Sunday, July 6, 2014

Avocado, Cherry Tomato, Pine Nut, Lime Vinaigrette

This is a simple and delicious side dish from The Lemonade Cookbook - one of my favorite LA restaurants (it's Cafeteria-Style and full of yummy comfort foods and healthy, fresh salads + it's namesake, custom lemonades).

From the authors, Alan Jackson and Joann Cianciulli:

"One of Lemonade's most beloved dishes, this simply delicious vegetable side places avocados front and center.  Avocados are Mother Nature's butter, packed with good fat, fiber and a whole host of vital vitamins and minerals.  Plus, their smooth, creamy texture and earthy flavor allow them to shine in just about everything.  The key here is to cut the avocados into large chucks and not mash the pieces like guacamole, so you can sink your teeth into the supple, silky flesh."

(For the Salad)
- 4 firm-ripe Hass avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cut into chunks
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (I bought mine already toasted, from Trader Joes)
- 1/4 cup Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

(For the Lime Vinaigrette)
- Juice of 2 to 3 limes, (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup canola oil
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves

(For the Salad)
In a mixing bowl, combine the avocados, tomatoes, pine nuts, and vinaigrette.  Toss gently, taking care not to smash the pieces of avocado (the next time I make this, I will cut the avocado even larger; it was very hard not to mash the pieces, even when stirring gently.)  Season generously with the salt & pepper.  Serve chilled.
Makes 4 cups

(For the Lime Vinaigrette)
In a blender, combine the lime juice, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.  Blend on medium speed for a few seconds, and then reduce the speed to low.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil until emulsified.  Pour into a container or jar and mix in the cilantro.  Keep any leftover vinigraitte covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Makes 1 cup

Sunday, June 15, 2014

French Toast BLT with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Shown Here with Fruit Salad, Homemade Bloody Mary and Father's Day Love

This one tops in the Greatest Of All Time Breakfasts, rivaled only by Farm Egg Baked in Celery Cream.  It has everything you are looking for in a brunch meal - decadent, cheesy, rich and filling.  A little on the heavy side, but paired with a Bloody Mary, I'm telling you, Heaven on a plate.

Cooked only a few short hours ago, I had to post immediately.  This took 2 hours to prepare (you make the Vinaigrette from scratch, which is 30 minutes - can be done ahead of time) and about 20 minutes to eat (we gobbled with a fussy baby crying through....ahh parenthood.)  Still, Mike thoroughly enjoyed his special Father's Day Meal.

From Esquire's, Eat Like a Man.

(Serves 6)
Ingredients (for the BLT):
12 Thick Slices Smoked Bacon
2 cups heavy cream
5 large eggs
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 slices Challah bread, at least 1" thick
2 tbsp canola oil
2 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
12 slices ripe tomatoes (about 3 small)
6 cups arugula, cleaned
Roasted-Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Ingredients (for the Vinaigrette):
3 heads garlic
olive oil for drizzling
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions (for the Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette):
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Slice the tops off the garlic so the cloves are exposed.  Place the heads in a baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil.  Cover the pan with foil and roast until the garlic is golden brown and fragrant, 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove the garlic from the oven.  Cool briefly before squeezing the cloves out of their skins into the bowl of a blender.  Combine the vinegar and mustard, blending until smooth.  With the machine running slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil.  Keep the blender running and season with salt and pepper.

Directions (for the BLT):
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.  Leave the oven on.

Combine the heavy cream and eggs in a bowl and whisk to thoroughly blend.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Soak the bread in the mixture for 15 minutes, then turn the slices over and soak for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

Place a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the canola oil.  Once the oil is hot (it will shimmer slightly), fry the challah slices on each side until golden brown, working in batches.  Transfer the challah to a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Bake until the custard is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes; the bread should souffle, or puff up.

Remove from the oven.  Cover each slice with grated cheese, and return the pan to the oven to melt the cheese.  Once the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes, remove from the oven.

Put 2 slices bacon and 2 slices tomato on each slice of challah and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.  Toss the arugula with the remaining dressing (or enough to coat) and place atop each piece.  Serve warm.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beans with Kale and Portuguese Sausage

The first time I made this was to celebrate my friend finally ending a toxic relationship.  It's as warm and comforting now as it was then.  Not terribly hard, and you can quick-soak the beans using the directions on the bag, so you don't have to plan ahead more than a few hours.

Found this guy on

Epicurious Tip: Keep a resealable bag of leftover Parmesan rinds in the freezer for recipes like this; they will add great depth to tomato sauces and vegetable-centric soups, too.

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 oz Portugues sausage (such as linguica) or kielbasa sausage, sliced 1/2" thick
1/2 medium onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, mashed
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 small piece Parmesan rind (optional)
2 chiles de arbol or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried cranberry, navy or cannelli (white kidney) beans (about 10 ounces), soaked overnight, drained
4 cups baby kale or baby mustard greens
1 tablespoon fresh lemon

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add wine and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot and stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add Parmesan rind, if using, chiles, thyme, bay leaf, broth, tomatoes, and beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, 1-1 1/2 hours.  Mix in kale and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.  Serve beans drizzled with oil.

DO AHEAD: Beans can be cooked 3 days ahead.  Cover and chill.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lemon-Stuffed Grilled Branzino with Herbed Roasted Potatoes

This is an incredible, Farmer's Market-Style Summer Meal.  The Branzino was a recipe I found online when we (ironically) found a beautiful piece of Branzino at the Torrance Farmer's Market.  The potatoes from my all-time favorite - The Good Housekeeping Cookbook.  Enjoy!

(For the Potatoes)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarsley ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, cut in half

(For the Fish)
Four 1-pound whole branzino - scaled and gutted, heads and tails removed
4 thyme sprigs
4 bay leaves
2 lemons - 1 thinly sliced, 1 cut into wedges
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Finely chopped parsley, for serving

(For the Potatoes)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter with parsley, lemon peel, salt and pepper over medium-low heat.  Remove saucepan from heat; add potatoes and toss well to coat.

Place potatoe mixture in center of 24" by 18" sheet of heavy-duty foil.  Fold edges over and pinch to seal tightly.

Place package in jelly-roll pan and bake until potatoes are tender when potatoes are pierced (through foil) with knife, about 30 minutes.  Makes 6 accompaniment servings.

(For the Fish)
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan.  Season the fish cavities with salt and pepper.  Stuff each cavity with a thyme sprig, a bay leaf and 2 lemon slices.  Rub the outside of the branzino with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the branzino over high heat, turning once, until browned and crsip and just cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.  Serve right away, passing salt, lemon wedges and parsley at the table.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Perfect for a Picnic, BBQ or any Summer Function

It's amazing how long it's been since I've put up a post.; lot's of big life changes that have prevented me from having much time to cook, let alone blog.  I'm excited to be back and sharing some new delicious recipes with you!

A quick recap regarding my absense:
For starters, I had a baby-girl a little over 1-year ago.  Her name is Finley and she is an incredible, fierce little monkey.  I didn't understand the depth that I could love until she entered my world.

My 80 mile-commute (round trip) became virtually unbearable, when I went back to work after Finley's birth.  The dynamics at my office had changed as well, leaving my days far less fulfilling.  About 1 month ago, I was laid off.  It was a surprise and a disappointment, but a blessing and relief.

Presently, I am designing for a few different companies on a freelance basis.  I am happier and healthier than I have been in a long time.  I see my daughter for breakfast and dinner every day, and I'm actually exercising, hanging out with friends and cooking!  It's wonderful.

These little bars are from an incredible book, called Baked Explorations - Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  They are a gourmet version of a classic combo.  Definitely time-consuming, especially the sweet pastry dough, but sooooo worth it!  I can't wait to use these for school events when my baby-girl is older.  This batch was served at a BBQ-themed dinner party, we threw last weekend.  A total hit!


For the Sweet Pastry Dough
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg

For the Peanut Butter Filling
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups smooth peanut butter or 1 cup smooth peanut butter and 1 cup chunky peanut butter
1 3/4 cups confections' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Crumb Topping
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup rolled oats
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the Assembly
2 heaping cups good-quality jelly or preserves

*Baked Note:
"This is a rare peanut-butter flavored dessert for which you can easily replace the smooth peanut butter with a chunkier variety in equal parts.  I almost always make the bars with grape jelly, but feel free to use your favorite preserves."

Make the Sweet Pastry Dough
Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9-by-13-inch pan.  Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.  Put the sugar, flour and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until sandy (about 6 to 10 quick pulses).  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and pour them into the food processor.  Pulse just until the dough begins to hold together.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap it tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle slightly larger than 9 by 13 inches (the size of the pan) and about 1/4 inch thick.  (The dough might be sticky.  Make sure to turn in with a bench knife or offset spatula as needed and keep the working surface floured.  Some people find it easier to roll the dough between two layers of parchment paper.  This can make it easier to transfer and be a bit less messy.)

Ever so gently, guide the dough into the pan and lightly press it - without pulling - into the bottom; it is not necessarly to bring the dough up the sides of the pan, only completely cover the bottom of the pan.  Trim away any excess.  Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer, line it with aluminum foil, and fill it three-quarters full with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and weights and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

I don't have baking beads, and was short on beans, so used a combo of lentils and rice.  Looks odd, but baked up perfectly.

Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Make the Peanut Butter Filling
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth.  Add the peanut butter and beat until combined.  Add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.  Turn the mixture out onto the crust and, using an offset spatula, spread it into an even layer.  Chill the peanut butter layer while you make the crumb topping.

Make the Crumb Topping
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Add the brown sugar and use your hands to rub it in until the mixture is uniform in color.  Stir in the oats.

Place the dry mix in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and beat on low speed until loose crumbs form. (I prefer to use my hands for combining the ingredients.)

To Assemble the Bars
Spread the jelly in an even layer over the peanut butter filling.  Sprinkle on the crumb topping until the jelly is no longer visible.

Bake the bars for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until the top is brown.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut the bars and serve.

The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jeni's Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream

Even more rich and decadant then it's name implies. 

This recipe is another one from my Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home Cookbook.  It is not for the faint of heart.  Be ready to put in some time and elbow grease (not recommended for beginner chefs...I'm still figuring out how to properly brown butter.)  If you are among the brave souls willing to put in the time, you will reap the reward of one of the most rich and luxurious ice creams ever tasted.  The brown butter gives an incredible decadence, with the sweet and salty mix of homemade toffee.  I would describe it as amaze-balls.

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1 cup bite-sized Almond Brittle*, plus larger shreds for garnish (optional)
*scroll down for recipe below

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.  Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 4-quart saucepan.  Bring to a boil and let bubble until the foam starts to subside and the butter is a rich dark brown (not black).  Remove from the heat and let stand until the butter solids settle to the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.

Pour the clear yellow butter oil into a storage container.  As you get closer to the butter solids in the bottom of the pan, use a teaspoon to remove as much liquid butter as you can.  You should have about 1 tablespoon of the brown butter solids and a little bit of melted fat in the bottom of the pan (it is impossible to remove all of the melted fat).

Add the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup to the butter solids, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon.)  Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.  Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath.  Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy.  Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in the chopped almond brittle as you go.  Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Recipe for Almond Brittle
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces (2 cups) slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Generously oil a large baking sheet.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Insert a candy thermometer in the pan, add the butter, and bring back to a boil, then cook until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.  Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the almonds and then the baking soda, working quickly but combining them thoroughly.

Pour the mixture out onto the oiled baking sheet, spreading it into a 1/4-inch-thick layer.  Allow to cool completely.  Break apart with your hands, and then chop into small pieces for recipe above.