Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chioggia Beet Salad

Nature provides amazing gifts from the various landscapes around the world to the vast variety of foods that we eat. Living in the Bay Area we are fortunate to have access to a bounty of gorgeous fruits and vegetables. Attending the local farmers markets is like being a kid in a candy store. Each time, you can find a new item to try and purchase.

Currently one of my favorite things to buy is in season – the chioggia beet. Sometimes you will hear it referred to as the candy stripe beet due to its alternative red and white rings. When you cut the beet in half, the bright and vibrant colors just jump out at you. Along with the golden and traditional dark red beet, the selection of types of beets makes it fun this time of year.

One of the vendors at the farmers market had a bunch of three chioggia beets for two dollars – what a bargain – so I had to pick up a couple bunches. I thought it would be such a beautiful presentation to have a simple beet salad with these beauties and a drizzle of honey Dijon vinaigrette with fresh herbs sprinkled on the top. To enhance the honey flavor, I crumbled a honey infused goat cheese that I picked up at Trader Joes. This goat cheese was amazing and I highly recommend if you have a Trader Joes near year, run don’t walk down there and give it a try.

Chioggia Beet Salad

6 Medium Chioggia Beets
Olive Oil
Fresh Chives
Fresh Thyme
Honey Goat Cheese or Simple Goat Cheese

Wash and trim the beets. Cut the beet in half so that both ends are pointing north and south, so you keep the red and white circles consistent. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Use a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over the beets and using your hands rub the olive oil all over the beets. Makes sure the candy stripe side is face down when cooking. They will roast for about 60 to 75 minutes or until tender and a knife pokes through.

Remove from the heat and let cool. With a sharp knife trim the skin away and slice each one. Lay on a large platter or on individual plates in a nice pattern. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, sprinkle with chopped chives and bits of fresh thyme. Then crumble pieces of the honey goat cheese and serve.

Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

1 shallot, minced
2 t. Honey
1 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. Sherry Vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
9 T. Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients to a small jar. Shake well and let stand for one hour to let the flavors develop. Season with salt and pepper. Taste for any adjustments you want to make.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Corn Soup with Padron Peppers and Bacon

Living in the Bay Area, we are fortunate to have access to the delicious sweet corn from Brentwood. The season has just begun. The corn is sweet, tender and simply delicious. Our farmers markets are abounding with this summer treat. Often three ears of corn are only two dollars – what a bargain.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brown Butter Double Peanut and Chocolate Cookie | Secret Recipe Club

It is that time again – the Secret Recipe Club reveal for group C. I guess the word is more or less out for what the Secret Recipe Club is all about, but just in case you are in the dark, let me shed some light. The Secret Recipe Club is a group of avid food bloggers who are paired up once a month with a fellow food blogger from the group. You peruse through their blog to choose a favorite recipe that catches your eye to make. Then on the big reveal day, you see who was given your blog and the person you were paired up gets to see your take on their recipe. Check out the Secret Recipe Club link to learn more.

For June, I was paired up with Chelsy from Mangia, which mean simply “Eat” in Italian. As you might assume from the name of her blog, Chelsy is from an Italian family and gained her love for cooking from when she was a kid. She states that she learned to make meatballs prior to learning how to ride a bike – that is someone who loves cooking. Chelsy is a 20 something certified personal trainer living in Texas and simply loves cooking. Her greatest inspiration for starting this blog was for her sister who has celiac disease and Chelsy wanted to create gluten free delights that would be similar to the non-gluten free version. All in all Chelsy enjoys life and tries to make people happy through her cooking – looks like she is succeeding.

After browsing through all of Chelsy’s wonderful recipes, I was drawn to her Brown Butter Peanut Butter Chip Cookies. Okay – who doesn’t love brown butter? Quite frankly, it is one of the best things on earth. The pure nutty taste is just simply sublime. Most often, I will add brown butter to butternut squash ravioli with toasted sage and parmesan cheese. I have never experienced it in a cookie, so that completely intrigued me to try this recipe.

Next I contemplated how I can add my own spin on these little delights. I thought why not add the “chocolate component” , especially since peanut butter and chocolate are a natural pairing. I added chocolate chips to the mix along with dipping each cookie in a bath of chocolate. The result was a perfect 2 to 3 bite of pure heaven. Thank you Chelsy for a wonderful recipe!

Brown Butter Double Peanut and Chocolate Cookies

Makes approximate 4 ½ dozen cookies

1 Cup Butter (2 sticks)
½ Cup Sugar
1 ¾ Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
2/3 Cup Peanut Butter, Creamy Style
1 T. Vanilla
3 C. All purpose Flour
1 ½ t. Baking soda
¾ t. Salt
1 Cup Peanut Butter Chips
1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat on the stove and melt the butter. Continue to watch the butter, so it doesn’t burn. It will begin to foam and start to brown. Once the butter has reached a nice brown color and has a nutty aroma, remove from the heat. Pour the brown butter into a bowl and refrigerate until solid.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the brown butter, both sugars and peanut butter. Scrape as needed. Add each egg until incorporated. Now add the vanilla, baking soda and salt and mix well. Slowly add the flour until all three cups are added and dough is well mixed. Fold in the peanut butter and chocolate chips until combined.

Use a small one inch ice cream scoop to produce uniform cookies. Use either a non-stick or parchment paper on the baking sheets.

Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and slightly gooey on the inside. Let cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Dipping Sauce

1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
3 Tablespoons Shortening

Place both ingredients into a glass bowl and heat in the microwave for one minute. Remove and stir until combined. Dip half of each cookie and place on wire rack to let dry and harden.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chili & Lime Jicama Wedges

Summer has arrived in the Bay Area. Expected temperatures today are going to be close to 100 degrees in parts of the Bay Area. According to the weather man, that means where I live. I actually love when the weather turns to the warmer side, especially at sundown.

Sitting outside in our backyard is quite tranquil with the trickling water from the fountains along with the light breezes and outdoor lighting – you feel transported to another part of the world. We enjoy sipping a glass of cool, crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Kim Crawford or a favorite white Rhone-style blend from Anaba Wines from Sonoma called Corial along with some tasty appetizers – now that is my idea of a perfect summer evening.

After visiting Bocanova in Oakland on numerous occasions, there are several items from this Pan-American restaurant which sits along Jack London Square and the water. Typically when visiting, I will begin with several small plates including the Dungeness Crab Deviled Eggs with Chipotle Aioli, then the Fried Shishito Peppers and finishing with the Jicama Wedges with Chili and Lime Juice.

On my “to do” list for months has been to duplicate the jicama wedges at home. These little delights are full of wonderful simple flavors and with the crunch of the jicama; it is the perfect summer snack or appetizer. The vinaigrette is merely lime juice, crushed peppers, olive oil, cilantro and salt. The recipe can serve as many or few as you would like. The dressing should be enough for 2 large jicamas. What could be simpler?

Chili & Lime Jicama Wedges

One Jicama (medium to large)

Slice the jicama in ¾ inch slices and then into wedges that are about ¾ inch thick. Be sure to cut off the outer skin of the jicama to expose only the white portion. Dress with the vinaigrette and garish with cilantro and season with a sprinkling of salt.


1 large dried chili pod with seeds, pulse in food processor until fine
3 T. Lime Juice
2 T. Olive oil
1 T. Cilantro, minced
¼ t. Salt

Add all of the ingredients to a jar and shake well. Let the vinaigrette sit for one hour to develop the flavors.

Note: You can purchase dried chili pods in the Hispanic section of your grocery store or at the local Hispanic market. Purchase the level of heat that best suits your tastes.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Apricot, Blueberry and Cardamom Hand Pies

As you can tell, I am a bit obsessed with cardamom these days from my last post - Apricot Cardamom Curd.  Not sure what it is about cardamom, but the aroma just makes me happy, let alone the lovely flavor profile.

I have long wanted to make hand pies.  Are they not the cutest little things? Despite the fact that regular pies are fine, but not my favorite go to dessert.  I think the idea of a two to three bite little pie is simply perfect.  Not messy just easy and portable.

With pies, do you enjoy the crust, the filling or both?  For me, a really great crust is the secret to a perfect pie.  The texture is crispy yet tender.  You can immediately tell there is a lot of butter or shortening or both.  A flakey crust is the true test to achieving greatness.  This crust recipe is one that I have perfected and is a bit unique to the standard pie crust recipes.  Perhaps it is the creme fraiche or the vanilla bean addition? 

With summer around the corner, it just seemed natural to take advantage of the bounty and add apricots and blueberries together along with a hint of cardamom to create a supreme filling for these little delights.  Not too mention a bit of contreau added to the mix just added the extra kick.  Enjoy!!

Apricot, Blueberry and Cardamom Hand Pies

Makes 18 Hand Pies

Pie Crust

2 ½ C. All purpose Flour
1 ½ Sticks cold salted butter (3/4 cup), cut into ½ inch cubes
¼ C. Vegetable shortening, cold
1 Tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons crème fraiche
5 to 7 Tablespoons ice water

Mix together the flour, butter, shortening, crème fraiche, salt, sugar and vanilla bean in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles pea size lumps. Add 3 tablespoons of water and mix with a fork or your fingers. To test, squeeze a small handful of the dough until incorporated. Add 1 to 2 more tablespoons of water until incorporated and dough forms a ball. Using the heel of your hand, press the dough flat once or twice to ensure the butter is well distributed. Be careful to not overwork the dough. Divide the dough into two balls and flatten. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill for two hours.


2 Cup apricots, diced small
¾ Cup blueberries
3 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cardamom (use less if desired)
1 teaspoon Contreau
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of salt

Add all of the above ingredients to a medium bowl and stir together. Let sit at least one hour to develop the flavors.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove dough from refrigerator to warm up for about 5 to 10 minutes. Use a large surface to roll the dough out. Lightly flour the surface and have plenty of flour available to prevent sticking. Flour the top of the dough to prevent sticking to the rolling pin and add more as required. Roll the first disk of dough out be between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick. Using a 4 inch round cookie cutter, cut as many circles as possible. Gently repeat the process until the dough is utilized. Next you will want to repeat the same process with the second disk of dough.

Make an egg wash by using one egg and a tablespoon of water. Add to a small bowl and whisk until a light yellow color.

Place 6 to 8 circles of dough onto a baking sheet that is either non-stick or lined with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, lightly apply the egg wash to the entire surface of each circle of dough. Add about 1 tablespoon or a bit less of the fruit mixture to one half of the dough while leaving a half inch of dough exposed. Gently fold over the dough and lightly press with your fingers to seal the hand pie. Use a long pronged fork to make indents around the edges. Use a sharp knife to add 2 to 3 slits on top of each pie to allow for air to be released. Lightly brush each completed hand pie and sprinkle with turbinado sugar on top of each one.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and fruit will be bubbling. Remove from baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Apricot Cardamom Curd + Healdsburg Highlights

A weekend getaway was just what the doctor ordered. Often a long weekend will rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. Hubby and I whisked away last weekend for my birthday to Healdsburg. We stayed at the luxurious Hotel Les Mars, which had been on both of our bucket lists for quite sometime.

The Hotel Les Mars is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux which brings the anecdote of French living to wine country. Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 475 of the finest charming hotels and gourmet restaurants in 55 countries. Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its unique way of living across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character. With only 16 well appointed rooms, you feel as if you are staying at a French chateaux with the traditional 17th and 18th century antiques which adds to the old world charm.

The service was impeccable from when the general manager Ramon greeted us upon our arrival to Nicole the assistant manager who checked us in to Colin who brought our bags to the room and shared the amenities of lovely accommodations.

We selected one of their many packages which included a six course dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen at Hotel Healdsburg along with a personal tour at Chalk Hill Winery. An added bonus was our impromptu visit to Lancaster Estate Winery - quite a sublime experience.  In addition, a French breakfast is delivered to your room each morning based on your selection criteria you submit the night prior. One of our favorite amenities was the wine and cheese hour that was served in the gorgeous walnut paneled library.

{ Wine and cheese at Hotel Les Mars }

Ramon hand selects the wine and cheeses from local vendors. A few of the cheeses that really stood out for us were the Andino, a cow’s milk from Ecuador, Pond Hopper, a goat’s milk with Mirror Pond Ale, Valdeen, a sheep’s milk blue cheese, Two Goat Rock, a goat’s milk from Sonoma and Sottecenere al tartufo, a cow’s milk with Truffle imported from Italy. Two wines really stood out for us - the Viognier from Hawley Winery along with the Petite Syrah from Stephen and Walker Winery.

{ Hubby enjoying wine and cheese in the library at Hotel Les Mars }

The true highlight for us was our magnificent dinner at Cyrus. Cyrus has earned numerous accolades including a two Michelin star rating. Michael Bauer from San Francisco Chronicle says "Douglas Keane further enforces he is deserving of a four star rating" and Chef Keane was recognized as the Best Chef Pacific by James Beard Awards.

{ Cyrus }

We opted for the 8 course chef tasting menu and wine pairings. Our vision was to stay at the Hotel Les Mars and eat at Cyrus which is adjoined to the hotel, so we did not have to worry about enjoying the full experience. No driving required. Smile.

{ Our personalized menu for us to take home }
Thought I would share the menu and wine pairings with you. Each course was supreme and I could elaborate for hours on how truly delicious the food was and the impeccable service. Each bite and sip of wine during our four hour dinner was simply perfection.

{ Our beautiful room at Hotel Les Mars }
The inspiration for the Apricot Cardamom Curd was two fold. Each night we enjoyed a lovely wine and cheese respite at Hotel Les Mars in the library. It was relaxing along with meeting some wonderful people. One of the courses during our long dinner was the cheese course. The presentation was pure decadence with tableside service where the waiter would cut each cheese while explaining the flavors and origin. The accoutrements came moments later which included assorted breads and crackers along with panforte and cardamom butter.

The cardamom butter was simply supreme and fascinated me. I knew I needed to discover a way to make this. After much research, I found this recipe for Apricot Cardamom Curd which I altered slightly. The result was a delicious accompaniment for our Friday appetizer night. We purchased the Two Goat Rock and Sottocenere from The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg. I also added a reserve Dutch Gouda and some marcona almonds to the cheese platter.

My birthday weekend was simply magnificent and the best birthday to date. As they say – "Each year gets better and better."

{ My cheese platter for Friday appetizer night. Cheeses from top to bottom: Two Goat Rock, Reserve Dutch Gouda and Sottosenere }

Apricot Cardamom Curd

4 Large apricots
1 Lemon (zest and juice)
3 eggs
1 C. Sugar
1 t. Cardamom, ground

Wash apricots and cut in half and remove the pits. Cut into small cubes. Add to a medium pan with about 1 tablespoon of water. Simmer for about 10 minutes or longer until really soft. Set aside.

In a large bowl add the eggs and whisk gently. Add the juice of the lemon along with all of the zest from the lemon and whisk gently. Place the bowl on top of simmering water and continue to whisk in the sugar.

Use an emulsion blender to puree the apricots and then add to the mixture and continue to whisk quickly. Cook gently until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Feel free to strain through a sieve to remove any random particles. Makes about 2 pint jars. Refrigerate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

{ Roasted Spring Carrots with Cumin Scented Pistachios }

Hubby and I celebrated my birthday in wine country this weekend. We had the most marvelous time. Full of drinking great wine, eating divine food, shopping at darling boutiques and relaxing at the most magnificent hotel we have ever stayed at. A perfect birthday weekend for sure. I am excited to share some wonderful details and photos of our wine country adventures in upcoming posts.

I actually created this little gem of a recipe last weekend after a visit to our local farmers market. These colorful carrots just stood out at the one of the booths – the vibrant purple and orange is just stunning. I certainly wish they were available year round, but on that note, they are not, so I must take advantage of them now – carpe diem!

Roasting alone with a bit of salt and pepper and great quality olive oil is actually quite perfect by itself. However, adding some additional flavor and texture just raises the flavor profiles and brings it to the next level of wonderful-ness!

Pistachios are one of my favorite nuts and often under used in my house. Often I will snack on these beauties yet rarely cooking with them. The flavor and texture just blended so well with the roasted carrots and the marriage of these items occurred. Hubby is not the biggest fan of pistachios and he loved this dish. Enjoy!!

Roasted Spring Carrots with Cumin Scented Pistachios

Serves four

12 to 16 Carrots
Olive oil

Peel and trim carrots. Slice or dice into bite size pieces. Place onto a large baking dish or pan. Drizzle with olive oil to well coat all carrots. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until tender.

Cumin Scented Pistachios

½ Cup Pistachios, shelled
1 T. Butter
1 t. Cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
½ t. Salt
2 t. Brown sugar

Over medium heat, add butter to a medium skillet and melt. Then add the brown sugar, cumin, cayenne and salt and mix. Toss in the pistachios and stir until all are coated. Stirring frequently, cook until they begin to caramelize slightly for about 5 minutes or less. Remove from heat and let cool, then rough chop and sprinkle over the carrots.