Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spaghetti with Anchovy Carbonara

I know the thought of anchovy pasta doesn't thrill all of you.
That's okay... it was pretty exciting to me.
I was thrilled to see this recipe in Food & Wine (April 2011) and couldn't wait to give it a try.

Well, it took me a while, but recently when the lights were out after a big wind storm and the only thing working in the house was the gas range, I had the perfect dinner to make (and eat...) by candlelight.  There is something very umami and special about the anchovies in this pasta that is not overwhelmingly salty or fishy.  Perfect for a simple dinner with some good wine, like a nice crisp sauvignon blanc white wine.

One trick that this recipe uses is adding some of the pasta cooking liquid to help with the sauce.  If you've never tried, you really need to!  It works so well, here's the recipe that I like that I first tried this technique, Cacio de pepe.

Note- It's hard to tell the lights are out, because we'd just changed our clocks for day light savings time...  these were taken about 5:30pm with lots of new Spring light coming in the kitchen window.  I am SO looking forward to the longer, sunnier days ahead...

Serves 4

12 ounces spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One 2-ounce can flat anchovies, drained and chopped
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp chopped oregano
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water.
In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil with the garlic and anchovies and cook over moderately high heat until the anchovies have dissolved, about 2 minutes. 

Add the red pepper, zest, oregano and parsley, then add the pasta and toss to coat. Remove from the heat.
In a small bowl, whisk the yolks with the 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water and add to the pasta. Cook over low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated in a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

NOTE- Add a bit more of the reserved pasta water if the pasta seems too dry.

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sour Cherry Pie Martini

Well, I missed Pi (3-14-16) day, it's the day every food blogger in town posts a pie recipe.
Except me.
I'm just too busy these days for all that mid week baking stuff.  
However, this recipe is easier than pie, and tastes just as yummy.

First thing out of taste tester's mouth (that cute guy of mine) "Ahhh, that tastes better than pie!"
Have I mentioned that his favorite pie is cherry?
Ultimate compliment.

Later on, I whipped up a bigger batch to take to a tea party with my mom and sisters (What?  What do you take to a tea party?... maybe you should come to one of our parties!  LOL)

This tastes strong, but I did keep reminding the others who were sampling, that it was "half juice".  Plus, you won't have to worry about scurvy or gout if you have one of these.   Hahaha!

NOTE-  A jigger is about a 2oz measure, but you could use a 1/4 cup measuring cup too.

Makes 2 big martinis

1 jigger of lime
2 jiggers of sour cherry juice (Trader Joe's or Knudsen's are good ones)
2 jiggers of vodka
1 jigger of triple sec

In an ice filled shaker, add all the ingredients.  Shake, shake, shake and strain into martini glasses.
You could garnish with a cherry, or a wheel of lime, but really... it tastes so good, you don't really need a garnish.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Truffle Popcorn

One of the yummiest things to eat while you are watching a movie, sports, or one of your favorite shows.  Since combining truffle oil and truffle salt with our melted butter on stove popped popcorn, we have never been back.  This is now our favorite (only!) way to enjoy popcorn.

However, you DO need to invest in some expensive stuff:
$20.00 Truffle Salt (which will last a LONG time), Amazon link here
$13.00 Truffle oil, Amazon link here

Also, I have found truffle oil at "Home Goods" and TJMaxx for half the price, so if you go to those places, run through and have a look.  Never hurts to save a little cash.

NOTE- If you really wanted, you could add some finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese, which is also quite delightful. 

Makes about 10-12 cups

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
1 tsp Truffle oil
1/4 cup butter
Truffle salt, to taste 

In a medium dutch oven, with a lid, over medium high heat, add the oil.  Let it heat for about 1 minutes and toss in the popcorn kernels.  Add the lid and while holding the lid in place with pot holders, shake, shake the pan over the heat.  Let sit for about 30-60 more seconds.  Shake, shake, shake again.  Let it sit for 30-6- more seconds.  By now, you may have heard a pop, or two.  Keep up the routine of shaking and letting sit for 30 seconds.  When the popcorn is starting to slow way down, pull it off the heat and add to a big bowl (or two if you prefer not to share...)  Turn off the heat. While the pan is still hot, throw in the butter and melt, adding about one teaspoon of truffle oil. Swirl to combine and drizzle all over the popped popcorn.  Toss with a sprinkle, or two, of truffle salt and enjoy at once.

Truffle oil and truffle salt will come in handy for lots of things like some of my other posts.  
In case you need some ideas, here you go:
  • Arugula Salad- Use both with a little olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon, truffle salt & pepper
  • Polenta with truffle oil and arugula 
  • The biggest thing I use truffle oil for?  Popcorn...

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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes you see a recipe and think, yeah, I bet that is good.  This is one of those.  I saw this "Crazy Banana Cake" on this blog.  

I took this one to a family party last night and it was a hit even with those who normally don't like dessert, and even some "cake-haters".  This one is so moist and delicious, that it is mostly instant love.  I'm looking forward to taking this one to work very soon.
There are a couple of things that make this one "crazy", which are baking at a low heat and putting into the freezer right after taking out of the oven.  What both these things do is help the cake be very moist.  The cake never evens freezes in those 45 minutes, it just stops the cooking (which of course continues when you remove something from the oven) more quickly than letting sit on your counter to cool.

 You will notice in the ingredients that there are not any brown bananas showing.   I bought my bananas a couple of weeks ago, but when they were delightly ripe for baking, I didn't have time to bake.  So I threw them in a Ziploc and smashed them flat.  Making them flat makes it super quick for thawing, plus they are easier to store in the freezer.

 Makes a 9x13 cake

1.5 cups very ripe bananas (3 fresh bananas or 4 thawed, previously frozen bananas)
2 tsp lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups buttermilk (OR milk soured with one tbsp vinegar or lemon juice)

Pre-heat oven to 300º F, and grease and flour (or spray), a 9×13 cake pan (use Pyrex glass or  a metal pan that can withstand the oven to freezer instructions.

Mash banana and mix with lemon juice and set aside.

In a med bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

If you’re making your own buttermilk, combine milk and vinegar (or lemon juice) in a small bowl, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.
Beat in flour mixture alternately with buttermilk.
Stir in bananas.

Pour into greased/floured (or sprayed) cake pan and bake at 300º F for 1 hour, check to see that a toothpick comes out clean.

Immediately place in freezer for 45 minutes.  No need to cover the cake, but you’ll want to place it on a thick, folded towel to protect items underneath.(if not completely cool upon removal from freezer, let cool further before icing).  Here's mine in the freezer.

Cream Cheese Icing:
1/2 cup butter, room temp
8 oz cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese. Beat in vanilla and icing sugar on low until combined, then high until smooth. Ice the cake generously.  Enjoy!  

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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Salad with Oranges, Fennel, Feta & Pine Nuts

I could use a little dose of Spring right now, what about you?
Here's a bright, fresh and crunchy salad that is easy to make, travels well in case you are taking it to enjoy at friend or family's house.

Recently, I rushed to bring a salad to a lunch at my mom's with all my sisters.
Honestly, I was going to stop and buy a bagged salad at the grocery store, I was just tired and a bit uninspired.  Not much in the fridge, but once I had another look, I saw a slightly sad looking fresh fennel bulb that I bought at Trader Joe's recently.  Now the thing about fennel is that is does last a long time and retains it's texture, but fact was, I needed to use this one up.

Here it is shortly before I hit the road to grandmother's house (ahem... I mean Mom's house).  Have salad, will travel. Perfect to wrap up and take to go

Here are the ingredients before I started, I must admit, I didn't intend to blog this one, but it started to come together quickly so I decided to take some photos.  Then, later after sharing with Mom and sisters (the biggest food critics) I decided this one was worth sharing.

Serves 5-6
1 large fennel bulb, cut very thin (if there is green on the top, retain some for the salad too)
2 oranges, peeled and sliced (plus 1-2 Tbsp of juice*)
6 cups of romaine lettuce, cut up into bite size pieces
2-3 Tbsp of oil, either olive or vegetable
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice 
Salt and Pepper
2-3 Tbsp of pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup feta, crumbled or cut into cubes

Prep the oranges by cutting the peel off the outside of the oranges, removing the white part too.  There is some waste, but it gives you nice looking, easy to eat sections for the salad.  I squeezed the peels (which have lots of orange still attached on the inside to make the dressing*).

Toast the pine nuts over medium high heat in a fry pan,  keep shaking them until they start to brown.It will take about 4-5 minutes, but be careful not to burn them.  Remove from the fry pan and let cool.

Make the dressing in the bottom of the salad bowl (you will build the salad on top it, tossing it before serving) by adding the olive oil, mustard, orange and lemon juices.  Mix together with a fork, or small whisk.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the chopped up romaine, then layer on the thinly cut fennel, the cut up oranges, fennel fronds (green part), crumbled feta and pine nuts.  Cover with plastic and chill until ready to serve.

I buy my pine nuts at Trader Joe's and I store them in a freezer Ziploc bag in the freezer between uses.  My reason?  I've had too many pine nuts go rancid when stored in the cupboard.  What? You don't know what a rancid pine nut tastes like?  Oh.... you will know, I promise.
Best idea?
Buy them and immediately throw them into the freezer for a moment such as this.

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