Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pasta with Chicken & Bacon in a Tomato, White Wine, and Basil Cream Sauce

After binge-reading my latest batch of vintage (aka used) cookbooks that I recently bought from Amazon, I came across this little gem from 2001 Dear SOS: Favorite Restaurant Recipes from the Los Angeles Times by Rose Dosti. This was the third in a series of Dear SOS cookbooks published since 1994 - a compendium of their most popular reader-requested restaurant recipes that appeared in the LA Times food section. Here's my adaptation of the Fusilli with Sun-Dried Tomato Cream from Misto Caffe in Torrance which, unlike some of the featured restaurants in the cookbook (Hamburger Hamlet, Velvet Turtle, Ritz-Carlton Huntington Pasadena, Chasen's, Little Joe's LA, The Broadway Department Store LA, etc.) is still open as of today. My main changes were adding 3 fresh tomatoes in addition to the sun-dried, using fresh rather than roasted garlic, and cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta rather than fusilli, even though you can substitute whatever other pasta floats your boat. The quote for this recipe in the cookbook is "unforgettably rich and creamy," which it really is!

1 lb. pasta (fusilli, cavatappi, or farfalle all work well, but feel free to use your fav)
3-4 slices thick-cut bacon, thinly sliced/chopped
1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into large dice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium, ripe tomatoes, chopped
6-8 oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, julienned
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp. grated or shredded parmesan
Salt & pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

2. In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat and cute the onion, garlic and bacon until the onion in translucent and the bacon just starting to brown. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, wine, and most of the basil (reserve 1-2 tbsp. for garnish). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. 

4. Add the heavy cream and 2 tbsp. parmesan and bring sauce up to a boil. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken. Toss in the drained pasta and stir well, cooking another 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and adjust for seasonings (salt & pepper). If desired, stir in red pepper flakes. If the sauce is too thick, add a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water to thin out. 

5. Plate the pasta and garnish with the reserved julienned basil and extra parmesan. 

 Basil, chopped fresh tomato, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, white wine, heavy cream, chopped onion, chopped garlic, sliced bacon.

 Chicken tenders cut into large dice.

 Cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta. Feel free to substitute with farfalle, fusilli, or any other pasta 
that floats your boat.

 Saute the onion, garlic and bacon until the onion is translucent.

 Add the fresh and sun dried tomatoes. Stir in the chicken and cook until lightly browned.

 Add most of the julienned fresh basil (reserve 1-2 tbsp. for garnish) and white wine, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer.

 Simmer 8-10 minutes.

 Add cream and 2 tbsp. parmesan.

 Cook until the sauce starts to thicken.

 Stir in the cooked pasta, toss well, and simmer another 1-2 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a few spoons of the pasta cooking water. Season with red pepper flakes and additional salt and pepper as needed.

 Plate and garnish with the reserved basil and additional shredded parmesan, if desired.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Vanilla Sponge Cake

I developed this sponge cake recipe after first making it for the coconut cake that I made for my dad's 90th birthday. It is more of a white sponge cake than a yellow, but it's most definitely vanilla in flavor. The texture is just right - soft, moist and fluffy, so I now use it as my go-to recipe for any dessert that requires a sponge cake. 

1 tbsp. butter, room temperature (for the pans)
1 cup whole milk, room temperature

5 large egg whites, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out and reserved plus 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or use 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste)

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. iodized salt
12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pcs. (slightly cold)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Butter and flour two 9 x 2" round cake pans; line the bottoms with rounds of parchment (you can buy parchment rounds in some specialty food stores, or just use scissors and cut them out.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg whites, whole egg, vanillas seeds and vanilla extract (or 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste)

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (use the paddle attachment), add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. 

5. With mixer on low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time.

 6. Continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. 

7. Add all but 1/2 cup of the milk mixture and beat on medium until pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. 

8. With mixer on low, add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture. Increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape down sides of bowl and mix for another 20 seconds. 

9. Divide batter evenly between the 2 cake pans and smooth tops over with a rubber spatula. 

10. Bake 22-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pans on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the sides of the pan and invert the cakes onto a baking rack. Let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Use in whatever cake recipe you'd like. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Basque-Style Seafood Stew (Sopa de Pescados y Mariscos a la Vasca)



1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Two 8-oz. bottles of clam juice
1 cup water
1 lb. bass, cod, monkfish or red snapper filets, cubed
1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve the shells)
2 lbs. mussels or manila clams
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp. Espilette or cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Pinch of saffron
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Aioli and toasted baguette


Split Pea and Ham Soup

Whenever I have a glazed bone-in ham, usually once a year right around Easter, I like to use the leftovers to make split pea soup. But split pea soup can be made anytime, especially when it's cold outside. If you have leftover ham of any sort (except for the thinly sliced variety, which will become flavorless after prolonged cooking) or a smoked ham hock, by all means make this super easy and super delicious home made soup. For more flavor, I like to saute all the veggies (onion, carrots, celery and garlic) first before adding the ham and water. No need to use chicken stock as the ham itself will create a flavorful broth, and no need to blend the mixture in the end, as the peas and potatoes will cook down to a medium-thick consistency on their own, while maintaining some texture from the diced veggies.

1 lb. split green peas, rinsed and picked through
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 lb. smoked picnic ham (bone-in, if you have it) - leftovers work great
2 bay leaves
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled & diced
3 quarts (12 cups) water
1 tsp. sugar
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Rinse the split peas in a colander and pick through to remove any stones. Leave in the colander and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large Dutch oven or enameled cast iron pan over high heat. Saute the chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic until softened but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the ham, bone-in and/or any pieces you have from leftovers and saute briefly.

3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, potatoes, water, 1 tsp. sugar, pinch of black pepper and salt (do not oversalt at this point since the ham will release salt into the broth). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the peas are very soft.

4. Remove the ham to a chopping board and let sit until cool enough to handle. Cut the ham meat into  1/2" cubes and return back to the soup. Taste the soup and season with extra salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper before serving.

Optional Garnishes: Chopped scallions or chives, chopped boiled eggs, shredded cheese, bacon bits, croutons, creme fraiche or sour cream

 Rinse the split peas.

 Just happened to have some fresh English peas so added them to the soup.

 Smoked picnic ham pieces.

 Diced carrots, celery, potatoes, garlic and onions.

 Saute the veggies.

 Add the ham.

 Add potatoes, bay leaves, thyme, pinch of sugar, salt and water.

 Bring to a boil.

Skim off any foam from the top. Cover and simmer over low heat 1 1/2 hours.

 Remove the ham from the soup, remove from the bone, and chop. Add the ham back to the soup. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne, according to your taste.