Category Archives: Recipes

Gnocchi + goulash + fried fish = white bean dip with spinach pesto

Last week was a gnocchi with goulash kind of week. It was also the week that I graduated from illy Café University so let’s just go ahead and say, it was a pretty big week. The gnocchi and the degree are part of study trip number three, a week in the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region of Italy.

As one of the five autonomous regions in Italy, Friuli-Venezia Guilia is under administrative autonomy according to the Italian Constitution (Sardinia, Sicily, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol and Aosta Valley are the other four). As a result of their constitutional distinction, these regions are governed by their own economies. In fact, Friuli-Venezia Guilia has one of the strongest in Italy, based primarily on specialized farming and exports like Prosciutto di San Daniele–basically Proscuitto di Parma cured in Northern Italy. Friulian is the primarily language of the area although it has slowly been phased out and replaced with Italian.

The region is also famous for its coffee, which means if you’re a student at UNISG, you spend the day at the illy headquarters earning your coffee degree. While it may sound like caffeine-laced fun and games, it was an action packed day. By the end my friends and I were in desperate need of a beer and sustenance to help settle the six-ten espressos we’d consumed throughout our day of coffee school (we had to, it was like homework).

At coffee school, each student naturally has their own illy computer and microphone.*

What we found for dinner was nothing less than an Italian/German/Austrian extravaganza of a meal. Looking back, I’m not totally sure how I’ve survived this far without a hefty helping of goulash with my gnocchi. The sausages, sauerkraut and mustard also tasted like long lost friends I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed. It was one of those meals where you’re unsure where you are (I’m eating spicy mustard and goulash two hours from Parma?), but frankly you just don’t really care.

Throughout the rest of the week we hit a bunch of regional hot spots including a Prosciutto di San Daniele producer, an alpine cheese maker a two hours hike up into the Alps and a 100-year-old flour mill. But the real show stopper was the morning we spent harvesting mussels from a farm off the coast of Trieste.

Our host, an ex-lawyer turned alpine cow farmer/cheese maker, makes ricotta by heating and straining the curds produced from his last batch of cheese.

Simultaneously delicious, disgusting to look at and also one of the most sustainable forms of seafood farming, there is a lot to say about mussels. That morning we watched as the mussel farmers harvested suspended ropes that the mussels attach to through sticky semen secretions. They grow, suspended on the ropes attached to opposite ends of buoys for about one year. Then the fishermen hoist up the ropes, pull off the mussels and pack them into tubes  of plastic netting ready to be sold to local restaurants or markets. For lunch we were treated to mussels, fried, calamari, shrimp, and whole sardines. Holy seafood.

The bones of the sardines were so soft that we ate the entire fish--bones, head and tail.

By the end of the week I really felt like a giant gnocchi battered and fried. Since arriving home I’ve craved nothing more than raw vegetables, fruit and riding Pickles (my bike). I had a bunch of spinach on hand so I came up with this spiffy number, which I hope you enjoy.

White  Bean dip with Spinach Pesto

Serves three

For the pesto:

3 cups fresh spinach

2 cloves garlic

¼ cup almonds

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

Finely mince the spinach, garlic and almonds. Scrape into a small bowl and stir in the cheese. Slowly drizzle in the oil while stirring and test for salt and pepper.

For the dip:

1 28 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

¼ cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Dump the beans into a small bowl and mash against the sides of the bowl until smooth. Pour in the lemon juice, stir and test for salt and pepper.

Drizzle the pesto over the dip and serve with seasonal vegetables.

If you haven't already noticed, I really like dips.

*All of the photos from the trip are courtesy of Lindsay Anderson http://linds-eats.blogspot.com/

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Father’s Day soup

People who know me know I really love my dad, I mean really love him. Some might even say I take it a little too far when I say I picture myself marrying the 30-year-old, hairy (read: not bald) version of my dad. I just say I’m lucky because I think he likes me too.

There have been many times in my life that stick out as times when I knew my dad was a keeper/future husband material. One of those times  was junior year of high school. I mean all of junior year–the year when my attitude was as ugly as my acne. Looking back, I thank my dad often for not locking me in a cage mostly because I think my mom was more open to the idea since it was mostly her fault that the world was so unfair.

Another time was junior year of college when my right lung spontaneously collapsed. I was in so much pain that all I could muster was a voicemail to my parents explaining I was having an emergency. I use the terms “voicemail” and “explaining” very loosely as the message mostly involved me shrieking into the phone about how neither parent was available in my time of need.

Dad drove six hours to Oxford with only a briefcase to his name so that he would be there when I woke up after surgery. He stayed with me in McCullough Hyde/Mc-kill-em-and-hide-em Hospital for four days sleeping in a chair, navigating the wilds of a small town hospital and most difficult of all: reminding me that everything is going to be OK.

The most recent time is another instance when my dad had to remind me that everything would be all right. Moving to Italy for a one year masters program isn’t for the faint of heart. There were a million times I wanted to and  did throw my hands in the air and give up. My mom and dad were the only ones able to control these outbursts and get me back on track, reminding me that rescanning/rewriting/redoing x, y, or z form, letter or application would be worth it in the end. Thank God I had the sense to listen because they were so right.

What he can do: cycle from Vail to Aspen for fun, cycle to and from work (22 miles each way) every day, cycle 50 miles on Sunday mornings with his biker gang. What he can't do: smile on command.

On that note, I offer you the latest installment of “Best I Ever,” which is a true culinary collaboration. Dad sent me this email yesterday: “Recipe Idea- Soup: borlotti bean*, faro, rosemary, pancetta and p-r cheese.” Can you see why I love this man? What a great combo. I’ve tweaked it a bit (sans cured meat so Catherine could enjoy)**, but I think/hope it still captures his culinary vision.

Father’s Day Bean Soup

Serves 5

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 yellow onions, diced

2 leeks, sliced thin

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup faro

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 sprig fresh rosemary

3 cups haricoverts, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 can each borlotti and white beans, rinsed (substitute pinto for borlotti if necessary)

Salt and pepper to taste

Parsley Pistou Topping

1 cup fresh parsley, minced

½ cup Parmesan cheese, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add the olive oil to a large stockpot over low heat. While the pot gets hot, dump the leeks into a strainer and rinse under cold water to remove any sand or grit. Dry the leeks and add them to the pot along with the onions. Cook the onions and leeks for about five minutes just to soften.

Next, add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a summer. Stir in the faro, tomatoes and whole rosemary spring and cover for about ten minutes. Skim off any foam from the surface and mix in the haricoverts. Taste for salt and pepper and simmer for another five minutes. Add all but ¼ cup of the beans. To thicken the soup, mash the remaining beans with one tablespoon of broth and stir into the soup. Simmer for another ten minutes, removing the rosemary sprig just before serving.

For the pistou, in a small bowl mix together all three ingredients. Serve the soup topped with two or three tablespoons of the pistou and crusty bread.

If soup says, "I love you!" then Father's Day soup says, "I really love you and happy Father's Day, Papa Bear!"

*This time of year borlotti beans are everywhere in Italy and boy are they pretty: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2002/1516886065_5a4f65571b_o.jpg. They have a starchy texture and nutty flavor and cook up to a light brown. Unfortunately they may be tricky to find in the U.S., so substitute pintos if you can’t find any.

**For those who love cured pork as much as Papa Sudekum, this is how I would incorporate some pork love:  brown about 1/2 cup  diced  pancetta in the pot until it lightly browns, about eight minutes. Hold on the olive oil since the pork will render enough fat. Add in the  onions and leeks to soften in the drippings.

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Asparagus and cherry tomatoes with minty peas

It’s been an amazing to watch the impact of the changing seasons on the land around here. A month ago my home was surrounded by acres of non-descript nothingness. Now, when I look out my window I see fresh hay bales, what look to be baby corn stalks, wheat and tomatoes.

A church I pass on my usual jogging loop, with corn growing in its parking lot.

The produce in the market is changing too. This past week saw the addition of fresh peas and boy oh boy was I excited. Turns out not only do I love peas, but I really love shelling. I love the idea of peas so fresh they haven’t even been exposed to outside air yet, sticky with natural sugar.

Good: shelling peas. Not good: my notes on/understanding of terroir.

This recipe really is a celebration of early summer. Here in my corner of the world you can’t go too far without finding shockingly pretty produce, especially when it comes to asparagus and tomatoes. Topped off with a minty pea sauce this recipe is screaming for a cool glass of pinot and a balmy summer evening.

Asparagus and Cherry Tomatoes with Minty Peas

Serves 4 as side dish

1 lb. asparagus

10 cherry tomatoes sliced in half

½ lb. fresh peas, shelled

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped

1 tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 tbsp. salt

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot fitted with a strainer, bring about two cups of water to a simmer.

Trim the asparagus by snapping the end off each stalk. Add to the strainer, covering the pot with a lid. Steam the asparagus for about five minutes or until it is bright green and still has a bite. Rinse under cool water and dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

For the pea sauce, fill the pot with about two cups of fresh water and the 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a simmer. Add the shelled peas and blanch for about five minutes. Try mashing some of the peas with a fork to test for softness. They should mash easily. Strain the peas and rinse under cold water. Add to a medium sized bowl and mash against the sides of the bowl with a fork until slightly chunky. Stir in the yogurt, lemon juice, zest and mint. Taste for salt and pepper.

Top the asparagus with pea sauce and sliced tomatoes.

I ended up bringing this dish over to my classmate David's apartment to eat alongside his homemade traditional Taiwanese street food dinner. You know what? Summery asparagus and peas isn't half bad with Taiwanese beef and rice.

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Being wrong tastes so right: Zuni Cafe’s roast chicken and bread salad

If you’re friends with any of any of the other Sudekum five, then you know we do roast chicken. We do them on Sundays, and we do them well (really, really well). By “really really well” I mean we could make an excellent bird with our eyes closed and by “we” I mean my parents. I’m not quite sure why, but I never once jumped in there to help with the main event. Sure I’ve mashed potatoes or roasted brussels sprouts, but I steered clear of the chicken. I think it might have something to do with its wholeness. And bonefulness.  Much more intimidating than a measly boneless, skinless breast or two.

No need to cue a drum roll for when I tell you I have shocking news…Yes, I was wrong again, people. Roasting chicken really is a great concept every way you look at it. Good one, Mama and Papa Sudekum! They’re inexpensive, easy, fun to cook and satisfying to belly and soul alike. And really, the very part I found most intimidating about it– the sheer animalness of it all was actually the part I liked the best. It feels very nesty and Little House on the Prairie to have a chicken roasting in the oven on a Sunday afternoon. Sharing the feast and a bottle of Prosecco with a few friends doesn’t hurt the overall enjoyability factor either.

My little house really is on the prairie.

Now onto the awesome recipe that I’m begging you to try. It comes from the Smitten Kitchen Blog by way of Zuni Café in San Francisco. Easy deliciousness, with rustic show stopping power is how I’d describe it if forced at gunpoint. As you’ll see, the chicken is served with this nifty bread salad. Of course you can just make the chicken, but really, not making the salad is just a nasty bad idea.

When making the recipe, please keep the following in mind:

  • The chicken is dry brined overnight, so give yourself some wiggle room and plan ahead
  • For optimal juiciness and flavor factors a small chicken works best
  • A slow brine and a fast roast are the secrets to this recipe, don’t get scared when the chicken starts browning right away

Please give ‘er a whirl and tell me about your results. I’d also love to continue testing roast chicken recipes, so please send me your favorite! Maybe I can even get Papa Sudekum to share his with the world…

Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken

Adapted by Smitten Kitchen and then Me

Serves 3

One small chicken, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2-pounds

4 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage

2 tablespoons salt, plus extra to taste

1 tablespoon pepper, plus extra to taste

Dry brine the chicken:

Twenty-four hours in advance of eating, clean the chicken and dry as well as possible. Drying is so important because a wet chicken will spend too much time steaming smoking before it begins crisp. Turn the chicken breast side up and slide your finger underneath the skin on one breast creating a little pocket. Carefully slide your fresh herb up into the pocket, underneath the skin. Repeat process on the other breast and thighs. Season the chicken liberally all over with salt and pepper. Don’t stress about the seasoning the cavity too heavily, a few sprinkles inside is enough. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders so that the bird is as compact as possible. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare your oven and pan:

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Choose a shallow flameproof roasting pan. Preheat the pan over medium heat on the stove. Wipe the chicken dry again and set it breast side up in the pan. You should hear a sizzle.

Roast the chicken:

Listen and watch for browning and sizzling/yummy cooking noises within 20 minutes. If you’re not getting enough action, raise the temperature progressively until achieving results. The browning happens faster than you’re used to. The skin should blister and bubble, but not burn. If it starts charring, reduce heat 25 or 30 degrees. After about 30 minutes flip the bird. Roast for another 15-20 minutes on the other side, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5 to 10 minutes.

Rest the chicken: (The most important step in the Sudekum household!)

Remove the chicken and set on a plate. Carefully skim off the clear fat from the roasting pan, and pour the rest of the drippings into a small bowl. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, and pour the juice into the bowl of drippings. Continue the resting process while you prepare the bread salad. If you’re not making the bread salad (gasp), let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes and then serve.

She’s as tasty as she is pretty.

Zuni Cafe Bread Salad

Adapted by Smitten Kitchen and then Me

Serves 3

1 loaf slightly stale Italian-style bread

6 to 8 tablespoons EVOO

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon dried currants plumped in1 tablespoon white wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon warm water for ten minutes or so 
(I couldn’t find these here, but I imagine them adding the perfect amount of sweetness)

2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

2 or 3 garlic cloves, diced

1 fresh onion or 4 green onions, diced

1 bag arugula

Preheat the oven broiler. Cut or tear bread into irregular 2-inch chunks and drop into a large bowl. Toss them with just enough EVOO to lightly coat, about 2 tablespoons. Sprinkle the bread into the roasting pan you used to cook the chicken and broil just until the chunks turn slightly golden on the edges. You’re really just drying them out.

In the large bowl the bread was in, combine about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread back into the large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette; the bread will be unevenly dressed.

Saltysweetmushycrunchy.

Heat one tablespoon of EVOO over medium heat in a small pan and add the garlic and onions and stir constantly, just until softened. Add the garlic and onions into the bread and fold to combine. Drain the plumped currants and fold them in, along with the pine nuts. Next, dribble the chicken drippings over the salad and carefully fold again. Last, while the bread is still hot, add the arugala and taste for salt, pepper and maybe a few extra splashes of vinegar. Pour the salad onto a round or oval serving dish, top with the chicken and serve.

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Super Woman makes her own bread

Since returning from Calabria, Italy I’ve gone a little nuts. When I should have been catching up on much-needed sleep and laundry, I’ve spent this past weekend in the kitchen changing some really big food misconceptions I’ve been living with for way too long.  It all started on day two of our trip when we spent a glorious afternoon in our host’s mom’s house, kneading and baking bread at her side. It was one of those moments when you feel like everything is so simple and exactly as it should be, like really good fresh bread.

How fabulous is she? This modern day renaissance woman also hacked down all the twigs used to fuel the fire with a hatchet.

So, now I’ll admit it. Before that experience, I had this really weird thing about people making their own bread. In my small little mind it was like making sushi at home: something better left to professionals. Well, we all know how this story ends, as it so often does: Lauren wrong again. Turns out, I had the best time gallivanting in my little Italian kitchen yet. Bread is so easy peasy, but made me feel like Super Woman at the same time. As Catherine says, “I’m high on life, guys.” It felt more like severe bloatation, but after digesting my success a smidge, it tasted like sweet sweet yeasty victory.

Putting some muscle into it

For my first time out the gate I wanted a really easy recipe so I went for Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread, courtesy of Mark Bittman from the NYT, with a few amendments:

Easy Peasy No Knead Bread

Courtesy of Jim Lahey via Mark Bittman

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (active-dry)

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

1. In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees, but don’t stress about the temperature). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be really loose and wet. Again, don’t fret. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, allowing a little air to pass through. Let dough rise at room temperature for at least 2 hours, up to 5.

2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks (!). When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and hands. With a serrated knife, cut off a grapefruit-size piece for a small loaf, or if you’d rather make rolls, use a lime-size piece. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough bumpy side down on a floured surface; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven and pizza stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heating stone for 20 minutes. If you don’t have a stone, you should get one (ha). You can use a loaf pan or any non-stick pan.

4. Slash the top of each dough mound with a serrated knife three times and slide onto stone. Pour one cup water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely (if you have that sort of will power).

No more store bought for this Super Woman

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Fork-smashed hummus and Emily’s balsamic cioppolini

A few weeks ago the roomies and I were treated to an amazing dinner at our Suzie and Emily’s place. While everything was delicious, the highlight for me was Emily’s balsamic glazed cioppolini. Their sweetness came as a shock, a shock that had me thinking about those little guys day and night. Even with the incredible food we encountered throughout Portugal and Spain, Catherine and I agreed that “Operation Cioppolini” was a must as soon as we arrived home.

The idea for hummus came out of sheer desperation. While falafel and schwarma abounded throughout Spain, it seemed that everywhere we went was fresh out of hummus! Really, it happened two or three times this way.

Both recipes are easy, healthy, delicious and flexible. Add what you think will make them taste better; omit what you don’t like. The hummus is especially easy since it doesn’t require a food processor.

Trust me, this one’s a winner

Fork-smashed hummus with garlic and lemon

Makes two lunch-sized portions

We were hoping to add some fresh herbs, but believe it or not couldn’t get our hands on any. I think it’d taste even better with something fresh and green like Italian parsley, basil or maybe even thyme.

1 can garbanzo beans

¼ cup veggie broth

2 cloves garlic

¾ fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons EVOO

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh herb

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the veggie broth to medium in a medium-sized, shallow pan. Rinse the garbanzos in a colander and pour into the broth. Heat until broth has evaporated, about 5-8 minutes. Test the beans with a fork for tenderness about half way through. Once the broth has evaporated they should mash easily. If they’re still hard, heat for a few extra minutes with a few additional tablespoons of broth.

Mashed chickpeas, the consistency of course paste

Move beans to a large bowl and mash with a fork until they’re the consistency of a thick, course paste. Mash in garlic and slowly add the lemon juice and EVOO. Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed and a course yet creamy texture is achieved. Serve with a drizzle of EVOO in shallow bowls, or topped with balsamic cioppolini.

We dipped green beans, cherry tomatoes, carrots and radish into ours but use whatever’s in season and yummy!

Fresh veg for dipping makes a fresh and filling lunch

Emily’s balsamic cioppolini

Make as few or as many as you want. I’d air on the side of making a lot because fresh cioppolini really shrink down. Also, it’s hard to stop eating them.

8-10 fresh cioppolini onions

1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup vegetable broth

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Add the oil to a small non-stick pan and heat to low. Remove the tough, dirty outer skin of the cioppolini and cut both sides so that they are flat, allowing for even browning. When the oil is hot add the onions and let brown on each side for about five minutes, or until golden. Divide one tablespoon of sugar on top of each onion, and then flip. Use the remaining tablespoon of sugar for the other side. Caramelize both sides for another five minutes each, checking for brownness frequently.

Depending on size, some take longer to brown than others

Pour in vegetable broth and heat until evaporated, about 5-8 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce until the onions are dark brown on both sides and the vinegar is syrupy. Serve as a side dish, or add a few to the top of hummus and spoon over some of the balsamic syrup.

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