Sunday, July 21, 2013

An Appetizer from Argentina

Argentine cooks are well known for their skill and dedication to cooking on the grill. "Asados" or Argentine bar-b-ques are family celebrations and a national obsession. On every block in every neighborhood a restaurant dedicated to simply prepared, fantastically delicious grilled meats beacons to passer-bys and neighbors debate the quality meats at favorite haunts.
The menu at each "parilla" is pretty standard: grilled organ meats and blood sausages, several cuts of beef the country is deservedly famous for, and an unexpected -- at least to me, appetizer -- provoletta, a thick slab of grilled provolone cheese quickly marinated in olive oil, oregano and a hint of chili flakes. Delicious cripsy, gooey cheese eaten shamelessly with knife and fork.
When I first tasted this delicious dish I immediately wanted to make it for James. I've tried a wheel here and again when we've had guests, but tonight an aged wheel of provolone called from the fridge. I made James an Argentine appetizer plate for dinner -- grilled sausage and cheese.
He called it a "heartstopper."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fast And Easy Lazy Night Spaghetti

Tonight I just started throwing ingredients in a pan. Half working on making spaghetti half thinking about clearing out the fridge.
First I browned some cubes of spicy salami with rounds of yellow squash and a fresh hot chili pepper. After about 5 minutes in a covered pan the squash was starting to brown and I had to make a decision. Should I mix up some eggs and parmesan and make a sort of squash carbonara or should I reach for the leftover lettuce mint pesto waiting in the fridge? I always like a hint of mint with summer squash so when the pasta was drained and back in the waiting pot I mixed in the sautéed squash, a splash of cooking water, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and a healthy sized spoonful of fresh-tasting, flavorful pesto.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Santa Rosa Plums

Beautiful Santa Rosa plums, an early ripening first offering from our backyard orchard. Tangy and sweet, you can sometimes find these beauties at farmer's markets or specialty grocery stores but -- sorry for you -- though they may be tasty, nothing can compare to a fresh plum right off the tree.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Biggest Kohlrabi I've Ever Seen

Another giant vegetable from our too generous neighbors. I don't even know where to start. Too big to eat sliced with salt, I'll have to cook it somehow. Now there is a kitchen challenge.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A New Kind Of Potato Salad

 As a treat for James I reached down into our potato hills to dig up a couple fresh spuds for dinner.
I wanted a recipe to feature those tubers and show off the plentiful greens growing in our vegetable beds. As luck would have it I came across a recipe from one of my favorite chefs, Suzanne Goin, for a warm potato, frisée and dandelion salad. Now we've got plenty of dandelions but no frisée so I substituted some young kale, a few handfuls of oak leaf lettuce growing nearby and a bit of basil along with the cup of parsley leaves the chef calls for.
Goin's recipe couldn't be simpler. I tossed the potatoes with olive oil, thyme and salt and set them in a 400º oven (covered with foil) for 40 minutes. As the potatoes cooled for about 10 minutes I started cooking bacon (cut in 1/2" pieces) in a skillet. When the bacon was golden brown I added in a sliced onion and the potatoes cut into big (bigger than a mouthful) pieces. Goin uses beautiful fingerling potatoes but we don't have any of those ready to harvest so I went for the yukon golds and purple vikings ready to pull. After two minutes I tossed in a mixture of 3TB sherry vinegar and 2 TB of olive oil (I actually doubled it since we had such a big bowl of greens) and let everything heat through. I poured the warm dressing over the waiting mixed greens and tossed everything together, wilting the greens and spreading the bacony goodness through the salad.
"I like dinners like this," James declared between bites.
Three of his favorite things (potatoes, bacon, bitter greens) in one bowl. I'll be making this one again.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Neighborly Vegetables

James popped over to see our neighbors new mule (Kawasaki not long-eared) and came back loaded with giant vegetables.
"You can't go over there and come back empty handed," James explained. Our neighbors are very generous and have a prolific garden in addition to pastures and freezers full of grass fed beef. Their greenhouse started the growing season off early for our neighbors at Chileno Valley Ranch, so while my squash is still a tiny dream on a large orange flower, Sally's is already gigantic and overflowing the beds.
When we have those forgotten giant marrows in our garden I generally make soup or zucchini bread -- something with shredded squash so the sometimes tough skin doesn't become a feature of our dinner. Tonight I spun that shredded idea in a slightly different direction, crisply fried zucchini mozzarella pancakes.
I shredded zucchini and a couple shallots and added in minced garlic, a minced hot pepper (also a gift from our neighbor's garden), zest of one lemon and plenty of salt and pepper. To that mixture I added shredded fresh mozzarella -- I put that in the food processor and it took on the creamy texture of ricotta -- along with 3 eggs, about 1 cup of flour, and a handful of shredded parmesan cheese. I fried dollops of that batter in olive oil until golden brown and crisp and topped James' fritters with a lettuce mint pesto I made and froze earlier in the season when our garden was overflowing.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Beans And Greens

Our garden is spilling over with beautiful, frilly dark green leaves of Russian kale. This year I decided not to plant my beloved Tuscan kale and try something new, and something new is springing out all over.
About an hour before dinner I went out and harvested an armload of fresh greens and brought my bounty in the house to braise. I started a pot with a couple glugs of olive oil and when the oil was getting warm added in a sliced onion and a couple of shallots followed by 5 or 6 cloves of garlic (sliced) and a sprinkling of red chili flakes. Next I loaded in a huge mound of stemmed, washed, and sliced kale (sort of a rough chiffonade), 1 TB of coarse salt and about 1 cup of water. I covered the pot and let everything cook down over medium-low heat for around 25 minutes. What emerged were glistening, green, savory, fresh tasting leaves that I served next to cannelini beans cooked in plenty of sage and olive oil and thin slices of delightfully salty prosciutto. I didn't even realize the Italo centric color scheme I'd created until I looked at this photo. Pretty good color for a country or for dinner.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nashville Style

Prince's Chicken Shack in Nashville started a style that has become a regional specialty served across the state, "Hot" fried chicken. Basically it's a batter fried chicken with hot sauce in the egg dip and plenty of cayenne pepper  mixed into the flour. It's fried chicken with just a little zing and I tossed some together for James' dinner along with fried potatoes coated in the leftover batter.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pork Chops Italian Style

Pork chops crusted with crispy panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese light pan fried to a crunchy golden brown served over a fregola (toasted Sardinian pasta), bean and arugula salad.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday Lazy Sunday

Simple Sunday burger, basted in butter with olive oil fries on the side.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Our Girl Connie

Connie is our senior chicken. Though at six years old she has long retired from egg laying, Connie quite skillfully plays mother hen to our silly blonde youngsters scratching the ground and wandering with the flock. Here she is taking a break and checking out the house.

Friday, July 5, 2013

We Love Clams

Clams are a treat around here. James loves them and I love that they fit easily into a one pot dinner. Home run taste and not too many dishes to tackle.
Tonight, eyeing the bountiful kale coming up in the garden, I decided on a slightly Portuguese theme. I had linguica, a portuguese smoked sausage often paired in a soup with kale and potatoes. I took my cue from that traditional soup and set out to make a clam version with plenty of flavorful sauce for dipping crusty bread.
I started -- as I often do, with plenty of olive oil and chopped garlic. I tossed the chopped sausage into the oil and let the meat just start to crisp up, adding in a good TB of oregano and a sprinkling of chili flakes. Next I poured in about 2 cups of wine, cubed potatoes, and shredded kale leaves and brought everything up to a boil. After about 7 minutes when the potatoes were half tender I added in the clams (and a little more olive oil), covered the pot and let everything steam for another 7 minutes or so until the clams were all opened. Just before serving I stirred in a little soft butter and some chopped parsley.
Rustic clam stew, hearty bread, a great way to start the weekend.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Four Blues And A Red

Another five entries and another five ribbons. This time at the Marin county fair. Apple butter, apple jelly with thyme (a blue ribbon winner in two categories), apple blackberry jelly and pickled green tomatoes -- all homemade and all winners.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Green Rose

An unusual rose grows in my garden. Not quite beautiful but somehow alluring this petal-less rose forms continuous "flowers" of bronze tinged green sepals. First observed in gardens more than 200 years ago this garden conversation piece is propagated with cuttings by rose enthusiasts around the world,  but can be difficult to find for the home garden. After a lengthy internet search I tracked mine down at The Antique Rose Emporium -- a treasure trove of old roses and rose information.

Monday, July 1, 2013

One Down, Two To Go

Five entries and five ribbons at the first fair of the summer season, including my first ever blue.