The Spice Rack

"There is no love sincerer than the love of food." Join me as I explore this love with reckless abandon. Each week try a new recipe from a different region. Read a little about each recipes' history and a lot about what it took to get it from the pages of the cookbook to the dinner table.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Limoncello


No, I'm not an alcoholic. I do realize that I posted a cocktail only a few weeks ago. But I just got this months Saveur (one of my favorite cooking magazines, if you hadn't noticed my now) and they have a feature dedicated to cooking with lemons. And there hidden in the pages was a sidebar on this zesty liquor. I had it at a tiny Itallian restaurant whoose name I don't remember this summer, but it was the perfect after dinner drink to sip on a hot and balmy night. It was a wonderful surprise to find a recipe for it, so I thought I would share.

Limoncello

Wash 25 lemons and dry.
Peel the zest from each lemon in wide strips. (Save the rest of the lemon for a later use)
Place zest in one liter of Everclear, and put both in a large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid
Put in a cool, dark place for 48 hours.
Cook 3 1/2 cups suger in four cups of water in a large pot. Stir regularly until it comes to a boil
Remove from heat and allow to cool completely
Strain alchohol over a seive into pot with sugar water.
Stir and return to glass jar
Serve and enjoy
You can store it in a tightly sealed jar at room tempurature for up to three months.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Corn and Feta Omelet


Summer is almost here, and the warm weather is screaming for light, fresh, tasty food. I've had this recipe stored away in one of my recipe notebooks for awhile, but I just recently tried it for the first time. The original calls for goat cheese, I prefer feta so I substituted it. Feel free to use either.

3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup corn kernals
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup crumbled feta
4 fresh chives

In a medium bowl whisk the eggs together with the salt, pepper, and corn.
Melt the butter in a large skillet
Add egg mixture and cook about one minute, or until the eggs have begun to set
Sprinkle omelet with about 3/4 of the cheese and 3/4 of the chives.
Fold the omelet over
Sprinkle remaining cheese and chives and fold the omelet again so it forms a triangle.
Slide onto plate and enjoy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Eggplant Bruschette


This week I decided to write about what I consider to be a greatly underappreciated vegetable...eggplant. I love it, but I always find myself at a loss when I try to come it with recipes to make with it. So when I came across this recipe in the March issue of Gourmet I gave it a try at once. And it's great. I'd never considered making eggplant into a hummus-like spread, but it's fantastic. Give it a try the next time you need a unique appetizer.

Eggplant Bruschette
1 baguette
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 garlic cloves, one left unpeeled
1 small eggplant
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary
1.4 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cut baguette into 1/4 inch slices
Brush one side of each with olive oil, and arrange on a baking sheet
Toast for about 8 minutes
While warm, rub with the 1/2 clove of garlic

Reduce oven to 350 degrees

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Make shallow incisions in each side with a sharp knife.
Arrange, cut side up, in a baking dish, add whole garlic clove.
Sprinkle with thyme, rosemary, oregano, sea salt and pepper over the eggplant.
Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake until the garlic clove is tender (30-35 minutes)
Remove garlic from pan and save. Continue to cook to eggplant until it is very tender (another 20-25 minutes)
When the garlic is cool, squeeze from the peel onto a cutting board.
Put eggplant on a cutting board when it is done and allow to cool.
Scrape the eggplant out from the peel.
Finely chop eggplant and garlic together. Put in a bowl.
Add parsley and remaining oil and stir until combined.
Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the mixture on the toasted baguette and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Mojito



A friend has fresh mint growing in his front yard and we've been looking forward to warm weather and mojitos on the front porch for weeks. This drink is best enjoyed in the dead heat of summer, but its feels like its summer already in Columbia. We made a batch yesterday and they were delicous. I first sipped this tasty Cuban drink in New York last summer and have been obsessed ever since. So whip up a batch and enjoy the warming weather.


What you'll need:
White rum
fresh mint
white suger
soda water
ice
lime

Start by making a simple syrup. Combine about a cup of water with 1/2 cup of white suger. If you like a sweeter drink you can increase the amount of suger.
Heat sugar, water and a few mint leaves in a saucepan on the stovetop until all the suger is dissolved into the water.
Pour about a shot into a glass with plenty of ice. (You can vary how much rum you use depeding on how stiff you like your drink and how big your glass is)
crush a few mint leaves with a mortar and pestle and add to the glass
Add about 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup
Top off with soda water. (Again how much you use will depend on how stiff and how sweet you like your drink. Play with the proportions until you find what works for your taste buds.)
Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the top.
Stir and enjoy.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Asparagus


This is a quick little recipe that goes good with everything. I don't pay a whole lot of attention to the exact measurements so feel free to adjust as you like.

1 lb asparagus.
Olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Cut the rough ends off the asparagus.
Place the asparagus in a baking dish and coat with olive oil. Sprinkle balsamic vinegar over to taste.
Season with salt and pepper.
Bake at 450 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.

I like my asparagus a little crunchy so I don't cook it for too long. Adjust the cook time until you find one that works for with how you like your asparagus cooked. This works great as a side dish with almost anything. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hummus

As I write this I am eating fresh hummus on warm pita bread. It is one of my favorite snacks, and what I am always eating on my frequent trips to the Cherry Street Artisan in downtown Columbia. I had never considered making it myself until my issue of Saveur arrived in my mailbox this afternoon. There on the cover the simple tagline read "How to Make Great Hummus." I thought it would be a great experiment for this blog. I think the hummus at the Artisan is pretty tasty, and I wondered if I could do better. The article had several variations, but I decided to stick with the most traditional for comparison's sake. I was surprised to find the recipe is so simple and easy to make. So if you ever need a quick afternoon snack this might be the recipe for you.

4 cups drained, canned chickpeas
I clove garlic
Salt
1/2 cup sesame paste
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. Paprika

Place drained chickpeas in a food processor and puree until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. The move the puree to a large bowl.
Crush garlic in a press or with the broad side of a chef's knife
Add to the chickpea paste along with a pinch of salt
Add sesame oil, lemon juice, and salt to taste and mix well
Drizzle hummus with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika.
Enjoy with warm pita or vegetables. It's also good for the comparison.

While I enjoyed this recipe, it was a little drier than what I am used to. I prefer the Artisan's more moist variety (although Saveur's editors insist its not as authentic.) But I recommend that you try the recipe out. It's easy to play with until you get it the consistency and flavor you like.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fettuccine Alfredo

You'll have a hard time finding a better dish with which to clog your arteries than a heaping bowl of sinfully creamy fettuccine Alfredo. That said, it's one of my favorite dishes, although I must admit I don't make it that often. I found this recipe a few years ago in an old magazine that was lying around at work and I love it! I substitute Brie for the gorgonzola that the original recipe calls for, you can use whichever you prefer.

An interesting story kept popping up on the internet when I was searching for the roots of this recipe. So I though I would share it here.

It's generally agreed upon that Alfredo Di Lilio, a Roman restauranteur, created our modern version of fettuccine Alfredo in 1914. The dish was an improvement that he made upon an similar, earlier Italian dish that was made only with butter to tempt the lost appetite of his pregnant wife.

This buttery dish certainly tempts me.

Here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup pine nuts
2 ounces thin prosciutto slices cut into slivers
5 ounces Brie cheese
1/2 cup whipping cream
Approximately 3 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 ounces dried fettuccine
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Ground pepper to taste

Over medium high heat in a saucepan lightly toast the pine nuts. Then transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
In the same pan add the prosciutto and cook until slightly browned. Then add to the bowl with the pine nuts.
Break cheese into small squares and put in a bowl, add the cream and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cream forms bubbles. Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
In the meantime combine wine and chicken broth in saucepan. Add the thyme and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
Return heat to high. When the liquid is boiling add fettuccine. Cook until pasta is tender, There should be a generous amount of liquid, you can add extra broth if it is too dry.
Add cheese to the mixture and stir for about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and let stand for about 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Serve in bowls and sprinkle with pine nut/prosciutto mixture and serve immediately.