Category Archives: Snack

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.

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

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

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

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



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.

A New Favorite- Chick Pea Salad

Chick Pea SaladI had something like this chick pea salad at ‘wichcraft, a lunch spot in San Francisco at Mission and 5th Streets downtown. I was bewitched. Here’s my version- it’s my new lunch obsession.

Garbanzo Beans

Serves 2.

olive oil
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 shallots or 1 small red onion, chopped finely
1 large garlic clove, minced
2-3 celery sticks, cleaned, halved lengthwise and sliced
2-3 shakes ground coriander (~1/2 teaspoon)
2-3 shakes ground cumin (~1/2 teaspoon)
1 pint cooked garbanzo beans, about two cups (or 1 – 14oz can chick peas, drained & thoroughly rinsed)
juice of one meyer lemon
kosher salt & pepper
2 (generous) Tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro or parsley (I use both.)

Saute chick peas with shallots and celeryDirections:
1) Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in small saucepan. Add pinch of cayenne pepper.
2) On medium heat, saute the shallots & celery for 1-2 minutes or so until slightly softened.
3) Add the garlic and stir, cooking for another minute or so. Add the cumin and coriander. Stir and add a touch more olive oil.
4) Stir in the chick peas and mix thoroughly.
5) Mix in fresh juice of 1/2 lemon. Generously sprinkle with kosher salt. Taste. Stir and repeat with second half of lemon or adjust to taste.
6) Add a bit of freshly ground pepper if desired. Stir in chopped cilantro & parsley and serve immediately, slightly warm.

This chick pea salad is great on its own as a side or I often serve it on top of a tossed salad. See below.

Chick Peas with Mixed Greens SaladGarbanzo Beans salad for lunchIngredients:
Mixed greens or arugula (2-3 cups), cleaned and dry
Crumbled goat cheese (feta would work too)
One green onion, sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced
for dressing: kosher salt, olive oil, & red wine vinegar

1) Place greens in a bowl. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and then drizzle a bit of olive oil over the leaves. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and toss to coat evenly.
2) Add goat cheese, green onion, avocado and a mound of chick pea salad on top.
3) Lunchtime!

Note: I prefer to use dried garbanzo beans. After soaking & cooking the chick peas, I put them in pint mason jars and stash them in the freezer to use as needed.

Chick Peas on Arugula Salad

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

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

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

More White Bean Quesadillas and the Open Faced Brunch Quesadilla

Open Face Quesadilla with white beans and egg

Since I had all these homemade flour tortillas on hand, not to mention white beans (have I mentioned those?), I went into a quesadilla frenzy. My new favorite: the open faced quesadilla with a fried egg on top. I think of it as kin to huevos rancheros. I had some leftover sauteed vegetables and black rice that I threw in the mix for the “filling.” If I’d had tomatillo sauce on hand to drizzle on top, that would have even better!

With the open face, I usually heat up the tortilla for 1 minute first, then flip it, and place the ingredients on the hot side. Then back in the pan, heat it again, open face up, covered, for ~1 minute. Serve it with a fried or poached egg on top.

Pictured above: Open faced quesadilla with avocado, white beans, sauteed spinach and zucchini, tomato and black rice with fried egg.

Pictured below: Open faced quesadilla with white beans, sauteed onion and chard, and gruyere with fried egg. Sort of like a little pizza.

Homemade tortilla with white beans, chard and fried egg

Yet another open-faced, pizza-style version with white beans, sauteed onion, jalapeno, and chopped spinach with tomatoes and goat cheese.

Quesadilla with white beans, spinach and goat cheese

Then with “salad on top”: arugula with a light vinagrette dressing.

Quesadilla topped with arugula

Aaaaand, another full-fledged quesadilla with white beans, avocado and cheese. Mmm.. (Amazing how far 12 tortillas will take you!)

White bean and avocado quesadilla

Sweet Potato, White Bean, Zucchini and Chard Quesadillas with Homemade Tortillas

Sweet Potato and White Bean Quesadilla

Given my recent infatuation with white beans and homemade flour tortillas, it seemed natural to combine the two. I decided it’d be fun to make quesadillas using mashed sweet potato as a complement to the white beans, along with chard for health and zucchini for a little crunch. Yum.

Makes enough ingredients for 2-3 quesadillas.

1 large or two small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 large leaves swiss chard, cleaned, stems removed and leaves chopped
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4- 1/2 cup cooked white beans
Handful of fresh thyme
Flour tortillas, preferably homemade
Jack cheese (grated), queso fresco or feta
Salt and pepper

1. Steam the sweet potato until soft. Mash until more or less smooth. Meanwhile, heat white beans on stove top or microwave. (If you haven’t made a batch from dried beans, you could use canned cannellini beans- rinse first before heating.)

2. Heat medium sized fry pan or cast iron pan with a teaspoon of oil. Saute onion until softening, about 5 minutes. Saute chard until cooked, 6-10 minutes. Add zucchini and saute about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Set vegetables aside in separate bowl. Wipe out pan and coat with small bit of oil.

3. Place a flour tortilla on a plate. Spread sweet potato in a thin layer covering the entire tortilla. Next add white beans, lightly mashing into the sweet potato. Add the vegetable mix, a dash of salt, generous fresh cracked pepper and thyme and finish with cheese of your choice. Place second tortilla over the top.

4. Heat pan on high heat until hot, 1 minute or so. Place tortilla in pan and cover, reducing heat to medium high. Cook 1 minute, then carefully flip using a large spatula and cook 1 more minute, again covered.

5. Place quesadilla on plate and cut into 4 equal pieces, and serve hot.

Sweet Potato, white bean and chard quesadilla