Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan Tomato Bread-based Soup)

When I got married, my wife I honeymooned in Italy, taking a slow, meandering trip through Venice, Florence, Siena, and Rome. Every aspect of that trip was a dream, and the food was no exception. One very friendly restauranteur in Florence insisted that we absolutely had to try his soup before we ordered dinner, telling us it was a traditional, Tuscan tomato and bread soup, called Pappa al Pomodoro.

My wife and I, at a loss for what to try, decided to try his recommendation, and soon enough two intricately decorated bowls were brought before us with a hearty portion of this thick, chunky, most amazing smelling soup. In the blink of an eye, we both emptied our bowls and licked them clean. Needless to say, the restauranteur was smiling ear to ear. We stopped back at the same restaurant for another bowl the next day, and I’ve done my best to recreate it here after some of… click to read more…

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Veal Shoulder Steak with Port Fennel Mushroom Sauce

Like most braises, this isn’t quite hot-summer-day food, but if you can’t wait til winter (and given the seasons for one of the key ingredients, winter isn’t possible), this is a good dish for a gloomy, rainy day when you want something hearty to warm you up from the inside out. First, a fennel bulb (a fun vegetable to work with) is caramelized and braised with mushrooms to make a delicious side dish and leave a strongly flavored broth behind which, combined with a bit of Port, is used for braising a veal shoulder steak.

This is something of an ugly duckling. If you tell me that photo looks beautiful, I’d say you’re being polite (but I would also serve you dinner…see how much you get if you tell me what you really think of that photo! 😉 ). But that’s just fine as we all know… click to read more…

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Pan-Seared Salmon over Fennel Cauliflower Puree with Sweet Mediterranean Relish

In bumbling around for something to do with the cauliflower leftover in my fridge, I came across a fish recipe that really caught my eye. This solved two problems for me as I hadn’t a clue what I intended to do with the beautiful wild salmon filets waiting for me as well. So by total chance, today’s dish: a Pan-Seared Filet of Salmon atop a Fennel Cauliflower Puree, served with a Sweet Mediterranean Relish (say that three times fast).

This dish worked really well. The salmon was not the sad-colored, farm-rasied stuff, and the taste really reflected that. The cauliflower puree was a tasty side dish (also a great way for me to use up some fennel fronds I had leftover)–creamy, slightly sweet and anisey, and just full of that comforting caulifloweriness. The only change I would make next time: prepare more relish!

As simple as the… click to read more…

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Red Grouper with Tomato Braised Fennel

I love the produce of summer–for me, the challenge becomes enjoying as much of it as I can while its still in season. While my produce-lust is usually fruit-centric, one of my veggie favorites: fennel. This delicious vegetable has fronds kind of like dill and a bulb that is sweet, subtle, and anisey–the flavor is just quite unique and the perfect foil for fish. Today, we have a Red Grouper served over Fennel braised in a Citrus Tomato Sauce.

I originally went to the grocery store with sea bass in mind, but it seems red grouper was in the cards for me, so red grouper it is! The grouper worked wonderfully, but I still would lean towards a nice white fish next time around (like sea bass, halibut, mahi, etc).

This dish was simple and tasty–the kind of thing that is good for a hot summer day when spending a lot of time in a hot kitchen just isn’t… click to read more…

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Sweet “Faux” Gras Pâté on Pear Chips…wait, wtf? Chicken for dessert?

Jeff at Culinary Disaster posed a challenge among a few friends recently to make a dish using chicken. I think we’ve all made many a chicken dish before, and seeing how dessert is where I seem to have the most fun, I thought it would only be appropriate that I try to do something a little odd and make a chicken-based dessert since I thought (a) that has to stand out and (b) that sounds like a hell of a challenge. I know…dessert…and chicken? You didn’t misread, so let that one sink in and bear with me (have I ever steered you wrong, dear reader?). Trust me, this one has a happy ending!

Obviously, one has to tread carefully to get a dessert out of a chicken, and leaning too heavily on eggs seems like a crutch (given how obvious they are in dessert, anyways). So I thought I might be better off looking away from the usual breast/thighs… click to read more…

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Creamy Mascarpone Polenta

Poltena is a delicious, creamy side on its own right, but with more cream, butter, and some luxuriously rich mascarpone, you have a very rich side dish indeed.

Creamy Mascarpone Polenta

This is a very simple dish and something of a blank canvas for anything you’d like to color it with (sort of like risotto–the awesome rice that demands equally awesome additions). My reason for keeping it simple will be clear in the next post (I served this as a side-dish), but if you’d like your polenta to stand out more, you’ve got many options: mushrooms, squash, beans, greens, ham, formed and deep fried–it all works and works wonderfully. Heck, you could even employ it in desserts. But additions aside, polenta, at its core, is simply boiled cornmeal, cooked and whipped so as to be light, puffy, and creamy, sort of like having a rich porridge that ever so faintly resembles cornbread. Its a good, comforting side dish that leaves a lot… click to read more…

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