Tuesday, September 29, 2009

heirloom salad

I am almost giddy when I arrive at the farmer's market and I see an entire length of a table given to a showcase some of the most glorioius tomotoes this season has to offer.  There are so many heirloom varieties now at our fingertips, from the typical deep red Beefsteaks (some literally the size of a porter house) to the purplish black Brandywine tomatoes.  The Green Zebra has green and yellow stripes which not only give it a unique color but it also has a full bodied tomato flavor as well.

Then there is the Golden Queen, a large yellow variety that when ripe has a pinkish hue at the blossom end, and when cut into the color continues with streaks of orange and red.  Honestly, these are so delicious with just a sprinkling of sea salt and a fresh grind of pepper, you don't need much more to enjoy them.

But to take it up a slight notch, I made a preserved lemon vinaigrette to dress some baby greens, slices of tomato and topped it off with a shaving of good Parmesan.

Pretty simple.  But tasty.



Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
makes enough for a salad for 4

Depending on the salty intensity of your preserved lemons, you may or may not want to rinse them.  Use only the rind for this vinaigrette.

rind of half a preserved lemon
juice of half a fresh lemon
1/2 cup really good extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Coarsely chop the preserved lemon rind and put into a blender or food processor with the fresh lemon juice, process until smooth.  With the machine still running add the olive oil in a single stream to create a nice emulsion.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lightly dress salad greens and tomato slices and top off with shavings of fresh Parmesan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

sometimes less is more

Sometimes the simplest of things just can't be improved upon.
My local farmers market was bursting with berries this weekend, and I couldn't help myself. The juicy sweetness of these little beauties is unparalleled. I happened to have a little brioche leftover from this outstanding bakery up the coast in Santa Barbara called D'Angelo's. So why not slather on some softened Irish butter, a sprinkling of sugar, and then scatter some fresh raspberries on top with a little more sugar to give them a light dusting.
This delicious combination ended up being my breakfast, but I'm thinking it could fall into the "snack" category as well as even a simple dessert.

Monday, September 7, 2009

French crêpes

French for pancake, crêpes are light-paper thin creations that serve as a glorious backdrop for sweet or savory fillings. Dessert crêpes may be topped with a simple spritz of fresh lemon juice and a dusting of sugar, fresh fruit, jams, or the popular banana and nutella. Most famously, they star as Crêpes Suzette consisting of orange-butter sauce, doused in Grand Marnier, and flambéed. Savory crêpes are filled with meats, cheeses or vegetables and often topped with a complimentary sauce.

The crêpe batter must evenly and completely cover the surface of the pan to ensure a great crêpe. To help spread the batter, you'll need to lift the pan from the burner and rotate it several times. If the pan is not evenly balanced or if it is too heavy, this step will be difficult, so it is a good idea to simulate this motion before you purchase any pan. The French crêpe pan comes in a range of sizes. The smaller pans (6 to 8 inches in diameter) are typically used for dessert crêpes, whereas the larger pans (9 to 11 inches) are generally used for dinner crêpes.

Crêpes freeze well-you can make a big batch and stack them, separated by sheets of waxed paper, in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag. Stored this way, they'll keep for several months. Allow to defrost at room temperature, then rewarm by transferring the stack to a baking sheet, cover with foil, and heat in 300° oven for about 15 minutes.

There is a video on making crepes that is helpful if you'd like to see the process. The web site is:

The recipe below is an adaptation of a dish I am quite fond of from a lovely little Crêperie in San Clemente called La Galette. It goes by the name "Farmer's Breakfast Plate", and is served with slices of double cream brie, sliced oranges and an orange butter that I can never seem to get enough of, and is topped off with a light dusting of powdered sugar. With a large latté it is a wonderful start to the day.

Below, is my rendition of La Galette's Farmer's Breakfast Plate.



Sweet Crêpes

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract or Grand Marnier
2 Tbsp. melted butter
Orange Butter (recipe below)
Sliced oranges
Powdered sugar for dusting


1. In a blender, or by hand, blend all the ingredients until smooth. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. If it is too thick, whisk in additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

2. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

3. Heat a 9 to 11 inch crêpe pan over medium-low heat, until hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle on contact. Brush the surface of the crêpe pan with a thin film of melted butter or oil. Blot any excess with the a paper towel.

4. Gently stir the batter and ladle a 2 oz. portion (1/4 cup) of batter into the middle of the pan, swirling the batter around the pan in all directions.

5. Heat for approximately 60-90 seconds until the edges turn golden. Lift the edge of the crêpe with a spatula, then use your fingertips to lift the crêpe and quickly flip it over. Cook on the other side for 30 seconds, or until the batter is set into a thin pancake.

6. Transfer the crêpe to a large, round plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with more butter if necessary. Stack the crêpes as they are made.

7. If making ahead, wrap the crêpes in plastic wrap to prevent drying out.

Orange Butter

1/2 lb. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
zest from 1 bright-skinned orange
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. Juice from the orange or orange liqueur

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the 3 Tbsp. sugar along with the orange zest and give it a few good pulses to combine. Cut the butter into pieces, and process until smooth and almost fluffy. By droplets, while the machine is running add the orange juice or orange liqueur. Cover and refrigerate. This will also freeze nicely as well, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. If you have any extra it is a lovely addition to french toast, biscuits or even a nice slice of toasted brioche.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Memoriam

Award-winning cookbook author and chef Sheila Lukins passed away on Sunday in her home in Manhattan. Sheila Lukins and her Silver Palate food shop changed the way Americans ate in the early 1980's.

In 1979, Patricia Wells...called it a "tiny food shop with big ideas," referring to it's handmade zucchini pickles and blueberry preserves, made from local produce whenever possible.

Julia Moskin writes in the New York Times, "From a 156-square-foot shop and kitchen at Columbus Avenue and 73rd Street, the women and their recipes-Mediterranean chicken salad, curried butternut squash soup, spicy carrot cake-intrigued, and then guided, the increasingly adventurous palates of New Yorkers."

I have been in possession of my treasured, dog-eared Silver Palate Cookbook for over ten years and have made many a recipe, most of which have become family favorites. From the ginger candied carrots, the pasta puttanesca, beef carbonnade, to my all time favorite, chicken marbella.

The distinctive colors and flavors of chicken marbella include olives, capers and prunes (yes, prunes). It's good hot or at room temperature. The overnight marination is essential to the moistness of the finished product: the chicken keeps and even improves over several days of refrigeration. The recipe below is directly from the cookbook and gives quantities to serve 10-12, but can be successfully divided to make a smaller amount if you wish.

Julia Moskin ended the article saying "when Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso wrote The Silver Palate Cookbook, they offered home cooks a fresh alternative for entertaining. The book's big, sophisticated flavors were produced from accessible ingredients and modest cooking skills, not from French techniques or canned creamed soups. Editors admonished the authors for their exuberant seasoning style. 'No, girls, no,' a copy editor wrote on one recipe. 'No one puts 25 cloves of garlic in ratatouille!' The authors retested the recipe and kept it."

I love that.

So in honor of Sheila here is her famous chicken marbella.



Chicken Marbella
from the Silver Palate Cookbook

4 chicken, 2 1/2 pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely puréed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup caper with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped

1. In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F.

3. Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

5. With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauce boat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

al dente

al dente isn't probably the first word you would use as a descriptor for zucchini, but for this vegetable side dish it is the best one.

We need to give a shout out to Jamie Oliver for this innovative approach.

This recipe is incredibly simple. With nothing more than a few zucchini, a vegetable peeler, a squeeze of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil you can enjoy this crunchy side dish too.

Raw yet delicate. Zippy with a kick!

And yes, there is yet another use for zucchini!



Zucchini Ribbon Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver

4 zucchini, (i used 2 green zucchini and 2 yellow crookneck squash)
juice of half a lemon, or a whole if it's stingy
a glug or two just to moisten
salt and pepper

Wash zucchini and trim the ends if needed. Then with a vegetable peeler take the outer section of each squash making thin ribbons, I stop once I get down to the core. Then squeeze on the lemon juice, a glug of olive oil and salt and pepper. You can serve immediately or let set for up to an hour. If you have any leftover it is a great addition to some freshly cooked linguine and Parmesan.

Serves 4