Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chorizo Stuffed Artichokes - Dinner for Two

There are many blessings living on the Central Coast of California and easy access to just picked artichokes in early Spring is one of them. Castroville, "The Artichoke Capital of the World" is mere minutes away where the superb soils of the Salinas Valley abuts the coastal breezes of the Monterey Bay.  A perfect growing environment to this prickly vegetable with the generous heart.

I learned to love these as a little kid, eaten simply with a bit of mayonnaise. Pull off a leaf, dip, grasp just the bottom edge firmly between your teeth and pull. Repeat until you expose the tender flower. Dad would help me removed the flower and scrape down to reveal the whole of the artichoke heart. Jackpot! The meaty flesh now consumable bite by bite. Well worth the effort. He would also buy pounds and pounds of the little ones and marinate them, jarred for later use for antipasta, salads or dishes.

I'm not a big fan of the breadcrumb version of stuffed artichokes, so to take this little adventure to the next step I am stuffing two extra large globes with a chorizo rice mixture. Precooking and removing the inner flower leaves creates a nice container for the spicy ricey goodness. A dipping sauce with sour cream and horseradish compliments the chorizo zest.

Chorizo Stuffed Artichoke
A large artichokes stuffed with Beef Chorizo and Basmati Rice Medley

Click Read More for Recipe

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not your Grandma's Sunday Gravy -- Or is it?

Sunday Gravy - Dinner is served!
I am not an Italian Grandmother, but sometimes I channel one when I go into the kitchen. Every family's pasta sauces and marinara a bit different, some recipes handed down for generations, some with a modern twist, and some just because that's the way Gramma always did it.

A recent dinner request for roast beef and spaghetti drove me to the archives for a perfect Sunday Gravy. This dish is not part of my standard repertoire.  Sunday What? My Dad made pretty spectacular spaghetti sauce, flavors embedded in his memory from his Mama and passed down.  Grandmother Delores was no slouch in the kitchen either,  how could she be with seven children? In the family album is a Santa Cruz newspaper article from the 1930's describing in detail her recipe for spaghetti including ground beef and fresh herbs. The author veritably gushed in praise of Mrs. Hayford's cooking prowess.  I couldn't help but smile reading it -- hey, that's like my Dad's! The images vividly rush to my mind of the bustling dining table in the big red house on the hill.  The six boys and single daughter round the lace covered table each having played a part in dinner's preparation. A bowl of black olives and red wine from the Italian neighbors within easy reach on the sideboard for Grandpa Tom.

Like most, I am generally much to impatient or just lack the time to go completely old school and spend all day for a single meal's preparation.  Those indulgences are generally scheduled for major holidays.  So when I reflect on the time honored family tradition of Sunday Gravy my respect grows for all those generations of Nonas in their kitchens. So, today,  a wild creative challenge motives me to set aside the time to become an Italian Grandma! Grab your apron and red wine, let's get cooking!

The Menu
Salata Caprese
Sunday Gravy
Crusty Rustic Bread
Mini Carrot Cake Cupcakes
On the Wine List:  Sbragia Vineyards, Geyersville, CA 2007 Italo's Vineyard Zinfandel
Antipasti, Salata Caprese, Sunday Gravy

Click Read More for Recipes

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Monthly Mingle - Tale of Two Tarts

Goodness knows I love a challenge... and I love cheese, eggs and buttery pastry. What better than an inspired theme of Topless Tarts to get my creative juices going for April's Monthly Mingle guest hosted by Cook Sister! for Meeta at Honey What's for Lunch. These cross-blog activities are really quite wonderful to exchange ideas and see different takes on a theme. Who will be going down that sweet road, who makes the savory turn?

Cook Sister! Hosting April's Monthly Mingle
Springtime brings beautiful leeks, green onions and tender baby chives so my first flirty tart goes in that direction. An oniony delight, sweetness derived from sauteed onions, shallots and leeks combine layers of tangy goat cheese and buttery lusciousness. Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians worshipped onions, believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life?  Well, I was certainly craving some spring onion deliciousness and frankly today was enough of a worship moment for me.

Because the filling was enough to work into two tart crusts I give you another variation using roasted asparagus, mushrooms and tomato. Why waste some great leftovers!?  These beautiful tarts are rich, buttery, creamy and ready for a wonderful luncheon or brunch in your future. I served them over a pretty little spinach salad with a savory vinaigrette for a light dinner. Oh, and note that the filling is no way figure friendly, low fat or low calorie, just saying....

Spring Onion Tart on Baby Spinach
Spring Onion Goat Cheese and Ricotta Tart
Goat Cheese & Asparagus Tart
Goat Cheese and Roasted Asparagus, Mushroom and Tomato Tart

Links to
Check out the finalized Topless Tart Roundup - Deliciousness in a crust!
Monthly Mingle hosted by Cook Sister!
Monthly Mingle by Meeta
Emeril Lagasse's Goat Cheese and Rosemary Tart (inspiration)

click Read More for my Two Tart Recipes

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sometimes the Side is the Star - Roasted Asparagus Salad

Roasted Asparagus Salad
Roasted Asparagus Salad
 Like the sweet trees blossoming, fresh tender asparagus brings springtime realization to our local markets and tables. My herb garden is surging with new growth as the oregano, sweet marjoram and chives explode with tender shoots. It doesn't matter that we still have cloudy skies or days that seem as cold as winter. Our earth is warming up and our seasonal cooking takes a turn. Allemande right and away from the heavy comforts of stews and hearty one pot soups to lighter fare as our spirits lift in anticipation of warmer, longer days. Simpler and lighter doesn't mean foregoing those robust flavors that play on your tongue, just new dancing partners switching it up in our kitchen rumba.

Tonight we finally break out the patio barbecue, marinate a very pretty little top sirloin "grilling roast"  and simply prepare roasted yukon gold parmesan potatoes. Now with little hip twist, progressive walk,  we take a sudden turn with this Roasted Asparagus Salad. Served room temperature with a rich anchovy and mustard vinaigrette drizzle.

On the wine list, Doce Robles Vineyards 2006 Sy-Rific-Cab, a 60% Syrah and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon smooth blend which compliments the steak and stands up to the herby garlic intensity of the salad.

Soup Herbs
Fresh Oregano, Sweet Marjarom, Thyme
In the pan, roasted asparagus
Roasted asparagus in the pan
Steak Dinner with Roasted Asparagus Salad
Dinner is Served!
Click Read More for Recipe

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hawaiian Mahi Mahi alla Puttanesca and a little Orange Zest

Hawaiian Mahi Mahi alla Puttanesca
Campanelli substituted for Farfalle for alla Puttanesca
What a crazy idea. Hawaiian fish, Italian sauce, citrus and ol' Paree! What? Are you dreaming you have just opened a Chopped Basket?

I have been out of sorts and out of the kitchen for almost a week and it was high time I got my rear in gear. As previously mentioned, I stock up on high quality frozen fish. We try and eat fish at least once a week so  I watch for super sales and stock up. That way I can have my fish and eat it too, any time. Tonight I pulled out a favorite -- Mahi Mahi.  And  while I've cooked this fish every which way, I surely was not in the mood for a repeat performance.  So, tonight a Hawaiiain/Italian marriage imagined in heaven. A little alla Puttanesca inspired by an image of Hawaii with a orange twist.  The saltiness of the capers and olives contrast with the citrus zest and springtime fresh rosemary.  Ultimately so quick and on the table in less than 30 minutes.

On the wine list for dinner, Wild Horse 2008 Pinot Noir, Central Coast.  In the sauce, Smoking Loon 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. Let's get started!
Ingredients alla Puttanesca
Capers, Kalamata and Nicoise Olives, Onions, Artichoke Heart, Rosemary

For the Recipe, click Read More

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Bean Salad with Fava Beans, Edamame, Peas and Mint

So Fresh! Homage to Spring with mint, flat leaf parsley, fava beans, mung bean sprouts, edamame, peas,  and dice red onion in Meyer Lemon vinaigrette. I love my fresh herbs in the garden! Ok, I know blanching and peeling fresh fava beans is time consuming, but oh my, the flavors combine so wonderfully in this salad.

Spring Bean Salad
Meyer Lemon and Mint Vinaigrette suits the fresh fava and mixed bean salad.
Spring Bean Salad with Fava Beans, Edamame, Peas and Mint
Serves 4

2 pounds fresh fava beans
1 cup frozen or fresh edamame
1 cup frozen or fresh sweet petite peas
½ cup fresh mung beans
½ cup finely dice red onion
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons fresh mint finely chopped
⅛ cup Meyers Lemon Juice
⅛ cup rice wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper

Shell and shuck fava beans. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, cool  in ice bath and remove grey skin. Yields about 2 cups. Cook fava, edamame, until just tender but with a little bite. remove from water and place in ice bath; set aside. Blanch fresh peas for 2 minutes, do not over cook, remove from water and place in ice bath. Drain vegetables well before combining for salad, you don't want extra water in your bowl. You can pat dry with paper towel, this helps the vinaigrette adhere best.

Vinaigrette: Mix lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper in small bowl. In a slow stream, pour and whisk in extra virgin olive oil to emulsify. Add finely chopped mint leaves.

In a large bowl combine drained beans, chopped parsley and red onions. Just before serving toss with about ½ cup of vinaigrette. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Drizzle with more dressing if you like.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Korean Grill at Home - Bulgogi and P'ajon

Recently I got a craving for Korean food and didn't want to drive all the way to Santa Clara to our new favorite Beque Korean Grill. Some people just love their condiments and the best parts of going to a Korean restaurant is the bevy of sides (Banchan) that come with your meal. One of my most favorites is  P'ajon, a green onion pancake. That was definitely on the list. Even better, my homemade pickled eggplant was just about ready to eat after 3 weeks of working it's magic in the refrigerator.  Add some Bulgogi (marinated grilled beef,) a medly of stir fry veggies, rice and the menu was set.  For the Bulgogi I switched up the traditional marinade with some ripe Kiwi. It's a keeper for both marinating and dipping sauce. If you love teriyaki sauce you'll go for this too.

Korean Grill @ Home
Kimchee, Bulgogi, Stir Fry Veggies, Pickled Eggplant, P'ajon

Green Onion Pancakes - P'ajon
P'ajon - Green Onion Pancake
Korean Style Pickled Eggplant
Pickled  Baby Japanese Eggplant
For recipes click Read More

Friday, April 8, 2011

Road Trip Dining -- Sonoma LaSalette

Second installment on our little mid-week road trip to Somona County. Imagine, a combination of light rain and serious storm clouds. After a robust breakfast, we planned a leisurely drive from Healdsburg to Santa Rosa to Sonoma via Highway 12, with a few winery visits along the way. Fortified by a great breakfast, delicious tastings and suddenly, our lunch was decidedly late.

We chose LaSalette, just off the plaza for our most incredible evening meal. Previously I have indulged in the mussel and chorizo preparation, cheese and wine flights while sitting at the bar watching the light flicker off the wood oven. The views of the efficient, passionate creativity of the cooking staff from the bar is both a visual and sensory delight. Remembering our first visit was cause enough to return. Those delectable sensations traveling from the tip to the back of my tongue made me want to see what else would be in store for us.

Arriving about five o'clock we entered the dining area through the lovely patio that will be incredibly delightful come later spring, summer and fall. For now, we're just looking for the best place to stow our wet umbrella. Inside LaSalette we are greeted by gracious staff and quickly seated since we're well before the dinner crowd. The walls and oven are decorated with traditional Portuguese tiles in red and ivory that are so pretty to look at.  Suddenly, the broad expanse of windows streams in light with a break in the clouds. Lucky us!

LaSalette Beef Sopa
LaSalette - Portugese Sopa
Over time, I've learned to listen carefully to a restaurant's daily specials. This is the chef's opportunity to exploit local farmer's markets, family favorite recipes or indulged whims of creativity. Both my darling dear and I were smitten with the offering of a Portuguese Sopa of beef, cabbage, finely diced chorizo and sweet potato. Perfect for our rainy day meal. How can I describe such delight in a bite? The clear broth, so rich and flavorful and with a hint of cinnamon. The earthy family style Portuguese Sopa not only was homey, but pure and complex all at the same time. Imagine, a savory sample that make your lids slightly close, then flutter, while you roll your eyes appreciatively to the back of your head. It was that good. As a home cook, I can only aspire to create such a perfect broth. The braised beef, fork tender, not in the least mushy and the cabbage, sweet and earthy.  A generous slice of rustic bread soaked in broth... Ahhh,  this is what this day traveler was in the mood for.  Finishing with a fine 20 year old Graham's Tawny Port, perfect.  I can't say enough about the food, service and authentic ambiance that Chef Manuel Azevedo had created for his guests.  I felt I was visiting friends in Portugal.

 Mussels at La Salette, Sonoma
Out of the wood oven, tomato-lobster fumet, chouri├žo, cilantro
If you get a chance of visit Sonoma, I would encourage you to include a meal at LaSalette.

LaSalette Restaurant
452 First Street East, Suite H
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-1927