Sunday, August 31, 2008

Salad with Fresh Figs, Mushrooms, & Spinach

I absolutely loved this salad and the recipe has a beautiful efficiency about it that makes it a perfect candidate for a dinner party, where time is of the essence.

The green salad is a mix of green herb salad and fresh baby spinach. The portobello mushrooms were sliced thin and brushed with a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pressed garlic. Put these on a baking tray covered with foil, along with the halved fresh figs, which were topped with balsamic. Under the broiler for 2 minutes. Turned the mushrooms and brushed the other side with the olive oil, balsamic, and garlic and topped the figs with slivered Arina Goat Cheese (a very creamy but sliceable goat cheese). Added some walnut halves to the tray and put them under the broiler for another 1 1/2 minutes. Added some more olive oil to the remaining oil-balsamic-garlic mixture and tossed with the salad greens. Added a tiny pinch of sea salt over the greens, then topped with the mushrooms, walnuts and figs.

I was cursing my past-it's-useful-life red onion, when I came up with the idea of using the garlicy mushroom marinade as the dressing for the greens. I'm not big on sweet with savory, but this was a fabulous success! The combination of fresh, toothy chlorophyll greens, pungent garlic, soft, salty mushrooms, and luscious, mouthy fresh figs (yep, I'm going to town on the description, at the risk of sounding pretentious!), with that creamy Arina goat cheese. Yes! Add the crunch of toasted walnuts and I was completely satisfied.

And you can whip this out in less than 10 minutes. That's my kind of amazing salad!

p.s. Apologies for the less than perfect shots of this baby. The days are getting shorter and my photos are suffering, but I'm not quite ready to start cooking earlier. Enjoy!

p.p.s. Challenge: I know people dislike the word "toothy". How would you describe chlorophyll texture of spinach or purslane?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Caprese with Pretty Organic Heirlooms

I'm really enjoying the heirloom tomatoes this year!

This caprese was made with a delicious selection of organic heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fruity extra virgin olive oil from A. G. Ferrari, white balsamic vinegar, basil, French sea salt, and ground pepper.

I recently attended an heirloom tomato class, where the chef recommended blending heirlooms that contrasted, both colorwise and texture-wise. The green variety here provided crunch and the others rich juiciness. Whereas I might have added cucumber for a little crunch, it was nice to keep is super simple!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cotswold & Heirloom Tomato Quiche

Heirloom tomatoes and Cotswold cheese in a creamy quiche with a crumby crust! Gosh, it was so good it sent shivers down my spine. And so simple! I gave a lot of thought about what to add or leave out. Onions, garlic - I decided against these. I had a lovely organic baby yellow zucchini, so I added super thin zucchini ribbons. It was the perfect mild addition.

Cotswold is a tangy Double Gloucester with chives. An English cheese with personality. It pairs so beautifully with heirloom tomatoes. No time to bake or quiche averse: try this simple Cheese Dream and this fab combination will leave you satisfied. Into creamy eggs with a little excitement? Here's the recipe.

Cotswold & Heirloom Tomato Quiche:

1 premade frozen Pie Crust (I used Marie Calendars)
3 oz grated Cotswold Cheese
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper
1/2 large heirloom tomato, sliced thin
1 small yellow zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cover the pie crust with half of the grated Cotswold cheese. Top with thin ribbons of zucchini and thin slices of heirloom tomato. Salt and pepper. Beat together egg, egg yolk, and half-and-half. Pour mixture over into the crust. Salt & pepper. Top with the remaining grated Cotswold. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Serve alone or with a mixed green salad.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Simple Salads: Fiesta & Tomato

The last week, it's been salad, salad,salad! And it seems impossible to make a salad without the beautiful organic heirloom tomatoes that currently decorate every produce stand I see.

The Fiesta salad above with leafy greens, sweet yellow bell peppers and a perfect avocado with a few nacho jalapeno slices, salsa, and a super-minimal red wine vinaigrette has become a real favorite.

The tomato salad below is simply chopped heirlooms in pretty colors, with fruity olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper.

I sort of wish I had grown tomatoes in pretty pots in my sunny back yard this summer, but, to be honest, I was barely able to keep the herbs alive, with forgetful lapses about watering. A gardening friend moved my container herbs around to ideal places in my yard, and, even the burnt mint has recovered. Small miracles are very reassuring.

Incredibly, it's almost the end of August and I'm having a end-of-summer wobbly sentimental moment. At least the pool is ours until Labor Day. On my to-do list for this weekend, come up with and pre-prep healthy foods for the kids lunch boxes (school starts Monday). Oh....and my lunchbox!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cauliflower, Carrot, Chickpea & Cumin Soup

I know, a hot soup post in August? Interestingly, it's cooler here in California than it was during my 10 day trip to England, and heck, I'm nursing the dreaded summer head cold, so soup is decidedly appealing!

This soup was absolutely sweet and delicious! Organic cauliflower with sweet, sweet carrots, chickpeas for protein, sweet peas for a color contrast, and cumin and coriander spices, garlic and ginger for a mild tangy Indian flavor. I planned to include potatoes, but in my jet-lagged, head-cold state, I forgot them! No matter! It made the soup lighter and sweeter and that was not a problem.


Cauliflower, Carrot, Chickpea & Cumin Soup:

1 TBS olive oil
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 TBS ground cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 TBS butter or olive oil
1/2 small cauliflower, cut into small florettes
3/4 cut baby carrots, sliced
5 cups mixture vegetable broth and water
1 TBSP tomato paste
5 oz chickpeas
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt & pepper

Heat 1 TBS olive oil in a heavy bottomed big pan and add the onion. Cook over low heat for 4 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cuming, coriander seeds and coriander. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Add the butter or additional olive oil, the cauliflower and carrots, a pinch of salt, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes to avoid sticking. Add the vegetable broth/water (I did 50/50), tomato paste, bring to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and peas and simmer an additional 5-6 minutes. Season to taste.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Where I've Been & What I've Been Eating

I've just returned from a wonderful 10 day holiday abroad! It was very hot at my destination, so you'll note there are an unusual number of frozen desserts pictured here. Above a Melon & Pims sorbet with melon slices and mango sauce.

Super-rich three scoops of vanilla ice cream ( creamier than any I've had in the US) with extra large mint leaves!

Blackcurrant sorbet.

Is your mouth watering? A combo shot of vanilla ice cream and black currant sorbet.

Slow-roasted tomato appetizer.

Delicious garden vegetable pizza.

Top-notch cheese board with oat crackers and apple jelly.

Incredibly tasty apple and rhubarb juice (please make this available in the US)

Full vegetarian breakfast with vegetarian sausage (I'm giving it away).

Homemade sponge cake ( must have a good guess by now!).

Pitcher of Pims!

Flake 99 ice cream at Hampstead Heath.

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, I 've just returned from a 10 day holiday to my homeland, England. My cousin's wedding was the big family reunion event, but I also enjoyed catching up with many friends and family I haven't seen for many a year. My first trip back in 11 years was the perfect summer holiday. It was in the 80s and very humid!

Got back yesterday afternoon and the jet-lag is really upon me. I'd love to hear any jet-lag cures you'd care to share.

It was wonderful to be home - I almost felt like I'd never left.

England is so beautifully green and lush and I have to say the food was really outstanding.

It was my first vacation alone in a million years and I can't tell you how much I needed it! But it's also very good to be back home with the kids.