Tomato Crostini with Goat Cheese and Taleggio

I get a little dizzy thinking back to how good these simple little toasts were. I mean, they're just cheese on cheese on sauce on toast, but they are much, much more. They're heavenly. I first had these at the Chef's Academy cooking demo . I liked them so much, I had to recreate a version of my own.

Chefs Leo Goodloe and Suzanne Winn made a killer sauce from scratch, and I went with some from a jar, but it didn't matter. The goat cheese and taleggio really make this. I mean, seriously, how amazing is cheese?

These toasts are a great appetizer for a party or a delicious snack for yourself.

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Homemade Merguez and Harissa Couscous Salad

Merguez is a spicy African sausage usually made with lamb. It’s one of my favorites, and I wanted to suggest our school meat market start making it, but then I found a New York Times recipe that could be recreated at home without sausage casings. I didn’t think the recipe called for enough spice, so I added more paprika and cayenne.

Kat found a recipe for an herbed couscous salad with harissa and cherry tomatoes. It was the perfect side with the sausage, plus it used the harvest off my cherry tomato plant, my box of couscous and the can of harissa I bought at the eastern market a while ago. I am moving very soon and so every day is an effort to use up the goods that I have and not buy anything extra. The salad is supposed to have a lot more fresh herbs, but we weren’t about to go to the store, so we used the mint and cinnamon basil we could get off Kat’s plants.

I served the whole thing with a little plain yogurt since the sausage and couscous both had a lot of heat.

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Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

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Wild Turkey Breast Sandwiches

My roommate’s boyfriend has been doing a lot of turkey hunting lately. And since every time he sees me I’m in the kitchen, he figured I’d enjoy some wild turkey breast. I’d never cooked anything wild before, so I did some research. I didn’t want the meat to be too tough or too gamey tasting.

On the Missouri Department of Conservation website (of all places) I found a recipe for a white wine and lime marinade. Sounded tasty and nice and acidic to tenderize the turkey. Then I baked the strips of turkey breast in a pan with some of the marinade to keep it moist.

The result was still a little tough since the turkey was not only wild, but a little older, too. I didn’t notice the toughness at all once I put the meat on a sandwich with tons of fixins. I think sauces and other additions are what make a good sandwich, so we had lots of options:

  • Guacamole
  • Chili-garlic tomato paste
  • Sun-dried tomato cream cheese (from Panera)
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Monterey jack cheese
  • Thin slices of carrots and cucumbers
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Red romaine lettuce

I hadn’t had a good sandwich in a while, so this hit the spot.

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Chorizo Taco Salad with Corn Salsa

Last week I picked up a pint of beautiful cherry tomatoes at The Root Cellar. I popped a whole one in my mouth and it was like candy (which is a wonder because I didn’t even like tomatoes really until I got to college). I was so happy to finally have a tasty tomato after months of winter. But the sun was shining that day in Columbia, and I decided to make a meal that would feel like my perennially warm home of Los Angeles: a light and fresh taco salad.

I love beans and cheese too, but this was not a day for those. This day was about the fresh tomatoes and greens I had picked up. I made a sweet and spicy corn salsa with the cherry tomatoes. Then, I filled the tacos with a chorizo and ground beef mixture, green peppers and red onions (cooked, but still tender), the salsa, sour cream and cilantro. I put the tacos on top of a bed of greens for presentation, then we went out to my front porch, and smashed the tacos and mixed the whole thing together to eat as a salad.

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The Flavor-Principle Cookbook

I love to flip through cookbooks, but lately I’ve been more interested in food theory — books about ingredients, techniques, flavors, etc. Besides not being able to stick to a recipe to save my life, I prefer to learn the concepts behind cooking. It’s like that saying: Give a gal a fish recipe and she’ll eat for a night. Teach her how to cook it and she’ll eat for a lifetime. Or something.Flavor Principle Cookbook

I found an incredibly interesting book in the university library called The Flavor Principle Cookbook. It discusses the flavor principles and cooking techniques of several cultures, and then offers examples of traditional dishes and unique ways of combining ideas from different regions. This seems progressive for 1973.

I loved reading about the flavor principles from each culture, noticing the overlap and slight differences among them. For instance:

  • Olive oil + tomato + garlic = Southern Italian
  • Olive oil + tomato + saffron = Spanish, Southern French
  • Olive oil + tomato + mixed herbs (thyme, basil, oregano) = Mediterranean, Provencal
  • Olive oil + tomato + cinnamon and/or lemon = Greece, Balkans, Middle East

You can almost draw a map and follow the cuisine.

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