Monthly Archives: July 2010

Peach and Blackberry Crisp

When the Brentwood farmers’ market opened for the season, I griped endlessly about the number of farmers from out of the area selling their wares.  We had 3 healthy strawberry stands open just a stone’s throw from the market, but only strawberries from a good hundred miles away were available.  What’s up with that?  Finally, many local producers are represented at the market. This can be rough on the small farmers as they need to be running a stand at the farmers’ market as well as their own farm stand in town.  For so many family farms, this is quite an undertaking.

Moffat Ranch peaches.  I’d seen the sign for their peaches on the road between Farmer’s Daughter and Chan’s Berries, but never took the detour.  Luckily I met them at the farmers’ market.  These are the nicest people you ever have met, and their peaches are truly divine.  The peaches that weren’t just sliced and slurped up at home made it into this delicious crisp.

Peach and Blackberry Crisp


For the filling:

5 large ripe peaches, pitted and cut into chunks

1 basket blackberries, rinsed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 TBS all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt

For the topping:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pea sized pieces
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
Pinch kosher salt
1 to 2 TBS cold water


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  For the filling, toss the peaches in a large bowl with the zest and lemon juice. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour into a 10 by 13 casserole dish.

3.  For the topping, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor except the water. Pulse until combined, this will take about 30 seconds. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture is clumpy but crumbly.  Sprinkle over the peach mixture, crumbling the topping so it doesn’t clump.

4.  Bake for 60 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbly and the topping, brown and crispy.


  • This was a breeze to put together!

Fly Off the Plate Deviled Eggs

Here we continue with the summer classics theme and the search for the perfect recipe.  To briefly recap, I finally had the “aha” moment, or perhaps the “duh” moment in realizing that the classic picnic foods are challenging to recreate because we have each had sampled several truly good versions and more than our fair share of barely passable versions.  Think of the last time you had some totally ho-hum potato salad and wished to be eating your favorite version.

Tasting a brand new to you dish that is delicious is considered delicious because its tasty and also because there is no benchmark comparison.  Compare that with the classics, such as when Aunt Millie always brings the deviled eggs to the BBQ because hers are the best, and you quickly realize how intimidating these simple dishes are.  Reputations are on the line here people!

So, I love eggs.  One egg scrambled with lots of veggies, or a nice little quiche, or deviled, or even poached (the test of a good diner line cook).  Somehow the Love for Deviled Eggs gene was not passed along to my children, so I only make them when we’re having friends over.  For a few years I made deviled eggs that made me sing, but no one ever took a second.  A bit of curry powder in the yolks?  Brilliant only in my mind.  Some horseradish perhaps?  Only I was pleased.  Extra parsley?  Cilantro?  Watercress?  No, no, and more no.  Finally I realized the obvious:  no one wants creativity in a classic at our backyard BBQ gatherings.

With a little guidance from Paula Deen, these Fly Off the Plate Deviled Eggs were created.  And I’ve never looked back.  In public.

Deviled Eggs


8 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 TBS sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, for taste
Paprika, for garnishing


1.  Halve 8 eggs lengthwise. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl.

2.  Mash yolks with a fork and stir in mayonnaise, pickle relish, and mustard. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

3.  Fill egg whites evenly with yolk mixture. Sprinkle lightly with paprika.


  • Do taste the mixture to make sure it is salted properly.  Salt makes a big difference in egg dishes.
  • I use the ol’ zip lock back trick for filling the egg whites.  Just scoop the yolk mixture into into a bag, cut off one corner, and use it like a pastry bag to fill the egg white shells.
  • Feel the need to add just a little more mustard?  Don’t.  These are perfectly balanced.
  • As for the “fly off the plate” in the title, yes, yes, yes they do!
  • Other classics posted on Livin Local: potato salad and “baked” beans

Beat the Heat “Baked” Beans

Once the “aha” moment arrived, it was humbling to realize how clear it should have been all along.  I’ve been wondering why in the world cooking the basics can be so darned difficult.  For example, whipping up a new to me watermelon salad?  Simple and delicious.  Making potato salad?  Years in the making.  Roasted Dungeness Crab for the first time?  Nailed it right off the bat.  Deviled eggs that fly off the plate?  Too many strike outs to even count.

Why does it take so long to get the classics down pat?  Its because we each know what they should taste like.  Take potato salad for example.  You’ve had potato salad from the grocery store, from delis, at picnics, and barbecues all of your life.  You know there are different styles and preferences, and you have a concept of what the perfect potato salad should taste like.

When making food for our 4th of July gathering, I realized that in the past year I’ve finally mastered a few more of the basics such as deviled eggs and potato salad.  But I’m still not a fan of canned beans.  At our most recent Gourmet Dinner Club event, the SubUrban Cowboy dinner, the hostess made the most amazing homemade baked beans.  Now I knew it was a possible task.  This recipe, adopted from one by Emeril, is an instant classic and will stay in rotation in these parts for years to come.

Beat the Heat “Baked” Beans

makes about 2 quarts


1 pound bacon, diced
2 cups onions, diced
1 TBS  garlic, chopped
1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained or cooked with the quick method*
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
2 TBS dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

* For the quick method for soaking beans, add beans to a pot and cover with water plus 3 more inches of water, cook until small bubbles appear, cover, and remove from heat for 1 hour.


1.  Heat a large pot, add the bacon and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onions and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and beans and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat, stir in the chicken stock and bay leaves, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the beans for about 2 hours with a lid partially covering the pot.  After 1 hour, stir the beans and remove the lid for the remainder of the cooking time if the amount of liquid needs to be reduced.

2.  Add the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and flavors have come together. Season the beans with salt and pepper, to taste, before serving.


  • For a hint as to why these beans are so tasty, note what typical step is missing in the first line of the cooking directions.  Righto, the bacon fat is never drained.
  • The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of bourbon but I omitted it to play it safe the first time around.
  • The beans were nice and sturdy and the sauce was just delicious!
  • The finger licking ribs in the photo were smoked by my husband in the famous Smokasaurus.  Serious yum!

Grilled Corn with Marinated Tomatoes

With the opening of Lon’s Organic farm stand, summer is officially here!  The cool Spring made for a late crop of tomatoes but they are finally gracing us with their presence.  Living amidst endless plots of Brentwood Sweet Corn and tomatoes, we eat them daily while in season then go cold turkey during the off season.  Even living in the land of plenty, it is easy to depend on just a few go to recipes.  Truly, I am a master of the corn with black bean and tomato salads.  Yes, it makes for a delicious mixture and provides a healthy snack for the nibblers in the family.  (ok, that would be each of us!)  And yes, I do have a few variations, but I was ready for a new version to come into my life.  Thank you Gourmet for offering that subtle spark and rejuvenating my standard side dish.  And thank you t0 Gourmet Unbound for nudging me towards this delish variation.

Grilled Corn with Marinated Tomatoes

Corn from Farmer’s Daughter, tomatoes from Lon’s

inspired by Corn and Tomato Scramble

Gourmet  July 2009


2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS rice vinegar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces

4 green onions

6 ears corn, shucked


1. Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, mix gently, and set aside.

2.  Heat grill to medium high.  Grill green onions and corn until each are slightly charred.  Remove from grill and allow to cool.  Cut kernels from corn cobs and slice green onions into 1/4 inch pieces.  Add to marinated tomatoes and mix gently.  Serve cooled or at room temperature.


  • With seasonal ingredients, this is simply delicious!
  • I tend to go heavy on the black pepper with tomatoes, so hold back if that is not your personal bent.
  • The original recipe actually required you to dirty a pan.  Obviously that needed to be changed.
  • Yes, those are people fishing in our back yard.  Life on the lake is not for those requiring their home to be a sanctuary of privacy.

California Cowboy Salad

Do you have a place where the simple thought of it causes you to slow down, breathe deeply, and smile?  The mere mental image of this space creates a warm calm within you?

For me, one such space is a walnut orchard owned and managed by good friends. The space would be considered non-descript to most folks.  But, they had not been there with good friends for many Octoberfest celebrations, sharing a lingering meal over conversations with life long friends.  Oh, and the zip line without safety equipment. And the hay ride over to the winery next door.  And the trips around the orchard by the tractor hauling the trailer with kids hopping on and off.  Kids climbing trees.  Playing tag with flashlights at night.  The bonfire, with guitars, with friends.  And this was the setting for the SubUrban Cowboy themed Gourmet Dinner Club evening.

Yee-haw!  Cooking over a fire, delicious steaks, beans, breads … all rolling over in my mind.  “Can’t wait!”  But, uh, what course were we to prepare?  Salad.  Really?  Salad!

It had to have some steak, and if there is steak on a salad there clearly must be blue cheese, and from there we went with ingredients that could be found locally, namely cherries and walnuts.  And then there’s the pickled shallot rings that have shown up on numerous dishes at home ever since making the most wonderful Tomato Salad with Pickled Shallots and Goat Cheese Croutons from the always enjoyable More Than Burnt Toast blog.  The California Cowboy Salad will certainly grace our family table this summer as it can be put together easily and each person can concoct their own proportions of veggies, meat, cheese, and fruits.  Yee-haw!

California Cowboy Salad

cherries from Chan’s, steak from Brentwood Fine Meats, walnuts from the local orchard


1 1/4 pound sirloin steak

2 heads butter lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled

2 cups cherries, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar, divided

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1.  Spread chopped cherries on a parchment lined cookie sheet and set in a 200 degree oven for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.  Remove and cool.  Cherries will be wilted but not completely dry.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Trim fat from steak and cut into 2 equal portions.  Reserve 1/3 cup of oil and vinegar mixture for salad dressing, and place the remainder in a zip lock bag along with both steak pieces.  Allow steak to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

3.  Combine shallot rings and 1/4 cup red wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 1 to 2 hours.

4.  Set gas grill to medium high, remove steak from marinade and pat dry with paper towels, and cook steak for 4 minutes on each side or until medium rare.  Let steak rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes, then slice into 1/4 in strips.

5.  Gently mix lettuce and salad dressing in a large bowl.  To serve, place the lettuce on the serving plate, topped with the steak, blue cheese, drained pickled shallots, dried cherries, and toasted walnuts.


  • Dried cherries from the supermarket can be substituted for the home dried cherries.
  • The sweetness of the cherries, along with the savory steak and salty cheese are simply marvelous together!
  • Yes, some of these steps take some time, but think of it as productive puttering around time.