Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baccala Salad

It bugs the shit out of me when people walk ding toed, when they walk and point their toes inward. There is a woman at my office that walks this way and I don't know why but I want to smack her in the back of the head and tell her to point her feet forward. I think the anger from that is some deep seeded feeling instilled in my by my Nana, she always had something to say about people who walked that way…she had a lot to say about a lot of people, I think it may be generational, she still to this day will have something to say about everyone who walks by the house, or she sees in the grocery store or whatnot.. very sad.

Onto happier thoughts, Rome. When I visited Rome a few years ago I was just taken with Baccala, I had never had it before I visited, I had it my second day there, and just could not get enough. There are some days that I literally wish I could jump on a plane and head to Rome if for nothing more than a big piece of filetti di' baccala. So, I bought a package of salt cod over the summer, threw it in the freezer and there is lay for months and months and months, because I was too intimidated to make it. It wasn't until December that I went to an Italian restaurant and the appetizer special was Baccala Salad. It was so completely different than the baccala I experienced in Rome – not hot and fried, but cold and covered with a spicy pepper salad. I loved this version too. As serendipity works, a few days later my mother-in-law came across a recipe for baccala salad printed in the Providence Journal, she mailed it to me, the impetus for me to get over my fear of the salt cod. I'm so glad I did – it was delicious. But, I will never make it again, I will seek it out at restaurants, I will go back to Rome, but I will not stink up my kitchen with the stench of boiling salt cod again, unless it's springtime and I can open all the windows in the house. 

Baccala Salad 

2-3 pounds salted cod fish
2 lemons
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 ribs of celery, sliced
2-ounce can roasted red peppers, sliced
1 cup banana peppers, roughly chopped
1 sprig parsley, chopped
1 ounce lemon juice
2 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1 dash freshly grated nutmeg

Trim the salted cod, removing as much skin and belly as possible. Soak the salted cod in ice-cold water for three days, changing the water each day.

In a stock pot, place the well rinsed cod in with the fresh sprig of thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a slow rolling boil on medium high heat for two hours. Strain the baccala and rinse in cold water.
Separate the fish into medium-size flakes. In a large mixing bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well, being careful not to break fish up too much.

Let stand in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours before serving. Mix well before serving.
Note: Baccala is served best over field greens with crisp Italian bread, or it can be heated up and served over creamy polenta. Serves 6-8 people.

From Chef Giovanni Ricci at Wildfire

Rating = Damn Good

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup | Weight Watchers 0 points

I shit you not when I say I have had a red curry squash sitting on my side board by the fruit bowl since October. The other day I looked at it, hemmed, hawed, and decided its day had come, it was either going in my belly, or in the trash. You'd be surprised, but the information superhighway is virtually void of recipes for red curry squash, every time I googled it I got a recipe that called for butternut squash, and Thai red curry. Not what I needed. So, I treated it like a butternut squash and made this easy, tasty zero point soup. As I'm sure you know, brightly colored foods are really really good for you, and squash is no joke, it's packed with riboflavin, iron, Vitamins A and C. And this soup although it tasted like a virtually fat free soup, hit the spot served along side a grilled cheese and parsley sandwich. As I was eating the soup I though about how wonderfully it would pair with a nice white wine, my suggestion would be a Chenin Blanc, possibly this one here.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Weight Watchers Zero Points per 1/2 cup serving

4 cups vegetable broth
12 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 large Vidalia onion(s), cut into 2-inch cubes 
1/2 small apple(s), peeled and cut into to 2-inch cubes
1/4 tsp table salt, or to taste 
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste  
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste 

In a large stock pot, combine broth, squash, onion and apple; cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover pot and reduce heat to low; gently simmer until squash is very tender, about 10 minutes. 

Puree soup in pot using an immersion blender (or puree in a regular blender in batches, careful not to splatter hot liquid). Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg; serve. Yields about 1/2 cup per serving. 

Rating = Good (Damn Good for zero points)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bulgar Pilaf | Weight Watchers 2 Pts

Yesterday I was driving down a rather busy side street that I travel everyday on my way to work. I saw a woman running in the street, not on the sidewalk, which is not a big deal, as a long distance runner I much prefer running on asphalt versus running on concrete, this is not the problem, the problem is that as I got closer to her she stopped running forward and started doing grapevines. Seriously, do you know how much more room you take up when you switch from running forward, arms by your side, to grapevining, legs going at all crazy angles, arms helicoptering creating a circle around your body? I'll tell you, too much fucking room. What the F? If you're going to do a full workout like that, find a nice parking lot without cars in it, go to your back yard, find somewhere else besides the damn street, seriously, because you know what, if one of her flailing arms had hit my car you can bet your ass they would have found some way of making it my fault. Don't be a dumb ass. And don't give me any crap about not understanding runners, I run every God Damn day, I've been hit by a car twice while running, here's the difference, when I was hit I was in the crosswalk, with the right of way, I wasn't grapevining in the middle of the damn street with a perfectly good sidewalk right beside me.

I'm finished with that.

Onto the recipe.  I'll be honest, it was good, but only on the first night, it didn't heat up well, make if as a side dish if you know you are going to eat it all that night, otherwise use it as a filling for something else, a vegetable burrito or something to that effect.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Bulgar Pilaf
Weight Watchers | 2 points

2 cup(s) vegetable broth, use mushroom broth if available
1 cup(s) uncooked bulgur
1 cup(s) water
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup(s) onion(s), chopped
8 oz mushroom(s), thinly sliced (baby Bella suggested)
4 cup(s) spinach, baby leaves
1/4 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring broth, bulgur and water to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until bulgur is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and tender, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden and tender, about 5 minutes. Add spinach, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute more.

Spoon bulgur into skillet; stir over low heat until well-combined. Yields about 3/4 cup per serving.

Rating = Good (but only the first day)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Barrel Fever | Trentare (33)

Well, it's been a while since I posted a wine review. I won't say it's due to lack of imbibing, its just more lack of time to write something down. I'm a big fan of perusing the Trader Joe's wine isle because it seems that there is no end to the number of bottles of wine that can be purchased for the same price as a venti caramel macchiato at Starbucks, priorities people.

 So – when I spotted this $5.99 number I had to try it. It’s a blend of 33.3% Cabernet, 33.3% Merlot and 33.3% Montepulciano, hence the name. After I drank it, really enjoyed it and then went back out and bought 6 more bottles (for $38 total may I add) I did a little research on it, of which there is not much written, although I found out that it was recently named a "Cheap Wine that Doesn’t Suck" by the San Francisco weekly blog. Very Nice.

I must say if you like red wine, if you like the flavor of dark fruit, a little smoke, a nice subtle tannic finish go out and spend $6 on this bottle. You will not be disappointed.

Rating – Put It In Your Face (ala Zane Lamprey)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

WW Crockpot Minestrone Soup | 3.5 pts

So, I put on the obligatory five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year, so I'm back on Weight Watchers until my pants don't cut off my circulation, and I've decreased my muffin top to manageable proportions. I've been making a slew of WW recipes and this was one that I really enjoyed and that Chris thought was great as well, always good when the husband will eat your diet food with you so you don't have to make two different dinners at night.

Question. I love going to get pedicures, and because I run 6 days a week my feet tend to get nasty pretty quick, and by nasty I mean, callused, blistered, skin build-up (hungry yet) you know, just in general not attractive. I love my nail salon, I'm there every three weeks, so they are familiar with me and remember what nail color I use, they actually gave me a bottle of my favorite color once so that I could do touch ups at home when the color stared chipping. I think my ladies are great, but I can't help but think that when I'm sitting in the pedicure chair and they are working away at my calluses and they start talking to each other in their native language...I always think they are commenting about how nasty my feet are, and if one starts laughing, forget it, I'm convinced that they are talking about my nasty snaggle toe, the one I damaged while running my second marathon, the one that will never look normal again. Am I paranoid, does anyone else feel this way when they are at the pedicure place?

Okay, back to the soup. Delicious, but only if you like rosemary because this recipe is literally rife with it. But, it's hearty and warm and perfect for a winter evening, and at 3.5 pounds, pair it with a nice piece of crusty bread and you've got yourself an awesome meal at just 5 points.

I got the recipe from a Weight Watchers Blog website called Skinny Weight Watchers Recipes.
Here's the LINK

Crock Pot Minestrone Soup
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 6 • Serving Size1 1/2 cups  Calories: 232 • Points: 3.5
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can white beans, drained, rinsed (cannellini or navy)
  • 3 cups fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
  • 1 oz chunk of good Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • salt and fresh pepper
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped fresh or frozen (defrosted) spinach
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta like ditalini or elbows (al dente)
  • extra parmesan cheese to top
Rinse and drain beans. Puree beans with 1 cup of the broth in a blender.

In a crock pot, combine broth, tomatoes, pureed beans, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, Parmesan cheese rind, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Forty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Add cooked pasta, cook 10 minutes more. Remove bay leaves, rosemary sprig, parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and top with extra parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Crunchy Brussel Sprout Salad | Cookin for Real

I'm finally getting to posting some of the recipes that I have made over the past month or so. I made this recipe for Thanksgiving, it was a hit. Seriously. If you think you don't like brussel sprouts please try this recipe, it may just change your mind. I love brussel sprouts, they give me gas and all, but I still love them, the way you love asparagus even though it makes your pee stink and turn a little green - you still eat them right.

I'm thinking of seeing Avatar  this weekend. Have any of you seen it? I keep hearing that its so great, but I'm a little nervous to devote three hours sitting in a movie theatre seat with 3D glasses on without knowing that I'm really going to enjoy myself. So, if you have seen it, please let me know how you liked it.

So, the brussel sprout recipe is a recipe from Sunny Anderson of the Food Network, she hosts the show Cooking For Real. I usually can't eat any of the recipes that she makes because she seems to include bacon in everything, but for some reason she decided to make this recipe completely vegetarian. Sweet. Below is the recipe. Please try it, its  really good. If you like it, leave me a comment, if you don't leave me a message anyway.

Crunchy Brussel Sprout Salad

1 pound brussel sprouts
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
1/1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cup chopped walnuts

Shred the Brussels sprouts by removing the core and thinly slicing. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring, until the Brussels sprouts are bright and slightly wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the walnuts and the cranberries and toss to combine. Turn out into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Do any of you have another really good brussel sprout recipe that you can share with me? Without meat...thanks.

Rating = Damn Good