Italian parsley

Okay. They say cardoon’s flavor and texture resembles artichokes. I like artichokes, a lot. But as everyone knows, they’re technically difficult to prepare. So many sharp rough leaves to remove before you get to the flavorful choke. Well, in that sense, cardoon isn’t too different, either. Cardoons don’t grow chokes. Instead you have to remove the leaves and thorns, peel the stalks, remove the stringy fiber from them, then boil the tough buggers for some 30 minutes before you’re ready to begin!

But I’m brave in the kitchen so I finally decided to endure the cardoon challenge.

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

Frankly, I have yet to decide if it was worth it. This is loads of work for a somehow mediocre flavored end result. Cardoon and artichoke plants look alike: both gorgeous with spindly long stalks and silvery green leaves. I have to agree cardoon does taste slightly like artichokes but the texture isn’t quite right, sort of like crunchy and watery celery stalks or maybe chayote. I love both celery and chayote but since I was primed for artichokes, this was a tragic disappointment.

I followed this recipe to clean and parboil my cardoon.

I started with a whole plant but by the end only ended up with about 2½ cups of the prepared veggie. I cooked them like I do artichoke hearts. This recipe is a variation of the one with mint and anchovy (without the mint since I didn’t have it) and my favorite one with lots of olives.

cardoon plant

cardoon plant

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

2½ cups cooked cardoons
4 cloves garlic chopped fine
2 tbsp capers chopped
½ green olives chopped
2 anchovy fillets
½ to 1 bunch Italian parsley chopped
1½ dry white wine
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half lemon
Black pepper
salt

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a saucepan followed by garlic and anchovies. Cook at low temperature for about a minute or so. Anchovies will dissolve. Bring temp to high then add capers, olives, parsley and cardoon. Toss to combine, add white wine, cover the pan and bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer until most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper, squeeze with lemon juice and finally add remaining of olive oil. Serve as a side dish, warm or at room temperature.

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Pasta à la Romana has been a Friday ritual at home ever since our friend Kristen taught us how to make it a few years ago. We enjoy it so much that we’ve even posted the recipe twice on the WC for your pleasure.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

Last week I de-salted a large gorgeous piece of cod. The steaks looked so chunky that Steven suggested… no really hounded me to prepare it other than my customary Portuguese businessman’s cod or the classic bacalhoada. I’d been flirting with the idea of revisiting Vitória’s lovely arroz de bacalhau com broccolis, but my demanding spouse vetoed the plan.

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

look at these stunning pieces of salt cod fresh from their long soak

Previously I’d seen a recipe for salt cod somewhat like I’m showing here today. That one didn’t require the desalinated fish be pre-cooked (via boiling), which is a real time-saver. Though since you omit the boiling step, you’ve got to really soak the fish extensively to get enough salt out.

spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

1 lb spaghetti
~1 lb thick piece salt cod (soak for 2 days, changing water multiple times, keep refrigerated), drained and cut into 2-3 inch wide pieces
3 cloves garlic
1 Bay leaf
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
20 pitted Kalamata olives, halved
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt
Black pepper
28oz can of diced tomatoes
½ tsp dried oregano
2 dry chili de arbol, broken
1 red scallion, chopped fine

Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring it to a boil.

Add olive oil to a large skillet followed by the garlic. Cook on low heat until aromatic. Add cod fish pieces and sauté, turning occasionally so all sides brown. Add chili, bay leaf, parsley and scallion, cover and let herbs wilt and cook. Now remove the lid, add tomato and oregano, some salt and pepper, bring temperature to high then when boiling reduce again to medium and cook to reduce and thicken the sauce. Reduce temperature to low.

Boil spaghetti for about ¾ of the cooking time suggested on the package, mine was 10 so I cooked it for about 7 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta to sauce and carefully toss it around the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes more to finish. Lastly, toss in Kalamata olives and tomato halves.

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Our old friend David went to Seattle last year and brought us a little tin filled with the aromatic Turkish powder, baharat, from that city’s famous Public Market. I have been shy about using it. Frankly, I thought the spice mix was for meat dishes only. So I’d sort of side-lined it to the back of the spice cabinet, that is until I read Yotam Ottolenghi uses baharat in a tabbouleh recipe from his new book, Jerusalem.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

So I did a little research. Turns out, baharat is a mélange of allspice, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamonn, cloves, coriander, cumin, chili pepper and nutmeg. It has a wonderful scent.

Yotam’s baharat-seasoned tabbouleh

½ cup bulgur
3 large ripe tomatoes, chopped fine
2 shallots, chopped fine, rinsed in running cold water
Juice of 3 lemons or more
3 large bunches of Italian parsley, washed, drained and chopped fine
5 leaves of escarole, washed, drained and chopped fine
2 bunches mint, rinsed, dried and chopped fine
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp baharat mix
1/3 to ½ cup first cold press, top quality, arbequina olive oil
Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

Rinse bulgur in a strainer. Add to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for ½ hour. Drain and squeeze it to remove as much water as possible. Transfer to a large bowl, add tomatoes, shallot, parsley, mint, escarole, spices, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Add lemon juice and about two thirds of the olive oil. Toss again. Let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Just before serving add more olive oil and lemon juice and toss again.

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I like the taste of the French/Italian/Spanish dish brandade. Usually made with salt cod, potatoes, dairy and spices, everything gets whipped together then baked in the oven till golden and delicious. Here’s a traditional brandade recipe from the New York Times.

Steven’s been after me about making this for a while. I won’t say how long. I keep promising I am going to but every time I gather the ingredients together I get distracted with other ideas. It isn’t quite “an issue” but… well, let’s just say that it’s high time that I pull this dish together.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

My inspiration comes from the aforementioned traditional recipe and from my Dungeness crab casquinha de siri.

This is a crowd-pleaser that is perfect either as an elegant appetizer with crackers or slices of French baguette, or, like we had it, as a main course with a side of Israeli couscous and a mango and black bean salad to make a substantial meal.

Salt cod needs to be soaked in cold water for 24 to 48 hours with a few water changes to remove excess salt. I have some instructions on how to de-salt and pre-cook it here.

“Brazilian” salt cod brandade

2/3 lb prepared cod fish pieces (skinless and boneless)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, about 1lb, boiled and pureed (no lumps)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 tbsp onion, minced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
½ tsp sweet paprika
4 peeled tomatoes (from a can this time of year) chopped
1-2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 red Jalapeño pepper, minced, seeds and ribs discarded
4 tbsp light coconut milk
2 to 3 tbsp fine bread crumbs
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Ramekins (I used four medium sized ones)

Place cod pieces in the food processor and whiz for few seconds to break it down to small uniform bits but not into a paste.

Heat olive oil in a non stick pan, add onion and Jalapeño. Sauté until soft, add garlic and continue cooking for few more seconds until aromatic. Add tomatoes and let them break apart in the heat. Add cod, paprika, parsley, salt, pepper, coconut milk and mix everything together to warm through. Add potato and about one tablespoon bread crumbs. Mix to incorporate everything. Texture should look like that of a potato puree.

Fill your ramekins with the salt cod mix, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, top with a sprinkle of bread crumbs, and then grated parmesan cheese. Broil to give the crust a golden color (remember you’ve already cooked everything on the stove). Remove from oven a serve.

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Steven gave me Yotham Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Jerusalem as a sort of date-night surprise gift. I’m psyched about it since his previous book, Plenty, was a total success at home. We cooked most of the recipes from the first with hardly any failures. I’m just starting in on Jerusalem but have high hopes.

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

In both books eggplant-related recipes shine. I love eggplant. Have you tried Ottolenghi’s incredible roasted eggplant with pomegranate molasses from Plenty? That one in particular is amazing. But I’m a restless chef and thus I always look for new approaches for my beloved aubergine. This caught my attention because here Ottolenghi takes a classic and adds a little twist—Greek yogurt. The yogurt lends extra creaminess to the dish plus a bit of a mild tart flavor. Exciting!

I am really looking forward to exploring Jerusalem over the next weeks and months.

Ottolenghi-inspired baba ghanoush

2 large eggplants
2 tbsp Greek Yogurt
1 garlic clove, mashed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Pomegranate seeds

Put eggplant in a shallow baking pan and broil until they collapse and the skin is blackened/burned—about a half hour or so. Remove from oven and let cool. Using a fork remove the flesh and transfer to a colander so juices can drain.

Place eggplant flesh in a bowl, add fresh garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently mix with a fork to slightly mash it. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve as a side dish (we had ours with fish & caper kebabs) or as an appetizer with pita bread.

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This recipe was adapted from health. Old fashioned but I think making a come-back: after all you make it with horseradish and panko breadcrumbs. That’s real style.

halibut in horseradish panko crust

halibut in horseradish panko crust

Straightforward to make, and really tasty, I’ve already served it a couple of times at home. This is perfect for the holidays. I made it over Thanksgiving with a larger piece of fish which I baked about 40 minutes and served family style.

halibut in horseradish panko crust

4 6oz skinless halibut fillets (only the freshest!)
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 tbsp fat free sour cream
2 cloves garlic, mashed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
½ to ¾ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Pre heat the oven to 400F. Line a baking tray with wax paper. Brush paper with olive oil.

Mix horseradish, sour cream, garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt together. Set aside.

Rinse and dry halibut fillets in paper towels. Place fillets on baking tray few inches apart from each other. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper, drizzle with some olive oil. Top each fillet with a spoonful of the horseradish mix then cover with panko bread crumbs. Bake it in the oven for about 7-8 minutes and voila! You will have a juicy fillet of fish with a nice golden brown crust.

Serve with some sautéed spinach and garlic mash potatoes. Don’t forget to have a glass of red wine too! Always the best with fish ;)

happy holidays from our kitchen to yours

happy holidays from our kitchen to yours

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These are not fish fingers or mozzarella sticks but the idea is similar. Instead of frying, I baked my zucchini fingers, for my own health ;) This is a really fun and tasty way to use up all that summer squash that seems to grow like weeds in your garden. Next year, maybe only a few squash plants rather than the six we grew this summer. I never thought it could happen, but I’ve actually gotten zucchini-fatigue.

oven roasted zucchini fingers

oven roasted zucchini fingers

I served these lovely treats with a tomato dipping sauce (don’t get me started on the overabundance of tomatoes from our garden plot—clearly nine plants is a bit much for two people) using the same recipe for pizza sauce found here.

oven roasted zucchini fingers

3 zucchinis cut into finger sized segments
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
Crushed red pepper
1 egg
1 egg white
2 tbsp water
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic minced
3 tbsp minced fresh Italian parsley
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Pre heat over to 375F.

Place egg, egg white and water in a bowl, add a sprinkle of salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, black pepper, garlic, parsley, and parmesan cheese.

Dip zucchini fingers in egg wash then roll them over bread crumb mix. Return to egg wash and roll them in breadcrumbs a second time. Repeat for remaining zucchini fingers. Lay them on a cookie tray ½ inch apart. Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove and serve with a spicy tomato dipping sauce (recipe follows).

spicy tomato dipping sauce

28oz can unseasoned peeled tomatoes, chopped with juices
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp tomato paste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp black pepper
crushed red pepper to taste
1 dry chile de arbol
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp red wine vinegar

Simmer all ingredients but vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 35 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat. Add reserved olive oil and vinegar, stir and set aside.

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Sometimes the most memorable dining experiences are when you cook with friends. Dinner yesterday was a treat: our friend, John, and I made it together. This delicious shiitake mushroom on toast was his contribution. I was mentally taking notes while watching him preparing it. The dish came together in almost no time and it tasted so good that we ate it all just as fast, obviously with sips of red wine and lots of laughs. Most of the ingredients were grown or made locally, so it was all super fresh.

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

Shiitake mushrooms & fromage blanc on toast

6 slices of rustic country loaf
1 lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 shallot, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Marsala wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
½ cup container fromage blanc (ours from Cowgirl Creamery)
1 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped fine

Turn broiler on and position rack close to coils.

Place a non stick skillet on stove top, bring temperature to medium high, and add olive oil, shallot, garlic and cook until translucent. Toss in chopped shiitake and continue cooking for another minute or so. Add Marsala wine and stir until all absorbed, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add butter and set aside.

Place bread slices on a baking tray and lightly toast them in the oven, about 2 minutes. Remove spread cheese evenly on each slice. Return to the oven and toast until edges of bread have become brown and cheese starts to bubble. Remove from oven, top with sautéed mushrooms and sprinkle with parsley.

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grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

July 19, 2012

We are still enjoying home-grown zucchini from our prolific community garden plot squash plants. It feels so good just going there to water them. We find new ones growing full swing every time. It seems to happen overnight! This recipe comes from this lovely blog, not without salt (I so wish that I’d come up […]

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Spanish-style chickpeas with spinach and veggie sausage

June 18, 2012

This isn’t a recipe that I would have been excited by before my “Veganist” epiphany. Nancy Harmon Jenkins’ dish relies on Spanish chorizo. I’ve yet to find vegetarian chorizo so made due with Tofurkey brand Italian sausage. To make the olive oil redden, I added a bit of sweet paprika. (In the full on meat […]

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