Cook The Cover

Cook The Cover

Veggie Broth, Crispy Tofu, Gai Lan
Watermelon Radish, Carrot, Bok Choy, Sesame Chili Oil

Have you received a copy of a food magazine in the mail with a cover photo that absolutely floors you? February 2018 Bon Appetit did that for me. There was no way that I wasn’t going to “Cook The Cover” and make that gorgeous Crispy Tofu in Shiitake Broth.

Alas, time passed and I didn’t make it. But, last Saturday’s trip to the Torrance Farmers Market gave me the inspiration…it came from a vegetarian Korean food booth called Dave’s Gourmet Korean Food with a sample of his hot “Vegee Broth.” It was amazing – complex flavors in a vegetarian broth made with fermented vegetable juice, sea salt, low sodium gluten-free soy sauce, and miso.

As I walked the market, watermelon radish and bok choy remembered from that February magazine cover ended up in my basket. I already had carrots and firm tofu at home.

One ingredient that is not in Bon Appetit’s recipe was beautiful Gai Lan, also known as Chinese broccoli. Slightly bitter and slightly sweet, with tasty broad leaves, petite buds, a few pretty white flowers, and tender stems – this had to be added to my version of the vegetable soup.

Here is the link to the original recipe by Bon Appetit, and my adaptations are listed below. Those in the Los Angeles area can find Dave’s Vegee Broth at various Farmers Markets across the county. If you are not in LA, simply follow the original broth recipe. It will take a little longer but be, no doubt, worth your time.

Veggie Broth, Crispy Tofu, Gai Lan Recipe

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How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

How To Make Spaghetti alla Chitarra

The chitarra, pictured above is an implement that has been used for ages to make fresh noodles in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It has a wooden frame that is strung with several taut parallel wires, reminiscent of a guitar, hence the name “chitarra” which is “guitar” in English.

A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling-pin to make noodles. Although the instrument is old, my method is not. Below I show how to make Spaghetti alla Chitarra with a food processor to form the dough. Old World meets New World and fresh pasta noodles couldn’t be easier, or more fun!

Spaghetti alla Chitarra Recipe

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Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Lamb Ragu

Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Lamb Ragu

Spaghetti alla Chitarra, Spiced Lamb Ragù

One of the most popular dishes of the Italian region of Abruzzo is spaghetti alla chitarra. It is also known as maccheroni alla chitarra – but the long noodles are more similar to spaghetti than what we call macaroni-shaped pasta, so “spaghetti” is often used outside of Abruzzo.

A chitarra is the implement used to make the noodles, it looks, and when strummed, sounds like a guitar, hence its name. It is a wooden frame that is strung with many parallel wires. A long rectangle of pasta dough is pushed through the wires with a rolling pin to make the noodles. I show how to make spaghetti alla chitarra in the next post, here.

A hearty lamb ragù is most often paired with these robust noodles. With its mountainous pastures and grassy plains,  Abruzzo has been an ideal environment for sheep-farming for centuries. I’ve spiced my lamb ragù with toasted fennel, cinnamon, and oregano. It’s topped with pecorino, an Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk.

For fun, I styled and photographed the dish in the dramatic style of late 16th century Italian master painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Spiced Lamb Ragù Recipe

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Scallop Amuse-Bouche, Miso Aioli, Shiso

Scallop Amuse-Bouche
Scallop Amuse-Bouche
Miso Aioli, Shiso, Carrot Cucumber Slaw

The complex herbal flavors of shiso (reminiscent of mint, lemon, anise, basil and curiously cinnamon) complement the sweet buttery taste of wild-caught Atlantic sea scallops. Miso aioli adds creamy, garlicky, umami characteristics. A refreshing crisp carrot cucumber slaw balances all those rich notes.

At the last minute, place a spoonful of slaw on top of each scallop,  then serve one scallop per person for a palate-pleasing amuse-bouche. Big flavors, bold colors, eclectic textures create a stunning small bite to launch your next elegant dinner party.

Pan-Seared Scallops with Miso Aioli Recipe

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Jazz Up Store-Bought Hummus, Three Ways

Jazz Up Store-Bought Hummus, Three Ways

Hummus and Pita

Take ordinary (high quality) store-bought hummus and pita to another level. Easily jazz it up for guests with a few items from the garden and the pantry. Edible flowers, lemon, herbs & spices, olive oil, nuts – with very little effort, anything colorful and tasty can take the ubiquitous dip over-the-top for entertaining.

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Linguine, Arugula Pesto, Edible Flowers

Linguine Arugula Pesto

Linguine with Arugula Pesto
Arugula Flowers and Borage Flowers

Arugula flowers taste just like the leaves, but maybe slightly less peppery and with an interesting hint of sweetness. They make a mighty tasty garnish for such a delicate little white blossom.

Borage flowers have much less flavor, only a whisper of cucumber taste, but what they lack in flavor they make up in color. Because the flavor is mild, borage can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, and they make any presentation pop!

arugula and borage

With Spring in full force, my garden is bursting with arugula and borage…and since they are growing side-by-side, I thought I would combine them in a pasta dish.

Arugula leaves make a peppery pesto so I lower the volume and balance the flavor with the addition of cilantro and mint. Those who are not fans of cilantro can combine the arugula with another mild-tasting herb, such as parsley.

Linguine Arugula Pesto Recipe

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