Thursday, June 30, 2011

Food n' Flix, No Reservations

This month's movie for Food N' Flix is No Reservations.
Plot Summary from Kate is a terrific chef at a Manhattan restaurant, sent to therapy by the restaurant owner because she is cold, unyielding, rule-bound, and a pain in the neck. Kate's world is flipped over when her only sister dies and her ten-year-old niece, Zoe, comes to live with her. As Kate struggles to be a parent to a grief-stricken child, the one world she used to control - the restaurant kitchen - is changed utterly by the restaurant's hiring a second chef, the loose, operatic, Italian-trained Nick, who claims it's an honor to work in Kate's kitchen but who she suspects wants to replace her. Can the music of Puccini and the taste of good pasta soften Kate's heart? Written by
I enjoyed the movie but I wished it was more about the chef's kitchen rivalry and less about the niece. In fact, I could have done without the family backstory altogether. My dish was inspired by the pasta dishes Aaron Eckhart's character was always whipping up. There is something so warm and comforting about a big bowl of pasta with crusty garlic bread; how could Kate not fall for him? Delicious.
Debbie from Kahakai Kitchen is hosting this month's posts so please head over to her site and check out all the other amazing dishes inspired by the movie.
Spaghetti Bolognese
Adapted from Emeril Lagasee

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (I used red onion)
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound ground beef or ground veal
1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from the casings, or ground pork (I used ground turkey instead of sausage)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 pound spaghetti
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander.

Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Divide among pasta bowls and serve with the cheese passed tableside. (Alternatively, toss only the desired portion of pasta with a bit of the sauce at a time in a serving bowl, reserving the remainder for another meal.)
I made the sauce the night before and then reheated it in my slow cooker the next day for dinner. The flavor is incredible. I've never had a better bolognese. You must try it.
Have you seen No Reservations? What did you think?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dolmas or Yalanchi, Memories of My Dad

I look forward to the Food section of the LA Times every week. I'm always inspired to make something new and when I saw an article about Armenian/Mexican cuisine I got tears in my eyes. Instantly, I thought of my dad and the times he spent in the kitchen patiently wrapping grape leaf bundles filled with rice. In the article, these are called yalanchi but in my family we called them dolmas.
I hadn't thought about dolmas in years and it was one of the few dishes I can remember my dad making. He was more the grill master than kitchen chef. He passed away when I was junior high and I must admit I can't recall the taste of the dolmas he made. Probably because at that age I refused to eat anything that I perceived as odd. Ask me how his rice pilaf tasted and I can bring that flavor up immediately which will have me racing to the kitchen to saute noodles and rice in way too much butter. Even though I couldn't remember tasting or liking dolmas, the article made me want to make them; if only to have a moment in the kitchen honoring my dad and in my own way connecting with him.
The process is simple but time-consuming so you'll want to block out a couple hours to complete the dish. It can be served at room temperature so it's great to make it ahead which is what I did for a BBQ. I spent most of the prep and cooking thinking of my dad and his family. He came from a large Armenian family that I don't see very often but I have good memories of. Most memories involve the food that we ate and the time spent together during the holidays. My grandmother made the best buttered toast, which seems incidental, but I'll never forget it. I also have them to thank for my plump and perky derriere (and thank you to Kim Kardshian for making it attractive in the media).
I was happy to share the dolmas with my friends and family. Especially with my sister, as she's older and can recall more about my dad's cooking than me. It was a nice meal spent with people I love.
If you're interested in the article and recipe, it's called Marrying Mexican and Armenian Cuisine by Lorenza Munoz.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake

Please tell me I'm not the only one who makes my own birthday cake. Sure, I could ask my husband or have something ordered but it's more special to me if I make it myself. I recently saw this cake made by the Barefoot Contessa (yes, another recipe by her) when I was lounging in bed catching up on the Food Network and I knew that it would be my birthday cake. Who can resist chocolate chip cookies coverd in whipped cream?
Thankfully, I received a gift card to buy the ingredients because it's a little pricey. Mascarpone cheese isn't cheap even at Trader Joes and I now have a huge bottle of Kahula that I'll need to find more uses for. But, it's totally worth it. I made my own cookies rather than buying them, although I've heard good things about Tate's so I may order them next time. Be warned, this cake is super rich so make sure you have lots of people to share it with since a little slice goes a long way.

Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake
by Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa

2 cups cold heavy cream
12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Pernigotti
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 (8-ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies, such as Tate's Bake Shop
Shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

What is your favorite birthday cake? Do you make your own?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Macaroons

Yesterday I had family and friends over for a BBQ to celebrate my birthday. Another year older, how does time go by so fast? I spent the morning making dolmas (which I'll be sharing in another post) and had very little time to make dessert. I had already had birthday cake during the week and since I was craving coconut I opened my trusty Barefoot Contessa cookbook and found this recipe. You can have these cookies ready in less than an hour. They are sweet, chewy and perfectly coconutty. Delicious. Everyone else must have liked them too since I have only a couple left in this morning. I'm hiding them for a snack later today with my new favorite drink, an Earl Grey tea latte. Has anyone else had one from Starbucks? I ordered one on a whim yesterday morning and it's so yummy. I bought the ingredients (milk, raw sugar, Earl Grey tea bags) at Trader Joes to make them at home since $3 for a tea latte is going to get expensive after a few days.

Coconut Macaroons
By Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa


14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or two teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nigella Lawson's Croque Monsieur Bake

I was flipping through my cookbooks the other night and I found a sticky on this recipe. I had completely forgotten about it. I used to make it all the time. I love the fact that you can put it together the night before and then pop it in the oven in the morning. It smells delicious while it's baking and tastes even better. You can change up the meat and cheeses as well. Turkey and swiss is also really yummy.
You can find the recipe on Nigella's website.
Do you have a breakfast recipe that can be made the night before? I've seen a lot of overnight oats on blogs lately. I'm thinking of trying it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chinese Chicken Salad

We almost ordered take-out Chinese last night but I never feel good afterward so I talked myself into getting up, going to Trader Joes and then making dinner. I already had some leftover bbq chicken from the night before so this salad was super quick to put together.
In a big bowl combine:
(I'm not putting quanities of ingredients since I didn't measure and you can adjust everything to your own taste)
Cooked chicken breast, chopped
Romaine Hearts- I sliced them into thin strips to match the noodles.
Thin egg noodles cooked or you would use spaghetti noddles broken into pieces.
Scallions minced
Mandarin Oranges
Sesame Ginger Dressing (I bought Trader Joes brand)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Toss all ingredients until well combined.

Do you have a takeout weakness that makes you feel gross once you finish eating? I used to have that problem with Frappucinos from Starbucks. Way too much sugar and caffeine combined but so delicious. I finally had to force myself to stop buying them.

Friday, June 17, 2011

White Wine, Shallots and Vinegar Potato Salad

It's Friday! Yay! Can you tell I'm excited? I have so many recipes planned to make this weekend. I'm baking cupcakes with my niece on Saturday and on Sunday I'm making traditional Armenian food in memory of my dad. I can't wait to get started. Until then, I have the recipe for the potato salad I posted yesterday for my Sunday Southern Supper.

White Wine, Shallots and Vinegar Potato Salad

1-2 pounds red potatoes cut in halves
1 cup dry white wine, I used Chardonnay
2 medium shallots minced
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablepsoon chopped fresh chives
zest of a lemon
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this depends on how many pounds of potatoes used)
salt & pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine wine, shallots, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, then whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine potatoes, wine mixture, chives and lemon zest. Toss until potatoes are coated with dressing. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature.

What do you have planned this weekend?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sunday Southern Supper

Last year for Thanksgiving I went to Alabama for the first time. During the visit, I got a taste of true southern food and my favorite dish was grits. How have grits not made their way to my part of California? The only kind I kind find at the grocery store are instant...YUCK! I bought the real thing online and when it came I was so exicted. We invited some friends over for dinner and I think I sold them on grits deliciousness as well.
Paula Deen's Sausage and Grits Casserole
White Wine, Shallots and Vinegar Potato Salad
Mini Cornbread Muffins
Baked Beans
I also made a lemon merigune pie. Sadly, I competely forgot to photograph it but it's the perfect excuse to make another one.
Do you have a favorite southern dish?

Sausage and Grits Casserole
adapted by Paula Deen

1 cup uncooked grits (not instant)
1 lb bulk breakfast sausage (if you need to use links, finely dice the cooked links)
1 cup onion, diced
2 (4 1/2 ounce) cans green chilies, drained and chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
10 drops Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (I used chives)

1 Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2 Cook the grits in 4 cups of salted water until done (follow package directions) Saute the sausage and onions, breaking the sausage into small pieces.
3 Drain the grease from the sausage and onions.
4 Add the chilies, butter, eggs, cheese and Tabasco to the cooked grits.
5 Combine the sausage and onions with the grits mixture.
6 Pour everything into a 9"x 13" casserole and garnish with the paprika and parsley.
7 The mixture can be refrigerated for up to two days before baking (bring to room temperature before baking to use the same bake time).
8 Bake at 325°F for one (1) hour.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nigella Lawson's Banana Bread

One of the first cookbooks I purchased for myself is Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. Even now that I have so many cookbooks I'm sometimes overwhelmed by recipe choices, I still pull out her book for my favorite banana bread recipe. I love the liquor soaked raisins, crunchy walnuts, and the delicious banana flavor that isn't masked by too much sugar. You can find the recipe on her website or buy the cookbook. I know you won't be disappointed.
Hot out of the oven. For this loaf, I didn't have any bourbon or rum in the pantry so I used brandy instead. It was still really yummy but I prefer the bourbon.

I like thick slices of banana bread but the shape still holds well if you slice it thinly.

Normally, I don't so this, but for a treat I add unsalted butter and sugar on top while it's still warm. MMMMMMM....baker's paradise.

What is your favorite breakfast bread? Is it in one of your favorite cookbooks?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pizza Margherita

Good Morning All,
I hope you had a wonderful weekend. Did anyone do anything fun and exciting? I finally went to see Bridesmaids. It was cute. I don't know that I'd see it again but worth a few laughs.
The recipe below is a testament that my basil plant is still alive. Yay! I haven't killed it yet. It is almost out of leaves though. I hope they grow back quickly.
This is my own recipe for Pizza Margherita.
I used one ball of dough from Fresh & Easy. I prefer it over the dough from Trader Joes.
Once you shape you pizza dough, add a layer of pizza sauce (Trader Joes brand) layer thinly sliced pieces of fresh mozzarella, slices of roma tomatoes, then sprinkle with torn pieces of basil and parmesean cheese. Bake at temperature specified on dough package until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden. I drizzled a little olive oil the tip before I served it.
What is your favorite pizza?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Attempting to Break Down A Chicken

Roast Chicken was on the menu but the store didn't have my usual organic chicken broken down into perfect pieces for roasting. They did however have a whole chicken. I figured, how hard could it be to break down a chicken? I'd seen Ina do it on the Barefoot Contessa. Surely, I could do it too. Um, no. I was able to remove the back bone but after leaning on it with all my weight to crush and therefore flatten the chicken I got sqeamish and gave up. Into the pan it went. Something about the cracking bones freaked me out and it just wasn't worth it. It was still delicious. Roasted at 400 deg with red potatoes, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with salt and pepper. The asparagus are added to the pan about 10 minutes before it's done.
Here she is, my beautifully roasted but still almost whole chicken. Have you ever broken down a chicken? How did it go?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jamie Oliver- Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

According to my husband these taste healthy but are still good. LOL Whatever that means. I think they're delicious. The little hint of cinnamon is perfect with the raisins.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from Jamie Oliver


• ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
• ¾ cup dark brown sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¾ cup whole wheat flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• 1½ cups "old-fashioned" oats ½ cup raisins

Jamie's Top Tips

This is really easy to make fresh, but if you’re really busy you can freeze the dough, just defrost thoroughly before use – it’s a great thing to have up your sleeve for when you have unexpected guests.

Be creative and add your favorite mix-ins to the cookies – any kind of dried fruit, nuts or chocolate combination works a treat.

For round, flat cookies, just press the cookies with the palm of your hand after dropping them onto the baking sheet.


Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease one or two baking sheets.

Cream the butter and the sugar together in a mixing bowl (by hand with a wooden spoon or using a handheld electric mixer) until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Stir in the vanilla extract, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a separate mixing bowl. Beat them into the butter mixture. Stir in the oats and raisins.

Drop the batter by slightly mounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet(s). Bake until lightly browned on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes.

Variation: Add ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut or 1 cup chocolate chips to the batter along with the oats and raisins.

Check out other great Jamie Oliver recipes at I Heart Cooking Clubs

On another note, I am officially a diet failure. I lasted 5 days. Then hunger took over as did social events that I just couldn't help tasting all the yummy treats available. I'm still doing the exercise regime so I take comfort in that.
Are you hard on yourself when you break a diet?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Strawberry Pie

"Hello Beautiful Pie" was the first thing I said when I put the last strawberry on top. I couldn't wait to dig in with a huge dollop of whipped cream, but I had to control myself. The pie was for dessert after a bbq we had over the weekend. So I waited and waited and waited until finally it was time. Delicious! I love that this pie isn't overly sweet and it tastes so fresh. I'm not a fan of gelatin so I scoured the web for recipes without it and this one turned out great. So simple and quick.

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 recipe Baked Pastry Shell
8 cups medium fresh strawberries
cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Whipped cream (optional)


1. Prepare Baked Pastry Shell and set aside. Meanwhile remove stems from strawberries. Cut any large strawberries in half lengthwise; set aside.

2. For glaze, in a blender or food processor combine 1 cup of the strawberries and 2/3 cup water. Cover and blend or process until smooth. Add enough additional water to the mixture to equal 1-1/2 cups. In a medium saucepan combine sugar and cornstarch; stir in blended strawberry mixture. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. If desired, stir in red food coloring. Remove from heat; cool for 10 minutes. (Do not stir.)

3. Spread about 1/4 cup of the glaze over bottom and sides of Baked Pastry Shell. Arrange half of the remaining strawberries, stem ends down, in the pastry shell.

4. Carefully spoon half of the remaining glaze over berries, making sure all berries are covered. Arrange remaining berries over first layer. Spoon remaining glaze over berries, covering each. Chill for 1 to 2 hours. (After 2 hours, filling may begin to water out.) If desired, top with whipped cream.

5. Makes 8 slices

6. Fresh Peach Pie: Prepare as above, except substitute 6 cups sliced, peeled peaches for the strawberries and omit the food coloring.

As you can tell, there have been one too many cheat days during my diet. Yesterday I went wine tasting which I'll be posting about later. Today, I'm back on track (hopefully).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

We interrupt this dieting program to bring you.....Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.
I made these for the Memorial Day BBQ and sent the leftovers home with friends so I wouldn't be tempted to binge on them. They are best warm from the oven but do keep well for a couple days afterward.

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 16 cookies
Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

1 3/4cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2teaspoon baking soda 14tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1teaspoon table salt 2teaspoons vanilla extract 1large egg 1 large egg yolk 1 1/4cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.