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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Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.
Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

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Panini Sandwiches

Panini SandwichesDun Lost My Mind

It’s the first week of school—which is awesome. But it’s also the first week of school—which is this crazy haze of work, meetings, practices, driving here and driving there, signing this form and signing that form, and Oh by the way we need a check….

It’s a miracle I made it to work today, and can hold a meaningful conversation. The fact that my shoes actually match is a bonus. Adding fuel to the dumpster fire that is this week, my other half is in Asia on business. And I am unable to clone myself.

The other night, when one of my boys asked me what was for dinner, I laughed hysterically at him (okay…it may have been a witch-like cackle), as he backed away slowly, his eyes as big as saucers.

This week, they are on their own. The good news? The kids are actually pretty capable in the kitchen (my daughter especially). They won’t starve, though I am pretty sure my other son will be face down in a mixing bowl full of cereal. You go, boy…

If I have to guess what they will be making themselves for dinner, it would probably be panini sandwiches. My panini press is one of the hardest working appliances in my kitchen. Everyone is a big fan, and the kids love to make their own combinations. You can be sure they will always be overloaded with cheese.

The nice thing is you can make panini sandwiches with or without a press. You only need something to weigh it down. On a personal note, I like to use the Herb Slab bread we get from Semmifreddis for my panini sandwiches. It comes out so crispy. Yum!

This is a recipe blog, so you expect a recipe? (cackling) You will have to look for one yourself! However, here is a great resource from The Food Network, a list of 50 panini recipes with every variation you could dream of. Or check out my Summer Panini post from last year.  Read more…

Carrot Cake Cheesecake

Carrot Cake CheesecakeThe (Cream) Cheese Stands Alone

If it’s Easter Sunday, you can pretty much count on there being a carrot cake on our table…which is a good thing. I am pretty sure it’s not the cake I love so much (though that it pretty tasty) but rather, the cream cheese frosting. If I am being honest with myself, the carrot cake is just the socially accepted vessel for the creamy goodness that is cream cheese frosting. Eating the entire bowl with a spoon is, apparently frowned upon. If I could, I would put cream cheese frosting on everything.

Over the years our carrot cakes have come in many forms: cupcakes, sheet cakes even trifles, but I saw a recipe this year that has me intrigued…it gives cream cheese frosting a twist. Though I may be giving up my precious frosting, I am still getting that sweet cheese flavor, and it is in a layer that is as thick as I wish I could spread the frosting on without people thinking I’m nuts. (Which I am by the way.)

If you’re looking for tradition with a twist this Easter, give this Carrot Cake Cheesecake a try!

Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Adapted from the Food Network

You need to get a jump on this recipe, as the carrot cake should be made a day in advance, and the cheesecake needs time in the fridge to set.

The reviews mentioned that this cake was too dry. We increased the oil by 2 tablespoons from the original recipe. Also mind your oven temperature, you might want to decrease it to bake more slowly. Or you can use your own recipe as long as it’s not too moist, since the cheese cake has to be supported.

There are video instructions at this link. Read more…

Spicy Baked Chicken Wings

Spicy Baked Chicken WingsThe Cookbook Club

Four years ago, my sister was inspired by the Food 52’s annual Piglet cookbook competition (it’s going on right now) to start a cookbook club with a group of five friends, and their families, who she knew were interested in cooking. Though some us had met before, and in some cases knew each other pretty well, it was a random group of people thrown together in pursuit of good food. The common denominator was my sister, and her love of friends and cooking.

This past weekend we celebrated our 20th Cookbook Club dinner—which is pretty remarkable considering that to make it happen five families have to coordinate their busy schedules. The cooking and choosing of books is the easy part. Try navigating through the sports, school, and work demands of 21 people. Our cookbook was the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook by Tanya Holland. To say we ate well would be an understatement.

When the club started, nobody thought it would last this long. We hoped it would, but you know how these things go…they eventually fizzle out, or there’s drama between group members.

What makes this group different is it has ceased to just be about the food. The food is fantastic, but the real draw is wanting to spend time and catch up with each other. (If we can do that while having some rockin’ chicken wings and a cocktail, so much the better.) The change happened, I think, the night we went to The Slanted Door for dinner.

In February of 2013, we chose Vietnamese Home Cooking by Charles Phan  as our cookbook. (See Bo Luc Lac: Shaking Beef, our What’s For Dinner Wednesday post from February 2013.) But, instead of having a dinner at someone’s house, we decided this time we would do it a little differently. We made reservations for 10 (Adult swim. No Kids.) at the Slanted Door and had Charles Phan (sort of…who knows who was on the line that night?) cook us our cookbook club dinner. (We were hoping he could sign our cookbooks while we were there. Didn’t happen.) We ordered all of the dishes we had made at home, and discussed them as we would at any club dinner. We laughed. We drank. We were loud and it was a blast. (The club is looking at doing the same thing for our next cookbook, Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley Cookbook by Cindy Pawlcyn. Brace yourself, Napa!)

They say food brings friends and family together, and if the friendships that have come out of this genius idea of my sister’s are any indication, it’s true. We call ourselves a cookbook club but it is so much more than that. We’ve bonded over so many other things besides food: woodworking, medical emergencies, teen angst, kids leaving for college… But it started when all of us sat around the table together and ate a really good meal.

If you’re curious, the list of cookbooks we covered can be found here.

Spicy Baked Chicken Wings
Adapted from Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook by Tanya Holland
Makes about 20 wings
Her recipe is about perfect. The only thing I would do to improve it is to marinate the wings in buttermilk before baking.

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Jelly, Marmalade & Jam

StrawberriesEach of these recipes gives a different spin on delicious spreadable treats. Lavender and Lemon Jelly is a classic recipe with a flavorful twist, Red Onion Marmalade goes with savories, and finally, Fresh Strawberry Chia Jam can be prepared in minutes and left to set while you are making breakfast.

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Canal House’s Chicken Thighs with Lemon

Canal hous Chicken Thighs with Lemon Good Yard Bird

The kitchen can be the world’s best reality check. The outcome of your endeavors is not always guaranteed—no matter how good a cook you think you are—and for that reason it is best to always check one’s ego at the door (and keep your instant read thermometer handy). Just when you think you can totally take on an Iron Chef, karma has its nasty way with you. I need only to look back a couple of weeks to the epic fail that was my attempt to make Pearly Rice Balls with Red Bean Paste in them. Instead of producing lovely round rice balls, I managed to make a gelatinous, shapeless glob that looked like scary fried eggs.

And yet, sometimes (cue the choir of angels), you make something so tasty, so utterly divine that your obvious talent just can’t be denied. (Move over Thomas Keller! I laugh at you and your Michelin stars!) Last night was one of those nights…

To be fair, my genius had some help this time around. (OK. Yes. Most of the time I need help.) Mine came in the form of the book Genius Recipes by Food52 by way of The Canal House. This cookbook has been getting a lot of buzz lately and for very good reason. It is the bomb-diggity. It really is genius. It is also the cookbook we are using for our next cookbook club.

Looking at my copy right now I have at least twenty recipes that I have flagged to try. One of them is Chicken Thighs with Lemon which is what I made for dinner last night à chez moi. My husband told me it was the best chicken I have ever made. I’ve made a lot of chicken, which means either this recipe is just that good or I need to go back to school. Full disclosure, I used preserved lemons. made by a friend, who also happens to be in our cookbook club. It’s possible that they were the secret ingredient because man, they were good.

Do yourselves a favor, go get this book. Or, you can follow along on their blog as Kristin Miglore cooks her way through the book.

And look-y there. The BEST EVER CHICKEN is front and center….

Canal House’s Chicken Thighs with Lemon
Recipe adapted from Food 52 Read more…

Roasted Rhubarb

Rhubarb‘Barb Habit
As a family, we’ve got it bad for rhubarb. It’s kinda strange, most obsessions tend to more run-of-the-mill things. As a way of managing our obsession, I have been coming up with ways to consume rhubarb without always making a pie. Here’s the perfect solution: Roasted Rhubarb!

Roasting rhubarb is the easiest way to cook it through and sweeten it—without it all turning to goo. (Goo is still edible, but not very pretty.)

This recipe is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. I use it for a lot of things: it’s great in yogurt or spooned over a slice of angel food or pound cake. I think my favorite way to eat it is slathered on thick slices of French Toast on Sunday morning…who needs maple syrup?

Roasted Rhubarb
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 4 servings Read more…

Amy’s Roast Chicken

Amy's Roasted ChickenBird Is The Word

Most years I try to make an effort to put together a traditional dinner for Passover since my husband is technically Jewish—I say technically because while he may have been born into the Jewish faith, he does not practice it. I am more into it than he is; mainly because I love the food and the lore. For dinner I make foods that are in keeping with the traditions. We don’t do the whole Seder.

This year it’s going to be a struggle to do anything, but for a good reason. We’re heading on vacation for spring break. I like a keeping in touch with your roots as much as the next guy but frankly, sand, sun, and pool-side cocktails will trump that every time…so will the amount of laundry I have to get done in order to get everyone packed and ready.

This year’s Passover celebration will be simple. Very simple. I’m going with a roasted chicken. Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest things you can do for dinner, and you can roast multiple chickens on a basic sheet pan. (I always do two. One for dinner, and the other for sandwiches, tacos etc,) Of all the things I have taught my kids about cooking, this recipe is the most important one. As long as they can roast a chicken, they will be able to feed themselves.

I like to rub my chicken with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs, but you can do whatever you want. Rubbing your favorite spice blend all over the chicken is a no-brainer. Sometimes I put a lemon with the ends cut off into the cavity, other times I do the same with a head of garlic that has had the top cut off. The possibilities are limitless. Feel free to experiment as you see fit.

Amy’s Roast Chicken
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Trout Meunière

Yellowstone River Goin’ Fishin’? Yup…

You cannot catch trout with dry breeches.
~Spanish Proverb

As you read this post, I am wearing waders (It’s a real good look.), thigh deep in the Yellowstone River—fly fishing for trout. Before you get too impressed, let me say that I am not a fly fisherman. My first and only encounter with the sport (?) occurred right after college when my then boyfriend tried to teach me the art of the cast in my driveway (’cause doesn’t everyone do that?). I never got it right, but it did make for some serious comedy. And for 5 minutes I was an awesome girlfriend.

Fast forward a few years. (Actually it’s almost 20, but I refuse to wrap my mind around that.) Here I am again trying to figure this whole thing out. The best part is we are in Yellowstone, which has been on my bucket list since I studied Geology and Volcanology at the U of O. (Geek alert! Obviously that career didn’t pan out.)

Despite visions of Chevy Chase and his station wagon (or maybe because of it) we decided to load up the kids and the car, and experience a real family vacation complete with plenty of whining, bathroom stops, and “Will you stop touching me!”. It’s all worth it because good or bad this will be a trip that we will remember for years to come.

Below is a favorite recipe for Trout Meunière from James Peterson’s cookbook Fish & Shellfish. This book is another one of those must haves for any cook’s library. It is a great reference for cooking anything and everything that comes from the water. I have included his intro…seems appropriate.

Trout Meunière
I must have been four or five when my mother took me and my brothers into the mountains of California for a week of camping. We’d pitch a tent big enough for the whole family, and my mother would be up at dawn, rod and reel in hand, to fish for our breakfast. The trout would end up sizzling in bacon fat over an open fire. No trout has ever again tasted quite the same, but this recipe is for me as close as it gets.
~James Peterson

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