Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fast & Delicious Pasta with Artichokes, Olives, and Tomatoes

This is a Martha Stewart Whole Living recipe and the only change I made was to swap the whole wheat pasta (which is a crime against the tongue as far as I'm concerned) for the normal stuff. Yes, I could have photographed it when I made it, but why would I when she has a master team of food photographers?

While the ingredients are minimal, this has a ton of flavour and is nice and healthy. Importantly, also, it's really quick and easy.


* Coarse salt and ground pepper
* 12 ounces thin spaghetti
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 medium onion , thinly sliced, lengthwise
* 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
* 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used the $2.98 Goya kind from the grocery store.)
* 1 can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and quartered lengthwise
* 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
* 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes , halved lengthwise
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more serving
* 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn


1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Return pasta to pot.

2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, cook, stirring occasionally until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in artichokes and cook until starting to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add olives and half of the tomatoes; cook until tomatoes start to break down, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pasta to skillet. Stir in remaining tomatoes, oil, cheese, and basil. Thin with reserved pasta water if necessary to coat the spaghetti. Serve with additional cheese.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strawberry Tart

The Institute of Culinary Education offers some great courses, like the 3 session class on pastry which I took a few years back. We learned the basics of flaky pastry dough, sweet dough and pastry cream and used them to make everything from open faced tarts, eclairs, cream puffs, to covered pies. The following recipe is taken from my course packet (written by Nick Malgieri):

Sweet Dough
1 cup flour
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) of cold unsalted butter
1 large egg

Combine dry ingredients. Cut butter into 1 Tbsp pieces and add to dry ingredients. Using your hands, rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles a course ground meal and no large pieces of butter are visible. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and pour over flour/butter mixture. Stir until the dough begins to hold together, but appears dry. Scatter flour on to a work surface and scrape dough on it. Knead 3-4 times till smooth. Press into disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out the dough and press into tart pan. Bake at 350 for 20 min.

Pastry Cream (Creme Patissierre)
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
6 Tbsp sugar
1 egg
2 yolks
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the milk. Combine remaining milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat.
Beat the whole eggs into the cornstarch mixture. Then beat in the yolks. Pour 1/3 of the boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Return the remaining milk to a boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, whisking constantly.
Continue whisking till cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in butter and vanilla.
Pour into a stainless steel bowl or pan and press plastic wrap directly on the surface (so a skin doesn't form). Chill immediately.

When the pastry cream is chilled, spread it evenly inside the cooled pastry shell. Top with whatever fruit you want. I added a glaze of raspberry jam mixed with a bit of water, which I heated briefly and brushed on top. Chill till ready to serve.


This afternoon, I took a trip to Little Tokyo (in downtown Los Angeles) and was walking around enjoying all the different shops and restaurants. I came across these lovely little mochi-latos! It's basically a take on the mochi ice cream bites that you can find in most Japanese markets - except instead of just ice cream, it's filled with gelato! I tried the Hazelnut Mochi-Lato and it was yummy! Thought I'd take a pic and share!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Japanese Bunny Cakes

Mitsuwa is a huge Japanese supermarket in Edgewater NJ, near where we live. I've only been there a few time because it's significantly more expensive than a regular or Chinese supermarket, but sometimes I like to splurge. The highlight of my visit is always their bakery counter. You can see what caught my eye today: A $20 box of bunny cakes. I couldn't justify buying them, so I snapped a photo with my camera phone instead. I was wary of taking photos inside a store, since lots of places yell at you for that, but apparently more people take photos of the cakes there than buy them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I've always been a fan of the British "Naked Chef," so I watched 4 episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution this weekend on ABC's website. Apparently he had started a campaign in Britain, convincing schools to improve their quality of food. After succeeding, he decided to try to do the same in the US, starting with the town of Huntington, West Virgina (statistically the unhealthiest place in the US). Kids are served pizza for breakfast, or are eating cereal with chocolate or strawberry milk. Jamie showed a class a bunch of tomatoes and no one knew what they were. When asked what they ate at home, the kids said chicken nuggets and chicken fingers. Meanwhile the school health board considers french fries a perfectly acceptable vegetable option.

What keeps me watching the show is the frustration I feel at the people of the town. Almost everyone is resistant to the idea of eating healthy. The local radio host and newspaper bash Jamie, the lunch ladies begrudgingly try his suggestions and the health board keep finding reasons why his menu doesn't meet their standards. All his tactics seem to fail him. It isn't until he gets a group of high school students with stories of deaths in their families or obesity problems of their own that people start to listen. He tries to show people that cooking isn't that difficult and that it isn't necessary to eat processed foods.

If anyone's interested you can sign his petition asking for healthier food in schools.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Blueberry Buckle (coffee cake)

(Recipe from Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes, an awesome book with simple recipes which I picked up at a book fair for $7)

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt (I reduced it from 1/2)
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375.
For the cake, combine all ingredients except blueberries untill well mixed. Fold blueberries into the batter. Spread into greased and floured 9" sq baking pan. (It will barely look like enough to cover the bottom).
For the topping, mix all the dry ingredients. Cut in butter till crumbly, sprinkle over batter.
Bake for 30-35 min.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Electric Griddle

When people think "griddle" they usually think pancakes. But I plan on using mine more like a fry pan, or hibachi grill. This particular model is pretty large, so I'm hoping to be able to use it for dinner parties where we can all sit around the table while food cooks in front of us. Burgers, sausages, stir-fry veggies, bacon, eggs and of course, pancakes.

I already like the fact that I can relax at the table and not be the only one keeping an eye on what's cooking. It'll be even nicer in summer, not being stuck in front of a hot stove.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Got 2 great gifts from the hubby for my birthday: an electric griddle and a portable lightbox setup, which comes built into a bag and includes 2 lights and a tripod! Notice what a complete amateur I am from the photo above, because I didn't realize you're supposed to fold over the top half to form....well, a box. Im still learning. Either way, bounce light will look 10x better than my florescent kitchen bulbs and yellow dining room lights, not to mention the hated flash.
Let's take a closer look at the sweets inside the lightbox....

Those are the uncoated chocolate chip cookie dough truffles I'm making for my friend's birthday tomorrow. I'll be waking up early to temper the chocolate and make a mess.