Tag Archives: Olive oil

Alfredo you can count on at the last minute

After you’ve spent a few hours nurturing and crafting your homemade pasta, the last thing you want to do is labor over the sauce.

That never seems to stop me, because I forget how I don’t want to labor over the sauce. So it is usually the last thing I do. As a result, I’ve developed a fairly straight-forward, very flavorful alfredo that I can whip together — last minute — and not ruin the homemade pasta-making effort.

Here’s the recipe:

Fettuccini Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup grated mozzarella
  • Splash of fresh lemon
  • Freshly chopped Italian Parsley, basil and sage
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Melt butter in medium pan
  2. Add the garlic, chili powder, nutmeg and sauté for 2 minutes
  3. Add cream and bring to a simmer, stirring often
  4. Add parm cheese and let thicken, about 8 minutes
  5. Stir in mozz cheese, until blended smooth and thick, if too thick add a tbsp of milk
  6. Finish with splash of lemon; fold in fresh herbs until blended. Serve over pasta immediately

Notes: the mozz isn’t essential. It thickens it and gives a soft contrast to the harsher parm, so I use both. But this sauce is pretty good no matter what you toss in it. For example, you can skip the folded herbs and just mix in pesto into the spices before the cream is added and make a creamy pesto. You can use sun-dried tomatoes. You can use chopped green olive. It’s really fun to experiment.

Enjoy.

The wonders of an inefficient dinner

I decided to make pasta for dinner. It took me about three hours though I did get a break in the middle for a run.

Three hours for pasta. This would have once seemed normal. Now it’s just inefficient.

I’m well aware for a couple of bucks you can toss perfectly fine fettuccine into a pot of water and in about six minutes have dinner cooked.

For another four bucks you can have a pretty decent Alfredo that you can put in the microwave (if you don’t mind the cancer cells cooked into your food… OK, I shouldn’t have opened the can of worms just yet, but I will… I will…) and it will be ready before the noodles are.

I’m well aware you can drain the noodles, pour the sauce and serve this meal in about ten minutes for less than a ten spot in your pocket, which you can use the change to buy some bread to cut up.

So ten bucks and ten minutes compared to three hours. It’s a tough sell.

But this is one of the biggest changes in my eating patterns within the last few years that I have found is making all the difference. Slow food has so many more benefits than just filling your stomach.

For example:

  • I had to cut back on pasta and bread in my diet. For an Italian who loves making dough you might as well have tied one of those gastric bands around my stomach. But one easy way to accomplish this was to only eat pasta when I made it.
  • Now pasta is a treat, but its also a chance to work creatively and experience the ever-changing process of making it.
  • I can experience the now as as I knead the dough for long minutes until my forearms ache. I can see how slowly I am getting better at this unique, ancient art form.
  • It simply tastes so much better than the store bought I don’t care how much folks argue it’s the same. There is no comparison.
  • Instead of just putting dinner on the table, I nurtured myself hoof to head: I did something creative I enjoy, I took time out to pause and wonder, I went for a run, I shared time with The Bride: none of the things I would have done if I went the ten-buck-ten-minute-route.
  • Instead of ten bucks, it costs me about three.

So my inefficient dinner turns out to be an experience, that part of my day when The Bride asks, “how was your day?” I can say “Great, I made pasta” instead of saying, “It was OK. I sold a couple of stories. My neck is aching because I spent too much time at the computer. And I really haven’t figured out what’s for dinner tonight.”

Today I said the first answer. Then she sat with me playing solitaire on the computer while I finished it up and served it with eggplant fried in Nudo Olive Oil.

I even took the time mid-pasta making to break out the blender and bash up a delightful smoothie with protein powder, flaxseed meal, plain greek yogurt, mangos and cranberry! Super food to rebuild the muscles after all that kneading. This is hoof-to-head living right here:

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As we ate our simple meal the wonder of it caused me to pause and be grateful. To me in this day and age making pasta is an exception. To Nonie and her generation it was simply what you did. You made dinner. That’s a connection I’m glad I share now. It firms my feet upon this place in the Earth I call my own, rooted in my past and yet wonderfully present.

It was a good day. Inefficient, but good.

A match made in web heaven — Rosemary Apple Rings

When I enter my kitchen, I am happily surrounded by my roots. Every day I am reminded of who I am.

My grandparents worked from poverty to affluence by spending decades, six nights a week cooking in their restaurant. It started as little more than a pool hall in an out-of-the-way town on the Redwood coast of California.

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Then it grew. They moved it and built a place that would become a regional favorite.

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As a child, my grandmother babysat my brother and me in her kitchen. I am proud of the splatter-burn scars on my foot I picked up one day in her kitchen, though I’m sure Nonie and my parents were none to pleased to have a toddler howling like a devil with a burn on his foot. I’m glad it happened; it’s a momento to my heritage.

The Big 4 Inn was a Northern California landmark. When my grandmother finally sold out to make way for Interstate 5, the San Francisco Chronicle documented its passing into history. The menus and the napkins and photos of the Big 4 still decorate my kitchen. The recipes are the staple of my cooking, the heritage I pass along to my children and know they will pass along to theirs (if they’d ever buckle down and give me grandkids, damnit).

The Big 4 was beloved, Twenty years after it closed I met a guy in passing in another state. We swapped a few stories. We were both italian. We both had roots in Humboldt County. I mentioned the Big 4. His jaw dropped.

“My God, that was your nona?” he said.

I nodded proudly.

“I swear to God I still taste those raviolli’s in my mouth. I can still taste them, you know. Do you unnerstand?”

I did. I still do to. It was that kind of place.

As an appetizer my grandparents served apple rings with every dish. I grew up on these apple rings. Something about them, to me, goes perfect with the heavy meat sauce Nonie Mary was known for and I still do my best to replicate.

Anyway, I say all this becase I decided to bring back the apple rings the other day when I entered a contest to win some olive oil from my latest WeBromance. I mentioned there were two contests. Nudo’s rosemary olive oil and Nonie’s apple rings seemed like a match made in heaven.

For those keeping score at home, here is my entry in the second one. Try it. The apple rings are wonderfully simple and you’ll experience a small taste of what made The Big 4 Inn truly a magical place.

Rosemary infused apple rings.
Ingredients :
– Nudo Italia Rosemary olive oil
-Four granny smith apples, peeled and cored.
-1 cup 00 flour
– up to 1/4 cup 1/2 n 1/2 cream
-1 egg
– 1 tsp vanilla
-1 tsp salt, a dash of dried rosemary
– confectioner sugar for dusting

Directions
1) put flour in a bowl and create a well. Mix in a hint of dried rosemary.
2)crack egg into the well along with salt and vanilla.
3) use a fork to mix egg gradually incorporating some of the flour.
4) slowly add in cream until batter forms. Should be like pancake batter. Use a couple of tbls of milk if it’s too thick.
5) heat olive oil in a skillet on medium.
6 ) slice apples about 1/2 inch thick. Coat the apples in the batter holding aloft to allow excess to drain off.
7) put apples gently into heated oil. Cook until lightly browned on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel. Lightly dust with confectioner sugar. Repeat until all the rings are cooked.
8) arrange on a platter in a circle. Scoop ricotta cheese into the center for optional topping.
9) serve while still warm.

The perfect dough for the imperfect cause

I’ve been fiddle futzing with pizza dough for a long time. Friday night pizza night in our house has been homemade for a decade at least. My youngest has been smooshing dough since she was five. She’d toss it so hard it’d rattle the overhead light fixtures in the kitchen.

My bride keeps telling me how great it is. She doesn’t know I never ever make it the same way twice. I haven’t found the perfect dough yet, so I keep monkeying with the recipe.

Until, perhaps, now. This last Friday night I made the closest batch yet to the perfect dough. It was light and airy, yet still packed an aldente bite when I bit down. It didn’t get too hard. It was thin, but with a nice airy crust on the edge that tasted like a seasoned bread stick.

I could stop tinkering and have my dough. But as I said, perhaps. I’m not sure yet. It’s really, really great, but perfect? Hmmnn…

Perhaps, as today is another Pizza Night. We’ll see.

Nevertheless I thought enough about this dough to enter it in a contest hosted by my latest WeBromance, NudoAdopt.com.

The fine folks at Nudo artistically experiment with infused olive oils. I read about how they grind the rosemary with olives at the press, rather than soak the rosemary with oil, and I though, “Wow, they’re EFFin Artists, man!”

Then my oldest told me they were having a contest, casting about for recipes that use their rosemary olive oil and an experimental olive oil they made combining coffee beans with the olives. If you’ve followed me at all in the Test Kitchen, you know damn well I’m in awe here. Coffee olive oil, not infused to so to speak, but actually conceived in a blend before the birth of the oil. And a contest to boot?

I was speechless really. Then my daughter challenged me to submit my recipe ideas. I went from speechless to obsessed. I winnowed down several ideas. My daughter and I texted back and forth, all the while I smashed my perfect dough in my hands, pulling the zen artistry out of it.

I had to make a coffee pizza I decided. I seriously wanted to win this thing, just to connect with the artistry of my latest WeBromance. We’ll see. I’m saying a few decades of the rosary just to help the cause. (Note: the pizza pictured above is not this one. I forgot to take a picture of this and I didn’t have the actual coffee olive oil, which I hope to get when my Web crush folks at Nudo pick me, pick me! and send me some. I’ll post a real photo then, scouts honor).

My daughter helped create this. Here is the recipe we came up with, including, my nearly perfect dough.

Coffee Chicken Pizza

For the dough

  • 1 cup seminolla flour
  • 1 cup OO flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsps of active yeast.
  • 3 Tablespoonns Nudo Coffee infused olive oil

For the white sauce:

  • 3tbs butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp of nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesean
  • 3/4 cup mozzerella cheese
  • splash of fresh lemon
  • Fresh chopped italian parsley
  • pinch of salt

For the pizza

  • 2 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup or so of romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup esspresso
  • 1 grilled chicken breast, shredded
  • 1 diced tomato
  • 1 tbls of red chili flakes
  • 2 tbls of coffee-infused olive oil by Nudo

Make the dough at least two hours ahead by:

  1. Mix flours, salt and sugar in a glass bowl.
  2. Mix warm water and yeast and let stand for 6-8 minutes until disolved
  3. Pour olive oil and water/yeast into flour. Swirl into a ball.
  4. kneed until smooth, adding a little flour as needed.
  5. Oil up the bowl, put the ball in it and cover to rise.

To make the sauce:

  1. Melt the butter and sautee the garlic, chili powder and nutmeg, 2 minutes
  2. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. whisk often, for 2 minutes
  3. Add the parm cheese and whisk often. Simmer 5 or so minutes more until thickens.
  4. Add the mozz and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add the splash of lemon, salt and fold in parsley. Keep warm. (you’ll have extra for alfreado in coming days)

To make the pizza

  1. Whip the coffee into the ricotta, using more ricotta or a bit of cream cheese if it gets too runny. Set in refrig until needed.
  2. Treat pizza stone with light dusting of cornmeal and warm up in oven, heated to 500 degrees.
  3. Hand toss pizza to make thin crust with thicker rounded edge. Spread out on a pizza board or the stone (careful not to burn yourself and work quickly if you do this option).
  4. coat with a thin layer of white sauce
  5. cover with a thin layer of thick- shredded romano cheese
  6. Drop dollops of coffee-flavored ricotta throughout
  7. Sprinkle shredded chicken, diced tomatoes, roasted garlic and chili flakes over the pizza.
  8. Drizzle coffee-infused olive oil over the top of everything.
  9. Slide onto pizza stone for 10-11 minutes.
  10. Let cool for five minutes before cutting and serving.

WINNER, Winner Chicken Dinner? Come on Nudo… don’t break my heart!

As it turns out… we won! Coffee and rosemary flavored olive oil on the way. I love it when a WeBromance works out like a rom-com starring Adam Sandler.

WeBromance — Olive tree adoption both global and local

I’m not a global citizen. I’m a local citizen. Always have been really. For years I’d get gifts where people would make donations to causes in my name and I’d be bummed because I don’t really do global causes. That’s for folks like Bono and Angelina Jolie, I reasoned. One year I got a donation for a cow or a goat, I can’t remember, to a farmer in West Virginia. I lived back East at the time. I liked this better because it felt closer. But still, I wanted it more local. I used to joke about going to West Virginia and getting my goat, damnit. It’s mine, after all, right?

When I worked in newsrooms this used to completely annoy my staff of writers because by definition, reporters are usually global thinkers. They dream about working for the New York Times or serving as a war correspondent. Nobody grows up thinking about breaking city council news. So the banter would always lean toward some global issue or story line. I’d shoot them down like an expert at a skeet shooting range.

“I don’t care about Bosnia unless Bosnia invades this town, right here,” I’d yell out.

“Iraq, Iran? I don’t give a damn. I care about this town, right here.”

It made me a great editor, if not necessarily a great person. But the trend stuck. Now, it turns out, I’m in fashion. Local is in. Localvore is a word. (really?!) I’ve always been local-centered and suddenly I’m fashionable. Cool, right?

Well, that’s why today’s WeBromance goes — once again — against the grain, because its all about giving back to farmers in Italy. It’s called NudoAdopt.com. Not exactly local, but I can at least claim that my people hail from there. It’s in my local roots at least, even if Lucca is local to this farm like Atlanta is local to the nation’s capital. Why quibble about details, right?

The site shows you how you can adopt an olive tree and get regular shipments of olive oil. It’s local farming at its best, even if the local is across the globe and involves shipping across the globe. Basically it’s the olive farmers’ answer to free trade coffee.

I use a lot of olive oil. I use a lot of Italian products, like OO flour, Buffalo Mozzerella, San Marzano Tomatoes, etc. I love local farming, even if its not exactly local to me. For all these reasons I love this web site. Besides, unlike my West Virginia goat that they kept protected from me, these gracious hosts will let me come hug my tree anytime I want!

I’m doing that. Count on it.

Sign up to adopt a tree. The italian locals will love you for it. Hey, if you say I referred you, I think I win a prize, too, so this WeBromance is truly a win/win, even if its not the most local thing on the globe.

Jelly doughnuts a lot like fried bread

The best breakfast in the world is a simple one. You take risen bread dough (as my Grandma Deer would say, “eh… just get the frozen dough) smoosh it into little pancakes and then fry it in olive oil. Top with Ricotta Cheese and freezer jam. Perfecto! As I’ve said before, breakfast is a vital part of my day, and this breakfast is the top of the top.

It’s been my favorite since Nonie’ made it for as a kid and it’s still my kids favorite and will likely be their kids’ favorites as well when they get to the important task of providing me bambinas and bambinos like they are supposed to do.

I don’t usually mess with perfection, but I did this year. I decided to make Blueberry Jelly doughnuts. I had never done this before, and Christmas morning seems like an odd time to be experimenting, but if I could smoke a turkey for the first time on Thanksgiving, I could do this.

As it turned out, the experiment didn’t fall too far from the lab. What I ended up with was risen fried dough with jam inside instead of on top. I missed the ricotta.

They were good though. Just a lot more work.

Here’s the quick version for those wanting to try these at home:

First make your dough and let it rise:

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Then roll it out and cut a bunch of little circles into the dough:

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Put jam on half the circles:

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Paint the edges with milk, top with the other half of the dough circles, and pinch the edges tight. Then smoosh the pinches back into the dough so it looks more like a doughnut than a ravioli. It took me a while to figure this out, but toward the end they took on the right shape.

Take all the extra dough and shape it into a big fat glazed doughnut and top with fresh coconut, Effin Artist’s favorite doughnut. Think of it like a tribute. You can then mail it to me. Tribute accepted, thank you very much.

Let all this rise for another 30-45 minutes, then fry them in very hot oil. They go quick and you don’t want black, just golden brown.

Roll in super fine sugar as soon as they come out and you’re done. Serve hot or the next morning and the next morning after that.

Enjoy. But then go for a hike or a run, because these are not good for you in any way shape or form except they taste EFFin delightful.

Comfort food well named on cold, gloomy day

I don’t have many bad days of late. Even the not-so-great ones, like one I had recently, are pretty OK. It’s just the mindset I’ve taken on. Perspective shapes most everything. I have worked to shape my perspective toward gratitude. It works.

But that still doesn’t mean I don’t need a little boost now and again. I have an arsenal of things — little things — that can boost my mood or straighten out a flagging perspective. I have a positive thought army that I repeat to myself. I have my balancing things I wrote about earlier. I also have my comfort foods.

It’s important not to use food as a drug, to soothe or to binge and all that. But that doesn’t mean a good plate of robust warm food can’t still warm the soul on a cold, gloomy day. We’ve had quite the weather lately. Snow covers the landscape. Our driveway was blocked for two days by a rather unaware thorn of the flesh. Four degrees is cold, really cold. A walk in 12-degree weather isn’t quite so sunny even when the sun is shining.

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So I countered the climate with warmth of my own, the old Italian staple, chicken parmigiana. It may seem involved or elaborate, but its neither. For Italians it’s akin to chicken soup or meatloaf for middle Americana. Take out a couple of chicken breasts, whatever cheese you have handy (I like provolone), some leftover sauce from pizza night and whip up this truly comforting dinner that will surely help your perspective stay positive. You can’t help but smile when you eat it.

Don’t get intimidated by the three bowls. It looks messy but its a snap, no worse than cleaning up the morning cereal bowls. Put flour in one, whip an egg with some half n half or milk or cream in the other and bread crumbs in the last. Add garlic powder, parsley, chili powder and sage to the bread crumbs.

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Heat a little olive oil on the pan and set out a cooking dish next to it, with some sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Then take each breast and pound it a bit with the mallet. Dip it into the flour, then the egg, the bread crumbs, then right into the heating olive oil. Repeat three times (one for me, one for my bride, one for me for lunch the next day — strangely my wife doesn’t really eat leftovers. It’s one of those cold wars I’ll never fully understand but have come to accept). by the time you get all three in the pan, flip the first. It should have a nice golden brown crust. Flip the next two. Take the provolone and put it on top of the chicken. Wait a minute, then transfer each to the baking dish. Cover the chicken with more sauce. Now slice some fresh basil if you have it (which you really should always have). and sprinkle the basil over the chicken. Toss it into a 350 oven until the meat thermometer says they are the right temp (I usually pull at 160 and let stand for a few minutes to reach the desired temp of 165. Some argue for 180 with poultry, but I beg to differ. Don’t trust me though. Don’t get sick on my watch).

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Slice some bread to dip in olive oil, make up a salad (in my case I made a spinach and romaine salad) and youre done. I baked some sweet potato fries to go with my comfort food, but pasta of course, or anything you want really.

Little things make big changes in our perspectives. Perspective can make all the difference in how you live in each moment. So who says a little comfort food can’t change the world? For a moment, it changed mine.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Reply below. I’d like to start a list. Thanks!  Continue reading Comfort food well named on cold, gloomy day