Sunday, February 28, 2010


This weekend we celebrated Derek's mother's birthday. Normally when we get together with his family, we all go over his parent's house and his mother cooks. So, we decided to give her the night off for her special day. Both Derek's brothers have young kids, so going out to a restaurant is not the best option. Instead, my sister-in-law Christina and I made dinner for the whole clan. Derek's mother is a pretty adventurous eater, she'll try (and appreciate) just about anything. Derek's father and his brothers are a different story, and none of them eat seafood. So, with Derek's mother in mind, I made a big pot of cioppino. For the boys (big and little), Christina made pasta and meatballs. She also made garlic bread and salad to round out the meal.

Cioppino is a fish stew created by Italian immigrants in San Francisco. Its sort of an Italian Bouillabaisse (my favorite). I started with chopped onion and leeks.

I sauteed these then added chopped garlic and thinly sliced fennel.

With one finger kept out of the way. Then I mixed in tomatoes, clam juice and vegetable broth. Its all simmered for a bit, then cooked with fish, shrimp, clams and mussels - or whatever seafood you prefer!

1/2 olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 large leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced and washed in a bowl of cold water
1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 x 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 bottle clam juice
2 cups vegetable broth
salt & pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb cod or other firm white fish
1 lb cleaned shrimp
1 lb littleneck clams, scrubbed
2 lbs mussels, scrubbed
1 large handful of basil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Heat 1/4 olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions, leeks, and fennel and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 more minutes. Pour in white wine and simmer until liquid is mostly cooked off. Add tomatoes and crush with potato masher until tomatoes are mostly crushed with some chunks. Pour in clam juice in vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper and add red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20- 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Add fish, shrimp and clams to pot. Simmer about 10 minutes until clams start to open. Add mussels and cook about 5 minutes more until seafood is cooked through.
  • While soup cooks, puree basil and garlic in a good processor. Add olive oil in a slow stream. 
  • To serve, pour soup into bowls with a little of each seafood. Top with a drizzle of basil oil.
Of course, what is a birthday party without a birthday cake. I made Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake from Baking for this occasion. Its a beautiful cake. Light, lemony cake layered with raspberry jam and a fantastic butter cream.

This was a part of the meal that everyone enjoyed!

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I was in need of inspiration last weekend. Food inspiration. I think last week's cocktail party cooking extravaganza tapped out my food creativity. I had some trouble reviving it. I received new issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and Cooking Light this week, usually the highlight of the month for me, but none of the recipes popped out to me. I scanned the food blogs, but nobody had anything new that sounded particularly delicious. So, I kicked it old school. I turned to my cookbook collection.

I don't have a huge collection of cookbooks, but I don't use them nearly as much as I should, especially when I don't have anything particular in mind to cook. I have some great baking cookbooks, my favorite being Dori Greenspan's Baking, that I turn to when looking for a good dessert. And my old copy of Joy of Cooking gets a lot of use when I have some classic dish in mind but don't know exactly how to make it, like a beurre blanc or chocolate mousse. But when I just need to find something delicious and fun to cook, I always find myself turning to my good friend Jamie Oliver. I have several of his cook book, but my favorite is Jamie at Home, which has a corresponding TV show on Food Network. I love Jamie's cooking style. Lots of fresh, seasonal ingredients in simple preparations. Jamie at Home is divided by season, which is so convenient. I won't waste time scanning through recipes calling for asparagus and fresh corn in the middle of February. And he takes a very casual approach to cooking, calling for a good glug of this or a handful of that. Not a cookbook for someone who needs exact measurements. I have horrible kitchen envy from watching his TV show, more for what's outside the kitchen than the kitchen itself. His huge garden and greenhouse, big outdoor stone oven, chickens pecking across the lawn, and a forest and stream out back where he forages mushrooms.  This all makes me long for a cottage in the English countryside. Cooking from his book transports me from my tiny kitchen in a basement apartment in a noisy city.

In the winter section of Jamie at Home, he has several recipes for one of my favorite vegetables, leeks.

I'm not a huge onion fan, but I love the sweet oniony-ness of leeks, especially when soft and braised and practically melting in your mouth. Jamie's flavors are simple, but they are bold. In his recipe for Concertina Squid, he combines the mild leeks with the sharp flavors of radicchio and fennel, and tops the roasted squid with a bold chorizo dressing. Yes, I'm starting to cook with a little bit of meat. I like using it more as a flavor cue than the star of the show.

I adjusted Jamie's recipe a bit. He called for grilling the vegetables but I brought them inside and roasted them instead. In a very hot oven, they still got the nice charred effect of a grill, just maybe lose the smokiness.

I can't take full credit for cooking this meal. Derek had to take over when this happened...

The tip of my left index finger had a run-in with a very sharp knife while chopping garlic. It is not pretty, folks. I guarantee I will always remember this meal from the scar left behind. Inspiration, indeed. Luckily, Derek is very good at following instructions. The dinner was excellent. My secret boyfriend - I mean, Jamie would be proud.

Concertina Squid with Roasted Leeks and Chorizo Dressing
adapted from Jamie Oliver
serves 2

4 small - medium prepared squid, tentacles removed and reserved
2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and washed well
1 bulb fennel, cut in thin wedges, fronds reserved
1 radicchio, cut into wedges
Olive oil
1 lemon, halved
1 small chorizo sausage, cut into small pieces
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (careful of your fingers)
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 450º
  • Toss vegetables in a large baking pan with a good glug of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 20 - 25 minutes, until softened and browned in spots. Check half way through cooking and remove radicchio is soft.
  • Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of olive oil, then add chorizo and cook for about 1 minute. Add rosemary and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, then pour in balsamic vinegar and juice from half a lemon. When vegetables are cook, toss with chorizo dressing in large bowl.
  • Turn oven up to full heat.
  • Prepare squid bodies by inserting a knife into body, then running a second knife over the top to create 1 inch slits in half the squid.
  • Season squid with salt and pepper and toss with a little olive oil.
  • Heat an oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add a good glug of olive oil. Add squid tentacles and cook 1 minute. Add squid bodies and transfer pan to oven. Cook about 4 minutes until squid are just cooked and lightly browned.
  • Mound vegetables on 2 plates and top with squid. Squeeze the other half of lemon over each plate and topped with chopped fennel fronds.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy Blogiversary!

Happy Birthday to Clean Green Cuisine! Today marks the 1 year anniversary of my blog. Its hard to believe, the year sure has gone by so fast. In honor of this special day, I've been reviewing my old posts and looking back through some of my favorite recipes. Its fun to see how my blogging style and even my eating style has changed. In the beginning, I blogged everything I ate. I decided at some point that that was a little intense, so I started posting only when I made a really delicious dish that I wanted to share. I don't like to play favorites, but here are a few of the recipes I liked the best. Just don't tell the others.

My very first recipe was a roasted vegetable gratin.

This cherry buttermilk cake was outstanding.

This was one of Derek's favorites, linguine with clam sauce. Very spicy and garlicky. It was also the last meal I cooked before the disastrous Raw Week.

These crab cakes and remoulade have been very popular, several friends have enjoyed this recipe.

The granola is a staple. Very important to have some made at all times.

Kale chips! Gotta love kale chips.

I made zucchini fritters all summer long. Can't wait to see these again.

And these slow roasted tomatoes were perfect for summer picnics.

My first ratatouille was huge success.

A recent favorite - outstanding buttermilk biscuits.

I love playing with different whole grains. They are the stars of the show in these risottos.
Wheatberry risotto with beets and greens

Barley with brussel sprouts and carrots

How could we forget the green monsters?

Blue cheese souffle was decadent and perfect.

And for chocolate mouse made with locally made, stone ground Taza chocolate.

I also chronicled lots of fun events this year.

My Stowe 8-Miler was a huge accomplishment for me. I had so much fun run this race.

Our Labor Day celebration was quite a food extravaganza.

Lisa's carnival was a memorable and sticky birthday celebration.

Oh, yeah. I also got married this year.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been reading, eating, and laughing with me this past year. I hope to continue to bring you even more delicious food in the future!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love and Cocktails

Among some of our friends, we have a tradition of throwing cocktail parties. Colucci was the cocktail party pioneer, when he unexpectedly invited us all over on a Sunday afternoon and served us drinks and snacks. We all had so much fun that we decided to make it a tradition, and rotate hosting cocktail parties once a month. Well, getting a busy group of friends together that often proved to be a bit more of a challenge, but I was happy to pick up the torch and throw the next cocktail party a few months later. I love a party with a theme, so I hosted on Chinese New Year's.

This was followed by a Cinco de Mayo cocktail party (technically hosted by Derek, I was just the caterer), the setting of the infamous "pinata incident."

Then we had a luau shortly after returning from a trip to Hawaii. So when we were deciding the best way to celebrate our recent nuptials with some of our friends, in a small, casual setting that didn't require too much fuss, a cocktail party sounded like the perfect solution. And what better day to celebrate love than Valentine's Day? It also happened to be Chinese New Year's so it was the 3 year anniversary of my first cocktail party!

This party had a couple of themes. For the cocktails, I was inspired by this article in Food & Wine to encourage people to create their own cocktails. I set up a table dividing all the drink ingredients into 6 categories: Strong (booze, obviously), Sweet (simple syrup, grenadine, sweet vermouth, cherry liqueur, sugar cubes), Sour (lemon and lime juices), Bitter (bitters, olives), Floral (mint, violet liqueur), and Spicy (cayenne pepper, black pepper). Every good cocktail is a mixture of Strong and 2 or 3 of the other components.

I let our guests be adventurous and create their own drinks, but also wrote recipes on Valentine's to give some direction. The Aviation and Blood and Sand were a couple of very popular drinks. Also made this killer Kill Devil Punch.

I decorated the tables with conversation hearts to bring in the Valentine's theme. And the food - oh, the food! I tired to bring in some influences from New Zealand, along with some classic finger food.

I made 2 dips that I served with pita chips, carrot sticks and endive spears. The pea and sundried tomato dip is so easy, and people are always surprised by what's in it.

Peas and Sundried Tomatoes
1 lb bag frozen peas, thawed
1 8 oz. jar sundried tomatoes in oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 or more olive oil
  • Puree peas, sundried tomatoes in oil and garlic in food processor. With motor running, add olive oil until desired consistency is reached.
White Bean and Roasted Garlic Hummus
1 x 14 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
5 - 6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 Tbls tahini
1/4 or more olive oil
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Roast garlic until very soft and brown, then remove from oven and cool slightly
  • Peel garlic and add to food processor with beans and tahini. Puree until well blended. With motor running, pour in olive oil until dip is smooth and blended.
I also served some spiced cashews, inspired by these cashews they served at Herzog on our wedding night...

For my version, I tossed unsalted cashews with a little olive oil and sprinkled them with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chipotle and smoked paprika, then roasted them until until fragrant and one shade darker.

Another New Zealand inspiration was pumpernickel toasts topped with blue cheese, chopped toasted hazelnuts, and manuka honey from New Zealand that we brought all the way home with us. This honey is believed to have a wide range of medicinal properties.

For my vegan and vegetarian friends I made polenta squares with sauteed mushrooms.

Polenta Squares with Mushrooms
1 cup stone ground polenta
2 cups water
olive oil
1 large shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1.5 lbs cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup dry red wine
  • Boil water in a medium saucepan with 1 tsp salt. Stir in polenta and reduce heat to low. Cook until very thick, stirring frequently, about 20 - 30 minutes. Brush a baking pan with oil, and spread polenta over it in a think layer. Chill until firm, about 1 hour, then cut into 1.5" squares.
  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Spread polenta squares on an oiled baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil, then saute onions and garlic until softened. Add mushrooms and saute until most of the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms start to brown. Pour in red wine and saute until mostly absorbed. Spoon mushrooms onto polenta squares and serve.
The seafood snacks included crab-stuffed deviled eggs and potato and parsnip pancakes with smoked salmon.

Add something for the meat eaters!

Mini Meatball Subs
1/2 lb ground lamb (from New Zealand!)
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 pound ground
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup water
4 - 5 Tbl grated parmesan cheese
small handful chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
2 x 28 oz. cans whole peeled tomatoes
olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tsp sugar or sucanat
1 Tbl balsamic vinegar
mini sub rolls, toasted

  • Mix together ground meat, panko, water, parmesan, parsley and egg and season with salt and pepper. Roll into small balls.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium - high heat and add a glug of olive oil. Add meatballs to pan in batches, and cook until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes. Set aside and pour off excess oil from pan. Return pan to medium heat. Puree 1 can of tomatoes in blender. Add onion and garlic to pan and cook until softened. Add pureed tomatoes and whole tomatoes, and smash whole tomatoes with potato masher until crushed. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes. Scoop 2 meatballs into each sub roll and top with additional sauce.
I also made some sweet potato falafels for the veg and popped those in a sub roll with some store-bought (gasp!) tabbouleh.

And, for the highlight of the night, my first foray into meat cooking. I seared and roasted racks of lamb from New Zealand.

After much research and recipe reviewing, I decided to listen to the guru, Martha Stewart, and use a recipe from her Cooking School cookbook. The Rack of Lamb with Herb Crusted was quickly seared in a hot pan, then coated with greek yogurt and crusted with a mixture of parsely, mint, bread crumbs, lemon zest and garlic. It was a huge hit!

I served it with this delicious warm brussel sprout and apple salad.

And to top it all off, I made a dessert invented in New Zealand - a beautiful pavlova.  I used this recipe, which tops the pavlova with lemon curd, but instead of berries I used kiwi and mango mixed with a little simple syrup and chopped mint.

What a wonderful evening. We were showered with love from some of our favorite people, shared good food and drinks and lots of smiles. We were also bestowed with lots of wine, chocolate,  amazing pickles and peanut butter cookies (they are delicious, Reuter!). I can't thank all of our wonderful friends enough for celebrating with us now and always. We're lucky kids. With silly hats.

p.s. thanks to Daisy and De for the photo contributions

Ok, you asked for it.  ONE MORE HAT!