March 31, 2006
Ist das nicht ein Wiener schnitzel?

schnitzel.jpgWhy, yes, it IS a Wiener schnitzel. When I lived in Munich I ate a lot of schnitzels. Veal (wiener), pork (schwein), you name it. I was a lot less adventurous culinarily speaking and in my memory the only three things that were ever on the menu were schnitzel, schweinshaxe and leberkaese. The last two in that list were a little too much for me - knuckles, and a strange rubbery meat-like substance that was a lot like very hot bologna cut about a half an inch thick. So I ate a lot of schnitzel.

I got tired of it eventually, but for a long time it was my favourite dish. Rich and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, it was always a reliable choice. It didn't have bones in odd places or hide rubbery fat under a thick sauce. The accompaniments were simple but necessary: a wedge of lemon and a fried egg glistening with a wobbly deep yellow yolk. The lemon cut through the buttery flavour of the crust, which in turn absorbed the thick tasty yolk.

Like many simple dishes, this one relies on impeccable ingredients and perfect timing. The veal cutlet needs to be flattened to a thin slice so that it will cook quickly and remain tender. The cutlet needs to be flipped at exactly the right moment so that you have a nice crispy exterior, not soggy but not burned. You need copious amounts of fresh unsalted butter. And a nice lemon and a fresh organic egg. That's all really. But you have to get every element right or it's just a blah dish, nothing special.

Wiener Schnitzel (serves 2)

The classic Wiener schnitzel is always made with tender veal. If it's made with turkey or pork, you have to say so in the title: Pork Wiener Schnitzel, for example. The good news is that it can easily be made in 15 minutes. It was my plan B for the IMBB: Make it in 30 minutes challenge because it looks classy and yet really is very quick and simple to make.

2 veal cutlets
1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
salt
pepper
a lemon wedge
3 eggs, separated (one beaten)
a lot of unsalted butter

Pound the veal cutlets until they are uniformly thin, about a quarter of an inch thick. Dredge them in flour (mixed with a little salt and pepper) and then the beaten egg. Roll them in the bread crumbs until well coated. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. When the butter begins to froth, lay the cutlets in the pan. Keep the heat fairly high, but not high enough to burn the butter. You can add a little olive oil to the butter if you want to play safe; this keeps the butter from burning but you don't want too much as it will add the wrong flavour to the dish. Once a nice brown crust has formed on the cutlets (about five minutes) add another couple tablespooons of butter. Let it melt and then flip the cutlets, moving them around a bit and lifting them, if necessary to get the butter under them.

The breadcrumbs absorb butter like nobody's business: be generous with the butter if the pan looks dry.

When they are cooked through and crusty all over, remove to a warm plate. Crack the two eggs in the pan with the remaing butter. Cook until the eggs are just set but the yolks are still liquid. Slide an egg onto each schnitzel and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 1:14 PM | Comments (13)
Weirdness

You may see some weirdness here today. It's not an early April Fools. We moved servers again and we're working out the kinks. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)
March 30, 2006
The Humble Fried Egg Sandwich

egg_sandwich_jf.jpgSometimes when looking for something good to blog about, the answer can be right under your nose. That's what happened to me recently when I was making a fried egg sandwich for breakfast. I make one of these probably 3 times a week nowadays and have been making them off and on since my dad showed me how when I was just a wee lad.

Now, as I understand it, Alton Brown has some sort of Unified Sandwich Theory which says...well, what do you know, you can read it yourself on the interweb. Relevant here are two of the corollaries (corollary to what I'm not sure): soft fillings best on soft breads. Check. I use a soft challah-type roll. And avoid placing layers of slippery substances next to one another. Check. That's the bit about where to apply ketchup.

Does everyone do ketchup and Tabasco? I'm guessing people grew up with other toppings to their fried egg sandwiches. Once I had no ketchup so I did pesto. Not bad.

Fried Egg Sandwich

1-2 t butter
2 eggs
Ketchup
Tabasco Sauce
1 soft roll

Crack two eggs into a small bowl and set aside. Melt butter in an 8" pan on high heat. When it has bubbled a bit, slide the eggs from the bowl to the pan (so as not to break the yolks). Fry those for about two minutes on high. Meanwhile, cut your roll in half and lay it on your plate in butterfly fashion. Turn down the heat to medium and here is where you have some decisions to make. If you like your yolks broken, do it now. Also, do you like your eggs fried "soft" or "hard"? If you like them fried soft, then flip them now. If you like them fried hard, as I do, keep them on this side for another two minutes and then flip. Cook on the flip side for about two minutes or until you are happy with how runny the eggs are.

Put ketchup on one side of the roll and 2-20 drops of Tabasco as well. Then lay the egg across the bread and close up the sandwich. I once made the near fatal flaw of putting the eggs on the bread and ketchup on the egg. When I closed it up, the ketchup was between two layers of egg. Slip-sliding all over the place. I shed one tear. I had really messed up.

That's a lot of bytes for a simple fried egg sandwich, but I have no job. So there you go.

Posted by Justin at 8:35 AM | Comments (11)
March 29, 2006
IMBB24 Round-up, Round 4

We're up to the fourth and final batch of participants in this month's Is My Blog Burning Event - IMBB #24, Make it in 30 Minutes, wherein we challenged you to make a full meal as much from scratch as possible in just 30 minutes.

If you'd like to review the first batch of participants, the first post is here.
The second batch of participants can be found here.
the third batch of participants can be found here.

And the fourth and FINAL batch of participants can be found, well, er, here:

Tigers & Strawberries - Penne with Sauteed Chicken and Collard Greens in a Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce
Our good friend Barbara over at Tigers & Strawberries takes 28 minutes to turn a mess of mise en place into a nourishing meal with pasta, chicken, and dark green vegetables. Plan, prep, prep some more, then attack is her method to make seemingly complex dishes with speed, as she demonstrtes here to great effect. She offers a vegetarian alternative to the chicken, and I'm taking it.
Too Many Chefs - Vegetarian Asian Soup

Justin's Vegetarian Asian Soup is the first of three entries from our own site. Justin invents Asian mirepoix, then adds to it vegetable stock, crsip snowpeas, deeply satisfying mushrooms and tofu, and energy-producing angel hair pasta. There is no miso and there is no meat in this soup, but you won't miss either.
Too Many Chefs - Steam Power - Miso Soup, Steamed Asian Fish and Vegetables, Greens and snowpeas, store-bought mochi

Man, is this guy long-winded with the dish name. Oh wait, this is me. I used bamboo steamers to cook up a healthy low fat fish meal accompanied by a simple miso soup, a pan fry of bitter dandelion greens and sweet snowpeas, and Trader Joe's mochi. Ginger and lemongrass flavors were carried into the fish by the steam, and my wife, the Redhead, declared it the healthiest meal I'd ever made her. I'll make this again, for sure.
Too Many Chefs - Tender Asparagus Spears with truffle oil and a balsamic reduction, Beef Tournedos à la Rossini with Pommes Dauphinoises, Apple and Berry Crumble

Meg's kinda long-winded with her dish names too, eh? But I wish I'd been to dinner for the meal. She claims that time constraints didn't help her cooking (and neither did the Critic calling out "Is it done yet?"), but I think she's being modest. The asparagus sounds like heaven, the Operatic beef and dauphinoise potatoes were undoubtedly delicious, and she had time to make a crumble for dessert. Very nice.
Improv Cook - Date Night Tilapia with Sofrito and Black Bean Couscous and Mexican Slaw
Improv Cook Erin (from the home of improv comedy - Chicago) marries Mexican and Mediterranean traditions in a meal fit for a big date with her husband. The slaw incorporates crunchy, spicy, and salty; the tilapia gets a brine-assist from olives and capers; and the couscous is there to sop up all the great flavors in the sauce. This meal is better than meeting Tommy Tune.
Music and Cats - Steak and salad, Strawberries with cassis and Greek yogurt
Steak is a great way to make a "fancy" dinner without spending all day over a hot stove. Give it a salad sidecar (spinach, arugula, and avocado), and finish up with fresh berries in cassis with Greek yogurt drizzling down the side and you can push away from the table full and happy. Now for the important questions - Will George ever really get over Merideth, and what is up with Izzie and the heart guy? (Ignore this last part if you don't watch Grey's Anatomy.)
Tham Jiak - Chinese Fried Rice
A form of fried rice appears in most Asian cultures, and Chinese cooking is certainly no exception. Rokh of Tham Jiak in Malaysia wals us through the construction of a fried rice dish, component by component. Start with the shallots/onions, next the rice, garlic, and egg, add meat and vegetables if you like, then finish with a selection of condiments. There are at least a hundred different combinations in this post, any one of which could provide you a meal in 30 minutes.

That's it, we're done. that's all she wrote. I hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did! Thanks to all 52 wonderful participants and to Alberto at Il Forno for originating the IMBB event. We look forward to IMBB 25 next month eagerly, and will be keeping the round up for this month's event bookmarked so that some night when we drag our butts home and want a quick but satisfying meal, we can use one of these great recipes and Make it in 30 Minutes!

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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:24 PM | Comments (4)
March 27, 2006
IMBB24 Roundup, Round 3

We're up to the third batch of participants in this month's Is My Blog Burning Event - IMBB #24, Make it in 30 Minutes, wherein we challenged you to make a full meal as much from scratch as possible in just 30 minutes.

If you'd like to review the first batch of participants, the first post is here.
The second batch of participants can be found here.

In the order of receipt of e-mail, here are entries 31-45 (or temporarily, a portion thereof):

Masak-Masak - Clams in Shaoxing Wine Soup
We refuse to clam up about this month's IMBB. In fact, we love clams! Kuala Lumpur's Masak-Masak brings us a clam soup unlike any I've seen before. The clams are in their shells in a soup made with Chinese Wine.
Live to Nibble - Chilean Sea Bass Poached in Garlicky Tomato Sauce
Eat to Live, Live to Eat? Nah, Live to Nibble, preferably on a dish like this toothfish dish (that's Chilean seabass to you). The flavors in tomatoes and anchovies are drawn out by white wine to flavor the aforementioned toothy fin-bearer. Quick and delicious.
Hungry in Hogtown - Nigella's lemon linguine, apple tarts
Let's see, we're doing an event around meals made in 30 minutes, and Rob at Hungry in Hogtown is married to a woman named Rachael.. I suppose its inevitable that Food supestar Nigella Lawson comes up. Huh? Well it is Nigella's Lemon Linguine recipe that features in this quick meal, to be followed by a very apple tart. Cider's the key to the tart.







Golden Shrimp - Amai Udon

Eva from Golden Shrimp goes for a recipe out of a cookbook from one of my favorite UK restaurant chains - Wagamama. Wagamama specializes in getting you in and out of their simple bench seating restuarants quickly. What a pleasant stroke of luck that the cookbook has a recipe for Amai Udon that uses Golden Shrimp. Nice!
à la Dilek - Lime Tuna on hot Couscous

Dilek normally blogs in Turkish, but this Switzerland based blogger put together a nice English language post of a nice way to treat a good piece of fish. Spices ranging from curry to kaffir lime to honey and coriander flavor this dish. It should probably be enjoyed seaside with a warm breeze blowing in off the water.
Sweetnicks - Chicken Chilaquiles

Sweetnicks tracks down a recipe from the Preppie Queen Martha Stewart. Only, it seems Ms. Stewart has strayed south of Connecticut, all the way to Mexico. Chipotle, Adobo, and - feta? Nice twist Senora Stewart, and nicely done, Sweetnicks.
Noodles and Rice - Ikan Bilis Fried Rice

Ikan bilis, tiny little dried anchovies, are the secret ingredient in Noodles and Rice's Malaysian fried rice. The usual egg is omitted, but the fish have plenty of company from Misters Chicken and Shrimp. Don't be lonely, tiny fish.
The Pilgrim's Pots and Pans - Alamang & Camias

Alamang are miniscule shrimp. Camias are a tropical fruit. (Hey, you got your alamang in my camias! No, you got your camias in my alamang!) This simple, beautiful recipe, though filled with terms that may be unfamiliar, should be the inspiration for a lot of light dinners.
Foodatista - Tilapia with Oyster Mushrooms and Turmeric Cream Sauce

Foodatista doesn't want to admit how quickly this dish comes together, and I can understand why. If you didn't know how easy this recipe is, and you were faced with this beautiful presentation, you'd probably be willing to pay $25 for it at one of them fancy restuarants where they require shoes.
Super Fresh Marty Mart - Black Bean Noodles

Time is money, money is time (and fun is bowling, but that's another post), and Ariadne at Super Fresh Marty Mart added a financial component to this month's challenge, saving not just time but money. The black beans in this post are a little different from the ones I'm used to, but when the whole meal is delicious and inexpensive, we can all afford to expand our horizons a bit.
In Mol Araan - Sesame Miso Soup with or without Noodles

In Mol Araan makes a miso soup unlike any I've ever had. Not content to just add miso to hot water and maybe chuck in some veg and tofu, In Mol Araan adds two different types on miso and tahini to create a miso-sesame soup in practically no time at all.
Jonski Blogski - Chickpea and Italian Sausage Pasta with Spinach and Feta

Jonski Blogski twists a chickpea and chorizo stew by swapping the chorizo for Italian sausage and adding two of my favorite ingredients - spinach and feta. The chickpeas absorb many of the flavors from the stew, and the feta, sausage, and chickpeas all provide the protein punch.
Beyond Adobo - Sinangag

Sinangag is fried rice at it's MOST basic. This traditional Filipino dish uses only four ingredients - garlic, oil, rice, and salt. Stef of Beyond Adobo provides tips and tricks to help this simple dish achieve greatness.
Mekuno Cooking - Flash in the Pan Fish, Spinach-Arugula Salad with Red Pepper, Parmesan, & Walnuts, Walnut Cake

Time was almost Faith's downfall. Not the thirty minutes to make this meal, but the extra time it took to defrost the fish she forgot to take out of the freezer earlier. Faith rallied and put together a fish dish that makes my mouth water along with a smart salad and a walnut cake adapted from Epicurious.
Me and My Kitchen - Salas and Sandwich

My vegetarian side was pleased to see Santhi's sandwich at Me and My Kitchen. Peppers, and tomatoes are brought together by paneer cheese, and accompanied by a modest salad with ranch dressing. I could eat this for lunch every week.

If we didn't get to yours yet (heck, we haven't even done ours yet), don't worry - it's coming! There's still one more post to come for those of you looking for a meal you make in 30 minutes. Thanks for hanging in there. Look for the last roundup post tomorrow.

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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:05 PM | Comments (6)
March 26, 2006
IMBB24 Round-up, Round 2

We're up to the second fifteen participants in this month's Is My Blog Burning Event - IMBB #24, Make it in 30 Minutes, wherein we challenged you to make a full meal as much from scratch as possible in just 30 minutes.

If you'd like to review the first batch of participants, the first post is here.

Here, however are the next fifteen participants in the order we received their e-mail:

The Skinny Epicure - Mushroom-leek Omelette Sandwich Lunch
THIRTY minutes? Thirty long minutes? Forget that, said the Skinny Epicure and put together a simple but delicious omelette sandwich with a fresh fruit dessert in just 20 minutes. It's the same kind of innovative thinking that made six minute abs such a huge improvement over seven minute abs.
A Veggie Venture - Beet & Walnut Salad
Alanna Kellogg, Veggie Evangelist (I always think that should be Veggie 'vangelist, but I bought my wok at Woks n' Things, so what do I know?), was not so keen on our theme this month, but changed her mind at the last minute when she found a muse. Rachael Ray provided the base recipes, and Alanna provided the editorial guidance, lightening both RR's Chicken and Mushroom Goulash recipe and her Beet and Walnut Salad. The goulash won't be AK's recipe file, it sounds like, but the modified Beet and Walnut Salad will be.
Fool for Food - Rucola Risotto
Another day, another name learned for arugula/rocket/rucola. Claudia at Fool for Food uses a favorite herb in a nice simple risotto. This last year I had arugula on a pizza for the first time and loved it. Now, I have a risotto to try with that magical green. Excellent.











I Was Just Very Hungry - Sweet and Sour Okara Meatballs, Puntarelle Flower and Eggplant Stir Fry
Maki of I Was Just Very Hungry uses okara, which is a byproduct of tofu soy milk production to pull together her pork and tofu meatballs and a vegetable called puntarelle flower - which is somewhat like asparagus, but also somewhat like broccoli or endive - to match with eggplant in an accompanying stirfry. Unique and enticing.
Pertelote - Harissa-glazed carrots with feta, Lamb with pine nuts and hummous, Banoffee-in-a-glass

Pertelote has no permalinks on her blog so you'll just have to search for March 25, 2006 on her blog if you're reading this in the future. And it'll be worth the search, because this is a meal to come home to. I bet you could convince the in-laws this took all day to make. Can I tell you how much I like feta with carrots? Can I? Can I? It's a lot, if you couldn't guess...
Cook (almost) Anything Once - Bruschetta al Pomodoro, Pesto Pasta, Ricotta Soufflé Puddings

Haalo of Cook (almost)Anything Once turns to Italy for inspiration for a quick nosh and comes up with this trio of Italianesque treats. Burschetta, Pasta, and a dessert that uses cheese and fruit. Wonderful. Put a little Dean Martin on in the background and make a night of it.
Green Green Chutney - Shallow fried whiting, Cilantro-lime pasta salad, Hummus

You might think the shallow fried whiting is the big attraction in Green Green Chutney's meal, but I'm placing my money on the cilantro lime pasta salad. Don't get me wrong, the fish looks great, but what an energetic combination of flavors in that pasta. I don't mean to neglect the hummus, either, but I'll stand by my guess on the pasta.
A Blithe Palate - Panfried Herbed Chicken and Potatoes with Braised Leeks, and Saffron-Vanilla Waffles with Mascarpone and Honey

Poker nights call for quick cooking. A Blithe Palate gives us a dish fit for a King to nine straight flush. For the main course, an herbed chicken dish accompanied by sauteed leeks. For dessert, waffles luxuriously made with saffron and vanilla. A little marscapone, a little sweetness and then its off to the gaming table.
Ambrosia - Grilled Sea Scallops with Corn Salad, Grilled Asparagus

Ambrosia WILLS Spring into being by taking this half hour extravaganza out to the grill. Sweet scallops are grilled with corn over an open flame. The corn is tossed in a mustard/balsamic dressing and the scallops served on top with a side of crisp-tender asparagus. Persephone's a-coming to dinner for this meal.
Berry Simple - Figs with prosciutto, goat cheese and almonds, Chargrilled Lamb Backstrap with Lentil, Baked apricots with fruit mince and brandy

Berry Simple is all about flavor combinations in this well-planned meal. Salty and sweet pair in the figs, lamb is complimented by lentils in the main course, and apricots and brandy are accented with mint. A time schedule is supplied. For those of you in a real rush, skip all the other steps and just do the ones at 7:04, 7:10, 7:15, and 7:28. You won't be so worried about the rest of the steps...
Sugar, Spice, & Everything Nice - Egg Pulao & Fresh sliced Tomatoes, Mango Delight

A pulao is a rice dish cooked in a well seasoned broth. Here, SS&EN adds hard boiled eggs to this pulao make a filling and delicious main course. For dessert, we get a sweetened and spiced mango served with a fluffy whipped cream. All in under 30 minutes, and all quite tasty.
Lucullian Delights - Mediterranean Vegetable Stir Fry With Tofu, Fried Bananas With Ginger Syrup

Tofu is a chameleon, and Ilva in Tuscany uses it to great effect in her stir fry of vegetables we usually think of as belonging to Italian cuisine - great choice! After that main course, we have bananas fried and coated in golden syrup. Ilva may be in Tuscany, but that dessert looks lush enoughto be straight from ancient Rome (well, if they'd had bananas, that is).
Porcini Chronicles - Bagna Cauda

To those in the know, Bagna Cauda is a richly enjoyed treat. Susan in Italy knows bagna cauda. Garlic and anchovies make a fine bath for bread and crudites. If you have any leftovers - ah, who am I kidding? There will be no leftovers.
Amuse Bouche - Grilled pork tenderloin with a hot pepper jelly and molasses glaze and spice rub with roasted asparagus and baby red potatoes in chive butter

Butterflying, grilling, hot pepper jelly, Costco! Amuse Bouche's entry for this event has it all. Meat and two veg is turned into a meal to write home about when the featured players are treated with care and flavors mated carefully as they are here. Chomp!
Beyond Salmon - Slow Roasted Salmon With Chive Oil

Short to be Tall, Skinny to Be Fat, Cruel to Be Kind, Slow to be Fast? This slow-roasted salmon dish was inspired by Charlie Trotter. Even slow roasted fish is done within our 30 minute time limit, and the asparagus and mushroom sides ensure it'll be a long time before I'm personally Beyond Salmon.

That's the second batch of fifteen. There's lots more in store, but the midnight hour approaches and the rest of our participants will have to wait for tomorrow. If you want to go back and look at the first batch, click here.

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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 11:35 PM | Comments (2)
IMBB24 Round-up, Round 1

In the modern world it often seems there's no time to cook, but you still Made it in 30 Minutes! Entries have been pouring in since even before Friday for the latest edition of Is My Blog Burning? hosted right here.

The challenge was to make a meal from scratch or close to scratch in 30 minutes or less. And what is so impressive is the variety of meals that you came up with and just how hungry I am looking at these treats.

Let's run through the participants in the order we received their entries. There are a lot of entries, so we're going to publish them in batches of fifteen. Here's the first batch -


Pie in the Sky - Tuscan Spaghetti with Red Wine
Kate at Pie in the Sky pulls together a dish with beautiful colors and flavors. Chianti turns ordinary noodles a deep red. Baby spinach, prosciutto, garlic, and Parmesano-Reggiano add their flavors to a dish that's almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.

Laughing Gastronome - Lemon Parsley Chicken
Emma, The Laughing Gastronome checks in from New Zealand with a timed recipe for a classic chicken dish. Start with chicken, add some parsley and lemon, serve with a salad and orzo, and you've got a quick meal that's a hundred times better than any takeout you could order.
Bron Marchall - 30 minute Salmon and ANZAC Tuile Feast

Our next entry also hails from the antipodean side of the globe. Bron Marchall crafts a brightly colored dinner of Teriyaki Kebobs of Akaroa Salmon (“The Ocean’s Best!”), with wilted baby bok choy, orze with baby spring peas in a Crème fraîche and Pure Wasabi sauce, finishing with ANZAC tuiles with crème chantilly and raspberries, drizzled with Chelsea golden syrup. The pictures will make your mouth water. I'm booking my ticket for New Zealand now.
Küchenlatein - Chicken breast with kohlrabi - Hähnchenbrust mit Kohlrabigemüse

Ulrike, also known as ostwestwind from north Germany took thirty minutes to make a favorite meal from a favorite cookbook that focuses on 30 Minute meals, 30-Minuten Küchen. Cream, carbs and chicken? Mmmm... I like the use of vegetable stock and kohlrabi in this dish. Until now, I've been afraid of trying to cook kohlrabi, but I can see this becoming a comfort food favorite.





Babe in the City - Chicken, Ginger and Mushroom Fried Rice
In Kuala Lumpur, BABE_KL was inspired by a Vietnamese stall in Bukit Bintang Plaza to make this colorful and no doubt favorful quick and easy meal. Best of all, using a little leftover rice, this dish came together fast enough that BABE_KL was able to not only cook but clean-up within the 30 minute time limit.
Baking Sheet - 30-Minute Banana-Black Bean Tacos

Baking Sheet invokes Rachael Ray and defends her briefly before creating a creative dish I doubt you'll ever see on FoodTV. Black Beans and Bananas sounds like a strange combination until you really think about the flavors involved. And the addition of a chipotle sauce at the end - smoking! I'll be making this one for myself soon.
Je Mange la Ville - Walnut, Apple & Spinach Salad w/ Crunchy Chicken

I loved Je Mange la Ville's approach to challenge - along with pictures of the cooking and assembly process for this salad, we get pictures of an unforgiving timer, steadily ticking the seconds away. The salad is solid (hey, that's fun to say out loud - try it), and has a nice balance of leafy and "protein-y" with apples adding a bright flavor element to keep it all interesting.
The Wednesday Chef - Amanda Hesser's Lemon Chicken

Wednesday Chef's post is full of "whoa!" Simplicity often rules in the kitchen, and in our nation's newspaper food sections. TWC has pulled a recipe from the New York Times' Amanda Hesser and brought it to life. The chicken looks beautiful, she got to use up more of her creme fraiche, and Ben liked it a lot.
like to Cook - Fried Rice

28 minutes is all it took Karen to chop, slice, dice, fry and otherwise prepare this fried rice dish that she likes for breakfast. Fried rice for breakfast? Set the oatmeal aside and try this slightly different (and undoubtedly delicious) way to get your day started. Nice knifework on the carrots, by the way.

1x umrühren bitte - Medaillons de porc napped with Kiwi-Sauce, Stawberry-Yogurt-Coupe

From Andalucia, Spain, after picking glass shards out of the dry noodles, Zorra makes two delicious looking dishes in thirty minutes. For the main course, salty, savory pork is paired with kiwis. I love the picture on this post. A second post shows dessert, an assembly of berries, nuts, yogurt, and honey. Delicious.
kaffebohne - Pasta with cream cheese-broccoli-sauce

Like many of us, kaffebohne is pressed for time with pressures from office and family, and a desire to still serve a good meal to the family. The solution - broccoli in a creamy sauce that would warm you up on a winter's day. Broccoli loves cheese, and even kaffebohne's four year old is inclined to eat broccoli in this preparation.
SaltnPepper - Banana Split

We may need a ruling from the judges on SaltnPepper's Banana Split entry. Is a banana split, even one that include blueberries, grapes, kiwis, and cookies a meal? It certainly has a meal's worth of calories, but- Well, whether or not it meets the technical criteria, it sounds like a good idea to me. So about your dentist bills...
Anne's Food - Mushroom Broad Bean Risotto with Mascarpone and Marsala

I'm not sure if we should be sad we didn't get the stuffed red onion recipe from Anne, or glad we got this hearty risotto. Our Swedish chef adds a dollop of marscapone and a splash of marsala to the mating of mushrooms and broad beans. I'm not sure I would have had the nerve to try a risotto in under 30 minutes, but I'm glad Anne did.

Mahanandi - Spaghetti in Spicy Cherry Tomato Sauce

What is wrong with Indira today? It's certainly not her cooking. The spicy sauce she puts together looks pretty darn good, actually, marrying chiles, cumin, watermelon seeds, and sara pappu together with cherry tomatoes. What causes me concern is the giggling and use of "EVOO" and "Yum O", and the implied awkward hand gestures. Is Indira bucking for a talk show from Oprah? Yikes!
Desset by Candy - Caldo Verde and Croque Madame

Portugal meets France by way of Ontario in Dessert by Candy's pairing of a classic kale and potato soup with a classic egg and cheese sandwich. The addition of port wine sweet onion jam to the sandwich is an inspired departure from the classic. Nicely done!

And so are we for the moment. Hold tight, there are plenty more to review. We'll have fifteen more posts in a jif, but I need to go make myself a little something. All this reading about quick and delicious food has made me ravenous.

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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 4:45 PM | Comments (4)
Is My Blog Burning? Does it have time in 30 minutes?

IMBB_rossini.jpgIn the UK, there is a very popular foodie game show called Ready, Steady, Cook! It's a lot of fun: two celebrity chefs are paired with contestants and have to come up with a variety of dishes using ingredients brought by the contestants. They have 20 minutes and generally come up with a minimum of five dishes each. Granted, they have the contestants to help out, as well as the charismatic host, Ainsley. But they only have 20 minutes.

My respect for these chefs has gone up enormously after this edition of Is My Blog Burning?

Enormously.

And I was only cooking a measley three courses for the Critic, no competition and no studio or TV audience. (Though I did have the Critic shouting out every five minutes "Is it done yet? Why is it taking so long?" It was a fatal mistake to tell him I was trying to make dinner in half an hour.)

Actually, I thought I would have an edge in this event after all my afternoons watching Ready, Steady, Cook! The number of tricks and short-cuts I've picked up from this show is impressive. You see them impassively consider the raw butternut squash a contestant has inconsiderately chosen and you know the wheels are going around and around. You learn the quickest way to pre-cook almost anything (that electric kettle is a Godsend, as is the microwave oven) and how to creatively cut food so that the surface area is maximised. I thought I knew it all. I was wrong.

I wanted to prove that it's possible to make a fairly elegant dinner in half an hour without resorting too much to pre-prepared ingredients and using seasonal ingredients. Luckily for me, the asparagus appeared in our local supermarket for the first time on Friday. Unfortunately, they did not have any rhubarb, which was my first choice for the dessert. Well, actually, in the end that could be classed as a "fortunately" too, as it meant that I had to be creative and came up with a lovely little dessert.

So here was the final choice:

Tender Asparagus Spears with truffle oil and a balsamic reduction

*****

Beef Tournedos à la Rossini with Pommes Dauphinoises

*****

Apple and Berry Crumble

As you can see here, I did my best to get everything I could possibly need assembled before starting the clock. I didn't chop or wash anything but I know how the one essential ingredient that I use once a year can successfully hide in my cabinets while I curse and stomp around. So I got that truffle oil out first and tried to think of every pan or bowl I might need. Of course that left very little counter space, which was to be a source of some stress once I got going.

Here's how it went, roughly. I didn't take notes. I barely took photos. I came in about five minutes over the wire, but I'm calling that "plating time". Or alternatively "should have washed the spinach before starting" time. Or you could just conclude that it takes a better chef than I to make this dinner in 30 minutes. You might be right.

30 minutes: preheat the oven to 200c. Slice two potatoes in thin rounds, about the thickness of a pound coin or two quarters. Butter a small casserole and rub it with the cut edge of a small garlic clove. Layer the potatoes slices, overlapping them slightly in the casserole. You don't want more than two or three layers or the potatoes won't cook in time. Beat a half cup of cream with an egg and drizzle over the potatoes. Cover with about half a cup of grated gruyère cheese. Place in the hot oven.

25 minutes: peel, core and roughly chop two apples. Toss them in a bowl with a tablespoon of flour, a tablespoon of sugar (or less, depending on how sweet your apples are) and a third of a cup of mixed dried berries. Place them in two buttered ramekins. In the small basin for a hand blender, place 30 grams of butter, 20 grams flour, 20 grams of brown sugar. Pulse until it's crumbly and sprinkle generously over the apple and berry mix. Place in the oven, preferably on a lower rack than the potatoes. (I didn't and they came out a bit too brown on top.)

18 minutes: wash a lot of spinach as quickly as possible.

13 minutes: turn on a high flame under the cast-iron grill pan.

12 minutes: chop the bottoms of the asparagus and put them in a frying pan. Use the kettle to quickly bring to the boil some water. Pour it over the spinach and over the asparagus, cover both pans and turn on the flame.

11 minutes: begin melting a few tablespoons of butter in a non-stick frying pan. Slice a shallot finely and add to the pan. Crush the garlic from the potatoes and add it too. Wash and quickly slice a dozen small mushrooms thinly.

7 minutes: slap the tournedos steaks on the pan. Stir the mushrooms. Add some water to the spinach. Check the asparagus.

6 minutes: turn off the heat on the asparagus and turn up the heat on the spinach. Will it never cook? Turn over the steaks.

5 minutes: check steaks. Decide they are not going to be done in time and rummage through the cabinets for the bacon press, eventually finding it on the counter next to the sink. Place on steaks.

3 minutes: test the potatoes and panic because they are not yet tender. Slap the casserole in the microwave on high for two and a half minutes.

2 minutes: add cream to mushrooms.

1 minute: plate the asparagus, drizzle with a little truffle oil and dot the plate with balsamic reduction. (Okay, yes, two prepared ingredients there. So sue me...)

0 minutes: take first plate out to impatient Critic, taking the time to take a less than perfect photo first.

Run back to kitchen, use tongs to remove a pile of spinach from the pot, draining as best you can by squishing it against the side of the pot. Plop a steak over it and cover with the mushroom sauce. Carefully remove a serving of the potatoes and add to the plate.

Photograph (badly) and give to impatient spouse. Turn off the oven and remove the crumbles. Totally forgot to photograph them.

Somewhere in there I seasoned things. I forgot to put any other spices in the sauces. The kitchen looked like a tornado hit it by the time I was done. A meal for two generated enough dishes to fill the dishwasher. But I (sort of) made it under the wire. I think I lost a few years off my life in the process.

And how did it all taste? The spinach was very old and tough and the Critic flatly refused to eat his. I ate some of mine, but next time I'm cheating and using the pre-washed tender shoots. The critic ate the tender points of the asparagus but refused to eat the ends. I wasn't too insulted as I've seen him do that in nice restaurants; he's very picky. The truffle oil was heavenly on the spears. I didn't even bother with balsamic reduction on mine because it would have masked that gorgeous truffle flavour. The potatoes, despite my panic, were the best part of the meal: creamy and ever so slightly garlicky and tender, with a crusty cheese topping.

The steaks, again despite my panic (or more likely because of it) were over-cooked.

And the crumble was delicious: hot and sweet and crumbly. The berries, despite being soaked in natural fruit juice (according to the label) were actually a bit tart, complementing the soft sweet apples perfectly.

All in all I have to say that being under time pressure does NOT improve the quality of my cooking. No big surprise there. But I am now a humbler cook. And a wiser one.

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Posted by Meg in Sussex at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)
IMBB24: Steam Power

30 minutes is not a lot of time. That's my conclusion after trying our own challenge for Is My Blog Burning? #24 - Make it in 30 Minutes.

I was able to finish my meal just in the time allotted. To be fair, I was slowed down a little by pausing to give The Redhead time to click pics of the cooking process, but I also didn't count the time it took to wash the vegetables and I bought some pre-cut broccoli florets that had been pre-washed. I didn't, however, use pre-minced garlic or ginger, so I think it all evens out.

My meal is a three courser:
1. Miso soup with green onion and tofu
2. Fish steamed with essence of lemongrass and ginger
  2a. A dipping sauce,
  2b. Tomatoes and broccoli
  2c. Side of sauteed dandelion greens and peapods
  2d. White rice.
3. 2 types of Mochi for dessert

It's all made possible with the help of bamboo steamers set in a wok over boiling water that allows us to cook not just the fish but a few vegetable side dishes as well.

The idea for this came from a visit by the Maid of Honor from our wedding - Nataline. Like me, she'd been much more of an eater than a cook for most of her life until a short time ago when she started dabbling, and then took a cooking class.

Nataline visited a week or two ago, and brought with her an Asian cookbook and an idea to make some steamed fish, which we did, and which was delicious. The recipe here is inspired by that meal, plus a few whacked ideas of my own.

Bamboo steamers are wonderful. They cook the food with no unintentionally added fat, and infuse the layers above with fragrance from below. We're going to take advantage of that by putting lemongrass and ginger below our fish and having the fish absorb the perfume. It's subtle but distinct. If you prefer, you can crate a wrap or rub for the filets, but try this more subtle method of getting flavor into fish first.

How was it? The rice turned out well, the fish had the subtle fragrance we were looking for, the broccoli and tomatoes were tender and delicious, and the bitter dandelion greens set off the sweet peapods nicely. I made the miso soup a little too miso-y (aka salty), but that's easily correctable. If you like a more subtle soup back off the miso a bit.

Trader Joe's mochi? It'a a miracle they exist, so I won't nitpick, but they could back off the sugar in the coating a little. Still very tasty and recommended. I hope you'll make and enjoy this meal or something like it using Steam Power.

Thirty Minute Fish with Sides and Soup

For the Rice:
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups water

For the Miso Soup:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 block firm tofu
1 quart water
1/4 cup miso paste (more or less, according to taste
3 green onions, green parts only

For the Fish and Vegetables in the Steamer:
2 four-ounce filets whitefish (I used Red Snapper. Cod would work as well. Just don't use an oilier fish like tuna or salmon)
1 stalk lemongrass
piece of ginger about the size of two thumbs (start with one twice as large, you'll grate half of it for the ginger in the miso soup above)
1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cups broccoli florets

For the Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablesoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped scallion/green onion
1 tablespoon sriracha garlic/hot sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup cilantro, washed

For the Greens and Peapods:
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups fresh peaspods (the flat snappy kind)
1 bunch dandelion greens (about 2 cups?)

For dessert:
2 packages Trader Joe's mochi, one mango, one green tea

Get your food out and accessible, set up your blender if its not always setup, get a wok, bamboo steamers for the wok (two high), a medium saucepot for the soup, a small saucepot for the rice, and a large skillet for the greens and peapods

Set the clock to 30 minutes. Go!

30:00 - combine rice and water in a pan, over high heat. Let boil (at about 26:00 mark, then reduce to simmer, cover, and watch for steam holes (about 10-12 minutes later)
29:00 - place medium saucepot for the soup on burner, add oil, turn heat on high.
28:00-26:00 - peel large piece of ginger. Grate half to get the ginger for the miso soup, chop rest into small chunks to expose surfaces for aromatic effect. Take three scallions, cut off ends. Chop white part into thin slices, then cut green parts into 1" lengths.
26:00 - cover your rice if it's boiled, reduce to simmer.
25:00 - smash your garlic cloves and chop quickly. Add it, the ginger, and the green portion of the scallions to the soup pot and stir to sautee.
24:00 - cut the bottom two inches off your lemongrass, cut the tops off, leaving about a four inch piece. Hack at the lemon grass to make many small cuts, then turn the knife around and whack it repeatedly to tenderize it.
23:00 - add one quart of water to sauteeing garlic, ginger, and green onions.
22:00 - cut your tofu into 1" cubes and add to the soup.
21:00 - put about two inches-three inches water in the bottom of your wok and put it over high heat. It shouldn't go any higher than where the steamers will sit.
20:00 - Take your soup off the stove and place the pot aside to cool just a bit.
19:00 - Stir the miso paste into the soup until it dissolves completely. You could serve it now, if you wished, or you can wait. If you wait and the soup cools, you may reheat it, but don't let it boil.
18:00 - put everything for the sauce into the blender and blend it. Taste and adjust until you like the sauce. It should be a little salty, hot, and sweet all at once.
14:00 - how's your rice? It could be done. Check it and either turn the heat off or let it go a few more minutes if it isn't finished.
13:00 - spread the lemongrass, chunks of ginger and broccoli florettes in what will be the bottom bamboo steamer tray
12:00 - salt and pepper your fish. Add the filets and the tomatoes to the top bamboo steamer. Put the steamers in the wok and cover.
11:00 - heat a tablespoon of oil in the big skillet
10:00 - add the peapods and dandelion greens to the skillet, and sautee. Add tablespoon of soy sauce after the intial stir. Sautee a few minutes until the greens are wilted and the pods are hot and a little tender, but still crisp.
6:00 - check the fish. It should be done or near done. If not, let it go another minute or two.
5:00 - plate the fish with rice, pour sauce into a ramekin for diners to spoon over their fish, spoon out cooked tomatoes and broccoli, and add the dandelions greens and peapods on the side. Discard ginger and lemongrass.

Stop the clock! We could put the mochi out now, too, but it would melt by the time you got to it. So call a time out and

Eat. When you're ready for dessert -

Start the clock again.

2:00 - cut mochi in quarters, plate and serve.

Buzzzzz! Sorry, no coffee or after dinner drinks. We're out of time! Oh, all right. I'll have a small one.

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Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:35 AM | Comments (2)
March 25, 2006
IMBB24: (Quick) Veggie Asian Soup

asian_soupThe Asian mirepoix (I made that up, but if people on FoodTV start saying that they'll know where to send the royalties) of mushrooms, scallions, and snow peas gives this soup a hearty flavor and great texture. The chili oil (skimmed off the top of a chili sauce that contains only chilis and oil) gives it the perfect amount of spice.

You'll notice in the picture that I didn't use angel hair. That's because this time I happened to have fresh spaghetti hanging around (which cooks even faster than dried angel hair pasta). This gave it more of an udon feel. You obviously could go with rice noodles or whatever floats your boat.

This soup has undergone several revisions in our kitchen over the past few months and has finally evolved into a presentable recipe.

Note: If you don't have criminis, use portabellas. Just don't go with button mushrooms. That would be disastrous (speaking from experience on a day when the grocery store had no criminis).

Vegetarian Asian Soup

1-2 T chili oil
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
8-10 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
8-10 oz snow peas, trimmed and halved
1/2 c. scallion, sliced
5 c. veggie broth
1/2 lb. angel hair pasta
1 block of tofu, cubed
2 T soy sauce

Crush garlic and dice ginger finely and set aside. Cut up mushrooms, trim snow peas and chop scallion. Put oil in hot stock pot. Add garlic and ginger and mushrooms and saute for 3 minutes. Then snow peas and scallion and sauté for another 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to boil. Add pasta and when pasta is almost done, add tofu and soy sauce. My homemade veggie broth is no-sodium, so I find that I need to add some salt to the final dish.

27 minutes start to finish (including picture taking), faster if you got good knife skillz. It's complete, easy, quick to clean up, and really really tasty.

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Posted by Justin at 7:02 AM | Comments (1)
March 24, 2006
Alinea's cupboard

If you've had the pleasure of eating at Alinea, or one of it's El Bulli-esque soulmates, you'll remember the presentation of the food as much as the food itself.

Grant Achatz worked closely with a designer to produce unique pieces to present his cuisine, and now some of those pieces are on sale to the wholesale trade. Crucial Detail design studio features some of our favorites. Try to figure out what each one is for before you click the device for an explanation.

Found originally at the always excellent Chicago-centric Gaper's Block.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 12:00 PM | Comments (3)
March 23, 2006
Spicy Peanut Sauce for Crudités

peanutdip_jf.jpg While searching for an appetizer that would be Asian-esque in flavor to go with a main course of stir fry for a dinner party, The Ambassatrix stumbled upon this recipe for peanut sauce in a, for lack of a better term, pamphlet that was free with our Bon Appétit subscription entitled Best International Recipes. We hardly ever open this thing up, but I'm glad we did because we found a pearl of a recipe. It makes about 1 1/3 cups and keeps well in the fridge for many many days.

It's a perfect blend of sweet and spicy with just a hint of tang.

And no, to answer your question, it's not an authentic international recipe. But we felt it had an Asian flair to it. Not exactly gado gado, but good nonetheless.

Spicy Peanut Sauce for Crudités

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup (or more) broth of your choice (recipe calls for chicken, I use homemade veggie)
½ cup creamy peanut butter (do not use old-fashioned or freshly ground)*
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon (packed) brown sugar

*I don't know what they mean here. I use natural peanut butter (ingredients: peanuts)--maybe that's "old-fashioned" but it turns out great. I can't imagine using Skippy for this.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, ginger and garlic; sauté until shallot is tender, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder and crushed red pepper. Stir until aromatic, about 15 seconds. Stir in 1 cup broth, peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, and brown sugar; whisk to blend. Simmer until mixture thickens, whisking constantly, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and cool, whisking occasionally. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Thin dip with more broth by tablespoonfuls if needed. Serve dip chilled or at room temperature.

Posted by Justin at 8:02 AM | Comments (2)
March 22, 2006
Slow-Cooked Mexican Stew


Just a crock
A few weeks ago, I posted the result of my first foray into the world of Crockpot cooking. It wasn't entirely successful in my opinion, but I thought that might be (partly) down to a lack of proper technique on my part. So I've been on the lookout for a really flavourful slow-cook stew that would fulfill all the promises I've heard about the wonders of a crockpot.

And you know, I found something pretty tasty. I'm not saying I'm going to turn into a Crockpot Convert. (Though I think that the first time I use it for mulled wine or butter rums, I may...) But I found a recipe that works extremely well in a crockpot and yields a really tasty dinner. When you walk in the door after a long day at work (or a short one in my lucky case) a delicious meaty scent greets you and you know that dinner is already made.

I adapted this recipe from Rick Bayless' Pork with smoky tomato sauce, potatoes and avocado in Authentic Mexican Cooking. I forgot the avocado, adapted the procedure and didn't have as much tomato sauce as his recipe required. But it went down extremely well nevertheless and everyone had seconds. What impressed me most was the fact that the meat didn't have that bland boiled-in-water flavour that dogged me on my last attempt and is the reason I hate pot au feu. I think this is partly because pork simply adapts better to the long stewing, partly because I did a better job browning the meat before I stewed it and partly because it was covered with a thick rich and spicy sauce.

As I say, everyone had seconds and it wasn't because they were being polite.

Slow Cooked Mexican Stew

450 grams/ about a pound of pork roast
1 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp oregano
6 medium potatoes, cut in thick slices
1 cup (about 100 ml) tomato sauce
a 10 cm stick of chorizo, cut in thick slices (a little thicker than a pound coin)
a little olive oil
1 onion, choppped
1 leek, cut in thick chunks (because I had one on hand - this was not in the original recipe)
3 cloves of garlic
3 canned chipotles in adobo and a bit of the adobo sauce
salt to taste
a glass of red wine

Special equipment: an Aga stove or a crockpot or similar slow-cooker.

In the morning, put a little olive oil in a frying pan, get it nice and hot and throw in the pork roast. It should sizzle. A lot. Brown it well on all sides - all the way around and on the ends. It will take a good 15-20 minutes but be patient. You can be a little late for work, for once - shave it off your lunch hour. When the meat is good and browned and (hopefully) there are nice browned bits sticking to the bottom of the frying pan, remove it to a plate. Add a little more oil (if necessary) and then the onion, leek and garlic. Cook until the onions are soft and a little browned. Add the red wine and deglaze by turning up the heat and scraping up all the nice tasty browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. When you are reasonably sure that you have got them all up and that washing that pan is going to be a breeze, turn off the heat.

Now it's time to assemble your stew. Place the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot. Cover them with the wine and onion and leek and garlic mixture. Sprinkle the spices and lay the bay leaves over the vegetables. Place the pork on top and pour a couple of glasses of water over the whole thing. You can use stock if you like, but I found it worked fine with just water.

Put the crockpot on "low" for the next ten hours or "high" if you need it in a mere six hours.

Go to work or otherwise have a productive day.

About an hour before you want to serve, remove the roast from the pot. It will most likely be falling apart tender. Carefully (it's hot!) remove any gristly bits or fat and break the meat into large-ish chunks. Stir the tomato sauce and the chipotles (chopped) and adobo sauce into the stew and add the meat. Put the chorizo in a pan (no oil, they have plenty already) and cook over a medium flame until they have given up most of their grease. Drain them and add them to the pot. Cover and continue heating until you are ready to eat.

Rick's recipe called for serving with avocado. Oops, I forgot to serve them. It was fine though - smoky and spicy and extremely rich. The meat really seeemed ready to melt off the fork and the potatoes did a great job of soaking up the gravy. All in all, a fantastic option if you have half an hour before work to devote to dinner preparation and the tools to cook all day long.

I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about the non-alcohol delivering capabilities of my crockpot!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 11:57 AM | Comments (4)
March 21, 2006
March's Favorite - Winter and Spring Pasta


Spring is here! How do I know? The snow is slowing down, and construction is ramping up here in Chicago.

Chicago doesn't feel very spring-like in late March, but this bright green pasta dish might help bring springtime to your house. In its simplest form, this is a creamy wintery comfort food, like the first weeks of March. Add a bit more lemon and a dab of wasabi and you'll have a late March Spring in your step and on your fork.

I suppose you could get drunk on green beer halfway through making this recipe to mark St. Patrick's Day, but that's probably not recommended.

This was an improvisation inspired by a pea pesto pasta recipe I saw bits of this weekend on PBS. I didn't really pay attention, but I saw the end result which used cheese, and thought I might be able to do a healthier version using a high protein bean like soy beans (under their more marketing friendly name of edamame, of course).

This improvisation was fast, delicious, and may become a staple around our house.

March's Favorite - Winter and Spring Pasta
2 cups shelled, blanched edamame (soy beans)
1 cup slivered almonds
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup plus some olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup water
juice of one lemon (or more, see instructions)
salt
pepper

Handful of pasta (about 8 oz, linguine preferred)

If your soybeans are frozen, let them thaw.

Combine almonds, edamame, 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup water, mint, garlic, and lemon in a food processor and process until uniform and bright green. Salt and pepper to taste. You may need to add a little more olive oil to loosen it up and let it be blended smoothly.

The consistency should be about that of thick hummus. If you wish to serve as a dip, stop here and break out the pita chips.

If you want to make it a pasta sauce, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the noodles, and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water and drain the noodles.

Return the noodles to the same pot. Add about a cup of edamame pesto and stir over low heat. Add the pasta water slowly to smooth out the sauce. If you make the sauce too watery, add more edamame pesto until you coat the noodles with a creamy sauce.

Stir in any extra mint and cilantro you wish for presentation's sake and serve in bowls.

Adding 1 more lemon will change the mild creamy character of the dish to a brighter spring-like pasta. A touch of wasabi would make that even more pronounced. Those simple changes make two very different tasting dishes out of this recipe.

Either one will provide a high-protein, healthy main course to a vegetarian meal. And I forgot about the dip vairant. Hey, that's three recipes for the price of one.

Dang, I'm good.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:38 AM | Comments (8)
March 20, 2006
IMBB24 Reminder - Make it in 30 Minutes

Got a minute? How about 30? That could be all the time you need to put a healthy meal on the table for your family without relying on frozen nuggets or microwave thingies.

To prove it, the 24th Edition of Is My Blog Burning is all about good food fast.

Put together a meal as much from scratch as possible and post it this coming weekend. Then, simply post your entry on your weblog sometime between March 24 and March 26th, and send us a link at toomanychefs@gmail.com. That's a different address than usual - toomanychefs@gmail.com

If you'd like to boost traffic on your site and help create a semi-automated roundup of the entrants, you should also add Technorati tags to the bottom of your post. It sounds tricky, but just copy this code snippet and paste it at the bottom of your post:

Tagged with: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/IMBB24" rel="tag">IMBB24</a> + <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/30Minutes" rel="tag">30Minutes</a>

So to review: Post your entry sometime between Friday, March 24 and Sunday, March 26th. Add the Technorati tag above to the post (just copy and paste the bit in the box), and send an e-mail to toomanychefs@gmail.com to let us know you've posted.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 2:15 PM | Comments (0)
Where to Get Ripple

In the mailbag this morning, we learn that Tyler Coleman, PhD and proprietor of Dr. Vino has put together a Google map of all the wine shops in Chicago.

These are wine and not general liquor stores that carry wine, so no help finding the closest Miska's or Foremost.

If you aren't lucky enough to live in Chicago, there's a map on his site of New York wine shops, as well.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 8:30 AM | Comments (2)
March 17, 2006
Green Eggs and Ham

I do not like them Sam-I-amWhen I was four or five, my sister liked to tease me about green eggs and ham. I was a huge Dr. Seuss fan (still am, in fact) and she swore up and down that green eggs did in fact exist. No, not colored with dye, but honest to goodness naturally occurring green eggs. I so wanted to believe her.

Well, this simple dish is for any parents out there who want to help their children believe (and, incidentally, eat a quick and healthy dish). Unfortunately, you'll have to make it when they aren't watching. But if they are young enough - say two or three instead of four or five - you can probably distract them and have some fun. My boy isn't actually old enough to understand much of that classic Green Eggs and Ham but he has had it read to him a few times and seems to like the rhyming. And when he's a little older, I'll show him the pictures of himself eating green eggs and ham just in case he doesn't believe.

It's dead simple. You take one small zucchini/courgette and scrub it well. Slice it in rounds or chunks and toss it in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a saucer or plastic wrap and microwave on high for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. (Alternatively, you can steam the zucchini in a pan. Microwaving is nice and quick, though, and you can use the same bowl to serve afterwards.)

Put the zucchini in the basin of your stick blender and zap them until you have a smooth purée. Add one egg and zap again until it's all frothy and bubbly.

Melt a little butter in a small frying pan and when it's bubbling pour in the egg and zucchini mixture. Cook over a medium flame until the egg has solidified. You may find, as I did, that there is a certain amount of water that just will not incorporate in the eggs. I just left it in the pan when I served the eggs.

Serve over a a slice of ham and watch your child gobble up an entire zucchini without realising it. And if he doesn't, you have loads of things to say: would you, could you, with a fox? would you could you in a box? And You do not like them. So you say. Try them, try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.

And actually, if you want to feed the child in yourself, I can confirm they are pretty tasty, Zucchini is a pretty sweet vegetable and the eggs become very tender and fluffy with the purée. Try them, try them!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 10:46 PM | Comments (6)
March 16, 2006
Curried Quinoa Pie / Fritters

Quinoapie_jf.jpg
Thinking recently about what to do with all this quinoa that I have, I thought of making some fritters, sort of like falafel style. I went searching for a recipe and found that everyone on the web has basically stolen the same recipe. I'll cite this one since they at least claim it's from Food and Wine. My recipe took this basic recipe and jazzed it up based on the recommendation of this version.

My changes: the first time I made this I did the toasting of the
quinoa, but after you add all that spice, only a very sensitive pallet could appreciate the fruits of that labor.

Curried Quinoa Pie / Fritters

Heat a dry saucepan on high, add:
2/3 cup quinoa
1 1/3 cups water

Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for
10-15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let
cool.

While the quinoa cooks and cools, mix the following in a medium sized bowl.

1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup grated cheese (recommendations for type vary from cotija
to gouda to manchego to parmesan, which is what I used)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 T curry powder (curry powders vary quite a bit. I used 1 T the
first time and found it to be strong enough)
4 scallions, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro, minced
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Add the cooled quinoa to the above mixture.

Now you have come to a fork in the road, so to speak. The first time
I made these, I did the fritter thing and they were good, but more
effort than it was worth. The second time I made this, I dumped the
whole mixture into a 8" pie pan and baked it. Equally good, plus
easier, tidier, and a bit lower in fat. But it's up to you:

For fritters:
Heat in a large skillet, on high heat:
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Quinoapie2_jf.jpg

Flatten 2-3 tablespoons of dough into a fritter. Drop each fritter
into the hot oil, and fry about 45 seconds on each side. Remove to a
paper-towel covered plate to absorb excess oil.

For pie:
Preheat oven at 200C/392F. Dump the mixture into an 8" pie pan
(lightly oiled if it's not a non-stick variety). Bake for 20-25 min
or until a little golden crust appears on the edges. Keep in mind
that I'm cooking at 2600 meters / 8530 feet. That means I cook things longer and on higher temperatures.

I served it up with roasted asparagus and endive and a bottle of soda
water. We found that a little salsa goes well on the pie/fritters.
Great the next day reheated also.

Posted by Justin at 4:42 PM | Comments (6)
March 15, 2006
Mexican Chickpea Soup

Mexican_soup.jpgI sometimes feel like I am in a minority in the foodie world. When I first buy or receive a cookbook, I read it obsessively. I tag or fold down corners on the recipes that seem interesting. And then I just forget them. I have great intentions, but terrible follow-up. In general, the only time I consult my cookbooks is when I'm researching a dish. Looking for a recipe for an Indian dish? I pick up Indian Cookery by Dharamjit Singh. I'm looking for a traditional English dish? I check out Jamie or Nigel or Mrs. Beeton. But after that first initial browse I tend to forget my great cookbooks.

Recently I cracked Authentic Mexican Cooking by Rick Bayless because Barrett generously, beyond-the-call-of-duty brought over some masa for me and I wanted to look at the procedure for making tortillas. And I got pulled into the book by the recipes, as one does. And I found a delicious recipe for soup. And I thought: a) I've never made a Mexican soup and b) the Critic loves spicy food.

I was also drawn by the fact that I love chickpeas and it takes something exciting like a spicy soup for the Critic to accept them.

SOLD.

However, being me, I couldn't follow the recipe exactly as written. I got it more or less right in terms of the ingredients, but I rebelled on the procedure. So here is my take on Rick and Deann Bayliss' Garbanzo-Vegetable Soup with Smoky Borth and Fresh Avocado

Spicy Mexican Soup as Adapted from the Bayless Family (serves two as a main, four as a starter)

First off there was no avocado involved in this soup. The Critic thinks he doesn't like them and they are not in season in Paris at the moment. They are hard enough to find when they are in season, but I certainly don't buy them when they have been flown in from South America. Also, the recipe before this one (Sopa de Tortilla) called for melted cheese, not this one. But the cheese seemed to beg to be included and so it was. This was just as well, as I also doubled the amount of chipotle peppers.

The end result was remarkably flavorful and spicy, without being too powerful. The cheese worked very well, giving a great melted texture and an antidote to the smoky spicy flavours of the broth.

And they are chickpeas, not garbanzon beans. But otherwise, Rick and Deann got it right. Perfect.

1 1/2 quarts home made chicken stock (we had some on hand I and I really do think it contributed to the success of the final dish)
1 large chicken breast
1 tsp oregano
1-2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 15 oz can chickpease, drained and rinsed
1 sprig epazote (or in my case about a teaspoon, dried, in a tea strainer)
3 canned chipotles, chopped
1 Tbs lime juice

Rick calls for poaching the chicken breast in the chicken broth and then shredding it. I skipped that step and instead waited until I had a pot of soup and then dropped the chicken, cut in pieces, in the broth. Up to you whether you want to cook it first and then shred it or cut it in pieces and then poach it.

In the soup pot, heat the oil for a moment or two and then add the onion. After five minutes, add the carrots and garilc. Cook until the onions are soft and the whole is fragrant. Sitr in the broth, chickpeas and epazote and oregano. If you haven't already poached the chicken in the broth, do so now. Simmer for 30 minutes or so.

Add the pepper and simmer for another few minutes. Taste for salt, pepper and (choptle) pepper.

Serve with a handfull of tortilla chips and some chunks of cheese. I used the industrial orange stuff that passes for cheddar here and a few pieces of Fromage des montagnes which is not too far from Mexican cheese. It's up to your guests to decide whether they want to reserve the cheese for eating with the tortilla chips (a bit like cheese and crackers) or melt it in the soup. Personally, I followed the Critic's lead and did the latter. And it was delicious.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:12 PM | Comments (3)
March 14, 2006
Chicken Chorizo Stew

chickchor.jpgI have a love-hate relationship with chorizo. I love the fact that it's peppery. I love the fact that it's - almost - a reasonable substitute for pepperoni on a pizza. I hate the fact that it's greasy and has that weird unreal red color. (Come to think of it, if I were still cooking back in the US I would probably have the same love-hate relationship with pepperoni.) I am in a constant quest to find a nice chorizo that will have a lower than average fat content and a higher than average heat. This means that whenever we make home-made pizzas I have left-over chorizo. I always buy two different ones, in the hope that one will transport me back to Giordano's Pizza in Chicaog.

They never do.

But it means I often have leftover chorizo in the fridge.

And so I decided to try to use it in a spicy chicken stew. And I think I found a good use for leftover chorizo: spicy and chewy and - somewhat - less fatty than usual. Chicken and chorizo stew.

You can slice a chorizo thinly and serve it uncooked. The spices have essentially "cooked" the sausage and all you need to do is slice and eat it, relishing the pepper flavor and chewy texture. But if you are going to cook it anyway, you would do well to cook it first...and drain off the fat. I think that is what makes this dish worthwhile. You have the chorizo flavor and depth but only about half the fat. Given the fact that it's half fat, that's already a good start.

Chorizo and chicken stew

3/4 cup (or about 10 cm) chorizo, cubed
2 chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup or one small tin of sweet corn
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tbs oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp spicy paprika or cayenne pepper
a drizzle of olive oil
1 jar tomato sauce/2-3 chopped tomatoes

Put a little olive oil in a deep frying pan and heat it over a fairly high flame. Add the chorizo and onions and cook until the onions are soft and the chorizos have given up a serious amount of grease. Pour off the grease and add the garlic and chicken. Allow the chicken to brown a bit before turning. When they are browned on all sides, deglaze the pan with a few tablespoons of water, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the spices and allow to cook for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce and corn and let simmer for ten minutes or so, while you make some brown rice.

Serve over brown rice with a hearty red wine or a nice cold beer. It's a very meaty dish and will not be appreciated by my vegetarian co-bloggers. But it hits the spot on a cold night and is simple and quick to make.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:18 PM | Comments (7)
March 13, 2006
Mini-review - Chicago's T-Spot on N. Lincoln Ave.

I've never been more conflicted by a place than I am with T-Spot. This weekend, my wife and I had lunch at T-Spot, a smart new spot on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

The fun, flirty interior led us to anticipate a wonderful lunch. We ordered an octopus salad, vegetable tempura, and an assortment of sushi along with a raspberry iced tea. Other options on the menu included cooked fish dishes, and a make-it yourself tartare. Pick one of three sauces and one of several types of fish to create your ow raw fish tartare.

The T-spot prides itself on the tea. They even have a separate tea list, much like a wine list, but the only iced tea available was mediocre. It was served unsweetened with a very small cup of loose sugar and a spoon, and it wasn't very flavorful. I was disappointed the other iced teas described on the list weren't available because I would have preferred any of them to raspberry. Perhaps the 40+ varieties of hot teas they serve are better, but the weather this weeked dictated a cool beverage.

The octopus salad arrived, and we both tought it was only OK. The seaweed's "slimy" aspect overwhelmed the texture of the octopus. Next was the vegetable tempura. The vegetables were fine, but the coating was undercooked. I'm not sure how that works (perhaps the oil was too cool?), but the tempura coating next to the vegetables was wet, doughy, and undercooked.

So why am I having any trouble reviewing T-Spot? Sounds hands-down like a pretty mediocre place, right?

Well, then the sushi arrived. And it was some of the best, freshest fish I've ever had in Chicago. Only Matsumoto competes. We enjoyed some wonderful otoro (fatty tuna), a naturally buttery piece of fish which I've only seen in much more upscale restaurants. It dissolves in your mouth and leaves behind fabulous flavors. The tako (octopus) was fresh and tasted of seawater. Similarly, we enjoyed mackeral, salmon eggs, and other pieces of fresh fish sushi.

I say the sushi was great, but that's not true. Sushi refers to the rice the fish is served on, and their sushi balls didn't hold together, falling apart amidships when picked up with chopsticks. The fish on top was wonderful, but the rice, like the tempura and the octopus salad, didn't quite hold together.

I'm hoping that T-Spot improves with age and that they get the secondary dishes down. The mochi we had for dessert was wonderful, the service was prompt, and friendly, the restaurant stylish and clean, and the sushi was outstanding, if a bit expensive.

I would suggest T-Spot heartily to anyone who was fish-focused, but I'd be sure to warn them about the current shortcomings of the retaurant. I'd also encourage the owners to spend as much effort and time on the incidental dishes as they obviously have on the funky decor and the procurement of the wonderful fresh fish.

T-Spot
3925 N Lincoln
Chicago, IL
773-395-9098

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)
March 12, 2006
4 times 10: yet another meme!

Four Jobs I've Had:

1. Arby's in St. Charles IL - my first job. For some reason the policy at Arby's at the time was that none of the cashiers could ring up an order until it was assembled. Nor could they write them down. No, you had to remember every friggin' item. For two or three groups of customers. Simultaneously. What a great marketing idea. Because customers (especially harassed parents) LOVE going through the whole 52 items all over again. The factory rush hour was the worst part of the job. Next to the nights when my friends would show up and make fun of my uniform.

2. Tea and Coffee server in a cafeteria line - Luby's in Arlington Texas. My proud accomplishment here was to be the only person in the history of the place to actually keep up with the customers during rush hour at the drinks counter. The standard question was "What would you like with your iced tea?" Because everyone had iced tea. It actually did take a lot of concentration and organisation to keep up with the steady flow, which was just as well as it was one of the most boring jobs in the world. This is where I first learned of the existance of a substance known as "fried okra". (The other standard line at Luby's was "What would you like with your fried okra?" as everyone had that too...)

3. Salesperson in the Christmas Department of the Little Traveller department store, Geneva IL. To all the little old ladies who visit the Little Traveller in July: YOU ARE NOT BEING ORIGINAL WHEN YOU ASK IF IT IS ANNOYING TO LISTEN TO CHRISTMAS MUSIC ALL DAY IN JULY. EVERYONE ASKS US THAT. And we had to lie through our little teeth and say brightly, "Why no, Christmas is my favorite time of the year! Did you see the stunning new ornaments we have over here?" One year (it was my summer job at university) the manager insisted on the flashing Christmas tree lights that play music on every tree in the department. All flashing unsynchronised and playing different tinny tunes.

4. Encyclopaedia Britannica in two incarnations: permissions coordinator for art reproduction in Chicago and telemarketer in Munich, Germany. Yes, I am going to hell. I used to call up gullible Germans and tell them that "a friend" who wished to remain "anonymous" had told us that they spoke very good English and might therefore be interested in a set of the world's best encyclopaedias. "Really?" they would answer. "Me? I wonder who it could be! They said I speak English well? I am so flattered. Why yes, I would love to meet with your salesperson..." My boss was the master sneak, adept at faking trips to the bathroom to swipe a phone directory from the European Patent Office, glib with lies about friends who recommended customers, frighteningly manipulative when selling children's encyclopaedias...and I'm afraid I helped him. He won best representative in Europe for Encyclopaedia Britannica for several years running. And God help me, I helped him.

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over:

1. It's a Wonderful Life (Sorry, but it's true. And I still cry at the end when Jimmy Stewart's brother says "To my brother George, the richest guy in town!")
2. Auntie Mame (Me too, David!)
3. Cabaret (I can also sing along to the soundtrack pretty much every day for months on end...)
4. Duck Soup (Hail, hail Freedonia...)

Four Places I've Lived:

1. Chicago IL
2. Arlington TX
3. Munich, Germany
4. Paris

I still have nightmares about Texas.

Four TV Shows I Love:

1. Dr. Who (The series with Christopher Eccleston which is, by contrast with the original series a) truly scary and b) endowed with a truly sexy Dr. Who.)
2. Cracker (a 1990s UK police drama with Robbie Coltrane)
3. The Muppet Show
4. The Good Life (American title: Good Neighbors. Did I mention I have a wormery?)

Four Highly-Regarded and Recommended TV Shows That I've Never Watched:

1. West Wing
2. 24
3. Desperate Housewives
4. Six feet under (Actually we have seen one episode, thanks to Barrett's generously giving us the series for Christmas.)

Four Places I've Vacationed:

1. Australia
2. The Canary Islands
3. Spain
4. France

Four of My Favorite Dishes:

1. Giordano's stuffed pizza with garlic and spinach
2. A rare juicy thick grilled steak with garlic butter, a baked potato and a Caesar's salad
3. Salade Périgourdine (a salad with preserved gizzards, sounds awful but it's wonderful)
4. Home made macaroni & cheese with really sharp cheddar, lots of salt and a crusty bread-crumb topping


Four Sites I Visit Daily:

1. BBC News site
2. The Food Whore
3. Motherhood is not for wimps
4. Various food blogs (not one of which is visited every day but there are about a dozen in all that get visited at least twice a week)

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now:

This one is difficult. I'm sitting in a warm apartment looking at a sunny sky and behind me my boy is playing and the Critic is watching his beloved football. So at the risk of sounding smug, this is a pretty good place to be. Providing the boys were with me, I guess I could say:

1. Venice (never been, always wanted to see)
2. Florence (ditto)
3. Somewhere nice in Mexico
4. With friends in Chicago

Four Bloggers I am Tagging:

How about Barbara of Tigers & Strawberries, Johanna of The Passionate Cook, Michèle of Oswego Tea and, just to round it out with an all female cast, Sam of Becks & Posh.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 5:51 AM | Comments (13)
March 11, 2006
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Posts of the Week - we don't drink butter, but we admit, we've been tempted. Mmmmm... Butter.

A. Heidi, of 101 Cookbooks Fame, has the geekiest post of the week, and as a confirmed geek, I do not say that lightly. Heidi discovers that when you use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, you get a pretty darn good ice cream. Liquid Nitrogen, by the by, is formed at -196 C/-320.8 F, or just a tad colder than Chicago in late January.

1. Have you heard of this new little blog called Chocolate & Zucchini? Oh that's right, it's probably the single most popular food blog out there. Well, Clotilde this week posts a recipe for one of my absolute favorites - Croissants aux Amandes. Flaky, almondy, sweet, and served with a cup of cafe creme. Nice!

I. Tuna Toast, who is from Los Angeles by way Tokyo by way of Los Angeles writes about the most hated vegetable in Britain. Yeah, I got lost somewhere in there, too. But I didn't lose interest in her Carmelized balsamic Brussels sprouts recipe. Sometimes you have to love your incredibly tiny cabbage thingies.

Three more posts next week that will make you go Mmmmm... unexplained bacon...

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 6:25 AM | Comments (0)
March 10, 2006
Best Place to Eat Oysters Off The Hood or Roof of a Car on a Sunny Winter Afternoon in Paris

baron_sign.jpgWhen Barrett wrote me in January to say that he and the Redhead would be able to visit in February, I was delighted. I immediately started making Lists Of Things To Do. At the top of the list, was this: introduce Barrett and the Redhead to the Best Place in Paris to Eat Oysters Off The Hood or Roof of a Car on a Sunny Winter Afternoon. And I think Barrett will confirm that the Baron Rouge near the Marché Aligre wins the prize. We haven't actually tried many others, but then it might be the unique entry in the category. We are grateful to Hillel of Tasting Menu for giving us the opportunity - the obligation even - to test this one and make sure it was worthy of a prize in the 2nd Annual Independent Food Festival and Awards. It wins.

2006-small.jpgFirst, there is the atmosphere. The bustling market nearby ensures that on a Sunday morning or early afternoon a teeming crowd of Parisians will be stopping by for a glass of ice-cold thin white wine and a few slippery oysters as an apéritif to their lunch. Waiters shout and rush about with trays of glasses and the smell of the sea hits you long before you see the trestle table where the oysters are being shucked. It might be nice to eat inside on a very cold day. But we live on the other side of Paris and so it's rare that we are there early enough to find out. Once, a friend who was celebrating her birthday managed to get there early enough to reserve a tiny table inside. But the rest of the time she was there was an eternal struggle to save the few bare places she had reserved or find a little corner for late arrivals. Let us be dignified and admit that we do not arrive early at the Red Baron and take our proper place outside.

Once you arrive it is essential to deploy your forces sensibly. One person is delegated to fight his or her way into the heart of the Red Baron to order a bottle of wine and, if the crowd is so inclined, a plate of charcuterie. To be honest, I could have included the charcuterie in the title of the prize too, but it was already nice and long. The plate will have a few intriguing looking sausage bits (best not ask with which body parts the ones with concentric circles are made) and a huge pile of delicious rillettes.

The second person (seen below) will go and stand patiently in line to order some oysters, lots of oysters.

waitinginline.jpg

And the remainder of the team will scout out a good place to perch at or near the entrance to the Red Baron. In our case they were also the Babysitting and Baby-amusing Brigade.

Once all the members of the unit have re-assembled this is the feast they will enjoy:

car_oysters.jpg

Let's look at it again from another angle, with the tempting platter of charcuteries:

car_oysters2.jpg

Is your mouth watering? It should be. The wine was glacial, a perfect tart compliment to the slippery lemon drenched oysters. Somehow when you are outdoors with a bit of a cold breeze but the winter sun on your back they taste a thousand times better than they do in a stuffy restaurant with white linen and crystal. Your hands are cold as you cup the precious shells, trying not to lose a drop of the liquor. Everyone laughs.

claire.jpg

You can use the roof of a car for your feast as shown below. But one does wonder how the owner feels about the oyster juice and wine dripping over the windows. If he lives in the neighborhood, surely he knew in advance that this was the risk he was running.

sucking_oysters.jpg

You can also eat your oysters off the hood of the truck that the owners of the Red Baron park in front of their establishment. This is what we did when they noticed the mess being made on the roof of a parked car and encouraged us to move. Apparently there have been complaints in the neighborhood.

The hood of a car is a much more precarious place for a glass of wine than the fairly level roof. Good thing I have fast hands when a glass of wine is at risk.

oysters_hood.jpg

It's a shame that I forgot to bring my camera with me so that I could film the fellow opening the oysters. (Photo credit: Barrett and the Redhead. Aren't they gorgeous?) I've never seen anyone open oysters at a faster rate and I've seen a lot of people open oysters. I've even opened a few myself. They have a kind of a long flat tool tethered to a ring that they use to pry open the oysters. The ring attached to the chopping board gives them leverage, and they seem to average about six or eight oysters a minute. That's a lot of oysters. Which is just as well as we ordered nearly a dozen per person.

openingoysters.jpg

Below you can see the oyster-opening tool better as the opener himself had gone off for a cigarette break:

oysterscounter.jpg

However there are many other creative places to eat oysters. There are piles of crates (from oyster deliveries) on the side walk. There is the electrical box on the side of a nearby building.

othercreative_oysters.jpg

But the essential thing is to eat and enjoy them. Do not leave it too late, though, or you will find that your oysters and cold cuts have become your lunch as the very traditional restaurants in the neighborhood tend to shut their kitchens around 2:30 p.m.

justaguy.jpg

The oysters served at the Red Baron come from the Bassin Arcachon in Aquitaine. It's a long way for a little oyster to travel, but they arrive fresh and tasty and just about the perfect remedy to a late party the night before. And they are the Best Oysters to Eat Off The Hood or Roof of a Car on a Sunny Winter Afternoon in Paris.

Thanks to Hillel for allowing us to nominate a prize! Go read about the other entries on his site here or by clicking on the prize image.

Le Baron Aligre
1 r Théophile Roussel
75012 PARIS
01 43 43 14 32

You'll notice that it's listed above as the Baron Aligre. It took me many frustrated years to work out that although the signs on the building all read "Baron Rouge" in the yellow pages it is listed as the Baron Aligre. In its everyday existance it is a nice little wine bar, with the unusual (and old-fashioned) service of selling wine to take away, providing you bring an empty bottle to fill. They have large vats of wine that are reasonable in both price and quality. But it's nothing compared to the exciting place it becomes on the weekend when all is joyous appreciation of wine and oysters and meat.

baron.jpg

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 7:18 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
March 9, 2006
Paula Deen Drinks Butter

Slashfood catches a TV moment for the ages from TVgasm.

In food circles, this clip should be the equivalent of the Johnny Carson Show Tomahawk Throw.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:41 AM | Comments (3)
Flourless Colombian Espresso Chocolate Cake

choco_cake_jf.jpgI'm normally very hesitant to bake here at this altitude. Everyone in Bogotá has a horror story about something not rising properly or being undercooked (our own story is the sad tale of peanut butter cookies never to satisfy their raison d’être). I figured the best way to combat my fear would be to bake something without flour or baking powder. I remembered an ad in a magazine recently for Green & Blacks, containing recipes. So I went to their website and saw a recipe for flourless chocolate cake. Perfect, I thought, for the Ambassatrix's birthday. A seriously fudgey concoction.

By the way, I'm calling it a "Colombian" chocolate cake not because you'd ever see something like this in Colombian cuisine, but because I used Santander Colombian chocolate bars, with bits of espresso in them. For the price, Santander is a tough chocolate to outshine.

The cake, by the way, received rave reviews (even from one woman who admittedly doesn't love chocolate deserts). While the recipe says it serves 10, we served 14, and no one was left hungry. This is a pretty dense piece of cake. A little goes a long way.

So without further ado...

Flourless Colombian Espresso Chocolate Cake
adapted from Green & Blacks

If you have no scale, and you need to convert grams to cups, try this page.

300g Dark 70% Chocolate (I used about half with espresso bits and half "regular" 70%)
275g Caster sugar (I used regular sugar, actually)
165g Unsalted butter
Pinch of sea salt
5 eggs
Icing sugar
1 T ground almonds plus extra for dusting the tin (maybe a total of 3 T to 1/4 cup)

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grind up almonds (sliced or slivered makes it easier) in a coffee grinder.
2) Butter and dust a cake tin (20cm or 23cm (8in or 9in) cake tin with removable base or similar-sized tart tin) with a removable base.
3) Put the first 4 ingredients in a bowl over barely simmering water and allow to melt.
4) Whisk the eggs with the ground almonds and then fold into the chocolate mixture with a spatula off the heat until entirely incorporated.
5) Pour into the cake tin and bake for between 35 and 40 minutes.
6) Allow to cool, and dust with icing sugar. If you're feeling real fancy-pants, dust with cocoa powder first and then, using a stencil, icing sugar. Use your imagination. Your stencil doesn't have to be an homage to the Vietnamese flag.

Because this wasn't decadent enough (ha!) I thought it necessary to top off each slice with some Prager Port Chocolate Drizzle. That touch really made it gourmet. Oh yeah.

Posted by Justin at 5:33 AM | Comments (5)
March 8, 2006
My Indian Love Affair: Chicken Makhani

makhani.jpgWhen I first moved to Paris I ate only French food, gorging myself on oysters and steak tartare and exploring the thousands of great cheap restaurants this city has to offer. I was living the life that most people imagine is our daily fare here in the expat community. But after a few years you realize that you are starting to get tired of seeing the same dozen plats in every cheap restaurant. Don't get me wrong: I recognize that we are in a GREAT place for food. But after a while you yearn for something different. Japanese. Italian. Indian.

And so began my Quest. I knew my favorite dish at the Star of India and its sister restaurants back in Chicago was Chicken Makhani. I scanned every menu of every Indian restaurant in Paris (well, nearly) and found it nowhere. In desperation, I started trying dishes based on the ingredients and what I imagined the dish would include: cream or yogurt, often garnished with almond slivers and raisins, creamy and savory but still with a bit of a bite of pepper.

Eventually I worked out that the closest equivalent in Paris was something called, oddly enough Butter Chicken. Let me be clear, it was not poulet au beurre. It was called Butter Chicken. (Pronounced Boot-air Cheek-can.) And it was so bland it nearly made me cry.

That was when the Critic and I began to develop our great Theory on the Absence of Good Indian Food in Paris. It's not that it's not here. It's hiding in the skulls of the Indian chefs, waiting for an Englishman or a girl from Chicago to coax it out. You have to cultivate your Indian restaurant in Paris. You choose one that has reasonably good (if bland) food and decent meat. You tell the waiter you want a really truly hot curry. You lie and tell him that you are from Leeds or Manchester or - if you are really serious - Bradford. When the food comes, you tell him "It was very good, but a little bland." And then you come back in a week and play again. And after a few months you will find that the flavors are there and your grinning spouse is dripping with sweat and assuring the waiter, "No, really I'm fine. It's GREAT!"

Of course the other solution for finding a great curry in Paris is to simply make it yourself. It means washing up dishes when you are done, but it's a lot cheaper than the restaurants. Below is my version of Chicken Makhani, a.k.a. Murgh Makhani, a.k.a. Butter Chicken. I'm not saying it's the most authentic version, and in fact I'm not even sure whether Chicken Makhani is one of those dishes that was made up to please European or American audiences. But it was everything I like a curry to be: rich, creamy and satisfyingly (but not sweat-inducingly) spicy.

Some of the recipes I've seen for this dish essentially call for making a tandoori chicken and then adding the cream, yogurt and some extra spices. I used to make it that way but using a jar of tandoori paste for the first step. I find that this recipe tastes much better and is actually less work, as you don't have to cook the chicken and then cook it again.

Chicken Makhani (serves two generously)

2 chicken breasts
2-3 tablespoons butter
4 shallots, sliced in thin strips
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2/3 cup cream
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika (or to taste)
salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the salt - it will bring out the other flavours)
1/4 cup slivered almonds, divided
1/4 cup plump raisins (optional)
3-4 Tbs fresh coriander/cilantro

Cook the shallots in butter until they are limp and soft, about seven minutes. In the meantime, cut the chicken in bite-sized pieces. Remove the onions from the pan when they are cooked, leaving as much of the butter as possible. Turn up the flame a bit and add the chicken. Cook quickly, browning on all sides. When the chicken is cooked through, add the spices, ginger and garlic and stir for a few minutes until it smells lovely and exotic in your kitchen. Add a few tablespoons of water and use the liquid to deglaze, scraping up any bits of cooked chicken or spice that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato, slide the onion mix back into the pan and set to simmer.

At this point, you can put the basmati rice on to cook.

Once the rice is nearly done, taste the Makhani sauce for spices. It might need more salt. It might need that squeeze of lemon juice I nearly forgot to mention. Put a few tablespoons of the sauce in a bowl and mix it with the cream and the yogurt. Once they are incorporated, put it back into the pan with the chicken. Taste again for spices: this is when you decide if you really need to add another teaspoon of spicy paprika. Stir in the corainder leaves (chopped) and half the almond slivers and serve over hot basmati rice with a cold beer. Use the remaining almond slivers to garnish and sprinkle a little hot paprika over it too for color and just in case it's not quite hot enough!

And for those who are interested in knowing exactly which Indian restaurant we cultivated in Paris, it is:

Village de l'Inde
5 r Isabey
75016 PARIS
+33 1 42 88 37 31

We lived about five minutes walk from this place for about six years and came to know the waiters very well. When we let drop we were going to visit Chicago one evening, the waiter said "You know SCHOOMBURG? SCHOOMBURG near Chicago?? My cousin has a restaurant there - you must go!" And we did and had an exceptionally good meal. (It was actually better than the Village de l'Inde to tell the truth.) And when we found someone who knew our waiter in Paris they chopped 40% off the menu. Sweet.

India House Restaurant
(847) 895-5501
(847) 520-5569
1521 W Schaumburg Rd
Schaumburg, IL 60194

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 9:47 AM | Comments (39)
March 7, 2006
Savory Mushroom French Toast

Salmon sandwich made with Mushroom French ToastWhen I was a young-un, French toast was my favorite (or is it favoritest?) breakfast food. Soak some stale bread in a simple sweetened custard spiced with nutmeg and vanilla, fry it up, and smother in syrup and butter. Nice.

I started thinking recently that in French toast, the flavor is really all in the custard, and that because of that, one might make a savory custard that would allow the creation of a savory dinner version of breakfast.

So here we are with a custard that gives French toast a nice full mushroomy flavor, ideal as the base for a salmon and greens sandwich. I tried to come up with a syrup analog, but the only thing I could come up with was a cheese sauce, and we're on a health kick around the Chicago Too Many Chefs household...

Because of the texture and coat of fry butter, the sandwiches don't work so perfectly as an in-the-hand sandwich, but they work wonderfully as a fork and knife dish. You can certainly pick this up and eat it as a sandwich, but have plenty of napkins handy.

The Redhead enjoyed the dish, though she thought we should try to lighten it up if we make it again. She also wanted more pepper in the custard, which I can see. I tend to be shy with pepper and salt in dishes I'm serving to her.

I'll be contemplating other savory custards for other French toasts. Maybe I'll try something with curry or hot spices. Try the mushroom version and see if it doesn't inspire you to perform some experiments as well.

Savory Mushroom French Toast
1 cup mushrooms, diced small
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup milk, 2% or whole
2 eggs
4 slices stale bread, whole grain preferred.
salt and pepper
additional 4 teaspoons butter for frying

In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat. Heat until it starts to foam. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sautee until mushrooms are fragrant and soft, about 3-5 minutes.

Add milk, reduce heat to medium/medium-low. Heat the milk but do not let it boil for about five minutes. Stir frequently to infuse mushroom flavor into the milk. Take the mix off the heat.

In a blender, or with an immersion blender, blend the mushrooms into the milk throughly. If you can liquify every last chunk, do so.

Put the mushroom milk aside to cool. Once its reached room temperature, crack two eggs into the mix and beat well to create a custard. Salt and pepper to your tastes. I'd give it a pinch more salt and a couple good grinds of black pepper.

Refrigerate custard for as long as you can before using, up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 150-200 F. Place an oven-safe plate or platter in the oven.

Pour the custard mix into a pie plate. Place a slice of bread into the pie plate. Let sit for about two minutes. Flip and let sit for another two minutes so it absorbs the custard well.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt 1 teaspoon butter over medium-high heat and heat until it starts to foam. When the butter is foaming, transfer the slice of bread from the pie plate to the skillet. Add another slice of bread to the pie plate.

Fry on one side until golden brown. Flip the slice in the skillet and flip the slice in the pie plate that's absorbing custard after about two minutes. You may need to adjust your heat to make this coincide.

Transfer the finished slice to the heated plate in the oven and continue the process until you're done with all four slices. You may need to scrape and pour the last of the mixture over the last slice of bread to get good custard penetration.

To make the sandwich shown above, simply put 1-1/2 ounces sliced smoked salmon and a handful of greens between two slices of finished mushroom French toast.

You'll notice the mushroom taste with the first bite. It compliments the salmon and greens, and gives the sandwich a rich base of flavor to start from.

Now I'm sure someone out there will try a mushroom Monte Cristo sandwich with this recipe. Let us know.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 7:32 AM | Comments (14)
March 6, 2006
Announcement - IMBB 24 : Make it in 30 Minutes

There's nothing like taking your time to put together a beautiful dinner for you and your family - slow-roasted meats and vegetables, served with homemade bread and cakes and tarts made from age-old family recipes for dessert. Makes your mouth water, doesn't it?

It might also give you a vague sense of panic. How are you supposed to work for a living and still put good food on the table every night before long after your bedtime? In the real world, it's nice to have an arsenal of recipes that taste like you spent hours on them, but that take only 30 minutes or less to go from raw materials to finished meal.

That's the challenge this month for Is My Blog Burning? - make a full meal, as much as possible from scratch, that you can serve up in less than the time it takes to get a pizza delivered. You have 30 minutes to go from the basic ingredients to the table. Now anyone can open a can of soup, nuke it and say they're done. That's why we're emphasizing the homemade portion of the challenge.

Don't think it can be done with any style? You might check with Jacques Pepin who has just done a series and book called "Fast Food My Way" that demonstrates good food doesn't have to take forever. There's also some woman on the Food Network who does "30 Minute Meals", but I don't know much about her...

If you'd like to participate, simply post your entry on your weblog sometime between March 24 and March 26th, and send us a link at toomanychefs@gmail.com. That's a different address than usual - toomanychefs@gmail.com

If you'd like to boost traffic on your site and help create a semi-automated roundup of the entrants, you should also add Technorati tags to the bottom of your post. It sounds tricky, but just copy this code snippet and paste it at the bottom of your post:

Tagged with: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/IMBB24" rel="tag">IMBB24</a> + <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/30Minutes" rel="tag">30Minutes</a>

So to review: Post your entry sometime between Friday, March 24 and Sunday, March 26th. Add the Technorati tag above to the post (just copy and paste the bit in the box), and send an e-mail to toomanychefs@gmail.com to let us know you've posted.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:48 AM | Comments (4)
March 4, 2006
The flavor of chorizo

I love chorizo, especially for tacos, but my wife is a vegetarian, so life is hard. Occasionally I'll make two taco fillings, one with and one without, but inevitably the vegetarian version gets short shrift and my wife ends up disappointed (and who can blame her, because I know how I would feel if everybody but me was eating chorizo).

Anyway, I recently tried to remedy this situation by keeping the chorizo spices and losing the pork. I took a look at several recipes for homemade chorizo on the internet, squared them with what I had in my spice rack, and put together a taco filling that was remarkably chorizo-like in it's flavor. Of course, probably the most important flavor in chorizo, the pork fat, was unavailable, so in that respect, it wasn't quite like eating chorizo. Next time, maybe I'll add cream to it or something, to give it back some of that weight.

Chorizo tacos, hold the chorizo

3 cups diced potatoes
2 large sweet onions, sliced
1 poblano chile, roasted, peeled, and sliced
4 cloves roasted garlic, minced/crushed
1 tbsp ground ancho chile
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mexican oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground arbol chile
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 tbsp vinegar
safflower oil
salt & pepper
tortillas (we used flour)

1. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a nonstick skillet and add the potatoes and lightly salt them. Saute on medium/high for several minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through (you will have to do this by trial and error, I'm sorry to say) and lightly browned. Set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 more tbsp of oil and add the onions. Saute on high heat for a few minutes, stirring often, until the onions are nicely browned. Stir in the poblanos and saute for another minute or so.

3. Reduce heat and stir in all the spices, followed by the garlic and the vinegar, so that everything is coated. Add the potatoes and stir, heating everything through.

Serve with tortillas and whatever accompaniments you like. We had them with just guacamole and queso fresco, alongside a nice bowl of cream of poblano soup. This recipe should make enough taco filling for four, especially if there are other things on the table.

Posted by Paul at 10:40 PM | Comments (7)
Posts of the Week
Too Many Chefs post of the week

Posts of the Week is getting cabin fever, and the only cure is more cowbell perusing some of the best food blog posts on the web. Here's three to enjoy.

1. Some nights you don't want to spend three hours over a hot stove preparing some fancy multi-course meal. Some nights, you just want to sit down, and have a bowl of the Easiest Soup in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD, as Stella Bites calls her escarole and tortellini concotion.

I. Maybe a slice of quiche would go with that soup? Well, if you want to learn how to make REAL Quiche, check out Papaya Pâté's post in which we learn that: quiche is a tart, not a pie; the filling is a custard, not an omelet; and quiche is not a nursery food.

A. The Cooking Diva serves up amazing food from her home base in Panama. She offers up a recipe this week to make your own Huevitos de leche, Sinful Milk Candy from Panama. I don't know about "sinful", but "scrumptious" would certainly apply.

Next week - we try to figure out why everyone had a dirty forehead this last Wednesday. Off to make a pepper and egg sandwich now...

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at 9:49 AM | Comments (7)
March 3, 2006
Support your local blogger!

livrepascale_1.jpgWednesday marked yet another historic day in the world of food blogging, when one of our number had her first cookbook published. Pascale Weeks, of C'est moi qui l'ai fait! has written a lovely little book of American and British recipes called Cookies Muffins & Co. Sadly for the anglophones out there, the book is written in French. Happily, for the expats here in Paris, it gives us great recipes for our favorite desserts using only ingredients readily available in France. I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy from the author herself the day before it was released (hurrah!) but you can get yours for a mere 2.76 euros from Amazon.

It's a beautiful little book and has some great looking recipes. My only (slight) criticism is for the format: paperback recipe books are a pain to use in the kitchen. Here's hoping this first book is such a success that the publishers recognize that the second one should be a large hard-bound book with pages that easily stay open when you lay it on the counter!

Congratulations, Pascale!

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 2:20 AM | Comments (4)
March 2, 2006
Pasta with Pesto Pantesco

pastapantesco_jf.jpgThose of us who only cook vegetarian dishes at home tend to gravitate towards pasta. It's usually on hand, quick to prepare, easy to veg up. Some vegetarians gravitate to pasta all the time (and probably the Italian vegetarians, too, come to think of it). Well, it was getting to be that time of the week when I thought I'll just whip up some pasta and sauce for dinner. To combat my laziness and boredom I went searching for a pasta dish that was a little different, but still easy to make. I came across this recipe by Mario which is so good that when The Ambassatrix came home and saw (and tasted) the sauce, she thought I had slaved away. I didn't bother to correct her. Then she helped me make another batch of it and said "That's it?" and I said, "Done. No cooking. Guess we can't call ourselves cooks, huh?"

I have no idea what Pantesco means, where it originates, etc. Wikipedia had no entry for it, so I can only assume Mario just made up the word.

My only modification is to cut down on both the red and black pepper. While both the wife and I can eat spicy food, we felt a whole tablespoon of each is too much. Two teaspoons of each was more reasonable (maybe cut it back even more for those of you who are extra-sensitive to the heat) . Oh, and on one occasion (just to see the difference) we put in a bit less than ½ cup of oil. To make it slightly lower in fat, you could drop down to a third of a cup and this dish will still be delicious.

Pasta with Pesto Pantesco

Salt, for the pasta water
½ cup fresh picked mint leaves
½ cup fennel fronds
½ cup fresh picked basil leaves
1 cup fresh picked parsley
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons salt packed capers, soaked,rinsed and drained
4 medium plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 t (or less) freshly ground black pepper
2 t (or less) crushed red pepper flakes, plus extra for garnish
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil (or a little less, if you want)
1 pound ziti (or any pasta)
1 cup freshly grated locatelli pecorino (or similar)

Bring 6 quarts water to a rolling boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

In a blender, place the mint, fennel fronds, basil, parsley, garlic, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and half of the olive oil. Process in short bursts until roughly chopped. Turn blender on full speed and drizzle in the remaining oil. Process until almost smooth, about 1 minute. Remove the resulting pesto from the blender and place in a large bowl. Set aside for 1 hour.

Note: After doing this a few times, I suggest putting the tomatoes in the blender first. I had a tough time getting my blending on with all the herbs at the bottom.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions until just al dente. Drain well and place the cooked pasta in the bowl with the pesto, and toss like a salad to coat. Sprinkle the pasta with the grated locatelli pecorino and chili flakes. Serve it up.

I would recommend mixing this with very plain pasta. Nothing like Pumpkin Sage ravioli.

I like to serve this with a something chill like Indigo Girls and a refreshing mojito (I promise, after this--no more mojitos) to go along with the mint in the sauce while at the same time countering the burn.

Now go brush your teeth because you undoubtedly have some flecks of herbs in there.

Posted by Justin at 7:46 AM | Comments (8)
March 1, 2006
Florentine Turkey Casserole

FlorenCass.jpgThis is an unusual post in that although I can tell you how I made the dish and how it smelled and how it looked...I'm not actually able to tell you how it tasted. That's because this one falls in the category of bonne action, or Good Deed of the Day. I gave it away.

A few weeks ago there was a message from the English speaking mothers group I belong to in Paris, MESSAGE. Were there any volunteers for the Helping Hands program, which arranges for meals to be delivered to new mothers in Paris? Well, heck. I can't actually claim this was a proper Good Deed, because frankly any excuse to go see a newborn and talk to his or her mom is good for someone like me. I don't think I'm alone. From the nine months before you give birth until heaven knows how long after, once you've become a propsective or accomplished mother you are a complete sucker for babies. And birth stories. (Especially ones about babies born on the quais of the Seine in the back of a Clio.) And a quick casserole and a jaunt across the city is a small price to pay for the privilege. So I volunteered.

I had forgotten about the matter actually, when the first call came for help. The organizer of Helping Hands was about to leave on holiday and so she put me in contact with the mother directly so we could settle a day and a dish. I started making lists and called the mother.

The problem with me and casseroles (well and many dishes to be honest) is that I find it difficult to make them healthy and fat free. I can get a load of tasty vegetables into them and I can make sure meals are well balanced...except for the fat content. The new mother told me she preferred poultry over fish (fine) and that something not too cholesteral-heavy would be good (gulp).

So this was my pathetic attempt to keep the cholesteral down. I hope it was tasty; it smelled and looked just fine. And the spinach will help her to keep her iron up and find her energy after nine months of playing second fiddle to Baby. (Did I say nine months? Oops, I meant the FIRST nine months...as far as I'm aware it never ends.)

I used a pasta I'd never seen before that I found in a gourmet grocery store I frequent a lot because it has exactly this kind of overpriced but interesting items: Casarecce. A little googling has revealed that Casarecce means "home-made" in Italian, which is ironic as I've only ever seen it in a store. The shape is a bit as though you started to roll a rectangle of pasta in one direction and then decided to roll the other side in the opposite direction, making it look like two rolls of macaroni stuck together and slightly twisted. This looked like a great shape for a casserole as it has lots of nooks and crannies for the sauce to seep into and is thick enough so that it won't fall apart. In a casserole you need pasta that isn't flimsy and won't fall apart after being boiled and baked.

Florentine Turkey Casserole

150 grams pasta - Casarecce or macaroni, something sturdy
2 slices of turkey breast
1 cup home-made turkey broth (low salt canned if you don't have any home made stuff)
1 cup milk
2 Tbs flour
2 Tbs/30 grams butter
50 grams Comté cheese, grated or cut in small pieces
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan, grated finely
2-3 Tbs fine bread crumbs
1/4-1/2 a nutmeg, grated (I like nutmeg A LOT, but I went easy this time, not knowing the recipients' tastes)
a few big handfuls of spinach
Butter for greasing the dish and salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta until al dente or even not quite al dente and drain. In the meantime, wash the spinach and put it in a pan with just the water clinging to its leaves. Cover and cook over a low heat for a few minutes until wilted. In a saucepan, bring the turkey broth to a boil and add the breasts. Let them cook for a few minutes and then turn off the heat. Leave them in the hot broth for five minutes or so in order to let them cook through. Then remove them to a cutting board and cut them in thin strips. Reserve the broth.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. When it begins frothing, add the flour and stir for a few moments. Add a little of the hot broth and stir like mad with a whisk or a fork to get rid of the lumps. Continue adding the broth until it's all incorporated. Turn down the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Add the comté and stir until it has melted. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. It's important to taste for salt after adding the cheese as some cheeses are saltier than others.

Pour about half the cheese mixture into the pan with the drained pasta and stir well. Butter a shallow baking dish and spread the pasta over the bottom of it evenly. Arrange the wilted spinach over the pasta. Arrange the slices of turkey over the spinach. Then pour the remaining cheese sauce over the whole thing. I used an oval dish about 30 cm in length and the turkey fit perfectly in one layer and the sauce covered everything just right. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and Parmesan over the dish. You might also want to sprinkle a little salt on top; I find it makes the crusty top much tastier but it's not so very healthy.

Bake at 180c/350F for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling and the whole dish is obviously heated through. If you are serving right away, allow it to cool for ten minutes or so (the time to make up a quick healthy salad?) so that it's not too hot to eat and has set a bit.

Or put it in the fridge and wrap it up well so that you can go baby-visiting the next day.

The baby, by the way, was gorgeous with a lot more dark hair than our boy had and a cute little button nose. He's not going to be tasting any casseroles soon, though...

Posted by Meg in Sussex at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)
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