About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simplest Potato Salad

For the nutritional value, potatoes are inexpensive and available year round. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. This is a no frills recipe:

Steam assorted varieties of fingerling potatoes until just fork tender. Refrigerate until cool or cold. Slice on the diagonal. Garnish with tomato slices and a pinch of basil. Dress with oil and vinegar and salt and pepper.
Voilà - tastes as good as it looks.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Lori’s Stuffed Italian Tomatoes - Pomodori Repieni al Forno

Lori’s recipe is a favorite of mine. When summer came and the tomatoes were at the peak season of their season, these little beauties were quickly consumed no matter how may were made.
1 Cup uncooked long grain white rice
6 Tablespoons of non-filtered extra virgin olive oil.
8 Large vine ripen tomatoes (Early Girl is a great variety)
1 Teaspoon ground black pepper and some salt
6 Large cloves of very finely chopped Italian red garlic
1 Large bunch of Italian parsley chopped fine

Cut the “lid” off the tomatoes and retain. Being careful not to pierce wall of tomato, hollow out tomato cores with a spoon and retain pulp. (I use a small sharp knife tip run around the inside edge of the tomato, followed by an X-shape cut through the core not deep enough to pierce the bottom of the tomato, the fol­low up with a spoon.) Reserve the tomato pulp. Add tomato pulp, pepper, garlic, rice, and salt all together. Squeeze tomato pulp through your hands to break it up. Stuff tomatoes with mixture but make them flat on top. Cover each tomato with its own tomato lid and place in a shallow glass-baking dish. Drizzle tomatoes with oil.

Cook very slowly for 4 hours on 325 F. Baste the liquid that runs in the pan back over each tomato, starting at 30 minutes and every 30 minutes there after. After three hours, test rice with a fork, if still too hard, add a few teaspoons of water to each tomato top. When cooked, and cooled, transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with your best tasting olive oil. Serve lukewarm. Garnish platter with a few large springs of parsley.

1.  For this recipe, the rice will be slightly crunchy in spots as not 100% of it completely cooks by this method. I think it is part of why I like these so much. As an alternative, in the first 15 minutes of cooking, the stuffed tomatoes are covered with tin foil, the rice gets cook completely but the tomatoes and the rice both seem overcooked and often the tomato may split. It is only through very slow cooking that produces an intense tomato flavor and gets so sweet.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cooking from Scratch

First, there was darkness, and, then a BIG BANG… 19 billions year went by, mankind’s ancestors crawled out of the mud. Not long after that, they published The Joy of Cooking. Viola, we were soon cooking with confidence. Why you say?  Because Irma Rombauer had written down easy to follow information and how-tos for the home chef. Soon we were off confident we could render squirrel, opossum and raccoon so armed with the confident words of this conversational cookbook.

Super markets and more cookbooks later almost anything is practical although a few of us may hesitate to stay up so late at night as be afforded the opportunity for opossum. Cooking from Scratch is quite satisfying. Tara Stolz, a blogger from Florida points out there is “not much that can't be made at home, better and/or cheaper. And, of course, she is right as rain! (http://cooking-from-scratch.blogspot.com)

My friend Bob Kong called me one afternoon and threw down a challenge – did I have a recipe on preparing caviar. His friend Larry had given him a seventy-five pound sturgeon. I quickly searched The Joy of Cooking and found a recipe. I called Bob back with the good news. I said I would help. Turns out, Bob had heard Larry incorrectly; the fish was too big for Larry to weigh but the roe weighed 75 pounds. We did not get out of the kitchen until three in the morning. The effort, nonetheless, was a great satisfaction. We had the best caviar I had ever tasted. Bob gave me 10 pounds of the finish product. I served some to my father who said not only was it as good as Beluga. but it was the first time in his life where he actually had as much caviar as he wanted at one sitting.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chèvre is French for Goat (revised)

Greek Feta cheese has a distinctive salty, tangy flavor and crumbly texture. The world of cheeses have many similar cheeses yet newspaper foodies exult only feta. This cheese is made from sheeps milk, or from a mixture of sheep and goats’ milk There are thousands of alternative cheeses.

For topping pizza or making a salad, there are endless alternatives that are worth trying. Many of these have less salt, which in the case of salt restrictive diets make the healthier choices:

Teleme (smooth-tart flavor without the salt), Bryndza (one of the softest crumbly type of cheese, Queso fresco (less slat), Queso cotija, fresh Mizithra (contains less salt), Montrachet (texture is softer, moister and it contains less salt).

Many French cheeses simply blow my socks off. Buche de Chevre (La Buchêtte chèvre) is a cheese that is sharp and tangy near the rind becoming successively richer and creamier towards its center. From salad to pizza, to stuffed quail or chicken breast, there is little time to try all the cheese possibilities. When our family visited France, we found every single town made their own wonderful cheeses.

Often we seem to get stuck in a rut. Should we always use cream cheese for cheese blintzes? How about a variation on the ricotta in lasanga? Should all cannoli made with mascarpone? Why not a goat cheese cheesecake? I am wondering what a cheese blintze would be like made with a rich and creamy French Reblochon cheese?