Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Simplicity ...

As much as I love cooking and eating ... there are times when I don't feel like doing either. The way the this past weekend shook out, I did plenty of one and little of the other. Friday night I engaged in some March Madness that was not of the b-ball variety ... I saw the Allman Brothers at The Beacon Theater. Its a long-standing March tradition on the Upper West Side and this year's run was quite something indeed. Kid Rock was the special guest on Friday night and, frankly, he did rock. The whole show did!

Prior to the show, the husband and I dined at 'Cesca, and the meal was every bit as spectacular as the concert. Saturday night we met the sister in law and our friend M. at one of my all time favorite restaurants - El Faro - where we dined happily on a number of Spanish classics, paella included. El Faro has been serving up the best paella in the city since 1927 and, honestly, this place is so good, so unique, it deserves a review of its own. I was dining sans camera Saturday night, so the review will have to wait - but it will happen. Stay tuned.

Suffice it to say, by Sunday night I'd had my fill of food and wanted nothing more than a simple salad for dinner. Of course by simple, you know I mean - simply divine. I drew inspiration from two sources. The first: POM Wonderful. Last week, Diana - aka The POM Blogger - got in touch with me and offered a sample of their luscious POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. Needless to say, I accepted the offer with pleasure. I'm already a huge fan of POM and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to explore it more fully as an ingredient. Diana sent me a case of POM Wonderful juice and I promptly put it to work in creating a scrumptious dressing for my salad.

Divalicious POM Wonderful Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 1/2 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • pinch of salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
  • scant 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • some mixed salad greens
  • some fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 2 or 3 oz. of good quality Gruyere cheese, sliced
  • some roasted pumpkin seeds
In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients - POM juice through dill - and whisk to incorporate. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, to taste, to create an emulsification. Whisk vigorously until well combined and the dressing is formed. Taste for seasoning, adding a bit more salt and pepper or a splash of vinegar if needed.

Lightly dress your salad greens with the finished vinaigrette, to taste, and sprinkle the salad with some pomegranate seeds. (I also added some red bell pepper and celery to the mix.)

Place the sliced Gruyere on a large, microwave-safe plate and heat in the microwave on high for approximately 10 to 20 seconds, or until the cheese melts and just begins to bubble. Watch it carefully and do not over cook. Remove from oven, sprinkle the cheese with some roasted pumpkin seeds and a few pomegranate arils (seeds). Place the dressed salad on the plate, garnish with a slice of hearty, whole-grain bread and enjoy!

As written, this salad will serve one, but you will have plenty of yummy dressing left to enjoy. I'm not a fan of oily dressing, so the ratio here is light on the EVOO. Feel free to increase if that's your pleasure.

I wish I could take credit for the marvelous addition of melted cheese to the plate. That idea came straight from The Wine and Food Lover's Diet Cookbook - and frankly, its brilliant! I mean, who doesn't love melted cheese?! The zippy POM vinaigrette was the perfect foil for the warm, creamy cheese and the pumpkin seeds really upped the flavor ante as well. I rounded out the meal with a slice of nutty brown bread - another version of Irish soda bread - and I'll tell you all about it ... tomorrow. Stay tuned.

I'm thoroughly delighted with my first foray into cooking with POM and looking forward to further explorations. This salad was just what the doctor ordered - and it only goes to show that simple and elegant sometimes mean the same thing.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Feed the Peep!

Fresh off the heels of the wildly successful Eating Your Words blogging event, Jen at Savor the Thyme has launched another hilarious contest ... this one involving Peeps! And this time there's a prize. The lucky winner will receive a copy of "Best of the Best: the best recipes from the 25 best cookbooks of the year." You can play too! Entries must be sent to Jen by midnight, April 5th. You can read the rules here.

I do so love a web-tacular event and I had about a million ideas for this one. Evidently my dark sense of humor won out. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves ...

A Day in the Life of a Peep:

Just hatched ...

Off to work ...

Uh oh!

**For the record, no actual Peeps were consumed while filming this entry ... at least not by me. The husband is a fan - I am not. I may be known to eat the occasional Peep once a year, but I prefer the day old variety - when the Peep is slightly crisp ... Papa Diva will back me up on that!

I did, however, eat the omelet. Word to the wise - Peep flavored eggs will not soon become the latest taste sensation.

Why not hatch a few ideas of your own and join the fun? Thanks so much for setting this up, Jen, I had a blast. Can't wait to see the other entries!

Bon appetit!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Going Green

In case you haven't heard, its a woman's prerogative to change her mind. That goes double for Divas. Call me crazy, you wouldn't be the first, but I've done a culinary one-eighty. On Tuesday I was all about the Winter foods ... these last two days? Nothing but Spring. Maybe it was the double shot of turnips, or perhaps I've been cooped up in my cashmere too long ... but suddenly I'm craving fresh things, fresh flavors. I'm craving green.

Creamy Spinach and Feta Dip:
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 cups, packed, of baby spinach leaves, stems removed, washed and drained
  • 3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of 1/3 less-fat cream cheese
  • 8 oz. of non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp. of grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 tbsp. of chopped fresh dill
  • pinch of salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper
Heat a small saute pan over medium high heat and to it add 1 tsp. of olive oil. Saute the minced shallot in the oil until translucent and just beginning to color, about 2 minutes or so, do not brown. Remove the shallots to a small bowl, cool and reserve.

Place the garlic, cooled shallots, and the spinach into the bowl of your food processor. Its ok - preferable even - if a bit of water is still clinging to the spinach leaves. Pulse and process until the spinach is shredded. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the Feta and the cream cheese. Process until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the Greek yogurt and process until smooth. Add the lemon zest, fresh dill, a bit of salt and pepper and process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Transfer the mixture to a serving vessel and serve immediately with a variety of crudites and some whole grain crackers or flat bread. Or, alternately, cover and chill until needed.

As written, this recipe will yield approximately 2 cups of dip.

Honestly, this dip is so good, so luscious and creamy, I could simply eat it with a spoon. Its delightful with some strips of red bell pepper or some crisp carrot sticks as well. And hey, if you want to try it with some chips, go for it ... I promise I won't tell.

The sun is shining, the birds are singing and we're on our way to a delightful high of 63 degrees today. I'd say that's cause for celebration. Why not whip up a batch of this yummy, healthy dip, pour yourself a long, tall Moscow Mule and start the weekend off right? A more winning combination I cannot imagine.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thirsty Thursdays: Bitterness Edition

Some time ago, the husband and I were shopping Balducci's and he impulsively threw a bottle of Angostura Bitters into our cart. It seemed like a good idea at the time, though neither of us had any idea what to do with it. The husband took an immediate shine to it, after adding a few drops to a gin martini. It has been making its way into a variety of beverages, Chez Diva, ever since. Today's offering is no exception.

For those unfamiliar with bitters - a little history. Angostura Bitters was first developed as a digestive tonic by Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert in 1824. At that time, Dr. Siegert was the Surgeon General of a military hospital in Angostura, Venezuela - the bitters are named after the town. A long and convoluted history follows, all of which you can read on the Angostura site, if you're so inclined. The tonic is made from a proprietary mix of gentian and aromatic herbs and spices. Legend has it that the recipe is known only to five individuals at any given time. I don't know how true that is, but it is reported to be one of the few "trade secrets" left. Quite romantic, no?

Once we got our little bottle home, I went Googling and found scads of cocktails that include aromatic bitters. For some reason we settled on a Moscow Mule that night ...

The Moscow Mule:
  • some cubes of ice
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 4 dashes of Angostura Aromatic Bitters
  • ginger beer or ginger ale*
Place the ice cubes into a tall glass. Pour the vodka and lime juice over the ice and add the Angostura Bitters. Top the drink with ginger beer or ginger ale to fill the glass. Stir gently, garnish with a section of lime, serve and enjoy! Repeat as necessary.

*Note - ginger beer and ginger ale are not the same thing. Ginger beer is a carbonated soft drink more commonly found in the UK and the British Isles. It is less sweet and more gingerly flavored than American ginger ale. For the sake of ease, I'm offering the option here. If you can find real ginger beer, by all means go for it. I've found it at Fairway on occasion, but rather than hunt and forage, I often default to good 'ole Canada Dry!

This drink is light, refreshing and perfectly balanced. While I'm not generally a fan of soda, or drinks made with soda, the bitters acts as a unifying element; creating a perfect harmony between the sweet notes of the ginger ale and the tangy notes of lime.

I can't think of a better drink to usher in the first official days of Spring. It may not feel like Spring just yet ... but mix yourself up a batch of these and it will most certainly taste like it!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Spicy Diva: Burrito Edition

I think we've all had our fill of turnips by now. Its time to head south of the boarder for a bit of Mexican fare. But rest assured these are not your typical burritos. Unless you typically fill your burritos with spinach. As a rule, I don't. And when I first read this recipe I wasn't about to either. But then I thought - what the hell, how bad can it be? Turns out they were spectacular.

Now before you start running scared on me, let me assure you that there's more than spinach beneath that wholesome whole-grain tortilla. This burrito boasts a stunning combination of lean ground beef, spicy chipotle chilies in adobo, and some velvety black beans for good measure. Of course there more, so much more.

It all started with a recipe from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook - but, as is my wont, I've changed the recipe significantly. And, really, I think I've turned the burritos into enchiladas. Is that what you get when you bake a burrito? You be the judge.

Spicy Beef and Bean Burritos:
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of very lean ground beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano, or dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. of chili powder
  • 3 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, minced, plus 1 tbsp. of sauce*
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • one 15 ounce can of low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 bunch of baby spinach, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped (about 4 - 5 cups)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable broth
  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • some shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • some minced red onion
  • some chopped fresh cilantro
  • some homemade or prepared salsa, taco or enchilada sauce
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the ground beef, salt and some freshly ground pepper and cook until well browned, breaking the meat up and stirring as needed, until cooked throughout. Drain the fat from the pan. Return the beef mixture to the heat and add the cumin, oregano and chili powder, stirring well to incorporate, and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped chipotle peppers, some chipotle sauce from the can to taste, the balsamic vinegar and the black beans, stirring well to incorporate. Add the spinach by handfuls, stirring after each addition, until all of the spinach has been added and has wilted. Add the lime juice and 1/4 cup of vegetable broth, turn the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer until the oven has heated, adding a touch more vegetable broth if needed to keep the mixture from drying out.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F and lightly coat the bottom of a large, flat baking dish with oil. Reserve.

Lay one tortilla on a plate and place about a cup of the beef and bean mixture in a line down the center of the tortilla. Sprinkle some shredded cheese, chopped red onion and chopped cilantro over the beef - to taste - and fold the two sides of the tortilla in towards the middle to roll up and form the burrito. Place the burrito, seam side down, in the prepared pan, then roll the rest of the burritos accordingly. Drizzle each with a bit of taco or enchilada sauce, top with a few shreds of cheese and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

*As written this recipe will yield 6 burrito/enchiladas and, fair warning, they are spicy! If you're heat-averse, you may want to cut back on the chipotle chilies. Play around with it and do as you see fit. Additionally, you may choose to top the finished dish with some non-fat sour cream, or even guacamole - its your fiesta, so live it up!

They jury's out on the burrito v. enchilada question ... you make the call. Have I turned these burritos into enchiladas by baking them? I don't know. I do know that they were hearty, healthy and completely delicious. I hope you'll try 'em!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Frugal Diva: Turnip Gratin Edition

Spring has sprung - only someone forgot to tell Mother Nature about it. The sun is shining, the skies are blue ... and last night it was about 20 degrees. The cold, hard reality is ... its still cold. Rather than continuing to whine about it, I've decided to embrace the vicissitudes of nature and turn on the oven. I admit defeat, I'm a broken woman. I am still cooking wintery foods ... turnips ... they're not just for Thanksgiving anymore!

After Sunday's soup adventure I found myself in possession of some extra turnip cubes and a bit of left-over Kerrygold Aged Cheddar. Frugal Diva that I am, I decided the best coarse of action was a gratin. We're mainly talking about a technique here, so I won't offer specific amounts. Well, that and the fact that I didn't measure anything may have something to do with it. You're smart, you'll figure it out.

Savory Turnip Gratin:
  • some peeled and cubed turnips
  • butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • one large slice of sugar-free whole wheat or whole grain bread, lightly toasted
  • some shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • the leaves from a sprig of fresh thyme
Place the turnips in a large pot of water to cover, add a generous pinch of salt to the water and bring the turnips to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and boil the turnips until they are fork tender, approximately 30 minutes give or take. Drain all of the water from the pan and to the turnips add as much butter as you are comfortable with ... I probably used about a tablespoon, but the choice is up to you. Using a potato masher, mash the turnips to desired consistency and add a bit of Kosher salt, some freshly ground black pepper and a dash of fresh nutmeg. Stir well and taste for seasoning.

Pre-heat your broiler and place the turnips into a gratin dish (as seen above) in an even layer. Reserve.

Using a food processor, or similar, grind the whole wheat toast into crumbs and transfer to a small bowl. Add some shredded cheddar cheese to the bread crumbs and the leaves from a sprig of thyme as well. Mix to incorporate, then sprinkle the cumb mixture over the turnips, adding a bit more cheese if you like. Place the dish under the broiler to brown. The gratin is ready when the cheese has melted and the crumbs have browned. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Come to think of it, I could certainly have used that lone, left-over leek in this gratin as well. If only I'd read Pixelgal's question before I got to work. If you're in possession of a solitary leek, why not chop it, saute it in a bit of butter a/o olive oil until mellow, then add it to the turnips just after mashing. Proceed accordingly with the rest of the recipe and I assure you it will be delicious.

I love turnips so much I often wonder why I only have them once a year ... then I remember its because the husband can't abide them. Last night's soup being a notable exception, he wouldn't touch this dish with a ten foot pole no matter how much cheese is involved. And really, there wasn't much cheese involved. I have to admit I was rather parsimonious with it ... you know, that old diet thing and all. But, hey, its your gratin - add as much cheese as you like!

You can't go wrong either way. It was a magnificent dish and perfect for a chilly night. I served it with a succulent roast pork and some haricot verts. Sort of a Sunday dinner on Monday night if you will ... and I'm glad I did.

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chicken Soup: The Strange and Wonderful Edition

I'm not going to lie, this soup is weird. And weird is just what the doctor ordered yesterday. I woke up feeling a little under the weather and knew right away it was going to be a chicken soup kind of day. While browsing through some old issues of Cooking Light, I came across a most unusual soup. I read the list of ingredients and immediately thought: turnips? thyme? chicken? cheese? ... yeah, that sounds about right! And, happily, it was.

More happiness ensued when I realized I was in possession of some yummy Kerrygold Aged Cheddar cheese to add to the soup. While the original recipe called for reduced-fat cheddar, I opted for the rich and creamy Kerrygold and reduced the amount slightly. I've altered the recipe significantly, both the method of preparation and list of ingredients, to suit my tastes. Chief among those tastes was my complete disinterest in boiling a whole chicken to create the broth. I went straight for a mixture of canned chicken and vegetable broths and the results were magnificent.

The original recipe appears in the January/February 2000 issue of Cooking Light - below is my adapted version.

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup with Turnips:
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, trimmed, cleaned and chopped (white and pale green parts only)
  • 1 medium shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • some Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. dried summer savory
  • the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 1/2 cups low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups of reduced sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups of peeled yellow turnip (rutabaga) cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup of brown and wild rice mix (or use either rice alone)
  • 2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup of fat free Half and Half
  • 1/4 cup of non-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, such as Kerrygold Aged Cheddar, plus some additional for garnish
  • some chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Heat the oil in a large soup or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the leeks, shallot, celery, carrots, a pinch of salt and a generous grating of fresh black pepper, stir to combine. Add the dried basil, dried summer savory, the thyme and a dash of curry powder and saute for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the chicken broth, vegetable broth, turnips and rice mixture and bring the soup to the boil. Once it has boiled, reduce the heat, cover and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until the turnips and rice are tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove half of the turnips to a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Return the mashed turnips to the soup and stir well to incorporate. Add the cooked chicken, the Half and Half, the milk and 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted. Allow the soup to cook for 5 minutes or so, until the chicken is thoroughly heated. Taste the soup for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle the soup into a serving bowl, garnish with some additional shredded cheddar cheese and a dusting of chopped fresh parsley. Serve and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 6. While it may not be the most photogenic soup on the block, I can tell you the flavor is extraordinary! So much so that the husband, who is not a fan of yellow turnips, downed two huge bowls of it. The turnips really mellow as they simmer and they lend a welcomed sweetness to the finished dish. Needless to say, I'll be submitting this one to Deb's Souper Sundays round-up on Kahakai Kitchen. I hope you'll try it!

Between the gallons of Airborne I downed yesterday, and this nutrient rich soup, I may just be able to nip this cold in the bud. Here's hoping anyway.

So, do you crave strange flavor combination when you're under the weather ... or is that just me? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Have Pants, Will Travel ...

These pants have been making their way to sisters all across the web and I'd like to offer a belated, heartfelt thanks to Jen from Savor the Thyme for passing on her Sisterhood Award to me. I'm so honored to receive this from you, Jen, as I'm a huge fan of your blog. Thank you so much!

The Rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 people whose blogs you enjoy.
3. Link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person who has nominated you for the award.

I think we're all tired of hearing my thoughts on rules. If you don't know I'm a rule breaker by now you're going to have a tough time with the pop-quiz. ~wink~ In that same vein, if I've passed on this award to you, feel free to break the rules yourself. Pass it on, don't pass it on, give it to 5 people, give it to no one ... its your choice. I'm giving this award to you free of obligation and solely as a token of my appreciation of your work. All of you make my days more delicious and this is just my way of saying thanks!

So sit back, relax, loosen your belt and get ready for an exceptional feast as I present my cherished Sisterhood Award to the following delicious foodbloggers, in no particular order:

Cookie Brochette of Lightbulb Cuisine - Cookie, simply put, I am in awe of your work. The quality and variety of offerings are nothing short of amazing! Folks, be prepared for a mind-blowing experience, and no small amount of chuckles, when you click this link and let Cookie B. show you the way - The Way of The Bulb.

Chrystal and Amir of The Duo Dishes - Mouthwatering morsels, an adorable couple and talk about your sassy writing ... this blog has it all. This is one Duo with whom I'd gladly dine ... frankly, I'm hoping for a party invitation! Now, I know this is kind of a girly award - sorry for that Amir - but if the pants fit, I say wear 'em and let your yumminess shine!

Michele of Life, Lightly Salted - I've said it before and I'll say it again ... for my money the coolest foodblog on the block. I just love everything about Life, Lightly Salted - and what's not to love? Great look, delicious - real - food, beautiful pictures and some awesome music recommendations as well. Still hoping to catch up with Michele "in real life" and when we do, I know its going to rock!

Steph of Step Chows - Another tasty blog that's got it all. Beautiful layout, endearing prose and most of all ... wholesome, hearty, healthy food. Steph, I love what you're doing and thank you for doing it. Still hoping to find time to make your whole wheat pasta ... and just about everything else you post. So glad I found your blog!

Laurie of That's Not What the Recipe Says - How can you not love a blog with a title like this? And ... last week she made Monte Cristo sandwiches for dinner ... need I say more? Again, I love everything about this blog - from the gorgeous background to Laurie's warm and friendly tone - oh, and the photoghrapy rocks too. Delicious!

Doggybloggy of ChezWhat? - Yeah, I know, he's a dude. Somehow I think this dog is just cool enough to take my pants ... wait a minute, that doesn't sound right?! Rewind. What I mean to say is that in my world there are two coolest blogs on the block and ChezWhat? is as cool as can be. Go, read. Read it all, you'll see. To say its unique would be to damn with faint praise. In short, I dig this dog and you will too.

Tangled Noodle of Tangled Noodle - Great name, huh? I'm a relatively new reader of Tangled Noodle and I like what I see. Yummy recipes, charming, thoughtful posts and Noodle's spirit is so warm and friendly I just know you'll become as tangled in her web of deliciousness as I have.

Kristy of The Wicked Noodle - Yay, more noodles! Although she's relatively new to the scene, and I'm new to her blog as well, this site is so jam packed with great stuff I don't even know where to begin. Its chock full of useful tips, great recipes, yummy food news and more.

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen - I can't recall who tipped me off to this fabulous blog, but I'm so glad I found it. You've already heard me speak of the wonders of Deb's weekly Souper Sundays event - which I adore, but there's so much more than soup simmering in Kahakai Kitchen. Delcious and healthy food, fun blogging events like Tyler Florence Fridays ... and chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate. Who could ask for more?

The Heavenly Housewife of From Donuts to Delirium - She may be across the pond, but The Heavenly Housewife and yours truly share a common bond of Divaliciousness. She describes herself as a "Dita Von Teese / Martha Stewart wannabe struggling between gorging myself on Krispy Kremes and trying to squeeze myself into fabulous clothes" ... intrigued? I know I was! ... and still am.

And that's my list of ten. I've tried to highlight some new blogs here, among some of my old favorites. In truth, I could have passed this on to everyone on my blogroll ... but this post doth grow long and my fingers are tired. Suffice it to say, if you're on my roll, I think your delicious!

Bon appetit!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Nutty Diva

Every good cocktail deserves a good snack. You already know what you'll be drinking tonight, but what about the attendant munchies? Sure you could pop the lid on a can of salted nuts, but why settle for ordinary when you can have extraordinary?!

By now you know I like to keep things spicy around here and these nuts are no exception. I've adapted this recipe from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook - and I must say this is an exceptionally tasty little snack. I've used a mix of pecans, walnuts and sunflower seeds here - though, really, you could use almost any combination of nuts and seeds. The original called for pecans, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds ... I used what I had on hand. I've added a bit of chipotle chili powder for kick and a dash of agave nectar for sweetness. Feel to omit the agave if you like and you could certainly opt for just the regular chili powder as well. If so, use 1 full tbsp. of chili powder in place of the chili/chipotle mix below.

Spiced Nut Mix:
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tsp. agave nectar
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups of raw pecan halves
  • 1 cup of shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shelled, raw walnuts
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly oil a large, rimmed baking or cookie sheet with canola or vegetable oil. Reserve. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, chipotle powder, salt, cumin and cayenne pepper, whisking well to combine. Reserve.

In a large bowl, combine the egg white, agave nectar and red wine vinegar and whisk until foamy, about 15 seconds or so. Add the nuts and seeds and mix well with a spatula to ensure an even coating. Sprinkle one third of the reserved spiced mixture over the nuts and toss/stir to combine and coat. Repeat, adding the remainder of the spice mixture by thirds and tossing after each addition to ensure an even coating.

Spread the nut mixture onto the oiled baking sheet in a single layer and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and, using a wooden spoon, break up any clumps and stir, prying up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Again, spread the nuts into a single layer and return to the oven. Bake for 5 to 7 more minutes or until the nuts have begun to brown. Do not over bake or let them burn. Remove from oven and transfer the nuts to a large, flat dish to cool. Break up any large clumps with your finger tips, transfer to a serving vessel, serve and enjoy!

As any good bartender knows, you move more liquor when your patrons have a salty-crunchy snack to go with. These spicy little treats will no doubt ensure a second round!

So what's your favorite cocktail snack? Thirsty Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thirsty Thursdays

Everyone knows that Thursday is the new Friday. Remember when pink was the new black? Personally, I'm still waiting for the day when fat becomes the new thin - but until that particular memo arrives, I'm going to work with what we've got. Why just last week Time Out New York declared Thursday the best day of the week to call in sick. While I'm not suggesting you play hooky, I am suggesting you have a drink.

Look, we're in the midst of a winter that will not end, the economy is in the toilet, and last week someone cracked the lid on Dick Cheney's coffin long enough for him to rise and appear on my TV spreading his message of peace and goodwill to all. ~cue Animal House Quote~ "My advice is to start drinking heavily."*

The Lucy:
(aka - a Blood and Sand)**
  • 1 oz. scotch whiskey
  • 3/4 oz. Cherry Heering
  • 3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 3/4 oz. fresh orange juice
Pour all of the above into a martini shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with whatever tickles your fancy. Serve and enjoy. Repeat as necessary.

I garnished mine with a sprig of thyme, but a lovely ring of orange would work well too. I've adapted this recipe from the wonderful Bartender's Guide, published by Adams Media.

* Of course I'm not really recommending that you drink heavily ... one or two of these should do just fine! The reality is - I had my second shot of cartilage yesterday and dinner was something of a slap dash affair. In an effort to provide you with the most scintillating content on the web ... or *any* content for that matter ... I took a spin through my files and came across the above photo. The weekend is almost here and I'm sure we could all use a good stiff drink right about now. Thus is born a new feature here on Beach Eats. In anticipation of the weekend, I'll be posting some delightful cocktail recipes from time to time on Thursday afternoons. Bottoms up!

** This is absolutely my new favorite drink and, delicious as it is, it is in serious need of a new name. Technically its called a Blood and Sand ... but ... ugh. How decidedly UN-festive! We've dubbed it the Lucy, after my other nickname, but I'm not wild about that either. Can you do better? What would you call this luscious concoction? Curious Diva wants to know.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Ethnic Diva: Emerald Isle Edition ...

... one day late. I had grand plans for St. Patrick's Day here on Beach Eats, but circumstances being what they were, I'm one day late. No matter, really, I'm Irish every day of the year and its never too late to strut my heritage and bake up a loaf of soda bread. The boxty will have to wait until next year. Stay tuned.

While the raisin bedecked white soda bread may be more common here in the US, that's not what comes to mind when I think of Irish bread. The hearty brown stuff is the bread I fancy. It captured my attention on my first trip to Ireland, back in 1977, and I've never looked back. My family and I arrived in Ireland more than a little green around the gills from the over-night flight on that day long ago. Sensing our collective malaise, our gracious hostess at the B&B quickly healed all ills by serving us gallons of dark, hot tea and the most luscious brown bread imaginable. I'm convinced that bread had magical properties and it has been my favorite Irish delicacy - no, that's not an oxymoron - ever since. I'm happy to present my version of it here for you today.

Brown Soda Bread:
  • 2 cups of whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 and 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 stick of cold, unsalted, butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. pure honey
Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, white flour, salt, sugar, cream of tartar and baking soda. Mix well with a wire whisk until well combined. Add the butter and using your hands, or a pastry cutter, blend until the mixture forms a coarse meal. (I like to use my hands and rub the butter and flour together between them until the mealy texture is achieved.) Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk and honey. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the buttermilk has been incorporated and a stiff dough begins to form.

Turn the mixture out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently until smooth, roughly 2 to 3 minutes or so, adding a bit more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to a buttered, 9 inch, cake pan, pressing down and flattening the dough slightly to fill the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut a large X across the top of the dough. (As seen below.) Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until the loaf has browned and middle of the X no longer looks wet. The fully baked loaf will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. (Mine baked for @ 42 minutes.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling the loaf on a wire rack.

Slice and serve immediately, slathered with good, fresh butter. As written this recipe will yield one, 9 inch round loaf ... and it won't last long. I just dare you to keep your hands off it!

So, how did you celebrate St. Paddy's Day? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

On Edit: Careful viewers will note that this bread is not in a cake pan ... my cake pans seem to have disappeared. Curious that. I threw it into a glass pie dish and it baked off just fine. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Status Report: AFB

A quick update on my whereabouts for the beginning of this week. I'm sorry to say that the mother of a good friend has passed away. I will be out of town for the services today and tomorrow, back to the blog on Wednesday and will respond to all when I return.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, in advance!

Friday, March 13, 2009

And Now, a Word About Chutney ...

I've got to be honest, I'm 100% spent from this week. I was at an out of town wake on Monday night, Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, had a late meeting Wednesday night and, yesterday, my right knee was injected with synthetic cartilage. (I'm fine.) Does the fun ever start? I don't know what's for dinner tonight and I'm not even sure that I care. Instead, we're going to talk about chutney today.

Specifically that spicy tomato chutney that adorned my baked eggs yesterday. Now, I'm fairly certain that exactly none of you are playing along at home. I'm more than reasonably sure you did not spend your day making that recipe and therefore do not have a bowl of chutney left over that's just begging for use. But I do. And, more than that, I like to pretend. Hell, my best friend once described me as a woman who walks around pretending she's wearing a tiara most days ... they don't call me Diva for nothin'.

So, in my happy little make-believe queendom, you're now in possession of a zesty bowl of chutney that's looking for a partner. Here are some suggestions:

If you like to kick it old-school, you could pretend you're in my in-law's living room, circa 1979, and pour that yummy chutney over a bar of cream cheese, serve it with some crackers and Bob's your uncle - you've just made an appetizer. A tasty one at that.

Or, if you're working an 80's vibe, you can slice open a lovely wheel of brie, slather the middle of it with the chutney, replace the top, wrap the whole thing in some puff pastry, nestle it in a glass pie dish and bake it in the middle of a pre-heated 425 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes, pair it with some crackers or a crusty loaf and, voila, another fabulous appetizer!

Perhaps you're a minimalist and a terribly au currant one at that. If so, you would do well to pair the chutney with a nice sharp cheese, like a Piave or an aged Gouda, or maybe some creamy, goaty Robiola. Pair any of these suggestions, or those of your own, with a firm, whole-grain crisp bread, top the cheese with a delicate dollop of chutney and enjoy. The salty-savory-sweet combination will blow your mind.

Or maybe, sadly, you're dairy free. If so, I'm sorry. Truly. Buck up though, you can still work that chutney into another meal. You could absolutely substitute it for the tomato and marinara mixture in my ever popular Vera Cruz recipe. Slather some chicken or fish fillets with the chutney and bake as directed in that recipe. Add a side of basmati rice and you'll be well on your way to an Indian themed feast.

My point? You should make the chutney. We'll all feel better if you do.

So, what would you do with a left-over bowl of such spicy goodness? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baked Eggs ...

Fasten your seat belts, I've somehow gotten involved in another recipe contest. Try to contain your excitement. This one is for the Eggland's Best recipe contest and the winner will be announced next week at their New York City Foodbuzz Featured Publisher's breakfast. Phew, that was a mouthful.

And my entry is a mouthful too ... a mouth full of delicious! This is one of those recipes that looks more complicated than it really is. Both the tomato chutney and the creamed spinach can be made in advance - so when you're ready to eat you can simply crack the eggs and get cooking.

Divalicious Baked Eggs:
(or Baked Eggs with Creamy Spinach and Spicy Tomato Chutney)

For the Chutney:
  • one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of diced onion
  • 2 tbsp. of granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. of pure honey
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. of grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 tsp. of mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • pinch of Kosher salt and a generous grinding of fresh black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized, heavy-bottomed, sauce pan and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Once the mixture has come to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for approximately 45 minutes or so, until the mixture has reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and serve immediately or cover and chill until needed. The chutney will keep, covered, in the fridge for several weeks at least.

For the Creamed Spinach:
  • 1 large shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • one 10 ounce bag of fresh baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
  • 1 cup of fat-free Half and Half
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper
  • generous grating of fresh nutmeg
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the shallot and saute for 1 to 2 minutes or until just translucent. Add the drained spinach leaves and continue cooking and stirring until the spinach has wilted, this will take a few minutes. Add the half and half, the Parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt, a bit of freshly ground black pepper and a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. Stir well and allow the mixture to come to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced slightly. Remove from heat, keep warm and reserve.

For the Baked Eggs:
  • creamed spinach
  • 3 large whole Eggland's Best Eggs
  • 3 four or five inch ramekins, in which to bake the eggs
  • some spicy tomato chutney
Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F and bring a full kettle, or large pot of water, to the boil. Place one third of the creamed spinach (liquid and all) into the bottom of each ramekin, using a spoon to make a small depression in the center of the spinach. Move the ramekins to a roasting pan large enough to hold them all, leaving some space between each. Carefully crack one large egg into the middle of each ramekin and fill the roasting pan with the boiling water to create a bain marie - the water should reach half way up the ramekins. Carefully place the pan in the oven and bake on the middle rack for approximately 15 - 25 minutes or until the eggs have set to your liking. Cooking time will vary depending upon the size of the egg and how well you like them cooked. Mine were done after 20 minutes.

Carefully remove the pan from the oven and, using a set of tongs, remove the ramekins to individual serving plates. Top each baked egg with a bit of the spicy chutney to taste, serve and enjoy! As written, this recipe will serve 3.

I ask you - is this not a perfect meal? You've got the eggs for protein, some spinach for iron and a healthy dose of lycopene in that chutney. These eggs would make a magnificent dinner and would be spectacular when served for brunch.

Look, I'm a fair Diva, I know you're busy. If you want to substitute some purchased salsa for the homemade chutney, I'll look the other way. I mean you're not the one in this contest deal anyway right? ... but the dish won't be nearly as sexy. The spicy-sweet chutney is the perfect foil for the luscious, velvety spinach/egg combo. I loved everything about this dish and, frankly, I think its a winner ... though only time will tell. Results next week, stay tuned.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I had every intention of snapping a new photo of the lovely finished biscotti, other than the self-promoting Diva pic, but the husband made short work of the cookies. There's nothing left but a few stale crumbs in the bottom of the cookie jar. Someone should really do something about that.

You've all been waiting patiently for the recipe, so without further ado I will present it today. This one's adapted from Julee Rosso's Fresh Start cookbook. I changed the flour, reduced the sugar, added some chocolate chips and decided to use macadamia nuts instead of hazelnuts. The choice is yours really, any and all combination of dried fruits and nuts will work here.

Cherry Chocolate Macadamia Nut Biscotti:
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried cherries
  • 3 tbsp. orange juice
  • 4 tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar*
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Combine the dried cherries and orange juice in a large, micro-wave safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from microwave and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. The cherries will soften as they cool and most of the juice will be absorbed.

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F and lightly spray a large, rimmed cookie sheet with vegetable oil spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, combine the butter and sugar and process until well blended. Add the egg whites and process until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, pulsing until just combined. Transfer to a large bowl, drain the remaining liquid from the cherries and add the cherries, nuts and chocolate chips, stir until incorporated. Using your hands, form the mixture into a large ball, pressing together the ingredients as necessary. Divide the dough into thirds and form three long, flat logs - roughly 12 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the logs on the cookie sheet, spaced apart, and bake in the middle of a pre-heated 325 degree oven for 25 minutes, until lightly browned. (As pictured above.)

Remove from the oven and transfer the logs to a cutting board. Allow them to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut the logs diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. I'm not going to lie, this is a pain in the ass, there will be crumbs everywhere and you'll feel like the biscotti are crumbling. DO NOT PANIC, do not curse me out. Remain calm and proceed carefully, taking your time and pinching the biscotti back together as necessary. Try not to burn yourself.

Return the sliced cookies to the cookie sheet and bake them, standing upright, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cut surfaces appear to be dry. Cool on wire racks and serve immediately or store in an air-tight container.

*The original recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar. Even though I've reduced the amount, the finished cookies are very sweet. A bit too sweet for me, but I think my palate is hyper sensitive when it comes to sugar. Feel free to play around with it and increase the sugar to a cup if you like. I've used the whole wheat pastry flour here, though the original calls for all-purpose white flour. Again, the choice is yours.

If you're looking for a more traditional, whole egg biscotti go here. This recipe is from 5second rule's cookie contest and I must say it looks spectacular. I've been meaning to try Diana's recipe since December!

You can't go wrong with either recipe and spelling something out with the finished biscotti is entirely optional.

So, what combination of fruits and nuts would you include in your biscotti? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Husband Cooks ...

... and he does dishes too! No, you can't have him, I'm keeping him. Though he seldom has the opportunity, he does enjoy flexing his culinary muscles. And when he does, it usually involves steak or fish ... and it always involves sticking to an exact recipe.

This article in the New York Times caught his attention quite some time ago, he clipped the recipe and promptly forgot all about it. Written by the ever popular Mark Bittman, it features a simple roasted monkfish fillet over mashed potatoes. Last Friday he somehow unearthed the forgotten fish dish from his pile of clippings and decided to give it a go. The results, as seen above, were magnificent ... though you'll have to take his word for it. I may be eating more fish these days, but monkfish isn't one of them. I made myself some grilled shrimp!

Kidding aside, he really enjoyed this dish - so much so that he wanted to photograph it and urged me to pass on the link to my readers. You can find Bittman's recipe for Monkfish with Mashed Potatoes and Thyme here. Its a quick, healthy and altogether delicious meal that makes a beautiful presentation as well.

True to form, the husband followed the recipe as written, deviating only slightly by dusting the fish with a bit of cayenne pepper and granulated garlic prior to roasting. A welcome addition indeed. Now if I could only get him to write up his own entry for the blog we'd be onto something!

I expect to return to my regularly scheduled posting tomorrow and will have the cherry chocolate macadamia biscotti recipe available for you then. Stay tuned!

Bon appetit!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Round up!

I'm unexpectedly AFB - Away from Blog - today, so this post will be short, yet 0h-so-sweet. The dynamic duo of Tangled Noodle and Savor the Thyme have done a magnificent job in recapping the Eating Your Words Challenge entries ... and the results ... well, they've left me speechless! The creativity and variety of entries is absolutely stunning!

The entries are posted in two parts. The first is here on Savor the Thyme, and part two is here on Tangled Noodle. I urge you to take a look and marvel at both the quality of the entries and the brilliant posts that re-cap them. Well done ladies, well done! My hat's off to all the challengers. I am thoroughly impressed and so honored to have be included in this fantastic event. Thank you both so much for all your work in presenting it. No easy task, I'm sure. I had a blast!

As if that weren't enough for one day, I'd also like to direct your attention to Deb's Souper Sundays round-up on Kahakai Kitchen. Her carrot bisque looks so yummy and luscious that its got my mouth watering ... and that's just the beginning. What follows is the best of the soups from around the web this week. So cruise on over, get out your soup pot, and get inspired!

I hope to be back with a new recipe tomorrow or Wednesday, at the latest. For now, take a spin through those links and see what's cookin'.

So, what was cooking in your kitchen this weekend? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

Friday, March 6, 2009


Today is the big day - the announcement of my first official give-away winner. Whee! First, I'd like to thank everyone who entered by leaving a comment. Nice to see so many new faces here and I wish I could give all of you a prize. But, there can be only one winner ... and its time to commence with the festivities.

In order to keep things fair, I've removed both of my comments from the thread and removed Vintage Kitten's as well. Sorry Kitten! She exempted herself from the drawing because she's in the UK. That left us with a total of twenty comments. Initially I thought I'd print out the comments, cut them up, place them in a hat and draw one out ... but that sounds like a lot of work. And risky work at that ... I could incur a paper cut or, worse, chip a nail. Horrors!

So, off I sped to Random.org to use their nifty True Random Number Generator. I entered the "Minimum Number" as 1 and the "Maximum Number" as 20, clicked the button and ...

... we have a winner! Comment number 7, which belongs to Jeanie:

Jeanie said: "Count me in on the granola love!

I'm having a hard time deciding which I'd prefer...the version Tracy suggested, or the one by Words-cubed!

Thanks for the link, Diva."

Congratulations, Jeanie! I'm not sure you'll be able to recreate the granola of Words Words Words' dreams ... but I'm certain you'll mix up something equally delicious. I hope you enjoy this little treat! I will email you the gift certificate today, so check your InBox and let me know how you like the granola when it arrives.

Again, thanks to all of you for participating. This was great fun for me and it will not be my last give-away. Stay tuned and have a delicious weekend.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Eat Your Words ...

Last month, Jennifer from Savor the Thyme threw down the gauntlet. She told us to eat our words ... literally. It all started with this post on Tangled Noodle and from there the words kept rolling off our collective tongues and onto our cutting boards ... or, in my case, cookie sheets!

You can play too, the rules are as follows:

1. 'Write or spell' using food or drink and create a blog post about it until midnight on Friday, March 6th. Any previous blog posts you already have where you've created a 'written'-inspired dish or drink will be accepted.

2. Blog about your creation, including photos, and add a link back to Savor the Thyme (http://savorthethyme.blogspot.com) and Tangled Noodle (http://tanglednoodle.blogspot.com).

3. Send an e-mail titled 'Eating Your Words' to eatingyourwords09@cox.net with the following information:
  • Your name
  • The name of your blog
  • The name of your dish or drink
  • Your food blog name and the link to your entry, including pictures, by midnight March 6, 2009
You can still participate even if you don't have a blog at all. Simply e-mail the above information minus the blog details and we'll include it in the round up.

4. Please keep it clean! Appropriate humor is always welcome.

The prize? Adoration of millions, the chance to flaunt your creativity and, let's be honest - some link love! The contest closes at midnight on Friday, so hurry up and get cooking ... or is that spelling?

I whipped up a batch of cherry chocolate macadamia biscotti for my entry ... and, big surprise, I spelled my own name. I'm nothing if not a shameless self-promoter. ~wink~ I only wish the photo was of better quality, but it was late and I was tired and there were one million biscotti crumbs all over my kitchen. Not to mention that the husband was scarffing down the warm cookies so fast I thought I'd never get a snap off. So there you go.

Will post the biscotti recipe at a later date. For now, why not hit up those links and take a look at the other entries. Tangled Noodle will be posting a round-up of all the entries once the challenge closes.

So, what would you spell and how would you do it? Curious Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!

P.S. - Don't forget ... the winner of my Great Granola Give-Away will be announced tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned and good luck to all!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Industrious Diva ...

Roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath and get some water boiling on the stove - we're making noodles today! I promise it will be easy and, frankly, its great fun. The Hungarian Cookbook describes csipetke (pronounced chi-pet-ke) as "the missing link between the noodle and the dumpling, a bit of each but not quite either." I'd say that's exactly right.

I've altered the recipe by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for the traditional all-purpose white flour. That's a personal choice and you should feel free to use either. Even with the whole wheat, the resulting dumplings are remarkably light and tender. While csipetke are traditionally used as an accompaniment for goulash, they'd make a welcome addition to any soup ... and, frankly, they're pretty darn good all on their own.

Csipetke (pinched noodles):

  • 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1 egg
  • a few drops of water
  • 1 tsp. olive oil - for coating the cooked noodles
In a large bowl, mix the flour and the salt together to combine. Add the egg and stir to form a stiff dough, adding a few drops of cold water as needed to form a ball. (I needed about a scant tablespoon or so.) Press the mixture together with your hands to form a ball of dough and knead the dough on a smooth, hard surface until smooth. (Kneading roughly 10 - 12 times.) Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and add a pinch of salt. Remove the dough from the towel and cut it into quarters.

Working with one quarter at a time, use the heel of your hand and press the dough flat, flip over and press again, continue pressing and flipping until the dough is roughly 1/4 inch thick, but no need to measure or be precise.

Using your thumb and index finger, pinch off dime-sized pieces of the dough, and press them between your fingers. Continue pinching off pieces of the dough until you have completed one quarter of the dough. Again, no need to be precise - we're making peasant food here, not precious food!

Gently drop them into the boiling water and cook for 10 minutes at a rolling boil. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked noodles to strainer, drain completely and place into a bowl. Toss with 1 tsp. of olive oil to coat.

Continue in the same fashion with the rest of the dough, cooking one batch at a time until all of the csipetke have been cooked. Be sure to toss each additional batch with the first so that all of the dumplings will be coated with oil, adding a drizzle more if necessary. Cover and reserve until ready to serve the soup.

When ready to serve, place some csipetke in the bottom of a soup bowl and ladle the finished soup over the dumplings. Serve and enjoy!

The finished csipetke are visible in the top photo, on the left side of the bowl. In a word, these noodle-dumplings are outstanding! I can't imagine eating the goulash soup without them and the whole process took far less time to complete that it did for me to write this. Making your own noodles is a satisfying endeavor and nowhere near as challenging as it sounds. If I can do it, so can you. Really.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Ethnic Diva ...

In an effort to embrace my heritage, or at least one quarter of it, I purchased The Hungarian Cookbook sometime back in the 1980's. Buried amid scores of others on my kitchen shelves, it has largely gone unused. I don't think I've opened the book in the last 15 years. And even then, I've only ever made one recipe from it: Goulash Soup.

Yesterday's wicked weather demanded an equally extreme dish. Something rich, hot, savory and filling: a dish with which to thaw the husband after his trip down our bitterly windy block. Again, I haven't ventured past page 6 of the book, why mess with success - even if its decades old success? I wanted something bold in flavor and spicy enough to wake up our winter-dulled palates ... I could not have made a better choice.

Goulash Soup or Gulyas Leves (gu-yahsh le-vesh in Hungarian):
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • generous grinding of fresh black pepper
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. of caraway seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle or with the back of a spoon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. good quality sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked, hot paprika
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef stock or broth
  • one 14.5 ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 thick wedge of lemon
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish
  • some cooked Csipetke (pinched noodles) - recipe to follow tomorrow
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive soup or stock pot and when it is hot but not smoking, add the beef. Saute, stirring often until browned on all sides, drain the excess fat from the pan and add a tiny bit more olive oil. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper and saute, stirring as needed until the onion is translucent. Add the crushed caraway seeds, sweet paprika, smoked paprika and carrots and stir to combine. Saute for one minute. Add the vegetable broth, beef stock, diced tomatoes, green pepper, cayenne pepper and a large bay leaf, stirring well to combine. Bring the soup to the boil over high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Allow the soup to simmer, covered, for one hour.

Add the diced potatoes to the soup, squeeze the juice from the wedge of lemon into the pot, stir and taste for seasoning. If needed you may add a bit more salt and pepper. Cover and allow the soup to simmer for 25 -30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked and the beef is fork tender. Once finished, the soup can be kept, covered, at a low simmer until needed. To serve, place some cooked csipetke in the bottom of a large soup bowl and ladle the goulash soup over the noodles. Garnish with some chopped parsley, serve and enjoy! As written this soup will serve approximately 5 - 6.

I've made several changes in the book's recipe. I upped the amount of paprika, added the smoked for heat and interest, and because I was craving something on the spicy side - I threw in a hefty pinch of cayenne pepper while the soup was simmering. Carrots were not included in the original recipe ... though I can't imagine why. I think they're essential, and I might even up the ante next time by adding some cubed yellow turnip to boot.

You can well imagine that I opted not to go with the lard, as suggested in the book. After I recovered from my faint, I went with the olive oil for sauteing instead. Good choice.

Another good choice was my decision to go all out and make the homemade noodles for the soup. I know, I can hear some of you groaning now ... no, you don't have to make the noodles ... but you should. They're well worth the effort and the effort is minimal. I'll tell you all about it ... tomorrow. For now, rest easy in the knowledge you could certainly serve the soup with some cooked barley or ditalini pasta - and, frankly, its good enough all on its own. Pair it with a snappy green salad, a crusty whole-grain loaf and a better winter meal I cannot imagine. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetit!

P.S. - Edited to add that I'm submitting this soup to the always wonderful Souper Sundays event on Kahakai Kitchen. Be sure to stop by Deb's terrific blog for a taste of the best soups from around the web each and every Sunday!

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Cruelest Month ...

... T.S. Eliot insists its April. I beg to differ. Seven inches of snow has fallen upon New York City, its 23 degrees, and my neighborhood is experiencing sustained 35 mph wind gusts. Friday I was in a t-shirt and jeans, today I'm zipped into my North Face parka. If that's not cruel, I don't know what is. Its typical of March though and it is my sincere hope that we will soon experience another 30 degree temperature shift ... in the opposite direction this time!

Much to my own shock and horror, I did brave the elements today. Silly Diva did not heed the warnings and neglected to grocery shop yesterday. Ah well, a bracing journey it was and now I'm heading into the kitchen to stir up some hearty chow. Stay tuned for a full report and new recipe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there's still time to enter my Great Granola Give-Away. The contest closes at midnight on Thursday.

So, what did you do with your snow day? Chilly Diva wants to know.

Bon appetit!