Category Archives: Autumn

TOMATO TIME :: Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

cherry tomatoes in the garden
Technically summer has come to an end, yet in the Bay Area the fall harvest summer is just beginning. Aaand, the cherry tomatoes keep on coming. I found this unique risotto recipe, which incorporates roasted cherry tomatoes. It is definitely strong on the lemon flavor, which I like, but be forewarned if you’re not a lover of lemon. This may not be the recipe for you. Recipe from Bon Appetit

Lemon risotto with cherry tomatoes

Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
12 ounces cherry tomatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 cups (about) low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 cups arborio rice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Place tomatoes on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until skins begin to wrinkle, about 12 minutes. Set aside.
2. Pour 5 cups broth into small saucepan; bring to simmer. Cover and keep warm.
3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Add onion; saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add rice and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir 2 minutes. Add wine; stir until almost all the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently and adjusting heat if necessary to maintain gentle simmer, about 5 minutes. Continue to add broth by cupfuls, stirring often, until rice is tender, about 25 minutes total.
4. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon butter and all remaining ingredients. Fold in tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper.

cooking risotto

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Greek Salad the Greek Way (or so I hear)

greek salad
I’ve never been to Greece, but my sister-in-law has. She told me that every time she ordered a “salad” while on the trip, it came without lettuce and instead focused on the tomato, cucumber, and peppers. Given that my garden is happily producing these three ingredients, I was immediately on board. The key is the combination of vegetables with olives and feta cheese and a highly lemony dressing. Next time I’ll do more research and give some proper facts and history, but for now I’m too busy eating my big Greek salad.

Greek Salad Recipe

Ingredients:
2-3 medium sized tomatoes, cored, sliced into wedges and again into medium sized chunks
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise twice and sliced crosswise
1 gypsy pepper (red, orange or yellow), chopped in medium to large pieces
1 small red onion, sliced crosswise and chopped medium
Handful of pitted kalamata olives, rinsed and chopped in halves or quarters
Feta cheese

Dressing:
1/4 (scant) cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 – 1 meyer lemon
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Prep and combine vegetables and olives.
2. Whisk the dressing ingredients and toss with vegetables.
3. Serve with crumbled Feta cheese on top or sliced on the side.

Notes:
– I know some people don’t like raw red onion, but in this instance, the added bite is a nice and in my mind necessary, complement to the other flavors. That said, you may not want to eat this before, say, an interview or a first date.
– As vegetables vary in size, you’ll need to eyeball ratios. The main idea is equal parts tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.
– Optional: Add 1 small clove garlic, crushed or chopped small, in with the dressing.

tomatoes in the gardenGypsy pepper red pepper on the vinecucumber in the garden

Padron Peppers

Padron Peppers

Padron peppers, fried with a heavy hand of salt, are surprisingly simple to make and provide a highly satisfying snack. Like potato chips, sometimes we need a vehicle for salt and these peppers deliver in spades. It’s best to get them early in the season before they get too hot in the spicy department. I have only experienced this once, and it’s a sad occasion when they’re inedible. Most of the time while you might have one or two hot ones in the bunch, you will find they have just the perfect amount of bite to keep you interested without putting your taste buds out of order. Keep an eye out for them at the farmers market mid to late summer, early fall. Serve in the backyard with a corona on a warm evening while prepping the grill.

Ingredients:
Large handful of padron peppers
1 Tablespoon of olive or grape seed oil
Kosher salt

Directions:
1. Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat until hot, about 1 minute.
2. Add peppers and keeping a constant eye on them allow them to lightly blacken, flipping and rotating on occasion to ensure they cook uniformly.
3. Once they’re completely cooked, aka. softened, remove from pan and place momentarily on a paper towel to rest.
4. Toss with salt, transfer to a serving plate and enjoy while still warm.

Cooking padron peppers PadronPeppers_InPan_2_FWPadronPeppers_3_FW

TOMATO TIME :: Fresh Tomato Salsa

Basic Salsa

I like to make this salsa with a variety of tomatoes, especially with an heirloom or two to add color, interest and flavor. Any tomatoes will do as long as they’re ripe. Whatever you have on hand.

Basic Salsa Recipe

Ingredients:
3-4 ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped small
2 small torpedo onions or shallots or 1 small red onion, chopped small
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped small
1 jalapeno, chopped small
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro
Kosher salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Prepare and combine all ingredients. Stir well, add generous salt and pepper.
2. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
3. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Tomatoes on the vine

JalapenoPlant_FW

Salsa_Basic_Closeup_FW

A Shakshuka Brunch – North African Fried Eggs

Ever since I received Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook for my birthday, Plenty, I’ve been obsessing. I think I could happily make a recipe from it each day until I’d made it through cover to cover. While I am not a vegetarian, I love cooking vegetarian fare and heartily believe it’s possible to develop deeply satisfying flavors without meat. It makes sense then that Ottolenghi’s book resonates for me as it is a “vegetables-only” cookbook (from a chef who is not a vegetarian) with recipes that combine unique flavors and techniques from around the world.

This recipe he calls Shakshuka, named for the man who served it in a tiny restaurant Ottolenghi found in Jaffa. This North African dish is fantastic and the author’s version shows once again his mastery of melding a multitude of flavors and spices such that no one flavor overpowers. That said, I think it’s the saffron that ultimately lends this fried egg dish a bit of an exotic aura.

I halved the recipe, and it serves a 4 or a generous 2. I don’t have more than one large cast iron dish, so was unable to fry up the portions individually as described in the recipe, but it was no problem to do all the eggs in one pan. I also didn’t have fresh tomatoes since they’re no longer in season, so I used a jar of my own canned tomatoes, plus I threw in a handful of cherry tomatoes I’d recently frozen (slightly defrosted in the microwave first). I didn’t have muscovado sugar on hand, so threw in a couple pinches of demerara sugar. Don’t let the list of ingredients deter you. Most don’t take long to prepare and you can start cooking down the onions while you prep the herbs. Serve with fresh hunks of toasted, crusty bread. Combined prepping and cooking time is about 40-45 minutes.

Recipe Ingredients:
Serves a generous 2.
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Generous 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 tsps muscovado sugar (or 2 pinches of demerara)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
3 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 jar canned organic tomatoes chopped)
1/4 tsp saffron threads
pinch of cayenne peppers
salt and black pepper
up to 1/2 cup water
4 eggs

Directions:
1. In a large cast iron pan, dry roast the cumin seeds on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar, and herbs and continue cooking on high heat for 5 to 10 minutes to get a nice color.

2. Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. (I didn’t add much water here, but the canned tomatoes were already quite watery.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. It should be potent and flavorful. (You can prepare this mix well in advance.)

3. Remove the bay leaf, then divide the pepper mix among four deep frying pans, each large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place them on medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the peppers mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with lids. Cook on a very (!) gentle heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Yum! Below a photo from the cookbook showing the individually cooked portions.

Italian Plum Cake that Rocks.

Plum Cake that rocksAutumn has arrived! The farmers’ markets here in the Bay Area are going off. Plums are in season, and my boyfriend’s mom introduced me to this amazing rustic plum cake recipe. It’s great served at brunch, dessert or as an anytime snack, and is particularly fantastic served just 30 minutes out of the oven. (But what isn’t fabulous straight out of the oven, really.) Infusing the plums with the brandy and jam makes for a rich flavor, which pairs perfectly with the moist, yet somewhat crumby, sugary cake.

I saw some small plums at the Alemany Farmers Market, and bought them as I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find Italian prune plums. As it turns out, it really is plum season, and as soon as I was on the look-out, I began seeing Italian plums everywhere. I had already bought and prepared the first round of plums, but when I later saw the real deal Italian prune plums at the Glen Park farmers market, I decided I had to make two cakes, so I could try these out. It took serious will-power to resist buying a third variety of Italian plums I then subsequently saw at Canyon Market, which looked remarkably different (much smaller, more like cherries, and more red in color than the prune plums). I convinced myself a third cake was probably unnecessary. (Then again, if they’re still available next week…) I was intrigued by these smaller ones in part because you can also apparently use Bing Cherries in this recipe, and smaller is better because you can fit more on the cake. If you have larger plums, it’s probably a good idea to cut them into slices instead of leaving them whole. (I did not do this with the larger plums I had- they were probably a hair on the large side, and didn’t cook down quite as well.)

Two versions

You can place the plums right on top of the cake batter, and then the cake puffs up around them. (Above- the cake on the right is actually the larger sized plums. Because there were fewer plums, the cake rose up even more around them.) Also, I reserved the extra juice / syrup from the plum preparation- would probably be tasty served over the cake as a drizzled sauce or possibly on ice cream later on? Mmmm… I’ve got a serious case of Plums-on-the-mind.

This recipe originates from Cooks Illustrated magazine, the July/August 2007 issue. I highly recommend it! In a nutshell- it rocks.

Rustic Plum Cake

Rustic Plum Cake
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons red currant or seedless raspberry jam
3 Tablespoons brandy
1 pound (about 10 large or 14 small) Italian prune plums, halved and pitted
3/4 cup (3 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting pan
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk, room temperature
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I used 2)
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional- I did not include)
Confectioners’ sugar for serving, if desired

Directions:
1. Cook jam and brandy in ~10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about 5 minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. (If using larger sized plums, stir a few times along the way.) Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1-second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract if using) and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping the bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy).
3. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down (oops, I did skin side up) evenly over surface of batter. Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into wedges and serve.

Italian Plum CakePS. I couldn’t help but notice that this cake looks amazingly reminiscent of one of my paintings from a few years back. ;)

Painting that looks like the plum cake I made

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage and Celery

Stuffed and Roasted Acorn Squash

This recipe is a delicious combination of flavors, it’s filling and comforting yet healthy and a a great way to utilize wintertime squash. The recipe calls for wild rice- I actually used a blend of wild rices that I threw in my rice cooker w/ the chicken stock. (Wild rices usually cook at a ratio of rice to water of 1:3.) I decided to use toasted pecans and fresh thyme in place of walnuts and sage since that’s what I had on hand. The trick with this recipe is to be sure to roast the acorn squash until it is basically fully cooked. Then stuff with the rice, bake another 10 minutes or so, and serve hot. I usually end up with extra rice, which makes a tasty lunch served on top of a bed of mixed lettuce or arugula the next day.

roasted acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, Sage, and Celery

2 acorn squash, halved top to bottom, seeds and strings removed
1 1/2 cups wild rice, rinsed
4 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 small apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 onion, chopped small
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
Small handful of chopped fresh sage leaves
Olive oil to brush or drizzle lightly on squash &/or to saute the vegetables
1 to 1 1/2 cup walnut halves or 3/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
4 tablespoon butter, divided
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
salt, pepper

Directions:
1. Bring stock to a boil.  Add uncooked wild rice, reduce heat and simmer about 50-60 minutes or until tender. Let sit.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Score the insides of the squash several times. Put the squash cut side up on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil lightly on top OR coat the inside with 1/2 Tbsp butter and drizzle with a touch of maple syrup. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for about 1 hour until soft and the tops are browning.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil), and saute the onions and celery until becoming soft, around 7 minutes. Add the apples, sage, and walnuts or pine nuts. After about five minutes, add the brown sugar and toss to coat. Continue to saute until the celery and apples begin to soften. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

4. Mix the skillet contents with the wild rice in a big bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

5. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven when it’s ready. Fill the squash with rice stuffing, drizzle each with olive oil or butter and salt, if needed.  Return to oven for 10 minutes or until a knife goes easily into the flesh of the squash along the top. (If any rice mix is left you can bake it in a separate bowl or heat it in a skillet and serve alongside.)

7. Pull the squash out the oven.  Serve when cool enough to eat.

8. You can make the rice stuffing beforehand or even pre-bake the squash in advance leaving the final 10-15 minute bake before serving.

roasted acorn squashServe this heart-shaped acorn squash on Valentine’s Day! ;)

acorn squash

Serve leftovers with lightly dressed arugula for lunch.