A Simple, Most Delicious Sandwich

Jamon Iberico Sandwich

sandwich3

My mother recently described a sandwich an old man prepared for her at a bed and breakfast in Barcelona: toasted bread, rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, moistened with a squeezed tomato and topped with jamón Iberico. In the mornings, the man tops this concoction with an egg fried in olive oil. Holy cow.

These pigs, the man told my mother, feast on acorns, which impart a nutty flavor into the meat while also making the fat composition of the meat high in monounsaturated fat, the good kind that, like olive oil, helps lower bad cholesterol. I believe it. When Ben and I visited Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin told us roughly the same thing. He described his pork as “olive oil pork” because his pigs’ diet consisted of acorns and other nuts from his forest.

I wasn’t able to find jamón Iberico at any shop near me, and depending where you live, you might have difficulty, too. Jamón Iberico made its first appearance in this country in December 2007, when the U.S. finally approved a producer in Spain to export the delicacy. LaTienda.com gives a more extensive history about jamón Iberico and jamón Iberico de Bellota, which is the acorn-fed variety. According to La Tienda, the black-hoofed Iberian hog is a prized animal whose lineage stretches back to Christopher Columbus who is said to have had a few of these hogs aboard the Santa María when he set out to discover the New World.

Oh how I long to get my hands on some of this ham. Prosciutto di Parma is a fine substitute but jamón Iberico sounds so exotic and divine. To my sandwich, I added a few slices of Mahón, a cow’s milk cheese produced in Menorca, an island off the eastern coast of Spain. Manchego would be nice in this sandwich as well.

Also, I just saw in my Gourmet magazine email newsletter, that Ruth Reichl’s “secret weapon” for a no-cook summer meal is the American version of serrano ham produced by the Edwards family of Virginia. Made from humanely raised Six-Spotted Berkshire pigs smoked slowly over hickory, this ham, according to Ruth, pairs nicely with melon or simply with some really good bread. (While this is by no means local to me, this might be a nice alternative for those east coasters looking to eat more locally.)

Also, if you live in the area, check out some of the food Chef Nolan is cooking up at Cafe Mimosa.

sandwichingredients

Pigs at Polyface Farm:
such happy pigs

sandwich

ingredients

The Most Delicious Sandwich on the Face of the Earth, Presently
Serves 1

two slices of bread, bakery-style bread (French, Italian)
1 clove garlic, gently smashed and sliced in half
1 tomato
extra-virgin olive oil, use a good one (Temecula Olive Oil Company Citrus Reserve)
nice salt
a few thin slices of jamón Iberico or prosciutto di Parma or Serrano ham
a few thin slices of cheese, such as Mahon or Manchego or Zamorano

1. Toast or grill the bread. I grilled it, but that was mostly to get the pretty grill marks for the picture. Toasting would be simpler and just as effective.

2. Rub each slice of bread with the cut garlic.

3. Cut the tomato in half (or cut off one-third of it). Squeeze the tomato over each slice making them nice and juicy. Drizzle each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

4. Top with a few slices of the ham. Lay each piece down one at a time, allowing the meat to sort of form ripples so air pockets form between the layers. Top with the cheese. Close the sandwich and eat.

sandwich

Carrot Cake & Soup, Anniversary Dinner at Izza

carrot cakes

carrot cake

Last week I found a stockpile of carrots in the bottom left-hand drawer of my fridge. So, I set to work slicing and dicing, staining my cutting board, dulling my knife, tearing up my uncalloused little hands. Sike. I did nothing of the sort. I for once used my little brain and pulled out an attachment to my Cuisinart I have yet to use. Magic. In about 30 seconds, this gadget had transformed my pound of carrots into perfect little shreds. I didn’t even peel these guys. Just gave them a good scrub, and sent them down the shoot. 

With prep work done, I set to work on a carrot cake recipe I have had saved for years. It appeared in Fine Cooking magazine in 2004 in an article called “Carrot Cake, Perfected.” Why I have waited five years to give the recipe a go is beyond me, but I am so happy I finally have. This recipe is a winner.

With the rest of my carrots, I made a yummy gingered-carrot soup roughly based off The New Moosewood Cookbook’s recipe. And I promise to supply this recipe once I actually make it properly. For whatever reason, I left out about five ingredients, substituted five others, and produced something resembling nothing close to what Mollie Katzen had prescribed. Fortunately, I have another bundle of carrots to play with this week.

carrotswholeandshredded

With the above-pictured carrots, I made cake.

With the below-pictured carrots, I made soup. Some were a tad wrinkly, sure. Not to worry, once puréed, no one would suspect a thing.

carrots

Below: Carrot-ginger soup served with Bäco flatbreads. These deserve their own post. Soon, I hope.

carrot-ginger soup

ginger & garlic

Mini spring-form pans filled with batter (at left) and baked (at right).

baked & unbaked cakes

cut cakes

carrot cakes

cake

cake

I made several mini cakes with this batter as well as some patriotic cupcakes for the Fouth of July. While the cupcakes were a hit, this batter definitely bakes more evenly and better in cake pans. Stick to cakes with this recipe. It is a yummy yummy recipe. 

frosted cupcakes

The pizza guys at Izza, a new San Clemente pizza joint.
pizza guys

I’m not sure why I’m trying to squeeze so much into this post, but I just want to tell you one more thing. This past Wednesday, the love of my life and I celebrated our four-year anniversary by eating our favorite food on the planet … pizza pizza. Izza, a thin-crust, wood-fired, Neopolitan-style pizza place opened its doors just in time for us to celebrate our happy day. The pizza was fabulous, our server was adorable, and the vanilla gelato was heavenly. We couldn’t be happier with this addition to the San Clemente restaurant scene. Well, if they added a white clam pizza to their menu, I might be slightly happier, but maybe in time that will come.

And last but not least, check out this old photo I found. It was taken way back in middle school when Ben and I met on a field trip in Thessaloniki. I’m just kidding, you know, but seriously, I would have guessed ages 15 and 12 respectively. Yikes.

ben & ali

The Ultimate Carrot Cake
Source: Fine Cooking Magazine
Article: “Carrot Cake, Perfected” by Gregory Case

Note: I have made some modifications to the original recipe. To read the original, click here.

For the cake:
Softened butter and flour for the pan
1 lb. carrots
10 oz. (2-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the frosting:
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and completely softened at room temperature
1 lb. cream cheese, cut into pieces and completely softened at room temperature
4-1/4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract

Make the cake:
1. Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9×13-inch heavy-duty metal cake pan.

2. In a food processor, using the shredder attachment, shred the carrots. Transfer to a small bowl and rinse the food processor bowl (you’ll need it again).

3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk to blend thoroughly.

4. In the food processor (again use the steel blade), mix the eggs and sugars until blended. With the machine running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until combined. Scrape this mixture into the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. Add the carrots; stir to combine.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack to room temperature before inverting the pan to remove the cake. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:
Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer works, too). Beat the butter on medium speed until it’s quite light, fluffy, and resembles whipped cream, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time, beating well after each addition. When all the cream cheese is incorporated, reduce the speed to medium low and gradually add the sugar and vanilla, stopping the mixer each time you add the sugar. Mix just enough to remove any lumps; scrape the bowl as needed. If the frosting seems a bit loose, refrigerate it for a few minutes until it seems spreadable.

Frost the cake:
Scrape about two-thirds of the frosting onto the center of the cake. With a narrow metal offset spatula, push the frosting from the center out to and just over the cake’s edges. Spread with as few strokes as possible to prevent crumbs from catching in the frosting. Cover the top of the cake first then use the remaining frosting along with what’s creeping over the edges of the cake to cover the sides.

Kumquat Upside-Down Cake

kumquats in pan

kumquats in pan

What do you do with two pounds of kumquats? Why you make a kumquat upside-down cake, Silly. What else would you do.

No, seriously, what else would you do? I have been getting them every week in my CSA (which has been awesome), but had it not been for the lovely Huebscher, who pointed me to this recipe, those kumquats would still be sitting in my fridge. I mean seriously, there’s only so much no-face* you can play with these tart little gems, though I have found them more bearable in the past few weeks. I have nothing scientific to back this up, but it seems the bigger the kumquat, the sweeter. Can anyone support this theory?

Fortunately, kumquats keep well in the fridge and do make a fabulous upside-down cake. That said, I wouldn’t mind exploring some other uses. My mother and I were thinking they might make a nice addition to a braised dish or a Moroccan tagine or something of the sort.

So, I have never done this, but I am feeling creative (— just bought a mat cutter … so much fun — ) and would like to propose a challenge which will result in a gift for one of you. What I would like from you are recipes/ideas featuring kumquats. Whoever supplies the best idea will receive a framed picture, perhaps one of these.

As I suspected, another little baggy of kumquats arrived in my CSA today. I will stash them away until I hear back from you.

kumquats

Kumquat Upside Down Cake

kumquats in pan

Kumquat Upside Down Cake

batter

Kumquat Upside Down Cake
Source: Beauty Everyday

1½ lbs. kumquats, halved
1 stick (4 oz | 113g) unsalted butter
¾ cup light brown sugar
3 T. honey
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt

1 1/3 cup flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
1 cup (8 oz | 226g) unsalted butter, softened (if using salted use less salt)
1 1/3 cup sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

2. Melt butter in a large cast iron pan over medium heat. Be careful not to burn the butter. Add brown sugar and stir until mixed. Remove from heat. Add vanilla, honey and salt, and stir to combine.

3. Add the fruit to caramel mixture — fit as much as you can inside. (WARNING: I used about 1½ lbs. of kumquats, and squeezed them all in. About half-way through baking, the syrup bubbled up and spilled out onto my oven floor. Smoke was everywhere. So, you can either place the kumquats in just one layer, or you could take your chances and maybe place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pan to catch any over flow.)

Make the batter:
4. Put softened butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating on high. Add vanilla.

5. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add to wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.

6. Carefully spoon or pour batter over kumquats, taking caution not to disturb the fruit. Carefully smooth the batter.

7. Place cake in oven on the middle rack. Bake for about 1 hour, checking after 45 minutes. Test the cake with a toothpick, making sure it is cooked in the middle. Take a butter knife and loosen edges along the pan. Put cake on a wire rack and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

8. Put a large platter face down over cast iron pan and flip.

Kumquat Upside Down Cake (side view)

*No-face:  Invented circa 2001 by a Canadian hockey player, no-face is a game that requires participants to take shots of particularly offensive high-octane combinations. Whoever makes no face, wins. Kate Ling, if I recall correctly, is reigning champion.

Alice Waters’ Baked Goat Cheese Salad & Morning Song Farm CSA

salad3

salad3

It’s hard to find fault in a warm round of herb-marinated, breadcrumb-encrusted goat cheese. But seriously my friends, the goat cheese was not the star of this salad. See those greens up there? The tender green leaves and the baby red romaine? These greens, gosh, I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious they are. They come from Morning Song Farm, the north San Diego County farm whose CSA I just joined.

I have been meaning to join a CSA since arriving in California over a year ago now, and when I learned that the new wine and cheese bar in town was a drop off spot for CSAs, I jumped. I signed up on a Monday via email and two days later my box of freshly harvested produce arrived at The Cellar. I can’t tell you how easy it was. Before I knew it, the above pictured greens were in my hands along with a boodle of other treats — lemons, avocados, grapefruits, Swiss Chard, beets, strawberries, herbs and the list goes on and on. (You can see almost everything that arrived in weeks one and two in the pictures below.)

Most of you know what a CSA is, but just in case, there is a quick summary about halfway down the page here. And if you still haven’t signed up for one, check out LocalHarvest.org. With 2,500 participating farms listed in their database, Local Harvest has the most comprehensive directory of CSAs in the country.

When I saw these greens, I thought of Alice Waters’ recipe for baked goat cheese salad, which Cookstr recently highlighted in their Mother’s Day newsletter. It’s a wonderful recipe. I followed it mostly, substituting toasted panko bread crumbs for the freshly made ones, a shortcut I’m sure Alice Waters would look down on, but alas, it worked.

Anyway, hooray!, it’s Wednesday, which means it’s CSA pickup day. I hate to be sentimental, but one of the best parts about belonging to a CSA is actually belonging. I so look forward to walking up to The Cellar every Wednesday and saying hi to Dawn and Zoe, who have become my west coast incarnations of Sarah Cain, Emily Teel and Joanna Pernick, my friends at the Fair Food Farmstand whom I dearly miss. It is so much fun peaking inside the box each week, inspecting the goods, and sharing a strawberry or a few strands of the most fragrant and delectable mint you have ever seen. Seriously, it is a real joy.

csa3

csa1

week2_csa

csa week 2

Red Lettuce

lettuce

babygreens

Baked Goat Cheese Salad
Source: Alice Waters and Cookstr
Serves: 4

For the goat cheese rounds:
½ pound fresh goat cheese (one 2 by 5-inch log)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 small sprig rosemary, chopped
½ sour baguette, preferably a day old (I used panko bread crumbs)

salad greens, however many you need

For the dressing:

Finely dice a shallot or two. Place in a bowl and cover with the juice of one orange. Add 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of sugar. Let macerate for 15 minutes, if you have the time, or less, if you don’t. Whisk in about 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. It’s ok if the dressing is not totally emulsified. Just give it a stir when you’re ready to use it and make sure to scoop out some of those delicious shallots over your greens when you’re ready to toss them.

1. Carefully slice the goat cheese into 8 disks about ½ inch thick. Pour the olive oil over the disks and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Cover and store in a cool place for several hours or up to a week.

2. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and dry out in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until dry and lightly colored. Grate into fine crumbs on a box grater or in a food processor. The crumbs can be made in advance and stored until needed. (Note: Using panko makes this process much simpler)

3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. (Note: Cookstr says a toaster oven works well.) Remove the cheese disks from the marinade and roll them in the bread crumbs, coating them thoroughly. Place the cheeses on a small baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes, until the cheese is warm.

4. Toss the lettuces lightly with the vinaigrette and arrange on salad plates. With a metal spatula, carefully place 2 disks of the baked cheese on each plate and serve.

Hearst Ranch Grass-fed Steaks, Oven-Roasted Potatoes & All-time Favorite Brownies

Balsamic Parsley Caper Sauce for Grilled Steak

steak and potatoes

My mother is worried. This isn’t a new sentiment, I can assure you. Worry, I’m afraid, pervades her daily existence. She’s worried about the plastic wrap in this recipe and would like me to offer you all an alternative. One Thanksgiving, my mother was so worried, she sent me an oven. An oven. She didn’t know how I could possibly make my turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes with only one oven, and so she sent me an oven.

Last week, my mother became worried about my husband, Ben. She’s worried he might wilt away if I keep feeding him tofu and edamame and beets and eggs. So driven by her worry, my mother sent me 10 pounds of steaks, just, you know, to tuck in my freezer in case an iron-deficient Ben starts looking pale and cold.

But my mother is so thoughtful, too. And a wonderful gift-giver she has always been. Sensitive to my feelings about animals and food-miles, she sent me grass-fed steaks from the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon, CA. I took the opportunity to make this Grilled Grass-fed Ribeye with Balsamic Caper Vinaigrette recipe from the latest Bon Appetit. Damn, steak is good. I’ve forgotten. And this sauce — reduced balsamic seasoned with crushed red pepper flakes and mixed with parsley, capers, shallots and olive oil — is fabulous. It’s such a treat to have our freezer stocked with this incredibly flavorful, humanely raised and relatively local meat.

Mama, worry no longer. Rest assured that the love of my life is beaming, a hearty helping of meat and potatoes certainly to credit. Thank you for the wonderful gift!

raw steaks
Pictured above: Raw, grass-fed ribeyes, rubbed with smoked paprika, garlic, pepper and salt.Note: While this smoked paprika rub adds a nice flavor, I don’t recommend using it for these grass-fed steaks. We’ve cooked the Hearst Ranch steaks twice now, once with the rub, once without, and we preferred the steaks without the rub — a liberal sprinkling of kosher salt brings out the real flavor of the meat. Also, be sure not to overcook these steaks. For medium-rare, try two minutes a side and allow the steaks to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Balsamic-parsley-and-caper sauce:
parsley-caper sauce

Have I not yet shared with you my favorite brownie recipe? I can’t believe that. I discovered this recipe in a Fine Cooking magazine three years ago and have not tried another brownie recipe since. Like the pizza and the muffins and the orange and olive oil cake, these brownies are it.

brownies and milk

Rich Fudgy Brownies
Source: Fine Cooking
Yield = 16 (2-inch) brownies

Note: If you have a scale, I highly recommend using it. I use my Salter digital scale when I make these and they come out perfectly every time.

Also: To make this gluten-free, simply swap the all-purpose flour with almond flour. You’d never know the difference.

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter; plus more for the pan
15¼ oz. (2 cups) granulated sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
2½ oz (¾ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 oz (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour or almond flour (for gluten free); plus more for the pan
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. table salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack in the center of the oven. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan or line with parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk until well combined. Add the beaten eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended. In a large separate bowl whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt. Transfer butter mixture to bowl with flour and stir with spatula or wooden spoon until batter is smooth.

3. Spread into prepared pan and bake for approximately 37-40 minutes. Insert a pairing knife or steak knife straight into center. If it comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done. Let cool completely in pan on rack.

Grilled Grass-fed Ribeyes with Balsamic-Caper Vinaigrette
Source: Bon Appetit Magazine
Serves 4

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

4 3/4-inch-thick grass-fed rib-eye steaks
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1. Simmer vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add shallots, 1/4 cup oil, and crushed red pepper; return to simmer. Remove from heat; whisk in parsley, capers, and thyme. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

2. Rub both sides of steaks lightly with oil. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper.

3. Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 2 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over or serve on the side.

The Best Bloody Mary, Breakfast at Ramos House

bloody mary with pickled green beans and a scotch quail egg

bloody mary with pickled green beans and a scotch quail egg

I’m not even the Bloody Mary type. And had my friend not encouraged me so, I wouldn’t have thought to order one. But I do as I’m told, generally, and I began my breakfast at The Ramos House Cafe with a Bloody Mary. A Bloody Mary teeming with pickled green beans, sprinkled with shredded basil and chives, and topped — completed — with a scotch quail egg that is.

What, might you ask, is a scotch quail egg? A scotch quail egg is a soft-boiled quail egg, wrapped in ham, breaded and deep fried. And it is insanely delicious. Had I ordered nothing else that morning, I would have been completely content.

Well, in theory, I would have been completely content. Had I never tasted the apple cinnamon beignets, had I never spread the buttermilk biscuits with homemade apple jam, and had I never run my fork through the wild mushroom scramble into crispy sweet potato shavings, I would have been completely content.

I’ve been to Ramos House now several times and can’t say enough about it. For one, it’s hands down one of the most charming restaurants I’ve ever stepped foot in. I could spend hours in the bathroom alone. Truly. Go. You’ll understand.

But even if Ramos House wasn’t rooted in an idyllic garden, flanked by lemon trees and gurgling fountains, stationed next to a railway leading to, perhaps, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the food would make up for any lack of ambience.

This place is worth a trip across the country. Seriously. All of you East Coasters who have yet to come visit me in sunny California, here’s some more fodder. It has been a little over a year now since I moved, and I am finally feeling settled. Meaning, I have finally found some food outlets that rival, in their own way, Ding Ho noodles, Fisher’s soft pretzles, and Melograno’s mushroom pappardelle.

My most recent visitors, pictured here standing outside Pannikin on PCH, another favorite spot, shared my enthusiasm for Ramos House. And, before leaving the OC last week, they managed to so kindly buy me a copy of the Ramos House Cafe cookbook. Words cannot describe my excitement. While I haven’t tested the recipe below, I have a feeling it’s a winner.

Happy Easter!

Ramos House Cafe

Bloody Mary Recipe

Ramos House Bloody Mary

Source: The Ramos House Cafe cookbook
Yield = 4-6 servings

1 liter Clamato
Vodka or Soju
1 T. prepared horseradish
2 T. wild hot sauce (not sure what “wild” means)
1 T. black pepper
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon, blanched (not sure why it must be blanched)
1 clove garlic
¼ cup pitted green olives, chopped
salt to taste

1. Place all ingredients except for the vodka in a blender or food processor and puree. Fill a glass with ice and add desired amount of vodka. Fill remainder of glass with Bloody Mary mix.

2. Garnish with Pickled Green Beans (recipe below), crab claw, herb salad and diced bell peppers.

Pickled Green Beans

2 lbs. green beans
5½ cups rice wine vinegar, unseasoned
½ small onion, sliced
¼ cup crushed, dried red chiles
1/8 cup coriander seeds
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¾ cup water
4 T. salt
1 oz. whole black peppercorns
6 T. sugar

1. Bring all ingredients except for the green beans to a boil. Skim. Allow mixture to steep for at least 30 minutes, then strain.

2. Bring to a boil, blanch beans in brine (add to water for about 15 seconds, then remove), then cool on sheet trays in the refrigerator.

3. Strain pickling brine again. Cool. Return vegetables to cool in pickling liquid. Refrigerate for up to one month.

Scotch Quail Eggs

10 quail eggs
½ pound bulk sausage, raw
2 eggs, beaten
flour for dredging
bread crumbs for dredging

1. Place quail eggs in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Drain off hot water and cover with ice to stop the cooking process.

2. When cool, peel the shells off the eggs. Flatten sausage into 10 pieces. The pieces should be big enough to encase the egg, but not too thick.

3. Roll the eggs in flour then wrap the eggs with the flattened sausage. Bread the wrapped eggs by rolling them in flour, dipping them in raw beaten eggs and rolling in the bread crumbs.

4. Deep fry in 350ºF oil for approximately 4 minutes.

Serve with:

Murdock’s Magic Mustard

1 cup Coleman’s dry mustard
1 cup sugar
1 cup tarragon vinegar
3 large eggs

1. Whisk together all ingredients in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Set bowl on top of a pot of simmering water. Stirring constantly, cook mustard sauce until it thickens. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and chill immediately. Murdock’s magic mustard will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Ramos House Cookbook

Gordon Hamersley’s Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Tart

baked tart

baked tart

This tart is really fun. And different. And delicious. I can’t promise a quick-and-easy dinner with this recipe — beets must be roasted; a tart shell must be baked — but with a little planning, assembly of this tart is quite simple. And it is so worth the effort.

Why are beets, goat cheese and walnuts so good together? And why did I never think to bake them all together in a flaky, buttery shell? Gordon Hamersley recommends serving this tart with a little mixed greens tossed with a bright vinaigrette, which is exactly what I did.

I spotted this recipe in a recent Cookstr newsletter entitled “10 Dishes Under $10.” Under $10 very likely it was — my bunch of beets cost $2 at the farmers’ market, and I still have all of the greens remaining to use for another meal. 

Let’s see. I did make a few changes, only one of which is significant. I substituted buttermilk for the heavy cream. The recipe calls for 3/4 of a cup of heavy cream, which, and I hate to be so girly, amounts to 700 calories. The substitution of buttermilk brings that down to 90. Nine. Zero. I mean that is seriously significant. And while I can’t speak for the taste of the full-fat version, buttermilk does not compromise the flavor. This tart is fabulous. I ate leftovers for breakfast and dinner. Yum yum yum.

The other changes are minor and noted in the recipe.

beets

Above: Beets purchased from the San Clemente Farmers’ Market. I like to buy my beets from Eli’s Ranch. (They park in front of the library and sell the best avocados, too.)

Below: To blind bake a tart shell, line it with plastic wrap and dried beans. Fold the plastic up and over so that the crust is exposed. Bake for about 20 minutes at 375ºF.

preparing to blind bake the tart shell

unbaked tart

baked tart

Be warned: If you care about your cutting board, don’t cut beets on it. I forgot to use my plastic one for this job. Oops. 

beet board

Beet, Goat Cheese and Walnut Tart

Source: Gordon Hamersley via Cookstr
Note: Below is a simplified version of the recipe. Find the original here.
Serves 4 to 6

1 recipe tart dough, shaped and blind baked
Yield: 12 ounces, enough for one 10-inch tart or 6 individual tarts

1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and well chilled
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Quickly cut the butter into the flour, using a pastry blender or the back of a fork, until the butter pieces are the size of large peas. (Alternatively, cut the butter into the flour by pulsing it 8 to 10 times in a food processor, being careful not to overheat and overmix the butter.)

2. Add the ice water. Using just your fingertips and working quickly, combine the flour mixture and the water. Work just until the water is absorbed. The dough will be ragged but should hold together when you squeeze it. If it seems dry, sprinkle on a few more drops of water. (I had to add a few more tablespoons of water.)

3. Gather the dough up into a ball — it’s fine if the dough does not come together completely at this time. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap, flatten it a bit, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least a half hour before rolling. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also freeze the dough, well wrapped; allow it to defrost for a day in the refrigerator before using it.

4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Roll the dough into a large circle — large enough to overlap whatever sized tart pan you are using. Press the dough into the corners and into the sides of the tart pan. Trim off any excess dough. Line the tart with plastic wrap and fill with dried beans or pie weights. Fold plastic up and over to expose the crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove beans from tart.

Meanwhile Prepare the Tart.
Note: This recipe has been slightly modified from the original, which can be found here.

2 to 3 small beets (Note: Since you are roasting beets, you may as well roast a few more. When assembling the tart, I used about 2 heaping cups of diced beets)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dry white wine (or Sherry or Madeira — whatever you have on hand.)
1 recipe tart dough (above)
3 large eggs
¾ cup heavy cream (I used buttermilk)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese (I used less. Add according to taste/preference.)
1 cup chopped walnuts (I used less. Add according to taste/preference.)
1 tablespoon walnut oil (Optional — I did not use.)
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Wash the beets. Place the beets in a small ovenproof pan (like a brownie pan or a pie plate.) Add water to reach 1/8-inch up the sides. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a paring knife, about 45 minutes.

2. Allow the beets to cool. (Or not). Rub the skins off of the beets with your fingers, then dice the beets into small cubes. (Be careful, as beet juice can stain counters, towels, and even your hands; you may want to wear gloves for this step.)

3. Heat the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, season with a little salt, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onion is just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the alcohol and cook for another minute, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. (Note: I caramelized my onions a bit more — cooked them slowly for about 25 minutes.)

4. Heat the oven to 350°F. Add the beets and onions to the blind-baked tart shell. (Note: I added the walnuts at this step as well, but Hamersley adds them after the tart has already baked for 20 minutes. Your call.)

5. Whisk together the eggs and cream (or buttermilk), season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and carefully pour over the beets and onion, letting the mixture seep evenly into the beets. Dot the goat cheese all over the top of the tart. Put the tart on a baking sheet and bake it for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the tart and drizzle the walnut oil over it, if using. Return the tart to the oven and bake until just set, an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the tart with the chopped parsley and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Final Notes: If you can roast the beets ahead of time and prepare the tart shell (or make the tart dough) in advance, this tart can be assembled in no time.

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

lemons and blueberries

Yippie … blueberries are back. Last Sunday morning while purchasing my eggs from Don at the San Clemente farmers’ market, I spotted a flat of blueberries and blackberries. I couldn’t resist purchasing a few cartons of blueberries, mostly because this recipe has been on my mind for months. Both my mother and aunt have been raving about these muffins for about a year now.

Hmmm, some notes from these authorities: 1. Make the muffins in a jumbo muffin pan. 2. Really make sure your butter is at room temperature. I did follow their advice and couldn’t be happier with the result.

So, I think I can safely file this lemon-blueberry muffin recipe in my search-no-further-for-that-ultimate-recipe folder. At the moment, the only other recipe occupying that folder that comes to mind is this one. There must be others though. No? I can’t think right now. I’ll have to report back.

Happy almost spring —

muffins overhead

mmmm...muffin muffin muffin

meyer lemons

holy blueberries

muffins in pan

Lemon-Blueberry Muffins

Source: The New York Times
Yield = 6

Ingredients

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest (I used 2 Meyer lemons)
  • 1 cup + 1 T. sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups cake flour (Note: I used all-purpose flour)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen probably work just as well)
  • ½ cup milk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 1 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour and sift ( … right) the remaining flour, baking powder and salt. I whisk. Wish I weren’t so lazy.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Fold in the blueberries.
  4. Grease a jumbo muffin tin with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Distribute batter among muffin holes — in my tin, each cup was filled above the rim with batter. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. Let muffins cool in pan for 7 (yes, exactly 7) minutes before serving.
http://www.alexandracooks.com/2009/03/20/lemon-blueberry-muffins/

muffin top

Tofu, Edamame & Soju

Warm Tofu with Spicy Dipping Sauce — The Only Way I Eat Tofu

tofuWaywaywaywaywaiiit. Stop. Seriously. I know what you’re doing. I can see you. I can’t. But I know what you’re doing. You’re turning your nose. The thought of tofu for dinner, you’re thinking, is unacceptable.

I was there once, too. But in the past few months, I have been experimenting with tofu, trying to truly grow to like it. So when I read Ruth Reichl’s description of this warm tofu with spicy dipping sauce — “a beautiful dish, which takes ten minutes, costs very little, and is so utterly delicious” —  in this month’s Gourmet, I had to try it. 

This is by far the easiest easiest easiest (my friends who hate to cook are you listening?) method of preparing tofu I have encountered. The recipe calls for simmering the tofu in water, making a sauce and pouring the sauce over the tofu. And it is delicious. Truly. I think you will be pleased. 

tofu

PS: Though this rectangular plate is quite pretty, I think bowls are a more appropriate serving dish. 

Making the sauce:
sauce prep

toasted sesame seeds

scallions

On the side? Way back in the day, I worked at a catering company in Philadelphia. At nearly every party I worked, ‘peking duck rolls’ served straight from a bamboo steamer were passed with a soy dipping sauce … everyone raved. Of course, I went to Chinatown immediately following the first party I worked to purchase one of these three-tiered bamboo steamers. I must admit, I have hardly used it since, but it is a great gadget to have on hand even so. It steamed my edamame tonight in under five minutes. If you have one, place it right into a wok filled with just enough water to reach below the first tier. Bring the water to a boil and then place edamame pods into one of the tiers. Cover and steam until done. Sprinkle with a nice sea salt according to taste.

edamame

steaming edamame

edamame with nice salt

What to drink. What to drink. My day started with soju and has ended with soju. Soju’s “neutral flavor,” according to Gourmet, makes it a great mixer and “a favored alcoholic beverage in Korea.” I can’t really tell you how it tastes, only that it tasted damn good in the bloody Mary I had this morning at The Ramos House Cafe and damn good in the beverage I am drinking now — a grapefruit soju cocktail. If you can’t find soju, any vodka will make a fine substitute. 

grapefruit soju cocktail

To Make This Feast:

Step One: Pepare Cocktails

Grapefruit Soju Cocktails
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes 10 drinks (according to Gourmet), 5 drinks (according to Ali)

1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 quart (4 cups) fresh-squeezed (or not) grapefruit juice
1 cup soju (sometimes called sochu), sake or vodka, chilled
Club soda or seltzer water chilled

1. Stir the sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt into the juice and stir to dissolve. Stir in soju and add sugar to taste.

2. Pour into ice-filled glasses and top with a splash of club soda.

Gourmet’s note: Grapefruit mixture without soju can be made four hours ahead and chilled. Add soju to mixture just before serving.

Step Two: Prepare Tofu

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8 (as part of a Korean Meal according to Gourmet), 2 (as a main dish according to Ali — This recipe yields enough sauce for two, but I would double the amount of tofu if serving this as a main dish for 2.)

1 (14- to 18-oz) package firm tofu Note: The original recipe calls for soft (not silken) tofu. I have now made this recipe with both soft and firm tofu, and I prefer the firm tofu — the soft was very hard to eat with chopsticks.
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
¼ cup chopped scallion
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with side of a heavy knife (I minced the seeds with some garlic and scallions, which helped keep the seeds from flying off the cutting board.)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1 teaspoon coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes (crushed red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1. Rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

2. Meanwhile, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with remaining ingredients.

3. Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a small plate. Spoon some sauce over tofu and serve warm. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

Notes: Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. Tofu can be kept warm up to 4 hours.

Last Step: Steam Edamame

Edamame in pods
Nice sea salt

1. Steam pods until done, about five minutes. Sprinkle with nice salt. Serve. Yum.

Zuni Cafe’s Fried Eggs In Bread Crumbs

Zuni Cafe's Eggs in Bread Crumbs

eggs in bread crumbs

I wish I were a hen;
I wouldn’t have much to do.
I’d lay an egg most every day,
And Sundays sometimes two.

— German nursery rhyme

Just a little jingle I thought you all might like. I found it in the book I’m reading: My Fine Feathered Friend by William Grimes.

Anyway, I’ve found my latest favorite way to eat eggs: fried in bread crumbs. This recipe comes from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, which devotes a whole chapter (a very small chapter) to egg recipes. At Zuni, these eggs appear on the Sunday lunch menu accompanied by house-made sausage or bacon (sounds amazing), but Zuni’s chef-owner Judy Rodgers likes these crunchy eggs for dinner with a salad of  bitter greens. I couldn’t agree more: A simple salad of arugula, oranges, Parmigiano Reggiano, maybe an avocado and a couple pieces of toast couldn’t make a better dinner. 

These eggs are so yummy. Just after the eggs finish cooking, they get sprinkled with a little vinegar — don’t omit this step — which adds the perfect amount of bite. Even I refrain from dousing these eggs with Tabasco. It would ruin them.

I’ve made these eggs two nights in a row now and very likely will bring the streak to three tomorrow. When you plan on making them, be sure to read the whole recipe through — there’s nothing tricky about it, but it’s not your standard-issue recipe either.

Just some last thoughts, too: If you can find some farmers’ market greens and eggs, this meal will be all the more delicious. I feel like a brat saying this given that I live in sunny southern California, but if you do a little research, regardless of where you are, you’d be surprised what you might find. I remember buying delicious greens, even in the colder months, from various sources at the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia.

For you locals, pictured below are Don’s eggs, Blue Heron Farm’s arugula, and Eli’s Ranch oranges, all of which can be found at the Sunday San Clemente farmers’ market.

egg on toast with arugula and oranges

The pan. The Zuni cookbook recommends using a 6- to 8- inch French steel omelet pan. I’ve used my 9.5-inch carbon steel crepe pan that I bought at Fante’s in Philadelphia. A nonstick pan will work just as well.

French steel omelet pan

Fresh, soft bread crumbs:

freshbreadcrumbs

Bread crumbs “oversaturated” with olive oil, as instructed by The Zuni Cafe Cookbook:

crumbs saturated with olive oil

To clean your skillet, dump some kosher salt into it and place it over medium heat. Let the salt heat up and begin to change color. Turn off the heat.

salt
Next, take a paper towel and rub in a circular motion, scraping off all the bits of food from the bottom of the pan. Wipe out all of the contents and discard. Drizzle pan with a tiny bit of olive oil and rub the surface to coat.

pan with salt

Fried Eggs in Bread Crumbs
From The Zuni Café Cookbook
Serves 1

Notes from the cookbook: This recipe has been written for one because these eggs are easy to make and fun to eat when you are alone. If you are making them for more than one person, use a larger pan and cook the eggs in batches of four to six. Also, see the note at the bottom of the recipe regarding toasting the bread crumbs in an oven.

1 loaf of white, bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or a boule
(This is to make the fresh, soft bread crumbs. You only need 3 tablespoons of crumbs, so you’ll likely need just a portion of this loaf.)
kosher salt
about 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
a few fresh thyme or marjoram leaves (optional)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon red wine, white balsamic, balsamic or sherry vinegar

1. To make the bread crumbs: Carve the crusts off a loaf of white bakery-style bread such as a peasant loaf or ciabatta or boule. (Discard the crusts or add to your compost pile.) Break the tender insides of the loaf into large chunks, then grind in the food processor. Don’t grind too finely or evenly.

2. Sprinkle the crumbs with a pinch of salt, then drizzle with enough of the oil to oversaturate them.

3. Place the crumbs in a 6- to 8-inch French steel omelet pan or nonstick skillet and set over medium heat. (If you like your fried eggs over easy, reserve some of the oiled raw crumbs to spinkle on top of the eggs just before you flip them.) Let the crumbs warm through, then swirl the pan as they begin drying out — which will make a quiet staticky sound. Stir once or twice.

4. The moment you see the crumbs begin to color, quickly add the remaining oil (or a dab of butter) and the herbs if using, then crack the eggs directly onto the crumbs. Cook the eggs as you like. (So far, I’ve made them two ways: without flipping them, but by finishing them in a heated oven so the tops cooked through a tiny bit; and flipping them, but cooking the eggs only briefly on the second side — the yolks were still runny.)

5. Slide eggs onto a warm plate ( … right), then add the vinegar to the hot pan. Swirl the pan once, then pour the drops of sizzling vinegar over the eggs.

Note: If you are preparing the eggs for more than a few people, it is a little easier to toast the seasoned bread crumbs in advance in a 425ºF oven instead of in the skillet. In that case, toast them to the color of weak tea. Then scatter them in the skillet, add the remaining olive oil and proceed as described above.

Serve these eggs with a simple salad tossed in a citrus vinaigrette (recipe below):

How to make a simple vinaigrette

I learned to make salad dressing from Chez Panisse Vegetables. This simple recipe calls for macerating shallots in lemon juice and vinegar for about 20 minutes. Once you master this simple recipe, you can alter it as you wish — use orange juice, lime juice, or any number of vinegars in place of the lemon juice and champagne vinegar. I often add sugar to taste as well.

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette
Source: Chez Panisse Vegetables

2 small shallots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white balsamic vinegar*
2 tablespoons lemon juice*
¼ teaspoon sugar (optional — this is not in the original recipe, but I always like a pinch of sugar)
½ teapoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

*As I noted above, you can substitute what you wish for the vinegar or citrus. You also could use only vinegar or only citrus juice. Use whatever you have on hand or whatever you like best.

To make the dressing, place the shallots in a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and salt. Stir and let the mixture sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly to make an emulsified dressing. Set aside.

Here are some other dressings you might like:

Tarragon-Shallot Vinaigrette
Orange & White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Orange Dressing, Especially nice with Roasted Beets
Sally Schneider’s Blue Cheese Dressing
Tartine’s Caesar Dressing