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!