December 28, 2010

Closing the Door


We are almost done.

The year is nearly at a close and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is breathing its last breath as we get ready to ring in the new year.

It's not that 2010 has been a particularly bad year, it's just that I'm ready for a new start.  It's this way every December, as January creeps closer, I realize how ready I am for something new and fresh.  A new year with new promises and a clean slate, 2011, I have big plans for you.  I know the resolutions we make and swear by in the first new days of the year get left by the wayside as life takes over, but this year, let's be practical.  Let's resolve for happiness and health and to being better people.

This December brought flooded roads, malls, parking lots, stadiums, houses.  Mudslides.  Super saturated soil and downed trees.  I kid you not when I say it took me 3 hours to get out of a small parking lot the other day in the middle of my traditional last minute shopping.  But there was also family and friends and the reminder of how truly blessed I really am to have what I do and the people who surround me every day.  It's been swell, 2010 but it's time to move on.

I know this soup doesn't look like much - muddy shades of green and chock full of vegetables - but it's the perfect bowl for chilly evenings and recovering from plates full of rich, celebratory food.  The paste of parsley, basil, garlic and onions that you saute at the very beginning will fill your house with such delicious aromas it'll be tempting to climb right into the pot.  Luckily it's a quick soup to make and you'll be eating in no time.  Toast a hunk of crusty bread, swipe it through the soup, clean the bowl and I'm pretty sure you won't be missing those piles of cookies any more.

Cheers, everyone and see you in the new year!


Umbrian Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Saveur, Issue #130

Just a small tweak here and there.  I didn't have the called for frisee so I used escarole in it's place, this mildly bitter green was a good substitute even if it did contribute to the dull green hue.  I also tossed in a small rind of parmesan with the water for a little extra flavor boost.  This soup freezes and thaws beautifully, which is nice if you're just a few people and you don't want the same dinner several nights in a row.

4 servings

1⁄2 cup packed basil leaves
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley 
4 cloves garlic
1⁄2 medium onion, cut into chunks
8 oz. red new potatoes, cut into 1⁄2" cubes
3 stalks celery, minced
2 medium carrots, minced
2 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
4 cups water
Kosher salt, to taste
1 small rind of Parmesan or Romano
1 14oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
1⁄2 head escarole, leaves cut into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
salt and pepper
Freshly grated parmesan for serving

Place half the basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil, parsley, garlic, and onions in the bowl of a food processor and process until slightly chunky. Heat remaining oil in an 3-qt. pot over medium-high heat and add herb–garlic mixture. Cook, stirring often, until no liquid remains, about 5 minutes.

Add potatoes, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add salt and 4 cups water and cheese rind and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir in beans, peas, and escarole and cook until greens are wilted and just tender, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper and stir in remaining basil. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan.

December 13, 2010

Same/Different

Evergreen Wreath - Maldonado Flowers


Clockwise: 
Rainbow Carrots, Suzie's Farm - because they're pretty.
red kabocha squash, Suzie's Farm - still deciding on the fate of this one.
Spicy Sprouts & Pea Sprouts, Suzie's Farm - an indispensable part of salads in this house.
Caramelized Onion Loaf, Bread & Cie - I'm thinking fancy grilled cheese.
Fuyu Persimmions, Terra Bella Ranch - hands down the tastiest ones at the market.
Golden Raspberries, Pudwill - because it's December and I can still get berries.
Pineapple Guavas, Polito Family Farms - they taste like sour straws, no joke, nature's sweet and tart candy.

December 7, 2010

Sweet Return


You deserve a cake.  For sticking around, for checking this little space while I was away, you most certainly deserve a cake.  It's not a fancy towering cake or a show-off, just a homey square cake with a little frosting that's been pushed around to cover the top, but I think it's the proper sentiment.  We're not having a celebration here, just saying thank you.

This pear spice cake will fill your kitchen with the warming scent of cinnamon and spice while it bakes and does its magic in the oven.  And should you choose to make the pear sauce yourself - which I highly recommend - you can mingle for a bit with the sweet smell of pears as they simmer away on your stove top.  Not that I make a habit of questioning such beloved magazines as Gourmet who routinely turn[ed] out fantastic recipes, but I think replacing the applesauce with pears here was a total win.  For one, pear seems less expected than apple.  It doesn't have to be fussy, however we're making a cake here, not applesauce quick bread so I'd rather not recreate too similar of a product.  Also, go make the pear sauce yourself for this recipe and tell me you don't feel all industrious.

You'll be proud to plunk this down in front of dinner guests and equally happy to just have it with a cup of tea.  I'm sorry I can't hand deliver each of you a piece, because I really would like to, but I think you'll be happier to have your own. 


Pear Spice Cake
Adapted from Gourmet.com and Smitten Kitchen

You really should make the pear sauce yourself.  Aside from it taking 30 minutes to simmer on the stove it couldn't be more simple or quick.  The brilliant addition of balsamic vinegar is undetectable in the end, perhaps just giving the sauce a fuller, rounder flavor profile.  I should also note that I made this cake with Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese (accident!) and it worked just fine, I mean who needs the extra fat in their cakes anyway! 

Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pear sauce (recipe below)

Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pear Sauce
1 pound of pears
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water

Peel, quarter, core and de-stem pears.  Place in a medium saucepan with the balsamic and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; cook with the lid on for 30 minutes, or until the pears are very tender. Let cool in their cooking liquid.  Puree everything in a food processor or blender to desired consistency.  This should make about 1 1/2 cups.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter an 8x8 square baking pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in pear sauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until golden-brown and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake to loosen, then invert onto a plate. Reinvert cake onto a rack to cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until incorporated.  Spread frosting over top of cooled cake.


November 18, 2010

Of Applications and Appetizers



Let's talk college applications, shall we?  How they're the bane of my existence.  Page after page of information to fill out, straining my brain to answer ridiculous prompts that will supposedly give each school a personal insight to my self without sounding cliche/groveling/desperate.  On top of just plain putting yourself out there for rejection.  This is so not my thing.

And we haven't even gotten to the part where I will be a university student, pursuing an undergraduate degree with a sea of students 10 years my junior.  Assuming that all my hopes and dreams come true, I could potentially be that person in class.  The older one who always sits in the front (why are they always there in the first row?), hand shooting up at every opportunity to ask question after question, offering up more opinions than are necessary.  People, I may just have to fill that role.  I don't mean to offend.  Good for you, front of the class student, for participating and being involved.

Can we just skip to the part where I have the degree, already?  I want to be a part of that club.

Sure, I'm being melodramatic, although not entirely untruthful.  This will all be worth it.  So what, I waited 10 years to go back to school, at least I know I'm going after something I'm passionate for.  I'm ready now to be a serious student.  My brain is prepared to be stuffed, challenged and crammed full of science-y nutrition stuff.  (Yes.  That is the technical term).  But really?  Applications due during holiday season?  I want to think about delicious Thanksgiving meals and all the ways I will stuff myself silly.  Champagne toasts and plates piled high with dressing and turkey and cranberry sauce - in that order.  Pumpkin, or perhaps sweet potato pie with clouds of whipped cream.  Not applications, transcripts and essay prompts.

Are you still there?  I promise I'm done now, I even feel a little better.

Here, let me take a little stress out of your planning at least if you're in charge of an appetizer.  This is it right here!  Absolutely do not look any further!  These open-faced tea sandwiches may not be traditional (?) with their Asian influenced flavors, but they sure are a crowd pleaser.  I've made them on several occasions and each time the entire plate gets inhaled in mere minutes.  The guests are all polite, nicely taking just the one to nibble on while nodding their heads in approval.  "So fresh!" they say.  Then I walk away, smiling, and this must be the point where they stuff 4 more into their mouths at once or else grab a handful for the purse or pocket, because, POOF, the plate is empty.  I don't blame them, they are delicious, but I might recommend you make extras unless you like the pleading looks of hungry guests.


Radish and Chive Tea Sandwiches
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2008

I can usually get about 20-24 pieces of baguette covered with this amount of butter, even though the original called for only 16.  Sometimes I cheat and use green onion tops instead of chives, either works, I've never had any complaints.  Use your discretion for how many this will serve, but I brought 24 of these to a dinner party of 8 people and I know they would have eaten more if they had the opportunity.

4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons minced chives, divided
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
24 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices
10 radishes, thinly sliced
Fleur de sel, for garnish

Mix butter, 2 tablespoons chives, sesame seeds, ginger, and oil in small bowl.  Spread butter mixture over each bread slice. Top with radishes, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with remaining chives and fleur de sel.


November 16, 2010

Chicken Soup for the (adaptive) Soul


It's beginning to look a lot like soup weather.  That time of year where I'm guaranteed to make soup so frequently I'll begin to wonder when the last time I didn't eat my meal out of a bowl full of liquid was.

Oh soup, you take so many forms!  Pureed and smooth, chunky with vegetables, thick with cream.  They can be swimming with broth or they could be a rich and hearty stew topped with dumplings.  First course, only course or lunch.  Three cheers for soup!  Every bite is soul-warming and satisfying; the steam warming your face as you lean in, the bowl your personal hand warmer.  I think the chilled evenings are getting to me.

If you took a peek at my rapidly expanding - and let's be honest, completely out of control - list of bookmarked recipes, I'm sure you'd find that almost 1/4 of them are a soup of some form, rivaled only by the list of desserts and sweets.  Obviously, I have my priorities in order.

For no particular reason, other than striking my fancy at just the right time (that right time being when I sat down to make the week's meal plan and corresponding shopping list), I plucked this recipe out of list-oblivion.  A rotisserie cooked chicken and leftover rice soup, studded with bright red Thai chile slices and punched up with cilantro basil and lime.  So simple, so quick, if only a wrench weren't thrown into to the works; the store had sold through their rotisserie birds for the day.  Being stubborn and not wanting to try another store or wait another day, I instead poached some chicken breast I had at home and then used the poaching liquid in place of the chicken stock, supplementing just slightly to make up the volume.  You're no match for me, wrench!  And if I hadn't forgotten to toss in the handful of shrimp, I bet it would have been even better.  But I'm not beating myself up over it.  There's plenty more soup weather ahead, an entire winter's worth of soup making opportunities, to be precise.


Cambodian Chicken and Rice Soup
 Adapted from Food & Wine, March 2008

The original recipe has you use a 3 lb. store-bought rotisserie chicken and already made (or purchased) chicken stock.  However I had frozen chicken breast on hand so I decided to poach that instead and use the poaching liquid, now a light chicken broth, in the place of pre-made stock.  But if you're looking for a quicker weeknight meal, I encourage you to use all premade broth and the rotisserie chicken as was originally intended.  Also there were some shrimp that were supposed to be tossed in towards the end which I left out by accident.  Next time little shrimp, next time.

4 servings

1 pound chicken breast
4 cups water
1 carrot, quartered
1 celery stalk, quartered
1/4 of a small onion
salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (or one 14oz can) chicken stock
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup cooked jasmine rice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 pound shelled and deveined shrimp (optional)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 Thai chile, thinly sliced
Lime wedges, for serving

Trim chicken breast of fat and place in a saucepan with 4 cups water, chopped carrot, celery and onion and a good pinch of salt.  The chicken should be completely covered by the water.  Bring to just a simmer and cover, leaving the lid just slightly ajar and cook for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let the chicken cool in the liquid.  Once cool enough to handle (maybe an hour) remove the chicken to a cutting board and with a slotted spoon remove and discard the vegetables, reserve the liquid.  Cut or shred chicken into large pieces.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the reserved poaching liquid plus extra broth, fish sauce, honey and rice and bring to a boil. Add the chicken pieces and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the shrimp (if using) and cook just until opaque, about 1 minute. Stir in the lime juice, cilantro, basil and chile and serve right away, passing lime wedges at the table.

November 12, 2010

My Love for a Green


Things that I love: Desserts - man I've got a killer sweet tooth.  Cheese - haven't met one I don't like yet.  Except the fake kind.  But that, uh, obviously doesn't count.  My family - they're pretty fantastic.  D is pretty great too.  My cat - at the risk of sounding like a crazy cat-lady, yes, I love my cat.  Sushi.  Dumplings.  Shopping, and KALE.
    Say what?  Yes, kale.  I used to think it needed to be cooked, sauteed, braised and thrown into soups.  I was wrong.  I don't eat it because it's a healthy, dark leafy green rich with antioxidants, beta carotene and Vitamin C & K, that's just a perk.  It's fantastic raw as well.  It has a bit more bite to it, a bit more chew and that translates to more flavor than your average head of romaine or supermarket lettuce.

    Which is why, when this email from Tasting Table landed in my inbox, there were two reasons I knew it was going to be a great recipe.  Firstly, what a fantastic take on Caesar salad - using kale in place of hearts of romaine.  You mean I get to feel less guilty about eating a salad coated in a fatty homemade sauce of olive oil and egg yolk?  Sign me up!  And secondly, the recipe comes from Chad Robertson's new cookbook "Tartine Bread" of San Fransisco's famed Tartine Bakery.  It's impossible not to love that place with their delicious freshly baked bread, pastries and quiches.  Really the combination was a no-fail-must-make-tonight-need-this-right-now kind of a thing.

    However this was just a salad; some greens, a dressing, croutons and a dusting of cheese, not quite a meal.  And sometimes, particularly on Mondays, I don't want to cook 2 or 3 things to round out a meal just because I'm dead set on making a certain dish.  I really wanted this salad, but I know that while I can be satisfied by a plate heaping with vegetables, the more manly half of this household likes something with a little more protein.  And what's quicker to make than shrimp?  Just 3 minutes in a hot pan and the salad, now a dinner, is perfect.  Hardly much extra work for me and a happy household overall.

    Hey, you're eating kale instead of lettuce, give yourself a pat on the back!


    Kale Caesar Salad w/ Herbes de Provence Shrimp
    Adapted from TastingTable which in turn adapted it from "Tartine Bread", Chad Robertson and Epicurious.com

    A few things.  I didn't use the original Caesar dressing recipe, I just couldn't bring myself to commit 1 1/2 cups of olive oil to a condiment that I rarely use, instead I found a different one on Epicurious.com.  Unfortunately, though I was excited to make it with raw egg yolk, this one didn't call for it, but I found it worked quite nicely with an extra kick from the dijon that the original lacked.  It's also scaled down to be just enough to lightly coat 4 servings because I don't like salads drenched in dressing.  Feel free to use as much as you see fit as this recipe is for only 2 servings of salad with leftover dressing.  Also, the addition of shrimp was all me.  Sauteed quickly with a little more herbes de provence it bulked up the salad to make it meal.  And although the recipe calls for lacinato kale, I made it once with just curly green kale and once with lacinato and both were delicious, so don't freak if you can only find one kind.

    2 generous servings

    4 1-inch slices of day old country bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
    salt

    1 large clove garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 2 fillets)
    1 teaspoon dijon mustard
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

    1 large bunch of kale (curly green or lacinato), washed, dried and torn into small pieces
    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 pound shrimp, rinsed and dried
    1 teaspoons herbes de Provence
    salt
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

    Make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, toss the bread with the olive oil, a pinch of salt and the herbes de Provence, if using. Spread the bread on a baking sheet and bake, turning the croutons midway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 10 minutes.

    Make the dressing: Mix minced garlic, anchovy paste and dijon into a paste.  Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix to combine.  Whisk (or with a fork) the olive oil and set aside.
    Make the shrimp:  Put olive oil in a small saute pan over high heat.  Add shrimp, herbes de Provence and a pinch of salt and toss to coat.  Cook for about 4 minutes, tossing or mixing frequently.

    To compose salad:  Toss the kale with half the dressing until evenly coated.  Add parmesan and croutons and toss again.  Divide onto two plates and top each with half the shrimp.  Reserve remaining dressing for another use.

    November 7, 2010

    Fall Colorings


    Stellar Salad Mix - Maggie's Farm
    Heirloom Carrots - Maggie's Farm
    Cherry Tomatoes - Suzie's Farm
    Pea Shoots / Onion Sprouts - Suzie's Farm
    Delicata Squash - Suzie's Farm
    Persimmons - Terra Bella Ranch
    Beemster XO & Juni Cheese - Taste Cheese
    *bonus honey crisp apple from Pudwill

    November 4, 2010

    Italia via Caponata


    I have something to tell you that may shock you.  It's not actually shocking, but the look on people's faces when I tell them would seem to imply otherwise; I don't have cable.  That's right.  No.  Cable.

    Have you picked yourself off the ground yet?

    Okay, good.  I feel like I may be the last person on Earth who doesn't have cable.  No 300+ channels at my fingertips to maximize my procrastination tendencies.  No news programs, no cooking shows, no movie stations.  And I like it that way.  You see what I do have is this thing called the internet and Hulu and Netflix streaming, and believe you me I watch plenty of programming that way.

    Where was I going with this?  Oh, right.

    So D and I have been watching Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in marathon sessions on Netflix streaming (9 whole seasons available with just a click of a mouse!) where we sit around and drool at all the amazing food he gets to eat, and cringe when he's offered weird delicacies such as fermented shark or an ostrich egg cooked in the ground, smothered in coals.  But when the food's good, it's oh-so-good, inspiring new cravings every 10 minutes and a new destination to add to the "must visit" travel list.

    The place that gets me every time, I mean really makes me crawl with jealousy, is Italy.  When I see pictures, the beaches, the food or hear stories about strolling plazas and eating freshly made pastas and gelato for every meal, my heart melts.  Italy, come to me.  And when I can no longer take the yearning, I start flipping through Jamie's Italy, just to torture myself a little more.


    Eggplant Caponata
    Adapted from Jamie's Italy, Jamie Oliver

    4 servings

    olive oil
    2 large purple globe eggplants, cut into large chunks
    1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
    a small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and stems finely chopped
    2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, soaked,and drained
    a handful of green olives, pits removed
    2-3 tablespoons best-quality herb vinegar
    5 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
    2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted (optional)


    In a large pan, pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil, and place on the heat. Add your eggplant chunks and oregano, season with a little salt, and toss around so the eggplant is evenly coated by the oil. Cook on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then.

    When the eggplants are nice and golden on each side, add the onion, garlic, and parsley stems and continue cooking for another couple of minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if you feel it's getting too dry.Throw in the drained capers and the olives and drizzle over the herb vinegar. When all the vinegar has evaporated, add the tomatoes and simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender.

    Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil and serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and the pine nuts if you like.

    October 28, 2010

    F is for Fig


    It was just a simple tart; your basic pie dough, sweetened with just a touch of sugar, some almond cream and sliced figs arranged concentrically to make a pretty design.  But as you're probably figuring out by this point, I can't leave well enough alone.  I had this idea in my head to add something herby and earthy.

    Is is just me, am I weird for really liking that almost dirt-like flavor quality of some foods?  It's why I love beets and dream of mushrooms.  It's what I love most about rosemary.

    Listen, figs and almonds are all well and good, but I wanted more.  Something unexpected.  And since beets and mushrooms obviously wouldn't cut it here- I can be crazy at times, but not that crazy - I went with some rosemary.  People, it brought this tart to a whole new level of delicious.  It was really just a whisper of the herb that came through, but it was enough to balance the sweet caramelized figs and fluffy almond cream.  It was textural and elegant.

    We ate it on a warm evening, after an al fresco dinner of delicious food and over a game of Scattergories.  It was perfect.

    And what would really send this over the top - serving it with a scoop of honey ice cream.


    Fig and Rosemary Galette
    2 10-inch tarts 

    This recipe was compiled from all over the place so if you have your own favorite pie dough recipe, or frangipane recipe go ahead and use it, just don't forget about the rosemary.  And now that figs are on their way out, I have images of substituting pears in their place, maybe trying thyme instead of rosemary.  Hazelnuts instead of almonds. 

    Galette Dough:
    1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon granulated sugar
    1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold, in small cubes
    1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
    3-5 tablespoons ice water

    Filling:
    1 pint black Mission figs, de-stemmed and sliced horizontally (4-5 slices per fig)
    1 cup sliced almonds
    1/2 cup sugar
    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
    pinch salt
    1 large egg

    1 egg (for egg wash)
    sugar (for dusting)


    Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Add the cubes of butter and rosemary and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the pieces of butter are about the size of large peas. Add the ice water 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough comes together and sticks when you squeeze it in between two fingertips.

    Divide the dough into two pieces, then turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap and pat into 2 round disks. Wrap tightly and chill for at least 2 hours.

    In a food processor, combine the almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and process until finely ground. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Add the remaining sugar (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) and mix to incorporate. Add the almond-sugar mixture and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the salt and the egg and mix until light and fluffy.

    Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Take the dough out of the refrigerator and working with on disc at a time, flour your work surface and your rolling pin, roll out into a 12-inch round.  Place each dough round on lined baking sheet.  Spoon half the almond frangipane in the center of each dough circle and arrange the figs concentrically in the center, leaving a 2-inch border around the edge. You can allow the figs to overlap. Lift the pastry edge and fold over filling to make a nice, crimped border. Once galettes are assembled, place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

    Preheat the oven to 375F. 

    After the dough has chilled for 1 hour, remove from the refrigerator and prepare the egg wash: Whisk egg in a small bowl to make egg wash, and use it to brush the edges of the crust of each galette; sprinkle the sides of the crust with sugar.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, until figs are bubbling slightly and edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream or mascarpone and honey or a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

    October 22, 2010

    Better Late Than Never


    What a dolt I've been.

    Here I am, advertising pictures of gorgeous produce, promising follow ups and do I deliver?  No.  And it's been almost a month now.  My apologies.  So let's do the run down, shall we?

    • The salad mix, bell peppers, candy stripe beets and Reed avocado all went into salads.  The creamy avocado contrasting nicely with the spicy greens and sweet crunch of thinly sliced beets and bell pepper.  I can eat salad for days.  Have I mentioned that before?  Ho-hum, moving on.
    • The cherry tomatoes were transformed into smaller shriveled up versions of themselves when I oven roasted them.  Just set the oven temperature to 225F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice a pint of cherry tomatoes in half,  and place them on the baking sheet cut side up.  Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil over the top, a sprinkle of kosher salt a few unpeeled cloves of garlic.  Toss it in the oven for 2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes.  Start checking at 2 hours and then every 15 minutes until you have shriveled - but not burned! - morsels with just the slightest hint of juiciness left.  Use them in sandwiches, salads, on a bagel with cream cheese, or if you think they'll be hanging around for a while, pack them into a small jar, cover with olive oil and store in your fridge.  Intense tomato flavor in the dead of winter - oh, yes!
    • With the eggplant I made caponata from Jamie Jamie's Italy cookbook (Jamie Oliver).  It was good stuff, especially after it had been sitting for a day so.  I know he gets a lot of flack for not so much printing "recipes" but more of guidelines but he creates some seriously amazing food.  Go ahead and try to look at that cookbook without drooling all over each page.  It's impossible.  I'll post the recipe next week.
    • And lastly, the figs.  I bought them with no real idea of what was to become of them.  Stuffed with goat cheese, broiled and drizzled with honey and cracked pepper?  Salads?  Afternoon snacks?  They have such a woefully short season, and I love them so, I couldn't pass them up.  What I ended up making was a galette.  I was being taunted with pictures on Tastespotting and then Alice Q Foodie made one and all of a sudden I was rushing into the kitchen to jump on the bandwagon.  But with a twist!  I chopped up a bit of fresh rosemary and mixed it into the crust.  I could go on and on here, but I'll save it for next week.  You know, to keep you hanging.

    October 19, 2010

    Far from Fancy


    I've been in a comfort food mood lately.  Cozy food, the kind you enjoy while curled up in blankets with a good book or lingering over the table with music in the background.  Nothing flashy, nothing fancy, but the kind of food that makes sigh contentedly as you eat it.  Something to unwind you from a crazy day and to be reminded that simple is sometimes better.

    To me, frittatas fit that bill.  Fill them with the scraps you have lingering in your fridge, the bits you have in just small amounts laying around; add some leftover pasta for bulk and eggs for protein and dinner (or breakfast or brunch if you're so inclined) is served.  This frittata is a nod to a simple, no-sauce Martha Stewart pasta recipe, filled with zucchini, onion, briny black olives and some Italian herbs.  The veggies cook down to sweet wilted versions of their former crisp selves while the olives add pops of salt all over and the eggs and milk form a creamy custard held together with the pasta.  The greatest thing about frittatas is that they're a blank canvas.  Not into the pasta?  Add some cooked and sliced potato instead.  Whatever veggies and herbs float your boat.  Use some sausage or chorizo.  It just a matter of picking then chopping and stirring and the whole thing comes together in under 30 minutes.

    Go ahead.  Get inspired and make one - this one - tonight!


    Spaghetti Frittata

    4 servings

    1/4 pound dried spaghetti noodles, cooked and cooled
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
    1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
    2 cloves of garlic, sliced
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    pinch of red pepper flakes
    salt and pepper
    6 eggs
    splash of milk or cream
    1/3 cup grated parmesan or crumbled feta (optional)
    handful pitted kalamata olives

    Preheat broiler.

    In a small to medium sized oven proof skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onions, zucchini and garlic and saute until just turning soft and bits are browning on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile beat together the 6 eggs with a splash of milk, add cheese if using and beat once more.  When the onions and zucchini are soft, season with oregano and a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper then toss in olives and noodles.  Stir until combined.

    Pour the eggs over the mixture making sure that the pasta is mostly covered.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, pulling the mixture away from the sides and tilting the pan slightly to let the uncooked egg to the outside edges.  When the eggs look like they're set, slide the pan directly under the broiler for 2 minutes to brown and crisp up the top.  Slice and serve.

    October 12, 2010

    State of Flux


    Oh, hello Fall.

    It's nice of you to start out real hot.  Like 100+ degrees hot. Then quickly transition into rainy, wet, gray weather, and back again to warm.  Really, I like my seasons unpredictable like that. 

    About as unpredictable as my blog posts as of late.  It's been what?  12 days?  Sheesh.  I need to get on top of things!  I blame it on vacation brain.  I'm still seeing the sweeping vistas of Yosemite when I close my eyes, the towering rocky cliffs of the valley, trees so large you'd swear it was the inspiration for the background in Avatar and an expanse of blue sky.  A place so beautiful that I'm even willing to forget the vague threat of running into bears and the rain that was ever present for the last half of the trip.

    So, as an ode to this crazy weather, straddling two seasons, here is a soup that does the same.  It's a chowder, warm and comforting, but made with late season corn and no cream, making it perfect for the cooler - but not cold - evenings.

    Of course I couldn't help myself and made some changes.  I added a red bell pepper to the mix, chopped two full stalks of celery and didn't bother measuring it, increased the amount of thyme and substituted creamer potatoes for the summer squash.  It's kind of genius what Cooking Light did with the rest of the recipe, blending up a majority of the corn with the low fat milk to add body and keeping the rich calorie dense add ins (bacon, cheddar cheese) as a modest topping.  It's a chowder that's a little bit of autumn, a little bit of summer and just the ticket for dinner.  And as typical for soups, it was even better the next day.


    Fresh Corn Chowder
    Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2010

    Originally, there were no potatoes in this chowder, it was supposed to be summer squash, but I swapped the two because I had a craving, and a vision.  Here's what I learned.  It might be best to par boil the potatoes before adding them to the soup; the longer time you spend simmering the soup to get the potatoes fully cooked the more it wanted to stick to the bottom of the pan.  It wasn't a deal breaker, but keep it in mind for yourself if slightly uncooperative soup isn't your thing.  Or switch it back to a pound of diced summer squash which will cook much quicker and avoid the issue all together.

    4 servings

    2 slices, thick cut bacon
    3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
    1/4 cup chopped celery
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 pound red potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
    1 pound corn kernels, either frozen of from 4-5 ears of corn
    2 1/4 cups low-fat milk, divided
    2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

    Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings in pan. Crumble bacon, and set aside. Add 1/2 cup green onions, celery, bell pepper and potatoes to drippings in pan; saute 8-10 minutes.

    Reserve 1 cup corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to blender; process just until combined. Add pureed mixture and reserved 1 cup corn to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 15-20 minutes more or until thoroughly heated and the potatoes are tender, stirring frequently . Ladle into bowls and top each serving with about 1 tablespoon bacon, 1 tablespoon remaining onions, and 1 tablespoon cheese.

    September 29, 2010

    California the Beautiful


    We're off tomorrow morning to go explore Yosemite National Park.  I've never been, but luckily I'll be in the hands of some knowledgeable friends.  Good company, camp fires and stunning surroundings, I'm so excited!

    Oh please don't let me see any bears....

    September 28, 2010

    Fête for a Cake


    This poor cake.  It's been ignored and left behind for almost a month now.  Not the actual cake, no, that was gobbled up long long ago.  But the sharing of a delicious recipe.  It deserves better treatment, a brighter spotlight, at least some recognition for being a terrific birthday cake.  Don't you think it dressed up nicely for the occasion?

    I saw a few different incarnations of this Mexican Chocolate Cake around the internet; baked as a loaf or in a 9"x9" square baking pan, but there's something about celebratory cakes being round that just feels right.  A loaf seemed too everyday, so did the square, both were left unadorned with nothing except a light dusting of powdered sugar.  So I changed it up.  Baking it in a 9" spring form (the better to unmold after making) and drizzling some ganache over the top.  Instant transformation.  It went from looking Plain Jane to completely birthday appropriate. (By the way, I used these Martha Stewart cake stencils to do the design on the top of the cake, I seriously love the added touch they give.  Thank you Martha.)

    And the flavors!  It's like those little orange chocolate balls you get in your stocking on Christmas, banging them against a hard surface to crack them into segments, but with a little something more.  The cinnamon isn't very pronounced but makes for a nice background flavor and the coffee just deepens the chocolate.  It's incredibly moist with a tighter crumb, neither a bad thing in my book.  And if you eat straight out of the fridge, it's a little like fudge.


    Mexican Chocolate Cake
    Adapted from Gourmet, April 2004

    Sometimes, I get lazy when I'm baking and cooking.  I got lazy here; I didn't sift the flour and other dry ingredients, whoops!  What?  You don't like little white specks throughout your chocolate cake?  But you all are smarter than me and I'm sure you won't make my mistake.  Otherwise, this cake is pretty straight forward and such a pleasure to eat.  To keep the ganache from slip sliding away down the sides, I kept the cake in the fridge and just brought it out a few minutes before eating.

    12 servings

    Cake:
    2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
    1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
    1/2 cup water
    2 cups granulated sugar
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    zest of 1 orange
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Ganache:
    4 oz semisweet chocolate
    1/2 cup heavy cream


    Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F.

    Release the ring around a 9" spring form pan.  Across the bottom piece, lay a piece of foil, shiny side up, over it and close ring around it.  Some foil may stick out the sides which is what you want, just push them up around the outside.  Spray the inside with non-stick spray.

    Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Once melted, then whisk in cocoa. Add coffee and water and whisk until smooth. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and orange zest.

    Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined.  Pour batter into the spring form pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with only a few crumbs adhering, about 60 minutes.

    Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen loosen the ring and invert onto a plate.  Peel the foil slowly off the bottom and invert again onto the cooling rack until the cake is room temperature.
    Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl.  In a small sauce pan heat the heavy cream to just a simmer and then pour over the chocolate.  Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted and the mixture looks satiny.  Cool for a few minutes in the fridge until it begins to thicken to a spreadable consistency.

    Pour over the top of the cake and spread to edges so the ganache can drip down and cover the sides.

    September 25, 2010

    A Colorful Bounty

    I can't believe summer is officially over.  Lucky for me, the late summer offerings at the Mercato (and D's Mom's garden) are still plentiful and popping with vibrant color.  I have some delicious plans for these beauties. 


    Candy Stripe Beets - Schaner Farms
    Heirloom Tomatoes - Schaner Farms
    Reed Avocado - Heritage Family Farms
    Black Mission Figs - Pudwill Berry Farm
    Spicy Salad Mix + Extra Osaka Mustard - Maggie's Farm
    Cherry Tomatoes - JR Organics
    Eggplant - D's Mom's garden
    Purple Bell Peppers - D's Mom's garden

    September 22, 2010

    In a Jam


    I fear I've missed the seasonally appropriate window to post this recipe.

    It's been weeks since D snagged these last-of-the-season cherries at a roadside farm stand.  I can't recall the last time I saw them fresh, in a store.

    But the show must go on; there are still frozen cherries, after all.

    I've never made jam before.  My Mom and my Aunt make jam all the time, or at least, more often than I do.  Big batches of jam.  But every time I see how much sugar they add to the cooked down fruit, I cringe.  You add how much?  This from an inexperienced jam maker, a never before canner, I had no idea about these things.

    So back to a few weeks ago, when these cherries showed up.  There was an over abundance of fruit in the house, pretty typical for summertime and spending every Saturday at the farmer's market eye balling gorgeous produce.  They had no chance of survival, would never be eaten before they started to go bad and turn mushy.  I could not waste the precious cherries!  Must preserve!

    Preserve!  Like canning!  Except I'm not ready for that part yet, so for now I'll just stick with the jamming.

    Thanks to a little confidence from David Lebovitz, and a strong physical aversion to wasting any little scrap, I attempted my first batch of jam.  It was a wee batch, baby size; the 1 pound yielding a cup or so of jam.  It wasn't traumatizing, or difficult really, just time spent over the stove.  I set to work pitting the cherries by hand, their crimson juices splattering all over the cutting board, like a bad crime scene, as I smashed them with the broadside of a knife, chopping the cherries into bits and bites, it's such a therapeutic process.  Although, I can see how the charm quickly fades when it's hot outside and you have the stove going and you're standing over a huge pot of boiling fruit and sugar, stuck in a never ending cycle of stirring.  But stir I did.  And jam I did make.  I even managed to get over the heap of sugar.


    (I call this one...Dexter.)


    Cherry Jam
    Adapted from David Lebovitz

    Like I said, I made a baby batch, but if you can get your hands on the volume, you should make more.  It's tasty stuff.  I imagine frozen cherries (which have most likely been pitted - yay!) would work just as well here if you can't get your hands on fresh.

    about 3 pounds of cherries
    sugar
    zest and juice of 2 lemons

    Rinse the cherries and remove the stems. Then remove all the pits. Chop about ¾ of the cherries into smaller pieces, but not too small.  Leave the rest whole.

    Cook the cherries in a large non-reactive stockpot. It should be pretty big since the juices bubble up. Add the zest and juice of one or two fresh lemons. Lemon juice adds pectin as well as acidity, and will help the jam gel later on.

    Cook the cherries over medium-low heat, stirring once in a while with a heat proof spatula, until they’re wilted and completely soft, which may take about 20 minutes, depending on how much heat you give them.

    Once they’re cooked, measure out how many cherries you have (including the juice.) Use 3/4 of the amount of sugar. For example if you have 4 cups of cooked cherry matter, add 3 cups of sugar.

    Stir the sugar and the cherries in the pot and cook over moderate-to-high heat. The best jam is cooked quickly. While it’s cooking, put a small white plate in the freezer. Remain vigilant and stir the fruit often with a heatproof utensil.  

    Once the bubbles subside and the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel, (it will coat the spatula in a clear, thick-ish, jelly-like layer, but not too thick) turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done.

    September 17, 2010

    Chill Out



    I had visions of serving this as a first course or in a shot glass as an hors d'oeuvre at a themed dinner party, dressed up with panko bread crumbs that have been tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and toasted until a deep golden brown. The crispy topping contrasting with the smooth, cooling avocado/buttermilk and the spicy kick from chili flakes sounded like a perfect entertaining dish.

    Alas, I ended up making this soup under far less glamorous conditions: after a solid 8 hours of school, brain fried and energy levels barely registering. It's a soup that takes about 5 minutes of active prep to get on the table, mostly owing to the fact that it's a cold soup.  Just wave a knife at a few ingredients, throw it into the blender and then chill it in the fridge for a bit and dinner is ready.  There are no words to describe how thankful I am for recipes like this on days like that.  And the time it spends chilling?  I can just take a quick nap and wake refreshed no longer searching for the energy to lift my spoon to my mouth.

    It's creamy but not in a heavy way, it's more of a mouth feel thing and brightened up with lime and chili flakes, no one flavor dominating.  It felt nourishing after a long day, swiping the last drops clean from the bowl with some bread.  So, as we squeeze out the last days of summer, or whatever this season is we're experiencing, you may also be thankful to have one last chilled soup recipe.  For those days you'd rather spend outside, or for easy entertaining, or when your brain has been in hyper-drive and you'd rather not fuss about a meal.


    Avocado Soup
    Adapted from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, Sophie Dahl 

    Orginally, the recipe called for 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt but I didn't have any around.  Instead what I had was a small carton of buttermilk that I needed to use up.  It may have lacked the body the yogurt would have given it, but a good substitute none the less.  Heck, now that I think about it, you could even make this using some silken tofu in place of the dairy.  When choosing a chicken (or vegetable) broth, use one that is on the lighter side, you don't want the flavor overwhelming the avocado.  It's best to eat this within hours of making otherwise the avocado starts to oxidize and turn brown and the chili flakes take over flavor-wise.

    Makes 4 cups

    2 ripe avocados
    1 green apple, cored, peeled and sliced
    3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    1 teaspoon of dried red chile flake
    juice from ½ a lime
    2 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
    pinch of salt
    Fresh chopped cilantro, to garnish

    Slip the avocados out of their skin and discard the pit.  Toss the avocado, apple slices, buttermilk, chile flakes and lime juice into a blender.  Blend until the mixture is creamy and smooth.  Warm the broth just slightly in a pan and then add to the pureed mixture with a pinch of salt.  Blend again until everything in combined.  Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.  Enjoy.

    September 14, 2010

    Like No Other


    Stop what you're doing, go out and buy a watermelon and a couple deep red and golden hued heirloom tomatoes.  Hurry.  Before they disappear for the season and you miss out on something amazing.

    I have been obsessed with this salad ever since eating at The Blue Plate in San Fransisco back in August.  I could gush on and on about all the delicious food I ate in that fantastic city, but it all comes back to this salad for me.  Some kind of genius in the kitchen created this salad and put it on the menu where I ordered it one fateful dinner and nothing has been the same since.  Sure the fried chicken and buttermilk dressing it shared a plate with were delicious as well, but it was the salad that I was in a near romantic relationship with.  Complete spotlight hog.  So fresh and unexpected.  Olives, slightly pickled pieces of onion and tomatoes with that quintessential summertime melon and basil?  I could not get enough.  Could you bring me more, in a to-go box, please?

    I know these watermelon salads are hip right now, popping up on menus all over the place this summer (if not last summer as well), though they're mostly based on a melon/feta/mint/balsamic platform.  But have you had watermelon and basil together?!?  Blows the mint pairing right out of the water, bringing just a slight bit of the savory element.  I could never love another summertime salad the way I love this one.  Too perfect.


    Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato Salad
    Inspired by The Blue Plate, San Francisco

    I did my best to create some semblance of a recipe here, but mostly I was just tossing things into a bowl until it looked right.  Isn't that the beauty of cooking?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.  Don't let it sit too long, maybe a few hours tops, all the delicious juices start collecting in the bottom of the bowl and the fruit will go a bit soft.

    4 servings 

    4 cups watermelon chunks, about 1" square
    2 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut into rough chunks
    2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 cup sweet onion, cut into 1/8" thick slices
    1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
    a handful of Nicoise olives (I used about 15)

    Whisk the vinegar and sugar together in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, add the sliced onion and toss.  Set it aside on the counter for 1 hour, letting the onions soften and get a bit pickled.

    Meanwhile chop the watermelon and heirloom tomatoes and put them in a bowl.  Add the basil leaves.  If the leaves are on the smaller side go ahead and leave them whole, otherwise tear larger ones into smaller pieces.  Once the onions are done, fish them out of their liquid with your fingers or a fork and add them to the watermelon/tomato bowl.  Gently give everything a good toss and top with the olives.  Drizzle the vinegar/sugar mix over each serving.

    September 12, 2010

    It's Been a While

    Just another Saturday, gathering goodies at the Little Italy Mercato...

     
    Black Radishes - Suzie's Farm
    Armenian Cucumber - Suzie's Farm
    Cherry Tomatoes - Suzie's Farm
    Golden Raspberries - Pudwill Berry Farms
    The cutest little pluots you've ever seen - Sage Mountain Farm
    Tuscan Salumi - Knight Salumi


    September 10, 2010

    Tree + Fish


    I don't know if you could tell, but, we don't eat a lot of meat around here.  I mean meat meat.  The red kind, or the pork kind, or the game kind.  Really.  I'm sitting here, trying to remember the last time I prepared some and the only instance that is coming to mind is a couple of hamburgers I made way back in July.  And let me tell you that was only because I had some random craving that caused me to obsessively think about hamburgers for a week straight.  What we do eat, and still infrequently at that, is mostly chicken and fish.

    This seems to confuse people, the lack of meat we consume around here.  Are we vegetarians?  What's the problem?   Don't you ever just want a steak for dinner?  No, no problem, and rarely.  It just is what it is, we don't eat a lot of meat.

    I've tried making cedar planked salmon before, but was slightly underwhelmed by the results, though I think I missed the point last time, slathering the fish in a brown sugar/mustard/dill paste.  It didn't allow for the smoky flavor of the charred cedar to come through.  Lesson learned, I went the simple route this time and the salmon definitely picked up a nice smoky sweet flavor.  The sauce was just icing on the cake.  Light, tangy and herbaceous, it was a nice contrast to the richness of the salmon.

    The next night, having two leftover fillets and not wanting to reheat and dry them out, I simply placed them on a lightly dressed salad with the leftover potatoes, slices of tomatoes, some avocado and the last of the sauce.  Both were excellent.


    Cedar Plank Salmon with Yogurt Herb Sauce

    I highly suggest the longer soaking time for the cedar plank.  I soaked mine for only an hour because of time constraints and man, that thing was smoky on the grill.  I'm talking like it looked like it might be on fire in there.  You might get away with only an hour of soaking if you cook over indirect heat with a charcoal grill, but I don't have any experience with that.  Proceed with caution.

    4 servings

    1 untreated cedar plank
    1 pound skin on sockeye salmon, cut into 4 - 4oz fillets
    olive oil
    salt & pepper
    1/4 cup plain yogurt
    1 garlic clove, minced
    small handful of mixed herbs, minced (I used tarragon, basil, chives and parsley)
    1/2 lemon, juiced

    Soak the cedar plank in water, keeping it submerged with some cans in a Tupperware/glass pan full of water, for at least 1 hour, though 2 would be better.

    Mix the yogurt, garlic, herbs and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until the salmon is done.

    Heat a grill (we have a gas grill) on high heat for 10 minutes and then reduce it to a medium heat.  Remove the plank from the water and let the excess water drip off.  Place the 4 fillets, skin side down and not touching, on the plank and drizzle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill, with the top closed, for about 10 minutes (my fillets were barely more than an inch thick and might have even been a little over cooked).  When finished cooking the salmon will feel firm and will no longer be oozing any milky substance.  Remove entire plank from heat and onto a platter, use a spatula to transfer the fillets to your plate.  Spoon a tablespoon of sauce over each serving.

    September 9, 2010

    Resistance is Futile


    Sometimes you just really want a cookie.

    A perfect chocolate chip cookie with crunchy caramelized edges and a chewy center. 

    Sometimes this craving comes when you know you'll be alone for the rest of the week and making 3 dozen cookies just doesn't make any sense, at least when you're considering a sensible and balanced diet.

    And sometimes you run across a recipe for said cookies that is just so exactly what you were looking for that there is just no resisting and you compromise.  You make only a half recipe.

    Then you remember, in the upcoming week there are 2 birthdays, which means 2 birthday cakes.  Two sugary sweet delicious cakes (one chocolate orange cake, one cheesecake) that you will also not have the will power to say no to.

    So long moderation.  Bring on the sugar!

    My cookies don't need to win beauty contests, they just need to make me smile.  So they're as flat as a pancake and the all the chips congregate in the middle, making a craggy range of chocolate and they're a little floppy when you move them from cookie sheet to cooling rack.  They still have a deep caramelized flavor, chewy and buttery, nicely contrasted by a sprinkling of sea salt that's added just before baking.

    Exactly what I was after.

    P.S.  Lest you think I'm a total glutton, I only baked about half of the half recipe I made.  I took the rest of the dough, plopped them in cookie sized drops onto a baking sheet and froze them, transferring them to a freezer bag after a few hours.  Now I can have cookies whenever I please (just not right now, there's too much cake around)!


    Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Adapted from Joy the Baker

    How fun is this recipe?  You get to make your own brown sugar!  The extra molasses really deepens the flavor, I may have to make my own from now on.  And read carefully.  You have to use bread flour here; the high gluten content will help keep your cookies resembling cookies with all that extra moisture from the molasses you don't want to end up with a blob covering your cookie sheet.

    3 dozen bigger cookies, or 60 with smaller spoon-sized scoops

    2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon dark molasses
    1 egg
    1 egg yolk
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 cups dark chocolate chips or chunks
    sea salt for sprinkling on top of cookies just before baking

    Preheat the oven to 350F.

    Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

    In a medium sized bowl, mix the granulated sugar and molasses until no large molasses clumps remain.  Add the softened butter and cream the mixture on medium speed for 3 minutes.  Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    Chill the dough for about 20 minutes (or a few hours, or overnight), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with a few flecks of sea salt.

    Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Mine we perfect at 8 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet and then transfer the cookies on the parchment paper to a cooling rack.

    September 3, 2010

    Eat Your Veggies


    I guess I'll stick with the salad theme here.  But instead of something to eat on the side, how about making this one your whole dinner?  I had been eyeballing this one ever since it showed up on The Kitchn months and months ago. Then just a few weeks later it popped up again at Sprouted Kitchen.  This salad had my number, it was taunting me.  It was meant to be a winter salad, being posted all the way back in February, but there's no reason you can't make it any old time.  Which is why it finally came to be, tossed and mixed, in my kitchen in late August.

    If you have a tub of miso lingering in the back of your fridge, like me, this here is a good way to put a dent in it.  If you need to buy the miso, don't worry, you'll want to make this dressing again and again.  Actually, I'm not sure if the dressing is the star here or the tofu.  Those tofu sticks are darn tasty.  Caramelized from the sugar in the marinade and a high oven temp, coated in nutty sesame seed with a peppery kick and baked to a nice firm texture.  Give me some more!  (Sorry tofu haters, I think you're crazy, but if you must, go ahead and leave it out.)

    It's not all-American, BBQ fare or any of what you'd expect for this Labor Day, but whatevs, it's good. So until next time; stay out of trouble, be safe and have a great holiday weekend, ya'll!  We'll be celebrating D's birthday tonight (Happy Birthday!) and wine tasting this weekend in Santa Barbara County.  Oh yes. 


    Miso Slaw with Baked Tofu 

    Go ahead and make the full dressing recipe, although you probably won't use all of it for the slaw.  It's terrific on salads or to dip vegetables in.  And after you eat the salad, give yourself a pat on the back, you just ate a bunch, and I really do mean a bunch, of veggies! 

    4 servings as a main, 8 as a side 

    Dressing

    1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

    1/3 cup rice vinegar

    3 tablespoons yellow miso paste

    3 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 tablespoon grated ginger

    1 tablespoon sesame oil

    1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    2 teaspoons soy sauce

    Tofu
    1 14oz package firm tofu
    1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

    1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

    1 tablespoon sesame oil
    freshly ground pepper
    sesame seeds

    1 12oz bag broccoli slaw

    4 cups spinach, chopped
    4 scallions, thinly sliced
    1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeds removed, and sliced into half moons

    1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted



    For the tofu, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slabs and put on a layer of paper towels on a plate or cookie sheet.  Cover with another layer of paper towels, another plate and a heavy object, let drain for 1 hour. Cut the tofu, lengthwise again, into half inch sticks.


    Preheat oven to 475F.

    For the dressing, put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined and set aside.

    In a wide bottomed bowl, mix the tofu marinade of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil and pepper. Working carefully with a few sticks at a time, roll them through the marinade to coat each piece. Space them apart on a baking tray covered with a piece of foil. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds, and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes, flip them over halfway through baking. Remove and cool.

    While cooling, mix your broccoli slaw, greens, cucumber, scallions and almonds in a bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing.  Serve and top with a few tofu sticks.

    August 31, 2010

    Table for One



    With D out of town, camping in Big Sur, I have the whole house to myself.  For 4 whole days.  4 days to do whatever I want, eat whatever I want and finish the pile of homework I have somehow accumulated in the first week of school.  But whenever I'm cooking for just myself, I could care less.  My dinner is usually one of three things; a scrambled egg sandwich, a grilled cheese sandwich or a quesadilla and a big salad.  Sometimes just the big salad.  Or else I space and forget to make dinner entirely because maybe someone got caught up in a marathon TV session, trying to catch up on a whole season's worth in one sitting.  I won't name names or point fingers here, the details aren't important.

    In this case, having just been gifted some homegrown tomatoes and corn (picked just hours before eating!) I tossed those together with a few more ingredients to make a fancier side to go with my not-so-fancy tortilla and sharp cheddar cheese.  Okay, it's not a salad revelation, but it's not a pile of lettuce!  And look at those colors!  Clearly I was overeager to eat because I forgot to take the picture until I was nearly half way done with my quesadilla, please excuse the bite marks.  So maybe you're too tired/lazy/underwhelmed by food/zombied out from TV to make dinner tonight, let me recommended this for your meal, it's good for any mood.  Quick, hard to mess up and a nice little celebration of a late summer harvest.

    Now, do I have any takers to help me with my homework?


    Late Summer Salad

    I kept the dressing pretty light here since I wanted to showcase the delicious fresh produce.  The tomatoes will give off their own juices, especially after you salt them, so leave the seasoning until just before serving. 

    2 servings

    2 medium heirloom tomatoes
    1 small ear of sweet yellow corn
    a few thin slices off a half a red onion
    1/4 of a medium avocado, cut lengthwise into thin slices
    1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
    a pinch of kosher salt
    a few good grinds of black pepper

    Bring a small pot (one just big enough to fit an ear of corn) of water to a boil and add the ear of corn.  Boil for 5 minutes and remove corn from water, letting it cool.

    Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a medium sized bowl.  Cut off a few thin slices, however much you feel like really, from the red onion half and rinse under cold water, this will take away some of the bite, and add to the bowl of tomatoes.  Once the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob and add to to bowl as well.

    Just before serving, add the pinch of salt, the black pepper and olive oil and give it a good toss.  Top with avocado slices and serve.

    August 26, 2010

    A Change of Pepper



    I admit, I'm behind on my posts.  There are several entries lingering in my queue, getting pushed further down the list because I get too excited about sharing something shinier and newer.  I'm sure you'd never know the difference if I kept my mouth shut, but this one, if you live in the San Diego area, is a dead give away that it isn't a recent dinner.  You'd be crazy to think I'd crank my oven on to 425F for an hour when the temperature outside is still pushing 80F at sunset.  Absolutely insane.  My apartment doesn't have an A/C or even a ceiling fan in the main room and the kitchen and living room face west, meaning that for a few hours each afternoon it's roughly the same temperature as a sauna.  I don't need the oven to help that along, thankyouverymuch.

    We made this the week before we left for San Francisco, when the evenings were still cool and the mere thought of turning on the oven didn't require me to hang out in the house in my bathing suit.  It's from Everyday Food, which I always admire for having simple dinner ideas that are relatively fuss-free and on the healthier side.  Oddly enough before seeing this recipe, it never occurred to me that I could stuff a poblano pepper.  Bell peppers, sure.  Stuff them with couscous, with rice, with vegetables, some ground meat even.  But change the pepper?  Whoa.  Lets say we were just comparing the peppers alone, I'd probably pick the poblano over a bell any day.  They have a nice subtle heat and a kind of smoky flavor when you cook them.  I need to start think outside the box, get out of this bell pepper rut.

    Anyhow, these stuffed peppers are tasty.  The baking time here may be long, but the prep work is maybe 20 minutes, well worth the end result.  Melty stringy cheese and cornmeal holds together the chunky filling of beans, corn and onions.  The tomato sauce it bakes in thickens and adds a nice acidity to the creamy slightly sweet peppers.  They make good leftovers, too!


    Stuffed Poblano Peppers
    Adapted from Everyday Food, April 2008

    Mine look a little dry because I seemed to have missed the part about adding the water/broth to the stuffing mixture, so learn from me and don't forget yourself.   Also, look for larger, straighter poblano peppers.  It may take some sorting as a lot of them are kind of kinked, but they will be much easier to stuff without the funny shapes.  These could be tasty served with some sour cream and hot sauce as well.

    4 servings

    1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in puree
    1 minced jalapeno
    2 small onions, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, 2 whole, 1 minced
    coarse salt, ground pepper
    1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
    1 small ear of corn, kernels cut off
    1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
    1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
    3/4 cup water or broth
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    4 large poblano chiles, halved lengthwise [stems left intact] ribs and seeds removed

    Preheat oven to 425F degrees.

    In a blender, combine tomatoes in puree, jalapeno, half the onions, and 2 whole garlic cloves. Puree until smooth. Season with salt. Pour the sauce into a 9x13-inch baking dish and then set it aside.

    In a medium bowl, combine beans, corn, cornmeal, 1/2 the cheese cheese, remaining onions, minced garlic, cumin and 3/4 cup water or broth. Season with salt and pepper.

    Dividing evenly, stuff the poblano chile halves with the bean mixture and place in the baking dish on top of the sauce. Sprinkle the poblano chiles with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.

    Bake until the poblanos are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until the sauce thickens slightly and cheese is golden brown, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.