Friday, June 24, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie - Burrata, Tomato and Roasted Strawberry Salad

Strawberries are the angels of the earth,
innocent and sweet with green leafy wings reaching heavenward.
~Terri Guillemets

My participation with French Fridays with Dorie this month has not been up to snuff, but I'm ready to jump back in the game. I skipped Week One's Warm Weather Vegetable Pot au Feu, in favor of a Summer Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad, and Week Three's Roasted Rhubarb. I did make a go of Week Two's Cola and Jam Spareribs, but was rather disappointed. Despite buying two slabs of tender baby back ribs, the Chinese five spice powder, ginger, apricot preserves and can of Coke for the basting sauce didn't float my boat. In Dorie's defense, that was also the Sunday my Dooley-dog got sick, and we were off to the vet emergency room just as the ribs came out of the oven.

I'm looking forward to some interesting recipes scheduled for July, like Salmon and Tomatoes en Papillote and Coconut Lemongrass-braised Pork. If I can find my way around my new kitchen, you'll see a few more FFwD posts in July.

I actually made this week's Mozzarella, Tomato and Strawberry Salad almost a month ago,  for Concert in the Park, along with Cherries as Olives. Both were fine additions to the gourmet spread put out by our culinary gurus for the first summer concert of the season. I put a little twist on the salad by roasting the strawberries, and used luscious, creamy burrata.

Roasted Strawberries
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
via Leite’s Culinaria
Makes about 2 cups

2 pints small to medium strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons tawny or ruby port
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly cracked pink peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 350°F, with the oven rack adjusted to the middle position.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the strawberries in half or in quarters, depending on size. In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt. Add the strawberries and toss very gently to coat. Arrange the strawberries in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast just long enough for the juices to thicken, but not long enough for the juices to burn, 20 to 30 minutes.

Transfer the roasted strawberries and juices while still warm from the pan into a bowl. Drizzle with port and balsamic vinegar, and gently combine. Use immediately or let cool and refrigerate for up to several days.

To complete the salad, gently combine the roasted strawberries with about 16 grape tomatoes, halved. If you are not using roasted strawberries, Dorie's recipe uses about 16 small strawberries, hulled, and halved, and 16 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved. She then seasons the strawberries-tomato mixture with fleur de sel, freshly ground pepper and a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve family style, by placing about a 1/2 pound of burrata on the platter, with the strawberry-tomato salad on the side, and garnish with basil chiffonade, a drizzle of olive oil, and crushed pink peppercorns. Lightly toasted baguette slices complete this summery and colorful picnic-in-the-park platter.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, with over 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!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Make it Raw, Baby

We're already four concerts into the Coronado Concerts in the Park summer season, and I've only posted one short recap of the first one at the end of May.  Packing for the move turned everything upside down, then Dooley got sick, and now we're in the midst of unpacking and getting used to our new home. John left for a short business trip early Sunday morning, so I was left alone to create something "raw" for the culinary theme of the evening.

Nina, one of our core cooking friends, just started a blog called Fresh! On My Plate, a collective endeavour to inspire new enthusiasm for the art of designing what we eat, so we may derive full enjoyment and benefit from nature's bounty... We've loosely followed her June weekly themes for the concerts this month: Farm to Table, Cooking Clean, and Make it Raw.

Alec & Nina

Sashimi came to mind for Make it Raw, so I chose to recreate Hamachi Sashimi with Tangerine Vinaigrette, from The Fish Market's Top of the Market restaurant. I raved about it in my Where the Wild Things Are post back in May, and was able to purchase a beautiful piece of hamachi from The Fish Market's retail fish market yesterday.

Sous chef Johnny's hamachi is served with tangerine vinaigrette, macadamia nuts, and micro greens. I borrowed Bobby Flay's tangerine vinaigrette and spicy almonds from his Preserved Duck Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette and Spicy Almonds for my version. I have about half of the vinaigrette left over, and just might have to do a repeat of my recent Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad to use it up. There's quite a few pieces of spicy almond brittle bits left for salads, or just nibbling.

Tangerine Vinaigrette

4 cups fresh tangerine juice
2 tablespoons aged sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon chile de arbol powder
½ cup pure olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a saucepan over high heat, cook the tangerine juice until it is reduced to ¼ cup and becomes a syrup.  In a blender, combine the tangerine syrup, vinegar, mustard, honey and chili powder and blend for 30 seconds. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until the dressing emulsifies.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a plastic squeeze bottle. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Almond Brittle

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup lightly salted almonds
1 teaspoon chile de arbol powder

Lightly grease a baking sheet with oil or nonstick spray, set aside.  Combine the sugar and water in a medium nonreactive saucepan and cook over high heat until a dark amber color. Remove from the heat and stir in the almonds and chile powder. Carefully pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and let harden at room temperature. Let harden and coarsely chop.


I purchased 1/2 pound of fresh, sashimi-grade hamachi, which yielded approximately 16 slices. I tossed the micro basil in tangerine vinaigrette, and also drizzled vinaigrette over the hamachi.  I garnished the plate with spicy almonds, micro basil leaves, tangerine supremes, and fleur de sel.


We were also celebrating Father's Day at the park, and the father-daughter duo of Alec and Sonoma danced the night away...

I cheated a bit on the raw challenge - reducing the tangerine juice to a concentrated syrup, and simmering the sugar and water to a rich amber color, did require some heat.  Nina cheated as well, with her Ahi Poke on Crispy Won Tons.

Kai and Olivia made their way up to grassy dance floor surrounding the gazebo for a few of their own father-daughter dances...

Kai's Beef Carpaccio was amazing, with arugula, shaved Parmesan, and a drizzle of Dijon vinaigrette

Beef Carpaccio
Alton Brown, via Food Network

8 to 10 ounces beef tenderloin, from the tip end of the roast
4 handfuls arugula
Your favorite vinaigrette
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Shaved Parmesan

Wrap the tenderloin in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, unwrap the tenderloin and thinly slice the beef into approximately into 1/8 to 1/4-inch pieces. Lay out sheets of plastic wrap and place each slice onto the plastic. Top with another piece of plastic and gently pound the meat with a meat mallet until paper thin. Repeat until all of the meat is sliced and pounded. Divide the meat evenly among 4 chilled plates. Serve with greens tossed with vinaigrette, salt, pepper and/or Parmesan.


We're never short on desserts!  Carmen went raw with these stunning mini Cheesecakes, but I also spotted Olivia's Trifle and something chocolaty on the dessert table.


I'm sensing some frustration with the raw menu...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

We're Berry Happy in Our New Home - Strawberry Summer Cake

We're slowly emerging from the mountains of boxes, slightly battered and bruised, after our short-distance move to a lovely new home in Coronado. Our friends know what we've been through the past few months, but I'm sure we all wish Jackass and Bridezilla the newlyweds a long and miserable happy marriage. They truly deserve each other look so cute together, and we can't wait to see how the renovations progress on their money pit love nest.

The older homes in Coronado do present some challenges along with their charm. Our new house was built in 1924. It has exquisite architectural details, including hardwood floors, cove ceilings, built-in cabinets, french doors, flagstone courtyard, large front yard, and mature landscaping. The small, farmhouse-style kitchen has not been upgraded, and I must reacquaint myself with an electric stove. Some of the paint colors are a bit bold. The little breakfast nook, however, will make an ideal blogging/photo studio, with lots of natural light.

Most importantly, Dooley recovered from his recent illness and is very content in his new home and yard.

During the chaos of packing, John whisked me off to Searsucker for a special birthday dinner. After cocktails at the bar, we were seated at the open kitchen counter for dinner - we like to watch all the action and chat with the chefs. Our waiter insisted we try the egg + bacon “pork belly” as a 'small' and it was simply amazing!

Our 'mains' were equally delectable. John ordered duck x’s 2 with confit hash, orange + fennel...

And I enjoyed swordfish “costa rica” with drunken cherries + smoky almonds...

For our sweet, we devoured milk chocolate mousse fudge brownie, coffee ice cream and candied almonds

Since we've moved in, I've yet to cook in my new kitchen. Mom invited us over for grilled burgers on her terrace the first evening, we ordered move-in pizza the second, and Jim and Carmen brought dinner over last night!

Carmen prepared a wonderful spread of southern Chicken and Dumplings, Lima Beans, Tomato Salad, and Mixed Berry Cobbler, and Mom baked Strawberry Summer Cake, with local, sweet, Carlsbad strawberries.

We're looking forward to leftovers tonight, and then it's time for me to get my butt back in the kitchen. Moving has certainly taken a toll on my blogging, having caused me to miss the last Daring Bakers' and Daring Cooks' challenges, several French Fridays with Dorie recipes, and our first few Concerts in the Park gourmet picnics.  John just bought a fancy new grill, so maybe that electric stove will have to wait...

While strawberries are in season, I encourage you to try this cake.  It's perfectly scrumptuous on its own, especially with coffee in the morning, but a dollop of whipped cream or dusting of powdered sugar sweetens it up nicely for dessert.

Strawberry Summer Cake
From Martha Stewart


6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
Powdered sugar or whipped cream for garnish, optional

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Butter a 9-inch pie dish.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.
  • Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and mix in egg, milk, and vanilla.
  • Reduce speed to low, and gradually mix in flour mixture.
  • Transfer batter to buttered pie plate.
  • Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
  • Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour.
  • Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack.
  • Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From Tobacco to Truffles

This is a guest post by Sandra - a true friend, fellow Newfoundland dog lover, and incredible journalist and editor. During her recent participation in the Blazing Laptops Write-a-thon, an all-day writing marathon to raise funds for San Diego Writers, Ink., she offered to write a guest post about her latest venture.

From Tobacco to Truffles
by Sandra Millers Younger

I didn’t come to truffle farming as a foodie. In fact, I’d never eaten a truffle until I attended the inaugural Napa Truffle Festival last December—long after I planted a couple thousand European truffle trees in a North Carolina field where my grandfather used to grow tobacco. Until then, truffles were a luxury well beyond my station, a perk peculiar to bluebloods—the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Kardashians.

Not belonging to such a wealthy clan, I got into truffle farming with the hope of creating retirement income by leveraging the family farm my sister and I had inherited. We loved the place. It had been our playground growing up, so selling wasn’t an option. But neither of us lived anywhere close now—she was in Ohio; I was in California—and it seemed a waste to let those beautiful woods and fields sit unvisited, unrealized, unprofitable.

I thought it only logical that I should grow something on my farm. But what could I cultivate cross-country? And then I came across a magazine story about a North Carolina man who produced Perigord truffles from trees grown in his back yard. I may not have known much about truffles, but I did know something about trees, enough to suspect I’d found my perfect low-maintenance crop.

I started to read everything I could find about truffles, and the more I read, the more intrigued I became. Although once found only in the wild, their exact location discernable only to truffle-loving pigs, most species of this upscale mushroom have been successfully cultivated for decades. Trained truffle dogs have replaced truculent 250-pound swine—another plus to a Newf lover like me. Today, a full 80 percent of truffles sold in France come from planted orchards. But so far, no one in North American has grown European truffles on a commercial scale.

I hope to be among the first. Three years ago, I partnered with a brilliant British mycologist and his savvy American business manager. Two years ago, I planted my orchard, a field of oak twigs and spaghetti-thin hazelnut shoots. Today my “baby trees” are green and lush; most are taller than I am; and their roots are covered with black summer truffle (tuber aestivum) fungus. In another couple of years, with care and good luck, my Newfs and I should find lots of fabulous fungus in Grandpa’s old tobacco field. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Salad Days of Summer: Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad

This summer salad was inspired by one I enjoyed last weekend at Il Fornaio. I'm pleased to report we are now considered part of the Il Fornaio family, due to our frequent visits to the bar and patio, photo shoots, and blog press featuring some of the special menus and events. Now, if I can just finagle suggest a trip to Italy for all our hard work...

Anyhoo, I ordered the salad with seared sushi-grade ahi tuna, couscous, arugula, tomato, raisins, capers, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil, but they were out of tuna. I was able to substitute grilled salmon, and I absolutely loved this salad. So much, that I nixed the French Fridays with Dorie recipe this week (warm weather vegetable pot au feu) and recreated my new, favorite salad at home.

After a quick stop at our local Boney's market, where I found Loch Duart Scottish Salmon and a few other fresh ingredients, I headed home and whipped this up in no time.

Salmon, Arugula and Couscous Salad
Serves 2

3/4-pound piece fresh salmon fillet, cut from the thick center portion, skinned, at room temperature
1 tablespoon olive oil for the fish and about a tablespoon for the pan
Juice from half a lemon

1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

5 ounces baby arugula
1/2 cup sweet grape tomatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic, red wine, or sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

Rub the salmon with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and season both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat. When it's hot, add the salmon, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, then carefully turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Transfer the salmon to a plate, squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and cover loosely with foil.

In the meantime, bring 1 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous, stir quickly, cover, and take off the heat. Allow to rest for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and minced shallot. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Put arugula in a large bowl. Drizzle about half the vinaigrette down the sides of the bowl and gently toss the arugula to coat. Add more vinaigrette, if needed. Add about 2 cups of the warm couscous and toss so the arugula gets slightly wilted. Add tomatoes, raisins, and capers, and toss again to combine.

Divide salad between two plates. Cut salmon in half and place a piece top of each salad.

Have a wonderful weekend ;-)