Monday, August 29, 2011

Basmati RIce Tutorial

For those who have an opinion, cooking rice is extraordinarily personal. I have witnessed more heated rice cooking discussions than calm, boring conversations. There are a variety elements to think about:
  • Rice cooker v. stove-top method
  • Leave the lid on v. cooking without a lid 
  • Dry v. wet
  • Brown v. white
  • Short-grain v. long-grain
Our preferences: White long-grain rice on the dry side cooked using the stove-top with the lid on.

Z. is the rice master of our household and I only make rice under close supervision. Z. has some amazing recipes for dal (lentil curry)  we eat frequently that I have been waiting to share until I had written about rice. Here is a little bit of information I have learned from the rice cooking master:
  • Each variety of rice has its own water to rice ratio. 
  • Each brand of a variety of rice is slightly different and requires its own water to rice ratio. When we get a new brand of rice, Z. experiments until he finds the perfect ratio for that particular rice.
  • The amount of cooking time also varies within each brand. Z. has noticed that cooking times for basmati can vary between 20 to 25 minutes.
  • The size of the pot affects the end result. Z. tries to use the smallest pot he can. 
  • Z.'s basmati has the texture of the kind of rice you can get at an Indian restaurant: each grain is distinct and not too moist. One of the tricks to accomplishing these results is to let the pan sit on the warm burner with the heat off for at least 10 minutes before serving.
  • Z. prefers different varieties of rice of different applications. We always have basmati with Indian food. We tend to use jasmine rice for everything else.
The cooking time and water to rice ratio that I am going to include in the following recipe are particular to one brand of basmati but does provide a great starting point for someone new to basmati. Enjoy!

Basmati Rice

1 part water to 1 part rice
  1. Place a strainer (fine mesh sifter or a colander where the rice cannot fall through is fine) in a bowl large enough to hold the strainer up while allowing the bottom portion to be submerged.
  2. Measure rice and place in strainer.
  3. Cover with cold water, gently stirring with your hand or a spoon. Do not let the rice soak for more than 1 minute. Drain the water and repeat. Use at least three changes of water; 5 is preferable.
  4. After the last rinsing drain the water and keep the rice in the strainer in the bowl, allowing the rice to sit and drain.
  5. Bring the water to a boil in a pot.
  6. Add rice.
  7. String and bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  8. Once boiling turn heat to low (the lowest your stove will go). Continue to stir occasionally.
  9. Put lid on the pot when the boiling has reduced to a gentle simmer. Set timer at 23 minutes (remember, can vary by brand). Do not touch the lid!
  10. After the timer goes off, turn the heat off and DO NOT TOUCH THE PAN OR THE LID. Let the rice sit for 10 minutes. You may now serve your delicious rice. If you are not ready to serve the rice, turn the heat back on to the lowest setting and let the rice sit for 5 minutes then turn the heat off and it may sit for another 10 minutes.
  11. When you are ready to serve your rice, place the rice in a large bowl and fluff until the rice grains are separated.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cheap Tip Saturday 8/27

Cheap Tip: Budget-Friendly Entertaining

One of my favorite past-times in the whole wide world (besides torturing Z.) is to share a meal with others, especially sharing a meal with friends in my home. I almost said cook a meal for friends but Z. proudly does the cooking when we have people over. I contribute side dishes and desert. We have refined the technique of budget-friendly entertaining. Here are a few tips I have learned along the way:
  • Try your best but do not stress out (excessively) about how your food turns out. Your friends are happy to be spending time with you and that you went to all the trouble. Besides, if they are like most people, they do not cook for themselves very often and are excited to have a home-cooked (or semi-homemade) meal.
  • If we are cooking, our meal of choice is Indian or pasta. Indian food is great if you have to cook for a large group of people; it does not matter if you are cooking for 2 or 8, beans and rice take the same amount of time to cook either way.
  • Potluck. I do not know who you are hanging out with but my friends always ask what they can bring. Frequently, Z. and I will provide the main course and desert. We ask our guests to bring a side dish or wine. If you cannot cook, wine is almost universally appreciated.
  • Feature dishes or foods that guests can assemble themselves. Each person has their own particular likes and dislikes. Assembly-meals allows guests to tailor their meal as well as be involved. Dishes that lend themselves well to this are tacos, paninis, individual pizzas, and kebabs.
  • Crudites. I almost always have a platter of fresh, crunchy vegetables ready to be served immediately when my guests arrive. Veggies are tasty, filling, and can be cheap depending on what you buy. I like to serve carrots (always), bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, celery, broccoli, or cauliflower, all depending on what is on sale.
  • Keep desert simple. I save my fancy deserts for the occasions when I will only be serving desert and coffee. Orchestrating an elaborate desert and preparing dinner can be a little overwhelming for me. I do love serving baked deserts. Nothing is as inviting or fills the home with as much fragrance as baking deserts. Cookies are always a welcome sight for guests. Fruit crisps or cobblers are simple and take advantage of what is on sale at the market or straight from the freezer. This summer I have served plain, fresh fruit several times for desert. Nothing is as delicious as fruit at its ripest at the peak of the season.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fudgy Meringue Cookies Revisited

I am happy to report that I made cookies successfully! I have not been able to get the terrible Fudgy Meringue Cookies I made out of my head. These cookies had such potential; they required minimal ingredients, much of which came from the pantry. I gave these cookies another try and had some success. My cookies still did not resemble the gorgeous cookies pictured by the magazine but they sure tasted great. Here are a few things I did differently:
  • I used a hand-mixer. I have the best boyfriend ever who gave me the hand mixer I have had my eye on for months and months. The first time around, I thought I was being resourceful when I used a whisk and attempted to make meringue by hand. 
  • I used three egg whites rather than two egg whites. The first batch was dry and lumpy but this time the batter was smooth and looked like meringue!
  • I did not add the melted chocolate. Z. and I thought the melted chocolate was slightly too much the first time. The next time I make these cookies without the melted chocolate, I will be adding a little extra flavor with some instant espresso powder. I thought the cookies were great without the extra chocolate but a little extra pep will not hurt anything.
  • I did not burn the cookies!
I still did not use powdered sugar. I tried running some through my little food processor but it made a terrible screeching sound with only a little sugar in the container. The granulated sugar seemed to work find. I just made sure to add the sugar to the egg whites in small batches. The moral of this story: Try, try again and you just might get cookies. Enjoy!

P.S. Eggs are on my list of expensive items. I love the idea that I can a portion of an egg in this recipe and use the rest in another recipe. 

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Ace's Adventures with . . . Peach Salsa

    I noticed that when I say adventure, I really mean that I am trying something new and I have no idea how the dish is going to turn out. I had an adventure making Peach Salsa yesterday, which I have never had before. Conceptually, I like the idea of the sweet peaches with something crunchy from the allium genus and a little spicy chili pepper topping something savory. After all, I really enjoy mangoes in my Black Bean Salad, I thought I might enjoy some Peach Salsa on some fajitas. What did I learn:
    • Peach Salsa is rather weird and I will not be making it again. I think chutney has more potential.
    • I would not eat Peach Salsa on chips but I did enjoy the salsa with the ground turkey that was on my fajita. The flavors of the salsa and meat complement each other. If I just had vegetables, the sweetness would have been too much.
    • I added some grated garlic. I knew I was taking a risk and it turned out to be a risk I should have avoided. The garlic did not enhance the salsa.
    • Fresh cilantro would have helped to bring the salsa all together.
    Here is the recipe of what I made yesterday:

    Peach Salsa, serves 3

    2 nectarines or peaches, skin and pit removed
    1/2 red onion, finely diced
    1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
    1-2 tablespoons lime juice
    kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    Mix everything in a small bowl and let sit for 20-30 minutes before serving.

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    Cheap Tip Saturday 8/20

    Coupon from Starbucks for a free birthday drink!

    Cheap Tip: Use a registered Starbucks gift card.

    Enjoy Starbucks? I do too, occasionally, and I make those purchases count as much as possible. I do this by paying for my coffee with a registered gift card. I originally was given the gift card as a present and after spending all the gift money, I reload money to card using the Starbucks website. You earn 1 Starbucks star with each purchase paid for by a registered Starbucks gift card.  Let me breakdown the benefits of using a registered Starbucks gift card and what those stars mean:
    • Earn 30 stars and you are rewarded with a coupon for a free beverage of your choice. Yes, of your choice!
    • After earning 30 stars, you are sent a gold Starbucks card. This is a very snazzy looking gift card. I have to admit, I am mildly jealous of Z.'s gold card. And, once you have earned the gold card, you only need to accumulate 15 stars to earn a free drink.
    • You are sent a coupon for a free beverage to celebrate your birthday. I would never pay $5 for a cup of coffee but I certainly enjoyed celebrating with a venti coconut mocha with whipped cream and caramel drizzle.
    • During your visit, you may receive free brewed coffee or tea refills.
    • Free selected syrups and milk choices
    • Purchase 1 pound of whole beans using your registered card, you will receive tall beverage of your choice. Remember, on most packages of Starbucks coffee, there is a promotion where you can bring in your empty bag and receive a free cup of brewed coffee.
    • Log into the Starbucks rewards website and you can easily load more money to your gift card, register a new card, or see how many stars you have accumulated.
    Here is a little more information about the program and here is where you go to register your card. Enjoy!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Simple Sammies and Other Goodies

    If you have never had Tillamook Vintage White Medium Cheddar, the Tillamook cheese in the dark blue package, you are seriously missing out. This cheese is velvety with a nice cheddar kick. Our favorite way to enjoy this cheese is what we call Simple Sammies. I apologize my humble picture does not do justice to the deliciousness of this sandwich.

    Simple Sammies
    1. Slice some Tillamook Vintage White Medium Cheddar cheese. Let come up to room temperature. 
    2. Slice some nice rolls. I suggest the hoagie rolls from the Fred Meyer bakery.
    3. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on both cut sides of the bread, top with cheese, and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Enjoy!

    We had some fresh basil from the farmer's market so we added a few fresh basil to our sandwiches. Oh my goodness, this was so heavenly we had these sandwiches for dinner two nights in a row.

    I thought I would share the snack/breakfast I have been enjoying every day for the last two weeks. I cannot even think of a name. Z. refers them as my weird banana tortilla things, but that does not quite roll of the tongue. How about Peanut Butter and Banana Tortilla Sandwich?

    Peanut Butter and Banana Tortilla Sandwich

    1-2 whole grain tortillas
    peanut butter
    1/2-1 banana, sliced *
    1. Preheat skillet over medium-low to medium heat.
    2. Spread 1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons if a large tortilla over 1/2 of the tortilla.
    3. Arrange sliced bananas over peanut butter.
    4. Fold uncovered side of tortilla over banana and peanut butter and press gently.
    5. Place tortilla in skillet and let warm gently, 2-3 minutes per side.
    6. Cut in half for easier eating. Be careful. The peanut butter will be melted and warm. Enjoy!
    * I have small tortillas that require 1/2 banana to cover. If you have extra banana, place in a tupperware and refrigerate and enjoy at a later time.

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    The Corvallis Farmer's Market Adventure Continues

    Ace here, back with your weekly farmer's market report. I am continually amazed by how simply beautiful fruit and vegetables can look. As soon as Z. and I stepped foot into the market, we made a beeline for Gathering Together's pastries and doughnuts. Z. discovered their organic potato doughnuts last weekend and I was fortunate enough to have a bite. These little gems, at $1 apiece I might add, made a pleasant morning wonderful. We took our doughnuts and coffee we had previously purchased and plunked ourselves down on a bench along the river walkway. Everyone who walked or biked past us stared. Either a) we are kind of funny looking, b) we had beautiful doughnuts in our grubby little paws and they were wondering where the could find one, or c) we had big silly grins on our faces because we were each enjoying coffee and an amazing doughnut with our best friend. I am guessing all of the above.

    I love going to the market and watching the season unfold. Each week brings new surprises. The newcomers to the market this week were melons and what I have been looking forward to all year: chili peppers! Just a couple weeks ago, the only peppers present were padrons and serrano. Saturday, multiple vendors had several varieties of chilies. One of my favorites, Spring Hill Farm, had many types: serrano, padron, pepperoncini, pablano, Anaheim, and chimayo. I spotted the brilliant red of the chimayo from down the street and knew I had to have some (here is an interesting article I read about the chimayo). The first picture of the post of the two red chilies, are the chimayo peppers I came home with. I left Spring Hill with two chimayos and a gorgeous pablano. I picked up four jalapenos for $1 from another stand. The second farm stand that sells padrons had a deal on the peppers for the last hour of the market where they were discounted $1. I cannot wait to try these little peppers!

    Chimayo peppers!
    Padron peppers
    Right to left: pablano and four jalapenos
    I wanted to share what I did with the chard from a couple weeks ago. I very much enjoyed the flavor of the chard, which had a delicious strong spinach flavor and a lovely color. I tried making dolmas with the leaves. While this was not very successful due to the fragile nature of the cooked chard, I did make some awesome couscous. If you are interested in using chard as a wrapper, here is what I did. I wanted to cook the leaves so after wrapping the couscous no further cooking was required. First, I trimmed the stalks. I dropped the leaves in a pot of boiling, salted water for 2 ½ to 3 minutes. I had a big bowl of cold water waiting nearby for the chard. After the chard blanched, I immediately put the greens in the cold water. When cool, I patted them dry. Then, I stuffed a large leaf with about 1 ½ tablespoons of couscous, and rolled the leaf like a burrito or summer roll. For the smaller leaves or leaves with lots of holes, I layered two leaves. I found after cooking, the chard was incredibly delicate. I ended with tearing most of the leaves just by moving them. But I really enjoyed the rich spinach flavor of the chard with the couscous.

    Couscous is the ultimate fast food in my book. You do not even really cook it! I am sure all brands have their own directions, so follow those. To prepare all the couscous I have come across, boil the appropriate amount of water, add couscous, stir, remove from heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff before serving. And if you are one of those people who cannot even handle boiling water without burning something, heat the water up in a kettle, pour the couscous and water in a pot, and cover. Anyone can handle couscous. Enjoy!

    Couscous with Dried Fruit and Nuts, serves 4

    1 cup couscous
    1 1/4 cup vegetable or chick stock
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 onion, finely diced
    1 small zucchini, finely diced
    3-4 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup almonds, lightly toasted
    1/4 raisins
    1. Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat, add the spices, and toast for 30-60 seconds. 
    2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Add couscous, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit while cooking vegetables.
    3. In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-low to medium heat. Cook onions until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 3-4 minutes. Add zucchini and cook 2-3 minutes. 
    4. Season liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
    5. Combine couscous and vegetables in a large bowl with toasted almonds and raisins. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt if needed. Enjoy as a side dish warm or at room temperature or use as a filling in dolmas.

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    Cheap Tip Saturday 8/13

    Cheap Tip: Organize those coupons.

    As I have evolved from occasionally using coupons to being a coupon maniac, my system of organizing has also evolved. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
    • Couponing is not for everyone. Despite how awesome I think using coupons is, not everyone shares my excitement and that is okay.
    • Find a container to hold your coupons. For me, this means several containers. I have the plastic accordion file that I carry to the store. I clip any coupons that I know I will most likely use or frequently go on sale and put them in the file right away. I also have a bin where any other coupons collect that I can always hide away somewhere. 
    • File those coupons. The filing process can be different for each person. I have found some folks who prefer to organize their coupons by types, by expiration dates, or by grocery store aisles. I like to organize alphabetically. 
    • Don't forget to sort through them and recycle the expired coupons. Proctor & Gamble makes it easy. Their coupons expire the last day of each month.
    • Write the date on the front of the insert. This tip has taken me a long time to finally embrace. I do not clip all the coupons out and hold on to the whole insert, so by having the date on it, if I find a tip on a couponing blog I can find the specific insert. Enjoy!

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Farmer's Market Meal: Bitter Salad

    Last weekend Z., a couple of friends, and I spent a leisurely and extraordinarily pleasant morning downtown and at the farmer's market. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful town with such an incredibly vibrant downtown.

    Over the course of the week, Z. and I chatted some more over purchasing produce at the farmer's market. For a couple of months each summer, we get to try beautiful produce that we may not have tried. So, I lived a little and picked up a bunch of purple cippolini onions (this recipe for caramelized onions looks delicious) and the most gorgeous head of treviso. Here is a little more information about treviso. Our treviso was very similar in size and shape to a head of romaine. The leaves of the traviso were the color of a nice cabernet while the stalk and veins contrasted in a soft, creamy shade of green. The moment I laid eyes on the treviso, I knew I had to have it. I have never seen greens that were so pretty.

    Normally, treviso or radiccio is mixed with other greens for salad or briefly cooked to temper the bitterness. But we wanted to let the treviso be the star so following Z.'s suggestion I made a bitter salad using  treviso, the green cippolini stalks, and balsamic marinated minced cippolini onions. Trust me and use the onion tops. The flavor is mild and delicious. Z. is not a vinegeraholic like I am so the only balsamic in his salad was from the marinated onions. I found that the little extra drizzle of balsamic on my salad transformed what could have been an over-powering bitterness into a lovely hint. Enjoy!

    Bitter Salad for 2

    4-5 leaves treviso
    2 cippolini onions, minced
    green stalks from cippolini onions, sliced
    1 tablespoon good-quality balsamic, plus a little extra *
    drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
    kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1. In a small bowl, place the minced cippolini onions and about 2 teaspoons of balsamic. Let marinate 30 minutes or so.
    2. Slice each treviso lengthwise in half then cut thin strips. 
    3. To serve divide between two salad bowls or plates and top with onion stalks and marinated cippolini onions. Drizzle with olive oil and a little extra balsamic vinegar if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
    * A dish this simple and with such high-quality ingredients deserves the best balsamic you have. In my case, I used my Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar. The flavor is very smooth, slightly sweet and only mildly acidic, a great match for the treviso.

    Monday, August 8, 2011

    Recipe Review: Flour's Famous Banana Bread

    Source: Food Network

    I still love this banana bread even after making it over and over these past three or so years. I have no desire to try any other recipe. This is tried and true for me. When pondering what I had to say about this bread I began thinking more about baking.

    The ingredients:

    From top clockwise: granulated sugar, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour
    From  right: baking soda, cinnamon, salt

    When chatting about cooking, a question that often comes up is, "Are you flinger or a measurer?" Or paraphrased, the question becomes, "Can you bake?" A general observation I have made is that flingers tend to be people who have difficulty focusing on the details, they are just not interested. Flingers do not do well with authority: even recipe directions can make flingers feel like they are bossed around.

    Bakers (or measures who do not bake, for that matter) have a perfectionist streak tempered with perseverance. I admire the perseverance it takes to become a decent, consistent baker. I think bakers secretly want approval. Why else would they create foods that make most of us feel so warm and fuzzy on the inside? Plus, have you seen how much people's faces light up when you mention you can bake a really good pie?

    I embrace qualities of both flingers and measurers. I think like many cooks, transitions between the two are fluid and contextual. I certainly do my share of flinging, especially when it comes to flavoring my dishes. I will use a garlic mountain because it is so attractive without batting an eye or throw whatever spices from my pantry sound appealing into the pot. On the other hand, I can follow someone else's directions even though I do have trouble now and then. I have some of the perseverance of a baker. I will make a tasty dish over and over just to get the seasonings exactly the way I imagine or to adjust minor details.

    While I love sharing my home-made baked goods with friends, whether it is deserts or bread, I almost always bake for myself. I love the process of baking: the measuring, the mixing, filling the apartment with warm, delicious scents, and even the waiting. I feel accomplished when I look at the original ingredients I started with then transformed into bread. There are times when this alchemy does not create golden brown morsels. I never consider this complete failure, it is one of the perils of experimenting with ingredients.

    Additional thoughts on this particular banana bread recipe:
    • I have never added the creme fraiche or sour cream and my bread seems to turn out just fine.
    • I usually reduce the amount of sugar to about 1/2 cup. I love super sweet breads but I find that this is also pleasant.
    • I enjoy using a mix of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. Using only all-purpose flour results in a very smooth texture. I am fond of the nutty, slightly grainy texture of whole wheat. Perhaps, whole wheat pastry flour would result in a smoother crumb but I have not yet tried that. I would suggest using a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose. When I tried making a loaf of bread with just whole wheat flour and my bread was a leaden disaster. I am definitely open to suggestions and tips.
    • My favorite way to mash bananas is to use a potato masher. It is a multi-use tool!

      Friday, August 5, 2011

      Cheap Tip Saturday 8/6

      Cheap Tip: Use coupons to stock your pantry with nonperishable lunch-box items.

      Last fall, Z. and I came up with the idea to designate a bin solely to hold any items I accumulated that were meant for my lunches. Pictured are the items that I have accumulated this summer with the bin behind. I only paid $5.71 for all of these goodies. The apricots were the most expensive part at $1 a bag.

      Stocking up on non-perishables that you will use for lunch and keep in their own designated place works great for a number of reasons:
      • Packing your lunch and bringing plenty of snacks with you to work or school rather than eating out is a great way to save lots of money.
      • Many coupons are available for snacks, crackers, snack bars, or other items that would travel well. I stock up on these when I can. Most of the time, these are not items I would go out of my way to buy. But including these snacks in my lunches has saved me quite a bit. I also appreciate the variety my the snacks gives my lunches.
      • I find that with my budget and the time I can dedicate to couponing, $0.20 per serving is my cut-off for my coupon snacks. This leaves room in my lunch budget for more costly items like yogurt and fresh fruit. 
      • By storing the stocked-up  lunch box items in their own special place, the likelihood that they will make it my lunch increases.
      • We picked a bin on purpose. I can always easily see what is in the bin. I do not have to clear off a whole shelf to see what might be hiding in the back.
      • Because these items are nonperishable, I suggest stocking up when you can combine sales with coupons and other promotions. I have been thinking about sharing my lunch bin idea for quite some time because after months of an empty bin, I have refilled it with a variety of goodies.

      Thursday, August 4, 2011

      Farmer's Market Meal: Ace's Adventures with . . . Zucchini

      More zucchini, of course! Every dinner (and some lunches) this last week have involved zucchini in some form. We are definitely taking advantage of the fact we can get 3 pound zucchinis for $0.50 each right now. Some vegetables we will buy fresh and freeze. For instance, when we have been able to find bell peppers at the grocery store 3 for $1 we bought 8 or so peppers. We washed them, removed the seeds, chopped the peppers, and placed them in freezer bags, which got tossed into the freezer. These frozen vegetables work great for stir-fry and other dishes. Zucchini is so delicate that we are eating it fresh and will not be freezing any.

      I tried a new recipe the other night: zucchini pancakes. Sounds weird, right? Well, the recipe referred to them as zucchini patties and I did not realize I had pancakes until I had a bowl of shredded zucchini with fresh black pepper in pancake batter ready to go into the skillet. Turns out, zucchini pancakes are not bad. This particular version was rather simple but I think a little grated onion and minced garlic would do wonders. I think the savory pancake has potential. If you are curious, here is the original recipe post. The only change I did was to use a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet. Any more than that, and they turned out rather oily.

      Zucchini Pancakes

      1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
      3/4 teaspoon salt
      1 cup milk
      1 whole egg, beaten
      1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
      1 tablespoon grated cheese, such as Parmesan
      Oil to fry
      1. Mix ingredients together until combined.
      2. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add batter by large spoonful.
      3. Cook until golden brown then flip and cook the second side until golden brown. Best served hot.
      Z. made a very nice dinner of pasta with zucchini and white wine the other evening, which I was also able to enjoy for lunch the next day.

      Pasta with Zucchini and White Wine, serves 2

      2 servings of your preferred pasta
      1-2 tablespoons olive oil
      1/2 onion, minced
      4-5 cloves garlic, minced
      1 cup chopped zucchini
      1/4 cup white wine *
      1-2 tablespoons butter
      1.  Bring water for pasta to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.
      2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a high-sided skillet. Add onions and season with salt. Cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
      3. Add garlic and cook until done, about 3-4 minutes.
      4. When vegetables are done, add pasta, pasta water, white wine, and butter to the onion mixture and stir to mix thoroughly. Season with pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes if desired.

        * We used chardonnay this evening because that was what I had opened last weekend. I prefer cooking with sauvignon blanc. I find sauvignon blanc to have a slightly more complex flavor than chardonnay that stands up better to the heat of cooking.

      Monday, August 1, 2011

      Peach Granita

      After watching enough episodes of Iron Chef or Everyday Italian you are bound to see a granita. I always thought granita seemed rather silly. What could possible be special about icy fruit juice? Well, I have to admit I saw one of my favorite tv personalities make a coconut granita, the temperature was quickly rising, so I caved  in and made granita. Just a can of coconut milk, a little simple syrup, and time. Delicious!

      Coconut granita!
      This weekend I decided to try my hand at a peach granita while peaches were on sale. The granita turned out light and refreshing.

      Peach Granita, serves 3-4

      2 peaches, skin and pit removed, chopped
      1/4 cup simple syrup, or to taste
      1/2 cup water
      1. Blend peaches, simple syrup, and water in a blender until smooth.
      2. Pour in a dish and place in freezer.
      3. Every 20-25 minutes, remove from freezer and stir thoroughly, breaking up all ice crystals. Return to freezer and continue process until completely frozen, about 3-4 hours.
      Granita just about to go in the freezer.
      • Every time you stir the granita, break up all the chunks of ice. I used a fork to scrape the sides and gently smash all the frozen pieces each and every time. This will result in a smooth consistency.
      • To peel the peaches, cut an 'x' into base of the peach. Gently place in boiling water, up to one minute. Immediately  remove and place in a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel.
      • To make simple syrup combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. The sugar will dissolve and you are left with a sweet syrup. I suggest simple syrup for recipes like this so the granita is smooth and not granular.