Monthly Archives: March 2009

Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese Rolls

salmon roll displayIts time to be honest here. Creativity? Oh, I do wish! Planning ahead? Likewise. Allowing enough time before a big event to drop back and punt? In another life. But this time, for once, it all worked just like in my dream!

So, it was time for our Gourmet Dinner Club to get together for food, wine and a bunch o’ fun. C and J planned this cooking party thing (very brave, VERY brave!) and each of the other couples brought appetizers to nibble on while we cooked. Let’s see here, Spring … asparagus, salmon … something light. Found a perfect recipe for these little lovelies here.

But then it got dangerous …. I got thinking. Presentation. This is not my forte, and I know that Ron and Sandi who got us started on this whole adventure really pride themselves on presentation with their group. After a bit of tossing ideas around in my mind, I came up with the perfect plan: put the salmon rolls on a fake plant! Haha! Actually, these little tasty morsels look just like little spring buds just as I anticipated. Although I’m not sure which was funnier: the look on my husband’s face when I finished putting it together and declaring it perfect, or when I walked through the door at our friend’s house and they realized the potted plant I was carrying WAS the appetizer! Regardless how you present it, this is a great little make ahead winner!

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
  • 3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), room temperature
  • 1/4 cup trimmed peeled chopped raw asparagus
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced lemon peel
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

Directions:

Heat olive oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add chopped shallot and sauté until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Transfer to medium bowl. Mix in goat cheese, chopped asparagus, and lemon peel. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

Place sheet of plastic wrap on work surface. Using 1/5 of salmon, form 6×3-inch rectangle atop plastic, overlapping salmon slightly. Spoon 1/5 of filling along 1 long side of rectangle, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Using plastic as aid, roll up salmon into tight log. Repeat with remaining salmon and filling, forming 4 more logs. Refrigerate logs until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

Remove plastic from logs. Cut each log crosswise into 4 pieces.

Notes:

  • The asparagus was FRESH from TK’s Best farm stand. (Just had to brag on that!)
  • Don’t know if this is in the new Trader Joe’s cook book, but it should be. 😉
  • The fake plant was picked up at Home Goods. That store is my total addiction.
  • The stakes holding the salmon rolls are just those little metal stakes covered with floral tape from Michaels. I just twisted them around a screwdriver to create an itty bitty ledge so the salmon rolls wouldn’t slowly slide down the stakes during the evening.
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Let the 2009 Season Begin!

Open and strawberry signLadies and gentlemen, children of all ages, let it be known that the 2009 farm stand season is officially open! TK’s Best and Arata are both open and serving happy lovers of local food.

But first, story time. There once was a little road, Walnut, connecting many growers of fine foods. It was a small, two lane road, connecting the little town of Brentwood with a little two lane winding road leading to Larger Towns. As Brentwood grew, and the Larger Towns grew, more and more people drove down Walnut Road. These were busy, busy people with busy, busy lives and they all have to get to important places very fast. Over time, the little winding two lane road was widened into a newer, wider winding road so the important people could quickly speed to their important destinations. Little Walnut was overwhelmed and getting tired. The growers of delicious foods still grew those delicious foods and sold them at family farm stands at the side of the road, but it became dangerous for the buyers of those delicious foods to pull over on this busy road to buy them. No one was happy. Over time, some of these important people figured out how to use taxpayer money to build a By Pass so they did not have to drive through any more little two lane roads while going to their important places and doing their important things. Now the very busy important people can go around the little two lane road and the growers of delicious foods and the people who like to buy delicious foods directly from the farmers have Walnut to themselves once again. And everyone was happy.

TKs Best March 2009Saturday, I got the call from C that TK’s Best was open! Naturally, I planned an errand route to include it. At this point, there is obviously a limited selection, and most of the food is brought in from Central Valley farms, but it is a good start to the season. Driving up the remainder of Walnut Avenue, I checked out the other stands … closed, closed, closed. Chan’s strawberries are looking healthy, but they are still finishing up that ripening process.

Arata March 2009Driving back home, down beautiful Walnut Avenue, Arata caught my eye. Were there people there? Really? A quick U-turn and back to their stand made me customer #7 for the season. Oh, lucky me! Nicholas and Michael were both there, again with a few items from their land and more from other farms they support.

The season has officially started!

Fiery Fish Fry for ‘Fraidycats

pan fried codOk all you fish ‘fraidy cats, this one is for you. The fish is not too fishy, has no bones to remove and no skin nor scales to deal with, and is firm enough so that it doesn’t flake apart when you cook it. So there, all of your excuses are now gone!

Oh, but you are trying to lose a few pounds and don’t want to fry your food? Actually, this is pan fried with very little oil. And for one more “actually” the recipe idea actually came from a healthy cooking magazine.

Oh, but you are not into spicy foods? The fiery part of this dish is a dip, so it is optional. And back to the person who is trying to lose a few pounds, it is so spicy that you’ll just use the itsy bitsy-est of bits so the calories are not of worry.

And now, on to the cooking!

Ingredients:

Aioli

  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
  • 1 garlic clove, mince

Fish

  • 1 cup fat-free or 1% milk
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) cod fillets
  • 4 lemon wedges

Directions

To prepare aioli, combine cilantro, mayonnaise, serrano, and minced garlic, stirring well.

To prepare fish, combine milk and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. Combine panko, salt, and black pepper in a dinner plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip fish in milk mixture, and dredge in cornflake mixture. Add fish to pan, and cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

Serve fish with aioli and lemon wedges.

Notes:

  • I started with a cod fillet of about 1 pound and cut it into about 6 pieces. The fillet was thick enough to be able to cook the fish on 4 sides, creating just that much more crunch. Crunch is good!
  • The original recipe called for fat free mayo, but personally, I’ve never been able to make the switch. The fat free stuff is just too loaded with sweetners for my taste.
  • Any firm white fish would work well here. I went for the cod because it was fresh and affordable. Tilapia should also work well, but would take a bit more care while flipping in the pan.

Gremelli and Asparagus

pasta asparagus saladOh asparagus! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

Last night, after a quickie pasta dinner, there was still lots of pasta left over. Time to raid the vegetable bin and make a pasta salad! And what was waiting there for me, just begging to be included in the fun? Asparagus. While many dishes that I toss together with bits of this and that from the pantry are better than prison food, I wouldn’t specifically shop for the ingredients to make that dish again. Not so this time. This my friends, is a winner. Part of the love in this dish (yes, that’s a shout out to Carla from Top Chef!) is the pasta itself. Costco carries this brand in 6 packs, and it is truly worth keeping some on hand.Garofalo pasta

The red wine vinegar gives this a nice tang while the Parmesan rounds out the flavors. Enjoy.

No notes were taken during the creation of this dish, so bear with me on the directions.

Ingredients:

half pack of gemelli or similar pasta, cooked al dente

1 bunch asparagus, but into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tsp dried basil

3 TBS flat leaf parsley, minced

1 TBS olive oil, plus 1 tsp for cooking

1 TBS red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat a skillet to medium high, add oil and asparagus. Quickly cook so that the outsides of the asparagus begin to darken but the insides are still crisp, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, basil, parsley, salt and pepper. Add pasta and mix gently. Add Parmesan and asparagus to pasta and combine.

Poppies!

Poppies close upPoppies are just about the happiest little flowers on earth. They are so rugged, often growing on steep hillsides or along the sides of highways. The bright color just has to make you smile! Poppy season also means:

  • Great Big ol’ Rainbow season.
  • The urge to reorganize your closet with the warm weather clothes towards the front. But don’t yet cuz…
  • A few big rains are still to come.
  • Asparagus season!
  • Artichoke season!
  • Recovery from the holiday seasons with friends ready to socialize once again.
  • Enjoying the last bits of green hills before they go all brown for the summer.
  • More wildflowers everywhere!

Baked French Toast with OJ

Orange French ToastMornings are still cool, and there’s nothing better than a nice, warm citrus-y breakfast that takes literally no effort while you’re enjoying that first cup of coffee. This is one of those make-ahead breakfast deals that is just so easy, and so delicious, there is no reason not to give it a go. Truly, I made this little ditty while the soup was simmering on evening.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons light-colored corn syrup
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 large eggs
  • 12 (1-inch-thick) slices French bread (about 1 pound)

Directions:

1. Combine brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup; pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

2. Combine rind and next 7 ingredients (rind through eggs); stir with a whisk. Arrange bread slices over sugar and butter in dish; pour egg mixture over bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350°.

4. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.

Notes:

  • The original recipe called for 1/3 cup pecans. The big breakfast eater in our house has not yet developed a taste for nuts, so I didn’t include them. If you do, add them after the butter / sugar mixture and before the bread.
  • Instead of a 13 x 9 pan, I used one that was a little shallower (but much cuter!) and just cut one layer of bread a bit thinner.
  • If the egg mixture does not come about 3/4 of the way up the pan, mix together another egg and some milk and toss it on in.
  • While I didn’t have any on hand, don’t ‘cha think this would be great with some whipped cream?!

Steamed Clams al Fresco

Steamed ClamsMmmm, a Friday evening with a bit of time on my own.  Open some white wine for the clams and the cook … about half cup in a pan, some diced garlic, a taste of diced sun dried tomato, add the clams, cover and warm over medium heat until those little beauties open.  Toss with a bit of flat leaf parsley.  And finally, for the first time this year, relax dining al fresco.  Perfect.