Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I'm all set up there now and I have a circle for food loving people. Let me know if you want me to add you!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


This was both my first time making and eating paella, the classic Spanish rice dish. What's kept me away? Shellfish. Apart from the convenient fact that shellfish is forbidden to me both by Jewish law and doctor's order, the real truth is that I can't eat anything the looks like giant bugs. Absolutely. No. Way.

It's always looked to me like that beautiful saffron-colored rice might be pretty delicious were it not festooned with those giant bugs in every photo I've ever seen. I've been wondering for years what paella might taste like and I actually thought I could maybe imagine its flavor but I was not even close.

I made paella today because I found an utterly fabulous sounding recipe in Plenty, the new vegetable-focused cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. I imagine you'll be reading more about this book here as I am quite taken with it. While vegetables are the focus of the book, they are presented in a wide variety of styles and in recipes that are a little more complex and interesting than I normally see. I quite like the way the recipes are grouped and the photography is gorgeous. This recipe in particular caught my eye as there we no bugs. In fact, though I made my version with long simmered home made chicken stock, the original calls for vegetable broth making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Of course I did not follow the original recipe exactly. With this many ingredients, one's bound to make a substitution or two, right? As mentioned earlier, I used chicken broth rather than vegetable because that's what I had on hand. I didn't feel like hunting (or paying) for Calasparra rice. This more authentic rice very likely makes an even better dish but I was perfectly happy with plain old US grown short grain rice. My cooking time was about 15 minutes longer than in the original recipe and I'm guessing that's because I used cheapo supermarket rice but remember--I had nothing to compare my paella to. If you have more experience, you might want to spring for a fancy Spanish rice.

If I can't be bothered to hunt down proper Spanish rice do you think I went searching for a jar of oil-packed grilled artichoke hearts?? Nope. Do we even have such a thing here? I used plain old canned artichoke hearts and I admit they did not bring much to the dish at all so maybe I'll try and figure out just what Ottolenghi was talking about the next time I make this paella.

You can see from my photos that my result was absolutely gorgeous. I'd say it was one of the prettiest dishes I've ever made. But it tasted even better. The combination of spices (saffron, turmeric, and smoky Spanish paprika) was fantastic. The artichoke hearts, fava beans, olives, and tomatoes provided something special in each bite, and the warmth of the cayenne pepper lingered gently. It's the kind of dish I love: complex but not excessively so, hearty but not heavy, and full of bold flavors.

I did use fresh saffron, smoked paprika, and fava beans. I've started buying my saffron from this guy on ebay and have been very happy with the quality of his very affordable product. I can't imagine cooking without smoked paprika but since my favorite local spice shop closed down I don't know who has the best product and price. Fava beans were new to me but I really liked the meaty, slightly chewy texture they brought to the paella.

The original recipe was published in Ottolenghi's column in The Guardian. It was then changed slightly for the book. I doubled the quantity for my version (believe me, you'll want more than 2 servings). I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
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Monday, July 18, 2011

Back again: meal plans!

Such a strange thing: my menu planning was going so well and them my husband lost his job and I stopped planning any coherent way. Why? Maybe because there was always an adult home to handle food prep and he would rather handle that his way than have to deal with my plans. Or something. Anyway, it's been months but he's finally got a new job--not ideal in any way but it should tide us over until something better comes along. I hope.

My sweetie will be gone all day and I will be once again in charge of pretty much all the food, not unreasonable given that I only work 12 hours a week. So, back to menu planning!

This week I've been influenced by a couple of things: I borrowed a new cookbook from the library and am anxious to try a number of the recipes. This week there will be paella and a rustic tart--now that I can make gf pie dough--hooray! Also, weather permitting, we'll be going to two different concerts in the park so a couple of our meals will be tucked into a picnic basket. Lots of blueberries and a big, important 18th birthday to celebrate as well.

Quite an introduction, no? Here's the plan.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Of all the things I despaired of never eating or cooking again I wasn't exactly worried about pie. Even with regular old wheat flour available to me I've never been much of a pie baker or eater, truth be told. I've just never gotten all that excited about pie.

But. But it's summer and there's tasty fruit everywhere and it's the Fourth of July and everyone seems to be talking pie so what to do? Once I read this post I got all fired up and decided I, too, could make a delicious gluten free pie.

I was in the mood for cherry but couldn't quite fork out $10 on an experiment so I used the remainder of last year's blueberries from the freezer, tossed with a bit of corn starch, cinnamon, and lemon zest.
Even with icy cold butter and less water than called for, my dough ended up really wet. I dusted it with white rice flour and used parchment to roll it out which worked pretty well. The dough is fragile and doesn't really want to hang together so the lattice top of my dream pie was replaced with pastry stars as they were a lot easier to move from counter to pie dish. I wasn't trying to be cute, just practical.

The result? Delicious! The crust baked up nicely and was very tasty though completely without the flakiness I associate with good pie. My husband was so happy to have pie and coffee that I think I may just have to do a little more pie baking. I might skip the food processor next time and use my old grated frozen butter trick to see if I can get some flakiness into the crust. But even if that doesn't work, I think there are more pies in my future as this really wasn't difficult, just fiddly, and my family was delighted with the results.