Monday, January 30, 2012

Ricotta Dumplings in Strawberry Sauce

From the moment my eyes on Lidia Bastianich's Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with Strawberry Sauce, I knew they were coming to my home. Have you ever glanced at a recipe and suddenly found yourself obsessed with making it - yesterday?

I thought - February - for Valentine's Day. A berry-red soup-sauce with snowy dumplings - who could wait? Not me. I indulged - telling myself that because the dumplings were boiled and not fried - these were "January-healthy." "January-healthy" calls for robust - that's my new definition. It has fruit (vitamins) and cheese (calcium).

The recipe hails from northern Trentino-Alto Adige - a province that gives a wink and a nod to both Italian and German cooking. The dumplings (which are actually not sweet) are boiled and then sauteed - becoming like a custard when cooked.

Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with Strawberry Sauce - from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
Canederli di Ricotta (makes 18 canederli -dumplings; serves 6 - it served 8)

Strawberry Sauce
6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 pound fresh ricotta, drained
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

Strawberry Sauce
Put strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Set over medium-low heat stirring occasionally. As the berries give up their juices and it starts to bubble, adjust heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 8 minutes - until the berries are soft and the juices are slightly syrupy. Cover and keep warm. (Can be made ahead. Reheat before serving.)

Dumplings (Canederli)
(Note: While Lidia says to make this after dinner - I did boil them ahead of time and then briefly ran them threw the simmering butter while the guests waited.)

For the dough: Put ricotta in large bowl and whisk it. Blend in eggs and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add flour and gently fold the flour into the ricotta until all is incorporated. The dough will be soft and sticky. (I refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes which made it easier to handle).

Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water, add the tablespoon of salt and heat to a boil. Put the butter in a large skillet and melt the butter over a low flame. Keep warm.

When water boils, reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Using an ice cream scoop that has been submerged in a  glass of cold water (prevent mixture from sticking), scoop up some ricotta mixture and with floured hands, form into a ball (I just used the ice cream scoop and didn't play with the mixture. I tend to be - expedient.). Dispense scooped mixture into simmering water. Repeat. (I did about 3 at a time). Keep the ice cream scoop moistened with the cold water. Let the dumplings cook without stirring. Once they have risen to the top, simmer for 5-7 minutes. You can test if for doneness by pressing into the dumplings - they should feel solid and spring back. If too soft, simmer for another minute.

Lift out the dumplings (Lidia says use "a spider.") and let them drain over the pot and then gently roll them in the warmed butter. Turn off heat and let them sit and firm up for a minute.

To serve: Arrange canederli/dumplings in large-rimmed platter, pouring warmed strawberry sauce over all. or - simply put dumplings in individual dishes with a few tablespoons of strawberry sauce.

Notes: I was successful doing these ahead of time. The 1/4 cup dumplings were very filling. I couldn't finish mine! (Maybe it was the wedge of Brie, the aged Provolone and the Fettuccine with Sausage Ragu that preceded the meal?) But with lightly floured fingers, I would make smaller dumplings. And let them swim in the strawberry soup. And later I will make them with raspberries or blackberries or cherries and maybe take the ricotta dumplings and "herb" them and serve them with a savory sauce or as an appetizer... I foresee a huge future for this recipe.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wild Rice Apple Salad and Sausage with Grapes

What happens when a journalist-marketer-graphic designer for the culinary and agricultural industries (Tracey Ryder) joins forces with a photographer-advertising executive (Carole Topalian)? A lot. They co-founded Edible Communities in 2002 and spawned the local-seasonal movement in the USA. The company currently has 70 published titles all devoted to eating local. The movement has also rolled out local magazines featuring recipes for food grown locally as well as articles devoted to the artisan farmers who make it happen. You can out more about the movement in your hometown by going to Edible Communities. It's quite a feat to transform the way a large country such as the USA eats. But partly because of Ryder and Topalian, this is a movement that grows every year. It's not surprising that Gourmet listed these two women as "game-changers."

Without knowing who Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian were, I  had been picking up Edible Twin Cities at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market for a few years. The St. Paul Farmer’s market would be approved by Ryder and Topalian – you must be within a certain radius of St. Paul to sell your items – unlike Minneapolis which has vendors selling bananas and oranges – decidedly not local!

National Public Radio released food trends for 2012. Eating local was one of them. I had to smile. I thought it had been a trend for ten years. Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian are proof of that. I am not a locavore. To do so, I would have to give up stone fruit! Not happening. But I am mindful of the seasons. 

Wild rice and apples are two of Minnesota's most lauded products. When we travel and want to bring something local to our hosts, wild rice is always included. I was happy to see a recipe for wild rice that wasn't "Drowned Wild Rice in Cream." Wild rice is hearty enough - it doesn't need to be doused with anything. 

Wild Rice and Apple Salad
3 cups cooked wild rice
1 apple, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small red onion - chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper to taste
*optional, 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinaigrette (below or use your favorite vinaigrette)

Apple Cider Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon apple cider
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Whisk all.

As much as I would have loved to have presented this as dinner to "Husband-on Diet-which-means-Hell-has-frozen-over." I knew I need to supply a bit of protein and by the end of the week - another broiled chicken breast just wouldn't cut it. It was time for some winter flavor. (And sausage and grapes are local here - but not so much in January!)

I turned to Lidia Bastianich and her skillet sausage and grapes. This hails from Umbria. Only local in my heart.

Sausage and Grapes Skillet Meal by Lidia Bastianich
(I halved the recipe)
1/8 up extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1-1/2 pound Italian Sausage links (I used 5)
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes
1-1/2 cups seedless green grapes

Under low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and when the garlic is just starting to slowly sizzle, add your sausages. Cover and keep under low heat. Turn them every five minutes or so - to let them work their way into a deep, warming brown. After ten minutes, add the peperoncino flakes - in-between the sausages. Cover and let cook for another 20-25 minutes - continuing to turn them every once in a while.

When sausages are cooking (this slow browning is just the most delectable way to serve sausages), drain the fat and add the grapes. Cover and continue to cook under low heat until the grapes start to just wrinkle and pucker and release a juice or two. Uncover and raise the heat to high. Stir the grapes so they are covered with the leftover deeply browned oil in the pan allowing them to take on the earthy flavor. After ten-minutes, serve.

Husband was happy. Daughter was happy. And while the sausages and grapes might have been miffed about the flash on the camera - I consoled myself with the fact that one must organize priorities and if cooking doesn't start until dusk - so be it. Photographing the food the next day was not an option. There were no leftovers!

Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 32 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at  One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey. 

Susan - The Spice GardenHeather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and ChutneyJeanette - Healthy Living
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Soup for the Shivering Soul

It's no secret that soup and I have had a fulfilling relationship since childhood. Soup never gets ornery and soup is always there for me - and how do I reward soup? I slurp it up. I annihilate it. It is a one-sided relationship. But the glory of soup - is I can create it again and again. I let my mind wander to the land of make-believe (this play-acting in my mind of imagined conversations and new places to wander is still going strong in my middle-age). Grandma loved playing make-a-believe with me and as the soup was simmering, I was making-a-believing myself all the way to Rome. 

The arctic blast hit Minnesota last week. My remedy? Italian music and Roman-Style Fish Soup. Reminiscent of a cioppino, this wine-based, spicy broth does indeed warm the shivering soul.

Zuppa di Pesce alla Romana - adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Italy
(Roman-style fish soup from Lazio)
*This tastes best when all is fresh
**The book uses fresh squid which I could not get - if you can get it - by all means, chop it and saute it in the warm oil until opaque 

2 garlic cloves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 tomatoes, peeled and seeded (I didn't peel)
2 tablespoon fresh, chopped Italian parsley
pinch of salt
2 cups water
1 pound small clams
1/2 pound mussels - scrubbed and debearded 
1/2 pound shelled, deveined fresh shrimp
1 pound assorted white fish (monkfish, turbot, bream, red snapper, sea bass cut into chunks). 
*The only fresh whitefish I could get a hold of was tilapia so I used that but it fell apart as you can see in the photos. Halibut would be good but I'd have to sell my first born to afford it. And that's frowned upon here (selling your first born not eating halibut).

In a large saucepan (I used a stockpot) over medium heat, saute the garlic and pepper flakes in the olive oil until the garlic is golden - about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard the garlic. Add the wine and simmer for 1 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley and salt and simmer about ten minutes - let it reduce but not disappear. This will be the base of your broth.

Add the water and bring to a simmer. Add the clams and mussels and simmer about five minutes. Add the tilapia (or other whitefish) and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer 1-2 minutes until the shrimp is cooked.  Taste the broth and adjust seasonings.

You can lay a piece of bread in the bowls and spoon the soup over it. I am not fond of soggy bread so I perch it on the bowl. A nice touch would be warming the bowls. I seldom do that - but it is loving and gracious.

Dear Soup:
I love you. Sorry I cannot let you be. Thank-you for bringing me to Rome.

Green Soup

For the last two weeks I have been making the green soup I noted on my blog a week or so ago. I have tweaked it to use one bowl and more greens. It's a veritable lawn soup - and I love seeing all that green. Don't think of it as a diet soup - my 5'11" willowy daughter scrounges for this just as she does for chocolate.  The original link is here:

My version is below:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, coarsely chopped (don't go nuts - you're going to puree it)
2 tablespoons water plus 1 cup water
2 cups plus 4 cups vegetable broth divided (can use chicken broth unless you want it vegan)
1/4 cup arborio rice (gives it a little heft)
1 large bunch Swiss Chard
1 large bunch kale
2 bunches of spinach or one bagged spinach - remove stems if you wish. (I do.)
Big pinch of cayenne pepper
Juice from 1/4 lemon

Heat oil on medium high. Add onions and stir until light brown (3-4 minutes). Reduce heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of water and cover. Reduce heat to low. About every 30 seconds, stir onions until the pot has cooled down. Then let it steam/caramelize for 25-30 minutes - stirring occasionally. Add the cup of water, 2 cups of broth and rice. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

If you wish, trim the thick ribs in the middle of the chard leaves. Coarsely chop chard and kale and add to pot. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add remaining broth, cayenne pepper and spinach. Simmer for five minutes. Add the squirt of lemon. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Wait 5-10 minutes and then puree. Serve.

"There is no natural light these days. Winter won this round. But in my home, all is sunny and cozy.

I make soup at least once a week. I bookmark and scour the web. Soup is such a cornucopia of flavors and textures - no wonder I have it for breakfast, It fortifies me for the day. Other January soups I have made and  savored are:
Proud Italian Cook's Kale, Chicken and Squash Soup. Easy, brothy, multi flavors and textures.
Ciao Chow Linda's Ribollita and Vegetable Soup It's a delicious way to visit Tuscany.
Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice Sausage Lasagna Soup - not low-cal but worth every calorie. If you are out and about in winter - you need this in your life.

Husband dieting adventures continue. He does like this soup - only he adds about 6 crackers to it - is that a Midwest thing? Everyone here adds crackers to their soups. Some "lose it" website has given my normally sane, keen, sharp husband a calorie total - which he swears by. As a former professional dieter, I have told him again and again that he is maintaining his weight. (And he is by George, hasn't lost or gained a pound.) But the website doesn't lie! (Is there a short play in this - "The Day Hell froze Over and the Husband Went on a Diet"). Now how can an intelligent engineer be so duped by a website? Maybe he plays make-believe differently than I do.

If you have a favorite (broth-based) soup recipe, send it over. We don't expect winter to end until Mid-May!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower, Sage and Almond Risotto - Donna Hay

Donna Hay is an empire.She covers it all.  Think: The Essential NY Times Cookbook, or Martha Stewart. She is Australia's leading food editor and bestselling cookbook author.

(Photo from Donna Hay Biography)

Her meteoric rise as a food stylist and food editor at age 25 for Marie Claire is documented here. The wealth of her recipes are here. She is an equal-opportunity recipe developer - with recipes from around the globe that encompass small bites and full menus. 

Of course she has her detractors. If you are wildly successful, someone will detract. (Mozart had too many notes, Shakespeare had too many words, Meryl Streep has too many pauses.) "She's a food stylist, not a chef!" claim her critics. And so she is. She also has a feel for classic dishes done simply without an inordinate amount of ingredients that will break the bank. No wonder people love her - the recipes are accessible.

Donna Hay's output gave us a lot of choice for this week's Gourmet Women Game Changers. I chose to make her roasted cauliflower risotto. The "sea of white" seemed appropriate for January and as Minnesota has plunged into the North Pole zone (we are currently searching the sky for flying reindeer), a warming, comforting dish was required. Nothing eases winter's fury like risotto.

The problem with roasting the cauliflower first is - you nibble. There was not quite a head of cauliflower by the time I was stirring the risotto!

Roasted Cauliflower, Sage and Almond Risotto (from Donna Hay Website)
(Note I will give you my measurements - they are not exact equations! Simply what worked for me)

500 grams cauliflower, trimmed and chopped (I used one medium head)
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and cracked pepper
40 grams (1/4 cup) chopped almonds
1 bunch of sage, leaves chopped
1.5 liters warmed chicken broth (I only needed 5 cups - use vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian)
60 grams butter (I used 2 tablespoons of Earth Balance Butter)
300 grams (1-1/2 cups) arborio rice
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry sherry (I used dry white wine)
40 grams (1/2 cup) freshly-grated Parmesan
100 grams (I only used 1/2 cup) Taleggio (I used a triple cream Brie) - sliced


 Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Place the cauliflower, oil, salt and pepper on a baking tray and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes, add the almonds and half the sage and roast for a further 5–8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside and keep warm.
  Place the stock in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Chop the remaining sage and add to the pan with the rice and sherry. Cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes or until the sherry is absorbed. Gradually add the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously for 25–30 minutes or until the stock is absorbed and rice is al dente. Stir through Parmesan, salt and pepper and spoon into serving bowls. Top with Taleggio and the cauliflower mixture to serve. Serves 4. Unless you've nibbled quite a bit.

It lived up to its hype. The Taleggio (an earthier, aromatic version of Brie cheese from Northern Italy) which appears at my grocer's once a month was gone - but the triple cream Brie did the trick. And to tell you the truth - the dish is rich enough without the added cheeses, so if you want to go vegan - do it. You won't be disappointed. Slightly caramelized cauliflower, sage and almonds all add texture and flavors - the cheeses just add "oo la la" flair to the dish.

You can't go wrong with risotto and for all of you who declare,

"I'm not stirring for 35 minutes!"

Well, neither do I. I add the broth in 1/2 cupfuls, give it a few stirs, answer an e-mail or read my horror-scope and go back and give it a stir, add another 1/2 cupful, stir, chop an onion, come back and stir and then dance to Camera Obscura (the cat enjoys that)... you get the picture. I take frequent stirring breaks.

As for the recipes of Donna Hay - I will be back. She has the same sensibilities in her recipes that I look for - classic, unfussy with a surprising texture or flavor here and there.  And it's good for me to leave my food cocoon and continue to journey. Sometimes I remind myself that the title of my blog is "Journey of an Italian Cook" and not  "The Italian Cook has Arrived."

The verdict is very good when a dish encourages nibbling. Nibble and dance - to Honey in the Sun! Risotto and Camera Obscura brought the sun into my kitchen.

Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 31 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at  One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey. 

Susan - The Spice GardenHeather - girlichef,
Miranda - Mangoes and ChutneyJeanette - Healthy Living
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Swiss Chard

I had this for breakfast.

I even had to fight the cat for it.

These days I am immersed in the exploits of the Polar explorer/physicist/mathematician Otto Schmidt.

While forging a new trade route, his ship - the Chelyuskin got mired in ice and sank - stranding 100 passengers (including women and babies born on board) on an iceberg for three months. I bet he would have liked some of this soup. 

It is ten degrees out and the temps are only going down. The arctic air is here - Minnesota's meteorologists are thrilled - proclaiming the first polar air of the season. Minnesota's meteorologists are a decidedly odd bunch. 

The soup hails from Tuscany via Cooking Light. You don't need a blast of arctic air to enjoy it. This will warm the cockles of your heart. And come together in 30-40 minutes. What more do you want? Grab a pot and start cooking.

Tuscan Bean Soup with Swiss Chard - adapted from Cooking Light Magazine* (Serves 4)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow or white onion chopped
5 garlic cloves - minced
2 cups vegetable broth (for vegan or vegetarian) can use chicken broth
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
2-15 ounce cans cannellini beans (rinsed)
1 1-2 ounce Parmesan rind (omit if Vegan - it adds substance but is also good without)
2 chopped carrots
1 bunch Swiss Chard - chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt - optional - the rind adds salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons freshly shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish (again, omit if vegan)

*Consider using kale or spinach. Cooking Light used escarole. Mix up the beans - the seasonings. Add or subtract onions. Use shallots instead or all garlic - consider the list of ingredients a guide.

Heat a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth, water, rosemary, beans, Parmesan rind and carrots and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes - until the carrot is tender and all is winningly combined. Stir in Swiss Chard (or other greens) and simmer for ten more minutes. Stir in red pepper, salt (if using), black pepper and vinegar. Remove rind. Serve, with shaved Parmesan.

Keep away from cat.

It has color, varied textures and magical properties as all soups do. And you don't need to be stranded on an iceberg to enjoy it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gourmet's Top 50 Women: #30 Barbara Tropp - Strange Flavored Eggplant

(Photo by Michael Maloney)

Barbara Tropp is noted for her book The Modern Art of  Chinese Cooking, and her Chinese restaurant in San Francisco The China Moon Cafe which opened in San Francisco in 1986. In 1997, she sold the restaurant while battling cancer. It would be a battle she would continue to fight for many years until 2001 when the disease took her. She noted ironically, that she lived the "cancer-prevention" diet for most of her life (vegetables, fresh fish). Unfortunately genetics would trump diet.

But she made her mark in a field she was passionate about. In a high school art class, she discovered Chinese art and culture and never looked back. She studied Chinese in college and then went on to doctoral studies at Princeton. During a two-year study-abroad in Taiwan, she was lucky enough to be placed with host families who were passionate about their food. Tropp paid attention and when she returned to the states, she left her thesis project behind ("I had picked a helplessly obscure topic in Chinese poetics and was in way over my head." From: Wikipedia) She moved to San Francisco to be closer to authentic Chinese markets and found her calling. She worked at recreating the foods she had in Taiwan and was amazed how little truly authentic Chinese restaurants existed. With her book and restaurant, she changed all that.

Information on her remarkable life can be found here and here.

I choose to make her "Strange-Flavored Eggplant" (aka Eggplant Caviar) which I found at Culinate. The recipe is from The China Moon Cookbook based on the dishes she served at the China Moon Cafe. 

As Italians are great eggplant-lovers and roast it, chop it, fry it, grill it, bread it and cheese it, I thought it would be interesting to see how it would be prepared in Chinese cooking.   I made it for Epiphany (taking down the tree) when there are expectations of savory hors d'oeuvres to offset the sweetness of the holidays. It did not disappoint. 

NOTE: Everyone (everyone but the cat) is "mindfully eating" in my home - including my husband who is on the first diet of my life (and his wails and trials and tribulations could feed a book, sorry honey - you're talking to an ex-actress who had to diet when she was a size 8!). And even when mindfully eating, nobody wants a platter of carrots and celery in front of them. That is so 90's. 

Ignore the title of the recipe - there is nothing strange about the flavor (except that it is brown and does not have a good side to photograph). It is silky, earthy with just enough garlic and ginger and sesame to keep you interested. It is best served after being refrigerated over night - and be still my heart - just continues to improve with time! My kind of recipe. You don't have to eat it all in one fell swoop. But we did.

Strange-Flavor Eggplant 
1 to 1-1/4 pound eggplant (any style)
2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon Japanese sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil)
- garlic croutons - (sorry, I skipped those - that "mindfully eating thing")

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2-1/2 teaspoon dried red chilie flakes

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar (I used half of that; I don't have a sweet tooth)
1 teaspoon unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar (I used plain old unseasoned rice vinegar)
1 tablespoon hot water

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F and place rack in the middle of the oven. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork and remove the leaves. Bake on a baking sheet for 20-40 minutes turning once until fork tender. (I baked it for 30 minutes.) Remove from baking sheet and slit in half to speed up cooling process.

While still warm, scrape eggplant pulp away from the peel and ends. (I scraped away some very seedy parts.) Process with baking juices on a food processor (I think you could also mash it very well.)

Combine aromatics in a small dish.

Combine sauce ingredients in a small dish stirring to dissolve the sugar (yes, there are a few dishes - this is Chinese cooking!).

Heat a wok or large skillet on high heat (a droplet of water should evaporate when it touches the skillet). Add corn or peanut oil. Swirl and reduce heat to moderately high. Add aromatics and stir 15 seconds being careful not to scorch (lower the heat if you see that happening). Add the sauce and stir well to blend. When it simmers, add the eggplant and combine well. Remove from heat and taste. If necessary add more vinegar, chilie flakes or sugar. (I didn't - but of course - I had no idea how it should taste so went with trusting the recipe.) Stir in the sesame oil. Allow to cool.

Store airtight in the refrigerator overnight allowing the flavors to blend. To serve: sprinkle scallions over the top and serve with croutons (I did a wheat-flax pita). It would also be good with those aforementioned crudites (notice I didn't say carrots and celery).

Note: it is a fair amount of work for a small appetizer. Also noted - it got scarfed down. Would I do it again? Maybe. I am seduced by sesame oil. Whenever I cook with it, the kitchen comes alive with people (at this point they are immune to garlic). And I am always intrigued when I leave my Italian comfort zone - where I "know" how things should taste and explore other flavors, other textures, other worlds. It's a New Year. New worlds are welcome.

If I Only Had a Brain Note: Yes, it would have been more attractive with scallions scattered over it.

Please check out what the other bloggers are doing for Week 30 of Female Chef Gourmet Game Changers. And if you want to join in the fun, e-mail Mary at  One Perfect Bite. Mary started this delectable journey. Next week is Donna Hay.

Miranda - Mangoes and ChutneyJeanette - Healthy LivingApril - Abby Sweets

Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemon Chicken

The thing is - I keep my resolutions - pretty much. (I make them in November having learned that if I can keep them during the busy holidays - I can keep them all year). These days you will find me going through my home "bird by bird," "word by word," "file by file," and "t-shirt by t-shirt." I used to thrive in clutter - all those years directing with kids - if you didn't thrive in clutter - you were toast.

But I cannot write in clutter. My office is so filled with piles - I need to get outside to think. Luckily the weather has cooperated. But 40 and 50 degree degrees days in January are not the norm, so before winter again grasps us (Wednesday), I  have been simplifying.

This philosophy also pertains to dinner time. I want few ingredients, one graceful meal without a lot of clean-up, a supper that delivers in taste but leaves me feeling that all is in place and the evening is for reading, music, conversation and cat purrs. This lemon chicken has been appearing on my table a lot. There is a lightness of being, an ease of preparation and it satisfies all quirky appetites (we have that in my home).

Nothing says Italian better than the classic combination of lemon, rosemary and garlic.The ingredients are bright enough for spring, but the comforting aroma makes it perfect for January - a soft blanket to keep you warm and snuggled.

Lemon Chicken (This is from Saveur - The New Comfort Food - served at Los Angeles's Angeli Caffe)
Serves 4
3-1/2 pounds chicken cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used the juice of 1 lemon and called it a day)
10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 lemon peel - pith removed and pulp chopped (I just zested the lemon before juicing it)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss the chicken pieces with the olive oil, rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, lemon zest and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Marinate for about an hour (I did longer).
2. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Arrange chicken in a 9x13 baking dish (or as you will) and cover chicken with remaining marinade. Roast, turning once until cooked through - about 30-40 minutes (mine took 40 minutes.)
3. Serve.

During the day, I have fallen in love with "Green Soup." I made a huge batch on Saturday, and it seems to be a tonic - to good health - to well-intentioned resolutions. It gives me a lightness of being. Just simple greens really (kale, spinach, chard, cooked  with caramelized onions and pureed in broth). And did I mention it's utterly delicious? Most important. It's the caramelized onions that transform it.

Find it here: (Try it, you'll like it.)

If you have a resolve to eat healthier, get a wee bit leaner, this well help you. I am all for anything that will help me!

The moon appears around 4 p.m. I always have to stop what I am doing to see it - and say a moon poem to myself. The more I rid myself of "stuff," the more I see.

Not much later, the sun sets and I have to see that also.

I like the shimmer at the end of the short day. A last blazing moment - the sun does not disappear quietly. Why should it?

And after dinner, the evening star has been outshining the moon. Is it no wonder I want dinner to be simple? I want time for this.