Monday, February 28, 2011

Tunisian Stuffed Peppers

I am enjoying all the beautiful colored peppers that are on sale in the market now. Reds, yellow, orange and green,  such a wonderful burst of colors. Apparently, my darling dear was loving them too and when he went off to the shops recently he bagged me several to play with.  It is honest to say, we love our stuffed peppers: with ground beef, with rice, mexicorn or not, saucy or topped with cheese. I've prepared them many different ways but never -- never with Harissa! This Tunisian spread has a variety of peppers and spices which deliver a different kind of earthy heat than the warm southwest or the cool hot asian style chilis we're accustomed to eating.  In honor my newest condiment, I give you these layered peppers bathed in a Tomato/Harissa/Fennel sauce.

Tunisian Stuffed Peppers
Tunisian  Stuffed Peppers
Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Pearl Couscous, Sausage and Tomatoes

How to stuff a pepper
How to stuff a pepper
Prepping the Peppers
Prep work

For the recipe, click Read More!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rustic Cannellini Bean Soup with Fennel

After a promised glimpse of spring, winter's arctic blast heads back to the Central Coast of California. Everyone is hyping the snow storm to hit lower elevations down to 500 ft. Snow on the beach?! Hasn't happened since 1976 and I am old enough to remember... The arctic storm chills my bones and it is time to cook up some comforting soup. By-passing my normal mirepoix and tomato base I am heading to lovely basil and fennel-land. Potatoes create a creamy texture and the basil, garlic sausage meets sweet leeks. A sprinkling of red chard and bok choy rounds out this dinner in one pot.

Rustic Cannellini Soup with Fennel
Rustic Cannellini Bean Soup with Fennel

For the recipe click Read More.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lunch Date 2 - The Cheese Board

View from the River Walk
Truckee River, Reno, Nevada
 Imagine sparkling sunshine, fresh powdery snow and a bucolic river scene in the middle of casino town. After a delightful turn on the Truckee River Walk in Reno, Nevada, we headed to California Street for our lunch date. Today's discovery is a hidden gem just a short walk away from the hustle and bustle and has nothing to do with "all you can eat" smoky casinos or jingling slots.

The Cheese Board, American Bistro and Catering has been around since 1981 and you might imagine you were in California for all it's eco-friendly, seasonally fresh take on their bistro menu offerings.  In a quiet neighborhood, the red brick building with a sun room warmly welcomes patrons and tantalizes passers-by with the colorful chalkboard menu at the entrance. Crisp white napkins and fresh Gerber daisies on the tables provide a cozy feel to the dining room. They have a thriving dine in and take out business that is very popular with the week-a-day lunch crowd, and even on a late Saturday afternoon the place was packed. Their service system is simple and fair, order up, then go to your table. Don't be tempted to send a member of your party to stalk an open table. They are fairly rigorous about making sure the ordering and seat taking process is fair -- no cuts. The procedures are even written in big letters on the chalkboard above the display cases. To the right of the cashier they have a nice wine selection both domestic and international available by the glass or bottle.

We decided to sample a combination of cheeses, salad and sandwich  accompanied by a bottle of 2009 Layer Cake Malbec, Argentina. The 2008 vintage had a 91pts rating from Robert Parker, Wine Advocate 1/06/10.  I found it fruity, but fully textured and tastes more for its moderate price.  The Warm Brie was creamy and just the right consistency topped with a sweet savory apple garlic jam. Pretty and crisp fresh apple slices offered just the right crunch and palate cleansing bite. The Artisan Cheese Plate had a nice mix of white cheddar, parmesan and herbed goat cheese with a truffle drizzle. Served with toasted garlic bread slices, fig jam, almonds and fresh grapes. I like the balance of this with the Malbec, although I would have preferred a non-seasoned bread with this combination of cheeses. The garlic toasts overshadowed the delicate flavors.  The Baby Spinach salad with toasted pecan dressing hit all the right notes. My dining companions raved about the Chicken Salad Croissant with fresh basil, and sun-dried tomatoes. The addition of the smoked mozzarella, and sliced almonds sent them to yummy mutterings.

This is a place I would happily return to for additional menu sampling. The Cheese Board is reasonably priced, seasonally fresh, inventive, and has a cozy dining room with very friendly and attentive service.

Baked Brie and Apples
Warm Brie with Apples
Artisan Cheese Plate
Artisan Cheese Plate

Sunday, February 6, 2011

♥ Ravioli alla Vodka Sauce

Looking for something special but different for your Valentine? Me too!

A few year's ago I bought several copies of Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianicha for Christmas presents. A family of good cooks, I thought it would be fun if for some meals we would all take something from the cookbook and potluck style road test the recipes. What fun I thought! Fast forward to Christmas 2010 and my darling son gave me a pasta attachment set for my Kitchenaid  -- and a copy of Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. Intersect a passionate Italian and rational work flow for all things cooking. Did my brain hurt yet? Perhaps not, but obviously it has taken me some time to process.

I have never attempted homemade pasta. So did my research and  bought my semolina flour and started visioning what I wanted to make first.  Typically me. I dived right in with a ravioli creation to celebrate Valentine's Day. In my mind's eye, a pretty little heart shaped ravioli swimming in a equally lovey pink sauce. Wanting something other than standard marinara, I sought guidance from Lidia. What better than Vodka Sauce to pair with these cuties? With just a smidge of an alteration, I pay homage to Lidia's passion and expertise. I know enough to know what I don't know. That is the key to inspiration, let those whose who have a lifetime of knowing guide us in this culinary adventure. What a kick it would be to travel with her to Italy!

The result below,  velvety pink vodka sauce with a little bit of a kick and creamy three cheese ravioli. Perfect for my valentine.

♥ Ravioli alla Vodka

 ♥ Ravioli alla Vodka
It's all in the filling and the cutter!

Hot is Cupid's Arrow
Heart shaped cookie cutter
 ♥ Ravioli
Uncooked Ravioli

 ♥ Ravioli boiled
Ready to sauce!

What is in the filling? What did I change in Lidia's recipe? Click Read More!

I am also participating in something new: A cooking Monthly Mingle and selecting this recipe for the theme for February Mingle. This is a cool idea. See Paulachen Foodblog?!  Soul Food for Loved Ones for all the Feb. 2011 Monthly Mingle Roundup. More information about Monthly Mingles at Meeta's What's for Lunch Honey Site

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pecan Panko Crusted Tilapia

Again with the fish already? Tonight's dinner consists of lovely tilapia fillets topped with a buttery, crumbly pecan panko crusting. This topping is my standard variation I pull out of the pantry.  It is quick, easy and so delicious, and when my darling dear tells me, "I don't like fish, but could I have some more of this?" I know it is a winner. Easily prepared for guests and still have plenty of time to enjoy their company. Cooking time in the oven is only fifteen minutes with no lingering fishy smell,

Don't be afraid of fish, it is so easy and so good for you. Tilapia is wonderfully mild source of protein and you can prepare it lots of different ways. Recommended is farm grown in the US or South America if you check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

Pecan Panko Crusted Tilapia

Pecan Panko Crusted Tilapia
This crusting can be used for fish or chicken!
Read More for Recipe

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Year's Miso Soup

I love these delicate Enoki and Bunashimeji mushrooms and to celebrate both Chinese and Vietnamese New Year I prepared a miso soup combining both and fresh asparagus. How wonderful to be able to celebrate New Year's twice a year.   And though, it may be winter still, but I think Puxatony Phil has it right, spring will be coming early this year, especially with these fresh flavors.

Happy New Year! 2011 the Year of the Rabbit, or 2011, the Year of the Cat. Any way you celebrate may you be healthy, happy, and prosperous in the New Year.

Miso Mushroom Soup 2011
Asparagus Mushroom Miso Soup
Click More for the Recipe.