Category Archives: Summer

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

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.

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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

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

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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!

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SLOW ROASTED TOMATOES

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!)

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

Directions:
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.

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Simple Summer Garden Salad for a Light Lunch

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Ingredients:
– Handful of mixed lettuce and large leaf arugula
– Red and sun gold cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
– 1 small or 1/2 large jalapeno, coarsely chopped, somewhat de-seeded
– Warmed pinto or Rio Zape Heirloom Beans
– Crumbled feta or cotija cheese
– Olive oil
– Kosher salt & black pepper

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Directions:
1. Gather vegetables from the garden. Clean and dry thoroughly in strainer or salad spinner.
2. Slice & chop vegetables.
3. Place lettuce pieces on plate. Lightly toss with a pinch of kosher salt. Add cherry tomatoes and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top.
4. Place ~1/2 cup warmed beans (strained with slotted spoon) next to lettuce.
5. Add jalapeno over the top and sprinkle with cheese and black pepper.
6. Serve immediately.

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Pot o’ Beans for Salads and Tacos

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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.

Ingredients:
– 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

Directions:
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.

Quick, Easy Breakfast – Fried Egg with Arugula and Kalamata Olives

Fried Egg with Arugula and Kalamata Olives

Spring is in full swing, and the arugula is growing like a weed on my deck garden. My new favorite (and quick) breakfast is a fried egg on arugula. Every morning I go out and pick 5-6 or the largest leaves, clean & dry them thoroughly, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Chop 2-3 pitted kalamata olives and fry a fresh market egg (1-2 minutes) to put on top. Easy, simple and delicious!

Arugula Growing in the Deck Garden

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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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

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