Sunday, August 30, 2009

From the Garden

I started this blog in San Francisco, a city that showcases some of the freshest produce around. San Franciscans love their organic lifestyles; however, it comes with a price. I remember dropping $40 buckaroos at the farmer's market. Although worth it, life was tough when it came to paying rent, if you know what I mean. So it's not too often that I'm able to blog about fresh fruits and vegetables from my backyard. Since moving to Ventura not only have I been savoring the lower sales tax but I've also been giddy about the amazing fruits and veggies growing in my backyard. The image below is a snapshot of this summer's, late harvest: organic heirloom tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, cucumbers, funky squash, lemons and bell peppers. Aren't the colors amazing?

It has been so fun to cook with all of these veggies. We've made pasta sauce, stir fries, capreses, pizza, the list goes on! I hope to get some of these posts up soon, till then, enjoy the pic :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Just recently I celebrated my golden birthday - it was a weekend full of great friends, family and delicious food. The best part was I was home and had the kitchen all to myself to bake me a cake. Not just any cake, but a decadent chocolate cake with fresh strawberries in the middle. Having a birthday in the middle of summer pays off! All the good stuff is in season.

see pic....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Outstanding" Fresh Berry Tart

In my opinion, fruit tarts always look better than they taste. The gooey, gelatinous glaze that holds the fruit together, um, no thanks! I've never had a fruit tart that left me fully satisfied, until I made my own. This "Outstanding" tart defies all others with it's flaky crust, fresh berries, and amazing lemon curd... a fresh berry tart doesn't get better than this.

For those who aren't familiar with the organization Outstanding in the Field, it is a project that brings together local farmers, chefs and foodies of all sorts for amazing dinners and conversation. They ultimately aide in rebuilding relationships between the consumer and farmer - the epitome of the sustainable and slow food movements. What an awesome cause! Unfortunately I missed my chance to attend the McGrath Farm Dinner in Camarillo, featuring wines from Old Creek Winery and creations by Chef Tim Kilcoyne from The Sidecar Restaurant - one of my fav's. I heard it was amaaaaazing! Hopefully they'll be swinging through Ventura County again next year. In the meantime, I'll keep enjoying their cookbook.

Mixed Berry Tart with Meyer Lemon Pastry Cream
from Outstanding in the Field Cookbook

1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 pints mixed fresh berries
Tart Shell

Tart Shell
1 1/3 cups white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons ice water

Tart pan
Food processor

For the Curd: Zest the lemon and chop it finely. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of the juice from the lemon and set it aside along with the zest.

Whisking is key here! In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk until a smooth batter forms. In a heavy bottom saucepan bring the milk to a boil. While whisking the egg batter constantly, temper it by pouring a little bit of the hot milk into the egg batter. Whisking briskly, pour the entire egg batter into the milk. Whisk in lemon zest. Keep the saucepan over medium heat, whisk constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The mixture should quickly thicken. Remove from the heat and pour the pastry cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap flush to the surface to prevent a skin from forming. This is key! Refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

In a small bowl, mix your fresh berries with the lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. This will help the flavors marinade together, macerating the berries.

Tart shell: Using your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse into mixture forms coarse bread crumbs. Add 1 of the yolks and 1 tablespoon of water and pulse until the dough just comes together, adding the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time only if necessary. Press the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate at least for an hour. I personally believe overnight is the best way to go!

Once you remove the dough from the fridge, let it sit for about 10 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll the tart dough to 1/8 inch thick. Fit into your favorite tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate again for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Line the pan with parchment paper and pour in pie weights, bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes until tart shell is a golden brown.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining egg yolk with a pinch of salt. Brush the surface of the tart crust with the egg yolk mixture and bake for 1 to 2 minutes until the yolk is set. Remove tart shell from oven and let it completely cool.

Assembly: Spoon the chilled pastry cream into the shell and smooth the top. Pour the berries and their juices on top and serve as soon as you can.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recession Canned Bean Salad

Ahhh bean salad, how I despise you... that is until I throw in some dill and pan roasted carrots.

One of my best friends lives her life gluten and dairy free. So after I told her I'd cook for the "Concert Under the Stars" picnic I became a tad stumped on what to make. My main dish was paprika, mint yogurt marinated chicken kabobs. For the side, I needed something with a punch of flavor that would be OK cold. After carousing the food blog network, I came across this salad on 101 Cookbooks. A little hesitant and with not much time on my hands, I gave in to the canned beans. Cringing as I winded the can opener along the rim of my lovely canned white beans, then my even more lovely black beans, my heart almost didn't let me do it.

Nothing against bean salads, but I really don't find them appealing. So I certainly surprised myself with this one! The recipe is very simple yet very yummy! The pan roasted carrots and fresh dill take all the attention away from the canned beans, to my surprise. This is a great dish for any picnic and will work great for work lunches.

Roasted Carrot & Dill Duo Bean Salad
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3 cups chopped carrots
1 clove of garlic
1 can of white beans
1 can of black beans
1/4 cup chopped dill
salt & pepper to taste

for the vinaigrette
1/4 cup good olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 shallots diced
salt & pepper to taste

Over medium heat, in a large fry pan, heat up some cooking oil ( I prefer Spectrum Canola Oil). Add the diced garlic and carrots. Saute carrots and garlic until the carrots turn brown and begin to caramelize. It should smell delicious!

In a medium bowl throw in the beans and dill. Lightly toss. When carrots are done roasting add to the beans, add the dill. Lightly toss once more.

In a small bowl whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients. Take a taste to test seasoning. You may need to add more salt/pepper. Lightly toss into the bean salad.

I have to admit that I was quite impressed with this bean salad. Consider it my ammo for the next pot luck picnic!