Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Salad for a Cold

March 29, 2008

Nothing tastes better to me when I have a cold than an orange. Perhaps its the long association -- after all, oranges and grapefruit are forced upon us as a source of vitamin C -- from childhood forward. But the tart sweet orangeness is unmistakably a friend that will surely make the cold go away.

Coming down with a cold last week, I bought six oranges and began finding ways to eat them. Usually a sliced orange at breakfast did the trick, but I also came up with one of the best salads I've ever tasted the other night.

Like everyone, I really enjoy the packaged salad greens, but I tend to augment them with a head of romaine or oak leaf just to add some texture. This time I used about a cup of mixed lettuces and two big leaves of romaine, washed and chopped together into bite-sized pieces. Then I peeled and segmented an orange, eating the connecting membranes and scraping any orange meat off the skins with my teeth. I've heard that the white part of the peel is rich in calcium, and I don't find it has any taste, so I eat as much of it as I can.

To make the dressing, I created a basic vinaigrette using fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. I start with about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt to taste, a drop of honey, and whisk it with the juice of half a lemon. This much will take a little over a quarter cup of olive oil, and some of the dressing will be left over for another day.

The sectioned orange had rendered a few tablespoons of juice, so I incorporated that into the salad dressing. I tossed the greens with a few tablespoons of juice, added a pinch or two of salt, the orange sections, and had a delicious salad. I'm sure this cold is on the way out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Eating Things Irish

March 15, 2008

If you're like me and like to bake and are thinking of all things Irish in honor of the upcoming holiday, you'll want to produce this simple and tasty bread.

Irish Soda Bread

Preheat oven to 375°.

1 Cup all purpose flour
1 Cup Whole Wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Whisk the above ingredients together and put into the food processor. Add 6 Tablespoons chilled shortening and process until mealy. Then remove back into the bowl and stir in 1/2 to 1 cup raisins or dried currants or cranberries, 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds, and a few chopped nuts if desired (I don't think the Irish do this.) Gradually add 1/2 to 3/4 Cup buttermilk or soured milk and shape into a round loaf or put into a greased loaf pan.

Brush the top with milk. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Comfort Food, Italian Style

March 8, 2008

Spaghetti alla Carbonara is an Italian specialty of uncertain origin and certain soothing properties. What could be more comforting than spaghetti with eggs and bacon in it?

It's easy and exciting to make too. Exciting because it's hard to believe the pasta will cook the eggs, but it always works. I've seen several recipes for this, some using cream, some white wine, some with garlic or onions, but my original comes from The Romagnolis' Table, based on the old PBS series, and it has none of those things. (Did I ever tell you I learned to cook by watching PBS?) The Romagnolis' book came out before pancetta was widely used in this country, so they substituted salt pork. Go ahead and use pancetta.

Chop up 4 oz. of pancetta and sauté it gently in a few tablespoons of olive oil until translucent. Crack three eggs onto a warm serving platter and beat until foamy. Grind some fresh pepper into the pancetta and into the eggs.

Cook your pasta -- about 1 1/2 lbs. in about 6 quarts of water with 6 tsps. salt -- until it's just al dente. Drain it fast and reserve a little water in case you need it later. Pour the drained pasta into the eggs and toss well until the pasta is coated with eggs. Add the pancetta-olive oil mixture. Grate Pargianno Reggiano cheese on top and add more pepper if desired.