In 1985 Greg Reynolds, who at the time worked for a catering service in Half Moon Bay, became enthusiastic about playing with sauces using vanilla. His enthusiasm was spurred by my telling him a bit about vanilla’s history as well as my handing him a handful of vanilla beans. Not long after he invited me to try the following sauce. It immediately became one of my go-to sauces to use on poached chicken and roasted vegetables. Later, I added it as a finishing sauce for grilled meats.
Commercial salmon season just opened on the California Coast. Sport fishing for salmon has been open for several weeks now and a friend of mine who crews on a few sailboats out of Moss Landing has shared both the prized Dungeness crabs and fresh salmon fillets from her friends at the harbor. In exchange, I’ve sent fresh pineapple upside-down cake back to her friends as a small thank you. What I’ve found is that those who fish love freshly baked desserts. Works well for all of us!
I’m currently enamored with the combination of pomegranate molasses, Mediterranean spices and ground vanilla beans. Sweet, tart, salty, savory. With a fast turn of the wrist you can make a “same old” weeknight meal into an “oh yeah!” dinner. This recipe is liberally adapted from Sunset Magazine. They also used carrots but I think Maui or cippolini onion chunks, or sweet potatoes would be dynamite thrown into the pot with or without the carrots. I had asparagus roasting on the rack above the chicken and was pleasantly surprised by how well it blended, but I wish I’d also had some potatoes roasting too. In other words, adapt, adapt, adapt. I’m thinking pork chops or even pork tenderloin would soak in all this juicy goodness. What about you?
One of the pluses about living on the Central California coast is the fresh fish! I live down the street from a couple of fishermen and occasionally I go out on the Bay with them, though I admit, it’s more for the boat ride and being on the water than it is for the fishing. What I’ve learned as they’ve reeled the fish in, is that the markets use names like “snapper” and “cod” when the fish is actually one of the many varieties of rock fish. I mention this because it really doesn’t matter what firm-fleshed white fish you use to make this and many other fish dishes. It’s more about choosing fresh fish that ideally is also sustainable. If you are concerned about what fish to choose regarding sustainability, check fishwatch.gov.
If you are unfamiliar with tagines but enjoy trying new recipes are up for exotic flavors, you are in for a treat. The richness and depth of flavor as well as the interesting pairing of ingredients are truly a sensory delight.
Tagines (also spelled tajines) are North Africa’s version of stew, the mainstay and comfort food of people everywhere. The Berbers of North Africa gave the world tagines as well as cous cous; in Morocco, the tagine is both daily food and edible art.
Whenever I prepare a really good stir-fry or have one at a restaurant or a friend’s home, I’m reminded of how delicious this cooking technique is. Fresh, crunchy vegetables, little bites of succulent protein, and ingredients that add brightness and pop in the mouth. That’s how I feel about this recipe. While there are several steps involved, you can easily prep the various segments while listening to music or watching a video, and you can then assemble everything right at the end and put it together quickly and easily.
With so many of us dealing with food allergies such as wheat, gluten or dairy, as well as wanting fresh entree ideas that can be made ahead of time for weeknight dinners, I’ve been rewriting some of our recipe base to brighten up our meals and make them both healthy and weeknight friendly.
If you’re looking for an entree that pops to serve at a small dinner party or a romantic meal for two, a flavorful steak with a traditional French sauce will do the trick assuming you’re cooking for omnivores. The issue is timing. You don’t want to spend twenty-five minutes making a sauce at the last minute while also grilling or pan-searing steaks.
Sofrito — So-free-toe. Isn’t that a great word? I don’t even remember where I found this recipe, but I’m crazy about it. Even though it’s very similar to salsa, the ingredients are all fresh and raw and whatever you put Sofrito on, it just pops!
The summer tomatoes are in – the small, intensely flavored dry-farmed ones, heirlooms of all sizes, colors and stripes and the tiny little cherry tomatoes— all soooo delicious! It’s hard to beat a combination of really ripe tomatoes, fresh, soft mozzarella, lots of basil and maybe a bed of crispy Romaine or tender butter lettuces to soak up the juices. Simple and delicious.
This is a great pull-out-the-stops recipe for an elegant meal, but it’s also really easy to assemble. Pitting the cherries takes time unless you have a pitter, a handy gadget that speeds things up exponentially.
This is a versatile recipe. It can be vegetarian, made with fish or meat, and you can add vegetables to the chicken curry recipe. Serve condiments such as chopped peanuts, pistachios or cashews, coconut, raisins or even fresh mango on the side if you like. And don’t forget the chutney!
In 2011 I traveled with my friends to Cinque Terra, “The Five Lands,” all built on hillsides overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Basil is used throughout the region as pesto and is also blended with spinach and pecorino as the filling for pansoti, a ravioli that is shaped like a triangle. Unless you live in an urban area or regularly make pasta, it’s nearly impossible to find pansoti. Use your favorite ravioli instead. Walnuts and almonds are also grown in this region and the Ligurian walnut sauce that I had over pansoti is seductive! When I returned home and made the sauce, I added just a little vanilla, which accented the walnuts nicely. I used artichoke and butternut squash ravioli in the picture above and served it with a roasted vegetable and white bean salad and Chardonnay. As spectacular as the view walking the ridge from Vernazza to Monterosso! (And, by the way, the sauce would be excellent served over poached chicken or fish.)
As fresh asparagus and English peas are only available for a month or so, if you enjoy them, eat them as often as possible. Here’s one delicious way to do just that. Feel free, however, to substitute fava beans, baby artichokes or any other favorite early vegetables to this fresh pasta dish. Peas are frozen as soon as they’re harvested and hold their flavor well so don’t worry if you can’t find fresh ones. Finally, baby arugula isn’t bitter like its more mature counterparts, but if you can’t find it or don’t like it, substitute baby spinach leaves or a different vegetable.
The rich, saltiness of meats often benefit from the light, sweetness of fruits and vegetables. Although we don’t think of rhubarb as a vegetable because we nearly always serve it sweet, it’s technically a veggie. This refreshing sauce pairs especially well with pork (adds sparkle to ribs, for instance), but it will lift the flavor of a roasted chicken or poached chicken breasts and is great with all grilled meats and fish. Add some heat to it — Tabasco, pepper flakes or harissa, if you’d like.
Chicken With Preserved Lemon, Soft Black Olives and Nigella Seeds
Courtesy of Paula Wolfert, The Food of Morocco
Paula says, “An absolutely delightful dish from Marrakech, inspired by a recipe in L’Authentique Cuisine Marocaine by Jorg Zipprick and Ben Marrakchi.”
When I was running a special culinary program at a local natural foods store, I found the basics for this recipe in a monthly magazine, as I recall. I tried it on our customers and they loved it so I posted it. The photo was too small for our current blog format, so I made it again recently and realized how versatile this recipe is.
Lomo saltado is a Peruvian dish served with white rice on the side and fried potatoes served on top of the meat and vegetables. While this may sound odd, potatoes are originally from Peru and they are used in every possible way. Soy sauce? Many Japanese moved to Peru several generations ago.