Friday, April 28, 2006

A Bonbon See's the Day

Sugar Savvy has posted my latest See's Piece by Piece. Number 15 does the unthinkable, reviews a See's Candy that contains not a smidgen of chocolate.

The Maple Bonbon is sure sweet to look at, but how will it taste? Click here to find out.

Update:  See's is stll around, but Sugar Savvy isn't.  Here's a link to the Wayback web archive which has captured the old link.
See text of post below

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Top Chef -- I Can't Believe I Watched the Whole Thing With Bonus Roast Beef Recipe

Caught the latest episode of Top Chef on Bravo last night. I swear, these cooking reality shows are like potato chips, you can't have just one. You think I'd be happy that the Food Network show has wrapped and go on with my life, especially since I really don't like reality television programs.

Anyway, it seemed like an unfair elimination challenge (throw together a wedding feast for 100 in under 24 hours for $3,000), but there is much about Top Chef I'm not fond of, including the host, who is Mrs. Billy Joel, which seems to be her main qualification for this gig (that and a summer job as a fishmonger in the Hamptons). It's not that she is just 23, heck I was an early achiever in a previous life, it's that she doesn't do it for me as an expert OR as a host who I am comfortable with presenting the info even if it is not her expertise. She does have some kind of food website. Maybe sometime when I am procrastinating doing some real work I'll check it out and report back.

Back to Top Chef. They eliminated Stephen. YES. I know it was probably the editing process that made him seem like a conceited, clueless, smug whatever, but he just was so full of himself. While I felt his talent was much stronger than Dave's, I couldn't stand him or even say I loved to hate him. He did add to the story line, though. I am always suspicious of why certain "obvious" eliminations stay around in these reality series. Let's just say that sometimes chaos, lack of control and witchiness make for a more exciting show than plodding competency.

Who do I think is next to go? Tiffany and Lee Ann seem very strong, although it was Lee Ann's overly ambitious menu that did the team in this week. Dave got props for being helpful and having actual catering experience this week, but he seems like a real weak link. Harold's dish was one of the worst this week and he has been in that position before. I think it will be Dave or Harold out next unless one of the women chefs really screws up.

Could anyone tell me a -- why I am watching this show I really don't enjoy that much and b -- why I am spending so much time venting on it?

One of the recipes they made for the show was something called Peking Glazed Beef. I don't what they did or how they did it, put I have a great way to make beef that really plays up an Asian flavor. I haven't made it in a while, so I don't have a "real" recipe for you, but here is the basic technique that I have developed.

Asian Roast Beef

1 roast beef (cut of your choice, but I find cross rib works well if cooked properly)
3-4 peeled garlic cloves, each clove cut into three long slivers
Knob of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb, peeled and cut into about 12 slivers
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine, sherry or apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil (the type using as a Chinese flavoring)
Red pepper flakes or ground cayenne pepper or liquid hot sauce
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven as appropriate for your cut of meat.
Cut thin slits all around the roast beef. Cut as many as you have ginger and garlic slivers for. Make some slits deeper than others. Alternate inserting garlic and ginger slivers into the roast.
Set aside.
Make basting sauce. Combine hoisin sauce with wine, soy sauce and oils. Add hot seasoning to taste if desired. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (Note, the soy sauce and hoisin sauce are already salty, so you may want to taste the marinade to gauge how much extra salt you'd like to add.) Stir well. Brush a light coating of the marinade all over the beef and place beef in oven and cook as appropriate for your cut of meat. Periodically brush the meat with more of the basting sauce.

Serve with rice and steamed or stir fried vegetables tossed in an Asian-flavored vinaigrette. Or serve with small, steamed flour tortillas or Peking duck pancakes, with sliced scallions (green onions) and extra hoisin sauce on the side. Diners roll up some of the slice beef with the scallions and sauce in the pancake.

Top Chef Update: Producers have announced season two is now casting. Want info, check out this listing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

ARF ARF Here, ARF ARF There, Every Week an ARF ARF...

Check out Sweetnicks for the weekly Antioxidant Rich Foods (ARF) recipe round up.

Lots of good, veggie-packed recipes to try (including Blog Appetit's own Pot Roast with a Kick). This is a regular feature over at Sweetnicks, even when I don't participate, so be sure to click over every Tuesday and see what's cooking.

In other news here at the Blog Appetits, I am very proud to announce that the eldest teenage son will be attending University of California at Berkeley in the fall. It is a real accomplishment which will earn him his favorite meal, chicken faijitas, real soon. Go Bears.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bread and Butter

Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

Last night's dinner was thin slices of a rustic multigrain bread smeared with sweet fresh butter from the farmers' market and sprinkled with sea salt I brought back from Paris last spring.

Slice, spread, sprinkle, fold, eat. Repeat.

I pretty much stuffed myself on it, but I always only made up one slice at a time. The chewiness of the bread, the sweet creamy butter and the liveliness of the salt on my tongue all came together in a way my body seemed to crave. Afterwards, I thought some of the young red onions or green garlic or fresh herbs I also bought at the market would have gone nicely, but at the time bread, butter and salt were all I needed.

It was a soul satisfying experience and probably a cholesterol raising one, so luckily eating a whole meal of bread and butter isn't something I crave often.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Guy is the New Guy on Food Network

Well, between Guy and Reggie, I was pulling for Guy to be the next Food Network Star. I think Reggie's recipes were more there, but that Guy was the much more appealing showman.

The question, for me at least, would I watch his show?
Probably not, unless he had some on- camera visits to interesting places and interviews.

Whose show did I really want to watch?


(I can't believe I watched the whole thing. How about you?)

Potatoes (and Potato and Greens Soup) in Portugal

One of the biggest culinary revelations I had in Portugal was the wonderful, nutty taste of the Portuguese potatoes. Somehow the potatoes there just have a bigger, fuller, potato flavor. You (or at least I) could have made a meal just from the potatoes.

The closest I could describe the potato taste is that of a freshly dug, organic Yukon gold or yellow finn. Buttery, rich and satisfying. Lucky for me, big slices of boiled potatoes were the side dish of choice for many dishes. Potatoes are also the main ingredient in the famous Portuguese soup, Caldo Verde. It is basically water, potatoes, olive oil, Galician cabbage and seasoning. Some books describe it has having a garlicky sausage sliced in (and I've made it that way) but in Portugal I was never served Caldo Verde (Green Soup) with it.

Because our potatoes are not as flavorful as the Portuguese, I've adapted the recipe from Jean Anderson's comprehensive The Food of Portugal cookbook to reflect my recent experiences with the soup in Lisbon and Porto as well as making it here at home. (The book is available from the always dependable Iberian resource The Spanish Table.)

Be sure you pick a potato that will mash well. Anderson recommends an Eastern or Maine potato, which is probably like an Idaho or Russet.

Caldo Verde
Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large onion, chopped fine
1 large garlic clove, minced
4 tablespoons of a flavorful olive oil (divided) -- try one from Spain or Portugal if you can. You want something with a bit of a bite to the flavor
6 large potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 quart water
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
6 ounces thinly sliced dry garlicky sausage such as chourico, chorizo or pepperoni, optional. (I used turkey pepperoni in the version pictured above. You could also try one of the new soy sausage products.)
2 teaspoons of salt, divided (more or less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (more or less to taste)
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, optional
1 pound mixed sturdy greens. To replicate the flavor of Galician cabbage (see left) I used half collard, half kale. You could also use some turnip greens. The greens should be washed, trimmed of thick stems and veins and sliced into thin threads. (I rolled the greens into bundles and fed the bundles through my Cusinart using the slicer blade. It worked well and takes longer to explain than do! Just make sure your shreds are what Anderson calls "filament" thin.)

In a heavy soup pot, heat three tablespoons of the oil and then add onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes over medium heat until they begin to color. (Anderson advises being careful not to brown them since that will make the soup bitter.) Add the potato slices and saute, stirring for two to three minutes until they too begin to color. Add the water and stock, cover and simmer until potatoes are very soft, about 20 to 25 minutes.

If you are using the optional sausage, prep the slices while the potatoes cook. Fry the sausage slices in a skillet over low heat until most of the fat is cooked out. Drain on paper towels and pat to get off excess fat.

When the potatoes are soft, take the pot off the burner and use a potato masher to mash the potato slices right in the pan. When the potatoes are as smooth as you can make them, add the optional sausage, half of the salt, all the black pepper and the optional red pepper, put the pot back on medium heat, cover and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for about five minutes. Add in the sliced greens and cook uncovered until the greens are tender (about five minutes). Add in the last tablespoon of olive oil and taste to adjust for salt and pepper. Depending on how salty your chicken stock is you may or may not need to use the last teaspoon (or even more) of salt.

Serve with a nice crusty bread and perhaps a little hot sauce on the side for those who like their food a bit more spiced. Tabasco is fine, but try to find a sauce made with piri-piri, small Angolan peppers which are the hot stuff of choice in Portugal.

Bom proveito!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is it Pot Roast or is It Soup -- Either Way It Has a Kick -- You Decide

Pot Roast with a Kick

If you are like me you like your pot roast so soft that the meat falls apart when you look at it. As much as I try to limit my red meat intake, there is something about the lushness of well braised or stewed beef. Maybe it’s the mouth feel -- rich, moist and succulent. Maybe it is how beef’s taste and texture, almost its gravitas, transforms and gentles seasonings so that a spicy sauce is tamed, making for a wonderful contrast of sauce and meat. (This pot roast recipe has an extra bonus – you can make it into a soup instead. See the Kramer Soup Variation at the end of the recipe for directions.)

The sauce carries a bit of a kick from the chili powder, chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. It is a warm, spicy, almost hot taste with a smoky note. If you would like your sauce hotter or milder, adjust the seasoning accordingly. (New to chipotle peppers? You can find them canned in adobo sauce in many supermarkets, Latin grocery stores and on-line gourmet sites. Be careful just to use two chiles with the specific amount of sauce. The rest will store practically for eternity in a plastic storage container. Click here for Wikipedia's take on the ingredient.)

Of course, I can’t just eat a hunk of meat, so the pot roast sauce is filled with vegetables and greens. Serve it over noodles or potatoes. It would also be wonderful over soft polenta. Making it ahead only improves the taste (and ups the heat, beware) and leftovers reheat beautifully. Or you can shred the leftover beef and use as a taco, burrito or enchilada filling. Since I only eat red meat every now and then, I’ll freeze any extras in the leftover sauce and save it for a “no time to cook day.”

Pot Roast with a Kick
Serves 6 to 8

Note: This is a slow-cook recipe. Start early in the day or make it the night before.

1 tablespoon grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and quartered and each quarter cut into thin slices
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon or more or less to taste of chili powder
3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
2 teaspoons of adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
2 large carrots, cleaned and sliced into half inch rounds
2 red bell peppers, seeds and stem discarded, cut into one-inch pieces
1-28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped with all liquids reserved.
8 ounces dry red wine
2-3 cups chicken broth or stock
Salt to taste
1 bunch kale, cleaned, large stems discarded and chopped into half-inch pieces. (This needs to be a sturdy green, so turnip or collard greens would be okay substitutes, spinach or chard would not.)
Additional salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or roasting pan with lid on medium high heat. Add onions and sauté until just starting to turn color and soften. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes, ground black pepper, oregano, cumin and chili powder. Sauté for 20-30 seconds to release the aromas.

Add chuck roast and sear and brown on all sides. If your pan is too small to do this without steaming the meat, cut the roast in two and sear in batches. It should just take a minute or two for each side to brown. (Once the meat has browned, lower heat to medium if needed to keep onion mixture from burning.)

Add the chipotle chili pieces and adobo sauce. Let sauté a minute, but stand back and put on the exhaust fans, because the fumes can sting your eyes! Add carrots and bell peppers and sauté around the roast for a few minutes, then add the cut-up tomatoes and their can of juice. Mix well to combine vegetable ingredients.

Add red wine and then chicken stock until total level of liquids in the pan comes up to three-quarters the height of the chuck roast. It is this moist environment that will infuse the roast with flavor, soften the tough meat fibers and give you a wonderfully soft texture.

Bring liquids to just under a boil, reduce heat to low. Taste (carefully, it will be hot) for salt. If needed, try adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon or more or less as desired. (Some chicken stocks have higher levels of sodium than others.)

Cover pot and let simmer on low heat for one hour. Every half hour or so, flip the chuck roast so the other side is submerged in the liquid and the bottom becomes the top. After an hour, add chopped kale. Cover and simmer for another hour, again, flipping the chuck roast every half hour.

After two hours, check the meat. If it has reached the desired tenderness (i.e., soft and succulent), skip to finishing your pot roast. If it hasn’t, keep cooking and check (and flip) every half hour until done. Chuck roast needs long, slow cooking to become completely tender.

Finishing Your Pot Roast – Remove meat from pot and cover with foil to keep warm if desired. Stir liquids and vegetables left in pot and scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Raise heat to medium high and bring the cooking liquid and vegetable mixture to a boil. Let it cook down until the sauce thickens and reduces down so it is not too liquidy for your taste. Taste again and add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Return to simmer and add meat back in to reheat if necessary.

To serve, remove meat and slice, serve with sauce over noodles, pasta, polenta or other.

Kramer Soup Variation

Add 2 cups of peeled new potatoes, quartered (or chopped if large) into approximately one and one half inch pieces, when you add the kale.
When the roast AND the potatoes are tender, remove the meat from the liquid and vegetables, but do not reduce down the mixture.
Let the meat cool a bit then shred the meat by pulling the fibers apart with two forks. Return meat to liquid mixture being sure to mix well and getting up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. If the sauce is not “soupy” enough, add chicken stock until desired “soupiness” is achieved. Heat through. Taste for salt and pepper and add if necessary.

A New Taste to the Blogroll

Please click on over and get to know Peanut Butter and Purple Onions, a delightful food blog written by two sisters, one on the West Coast and one on the East. Memories of childhood books, food rambles (and ramblings), recipes and the occassional cat photo dot PB&PO's blogscape. I enjoy visiting the sisters and think you will, too.

You'll find PB&PO's link at left.

6/9/11 Update:  This blog no longer exists.

See's and Desist ...

... making puns about See's Candies? No never. They are hard to resist, as is this week's selection for The Chocolate Box on Sugar Savvy.

It's sticky business, but I eat another mysterious dark lump of See's Candies so you don't have to. This time I come up a winner with a Dark Chocolate Butterchew. Click on over and try a taste.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

We Get Blogged

Just discovered my See's piece by piece marathon and Easter candy round up got a mention in SFist blog. A great blog for those who call the Bay area home or would just like to.

Click here for the post that mentions me. Click to check out SFist's offerings.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Real or Reality -- Food Network's Talent Show

Anyone else watching the "Search for the Next Food Network Star?' I am pretty resistant to reality shows, but since stumbling on this one mid series I've been hooked.

One thing I take away from this stage-managed entertainment show to share is the concept of finding a vision that communicates your personality, reflects your passion, engages others and is consistent. Not much different than what it takes to create an involving food blog, or any other project food or not.

Who knew you could learn something real from a reality show?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Savoring the Holidays

Just back from a holiday visit to my in-laws in San Diego, so I've been away from the computer, but not the stove.

I have a wonderful oven-poached pear recipe to share that is based on one I had in Madrid and a savory (i.e., not sweet) matzoh brei side dish I developed for a friend's seder. Look for both soon.

If you are going to San Diego sometime soon, I have two "tourist" recommendations. Check out the adorable baby harbor seals at La Jolla Cove (they have commandered the area known as the children's pool, which is actually a beach). Also consider devoting an afternoon to the aircraft carrier Midway which has been turned into a new museum on San Diego's downtown waterfront. Lots of planes, displays and history with a free audio tour and docents to explain it all. Admission is a bit pricey, but worth it. Great gift shop. Snack bar has tasty views and so-so food.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Don't Cha Wish You Could Taste See's Just Like Me?

I'm posting this before Sugar Savvy has my Friday The Chocolate Box column up, so no permalink for you. But if you are reading this after about 8:30 a.m. PDT on Friday, my pun-filled love letter to mocha buttercream is probably posted there.

Come read what a 9+ See's Candies chocolate tastes like!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Suck It Up: National Licorice Day

What's red and black and good all over? Red Vines.

In honor of National Licorice Day, I checked out the Red Vines website. You can read my report here at Sugar Savvy.

One use for the Red Vine twists I didn't include in my Sugar Savvy post is as straws. The twists are hollow and preteens and teenagers seem to like to bite off the ends and use the candy as straws to sip their sodas. Lemon-lime soda and red Red Vines make a good combination. I've seen root beer and red Red Vines combined, but that sounds much less appealing. I've never actually tried this myself, you understand, but I've been at parties where a four-pound tub of the red Red Vines is pretty much consumed this way. I have never seen black Red Vines (the ones with the actual licorice flavor) used as straws, but it doesn't mean you couldn't create some intriguing flavor combinations.

One mystery remains. Why are black Red Vines called Red Vines? Alas, the Red Vines website didn't offer any clues.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Come Along Little Veggie

Blog Appetit's Polenta-Mushroom Triangles get a mention and a photo op in this week's antioxidant-rich food round up at Sweetnicks. Click on over to her place to see all the veggie-packed recipes she has corralled this week.

Don't Pass This Matzoh Brei Over

Many Jewish celebrations and observances are home-centered and food-obsessed. Passover is one of the biggies. One of its practices is not eating leavened bread (among other things) for eight days. One person in my congregation joked "that shouldn't be hard, look at all the people on Atkins."

But the holiday is a lot more than subbing matzoh for your morning muffin.

For some it is a harvest festival, a celebration of Spring.
For others it is a story of miracles and a reaffirmation of G-d.
For still others it is a history lesson and a link to Jews past and future.
For many it is political call to action and a reminder that freedom from oppression is an on-going issue.
For most it is a time for family and friends with special foods and special memories.

Do you, your family or your friends have any special celebrations, customs or Passover "habits" you'd like to share? If so, please leave a comment below (or email me through my profile) and I'll summarize them in a future post. If you have any questions about the holiday, leave those there as well.

Here's my recipe for a Custard Matzoh Brei. It is based on my custard French toast recipe, which was featured in this post from White Trash BBQ.

Whatever your holiday is this week, may peace and happiness be yours.

Blog Appetit's Custard Matzoh Brei

This recipe is adapted from one given to me for pain perdu when I was in New Orleans. Pain perdu, or “lost bread,” quickly became my family’s favorite French toast recipe and now this version is their favorite for matzo brei. We even have one cousin who tries to visit during Passover so he can have this treat.

This can be a very rich dish if you make it with whole milk, but you can cut some of the fat by using fat-free milk (which is what I usually do). You could also replace the eggs with egg substitute.

Since I make this different every time I prepare it, feel free to make your own changes.

For four-to-five servings

10 whole matzoh
Four eggs, beaten
One-quarter to one-half cup sugar (or more or less to taste)
Two cups of whole, low fat or fat-free milk
Tsp. of vanilla extract (kosher for Passover)
2 tsp. grated orange rind (optional)
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Grating (or dash) of nutmeg
1 tbsp. butter (or more as needed for the frying pan)
Cinnamon Sugar (optional)

Soak whole matzohs in a large bowl filled with warm water until just softened. (For a crisper matzo brei, just rinse and drain, do not soak.)
Drain well and break into small pieces in a large bowl.
In another bowl, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, orange rind, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg and beat to mix well.
Pour over soaked and drained matzoh. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow matzo to absorb some of the custard mixture. Stir the mixture occasionally.

Heat butter in a very large frying pan over medium heat. Add matzoh mixture and fry. (If too much for one pan, cook in batches and keep warm in a 250-degree oven. Be sure the matzoh brei has room to fry not steam in the pan. If you will be holding the matzo brei for any time, slightly undercook it so it won’t dry out.)

Let the matzoh brei mixture set in the hot pan for a minute or two then use your spatula to break it into chunks and turn. Keep turning and breaking up the matzoh brei every one to two minutes for a few more times until the custard mixture is absorbed but the matzoh is still moist.

(You could also add it to the pan in three-inch diameter dollops, which you could cook as individual pancakes.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired.

Serve by itself or with maple syrup, jam or other toppings.
Photo Credit: Microsoft

Monday, April 10, 2006

Blow-Out Brownies

This is the recipe provided by my friend Karen, who I think got it from her friend. This was the recipe used for the wonderful brownies served at the wine tasting. Decadent, delicious and double chocolate -- these moist brownies have everything including lots of calories. They are worth the blow out, but you may want to cut them into small pieces to serve.

Blow-Out Brownies

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 teasspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 -12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 11x14 inch baking pan. Melt unsweetened chocolate either over low heat in a double boiler on stove or in microwave, set aside to cool slightly. In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar. Pour oil into the center of the mixture. Do not stir. Pour beaten eggs into bowl. Do not stir. Add the vanilla and premelted chocolate. Now stir, slowly at first, then beat well. Batter should be smooth and dark brown. Pour in the chocolate chips and stir until well blended. Pour batter into greased baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes and edges look crisp and will have moved slightly away from the sides of the pan.

Love nuts? Then add six ounces of walnut pieces in with chocolate chips.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

No Whining -- Food for a Wine Tasting and a Polenta-Mushroom Appetizer Recipe

A while back I mentioned that I was helping to coordinate the food for a wine tasting fundraiser. Alder of Vinography was helpful in giving me some ideas, but I kind of forgot to tell him the food had to be vegetarian. We adapted his suggestions, added some of our own and ended up with a very successful evening with the guests really impressed with not just the wines but the food.

What do we serve?

For the wines? I’m ashamed to say I don’t really remember. I was too busy in the kitchen to take notes. But I know we had some reds and whites. I’ll try to get the info from the person who coordinated that and include it in a future post.

For the food? Well, THAT I remember.

Assorted olives, cheeses, crackers, baguette slices
Walnut halves, dried apricots and dates
Bruschettas with black olive tapenade or sun-dried tomato toppings
Polenta triangles with wild mushroom topping
Vietnamese spring rolls
Chocolate truffles, homemade decadent chocolate brownies, grapes

The spring rolls were based on my previously posted recipe for "not quite spring rolls." I used vegetarian “fish” sauce and filled them with either mango slices or sticks of cucumber and crushed peanuts. In addition to a hot and sweet dipping sauce, I also made a peanut-hoisin dipping sauce.

Thank goodness for volunteers. We made more than 80 each of the two types of spring rolls. With my husband pitching in and Stacy and Karen’s help, I estimate it took us close to eight hours combined to just roll the rolls.

The rolls were delicious, crunchy, sweet, sour and fun to eat all at the same time.

The brownies were luscious, rich and grown up tasting. Since I didn’t make them, I don’t have the recipe, but I am trying very hard to get it, so watch this blog!

The polenta triangles were also a big hit. The mushroom topping had a satisfying, earthy taste that would work well with some adaptations as a main dish stew. Because we were featuring the wine, not the food, that night, I kept the seasoning subdued. If you want more of a flavor punch try adding the optional red pepper flakes and/or doubling the garlic. It would have been nice if I had written down a real recipe, but I kind of made it up on the fly. Here’s how I reconstruct it. (FYI – All ingredients except the fresh thyme were purchased at Trader Joe’s.)

Polenta-Mushroom Bites
(Servings vary depending on how thick you slice the polenta and how much filling you put on each one.)

For the mushrooms

2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound of mushrooms, mixed mild and wild (I used a simple mix of white button and brown crimini since I was cooking for 60 and trying to keep costs down), cleaned, (note: if you use Portobello mushrooms, cut off and discard the black gills underneath the caps, otherwise your mushroom mixture will come out an unappealing muddy color) stemmed and thinly sliced. Then lay the slices on their sides and slice again, almost as if you were creating thin sticks or juliennes of the mushrooms. Alternatively, you could just chop the mushrooms. Or do some combination of the two techniques.
2 ounces of dried mushrooms (porcini or other wild mushroom or mix), soaked in hot water to cover for 30 minutes or until soft. Drain mushrooms but reserve liquid. Slice as above or chop. Strain liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth. Discard solids.
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (if fresh thyme use ½ teaspoon dried)
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper
¼ cup shredded cheese (I used a parmesan, fontina, asiago and mild provolone mixture.)

Heat oil in large sauté pan. Add garlic and sauté until golden. Add fresh mushrooms. Sauté until water is released. Add reconstituted mushrooms. Sauté until water from mushrooms is evaporated. Add in reserved, strained mushroom soaking water. Sauté a bit, add in thyme and red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until mushroom mix is softened and cooked through. If mixture gets too dry add in a bit of water or stock. Stir in cheese until melted and well combined.

(To make ahead, make as above but do not add cheese. Add cheese after reheating. You may need to add more liquid when reheating.)

Polenta Triangles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1-24 ounce tube prepared polenta
oil or oil spray

Spray or brush cookie trays with oil
Slice polenta into even rounds about ¾ inch thick. Cut each round into thirds, so you have three more or less equal triangles from each piece. Place on prepared trays.
Spray or brush tops of polenta with oil. Bake in a 350 degree oven until slightly golden and warmed through.


Warm, baked polenta triangles (see above)
Warm mushroom topping (see above)
Shredded cheese or parmesan curls (optional)
Chopped, fresh herbs (either thyme or parsley)

Top each polenta triangle with a teaspoon or so the mushroom filling. Scatter a bit of the fresh herbs on top. (note, if using thyme, just use a pinch or so on each one). Place a parmesan curl or a sprinkle of shredded cheese on top and serve while warm.
The clean corn taste of the polenta with its slight crunch from being baked complements the richer, more complicated tastes of the mushrooms and makes for a great one or two bite appetizer.

Since they are best warm, we pressed two teen volunteers into service to pass the polenta-mushroom bites around. (Special thanks to Emma and Noah, aka Blog Appetit’s youngest son.) But honestly, the bites were still tasty even when they cooled and were fine put on a platter and left out for the party goers to help themselves.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Easter Parade

No Easter bonnets, but lots of great See's Candies' Easter treats in The Chocolate Box at Sugar Savvy. Hop on over to see what I wrote in this week's column. The picture above shows See's milk chocolate egg with white chocolate chick inside.

Photo Credit: See's Candies

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Healthy Recipe Roundup

Please check out Sweetnick's wonderful round up of good tasting, good for you recipes at ARF/5-A-Day #14. Blog Appetit's contribution is last week's paella recipe.