Category Archives: Dinner

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

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

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


TOMATO TIME :: Slow Roasted Tomatoes (aka. Flavor Bombs)


It’s the time of year we’ve all been waiting for – finally, tomatoes are in season! After suffering from a dearth of garden tomatoes in foggy San Francisco, I am now experiencing the opposite in Marin – tomato heaven! Still, with truck loads of tomatoes all ripening simultaneously, suddenly one begins to wonder – what can I DO with all these tomatoes? The answer is – the sky’s the limit! I’ve been simmering vats of tomato sauce,which I’ve stashed in quart jars in the freezer for later use. You might also invest in canning equipment if you’re up for the challenge. Other lovely options include fresh homemade salsa, ratatouille, caponata (a personal favorite), or as follows, slow roasting!



These slow roasted tomatoes are absolutely delicious. A wonderful option for a Sunday afternoon since the roasting takes about 3 hours. Or if you work from home, put them in around 3 or 4pm for an evening supper. Coarsely chop roasted tomatoes and serve on pasta, say spinach linguini, with the roasted garlic (removed from skins). Optionally, add fresh spinach or basil and chopped zucchini (briefly sauteed in a touch of olive oil for 1-2 minutes). Alternatively, store them in the fridge with a little extra olive oil for later snacking. (Serve with crusty, toasted bread – yum!)


A variety of heirloom tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Extra Virgin olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 225°F. Slice each tomato into thick slices and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle a touch of olive oil, and add a pinch of salt, pepper and herbs if you like.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for approximately three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.


Udon Noodles in Broth with Enoki Mushrooms and Vegetables


A flavorful, satisfying hot, slurping noodle-soup. Best to cook the noodles while prepping all the ingredients so that everything is ready to go since the vegetables cook quickly. The ingredient list and directions may look more daunting than the reality. This is basically a quick stir fry served in a broth with noodles. The jalapeno adds a nice kick.

Serves 2.

-2 bundles udon noodles, cooked
-1 teaspoon grape seed or vegetable oil
-1 heaping teaspoon powdered ginger
-1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly
-1 carrot, sliced
-1/2 red or yellow pepper, sliced in 1 inch pieces
-1 small or 1/2 large jalapeno, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
-1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
-1 small bunch beet greens (or chard), cleaned and chopped into 1 inch pieces
-1 bunch enoki mushrooms, separated (or handful of sliced white mushrooms)
-1 handful green beans, cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces
-1-2 splashes Mirin
-1 quart homemade vegetable stock
-1 Tablespoon Shoyu (or soy sauce)
-1 Tablespoon Ponzu (if you have some on hand)
-salt and pepper
-sprig of fresh basil

1. Boil water in large pot and cook udon noodles according to package directions. Rinse cooked udon thoroughly with cold water and set aside.
2. Separately, boil some water in a kettle and pour hot water into two serving bowls to heat. (optional)
3. Heat oil in large saute pan. When it starts to sizzle slightly, add the powdered ginger and stir it into the oil.
4. Add the chopped onion and carrots and cook over medium heat stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the carrot is softening.
5. Add the red pepper and saute a couple minutes until starting to soften.
6. Stir in the jalapeno and garlic and cook briefly (30 seconds or so). Add a splash or two of mirin and cook down in a minute or two.
7. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the zucchini, beet greens, mushrooms and beans. Stir in the Shoyu and Ponzu, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked.

8. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a bit of salt and pepper or additional shoyu if needed.
9. Remove water from serving bowls and dry. Place a portion of noodles in each dish then ladle broth with vegetables over the noodles. Using chopsticks, lightly stir noodles into the broth. Top with fresh basil and serve immediately. Eat noodles and veggies with chopsticks and slurp broth with Asian-style soup spoons.



Pot o’ Beans for Salads and Tacos


These Rio Zape Beans resemble pinto beans, but are larger and profoundly satisfying. A great element to have on hand for quick tacos or served with a green salad to add flavor and sustenance.

– 1 or 2 cups dried Rio Zape Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans, washed and soaked for six hours in 1-2 quarts water (if 6 hours pass, drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid and keep both on hand covered for up to 2 hours until you’re ready to start cooking.)
– 1 large onion, cut in half
– 1 or 2 celery stems, cut thirds
– 1 or 2 carrots, cut in half or thirds
– 2 garlic gloves, lightly peeled
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 bouquet garni of a few large parsley stems with leaves (tied with string in cheesecloth, net, sachet or coarsely chopped and stuffed into a large tea strainer)
– 1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Place beans and soaking water into large saucepan. Add water if needed – the water level should be at least 1 inch above the top of the beans.
2. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf and parsley bouquet and bring to boil.
3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer one hour.
4. Remove the parsley sachet and celery, then add salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are completely tender.
5. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Remove the remaining vegetables and bay leaf and discard.
6. Adjust salt to taste, add pepper.
7. Serve warm in tacos embellished to your taste or along with a mixed green salad with freshly chopped parsley /or cilantro & feta /or cojita cheese.

Notes: Beans will last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Store so they are just covered with some of the reserved liquid, which should be used to reheat them as needed. Save any additional reserved liquid in a canning jar – label/date and freeze for future use. Makes a fantastic “vegetable stock” for asian noodles or soup. Cooked beans can also be frozen in liquid for future use.

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

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.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels

Tomato soup with fennelMy sister gave me a lovely book called “The Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg, who created a food blog called Orangette awhile back. The book is written in the style of a blog and recipes are included with every chapter. The author seems particularly fond of fennel, and this recipe stood out to me as an interesting twist on tomato soup. I decided to give it a try as I was curious to find out if one can make a decent soup from canned tomatoes as the recipe calls for. Besides…then I could use my new Le Creuset Dutch oven again! (No, I’m not being paid to use their name, although I can see why you might wonder.)

A Homemade LifeMolly mentions in the text of the book that when trying a recipe for the first time, it should be followed exactly and then after that, it’s do-what-you-will. I prescribe to this philosophy as well, except that I’m not capable of living by it. I simply cannot cook from a recipe without making some immediate modifications. I’ve honestly tried, but inevitably, I have something in my fridge I’d like to use up or I just have to add another vegetable or spice or maybe I should try increasing the temperature by another 25 degrees?

Actually, I think the only modification I made here was to use a bit of homemade chicken stock with the water. Also, I canned tomatoes myself this fall, so used four pints of home-canned chopped tomatoes. I really enjoyed the recipe. My boyfriend thought it was “very strange” and wasn’t sure he liked “tomato soup that tastes like licorice.” Still, that didn’t seem to stop him from finishing the bowl. Serve with thick slices of toasted wheat levain with fresh avocado spread like butter. The flavors do meld over time, so enjoy a day or two later as it makes a fair bit. I also saved a pint in the freezer for lunch another day.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels Recipe

Makes 6-8 servings

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and thinky sliced
4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Two 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
Sugar, to taste
Red wine vinegar, to taste

1. In a large (5-quart) pot or Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently for another minute or so. Add the thyme and fennel seeds and cook until fragrant, stirring, about 2 minutes.
2. Using your hand to hold back the tomatoes, pour the liquid from the tomato cans into the pot. Stir well. Crush the tomatoes in thier cans, using your hands or a potato masher to tear and mash them into small chunks. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Then fill 1 empty tomato can with cold water and pour it in, too. Bring to a boil. Then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.
3. The soup is ready when the fennel is very tender and a spoonful of the tomatoey broth tastes like a good, full-bodied soup. (If it hasn’t cooked long enough, i twill taste watery and raw, like tomatoes straight from the can.) Add the salt. Taste and adjust as needed. If the tomatoes need a little sweetness, add a pinch or two of sugar. If the soup tastes a little bland, add a small splash of vinegar. I often add a bit of both. Serve hot.

winter tomato stew

Lamb & Flageolets Stew with Cilantro Relish from “Heirloom Beans”

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m enamored with the cookbook, Heirloom Beans. In perusing the recipes, I had to resist bookmarking every other page. Given the cold winter days we’re experiencing in San Francisco right now, somehow a lamb stew seemed to make the most sense, and I knew this meant I could break out the new Le Creuset. I’m embarrassed to admit, however, after all my excitement for cooking with heirloom beans I ended up using cannellini beans that I already had in my pantry. (Hey, I’m trying  to honor my recent vow to use up the stores I already have.) So, I can’t really vouch for the wonder of flageolet beans, although I swear the next time around I will use the beans according to the recipe. After all, what’s better than an excuse to head down to Bi-Rite? (Even more ridiculous is I bought the lamb at Bi-Rite, but didn’t realize they sold Rancho Gordo beans there at the time. Argh!)

Steve Sando has made me reconsider the non-soaking methods of cooking beans. He is a strong proponent of soaking the beans for even an hour before cooking, but recommends 2-6 hours of soaking. Apparently this helps the beans keep their shape, and I figure this guy knows his stuff. I soaked the beans for 5 hours and was very happy with the results. I recommend making this recipe on a weekend snowy/rainy day. First thing in the morning, throw the beans in cold water to soak, catch up on the news and your laundry, start the simmering in the early afternoon, and you’ll be eating a fabulous early dinner.

I usually associate lamb with rosemary or mint, but I was looking forward to trying this recipe since it calls for a cilantro & lemon relish. Intriguing! I wasn’t disappointed. I also sauteed some chopped Swiss chard with shallot and garlic to serve on the side, but ended up adding it right in along with everything else. Since I normally squeeze a touch of lemon on sauteed chard anyway, the flavor profile fit right in with the relish.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolets and Fay’s Relish
Serves 6.

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
2 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder steaks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 pound flageolet beans, rinsed thoroughly and soaked 2-6 hours (can also substitute with cellini or runner cannellini beans)

1. In large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches if necessary, add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning once, until well browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from plate.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add more oil if the vegetables stick and splash of water to help release the browned bits.

3. Add the beans and their soaking water to the pot. bring to a boil, skimming off any impurities that rise the top, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the beans and lamb are tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Fay’s Relish Ingredients:
1 large bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 medium shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To make the relish: In a small bowl, stir together the cilantro, shallot, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil.

Remove the lamb from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces, trimming off excess fat and removing the bones. If you prefer a thicker stew, transfer 1 cup of beans and broth to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and return to the pot. Return the lamb to the pot, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes and adjust the seasonings.

Serve in warmed shallow bowls and garnish with the relish.

For the sauteed Swiss chard:
1 bunch Swiss chard, thoroughly cleaned, de-stemmed and leaves cut into small pieces
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
Splash of fresh lemon juice

Directions: Heat olive oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic briefly, 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Mix in the chard well into the oil and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened, but still bright, dark green. When cooked, remove from heat and push chard to the side, squeezing and pouring out excess water. Season well with salt and pepper and a splash of lemon juice. Serve on the side or mix into serving bowls of stew.

Prather Ranch Spring Lamb with Flageolet Beans

Prather Ranch Lamb with Flageolet Heirloom Beans