Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pasta with Fried Sage and "what's-in-my-refrigerator

I had a busy Saturday, so all of my plans for baking flew right out the window. I did manage to pay my first visit to my favorite place to by locally grow and fresh, organic produce-- "The Farm" (that I blogged about in March). I regretted that I didn't bring my camera, but I'll be sure to do that next week. I bought some beautiful strawberries, that were so sweet and freshly picked. While browsing around at all the beautiful produce, Sarah (who has managed the business for several years) asked if I saw the fresh garbanzo beans. I winced. Remember, I don't like garbanzo beans! However, I had never seen fresh garbanzo beans.

So, I popped one in my mouth, and the flavor didn't scare me away. Fine. I'll try them!

Time ran away, so I decided to make pasta. I had some heirloom grape tomatoes, fresh mozarella, pancetta and a LOT of sage. I decided to fry some sage in some leftover butter:

Once the Sage Leaves were crisp, I used the leftover butter and LOTS of garlic and added the tomatoes and garbanzo beans, and then roasted these in the oven for a little under 10 minutes.

I found a bag of farfalle pasta that I cooked until al dente. At the last moment, I decided to add the diced pancetta to this and to cook some chicken in a separate skillet (seasoned with only salt & pepper and a little balsamic vinegar), because I hadn't eat much all day and I really wanted some protein.

This dish turned out to be really delicious-- especially when I added fresh mozarella and let it turn nice and gooey. The boys had second helpings (and so did I).

As for the garbanzo beans... I think, next time, I'd par-cook them or steam them. These were a little crunchy, but I liked this far better than the texture of canned ones. Yes, there will be a next time. Maybe I can learn to like these after all!

I am also thrilled to have spotted my first two tomatoes-- from our 20 container plants!

Our "Early Girls" are living up to their promise of producing fruit in record time.
I also spotted my first bell peppers, Eureka lemons (almost ready) and potential Meyer lemons (which seem a little late, but we shall see...)

Spring has certainly blessed our home garden, with promises of so many fresh vegetables and fruits. I can hardly wait!

Hopefully, tomorrow, I can make a strawberry cream tart. I have a few more recipes to upload, if I could just slow my life down a bit. Honestly, I wish I had the time to blog every day. I will, once my summer vacation rolls around on July 1st. That's when I plan to get busy with canning tomatoes and making jams. Whoo-hoo!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Olallieberry Crisp - (what the heck is an Olallieberry?)

 Sometimes, geography defines what products are exclusively available in limited regions. For example, we Californians cannot find Hellman's mayonnaise on our grocery store shelves (though I've seen been enlightened that it's called "Best Foods" west of the Rockies). On the other hand, we have something very special-- and, as far as I know, it's a special berry that is mostly available in California. It might grow in the western United States of Oregon and Washington, but I'm not 100% sure.

I'm praising the wonderful and geographically elusive olallieberry. I say oh-la-la, some say oh-la-lee. What I love about these berries is that they taste like a cross between a blackberry and a rasberry-- a little tart, and very juicy. They make incredibly delicious pies, crisps and jams.

A few years ago, my husband and I spent a weekend in Cambria, California. Linn's restaurant is known for growing olallieberries and for including plenty of bakery treats made with these berries. We took a lovely drive to one of their farm, and we purchased one of their berry plants.

Yesterday, I decided to check on how our one and only olallieberry plant (it's actually a vine) was doing...

Yes! We have berries!

I picked two of the ripest looking berries and rinsed them. My hubby and I tasted one and smiled. They were sweet and tart!

June is, typically, when olallieberry season begins-- but I got a jump start on it. Here's my secret-- I freeze them. They freeze exceptionally well, because I found my last stash of last year's olallieberries. Score! I decided to make an olallieberry crisp because they're so easy to make.

I'm always on the lookout for a new and improved version of making fruit crisps. I know that oats are a must. I leave out the nuts, since my son isn't crazy about them. Otherwise, I'd use walnuts or pecans. As for the filling-- I'm still undecided if I prefer flour, tapioca or cornstarch as my thickener. I settled on a recipe from Gourmet Magazine:

I use white sugar, brown sugar, old-fashioned oats, butter, cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg & salt and lemon juice (for the berries).

I fine that olallieberries can be a bit tart, so I don't skimp on the sugar. This time I used flour as my thickener.

I add ice cold butter and cut it into the dry ingredients.

My dish is buttered, the berries are added and then an even topping of the crumb mixture-- and pop this wonderful quick dessert in a 350F oven for about 25 minutes.

Bubbling goodness! If you don't have olallieberries, this crisp topping works well with any kind of berries, pears, peaches... use your imagination.

I am about a 30 minute drive to Gizdich Ranch, where we can pick our own olallieberries. While our miniature vineyard of these berries have fruit, it's not enough to satisfy how much we love them. I'm heading up there within the next two weeks. I promised myself that I was going to learn to make my own jam, and this is it! I already the utensils to do this, so stay tuned. My husband absolutely loves these berries, so he's going to enjoy pies, tarts, turnovers and jam.

I doubt he'll ever tire of that. I wonder-- has anyone been able to find these outside of the Western United States? I sure hope so. They are terrific!

Happy Memorial Weekend!

Olallieberry, on Foodista

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple-Mango Salsa & another gadget

Fresh pineapple is a fruit that I try to keep on hand at all times. In fact, one of my favorite snacks is fresh pineapple and non-fat cottage cheese. Ever since I discovered my pineapple slicer gadget, it's a breeze to work with fresh pineapple.

I've developed a better appreciation for mango, ever since my husband squeezed fresh lime juice over the mango slices. I like the flavor combination. This is where my inspiration came to make a pineapple-mango salsa.

Until recently, I did not fully understand how to slice mango! Those of you who work with this fruit, know what a weird pit you have to try and work with. I read about OXO's mango splitter in a foodie magazine and I decided to buy one (a couple of years ago). I have to say that it's a great gadget for people (like me) who want shortcuts. Yes, that's me! I'm a gadget person. I can assure you that I use all of my gadgets, or I get rid of them. This one has proven to be worthy of my drawer space.

Let me show you:
I like to slice the bottom of the mango, so that it balances on my cutting board a lot better.

Now that I figured out that the pit is in alignment with the narrow part of the mango, I align the pitter...

Push, down...and there you have it!

I take a paring knife and slice the fruit, invert the peel and cut off what I need. This technique works best for me-- or, you could peel the mango like an apple and then slice it. Whatever floats your boat.

To make the salsa, my ingredients were fresh pineapple, mango, red onion, fresh cilantro (that's growing out of control in my garden), jalapeno, lime juice and salt & pepper, to taste.

I am growing my own jalapeno, but my plants won't bear fruit for at least another month. My tongue can only handle medium heat, so I make sure to remove the membranes and the seeds.

To the fruit and jalapeno, I add the onion and lots of cilantro. If you don't like cilantro, it's a shame. I suppose you could substitute parsley, but we love the tang of cilantro. Besides, it's in my Mexican D.N.A. to love cilantro. Last, I add the juice of one lime...or two.

Pineapple-Mango salsa speaks summer to me. Sure, I'm a little early, but I do live in California. We love this salsa because it pairs so well with fish, pork-- or it can be used as a dip.

I decided to grill a pork tenderloin (always a staple in my fridge and freezer). I wanted to season it with a Mexibbean flavor, so I used the Mexican seasoning that I make.

Seriously, why buy it? I always keep the spices on hand anyway-- cumin, chili powder, oregano, paprika and garlic powder. I use this blend for quick meals like tacos or fajitas. I rubbed the seasoning into the pork tenderloin and marinated it in the juice of 2 limes, some minced garlic and olive oil-- for about 30 minutes.

On impulse, I opened up a can of black beans, drained them and seasoned with a little bit of cumin and chili powder and garnished it with light sour cream.
This is a very low-fat and healthy dinner-- and very flavorful. Enjoy!

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.
If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here.


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Part II - Monterey's " Sustainable Seafood Challenge"

Where was I? Back to last Sunday... my wonderful day at the Monterey Plaza Hotel to watch the Sustainable Seafood Challenge with Alton Brown and Sam Choy as hosts:


My front rows seat was directly in front of Nate Appleman, co-owner and Executive Chef of San Francisco's A-16 Restaurant. I've seen him on Food Network (Iron Chef), but I didn't know much about him. I wish I knew the name of his sous chef-- a darling young lady, whose parents were seated to my right.


This is "Nancy". Nancy's husband bought her a ticket to this event as a Christmas gift. She also has beautiful skin-- she was one of my most loyal and favorite facial clients for at least 13 years. Muhwaaaaaah, Nancy! She's also my foodie buddy and she knows a lot more about culinary skills and lingo than I do. I'm still waiting for Nancy to invite me over for one of her famous dinners. (Nancy reads my blog...hint, hint).

The 1 hour clock started ticking and the chefs were off to make their dishes for the judges.

Nancy and I were riveted to checking out the ingredients Nate chose for his menu-- trying to guess what he would make with them. Non-foodies don't understand that, do they?



Alton Brown being playful with Nate.


Sam Choy looks on as Nate prepares a cooked lobster. (I love lobster). If you look in the left corner, you can see that the clock has counted down with 47 minutes to go.


Does anyone like caviar? Feast your eyes on this! There's more to come on this can of glorified fish eggs...


Chef Nate is plating a seafood risotto. Notice the small bottle of 25-year old balsamic on the left. Nancy and I were licking our chops.


Aha! He's going to drizzle the balsamic over the risotto. Now, I'm starting to moan with desire...


Whoo-hoo! Chef has heard my whimpering and he made a small bowl of risotto and waved his hand to signify "help yourself". In a nano-second I was up and I unabashedly took the bowl-- much to the moans of envy from the folks in back. That's my new friend "Valerie" to my left...


Valerie has no shame, either. Chef handed her the All-Clad pan of leftover risotto...


Here's my bowl of Chef Nate's creation-- seafood risotto with lobster and caviar. Know what friendship is? It's letting my friend, Nancy, devour all of the caviar! Know what else? Other than the beluga caviar I once ate (and did enjoy) it's not really my "thing". Nancy doesn't like lobster, but she loves caviar. She also ate a dozen oysters, and had a huge grin on her face.
Yin and Yan, we were both very happy moochers. Yes, it was very tasty.


Valerie shared her risotto with total strangers. Get this...


Other celebrity chefs appearing at Cooking For Solutions include John Ash, Nate Appleman, Floyd Cardoz, Regina Charboneau, Sam Choy, Xavier Deshays, Jim Dodge, Joyce Goldstein, Alexandra Guarnaschelli, Tracy Griffith, Michael Nischan, Paul Rogalski, and Frank Stitt.

Presenting chefs include Tony Baker, Wendy Brodie, Benjamin Brown, Dory Ford, Thom Fox, Anthony Keen, Mary Pagan, Peter Pahk, Jerry Regester, Justin Robarge, Jeff Rogers, Cal Stamenov, Terry Teplitzky, James Waller and Ted and Cindy Walter.

After the awards were handed out (Nate won for best flavor)...


As Chef was packing up, Valerie looked at him to hand back the All-Clad pan.

"Take it!" he replied, waving his hand.

I wanted to cry. I looked at the bottle of 25-year old balsamic... and debated batting my eyes at him. I chickened out.

Valerie. She scored big time!

As for me... I rarely get to attend events like this. It was such a treat that my friend, Debra, gifted me with a ticket to see this wonderful event.

As for next year-- I can only hope that I find a ticket to next year's Seafood Challenge in my Christmas stocking.

You hear that, Valerie? I'm going to score a piece of All-Clad, too. (Yeah, right).

If any of you wonderful folks, who read my blog, come to visit Monterey... let me know. I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful area that offers to many wonderful restaurants and that attracts so many celebrities. You can take me out to dinner! Seriously, I'd be happy to give you some recommendations, from a local's perspective.

There are many more photos that I'll need to organize and create as a slide show. These are just a few.

See you next year-- Nancy & Valerie!

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pioneer Woman's Strawberry Shortcake Cake

I had a productive day in my herb garden and kitchen. I made four new recipes! Tonight's dessert was rated "five stars" by my husband. He doesn't hand those out easily, but I have to say-- Ree (the Pioneer Woman)  posted a great new recipe.

The sponge cake is made with sifted flour, corn starch, baking soda and creamed butter and sugar. Eggs (at room temperature) are added one at a time:


Like Ree, I used a greased and floured 8" cake pan, and leveled the top of the batter with an off-set spatula. The cake was baked in just over 40 minutes, rather than the 45-50 recommended time. Watch this closely, depending on your oven!


Immediately remove from pan, and cool completely.


Now, for the beautiful strawberries... wash them, husk them, and slice in halves.


Depending on how tart your strawberries are, add about 3 Tablespoons sugar (these were tart, because I didn't buy Driscoll berries).


The berries should macerate, in the fridge, for at least 30 minutes; then mash them in batches and add about 1 tablespoon more sugar, if needed.


Who doesn't love cream cheese frosting, with unsalted butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until fluffy..


Cut the cake in half, and divide the strawberries. Place an even layer, with the juice. The cake is dense, so it can take it. Freeze for about five minutes, to make frosting easier.


Spread a layer of icing over the strawberry layer; then add the second layer and ice the top, and the sides with the remaining icing (which I didn't seem to have enough to finish the job).


I thought about decorating the cake with fresh pink roses, from my garden...or garnishing this with fresh strawberries-- but I didn't have any! Actually, my boys don't care about that stuff.


This is what they care about! I really like this recipe. I would, seriously, considering making a whipped cream frosting as a variation. For potlucks, though, I'd make this Ree's way.

I always post a printable recipe card at the end of each recipe post. If you cannot view it, you might be using an older version of InternetExplorer. You should be able to view my recipe cards with Safari, Mozilla, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. If you still can't view the recipe card, all of my recipes are stored on Key Ingredient, by clicking here. If you still can't figure out how to view the printable recipe card, please email me at and I am happy to help.

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