Monday, June 25, 2012

Wandering around the open-air market is a favorite past time of mine.  I love to cruise through the booths and check out what is fresh and new. Summer is such an amazing time for berries. There are so many different varieties, colors and textures, and in such abundance. We all know you can do so many simple things with berries — fresh from the carton, over ice cream, mixed into yogurt, or in cereal.  I love to bake so this is a great time for muffins, tarts and pies. I have put together some simple and old standard berry recipes as well as a few with a twist. All of these simple recipes can be made as written or you can interchange any berries  you like! So, the next time you are in the market take a moment and look at the fresh berries and see if the smallest and most flavorful of fruits can inspire you.
Mix Berry Smoothie
If we can’t eat our berries quick enough just before they turn I will throw them in a zip lock and freeze them! Great for mix berry margaritas and this yummy smoothie!
2 cups of frozen mixed berries
1/2-cup vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2-cup milk
1 ripe banana
Throw all the ingredients in the blender. Blend until smooth. Serve with or without whipped cream!
Mixed Berry Compote
Use any mixture of berries in this simple, quick compote. It is convenient to have on hand and perfect over pancakes, ice cream, pound cake, cheesecake or grilled salmon!
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
3 cups mixed berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
Melt butter in a skillet over moderate heat. Stir in brown sugar and lemon juice until sugar is dissolved. Add berries and cook, tossing gently (try to keep most of them from breaking up), until berries are warm and juices begin to be released, 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Mix Berry Soup
1½ pounds (about 5 cups) mixed berries
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1-tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ cup lightly packed mint leaves, cut into chiffonier
Crème fraîche, for garnish
Combine strawberries, vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl. Refrigerate and let macerate 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Purée berries, vinegar, sugar and salt in a blender. Strain if desired for a seedless soup, but it isn’t necessary. Serve garnished with mint and a dollop of crème fraîche.
Berry, Spinach and Avocado Salad
1-pint fresh berries (mix and match)
2 bunches fresh spinach
1 red onion, slices
1 avocado, sliced
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Splash Tabasco
1/2-cup olive oil
1/2-cup balsamic vinegar
Toasted pecans (garnish)
Wash berries under cool running water. Wash spinach and remove large tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Add spinach, berries onion and avocado. In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk together. Pour dressing over all and toss. Sprinkle with pecans and serve.
Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry Salad
¾ cup sunflower or soybean oil
Juice of one lemon
1 cup strawberries
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
12 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 cups mixed greens
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
Combine oil, 1/2 the lemon juice, 1cup strawberries, salt and pepper in a blender. Blend well and then add the sesame seeds. Thread shrimp on skewers and sprinkle with the remaining lemon. Cook on a high hot grill for about 6 minutes turning once. Toss the greens with the dressing to coat. Place shrimp on top Garnish with strawberries.
Blueberry Salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1-teaspoon honey
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
3 heaping cups blueberries
2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled and seeds scraped out, cut into 1-inch pieces on a diagonal
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup crumbled feta
1 heart of romaine, chopped
2 lightly packed cups mint leaves
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper. Combine blueberries, cucumbers, scallions, feta, romaine and mint in a large serving bowl. Toss with dressing. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
Grilled Chicken with Strawberry Glaze
1-cup strawberries
1/2 cup lemon juice
Lemon zest
1 shallot, minced
1-tablespoon mint, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 boneless chicken breasts
5 fresh strawberries and mint for garnish.
In a blender puree strawberries down to 1/4 cup. Add the lemon, zest, and shallot. Olive oil and mint. Marinate the chicken with the strawberry mixture 4 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Grill on medium heat basting frequently. Turn after 10 minutes. Cook for about 20 minutes longer. Garnish with mint and strawberries.
Curried Halibut with Mixed Berries
2 cups mixed berries, chopped
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped- plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons torpedo leeks, chopped (red onion will do as a substitution)
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
1½ pounds fresh halibut, skin trimmed, cut into 4 pieces
Curry powder to taste
Salt to taste
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 (13½-ounce) can coconut milk
6 cups cooked basmati rice
Put an oven-safe skillet in oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Toss berries, cilantro, onion, limejuice and olive oil together. Season with salt and set aside. Generously season fish with curry powder and salt. Heat peanut oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sear fish on both sides until golden brown, about 45 seconds per side. Transfer fish to hot skillet in the oven and roast until fish is barely cooked through, about 6 more minutes. Transfer to a warm platter and cover. Pour coconut milk into hot skillet over medium-low heat. Gently scrape bottom of the pan to release caramelized bits as milk heats. Season milk with a generous pinch of salt. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Lay fish on top and ladle coconut milk over all. Put relish on top of fish and sprinkle more cilantro leaves over all.
Strawberry Muffins
2 1/2 cup flour
1/2-cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
1/2-teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1-teaspoon vanilla
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
Sugar mixed with cinnamon for topping
Pre-heat oven to 400. Spray muffin tin with bakers joy spray or line muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stir well until all ingredient are well blended. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in and the strawberries. Gently fold ingredients just until moist .Do not over mix. Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with about 1/2-teaspoon sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
Mix Berry Tart With Almond Crust
This recipe makes 2 tarts. It may seem like a lot, but they go so very quickly. Use whatever fresh berries you would like. You can get as creative as you would like in your fruit placement.
Almond Tart Crust
1 ½ sticks butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/2-teaspoon vanilla
2-½ cup flour
1/4 cup almond meal
(In a food processor grind 1/2 cup sliced almonds with 1-tablespoon powder sugar)
Pinch of salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer combine butter, sugar, salt and vanilla until well blended. Mix in the flour and almond meal. Stop when it is just mixed. Do not over mix. Wrap in plastic and chill over night. Divide the dough in half and roll each out on a well-floured surface to desired size and place in well-sprayed tart pans. Prick the bottom and bake in a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a rack.
3/4-cup sugar
3 cups milk
4 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
6 large eggs
1 stick butter
2-teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan mix 1/2-cup sugar to the milk and bring to a boil stirring constantly. In a medium bowl whisk together: 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and yolks. Once the milk is boiling pour 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg mixture whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the rest of the milk mixture and return to the heat whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a complete boil. Remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla whisking until the butter completely melts. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic until it comes to room temperature.
1-pint raspberries
1-pint blueberries
1-pint blackberries
1-pint strawberries
(Or any fruit and berry combo that you like)
1-cup red currant jelly
Spread 1/2 of the cream filling into each tart shell. And cover with berries. When ready to serve melt the jelly over medium heat. Using a pastry brush carefully brush over fruit. Serve immediately.
Mixed Berry Short Cake
2 cups flour
1-tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2-teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter cut into tiny pieces
3/4-cup heavy cream
1 quart fresh berries
1/4-cup sugar
Splash orange juice
Fresh whipped cream
Spray a cookie sheet with bakers joy. Pre-heat oven to 450. In a bowl whisk together flour, baking powder salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Lightly stir in cream until the dough is just blended. Drop 12 3-inch (or smaller if doing minis) rounds of batter from a spoon Bake for about 12 minutes until golden. Meanwhile, in a large bowl gently e mix berries, sugar and orange juice. When ready to serve whip the cream. Split biscuits in half lengthwise. Cover with berries and fresh cream. Serve immediately.
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Pastry for a 2 crust 9 inch pie
4 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1/4-cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2-teaspoon cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 egg, beaten
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Trim leaving 1/2 inch over the pie plate.
Combine rhubarb strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and cinnamon. Place in the pie shell.
Roll out remaining pastry and cut into 1-inch strips. Make a lattice top crust on the pie by crisscrossing the strips over the filling. Trim the strips even with the pie plate. Fold the 1/2-inch of the bottom crust over the ends of the strips. Seal and flute the edges. Brush lattice with egg.
Place on a baking sheet or tinfoil in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust starts to brown. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes,
Basic Pie Pastry
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
up to 8 tablespoons ice water
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender cut the shortening into the flour until the pieces are the size of rice. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons water over part of the flour mixture and stir very gently with a fork, Push moistened dough to the side of the bowl. Repeat using 2 tablespoons of water  until all the dough is moistened (up to eight). Divide dough in half. Form each into a ball you can do this the evening before wrap in plastic. This is enough for 1 nine-inch double-crusted pie or two baked pastry shells.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy Fathers Day!

The gift of having an extraordinary male figure in your life is so important and one I wish for all children. I was a daddy’s girl and so is my daughter.  On this day I celebrate all dads, grandpas and dad-like figures. Unlike Mother’s Day where we spent hours trying to figure out ways to pamper our moms, the traditional Father’s Day has poor dad slaving over the grill. Teaching my brothers to grill was a rite of passage (kind of like carving the Thanksgiving bird) and I’m sure he would have taught me if I had shown an interest.
My first lesson in BBQ was when I left home and invited about 20 people over and realized that I didn’t have my daddy to grill for me. At one point I tipped the BBQ (I was wearing white) and I think the chicken was black on the outside and raw on the inside. I have since worked with some “Master Q-uers” and learned the art and technique of grilling.
I love to grill everything from meats to fish and every veggie in between. You can always grill extra and have leftovers for the week. I like to have a well-rounded menu with a lot of variety. I love add  asian-fusian flavors to steak and salmon. Usually I just steam my artichokes, but I lprefer the smokey flavor that comes from throwing them on the grill. In the coho salmon recipe below, I often switch out the chanterelles for fresh morels, but the mushroom farmer at the open-air market said that the morels are not very good this year (as well as super expensive), so I  get them dried and soak them in water.
Aside from my daughter, the best gift her dad gave me was his family’s “Slick BBQ Sauce.” My friends always request it and use it generously so be sure to make plenty.  You can always add grilled veggies, corn and a big green salad for larger gatherings. And since my dad was not much of a dessert eater, we always found that ice cream and fresh fruit can be a great simple finish.
I was so blessed to have a dad that was loving, giving and truly present…well, most of the time if the 49ers weren’t playing! I know this to be true because of the excellent fathers my brothers have become. Sadly, my father passed at the age of 52, and while I miss him terribly I always feel his love and guidance. Enjoy these recipes and embrace all of the amazing men who have touched your life whether he is your biological or stepfather, a close family member or friend.
Slicks BBQ Sauce
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2-cup dark brown sugar
1  shake Worchester
4 shakes tabasco
1 clove garlic minced
1-tablespoon black pepper
1-teaspoon celery salt
1 heaping teaspoon chili powder
4 tablespoons French’s mustard
1 cup Heinz ketchup
Mix all ingredients in an empty and clean 1/2-gallon milk jug. It is best to make a couple of days a head. Shake vigorously at least twice a day. Brush over grilled chicken, fish, steak or veggies. Anything you would use a traditional BBQ sauce for.
Grilled Artichokes
2 lemons
4 large artichokes, (3-3 1/2 pounds total)
1-tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare artichokes: Fill a stockpot with water; add the juice of 1 lemon. Trim leaves from the top of an artichoke. Remove the outer layer(s) of leaves from the stem end and snip all remaining spiky tips from the outer leaves. Trim an inch off the bottom of the stem and use a vegetable peeler to remove the fibrous outer layer. As each artichoke is prepared, drop it into the lemon water to prevent it from turning brown.
When all the artichokes are prepared, cover the pan and bring to a boil. Boil until the base of the stem can be pierced with a fork, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise. Scoop out the choke and first few inner layers in the center until the bottom is revealed. Brush each half with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the artichokes until tender and lightly charred, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter, squeeze half a lemon over them and garnish with the remaining lemon half cut into 4 wedges. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled.
Korean Style Marinated London Broil
3 pound London Broil (or Sirloin)
2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1-cup soy sauce
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
In a shallow baking dish whisk together all of the above ingredients (except the meat) mix well. Place meat in the baking dish coating well on both sides. Let marinade overnight (at least 4 hours) Grill over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes per side for rare. Add about five minutes per side for medium rare and on up. To serve, cut steak diagonally into thin slices and transfer to a platter.
Ginger Soy Salmon
2- 6 ounce Salmon steaks
Juice and zest of 3 tangerines or clementines. (My daughterEmma calls them Ferry tangerines). If not in season, oranges will do.
1/4-cup brown sugar
1-cup soy sauce
1-tablespoon ginger
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
In a bowl, mix all but the salmon. I like to marinade the fish for about one hour. Grill over med-low heat for about 7 minutes per side.
Grilled Coho Salmon with Fennel, Leeks & Chanterelles
2 (6 to 7-ounce) Coho salmon fillets
2 tablespoons butter
5 to 6 sliced chanterelle mushrooms
1/2 cup sliced fennel
1/2 cup sliced leeks
1/2 cup white wine
1/2-cup chicken stock
1-cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sauté the chanterelles, fennel, and leeks in butter until soft and lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and cream. Reduce for 3 to 4 minutes. The sauce should be of medium thickness and have a rich ivory color. Season with the salt and pepper. Oil and grill the salmon to desired doneness. Remove to a serving plate. Spoon the sauce over the fish, and serve.
Spicy Noodles
You can double or triple this recipe to fed a crowd. You can add cooked chicken or shrimp to make it an entrée. You can also use soba noodles that are from buckwheat so it is ok for people with wheat allergies.
1 pound dry pasta- spaghetti or angel hair
1-cup smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2-cup soy sauce
1 tsp. chili pepper flakes
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. canola oil
Garnishes- slivered carrots, green onions, red pepper s, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds, toasted peanuts
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water. Drain the noodles, let stand and use the warm pot to make the sauce. (It helps with the thickness of the peanut butter)
Whisk the rest of ingredients until blended. Mix in the pasta. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Before serving toss with the garnishes of your choice.
Black Bean & Red Papaya Salad
3 tablespoons fresh limejuice
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1-teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-teaspoon salt
1/4-teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium red papayas, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced, crosswise
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Combine limejuice, ginger, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Set vinaigrette aside. Combine black beans, papaya, and red onion in a large bowl and toss together.  Pour vinaigrette over and toss again.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Add mint, toss again, and serve.
Wasabi Coleslaw
2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
1/4-cup mayonnaise
3-teaspoon wasabi paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Mix together cabbage, wassail, mayonnaise, and vinegar in medium bowl. Chill for 2 hours or overnight.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yummy Clams and Mussels

It’s  May and the weather keeps going from hot to cold,  so this past weekend I found myself wanting to make a mix of clams and mussels! I love them, but I used to only eat them when dining out because I could never get them cleaned. I learned a few tips that make them so easy to prepare and my guests just go crazy.
For mussels, scrub them with a brush under cold water and scrape off any barnacles with a knife. If the beard is still attached (most cultivated mussels have been trimmed mechanically), remove it by pulling it from tip to hinge or pulling and cutting it off with your knife. Do this just before cooking. Discard any with cracked or open shells. I also have a great tip for getting the sand out of clams.  Rinse them off in cold water to get rid of the gunk. While keeping them submerged in water place a stainless steel spoon over them and stream water continuously for ten minutes. The combination of the water and the stainless creates an electrical current that causes the clams to spit out any sand.
And what about  the grand debate between New England and Manhattan clam chowder? In the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up you find both done very well, but don’t tell them in Boston!
Grab some crusty bread, a nice glass of wine and enjoy these recipes sure to bring on stimulating conversation and a spectacular evening.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
2 slices bacon ( sub with 2 more tablespoons olive oil)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4-teaspoon celery seed
2 bay leaves
12 ounces of tomato juice, strained tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 14-ounce can of clam juice
2 10-ounce cans of baby clams
1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
A dozen or so live small clams, such as littlenecks or Manila clams
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco or other hot sauce
Render the bacon fat. Slowly cook the bacon with the olive oil until the bacon is crispy. Remove, chop and set aside. Turn the heat to medium-high and sauté the carrots, celery and onion until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Do not brown the vegetables. Return chopped bacon to the pot. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the herbs, tomato juice, clam broth and the juice from the canned clams, mix well, then add the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently until the potatoes are done, about 30-40 minutes.  When the potatoes are tender, add the canned clams and the live clams cover the pot and simmer until the live clams open up, about 5-10 minutes. Add tabasco, salt and black pepper to taste. Place a clam in shell or two in each bowl for serving.
New England Clam Chowder
2 cups clams, chopped
4 cups clam juice
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 cup celery, finely diced
2 cups potatoes, finely diced
1/2-cup flour
1 quart half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
In a large soup pot bring clams, clam juice onion, celery and potatoes to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer until vegetables are tender. In the meantime, melt butter; add flour, blend and cook one minute or two. Add half & half. Cook and stir until smooth and thick.  After you have made the white sauce and it is the thickness you want, just turn the stove off and wait for about 10-15 minutes before you add the un-drained vegetables and clams. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with oyster crackers!
Mussel Soup
5 pounds fresh mussels, brushed and cleaned from all the sand
1 Tablespoon butter
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 celery branch, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
1 thyme twig
1/2 cup white wine
Fresh parsley
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch saffron
Salt and pepper
In a large soup pot, heat butter on medium heat. Cook the shallot and celery without browning for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the garlic with thyme and bay leaf, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the mussels and white wine, with a bunch of parsley. Season with salt and pepper and cook on high heat, covered until all the mussels are open about 5 minutes. Discard all mussels that are not open. Remove the mussels from the pot and set aside. Filter the juice. Shell the mussels (keep 1/3 with the shells). In the stockpot, pour the juice again and add the coconut milk, saffron and turmeric and heat to reach a simmer. Add the mussels and keep warm. Serve with fresh parsley in bowls, and accompany with a tasty loaf of rustic bread!
Roasted Clams with Garlic Butter
6 lbs. clams in shell
3/4 lb. butter
8 cloves garlic, sliced
Melt butter and add garlic. Stir and keep warm over low heat. 

Wash clams thoroughly in running water. Arrange clams on baking sheet and bake at 450° F. for 15 minutes till they open. 

Serve the clams warm with the garlic butter.
Mussels in Curry Broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 small chili pepper, seeded and minced
1-tablespoon curry powder
4 cups bottled clam juice
1 (2-inch) strip of lime zest
1/2 pounds mussels
3/4-cup coconut milk
Salt to taste. 
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges, for garnish
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and chili pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft (about 7 minutes). Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Increase the heat to high, add the clam juice and lime zest, and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes. Add the mussels, cover, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until all the shells have opened, 5 to 7 minutes. Scoop the mussels into large bowls.

Stir the coconut milk and sugar into the broth and adjust the seasoning. Add cilantro. Spoon the broth over the shellfish and garnish with fresh lime wedges. Serve immediately.
Steamed Clams In Beer
24 clams
4 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped
12 oz good dark beer
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stick butter
In a small saucepan sauté chopped garlic and fresh parsley with melted butter. Keep warm on low. Place clams in the bottom of a clam steamer or deep boiling pot. Add beer. Beer level should be only 1-2 inches from bottom. Cover and bring beer to a boil and steam until top clams barely open (about 3-5 minutes). Do not over cook, as clams will become tough and rubbery.
Mussels and Clams in White Wine
1 pound mussels
1 pound clams
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1shallot, chopped
2 cups dry white wine
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
5 sprigs flat leaf parsley
6 chives, sliced
Clean the mussels, scrubbing to remove the beards. Clean the clams as described above. In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic and shallots. Sauté until they soften. Add the white wine and lemon juice. Finish with the parsley and chives. 

Add the mussels and clams. Cover the pan and let mussels and clams steam open.
3 cups tomato juice
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sprig rosemary, chopped
1 sprig marjoram, chopped
1 sprig oregano, chopped
½ pound fresh fish (flounder, haddock, perch), boned and cut into 1″ pieces
½ cup red wine
12 clams in the shell
1-pound shrimp, in the shell
4- tablespoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 parsley sprigs, chopped
8 lemon wedges
Place tomato juice in a pot and bring to a simmer. Add onion, celery, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, garlic, and fish to the pot and simmer, covered, for an hour to thicken broth. Add the wine, shrimp, and clams and heat to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the shrimp just turn pink. Serve in heated bowls, topped with cheese, a wedge of lemon, and parsley.

For The Love Of Chocolate!

Oh chocolate!  My true love! How many nights it has been you and I!  The evening ends with me beating myself up after hours at the gym and then the sun goes down and I just can’t resist you!  Who knew we were doing something so terribly right! Dark chocolate has been shown to reduce LDL levels (the bad cholesterol) by up to 10 percent and it contains phenylethylamine which is the chemical the brain produces when we fall in love. It contains neurotransmitters that act like little messengers running around our brain telling the body what to do. Serotonin, one of the main neurotransmitters in the body, acts as an anti-depressant.
Chocolate has antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries, and contribute to chronic illness and aging. It contains more calcium than eight ounces of milk and it is full of flavonoids which are pigments found in plants that help reduce damage to the body. They help relax blood pressure through the production of nitric oxide and are good for the heart. It releases endorphins that are natural feel-good chemicals. It just makes you feel good! So grab a slab and enjoy guilt free these recipes! Once again chocolate is our friend!

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
8 ounces 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
1 pound strawberries with stem, washed and dried completely
3 ounces white chocolate (to garnish half)
Place chocolate in heatproof pan. Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowl of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth.
Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Melt the white chocolate the same way and with a fork drizzle over half of the strawberries for a lovely presentation.
Chocolate Risotto
3 tablespoons Butter
1-tablespoon olive oil
Small red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio Rice
1-cup mushrooms, sliced
¼ to ½ cup white wine
3 to 5 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
3 teaspoons Dutch processed cocoa
Dash of smoked paprika
1-cup parsley, chopped
Parmesan Cheese to serve
Mix butter and olive oil in a stockpot over low heat until butter is melted. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Stir until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add rice and stir a few minutes. Add mushrooms and stir for about 5 minutes until they soften.
Add wine and stir until absorbed. Add hot stock about ½ a cup at a time. Keep the heat hot enough so the rice keeps gently simmering and absorbing each addition of stock. When the rice is plump and cooked when tasted you have added enough stock. Stir in 1-tablespoon cocoa and dash of paprika. Taste and check seasoning.  Stir through some parsley and Parmesan.
Chocolate Pancakes with Chocolate Sauce
For pancakes:
1/2 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-cup sugar
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
1/8-teaspoon salt
2 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4-cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4-cup vegetable oil
1-teaspoon vanilla
Unsalted butter for greasing griddle
Sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, then whisk in eggs, yolk, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla until combined well.
Heat a griddle or nonstick skillet over moderately low heat and lightly coat with butter.
Working in batches of 2 or 3, pour 1/4 cup batter per cake onto hot griddle and cook until bubbles appear on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip cakes with a large spatula and cook until tops spring back when pressed gently, about 1 minute more. Transfer to a plate and loosely cover with foil to keep warm. Add 1/2-teaspoon butter to griddle between batches.
Serve cakes in stacks, topped with chocolate sauce.
For the sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
7 ounces 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
Bring cream to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan, then pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, gently whisking until smooth. Keep warm or at room temperature.
Chocolate Truffles
12 ounces semi- sweet chocolate (chips or a bar broken into small pieces)
1 stick butter
1/2-cup ground chocolate
In a double broiler, melt the chocolate over simmering water, stirring constantly. (If you don’t have a double broiler you can use a smaller pan for the chocolate and a larger one to simmer the water. Just be careful especially with the kids, as it is slightly awkward.) Remove from heat. Add butter stirring until melted. Chill until firm enough to form into small round pieces. Roll in ground chocolate. Chill overnight in refrigerator. Makes about 40.
Green Tea and Chocolate Truffles
Around mid-day I usually have a cup of green tea. It was one time when I was eating a piece of chocolate that I thought how amazing the two would be together. The subtle essence and healing power of green tea make these really special.
2/3-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces and softened
2 teaspoons loose Green Tea leaves
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup cocoa powder
In a medium saucepan bring cream and butter to a boil and stir in tealeaves. Remove from heat and let steep 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, finely grind chocolate in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Pour cream through a fine-mesh sieve onto chocolate, pressing on and discarding tealeaves, then whisk until smooth. Chill mixture covered, until firm, overnight. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto prepared baking sheet. . Refrigerate until firm, about three hours.
Place cocoa powder in a bowl. Roll truffles in mixture. Cover with plastic; chill until ready to serve.
Chocolate Fondue
Combine in a medium, heavy saucepan:
1-cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Stirring constantly bring to a rolling boil. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add:
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Let stand for one minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in:
2 teaspoons vanilla, or a splash of brandy or orange liqueur.
Pour into a fondue pot and serve with shortbread, pound cake and any fruit you like.
Very Chocolate Ice Cream
2-cup heavy cream
6 heaping tablespoons Valhrona cocoa
6 1/2 6 ounces 60%cacao bittersweet chocolate
1-cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/2-cup sugar
1/4-teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
In a medium pot heat 1 cup of heavy cream with cocoa; whisk well to ensure the cocoa dissolves properly. When cream is bubbling at the edges, remove from heat and add dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds then give it a good stir until it’s all incorporated. Add remaining cup of cream to pot, stir to combine, then pour the contents into a medium sized non-metal bowl, scraping out the pot as well as you can, and place a strainer over the bowl. Place the pot back on the stove, and add the cup of milk, 1/2 cup of sugar and the salt. Heat the milk and sugar gently on the stove while you get your egg yolks ready. Whisk the egg yolks together and then grab the pot from the stove. SLOWLY drizzle warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time until everything’s all combined. Then dump the liquid back into the pot. Stir constantly with a wooden or other heat-safe spoon or spatula over medium heat until the eggs thicken a bit, into custard. You’ll know it’s done when you can hold up the spoon and run your finger through the egg-milk mixture and the line you drew with your finger stays there. Pour custard through the strainer into the bowl. Add vanilla and stir to combine the chocolaty goodness. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl, literally touching the entire surface of the ice cream base. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours then prepare according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Once you’ve got it into your final container, freeze again for at least 6 hours – Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before eating so it has time to soften a bit before serving.
Chocolate Basil Cake with Chocolate Cream Frosting
1-cup sugar
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (plus addition leaves for garnish)
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2-teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4-teaspoon salt
3/4-cup all-purpose flour
1/2-cup hot water
1 cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1 recipe chocolate cream, frosting (below)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with Bakers Joy. Place the sugar and basil in a food processor. Process until basil is chopped fine and uniformly green in color (it will look slightly wet). In a large bowl whisk the melted butter, cocoa powder and basil sugar until well blended. Whisk in the eggs, 1 at a time, until blended and smooth. Stir in the baking soda, vanilla, and salt.
Gradually add flour to bowl, stirring just until blended (do not over stir). Add hot water to mixture, stirring just until blended. Add chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 22-25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into squares. Cool completely, Prepare sour cream frosting. Spread over cake and garnish with basil leaves.
Chocolate Cream
1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons butter, softened
½ cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips
1-teaspoon vanilla
In a medium bowl whisk the powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside. In a separate medium bowl beat the butter and melted chocolate with an electric mixer on low speed until blended. Gradually add sugar mixture to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. Add vanilla and beat well for 1 minute until very smooth and creamy.

Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day marks the first official BBQ of the 2012 summer! It is traditional to fly the flag of the United States at half mast from dawn until noon. Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
This grown up version of a classic warm weather treat will bring a smile to the faces of your guests. Enjoy the beautiful long weekend! Cheers!
Memorial Day Banana Split
2 frozen bananas, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4-1/3 cup Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup whipped cream plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
Place bananas, cream, Patron, vanilla and 1/3 cup whipped cream in a blender. Blend on low until smooth and thick. Garnish with extra tablespoon of whipped cream, coffee grounds or chocolate chips and enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

School Lunches

As summer comes to an end and the first day of school is here,  I once again ask that age old question — “What the heck to feed my kid?” I love to create fun, healthy lunches that she will devour, but in truth I can not tell you how many times I have dug through her back pack only to find crushed sandwiches and half eaten pieces of fruit that I can no longer recognize. I love the bento box idea with compartments for lots of little snacks, such as nuts, fruit, roll ups —  all things that you know your child will eat. You can find these boxes in many Asian stores or from a couple of moms in Santa Cruz who developed the Laptop Lunches. Their slogan is ‘bento-ware for everywhere’. Amazon has a few cute ones, as does the Ultimate Green Store .

Bento Box from
Once you find the packaging, the challenge is what to put in them. Dinner leftovers and grazing food are always a hit with my daughter, Emma. I have to stay one step ahead of her and really listen because what she loved and gobbled up one day comes back untouched the next.  I suspect that this will always be an ongoing area of creative cooking, therefore, I doubt that this will be my last column addressing such issues. I invite you to come on into the trenches with me and make it a good year and good lunches!
Tuna Roll-Ups
1 can (6 ounces) tuna fish, preferably packed in water, drained
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Two 10-inch flour tortillas
Two medium lettuce or spinach leaves
1/2 of a ripe avocado: peeled, pitted, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
Flake the tuna and squeeze lemon over it. Combine the tuna, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, carrots and cucumbers in a small bowl and mix until blended. Lay the tortillas on a work surface. Spread 1/2-teaspoon mayonnaise on each tortilla and arrange the lettuce on top of both and avocado lengthwise in rows near one edge. Spoon the tuna in a line next to the vegetables (away from the edge). Roll each tortilla up snugly into a cylinder. Cut crosswise in half. ½ is more than enough for a small child. A teen or adult could eat two halves.
Turkey Sandwich Five Way
THE CAESAR WRAP: Large flour tortilla rolled with sliced turkey, shredded romaine, diced tomatoes, shredded Parmesan cheese and creamy Caesar dressing.
TURKEY PARMIGIANA: Sliced turkey topped with spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella, broiled on crusty Italian bread.
THE CALIFORNIA ROLL-UP: Large flour tortilla topped with sliced turkey, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and alfalfa sprouts and shredded monterey jack cheese.
TURKEY REUBEN: Sliced turkey topped with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and swiss cheese on grilled rye bread. 
TURKEY BLT: Sliced turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on toast.
Roasted Vegetable Panini
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 medium eggplant, cut lengthwise into 8 slices (1/4 inch each)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 8 slices (1/4 inch each)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and quartered
8 slices ciabatta bread
1-cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
8 large fresh basil leaves
Whisk vinegar, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray; place vegetables in 1 layer on sheet. Brush both sides of eggplant and zucchini with vinegar mixture. Spray all vegetables with cooking spray and place under broiler, 7 to 8 minutes, turning once and coating with cooking spray. Lightly brush bottom slices of ciabatta with remaining vinegar mixture. Pile veggies, cheese and basil on 4 slices of bread. Close sandwiches; spray both sides with cooking spray. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add sandwiches. Place a second skillet on top of sandwiches and press down. Cook 4 minutes, flipping once. Makes four sandwiches.
Cucumber Tea Sandwich
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 32 slices)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped watercress
16 slices white bread
Salt to taste
In a small bowl combine cream cheese and watercress. Spread on one side of each side of bread. Lay cucumbers onto the cream cheese on eight slices of bread. Sprinkle with salt. Top the remaining slice of bread cream cheese side down. Carefully cut the crusts from each sandwich with a sharp knife. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally and then in half again.
Fettuccine Salad with Eggs and Heirloom Tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 sun- dried tomatoes, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
10 large basil leaves
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Place in blender and puree until smooth and fluffy.
12 ounces Spinach Fettuccine, cooked and well drained
4 heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and halved
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Gently toss in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss until evenly coated.
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled and wedged
Gently toss in eggs and serve.
Peanut Noodles
1 pound dry pasta- spaghetti or angel hair
1-cup peanut butter
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2-cup soy sauce
1 tsp. chile pepper flakes
3 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. canola oil
Garnishes- slivered carrots, green onions, red pepper s, fresh cilantro, and sesame seeds, toasted peanuts
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling water. Drain the noodles, let stand and use the warm pot to make the sauce. (It helps with the thickness of the peanut butter) Wisk the rest of ingredients until blended. Mix in the pasta. Let stand in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Before serving toss with the garnishes of your choice.
Ravioli Pasta Salad
1/2 pound ricotta-stuffed ravioli
1 bunch thin asparagus, cut on an angel
10 ounce bag organic peas, thawed overnight in refrigerator
3 – 4 big handfuls baby spinach, washed
a couple splashes olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
pinch of sea salt
Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Into an extra-large pot of well-salted boiling water add the raviolis. After a few minutes, when a couple of the raviolis begin to float, add the asparagus and peas. Since the asparagus is thin and the peas aren’t frozen, you’ll need to cook them only for about a minute – really quick, just enough to brighten up the peas and give the asparagus a touch of tenderness. Drain everything into a large colander.
Immediately transfer to a large bowl, add the spinach and pine nuts, and gently toss with a couple big splashes of olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. Sprinkle with Parmesan!
Tortellini Salad
2 large bunches fresh basil (about 4 cups loosely packed leaves)
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 pound fresh cheese tortellini
2 cups diced cooked chicken
Additional grated Parmesan cheese
Puree first five ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to small bowl. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pesto to seal. Cover; chill.)
Cook tortellini in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water.
Combine tortellini, chicken and 1-cup pesto in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Toss until mixture is heated through, adding reserved cooking water and additional pesto by tablespoonfuls until sauce coats pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Pass additional Parmesan.
Couscous Salad
Remember you can change this with any number of variations—toast pine nuts and add them in, maybe try a few chickpeas. Diced red peppers, small black olives, any spicy dark green olive carrots, edamame, chick peas, dried fruits and nuts—anything your picky eater will like!
3 tablespoons butter
1-cup couscous
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Pinch salt
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water, butter and salt just to moment of boiling. Add couscous and put cover on. Take the pan off the heat. Let it stand for five minutes.
3 small red onions
1 package feta cheese (about 5 to 7 ounces)
1 small bunch arugula (or parsley or basil)
2 tomatoes
Juice of one large lemon
Olive Oil
Meanwhile, dice your onions and shred your arugula into small bite-size pieces. Cut tomatoes into small pieces and get rid of seeds. When couscous has cooled, put it into your serving bowl. Fluff it with fork, moisten with water or stock if there any lumps. Blend in your onions, arugula and tomatoes. Crumble feta into small pieces into salad.
In a small bowl or jar, whisk lemon juice and olive oil together. Grind a little fresh salt and pepper into vinaigrette. Stir into salad.
Edamame Salad
1 lb frozen shelled edamame
3 cups corn kernels
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
6 parsley sprigs, chopped
6 basil sprigs, chopped
1/3-cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin
Pinch Salt and pepper
In a small bowl whisk together lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, cumin and salt and pepper. In a large bowl mix together edamame, corn, bell pepper, red onion, green onion, parsley and basil. Toss with dressing. Makes 6 lunch servings.
Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
2-1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon salt
2 large ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Adjust an oven rack to the middle shelf and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Mash the bananas with the vanilla, making about 1 cup. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer mix the sugars and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, then blend in the mashed bananas. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture will look curdled. At low speed, blend in the flour mixture, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the chips and nuts. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls 1-1/2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 12 minutes, then remove to racks to cool. Store in a cookie jar for up to 1 week. Makes about 6 dozen.
Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies. Check out her websites www.Backtothekitchen.netand She wrote a weekly food column for the Sun Community Newspapers.