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Saturday, January 30, 2010

It's a Winner -- Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli on food52!!

I'm thrilled to report that my Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli was the Week 31 winner on food52. The recipe will be included in the upcoming food52 cookbook, and has been featured on the site. Thank you to everyone who voted, made the recipe or otherwise showed their support. And, of course, thank you Amanda and Merrill for creating this fabulous site, and to the food52 community for cooking up such wonderful recipes week after week.

And, in other terrific news, my friend Abbie's Barbacoa Beef Check Tacos have been selected as this week's finalist -- so please go vote for her terrific dish. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finalist on food52!

photo by Sarah Shatz

If you regularly read this blog, surely you've heard me talk about food52, the great community that's creating a crowd-sourced cookbook. Well, I'm excited to report that my recipe for Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli is a finalist on the site this week! If it wins, the recipe will appear in the upcoming food52 cookbook.

Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli combines the nutty toasty flavor of roasted broccoli with the complex flavors of anchovies, garlic, butter, olive oil, fresh lemon juice parmesan, and toasted almonds. Don't let the anchovies scare you -- they melt into the sauce and offer rich depth of flavor.

So, if the spirit moves, take a look at food52, and if you like the recipe, vote for it. Check out the slide show and video of site founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs cooking the recipe.

And, even if you don't vote, stay a while and check out the site -- and maybe you'll be inspired to enter a recipe!

Thanks, A&M!

Monday, January 18, 2010

food52 Editors' Pick -- Antipasto Couscous Cakes

Recently, food52, one of my all-time favorite food sites, selected couscous for one of their weekly contest ingredients.

I've enjoyed many couscous dishes over the years, but thought it was time for me to try something a little different. So, I decided to take the best components of an antipasto platter, mix in a little couscous and fry them up into little crispy cakes. I used kalamata olives, parmesan cheese, roasted tomatoes and sopressata, toasted pine nuts and, the kicker, red wine vinegar. The strong, salty flavors mingle with the mellow cheese, and the red wine vinegar adds a tangy bite. You can serve these Antipasto Couscous Cakes as appetizers, on top of salads or as a main dish.

I was pleased and excited to see that the dish was an Editors' Pick on the site, which is kind of like an honorable mention. Thanks, Amanda and Merrill!

Even better, my friend Abbie's recipe for Cedar Plank Grilled Loup De Mer is a finalist on the site this week! If she wins, her great dish will be featured in the food52 cookbook. So, please take a moment to go to the site and if you like her recipe, and I think you will, vote for her! Abbie is an excellent, creative cook and never fails to inspire me.

Antipasto Couscous Cakes

Serves 8-10

1 cup grape tomatoes
2 cups couscous, cooked and chilled (I prefer whole wheat couscous)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup diced sopressata
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
2.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
olive oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tomatoes into a large plastic freezer bag, drizzle in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then arrange tomatoes on a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet, and roast for 20-30 minutes. Cool and slice in half.

Toast pine nuts over medium heat in a small pan, then cool.

Put couscous into a large bowl. Mix in garlic, sopressata, parmesan, olives, roasted tomatoes, red wine vinegar, pine nuts, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.

Beat egg and egg yolk with a fork, the fold into couscous mixture. Gently add basil and sprinkle in flour, stirring until well combined.

Chill couscous for at least 30 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium flame and add enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Scoop couscous with a 1/4 cup measure, press firmly into cup, then tap gently into your hand and mold into cakes with your hands. Place carefully into oil.

Repeat. Add more oil only if needed.

Fry couscous cakes until golden and crisp on both sides, drain on paper towels, let cool a few moments and serve. These are tasty at room temperature, as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dinner at El Barzon

So we had dinner at El Barzon the other night, and my lingering thought is this place is Detroit's best-kept secret.

El Barzon, on Junction, just south of Michigan Ave., is owned by Norberto and Silvia Garita. Norberto spent eight years at Il Posto in Southfield, perfecting pastas and other Italian specialties. Silvia focuses on the traditional recipes of their native Puebla, Mexico. The couple has been in the States for 30 years, much of that time working at restaurants in New York.

The secret to El Barzon is everything is made from scratch, and the Garitas' source many ingredients locally. The simple, unassuming atmosphere is casual and comforting. Come as you are, feel free to bring the family, and relax.

On our menu:

-Housemade tortilla chips with spicy, fire-roasted red and creamy, cilantro infused green salsa. Best chips and salsa in town. Pair with a Mexican beer.

-Perfectly cooked crisp calamari with zucchini strips and tomato sauce. The zucchini strips are a thoughtful touch, and the sauce is spiked with herbs, olive oil and a touch of garlic. So flavorful.

-Veal chop stuffed with prosciutto and cheese, topped with a truffle sauce; potato gratin and sauteed spinach. A decadent, gorgeous dish. Truly memorable.

-Squid ink linguine with shrimp, crab and red sauce. Sweet and savory all at once.

The veal and linguine were specials, but the regular menu is vast and tempting. The portions are generous -- we ate half of everything and brought the rest home -- and the prices modest. For more on El Barzon, see Nicole Ray's piece in the fall issue of edibleWOW (the story's not online, sorry).

If you haven't been to El Barzon yet, I encourage you to go. Soon. Let's not keep this secret to ourselves any longer.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Short Ribs over Pappardelle

If you're looking for a special, decadent meal, look no further than these short ribs over pappardelle. We welcomed 2010 with this meal on New Year's Day, and found it the perfect way to mark a new decade.

Beef short ribs are a tender, succulent cut that lend themselves to long, slow cooking. They are versatile and adaptable -- you can infuse them with all manner of flavors, including French, Korean and Italian.

We went Italian this time, adapting Giada De Laurentiis' recipe. It combines rich, savory flavors like pancetta, rosemary and red wine with onion, garlic, carrot, beef broth and more.

This recipe calls for braising, a simple technique that coaxes maximum flavor and tenderness out of any cut. You brown the meat in a big pot, add your aromatics, herbs and braising liquid -- usually wine and/or stock) and then leave it alone for a few hours to work its magic. The result is meltingly soft and silky.

I started by crisping up some chopped pancetta, then removing it from the pot. Next, I seasoned the short ribs with salt and pepper, dredged them lightly in flour and browned over medium heat on all sides.

Meantime, I pulsed onion, carrot, garlic, tomato paste and tomatoes in a food processor until finely minced. I love this technique -- it made the sauce smooth and intensely flavorful. Once the short ribs are browned, you add the vegetable mixture back into the pot, add the pancetta, season with salt, pepper and various herbs, beef broth and wine. Cover the pot and go do other things for 75 minutes.

Then, remove the lid and stir occasionally for another 90 minutes. Remove the short ribs, shred the meat and return back to the pot. Cook up your pasta al dente and you're done. You can also let the shredded meat chill overnight and reheat the next day for even more flavor. We were supposed to grate a bit of dark chocolate over the finished dish -- chocolate intensifies the flavor of beef -- but we forgot. Next time.

This is rustic comfort food at its best, suitable for entertaining and great for a family Sunday supper. It was also one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in a long time -- this recipe really works.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pasta with Lamb Sauce

When it comes to lamb, I've arrived to the party fashionably late. I've really only grown to appreciate it in the last 10 years. But today, I adore lamb chops, roast lamb, lamb ragu, and my latest concoction: pasta with lamb sauce.

Pasta with lamb sauce is really a simpler, cleaner tasting ragu -- I omit the tomatoes, celery and carrots. The end result is essentially pasta with ground meat, but it's so much more than that.

Lamb's rustic assertiveness, combined with the sweet shallot and earthy rosemary, makes this a flavorful dish I crave regularly. Its simplicity is its beauty; as much as I love a ragu, I find the tomatoes can mute the aromatics, herbs and the lamb, and lend a certain heaviness. With this version, every flavor bursts through brightly. Give it a try.

Pasta with Lamb Sauce

2 T olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 cloves minced garlic
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste
2 T minced fresh rosemary
1.25 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pasta cooking water, if needed
Freshly grated parmesan
3/4 pounds short-cut pasta, such as penne or fusilli (plain, whole wheat or brown rice)

Boil pasta in salted water to al dente. Drain and save up to 1 cup pasta water. Meantime, heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium. Add shallots, cook for several minutes until soft, then add garlic. Continue to saute a few more minutes until shallots are lightly browned; add rosemary and stir well to combine.

Add ground lamb and break up to combine. Turn up flame to medium high. When the lamb is slightly pink, deglaze with white wine and allow to reduce for a few minutes. If pan seems dry, add a little pasta water. Add cooked pasta to lamb and combine well. Serve with freshly grated parmesan, a glass of red and a vegetable such as broccoli or asparagus.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Look what was under the tree on Christmas day -- a giant basket of fabulous goodies I'll use all year long. Inside, a collection of staples every cook needs -- extra virgin olive oil, specialty salts and peppercorns, spicy paprika, gorgeous bowtie pasta, a curry blend, and much more. Plus, a beautiful basket perfect for storing cooking magazines. These kinds of gifts are so thoughtful and meaningful -- not to mention useful. Thanks, Halina!