Thursday, July 31, 2008

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

I am having a huge cocktail party at my house in Napa Valley next week to celebrate the move of my sister and her family and my boyfriend's recent (major) accomplishment of finishing the California Bax Exam. It's going to be a mixed group. Parent's friends, sister's friends and our friends. That means lots of different palates at different ages. Needless to say, I'd like to satisfy them all.

While flipping through Food & Wine poolside today, I came across this recipe and my sister and I decided we should give it a test run. Well, we did. And it's made the lineup. Didn't hurt matters that we used my step dad's stash of fresh honey that he brought back from Mexico in a 1 liter Coke bottle. Lyd suggested that goat cheese would work as a sub and I agree. Fresh ricotta would make a huge difference but I don't have a sieve at my mom's. Well, not yet.

Honey-Tomato Bruschetta with Ricotta

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons clover honey
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 baguette slices, cut 1/2 inch thick on the bias
1 cup fresh ricotta (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon buckwheat or chestnut honey
6 basil leaves, thinly sliced or torn

Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, honey, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Scrape the tomatoes onto the prepared baking sheet and turn them cut side up. Bake the tomatoes for about 1 hour and 25 minutes, until they begin to shrivel and brown. Let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Spread out the baguette slices on a baking sheet. Broil for about 30 seconds on each side, until the edges are golden brown.

Spread the ricotta over the baguette slices and top with the slow-roasted tomatoes. Lightly drizzle the tomatoes with the buckwheat honey, sprinkle with the sliced basil and serve with additional buckwheat honey on the side.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Corn and Tomato Salad with Shrimp and Watercress

Nothing tops corn and tomatoes in the summer except when you couple it with grilled shrimp. Picked up this recipe from the recent Food & Wine issue. I'm going to add a jalapeno to this recipe and drizzle a little honey on the shrimp before they go one the grill.

Corn and Tomato Salad with Shrimp and Watercress
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob (2 1/2 cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 1/2 teaspoons coarsely chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound shelled and deveined large shrimp
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 bunch watercress, thick stems discarded

Light a grill. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the corn kernels and cook over high heat, stirring, until they are softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer the corn to a bowl and let cool. Add the tomatoes, onion, parsley, chives, tarragon, vinegar and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season the corn salad with salt and pepper.

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until pink and curled, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon zest.

In a large mixing bowl, stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the lemon juice and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the watercress and toss in the dressing to coat. Transfer the watercress to a large serving platter. Top with the corn and tomato salad and the grilled shrimp and serve right away.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Lamb Loin Marinade

What do you get when you mix garlic paste, lemon zest, rosemary, olive oil and lemon juice? A tasty marinade.

Last night I made a quick dinner for my sister. I had been craving Greek so I picked up some lamb loins, stole some rosemary from the garden and bought some ingredients to build a Greek salad. Pretty simple stuff and tasty, too. Lamb loins are a little bit thicker than a skirt steak so you only need to grill 4 minutes a side for medium rare.

Lamb Loin Marinade
Zest from 2 lemons
Juice from 2 lemons
2 lamb loins, boneless and well seasoned
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh rosemary, chopped
5 garlic cloves, made into paste or use garlic paste from store

Put garlic in mortar and use pestle to make paste. If you don't have one just put in bowl and mash up until paste forms. Add rest of ingredients and pour into bag. Add lamb and mix well. Marinate for up to 6 hours.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Go Fish

Ok. It may be time to issue the restraining order.

I finally went to the last of 3 restaurants in the valley owned by Cindy Pawlcyn. And I don't even like fish. BUT they do love dogs and that was a plus so we brought our 12 year old 'puppy' for a dinner on the patio.

Go Fish. Catchy name, huh? Especially coming from someone that has a father more dedicated to fishing than anything else. I got a fly rod for my college graduation. 'nuff said.

Now, I'm a sucker which means I'm that guy feeding my dog under the table so she begs and it's my fault and blah, blah, blah. Hey, she's 12. She can do anything she wants in my opinion so party on. Problem is that fish and dogs don't go together so she basically napped while we dined on the patio. 3 courses to be exact.

The clams were awesome but they were also a meal. Once you start dipping in the broth you are in trouble. The big eye tuna and prawns that followed took me over the edge. Maybe next time I'll stick to some kumamoto oysters and the clams and call it a day.

Best part? Recognized our waiter from Cindy's other restaurant that works there once a week. Hi Jeremy! Go figure. Felt just like home...

Another Day of Wine Tasting

It's a rough job but someone's gotta do it.

That's right. Another day of wine tasting. This time I flew by the seat of my pants and picked places at random. Well, not totally at random. I have a looooong list of wineries to hit up so these were 4 I wanted to knock off. First up Sequoia Grove.

Named after the gorgeous trees surrounding the tasting room, Sequoia Grove is a winery located just off of highway 29. They're known for their cabs and I used to buy them often for corporate dinners and parties when I lived in New York City. They offer a white or red wine flight and I went for the red (big surprise). I was impressed at the syrah they made and only sold retail. It was tasty but I came for the cab and left with a 2004 Rutherford Bench Reserve cab.

One last thing: their staff knew their stuff and they were as nice as could be. I would certainly recommend this spot if you come into town.

Next stop was Heitz.

This is another winery that I knew for it's Cabernet but they surprised me too. I am trying really hard to build a comprehensive cellar. Not one just filled with cabs. And it's been tough because I love cabs. Anyway, I really went outside of my comfort zone and left this winery, that is known for cabs, and managed to take a port and their Chardonnay. Told you it was outside of my comfort zone. But their port wasn't too sweet and their chardonnay wasn't buttery and that's why I went for it. The nice man that shared the wines with me told me to serve the port with stinky cheese. I told him that would not be a problem...

By the way, Heitz has a free tasting which is rare around Napa Valley.

Ok, now for Frank Family Vineyards. This place has crazy buzz. I mean EVERYONE is talking about them so I had to check it out. Frank Family was started by Rich Frank, an old long-time Disney executive. He became interested in wines and met Koerner Rombauer who taught him the business. Rambauer is another one on the list but haven't made it there yet. He's done well by establishing a brand and a very well known Chardonnay.

But back to Frank Family. I was shocked at the tasting room. I mean I thought this place would be pretty swanky given he's responsible for Pretty Woman and all. I was wrong and I am so glad. It was an old school, unpretentious tasting room. You start with an awesome flight of sparkling wines. The Rouge was a hit which will go well over the holidays at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. But I made it home with their Sangiovese. Bravo. This was good stuff. Best part was that Rich himself was in the tasting room. Great to see the family hands-on.

So far, cellar building has been pretty fun. My boyfriend made the joke that I am choosing to do this while we are beyond broke but I can't help it. When in Rome...


Pope's Tomato Pie

Well, summer is in full force and that means it is Tomato season! In fact, they are $1 a pound at our grocery this week. So what better time to make a Tomato Pie. This recipe, that one of my dearest Atlanta friends gave me years ago, makes two pies and it is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day re-heated or cold!

Pope's Tomato Pie

2 deep dish pie crusts
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 large vidalia onion
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
fresh parmesan cheese
2 bags fresh spinach
1-2 yellow squash
bread crumbs ( I prefer Panko)
olive oil, salt, pepper and oregano

Pre-cook shells for 10 minutes at 400. Saute spinach and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped onions and saute until soft. Add squash and continue to saute until slightly tender. Add salt, pepper and oregano to taste.

Slice tomatoes in sandwich type circles. Remove pie crusts from oven and layer veggies, tomatoes and cheese and then top with bread crumbs and parmesan.

Bake for 350 for 30 minutes until golden brown. Yummy, enjoy.

Mustards Grill

It's embarrassing to say that I have never been to Mustards Grill considering it opened in 1983 and I was born and raised in Napa Valley. It's not like we had so many restaurants to choose from back then like we do now. But it's true and I'm willing to admit it.

Here I ago again tooting Cindy Pawlcyn's horn but I love this woman and she is our local star. This was her first restaurant after working at many that were not her own in Minnesota, Chicago and California. It also got rave reviews from the get-go. I have to say that there is no surprise there.

I sat at the bar on my day-off where a spunky local named Moe was my bartender and I ordered the Hunan Grilled Chicken with ginger-soy noodles, asian slaw and toasted sesame seeds for lunch. They are known for their famous Mongolian Pork Chop but that sounded more like dinner than lunch so I'll have to go back.

This place was packed about 5 minutes after the door opened at 11:30am. They have certainly built a great reputation and there were many, many regulars. No wonder. Cindy makes the best food in town.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Cantaloupe, Bocconcini, Prosciutto and Mint Salad

This has become a staple salad on my cookout menu this summer. I got this recipe from my sister and have made it 4 times since. It's easy, delicious and tiny brocconcini balls (small mozzarella) make the salad proportional and approachable.

Cantaloupe, Bocconcini, Prosciutto and Mint Salad

1. In a large bowl, combine 1 ripe cantaloupe, scooped into 1" balls with a melon baller (about 3 cups), 8 oz bocconcini (small fresh mozzarella balls) or fresh mozzarella cut into 1" cubes (about 2 cups), 2 to 3 thin slices ham or prosciutto, cut into strips, and 1 T fresh lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

2. Toss with 1/4 cup torn mint leaves, and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas

My sister's friends were kind enough to have us over for dinner the other day. Turns out they can cook. However, before the feast they gave us a very simple dish to snack on. I have been obsessed with sugar snap peas ever since. They're crisp, they're sweet and don't put a brick in your stomach. A great bite.

You can purchase sugar snap peas that have the ends snipped off and are ready for eating at any major grocery store. Otherwise, you should be able to find them in the produce isle where you can buy by the pound. They served their peas with a simple hummus for dipping.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Laura Zarubin's Mexican Hot Chocolate

Oh boy was this good. My sister used Mexican chocolate which is key because it has cinnamon in it.

Laura Zarubin's Mexican Hot Chocolate
This hot chocolate can be made ahead of time and reheated.
Serves 6.

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 cups whole milk
6 ounces dark chocolate, broken into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
6-12 large marshmallows (1-2 per cup of hot chocolate)

Dissolve the cocoa powder in 1 cup of the milk. Combine the mixture, the remaining milk, the chocolate and the sugar in a large saucepan. Stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted and thoroughly blended and the hot chocolate is heated through.Spear one or two marshmallows on the end of a long skewer. Place over an open fire or your stovetop and cook until golden brown.To serve, fill 6 mugs 3/4 full with the hot chocolate. Place a roasted marshmallow on top and serve warm.

From Laura Zarubin's cookbook - I am almost always hungry


Lucille & Justin's Ceviche Recipe

I've told you many times that my younger sister is a great cook so when my older sister had a birthday party for her husband last night she requested that Lucille make her famous recipe that she created with her new husband, Justin. When I asked her for the recipe, this is what she wrote:

"We learned how to make this ceviche when we were down in Mexico two hours north of Cabo San Lucas. We went fishing that day and caught a couple of big Mahi Mahi. We went home and decided to try to make ceviche since we had tried some at a restaurant in San Francisco called Fresca - a Peruvian place."

Lucille & Justin's Ceviche Recipe
1.5 lbs mahi mahi or halibut
1 white onion (purple onion or yellow onion is NOT as good)
2.5 limes - Mexican limes are even better if you can find them, but you need more like 3-4 limes since they are smaller
1/2 cup cilantro - no stems, leaves only
1-3 avacados - you can either use one avacado just as a garnish on top, or else you can mix in 3 avocados at the very end right before you serve the ceviche.

Cut the fish into 3/4" cubes. Squeeze the limes juice and add to the fish. Chop up the onion into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces. You don't want to cut the onions too small or you don't get the crunch that you need to add texture to the dish. Add the onions to the bowl and finally add the cilantro. Let this cure in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Be sure to taste the food as you go so you can learn what the right combination is. Sometimes you can add too much lime, sometimes you need to add more onion and cilantro. It's a real balance that just takes practice and we are still working on perfecting it!

You can make this same dish with shrimp, scallops, squid, but I like the mahi mahi or halibut the best.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pablo's Pollo Loco (a.k.a.chicken and bricks)

I swear that I am not contracted to write for Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, it's just that I LOVE their food so much and love the story of how she and her two right-hand men built their business. I had heard that Pablo's Pollo Loco was awesome and one of their best sellers. Finally, I ordered it and realized why. What surprisingly was the best part was the stuffed piquillo pepper. Yum.

Pablo's Pollo Loco
Serves 8-10

2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless chicken breasts with skin
2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless chicken thighs with skin
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons Spanish smoked paprika
Zest from 2 limes then cut limes into wedges
1/3 cup olive oil + more for pan
1/2 cup minced cilantro
2 jalapeno chiles, stems removed, minced with seeds

Surprise ingredient: 2 bricks wrapped in foil
Cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs (optional garnish)

Instructions: Rinse chicken and place in large bowl. Use poultry shears to cut off any excess fat.
Stir together the chile powder, sugar, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and lime zest. Rub the dry marinade over all surfaces of the chicken, heavier on the skin side. Drizzle 1/3 cup olive oil over all the chicken and layer pieces with the minced cilantro, jalapeno and lime wedges. Marinate in refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Heat two 10-inch heavy, ovenproof skillets over medium heat on top of the stove. When hot, add 2 teaspoons oil to each pan. Place chicken in the pans, skin-side down.

Place one foil-wrapped brick on top of the chicken in each skillet. The brick will not completely cover the chicken. It's used more as a weight to promote even cooking and to crisp up the skin. Cook over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes. When chicken is golden brown on bottom, remove brick using pot holders, and turn chicken over. Place bricks back on top of chicken. Place skillets in the oven and roast for 7 minutes more for boneless breasts and 15 minutes more for boneless thighs.

Remove chicken from oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 160°; the temperature will continue to rise as it rests. Use oven mitt and potholder to remove bricks and place in sink as they will be very, very hot.

Place chicken on platter, garnishing with something pretty like cherry tomatoes and sprigs of cilantro, if desired.

Tra Vigne

There is no doubt that Tra Vigne is a Napa Valley institution. Michael Chiarello opened the restaurant in the late 80's and created a menu influenced by the cuisine of his family's native Calabria and local seasonal ingredients from the valley. You can often spot Michael in town, especially for morning coffee at the Napa Valley Roasting Company. And you'll recognize him since you've probably seen him on his cooking show on Food Network.
Tra Vigne is crawling with vintners, tourists and locals. It's a true mix of clientele and most are loyal patrons. These are just some of the dishes we ordered and all of us we delighted. Delicious figs on pizza? Check. Roasted garlic to spread on toasted bread? Yup. Ahi tuna? Someone's gotta take one for the team...


Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

This week, I decided to be a tourist in my own town. Through working at Duckhorn this summer I have learned a lot about wine and I wanted to get out and learn more. Who better to do this with than my Step Dad that's been in the wine business for over 35 years.

First stop? Paraduxx, Duckhorn's sister winery in the valley. Paraduxx makes a rose, and red wine blends. When we pour Paraduxx it usually sells. It's a great table wine that you can buy retail around $48. It's not made for major cellaring so it's perfect to have around the house for your next dinner party. Each year yields a different blend and I liked the '04 and '05 best. I made it home with a bottle of the '04.

The most surprising part of my visit was trying their rose. Now rose is SO trendy and it is usually sweet so both are big stikes for me. Their rose was nice and crisp and reminded me of the characteristics that I love so much in our Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc. Bravo.
Next stop? Josheph Phelps. I have been a longtime fan of Phelps and often used to purchase his wines when I lived in the mid west and east coast. Especially if I could expense it with my old corporate Amex that I miss so much. Walking up to the winery, Mr. Phelps greeted us and asked about my sister and her recent wedding. It was a nice chat and then we began our tasting.

Phelps has been making wines since 1974. Their vineyards are located just off the Silverado Trail in what seems as their own nook in the valley. Rightfully so. It is quite beautiful as you see below. We began with their white wines, syrah and others but Mike and I came for the Insignia and cabernets. Insignia is their heavy hitting red wine blend that starts at a little over $200 retail. Boom! There goes your wallet. I made it home with a bottle of '05 cab that I will need to hold on to for several years before enjoying although we both thought it was pretty approachable when we tried it.
Now it's off to Plumpjack. Plumpjack is a group that has a collection of lifestyle businesses in food, wine and hospitality. My kind of company. I wanted to scope them out because I am interested in learning more about potential opportunities within the company and I thought I should do a little homework. After all, my day of wine tasting was work and research for jobs and the blog...right?

Walking in we recognized a friend of my sisters that recognized Mike and manages Plumpjack Winery's sales and marketing. He took a break from the desk and walked us through our tasting. He included a rare treat...a taste of the '06 estate cabernet that he grabbed from the bottling line. Talk about good timing! I made it home with a bottle of 2006 estate merlot and an invite for the opening of their new Howell Mountian winery, Cade, in August.

Last stop was Elyse. This was Mike's pick and I had heard a lot about it. But before we got there, we passed about 10 highway patrol cars and a presidential motorcade. Turns out George W was in town (yawn).

Elyse is a small family-run winery located between Napa and Yountville. Their tasting room is unpretentious and small. It reminded me very much of the one my father had when I was a child. Elyse, named after their daughter, makes very interesting blends but is mostly rooted in its Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. Nancy Coursen greeted us and was very kind to share a bottle of their new Howell Mountain Cabernet that they had yet to release. It was wonderful but unfortunately not for sale. I came home with an '06 Zinfandel instead.

All in all, wine tasting was a blast. And by going with Michael I learned a lot. It was great to be a tourist in my own town and I plan on continuing my education and building my small cellar.


Avocado Butter

At this time of year it is all about the grill. So I am always looking for ways to spruce up any grilled meat. While flipping through a magazine that someone picked up for me at the grocery store check out line called Grill It, I came across a recipe for Avocado Butter. I decided to give it a try. After all, who doesn't love avocados? Not only was this quick to pull together, it was very tasty.

Avocado Butter
Halve, pit, peel, and chop 1 ripe avocado. In a medium bowl combine chopped avocado, 1/4 butter softened, 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chervil or parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Using a fork, gently mash ingredients together and leave somewhat chunky. Spoon mixture in small bowl and chill. Chill until almost firm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rangpur Limes

Our first neighbor visitors in our new home came and brought us Rangpur Limes from their tree. My husband and I had never seen an orange colored lime, let alone tasted one so we were so excited about this discovery.

Rangpurs, also known as lemanderins, are a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the lemon. It is a citrus fruit with a very acidic taste and an orange peel and flesh. They are amazing in mojitos, margaritas and any and all frou frou drinks.

If you find them, give them a try!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pecan Shortbread Squares

These were a big hit at my bbq the other night. Dip them in melted chocolate or drizzle a little on top. This is another recipe from Barefoot Contessa.

Crust: 1 1/4 pounds unsalted butter, room temperature 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3 extra-large eggs 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping: 1 pound unsalted butter 1 cup good honey 3 cups light brown sugar, packed 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1 teaspoon grated orange zest 1/4 cup heavy cream 2 pounds pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, beat the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, until light, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs and the vanilla and mix well. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix the dry ingredients into the batter with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Press the dough evenly into an ungreased 18 by 12 by 1-inch baking sheet, making an edge around the outside. It will be very sticky; sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly with flour. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set but not browned. Allow to cool.

For the topping, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, and zests in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted, using a wooden spoon to stir. Raise the heat and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and pecans. Pour over the crust, trying not to get the filling between the crust and the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold. Cut into bars and serve.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Arugula and Roasted Red Pepper Wrapped in Prosciutto

For the 2nd half of the 4th of July, my family gathered at my mom's house. My mother's plan was to make chili dogs and serve with potato chips. Well, when all of her kids were in the kitchen sharpening knives, using the mixer, the Cuisinart and every other contraption she had in the kitchen she got upset. I guess she forgot that she raised all her children to be good cooks and there was no way that we were going to have a night with just chili dogs and chips. Instead of a casual night dining al fresco on the patio, the kids spent the night in the kitchen whipping up some gourmet finger foods.

One of my contributions was a little weak in concept since I used some left overs from the fried mozzarella salad from a couple days ago. However, I used a secret weapon that ended up making this weak recipe into a star. The trick? I used Bistro Blends Heirloom Balsamic Vinegar. Bistro Blends has a stand at the farmer's market in St. Helena and for $18 bucks you can get your hands on some addictive stuff. It's barrel-aged and thick and rich. Forget that cheap stuff at the store. This stuff will make your dish hands-down.

Arugula and Roasted Red Pepper Wrapped in Prosciutto
1 bunch arugula
6 slices, 3 inch x 1/2, roasted red pepper
6 slices of prosciutto
Good balsamic vinegar

Layer left hand side of prosciutto slice with 4-5 leaves of arugula, steams chopped off. Place red pepper slice on top. Roll from left to right. Repeat for remaining amount. Drizzle with balsamic and season with pepper.


Green Olive and Goat Cheese Crostinis

My older sister worships olives. And pickles while we are at it. She's had three children and each pregnancy brought a host of cravings that included at least these two ingredients every time. For me this is nasty. I have never enjoyed pickles OR olives. Ever. But when she asked me to make this for her (I have basically assumed the private chef role for my family in Napa since I moved) I obliged. But there was one problem: how would I know if this tasted any good if I have never really made anything with either of these two ingredients before?

The recipe calls for thyme and that just didn't make since to me so I subbed for basil and doubled the garlic since I have found out that garlic is a big time ingredient here in CA. At the end of the day, my sister didn't care for this dish too much. Feedback was that there was too much 'orange zest', 'garlic' and 'olives were too minced'. Oh well.

Play with this recipe and see if you can make it work for you. Maybe thyme is best. Who knows...

Green Olive and Goat Cheese Crostinis
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup (lightly packed) chopped pitted imported brine-cured green olives
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic chives or 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
16 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices baguette
1 6-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese(cut into 16 rounds)
Servings: Makes 16

Toast fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally, about 1 minute. Transfer seeds to medium bowl. Add olives, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic chives, orange juice, thyme, and orange peel to bowl and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush both sides of bread slices with oil. Grill on 1 side until golden, about 1 minute. Turn bread over; immediately top each slice with 1 cheese round. Grill until bottoms are golden and cheese softens slightly, about 1 minute.

Transfer crostini to platter. Spoon olive mixture over and sprinkle with pepper.

Ingredient tip: Garlic chives, also known as Chinese chives, can be found at Asian markets.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hummus with Jicama Sticks

As you may have read in earlier posts, I've been making a lot of Ina Garten's recipes from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook lately. Here is the recipe for her hummus. Instead of using endives, which I think kids and some adults find too bitter, I cut up some jicama sticks and sprinkled them with paprika.

2 cups canned chick-peas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water (or liquid from the chickpeas)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until hummus is coarsely pureed.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

4th of July Fiesta

Being the food enthusiast that I am, I double booked myself on one of America's favorite holidays for gluttony. First stop was a visit to the Garvey's house for their annual fiesta that they throw at their gorgeous home just a stones throw from their lovely winery, Flora Springs. I am grateful to have known the Garvey's since I was a kid. However, our relationship doubled when my best friend from childhood married their son. Lindsay (pictured with me above) and I have been best friends since birth. In fact, this blog was her idea. So when she invited me over for this culinary delight I accepted in a spilt-second.

Now, I don't have any of the recipes as this event was catered by a local duo that did a fantastic job but I will share a trick that is too good to keep to myself. Ready? They dip the corn tortillas in the oil they drain from the rendered meat. How awesome is that? I told them straight up I was stealing that move even if it means that it will add 500 more calories to my meal. You don't eat Mexican food if you're on a diet anyway...


Friday, July 4, 2008

Cindy's Supper Club

This week I went to Cindy's Supper Club in town with my step dad and brother in law. I had heard about this when I went for an after work beer and Oysters Pablo. Unlike the traditional supper club that you may be familiar with where everyone sits at a communal table and the chef presents the dishes and talks about its origin and how they are prepared, this club just offers a prefix menu for $40 that explores a different cuisine each week.

This particular week explored the New England Shore and I brought a flight of wines from Duckhorn to pair with each course. The mussels and the sweet corn were the highlights. Next week we'll be visiting France follwed by the American South and Spain...


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Low and Slow

Hosting a BBQ for the 4th or anytime this summer? Want to actually have fun at your own party? I looked to find an easy recipe that will allow you to visit with your guests instead of turning ribs every 10 minutes. Looks like Larry has it figured out...

Larry's Best Baby Back Ribs
2 racks baby back ribs1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
5 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups catsup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbs. spicy mustard w/horseradish
2 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Melt butter in 2 quart pot. Add onions and garlic. Cook over low heat until onions are soft.
Stir in remainder of ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely.

Cut each rib rack in half. Place in tins and pour a liberal amount of BBQ Sauce over ribs. Cover with tin foil and place in preheated 190°F oven for 9 hours. (Yes, 9 hours!)

Remove from oven. Discard drippings or save for other use. Transfer ribs to grill or place under broiler for about 10 minutes. May be refrigerated and grilled at later time. Serve with extra BBQ sauce. Enjoy!

Fried Mozzarella with Arugula and Prosciutto

I made this for a weeknight dinner for 3 people. Instead of the anchovy paste and red wine vinaigrette I used the balsamic based vinaigrette that I put on everything and it tasted great. I also rubbed some olive oil and garlic on some baguette slices and made some crostinis to serve with the dish.

Fried Mozzarella with Arugula and Prosciutto

2 bunches arugula (3/4 pound total), coarse stems discarded
5 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (8 to 12 slices)
1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, rinsed and torn into large pieces
1/3 cup brine-cured black olives
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large egg whites
1 cup fine dry bread crumbs
About 2 cups olive oil for frying 1 pound salted fresh mozzarella, cut into 4 thick slices (without rounded ends)
Divide arugula into 8 small bunches and loosely wrap each with 1 or 2 slices prosciutto. Divide among 4 plates with roasted peppers, olives, and onion.
Whisk together vinegar, anchovy, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Whisk in extra-virgin oil.

Whisk egg whites with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Put bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Double-coat each slice of cheese by dipping in egg mixture, then crumbs, and repeating. Transfer to a plate.

Heat 1/2 inch olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry coated mozzarella, turning carefully once or twice, until golden and cheese starts to melt but still retains its shape, about 2 minutes total. Drain briefly on paper towels, then transfer to plates.
Drizzle everything with vinaigrette.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Garlic Fries

I went to the Cubs vs. Giants game last night at AT&T stadium in downtown San Francisco (BTW we killed the Giants). I had never been to the field before but had seen pictures and knew it was by the water and quite beautiful. What everyone forgot to tell me was how amazing the food was! Do you know that they have sushi there in addition to one of the spiciest bloody mary's I have ever had in my life? No to mention a wine bar and a line around the block for the garlic fries. And that's really what this post is about.

When you walk into AT&T field all you smell is garlic. It's impossible NOT to smell it. The wait in line is worth it. If you think the portion below sounds like a lot of garlic you are right. Don't skim down. If anything add more. It's quite the indulgence.

Garlic Fries
oil for frying (peanut or vegetable)
4 Russet potatoes or 12 oz bag of frozen pre cut fries
1/2 cup fresh minced garlic
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 tblsp black pepper
1 tblsp dried thyme
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil

Cut the washed potatoes into 1/2 inch to 3/8 inch thick strips (if using a French mandolin set it to its thickest setting). Heat the oil in a cast iron pot or any heavy duty pot to 360 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan then add the minced garlic for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and add to a mixing bowl with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Mix well.

The potatoes must be fried three times for best results. In batches, if necessary, place the raw fries into the oil for 90 seconds. Remove and let drain. Drop fries again for another 90 seconds. Remove and let drain. Drop fries in again this time for 60 seconds or until crisp and golden brown.

While the fries are still warm toss them with the garlic seasoning.