Thursday, March 31, 2011

César Chávez bacon day

Working in the newspaper industry, I am rarely offered major holidays off let alone lesser holidays such as President's Day or Cesar Chavez Day. I guess it's a good thing I don't work until 2:30p.m. so that I can enjoy the first part of the day with those who actually get the whole day off from work.

Today, I capitalized on having someone to share my morning with and decided to go out to brunch at a place I don't often go to, Hash House A Go-Go. A while back I saw a show on the Travel Channel called Bacon Paradise where they highlighted places where bacon was a main attraction. The Hash House was one of these places. The restaurant features a few bacon-rich dishes including "O'Hare of the Dog" - a 24oz Budweiser in a brown bag with a side of bacon, "BBBLT" - with obviously more than one slice of bacon, and their "Bacon Waffles" - with 6 pieces of bacon actually baked into a vanilla waffle.

On the show the waffle looked amazing and once I realized I'd be going to brunch, I couldn't get it out of my head. To my sad surprise when I looked over the menu I did not see the waffles listed anywhere. Were we too late? Did they only cook them in the morning and not for the late breakfast menu? Before my hopes could be dashed completely I asked our server if I just missed them on the menu or if they really weren't serving the dish. Much to my jubilation he informed me that indeed I could order the waffles.

This is serious. 6 slices of bacon baked right into the waffle!
Simply stated: heaven. Yet another enjoyable combination of savory and sweet. It was a perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside vanilla waffle and then a delightful burst of smoky, meaty bacon. Well, what are you doing still reading this?! Quick, get thee to the Hash House and order this amazing bit of breakfast heaven.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not quite bacon, but close enough

I went shopping at Trader Joe's yesterday with a few friends and was contemplating what to make for dinner for my boyfriend, when low and behold I walked by a gorgeous package of pancetta. I immediately thought about making Spaghetti alla Carbonara. I knew that I would need the pancetta, eggs and of course some spaghetti, but I had never made this dish before so had no idea what else I would need.

Just when I was saying how I didn't want a smart phone where I had to pay extra for a data plan, I found myself in the middle of the store needing internet access to recipes. Thank goodness my friend Traci was there. In less than 5-minutes we looked up a recipe on Food Network and I knew exactly what I'd need to buy.

The other reason pasta was on my mind was because I watched the movie "Eat, Pray, Love" in the morning. I have to say that I really didn't enjoy the book when I read it. In fact, I don't even think I finished reading it. The author just went on and on in this "whoa is me" manner that got on my nerves. It's a very rare occasion when a movie is better than the book, but in this case, the movie was WAY better than the book. Partly, I'm sure, because I love Julia Roberts, but also because the whining was kept to a minimum.

But enough about movies and grocery shopping. Here's the main attraction, the recipe.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, minced
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 pound fresh linguine
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
½ cup heavy cream, at room temperature
¾ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and pancetta and cook until the onions are translucent and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the linguine according to package directions until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander (reserve a small amount of the cooking liquid in a small bowl) and return pasta to the pot. Return the pot to the heat and add the reserved pancetta and onion mixture. Stir over high heat until pasta is coated with the pancetta mixture.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and heavy cream and add to the pasta, along with the Parmesan. Remove the pot from the heat and toss the pasta until it is well-coated. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. If needed, add a bit of the reserved pasta cooking liquid to help toss the pasta if it is dry. Serve immediately.
The finished product with some garlic & cheese bread. I added a little fresh, chopped parsley to the top of the pasta.

Mellow yellow

Around Christmas time, I spoiled myself and made a big-girl purchase of a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Finally, only four months later, I used it for the first time. When I finally have a place of my own I would love to have a citrus kitchen with lemon, lime and orange colors. In keeping with my kitchen dream, I got the butter cream-yellow mixer and I LOVE it.

In keeping with the yellow theme, I decided to make some banana bread in my new stand mixer. I've made this recipe from Martha Stewart a few times now, and each time I've tweaked it just slightly. I think this time I found my best balance yet. And here's the final result.

Banana-nut Bread from Martha Stewart

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups ripe mashed banana (about 3 medium)
¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
½ cup buttermilk
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Coat two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with cooking spray, spray; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, both kinds of sugar and vegetable oil on medium-low speed until combined. Beat in the flour mixture. Add the vanilla, banana, coconut, nuts and buttermilk, and beat just to combine.

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans, gently rock pans side-to-side until top is smooth. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, 60-65 minutes; when inserted, a toothpick should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and let cool completely. Bread can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic, for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

And, while it wasn't watched while sitting on the couch, I do have to pass along that I went and saw the movie "Happy, Thank You, More Please" with some friends on Sunday. I thought it was a pretty cute movie. It was a screen play written by the leading actor Josh Radnor and it reminded me a lot of "Garden State." It's only playing at select theaters, but I'd probably say I'd wait for it on DVD.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunny strawberries

Yesterday was one of those unusual days in San Diego. It was raining. It was windy. It was cold outside. But inside my cozy apartment was another story. Inside, I was basking in the glow of some gorgeous, sunny strawberries that I had found at the store that morning. And boy were they ever delicious -- so delicious in fact, that I had to share a picture.