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Archive for August, 2010

Back in May, I spent a weekend in Sonoma with some friends.  We rented a giant house in Guernville and relaxed for four days, drinking wine, lounging by the pool, driving around Healdsburg, and playing Taboo.  We took turns cooking and one night, a few of us teamed up for Mexican.  I made my sweet potato and chorizo tacos, my husband made the guacamole, and our friends made some amazing salsas, beans, and these incredible vegetarian tacos.

I’ve been craving those tacos ever since that night and finally got around to making them.  And you should too because they are awesome.  My proportions here are just rough estimates.  Use whatever you have on hand in whatever combo you like.

Corn, Poblano, and Mushroom Tacos
Recipe by my friends, Gabriel and Christina

Ingredients
a pound or so of cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
A few poblano peppers, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 ears of corn, shucked
A couple cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
A big splash of canola oil
Half an onion
a bunch of cilantro
lime
a bit of cotija cheese, to serve
tortillas (should make enough to fit on about 10 or so 6 inch tortillas)

Directions
Mince the onion and the cilantro.  Mix together with a big pinch of salt and the squeeze of a half of lime.  Stir and set aside.

In a wide skillet on medium, heat a bit of canola oil.  Add the red pepper flakes and garlic, stir for a minute or so.  Turn the skillet up to medium high, and add the peppers.  Saute for a few minutes, until they start to soften.  Add the mushrooms.  Saute for 5-8 minutes.  If the vegetables start to look dry and stick to the pan, add a small splash of water.


When the peppers and mushrooms are cooked, stir in the corn.  Saute until the corn is warmed through.

Spoon on to the tortillas and add a spoonful of the onion-cilantro mixture and a few crumbles of cotija cheese.

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I got some really lovely chicken from Marin Sun Farms and really wanted to make a delicious, summery meal to go with it.  I left the chicken simple, just with a bit of rosemary sea salt rubbed on it, and my husband threw it on the grill.  With it, a big bowl of pickled tomatoes and some fresh homemade cornbread

To make the cornbread, I borrowed from two recipes.  The pickled tomatoes were spicy, so I skipped the “firecracker” part of 101 Cookbook’s Firecracker Cornbread recipe, which I selected because I could use some fresh, sweet corn in it.  To make the cornbread more interesting, I borrowed an idea for honey butter from a Martha Stewart cornbread recipe.  With the chicken, the spicy tomatoes, and a cool glass of Simi viognier, I had myself a perfect summer dinner.

Fresh Corn Cornbread with Honey Butter
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used all purpose)
3/4 cup instant cornmeal (or instant polenta) or fine-grain cornmeal
1/4 cup natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups corn, fresh (or at room temperature if previously frozen)

For the honey butter, mix a tablespoon of honey and a pinch of salt with 3 tablespoons of room temperature butter

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees, with a rack in the middle.

Just before you make the batter, in a small saucepan, melt the butter and pour into a 9-inch pie tin and place in the hot oven.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and corn.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just combined.  Now very carefully remove the hot pan with butter from the oven.  Brush the butter up around the edges a bit to make sure its evenly coating the pan.  Carefully fill it with the cornbread batter, pushing the batter out to the sides if needed.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the edges are golden and the center is just set. Remove and brush on the honey butter before slicing.

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One of my favorite blogs is Not Eating Out in New York.  The blogger, Cathy Erway, always uses such lovely, fresh produce and comes up with some of the most interesting combinations.  She was the creative force behind one of my favorite dishes last year, sweet potato gnocchi with arugula and hazelnuts.  So, when she posted this salad, I knew I had to make it.

It’s delicious.  If you are looking for something inspired and fresh to do with your beets, I highly recommend this. I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I simplified it quite a bit.  I imagine it’s even better when done properly, but this worked out well for a farmers’ market eve dinner, when produce on hand is low.

Peach and Beet Salad
Adapted from Cathy Erway, Not Eating Out in New York

Ingredients
4 beets
2 medium-sized peaches
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
handful fresh basil leaves

Ingredients I skipped: 1 shallot or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup sweet bell or cubano pepper, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup the beet stems, finely chopped

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash each beet and remove any long strands.  Wrap each beet individually in foil and place on an oven-safe tray. Roast approximately 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of your beets). Remove from oven, unwrap foil, and let cool completely. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins off (they should slip off easily). Cut into quarter or eighth wedges.

In a large bowl, toss the onion, pepper and beet stems if you are using them, with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Carefully cut peaches into wedges and discard the pits. Gently toss in the beet and peach wedges, and add the basil leaves for garnish just before serving.

The beets stained the peaches before I could get a good picture, but here it is.  I served it up with some delicious ribs, coated with a harissa spice blend, and a bottle of pinot noir for a summery, fresh Friday night dinner.

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Today this blog turns 2

Two years ago today, I started this adventure with my very first post, Pickled Tomatoes.  The recipe is still one of my favorite summer dishes and I may have to whip up a batch soon.

It’s been a good year.  I participated in the Dark Days Challenge and became a member of Marin Sun Farms Meat CSA. Last year, I recounted my favorite dishes from my first year.  And this year, I shall do the same.  So here we go – the highlights from my second year.

Risotto with Tomato Confit

Mexican Chocolate Brownies

Blue Cheese and Walnut Cookies

Goat Cheese Polenta

Turkey Pot Pie With Sweet Potato Biscuit Crust

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Arugula and Hazelnuts

Winter Pizza

Potato Leek Soup

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Tacos

Red Wine Linguini with Broccoli Rabe

Blueberry Cornmeal Pancakes

Corn Pancakes with Scallion and Jalapeno

That’s the year!  Thanks for reading!

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It has been freezing here in Berkeley for the last week or two and a warm bowl of soup was just what I needed.  I found some lovely San Marzano tomatoes at the farmers’ market and this recipe from Epicurious got rave reviews, so I thought I’d give it a go.

It’s a lovely soup.  The recipe calls for 6 cups of stock, which is way too much.  Use 4 to get a thick, hearty soup.  It would be a good base for a minestrone or to add a small pasta noodle shape to it, in which case, the extra broth would probably be needed.  Don’t skimp on the herbs and use good, firm plum tomatoes to make this. 

Roasted Tomato Soup
Recipe from Epicurious

Ingredients
3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
8 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/4 teaspoons dried
1/4 teaspoon (or more) dried crushed red pepper
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and grated parmesan, to serve

Directions 
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes, cut side up, on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are brown and tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Transfer tomatoes and any accumulated juices to processor. Using on/off turns, process until slightly chunky.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, rosemary, thyme and dried crushed red pepper. Add chicken stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens slightly, 15 minutes or so. Remove from heat. 

To serve, season with salt and pepper, stir in the chopped, and a bit of grated parmesan. 

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I’ve been buying up elephant garlic from Happy Boy Farm at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market.  Elephant garlic is about the size of a normal head of garlic, except it’s just one giant clove.  Apparently, it’s not really garlic, but closer to a leek or onion.  It tastes like garlic, except a little more mild.  And it’s delicious roasted.

To roast the garlic, I preheated the oven to 400.  Then, I wrapped each head individually in tin foil with a drizzle of garlic and a small sprig of rosemary.  I put the cloves in a baking dish (they might leak and you don’t want garlic oil burning at the bottom of your oven) and baked them for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven, unwrap, let them cool, then remove the skin.

At this point, you can mash them up and do whatever you want with them, like spread on crostini.  To make the pesto, I tossed three heads of the roasted elephant garlic in the food processor with the roasted rosemary needles, a half a cup of walnuts, and about two ounces of parmesan cheese.  I pulsed it a few times until it started to come together, then slowly added some olive oil, about 1/3 of a cup or so, lots of freshly cracked pepper, and a large pinch of salt.

To serve, I tossed it over some linguine with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts.  It should make enough to cover about two pounds of pasta.  I wound up freezing half the pesto to use for another meal.

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I bought some lovely, sweet corn at the farmers market last week.  The first night, we grilled all six ears, which is an obscene amount for 2 people.  I wanted the extra corn because I had seen a recipe for Corn and Basil Fritters from Eating Well in the blog montcarte and had been dreaming about it ever since.   She had some issues with the flavor, but I really liked the concept and wanted it to work.  I tinkered with it, omitting the basil, using the grilled corn, and adding jalapeno and scallions.  The tinkering was a success!  They turned out excellent.  With a tomato and avocado salad, they were a super satisfying vegetarian dinner.  I’d even make them in smaller sizes as a little party appetizer.

Corn and Basil Pancakes
loosely adapted from Eating Well

Ingredients
1/2 cup white whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 large ears, grilled first for about 10-15 minutes if you’d like)
1 small jalapeno, finely minced
6 or so scallions, white and light green parts only, minced.
A few tablespoons of creme fraiche, sour cream, or plain yogurt
A tablespoon of minced fresh chives
Salt and pepper

Directions

Mix together the chives, creme fraiche, and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.

Whisk flour, milk, eggs, 1 tablespoon oil, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in corn, jalapeno, and scallions.

Brush a large nonstick skillet lightly with some of the remaining 1 tablespoon oil; heat over medium heat until hot (but not smoking). Cook 4 cakes at a time, using about 1/4 cup batter for each, making them about 3 inches wide.  Cook until the edges are dry, about 2 minutes.  Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 1 to 3 minutes more.  Repeat with the remaining oil and batter, making 10 cakes total.  Reduce the heat as necessary to prevent burning.

When the cakes are done, serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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A big, meaty braise with a root vegetable risotto isn’t a very summery dish, but it was delicious, so I’m posting about it.  We have been doing a meat CSA through Marin Sun Farms and they offered some great deals on some unusual cuts of meats.  I’ve never made oxtails, so I thought I’d give it a go.  I found some lovely baby turnips at the farmers market and thought they’d be a nice match.

The oxtails were amazing.   I should have followed advice online however and made them 24 hours in advance.  They were quite greasy the first night.  When we reheated leftovers the following night, we scraped off some of the fat that had risen to the top and they were a million times better.  With that in mind, this is a great make-ahead dish.  That said, it’s really messy and there’s no way to eat this without using your hands, so it’s probably not the best for dinner parties, you know, the types of things you need make ahead dishes for.

The turnip risotto was brilliant, if I do say so myself.  The turnips gave up their starch, making the risotto super creamy, and it had a great bite to it, which complemented the beef nicely.  Since the greens on the turnips were so gorgeous, I steamed them and served them up with the dish.  Because the dish was so rich, the bitter greens really complimented it nicely.  If you can’t find turnips with good looking greens still attached, chard would work well.

Braised Oxtails

I just followed a bunch of suggestions online and improvised.  They are pretty hard to screw up.  To make them, heat a bit of olive oil in a heavy pan and add the oxtails in batches.  Brown on all sides and remove.  Add some diced onion, shallots, garlic, and carrot and saute for a couple minutes.

Add a bottle of red wine and some beef stock.  Add a bouquet garni if you’d like or a few bay leaves.  Place the oxtails back in.  They should be covered completely by the liquid.  Cover and place in the oven at 300 for 3-4 hours.  You may want to pull it out every hour or so and check the liquid levels and just add a bit more wine or stock if it looks like its drying out.  When its finished, the oxtails should be tender and falling off the bone.  If there’s too much liquid, just remove the oxtails and simmer down a bit.

If you want to let it sit overnight (which I highly recommend), I’d pull the oxtails out and store them separately from the sauce.  Chill in the refridgerator overnight and the next day, skim off the fat from the sauce.  Place the oxtails back into the liquid and warm in the oven until they reach the desired temperature.

Turnip Risotto

Chop 6 small turnips into a 1/2 inch or so dice.  You want about 1 1/2 cups.  Dice a couple shallots up too.

Bring a pot of water or broth to a boil.  You want about 6-7 cups in there.  Heat olive oil in a heavy pan over medium heat and add the shallots.  Saute for a few minutes, until the shallots start to brown.  Add the turnips and saute for another minute or two.  Add 1 1/2 cups of arborio rice and stir it in until it is coated with oil and slightly translucent.

Add about 1/3 of a cup of white wine and stir.  After that is absorbed, add broth one or two ladles at a time, stirring and simmering.  When each ladle of broth is just absorbed, add another.  This should take about 20-25 minutes.  When all the water is just about absorbed and the rice is tender, stir in a pat of butter and grate in about 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Steamed turnip greens
Place the turnip greens in a steamer and steam for a minute or two.

To serve, spoon the risotto into a bowl and top with the greens.  Place the oxtails on the side and drizzle some of the oxtail sauce over everything.

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I made this ages ago for a party but have had a busy few weeks and no time to post.  Better late than never, I guess!

I was inspired by an Epicurious recipe for a corn and tomato bruschetta, though I changed it up quite a bit to make it more like a salsa.  It really worked.  It was light and summery and fresh.  Epicurious suggests serving it over burgers or quesadillas.  I think it would be nice over grilled fish as well.

Grilled Tomato and Corn Salsa
Loosely adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

2 large ear of yellow corn, husked
1 small red onion (about 6 ounces), peeled, halved through root end
Olive oil (for grilling)
1 1/2 pounds medium tomatoes (such as cluster or vine-ripened; something firm and not watery, about 5)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika*
pinch of cayenne, optional

Directions

Prepare grill (medium heat).  Brush corn and onion with oil; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place corn, onion halves, and tomatoes on grill. Cook until corn is charred, onion is just tender, and tomato skins are blistered and loose, turning often, about 12 minutes for tomatoes and 15 minutes for corn and onion. Transfer to foil-lined baking sheet and cool.

The recipe then recommends coring the tomatoes, halving, and squeezing out the juices and seeds before giving them a coarse chop.  This made a huge mess, and frankly, I’m not convinced it was worth it. I think a better approach would be to core the tomatoes and dice.  Then grab them loosely and give them a little shake over a sink to get out the excess liquid.  I can’t vouch for this approach since I didn’t try it, but suffice it to say, I don’t think having a bit of extra tomato innards in the salsa is a bad thing, so if it makes things easier, give it a try.   Whatever you do, put the tomatoes into a bowl.

Cut the corn kernels from cob and toss in with the tomatoes.  Dice the onion and add that too.   Mix in garlic, lime juice, paprika, and a splash of olive oil.  Toss in a pinch of cayenne if you want a bit of heat.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The dish can be made a few hours in advance and the leftovers held up alright overnight in the fridge.

I served it up with tortilla chips and a big bowl of my super delicious guacamole.

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