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French-ish Onion Soup

Ugh.  So I caught a cold. A nasty wiped me out kind of cold. And since I rarely get sick, I did not handle it well. I mean, I handled it like a dude – which is to say whined about every little part of it and made it worse that it was. But thankfully, that part lasted only a day. And so when I was feeling better, but still not great, I was pleasantly surprised to remember that I had just made a batch of stock and had a few pieces of homemade bread left.

Since we all know that good soup makes you feel better even when you aren’t sick, I figured I should make a batch.

Growing up, my mom made a mean french-onion, and so it has always been one of my favorites. (What – another favorite? Well, she made a lot of good things, and I obviously like a lot of things, so it works out).

LOTS of onions

But seeing as how I hold firm in my beliefs that homemade stock, even the wrong kind, trumps the store-bought stuff any day, my onion soup often uses chicken stock – and therefore, it isn’t too traditional, or “french.” Although I would gather that many French women would agree with me, but that is neither here nor there.

The real thing with onion soup, French or otherwise, is you have to let the onions cook for a really long time. And when you think they are done, let them keep cooking.  At least an hour.  Maybe and hour and twenty. You want them really carmelized – dark, sweet and reduced down to almost nothing. You can’t rush it.  Some recipes include a touch of sugar part way through the cooking, but I like to just let it happen with time, and the butter of course.

Carmelizing-Onions

From there, it doesn’t take much to turn it into something special.  Stock, wine, thyme – and of course the bread and cheese!

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seriously good salsa

Something either terribly amazing or just plain terrible happened this week.

I discovered Dos Toros Taqueria and how ridiculously close it is to my house.  I’m thrilled because they have great (CA style) tacos and burritos with highly quality ingredients – primarily local and/or organic – and great prices.  I’m not so thrilled because having damn good tacos and quesadillas near by can be a bit dangerous.

So on my 18th trip in as many hours, I decided to pick up enough to share and bring it home for dinner.  As an impulse buy when I was paying, I asked them to throw in some chips and salsa.

But when I got home, I realized it wasn’t salsa, but pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa). And as far as I am concerned, that doesn’t work as a dip for chips.  I love pico de gallo on plenty of things, don’t get me wrong, but I want something smoother and spicier when I think salsa.

making salsa

It turns out we didn’t have any jarred in the fridge (that stuff goes quickly around here), but thankfully, salsa is a breeze to whip up.

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chardandchickpeas

A quick trip to Cali left me confronted with two of my great loves – sunshine and mexican food!  So I tried to gobble them both up with abandon while I was there.

But now I am back to snow-flecked sidewalks and could use a break from the frijoles and salsa.

So let’s gently break the cycle with a difference kind of legume – a roasted chickpea.

chardandonion

I have been making roasted chickpeas for years; a satisfying, crunchy, salty snack and that makes you forget chips as the ruler of the salty, crunchy world.  Ideal t.v. and car ride food.  They can be seasoned in more ways than they can be named.  Oregano on ceci, curry on the Indian pea, cumin on a garbanzo bean… you get the drift.

But in all my years snacking on these guys, I have never quite seen them command attention as when matched with wilted chard and onions. Read the rest of this entry »

chorizoblackbeans

Another soup?  Seriously?  Be thankful that you don’t see them all – well, I did warn you.

But when it is bitter cold, I just can’t help it.  In addition to warming me up, soups are pretty inexpensive – so I can have  plenty to spend on bourbon, should I have to brave the weather.

chorizo-blackbeans-tomato

This whole pot cost about $10, and that was only because I used good ingredients – organic [albeit canned] beans and tomatoes and chorizo from the Hawthorne Valley Farm that I picked up at the farmer’s market.

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beetcarrotlatke

When I occasionally (ha!) casually (haha!) mention that I miss California, you may think I mean my friends, or my family or even the weather. And while that is very true, what I really miss is my stuff!  All my plates and glasses, gadgets and knives. I am obviously getting by just fine here, but NYC apartments don’t have the same kind of space, so anything more than 4 forks and a wooden spoon are tucked away in storage.

But why am I waxing on about this now?  Because if I had my cuisinart here, I would make these beet and carrot latkes daily. Not having to use a box grater and have my hands stained red would really increase the frequency of these pancakes on my menus.

They are my perfect food – a bit virtuous (carrots and beets are the stars) and a bit naughty (they are cooked in oil and topped with sour cream after all).  They taste familiar but still new, with the earthiness from the beets and sweetness from the carrots, and they can easily replace the bad potato pancakes you may have had all these years.

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updated 2/25/10 … see end of post for new thoughts on this sauce.

pennewithtomatosauce

It started simply enough. I first read about this tomato sauce that only has 3 ingredients years ago on Amateur Gourmet. It then popped up here and there and I still didn’t really think much about it.  I have been too committed to my tomato sauce (well Mario’s really) – the one that has a touch of carrot for sweetness.  But then it showed up on Smitten Kitchen earlier this week right around dinner time when I was facing down an empty fridge.

Since it only calls for canned tomatoes, butter and an onion, I figured this was as good a time as any to try it out.  And after reading reviews about this sauce, I was expecting something velvety and luscious where the butter utterly transforms the simple into otherworldly.

tomatobutteronionsauce

And it all fell flat.

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Apple Pancetta Stuffing DInner

Stuffing is the best part of Thanksgiving.  Coming in very close second is the leftover turkey, cranberry sandwiches.  But I still put stuffing on those.

So why is something so great relegated to once a year?  I think we should bring it back!

Apples

And yes, this would be a great stuffing for turkey-day, but we didn’t sample it for that reason here.  It just sounded good.  I am sure the rain and cold and November-ness of the weekned did aid in that though.

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lemonchickenwitholives

How often do you eat chicken?  If you are like me and pretty much everyone else I know, it is one of the main standards, particularly at home.  During the week, the boneless, skinless chicken breast makes many an appearance.  It makes for a great weeknight meal – fast, healthy and there are umpteen ways to make it.

Sometimes, however,  it just sometimes needs a little shakeup.

chickenprepandbrown

Enter the chicken thigh.

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aromatics

Is it cold where you are?  Fall is most definitely in effect here – and to be honest, for what I am used to, it’s down right winter.

It’s cold, and so all I want are warm, comforting, homey things, like that roasted chicken.  I also want soup, and lots of it.  And I will likely be eating soup every week until the last snow melts.  I have a feeling that comes from my mom.  She often had soup on the stove, and in fact her french onion soup and clam chowder where so legendary that the neighbor’s would specially request them.

Having my mom’s recipes and techniques definitely help my soups, but the real secret – the fail-safe thing to have on hand – the only way to make soup restaurant quality  - is homemade stock.  Think about it,  it’s the only way to have complete control.  Can you imagine The French Laundry using Swanson’s?

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ABOUT

Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!

Contact:
info{at}caitlindentino{dot}com

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