Archive for September, 2009

A lighter interpretation for gnocchi.

A lighter interpretation for gnocchi.

Ack! All you bloggers out there – ever make a dish and somehow forget about it in your stack of “to post” items? I have no idea how I forgot this one as it’s one of my all-time favorite dishes, but I found it yesterday in my blog photos folder.

And once again…a post from Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. My favorite cookbook evah.

This recipe is typical Goin fashion – a bit overachiever (shocking, I know). First, she wants you to make your own gnocchi. And yeah, making your own gnocchi is HIGHLY recommended. But sometimes on a weeknight, it’s just not going to happen. These are times when I cheat and call in reinforcements. She also wants you to shuck your own corn. Again, I cheat here too. Ok, AND she wants you to use Chanterelle mushrooms. I think they are kinda pricey so I cheat and use Portabellas.  But first…

What are gnocchi?

Gnocchi are Italian dumplings – little pillows of light dough – served in a manner similar to pasta. They are traditionally made with potatoes, but can also be formed from ricotta cheese, semolina, squash, um…I’m sure there are probably other options I don’t even know about. Purists like the potato variety, but I’m a convert to the ricotta kind because:

1. They are way WAY easier to make and

2. I think they are lighter. And that’s really the goal – to make them light.

But we aren’t going to talk about making them here. That’s for another day.

So, ok.  Back to the recipe. This is a dish that is rustic, yet impressive enough for a casual dinner party. And the sage thrown in towards the end makes your house smell just lovely. And you can be a lazy butt like me and make them with fresh/frozen gnocchi purchased at the store. Which just makes things easier during the week.

Gnocchi with Chanterelles, Sweet Corn and Sage Brown Butter

Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (I like Panko)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 T unsalted butter
3/4 pound chanterelles, cleaned (I use portabellas cause I am cheap)
1 T thyme leaves
1 T sliced sage leaves
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears – or do like I do and use a can of corn)
2/3 cup diced shallots
1 lb fresh gnocchi (I used dried -either way, cook thoroughly and set aside)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

First – toast the breadcrumbs:
1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Toss breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

3. Spread them on a baking sheet, and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown. Set aside.

4. If the mushrooms are big, tear them into bite-size pieces (or chop).

5. Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes.

6.Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and heat another minute.

7. Swirl in 1 tablespoon butter, and when it foams, add the mushrooms, half the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a healthy pinch of pepper.

8. Saute the mushrooms about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and a little crispy.  Don’t be tempted to move them around in the pan too much in the beginning: let them sear a little before stirring.  Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a platter.

9. Return the pan to the stove, and heat on high for 1 minute.

10. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter to the pan, and cook a minute or two, until the butter starts to brown.

11. Add the sage, let it sizzle, and then add the corn, shallots, remaining thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and some freshly ground pepper.

12. Saute quickly, tossing the corn in the hot butter for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender.

13. Add the cooked gnocchi and toss well to coat with the corn and brown butter.

14. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the mushrooms.  Toss to combine, and heat the mushrooms through.

15. Add the parsley.

16. Arrange the gnocchi on a large platter, and shower with the breadcrumbs.  Grate over some parmesan cheese if you like.

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

A plethora of tomatoes from the Farmers Market: multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes, Green Zebras, yellow grape and bright red Early Girl tomatoes.

A plethora of tomatoes from the Farmers Market: multi-colored heirloom cherry tomatoes, Green Zebras, yellow grape and bright red Early Girl tomatoes.

Alright, so I was a little excitable at the Farmers Market recently. Tomatoes were in and I had to have every shape, size and color available. Each stall was better than the last. Needless to say, I came home with pounds of tomatoes. I mean, look at them. Could you resist?

One of my all-time favorite food memories is the first time I brought home a perfectly ripe tomato from the Farmer’s Market and bit into it like an apple, juices running down my arm and into my kitchen sink. It was like candy and I was in heaven.

Since then, one of the rights of passage of summer for me is a Tomato Sandwich with the best summer tomatoes I can find. Nothing simpler. Nothing better.

Does it warrant a recipe?

rench bread layered with garlic aioli, heirloom tomatoes, a drizzling of balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.

French bread layered with garlic aioli, heirloom tomatoes, a drizzling of balsamic vinegar and parmesan shavings.

No. Probably not.

What I do is slice a mess of tomatoes (remember my tip for slicing small tomatoes?) Different sizes and different colors are best cause it just looks so summery.

Then I grab some good, crusty bread.

Slather on a layer of (cheater’s) garlic aioli*.

Then load it up with tomatoes, a sprinkling of sea salt, some shavings of Parmigiano-reggiano, a drizzle of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve got on-hand and voila.

The best summer sandwich imaginable.

And an alternative on baguette rounds.

And an alternative on toasted baguette rounds for an easy appetizer.

*Cheater’s garlic aioli = store bought mayo + a clove of crushed garlic. Summer is for relaxing my friends.


Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Seriously using up the Asian condiments with this one!

Seriously using up the Asian condiments with this one!

AKA – a recipe to use up a TON of Asian condiments sitting neglected in your fridge.

Lately, I’ve had a thing for green beans. Not sure why. I mean, they are so average. Predictable. Every day. I think there is something about their crunch that is winning me over (yeah, I’m one of those people who BARELY cooks vegetables. “Crisp tender” is probably overcooked to me. “Crisp crisp” is more like it).

So enter Szechuan Green Beans. I will readily admit to never having had them at a restaurant. Supposedly, they are normally deep fried – which seems a sorry fate for my beloved green beans. Then you mix in some ground pork, sauces, a little heat and some chopped peanuts for more crunch. Um, what’s not to love here folks?


I came across a super flavorful recipe from Guy Fieri. But he deep fries them and I just can’t bring myself to doing it. Plus, he doesn’t include any pork. So that’s two strikes.

Then I came across a Cook’s Illustrated recipe and they just stir fry the little guys on high heat till they get nice and shriveled and burnt. I thought that would do nicely. But I like Guy’s sauce. A LOT. So that stays, but I use the method (and the pork!) in the Cooks Illustrated recipe.

Give it a try. It comes together fast (we are talking 20 minutes tops including prep) – so it’s perfect for weeknight cooking. I usually serve over rice to make a full meal.

Szechuan Green Beans

Adapted from Guy Fieri and Cook’s Illustrated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 lb ground pork
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 ounce hot chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon mirin or white wine
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 pound green beans, cleaned
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional – I usually forget this part)

1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender and skins are shriveled and blackened in spots, 5 to 8 minutes (reduce heat to medium-high if beans darken too quickly). Transfer beans to large plate.

2.Reduce heat to medium-high and add pork to now-empty skillet. Cook, breaking pork into small pieces, until no pink remains, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.

3. Quickly add soy sauce, chili sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin, mirin, sesame oil and cilantro. Return green beans to pan. Toss to combine.

4. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped peanuts and parsley.

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Whether Sabayon or Zabaglione, this is the easiest, most impressive dessert you can make.

Whether Sabayon or Zabaglione, this is the easiest, most impressive dessert you can make.

It is the end of summer and it is time for one of my all-time, favorite desserts. Sabayon if you are French or Zabaglione if you are Italian.

So really, what’s the diff?

Ah, who knows. My guess is it’s the type of wine used. Traditionally, it should be sweet Marsala (for Zabaglione). But I use whatever white I have on hand. You can also use a sparkling wine like Champagne or Prosecco.

So, uh, really, what IS it?

Sabayon/Zabaglione* is an extraordinarily easy-to-make dessert consisting of egg yolks, sugar and wine. It is served warm, usually atop something else (more often than not, it is fresh berries).  I love this dessert because it is so easy, can be made to order, is always impressive and has no leftovers.

I like to use Emeril Lagasse’s recipe because it makes a relatively small amount.

* You can also make a savory Sabayon, but I know absolutely nothing about this except I’m assuming you’d use a drier wine and nix the sugar.


From Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup white wine

1. Fill a 1-quart saucepan half-full with water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

2. Place all ingredients in a medium stainless steel bowl and whisk until well combined. Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the sauce is thick and doubled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough so that it will support a ribbon of sauce trailing off the end of the spoon when lifted.

3. Serve warm over berries, poached fruit or whatever accompaniment you like in small bowls or decorative glasses.

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Blazing hot Jerk Shrimp served with Mashed Plantains and washed down with a cold beer.

Blazing hot Jerk Shrimp served with Mashed Plantains and washed down with a cold beer.

Music to eat by: Funky Kingston by Toots and the Maytalls

Years ago…

One of the first real cookbooks I ever received was Sheila Lukins All Around the World Cookbook and one of the first recipes I ever made out of it was for Jerk Chicken – something I subjected my unsuspecting little brother to when our parents were out of town. Sadly for us, I did not know that the book was a little hit or miss (Note: Her Silver Palate Cookbook is fantastic!) and the recipe in that book for Jerk Chicken was, alas, a miss (although, maybe it had something to do with the really bizarre substitutions I made at the time and the fact that I was a teenager and didn’t know what I was doing…). Anyway, I put it aside and thought that someday, I’d find another recipe.

Someday turned out to be about 15 years later. Someday is today and it was worth the wait.

So what is Jerk anyway? Cause you know, it sounds rude…

Jerk is a Jamaican method of cooking that involves marinating or dry rubbing meat in jerk seasoning and then cooking it at high heat over open flame. Traditionally, the most important parts of the jerk seasoning are that it contains allspice and Scotch Bonnet or Habenero peppers.

It is thought that the method of cooking was introduced to Jamaica by the Maroons (descendents of escaped slaves).  The word “jerk” may either have come from the Spanish word charqui, used to describe dried meat, or from the practice of jerking (poking) holes in the meat to fill with spices prior to cooking.

On to the food…

In my previous post, I wrote about the beautiful hot peppers I picked up from the farmers market. One of the first recipes I decided to make with them was Jerk Shrimp. It just sounds so inviting – tender grilled shrimp slathered in a blazing hot sauce washed down with a cold beer. Like being on vacation in my own backyard. Since we are in the last days of summer, I thought it was either now or never.

The recipe I used came out of Some Like It Hot: Spicy Favorites from the World’s Hot Zones (I think I’ve mentioned this book a few times?). There are two recipes for Jerk in this book – one for shrimp and one for chicken. The shrimp one doesn’t have any citrus in it. Alas, I could not resist the call of the citrus and figured a shorter marinade time (so it didn’t cook itself in the citrus juices) would suffice.

After whirring together the ingredients for the marinade, I thought it tasted OVERWHELMINGLY like soy sauce. I was a little sad because I felt all the other ingredients got lost in the mix. But my skepticism was unfounded because after grilling, the other flavors came through.

And let me tell you, this stuff is hot. Not OMG Get Me A Jug Of Milk hot, but pretty dang hot. But I like hot.

The next day…

Since I cannot leave well enough alone, and since we had quite a bit of leftover marinade, I thought I could tweak it a little more and see if I liked it better. I boiled the leftover marinade (to get rid of any critters) and added a little vinegar and brown sugar. I then cooked up some chicken bathed marinaded in the new concoction. Consensus? Yes. This is the way to go (and to be honest, it’s closer the recipe he uses for Jerk Chicken).

To round out our Jerk Shrimp meal, I made some Grilled Mashed Plantains with Lime. Sure, I’m probably confusing Cuban food and Jamaican, but whatever. I like plantains.

Jerk Marinade

Adapted from Clifford Wright.

Makes enough for 2 lb of meat. If using chicken, marinade time can be up to 24 hours. But only marinade maybe 30 minutes for shrimp.


1/2 bunch scalllions, chopped
1.5 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 habaneros, chopped (ok, I seeded them cause I was scared)
1/4 bunch cilantro (leaves only) chopped
1 T ground black pepper
1.5 t nutmeg
1.5 t allspice
1.5 T dried thyme
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup peanut oil (I used vegetable)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I still think this is a little too much. Feel free to use a bit less)
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
1 T brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar (rice, palm, apple cider, something like that)
2 lb shrimp (or other meat)


1. Place all marinade ingredients (yo – that is everything EXCEPT the shrimp) in a blender/food processor and puree until smooth.

2. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the marinade. Let marinate for 30 minutes. NOTE: If using chicken, you can marinate up to 24 hours.

3. Light your grill. Remove shrimp from marinade and place on skewers

4. Grill to your liking – I was using maybe 26 count shrimp and grilled maybe 1-1.5 minutes on each side.

5. Enjoy with your favorite beer!

Mashed Grilled Plantains with Lime

2 ripe plantains
4 T unsalted butter
2 T brown sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
1/2 t kosher salt

1. Ok,  I was lazier than lazy here and threw the butter, lime, zest, sugar and salt together and popped it in the microwave till the butter melted. But you COULD put it in a saucepan if you are more civilized.

2. Slice plantains in half lengthwise.

3. Your grill should be nice and hot already (and if it isn’t, get to it!)

4. Grill plantains maybe 4 minutes on one side. Flip over and grill another 4 minutes on the other side. (This really depends on how ripe your plantains are and how hot your grill is. My plantains were not all that ripe, so if yours are truly black, you might want to not grill them for so long. Really, you just want to cook them to the point where they are easily mashable).

5. Add grilled plantains and butter mixture to a bowl. Mash with a fork till desired consistency.

6. Serve right away!


Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

So colorful, so inviting, soooo not going to bite into one.

So colorful, so inviting, soooo not going to bite into one.

How gorgeous are these guys?

When I saw this basket of hot peppers at the farmers market, I knew I had to have them. The stunning colors were just drawing me in. As they sat in my office all afternoon, it was all I could do not to bite into one. Having bitten into a Habenero in the past, I knew better. But still…

I adore hot food. Any nationality, any ethnicity, bring it. My favorite condiments are hot sauces and hot Giardiniera peppers. I was already thinking of the dishes I could make with these beauties. Salsa (obviously), Jerk Chicken, Thai Curries. The list is endless. Thankfully, I’ve still got my Some Like it Hot cookbook hanging around.

I will be honest and say I didn’t know what was contained in this little basket when I bought it. I knew there were a handful of Habeneros, a few Jalapenos, but past that I had no clue. So a little Internet sleuthing helped determine what was in there as well as their Scoville rating.

What’s Scoville?

The Scoville Heat Scale is used to rate the hotness of chiles. Obviously, the higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper. The heat comes from the compound Capsaicin. And once again, the more concentrated the Capsaicin, the hotter the pepper. The scale starts at 0 – which is your standard bell pepper. Jalapenos clock in around 2,500 – 3,000 Scoville units, Habeneros are around 100,000 – 300,000 Scoville units, Law enforcement grade pepper spray is around 5,000,000 – 5,300,000 Scoville units and pure Capsaicin is 15,000,000 – 16,000,000 Scoville units.

So what’s the hottest pepper?

The hottest recorded pepper (at this time) is the Naga Jolokai, also known as the Ghost Pepper. It is a naturally occuring hybrid that can be found in northeastern India. It rates 855,000 – 1,050,000 on the Scoville scale. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure I don’t have one of these guys.

So what do I have here?

Like I said, a little sleuthing has uncovered the following:

Clockwise from top: red Jalapeno, regular Jalapeno, Thai chiles, Banana peppers, Habeneros, red Cherry peppers, and little...

Clockwise from top: red Jalapenos, regular Jalapenos, Thai chiles, Banana peppers, Habeneros, red Cherry peppers, and little ornamental peppers (not alota heat with these guys)...

Ok, well at least I THINK that is what I’ve got. So if you know better than I do, please feel free to set me straight!

Next up? Some fiery recipes to use up these little guys. First up is a dish I’ve always wanted to make (well, make right) – Jerk Shrimp.

Stay tuned….

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Baked tomatoes with buttery breadcrumbs - perfect side for the end of summer!

Baked tomatoes with buttery breadcrumbs - perfect side for the end of summer!

Scalloped Potatoes I get. Scalloped Tomatoes? Never heard of it!

It is the height of tomato season, so what better time to try a new tomato dish? I adore tomatoes, but mostly I like them raw or just lightly cooked. I think that’s why I gravitated towards the recipe – it was something totally new for me.

The recipe comes from Edna Lewis, a chef who is well-known for her Southern style cooking. Good ingrediants, used at their peak of freshness and prepared simply was her forte. And that was mostly cause that was how it was done while she was growing up.

The key to this recipe is to use BUTTER. Do not, under any circumstances, think you can get by with olive oil. NO. YOU CANNOT. Got it? Use butter or don’t do it at all! I know this because I took one look at the recipe and freaked by how much butter it used and I cut it with olive oil (why olive oil is acceptible and butter is not…don’t ask). I did not know it at the time, but the butter is absolutely integral here – it creates the buttery breadcrumbs which punctuate the dish.

The other key here? Room temp is best. You can taste the flavors the most when the dish has cooled down a bit. So if you pull it from the oven and the rest of your meal isn’t quite ready, do not despair!

Oh and one final thing – I threw in some fresh thyme cause I just felt like it.

Edna Lewis’ Scalloped Tomatoes

6 large vine-ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1 & 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 t sugar
4 slices crusty white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
7 T unsalted butter, melted
optional: I threw in maybe a teaspoon of fresh thyme

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Put the tomato pieces ad chopped onion into a large nonreactive bowl. Season with the salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss well to distribute the seasoning. Scatter the bread cubes on a baking pan, and drizzle 4 tblsp. of the butter over them so they are coated evenly. Toast them in the oven until they are golden brown, approximately 8-12 minutes (turning once to toast evenly).

3. Add the cubes of bread to the tomatoes and toss well. Taste the tomatoes and adjust the seasoning (salt, pepper, or sugar) as needed.

4. Turn everything into a buttered 9×13 nonreactive baking dish, and drizzle the remaining melted butter over it.

5. Place a piece of parchment paper directly over the tomatoes, and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 35 minutes, then uncover and bake for 10 minutes longer.

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »

Ina Garten's Fresh Fruit Tart

Ina Garten's Fresh Fruit Tart

Oh Ina Garten, how I love thee. Everything you touch turns to gold.

Seriously, I have never, ever had a problem with a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Be it appetizer, entree or dessert; everything turns out perfectly. I will admit to being a little more trusting of chefs and cookbook authors who aren’t stick thin. It is a bias I have. I am sorry if that makes me a bad person. I quote a friend’s husband, “she suffers for her art”. That may be true, but I am thankful for it because her recipes are ALWAYS – I repeat ALWAYS – dead on.

One of my favorite desserts I’ve ever made is her Fresh Fruit Tart out of the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I used to be in the “dessert can only consist of chocolate” until I had this tart. I am fully converted to the idea that fruit can be in integral part of my dessert.

Really, I have nothing to say. This recipe is foolproof IMO. The pastry cream comes together easily, the tart shell too. It is rather sweet, so I don’t ever use the glaze over the berries. Alright – to be honest, I usually don’t have any jam on hand for that part and that’s the REAL reason I don’t do the glaze. But really, I don’t think it needs it. Besides – isn’t it really just to make the berries look better anyway?


Here you go – my favorite fruit tart:

Fresh Fruit Tart

Pastry Shell
Fits a 10 inch tart pan (whatever, I have a 9 inch. Hence why my tart is a little thick looking in the photog).
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. flour, sifted
pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until just combined.
  3. Add vanilla
  4. Turn mixer onto low speed and add sifted flour and salt to the butter mixture. Mix until dough starts to come together.
  5. Dump onto floured surface and shape into a flat disk.
  6. Press dough into tart pan, making sure the edges are flat.
  7. Chill until firm. Butter one side of a square of parchment paper that will fit into tart shell and place it, buttered side down, on the chilled pastry. Fill with rice, beans or pie weights.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, prick tart all over with tines of a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Pastry Cream
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
make 2 1/2 cups (enough for 2 10 inch tarts)

6 extra large egg yolks
3/4 c. sugar
3 T. cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
2 T. unsalted butter
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. heavy cream
1 t. Cognac or Brandy

  1. In bowl of electric mixture using paddle attachment on medium high speed, beat egg yolks and sugar until mixture is pale yellow and falls back into the bowl in a ribbon (about 3 minutes).
  2. On low speed, beat in cornstarch
  3. Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan and , with the mixer on low, slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Then pour mixture back into the saucepan.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until mixture is thick, bringing mixture slowly to a boil.
  5. Once mixture is to a boil, cook for 2-3 minutes longer.
  6. Remove from heat and mix in butter, vanilla, cream and Cognac.
  7. Strain into storage container. Place plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cold.


  1. Fill tart shell with pastry cream.
  2. Add seasonal fruit.
  3. Optional (this is the part I NEVER do): Brush with glaze. (Melted Apricot or Currant Jelly thinned out with hot tap water) to make it look shiny and purty.

Ms. Pantry Raid

Read Full Post »