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Archive for December, 2009

 

For my local dinner this week, I went for something simple – breakfast.  It really must be one of the easiest meals to do locally – eggs and bread really form the basis of most good breakfasts.  Eggs, butter, and cream from farms in Sonoma, baked with leeks and thyme from the farmer’s market, served with toasted Acme bread and bacon from Fatted Calf.  To wash it all down, a Bloody Mary made from Happy Girl Kitchen‘s Spicy Tomato Juice and Hangar One vodka from Alameda’s St. George’s Spirits.

The inspiration for the eggs comes from The Wednesday Chef, who blogged about this egg recipe which comes from Camino Restaurant, in Oakland (even my recipe is local this week!).  I tweaked it a little to avoid having leftover leeks and because I wanted two eggs, so I’m putting my variation here.  It was really, really good.  This might be my new favorite way to cook eggs.

Eggs Baked in Cream
Adapted from Camino
serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon butter
1 really large leek or two smaller ones, sliced, light green and white parts only
2 sprigs thyme, leaves roughly chopped
4 large farm-fresh eggs
About 2 tablespoons half-and-half
Salt Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions
Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the leek, a splash of water ,and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the leeks are soft, about 2 minutes.   Add the herbs and divide the mixture evenly between two 1 cup ramekins.

Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin on top of the leeks.  Add half-and-half to each so it just covers the egg.  Sprinkle with salt and coarsely ground pepper.

Cook until the white is set, 10 to 14 minutes.   Be careful because it won’t look cooked because of the cream on top.  But, at about 14 minutes, the yolks were just about 75% cooked through.  So, go a little less if you like your yolks yolky.

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Last week, it was freakishly cold, wet, and rainy here for a few days.  These ingredients made it all better. 

I piled them on pizza dough topped with fontal cheese and the result was amazing.   Fontal cheese is a type of Fontina, only nuttier and earthier.  If you can’t find it, I’d go for regular Fontina if you prefer mild cheeses or Taleggio, if you like more pungent cheeses.

Winter Pizza

Ingredients
Butternut squash – peeled and diced into 3/4 inch chunks, about 2 1/2 cups
4 ounces of an earthy, nutty cheese like Fontal or Taleggio, grated (if it is soft, it helps to stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes before grating)
1 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped
15 or so sage leaves, more if you’d like
3-4 shallots
Pizza dough (I use this one)
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat the oven to 425. 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the shallots and saute for about 8 minutes or so, until they become golden brown and carmelized.  Remove and set aside.

In the same skillet, heat another tablespoon of oil.  Add the butternut squash, and saute that for 5 minutes or so.  This is really just to make sure it gets fully cooked when it goes into the oven.  You don’t need to make it soft, just brown it for a few minutes to start the cooking process.

Roll out the pizza dough and brush the carmelized shallots over the base, making sure they are evenly distributed.  It won’t be totally covered, just more of a flavoring.  (If you want it totally covered, I would double the shallots.) 

Sprinkle the cheese on top, followed by the squash and walnuts.

Bake in the oven for 8 minutes.  While it is baking, toss the sage leaves in a drop of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  You just want to coat them so they don’t burn in the oven and get a little fried.  Take the pizza out and sprinkle the sage over the pizza.  Put the pizza back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so, until the cheese starts to brown.  Then serve.

The end result really was incredible.  I want to make this all the time.  The walnuts get really sweet in the oven and complement the cheese really well.  The salty sage leaves are a nice bite too.  With a glass of pinot noir, this really did make life a lot better.  I would definitely consider cutting this up in small pieces and serving this as a party appetizer.  So good.

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One of the biggest perks about moving to the west coast is the good Mexican food.  I actually don’t understand how Chipotle is even profitable in this state, when the local taco trucks and burrito joints are so vastly superior. 

As part of my evolution into a taco snob, I have sworn off those yellow boxed taco kits, with the stale corn shells, baggies of sauce, and that weird spice packet.  My taco kit looks like this:

On the left, handmade soft corn tortillas, from Primavera, in Sonoma.  On the right, chorizo from Fatted Calf, located in Napa and made from happy, organic, local pigs.   Both were purchased at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.

So my local meal as part of the Dark Days challenge this week was tacos.  Because the chorizo was quite pricey, I mixed it with some sweet potatoes to stretch it a little farther.  The sweetness of the potatoes complimented the spice and the starchiness worked really well with the fat.  On the side, a quick citrus and radish salad made from local Persian limes, satsuma mandarins, radishes, and pomegranate seeds.  I mixed them together and sprinkled them all with a bit of salt and a bit of sugar.

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Tacos
Ingredients

8 oz Mexican chorizo (the raw, loose kind, not the Spanish, smoked and cured kind)
2-3 sweet potatoes, diced into small chunks, about 3/4 of an inch
Peppers – I used a couple small sweet chiles, almost like baby gypsy peppers, finely minced.  If you want something spicier, toss in a jalapeno or serrano.
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Half of a medium onion, chopped
A bunch of cilantro
A lemon or a lime
Corn tortillas (recipe should make about 8-10 tacos)

Directions
Combine the onion and cilantro with a generous sprinkling of salt.   I used a mortar and pestle to pound them together.  If you don’t have one, you can whiz them in the food processor, or just chop them together, and maybe press on them a bit with a fork to release some of their oils.  Add to a bowl and hit off with a squirt of lime juice and a bit of zest.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, warm a bit of olive oil – a tablespoon or so.  Add the sweet potatoes and saute for 5-10 minutes until soft.  If they start to stick, don’t add more oil.  Just add a quarter cup of water or so, as needed.  Basically, you want them cooked before you add the chorizo, since that will cook quickly.  But you don’t want to use a lot of oil because the chorizo is fatty.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, add the garlic and peppers.  Saute for about a minute.

Add the chorizo to the sweet potato mixture, breaking it up with your wooden spoon.  Cook for a few minutes until the chorizo is thoroughly cooked.  If it starts to dry out or stick, add a splash or two of water.

To serve, warm up the tortillas and fill with a couple spoonfuls of the chorizo-potato mixture.   Top with the onion-cilantro mixture and serve.

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As I said last week, I’m participating in the Dark Days challenge, committing to cook and blog about one meal each week that is sourced locally through March 31. 

Since I really enjoyed the Moroccan spiced stuffed acorn squash I made a month ago, I wanted to try doing a different take on stuffed squash.  This time, I went with delicata squash, which I have never had before.  It was really good.  It wasn’t as sweet as butternut or acorn, but it didn’t have that vegetal taste that I don’t like about other squashes, like spagetti squash.   The flesh was creamy and rich, plus the shape made it perfect for stuffing with goodies.  I made up a stuffing based on what local ingredients I had on hand, and it all turned out great.  On the side, I served broccoli rabe, which I just sauted in olive oil, garlic, and a minced mildly spicy chile.

Everything in this dish is local except for the olive oil, and the flour used to make the bread.  After some conversations with others doing the challenge, many agreed that that was OK, so long as the bread came from a local bakery, particularly one that met the other criteria of the challenge (sustainable, organic, and ethical).  Thus, my breadcrumbs came from bread I had purchased at the fabulous, local Acme bakery.  The cheese was Laura Chenel goat cheese in Sonoma, which is also where the egg came from.  All the produce came from various vendors at my local farmer’s market. 

Stuffed Delicata Squash with Leeks and Goat Cheese

Ingredients
2 delicata squash, sliced lengthwise
2 cups bread crumbs
2 leeks, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
olive oil
a couple tablespoons of chopped parsley
crumbled goat cheese (as much or as little as you’d like)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400.  Lay the squash flesh side down in a baking dish and roast for 30 minutes or until soft.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a frying pan on medium high heat and add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes or so, until they become soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat and pour into a heat proof bowl.

Add the bread crumbs to the leek mixture.  Add the egg, and stir to combine.  If it still looks a little dry, add another splash of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to season, some chopped parsely, and the crumbled goat cheese.  Mix well so everything is evenly distributed.

Lightly salt and pepper the insides of the squash and stuff them with the mixture.  Put them back in the baking dish and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese starts to brown and the stuffing is cooked.

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When I made sweet potato gnocchi a couple weeks ago, I froze half the batch.  I wanted to try something new with the second half, so I opted for this recipe from the great blog Not Eating Out in New York.  Since the gnocchi were already made, it took me no time at all to throw this dinner together.   It was incredibly delicious, and I liked it even better than the cider sauce I made the first time around.  Of course, given this blog’s name, that should come as no surprise.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula and Hazelnuts
from Not Eating Out in New York

1 pound of sweet potato gnocchi
1 large bunch arugula, coarsely chopped
about 1/3 cup hazelnuts, crushed or chopped
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg (optional)
freshly grated parmesan (optional)

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and add the hazelnuts.  Toast for about 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. R emove from the pan just as you begin to notice some sides of the nuts darkening.  Transfer to a bowl or a cutting board to crush or chop.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the gnocchi.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan with about half the olive olive and when it’s hot, add the arugula and a pinch of salt and pepper.   Stir frequently for about 2 minutes, until the arugula is just wilted.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the finished gnocchi to the pan with the arugula, transfering some of the cooking water with you.  

If you finish cooking the gnocchi before the arugula is ready, just drain it and reserve a bit of the water, and add in a few splashes as neccessary to keep things from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Season with more salt and pepper, and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.  Transfer to serving plates and top with the crushed hazelnuts.  Finish with the optional garnish of grated nutmeg, or do what I did, and grate some parmesan on it.  Serve immediately.

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