Ingredient: kosher salt

Old Friends (Cookbooks)

I am in a purging mood! We recently did some remodel work on our house. You know how that goes and how much packing and unpacking I was doing, almost, every day. It was a good opportunity to get rid or donate “stuff” we weren’t really using anymore.

A good friend pointed out to me that I have cookbooks, literally, in every room in my house. Some of you might put the old People Magazine in the bathroom, for light reading, I put cookbooks! So, when this same friend suggested I make a library of cookbooks, in my office, I was all in. Of course, that meant hours of deciding which would stay and which would go. It also meant getting reacquainted with some of my older “friends” and saying goodbye to the friends you didn’t really keep in touch with.

My new library!

So, my task began. The first things that went were the cookbooks, put together by my kids elementary or pre-schools. I asked myself were there any recipes in them that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and ask for if I really wanted them. I did go through those books just to make sure. The next group to go were the “souvenir” books. I bought cookbooks at restaurants as I traveled across the country and some were really good. Others, I bought because I loved the meal and really believed I would recreate it at home. Well, not so much. And so, the purging project went.

I finally had whittled it down to one pile of books that I really wanted to go through and spend some time with. I’m so glad I did. There were some great finds. One of the books I saved is “Raising the Salad Bar”, by  Catherine Walthers. I initially bought this book in 2010, after a friend used it more than once, during my week-long visit to her summer home. I admit I was skeptical when I heard it was a salad cookbook, but each salad was more memorable than the last.

Thumbing through this book was like reminiscing with an old friend.  The pictures were beautiful, and the recipes reminded me of a glorious summer on Cape Cod. I love the way Catherine has organized the recipes so that the reader learns to think about salads more openly. Each salad has a dressing attached that brilliantly balances the fat and acid with your fresh greens and grains. Additionally, she has a whole section on dressings.

It has been so hot here in L.A. that I made the Couscous Salad with Lemon-Soaked Grilled Chicken for dinner, last week.  It was perfect! Fresh and lemony with just the right amount of smoky grill flavor. My family loves lemon but with a little sweeter undertone than this recipe originally gave. I added a little brown sugar to the “marinade”. I also added a little bit of chopped mint at the end to add some brightness. And by the way, go for the asiago cheese. It has a similar flavor profile to Parmigiano but with an added smokiness.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and it reminds you to spend some time with old friends and even the new treasures.

Couscous Salad with Lemon-Soaked Grilled Chicken
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Adapted from Catherine Walthers Raising the Salad Bar.
Servings
6 main course
Servings
6 main course
Couscous Salad with Lemon-Soaked Grilled Chicken
Print Recipe
Adapted from Catherine Walthers Raising the Salad Bar.
Servings
6 main course
Servings
6 main course
Ingredients
Chicken
Couscous
Servings: main course
Instructions
Chicken
  1. In a large bowl (I use Ziploc bags) toss chicken with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, lemon juice and reserved rinds.
  2. Let marinade for at least 2 hours in refrigerator, When ready to use remove from marinade and discard marinade and rinds.
  3. Preheat grill to high heat. Grill chicken for 7 minutes first side. Remember to not move chicken to get a nice caramelized crust. Turn chicken over and cook for 5 more minutes.
Couscous
  1. Cook couscous in chicken broth according to package instructions. Test a little early. You want the couscous to be al dente. Remove from heat and drain. Leave some of the liquid (broth) in the pan and immediately add onions. Cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spinach to pan and toss, lightly, over heat. Add olive oil and toss together. Occasionally toss couscous to cool.
  2. When couscous is cooler, add garlic, parsley, lemon juice and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add salt if needed.
  3. To serve, plate spinach then couscous and top with chicken. Sprinkle asiago cheese over top and a sprinkling of more fresh parsley. Garnish with sliced lemons or lemon zest.
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Fourth of July Caprese Salads

I’m baaaaaack! I have been feverishly working on my first cookbook, Cake for Breakfast. It’s great and I know you are going to love it.  I thought maybe writing it was the hard part, but now I’m looking for an agent. This is hard. It’s a leap of faith that someone can really see who you are and hear your voice from a flat piece of paper. Once the right agent and I find each other, I will let you know when the book is coming out.

In the meantime, it’s almost July fourth and you’re probably looking for something “theme like” to serve or take to a party. I’m simply arranging a tray in the shape of an American flag using raspberries, white chocolate covered pretzels and a bowl of blueberries.  It’s super easy. Just cover it with some plastic wrap and it’s totally portable.

I know it’s kitschy, but I like the idea of doing a red, white and blue item. This year my head is in a farm to table place, so I started playing with the idea of a spiralized veggie pasta salad. I stumbled on the blue, so I just kept brainstorming. I think I have come up with a great idea… Red, White, and Blue Caprese Salad.

What I love is that you can do a lot of customization on this yourself. I’m doing burrata, tomatoes and a savory blueberry sauce. You could do strawberries, a vanilla meringue, and a sweet blueberry sauce or mix it up with the strawberries and a slice of mozzarella. You’ve got a lot of options.

For serving or taking, just stack them on a platter.  You can drizzle the sauce and then have some extra on the side. You can serve them on crostini or just as the stacks.

Have a safe and tasty Fourth of July!

Fourth of July Caprese Salads
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Servings
8 individuals
Servings
8 individuals
Fourth of July Caprese Salads
Print Recipe
Servings
8 individuals
Servings
8 individuals
Ingredients
Servings: individuals
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil. Cook the shallot until just transparent.
  2. Add the bluberries, vinegar, sugar and thyme. Stir together and add salt & pepper.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. Mash the blueberries a little bit when stirring. Let cool.
  4. While the sauce is cooling slice the tomatoes in 1/8" slices. Take the burrata by 2 Tbs. pinches and stack on tomatoes. Sprinkle with a nice finishing salt like fleur de sel or maldon.
  5. Drizzle cooled sauce over stacks. I like to use a white platter.
  6. Serve as is or with toasted crostini. Enjoy!
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Grandmother’s Fudgy Frosted Brownies

Oh, my Grandmother’s brownies! I remember and crave them still. She never made any secret about using a box mix for the brownies. I vaguely remember a Betty Crocker box. But she always made this frosting. It was more like fudge, but she wouldn’t put fudge on a brownie, or would she?

The frosting was thick and chocolatey. It had a graininess that let you know how much sugar was in the frosting, but it was so good. The whole brownie was sweet yet not cloying. My Grandmother always put nuts in her brownies., usually walnuts or pecans. I know that cooks are hesitant with nuts these days. I say give nuts a chance!

I tried many “southern” fudge frosting recipes and none matched my grandmother’s. So, I went to a good old-fashioned fudge recipe and changed it up a little.

It’s not too late for a quick Valentine’s Day bake so quickly run to the store and get your ingredients and get to it!

Follow the directions on the box for your brownies. While they are baking get started on your frosting. If you can pour the frosting over the brownies when they come out of the oven its great!

 


Grandmother's Fudgy Frosted Brownies
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Grandmother's Fudgy Frosted Brownies
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar, milk, and butter in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Let boil for 4 minutes, while constantly stirring.
  3. Remove from heat and add in chocolate chips, salt and vanilla.
  4. Stir until chocolate has melted and it is smooth.
  5. Pour over brownies and let set-up for 2 hours. You can refrigetrate them, but it is optional. Let them cool completely before cutting.
  6. Cut into 24 brownies and serve.
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Try Something New -Homemade Pasta Edition!

In case you haven’t heard it’s been raining here in California, A LOT! So it was a great weekend to stay home and make all sorts of comfort food. It doesn’t get more comfortable than homemade pasta.

I love that you and I both probably have everything we need to make pasta, already, in our kitchens. Are you ready for the long list; Flour, salt, eggs, water and olive oil. I have a hand cranked pasta roller, but you really don’t need it. Pasta has been made for centuries, certainly long before standing electric mixers were adding attachments and even before my hand-cranked roller. If you have a wooden roller pin and a knife you can make your own pasta.

Keep in mind you can search for basic pasta recipes and find dozens of variations. Start with mine but if it s not a good fit, you can play around. Add more water; use just all-purpose flour, more oil (not too much). I did make mine in a standing mixer, with a dough hook; you can do everything by hand in a large bowl.

I want to say that, even not so great, homemade pasta will taste better than any pasta you will ever buy in a store. Once you get this pasta made, go over to March 1, 2015 and make the Marinara Sauce!

Homemade Pasta Dough
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Homemade Pasta Dough
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Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl combine flours and salt. Make a well (indentation) and add eggs. If you are doing this by hand, start to fold your flour over the eggs and mix, adding water and oil, until you have a stiff dough. I used a standing electric mixer with the dough hook attachment. I used a spatula to scrape down the sides.
  2. As you are mixing and adding water & oil, keep pinching the dough. When it starts to stick together easily, its ready. You do not want it too sticky.
  3. I used Durum Semolina, which is traditionally Italian. It has a coarser texture, almost like corn meal, it will need more water and olive oil. The texture smooths out in rolling and cooking. All-purpose flour will NOT need nearly as much liquid.
  4. Once the dough is all mixed. Knead for 3 - 4 minutes on a lightly floured board. Then form a disk and wrap in plastic and let rest, in refrigerator, for 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to roll, cut disk into quarters and flatten. If you are using a pasta machine or roller, start on a zero setting and run the dough through once or twice and fold in half and lightly flour each side and run through again. Repeat this process gradually increasing setting to higher numbers and ultimately increasing to desired thinness and length. Or follow the directions provided, with your machine.
  6. If you are hand rolling, lightly flour a board and use a rolling pin to roll dough out to desired thinness and length. I like to roll between two pieces of parchment or wax paper. Too much flour can make the pasta too chewy.
  7. At this point you would switch to the cutting shape, you want on the machine. If you are cutting by hand use a knife or pizza cute to cut your dough.
  8. Once your dough is cut, it is IMPORTANT to let it dry/set for a while before storing or cooking. If you don't it might be gummy. If you have something to hang your pasta over, even a towel rack will do, that's ideal. if not just let it lay straight on board or parchment lined pan. Don't let it sit bunched up, like in the picture.
  9. Once it is a little dry you can store it, folded, in an airtight container, with a little semolina or cornmeal, to keep it separated.
  10. To cook, bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it, liberally. Add you pasta and cook 5 - 7 minutes. Do not over cook. Serve with your favorite sauce or none at all. It's that good,
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The Last Hold of Summer

 

Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa
Chicken Pallard with Rustic Corn, Tomato Salsa

I love to be the first one at my local Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. There is a coolness to the morning air that lets you know Fall is on its way. Sometimes the farmers are still setting up and your chat will be more relaxed than when they are trying to make a quick sale and onto the next “neighbor”. This past weekend as I was strolling through my Farmer’s Market, I was in awe of the beautiful corn and tomatoes. Then the gorgeous fruit of the summer struck me too. Even though, I know some things have already peaked, it sure felt like everything was leaping off the table as if to say “pick me!”.

So I bought those beautiful tomatoes, some sweet fresh corn and the last of the summer blackberries. I also bought some avocados and peaches. As I am writing this I can smell all the freshness. YUM!!! The truth is we don’t spend a lot of time canning and preserving, since we have beautiful produce, year round. Nonetheless, I wanted to feature this beautiful bounty as a slow goodbye to summer.

I grilled chicken, which I had pounded thin (pallard) with just a little bit of lemon, lime, olive oil, salt & pepper. Then I made a rustic corn and tomato salsa to serve over it. The greatest part of the salsa was grabbing whatever I had in my kitchen to add to it. This type of cooking is perfect for using up herbs, vegetables and even leftovers.

I was so excited to share my bounty that I grabbed a shawl; a few friends and we sat outside, on a slightly cooler evening and enjoyed the flavors of the season. Don’t forget a glass of crisp white wine, too!

Rustic Salsa
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I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Rustic Salsa
Print Recipe
I call this a "dump" salsa. You can really use whatever you have leftover. The recipe calls for corn, tomatoes and avocado but I had some leftover peas so those got thrown in there too. This is great for extra herbs too.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. The truth is mix it all together in a bowl and serve it over any kind of meat. As I said above I pounded chicken thin and gave it a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime juice with a little olive oil , some salt and pepper and grilled fro about 3 minutes on each side. You could easily do fish or steak too.
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Super Bowl Clam Chowder

This year’s Superbowl is a big deal! It is the 50th annual game. It is being played at Levi’s Stadium, a completely state of the art facility, opened in July 2014. And the Carolina Panthers are making only their second appearance in franchise history!

Levi’s Stadium is touted as being ground breaking with their green technology and sustainability. They are known for their green roof, solar panels and utilizing recycled water for irrigation and public restroom use. The contrast of this modern facility against the backdrop of San Francisco’s historical Fisherman’s Wharf is unique and awe inspiring.

Fisherman’s Wharf was founded by the influx of immigrants that came to the San Francisco area during the gold rush. And quickly became known for its Dungeness crab and clam chowder. The Sourdough bread phenomena started when French bakers bit into their traditional recipes and found that they had gone “sour”. Eventually, it was discovered that a specific strain of bacteria formed because of the moisture in the air in San Francisco, but the bread and flavor was so synonymous with the city that it endured!

IMG_5055

California and the rest of the country promise to be under cold weather conditions on Superbowl Sunday. Clam chowder is a perfect warming food for your party. Here is an easy and lower calorie recipe. You can get fancy and serve in hollowed out bread bowls or just in a pot on the stove.

"Light" Clam Chowder
Print Recipe
This recipe uses skim milk and less flour to achieve a lighter version of traditional New England Clam Chowder
Servings
12 cups
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings
12 cups
Cook Time
35 minutes
"Light" Clam Chowder
Print Recipe
This recipe uses skim milk and less flour to achieve a lighter version of traditional New England Clam Chowder
Servings
12 cups
Cook Time
35 minutes
Servings
12 cups
Cook Time
35 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large soup pot, over medium-high heat, until crispy. Remove to paper towel to drain.
  2. Turn heat down, to medium low, and stir in onion, celery, salt thyme and garlic. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add liquid from clams, potatoes, bottled clam juice and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf.
  4. Combine milk and flour. Whisk into pot and bring back to a boil. Cook 12 minutes, stirring frequently, to prevent burning.
  5. Add clams and cook 2 more minutes.
  6. Serve hot with crumbled bacon on top. For fun serve in hollow out bread bowls.
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