Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ratatouille Pizza

I've never liked ratatouille, and I'm not sure why.  I like everything in it.  But when it's all mixed together and basically turned into mush, well, it's just not appealing to me.

Then I saw the movie, which made me love the idea of ratatouille.  My favorite scene is when the food critic takes his first bite of the ratatouille and is instantly transported back to his childhood.  That's what truly great food does for me, takes me somewhere else altogether.

But I still don't really like ratatouille.  Brad says I'll change my mind when I try his.  We'll see, he hasn't made it yet.

In the meantime, I'll just continue to enjoy ratatouille in my own way.

Why, yes, of course I mean on a pizza.

Ratatouille Pizza
Layered with thinly sliced eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red onion and topped with goat cheese, this pizza is a perfect showcase for summer vegetables.  Makes me think of sunny mornings spent in the garden.

You know, if we had one.

The other reason why I loved this pizza is I got to use my new mandolin.  No, not the musical instrument, this:

I'd wanted one forever (and ever), and Brad gave me a really nice one for my last birthday.  I had a feeling I knew what was in the box, when he gave me my gift a week early just before we made this awesome potato pave' recipe from Thomas Keller's ad hoc at home cookbook.  (It's like the best version of scalloped potatoes you'll ever have.  Ever.)

We drank one of our favorites with this pizza, a Pinot Noir by Robert Sinskey Vineyards.

Ratatouille Pizza
To make this pizza, you will need our standby whole wheat pizza dough and simple red sauce.  Or you can use pre-made, your choice.

1 small eggplant, thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
thinly sliced red onion
4 oz goat cheese
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Ideally you should let the pizza stone heat for 45 minutes to an hour, but we've heated it for less time and still had ok results.

Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a pizza peel or large rimless baking sheet and place the ball of dough in the center.  Coat your fingers with olive oil and press the dough from the center outward into a 12-inch round with a slightly raised edge.  If the dough springs back, it is not quite ready to work.  Cover it with a clean kitchen towel, pour yourself a glass of wine, and let it rest a few minutes before continuing.  Patience is key here, as the thinner the dough is, the crispier the crust will be.  And the dough will not let you work it until it is good and ready.  It's kind of stubborn that way.

Brush the raised edge of the dough with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  For this pizza we used Red Alae Hawaiian Kai sea salt.  You don't want to put a lot of salt on the crust, think about how much salt you'd sprinkle on a soft pretzel.  Spread the dough evenly with the tomato sauce, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered.   Layer on eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini and red onion, then grind a little black pepper on top.  It should look something like this:

Crumble goat cheese over the top.  Carefully slide the pizza-topped parchment paper from the peel or baking sheet onto the hot pizza stone.  Bake until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 9-12 minutes.

Using the pizza peel or rimless baking sheet, remove the pizza from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board.  Let stand for 1 minute, then slice and serve.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Salmon Cups a la The French Laundry

When Brad and I were in Napa for the marathon this past March, I was somehow able to snag a dinner reservation  at The French Laundry.

The French Laundry appeared on the S. Pelligrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list from 2002-2010; it was ranked the best restaurant in the world in 2003 and 2004, and the best restaurant in America for the years 2005-2008.  Since 2006 it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco.  It has received a number of James Beard Foundation awards, including Outstanding Wine Service Award in 2001 and Outstanding Service Award in 2003.  The main chef and owner, Thomas Keller, has himself received a number of James Beard awards, including Best California Chef in 1996 and Best Chef in America in 1997.  And he is the only chef in America who has been simultaneously awarded three Michelin star ratings for two different restaurants (the other is his restaurant Per Se in New York City).

In other words, Thomas Keller and The French Laundry are a very big deal.

And reservations are nearly impossible to get.  Seriously, Google "French Laundry reservations" and you'll see people have written extensively about their "tips" on how to obtain a spot in this highly coveted dining room.  It's crazy.  And, I can now say, so worth it.  My tip?  Be lucky.

When we arrived, it was clear that dining at The French Laundry was different than anything I'd experienced before.  I've been to many fine restaurants in my life, but walking through the door of The French Laundry I felt like a kid on prom night, suddenly unsure about how to conduct myself in a foreign setting.  (Ok, maybe your teen years weren't quite as . . . um . . . awkward as mine.)

Then the staff appeared at our table and instantly put me at ease.  Because although The French Laundry is one of the most exquisite dining experiences a person can have, the staff are so warm and gracious that it feels as though you've been invited into their home to dine.

Two chef's tasting menus are offered daily, one vegetarian and one not, consisting of nine courses not including the amuse-bouche and post-dessert treats.  And no single ingredient is repeated throughout the meal.  Our amuse-bouche were these salmon cornets; a magical savory little salmon tidbit resembling an ice cream cone.

We began Robin's birthday meal with these salmon cornets, which I've called salmon cups.  We don't have cornet molds, so I improvised using a whoopie pie pan and mini muffin tin.  While they don't have the whimsical appeal of the cornets, they were just as delicious.

I'm pretty sure you wouldn't find a whoopie pie pan in the kitchen at The French Laundry, but it worked for me.  (And, yes, I am now on the hunt for cornet molds because this recipe will definitely be made again in our kitchen.)

Salmon Cups

As noted, these are based on Thomas Keller's salmon cornets served at The French Laundry.  The recipe is from The French Laundry Cookbook, worth owning even if you never make anything from it.  The photography is stunning and Chef Keller's description of the care taken in selecting the perfect ingredients and preparing them with precision reads like a love letter to the culinary world.  Many of the recipes appear complicated, and some are indeed elaborate, but when you drill down to the core it's clear the focus of every step is to perfect each ingredient's role in the dish. 

So while you may not find yourself grabbing The French Laundry Cookbook on a harried weeknight, the ritual of spending some time creating and enjoying impeccable food can be very satisfying.

And if you go to The French Laundry, you can have Chef Keller himself autograph your cookbook.  (Geek!)

Kathleen, It's all about Finesse, Thomas Keller

In Robin's wine locker we found a 2001 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs.  We knew it would either be fantastically aged or ruined, so we had a back-up sparkler at the ready just in case.  (No, not the Martinelli's sparkling cider; Robin's saving that for a truly special occasion.)

And I'm happy to report it was phenomenal.  Not all sparkling wine can age ten years, but we found this one had developed a nice complexity and depth from its years spent in Robin's locker.

Salmon Cups
I won't lie, you'll need a little bit of finesse to pull these babies together.  And some Kevlar fingers.  Because you have to work quickly transferring the cups from the whoopie pie pan to the mini muffin tin, and those suckers are HOT.

1/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg whites, cold
2 Tablespoons black sesame seeds

Salmon Tartare:
4 ounces sushi grade salmon
1 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon  lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced chives
1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche:
1 Tablespoon finely minced red onion
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper, to taste

First make the cups.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a small bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and resembles mayonnaise.  In a separate medium bowl, using a wooden spoon or stiff spatula, mix together the flour, sugar and salt; beat in the egg whites until smooth.  Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, fully incorporating each addition of butter and whisking until smooth before adding more butter.  Transfer the batter to a small bowl, which will make it easier to work with.

Scoop a little batter into each well in the whoopie pie pan.  Using a small offset spatula, smooth out the batter and make sure it covers the entire bottom of each well.  Sprinkle tops with black sesame seeds.  Bake for about 3 minutes, until you see the batter has just begun to set but before it starts to really brown around the edges.  If you cook them too long they will be nearly impossible to form into cups.

Open the oven door and place the whoopie pie pan and mini muffin tin side-by side.  Working quickly, remove each cup from the whoopie pie pan and form into a cup in the muffin tin, with the sesame seed side down (so the seeds will be visible on the outside of the cups).  I used a chopstick to help release the cups from the whoopie pie pan.

Return the mini muffin tin to the oven and bake the cups for another 3 to 4 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Remove the tin from the oven and let the cups rest until they've slightly cooled, about a minute.  Gently remove them and transfer them to a paper towel to cool completely.

Next make the salmon tartare.  Using a sharp knife, finely mince the salmon.  (Resist using a food processor; Chef Keller says this may damage the texture of the fish.)  Stir in remaining ingredients, cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

Now make the sweet red onion creme fraiche.  Place the red onions in a small fine mesh strainer, rinse under cold water, then transfer to a paper towel to dry.  In small bowl, whisk the creme fraiche until it holds soft peaks, about a minute.  Fold in the chopped onion and season with the salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 6 hours.

Assembly:  Place a dollop of the sweet red onion creme fraiche in each of the prepared cups, top with some salmon tartare and garnish with a little bit of chopped fresh chives.  Ta da!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Menu for a New Decade

Our friend Robin had a birthday this weekend; today, in fact.  And it's a big one.  I'll let her tell you exactly which big one it is, but I'll just say I keep telling her my 40s have been awesome so far.

In honor of Robin's birthday, Brad and I hosted a wine dinner.  We had a great time working side-by-side in the kitchen prepping, cooking and serving, and I learned that I can take a not-all-that-fuzzy photograph after seventeen glasses of wine if I concentrate real hard.

Seriously, you try it.  It's not easy, folks.

Robin is from North Carolina, and lived in California and Wyoming before landing here in Denver.  She wanted a menu that would represent these various regions and she also had her heart set on fresh chestnut pappradelle, which she'd had on a trip to Milan.  Oh, how we love a challenge!

Robin provided us her menu inspirations, and Brad brought it to life.  I played the tambourine.  Not really; I don't even know how to play the tambourine.  And I actually did more than just the baking for this menu.

For the wine, Robin gave us access to her off-site wine storage lockers.  Trusting, isn't she?  The lockers are packed floor to ceiling with wine she's collected over the years.  I think she told us there are about 96 cases in there.  Or maybe 960 cases.  Anyway, there's a shitload of wine in those two lockers.  And fortunately for us, Robin hasn't really labeled any of it.  It was like being on an archaeological dig, but a lot more fun.  We even came across a bottle of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider in there.  Boy was she glad we found that for her!

Robin’s 40th Birthday Dinner
July 16, 2011

Salmon Cups / Caramelized Scallops on Melted Leeks / BBQ Sliders on Cornbread
2001 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs
2010 Lancaster Estate Sauvignon Blanc
2003 Acorn Syrah

First Course
Shrimp and Grits
2007 Fontaine-Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet

Second Course
Chicken Vol-au-Vent
2009 Arietta On the White Keys

Third Course
House Made Chestnut Pappardelle with Duck Confit and Wild Mushroom Ragu
2002 DePonte Cellars Pinot Noir

Fourth Course
Buffalo Tenderloin with Gorgonzola Butter
Fresh Green Beans
2000 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Lemon Sabayon-Pine Nut Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone Cream
1998 Vin Santo del Chianti

I'll write more about each of the menu items in future posts because there's no way either you or I have time to get into it all today.  Until then, I'll just say Bradleen's Kitchen kicked some serious culinary butt with this meal.

Monday, July 11, 2011

You Got Chocolate in My Peanut Butter!

You got peanut butter in my chocolate!

And I thank you for that.

As a kid, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups were my favorite candy.  They probably would still be if I hadn't embarked on adventures in cholocate eating via Mo's Bacon Bar and pretty much anything by ChocoloveJustin's makes a terrifically adult version of my favorite childhood treat; I love the dark chocolate one in particular.  (And look, ma, no high fructose corn syryp!)

Chocolate and peanut butter; peanut butter and chocolate.  The richer, the better. 

So when I come across something like this from Joy the Baker, I say "NOW YOU'RE TALKING!"  (Yes, I really did shout that when I found this recipe.) 

Anything chocolate and peanut butter that warrants multiple warnings about its addictiveness is, well, right up my alley.

When I told Brad I planned to make this, he turned to me said "I love you" and gave me a big kiss.

And that, my friends, is why I cook.

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
As noted, this recipe is based on one posted by Joy the Baker.  We only had about 1/3 cup whole milk, so I used mostly skim.  The ice cream was still super rich and creamy, really more like a gelato, so I'd stick with skim milk next time.

2 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
pinch of salt
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli 60% cacao)
1/2 cup smooth salted peanut butter ( I used Skippy Natural peanut butter)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, whisk together 2 cups of the milk with the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Heat until the milk start to steam, but do not let it come to a boil.

In a small bowl, whisk together until smooth the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and the cornstarch.

Add the cornstarch mixture to the heated milk and chocolate mixture, bring to a low boil and cook until thickened. The mixture will look the consistency of loose chocolate pudding; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Place chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Place 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a tall glass measuring cup and microwave until it just begins to boil (50 seconds in my microwave); pour over the chocolate chips. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir the cream and chocolate mixture briskly until incorporated.

Stir the cream and chocolate mixture into the cooling chocolate ice cream base. Place in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a lid, and put in the fridge for a few hours until cool.

Once cool, follow the manufacturers instructions on the ice cream maker to churn ice cream. Once the mixture has chilled and thickened in the ice cream maker, drop 1/4 cup of the peanut butter into it by small spoonfuls with the machine running. Turn off the machine before it becomes fully incorporated, to get a ribbon of peanut butter running through the chocolate.

Transfer the ice cream into a freezer safe container and add the remaining 1/4 cup of peanut butter by dropping small spoonfuls and folding to incorporate. Cover and freeze until solid.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How Easy are They?

Tina Fey might say these kebabs are as easy as a 9-piece jigsaw puzzle.  And she'd be right.  (Great book, by the way, T-Fey.)

This is also one of the best recipes we've made from Cooking Light in a long time; the flavors so bright, and such a great combination of textures.  I'd also file this under "perfect summer dish."

We prepared the kebabs under the broiler as the directions state, but think they would also be great on the grill.

If it's not raining.  Like it was here.  Sad face.

We had a 2010 Pinot Blanc from Robert Sinskey Vineyards with the kebabs.

Chicken Kebabs and Nectarine Salsa with Herbed Couscous

Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 24 (2-inch) pieces

1 large red onion, cut into 32 (2-inch) pieces
Cooking spray
2 cups diced nectarine (about 3)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeƱo pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado

Preheat broiler or prepare grill.  If using wooden skewers, be sure and soak them for about 30 minutes.  Safety first, folks. 

Combine spice rub ingredients and rub over chicken breast; let stand 15 minutes.

Thread 4 onion pieces and 3 chicken pieces alternately onto each of 8 (12-inch) skewers. Place skewers on broiler pan coated with cooking spray (or on the grill). Broil or grill until chicken is done, turning occasionally (about 10-12 minutes).

Combine all salsa ingredients except avocado in a bowl; gently stir in avocado.

Herbed Couscous
Prepare couscous according to package directions.  Before serving, stir in a few tablespoons of herbs you like.  We used chives, oregano and cilantro, and also added a little fresh lime juice to brighten the flavor.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Better Together

Brad and I had dinner last week at one of our favorite restaurants in Denver, TAG Raw Bar.  If you go, you have to do the chef's tasting menu.  The chef will ask if you have any allergies or other concerns, and if there's anything you don't like.  From there, he prepares course after course of tasty surprises.

After we finished the dessert course, he brought over a few bonus treats:  a creme brulee cupcake and a snickerdoodle cookie.  Both were delicious, but the cupcake was amazing.  A light white cake with a filling of creme brulee custard, crunchy browned sugar on top, and a single raspberry.  I knew I had to make some.

Creme Brulee Cupcakes
Do you love creme brulee?  How about cupcakes?  Right, who doesn't?  So what about a creme brulee cupcake?  Two great desserts that are even better together.

The Internet abounds with creme brulee cupcake recipes; apparently, they're quite the thing.  Most use a creme brulee-flavored cake, topped with a brown sugar buttercream frosting.  But that's not what we had at Tag Raw Bar, so not the version rolling around in my brain.  Then I found this version on Bakers Royale.  It was exactly what I was looking for, except for once in my life I said "yes, but not with chocolate."

Um, yeah.  These were pretty good.

Custard Filling
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
5 large egg yolks*, room temperature
Turbinado or raw sugar
Boiling water for the water bath

* Reserve the egg whites, as you'll need them for the cupcakes

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup of the cream, sugar, and salt; scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the mixture.  Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to boil.  Remove from heat, add vanilla bean pod and let steep for 15 minutes.  Remove vanilla bean pod and stir in remaining cream.

Whisk egg yolks in a medium bowl; slowly whisk the cream.  Strain mixture and remove solids.

Pour the custard mixture into ramekins.  I used four 8 oz ramekins instead of using creme brulee dishes, so there was less surface area.  Place ramekins in a roasting pan or large cake pan, and fill pan with boiling water to 2/3 of the height of the ramekins.

Bake until the custards are set; begin checking them after 30 minutes and continue baking and checking at 5 minute intervals until they are done.  Mine took 50 minutes, which was probably due to a combination of the high altitude in Denver, the larger ramekins, and I had to substitute about 1/4 cup of the cream with half and half because we ran out.

When done baking, cool the ramekins on a wire rack until they reach room temperature, approximately 2 hours.

Cover each with plastic wrap and chill until you're ready to assembly the cupcakes.  Be sure the plastic wrap is directly on the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming.

White Cupcakes
This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook.

3 1/4 cups unbleached cake flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus two tablespoons milk
1/2 cup plus 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature (you saved these like I told you to, right?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with paper baking cups (24).

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir vanilla into milk.

With an electric mixer on medium-high, cream the butter until smooth.  Gradually add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low and add flour and milk mixture, alternating and ending with the flour.  Beat until just combined after each, and scrape bowl down as necessary.

In another bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff (not dry) peaks form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter in three additions.

Divide batter among prepared muffin tins.  Bake until done (cake tester inserted in center comes out clean), 18 to 20 minutes.  Place tins on wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then take the cakes out of the tins and cool completely on wire rack.

To assemble cupcakes:
Using a sharp paring knife, cut a cone out of the center of each cupcake.

Fill each hole with custard, using the back of a spoon to spread the custard a little beyond the hole on the top of the cupcake.  If not serving immediately, place prepared cupcakes on a large cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap (again making sure the wrap is placed directly on the custard) and place in the refrigerator.

To serve, sprinkle some turbinado or raw sugar on top.  Hold a small kitchen torch 5 or 6 inches from the surface of the cupcake and wave it back and forth until the sugar has browned.  Sprinkle the sugar and torch the cupcakes one at a time for best results.

We had about a dozen cupcakes left over, so I made some of that brown sugar buttercream frosting and topped them with it so they'd keep fresh longer.  These cupcakes are also very good, although they're really not that reminiscent of creme brulee.

Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a double boiler over simmering water, whisking constantly, cook brown sugar, egg whites and salt until the sugar has melted and the mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form.  Continue beating until the mixture cools (about 4-5 minutes).

Add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the powdered sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary to fully incorporate.  Beat for another 3-4 minutes, until it is of desired consistency and thickness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

OK, Carb Lovers, Listen Up.

Do I have everyone's attention?  Good.

This here is the best dang pasta Bolognese you'll ever have.  Ever.  The only other Bolognese I've had that even comes close was at Michael Chiarello's restaurant, Bottega, in Yountville, California.  That was some great Bolognese, too.  Well, it was great until I mistook the kosher salt on our table for Parmesan cheese and dumped it all over the top.  Mmmm, I like me some Parmesan cheese on my pasta.  And, yes, I can be an idiot.  But you know what?  I finished that Bolognese anyway.  That's how good it was.  And this one is even better.

I find this Bolognese tastes best when a hot guy spends an afternoon making it for you, so that when you walk in the door in the evening you are greeted with the delicious smells of tomato, onion, garlic and all the other goodness it contains.   But I'm sure it pairs just as nicely with the satisfaction of having made it yourself.  I've just never gone that route personally.

The hard training portion for each marathon culminates with a 22-mile run, and Brad always makes pasta Bolognese for me the night before that run.  I'll never give up running marathons, just so he'll keep making this for me.

Pasta Bolognese
Each time Brad makes his Bolognese sauce he does something a little different.  This time when he was shopping for ingredients he saw the market had fresh Porcini mushrooms, so he added some of those.  He usually uses only dried Porcini mushrooms, and the results are also very good.  So don't stress if you don't come across fresh Porcini mushrooms.

For those paying close attention, that is Parmesan cheese grated over the top of the pasta, not kosher salt.  You'll like it better that way.  Trust me.

Brad prefers to serve his Bolognese with tagliatelle pasta, which is strangely hard to find in grocery stores.  Believe me, I've looked.  Everywhere.  So now he just makes his own pasta, which really doesn't take that long and makes the dish even better.  

That's Brad, rolling out the pasta.  Look how fast he is; it was impossible for me to take a picture where his cranking arm wasn't all blurry.  And I'm an expert photographer with state-of-the-art camera equipment.  Seriously.  Um, really.

When I'm only allowing myself one glass of wine because of a high-mileage run the following morning, it has to be a good one.  Robert Sinskey Vineyards makes a fantastic red blend called Point of View, or POV.

The Tasting Notes on their website say it's impossible to stop at one glass of this wine.  But fortunately I have super-human stopping abilities.  That and memories of high-mileage runs spent sweating out too much wine.  Not fun.

There's also a groovy POV video on the homepage, in which Rob Sinskey talks about the vineyard's organic and biodynamic approach to winemaking.  So drink a great wine and feel good about how it's made.

Fresh Tagliatelle Pasta
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup Semolina flour
3 eggs
Dash of salt
1 Tbs olive oil

1. Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl to incorporate.
2. Pour the flour/salt mixture onto a clean work surface (avoid granite as it can be too cold) and form a well in the middle.  Make sure the sides are high enough to hold three eggs.
3. Break the three eggs into the well in the flour and add the olive oil in with the eggs.

4. Slowly stir the eggs with a fork to break the yolks.  Continue stirring and slowly expand to incorporate flour.
5. Once the texture gets to the point where you can no longer stir with the fork, use your hands to incorporate the rest of the flour.  Knead until the mixture forms a dough.  The dough should not stick to your hands or the work surface.  Add more flour in small increments if necessary.
6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes.
7. Follow the instructions in your pasta maker to make the final pasta.  Tagliatelle or Pappardella work best with the Bolognese.

Bolognese Sauce
1 oz dried Porcini Mushrooms
4 Tbs Butter
8 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ cup finely diced onion
½ cup finely diced carrot
½ cup finely diced celery
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 oz Pancetta chopped
1 cup chopped fresh Porcini Mushrooms*
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
¾ lb ground pork
¾ lb ground beef
¾ lb ground buffalo
Portugese Sea Salt (Kosher salt will also work)
1 cup red wine
1 cup reserved water from soaking the dried Porcini Mushrooms
1 ½ cups whole milk
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 – 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes  (pour into a bowl and crush with your hands)
Parmesan Reggiano cheese

*  Cremini mushrooms will also work, or you can use all reconstituted dried Porcini mushrooms.

1. Place dried Porcini Mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 1 cup hot water.  Cover and set aside.
2. Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add butter and olive oil.
3. Once the butter has melted, add the onion and Pancetta.  Cook until the onion just starts to turn brown, stirring often to avoid burning.  About 7 minutes.
4. Add the carrot, celery and garlic, and cook until softened.  About 5 minutes.
5. Add the fresh and reconstituted (reserve water) Porcini mushrooms and rosemary.  Stir to incorporate and cook 3 to 4 minutes.
6. Add the pork, beef and buffalo.  Break apart using the back of a wood or metal spoon and cook until the meat just starts to brown, stirring to mix in with the vegetables.
7. Add the wine and water from the dried Porcini mushrooms, and stir.  Boil until the wine and water has almost completely evaporated.  Stir occasionally.
8. Reduce heat to medium, add the whole milk and nutmeg; boil until almost evaporated, stirring occasionally.
9. Add the tomatoes, stir and reduce heat to very low (as low as possible).  Cook for 3 hours, uncovered, or until the juices from the tomatoes have nearly evaporated or it’s reached your desired consistency.  Stir every 45 minutes to an hour.  Avoid the temptation to stir too frequently.
10. Ladle the Bolognese on top of the pasta and add grate the Parmesan Reggiano cheese on top.  Eat and enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Spring or Summer?

Spring roll or summer roll?  I've seen both names used for the Vietnamese rice paper-wrapped rolls that are sometimes fried and sometimes not.  Sweet dipping sauce or peanut-y?  Stuffed with meat?  Shrimp?  Rice noodles?

Lots of options for this one.

We wanted to use shrimp, and as luck would have it Whole Foods had just gotten in some beautiful fresh shrimp.  We said "yes" to peanut dipping sauce and "no" to frying and rice noodles on the inside.  A few veggies, some fresh herbs, and that was it.

Very healthy.  Very refreshing.

I'm calling them spring rolls.  You can call them whatever you like, as long as you call me to come eat some when you make them.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
These are a lot easier to make than I expected.  Once softened in warm water, the rice paper is pliable yet sturdy.  Although it does get a bit sticky; wetting your fingers while you roll will help with that.

A light, refreshing dish meets a light, refreshing wine: the 2010 Riesling from Chateau Montelena.

Its crisp acidity complemented the spring rolls perfectly.  And the glass I had before rolling them seemed to make everything go smooooothly. 

So open your bottle before rolling and have some fun.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
The spring rolls are based on a recipe from a recipe in the April 2004 issue of Cooking Light and the dipping sauce is based on one from allrecipes.

Spring Rolls:
12 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
3 green leaf lettuce leaves, quartered
3 cups fresh broccoli sprouts or alfalfa sprouts
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut carrot strips
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut cucumber strips
36 (2-inch) julienne-cut yellow bell pepper strips
24 medium shrimp, cooked, peeled, and halved lengthwise
36 fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

To prepare spring rolls, fill large bowl with warm water. Place 1 rice paper sheet in bowl; let stand 5 seconds or just until soft. Place rice paper sheet on a flat surface (we used a dinner plate). Fill roll by layering all ingredients; we started with 4 shrimp halves on bottom so they would be visible through the wrapper once rolled.  Fold sides of sheet over filling; roll up jelly-roll fashion. Gently press seam to seal. Place spring roll, seam side down, on a serving platter (cover with a damp paper towel to prevent drying).  Repeat procedure with remaining rice paper, lettuce, sprouts, carrot, cucumber, bell pepper, shrimp, mint, and cilantro.

Cut each roll in half on the diagonal.  Serve with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce:
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light coconut milk
3 tablespoons water (more if needed to achieve desired consistency)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  If the sauce is thicker than you like, add water to thin.  Chill until serving.