Monday, September 30, 2013

Marcella Hazan - Comfort Food for All


The world lost a magnificent woman yesterday.

Marcella Hazan was a woman after my own heart. A biologist by training (like me, er, ecologist here?), she forever changed how we all at home cooked, and cooked Italian dishes, for sure.

She was bold and confident enough to admonish Mario Batali for his risotto cooking technique. And her patience, simplicity, and passion for Italian cooking could never be overlooked.

Marcella has left a rather large impression on me. I grew up devouring her tomato sauce, laden with the most tender, sweet sofrito ever (I became a sofrito believer because of her). And while her bolognese is a labor of love, made with milk and slowly cooked for hours, it has never let me down (and to this day, is the dish I turn to when feeling under the weather and in need of some TLC). I will always refer to her recipes for delicious, flavorful, and precise recipes, and can't wait to cook them (and pass them along) to the next generation.

If you've never tried her Bolognese, I implore you to do so this week. You'll thank me.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

This was one of the highlights of my summer adventures in the kitchen. Being back in a (another?) land-locked state, this time I had access to tons of super-fresh fish flown in daily from AK. And I had a mad hankering for salmon.

One night salmon, the next night leftovers. At 8,550, cold salmon salads don't have the same appeal as they do in hot and steamy NYC. Rather, where it's easily 50 degrees at night on the hottest summer days, this girl needs a little heat (spice?!) in her life. 

Summer rolls are super easy to make, and, when you have a glass of wine at hand, kind of therapeutic to make after a long day in the office. Plus, these are great for a party any day!

Spicy Peanut Sauce

1 tbsp ginger, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 serrano chiles, chopped
Salt, as needed
Less than ¼ honey
½ teaspoon crush red pepper flakes
2/3 cups unsweetened peanut butter (smooth)
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup water, as needed

In a food processor, blend the first four ingredients until finely minced. Scrape down sides and add the remaining ingredients, through sesame oil. Puree well. Season to taste, thinning out the mixture as needed. Feel free to balance out the flavors. Let sit at room temperature for a couple hours for the flavors to blend and mellow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Easy Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

And... more radio silence from me. It's been a busy month! I returned from an epic summer along the Wasatch Front and decompressed along the South Coast of Massachusetts for a couple of weeks before returning to one of my favorite places in New England: The Upper Valley. 

While the recipes may wane with classes underway, I'll try to post a couple of times a month. First up is one of the wild, new flavors I encountered this summer: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. I should preface this with a) I've never willingly bought tomatillos and b) never really cooked with them. So when they come my way via a CSA not once, but TWICE, I knew some ingenuity would have to be mustered up.

First up, the one result I DID document digitally, oh and then LOSE: Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. It was a few days before I hosted a bunch of friends for a casual potluck-movie night at 8,550 feet. Roasting anything at that altitude takes some patience and additional moisture. But the thought of just blitzing raw tomatillos in a Cuisinart didn't appeal to me. I've said this a million times over: Everything is better roasted. And with some heat. 

For ease, and to add depth of flavor, I roasted the tomatillos, chiles, and garlic together (bathed in some water to keep them moist while completely roasting through - it's dry at altitude!). This is a mindlessly easy recipe, and delicious -- I think one guest (assisted by another) downed the entire bowl!

Another motivating factor for posting this today: It's a GREAT football Sunday snack!

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

5 medium tomatillos
2-3 serrano chiles
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel and wash the tomatillos. Split and seed the chiles. Peel garlic. Roast the ingredients together in a foil package at 350 degrees until tender (time depends on altitude; I roasted mine for 45 minutes).

Add the roasted vegetables, cilantro, and salt to a blender. Process until smooth, thinning out with a bit of water if necessary. Season to taste, adding a bit of cilantro, cumin or lime, if you like. Serve with corn chips.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Find the Perfect Bottle of Wine

Vino is my go-to tippler of choice. I used to be a whites girl (Riesling, Vidal Blanc, Sauv Blanc, CA Chardonnays) but now am more of a big red girl (CA Cabs, GSM blends, Zinfandels...).

I know so many people -- really, gentlemen, I'm talking to you here -- who don't know there way around wine simply because beer, for a single guy, is often easier. And I'm not saying that's bad. But one way to impress the next lady you take out to dinner is know the basics around a wine list via what you're looking for. Know what words to use when engaging the sommelier in conversation.

I just came across this and love it. Tasting wine should be an adventure. Consider this the first tool to master use of for your toolbox.

A Beginner
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