Monday, December 10, 2007


Sometimes you just need a steak. I picked up a beautiful ribeye at the grocery store and decided to keep it simple. I was lucky enough to snag some chanterelle and baby shitake mushrooms at the farmers market for a steal, and what better side dish for a steak than some really decadent mashed potatoes.

The steak: generously salt and peppered and pan seared in a screaming hot pan then finished up in the oven until medium rare. Let the steak rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before slicing.

The taters: Slice in half some baby yukon gold potatoes and boil until tender. Drain the potatoes and throw them back in the hot pot for a minute to get the moisture off. Put the potatoes in the kitchen aid mixer with a paddle attachment with a big ol lump of butter, salt and pepper, some warm half and half and a hunk of goat cheese.

The shrooms: Clean and slice the mushrooms, finely slice up a shallot or 2. In a hot skillet with some butter and olive oil throw in the mushrooms and shallots. DO NOT put any salt in there yet. When the shallots are soft and the mushrooms have browned a bit season away- salt, pepper, fresh thyme. Add in a few squirts of chicken broth and a few spoonfuls of creme fraiche.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The reward

This weekend we did a whole bunch of projects around the house to prepare for some holiday guests. To show my appreciation to my husband- who busted his butt, and is a real meat and potatoes kind of guy- I decided to make this special dinner. Pan seared rack of lamb, potato gratin with fennel and onions, roasted baby golden beets and sauteed beet greens.

The gratin was a bit of work but worth it. The rest of the meal was a snap to prepare.

Beets: Cut the greens off, scrub them clean, wrap them in an envelope of aluminum foil, put foil packet on a cookie sheet and put in a 400 oven. Little beets (pingpong ball size) take around 30 minutes, big ones (tennis ball size) take around an hour. Open the packet (carefully- steam will come out) and stab a beet with a knife- if it slides through easily, they are done. Leave the packet open and let things cool a bit. The skins will rub right off with your fingers- no peelers or knives needed.

Although I happen to think the beets are delicious just like that, it can also be nice to have a little acid on there to offset the sweetness So I drizzled over a little honey-balsamic glaze. Also super easy (and good on a whole bunch of stuff). Put about a cup of cheap balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add about 2 Tbs of honey and let it reduce down until it sticks a bit to the back of a spoon. Take it off the heat and whisk in about a tablespoon of butter. Drizzle over just about anything.

Beet greens: Trim off the tops of the beets and slice into 1 inch strips, put in a large bowl of cool water to clean the grit off. Throw in a skillet with some olive oil and shallots, season with salt and pepper. Let greens wilt down a bit and add a squirt of chicken stock, put the lid on for a few minutes.

Gratin: Butter an oven safe dish. Thinly slice one onion and one bulb of fennel. Sautee in a little butter until they are browned a bit and soft. Peel 3 potatoes ( i used russet because its what I had on hand but pretty much any potato will do). Thinly slice the potatoes ( I used this cool ceramic slicer thing). Layer 1 potato's worth of slices in the baking dish, season with salt and pepper, spoon some of the onion fennel mix on top, shave over some parmesan cheese, repeat. Finish off with a layer of potato and shaved parm. Pour into the dish some heavy cream. Cover with foil and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. The cream should be bubbly and when you stick a knive in it, it should slide in easily. Take off the foil and let the top brown a bit (about another 5-10 minutes.

For the lamb all I did was generously salt and pepper, sprinkle a bit of fresh rosemary on top and a little olive oil. Put it meat side down in a screaming hot skillet. Resist the urge to touch the meat for at least a 5 minutes. Once the meat has a brown crust on it flip it over and put the skillet in a 400 oven. Leave it in there until a meat thermometer in the middle registers 140 for medium rare. Take the meat out and let it rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before slicing into chops.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving- yum. This year we went to Jeremiah's mom's house for the big meal. I brought my secret family recipe Stuffing Balls, some mashed sweet potatoes and a pumpkin cheesecake.
Many people don't get the stuffing ball concept but you have to take my word on this one- delicious. I personally hate soggy stuffing- and this totally fixes that problem with everyone getting their own crispy on the outside, moist on the inside nugget of goodness. It also makes them portable for snacking. Although I cannot divulge the recipe, I can tell you that it has large quantities of sausage in it. And I'm not talking some artisan fancy sausage- this is old school jimmy dean breakfast sausage. And I'm pretty sure that its the porky goodness that always made the stuffing balls the most sought after item of the Thanksgiving meal when I was a kid.
As for the sweet potatoes- they were roasted at 400 until soft, the orange part was scooped out and I added a small pat of butter, a little maple syrup, a pinch of salt, some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice to taste. Easy and delicious.
For dessert I made Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
For a 4 fork recipe I thought it was just OK. The flavors were good but the texture was a little dry. Then again, perhaps it was just my lack of baking skills at work and not about the recipe.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back in the swing of things

I'm happy to report that after quite a few weeks of chaos, packing tape, boxes, etc. we are pretty much unpacked and settled in the new house. YIPPEE And so, this morning, for the first time in a long while I was able to get to the farmers market. I haven't made it there since the weather took a turn toward fall and was pleasantly surprised to find a number of my fall favorites on display. This weeks haul: sugar pumpkins, chanterelle mushrooms, leeks, swiss chard, golden beets, goat cheese, kiwis (which were only 1.50 for a dozen!) yams, pomegranate, and persimmons. I had never had a persimmon before and after a chat with the persimmon vendor- who was lovely- I picked up a few of each variety and she threw in a few extra in my bag for free- woohoo!
I'm kind of excited that fall is here. It's time to bust out some of my favorite food- risotto, braised stuff, mashed potatoes, gratins. yum We shall see what I come up with this week.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Appetizer par-tay

Eva hosted our monthly ladies night in October and chose the theme to be all about appetizers. Sweet- some of my favorite food are tapas. For inspiration I turned to a childhood favorite- Rice balls.
In every decent Italian deli where I grew up there was a huge prepared food and meat counter and this was always a popular item, even for the pickiest of kids. The basic gist- you make a ball out of rice and cheese, possibly put something in the center- cheese or peas perhaps, bread the thing and throw it in the frier. How bad could that be?!
For mine I made a mushroom risotto the night before the party with dried porcini and fresh chanterelles, and finished it off with a little truffle butter. About an hour before the party i formed the risotto into balls, put a little chunk of buffalo mozzarella in the center, and did the usual flour, egg, breadcrumb prep before shallow fry in some olive oil. I let them cool a bit on a baking rack (is it just me or does is seem that putting fried stuff on paper towels just makes them soggy?)
The result was a crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, earthy, nutty, gooey cheese centered ball of deliciousness. I fried up a few sage leaves for a little color in the dish too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All about the sides

Sometimes dinner isn't about the main dish but about what you have next to it. I had picked up some red snapper fillets the other day... tasty and quick cooking for a week night, but a little bland. To give dinner a little extra something-something I threw together a veg medley of sorts that had a great big punch- and really, I think it would be a good side to just about anything. I think I'll call it Puttanesca Hash... hm, maybe not that doesn't sound so good. But really, it was very tasty.
The ingredients:
A few diced mini yukon gold potatoes
A diced peeled eggplant
A pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes
A large diced shallot or small onion
A few diced sweet peppers
A few spoonfulls of capers
A few cloves of garlic
A small handful of diced kalamata olives
the zest of a lemon and a big squeeze of lemon juice
A couple glugs of white wine or chicken broth
EVOO, a TBS of butter, and a generous squirt of chili sauce or a big pinch of chili flakes
It may need a little salt- but taste first- the olives and capers can be quite salty.

The gameplan:
Melt butter and Evoo over a medium/high heat. Add potatoes, shallot to pan and let the spuds get a little soft (its ok if they start to brown a little). Add the eggplant and garlic. Sautee for a few minutes. Add peppers, tomatoes, and wine or broth. Turn down the heat a bit and let it hang out for a little while (maybe 10-15 min). (the eggplant will start to break down and make it creamy and the tomatoes will soften) Squish the tomatoes against the side of the pot with your spoon if they haven't already fallen apart. Add the olives, capers, lemon. Taste. Add salt and spicy stuff to taste. Take a potato chunk out of the pot and make sure they are cooked through.

I topped this with the snapper prepared as a quick pan sear in EVOO with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. I also threw a few capers and a bit of the left over lemon zest in the pan.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Yay Bev!

This week we have 2 reasons to give Miss Beverly a big giant round of applause:
1) (and this is really the way smaller reason) she was kind enough to give us her weekly produce haul from her CSA because she was going to be out of town to kick butt
2) She totally kicked butt at IronMan Canada yesterday. YAY Bev! We are SO SO proud of you for conquering the 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 run. You, my dear, ROCK

And just to make us both feel a little better this is how I used your fantastic produce.

Heirloom tomatoes: stuffed with cheese and italian seasoned breadcrumbs (and grilled because we were having a freak power failure- WTF?!)
Romanescu cauliflower: tossed with EVOO S&P and roasted
Leeks: 1 used to make veggie stock, 2 browned in butter and braised with a little veggie stock
Cutting Celery: in the veggie stock
Beets: bottoms Roasted on the grill and tossed with some orange slices from the tree in the yard and a little lemon juice and salt.
Swiss chard: sauteed with some EVOO, garlic and the beet greens

Still to come the beautiful sweet peppers which I think will become fajitas tomorrow. We shall see.

Thanks Bev and congrats- you put in more hours of training than I can possibly imagine and

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Donna's Fab Birthday Potluck

My lovely bud (and my husband's long time- and totally kick ass I might add- running buddy) had a little birthday fiesta recently. It was a bit of a pot luck extravaganza featuring some of Betty's gorgeous signature cupcakes, and small bites galore. I did some savory tarts and since, as we know, I am pastry challenged I used my favorite standby- the pepperidge farm frozen puff pastry. A surprisingly good product and totally easy to work with, even for people like me who can't seem to roll out and construct anything....

In the main part of the image is a tart filled with goat cheese and roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, garlic, thyme and shallots. In the corner is another tart with caramelized onions, crisped pancetta and creme fraiche.
The directions couldnt be easier. Pre-heat oven to 400. Defrost dough. Roll out a little bit to soften the creases in the dough. Lay the dough in a pan or on cookie sheet. Top with whatever your little heart desires. Fold dough over the edges so the deliciousness doesn't spill out and bake until golden.

Now if only we could have kept Scott from making Salami Chocolate Fondue.... sad but true :)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pizza Par-tay

Our dear friend B was coming over for dinner and I decided to make one of her favorites- Pizza.
I had picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market this weekend- and what better way to enjoy them than in a little Pizza Margarita. Combine those with some Trader Joes pizza dough, fresh mozzarella a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh basil and you have yourself some very happy dinner guests.
The keys to success-
*make sure the crust is very very thin
*use a pizza stone
*preheat your oven and the stone to 450
*put the dough on the stone and then add your toppings to minimize losing your toppers on the floor on the way to the oven.

The other pizza of the evening was with mushrooms, mozzarella and truffle oil.
To prepare the mushrooms: sautee thinly sliced mushrooms on a pretty high heat with a little olive oil until browned. Then add salt and pepper, a little fresh thyme. Liquid will come out of the mushrooms and then evaporate, then add a little cream or half and half and reduce until thick. Spoon this over your pizza crust, top with mozzarella and bake. After pulling out of the oven drizzle a little truffle oil on top. Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The (politically incorrect) splurge

I have a confession to make. I think veal is delicious- and although some may deem it a bit politically incorrect I couldn't resist today. I grew up in a very Italian neighborhood and veal scallopini was a pretty common menu item. When I wandered into the italian market today and saw some gorgeous little veal cutlets in the counter I could not resist. A little pricey but worth it every once in a while. Here you have Veal Marsala with garlicy wilted spinach and creamy polenta.
The Recipe:
Veal Marsala
Dust the cutlets with a little flour, salt and pepper. Sear them in a hot fry pan with some butter and olive oil. Take out of the pan and set aside. In the pan add some chopped shallots, garlic, mushrooms and get a little color on them. Add some marsala wine and a little chicken stock. Put the veal back in the pan for a few minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit from the flour on the veal.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Weekend yumminess

For the first time in a few weeks I made it to the farmers market and managed to drag J along. He is usually game for the free samples and today he bonded with one of the fruit vendors that had some amazing stone fruits. We picked up some white nectarines, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, white corn, beets, heirloom tomatoes, and baby bok choi.
For dinner tonight I decided to revisit the korean BBQ from the birthday festivities since my ravenous friends left me with only a little taste. We had that with sesame seed studded sushi rice, steamed baby bok choi, spicy pickled cucumbers, and grilled scallions. Yum. I think that this dinner will make it into the regular rotation- for the weekend at least. Although the actual cook time was about 30 minutes it did require a few hours of marinade for the meat and pickles.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Old Faithful

I'm sure we all have one of these. The dish that you can whip up with ease- and do- just about every week. Mine is pasta with sausage and some sort of veggie. Tonight the sausage was chicken italian and the veg was broccolini and spinach. I had a moment of panic when I realized that I didn't have a full box of pasta in the pantry (shocking for me since I am a huge italian food fan) but I managed to dig this half box of rotini out of the recesses of the cabinet to save the day.

The recipe:
Green veggie of your choosing
Sausage of your choosing
Garlic ( a few cloves thinly sliced)
Shallot (also thinly sliced)
White wine (you could substitute chicken stock)
Olive oil

Fill a big pot of water and set to boil. In another pan put a generous swirl of olive oil and put on medium high heat. Brown the sausage. Pull out of the pan and slice into 1/3 inch slices. Put shallots and then garlic into the oil. Put green veg into pan. Salt the boiling pasta water and throw pasta into water. Back to the other pan add about 1 glass worth of wine. Add sausage back to the pan and sautee. Pour another glass of wine for yourself and drink. Once the pasta is done, drain and add to veg and sausage mixture. Combine and cook for another minute and then grate parmesean cheese over the top. Enjoy. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes and you even have an excuse to have a glass of wine while making it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Birthday Fiesta

This year for my birthday we chilled in the backyard and fired up the grill for some friends. I was stumped about what to do initially and finally settled on a fusion feast of sorts.
Thanks to for saving my life yet again... here's the menu.
Korean BBQ beef lettuce wraps I did them with flank steak instead of rib eye and they were fabulous. The sauce was pretty yummy too- I did add about a tsp of honey to it because it was a little too sharp for my liking. I also served these with asian style pickled cucumbers -I substituted serrano chiles for the red pepper flakes for a little more heat. And on the side an asian style cole slaw. The sauce for the slaw was SO delicious I think I may use it again over noodles.

For those that weren't down with the asian inspired menu I also had a taco bar set up. I got carne asada and chicken already marinated from a local mexican market (thanks to the spectacular translation assistance from my girl B-Fresh). To serve with this I had some typical toppers like finely diced raw onion, cilantro and salsa. I also made a corn, black bean and jicama salad which was also delicious.

For those not feeling particularly adventurous we also had some sausages and hot dogs and a potato salad. Ordinarily I don't like anything with mayo in it but the herbs and lemon really cut right through that.
All in all we had a nice chill day and everybody loved the food. A lot of it even could be prepared in advance which is always a bonus. I did have a minor mishap and got my finger doing some last minute chopping but all is well 2 days later with that. Thanks to epicurious once again for some fabulous party food, and our friends for leaving us with no leftovers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The healthy dinner challenge

These days I have been on a mission (at least a few times a week anyway) to cook things that are a little better for us. Don't get me wrong- I totally heart butter- but its nice to know that if I need to, I can pull something together relatively quickly that doesn't make my coronary arteries shudder with fear.
Tonight I sifted through this weeks farmers market haul to make a lighter meal. Grilled salmon with soy, ginger, chile glaze. Stir fry of Bok Choi, snap peas and leeks, and cheaters brown rice (from the frozen aisle of trader joe's- 3 minutes in the microwave and surprisingly good)
Recipe for the glaze:
~ 1 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
~ 2 tbs honey
~ 1 tbs sriracha (asian chili sauce)
~ 1 tbs ginger

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and reduce over medium high heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Adjust the glaze to taste. If its a little too hot- add a bit more honey. If you don't like spicy- you can leave out the chili sauce. This would also work with ribs or chicken.

I drizzled the fish with a little oil, threw on a hot grill and glazed after I flipped it. Cooking time was about 5 minutes but I had thin pieces of fish.

The veggies were sauteed with a drizzle of olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tbs of ginger, a generous squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. After they were done, I drizzled with a touch of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar.

YAY guilt free dinner. All in all this took about 25 minutes from start to finish. Take that Rachel Ray!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Scallops - take II

Dinner party went well, good wine, great company and the food wasn't bad either. A few last minute improvisations were needed, but everything turned out just fine. ( I had intended to do a side of stuffed fried zucchini blossoms but they were past their prime from sitting in the fridge for a few days.) We started off with garlic crostini with ricotta and favas. The recipe was adapted from something I found on - generally I find their 4 fork rated recipes to be excellent. I thought this one was just OK. We followed that with a re-make of the yummy roasted beet, orange and goat cheese salad. For dinner we had some garlicky sauteed haricot vert, Sauvignon Blanc glazed shallots, and pan seared scallops with a tropical fruit sauce. Dessert was a re-run of the berry tiramisu but done in wine glasses. Yum all around. An added bonus- I got to use some of my new goodies from the wedding - note the dishes- silverware, napkin ring, and the wine glasses. YAY new stuff!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Quickie dessert for the baking challenged

This afternoon I was heading to a friends housewarming party. Seeing as I'm baking challenged, had limited time, and it was too hot to turn on the oven- I went with this. It turned out to be a really easy major crowd pleaser.

Ingredients: 1 package crisp lady fingers, a little Framboise, 1 small tub Mascarpone cheese, ~1 cup heavy cream, a little granulated sugar, ~1T vanilla extract, assorted berries, good dark chocolate

Recipe: Whip up mascarpone, Whip up cream, vanilla and sugar to soft peaks, Fold into mascarpone, Layer some ladyfingers in the bottom of a trifle dish or glass bowl, Drizzle with a little booze, layer with berries, layer with cream, lick fingers and admire how delicious cream is, repeat layering, save a few berries to garnish top and shave with a little chocolate if you wish, wait for applause.

Seeking inspiration

I sure do love me a good dinner party. This Friday we are happy to have over a dear friend (and my hubby's new employer) for dinner and I have been going over about a million menu ideas in my head all week. I decided, though, to hold off on choosing a menu until I did my new favorite thing- ransack the Farmers Market.

We are really fortunate here in Northern California to have fantastic local produce and also a whole lot of people obsessed with organic, pesticide free, humanely treated, yada yada yada and the vendors are happy to put outthat kind of product. YAY And although I am not necessarily fixated on organic food- I am very interested in GOOD food so this works for me.
Nothin like making Alice Waters proud.

This weeks Farmers Market Booty:
beets, strawberries, raspberries, some other mystery berry that I can't remember the name of, white nectarines, leeks, fennel, kale, cucumber, zucchini blossoms, herb foccacia, lettuce, thai basil, fresh-soft-mild-goat cheese.
I'm not quite sure how much of this will survive the week but at least I have a starting point for my menu. More to follow.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Mystery veggies

I had a little fun at the italian market today- they have a pretty good odd ball produce section there and I bought a bunch of things that I have never worked with before. In my cart I had, fava beans, colrabi, red and golden beets. I also picked up a few scallops and some other assorted goodies.

Here you see a roasted beet, goat cheese and citrus salad. For dinner, seared scallops with a vanilla sauce (trying to recreate a phenomenal dish I had in moorea) favas with crispy pancetta and colrabi roasted and tossed with a little butter. yum

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Welcome Everyone! I'm a nearly thirty-something newlywed with an unhealthy obsession with food and reality TV (not necessarily in that order) and the good fortune to have a spouse that just loves to do the dishes in exchange for his meals. Welcome to my display of hits and misses as I navigate the world of the culinary arts and entertaining friends.