Monday, November 22, 2010

need some last minute thanksgiving ideas?

i spent today shopping for thanksgiving and had long conversations with other shoppers in whole foods and trader joe's. first, i was buying brussels sprouts and a women asked me how i was going to prepare them. apparently her husband's cousin loves brussels sprouts and specifically requested them for t-day. she had never prepared them before and was in a bit of a panic. i shared with her my easy & delicious recipe for roasted brussels sprouts with garlic & balsamic...slow roasted at high heat until the sprouts are caramelized, sweet and amazingly good. even brussels sprouts "haters" love them. i gave her my blog address, helped her select the most beautiful looking produce and sent her on her way. another customer was listening and asked if i made mashed potatoes. she confessed her version always tasted "gummy". i told her i make smashed potatoes with roasted garlic at thanksgiving...i am a texture person and like the bits of skin, chunky potatoes and garlic pieces in this preparation. she loved the idea and asked for the recipe. i happily obliged. (note, i normally do not chat up other shoppers...but... hey... they came to me!!)

driving home, it occurred to me that the emotion both of these women shared was panic. they were stressed, unhappy and not at all looking forward to cooking the thanksgiving meal. kinda sad don't you think? i think this totally misses the point of the holiday which is giving thanks for all that we have and sharing the day with the people that we love. otherwise, what is there to celebrate?

my advice is to do what makes you what makes you happy. cook easy dishes that celebrate the harvest. select the best quality, freshest, local, organic-if-you-can ingredients and don't muck them up with overly complicated preparations. learn to roast and make it your best friend in fall/winter. nothing is simpler than roasting the turkey, sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts. if you are not a baker...and don't want to all means buy your pie from your favorite bakery. better yet, ask a baker friend to provide dessert.

i love to cook...but my thanksgiving menu is easy-breezy because i want to relax and enjoy this day. i want to eat, watch football, take our annual thanksgiving walk throughout downtown napa and get a first peek at the holiday decorations....maybe take a nap?
for my menu this year, i am intrigued by a stuffing recipe i found in bon appetit...cornbread with andouille sausage, fennel & bell peppers. i think i will substitute italian sausage because it sounds really good with the fennel. my turkey recipe is also from bon appetit, but from a few years ago. and because i love to tinker with ideas, i am going to make my tried and true pumpkin pie recipe...but add a brown sugar-walnut topping that i saw in...yet again... bon appetit. i have included the recipes for all three of these ideas...but the links will take you to the exact bon appetit version. i will let you know after t-day how my "tweaks" turn out.

so here is my thanksgiving menu, with links to all the dishes i talked about in this post. if you are still searching for recipes, feel free to use any/all of them. every one is delicious. to all of you, a happy, healthy and delicious thanksgiving. (for the non-americans reading this post...try the dishes anyway, they are really good...and happy start of the holiday season!)

our 2010 thanksgiving menu
*roast turkey with herb rub and shiitake mushroom gravy
*cornbread stuffing with andouille, fennel & bell peppers
(bon appetit, nov 2010 page 113)
*smashed potatoes with roasted garlic
*roasted sweet potato fries (recipe follows)
roasted brussels sprouts with garlic & balsamic
*harvest chutney
*pumpkin pie with brown sugar-walnut topping

roasted sweet potato fries
4 large organic sweet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp aglio, olio, peperoncino (or 2 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp italian parsley chopped
grey salt
freshly ground black pepper

preheat oven to 400 degrees. cut sweet potatoes into french fry thick or thin as you like. spread onto a rimmed baking sheet ensuring they are in a single layer. use two sheets if necessary. drizzle the olive oil over the potatoes, 4-5 passes of the bottle. using your hands, turn the fries in the oil ensuring all sides are coated. sprinkle the aglio (or seasonings), salt and pepper over the top of the fries. roast for 1 hour , or until fries are golden brown and a bit crunchy. (thicker cut fries may need a bit longer, check every 15 minutes after the first hour). serve immediately.

this is the last week of fall fest and the topic is "bounty to be grateful for" . what a perfect way to end the season. simply leave your favorite thanksgiving tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit the collaborators listed on the blog away to garden and do the same.

massive thanks to margaret roach and deb puchalla for coordinating fall fest 2010. as has been a blast. looking forward to next year

best and happy cooking! happy thanksgiving everyone!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

has your extra virgin olive oil gone bad?

regular readers know i am addicted to extra virgin olive oil. i use it in almost all of my cooking, use it as an anti-aging serum for my face, use it to soften my name it, e.v.o.o. is my solution. i have a shelf full of different types of olive oil from "big" green, peppery oils used as a condiment...poured or drizzled as a finishing softer, "fruiter" oils used in my cooking or baking.

today i read a wonderful article discussing ways to tell if your oil is fresh...because extra virgin olive oil does go bad and can ruin a dish. the article is so good...and so full of really good tips...that i thought i would share part of it with you and provide the link so you can finish reading and check out the entire site which is dedicated to all things olive oil. and enjoy. for fellow extra virgin olive oil addicts, the olive oil times is a wonderful website to follow.

"Good Oils Gone Bad: Recognizing Rancidity and Other Defects
By Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne
Olive Oil Times Contributor Reporting from Sonoma County, California

The joy of olive oil lies in its many delightful aromas and flavors—from voluptuous ripe olive to bright green grassy notes and from a soft subtle finish to a zippy peppery kick—there is a world of sensory exploration awaiting the adventurer. But like any great explorer, you will be faced with risks—crocodiles in those placid waters. This is an introduction to the most common defects you will find in olive oil: what they are called, what causes them, and how to recognize their presence.

Any discussion of defects must start with rancidity. The sad truth is that most people in the US, for example, are accustomed to the flavor of rancid olive oil. Olive oil is no longer an occasional presence in the kitchen so it is time to change that. We need to start by recognizing one essential fact about olive oil: it is a perishable product. Olive oil tastes best when it is fresh. Think of olive oil on a freshness continuum that goes from just-made, harvest-fresh at one end, to completely rancid at the other. How long it takes an olive oil to go from one end of this freshness continuum to the other depends on many factors: storage temperature, exposure to air and light, and the amount of natural antioxidants in the olive oil in the first place. All olive oils, even the finest ones, will get rancid eventually. This is why you must never hoard olive oil: use it and enjoy it. Waiting for a special occasion to use your good olive oil? How about dinner!

Do you have a clear sense of what rancid oil smells and tastes like? A good image for many people is the smell of crayons. Another helpful item—something that almost everyone has tasted—is rancid nuts. Rancid is fat gone bad, something all of us have encountered at some time. On a rancid scale of 0 to 10, almost everyone will notice a 9 or a 10. The trick is to develop the confidence to pick out rancidity when it is a 5, or a 3, or lower. The flavor of rancidity in olive oil is usually accompanied by a greasy mouthfeel; in fact, the greasiness often is noticeable first.

Go to your cupboard and pull out the olive oil. How old is it? Is there a “Best By” date? Generally that date is two years from the time that it was bottled. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you when it was harvested and milled. A harvest
date is the most reliable indicator since it tells you when the olive oil was actually made. Sniff it. Taste it. Crayons? Putty? Old peanuts? Don’t feel bad about throwing out old olive oil, feel good about it! Don’t be surprised if the purge of your pantry includes not just old olive oil but things like old whole wheat flour (which gets rancid because of the oils in the wheat germ), crackers and cereals.

A general rule of thumb is that olive oil is best consumed within a year of harvest. Most oils, if unopened and stored in a cool dark place, will still be good for up to two years, but they steadily lose the fresh fruitiness that you want in olive oil. Greener harvest, robust olive oils will keep better than delicate ripe ones because of the higher content of compounds called polyphenols in greener oils. You can recognize the presence of these polyphenols because they contribute pepperiness and bitterness to the flavor of an oil. If an oil is delicate and soft, made from ripe olives, then you will want to use it quickly, within six months or a year at the most.

The second most common defect of olive oil is called “fusty.” It is caused by fermentation in the absence of oxygen; this occurs within the olives before they are milled. This is why it is so important for olives to be processed into oil within as short a time as possible after harvest. Olives left to sit in bags or piles for
even a few days will produce fusty olive oil.

And what does fusty smell and taste like? Unfortunately, the answer for a lot of people is “olive oil.” For many people, both in the US and abroad, fusty flavors in olive oil are the norm. When I was training for an olive oil taste panel, I remember vividly the day I poured my usual supposedly extra virgin olive oil into a warm skillet and was enveloped by the smell of fustiness. I threw out that bottle and never looked back."

continue reading this article by clicking here

for more information on extra virgin olive oil harvest and press, please visit my post help, i am addicted to extra virgin olive oil!

best and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™
"live a green life of style™ "

do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page
& follow us on twitter

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

how does roasted cauliflower & garlic sound?

i love is one of those so-very-versatile vegetables that are delicious steamed, roasted, pureed, mashed, in soups, stews, pastas, gratins....and i could go on and on. cauliflowers are part of the brassicas group of plants which include brussels sprouts, mustard, cabbage, collards, bok choy, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and turnip to name a few.

it is brassicas week at fall the perfect time to review some of my previous posts featuring brussels sprouts, kale & turnips...and to share my "secret weapon" for cauliflower. as i said, i adore cauliflower, but i find many people who think they dislike this vegetable. i say "think" they dislike because once they taste the dish i am going to share with you they become cauliflower aficionados...even kids! really...
photo courtesy fdp

i did a bit of research to find the health benefits for cauliflower. i knew it was good for you...but am surprised at the number of nutrients provided. here is what i learned courtesy of"Cauliflower is a member of the 'white' family in terms of fruits and vegetables. Included in this group are other natural foods such as bananas, mushrooms, onions, and garlic. Cauliflower contains allicin, which can improve heart health and reduce the risk of strokes, and selenium, a chemical that works well with Vitamin C to strengthen the immune system. Cauliflower can also help to maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

Folate is also found in cauliflower, which is a B vitamin that is needed for cell growth and replication. For this reason, it is often recommended that women who are pregnant or may become pregnant eat significant amounts of cauliflower in order to help their unborn children develop properly.

Of course, cauliflower is an excellent source of fiber, which helps to improve colon health and can even help prevent cancer. And, most recently, it has been discovered that cauliflower, as well as other cruciferous vegetables, such as brussel sprouts and cabbage, contain indole-3-carbinol, a substance that can affect the metabolism of estrogen in the body, and prevent breast and other female cancers." photo courtesy fdp

so, now it is time to introduce you to the most simple, easy and delicious way to serve cauliflower...slow roasted with tons of garlic. the roasting turns the vegetables deep brown, caramelized and incredibly sweet. i first made this years ago and when the pan came out of the oven we descended on the finished dish...ate every bite literally from the pan...did not even wait to serve with dinner. try this...and you might want to consider doubling the will want more.

roasted cauliflower & garlic

1 head organic cauliflower
1 head organic garlic, cloves separated and peeled
extra virgin olive oil
grey salt

preheat oven to 425 degrees. prepare cauliflower by first washing and removing leaves. (save for stir frys, soups or stock). cut off stem and then cut cauliflower in half lengthwise and then again into quarters. place one of the cut sides down on cutting board and...with the knife at an angle...cut off stem. repeat with remaining three pieces. break cauliflower into bite sized florets.

place prepared cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet. run 4 passes of evoo bottle over pan and, using your hands, roll cauliflower in oil ensuring evenly covered. place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. remove from oven and add garlic and another 2 passes of e.v.o.o. stir and sprinkle salt over vegetables. return to pan and roast for another 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, adding additional oil only if necessary. keep roasting until the cauliflower is deep brown and caramelized on all sides being careful not to let burn.

remove from oven, taste and adjust salt if needed. place in on a serving platter and pour all e.v.o.o from pan over vegetables. serve immediately.

now it is your turn to participate in fall fest. simply leave your brassicas tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit the collaborators listed on the blog away to garden and do the same.

the cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. yes, copy and paste them everywhere! that way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

always...much thanks to margaret roach and deb puchalla for coordinating fall fest 2010. as always...its been a blast.

best and happy cooking!

diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885™"live a green life of style™ "
do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page& follow us on twitter
to receive special offers only available to our preferred customers, please sign up for the mailing list on the right hand side of this post...