Monthly Archives: August 2012

Seasonal Gems: Watermelon & Plums

I always like to stress the importance of seasonal produce. There are so many great arguments for buying local, organic food as opposed to the alternative; but the most obvious is reflected in taste. Seasonal just tastes better.

I recently got together with friends for a potluck dinner; we each brought something to share. Watermelon has been in season all summer, so I already knew the main star of my dish. I settled on a salad with prawns, arugula, watermelon, cucumber, feta and mint.

My favorite part about the dish, besides the just-picked freshness, was the variety of textures. It also went along famously with my friend’s plum prosciutto bruschetta, also an in-season winner. The combination of the two make a really easy, simple, summer meal. Enjoy!

 

Watermelon Salad

*serves 4 as a side

1 small seedless watermelon, sliced into chunks

10 cooked prawns

1/2 package arugula

1 english cucumber, peeled and sliced into chunks

10 mint leaves, chopped

1 cup crumbled feta cheese (or more if you love it)

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt + pepper to taste

1. Combine watermelon, cucumber, prawns, and mint. Add olive oil (drizzle to your liking) and toss. Add arugula, and lightly toss. Sprinkle feta on top, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Plum Prosciutto Bruschetta

8 slices of fresh, rustic bread; toasted

Humboldt Fog goat cheese

1 package prosciutto

4 organic plums; sliced and pits removed

arugula to garnish

1. Layer the following ingredients to create easy, instant bruschetta: goat cheese, prosciutto, arugula and plums. Serve.

 

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Savor the “SLO” Summer

Last weekend, I aggressively sought to escape the miserable San Francisco fog, so I ventured to San Luis Obispo: the happiest place in America. Seriously.

The plan was simple: visit one of my best college friends and do nothing but relax in the sunshine. That was the only requirement. San Luis Obispo (SLO) is very near to my heart, as I went to Cal Poly and essentially was on vacation every day (learn by doing). If you ever get the chance to visit, you may find it hard to leave. We had the most relaxing weekend, complete with coastal exploring, backyard BBQs, and bocce ball.

With Labor Day weekend around the corner, I figured I’d entice you to enjoy the outdoors, relax, and celebrate life with your favorite people. Savor the summer before it’s over.

Backyard BBQ Menu

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad with Fresh Mozzarella, Balsamic Glaze, and freshly picked Basil

Assorted Grilled Gourmet Sausages (Spicy Chorizo, Cinnamon Chicken Apple, and Lamb Paprika)

Smoked Tri Tip

Marinated Grilled Summer Squash

 

 

 

 

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The Wine Picnic that Welcomed 27

Considering this post is about two weeks late, you can imagine the repercussions of such a fun, memorable birthday celebration. I’m excited to share one of my best birthday events to date, although I don’t know how I’ll ever top this (maybe spend my 30th at St. Barth’s?)

While a lot of work for the hostess (i.e. me), this event was affordable for the quality delivered. Wine tasting for large groups will add up quick, so it’s important to cut costs; yet take it up a level so it’s over-the-top-birthday-special.

On top of paying for transportation and tasting fees, you can either opt to pay a winery for boxed lunches (it’s not cheap and yields little)…or make your own. I decided to cater the lunch myself, that way I could control the menu. I wanted to serve cold, picnic friendly foods that would compliment summer wine tasting in the Sonoma heat.

Most wineries will not let you bring a picnic lunch (and your own silverware/table decorations/serving platters…yes, my mother went there.) so you have to do a little digging. Surprisingly enough, there are some beautiful, large wineries in Sonoma that specialize in Pinots and welcome an outside picnic: Sebastiani was so great and set us up with a private, seated tasting under a grove of shady trees to enjoy our lunch.

It was a perfect day, with the best group. I think 27 is shaping up to be a great year, and couldn’t have been welcomed by a better celebration.

The Wine Picnic Menu

Sweet Corn Ceviche

Pasilla Chile + Lime Cabbage Slaw 

Roasted Rainbow Beet Salad with Feta, Mint, and Fig Vinaigrette

Roasted Red Peppers, Roma + Cherry Tomato Salad with Olive Oil + Basil

Cheeses: Goat, Brie, Gouda, Blue

…don’t forget the crackers

Mint Chutney (to compliment the goat cheese)

Two types of freshly sliced Italian salami

Freshly baked breads (we picked them up that morning)

Grapes

Of course, I had to post the “silly” pic (the expressions are priceless, really)

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Filed under FRESH FETE, VINTOGENIC

Detox Green Wraps

I really like to have fun. Throw a birthday in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for too much fun.

Too much fun usually involves too much wine, and this calls for a much needed detox, with lots of green vegetables and gallons of water. Don’t worry, if you want to detox, then you shouldn’t sacrifice yummy food. You just have to get a little more creative.

These collard green wraps were my sister’s idea, post-wine tasting trip (you can look forward to tomorrow’s post for those goodies)… I was hesitant, because I’m not a fan of collard greens…but I was seriously mistaken. Collard greens are a hidden gem for healthy recipes: they are versatile, provide interesting texture, and taste great, too.

Give these wraps a try the next time you need to take a break from having fun. Or, just throw them in your weekly rotation of healthy food. These are my newest go-to…hello, skinny? I hear you calling my name.

Detox Green Wraps

I made these wraps with groceries purchased from Whole Foods — everything is already prepared, so this truly is the perfect weeknight meal that takes all of TEN minutes to prepare. Or less. Do it.

You will need:

1 collard green leaf per wrap

Sesame tofu sticks

Avocado, cut into slices

Hummus

Shredded Carrots

Edamame beans

Quinoa Salad (your favorite variety – check out the prepared foods section)

Seasoned Rice Vinegar

1. Spread the hummus on the collard green leaf

2. Pile high with quinoa, tofu, carrots, and edamame beans

3. Add avocado. Drizzle with rice vinegar.

4. Hold like a taco. Munch. Enjoy!

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Just Like Martha (Apps and Crafts)

I recently had a birthday. You could say I’m a bit of a birthday brat, in the sense that I get pretty entitled with planning my birthday celebration(s). Basically, I love to celebrate with my friends, so birthdays are always an excuse to show your friends a grand ole time.

It’s not a birthday without appetizers and wine, but I knew I needed a mellow, weeknight activity since everyone had work the next day. I thought to myself, what would Martha do (this does not apply to insider trading).

I’ve always had a liking for craft projects, but wanted to tailor the birthday event around food (hello, have you met me?) so opted for DIY aprons. I actually don’t own an apron and found out most of my friends didn’t either! Voila, the concept for appetizers & aprons was born.

My friends showed up ready for a “surprise” craft, and to be quite honest, we had a blast. My friend Sarah took care of the dessert: deliciously satisfying raspberry apple crisp. I had a wonderful birthday celebration with friends and family, and was really humbled by how thoughtful people can really be (more to come on weekend wine tasting).

Appetizers:

Roasted Cherry Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella & Basil Bruschetta

Meyer Lemon Ricotto, Mint & Caramelized Fennel Bruschetta

Goat Cheese Stuffed Figs with Toasted Walnuts, Drizzled with Honey

Fresh Organic Strawberries

Quinoa & Corn Salad

Tabbouleh

Pitted Kalamata Olives

Selection of Cheese (Goat Brie, Goat Gouda, Pt. Reyes Blue)

Crackers

Falafel Chips

Hummus with Thyme

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Tropical Prawn Salad with Mango, Avocado & Charred Corn

This recipe was the product of a long day. You would think since I write all day at work, the last thing I would want to do is come home and write about food. It’s quite the opposite; I couldn’t wait to channel my energy from the day into a random, new and fun dish.

I love this summery salad because of it’s bright colors and fresh bite. The snappy prawns along with sweet mango, creamy avocado and crispy corn make this salad an everyday must. The best part about this salad: the corn component makes it hearty enough for dinner (but light enough so you feel great).

Tropical Prawn Salad with Mango, Avocado & Charred Corn

Serves 2

.5 lb fresh, peeled and deveined prawns

2 tbsp organic tamari sauce

1 mango, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 whole avocado, sliced into chunks

3 scallions, thinly sliced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

2 ears of corn, husks removed

2 cups butter lettuce, washed and sliced

2 limes

2 cloves of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. Wash the shrimp with cold water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place in a bowl with tamari, a squeeze of lime juice, and a few dashes of pepper. Marinate in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

2. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, over medium heat. Add shallots, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp and saute until cooked through, about 4 minutes per side (you will notice a dark pink color and a little crispiness). Set aside, but do not wash the pan.

3. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, and add the scallions. Cook for 2-3 minutes, and place the two whole ears of corn in the pan. After about 4 minutes, turn the heat down, and turn the corn over. You will notice a brown charr color on one side of the corn. Cook another 2 minutes, and set aside to cool.

4. Once corn is cool, cut off the cob. Combine corn, charred scallions (yes, even the crispy ones from the pan), butter lettuce, chopped mango, and shrimp in a bowl. Toss.

5. To make the dressing, combine lime juice (about 1/4 cup), 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, maple syrup, sea salt and pepper and blend until combined.

6. Add avocado to the salad, and drizzle dressing on top. Enjoy alongside a crisp Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite white and so great with food). Happy Friday! This is what I’m doing…stoked for the weekend.

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Mediterranean Supper Club: Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes

One of the many I reasons I love food is that it brings people together. I recently joined miss delightfulcrab‘s monthly supper club, which occurs on Sunday evenings. Different people take turns hosting the event, and the host chooses the theme: last weekend’s theme was Mediterranean (they have had other awesome themes like “favorite childhood meal” and “colors of the rainbow” and “thai feast”…the creativity goes on and on.)

Mediterranean basically means ANYTHING goes; as long as you can find it somewhere along the Mediterranean sea, you’re good to go! I decided to make Vegan Pistachio Tea Cakes from my favorite new cookbook (also featured in this recipe).

I knew it was a huge risk making something brand new for a group of people, but that didn’t stop me. As usual, it was a scramble to the finish (I felt like I was competing on Top Chef), but I made it on time and the cakes turned out pret-ty good. I bet you can’t tell they’re vegan. I totally recommend this for your next picnic/brunch/anytime. Snack away!

Vegan Pistachio Olive Oil Tea Cakes

You will need a mini-muffin or tea cake pan (makes cute mini bundt cakes), although a 9-inch cake pan works too.

For the cake:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan

2/3 cup shelled pistachios (3 oz), toasted

1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy yogurt

6 oz soft silken tofu

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

1 orange

1 lemon

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (1 1/4 oz), toasted and chopped

 

TO MAKE THE CAKE-

1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan, then line with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan and oil the parchment paper (or use baking spray with flour).

2. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. But don’t over do it, or they’ll turn into nut butter.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yogurt, tofu, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla and beat at medium speed until well combined.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a separate bowl. Add to the tofu mixture and beat until well combined. Add the ground pistachios and beat again until incorporated.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester, bamboo skewer, or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool briefly, then invert into a wire rack ,remove the pan, and let cool completely.

TO MAKE THE TOPPING-

1. Slice the orange and lemon in half, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Remove the seeds. In a medium saucepan, combine the orange, lemon, water, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the fruit is soft and pliable and starting to break down, about 1 hour.

2. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse repeatedly until thick and chunky. Spread the topping evenly over the top of the cake. Garnish with chopped pistachios and pomegranate seeds (optional – I couldn’t find them at the store) before serving.

 

 

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