Stir in coconut. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Soften dough slightly before shaping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 1 level tablespoon dough for each cookie, roll dough between palms of hands into balls. Place on prepared sheets, placing 1 inch apart. Bake until golden on bottum but pale on top, about 18 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks; cool 5 minutes. Place remaining 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar in bowl. Roll hot cookies in powdered sugar, covering completely. Cool cookies on rack.

Notes: Be careful when toasting the coconut! It goes from barely golden to dark brown very quickly! Mine did at first and I had to do a second batch that was usable!
The original recipe calls for a second coating in powdered sugar. I found they were sweet enough after one rolling, so taste yours first before double coating.

The picture on Epicurious is better than mine as my cookies were slightly bumpy and not smooth snowballs! Sadly I don't have an electric mixer so all of the mixing must be done by hand. Next time I may try to melt the butter first so as to better incorporate it into the dough. Or maybe Santa will soon bring me a mixer!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Roasted Asparagus: Sublime Simplicity

I can't believe it's taken me this long to post one of my most favorite recipes: Roasted asparagus with poached eggs. It's so unbelievably simple and, yes, absolutely sublime. AND a much healthier take on asparagus with hollandaise. Trust me, you will never ever reach for hollandaise as a complement to asparagus again.

Roasted Asparagus with Poached Eggs and Parmigiano

2 pounds asparagus
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Parmigiano reggiano or similar sharp italian cheese
Optional: Red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus; where they snap a good indicator of the unpalatable chewy part of the stalk. On a broiler pan lay out the asparagus. Coat asparagus in olive oil and sprinkle liberally with seal salt and freshly ground pepper (and red pepper flakes if you do so choose). Toss to coat. Roast the asparagus for 12-15 minutes until it darkens slightly in color and the tips are slightly crispy from the salt.

Bring about 1 1/2 inches of water to a simmer in a skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to the water to help the eggs bind together once placed in the water. One at a time, break each egg into a small cup. Slip eggs carefully into simmering water. Cook for around 3 minutes for still runny yolks. Cook for 1-2 minutes longer for firmer yolks. Lift the poached eggs with a slotted spoon to allow the excess water to drain.

Place the roasted aspargus on a platter and the poached eggs on top. Freshly grate or shave the parmigiano on top. The heat of the aspargus and eggs will slightly melt the grated cheese.

I'll eat this for dinner by itself. Vegetable, protein, salty Italian cheese. That's sublime simplicity on a plate!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thanksgiving continued...

Far overdue but here nonetheless! Weeks after recovering from stuffing myself silly--pun intended-- I decided to share a family favorite that is a must in our Thanksgiving spread.

Italian Fried Cauliflower
(A family favorite that can be altered to taste. In my opinion, it's perfect!)

1 head cauliflower
Canola oil
6 eggs
Flour to thicken
Pecorino romano
Garlic Powder (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add whole head of cauliflower and boil until al dente.
Break cauliflower into florets.
In a separate boil whisk together eggs, salt (to taste), pepper (to taste), garlic powder, and pecorino romano. Add flour to thicken. Batter should be thinner than pancake batter.
Thoroughly coat cauliflower florets in batter and fry in canola oil until brown on all sides.

Pecorino romano is a sharp and salty cheese so coat one small floret in the batter, fry, and taste before adding too much salt. The sharpness of the cheese adds a richness to the dish.

Make sure the batter is thinner than typical batters. This allows it to seep into the crevices of the floret and give the cauliflower more batter-y goodness!

Mélange what?!

After numerous questions I thought it's due (past) time to explain what the hell mélange really means. Well...

mélange: assortment - blend - combination - medley - mix - mixture 

So not only is it a mixture/combination of my ideas, but the double entendre is also a direct cooking reference.