Monday, August 29, 2011

Chez-Inspiration - Tartine aux Herbes

After visiting Cambria, on the central coast of California, I headed homeward to LA. On my first full day back in the city we went to the Hollywood farmer's market for a little sensory overload. We perused the beautiful summer produce, dodged the meandering shoppers and sought moments of respite in the shade (usually near a picturesque trash can).

Jumping out of vacation and back to Bay Area life for a moment, I had the pleasure of getting a glimpse at the Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary celebration this past weekend at the Berkeley Art Museum. In honor of Alice Waters and her Chez-vision I whipped up my version of one of the dishes at the celebration - a tartine with herbed ricotta and radishes.

To make: I went out to our little renegade herb garden that we have on the fire escape (this is San Francisco and thus, that constitutes a garden) and picked away. I came inside with chives, oregano and thyme. I chopped the herbs and threw them in with about 1 cup of ricotta cheese. I added in a little bit of lemon zest and a sprinkling of sea salt. Once everything was nicely combined I made some toast, shmeared on my ricotta mixture and finished it off with some thinly sliced radishes.

Hollywood Farmer's Market

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coastal Pie

I am back from vacation but trying to retain my zen-vacation-mindset. I am eating excessive amounts of butter-y baked goods to ease back into the work routine.

I baked a quick peach pie and attempted my first ever lattice-top (I know, such excitement). I cheated and whipped out my favorite (shh- store-bought) pie dough (thank you TJs). I proceeded to crimp my edges and dot my i's. Once my pie crust was ready to go I cut 5 ripe, but still firm-ish, peaches into chunks. I tossed the peaches with 1/4- 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, the zest of one lemon and a squeeze of the juice.

I added my filling into the pie crust and set to work building my lattice. For a lovely little slide-show from Bon Appetit on how to make a lattice crust (I always thought you just laid the strips on top of one-another... didn't really think that one through) click here. To finish the pie I popped it in to a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ottolenghi Returns - Potato Tarte Tatin

I am happily relaxing on vacation and have been cooking casually (in bad light) and eating out on the town. Last night I went to Sun of a Gun, the seafood counterpart to Animal. We sat at the communal table and had a nice meal of shared plates among friends. It was my first experience with alligator - tastes like tender chicken - and I also discovered that I do like smoked fish when it comes in the form of a mahi mahi dip created by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, mmmm)! Hence, I have been lazily abstaining from blogging and the entire e-world, which is probably good for my sanity every now and again (although, I have been watching some late-night trash-cable-TV because I can).  In spite of my vacation mindset, I have managed to do some cooking and taken a few photographs along the way.

Continuing on my Ottolenghi-kick, I bought my dad the new cookbook, Plenty, and, while I had it in my grasps, decided I needed to take advantage. I scoured the recipes and found the biggest challenge to be choosing just one thing to make, but, being a potato-lover, decided upon Ottolenghi's "Surprise Tatin."
It was a delicious 'tarte' with potatoes, caramelized onions, and sweet, slow-roasted tomatoes. Being that it was a "tatin," there was a small caramel sauce on the bottom of the pan that, in the professional cookbook photos, looks like it ought to meld beautifully with the fingerling potatoes. In my experience, it worked out a bit differently. I still don't have my caramel procedures down pat - I threw my sugar and butter into the pan, turned on the heat and stared and stirred intently making sure that it browned but did not burn. Alas, it never got really smooth and liquid-y, instead preferring to remain chunky. As it turned a nice golden color I "poured" (scraped) it into the pie pan and attempted to "spread it evenly" (deposited the clumps around the pan).

Once I had my caramel positioned, I spread around some fresh oregano, placed my potato-halves and then squeezed the roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions in the gaps. To finish the tarte, I was supposed to add a dry-aged goat cheese but opted for a not so dry goat cheese, because it was what I had. Then, the final piece was to place a round crust of puff pastry atop my pie . . . unfortunately, I bought filo dough instead. I made it work by melting a bit of butter and layering sheet after sheet of filo with a generous shmear of the melted butter - not quite what the recipe called for but it worked out and was delicious.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Afternoon Snack

 Just a quick ode to California summer. I was given some home-grown, garden-fresh produce, including a beautiful Armenian cucumber. I sliced it up along with a generous handful of sugary sun gold tomatoes, added a little fresh basil, a light squeeze of lemon, nice olive oil, and sea salt and pepper - et voila! The perfect summer afternoon snack.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

An Ottolenghi - Inspired Night

When I lived in England, I used to walk by the window of Yotam Ottolenghi's shop in Kensington and drool at the food. I coveted the beautiful salads and lusted after a slice of the perfect rare beef. Every now and then I would treat myself to a minuscule amount of his delectable dishes - I bought two small slices of beef one day (which cost me about 10 quid, but it was well worth it). Being back in the states I get roving cravings for Ottolenghi's food and he very kindly accommodates me by posting some lovely recipes both on his website and in his column for the Guardian.

I decided to make an entire Ottolenghi meal beginning with his recipe for Crushed New Potatoes with Horseradish and Sorrel. You can view his blog for the complete recipe. I changed a few things:  I used baby yukon golds instead of new potatoes. I used slightly less olive oil and, instead of fresh horseradish, I used prepared horseradish (and probably dumped in a bit extra just because I love it so much). I finished my tweaked version off with watercress (a much bigger cress than called for) and pea shoots, which added a nice little crunch.

 For my protein I made a chicken dish which, conveniently, called for spring onions as well! - I bought too many spring onions and was on a mission to find uses for them. The recipe for Roast Chicken with Chili and Basil was supremely simple which made it an instant winner and the end result did not disappoint (although I will say that my end product looked different from Ottolenghi's). To make: I combined 1 tablespoon canola oil, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1.5 tablespoons Dijon, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar and a teaspoon of red chili flakes. Once whisked together, I poured the marinade over 3 chicken legs (which I had seasoned). To finish I tossed in three sliced spring onions and 3 serrano chilis, whole.

 Once the chicken had marinated for about 6 hours I baked it in a 400 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes. I garnished the final product with the cooked chilis and some fresh basil. The chicken was moist and delicious - it was definitely feast-worthy, if not diet.