Monthly Archives: April 2013

Saveur Food Blog Award Winners

Post from Thug Kitchen. Photo credit: Thug Kitchen

Post from Thug Kitchen. Photo credit: Thug Kitchen

Saveur just chose it’s top food blogs 2013!

Every year they give awards to the food blogs that have the best… anything! This year I was very surprised and happy to see that the best NEW food blog is… Karla’s and my favorite: THUG KITCHEN! It’s a great blog and you should check it out, if you haven’t already.

Some of my other favorites were there too! Not Without Salt got Best Food Blog, and Spoon Fork Bacon was a runner up (SFB is totally my favorite!) Green Kitchen Stories did well too.

Add all these awesome blogs to your RSS feed!

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Filed under Blogs & Books

Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

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I’m sorry about my last post being just a multitude of pictures without any real explanation. I just get so excited by all the wonderful fresh produce in season, and farms, and farmer’s markets popping up that I get a little picture crazy. To me, one of the wonderful things about really fresh, just-picked produce, is that you can experiment a little with it.. the key being not to go overboard and let its true taste shine through. This is why I’ve come up with very few new recipes lately, and gone more for simplicity; letting the vegetables be the stars. Like in my Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette or my Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre. Its true you don’t need complicated recipes to make food taste great, which I’m reminded of as I’ve been reading Alice Waters’s biography: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, which by the way I definitely recommend to any foodie or person interested in how this local food movement got stated–all right here in San Francisco (Berkeley, actually).

Alice Water’s life and vision come alive in this book. Highly recommend!

But before you go searching for that in your local library…try this recipe. Yes, its a recipe, but also lets fresh veggies shine their brightest in a unison of rich flavors. This is a heartier dish, to be served with rice, thick country bread, any white fish (monkfish, halibut, flounder), or on its own sprinkled with some good parmesan or pecorino romano. Unlike some more typical versions of ratatioullie that call for an hour in the oven (you know I’m hesitant of heating my apartment while its 85 degrees outside), this is a stovetop ratatouille. Nothing fancy about it, but the result is something so homey, rich and delicious… you’ll forget your just eating vegetables.

After my most recent trip to the farmer’s market, I somehow got saddled with 3 lbs of vine ripened tomatoes, 6 baby zucchini, and a giant bunch of Genovese basil. So to use it all up, I made a big batch of ratatouille and saved it (for 3 days!) and ate it for lunch or dinner. I would definitely throw in some eggplant and yellow squash if you have it on hand. I like to leave everything in big chunks so the flavors dont completely blend together and it gets mushy. This way each vegetables holds up and at the end you can really appreciate and taste each one for what it is.

If you want a more refined ratatoullie recipe for a dinner party or just to try out your mandoline skills, like the one in the movie Ratatoullie (Remy’s recipes), click here for a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has all the same ingredients and flavor, just a different look.

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Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 7-10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2-3 lbs vine ripened tomatoes, halved or whole if small*
  • 6 baby zucchini or 3 large zucchini, cut into thick rounds
  • (Italian eggplant or yellow squash of you have them, cut into large chunks)
  • 1/4 lb baby carrots or carrots cut into thick rounds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 handfuls fresh Genovese basil leaves, rinsed
  • 1/2 can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse black pepper & sea salt, to taste
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, for serving

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1. Add the olive oil, onion, and whole garlic cloves to a deep sided fry pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, but do not brown. Add your tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, squash and/or eggplant to the pan and stir occasionally for the first few minutes until juices start to release. Add the bay leaf, kosher salt, and stir.  IMG_1608

2. As the juices begin to simmer, add a sprig of thyme on top, cover pan, and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes (or until all veggies are cooked through, but not mushy). Remove thyme sprig. Let cool for 7 minutes with lid off then stir in basil leaves.

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3. Let sit until just warm and stir in garbanzo beans, balsamic, thyme (leaves only), and salt and fresh pepper to taste.** Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, by itself or with one of the suggestions below.

Serve with thick country bread drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, fresh pasta, brown rice, or simply prepared chicken or white fish.  The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity so don’t overdo it.

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*make sure your tomatoes are ripe, smell fragrant and sweet, and give them a good wash

**The reason for all the cooking times and waiting at the end is so that the stronger flavors of the herbs and vinegar do not overpower the delicate flavors of the vegetables (which they would if cooked too long). You also want to make sure the beans stay firm, so adding them at the end is important.

I imagine this dish would be served in the countryside in Italy as a no-frills, home-cooked and family-style dish with only the freshest of ingredients (hence the name). That was my inspiration and from Alice who is always reminding us to let things taste as they are– and not to fuss too much. Hopefully you find this meal as warm and comforting as I did, for three days in a row. Here’s so happy and simple eating! Boun Appetito.

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Filed under Blogs & Books, Local, Main Dishes, Seasonal, Sides, Vegetarian

Urban Gardening and My Basil Plant

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Happy Monday!

This weekend, I went to a workshop on urban gardening! Living in the middle of the city, I don’t have a lot of space to garden, but it was great learning about how easy it is to grow your own food and maintain herbs and vegetables inside your own home. We learned about garden mapping – how to plant different vegetables together in the most mutually beneficial way, and about how to start and maintain anything from a window unit to a community garden plot.

My personal favorite part of the workshop was putting together our own newspaper pots. It’s a great way to start new seedings. You can start the plant in the newspaper pot and then replant it, newspaper and all, into its more permanent home. I planted some marigolds, since the other seeds they have were for vegetables a little too big for my windows. Here are some pictures from the workshop:

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The one plant I do have at home, other than my little marigold seedlings, is my basil plant. Bill bought it for me last year for our anniversary. He knew I wanted to start a little outdoor garden, so he bought me two kinds of basil and a tomato plant. The tomato plant was a little more trouble than it was worth, but the basil plant – oh my god. It’s been pretty fantastic. First of all, basil costs way too much. If you find yourself cooking with basil often, you should have a basil plant. Ours has lasted through the winter inside, and is absolutely thriving. I took this picture after a serious harvesting last week:

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This baby makes a lot of pesto.

Which brings me to this recipe! Despite the fact that it looked like a beautiful weekend outside this weekend, it was SO COLD. On Friday night, it SNOWED. It’s almost May. This is insane. So, we decided to make some really decadent, wintery food. Meet Creamy Pesto Gnocchi. I went to a lovely Italian market a few weeks ago and picked up some pretty perfect looking imported gnocchi, so this meal was pretty simple. If you would like to make your own gnocchi, DO IT! It’s really simple and very rewarding when you bite into the pillowy fluffy goodness that is homemade gnocchi. Smitten Kitchen has a particularly good recipe: click here!

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Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Ingredients:
Basil
Pine Nuts
Parmesan Cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Heavy (whipping) cream

Gnocchi

Chopped cherry tomatoes (to garnish)

I didn’t put amounts on anything, because this is all about taste and desired level of creaminess. Also, feel free to use some greek yogurt with the cream, if you want a lighter, healthier version. Here is my general recipe: Throw about three packed handfulls of basil, one handfull of pine nuts, two to three inches off a wedge of parmesan cheese (cut in a few smaller pieces), two or three glugs of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, and salt and pepper to taste into the bowl of a food processor. Process on high until the mixture looks like a light green paste.

In a heavy pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook on medium-high until the gnocchi float. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat up ~1/2 cup cream in a saucepan, stirring often. Once it’s steaming, stir in the pesto. Let the two meld for a minute or two. Add the cooked gnocchi and stir to coat.

Serve with some chopped tomatoes for a light garnish.

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

Creamy Pesto Gnocchi

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Filed under Vegetarian

Sticking to the Season: Farmer’s Market Madness!

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Happy Dairy Cows at Deer Hollow Farm

Hey Lauren, I know it’s a little weird because what’s in season for me over in California has not yet reached the Mid-west. I’ve been going to farmers markets here, and I’m still blown away by the variety of fresh local produce that is already here! To give you an idea:

  • Strawberries
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichokes
  • Fava beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Spring peas
  • Green garlic
  • Spring onions
  • Oranges
  • Fennel
  • Kohlrabi
  • Nettles
  • Lettuce, mustard greens, arugula & spinach
  • Radishes
  • Herbs: basil, chamomile, mint, lavender, rose geranium, thyme
  • And much more….
My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

My finds at the April farmers market in San Jose

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Tropical mint green tea

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette

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Farmer’s fava beans

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Succulent strawberries and local walnuts

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Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Eating whole tomatoes with basil and chevre

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Fragrant basil bunch

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Farm stand wildflower honey and strawberries

Mint from my windowsill

Mint from my windowsill

Radishes from SMIP farm

Radishes from SMIP farm

Free range happy cows

Free range happy cows

Farmers market on Skyline

Farmers market on Skyline

Local Vendors

Local Vendors

My window garden

My window garden

New growth from my windowsill garden!

New growth from my windowsill garden!

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Filed under Local, On Food, Seasonal

The Everything Cookie

 

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Just like you have an everything bagel, welcome to the everything cookie. More of the good stuff, less of the not-so-good stuff. These are not your typical flour, butter, sugar cookies. Because let’s face it, as delicious as they can be, who wants to be eating that? No, these little gems are great afternoon pick-me ups and have plenty of fiber and protein to boot. Better yet, you can make them with anything you have in your pantry… throw in any variety of nut, seed, dried fruit, you name it. And don’t forget the nut butter.. that’s the glue and what holds these together.

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The Everything Cookie (& Gluten Free)

1/2 cup coconut oil (or 1/4 cup butter at room temp)

3/4 cup agave nectar

1/4 cup brown sugar (optional, or add more agave)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup peanut butter

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup nuts (chopped walnuts, whole cashews, pistachios)

1/4 cup dried fruit or seeds (dried cranberries, blueberries, chia seeds, sunflower seeds)

Preheat oven to 350. Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan. In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil (or 1/4 cup butter), agave, brown sugar, and butter and beat with a mixer until light and creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and baking soda, and mix well with a spatula. Add the peanut butter and fold in until fully incorporated. Stir in oats, chocolate, nuts, fruit and/or seeds. Place a rounded teaspoon of dough on lightly greased cookie sheets about 1-2 inches apart. Bake 9-10 minutes until lightly brown around edges for soft cookies (and leave in for 2 more minutes of you like them crispy).

1. Whisk oil (or butter) and sugarsIMG_1422

2. Add eggs, vanilla, & baking powderIMG_1424

3. Mix in Peanut butterIMG_1428

4. Mix in oatsIMG_1431

5. Mix in Nuts & seedsIMG_1434
6. Mix in chocolateIMG_1438

7. Spoon onto tray (1 tsp)IMG_1444

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8. Bake 9-10 minIMG_1448

9. Enjoy as dessert… or…IMG_1489

10. Give to friends!IMG_1453

Makes about 48 cookies, so you’ll have to share! I packed them up for my friends at the farm, my sweetheart, and my Stanford friend. Raving reviews from all! Hope you enjoy them too!

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Filed under Desserts

Fresh herbs: Mustard greens with strawberry, thyme, and goat cheese & herb tea

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Yesterday I began my first day of class at Stanford! Its called the Ecology of Cuisine: Food, Nutrition and the Evolution of the Human Diet. We went on a walk through campus foraging and taking a look at different varieties of plants, fruits, and edibles that are available in our immediate environment. We went to the cactus garden (pic), the edible garden and walked through the Main Quad. We found California wild flowers, chestnuts, currants, elderberries, kumquats, persimmons, avocados, and tons of fresh herbs! I picked bay leaves off trees and tucked some fresh sage into my bag. Sweet.

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Cactus garden at Stanford

Later that afternoon, I went back to SMIP farm for a few hours to help out with transplanting, weeding, and shoveling compost. I brought Mary some homemade gluten free cookies (next blog post) and they sent me home with tons of fresh herbs. I was out there with a knife picking handfuls of wild lavender, bunches of chamomile, fresh thyme (with those lovely purple flowers, see first pic), rose geranium (which smells like perfume), and 3 different kinds of mint: spearmint, bergamot mint, and yes, CHOCOLATE mint!

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I love fresh herbs, but they are always so expensive to buy in the store and their flavor and freshness die out so quickly, that it is hardly worth it. Buying this abundance of herbs would have cost me over $40 in the store, but just foraging and having friends, I got my delicious herbs a gratis. So go out and forage, or grow your own at home (I have oregano, parsley, mint, and rosemary plants)…your wallet, health and taste buds will thank you!

Herb tea was the perfect thing to unwind at the end of the day yesterday. I combined fresh mint, chamomile (stems an pods), rose geranium, and a strawberry to make a very light soothing tea. These herbs all have great healing properties too.

Strawberry Herb Tea

A few Mint leaves

A branch of Chamomile, leaves a pods

A Rose geranium flower

A few slices of a sweet, ripe strawberry

Rinse all your herbs and fruit. Bring a pot of water to boil. Reduce to a simmer and add all the herbs. Stir and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add strawberry in the last minute. Turn off, let cool slightly and strain into tea cups. Add ice for a hot afternoon iced tea (or infuse water with herbs, strawberry, and lemon in the sun– sun tea!).

 

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Mustard Greens with Strawberries, Thyme, and Goat Cheese

Bunch of fresh mustard greens, rinsed and chopped into 1-1/2 in pieces

Sweet ripe strawberries, quartered

Olives (black or kalamata), halved

Juice of a lemon

Extra virgin olive oil

Goat cheese

Fresh thyme sprigs, remove stem

Sea salt

Optional: toasted pistachios or almonds

Place greens in a large salad bowl and add strawberries, olives, EVOO, lemon juice and salt. Toss to combine. Add fresh thyme to the goat cheese in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Crumble herbed goat cheese on top of salad and add toasted pistachios or other nuts if desired. Serve with freshly ground black pepper.

xox

Happy picking!

 

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Filed under Drinks, Salads

Boston Marathon Tragedy

boston-skyline

I don’t know if this has come across much in this blog, but Karla and I are both from Boston, so yesterday’s bombings have left us feeling shaken and sad. We have seen the Boston Marathon numerous times, we go to church on that very same street corner, and grew up in the neighborhood.

Thankfully everyone we know is safe and sound, and most of them were able to get home last night, but I think I speak for Karla too when I say, our hearts are heavy today, but we’re very proud to be Bostonians.

 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/boston-marathon-tragedy-met-with-amazing-acts-of-kindness

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