Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eat like a caveman

Mike and I are trying the low carb, Paleo diet. This means no wheat, low carb, meats and certain veggies plus alittle fruit. We've just started experimenting and I've only read alittle so we're still newbies. Tonight I made the spinach salad with bacon and sweet potatoes that I've blogged about previously, leafy green veggies, allowable sweet potatoes and bacon. Yum! I also cooked some chicken to go with it because the bacon is just an accent. I thawed boneless, skinless chicken thighs and made it up as I went along. Here goes...

Za'atar Chicken my way

~1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
~1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, cored and pressed
~1 tablespoon za'atar seasoning (a spice mix with sumac, thyme, oregano and sesame seeds)
kosher salt and freshly round pepper, to taste
~1 cup dry white wine
~1 cup chicken stock

Cut up the chicken thighs into bite size pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add chicken pieces, do not crowd and cook in a single layer. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and saute with onions about 3 minutes until your family remarks how good it smells (about 2-3 minutes). Add za'atar seasoning and stir to coat the onion and garlic and it is mixed well together. Deglaze pan with white wine, scraping up brown bits and letting the wine reduce slightly.

Add chicken back into pan and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cover and cook approximately 30 minutes until tender.

Serve with spinach salad or over brown rice, quinoa or farro.

Here's a link to buy za'atar if your store doesn't carry it. http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyszatar.html

The chicken turned out amazing and was great with the salad. It could be very versatile with rice or flat bread and different vegetables like roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce.

We have just begun exploring the Paleo idea of eating and so far so good. Breakfast has been the most difficult for me because I usually had cereal or an English muffin. I will keep you posted if it works for us as far as losing weight and other health benefits. The salad and chicken were a delicious mix and we didn't miss rice or bread (much). Try it you'll like it-enjoy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ground lamb patties

I am behind on my posts. I've increased my work hours (the whole working part time because you're a mom kind of gets old when your kid goes back east to college) so I'm getting used to a new schedule. Plus it's baseball season which means Mike and I are going to see the SF Giants and eating sheboygans and garlic fries at the park. I love summer!

I made these lamb patties a week or two ago and we happily scarfed them up. I love lamb, ground lamb and the spices-seasoning combo here with tahini sauce-all favorites. This inspiration is from Food & Wine. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/ground-lamb-kebabs-with-pine-nuts-and-tahini-sauce. As usual I changed this recipe to suit me and the situation so I made lamb patties that I baked rather than kebabs that were grilled. Mike does not have the grill ready (hard to believe, I know).

Ground Lamb Patties with Pine Nuts and Tahini Sauce

~3/4 pound ground lamb
1/3 cup pine nuts
handful of finely chopped mint (reserve some for garnish)
handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (reserve some for garnish)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 garlic clove, peeled,cored and pressed
1/2 red onion, minced
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, peeled,cored and pressed
1/4 cup water

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl, mix the lamb with the pine nuts, mint, parsley, cumin, cinnamon, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Form into patties and place on broiling pan sprayed with vegetable spray. Brush some olive oil for the exposed side and again when you turn the patties over. Cook about 5 minutes per side.

Whisk together tahini, lemon juice, garlic and water heated over low heat. Sprinkle in alittle chopped mint and parsley to garnish.

I served this with roasted sweet potato slices with smoked paprika and cole slaw with lots of hot sauce. I made a mayo based cole slaw dressing and added hot sauce because I did not have horseradish. Yum!
Hit the spot! 

These patties were delicious and easy and would be great as lamb burgers or as the orginal kebabs. They would be delicious grilled and great with eggplant and pita. Mike was happy as usual and hopefully will get that grill going soon. Enjoy!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Meyer Lemon Bars

On Saturday I was in a rare baking mood and wanted to use up the Meyer lemons Jane had given me. My lemon bars have a very good reputation because I use Alice Medrich's recipe from her book Cookies and Brownies. She is a master at baking and has done all the work for us-all we need do is follow in her footsteps. I've made her lemon bars many times and they have always been a favorite of Abigail and her friends, especially Anna Lee. I made Anna Lee lemon bars for many years for her birthday. She always requested them and it was my pleasure. They're one of my favorites too.

Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter than regular lemons so I have cut down on the sugar. Add more sugar if you don't use Meyer lemons. I have also been using Bob's Red Mill evaporated cane juice sugar. It seems to give baked goods a wonderfully deep flavor not unlike brown sugar.

(Meyer) Lemon Bars my way

To make the crust:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

Butter a 8" square pan on the bottom and up the sides. Preheat the oven  to 350 degrees and position a rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, do not burn. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour and mix until incorporated. Press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, crust should be well browned at the edges and lightly brown in the center.

1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
3 large eggs
grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice

Make the topping while the crust is baking. Stir together the sugar and flour and whisk in the eggs. Add the lemon juice and zest. When the crust is done, slide it out of the oven without removing it from the oven and pour in the topping over the hot crust.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the middle no longer jiggles and the edges are puffed. Set on a rack to cool completely. Sift powdered sugar over the top. Cut into bars to serve.

The Meyer lemons made wonderful bars. I took some to my neighbor and her family and Mike and I nibbled on the rest. I was able to smuggle a small one out to my cousin Elizabeth at work. She pronounced them the best lemons bars and the way lemon bars should taste. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012


My friend Jane brought me Meyer lemons from her brother's yard, a specialty, where I live. Meyer lemons are alittle sweeter than regular lemons with darker pulp and an orangey essence. They are wonderful in desserts. Ann Sheaffer Gilbert on Facebook Foodies had posted a lemon ricotta cake and now I had Meyer lemons and ricotta from the Torta Pasqualina left over. I love lemon desserts. They are probably my favorite, more than chocolate.

Meyer Lemon Ricotta cake

9 tablespoons insalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
pinch kosher salt
1 cup ricotta
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 Tablespoon baking powder
powdered sugar to decorate

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter 9 or 10 inch spring form pan. Cream the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer until light and fluffy. On the lowest speed, add the eggs one at a time. Slowly add the next 5 ingredients.

Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and the side start to pull away from the pan.

Cool the cake on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and cool completely on the rack. Sift powdered sugar onto the top. I used a stencil to make a pattern.

Variation #1

I peeled and chopped 1 mango. Then processed with a few pulses in a food processor. I added the mango to the batter and mixed it in thoroughly. I cooked it for about 5 minutes longer.

The first cake went to our neighbors and the second one was for Mike and I. I actually have more ricotta so might try it again. It's light and not too sweet. It would be wonderful with fresh fruit or in the morning with coffee. Thanks to the wonderful cooks from Facebook Foodies and in my life for constant inspiration. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lamb curry meatballs!

In the May issue of Food & Wine Grace Parisi has a recipe for Mini Meatballs India Curry. Here's the link. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/mini-meatball-indian-curry
Well meatball, India and curry are some of my favorite food words and the meatballs are ground lamb-even better! I started to make them one night without reading the complete recipe, good lesson. The recipe includes cooked rice. I had brown basmatic rice which takes almost an hour so I was not cooking these meatballs that night. I made the rice and decided to cook the meatballs the next night. So take a clue from me and read your recipes through completely!

Mini-Meatball Indian Curry my way

~3/4 pounds ground lamb
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
small knob of peeled fresh ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
1/2 cup cooked brown basmatic rice
1 large egg
~1 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon garam masala
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablesppon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
2 teaspoons medium-hot curry powder (I used 2 different kinds for fun).
6 tablespoons raw almond butter (recipe called for cashew butter, I couldn't find any and decided not to make it so I substituted almond butter)
1 1/2 cups tomato juice
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
small handful of cilantro, chopped
warm naan, for serving

Preheat the broiler and position a rack in the top 1/3 of the oven. In a mixing bowl, knead the lamb with the jalapeño, ginger, garlic, rice, egg, cilantro, garam masala and salt and pepper to taste. Roll the mixture into ~15 balls and place on baking sheet sprayed with vegetable spray. Broil for about 10 minutes, until the lamb meatballs are nearly cooked through and the tops are lightly browned.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over high heat, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and curry powder and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir in the almond butter and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato juice and 2 cups of water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

Add the meatballs and any pan drippings to the sauce, cover partially and simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the meat is tender and the sauce is very thick, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve with leftover rice and warm naan.

I served these meatballs with cauliflower roasted with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and smoked paprika and the combo with warm naan and cuury lamb meatballs was irresistible. These are truly some of my favorite flavors, textures and spices and it did not disappoint. I served this with Sonoma Landing Pinot Noir and it was a good match. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ham continued

Right before Easter when people start planning their Easter brunches or making reservations conversations seem to be very food related like Thanksgiving. Easter is one of the great eating holidays. I think one of the reasons is that it corresponds with the beginning of spring. This recipe by Lynne Char Bennett was in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday April 1st. Can you hum "a few of my favorite things"? Ham, asparagus, cheese, eggs! Here's the link http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/30/FD521NQD1N.DTL&ao=all.

I had ham in my freezer from Christmas and I bought a rustic loaf of bread from my neighborhood bakery, Ponsford Place http://www.ponsfordsplace.com/Ponsfords_Place/Ponsfords_Place.html. An amazing gem close to home that makes me happy that I live in such an area.

Asparagus & Ham Bread Pudding

rustic whole wheat bread, crust on and several days old to dry out, cut into chunks
vegetable spray, as needed
large bunch of asparagus, trimmed and chopped
about 2 handfuls of ham, diced
5 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
~4 ounces Asiago, grated

Spray a ~9" baking dish and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Whisk eggs in a bowl, then add half-and-half and salt and pepper to taste, and whisk until well combined. Set aside.

Place one layer of bread on the bottom of the baking dish tightly and press down gently. Top with half of the asparagus, ham, green onion and tarragon; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with the remaining bread.  Place the remaining asparagus, ham, green onion and tarragon on top and pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread and filling.

Place a piece of parchment paper on top; gently push top layer of bread down into the custard a few times. Allow to sit until bread absorbs as much of the egg mixture as it can, about 15-20 minutes.

Place a piece of parchment on top of the bread pudding, then cover tightly with foil.

Place dish in the oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and parchment; sprinkle with cheese over all. Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, until a skewer comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes more.

Serve warm.

 This was pretty amazing. We had it for dinner but it would be a great brunch meal with fruit salad and Mimosas. Of course I love the fact that it has everything in one dish, protein-check, green veggie-checks, whole grains-check. Mike was happy, I was happy-score! Leftovers were great heated up. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter fun

On the Facebook Foodies group I belong to we eagerly discussed what we were thinking of cooking for Easter weekend. There were traditional dinners and non-traditional, for families or couples and even one person who cooks for a nursing home. This last person, Doug, posted a link to a recipe called Tarta pascualina which is a spinach and egg pie traditionally eaten during Lent. The photo was so beautiful and looked so delicious I printed out the recipe. Here's the link from Hispanic Kitchen http://www.hispanickitchen.com/profiles/blogs/tarta-pascualina-easter-pie. It comes to us from Italy via South Ameica.

I get lovely eggs every week from my colleague, Don's farm in Sebastopol. Part of the appeal of this recipe to me was the photo showing a hard boiled egg in the pie, so cool! And I had the perfect eggs!

Tarta Pascualina my way

1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled, cored and pressed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2-10 ounce packages of frozen chopped spinach, defrost, drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
small fluffy handful of Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 eggs (4 for the top of the pie, one for the filling, and one for the egg wash)
2 artichoke hearts, chopped
freshly ground nutmeg to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red chiles
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pie crusts

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a deep 9" springform pan with vegetable spray.

In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion for several minutes and add the garlic to the skillet, continue cooking until translucent. Remove from the heat, and allow the onion and garlic to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together the onion, garlic, spinach, ricotta, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, nutmeg, chiles, salt, and pepper. Taste the mixture and season to taste. Add 1 egg to the mixture and mix well. Carefully line the bottom of the pan with one of the pie crusts. Spoon the filling into the tart pan.

Smooth the top of the filling, and make four deep, evenly spaced wells in the filling. Crack an egg into each hole, if it looks too full hold back some of the white of the egg. Cover the filling with the second pie crust, and seal the crust by crimping the edges together. Vent the crust in the center with a sharp knife making a "X", and then brush the crust with a beaten egg for color and shine. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and the filling has set. Allow the pie to cool before serving.

This dish was as beautiful as it was delicious. Mike said that part of the reason it was so good was the crust. I used the Fearless Baker pie crust recipe and left out the sugar. Here's the recipe.

Basic Pie Dough

2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
~5 teaspoons cold water, I fill a small bowl with water and some ice and ladle tablespoons as needed

Place flour, salt and butter cubes in food processor bowl. Pressing the pulse button quickly, pulse the mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. It happens quickly so don't overmix. Add the 5 tablespoons of cold water and pulse just until the dough is crumbly. Stop pulsing and squeeze the dough gently to see if it comes together without being dry. Add more water if still dry. Do not process to the point where it forms a ball.

Dump the dough out and form into 2 balls, 1 larger than the other. Flatten into disks but do not over handle them. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for about 1 hour or if in a hurry, in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Let the dough warm up slightly to roll it out.

Roll out each disk on a generously floured surface. Roll out until larger than your pan, using the larger disk for the bottom of the pie and reserving the smaller one for the top of the pie. Try to roll it evenly thick and round. Fold the disk into fourths to transfer to the pan.

This was a delicious vegetarian dish and would be great for a brunch or supper any time of the year. Enjoy!