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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

It's Pesto time!

Oh yeah, I do love a good pesto. A friend of mine belongs to a farm where you do some work and you get to share in the bounty and boy did she share some basil! So I made a refreshing pasta the other night with some fresh steamed green beans and then a few chopped tomatoes tossed in at the last min to lighten it up. Bring on the basil!!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

My new favorite snack

Or breakfast, or lunch... The other week I made a seeded loaf of bread with flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and toasted it was THE perfect plate for some fresh sliced avocados. Topped with a little salt and Gomasio - that is toasted seaweed with sesame seeds that I get from our local farmer's market. Shed does them with some sliced radish slices which is nice too, I just never have any of those on hand - but always avocados!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cherry Almond Clafoutis OMG

Actually- Holy Mother of God - this was amazing! Sorry if that offends but it was truly delicious. And Good Food is my only religion ; )

Creamy pudding like but cakey too - and I had a large handful of those light colored cherries called Rainier and it was so pretty with a dash of powdered sugar on top. The recipe was from Food and Wine and I did use only about 1/2 cup of sugar as opposed to the cup they called for. Make it while those elusive cherries are still around. Although some peach slices would work I bet!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

It's all about the leftovers

Last night Rich grilled a little 3 bone in pork roast - like chops but in a roast - we only ate a couple slices and then today it just seemed a bit dry to serve as a "leftover". I lightbulb went off and I had the brilliant idea (it was!) to chop it up and put in a pan with some BBQ sauce and some water and let it cook for about 1/2 an hour on low to get the sauce absorbed and tenderize it a bit. Then I ran to the store for these adorable brioche mini buns - toasted them and spread with a little mayo, bread n butter pickles on the side with some carrots and a green onion dip - hello fantastic leftover makeover!