Monthly Archives: November 2010

Spanikopita

Every year after Thanksgiving, I find myself craving something as far from roasted bird as possible. These are the times for Thai takeout, sushi eaten curled up on the couch and breakfast-for-dinner.

A nice meal my Greek-looking friend and I recently enjoyed would be perfect for such times. Ina Garten’s take on that classic Greek dish: spanikopita.

Ina creates a robustly flavored filling of spinach, toasted pine nuts, onion, scallions, Parmesan, nutmeg and cubes of feta cheese that becomes sealed in a packet of buttery phyllo dough that flakes off as you bite into it.

Working with phyllo is always aggravating, and this time was no different. Next time, I will make fully sure that my dough it completely thawed before working with it – lest it break off into a million shards.

We used less than half the recipe, freezing the rest for another time. We made six spanikopitas, which we served with Grant’s classic cucumber/tomato/onion salad like his Southern mama used to make.

Spanikopita

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Plain dry bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups small-diced feta cheese (12 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 24 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • Flaked sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the scallions, and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl.

When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons bread crumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.

Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the dough lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush it with butter, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. (Use just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don’t stick together.) Pile 4 layers total on top of each other this way, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with bread crumbs. Cut the sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise. Place 1/3 cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. Then fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling is used. Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down. Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp. Serve hot.

This was so delicious that I instantly burned my tongue so bad that I had to suck on ice for the next 15 minutes. But it was WORTH IT!

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

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The Pork King

The smell alone was enough to drive me away. The pigs and slaughterhouse were located in an adjacent building at the Nahunta Pork Center, somewhere in southeastern North Carolina. After laughing at the billboards for about 50 miles, we decided to find out what exactly “America’s largest pork display” looked like.

Inside was literally the largest selection of pork products that I’ve seen in one place. I mean, the whole store was pork!

You walk in and encounter a fresh pig head looking at you, next to the pig tongues and pig’s feet. Behind the counters, employees sawed off various other parts of the swine to make country ham, sausage, bacon, etc.

Gah!

You knew there would be chitterlings. That’s right – pig intestines! Not only did they have a large selection, but they were conveniently molded into bricks (I imagine lard held them together). I just love the sign: “Chitterling Loaf (Heat & Serve!)”

Just when you thought you didn’t have enough lard…

More lard!

We were bummed that they were out of T-shirts, but they did have gift cards! Grant got an awesomely bad trucker hat. I was holding my breath at this point to avoid becoming nauseous.

To make the trip complete, we stopped by one last porky store before we left:

Can't find these in the PNW!

Sometimes I really think The South has a “special” relationship with pork.

xoxo

Scallops gratineed with wine, garlic, herbs

I don’t do dinner parties very often, so sometimes it’s nice to create one for  two people, as if you were feeding a crowd. Make it complete with flowers on the table, candles, themed music, wine and entertainment.

All things French recently got under my skin. I wanted a French meal with French wine and to watch a French film. Describing this to a co-worker over drinks one night, he asked, “Are you a Francophile?” After I figured out what that meant, I said no, I am not obsessed with the French. I simply like cooking with butter.

Julia Child immediately came to mind and I picked her version of scallops Provencale – gratineed with white wine, garlic and fresh herbs. I’m usually wary of shellfish cooked with cheese, but I must say this turned out perfectly splendid.

Grant got a really nice French white wine and red wine, and tuned Pandora to something you would hear in a French cafe.

Before preparing the scallops, I finished up this bizarre yeast-cake that is supposed to be like the one Amelie makes in her movie. I’ve never made a cake with yeast, I’m assuming this is a French tradition. Anyway, you essentially fold the dough over butter and sugar a bunch of times, then top it with sliced fruit (I used apples tossed with lemon juice and orange zest), and more sugar and butter.

Then you bake it and everything caramelizes and oozes together.

I must say I didn’t fancy this cake, which is why I’m not going to bother you with the recipe.  The texture seemed wrong – I just didn’t get it. But the fruit was tasty.

Certainly, the star of the show was the scallop dish, as described below (note: Julia writes her ingredients as they appear in the cooking method, so notice the multiple times butter is listed):

Coquilles St. Jacques a la Provencale

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. minced yellow onions
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 1/2 T minced shallots
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 lb. washed scallops (we used the small guys)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 c. flour in a dish
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine plus 3 T water
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/4 c. Swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 T butter cut into pieces

Cook onions slowly in butter in small saucepan for 5 min, until tender and translucent but not browned. Stir in shallots and garlic, cook 1 min. Set aside.

Dry scallops and cut into 1/4 inch slices, if you don’t have the small ones. Small ones can be whole. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, roll in flour and shake off excess.

Saute scallops quickly in large pan, heated with 2 T butter and 1 T oil for 2 min, to brown. Work in batches, if needed.

Pour wine and water into pan with all the scallops, de-glazing with a wooden spoon. Add herbs and cooked onion mixture. Cover and let simmer for 5 min., then uncover and boil down sauce for 1 min. Check for seasoning.

Simmering away

Spoon scallops and sauce into a baking pan (or individual ramekins), sprinkle with cheese and dot with butter.

Ready for the broiler

Run under moderate broiler 3-4 min, until heated through and cheese is lightly browned.

We served the scallops hot and bubbling, with some toasted French baguette and more French wine.

I complained that my scallops were a little tough, but Grant said I was crazy. One thing I WAS crazy about was this sauce! Oh my, Julia, you know how to make a great sauce. Bread is absolutely necessary to sop up all that flavor.

We finished up supper and then settled down to watch “Amelie,” of which I finished a little over half before drifting off to sleep. A satisfactory end to Frenchie day.

Enjoy your dinner parties for two (or one), friends! xoxo

Pomegranate-ginger glazed pork chops

Pomegranate seeds are like little rubies that burst with sour juice when you bite into them. When I was little, I loved popping them between my fingers, the purple spray going everywhere.

While fun to play with, pomegranate seeds are a bit high-maintenance. Especially after I watched my mother make pomegranate rum as a child – the process of extracting the juice took forever.

Nowadays, a savvy cook just buys the juice and uses the seeds as a garnish. Which is exactly how this dish works. Adapted from We Are Not Martha, the sweet glaze pairs perfectly with thick-cut pork chops. With the addition of fresh ginger, garlic and soy sauce, it has an Asian twist that is lovely.

This is perfect with a fruity red wine. We served it along side mashed Yukon gold potatoes and garlicy steamed broccoli.

Pomegranate-Ginger Pork Chops

Ingredients:

• 1/2 c. pomegranate juice
• 1/2 c. sugar
• 1 T cornstarch
• 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
• 3 T soy sauce
• 3 tsp ginger, minced
• 3 tsp garlic (3 cloves), minced
• 3 thick-cut boneless pork chops
• 1 whole fresh pomegranate, opened with seeds removed (cut into quarters, place under water and gently pull out seeds. The water keeps it from squirting you. Drain seeds.)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine pom juice, sugar, cornstarch and red pepper flakes. Stir until bubbling and thick, then remove and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger and soy sauce. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil over medium-high. Pat chops dry and place in hot skillet, then spoon half the garlic-ginger mixture over the meat. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn and spoon the remaining mixture over. Cook another 5 minutes, or until cooked through and barely pink. Remove chops from pan and keep warm. (Note: I had to pop mine in the oven at 350 for a few minutes to finish cooking – you don’t want the sauce to burn).

In the chop pan, pour a little pomegranate juice in to de-glaze, scraping up the stuck-on bits. Off the heat, add the pomegranate syrup you reserved and stir to combine. The sauce will be thick and very dark with a deep, rich flavor. Just splendid.

To serve, pour sauce over the chops and top with seeds.

This was a fun meal to make that filled the house with wonderful smells. The sauce is good enough to eat with a spoon! I literally licked the plate and spoon and fork.

I encourage you all to get your antioxidants in and drink more pomegranate juice! xoxo

Momofuku Milk Bar

After months – nay, years – of wishing and hoping I’d get to go to this New York City hidden gem, it happened. My friend and I had a few free hours at the end of a NYC work trip, so I made her promise to accompany me to the East Village for some crack pie at Momofuku Milk Bar.

Momofuku is ridiculously hard to find. The cab driver was like, “You’re looking for a restaurant? This address is a neighborhood.” Then we arrived (indeed, in a neighborhood) and there was no sign – just the number on the door.

Then, we had to walk down this discreet passageway beside the dining room before we got to our goal: the milk bar. I don’t know much about milk bars – except to say that they sell really good milk. The whole idea confuses me. Here are some reasons why:

  • Their milkshakes have alcohol in them. What kind? How much? How does it taste? These are questions for my next visit.
  • Their milk is flavored. With things like “pumpkin pie” and “cereal.”
  • The cute girl behind the bar said to not mind any lumps in the milk, as that is just the whole-milk solids or something.
  • They have black sesame croissants. (this is just cool)
  • They sell Stumptown coffee!!! (Yay Oregon!)

Our “lunch” consisted of one cereal and one strawberry milk, the notorious “compost cookie” and the legendary crack pie.

First, on the milk. OMG. Mine was strawberry, and it tasted like a smooth, cool strawberry milkshake. But better.

Next, the compost cookie. Here are just some of the ingredients: chocolate, butterscotch, coffee grounds, peanuts, oats, pretzels, POTATO CHIPS. Okay, Momofuku has mastered the salty-and-sweet technique. The cookie tasted like, well, the best cookie I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to bring home more.

Finally, the crack pie. As you’ll remember, when I made it, it was yummy, but had issues. The pie was super sticky on the bottom and the texture seemed a bit off. I know these things because Momofuku’s crack pie corrected all these problems. The crust was homogeneous in texture and perfectly contained the custard. However, it tasted the same as mine. Mostly. I think the crusts were the most different – mine maybe needed to be more finely crumbled. Observe:

Momofuku's crack pie

My crack pie

Crack pie is something I hope you all can experience in your life. As is this weird thing called a milk bar and the difficult-to-pronounce Momofuku.

xoxo

Spiced apple cake

For months, I’ve coveted a very special bundt pan at Williams-Sonoma. It’s a splurge, is smaller than normal bundt pans, and it called to me. I’ve never loved shaped loaf pans. I don’t like the traditional tube any more than I like the rose-patterned ones our mothers used. Until I saw this pan…which looks like some kind of smooth sea shell with sharp edges and clean lines.

So I finally bought this pan after finding an old recipe I clipped from Every Day With Rachael Ray three years ago. Don’t worry – if you are not an R-Ray fan, know that she did not write this recipe. I’ve found her magazine has better recipes because her editors are actually talented cooks who test recipes.

This will calm your craving for a comforting fall dish. Five big, tart apples sliced thin and added to a simple batter spiced with cinnamon. The apple-to-batter ratio is heavily in favor of the apples, making the cake oh so moist and soft. You’ll think there are too many apples, but they turn soft and smooth layers within the cake.

I brought leftovers to a breakfast meeting at work and everybody loved it.

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canola oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 Granny Smith apples (about 1¼ pounds)—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 12-cup bundt or tube pan. In a medium bowl, combine the 2-1/2 cups of flour with the baking powder and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon. In a large bowl, toss the apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the 1 cup of oil with the eggs, orange juice, vanilla and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the flour in 3 batches, mixing until just combined. Add the apples and stir to combine. Transfer to the pan, leaving about an inch at the top, and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1½ hours. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 30 minutes before unmolding it onto a rack to cool completely.

Enjoy this toasted for a morning breakfast or at room temperature for a nice treat throughout the day. It’s not too sweet or dense like a pound cake, but just as moist and flavorful. I think it’s a keeper.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Quick, easy Coq au Vin

Coq au Vin is one of those classic French dishes that I imagine would transport me to Paris, with Julia Child on my arm. We’d have a leisurely day picking out a nice plump bird, slab of smoky bacon and a hearty red wine, then spend the next 10 hours cooking it all together.

When I’m not jet-setting with my fantasies, I’m in a warm Southern kitchen with a checkered tea apron around my waist, seeing what my wooden spoon will cook up next. This streamlined Coq au Vin lacks the all-day cooking richness that the classic dish enjoys, but it still hits all the right flavor notes. Think bacon, onions and red wine all bubbling away in your skillet. The smell is wonderful and I enjoyed the festive purple color. A nice weeknight dinner – maybe I’ll tackle Julia on a Sunday.

Bon Appetit’s Quick & Easy Coq au Vin

Ingredients:

  • 4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
  • 8 ounces large crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, halved (Note: I omitted)
  • 8 large shallots, peeled, halved through root end
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as Syrah)
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
  • 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 300°F. Sauté bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.
Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Add to drippings in skillet. Sauté until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side; transfer to pie dish (reserve skillet). Place in oven to keep warm.
Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown, about 4 minutes. Add garlic; toss 10 seconds. Add wine, 1 1/4 cups broth, bacon, and 1 tablespoon parsley. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Boil 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, place flour in small cup. Add 1/4 cup broth, stirring until smooth.
Add flour mixture to sauce. Cook until sauce thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Arrange chicken on platter; stir juices from pie dish into sauce and spoon over chicken. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.
Enjoy, Frenchies! xoxo