Eat your veggies with Maple-glazed Bacon!

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Want a way to showcase that beautiful, crisp, fresh romaine you received in your CSA box?  There’s no better way to do it than in Maple-glazed Bacon, Tomato & Avocado Lettuce Wraps! 

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This is a quick and simple recipe that shows beautifully and tastes healthy and wonderful. The bacon is cooked in the oven on a rack over a foil covered sided baking pan. I use Grade B real Maple syrup to baste the bacon strips half way through their cook time, turning and basting several times. This elevates the flavor of your lettuce wraps to new heights! Fresh chopped heirloom tomatoes, ripe avocado, crisp romaine leaves and a drizzle of pesto mayonnaise completes the dish. It makes a simple, delicious and gorgeous dish for any time of day. Serve it as a breakfast/brunch item with scones, as lunch with a side of fruit, or as a tapas or starter for dinner. You can even sprinkle some blue cheese crumbles on top to add some more pizzaz.

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MAPLE-GLAZED BACON, TOMATO AND AVOCADO LETTUCE WRAPS

Ingredients

8 med-lg Romaine leaves (appetizer size = 3 sm-med Romaine leaves)
6 slices thick cut Applewood smoked bacon
2 Tbsp grade B pure maple syrup
1 large heirloom tomato
1 ripe avocado
2 Tbsp mayo
1 tsp pesto
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 Tbsp crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cover a sided baking sheet completely with heavy duty foil. Place a rack on the sheet and spray with cooking oil. Layer 6 slices of bacon in a single layer on the rack and bake for approximately 25 minutes. After 10 minutes, baste the slices with maple syrup. Cook another 5 minutes then turn the slices and baste again with maple syrup. Cook another 4 minutes and then turn the slices and baste one last time with maple syrup. Cook 4-6 more minutes or until bacon is cooked through and nicely caramelized but not overdone. (Cooking time will depend on oven and thickness of bacon. Alter accordingly)
  3. While bacon is cooking, chop tomato and avocado into a large chop. Mix pesto and mayonnaise and fill into a plastic bag or squeeze bottle.
  4. To assemble, put two large or 3 small lettuce leaves on plate. Top with chopped tomato and avocado. Cut bacon with kitchen shears into small pieces and layer on top. If using a plastic bag, cut a small tip out of a bottom corner and squeeze the pesto/mayo mixture and drizzle it across the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles if using, and season with salt and pepper.
Notes

The best way to cook bacon is in the oven using this process. Even if you are not making maple bacon, I always cook my bacon in the oven. It is simple and easy without all the mess. Afterward I just fold up the foil and toss. If needed, I put soapy water on the sheet and lay the rack in upside down to soak for an easier cleanup. Spraying it with oil also helps and may eliminate this step.

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Salads)

The Galette, a blank canvas for your Masterpiece!

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There are so many options for what to put in a galette, it is really a blank canvas for your masterpiece. You can make it savory or sweet or a combination of both. For today’s recipe, all it takes is making a simple dough, filling it with a selection of cheeses and topping it with your favorite vegetables. Finished off with a drizzle of olive oil and some fresh herbs, you have your own masterpiece! I had some tomatoes, basil and summer squash so that is what I used to create this galette.

The dough is quite easy to make and I use my food processor to mix it up. Since I add sour cream to the dough it stays a bit wet even after cooling so I roll it out on a sheet of parchment. That way I can just slide the dough right onto a baking sheet with the parchment underneath. I use flour on the dough and the rolling pin while rolling it out to keep it from sticking.

Then simply layer your cheese/s on top of the dough and arrange the vegetables above it. I used a mixture of fresh ricotta, manchego and parmesan, but you can use any cheese that you like or have on hand. It is very important to ensure that you don’t add extra moisture to the galette so I salt and dry my tomato slices and dry my squash slices as well. I arranged the tomatoes in the center while alternating the colors of squash slices around the edge. Leave enough space on the dough to fold the edges in, overlapping as needed. Then I use an egg wash to create a nice caramel color on the edge of the galette. Voilla! A beautiful and delicious galette to serve as a side dish or with a side salad or fruit.

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Tomato and Summer Squash Galette served with Blistered Padron Peppers

 TOMATO AND SUMMER SQUASH GALETTE

Ingredients
  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for rolling the dough)
  2. 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (plus more for tomatoes)
  3. 1 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  5. 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
  6. Several assorted colors and sizes of tomatoes, including cherry sliced 1/4 ” thick or cut in half
  7. 1 zucchini sliced crosswise in 1/4″ thick slices
  8. 1 yellow summer squash sliced crosswise in 1/4″ thick slices
  9. 1/2 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  10. 1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese
  11. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  12. 1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into slivers
  13. Extra virgin olive oil
  14. Flake salt
  15. 1 egg, lightly beaten
Instructions
  1. Galette dough: Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Blend just until the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients. Some of the butter can be the size of peas; do not over mix. Add the sour cream and mix until just incorporated. Turn the entire mixture out onto a cutting board and gently push it into a disc. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  2. Filling: Mix the cheeses together in a bowl and set aside. Put the tomato slices and halves in a single layer on sheets of paper towel and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Lay the summer squash and zucchini slices in a single layer on another sheet of paper towel. Blot to get as much moisture out of the vegetables as possible.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425°. Lay a parchment sheet onto a cutting board and roll the dough into a 12-inch round about 1/8-inch thick. Dust the dough and rolling pin with flour if it starts to stick.
  4. Slide the parchment with the dough onto a baking sheet. Scatter the cheese mixture onto the dough, leaving a 3-inch border. Arrange the tomatoes in the center and the squash in an overlapping circle inside the border alternating the colors. Fold the edges of the dough over the vegetables, making pleats as you fold and leaving the center of the tart open.
  5. Brush the beaten egg on the overlapping dough around the galette.
  6. Bake the galette until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Let cool on a rack.
  7. To serve, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with the slivered basil and flake salt.
(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Side Dishes) 

Pub Dining at it’s Best, The Cavalier, SF

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Looking for a cool ambiance in an English pub atmosphere? Then head for pub dining at it’s best at The Cavalier in San Francisco. The restaurant is broken up into 4 uniquely decorated rooms each appointed with style and distinction. Newly opened in 2012, the Cavalier is the 3rd restaurant opened in just over three years by the group of:  Restauranteur Anna Weinberg (restauranteur of the year, SF mag. Aug. 2012), Managing General Partner James Nicholas and Executive Chef/Partner Jennifer Puccio (multiple 3 star review award winner.) The restaurant is bustling with activity and high on the noise spectrum packed with diners having the ultimate combination of a fun & foodie experience.

We sat at a cozy table in the train station room. Our waiter was exceptional, sharing restaurant history, menu advice and being sincerely friendly. The evening was a medley of fun dishes, great wine and lively conversation! 

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Most wine lists in San Francisco sway heavily to Napa wine, and we were happy to taste one of them. We selected the Scaggs Vineyard Mt. Veeder Montage, a blend of classic southern Rhone varietals: mourvedre, grenache , syrah and counoise. Delicious and a great value.

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First item…you guessed it, Brussels Sprouts!  Continuing my journey for trying brussels sprouts served a million different ways. This time is was Crispy Brussels Sprout Chips with vadouvan and lemon zest. Vadouvan is a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a derivative of Indian curry blend with a French influence. They were fun to eat (used our fingers), lightly scented of curry and lemon, nicely crisp and delicious!

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Ok, this one won the creativity award for wonderful simplicity done well. In their Eggs and Cheese selection list, it was the Hen Egg Hollandaise served with ham and cheese soldiers. Sticks of grilled sandwiches made with toasted country white bread encasing prosciutto and cheese. They were served alongside a delicate flavored hen egg hollandaise topped with fresh herbs served in an egg cup. How clever is that!

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From their entree list, I selected the Pan Seared Black Cod with dungeness crab, english peas, asparagus and morcilla sausage vinaigrette. The dish was elegantly designed and well constructed with contrast and compliment. The sear on the fish was superb while keeping the flesh moist and tender. A wonderful entree!

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The rotisserie list featured an Ale-Brined Berkshire Pork Loin with calvados and apple jus. I found the plain presentation with an oversize gravy bowl a little strange. The meat was high quality and tender, the sauce mild and delicate in flavor. It didn’t capture my senses as the other dishes did, although it was tasty.

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Not that we weren’t full at this point, but we felt the need to taste one of the desserts so we opted for their Steamed Pudding with strawberry, rhubarb, whipped creme fraiche and poppy. I had never tried steamed pudding before and I know that strawberry and rhubarb are a dynamite combination so we couldn’t possibly go wrong with this choice. It was wonderful; plated beautifully, great texture and it tasted scrumptious!

Will definitely re-visit The Cavalier and I’m already making my list of items to try next time! I’m thinking a late afternoon visit for a cocktail and their bar menu…

 

Roasted Golden Beet Carpaccio Salad

Roasted Golden Beet Carpaccio Salad
Serves 2
The delicate flavor of roasted golden beets topped with goat cheese and toasted pistachio nuts make the perfect combination for a delicious salad!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups red leaf lettuce, cut into ribbons
  2. 3 medium golden beets
  3. kosher salt
  4. 3 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  5. 1 Tbsp peach balsamic
  6. 1 small shallot, sliced thin
  7. 1/8 cup toasted pistachio nuts, rough chopped
  8. 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (or feta)
  9. 1 tsp chopped fresh chives
  10. 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
  11. flake salt
  12. fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Scrub and trim beets and dry with a paper towel. Place them on a sheet of foil and drizzle with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Wrap the foil around the beets and seal and place the foil wrapped beets on a baking sheet. Place in oven and roast for about 50 min or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool 20 minutes covered.
  3. While the beets are cooking, toast the pistachio nuts in a small dry fry pan until lightly browned and aromatic. Shake pan occasionally and watch closely so you don't overcook them or they will turn bitter. Remove to a plate to cool.
  4. In a small bowl add the peach balsamic vinegar. Slowly whisk in 2 Tbsp olive oil until emulsified and thick. Add the shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and let sit to allow the shallots to mellow.
  5. Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and cut into 1" ribbons.
  6. When the beets have cooled, remove the skins. They should come off easily with your hands or use paper towels to help ease them off. Using a mandolin or a sharp knife uniformly slice the beets very thin.
  7. To assemble the salad, line a platter with the lettuce ribbons. Arrange the beets on top in a circular pattern in the center, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Finish with the pistachio nuts and fresh chopped herbs. Sprinkle flake salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Notes
  1. I love using peach balsamic vinegar in my vinaigrettes with certain vegetables and fruits. In this case, it compliments the beets well and doesn't overpower the rest of the salad ingredients.
Delish-dish blog http://www.delish-dish.com/

The Slanted Door, still a top favorite in SF!

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This was my 4th visit to The Slanted Door modern Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building and it is still a top favorite of mine in San Francisco. You need to make reservations to get in and even though you may arrive with a room full of empty tables, don’t blink…because within a matter of minutes every one of those tables will fill up! It is a favorite in the area and people also come from far and wide to enjoy their food.

View from our outdoor table.

View from our outdoor table.

The service is fantastic and quite fast, especially for a restaurant with so much seating. It has a cafeteria style decor with little ambiance, but it really doesn’t affect anything, because their incredible food is the featured item here. The menu is designed for sharing plates and it’s a good thing because you would be very jealous if you didn’t get to try everything that came to your table!

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Each and every visit of mine required that the first item ordered would be their Crispy Imperial Rolls. They are the most incredible egg rolls filled with gulf shrimp & pork shoulder served with vermicelli noodles, lettuce leaves, mint, roasted peanut and a yummy sweet sauce. They are simply devine!

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I ordered new items this time so that I could try something different. Next up was their Daikon Rice Cakes made with shitake mushroom, shallot and sweet chili soy sauce. They were tasty, nicely crusted and the sauce was yummy. A little too bland for me though and not my most favorite item.

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The Green Papaya Salad  was made with pickled carrot, rau ram,(cilantro) crispy shallot and roasted peanuts. It was crisp and perky with a slight tartness. I really enjoyed it.

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For one of the main entrees I ordered Mesquite Grilled Niman Ranch Flat Iron Steak served with pommes frites and a jalapeño-early girl tomato ragout. The steak was cooked to order and tender. The ragout nicely complimented the beef. However, I didn’t understand the pommes frites. First of all they were not cooked very well done at all and sitting on top of the entree, they just didn’t seem to coordinate well with the texture of the dish. I think it would have been fine with just eliminating them or at least crisping them appropriately.

The other entree was the Caramelized Catfish Claypot with cilantro, ginger and thai chili. It came with a side of brown rice which was the perfect base for the succulent sauce. The fish was tender and delicate – watch out for the bones! A delicious entree.

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 Lunch ended with a couple of their unique tea blends served Vietnamese style.

 

Yes, I do love the Slanted Door and their unique and delicious food. I look forward to my next visit where I plan to try more new items on their menu, except of course, for the Crispy Imperial Rolls that I will have to have!

 

 

Delicata, my new favorite squash!

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Who knew how absolutely yummy Delicata squash was?!! It is so easy to cook, you don’t even have to peel the skin as you can eat everything and it isn’t the least bit stringy. Delicata is my new favorite squash!

I read up a bit before attempting to cook it. I found that many people were using the standard brown sugar, butter, maple syrup sort of recipe and that didn’t appeal to me. It’s so “yesterday!” Then I came across one of my favorite chef recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s “Jerusalem” cookbook for Roasted Butternut Squash. I adapted it to Delicata squash and it was a sure winner! The best part about this is that you can stop at roasting the squash and onions and eat it like that, which is unbelievably delicious. However, the whole process is quick and simple and if you make all of the components and serve them together, you will think you landed in heaven. It is that good!

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ROASTED DELICATA SQUASH

INGREDIENTS

2 Delicata squash (cut in half, seeded and cut into 1/2″ slices)
2 red onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch wedges (or a mixture of red & white onion)
3 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 1/2 Tbsp. light tahini paste (I used regular tahini)
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3 1/2 Tbsp. pine nuts 
1 Tbsp. za’atar
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and toss well. Spread on a baking sheet with the squash pieces on their side and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. (I turn them to get a nice caramel color on both sides) Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.
  3. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking. (Watch them closely as they turn quickly)
  4. To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.

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(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Side Dishes)

Blackberry Scones from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

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Fresh plump blackberries are the perfect fruit to create these delicious Blackberry Scones from the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. I found an adapted version on one of my favorite food sites, The Kitchn. I altered them a bit more in the processing instructions and they came out wonderfully moist and lightly sweet. The trick to taking them to new heights, is to reheat them in a 375° oven for a few minutes before eating them as leftovers. This gives them a light new crispness while still keeping their soft interior. Served warm alongside a steaming cappuccino, makes a royal morning or afternoon treat!

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The recipe stresses the need to keep everything cold. The fruit is frozen before adding it to the batter. This keeps the berries intact and keeps them from blending into the dough without distinction. The dry ingredients and butter are also chilled before mixing.

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I attempted to follow the instructions and use a pastry blender for working the chilled ingredients with the butter, however, ended up throwing it all in my food processor for a quick pulse in an effort to save my tennis arm! It worked out perfectly. I also found the finished dough to be quite sticky and was unable to do any sort of handling or shaping so I just scooped up about a tablespoon of dough and used the drop method for getting them on the baking sheet. This made 24 nice sized scones.

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You can use any ripe fruit for this recipe. I had wonderful fresh blackberries and they were perfect. They were rather large berries so I cut them into two or three pieces prior to freezing them and this gave me 3 or 4 pieces per scone. You can certainly add more berries as you like. I used about 1 1/4 cup and they were still sparse.

Blackberry Scones

Blackberry Scones

BLACKBERRY SCONES

Makes 2 dozen
1 cup fresh blackberries, huckleberries, blueberries or other fresh ripe fruit
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup well-shaken cultured buttermilk
2 to 4 tablespoons turbinado sugar
 
  1. About 2 hours before making the scones, scatter the berries or fruit on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. (If using large berries, cut them in half.) 
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and drop in the cubed butter. Put the bowl in the freezer and leave it there for 30 minutes. 
    Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set it aside. 
  3. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, work the chilled ingredients together in the bowl or put in your food processor and pulse until the butter cubes are the size of peas. Return mixture to the bowl. Make a well in the center. Combine the vanilla and 3/4 cup buttermilk in a separate bowl, and pour the mixture into the well. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy, slightly crumbly mass. (I used my hands to mix as it was thick and was not easy to get the flour in the bottom of the bowl mixed in) Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes to let the flour absorb the liquid, then fold one more time. If the dough seems simply too dry to come together, add 1 tablespoon buttermilk at a time until it just barely comes together. The dough should not be too wet; the scones will spread too much. 
  4. Add the frozen fruit and gently mix them in, trying not to crush them. 
  5. To shape the scones, scoop a small handful into your palm and press it into a tall, fat puck and put it on the prepared baking sheet. If the dough is too sticky to handle, drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Repeat, leaving enough room for the scones to double in size. Sprinkle the tops of the scones with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 15 minutes or until they are golden brown around the sides but still tender in the middle. 
  6. Carefully transfer the scones to a cooling rack and let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Cool completely before storing in a loosely covered container. Store for up to three days. 
  7. To eat scones as leftovers, reheat in a 375° oven for a few minutes to crispin up and warm them.

Adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by Michelle Wojtowicz, Phillip Wojtowicz, Michael Gilson, and Catherine Price

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Breakfast) 

An Unusual Combination Creates the Most Amazing Salad!

 

IMG_3529I’m always trying to find recipes to make the most out of my CSA box ingredients and when I came across this one, I was quite skeptical but decided to give it a try. It is quite an unusual combination, but it created the most amazing salad! The best part was that it utilized three of the more regular box ingredients, carrots, avocados and oranges. I know you’re thinking, “how can that possibly work together?” Trust me…it does!

The key is to prepare the carrots so that they are tender enough to share a similar texture to a perfectly ripe avocado without getting them too mushy. I actually found it quite easy to accomplish. I made this recipe exactly as it was given and it turned out spectacular!

This recipe comes from Chef April Bloomfield‘s cookbook, “a girl and her pig“. She co-owns 4 restaurants; 3 in New York and one in San Francisco. April was awarded the James Beard Best New Chef NYC Award and as of the 2012 Michelin Guide, she is one of ten female chefs in the United States to hold a Michelin star!

Carrot, Avocado and Orange Salad

Carrot, Avocado and Orange Salad

CARROT, AVOCADO AND ORANGE SALAD

ingredients

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • Maldon or another flaky sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crumbled dried pequin chilies or red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 30 or so similarly sized (each about the size of your pointer finger) young carrots, not peeled, 1/2 inch of the green tops left on
  • 3 tennis-ball-sized oranges
  • 3 ripe Hass avocados, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • A handful of small, delicate cilantro sprigs

preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Pound the garlic with a healthy pinch of salt in a mortar until you have a wet, fairly smooth paste. (You can also do this on a cutting board, chopping and mashing and chopping and mashing until you’re satisfied.) Put the paste in a large mixing bowl. Add the cumin, coriander, chilies, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil and stir well, then add the carrots and toss well so they’re coated with the oil and spices. Sprinkle on 3 healthy pinches of salt, crushing the grains with your fingers as you add them, and toss again.

Put the carrots in a large shallow baking dish in one layer. Scrape out the extra garlic, spices, and oil from the bowl and spread evenly on top of the carrots. Pour 1/4 cup water into an empty spot in the casserole (you don’t want to wash off the tasty oily stuff) and tilt the dish so the water spreads across the bottom.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and put it in the oven. Cook the carrots for 25 minutes. Take off the foil and keep cooking until the carrots are lightly browned, and about as tender and creamy as avocado flesh, but not so soft that they threaten to fall apart, about 35 minutes more. (Alter cooking time accordingly based on the size of your carrots as it may vary slightly)

While the carrots are roasting, segment the orange as you would a lemon. (The best way to do this is to cut a slice off the root and top ends of the orange. Using a knife, set the orange on a flat end and cut away the skin and pith slicing downward. Then make small cuts in between the membranes to remove the segments. Do this over a bowl so that you can catch all of the juice that may drip.) Squeeze the membranes into a small bowl to release any additional juice. Set it aside.

When the carrots are done, take the dish out of the oven and let it sit until the carrots have cooled a bit but are still warm.

Meanwhile, take the avocados from the fridge. Halve them lengthwise, remove the pits, and peel the halves. Cut the flesh lengthwise into slices about the same size as the carrots—the slices should be sturdy enough that they don’t break up when you toss them.

Put the avocado slices in a large mixing bowl and add the reserved orange juice, the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a healthy pinch or two of salt. Toss gently and well with your hands. Push the avocado to one side of the bowl. Add the carrots a handful at a time, scraping and tossing them in the beautiful green liquid in the bowl before adding the next handful. Make sure to scrape out and add all the garlicky spices left in the baking dish. Toss it all together gently, being careful not to break the avocado slices.

Stack the carrots, avocado, and orange segments on a platter or in a serving bowl so they’re facing this way and that. Top with the cilantro and serve right away.

Note: I cut the recipe by making one third of it for two of us and it was a perfect amount. She says the recipe serves 4, but I think it really serves 6.

By April Bloomfield
Adapted from a girl and her pig

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under Salads)
 

Sides Hardware and Shoes, it’s really a Restaurant!

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You might think this is a funny name for this place, Sides Hardware and Shoes, cuz it’s really a restaurant in Los Olivos. The name came from it’s origins as a store from 1901 in the same establishment. The new owners, the Nichol’s brothers, decided to honor its origin by renaming it back to its beginning days.

The decor and ambiance are delightful and we were greeted by a friendly face upon arrival. Our table was perfectly situated and the restaurant was full with diners at every table. Our waitress was quite pleasant and checked back continually throughout the evening, though her repertoire was a bit lacking.

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Our martini’s were exceptional; dry, cold and kindly adorned with stuffed blue cheese olives upon request. The food overall was good, although there were several missteps that led us to a mid-range review. The effort was certainly apparent, the plating done beautifully, however there were some taste issues for our personal palettes.

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Having done my homework prior to arriving, I knew that they were recognized as bacon aficionados so it was no surprise that our first item of choice was a daily special starter of Slab Bacon Panzanella! A delicious substantial but tender cut of slab bacon packed with flavor and cooked to perfection. It was served under slices of perfectly sweet & ripened nectarines with brioche croutons (not too crisp) and Hearts of Fire microgreens. The microgreens are attractive green heart-shaped leaves with contrasting vibrant striking red veins whose flavor resembles sorrel. This was my favorite dish of the night and I kinda wish I had just ordered a larger portion for myself and called it a day!

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We never met a brussels sprout that we didn’t like, so we had to also order their Fried Brussels Sprouts with sherry vinegar & capers. On one hand, the sprouts were done better than most any other I have had in regards to the tender crisp quality and their nice bronze finish. However, they were ruined, in our opinion, with way too much of an overwhelming tart flavor from the sherry vinegar. The dish really needed something to offset the sharpness of the vinegar and capers were certainly not the component to accomplish that task. We couldn’t even finish these beautiful morsels, and that was a crime.

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Next up, were two mains; Braised Pork Cheek with celery root puree, carrot, bok choy, crispy shallot and pork jus and Striped Sea Bass with “Paella” risotto cooked with saffron, Spanish chorizo and mussels. My favorite item on the pork cheek plate was the vegetables, believe it or not! I am clearly a meat lover and the meat was tender and moist, but to me, it lacked a bit in flavor. What did not lack in flavor though were their vegetables. They were deliciously seasoned to bring out the most of their delicate flavors and quite wonderful. I could have eaten a bit more celery root puree as it was yummy as well, but was used as more of an artistic element on the plate. Again, with the sea bass, their risotto was a home run, whereas the fish was served with a nicely crispened outer skin but too highly salted for our tastes. 

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Well, after some winners and some frustrations, we thought we should certainly try a dessert. We ordered their Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich w/ Maple-bacon Flavored Ice Cream served with caramel sauce and whipped cream. The photo shows a gorgeous plating of a generous dessert. Hmmm…not so wonderful though. We found the smoky bacon flavor in the ice cream to be a bit unflattering. Although I also make a bacon maple ice cream that is devine, I use bacon chunks instead of dispersing the bacon flavor throughout and somehow it works much better than this did. The cookies were dense and somehow the whole dish just didn’t do it for us. Did love the caramel though! 

Not sure we’ll be running back there real soon, although I could certainly be happy with several servings of their panzanella. We’ll have to try it again and order some different items to see if we just hit a few oddities in their menu or maybe it was just an off day.

 

Delight in this new recipe for Romaine!

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What can I do with all of this beautiful Romaine lettuce that I am receiving? If that is what you are asking yourself, then I have a great new idea for you. Romaine Pesto! I adapted an old recipe from a 2006 Gourmet Magazine for Romaine and Egg-Stuffed Tomatoes with Pancetta. It also gave me a great use for my heirloom tomatoes and you will absolutely delight in this new recipe for Romaine! 

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The pesto is made with Romaine lettuce, flat leaf Italian parsley, garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. It has a fresh, crisp flavor and is a gorgeous bright green color. Since it is delicately flavored, it is well suited for numerous other uses such as a sandwich spread, a dip for steamed artichokes, over roasted vegetables, fish or chicken, just to name a few. The new recipe I created is “Pesto Baked Tomatoes topped with Poached Eggs.” I serve them with a side of crispy Prosciutto and pesto topped toast.

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PESTO BAKED TOMATOES TOPPED WITH POACHED EGGS

Serves: 4

ingredients

  • 3 oz sliced proscuitto 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups romaine leaves, stems removed and torn into 2″ pieces
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup  finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for baking and serving
  • 4 large tomatoes (about 3 inches in diameter)
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature

preparation

Cut off about 1/8 inch from top of each tomato with a sharp knife. Using a grapefruit knife, gently scrape out pulp and seeds and discard them. Lay the tomatoes cut side down on a double layer of paper towels to drain until ready to use.

With motor running, add garlic to food processor to finely chop. Turn off and add the 2 cups romaine leaves along with the parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cheese, then pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow stream, blending until incorporated.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 9-inch glass or ceramic dish with parchment and put the tomatoes in, cut sides up. If necessary slice a sliver from the bottom of the tomato to keep it upright. Spoon 1 tablespoon romaine-parsley pesto into each tomato (you will have extra pesto). Sprinkle with a little Parmesan Cheese and bake tomatoes for 18 to 22 minutes, until tender and lightly browned on the edges.

While the tomatoes bake, cook proscuitto in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, until lightly crisp. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Prepare your poached eggs. I use this foolproof process that I found posted on Serious Eats. I’ve tried many different methods including using specialty poaching pans and cups, vinegar solution, swirling the water, etc. This one seems to be the easiest and most foolproof method so you should try it! All you need is a small wire strainer.

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Top each tomato with a poached egg and sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper. You can serve the extra pesto on toast or an English muffin as an accompaniment along with the fried Proscuitto.

•Romaine-parsley pesto can be frozen in sealed plastic bags (press out any excess air) up to 3 months.

(Printable recipe can be found in my recipe index under sauces and breakfast.)