Grilled Apricot and Ricotta Tartine

Grilled Apricot and Ricotta TartineGroundhog Day
Until yesterday, I had no clue that this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. Let’s be real. I even struggled to try to remember that it was Wednesday today. Every day feels like the same day on repeat. It is, in fact, groundhog day. I don’t really feel there is much of a difference between Tuesday and Saturday and I am pretty sure I am not the only one.

So, Memorial Day…

Theoretically, it is the unofficial beginning of Summer. Any other year we’d be packing for a tournament and figuring what to throw on the grill when we got home. This year? *Sigh*

I’m sure you all will forgive me for my lack of enthusiasm. It’s becoming harder and harder to be excited about what I am making for dinner. Call it culinary lethargy. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Just as some restrictions are slowly being lifted around the state, stone fruits are starting to make their appearance in the produce department. Hurray!

Yep, the arrival of cherries, apricots, and early peaches and nectarines are just the thing to get me excited again. In fact, these two recipes got my mouth-watering to the point of embarrassment just by looking at them. Grilled Apricots with Burrata, Country Ham and Arugula can also be made with plums, peaches, and pears (depending on the season). And our recipe for Grilled Apricot and Ricotta Tartine is the bomb.

From there it was not hard to picture snacking on either while enjoying this weekend’s warm weather on my back patio, cold beverage in hand…Voila!

Memorial Day Weekend saved!

Grilled Apricot and Ricotta Tartine Recipe 

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Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice CreamBirthdays in Quarantine
This week is birthday week. It happens every year…obviously. It starts with my boys, then me, and ends with my daughter. The boys turned 16 on Tuesday, (we won’t talk about me), and my daughter will be 14 on Sunday.

Having a birthday in quarantine kinda sucks. They should be out with their friends and having a good time. Instead, they are stuck at home with their parents which, I like to remind them, isn’t that bad…I mean, I think we’re pretty cool. They’re not convinced.

The biggest challenge for me is how to make their day special when every day seems like Groundhog Day. They didn’t really ask for anything as far as presents go. How do you make a birthday special while sheltering in place? My answer: favorite foods.

The birthday dinner requests were pretty telling as far as personalities go. The boys chose chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes and milk gravy. They were adamant that there be no vegetables or anything with a color that wasn’t beige. And, for dessert, we had S’Mores Dip (with a side of Tums) #TeenageBoys.

My choice for dinner is take-out BBQ from Slow Hand BBQ my favorite place near my house and a Texas Sheet Cake courtesy of my daughter. We ate outside ‘cause I’m sick of being inside—so, that means BBQ.

And then, there is my daughter. There was no question in my mind that she would choose something out of the ordinary and I was right. Her request? Dim Sum and Roast Peking Duck. So I am trying to figure out how to make this happen in a shelter-in-place world. Dim Sum is all about the experience of going out and picking tasty things from the carts that roll by. Making my own is possible but too difficult if you want variety…and don’t get me started on the duck!

The good news? Her request for dessert is an easy one. She wants to make the homemade chocolate ice cream she made in her class last summer. That I can handle…

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream
Yields approximately 1 quart Read more…

Pork Chile Verde

Pork Chile VerdeNetflix and Chile Verde
Last week I made something I haven’t made in…forever. Pork Chile Verde. I love Chile Verde but it takes a while. So, it’s not something that frequently graces my dinner table. I tend to only order it when we go to a restaurant for Mexican. In this instance, I had boneless pork shoulder in the freezer that kept getting in my way and driving me nuts. And I wanted to figure out what to do with it beyond the usual pulled pork.

On impulse, I bought a bunch of tomatillos and brought them home for no other reason than I was bored with the usual stuff, (And, they were in a basket next to the jalapeños and Anaheim chiles which are a veggie drawer staple in my house.) I had no idea what I was going to do with the tomatillos but having them on hand must have lead me to the whole Chile Verde epiphany.

The urge to make Chile Verde sent me into this somewhat manic desire to create an entire experience like going to our favorite Mexican restaurant. I made the Mexican rice and the refried beans as well as the tortillas. I even went so far as to make flan for dessert. (So worth it!). I mean, it’s not like I had anything else to do so why not? If we can’t go out to eat, then we’ll do it at home with plenty of margaritas in the blender.

The key to this dish is meat that isn’t too lean which is why pork shoulder is great. You gotta have the fat or it will be dry.

Pork Chile Verde
Adapted from The Food Network 
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns

Sophie’s Steamed Pork BunsChopped: Family Style
If we let her, my daughter would be totally happy to spend her days watching the Harry Potter movies for the eight hundredth time or binge-watching whatever is on Food Network. She has a number of Food Network favorites which is why last Saturday my family found us split into teams standing in front of a basket of “random” ingredients for our shelter-in-place version of Chopped.

It was a blast. I was in charge of coming up with the ingredient basket as well judging the final product. The ingredient list was difficult. I really struggled with it and it took me days to decide. What made it so hard were the different levels of culinary skill involved which ranged from “I’m awesome at pouring cereal” to “I make French Macarons just ‘cause”. I had to make sure that my husband and sons had a fighting chance. After wracking my brain and one sorta sleepless night, I came up with the following ingredient list: Ground pork, baby spinach, balsamic vinegar, wonton wrappers, and a condiment called Chile Crunch.

After a week of trash talk and posturing, the contestants were given 90 minutes to come up with their recipe and then make it happen. Dishes would be judged on a scale of one to ten for Execution, Creativity, Flavor, and Presentation. I got nervous watching my husband and son struggle to decide what to make with what they were given as my daughter literally pulled every bottle and spice she could out of my pantry and got to work. Eventually, everybody got to work and it was fascinating and at times frightening to watch.

My son, the cereal king, was paired with my husband. I was surprised and happy to see that said son took the lead and was more willing to take a chance on certain combinations. On the other side of the island, my daughter was channeling Gordon Ramsey (with fewer F-bombs) while telling (ordering loudly) her brother to chop the veggies. (NO! The carrots have to be julienned! You know, like little sticks!) She’ll either end up as Chef de Cuisine at some Michelin starred restaurant or as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It could go either way. Somewhere along the line, my husband liberated the wine which may account for a large part of the creative cooking techniques that were used.

When time was up I was presented with two dishes that were actually fantastic. The first plate held some spinach and ricotta ravioli with a spicy pork Bolognese and sourdough garlic breadsticks. So good! The second had a steamed pork bun on a bed of stir-fried vegetables with crispy won tons. Yum!

Not going to lie, judging was difficult. Both had great flavor. Both were impressive in execution. Ultimately, Mini Gordon and sous chef were the winners with their pork bun based mainly on creativity and presentation. Both teams put in great effort. The best thing to come out of this though besides a great dinner? The kids have asked if they each can make dinner one night a week…glory hallelujah! My work here is done…

Sophie’s Steamed Pork Buns Recipe
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Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory GranolaA Gracious Plenty
One of the greatest things about living in California is that we have access to the best produce in the world. Literally. California is one of the largest if not the largest producer of fruits and vegetables for the planet and most of that is grown about an hour’s drive (depending on traffic) away. So it should come as no surprise that while other regions of the country are currently struggling to put produce on their shelves because of logistical issues, here in the golden state, we’re doing okay.

Right now our produce department looks great. The bins are full of fresh leafy greens and, due to a bit of luck that could only happen because of a pandemic, we just got some outrageously good oranges in that would normally be bound for Japan. If I had to choose the item that has been brightening my day for the past few weeks though, it would be the bright colors of the organic heirloom tomatoes. They call to me like a siren song every time I go down that aisle and I am unable to resist taking at least a couple home. But even those beauties don’t hold a candle to the ones you grow in your own garden which is why, over the weekend, we planted a garden.

It’s been a number of years since we’ve planted a veggie garden for a few reasons. The biggest roadblock was time. The number of hours we spent running around going from this place to that—sometimes staying overnight—made tending a garden impossible. And, then there are the critters. Chickens, you may be surprised to know, can be as destructive to plants as locusts and don’t get me started on the squirrels…

Now that we’re doing a lot less running around we decided to give a garden a go. Of course, something ate my pepper plant the first night but the tomatoes are still there. We chicken-proofed our planter bed and it seems to be working for now.

The plants are already thriving so I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have a good harvest. In the meantime, I remain thankful for all that we have access to an look forward to the coming weeks and the start of the stone fruit season…

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

The granola adds a crunchy topping to this delicious salad—and there is plenty left over to sprinkle on other salads and dishes. The lemony ricotta negates the need for salad dressing. Use the best heirloom tomatoes you can find for maximum flavor. Read more…