delicious discourse

a fish out of water

Posted in recipe, whim by delicious:discourse on February 5, 2010

Hawaii is good for many, many things, one of which is inspiring me to eat and cook fish. Hawaii is obviously an island surrounded by an ocean full of fish, both large and small. The funny thing is that growing up I don’t remember eating all that much fish (my family was largely vegetarian except for the occasional chicken, Thanksgiving turkey, and of course seafood) – and for quite some time my favorite fish was salmon; I think it still might be, unless there is poke on the table.

Yes, poke. It is one of my must-eats for every visit home. Poke in Hawaiian means section or to slice and cut. Poke as a dish, as I buy it from the Kahuku Superette, is cubes of raw ahi tuna, tossed with chopped onions, soy sauce; a little wasabi can be added for some kick. It is eaten with chopsticks and it goes nicely with a really cold beer after a long day at the beach. The Kahuku Superette is located right across the street from my high school. If it has been raining, the huge potholes of its parking lot will be filled with water. In high school we treated it as a convenient store for cold drinks, snacks before soccer games and what have you. I’m not sure when someone realized they have some of the best poke on the island and now no one can get enough. A family friend, a young Australian surfer, staying with my family while I was home, after being introduced to poke by my dad, consumed so much over a period of three days he became jokingly concerned about his mercury intake. (For pictures on Wikipedia, click here).

Landlocked in Austin (an acquaintance in Hawaii pointed out to me that the only thing wrong with Austin is that it is surrounded by Texas), I’ve always felt weird about eating fish. It certainly has never been first to come to mind when contemplating what to cook for dinner. Yet when eating out, I’ve always preferred fish to the pork, beef, venison, and other wild game. My Hawaii trip could not have come at a more perfect time. I occupied the nine hours of flight time from Austin to Honolulu (through IAH) with dozing and Jonathan Safron Foer’s Eating Animals, an eye-opening book (confirming much of what I already new) that I do not recommend for the weak-stomached or for those who think ignorance is bliss. Now seemed like the perfect time to eat locally, sustainably caught, fresh fish because I was, and am not, going to be eating any factory-farmed meat, if I can help it, ever again. Some of the most revelatory information Foer provides is regarding the environmental destruction of commercial fishing practices and the factory farming of fish. If you are going to eat fish, I beg of you to take a look at the Monteray Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (they also have an easy-to-consult iPhone application, Seafood Watch).

Southwestern Red Snapper salad

I’ve come across some really great recipes for fish over the last month – Thai fish curry, a Southwestern red snapper salad from Stop and Smell the Rosemary (after cooking this dish I found out red snapper is in decline worldwide and fishing pressure on it is extensive), macadamia nut-crusted mahi mahi, soy-and-ginger-glazed salmon with udon noodles – and two really great great places to buy fish in Austin – Quality Seafood and San Miguel Seafood at the Austin Farmers’ Market. I may not be in Hawaii again for awhile, but now I know where to go for my fish fix and have found local and online sources for inspiration.

But, please, whether you are eating fish at restaurants or cooking it in the comfort of your own home, you make sure you are eating quality and sustainably caught fish. My rules of thumb: always avoid farm-raised fish, and always consult Seafood Watch. Do not be embarrassed to ask the fishmonger or your waiter questions – that is what they are there for and remember, knowledge is power.

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honoring each year

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on January 29, 2010

As Matt was cutting his 31st birthday cake last night, I began to think about birthday cakes and how fabulous they have been in the last couple of years. Birthday cakes are kind of my “thing.” No one should let a birthday pass without one and I love nothing more than to make – or give – someone a cake on their birthday. If you have to be a year older, at least you can mark it with cake – good cake, made specifically for you, either given or made with love.

cutting the cake, 2010

In turn, it seems I have found the perfect man because – he may not bake – but Matt gives truly great cakes. You can tell he grants the matter thought and he isn’t afraid to go different or quirky. And they are always surprises. Every birthday – you could say – is an adventure in cake.

Italian cream cake, Lucy's Cakes 2008

Italian cream cake, Lucy's Cakes 2008

Two years ago, I came home from work and opened the refrigerator to a huge, bright pink smiley face and couldn’t help but return the smile. Underneath the shocking exterior was a flavorful Italian cream cake from Lucy’s Cakes. Matt’s parents had sent him a few while he was living alone in graduate school and he has fond memories of savoring every last crumb, by himself. I’d never really explored Italian cream cake before this one; my birthdays have always been celebrated with carrot cake, a continuing tradition from childhood.

Bee Cake, Walton's Fancy & Staple 2009

Last year, for my quarter-century birthday, I came home from work (this year my birthday will finally be on a Saturday) to find a gorgeous Bee Cake from Walton’s Fancy & Staple. Almond cake, buttercream filling, and chocolate ganache cake with a halo of confection bees with sliced almonds for wings – amazing. This past summer was the summer of Walton’s, stopping in for a sweet treat after hours at Barton Springs and I’d remarked on how cute the 4-inch Bee Cakes were. Remembering that, Matt ordered the very first 10-inch Bee Cake Walton’s had ever made. To go along with this large cake, I got a surprise party that was truly a surprise. What cake was leftover from the party was enjoyed crumb by crumb over the following week, not a bite wasted.

carrot cake, 2008

As for Matt’s birthday cakes, history tends to repeat itself. He always requests my carrot cake claiming it is simply the best. Three birthdays ago, I made him a full-size cake, which was just too much. Last year, he settled for a 30th-birthday trip with friends to San Francisco and Big Sur and a slice of pecan pie served with smoky ice cream and a single candle at NOPA in SF.

pecan tart with smoky ice cream, NOPA in san francisco 2009

This year, I thought maybe he would want a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting like I’d made for my Dad for his birthday dinner while we were in Hawaii recently. Or something evoking our longing to be back on the island, like a haupia  something or other. Nope. He wanted carrot cake, definitely. I decided to scale down the size and purchased two 5-inch cake pans at Sur La Table. Served on a yellow plate, with green candles, the cake could not have been more perfect for an intimate dinner of two (it was preceded by an eclectic offering of macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi, fettucine alfredo, and a salad of orange, avocado, and greens). We have enough left over to share generous slices with a few friends as well as personally revisit the sweet carrot, spiced cake and creamy frosting scattered with pecans (local, organic carrots are so much sweeter than ones you will find in the grocery store.)

mini carrot cake, 2010

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ahh, the sweet elixir of life

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on January 24, 2010

Cappuccino, Cafe Medici, Austin

I like Bon Appetit. And for the most part, I trust in their recommendations. When roadtripping to Seattle last September for a solitary night, I consulted their Top 10 archive on bonappetit.com for recommendations on where to eat. We, my fellow travelers and I, decided on Boom Noodle for our one shot at dinner (“Top 10 New Asian Noodle Bars”), Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream for an after dinner treat (“Top 10 Ice Cream Shops”), and Baguette Box for sandwiches to take on the road (“Top 10 Sandwich Shops”). All were spectacularly delicious, had clarity, were unpretentious, and had a great vibe. The trip proved incredibly successful: great food, gorgeous weather (it rains in Seattle, really?), and I found my wedding dress – first shop, first dress – check, check, check.

Eating Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream in Seattle.

Yes, Seattle was like this both days we were there. Magical.

So, when BA’s “Top 10 Best Boutique Coffee Shops” came out in their January 2010 issue, I was eager to try their one Austin recommendation – Progress Coffee. Mid-morning the weekend after Christmas, Matt and headed over to Progress Coffee to see what the BA buzz was all about. I’m not going to elaborate of the experience, but it was not any better or unique that my usual, sometimes daily, trips to my favorite coffee shops in Austin – Cafe Medici, Bennu, Walton’s Fancy & Staple, Dominican Joe’s, and wherever else a good cappuccino might fall into my lap (recently the Driskill Bakery and 24 Diner). This brings me to my point, what is the BA selection process for their Top 10 lists? I know restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton does not teleport all across the country dining at every new asian noodle bar or boutique ice cream shop. Do they rely on public relation professionals (let’s hope not), word on the street, their own intuition? What?

This is an important question, because similar to yoga – there is nothing worse than a really bad yoga class –  people who really enjoy coffee and take it seriously know that there really are few things worse than a really bad cup of joe. Take this Sunday morning for example, sitting at Cafe Medici before 9 a.m., Matt takes a sip of his impeccably-made cappuccino and croons, “Ahhh, the sweet elixir of life.”

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what i wish for you – real milk

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on March 13, 2009

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Nina Planck’s Real Food was recommended to me by a woman I know with the introduction of, “She will make you feel great about drinking whole milk.” Of course, I was intrigued. I knew the importance of eating milk products and meat from grassfed cows having already read Omnivore’s Dilemma and was well-versed in the concept and philosophy of eating locally as well as organically. But I did not know the benefits of drinking whole milk (and whole milk products), which in a nutshell, is milk as nature intends it to be.

Humans have consumed the milk of animals for over 11,000 years, which was when sheep and goats were domesticated in the Near East. It is believed that animals were first domesticated for their milk, not for their meat. Animal husbandry started with sheep and goats because they were small, easy to handle, and rugged – they could handle rough terrain. Think salty, crumbling feta from sheep’s milk in Greece and creamy chevre from goat’s milk in Provence – both cheese have been around since ancient times. Even then the French and the Greek new how to eat well. People began to milk the larger, more productive cow about 8,500 years ago in Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq. Even though cows are more delicate than sheep and goats, they are the creme de la creme (no pun intended) when it comes to milk.

Interestingly enough, and it makes sense, historically milk was never a luxury. It was seen as an important source of essential nutrients and could enrich the poorest diet. “For peasants, the cow kept the grocery bill down and the doctor away,” says Planck. No matter how poor you were, if you had a cow and some grass, you would always be rich in milk that could be used to make cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt. Milk is a very important source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamin B. The irony of milk today, is it is a luxury to drink milk from grassfed cows, and even more of a luxury to find raw milk. And by luxury I mean extremely hard to find and most likely more expensive, gallon for gallon, than what you will pay for industrial milk.

Critics of milk and dairy say that it has powerful growth hormones, cholesterol, lots of fat, allergenic bovine proteins, insecticides, antibiotics, viruses, and bacteria. What the critics fail to say is that almost all their grievances against dairy are found only in industrial, milk, not real milk that is raw and from cows that feed on grass not treated with chemicals. Real milk is from happy cows that are not given growth hormones to increase their milk production or from cows that are fed corn that makes them sick (because they are ruminants and are meant to eat grass) and have to be given antibiotics.

As for cholesterol in milk, what you want to avoid is oxidized or damaged cholesterol (oxidized low-density lipoprotein), which causes heart disease. Industrial powdered milk is created by spray-drying, a process that creates oxidized and damaged cholesterol. Powdered milk is commonly found in processed foods and nonfat dried milk is added to industrial skim and low-fat milk. The better dairies will not use powdered milk to make lowfat milk, they will simply take whole fresh milk and skim the cream off the top, but your best bet is just to drink whole milk, it tastes better too.

As for the fats that are in milk, the fats are good fats. Our bodies need fats. Our brains are mostly fats, and fat adds flavor. The butterfat in milk helps the body digest the protein in milk and saturated fats are necessary for bones to absorb the calcium in milk. The cream in milk contains the essential vitamin A and D that are fat-soluble (are absorbed by the intestinal tract with the aid of fats). Only 10% of the valuable calcium in milk can be absorbed without vitamin D. That being said, it is required by law that synthetic vitamin A and D be added to skim and low-fat milk. And if that wasn’t enough, you will want the glycosphingolipids, fats that protect from gastrointestinal infection, that are in whole milk.

Traditional, real milk is better for the you and for the cows it comes from and it tastes infinitely better. Happy, healthy cows, means a happier, healthier, more satisfied you. It is a direct example of good karma. And I don’t know about you, but there is so much bad energy in the world, I am going to take the good and cherish it wherever it may be found.

Organic milk is better than industrial milk. It means the cows have not been fed synthetic growth hormones and that they have been fed organic grain, corn, and soybeans. Organic milk is still pasteurized (Heating raw milk to a certain temperature in order to kill bacteria, but it also makes the milk more travel-friendly and extends its shelf life 2 to 3 weeks. However, pasteurization does not kill all bacteria and it kills good bacteria too.) and most of it is homogenized (A process that uniformly blends the cream throughout the milk, which would normally rise to the top. Homogenization has made milk more travel-friendly as well because the cream and milk do not separate intransit. It also evenly spread the sludge of dead white blood cells and bacteria that form after pasteurization that would otherwise form at the botton of the bottle.), but it is definitely a better option than cows fed corn, grain, and soybeans grown with chemicals and that have been pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics. However, the best option is traditional, real milk from grassfed cows that is nonhomogenized. Raw milk (unpasteurized) is ideal, but there are strict rules when it comes to farmers selling raw milk.

However, if you live in Texas, you are in luck because we have Remember When Dairy. Located in Yantis, Texas, Remember When’s cows are grassfed and given grain just when they are being milked. They offer skim, low-fat, and whole milk that are only lightly pasteurized. Both their low-fat and whole milk are nonhomogenized, meaning the cream is on top and the bottle needs good shake before you pour yourself a glass or take a swig. In Austin, their milk and butter can be found at Central Market and the Whole Foods on South Lamar. They are also have a booth at the Downtown Austin Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with a selection of yogurt, ice cream, buttermilk, butter (which has the most unbelievable smell), cream, and milk. Last week they had chocolate milk. Recently after sending an email inquiry to the owners, who responded by the end of the day, I found out that you can buy raw milk directly from the farm. In my 24 years, I have never had raw milk and I can’t wait to try it. My only wish is that it wasn’t such a luxury and more people could enjoy it. I know it will be wonderful, tasty, and nourishing.

Saving the world one blog entry at a time. Check out more  entries from Fight-Back-Fridays with Food Renegade. Click here.

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strawberries of spring

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on March 10, 2009
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Strawberries of Spring

Saturday morning at the Austin Farmer’s Market in Downtown, I was surprised to see baskets of deep red strawberries among the greens, spring onions, carrots, and various bounty. I had been so focused on life and where I want to go, I had forgotten the natural rhythm of the world and the beauty of the changing of seasons. Unlike one might think, winter, filled with travels, milestones, and days, flew by. And now an early spring has descended on Austin, first indicated by consistently warm weather, then strawberries, and confirmed by daylight savings lengthening the days that will eventually turn into summer.

I never can resist spring and I am always ready for it to come, just like I could not resist these wonderful berries bursting with the freshness and sweetness that is spring. What could be a better sign? These berries, which started the day at some Hill Country farm, ended the day on the dinner table sprinkled among spinach, walnuts, and goat cheese and tossed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple. From farm to table and shared with friends. Even though I lost track, things are as they should be. I look forward to much, much more of spring.

why? blue bell, why?

Posted in whim by delicious:discourse on October 18, 2008

Dear Blue Bell,

When Texas adopted me 5 years ago, in true Texan fashion I adopted Blue Bell as my store-bought ice cream of choice. I love your classic flavors; Homemade Vanilla has accompanied every birthday cake, pie, and Thanksgiving dessert. More eclectic or seasonal flavors have been whimsical buys to be enjoyed bite by bite. The first year I lived here, my grandmother and I searched high and low for an elusive flavor recommended by a family friend; something along the lines of coconut almond. When our supermarket searches failed, we called up Blue Bell headquarters to find where the mysterious flavor could be found and discovered. It had been a seasonal flavor and if we were lucky we might get a taste next year. Not only does Blue Bell ice cream have some big Texas taste, it always made me proud to buy Texan.

Over the years I have grown more and more conscious and particular of what is in the food that I, and all Americans, eat. I have started making things from scratch one would normally buy: pastas, breads, ice creams, cakes, cookies, etc, not only because I like the process, but because I know and can control exactly what goes into each recipe. From experience I know that good homemade ice cream has usually less than ten ingredients; all of which are familiar household items with names I have no trouble discerning or pronouncing.

Two weekends ago at a friends lake house I pulled a gallon tub of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough from the freezer and dug in for a large bite enjoying every chip, granule of cookie dough, and drop of dairy. Still savoring the bite and anticipating the next one, I automatically picked up the carton, not to look at the calories, but to look at the ingredient list. To my horror the list flowed halfway down the carton. Towards the top of the list “high-fructose corn syrup” jumped out at me. I looked at the half-bite still on my spoon never to looked at the same again. I promptly dropped the guilty bite in the sink and put the carton back where it belonged, in freezer exile. I was and still am bewildered. Why would ice cream, the most comforting and joyous of foods enjoyed for generations, need such an industrial, processed, and damaging ingredient such as high-fructose corn syrup?

In the last few years dormant consciousness has slowly, and more rapidly of late, been awakened both in the consumer and supplier. More and more people are wanting to know what goes into each bite they put into their mouths, and more suppliers are becoming more aware of the consequences to the people and the environment in every bite they produce.

Yes, you are a business, you sell a product. As a business you are governed by supply and demand; as long as you have people to buy your product, you will go on producing it. However, it is in your best interest not to harm your customer, to keep them alive, healthy, and buying ice cream. For the most part, consumers are ignorant. They need to be educated, guided, and sometimes have their hands held. This is the sad truth. So, as a Texan feeding fellow Texans, a Texan representing Texans, it is in your best interest not only to educate your neighbor, but to offer them the best product possible—one without high-fructose corn syrup, one without preservatives, one that is as sustainable as possible for both the consumer and the world in which we live and eat.

With the best of intentions,

delicious:discourse

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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!

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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.


Sweet & Savory Crepes

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

Once or twice a month I volunteer at Central Market’s Cooking School. It is a fun and educational way to not only learn about food, but scratch the itch to prepare food and taste food in a kitchen that is not yours with ingredients that you did not have buy. So, Saturday I volunteered for a morning class of Sweet & Savory Crepes, which turned out to be a relatively easy class to volunteer (which is nice for a Saturday morning) and an informative experience about all the varieties of crepes and their infinite possibilities.

I worked on prepping the Seafood Crepes, which required me to work with shrimp and scallops and also make a roux for the first time. The recipe is from the chef’s aunt, circa the 1970s. The filling turned out to be a cheesy concoction of cups of Cave Aged Gruyere, shrimp, scallops, and mushrooms. The previously made crepes were filled with spoonfulls of filling, rolled, placed into a baking dish, and smothered with the extra filling. Everyone who tasted them claimed they were divine and straight out of the 70s. I in my usual paranoia regarding Matt’s shellfish allergy, avoided them like the plague.

The other variatians prepared, taught, and served included a spinach, roasted garlic filled crepe with a roasted red pepper sauce; a creamy tarragon chicken filled crepe; chocolate crepes filled with macerated mixed berrries and garnished with chantilly creme and a sprig of mint (these were the most aesthetic-delicately folded in quarters with the dark chocolate crepe filled with pink-red berries and dolloped with white creme and mint of a natural green); and crepes Suzette made with an aromatic orange butter.

I have always been wary of crepes with the swirling stories about how hard they can be to make. The way the chef approached the topic was with the ease of an everyday approach. Crepes can be made relatively quickly and filled with almost any combination of the sweet and/or savory, making them a very real possibility for just about any meal.