Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Forest Food

This is the kind of dish to make for your earthy friend. The incredibly nutty pesto is softened with a velvety Bechamel sauce and used as a base for blanched asparagus and oyster mushrooms creating a woodsy, satisfying Spring lasagna.

For the Pesto:

1 1/2 cup hazelnuts (about 4 1/2 ounces), toasted lightly and skinned
2 cups packed fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves (about 1 large bunch), washed and dried
3 medium garlic cloves
3/4 cup olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor blend together first three ingredients while slowly incorporating the olive oil

p.s. to toast and skin the hazelnuts just bake them on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees and then roll them around in a kitchen towel until skins come off toast

For the Bechamel from Mario Batali:

5 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.

For the lasagna:

1 box of no boil lasagna noodles
1 lb of button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb of dried oyster mushrooms (reconstitute in simmering stock and wine)
1 1/2 bundles of asparagus, blanched and sliced into two inch pieces
1 cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano
black pepper and salt
a glass lasagna pan

Preheat the oven to 350
cover the bottom of the pan with bechamel sauce
layer with noodles
add a layer of pesto and bechamel
add button mushrooms
layer with noodles
add a layer of bechamel
add asparagus
layer with noodles
add a layer of pesto
add oyster mushrooms
layer with noodles
add bechamel, pesto, pecorino and pepper to top

bake for 45 minutes covered with foil, remove foil and bake for 15 minutes, let sit for 10 and enjoy!


Sunday, April 6, 2008

Weird food in Austin, Tx

I do not like to be disturbed in the morning. Sleep has always been important to me and despite my love of food, breakfast has never had a strong spot in my daily agenda. Alas, times have changed. For this, I will awake into the cold morning and force myself to the nearest stand in order to obtain the only breakfast that is worth waking for: The Breakfast Taco.
During my stay a friend demanded that I try one of these ubiquitous morning meals before I leave Texas. I wasn't hard pressed to find one, thinking the taco would be much like heuvos rancheros which I can easily find in Cincinnati. Later that evening, when I mentioned to my host, "Someone told me to try this thing, a breakfast taco..." her face dropped as if I had asked what in the world is this apple thing everyone's talking about, "You've never had a breakfast taco?!" she exclaimed. "In Texas we don't bring donuts to the office, we bring breakfast tacos!" And so it was at 8:30 the next morning at a little stand that I stood in line with a growing hoard of Texans and waited for my very first breakfast taco. The menu was straight forward and inexpensive:

I ordered one of each, of course, and slowly ate them all. The bean taco was refried pintos, eggs, and cheese; soft and salty. Next I had the chorizo, the greasiest of all, and then the sausage which tasted exactly like a sausage omelet in a tortilla. The potato and eggs were light and almost my favorite until the migas. The best! Corn was the overpowering flavor but I also tasted onions and peppers wrapped in hot eggs and cheese. Divine. I soon found out a migas is a delicious mixture of day old tortilla strips sauteed with scrambled eggs, chopped onions, peppers. Once one has added the house made pico de gallo and bitten into the hot and savory migas taco, donuts seem like a sad way to start the morning.

Breakfast tacos were the tastiest food I encountered in Austin but the weirdest definitely goes to the Frito Pie at The Shady Grove The Frito Pie is a questionable thing. It isn't really a pie, although it is layered. The Shady Grove has taken the popular combination of Fritos on top of Texas style chili and reversed the placement. So the crunchy, corny Fritos are on the bottom of a pile of The Shady Grove's spicy sirloin chili, cheese, onions, and jalapeno peppers, dutifully soaking up the mess. Like eating nachos with a spoon the odd and junky Frito Pie is one of my Austin favorites.

The Frito pie is served in its original casing.

And in minutes...

There was lots of other food namely smoky beef BBQ and homemade tamales but they will have to wait for another edition of Dinnerella. Let me know what you eat in Austin!

P.S. For a chicken tortilla soup free of heavy cheese and blessed with a clear, lime infused broth full of avacados and tender chicken, head to Reata Grill at the Dallas Fort Worth airport.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Food for a week

There's no escaping it. We are in a recession and we must tighten our fraying belts. So, in the vein of eating like a king and not paying for it, this recipe is solid and delightful. Adapted from Gourmet's BBQ Bean Soup, I have substituted mushroom stock and crushed tomatoes for the beef stock, added some other items. It's vegetarian, very filling, and makes about thirteen cups. Fabulous with jalapeno corn bread and some Greek yogurt for dinner. Or in the morning with an over-easy egg placed lovingly on top; spicy breakfast. Enjoy these all week long.

Vegetarian BBQ Bean Soup

2 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 32-ounce can whole tomatoes including the juice, chopped
1 32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
three 16-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
two 7-ounce bottles roasted red peppers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1 1/2 cups mushroom stock
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 tablespoon Tabasco
1 16-ounce can golden hominy
2 teaspoons cider vinegar, or to taste

In a kettle cook the onion and the garlic in the oil over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, stir in the chili powder, the cumin, the allspice, and the cloves, and simmer the mixture for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with the juice, the beans, the hominy, the roasted peppers, the broth, the molasses, the Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer the soup, covered partially and stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours. Stir the vinegar into the soup and simmer the soup until it is heated through.

Serve with a little bit of Greek yogurt on top and diced jalapenos, Enjoy!