Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Herb Oil

Some very good friends of ours own a wonderful Sicilian restaurant here in the San Francisco East Bay where they serve an amazingly delicious condiment at the table with bread - olive oil with steeped herbs. With our garden now busting with herbs as we come into the height of the growing season, it's imperative that I make some for our own home-cooked meals. Almost any combination of fresh herbs will work but this is the set of ingredients I usually go with.

3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
leaves from a branch of rosemary
1/4 cup basil leaves
leaves from several twigs of thyme
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
couple of twists of fresh-cracked black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a mortar, pound the garlic with a pinch of salt until a paste. Add the parsley leaves, rosemary leaves, basil leaves, and thyme leaves, a herb at a time, into the mortar pounding until a paste forms. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper then a tablespoon of the oil to further combine.

(alternately, if you don't have a mortar and pestle, just chop everything finely together before adding the oil)

Add the paste to a Mason jar then the remainder of the olive oil and allow it all to steep for at least 24 hours before using. I find that it will last at least of couple of weeks but we almost always use it up before then.

Blistered Padrón Peppers

With the ever-decreasing summer fog where we live in the San Francisco East Bay shore due to climate change, I'm finding that peppers are becoming a much more reliable vegetable to grow in my home garden. As a result I've taken to growing one of my favorite treats, the Spanish padrón pepper. Not only are they growing successfully but they're coming earlier each year - I harvested these last week, even before the end of June. I've seen, and tried, several recipes where they are stuffed and they are fantastic when pickled, but this seems to be the classic Spanish take on them - blistering them in oil in a skillet on a stove top and well-salted for serving.
If you've never had them, most of them are rather mild but without warning about 1 in 10 will get pretty high on the Scoville scale so go slow at first if you're sensitive to heat. If you love them, though, they're hard to stop eating.

several small fresh picked padrón peppers
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons high quality sea salt

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the peppers, turning occasionally to evenly scorch the outer skins. Once the peppers are well-blistered (without getting burnt), remove to a bowl, salt well, and serve while still warm. 

Bucatini all'Amatriciana

Having really enjoyed this dish in Rome just last month during our trip there, I absolutely had to try making it once I got back. As noted in the Ingredients below, it's not easy to find one of its main ingredients, guanciale, here in the States but well worth the effort in order to reproduce the character of the dish. Luckily we live a short distance from Chris Cosentino's wonderful shop Boccalone in San Francisco that carries all kinds of high quality pork products. 
The recipe here is based on one I found, after a good amount of researching, from a delightful blog, The Italian Dish. I tweaked it with my own changes but then my mileage almost always varies when it comes to following recipes.
If you've never had guanciale I highly recommend trying to find some - it is also perfect for spaghetti carbonara, another Roman delicacy. I've seen several sources online via Amazon although there seem to be mixed reviews on the various vendors so caveat emptor


red onion diced

rendering the guanciale

this is about how I like it look once it's been rendered

cooking down the onions, wine, and tomatoes

bucatini, kind of a fat spaghetti

Pecorino Romano, grated

1/4 pound guanciale* (or one 1/4 pound chunk of pancetta)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, evenly diced small
healthy pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine 
1 1/2 cups fresh skinned, or canned, whole tomatoes, crushed 
1/2 pound bucatini (or spaghetti)
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (or real Parmigiano-Reggiano)

* Since guanciale can be fairly difficult to get in the US, most American versions of this recipe suggest pancetta, or even bacon, as a substitute for it. However if you want the flavor to be as close to that of the dish as it's prepared in Italy, I'd strongly recommend making the effort to get good quality guanciale. Pancetta will suffice; in my opinion bacon has too much of its own character to be a good substitute but if that's all you can get, go for it.

Cut the guanciale (or pancetta) into thick strips then into cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and when hot add the cubed guanciale. Cook until most of the fat has been rendered and the meat is becoming crisp. Remove from the skillet and set aside saving the fat in the pan. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile add the olive oil, the diced onion, and the red pepper flakes to the skillet in which the guanciale cooked, cooking until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the wine, bring to a simmer using a wooden spoon to loosen any bits left in the skillet from the meat. Add the tomatoes with any juice it may have, bring to a simmer and let it cook and reduce uncovered for about 15 minutes, adding a spoonful of water if it starts to dry out. Add back the guanciale to heat up with the sauce.

Once the large pot of water is boiling, add the bucatini and cook it a couple of minutes short of the instructions on the box. Remove the pasta from the pot and add it to the skillet with a dash of the pasta water. Let the sauce continue cooking with the pasta for a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to combine then remove from the heat. Add in the grated cheese and any salt it needs for seasoning, mix everything completely, then serve.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Grilled Steak on Arugula

1 pound top sirloin steak
1 large red onion sliced into 1/4" slices
one large bunch arugula

3 tablespoons cup balsamic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 branches chopped rosemary

1 part balsamic
1 part red wine vinegar
4 parts olive oil
1 clove garlic peeled and crushed

Season the steak and onions with the salt and pepper. Place all of it into a ziplock bag with the marinade ingredients and have it sit in the refrigerator from 1 to 4 hours.

When ready to cook, grill the onions until they are soft but not colored. Grill the steak over high heat until seared and cooked to medium rare.

Allow the steak to rest at least 10min before carving against the grain into slices.

Combine steak, onions, arugula, and dressing at the table.

Green Beans with Aioli

Now that summer is here, with farmer's markets bursting at the seams with green beans, this recipe may be worth checking out. I got the idea for it from Deborah Madison's New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone (which I highly recommend anyone getting for their cooking library, even if you have the original edition).

1 pound fresh green beans
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup aioli

1/2 cup homemade or store-bought mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Prepare the beans by cleaning the ends. Fill a medium saucepan to half with water, salt the water, then bring to a boil. Add the beans and cook uncovered until just tender. 

The freshness of the beans and your preference will determine how long that is. The beans we got for this were pretty fresh from the market and it took about 5-6 minutes to get them just al dente.

Drain the beans and put into a bowl. Immediately, while the beans are still hot, mix in the aioli and chopped parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste, serve.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sautéed Petrale Sole in Herb Butter Sauce

Another drop of wonderful Northern California petrale sole from SirenSeaSA this week so I went with this sweet recipe from Simply Recipes, a kind of a take on sole meunière with a beautiful herb butter sauce. With the garden bursting with fresh herbs in the Spring now, I love trying to work them into anything I cook for the amazing aromatic quality they bring to even the simplest of dishes. Between the fresh herbs and the fish, this recipe was a natural.

Garden herbs and shallots

beautiful fillets

this is about done

adding the shallots to the pan

... and the butter

sauce is just about done

dressed and ready to serve

3 large fillets of petrale sole
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 even pieces
leaves of several fresh thyme twigs, minced
minced fresh chives
juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon wedges

Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels. There is a lot of moisture in petrale sole, so you might have to pat them dry twice. Lightly salt the fillets on both sides.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully add the fillets to the pan and brown gently for 2-3 minutes or until browned but not burned. Carefully flip the fillets over and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the fish starts to lightly come apart - it will be done when it flakes easily and is no longer translucent. It really takes very little cooking time over all. Once done, remove the fillets from pan, place on a warm plate, and tent with foil while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, add the minced shallots to the pan in which you cooked the fish and sauté until soft - this should take less than a minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine making sure to scrape up any browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Add the pieces of butter and gently swirl to make a sauce. Add the minced herbs and squeeze the lemon juice into the sauce. Spoon over the sole.

Serve immediately with the lemon wedges at the table.

Braised Celery Stalks with Onion, Pancetta, and Tomatoes

Finally back from our wonderful trip to Italy and France and ready to start blogging again. This is one dish that I ran into a couple of times in Rome and I just had to put a good version of it into the home rotation of go-to recipes. I've always loved the flavor of celery, now I'm starting to get the idea on how to use it as the base of its own dish. This recipe is adapted from one I got from a Marcella Hazan book - never a bad place to start with Italian dishes new to me.

Sliced onion

Strip of pancetta

sliced celery

garden tomatoes

sautéing the onion slices

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion sliced into very thin half-moons
1 cup pancetta sliced into strips
1 cup vine-ripened skinned or canned whole tomatoes
1 large head of celery

Cut the stalks of the celery from the root base and lightly peel the strings from the outside. Slice the stalks cross-wise into 3 inch long pieces.
In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and, when hot, add the sliced onion. Cook until the onion is wilted and lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add the strips of pancetta.
Once the pancetta has begun to color, about 5-10 minutes, add the tomatoes and any juices, and the celery, and season with the salt and pepper. Bring the contents to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes and keep an eye on it, adding a little water if needed to keep it from drying out. Once the celery has softened considerably, remove the cover and allow the liquid to reduce to a syrup if it hasn't already then serve.

Osso Bucco

This is one of those meals you have to share with several people to get the full benefit - it's never worked for me to make this for less than 4 people. Not a cheap cut of meat and some times it can be a bit tricky to find good veal shanks but absolutely worth the effort both in getting good ingredients and taking the time to make a good version of this dish.

Tying the shanks

Rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves from the garden

Preparing to flour the shanks

garlic and orange peel

Just prior to serving

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
several peels of a lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
herb bouquet - rosemary, thyme, bay leaves

flour for dredging the shanks
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 veal shanks cut into 1 1/2 inch thick pieces (yields 6)

veal stock to braise the shanks(28 fl oz)
2 cups tomatoes, peeled and puréed

Pre-heat an oven to 350°F.
Prepare each shank by tying it with twine tightly around the perimeter to hold the meat together during cooking and serving.
In a Dutch oven, add the butter and olive oil over a medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, and onion to cook to translucence, about 5-6 minutes. Add the lemon peel and garlic to the pot and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the herb bouquet and remove from heat.
In a large iron skillet (12-14") add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high heat. Salt and pepper each shank, dredge in flour shaking off excess, then add to the hot skillet. Cook in batches, 3 in each batch, until each shank is entirely well-browned, then move to the Dutch oven with the vegetables and herbs. In a saucepan, bring the veal stock to a simmer.
When all of the shanks have been cooked and in the Dutch oven, add the veal stock and puréed tomatoes to cover the shanks to about 2/3, add a touch more salt and pepper, and bring it all to a boil. Cover tightly and move to the lower third of the preheated oven and cook for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and a light sauce has formed from the liquid.
This can be prepared a day in advance and reheated on a stove top just prior to serving.