This weekend hubby made his annual trek to the high country to prove that old men still have it (meaning they can downhill ski without breaking anything, including records!) You could say that they were away getting their ski fix. Meanwhile back at the ranch, mama, or in this case grammama, settled in for a girl-style staycation complete with plenty of carbs, cupcakes and chick flicks.
Friday evening was a salute to the past with a home DVD showing of an ageless favorite, Lady and the Tramp. Okay, not officially a chick-flick but a decent cross-over with the added ability to entertain a five and seven year old. Auntie Dana, aka Dana-Lou-Sous-Chef, joined the festivities that started with, what else, spaghetti and meatballs. If you’ve never seen Lady and the Tramp this will get lost in translation. No other scene steals the show like the nose to nose spaghetti slurping of the title characters as they dined alfresco in the alleyway. Gotta love those Disney romance scenes.
Saturday evening I dropped off the kiddos and headed off to the actual theatre to see the only chick offering which was Mirror, Mirror. Suffice to say that if you’re a fan of Snow White you may find that you are lost by this translation. Even though quirky and somewhat entertaining, it isn’t likely to end up in my home entertainment library. You may want to think twice before taking your young princess wannabes.
Waiting around Sunday evening for my ski bum to return from the mountains, I decided to dig into the leftover spaghetti. Like most pasta dishes, the sauce it is even better the next day. I put an Italian CD into the player, grabbed my pasta and settled in. Alas, only one thing was missing. My Tramp wasn’t there to slurp spaghetti from his end of the table.
Recipe for Alleyway Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
Is it comfort food or discomfort food? I suppose it depends on the extent of your indulgence as to whether it brings you pleasure or pain. Winter beckons to us to eat things that warm the soul and fill the stomach. Pale, bland little meats like the turkey tenderloin I pulled out of the freezer last night just beg for a rich, savory side dish to cozy up to.
Like almost everyone in Fresno, our family recently visited the latest restaurant to open and tried their signature dish. Yardhouse Macaroni and Cheese Squared (Mac + Cheese)², laden with chicken, bacon, wild mushrooms and truffle oil, no doubt boasts a hefty caloric count. The sheer number of ingredients was a bit confusing to my palate but I did come away with the impression that truffle oil is a pleasing addition to the cheesy combination. Earthy and rich, truffles do take the ordinary pasta staple to a new level.
I fell in love with many things in Tuscany, not the least of which were foods like truffles. This pungent underground fungus, relative to a mushroom, is an embodiment of the fertile Tuscan region. Exquisitely aromatic, they bring a wealth of depth to recipes through taste and smell. Although expensive, a small amount of truffle can enhance an entire meal. A good truffle infused oil can be substituted for the truffle itself giving an equally satisfying result. Make sure when purchasing infused oil that it contains the real article, not an imitation or essence. Unlike some luxury ingredients, truffle oil is so concentrated that a very small vial will make more than one dish.
My rendition of the truffle macaroni and cheese was based on a butter and milk white sauce made from a shallot and garlic sauté. Smooth melting white cheeses like Fontina and Havarti gave it a silken texture and white cheddar and parmesan added flavor dimension. Knowing that not everyone would share my affinity for truffle oil, I divided the pasta in two batches flavoring only half with the oil. By utilizing two sets of ramekins it was easy to distinguish between the two choices.
In Italy truffle hunting dogs are used to sniff the gems from their underground troves. Trained to find the scent and alert their masters, they seem to dance with excitement at the whiff of a single truffle. Pulling my pungent little crocks from the oven, memories of my wonderful journey to the land of truffles filled me with the same anticipation and delight of those eager pups. I could hardly wait to let my taste buds do the dance.
Recipe for Truffle Mac & Cheese
Can you guess what is pictured here? Not an inkblot from Rorschach, but rather a sketch of the delicious dish whipped up by our family’s youngest chef. Our seven year old grandson, Akira, got out his new cookbook and together we tackled Emeril’s version of the French favorite, Shrimp Scampi. In my world passing on the love of cooking to the younger generation needn’t be limited to the girls. It’s time to get the boys interested.
This culinary adventure started when I found a copy of “There’s a Chef in My World” a children’s cookbook by Food Network star Emeril Lagasse, on the sale rack at Barnes and Noble. The recipes are arranged by country and illustrated with colorful depictions of the dishes. Geared to the budding school age chef, the steps are simple enough for children to follow with the aid of an adult sous chef. Quality ingredients yield results that adults will enjoy and that encourage skeptical younger eaters to expand their palate.
The cooking experience itself produces so much more than a meal. Reading, measuring and following directions are all ways to incorporate academic skills into a hands-on activity. Cutting, stirring and prepping use motor skills. The finished product brings a sense of accomplishment and the praise received is a great confidence builder. Best of all, creating something in tandem is fun and memorable. In short, cooking is love.
Even if you don’t have your own little shrimp chef to cook with, the recipe is simple and delicious enough to make for yourself. I confess to preferring white wine in the sauce over the chicken broth so you may want to make that change when cooking for adults. (Remember the wine cooks out but children sometimes do not care for the taste.) If you want to encourage a child you know to try cooking, I recommend you locate a copy of this cookbook. It has loads of fun and interesting recipes to catch the interest of any young chef. Who knows, you might even get an invite for an international delight of your own.
Recipe for Shrimp Scampi
from Emeril Lagasse’s “There’s a Chef in My World”
There’s nothing like a ripe summer tomato. It looks and smells seductive. No other season produces an equal and nothing can rival the just picked ones. Add in heirloom status and it’s all over for me. I can’t resist them. I especially like the zebra striped and the so-red-they-are-nearly-purple ones. That is how I end up with too many tomatoes.
Given the fact that they only last a few days on the window sill, I needed to come up with more than daily Caprese salad. We needed tomato intervention. As lovers of pasta, I started to acquiesce towards cooking them into sauce, which seemed a criminal act. Their merit came from their unaltered state. Then I recalled the Tuscan way. Tuscans heighten natural flavors rather than manipulate, letting natural quintessence shine through. Why not marinate the tomatoes with other garden allies to toss with pasta, in cool pomodoro?
I peeled and chopped a one pound tomato into a bowl and drizzled olive oil over it. To this I added salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed garlic and a handful of basil leaves and covered the bowl to marinate. After a couple of hours on the counter, I cooked up a half pound of angel hair pasta to toss with the tomato mixture. Before serving I removed the fresh garlic (too pungent uncooked) and added a cubed fresh mozzarella ball. Buono! No more problems with too many tomatoes. This could be my new favorite lunch.
Recipe for Cool Pomodoro