Friday, August 29, 2014

Dimply Plum Cake

When I see prune plums (aka: Stanley or Italian plums) at the farmer's market, I know summer is almost over.

These pretty little oblong plums are the last of the summer fruit for us here in the Garden State (that would New Jersey).

They are not good enough to eat plain (in my humble opinion), however, I love how they look and taste in a cake or tart, and I make one every September to signify the season is coming to an end.

Here, I made Dorie Greenspan's Dimply Plum Cake, but substituted olive oil for the gross canola oil (which I have no use for).
Also, since I didn't have light brown sugar, I used dark brown, and it was fine.

I love cardamom with apples or plums, and it is so nice in this cake, don't skip this spice.

This is the perfect breakfast cake, sort of like a cornbread, crumbly and not too sweet.
It gets better and softer as it sits.

I liked this cake better the second day after baking.

Dorie's Dimply Plum Cake (adapted from Serious Eats)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or sunflower (I used Colavita olive oil)
zest of 1 orange (or lemon)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 purple or red plums, halved and pitted (any plum variety will do)

Butter a 9" cake or pie plate.

Mix the flour with the baking powder, salt and cardamom.

In a large bowl, mix the buttter with the sugar, eggs, vanilla and zest.
Add in the olive oil last.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet and make a batter.
Spread the batter into the pie plate and lay the halved plums, cut side up, in a decorative fashion.

I sprinkled on some turbinado sugar on top for good luck.

Bake 40 minutes in a 350F oven.

Let cool and enjoy these last few days of summer!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Simply Soy Salmon

By the time the end of August comes around, I really only want to eat the last of the tomatoes from my garden w/ fresh mozzarella cheese and basil for dinner along with some grilled corn on the cob.

I get tired of cooking dinners and just want to hang at the beach for those last few days of summer, and drink gin & tonics (Negronis work too) and enjoy.

Well, some of us have to work and make dinner for their families, so here is the easiest weeknight dinner I know (besides boiling water for a pasta dish).

Soy Glazed Salmon:

1 lb. piece of wild salmon
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp soy sauce
kosher salt & pepper
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Mix the ingredients for the marinade and pour over the fish in a glass dish.

Let marinate for up to 2 hours, then transfer to a baking sheet.

I would advise lining your baking pan with foil, cause the soy and sugar make a big sticky mess.

Bake the fish in a 400F oven for 15 minutes.

You can sprinkle some sesame seeds over the top if you like but I love a sliced avocado sprinkled with some red onion, cilantro and sea salt.

Simply Delicious.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Farrotto w/ Summer Corn & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

This is one of my best late summer dishes to date.

I was going to make a corn risotto, with arborio rice, stirring in the hot broth & wine, stirring, stirring, stirring.

A major production.

I got lazy and decided to make that wonderful ancient grain farro (an Italian hulled wheat, like spelt) instead, because I have a case of it waiting for me!

With a farrotto, there is no stirring or fussing, and the farro is healthier than rice.

Here, I used the best of NJ corn, only making an appearance here for a few more short weeks, and the last of my cherry tomatoes.

You can use any fresh herbs you like.
I used scallions, chives and basil, and the liquid is really nothing but the juices from the roasted cherry tomatoes, along with some butter and shallot.

Here is how I made it:

Take 2 ears of shucked corn.
Standing the ears up on a cutting board, carefully slice down the sides, trying to get the "milk" of the corn too. Place the sliced corn into a bowl.

Roast a big bunch of cherry tomatoes (2 pints would be ideal).

Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet lined w/ foil. Drizzle w/ olive oil and sprinkle w/ kosher salt.
Roast at 400F for 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are blistering and there is a lot of juice in the foil (I fold up the sides of the foil, to catch the yummy juices). Set aside.

While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the farro as per package directions (1 cup).

Some farro says to soak overnight. I buy a brand from Abruzzo, and I only need to cook it for 20 minutes, and it's always perfectly al dente and creamy, if that makes sense.

In a large heavy skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of butter and a chopped large shallot or red onion on low heat.

Add in the corn and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Season w/ salt & pepper.

Add in the roasted cherry tomatoes and all their juices to the corn in the skillet.

At this point, the farro should be done.
Add in the farro and mix together. Taste for seasonings.

Add in chopped basil and chives just before serving.

How easy was that?

Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

This is SO good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Avocado Tonnato

Ok, I know tonnato freaks most of you out.
Beige food is visually unappealing and a gloppy beige sauce is just ugly.

Especially Vitello Tonnato.

A veal cutlet w/ cold tuna sauce on top, a specialty in Piedmont.
I personally love it, though I rarely ever eat veal anymore.

Years back, I made a tonnato sauce for turkey, and it was truly one of the most delicious summer entrees, and so easy to make for company.

Here, Food52 posted my beloved avocado with that Northern Italian tuna sauce, and I fell in love.
I knew I had to make this right away.

Tonnato sauce is a sauce made with tuna, mayo, garlic, anchovies and lemon juice.

It's great spread on warm crostini or used as a dip for crudite (really good), it's just ugly.
Get over it.

Here's the appeal for me:

First off, I love avocados (you know that by now).
I love canned tuna.
I also love Hellman's mayonnaise.
So, if you are not a tuna or mayo lover, you can click out now.

I served this for lunch over watercress and not only was it easy, but SOOOOO GOOD.
If you have a salt craving, this will fit the bill too!

Try it, you will like it.

Avocado Tonnato: (adapted from Food52)

2 ripe Mexican or California avocados (I don't like avocados from Peru, they are bland and pale yellow inside)
a handful of arugula or watercress

1 can of Italian tuna packed in oil
2 anchovy filets (I buy the good stuff from Sicily in the jar)
1 big fat garlic clove
pinch of coarse sea salt
black pepper
juice of a lemon (recipe calls for a lime, but I only had lemons)
1/3 cup of full fat mayonnaise
tbsp of capers for garnish

On a cutting board, pile the anchovies on top of the garlic and sprinkle w/ coarse salt.
Smash with the back of a knife and chop to make a paste.

In a small food processor or blender, add the tuna with some of the oil from the can along with the mashed garlic anchovy paste. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add the mayo.

Whiz for a minute, until a nice pinkish beige sauce appears. If it is too thick, add in some olive oil.

Lay the watercress on a platter, and cut the avocados in quarters. Sprinkle the avocado quarters w/ sea salt.

Pour some of the tonnato sauce on top of the avocados and garnish w/ capers.

With the leftover tuna sauce, I poured it over the last of my heirloom tomatoes from the garden.

Even better.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Simple Meals: Soba Noodles w/ Baby Broccoli & Fried Egg

I have a confession to make.
I actually made this at 9 a.m.

I was trying out the recipe (and like to photograph food in the morning), and wound up eating the entire bowl for breakfast.

I made it again for dinner for the other eater in the house, and it was a huge hit.

It's almost time to say goodbye to my broccolini in the garden. It has been the BEST crop I have had all summer.

Every week, I cut off enough of the little shoots it produces for a lunch or a side dish for dinner. I use it even if it has the yellow flowers. I even use the tender leaves.

I have exhausted the plants, and they are ready to go to seed and die for the winter. But wow, they were the sweetest and most tender baby broccoli ever.

Thank you broccolini!

We planted our fall seeds in the garden in hopes to have a new crop of broccoli for October (broccoli likes cool weather).

We planted Calabrese variety, in hopes to have the same type of plants, with shoots that keep producing even after you cut the stems.

Here is another, simple, healthy meal adapted from that wonderful book I am loving called A Change of Appetite.

If you don't have soba noodles (which are Japanese buckwheat noodles), then substitute linguine.

Kids will love this meal too.

Soba Noodles w/ Baby Broccoli & Fried Egg: (adapted from A Change of Appetite)

6 oz. of soba noodles or linguine
big bunch of broccolini, also known as baby broccoli (not broccoli rabe)
1-2 tbsp peanut oil
1/2" piece of ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
a shake of hot chili flakes
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 scallions, chopped
1 egg per person
sesame seeds for the top
fresh cilantro, because I love it

The key to this dish is to have everything ready to go. Mise en place.

Trim and steam the broccolini for 4 minutes and set aside.

Boil the soba noodles as per package instructions (usually takes 7 minutes).

In a large deep saucepan, add some peanut oil and saute the garlic and ginger with the chili flakes just until the garlic is fragrant and pale yellow.

Add in the soy sauce to the pan and time it so you can drain the noodles. Transfer them to the pan immediately and toss around in the soy, ginger, garlic mixture.

Toss in the broccolini and scallions to coat w/ the sauce. If it seems dry, you can add in some more oil, soy sauce or pasta water, don't be shy.

Cover to keep the noodles and broccolini warm and fry an egg in another frying pan with oil on another will have to work fast, make sure your pans are all out and ready!

Plate the soba noodles with some broccoli and shake some sesame seeds all over, and lay a fried egg on top.
Garnish with fresh cilantro if you like.

This was soooo yummy, and soooo easy!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Crustless Nectarine Tart w/ Frangipane

Since stone fruit is so gorgeous this season, why not make a fruit tart?

Not just an ordinary fruit tart, but one with frangipane, or frangipani, that delicious almond cream that puffs around the fruit when baked.

I like this in the fall made with apples, but since end of summer is near, let's use the ripe nectarines. This is also fabulous made with plums that are at the farmer's markets now.

Most fruit tarts use a shortcrust pastry, I opted for no pastry!
Why? Because I baked this late at night, and did not want to get involved with making a crust (plus, I save calories sans crust!).

Here's how for one 8" tart:

1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup almond meal
1/4 cup flour
4 tbsp melted butter
zest of a lemon
1/8 tsp of almond extract

2 ripe nectarines, sliced
raw (turbinado) sugar to sprinkle on top
sliced almonds for the top
1 tbsp apricot jame mixed w/ 1 tbsp water for the glaze

Butter an 8" tart pan with a removable bottom.

Mix up the first 7 ingredients (this is your frangipane).

Spoon and spread into the tart pan and lay your nectarine slices in a concentric design, tucking in the fruit slices.

Sprinkle w/ raw sugar and sliced almonds.

Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes until puffed and golden.

Mix the jam (you can also use honey/water or orange marmalade/water) with a fork to thin the glaze.
I sometimes microwave my jam if it is too thick.

With a pastry brush, brush the glaze over the warm tart and let cool.

Let rest and serve at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nothing Fancy: Grilled Veggies w/ Quinoa

No real brain surgery going on here, just a good idea.

If you have leftover grilled vegetables from your BBQ party, cut them up and toss them with some quinoa, feta cheese, and fresh parsley or basil.

Season w/ sea salt & pepper and drizzle with some good olive oil.
I bought a case of olive oil from Abruzzo from Francesca, and it is wonderful on everything.

I used eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and onions.

If you forgot how to grill vegetables, then click on this old post and don't make me yell at you.

I like this best eaten when the quinoa is warm or at room temperature.

I brought this to the beach this week, it stays good for days.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Zucchini Ricotta Pie

It's almost the end of summer produce here in the "Garden State".

Time is running out.


Fall seeds have been planted, so I am hoping for more beets, broccoli and kale in the MCG.

For the last of the zucchini hoorah, I made a zucchini pie.

Nice and easy, using my garden onions and fresh ricotta from the farmer's market (same guy I buy my sausage and bacon from, FYI).

Here's what you will need:

6 small zucchini, sliced thin (I leave the skin on)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 shallots, sliced thin
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin (you can also use leeks, even better)
kosher salt & pepper
big handful of fresh basil, sliced chiffonade
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup of Pecorino, grated
1 cup (8 oz.) of fresh ricotta cheese
butter & dried breadcrumbs for the pie dish

Preheat oven to 350F.

Liberally rub butter all over a 9" pie plate and dust with dried breadcrumbs. This will be your crust.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat some olive oil and saute the zucchini coins with the onions and shallots for about 12 minutes, until the zucchini is starting to get golden brown and the onions are also golden. I season my vegetables with some kosher salt while they are cooking. Throw in the garlic last, you don't want it to burn.

Let the zucchini and onion mixture cool then add to a bowl with the cheeses, eggs and herbs. Season liberally with salt & pepper.

Pour into the prepared pie dish and bake for 35 minutes until puffed and golden.

This is great warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

(at least figs will be here in the Garden State very soon!).


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer Salad of Tomatoes & Figs

Here is my favorite combination: Fresh figs and Jersey tomatoes.

Oh boy.

I had local figs and my beautiful cherry tomatoes picked fresh off the vine.

Inspired by Marie's book, 66 Square Feet A Delicious Life.

Here's how:

Plate quartered, ripe figgies on a platter, and add some arugula and halved tomatoes (any summer variety will do).

Drizzle some white balsamic vinegar over the platter and drizzle w/ good olive oil.

Shred fresh mint leaves and basil leaves over everything and serve right away.

Summer's best.

I'm happy.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Grilled Halibut w/ Lemon Basil Vinaigrette

I'm still in summer mode, I want easy for dinner.
Nothing too elaborate.

This recipe is the perfect way to show off my favorite fish.

It's very clean tasting and with the fresh garden basil thrown in at the last minute, it is my new favorite way to prepare summer fish.

I used my restaurant quality cast iron skillet on the grill to cook the fish, and it was a perfect sear, and when you shut the grill lid, it's like roasting in a pan. So good.

Serve w/a Caprese salad, that's all you need for a delicious al fresco meal.

Grilled Halibut w/ Lemon Basil Vinaigrette (adapted from Epicurious): serves 2

1 lb. of sustainable (preferably Pacific) halibut filets/steaks (about 3/4" thick)

2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
2 teaspoons drained capers

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic cloves and zest in small bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh basil and capers. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Season halibut steaks with kosher salt and pepper.

Brush fish with 1 tablespoon vinaigrette, dividing equally. Grill or broil halibut steaks until just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates. Pour remaining vinaigrette over fish. Garnish fish with remaining tbsp of fresh basil.

So easy and so good.