Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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Cooking Demo

Last evening I had the opportunity to go to a cooking demonstration at a Restaurant in my area: Ravioli’s.  The owner showed us how to prepare Italian food from the region of Sardegna on the island of Sardinia.  It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening I shared with a fellow foodie friend Kristine and her business partner and my new friend, Wendy.

He prepared the food on a table with a small hot plate right in front of us and after demonstrating the dish he would have the kitchen staff bring out the food he prepared for us to eat.  It was a truly great experience.

We started the evening off with an appetizer plate of cheese (Pecorino Sardo), a slice of granny smith apple and two different Italian cold cuts. Along with a tasting of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Items that he demonstrated were Piadina Dough (Italian unleavened flat bread) which he then filled with roasted veggies, Fontina cheese and a Chipotle Aioli that was fantastic (he gave us the recipe and I will post it below).

Next he braised a bed of vegetables (thinly sliced onions, tomatoes, potatoes with fresh herbs) and white wine under a piece of fresh tuna. I am not a huge fan of tuna, but I really liked this preparation.  If I make this one in the future, I will use a different type of fish like Halibut.

The star of the show was the herb roasted pig (La Porchetta Sarda).  Yes a whole pig (well, it was cleaned) which was stuffed with seasonings like garlic, and fresh thyme, and fresh rosemary and lemons and other goodness.  Roasted on a rotisserie for 5 hours – we didn’t have to wait that long.. he had a prepared one in the back and it was moist and succulent.  I don’t believe I will be making this one though.  It is better if you have 25 people to share it with.

We finished the evening with Coffee and ice cream.

I do recommend looking into local cooking classes like that.  It is interesting to learn various cooking methods – and to learn that Italy is not just about the pasta.  You may even get the bonus of hearing of driving nightmares in Italy on streets that are “one way” and cars parked in both directions.. and hitting mirrors as you drive in the middle…

For me the star of the show was the

Piadina Bread and Chipotle Aioli Sauce

Piadina + Chipotle Aioli

Ravioli’s Chipotle Aioli:

2 eggs

1 tsp mustard

juice of two lemons

1 anchovy filet (optional)

1 chipotle (canned)

Blend the above ingredients for a few minutes and with the motor running add enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to make an emulsification.  Serve as a mayo on sandwiches, or tacos or chips…

The evening out with a few girl friends was wonderful.  I so enjoyed the food and fun with others who have a passion and love for cooking.  I will be looking forward to more cooking classes at Ravioli’s.  Though it was not cheap, it was a special treat.  Let me know if you want to join me next time.  Here are some pictures from the evening (sorry about the pig if you are squeamish).

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Grilled Asparagus

I love asparagus!  I think it is one of the best veggies around.  When asparagus is readily available, I smile.  Two years ago though, I started to develop an allergy to it.  I first noticed that when I would eat asparagus my scalp would be itchy for about an hour after eating them.  I figured maybe it was because I ate canned asparagus that time.  Maybe it was the solution they can it in.  So I rinsed them and ate them- still an itchy scalp.  Okay.. maybe I can eat fresh.. nope.. itchy scalp.  But hey an hour later I am feeling fine again right?.. it is a small price to pay!  I continued to eat asparagus from time to time.. only each time I ate them, my allergy would get more severe.  Now I break out in full time hives, so I don’t eat it as often.  Recently I got a box of organic produce and it had asparagus in it.  Of course.. now that I had it, I had to eat it right?  It is after all, asparagus!  I popped a Benadryl before starting to cook.  After eating only two spears of asparagus,I still was itchy, but I didn’t get hives!  Sniff.  I am getting itchy as I write this 😉  I sure hope I don’t develop an allergy to Avocado- or worse yet: bacon!  That would be the worst! 🙂

Preparation:

Wash the asparagus and remove about 1/2 inch of the stem if it is woody, otherwise just trim the ends.  Mine were small and not at all woody, so they only needed a trim.

I heated a grill pan and placed the asparagus on it.  Drizzled them with olive oil and seasoned with ground sea salt and ground pepper.  Turning them every few minutes until they looked grilled with a few char marks.  Place on a platter and season with additional salt and pepper.  Serve.  Enjoy (them for me- for I will be taking a break from eating them again).


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Grilled Zucchini

An easy way to prepare zucchini is to slice it lengthwise into long strips and to grill them on a prepared and preheated grill pan.  To prepare the grill pan spray it with some cooking spray and after it is preheated lay the zucchini on the grill pan.  Season with ground sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook the zucchini turning it every few minutes until done.  This is really quick – 10 minutes maximum.  Place in a bowl and sprinkle quality balsamic vinegar over them.  Season with more salt and pepper if desired.


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Guacamole

There is nothing like freshly made guacamole.  I love to have chips with my guacamole, not guacamole with my chips!  Two of my three children also love the stuff.  The other likes to eat the avocado just by itself.  Also a good treat, but takes less effort.  The key to great guacamole is starting with fantastic avocados.  I happen to be fortunate to live in Southern California, where it is easy to find great avocados, but even then, you can find some that are less fantastic.  I highly recommend Haas Avocados.  They are consistently good.  They are large and buttery.  To pick a good avocado you want one that is still firm, but not hard.  If you press on the skin it should give a little (not a lot)  If it is soft and mushy the flavor is also less great in my opinion, but don’t worry if you can only find ones that are hard as baseballs, you can still buy them.  Take them home and put them in a paper bag with a ripe banana and in a day or two you will have a perfect avocado too.  You don’t need to buy any seasoning packets – use all fresh ingredients and you will have the best results.

A tip – to remove the seed can be a tricky process and sometimes dangerous – I have cut myself several times trying to remove that sucker!  Cut the avocado in half starting at the top and cutting around the bottom to other side and to the top again. Twist the two halves apart.  The flesh should be green – it may have some brown spots, but typically don’t take away from the taste, I cut them out because I don’t want brown chunks in my guacamole.  Place the half that still has the seed in it on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to tap the blade into the seed.  Give the knife a rotating twist and the seed should loosen and come off (on your sharp knife). To remove the flesh of the avocado from the skin simply run a large spoon along the edge and scoop it out into a bowl.

Becky’s Homemade Guacamole

Serves 6 hungry dippers

  • 3 large ripe Haas avocados,
  • 1 Roma Tomato, diced small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, white ribs removed and seeds removed, diced finely (wear gloves to protect your hands)
  • 2 Tbsp minced red onion
  • 1/2 – 1 lime, juiced (depending on size)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro if you have it on hand and like it

Preparation:

Use a fork to mash the avocado flesh in a bowl.  Add the chopped onion, tomato, garlic, jalapeno pepper and stir into the avocado.  Add lime juice and cilantro if desired.  Season with salt and pepper, stir and taste.  Add more seasoning or lime if needed.  Chill and serve with tortilla chips, or serve with tacos or any other Mexican dish.

Some say that if you place the avocado seed in the guacamole while it is in the fridge that it will not turn brown, but I have found that if you cover it with plastic wrap and lay the plastic wrap on the guacamole so there is little air around the dip that it will stay the vibrant green that you want in a good guacamole.

Enjoy!

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Tomato-Cheese Ravioli Soup

This comforting soup is from a Cooking Light Cookbook that I own. It is the 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook (1999) by Cooking Light. I love the simplicity of the recipes in the book.  I whipped this up for lunch for my husband and I.  I changed it up a little, adding yellow squash and a little Parmesan Cheese to serve;  I also nearly doubled the recipe because I like left overs and the kids thought they wanted to have some- then they changed their mind and I had extra extra.  It is an easy recipe to make however and best of all ready in a snap!

Tomato-Cheese Ravioli Soup

Serves 6

adapted from Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook pg 81

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14 1/2 oz) cans stewed tomatoes
  • 3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 large package refrigerated Buitoni 5 cheese ravioli (family size)
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 small yellow squash
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Combine the stewed tomatoes, chicken broth, basil and oregano.  Bring to a boil and cover, reducing the heat.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add your ravioli, zucchini, yellow squash, and ground pepper.  Bring to a boil again.  Reduce the heat again and cover to simmer for about 8 minutes.  Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and a grind of freshly ground pepper.

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Thick-Cut Pork Tenderloin Medallions

This recipe is from one of my favorite recipe books: The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001/2010. It is a great resource for seasoned cooks and new cooks alike.  I had purchased some pork tenderloin (lemon garlic seasoned pork tenderloin) and wanted a speedy way to prepare it for dinner on Sunday evening.

I love the sweet of the Maple Syrup paired with the balsamic vinegar in the sauce.  The mustard gives it a nice tangy flavor as well.  Great with potatoes too.

Thick-Cut Pork Tenderloin Medallions

The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001/2010

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen (p 137) and served it with a Maple Mustard Sauce- to follow (also from America’s Test Kitchen p 138)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork tenderloin, trimmed of the silver skin and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (I used a seasoned pork tenderloin and patted it dry)
  • Kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil

Preparation:

Open the package of pork tenderloin, remove the silver skin along the edge with a sharp knife.  Pat the tenderloin dry with paper towels and cut them into 1 1/2 inch medallions. Season each side with some Kosher salt and pepper.

Preheat a 12 inch heavy duty (not non stick) skillet with 2 Tbsp oil over medium high heat and until the oil is shimmering, but not smoking.  Add the pork to the skillet cut side down and allow to brown for 3 to 5 minutes.  Turn the medallions with tongs to brown the opposite side for the same amount of time.  Turn and brown the sides of the pork for about 2-3 minutes before rotating to another side.  The internal temperature of the pork should be 140-145F.

Remove the pork medallions to a nice platter and cover with foil to keep warm and rest.  Next prepare the pan sauce:

Maple Mustard Sauce

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp prepared mustard (whole grain if you have on hand)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Pour off any remaining fat from the skillet (there will be browned bits from the pork – leave that it will add flavor to the sauce), add the vegetable oil and cook the onion slices over medium heat until slightly browned and softened.  Add the chicken broth and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits.  Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half.  Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Pour over the cooked pork medallions and serve immediately.

I served it with green beans and parsley potatoes.

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Ratatouille

No, there isn’t a rat in this dish, nor was it prepared by one as in the popular Disney movie! 🙂 It is a wonderful vegetable side though.  I found the recipe on allrecipes (of course).  I did make a few changes to it though.  I used Asian eggplant, since I had heard it is less bitter than the traditional eggplant you find (Most grocery stores carry them, but if you must use a purple one try to find a smallish one that will be less woody and taste less bitter). I also omitted green peppers.  Instead of layering them like the recipe called for I arranged them in a circle in the oval baking dish I was using.  I increased the amounts for more servings.

I liked this dish.  I may even like eggplant! It is a little time consuming to arrange it nicely, but if you are in a hurry arrange them however you wish.

Ratatouille

adapted from allrecipes.com

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2 Asian eggplants (larger than a cucumber, but much like the shape of one and a little more pinkish in color)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 of a sweet Maui onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 3 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray the baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat the olive oil in a large non stick skillet.  Sauté the garlic until lightly browned.  Add the sliced eggplant and dried parsley.  Sauté until the eggplant is tender, but still holds its shape.  Season with salt.

Arrange the eggplant in an oval dish starting along the outside edge and working in. Alternate the slices of eggplant with slices of zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms. As you work, add in more slices to make the vegetables almost stand on edge, filling in where you have gaps.  Sprinkle the the vegetables with Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes.  Enjoy.

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I will make the dish again with the changes I made.