Monday, August 29, 2011

Pretty Cheesy Give-Away

My friend Mary Karlin, has written the best book on making artisan cheeses at home; not only is the book beautiful but Mary is a great teacher, and you will have hand holding instructions to make all your favorites from ricottas to blue veined cheeses.

 Who can resist this cover??  I want that cheese NOW!!  Mary teaches all over the country, and if you are fortunate enough to meet her, you'll love her easy style, and approach to food.  I'm privileged to have been able to work with her for the past 12 years, and when she comes to town, it's a pleasure to have her stay with Dr.C and I.
Now, for the give-away:  A copy of Mary's book is yours if you "like" my blog on Facebook and can answer this question: Which state produces 35% of all cheese in the US?
I'll choose a winner at random on Friday, so come on down! 

And now for a recipe using CHEESE, specifically Grilled Cheese; we have a saying in my house, that a good grilled cheese can't be rushed, so no scorching high heat, let that buttery outside crisp up low and slow, so that's it's golden brown and shatteringly crisp.  Perfection!  My favorite cheese for traditional grilled cheese is Cabot Farms white cheddar, then I like to match it up with a few goodies; like bacon, or pears, or apples, or smoked turkey, or tomatoes (for Dr. C.---I'm allergic to raw tomatoes)  But the cheese here should be the star... the add-ins are just enough to enhance flavor but not overwhelm.  I've been enamored with the Cuisinart Griddler since I was using it for soup and sandwich classes last year....although I don't own one, I'm coveting one. 

Sharp White Cheddar and Apple Grilled Cheese
Makes 2

Do everyone a favor and buy some nice sturdy bread for this, rather than Wonder bread.  It should be WHITE bread, a brown grilled cheese takes away from the golden brown goodness that happens when you grill the bread.  For some reason salted butter works best here, but if you only have unsalted, that's fine.  

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 large slices white bread (preferably an artisanal soft crusted Italian)
1/2 pound Cabot Farms Sharp White Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
1 medium Granny Smith Apple, cored, and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sweet chutney, mixed with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  1. Brush one side of each slice of bread with some of the butter.  
  2. Lay two slices of bread butter side down into a non-stick skillet, lay the cheese and apple on top of the bread.  
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chutney and mayonnaise, and spread on the remaining pieces of bread.  
  4. Press the bread, mayonnaise side down onto the cheese and apples, and turn the heat to medium.  
  5. One side should take about 7 minutes, to crisp and turn golden.  Turn the grilled cheese and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the remaining side is crispy and golden.  
  6. Remove from the pan, and allow to rest for 2 to 3 minutes, then cut in half and serve.  Roasted tomato soup is the only accompaniment---I'll share that tomorrow!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ranch Hand

I'm heading to Rancho La Puerta next weekend to teach at La Cocina Que Canta, their gorgeous cooking school facility, and to stay for the week with my sister-in-law.  I'm so excited to have this opportunity, and to share it with Susan (she's a saint!)

My job was to create two menus that were around 500 to 600 calories; for people who know me, this is not my usual MO----but I know when you take the calories out it has to taste great for me to eat it and after a few long days, I finally came up with menus that I think will make everyone happy, even a 139 calorie chocolate cake that tastes divine!

La Cocina Que Canta has a 6 acre organic garden so you know that I'll be enjoying all that fresh produce with the students, as well.  I'll be blogging while I'm there, and will keep you posted on my progress.  I do know that since Dr. C. and I have been buying our produce from Specialty Produce (organic, seasonal, local, sustainable) that I've lost weight---and it's not from trying.  So I'll be blogging about what's the best strategy (although I think it's all about the calories, and less about fat/sugar, and starch) to lose and keep it off....until then, enjoy your weekend. 

Back in the Ring

I don't remember the last time I posted, but I've been traveling, and occupied with lots of projects that kept me away from the blog; I hope you'll tune in this week, as I've got a give-away coming up (a fabulous book by a fabulous friend) and I'll be heading to Rancho La Puerta next weekend to teach as well as be a guest---I can't wait to blog about that experience!

I promise to share some recipes this week, and to share some ideas about school lunch boxes which were the bane of my existence when my children were small.
 Until tomorrow, I've got whack these plants into submission, and I'll be ready to rock on.  Look for the give-away tomorrow, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Salad Daze

During the summer, Dr. C. and I tend to eat a bit lighter; with main course salads, and grilled entrees accompanied by a salad, it's easy to get into a rut, so I decided to try a recipe I'd seen for an Asian Pork Loin that sounded good, marinating for 2 days in Hoisin, and other goodies.  After 2 days, I put the pork into the slow cooker, and when it was tender, pulled all the meat, saving some for other dishes in the freezer, but tossing the pork with an Asian sesame dressing, and sturdy greens and topped it with some fried wonton strips.  It was a big hit, and I think you could use the same technique with chicken, but only marinate for about 6 hours, otherwise, the meat will begin to cook in the marinade. 

Asian Pork Loin
Serves 8

1 cup Hoisin sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
One 4 pound pork loin, tied at 1-inch intervals
2 large red onions, sliced
In a large mixing bowl, combine the Hoisin, soy, ketchup, garlic, ginger, canola and vinegar, whisking until blended.  Pour the mixture into a large zipper-top plastic bag.  Add the pork loin, seal the bag and refrigerate for up to 48 hours----turn the bag every once in a while when you open the fridge.  Remove the bag from the refrigerator and strain off the marinade into a small saucepan.  Bring the marinade to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Place the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker, and top with the pork loin.  Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.  Add the marinade to the slow cooker and cook for 5 more hours on high, until the loin is falling apart tender.  Remove the pork loin to a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.  Pour the liquid from the pan into a fat separator and skim off the fat.  Remove any fat from the pork, and pull into pieces, as you would pulled pork.  You can serve the pork in the cooking liquid over rice, or you can serve the pork in flour tortillas, as you would soft tacos, or you can pull the meat, and store it in the liquid in the freezer for up to 2 months.  (I use the meat and liquid in Asian noodle soups, sesame noodle salads, or the salad that follows)

Pulled Pork Salad with Asian Sesame Dressing
Serves 6

For the Dressing
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon sesame oil
 In a mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until blended.  Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.  

For the Salad

One small head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
One head romaine, thinly sliced
One European Cucumber, thinly sliced
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 o 3 cups pulled pork (recipe above)
Asian Sesame Dressing (recipe above)
Fried wonton strips
1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

In a large salad bowl, mix together the cabbage, romaine, cucumber, scallions and pork.  Toss with some of the dressing, and plate the salads.  Garnish each serving with wonton strips and sesame seeds.  

The news has been so miserable lately, I haven't felt like writing, especially thinking of all those in the horn Africa without any food, and the sacrifices they are making to try and get their families to safety, shelter,  and places where there might be nourishment to save them.  These are the faces of courage and sacrifice, and I am realizing my little part of the world is hardly touched by catastrophic events, and I'm very grateful for what I have.  Until next time, buona notte from San Diego. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's in the Bag!

Today's Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag was full of delicious treats; from bottom left blood oranges, snap peas, basil, blackberries, rhubarb, spinach, white scallions, spigarello broccoli, and French Marmonte heirloom tomatoes.  We had a terrific class at Great News! today and for those of you who didn't make the class here are a few more ways to use the produce that is in the bag this week. We'll start with dessert first because I'm that kind of girl!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 8 to 10

For the Fruit

4 cups hulled strawberries, cut in half or quartered if large
4 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 4 stalks)
1 cup granulated sugar (or more if the berries need it)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh orange juice

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the berries, sugar, cornstarch and juice and transfer the mixture to the baking dish.   Set aside while making the crumble. 

For the Crumble:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1.      In a food processor, combine the flour and sugars by pulsing on and off 4 to 5 times.  
2.      Drop the butter cubes onto the flour mixture, and pulse the mixture on and off until it begins to come together. 
3.      Break up any large pieces, and sprinkle evenly over the fruit in the prepared pan. 
4.      Bake the crumble for 35 to 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling. 
5.      Serve the crumble warm, or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, or gelato.  
6.      If you have any crumble topping (uncooked) leftover, freeze it and then use it another time. 

If you are doing individual crumbles, they will cook for 20 minutes, until they are golden and bubbling.  This recipe will make about 16 ramekins. 

Slow Sauteed Spigarello Broccoli with Garlic
Serves 4 to 6

 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
One bunch spigarello broccoli, stems trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and saute the garlic for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the broccoli, broth and season with salt and pepper.  Turn the broccoli in the broth and garlic oil to coat.  Cover and slow simmer for 10 minutes, turn the broccoli, cover and cook another 5 minutes.  Remove the cover, and cook another 5 minutes, to evaporate some of the liquid in the bottom of the pan.  Serve the broccoli as a bed for roasted meats, grilled fish, or chicken.  

Caprese Salad Traditionale  
Serve 4
5 medium vine ripened heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick
One 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/2-inch thick
12 to 16 leaves of basil
salt and pepperolive oil

Arrange the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a serving platter.  Tuck the basil between the tomatoes and mozzarella. Sprinkle the tomatoes and mozzarella with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with oil and serve.  
Cooks' Note:  Another way to serve this type salad is to alternate slices of blood oranges with the mozzarella, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.

I hope you all have a safe, and delicious weekend, buona sera from San Diego

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chicken Fried Salad......or Fried Chicken Salad, or Awesome Chicken Salad

After making fried chicken for dinner the other night, I've got a few pieces leftover, and they are perfect for one of my favorite salads.  I sometimes make this salad with leftover turkey or chicken, but it's especially good with leftover over fried chicken, with the crispy coating soaking up the mapley Ranch Style Dressing; trust me, you'll be addicted!

Fried Chicken Salad              
Serves 6

One 10-ounce bags mixed salad greens of your choice
1 European cucumber, diced
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, or 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup fresh or defrosted frozen corn kernels
3 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1 cup Ranch Hand Special Dressing (see next recipe)
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 strips bacon, cooked until crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled
1 cup Spicy Pecans (see next recipe)

  1. Put the salad greens in a large salad bowl. Add the cucumber, celery, chives, corn, and chicken. 
  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the ranch dressing, maple syrup, and pepper.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing, add the bacon and pecans, and toss again to coat everything. Serve immediately   

Ranch Hand Special Dressing
Makes about 2 cups
Once you taste this dressing, you won't be buying that bottle on the shelf in the grocery store; but if you need to buy the bottle, just add the maple syrup and pepper to spice it up a bit.  
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk, or substitute 1 cup whole milk mixed with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1tablespoon chopped fresh parsley            
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and buttermilk, then add the garlic, herbs, salt, and lemon pepper and stir until blended.
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Shake well or whisk before using.

Spicy Nuts
Makes 2 cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups pecan or walnut halves or whole almonds
2 tablespoons raw sugar

  1. Melt the butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.   
  2. Add the sugar, the seasoned salt, garlic salt, and cayenne and stir until the spices give off some aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.  
  3. Add the nuts and toss until well coated, and the nuts begin to give off an aroma, about 4 minutes. 
  4. Remove from the heat and place the nuts in a glass bowl.  Sprinkle the raw sugar over the nuts and toss until coated.  
Do-Ahead: At this point, you can let cool, transfer to zipper-top plastic bags, and freeze indefinitely.

Cook’s Notes:  
  • If you would like to make nuts to toss into salads, chop them before cooking them in the butter and seasonings. 
  • It’s important to use dried spices with the nuts because they become fragrant in the butter and will adhere to the nuts.  Fresh herbs and spices are terrific in other recipes, but not here.
These little nuggets don't last long around here!

Can't remember where I bought these, but love Foxy Organic!!!
Every bite is different; tender chicken, crunchy romaine, celery and cucumbers, salty bacon, sweet and spicy nuts, and maple syrup spiked ranch style dressing.

 Don't toss the nuts into the salad, rather garnish the plated salad with the nuts so they don't lose any crispness. 
I'm teaching the Farmer's Market Bag class tomorrow at Great News! I will have some recipes for the ingredients in the bag in my next post, until then, buona notte from San Diego. 

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    August Beginnings.........

    I know I've been gone for a week; I feel kind of like this person, buried under paper and "to do" lists, and my own stuff.

    I've not felt like cooking, or eating, or even writing....but I'm coming back, all it took was for me to get the contents of the Specialty Produce Farmer's Market Bag on Tuesday for our class on Friday to get me back into the swing of things.
    So what have I been cooking this week?  Well, there was the on-going search for the best Roman Pizza crust recipe

    this one was from an award winning bread baker, and it was awful.....I'm sorry, but I tried it twice, neither time did we have a good crust.   I'm not publishing the recipes till I get the right one!

    I did make some awesome fried chicken (we do this about once a year) last week, and served it with corn on the cob and a salad.  See that awesome Scanpan skillet---Scanpan is the BEST!

    As the week has gone on, I'm realizing that cooking is really therapy for me, and since getting back into the kitchen, and getting away from the paperwork barrage, I'm feeling more like myself again. I'll be back again and I'll have new recipes, and great tips for cooking great meals for your family, until then, buona notte  from San Diego.