Saturday, October 17, 2020

Cornmeal Biscotti, Quarantine Kitchen

 So, I still don't know what day it is, but I do know that I went to Trader Joes' the other day and picked up a small packet of cornmeal biscotti.  Now, I know, I should make these myself, but I really wanted to see what they tasted like and whether I would even like them.  They were your standard hard-as-a-rock biscotti, with a little bit of a sandy cornmeal texture, and not many identifiable nuts.  But, it got me thinking that for what I paid for these 12 biscotti I could be manufacturing 100's of them them in my own kitchen.  
Today was another hot day here in San Diego, so weird for October.  
Normally we see the ocean and the freeway here, but tonight we are fogged in

I'd made a batch of Marcella Hazan's broccoli potato soup for dinner but really wanted to try to make some biscotti, my way.  I trolled the internet for some ideas, and this recipe is a winner, thanks to David Leibovich and his wonderful blog.  I did adapt it a bit since I like a more buttery taste, and I used my favorite nuts, pistachios.  I think these would be great with an addition of dried cherries, or cranberries for the holidays, and pecans would be a nice sub for the pistachios.  

Quarantine Cornmeal Biscotti
Makes about 40

5 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon paste (or 1 teaspoon lemon extract) 
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped salted pistachios

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with silicone or parchment paper. 
In a bowl, combine the butter, sugar salt, and eggs, until combined. Add the extract and lemon paste.  
Add the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and pistachios.  
Shape the dough into two logs about 13-inches long.  (they will expand in the oven)

They don't look like much, but they expand in the oven
Bake for 20 minutes until set.  
Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees, and allow the logs to rest for 20 minutes.  

Cut the logs into 1/2-inch cookies, and arrange on the baking sheet --- I like to follow my friend Lora Brody's way of doing this and standing them upright.  Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.  
The biscotti will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks, or you can freeze them for up to 2 months.  

So, a few notes here, if you wish to add dried fruit, about 1/2 cup will work well.  A drizzle of bittersweet chocolate would also be spectacular on these once they are cooled.  I've been using salted butter for cookies lately, and the difference is really interesting---deeper flavor for chocolate chip cookies, and vanilla cookies.  These also benefitted from the salted butter.  If you only have unsalted butter, use 1/2 teaspoon salt, rather than the 1/4 teaspoon.  
What is Lemon Paste, you ask?  

Neilson and Massey who make my favorite vanilla paste, have come out with a lemon paste, a combo of zest and extract---use it as you would extract, you'll get a nice punch of flavor.  I have used this in cakes, and these cookies, and am sold!  
So, we are into October, and Dr. C. and I have canceled our trip to Maui at Thanksgiving---I'm not whining, we are just sad for our country and the number of people who are sick and have died. Please wear your mask, stay safe, stay well and VOTE.   

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Quarantine Wonton Soup, Still Don't Know What Day It Is


Several weeks ago, the website Eater wrote about a company delivering freshly made Chinese dumplings to your door.  It didn't take me long to order a variety of gyoza, and wontons.  
The pork gyoza were delicious, we ate them too fast for me to photograph---let me stop here and say, I salute all the bloggers out there, who can style their dishes, and take the perfect photo before digging into the dish they've been craving all day---I'm not there.  Half the time, the dish is 1/2 eaten, and we try to mash it back together again.
Anyway, when looking into the refrigerator last night I saw I had some forgotten baby bok choy, and the remains of a Costco chicken, so I decided to make wonton soup for lunch, using the Hong Kong-style shrimp and pork wontons that we had ordered. The result was awesome, so I thought I'd share it. Above are the frozen Hong Kong wontons---Hong Kong-style are made with an egg noodle, a little richer than the plain wontons made with flour and water.

Quarantine Wonton Soup

Serves 6
6 wontons per person---this is a guesstimate
1 tablespoon sesame oil--plus more for garnish if desired
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked shredded or chopped chicken (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil, and keep on a simmer. 
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic, ginger, and bok choy and saute till the bok choy is wilted.  

Add the chicken broth, chicken (if using), and soy sauce.  

Simmer for 15 minutes.  
Cook the (frozen) wontons in the salted water for 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, arrange 6 wontons in each soup bowl, and ladle in the soup.  Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil if desired.   

So the verdict: a winner!  I will order these little guys again---we still have a couple of bags (they come with about 30 in each bag) and the flavors are fresh and delicious.  If you are in LA or San Diego in their delivery zone, this is a great option.  
I usually don't cook Asian or Mexican because there are so many great Asian and Mexican options here, but since we aren't eating out yet, I can certainly fill in with these guys delivering to my front door.  
Stay safe, stay well, and wear a mask.  

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Hottest Day of the Weekend, It's Time for Minestrone


So while the rest of the nation is apple picking, and raking up fall leaves, here in San Diego we are experiencing record heat.  Fortunately, for now, no fires are burning in our area.  

I still have no idea what day it is, and I spend days trying to decide what I'm going to cook, and there are days when I don't cook and we simply order in or grab something from the freezer.  Yesterday I felt like having a bowl of comfort, even though it was 90 degrees here at the coast.  I've been using Insta-Cart to get most of our groceries, and Gelson's markets have had stellar produce, so I put in my order and 2 hours later I have the veg I needed to make some soup.  

I kind of picture this soup being made by Tony Soprano, or one of the guys from Goodfellas, or the God Father movies when they are holed up somewhere for a while.  This soup and a pot of sauce with meatballs. 

 During hot weather like this, my slow cooker is a God-send.  I use it for soups, braises, and as a low and slow oven.  At high, a slow cooker should be at 300 degrees, so you can slow bake foil-wrapped potatoes, or make lasagna.  

In Italy, minestrone really is a vegetable soup, that may have a few leftover beef or pork bones thrown in for flavor, but they hardly ever use stock to enrich the broth, rather they will use Parmigiano rinds, fruity olive oil to begin the soup, and fresh veg to flavor the soup.  I threw all that out the window yesterday, I started with sweet Italian sausage, added wine, and tomatoes, and both beef and chicken broth because I wanted a really hearty soup.  So, here goes.

Quarantine Minestrone

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage (I've also used chopped rosemary in this)
1/2 cup dry red wine
One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups beef broth
3 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chopped spinach (I've subbed kale, or Swiss chard in here if it's looking good)
One 14.5-ounce can either small white beans, or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chopped Parmigiano Reggiano rinds
1/2 pound small pasta, such as pennette, orzo or small shells, cooked al dente
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil for garnish
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish

In a Dutch oven, cook the sausage, until it is no longer pink, and break up any large pieces.
Add the onion, celery, carrots, and sage, and saute until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  

Add the wine and tomatoes, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes to concentrate the flavor.  

Add the broths, zucchini, beans, spinach, beans, and rinds.  Bring to a boil, and simmer for 3 hours.  

Add the pasta, season with salt and pepper.  Serve drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkle with cheese if desired.   
The soup keeps refrigerated for up to 4 days or freezes beautifully for up to 4 months.  
Slow-Cooker Savvy:  Saute the sausage and mirepoix.  Add the tomatoes and wine, then transfer to your slow cooker insert, add the broths, veg, and rinds, cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.  

A few notes on this soup:  
  • If you want to make it vegetarian, leave out the sausage, and use vegetable broth
  • I've made this using cauliflower as one of the veg (about 2 cups of florets), it's really a soup that is from the garden so whatever you have will be fine in it.  
  • Sub in Kale or Swiss chard for the spinach.  
  • Always cook the pasta (if you are using it) before it goes into the soup, otherwise, it will absorb all the broth.  I've also used cheese tortellini in this soup and it's delicious.  
As the day winds down, I pray you are all well and safe.  Wear your mask, and keep social distancing.  Ciao for now.  

Sunday, September 27, 2020

What to Do With Leftover Corn

Living a few miles up the hill from the Chino Farm Vegetable Shop, I'm blessed to be able to enjoy their corn when it's in season here.  With climate change, the season was a bit late, but the corn, as always is the best on the planet.  Even with just 2 of us here at Chez Phillips, I usually buy a dozen and then cut the kernels off the cob and use them for cottage pie, corn chowder, and yesterday for a quiche-like dish that we enjoyed with a salad for dinner.  You can make this vegetarian by omitting the bacon, but why would you?  The bacon gives it a nice smoky quality, with a little texture, which makes each bite delicious.  Other ideas, sub in leftover grilled seafood or chicken for the bacon, and change up the cheese---I think it would be great with any cheese, but I had some suspect sharp white cheddar that I needed to use, so that's what was in this one, but I think you could use Parmigiano, Asiago, Monterey Jack (or pepper jack and omit the basil) a lovely French Mimolette, or even Havarti with dill.  Feta or flavored goat would work as well.  I prefer the sharp cheeses for their contrast with the sweet corn.  

Chino Farm Sweet Corn Quiche
Serves 6

6 strips thick-cut bacon
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups corn cut from the cob (in winter buy frozen and defrost it)
6 large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and a few drops Tabasco or Frank's hot sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese 

In a skillet, cook the bacon until it is crisp, remove all but 1 tablespoon fat, and saute the onion and corn for 2 to 3 minutes until the onion is softened.  Set aside to cool.  

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, heavy cream, salt, and pepper, until blended.  Stir in the cooled corn mixture, cheddar, and basil.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of a 9-inch pie plate with non-stick cooking spray.  
Pour the mixture into the pie plate, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes until set in the center.  Allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting into wedges, and serving.  This can be a main course, side dish, or breakfast casserole.  


This dish can actually be frozen; bake for 30 minutes, the center will still be a bit jiggly, cool completely, wrap airtight, and freeze for a month. To reheat, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, cover the quiche with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until an instant-read meat thermometer registers 155 in the center.  Let the quiche rest for 10 minutes before cutting.  
I still don't know what day it is, but I can enjoy the beauty that surrounds us here and be grateful.  Wishing you all a joyous day.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Baseball is Back, I Still Don't Know What Day it is, so It's Ballpark Food

Baseball is back; albeit with empty stadiums, or those filled with cardboard cutouts behind the plate and down the right and left side of the fields.  My favorite has been the Korean baseball teams that had stuffed animals in the stands---
I've got a crush on these Teddy bears, check them out on FB or Instagram. 
So, having a sports writer for a son, and a dad who dragged us to every brand of sports in Boston, you join in.  As a kid, my dad would make us keep score so that he knew we were paying attention. 
For our dining pleasure on Sunday afternoon, while we were watching the Padres vs the Diamond Backs, I decided we could imitate being at the game and I'd make sausage and peppers.  This is a pretty simple dish, but it can go so wrong, with the wrong sausage.  Use Italian sausage for this, no breakfast links, or bratwurst or Andouille---it just doesn't work. 

Sausage and Peppers
Serves 6

2 pounds Italian sausage (I use sweet, as I'm not fond of spicy sausage in this)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, like Vidalia---you'll need about 2 cups, thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced yellow, orange and red bell peppers, or Italian long frying peppers (see note 1)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/4 cup tomato puree or chopped tomatoes (see note 2)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley

Put the sausage and water into a microwavable dish, cover, and cut a few vent holes in the plastic wrap.  Cook for 5 minutes on high.  You can also do this on the stove top in skillet.  What you are doing here, is almost cooking the sausage through--it takes less time that doing them in a skillet on the stove top and the sausage is juicier.  
Preheat the grill or a grill pan, and grill the microwaved sausages, until they are cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning to brown evenly.  Set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil, add the onion, and saute until it begins to turn translucent.

Add the peppers, and oregano, season with salt and pepper. saute until the peppers are softened.  

Add the tomatoes, basil and parsley, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the sausages back into the pan, and simmer another 5 minutes.  

Season with salt and pepper, serve on soft Italian rolls and pretend you are in the stands cheering on your team.  
Cook's Note 1:  It can be difficult to find Italian peppers, they are long and thin, and authentic for these sandwiches, but they can be hard to find outside of a metropolitan area.  Here in San Diego, Specialty Produce has them in stock. They tend to cook up faster since they have a thinner skin.  If you can't find them, colored bell peppers work really well here, as you can see.  Don't use green peppers, the flavor just isn't what you want.  
Cook's Note 2:  At the ball park you might not get peppers with tomatoes, because they are making the peppers and onion on a flat top grill.  It's up to you whether you use the tomatoes or not---we like it this way, but it's really a personal taste decision.

So our team lost, and I decided that sausage and peppers was a bad luck lunch, but that doesn't mean that I won't make it again since it's summer and there is a baseball.  ⚾