white wine

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.

{ 3 comments }

These Yukon gold potatoes came from our community garden plot! I am so excited about that fact. Have you ever grown potatoes? Well, I haven’t before. And we never planted them to begin with—they just “came with” the new plot. These are super yellow and lovely. I wonder if they were planted intentionally? The person who used to have our plot composted, so she could have dumped them in as table scraps or something. Well, whatever the reason, we were able to harvest about 5 lbs of gorgeous potatoes in less than four months. One day we started digging and the spuds kept on surfacing. Wow!

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

Yukon gold potatoes harvested from our community garden plot

I’m continually enchanted with growing some of the produce we eat. It is magical and right now (mid-summer) every other day when I come to the garden I am surprised at how fast things develop. We’ve been getting lots of sun and that is making our plants happy.

This recipe is sort of a cross between a clam chowder and Vichyssoise soup. The clam sauce is inspired by this recipe, an excellently traditional way to enjoy fresh clams.

clams with Yukon gold potatoes

3 lbs medium to small sized clams, rinsed and clean
2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
1½ cups dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, chopped fine
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
small bunch chopped chives

Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a little salt and the cubed potatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until tender, transfer to a colander to drain. Set aside.

Heat up 3 tbsp olive oil in a skillet, add shallot first then garlic and cook until aromatic. Toss in clams and let them sizzle for a couple of minutes without burning the garlic/shallot mix. Add wine and shake the pan to coat everything with juices. Cover and let cook on high until clams start to open. Transfer clams to a bowl as they begin to open and keep warm. Discard the ones that don’t open, if any. Pour juices over boiled potatoes and blend until smooth using a stick blender. If too thick add a bit of hot water. Adjust taste with salt. Return potato to the skillet and warm through. Toss in chives, the clams and drizzle with the remainder of the olive oil. Serve at once.

{ 2 comments }

halibut en papilote

by Heguiberto on April 27, 2012

A throw back to the past? Maybe, but the thing is I had never prepared fish this way before using the actual parchment paper. It’s a snap with tin foil, but the result is not as dramatic and pretty. I made this for five people, so reduce or increase your proportions accordingly. The approach is Mediterranean but I did bake the fish steaks over carrot cumin rice which adds an Indian flare. I sort of used Mireille Guiliano’s halibut recipe from French Women Don’t Get Fat.

halibut en papilote

halibut en papilote

We at weirdcombinations were obsessed by Mireille a year or so ago, and she remains a fave. Jasmine met her in San Francsico once, if you can believe it!?! Of course, we loved the classic FWDGF! Who doesn’t really? Did you like the book about food and style over the seasons? I haven’t read the one about work, but Jasmine loved it.

Anyway, back to the fish. We had Jasmine Turner for this splendid Mireille-inspired meal. I forgot to mention it at the time, but I’m sure that she knows all about it by now. Love you, Jasmine!!

a charger with several halibut en papilote

a charger with several halibut en papilote

halibut en papilote

5 pieces of wild caught Pacific halibut
5 pieces of parchment paper, each about 13×26 inches
cumin carrot rice: double this recipe
½ cup dry white wine
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped fine
½ tbsp lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
chili flakes to taste
Kosher salt
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing

Mix salt, butter, tablespoon of olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, black and chili peppers together. Set aside.

Pre heat oven to 375F.

Fold each parchment paper into a 13×13 inch square. Lay one folded paper on top of another. Draw a half heart shape on top, filling as much of the paper as you can, then cut it out to form large paper hearts.

filling my heart shaped piece of parchment paper with carrot cumin basmati rice

filling my heart shaped piece of parchment paper with carrot cumin basmati rice

all set and ready to fold closed

all set and ready to fold closed

Place one heart shaped parchment paper on counter top. Brush with olive oil. Put two scoops of carrot cumin rice in the center, top with a halibut steak, smear some of the herbed butter over, and add a tablespoon of white wine. Inch by inch fold the edge of paper in such way that the folds overlap one another until you get to the “tip” of the half-heart. Twist the tip tightly to seal everything together. Repeat process with remaining portions. Put individual papilotes on baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve in paper.

{ 3 comments }

artichoke leek lasagna

by Stevie on April 2, 2012

Is lasagna elegant enough to serve at a dinner party? That is the question that I have been pondering for the past couple weeks. I had invited about six friends over for a Saturday meal, including two, Jocelyn and Devin that we hadn’t seen in months. So I wanted to impress but also not be stuck in the kitchen all evening in order to have time to catch up. Naturally, in these situations, I always think: casserole!

artichoke leek lasagna

artichoke leek lasagna

My favorite “casserole” from childhood has to be lasagna. I like it even more than macaroni and cheese if you can believe it. (Maybe I’m exaggerating. What do you think, Mom?) But if you’ve read this far, you’re probably already wondering, “He’s talking comfort food here. Where’s the wow-factor?”

I made an absurdly fancy multi-step lasagna from Fields of Greens, a cookbook “from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant” in San Francisco. So there! The dish requires a tomato sauce, a ricotta “custard,” an herb béchamel, fresh artichokes, provolone and of course the lasagna noodles. With all the separate steps, to get the tray ready for the oven took me almost two hours. It smelled and tasted deliciously. But somehow, sadly, the pictures look just like any old lasagna.

I served it family style at the table, so everyone could help themselves and I wouldn’t have to be running around constantly. People loved it and ate almost everything.

The following afternoon, Hegui and I went to see Jocelyn and Devin at their place downtown. We talked about the meal. She said something along the lines of “I’d never thought to serve lasagna at a dinner party. It was really good.”

Hmmm…

So I ask you once again: is lasagna elegant enough to serve at a dinner party?

artichoke leek lasagna

for the veggie filling:

2 leeks, whites only, sliced thin and thoroughly rinsed
4 artichokes, cleaned with hearts and stems sliced (for cleaning instructions, click here)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: I used lemon thyme, parsley and oregano

for the ricotta custard:

3 to 4 cups ricotta (I doubled the recipe here—naughty)
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup grated parmesan
A few pinches fresh nutmeg
½ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper

for the herb béchamel:

2½ cups whole milk
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper
Sprigs of fresh herbs: I used parsley, lemon thyme, sage and oregano

for the tomato sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped fine
¼ tsp dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine
2 large cans chopped tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste

for the lasagna:

1 box lasagna noodles (not the no-boil kind—they get too squishy)
1 cup parmesan, grated
1½ cups provolone, grated
…and items prepared above

Start by making the tomato sauce. This is fairly straightforward. Sauté onions in olive oil until they become translucent, then add garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Sauté a bit longer. Add red wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook at least 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper as desired.

Prepare the veggies by sautéing leeks in olive oil with salt until they become tender and translucent. Add dried herbs and pepper. Add artichoke slices and garlic. Continue cooking, covered, until artichokes are tender. Add lemon juice then white wine. Fold in fresh herbs. Adjust salt and pepper. Set aside.
Quickly make ricotta custard be mixing all ingredients together.

Prepare béchamel much like any roux. Add butter to a saucepan on high. As it begins to melt, sprinkle with flour and mix together. Once fully absorbed, slowly add milk while stirring constantly. Add sprigs of fresh herbs (tie them together to make fishing them out later easier.) Once it thickens, add salt and black pepper to taste.

the veggie layer for artichoke leek lasagna

the veggie layer for artichoke leek lasagna

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare lasagna noodles following package directions. In a large baking dish, scoop some tomato sauce on the bottom then a layer of three noodles side-by-side. Pour some more tomato sauce over the pasta. Then add sautéed veggies. Sprinkle half the cheeses. Add another layer of pasta. Spread ricotta custard over that then more pasta. Add another layer of tomato sauce, the remaining cheese and another layer of pasta. Spread béchamel over that final layer (after removing the herbs). Cover and bake about 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

That’s it! Simple…

{ 9 comments }

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

I got this huge and expensive slab of King salmon at our favorite fish market in the Mission the other day. I wanted to try my hand at poaching salmon in court bouillon. Recipes for court bouillon abound! In the end what I realized is that this is just a clear broth. You can basically make with any vegetable you find in your refrigerator, plus some acidic agent, such as white wine or lemon juice. You don’t have to go all Julia Child about it and spend the entire day slaving in the kitchen, though that is fine, too. In my case I used what was at hand for a fairly traditional broth, with the addition of a stalk of lemon grass, which gave this broth a bit of a South East Asian flare.

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

3 ½ lb slab king salmon, skin on but de-scaled

for court bouillon:

½ cups dry white wine
1 whole scallion
½ onion
1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed with a cleaver
Black pepper corns
Kosher salt
1 stalk of celery
Few strands of parsley
1 piece of fennel stalk
1 carrot

for lemon butter sauce:

1 stick butter
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp capers
4 tbsp chives chopped

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the salmon. Add all court bouillon ingredients to it, bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer for about 30 minutes. Discard vegetables. Let court bouillon cool down.

Lay salmon, skin-down, in a large pan so that it lies flat. Submerge with cooled court bouillon. Bring to a simmer and cook until done, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you choose to cut the salmon into smaller pieces before poaching, it may take as little as 3-5 minutes.

Using a large spatula carefully remove salmon from bath and place it on a serving platter. Keep warm.

Add butter and lemon juice to a saucepan on medium-high. Whisk until melted, remove from heat and add capers and 3 tbsp of chives. Mix well.

Sprinkle remaining chives over salmon and serve with lemon butter on the side.

Remember to keep the leftover broth and use it as a base for other soups. It is very aromatic.

On the night I served this, we had our friends Amie, Whitney, John, Chris and Valéria over for dinner. Amie and Whitney surprised us with a nice card, gift, some fruit tarts and a vegan chocolate cake celebrating our 3rd year wedding anniversary. It was a fun evening!

{ 6 comments }

squid and fennel kebabs

by Stevie on September 1, 2011

We just started taking La Cucina Italiana. Our first issue arrived this past week. The magazine is gorgeous! I can’t believe that we waited so long. This is the one with the cover story on grilling steak. ‘course, you all know that we’re pesce-veggie so don’t go for that. But Italian food, being so diverse, the pages were filled with lots of other exciting non-beef recipes. I am desperate to try making my own apricot liqueur, though it must wait until I’ve a chance to snag some ripe fruit. Instead, I jumped on the recipe called spiedini di seppie e finnocchi.

squid and fennel kebabs

squid and fennel kebabs

I’ve never poached squid before, which was really cool. And I’ve never grilled fennel, either. So this was a real novelty for me. I forgot about the arugula so used Tuscan kale instead, since we’re still blessed with so much of the stuff. Perhaps I should have followed the direction about brushing the skewers with olive oil more carefully. Instead, I sort of dumped it on. The excess oil dripped into the grill and set everything on fire for a while. Uh-oh!

This was good. The fennel cooked but remained a bit crisp. The squid was really flavorful. I served this with plain jasmine rice.

prepared skewers ready for the grill

prepared skewers ready for the grill

squid and fennel kebabs

1 lb cleaned squid bodies
¼ lb cleaned squid tentacles
1 ¾ cups dry white wine
1 onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 medium fennel bulbs, sliced into ¼ to 1/3 inch slices
¼ cup plus olive oil
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Large bunch Tuscan kale, large stems removed, sliced coarsely
Salt and black pepper
4 wooden skewers, soaked in water about half an hour

Cut about an inch thick slice of onion and place in medium saucepan. Add wine, garlic, rosemary, squid bodies and tentacles. Add water to submerge squid. Turn on high then lower to simmer. Remove squid bodies from liquid after two minutes simmering. Let tentacles cook six minutes longer. Drain and discard onion, garlic and rosemary.

Set grill on high.

To assemble kebabs, alternately put squid and fennel slices on four skewers. Liberally salt. Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley. Brush with olive oil. Grill about 7 to 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice remaining onion. Place in a large skillet with 1 ¾ cups water. Cook on high heat until most of the water has evaporated. Add ¼ cup olive oil, salt, black pepper and kale. Sauté until tender.

Turn sautéed kale onto a large platter. Gently place kebabs on top. Enjoy.

{ 5 comments }

I made this tasty and healthy dish from germinated red lentils. Hegui sprouted them from dried a few days before. Inspired by all the fresh herbs in our community garden plot, I used a mix of chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage and lemon thyme. Any combination might do. The kale stems are sort of optional. They add a nice green color. And of course we have a huge abundance of them with the success of the kale right now. What do you do with your leftover kale stems?

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

This sauté reminds me of a warm salad. Fragrant from the herbs and nutty, the lentils are a bit crunchy, too.

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

2 cups germinated red lentil sprouts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup kale stems with some leaves, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp fresh herbs: chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage, thyme

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add onion. Sauté on medium until onion becomes translucent. Add kale stems and garlic. Sauté a bit more then add white wine, cover pan and allow to steam. Add sprouted red lentil and fold vegetables together. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and cook until lentils heat through. Mix in fresh herbs. Serve.

{ 0 comments }

The first time I ate homemade paella was at our charming friend, Cesar Rennert’s, beautiful beach house in Remsenburg, on Long Island, NY, many summers ago. He prepared it himself, which was already remarkable, as he much prefers eating out at restaurants. It was simply incredible: so many thrilling and flavorful ingredients, and the final dish, presented family style at table, was so colorful. He taught us how to make paella that very day.

seafood paella with Maine lobster

seafood paella with Maine lobster

The following year we went on vacation to Spain. Ah, Spain: what a marvelous destination. Actually we didn’t expect much before going. It was David’s idea. Then Steven and I were more fascinated by Italy than anyplace else. But wow! Spain rocks. So much history, gorgeous people, delicious food, and you’re practically swimming in olive oil wherever you go. I like that. As a souvenir, we bought a non-stick paella pan from the gourmet supermarket chain, El Corte Inglés.

We’ve been using it since, for lots of things, including some of paella’s many tasty cousins, like pilaf and polow.

Paella is great for a party because it tends to be big, beautiful and impresses a crowd. Do you make paella? What kind? In Spain, there were so many varieties that you could get entire cookbooks devoted to paella, make a new recipe every day and probably be able to cook something different for a whole year.

This lobster paella was a special treat for my niece’s recent California visit. We went to our favorite, Sun Fat, for the freshest seafood. Impulsively, Steven suggested the lobster. I wasn’t so sure, since the whole Dungeness crab slaughter in December, I didn’t think that I was ready for a repeat performance quite yet. But they’re great at Sun Fat, and did the dirty deed for me. I didn’t watch the gruesome spectacle. Instead I selected the rest of the seafood.

This was my first go cooking lobster. I sort of improvised after the Joy of Cooking let me down (they only teach you how to cook it whole), thinking of it as very large shrimp or something. The final dish was really good. This is interactive food. You need to use your hands to really get the most out of it, so perhaps this isn’t for upscale dining.

assembling the seafood paella

assembling the seafood paella

seafood paella with Maine lobster

2lb fresh lobster, split in half and cleaned
1lb cleaned squid bodies and tentacles, bodies cut into rings
1lb mahi-mahi steak, cut into 1inch cubes
1lb large sea scallops
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 cup Thai Jasmine rice, rinsed
1 lb small clams (little neck)
~4 cups (homemade) vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup Spanish green olives, sliced
1 tsp Spanish sweet paprika
1 small container saffron threads (a large pinch)
½ cup dry white wine
Arbequina olive oil
Black pepper
1 cup sweet peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
Sea salt
Wedges of lemon (optional)

Make vegetable broth by boiling water for about 10 minutes with bits of vegetables from your fridge. I used stalks of collard greens and celery, couple of slices of onion, one carrot. Set aside.

Briefly scald red pepper and peas in vegetable broth, set aside.

Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to paella pan along with half of garlic. Sizzle for a minute or so. Add lobster, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, cover pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until lobster shell turns red. Crack claws. Transfer lobster to a platter. Pour excess juice into a bowl.

Return pan to burner. Add a bit more of olive oil to it then the fish. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, cook for a minute or so on each side. The inside will be a bit raw but that’s okay. Transfer to a warm platter. Pour any excesses juices into bowl with lobster juice. Prepare the scallops the same.

Return pan to burner, add a bit of olive oil to pan then squid. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper and cook just for a minute, remove from pan as the squid begins to curl. Transfer juices to lobster juice bowl.

Return paella pan to burner, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add saffron and paprika and stir to tint the oil. Add rice, seafood juice and broth to make up to approximately 3½ cups of liquid. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce temp to medium and let it cook until juices are about three fourths absorbed.

Meanwhile heat up one tablespoon olive oil in a small pan, add remaining garlic, salt, black pepper and sauté until aromatic. Add clams. Shake pan so clamshells get covered with olive oil. Add wine, cover and cook on high heat until most clams have opened. Immediately remove from heat. Let rest for few minutes, covered, so the remaining clams will open. If there are any that don’t, discard them. Pour remaining wine/clam juice over rice. Remove and discard the clamshell without any meat in it. Keep meat-filled clamshells warm.

Stir pepper and peas into wet rice. Arrange lobster halves, mahi-mahi cubes, scallops, clams in half shells, squid bodies and tentacles over it. Cover and let it finish cooking for another 5 minutes. Scatter olives over, drizzle with a bit more of olive oil and serve with wedges of lemon.

{ 10 comments }

ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and shitake in sage and trumpet mushroom sauce

February 25, 2011

The inspiration for this dish came from necessity: Hegui carved a truly gigantic French pumpkin into medium sized cubes to make pumpkin coconut compote, but there was too much pumpkin. He also made a variation on Brazilian quibebe, but there was still too much pumpkin. He gave some to Jasmine T for her pumpkin pie […]

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bolo de feijão rosinha com cogumelos, or vegetarian mushroom and pink bean loaf

November 1, 2010

This recipe was adapted from The Best – Ever Vegetarian Cookbook by Nicola Graimes. I bought it recently while perusing a used bookshop in downtown Reno a couple of weeks ago. We went there to visit our friends Karen and Veronica. It was fun spending the weekend at their gi-normous house, their two lovely and […]

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