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.