Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cooking Club September 2014.


Last spring my Cooking Club was looking for a new cookbook. One of our members brought her copy of My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist by Alex Hitz as a suggestion. I perused its beautiful pictures and delicious sounding recipes and began to read the introduction. Details of the author's childhood sounded familiar, so I glanced back at his name on the cover and was startled to realize, "I know this guy! He and I sang in children's choir at church many years ago!"

Shortly before my Cooking Club's September gathering where we would be using My Beverly Hills Kitchen for the first time, I looked up Alex on Facebook. I sent him a message and told him about our Cooking Club and that we had chosen his book for our current selection. I included a link to the Dallas Morning News article about our Cooking Club that ran in last summer's paper:

Dallas friends gather once a month for cookbook club

I was delighted to receive a prompt enthusiastic response from Alex:


He even posted about our correspondence on his Facebook page:

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 10.49.43 AM

Our lunch featuring Alex's recipes was a smashing success. The dishes were delicious and flavorful and the instructions easy to follow.


Appetizer: Bacon-wrapped dates
Soup: Tomato Soup with Parmesan croutons
Salad: Poppyseed salad with bibb lettuce
Entrée: Chicken curry
Vegetable: Carrot purée
Bread: Sally Lunn Bread (I made this. It was even better the next day toasted with some butter for breakfast)
Dessert: Dorothy's coconut cake (this was the star of the show!)




My Cooking Club is looking forward to a great year with My Beverly Hills Kitchen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A movie recommendation and my current favorite thing to make for dinner.

Long time, no post! I'm going to try to get back in the blogging habit. Thanks to those who emailed and encouraged me to post again.


This summer a Cooking Club friend invited me to see the movie Chef. I went in not knowing much about the film but found it to be completely delightful: a feel-good, witty story featuring the music and food of Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Austin (warning: the movie will make you hungry).

Chef will be released on DVD (linked below left) on September 30th. The soundtrack (below right) is also great.

In one scene in the movie, Chef Carl, played by Jon Favreau who also wrote and directed the film, prepares a late-night dinner for Scarlett Johansson's character. I was so taken by the pasta he made that I found the recipe online: Pasta Aglio e Olio. I prepared the version from the movie once and then found Ina Garten's rendition of the same recipe and decided I prefer that one because it has less olive oil and parsley and more Parmesan. I just wish I could master the way Chef Carl twists the pasta so artfully into a bowl.

Pasta twist
(Source: Food and Wine)

I have made this Spaghetti Aglio e Olio many times this summer. It is an incredibly fast dinner to prepare and I usually have all of the ingredients, except perhaps fresh parsley, on hand. I'm amazed that a recipe with so few ingredients can be so delicious.

I hope you have a chance to enjoy the movie, the soundtrack, the pasta or all three.

The cast of ingredients

The ingredients after I've sliced, chopped, and grated everything. Notice a glass of wine has now joined me for this endeavor

The pasta and garlic sauce boil and simmer in separate pots

Just after stirring in the Parmesan and parsley

Yum yum yum

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Serves 4.

2 tablespoons Kosher salt (for the pasta water)
1 pound dried spaghetti
⅓ cup good olive oil
10 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1½ cups reserved pasta water
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup minced fresh parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Set aside some of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until it just begins to turn golden on the edges. Be careful not to overcook. Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the reserved pasta cooking water and one teaspoon salt to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Sauce should be reduced by about one-third.

Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Allow the pasta to rest off the heat for 5 minutes so that the sauce can be absorbed. Stir in the parsley and Parmesan and toss well (if you add the parsley too soon or while the heat is still on, it will clump fiercely and refuse to separate - trust me on this one). Add salt to taste and grate some fresh Parmesan over each serving.

Friday, January 31, 2014

What's for dinner and Vivian strikes again.

Determined not to let January 2014 come and go without one post from me!


In the most recent issue of Bon Appetit I saw a picture and recipe for Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage that looked really good. I decided to try it last Friday night as it was classified as a "quick and easy weeknight meal." The dish was quite tasty, but at my house it was definitely not quick, mostly because of the prep time involved (where is that sous chef when I need him?). Next time I would buy pre-cut butternut squash (Central Market sometimes has this in their produce section) or chop the squash in advance. Perhaps next time I might be more adept at peeling and chopping butternut squash, too, and hasten things along that way.

Winter Squash Carbonara with Pancetta and Sage

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, chopped (I used the thick-sliced applewood bacon from the Central Market butcher because I think it is fabulous)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½" pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
12 ounces linguine
¼ cup finely grated Pecorino cheese, plus shaved for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8–10 minutes. Add sage and toss to coat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta and sage to a small bowl; set aside.

Add squash, onion, and garlic to skillet; season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth (I used my immersion blender but had to transfer the squash to a deeper pot to do so); season with salt and pepper. Reserve skillet.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Combine pasta, squash purée, and ¼ cup pasta cooking liquid in reserved skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Mix in ¼ cup Pecorino; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved pancetta and sage, shaved Pecorino, and more pepper.

Note: Squash purée can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

This salad is from Cooking Light. It is quite tasty. This time I used a mix of baby arugula and baby spinach.

Arugula and Celery Salad with Lemon-Anchovy Dressing

6 cups baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup diagonally cut celery
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (I omitted these because I'm not a huge parsley fan and there is already some in the dressing)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves
1 canned anchovy fillet, rinsed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine first 7 ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. With blender on, slowly add oil. Process until blended.



The other day Vivian walked up to me and I noticed that the screen on her iPod Touch was completely shattered. I exclaimed, "Vivian! What happened to your phone?!" She replied, in that way that only Vivian can, "It broke."

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