Sunday, February 27, 2011

Easy Ligurian Pasta Pesto Soup

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The lush and verdant region of Liguria situated on the Northwestern coast of Italy is well known not only for the bounty of fish and shellfish which comes from the waters on its wide swath of coastline, but for the many different vegetables, wild pine nuts, pork, wild game and herbs such as basil, the main ingredient in Pesto Genovese and other Ligurian dishes. Pesto alla Genovese, heady with fresh basil, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano cheeses, garlic, pine nuts and oil, is named after Genoa, the capital of Liguria and birthplace of Christopher Columbus.

Pesto comes from the Italian word, pestare which means to pound or crush referring to the pounding and crushing of the herbs, garlic, pine nuts and oil. Authentic pesto alla genovese is made from Genovese basil, Ligurian olive oil and European pine nuts. The cheese must be Parmigiano Reggiano. In Provence,  pesto is called pistou and excludes the pine nuts, but the cheese may be added. Other variations may include spinach, arugula and other green herbs and vegetables, but the pounding or crushing process remains the same. Source.

This satisfying soup comes together quickly. In fact, in the time it takes to cook the pasta, you can have have it on the table in 20 minutes or so. While the pancetta, oil and garlic are sauteing, bring the pasta water to boil. The pesto is quickly made in a food processor and can be made ahead of time, just add the cheeses and garlic when you are ready to stir the pesto into the soup. No pine nuts are added to this pesto, but can be added, if desired. If you like pesto as much as I do, try this basil pesto bread - photo below.

Ligurian Pasta Pesto Soup

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped pancetta or bacon
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium plum tomato, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound (8 ounces) linguine or thin spaghetti, broken into short pieces
6 cups water

1-1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or extra Parmesan)

For the Pesto

Rinse the basil and dry thoroughly in a salad spinner. Combine the basil and garlic in a food processor with 1-1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Pulse to attain a slightly chunky sauce, adding remaining oil as you process. Spoon into a bowl and add the cheeses, then season with salt. Float extra olive oil on top until ready to use.

For the Soup
Combine oil, pancetta and garlic in a pan and saute over medium heat until pancetta is slightly golden and the fat is running out. Do not brown the garlic-it should be straw-colored. Stir in chopped tomato and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and a large pinch of salt, cook until al dente. Adjust seasonings, remove from heat and stir in pesto. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pancetta Green Beans-French Fridays with Dorie

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From the Italian word pancia meaning belly, pancetta is very similar to bacon. The pork belly is rubbed with salt and spices, then cured for several weeks. Pancetta can be bought as straight pancetta with the rind and generous fat layer still attached; or what I'm more used to buying, rolled pancetta with the rind and some of the fat removed, then tightly rolled as in salami. While pancetta is very similar to bacon and sometimes called Italian bacon, it isn't usually smoked. At the deli, I ask for slices of pancetta around 1/2-inch thick so I can dice or chop the pancetta accordingly, but I also buy it pre-packaged in thin slices for recipes that call for the pancetta to be wrapped around a meat or vegetable. Pancetta adds incredible flavor to these usually mundane green beans. 

Pancetta Green Beans make a colorful and delicious accompaniment to a sizzlingly hot grilled steak, pork or chicken.  The beans are available year round, prep and cooking time are short and the beans can be served hot or at room temperature. The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's recent top selling cookbook Around My French Table is the pick of French Fridays with Dorie, a group dedicated to cook every recipe in this wonderful book of French family cooking. If you would like this recipe, buy the book and or join the fun. 

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate Oatmeal Drops-Tuesdays with Dorie

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The lovely duo of Caroline and Claire from Bake With Us picked a great cookie for Tuesdays with Dorie as I am taking mine this coming weekend to my grandchildrens' joint birthday party in North Carolina. I know they will have a beautiful cake, but everyone loves a cookie and this one is perfect as it looks like it will travel well. I saved out two cookies for the hubby to have for dessert, but the rest went straight into the freezer when cooled. A super cookie!

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Weekend Herb Blogging #270-The RoundUp

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A luscious and colorful array of dishes ranging from appetizers to desserts have been rolling in all week. As I've said as a past host for Weekend Herb Blogging, I'm constantly amazed at the talent of bloggers around the world who come up with the most interesting, informative, not to mention delicious, ways to prepare the herbs and plants that we enjoy growing and buying.  Now on with the roundup for WHB#270-

My Southern heart skips a beat when I see a recipe with collard greens and as much as I love what I grew up with, this Collard Green and Cabbage Stir Fry from Tigerfish of Teczcape gets my gustatory system in an uproar. A much lighter and colorful way to prepare collards and I can still have my crusty hunk of cornbread!

Peppery radicchio lends color along with yellow bell pepper and red onion to this bright  green salad dressed with a balsamic rosemary vinaigrette enhanced with Dijon mustard and a big splash of walnut oil.  Lisa from London, Ontario who blogs Lisa's Kitchen suggests serving her enticing Mixed Green and Radicchio Salad with a comfort food dish to combat the arctic weather this winter.

Winter squash are great keepers! Kristina of Tutto-a-occhio who hails from Trieste, Italy not only made this exotic Pumpkin Jam with Cardamom, (my very favorite spice) but had ample steamed pumpkin to put in the freezer for muffins, bread and ricotta gnocchi. Sounds divine! Kristin also participates in the Italian edition of WHB managed by Brii.

A quick, but super delicious pasta dish from Graziana from Erbe in Cucina(Cooking with Herbs) topped with ordinary bread crumbs brought to new heights by first sauteing in sage, oregano and dried onion. A brilliant way to keep a two year old from decimating the bread crumbs. A traditional Sicilian speciality with anchovies ,Breadcrumb Pasta with Aromatic Herbs will be on my list of pasta dishes to add to my repertoire.

Scented with an infusion of  mustard seeds and curry leaves , this avocado chutney from Janet of Taste Space is a brilliant mixture of tamarind paste, cilantro leaves and chili pepper flakes served on pita bread. A great twist on guacamole!

A fabulous beet and hazelnut cake from  accantoalcamino who sings the praises of the healthy attributes of the beetroot, a food rich in many vitamins and minerals. I'm a big fan of beets and will definitely try this recipe.

Seafood and dill are perfect partners and with no exception is this flavorful smoked trout and green flageolot bean salad from Haalo of Cook Almost Anything Once, the lovely manager of WHB. A mayonnaise style dressing made of a soft boiled egg, dill, parsley and oil  is gently mixed with the trout and green flageolots then served on slices of toasted olive bread.

Simona from Briciole brings to our table an inviting soup, zuppa di verdure miste, made with a homemade chicken broth inspired by Julia Child and redolent with root vegetables, cumin, and smoked paprika. Pureeing the soup with an immersion blender facilitates the process of blending the ingredients. Added to this tantalizing soup are swiss chard ribbons for added color, texture and flavor. Delicious!
Ah, the smart phone comes in handy in the grocery store! While perusing the grocery aisles for bottled garam masala and finding none, Claire of Chez Cayenne uses her phone to search for a recipe for homemade garam masala and in the process learning more about the weight of whole spices vs ground spices. Her homemade garam masala not only taste better than the bought one, but Claire liked being able to tweak the spices and come up with her own special version.

"Friggitelli" small slender and thin green peppers are sliced, sauteed in garlic and  olive oil, then cooked with a glass of rum, before adding prawns. Freshly cooked and drained parppardelle pasta is added to this tasty concoction, stirred lightly then sprinkled  with chopped parsley. This tantalizing seafood pasta dish comes  to us from Acky who lives in Rome and blogs at ackyart.

Ham and Parmesan cheese stuffed in a puff pastry blanket and brushed with an egg wash before baking until crisp and golden is a scrumptious appetizer or small plate dish from Cinzia who lives in the Lake Garda region of Italy. Cinzia blogs at CindyStar and also submitted this yummy dish to the Italian edition of WHB#270 coinciding with this English edition.

My very favorite dried fruit, the fig, stands in for sugar is this healthy bread made with whole wheat flour and organic eggs. This tasty Dried Fig Bread is served to us by Yasmeen from Health Nut who relates to us that figs are a symbol of abundance and fertility. Although fresh figs are seasonal, dried figs can be bought year round and are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals.
Roasted eggplant, lime juice, and parsley come together with olive oil, salt and pepper to make this easy, yet flavorful roasted eggplant dip for chips or toasted bread. Huan and Clement of EatReadLive-recipes also suggests serving this delicious vegetable dip with an egg-sunny side up or as a sub for mashed potatoes.

A Lemon Rice Cake made with arborio rice, ground almonds and eggs is a light, but delicious dessert for any time of the year.

Thanks to all who submitted to WHB#270. If I missed anyone, blame it on Valentines Day! Just kidding, if I missed you, please let me know.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Torta di riso dolce-Lemon Rice Cake

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One bite of this tantalizingly light, but slightly chewy cake will remind you of a souffle pudding with the texture of a sweet risotto. Arborio rice, often used in risottos and rice puddings, stars in this lemon scented cake  imbued with ground almonds, a perfect make ahead dessert as the flavors mingle delightfully as it cools. In fact, the cake is much easier to cut once it has cooled.

A short-grained rice, Arborio is named for the town in the Piedmont region of Italy where it is grown. When cooked, the rice retains firmness, but is creamy due to the higher amount of starch in the variety. Once only grown in Italy, Texas and California now grows excellent arborio rice; in fact, in some taste tests, the American arborio rates highly, is less expensive and is readily available in most supermarkets. However, when looking for authentic Italian arborio rice, look for the seal from the Italian rice growers' consortium which has a stork on it. If kept dry, arborio rice keeps indefinitely.

Pleased as I could be about successfully preparing this cake and getting it into the oven, imagine my shock and horror to see the one-third cup sugar sitting on the counter! That's what I deserve from taking on the phone while I prepare something I've never made before. Read at the end of the recipe directions what I did to salvage the cake, but in the long run-loved the result!

Lemon Rice Cake

Unsalted butter, melted, and fine dried breadcrumbs, (Panko), to coat a 8-9-inch springform cake pan
2-1/2 cups  whole milk
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup ground almonds
finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
4 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1/3 cup sugar
Confectioners' sugar, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 400°F. Generously brush the springform pan with butter, sprinkle with the breadcrumbs rotating pan to coat the inside all over, then discard excess.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a boil and stir in the rice and salt. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then begin stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed the milk, about another 10 minutes. Remove from heat; transfer to a bowl to cool slightly, then add almonds and lemon zest.

Lightly beat the eggs and gradually fold them into the rice mixture. Stir in the sugar. In a clean bowl with a heavy duty mixer and a ship attachment, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the rice mixture. Pour into prepared springform pan and bake 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let stand on a rack 30 minutes, then run a sharp knife around the sides of the pan and remove the spring form. Slide cake onto rack and cool completely. Recipe adapted from "Italian Country Cooking-the Secrets of Cucina Povera" by Loukie Werle.

What to do if you forget to add the sugar! Increase sugar to 1/2 cup.

Almond Lemon Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup almond liqueur, or
1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 lemon, juiced

In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, water, almond liqueur or flavoring and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until mixture is syrupy-about 5-8 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before brushing liberally on cake.

This is my entry into Weekend Herb Blogging #270 hosted by myself! Yeah!!

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Six Classic Cocktails-Week Six-The Martini

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Drifting into Friday, the martini is the last post of the Six Classic Cocktails from David Embury's book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948 and considered to be one of the great cocktail books. Not a bartender or one associated with a liquor firm, Embury was an accomplished lawyer with a Wall Street firm, but was passionate about the whys and wherefores of food and drink. His book delves into all facets of the cocktail-from proper glassware, bar equipment, basic principles to  in depth  discussions on liquors, bitters and even how to prevent hangovers.  

I've saved the Martini for the last, but not least of the six basic cocktails. Embury considered the Martini to be the most perfect of apéritif cocktails, but says the average Martini served at home or at a bar is anything but perfect. Poor quality liquors and skewered proportions are its undoing. The conventional proportions are one-third Vermouth to two-thirds gin. However, Embury is adamant that the gin be a good English gin(House of Lords) and the Vermouth, French(Noilly Prat).   He then gets very technical on the percentages of the two spirits and comes up with a 3-1 gin to vermouth versus a 7-1 gin to vermouth based on the alcoholic content of each. Even though he prefers the 7-1 ratio, he severely criticizes those who insist the Martini is only perfect if made exactly to their specified proportions.

Highly opinionated, especially concerning the Martini, he lists three basic Martini's you would find in a bar -a dry Martini, a medium Martini and a sweet Martini; though he stands firm on his preferred 7-1 ratio.

Dry Martini

1 part French Vermouth (Noilly Prat)
2 parts iced English Gin (I've used Plymouth's)
2 dashes Orange Bitters

Medium Martini

1 part French Vermouth
1 part Italian Vermouth(I used Cinzano Extra Dry)
2 to 4 parts Gin
1 dash Orange Bitters & 1 dash Angostura

Sweet Martini
1 part Italian Vermouth
2 parts Gin

Embury's Martini
(Martini Deluxe)
1 part Lillet Vermouth
7 parts House of the Lords Gin (Booth's gin)

Choose your drink ingredients-stir well in a bar glass or Martini pitcher with large cubes of ice and pour into chilled cocktail glasses. Add an olive to the dry Martini, the Martini Deluxe and maraschino cherries to the Medium and Sweet Martinis.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bourbon Bread Pudding-Tuesdays with Dorie

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With a blog entitled Simply Southern, Bourbon Bread Pudding is an ideal choice for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie. You just can't get any more Southern than that unless you have fried chicken, butter beans, fried okra, cornbread and biscuits, Ya'll! On the subject of biscuits-my grandma made the best bread pudding with leftover biscuits and hers was dense and chocked full of raisins. Dorie's Bourbon Bread Pudding is very delicate, but no less delicious. On the subject of bourbon, a couple more tablespoons would have been taken the bread pudding to a higher level of sublime, but that's my opinion. Thanks to Sharon from Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world, who probably had no problem finding good bourbon to flavor her bread pudding.  You can find the recipe for this delight on her blog. I apologize for the iPhone photo, but had to take the resident Yorkie, Razzle, to the vet yesterday. After some medicine and a big sleep-in this morning, he's rallying.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Weekend Herb Blogging #270

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I'm excited that I will be hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week! Hosted now by Haalo, this popular event is a great way to share information about not only herbs, but basically anything that is plant based.

Looking forward to seeing lots of entries for this edition.Any questions, leave me a comment at the end of this post or for more information on my specific requirements, look  here.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Basque Potato Tortilla-French Fridays with Dorie

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Just talking to my daughter over the phone raving about the Basque Potato Tortilla- that she has just got to make this delicious concoction of seasoned potatoes, onions and eggs cooked omelet style then run under the broiler to finish cooking the eggs! It blew me away when she said she made a similar tortilla last week! This was my first, but won't be my last. It's super easy and one probably has all the ingredients sitting around in the fridge or the pantry. Although there were many variations of the tortilla listed in the sidebar, I stuck with the basic recipe only adding crumbled, crispy cooked bacon to the mix. Not only is the tortilla great warm, but just as wonderful served cold as an appetizer with a glass of Sangria, tapas style. I'm constantly on the search for sturdy picnic fare. The tortilla would make delicious picnic food!

A seasoned cast iron frying pan is the perfect vessel to cook the tortilla in, specifically a 9-10-inch one with oven proof handles. I have at least 5 iron frying pans and assorted other cast iron items, but none was the right size, so I used the pan you see in the photo. If you are interested in the recipe for the Basque Potato Tortilla, by all means buy Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. If you are willing to cook along with French Fridays with Dorie, check out it out here. I love the book- can't wait to cook all the recipes.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pace Picante Sauce-Michelada Preparada-Mexico's Version of the Bloody Mary

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UPDATE:- This is an older post on the Michelada, but thought it perfect to send to  Lucia Ciattaglia of Torta di Rose who is hosting Guadalajara, Mexico as our current country in our continuing journey through the World Culinary ABC.

As part of the Foodbuzz community, I was delighted when I received two bottles of Pace Picante Sauce as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers program. I sometimes make my own salsa when the tomatoes are dead ripe, but in the winter, I depend upon bottled sauces and salsas. One great thing about the Pace Picante sauce is the fresh tomato flavor-much more flavorful than ketchup and has an additional kick from peppers and other herbs and spices.

If you are looking for a different drink to serve for your Super Bowl party, look no further! The Michelada Preparada is just the libation to get the party started. Known as the Mexican version of the ubiquitous Bloody Mary, this drink uses beer and a spicy tomato concoction. Adding pureed Pace Picante sauce along with tomato juice gives that extra kick for the extra kick! Along the Michelada Preparada, serve these smoky chickpeas, also adding spice and a jolt of flavor from the homemade smoky chili powder. The chipotle chili pepper based powder can also be used as a rub for a thick, juicy steak or for some spicy chicken fajitas. Both recipes are super easy and can be prepared in no time at all, so you are ready to enjoy the game.

Michelada Preparada
Serves 8

2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoky chili powder (recipe follows)
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges, plus extra for rubbing glass
Ice Cubes
3 bottles of Mexican beer (12 oz each)
2 cups Pace Picante sauce, pureed
2 cups tomato juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce, to taste

On a flat plate, combine salt and smoky chili powder. Using a chilled beer glass so the salt mixture will stick, rub the rims with a lime wedge, then coat the rims with the mixture.  Fill the glass halfway with ice cubes, taking care not to disturb the coated rims.

Combine the pureed Pace Picante sauce, tomato juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Divide the beer evenly among the glasses, then divide the spicy tomato juice mixture among the glasses.  Squeeze a wedge of lime juice in the glass.Garnish with small hot peppers, if desired. Adapted from "Mexican", a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.

Smoky Chili Powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, Transfer to an airtight container and use within three months.

Smoky Chili Roasted Chickpeas
2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried thoroughly
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan
1 teaspoon smoky chili powder, or to taste

Preheat oven to 425° F and grease a large baking sheet with the extra olive oil and salt to taste.  In a large bowl, combine chickpeas with the oil and salt to taste. Place on the baking sheet in one layer and roast, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure even browning, for about 20 minutes. When golden brown and fragrant, remove chickpeas to bowl and toss with the chili powder. Adjust seasonings. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 3 cups. Recipe adapted from "Chipotle-Smoky Recipes for All Occasions", by Leda Scheintaub.

According to FTC regulations, I received the Pace Picante sauce free and was not compensated. My post is my own opinion of this product.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Great Grain Muffins-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Not too earthy- these great grain muffins have a fine balance of texture from adding whole wheat flour, yellow cornmeal and oatmeal to the basic all-purpose flour muffin. Maple syrup lends a heady sweet flavor along with dried sweet cherries and chopped walnuts which combine to make these the perfect muffin to enjoy for breakfast or with coffee or hot tea for an afternoon break. Muffins are one of the simplest bake goods to prepare and in minutes you have fresh from the oven. Serve these with a chunk of cheese or butter and jam.

Thanks to Christine of happytummy for choosing this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie recipe from Dorie Greenspan's  Baking From My Home to Yours.  You can find the recipe on her blog.Seriously, if you don't have this book, you need to buy it straight away! It's undoubtedly one of the most useful baking books for the home cook. From fancy to down home, all the recipes are well thought out so are easy to understand. I have given this book as gifts to my family and friends, so I know it's a great one!

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