Tuesday, September 18, 2018

White Gazpacho

While it may be inadvisable to wear white after Labor Day, this pale, creamy gazpacho from foodandwine.com made with cauliflower is highly recommended (at least by me) all through the year. I substituted walnuts that I already had on hand for the suggested pine nuts and almonds to great effect, I thought. I would recommend (here I go again) that after blending all the ingredients together, to push the solids with the back of a wooden spoon through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and refrigerate the thinned soup then. Try it with toasty bread in the cooler months to take off the chill!

White Gazpacho
 1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets 
 2 slices of crustless white bread 
 1/4 cup pine nuts (1 1/2 ounces) 
 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 
 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped 
 1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds 
 1/2 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped, plus 1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
 Kosher salt

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool and drain well.
In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups of cold water with the cooked cauliflower, bread, pine nuts, chopped garlic, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot, 1 cup of the slivered almonds and the coarsely chopped cucumber; blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse just until incorporated. If necessary, add more water to thin the gazpacho. Season the soup with salt and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of slivered almonds in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Ladle the gazpacho into bowls. Garnish the soup with the toasted almonds and the finely diced cucumber and serve.

First published in part in Food & Wine. Thanks to contributor Joy Manning and photographer Hallie Burton!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Summery Red Basil

Isn't she a beauty? I picked up this bunch of red basil at our neighborhood farmer’s market over the weekend and after one deep inhalation I was reminded of a bunch of other things, too—the house in Riverhead, Long Island, perched on a cliff with a breathtaking view of the Sound...the house full of hungry guests one summer in Riverhead, Long Island, where I first fed my desire to cook. Fresh basil served us for a season of fresh tomato sauces, gazpacho and ribbons of the stuff on cornmeal-dusted, crusty pizzas, all full of the vibrant flavor and aroma released from the leaves.

Why not simply chiffonade a bunch of basil to boost any summer salad as well? Pluck the basil leaves from the stems and then roll a few of them up tightly like a cigar. Slice thinly on the bias for a familiar taste and yet a surprising, enhancing flavor when added to your greens!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Stars & Stripes Pasta

At first, it wasn't so much of a celebration as it was a whim surrounding what we already had in the house--including a visiting bunch of our neighbor's feisty children--that brought our bowtie pasta, spaghetti, a jar of Prego sauce (click here for homemade suggestions) and ground beef to the table. We were a little on the early side for Fourth of July, but the little ones lit up like firecrackers at the display of our dish just the same !

I always maintain that a little ingenuity is a vital ingredient in the kitchen and so, a simple dish of spaghetti acted as patriotic stripes of pasta and the bowties served as our stars. Our handsome ground beef came courtesy of Butcher Box (a sort of 'Meat-of-the-Month' Club) and naturally we wrapped it all up in a vibrant red sauce!

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Pause That Refreshes

While I take some time off to finish my new novel, I thought I'd leave you for the moment with a comment or two about tea! And no, not Constant Comment, but a lovely tea for two from the fine folks from Bellocq--No. 96 White Wedding Tea! The hubs and I discovered this extraordinary brew featuring organic jasmine silver needle white tea, rose petals, organic lavender, and orange blossoms while enjoying an afternoon tea at The Blue Box Cafe at Tiffany's. We enjoyed our pot of tea over a smattering of finger sandwiches and a few molar-crushing sweets at Tiffany's petite eatery done up in signature robin egg blue, but I imagine the gentle perfume floating off the cup would be welcome whenever you wish.

Cuddle up then, with a good book (perhaps one of mine) and a warming cup of tea over the next few months as I work on my book and pursue the wisdom found in the leaves. Do enjoy!

Bellocq Tea Atelier is located at 104 West Street in Brooklyn, but you may also find the tea online, as well as a host of their other special blends. Thanks to Bellocq for the photo!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Reviews.com - Eating Outside the Box

I have tried my hand at several of the meal delivery kits, such as Hello Fresh, Home Chef, and Blue Apron, writing about them here in some detail. If only I had know about reviews.com, I could have possibly saved money (and most definitely time) to see how these boxes stack up first! While I am a great believer in experiencing things for oneself, reviews.com provides a handy, thorough guideline to cooking outside of these boxes, tucked in among their other reviews of products, which range from alarm clocks to noise-cancelling headphones.

Check out their encapsulation of the Hello Fresh, Plated and Blue Apron boxes here, revealing which box shone in the Best Overall, Best for Novice Cooks, and Best Recipes categories.

In the meantime, here's a recipe I featured from Blue Apron for Lemongrass Shrimp, peppered with my comments.

A peek into what's inside the boxes!

Do enjoy and thanks to reviews.com!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Homemade Apple Sauce

Making this applesauce from the October 2017 issue of Bon Appetit was so simple and yet so richly gratifying, as well as quite marvelicious to the taste! You may read Carla Lalli Music's delightful prose here but I've included the basics below.

Pull a few ripe apples from the nearest tree or even purchase a few from your local market. I scored four of the SweeTango variety. Halve them and put in a pot with one cinnamon stick, about two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and one teaspoon vanilla extract over medium-low heat. Add a 1/4 cup of water, cover, and occupy yourself elsewhere. You'll know it's time to peek in on your pommes when they make their aromatic presence known. If nothing appears to be sticking in your pot, give it a stir anyway, re-cover and let the bubbling merriment continue on for about 45 minutes. Push the goods through a food mill to trap the seeds, stems, and possibly the coded sticker grocer labels (surely there's a more scientific term!).

I swear you'll experience a satisfaction equal to that of having collected an armful of nature's precious bounty from a shining orchard--without hardly having to lift a finger.

Do enjoy!

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Friend Writes...Top Health Benefits of Eating Italian

Jonathan of Maple Holistics kindly stopped by Evenings with Peter to give us the skinny on eating Italian the healthy way.

He writes: So many kitchens, so little time… nevertheless, one cuisine which I keep coming back to in any kitchen - mainly because I make a serious attempt to! - is Italian cuisine. Italy has it all - history, culture, and fine dining. These guys know how to treat food and drink with respect, and so it is one country which has always held a special place in my heart. Did I say heart? I meant stomach.

Italy has some starters, entrées, and desserts which are to die for. But the boot-shaped kitchen is not only succulent and delicious, it can also be healthy. Not all Italian dishes are healthy ones, of course. That goes without saying. There are guilty pleasures and guiltless recipes in every kind of kitchen. So, without further ado, here is our list of the top health benefits of eating Italian. Salute!

1.     Extra Virgin Olive Oil - this one comes first, because it exists in many dishes. I have read it is more prevalent in southern dishes, but I can’t really tell the difference yet. Olive oil is abundant in oleic acid (Omega-9 fatty acid) and has some Omega-3 and Omega-6. Vitamin K and E are also part of its makeup, and it is no wonder it is considered one of the healthiest oils in the world. And the taste is finger-licking good. Yum.

Remember - you don’t want to have everything dripping with oil. There is such a thing as getting too much of a good ingredient. The basis of any healthy diet, regardless of the region or individual, is proportionate use of ingredients. Keep everything in moderation, and you will be on your way to health and happiness.

If olive oil is not your thing, for whatever reason, culinary
argan oil is a great substitute. Not in all dishes, though. It is literally a matter of taste. Give it a shot, and see if it agrees with you.

2.     Salted Beef - not your run-of-the-mill beef, mind you, but rather the air-dried bresaola. When sliced nice and thin, and served with some leafy greens like arugula, it can make your mouth dance and sing with delight. While it is true that meat is not the healthiest of ingredients, this particular Italian dish is usually lean and sweet. It has significantly lesser amounts of fat and carbs, and is high in protein. Try it with a glass of semi-dry red.

3.     Pappa Al Pomodoro - sure, some Italian soups may cause your arteries to clog, but others can seriously provide your system with a hearty boost! This one soup stands out as one of the healthier options, but there are others. Traditionally prepared using fresh tomatoes, bread, garlic, and basil, Pappa Al Pomodoro is a rich, thick soup which the whole family can enjoy. As an added bonus, this specific soup can be served at any temperature - hot, chilled, or room temp - and still taste great. Not unlike the French, the Italians love fresh garlic, and they use it in a variety of dishes, though not in excess.

4.     Rabbit - while this isn’t a personal favorite of mine, it is an ingredient which has the potential to be very healthy. It is all about how you prepare it, and what sides you add to it. Rabbit is leaner and lower in bad cholesterol than other popular meats, which is why the Italian people love to roast it, braise it, grill it, and fry it. Served with a green salad and a glass of light wine - so as not to diminish the rabbit’s flavor - it can make for one amazing lunch or supper.

5.     Pasta - okay, this one is a given. You gotta have pasta on this list, right? But pasta has gotten something of a bad rap in the eyes of some. But honestly, it has some really great benefits to it. It all depends on the type of pasta, and method of preparation. It can be very healthy, if you substitute the wheat for sweet potato or cornmeal varieties of gnocchi, for instance. Do that, and you open yourself up to healthier possibilities. Served with spinach or asparagus, and with a fresh pesto made with basil and almonds to boot, it can take your dish to a whole other level. You don’t always need the obvious meat and cheese combo, you know! Sometimes, less really is more.

6.     Jam - finally, something for the sweet lovers out there. Jams are known to be quite high in sugar, but traditional mulberry jam requires less sugar to make, effectively making it a healthier option than most. Does it mean it is a health food? Nope, but it is a different and probably better way to go. Mulberries - when fresh and raw - contain nice amounts of iron and vitamin C, and lesser amounts of other vitamins and trace minerals of all kinds.

Italian for dinner? Yessir. Most definitely. It may not be the first cuisine which pops into mind but healthy Italian dishes do exist. With the right mixture of ingredients - meats, spices, veggies, and wine - it can become a delicious part of a balanced diet. The health benefits of eating Italian are there for the taking, and there are plenty of them out there.

Buon appetito!

Jonathan is a writer and researcher for Maple Holistics.

Thanks to ItalianFoodForever.com for the image