Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lunch on the walk to Ubud

We've had pretty constant rain since we arrived in Bali on Thursday evening, quite unusual for this time of year which is not considered the rainy season. Everyone attributes the change to "global warming." The change is of serious concern to a culture that revolves around agriculture and depends on predictability in the seasons as much as Bali's does.

Mid-day Sunday the sky seemed to be brightening and for the first time we got a glimpse of the mountains which surround us. We decided to walk into Ubud, mostly for the chance to get a little exercise after several days of riding around in vans through torrential downpours. The walk of about five miles was on a small highway packed with cars, small trucks and lots of scooters. We dodged the traffic and barking dogs, responded to the children greeting us "Hallo. How   are   you?" and wended our way around the piles of stuff sitting on the tile sidewalk covering what can only be called a sewer of sorts. Watching our footing because many of the tiles were covered with a slippery goo. What kept us energized was the hope that we would come to a barbeque place which had been highly recommended.

And we did. Naughty Nuri's. It was so worth it. A plate of ribs. Some white rice--although we could have had fried potatoes--along with a sweet soy sauce or an extremely hot sweet sauce. The place was packed--always a good sign.

Well-fueled, we walked the rest of the way into the center of town, had a wonderful vanilla ice cream (Did you know that vanilla is grown in Bali, along with coffee, chocolate, and cinnamon?) with kahlua, drank a ginger tea, strolled through the market, and rode the shuttle back to the hotel to await the arrival of Ben Kunst, our son, and his good friend and traveling companion, Stephanie Kingdon, hereafter referred to as Ben and Stephanie.

Two More Balinese Breakfasts

I'm well on my way to trying every Balinese breakfast on the menu here at Alila Ubud. So I wanted to share these next two with you. Both are so delicious. 

The first comes in a container looking a lot like a tagine. Take the top off and you'll find a slightly sweetened black rice porridge with coconut milk and grated coconut. Warm and comforting.

The second comes wrapped in a banana leaf with little picks holding it together. Enclosed is a cone of rice and a selection of braised chicken, egg, vegetables, and tomato sambal (or sauce). Savory and delicious.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We're in Bali

After a flight of 14 hours to Hong Kong, a three hour flight to Singapore with a five hour lay-over, and finally a two hour flight to Bali, we are here and it is glorious. Got in Thursday evening and have been settling in ever since. For the first part of the trip, we are staying in Ubud which is in the central part of the island and is known as the cultural center of Bali.

Yesterday we visited the workshops of various artisans: wood carvers, an ikat weaver, silver jewelry makers, and painters. Today we had the pleasure of being blessed by a head priest, a ceremony that he performs on the day of the full moon, among many others. Our guide Putu wrapped us in sarongs and scarves, stopped at his mother's house to pick up the offering she had prepared for us to bring to the priest, and then we made our way through the streets of Ubud to the small temple. The priest sat on a platform, sprinkling those being blessed with water, flowers, and placing a rice mixture on the forehead and the base of the throat. We awaited our turn. Putu instructed us to place our right hand over our left to receive the water and to drink it and to bow our head when a pitcher of water was poured over it. Of course we didn't understand what he was saying to us but assume that he was blessing our visit to this place and wishing us a joyous and happy time here.

Just in case you're wondering about the food, it is fabulous.

I'll start with my breakfasts which have been so good. The first morning I had green crepes filled with fresh coconut mixed with palm sugar and a palm sugar syrup. Today's breakfast was a chicken and rice porridge, topped with finely chopped lemon basil and crispy fried shallots. So much more to tell but at least this is a start.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Wedge of Iceberg/A Slice of Heaven

Tangy Blue Cheese Dressing
I can't begin to explain what has gotten into me: I can't seem to get enough iceberg lettuce. Not by itself, mind you, but slathered with this Tangy Blue Cheese Dressing or a Thousand Island Dressing from Martha Stewart which I may pass along to you if I can perfect it just a bit. The crisp coldness of the lettuce, the crunch, with the creamy richness of the dressing. I am in love.

1 green onion or 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons dry white wine
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
A touch of agavé syrup or honey if you think the dressing needs it

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir to mix. Taste for seasonings and adjust according to your taste.
2. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 1½ cups of dressing
Adapted from the Wine Advisory Board’s Favorite Recipes of California Winemaker, [from 1963].
Offered by Mrs. Frank Lico, San Martin Vineyards Company, San Martin
Mrs. Lico also suggests that the dressing would be “good with barbecued steak, baked potato, green beans and apple pie for dessert.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Favorite Brits and Their Books

There are so many incredibly talented British cooks and cookbook writers these days it is hard for me to choose my favorites. I currently have 29 cookbooks written by 13 English cooks (not including several from Australia and Ireland). Some of them are nearly household names, even here, like Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, thanks to their numerous television appearances. And others are just splendid cooks, often heading up restaurant kitchens, who write beautifully and create wonderful dishes to share with us, their readers: Fergus Henderson, Simon Hopkinson, Gary Rhodes, John Torode, Simon Rimmer, and Nigel Slater to name a few. I have cooked from all 29 of these cookbooks. While I can’t say that all the recipes were equally successful, the great majority were very good indeed. In London this spring I made notes of a number of cookbooks which I hope will get published here in the next few months. More by women too. I’ll keep you posted.

Nigella Lawson is stunningly beautiful, funny, astute, and can create both complicated and simple dishes with great wit and charm. I’ve never seen her on television so all my impressions come exclusively from her many books.
Nigella Bites (2002)
Favorite recipes: Italian Sausages with Lentils (recipe below), Chocolate Lime Cheesecake, and Chocolate Pots (December 8, 2009 blog)
How To Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking (2001)
Favorite recipe: Pizza Rustica
Other cookbooks: How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food (2002), Forever Summer (2003), Feast (2004), Nigella Express: Good Food Fast (2007)

Jamie Oliver is passionate about getting people to cook and eat better, without a hint of preciousness or elitism. He is congenial, even folksy, in his cookbooks, making them seem accessible to people who haven’t cooked much, especially guys. If you want to see for yourself, check out his web site and watch his TED acceptance speech. Then cook his food. You’ll be convinced.
The Naked Chef (2000)
Favorite recipes: Pappardelle with Sweet Leeks and Mascarpone, Spicy Couscous, Spiced Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks, Marinated Chickpeas with Chilli, Lemon, and Parsley, and Farfalle with Watercress and Arugula Pesto
Happy Days with the Naked Chef (2002)
Favorite recipes: Shrimp with Chilli, Parsley, Ginger and Garlic on Toast and Sirloin of Beef with Bok Choy, Soy Sauce and Ginger
Jamie’s Dinners (2004)
Favorite recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding
Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook (2007)
Favorite recipe: Indian-style Broccoli with Spiced Yogurt (May 19, 2010 blog)
Other cookbooks: Jamie’s Food Revolution (2009)

Simon Rimmer, an avowed carnivore, bought a vegetarian restaurant called Greens in 1990 in Manchester, England with no experience running a kitchen or cooking in one. He and his partner who had been waiters previous to the purchase threw themselves into transforming “stodgy” vegetarian fare into remarkable dishes and learning to cook really well along the way.
Rebel Cook: Breaking the Rules for Brilliant Food (2006)
Favorite recipes: Warm Potato Salad with Garlic Sausage (recipe below), Warm Vietnamese Chicken Salad, and Simple Green Salad, Chinese Style
The Accidental Vegetarian (2004)
Favorite recipes: Smoky Roasties, Rendang Shallot and Asparagus Curry, and Butternut Enchilladas with Mole Sauce

Nigel Slater wrote Real Fast Food way before the “fast” thing kicked in over here. The ingredients are few, the skills required negligible, and the results quite delicious. His 2004 memoir Toast is both sad and revealing of the various situations that may lead to an interest in cooking.
Real Fast Food (1995)
Favorite recipes: Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (recipe below) and Spinach and Orange Salad
Appetite (2000)
Favorite recipes: A Smooth and Creamy Paté, and A Creamy Calming Pasta Dish
Other cookbooks: The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater (2006)

Two of the three recipes I’m about to give you call for sausage. The third calls for bacon. It’s safe to say that I am extremely fond of both sausage and bacon. One of my favorite easy meals when I was newly married was sausages and baked acorn squash halves filled with butter, brown sugar, and walnuts. Sound familiar? The truth is sausages are great with just about anything. Recently I made them to accompany a very tasty bulgur salad. I suggest you buy the best you can, preferably from a butcher you trust. And if you are serving them to friends, try them out yourself first to make certain they are worthy.

The Brits Cook Sausages and Bacon

Italian Sausages with Lentils

For the lentils:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Sprinkling of salt
2 cups dried Puy lentils (green or black or a mixture)
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
½ cup red wine
3 cups stock or water to cover the lentils
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sausages:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
6 fresh uncooked sweet Italian sausages
½ cup red wine
¼ cup water or stock
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

1. To cook the lentils, put 2-3 tablespoons of oil into a good-sized pan or a Bram pot over low heat. When it’s warm, add the chopped onion and sprinkle with salt. Cook over a low heat until the onions are soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs, stir well, and cover generously with the red wine and the stock or water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 30-50 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and most of the liquid’s absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can make this ahead. Reheat when you’re ready to proceed.
2. To cook the sausages, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and the smashed garlic cloves to a heavy frying pan, and fry for a few minutes. Add the sausages and brown on all sides. Add the wine and stock, bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat, cover the pan and simmer the sausages for about 15 minutes, turning mid-way. When the sausages are done, cut in half on the diagonal, add them to the lentils. Mash the garlic into the remaining liquid and add it to the lentil pot. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, or more liquid until it is to your liking.
3. Before serving, reheat the lentil and sausage mixture over low heat. Sprinkle with parsley.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites

Warm Potato Salad with Garlic Sausage

6 ounces small potatoes or about 12 small potatoes
½ cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
6 Garlic, Italian or Sicilian fresh sausages, cooked and cut in thick slices
3 ounces Swiss cheese, cut in small cubes
1 tablespoon chopped chervil (if you can find it)
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
¼ cup chopped chives

Mustard and White Wine Vinaigrette:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the potatoes in boiling water until just soft. (Or steam as in the French Potato Salad on my March 13, 2010 blog). Drain and cut into thick slices. If the potatoes are small, halve or quarter them.
2. Bring the wine and stock to a boil and reduce by two-thirds. Remove from the heat and toss the potatoes into the mix and leave for 10 minutes to infuse.
3. Warm the cooked sausages in a 350ºF oven for 6 minutes in a Bram pot or an ovenproof skillet. Combine the sausages and the potatoes in the pot or skillet.
4. Whisk together the mustard and vinegar. Slowly add the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour this over the potato mixture; you may not need all of it. Add the cheese and herbs and toss together. Serve the salad in the Bram pot or, if you used a skillet, transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.

4-6 servings
Adapted from Simon Rimmer’s Rebel Cook: Bending the Rules for Brilliant Food

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat
½ cup thinly sliced bacon or pancetta
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons water, as needed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Shred/slice the Brussels sprouts either by hand or with a food processor. The processor doesn’t do as nice a job as by hand, but it is so fast.
2. Heat the butter in a large, shallow pan. When it is warm, add the sliced bacon and stir until it is soft and cooked through.
3. Add the shredded sprouts and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Fry until the sprouts begin to soften. Add the tablespoons of water as needed to help with the cooking and to loosen and incorporate any brown places on the bottom of the pan.
4. The sprouts are ready when they are soft and coated with the bacon juices. Most of the water will have evaporated. Adjust the seasonings. Add the lemon or lime juice just before serving.

4 servings
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food

Monday, June 14, 2010

Red Pepper Party Dip

We went to a splendid 60th birthday party for a friend in Sonoma. I made three dips: Green Olive Tapanade (August 10, 2009 blog), North African Hummus (August 10, 2009 blog), and this Red Pepper one.  And served them with crackers and toasted naan (you could use pita too).

 Red Pepper, Walnut, and Pomegranate Dip (Muhammara)

3 large or 4 medium red bell peppers
¼ teaspoon smoky hot paprika or 1 red bird’s eye chili, deseeded and chopped or a touch of cayenne
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1¼ cups walnuts
1/3 cup lightly toasted fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon hot water (I omitted)
¼ cup olive oil (I omitted)

1. Roast the bell peppers under the broiler (or whatever way you find most convenient) until they are nicely charred on all sides. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove the stalks, seeds, and white membranes. Don’t rinse.
2. Place the well-drained peppers in a food processor with all the other ingredients, except for the water and olive oil. Process to a rough paste, scraping down the sides at least once. I find that the consistency is just fine without adding the water and oil. But if you want to add the oil, pour it in a slow steady stream and blend until the mixture is thick and creamy. If you don’t want to add the oil, blend the mixture until it is thick and creamy. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.
3. Allow the mixture to cool and then refrigerate. Before serving, check the seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with warm Arabic bread, pita, naan, crackers, or smear onto toasted slices of French bread.

6-8 servings as part of a mezze selection
Adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s Saha: A chef’s journey through Lebanon and Syria

Friday, June 11, 2010

Katharine's Basic Pantry Supplies

This is the stuff that I keep on hand most all of the time. When something is close to running out, I buy another because I never want to be without it. As I’ve talked about before, with milk, cheese and eggs in your fridge, there is no telling how many dinners you can put together. Add some sausage, tomato sauce, and dried pasta or cornmeal and you are set for a good long stretch of time. Add some salad greens—quickly picked up from the closest grocery store or farmers’ market—and you have quick, nutritious and delicious meals available to you, your friends and family whenever speed is of the essence. What would you add to this list?

vinegars: balsamic, white & red wine, rice, sherry
olive oil
canola oil
salt: kosher and any other kind you fancy
various dried herbs and spices, I buy as I need them and then refill the bottles from bulk jars at places like Whole Foods or Sonoma Market
soy sauce
fish sauce (if you do Thai)
Worcestershire sauce
Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
dried pasta, couscous, polenta or cornmeal
raisins/dried apricots/cranberries/crystallized ginger
chicken stock (in boxes)
peanut butter
jar of pasta sauce
dried chile peppers of various sorts

Canned or bottled goods:
tomato paste in a tube
artichoke hearts
chicken stock
garbanzo beans
olives like kalamata ( buy pitted)
coconut milk

Baking supplies:
white sugar
brown sugar
baking powder & soda
rolled oats

cheese: hard like parmesan, Swiss or cheddar
lemons and limes
greens of some sort for a salad
green onions

Fridge door:
various Chinese sauces
anchovies (in a jar)
maple syrup
sundried tomatoes
bottled horseradish
oils that need to be refrigerated

fresh pasta
frozen peas
frozen chopped spinach
ice cream or sorbet

Cooking from the Cupboard

Polenta, Sausage and Tomato Layers
This is one of those incredibly versatile dishes which is easy to prepare, immensely likable to just about every age group--especially teenage boys--with ingredients that can pretty much live in your cupboard or fridge. The better the ingredients you use in the dish, the better the result.

1 recipe Creamy Polenta (see recipe below)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 Italian sausages, skin removed, coarsely chopped
Note: If your Italian sausages are not flavored with fennel seed, you can add ¼ teaspoon fennel seed to the sausage as you cook it
1½ cups home-made tomato sauce or a good one in a jar
12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼ to ½ inch thick
¼ teaspoon black pepper or Aleppo pepper

1. Make the polenta. See recipe below.
2. Preheat over to 375ºF. Butter a 2½-quart flameproof casserole.
3. Add ¼ cup Parmesan cheese to the hot polenta. Stir well. Pour into the prepared casserole. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan.
4. While the polenta is cooking, sauté the sausage over medium heat, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Add the sausage to the casserole on top of the polenta, forming an even layer. Spoon on the tomato sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Top with the mozzarella in an even layer. Sprinkle the mozzarella with black or Aleppo pepper (or both).
6. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. If the top is not browned to your liking, place the casserole under the broiler until browned, watching it carefully. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

6 servings
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics

Creamy Polenta

3 cups milk
Note: You can substitute other liquids if you desire.
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Combine the milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan and heat to a simmer.
2. Slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Lower the heat and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and leaves the sides of the pan, about 10 minutes.
3. Taste for salt. Add more if necessary. Serve topped with melted butter.
If you are using this with Polenta, Sausage and Tomato Layers or as a bed for the Bacon-Tomato-Corn Ragout, you don’t need to add the butter at the end.

Note: If you make this ahead, you have two options: (1) Set it aside in the pan and reheat it on the stove adding more liquid to loosen it up to your liking. Or (2) Remove from the pan and place in a microwavable bowl, adding more milk or other liquid to loosen it up before serving. Warm it on low heat in the microwave. In both options, keep adding liquid and stirring and heating until it is the consistency of mashed potatoes. Check for salt.

6 servings
Adapted from Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins’ The New Basics