Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Get your Greens

Growing up in the southern, well really southwestern, region of the United States, one would assume that I came out of my mother's womb loving greens of all kinds. Let me assure you that I did not. I did not develop a taste for greens until I reached adulthood and then I am still not fond of all of them, particularly mustard greens and dandelion leaves.

In the past several years I have found that I love Swiss chard and kale. These are great winter greens. They are quite versatile and can be served many different ways such as in a salad, or soup, or simply sauteed.

Last Saturday morning as I was having my second cup of coffee I picked up the Off Duty section of the Wall Street Journal. On the first page of the section was a big picture of greens with the bold title "A Guide To Loving Winter Greens". On the next page, the article continued with eight recipes with winter greens as the centerpiece.  Here is the link...A Guide To Loving Winter Greens

After running errands Saturday afternoon I stopped at the grocery and picked a bunch of beautiful red Swiss chard and and equally beautiful fillet of salmon.  I was going to make my own version of greens. Here's what I did.

I gave the Swiss chard a good washing and cut away the ribs. I stacked the leaves, rolled them into a cigar shape, and cut into chiffonades.


Next I sliced a couple of shallots into rings. I had about 3/4 cup, but you can add more or less based on your tastes. I also minced up a couple of small cloves of garlic.


I heated a saute pan over medium high heat and added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil was hot I added the shallots and cooked for several minutes, until softened and beginning to brown. I then added the garlic and stirred a few more minutes, making certain that the garlic did not burn.

Once I was happy with the way the shallots looked I added the Swiss chard, a dash of salt, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. I gave it a couple of stirs and then reduced my heat to medium. Within minutes it began to wilt and reduce in volume. I gave them an occasional stir. It took about 7 or 8 minutes to reach it's "finished" stage. I then gave it a splash of white balsamic vinegar to brighten up the flavors.


While the chard was cooking, I quickly pan sauteed a salmon fillet. I seasoned it lightly with salt and pepper and then finished it over a medium to medium-high heat.
mounded the chard in a bowl and topped with a piece of salmon. The flavors of the sauteed chard with the lightly seasoned salmon were a perfect match. And not to mention perfectly easy!






So, how are you going to 'get your greens'? I'd love hear how you prepare them!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pasta!

I love pasta! It's quick to prepare and you can do so many things with it. Like dressing it with a simple marinara sauce or sauteed mushrooms with brown butter or even a rich lobster sauce. I keep dried pasta in my pantry but I do prefer fresh. Fresh is really easy to find these days. One just has to make a visit to their favorite grocer and you'll probably find it in the refrigerated section.

We used to have a wonderful fresh pasta store in Atlanta call Via Elisa. She offered a delightful array of pastas. One of her specialties was butternut squash ravioli. Unfortunately she is no longer open. The good news is that she has moved into the sauce making arena. Her sauces are available on-line and at Whole Foods. Visit her site, Via Elisa, for more information. You can sign up for a monthly newsletter as well.

Last Christmas I received a pasta machine from my husband with great expectations that I would be cranking out a variety of offerings. I have made plain pasta, spinach linguine, roasted red pepper spaghetti, and a variety of ravioli over the past year and plan to continue.

Yesterday was a southern snow day, i.e, little snow, lots of ice, so I decided that I'd break out the pasta maker and whip up a batch for dinner. I used a different recipe than I have used in the past and I really liked it. The recipe is from Saveur Cooks, Authentic Italian. This is a fabulous book and I have prepared many dishes from it. I prepared the basic egg pasta recipe, making a couple of additions to it. I also mixed my dough in my new Braun food processor instead of by hand.

Basic Egg Pasta for 4

1 cup unbleached flour
2 large eggs 


Here's where I made my additions. I added 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and one teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. To the eggs, I added 1/2 tablespoons olive oil.

To mix the dough, place the flour, salt and pepper in the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse it several times, combining the dry ingredients. Break eggs into a separate dish and whisk. Add the olive oil and whisk to combine. With the food processor running gradually pour the egg mixture through the feed tube. The dough should begin to 'ball' up and pull together. Process until it forms a ball.

Remove from processor and place on a lightly floured work space. With floured hands, gently knead dough until no longer sticky. You may need to add a bit more flour to achieve this. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

To proceed, uncover dough and knead with the heel of your hand until dough is smooth, about five minutes. 

Flatten the dough and prepare it for running through a pasta machine or to be cut by hand into the shape and size you desire. I ran mine through the machine and then hand cut into pappardelle noodles.

To cook, bring a pot of water to boil. Add a generous amount of salt and drop noodles in a few at a time. using a pasta 'fork' gently stir to keep noodles from sticking together. Boil for 4-7 minutes depending on how you like your noodles cooked.

Drain and place in a large bowl. Finish with the sauce of your choosing. 
I tossed my pasta with Olio Pomodoro from Sotto Voce, a gift from my son's sweet girlfriend, gave it another grind of black pepper and finished with freshly grated parm. 
The resident taste tester gave it high marks. Always a good thing!



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Where did the last two months go?

Someone stole the last two months from me! It couldn't possibly have been that long since I last posted a blog entry. But seeing is believing and indeed it has been two months. Sheesh! Since several holidays have passed, I wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

Here's a brief synopsis of my cooking forays since early November.

Christmas cookies are always baked beginning in mid-November. I have a dear friend and business associate to whom I always deliver a tin of cookies on December 1st so I have to be ready. Others deliveries are made throughout the month, but the December 1st delivery is the most critical.  I made 8 different kinds of cookies and three kids of candy. Here are pictures of some of my goodies.


Next came Thanksgiving.  I offered a dessert preparation service to my clients and I had a couple of takers. I made pumpkin pies, three-apple pies and Kentucky Derby pies. My pie crust recipes are from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Pie and Pastry Bible. These are great recipes, but they are not quick to make. You really have to plan ahead if you are going to make one of her recipes. I used her "Great Pumpkin Pie" recipe for the first time and it will now be my go to recipe! Gingersnaps are sprinkled over the pie crust and it gives the pie another layer of flavor. The filling is made from scratch...no cans of evaporated milk in this recipe.


We had a fabulous feast for 15! Of course I was too busy to take any pictures of my table but it was stunning. I dare say it would have made Martha Stewart proud.  Since I don't have pictures of the table or food, I'll slip one in of my favorite son, Jack. He flew home from Ft. Bragg that morning. The beagle boys, Bud and Miller, welcomed him home and quickly made themselves comfortable in his lap. Did you know that beagles are lap dogs?
Jack, Miller and Bud

Quickly following on the heels of Thanksgiving was Christmas and my busiest time of the year. I had private events the three weekend's before Christmas, and one weekend had two events! It was great! 

Madori and melon shooters, Bacon wrapped stuffed dates, Assorted cheese spreads       

Christmas day was a treat! Spending time with family and NOT having to cook was great! I did add an appetizer, cucumbers topped with wasabi mayo, pickled ginger and shrimp, and a mincemeat pie with hard sauce to the feast.

Our sweet Carol and me.    

And lastly, New Years! New Years is pretty low-key for us. Sometimes we go to a party and other times we don't. This year we did not. However, our New Year's Day feast is always the same. Growing up in the south, our New Year's Day meal was always, ham, greens of some sort, and black-eyed peas. I tried those foods the first couple of years I was married, but my hubby wasn't all that taken with the fare so I adopted his family's traditional meal, curried beef over rice with lots of condiments. I love this dish! 

Regis, the husband, and I have differing opinions, as you can see by the pictures, on how we are to place the condiments on our plates. He's a 'piler' and I like mine around the curry and rice, like a clock face. I keep telling him that presentation is important, but when it comes to his plate of curry, he could care less! He just wants to eat it not admire it!


Okay, that's it. I know this was a bit disjointed, but quite frankly that's the way I have felt these past two months. Now on to January!