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It’s freezing.

I realize that’s a relative term, considering I’m in California and California cold is in no way comparable to, say, New York cold (which I don’t miss at all – I’m looking at you frostbitten toes and $400 heating bills). But nevertheless, San Francisco temps can definitely dip down onto the less attractive side of 55F and when this unfortunate event occurs, all mama wants is soup.

Such is my current situation. I want soup! And not just any soup… A hearty, soul-warming, brothy soup with earthy flavors and heavenly aromatics. Thanks to Ms. Smitten Kitchen (genius strikes yet again), I found just the soup in the following recipe! A delightfully simple concoction with surprisingly complex flavors… a mushroom barley soup to end all mushroom barley soups…

Started out by rehydrating a few dried porcinis (just threw them in a bowl and covered with about 1 cup of boiling water). Set those bad boys aside I tended to the rest. Heated up a bit of olive oil in my LeCreuset and sautéed a roughly chopped carrot and a roughly chopped onion for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

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I’ve only been seriously cooking/baking for a short amount of time – roughly 6 months. And in that time, I’ve tried my hand at quite a few things – making stock from scratch, oodles of pies/tarts/cakes,  fancy french desserts, roasting big honkin’ cuts of meat and all manner of candies. But there’s one area from which I’ve consistently shied away and it’s becoming obscene that I haven’t jumped in yet… breads. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since I love, Love, LOVE making pastries and delicate little sweet bready items. But for some reason, breads have darkly loomed on my epicurean horizon. Mostly, I just don’t understand yeasts. So, of course, I’m determined to get better…

So here we go… taking the plunge, head first, into breadmaking. First stop: Mushroom, Sausage & Spinach Pizza.

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I’m developing a pattern. When my friends invite me over, I usually bring a homemade pie. When I’m bored, I usually make semi-successful attempts at candy. And when I have someone over for dinner (or have had a really bad day), I make pork chops. And not just any pork chops, but the most delectable, panko-rolled, pan-seared, oven-baked pork chops you can imagine!

I first stumbled upon this recipe when I was home visiting my family last winter. It was brutally cold, just weeks away from the infamous Snowmageddon of the Mid-Atlantic. I was puttering around the house, trying to distract myself from what a bad day/week/month I was having, so I decided to make my mom and siblings a fantastic, soul-warming dinner. I headed over to the local Safeway and $30 later, I was ready.

It was such a success that I’ve made this exact same dinner three more times since then and it’s always greeted with smiles and food comas.

First you preheat the oven to 425 and then just set up a standard breading station for your chops; Flour on a plate, a couple of eggs and 2 tsp of lemon juice in a bowl, and panko bread crumbs, fresh chopped sage, parmesan and a tsp of lemon zest in another bowl.

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And now for the main course of our Easter brunch… I decided to go all out and try this Swiss Rösti, which is basically a really fancy, giant hashbrown or latke. It wasn’t especially difficult, but does have a whole bunch of steps, which can be a little daunting! Without further ado, I’m just gonna jump right in…

The main ingredient is obvs, potatoes…

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Seriously, this is the easiest tomato sauce I’ve ever encountered. A few months back, I made an epic, all-day-long affair out of making tomato sauce and homemade meatballs. It was super rewarding, but not entirely practical. I won’t always be able to dedicate an entire day to mashing and stewing and slow-cooking.

So I decided to try a different approach, an easy 45 minute sauce that requires only 3 ingredients…

1 28 oz can of top notch whole stewed tomatoes
1 yellow onion, halved
4-5 tbsp of butter (I was running low on unsalted, so I just used salted and then omitted adding any additional salt to taste)

And that’s all. That’s all!

Start out by pouring the entire contents of the can o’ tomatoes into the pot.

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Valentine’s has never been a favorite holiday of mine. I would go so far as to say I used to hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. I still don’t like it, but it’s a lot easier to like when you’ve got someone to buy you pressies and bring you flowers and whatnot.

So as a “Happy Valentine’s, sucka” to my fella, I decided to put my relatively newfound culinary skills to good use and cook us up a feast.  I’m a slow chopper and a perfectionist, so we didn’t eat until 9, but I think we were both pretty satisfied (as was Nina… it’s not everyday that a puppy gets fillet mignon bits!).

I aimed high with the following menu:

Starter (yes… starter!):
Wild mushroom & leek soup w/ parsley dumplings (everything, including the vegetable stock, from scratch)

Pan fried, peppercorn-crusted fillet mignon
Green bean salad with marinated red onions in a homemade vinaigrette

Ghiradhelli loveliness from Spencer

First I started out with about $10 worth of assorted veggies for the stock…

Wanna see how it turned out?

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Hi, I’m Lauriebot!

I live in San Francisco. I used to live in NYC, Washington DC, and London.

I like to take the pictures.

I like color, excess, food, light, clothes, and going places.

I also like talking to people.

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