kalamata olives

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.


kale with black olives, raw cashews and anchovy

kale with black olives, raw cashews and anchovy

Steven and I have been enjoying recipes from David Rocco’s new cookbook, Made in Italy. Many of them seem very simple to make and look tasty from pics in the book. The chickpea soup infused with rosemary Steven made the other day was yummy!

This recipe is supposed to be made with escarole, one of my favorite green leafy vegetables. Sadly I couldn’t find it at our Whole Foods the day I made this dish, so instead I ran to our community garden plot and harvested some organic Russian Kale as a replacement. This straightforward sauté is really flavorful and almost rich. This could be a very elegant upgrade to the traditional Thanksgiving feast green veggie side.

kale with black olives, raw cashews and anchovy

1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 Kalamata olives, halved
4 anchovy filets packed in oil, drained
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
small handful raw cashews

Steam kale leaves for about 5 to 8 minutes or until leaves become soft. Transfer to a colander and let fully drain.

Add half of the olive oil to a skillet, place it over burner, add anchovies and cook on low temperature until the fish dissolves. Anchovies have a pungent smell that shouldn’t put you off. That’s the whole point. Raise the temperature a bit, add garlic and sauté until aromatic. Fold in kale then add olives and cashews, cover and cook it for another minute or so, until warmed through. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Serve as a side dish.

This is so good that I want to make it again soon, once I can find escarole in the market.


I’ve been out of town at the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno. It was really fun, but I’ve fallen dreadfully behind with you, my fellow food bloggers. So this week, as I re-adjust to the “real world” again, I’m scrambling to get on the ball. To that end, I’m pleased, no, thrilled to announce a September cooking challenge to any and all of you. Heavenly from donuts to delirium and I agreed to try the elegant but surely prone to disaster Julia Child recipe for butter croissants. Follow this link for the recipe.

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, kalamata and marinara

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, kalamata and marinara

The recent Ottolenghi cheesecake challenge was a wild success and amazingly fun. That one was quite specific however. Here, should you be daring enough, you can tinker with the croissant recipe to your heart’s content. I’m already fantasizing about stuffing mine with tropical fruit and mascarpone. All you need do is contact Heavenly or me to let us know that you’re on board. Make the recipe and publish it on your blog on September 19, 2011. We’ll send you a list of links of other participants a few days before for you to add to your post. C’est tout! I do hope all of you try this with us. The more, the merrier.

Today’s rustic pizza doesn’t have a thing to do with Julia Child or butter croissants. But it’s one that I’ve been thinking of trying since July when I saw it posted on Karen’s wonderful The Gourmet Food Blog. Her pizza tri-colore was stunning! I was particularly impressed with her gorgeous crust.

chilly and overcast Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco

chilly and overcast Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco last Sunday

I tried mine on a very cool foggy San Francisco day—you could say almost winter-like weather (I know most of you are suffering over the record-breaking temperatures everywhere, but it has been a might cold in the City by the Bay.) I think that affected my final product. My dough rose, but remained fairly dense, even after I doubled the time. It had a firm texture that really held onto the heavy toppings. It reminded me of Chicago style pizza. I added heirloom cherry tomatoes, feta, Kalamata olives, and marinara sauce. I like a lot of toppings.

Also, I baked mine on our new, amazing-because-you-can-actually-wash-it-with-soap-and-water coated pizza stone! Gone are the days of crusty gross pizza stones growing funk in my oven. Hurrah! It was twice as expensive as the other kind of uncoated stone, but so worth it.

our glorious new washable pizza stone

our glorious new washable pizza stone

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Kalamata and marinara

for toppings:

½ cup feta cheese
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, in halves
12 kalamata olives in halves
2 tbps. Parmesan
Small bunch fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Plus some coarse corn meal to move pizza

for marinara:

14 oz. Diced canned tomatoes with juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ small onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. Dried oregano
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
crushed red and black pepper to taste

Prepare pizza dough from Karen’s recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 425F with pizza stone inside.

In a small saucepan, add 3 tbsp. olive oil, garlic, onion and salt on high heat. Cook for a few minutes. Add remaining marinara ingredients. Bring to boil then reduce heat to rapid simmer to reduce liquid by at least half. Discard bay leaf.

Shape pizza dough. Prepare a board with some corn meal. Place dough on top of corn meal. Spread with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with feta, then heirloom cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and parmesan. Gently slide onto pizza stone. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until crust becomes golden.

Remove from oven then drizzle with some olive oil and finally toss basil leaves on top.


I was lacking cooking inspiration the other day so ended up browsing the web for ideas. I bumped into this really cool blog, weirdcombinations, and got my groove back. What caught my attention was a recipe for rice-stuffed peppers and another one for a salt codfish dish. It turned out I had all the ingredients available at home, plus, even better than them, a whole lot of freshly cooked chickpeas! 😉

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

So, back to reality. This dish is more about re-arranging things in new ways, thus making you feel you are having something surprisingly novel, yet comfortably familiar. I made this for Steven and Juanita recently. We all loved it.

black hummus and saffron rice-stuffed poblano and sweet bell peppers with salt cod topping

for the black hummus:

2 cup cooked chickpeas plus some of the juices
4 cloves garlic
kosher salt if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

To prepare the black hummus, add all the above ingredients into the food processor and process to make a smooth paste.

Make full recipe for poblano and red bell peppers stuffed with saffron rice, found here. Stuff peppers with some black hummus followed by the rice. Then bake as directed in the master recipe.

Make half-recipe for the salt cod portion of salt cod with chickpea puree on Texas toast, found here. Hold the chickpeas and the toast.

To serve, place peppers on a dish then top with salt cod. Voilá!


Recently we got a very large piece of Norwegian salt cod at our favorite salt cod market in San Jose. It was about half of a fish, so it was extremely awkward and oddly shaped. Fortunately, L and F Fish have a jigsaw, so they cut it up for us into individual sized portions. It was freaky cool to watch.

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

The codfish was excellent, perfectly cured and, after the extra work, in an ideal size. Two of the meatier pieces turned into this beautiful recipe. I froze the rest for another feast in the near future.

Using salt cod requires removing most of the salt before cooking. I used a different process for preparing the meatier parts of this cod fish compared to how I make bacalhoada. Instead of boiling the fish after prolonged soaking, I just scalded it to remove the skin and bones. This way, the fish retains more of its soft original texture and has a concentrated codfish flavor that is not overly fishy.

I was sort of inspired by Sean Timberlake’s description of a salted fish and johnnycakes dish he enjoyed on vacation recently in St. Marteen.

plate your own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

plate-your-own salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

salt cod with chickpea purée on Texas toast

2 thick Norwegian salt cod fish steaks, soaked for 24hours, water changed at least three times
½ red bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ yellow bell pepper, cut in large squares
½ green bell pepper, cut in large squares
1 white onion, cubed
1 tbsp capers
¼ tsp sweet paprika
½ cup green Spanish or Greek olives pitted
½ cup kalamata olives pitted
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp fish stock (see below)
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups crushed tomato
15 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
6 thick slices of white bread (I didn’t have true “Texas toast” so improvised with a sweet loaf from one of my favorite bakeries here, Acme Bread Company, which I cut into thick slices)

To prepare fish:

Bring two cups of water to a boil. Drain soaking codfish. Lay pieces in a large bowl with skin side up. Pour hot water over the skin and it will curl. Let cool a bit then carefully remove skin and bones. Place cleaned fish in another bowl lined with paper towels.

Make a fish stock by cooking bones and skin for about 10 minutes in boiling water. Chop the fish skin fine and return to stock. Remove any bits of fish flesh from bones. Discard bones but keep those tasty bits for the stock. This made more fish stock than we needed. Steven made a delicious Thai jasmine rice using some of the fish stock another day. Freeze remaining stock for another day.

Place a ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet. Bring the heat to high and give the pan a swirl to coat the bottom. Add about the equivalent of 5 cloves of minced garlic to the skillet and cook for about a minute or until aromatic. Gently slip codfish chunks in and cook for about 3-4 minutes, delicately turning them half way. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Return pan to burner. Add remaining olive oil followed by the chopped onion. Cook until translucent. Add about half the remaining garlic, the bell peppers, 2 tbsp fish stock, crushed tomatoes, paprika, green olives, bay leaves, and black pepper. Cook on high until the vegetables from a thick sauce. Delicately fold fish into sauce. Remove from heat but keep warm.

To prepare chickpea purée:

Add remaining garlic and a splash of olive oil into a pan. Let garlic cook for a minute then add chickpeas, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sauté for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Transfer chickpeas to food processor along with Kalamata olives and pulse until smooth. Add a few tablespoons of water if too thick. Return to pan and keep warm.

To assemble dish:

Place bread slices on a metal tray. Drizzle with olive oil then toast them on one side only. Rub fresh garlic on toasted side.

You can plate these before serving or serve each of the three elements: the cod, the chickpea purée and the toast, separately on a large platter. Either way, simply place a piece of toast on a large dish, toasted side up. Smear with some chickpea purée then spoon some codfish with sauce on top. Garnish with parsley. This is great with a crisp Rhône or Rhône style white wine like Domaine de la Becassonne or Domaine Pierre Gonon.


Cold weather makes you want to gorge yourself on heavy foods, don’t you think? We’re having a cooler-than-average summer here in San Francisco this year. The high temperature has been hovering around the high 50’s to low, mid 60’s for the entire month of July and now into August. Yikes! For those of you used to the Celsius scale, that’s between about 15 to 20. Chilly!

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce

When I lived in London in the Nineties I ate this dish a lot during the cold winter months. It was a common thing there though not so much in Brazil at the time, so I found the dish especially exotic and satisfying.

Unlike the delightful organic rainbow Swiss chard recipe from yesterday, this is not healthy. Oh well, today’s another day and you can’t always be good, now can you?

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce

1 lb spaghetti (or linguine) cooked per package instruction
1 cup half and half
1 tray shitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tray trumpet mushrooms, cut into slivers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
10 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in halves
3 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Fancy extra virgin olive oil for finishing

Place olive oil in hot skillet. Add garlic and shallot then sauté for a couple of minutes until shallot becomes translucent. Add mushrooms and sauté on high heat until cooked but still firm. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Transfer half of sautéed mushrooms to a warm plate. Pour half and half into skillet then add kalamata olives. Allow to warm through. Taste to adjust salt and pepper. Toss with cooked pasta, parsley and red chili flakes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with reserved mushrooms. Drizzle with a bit of fancy extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a bit more freshly ground black pepper over everything. Bon appétit! Stay warm.

shitake and trumpet mushrooms home from the farmers market

spaghetti with shitake and trumpet mushrooms in cream sauce sure hits the spot after spending an afternnon in this kind of London weather

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