Friday, August 22, 2008

Grilled Peaches with Cinnamon-Spiked Ricotta & Honey

Just taking advantage of what's hanging around the house here - a little extra ricotta and some fresh peaches. Again, if you don't like ricotta cheese, this will not impress you. I just think it gave the peaches a little extra pizazz (is that a real word? It looks wrong). Anyways, if this is a jumping point for embellishing your own fruit then, whoopie! But I toally get it if you prefer your fruit nude. And sometimes ricotta just won't satisfy your ice cream craving. I understand. Really, I do.

Cooking spray
1/2 cup ricotta
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Splenda

Spray your grill or grill pan with cooking spray. Once hot, lay those peaches down. Meanwhile, mix ricotta, cinnamon and Splenda (or sugar) together. Once the peaches are heated through and have the grill marks, take them off the heat. Put 1 T. mixture into each peach and then drizzle with honey. Yum!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Few of my Favorite Things

Chocolate filled raspberries. I just melted chocolate chips and put in a ziplock bag. Snip the corner and pipe the chocolate into fresh raspberries. Best served at room temperature so the chocolate melts in your mouth along with the berry. So delicate and beautiful, these would make a perfect adornment to a cupcake, tart or just pop them in your mouth for no apparent reason (my favorite way).

Dreyer's Yogurt Blends - Caramel Praline Crunch. If you are an ice cream fan and just have to have a serving every night, here is an interesting solution. I LOVE this particular flavor, but there are several to choose from. Only 120 calories per serving and 3.5 grams of fat, plus all those live culture things that yogurt has, which is apparently good for digestion and what not. I think it just tastes so incredibly good.

Do you remember the ice cream trucks coming around your neighborhood when you were a kid? This one I remember well because of the gumball eyeballs. There was also Tweety Bird and the foot-shaped one with a gumball for the big toe. I'm scared of the ice cream truck that comes around my hood. That beat-up 70's van must cruise through here at a brisk pace because when I hear that creepy wailing tune, by the time I run out the front door, he is long gone. I often wonder if maybe they sell more than just ice cream, if you know what I mean.

Sopapillas - Fried flour tortillas topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon-sugar. Now you picky foodie people, I realize that mine are not traditional sopapillas, which are some sort puffy bread made from scratch and then's just my gringo version. My parents used to make these every once in awhile. I think it was a frugal dessert which made us totally happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Go FIGure

Mmmm... I think we are at the height of fig season because they are everywhere right now. I even found a new park this week that had HUGE fig trees with sticky fig residue everywhere. Too bad the branches were so high that I couldn't reach them. I also couldn't resist buying a couple baskets at the Farmer's Market this week. Here are a few ways I decided to use them:

Fresh Figs - With walnuts and Cambazola (creamy blue cheese). Simplicity at it's finest.

Oven-Dried Figs - This was kind of a mistake, but it turned out pretty good! I was going to pre-bake some figs to put on a pizza or tart. So I put them in the toaster oven at about 300 degrees......and TOTALLY forgot about them. Over 2 hours later, I got these dry sweet chewy morsels. A blessing in disguise!
I know, I know, that's a fire hazard waiting to happen. It's just that they didn't really emit an odor and I was completely engrossed in catching up with some housework and a little Olympics on the TIVO. If you are planning a hike in the hills, these would be a great natural sweet snack to bring along. It makes me think of trying to find a food dehydrater.

Fig & Ginger Chutney - Aside from a little chopping, chutneys are easy to make and they are so versatile. Serve it on grilled meat. Pour it over a wedge of brie with crackers. Make a crostini appetizer with some goat cheese and chutney. I love the sweet-sour-spicy combination!

1 pint figs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 T. grated ginger

3 T. apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup minced onion

4 oz tomato sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1/8 tsp. cinnamon


Mix everything together in a non-reactive bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Transfer to sauce pan and simmer for about and hour, or until all the flavors have mellowed. Best to eat the next day.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad

I can only take credit for recreating this dish because I hoisted it directly from Tami at Running with Tweezers. It just looked so refreshing and I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. (I wish I could find those green zebra tomatoes she had) This is a visually stunning salad and the sweet tomatoes and watermelon meld together quite nicely. It reminded me that salt tastes great with watermelon.

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad
Goat Cheese
Basil Leaves
Olive Oil

Put everything together on a plate. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
I am categorizing this in both salad and dessert because it could really be the handsome beginning or end of any summer meal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Caramelized Onion Quiche with Fresh Mozarella and Zucchini Flowers

Eggs, onion, cheese and some leftover zucchini flowers make for a cute little quiche. I was inpired by all the beautiful quiches I found online that were topped with concentric patterns of food - asparagus, ramps or red bell strips, making neat patterns.

First things first. The crust. Do what you wish here....I made mine from scratch. Nothing wrong with frozen pre-made crust. In fact, if I had some handy it would have been just fine and cut my prep by at least 15 minutes.

Pie/Quiche Pastry Crust
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4-5T. ice cold water

Cut the butter into the flour and salt. Add the water, until a formable ball of dough forms. Roll it out and put in a pie pan. Cover the crust with parchment paper and top with dry beans or rice to weigh it down so it won't puff up. Bake for 15 minutes in a 350 oven.

Second, saute the onion slices in a little olive oil until caramelized. This takes a good 15 minutes. I usually cheat and add a teaspoon of sugar to help the browning along. Then get all your other ingredients ready to go.....slice your mozarella, grate the parmesan, cut up some basil and brush off those zucchini flowers.

1 onion, sliced and caramelized
4 oz fresh mozarella
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 T. chopped basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
6 zucchini flowers, halved vertically

In a separate bowl, mix 4 eggs with 1 cup milk. Add parmesan, basil, salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Spread the onions on the crust, then the mozarella. (mushrooms would also be delish) Pour egg mixture over the top, reserving a couple tablespoons. Lay flowers in a pattern on top and push them down a little so they get wet with the egg. Cover with the last couple tablespoons of egg. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until done.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Yucatan Chicken Tacos with BBQ Chile-Peanut Sauce and Red Slaw

I wonder if everyone is impulsive like me when it comes to food. I do sometimes overindulge, but what I'm talking about is when you see something on a cooking show or in a magazine and immediately say, "I am making that tonight". You drop what you had planned for dinner. You ignore the tornado frenzy that are your children racing around your feet. You must recreate that recipe!

That's what happened here. The show was Throw Down with Bobby Flay and it was a challenge for "Puffy Tacos." It looked so easy on TV (doesn't it always?), but once I saw Bobby's recipe, I decided to simplify it just a ditching the puffy aspect. I used regular corn tortillas. And I didn't make the base BBQ sauce from scratch. And no peanut-cilantro relish. It was still OUTSTANDING. I loved the creamy peanut BBQ sauce with the tangy slaw. It wasn't your typical taco, but the flavors were so unique and addicting. If you have some extra time on a weekend or something, I say give this a whirl.

Step 1 - Marinate the chicken.

Step 2 - Make the BBQ sauce.

Step 3 - Make the red cabbage slaw and finish the sauce.

Step 4 - Cook the taco shells and assemble.

So here is my version:

Yucatan Tacos with BBQ Chile-Peanut Sauce with Red Slaw

Chicken Marinade:
2 lbs. chicken cut into small chunks
2 T. honey
2 T. lime juice
2 T. rice wine vinegar
2 T. olive oil
2 t. minced garlic
1 minced chipotle pepper

Mix everything together and let marinade while making the rest of this dish.

BBQ Sauce:
1 T. olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce

Saute onion until soft, add ginger & garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add BBQ sauce and chipolte and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Cool for a bit and then blend together in a blender until smooth.

Put sauce back in pan and add:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Increase heat to HIGH and cook until reduced by half.

2 T. soy sauce
3 T. creamy peanut butter

Cook another 5 minutes.

Red Slaw:
1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Place cabbage and onion in a large bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, orange juice, oil and honey and pour over the cabbage. Add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with mint. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

The last step...this is it, really.

Fry corn tortillas into taco shells - or let your partner do that while you stir fry the chicken. Grate some cheese. Assemble tacos - chicken, sauce, cheese and slaw.

Eat. Enjoy. Sneak one more taco than you anticipated. Come on, you worked for it!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta

Pssst. Don't tell anyone, but I've been having a summer fling. His name is Ricotta. He is so great to be around - he gets along with everyone and never talks back or steals the remote. If you want, I can give him your number.

Anyways, it's farmer's market Thursday again, usually one day I'm feeling a little adventurous in the kitchen. I can honestly say that I've been wanting to make these for 6 years!! How do I know the exact moment, you ask?

That was the first time I tasted ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers in a was shortly after we got married and I remember making the reservations to A'Cote in Berkeley with my new last name. I was giddy - and even more giddy after finding these on the menu. To me, it was so fru-fru and fancy, but now with the explosion of foodie bloggers comparing notes, nothing seems out-of-the-ordinary anymore.

I've tried to reproduce them making my basic ricotta stuffing that I use to make stuffed pasta shells. I found the tempura batter online, a really easy flour/egg/water mixture.

Pick some zucchini flowers from your own garden, steal them from your neighbor's garden, or just seek them out from your local farmer's market. Brush off any visible bugs and cut out the pistil or stamen, whichever reproductive organ you see lurking down inside. Ack!

Cut up some veggies really tiny and saute until soft. Add some herbs like basil or thyme.
Add the veggies to some fresh ricotta and stir together.
Stuff each blossom with the ricotta mixture and coat with the tempura. Fry those puppies up. Get your splatter screen out. Trust me. Do it.
You can serve them up on a plate and let people pick them up like perfect little hand-held appetizers or......
.......make an appetizer plate for each person. I found some beautiful heirloom tomatoes to use as a base. They were so incredibly sweet and juicy - a perfect way to balance out the creamy fried goodness.
Nibble nibble. Munch munch.
Zucchini Blossoms with Ricotta

12 zucchini blossoms

oil for frying

1 cup finely chopped veggies (zuc, carrot, onion, broccoli, peppers etc.)

1 clove minced garlic

2 T. chopped herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, etc.)


1 small container of fresh ricotta

tempura mixture:

1 egg

1 cup ice water

1 cup flour

Directions: Saute the veggies in 1 T. water until starting to turn soft. Add the garlic, cook for another minute. Remove from heat and cool. In a bowl, mix ricotta, veggies and fresh herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stuff each blossom with 1 - 2 T. of ricotta mixture. I think you could put these in the fridge at this point (not sure on that).

Heat up enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. For the tempura batter, mix the egg and super cold ice water together, then add sifted flour, stirring briskly to avoid lumps. (This reminded me of the paper mache "glue" we made as kids). Dip the blossom into the batter, twisting the top of the flower to seal it up. Fry until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt after removing from pan. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Grilled Yams with Honey-Ginger Dressing

After grilling some chicken yesterday, I got inspired to try something new (for me) on the BBQ. This was simple and not at all messy to make - one cutting board, a knife and a bowl to make the dressing. I loved the way the sweet and sour ginger dressing soaked into the hot grilled potatoes.

If you are curious about the other thing on the dish, it is the rest of our dinner: Pan-fried Red Snapper, done up real simple in a seasoned flour and cornmeal crust and fried in about a teaspoon of olive oil.

Grilled Yams with Honey-Ginger Dressing

2 yams, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
Cooking spray to coat

2 Tbs. honey
1 tsp. grated ginger
1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbs. canola oil
dash hot sauce
salt/pepper to taste
cilantro for garnish

Get your grill going on medium. Slice the yams and coat with cooking spray and some salt. Throw them on the hot grill and cook on one side for 7 minutes. Turn and cook another 7 minutes, or until tender. Prepare the dressing while they are cooking - I use a microplane to grate the ginger. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Pour over the hot potatoes, garnish with cilantro and serve. Serves 4-6.

I would like to say the kids loved this and gobbled it up. They did not. Mom and dad ate their portions so no worries there.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chimichurri Sauce

Hello again! It's about time I made another post. This was actually something I made last week, but honestly for me, writing and posting is more time consuming than cooking and photographing.

This Latin American condiment made with mostly fresh herbs is a quick way to jazz up grilled meat or add to a sandwich, pizza or whatever. I even resorted to taking a slice of turkey lunch meat and slopping on a spoonful, rolling it up for a speedy low-carb snack.

My first incarnation was to top off some grilled tri-tip. We usually just use salsa, but I wanted something different. The tangy and flavorful sauce will amaze you...use it sparingly so as to not overpower your meat! I am sure there are several variations out there, this was adapted from several recipes I looked at.

Having a good amount leftover (Tall Guy did not partake with the tri-tip), I decided to whip up an easy tart made from crescent roll dough, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and the chimichurri sauce. Yum! Okay, onto the recipe:

Chimichurri Sauce

1/2 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

3 green onions, chopped fine

juice of one lime

1/4 cup light olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. hot sauce

dash of sugar

salt/pepper to taste

Mix everything together and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.