Friday, February 26, 2010

Coma mi espinaca? Por supuesto!!

I promise no one will have to convince you to eat your spinach after this! If you don't own Anya von Bremzen's definitive book on Spanish cooking called The New Spanish Table, then do yourselves a favor and hit your local book supplier and grab a copy. I have been using it regularly whenever I need a hit of Spanish warmth on my dinner table...which is quite often this winter...and have yet to be disappointed. Easy to follow recipes that aren't just ersatz copies of Spanish dishes, but are the real thing with the proper ingredients, serving suggestions, and depth of flavor that makes this food so freakishly satisfying. Each time I make something it's like a mini vacation in my mouth!

The next two things I'll be posting about were suggested to be served together, and like all von Bremzen's suggestions were spot on. If you have anyone in your house who recoils at the mere suggestion of eating spinach then you need to spring this plate on them. The spinach maintained this brilliantly vibrant green color and slightly crunchy texture, and the addition of golden raisins, garlic, and pine nuts that taken together proves why this is a classic Catalan creation. It was perfect with our Catalan Braised Pork Shoulder with dried fruit (next post, I promise!) She also suggests serving it on morning toast with poached eggs which sounds like a too fabulous breakfast. Plus you can also sub chard or escarole should hell freeze over and there's a spinach shortage at the market.
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Spinach with Raisins and Pine Nuts
Espinacs a la Catalana
from The New Spanish Table
serves 3 to 4 as a side dish (although w and I ate all of it between us, so you might want to bump up the ingredients!- bb)

5 to 6 tablespoons golden or dark raisins
2 packages (each 10 ounces) fresh spinach or 2 medium-size bunches fresh spinach, tough stems discarded
3 to 4 tablespoons fragrant extra-virgin olive oil
6 to 8 whole small peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
5 tablespoons pine nuts
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the raisins in a small bowl, add very hot water to cover, and soak until plump, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels, then set aside.

2. Rinse but do not drain the spinach. Place the spinach in a large saucepan over medium heat and cover the pan. Cook the spinach until wilted, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring a few times. Transfer the spinach to a colander, and squeeze out the excess moisture by pressing on the spinach with the back of a spoon. Chop the spinach coarsely. (The spinach can be prepared a few hours ahead up to this point.)

3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over low heat. Add the garlic, pine nuts, and soaked raisins, and cook until the nuts and the garlic are light golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the chopped spinach, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring to combine evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Edible Art?

Do you love food? I mean REALLY LOVE food so much you'll make it a permanent part of you? For (mostly) better or worse these people do. Some amazing body art if you click here. I especially love the Kitchenaid....

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Real men drink Lemon Drops!

The Lemon Drop is strictly a girly cocktail. What?? Talk about a bad rap. It's like someone calling my beloved Chicago Cubs losers. They're not losers, they're just victory challenged. The point is even though I would certainly never order one out because I keep my shame to myself, a well-made Lemon Drop is a home bar guilty pleasure at my house. It became a cocktail classic (yes, I said it, a "cocktail classic"!) not because it doesn't taste, when perfectly concocted, deliciously and perfectly sweet-tart The problem I think the L.D. has is there are so many sickly sweet versions out there at way too many TGIF's where the bartender seems to have forgotten that the first word in the name is a rather key ingredient rather than a vehicle for Schmoe A to get into Chick B's pants. Follow the recipe below, and even though you'll still never order one at any drinking venue outside of your own house, you'll be able to swill with pride and enjoyment. Heck, you'll be peaking on so much self esteem I promise your masculinity will emerge intact should you offer your friends a pop!

BTW- not to brag, but didn't that Lemon Drop pic turn out fucking great?!
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Lemon Drop Cocktail

1-1/2 to 2 ounces vodka
1/2 ounce could use, in a dire emergency, Triple Sec or Grand Marnier, but you really do want this to be as good as it can be, don't you? I thought so!
1 teaspoon simple make simple syrup mix 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. When cool you are good to go.
1 ounce freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Ice cubes
Superfine (or regular) sugar for dipping the rim
Lemon peel twist for garnish
Mix the vodka, orange liqueur, sugar, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice; shake well for 20 to 30 seconds. Pour strained liquor into sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with lemon twist.
**note: to get a nice sugar rim that sticks to the glass, use the leftover lemon rind from juicing to wet the rim of your martini glass before dipping it into the sugar.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.:
The importance of cupcakes!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Portuguese Pork with Clams: the "wow" factor!

I've been sitting on this recipe for about 2 months now. Hell, I've been sitting on a ton of new stuff to share that is backed up due to Colman's arrival 6 weeks ago and my resulting reduction of mental bandwidth. But motivation and clarity is slowly give anyone weeks of interrupted sleep and eventually it becomes the it's time to ramp this here blog back up, because as I said there is much edible delight to share (luckily my lack of motivation has not extended to the kitchen) including this definite "Wow!" dish from the always reliable "The Dean & Deluca Cookbook".

I knew I was serving up a heaping pot of goodness when bro-in-law Dave said, not once but two or three times, "This is so good!" This is meaningful because Dave is not someone prone to superlatives and overuse of exclamation style speaking (of course I have seen & heard him go gaga over his latest beer find, but that's a whole 'nother category of D-love). While a true appreciator of all of life's liquid and edible indulgences, he is also someone who doesn't waste a lot of words (unlike yours truly). So to hear praise like that from him I have to say was quite the coup. So if you have someone in mind who needs to shed their mantle of public propriety, then may I suggest you plop a bowl of this in front of them.....
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Portuguese Pork with Clams
from The Dean & Deluca Cookbook: "This fabulous specialty of the Alentejo region is cooked there in a special hinged copper pot called a cataplana; its beauty is that it can be turned on either side on top of the stove, which enables the cook to shake the clams in the pan so they open evenly. If you can find one, by all means use it to cook this dish. But if you can't, don't fret; proceed with a regular Dutch oven. The dish will be just as delicious. By the way, the Portuguese would use presunto (their cured ham) and chouriço (their spicy sausage) in this dish; you may substitute the more available prosciutto (Italian) and chorizo (Spanish). Serve with Portuguese bread, a green salad, and very cold vinho verde."

bb note: I served this with a spicy Spanish red garnacha (followed of course by another bottle...or two....). Nothing too heavy, and it was perfect. There aren't that many ingredients but a ton of flavor, so a more fruit-forward wine is the ticket. I think with spring/summer coming this would be absolutely stellar with several ice cold bottles of your fave dry rosé!

serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 -pound boneless pork butt, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound onions, finely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely minced
1 bay leaf
28-ounce can tomatoes in tomato purée
1 cup dry white wine
2-ounce chunk of fatty prosciutto (top-quality not necessary)
6 ounces chorizo
72 small clams (preferably Manila clams or New Zealand cockles), scrubbed
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Place the olive oil in a heavy Dutch oven over moderately high heat. Add the pork pieces and sauté until lightly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, green pepper, and bay leaf, and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more.

2. Add half the tomatoes with all their purée, breaking the tomatoes into small chunks with the back of a wooden spoon. (Save the other half of the tomatoes for another use.) Add 3/4 cup of the wine, and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Cut the prosciutto into tiny dice, and add to the stew. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes more.

4. Add the chorizo to the stew. Cook, covered, until the pork is tender, another 15 to 30 minutes.

5. When almost ready to serve, add the clams to the pot, stir them into the tomato sauce, and sprinkle them with the remaining 1/4 cup of white wine. Increase heat to moderately high, cover the Dutch oven, and cook until the clams open. While the clams are cooking, grasp the Dutch oven with both hands and shake it a few times to move them around.

6. When the clams have opened, reduce heat to low, cover Dutch oven, and cook for 5 minutes more, allowing the clam juices to blend with the stew. While the clams are cooking, remove the chorizo, cut it into thin slices, and return to the Dutch oven. Taste sauce for seasoning. Sprinkle stew with cilantro and serve immediately in a large bowl.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Eating PDX: 5 Guys Burgers; Spella Coffee; EVOE

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Cellar Report: 1999 Produttori "Rabaja" Barbaresco; 2003 Patricia Green Pinot Noir

Two recent drinking excursions are all the proof I need (as if after all this time I needed ANY) that wine with time well spent in my basement is one of my life's great rewards.....
1999 PRODUTTORI DEL BARBARESCO Barbaresco "Rabaja" 1.5ltr
Drinking this was like being a homerun hitter and having the pitcher groove one right down the middle of the plate. Can you say "sweet spot"? My long held belief is that most great Barbaresco and Barolo, the two noble wines of Italy's Piedmont region and surely the reason the nebbiolo grape was "invented", start showing their stuff...really showing about 10 years of age. Assuming a good vintage of course, and '99 was very, very good. Oh, and a good producer as well, of which the Produttori del Barbaresco is undoubtedly one of the world's great wine houses. I took this big bottle of deliciousness to dinner out with the VINO gang recently and from the first sniff to the last slurp it was glorious. The Rabaja is one of nine single vineyard "Riserva" bottlings the Produttori does in the very best vintages. Young, the 1999s really didn't show much of themselves, all closed up on the nose and tannic with that hard body that only softens up over time (an uncomfortable allusion to my own self, I realize...*sigh*). Anyway, back to this bottle. First off, there isn't anything much better, wine-wise, than popping the cork on the large format bottle. Just lugging it into the restaurant, you know good times are ahead! After pouring it around, the nose throughout dinner just kept opening and revealing more and more nuance. Sure, all the classic Piedmontese earth and cherry fruit was there, but also creeping in and out of the picture were rose petals, wisps of smoke, road tar (which in this case is a good thing), and ripe plums. On the palate the fruit was velvety smooth, melding with those hard tannins over time to become something pretty profound. The same aromas were echoed on the palate, with cherries and spice more in abundance. It had a pitch perfect acid balance, which is one of the reasons this was so good after ten years. It's acid that holds everything together in a wine, and a reason I fear for so many of the new world fruit bombs that are all blowsy alcohol and high extraction that sacrifices that acidity. This was simply an impeccable wine, drinking at its apogee, that enhanced each bite of food. Wow, if only it was like this every time!
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Pinot Noir "Dollar Bills Only"

Patty Green, along with her winemaking partner Jim Anderson, are two of the nicest, and most talented people going in the Oregon wine business. They make incredible single vineyard pinot noir under their Patricia Green Cellars label, and a few years ago started selling this "Dollar Bills Only" bottling as a way to access a new, and more value conscious consuming public. I think this '03 on release was selling for $13-$15 a pop, which for better or worse in the Oregon wine world is a stellar price. 2003 was a searingly hot vintage, where whether you liked it or not as a winemaker you were going to be dealing with very ripe fruit and unheard of sugar levels (which translates into high alcohol) for pinot noir. There were a slew of out of balance wines released that were all fruit and not much else. Winemaking chops were of paramount importance and not many are better than Patty & Jim. The DBO was released as more of drink now pinot, but I managed to cache a few bottles away. This was my last bottle of the 2003, and I pulled it out the other night with not too many hopes for anything interesting. But man, did this surprise! There wasn't much if any tannin left, and just a hint of acidity, but the fruit was absolutely luscious. Darkly colored, with mouthcoating purple plums and ripe, sugary strawberries, with a bit of earth and light pepper sprinkled on top. A long, lush, almost decadent finish completed this very happy picture. This was wine that was just out for a good time. It only serves to remind that I don't need...or want...a Nobel prize laureate every time I pull a wine from the basement!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Salmon Tikka: phat, not fat!

Sure Jamie Oliver's overexposed. And yes it seems you can't look at a bookstore's cookbook shelf without seeing another tome from him with his carefully tousled hair and doughy mug staring out at you. BTW- have you noticed how much weight he's put on since his Food Network days? For someone who espouses healthy eating in children he has the look of a guy on a one man crusade to decimate the fish and chip population of the world. Hell, I'd be worried about letting Colman get too close to him for fear he might take a bite out of him! Taking all that into account, I have to admit that I still like the guy. He still has that "don't take this all too seriously" charm, and I respect his work with kids. Plus, the dude can undoubtedly cook. I came across his salmon tikka recipe on the Washington Post food page, made it last night for w and I while the lad slept, and we loved it. Very flavorful, about 20 minutes start to finish, and I was gobsmacked about the work/reward ratio. In other words, as my British friends would say (if I had British friends, that is) it was a doddle!
"I won't stop banging on me drums until I get a whole fried halibut,
some bangers and mash, an order of chips and 3 bloody liters of ale, you pikers!"
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Salmon Tikka
adapted from Jamie Oliver

serves 2
2 naan breads
1 fresh red chilli
½ a cucumber
1 lemon
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh coriander
2 x 1/2 lb. salmon fillets, skin on,scaled and bones removed
1 heaped tablespoon Patak’s tandoori curry paste (I couldn't find the tandoori and used the regular Patak Madras curry paste. worked just fine- bb)
olive oil

-Preheat your oven to 110°C/225°F/gas ¼
-Pop your naan breads into the oven to warm through
-Halve, deseed and finely chop your chilli
-Peel and halve your cucumber lengthways, then use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds
-Roughly chop the cucumber and put most of it into a bowl
-Halve your lemon and squeeze the juice from one half into the bowl
-Add the yoghurt, a pinch of salt and pepper and half the chopped chilli
-Pick the coriander leaves and put to one side

-Slice each salmon fillet across lengthways into three slices
-Spoon the heaped tablespoon of tandoori paste into a small dish, then use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to smear the tandoori paste all over each piece (don’t dip your pastry brush into the jar!)
-Heat a large frying pan over a high heat
-Once hot, add a lug of olive oil, put the salmon into the pan and cook for about 1½ minutes on each side, until cooked through

-Place a warmed naan bread on each plate
-Top each one with a good dollop of cucumber yoghurt and 3 pieces of salmon
-Scatter over a little of the reserved cucumber, chilli and coriander leaves and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Meat magic: Smoked Paprika Butter

Between watching 2-1/2 week old Colman eat at a Herculean level, being back at work, cooking dinner for us when I get home, and "sleeping" (as we call our 2 to 3 hour series of interrupted naps), I hope you'll forgive me for not being in the blogging mood. It doesn't in any way mean we have been suffering from appetite deprivation. What with friends bringing over food to see us through (I'm particularly grateful for a welcome home middle eastern takeout feast from J&K, a super satisfying bolognese sauce from Denise and a few bowls of lovely fresh corn chowder from my sis), Colman's ability to sleep soundly for 2 or so hours at a time allowing us to get our restaurant fix, and my cooking after work, we've actually probably never eaten better. With a ton of things on file ready for my blogging and your consumption, I'll start with one of the easiest and satisfying things we've had. I poached this recipe for smoked paprika butter from Food & Wine Magazine, where after reading through it I was ravenous for a good grilled steak. So a few nights ago, after a quick stop at the butchers at Laurelhurst Market where I picked a beautiful piece of flat iron steak, I was set for an evening of beefy bliss. The F&W recipe was for ten people. Maybe that will work when CTB is a teenager, but right now for two it was easy enough to pare down to size.

The smoked paprika butter would be great with any kind of steak off the 'que. After sprinkling our flat iron (which was about 3/4" thick) liberally with salt & pepper, I fired the Weber up to a high heat and grilled the steak about 3-1/2 minutes per side for a perfect medium rare (be sure to let the steak sit for 5 to 10 minutes loosely covered to reabsorb its juices, and be sure to slice across the grain). The length of cooking time depends on the thickness of your steak, but the key is the initial shot of high heat to get that crusty sear and caramelization to release the meat's inherent umami magic. After that it was a quick plating with some garlic mashers and a side of sautéed spinach, then topping the meat with this inspired condiment....
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Smoked Paprika Butter
adapted from Food & Wine

serves 2 to 3

2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and keep warm until your steaks are done. You can also make ahead and reheat gently when needed. When steaks are ready, spoon paprika butter over and serve immediately.