Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life is a Bowl of Cherries...

Challenge Cherries...Are you in?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca

As part of my food blogging learning process, I take breaks from the law during the day and peruse some of the more experienced food blogger blogs. It's also a great way to find inspiration for a quick, weeknight dinner.

I've made Pasta Puttanesca a few times before and came across Smitten Kitchen's post for the recipe, which she adapted from Ellie Krieger. I made a few adaptations of my own, based on the available ingredients in the house, and it turned out very tasty!

All of the sauce ingredients - minced, chopped and measured...

Sauteed garlic

Parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano, crushed red pepper

Tomatoes and splash of red wine

Chopped, fresh arugula (I used a spring mix that included some arugula)

And a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and toasted pinenuts

Pasta Puttanesca (Serves 4, or 2 with leftovers for Mom and lunch)


1 lb. thick spaghetti
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives
4 tablespoons capers
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh arugula (or Spring Mix)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Toasted pinenuts for garnish


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the parsley, olives, capers, anchovy paste, oregano and crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in the arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated cheese and toasted pinenuts.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

John's Chicken Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

We have a late entry for Challenge Fill Me Up Until I'm Stuffed!

John had every intention of sharing this dish at Concert in the Park, but sometimes two chefs in our little kitchen generate more stress than heat. So, on Sunday, as I was diligently mastering the art of potstickers, John was faithfully monitoring my margarita glass and washing dishes.

On the morning after, he took over the kitchen and impressed me with this incredibly delicious ravioli for the two of us.

Beautiful, fresh ingredients really make a difference. Sage and sun-dried tomatoes....

Roasted red peppers for the sauce...

Ground chicken, Applewood smoked bacon, toasted pinenuts, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, sage smoked mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, for the filling...

Homemade pasta...

John had to make a special rig to get our pasta machine to stay secured to the counter edge, but he seemed to have it under control...

You can see all of those lucious ingredients in that spoonful of filling...

Gently covered with a soft blanket of dough...

So sorry we were unable to share...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Challenge "Fill Me Up Until I'm Stuffed"

The calm before the storm...

This is our beautiful Jacaranda tree, hours before the Memorial Day weekend crowds flooded Spreckles Park to kick off the first concert of the summer.

Our first culinary theme of the Summer 2009 Challenges, Fill Me Up Until I'm Stuffed, lured in a few of our creative and faithful chefs.

I tackled Shrimp Potstickers with Spicy Dipping Sauce, using Martin Yan's recipe as a guideline. The filling is primarily composed of ground pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, ginger, cilantro, green onions, sesame oil and cornstarch. Making the filling was the easy part...combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix.

I then set out to make homemade potsticker dough. Don't try this without one of John's margaritas within easy reach.

The dough, flour and water, comes together quite easily in the food processor and then rests for about 15 minutes. It's then divided, rolled into long cylinders, and sliced into 3/4 inch pieces. The pieces are then flattened into little disks and the little disks are each rolled into paper thin circles measuring about 4 inches in diameter. I was able to make about 24 wrappers in a mere 6 hours...well, let's say 2 hours.

The next step took some time to master, gently cradling the wrapper in the palm of your hand, placing a tablespoon of filling in the center, and sealing the edges with cute little pleats. After about 14, I got the hang of it. Here they are, ready for the pan.

The potstickers are pan-fried in a little oil until the bottoms are golden and then steamed to finish the cooking.

I used our little portable burner to prepare the potstickers at the park, table side. The Spicy Dipping Sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili-garlic sauce, hot chili oil, and chopped green onions.

Unfortunately, I didn't make enough potstickers to go around.

In addition to my potstickers, we enjoyed the following stuffed and filled creations...

Kai's Spring Rolls

Dina's Tomatoes Stuffed with Basil Pesto and Fresh Mozzarella

Mary's Chocolate-Dipped Stuffed Dates (first marinated in Grand Mariner)

Sandra's Shrimp Quesadillas

Melinda's Cream Puffs and Strawberries in Chocolate Ganache

Madeline's Dessert Assortment

Mom's Stuffed Zucchini with Lamb & Mint

....and Pammy's Stuffed Salad?

Congratulations to our newly married couple, Mark and Kerry.

And goodbye, for now, to Brandon.

Get ready for Challenge Cherries ...they are delicious, in season and one of my favorites!

Denise & John

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Farro Salad with Squid, Chorizo and Fresh Favas

This was featured in Food & Wine, April 2006, Wine Country Recipes - South Australia. I love squid and chorizo, but have never tried Farro. Marjoram was another rarely used ingredient in my cooking. I added some fresh Fava beans, another recently discovered treasure, for their beautiful color, texture and taste.

This would be a perfect salad for a gourmet picnic for two, paired with a nice bottle of Shiraz.


1 cup farro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 ounces dry chorizo, skinned and sliced 1/4 inch thick (1/2 cup)
3/4 pound cleaned squid— bodies cut into 1/4-inch rings, large tentacles halved
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup shelled fava beans (my variation)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the farro, cover and simmer over low heat until the farro is al dente, about 45 minutes. Drain and transfer to a serving bowl.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chorizo and cook until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the squid and cook, stirring, until just white throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Add the squid to the farro along with the cherry tomatoes, fava beans, parsley, marjoram, vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, toss well and serve right away.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sartu', Neapolitan Rice Timbale

I picked up La Cucina Italiana for the first time and decided to try this recipe out of the March/April 2009 issue. The preparation made for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon in the kitchen and my time spent was well-worth the impressive and delicious outcome. We served the Sartu' with roasted asparagus, bread and a nice bottle of Chianti.

Sartu', Neapolitan Rice Timbale
From La Cucina Italiana, March/April 2009, No. 9
2 hours, 30 minutes - 6 servings

  • 1 ounce dried wild mushrooms
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate (from tube)
  • 7 cups chicken or beef broth, heated to a simmer
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 pound pork sausage
  • 2/3 pound ground beef
  • 3 large eggs (printed recipe states 3 eggs, but instructions only call for one)
  • 5 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 5 tablespoons fine plain breadcrumbs, plus more for mold
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for mold
  • 4 ounces chicken livers, cut into small pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes

Special Equipment: a 2-quart mold or ovenproof bowl.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Soak dried mushrooms in 2 cups hot water for 20 minutes; drain, reserving liquid, and finely chop.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.
Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Dilute tomato paste in 1 cup broth, then add to pan with onion.
Add mushrooms, peas and pinch salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add sausage and simmer, covered, until sausage is nearly cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Transfer sausage to a cutting board and slice into 1/4 inch pieces.
Return pieces to skillet and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is mostly evaporated, about 10 minutes more.
Remove from heat.

In a bowl, stir together beef, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano, 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Form into 1 1/2 inch balls.

In a large skillet, heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
Dust meatballs lightly with flour and fry in 2 batches until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.

Drain oil from skillet and wipe clean with paper towels.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium-high heat.
Add liver and pinch salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liver is cooked through, about 2 minutes.

Add liver and meatballs to skillet with sausage, stir to combine.

Combine remaining 6 cups broth and mushroom liquid in a large saucepan; bring to a boil.
Add rice, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain rice; spread onto a large plate and let cool to room temperature.
Transfer rice to a large bowl; stir in 4 tablespoons butter and remaining 4 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano while still warm.

Grease mold or ovenproof bowl with butter and dust with breadcrumbs.
Put 1 1/2 cups of the rice mixture into bowl and press into base and up sides, forming a well in the center.

Pour meat sauce into well; top with mozzarella.

Then cover with remaining rice.
Cover with remaining 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces, and remaining 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs.
Bake for 1 hour.

Remove mold from oven; transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
Run a knife around edges of mold to loosen rice, then invert onto a large serving plate.

Serve immediately.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Creme de Menthe Chip and Dark Chocolate Crackles Ice Cream Sandwiches

A generous scoop of homemade ice cream, infused with Creme de Menthe liqueur and chocolate morsels, gently sandwiched between rich, decadent and chewy dark chocolate crackles…after just one taste of bittersweet chocolate, intermingled on your tongue with cool, refreshingly minty, and luxuriously smooth ice cream, your craving will slowly melt away.