Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cooking: Italian Bread Soup with Escarole

It has been a looong while since I've cooking something and I suppose it has been because I've been stressed out lately but nothing seemed better than a nice comforting bowl of soup tonight for dinner so I made Italian Bread Soup with Escarole. There's something about white beans, leafy greens in a nice tomatoey broth right? Not only that but it has the toasts on top which were topped with a really nice grated parmesan and broiled in the oven. Oh yeah... and the crispy bits of pancetta really rounded things out. Salty and crunchy :9

I started out by crisping up the pancetta in my dutch oven. I removed them and let them drain on a paper towel while I added a chopped onion and 3 chopped cloves of garlic.

The directions say to let the onion and garlic get nice and golden before adding the rest of the ingrediants but I was busy topping the baguette slices with cheese and let the onions and garlic get a little brown (OK.. I burned them a bit :P). I gave the onions a quick stir to get them to stop sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven before pouring in my chicken stock, canned chopped Italian tomatoes, oregano, pepper & escarole.

The escarole needed to be cooked down a bit for 5 minutes so I took that opportunity to pop the baguette slices in the oven to get toasty. Keep an eye on them! They don't take 5 minutes on broil and you will burn them. I let them broil for about 2 1/2 minutes and they came out perfect. I thought I started to smell something burn so thankfully I pulled them out on time.

Once the toast was done, I added the white beans to the soup, seasoned it with salt and let everything simmer for 15 minutes before serving.

Italian Bread Soup with Escarole

1 oz. chopped pancetta
1 chopped medium onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
14 oz. chopped canned Italian tomatoes
5 cups of chopped escarole (1 bunch)
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
30 oz canned cannellini beans rinsed and drained
4 oz sliced Italian baguette
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

1) Set dutch oven on stove over medium heat and add some olive oil. Once the dutch oven has heated through, add pancetta and brown for about 2-3 minutes. Once the pancetta has browned, transfer to a paper towel to drain.

2) Add the chopped onion and let it cook for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic and let them cook together for another 5 minutes. Once they are golden (don't burn them like I did), add broth, tomatoes, escarole, oregano and pepper. Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover the dutch oven. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

3) While the soup is simmering, set oven to broil, put sliced baguette onto a foil lined cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and top with parmesan cheese. Put the cookie sheet in the oven and broil for 2 1/2 minutes. Keep an eye on it! Take out of the oven and set aside.

4) Add the cannellini beans to the soup and simmer for another 15 minutes.

5) Ladle soup into a bowl and top with a couple baguette slices and crispy pancetta and serve.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Day After Thanksgiving

Yesterday we drove up to Jen & Stefano's house in Boulder Creek for dinner. Jen made homemade turkey noodle soup and Karen whipped up a batch of jalapeno and white cheddar biscuits. Both were made from scratch and amazingly delicious. I can't stop thinking about how good it was and I could sure use a bowl right now :9 After dinner we enjoyed some hot toddies (which I didn't like) and some spiked hot chocolate with Godiva liquer (super comforting for the very chilly night) while playing Mad Libs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today we went over to my mom's house for Thanksgiving. She made an incredible spread of food including not only turkey but CRAB! My mom let me eat some of the brains which were so decadent and lovely I almost died. We also had some veggies that my sister made, tiny deviled quail eggs with bacon, my all time favorite sticky rice, and homemade bread. We broke out a nice bottle of Sullivan wine that we had gotten in Napa during our last trip there. For dessert my sister made a cranberry pudding and my mom made cheesecake. It was all so delicious and I'm surprised that I haven't passed out yet.

While the food was being cooked we hung out..

Here's the spread:

I'm so thankful to have an awesome family, loving husband and a mom that is as much of a foodie as I am :) She cooked her ass off today and I love her for it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Iron Chef Challenge: Battle Chicken Breast

The day after airsoft, Jen and I decided to challenge each other in a cooking competition with chicken breasts. As you know, I haven't had a lot of cooking posts lately and it's mainly because I've been practicing the recipe. I wanted to make a Thai inspired dish and I eventually settled on doing Thai Basil Chicken. It didn't seem like a very original idea and since we were going to be judged on that criteria, Justyn came up with the idea to do raviolis. Originally we boiled the ravioli in salted water but I upped the ante by frying them instead. Since the sauce I made, inspired by Top Chef Hosea, got so many rave reviews in the last Iron Chef competition, I decided to make it again. I'll post all the links to the recipes after the pics.

Yesterday we drove up to Jen & Stefano's house for the competition. We arrived early to help set up. Eventually people started arriving and we had one of the guests flip a coin to see who would cook first. Unfortunately, I was picked to go second so Jen got cracking on her dish. She and Stefano (we were allowed a sous chef), cooked a chicken breast roulade with mushrooms and broccolini. I ended up getting to taste her dish way later in the night and thought the flavors were fantastic. I'm going to ask Jen for the recipe so I can make this sometime. The chicken was juicy and the mushrooms which had a wine sauce (?), tasted so comforting and savory.

Kris took great pics of the plates.

Next up to cook was Justyn and I so into the kitchen we went to whip up our dish. I ended up making a chicken skin gremolata which had the skin deep fried and chopped into thin strips, Thai basil, green onion, cilantro and thinly sliced and seeded Thai red chilies. Justyn arranged the fried ravioli on top of the coconut orange ginger sauce and we topped that with the gremolata. We also put some blanched bok choy on the plate just to lighten the dish up a bit but I think it ended up not being necessary.

So onto the results. Karen, Kris & Prentice were our judges and I won! I'm super stoked :D Big thanks go out to the judges for giving me the win and to Jen and Stefano for hosting.

PS - We went to Ogisan for lunch before going to Jen & Stefano's house. It was mediocre at best but I took pictures of it to share. We also went to California Cafe for lunch with my family since it was my mom's birthday. It was pretty good but I'm too tired to type anymore so just enjoy the pics :)

Recipe Links
Thai Basil Chicken: http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/recipes/baschi.html
Coconut Orange Ginger Sauce (substitute heavy cream with coconut milk): http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/sesame-crusted-tuna-with-ginger-cream
Chili Sauce: http://steamykitchen.com/5068-hainanese-chicken-rice.html

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Christmas Cards!

I think this is a better way of posting my Christmas cards rather than do them one at a time. That would take forever! So here's the next batch of cards that I made in the past few weeks.