Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Straciatella Soup...with Benefits

This could also have been titled: Quinoa, Take Two.

After enjoying a wonderful Straciatella Soup with Spinach on Saturday night (how alliterative of me) and discovering the benefits of Quinoa, I decided to pair the two, and add a few "extras" for this evening’s dinner.

Straciatella Soup has always been a simple chicken broth where a combination of beaten eggs and Parmesan cheese have been added…..slowly….not into a boiling stock. The result is a “little rags or strings” look, hence, straciatella.

Well, if the spinach made that simple soup better, chicken and a few extras would make it great! However, don’t get me wrong. When you need a “sick soup,” or something simple to make you feel better, the original can’t be beat.

Pam’s Straciatella and Chicken Soup with Quinoa

1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks, sprinkled with
2 tablespoons Penzey’s Singapore seasoning
2 quarts chicken stock
4 eggs whisked with 1 tablespoon semolina and 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
½ cup Quinoa (rinsed)
2 tablespoons pesto
2 cups fresh baby spinach

In a large stockpot, saute’ onion and carrot in olive oil and butter; stir over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from pan; add chicken in 2 batches, cooking over medium high heat until nicely golden on all sides. (Add a bit more olive oil if necessary). Remove from pan; add chicken stock and Quinoa; bring to a simmer; add chicken and vegetables; stir, then cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until Quinoa has softened. Uncover, and add eggs, stirring with a fork to break up. Add pesto and spinach; cook until greens wilt.

Serve with semolina bread and additional Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I'm new to Quinoa, pronounced, "Keen-wah."  (Who knew?)  I've seen it on menus, and I believe I've even ordered it, but I've never prepared it.  From what I've read, the ancient Incas revered quinoa and the leader planted the first seed with a golden shovel.  This is quite a regal rice substitute!  It can be used in breads and soups and even fermented to make a beer.  It's not a grain in the true sense, but is the seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. I had never even heard of this prior to doing some research, and believe me, there's much to read about Quinoa.  The reason I even purchased it is because Eric is trying to lean his diet toward gluten-free foods, and Quinoa meets this need.  After rinsing, there are several preparation choices you can make, but I kept mine fairly simple.

I chopped an onion and a carrot, sauted both in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Then, I added the rinsed Quinoa and chicken broth with some Tandoori seasoning (Penzey's Spices) and simmered, covered, for about 20 minutes.  I then added chopped walnuts and parsley.  The walnuts added a nice crunch, and the Quinoa went well with my apricot glazed grilled salmon topped with mango salsa. 

Because of the versatility of this product, it's a nice alternative to rice, potatoes, or pasta. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie with Hazelnut Shortbread Crust

I'm not a huge Lemon Meringue Pie fan....or perhaps I only enjoy it in the spring....a seasonal dessert.  But, I made this recipe for Eric when he came to house to dog sit last weekend, and of course, I tasted a sliver before leaving for our trip.  Well, I must admit, that it was quite delicious, and in the future, I might not just limit its preparation for a particular time of year.  The only change I made was to use walnuts instead of hazelnuts in the crust.  It's obviously more detailed than the ready-made crust and boxed lemon filling that many are used to, but the results are worth it. 

Here's the recipe taken from the Epicurious site:

•1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked
•1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
•1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
•1/2 cup powdered sugar
•1 large egg yolk
•1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
•1/2 teaspoon salt

Grind nuts finely in processor. Add flour and blend well. Add remaining ingredients. Using on/off turns, process just until moist clumps form. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill until firm enough to roll, about 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Roll out dough between sheets of waxed paper to 12-inch round, turning over occasionally to lift and smooth paper. Peel off top sheet of paper. Using bottom paper as aid, lift dough and invert into 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Peel off paper. Press dough gently into dish. Fold overhang under; crimp to form decorative edge. Pierce crust all over with fork. Chill 15 minutes. Line crust with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides are set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until crust is pale golden, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer crust to rack and cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
6 large egg yolks
5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Whisk first 7 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan to blend. Using whisk, stir over medium heat until filling thickens and just begins to boil, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter. Spoon hot filling into prepared crust.

7 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/8 cups powdered sugar

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in large stainless steel bowl at low speed until foamy. Beat in cream of tartar and 1 tablespoon sugar. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat at medium speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. Spread meringue over warm filling, covering completely, sealing meringue to crust edges and mounding in center. Bake pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275°F and continue to bake until meringue is golden brown and set when pie is shaken slightly, about 50 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

San Antonio

John and I just returned from a great trip to visit Adam in San Antonio where he works as a bird handler and trainer for Sea World's new spectacular show, Azul. 

We stayed at The Omni La Mansion del Rio right on The Riverwalk, and it was truly an unforgettable experience.  The hotel was formerly a seminary and is quietly elegant in its Spanish hacienda style and listed in Travel and Leisure's 2010 World's Best Hotels to name one of its honors.  Las Canarias, is their AAA Four-Star restaurant where the food is only equalled by the understated, but attentive service. 

My dessert:  Valrhona Burnt Caramel Creme au Chocolate accompanied by Jivara Ganache Golden Figs and an Orange Creamsicle Root Beer Float.  I must acknowledge perfection. 

For more on Riverwalk, visit the official site:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mexican St. Patrick's Day

Everyone was headed to the Irish pubs today in celebration of St. Patrick's Day.  My husband and I decided to take advantage of a gift certificate he received for a Mexican restaurant called, "Tenampa."  We discovered that it lived up to the hype and produced excellent food along with excellent service.  John and I both had the carne asada special which was prepared with bacon, onions, green peppers, and served over spinach with a cilantro cream sauce and garnished with three large shrimp.  Quite good.  I had a caramel flan for dessert; John had fried ice cream. 

As we sat at the table, we did get a good laugh since we were at a Mexican restaurant on an Irish holiday with a bottle of Italian wine, and my husband is German....and because it seemed appropriate, he asked the waiter, "Where's the corned beef?" 


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fruit and Nut Biscotti

A bit more wholesome, because of the whole wheat flour, these biscotti have a nice contrast with their natural crunchiness and the soft chewiness of dates.  If you're looking for a little departure from traditional biscotti, give these a try. 

2/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, cooled, and chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.  Add to the creamed mixture, mixing until blended; fold in nuts and dates. 

Divide dough in half and on parchment lined baking sheet, shape each into an approximately 12 to 14 inch log, spacing them about 2 to 3 inches apart.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Carefully transfer logs to a cooling rack; let sit for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.  Using a serrated knife, slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place the slices upright on the baking sheet and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.  Remove from pan onto cooling rack. 

Store in an airtight metal container.

Makes about 3 dozen. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I love espresso. (With an "s" please; not an "x") And now, I'm able to enjoy it any time of the day and not wait until I'm dining out.  My recent indulgence is the new CitiZ by Nespresso, and let me tell you, that it produces as good a cup of espresso as I've tasted, and that includes the ones we used to make at my cafe'.  This machine is easy and quick with the use of the special pods, produces a lovely crema, and included with my machine were 16 flavor varieties from Ristretto (Intensity: 10) to Cosi (Intensity: 3).  My preference is typically the highest intensity.  The Pure Origin Espressos, which are coffees brought to maturity in the land of their origin (India, Columbia, Brasil, etc.) have unique flavors, and I found myself enjoying the Indriya (Intensity: 10) from India.  This machine can produce a 1/2 Espresso cup; full Espresso cup; Lungo cup; and of course the espressos are ideal for making a true cappuccino.  I had recently purchased a manual milk frother, so did not purchase the electronic frother option with my CitiZ.

I'd highly recommend this machine, and if you happen to have a nice piece of dark chocolate to enjoy while sipping your espresso, all the better.