Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rosemary, Blue Cheese and Grape Flatbread

Harvest is almost over in California's Wine Country and that means it's time to party. Each winery usually hosts its own Harvest or 'Crush' party each year. This may involve skeet shooting, grape stomping, keg stands or ritzy dinners in front of large fountains with a big band. They all vary.

A great way to salute our friend, the grape, before it heads into fermentation to convert into tasty wine, try this flatbread recipe I ripped out of this month's Food and Wine. This recipe can be a piece of cake if you buy frozen crusts from Trader Joe's. If you can't get your hands on some of the pre-made stuff then roll up your sleeves and get involved!

Rosemary, Blue Cheese and Grape Flatbread

active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound red grapes (1 1/2 cups)
Coarse sea salt
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon snipped chives
  1. In a large bowl, whisk the yeast and sugar with 1/4 cup of the flour. Stir in 1/4 cup of the warm water and let stand until slightly foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the rosemary, fine salt, pepper and the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour and 1/2 cup of water; stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a draft-free spot until billowy and doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°. Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven, and preheat for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press and stretch the dough into a 13-inch round, then transfer to a lightly floured pizza peel. Press the grapes into the dough and sprinkle with sea salt.
  4. Slide the flatbread onto the hot stone and bake for about 12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the grapes have begun to release some of their juices. Sprinkle the blue cheese on top and bake for about 2 minutes longer, until the cheese melts. Slide the flatbread onto a work surface and drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the chives. Cut into wedges and serve.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Press Club

Attention San Francisco: Come over to Press Club at the 4 Seasons Hotel ASAP!

Press Club is the new urban tasting room that showcases small plates, a private room and 8 world-class wineries. Order a wine flight with a tasting trio, cheese plate or charcuterie spread. Taste and learn about wines ranging from a late harvest Zinfandel from Fritz to a Wild Yeast Chardonnay from Miner Family Vineyards to a Proprietary Bordeaux Blend from Pahlmeyer. Make sure to purchase the wines you love and bring them home.

Best part? I work weekends. Come in and say hi.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Caramel-Pear Butter

Last night I showed up empty-handed for a dinner party. Shame on me. I was running behind, paranoid about traffic and just couldn't make it to the nearest wine shop. The guilt stayed with me overnight and I woke up brainstorming a jarring project so I'd have hostess gifts on-hand and ready for deployment.

Pear butter is absolutely delicious on an English muffin in the morning or on French toast. The last jar in my fridge lasted about week thanks to Drew. He pounded it. With this recipe, I'll never go empty-handed to a dinner party again. Maybe they'll even invite me back.

Caramel-Pear Butter
by Jill Silverman Hough
Yield: Makes about eight 1/2 -pint jars

1/4 cup apple juice
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
7 pounds ripe Bartlett pears
3 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

Combine apple juice and 4 tablespoons lemon juice in heavy large deep pot. Peel, core, and cut pears, 1 at a time, into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces; mix pears into juice mixture in pot as soon as pears are cut, to prevent browning. Cook over medium heat until pears release enough juice for mixture to boil, stirring frequently, about 16 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until pears are very tender, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes (mixture will splatter). Remove pot from heat.

Press pear mixture through fine plate of food mill into large bowl. Return pear puree to same pot. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced to 8 cups, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent scorching, about 1 hour. Ladle pear butter into 8 hot clean 1/2-pint glass canning jars, leaving 1/4-inch space at top of jars. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 10 minutes. Cool completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.

Test Kitchen tip:
Stir the mixture with a flat-bottomed spatula or spoon to prevent the pear butter from scorching.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

When my sister returned from a weekend home in Napa Valley, she had a plastic bag filled with garden goodies. Most notable was the batch of tomatillos. Her husband handed them to me and said 'Your Mom said you would know what to do with these". She was right. I made a tomatillo and cilantro sauce for some killer chicken enchiladas the next night.

Adding sour cream to the filling is key so don't skip or skimp this step. It makes the mixture very creamy and luscious. Next time, I am going to add green chilies to the mixture. Also, I broiled my chicken 9 minutes a side and shredded instead of boiled. I think seasoning and broiling the meat adds more texture and flavor. Other than that, this recipe is golden.

Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
1 1/4 lb Fresh tomatillos
2 Jalapeno peppers
1 sm Onion peeled and finely -chopped
3 md Garlic clove -peeled and minced
1 tb Vegetable oil
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 c Low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 ts Salt

2 Whole chicken breasts -boneless and skinless
2 tb Minced onion
1/3 c Sour cream
1/4 ts Salt
1/3 c Vegetable oil
1 c Sharp cheddar cheese -coarsely grated
1/2 c Crumbled asiago cheese -or substitute additional cheddar or jack cheese

Directions:1. TO MAKE THE SAUCE.Husk and wash the tomatillos. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the tomatillos and jalapeno peppers and time for 10 minutes. Drain and remove the stem ends of the peppers. Put the tomatillos, peppers, cilantro, onion and garlic in a food processor and process to a coarse puree.2. In a large pan heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the vegetable puree and simmer 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and salt; simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. 3.

TO MAKE THE ENCHILADAS. Place the chicken in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring just to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the water and cool slightly. Shred the chicken and set aside. 4. Combine the cooled, shredded chicken with the minced onion, sour cream, and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup of the tomatillo sauce. Set aside.5. In a 9- to 10-inch frying pan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Put 1 tortilla at a time in the hot oil and fry about 30 seconds on each side. Drain on paper towels. Cool slightly.6. Spread a little of the sauce in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon some of the filling down the center of each tortilla and roll. Place in the baking dish; it will be a tight fit. Spoon the sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with the cheddar and asiago cheeses. 7. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Belgian Tart with Aged Goat Cheese

Getting any of my food magazines in the mail is like Christmas day a couple times a month. Today I took a break from my current job search to see what the folks at Bon Appetite have to say this month. I came across an article by Molly Wizenberg titled "Fixing a Leek", curled up on my sister's couch and dug in.

My Dad, who calls leeks "the poor man's asparagus", cooks with these all the time. The reason for that of course is my family's roots in French cuisine. However, Ms. Wizenberg isn't as familiar with them and was very surprised on a recent trip to Belgium of how often she saw leeks in European shoppers' baskets and how prominently displayed they were in local markets.

It's true. Americans don't know what to do with leeks and the writer is quick to point that out. In fact, 2 out of 3 times I buy them at the grocery store I have to tell the young clerk what they are so they can proceed to look up the code. So next time you go to the market don't be so afraid of that vegetable that looks like an over-sized green onion. It's creamy, delicious, pairs really well with fish and can be used in the wonderful goat cheese tart showcased below.

Belgian Tart with Aged Goat Cheese


4 tablespoons (or more) ice water
3/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter


1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup crumbled aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron), rind trimmed
1 1/2 cups Leek Confit



Combine 4 tablespoons ice water and cider vinegar in small bowl. Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, slowly add water-vinegar mixture, processing until moist clumps form. If dough seems dry, add ice water by teaspoonfuls.

Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Allow dough to soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Roll dough out on lightly floured work surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Press dough onto bottom and up sides. Fold in overhang and press to extend dough 1/2 inch above sides of pan. Line pan with foil and dried beans or pie weights. Bake until dough looks dry and set, about 30 minutes. Remove foil and beans and continue to bake until crust is pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove from oven and cool while preparing filling.


Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over bottom of warm crust; spread leek confit over and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Pour milk mixture over. Bake until filling has puffed, is golden in spots, and center looks set, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool slightly. Remove pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Fresh Artichoke and White Bean Crostini

I know this looks like a lot of ingredients for a tiny crostini but you should have most of these laying around and if you don't have the exact cheeses listed in the recipe go ahead and improvise. I should name my next blog Everything is Better with Cheese.

Crostinis have great texture and white beans with a little salt and lemon could be one of my favorite snacks. If you don't want to go through the labor of carving out fresh artichoke hearts just use the canned or jarred ones. I like to drain them and give them a quick rinse so they are not so oily. This cuts prep time and makes the recipe more accessible. Maybe an after work bite with a nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc?

Fresh Artichokes and White Bean Crostini


4 artichokes, halved lengthwise, tops and stems trimmed, center leaves removed, chokes scraped out
6 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 large fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup drained rinsed canned cannellini (white kidney beans)
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup (packed) finely chopped fresh basil plus whole leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
8 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick slices pain rustique or other flat country bread
Lemon wedges


Bring artichokes, 6 cups broth, and next 5 ingredients to boil in large saucepan, adding more broth if necessary to cover. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until artichoke hearts are very tender, about 50 minutes. Chill artichokes in broth mixture, uncovered, until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Remove artichokes from broth; drain. Pull off leaves. Cut hearts into 1/3-inch cubes; place in large bowl. Mix beans, cheese, 1/4 cup chopped basil, and 2 tablespoons oil into hearts. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange bread on rimmed baking sheet. Brush with oil. Bake until beginning to crisp, about 8 minutes.

Spoon artichoke topping onto bread. Squeeze lemon juice over; top with basil leaf.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chicken Piccata Like Dad Used to Make

Two weeks before my freshman year of high school (circa the 90's for anyone that is curious) I moved from California to the great city of Chicago to live with my father. Now, my Dad doesn't mess around. Everyone in my family can cook to a significant extent but my father is really the pace car. Have you ever come home from volleyball practice and been offered homemade lobster bisque and homemade fudge (his specialty) for dessert? I didn't think so. And, yes, I know I am VERY lucky.

When I left Chicago to go the University of Colorado at Boulder, I no longer had the great chefs, that are my Mom and Dad, cooking for me anymore. That's when I decided to give the kitchen a shot for myself and the rest is history.

I'm a little homesick. My boyfriend and I just moved to San Francisco 4 days ago and left all of our friends and my father behind in Chicago. My father used to make Chicken Piccata quite a bit when we lived together and it's one of the first recipes he taught me to make on my own via the phone my sophomore year of college..."Hey Dad, how do you make that chicken with all that lemon and butter?"

There is something gratifying about filleting chicken breasts and then beating them to a pulp with a meat tenderizer. If you don't have one, no worries. Just throw plastic wrap over the breast and get creative. I've used everything from a book to a hammer to my fist.

By the way, Happy 65th birthday, Dad. We'll be thinking of you on Monday.

Chicken Piccata
2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup brined capers, rinsed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add 2 pieces of chicken and cook for 3 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate. Melt 2 more tablespoons butter and add another 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add the other 2 pieces of chicken and brown both sides in same manner. Remove pan from heat and add chicken to the plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Return to stove and bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning. Return all the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pho Bo

Pho (pronounced 'fuh') is a classic Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is delightful, especially on a foggy night like the one we we are having in San Francisco today. Pho is traditionally made with beef in a beef broth however you can substitute chicken or prawns with a chicken or seafood stock broth instead. The best part about this soup is the multiple garnishes that you can choose from and add to your liking. Choose from cilantro, bean sprouts, green onions, Thai basil and lime wedges. Sauces range from (sweet) housin to my uber favorite (spicy/hot) Sriracha.

Here's a take on the recipe by our friends at Gourmet.

Pho Bo (Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup)

6 cups beef broth
1 (1/4-inch thick) slice ginger
2 whole star anise*
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 pound piece boneless beef sirloin, trimmed of any fat
3 ounces dried flat rice noodles*
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce*
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1/8 cup minced scallions
1/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs, washed and finely chopped
1 small thin fresh red or green Asian chilie, sliced very thin
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Lime wedges for garnish
*Available at Asian Markets

In a 2 quart saucepan bring broth, ginger, star anise, and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. With a very sharp knife cut sirloin across the grain into very thin slices. In a large bowl soak noodles in hot water to cover 15 minutes, or until softened and pliable. While noodles are soaking, bring a kettle of salted water to a boil for noodles. Drain noodles in a colander and cook in boiling water, stirring 45 seconds, or until tender. Drain noodles in a colander. Set aside.

Strain broth into saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in fish sauce, salt and pepper. Add sirloin and sprouts and cook 30 to 45 seconds, or until sirloin changes color. Skim any froth from soup. To serve, divide noodles into 4 bowls. Ladle soup over noodles. Sprinkle scallion greens, cilantro, chilies and basil over soup and serve with lime wedges


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Grilled Tuna with Basil Butter and Fresh Tomato Sauce

Now we all know that I am not a fish person but look at this dish! Who doesn't love any kind of flavored or textured butters? Can't you just imagine all those roasted tomatoes topped with fresh basil butter on that great cut of mouth-watering tuna? I'm sorry, but I can begin to like fish with a recipe like this.

It's been several days since my last post and I am sorry Dear Reader. However, tomorrow we are finally en route to San Francisco where I will begin yet another culinary adventure! First stop? The store to pick up some tuna to cook this Cooking Light recipe for my sister, her husband and my fish-loving boyfriend. A treat for all!

Grilled Tuna with Basil Butter and Fresh Tomato Sauce

Basil Butter:

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced


2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks (about 1 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray
4 basil leaves (optional)

Prepare grill or broiler.

To prepare basil butter, combine first 5 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Set aside.

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and 2 garlic cloves; sauté 3 minutes. Add tomatoes; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in wine, capers, vinegar, and sugar; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in parsley. Set aside.

To prepare tuna, sprinkle tuna with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place tuna on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with sauce and basil butter. Garnish with basil leaves, if desired.