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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

As my sister said on her way through the security line at the airport: “I’m not eating again today.  Well, not until I get home”.  As is tradition, we spent the majority of three days being uncomfortably full, and now we’re hoping to take a break from overeating for a few days.   We had a spectacular experience though, and took advantage of our family’s diversity by having Persian cuisine one night, Norwegian the next, and good ol’ American to finish it off.  Pictures to come.

In case you’re not sick of feasting yet, have I got a beautiful meal for you.  This isn’t one of those recipes where your guests will think you’ve spent all day cooking, but in fact it’s just been whipped up last minute.  You’ll actually be putting in some labor time on this one, but it’s well worth it for the right occasion.  Ours was a lovely dinner with lovely friends before we all dispersed for Christmas.  I’d recommend doing it in stages – make the sauce and roast the squash the day before, and you’ll be golden.  I’m not usually too excited by white sauces, but the combination of the sweet, caramelized squash with this rich decadent sauce is too much to pass up.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, Rosemary and Garlic Lasagna
adapted from Cooking Light

8 1/4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (3 pounds or so.  I had a bigger squash, so just added an extra layer to the lasagna to use it up)
 Cooking spray
4 cups fat-free milk, divided
2 Tbsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup flour
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (8-ounce) package no-boil precooked lasagna noodles
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
1/2 cup whipping cream

Arrange butternut squash in a single layer in a large roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Coat squash with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 25 minutes or until squash is just tender, stirring once. Set aside.

Lower oven temperature to 350°.

Combine 3 1/2 cups milk and rosemary in a medium saucepan and simmer on medium heat 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil. Let stand 10 minutes. Strain milk through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard rosemary.

Lightly spoon all-purpose flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and remaining 1/2 cup milk, stirring flour mixture with a whisk until well blended to form a slurry.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring constantly. Stir in steeped milk, and increase heat to medium-high. Gradually add slurry to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Combine milk mixture and squash, tossing gently.

Spread about 1 1/2 cups squash mixture into the bottom of an 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over squash mixture; top with 2 cups squash mixture and 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers once or twice with 3 noodles, 2 cups of squash, and 1/4 cup of cheese. Top with 3 noodles.

Just before your guests are due to arrive, beat whipping cream and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt with mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Spread the whipping cream mixture over noodles; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until golden. Let stand 10 minutes.

I’ve got another week off from work (eat that, suckas!), so am planning to tend to the winter garden (artichokes are so happy right now, but the beets, chard and turnips have been a little neglected), clean the house, and generally nest, getting ready to start 2008 on the right foot.

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Too Cold

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the cold. My mom still talks about finding me in the middle of a hot Bay Area summer, sitting on the couch reading with a huge blanket covering me up. Even now, in the midst of a (granted, mild) winter in San Diego, I have on my bed: flannel sheets and a regular comforter topped with THREE down comforters. Sure makes it tough to get up in the morning.

This love of warmth translates to food, too – I’ve never been too fond of salads, as I prefer my greens steamy and soft – a tender biteful of garlicky greens over a crunchy crisp romaine for me, thanks. But maybe I’m coming around! I have a massage client with an orchard, and she tips me in fresh, straight-from-the-tree fruit. It’s heavenly, and this month I’m swimming in Fuyu persimmon and mandarin oranges, thanks to her bounty. I saw this salad in Cooking Light, and had to face my salad fears to try it. I’m glad I did – it’s peppery, sweet and spicy and showcases the winter flavors I love.  I subbed out the hazelnuts for candied walnuts and the persimmon for mandarin oranges, and it translated well:

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 2)
2 cups thinly sliced peeled ripe Fuyu persimmon (about 2), or the same amount fresh mandarin orange sections
1 (5-ounce) package bagged prewashed arugula
a generous handful toasted or candied nuts

Combine the first four ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a whisk. Throw the fennel, fruit and arugula in a big bowl, toss with dressing and top with nuts. Pair with something warm, for god’s sake!

Hope everyone had a holly jolly one!

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Can’t stop baking!

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In the oven directly after posting this: almond biscotti (with coarsely chopped raw almonds and a dash of almond extract), with mini chocolate chips on one side, and extra fennel seed on the other. That plus plenty of hot cocoa and it should be a pretty warm winter. Yeah.

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Senate Bean Soup

According to custom, bean soup must be on the menu every day in the Senate dining areas. I came across the famous recipe when deciding what to do with my lovely Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye beans, and couldn’t resist it. How much easier does it get, really? Four basic ingredients that can be set and forgotten about. Because that’s what politicians love, isn’t it? Basic things with no frills or confusion, that don’t cost a lot of money… hmm.

I so highly recommend this soup. The ingredients, or rather – the lack thereof – gave me pause, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the taste – no description or picture does it justice. The beans are super tender and buttery and perfectly exhibited in this simple soup. It’s super.  And costs about $5.00.  You should make it today.

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The Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup Recipe

2 pounds dried navy beans
four quarts hot water
1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter. Add to soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Serves 8.

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Biscotti

Why did no one tell me how easy it is to make biscotti? I’ve been on a bit of a cookie craze, and the folks at work are starting to get plumper!

Last week it was Mint Chippers (yummy – shortbread-like texture, minty chocolate flavor – delish) and Coffee Meringues (speaking of easy – I’d never made meringues before, and they’re so very simple – who knew?), and this week – biscotti.

I feel a habit coming on, because after this first batch, my mind is spinning with flavor combination possibilities – almond and fig, mini chocolate chips and pepper, pistachio dipped in white chocolate… These might just be coming out of my oven soon. Anyway, for the recipe that started it all, I used a basic biscotti recipe and doctored it with fennel seed and walnuts. Since walnuts have such a strong buttery flavor, I loaded up on the fennel seed to give these crispy cookies some bite.

Walnut-Fennel Biscotti

1 1/2 cups sugar
10 tablespoons melted butter
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1 cup coarsely chopped lightly-toasted walnuts

1 large egg white

Biscotti means twice-baked cookie, so this is a two step baking project – perfect for these chilly San Diego winter days (shut up, it’s cold)!

Mix sugar, butter, 3 eggs, vanilla and ground fennel seed in a large bowl. add flour, baking powder and salt and stir until well blended. Stir in walnuts. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf, about a foot long and 3″ wide. It’ll spread a little in the oven – here’s the size of a baked loaf:

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Put both logs on a baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment. Whisk egg white in small bowl until foamy; brush over top and sides of each dough log – that’s what will give you that golden sheen on top of your cookies.

Bake logs at 350° until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Cool logs completely, but leave your oven on – you’re not done yet!

slices.jpgUsing a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-wide slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on same baking sheet. Bake 12 minutes. Turn biscotti over; bake until just beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. Brew the hot beverage of your choice, dig in and begin plotting your next biscotti adventure.

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Fancypants Sunday

If you happen to be in San Diego this winter and you have a lady to impress, may I offer the following:

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Chris surprised me with this amazing meal last week at the Marine Room in La Jolla – you may have seen the restaurant when snorkeling at La Jolla Cove, because it’s literally sitting in the water. Every high tide this winter, they’re hosting a special weekend brunch.  The high tide provides the most beautiful perspective, as long as you can get past the fact that the place has been hit by waves that have busted through the windows (check out the pictures in the lobby).  The brunch itself was decadent without being obscene, delicious, romantic and beautiful. I felt like a fancypants queen every time the super attentive waiters came by to clear a plate or to top off my coffee and oj. We started with the seafood bar – fresh crab legs and shrimp, caviar and lox. Yum central. Moving on to the entrees (pictured here), I found my personal favorite in the Grand Marnier-flavored French Toast. Dessert was next, and we each enjoyed a bite of everything. Yeah, man. Dessert before 10am? Now we’re talking. Pace yourself – brunch is served until 10, so take your time and enjoy the view.

You’ve still got two more chances: December 22nd-23rd (for a pre-Christmas stomach-stretching exercise) or January 20th-21st (for those of you who are gearing up for a New Year’s resolution to eat more caviar. By the way, I salute you). Need more convincing? Here’s the full menu. Yowza.

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Mom’s Masterpiece

I got to travel up north last week for Thanksgiving, so spent some good time playing games, shopping and eating with the fam.  Ahhh.  The day I came in, my mother was undertaking a serious challenge: to replicate the amazing burger cake that she’d made for my cousin’s 6th birthday (he’s now 23).  Behold, the original:

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Aww, adorable!  And such a beautiful cake!  Mom had a special request this year to make a burger cake for another 7 year old’s birthday, and this time she was determined to improve on the original.  Luckily, I was there to help, laugh and take pictures.

First, we spent way too long getting the colors just right.  We added food dye, brought the bowl over to the photo album to compare, then adjusted.  It was painstaking, and involved lots of sentences like “Buns are mostly orangey, with just a hint of brown”.  The cheese and lettuce were made with almond paste mixed with dyes:

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It goes without saying that mom and I had some funky looking hands at the end of this adventure.  Once the frostings were all right, the building could begin:

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I’m pretty proud of my decision to texture the patty layer.

A sprinkling of pinenuts went on top to simulate the sesame seeds, and the world’s biggest birthday burger cake was complete.  Our friend Greg likes it:

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Yum.  Meat cake.  The cheese color may have been a little off, so we thought it looked like old cheese – the stuff that’s been sitting out a little too long at the barbeque. 

Here’s my beautiful mother in front of her masterpiece.  I have no idea how they ended up cutting into this behemoth, but it doesn’t really matter, does it?

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Fall-ing

It’s time.  I had to put another blanket on the bed last week, and I need slippers in the mornings.  It’s fall!  I can now indulge in a few of my cold-weather Southern-California-vaguely-cool-weather obsessions, so I pulled out two of the biggies last night: butternut squash and pumpkin flavored treats.

The first you already know about, but the second is another winner. It’ll probably go in the special occasions pile, but oh, what an occasion. I came home late from work the other night and found a fabulous organic sourdough bread loaf waiting for me on my doorstep.  I suspect one neighbor in particular who works for People’s Co-Op, but I haven’t run into her yet to confirm and thank her. A true friend brings gifts of carbs. Ahh.

Anyway, I already had my toast loaf ready to go, so I decided to repurpose my gift into a decadent pudding, adapted from Epicurious:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

For the pudding:
2 cups half and half
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (or just forgo the above combination and throw in a bunch of pumpkin pie spice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes sourdough bread

For the sauce:
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup whipping cream

Whisk half and half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, spices and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Fold in bread cubes and transfer mixture to 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake at 350° until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.

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Doncha just love fall?

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Nanners

Caaake.  I feel like Homer, with drool coming down the side of my mouth as I picture the deliciousness of this thing.  Uuuhhhhh Huuuuhhhh…

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I swear, sometimes I buy bananas knowing that they’ll sit in the basket and eventually go past the eating stage.  Oh well, I’ll think, I guess I’d better do something with them.  How about banana bread?  No, done that recently.  Still have some in the freezer.  I know – caaaake (drool)…

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This was adapted from a recipe for a layer cake, using 2-9″ cake pans, but I didn’t have the patience for all that, so I threw it in my bundt pan.  I didn’t, however, change the amount of frosting.  Get ready for the hearty frosting layer, people.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 bananas)

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk

Mix together the wets (sugar through banana) until thoroughly combined.  Dump in about half of the drys, mix.  Add the buttermilk, followed by the other half of the dry ingredients.  Coat your pan with cooking spray, pour the batter in, and bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

As you eagerly await the cake, prepare the frosting.  Mix together:

2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar

until smooth.  Let the cake cool a bit, then slather it up.

The cake is really moist and lovely, even after its second day in the fridge.  I won’t be giving you a report on how it survives three days, because it will be eaten by then.  Caaaake.

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The wildfires have been raging all week here in San Diego – so many people have been evacuated, and now over 1500 homes have been destroyed.  It’s totally surreal, because even though the fires are happening all around, you’d hardly know it from where I live.  There’s the tell-tale haze in the air, and a faint smoky smell, but we’ve been spared much of the exposure here in Ocean Beach.  Even so, they keep saying that the air quality is really bad, so we’re encouraged to stay indoors and limit activity.  To avoid becoming too news-laden and freaked out, I took on a few kitchen projects.  My camera is still traveling, so no pictures this week.  You’ll have to trust me – this is good stuff.  It’s a little time consuming, so I’d save it for a lazy Sunday.  Or a hazy Wednesday, if you’re in SD.

Three Sisters Baked Beans (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

1 cup dried beans (I used Vaquero)
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 canned chipotle peppers
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (thanks, Mom!) 
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
15-oz. can hominy, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
4 cups winter greens (such as collards, kale, chard)

Rinse, soak and cook the beans.  Reserve the cooking liquid and add enough water to make 4 cups. 

In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups liquid, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotles and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, and then transfer tomato-chipotle mixture to food processor and process until smooth; set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, oregano and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Add squash and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Stir in beans, hominy, molasses, tomato-chipotle puree and remaining 1 cup liquid. Cover, transfer to oven and bake 40 minutes.

Remove bean mixture from oven and stir in vinegar. Serve hot.

I ate the dish at this point and loved it.  On the reheat, though, I added some greens and it came to a whole new level – I’d recommend their addition – I bet even stirring them in after baking the beans would wilt them enough.  Yum.  Hearty and comforting, and perfect for eating in front of the tv, watching for any good news that might appear.

An addition: I received this attachment of homeopatic remedies to fire-related symptoms in an email from my massage school. Hopefully it will come in handy for some.

For acute anxiety, fear, shock or grief:
Rescue remedy drops or spray: Take under the tongue or pour into a water bottle and sip throughout the day. See dosage information on the bottle.
Rescue remedy be used together alone or together with any of the following homeopathic remedies:
Aconite 30c/200c: for any illness that arises from fright
Ignatia 30c/200c: for acute grief or loss.
Pulsatilla: for anxiety in children (or adults) who are weepy, clingy and want to be held.
Calcarea carbonica: for undue fear of calamities or natural disasters. They cannot sleep due to the fear of losing their homes or loved ones.
Phosphorous: for anxiety in open, excitable types who want to be able to help everyone and get ill seeing the suffering of others.
Natrum Muriaticum: These types are equally as sensitive to the suffering of others, especially if they see any injustice. They are more serious or closed than Phosphorous types. This is also useful for grief, especially long-standing or silent grief, where they are not able to cry, or hide their tears behind a brave face.

For sore throats from exposure to smoke:
Echinacea and goldenseal throat spray: take as directed on the bottle
Home-made ginger tea: Cut up fresh ginger root and add to water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Drink throughout the day. (This will also help with mucus)
Zinc or Propolis throat lozenges

Eye irritation from smoke:
Try to use goggles when outside to protect your eyes. Use saline solution to rinse your eyes. If redness continues use Euphrasia eye drops or take homeopathic Euphrasia orally. For tearing, burning eyes that feel like you’ve been peeling onions, use Allium cepa (Especially if you also have a watery, burning nasal discharge)

General advice: Smoke exposure increases your need for Vitamin C, thus I recommend increasing your intake of Vitamin C during this time. Grapefruit seed extract can help your immune system deal with the air pollution.

Information provided by Tammara Guterman, homeopathic practitioner.

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