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Archive for the ‘Dining In’ Category

Refreshing drinks for all this summer, says I.

Peach Basil Sangria Anti-Recipe

Many years ago my dear friend Ashton came to visit and I had made a batch of sangria the night before to have on hand for the weary travelers when they arrived. It, and the vodka filled watermelon were a hit. A year or so later Ashton called to ask what my recipe was… Truly I didn’t know how to respond because it’s such a nebulous thing. I recall sending him a few sample recipes and telling him to piece it together himself. (Nice friend, huh?) Well, Ashton found his was around the sangria and is now quite the expert.
When we were on the same side of the country a few months ago we worked side by side in the kitchen throwing together a batch for a last-minute party we didn’t even need to speak, we both just threw our things into the mix. We’re in tune like that. Today I called him to ask him a question about “his” sangria and he just laughed… Sounds like his has become as nebulous as mine. Yours will be soon too but this is a good place to start.

2 bottles white wine, ideally not chardonnay (but in a pinch, it works)
1/2 cup peach liqueur (Pallini Peachcello White Peach Liqueur is delicious)
3 peaches, sliced
2 limes, sliced
1 orange, sliced
15 cherries, halved (or blackberries, whole)
1 bunch opal basil leaves
Champagne, prosecco or Sprite

Mix first seven ingredients in a large pitcher and refrigerate 4 hours, or better overnight. Pour into glasses, scooping fruit into each, top each glass off with a splash of bubbly to taste.

Hoping for Clear Skies Mint Tea

The myth about southern California is that it is always sunny and warm. The truth is that it is full of microclimates that cover the map like a gradient from coastal areas to low desert up to high deserts and mountains. When the rest of the country is really getting the feel of spring and getting ready to kick off the summer it’s common for a marine layer to nestle itself comfortably over the coastal areas like fluffy down comforter. And there it sits. For the better part of May/June/July the sun can be non-existant in the mornings and scarce in the afternoons, the temperature hovering in the 60’s. (Ironically, with each mile you travel away from the coast it gets progressively more sunny and warmer.) On these gray mornings, I like a cup of tea that reminds me of what’s happening outside all those clouds- the sun is shining and growing beautiful things all around us.
When we travel to Chile our friends always serve a sprig of fresh mint with a pot of hot water for those that are not partaking in coffee. It’s bright, refreshing and comforting. Great for unseasonably cool temperatures. Also delicious chilled over ice for those sweating it out these days.

Place 1 sprig washed mint (any varietal) into a mug and cover with boiling water. Breathe deeply while steeping for five minutes.

Rosemary Makes Great Lemonade

If, say, you happened to have squeezed twenty pounds of lemons this spring and frozen the juice you might be looking for something to do with it about now.

1 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup agave nectar)
2 cups boiling water
3 sprigs rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 cups lemon juice
sparkling water

Place sugar in heat-proof container with rosemary. Pour hot water over and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to rest until cool. Mix in lemon juice, strain if you like. This is your base, when ready to serve, fill glass with ice and pour 2/3 cup lemon mixture over, top off with 1/3 cup sparkling water. Vodka would not be amiss here.

Cheers all!

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This holiday try a switcheroo:
Trade out some beef based burgers for a nice meaty portobello (it will not make you smell like a hippie, I swear). Some of you have seen this trick already, but I’m telling you, Bello Burgers are back. Well, I think they should be anyway.

Just remove stem, brush with olive oil/salt/pepper and grill as you would its bovine based counterpart. Place on toasted bun with your best toppings and condiments. Be sure to toast or grill that bun, it is happiness.
Nutritionally it’s so guilt free that you can splurge on extra potato salad. Emotionally it has that nice chew you’re used to and luscious juices to soak into the bun and maybe dribble down your chin.
But the main attraction, really, is what’s on top, right?
Of late, I’ve been addicted to roasted red pepper with goat cheese and pesto. However, this holiday may warrant grilled onion, blue cheese and barbeque sauce… Or heirloom tomato, fontina and a drizzle of aged basalmic? One of each, please.

P.S. If you’re tight on grill space just throw these on for a few minutes, gill side up and then transfer to a warm oven to keep warm.

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Sometimes I wish being the person I want to be was as simple as setting the resolution and waking the next day to feel myself transformed. While self-reflection is at the heart of many successful practices like religion, meditation, sports performance and professional development it can sometimes feel less than rewarding.

Example:
Step 1- Set general and glorious expectation.
Step 2- Fail at executing expectation, or worse yet, forget the goal.
Step 3- Reprimand self for failing to meet above expectation.

Rinse and repeat. After repeated cycles one may begin to wonder if it’s the expectation or the lack of discipline in the execution. In reality, it’s likely that the goal itself is so big and so general that the project is doomed from the start, like willing oneself to grow an elephant foot. It just doesn’t work like that, and perhaps thankfully so. The challenge is to keep positive and keep persevering.

We had the windows open the other night as a gaggle of young humans were waddling by when we heard this:

Gramma, Grrrrramma! I love walking by this house, there’s always someone cooking!!

I brightened.
I blushed.
I beamed.

And I thought: Does cooking makes me a better version of myself? We should all be reminded what things we do that we can be proud of (even if it’s a child’s voice floating in the window)… that we wouldn’t mind people peeking into our lives and taking note. Much like taking stock of what’s on hand in the kitchen, we must also inventory our personal larder in order to know what makes us special and to continue growing and moving forward. Good recipes offer us a step by step instruction manual for success and we’re rewarded with an effort that is greater than the sum of its parts because it allows us to put into action simple values statements.

Food (finding or cooking) provides little moments that reinforce the things we do that define us. A daily pronouncement of what we believe, what we prioritize. That could be eating local, not eating meat, finding the best restaurants, doing the best you can on a budget, making sure your busy family comes together for dinner, focusing on fruits and vegetables, getting your kids involved in the kitchen…
For me, just making food, making good choices about where it comes from and putting on the table with love are my hallmarks. That’s an identity to channel everyday… and much easier than growing an elephant foot.

I‘m a Good Person Butternut Squash Soup with Life is Delicious Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches


For the soup:
Peel and cut into chunks two medium butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. Meanwhile heat a medium pan over medium heat with two tablespoons butter, when it foams add thin slices of half a large onion, one chopped rib of celery, 1 chile de arbol, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, 1 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper. Sautee until lightly caramelized. Add squash pieces and stir. Turn the heat to medium high and splash in 1/4 cup dry sherry, reduce for 3 minutes. Add six cups of water to the pot and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Puree carefully and keep warm on the stove while finishing the sandwiches.

For the sandwiches:
Heat small sautee pan with 2 tablespoons butter, when it foams add thin slices of one half a large onion. Sautee on low heat stirring occasionally until deeply browned, about 30 minutes. Remove onions from pan and wipe with a paper towel.
Meanwhile slice a good quality loaf of bread, as much as you think you will need for as many people as you are serving. Lightly butter one side of each slice. Smear the other side of each bread with a thin layer of goat cheese (honey-lavender is amazing), carmelized onion, several pieces of spring mix (or spinach) and then top with another slice of bread with cheese facing the onion and buttered side facing up. Place in warm skillet over medium heat, cooking each side until golden brown and cheese is starting to melt.






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I hear it all the time:
Is this a beet?
It’s sooo good!
I even didn’t think I liked beets!

Well, I’ve got news for you people, the beet is your friend. It is your friend not only because it is nourishing to your body, beautiful to look upon but (dun, dun, DUN!) easy to prepare. Oh, and lest I forget (!)… it’s also a permanent two-for-one-deal.

I know, I KNOW… you’re still picturing a buttered beet side dish that came out of a can served to you by Great Aunt Hilda. Delete that from memory bank immediately and permanently because beets are pretty, well sexy.

Picture bright half moons of earthy sweetness in a salad with your favorite fixin’s like blue cheese and walnuts, lobster and avocado or oranges and mint. Even just served sliced and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, they make an elegant side dish. This is all easy-peasy when you have some roasted beets on hand in the fridge.

My beet protocol is something like this: Buy beets at the farmers market. Preferably smaller ones but I look most intently at the greens attached making sure they are bright and healthy looking. On that day or the next, when I happen to have the oven hot for something else I snip the greens from the root, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the beet and then prepare as described below and toss into the fridge for use throughout the week. Featured in salads usually or always a nice addition to the plate when you need a bit of color to round things out.

Now for this two-for-one bit I mentioned earlier… don’t throw away those greens! Once snipped from their bulbus counterpart remove the green part of the leaf from the pinkish stems and wash throughly. Then just treat like spinach (or any soft green): sautéed lightly in olive oil, garlic and chile is the most straightforward way.

So if that, all that, is not enough beets also make a delightful raw salad. If you were to tell me to shred a couple of pounds of root vegetables on a box grated I would likely give you a sour look. Fortunately beet salad can be prepared entirely in the food processor, then transferred to a salad bowl with dressing ingredients thrown on top and just mixed in. Once prepared it’s stunningly beautiful, perfect for summer potlucks. As a recent diner at our house commented, I’m pretty sure it makes you healthier just looking at it. The taste is so simple and delicious it will leave you feeling great about yourself and the food you just made.

Also, short notes on color for beginners: Handling cooked red beets may leave you looking like you had a run-in with your kitchen knife. Not to worry, washing as soon as possible will likely remove all red juice. The same goes for your cutting board. If it is being stubborn though you may pour some kosher salt on your hands making a paste with water, this exfoliant should get the last of it and leave your flanges nice and soft. Internally your body has a similar dilemma and you may notice some coloration when you use the bathroom. Please do not call your doctor frantically as my co-worker did.

Roasted Beets

1 or 2 bunches beets, preferably of similar size

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim stems, leaving about one inch attached to the root. Wash beets.
Lay beets on a large square of tin foil and drizzle lightly with olive oil. If using different colors of beets, be sure to wrap in separate packages.
Wrap foil tightly around beets and place in hot oven.
Bake for approximately 60 minutes, they are done when you can poke with the tip of a knife and meet little resistance. Smaller beets take about 45 minutes, larger ones can take closer to 90 minutes.
They’re pretty gracious little buggers though so don’t fret too much about the exact timing.
Remove from oven, when cool skins slip easily away.
Beets can then be served or stored in the refrigerator.

Raw Beet Salad
Adapted from Mark Bittman

1 1/2 pounds beets (approx.)
1 large shallot
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry or white vinegar
1 sprig fresh herbs like tarragon, mint or thyme (optional)
1/3 cup chopped parsley or cilantro

Peel beets and shallot, place in food processor and pulse until chopped but not pureed. You could also shred with a box grater or mince by hand. Mix in a bowl with remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

Ultimately, it’s not your grandmothers beet.
But, it should be yours, you just might like it.

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I am leaving the country for a few weeks and will be posting on anything that catches my eyes, ears, or tongue while away. Mexican food is what I miss most when I’m gone. Once I was served a chili pie in Kenya – the Tanzanian cook had looked up the recipe from some kind of flavors of the southwest cookbook – and as odd as it seemed eating chili pie in Africa, it did speak to me of home.

Like chili pie, Mexican Chef Salad isn’t exactly mexican food but it is so perfectly American in it’s conception that it seemed just the right parting post.

This is one of those curiously delicious Junior League-type recipes that might have come out of the 1980’s. This dish pleases. Every time my mother makes this I am reminded how much I love it.

I giggle every time I read our recipe card for Mexican Chef Salad – it calls for a 39 cent bag of Doritos corn chips. No need to adjust for inflation, just grab the big bag. I like to use a less-processed corn chip varietal. But choose any brand you like. Make this when you’re not feeling fancy. It feeds a crowd. And it might be the perfect meal to make before leaving, or returning, home.

Here’s what to do:

1) Saute 1 pound of ground beef and season using instructions on package of taco seasoning.

2) Combine in a large bowl with the cooked, drained beef:

1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, chopped

8 oz cheese, preferably Mexican blend, grated

1 onion, chopped

3 tomatoes, chopped

2 avocados, chopped

1 bag corn chips, crumbled

1 15 oz can kidney beans or black beans, warmed

3) Toss salad with Thousand Island Dressing.

4) Serve immediately with your favorite hot sauce.

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A friend gave me some kale cut right from her backyard and I really wanted to eat it that night. I usually just lightly saute the greens in garlic, olive oil and dried red chile. The only catch was that I had planned on making homemade pizza for some friends we were having over to watch the basketball finals. And, unlike the classic Celtics-Lakers matchup, pizza and sauteed kale just didn’t sound like a good combination. I wanted a fresh salad. So, I concocted this raw kale version which was fantastic.

The key is to dress the salad 30 minutes or so before you eat so that the kale absorbs the dressing a bit. Which makes it perfect to toss together when entertaining. In fact, I think you could dress the salad an hour or more before you ate it and it wouldn’t get soggy at all. This vitamin-packed dish is so good for you and delicious. Everyone gobbled it up.

And just because this salad is green doesn’t mean those wearing purple and gold won’t enjoy it.

Do this:

1) Wash and remove stems from:

1 large bunch of fresh dark green kale

2) Roll leaves and cut the rolled bundles into 1/2 inch strips (chiffonade).

3) Add a handful of:

dried sour cherries, or other dried fruit

4) Toss kale and dried cherries to taste with:

extra virgin olive oil

dash balsamic vinegar

squeeze of lemon

small drizzle of honey

salt and pepper

Riffs:

You could also add sliced, roasted beets to this salad. To roast the beets just trim leaves from  5 or 6 beets, leaving the tops, bottoms and skins on. Wrap loosely in foil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes until pierced easily with a knife. Cool. Peel and slice beets.

Add toasted nuts and cheese and you practically have a meal. Might I have found one answer to Erin’s lunch dilemna?

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I adore the flavor of lamb.

Once Erin served me some kind of homemade lamb meatball in a homemade pita (she must reveal her secret bread-making strategy to you soon) and I almost wept. Something about these mid-eastern flavors just hit me in the right place. I can’t get enough. That memory was the inspiration for this quick lunch idea.

Here is what I did:

1. Sautéed garlic and sliced onion in olive oil.

2. Added ground lamb that I had seasoned generously with:

cinnamon

cumin

dried oregano

lots of salt and pepper (I think the meat in this dish should be really salty and flavorful).

3. While that was browning away I made the cucumber yogurt sauce by combining:

diced cucumber, not using the seedy parts

greek yogurt

salt and pepper

4. Then I sliced a few radishes and shaved a carrot because – why not?

5. I popped store-bought pita into the oven to warm.

6. By the time the lamb was done I heaped everything into the warm pita and silently thanked Erin for her inspiration.

I didn’t have any mint on hand but you could add mint to the meat mixture or to the yogurt dressing or just torn mint straight onto the sandwich before biting into it. That would be a good move.

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