Monday, May 30, 2011

Cherries as Olives

Coronado's Summer Concert in the Park series has arrived. Three of our "cooking couples" moved over to the island this past year, and we anticipate another summer of extravagant, gourmet themed picnics. We didn't plan a theme for the first concert last evening, but our spread was simply amazing.

Alec treated us to Lomo al Trapo, Salt Crusted Beef Tenderloin Grilled in Cloth, from Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen, Volume One. I forgot my camera, but it was quite a sight to see Alec on his hands and knees in the grass, wrapping up the tenderloin in salt and cloth, and then cradling it in his arms as he walked over and placed it directly on a bed of fiery embers. After cracking off the crust of what appeared to be a burnt log, pieces of the most succulent, perfectly cooked beef tenderloin were snatched up as fast as he could slice it (see a YouTube video, here).  More fingers came dangerously close to the knife as Brent sliced pieces of his grilled Bacon-Wrapped Venison Tenderloin.

In addition to the very special beef and venison tenderloins, we savored Shrimp with Garlic Aioli, Perfect Roast Chicken (Bouchon), smoky Grilled Asparagus, garlicky Caesar Salad,  Kale and Couscous Salad, Cherries as Olives (Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen), and Burrata, Tomato and Strawberry Salad (Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours).

In addition to Roast Chicken, and the Burrata Salad, I shared a bowl of Cherries as Olives, and was thrilled to receive so many oohs and aahs. Chris even suggested starting a side business - they're that good! I adore cherries, in so many different ways, but this simple olive marinade preparation, used with cherries instead, is pure genius. I wish I could take credit and start a booming business with these, but chef José Andrés is the hero here.  Grab a bag of fresh cherries while they're in season, and try these for yourself.  I'd love to hear more oohs and aahs after you do.

Cherries as Olives

1 lb. (4 cups) fresh cherries
1 orange
1 lemon
5 garlic cloves
4 fresh rosemary sprigs
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh bay leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Spanish aged sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup Marcona almonds, optional

Stem and pit the cherries and put them in a medium bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, remove half the zest from the orange and lemon. Peel the garlic cloves and smash with the flat side of a kitchen knife. Add the zest, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves to the cherries in the bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, sherry vinegar and salt, and pour over cherries. Gently toss to coat, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and marinate overnight. Allow cherries to come to room temperature before serving. Fold in almonds, if using, just prior to serving.

I missed the tip to add Marcona almonds for added crunch, but that just gives me another reason to make these again, and again, and again...

Americans have fallen in love with Spanish food in recent years, and no one has done more to play matchmaker than the award-winning chef José Andrés. In this irresistible companion volume to his public television show Made in Spain, José reminds us—in the most alluring and delicious way—that the food of his native Spain is as varied and inventive as any of the world’s great cuisines. To prove it, José takes us on a flavorful tour of his beloved homeland, from Andalucía to Aragón. Along the way, he shares recipes that reflect not just local traditions but also the heart and soul of Spain’s distinctive cooking.In the Basque Country, we discover great fish dishes and the haute cuisine of some of the finest restaurants in the world. In Cantabria, famous for its dairy products, we find wonderful artisanal cheeses. In Valencia, we learn why the secret to unforgettable paella is all in the rice. And in Castilla La Mancha, José shows us the land of the great Don Quixote, where a magical flower produces precious saffron.The dishes of Made in Spain show the diversity of Spanish cooking today as it is prepared in homes and restaurants from north to south—from casual soups and sandwiches to soul-warming dishes of long-simmered beans and artfully composed salads. Many dishes showcase the fine Spanish products that are now widely available across America. Many more are prepared with the regular ingredients available in any good supermarket.With more than one hundred simple, straightforward recipes that beautifully capture the flavors and essence of Spanish cooking, Made in Spain is an indispensable addition to any cookbook collection.


This recipe works fabulous with fresh blueberries!  Serve with toasted baguette slices, and brie or goat cheese.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pasta al Pomodoro - A Pasta for the Rest of My Life

I was excited to see the new issue of Bon Appétit fall through the mail slot in the front door. Adam Rapoport, formerly with GQ, has taken over the helm as Editor in Chief of the redesigned magazine. His vision is to present a magazine that matters, one that presents the kind of food you'll want to cook for the rest of your life. He believes having good food in your life makes your life better - it makes your family happier and your time with your friends more enjoyable. I couldn't agree more, but cooking good food also relaxes me and provides an escape. That's exactly what I needed this week, an escape.

The first issue of the "new" Bon Appétit is The Italy Issue, packed full of so many tempting pastas, like the Fettuccine with Prosciutto and Orange I made recently, and Spaghetti alle Vongole; irresistible desserts, like Chocolate Tiramisu, Ricotta Cheesecake, Zeppole with Chocolate Sauce, and healthy summer salads, like delicious Raw Artichoke, Celery, and Parmesan Salad, and Shaved Asparagus with Parmesan Vinaigrette. I particularly enjoyed the touching article Blood, Bones & Baked Eggplant, about chef/author Gabrielle Hamilton, and her reunion with her ex-husband's mother for a traditional Sunday lunch in Rome. Not too long ago, Saveur published an article about Gabrielle, featuring Brown Butter Pasta with Pine Nuts and Fried Egg. I enjoy reading stories behind recipes, and that's what the new Bon Appétit promises to deliver.

The recipe I chose for some comfort this week is very simple, as portrayed on the cover, but I've never quite been able to replicate the version I enjoy so much at our local Italian hang. Until now.

Pasta al Pomodoro
Bon Appétit 
Serves 4


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can whole peeled Italian tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
Kosher salt
3 large fresh basil sprigs
12 ounces bucatini or spaghetti
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Basil chiffonade and extra grated Parmesan for serving


Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a 12" skillet over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 2-4 minutes. Add crushed red pepper flakes; cook for 1 minute more. Increase heat to medium, add puréed tomatoes and season lightly with kosher salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly and the flavors meld, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in basil sprigs, and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a 5-qt. pot. Season with salt; add spaghetti or bucatini and cook, stirring occasionally, until about 2 minutes before tender. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking water.

Discard basil and heat skillet over high heat. Stir in reserved pasta water to loosen sauce; bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring, until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat; add butter and cheese; toss until cheese melts. Transfer to warm bowls; top with basil chiffonade and serve with more cheese, if desired.

After reading Pasta Perfect, a BA Cooking Manifesto, I now know how to make the simplest, most luxurious sauces imaginable.
  • Forget the pot. Use a pan.
  • Build the Foundation.
  • You're not using nearly enough salt.
  • Don't dump the pasta water.
  • Trust the tongs.
  • Now work that pan.  It's where the magic happens.
  • Everything's better with butter.
  • Cheese is not just a garnish.
  • It should look as good as it tastes.
  • Practice makes perfect pasta.

Thank you, Bon Appétit, I'm looking forward to cooking more of the food I'll want to cook for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs, with Olives, Lemon and Fennel - Worth Every Gram of Fat

I've been talking about making Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with olives, lemon, and fennel, from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, since Alec and Nina brought it to our Cooking Keller themed Concert in the Park last summer.  Talk about a gourmet picnic!

This past weekend, while browsing through cookbooks for Sunday dinner with mom, I came across the recipe again. It was cooler over the weekend, with May-Grey enveloping the island into the late afternoon, and something warm and comforting was very appealing.

A quick drive over the bridge to Whole Foods was in order, knowing they would have Ascolane or Cerignola olives at their Olive Bar, as well as beautiful fennel bulbs and chicken thighs.

I served the chicken on a bed of Cardamom Rice Pilaf, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe. The flavors in this dish are truly amazing, due in large part to the crispy chicken skin, and onions, garlic and fennel sautéed in all that luscious chicken fat. Sometimes, you just need to close your eyes and enjoy!

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel
Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home
Serves 6

3 large fennel bulbs
12 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)
Kosher salt
Canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
3/4 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
12 Ascolane or other large green Italian olives, such as Cerignola
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 dried bay leaves
4 strips lemon zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
8 fresh thyme sprigs
1 cup chicken broth
About 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Cardamom Rice Pilaf (recipe follows)

1. Cut off the fennel stalks. Trim the bottom of the bulbs and peel back the layers until you reach the core; reserve the core for another use. Discard any bruised layers, and cut the fennel into 2 by 1/2-inch batons. You need 3 cups of fennel for this recipe; reserve any remaining fennel for another use.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet.

3. Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large ovenproof sauté or roasting pan that will hold all the thighs in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the thighs skin side down and brown for about 5 minutes. Turn the thighs over and cook for about 1 minute more to sear the meat. Transfer to the cooling rack.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the pan, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring often, until the fennel is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.

5. Pour in the wine and simmer for about 2 minutes. Stir in the olives, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, lemon zest and thyme sprigs, then add the chicken broth. Increase the heat, bring the liquid to a simmer, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 1 minute.

6. Taste the broth and season with salt as needed. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, in a single layer. When the liquid returns to a simmer, transfer to the oven, uncovered, and cook for about 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

7. Turn on the broiler, and put the pan under the broiler for a minute or two to crisp and brown the chicken skin (I transferred the chicken thighs to a baking sheet for this step). Spoon the rice onto the serving platter and then arrange the chicken over the rice. Using a slotted spoon to allow some of the fat to drain off, transfer the olives and fennel mixture to the platter, and garnish with the parsley leaves.


Cardamom Rice Pilaf
Adapted from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
Seeds from 7 cardamom pods, bruised lightly
1 cup basmati,or other long-grained white rice (I used jasmine)
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, saute the onion and cardamom seeds in olive oil, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat with oil, and saute for another minute. Add the chicken broth and lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until the liquid has almost absorbed and rice is tender, about 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit for a few minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.

Cardamom seeds, shells, and whole pods

Cardamom Rice Pilaf Ingredients

Friday, May 20, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie...and Michael, and Thomas: Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad

French Fridays with Dorie members must have been craving bacon, as evidenced by last week’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche, and this week’s Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad, top recipe picks for the May schedule. We started off the month with a fabulous Tourteau de Chevre, which I know I will be making again for one of our summer Concerts in the Park. I skipped the quiche, because I failed to plan ahead by making a double batch of dough the week prior, and didn’t feel like making homemade crust two weeks in a row.

This week's Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad was easy for our Wednesday night dinner, and I was able to take advantage of the lardon, red walnuts, and rustic loaf of bread we already had on hand. It’s no secret bacon and eggs are naturals, as are asparagus and bacon. Put them all together with mustard-sherry vinaigrette, baby greens, and toasted walnuts, and you’ve got a sure winner. A fresh grating of Parmesan, or a few slices of Gruyere, seals the deal.

I poached our eggs, rather than soft-boiling them, mainly because I wanted to test out Michael Ruhman’s method for poached eggs with his Badass Perforated (aka Egg) Spoon. I did not jump for the chance to purchase said Badass Spoon for $25.00 via OpenSky, because I had a similar $10.00 generic version sticking out of my utensil caddy already. The idea is to achieve neater poached eggs by getting rid of the liquidy, flyaway whites before poaching. And it does work: Simply crack an egg into a ramekin, slide the egg out of the ramekin onto the spoon, and allow the liquidy stuff to drain into the sink through the perforations. Slide the egg back into the ramekin, and then slip it into simmering water when ready to poach (no need for vinegar in the water). Use the badass spoon again to retrieve and drain the poached egg.

I used Thomas Keller's method for making lardons, and also made his Garlic Croutons, both from Ad Hoc at Home. Talk about badass!

Sorry, Dorie, I wasn’t completely faithful to your recipe this week. My little side flings with Ruhlman and Keller were just too tempting.

Thomas Keller Lardons: Cut the lardon or slab bacon into lardons about 1 inch long and 1/4 inch thick. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Thomas Keller Garlic Croutons: Cut the crusts off the loaf of white bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. Measure about 3 cups of torn bread. Pour 1/8 inch of garlic-flavored oil (store-bought or homemade) into a large saute pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Spread the torn bread in a single layer. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling but not sizzling. Adjust the heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often. Cook the croutons until they are crisp and golden brown on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan and keep them warm until they are ready to serve.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, that just hit 2,000 members, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book, Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

I found the actual recipe for this week's Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad, published by the cookbook's publisher, here, so I'm sharing the link.

I recently received the comment below on one of my FFwD post, and I tend to agree, as long as the the recipe is "adapted" with your own words and attributed to the original author/cookbook. I'm interested to hear some other opinions, since these recipes have been blogged and posted by several other food bloggers by the time FFwD members prepare the recipe. Why should we lose readers, or be rejected by foodgawker and TasteSpotting if we don't post a recipe, when the recipe is readily available on other blogs? The FFwD rules state we cannot post the actual recipe, but does that mean we can't post our own re-written/adapted version?

Here's the comment: "The recipes look wonderful and the pics are fantastic...but, I have to say it absolutely drives me nuts that the "dorie participants" do not post the recipes. It totally goes against everything foodgawker is about, learning and sharing new recipes. It is a blatant promotion for Dorie's cookbooks and in my humble opinion, unacceptable. She's not reinventing the wheel here, it's just a recipe that people put their own spin on. I think foodgawker should not allow this to happen. Other than the "dorie days" I like your website."

Let me know what do you think?


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

José Andrés, Outstanding Chef of the Year, and Sandwich of Lomo, Manchego and Quince Preserve

Spanish chef José Andrés, best known for popularizing tapas – the Spanish custom of dining on small, shared dishes - and his PBS series, Made in Spain, was named Outstanding Chef at this year’s James Beard Awards, the “Oscars” of the culinary crowd.

Minibar, his Washington, D.C. restaurant, which seats only six, offers 30 tapas courses. Tom Sietsema, reviewing for the Washington Post says: “The high times might begin with "sangria" you eat with a spoon and end with a strip of bacon robed in chocolate flecked with a speck of gold leaf. Along the way, a team of several cooks - focused but friendly magicians who whip up edible wonders just feet from their audience - might also hand over a cloud of cotton candy that replicates Thai curry, brilliant near-liquid baby carrots, a blue-cheese-topped almond "tart" based on almond cream and liquid nitrogen, and (hang on!) prawns served with "brioche" that's just yeast-fragrant air pretending to be bread.”

Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen, buried in my cookbook collection, made an appearance for a Daring Cooks' Challenges in 2009, and a Basque-themed Concert in the Park last summer. It was time to break it out again. As I browsed through the recipes and photographs, I settled on something simple, rustic and intriguing - Sandwich of dried pork loin, Manchego cheese, and quince preserve.  All of the recipes in this cookbook are simple and straightforward - none require any molecular gastronomy techniques employed at minibar!

The recipe calls for Lomo Embuchado (dried cured pork loin), something totally new to me, and quince, relatively new to me, and it gave me an excuse to visit Pata Negra Market, which specializes in the import and distribution of selected regional food and wine of Spain. Chris raided the market for our Basque-themed Concert in the Park, and I remember the delectable tapas and bottle of wine he shared that evening.

We parked in the back and walked through Costa Brava, the adjoining restaurant.  Of course, we couldn't resist stopping at the bar for Sangria and a few tapas.

Sangria Pitchers

Costa Brava's Tapas and Sangria
Shrimp in Garlic and Sautéed Chorizo sausage

Gambas al Ajillo - Shrimp in Garlic

We made the mistake of ordering just two glasses of sangria, rather than a pitcher, especially after asking for a few extra rolls to soak up that luscious garlicky-butter left over after devouring the shrimp.  

After lunch, we walked over to Pata Negra Market and perused the paella pans, deli cases stocked with sausages, meats, and cheeses, wine cellar, and shelves featuring an assortment of Spanish delicacies.  We grabbed a triangle of Manchego cheese, container of quince paste, and 1/4 pound of thinly sliced Lomo, and were good to go.

We thoroughly enjoyed these sandwiches for a weeknight dinner, with a side salad, but I envision smaller bruschetta versions as tapas for a fabulous party or picnic platter.

Sandwich of Dried Pork Loin, Manchego Cheese, and Quince Preserve
Four Sandwiches

8 slices rustic bread
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 block Membrillo (quince preserve), about 12 ounces, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 pound thinly sliced Lomo Embuchado (dried cured pork loin)
1/2 pound thinly sliced Manchego (Spanish sheep's milk cheese)

Brush the slices of bread with olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and toast each side under the broiler until golden.  Top four slices of bread with the sliced membrillo, followed by slices of pork loin, then slices of the Manchego cheese.  Drizzle the Manchego with more olive oil and top each sandwich with a second slice of toasted bread.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chula Vista Nature Center Food & Wine Classic - Where the Wild Things Are

The Chula Vista Nature Center hosted its Second Annual Where The Wild Things Are Food and Wine Classic on Saturday, May 14, 2011. We were fortunate to hear about this event during lunch on Friday at The Fish Market's Top of the Market, while sitting at the exhibition bar watching the chefs. When I inquired about my extraordinary Hamachi Sashimi with Tangerine Vinaigrette, our server told me sous chef Johnny was the mastermind behind the dish. Johnny came over to meet us, and mentioned he would be serving tastings of his dish at the Food and Wine Classic. One thing led to another, and we were invited to attend as media guests.

Sous Chef Johnny

A little garnish with baby greens

Hamachi Sashimi with Tangerine Vinaigrette and toasted Macadamia Nuts

Shawn Styles, CBS 8 Lifestyle Reporter and
Meteorologist, tasting the hamachi

The Chula Vista Nature Center sits on a 23-acre preserve, and is home to more than 150 native species of animals, an endangered species breeding program, and nearly 200 native plant species. Guests can step into the Shorebird Aviary and enter the home of native water and shorebirds, including egrets, ducks, herons and other local birds, who reside in this peaceful tidal slough habitat.

Black-crowned Night Heron

North American Ruddy Duck

White-faced Ibis

Another incredible and innovative tasting was this Roasted Susie’s Farm Beet Poke with Cilantro, from Chef/Owner Jeff Rossman, Terra American Bistro.

Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill was there, serving Grilled Garlic-Herb Shrimp Tacos.  These are quite the tacos - grilled corn tortillas topped with toasted cheeses, habanero-citrus salsa, grilled garlic herb shrimp, crisp bacon, cilantro/onion, cotija cheese, creamy chipotle picante sauce, and sliced avocado.

Sushi rolls were offered at two different chef tables....

And several wineries and breweries, with very happy people serving the wine and beer

The Honorary Committee included City of Coronado Mayor, Casey Tanaka,
and City of Chula Vista Mayor, Cheryl Cox

Coronado's School Board Member, Doug Metz, and Mayor Casey Tanaka

Chula Vista Mayor, Cheryl Cox, and husband
Greg Cox, SD County Board of Supervisors

We were able to meet a few of the Nature Center’s native birds of prey.  These residents of Raptor Row are all injured or non-releasable birds that could not survive in the wild on their own.

Female Barn Owl

Pico, a Great-horned Owl


Paella is another dish on my list to prepare soon - 
This paella was was made with noodles instead of rice, and squid, mussels and clams

Paella, from Romesco Baja Med Bistro

Baked Brie

Liege Waffles from Belgium Gourmet, another must make on our list!

Marshmallows and Strawberries for the Chocolate Fountain

Silent and Live Auctions

The David A. Wergeland Shark & Ray Experience is a state-of-the-art, 21,000-gallon aquarium that includes a shallow-water touch tank where you can touch the resident rays. Step down below to the six-foot viewing window and you will feel like you’re underwater along with the Leopard sharks, Guitarfish, and other native creatures.

Shovel-nosed guitarfish

Leopard sharks

The Chula Vista Nature Center welcomes about 70,000 visitors each year, including more than 15,000 students from schools across the greater San Diego area. Proceeds from this year's event will support the new Outdoor Classroom and Discovery Park project.  

We look forward to a return trip for more photo opportunities at Turtle Lagoon, Eagle Mesa, and out on the walking trails throughout the preserve. If you've never been to The Chula Vista Nature Center, please check out the web site, here, for information on tickets, membership, programs, special and private events, and exhibits.

In the meantime, I'll be working on recipes and future blog posts featuring Hamachi with Tangerine Vinaigrette,  Beet Poke, Paella, and Liege Waffles.

Arcade Fire recorded a new version of the song, Wake Up, which was featured in the trailer for the 2009 film Where the Wild Things Are.