Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Summer Potato Harvest

Usually we plant our potatoes in the fall and harvest in the early spring, taking advantage of Southern California's mild winters. This year, because our home grown potatoes are rapidly becoming a favorite crop I'm trying for year round planting so we followed out early spring harvest with a second planting. We harvested some of those very successful summer potatoes today -- a hefty bowl of French fingerlings and big (bigger than we've ever grown before) Yukon Golds. I didn't want to do too much and cover up the taste of our day's harvest.
I baked the Yukon Golds and topped them with a savory black-eyed pea stew flavored with slab bacon and braised collard greens. Okay, I admit it this stew was tucked away in the freezer for just such an occasion. Dinner in a jiffy, salad (homegrown lettuce) on the side.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soup and Salad

I love fresh peas. I love any peas, but bags of fresh peas at Trader Joe's seemed like a good excuse for a simple fresh soup for dinner, along with a hearty salad.
I sautéed about 1 cup each cups of chopped onions, shallots and leeks in 2 TB of butter until the onions were soft but not colored (about 8 minutes over medium - medium low heat). Next I added in 4 cups of chicken broth and brought the pot to a boil. In went 2 16 oz bags of peas which bubbled and boiled for about 5 minutes. I puréed the soup with about 1/2 cup of loosely packed mint leaves. I had a little extra time before dinner so I passed the soup through a fine mesh strainer for a silky velvety texture. As I re-heated the soup, with a little milk stirred in, I fried up some bread cubes in olive oil with a garlic clove for crunchy croutons.
"That was delicious," James said.
Lighter dinners for easy summer nights.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Backyard Rainbow

Tomatoes are here!
Green Velvet, Snow White and Landrace Red Currant.
More varieties to come.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Martha Let Me Down

Since James enjoyed last night's salad and crostini combo so much I thought I'd try again and find a really interesting salad. After a little internet search I settled on a Martha Stewart recipe for a broccoli rabe salad with carrots and radicchio. James loves broccoli rabe. We have a load of carrots from a juicing binge not too long ago. That salad seemed perfect for us. It was beautiful in the bowl but the dressing was just kind of ordinary and in fact didn't add much to the combination. It was just okay. Not good enough.
Mercifully I paired this lackluster salad with super delicious crostini. I sautéed mushroom slices in butter and olive oil until they were golden brown. I added in a minced clove of garlic, chopped fresh thyme, and a finely diced shallot and cooked for about 5 minutes more -- until the shallot was tender. I deglazed the pan with a splash of water and topped slices of toasted (drizzled with olive oil) ciabatta with the mushroom mixture. A delicate goat's milk gouda topped the mushrooms. After two minutes under the broiler and a shower of chopped parsley the best part of dinner was ready to serve. Sorry Martha, tonight was not your night.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Winter Favorite In Summer Heat

"That dinner was perfect," James said.
I couldn't have been more surprised.
I've been trying to clear out the freezer (and make it to farmers market day without shopping, in spite of the fact I missed last week's market) and so I pulled out a container of salt cod purée (brandade -- yes a Christmas favorite) and spread it over thin slices of ciabatta drizzled with olive oil. I sprinkled the tops with chili peppers and more olive oil and set the tray under the broiler for just a couple minutes. Meanwhile I mixed up a salad of lettuce from the yard, prosciutto, Romano cheese, red onion, and sliced pear dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
A perfect summertime dinner.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hurry Up Pork Tacos

Super quick and super easy pork chops cut in to strips, mixed with chili powder, oregano and cumin and sautéed in hot oil. I loaded warmed tortillas with the crisped meat, beans tossed with lime juice and cumin, guacamole, red onion, fresh cheese and a sweet peach and corn salsa I found at Trader Joes. A pretty decent dinner in about ten minutes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can I Still Call It Pizza?

Corn, leek, prosciutto, chopped garlic, chiles, Romano, cheddar and mimolette cheeses. Nots ure what to call it but James seemed to like it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Indian Spice

I can't remember when the cupboard has been this bare. Cauliflower keeps for a while. The lentils were pre-cooked and packaged for long fridge storage. Not exactly the self righteous farm to table schenanigans we specialize in around here. I decided to cover my shopping failure with spice. A rich Indian dish with chiles and ginger and lots of cumin seed -- a play on a recipe in one of Madha Jaffrey's cookbooks. I roasted the cauliflower and small cubes of potatoes, seasoned with whole cumin seed, S&P, and tossed in peanut and grapeseed oil at 450º for about 20 minutes until the potatoes were tender and the cauliflower just lightly browned.
Meanwhile on the stove I cooked a cubed onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and about 2 tsp minced fresh ginger in about 2 TB of canola oil. When the onion was good and browned I added in a 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, and 1/4 tsp cayenne and cooked over high heat for about 2 minutes. I stirred 3/4 cup water into the pan, scraped up all the browned bits on the bottom and stirred in the roasted cauliflower, potatoes and the cooked lentils. When the vegetables and legumes were heated through I served James his bare cupboard curry over basmati rice with a drizzle of mustard oil.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Peach Project

So many peaches.
What's a girl to do?
I gathered up our pinkish fruits for a quick batch of fallen fruit preserves. I combined the peeled chopped fruit with sugar and let the mixture sit in a bowl for a couple hours until a good quantity of juice came out. I strained the fruit and poured the sweetened juice into a pot, along with the juice of one lemon, and let it boil over high heat until reduced and the temperature reached 220º. I added the strained fruit into the pot and let the mixture cook until the fruit just was tender and barely caramelized on the edges. I ladled the cooked preserves into hot canning jars, sealed the tops and processed for 5 minutes in a hot water bath. Preserved summer, backyard fresh -- just waiting for a slice of homemade bread.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Peach Season

From flowers to fruit. Our backyard tree is finally covered with ripe, fragrant, soft peaches. I am so greedy with every one we manage to save from the marauding squirrels I even gathered up the bruised fruit from the ground for a fallen fruit cobbler.
The filling is just fresh blueberries (from the market -- our little young bushes don't produce even enough for tartlet just yet) and peeled chopped white peaches mixed with about 1 cup of brown sugar (I ran out of white) and almost 1/4 cup of flour. I covered the fruit with my go-to cobbler batter: 2 cups flour, 1 cup milk, 2 cup sugar, 1 TB Baking Powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup milk, 1 stick butter (melted) and a pinch of nutmeg -- mix wet into dry and stir until just combined. Spread the batter over the fruit making sure to cover completely and sprinkle the top with 1 TB sugar and another pinch of nutmeg.
After an hour at 350º we had a warm, comforting, nearly homegrown dessert.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cuban Sliders

A new twist on an old favorite for father's day.
I made Cuban style sliders (well burgers dressed up like Cuban Sandwiches). I dressed the buns with mustard and Swiss cheese on the bottom and avocado and ham on the top and slid a just broiled mini-burger, topped with pickles inside. Instead of toasting the buns I took the whole sandwich and pressed it in a hot frying pan (cheese side down) so the bread was crisped and the cheese melted and gooey.
Happy Father's Day, Honey.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Someone Else Is Doing The Cooking

I'm out of town at a location so beautiful I can hardly say it's for work without laughing a bit. I put a few things in the fridge for James and said goodbye at the airport. I am nibbling freshly made ceviches and sipping cool drinks while James is giving the cat his medicine, feeding the pups, and holding down the fort. I'll be back on Saturday, but for now -- someone else is doing the cooking.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Clams A New Way

We harvested another couple hills of potatoes and I wanted to make something special for James. He loves clams. He loves potatoes. He loves sausage. The obvious answer was steamed clams with chorizo and potatoes. I started by rendering cubes of chorizo (the dry Spanish not fresh Mexican kind) in olive oil along with sliced garlic. When the oil was tinted red with the sausage's paprika I added in cubed potatoes, and a mixture of red wine (I usually use white for clams but we had an open bottle and it's a flavor james likes so I decided to try it) and brought the liquid up to a boil. I let the potatoes cook for about five minutes and then added a handful of chopped parsley, a pat of butter and the clams. I covered the pot and let the clams steam while the potatoes finished cooking. Clams in red wine, a new house favorite.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Tidy Little Package

I needed something easy. Not too much to clean up and easy on the diet. I'm, once again, trying to eat light, and yet make food that's tasty enough for James without making two totally separate dinners. Some nights I make James an extra sauce or add a sprinkling of cheese. Tonight I went for totally customizable tin foil packets -- an American version of "en papillote" with tin foil replacing the more elegant artfully folded parchment paper in the French original. No matter how you wrap it, these packets essentially steam in their own juices puffing up to a dramatic presentation. For mine I added the vegetables and scallops with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. For James I layered sliced red onion, scallops, tomatoes (ok those were only in mine), arugula, fresh corn kernels (James' favorite part), and chopped basil on a bed of white wine, olive oil and butter. I closed up the packet and popped it in a 450º oven. Twelve minutes later we had a light, diet friendly dinner, heavy on the vegetables -- and ready two ways.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Eggs In A Pan

James was hungry and I had nothing planned yet. I peered hopelessly into the fridge and said, "How about squash and eggs?" Not really sure what that dish might be.
As I sliced shallots and yellow squash and popped them into a pan with olive oil my frittata started to appear. I quickly added in oregano, S&P, sliced mushrooms and bits of prosciutto, covering the pan briefly to help the squash cook through. I whisked four eggs with a handful of parmesan cheese and fresh basil and poured it over the softening squash. When the eggs were just set around the edges I popped the skillet under the broiler to finish. One dish dinner, Italian style.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another Vegetarian Treat

James has never really been what I'd call a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy. Lately he's been in the mood for vegetable dinners and lighter salads. Tonight I paired up some white beans I had cooked a while ago and stored in the freezer with fresh steamed broccoli. I sautéed sliced shallots, garlic, crushed red chiles, and a sprig of fresh rosemary in olive oil and added in the drained beans and a portion of the bean cooking liquid. I let the beans simmer over medium heat until the liquid cooked down and the simple ingredients combined to a thick sauce, almost a chunky purée. I seasoned the beans with salt and pepper and topped them with the broccoli, a drizzle of olive oil and a few shreds of parmesan cheese. Super rustic, super easy, super dinner.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Antipasto Salad Version Two

Tonight's dinner salad gathered mozzarella, prosciutto, cucumbers, hot peppers, red onions, bell peppers, turkey breast, gruyere, radicchio, parmesan, and lettuce from our front yard wrapped up in an oregano vinaigrette.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Vegetables For Dinner

I tend to buy artichokes, and despite how much I love them, "forget" to cook them. I dread the preparation . . . snipping, tearing, peeling, scooping. And all that rubbing with lemon juice. But today I found a recipe so appealing (Artichokes Braised in Lemon and Olive Oil) I dove right in. The artichokes are braised in a flavorful broth with shallots, garlic, carrots, fennel and coriander seeds, then lightly crisped in olive oil. The braising liquid adds to a savory olive oil and lemon dressing. You can braise the artichokes in advance to spread out the work and the dish can be served room temperature. No reason to shy away.
"These are the best cooked artichokes I've ever had," James declared.
Worth the effort.
As a follow up I roasted the remainder of last week's potato harvest with some fresh shallots from our garden dressed simply with olive oil, salt and pepper.
I love fresh peas. It's a little late in the season here in sunny LA but I could still round up enough for this fresh springy salad, with snap peas, pea shoots, radishes, and goat cheese in a light mustard vinaigrette. Beautiful and light.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Asparagus Spaghetti

Spaghetti is always good for dinner in a hurry.
While the pasta boiled I cooked some asparagus in salted boiling water and set it aside. Then I added the vegetable, cut into pieces, to the drained pasta along with a glug of olive oil, a last hunk of Delice de Bourgogne -- a tangy washed rind cheese, some chopped prosciutto, a splash of olive oil, a knob of butter, black pepper, crushed red chiles, a sprinkle of parmesan and a dollop of ricotta. I gave it all a good stir which helped the heat of the pasta melt the cheese and butter into a light, uncooked, easy summer sauce.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Visit To The Lowcountry

It's not quite jambalaya, it's certainly not risotto, it might be a distant relative of pilaf. Shrimp Pilau (pronounced "perloo" in its native Southern States) is a hearty combination of a roasted vegetable -- heavy on the onions -- stock, peppers, rice, bacon, and gently finished shrimp.
I thought my shrimp didn't have shells so I skipped the homemade stock in favor of a combination of wine and chicken broth. First I cooked four strips of bacon letting as much fat render out as possible. I set the bacon aside and cooked up a chopped onion and a chopped red pepper (I know in Charleston they would only use green but I just prefer the sweeter red) in the same pot for about ten minutes until nice and soft. Then I added in 1 1/2 cups of rice and let it cook over medium heat for about five minutes until translucent and ever so slightly toasted. Next I added in three chopped (mostly peeled) tomatoes, 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, 2 1/2 cups of my broth/wine combo, and plenty of black pepper. Because the stock wasn't homemade I tossed in one peeled carrot and a bay leaf for extra flavor. I brought the rice up to a boil and then covered the pot, turned down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes until cooked through and the liquid was just about evaporated. I added in the shrimp, covered and cooked for another 7 minutes or so, stirred in the bacon, added salt to taste and was ready to serve.
Lowcountry in the West.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mixed By Hand, Crisped In A Pan

Every now and then a girl has to do something a little special. I wanted a dinner that would make james happy so I rounded up a few of his favorite ingredients. First layer; arugula avocado and bacon salad lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. Center stage; dungeness crabcakes. the crab may be West coast but the recipe is all East, flavored with dry mustard, Old Bay, tabasco, and bound with just the barest amount of cracker crumbs. The cakes were lightly fried in peanut oil and butter (in the same pan where I fried the bacon) for just the right bit of crunch.
Alas, the crowning touch -- I forgot the cocktail sauce with no horseradish or ketchup in the house. A good excuse to make crabcakes another night.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Random Pork Pizza

We are pizza eaters. I make James some home-cooked pie at least twice a month and I always think it's a good way to recycle, well re-purpose, some ingredients from the fridge. Today I had the leftover end of a garlic salami (saucisson a l'ail) and the last bits of a pork terrine. I sliced those thinly and laid them on the herb and garlic crust (yes -- thank you Trader Joe's), drizzled with olive oil. Next came slivers of red onion and sliced mushrooms. I topped James' pie with fresh burrata I found in the cheese case at Costco, crushed red peppers, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. The fresh cheese made the crust a little wetter than I like so I popped it back in for extra toasting (an extra 5 minutes at 500º).
No complaints from James. He went back for thirds.