This tart came about one cold winter day. I was actually sick during that time and had lost my sense of smell and taste. But instilled with an urge to cook. Perhaps it was all the laying about doing not a single thing. If I woke up tomorrow minus my ability to taste I would be thrown into turmoil, stripped of life meaning. How I longed for the aroma of sizzling bacon and leeks cooking in butter. Thank goodness my sickness was only temporary. The day after I made the tart I was fully able to taste again. Hooray. Sweet leeks, nutty comte and smokey bacon topped the homemade Zuni Cafe rough puff pastry. The house smelled absolutely wonderful to everyone’s pleasure.
For this month’s installment of the Foodbuzz 24 event I did a spread of easy and quick hor d’oeuvres. I had some good ingredients in my pantry already so I whipped them up for a lunch with a few good friends.
Piquillo peppers are such a delicious ingredient. They are northern Spanish peppers which are hand-picked, roasted, peeled, seeded and jarred. All the work is done for you beforehand. I seasoned them with lemon oil, sherry vinegar, lemon zest and a pinch of orange-thyme salt.
I’ve made bean crostinis countless times. What can I say? I love them. They are really versatile, inexpensive and of course tasty. This time I added pecorino to the bean puree and paired it with Zuni Cafe’s pickled zucchini. The tangy crunchy pickles were a nice contrast to the creamy bean puree.
I had pickled some cherry peppers recently which were sitting in the fridge unused. They make a perfect hor d’oeuvre base once its top is cut and it’s deseeded. I stuffed them with a salad of tuna, basil and toasted pinenuts. I used imported Spanish tuna which is higher quality and more delicious than the domestic stuff. The cherry peppers had a pleasant kick of spiciness.
I made a simple mix of smoked paprika, brown sugar and black pepper and rubbed this over thick-cut home-cured bacon and let it marinade overnight. After baking them off in the oven I combined it with creamy Bellwether Farm’s Crescenza cheese on a crostini. Needless to say these were very popular. Even all the leftover bacon was polished off. Easy and quick hor d’oeuvres, always a pleasure to host with.
Channeling Cobras & Matadors’ sauteed green lentils I made a crispy black lentil and sungold tomato salad with goat cheese mousse. I fried the black lentils in about a half inch of olive oil and threw in sliced serrano ham and scallion at the end. I drained it on a paper towel, salted it and tossed with sungold tomato halves just with a light drizzle of red wine vinegar. The creamy tangy goat cheese mousse was a perfect match to the salad which had a lot going on but oh so harmonious. I served toasted baguette slices to that the items could be scooped up together and devoured.
I made dinner for a few friends the past weekend at my friend Ellen’s place which she has renovated with an awesome kitchen. It houses an island over 16 feet long with its own sink, wine fridge, shelves for cookbooks and a microwave, and tons of very organized storage area for all the kitchen tools and tableware. And the best of all a six burner Viking stove and french door Viking fridge. As you can imagine I was super excited to be cooking in this kitchen. Could I possibly have more surface area to work on? I think not.
These look like typical gougeres but I added a spoonful of vadouvan to the batter. They came out golden, puffed up and with a hint of earthy curry.
You know I be hitting up heirloom tomatoes again this season. Hell yeah! Summer is always a happy time for me because of heirloom tomatoes. While I eat most of it just straight up with salt sometimes I can put down a proper salad and do the tomatoes justice. I sliced the tomatoes and fanned it out on a plate and seasoned it with salt. I crumbled over some tangy goat cheese and scattered over some raw pistachio, cilantro and jalapeno for a lil kick. I squeezed lime juice over the whole deal and a drizzled extra virgin olive oil to finish along with freshly cracked black pepper. Deliciousness!
Check out some of my old heirloom tomato salads HERE.
I was luckily chosen to take part in this month’s Foodbuzz 24 event. A beer pairing meal was on my agenda. It’s been a few years since I did my first one so I researched around a bit to gather ideas. I kept things simple and rounded up a few of my beer loving friends and presented a six-course beer pairing menu.
St. Bernardus Wit
I recently presented my engaged couple friends with a special dinner in honor of their upcoming wedding. I started them off with an Arpege Egg, the genius recipe of Chef Alain Passard of L’Arpege in Paris. I had this at Manresa last year and fell in love with it. It’s basically a coddled egg yolk topped with tangy whipped cream and maple syrup. The combination of the flavors are amazing will brighten up your tastebuds for the meal.
Lately I’ve switched over to serving cheese as the last course instead of trying to fit in a homemade dessert since I am not much of a baker nor dessert maker. Why deal with the extra stress and time constraints when I can concentrate more the savory foods and also avoid making a dessert that is not even up to par? But cheese, I’m all over that. For this cheese plate I went with pretty common ones but ones that are no less delicious. I paired Parmigiano Reggiano with Villa Manodori aged balsamic vinegar, Redwood Hill’s California Crottin with Frantoia extra virgin olive oil (an unfiltered Sicilian olive oil), and Roquefort with honey comb. Roquefort’s one of my favorite cheeses and was super delicious paired with the sweet honeycomb which complimented the pungency of the cheese. Of course the Parmigiano Reggiano was delicious too – the nutty and salty combined with the complex sweetness of the aged balsamic. The California Crottin was sharp and crumbly. This cheese really grew on me by the next day and I chomped down the leftovers with crackers as a snack.
I made a birthday dinner for my shellfish-centric pescatarian friend. I absolutely love vegetables and shellfish so this would be no glitch at all. The first course was a refreshing heirloom tomato gazpacho made with a mixture of heirloom tomatoes blended up with Perisan cucumbers, red peppers, garic, sherry vinegar and unfiltered extra virgin olive oil. Before serving I garnished the soup with diced tomatoes, red and green peppers, cucumber, chives and a final drizzle of meyer lemon olive oil and sherry vinegar. I loved the sweetness of the tomatoes and the tang of the vinegar in the chilled soup.
I was panicked a few weekends ago thinking that heirloom tomatoes were going to be gone soon and that I hadn’t got my fill of them this season. I asked the tomato stand people at the Santa Monica farmer’s market how much longer they were going to be showing face and they said until Christmas time! That’s Southern California weather for you.
The combination of juicy heirloom tomatoes and creamy burrata is hard to beat. I usually eat it pretty straight up but since I had some sorrel on hand… Using the handy mortar and pestle I mashed up toasted pistachio, garlic, and chopped sorrel along with a few basil leaves, but leaving out the cheeses. The mortar and pestle is a bit of work but it’s all worth it in the end for the wonderful texture. I thinned out the paste with the deliciously fruity and unfiltered Frantoia Sicilian olive oil that I received from Julie who always spoils me with culinary goodies. I seasoned the tomato slices and burrata with fleur de sel and a drizzle of the olive oil before dolloping the bright herb paste over them. The citrusy tang of the sorrel and nutty pistachio in the pesto brought a new twist to the ol’ heirloom tomato and burrata salad.