Monday, September 27, 2010

French Inspired Tomato Tart

2 sheets puff pastry,defrosted
2 tbls dijon mustard
3-4 tomatoes sliced
3 branches thyme
1 red onion sliced thinly
4 slices prosciutto
1/2 cup Parmesan grated fine
salt and pepper to taste

I've become a Francophile lately. Listening to french music( pretty much exclusively)and drinking tea. Ordering french cookbooks. Signing up for french at the local college. And above all excitedly awaiting which I will start posting on Fridays in October. So it only makes since that I would choose to make a french inspired tomato tart for dinner with all the wonderful tomatoes my friend gave me from her garden.

I can't get enough tomatoes these days. They are even better than they were earlier in the season. We are having a late burst of heat this year and its made the late harvest particularly yummy. I've been busy as of late so we are having simple meals here. This tart takes virtually no time to assemble and store bought puff pastry(shhhhh) makes it even more simple.

Preheat oven to375. Lay puff pastry on lined baking sheet. Using a tip of a knife score the outside all the way around the border about 1/2 inch from the pastry edge. Prick the dough all over with a fork.This will prevent the pastry from puffing as it cooks.

With a pastry brush or knife spread a thin layer of the mustard all over the pastry. Layer the prosciutto and thinly sliced onions evenly over the tart. Layer the tomatoes over the last layer. Making sure not to overlap or crowd. Because that will make the tart soggy. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle a thin layer of Parmesan.

Bake the tart until the pastry is crisp and deeply browned on the bottom and around the edges. 30-40 minutes.

This is such a nice simple summer meal served with a fresh salad and a nice glass of wine with friends and family.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Chili Verde

2 lbs tomatillos
6 cloves garlic
2 jalapenos seeded and chopped
2 roasted poblano chili's
2 roasted chilaca or New Mexico chili's
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 or 4 lbs pork shoulder trimmed and
cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
flour to coat pork
olive oil
2 yellow onions chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbs Mexican oregano
3 cups chicken stock

Mexican cuisine is so different than Mexican American cooking which can be heavy and cheese laden. Growing up in San Diego I probably had Mexican food 3-4 times a week. As I got older, I was able to visit several different areas in Mexico. There are so many blendings of Mexican traditions and you only have to visit the various regions to experience the unique tastes of the multiple cuisines.

Green, red, yellow sauces. Nuts and moles. Chocolate and vanilla infused dishes both sweet and savory. Fish, roasted meats. Masa and grains. There are very deep rooted traditions dating back many years and I think what many people don't understand is how well developed the Mexican cuisine is.

One of my favorite recipes is chili Verde. I like to roast the tomatillos, garlic and Chile's to add depth of flavor to this dish. It's great for a crowd and easy to make. Slow cooked , super tender pork in a green chili sauce. We love it in tacos but it is wonderful served over rice with flour tortillas.


Remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse. Cut in half and place on a cookie sheet along with the garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 15 minutes until charred. Roast the various peppers over gas flame until blackened place in sealed bag and skin. Place tomatillos, garlic cloves, jalapenos, other chili's and cilantro into blender. Blend to a puree.

Coat pork cubes with flour seasoned with salt and pepper. I do this in a bag and shake to coat. Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed large pot. Brown pork in batches to get a nice crust. Remove pork and set aside.

Place onions and garlic in the same pan and cook until limp.Add the oregano . Add the green sauce and the pork to the pan. Cover with the chicken stock until just covered. Place in oven set at 275 and cook for 2-3 hrs.

There is something about this spicy green chili that reminds me of summers at my sisters ranch house. Warm San Diego summer evenings, shorts and halter tops with full bellies....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Candied Balsamic Figs With Honey Ricotta Mousse

For the figs:
2Tbs unsalted butter
12 sm black mission figs
1/4 cup high quality honey
2Tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice or
Vin Santo.
cracked black pepper.
For the Mousse:
10 oz whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup honey
zest of 2 lemons
1 cup heavy cream

There is an old Italian saying "Collo d'impiccato e camicia di furtante." The neck of a hanged man and the shirt of an urchin. Think of the long neck of the hanging man and the dirty ripped black shirt of an urchin. Remember this and you will pick gooey, sweet, earthy figs every time.

We have an abundance of really lovely organic Black Mission Figs at the farmers market right now. There are a lot of different varieties but I happen to enjoy the Black Mission. They have less seeds and are very sweet.
Today was the last day of summer and I think summer is simply a warm -up to fall and fall is when figs are at their peak. So when I can, I pick them up.
I happen to love figs any which way. Stuffed with Gorgonzola, grilled with prosciutto or slathered with honey.
This is a great autumnal recipe that is rich, deep and spicy. It gives a whisper of the holidays letting you know they are just around the corner.

I bought this great honey from France at in Napa last time I was there. What better to use it on then these great figs. I think a really good high quality honey is key to this recipe.

Preparation for the figs:
Slice the figs
Melt butter in saute pan. Saute the figs.
Add honey, vinegar and orange juice
Add cracked pepper to taste
Keep warm

Preparation for the Mousse: ( adapted from recipe
in the New York Times. Here is how I make it)
Place ricotta, honey and zest in
food processor blend until creamy
Transfer to mixing bowl and chill.
Whip the cream and fold into
ricotta mixture. Chill
Serve on top of the warm fig mixture.

This is an amazing dessert. Something to really mark the season.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mexican Street Food

Torta with Marinated Flap Steak

I can still remember my first encounter with Mexican street food. It was in Baja with my ex brother in-law "AKA Indiana Jones." We were at a tiny roadside stand in the middle of nowhere. After a harrowing drive at about 100 miles an hour on a one lane highway( if you can call it that) it was more like trail they call a road.
I had a Torta. A soft Bolilos roll filled to the brim with tender grilled steak. Slathered with hot sauce and various accoutrement's. Oh my god, just describing it puts me right back there with the sights, sounds, smells.... the whole deal.

We have many amazing Latino markets where we live. One happens to be exceptional. It is quite an excursion and you can find anything Mexican imaginable. If you want to make truly authentic Mexican dishes a great market is key.

We made these with Flap steak (mark my words this is the new Hanger steak). This is a very thin cut from the flank. In the more upscale restaurants you will find it called Bavette, which is really the french term for the way it is cut. I guess it sounds a little better than Flap. My husband informs me that it only needs 3-4 minutes a side on the grill. It's a very tasty little piece of meat and I can image many other uses for it.
Oaxaca cheese: this is a cows milk cheese with mild acidity, low salt intensity and a somewhat soft texture. Grilled onions and peppers with tomatoes and cilantro. Enjoy with an ice cold beer or a manderine Jarritto.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grilled Herbed Halibut with a Cherry tomatoe Beurre Blanc Sauce

For the Halibut:
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped tarragon

finely grated zest of 2 lemons
4 skinless halibut fillets

For the sauce:
1 cup dry white wine

splash of white wine vinegar
1 shallot finely minced
3 tbls chilled unsalted butter

1 pint cherry tomatoes

Have you ever wanted to impress someone with your cooking? A boss, a friend or a group. One way to do it is to serve an elegant, great tasting meal that you don't have to spend too much time in the kitchen fussing with. So you can entertain and come out looking like you rocked an amazing meal with very little effort.

This halibut dinner is so beautiful. The bright green herbs on a perfect backdrop of the white fish. Served with a classic Beurre Blanc and some tart cherry tomatoes incorporated into the sauce. The tomatoes cooked just ever so slightly until they are just ready to burst. That way they burst in your mouth not in the sauce. This is classic bistro cooking.

Preparation of the sauce:

In a medium skillet add a tablespoon of butter and wilt the shallots. Add the white wine and vinegar and reduce. Slowly whisk in the chilled butter to thicken the sauce. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook on low until just ready to burst about 5 minutes.

Preparation of the halibut:

In a medium bowl,toss the parsley, tarragon and lemon zest. Pat the herbs on both sides of the halibut fillets and refrigerate for 2 hours. Drizzle the halibut with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fillets over high heat until nicely charred about 3 minutes a side. Spoon sauce over fish and serve.

I love pacific halibut and when I see it fresh at the market I tend to buy it. It can be a little pricey but I love the sweetness and the texture. But you could substitute any mild white fish like cod or flounder with good success. You can go to to find a list of sustainable fish by region. It lists fish that are abundant, well managed and fished or farmed in an environmentally friendly way. My husband would most often bring home salmon after fishing in our bay but occasionally he would catch halibut. How excited was I to get it so fresh and for free no less. I hope you enjoy this dish. The results convey a much more complex dish in flavor and appearance then the minimal prep or ingredients suggest. I served it with some small Parmesan potato coins and a mache salad.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Watermelon Salad with French Feta and Mint

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
one 8 oz seedless watermelon
scooped into balls with a Mellon peeler
1/2 pound good french feta
1 cup kalmata olives coarsely chopped
1 small red onion chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

In a large bowl whisk together the oil, lemon juice,
salt, Tabasco and pepper. Add the watermelon, feta,
olives and onion. Garnish with the Mint and serve.

It certainly feels like fall is coming. The mornings are darker. The days are becoming shorter. I'm grabbing my sweater more often than I'd like. And of course, football season has started. I have to say I'm excited for the cool nights, beautiful sunsets and warm comfort foods of the fall. I can't wait to cook lively stews, big pots of beans and roasts that have my house smelling like heaven.

But we are still in summer even if it didn't quite feel like it this year. We have had lots of fog and it has been rather chilly. The coldest summer I remember.

So, when I was shopping today and I saw a beautiful watermelon that was calling to me... "summer is still here"... I had to buy it for what feels like one last hurrah.

I first saw this classic recipe done by Jacques Pepin forever ago when there were no Food Network channels and the local PBS stations ran a few cooking shows one day a week. It seems like a lifetime ago. Now there is a cooking show on all hours of the day. Lucky us!!!

Sometimes watermelon can be a little ... I hate to say boring. This recipe adds a lil punch to what could otherwise be something that people leave on their plate. Use a nice french feta. It is softer then the traditional Greek feta and less salty. The olives are optional I happen to like the saltiness it adds.

This is great to take to a picnic or a gathering. Serve it with some prosciutto or a burger. We had it tonight with a grilled steak and a baked potato.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Farro Salad with Squid and Choizo

With a Yuzu and Roasted Poblano Sauce:

1 cup farro
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion
2 ounces dry chorizo
3/4 pound cleaned squid cut 1/4 rounds

1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped marjoram
1 roasted poblano chili
2 tablespoons yuzu juice
1 clove garlic

Bring a large saucepan with chicken stock and wine to boil.
Add farro, cover and simmer for 45 mins.
Transfer to serving bowl.
In large skillet, heat 2 tbs olive oil. Add onions and cook
until soft. about 2 min. Stir in chorizo and cook until sizzling.
Add squid and cook until white about 2 mins. Season with salt.
Add squid to farro along with the cherry tomatoes, parsley and
marjoram. Add roasted poblano and yuzu sauce.
To make Yuzu sauce:
Roast 1 poblano chili , skin and roughly chop. Add 2 tbls yuzu juice and
1 chopped clove of garlic. 1 tbls olive oil. Tabasco and salt to taste.
Blend in blender until smooth

AU PIF.....A French term I read the other day which means "by instinct". It struck a cord with me because that is how I cook. I think all of us have good instincts. We just have to trust them.

We have all tasted amazing food. Whether we are traveling and we are eating in a secretive little cafe or in a Michelin star restaurant. Or, we whip something up at home and it is fabulous. It's true that sometimes my instincts are wrong and a dish doesn't turn out. But for the most part it does.

This was a dish that sounded good in theory and Voila!! It didn't turn out good it turned out great! I very rarely cook from a recipe. Just like I never shop from a list. Trust your own instincts. Buy what looks great and combine them in a way that you think will work well together.

The earthiness of the Farro, which I cooked in chicken stock and red wine. The rustic taste of the dry chorizo (which was from the a great Charcuterie in Napa and San Fransisco area in California. Along with the brininess of the squid made this dish very well balanced. I made a roasted poblano and yuzu sauce that had a little heat from some added Tabasco to mix in. This was just what the dish needed to bring everything together..Smoke, citrus and heat.

YUM... A nice Shiraz and a loaf of warm bread and your in Provence. Who wouldn't want to be in Provence???


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sweet Corn and Crab Fritters

A lighter summer fresh version of a classicOkay, I could have waited for winter to enjoy this crab fritter recipe... and I have to say, we do get amazing crab in November and December here on the coast. But I had several ears of corn left over and I happen to love corn with crab.

You know, there are some foods that are meant to go together. In fact, many of them pair so well that they have become classic foods that we are all familiar with...Pancakes and Syrup, Peas and Mint, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Bacon and Eggs Peanut Butter and Jelly and of course (and this is for the best sister in law in the world. Cris) Scotch and Ice!!!!

Well, needless to say this is an easy light recipe that I will be going back to often. You can serve this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Cold or hot. Appetizer or entree. Super versatile.

The ingredients I used are:

6 ears of corn
3 ounces crab meat
1 medium onion grate
2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 eggs , lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour
freshly ground pepper
peanut oil

Cut the sweet corn kennels from the cob with a sharp knife.

Here is a good trick that I'm sure most people know but it took me years of corn rolling all over the counter and floor before I figured this one out.

Mix together all the ingredients except the oil and refrigerate for at least half a day. This is an important step so everything sticks together well.

Heat a few spoonfuls of oil in a heavy fry pan and drop in heaping and slightly flattened tablespoons of the crab mixture. This is kind of like making pancakes. Fry in batches briskly until brown and flip and cook the other side. A WORD OF WARNING the corn pops and spatters so beware so you don't get burned on the hand or God forbid the face. My husband laughed and said I looked like a boxer...Ducking and weaving.

Drain the fritters on paper towels and keep warm Serve as soon as possible.

These were so crispy and sweet. So much lighter than traditional crab cakes. The one thing I wished I would have served this with was a roasted poblano and yuzu coulis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Silky Corn Soup

Corn is the yellow burst of sunshine in summer. Better grab it now because autumn is in the air. I can feel it in the coolness of the evenings and the ever so slight change in the light especially as it hits the ocean.

When I was young we ate seasonally. Partly, because my father was from a farm family in Canada. But also, that was just how we all ate during that time. We didn't import from all over the planet. Just think of what a vegetable must look like at harvest if it has to travel by plane or boat to get to it's final destination. Probably green, hard and tasteless. I prefer to buy local. It not only supports the local farmers but the taste is so much more delectable.

One of the great things about eating seasonally is that we learn to savor a certain time of the year and build memories around seasonal foods. My sister and I own a family home in Corvallis Oregon and one of the great things to look forward to is corn from Tweets, a local farm stand. My father loved the first corn of the season and this dish is in remembrance of him.

Silky Corn Soup
Serves 7

3 1/2 cups whole milk
8 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from the cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
1 pound of smoked ham hocks
4 1/2 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup smoked ham diced
salt and pepper to taste

Bring milk, corncob halves and ham shank just to boiling large stock pot. Remove from heat, cover and let steep while sauteing vegetables.

Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion: sprinkle with salt and saute until translucent, about 5 min. Add corn kernels, carrots, celery, and garlic cook until vegetables are soft stirring frequently about ten minutes.

Add water, thyme, bay leaf, and milk mixture with the corncobs and the ham shank. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors.

Cool soup slightly. Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, bay leaves and ham shank. Working in small batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain soup into large bowl, pressing on the solids. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. garnish with sauteed diced smoked ham and chives. You can also add some Tabasco to taste for each bowl.

This soup is so sweet and velvety. It is summer in a bowl.

Serve it with a nice warm baguette and a glass of dry white wine. Sit outside to enjoy some of the last warm nights of the season and create some of your own memories.