Tuesday, February 28, 2012


We've been having a lot of soup weather here in Humboldt lately so I decided to make some delicious Italian soup, ribollita, that I'd first tried a few months back.  The ingredients are cheap, it's simple to prepare, it makes a good amount, and it tastes heavenly.  If you like minestrone, then you'll love ribollita, as ribollita simply means "re-boiled" and is a classic Italian "day after minestrone" leftover soup.  It's a way to stretch another meal out of the leftover minestrone in a way that tastes very similar.  The bulk of the soup is veggies and almost any veggies you want can be used.  It really is a "toss whatever you have in the fridge that you need to use up" dish.

For tunes with this recipe I decided to go with some old school, New York Dolls, Chatterbox.  It's dirty, grungy, dissonant, and it's the very early 70's garage rock that would eventually become punk rock as it was known in the late 70's and early 80's.  -justin

Time: 3 hrs
Serves: 8
Difficulty: Easy

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sea salt (or 2 tbsp kosher salt)
  • 1/4 lb bacon, diced
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery 
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole pealed tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 4 cups roughly chopped cabbage
  • 3 cups roughly chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can white beans
  • 3 cups bread cubes
  • freshly grated asiago cheese
In an 8qt dutch oven, or similarly large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the diced bacon and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the carrots, celery, capers, garlic, salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.  Continue cooking over medium-low heat for an additional 10 minutes or until veggies are tender.  Add the tomatoes with their puree, cabbage, kale and basil and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid, and add half of the whole beans to the veggies.  Puree the other half of the beans in their liquid and add to the stock pot along with the 6 cups chicken broth.  Bring the soup to a boil and reduce to a low simmer for 1.5 hrs.  Add the bread to the soup and simmer for another 30 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and serve hot with a little drizzle of olive oil and the grated asiago.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Caramel Corn

So glad I found a way to make caramel corn!  It's ridiculously over-priced to buy, and so freakin' cheap to make!  And right now, we're being cheap!  I've got the imitation butter as optional because it really isn't necessary to add, but I found that adding it definitely gives the caramel a better buttery taste... reminds me a little more of the butter-toffee flavoured corn you can buy than straight up caramel corn.  And I really recommend the saltiness of some roasted peanuts, if you dig nuts!

The Cramps' "Goo Goo Muck" totally made me think of something gooey and mucky like caramel. -jen

Time: 8 minutes prep, 1 hour bake, 20 minutes to cool
Serves:  makes about 2 gallon-size Ziplocs full
Difficulty: Easy
  • 3/4-1 cup popcorn seeds
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon imitation butter flavour (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts or pecans (optional)
Preheat oven to 200 F.

Pop corn with your preferred method.  I like using the air popper for this.  Pour popcorn into large roasting pan.

In a large sauce pan over medium heat, combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter flavouring (if using), and salt.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla and baking soda until combined.  Pour over popcorn and sprinkle on nuts, if using.  Stir well to coat all of the popcorn.

Bake at 200 F in roasting pan for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Spread over waxed paper to cool.  Then break up large chunks and serve.

Note:  Want to try Bacon Caramel Corn?  Follow the above instructions, but crumble 1 pound of bacon until crispy.  Sprinkle on top of the plain popcorn before pouring your caramel on it, and just stir in and continue following the instructions!  

Bacon Caramel Corn

Friday, February 24, 2012

Couscous Veggie Salad

So we've done a few couscous salads in the past but have continued to refine them over time till we've come up with this version.  It's very Mediterranean tasting, very light and refreshing, and a great side dish for a heavier main course or good as a main course all on it's own.  It's super easy to prepare and can be made in either large or small quantities with little to no trouble.  And it's fairly healthy as far as pasta salads go since it's loaded with fresh veggies and has no heavy dressing or anything on it.  I know, I know.  Cooking to Die for right?  Well, after a lot of artery clogging stuff we have to balance things, even if only just a little.  And who better to do some salad tunes than those rowdy hardcore boys from the east coast, Minor Threat?  So enjoy some Salad Days while you whip this dish up or while you eat. - justin

Couscous Veggie Salad
Time: 20 min
Serves: 6-8
Difficulty: Easy

  • 1 cup instant couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth (water is okay but less tasty, even bouillon is better than nothing)
  • 1 whole cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 red/yellow/orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced fine
  • 2 green onions, minced fine
  • 1 cup broccoli, diced
  • 1/4 cup green olives, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  •  zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
I find it's best to prep all the veggies and whatnot ahead of time as it's a toss everything in the finished cous cous kind of dish and not much time is involved in anything but the prep.  If you happen to be using English or "hothouse" cucumbers, ignore the part about seeds as they won't be present.

In a medium saucepan, bring your stock to a boil.  Stir in the instant couscous, cover and turn off the heat.  Let sit for five minutes.  Transfer the couscous to a large salad bowl and fluff with a pair of forks until any large clumps are broken up. Add all the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly.  It's that simple.  This can be served chilled or just after combining everything; it's up to you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lemon Ricotta Cake With Blueberries

What I like about this cake is that it sounds sort of decadent (to me, anyway), but it was solely inspired by the extremely tight budget we're on simply by using what we had in the house.   Had some leftover ricotta from making lasagna, blueberries in the freezer that I'd picked last summer, and we almost always have lemons in the house.  Just had a sweet craving and decided to do something about it!

While baking, we had some Pandora station on that played this song about forty times, and though I tried to think of something cakey or lemony to go with the recipe, I just kept coming up with this song, so I might as well just get it out of my freaking head!!  Dramarama's "Anything Anything".  -jen

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 cup blueberries**
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously coat a bunt pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add the egg, 1 at a time.  Then add the Ricotta, milk, lemon zest, and vanilla until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture until completely blended.  Then add the lemon juice.  Stir in the blueberries by hand.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Remove cake and allow to cool completely.

**Note: I found my blueberries all sunk to the bottom of the pan (top of the cake) and think next time I would spoon 2/3 of the batter into the pan, sprinkle the blueberries on top, and spoon the remainder of the batter over it.  I imagine you'd just get a layer of blueberry still, but they'd sink to the middle rather than all the way down.  Just an idea!

  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons Limoncello (optional)
Whisk to combine sugar and lemon juice.  Use Limoncello liqueur or water in tablespoon increments to thin icing just until it's a consistency that can be drizzled over the cake.  You don't want it too thin, or the cake will just absorb it!