Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Orleans Countdown, One week to go...




Well it's exactly one week until my trip to New Orleans or what I call my Culinary Adventure. We have our room booked at the Ritz, which to my delight has just finished a 100 million dollar renovation, brilliant! So besides great food I think I will be indulging in some well deserved spa treatments, hey it is my birthday weekend.

Ok so onto the important things, food.

We have 4 days and 3 nights to dine so I have spent plenty of time and research planning our itinerary. After much deliberation, we have decided in honor of one of my favorite chefs and television programs, Daniel Boulud's After Hours to make stops at Bayona, Conchon and August. Broussard's, Antoine's and the Acme Oyster House are also on the agenda. I love New Orleans and have never had a bad meal there, NEVER.

This will be my first time there since Katrina and though I know so much has changed, I feel confident that the great food, music and wonderful hospitality of the people of New Orleans will be in tact.

Acme Oyster House have my oysters ready and my martini cold and dirty...it's been a while and I can't wait to catch up...

Nik

Pasta with Roasted Yellow Tomato Sauce and Pancetta




The tomatoes are still coming and coming and right now my Yellows are so plentiful I want to make sure that none go to waste.
Below is another tasty summer pasta dish that highlights the sweetness of the tomatoes and has some great contrast with the saltiness of the pancetta and the heat of the red pepper flake.
I like to roast my tomatoes to add a depth to the flavor. The carmelized tomatoes make a huge difference and really are the key to this dish.
You can make this dish year round with any kind of tomatoes or even canned just make sure you use the mill if you want your sauce smooth vs.. chunky it is delicious either way, trust me this is not your mama's sauce, wait... I mean this is not my mama's sauce, either way
Enjoy!

Nik


Note: For those of you who enjoy making your own sauce I recommend investing in a food mill if you do not already own one. They are not expensive and can help you take your sauces and purees to a whole new level. You can find them at William Sonoma, Kitchen Kapers or most department of specialty kitchen stores.




Grocery List:


5 yellow beefsteak tomatoes, washed, cored
1/4 pound pancetta diced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
25 to 30 basil leaves, washed and dried
salt/pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese to taste ( I say the more the better!)
1 pound of your choice of Pasta, I like thick spaghetti or penne


Directions:


1- Preheat Oven to 425 degrees
2- Core tomatoes and halve, place on baking sheet and and toss with salt pepper and extra virgin olive oil. cook for 30 minutes.
3-In a medium sauté pan or skillet, heat a tablespoon of the olive oil and add the garlic, shallots, pancetta, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the oregano and sugar. Cook over low heat, until the shallots and garlic become translucent and the pancetta gets nice and crispy.
4- Take roasted tomatoes out of the oven and run through a food mill or a strainer to remove seeds.
5- Add the tomato and liquid to the shallot mixture and add 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cook until 8 to 10 minutes.
6-Add the water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.This is a good time to taste for seasoning.
7- In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt.
8- Add the pasta to the pot and stir so none of the pieces stick to the bottom as they cook. Cook the pasta until it is "al dente" 8 to 10 minutes.
9- Drain the pasta in a colander. Reserve a little of the pasta water JUST IN CASE!.
10- Pour most of the sauce into a large skillet and add the pasta and toss. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water.
11- Add the basil leaves, sprinkle with cheese and get ready to enjoy.
12- Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your meal!




Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's like Oscar Season for Foodies!




So I am not sure about you, but I will tell you that right now I am in TV heaven. The new seasons of No Reservations, Three Sheets and Man Vs. Food have already started and tonight not only is it the finale of Top Chef Masters on but the new season of Top Chef, Las Vegas starts, woo hoo! Usually summer is brutal with all of the reruns of Network TV and WNBA games, so unless you have cable (I do!) you are stuck with, well a bunch of crap to watch.

I 'm rooting for Michael Chiarello tonight but I just have a feeling that Hubert Keller is going to win the crown of Top Chef Master, we shall see. I'm happy to see two area chefs competing on Top Chef Las Vegas, Philly native Jen Carroll, the current executive chef at Eric Riperts 10 Arts and Jennifer Navala, sous chef at Xochitl. I have never been to Xochitl but the food at 10 Arts is wonderful, I recommend the wild boar prosciutto, it is tasty.

For those of you who have not seen some or any of these other shows, I suggest give them a try. I ran across Three Sheets a couple years back when it was on the now defunct Mojo Network. At first glance this is a show that is all about drinking and well it kind of is, but it makes for some good TV. Host Zane Lamprey, his occasional sidekick Steve McKenna and always present Monkey Pleepleus are so entertaining and game for anything, I love it, it's fratastic! Get this guy to Philly and stat.
Man Vs. Food is another one of my guilty pleasures. Adam Richman has an iron stomach and makes me laugh, what more could you want? I'm amazed at how much food he can eat in one sitting and at the heat factor of some of the food he eats is alarming. He is like that slightly overweight friend from college you can always talk into doing something stupid, good stuff.
Note to ANY Network: I am still waiting for another season of After Hours with Daniel Boulud, best show ever.
So tonight, I'm going to cook a lovely meal, open up some good wine and enjoy me some foodie reality TV. I suggest you do the same.

Enjoy,
Nik

Friday, August 14, 2009





When Matt and I were in Rome a couple years back, for Valentines Day to boot, and we happened to stumble across Prosecco. Prosecco is a sparkling version of Italian Champagne and it wonderful! It's the perfect way to start or end a meal.


Here are a couple cocktail ideas using Prosecco and fresh seasonal fruits. It is Friday isn't it?

Enjoy!

Nik


Strawberry Smash


3 ripe organic strawberries, hulled and sliced

6 leaves of one fresh herb such as mint, basil, verbena, cilantro OR 1-inch section of fresh rosemary or thyme

1 ounce good white rum like 10 Cane or clean white gin like Bombay Sapphire

1 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note)

2 ounces prosecco


Directions:
1- Add the strawberries and your selected herb to a rocks glass.

2- Smash the strawberries and herbs gently with a muddler until the berries are a pulp and the herbs smell strong.

3- Add the rum or gin if using and sour mix to the glass and give it a stir. Fill 3/4 full with ice.

4- Top off with the prosecco. Garnish with a sprig of the herb you used.


Note: To create my all natural sour mix, mix 1 cup lemon and or lime juice with 1 cup sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan. Heat over a low-medium flame, stirring to dissolve the sugar. When cool, pour syrup into a sterile glass bottle and refrigerate. Keeps for up to 2 weeks.



Sheer Sangria
Makes 8 to 10 servings


1 bottle prosecco

1/2 cup Cointreau

1/4 cup sugar

1 unpeeled lime, thinly sliced and seeded

1 unpeeled lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

1 small unpeeled orange, thinly sliced and seeded

1-1/2 cups fresh organic strawberries, hulled and sliced

1-1/2 cups green grapes, sliced in half

2 cups chilled sparkling water or club soda or more to taste

several small whole strawberries with stems, for garnish



Directions:


1- Combine the wine, Cointreau, sugar and fruit in a large pitcher and refrigerate overnight.
2- Pour into cocktail glasses filled with ice and top off with club soda.

3- For the garnish, slit the bottoms of the whole strawberries and place one on the rim of each glass.


Lemon Bubbles
Makes 1 cocktail


2 slices fresh lemonsugar

1/2 ounce limoncello

1/2 ounce all-natural sour mix (see note above)

4 ounces prosecco

Use the lemon slice to moisten the edge of your champagne flute or coupe.

Put the sugar on a flat saucer.

Press the rim of the glass into the sugar to make a frosted rim.


Directions:
1- Pour the limoncello, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the natural sour mix to the prepared glass.

2- Top with prosecco.

3- Garnish with the remaining lemon slice and serve.

Panzanella Salad oohhhh so good

I have so many tomatoes now I like to try and incorporate into as many of my summer meals as possible. This salad is so tasty and is also super easy to make.. now who doesn't like the sounds of that?



Grocery List:

3/4 pound day-old crusty peasant-style whole-grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
2 large tomatoes (about 1 pound), trimmed and each cut into 8 wedges
3/4 cup sliced unwaxed cucumber
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
10 fresh basil leaves, shredded

Directions:

1- In a serving bowl stir together the bread, the tomatoes, the cucumber, the onion, the oil, the vinegar, the basil, and salt and pepper to taste until the salad is combined well.

2- Pour yourself a nice big glass of wine and enjoy, you deserve it!


Nik

Warm Potato Salad with Pancetta & Arugula

Happy Friday!

Since summer is almost over I thought I would share one of of my favorite sides with you, this salad is so good you will want to make it over and over. The key components are the Arugula, which gives it some freshness and bite and the pancetta that just makes it tastes really, REALLY good!

Note to Vegetarians you can take out the pancetta but you are really missing out, I'm just saying...



Grocery List:

3 pounds white potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
5 ounces baby arugula (6 cups)
1/4 pound pancetta dices

Directions

1- Preheat the oven to 425°.

2- Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch wedges.

3- Scatter the potato wedges on 2 large rimmed baking sheets, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and toss until coated.

4- Season with salt and pepper and roast for about 25 minutes, until browned and crisp.

5- Cook pancetta in pan until crispy, take out, save pandrippings-

6- In a small bowl, whisk the remaining, pan drippings from pancetta, 1/4 cup of olive oil with the mustard and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

7- In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with the onion and arugula.

8- Top with the dressing, and cooked pancetta, toss again and serve right away.



Enjoy!

Nik

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mussels Experience and Experiments 2 Recipes

Last week Matt and I hit Manyunk for dinner at Coopers and were pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised at our meal. Now this is in no way a bad review because our food was delicious and service very good, not to mention the people watching.

We were seated out side and ordered some Rose, an order of their homemade potato chips, a pizza with Pesto mozzarella and tomatoes and some mussels.

The chips were the first to arrive, wow are these things awesome and dangerous, thank god they only gave us a small portion because I could eat an obscene amount if they were put in front of me. They are very brown and crisp with a salt & vinegar flavor, tasty!

The mussels followed. The mussels were excellent, they had heat from spicy andouille sausage and there was definitely some butter in there somewhere because the broth was so silky. The issue is the amount of mussels and bread, for $10 I expect more than 8-10 mussels and 4 small pieces of bread. Tip to Coopers either more mussels or bread or hey how about both? The pizza there is hard to beat, it is thin and they use high quality ingredients.

I decided after leaving there I was going to make some mussels and PLENTY of them. The next day after work I hit the Flourtown farmers market. I bought 6 pounds of mussels for $16. Now pounds of mussels is far too much for Matt and I, but I was cooking dinner for my in-laws and wanted to experiment so I grabbed extra so we could have them on Sat as well.

So for Fridays Mussels with the Donnelly's, I grabbed some saffron ,olive oil, canned tomatoes, shallots, green onions, garlic, chicken stock, cannellini beans and parsley and was ready to rumble. No butter we have to watch Boomer's cholesterol.

Here is my quick and easy recipe:

1- Sautee the onions, garlic, shallots and saffron in olive oil until they became translucent about 8 minutes salt pepper to taste.
2- Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil
3- Add Mussels, stir and cover for 8-10 minutes
4- Add cannellini beans, stir
5- Top with fresh parsley and green onions
6- Enjoy with crusty bread

Feeds 4-6 people easily

Grocery List:
4 pounds Mussels
8 garlic cloves minced
saffron (just a pinch a little goes a long way)
4 large shallots minced
1 large Vidalia Onion minced
1 can cannellini beans
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
salt pepper
parsley
green onions


Saturdays Mussels:

1- Sautee onion, shallot, saffron, olive oil & butter 8-minutes
2- Add Adoullie Sausage chopped out of casing
3- Add wine cook for 2 minutes, add tomatoes bring to a boil
4) Add Mussels, stir and cover 8-10 minutes
5) Serve with Crusty Bread


Grocery List
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
3 tbsp Olive Oil
2 pounds Mussels
1 andoullie Sausage link
1tbsp Butter
1 pinch of saffron
1 medium Vidalia Onion minced
2 large Shallots minced
2 cups Dry White Wine
Parsley chopped finely


I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Enjoy!
Nik

Summer Wine Suggestions, Rose, Rose, Rose!




Now this is not your mother's White Zinfandel....


I know growing up people have often associated white zinfandel as being cheesy and I do agree, it is indeed cheesy. (sorry w. zin drinkers..we all are entitled to our opinions and it's my blog)

I guess it was about 2 years ago while traveling in Rome, Italy I discovered rose, now it is one of my favorite Summer wines. The great news is that winemakers are taking notice of it's growing popularity and there are some great new bottles out there at excellent prices or as my mother in-law Beth would say "they are quite affordable".

Now I have a friend (who will remain anonymous who is a bit of wine expert) that I pump for suggestions all the time. Here are a couple good bottles to try, his suggestions and mine.

Vega Sindoa, 2008, Grenache rose from Spain
Mulderbosch, 2008-South African Rose
Lidia Bastianch- Rosato Refosco
J Vidal-fleury Taval French Rose


So get out there an enjoy some Rose, there is nothing cheesy about enjoying some great wine, you deserve it!

Enjoy
Nik

All these tomatoes and so many things to do with them!


So if you are as lucky as I am to be swimming in the fruits of my gardening labors and have an abundance of tomatoes here is one of my favorite recipes and healthy to boot!

You can use this with Chicken, Fish or Shrimp, this is also great over Eggplant Grilled Veggies, Portabellas or Tofu (for my Vegetarian friends)

Place Cherry tomatoes in foil with Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Capers. Red Pepper Flakes and Shallots and seal.
Roast for 25-35 minutes at 425 degrees.

Place on top of Chicken, Fish or Shrimp. (Grilled tastes best but also excellent broiled)

Add some fresh chopper Basil or Parsley and enjoy !

Side Note: You can also add olives and top with Feta or Goat Cheese which is fantastic with the Chicken.

This recipe is so quick and easy I suggest you enjoy some vino while it's cooking, hey you deserve it.

Enjoy!

Nik

Burrata




I read an article last year in the LA Times about Burrata and felt that quote was a perfect way to start this entry:


"On the plate there would sit one perfect round ball. On the statue's base there would be a one-word legend:"

Yes that certainly does sum it up. Now if you have not had the pleasure, and I mean PLEASURE of eating burrata, make it a point. This is the perfect time of year. I indulged yesterday while watching with USA Men's Soccer Team lose to Mexico.

My tomato plants are in full bloom right now and I have a wonderful assortment to pick from. So yesterday I grabbed a couple heirlooms, yellow and orange tomatoes, some fresh basil and really good Extra Virgin Olive oil, cut up a loaf of nice crusty bread and made us a wonderful snack.
Some things to know, fresh burrata should be served at room temperature. If it is too cold, the creamy filling becomes solid and lacks that essential lusciousness. Its spectacular, gushing center can be scooped up with slices of crusty bread. Try tossing burrata into warm, drained pasta, such as penne or spaghetti or as a topping on naan or pizza, it bakes beautiful.

Burrata can be found at most specialty cheese shops or Farmers Markets when it is available, it is pricey but worth every bite! Local Folks try Di Bruno Brothers, Claudio's or the Flourtown and Chestnut Hill Farmers Market, both cheese stands have it.

Remember this is the best time of the year to take advantage of the local fresh produce and support your local farmers!

BBQ Challenge Temporarily on hold..