Sunday Shinanigans.

Yesterday was fun.

We invited my Mom and her husband Aaron over for lunch. The fog cleared just in time for us to sit outside under the plum tree in our backyard/garden, sipping champagne and eating this, that, and the other thing.

Gift bucket for Mom and Aaron. Zucchini, plums, garlic, purple sage, and green beans all freshly picked from our garden.

We started off the meal with Roasted Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Herb cheese dip. Not normally something I would make, but, it was the weekend, so… we were allowed to break a couple rules, right?

The dip was followed by Bi-color corn with Cilantro-basil and lime cream sauce. The corn was so sweet Aaron thought I put sugar in the water (I didn’t).

After the corn, we moved onto the “main course”. Atlantic Salmon filets with Roasted Garlic and Basil, then wrapped in Prosciutto, served with Asparagus. It could not have tasted better. So so so good.

The Salmon was followed by a dessert of Tart Plums with crisped Angel Food Cake and whipped cream.

Delicious food and great company made for a great weekend.

 

 

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Leek, corn, and arugula salad

Summer is in full swing here in Santa Cruz, and that means summer salads packed with things from our garden and weekend trips to the Farmer’s Market.

This salad contains three of my favorite things: corn, leeks, and goat cheese. It is deceivingly hearty on the stomach, yet light on the pallet, and incredibly easy to make.

THE SHMECIPE:

Ingredients: Arugula and mixed greens, plain goat cheese, one large-ish leek, one fresh ear of corn, good olive oil, sunflower seeds, and salt and pepper

Once you have gathered your ingredients, begin by slicing your leek longways and then chopping into thirds, creating six leek parts of about 2-3 inches long. Separate the leek layers a bit and place in a fry pan with a bit of olive oil on medium-low heat. Sprinkle with salt and a pinch of pepper and allow to cook.

While the leeks are going, cut your corn off the cob and combine with the leeks, stirring to coat the olive oil evenly on both the leeks and the corn.

During this time you combine your arugula with your mixed greens. You may do one or the other, but I suggest both. The bite of the arugula is what makes this salad so successful (I think). So, combine arugula with mixed greens 3:1 and toss lightly with your tasty olive oil and just a hint of salt.

At this time your leeks and corn should be nicely caramelized. Turn the heat off and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Plate salad mixture, top with leeks and corn, finish with crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.

Not only is this salad simple, but it really is delicious. The bite of the arugula plays with the mellow notes of the leeks and the sweetness of the corn, with the finish of the goat cheese cooling the salad making it a perfect addition to a summer evening.

It’s not mine, but it’s good.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I just did a MASSIVE two-week long road trip.

Our first official stop, after saying “hi!” to the Grandparents, was The Saguaro in Palm Springs.

Yes. It’s as awesome as it looks.

As a matter of fact, it’s awesomer. It houses the restaurant Tinto. Lucky us.

Regrettably, we didn’t order a ton of things off the menu, just a simple Charcuterie plate and a Cheese plate. But boy oh boy were they good.

It was a simple meal, paired with a White Sangria and Red Sangria that left us both feeling like we had finally entered Vacation Mode.

Broccoli Salad.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: OBVIOUSLY this would be good with bacon added in right at the end and incorporated per serving.

OK. I just NEEDED you to know… I’m thinking of you, BACON.

Now.

With THAT out of the way. Let’s talk about how delicious this is; and healthy, and easy, and just darn-right great.

talk talk talk.

CHILLED BROCCOLI SALAD WITH CORN, SUNFLOWER SEEDS, CARAMELIZED RED ONION AND GOAT CHEESE

Ingredients: Broccoli, salted roasted sunflower seeds, plain goat cheese, one red onion, fresh white corn, salt, olive oil or coconut oil

Gather your ingredients.

Chop your broccoli into bite-size pieces or smaller.

Steam your broc, keeping it slightly crunchy. Yum.

Broccoli Forest.

Thinly slice half of a red onion. If you’re a big fan, obviously adding more is up to you. But I used half of a relatively small one.

Caramelize with coconut oil or olive oil. Again, your choice. I did coconut oil… I thought that the richness of it would add something nice to the dish, which, it does. But if you don’t like it or are allergic, olive oil is fine.

The onions soften pretty fast because they are sliced so thin, so keep the heat low and keep your eye on them.

Make yourself a Gin and Ginger.

Or pour yourself a glass of wine. Whatever toots your horn.

Retrieve your steamed corn and cut it off the cob.

At this moment in this process you should have your broccoli set aside, your eyes on your almost-done onions, your corn steamed and cut off the cob, and a drink in your hand.

Your handy-dandy sunflower seeds should be just that… handy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients and crumble in your goat cheese.

Salt to taste and chill, until, well, chilled.

Taste-test to make sure it’s not deadly to the people you’re serving it to.

Eat and Enjoy .

Caramelized Shallot & Pinenut Mac N Cheese Cupcakes

Yup. You heard that right.

I haven’t put anything up lately. Been busy. So, to make up for it, I give you this, the most delicious, easy, satisfying snack in the… kitchen?

CARAMELIZED SHALLOT & PINENUT MAC N CHEESE CUPCAKES

Ingredients: The noodles you want to use! I used Vegetable Radiatore (Organic Pasta) from Trader Joe’s. I like the added color and flavor. Pinenuts (Pignolias), 1 Shallot (largeish), butter (not too much), heavy cream, ricotta, the cheese you want to use! I used the Quattro Fromage from Trader Joe’s. It may not be the fanciest, but it worked for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the results! Plus, as an added bonus, it comes shredded.

Be careful with these guys… they’re dangerous. Before you know it you’ve had, well, the entire cupcake tray… or close to that.

As always, begin by gathering ingredients and preheat your oven at 375 degrees.

Once you have said ingredients, get your water going and salt. This way while your shallots and pinenuts are cooking, your water and noodles can also be goin’.

Next, melt your butter (only enough to caramelized your shallots and coat your pinenuts). Once the butter is melted and your pan is on low heat, add your pinenuts.

Next, finely chop your shallot. Make sure that you get a nice, small, dice on it. Nobody likes a mouthful of shallot… do they?

Add your shallots to your pinenuts and stir relatively frequently. Burnt shallots are nasty. Let’s not let this happen.

At this time your water is probably boiling so, gather your chosen noodles (I like to use ones that have little crevices in them so cheese can get inside them) and dump ’em in.

Cheese sauce! In your handy-dandy sauce pan, create your sauce. This is done by slowly heating heavy cream and adding your cheese. Keep stirring! You want to keep your heat low and the cream moving. Once your cheese is completely melted turn the heat off and keep stirring. After the heat has gone down a bit, you can leave it there.

Pre-melting.

After melting. Your sauce should be creamy and silky.

Your noodle are done. Strain them and admire their pretty colors, like I did.

Retrieve a mixing bowl (something you can combine everything in) and your sprayed cupcake tin.

In this mixing bowl add your pasta and your pinenut/shallot mixture.

Then add your cheese sauce and a dollop of ricotta. This helps bind everything together and, well, it’s delicious.

Add more of the quattro fromage that you made your cheese sauce with and a bit of salt and pepper.

Mix it up!

Dish up into your cupcake tray.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (until the tops are golden brown).

Let these suckers sit! They need to sit for ideally 10 minutes. This help solidify them and ensure that they keep their shape when you take them out of the trays.

Whelp. There ya go folks! Happy Weekend!

Caramelized Onion and Feta Crostinis.

A while back I cooked for a small wedding reception party thing for my Mom and her husband Aaron.

I did a couple different things, not knowing the people who were going to be there, I went with a couple basic things, items that everyone and anyone would like.

One thing that I did stood out in particular though. It was an idea that I had tried before at a friends birthday party where I also was the cook/chef.

CARAMELIZED ONION & FETA CROSTINIS

Ingredients: Red onion, feta cheese, honey, butter, ground black pepper, your favorite bread to make crostinis with

THE SHMECIPE:

Once you have gathered all your ingredients together, begin by slicing your onion. Try and get the sliced relatively thin and as even as possible. This will ensure that nobody gets a big bite of crunchy red onion, and instead will get sweet, silky, evenly cooked yumminess.

In a frying pan (or whatever you’ve got handy), melt about a spoonful of butter completely on low heat (burnt butter is nasty), and add your onions. Toss to make sure they are coated, and let them caramelize, stirring occasionally.

After about 3 minutes of this, add a spoonful of honey and stir in. Add a pinch of ground black pepper, toss, and continue to let caramelize until onions are the desired texture… I like mine completely soft for this crostini, but if you like a bit of crunch, that’s alright too. Remember to turn off the heat once you’ve got what you want in the pan.

Gather your baguette, and slice into about 1/2 inch thick pieces. In a large frying pan, melt a third of a stick of butter and place your crostinis in the pan on medium to low heat. Allow time for the bread to brown on one side (about 2 minutes) and then flip. Remove your crostinis from the pan and turn off the heat.

Add a dollop of caramelized red onions on to your crispy bread and top with crumbled feta cheese.

This appetizer was a big hit at both parties I served it at. It’s unusual, but the flavor combinations work perfectly together, with the punch of the red onion balanced nicely with the sweetness of the honey and the salty coolness of the feta.

Enjoy.

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Crostinis.

A while back I wanted to make a crostini of some sort.

Scratch that. I ALWAYS want to make a crostini of some sort.

I play with different breads, different butters (herb (that I make), REAL, salted, not salted, sweet, etc.), but most of all, and most importantly, what goes ON the Crusty Crostini.

That is what is best about this delicious little bite (or three). THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.

For example, here is one that I made a wee bit ago.

HEIRLOOM TOMATO AND AVOCADO CROSTINI

Ingredients: One ripe avocado (ready to eat/devour), one Heirloom Tomato, Cilantro, good Olive Oil, salt, your favorite baguette, butter, lemon juice

Now, the reason that this is so good, aside of course the delicious topping, is the bread (zee crostini).

I used a “Rustic” baguette from a local bakery. It’s basically fresh French bread, in baguette form, and I think it works perfectly.

THE SHMECIPE:

To begin, chop up your tomato. You may leave the seeds in  if you like. I did in order to increase the intense flavor that a perfectly ripe Heirloom tomato brings to the dish; but if you do not like them, or think the have the texture of “monkey brains” (Thank you Pops), then taking them out will not hurt a thing.

So, chop up your tomato and set it aside in a bowl big enough to mix everything together (there’s not that much stuff, so it doesn’t need to be huge). Next, set about chopping your cilantro. You don’t need a lot, but the kick that it adds is wonderful, so I encourage you do use it. Add the cilantro to your tomatoes and gather your avocado. Halve, twist, dice, and scoop out the innards of your ‘cado into the bowl with everything.

LIGHTLY dowse it with your handy-dandy olive oil and a pinch of salt. The salt is important. It not only brings out the velvety taste of the avocado, but it lends itself to improving and exaggerating the textures of the tomato.  At this point in time, take a tiny bit of lemon juice (if you have an actual lemon to squeeze it out of, that’s optimal) and cover your mixture with it. This will help prevent your avocado from turning brown. Cover the mixture tightly and place in the ‘fridge.

Getting to your crostinis. Slice your bread however you want yours to look. I did mine at and angle, but it really doesn’t matter if it’s just you and you don’t care what it looks like! Regardless, it’ll taste the same and it’ll taste delicious. Once your bread is sliced, heat a frying pan on medium heat with about 1/3 cup of butter. Do more or less depending on, well, what you want, but that’s about how much I used. Remember to always be checking it, your butter that is. Burnt butter is gross and we don’t want that happening, now do we?

All the butter is nice and melted. Place your slices in the pan… now, be patient. It takes about two minutes on each side… We are looking for a golden brown color on our bread. A beautiful, crispy, buttery crostini us what we are after.

Retrieve your perfect crostinis, take your mix out of the refrigerator, and top generously.

Brownies. Bacon. Brussle Sprouts.

Happy Food Year.

We got invited to a wonderful NYE party.

It was a Pot-Luck and these are some of the things I brought.

BROWNIES WITH LEMON CURD AND WHIPPED CREAM CHEESE FROSTING.

I’m so glad I found Leeks. I love them. They are wonderful.

Especially when thrown in Bacon grease, with the Bacon.

FRIED BRUSSLE SPROUTS WITH CRISPY BACON, CORN, LEEKS AND GOAT CHEESE

Just somethin’ I whipped up.

Almost every day I make/bring my husband lunch. This is excessive, I know. But, if I don’t do it he will end up either not eating, or, even worse, going to Costco for “mystery food”. There just aren’t options near his work that are fast and delicious AND healthy. So, I bring it to him, or make it early in the morning for him while he is primping. I usually use the excuse that he needs to eat to see him in the middle of the day… I miss him if I don’t (barf).

So, today, I needed to think of something to bring. My favorite days are the ones where there are leftovers and all I have to do is heat it up. It’s a little frustrating to get up, to the dishes, make more at lunch time, do them, and make more at dinner…especially when you don’t have a dishwasher. I mean, I AM THE DISHWASHER. Alas, this was not a leftovers day, which challenges me to make something using the least amount of dishes possible.

CARAMELIZED ONIONS WITH FIG BALSAMIC ON TOAST WITH MELTED MUENSTER

Ingredients: One red onion; one yellow onion; thyme; rosemary; olive oil; salt; bread; muenster; fig balsamic; 3 cloves of garlic; honey; brown sugar

THE SHMECIPE:

I began by chopping my onions. You may do it however you like, diced, thick, whatever, to each his own…but I halved the onion and sliced them up that way into relatively thin slices.

I used a relatively large Sauce pan in order to give everything room. Coat the bottom of your pan with olive oil and drop in chopped onions. Toss in the olive oil on low heat and let them begin to caramelize. After a couple stirs and roughly 5 minutes, go out to your handy-dandy garden and pick your Thyme and Rosemary.

If you don’t have a handy-dandy garden, and don’t live in Santa Cruz, California where it’s 70 degrees and sunny, go to the store and buy your herbage.

Once you have acquired said herbs, give them a fine chop and toss in with your caramelizing onions. At the same time, add a large spoonful of honey and a little spoonful of brown sugar. This will not only help temper the Fig Balsamic we will put in later, but will help to get a good caramel flavor on and from the onions.

Mix herbs in with honey and onions and let sit, still on low heat, for about a minute, allowing the honey to melt completely and the brown sugar to break down completely.

Chop your garlic. If you are a big garlic person, you can add more. I wanted the garlic to be an “accent flavor” (kind of like an accessory), and not the dominating flavor, so I didn’t add a ton. But you can!

Add your garlic and stir your delicious concoction.

Add your Fig Balsamic. If you can’t find it, don’t worry. If you have fig jam or something similar, you can add a spoonful of that, along with a bit of Balsamic Vinaigrette. It wont taste exactly the same as this, but it’ll still be delicious! Also, you can leave the fig part of it out completely… just add Balsamic Vinaigrette! ANYWAY, add your fig stuff, and stir.

This will need to stay on low heat, and be stirred until it reduces a bit. When you put in your balsamic, make sure you put in enough to allow it to reduce and create an almost jam-like consistency. Everything should be REDUCED REDUCED REDUCED. Keep things cookin’ for an additional 5-10 minutes and turn off your heat.

Make some toast. I used the “Artisan” bread from Trader Joe’s but whatever your favorite bread is will work just fine. Toast it and get our your Sliced Muenster!

Take your Compote that you just made, put some on the toast, a slice of Muenster over it, and place it under the broiler for about 1.5 minutes. Keep an eye on it! (I always burn stuff in the broiler if I don’t). Wait until the cheese is nice and melty and golden brown on top and then take it out and eat it!

I believe that this compote (or whatever you want to call it), would be delicious on something like Pork Chops or Chicken as well as under yummy cheese on toast.

Good eating on a sunny Thursday afternoon.