Saturday, February 27, 2010

Banana's Foster

This delicious 5-minute dessert is sure to wow anyone! It's a delicious and showstopping finish to any meal and you can likely make it right now with ingredients you already have in your kitchen!
Serves 2-3

1-2 T butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 bananas
1/4 c. rum
waffles, French toast, ice cream, or crêpes, etc. for serving (optional)

1. Heat butter in a pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, peel bananas and slice in half lengthwise. When butter is melted, add brown sugar and cook a couple of minutes until sugar starts to melt.
2. Add bananas to pan, cook a minute or two, then flip them and cook another minute or two.
3. Turn off lights and gather your guests around the stove. Add rum to pan and with a lit match, carefully move it towards the edge of the pan so rum ignites. (It happens easily and quickly!) Let rum cook until the flame dies out or blow it out after 30 seconds.
Sorry, bad picture of it ignited...but you get the idea!
4. Serve immediately over ice cream, waffles, by itself or however you like!

Notes: Playing around with the spices and flavorings would be fun. Cinnamon, allspice and other spices would be nice additions, as would an additional or a different liquor. (Though if the liquor's alcohol content is too low it may not ignite.) This would also be good with pears, apples or other fruits! Apples with calvados may have to be my next dessert....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

San Francisco Food Adventures

It's not a recipe, but I feel that my recent trip to San Francisco warrants its own post! I had the great opportunity to dine at Chez Panisse, the restaurant of Alice Waters. At this restaurant, Waters invented what's known today as "California cuisine". It features "the finest sustainably-sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients including meat, fish, and poultry." Naturally, with such fresh and high quality ingredients, the food in simply incredible. The four of us ordered the following dishes with a bottle of Côte de Brouilly and then a few glasses of dessert wines:

First course
Cannard Farm rocket with marinated beets, shallots, and mustard flower
Hand-stretched mozzarella with Kaki Farm asparagus, prosciutto, and black olives
Half a Dungeness crab cooked in the wood oven with fennel salad and Meyer lemon
Pizzetta with chanterelle mushrooms, wild nettles, and Parmesan
Artichoke soup with crème fraîche and mint

I got the beet salad which was really good…the beets were so tasty and amazing! Wonderful with the rocket too. Our favorite was the pizzetta. Amazingly good. I really hope we get nettles this summer from our CSA in Chattanooga, TN so that we can somehow attempt to replicate this!

Bellwether Farm ricotta ravioli with green garlic, artichokes, peas, and black truffles
Grilled Liberty Farm duck breast with butternut squash purée, roasted vegetables, and sage
Suisun Valley Farm pork alla milanese with celery root rémoulade, watercress, capers, and little potatoes
Pizza with tomato sauce, spicy Monterey Bay squid, marjoram, and aioli

I got the ravioli which everyone agreed was the best. Kelly and Ed said Chez Panisse's pasta dishes are always the best. Homemade, obviously, and just super tasty and flavorful. Perfect balance and blend of flavors. Delicious with the truffle on top!

Pink Lady apple and huckleberry tart with crème fraiche
Blood orange upside-down cake with cardamom cream
A plate for two of hazelnut-almond chocolates, Barhi dates, and candied Cara Cara orange peel
The blood orange cake perfectly represented and conveyed the flavor of the blood orange. It went just beautifully with the cardamom cream!

The little copper lamp and S&P grinders that were on every table

Chez Panisse's website says "Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best-tasting food is organically and locally grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations." Sounds very nice in theory, of course. This may be easily realizable in California, a state where the growing season lasts year round. Yet this is much harder in other parts of the country and the world where this is not the case. Also, food produced this way tends to be more expensive--another significant hurdle in promoting the widespread consumption of organic and locally grown food. Thoughts and comments are much welcomed and and appreciated!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Polenta with Baby Bok Choy

Polenta with Baby Bok Choy
This is a perfect one-dish dinner to prepare for one person. It’s nutritious and comforting and takes less than 20 minutes start to finish!
Serves 1 a large and filling meal

2 heads baby bok choy
½ c. cornmeal or polenta
1½ c. milk
1/8 c. grated parmesan (the higher the quality, the better the end result, obviously!)
1 t. soy sauce
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 egg
salt and pepper

1. Heat some olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Wash and cut the end off the bok choy so each stem/leaf is separate. Add bok choy and a tablespoon or so of water to pan. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes or until almost tender.
2. Meanwhile, bring milk to a boil in small saucepan. Whisking vigorously (to avoid having lumps), slowly add cornmeal in a steady stream. Cover and cook 2-3 minutes or until an oatmeal-like consistency.

3. Remove lid from bok choy and add soy sauce, vinegar and pepper. Once liquid has mostly evaporated, mix parmesan and pepper into the polenta. Make a bed of polenta on a plate, and top with baby bok choy.

4. Return bok choy pan to heat and crack egg into the pan, cooking until the white is cooked but yolk is still runny (or cook it longer if you prefer the yolk hard). Top bok choy with fried egg, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Notes: Flavorings can be greatly altered here. You could make it entirely Asian and omit the balsamic vinegar and use sesame oil and/or rice vinegar, or add any herbs and/or spices to the bok choy and/or polenta. Plenty of room for experimentation! This would be equally great with any other leafy green, or any veggie for that matter!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten
This is a great autumn or winter recipe. It is hearty and rich and extremely healthy, containing only a small bit of olive oil in the entire recipe.
Serves about 6

1 butternut squash
1 apple
1 onion
evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 t curry powder
½ t cinnamon and/or allspice
sour cream, optional for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel and deseed and core the squash, apple and onion. Cut into rough 1-inch chunks.

2. Place in large baking pan, drizzle with a couple tablespoons evoo, salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake ~35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender (=you can pierce it very easily with a fork or knife). Caramelization will have occurred and there should be some browning! Let cool a bit when done cooking.
3. In batches in a food processor (or blender), purée roasted veggies and garlic with a little water as necessary just to combine it. Don’t puree too much though—it’s nice to have some texture to the finished product.

4. Put purée in a big soup pot and add enough water (3 or so cups, depending on size of squash) to make a thick, soup-like consistency. Add spices and salt and pepper to taste and warm. Eat as is or topped with sour cream.
Notes: As alluded to in my first post, this recipe can easily be modified depending on your personal taste or what you have in the fridge. For example, an immersion blender would drastically speed up step 3—and greatly reduce cleanup! You could garnish the soup with chopped scallions, peanuts or cashews, for instance. You can also use a different type of squash, or throw in an extra onion or apple if you so choose. The spices can be altered as well—throw in some nutmeg or cardamom and see if you like it. Use garam masala instead of curry powder just for kicks. Cooking is all about experimentation and deciding what tastes best to you! Bon app y’all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Roasted Pears with Honeyed Goat Cheese

Roasted Pears with Honeyed Goat Cheese
Adapted  from Suzanne Collins
This is a simple yet delicious wintertime dessert. It looks impressive and tastes amazing but requires little effort to make! It was inspired by a dish a friend created for a potluck.

1 T butter
1 pear
1/3 c. goat cheese
1 T honey
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sliced almonds

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Put butter in a small pan with sides (I used a 9x9-in.) and place in preheating oven until butter is melted (just a few minutes). Take the pan out so butter doesn't burn.
2. Stand pear up on its base and slice downwards lengthwise into 1/4 in. slices. Place slices in pan without overlapping. Put in oven and roast for about 5 minutes.
3. Sprinkle (or brush) the balsamic vinegar on the pears. Cook for about 5 more minutes until tender.
4. Meanwhile, mix goat cheese and honey, to taste, and toast almonds in oven until they just start to color.
5. Once pears have cooled a bit, spoon a bit of goat cheese on top of each pear slice, sprinkle with almonds, and serve!

Notes: This recipe (like nearly every recipe!) is very adaptable. Blue cheese could be subsituted for the goat cheese; a flavored balsamic vinegar would be amazing with the pears; walnuts instead of almonds would be equally delicious; port instead of balsamic vinegar and with blue cheese would go perfectly, too; a balsamic reduction over the top would add lots of flavor and another color contrast. This could be served with cake or ice cream or port. (Though, in my opinion, it's so good on it's own--why add anything!)
Alternatively, omit the honey and the dish could deliciously and elegantly top a salad as a first or main course.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Welcome to Bon App Y'all!

I set the heavy, steaming saucepan on a cork trivet in the middle of the bright pink linoleum tablecloth. We start to spoon out generous servings of this aromatic and hearty dish, made from ingredients that humans have consumed since nearly 10,000 B.C. Upon first taste, my friends all rejoice in its utter deliciousness—so many textures, tastes and colors contributing to such a flavorful and substantial dish. We are eating mujadarra, a popular Middle Eastern dish made with rice, lentils, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper. That’s it! This dish took just 5 minutes of active prep time to make and another 40 minutes of nothing (email reading, TV watching, laundry, homework, etc.) This one-pot meal that’s so tasty and healthy (virtually no fat, loads of protein) is so simple and inexpensive to make.

Hello and welcome to Bon App Y’all! My hopes with this blog are to promote the cooking and enjoyment of delicious and beautiful, yet simple and affordable dishes. I believe that far too few people today cook at home. America’s health and obesity problems can in large part be traced to the rise of eating out and the consumption of greater quantities of processed foods as opposed to natural, fresh, often raw ingredients.

I also believe that cooking is easier than most might think. People often fret over exact measurements and specific ingredients, when, in reality, precision is not terribly crucial. In fact, I usually improvise when cooking; I very rarely measure, and I frequently substitute, add and/or omit ingredients according to my personal taste, what I do or don’t have in my kitchen, or any produce that’s about to go bad and needs to be used).

Finally, cooking yourself is much more economical and healthful than eating out or ordering in. It is often tastier and usually even quicker than traveling to and eating at a restaurant. I feel that we as Americans could benefit from an increase in home cooking, providing us with more nutritious, cheaper and more enjoyable meals overall.

I plan to regularly include recipes and pictures of what I’ve been cooking recently, including many foods (i.e. breads, gratins, soufflés, etc.) that sound and have connotations of being difficult, but in reality are quite simple and quick to make! Thank you for your interest, comments and suggestions! Bon App Y'all!