Archive for March, 2009

Bringing the Tropics Home

March 11, 2009


Last week, my little family and I went for a vacation to Kauai which is one of the islands in Hawaii. As I wrote about here, it is a good idea to get out of the Seattle gray skies and drizzle at least once each winter to keep your sanity – if possible. We have had more sun this winter than usual, but also more cold and a LOT more snow. Suffice it to say that I was really ready to see the sun and to have it be warm.

But it was not to be. Kauai is the “rainy” island and we were staying at the “rainy” end of it, but usually that just means that, in the midst of sunny 80 degree days, rain clouds periodically pass by and drench you. I’m OK with that. Our week was a little different. Some kind of storm system was settled over the islands last week and we had colder than usual temperatures, quite a bit of rain, and a lot of wind. Oh, and not much sun.

We still had a lovely vacation – we were all together in a nice place and the boys got to play on the beach and even stick their toes in the water. We went to an incredible park with the best play structure that any of us had ever seen. Randy and I got a babysitter one night and went out for dinner. And each night at 5pm, we would venture over to the bar for happy hour and the cocktail of the day. The boys were particularly fond of pineapple and guava juice. We were particularly fond of anything with rum.


It was really so nice to be away from our stressful and busy lives back home. It felt luxurious to just sit for a while – and not at the computer! I finished 2 1/2 books and it would have been 3 if I had not chosen Salman Rushdie’s latest. He is a tough read.

Now that we are back, I find myself missing the tropics – even if the tropics weren’t that tropical for us this year. I wanted to re-create some of those flavors for my clients this week and found the most amazing soup. This tropical gazpacho is quite different than the gazpacho I make gallons of each summer. Most of the vegetables, along with some bread, are all pureed together. Here is the kicker – there is pineapple in there too. It may sound weird, but I assure you the flavor is fantastic. The pineapple doesn’t overpower, just lends a slight sweetness and yes, tropical-ness. I would encourage you to taste as you go and what you think it needs. I added additional pineapple and it’s juice, plus more lime. I served this soup with Sweet Potato Roti and Golden Basmati Rice Pilaf.


Tropical Gazpacho
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

Serves 4-6

4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 English cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 small red onion, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 cup canned unsweetened pineapple chunks in juice

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

generous pinch cayenne, or more to taste

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 1/2 cups crusty bread, crusts removed, torn into chunks

3 cups tomato juice

salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, 1/2 the cucumbers, 1/2 the bell peppers, the red onion, 1/2 the tomatoes, the pineapple and its juice, vinegar, cayenne, cumin, bread chunks, and tomato juice and puree until smooth. (DN: If you do this in the blender, it will be quite full. Be sure to hang on to the top when you turn it on.)

Transfer to a bowl, then stir in the remaining vegetables. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Chocolate, Hazelnut, and Ginger Biscotti

March 10, 2009


I often get asked how I plan menus for the my clients. Do they request certain things? Do I have an existing list that they choose from? The truth is, no – I just bring what I feel like making and they eat it. It’s a pretty ideal situation because it allows me to be creative and also indulge any cravings I might have. Those cravings can come from just something I am in the mood for, from seasonal ingredients, or from trying to recreate a flavor I enjoyed.

Last week on our vacation, Randy bought some macadamia nut and ginger biscotti at a little bakery on Kauai (macadamia nuts – as you might imagine – are everywhere in Hawaii). They were hard as rocks so I didn’t have more than a bite, but it got me craving a chocolate ginger biscotti I made years ago. I love chocolate, I love ginger, and the combination here is intoxicating. These are quite crisp – they have no butter – but they have an incredibly rich taste.


A few notes about this recipe. If there is a Trader Joe’s near you, buy your crystallized ginger there. It is very soft and easy to chop. I used to buy it in the bulk section of grocery stores and always found it to be stale and fibrous. Make sure to chop the hazelnuts nice and fine – it will facilitate the slicing later. This dough is very sticky, so I recommend keeping your hands moist while you work with it – either by using cooking spray or water. Finally, the recipe calls for drizzling the white chocolate over the finished cookies. I can never get white chocolate to a “drizzling” consistency so I just dunked half in the melted stuff. Can anyone help me out here? What is the white chocolate secret??

Chocolate, Hazelnut and Ginger Biscotti
Adapted from
Bon Appetit
Makes about 25

1 2/3 cups flour
1 cup sugar

cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda

tsp. salt
4 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped
cup finely chopped crystallized ginger

6 oz. good-quality white chocolate (such as Baker’s or Lindt)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Sift first 5 ingredients into mixing bowl. Add 3 eggs and vanilla; beat until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. nuts, and crystallized ginger (dough will be firm). Sprinkle a little cocoa powder on a work surface and either spray your hands with cooking spray, or run them under the faucet. Turn dough out onto work surface and divide in half. Form each half into a 12-inch log. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart. (DN: You can also use two separate sheets.) Flatten each to 2 1/2 inch wide log. Whisk remaining egg in small bowl to blend. Brush logs with some of the beaten egg.

Bake until logs are dry looking and firm to the touch, about 30-35 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet(s) 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Transfer logs to cutting board. Using serrated knife, cut logs crosswise into scant 1/2 inch slices. Place slices, cut side down, on large baking sheets. Bake until firm, about 15 minutes. Transfer biscotti to racks and cool completely.

Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler set over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. (DN: If you don’t have a double boiler, just place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set that over the water. Just be sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.) Remove from over water. Place biscotti on rack over baking sheet. Dip one half of each biscotti in white chocolate. (Can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Store in an airtight container.)

Making Ravioli Easier

March 8, 2009


I have a few mental lists rattling around in my brain and I often think I need to write them down somewhere. Since most of them have to do with food, the most logical place to do so would be here. I have the Tools I Can’t Live Without list. I have the Desert Island Cookbooks list. I have the Top 10 Hated Tasks in the Kitchen list. And I also have the Things I Need to Learn How to Make or Do list.

On that last list, you would find sourdough starter, croissants, puff pastry, fondant covered cakes, homemade ice cream – but at the very top of the list, you would find homemade pasta. I know pasta isn’t hard to make (neither is ice cream for that matter), it’s just something I haven’t committed to yet. I don’t have the right equipment and I just haven’t wrapped my brain around trying it. Maybe I fear that once I try it, I will never be happy with dried again. Maybe I’m just a little lazy in the pasta department.

Before we left for Kauai, I got it in my head that I wanted to make ravioli for my clients. I love ravioli but I hate ordering them in restaurants. In my experience, you pay $18 for four two-bite pillows that inevitably contain butternut squash, ricotta and sage, and are swimming in a brown butter sauce. Yes, that kind of ravioli tasted good the first time I had them and now I am over it. So, when I found this recipe that sounded like it just might be the perfect flavor combination, I had to try it. I know that, in a pinch, you can use won ton wrappers as a stand-in for fresh pasta and so I decided to give it a whirl.


I have to say, I was really happy with how this turned out – and believe me when I say that I am my own worst critic. I could of course tell how this dish would be transcendent with fresh pasta, but the wrappers worked really well and were an incredible time saver. They are more toothsome than pasta but so easy to work with. The filling had just the right amount of crunch, creaminess, and savory flavor and the sauce was the perfect accompaniment. I am kind of hot and cold on roasted red peppers and wasn’t sure how I would feel about a sauce that starred them. But it was subtle enough to let the flavors of the ravioli shine through, but assertive enough not to just be red sauce.


Goat Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted from The Farm to Table Cookbook

Makes approximately 24 ravioli, serving 4

For the ravioli:

You will not use all the won ton wrappers, but the leftovers can be wrapped and frozen for next time.

2 packages won ton wrappers
8 oz. fresh goat cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, minced

1/2 basil leaves

1 egg, beaten

For the roasted red pepper sauce:

You can, of course, use jarred peppers here. If you are going to roast your own, do three large ones and if you have left over, just add them to your next salad. They keep well in the refrigerator for days.

2 cups roasted red peppers
2 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. lemon juice

2 tsp. good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. warm water

Cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Lightly flour a baking sheet and set aside.

2. Combine the cheeses and hazelnuts in a medium mixing bowl.

3. On a cutting board, lay the basil leaves in a stack with the stem ends toward you. Roll the leaves cigar-style and thinly slice them into ribbons. Add to the cheese mixture.

4. Have the won ton wrappers, the cheese filling, the egg wash, a pastry brush, and a pastry cutter (or small sharp knife) ready in front of you. Take one wrapper at a time (be sure you have one because they stick together) and place it front of you. Spoon approximately a tablespoon of filling into the center of the wrapper and flatten it slightly. Brush the egg wash over all the exposed surface of the wrapper, and top with another wrapper. Push out any air bubbles.

5. Using the pastry cutter or the sharp knife cut off the edges so that you either have squares or rough circles. Be sure to not cut into the filling at all, just excess wrapper. Place ravioli on the baking sheet as you work and sprinkle lightly with flour.

6. To prepare the sauce, in a blender mix the bell peppers, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and water until smooth. Season with the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the sauce to a small saucepan and gently warm over medium-low heat. (The sauce can be made up to two days in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

7. Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Gently drop the ravioli into the water, allowing 6 ravioli per person. (You may have to cook the ravioli in batches to avoid overcrowding.) Cook until the ravioli float to the surface and the pasta is tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the ravioli and divide among plates. Top with the warm sauce and serve.

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