delicious discourse

egg perfect

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on September 27, 2008

I could not help but admire the dozens eggs I bought this morning at the Austin Farmer’s Market in Downtown Austin, which shamefully are the first batch I have ever bought straight from somewhere other than the grocery store. You have to start somewhere, and now there is no turning back. Taking them out of the egg carton to put into the refrigerator tray, I could not help but pick each egg up without and “oooooo” and an “ahhhhh”—every single one was different, as they should be, of course. One was particularly scratched up, the color of the shells ranged from light tan to a warm honey brown, the sizes varied from jumbo to small, and some were more oblong than others. My excitement towards these eggs surprised me. I tried to reming myself that these are really just eggs and the 30 photos I took of them were so unecessary and if I was not careful Matt was going to have to committ me. But these eggs seem more real, more immediate, they represent nature and diversity, the come from animals who lay them, who contribute to the food chain. They will nourish us and give us energy to thrive and live. How could I not be excited, grateful, and thankful for these eggs? I cannot wait to try them with my egg toasts!

Tagged with:

the BIG question

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 24, 2008

“Where do you eat seafood in Austin?” It was one of those moments where my mind went completely blank. I never thought such a question would be so difficult to answer. I started stammering.  Where do I eat seafood in Austin? Then it hit me, I really don’t, unless it is in the comfort of my own home. Austin being landlocked and all, I have always felt weird about eating seafood here unless it was trout or snapper from the Gulf. It has to be my Hawaiian roots. I am a fish out of water and I don’t really plan on eating other fish that have been too long out of water.

But sometimes, I just get a craving for the light texture of fish, and I have to have it. This will lead me to the grocery store to interrogate the fish guy at Cenral Market about what is the most fresh, when it came in, was it frozen, what HE would eat himself, and what has not been injected with color. This weekend, I found myself walking away from the seafood counter with some good looking salmon (obviously not local, but what is a girl to do) and heading home to make salmon tacos with my local organic peppers and onions.

Fish tacos usually consist of poor quality mysterious white fish either drowned seasoning, bland as can be, or battered and fried. Not mine. Hey, its not bragging if its true. With the help of Matt’s grilling skills, the salmon was center stage in my version of fish tacos, accented with a kick of red, green, and orange peppers, juicy onions, sliced avocado, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, and finished off with a key lime, which was locally grown I might add. Not only does it look vibrant and colorful, it tastes lively and fresh.

Salmon Tacos
Makes about 6 tacos

1lb salmon with skin on (avoid farm-raised)
olive oil
salt
pepper

Lightly brush salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until cooked through. Stick a fork in the middle of the fillet and twist, if it is done, the meat will sort of flake away.
Assortment of peppers & chiles ( bell peppers, I used New Mexican chiles)
1 onion, cut into thick slices
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Slice peppers and onions. In a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until onions are soft and translucent.
6 tortillas (corn, flour, multigrain, your choice)
1 avocado, sliced
cotija cheese
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Warm tortillas either on the grill, in a pan on the stove, or in the microwave. To assemble, place a tortilla on each plate. Cut salmon into either strips of chunks and place down the center of the tortilla. Add peppers and onions on top of the fish. Add two slices of avocado. Crumble cotija cheese and sprinkle generously over fish, peppers/onions, and avocado. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Tagged with: ,

banana bread is for sundays

Posted in Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 21, 2008


I have a confession to make, Matt and I eat bananas all year long. We love them and every time we go to the grocery store we buy a bunch, usually more than we can eat. When we have time we make banana bread from the ones that are too ripe. I wouldn’t feel bad about eating all these bananas if I still lived in Hawaii and my Dad could take his machete and hack off the latest bunch from one of the banana trees in our yard;or if I could drive up the road to see Wilson and pick up a bunch of what we called apple bananas (smaller bananas with an almost sweet apple taste, hence the name), which he had clearly grown on the land behind his fruit stand. This would be obvious to most, but bananas do not grow in Austin. It takes a lot of fuel to transport them from Latin America so that I can slice one over my granola every morning. So, if we are going to continue to buy bananas, I plan not to let any go to waste. Matt and I might be eating a lot of banana bread. Good thing I have a great recipe, which is always a hit. People at my various past offices have loved it; it makes a great boating snack for energy in between wake-boarding sessions; and it is great toasted at home with a little bit of Kerrygold’s Irish butter. The chocolate chips are optional, but they add a certain sense of richness. Also, walnuts are a great addition.

I often find myself baking on Sundays. The past two times I have made banana bread it has been a Sunday. Maybe it is because Sundays I try to be lazy, which for me, means being productive, but just in a different way than I am the rest of the week; getting organized for the week, reading a book, going on a bike ride, trying a new breakfast place, doing all the little things I enjoy, but hardly find the time or the energy to do during the week. Banana bread is sunny; think tall green banana trees soaking up the sun and blowing in the sea breeze, so we can consume the white meat of the fruit at any time we like. Banana bread is comforting, and provides a great warmth with a glass on milk and curled up with a good book on a cool day, or any day for that matter. Banana bread is nutritious for the body as Sundays are the the soul. A wise woman once told me when I first moved to L.A., “LA is a great city, but make sure you take time to feed your soul.” At 18, I had no clue what she was talking about, but today, I know the importance all too well.

Sunday Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350F.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
Combine in mixer.
2 large eggs
Add one at a time to the sugar-butter mixture. Beat after each addition.
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract
Combine the banana, yogurt, and vanilla in a bowl and add to the wet mixture. Mix well.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
Stir into batter. Mix until evenly distributed.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes. I like to slightly undercook the bread to ensure  the bread stays moist. Let bread cool in pans for 10 minutes then roll out onto racks to cool completely before storing.

Tagged with: ,

fresh produce delivered to your doorstep

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on September 19, 2008

My new favorite day is Thursday. It used to be Wednesday for reasons I will not outline, and in some ways Wednesday still holds the rank, but Thursdays are now much more exciting. Every Thursday between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Greenling Organic Delivery drops off a big box of fresh, organic, and locally grown produce to keep my door company throughout the day. After a colleague opened my eyes to such services, Greenling became my answer to the impending moral food crisis I was about to have during and after the devouring of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, when I could find only very limited local organic produce in our grocery stores. One day at Whole Foods, with the intention of buying something local to put a salad that would go with dinner, the only local produce in the entire store were conventional cucumbers and tomatoes. Central Market may be a little bit better in this department, but not by much and certainly not up to level I need for my efforts to eat locally where and when I can.

Yesterday Matt and I received our second Thursday delivery; such a nice surprise to come home to. It gives Thursday a sense of mystery because you never know what will come in the box. This week we have much of the same: red potatoes, basil, garlic chives, red peppers, New Mexican chiles & peppers (grown locally), zuchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, greens, onions, lemons, and limes. Last week we also had a cantalopue, okra, sweet potatoes.This week we have eggplant, green beans, and parsley instead.

Needless to say this is alot of food for two people who are not the biggest eaters, since we are not very big people. I am going to have to get creative—especially with the 17 onions, of varying sizes, I have acquired over the last wto weeks. Not to worry, I have a plan—veggie tamales with a green chile sauce.

Greenling Organic Delivery

you won’t miss the meat

Posted in recipe, whim by delicious:discourse on September 19, 2008

The other night, a group of five girls, including myself, got together to try our hand at Bon Appetit’s Cooking Club menu for October, which is basically a vegetarian feast. Not sure how those of the male specie would respond to the strict no meat policy of such a dinner, I thought it safest to stick with the girls who seem more open to the idea. The philosophy of the menu is ideally seasonal vegetables that anyone could get locally at their farmers market. However, BP is slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to Texas agriculture. I had Matt attempt to pick up persimmons for me for the persimmon ice cream, and the person he asked at Whole Foods (the headquarters I might add) looked at him like he was crazy. A similar thing happened to Marie on her quest for pomegranates at WF. So, in the spirit of the menu, we just had to make do, just as people used to have to do–I opted for vanilla ice cream from Amy’s Ice Cream and the salad was sans pomegranate seeds.

Each of the 5 of us owned a dish. In the true spirit of a feast, this elegant and meatless meal was a true collaboration. Having everyone bring a dish for an already planned meal makes entertaining so much easier and also more exciting because you get to experience food made by other people and admire their own effort and creativity.


The first dish, courtesy of Nancy, was a dish of roasted shitake mushrooms with tossed in a dressing of lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and parsley, and cubes of pecorino cheese. Unimpressed with her first go at the dish, Nancy whipped up a second adding more garlic, less mustard, and using an aged vs. the called-for young pecorino. Whatever she did, it did the trick. Served with toothpicks, this girl, as in me, who does not even like mushrooms, could did not want to put the pick down, but I knew I had to save room for what was to come. (Pictured above. Courtesy of Bon Appetit)

Served with the main course, instead of before was a autumn farmer’s market salad made by Marie. With it’s roasted orange butternut squash, green arugula,and hypothetical pomengranate seends, the dish has quite the fall color scheme. Light and comforting with it dressing of orange huice, lemon juice, and walmnut oil, and complimented with the addition of walnuts, then drizzled with pomegranat molasses, the salad could have been a meal on its own. Nothing screams fall like butternut squash.

The zuchini galettes, courtesy of yours truly, turned out much better than I had ever expected. Frankly, I was worried, but that began to cease with every sip of my kir and when I began to see how much food we really had. The pastry was very easy to make. It just takes patience cutting the butter into the flour, but if you are a nerd like moi, it can be very meditative. I made it the night before. The filling was relatively easy, it just involved things time consuming steps, like draining the zuchinni for twenty minutes, or letting the zuchini-onion mixture cool to room temp. Also, you may not anticipate it, but cold pastry takes time to roll out. The first bite though, warm out of the onion, made every single step and worry worth it. The pastry was flaky and golden and the smooth zucchini was and ricotto were popped by parmesean and and fleur de sel.

Anna was extremely skeptical of her succotash of fresh corn, lima beans, tomatoes, and onions that she had actually made the night before. After reheating in a skillet and seasoning with some salt, the dish improved greatly. Maybe the flavors sort of melded together, but the dish was delicious, fresh, and the perfect antidote from the richness of the galettes. For the grand finale, dessert was in itself a collaborative effort. The vanilla ice cream was courtesy of our very good friend, Amy, over at Amy’s Ice Cream and I made the cherry-almond short bread cookies the night before. Kenzie was in charge of the pears. He nervousness, marked by her complete memorization of the recipe and its steps, was uneccessary. She executed the pears browned in butter, rose, and thyme beautifully. Sweet and soft, the dessert was beautiful next to the creamy icecream and the crunch of the shortbread.

All photographs are courtesy of Bon Appetit. I did not want to bore and torture my guests with taking hours of photographs, so this will have to do. However, I will attest that every dish we made looked exactly like the picture, except for the shitakes, which nancy left whole.

Recipes are below:

Shiitake Mushrooms with Young Pecorino Cheese
6 servings
7 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, divided
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
8 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 lemon, peel cut into long thin slivers (yellow part only)
Coarse kosher salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slices or left whole if smaller than 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 garlic clove, peeled, flattened
6 oz young pecorino cheese (pecorino fresco) or Monterey Jack cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
Whisk 5 teaspoons lemon juice and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in 6 tablespoons olive oil. Stir in lemon peel slivers. Season dressing to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Toss mushrooms, remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle mushrooms with coarse salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn mushrooms over and roast until soft and beginning to brown around edges, about 10 minutes longer.
Pour half of dressing over hot mushrooms on sheet. Add garlic and toss to coat. Let cool on sheet.
Combine mushrooms, cheese, parsley, and remaining dressing in medium bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours. Discard garlic clove. Serve mushrooms and cheese with toothpicks, if desired.Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, and Walnut Salad
6 servings

4 1/2 to 5 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash (from about one 2-pound squash)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
Coarse kosher salt
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 1/2 tablespoons walnut oil or other nut oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 oz arugula (about 8 cups lightly packed)
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses*

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss squash, olive oil, and crushed red pepper on large rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Roast 15 minutes. Using spatula, turn squash over. Roast until edges are browned and squash is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle with coarse salt. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Whisk orange juice, walnut oil, and lemon juice in large shallow bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add arugula, walnuts, and pomegranate seeds; toss to coat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Spoon warm or room-temperature squash over salad. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and serve.

*A thick pomegranate syrup; available at some supermarkets and at Middle Eastern markets, and from adrianascaravan.com.

Individual Zucchini, Lemon, and Ricotta Galettes
makes 6 (mine made 8)CRUST
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons (or more) ice water

FILLING
5 2/3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 1/3 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* Fleur de sel

Crust: Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, stirring until dough forms moist clumps, and adding more water by teaspoonfuls as needed if dough is too dry. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten each into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.

Filling: Place zucchini in colander set over large bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Let drain 30 minutes. Working in batches, squeeze zucchini in kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and lemon juice; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until zucchini is tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan, egg, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in cooled zucchini mixture. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 6-inch-diameter plate, cut out 3 dough rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. Place 3 dough rounds on each baking sheet.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Spoon 1/2 cup filling into center of 1 dough round, leaving 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch border. Carefully fold up border, pleating dough edges to create round pastry with about 2 to 2 1/2 inches of exposed filling in center. Repeat with remaining filling and dough rounds. Brush crusts with melted butter. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over filling in centers. Sprinkle galettes with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with fleur de sel.

Bake galettes 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until crust is golden and filling is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes longer. Run spatula under galettes to loosen. Let rest 5 minutes. DO AHEAD Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Serve individual galettes hot or at room temperature.

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Onion
6 servings2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.

Stir in basil and serve.

Bosc Pears in Rosé Wine
6 servings1 tablespoon butter
3 firm but ripe medium Bosc pears, peeled, halved, cored
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/3 cups semi-dry rosé wine
1/4 cup wildflower honey
Vanilla ice Cream

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, cut side down. Tuck thyme sprigs around pears. Cook until cut sides are brown (do not turn pears over), about 3 minutes. Transfer pears to plate. Add rosé wine and wildflower honey to same skillet and boil until mixture is reduced to about 1 cup, scraping up any browned bits, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and add pears, cut side up. Spoon some of juices in skillet over pears, cover skillet, and simmer until pears are tender, about 10 minutes. DO AHEAD Pears can be made 4 hours ahead. Uncover and let stand at room temperature. Rewarm pears before continuing, if desired.

Place 1 warm or room-temperature pear half, cut side up, on each of 6 plates. Drizzle pears with sauce from skillet. Spoon scoop of vanilla ice cream alongside pears and serve.

Cherry-Almond Shortbread Cookies
makes about 24
24 dried tart cherries (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup crème de cassis (black-currant liqueur)
1/2 cup raw almonds with skins, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Soak cherries in cassis in small bowl at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain; pat dry.
Grind 3 tablespoons almonds in mini processor until finely ground. Finely chop remaining almonds.
Whisk all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add ground almonds; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in flour mixture on low speed just to blend.
Scrape dough out onto sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Using paper as aid, form dough into 8 1/2×1 3/4-inch log. Brush dough all over with egg (except for ends). Scatter chopped almonds on sheet of plastic wrap. Roll log in almonds to coat. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Dough can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated. Cover and chill cherries.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Let dough stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Unwrap dough and cut into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place cookies on large ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Place 1 cherry in center of each cookie.
Bake 10 minutes. Press cherries into cookies (cookies will have softened). Rotate baking sheet in oven and bake until cookies are lightly golden and slightly puffed, about 18 minutes longer. Cool cookies on sheet on rack 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. DO AHEAD Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.


chocolate & zucchini

Posted in recipe, Uncategorized by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

Look very closely. Can you identify my secret ingredient? The tiny green flecks floating within the sea of cookie and chocolate chunks??? Zucchini! Now I understand the brilliance of the unusual combination. I have long wondered how Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini came to be named. However, after reading her About page, the name combination came together completely by accident, both chocolate and zucchini meaning entirely different things to her, but together representing her approach to food and food things.

The goodness of chocoalate and zucchini in the same dish would have to come together quite by accident because (I am making an assumption based on my average brain here) you normally would not think to put the two together. To state the obvious, one is a vegetable and the other is commonly treated as a dessert. How they could come together in unison only a highly dangerous and volatile chemistry experiment could determine. One of the brave souls turned out to be Camille, Barbara Kingsolver’s oldest daughter, as documented in my latest read Animal Vegetable Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Deep into the chapter titled “Zucchini Larceny,” in a effort to get rid of an overabundance of zucchini, Camille devises shredding fresh zucchini and adding it to chocolate chip cookie batter and then devilishly serving them to her younger sister and all her friends, while toying with them to guess the secret ingredient she never would tell. Her cookies were a wild success with only one or two remaining.

Inspired by the zucchini at my local farmer’s market and the lip-licking memory of my zucchini bread of last weekend, I decided to give the combination a go. A sweet, soft, and spongy summer emerged with pockets of earthy chocolate. I strongly recommend serving them with a side of sunny Saturday afternoon, preferably in early September when you are mourning the loss of an endless summer, but there is still an abundance of fresh, local zucchini.

ZUCCHINI CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES (courtesy of Animal Vegetable Miracle)
(Makes about two dozen)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 T vanilla extract
Combine in large bowl.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

Note: I accidentally used bittersweet chocolate, silly me, which was slightly overpowering to the subtle but present zucchini. My recommendation would be for semi-sweet chocolate chips for the sake of very importantbalance.

Tagged with: , ,

friday burgers & corn

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

There really is nothing like ending a long week with a comforting meal in preparation for the leisure of the weekend. This week, even though it was only four days, felt like forever; odd, considering usually getting a magazine ready for press results in a shortage of hours. But, this week would not end, and when it finally did, Matt and I decided to cook an easy, but scrumptious meal in order to celebrate.

I usually make 99 percent of the culinary decisions in our household. This is no secret and I am sure Matt would agree. However, he must be credited with the genius outline of the menu: burgers with grilled corn, cuban style. We hoped to recreate the grilled corn served at Cafe Habana in SOHO that is garnished with chipotle seasoning, cotija cheese, and a lime wedge. In a collaborative spirit, I filled in the details by choosing buffalo burgers with a spinach arugula pesto, fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomato in addition to a spinach salad with dried figs, walnuts, and locally made goat cheese (Pure Luck Farm & Dairy).

There really is no way to describe the satisfaction one simply good meal can provide. I am a very simple cook and I often find the dishes I admire most are simplistic nature. Of course, I have an appreciate for fine cuisine and hours-long processes, but fresh and rustic can really not be beat.

Matt executed the corn beautifully. Consulting Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Matt peeled back the corn husks keeping them attached and rubbed the ears with butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and chipotle seasoning. Putting the husks back in place, the corn were placed back on the grill until the kernals were tender, but crisp. To serve, Matt removed the husks and sprinkled the corn heavily with cotija. To serve, we drizzled with lime juice. It could not have been better with the spice of the chipotle and the salty kick of the cotija followed by the sublte citrus of the lime. The only difference between ours and Cafe Habana’s version was grill marks, and that we can easily remedy.

Trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup in any form, and that includes store-bought ketchup, I needed a burger that would be complete without the traditional tomato paste. This burger not only made my mouth water, but it was aesthetically pleasing with the crisp white, red, and green—it could have been a Christmas burger in September, and in that regard, it truly was a gift. The tablespoons of homemade pesto that you mix into the meat, keep the burger very moist and juicy, while adding tons of flavor from within the heart of the burger. I used bison meat instead of beef, which is by nature leaner and therefore dryer than beef, but this burger oozed that sought-after juice. And yes, it does taste as good as it looks.

I found the burger recipe on BonAppetit.com.

BURGERS WITH MOZZARELLA AND SPINACH-ARUGULA PESTO
8 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 10 cups packed)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 cups (packed) fresh arugula leaves, divided (about 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 pounds ground beef (20% fat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns, split horizontally
6 1/3-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
(about 10 ounces)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Preparation
Rinse spinach; drain briefly, then place in large glass bowl. Microwave spinach, uncovered, on high just until wilted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Combine garlic, lemon peel, and crushed red pepper in processor; blend until garlic is finely chopped. Add spinach, 2 cups (packed) arugula, pine nuts, and lemon juice; process until coarse puree forms. With machine running, gradually add oil in thin stream and blend until almost smooth. Mix in cheese. Transfer pesto to small bowl; season with salt.
Do ahead: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Combine ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 6 tablespoons spinach-arugula pesto in large bowl; mix lightly with fingertips or fork just until incorporated. Form meat mixture into six 3/4-inch-thick patties. Place patties on platter.
Do ahead: Beef patties can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Grill buns, cut side down, just until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Build burgers with pesto, patties, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and arugula. Cover with bun tops.

(more…)

Tagged with: , ,

The best zucchini bread ever, really

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 2, 2008

Zucchini bread, like carrot cake, runs in my blood. One of the many reasons I love carrot cake is because my mother, back in her baking days, would make it for every birthday of my Dad, my sister, and I, as well as requesting it to celebrate every year she turned older. I just grew up with it. It was a part of my childhood and now it is a big part of my life. So, I assume the same would have happened with zucchini bread had my father not nipped it in the bud at the early stage. The story goes, as newlyweds in Ventura, my mother would make zucchini bread all the time. My dad working close by at his surf shop, would come home for lunch or after a surf and start with a slice, which turned to two, which turned to three, you get my point. Once you start, if its that good, it is hard to stop no matter how satisfied you are. So, my Dad, a lean, athletic guy in his late-twenties, had to ask my mother to stop making so much zucchini bread because he was gaining weight! True story. Good thing birthdays come just once a year.

So, after a childhood sans zucchini bread, I decided I should try my hand at making it myself. My first attempt proved tasty, but this post, of my second attempt, proves it can get much much better.

Last week I stumbled across my now favorite blog, the aesthetically simple, gorgeously photographed, and filled-with-knowledge 101 Cookbooks. Perusing the recipe journal, I came across Heidi’s, the author, recipe for her special zucchini bread. What caught my eye were a few of the ingredients, namely curry powder, poppy seeds, and crystallized ginger. This would either be the most perfect combination or perfectly awful. I had to try it.

The verdict—perfect. Absolutely perfect. The unusual ingredients present a mystery as you try to discern the slight hint of curry powder and ginger. I took a loaf to work, the recipe makes two, and the bosses son claimed I was a gourmet chef. My reply—hardly, but Mom would be proud, and Dad would be in trouble.

Heidi’s Special Zucchini Bread Recipe (yields 2 loaves)
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cups poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)
2 t. vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 T curry powder (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.
In a mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until the mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).
In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.
By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.
Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. I like to under bake my zucchini bread ever so slightly to ensure it stays moist. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling – if you leave them in their pans, they will get sweaty and moist (not in a good way) as they cool.

Tagged with: ,

Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Ravioli

Posted in restaurants by delicious:discourse on September 1, 2008

Yet another wonderful adventure in delicacy and taste from those brilliant chefs at TRIO. Insert big SIGH here. Outside under a royal blue umbrella with nothing between me and the green grass and beyond that Lady Bird Lake, I carefully halved the slightly pink ravioli I had placed on my plate. A brilliant butternut colored filling peaked through and hinted of goodness. Slowly, I placed a bite in my mouth and let the sweetness of the squash and tart creaminess of the goat cheese wash over me. Served with sauteed mushrooms, the earthiness brought me back down to earth. My only regret, the dish is an appetizer and consists of five pieces of ravioli, enought to ingnite the palate, and satisfy, yet keep me longing for more.