Friday, July 31, 2015

Quick Salad Supper for a Warm Night: Zucchini & Tomato Salad with Mozzarella & Cilantro

Hot, humid days make me grumpy--even though compared with much of the country right now, we don't have it that bad here. Still, this weather makes me want to eat lighter and stay out of the kitchen as much as possible. This simple salad from Jacques Pépin is a great recipe for a hot night--it goes together quickly, tastes great, isn't heavy, and it makes the most of summer ingredients.  

This recipe is pretty perfect as written so I pretty much left it alone. Since I had a few local sweet grape tomatoes hanging about, I sliced them and added them to the mix. The baby zucchini and cilantro are local and organic, and the tomato was from The Big Island, so everything was fresh and lovely. 

Zucchini and Tomato Salad 
Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin 
(Serves 4)

Jacques says, “For this recipe, I salt long, thin slices of zucchini and serve them raw. The salt flavors the zucchini and draws out its moisture, giving it a deliciously crunchy texture. Sometimes I serve the zucchini on its own with just a dash of olive oil, but it’s also wonderful with this tomato, mozzarella, and cilantro salad, which can be served on its own."

2 small, firm zucchini (each about 5 oz)
1 tsp salt
2 cups diced (3/4-inch) tomatoes
2/3 cup diced (1/2-inch) mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo mozzarella
about 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
(I added sliced grape tomatoes)  

Using a vegetable peeler, cut down the length of each zucchini to remove long, thin strips. Stop when you reach the seeds in the center, pivot the zucchini, and repeat on the other 3 sides.  Discard the seedy centers and put the zucchini strips in a non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper.

In another bowl, mix together the tomatoes, mozzarella, cilantro, lemon juice, olive oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.

At serving time, arrange the zucchini strips on four plates to create a border around the edge. Spoon some of the tomato salad into the center of each plate and serve immediately.

{Jacques Cooking Note: Both the zucchini and the tomato salad can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead of serving; if done any further ahead, they both tend to get mushy.

Notes/Results: So very simple, so very good. Since the salad is so simple, it needs great ingredients to be allowed to shine. Get fresh, local, and ripe produce, use your best olive oil and the freshest mozzarella you can. Don't skimp, it will be worth it. If you are not a cilantro fan, you could add another herb instead--basil, oregano, or tarragon would all be lovely, but the cilantro really adds a nice pop of flavor to the dish. I liked the contrast of the beefsteak tomato--fruity and almost meaty, with the sweetness of the grape tomatoes so I was happy I added them. I made a half-batch of the salad and loaded it onto a plate and ate it with slices from an olive loaf for my dinner. It was perfectly satisfying and the bread was good to sop up the juices from the tomato salad mixture and its briny flavor paired nicely with the other ingredients. I will definitely make this again.  

This post is linking up to Potluck Week at I Heart Cooking Clubs--our chance to make any Jacques Pépin recipe, or any recipe from a previous IHCC chef. You can see what recipes and which chefs that everyone cooked from by checking out the picture links on the post.  


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Food 'N Flix July Roundup: A Virtual Chinese Food Feast for 'Eat Drink Man Woman'

I have missed hanging out with my friends from Food 'N Flix the past few months so it was a treat to be back and to be hosting this month, especially when I saw all of the incredible food that was inspired by July's film; Eat Drink Man Woman. (You can see my announcement post here for info about the film.) It's always such fun to see what inspired each participant and, with the cooking talent we have in this group, our virtual feast could rival the best Chinese restaurant.

Get out your favorite pair of chopsticks (and a napkin to catch the drool), while we look at this month's roundup of film-inspired dishes.  

Our first entry in was Kimberly of Coffee and Casseroles. Unfortunately Kimberly could only find a non-subtitled version of the film (yikes!) but she still created a lunchbox that little Shan-Shan would have happily consumed; her Bento Box-Style Packed Lunch with Scallion Pancakes. Although her little pancakes proved quite the hassle to make, combined with rice, hard boiled egg and orange slices, they were a happy little lunch. And as Kimberly notes, "it is really comforting to have someone care enough to pack you lunch no matter how old you are." So True!

Terri of Our Good Life notes that, "the movie symbolizes the appetites of food and sex, which will ALWAYS make a great movie!" Rather than lunch or dinner, Terri went with breakfast for her inspiration and made a comforting Oat Congee with Fried Eggs and Scallions. Terri advises that "This breakfast is delicious, and don't lighten up on the soy sauce because it is morning. This dish begs for a healthy dose of soy sauce and green onions." With that luscious fried egg on top, this is one of the prettiest congees I have seen.

You can never go wrong with stir-fry and Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures made a delectable one, this Sesame Garlic Glazed Chicken with Stir Fry Veggies. She says,
"The family clearly expresses themselves through food (the father is a chef), so there is tons of foodie inspiration. Except for the fact that I have no clue what most of the food was. Or it was fish (which I don’t eat) or whole ducks or made in a bamboo steamer.  Nope, nope, and nope. So, I had to make my take on Chinese food and made a very Americanized (but popular with my family!) chicken stir fry with veggies."

Elizabeth of The Lawyer's Cookbook appreciated the food more than the plot saying "Sometimes I have problems with movies with subtitles. Eat Drink Man Woman provided me some trouble in that regard with paying attention. I kept seeing food, but I hardly followed the story line. Because of that, I can’t tell you what the movie was about." That's OK, because it still inspired this very tasty Asian Noodles with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Tofu. Bring on the noodles!

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm liked both the movie and Mr. Chu's food, saying "There were several dishes that appealed to me in this movie....almost all of them in fact. If I could I would have embraced some time with the master chef and learned every trick and skill that he would offer to share." Wendy's dish was inspired by the ruined shark fin banquet dish that Mr. Chu saved by converting it into another dish--"Joy, Luck, Dragon, Phoenix." Wendy found a recipe for Dragon and Phoenix Soup in a favorite Chinese cookbook finding, "This soup was so very delicious and so very easy to throw together. I can see why it is considered a wonderful celebratory soup in China. I will be serving this again and again when I get hungry for Chinese food."

Deborah of Eliot's Eats had not watched the movie in several years but was happy to see it as July's film saying, "It gave me another excuse (not that I needed anymore) to enjoy a rare summer day off to spend on the couch vegging. ... What better way to continue the vegging theme than to make a stir-fry?"  She notes, "I hesitated to make fried rice after Shan-Shan scoffs at a classmate’s lunch order: “Fried rice?  Too easy for Mr. Chu.” Lucky for us she went ahead because her Taiwan Fried Rice is the perfect accompaniment to the Stir-Fry with Pork and Vegetables she made. Both dishes bring the heat from fiery toasted sesame oil. 

Food 'N Flix founder Heather of girlichef finds Eat Drink Man Woman to be "a delight for the senses." Also a delight for the senses is the Garlicky Duck Stir Fry she made, inspired by middle daughter Jia-Chien and her desire to be a chef. Heather says, "We see how much talent she has as she cooks away her frustrations in her friend's kitchen. He sits at the table as she brings in tempting dishes such as Tsu-An Tofu, Carp with Garlic Sauce, Duck Oil Sautéed Pea Sprouts, and Duck Sauteed with Garlic. Originally I wanted to try to recreate the pea sprouts, but I couldn't find any, so instead I made a stir-fry that included duck fat and duck breast. I used some seasonal veggies I had on hand, and served it over some fresh Chinese-style noodles."

Although there were several dishes in the movie that tempted me, here at Kahakai Kitchen my favorite guilty-pleasure Chinese-food dish has been on my mind and I had been wanting to try my hand at making it healthier--keeping all of the pleasure, but ditching some of the guilt. So, while not in the movie and not Taiwanese-Style, my Honey-Walnut Shrimp, is a dish that says family, comfort and love to me. Lightened up with less fat and processed sugar, it was delicious served with brown rice and steamed sugar snap peas.


Although a submission after the deadline, I wanted to add Joanne from What's On the List's? entry. Joanne made an Asian Butternut Soup with Spiced Air-Fried Chickpeas and Coconut. Joanne says, "I can honestly say, I did not know what to expect from this movie, but am a big Ang Lee fan and while I enjoyed all of his movies to date, I really enjoyed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.There is really something about this movie that “really touches your heart,” literally and almost right from the start!" Joanne says her soup is an "Asian twist on butternut soup, as inspired by post-modern leftovers."

A big thanks to all of my Food 'N Flix friends who battled the sub-titles (or a lack of them!) and watched this film with me. As usual, you have outdone yourselves and you have me wanting to duck out to Chinatown and gorge myself silly! ;-)

If you missed July's Food 'N Flix event but you like food, films, and foodie films, consider joining us in August, when my friend, the lovely Debra of Eliot's Eats will be hosting with August: Osage County.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Healthier Honey-Walnut Shrimp, Served with Sugar Snap Peas & Brown Rice for Food 'N Flix July: Eat Drink Man Woman

I am hosting Food 'N Flix this month (you can see my announcement post here) and I'm so happy to share Eat Drink Man Woman (one of my very favorite classic foodie films) with the group. Of course I am sneaking in (the day before the deadline) to my own party as usual. ;-) I re-watched the film early in the month and decided on my dish, it just took me this much time to actually get around to cooking it.

If you have not seen this sweet and funny Ang Lee film about a widowed father and semi-retired chef and his three very different daughters, all who share their 'secrets' by announcing them at the elaborate weekly family dinners he cooks for them, do give it a go. It is subtitled--which I know isn't everyone's cup of tea--but the story is easy enough to get caught up in (especially if you have seen its Hispanic remake Tortilla Soup) and the food is plentiful and drool-worthy. 

You would think that with the amount of beautiful food that Mr. Chu creates, I could have found a fancy Taiwanese-style dish to make from the film. But sadly, my dish is not Taiwanese--it's an Americanized Hong Kong-style dish that just happens to be my guilty pleasure go-to at my favorite Chinese restaurant; Honey-Walnut Shrimp. Truly a guilty pleasure because between all of the saturated fat and sugar contained in this dish, it isn't something I indulge in often. Still, when I am 'eating my feelings'--rarely is there anything that satisfies as much as this dish. It has some slight variations depending on the restaurant, but generally it is slightly crispy, lightly battered shrimp with sugary candied walnuts tossed in a creamy (usually mayonnaise-based) sauce. I have been toying with making a healthier version for a while now and this seemed like a great push to actually do it. So, definitely it's different form the shrimp dishes served in the movie, but a dish that still says family, comfort and love to me. ;-)

I tend to prefer a lighter sauce to begin with in my Honey-Walnut Shrimp. I have had this dish where it is a big glop of mayo and frankly that's a little too guilty and WAY too much mayonnaise for my tastes--I want it glossy and creamy, not gloppy. I decided to lighten it up but still keep all of the elements--sweet-savory-crispy-creamy--that I love in the original. This version is yogurt based--although I left in a bit of the mayo for texture, and I added a touch of heat to keep it interesting. I also cut down on the white sugar that usually ends up in the dish, using honey and maple syrup to sweeten. I kept the shrimp lightly battered and sauteed the shrimp in coconut oil rather than deep-frying them, and I used a variation of Ellie Krieger's healthier Maple-Glazed Walnuts. It ends up being still a pleasure and an indulgence, but served with brown rice and steamed sugar snap peas, it becomes a healthier, much less guilt-inducing dish.

Healthier Honey-Walnut Shrimp
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen 
(Serves 4)

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or 2%)

2 Tbsp light mayonnaise (I used Just Mayo vegan mayo)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Sriracha 
(or other chile paste of choice to taste)
small pinch of salt

small pinch of black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp honey, or to taste

Shrimp 1 lb large or extra-large shrimp, shelled and de-veined, rinsed and patted dry
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/4 cup mochiko (or all purpose) flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
coconut oil for frying

Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts (see recipe below)
green onions, sliced 

To Serve:
Cooked brown rice
steamed sugar snap peas
In a medium-large bowl, mix yogurt, light mayo, lemon juice, rice vinegar, garlic powder, Sriracha, salt, pepper and honey together until smooth and well-blended. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your preferred level of sweet/tangy/spice/salt. Set aside. 

In a small shallow bowl, whisk egg and egg white together until smooth and well-mixed. In a second small shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch salt, pepper, and paprika and stir to thoroughly combine.

To large frying pan, add 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil--enough to cover the bottom completely. Heat over medium high heat until hot and a bit of the egg mixture dropped in begins to bubble.

Dip the shrimp into the egg mixture, lightly shaking off any excess and then dredge into the four mixture, again, shaking off the excess. A few shrimp at a time, saute them in the hot oil for about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side, or until the breading turns slightly golden and the shrimp are pink and cooked through but not over-cooked. Time will vary based on the size of the shrimp used. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Continue until you have cooked all the shrimp. 

Add the hot shrimp, and 1/2 the Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

To Serve: 
Place the shrimp over brown rice. Garnish with the remaining glazed walnuts and sliced green onions. Serve with steamed sugar snap peas if desired.


Maple-Honey Glazed Walnuts
Adapted from Ellie Krieger via Food Network
(Makes 1 Cup)

1 cup walnut halves
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp maple syrup 
1 pinch of sea salt

Preheat a dry skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the walnuts, maple syrup and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until syrup is caramelized and nuts are toasted, about 3 minutes. Let cool slightly and stir to separate.

Notes/Results: Oh yeah, this made me happy. Much healthier and cheaper than getting this dish at a restaurant, and although there are a few steps, it's not that hard or time consuming to put together. I had my brown rice, warm in the rice cooker and my lightly steamed sugar snap peas at the ready, so the dish came together pretty quickly. (Thanks to frozen, easy-peel wild shrimp, defrosted over night). I will admit that with the lightening up, the addition of Sriracha, mochiko (rice flour), rice vinegar, etc., that this dish isn't traditional Chinese cooking but the flavor and the pleasure was all there. It was creamy and sweet enough to match the classic dish, but I liked the spicy notes of the hot sauce and the tangy essence that the yogurt and vinegar gave it. The sugar snap peas are optional, but they add some color and a nice crunchy texture that pairs well with the creamy shrimp. I will happily make this dish again. 

The deadline for submission for this round of Food 'Flix is Wednesday, July 29th,
and I'll be rounding up all of the Food 'N Flix entries here at Kahakai Kitchen very shortly after. 

If you missed July's Food 'N Flix event but you like food, films, and foodie films, consider joining us in August, when my friend, the lovely Debra of Eliot's Eats will be hosting with August: Osage County

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Poached Salmon with Tomato Béarnaise Sauce

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are celebrating the five French Mother Sauces (Sauce Bechamel, Sauce Espagnole, Sauce Veloute, Sauce Hollandaise, and Sauce Tomate); the basic French sauces that most other sauces come from. Since we were to make a mother sauce or one of its children--a sauce derived from one of the five, I opened up my copy of Essential Pepin and went straight to the Basics chapter. Hollandaise sauce is one of my favorites, especially on top of Eggs Benedict, so I thought that I would start there. One of its most popular child or small sauces is Béarnaise Sauce with white wine vinegar and tarragon. Jacques had a Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise listed that immediately caught my eye. 

So if the Tomato Béarnaise Sauce is a variation of a child sauce, I suppose that makes it Hollandaise's grandchild?! In any case, this multi-generational sauce was destined for piece of poached fish. In keeping all things Pépin, I used his poached salmon recipe from the same book. And, because I am lazy and the days have been hot and humid, I chose to make Chef Pépin's Blender Hollandaise instead of lingering over a double-boiler and a whisk.  
Jacques Pepin Technique for Poached Salmon 
Adapted from Essential Pepin 

Bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add the salmon to the pan and bring the water back to a boil over high heat. Immediately turn off the heat and let the salmon steep in the liquid for 5 minutes. The salmon will be slightly underdone in the center at the point; adjust the cooking time to accommodate thicker or thinner fillets and your personal preference.

Remove fillets from the liquid with a large spatula or skimmer, drain them well, and place on warm plates. Sponge up any liquid that collects around the fillets with paper towels, then spoon the sauce over and around the fillets and serve.


The sauces: 

Jacques says, "Blender hollandaise is a cinch to make (20 to 30 seconds from start to finish) and is very good, although not so delicate and light as classic hollandaise; it has a firmer, tighter texture. The butter must be hot enough to cook the yolks. If you cook the butter until brown, the hollandaise sauce becomes a hazelnut sauce, so-called for its nutty taste." 

Blender Hollandaise 
Adapted from Essential Pepin 
(Makes about 1 ½ cups)

3/4 lb (3 sticks) of unsalted butter
4 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper 
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat and heat until bubbling but not brown. Put the yolks, water, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste and lemon juice in a blender, cover, and turn the blender to high. Immediately, with the blender running, add the hot butter in a steady stream. Serve warm.

Béarnaise Sauce: 
Combine 2 tablespoons dry white wine, 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar, (I used white wine vinegar and added 1 tablespoon of finely minced fresh tarragon to the pan) and 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until all but about a tablespoon of the liquid has evaporated. Let cool, then stir into the hollandaise, along with 1 tablespoon each chopped fresh tarragon and parsley. 

Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise:
Peel and seed 1 ripe tomato, then coarsely chop it. Melt 2 or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small skillet. Add the tomato and sauté for 3 minutes over medium heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon tomato paste and bring to a boil. Mash well and let cool, then mix into the Béarnaise sauce.

My Tomato Béarnaise Sauce:
Since I was making the Blender Hollandiase and thought it best to add it last, I made the Béarnaise Sauce up to the point of adding the Hollandaise, and then in the same pan, added the ingredients for the Tomato-Flavored Béarnaise and followed the cooking instructions. While the sauce cooled, I made the Blender Hollandiase and once it was finished, I stirred my cooled Tomato Béarnaise into it, along with the chopped fresh tarragon and parsley and served it warm over the poached fish.

Notes/Results: By making the hollandaise in the blender (I made about third of the recipe amount) and combining the other sauces into one pan, I probably violated all the basic laws of French sauce preparation, but it certainly came together quickly and deliciously on a hot evening so I have no regrets. ;-) The sauce was rich, silky, buttery with the bright acidity from the tomato and vinegar keeping it from being cloying over the rich salmon. Poaching the (King) salmon resulted in very tender, moist fish which was perfect to compliment the flavorful sauce. Since the sauce and salmon are both heavy, I dressed some sliced baby romaine and cherry tomatoes with a touch of lemon juice and served the salmon and sauce over it. The sauce acted as a dressing for the salad as well as the fish and lightened things up slightly. Although it took a couple of burners and a blender to make, the time in the kitchen was pretty minimal for such a great dish--always a bonus in my book. I will happily make the sauces, the poached fish, and this entire dish again.

You can see what sauces everyone made and how they used them by checking out the picture links of The Mother of All Sauces! post at IHCC.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Orphan #8" by Kim Van Alkemade, Served with Poached Whole Plums with Vanilla-Honey Sauce & Labneh {Recipe}

Today's TLC Book Tour stop features a review of Orphan #8, a historical novel by Kim Van Alkemade. I am pairing this intense and compelling book with a simple and comforting recipe for Poached Whole Plums with Vanilla-Honey Sauce & Labneh, a recipe inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

A stunning debut novel of historical fiction set in the forgotten world of New York City’s Jewish orphanages

In 1919, four-year-old Rachel Rabinowitz is placed in the Hebrew Infant Home where Dr. Mildred Solomon is conducting medical research on the children. Dr. Solomon subjects Rachel to an experimental course of X-ray treatments that establish the doctor’s reputation while risking the little girl’s health. Now it’s 1954, and Rachel is a nurse in the hospice wing of the Old Hebrews Home when elderly Dr. Solomon becomes her patient. Realizing the power she holds over the helpless doctor, Rachel embarks on a dangerous experiment of her own design. Before the night shift ends, Rachel will be forced to choose between forgiveness and revenge.

Inspired by true events, Orphan #8 is a powerful novel about the human capacity to harm—and to love. 

Paperback: 416 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 4, 2015)

My Review: 
Orphan #8 is not an easy read. There are pages that will make you angry, there are pages that will make you weep. The medical experiments conducted on innocent children who were treated as chattel by doctors were horrifying, and while I wasn't surprised to learn that testing like this actually happened, it isn't something I knew anything about. The effects of the experiments on the main character Rachel, both physical and mental, were devastating and followed her through her life. The story weaves between Rachel's childhood--first in the Hebrew Infant Home and then in the Children's Home, how she made her way into adulthood, and the present day of the novel, where as a hospice nurse she comes across the doctor who lead the X-ray treatments that altered her life in so many ways. Guarding her secrets closely--alopecia due to radiation from the X-rays, now covered by a wig and drawn-in eyebrows, and her sexual orientation and long-term relationship--very much a taboo in the 1950s, has left Rachel feeling isolated from the few co-workers, family, and friends she has. That isolation, combined with her history of abandonment--her mother's death, father's disappearance, and repeated separation and emotional distance from her older brother, have given her a desperate craving for love and acceptance. When she finds her health at serious risk and learns that her childhood  'treatments' from Dr. Solomon were in fact experiments rather than curative, and with no caring or even remorse from the dying doctor, she is pushed towards vengeance. 

Orphan #8 is not a happy book in so many ways; however, there is still a strong thread of hope throughout the story that pulled me along. Despite the many reasons Rachel might be completely broken, she has an amazing strength to her and a fighting spirit that is easy to admire. The author has painted a vivid and interesting picture of life in a Jewish-American orphanage, the war years, lesbianism in New York in the early to mid-1900s, and medical ethics--all interesting and skillfully woven together into one compelling story. I always want to know where the inspiration for a story comes from, particularly when it is inspired by true events so I found the afterword of the book particularly intriguing. The fact that this story came about from some of the experiences of the author's family was fascinating to me and made me want to know more. Be ready for Orphan #8 to wring the emotions out of you, not a light read, but it is fascinating and well worth the effort.

Author Notes: Kim van Alkemade was born in New York. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in literary journals including Alaska Quarterly Review, So to Speak, and CutBank. She teaches writing at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
Find out more about Kim at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Food Inspiration:

Food isn't the first thought in reading this book so coming up with a dish inspired by it was a bit challenging as nothing was calling out to me between the orphanage food, hospital meals, and Rachel's tuna salad and cracker dinners. There were a couple of instances that as a child, Rachel was eating stewed fruit (prunes and peaches) and it was of comfort to her. I am not a stewed prune fan, but I do love fresh plums and I happened to have pinned a recipe for Poached Whole Plums with Brown Sugar Syrup on The Kitchn. I think it puts a modern and more appetizing spin on a bowl of stewed fruit but keeps the simple, sweet comfort-food factor that drew me to the description.

There is a beauty in serving the whole plum in the dish and since the poached fruit becomes so tender, it is easy to eat around the pit. Instead of brown sugar syrup, I wanted to use vanilla and honey to sweeten, along with a touch of cinnamon. Rather than the suggested ice cream, I served my plums with honey-sweetened labneh (thickened yogurt). It makes an excellent breakfast, as well as a healthy dessert. 

Poached Whole Plums with Honey-Vanilla Sauce
Adapted From/Inspired by The Kitchn
(Serves 2)

1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp honey

1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 small pinch lemon zest (just a few strands- no more than 1/4 teaspoon)
2 medium ripe plums

Place water, honey and cinnamon stick into a small lidded saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, then place plums in the bottom of the pan, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue simmering for another 8-10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened. Turn off the heat and allow the plums to cool for about 5 minutes. 

To serve: Place a scoop (about 1/2 cup) of sweetened labneh or thickened Greek yogurt (To serve with the slightly tart plums I used 1 teaspoon honey per 1/2 cup of labneh) into an individual serving bowl. Nestle one of the plums next to the labneh and drizzle with the vanilla honey sauce. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: This is the kind of recipe that makes your kitchen smell incredible with the fruit, cinnamon, and honey bubbling away. The result is a great combination of sweet and tangy--and total comfort food. Simple to make and a pleasure to eat, I will definitely make it again.

Note: A review copy of "Orphan #8" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Bow-Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Gruyère {One Photo Friday}

Quick comfort food. There isn't much that's better. This Jacques Pépin recipe is simple, quick to the table, and with Gruyère cheese melting into the pasta, plus a couple of fried eggs on top, it's pretty perfect.  

Jacques says, "This is truly one of my favorite dishes to eat at home. Gloria and I like our pasta simply seasoned with the best possible olive oil, salt, pepper, chives, and Gruyère cheese, which melts from the heat of the pasta. Make sure that the serving plates--we use soup plates--are very hot."

I made a couple of minor changes to the recipe--noted in red below.

Bow-Tie Pasta with Fried Eggs and Gruyère
Adapted from Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way
(Serves 4) 

12 oz bow-tie pasta (farfalle) pasta (about 6 cups) (I used mini farfalle)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives (I used fresh tarragon)
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 large eggs (preferably organic)
About 1 1/3 cups (7 oz) grated Swiss (Gruyère or Emmenthaler)

Cook pasta to package instructions or until it is done to your liking. Meanwhile put the herbs, salt, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the cooked pasta. When the pasta is ready, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add it to the bowl. Drain the pasta well, add it to the bowl, and toss well.

For the Garnish: Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in each of two 6-inch non-stick skillets. Break 2 of the eggs into each skillet and cook, covered, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes or just until the whites are set. Spoon a 6-ounce ladle of pasta into each of  two warmed plates and sprinkle on a heaping spoonful of cheese. Place the two eggs on top of the pasta, add a little more cheese, then a half ladle of pasta. (The egg yolks should still be visible through the top layer of the pasta.) Cook the remaining 4 eggs and assemble the two remaining plates in the same way. Serve immediately. 

You have to have at least one photo showing the egg yolk drizzling into the pasta.

Notes/Results: A bowl of pasta with melted cheese and herbs is good and almost always hits the spot, but nestle an egg into it, letting that silky yolk coat the cheesy pasta... and now you have something special. This is a great little recipe that can be adapted to whatever pasta, cheese and herbs you have in your pantry and pulled out whenever you want something comforting and delicious without a lot of effort. Jacques called for chives in his version but I love tarragon with eggs and had some in my fridge so I used it instead. Mini pasta is always more fun to eat--I love these little bow ties. I made a half batch of this dish and I cut the amount of oil and cheese down just a touch. I probably could have gotten along with just one egg--but it did give me plenty of that liquid gold to stir into my pasta. ;-) I will happily make this again.  

I'm linking this post to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Fast Food Jacques's Way this week and we are making Pépin recipes that take 30 minutes or less to cook. You can see what quick recipes everyone made by checking out the photo links on the post.

 {One Photo Friday: Since I normally drag out my big camera and gear, take a bunch of photos of my recipes, and then spend time obsessing over them--I decided that for Fridays, I'll simplify by posting a recipe or something interesting and then just take (usually) one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}  

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ratatouille with Penne: Easy Summery Veggie Pasta Dinner {One Photo Friday}

It's July's Mystery Box Madness Challenge week at I Heart Cooking Clubs where we make a dish from Jacques Pépin or any former IHCC chef that must include at least three mystery ingredients out of a list of ten. 

July's Mystery Box Madness Ingredients:
Sesame Seeds 
Mozzarella Cheese 
Brown Sugar

Since zucchini is so abundant this time of year, I used it as my starting and quickly zeroed in on Jacques Pépin's Ratatouille with Penne from More Fast Food My Way. In addition to the zucchini, the recipe included penne pasta, and it had the option of topping the dish with fresh basil or parsley, my third MBM ingredient. When I went out to the lanai to chop the Italian parsley and basil, I grabbed some mint, adding a fourth MBM ingredient to the mix.
A photo sans cheese--so you can see and appreciate the color and beauty of the veggies.

I made a few changes to the recipe (noted in red below), based on what I had on hand and what I like (extra garlic & capers whenever I can add them). ;-) With fresh local eggplant, onion, zucchini and herbs, this is a perfect easy dinner for a summer night.

Jacques says, "Ratatouille, the classic vegetable stew of Provence, is featured in all the small restaurants along its coast. Vegetables for ratatouille are usually prepared separately and not combined until the end. Here everything is cooked together. I don't bother to peel the eggplant, but do so if you wish. I recommend Japanese eggplants for this dish. Long and thin, they are firmer and have fewer seeds than regular eggplants. 

Ratatouille is generally served on its own, at room temperature, sprinkled with the best-quality olive oil, olives, and parsley. I use it as a pasta sauce, tossing it with cooked penne before garnishing it with olive oil, olives, grated Parmesan cheese, and parsley or basil."


Ratatouille with Penne
Adapted from More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin
(Makes 4 Generous Servings

1 long Japanese eggplant or small regular eggplant (about 10 oz), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small firm zucchini (about 1/2 lb total), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 cubanelle or long Italian peppers (about 1/2 lb total), seeded & cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 5 red and yellow mini sweet peppers)
2 cups cubed (3/4-inch) onions
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped garlic (I used 3 Tbsp)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes in sauce (I used fire-roasted in garlic & basil)
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil

3/4 lb penne pasta
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil (I omitted the extra oil--didn't feel it needed it)
1/2 cup small pitted oil-cured black olives (I used Kalamata olives & halved them)

(I added 2 Tbsp capers)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for the table
A few fresh basil or parsley leaves, for garnish (I used parsley, basil & mint leaves)

For the ratatouille: Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Mix well, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook gently for 30 minutes. If the mixture still has a lot of liquid, reduce it by boiling, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. You will have about 5 cups.

For the penne: Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the penne and stir it in well, so it doesn't stick together. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is cooked to your liking.
Meanwhile, combine the ratatouille, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large glass bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Drain the pasta and add it to the ratatouille in the bowl. Sprinkle on the olives and the cheese and mix well. Divide among four hot plates and garnish with the herbs and grated cheese. Pass more at the table.

Note: To serve the ratatouille on its own, spoon it into a serving dish, drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives or kalamata olives, and garnish with 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley.

And a photo of how the dish looks with freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Notes/Results: A dish for a happy belly, satisfying, comforting and great flavor. I am glad I punched up the garlic and threw in the capers--they added to the dish without overpowering it. This is an easy recipe that cooks away without fuss or a need for standing over the stove and you can cook the pasta and prepare the garnishes while the veggies are simmering. It is also a good base recipe, you can add whatever veggies you like. Simple and a good use for your farmers market, garden or CSA bounty, I would make it again.  


You can see what mystery ingredients, recipes and chefs other participants chose for July's Mystery Box Madness Challenge by checking out the picture links on the post at the IHCC website.

{One Photo Friday: Since I normally drag out my big camera and gear, take a bunch of photos of my recipes, and then spend time obsessing over them--I decided that for Fridays, I'll simplify by posting a recipe or something interesting and then just take (usually) one photo of it with my iPhone--no muss/no fuss.}