Spring farmers’ markets and produce stores are so wonderful to peruse and fill our bags and baskets with their deliciousness. Finally, fresh choices other than kale, cabbage and iceberg lettuce! Everything is green and fresh — lettuces, baby spinach, leeks, garlic shoots, baby carrots, English peas, snap peas, asparagus, fava beans, even little zucchinis and squash blossoms. Woo-hoo! Sadly, some things are harder to find, specifically artichokes. This is a big blow for people like me who adore them. The problem? A lack of bio-diversity.
While a chilly winter day complete with snow flurries is thrilling in November or December, by March who needs it, especially a late season blizzard or ice storm! And it isn’t just the weather. Market produce looks tired (except for the kale and cabbage), and finding good lettuce can be a fantasy . While I now live near America’s “salad bowl,” I was born in Cleveland, so I know how winter can drag on and on.
Food history is always fascinating. It’s like an archeology dig that you can then eat. My mother made Chicken Tetrazzini for dinner when I was growing up and it was a favorite of mine because it was the right kind of cozy on a cold, wet winter night. It’s an ideal recipe to use up leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken (or turkey), which was precisely why I just made it again for the first time in ages. It is also an incredibly wet, dreary February so it served as a useful way to warm my body and spirit as well as warming my kitchen and office thanks to the oven.
While perusing Food 52’s weekly recipes for inspiration recently, there was a post for Mushrooms Bourguignon. I was planning a New Year’s Eve dinner for friends and wanted an elegant option for my vegan friends. What could be more elegant than a variety of meaty mushrooms in a flavorful, dressed-up sauce?
Thanksgiving’s over and you’ve eaten all you can stand of turkey “sundaes” and turkey sandwiches. I know it’s hard to have enough of all the sides and turkey with gravy, but just in case you’ve had one too many days of leftovers or, if you love turkey and want another easy-to-assemble, delicious turkey option, this recipe is for you!
In 1985 Greg Reynolds, who at the time worked for a catering service in Half Moon Bay, became enthusiastic about playing with sauces using vanilla. His enthusiasm was spurred by my telling him a bit about vanilla’s history as well as my handing him a handful of vanilla beans. Not long after he invited me to try the following sauce. It immediately became one of my go-to sauces to use on poached chicken and roasted vegetables. Later, I added it as a finishing sauce for grilled meats.
Commercial salmon season just opened on the California Coast. Sport fishing for salmon has been open for several weeks now and a friend of mine who crews on a few sailboats out of Moss Landing has shared both the prized Dungeness crabs and fresh salmon fillets from her friends at the harbor. In exchange, I’ve sent fresh pineapple upside-down cake back to her friends as a small thank you. What I’ve found is that those who fish love freshly baked desserts. Works well for all of us!
I’m currently enamored with the combination of pomegranate molasses, Mediterranean spices and ground vanilla beans. Sweet, tart, salty, savory. With a fast turn of the wrist you can make a “same old” weeknight meal into an “oh yeah!” dinner. This recipe is liberally adapted from Sunset Magazine. They also used carrots but I think Maui or cippolini onion chunks, or sweet potatoes would be dynamite thrown into the pot with or without the carrots. I had asparagus roasting on the rack above the chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how well it blended, but I wish I’d also had some potatoes roasting too. In other words, adapt, adapt, adapt. I’m thinking pork chops or even pork tenderloin would soak in all this juicy goodness. What about you?
One of the pluses about living on the Central California coast is the fresh fish! I live down the street from a couple of fishermen and occasionally I go out on the Bay with them, though I admit, it’s more for the boat ride and being on the water than it is for the fishing. What I’ve learned as they’ve reeled the fish in, is that the markets use names like “snapper” and “cod” when the fish is actually one of the many varieties of rock fish. I mention this because it really doesn’t matter what firm-fleshed white fish you use to make this and many other fish dishes. It’s more about choosing fresh fish that ideally is also sustainable. If you are concerned about what fish to choose regarding sustainability, check fishwatch.gov.
Living in the heart of artichoke country, we get the delicious thistles in all sizes nearly year ’round. However, late March through May and then again in September, are the two big harvest periods when the artichokes are at their most plentiful and the prices are good. Until relatively recently, artichokes were mainly enjoyed here in California; fortunately they’re now available all through the States and most people have enjoyed an artichoke or two (or more) just about everywhere. Prepared properly, they are so delicious and fun to eat as well.
If you are unfamiliar with tagines but enjoy trying new recipes are up for exotic flavors, you are in for a treat. The richness and depth of flavor as well as the interesting pairing of ingredients are truly a sensory delight.
Tagines (also spelled tajines) are North Africa’s version of stew, the mainstay and comfort food of people everywhere. The Berbers of North Africa gave the world tagines as well as cous cous; in Morocco, the tagine is both daily food and edible art.
Whenever I prepare a really good stir-fry or have one at a restaurant or a friend’s home, I’m reminded of how delicious this cooking technique is. Fresh, crunchy vegetables, little bites of succulent protein, and ingredients that add brightness and pop in the mouth. That’s how I feel about this recipe. While there are several steps involved, you can easily prep the various segments while listening to music or watching a video, and you can then assemble everything right at the end and put it together quickly and easily.
With so many of us dealing with food allergies such as wheat, gluten or dairy, as well as wanting fresh entree ideas that can be made ahead of time for weeknight dinners, I’ve been rewriting some of our recipe base to brighten up our meals and make them both healthy and weeknight friendly.
If you’re looking for an entree that pops to serve at a small dinner party or a romantic meal for two, a flavorful steak with a traditional French sauce will do the trick assuming you’re cooking for omnivores. The issue is timing. You don’t want to spend twenty-five minutes making a sauce at the last minute while also grilling or pan-searing steaks.
Sofrito — So-free-toe. Isn’t that a great word? I don’t even remember where I found this recipe, but I’m crazy about it. Even though it’s very similar to salsa, the ingredients are all fresh and raw and whatever you put Sofrito on, it just pops!
The summer tomatoes are in – the small, intensely flavored dry-farmed ones, heirlooms of all sizes, colors and stripes and the tiny little cherry tomatoes— all soooo delicious! It’s hard to beat a combination of really ripe tomatoes, fresh, soft mozzarella, lots of basil and maybe a bed of crispy Romaine or tender butter lettuces to soak up the juices. Simple and delicious.
This is a great pull-out-the-stops recipe for an elegant meal, but it’s also really easy to assemble. Pitting the cherries takes time unless you have a pitter, a handy gadget that speeds things up exponentially.
It’s November and I’m thinking about cozy soups, fragrant stews and other warming foods that speak of waning sunshine and chilly nights. Especially when I was fighting with the wind while raking leaves. However, as I cruised the produce section I spotted bright yellow Ataulfo mangoes, one of the sweetest and most flavorful varieties that comes into our markets here in the States. What to do? I can’t imagine mango soup and stews call for root vegetables — parsnips and potatoes, carrots and onions. Then I remembered a wonderful dish I created when I worked with New Leaf markets. A black peppered, spicy mango chicken saute with cashews. Served over a rice pilaf, I could have the best of both worlds — a warming dish but with tropical overtones. I bought the mangoes!
This is a versatile recipe. It can be vegetarian, made with fish or meat, and you can add vegetables to the chicken curry recipe. Serve condiments such as chopped peanuts, pistachios or cashews, coconut, raisins or even fresh mango on the side if you like. And don’t forget the chutney!