Saturday, August 30, 2008

Broccoli Calzones

Poor misunderstood broccoli gets star treatment in this calzone recipe.

Every time I announce I am making calzones for dinner, NH responds with an enthusiastic "cal-a-zon-ay!!" He loves that word!

When I say I'm making broccoli calzones, I receive this response:
"Oh......ok." (insert worried tone)

And every time we sit down to eat them, he says this:
"These are really good!....even with the broccoli."

Triumph! Perfect for a Friday night dinner al fresco- and it continues to cool down after our heat wave. Add a glass of chilled white wine and you have a meal.


I like a whole wheat semolina dough for this recipe. It uses a combination of all-purpose, whole wheat, and semolina flour (used for pasta making). Semolina adds wonderful crunch as well as a slight cornmeal flavor.
You can use any cheese you like but I recommend using a mixture of different kinds. I always use feta because I believe it's essential; our favorite pizza cheese is a pre-shredded mixture from Trader Joe's called Quattro Formaggi. It's a combination of parmesan, provolone, asiago, and fontina. It packs a lot of flavor with the broccoli.


Note: I made a half-batch of the posted recipe last night (2 cups cheese, 8 oz broccoli, half recipe pizza dough), to feed the two of us. I found it very easy to cut in half.

Broccoli Calzones

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups shredded cheese (recommended: Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggi, but mozzarella works too)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. broccoli florets
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 lb pizza dough (2 balls)

Simmer the broccoli in boiling water until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain thoroughly and finely chop. Add to a bowl along with the roasted red pepper. In a dry skillet, add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic. Saute over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broccoli mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Combine the cheeses in a bowl.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch round. Mound half the cheese on one side of the round, and top with half of the broccoli, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Moisten the edge with water and fold the dough over the filling. Press the edges to seal, and place on a lightly sprayed baking sheet. Cut 5 slits in the top of the calzone. Repeat with the second ball of dough and the remaining cheese and broccoli.

On the grill: Place a pizza stone in your outdoor grill and heat to 475 degrees. Turn off the direct heat beneath the stone and place the calzones on the grill. Close, and bake for 10-12 minutes. It's ok to check and see how they are doing, but note that the temperature will drop in the oven. You may need to turn the heat on again to low to maintain the temperature.

In the oven: Heat to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the calzones on a lightly sprayed baking sheet and bake until golden, 15-20 minutes.

Each calzone will feed 2-3 people.

Or, half the recipe and you have a delicious meal for two!



Friday, August 29, 2008

AAACS Wine and Cheese

I have a group of girlfriends who assemble every now and then for wine and dinner.

We met at work, a place that we've all moved on from; despite our corporate introduction, I know we'll be close friends for years to come. Each time we see each other we pick up where we left off no matter how long it's been.

We live all over the Bay Area and every 3-6 weeks we meet somewhere in the middle. This usually happens to be near me since San Mateo sits between SJ and SF. Last evening was very hot, but we still held our AAACS (our initials :-) dinner at my house.

A simple summer's eve spread, we enjoyed some good wine and delicious cheese with bread, nuts, salad, and fruit. It's easy as pie, and even more delicious.

The star was a scrumptious plate of fromage direct from Whole Foods' gorgeous cheese department. The disk is a goat cheese made locally here in San Mateo County. The craggy piece of the moon is a cow's milk cheese from France, created at the request of Louis XIV who wanted a French cheese similar to Edam. It's colored orange to distinguish between the two. This cheese had wonderful flavor and is quite hard when aged. Cheese lovers actually prefer it this way due to the hazelnut-like flavor it takes on. I found the brie from Australia and had to try it. The ladies and I agreed the flavor was very special, mild and rich with a soft rind. It reminds me of days long gone when I could eat a wedge of brie and a hunk of bread as my lunch. Finally, a goat cheese with garlic and herbs. We are all lovers of goat's milk cheese; this was the biggest piece and the only bit we have left.

With our cheese we enjoyed two bottles of wine: Estancia Sauvignon Blanc from Monterey County; and Shoofly, a white wine from Australia. It gives no indication of the grapes used, just says an Australian white table wine. Both were great choices for a hot night. First time buys but a good gamble because I would purchase both again.
To round out the meal, a spinach salad with fresh corn, tomatoes, walnut oil, and red wine vinegar; and some delicious watermelon. A very sweet one, we ate half and I've saved the other to cut this weekend.
Before the ladies arrive and the fun begins...


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Lambrusco, a sparkling red

If you are an oenophile, you may have heard of Lambrusco; if you are not, it is possible you have never encountered this sparkling red wine.

During the 70s and 80s, it was the biggest selling wine import in the States. It has since gone out of style because of its sweeter nature. However, its sweetness does vary and apparently it's making a comeback, so keep an eye out for it.


My first encounter with Lambrusco happened by chance. In June 2007, I visited Las Vegas with my family. A month before my wedding, Vegas was close enough for a short weekend away, our last family vacation all together (odd in hind sight since we're definitely not a 'Vegas' family). We stayed at The Venetian and never left its complex due to the 115 degree weather. At dinner in St. Mark's Square our first night, I ordered a glass of sparkling wine from the menu. I wasn't familiar with any of the names, but I wanted bubbles.

The waiter presented me with the dark bubbly and I was spellbound. How exciting, something new! It was fizzy, slightly sweet, and rich with berry flavor. I loved it!


Ever since I have kept my eye open for Lambrusco almost everywhere I go. During the NYC portion of our honeymoon, we found and ordered a bottle at a Venetian Italian restaurant. Lambrusco is so little known that the sommelier came to double-check with us; he wanted to be sure we knew what we were ordering!


My Whole Foods carries this bottle of Lambrusco, reasonably priced at $10.

I buy it periodically when I crave some red bubbly, but I must admit to you that this is not the best one I've tasted. This bottle is just a tad too sweet and not as frothy as I like. It's so pleasant that it's almost like juice and I could easily drink the whole bottle before realizing and becoming quite drunk.

I hope, with a return in popularity, there will be more options in the future. In the meantime I continue to check my local stores and wine bars for its appearance.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Apple Oatmeal Cupcakes

Suite Apple Pie turns One today.





I hate to say it, but "Where Has the Time Gone?"
SO cliche, but inescapably true.

On August 26, 2007 I was newly married, returned from my honeymoon and back at work. We were settled in our apartment and learning the ins and outs of a new kitchen and some new eating habits. I considered starting a food blog of some sort for a while. Finally taking the plunge, I named it after a favorite and deeply nostalgic dessert.


One year later, I'm so happy to be here. In celebration, I think some birthday baking is in order. What would be more appropriate than an Apple Oatmeal Cupcake?

This recipe is an old friend, and it's been more than a year since the last batch.

For a cupcake they are fairly nutritious, from whole wheat flour, oats, and applesauce. They make a delicious breakfast muffin on a special morning.
The glaze has rich flavor from the apple juice concentrate; its optional since the cupcakes are great on their own. The recipe makes a good amount; add extras to plain yogurt, toast, or a bowl of oatmeal.

Suite Apple Oatmeal Cupcakes
adapted from The Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup honey
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda

Apple Glaze

4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/2 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the honey, applesauce and eggs.

Mix the flours, oats, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Slowly add to the applesauce mixture, mixing to create a chunky, coffee-colored batter.

Fill each paper cup half full with batter. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave to cool on wire racks while you make the Apple Glaze.

For the Glaze: Mix the cornstarch with a spoon of apple juice in a small saucepan. Whisk to form a smooth paste, then add the rest of the apple juice. Set on the stove over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Add the apple juice concentrate and cinnamon. Continue to whisk, adding additional cornstarch if necessary to keep the mixture thick. Remove from the heat and add the confectioner's sugar if desired. Allow to cool a little before spooning a small amount (1/4 tsp) over each cupcake.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Barracuda Sushi

The Peninsula is positively crawling with sashimi, maki, and nigiri.

There are probably 30 within 10 miles of our little house in San Mateo. And that's not including other Japanese establishments that specialize in other cuisine besides sushi, such as ramen shops, izakaya bars, or shabu-shabu restaurants.

We go out for sushi more than any other cuisine; it's our most craved dinner by far. It's great having so many choices; the competition also helps to keep prices a little lower. We continue to try new ones occasionally but we have two faves. One is for more casual occasions, when we run out for a few rolls in flip-flops and jeans.
For more special occasions or a fun Saturday night out, we hit Barracuda Japanese Restaurant.


Located in downtown Burlingame, Barracuda has a festive vibe and a fun atmosphere; a family of 5 is quite at home next to three young couples ready for a night out.
The restaurant is a good size, with a long sushi bar and space at the front for a jazz band that plays on weekend nights.

The dinner menu consists of appetizers, salads, and entrees that create a fusion with Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian cuisine. We return again and again for the extensive selection of creative sushi rolls.

A small sample....

The Spicy rolls here are delicious, just enough spice for the palate without overpowering.

NH and I love to share rolls together, which is often a challenge because he is allergic to shellfish :-( That means no lobster, shrimp, or crab. The latter two can be particularly difficult to avoid. But here, we have no problem finding delectable options.

At Barracuda, the rolls are generously portioned without being grotesque. We order 3 rolls between us and leave feeling full and satisfied but not stuffed.
Each roll is beautifully presented, almost too pretty to eat.

After 10-ish visits and much sampling, we think we have found the Perfect Trifecta:

The Red Dragon Roll, which we've ordered since Visit #1:
unagi tempura, cucumber roll topped with spicy tuna and tobiko, with unagi sauce, spicy miso, and green onion

The Mahalo Roll, tuna and mango are a match made in sushi heaven:
red tuna, avocado mango roll topped with unagi, mango sauce and tobiko

The Spicy Queens Roll, our newest discovery and my #1 favorite :-)
seaweed salad, unagi, cucumber roll topped with fresh salmon, spicy miso sauce, tobiko, and green onion

With our rolls, green tea is a must. Here it's well brewed and hot.

Can you dream of a more delectable meal? I cannot. This is my paradise.


Barracuda Japanese Restaurant
347 Primrose Road, Burlingame
(650) 548-0300
reviews (including mine) on Yelp!

Additional location:
2251 Market Street, San Francisco (Castro district)
(415) 558-8567


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sweet Nectar

Nectar Wine Lounge is Burlingame's answer to the wine bar/restaurant concept.

There is a wine bar in every town along the Peninsula, not to mention dozens in San Francisco proper. In this land of vino, you needn't go far for local or international libations.

Steps from the main drag of Burlingame Avenue (aka Bgame Ave to locals), Nectar is a world punctuated with classy decor and a hip ambience. When the weather is nice, the front of the restaurant opens up and spills onto the sidewalk. Come for dinner and select from a list of small or large plates that has recently had a few additions.

Food is delicious, but lately NH and I enjoy stopping in before dinner for a glass or flight. This evening I selected a new addition to the special flights menu: the South America flight.

My flight

I was pleasantly surprised by the delicious Chardonnay, an unoaked wine with a pleasant fruit flavor. I have a strong aversion to California 'oaked' Chardonnay. I seem to have better luck with foreign-made Chardonnay that hasn't been contaminated by oak. :-)

I had never heard of Tannat, my second taste from Uruguay. I hoped it would be a red wine and it was!

It was no surprise that my favorite was the Argentinian Malbec. I have yet to try a Malbec I didn't like.

NH selected a single glass of Syrah, from the Rhone region of France.

There is a second location in the Marina district of San Francisco for those in the city; it offers a different food menu with more small plates. Whether you seek the beginning of an evening out or the full experience, Nectar Wine Lounge is a favorite spot on a warm Saturday evening.

Nectar Wine Lounge
270 Lorton Avenue, Burlingame
(650) 558-9200
reviews on Yelp!

3330 Steiner Street, San Francisco
(415) 345-1377
reviews on Yelp!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grill Night

Grilling outside on Fridays is becoming a great way to unwind at the end of the week.


Instead of going out and spending on an expensive meal, we treat ourselves to a more special dinner at home- and save the night out for Saturday ;-)


For NH and I, it's also a time to learn to cook together. Our separate eating habits create a challenge, but not an impossible one.

Last night, steak and salmon were the main attractions. My salmon was a delicious find from Whole Foods- fresh filet covered in a sundried tomato pesto and cucumber and wrapped in cedar. Fish grilling on training wheels!
NH's recipe selection included a rosemary-balsamic butter.

Unfortunately the photograph doesn't do it justice; it's not very attractive but it was absolutely delicious with the smoky flavor of the grill and cedar.

I couldn't resist giving Padma a piece of the fat. I swear this is the first time I've ever fed her at the table; NOT a good habit to form.


To go with our entrees, I made this delicious dish that reminds me of my childhood home. It's ideal for entertaining because of it's ease and guaranteed 'wow' factor.

Pea and Mint Puree

20 oz frozen petite peas (1 1/4 bags)
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped (do not substitute dried)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, boil 3 cups water. Add the peas and cook for 2 minutes, no more. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Add the fresh mint, salt, sugar, butter, and pepper and blend for a few seconds. Scrape down the sides and blend once more until there are no chunks, but not so much that it becomes a paste. You want a little bit of texture.

Transfer to a bowl and serve hot or at room temperature. It's excellent cold the next day.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Greek Bread


This is a simple yet surprisingly delicious bread for everyday.

Greeks call it psomo, or mother's bread. Nothing fancy, but it translates easily from the breakfast table with jam, to a simple lunch with cheese and tomatoes, to a wine and cheese party.

The secrets to this bread are the sesame seeds and evaporated goat's milk. I'm Greek and these are natural flavors to me. You could sub regular (cow) evaporated milk but I strongly suggest seeking out the goat version. I buy mine at Whole Foods, but if you can't find it in your local store, here it is on Amazon. The goat's milk lends a more complex yet subtle flavor to the bread.
Dare I say, this bread would be an excellent pair with goat cheese and some fresh tomato. :-)

This is my first adventure sans bread machine- so far I've only made pizza dough without it. I'm excited because I'm actually more impressed with these results. More and more I'm thinking I don't want another machine! The crust turned out beautifully in the oven, thick and toasty.


The crumb is a little dense but that's more to do with my kneading skills.


My greatest critic, NH, gave it two thumbs up as he snarfed down three pieces. Score!


Greek Bread

1/3 cup water
1 cup evaporated goat's milk
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon gluten
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons SAF yeast

Combine all ingredients in a food processor in the order given. Pulse to combine, then run the machine for about 30 seconds until the dough is incorporated. It should be quite sticky; if it's not add a teeny bit of water to moisten until it becomes the proper texture.

Dump out onto a floured work surface, and knead for a few minutes, forming a dough ball. Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature or slightly warmer, for about 1 1/2 hours.

After the rise, remove the dough, giving it a little knead to shape into the desired form. Place on a baking sheet and score the top with an 'X'.


Cover with a slightly damp cloth and allow to rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the bread in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, until the crusty is toasty and browned. Monitor the bread as baking time might vary slightly. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing- cutting into it while it's still hot will result in a dry edge and poor slicing.

Store in a airtight freezer bag on the counter for 2-3 days, or in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for a good long while!



Thursday, August 21, 2008

2003 Ledgewood Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

This is special.

2003 Ledgewood Creek Cab Sauvignon

NH and I opened some vino while playing our new Wine Smarts trivia game. We've been given a few bottles of wine recently as gifts, and we cannot remember who this particular one was from (we're so sorry!) If you know who you are, THANK YOU!!!

This is our first Ledgewood Creek wine; no doubt we will visit their Napa tasting room on our next trip. This 2003 was their first release of Cabernet Sauvignon. Currently you can purchase 2005's Cab on their website.

Wine Stopper

One taste and I knew we were drinking something great. It could be the year; we aren't sure. This is probably the most mature bottle of cabernet we've ever had.

This Cabernet has rich flavor. There is an initial burst of dark cherries and plum, followed by toasty caramel. Its age seems to have given the different notes time to blend more harmoniously than a younger wine.

Had we realized we were opening a gem, we probably would have picked something else and saved this for a more special occasion. As it was, this wine ended up turning our uneventful Sunday into a memorable one. And I will be searching the internet for another bottle to purchase!

Wine Corks