Thursday Night Nicoise Salad

Thursday Night Nicoise Salad
Allow all of your salad stars to shine on their own. Dress each component of your salad individually and pile onto a platter. Simple food is just so darn pretty. Make something like this whatever you have on hand!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Portabella Mushrooms Stuffed with Goat Cheese

2 large Portabella mushrooms
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Filling ~ about 2 oz. of goat cheese (1 oz. each)
Topping ~
about 1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs
some freshly grated cheese (a few tablespoons)
finely chopped fresh herbs (about 2 tablespoons)
a pinch of kosher salt & a few grinds of black pepper
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil

Preparation ~
Preheat the oven to 425. Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Scrape out the gills of the mushrooms with a spoon, cut out the stems and reserve. Line a small cookie sheet with foil (for easy cleanup), place the mushrooms, caps down on the cookie sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rub around in the oil and vinegar on both sides and roast in pre-heated oven for 10 minutes, caps down. Meanwhile, finely chop the stems. Mix the bread crumbs, grated cheese, herbs, finely chopped stems, s & p and olive oil in a small bowl. Once you have removed the mushrooms from the oven, let cool. Top each mushroom with goat cheese (about one ounce on each mushroom, broken into chunks) and then top with the crumb mixture. Pop back into the oven for about 6 minutes until the bread crumbs are brown and crisp and the goat cheese is oozy. Serve alongside or on top of a simple salad. Tonight, I used baby arugula and thinly sliced red onion, dressed with olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, s & p, and shards of Parmesan. With some fresh bread and butter, this was a filling and delicious late night meal. It would make an elegant lunch, too!

This is the type of meal that's a cinch, providing you have the stuff on hand. I always try to have fresh bread crumbs in stock (I keep them in a zip-lock bag in the freezer). Thankfully, fresh herbs are still plentiful in the yard. Goat cheese lasts a long time in the fridge. Keep some on hand for fast appetizers or to add to a salad. I try to always have fresh greens on hand in the fridge. Arugula tonight. Or....baby romaine, mixed greens or a mixed herb combination. Something tender and delicate. Lemons.... always on hand. Olive oil. Never without it. Hard cheese like Parmesan or Romano. Always. If you're stocked, you will ALWAYS have something wonderful to eat!
Stay stocked. Stay inspired. Stay with me.

Wishing you a fully stocked life and a fully stocked pantry,
Love, from Katie's Late Night Passion Kitchen
Katie
aka Katharine Fioretti

Note: The lovely orange nectar in the glass is actually Prosecco with a splash of Aperol, an ice cube, and a nectarine slice. Gorgeous color for this time of year and a refreshing late night sip.



Thursday, September 17, 2009

Farmers Market Soup with Turkey Meatballs

From a recent trip to the European Farmers Market in Chesterton, I had some nice large bell peppers, a huge sweet white onion, and some bright and beautiful round yellow squash. With carrots and celery on hand along with a couple of potatoes, I knew I had the basics for a nice late summer vegetable soup. I sauteed chopped onion with sliced carrots and celery in olive oil, in a large pot. Chopped bell peppers were added to the aromatics along with some chicken broth and beef stock. I once read that combining chicken and beef stock/broth together produces a slow-cooked, veal stock flavor that is really delicious, so I have often combined the two in soups with excellent results. To brighten the flavor of the broth, I added a can of whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and 4 small but potent fresh red chiles, sliced, seeds and all. What a difference between fresh chiles and dried crushed red pepper flakes. Wonderful freshness. As the soup simmered away, I quickly mixed a pound of ground turkey with freshly grated Parmesan, fresh bread crumbs, salt, pepper, one egg and some chopped freshly picked parsley from the yard. As I rolled marble sized balls and dropped them into the simmering pot, I wished I could have taken a sip of wine from the glass that was calling my name. My hands, were, of course, too gooey to pick up my glass. Pity. Patience is a virtue. I had to wait. Pinch, roll, drop, pinch, roll, drop. You get the picture. Making tiny meatballs for soup is a bit time consuming. You really must resist the temptation to make the meatballs progressively larger in an effort to finish the job faster. Patience. The wine?
Panilonco 2007 Reserve Carmenere from Chile. Red wine-winos . . . make a note. This wine is light but lush. It's smooth. It's food-friendly. It goes down easy. I think it would be an excellent choice for red-wine-newbies. It is lovely to me from the first sip. Silky tannins is what they say. I LOVE this wine and I think you will too! Try it today. Guess what friends? It's only around 5 measly bucks at Trader Joe's!!! You'll thank me for this, I know. I really really like it, so feel free to bring a bottle if you're coming over for dinner any time soon.

Back to the zuppa now. The turkey meatballs are simmering. I cut the squash and a couple of potatoes into bite size cubes and added them to the pot. Check your seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add kosher salt and your favorite pasta. I found this really beautiful pasta at Jewel. Check it out when you have a chance. The brand is Culinary Circle, which I believe is a Jewel brand name. The pasta is authentic bronze cut pasta made in Italy of semolina flour. Look for the white bags that look like waxed paper. The pasta I used in the soup is called "Trottole" and they are shaped like large rings that kind of wind around a center stem. I am very selective when it comes to pasta because I am not a happy camper when the pasta turns to mush. Don't you hate that? This pasta holds its shape and stays firm and al dente'. Just like it should. Tip: I never cook the pasta in the broth unless I am making a small batch which will be eaten in one meal because the noodles will S W E L L and become softer and softer from sitting in the broth, and before you know it, your rich and wonderful broth will be absorbed into the pasta and disappear! I learned this from my mom, Emily, many, many years ago when I amazed myself by re-creating her homemade chicken soup for the very first time. I was ecstatic, needless to say. My mom often makes orzo or acini de pepe pasta for her chicken soup. Always in a separate pot.

So, the soup was served with the pasta and topped with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. I baked a loaf of Asiago cheese bread from Jewel (you can buy those frozen and bake them yourself, if you like) and we had the pleasure of dunking buttered cheesy bread into our healthy vegetable soup, LOL.

I can barely breathe right now. Talk about swelling.

Friday, September 11, 2009

La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu'elles sont

Good cooking is when things taste of what they are. What a wonderful and simple statement. Curnonsky was the most celebrated writer on gastronomy in France in the 20th century. He advocated simple food over complicated, rustic over refined, and often repeated the phrase,La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le goût de ce qu'elles sont. I have always believed this to be true, as well. Take for example, the grand simplicity of a perfectly ripened, home grown tomato.
The amazing beauty, flavor and freshness of this luscious fruit is truly a highlight of late summer. Chewy, crusty bread, the awesome tomato, fragrant, tender, freshly picked basil, a sprinkle of kosher salt and you have a memorable, summertime treat that you can only dream about in the dreary winter months. At the office yesterday, many of us enjoyed home grown tomatoes, thickly sliced and served up on buttered, mayonnaised, toasted, country Italian bread. Topped with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few basil leaves, we happily finished off a couple of loaves of bread, a variety of tomatoes, an abundance of freshly picked basil, a few hunks of fresh Asiago and some aged Grana Padano. It was a fun and lingering snack time that could only be held at this time of the year. Thank you to brother, Joe, for contributing so much goodness from your healthy and productive organic garden. We enjoyed your cucumbers and tomatoes! We eagerly await each year's crop and appreciate each and every bean, zucchini and tomato. And, thanks, also, to Ray's Quality Greenhouse in Steger, IL where I purchased my awesome tomato plants this year. Heirloom tomatoes like "Rainbow Striped" and "Lynn's Mahogany Garnet" are beautiful and delectable tomatoes. The "Brandywine" is also an amazing, sweet, pinkish, weighty and flavorful tomato. It matures s l o w l y. I'm trying to do the same. In the large closeup above, the smaller red tomatoes with metallic olive green stripes are "Lynn's Mahogany Garnets", the large golden tomatoes pictured front center and right are the "Rainbow Striped". The big beefy tomato in the background is a "Brandywine". I just picked those this morning and set them on the patio step for their photo shoot. The "Rainbow Striped" is probably my favorite. A large, beautiful golden yellow tomato with a sweet, mild flavor and few seeds. Smooth skin with a pinkish red bottom and a round swirl of the pinky red in each mouth-watering slice. Amazing tomato. I wouldn't think of cooking with any of these because their pure flavor must be enjoyed "au naturale" at the peak of ripeness......

Simple food, pure and true flavors. Enjoy all that summer has to offer as we wind it up for 2009. September is a wonderful month to savor what the earth is still gifting. Enjoy it all . . . Et surtout, faites simple! . . . And above all, keep it simple!

Wishing you love and life's simple pleasures,

Katie

www.katiespassionkitchen.blogspot.com

September 2009


Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Weekend in KPK






Red Plum Cherry Crumble Bars














Delicious Sweet Corn with
Basil Butter













Ponchatoula Strawberry Cupcakes

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Katie's Passion Mac

I have a new Mac! . . . I'm learning, I'm searching, I'm reading, I'm exploring and I'm anxious to push this new Apple into many different directions. I definitely will not push it into any hot caramel, though. LOL. All new. Big screen. Tons of storage. No virus threats. Amazing photo and video options for organizing, editing and sharing. Let's see how creative we can be with this wonderful technology. I'm pumped. All I need now is time! What am I talking about? I have time. It's only 1:50 a.m. and there are quite a few hours until the sun comes up. No complaints. I'm taking a nice big bite out of this apple. Thank you Mark. It's really suh-weeeeet.

Since my last post, I have had some delays with transferring files from my old computer to the new Apple, a really busy schedule with my "real" job ($ 4 Clunkers, anyone?), many various blog neglect justifications, but, NEVER MIND
all of that b.s.! Let's talk about F O O D !

Here are a few things I have eaten, cooked, drank, thought about cooking (or eating), read about, did (or thought about doing) . . . you get the point. OK. Let's see . . .

First, there was Mom's Stuffed Cabbage. Talk about comfort. Mmmmm. This was simply delicious and simple to make. Emily & I used an old, old recipe from the Antoinette Pope Cooking School Cookbook, my mom's "go-to" reference for pretty much everything. Ground beef and cooled, cooked rice, rolled up in partially cooked savoy cabbage leaves . . . piled up, covered with canned tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and slowly cooked in my grandmother's Magnalite roaster. I love that roaster so much that my mom just gave me the rest of her stash. Now I have a total of 5 Magnalite pots/roasters. These babies are built to last! Love your vessels. That's what I say. Here's a shot of the gawooomkees (LOL) on top of homemade mashed potatoes. Oh yeah. In the background is a cool and creamy cucumber and onion salad with radishes, sour cream, white balsamic vinegar, and just a pinch of sugar. Another Mom delight. Thanks, Em. It was a great night and a delicious meal.

Then, there was the olive oil cake. Kind of
unusual. I woke up on a Sunday morning and had
to bake it before I did anything else. That was
the only thing I wanted to do that morning. To
make a long story longer, LOL, I cheerfully whipped up the egg whites to stiff peaks (while
videotaping the entire process), I beat the yolks with sugar until they were thick. I sifted the flour. I reminisced about using the Vin Santo that Mark and I brought home from Santorini several years ago along with extra virgin olive oil. I was for sure in my KPK element. The entire process exhilarated me as I sipped the Vin Santo and brushed my springform pan with olive oil. I was so happy. I was happy as the lovely aromas filled Katie's Passion Kitchen. I was happy as the cake rose and domed nicely as it was becoming a lovely golden brown. I was happy when I peeked through the oven window. I was still happy while I was washing the dishes. Then, happy turned to leery as I questioned the length of time the cake was to bake. It seemed much too long and the cake looked really brown. But, it smelled nice. It was not burned and it rose beautifully, right? I gingerly removed it from the oven and inspected it carefully. Of course, I was taking pictures and even videotaping my concerns. As the sides of the cake shrunk away from the sides of the pan, the gap between the cake and the pan became more substantial. Hmmmmm. As the cake cooled, it kept shrinking. After I unbuckled the springform pan and removed it from the sides of cake, the cake looked as if I had tied a ribbon around it and squeezed it a bit. Kind of like a squashed hourglass. Or a UFO. After pondering what may have caused the shrinkage, I continued my inspection. Nice crumb, but too dense at the bottom. Nice flavor. Kind of eggy. Moist. I liked it. I knew that it had to be served by the slice with a brightly flavored fruit compote and definitely not on a pristine, show-off pedestal because this cake was NOT a looker. I tossed some berries into a pot with a few drops of water, some sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a chunk of lemon rind. Just FYI, the natural pectin in the lemon rind (the white pith) acts as a thickener when you're heating fruit for dessert. You don't need to add any other junk to thicken your fruit. Mother Nature is awesome. I believe I heated strawberries and raspberries that day, maybe blackberries, too. I love this method of heating fruits, for example, plums and raspberries, yum. It really enhances their naturally perfect flavors and it's great to top ice cream or cake or frozen yogurt. You get the picture. Try it some time, if you haven't yet. Cool? No. Warm.

Next, there was the grilled zucchini parmesan.
This was really delicious. It was not really intended to be our main course the night I made it, but it was a perfectly satisfying main course along with a salad and some great bread. Everyone knows about Eggplant Parmesan, right? Well, this is a little lighter, since the zucchini is grilled and not fried, and it's definitely less of a mess in the kitchen. So, I had 2 blemish-free, large, firm zucchinis from my brother, Joe's, organic summer garden. We have been enjoying the fruits of Joe's labor all summer. Zucchini, baby eggplant, heavenly beans, perfect tomatoes, endless cucumbers, firm, shiny peppers, and more . . . I sliced the zucchini, tossed them in a bit of olive oil, sprinkled them with kosher salt and grilled them on my gas grill with the heat set to medium. 5 to 10 minutes on each side until they were firm-tender with nice grill marks. Before I grilled them, I made a batch of tomato sauce with some onions, garlic, fresh basil, some red pepper flakes and a bay leaf. Fave brand of canned tomato sauce and canned whole tomatoes: Dei Fratelli. My fave. Mom's fave. Teri's fave. Any fave brand switches must be immediately reported to all family members to avoid feelings of neglect or paranoia. Like, when my mom switched from Charmin to Charmin Ultra, without telling Teri, there was a problem. And . . . I don't remember Mom telling me about the switch from Tide With Bleach Alternative to Gain. Come to think of it, is Mom using Saran Wrap or Glad Wrap? If she switched without an APB, there will be trouble. These changes must be promptly communicated. Um, did I digress? Back to the zuke parm. OK. Baking dish. Layer of sauce on the bottom. Layer of zuke slices. Drizzle of sauce. Showers of grated cheese. I used Grana Padano and it was DELICIOUS. Nuther layer of zuke slices. More sauce. Lots of cheese. Then. top the whole kit and kaboodle with homemade fresh bread crumbs that you have tossed with olive oil, kosher salt, more grated cheese and a little pepper. Pop it into a pre-heated 375 degree oven, uncovered. Oh my. I love dishes like this one. Simple and hearty. I like to have fresh bread crumbs on hand at all times. I toss stale bread into the food processor and pulse it a few times. I store the crumbs in a freezer bag and use them as needed for meatballs or crusty toppings like this one!

Plus, we had wonderful evening with the Garcias and the Byttows on Sunday night, August 30th for a celebratory Italian meal. Antipasto on the patio, a little vino, a little Dean Martin, some Jerry Vale, and a couple of pounds of Pasta Bolognese in the dining room. Wish we could do that every night! Happy Birthday Steve! Thank you to our wonderful guests and hope to see Elsa and David soon in Zacatecas!
Until my next post, Buon Appetito my friends, family and fellow lovers of food and wine. By the way, read Julia Child's My Life in France when you have the time. It is a lovely and inspiring book. I am enjoying every word and every adventure with utter delight. Julia was joyful and funny and so very passionate about French food. Devour it today! You won't be disappointed. Ciao familia!

Katharine Fioretti
Owner, Creator, Author, Head Cook & Bottle Washer
KATIE'S PASSION KITCHEN

Mediterranean Fish Stew

Mediterranean Fish Stew
A KPK cross between Spanish style Cod and French Boullabaisse

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Smoky Spanish Albondigas Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup

Summer Vegetable Soup
aka "Got-To-Go" Soup, inspired by Louie

MORE 4 U

From here, you can continue scrolling down to check out some of my favorite dishes and KPK highlights.

For more posts (articles), recipes, stories and pictures, you can scroll up (in the right column under "What You Missed") and click on 2008, 2009 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013. As of June, 2013, there are are total of 139 posts in KPK. You can spend more time here when you know where to look, right?! Another way to enjoy my kitchen is to click on any items of interest in the section entitled "Passion Posts", also up above in the right column.

Love, Katie ~ I am so glad you're here! Stay awhile!

Super Healthy Salad

Super Healthy Salad
. . . featuring Roasted Rutabagas (or Swede Turnips, if you wish)

Grilled Corn with Tarragon Cream

Grilled Corn with Tarragon Cream
Click on the image to link to a simple and lovely recipe at Fine Cooking

Cinnamon Pecan Katies

Cinnamon Pecan Katies
Yes I Did

Forbidden Rice Salad

Forbidden Rice Salad
Black "Forbidden Rice" from China is delicious and loaded with antioxidants

Pasta with Hot Pancetta, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Parmesan & Power Greens

Pasta with Hot Pancetta, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Parmesan & Power Greens

Indian Carrot Salad

Indian Carrot Salad

Fluffy Milk Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Softly Whipped Cocoa Cream

Fluffy Milk Chocolate Mini Cupcakes with Softly Whipped Cocoa Cream

Asparagus & Mozzarella Frittata

Asparagus & Mozzarella Frittata

Grilled Eggplant is Layered Up for an Eggplant Gratin with Fresh Basil and 4 Cheeses

Grilled Eggplant is Layered Up for an Eggplant Gratin with Fresh Basil and 4 Cheeses

Oven Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Herb Butter Turkey Breast, Gemstone Potatoes & Buttery Peas

Oven Roasted Herb Butter Turkey Breast, Gemstone Potatoes & Buttery Peas

Egg Ribbon Salad with Pancetta & Shaved Parmesan

Egg Ribbon Salad with Pancetta & Shaved Parmesan

Fresh Strawberry Slices & Whole Raspberries tucked into cream cheese frosted vanilla cupcakes

Fresh Strawberry Slices & Whole Raspberries tucked into cream cheese frosted vanilla cupcakes

Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops

Bacon Wrapped Sea Scallops
an outdoor grill regular at the crib

Smokin' Beets

Smokin' Beets

Roasted Beet & Potato Salad

Roasted Beet & Potato Salad

Rosemary Flatbread

Rosemary Flatbread

"Hola" from Mi Pueblo, San Jose, CA

"Hola" from Mi Pueblo, San Jose, CA

Rapini Frittata

Rapini Frittata

Healthy Portabella

Healthy Portabella

Italian Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad with D'Amato's Focaccia

Italian Tuna & Cannellini Bean Salad with D'Amato's Focaccia

Fried Asparagus

Fried Asparagus

Day Off Breakfast

Day Off Breakfast
Boiled Eggs & Whole Grain Toast ~ Simple Pleasures are the BEST!

Last Minute Lentil Soup

Last Minute Lentil Soup
with carrots, celery, and a little kale . . . topped with a heap of conchigliette pasta and parmigiano reggiano

A Sampling of Christmas

A Sampling of Christmas
KPK Pecan Shortbread Cookies and Almond Cookies