Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fig, Mozzarella & Tomato Salad

You would be surprised at the amount of people that ask me what I do with the figs I grow and buy at the farmer's market.
The answer is "I eat them".

They are not some foreign object or scary thing, they are a fruit. You can eat them plain, you don't have to bake a galette or make a salad, or be frightened of them.

My turkey figs did very well this season, as opposed to other years. But I also buy figs at the markets when I see them, I can't resist.

Here, I made a simple salad w/ my fresh Jersey heirloom and cherry tomatoes, fresh locally made mozzarella cheese, and ripe figs.

I made a simple dressing with some high quality fig vinegar and olive oil, some opal basil, thyme flowers, sea salt & pepper.

Pretty and delicious salad.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Slow Roasted Cod w/ Chermoula & Cherry Tomatoes

What is chermoula?

I didn't know either until I bookmarked this recipe from Bon Appetit.

It's a Tunisian or Moroccan sauce made w/ herbs to dress up fish.
It reminded me of a harissa paste with the chiles and tomato paste. I loved it.

Next time I will double the sauce recipe for sure.

The recipe calls for black cod, which I can never find here in NJ. It's also called sablefish (still can't find it), and it's a beautiful, fatty, oily fish, perfect w/ marinades, I have only eaten it once at Nobu in Manhattan.

I substituted a beautiful hunk of Alaskan cod (cheap too), and this dish was a winner.
Easy too.

Just go in your backyard and pick some cherry tomatoes, and you are half way there.

If you don't like cilantro, then I can't help you here, there are no substitutions.
I love cilantro, it's my favorite herb (I do not have the "tastes like soap" gene, thankfully).

Slow Roasted Cod w/ Chermoula Sauce & Cherry Tomatoes: (adapted from Bon Appetit)

1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated, stems finely chopped
1 Fresno chile, seeded if desired, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika, pimenton)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more for drizzling (optional)
1 1/2 pounds skin-on black cod or cod fillet (one large piece works best)
2 pints Sun Gold or other cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Mix up the chermoula sauce (which is everything except the cod and tomatoes). I used cilantro leaves and stems, though the recipe calls for just stems (?).

In an oiled baking dish, lay your piece of cod on the bottom and sprinkle w/ kosher salt & pepper.

Cut up the cherry tomatoes and scatter around the fish in the pan.

Spread the chermoula sauce over the fish and if you like, you can same some of the sauce for later (about a tablespoon).

Slow bake in a 300F preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cod (mine was pretty thick).

The fish will perfectly fall apart into slices, without having to cut into it.

Serve with the roasted cherry tomato sauce on top and fresh cilantro.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Olive Oil Brownies w/ Sea Salt & Raspberries? YES!

I think I was attracted to the photo of this recipe, so put it in my pinterest page, and filed it under DESSERTS, for later.

When I actually read the recipe, I almost opted out.

Sea salt, espresso, berries and pecans in brownies?
and made w/ olive oil, not butter?

Sounds weird, I know.

I decided to go for it, and I'm glad I did.

This is David Lebovitz's recipe for olive oil & sea salt brownies, and Joy the Baker made them her own by adding raspberries and pecans.

Now they are my own.

These are very rich and delicious and you will love them.

Don't be scared.

Olive Oil Brownies w Sea Salt & Raspberries: (adapted from Joy the Baker)

1/4 cup of light tasting olive oil
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)
coarse or flaked sea salt (like Maldon) for finishing

Line an 8x8" brownie pan with parchment paper, allowing excess paper to hang over 2 sides of the pan, making the brownies easier to remove. Spray the pan and paper with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium, heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, warm the olive oil and bittersweet chocolate together over low heat, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. You can also do this in the microwave, which is basically the only thing I use my microwave for (melting butter and melting chocolate!).

Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Add the vanilla and beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth and glossy.

Add the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt and whisk until the batter again becomes smooth and shiny.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with raspberries, pecans, and a small amount of flaked sea salt on top.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until cooked through but still gooey.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the pan for 30 minutes before slicing.

I learned a trick years ago for slicing brownies without them falling apart.

Use a serrated plastic knife! I swear it works!

Serve with rose petal ice cream, a la mode, of course.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Smoky Cucumber, Radish & Avocado Salad

This is one refreshing salad and much welcomed, since I have been eating a lot of everything lately.

I always like to have an easy salad in my repertoire, that takes no time to whip up.

I picked a cucumber from the garden, and bought some radishes at the farmer's market (my watermelon radishes don't come up until November, they are a 65 day fall crop).

The dressing is what makes this delicious, it uses pimenton, which is smoked Spanish paprika. Do not use regular paprika, different animal.

Here's how:

Smoky Cucumber, Radish & Avocado Salad (adapted from Cookin' Canuck):

1 garden fresh cucumber, cut into pieces
5 radishes, sliced thin
1 ripe avocado, sliced or cubed
handful of scallions
kosher salt & pepper

1/2 tsp pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
juice of half a lemon
pinch of sea salt

It is self explanatory......just cut up all the stuff before drizzling w/ dressing.

Serve immediately.
I have eaten this salad 5 times now, it's so good!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

August Random Bites

Sorry to inform you, but we are in the home stretch of summer.

The crickets are getting louder, and the days are getting shorter....Labor Day is right around the corner, so enjoy every last minute of August.

I don't do a lot of indoor cooking during the dog days of August, mostly outdoor grilling and salads.

Serve up some watermelon slices and top w/ chopped kalamata olives, good feta cheese and fresh mint leaves.
I drizzle balsamic syrup over the tops just before serving.

Salty and sweet. So refreshing.

Salads are an easy cool dinner in August....

Here, I made a Greek salad with garden cucumbers, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, thin slices of red onion and toasted pita.

I made a simple red wine vinegar dressing w/ dried Greek oregano and added feta cheese.


We were invited to a BBQ and instead of serving burgers and dogs, my friend Sally made these fantastic cedar planked grilled salmon club sandwiches.

Think BLT with slices of crisp bacon, grilled salmon, herbed mayo, butter lettuce and Jersey tomatoes on grilled bread, served warm.
My new favorite!

And file this one under GREAT ideas:

I saw Donatella Arpaia's instagram feed and stole her idea.

I had no bread in the house on a weekend morning, but I always have hot dog buns in the freezer for my twice a year grilled hot dog (the rolls are gross, I know).

Defrost them and flatten then, so they resemble brioche or white bread.

Dip them in a batter of egg, milk and cinnamon sugar.
I fried them in coconut oil in a cast iron skillet.

Topped w/ blueberries, almonds and maple syrup.

Henry didn't know what hit him!


Monday, August 24, 2015

Ina's Roasted Eggplant Dip

This is one of my favorite dips/spreads of all time.

It's from Ina Garten's first and best cookbook The Barefoot Contessa, and she used to sell it in her East Hampton catering shop (such a wonderful place).

Forget all the Mediterranean recipes, this is straight forward American.
All the ingredients are local, from NJ.
Eggplants, red bell peppers, garlic and red onion.

The only problem (besides me wanting to eat the whole bowl), is even though you roast 2 big sheet pans of vegetables, you only get one bowl of dip.
It's like spinach, you think you are cooking 4 cups of raw spinach, and then all you have is a fistful after cooking.

If you love eggplant (as I do), then you will love this dip.

Ina's Roasted Eggplant Dip (adapted from Barefoot Contessa):

2 large Italian eggplants, peeled and diced 1" cubes
2 bell peppers (I use red and yellow), diced into 1" cubes
2 red onions, diced 1" cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste

Using 2 sheet pans, lay out the diced vegetables and drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic and kosher salt.

Roast in a 400F oven for 25 minutes, turning once during cooking.

Remove the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with a blade and add the tomato paste.

I like my dip chunky, so only pulse it once or twice. 1, 2, done. Don't be tempted to puree the spread, it's nicer with some texture.
You can even skip the food processor and hand mix the tomato paste in for a chunkier dip.

Taste for seasoning and let cool.
Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Best served with pita chips.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

End of Blueberry Summer: Blueberry Ricotta Pound Cake

Say it isn't so.

The farmer at the farmers market told me this would probably be the last week for blueberries, so get them while they last.

Ok, so I bought a few containers of them, some to freeze, and some to eat now.

How about a last pound cake for the summer w/ the little guys.
(I think they call it a pound cake, because you definitely put pounds on! It's not the lowest calorie cake out there, but hey, who is counting?).

This is a delicious, simple cake, made better w/ ricotta cheese.

The recipe advises to have your butter, eggs and cheese at room temp, I never do, but just telling you.

This cake gets better the next day (if you can wait that long!).

Blueberry Ricotta Cake: (adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 3/4 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 ounces, 230 g) ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar (300 g)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 cup or more of blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F (original recipe calls for 325F).

Grease a 9" loaf pan, or line w/ parchment paper.

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Cream the room temperature eggs w/ the vanilla, ricotta, butter, sugar and zest until a nice, rich creamy batter forms.

Gradually add in the dry ingredients to the wet and mix.

My cake was done in 65 minutes.

Note* The recipe calls to bake for one hour and 20 minutes, and cover with foil after 40 minutes, so the top does not burn.
I raised the temp to 350F, and there was no browning or burning, and the cake was perfectly done in my oven at an hour and 5 minutes, so know your oven.

Let cake rest in pan for 15 minutes then remove to a cooling rack.

This cake was moist and rich, and fantastic, better the second day, and the day after!

Go bake it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ad Hoc Salad of Figs, Green Beans, Prosciutto, Walnuts & Potatoes

I have never been to Thomas Keller's restaurant in Northern California called Ad Hoc, though I would like to go someday soon!

If you don't have his cookbook with the same name, you are missing out.
It's a big book, too big and heavy to casually leaf thru, but every recipe is great.

Here I made his fresh fig salad w/ green beans, ham and potatoes from the book.
Sounds weird, I know, but paired w/ the ham, it's a wonderful seasonal salad.

He wants you to use pata negra (black hoof Spanish ham), but good luck finding it here, and get ready to open your wallet if you do, because the price is a bit high.

I would suggest a good quality prosciutto or speck instead, or even bacon would work.....save your money for the figs. :)

As with all of his recipes, the steps are a bit time consuming (you will see what I mean), so feel free to just boil the potatoes if you don't want to make an herb sachet, and you don't have to dry the beans on a rack, you get the picture.

But I followed all the steps in the book (for a change), like a good little girl, and the salad came out lovely.
Perfect on a hot summer night w/ a glass of white wine, and perfect for company.

Here's how: (adapted from Ad Hoc Cookbook)

1 lb. haricot vert (skinny green beans)
5 ripe figs (any variety), quartered
handful of walnuts, lightly toasted
1/4 red onion, sliced
3 radishes, sliced skinny
6 Yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/4"
(sachet for boiling the potatoes: 1 bay leaf, 1 smashed garlic clove, 1 sprig rosemary, 10 peppercorns)
6 slices of good quality prosciutto, speck or pata negra (if you dare!)

Boil the green beans in salted water for 3 minutes only. Discard the sachet and transfer the beans to a bowl of ice water to set the green color and cool the beans down.

In a saucepan, heat the sachet (or drop in the garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and peppercorns free standing, like I did!), and cook the potatoes in the boiling water for 10 minutes. It smells really good, not sure if it imparted much flavor to the potatoes....who knows.
Remove the beans to a bowl w/ a slotted spoon.

Make a vinaigrette w/ 1/4 cup of sherry wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar), 1/4 cup of olive oil, sea salt, and 1 tbsp of honey. Throw in some shallots or chives, if you have them and whisk up to make a nice vinaigrette.

Assemble the ham slices on a large platter, and plate w/ scattered potato slices and green beans.
Place fig quarters in a decorative fashion (so fancy), and throw on the walnuts and red onion slices and radishes.

Just before serving pour some of the vinaigrette over the salad and taste to adjust seasonings.

This would be delicious with goats cheese, or hard boiled egg the next day for lunch!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pasta w/ Swordfish & Cherry Tomato Sauce

I LOVE this recipe.

I have made swordfish w/ tomatoes before, and I loved the dish then, but now with the addition of raisins, pine nuts and anchovies, I love it even more.

I made a similar recipe from the book My Calabria, and it was excellent, but there is something about the Sicilian flavors that took this dish to a new level.

This recipe is for summer only, when cherry tomatoes are sweet and overflowing in the garden.

Since the recipe called for 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, and I only had 1/2 of that, I added some Italian pomodorini in a jar (cherry tomatoes from Italy) and along with the fresh tomatoes, the sauce turned out sweet and juicy.

You can buy these jarred tomatoes thru mail order at Gustiamo.com, and they are fantastic.

I also used these special sweet anchovies from Cetara in Campania, which I cleaned myself and removed the bones and tails.
(I'm crazy like that), also can be ordered here thru Gustiamo.

I cooked the swordfish directly in the sauce and it turned out nice and moist.
This is the perfect summer pasta, and one of my favorites.

Pasta w/ Swordfish & Cherry Tomato Sauce: (adapted from Bon Appetit) serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved (I mixed red and yellow, and also some from a jar in their juice)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound 1" thick swordfish steak
2 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
12 oz. casarecce or other short pasta (I used penne)
handful of chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons golden raisins

Start boiling the water for the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce on another burner.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium and cook the anchovies, garlic and hot pepper flakes with the tomatoes for about 5 minutes, until the anchovies melt into the sauce.

Season the tomatoes with kosher salt & pepper while simmering.

Season the swordfish steak also w/ kosher salt & pepper and cut into 1" chunks.

Add the fish pieces into the simmering tomato sauce and cook for about 5-6 minutes, until the fish is no longer opaque.

Add in the raisins and let them soften in the sauce.

Your pasta should be done now, remember to save 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining.

Add the 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water to the sauce and add in the pasta.
Cook w/ the fish sauce for another 2 minutes to incorporate the flavors, tossing the ingredients w/ a big spoon.

Add in the fresh parsley and pine nuts if using, at the end and serve into bowls.

So good!!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Really Good Corn Fritters

It's funny, I remember corn fritters (some people call them corn cakes) being the best thing I ever ate as a kid.
Sweet and summery and delicious.

I don't remember my mother shucking that Jersey corn and cutting it off the cob. So why so good?

Because she used canned corn and creamed corn instead! Those were the days (at least they were all natural).

I have never been able to master a great corn fritter. They are always too cakey, like a pancake, or they fall apart.

Well, I think I have finally found the right combination of ingredients.

I read on an Australian site to blend half the corn with the other ingredients in a food processor (sort of liked creamed canned corn) or with an immersion blender, then add in the rest of the corn.

It worked, because my fritters did not fall apart, and were the perfect ratio of sweet corn to fritter.

This recipe was invented after trying many different recipes.
If you can't find super sweet Jersey corn on the cob, then use canned corn (I would not use frozen corn, not sweet enough).

I made an avocado salsa because this site recommended it, and they also served it with bacon!
But the truth is, these fritters were best on their own.


Jersey Corn Fritters:

3 ears sweet corn, removed from the cob (about 2 cups of corn kernels), divided
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin
hot pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
black pepper
2 eggs
1 tbsp sugar or honey
2 tbsp whole milk
1/2 red onion, minced

handful of fresh basil
handful of chopped scallions
handful of chopped cilantro
chopped red bell pepper

With a food processor or hand blender, whiz half the corn w/ all of the onion, flour, baking powder, eggs and milk in a large bowl until you have a batter.

After you have a pureed batter, add in the other half of the corn kernels, the herbs and the chopped bell pepper.

Season liberally with salt & pepper. Refrigerate batter until you are ready to fry.

I used coconut oil because it has a high heat index, but canola or vegetable oil is fine too.

Plop tablespoons of batter into the hot oil and flip with a thin fish spatula after 1 minute.
Cook another minute (about 2 minutes total) and blot on paper towels.

These were good with the avocado salsa, but we liked them best eaten in our hands, freshly fried, warm, just naked, or with a fried egg the next a.m. These froze well too.