Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Special ~ Pixie Dust Miniatures

Potluck Posts 10/28

Fall in Wisconsin

I'm getting ready to hit the road again, with a couple of trips in November. First I'll be in Napa for the Worlds of Flavor: Japan conference then I'll be going on my first cruise and adding on a couple of days in Miami. The photo above is from my most recent trip to Wisconsin.

If you enjoyed my post here on Switzerland, check out my longer Frommer's report on Appenzell, a lovely region not far from Zurich. I've shared a few culinary highlights of the region, it's definitely worth a visit.

On Epicurious, my most recent posts are about sweet piquante peppers, you might know them as peppadews. There's another post with an updated list of my favorite foodie newsletters, all are free and good reads. I explored the flavor combination of zucchini, thyme and lemon. The comments on my post were great. I loved the suggestion to make a lemon pound cake with lemon and thyme sugar glaze.

Next week on Cooking with Amy you'll find another post in the series "Why do YOU cook?" as well as a review of afternoon tea at a fancy hotel on Nob Hill.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween ~ Emmaflam & Miniman

Creating A Meal You'll Love: Book Review

Creating A Meal You'll LoveIt seems fitting that food writers and chefs, who focus on the pleasures of eating, also help out those who don't get enough to eat. That is the idea behind Creating A Meal You'll Love: Notable Chefs and Food Writers on Their Unforgettable Dining Experiences. It's a book of essays from chefs and food writers and all of the contributors provided their essays "pro bono" with the royalties from the sale of the book going to Share Our Strength, the leading non-profit organization ending childhood hunger in America.

There are some recipes in this book, but mostly there are just wonderfully written essays from a wide range of voices. I am proud to share the pages with people I know like Shauna James Ahern and Jaden Hair, writers I admire like Louisa Chu, Mimi Sheraton and David Sax and inspiring chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, Anna Thomas, Susur Lee and Skye Gyngell. In fact, the essay from Skye Gynegell about a memorable meal that she shared with her father in Tuscany is reason enough to buy this book. My essay is on The Most Important Meal of the Day. Perhaps you can guess which one that is? It's the meal I enjoyed with guests on my wedding day and one I cherish making on the weekends and sharing with my husband.

I write this blog because I love sharing with you, my readers. I ask nothing in return. I do not ask for donations, bore you with sponsored posts or even pester you to click on ads. But I do hope you will purchase a copy of this book either for yourself or to give as a gift. I'm sure you will enjoy it and the money goes to support an important organization and a cause near and dear to my heart. Like the Best Food Writing anthologies, this is a book that shares stories from writers you treasure and will enable you to discover new voices as well.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Red Wine Pasta with Walnuts: Recipe for World Pasta Day

Red Wine Pasta recipe
Pasta is my comfort food. It makes me happy to eat it, to cook it and even to look at it. I love all kinds of noodles from Italian to Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and even Spanish noodles. I love the texture and the way noodles are chameleon-like, absorbing flavors and reflecting all kinds of cultures. Noodles have something to say, whether lowly instant ramen or handmade fettuccine tossed with butter and shavings of truffle. I have written about noodles many times and am always glad to participate in anything pasta related and this time, it's World Pasta Day!

I would not stop eating pasta for any reason, but it is good to know that pasta is not an "evil starch" but actually is a slowly absorbed carbohydrate, that has a low glycemic index. That means it does not cause sugar in the blood to rise as quickly as many other foods. Studies have shown that when eaten in healthy portions, pasta does not lead to weight gain, may be beneficial for those with diabetes, may reduce the risk of breast cancer, lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, prostate cancer. You can read more about it and see links to the medical research in Pasta for All.

I was looking for something new to do with pasta and I came across something not so new. It's a recipe that has been floating around in various incarnations for years. In my usual manner I looked at several recipes and mixed and matched until the recipe worked best for me. I don't want to say this recipe is weird, but cooking spaghetti in red wine gives it an unusual color and flavor. In addition to pasta, this recipe features red wine, walnuts, garlic and olive oil in it, so you can eat it for health or eat it because it tastes good! It has a very earthy and slight spicy flavor and is very pretty on the plate. The new plate by the way is from Villeroy & Boch. They sent me a couple of pieces to play with and I just love them.

Red Wine Pasta with Walnuts
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti
3 cups fruity red wine
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 small garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper, or to taste, but don't use too much!
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain then return the pasta to the pot and add the wine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring from time to time, until wine is just about completely absorbed, 7 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile in a dry skillet, toast the walnuts over medium heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove toasted nuts from the skillet and set aside. Return skillet and add the oil, heat over medium. Add the garlic and sprinkle with salt. Cook over moderate heat for 30 seconds. Add the parsley, walnuts and stir for a moment or two. Add the pasta and toss then add the cheese and continue tossing until well combined and glossy. Taste for seasonings, serve, passing additional grated cheese at the table if desired.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Halloween ~ After Dark Miniatures

Why do YOU cook, Vanessa Barrington?

Vanessa Barrington
There are lots of books out right now about canning and preserving and making all kinds of things from scratch. So how is D.I.Y. Delicious. different? It's written by Vanessa Barrington, a talented cook and writer, who figured out how to make stuff on her own, in a real home kitchen. It's filled with recipes for everyday things you will get excited to make yourself when you see how easy most of the recipes are. Soon you'll be making mustard, yogurt, pickles, horchata, crackers and more.

The book also features recipes for using many of the things you'll learn to make. So after you learn to make Creme Fraiche (pg. 116) you can make Artichoke Soup with Creme Fraiche (pg.119). It also includes lots of cool ideas you probably haven't considered before like Savory Porridge with an egg and cheddar cheese or Pulled Pork Canapes with fig rosemary jam.

Vanessa Barrington is creative, socially conscious and just plain fun. She's a talented writer, recipe developer, and coincidentally a terrific conference roommate. So, why does she cook?

"The simplest answer is that I don’t know how NOT to. I feel more like myself in the kitchen than I do anywhere else. Sometimes it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me, especially during times of emotional upheaval, national strife, (elections/terrorist attacks/the televised aftermath of hurricanes) or on ordinary bad days. Even on a good day spent in front of my computer answering emails and writing all day, nothing feels so good as pulling out a cutting board and knife, and beginning the soothing work of chopping.

It wasn’t always like that. In fact, there have been periods in my life when I didn’t really like food. As a kid, I was a picky eater. I’d sit at the dinner table for hours, after everyone else went out to play, rather than eat the gray, overcooked pork chop and the canned peas on my plate.

When I started working in the restaurant business in my 20s, a whole new world opened up to me and I realized that I wasn’t really picky, just discerning. I started out by trying to recreate the dishes I served to customers. I had no idea of technique, but usually the results were somewhat ok. I was good at figuring things out. Eventually I taught myself how to cook.

These days, I’m not so much into restaurant food. Of course I go out and I do enjoy it. Occasionally I even have a meal that bowls me over. But what I like best is just poking around in the refrigerator, the garden, and the farmers’ market, figuring out what I want to eat, and then perhaps calling a friend to share it with me. I cook because I really like my own cooking and feel healthiest when I cook for myself. At the end of even the most delicious vacations, I can’t wait to get home and cook something simple to eat."