Spring Pea Soup with Burrata

Spring Pea Soup with BurrataGolden
My parents celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the weekend. Stop and think about that for a minute. 50 years. How much of their world has changed and what have they experienced since 1967? (And not just the birth of my sister and me!)

In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our new Governor in January. A fire killed the crew of the Apollo 1 spacecraft while they were testing on the launch pad, and halted the space race in the US for almost 2 years. The Pirates of The Caribbean attraction opened at Disneyland, in California. The Bee Gees released their first international album. Lastly, Elvis and Priscilla got married. But that wasn’t the biggest wedding of the year. The biggest event, at least to my sister and me, happened March 18th in Oakland, CA.

To be married for 50 years is no small feat. It’s not as common an occurrence as it used to be. Frankly, the fact that my mother has survived my Dad’s snoring for that long without smothering him with a pillow is mindblowing…

There is no way you can let such a milestone like this pass like it is any other day. We celebrated as a family, in style. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. There was a limo and there were fancy clothes. And, because it’s us, there was food. Really good food. And plenty of good things to drink with it, courtesy of Boulevard in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Boulevard, do it. I have been there multiple times, and it is always fantastic. That particular night, I enjoyed a green English Pea soup that was amazing. Like, lick the bowl amazing. Alas, that particular recipe is not in their cookbook. (I happen to own a copy…shocking, I know) Nancy, if you or any of your fantastic staff are reading this (‘cause why wouldn’t she?) I would LOVE to have the recipe or maybe even and updated cookbook?

For now, I am on the hunt for something that might come close. I am working with the recipe I posted below—perhaps it’s the closest yet? But we’ll see. The first-of-the-season English peas should be in the market soon. Though, with the return of the rain, who knows? In the meant time some quality, organic, frozen peas will be used. When you do get your hands on some fresh peas, grab as many as you can. And try this cream-free soup as a perfect spring lunch or light dinner.

Spring Pea Soup with Burrata
Yields 4 servings

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Hamantaschen for Purim

Hamantaschen for PurimEven if you are not participating in a Spiel, you can still make your own Hamantaschen for Purim. And, you can always observe the tradition of sharing sweets with your friends and neighbors.

Hint: they also make a great treat year-round. Read more…

Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake

Valentine’s Ice Cream CakeIce Cream Cupid
If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you will know that Valentine’s Day in my house is not celebrated with chocolates and champagne. Valentine’s Day is all about ice cream.

We’ve done sundaes and root beer floats. We’ve done multi-layer ice cream pies and straight up ice cream cones. This year I want to do a recipe that I love but haven’t had an occasion to make in a while. This Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake is not difficult, and you can use whatever assortment of ingredients inspire you. Your choice of flavors and candies or toppings will depend on the taste buds of your valentine, and individualizing the cake is fun.

The concept is pretty simple. You layer the ice cream of choice and pound cake with your favorite toppings (a.k.a. roughly cut candies, sauce, nuts, toasted coconut…you get the idea, think ice cream sundae). The basic recipe came from The Pioneer Woman, and I have adapted it to my personal tastes.

So, feel free to get wacky with the flavors and go all out with the combinations. Because our ice cream selection at Piedmont Grocery is fairly large, I have had the opportunity to come up with some great ideas. And you can get really creative.

The basic recipe is below, followed by a few of my favorite variations. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Ice Cream Cake

Basic recipe
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MoussakaThe Kickasserole

I gotta say, it was a good Christmas this year. Not one clunker gift could be found amongst the massive pile of paper and cardboard. We were all spoiled rotten. One of my favorite gifts has my thoughts spinning…

At Christmas time each year it’s a pretty safe bet that I will receive something that is at the very least related to cooking. This could be a cookbook, or a subscription to my favorite cooking magazine, or even some bizarre ingredient. But more often than not, it is a tool to be used in the preparation of food. This year was no different. What was different however was the personalization on the side. I received a gratin dish with “Amy’s Kickasserole” engraved on the side. It is a thing of beauty, and beyond awesome! But it is also as if a challenge has been issued.

One does not simply cook any old thing in a dish that says Kickasserole. No my friends, leave the mac & cheese or the baked ziti to the plain white earthenware. The Kickasserole is destined for much more interesting and grander fare, which is why my mind has been spinning. What would be the perfect recipe for the maiden voyage of the Kickasserole?

I have come to the conclusion that I can’t make anything that I have made before. That would be boring. It needs to be an event. So here’s the plan. One of the other gifts I got was a Greek cookbook. My daughter and I have decided we are going to cook from it for New Year’s Eve. And one of the recipes we will be making is one of my favorite dishes, Moussaka. I have never made it before. Ever. So I think it is the perfect choice to ring in the New Year and to begin the new era of the Kickasserole…

Adapted from Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors
This is the cookbook from Kokkari Estiatorio, my absolute favorite Greek restaurant in San Francisco. If you have not had a chance to eat there, I highly recommend you make reservations! Read more…

Molded Gingerbread Cookies

Molded Gingerbread CookiesProject Cookies

Let’s face it, the world would be a much darker place if we didn’t have cookies. There are thousands of different cookies in the world, and I am on a mission to try them all. A cookie Bucket List, if you will…

I have found that in general, cookies tend to fall into three different categories: Everyday, Holiday, and Project.

Everyday cookies are the ones you can whip up fairly quickly and easily when that cookie craving kicks in and you must have cookies now! These would be your chocolate chip, oatmeal, snickerdoodle, peanut butter (you know, the classics).

Holiday cookies are just that. These are the cookies you make for Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, etc. They are the family favorites or the recipes that are only taken out to be used at special times of the year. These can be drop cookies, bars, biscotti, rugelach, thumbprints, shortbread, press cookies…the list goes on.

Last but not least is the category I call Project Cookies. These cookies are the high maintenance diva cookies. While most of these recipes can generally be found under the holiday heading, these require a heck of a lot more planning and time to make them turn out right, and can have difficult to find ingredients, or they are just fussy to make.

Hence, they have their own category. Examples include springerle cookies, molded shortbread, French macaroons, Swedish Rosettes, any sugar cookie using royal icing and lastly, Gingerbread in molded cookie, house or man form. These are the cookies that take two days to make.

Don’t get me wrong, they are worth it. And I am planning to do little project baking this weekend to get in the holiday mood. I seem to not be there quite yet. However, a batch of Molded Gingerbread Cookies should help me transform into Mrs Claus.

This past November, I gave my sister a springerle rolling pin for her birthday and I will admit I had a hard time giving it away. (I am hoping she will let me borrow it!) While you can obviously use it for springerle cookies it is also fun, and the ingredients are easier to find, to use it for Gingerbread.

Molded Gingerbread Cookies
Yield is dependent upon the size of the mold.
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Hearty White Sandwich Bread

Hearty White Sandwich BreadThe Left Overs

I think it’s safe to say that we all have our favorites for Thanksgiving. For some it’s the sweet potatoes or the pecan pie. For others, it’s the stuffing or the turkey. For me, the best part comes afterwards. (Well, after the pie anyway.)

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving in my world is the leftover turkey sandwich. And there is no question that I am an unapologetic turkey sandwich snob. My husband would prefer to have the entire meal over and over again. Not me. I want a turkey sandwich. (Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I still want some more pie.)

The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a thing of beauty. and has taken me years to perfect. Now, I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way but there is my way.

Here’s how it stacks up:
You gotta start with good bread. The concept of good bread is always a hot debate in my family. There are those misguided souls that prefer super-fluffy white bread with questionable nutritional value, but excellent moisture content. Other, more enlightened sandwich veterans, prefer honey wheat for its nutty flavor and ability to stand up to the fillings. Then there are the black sheep who opt for the tortilla wrap or even the rogue croissant. I shudder…

Next come the condiments.
I am using the word condiments loosely here. Because for my turkey sandwich, the condiments consist of the following: Mayo, a very healthy smear of left over gravy, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. (Now you see why I may want a more substantial piece of bread!) These three combine to provide a whole lot of flavor, and some much needed moisture—because the stuffing and the turkey get piled on top. (Yes. You read that right. Stuffing on bread. Just go with it…)

With that, you now have perfection on a plate.

Because of my sandwich psychosis, I usually make a couple of loaves of bread for the day after Thanksgiving. I always make Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. But I have been known to compromise with the white bread lovers by making this Potato flour version as well.

Not only does this loaf of Hearty White Sandwich Bread make fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it also works well with your leftover turkey.

Hearty White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
This recipe works well in a bread machine. Read more…

Amy’s Sage Stuffing

Amy’s Sage Stuffing Traditionally Bad

I can’t speak for your family, but in my family there are holiday traditions that are sacred. And these cannot be messed with without serious repercussions. The rules are more strict for Christmas, but the other holidays still have their musts.

There must be Gam’s purple glasses on the table for Easter and, of course, a ham. There must be warm Gingies and Ebleskiver for Christmas. (There is no wiggle room for this one. Ebelskeiver in the Summer is a capital offense—though I have noticed a relaxing of the rules a smidge in recent years…) Thanksgiving is no different, though I do think it’s time for some thought and self-reflection on this one. Here’s why…

For my entire childhood, there were creamed onions on the dinner table for Thanksgiving. The only people who liked them were my grandfathers. And it baffles me to this day that they did. They smelled horrible as the onions bubbled in their sauce on the stove. And, the taste made me gag, Still does—even worse than red cabbage. (Seriously. I am gagging as I write this…) Of course there were always left overs, ’cause after my grandfathers had their serving, that was it. No one else went within five feet of ‘em.

Despite their position as the Thanksgiving pariah, the onions were still there year after year. My grandfathers have been gone for a while now, and I think it’s time that we consciously uncouple from the onions…as a public service. Who’s with me?

So, I asked a number of my friends if they had similar experiences with their Thanksgiving feast. I was pleased to know that my family wasn’t alone in it’s tradition weirdness. Not surprisingly, the one Thanksgiving side that avoided any bad press was the stuffing. I mean it makes sense. How can you go wrong with seasoned buttery bread goodness? And if you make your own not from a mix? Forgeddaboutit!

It’s got to be simple though. None of that newfangled stuffing. If you get funky with the stuffing, we might have problems…

Amy’s Sage Stuffing
Serves 6
This recipe for Amy’s Sage Stuffing tastes best with fresh sage, and is only as good as its ingredients. But it’s so good…
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Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving RecipesTurkey Trot

I apologize in advance if this catches you off guard but did you know that Thanksgiving is almost here? Yep. I kid you not.

Last night, after I inhaled my 500th peanut butter cup, I took a gander at my calendar, and had a mild panic attack.

Holy tights, Batman! Did you know there are only three legit weeks until Turkey day? I say legit because that Sunday thru Wednesday before Thanksgiving? The kids are out of school. There ain’t nothin’ productive happenin’ in my house…

So it’s time to hit the ground running and start planning the Main Event. Now, full disclosure, I don’t actually make Thanksgiving dinner. I’m more of a backseat driver. My Mother-in-Law is at the wheel and in charge of the cooking. For that, she has my eternal thanks…

However, over the years I have compiled a long list of Thanksgiving recipes from the traditional to the weird and passing into the down right nutty… And, each recipe is delicious in its own right.

If you are looking for something different, or you’re just not sure where to start, take a peek at the following list. And see if it gets you off to the races,

And don’t forget to give our meat department a call to reserve whatever it is you decide on!

Thanksgiving Recipes

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Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with FigsA Good Melon

There are a lot of great lines in the movie When Harry Met Sally, and I use them often. But, there is this one favorite scene where they are interviewing a couple about how they met and fell in love.

One of the actress’s lines is, At that moment I knew. I knew the way you know about a good melon…

Ninteen years ago, I met this great guy at work, and I just knew. I can’t really explain it but I did. We were not an obvious couple to say the least. Our backgrounds were just so different, but there was something about him… And again, I just knew. He, on the other hand, required a little stalking convincing.

We became great friends, and spent a lot of time together outside of work. But we didn’t actually start dating officially until about a year and half later. I think I just wore him down…

Three years after that we were married.

This week marks our 15th Anniversary, and to celebrate the fact that we haven’t smothered each other with a pillow, Mr. Wonderful and I decided to get away to the wine country for a day, with just the two of us. We sipped. We spa-ed (is that a word?). We ate. It was fantastic, and it was great to be just the two of us again, if only for a few hours.

Dinner at Ad Hoc was one of the highlights. The food was good, the wine was good, and it was so nice to enjoy a romantic dinner with my husband—and be able to have an actual conversation.

The after dinner activities were a little different, though. Fifteen years ago we probably would have met up with some friends and/or have gone dancing. Now?  We ate so much that went back to the hotel and fell asleep watching the Giants…at 9 o’clock. I know. Total party animals…

I have made a number of recipes from the Ad Hoc At Home book but, let’s face it, I’m good but I’m no Thomas Keller. The food we had that night was simple but so, so tasty.

The Smoked Pork Loin that we ate is not one of the recipes featured in the book, but this Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs is, and as the weather gets cooler (eventually) it makes for a perfect fall dinner.

Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Figs
Recipe adapted from Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller
Serves 6 Read more…