Friday, August 28, 2009

Forgetful


I can be very forgetful. To the point of embarassment.
I can fool you pretty well by being out-going, jovial, mischevious, and sarcastic. I am all of these things, but it's a small corner of me.
My true self is a detail-oriented introvert who needs to recharge her batteries fairly frequently. This means an extreme tendency to fixate on the details, usually a few in particular at any given time.
This blog is a place to share recipes, but it's also a place for me to write: long or short, complex or simple. I've always wanted to be a writer, and I don't want to lose sight of that even if it's not in my cards at the moment. In the hustle of my daily life, I am forgetting to write to you as I share my ideas and my photographs.

Foods don't escape my forgetfulness either (or my obsessiveness, but that's a story for another day). This introverted foodie has an experienced palate but she also forgets about foods she loves for long periods of time.
Chickpeas are one of those foods. They are my favorite legume and sooo yummy, but I can go long periods without eating them. When they land on my plate I inevitably say "why don't I have these more often?" Alas, I am forgetful.


I am proud of the brilliance of this salad, the coincidences that fell into place before I put it together- the right combination of ingredients in my house, the perfect weather.... getting home from work early enough to make it....

After several days of working late and grabbing noodle soups from the pantry, I was delighted with this light dinner over some chopped romaine lightly dressed in olive oil and lemon juice.

The following day I brought some to work for lunch, once again over a bed of romaine lettuce and a few cherry tomatoes. It was even better the next day after some time to sit in the fridge. Today I have some with a little cooked quinoa and more tomatoes and lettuce. The remainder I will probably eat by itself, straight from its container.
The fresh mint and basil are really important, I do not recommend skipping either one. I love a bit of salty feta cheese as a garnish. Try fresh goat cheese or cotija for some variation.
Grilled Eggplant & Chickpea Salad

1 large eggplant, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into four pieces
olive oil and salt
1/4 small red onion, sliced
2 Tbs fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
drizzle of olive oil
1/2- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (your preference)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
crumbled feta cheese (optional)
Heat an outdoor grill or grill pan until very hot. Brush the eggplant and pepper with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for about 5 minutes per side until soft and dark with grill marks. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before dicing the slices. Put them in a large bowl.
Add the red onion, chopped mint and basil, lemon juice, olive oil, chickpeas, and red pepper flakes to the bowl and toss until everything is combined. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of feta cheese if you want.

~:::~

Monday, August 24, 2009

Big Slab

Continuing my personal journey into Pie Making
A 10-inch pie can only feed so many, and certainly not nine members of my family. The slices would be sissy-small, not acceptable for Sunday tea while I'm hosting my parents, brothers, and grandparents.
I was inspired (and really excited!) when I saw this recipe on Deb's Smitten Kitchen. I can still serve one pie to that many people? Yes, in a big slab- what a concept!

Every male cast his eyes upon it and said "Oooo," followed by "it's like a giant Toaster Strudel!"

It does have that look, but a pretty refined toaster strudel. We like peaches here and they are gorgeous right now; clearly any fruit pie filling would work nicely. You could also make more filling for more of a domed, pie-like shape. In the recipe, I've noted that you can use 6-9 cups of fruit: 6 for a flatter slab like mine, 9 if you want it more stuffed. I like my filling so I'll increase it next time around.

The dough recipe that has become my standard for pastry. It's easy to put together, just don't ignore the 'very cold' instruction for the ingredients. I haven't been able to screw it up so far, which is miraculous. It's buttery and tender yet crunchy.

And you have to love that secret ingredient- vodka. When Ray opened the fridge and saw the bottle chilling, he gave me the most priceless look. As in "what the hay are you planning to do with that??" If you know me, you know I don't drink the stuff; this bottle is just for pastry-making (and the occasional party). Try it once, you may never go back.


Peach Slab Pie
serves 12 with healthy portions
pie dough:
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
18 Tbs (2 sticks + 2 Tbs) unsalted butter, cut into cubes and very cold
3/4 cup (3/4 stick) vegetable shortening, cut into pieces and very cold
6 Tbs very cold vodka
6 Tbs very cold water

filling:
6-9 cups peaches, pitted, sliced and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch
juice from half a lemon
pinch or two of salt
1 egg + 1 Tbs water, beaten

glaze:
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 Tbs water + 1 Tbs lemon juice

For the dough:
Process 2 3/4 cups of the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined, about 2 pulses. Add the butter and shortening; process until the dough forms uneven clumps. Scrape down the bowl and add the last cup of flour. Pulse until the flour incorporates and the dough starts to form. Empty the mixture into a large bowl. Pour the vodka and water over the mixture and fold together with a spatula until the dough sticks together. Divide the dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

For the filling:
In a large bowl, combine the peaches, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly flour a large work surface and rolling pin.


Roll out the larger piece of dough to about 18x12 inches. Carefully transfer to the baking sheet, and stash in the fridge for a few minutes. Drain any liquid from the filling, and retrieve the baking sheet from the fridge. Evenly distribute the filling and return to the fridge while you roll out the second piece of dough.



This one should roll out a bit smaller, around 16x11. Drape the dough over the filling, and bring the bottom dough over the top and pinch to seal the edges. With a fork, prick holes across the top of the pie, and brush with the egg wash.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Cool on a rack for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the ingredients for the glaze until smooth, and drizzle over the warm pie with a spoon. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Live

Padma and her very best friend:

the paper adhesive from a Netflix envelope

video

~:::~

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Opa!

It's becoming a tradition.

For the third year in a row, Ray and I attended the Los Gatos Fiesta de Artes with our friends C. and K. This is Los Gatos' answer to the summer art & wine festival-
same thing, they just give it a chi-chi name.


It's a common summer Saturday afternoon for us: strolling down avenues of booths with a glass of wine in hand, listening to whatever band happens to be playing. There is food, but we abstain from it. Shopping to be done too, but we (usually) skip that too. This one is all about catching up with C. and K., who we love but rarely get to see.

We started the tradition shortly after we met, and hopefully it will continue for years to come. There are dozens of fantastic restaurants to choose from in my hometown, and our quartet has a habit of (inadvertantly) selecting brand-new establishments. Last year we went to Cin Cin Wine Bar shortly after it opened, the year before Vittoria Ristorante.

This year we parked at Opa!, a new Greek restaurant on Santa Cruz Avenue. By bizarre coincidence, Opa! is in the space that housed Vittoria until recently. The makeover includes dark wood floors and walls, with flat screen TVs playing Greek pop music. Ambient noise was a problem at Vittoria and unfortunately it's here too. Conversation in raised voices is a byproduct.

The space is long and thin which makes for an unusual dining room. It was packed when we arrived, and from our table we could see half a dozen on the sidewalk waiting patiently. Word has gotten around that it's a worth a try- a good sign!

C. and K. called ahead and discovered a $10 corkage fee, so they brought a bottle of merlot from Black Ridge Vineyards, a local favorite of theirs. By local I mean about 3 miles away. Yes, I love where we live.


The menu is good sized with lots of options. You can easily make a dinner of meze, or appetizers, if you want to go that route. We decided on one plate for the table to start, skordalia with fresh pita bread. Skordalia is a whipped spread of potatoes, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Delicious, especially with the pillowy pita bread.


The restaurant charges for a second helping of pita, which is a bit of a scam. It should be free-flowing at a place like this, or at least enough to finish your appetizer. It wasn't much more so I won't gripe much. But seriously guys, that should be complimentary.

After much debate over our entrees- pita sandwiches, pizzas, and souvlaki are among the choices- we all chose pita sandwiches. C. and Ray were the carnivores with gyro and beef pitas, and K. and I both ordered the seafood souvlaki pita.


Yum! The pitas come with hand-cut fries topped with feta cheese on the side, but I decided it was worth $2 extra for some salad. A very soft pita held shrimp, scallops, tzatziki, tomatoes, and red onion. The salad had very fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, along with olives and red onion dressed in olive oil, vinegar, herbs and feta cheese.


I demolished the pita and most of the salad; I was hungry and it was good. The seafood was perfectly cooked and tender, and all the accompaniments were fresh. I also stole a third of Ray's fries, which were really outstanding. They were hand-cut and pretty rustic, doused with lemon juice and feta, along with a dipping sauce of unknown ingredients, but known high calories and deliciousness.
We were really stuffed so we passed on dessert, but overall were very pleased with this year's dinner pick. We all had garlic-dragon breath the following day, but no big deal :-)
27. N Santa Cruz Ave
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 399-7417

~:::~

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Farmers Market

On weekdays, it's a parking lot for Caltrain commuters. On weekends, the space transforms into an outdoor market. The neighborhood emerges- young families, elderly couples, trendy singles- to scout out food and other treats for the coming week.
To my left, a father with arms draped in full plastic market bags, his young son trailing behind with a pain au chocolat in one hand and a face smeared with chocolate. To my right, an elderly couple sort through a pile of tomatoes before selecting four of their favorites. A dozen fruit and vegetable stands compete with each other, but there is also bread, Indian food, fresh pasta, flowers, and pastries.



In many areas of the country, you can rely on the market to have higher quality produce for a fraction of the cost at the grocery store. Sadly, this isn't always the case in the Bay Area. We have markets aplenty, but you need to be vigilant to find good deals. Prices are often the same or higher than at Safeway, Lunardi's or Trader Joe's, so you do need to pay attention.




For me, I like to select varieties that I don't see at Safeway and ask the sellers any questions I have.
My romaine lettuce and arugula are washed and pre-bagged, but were picked on Thursday or Friday so I know they're fresh.


I taste a few peaches before selecting two Zee Ladies. I also pick two nectarines, but I'm not sure of their name.

tomatoes and cucumber

Japanese eggplant

three baskets of strawberries for five dollars- THAT is a good deal!



Boo


~:::~

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pasta Salad with Oriental Vinaigrette

Bowties!

One of my favorite shapes of pasta, and perfect for this summer salad.
This recipe was really easy to double for 16 people at an outdoor barbecue; I wanted something a little unexpected to go with burgers and chicken.
At the end of the night only a few spoonfuls remained. That being said, next I make this dish I will double the garlic and ginger in the recipe below, and saute the blanched vegetables with the bell pepper. I like a ton of flavor and you can never have too much ginger and garlic!
If you follow me with these amounts and stir fry all the vegetables, blanch them for a little less time so they don't get mushy.
Bowties with Oriental Vinaigrette
adapted from The Occasional Vegetarian

Oriental Vinaigrette
2 Tbs sherry vinegar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs peanut oil
1/2 Tbs sesame oil
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 carrots, julienned
1 1/2 cups snow peas
1 cup sugar snap peas
1/2 lb bowtie pasta
1 tsp salt
1/2 Tbs peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbs fresh ginger, cut in thin strips
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
Garnish
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

Prepare the vinagrette by whisking ingredients together until combined. Set aside.

Blanch or steam carrots and peas for 2 minutes. Immerse in ice water to stop cooking and drain well. Set aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat and add the peanut oil. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Let it sizzle for a few seconds before adding the ginger and toss for a minute. Add the bell pepper, turn up the heat and stir fry for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the carrots and peas.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente. Drain well and pour into a large bowl with the vegetables. Toss well and add 1/2 the vinaigrette. Toss well and taste before adding some more or all of the vinaigrette to taste. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and serve.
~:::~

Friday, August 7, 2009

Muffins..no Pancakes....no, Muffins!

These muffins smell like pancakes.

Well they do!

Look at the batter: quick bread/muffin batters are a whisper away from a pancake. I make my pancakes without sugar (why do you need it with all that syrup that's gonna get poured on top?); here we add the sugar in the batter and a bit on top for some crunch and sweetness.


This muffin is really moist from so many apples, flavorful from the cinnamon and whole wheat, and really easy to throw together.
I needed to make breakfast for a dozen colleagues and I've been sick for days. They were on the cooling rack before I knew it and lifted my spirits with the flowery mess (can't bake without that) and the aroma of pancakes. . . I mean, muffins.


WW Apple Muffins
makes 30 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbs dark brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups nonfat plain yogurt
3 huge apples, peeled cored and chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line or grease 30 muffins cups.

In a bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set this aside, and move to the Kitchenaid mixer. Cream the butter, regular sugar, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar together. Add the beaten eggs, scraping down the sides once. Add the yogurt and lightly mix. Slowly add the dry ingredients and the apple chunks. Try not to overmix, just barely incorporate.



Drop the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with the 3 Tbs brown sugar. You may not need all of it, you may want more. Your preference.

Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through. The muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack before storing in an airtight container. They should keep for several days.


~::~

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mom's Oven

Sponge Cake with Strawberry Buttercream


Reine de Saba

Peach Pie
Not mine, so let's drool together shall we?
Thank you for sharing ~

~:::~