Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pork Tenderloin With A Cherry Zinfandel Reduction

     In the past few weeks sweet and juicy cherries have been appearing, ripe and ready to devour at Farmer’s markets and grocery stores all over southern California. We always try to buy fresh local food when it’s in season and at this time of year the variety of produce makes cooking and meal planning a dream.

     This week I returned from the farmers market with my own bag of ruby red cherries ready to be devoured. I tossed around recipe ideas vacillating between sweet and savory delights and then in a moment I knew just what I wanted to prepare.

     As I watched my husband pour himself a glass of zinfandel my plan began to unfold. In a matter of moments I knew my cherries were destined to become part of a sweet savory pork tenderloin bathed in a cherry and zinfandel reduction.

Olive oil (to coat pan)
½  yellow onion (diced)
1 cup zinfandel
1 cup washed stemmed pitted cherries (diced)
2 tablespoons Apple balsamic vinegar 
(or any balsamic)
1 tsp sugar (to taste)
herbs ( like rosemary and Thyme
¼  tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

For The Reduction
Add olive oil to pan
Add onion
Cook on low to medium flame till almost translucent (not brown)
Then add cherries and cook a minute or three
Add zinfandel ( use a wine you would not mind drinking)
Raise flame higher and reduce to about half
Add S&P to taste and adjust if needed

For the tenderloin marinade
¼ cup zinfandel
2-4 tbs olive oil
Herbs ( I like rosemary and thyme)
Garlic to taste
Mix well add tenderloin
Place in shallow dish or zip top bag
I placed the bag with the tenderloin and marinade in fridge(fridge a must) for 2-3 hours.

Beginning to brown toe tenderloin
To cook tenderloin
Heat a heavy bottom (le creuset type oven-safe dutch oven)
Add olive oil to coat bottom
Remove tenderloin from marinade
brown on all sides in dutch oven
when all sides are browned
Add 1/2 cup zinfandel and water or broth combined
Place in a preheated 350 degree oven till done
internal temp of 160 degrees (per USDA)
(while pork cooks warm up your cherry zinfandel topping)

After resting the pork 
(always rest the meat or you will lose the moisture)
slice and top with heated cherry zinfandel reduction
About $10-$17 dollars for this special treat including leftovers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spicy Asian Noodles At Home: Yes You Can

      I inherited my love of Chinese food from my father. I grew up going to our local Chinese restaurant the Harbin Inn on 100th Street and Broadway almost every week. As I grew my travels took me all over the world and eventually led me to spend some time living in Hawaii. Why, with all that exposure to Asian influenced cooking was it so difficult to travel to my local Asian market and pick up the ingredients necessary to create one of my favorite ethnic foods at home?

     It was not until I was in my thirties that I began to experiment with unusual labels and ask questions about various exotic sounding ingredients. Through experimentation I found I had been missing out on some wonderful flavors.  Since then I have made a point of putting together several delicious and economical Asian meals I can prepare in very little time.

     I urge everyone to take a trip to the Asian markets, talk to the vendors and try something new. More and more supermarkets are including larger ethnic departments so if there is no Asian market in your area explore your local grocery store. I’ll bet there is more available than you realize.

I have fallen in love with this product called spicy chili crisp

½ olive oil and ½ sesame oil to coat pan (whatever is on hand is OK)
½ large head of cabbage (shredded)
1 med yellow onion (diced)
2 carrots thinly sliced
1 rib of celery diced
¼ cup diced red peppers ~about ½ of a pepper (optional)
1 baby bok choy
3-6 cloves of garlic ~to taste (minced)
1-teaspoon approx Chinese chili sauce 
(to taste as some will find it hot)

S&P to taste

Beginning to cook the veggies
place the oil in a large skillet
add the onion to pan and cook till almost translucent
add the garlic and cook one more minute
add the cabbage, carrots and bok choy
cook down till all are soft
add soy sauce (any kind you wish 2-4 Tbs) (to taste)
add Chinese chili sauce 
(I use the one pictured below)
(invest in a trip to the Asian market or international aisle of your grocery store)

add cooked noodles to the veggie mix and let them soak up the flavors
continue to stir and mix  the veggies with the noodles
(I made my own noodles but use any kind you are comfortable with maybe try several till you find a few you love) I used my standby pasta noodle recipe.
Total around $5.00 for this trip across the globe
Ready To Serve

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sharing Seasonality ..It's Just That Easy

     A delicious, filling and reasonably priced meal does not have to be an impossible dream. Spring and summer provide a multitude of fresh seasonal produce literally ripe for the picking. I love the versatility that just a few simple ingredients can provide. At our house, we have developed a love for the taste and texture of home made pasta. Tonight pasta becomes a perfect yet simple complement to our roasted vegetables. 

     Whenever I’m kneading dough or creating noodles I think of all the families who would so enjoy making pasta together. As a child I loved spending time in the kitchen baking and cooking with my great grandmother. She had a collection of pans and kitchen tools that were just my size and I felt so special helping her. I would love to see more families gathered in the kitchen creating meals and memories. More importantly it would be an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children a respect food. They could learn where their comes from and how important proper nutrition is while enjoying time spent with Mom and Dad. …And yes….it is just that easy

 For the pasta

2 eggs
1.5 cups flour
a splash or two of olive oil
healthy pinch of salt
(2-4 teaspoons of water *)
mix by hand or in a food processor
*add just enough water for the dough ball to come together
wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in fridge for a least an hour
then either roll out and cut (on a lightly floured surface)
or use a pasta machine to create your noodles.

for the veggies

toss the
diced Zucchini
sliced onion  
slit Cherry tomatoes
in a bit of olive oil
salt and pepper & red pepper flake (to taste)
place on a sheet pan
in a 350 degree oven
till soft and slightly caramelized

boil the pasta to cook 2-3 min
(it will cook much faster than dry pasta)
add noodles to the veggie pan and toss
(add a bit of the pasta water too)

snip some basil from the garden
tear it into pieces and add a palmful to the pasta
drizzle with olive oil
add some fresh oregano
and ½ cup grated cheese
I like romano or Parmesan
(experiment with other hard Italian cheese too)

Total under $5.00 for this simple but satisfying meal

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baked Blossoms of spring

     Spring is here and each week our local farmer’s markets add more gorgeous fresh produce to their stalls. I arrived at the South Pasadena Thursday market wondering what delicious crop would be showcased this visit. In weeks past we enjoyed the fresh garden peas, adding their shoots to our lettuce wraps and opening each pod to release six to eight little green jewels of freshness which were to become the stars of our cold pea & leek soup.

     I wandered among the stalls becoming part of the market dance. Each week as if choreographed we shoppers rhythmically dodge each other as we dip into our chosen stalls, eyes on the foot traffic, yet distracted by the sample trays. I greeted several of the farmers I have come to know and we chatted about what was growing, recipe ideas and of course the weather. There is a palpable spirit of community at most markets where consumers and farmers connect. I like looking into the eyes of the people who grow my food and supporting their efforts.

     As I approached one of my favorite stalls I spotted the most beautiful squash blossoms nestled together in their basket looking like the very picture of spring.
I knew right away they had to be on this week’s menu. Today is the day we will enjoy stuffed squash blossoms. I did not deep fry these blossoms opting to bake them instead. They are not exactly like the deep fried version but I enjoy this lighter adaptation just as well.

6 squash blossoms 
(cleaned blossoms  with all the stamen completely removed)

For The Filling:
½ -¾ cup part skim ricotta
2 tbs.finely grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp tarragon
white pepper to taste
salt to taste (be careful because the cheese is salty too)..
healthy pinch of lemon zest
a tiny pinch of nutmeg (if you like nutmeg ~I do)

For The Batter
white vermouth (white wine or milk will work as well)
Batter should be thick enough to lightly coat (not too thick)
Add flour with equal amounts water and white vermouth 
Till you achieve the desired consistency
Use your favorite batter recipe. (I experiment all the time)

carefully open each blossom (cleaned & stamen removed)  
 add cheese mixture
cover the cheese with the leaves and twist top to close
(Don’t over fill)
dip blossoms in batter:


Lay the batter-dipped blossoms on a lightly oiled sheet pan (I used grapeseed)
Grate a bit more Parmesan cheese on top of the blossoms
Bake at 400 till cheese is browned slightly and melted 15-20 minutes or so
keep your eye on it as ovens vary 

Total under $4.00 for this side dish

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Signs of Spring ~Chilled Fresh Pea Soup

        I strolled through the South Pasadena Farmer's Market last Thursday afternoon brainstorming ideas for a special dish to enjoy this weekend. I love examining all the fruits and vegetables, tasting samples and sharing recipes with the vendors.  It was a classic spring day, warm, with blue skies, puffy white clouds and a gentle yet still slightly cool breeze. As I turned the corner to enter the next row of stalls I spotted fresh garden peas, still in their pods and I knew immediately it would be the perfect dish to herald our Easter celebration. 

      There is something so very springlike about preparing and enjoying chilled garden pea soup.Seasonality is key as fresh tasting and vibrant ingredients require only the simplest of preparation to taste extraordinary. The ridiculously easy preparation of this soup makes it a perfect meal for the day before a holiday when there is so much to prepare and very little time. No soup says spring to me the way this one does.
Happy Easter

2 1/2  cups fresh garden peas. (Removed from pod)
½ cup of cleaned sliced leeks
Salt and white pepper to taste.

Boil the peas till tender in 2 cups of spring water
Drain peas and reserve the water

Combine a 50/50 mix of oil and butter to a sauté pan
enough to cover well
add leeks and wilt till tender but not brown.
add peas for the last minute or two.

Place peas and leeks into a small food processor
process adding small amounts of the reserved water
a little at a time till the soup is smooth and lovely.

You could strain the soup if you wish but I rarely do with this recipe.
add salt and white pepper to taste

Serve cool topped with crème fraiche or
add a touch of half and half as I did
Total Under $5.00 for this taste of Spring

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A "Grate" Dinner

We are excited to be attending a local wine festival this coming weekend. It’s only  a couple of hours drive from our home but, we have opted to stay overnight and enjoy some time with friends. That means we will be spending two days enjoying parties featuring delicious treats and good wine. We, like so many people have a tendency to overeat a bit when we are away from home. Although we always try to be careful about what we eat  there are weekends when discipline is a bit more difficult. I do believe in balance so tonight I have opted for a light but flavorful Friday night dinner. I’ll be serving zucchini cakes (think potato pancakes but lighter),a Mexican salad with a creamy balsamic yogurt dressing, and pea shoots sauteed with red onion, ginger, garlic, orange zest, and chili paste added to leftovers from a dish John  ordered at lunch out with his co-workers.

Grate (ed) Zucchini  Cakes
 2-3 zucchini
1 clove garlic
1/8  cup red onion
1-2 eggs (depends on zucchini size)
1-2 oz Gruyere cheese
2-3 tbs flour (till it has a semi-loose but not runny consistency)
Salt and pepper to taste

Grate the zucchini 
(with a clean cloth) ring out the excess water.
Grate garlic clove 
(using a grater is best for this recipe)
Grate in red onion 
(or very very fine dice)
Grate in Gruyere
Add flour
Mix well 
(I set it in the fridge for about an hour)
Form patties (if loose spoon in to pan)
Pan fry (both sides) till golden brown
In a mix of olive oil and butter

Under $5.00 for these savory and delicious GRATE zucchini cakes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lettuce Enjoy Spring

Yesterday felt like the first day of spring. Suddenly the chill in the air was gone, the sun was bright and the winds blew warm. It was the kind of day that made me yearn to put the top down on the car and travel up the California Coast. Absent one convertible, I opened the moon roof and sang along as the radio played a late sixties music mix. As I ran the usual weekly errands I thought about dinner. What could I prepare that would represent the freshness of this perfect spring day. I decided on lettuce wraps knowing that the spicy Asian filling would contrast perfectly against the cool crispness of the lettuce. I didn’t have a few of my lettuce wrap staples on hand but, I decided to use what I did have and it turned out very well.
The mix is just about ready

1/3 head of cabbage (shredded)
½ onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small carrot
3 mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
6 oz roasted chicken
1 tsp Asian chili paste
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne
1/2 head of romaine lettuce 
(washed & chilled)

In a large frying pan
Cook the onion till almost soft
Add cabbage, mushrooms, carrot, and garlic
Cook together till soft about 7 minutes
Add chili paste, salt, pepper to taste
spoon into the lettuce and enjoy.
Experiment with ingredients. This one was delicious
(One could add Hoisin sauce and water chestnuts at this point but I was out so I omitted them this time)

Total: Under $7.00 for this spicy and cool spring treat

TIP OF THE DAY: If you are missing some of the ingredients for a regular recipe improvise. It is fun to  play with flavors and develop new ways to prepare old favorites   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faith and Begorrah ~There's a pint in my stew !

“May God grant you always...A sunbeam to warm you, a moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you. Faithful friends near you. And whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you.” ~Irish Blessing
The Irish soda bread turned out very well

Normally on St. Patrick’s Day I’d be fixing corned beef and cabbage but, this year I thought I’d try something different. I’ve always wanted  to prepare Beef and Guinness stew and what better day to try it than St. Patrick’s Day?

I pride my self on my stew making ability but this is a version I have not tried yet. I’ve been researching many recipes and I’ve come up with a plan. Normally I put red wine in my stew but today it’s Guinness all the way.I’ve adapted the classic recipe by adding potato and green beans to the stew pot. I’ve also cut up the vegetables in large size pieces because I want this to be a really chunky stew.
The  star of the stew
1 ½ lbs stew meat cut in 1-2 inch cubes
1 onion roughly chopped
2 red potatoes 
3 carrots
1 bottle Guinness
¼ cup flour (to the flour add ¼ tsp salt & ¼ tsp pepper ¼ tsp cayenne)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
pinch allspice  (optional)
1 bay leaf (remove the bay leaf before eating stew)
String beans (small handful)

I browned the meat and onion in a fry pan
with a bit of cooking oil
when browned
I added enough flour S&P mixture to coat the meat
I cooked it a few minutes longer (to cook the flour)

I moved the meat & onion to a waiting stockpot

I deglazed my fry pan with some of the Guinness
then I put the contents from the fry pan in to the stock pot

I added
The rest of the Guinness
3-4 cups of stock
The rest of the cut up veggies
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

let it all stew on low for about 1 ½ -2 hours
Happy St. Patrick's Day

Total for this salute to Ireland under $10.00
A Happy and blessed St. Patrick's Day to you all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gruyere and bacon for everyone: Macaroni and Cheese night

Some dinners just beg for cheese
It’s been a long time since we enjoyed the decadent goodness of macaroni and cheese. Between TV and Twitter it’s been mentioned a lot lately and today seemed like a good day to jump on the bandwagon.
Use a macaroni that is ribbed to hold the cheese sauce
½ Lb pasta (I used whole-wheat fuisili pasta that has ribs to hold the cheese sauce)
4 Tbs Butter (3 for the roux and 1 for the breadcrumbs)
3 Tbs Flour
1 cup 1% milk
Pinch or 2 of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste (I use cayenne for this dish)
1 slice bacon (Cooked and minced)
 ½ cup breadcrumbs

For the cheese sauce:
3 Tbs Butter
3Tbs Flour
Make a roux of these two in a saucepan (stir or whisk constantly)
When the flour has cooked for a minute or two
In the melted butter
1 cup 1% milk
Bring to just a boil then lower temp
Sauce will thicken
Add a pinch or two of nutmeg and
1 cup grated cheese (I used Gruyere, Cheddar and a hint of Parmesan)
Stir till smooth
The cheese sauce is ready. See how it should look
Assemble the dish:
Strain the cooked pasta and put it into a baking dish 
Add the cheese sauce and incorporate well
Mix in the cooked minced slice of bacon

For the topping:
Melt 1Tbs butter add to
½ cup breadcrumbs
top the mac and cheese with mixture
I Love using my old school corning ware for this dish
bake at 375  till heated browned and bubbly (about 25 minutes)
Total Under $6.00 for this cheesy treat

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Memories of Seborga on Pizza Night

Tonight I'm reminded of our visit to Seborga Italy just over the border near Monaco.We stayed in this town founded in 954 AD and ate at this restaurant.
I thought of Italy today as I baked my fresh focaccia. How many cooks in how many kitchens have through the ages loving prepared this same bread for their families. How many children have listened carefully to their grandmas as traditions were shared and secret recipes exchanged. I can’t think of a better use for my foaccia than as a pizza. I baked the bread in a 9x13 pan and it became the perfect canvas for my culinary creation.

I roasted:
Three tomatoes (chopped)
1 onion (sliced)
½ head of garlic
Tossed in olive oil salt & pepper
on a sheet pan for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.
I added herbs and cayenne to the dough. Look carefully and you can see it in this photo

Meanwhile I sautéed mushrooms and spinach in a touch of vermouth

When all the toppings are cooled I top the focaccia with the tomato onion and roasted garlic (no skin).
I then layer on the spinach and mushrooms
I top with a finely grated mixture of Parmesan and cheddar and broil till bubbly and warm.
This is a wonderful meal for the whole family to enjoy
It's as easy as that a yummy veggie pizza for under $6.00

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Loaves and Fishes

We enjoy so many gifts from out oceans
Tonight we are enjoying lovely breaded Dover sole paired with Swiss chard, onion and garlic from our local farmers market. We so enjoy our weekly Farmers market which is held every Friday night right outside our door. The vendors are dedicated to providing fresh, clean and natural food and they deserve our gratitude and our respect.

For the sole 
A simple egg wash and panko breading with herbs.
pan fry till golden brown

Small bunch chopped stemmed Swiss Chard  
½ onion and
2 cloves garlic
sauté and add
Leftover rotelle from last night’s dinner

Serving this with my fresh baked Honey oatmeal pain de mie 

Total under $7.oo for this light fresh dinner

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I Might Rethink Green Eggs and Ham ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I Really Like Them Sam I Am

Today I created a dish that even Dr, Seuss might embrace. I don’t know who prepared his green eggs and ham in the past but today I’m serving A Seuss worthy feast that I think he'd be happy to enjoy on his birthday.

1 bunch Spinach  
½ Onion
2 cloves Garlic
5-6 cremini Mushroom
1/8 lb Gouda cheese
2 slices Prosciutto

Crepe batter ( this is where the eggs come into play)

Sauté the onion and mushrooms
When almost done add spinach (chopped) and cook it down
¼ tsp red pepper flake
¼ tsp salt

 In a pan crisp up the Prosciutto and crumble then set aside
I can think of dozen of uses for crumbled prosciutto

Make crepe batter
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour

Make crepes
fill with spinach mix
Crumble a little Prosciutto
Add some Gouda cheese
garnish the top with leftover filling
Total under $6.00 for this whimsical feast
TIP OF THE DAY: Buy just what you need. I purchased two slices of prosciutto. It is normally a costly item but, I paid under a dollar for the amount I needed to make this dish extra Seussworthy.