Saturday, June 30, 2007

Frittelle di Capellini with Tomato, Mushroom, & Mozzarella

Don't you just love Jamie Oliver? Let's face it, apart from the fact that he's a Brit, lovely, attractive, down-to-earth, compassionate, a family guy and all around fun-loving man, the guy's into food. I just picked up Jamie's Italy from the library today and was immediately inspired to make this frittelle di Capellini (fritelle di Spaghetti in the cookbook).

The basic recipe involves cooked capellini (or spaghetti), that is mixed with beaten egg, garlic, and in this case, chopped basil, grated Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes. You cut the stringy pasta into 3" pieces, mix it with the eggy mixture, and fry it like a pancake in olive oil.

I topped this soft on the inside/crispy on the outside savory pancake with roasted tomato slices and mushrooms, basted with an olive oil-balsamic vinegar mix, and topped the tower with a little fresh mozzarella and a dab of pesto.

Easy, fantastic tasting, and a little different, this made a wonderful summertime meal!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Value for your Buck: Nachos & Tortilla Soup from Baja Fresh

Sure, I can make nachos myself, but heck, it's summer! And, although summertime is a time for kick-back indulgence, I think it's also often true that food others make for you tastes better that food you made for yourself.

If you're looking for a tasty and substantial meal on a budget, I can highly recommend Baja Fresh in Corte Madera's Town Center. Generous portions and fresh tasting food, I enjoyed a sumptuous banquet of Vegetarian Tortilla Soup and Nachos with black beans and guacamole for less than $8.

With locales around the North Bay, these guys are worth checking out.
I've experienced consistent friendly and efficient service, and while it's not haute cuisine, it's way better food than you'll find in those crummy fast food options that are in the same price range. And plenty of healthy vegetarian options.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stuffed Eggplant


I wanted to try stuffed eggplant, but didn't want a super-high fat meal. This worked out perfectly. To save time, I microwaved the halved and boated eggplant for 2-1/2 minutes (in a dish, covered with plastic wrap). I brushed the eggplant with olive oil, saIted it, and roasted it for a couple of minutes. I then sauted the chopped eggplant I had removed before microwaving, along with portobellos, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic. I added a little pesto and a handful of pinenuts. Roasted some thick slices of tomato, again brushed with olive oil and balsamic. Served the stuffed eggplant topped with half a roasted tomato, a dab of pesto, and some fresh mozzarella.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Portobellos Stuffed with Black Beans, Cheddar, and Guacamole

Summertime ...and the eating is kinda sexy. Here's another version of the roasted portobellos, wrapped with roasted eggplant, this time stuffed with black beans, cheddar, and guacamole, decorated with half an organic pear tomato. Can you say hmmm....?
This was quite a delicious mouthful.

I'm blaming tonight's sexy food on Cookiecrumb. She posted a very sexy sandwich for the first day of summer and associated it (in my mind, at least) with summer nakedness.

So there you have it. Juicy portobello mushrooms, tied up with strips of eggplant, ousing balsamic vinegar and creamy guacamole. Yeah...

And speaking of sexy, summer food, where is Sam?

But let's turn now to an innocent avocado memory. I guess I was destined to be a food enthusiast from a young age. I remember as an 8 year-old , saving up my pocket money with my friend Melanie, to buy an avocado (not quite as plentiful in England as they are in California). I think we paid at least a pound for it (and we're talking the 70s here) and ate it, with rapture, in the English way, halfed, stoned, with malt vinegar and salt. It's good to know, that you can still relive the past in some ways...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Grapefruit, Mache, & Avocado Salad

Things heated up here in Marin today, so it was salad for dinner. This salad of mache, with grapefruit, avocado, black beans, cheese with black olives, and, post-picture, a handful of pistachios, was light and satisfying.

The salad was inspired by the recipe on the back of the bag of Trader Joe's Organic Mache, entitiled Mache Salad with Avocado, Grapefruit, Macadamia Nuts and Citrus Vinaigrette. I made the Citrus Vinaigrette (grapefruit juice, lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, S&P) and it was surprisingly sweet and pleasant. In addition to the mache, grapefruit, and avocado, I added black beans and a newly discovered semi-soft cheese with specks of black olive. The beans were good, but not memorable, and the salad greatly improved with the crunchy saltiness of the pitachios.

I'm also happy to report, I purchased a new knife to execute my new knife skills learned from Shuna. This very sharp little paring knife with a cover to keep it from blunting, was the perfect tool for peeling and supreming the grapefruit for this recipe. I purchased one knife singly for $8.95 in the store.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eggplant with Tofu from La Maison de la Reine

Hmm... I seem to be on an eggplant kick! I purchased several small eggplants at the Farmers Market today, but this very delicious Eggplant with Tofu, came from La Maison de la Reine, a Vietnamese restaurant in Corte Madera Town Center.

I've somehow never been to this restaurant, which now seems a shame as this dish was awfully good. It was marked as "hot & spicy", but I wouldn't have described it this way, so don't be put-off by that. I got this dish to go, but found the host pleasant, helpful, and unusually polite. The restaurant has a crisp, modern decor with excellent lighting from the lengthy wall of windows. The bar looked impressive and was so clean I wondered if it had ever been used.

My friend VK (of Vegan Knitting (and then some)), recently discovered the place and has enjoyed the Vermicelli (only served at lunchtime) and the Vegetarian Crispy Rolls (made with taro root and served with a vinaigrette). I had originally wanted the Vegetarian Pho (Rice Noodle Soup), but was told it was bland with a vegetarian stock. Other tasty looking dishes I plan to try: La Maison Tofu, Special Tofu with Taro Root and Pumpkin, and the Deep Fried Tofu Basil Fried Rice.

And try the Eggplant with Tofu! You won't regret it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Farro-Stuffed Portabellos with Eggplant & Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo

Hmmm....looks good, huh? Roasted portobello, filled with farro with marinara, topped with Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo (percorino with truffles), wrapped in a strip of roasted japanese eggplant.

I can't believe how beautifully this came out! I wanted to do something with eggplant and had just got the portobellos at T.Joe's. I decided to roast them both, brushed with olive oil and balsamic. I had some left over cooked farro and was thinking of chopping the vegetables and mixing them with the farro, when suddenly I got this wonderful idea to create a stuffable tower with the two. It held together beautifully and the rich combination of smoky eggplant, juicy ports, farro, tomato, and creamy cheese made for a magnificient mouthful (or two)!

I love the portobello/eggplant towers and I'm thinking of other fillings:
  • farro with pesto

  • lentils with pesto

  • lentils with cilantro, mint, & feta

  • chopped tomatoes, red onion, and mozzarella

  • black beans with guacamole and cheddar

  • I welcome your suggestions!

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Goat Cheese Pizza with Roasted Peppers

    It was too hot to cook tonight, even after a long swim. The sudden heat wave took me by surprise and I burnt my feet on the concrete as I ran to the pool.

    The house stays cool during the day, but by 7pm it was baking. So, I let someone else do the cooking, and simply enjoyed eating this delicious Goat Cheese Pizza with roasted peppers, grilled Japanese eggplant, and caramelized onions. Having subsisted the whole day on half a breadstick, it tasted really good. Saw the first organic eggplant at the Farmers Market today. Favorite eggplant recipes, anyone?

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Fava Bean & Farro Salad; (Mostly) Italian Protein Plate

    We had a wonderfully intense weekend of celebrating Sweetpea's 7th birthday and her subsequent suddenly ability to swim (just like that). I felt tired in a happy way (which feels really good). I love the way that combination of sun and water both calms and depletes you. So I found myself craving protein and salads, which inspired this (Mostly) Italian Protein Plate.

    I'm fortunate to have an excellent Italian deli, A.G. Ferrari very close to my home. Even more fortunate to have friendly, well-educated staff who, despite my vegetarianism, are happy to turn me on to new things. Both the Lentil & Spinach Salad:

    and the incredible Cacio di Bosco Al Tartufo (I'm addicted!) are from A.G. Ferrari.

    J. highly recommended farro to me and I recently purchased a 1lb bag of their Farro dell'Umbira, an organic Italian farro. Ferrari sell a farro and fava bean salad that is excellent, so I decided to give it a go myself. Farro is the "original grain from which all other grains derive", a high-protein, chewy grain that looks a lot like brown rice and is hard to overcook. It pairs nicely with other proteins (chickpeas, beans, cheeses) and very well with balsamic vinegar. My fava bean and farro salad was delicious! I also included green garlic, baby dinosaur kale, red wine, and balsamic vinegar (see recipe below).

    With a side of black olive hummus and pita bread, this plate was very satisfying!

    Fava Bean & Farro Salad:
    2 oz farro, cooked per directions (I boiled the farro in salted water for 10 minutes)
    3/4 cup fava beans, podded
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 stalk green garlic, finely chopped
    3/4 cup dinosaur kale leaves (I used tiny baby ones that I've never seen before, but you could tear regular dinosaur kale into 2" strips or use spinach or another green - adjust cooking time as needed)
    1 tbsp red wine (optional)
    1 tsp balsamic vinegar

    Cook the fava beans in salted water for 2-3 minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water and peel.

    Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauted the green garlic for 4 minutes. Add the dinosaur kale (or other green) and cook until tender. Add the cooked farro and fava beans, cook 2 minutes. Add the wine (if using) and cook 2 minutes. Add the balsamic and season as desired. Serve hot or cold.

    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Orange Star

    I was so happy when I cut into this orange and saw this almost perfect little star in the center, I just had to take a photo.

    I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps I'm a little out there with the food photography thing. My kids and neighbors (I often photograph food in the back yard to get the best light) think I'm quite mad. And when I recently told a chef I (almost) always photograph my dinner before I eat it, he laughed. You, know, like I was joking.

    I find getting the right shot an awesome and frustrating part of food blogging. I think about it a lot. If I can't capture visually what makes this particular dish tasty and worthwhile, it really bothers me.

    Anyway, this lovely orange was small, organic, and delicious! Enjoy!

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    Tofu Wasabi Bowl

    Back many years ago, when I first became a vegetarian, the hardest place to get a decent meal was a seafood restaurant. I remember dining on a measly side of overcooked broccoli once! Happily, times seem to have changed.

    I have become quite addicted to this Tofu Wasabi Bowl from the seafood restaurant, Pacific Catch, in Corte Madera, and often order it to go. The marinated and grilled tofu is really fantastic! Moist, meaty, superfresh, and in no way bland, I love this stuff! It's the kind of thing I crave when feeling depleted and in need of a heavy dose of protein.

    While this dish isn't exactly on the menu, the marinated grilled tofu is featured in a sandwich, along with shiitake mushrooms, mango, salsa, avocado and teriyaki sauce. It's also offered as part of the Teriyaki Bowls, with asparagus, shiitake musrooms, grilled bok choy, sesame seeds, house made sake teriyaki sauce served over pineapple fried rice.

    But neither of them compares to the tofu with the superb Wasabi Bowl. Sticky sushi rice with the a delicious soy-wasabi sauce that is perfectly hot (in my opinion), with wakame salad, sliced avocado, daikon sprouts, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and shredded nori. I can eat this whole huge plate of food quite happily.

    Did I mention the tofu is really good?

    Saturday, June 02, 2007

    Fava Bean & Olive Pasta with Goat Gouda

    Seems like everyone has a "problem" with fava beans.

    As I bagged a couple of bags of homegrown favas, fresh from my friend's garden, another friend looked over in surprise and said "You like fava beans?".
    "You have to peel them." I said (to raised eyebrows).

    My mother used to cook fava beans, or broad beans as they are called in my homeland, as a side to ham. She served them covered in parsely sauce and they were never a favorite of my vegetable-loving childhood ("Give me your cabbages, your swedes, your brussels sprouts!"). With hindsight, I realize that the problem was that she never peeled them. They were served with their wrinkled bitter skins intact, and even I observed them mournfully (although, the parsely sauce really helped.)

    "But they're so time-consuming to peel" critics say.

    Put them in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes, then strain, rinse with cold water and peel. Is this so stressful? Takes but a minute to pop these beans out of their grey cloaks and reveal their brilliant, bright greenness.

    Isn't the photograph above mouthwatering?

    Here's the simple recipe of a wonderful combination of Reginette pasta, fava beans, and kalamata olives:

    Fava Bean & Olive Pasta with Goat Gouda

    6 oz Reginette pasta (or pasta of your choice, spaghetti or rigatoni would also be good)
    1 cup fresh fava beans
    1 stalk of green garlic, finely chopped
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp butter
    squirt of lemon juice
    1 tsp balsamic vinegar
    1 tsp red wine
    8 kalamata olives, sliced
    2 oz Goat Gouda, diced

    Cook the pasta according to directions.

    Boil water and add salt. Cook the podded fava beans for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Peel.

    Heat the oil in a skillet and sauted the green garlic until tender, 4-5 minutes. Add the peeled fava beans and butter and cook 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red wine, and olives. Cook 1 minute. Add the pasta and stir until combined. Add the goat cheese, season, and serve.