Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cook the Books: Chalie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Yes, that's right, yet another cooking project has hit my culinary radar. This one, Cook the Books, is a bimonthly foodie book club "marrying the pleasures of reading and cooking." Okay. I'm in.

The assignment for March 2012 was Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Funny thing - I cooked and served an all-chocolate picnic dinner when two of our best friends played Oompa Loompas in a local theatre production of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I figured I would share that menu and recipes for this month. I got creative with the chocolate, using it in everything from the soup to the grill.

We started with a Roasted Parsnip-White Chocolate Soup.
(click the name of the recipe)

Next to the soups, I offered Chocolate Crostini...

Toast a slice of bread (I used ciabatta) till it's crisp. Let cool. Then spread a layer of nutella or melted dark chocolate on the crisp. Top with sliced pears and crumbled gorgonzola.

My Chocolate-Balsamic Vinegar Glaze pulled double duty.
I used this recipe to glaze some roasted chicken that we ate cold. And we used it as a salad dressing as well.

That was all I cooked for our 'picnic with the oompa loompas'. For dessert, I served different kinds of chocolate bars, mostly from Vosges Haut Chocolat. All were unique...just the kind of imaginative combinations that Wonka might have enjoyed.

Anything made by Vosges will be Wonka-esque...the "Enchanted Mushroom" bar paired dried reishi mushrooms and walnuts in dark chocolate. The "Woolloomooloo" features macadamia nuts, coconut, and hemp seeds in milk chocolate. And, my personal favorite: the "Black Pearl" contains ginger, wasabi, and black sesame seeds.

Book Review: I pulled the book off my boys' bookshelf tonight and, while they were doing homework and dinner was in the oven, breezed through most of the book. Dylan said, "Mommy, you read soooooo fast." Well, I'm really skimming. I've read this before. Riley was not as impressed and simply concluded, "Dylan, of course she reads fast, she's had lots and lots of years of practice." Did you just call me 'old.'? "Mom, you are old." Thanks.

There are several things I like about this book. Though the plight of the Bucket grandparents is depressing - all four confined to a single bed that they never leave - I like that they all live together. Extended family, if you have that luxury, adds so much to kids' lives.

I like the message of the story - you get what you deserve. For instance that little brat Veruca Salt demanding, "I want an oompa loompa right now!" She was definitely worthy of being deemed a bad nut by the nut-police. Or the impetuous Violet Beauregarde who chewed and blew herself into a bubble. Maybe you shouldn't grab things without asking.

Be respectful. Be polite. These are all good reminders for our children...and sometimes for us. I am looking forward the next Cook the Books pick.

*Update, 4/2/2012: I didn't realize this was a competition...until I got the email this morning that read, "Congrats! You won!" Thanks, Deb, and thanks, judges.*

Sustainable Food Book Club: The Fruit Hunters

These are all photos of funky fruits from my trip to Costa Rica a few fall breaks ago.

Okay, so this isn't really a "book club" in the sense that it's not a club. It's just me, bolstered by a resolve to read more this year and read things that matter to me. Top of that list: food. No surprise there, right?

My pick for the month of February was Adam Leith Gollner's The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce and Obsession. This journalistic foray into all things fruit ran from historical to erotic and back again. While his descriptions read like full-color fruit porn, sometimes in a somewhat off-putting manner, I devoured his accounts of the truly fruit-obsessed such as the fruitarians who eat nothing but fruit, the fruitleggers (fruit smugglers, yes, really) and the fruitmafia (kind of self-explanatory), and the fruititects.

I just made up that word, fruititects, but what would you call someone who builds a fruit? Have you ever heard of a grapple? It's an apple that tastes like a grape. And, no, not an earthy, burst of sweet liquid in your mouth kinda grape. The 'grape' that is a purple Fanta drink or a bright-colored piece of candy. Yikes.

I found this book truly enjoyable. A great way to unwind after a day full of chaos. I lost myself in his descriptions, longing to travel to the far reaches of the globe to track down some of these rarites, and sneering at the blah options in my fruit bowl currently. This read definitely took my fruit-snobbery even a little bit higher. Yes, that is possible.

Up next...I'm going from fruit to seafood. I'll be diving in to Taras Grescoe's Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood for the month of March.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Food Matters Project: Penne with Brussel Sprouts, Figs, Hazelnuts, and Pradera

Here's the fourth installment of the Food Matters Project, the brainchild of Sarah of 20somethingcupcakes and Kate from Cookie + Kate. Each week we all - here's the 'we' and we've grown to just over three dozen fellow foodie bloggers - cook the same recipe, from Mark Bittman's The Food Matters Cookbook, posting our interpretations and adaptations.

This week Marcia of twentybysixty assigned us Mark's Baked Rigatoni with Brussel Sprouts, Figs, and Blue Cheese. Click here for our hostess's post. Or click here, and look in the comments, to see what the others whipped up.

I had an extremely busy weekend and needed to squeeze this dinner in today, so I skipped the baking part and I substituted ingredients to match what I had on-hand. It came together very quickly while I was on a conference call about an annual fundraising event - yes, I am a multitasking maniac - and it was a hit! But I must admit that brussel sprouts are a family favorite. When we see brussel sprouts on the stalk at Trader Joe's, my 9-year-old does a little happy dance and blurts out, "Mom! Brussel sprouts! Can we have brussel sprouts tonight?!?" I cannot tell you how many people stare at me when he does that. So proud. "Absolutely, we can have that for dinner," I always say.

2 lb brussel sprouts, halved
2 T dried figs, destemmed and halved
1/2 C Pradera* (pictured), rough chopped
1/2 C raw hazelnuts, rough chopped
fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
fresh thyme, destemmed
olive oil
1/2 C whole milk fresh ricotta
freshly ground pink Himalaya salt and flower pepper
whole wheat penne

While the penne cooks, quickly sear the brussel sprouts in a large flat-bottomed pan in a splash of olive oil. Once the sprouts are cooked by still firm, add the dried figs, Pradera, and hazelnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the ricotta cheese, adding olive oil, until all of the pasta is coated evenly. Serve with fresh herbs sprinkled on top.

*A quick note about Pradera. You might see it called Roomano Pradera Gouda. It's an aged farmhouse gouda made in the Netherlands. It's a light caramel color and there are salty, sweet crystals in the brittle cheese that are like little flavor explosions in each bite. Can you tell I'm smitted? It's delicious.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Eat Drink Cook at Stone Creek Kitchen

Last night a friend and I went to the Spanish Tapas Cooking Class at Stone Creek Kitchen in Monterey.

'Eat. Drink. Cook.' are the words that repeat around the arched entrance to the kitchen and you see other such sentiments in several places around the kitchen and store. And that - eat, drink, and cook - is exactly what you do there with Kristina Scrivani and Linda Hanger, co-owners of the place to stock your pantry with exotic spices or just to pick up a fresh loaf of La Brea bread.

Pia and I signed up for the class thinking that it would be a hands-on experience; we both showed up with hairties on our wrists, ready to whip our mops into messy ponytails and get to work. That was not this class. This class was more like being pampered: we watched Kristina cook, listened to her talk, had our wine glasses continually charged, and ate and ate and ate and ate some more. This was not an Oscar-party prep-friendly event. We both left wondering if our red carpet dresses for our friends' Oscar party on Sunday were going to be obscenely tight now. Oh, well...

We started the evening with mixed olives, drunken goat cheese (mini rounds of goat cheese soaked in red wine), 18-month-aged manchego, and a few kinds of olive oil crisp breads. And we washed all of that down with a cava, a Spanish-style sparkling wine that was less effervescent than other bubblies but still gave you that tickle.

Then we moved to two more substantial tapas dishes. I like that Kristina's handouts are, what she called, 'formulas' and not 'recipes'. She admitted that she didn't follow recipes and every time she made something it turned out different. Me, too! So, I'll tell you what she made and how she made it - last night, anyway - and give you my twist.

click the name for the recipe

Though I am not big on fried anything, these were nice. Some changes I might try: (1) wrap with phyllo dough and bake the cigars instead; (2) add some lemon zest to the filling mixture.

 click the name for the recipe

click the name for the recipe

For some reason I never thought to spoon gazpacho on top of greens as a dressing. Amazing. Visually, this dish was a little too monochromatic for my tastes. I would add some blood orange segments or pink grapefruit segments for the color and a little more flavor. Otherwise, this was a little bit of summer in the middle of winter! The salad was paired - surprisingly - with an organic Spanish muscat that was not as syrupy as others I've had. Very nice.


click the name for the recipe

What a hearty bowl! They paired this with a strong red wine. I will definitely be making this again soon. Maybe tonight...

We ended the evening with the opportunity to shop a bit. I ended up with some dry Spanish chorizo, sliced Jamon Serrano, smoky paprika, and dark Spanish chocolate. So much fun!

Jamon Serrano with Gigundes Beans and Greens, A Stone Creek Kitchen Recipe

prepared by Kristina Scrivani at Stone Creek Kitchen during their
Spanish Tapas cooking class on February 24, 2012

1 lb Jamon Serrano, thinly sliced
4 C gigundes beans, not drained
10 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lbs bitter greens
2 T smoky paprika
olive oil
cracked pepper
Jamon Serrano is a dry-cured Spanish ham that is usually sliced thinly and served raw as you would an Italian prosciutto. For this dish, Kristina crisped them quickly in a skillet.

Gigundes beans are monster-sized white beans. I couldn't actually locate any information about them. I just crossed my fingers that they weren't related to fava beans. And, given that I didn't end up with a stomach ache, they aren't.

Place sliced Jamon Serrano in a hot skillet and cook till crispy. Set aside.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a flat skillet and saute the garlic for just a moment. Add the beans and when they begin to simmer, season with ground smoked paprika. In a separate pan, cook the green till they are just wilted. If you cook them too long, they will get slimy. Add the jamon and the greens to the beans and serve hot with toasted bread.

Avocado Salad with Gazpacho Dressing, A Stone Creek Kitchen Recipe

prepared by Kristina Scrivani at Stone Creek Kitchen during their
Spanish Tapas cooking class on February 24, 2012

2 heads of butter lettuce
2 avocado
1 cucumber, cleaned, striped, and deseeded
1 shallot
1 C ripe grape tomatoes
1 C parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/2 C sherry vinegar
1/2 C olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the dressing, place cucumber, tomato, garlic, shallot, and parsley into a food processor. Add vinegar. Process until mostly combine, but still chunky. Start processor again and add oil, slowly, until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer butter lettuce and avocado slices on a plate. Spoon dressing over the top. Grind fresh pepper over the top before serving.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers, A Stone Creek Kitchen Recipe

prepared by Kristina Scrivani at Stone Creek Kitchen during their
Spanish Tapas cooking class on February 24, 2012

8 Piquillo peppers
3 cans Bonito del Norte (tuna)
1/4 C shallot, sliced thin
1/2 chopped parsley
Nunez del Prado olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper

Piquillo peppers are closer to a pimento chili than a red bell pepper. They are common in northern Spain and their name, piquillo, means 'little beak.' When they were stuffed, they reminded me of tulips.

Drain peppers and set aside. Remove tuna from oil and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add shallots, parsley, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stuff each pepper with the tuna mixture and drizzle with olive oil.

Bacalao Cigars, A Stone Creek Kitchen Recipe

prepared by Kristina Scrivani at Stone Creek Kitchen during their
Spanish Tapas cooking class on February 24, 2012

1/2 lb prepared Bacalao
1/2 C shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 C whole milk ricotta cheese
12 pasta sheets
1 bunch chives, chopped fine
egg white
oil for frying

Bacalao is a preserved, salted cod. To prepare it, soak in cold water for at least 8 hours. Drain, place in a large pot, covered with fresh water, bring to a boil and simmer for 3 hours. Drain and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl place flaked bacalao, shallots, ricotta, and chives. Mix well. Spoon prepared filling onto pasta sheet, brushing the edges with egg white. Fold edges in and roll tightly to form a "cigar." All to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Brazil: Cooking Around the World with Camilla (CATWWC)

I am exercising my right to a pass tonight with a sigh of relief and a "been there!" for our Brazilian stop in our cooking around the world adventure.

Back in the summer of 2010, I made a Brazilian feast.

Here's what I served...

click the name of the original recipe post
Fried bean dumplings with shrimp and hot peppers
Fried bean dumplings with shrimp and hot peppers
Tapioca pearls in red wine

We toasted with

Enjoy my tabletop travels. Join me in whipping up a dish or two. If you do cook something from If If you cook a recipe from one of these countries, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to comment on the posts themselves or email me at constantmotioncamilla at gmail dot com.

This Knight of the Global Table Adventure is signing off for now. We're traveling to Brunei next.

Botswana: Cooking Around the World with Camilla (CATWWC)

We were back in Africa for our Cooking Around the World adventure tonight, traveling by tabletop to Botswana. Dylan had two questions when I brought the bowls to the table. I could only answer one of them.

"Mommy, why are you serving white rice? You always serve a rice with color. You know - brown or green or red or black."

That is true. But those rices do not stick together. I needed rice that could be formed into balls. So I took a cup of white rice from Nonna.

"Mommy, why do the people in Botswana serve their rice in balls?"

No clue, Sweetheart.

Formerly Bechuanaland, a British protectorate, Botswana adopted its new name with its independence in 1966. Dominated by diamond mining, Botswana has a robust economy. I refrained from talking to the boys about diamonds and my intense feelings about them. (In case you don't know me in real life, my engagement ring is a sapphire.) There's time for that discussion later. And, yes, I do have an opinion about just about everything.

This is my take on a traditional Botswanan recipe for a stew layered with vegetables cooked in stock. I added chicken into my stew and took some liberties with the vegetables. The classic stew features potatoes, squash, carrots, corn, turnips, and celery.

olive oil
minced garlic
chopped fennel
chicken boullion
chicken, boneless, skinless and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
carrots, coined
potatoes, cubed
thinly sliced kale
fresh oregano
fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high flame. Add the garlic and fennel. Saute until slightly brown. Add chicken and cook through. Add carrots, potatoes, salt and pepper and cook till fork tender. Pour in boullion and add kale, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in rough-chopped fresh herbs. Spoon stew over balls of cooked rice.

This Knight of the Global Table Adventure is signing out for now. We're off to Brazil next.

Elderflower Cupcakes with Bee Pollen Frosting

So, when I was online waaaaay too late last night, I saw this post - Mini Chamomile Cakes with Honey Frosting - pop up from one of my very favorite foodie bloggers - Heather at girlichef. Ummmm. Mini. Cake. Honey. Yes, yes, yes!
I am admittedly not a fan of chamomile. I like seeing them in a dewy meadow; when I have a cold I will breathe in a chamomile-laden mist. But in a teacup, or a cake, no thank you. Since I have had dried elderflower blossoms in my cupboard for far too long - from a Scandinavian liqueur I intended to make but never got around to doing - I decided to go with that. And loving the honey-theme, I added bee pollen for good measure. These were devoured for breakfast this morning. Delicious!

1/4 olive oil
1 c white whole wheat flour
¾ c organic raw sugar
1 T organic honey
1 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
pinch of pink Himalaya salt
3 T dried elderflower blossoms
1 T bee pollen
½ C organic whole milk
1 large egg
1 t honey liqueur

2 C organic powdered sugar, sifted
1 T organic honey
6 T organic whole milk
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with liners and set aside.
    Mix all ingredients together until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Divide batter into prepared pans, filling each cup about halfway. I only got 11 cakes out of the batter, but my muffin tin is slightly larger than usual.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

Whisk together sifted powdered sugar, honey, and milk until smooth. Adjust consistency with a bit more powdered sugar if it seems too loose or dribble of milk a little at a time if it seems to thick.
Spread generously on top of cooled cupcakes.

Sprinkle with a bit of loose elderflower blossoms or bee pollen as a garnish, if you wish. On my photos...the top photo of the cupcake has elderflower blossoms; the bottom has bee pollen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Cooking Around the World with Camilla (CATWWC)

Our cooking around the world adventure took us to the former Yugoslavia tonight. We traveled by tabletop to the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The cultural distinctions in the area are minimal though the cultural identity is fierce with three main political factions: the Muslims (Bosniacs), the Serbs, and the Croats.

Bosnia is named after the Bosna River that winds through the area. And it's a Bosnian recipe that I selected for Riley to make tonight. He strapped on his apron and made a Bosnian meat pie which is shaped like a snail.

Bosanski Burek

2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C warm water
1/4 C olive oil
1 egg, beaten
pink Himalaya salt

1 lb 96/4 organic grass-fed beef
1 fennel, diced
1 T minced garlic
2 eggs
1 C thinly sliced kale
olive oil
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together the flour, warm water, olive oil, egg and salt until it comes together. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and pliable. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least half an hour. While the dough rests, saute fennel and kale until they are softened.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix together the ground beef, garlic, eggs, fennel and kale in a large mixing bowl. Season to salt and pepper.

Remove the rested dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a large rectangle.  
Place the meat filling in a row in the center of your dough. Bring the pastry up and over the meat filling and roll it up into a long sausage-shaped roll.
Lay one end of the roll onto the middle of a greased baking stone. Carefully wrap the remainder of the pastry roll around itself to form a snail-shaped pie in the middle of the baking pan. Brush the top of the pastry with olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until cooked through and golden-brown. Cut into wedges and serve sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese or a thick yogurt.

For dessert I made a very fast and very loose version of Bosnian tufahije, poached apples filled with nuts.

Enjoy my tabletop travels. Join me in whipping up a dish or two. If you do cook something from If If you cook a recipe from one of these countries, I'd love to hear about it. Feel free to comment on the posts themselves or email me at constantmotioncamilla at gmail dot com.

This Knight of the Global Table Adventure is signing off for now. We're traveling to Botswana next.