Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pistachio Cranberry Bread Pudding

Sometimes there's left over french bread, a little hard around the edges. Certainly croutons or bread crumbs are excellent options as secondary uses, but why not go old-school and mix up some sweet and fruity bread pudding? This one is topped with a quick sauce of Dow's Tawny Port, Honey and Butter.

Pistachio Cranberry Bread Pudding
Pistachios and cranberries add something special to bread pudding

Pistachio Cranberry Bread Pudding
Serves 4
Active Prep: 15 Minutes
Inactive: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour

½ loaf stale crusty french bread
2 cups milk
2 eggs
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons Pasolivo Citrus Olive Oil
⅛ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup chopped pistachios

Preheat oven 325 degrees
Butter inside of 6 ½” x 6 ½” square baking dish
Cut up bread in rough 1” chunks, soak 1 hour in milk
Chop pistachios
Soak cranberries in Citrus Olive Oil (substitute orange juice)

Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in small bowl. Fold into milk, bread mixture to thoroughly incorporate egg mixture and milk. Add cranberries and pistachios, stirs. Pour into buttered dish. Bake in oven for about an hour until browned and crusty on top and set in the middle. Use the toothpick test to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Cook’s Tips
Pasolivo Citrus Olive Oil produced in California see
Serving suggestion, whipped cream is always a favorite, or try drizzling a mixture of Tawny Port, honey and a bit of butter warmed up in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Yogurt and Harissa Marinade for Pork

Hooray, long weekend ahead and lots of grilling in our future! The weather is cooperating and I can smell the fruit wood smoke wafting into the kitchen window. I am so glad I thought ahead and marinated the bargain prices country ribs overnight and we have a weekend feast on a Tuesday.

On the foodie new front, I just read an article in the New York Times Food section that the US Department of Agriculture has lowered the recommended internal cooking temperature for pork down to 145º degrees from 160º. This is huge! No longer need we feel compelled to overcook this wonderful meat into medallions of dry, tough leather for fear of bacteria. These are modern times and it is legal to be juicy and show a little pink in the middle and I like it!

This recipe combines the cool of yogurt and hot of Harissa spread. If you haven't got Harissa, any spice will do, if you haven't got any spice, then God Bless You! (sung to the tune of Christmas is Coming)
On the Menu
Cucumber, Fennel, Radish Salad
Corn on the Cob
Country-Style Pork
On the Wine List:  Ten Acre 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 
Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves
Healdsburg, CA

Yogurt and Harissa Marinade for Pork
Grilled Country-Style Pork
Yogurt Harissa Marinade for Country Pork
Marinate Overnight
Makes 1 Cup

4 good sized bone in country style pork ribs
1 cup plain yogurt
1 ½ tsp Harissa Spread
¼ cup Alton Brown’s Rub Number Nine

Premix Alton Brown’s Rub Number Nine  (makes a lot, store in refrigerator, last 3 months)
Blend yogurt and Harissa Spread together in a small bowl, taste and adjust for heat.

Rub each rib thoroughly with spice rub, then coat with yogurt mixture.
Place in large zipper plastic bag and refrigerate over night.
Cook on BBQ grill or in oven until about 145-150 degrees, let rest 3 minutes and serve.

Cook’s Tips and Info
If you don't have Harissa Spread, try substituting Sriracha Chili or Tabasco to taste.
Alton Brown's Backyard Baby Back Ribs - Rub Number Nine
You can get Harissa Spread from Amazon or various other online stores. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

CoCoNut Porter Sopa

CoCoNut Porter The spring chills are still in the air with crisp breezes and bright sun sparkling during the day.  Yet, it is very cool on the coast in the evenings. Put your socks on kind of cold. So I'm thinking it is not too late in the season for a hearty soup bringing on the warmth like a welcome comfort blanket. 

In most things cooking I let the ingredients on hand dictate the outcome of any given meal. It is determining the possibilities that makes it all so darn fun.  Hidden in the downstairs refrigerator were three cans of Maui Brewing Companies CoCoNut Porter.  I first tried this on Maui at the brewery. (The canned version scored from BevMo.) Tonight's inspiration comes from the Silver Palate Beef Carbonnade recipe I've that prepared many times over the years and the fabulous Sopa at LaSalette, Sonoma.

A good 'ol beef chuck roast, sweet Vidalia onions, parsnips and bacon meld together into layers of  rich, velvety intensity. The CoCoNut Porter by itself has a chocolaty smooth flavor, with a hint of toasted coconuts and a back finish of coffee. Zounds! This Sopa is served with crusty day old french bread, mashed sweet and yukon potatoes.

Somewhere, pictured in my mind's eye is a Hawaiian shirt wearing person of Portuguese descent, holding up a pint and sending a wink my way. Aloha!

CoCoNut Porter Sopa
Chuck Roast is transformed into CoCoNut Porter Sopa!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lunch Date 4 - Greek Style

Gyros, Dolmas & Beer
Dolmas, Beef Gyros and Beer
I love this time of year when the annual food festivals appear on the calendar nearly every weekend from now until September. On the Central Coast we have our share of events; Artichoke, Garlic, Mushroom Festivals along with the Art and Wine weekends to pick and choose from. Most of these are run by volunteers as fundraisers for various charities and non-profits. Talk about your win-win situations! This Saturday, a quick fifteen minute drive took us to Greece. Parking on a side street, and a leisurely two block stroll and suddenly we were at a Greek Taverna. The lively music got us swaying before we could even see the blue and white flag flying over the Gyros concessionaire. Opa! The annual Greek Food Festival was in full swing in downtown Santa Cruz. Tables spilled over on the side lawn and filled the courtyard at the back of the church. Good luck finding a seat with the hundreds of happy festival go-ers with plates piled high with Moussaka, Dolmas, Gyros, Calamari, Spanakakopita, Greek Salads, Lamb Shanks and a host of traditional desserts. Good thing the organizers had built on "to-go" sections for take out!

Hospitality prevailed and we shared a table with a lovely family. My darling dear and I had the Beef Gyros with fresh tomatoes, red onion on soft pita, a few stuffed grape leaves (Dolmas) and finished with those addictive Loukoumades. Which are golden puffs of fried dough that are bathed in sweet syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts, sometimes called Honey Balls.

Special thanks to the legion of volunteers from Prophet Elias Church in Santa Cruz who recreated taverna style dining in their Mediterranean courtyard. We enjoyed the authentic, handcrafted Greek food, made with love. Wish us luck in winning the trip raffle!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Savory Artichokes and Cannellini Beans

Pssst. You may have already suspected it, I have a secret love ... and it is .... artichokes!

You name it, simply boiled with mayonnaise, stuffed, marinated, on crostini, in salads, in sauces for chicken or pasta, antipasto trays, in quiche, fritattas, tarts, oh and battered and deep fried. I have been known to buy the giant jar of marinated hearts at Costco "just so I'll have some." You can see the addiction is quite pervasive. But I have never, ever used just plain old canned hearts packed in water, until now.

Recently, while at Trader Joe's I was drawn to their fresh 'chokes. They were huge globes, pretty to look at but offered no fresh squeak and cost a dollar apiece. My Dad told me, "If it doesn't talk to you, don't buy it." So I didn't. But my hunger for this prickly treasure was only heightened. Round the corner was a display of canned chokes for .99 cents. Well, why not?

Like my many "one off" foodie items, it sat on the pantry shelf waiting it's turn. I needed some time to marinate an idea, and honestly, I don't always know where they come from. The result, tasting of buttery and savory Mediterranean goodness we'll want to enjoy again and again. As usual there is an ingredient you might not suspect, but you'll have to check out the full recipe to find it. What do you think it could be?

Savory Artichokes and Cannellini Beans
Savory Artichokes and Cannellini Beans with Roasted Chicken

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jerk Inspired Black Beans and Rice

Lots of titles ran through my mind for this post; Not a Jerk, Maybe a Jerk, or my husband's contribution -- Don't Be a Jerk Black Beans and Rice. Despite the humor, this turned out to be a lovely weeknight surprise as I raided my pantry and the produce drawer for something that took us away to tropical paradise.

Earlier in the week we grilled some fresh pineapple to go with our chicken. If you haven't given this a try, oh please you must soon. The carmelization of the sweet sugars, the hint of smoky goodness adds so much flavor, and it freezes really well. Having that and a fresh, ripe Honey Mango sent me to the islands when my darling dear asked, "what's for dinner honey?"  Usually, this combo turns into a fragrant fresh salsa or cooked chutney for fish, chicken or pork. Yet tonight with some black beans, a little leftover rice, and a handful of spices, dinner rang of Reggae and Jamaican tang. Can you hear the steel drums in the background yet? Oh Mon! Check out the recipe to find the super special secret ingredient! This dish can be a zingy side or a vegetarian main course.

Grilled pineapple and honey mango inspired this "Jerk" recipe

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Week of Discovery and Smoked Salmon Quesadillas

If you think about it, after a lifetime in your field, how many chances to you get to give back to those coming up the ladder behind you? In an information age, dominated by software changes every six to eighteen months the notion of apprentice and journeyman are blurred. Who is the new craftsman, what skills are needed for this new age? Creativity, problem solving, team work, organizational awareness and adaptiblity come to mind. I find that people get locked into their jobs and forget about the opportunities for coaching and mentorship. If, after a lifetime spent on the job, you forget to share the wisdom and lessons learned along the way, then what indeed is your legacy when you're no longer active in the field. There is no marble statue, or perfectly crafted silver tea set that stands the test of time.

Luckily for me I had a chance to spend a week just doing that. Giving back and helping others validate their innate strengths and offer non-judgmental feedback on areas to strengthen. To share what has taken a career life to learn and turn it into teachable moments.

It was a grueling week in an idealic setting. Who wouldn't think that a week at Asilomar would be a picnic. The weather, the best the peninsula could offer with cool bright skies, the steady rhythm of the ocean waves pounding in the near distances between our conference hub and the beach. Inside the meeting rooms an earnest intensity vibrated. We worked from 6:30am to 9 or later each night -- all week. Actively learning, writing, thinking, and talking amongst ourselves. Developing bonds that bore the markers of friendships held for years. For all of us it was an opportunity to learn about ourselves in safety. At the end of the week, the next step on our personal journeys lay before us.

Asilomar State Park Boardwalk - What is the next step?
What on earth does this have to do with food you ask?  During our communal meal discussions my interest in food became evident to the delight and possible dismay of my table mates. On the last day, a dining companion said, "...but what do you eat during the week?"  After driving over an hour to get home, greeting my dear husband and dogs (plus a quick nap) I had the answer.  Smoked Salmon Quesadillas!  So, dedicated to my new found friends is something to celebrate the Cinco de Mayo meal we missed at Crocker Dining Hall. A little delight that goes quickly from prep to table.

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla
Smoked Salmon Quesadilla

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