March 31, 2006

Pig and Truffle Dinner by Chef Bradford Thompson at the James Beard House

A couple weeks ago I made it back to the James Beard House for a Pigs and Truffle dinner by chef Bradford Thompson. Thompson is currently the chef at Mary Elaine’s at the Phoenician hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. Prior to the Phoenician, Thompson was in New York working for Daniel Boulud—my favorite chef.

Evidently Thompson is one of the premiere chefs of meat. In fact, he takes his meats so seriously that he acquires all his meat from Sylvia and Stephen Pryzant of Four Story Hill Farm in Honesdale, PA. This evening was no exception. In preparation, the Four Story Hill Farm had raised two pigs specifically for this dinner. To accompany the various pork dishes, Thompson also incorporated truffles. How can you go wrong with pork and truffles???

Out of our foursome group attending this dinner, I was of course the first one to arrive—you have to be early to get the best dibs on hors d’oeuvres and who can turn down free flowing champagne! Since I was on my own at this point, I made my way into the kitchen area to watch the chefs in action. Although the kitchen area is open for guests to watch, it does tend to get crowded. I was lucky and found not only a little nook, but a nook that happened to be right next to where Chef Thompson himself was hanging out.

Of course Thompson was sexy (aren’t all chefs?), but he was also really nice. Okay, so I spoke like two sentences with him, but he kindly offered me an hors d’oeuvre before they were handed out to the crowd and then explained to me how I should eat it to fully appreciate the flavors. Okay, so that was really like five sentences we shared. Gosh, I am such a foodie dork!

The following were the hors d’oeuvres and champagne that were served:
Burgundy Snail Croquettes
Pork Consommé Dumplings
Sicilian-Style Rice Balls
Garlicky Sausage and White Bean Purée
Deviled Quail Eggs with Black Truffles
Lobster and Brioche BLTs
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rosé Réserve Champagne 1999

Hands down, my favorite was the pork consommé dumplings. Unfortunately there were not many of those and I only had one, but it was extremely flavorful. The dumpling was served in a large serving spoon to ensure that all the juices were captured in that one bite. I also loved the gumminess of the dough with the pork.

When it was time to be seated, we found on our chairs little gift bags! This is not the norm for dinners at the James Beard House, but the Phoenician hotel provided them to encourage us to visit them the next time we are in Scottsdale. I included a picture here of what was included (note that the cat paw comes separately).

After we were settled at our tables, the following dishes and wine pairings were served:

Tasting Plate of Charcuterie
Domaine de Longval Tavel Rosé 2004

Spanish Toro with Warm Truffle Anglaise, Marinated Crudités,
and Pork Rinds
F. E. Trimbach Riesling Cuvée Frédéric Emile 2000

Pizzoccheri Ravioli with Fresh Garlic Sausage, Fontina Valle
d’Aosta, and Sage
Livio Felluga Terre Alte 2003

Walnut-Crusted Pork Loin Schnitzel with Braised Red Cabbage and Porcini
Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot 2000

Smoked Confit of Pork Belly and Jowl with Anson Mills Grits and Maple-Glazed Turnips
Château La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003

Caramelized Apple Napoleon > Fresh Lard Biscuit, Candied Chestnut, and Chestnut Cream
Domaine Dupont Pommeau de Normandie NV

Warm Apple Cider Doughnuts with Black Truffle–Chocolate Sauce

Wow, how lucky was I? And get this—I ate all sorts of parts of the pig and they were actually good! Yes, yours truly ate tongue, ear, jowl, meat from the feet, and I am sure many other parts that I do not know about! The tongue was very mellow in flavor, and since it was sliced so thinly, I was not bothered by the texture that I picture tongue as having.

Of course all the dishes were fabulous. I think my favorites were the ravioli with fresh garlic sausage and the smoke confit of pork belly. Unfortunately, my pork belly was actually overcooked, but it still made my belly happy (ha, ha!).

As explained in my last post about a dinner I had at the James Beard House, the events always end with the chef joining the diners and answering any questions. I love this part! This time I had the guts to take a picture too so you can get a feel of the atmosphere. See what embarrassment I subject myself to for the sake of my beloved readers?!

So all in all, it was a fabulous dinner and, of course, such a treat.

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March 27, 2006

La Palette - New York, NY

I love living in New York City for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is the weekly ritual of meeting friends for brunch on the weekends. That is just what New Yorkers do.

This past weekend I met up with friends at La Palette in the West Village (94 Greenwich Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets). This is the type of café that you walk into and already love before you even order. The atmosphere is very quaint with seating for only about 24 people. In the warmer weather, they also have an outdoor patio area to dine in. I have yet to see this area, but you can count on me visiting it this summer!

This café serves French and Brazilian dishes with a focus on crepes. They are also evidently known for their burgers, but since my friends and I love the crepes so much, we have yet to try the burgers.

I ordered the Saumon Fume ($12.95), which is a crepe filled with smoked salmon, swiss cheese, scrambled egg and scallions. The first time I tried this, the smoked salmon was miraculously remained in its original smoked state and did not cook through in the frying process. This past weekend, however, the salmon was fully cooked. It was still good, but I missed the previously crepe I had tasted.

Gemma ordered the Poulet et Pesto crepe ($11.95). This crepe was filled with grilled chicken breast with a creamy pesto sauce. I did not taste Gemma’s crepe, but she loved it and it did look great.

I think the real winner of the crepes was the Pissaladiere ($11.95) that Carrie and Alison ordered. This is filled with goat cheese (how can you go wrong with goat cheese???), roasted onions, kalamata olives, fresh basil and roasted tomatoes. It was fabulous! The kalamata olives provided such a nice burst of flavor with the subtle, creamy taste of the goat cheese. Combined with the onions, basil and tomatoes; it made for a really nice rounded flavor. The next time I go to La Palette I am definitely ordering this crepe.

La Palette also has a second location in Soho at 50 MacDougal Street (Between Houston and Prince). I have not eaten at this location, but I am under the impression that it is the same experience as offered by their West Village location.

Whether you prefer Soho or the West Village, I do definitely recommend trying out this little gem of a café.

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March 25, 2006

Chicken and Leeks with Crème Fraiche

Wow, this is one of the best chicken dishes I have made in a while—it is even up there with Ina Garten’s Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic! And y’all know I love cooking with crème fraiche—it makes me feel so sophisticated. Plus the use of the hard apple cider combined with the leeks is unbelievably good and also an interesting combination that I had not had before. In fact, this was also the first time I had cooked with leeks—I had no idea what a fabulous ingredient they are!

If you are not familiar with leeks, they are in between a scallion and an onion in flavor and texture. What I loved about them is that they are a bit milder than onions and hold up better in cooking so that you can actually make them as a side dish all on their own. Why do we not cook more with this awesome item?

So here is the recipe adapted from Martha Stewart. The original recipe is for 4 servings, but since I was cooking this dish for just me and my friend, Carrie, the recipe below is how I made it for 2 servings:

  • 2 Chicken breasts on the bone (I swear chicken on the bone is always so much more moist and tastier when cooked)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, cut crosswise into 3-inch pieces and halved lengthwise, rinsed well (See Note 1)
  • ¾ cup good-quality hard apple cider (See Note 2)
  • ½ tbsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ rounded cup of crème fraiche
  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter and oil in a large sauté pan (I used my 5 quart sauté pan) or enameled cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just bubbling.
  2. Add the chicken pieces, skin sides down; cook, turning once, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate and remove pot from heat; let cool slightly.
  3. Return pot to medium-low heat, and add leeks. Cook, stirring frequently, until leeks begin to soften and are pale golden, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add hard cider and thyme. Move leeks to edges of pot, and add all the chicken pieces to pot, skin sides down. Arrange leeks over chicken. Cover, and cook 15 minutes (if liquid is bubbling rapidly, reduce heat to low). Turn chicken pieces, and cook until breasts are cooked through, about 5 minutes more.
  5. Transfer the chicken to the serving dishes leaving the juices behind. Remove leeks from pot, and arrange the leeks around the chicken.
  6. Return pot to medium heat. Cook, uncovered, until liquid has reduced by about half (to about 1/2 cup), 8 to 10 minutes. (When I came to this step, the liquid was already cooked down. So I skipped this step and actually had to add a few tablespoons of cider so that there was about ½ cup of liquid in the pan. If you need to add cider like I did, let it cook slightly to rid the alcohol.)
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low. Whisk in the crème fraîche and parsley. Ladle pan sauce over chicken and leeks. Serve immediately.
The final product with be one of the best chicken dishes you have ever eaten—super moist, delicious, and a unique combination of flavors.


  1. Before I made this dish, Carrie warned me that leeks are super dirty. I was a little confused looking at the leeks though because they look perfectly clean. However, Carrie was right—the dirt is all inside the leek within the layers. So be sure you get all the dirt out! I found it was best to first cut the leeks as directed above, separate the pieces’ layers, and then run the leeks’ pieces under water.
  2. As the original recipe notes, you can substitute hard cider with dry white wine, but I do strongly suggest using hard cider if possible. The flavor it gives is just too good! You can find hard cider at your grocery store in the beer section.

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March 22, 2006


Sheesh, y'all...I have not forgotten about my favorite blog! I hate that I have been so bad about posting the past couple weeks; and don't worry, I am not fading away. I was sick all last week and this week I have been busy catching up. Beginning this weekend, I should be back to normal. So please still check-in because I am not going anywhere!

Thanks to all of you who read my blog because it really does mean a lot to me (and is a great motivation to keep it up!)...


March 19, 2006

String Beans with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette

About two years ago I had a revelation—vegetables can be good! I used to detest anything green. When I was little, my mom would not let me leave the table until I ate all my greens. I would sit there for hours! By the time I finished my last bite, my parents had already cleaned the dishes and were ready for bed. I just hated vegetables, but recently I learned that if I prepare them with the right seasonings, I actually really like them—in fact, I now even crave them.

String beans are one of my favorites. I usually dress them with this garlic mustard vinaigrette that Jamie Oliver suggests in one of his cookbooks. I used too much on my beans pictured above (I made dressing for two servings and used only one serving of beans), but you get the idea. You can also, of course, use this dressing on other vegi’s as well.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe, here is how I make my string beans and dressing (for two servings):
  • 2 handfuls of string beans
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a pot over high heat, fill 2/3's with water and cover. When the water reaches the boiling point, add beans and cook through (like Jamie Oliver, I like my beans fully cooked and not crunchy—that squeaky sound on my teeth drives my crazy!). The beans are ready when they can bend with ease.
  2. As you are waiting for the water to boil and the beans to cook, add the remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.
  3. When beans are cooked, drain and add to bowl and toss with dressing.

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March 16, 2006

Union Square Farmers Market

Sorry for not posting in a few days. I have been home sick with some sort of virus topped off with a ear and throat infection. Fun, right? But I do owe y'all a post so I am posting pictures of the Union Square Farmers' Market here in New York City, which I took when I was shopping there last Saturday.

I LOVE this market and do want to spend more time talking about it in a later post. Until then, enjoy the pictures!

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March 12, 2006

Pancetta and Sage with Linguini Pasta

My friend, Fiona, came over for dinner last night before we headed off to a party celebrating Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan’s publishing deal for their first novel China Dolls (Michelle explains that the book is Sex and the City meets The Joy Luck Club). This was my first time to cook for Fiona, who recently moved to New York from London, so I wanted to make sure I made something that was really good but also easy so that I could still entertain her as I prepared the meal.

I found in my refrigerator the remaining pancetta leftover from making my Pancetta, Bean and Spinach Soup. I also had some sage leftover from another dish I had made earlier in the week. Since I love the pancetta so much, I wanted to use it in a dish that would allow it shine. So the first thing that came to mind was a pasta dish. Perfectly easy!

So here is how I made it (for two servings):
  • 2 servings of linguini pasta (See Note 1)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1/3 lb pancetta, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, sliced
  • Fresh parmesan cheese to top (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
  1. In a pot over high heat, fill with water third thirds full. Bring to a boil. Add pasta and salt. Let cook until the pasta is al dente. (Reserve some pasta water for step 3!)
  2. As pasta is cooking, in a small omelet pan over medium low heat add butter. Once melted, add pancetta, shallot, and sage. Cook until pancetta is nice and juicy.
  3. From the pasta pot, take about 1/3 cup of the pasta water and mix it into the sauce. Turn heat up to medium. Let it cook down until the sauce has a good, slightly thick consistency (like a gravy consistency). See picture.
  4. When pasta is finished cooking, drain it and add to serving bowls. Do not rinse the pasta—you want the starch on the pasta surface because this helps the sauce stick to it. Add sauce on top of pasta. (I prefer adding the sauce to the top of the individual servings because if I mixed it with the pasta first, all the pancetta would just fall to the bottom.)
  5. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese.


  1. As you can see from the picture, I used whole wheat linguini pasta. I chose it because I am trying to be healthier, but it also has a great flavor that I thought would compliment the strong pancetta paste. Although traditional pasta will also work well, I do think the pancetta and whole wheat pasta make for a good combination of flavors.

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March 11, 2006

Cook’s Illustrated

Y’all may remember me mentioning in my White Turkey Chili post that I am currently subscribing to seven—yes seven—cooking magazines! I started with three, and then my mom got so excited about my new “food blogging” life that she ordered me four more!

This past week I received the first of my Cook’s Illustrated magazines, which was one of the magazines given to me by my mom. This was my first time to read it, and let me tell y’all, this is a fabulous magazine!

Cook’s Illustrated is a bi-monthly magazine with no ads, and it is a continuation of America's Test Kitchen, as seen on PBS. The magazine I received this week only has about nine or ten recipes, but the difference is that the recipes they provide go into great detail about why they chose to prepare the dish the way they did. In fact, each recipe is actually a mini-article.

The recipes are tested numerous times to ensure that they are providing their readers with the best method. In the process, they share with us how they reached the final preparation. I think to be a truly good cook, you need to have a good understanding of how food works, and so that is why I love this magazine so much.

For example, the first recipe/article I read was how to best make a pepper-crusted filet mignon. The write-up explains the challenges—browning the meat appropriately while it is covered with pepper and keeping the pepper taste from overpowering the meat. It then goes into how the cooks first tried making this dish and the faults with their original methods. They then take us through the entire thought process of the various methods they try until we reach the final preparation that they found was the best.

Cook’s Illustrated also includes some articles about the best kitchen products too use (they can conduct their reviews truthfully since that do not accept ads!), which I found very useful. For example, in this issue they have a review of the best beef broths, small nonstick saucepans, and bakeware dishes that they recommend. In doing so, they also factor in the price which I really appreciate as well.

One thing to note with this magazine is that you will not find all the pretty photographs that you find in other magazines such as Gourmet and Bon Appetit. This magazine is all black and white photos. The focus here is not to make you ooh and awe. They assume you already do that with out the pictures. The focus here is the content.

So if you are looking for a good resource to help you learn more about cooking, I do recommend this magazine!


March 08, 2006

The James Beard House, Chef Gabriel Kreuther from the Modern

You know you are a foodie when not only do you know what The James Beard House is, but more so every time you walk near it you have an uncontrollable urge to drop to your knees and begin praising this establishment. Yes, I am a foodie by this definition.

And an even better treat than being in the vicinity of The James Beard House, is actually being a guest at one of their dinners inside. This is where I was last night.

Before I go into my phenomenal experience, let’s discuss what The James Beard House is—shall we? In sum, this beautiful townhouse is the headquarters for The James Beard Foundation, which is the premiere institute for chefs and cooking. They are best known for handing out the annual James Beard Awards, which are the highest honor a chef can receive. This is essentially the Oscar for chefs, if you will. So being a guest at The James Beard House for dinner is a tremendous treat. Now understand why I tend to drop to my knees and praise this place?

The James Beard House hosts chefs throughout the month from all over the country. These premiere chefs are invited to come to the house and cook an extensive meal for the 100 or so guests. Not only is this a great honor for the chefs to do, but it is also a lot of pressure for the chefs to cook an especially fabulous meal knowing that the guests are all pretty serious when it comes to food. Therefore, you know you are getting the best possible meal from this chef—probably even better than what you would get in their own restaurant.

Anyone can make a reservation for The James Beard House; however, members are given the privilege to make reservations prior to the non-members. Therefore, often seats are no longer available for non-members once the event has become public. Lucky for me, my friend Geoff is a member so he is able to reserve us tables for the highly anticipated chefs. Reservations are not cheap, but they are certainly one of the best deals in town. Most the dinners are $100 for members, and $125 for non-members (no tip is given). You will never find this high of a caliber and extensive meal with wine pairings for each course at a restaurant for this price! That’s another reason why I am such a fan of these dinners.

The events begin with hors d’oeuvres and free flowing champagne on the first floor of the house and, when warm, the back patio. The waiters walk around with the trays of fabulous hors d’oeuvres as the sophisticated and elegant crowd of foodies eloquently push each other out of the way to get their bite. Got to love the scene with all food obsessed people!

During this time you can also walk over to the open kitchen and watch the featured chef at work preparing the hors d’oeuvres and the meals that will be served later on. I especially love this aspect of watching the artist at work in making his creation. You can’t get that at most restaurants!

After an hour of the hors d’oeuvres and champagne, it is then time to be seated for dinner. Generally, the meals are five courses with a wine pairing for each. Most people are seated upstairs, which has the feel of a lovely, cozy living room with walls that are a rich orangey red and warm lighting.

The chef at last night’s dinner was the executive chef Gabriel Kreuther from the Modern—the new restaurant that opened along with the renovated Museum of Modern Art. Prior to accepting the invitation to the dinner, I was not familiar with Chef Kreuther. I learned that he is an up and coming chef here in New York City, and New York Magazine has named him “the next Jean-Georges.” Now that is a compliment!

Our menu and wine pairings for the evening was as follows:

Yellowstone River Caviar Beggar’s Purses with Gold Leaf and Lime, Mini Tarts Flambées
Applewood-Smoked Salmon Roulades with Sorrel and Yellowstone River Caviar
Spicy Black Angus Beef Tartare with Quail Eggs
Crispy Shrimp with Lemongrass Dipping Sauce

Paul Goerg Brut Premier Cru Blanc de Blancs

* * *

Apple Terrine with Hibiscus, Roasted Hazelnut Vinaigrette, and Butternut Squash Sorbet
Domaine Marcel Deiss Muscat 2003

Diver Scallop and Veal Sweetbreads with Wild Mushroom Jus, Preserved Lemon, and Pancetta
Nicolas Joly Savennières Clos Sacrés Chenin Blanc 2003

Chorizo-Crusted Chatham Cod with White Coco Bean Purée and Harissa Oil
Donum Pinot Noir 2002

Squab and Foie Gras Croustillant with Carmelized Ginger Jus and Farm Vegetables
Guigal Brune et Blonde 1997

Salted Caramel Parfait with Roasted Mango and Ten Flavors Sorbet
Domiana Malvasia Select 1999

Assorted Petits Fours and Chocolates

All the hors d’oeuvres were fabulous. My favorite was the caviar beggar’s purses because I rarely have the opportunity to eat caviar, but the most complimentary of flavors I thought was the beef tartare with quail eggs. It was served with a small poached quail egg on a very tasty cracker and the egg was framed with a layer of the tartare. Very nice.

The apple terrine with hibiscus was also quite interesting. It was served with butternut squash sorbet, which had such a unique flavor. The wine pairing was sweet, which I usually do not like in a wine, but it complimented this dish perfectly.

I was nervous about the next course, which included sweetbreads! My dad loves sweetbreads, but I have trouble mentally getting my head around the idea of eating them. However, I made my dad proud and ate them with the scallop. It was actually not so bad!

The chorizo-crusted cod followed, which was very good. The chorizo flavor was not as pronounced as I was expecting, but I loved the pairing of it with the white coco bean purée. As you may have noticed from the recipes I have shared with you thus far, I love beans!

Like the sweetbreads dish, I was also a little nervous about the squab and foie gras croustillant. I like pureed foie gras because it reminds me of pâté, which I love. However, this was in its natural form. Nonetheless, I made my father proud again and ate it. Not only did I eat it, but I also loved it with the squab! The foie gras was nestled between two large pieces of squab and this was all wrapped in a flaky pastry. This croustillant was then sitting on a bed of thinly sliced vegetables. This was probably my favorite of the courses. The wine paired with this course was also fabulous.

The last course was the salted caramel parfait with mango and sorbet. The parfait was nice and sweet, and the sorbet had a unique flavor that I could not identify—I love that. Accompanying this course were an assortment of chocolates and other sweets. Geoff claims the macaroons were one of the top three best macaroons he has ever eaten (he then went on to describe the others). I agree, though my experience with macaroons is apparently not as extensive as Geoff’s!

Following the dinner the chef walks upstairs to where the diners are and answers any questions that the guests may have. Unfortunately, I had a difficult time hearing the questions and answers from where we were seated. However, I had experienced one other dinner at The James Beard House, and during this session, I was able to learn about the details of how the chef prepared various courses and hear his thought process for developing his ideas. Now that is cool.

So as you can see, having dinner at The James Beard House is certainly a treat! If you truly appreciate good food, I definitely recommend trying The James Beard House for it provides a whole new dimension to your dining experience that you can not find in any restaurant.

Thanks for the invite, Geoff !

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March 06, 2006

Pancetta, Bean and Spinach Soup

A friend at work asked me to re-create a pancetta bean soup she loves that is served at a restaurant across the street from the office. She described the soup to me and this is what I came up with. I have not actually tasted the restaurant’s soup myself, so I brought a sampling into work today and I received approval!

I also served this soup last night to my friends who came over to watch the Oscars with me, and they loved it. So this hearty soup is definitely a winner, and better yet, it is also really easy to make! I especially love the pancetta in it, which I think is such a treat.

What exactly is pancetta? In sum, pancetta is Italian bacon. Unlike American bacon, it is not smoked. Instead, pancetta is pork belly that has been cured with salt and spices for about three months. Also, unlike American bacon, pancetta comes in the form of a very large sausage.

So are you now ready to make this really yummy soup? Here is what you need (for 5 servings):
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 small onions, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2/3 lb pancetta
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme
  • 4 cans (19 oz.) of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 32 oz. chicken broth
  • 4 handfuls of fresh spinach, cooked (See note 1)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large stock pot or sauté pan (about 5 qt.) over medium heat, add olive oil.
  2. Just start dicing the onion and adding it into the pot as you go. Continue with the rest of the ingredients—cutting, as needed, and adding as you go down the list—up through the thyme. Be sure to stir frequently.
  3. Once the onion and celery become translucent, add the beans. Let cook for a few minutes until the beans are warmed.
  4. Add the chicken broth and turn the heat up to medium high.
  5. Once the broth is heated, discard the bay leaf and then ladle the soup into a food processor and puree fully. This will likely need to be completed in batches and transferred to a second container. It took me three batches in my 11 cup food processor. (See note 2)
  6. Mix in spinach.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Also go to Sweetnicks where on Tuesday March 14 this soup will be posted for the weekly food blogging event! Every Tuesday, food bloggers who made a recipe that includes an ARF (Antioxidant Rich Food), fruit, veggie or any combination of the three can be included in Sweetnicks' ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday evening round-up.

  1. I simply cooked my spinach by placing it in a bowl, drizzling it with a little water, covering the bowl with saran wrap, and putting it in the microwave for 1.5 minutes. If you do not have a microwave, then just sauté it with some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Avoid using frozen spinach because it tends to be chopped and will look messy in your beautiful soup.
  2. Don’t have a food processor? Then just skip this step. The soup will also be great without being pureed. Note that if you do want to puree it, you really do need a food processor. I think it is the only tool that will appropriately puree the pancetta (though I could be underestimating the power of a blender?).

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March 05, 2006


This weekend is the 3rd Weekend Cookbook Challenge hosted by Alicat from Something So Clever and Sara from i like to cook. The theme is "sweet and savories in the various shades of orange from recipes in our unused cookbooks." Frankly, I do not have any unused cookbooks because I can only fit about five of them in my tiny apartment. Therefore, I only buy cookbooks I know I will use. Instead I found a recipe on the internet, which I rarely resort to for recipes. That somewhat works, right?

Now for my orange something. My sister-in-law's parents adore Leonidas orangettes, and as a result I too am now a huge fan. These are basically candied orange peels that are covered with luxurious Belgium chocolate. When I visit my sister-in-law's parents, we often end the evening sipping kirschwasser while nibbling on these fabulous orangettes, which is such a treat.

I remembered once watching Giada De Laurentiis's Everyday Italian on the Food Network and she made a made similar type of candy. I was so excited to see that I could make these orangettes myself (especially since Leonidas’ orangettes are not exactly cheap)! Now I had the perfect opportunity to try them out.

I found the recipe on the Food Network's website. The recipe did not look too difficult--just time consuming, which it was. I knew that if I took the time to make this, I wanted more candied orange peels than the recipe made so I doubled it (more accurately, I used three navel oranges instead of one, but I only doubled the liquid parts of the recipe).

Here is how I made the orangettes, adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's recipe:
  • 3 large navel oranges
  • 1 ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3.5 oz semisweet chocolate bar (I actually ate about a 1/3 of it first, so I only used 2/3 of the bar for the recipe which was enough)
  1. I filled a small pot half-way with water and placed it over high heat.
  2. I took three navel oranges and stripped their peels with a vegetable peeler. The strips I took off were about an inch wide and were the length from the stem end to the navel end. I found that I had to add decent pressure to the vegetable peeler to make sure I peeled the zest off with enough thickness. However, be careful not to take the white part off because it is bitter tasting.
  3. Once the water in the pot was boiling, I added the orange peels and let them boil for a minute. I then poured the peels and water into a strainer and rinsed them under cold water. The recipe calls for you to do this twice, using fresh water each time. I had read elsewhere that this process takes the bitterness out of the peels, so I went ahead and did it three times just to be sure.
  4. After I finished the boiling process, I filled the small pot with 1 cup of water and 1 ½ cups of sugar and stirred this mixture over medium high heat until the sugar was dissolved. I then brought the sugar water to a boil and added the orange peels, turning down the heat to medium low and letting the peels simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes, I used tongs to transfer the peels to a dry surface with each peel separately laid out flat. When you remove the peels from the sugar water, be sure to let the sugar water drain off of them. I did not do this, and they never fully dried out. The recipe calls for you to lay the peels on a sheet of parchment paper, which I did not have. Instead I just laid them on a tin foil lined cookie sheet. Be sure to save the sugar water!!! This is the most unbelievable tasting sugar syrup you will ever have! Save it to sweeten coffee, tea, oatmeal, etc.
  6. The recipe calls for you to let the peels dry for 1 hour, but since I did not drain them too well from the sugar syrup they were quite wet. So I let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Once your peels are ready, melt the semisweet chocolate. The recipe suggests you melt it over a double broiler, but I opted for the microwave. I used a Swiss chocolate bar, which I broke into small pieces into a small bowl. I then put the bowl into the microwave for 30 second intervals. My chocolate took two 30 second intervals to melt.
  8. Then dip the peels into the chocolate, about 2/3 the length, and place them onto a flat surface. Again, I used a tin foil lined cookie sheet for this. Although I did let the excess chocolate drip off, I found that when I laid the peels onto their flat surface they were soon sitting in a puddle of chocolate. I did not want my orangettes to have wings! So when I finished dipping all the peels, I then transferred them to a second flat surface leaving the chocolate puddle behind. They were now ready to sit in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set.

The final product was great! The combination of the semisweet chocolate with the tart orange peel is pure perfection. The part of the peel not covered by the chocolate was still a bit sticky since I did not drain them well enough from the sugar syrup, but otherwise, they were a success. Not to mention, are these not so beautiful? I think these are the perfect treat to end the night with. I hope you do try these.

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March 01, 2006

Yellow Watermelon

What? Watermelon comes in yellow? Who knew? I was walking through my market when I came across this beautiful fruit. So of course I had to pick it up and bring it home for a tasting!

Before I tasted it, I wanted to first learn about yellow watermelon. Unfortunately, I could not find very much information on the internet! So I guess in the watermelon world, they do not discriminate between yellow and red watermelons. Such a kind group, they are. Therefore, what I found was just about watermelons in general.

Did you know that there is a watermelon organization called the National Watermelon Promotion Board? I looked at their website and learned how to pick the best watermelon. In summary, you do the following:
  1. Look for a watermelon that is symmetrical and has no bruises, cuts or dents.
  2. The watermelon should be heavy for its size since it is primarily made up of water.
  3. The bottom side of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where the watermelon sat on the ground growing.
Until you cut open your prized watermelon, you should keep it at room temperature. However, once you have cut into it, you should cover it with plastic wrap and keep the melon refrigerated.

Since the folks at the National Watermelon Promotion Board, well, want to promote watermelons, they also suggested some creative ways to use this summer fruit. One suggestion was to freeze watermelon juice into ice cubes and use them in lemonade. As they note, you will want to strain the watermelon juice to get rid of the seeds and excess pulp.

Okay, let’s get back to my yellow watermelon. After hanging out with the watermelon folks on the internet, I was ready to try it out. As expected, the yellow watermelon tasted much like that of a red one, but I swear it was a bit sweater. The tasted also reminded me a little bit of honeydew mellow. I definitely recommend trying it, if anything, because it is just fun to try out new foods.

The next time I buy a yellow watermelon, I want to use it to make a special cocktail drink. I plan to strain the melon for the juices (de-seeding it if necessary—mine I tried was seedless, putting the fruit into a blender or food processor, and then straining) and then mix the yellow juices with vodka to make Yellow Watermelon Martini’s. Doesn’t that sound good?!

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