Monday, March 28, 2011

At the End of the Rainbow

It's not a pot of gold you'll find but a pot of Minestrone.

Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
3 quarts chicken broth
2 14 ½-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
8 ounces anelletti, ditalini, or macaroni
4 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 14-ounce bunch Swiss chard, preferably rainbow chard, stems and ribs diced and leaves cut into 1-inch strips
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the pancetta and fry, tossing frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the broth, tomatoes (along with their liquid), bay leaf, and rosemary and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, celery, carrots, and chard stems and ribs, return to a boil, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 14 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is nearly al dente. Add the chard leaves and beans and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the chard is tender. Discard the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8 as a main course. Vary the vegetables according to what's in season. Serve topped with a grating of Parmegiano-Reggiano and a spoonful of pesto—try Arugula Pesto in the springtime or your classic basil pesto, like the kind used in this crostata, in the summer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Opening Day and Arugula Pesto

It's like a holiday. We mark it on the calendar and count down the weeks and days. We muse about what treasures it will bring this year. And when it finally comes, we forgo an extra hour or two of sleep and rush over. I'm talking about the first day of the farmers market, which just happened to be yesterday.

We stocked up on arugula, Tuscan kale, rainbow chard, carrots, French breakfast radishes, leeks, farm-fresh butter, Dungeness crabmeat, and saucisson sec. We also picked up a baguette, a couple of pastries for breakfast, a fragrant strawberry mint start to put in the garden, and more than a little inspiration.

The first thing I made with our glorious produce was a huge batch of Arugula Pesto.

Arugula Pesto
Printable Recipe

6 ounces baby arugula
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup pine nuts
½ cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Makes nearly 2 cups. Toss with pasta, stir into soup, spread on sandwiches, or spoon over grilled steak. Keeps for a couple of days tightly sealed in the refrigerator.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weber's Time to Grill

The season for outdoor cooking is right around the corner—are you ready to get your grill on? Well, the newly released Weber's Time to Grill: Get In. Get Out. Get Grilling. by Jamie Purviance is here to help!

It's an invaluable resource on all things grilling, with both easy and adventurous recipes to inspire you. About this time last year I was doing recipe development for the book, and I'm proud to say that I'm a contributor. I'm so excited to see the finished product. I think the book is fantastic, and I hope you will too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Making Cheese

Experiments with goat cheese, discovering a source for raw milk, and guiding my class of budding culinarians through the production of lemon cheese, and I got carried awhey (sorry, I couldn't resist) with the idea of making cheese at home.

Though I am an avid cheese eater, the only cheese I'd ever made myself was paneer (which, incidentally, is very similar to lemon cheese). So I thought it best to start with a fresh, uncultured cheese, if only for the simplicity and immediate gratification. My goal is to work my way up to homemade chèvre and convince my husband to get me a goat.

Herbed Lemon Cheese
Printable Recipe

1 quart whole or 2% milk
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ teaspoon minced fresh chives
½ teaspoon minced Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, grated
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Gently heat the milk to 180ºF. Add the lemon juice and stir slowly until the milk separates into curds and whey. Ladle into a cheesecloth-lined fine mesh sieve set over a large bowl. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together over the curds and tie with butcher's twine. Let the curds drain in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours, or until the desired consistency.

Transfer the cheese to a medium bowl, stir in the chives, parsley, thyme, and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Form the cheese into a wheel and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Makes just over 6 ounces. This cheese has a mild, milky flavor and a spreadable consistency. You will need about 2 lemons for this recipe. Finely woven cheesecloth is preferable—if you have the loosely woven kind, use several layers of it. Vary the cheese by using other tender herbs such as basil, mint, or chervil. Alternatively, make a sweet cheese by stirring in a few drops of honey and some finely grated lemon zest. Keeps for a couple of days tightly sealed in the refrigerator. Keep the whey for baking and braising.

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