Sunday, March 29, 2020

My Favorite IHCC Chef and My Top Fifteen Giada De Laurentiis Recipes!

How do you pick your favorite chef? Is it based solely on their recipes? If so, is it your favorite recipes or your family's favorite recipes? Do you base it off the chef's personality? How much you like their cooking show? How well you like their cookbooks? Their ability combine flavors? The fact that they're a legend? There are just so many things to consider.

I am fond of many chefs, and cooks, for so many different reasons: Giada De Laurentiis, Jacques Pepin, Curtis Stone, Tessa Kiros, Madhur Jaffrey, Mark Bittman, Ruth Reichl, Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten, and Yotam name a few.

It's a very close call, and it probably depends on my mood, but ultimately, it all comes down to Giada. I've thought about it for a long time. Agonized over it really. Was it Jacques Pepin, the one who reignited my love for cooking? Was it Tessa Kiros because she has great recipes and the most beautiful cookbooks ever? Was it Jamie Oliver because I love his passion for cooking and his contagiously happy personality? Was it Mark Bittman because I love that anytime I have a hankering for something he is sure to have a recipe? Was it Yotam Ottolenghi because he combines food in a way no one else can?  I could've picked any of them for any of those reasons and on any given day I just might, but today, it's Giada.

 I found myself going back to Giada again and again. Why? It goes back to the beginning, really. I think part of my love for cooking started while watching her cooking show. Back when we were a family of three. I can remember watching Giada and thinking, "I can do that" and "my family would love that dish."

It also comes down to a personal bias for the flavors she cooks with. I know for me, Mediterranean flavors are my absolute favorite. It also doesn't hurt that these are also the flavors my family enjoys the most. I know, without a doubt, everyone in the house is going to love Giada's recipes.

Here are some of my favorite Giada recipes that I've made over the years. These recipes go back to the beginning of my blog, many of these dishes shared as early as 2007 or 2008. This list is not in order and is by no means exhaustive. It is simply a list I put together of some of my favorite recipes that can stand the test of time!

As you're about to see, we are big fans of pasta and cheese with some meat, veggies, beans, and maybe even a little sweet treat thrown in for good measure!

If you click on the recipe title it will take you to the original post and recipe

All pictures courtesy of me! I had the chance to see Giada at a food show in Lexington years ago and have her autograph one of her cookbooks for me!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

My Top Ten Favorite Potato Dishes!

We are crazy about potatoes in The Stirring The Pot kitchen. When I thought about which potato recipe I would make for this week's Hot Potato theme, I couldn't come up with anything I thought would be more delicious than the potato recipes I'd already made...which led me to think that I've never created a roundup of my potato favorites, but I totally should, and it goes.

I looked through all my potato archives, and trust me, there were pages upon pages of potato recipes. I decided that I would only choose recipes where the potato played the starring role.

What follows below are my ALL-TIME FAVORITE POTATO DISHES. These are the ones that I've made over and over again. They are in no particular order. I love them all equally.

I truly feel that potatoes are one of the most comforting foods. During times such as these, we would all benefit from a few hot potato dishes. I'd also like to note that almost all of these dishes can be made with pantry ingredients and/or things you should have on hand (I'm talking bare bones ingredients here). Please take care of yourself!

If you click on the name of the dish, it will take you to the original post and recipe.

 Oh my word...this potato is SO GOOD y'all. The salty herby coating on the potato skin and the fluffy lip smackin' whipped feta. If you're a fan of feta, or if you're looking to up your baked potato game, this is the recipe for you. Each and every bite is full of flavor and oh so delightful!

Who doesn't love a crispy crunchy potato pancake dipped in a garlicky, spicy dipping sauce? These are so addictive, and you can make them with pantry ingredients! 

Mashed potatoes are the bomb. A recipe that two legends wrote together? Even better! Add garlic, and have a delicious comforting dish!

Now, I said that I didn't have a favorite in this roundup, but if I do, then it's this recipe. You see, potatoes and eggs are two of my favorite ingredients and this like a hug. Creamy mashed potatoes topped with an over-easy egg, all baked up in a cute little ramekin. This is serious breakfast food, for when you need a deep dose of comfort (like maybe right about now). Top it with chives, cheese, bacon, etc. Just try it! So so good!
This recipe is perfect for this time of year. Leftover ham and potatoes from Easter dinner? Please make this dish! These are like crispy golden mashed potato cakes with bits of ham and spinach. The crispy crunchy outside and the creamy savory interior are a perfect texture match. These would make a perfect after-Easter brunch!

Creamy, buttery, crispy, flavorful Yukon baby potatoes. A five-ingredient side dish that will blow a basket of french fries right out of the water. Jacques Pepin is like a potato genius!

 I've tried my hand at a lot of twice-baked potatoes over the years and Ruth's recipe is my favorite! These are the perfect side for a special dinner. They're also great for entertaining! Look at all that cheese!

 Ina Garten's Basil Potato Puree is what happens when you crave mashed potatoes in the summertime. I can remember making these years ago with the basil my mom grew in her garden. Mom could not stop talking about how special these were. She just loved them so much. Do yourself a favor and make these mashed potatoes this summer when you have more basil than you know what to do with!

 I love Ruth Reichl's twice-baked potato recipe the most, but I have to give props to Giada's twice-baked potatoes because everyone loves mini food. These twice-baked potatoes are so much fun. Irresistible little bits of goodness that are perfect for almost any type of event. Once you pop, you can't stop!

Last, but not least, Ina Garten's Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.Thank you, Ina, for introducing me to the potato ricer/food mill method of making mashed potatoes. It yields the most dramatically creamy and indulgent mashed potatoes one could possibly put in their mouth! My family goes crazy for these mashed potatoes and the secret really is using a potato ricer. Trust me, once you do it you will not make mashed potatoes any other way. These potatoes are heavenly! 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Ottolenghi's Braised Eggs with Leek, Kale, Feta and Za'atar

When I received my copy of Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi, this recipe was at the top of the list. Then as I paged through the book, my list kept growing and growing until it covered an entire sheet of paper.

Nevertheless, this recipe stuck in my mind. That happens to you too, right? Out of an entire page of recipes, and recipes from other books, there's always those few that stay right in the front of your mind. The ones you can't stop thinking about until you just bite the bullet and make them?

So, when I received my Misfits Market box and it had two very large leeks, and a nice bunch of kale, I knew they were destined for this recipe. Now, Ottolenghi calls for spinach in his recipe but I say, use what you've got. I enjoy spinach, but I prefer kale so this substitution was to my advantage.

I also didn't have the preserved lemons, and while it's not a perfect substitute, I did go ahead and make my own veggie stock (something that I do at least once a month to alleviate food waste) and so I added a little lemon peel this time around for a lemony flavor. How's that for a run-on sentence?

In the scheme of Ottolenghi recipes, this is an easy one, and it is both healthy and delicious. I personally loved the za'atar oil drizzled over the top and felt like this added loads of flavor to an otherwise simple dish. I made this on a Sunday morning for brunch and it was best served straight out of the skillet, immediately. That said, it also held up in the refrigerator well. I enjoyed it several mornings prior to work during the weekday.

Healthy, delicious, and simple. A total winner in my book!

Braised Eggs with Leek, Kale, Feta, and Za'atar
Adapted from Ottolenghi Simple
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 extra-large leeks (or 4 smaller), trimmed and cut into 1/4"  slices (6 cups)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
1/2 small preserved lemon, seeds discarded, skin and flesh finely chopped (2-1/2 tablespoons)*
1-1/4 cups vegetable stock*
7 ounces baby spinach or kale (use whatever greens you have on hand)
6 large eggs
3-1/2 ounces feta, broken into 3/4"inch pieces
1 tablespoon za'atar

Notes: I used kale because it's what I had on hand. Use whatever green you happen to have on hand. I also make my own veggie stock, so since I didn't have preserved lemon I added some lemon peel to my veggie stock to help carry over some lemon flavor.

Put the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large saute pan with a lid and place over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to foam, add the leeks, salt to taste, and plenty of pepper. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft. Add the cumin, lemon (if using), (this is also where I added the kale sine is heartier and needs a longer cooking time) and vegetable stock and boil rapidly for 4-5 minutes, until most of the stock has evaporated. If you're using spinach, this is the time to add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, until wilted, then decrease the heat to medium. 
Use a large spoon to make 6 indentations in the mixture and break 1 egg into each space.  Sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of salt, dot the feta around the eggs, then cover the pan. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, until the egg whites are cooked but the yolks are still runny.

Mix the za'atar with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and brush over the eggs. Serve at once, straight from the pan.