burrata and pesca ‘peach’ salad

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My mom passed this scrumptious recipe on to me after attending a cooking class last weekend. She filled my inbox with a stream of images from the yummy dishes they were sampling and raved about this particular recipe so I couldn’t resist making it for myself.

As usual, my mom was right. The Burrata and Pesca is a blissful combination of “light and fresh,” ideal for the blazing hot days of August. Served on a simple white platter, all I can think of is “summer on a plate,” with the vibrant color, drizzles of flavor and variety of tastes. I loved the salad so much, I made it twice this week and it’s already on the menu for the weekend. Enjoy!

Ingredients
1 round of Burrata cheese (sliced)
2 fresh yellow peaches
1-2 Tb toasted Hazelnuts
1-2 Tb balsamic reduction (see easy recipe below)
4 cups wild arugula
2 Tb olive oil (1/2 to marinate the peaches and 1/2 to drizzle over the Burrata)
Black pepper and salt to taste
3 Tb lemon olive oil (2 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb fresh lemon juice combined)

Balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice swirl together in a perfect touch of flavor

Balsamic reduction, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice layer in a perfect pattern of flavor

 

Directions
Cut the yellow peaches into wedges and marinate with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. In a flat griddle or non-stick saute pan, sear the peaches for a few minutes or until golden brown.

Place the peaches in a metal bowl and add the lemon olive oil and arugula and mix together gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the salad on a nice platter, making sure to display the peaches. Place the Burrata across the top of the salad. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and the balsamic reduction. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.

Toasted hazelnuts lend a subtle rich nuttiness to the light and fresh flavors

Toasted hazelnuts lend a subtle rich nuttiness to the light and fresh taste

Easy Balsamic Reduction
Combine 1 cup Balsamic vinegar and 1 Tb sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid will reduce by about half.

Remove saucepan from heat and sauce will thicken as it cools.

What do you do with the extra balsamic glaze? Whatever you want! Drizzle on vanilla bean ice cream, on fresh heirloom tomatoes, on salads, on fresh fruit; especially strawberries or as a finishing glaze on chicken, steak and seafood.

The presentation couldn't be more appealing - summer on a plate

The presentation couldn’t be more appealing – SUMMER ON A PLATE

Recipe compliments of Canaletto Restaurant, Newport Beach, CA.

slow cooker chicken curry

Delicious combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking

“It’s a delectable combination of flavors from hours of slow cooking”

Mid-week is here again and this is the perfect quick recipe for a crazy week and an unusually chilly day here in Southern California. The prep time is nothing (10 to 15 minutes) and it will be so relaxing to pull in from an afternoon of carpooling and smell the scent of this yumminess wafting through the house. My husband seems really doubtful about the “yum” factor of this meal as he’s not a big fan of curry (guess I missed that memo; it’s only been 21 years). However, the curry powder is far from overpowering and simply enhances the overall flavor of the dish.

The original recipe, which I stumbled upon, came from the luscious food blog The Lemon Bowl. I changed my version up just a bit but the sauce base is essentially the same and works well in lending creaminess to the dish while accommodating your own “food edits,” such as adding different veggies, substituting shrimp or tofu in place of the chicken or adding it alongside the chicken for extra protein, flavor and creativity.

Ingredients
1 package organic boneless, skinless chicken breast (equals about 1.5 to 1.7 pounds)
1 onion thinly sliced (my mandolin made this a tear-free one minute process)
1, 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 package pre-cut sweet potatoes (I cut the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces but they were already peeled which made my prep fast)
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets, broken into small pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
1 can Dole crushed pineapple
3/4 cup light Coconut milk
3/4 cup Swanson’s chicken stock
1, 15 ounce can tomato sauce
2 Tb melted butter
2 Tb curry powder
1/2 tsp Red Curry Paste (if you like spice-optional)
1 cup of green peas, frozen
1 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional toppings: crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

A bowl of healthy and delicious comfort

Directions
1. In the bottom of your crock pot combine the coconut milk, chicken stock, tomato sauce, melted butter, curry powder, curry paste and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined.
2. Add the chicken breasts, onion, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, cauliflower florets and broccoli florets.
3. Gently mix ingredients together so everything is fully coated with the sauce.
4. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
5. Once finished cooking, remove chicken breasts to cutting board and shred or cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to curry mixture and stir.
6. Add peas and lemon juice and stir. Let sit for 5 to 10 more minutes.
7. Add the Dole crushed pineapple to a small sauce pan and warm over high for 5 minutes.
8. Add cooked white rice to the bottom of each individual serving bowl.
9. Add a small layer of the cooked pineapple (optional).
10. Spoon chicken curry mixture on top.
11. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, parsley, toasted coconut or crispy chow mein sticks.

*This flexible recipe can be made with tofu and veggies for a vegetarian option. If you’re not a fan of white rice, serve the curry mixture over quinoa, gluten free noodles or completely on its own if you are watching your carb intake.

alice’s stuffing

IMG_6204I love holiday recipes that have a life of their own brimming with history, insight and love. This cherished Thanksgiving recipe was shared by one of my dear friends, Annie-Laurie.

Annie-Laurie married into an Irish family of five, with her husband being the baby and the only boy. From day one, the family scooped her up into their holiday traditions and high-spirited meals. I’ve heard her recount many years of endearing holiday stories…turkey cook-offs, taking turns around the table saying what each person is thankful for, piano playing and singing and a bevy of games from Catch Phrase to Pictionary.

Annie-Laurie’s first Thanksgiving with her husband’s family was 25 years ago. Both of her in-laws have passed on but imprinted onto their family treasured customs that the family shares in, especially during this time of year.

This is Annie-Laurie’s favorite recipe from her mother-in-law, Alice. In reminiscing about Thanksgiving with Alice, she said, “Alice made everything from scratch and she did it so well. The whole meal was ready at the same time. She would always want us to take our time and enjoy it because it took an entire day to prepare. My sister-in-law, Beth, has followed in her footsteps and makes the Thanksgiving meal a treat. Next week we will have Alice’s stuffing and I will savor every mouthful.”

Counterclockwise: Alice's recipe in her own writing. she and husband Jack in the early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s

Clockwise: Alice’s recipe in her own writing. She and husband Jack in their early years. Sitting down to Thanksgiving in the early 80s.

Recipes aren’t just instructions on a page; they connect families and friends to the past the present and the future. A special recipe holds purpose and love and the ability to tell a family’s story from generation to generation. The love of those we miss comes alive with each ingredient we add and with each bite we take. Ask your friends about their favorite family recipes and you will be sure to not only get a delicious new dish to make but insight into the love of family that connects us all.

Alice’s Stuffing is meant to cook inside the turkey. See below for a second version that omits a few ingredients and cooks outside of the bird.

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with fresh ingredients

Fresh, cubed bread, ready to be mixed with celery, onions and herbs

Ingredients
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups diced celery
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
16 cups lightly packed fresh bread cubes
3 eggs lightly beaten

Fresh, wholesome food

A simple recipe using the freshest ingredients

Directions (about 40 minutes before adding to the turkey)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, in hot butter or margarine, cook celery and onions until tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add parsley, salt, poultry seasoning and pepper; mix well. Stir in bread cubes and eggs and mix well. Makes enough stuffing for one 8 to 11 pound turkey.

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Use a pretty casserole dish for stuffing that bakes outside of the turkey

Crumbly Bread Stuffing
For stuffing cooked outside of the turkey, prepare as above but use only 3/4 cup butter and omit the eggs. Cook in a lightly buttered casserole dish on 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes.

 

sweet potato soufflé

IMG_6060I asked a few of my best friends for their favorite family Thanksgiving recipe. My friend Lisa, always supportive of everything her friends do, sent me this recipe from her husband’s southern Georgia family. I made the dish (fluffy sweetness and savory scrumptiousness all in one bite), took pictures and sat down to write about it. It took me back to how Lisa and I became friends.

It was my first day of second grade at a new school. I was sporting a Dorothy Hamill pixie cut and wearing a light blue puffy jacket from JCPenney (my sister and I had matching ones). I was assigned to a square table of four with Lisa sitting next to me. She showed me where the drinking fountain was and we have been friends ever since. We survived the many adventures of grade school and then, all girls Catholic high school. We have shared the stages of life that only lifelong friendships can – homecoming dances, football games, big 80s style hair, cramming for exams, parties, sneaking out, graduation, college, concerts, careers, trips, marriage, babies, birthdays, book clubs, cooking clubs, illness, death and everything in between.

Friends since age seven... All the beautiful (and not so beautiful stages)...

Friends since age seven… All the beautiful (and not so beautiful stages)…

Friendships are like good recipes. They bring comfort, fulfillment, love and deliciousness to your life every day. This recipe is as good as the girl it came from (thanks, Lis!). Lisa adjusts the recipe for her son’s food allergies so you can also enjoy the same yumminess in a Gluten free and Dairy free version.

Ingredients
3 cups sweet potatoes, baked and mashed (approximately two large sweet potatoes)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Crumbled topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter

Crumbled topping of pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter


Topping
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter, melted

*For a Gluten Free and Dairy Free version use the following:
Non-dairy butter (Earth Balance)
Gluten Free flour
Vanilla Almond milk (in place of the evaporated milk)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, butter and vanilla until well blended. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Mix the pecans, flour, brown sugar and melted butter and sprinkle over the entire top of the sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Golden brown and cripsy crust just out of the oven

Golden brown and cripsy crust just out of the oven

You can make the Sweet Potato Souffle a day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate. To serve, simply bring it to room temperature and bake. The souffle also makes for great leftovers.

Use a large sweet potato and leaf-shaped cookie cutter top embellish soufflé on your Thanksgiving table

Use a large sweet potato and leaf-shaped cookie cutter to embellish soufflé on your Thanksgiving table with “Sweet Potato Leaves”

caramelized garlic tart

IMG_5455Whenever I buy a new cookbook or rip through a fresh- in-my-mailbox magazine, I dog ear pages like crazy, making notes left and right. I have a laundry list of creative endeavors I aspire to accomplish. I often find, however, that I get sidetracked – it’s an ongoing problem I call multi-tasking max out.

I recently rifled through the robustly colorful cookbook, PLENTYnamed by Amazon Editors’ as a “Favorite Book of the Year” for 2014. The award winning chef and food writer, Yotam Ottolenghi has been described as “the man who made vegetables sexy.” I wanted to find something scrumptious to make for a Labor Day party and this tart was the ticket. While there are PLENTY of steps to making this light puff of a pastry, the process is simple. Just allow enough time for preparation and avoid cramming it in between Sunday Church, football, laundry and walking the dog.

A Beautiful Cover Always Grabs My Attention

A beautiful book cover always grabs my attention

With Thanksgiving looming, the versatility of the Carmelized Garlic Tart can double as an elegant #thanksgivingappetizer or #thanksgivingvegetariandish. The tart can be made a day ahead and then reheated before serving. I love recipes that allow for something special and beautiful on the plate without requiring you to sweat it out in your heels and party clothes minutes before your guests arrive.

Ingredients
13 oz all-butter puff pastry
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 Tb olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
¾ Tb sugar
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp chopped thyme, plus a few whole sprigs to finish
4 ¼ oz creamy goat cheese (such as chevre)
4 ¼ oz hard, mature goat cheese (such as goat gouda)
2 eggs
6 1/2 Tb heavy cream
6 1/2 Tb crème fraîche
black pepper

Directions
Have ready a shallow, loose-bottomed, 11-inch fluted tart pan (I bought a new pan from Bed, Bath & Beyond by Wilton). Roll out the puff pastry into a circle that will line the bottom and sides of the pan, plus a little extra. Line the pan with the pastry. Place a large circle of greaseproof paper on the bottom and fill up with baking beans or pie weights. Leave to rest in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tart pan in the oven and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans/weights and paper, then bake for 5-10 minutes longer, or until the pastry is golden. Set aside. Leave the oven on.

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

A light and golden crust ready to be filled with scrumptiousness

While the tart shell is baking, make the caramelized garlic. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a simmer and blanch for 3 minutes, then drain well. Dry the saucepan, return the cloves to it and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic cloves on high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, rosemary, chopped thyme and ¼ teaspoon salt. Continue simmering on a medium flame for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark caramel syrup. Set aside.

 

Garlic caramelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

Garlic carmelizing with fresh herbs, sugar and balsamic vinegar

To assemble the tart, break both types of goat’s cheese into pieces and scatter in the pastry case. Spoon the garlic cloves and syrup evenly over the cheese.

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

Carmelized garlic+syrup+cheeses make the filling

In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, creams, ½ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour this custard over the tart filling to fill the gaps, making sure that you can still see the garlic and cheese over the surface. Reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees and place the tart inside.

After light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

The light, whipped custard is poured into the shell with the filling still showing through

 

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Warm from the oven, browned and golden

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Then lift the bottom of the tart pan away from the side and trim the pastry edge if needed. Lay a few sprigs of thyme on top and serve warm.
As a reminder, the tart can be made a day ahead and reheated before serving.

Slice and serve

Slice and serve

Recipe from PLENTY, by Yotam Ottolenghi.

bulgur and citrus side dish or salad

Summer has arrived in Florida, and each day I’m trying to come up with something light and refreshing for my family’s dinner plate. This dish can be served as a side dish to a piece of grilled meat or just as a salad. I am lucky enough to have citrus trees in my yard, so I use them when making this delicious citrus dressing. Since I am in “packing mode” for our move back to California, I made a big batch of this to munch on while packing boxes. It’s versatile, uniquely refreshing, and a recipe I will definitely put in my recipe box. 

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Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1- 1/2 Tb honey
1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste
5 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup bulgur
1-1/2 cups boiling water
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 finely grated carrot
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 Tb chopped fresh parsley
3 green onions, sliced thin

Directions:
Prepare the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the bulgur. Place the bulgur in a heat-prof dish or small saucepan. Pour the boiling water over the bulgur and let it stand for 10 minutes, until tender but firm. Drain water from bulgur and fluff with a fork.

Add the celery, carrots, currants, sunflower seeds, green onion and parsley, tossing to distribute evenly. Pour the dressing over the bulgur, stirring until evenly mixed. Salt to taste and serve. Serves:4

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star noodle

A MUST visit on Maui

A MUST visit on Maui

Our family just returned from a blissful ten day vacation on the island of Maui, or as I call it, “Maui by fork!” We love our food and have our favorites but we branched out this trip and discovered some new favorites (see previous post on Leodas). You know a restaurant is good when you feel compelled to visit it twice on the same vacation. “We ARE going to Star Noodle again, right?” said my kids.  And so we did.

Star Noodle is nestled at the top of a hill in a nondescript business park – the major landmarks being a church and an outdoor Flying Trapeze studio. The benign exterior gives way to a light and lively interior anchored by a full-service bar offering sake and daily specialty cocktails as well as a long communal table bustling with different groups of locals and tourists. The place is jammed. The vibe is inviting. Their style of food is simple but long on flavor and creativity, “Serving Fresh House made Noodles & Asian Specialties.”

Culinary Bliss Awaits

Culinary Bliss Awaits

 The first time we went to Star Noodle we arrived at the height of lunch hour and waited 30 minutes, which gave my mom and I time to sip on the cocktail of the day featuring some sort of muddled native herb, Absolut Citron vodka and Diamond sake. If you are a “need it now, instant gratification” type, you can call ahead to put your name on the wait list or you can order from Starstruck, the restaurant’s food truck parked adjacent to the restaurant, offering a modified menu and a few picnic tables for eating.

Starstruck Food Truck Lead

We feasted on food that can only be described as intoxicating. Apparently, we were eating so enthusiastically that the couple next to us commented (out loud) that we were scarfing.” Of course, we struck up a conversation and compared notes and restaurants as they were visiting from New York for the first time.

Cocktail of the day: Asian Pear muddled in Pear vodka+Diamond Sake+Lime Sour

Our Cocktail of the day on the second visit: Asian Pear muddled in Pear vodka+Diamond Sake+Lime Sour

I’ll let the pictures do the talking, but if you find yourself visiting the island of Maui, find yourself visiting “Star Noodle.” Some things you have to experience for yourself and this is one of them. And let’s not overlook the restaurant’s moniker that says it all – S-T-A-R!

 

Pohole Salad: Hana Fiddle Fern, Maui Onion, Ebi & Kombu

Pohole Salad: Hana Fiddle Fern, Maui Onion, Shrimp, Ebi & Kombu (my kids loved this so much we had two orders)

 

Steamed Pork Buns: Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin, Shiitake, Cucumber

Steamed Pork Buns: Duroc Pressed Pork, Hoisin, Shiitake, Cucumber (dreaming of these)

 

Scallop Shooters: Wafu Dashi, Ginger, Scallion, Lemon EVOO (ahhhmazing)

Scallop Shooters: Wafu Dashi, Ginger, Scallion, Lemon EVOO (ahhhmazing)

 

Chicken Satay

Yakitori: Chicken, Teriyaki Glaze, Scallion, Sesame Seeds

 

Organic Buckwheat Soba: Daikon, Wasabi, Scallion, Ginger, Tsuyu (served cold; refreshing, delicious and healthy)

Organic Buckwheat Soba: Daikon, Wasabi, Scallion, Ginger, Tsuyu (served cold; refreshing, delicious and healthy)

 

Pad Thai Lead

Pad Thai: Rice Noodles, Chicken, Shrimp, Egg, Peanuts, Garlic and Chives

 

Garlic noodles

Garlic Noodles: Fresh & Fried Garlic, Dashi, Green Onion

 

Malasada3

Malasadas: Portuguese Inspired Doughnuts Served with Chocolate and Caramel Sauces and Macadamia Nuts

These were some of our favorites after two visits but the Star Noodle menu is extensive and varied. There is something for everyone!

Entertaining Ourselves While Waiting for A Table

Entertaining ourselves while waiting for a table

 

Simple artwork and a clean decor make Star Noodle all about the FOOD

Simple artwork and a clean decor make Star Noodle all about the FOOD

Star Noodle can be found at 286 Kupuohi Street, Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 92761
(808) 667-5400

vegetable lasagna

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I am always looking for meals that will feed a crowd. My husband and I enjoy having our friends over with their kids for dinner, so recipes that please the young and the old (well not so old…ha ha) come in handy.While most lasagna recipes are pasta noodles layered with beef, cheese and marinara sauce, this lasagna recipe is completely different. I used the vegetables that I had on hand, but you can substitute any of your favorites. This is a crowd pleaser, and I promise you won’t miss the meat. Greek Salad (found under our recipe tab), makes a tasty accompaniment to this main course.

Ingredients
Cooking spray
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (5 cups)
2 (8-ounce) packages of pre sliced baby portabella mushrooms
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1- 1/2 cups fat-free ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg
5 cups Mezzetta Homemade Marinara, divided (or any other marinara)
12 precooked lasagna noodles (can use gluten free)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with 2 Tb olive oil. Add bell peppers, onion, zucchini, and mushrooms; sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and mushroom liquid evaporates. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds.

Combine 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and egg, stirring well.

Spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; top with three noodles. Spoon 1 cup marinara evenly over noodles. Top evenly with one-third of ricotta mixture and one-third vegetable mixture. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Top with remaining one cup of marinara. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and remaining 1/4 Parmesan. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Compliments: MyRecipes.com

PicMonkey Collage

roasted butternut squash soup with leeks

Butternut Squash Soup LeadIngredients
2 to 2 1/2 pounds roasted Butternut squash
3 Tb butter
2 leeks; white and soft green parts, diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cut up Granny Smith Apple
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
sprinkle of thyme

Optional toppings
sour cream, chives, basil and bacon

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and remove seeds and string (you can speed up the process at this point by placing squash cut side up in a microwave safe dish and cooking on high for 12 to 15 minutes).

For roasting, drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper. Roast uncovered for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly, remove skin and cube.

Butternut Squash 2

In a stockpot, melt butter and sauté leeks for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients and puree with an immersion blender. Let simmer for about 20 minutes and serve with condiments.

To save time
1. Purchase bag of Butternut squash already cubed and ready to be roasted or microwaved. I like the Butternut Squash found at Trader Joe’s.

2. Roast Butternut squash in advance so it is ready to be pureed when you are ready.

This recipe is compliments of our Gluten-Free friend Sarah!

 

WOW4

 

panna cotta

Lead Panna CottaI am not a fan of anything with milk. I blame it on a bad childhood experience (enough said). So when Christi showed up to our dinner party with Panna Cotta, I already knew there was no way the beautiful dessert was going to pass my lips. I mean look at some of the ingredients – skim milk and heavy cream – that was two strikes right there. But, Christi in her persuasiveness insisted the dessert was amazingly delicious. Against my better judgment and knowing I wouldn’t like it, I took the tiniest of bites. “Yes, Christi…I WAS WRONG and YOU WERE RIGHT.” No milky taste to the Panna Cotta at all – just a light and sweet fluffiness enhanced  by a touch of honey and tangy berries.

Serve this elegant dessert as the final course to complement our rustic Italian holiday menu. It can be made in advance so you can actually enjoy an evening NOT spent entirely in the kitchen.

Ingredients

1/3 cup skim milk
1 (.25 ounce) envelope unflavored gelatin
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
honey
fresh raspberries and blueberries

Panna Cotta 2

Directions
Pour milk into a small bowl and stir in the gelatin powder. Set aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the heavy cream and sugar, and place over medium heat. Bring cream and sugar to a boil, stirring slightly. Pour the gelatin and milk mixture into the cream, stirring thoroughly until completely dissolved. Cook for one minute or so, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour into 5 or 6 individual ramekin dishes.

Cool the ramekins, uncovered, at room temperature. When completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours but, ideally, overnight before serving.

Just before serving, drizzle honey in a cross-pattern and top with fresh berries.

*Double the recipe to make 10-12 ramekins

farm-to-table heirloom tomato marinara sauce

Lead Heirloom TomatoEverything about this sauce is good for your body– farm fresh Heirloom tomatoes (cancer fighting, low in calories), kale (superfood packed with enough nutrients to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet), parsley (often overlooked as just a garnish, it is a powerhouse of nutrients) and fennel (at its peak from fall to early spring; it is crunchy and sweet with an abundance of phytonutrients).

And everything about this sauce is good for your taste buds. I enjoy wandering through my local farm stand [South Coast Farms] hoping the vivid colors and freshness of the fruits and veggies will light up the think tank in my head. On this particular day, the Heirloom tomatoes filled every corner of a wooden table with hues of reds and yellows and greens. I loaded up my wicker farm stand basket with tomatoes and other veggies and headed home envisioning a bubbling marinara on the stove.

Heirloom Farm Collage

Trust me, I am not one to skimp on taste for health. I try to eat healthy but love food and the creativity of new flavors. The first time I made this marinara, I also made Ina Garten’s Rosemary Polenta to go alongside. No calories were saved (hello butter) but together the flavors came together for a beautiful meal.

Next week, Cashmere Apron is going to hit on some simple entertaining ideas for the hustle-bustle of the holiday season. Look for this sauce to make a re-appearance in a rustic holiday menu for 10.

Heirloom Tomato On Its Own

Ingredients
7 large organic Heirloom tomatoes
4 Tb olive oil, divided
1/2 Tb Kosher salt
Cracked fresh pepper
1/4 cup fennel, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 medium leek, diced
1/2 cup diced organic parsley
1/2 cup diced organic kale
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 large shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1-1/2 tsp Cumin
1 stick unsalted butter
3 Tb Pale Dry Sherry
2, 15 ounce cans organic tomato sauce
1, 6 ounce can tomato paste

Directions
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Roughly chop the Heirloom tomatoes and fit onto baking tray (it’s fine to squeeze them in). Drizzle the tomatoes with 2 Tb olive oil and the 1/2 Tb Kosher salt. Sprinkle lightly with freshly cracked pepper. Put baking sheet in oven and roast tomatoes for 30 to 35 minutes.

IMG_6271

While tomatoes are roasting, chop, mince and dice the remaining ingredients so they are ready to go when the tomatoes come out of the oven.

Once tomatoes have roasted for approximately 35 minutes, remove from oven and let sit. Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat with the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil. Once butter is melted add sherry and stir lightly. Add fennel, carrot, leeks, shallot, garlic, jalapeño and cumin and sauté for approximately 5 minutes. Add kale, parsley and basil and sauté for 2 more minutes until fully blended.

To the Dutch oven add the roasted tomatoes along with the natural tomato liquid that collects beneath the tomatoes when they are in the oven. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste to the mixture and stir all of the ingredients together thoroughly.

With an immersion blender on medium speed, gradually blend the roasted Heirloom tomatoes in the Dutch oven. Blend the Heirloom tomatoes until the sauce is a smoother texture. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for at least 90 minutes.

I have always made this sauce a day in advance which seems to let the flavors meld together even better. This recipe makes enough for eight to ten people+ left-overs. Serve separately as a soup, mix in with quinoa, enjoy over pasta, spread over a grilled steak, use as a pizza sauce…the options are infinite!

 

cauliflower cakes with herb sauce

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I seem to like everything that has the word cake in it…. crab cake, hostess cupcake and pancake.  This meal is no different. I like to shake things up a bit and challenge my family to a meatless dinner. When I do, this is one of their favorites.

Cake Ingredients:
12 ounces cauliflower florets
1 (10-ounce) peeled baking potato, cut into 6 wedges
2 large shallots, halved lengthwise
1- 1/2 Tb olive oil
2 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko crumbs, lightly toasted
2 Tb Parmesan cheese, grated

Sauce Ingredients:
2 Tb light sour cream
2 Tb mayonnaise
2 tsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tsp. minced fresh chives
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup halved grape tomato
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

To prepare the cakes, place the cauliflower, potato, and shallots on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1-1/2 Tb oil over vegetables; toss. Bake at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Place cauliflower mixture in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until chopped. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add fontina, thyme, salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, and egg, stirring well.

Combine panko and Parmesan in a shallow dish. Using wet hands, shape cauliflower mixture into 8 ( 1-inch-thick) patties; dredge in panko mixture. Place patties on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until browned, turning once.

To prepare sauce, combine sour cream and next 5 ingredients in a small bowl.

To prepare salad, combine arugula, tomatoes, 2 tsp. olive oil, and juice; toss well to coat. Place 1 cup of the salad onto each of 4 plates and top with 2 cauliflower cakes. Add a dollop of herb sauce to the very top. Serves:4 Compliments: Cooking Light