Monday, July 31, 2006

Leaving ... Again!

I took the day off from blogging about food today so I could get some much needed and neglected "work" done. Yeah, that. All because we're leaving on Wednesday morning for five days in Ashland, Oregon. We're going see six plays (this is the Shakespeare capital of the world, isn't it?), eat delicious food and pal around with delightful and dear friends. I'll be back next week!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pork Tenderloin With Preserved Cherry Pan Sauce

I know I said that I would use my preserved cherries in a seared chicken breast dish, but I changed my mind when I got to the store and saw the gorgeous pork tenderloins being featured. My husband loved this dish. I loved the pan sauce the preserved cherry syrup made but next time would either chop up the cherries or leave them out entirely as I found them to be too strong which distracted me from the meltingly tender goodness of the tenderloin. Using very few ingredients, this cooks up fast and easy.

Pork Tenderloins with Preserved Cherry Pan Sauce
2 pork tenderloins, about 2 pounds total weight
Kosher salt
Tellicherry pepper, freshly ground
olive oil

Pan Sauce
1 heaping cup preserved cherries, pitted
1 1/3 cups preserved cherry syrup
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 tablespoons butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Have a roasting pan drizzled with olive oil ready.
Sprinkle the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper all over both loins and pat in.

In a large skillet (I use cast iron) add 1 tablespoon good olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium high heat.
When skillet is hot, sear both loins on all sides until nicely browned, keeping them well separate from eachother. Remove loins to the roasting pan and place in the hot oven for 15 minutes or until medium rare.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in the skillet, scraping up the browned meat bits. When the onions are soft, add the chicken stock, syrup and fresh thyme and bring to a boil, continuing to get all the browned bits off the pan. Over high heat, let the liquids boil until reduced by 3/4. (This will take about the same amount of time that the loins will take to finish in the oven.) When reduced, add the cherries, if desired, and heat through.

Remove the pan from the heat and swirl in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the sauce thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.

Let the loins rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes then slice across the loin into rounds. Serve with the pan sauce and a few cherries.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cherries Preserved In Armagnac

Here is a great method for preserving some of summer’s sweet cherries. Use these in mid-winter, if you can wait, as a dessert to spoon over ice cream or my non-fat frozen yogurt, or create a sauce for the quickly sautéed chicken breasts that I'll be posting next. Either way, sweet or savory, they’re wonderful. Can you see the image of my camera reflected in the cherries? I really have to work on my lighting techniques.

Cherries Preserved in Armagnac
Recipe may be doubled or tripled

3 cups cherries (Bing or other sweet, dark cherry), pits left in,
stems can be left on or removed
2 ½ cups good Armagnac or other good brandy, more if needed.

Wash cherries carefully and dry with a clean towel. Place them in a sterilized sealable jar and pour Armagnac over to cover all the fruit. Gently stir to settle liquid around all the cherries, seal jar and place in fridge for at least 3 weeks, longer if you wish.
Strain liquid into a sauce pan, reserving cherries in a bowl.
Add ½ cup superfine sugar (or granulated Splenda for low-carbers) plus one vanilla bean to the liquid. Stirring gently until sugar is dissolved, bring to just lukewarm over very low heat. Adjust sugar to your taste, re-warming to dissolve if necessary.

Place cherries back into the jar and pour the syrup over, including vanilla bean. Seal jar again and place in fridge to store. Remove the vanilla bean after 1-2 weeks.

Cherries can be used immediately or kept in the fridge for up to 1 year, though they will become stronger the longer they're stored.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Summer Fresh Salads

Beach Night prompted the preparation of cool and portable fare with the added bonus of using up fruits and veggies, making room in the fridge for more produce from the upcoming farmers market. The stars of these dishes are organic white corn and a sweet orange melon so redolent with perfume that my kitchen smelled of it for hours.
Clay was unable to go to beach night last night so I was hoping to bring some of my offerings home for him. Hah! I brought nothing home with me but empty containers. That and visions of smiling faces - my highest aspiration.
These recipes are easily prepared in under one hour's time. Allow further time for chilling.

Corn, Avocado & Mango Salad

½ sweet onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, veins removed, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, veins removed, finely chopped

1 large mango, peeled, sliced from seed, small dice
3-4 ears sweet corn, shucked, silk removed, blanched, kernels sliced from ears
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
2 avocados, small dice
Fill a large stock pot 2/3 of the way full with water and bring to a boil. Place ears of corn into the boiling water and allow to boil 5 minutes. Remove corn, drain water from pot then return the corn to the pot and run cold water over until cooled. Dry with paper towels and slice kernels from the ears with a sharp knife.
Prepare the rest of the ingredients, except the avocados, and gently mix them all together in a large bowl. Refrigerate until cold.
When you're ready to serve the salad, cut the avocados into small dice and gently stir into the corn-mango mixture. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and serve.
To take this to the beach, prepare everything in advance, mix it all together gently, including the avocados and vinaigrette, and place into a large plastic container with a snap on lid. Just before serving, turn the container over from top to bottom a few times to mix the contents.

Lime-Chile Vinaigrette

Juice from one lime
½ teaspoon Splenda or sugar
½ teaspoon salt-free chili powder
Pinch kosher salt
A few grinds of good pepper
2 tablespoons pear nectar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a glass measuring cup. Whisk in the oil until just blended. Don't emulsify.

Melon & Blueberries in Raspberry Wine with Fresh Mint Ingredients:

1 orange melon, such as cantaloupe or charentais, medium cubes
1 cup blueberries, whole
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
¼ cup raspberry wine (mine came from Trader Joe’s and contains a whopping 14% alcohol!)

Mix all of the ingredients together and chill before serving for at least 2 hours, 4 would be better.
I call this a salad, but we actually ate it after the main dishes and it made quite a refreshing dessert. At home, you could spoon this over vanilla ice cream and I'll bet it wouldn't hurt anyone's feelings.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Summer's Finest

Is there anything more delicious and appealing for breakfast on a warm summer morning than fresh organic white peaches and blueberries topped with cottage cheese and cinnamon? I thought not.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Food Blog Encounters - 1

I don't often get the time to cruise the food blogging community to see who's out there and what they're writing about. It's a shame because there are so very many great writers and cooks who blog. I have tremendous respect and admiration for these people and can only aspire to their creativity, both in the kitchen and as a writer. So I've decided to put effort into more "cruising" and every once in a while I'll share with you a few of the food blogs that I've encountered.

First, a few notes: I'm not particularly html-savvy so this isn't going to be very fancy-schmancy - with photos and all - just links and descriptions. Second, when you click on a link it will take you away from my post page. If you wish to return to my page, please click on your BACK button. Third, why the corn photo? Maybe the myriad kernels represent the whopping number of food bloggers on the Net. Maybe I just like it.

This morning I made the rounds of some of my favorite sites:

Susan and Cary at Farm Girl Fare always make me smile and sometimes cry. Theirs is an awesome story of the bond between humans and animals. Click here for Cary's story.

Sher at What Did You Eat? is stifling in 100+ degree weather but that doesn't seem to thwart her creative skills. Today she features an awsome and cooling grape and almond gazpacho a la Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook on her site.

Karletta at Culinary Muse, sips a cocktail on the San Francisco Embarcadero musing about the dramatic changes that have taken place there since 1968.

Catherine at Albion Cooks serves up luscious vegetarian fare. Today she highlights a beautifully presented taco salad .

David Lebovitz, cookbook author, chocolate expert and American ex-pat living the sweet life in Paris, offers up an intriguing cake made with US-banned absinthe.

The prodigious Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen espouses recipes that are South Beach Diet friendly with flair and gusto. Today's post features shrimp and Asian-style veggies from the grill, along with other South Beach food pairing suggestions.

At A Mingling of Tastes, Julie shows us how to prepare a trio of dishes showcasing fresh figs. I can't wait to try any one of these recipes.

Okay, that's it for now. I've already got a list for next time!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Pear-Ginger Gelee With Lemon Verbena Cream

Inspired by the Passion-Fruit Gelee with Basil Cream recipe which appeared in the June 2006 issue of Gourmet, I came up with my own version of a light, not-too-sweet, jelled dessert for these hot days. This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging at Kalyn’s Kitchen. Kalyn will be at the BlogHer conference this week so her WHB round-up will be next Monday. Be sure to check it out; you will find delicious and enticing entries from food bloggers the world over. If you wish to join in, click here for the guidelines.

Pear-Ginger Gelee with Lemon Verbena Cream
¼-ounce envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup water
2 cups organic pear nectar (I used Bionaturae Organic Pear Nectar which has no added sugars
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped

½ cup packed lemon verbena leaves, coarsely chopped
½ cup Splenda granular (or ½ cup sugar if you prefer)
1 cup heavy cream or regular 1/2 & 1/2
½ cup 1% milk
1 teaspoon (heaping) unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons water

Sprigs of lemon verbena with blossoms

For the gelee, add the two gingers to the pear nectar and heat gently to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to steep 20 minutes then strain into a clean glass container, extracting all the liquid from the solids. Refrigerate the strained nectar until very cold. Discard the solids.
When the nectar has chilled thoroughly, in a small saucepan, soften the gelatin in the water for about 1 minute then heat on low, stirring, for l minute longer or until fully dissolved. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cold pear nectar, 1 tablespoon at a time until the gelatin has cooled. Gently whisk in the remaining nectar. Pour into a small, square glass dish and refrigerate until firmly set.

Meanwhile, for the cream, place the heavy cream and milk in a medium saucepan and add the chopped verbena leaves and the Splenda (or sugar). Bring to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the Splenda, then remove from the heat and allow to steep 20 minutes. Strain into a clean glass container, pushing on the verbena to extract all the liquid. Refrigerate until very cold. (Discard the verbena.)

When the gelee has firmly set and the cream mixture is very cold, in a small saucepan, sprinkle the heaping teaspoon of gelatin over the 2 tablespoons of water and allow to soften for 1 minute. Over low heat, stir until the gelatin has dissolved completely. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the gelatin has cooled. Gently whisk in the remaining cream mixture. Cool in an ice and water bath if necessary. (This is important as you will be pouring this over the jelled pear nectar cubes and you don't want them to melt!)

Cut the jelled pear nectar into cubes, ½ to 1-inch square, and place in 6-ounce glasses. Gently pour the cold cream mixture over each gelee-filled glass, allowing the cream to fill in the spaces between the cubes. Refrigerate until the cream has set. Garnish with a sprig of lemon verbena to serve.

Lemon Verbena, according to Wikipedia, is a deciduous perennial shrub native to Peru, Argentina and Chile, and was brought to Europe by the Spanish in the 17th century. Wikipedia goes on to say “it grows to a height of 1 to 3 metres and exudes a powerful lemony scent. It prefers full sun, a lot of water, and a light loam soil, and is sensitive to cold. The light green leaves are lancet-shaped, and its tiny flowers bloom lavender or white in August or September.”
My Lemon Verbena receives about 5 hours of sunlight, sometimes none at all due to fog, hardly ever to never gets watered and often gets a frost or two in the winter but still grows prolifically each summer. It’s now about 9 feet tall and began blooming in late June this year. The soil is not loamy, but the shrub does live next to the horse corral.

For more ways to use this pungent, lemony leaf, from salt-free seasoning to lemon cake to a hair rinse, click here.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chicken Feta Quesadilla & Chicken Stuffed Tomato

It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon and I'm wandering around the kitchen, opening cupboards and refrigerator, trying to figure out what to eat for lunch. The single white peach I had for breakfast is no longer giving sustenance. I need some protein and I need something whole wheat. And I need it now!
A can of chunky white chicken, a whole-wheat low-carb wrap, some feta cheese, and a jar of Artichokes and Hearts of Palm Bruschetta from Trader Joe's all seem to fall into my hands as if by magic. Visions of quesadillas float through my brain. Then, interestingly enough, a tomato tumbles by. Surely someone's looking out for me.

Low-Carb Chicken Feta Quesadilla
1 whole wheat, low carb wrap
1 can chunky chicken, rinsed of excess salt (available at Costco)
2-4 tablespoons Two Hearts Bruschetta (Trader Joe's)
1 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

In a bowl, combine the chicken, bruschetta, mayonnaise, and herbs until mixed thoroughly.
Place wrap on a cookie sheet and heat oven to 400 degrees (my apologies to those sweltering in the valley!).
Spread the feta over the wrap and top with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture. Fold the wrap in half and press lightly.
Place in oven for about 12 minutes, or until filling is hot and bubbly. Don't overcook or the wrap will get weird. Let cool for just a few minutes, cut in half, sprinkle with some torn basil and eat - hungrily.

Then, take that beautiful red tomato sitting on the counter in the tomato department and:
Chicken Stuffed Tomato
1 perfectly ripe red tomato, preferrably organic
1/4 cup chicken mixture from above

Core the tomato and hold it upside down over a bowl. Squeeze ever so slightly to allow the seeds and loose pulp to drain out. You can help the pulp along with a sharp knife.
When you have a sizeable enough hole in the center of your tomato, fill it with the chicken mixture and EAT it.

Ahhhh! Crisis averted.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Sonoma Valley Treat

Recently, after spending three wonderful days with Clay's family, we drove back across the very hot Sacramento Valley, along the Carneros Highway which goes through a venerable wine growing region that borders Napa Valley to the south, and on to the Sonoma Valley where I stayed with my sister, whom I call Alwyn, for two days in a fabulous house in the hills outside the historic town of Sonoma. And the temperature continued to climb.

Our days were spent in and out of the pool, which overlooked the valley, talking, talking, talking and thoroughly enjoying each other's company (that's me on the left with my sister on the right).
We went out to dinner both nights: first to Della Santina's, then the next night to the girl and the fig, both in the town of Sonoma. Our food was exceptionally delicious in both well-known and award-winning restaurants, but because I have a hard time with photographing food in restaurants and don't consider myself a food critic, you'll just have to take my word for it. I heartily recommend both establishments, not only for their superb menus, but for ambience and service as well. If you're planning a trip to the Sonoma Valley, do call ahead to make reservations. You won't be sorry.
Two days aren't nearly long enough when sisters are visiting and this time seemed especially short - so much more so when being treated to such a wonderful place - but Tuesday arrived and so did Clay to drive the both of us home. First though, taking advantage of our location, we stopped at The Fig Pantry in Sonoma, a deli, coffee fountain, food and gift store owned by girl and the fig restauranteur Sondra Bernstein . There I bought her cookbook, aptly named The Girl and The Fig Cookbook (read what others are saying about it here) and several jars and bottles of figgy things that will become part of future posts.
Hungry from all that shopping, we popped into the deli side of the store and ordered sandwiches and a salad to go, giving Clay a taste of what he had missed. The signature grilled fig, toasted pecan, pancetta and goat cheese salad with a balsamic fig dressing (served at the restaurant also) was outstanding. The pastrami, red onion confit, and Vella dry jack cheese panini that Clay had and the grilled steak, arugula and black olive aioli panini that I had were both exceedingly satisfying. Add Fizzy Lizzy's Raspberry Lemonade and I was in heaven.

Filled to bursting, we headed up the road to Trader Joe's in Santa Rosa where I replenished my pantry with some of my favorite condiments and a few bottles of rose wine. For the summer, you know. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Family, Food & Hot Weather

Recipes: Green Gazpacho and Watermelon-Cucumber-Mint Salad

On a recent trip outside the cool climes of our little corner of the world, we ventured into the greater Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, and beautiful Sonoma Valley (next post) to visit with family and friends. As we arrived in the foothills, the temperature was hovering at about 100 degrees and continued to climb for the next 5 days. Needless to say, meals were prepared using as little indoor heat as possible, and prepped early in the relative coolness of the morning or late in the evening. I didn't cook any of the dishes you will see here. Lazy sloth that I am, I just savored the delicious and creative endeavors of our family's cooks.

The cool cucumber & watermelon salad and the incredible (and coveted) green gazpacho were prepared by newly-weds Jennifer (Clay's sister) and Kees. More photos and recipes will be the subject of another post.

Watermelon, Cucumber & Mint Salad
adapted from Sensational Salads by Barbara Scott-Goodman

4 cups seedless watermelon cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups seedless cucumbers peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch (small) watercress, stems removed, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts (I would toast these)

Place watermelon and cucumbers together in a large bowl.
Make a vinaigrette by whisking together the lime juice, olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt.
Pour over the melon mixture, tossing to coat.
Mix in the chopped herbs and the pine nuts and chill thoroughly before serving.
This is intended to serve 6 but is so delicious they will want seconds. My only addition to this recipe would be to toast the pine nuts before combining with the fruits.

Green Gazpacho
Adapted from Alex Urena
Printed in the New York Times, July 12, 2006

2 1/2 pounds ripe plum or grape tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 stalk lemon grass, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vodka
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped small dice
2 green bell peppers, seeded, cored and chopped small dice
4 tomatillos, husks removed and chopped small dice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1/2 avocado cut in small cubes (I'd use the whole thing)
1 small handful each chives, cilantro, parsley, minced separately
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced

The night before serving,
Combine tomatoes, lemon grass and vodka in a blender and puree until smooth. Line a colander with cheesecloth, set over a bowl, and pour in tomato mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Clear liquid will drain through to the bowl leaving the solids in the colander, which you can discard.
In another bowl combine the cucumbers, green peppers, tomatillos, vinegars, lemon juice, sugar and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, combine the tomato liquid and the vegetables in their marinade in a large bowl along with the minced herbs, scallions and avocado.
Adjust to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar, adding more as needed. Serve very cold.

My note: the recipe says to blend the ingredients until smooth but this was left rustic, which I think is better. Also, it says this will serve 6-8 people but I can promise you it will all be gone before you know it!

Weekend Herb Blogging


I love my nasturtiums. They come up every year all by their little selves, covering fence posts, climbing up walls and creating beautiful backgrounds for garden scenes around the property. I use their peppery leaves in salads and place whole flowers as a garnish on top of salads and tucked around grilled chicken or fish, to name just a few uses.
Wikipedia shows links for almost 80 varieties of nasturtiums. Check them out for your viewing and educational enjoyment. And Linda Gilbert at Sally's Place has an in-depth article on them as well as a recipe for Nasturtium Mayonnaise that I'm going to try as an accompaniment to grilled salmon.
Please forgive the lack of cooking and recipes lately; my days have been fully occupied with weeding and gardening this week. I'll be back in the kitchen soon. In the meantime, Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted this week by Paz over at The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz. Started by Salt Lake City food blogger Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, Weekend Herb Blogging has become a very popular event, with entries from food bloggers around the globe.
Now I'm going to get cooking!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Green Gazpacho

I've just returned from five days of visiting family in and around the very hot Sacramento Valley. While I re-size and organize my photos, water the garden, prune the berry canes and catch up with weeding, I give you this image of the divinely delicious green gazpacho that my brother-in-law, Kees, made for us. This recipe appeared in last Wednesday's (July 12th) New York Times Food Section. Unfortunately, I can no longer access the recipe on line and am hoping that Kees will see this post and send it to me.
More photos and travel commentary to follow...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weekend Cat Blogging

We're leaving tonight for another five days on the road and I won't be cooking or blogging during that time so I thought I'd leave you with a photo of the "gray beasties", who will be "taking care" of the house while I'm gone - in their own special way...
During my absense, go over to Eatstuff, where Clare holds court on Weekend Cat Blogging, as cute a round-up as you'll ever see. And check out Sher's What Did You Eat? blog where I'm sure will soon be another photo of and philosophical comment by Upsie.

My "girls" are littermate sisters, 14 months old, named Sybil (white snip on nose) and Lillith. A year ago May, I went to our local Safeway and never made it into the store. Waylaid by two children, sitting outside the store next to a box of kittens, who told me their uncle said they couldn't come home until all the kittens were given away. These two were the last females left and I couldn't resist. Now they rule the house and completely charm us everyday with their antics. This photo was taken as they were looking longingly at the great outdoors through a window. It's the only way I could get them to hold still for the camera.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Oven Roasted Steelhead, or, The Star Of This Post Is The Steelhead. . .

But it just as easily could have been the balsamic-blood orange reduction sauce, into which we dipped grilled figs, cantaloupe and garden grown cucumbers, or the fantastic mango, tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil salad drizzled with a blood orange vinaigrette.

As they have for the past few years, my sister and brother-in-law came over from Chico this last weekend, to attend the Blues by the Bay Festival in Eureka and spend long leisurely hours with us so we could catch up with one another. This is a real treat for all of us; Cynthia and Mark get out of the Sacramento Valley heat and we all get to enjoy great blues at our small-but-mighty festival. The Festival runs both Saturday and Sunday. One evening we'll dine out and for the other we'll cook at home. Our culinary preparations of last night are the subject of this post. We ate ever so well and it was such fun cooking with my sister!

The steelhead (see note below) came to us courtesy of our dear friend Norm, who goes fishing on the Klamath River each fall with a group of very fun "fisher-guys", to quote my son Jeffrey's childhood vernacular. Norm and his buddies stop at our house for breakfast on their way back down to the Bay Area and he leaves us with a gift of steelhead, just out of the water. I've been holding it in the freezer for a special occasion, such as the one this weekend provided.
The fish plate is made by a friend and local potter, Marty Schwartz. It's a high-fired piece that can withstand oven roasting temperatures, then goes to the table for a visual treat.

Steelhead with herbes de Provence and fresh basil
2 boned steelhead fillets (if you're lucky enough to have a handy fisher-guy around)
1 1/2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
A few pinches kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
8 large fresh basil leaves, stemmed and left whole
Olive oil for the baking plate or roasting pan

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Rub a thin film of olive oil on the plate or roasting pan, large enough to hold both fillets.
Wipe fillets clean and place in pan, skin sides down.
Sprinkle the Herbes de Provence over both fillets on the skinless side only, pat lightly to adhere.
Lightly sprinkle each fillet with kosher salt and a few grinds of good black pepper (my favorite is Tellicherry).
Sprinkle the cubed butter over the fillets and lay the basil leaves over the top, pressing down lightly.
Bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until flakey but moist when stuck with a fork.
(If you can't get your hands on steelhead, rainbow trout would be a good substitution. It would be best to have your fish monger remove the bones for you to make eating it more pleasurable and less work.)

Blood Orange Vinaigrette
juice from 2 blood oranges, about 1/3 cup
champagne vinegar to bring the liquids to 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon sugar
Very small pinch kosher salt
A few grinds good black pepper
2 teaspoons red raspberry vinegar, such as Kozlowski Farms , my favorite (optional)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Pour the blood orange juice into a glass measuring cup. It should measure 1/3 cup. Pour enough champagne vinegar into the measuring cup to make 1/2 cup total liquid. Add the sugar, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. At this point I added the raspberry vinegar to soften the taste just a bit. (You may or may not need to do this, but having red raspberry vinegar in your pantry is not a bad thing at all.)
Whisk in the olive oil but do not try to emulsify. This should remain in a "broken" state, in that the vinegars and oil will separate. Whisk again just before drizzling over the salad.

Mango, Cherry Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Fresh Basil
2 ripe mangos (organically grown if you can get them)
1 basket organic cherry tomatoes
1 carton small, fresh mozzarella balls (about 16 balls)
4 large leaves fresh, organic basil

Peel and slice mangos from pit.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half from stem to bottom.
Arrange on a platter with the mozzarella down the middle.
This can be refrigerated for about 1/2 hour at this point.
Just before serving, stack the basil leaves one atop the other then roll up together, beginning along the length of the leaves, cigar-style. With a sharp knife, slice the rolled up basil cross-wise into thin strips, starting at the leaf-tip ends. Sprinkle the basil strips over the salad ingredients and drizzle with the blood orange vinaigrette.

As I was prepping the blood orange vinaigrette, my sister sliced some of the left over orange rinds into thin strips, then covered them with about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. I think we were both having the same thought when one of us suggested making a reduction sauce out of it. We weren't sure if it would be a better accompaniment to the fish or the figs, but the idea sounded wonderful and it turned out beautifully. Delicious as it was, per Cynthia's suggestion, the next time I make it I'll include a small amount of blood orange juice with the balsamic.

Balsamic Vinegar and Blood Orange Reduction SauceCut thin strips from one of the juiced blood orange rinds and place in a small, heavy saucepan. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar over the top, stir to blend and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Simmer gently until the sauce is reduced by 1/2. Be careful to not let this burn as it will turn bitter. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.

Here's the most artfully composed pile of compost scraps I've ever seen, courtesy of sister Cynthia.
A note about steelhead: While closely related to salmon, they are actually ocean-going rainbow trout. To read about them, click here and here.
Lastly, but in no way least (ly), with the use of both herbes de Provence and the fresh basil, I submit both the roasted steelhead and the mango, tomato, mozzarella recipes to Weekend Herb Blogging over at Kalyn's Kitchen, one of my favorite food bloggers.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Test Results Are In, And The Winner Is . . .

But first, let me wipe the egg off my face.

Because the KitchenAid performed better than I thought it would in comparison to my new Sunbeam. And now I'm embarrassed that I dissed it so badly.

After putting my new Sunbeam mixer through the hoops of creaming butter and sugar to a fluffy, pale yellow state of cloud-light readiness (cookies anyone?), which it did admirably, I then pitted it against my mighty KitchenAid Artisan Mixer to show you the superiority of the Sunbeam's butter-creaming ability. During which, in the name of full disclosure, I took photos. Here are the results:

The butter on the left plate was processed in the KitchenAid Artisan Mixer, the one on the right, in the Sunbeam Stand Mixer. After being so sure (and with an admittedly cocky attitude) that Sunny-Boy would prevail, I have to admit that the Hunk (that's the KitchenAid) actually turned out a lighter, fluffier and whiter creamed butter - by just a smidge.
I still had to work harder to get the Hunk's superior results. Just as I stated yesterday, I had to stop the machine, lower the bowl and scrape the contents up from the bottom of the bowl to get them to incorporate into the whole - numerous times. This is probably what had colored my overall dissatisfaction with the Hunk in the past. Sunny-Boy, however, did all the work by itself even though it took about one and 1/2 minutes longer to achieve results.

And I'm beginning to feel and sound like a Cooks Illustrated article, so I'm going to end this quickly. Suffice it to say, instead of throwing the KitchenAid across the kitchen, as if I could, it and my new Sunbeam will live happily side by side, doing the jobs for which they are best suited. And I will never dis the Hunk again.

Now, where is my recipe for Crow Pie?

Thursday, July 6, 2006

A Sunbeam Mixer Called Sunny-Boy

Be honest. There've been times when you've gotten a bit testy when using your professional stand mixer, right? When you wanted to cream butter and sugar and have it be as light and fluffy as it used to be when you used a plain ol' everyday mixer? When you wanted to scrape down the ingredients without either losing a finger or having to stop the machine, lower the bowl, scrape in the small space allowed (being sure to get the stuff off the bottom of the bowl that never seems to get incorporated no matter how many times you adjust the machine), raise the bowl, turn the machine back on and 1 minute later repeat the process? Doesn't it make you just a tiny bit ticked-off?

As in, if it weren't so heavy, it could get heaved across the kitchen?

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like my professional stand mixer. It's just that it's such a pain in the neck to use for those simple techniques like whipping cream, frothing egg whites, creaming butter with sugar, and mixing ingredients for, say, a cake instead of four loaves of bread.

If you understand what I'm getting at, then you'll understand why I'm so excited today. My new Sunbeam Mixer just arrived. That's right, a Sunbeam. You know, the one your mother (and grandmother) used to have. Only this one is bigger and stronger (450 watts) with more beaters and two mixing bowls. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you say, why is this so exciting? Because I'll actually be able to properly cream butter and sugar. And I'll be able to scrape the sides of the bowl while the mixer is running without fear of the skin on my knuckles being shredded. And I'll be able to lift the beaters and extract the bowl without going through more than those two simple steps. And I'll be able to lift it from its appliance "garage" without spraining my wrists.

Want more? I'll be able to add wet ingredients without having them splash all over my kitchen. And the beaters will get to all the ingredients at the bottom of the bowl without me having to stop the damn machine and incorporate that bottom layer (by hand) into the rest of the mix every two and 1/2 seconds. OK, I know I'm exaggerating here, but, and be honest, when you want to mix simple things, don't you reach for the hand mixer instead of the "big guy"? Sure, it'll turn out bread dough like nobody's business, but for finer mixing that begins with the creaming of butter and sugar, give me a Sunbeam.

My ex-mother-in-law gave me this little early 1950s cutie many, many, oh so many years ago. It worked like a champ until a few years ago when the motor started overheating. And because I treasure it's sweet nature and old fashioned demeanor, I lovingly placed the little Sunbeam in the cupboard to live out its days and bought a big KitchenAid stand mixer.

Right from the start the "big guy" and I didn't get along very well. Mostly for the reasons stated above. But I persevered, thinking I was just experiencing a steep learning curve. It was when I realized that I reached for my hand mixer more often than not, that I started thinking the relationship with the big guy just wasn't working.

At first I thought it might be that particular stand mixer, so I went out and bought another one, brought it home and set it up to cream butter to a pale yellow, cloud-light consistency. This had become my litmus test. I was anxious. I was excited. And it failed. Disgusted, I returned it to the store. And, except for my little hand mixer, I went without a trusty Sunbeam.

Until today.

Now this glorious creature is sitting on my counter. Will it be all the things my 50s mixer was? And more? Already it lifts its head sweetly and locks into place with a barely audible "click". The simple touch of a button unlocks it easily. Lifting it is a breeze. And there it sits, waiting to take THE TEST. Tune in tomorrow to see if it passes.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Happy July 4th!

Wishing you all a happy and safe 4th of July. We're having Beach Night tonight instead of the usual Wednesday and I've got to get into the kitchen to cook. Photos to be posted later.

Monday, July 3, 2006

Edamame Vegetable Sauté: Whose Recipe is This Anyway?

Here's a food blogging dilemma I recently experienced. Two weeks ago I decided I wanted to cook up a dish using edamame. I'd even thought up the main ingredients I would use. Besides edamame, I would add grilled corn, red bell peppers and sweet onion, for starters, plus something warm to give it some zing.

One week ago while shopping, I spied a bag of frozen, organic shelled edamame. Ah ha! said I and tossed it into my cart. Knowing I was going to make this for a block party we hosted last night, I noodled on the recipe and ingredients as the days passed. I even told Clay about it.

Three days ago, I was straightening up the kitchen table (where the new arrivals of my cooking mag subscriptions sit until I read them) and saw that I hadn't read the July issue of Fine Cooking yet. Eschewing tidying up for a (long) moment, I promptly made a cup of coffee, sat down and thumbed through it. Imagine my surprise when, on page 72, I spied MY recipe for an edamame saute.

Now, I say this is a dilemma because I'd planned to post this as my very own, original recipe. I thought it up, right? But now that I know it's not only not original, it's in Fine Cooking, how can I claim it to be mine? Evidently I can't. Not exclusively anyway. You're just going to have to believe that I came up with it on a separate but parallel wave-length - which I firmly believe happens to cooks, chefs, food bloggers, etc., more often than you might guess.

This is a low fat, heart-healthy combination of fresh veggies and comes to you from the collective conciousness of me, Fine Cooking and fine cooks everywhere who've had similar experiences. Add a piece of lightly marinated, grilled salmon and you'll have a well rounded, delicious dinner.

The use of fresh oregano in this dish begs for it to be a candidate for the upcoming Weekend Herb Blogging event, home based at Kalyn's Kitchen, and being hosted this week by Gabriella at My Life as a Reluctant Housewife. Gabriella will be doing the round-up next Monday.

Edamame Vegetable Sauté
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 10-ounce bag frozen, shelled edamame (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup sweet onion, diced small
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 ear fresh white corn, kernels cut from ear
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped fine
1/8 teaspoon (more or less, depending on your tolerance) cayenne
1 small fresh tomato, cut into medium dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
White wine vinegar (optional)

Place olive oil and butter in a pan over medium high heat. When butter has melted, add the edamame and stir to coat. Add the onion, stir and saute about 5 minutes. Lower the heat if the veggies start to brown. When the edamame are tender-crisp, add the bell pepper and corn and saute another 4 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. The edamame will stay somewhat firm to the bite. Stir in the oregano and cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
I stirred in about a teaspoon of champagne vinegar to give the flavors a boost. I think you could do the same with lemon juice, but start out with very small amounts and adjust to taste.
Gently fold in the diced tomatoes just before serving. They will have a fresh cooling effect on the cayenne.

Oh, and next time I'll take a well-deserved tip from Fine Cooking and use fresh jalapeno pepper instead of cayenne.  Finely diced.