Sunday, September 14, 2014

Italian Cream Cake - for my mom

My mom's request for her 90th birthday lunch - Italian Cream Cake - and really how do you say no to someone turning 90! I had an old recipe of hers for this cake but the one time I made it, it called for vegetable oil instead of butter and it was just odd - a bit too moist; so I searched the internet and found this recipe by Emeril and it was delicious. The only changes I made were to only use a cup of sugar for the cake and to toast some extra coconut for the top. It was moist and loved by all. I should definitely make this for my friend Paula K who LOVES coconut.

Post note: her birthday was July - took me awhile to post, summer is just so busy!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Zucchini to love!

Love the fabulous green hue! These are my zucchini pancakes (or fritters if you like). I had been craving these and made one recipe of Ina Garten's but hers called for baking powder which I didn't really want as it made them too much like a pancake and I wanted them to be more like a potato Latke (pancake, but not breakfasty). Anyway - this batch turned out perfectly. Served them for dinner with a store bought roasted chicken (yes, that is ok in my book) and a tomato, cuke, feta salad - perfection!

Zucchini Latkes (or pancakes or fritters) makes about 10-12

3 medium sized zucchini grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 onion grated finely (I used a zester so it just melts)
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
couple tablespoons olive oil

Grate the zucchini - I ended up with about 2 cups packed and then salt and put in a colander and let drain for about 15 min. Squeeze out all the liquid you can then place in a big bowl with everything else except the oil and mix with a spoon. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry in patties, maybe a heaping tablespoonful. Let cook until lightly browned then flip and brown on other side. Serve sprinkled with maldon salt - I think you could even do the latke thing and serve with applesauce and sour cream - or ketchup! Even good the next day warmed up...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Excess Zucchini? Hide it in rice!

I'm not really one of those "hide your veggies in something else" people, but this was a really great way to get your veggies and starch together in one dish. Served with some grilled salmon on a plank - perfect easy meal.

Zucchini and Rice side dish serves 4

1/2 onion finely chopped
olive oil
couple small zukes shredded
1 cup white rice (you could do brown, just increase water and cooking time)
2 cups chicken broth or water
chopped cherry tomatoes (optional, but they look cute)

Saute the onion until soft in the olive oil in a medium pot. Add rice and toss around to coat. Add broth or water cover and cook for 15 min on low. Add the zucchini and stir, cover and cook another 5 min or until rice is done. Serve topped with chopped tomatoes and some chopped basil if you have it. (I had some purple basil growing, so that is what looks oddly black in the photo!)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Chorizo Potato Frittata

This was a awesome lunch - kind of like a Spanish Tortilla. Richard loved it topped with a little mayo - just like in Spain.

Chorizo Potato Frittata served 2 with leftovers

3 small potatoes cut into chunks
4 oz spanish chorizo (this is the firm kind) cut into bite sized pieces
6 eggs, beaten
splash olive oil
mayo to serve

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, then drain. In a 8inch non-stick frying pan splash in some olive oil and then the chorizo. Let it cook a couple min, until the sausage starts to release it's oils too. Add the potatoes and let brown a bit. Spread them all out evenly and then pour in the eggs. Let cook for a few min then put it under the broiler for about 5 min - watch it as you don't want it to overcook- it should puff up- actually I take it out a couple min before it's totally done as it will continue to cook.  Serve with a dollop of mayo. Leftover it is very nice as a sandwich too. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bring on the summer salads!

Carrot Salad
 I love this time of year when it's warm out and I can make a bunch of different dishes and serve them at room temp. This night I did a refreshing French carrot salad, my pesto potato salad and a panzanella with zucchini instead of cucumber (because necessity is the mother of invention and I did not have any cukes!) Since then I have tried it with cucumber and they are both delicious. So make some summer salads because fall is in the air...

French Carrot Salad serves about 4

about a pound of carrots, use multi colored ones if you can and shred them
Dressing: whisk together 1 teaspoon dijon, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, tiny dollop of honey and 1/4 cup olive oil. Toss all together - salt and pepper to taste and add some chopped fresh herbs - I had parsley and chives. Keeps well for a few days.

Trio of Salads

Panzanella (Tomato bread salad) serves about 4

4 thick slices of country style bread (yes, used mine!)
olive oil
3 ripe heirloom tomatoes
handful of cherry tomatoes (if you have them)
1/4 red onion
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1/2 cup olive oil
couple small zucchini or 1 English cucumber

Tear the bread into chunks and toss with a couple tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in one layer on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for about 12 min or until browned and crispy - basically you are making croutons. In a large bowl cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and juice into the bowl, then set tomatoes aside and chop into bites. To finish making the "tomato vinaigrette"grate the onion using a micro grater then add vinegar and whisk in the oil, salt and pepper to taste. Thinly slice the zucchini into long ribbons (use a mandoline if you have one) and put in a colander tossing with some salt - let this sit for about 15 min and it will become flexible and drain. If using cucumber thinly slice the same way but skip the salt. Toss bread and zukes (or cukes) with the tomato seed dressing and serve.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Soup Night 2.0

Paula's Feijoada
You might have seen that we started a new Soup Night in Healdsburg in 2013. We made it through 2 months when our third couple started a complete (read gutted) remodel on their house so we came to a grinding halt. Well - house is done and we had our first (officially third) soup night at their fantastic new home in the beginning of June. Paula made a traditional Brazilian Feijoada stew. It was black beans, pork and who knows what else - but delicious! It traditionally is served with Farofa a toasted yuca flour mixture (the yellow stuff) rice and orange slices. She also made some sautéed greens - really WOW. Amazing textures and tastes - love it! I brought my bread and Sarah brought dessert from a new Healdsburg spot Noble Folk. Thursday is our official night so for July we had a picnic (sandwiches instead) at the Windsor Music since a great band was playing - California Honeydrops!

Art on a plate
Next time August was my turn to host so I made a Tomato Bread Soup and Paula brought a ton of delicious cheeses and Sarah outdid herself with a very artistic salad pictured at the left. It was quite the plate! Some mixed lettuces, tomatillos, sautéed mushrooms, sautéed leeks, radishes, micro greens - whew! Basically all she could find in her fridge! And topped with a tasty vinaigrette - I'm sure I missed something that was on there! The prior week I had made a peach pie and froze it. Now that brings up a funny side bar. The prior week we had some other friends come up from the city and for dessert I had planned on serving the peach pie - well I had only glanced at the recipe and thought it needed to be baked from frozen for 30 min., so when dinner was almost done I pulled it out of the freezer and re-read the recipe and realized that it needed to be baked for 30 min with foil on and then another HOUR without foil. Needless to say that would have us eating dessert at midnight! So, I remembered I had 4 individual molten chocolate cakes in the freezer (yes, I am the Freezer Queen) that only take 12 min to bake - so I whipped those out and disaster averted - my guests of course said "wait THIS is your backup? It's delicious!" Not that it would have been a "disaster" as I did also have some homemade ice-cream handy ; )
Anyway - I just loved this soup night - as it was a perfect evening in that we all just came together and shared what we had. I had 2 pints of tomato soup that I had canned last year but then decided that was not quite enough for 6 people so I did a batch of the one below to add to it as we've got plenty of tomatoes up here right now, and I turned my stale bread into croutons! Then Paula had some new cheeses and some opened cheeses and then everyone brought some slightly opened wines (they are all in the wine business) and with Sarah's salad it was truly a shared meal. Next month Sarah and Kevin are hosting in their new home - can't wait!

Tomato Bread Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 small fennel bulb chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
3-4 pounds chopped tomatoes
cup or so of chicken broth (depends on how juicy your tomatoes are)
1/2 loaf of country bread (I used mine of course ; )
olive oil
salt and pepper
sprinkling of chopped basil
grated parmesan (if you don't have an amazing cheese course!)

Place oil and onions, carrots and fennel in a large pot and sauté until softened. The veggies don't need to be finely chopped because this all gets pureed. Add the garlic and tomatoes and cook until broken down - about 30-40 min. Then put it all through a food mill - this is essential and you don't have to peel the tomatoes! Put back in the pot and add the broth - if too thick you can add more or less broth depending on how juicy your tomatoes are - a lot of heirloom ones can be quite liquidy and you may not need any broth. In the meantime make your croutons. Cut off the crusts and chop into bit sized cubes then toss with some olive oil - couple tablespoons and s&p and place on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 12 min, tossing once. You want them browned and crispy. Serve the soup with a handful of croutons, sprinkling of basil and a grating of cheese if you like. Soup can be frozen without bread.

PS. Yes we felt the earthquake last night - woke us up at 3:20 am - only damage was a picture frame fell off a bookshelf and broke. I will consider myself lucky on this one!

Monday, July 28, 2014

MY potatoes!

This has been a bit of an adventure. I planted potatoes for the first time this year in a wine barrel.  My friend Rachel gave me some Bodega Reds which were close to extinction and the slow food people were encouraging people to get them back in circulation. I had no idea what I was doing so I googled a few videos and everybody said stop watering and pull them up after they flowered. Well, they flowered and this first photo is the size of the potatoes from the first 2 plants I pulled! Yes, that is the size of peas. So I decided to give them another chance, started watering again and got this next handful - I was so excited! They ranged in size from a dime to a quarter so I left the last group growing for another 2 weeks. This 2nd group I just boiled in salted water until just barely tender then cut them in half, tossed in some butter and maldon salt and truly this was the best potato I have ever put in my mouth. The skin was so tender -it was like it wasn't even there - and creamy - and delicate - basically just melted in my mouth. 
The first teeny group! 

First small group with butter and salt
2nd batch, slowly getting bigger 
The final big bunch!
I've pulled up the rest (including a few little yellow ones) and now I just have to decide what to do with them. I'm thinking some can be roasted with a chicken because I love when they soak up all those lovely chicken juices, then maybe some pan fried with onions and peppers... I'm definitely going to save a couple to plant again because WOW - if you have the patience they are worth it.