Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Scones

I had my knees replaced on December 20th. Luckily for me I have Mike and Abigail came home from college on December 17th. She made a fabulous pasta on Christmas Eve and scones for Christmas morning. The scones were out of this world so I wanted to share the recipe. Abigail is a pretty confident cook and has been cooking for herself at college.

Halloween Pumpkin Scones Recipe is from Alice's Tea Cup in New York where Abigail goes to college.

Alice's Tea Cup Pumpkin Scones
Makes 10 to 12 scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup ground ginger
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1-1/2 sticks (3/4cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1-1/4 cups buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (all pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Caramel glaze
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, and cinnamon.

With clean hands, work the butter into the dry mixture until it is thoroughly incorporated and has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract into the well. Still using your hands, combine the ingredients until all the dry mixture is wet, but do not knead!

Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and gather the dough together. Gently pat the dough to make a disk about 1-1/2 inches thick. Using a 3- or 3-1/2-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many scones as you can and lay them on a nonstick baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough together lightly to cut out more scones- just don't knead the dough too much.

Bake the scones for about 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let the scones cool slightly on the baking sheet (about 20 minutes) before glazing them.

While the scones are cooling, prepare the caramel glaze: Place the butter, brown sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and whisk gently until the mixture is smooth. Just as the mixture comes to a light boil, add the heavy cream and reduce the heat to low. Whisk well for 2 minutes, or until the glaze is thickened and smooth; then remove the pan from the heat.

To glaze a scone, hold it by the bottom, dip the top in the warm caramel glaze, and place it back on the baking sheet.

These are heavenly. I'm so proud of my daughter and have enjoyed her cooking while I've been unable to cook. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

I made soup with the leftover butternut squash from the curried chicken with roasted vegetables. I had a little over half of the large squash left. I put the pieces in the fridge until I was ready to make the soup. This is one of our favorites and I always make it several times each winter. I served to my friend, Cooper, and she liked it so much she said she wanted to bathe in it. Instead I gave the leftovers to her to take home.

My Butternut Squash Soup

1/2 - 3/4 of a large butternut squash, scoop out seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 cups of chicken stock
1/2 red onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and pressed
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cardamon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Rub olive oil on cut side of squash. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on cookie sheet. Roast at 400 degrees until flesh is soft and peel is brown and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let cool.

Heat olive oil in large sauce pan. Add onion and saute until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook until soft and fragrant. Peel the squash. Cut into bite sizes and add to onions. Add spices and chicken stock. Bring to boil. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more stock if too thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Puree soup with hand held blender or in food processor or blender. A few chunks are fine. You can make this 1-2 days in advance. You can also freeze it.

I served this with the crab, avocado and grapefruit salad from a couple of days ago and warm bread. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yummy Winter Salad

I made a delicious easy salad the other night that was fresh and seasonal. Dungeness crab season is open here and there are beautiful grapefruits available. Mike was skeptical but ending up loving it.

1/2 lb. fresh cracked crab meat
1 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
2 avocados, cut into bite size pieces
greens of your choice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
1 small garlic clove, peeled and pressed
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Combine 1st 4 ingredients in a bowl. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and pour some over the salad. Toss. Add more vinaigrette if necessary.

Mike and I shared a bottle of champagne because I always think of crab and champagne together. I heated up some sourdough rolls. It was a wonderful way to warm up a cold rainy night. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Curried Chicken and Vegetables Redux

I posted a recipe on November 15th for curried chicken, brussel sprouts, butternut squash and onion. I made it tonight and made some changes. The original recipe called for boneless chicken thighs and I used bone in thighs. The first time I cooked the chicken on top of the vegetables like the recipe. Last night I cooked the chicken separately. This method worked out much better for bone in chicken. The chicken takes longer to cook and the vegetables don't get overcooked.

My friend, Jane, has also made this a couple of times. Once with broccoli, once with cauliflower and then with carrots. I guess this means use your favorite root vegetables. Mike and I can't get enough brussel sprouts. Jane said the broccoli was overcooked. If you cook the chicken and vegetables separately you could substitute any of these. If you use broccoli, start the chicken, then the squash and finally add the broccoli for the last 10 minutes.

The other thing that I did last night was that I only used about 1/2 of the butternut squash because it was so large. I will make soup out of the remainder.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables my way

1 small butternut squash, trimmed, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 large red onions, cut into thick slices
4 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 skinless chicken thighs
Warm naan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425° and position rack in the middle third. In a very large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the brussel sprouts, onion slices and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on a large, sturdy rimmed baking sheet.

In the baking dish sprayed with vegetable spray, combine the cup of yogurt with the ginger, garlic, curry powder and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated. Roast for about 20 minutes, rotate the pan, and put the vegetables in the oven on the rack below the chicken. Cook another 15 minutes and stir vegetables, rotate pan and cook until the vegetables are tender and browned, and the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to plates and serve with warm naan and yogurt.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Everything but the kitchen sink minestrone

Mike has been enjoying the soups and chili I have made. He had suggested the split pea and his next suggestion was minestrone. I realized that between my pantry and freezer I could make a pretty good version of minestrone via my Southern roots and California home. I think minestrone is one of those soups where there as many versions as there are cooks in Italy so this is my version.

I used the canned beans I had in the pantry and the frozen veggies I had in the freezer. I used a Parmesan rind and anchovy paste to add richness and depth for unami. See for an explanation.

Check out this article in Prevention magazine about not using canned tomatoes. Try using Pomi tomatoes in the tetra packs if you don't have your own canned tomatoes.

I also like the idea of using chilis for the health benefits of capsaicin.


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 can pinto beans or whatever is in your pantry, rinsed and drained
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups tomato puree
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
12 ounces pasta
4 Italian turkey sausages, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 inch piece Parmesan rind
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 cup red wine

Heat the olive oil and add the onion. Saute until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant.

Add the beans, chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add vegetables. Return to a boil and add the pasta. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the pasta is tender. If you are not going to eat the soup that night turn off the heat and let the pot sit until it cools down. When you reheat the soup the pasta will cook completely.

We ate it with crusty bread and the rest of the red wine. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

White Turkey Chili

I made the White Turkey Chili while cooking the chicken thighs with yogurt and mustard. This is from Bon Appetit. November 1996. Here's the link:
I have made it many times including for my book group. Always a big hit! I made it one night ahead. I will serve it with warm crusty bread and unsalted butter.

White Turkey Chili my way
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 garlic cloves, pressed
4 teaspoons ground cumin
3/4 pound ground turkey

26 ounces chicken stock
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 15- to 16-ounce can butter beans rinsed, drained
1 15- to 16-can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
Several dashes of hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)

Chopped green onions
Grated cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Heat oil in large heavy saucepan. Add onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 minutes until soft and fragrant. Add cumin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add ground turkey and saute until no longer pink.

Add stock barley and herbes. Cook approximately 40 minutes until barley is tender.

Add beans and simmer another 15 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to simmer before serving.

Serve chili, passing green onions, cheese and sour cream separately.


Chicken with Yogurt and Mustard

This is one of my go-to chicken recipes. It is from Chef Laurence Jossel formerly of Chez Nous and now with Nopa. There are few ingredients and it is easy but has great flavor.

Chicken with Yogurt and Mustard my way

8 ounces plain non fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 skinless, chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large baking ceramic baking dish mix yogurt and mustard. Season with thyme, salt and pepper.

Drag chicken through yogurt mixture on both sides. Bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes. Turn chicken over and bake until done, approximately 15 more minutes.

I served this with roasted brussel sprouts tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. It is also good with roasted sweet potato slices.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Mike and I have had colds lately so we've been laying low. Mike requested split pea soup so here it is. I had no leftover ham and all the hams at the store looked like they had been injected with water and chemicals so I bought 2 slices of organic non cured ham (no nitrates!). If you prefer use smoked turkey.

Split Pea Soup with Ham

14 ounces organic green split peas
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, split, cored and pressed
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
approximately 8 cups chicken stock
2 large slices ham, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons thyme
kosher salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add carrots and celery and cook about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Add peas and cook approximately 60 minutes. Add the ham and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook until peas soft and ham heated through, about 30 minutes. Taste and season accordingly.

I'm serving this with warm crusty bread and red wine.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fresh Pasta with Chicken Livers

I know that everyone does not love chicken livers like Mike and I do but remember they are high in iron, low in fat and very inexpensive-besides delicious. As far as substitutions, if you are like my mom use calves liver instead. I'm not sure what else you could substitute possibly sausage. But if you're open to new things please give it a try. I made a chicken dish on Monday from Food and Wine by Grace Parisi and guess what? This is one of hers too. It is from the December 2010 Food and Wine issue.

I bought fresh pasta from Marin Pasta Works here in San Rafael. The shape I bought, tripoline, was a wide-ish noddle with 1 ruffly edge. You could use fresh fettuccine or tagliatelle. Here's their link:

The recipe called for shallot but I missed that somehow and didn't have any on hand so I used onion.

~1/2 pound chicken livers, trimmed
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon extra olive oil
1/2 large red onion, minced
1 garlic clove, halved, remove core and pressed
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
10 ounces fresh tripoline
2 cups quartered grape or cherry tomatoes

In a medium bowl, cover the chicken livers with the milk and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and pat completely dry.

In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the chicken livers and cook over high heat until lightly browned on the bottoms, about 2 minutes. Turn the livers. Add the onion, garlic and thyme to the skillet and cook until the onion and garlic are fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is evaporated and the livers are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Cut the livers into small bite size pieces. Add the butter and season with salt and pepper.

In a large pot of generously salted boiling water, cook the pasta until just al dente. Using tongs add the pasta to the chicken liver pan, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the tomatoes and the reserved pasta cooking water. Bring to a simmer over moderately low heat, tossing until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Transfer to bowls and serve right away.

Mike was saying Wow! 10 minutes after he had finished his meal. We had it with a bottle of Vina Robles Signature 2007 Estate Cuvee, a blend of Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah. Incredible!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Curried Chicken, Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash Roast

Mike and I love roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts. We also love butternut squash so I was very excited to see this recipe in the November 2010 issue of Food & Wine. I am also a fan of Grace Parisi who came up with this recipe combining my favorite fall vegetables. Here's the link:

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables my way

1 small butternut squash, trimmed, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/2 large red onions, cut into thick slices
4 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 skinless chicken thighs
Warm naan, for serving

Preheat the oven to 450° and position rack in the middle third. In a very large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the brussels sprouts, onion slices and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on a large, sturdy rimmed baking sheet.

In the same bowl, combine the cup of yogurt with the ginger, garlic, curry powder and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss until thoroughly coated. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables. Roast for about 30 minutes, rotate the pan, cook another 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender and browned, and the chicken is cooked through. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to plates and serve with warm naan and yogurt.

I love one dish meals and this is a winner!


Saturday, October 16, 2010


I am ready for fall which makes me think of soup. I got an email from Cuisine at Home with this soup recipe and decided to try it. I made it over 2 nights because I had a busy week and it worked beautifully.

I think you have to sign up with Cuisine at Home to get the recipes so here's the link if you're interested.

Spinach Artichoke Soup my way

1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 dry white wine
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
1 cup skim milk
5 ounces fresh spinach, washed and stems removed
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Saute leeks and garlic in olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat for about 2 minutes. Add chicken and artichokes and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in flour and continue cooking for about 1 minute.

Add white wine and simmer until nearly evaporated. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of the chicken stock, half and half and milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and and add spinach and cheese. Stir until spinach wilts. Add more stock if it too thick. Using a hand held blender chop up some of the spinach and other ingredients slightly. Season with the salt and pepper to taste.

This is a wonderful 1 pot meal. You could round it out with some crusty bread and fruit and a nice glass of wine. My current favorite is White 4 by Vina Robles in Paso Robles. It's a blend of Viognier, Verdelho,Vermentio and Sauvignon Blanc. Amazing!

If you are going to make it over 2 nights do not add the chicken, spinach or Parmesan cheese the 1st night. Add those ingredients the 2nd night by bringing the soup to a simmer, then adding the chicken, spinach and cheese. Thin with more stock if necessary and blend slightly with a hand held blender. If you don't have one the original recipe did not call for this step. If you would like your soup creamier you could put the soup in a blender or food processor or chop the spinach and chicken finely before cooking. Either way the flavors are delicious and warming.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Saffron, Pasta and Chicken oh my!

I have been struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia lately which makes cooking after working difficult. The things I have cooked have not been blog worthy until tonight. Tonight we had a dish from Bon Appetit that I have been lusting after. I love saffron! It is from the September 2010 issue and is called Paccheri Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream. Here's the link:

I started it last night because it takes almost 2 hours from beginning to end and I got home too late last night to make it and eat it. It was delicious as the flavors came together beautifully so don't hesitate to start a day ahead.

Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream my way

4 chicken thighs, bone in, skin removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 cups (or more) chicken broth
1/2 pound pappardelle
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. Add onions and garlic to drippings in skillet; sauté until onions are slightly softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron to skillet; bring to boil. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by less than half, about 8 minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth to skillet. Return chicken to skillet; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer gently until chicken is very tender (adjust heat to prevent boiling and turn chicken over after 30 minutes), about 1 hour total. At this point you can cool the chicken and refrigerate overnight or transfer chicken to plate and cool.

If you refrigerate overnight, remove chicken and sauce from refrigerator, discard any fat on the surface and slowly re-heat. Reserve skillet with juices. Remove bones from chicken and discard. Tear chicken meat into bite-size pieces and reserve.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return to pot.

Meanwhile, spoon off fat from juices in skillet; discard fat. Add half and half to juices in skillet and boil until sauce is reduced and is thick enough to coat spoon, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in vinegar, then chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin sauce as needed and adding more vinegar by teaspoonfuls, if desired, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add pasta to chicken mixture and toss to coat. Transfer pasta to plates.

This is heart warming, comfort food. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Roasted Vegetables

If you've been reading my blog at all you know I love roasted vegetables. I decided to make Salad Nicoise last night and realized I could roast all the vegetables together! Well, of course it was easy and delicious. So here is my slightly revised Salad Nicoise.

Roasted Vegetable Salad Nicoise

2 small cans of tuna packed in olive oil from Italy, drained
6-8 small red potatoes, halved or quartered into bite size pieces
several handfuls of green beans, trimmed and snapped
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into pieces
1 pint assorted cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered into bite size pieces
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees. Toss all the vegetables together and drizzle with olive oil on jelly roll pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes. Check your vegetables, stir and spin pan in oven if necessary. Cook another 15 minutes and repeat until vegetables are soft and browned.

Toss vegetables with tuna and season with more olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.


Sunday, September 12, 2010


Mike is from Tennessee (Go Vols!) and I'm from North Carolina (Go Tarheels!) and so we can relate to each other on many levels including food. So when he asked me to make spaghetti I knew exactly what he meant. When our moms made "spaghetti" they used ground beef and red sauce served over spaghetti noodles with Parmesan cheese (usually Kraft in the green can). I don't think my daughter would think of this if she heard I was serving spaghetti. Is it Southern or it is that we were growing up in the 60's and 70's. Whatever it is it's comfort food. As my cousin Elizabeth would say I've Californized this recipe. Bolognese this is not!

Mom's Spaghetti my way

1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/3 cup dry red wine
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound dried spaghetti
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and soft. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, anchovy paste and red wine. Stir and simmer over low heat. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, heat water for the pasta. Cook pasta according to directions on the package. Drain. Toss pasta with the sauce and grate cheese over the top.

You can freeze any leftovers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


One of my favorites things to make each summer is ratatouille. Luckily our summers have foggy days so I don't mind being in the kitchen with the oven going. Now is a good time to make it because all of the ingredients are so good! Good tomatoes are key to this dish. I've developed my own version over the years and even my somewhat eggplant phobic daughter likes this.

My Ratatouille

1 large eggplant, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
lots of tomatoes, today I used about 1 pint large cherry tomatoes and 3 medium heirloom tomatoes, halved or chopped

Substitutions: summer squash, green, yellow or orange peppers, Japanese eggplants

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make all the pieces of the vegetables about the same size. You will need a very large bowl or 2 large bowls to toss the vegetables in.

1/2 extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, pressed (I love garlic. Feel free to use less.)
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together. Pour over chopped vegetables. Mix well.

Place the coated vegetables on a jelly roll pan. The pan will be heaped but the vegetables will cook down to about 1/3 of what you started with. As they cook they will release some juices but as they continue to cook and roast those juices will be absorbed and evaporate.

Cook for 20 minutes. Adjust heat if necessary. Stir the vegetables. Spin the pan if they are not cooking evenly. Cook for another 20 minutes and repeat until the vegetables are cooked down and become very soft and begin to caramelize, approximately 1 hour. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.

Ratatouille is wonderful in crepes and omelettes or served along side grilled or roasted meats. I roasted bone in chicken thighs and made farro which I put under the ratatouille. It would be good with brown rice, pasta or roasted potatoes too.

Ratatouille is really good made in advance and improves the next few days as the flavors come together more. Some sort of alchemy occurs where the ingredients lose themselves and become part of something better. So even if you or someone in your family doesn't love eggplant or zucchini they might still like ratatouille.

I wish Abigail was here to eat with us but she is off to college in NYC learning to cook and fend for herself. Maybe she'll make ratatouille.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday and Mike took me to Sonoma County. We stopped at Gloria Ferrer Winery and tasted champagne on the patio overlooking the vineyards and had some delicious spiced almonds. We especially loved the 1999 Carnenos Cuvee and bought a bottle.

Next we drove to the town of Sonoma and had lunch at The Girl and The Fig. We were seated on the outside patio-beautiful.

Mike and I both choose the Bistro Plat du Jour. Mike also got the wine flight to go with it. The first course was a Provencal tart with roasted tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and fresh basil. The crust was like puff pastry and Mike's wine was a lovely rose. Delicious!

The next course was a lamb burger with arugula, heirloom tomato and smoked paprika aioli. It came with a delicious salad which I'll give you a recipe for later. The wine was a Mourvedre, perfect with the lamb.

Our last course was a choice of profiteroles with raspberry ice cream and a cheese plate. We got one of each. Mike basically ate all the profiteroles and I had the cheese which was spectacular. The cheeses were Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar & Cypress Grove Bermuda Triangle Cheese and came with some slices of baguette, slices of apple, apple compote and candied nuts. The wine was a Bonny Doon Vinferno, especially good with the nuts. Heaven!

The salad was chickpea, cucumber and feta salad. Perfect with the lamb, cool and refreshing. Easy to make. I asked about the ingredients so I wouldn't miss anything.

The Girl & The Fig's chickpea, cucumber and feta salad

1 can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed or dried and cooked beans
1 English cucumber, rinsed and thinly sliced
~1/4 cup crumbled feta
drizzle of olive oil

That's it. These quantities are approximate. Toss together. Let sit for flavors to come together. Enjoy!

By the way, I've been out of commission lately due to rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia but I am coming back and will return with more recipes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More friends vegetables

I had a yellow squash from a friends garden and wanted to try a recipe from Food & Wine:

I had stopped and picked up wild, local salmon and thought they'd be great together.

1 large yellow zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons ricotta
about 5 mint leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375°. Combine zucchini, onion, tomatoes, olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheets. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is browned around the edges. Stir several times while cooking. Sprinkle the mixture with cumin.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, ricotta and chopped mint.


Sunday, July 25, 2010


I'm in love with corn right now and could eat it every day. I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit that combined polenta with fresh corn. I had leftover summer vegetable casserole and chicken and thought the polenta would be good with the leftovers.

It was comfort food and very like grits. Abigail said she would eat the leftovers for breakfast with eggs.

Polenta with fresh corn my way

5 cups chicken stock and water
1 cup polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
fresh corn kernels (cut from about 2 large ears)
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring 5 cups stock and water to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta, then 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is tender, thick, and creamy, whisking often and adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer, 25 to 30 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook, stirring constantly, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in goat and Parmesan cheeses. Season polenta to taste with salt and pepper.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friends' Garden

My friends are very generous with the things they grow in their gardens. Jane gave me a large zucchini from her brother, Michael's, garden and Jan brought me tomatoes, parsley and yellow squash. I had wanted to try a recipe I saw in Food & Wine and now I had most of the ingredients. Here's the link:

This turned out to be a beautiful and delicious dish. A big hit with Abigail and Mike!

Summer Vegetable Casserole my way

Extra virgin olive oil
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat a 13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread the potatoes in the dish in an even layer; drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to combine. Arrange 2/3 of the bell pepper mixture over the potatoes. Top with the tomatoes and the zucchini; and season with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining bell pepper mixture and sprinkle with the cheese to cover.

Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 425°. Uncover the casserole and bake for about 20 minutes longer, until the vegetables are tender and glazed on top. Serve warm.

We had it with roasted chicken breasts but it would have been wonderful with grilled fish or steak.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eat This - Chicken Veggie Skewers

I got the idea for these skewers from the series of books: Eat This, Not That! Lean meat and vegetables cooked on the grill with pesto. Healthy and delicious! I served it with the Peruvian Corn and Zucchini dish I posted on June 30th.

Chicken Veggie Skewers

~1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks about 2" inch chunks
2 - 3 zucchini, lightly peeled and cut into 1/2" rounds
1/2 red onion cut into chunks
cherry tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 of lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
~ 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
Tabasco to taste
2-3 tablespoons pesto, see July 14th post
6-8 skewers depending on length

Thread 1st 4 ingredients onto skewers. Place on large rimmed cookie sheet. Squeeze lemon over all the skewers followed by olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs and Tabasco. Let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Grill until chicken is done and vegetables are soft and begin to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes per side. Remove from grill and dab with pesto. Serve immediately.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Summer Cooking

I have been cooking this week but nothing really in the way of "recipes". The produce is so good all I need is some olive oil, salt and pepper. Mike went to the Farmers Market Tuesday near his office and got more tomatoes and a weird looking melon. I went today and got some more assorted cherry tomatoes because I wanted to make caprese salad. I also made pesto because Abigail is back from her trip and it is one of her favorites. One nice thing about her being gone for month she really missed my cooking!

Caprese Salad

about 3/4 pint of small, ripe tomatoes, rinsed and cut in half or 1/4 depending on their size
about 4 ounces of mozzarella ciliegine or small balls of fresh mozzarella, halved or the same size as your tomatoes
1 garlic clove, pressed
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small sprig basil cut into chiffonade
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients together and let marinate 1/2 hour to 1 hour before eating. Return to room temperature before serving.


1 bunch fresh basil, washed and leaves picked from stems
1 garlic clove, peeled and inner stem removed
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
kosher salt and pepper to taste
~1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Combine basil, garlic and pine nuts in food processor. Blend to combine. Add olive oil through feed tube as food processor is running. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Add Parmesan cheese to pesto before serving. Do not add cheese if you are going to refrigerate pesto. Add just before serving.

Pesto is great on any kind of pasta or sandwiches or bruschetta. Be creative.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer Roasted Vegetables

I love roasted vegetables and found last year that roasted greens beans are delicious. I decided to try them again with corn and tomatoes. There is a Farmers Market every day in the county where I live in the summer so today when I went to get some fresh wild king salmon, there was a farmers market outside of the Bryan's Fine Foods in Corte Madera.

I got 2 beautiful salmon fillets for grilling and walked outside and got fresh corn, green beans and small tomatoes.

This is one of my favorite kind of meals, all the ingredients are so fresh and wonderful you don't need to do much.

Roasted Summer Vegetables

2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels removed
couple of handfuls of green beans, trimmed and snapped
approximately 8 ripe large cherry or grape tomatoes, coarsely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss all the ingredients together and place on jelly roll pan. Roast for about 20 minutes. Stir. Roast another 20 minutes, adjust heat if necessary. Finish off with about 5-10 minutes of roasting until vegetables are soft and edges begin to brown.

Grilled King Salmon

2 fresh wild king salmon fillets, about 3/4 of a pound
1 large garlic clove, pressed
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

Season the fillets and grill until desired doneness.

Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Swim Night Supper

I've been wanting to cook fish lately because I love baking it in foil with tomatoes. It's my favorite way to cook fish like sole and the tomatoes are starting to come in. It's pretty quick and you can make your side dish while it's baking. I made a recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle for our side dish that sounded amazing-Peruvian Style Corn & Zucchini. It was amazing. Mike loved it. The smell of it cooking got him before he even tried it.

White Fish Cooked in Foil

1/2 - 3/4 pound white flaky fish like sole or halibut
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 garlic, pressed
1/2 cup white wine
kosher salt and red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon

This method is great because you can improvise. Just remember to use some onion, shallots, garlic or leeks. Then add some acid like lemon juice, wine or vinegar. You can add fresh herbs like basil, parsley or cilantro. Finally add the tomatoes, salt and pepper. The combination is up to you and what you are serving it with. I kept my fish simple tonight because of all the flavors in the veggies.

Mix together the tomatoes, garlic, wine, salt and peppers. Use a piece of foil for each serving of fish and add tomato mixture to the fish and wrap it up. Place on a jelly roll pan or a pan with sides in case your foil packets leak. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It's almost impossible to overcook because of the foil and the moisture in the foil packet. Squeeze some lemon over the fish before serving if desired.

Peruvian Style Corn & Zucchini my way

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 large zucchini, peeled and finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons non fat plain yogurt
2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
4 ounces light herb and garlic Boursin cheese
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 lemon

In a large non stick skillet, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Saute until soft and lightly golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, corn and zucchini. Lower the heat and cook a minute or two. Stir together. Sprinkle in the ginger, paprika and cumin. Cook a minute or two.

Add the stock and increase heat to medium high and cook for about 5 minutes.

Stir in the yogurt and Parmesan cheese. Add the Boursin cheese and the cilantro. Season with Tabasco, salt, pepper and a squeeze of the lemon.

I will definitely make this again for Abigail. I'm not a big zucchini fan (except zucchini bread) and I loved this.


Monday, June 28, 2010

New obsession

I have become obsessed with doré. Our neighborhood restaurant, Cafe Arrivederci, will make doré with prawns or chicken or pork. I had heard of it but I don't think I had ever tried it or really knew what it was until I saw someone eating it and knew I had to try it. Now it's all Mike & I want to order when we eat there. Their version is eggy and lemony and rich, lots of butter I think.

When I goggled it I saw many different variations with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese, butter, lemon, white wine, well you get the idea. I mentioned it my cousin, Lisa, the cookbook writer and she immediately said that she & Bruce Aidells had a recipe in their book The Complete Book of Pork. I decided to try theirs first because I knew I could trust their recipe but I used boneless chicken breasts.

I served this with roasted, sliced sweet potatoes tossed with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. I started the potatoes before the chicken so they cooked while I made the doré.

Chicken Doré my way

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 lemon

Place chicken breasts between plastic wrap and pound with meat mallet until about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl and the eggs in another. Lightly beat the eggs.

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.

Dip each breast first in the flour then in the eggs. Add breasts to skillet and cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Turn over and cook another 3 minutes. Transfer breasts to a warm plate.

Add capers and sage to skillet. Stir to combine. Squeeze lemon juice into skillet. Drizzle sauce over the breasts.

I look forward to trying it with prawns. If you use prawns, shell them, devine them and butterfly them before cooking. If you have questions please let me know. I think I might add alittle butter to the sauce next time.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Salad Sunday

I made 2 salads for dinner tonight. One is a recipe I got from my cousin, Lisa, the incredible cookbook author about 20 years ago. Lisa probably doesn't make this salad anymore but I do every summer as do several of my friends who wanted the recipe. It was a pasta salad but I decided to try it with farro since I'm trying to eat whole grains. Feel free to use bow tie or penne pasta instead. The farro is delicious in this though.

The watermelon salad is from Abbey, the incredible blogger at Everyday Champagne. She's very creative and talented and this is a beautiful summer salad. See her link under "Other sites of things and places I love".

Lisa's Tuna Salad with Farro

1 1/2 cups farro
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 pieces of celery, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the farro and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly toasted; the grains will turn slightly opaque just before browning. Add the onion cook over low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the stock is absorbed about 25 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

Make vinaigrette by combining last 6 ingredients. Whisk.

Add celery, scallions, pecans, sun dried tomatoes and tuna to a bowl. Stir to mix.

Add the cooled farro and the vinaigrette. Combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve room temperature.

Abbey's Watermelon Salad with Basil and Feta my way

1/4 of a watermelon, chopped
2 medium, ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 red onion, chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
olive oil
red wine vinegar
feta cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Put first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.Season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss. Drizzle with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Toss again.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour for the flavors to come together.

Before serving, toss in a handful of crumbled feta cheese.

Thanks Lisa and Abbey!


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Empty Nest Part 1

Abigail is on a trip to Europe, currently in Berlin. This has so far translated into me cooking less (and worrying more?). I did make some rice for my book club 2 nights ago for an Indian themed dinner but haven't cooked much else until tonight. I made a great salad from Food & Wine with chicken, bulgur, tomatoes and avocado inspired by Alfred Portale:

Food & Wine took some restaurant dishes and simplified them for home cooks and this salad has become a seasonal favorite. Abigail often ate it without the chicken. You could also substitute tofu. Here's the version I made while daydreaming about Europe.

Chicken and Bulgur Salad with Avocado my way

1/2 cup bulgur
1/2 cup boiling water
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
~1/8 cup olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
1 Hass avocados, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 head of hearts of romaine, washed and torn into bite size pieces

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a heatproof bowl, cover the bulgur with the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand until the water has been absorbed and the bulgur is tender, about 30 minutes.

Using a rimmed baking sheet, coat the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken on the top shelf for 10 minutes, flip over and continue cooking until golden brown and just cooked through; about 5 more minutes. Let cool. Slice the breasts into bite size pieces.

In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice with the basil, lemon juice, scallions and the remaining olive oil; season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss the bulgur, chicken, avocados, lettuce and tomatoes with the vinaigrette; season with salt and pepper.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Hot Weather Dinner

It has been hot here, near 90 on Saturday, and I haven't felt like cooking much. Luckily, we were invited to brunch at our friends, Jon & Augusta's house on Sunday and were in for a treat. Not only was it cooler at their place but they have a lovely shaded yard with a nice breeze. Brunch was equally lovely; pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil tossed with brie, roast chicken and a crisp green salad with red and yellow bell peppers. We sipped champagne under the trees with our hosts and Duke, Jan, Eric and Cindy and felt a million miles away from the heat. I wanted something light and cool for dinner and decided on one of my quick and easy favorites with minimal cooking. This is not really a recipe but a salad idea. It's great alone or if you didn't have a nice brunch like we did, some crusty bread would round it out nicely.

Crab & Shrimp Salad

1/4 lb. fresh crab meat
1/4 lb. small cooked shrimp
1 avocado, chopped
1 egg, boiled & chopped
3 pieces bacon, crisply cooked and chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
2 green onions, chopped


1/8 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients for the salad. Mix together the vinaigrette. Mike likes Thousand Island on this salad but I prefer the vinaigrette. I didn't have a cucumber or bell pepper but would have added them if I did. Feel free to add your salad favorites.

By 7:30 it had cooled down and we ate outside. It was heavenly. We just needed Abigail to complete the picture but she's in Amsterdam eating french fries with peanut sauce. Super bomb apparently.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

I found this recipe in American Lifestyle magazine and loved the idea of roasted tomatoes and couscous. I changed it up a bit switching the couscous to Israeli couscous. I could not find the recipe online so here is my version.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

1 cup Israeli couscous
~1 lb. ripe tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
red chili flakes to taste
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
3 green onions, sliced
large spring of mint, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
3 ounces goat cheese crumbled
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash tomatoes and cut into bite size pieces, cutting out hard stem spot. Bake tomatoes in oven proof baking dish with the olive oil, red chili flakes, pepper, salt and whole garlic cloves. Do not remove outer papery skin from garlic. Bake until tomatoes soften and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool. When the garlic is cool enough to handle slip it out of its skin and mash to mix with tomatoes and oil.

Cook couscous according to directions on package. Cook with chicken stock if you want a richer result. Let cool for a few minutes.

Combine couscous and roasted tomatoes with the oil. Add the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I served this on the warm side which was delicious. The goat cheese became very creamy as it melted alittle. I cooked a couple of turkey Italian sausages for Mike and I and Abigail had the salad alone. I chopped up the sausages and mixed them in with the couscous. It would also be good with any grilled chicken or fish.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Maida Heatter's Cheesecake

The graduation party was a great success and I pretty much stuck to my menu except I didn't serve the hummus. Mike's mom, Clara, and sister, Kathy, bought some delicious smoked salmon spread at the Farmers Market and my ex, Michael's, mom, Diane, and dad, Tom, bought some Marin French Cheese pesto brie at the Petaluma Cheese factory that we served instead. Mike bought the tri tip from Angelo in Petaluma and it was amazing. His website is on my blog.

The only recipe I really used was for the cheesecake. Maida Heatter's recipes are incredibly detailed and if you follow them anything you make from them will come out perfectly. I made her cheesecake which is always a hit. I covered it with sliced strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I got at the Farmers Market, beautiful and delicious. I did not change anything about her recipe so this is Maida Heatter's cheesecake her way.

2 1/2 lbs. Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt
5 eggs, graded large, at room temperature

Assemble a 9 inch by 3 inch springform pan. Cover the outside of the springform pan in foil to prevent water from seeping into your cheesecake. To do so, tear off two sheets of heavy duty foil, each about 15 inches long. Place in an "x" pattern on a flat surface. Place the assembled springform pan in the middle of the "x". Bring the foil up around the sides of the pan; flatten it to the shape of the pan, crimping and pleating as necessary. You can trim off excess with scissors. The entire outside of the pan should be swathed in foil up to the lip.

With softened, unsalted butter, butter the sides of your springform pan (Maida reminds you to butter the inside not the outside). It is not necessary to butter the bottom of the pan.

Have ready a pan that is longer and wider than your springform pan; it is important that this pan be shallower than your springform. If this pan is aluminum, sprinkle 1 teaspoon cream of tartar to prevent discoloration. Bring enough water to boil to fill the shallower pan to a depth of one inch. Keep ready. Put oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place cream cheese into large bowl of electric stand mixer. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl and paddle with large rubber spatula. Continue beating cream cheese at medium speed only until perfectly smooth (don't overbeat as it will add alot of air to the batter). Add sugar, vanilla and salt; beat at low speed until smooth (can increase speed to medium if necessary briefly). Add eggs, one at a time, beating in each at a low speed until blended. Be sure to scrape down sides of the bowl and paddle frequently. When the eggs are are all in , the batter should be on the thick side but still pourable and it must be smooth. Set aside briefly.

Place shallower pan into the oven; add enough boiling water so that there's about 1/2 inch water in the pan. Close the oven door.

Pour cheesecake batter into springform pan. Smooth the top as best as you can. Use a toothpick to prick any air bubbles.

Carefully place springform pan into the shallower pan in oven. Working carefully add more boiling water to the larger pan so that it comes up to a depth of 1 inch. Don't get any water into the cheesecake batter.

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check to see if too much water has evaporated. Add more boiling water if necessary. The cheesecake will rise above the top of the pan and the top will brown. (Depending on your oven you night need to put foil on the top to prevent it browning too much-like my oven. Butter the foil slightly or it will stick to the cheesecake.) However, if the pan is tapped or shaken very gently, the center will still appear to be slightly liquid. This is ok. Do not overbake.

Remove to cooling rack and gently remove foil from outside of springform pan. Allow cheesecake to cool for 2 1/1 to 3 hours undisturbed. It will sink down. Remove the sides of the springform pan carefully, gently loosen the sides with a knife if necessary. Place the cheesecake still on the bottom of the pan on a plate and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

To cut, use a large heavy knife. Run the blade under hot water and shake off. Do not dry. Do this before every cut. Can be stored up to 10 days in the refrigerator tightly wrapped (it won't last that long).


Friday, June 4, 2010

Graduation Party

Abigail graduated last night and tonight we are partying! We will have a full house of family and friends from all over and since the graduation is done we can relax and enjoy ourselves. My mom, Mike's mom & sister and my ex and I all went to the Farmers Market yesterday and loaded up on lettuces, tomatoes, green beans, fat carrots, colorful bell peppers, mushrooms, avocados, berries etc.

The menu for tonight is:

pimento cheese toasts with bacon
homemade hummus and veggies
guacamole and baked chips from the Farmers Market
crostini with pesto and sauteed mushrooms and more traditional with heirloom tomatoes and garlic
grilled tri tip
pasta pesto
roasted green beans and tomatoes and garlic
Ceasar salad
cheesecake with assorted berries
wine, Champagne, lemonade, sparkling water

Oh My! I'll post some recipes later because I'm to cook!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Meet the Parents

Last night I cooked dinner for my parents, my ex, my ex-laws, Mike's mom & sister, Mike, Abigail and I. They are all here for Abigail's high school graduation today. Since I had a crowd I thought of one of Abigail's favorites-mac & cheese. I have a recipe we love with cauliflower and tomatoes so you can feel alittle better about all the cheese and crème fraîche. I also made baked chicken, see April 28th post, and a salad with romaine, tomatoes and avocados.

The mac & cheese is from Bon Appetit by Bruce Aidells, who I've met at my cousin Lisa's house. She is a food writer extraordinaire and wrote a book about pork with Bruce. Here's the recipe link:

Bruce's mac and cheese my way

1 organic cauliflower, cored, cut into 1-inch florets
I box Pomi chopped tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter, divided
4 thinly sliced green onions
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 cups half Gruyère and half Fontina; about 9 ounces), divided
3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 cup crème fraîche*
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 lb. penne
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Cook cauliflower in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Using large sieve, transfer cauliflower to bowl. Reserve pot of water.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and green onions. Cook 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat. Season with coarse salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Cook until sauce thickens, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups Gruyère Fontina cheese; whisk until melted and sauce is smooth. Whisk in 1/2 cup Parmesan, then crème fraîche and mustard. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Return reserved pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; add pasta to pot with the sauce. Stir in cauliflower mixture.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Spoon in half of pasta mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 cup Comté cheese. Top with remaining pasta mixture and 1/2 cup Gruyère Fontina cheese. Sprinkle crumbs and remaining Parmesan cheese over pasta. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake pasta uncovered until heated through and bubbling, about 35 minutes.

This is rich and delicious and can be a meal with salad and fruit. It was a hit with everyone. It does take time to make so plan accordingly. Abigail missed dinner because she had to go to Mass as part of her graduation. There are always leftovers!!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Salad for Abigail

Abigail is graduating from high school this week and it is getting crazy around here. Her dad came late Sunday night and Mike's mom and sister came late Monday night and my parents came Tuesday night. Monday night for dinner was just Mike, Abigail, her dad & I so I made a recipe Abigail had found online at Here's the link:

I served it with crusty whole grain bread with olive oil to dip the bread in and strawberries-at their peak right now. None of us missed the meat and Abigail and her dad ate the leftovers the next day.

Barley and black bean salad my way

1 cup uncooked pearl barley
8 ounces dried black beans
chicken or vegetable broth or stock
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 avocado, cut into bite size pieces
2 ounces feta cheese
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Begin 1 day ahead. Soak beans in water overnight. Drain. Cook beans in chicken broth or water until tender, approximately 50 minutes. Drain.

Cook barley according to package directions, omitting salt. Let cool.

Combine black beans and remaining ingredients except avocado, toss gently. Season to taste. This can be made a day ahead of serving. Add the avocado right before serving.

You can serve this as a side dish with grilled chicken or sausages or as a main course like I did for a healthy and yummy dinner. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Night at Home

Last night about 5 o'clock Mike and I decided to make some cocktails. It was the first really warm day in a very long time. We had bought some Ketel One vodka and Sanpelligrino Aranciata or Italian orange soda earlier. I mixed the soda with the vodka and added a splash of creme de cassis. That was not exactly what I was looking for so I tried Cointreau. That was it. Very refreshing-great for a warm spring evening, sitting outside and listening to baseball on the radio with your best friend. Oh and we ordered pizza! Easy and decadent...

small glass
ice cubes
about 1/3 vodka like Ketel One
about 2/3 Aranciata
splash of Cointreau
stir well


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuna Fettuccine

My friend, Cooper, came for dinner tonight. I got my hair cut after work so I needed something quick and easy. This is a great pantry meal since most of the ingredients should be on hand. I got this recipe years ago from the San Francisco Chronicle. It was one of my ex-husbands favorite dishes and we have not lived together for over 13 years. It's now one of Mike's favorites and Cooper really enjoyed it too. I could not find it on the Chronicle's website and there is not a name on so I'm sorry I can't give the right person credit.

Tuna Fettuccine my way

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 - 5 1/2 ounce cans Italian tuna packed in olive oil
1 pound spaghetti
1 teaspoon dried basil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put large serving dish in oven to warm. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy non-stick skillet until hot, almost smoking. Toss in mustard seeds and immediately cover since the seeds will pop wildly. Shake pan for 20 to 30 seconds and toss in bell pepper and tuna. Stir together and add basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep tuna sauce warm.

Cook spaghetti per instructions on package. Add pasta to sauce in pan. Turn pasta into warm bowl and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss together. Add additional pasta water if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

There will be leftovers and it is great the next day.

Strawberries for dessert

fresh strawberries, washed
1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar

Mix together sour cream and brown sugar. Dip strawberries in sour cream mixture.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Senior Prom

Abigail is graduating next week and her prom was Sunday night. These are very bittersweet times for me and I remembered a favorite salad to cheer me up while she went to the prom. I served it with wild Coho salmon from Alaska which is alittle stronger tasting than wild King salmon so I added a sauce. It turned out very well.

The salad is from Cottage Living magazine several years ago. One of my friends who went to Mexico with me made it one year when we rented a house in Palm Springs. She thought it was from Cooking Light but you will see that it is not! I could not find the link to the original salad recipe that I had printed out but it is attributed to Sara Foster and then I found it on another site:

The sauce idea for the salmon came from wanting to serve red wine with the fish. I reduced some Cabernet with balsamic and butter. Yummy!

Spinach Salad with bacon and sweet potatoes my way:

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 bacon slices
5 ounces baby spinach leaves, washed and stems removed

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss sweet potato with olive oil and 1 tablespoon vinegar; add salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place bacon along edges of sheet. Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes, turn bacon over and continue to cook until bacon is crisp, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove bacon, and drain on a paper towel; let cool, and chop into bite-size pieces. Flip over sweet potatoes slices so that they brown evenly on both sides. Bake potatoes 15 to 20 more minutes or until tender and golden brown on both sides.

Place spinach in a large bowl; add warm potato, scraping drippings from pan into bowl. Add remaining vinegar, and gently toss to mix. Add bacon and toss. If the spinach seems alittle dry add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. This will depend on your bacon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Red wine sauce

2/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, pressed

Bring wine and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Add garlic. Simmer until reduced in half. Add butter and melt. Sauce should cover the back of a spoon and be reduced to about 1/3 of it's original amount. Drizzle over fish. Season with kosher salt and pepper.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Israeli Hummus

I plan pot luck lunches at my office when the weather is nice for our roof top deck. We have a table and chairs, grill and stereo. Our weather has been particularly rainy this year so our 1st lunch was last week. Our theme was Mediterranean and our menu was fantastic. We had home made falafels from Sonny, eggplant and pilaf from Randa, Greek salad from Melissa, mini lamb burgers from Majid, yogurt sauce from Elizabeth, fresh fruit from George, drinks from Ivan and Mike and dessert from Taylor and John. I rounded out the meal by ordering Israeli couscous with grilled vegetables from Insalatas from the bosses. I made hummus and I love this recipe. It is from Michael Solomonov out of Food & Wine. I have not been to Israel but he did and it is wonderful. Here's the link to his recipe:

Israeli Hummus my way

1/2 pound dried chickpeas
1 tablespoon baking soda
8 large garlic cloves, 7 unpeeled, 1 peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup tahini, at room temperature
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
kosher salt
Whole wheat pita bread, for serving

In small sauce pan, cover the dried chickpeas with 2 inches of water and stir in the baking soda. Soak overnight. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them under cold water.

In a medium saucepan, cover the chickpeas with 2 inches of fresh water. Add the 7 unpeeled garlic cloves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until the chickpeas are tender, about 60 minutes. Drain, reserving about 10 tablespoons of the cooking water. Peel the garlic cloves.

In a food processor, puree the chickpeas with 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking water, the olive oil and all of the garlic cloves. Add the cumin along with the tahini and lemon juice and process until creamy. Season the hummus with salt and transfer to a serving bowl.

Serve with pita bread.

This is the creamiest hummus ever and so much better than store bought. It is worth the extra time to soak the garbanzo beans with baking soda rather than using canned beans. The soak is what makes it so creamy. Hummus is good with cut up veggies and great as a light lunch. I made 2 batches so Mike & Abigail could have some. Good thing I did there was hardly any left.


More pasta...

Before I got the miracle shots of cortisone I made pasta again! The nice thing about this recipe is that once tomatoes start coming in this is a great quick easy meal to make out of your pantry. All you need is pasta, tomatoes, bacon and spinach. Well maybe not fresh spinach in your pantry but frozen spinach would probably work too.
Anyway this is delicious and definitely family friendly. Normally I would separate the bacon out for Abigail but she is eating some meat now. It is easy to do this if you have a vegetarian in the family.

I found this recipe in a magazine sent to me, Cuisine. Here's their website:

B-L-T pasta my way

1 garlic clove, pressed
1 cup rustic whole wheat bread, cubed
1 teaspoon olive oil
kosher salt

4 pieces of bacon
2 1/2 cups ripe tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
12 ounces spaghetti
5 ounces fresh spinach, washed and stems removed

Process garlic and cubed bread in food processor until coarse crumbs. Heat olive oil in small pan over medium heat and toast crumbs until brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with salt.

Cook bacon until crisp In large non-stick skillet. Drain on paper towels. Chop when cooled.

Pour off most of the bacon fat out of the pan. Add tomatoes and sugar and caramelize over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes until tomatoes begin to brown. Add scallions and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.

Deglaze pan with white wine. Simmer until wine is almost all evaporated. Add the chicken broth, vinegar, pepper flakes and thyme, reduce liquid by 1/3 by simmering approximately 5 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling water per instructions on package. Add spinach and bacon to sauce. Stir spinach to wilt slightly. Add cooked pasta to pan using tongs. Toss together. Add some of the pasta water a little at a time if necessary. Season with kosher salt. If serving in large bowl turn out pasta into serving dish and sprinkle with bead crumbs. Otherwise serve pasta in individual bowls and top with bread crumbs. Dinner in a bowl-Enjoy!

French or sourdough bread for the rustic whole wheat
leeks for the scallions
bucatini or another shape pasta for the spaghetti

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yummy Snack

The very talented chefs, Spencer and Heidi (not that Speidi), came over last Friday night for a drink and to pick up SF Giants baseball tickets. They had catered my birthday party last year and as a Thank You! Mike and I gave them some tickets.

I wanted to serve something to nibble on and still feeling alittle weakened I wanted to keep it simple. I decided on pimento cheese with chopped bacon. I got this recipe from Food & Wine:

It reminds me of my mom who loves pimento cheese and everything is better with bacon.

I have to say that I have a link on my blog to Everyday Champagne and if you have not checked out Abbey's blog yet you are missing out. She is a very creative and talented cook, wife and mom who constantly blows me and my cooking away. She posted a recipe for a pimento cheese cheesecake that I can't wait to make. Abigail is graduating from high school in a couple of weeks and I will make it when all the family are here. Check out Abbey's site.

These toasts were great with champagne and wine and we spread it on crackers when we finished the toasts. A drink had become multiple glasses by then.

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Crostini my way

2 1/2 cups finely grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
2 1/2 cups finely grated extra-sharp orange cheddar cheese
One 7-ounce jar pimientos, drained and finely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, pressed
cayenne pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced
4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Combine the white and orange cheddar cheeses. Add the chopped pimentos, mayonnaise, black pepper and garlic. Mix together. Season the pimento cheese with cayenne pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400° Spread the pimento cheese on the toasts, top with the bacon and bake until the cheese is melted and browned, about 2 minutes. Serve.

This makes alot of pimento cheese. It is great leftover and definitely benefits from melting in the oven. The authors, Gina and Patrick Neely, recommend refrigerating a couple of hours before serving. I have found it is ok if you do not do this step. It is nice that it can be made ahead of time.

Long time, No cook...

I have not been cooking or sleeping much lately due to carpal tunnel or repetitive stress and a shoulder problem but 3 shots of cortisone later I am feeling much better. Ready to cook and type again. I made pasta a couple of times and I'm not sure if it's because it was easy or comforting or both. The first recipe I want to tell you about is a spring pasta dish with broccolini. I have not cooked it much but this was delicious! I found it in Food & Wine

Farfalle with Spring Vegetables My Way

3 slices of baguette, finely chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch broccolini
1 pound farfalle or butterfly shaped pasta
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed, or 1 pound fresh peas, shelled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°. On a baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once, until golden. Let cool, then stir in half each of the parsley, chives and tarragon. Season the crumbs with salt and pepper.

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccolini until tender, 3 minutes; using tongs, transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.

In a deep skillet, melt the butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, scallions, peas and broccolini and cook over moderate heat about 4 minutes. Add the pasta, lemon juice and cooking water and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until the water is nearly absorbed. Stir in the remaining herbs. Sprinkle the pasta with the bread crumbs just before serving.

This looks like spring in a bowl and Abigail and Mike both really liked it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chicken Liver Salad

Mike and I are from the South. I'm not sure that's why we love chicken livers but we do. Abigail was working tonight so I took this opportunity to make this salad. Mike stemmed the spinach for me while I swam. The rest of it comes together easily. I adapted a recipe from Food & Wine:

Chicken livers are high in protein and low in fat. They contain vitamins like A, C, B6, & B12 and minerals like copper, iron, manganese, niacin, and zinc. They are high in cholesterol so plan accordingly. This salad is great with spinach but you could use arugula or mixed greens. The spinach has lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals too as does the apple. I am trying to justify the bacon that just tastes great!

I always think of my grandmothers when I eat chicken livers because they loved them too. Maybe that's where the Southern part comes in.

Spinach Salad with Chicken Livers:

5 oz. spinach, stems removed and washed
1/2 lb. chicken livers, rinsed, cut in half and trimmed of any visible fat
3 pieces of bacon
1 small shallot, finely chopped
I medium apple, cored and chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Put spinach and apple into salad bowl. Set aside.

Cook bacon in large skillet. When crisp remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Chop when cooled.

Strain bacon fat into glass measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.

Reduce heat to medium low and add shallots. Cook until soft. Add to salad bowl.

Spray vegetable spray in pan if necessary. Season chicken livers with salt and pepper. Add livers to pan, do not overcrowd. Cook approximately 3 minutes and turn each liver over. Cook until no longer red in center, approximately 10 minutes.

Add chicken livers and chopped bacon to salad bowl.

Mix vinegar with bacon fat and season with salt and pepper. Toss with salad. Serve while still warm.


Friday, May 7, 2010


I am cruising to Ensenada, Mexico today with the girls. I will be back next week and hopefully will have some good tales to tell. Enjoy!

Update from Mexico:

Had a fabulous time on my cruise with my friends; Mary, Mary and Zoe. The food on the ship was not particularly special except for the molten chocolate cake we had -twice! On Saturday we went to a resort in Ensenada and I had the best guacamole I think I've ever had. I think that mostly they let the avocados speak for themselves - just alittle salt, lime juice and garlic. The ocean view and good friends didn't hurt either. Hopefully I will be back to cooking tomorrow.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Salad Nicoise

I injured a tendon in my left arm which had made it difficult to cook and type after a day of being on the computer at work. I did make a version of Salad Nicoise last night. I look forward to warm weather and main course dinner salads every year. It is finally getting warm and sunny here and I took advantage of that last night. Abigail does not like tuna so she ate hers without but otherwise liked the rest of it.

Salad Nicoise My Way:

2 small cans of tuna packed in olive oil from Italy, drained
red potatoes, halved or quartered into bite size pieces
green beans, trimmed
2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and diced
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and cut into pieces
small ripe tomatoes, halved or quartered into bite size pieces
other items to add: roasted red bell peppers cut into strips, anchovy fillets, Nicoise olives, parsley, butter lettuce


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste
kosher salt and pepper

Bring medium size pan of salted water to boil. Blanch green beans for 3-5 minutes. Remove from water and set aside. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook 20-30 minutes until tender but not falling apart. Drain and add to beans. Toss with all the salad ingredients. I like my salad mixed together but you make it composed if you like.

Combine vinaigrette ingredients and whisk until combined. Pour over salad and toss to combine. I like to serve it room temperature, not cold. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Saffron Asparagus Salad

Last night I cooked farro in chicken broth for tonight. I used it to make a Saffron Asparagus Salad. I love saffron and asparagus so it was a natural. I got the recipe from She always has wonderful seasonal vegetarian dishes. Abigail found this website and I have made several of her recipes with great results. Here is her link:

Her version uses pasta but since I am trying not to eat much pasta and my family does not like whole wheat pasta I decided to try it with farro instead. It is whole grain wheat and since farro is the Italian name for it I thought it would be a good substitute for pasta. I was right. We did not miss the pasta and we're healthier for it!

Saffron Asparagus Salad my way:

Saffron vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 medium garlic clove, pressed
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
splash of half and half


1 cup farro
3 cups chicken broth
1 pound thin asparagus, ends trimmed by breaking them off, cut into 1/2-inch segments
4 ounces herbed goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

To make the dressing add the vinegar and saffron to a small saucepan. Over gentle heat bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat (immediately) and let cool.

Mix garlic and salt into a paste in small bowl or glass measuring cup. Add the cooled vinegar and saffron, lemon juice, and mustard. Whisk together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add splash of half and half to balance acidity. Set aside.

Cook farro according to instructions on package in chicken broth. This can be done a day ahead. If you make farro a day ahead bring to room temperature or microwave to get rid of chill.

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook asparagus for approximately 2 minutes until crisp tender. Drain in colander.

Place the farro in a large bowl, add asparagus and toss with the saffron vinaigrette. I did not use all of the vinaigrette. Save for another use. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if needed.

Top with goat cheese and pine nuts. Serve immediately.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Simple Tostadas

The San Francisco Chronicle's Food & Wine section today focused on Cinco de Mayo with tequila tastings, a margarita recipe and a tostada recipe. The tostadas looked so good I decided to not wait until May 5th and made them tonight. Even Abigail liked the chicken. Start marinating the chicken first, then start the onions.

Dos de Mayo Tostadas my way:

Chicken Marinade
2 dried arbol chili pods
2 chipotle chiles en adobe
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
3 garlic cloves, cut in half and sprouts removed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seed
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
kosher salt

Pink Onions
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 head of romaine lettuce hearts, thinly sliced
~ 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage mix
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, diced
2 teaspoons olive oil

6 hand made style white corn tortillas
~ 2 teaspoons canola oil

1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese

hot sauce or salsa, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a double oven preheat the other oven to 200 degrees.

Toast the dried chilis in a small skillet for about 2 minutes. Turn frequently and do not burn. Remove and take off stem and remove seeds. Bring 1/2 water to boil and pour over chilis. Let steep for 15 minutes to soften. Add chilis with water, chipotle chilis, adobo sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin seed, apple cider vinegar and salt to food processor. Blend until combined and almost smooth. Pour marinade over chicken in a shallow dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Combine vinegars in microwavable bowl and heat in microwave for 45 seconds. Add sugar and salt and stir to combine. Pour over onion slices , cover and refrigerate.

Combine lettuce, cabbage, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado and olive oil in large bowl.

Place tortillas on cookie sheet. Bake in 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn oven up to 350 degrees and using your fingers rub canola oil on both sides of the tortillas. Bake another 10 minutes until they begin to color and crisp.

Drain chicken breasts of marinade and cook on rimmed jelly roll pan for approximately 8 minutes. Turn over and cook another 7-8 minutes. Let cool slightly and slice into thin strips.

Add onions and marinade liquid to topping mixture. Stir to combine.

Put chicken strips on tortillas, top with topping mixture and sprinkle with crumbled cheese.

I also cooked farro for tomorrow night. More about that tomorrow after I swim.

Mike and I enjoyed a Chardonnay with the tostadas. It was a good match.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Telex From Cuba

My book club met at my house the other night. I've been in this group for about 16 years and look forward to our monthly meetings. Our group is now 9 woman, all mothers, and all good cooks. We meet at someone's home and all bring part of the meal. The hostess decides the menu and gives assignments or directions. We've had some pretty amazing meals along with some great books and discussions.

We read Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner this month which I recommend. I decided to make arroz con pollo because they mentioned it in the book and it's a good dish for a crowd. The rest of the menu went like this:

black bean mango salsa with tortilla chips by Jennifer
ceviche in an avocado half by Annalisa
spinach salad with strawberries, mango and pomegranate seeds by Adeline
seasoned black beans by Jan
tostones or garlic plaintains and maduros or sweet plaintains picked up by Megan from Sol Food
arroz con pollo by me
lemon curd tartlets with fresh berries by Annalisa

It was a feast washed down with white wine. We didn't discuss the book much but had a wonderful time and missed our 3 MIA members, Trish, Flip and Victoria. Next month our book is set in India, I believe. Yum, Indian food.

The arroz con pollo I made is a combination of 2 recipes, one I got from Jan years ago (origin unknown) and 1 from the San Francisco Chronicle, too long ago to give proper credit.

My version of arroz con pollo:

4 bone in chicken thighs, skin removed and fat trimmed, season with salt and pepper
2 bone in chicken breasts, skin removed, season with salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, pressed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large red onion, chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups long grain brown rice
32 oz. box chicken stock or broth (I used Swanson Natural Goodness Broth)
1 10 oz bag of frozen peas
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a large pan with lid that can go from stove to oven. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium heat. Brown chicken pieces on both sides until golden about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Saute onion until softened. Turn down the heat or add more oil if necessary. Add garlic and saute about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir for about 2 minutes. Add about 3/4 of the broth, the spices and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer about 10 minutes. Cover tightly and bake for 50 minutes. Add the peas and the remaining broth. Cook another 10 minutes. Check rice for doneness and seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Let dish rest for 10-15 minutes. Cut the breasts in half. I served it in the pan family style but you could take out the chicken, put the rice in a bowl and arrange the chicken on top to serve.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Comfort Food Chicken

The weather has been rainy and on the cold side here so I decided to make a yummy, cozy chicken dish. I got this from the San Francisco Chronicle several years ago. Here's the link:

It's called Grandmother's Oven-Baked Chicken, it's not my Grandma's chicken but I think she would approve.

I used cut up chicken pieces, Panko breadcrumbs and dried herbs to save time since I work and swim. You can use fresh herbs, make fresh breadcrumbs and a whole chicken, cut up if you like. Mike and I like dark meat so I buy thighs, remove the skin and trim all the fat off.

I also recreated a zucchini dish that Abigail and I had a Italian restaurant in San Anselmo, Cucina Restaurant & Wine Bar.
It's fresh and light. I cook it a little longer than they do but try it your way.

Grandma's Chicken My Way:

1 large clove of garlic
4 chicken thighs, skin and any fat removed
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
About 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel garlic clove, cut in half and remove any sprout inside and cut lengthwise into slices about 1/8-inch thick.

Melt butter in a large casserole dish by placing it in oven for several minutes. Remove from oven.

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Pierce surface of each chicken piece with the tip of a knife to make small incisions, big enough to insert a garlic slice. Insert garlic slices inside each piece of chicken. Reserve any leftover garlic pieces.

Combine basil, oregano and breadcrumbs in a wide bowl. Put flour in a separate wide bowl. In a third bowl, big enough to dip the chicken in, use a whisk to whip the eggs with 1 tablespoons water until well blended.

Meanwhile, dredge each piece of chicken first in flour, then in the egg mixture, and finally in herbed crumbs.

Place the coated chicken pieces into the warm butter, arranging pieces to fit tightly. Tuck in any leftover garlic pieces, small or large. Bake chicken for 45 minutes on the middle rack, then carefully turn over each piece of chicken. Bake for 35 more minutes, or until the chicken is well browned and crisped on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Cucina Zucchini:

3-4 organic zucchini, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large garlic clove, pressed
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
parmesan cheese, freshly shaved or grated
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh ground nutmeg, optional

Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick saute pan. Saute garlic until fragrant. Add almonds and cook for another minute or two. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 minute. (At the restaurant they do not cook the zucchini.) Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Top with parmesan cheese.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Pasta

My friend, Zoe made this for me maybe 20 years ago. I have loved it ever since. It is from The New Basics Cookbook by Julie Rosso & Sheila Lukins. They had a shop in Manhattan and wrote 2 other good cookbooks, The Silver Palate and The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I still enjoy and use their books.

We love to wait for asparagus season and look forward to it every year. I know you can buy it almost year round but there is really something to be said for eating things in season.

I made the peanut sauce this winter and served it with broccoli and brown rice. Abigail prefers it with tofu over chicken.

My version of Sesame Chicken and Asparagus Pasta:

3/4 lb. linguine
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
6 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, approximately 1 lb.
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
1 lb. organic asparagus
3 organic scallions, sliced thinly, white part only
1 small organic cucumber, peeled, quartered, seeded, and sliced (I use a melon baller to get the seeds out. Also works on butternut squash seeds.)
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Coat with olive oil. Roast until done, approximately 7 minutes per side. Let cool and cut into bite side pieces. Turn oven down to 350 degrees.

Fill large pasta pot with water. Add salt. Turn on high heat and bring to a boil.

Break off the ends of the asparagus.

Place the garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, peanut butter, red pepper flakes and soy sauce in a food processor. Blend for 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add the sesame oil through the feed tube, and process until well blended.

When the water comes to a boil blanch asparagus for 1-3 minutes. Let cool and cut the asparagus into 1-inch lengths. Put into bowl with chicken, cucumbers and green onions. Toss with half the sauce.

Cook the linguine according to the instructions on the package. While it is cooking toast the sesame seeds for 3 minutes.

Drain the linguine and add to the bowl with other ingredients. Toss with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Toss to coat.

If you are doing part chicken and part tofu, do not add chicken to the other ingredients. Put chicken or tofu in individual bowls and put the rest of the dish on top. Stir together in the bowl.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Hamburgers and fixins

Sometimes nothing beats a hamburger, especially when you grill them at home. You have more control over what does and doesn't get invited to the party. Nothing fried, no huge portions.

I got some good ground beef from Bryans Fine Foods, whole wheat buns, some decent tomatoes from CA, a sweet potato and shredded cabbage for cole slaw. I bought the cabbage already shredded since I was swimming this evening and needed things to come together quickly.

Mike and I like to grill with mesquite and use a chimney to light it and make coals. While Mike handled the grill I sliced a red onion thinly and put them in a pan with olive oil to saute and get soft and sweet. Get the onions started first because they take the most time. I also roasted sweet potato slices and made cole slaw.

The cole slaw dressing is from my friend Zoe and it is also wonderful with broccoli slaw. It has a slight Asian flavor which makes it different and refreshing.

Abigail was not home but she would have probably had a Boca burger or marinated portobello mushroom. She also likes pesto on her bun. That's the beauty of these kind of meals you can make substitutions easily.

1 red onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
kosher salt and pepper

~3/4 lb. good ground beef
slices of cheese like pepper jack
1 ripe tomato sliced
avocado, sliced
lettuce leaves, washed
Dijon mustard
pesto or whatever other burger toppings you love

Roasted Sweet Potatoes:
1 large sweet potato (not yam), sliced
olive oil
1-2 teaspoons cumin
kosher salt and pepper

Cole Slaw:
Shredded white & purple cabbage, carrot mix
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon mayo
squeeze of lemon or lime juice
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil in a large non stick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion slices and stir. Let cook until they become soft and translucent. Turn down the heat to low and continue cooking until they begin to brown and get sweet, about 20-30 minutes. The onions can stay on low heat a long time. Just stir occassionally and add more olive oil if necessary.

Preheat oven to 375. Slice the sweet potatoes into approximately 1/4" slices. Toss with the remaining ingredients. Arrange slices on cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Cook for approximately 15 minutes. Turn over each slice and re-arrange depending on how you oven cooks. Spin the sheet in the opposite direction if necessary so that the slices cook evenly. Bake another 10-15 minutes and repeat until the insides of the potatoes are soft and fluffy and the outsides are beginning to brown, approximately 30 minutes total.

Combine all the dressing ingredients and whisk to combine. Toss with cabbage and carrots. Feel free to add green onions, bell peppers or even a jalapeno to the mix. If you like it hot add hot sauce too.

Meanwhile, grill the burgers to your desired doneness, add cheese if you want a cheeseburger and warm the buns off to the side. Assemble your dream burger. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pasta with Fresh Peas

I have been making this for Abigail since 1998 when she was 6. She still asks for it every spring. It's light, delicious and pretty! I have to start taking pictures. This is from Food & Wine and Alice Waters. Here's the link:

You can serve it with roast chicken or I cooked spinach chicken sausages since I needed something quick and easy after swimming. You don't really need anything else but maybe some crusty bread.

My version of pasta with fresh peas:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed
~1 lb. fresh English peas, shelled
3/4 lb. linguine
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 crumbled ricotta salata (you can substitute feta but it will taste very different)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring, until very soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Add marjoram. Remove from the heat.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the peas until just tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer the peas to a bowl. I use a large Chinese strainer.

Add pasta and boil until al dente. Remove the pasta with the strainer and add to skillet with olive oil and garlic and approximately 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the peas and toss together. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the cheese and serve at once. This pasta would be nice with a dry wine like Viogner.