Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pain D'Avignon - A Cape Cod Gem

You may have noticed the list to the right of my posts called Top Ten Cape Cod Gems...last Sunday I took a ride over to visit one of them. Pain D'Avignon is everything their tagline says it is, a different kind of bakery.
The business started back in 1992 when four young Yugoslavs were brought together here on Cape Cod. Their commitment and dedication to making authentic artisan French bread is apparent in every loaf they bake. Just one bite will confirm that. I've been told they use very old French recipes that had never been translated into English.

They recently added a lovely cafe which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. While eating in Cafe Boulangerie one can view all the fresh baked breads on display. I enjoyed the Mediterranean salad and Ally had curried chicken salad on a fresh baked croissant.  Both were excellent.

I also got my olive oil refill. They sell the Ariston Greek Olive Oil and offer an affordable refill program. Just bring in your empty bottle and you can fill it up, have lunch, or enjoy dessert and an espresso at this very special spot. We also brought home the 3 lb. loaf of cranberry pecan bread. For all those not within driving distance, I encourage you to take a virtual visit: Pain D'Avignon.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vegetarian Miso Soup

Miso soup is considered a comfort food in our house. Miso, a fermented soybean paste, is well known for it's healing properties. While it originated in China, it is a staple of the Japanese diet. Many of you may have enjoyed the traditional miso soup that is served in most Japanese restaurants. La Fuji Mama has a very good recipe on her blog for that style of miso soup.

This preparation is a vegetarian soup that I learned to make years ago when I first starting cooking macrobiotic food. I'll be using some of the roasted vegetables that I prepared yesterday, but it can just as easily be made with all raw vegetables.
Vegetarian Miso Soup with Whole Grains
Serves 3-4
4 cups of filtered water
1/2 piece of kombu
1/4 of a small white onion
1 Shitake mushroom (stem removed and slice thinly)
2 cups of last night's roasted vegetables
2 cups of diced carrots and squash mix (buttercup or butternut)
2 leaves of collard greens (sliced thinly)
3 tbsp of yellow miso (available at health food stores)
Add the water, sliced onion (cut into 1/2 moon shape), sliced shitake mushroom, and the kombu.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Note: If you're using the uncooked carrots and squash add those now, too.
If using the roasted vegetables add them with the collard greens after the onion, mushroom and kombu have simmered for 5 minutes. Then simmer for another 3-4 minutes.

While this is cooking put the miso paste into a small bowl:
Add a few tablespoons of the soup broth to the miso and mix until it's a smooth paste:

Add this back to the soup and simmer for 2 minutes. Don't boil the miso as it destroys the enzymes.
Remove the kombu and serve with some of those leftover grains from last night:

Enjoy!  It's soothing, delicious and oh so good for you. Miso should be eaten just after it's cooked so just make the quantity that your're planning to eat.

We would love to hear from you.  Post your questions or comments in the box, or using the comments link, below.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top ten reasons why I cook

Michael Ruhlman, writer, blogger, and accomplished cook asked other food bloggers to post why they cook.  So here are my top ten reasons. I kept changing the order of things, but regardless of where they fall, they all contribute to why I love to cook:

10. Cooking, and a love of food, makes travel so much more interesting.
9.   Homemade food tastes better.
8.   It's part of my heritage.
7.   I enjoy the creative outlet.
6.   Who doesn't like to talk about food?  It's a great ice breaker.
5.   Everyone likes a good cook.
4.   Entertaining family and friends with good food is so rewarding.
3.   A home cooked meal brings us together as a family.
2.   I love to eat.
and the number 1 reason I cook:
1.   Providing healthful, fresh food for family and friends contributes to our physical and emotional well being.

An homage to root vegetables

Yesterday the weather was just a bit warmer and got me to thinking that we'll be shifting our seasonal focus on food very soon.  I decided that a batch of roasted root vegetables was in order, so I prepared brown rice, chick peas, and wheat berries as the base for this vegetable medley. The vegetable line up was yellow turnip, buttercup squash, carrots, and roasted beets.
Brown Rice with Chick Peas and Wheat Berries
1 cup brown rice (organic short grain)
1 cup dried chick peas (organic)
1 cup wheat berries (organic)
5 cups of water
1 tsp of sea salt
Place the grains, chick peas, water, and salt in the pressure cooker. (I like the Aeternum) On medium heat bring the pressure cooker up to pressure, just until the steam starts coming out of the valve, then turn the heat down as low as possible.  Cook for 45 minutes.  This is the most nutritious way to prepare brown rice, and the addition of the chick peas and wheat berries makes for a great base for some very quick, easy and healthful meals.

Roasted root vegetables
1 yellow turnip
1/2 bag baby organic carrots
1/2 buttercup squash
1/2 sweet white onion (large)
Olive Oil
Peel turnip, cut in half and slice each half into 1/2 pieces.  Then cut each slice into a 1/2 inch dice:
Do the same with the squash:
Cut the carrots into 1/4 inch slices, and dice the onion, then place all vegetables into a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and mix so all vegetables are coated:
Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 1 hour turning every 15-20 minutes. You can raise the heat to 400 degrees for the last 10 minutes to brown a bit more.
Roast Beets on bed of sauteed beet greens
1 bunch of organic beets (with greens attached)
2-3 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cut greens off the top of the beets leaving one inch of the stem attached to the beet.  Peel any rough spots off the outside of the beet and then cut in half, diagonally, and cut each half in half again. Place beets in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Turn to coat the beets. Place in the 375 degree oven to roast.
Roast for about 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.  Turn the oven up to 400 degrees for the last 10 minutes.   Test by inserting a fork.  It should easily pierce the beet.

Beet Greens
Wash the beet greens and then slice the greens and stems into 1 inch pieces:
Place a tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan. Add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic.  Heat until garlic just starts to brown.  Add greens to the pan:

It's fine to have a high pile of greens as they will shrink once cooked.  Turn the greens every few minutes until the stems are tender:
Arrange a bed of greens on a platter and place the roasted beets on top:
Transfer the cooked grains to a bowl and add the following:
1 tsp tamari
1 tsp of mirin
Toss gently to mix.  Place a portion of grains on a plate, add the roasted root vegetables, and then top with some beets and greens. Enjoy!
If you have any questions, comments or feedback we'd love to hear from you.  Just post in the comments box, or using the comments link below.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers a la Christine

My cousin, Christine, has graciously shared her vegetarian stuffed pepper recipe with us.  Coming from a very large Italian family, we were fortunate to be surrounded by excellent cooks who served up wonderful homemade food.  This has certainly inspired another generation to keep the tradition alive.

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers a la Christine
6 large peppers (yellow, red or green)
Freshly grated carrots
1 large onion
The tops of the peppers after you cut them off (diced)
Freshly chopped broccoli
1 small zucchini
1 small summer squash
1 box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, chopped
1 can San Marzano tomatoes
Freshly grated pecorino romano cheese (handful)
Fresh garlic (2 cloves)
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups brown rice, cooked
Asiago cheese

Saute onion, garlic, diced peppers and carrots, about 8-10 minutes. Add zucchini and summer squash and saute until just about tender. Add tomatoes, artichoke hearts, grated pecorino romano cheese and rice and stir together.  Just for fun, add another handful of romano cheese! (you'll be glad you did)  Stuff the peppers (I par-boiled them for a few minutes) and top with asiago cheese for kicks.  Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes covered with foil.  Remove foil and bake for another 7-8 minutes. Enjoy!  (I did!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Almond Cookies

These simple and delicious cookies are always a hit. They're a perfect accompaniment to a chocolate dessert. The cookie dough is just slightly sweetened, so most of the sweetness comes from the powered sugar. When rolled into a ball they are similar to Russian Tea cookies, or Mexican Wedding cookies.  I've brought them to family and friends, who often request them now when I offer to bring a dessert. One young friend asked me to make them for her birthday instead of a cake. I was happy to oblige.

Almond Cookies:
1/2 lb butter or Earth Balance (room temperature)
2 cups of flour
2 cups of toasted almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
4 tbsp confectioners' sugar
Extra confectioners sugar for dusting
Cream butter, flour, 4 tbsp of confectioners' sugar, vanilla and almond extract.  Mix in the almonds.

Roll into 2 inch logs and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden on the bottom.

Remove from baking sheet and cool for a few minutes. While still warm, roll in confectioners sugar:

Place on a rack and cool in the refrigerator:

Dust with a little bit more confectioners' sugar before serving. Grab a cup of coffee, or tea, and enjoy! Or wrap them up and share with friends.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A heart-felt breakfast...

It's fun to see how many things you can prepare in the shape of a heart.
Waffles are pretty easy:
 Strawberries naturally say love with a quick slice of the knife:
And sometimes nature just takes over:
And nothing says love like the perfect box of chocolates:
Have a love-filled day!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Artichoke

Growing up in an Italian family gave me early exposure to this wonderful delicacy.  They were served at many of our holiday celebrations.  The first time I actually saw an artichoke in its natural state was during a trip to Provence a few years ago.  We were staying at a lovely old country house where there were artichokes growing in the garden.  Quite a different site from what I was accustomed to seeing in my local grocery store.

When preparing artichokes, I steam them in a few inches of water with olive oil and salt added to the water.  They take about an hour to cook, and are ready when you can easily pull out one of the middle leaves.  I make a olive oil, garlic and butter sauce which I pour over the artichoke (loosen the leaves a little first) then sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and a little fresh lemon juice.
How to prepare the artichoke:
Rinse artichokes throughly and drain excess water.  Cut the stem off the bottom and trim about 1/2 inch off the top to remove the sharp thistle at the tips of the leaves.  Add a tbsp of olive oil and 1/2 tsp of salt to the water.  Place artichokes in the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer for about 1 hour.  Test by pulling one of the middle leaves out.  If it comes out easily they are done.  
Place 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan.  When the oil is hot  add a clove of chopped garlic.  Cook until garlic begins to brown.  Add 2 tbsp of butter or Earth Balance and cook for another minute.  Turn off heat and add some chopped fresh parsley.   Pour this over the artichoke.  If you need any tips on eating an artichoke you should find what you need here.  Enjoy!

The country house in France where I spotted the artichoke in the garden:
Post your comments or questions below.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Chicken Picatta

Tonight I made one of my daughter Ally's favorites, Chicken Picatta, or boneless chicken breasts in a lemon and caper sauce. They're delicious served over angel hair pasta, but tonight we enjoyed them with steamed broccoli, cranberries and toasted almonds.  Simple and delicious!

Chicken Piccatta

6 boneless half breasts of chicken (free range or organic)
Flour for dredging (I use whole wheat which gives it a nice crunch)
1 large lemon
1 tbsp of capers (with the liquid)
1/4 cup chicken stock
Olive oil
2 tbsp white wine

Cut the chicken breasts in half and pound until about 1/2 inch thick.

Dredge the breasts in flour (add a pinch of salt, and a sprinkle of pepper, to the flour)

Place 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan and heat. Add chicken breasts, sauteing the breasts for about 4-5 minutes on each side.  Put them on a platter with paper towel to remove the excess oil. De-glaze the pan with 1/3 cup of chicken stock and 2 tbsp of white wine.  Cook until all remnants on the bottom of the pan are dissolved. Add 1 tbsp of capers and a little bit of the liquid they are stored in, to the pan.  Add the lemon juice. Cook until reduced by about a 1/3. Pour over the chicken breasts and garnish with lemon and parsley.