basil

We are still enjoying home-grown zucchini from our prolific community garden plot squash plants. It feels so good just going there to water them. We find new ones growing full swing every time. It seems to happen overnight!

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

This recipe comes from this lovely blog, not without salt (I so wish that I’d come up with that name for our blog!) that I’ve been enjoying reading recently. Really, the dish is very simple and most of the ingredients came directly from our community garden. The flavors are super vibrant!

The recipe calls for grilling the thinly sliced zucchini. Our grill had no gas so instead I seared them in a pan. But this didn’t make the final result any less delicious.

This is perfect for a tapas style meal, or served as a side dish.

grilled zucchini salad with fresh garden herbs

3 zucchini, sliced thinly
Arbequina olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of a whole lemon

Place a non stick skillet on stove top and bring temperature to high. Meanwhile put sliced zucchinis in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat using your hands. Lay zucchini slices on hot surface in a single layer and pan grill it for about a minute or so on each side. Remove from pan, repeat process with remainder. While zucchini slices are still warm add herbs, zest, lemon juice more salt and pepper and olive oil to taste. Toss to combine. There you have a tasty and elegant side dish to enjoy!

If there are any leftovers make a sandwich with it the following day like I did. All you need is to have a nice piece of fresh crusty bread and stuff it with some of the grilled zucchini, chévre and a drizzle of a good olive oil.

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Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment

Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment: it might not look like much, but this is powerfully delicious

This simple and versatile recipe comes from David Rocco’s Made in Italy. Essentially just garlic, salt, various chiles, fresh basil and sun dried tomatoes covered in a bit of olive oil to preserve it, this makes a wonderfully flavorful base for a large variety of food. This is my third time making a large batch. I think of it as my kitchen helper on those tired weekdays when I need to make something with pizzazz but my energy level is less-than-perky.

I use whatever chiles are at hand. Generally I try to remove the ribs and seeds from the larger ones to control the heat. Of course all the stems must go. I don’t bother trying to clean the tiny chiles, which tend to be the hotter kind. This time around I used a lot of those tiny red Thai ones so the condiment turned out especially spicy. A little goes a long way.

Generally I add this to pasta sauces, sautéed veggies or use it with tofu or fried tempeh. Yum!

Italian basil, garlic and chile condiment

3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 poblano chile, stems, ribs and seeds removed
4 jalapeño chiles, stems, ribs and seeds removed
~½ cup Thai chiles, stems removed
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
1 tsp salt
~12 Italian basil leaves
Olive oil to prevent oxidation

Simply place everything but the olive oil in your food processor. Pulse until coarsely ground. Scoop into a cleaned jar. Pack down a bit and cover with olive oil to prevent oxidation. Seal with lid and keep refrigerated. I’ve no idea how long this can last but have happily used mine over a few weeks. I merely top it up with olive oil each time.

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chilled summer couscous

by Stevie on December 9, 2011

I didn’t make this recipe in the summertime, which was a mistake. It comes from David Rocco’s Made in Italy cookbook. I was completely attracted to the dish because of its delightful combination of many colorful veggies and the fact that it isn’t cooked. You just mix everything together and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours. So this is “raw cooking” so far as I can tell. That’s unusual for weirdcombinations.

chilled summer couscous

chilled summer couscous

That said, the amount of couscous was a bit daunting for two people. I’d cut it in half or even in quarters next time. Plus, since it was chilled, it wasn’t quite right for our cooler weather. But this would be perfect to throw together the night before a summertime wine country excursion, so I’m going to file it away for then.

chilled summer couscous

2 cups couscous
½ cup olive oil
24oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
Juice of one lemon
1 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
About a dozen cherry tomatoes, in halves
12 kalamata olives in halves
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste

Mix everything together except half of the basil. Wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Stir at least once. When it is time to serve, add remaining basil. You can have this family style or mold and plate it for a more elegant presentation.

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This recipe comes from Paul Prudhomme’s incredible cookbook, Louisiana Cooking. When I lived in Dallas in the nineties, I frequently used this book. I was especially partial to his panéed chicken and fettucini, spice-coated deep fried chicken thighs over a rich and spicy cream sauce with pasta. The dish blew my socks off.

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

Everything in the book has butter, fat, lots of oil and usually something gets fried. Plus there’re tons of thrilling Cajun spices thrown in the mix. This is food for the young. You need to be in good health with a fast metabolism to survive it unscathed, at least if you’re dining this way on a regular basis. Otherwise, these succulent recipes fall into my once-in-a-blue-moon culinary category.

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

we felt like this after the Louisiana eggplant dish, all tired and sluggish, though it was amazing

Actually, I haven’t cooked from this book in about ten years. When I‘d first met Hegui, I wanted to show off a bit by making an eggplant recipe found in these magical pages. It was sort of like today’s dish: deep fried eggplant stuffed with shrimp. We were in New York then, and it was late July during a heat wave. Only one room of my apartment had air conditioning. So I turned it on full blast, moved the dining table and chairs into the bedroom, and slaved away for a while in the really hot kitchen. I plated everything and it looked perfect! The only problem was the level of spice. Then Hegui didn’t appreciate spicy food at all. I loved (and still love) it. But I think that I made some sort of mistake somewhere along the line. This dish, like the weather, was impossible: way, way too hot. Neither of us could tolerate it. What a disaster!

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

to recover, what we should have done is this, gone dancing

So I’ve been thinking of that dinner from long ago, wondering about trying again. There are several recipes for stuffed eggplant in Louisiana Cooking. This one with crab and shrimp, called Eggplant Bayou Teche, I don’t think is the same as that one I made before. But like all Prudhomme recipes, it requires lots of oil, shellfish, butter, spices, and the eggplant, of course, gets deep fried. So this is really good and really filling.

I mis-read the directions so failed to peel the eggplant. I don’t think that was such a problem. I used only one pound of shrimp, instead of the recommended 1½ lbs. Also, I had two large eggplants. I think that turned into a lot of food in a single serving, since you really need to give each diner an entire “eggplant canoe” at the table for it to look right. Next time, I’m going to use smaller eggplant and more of them. You’re supposed to add one teaspoon of garlic powder to the spice mix, but I didn’t have any so left it out. I needed more breadcrumbs than recommended, ran out of the spice mix and made my own seafood stock with the shells from the shrimp, the juice from the container of lump crab meat, half an onion and two celery stalks.

We had ours with black beans and rice. There were lots of leftovers.

preparing the eggplant canoe

preparing the eggplant canoe

Louisiana style shrimp and crab stuffed eggplant

3 medium eggplant
½ onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
½ green bell pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil plus more to fry eggplant
1 cup flour
1½ cups seafood stock
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
¾ cup soy milk
1 large egg
6 tbsp unsalted butter
½ pound lump crab meat
1 pound shrimp
½ cup finely chopped green onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp Pastis or similar anise flavored alcohol

For the spice mix:

4½ tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp white pepper
1½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried basil

Remove woody parts of eggplant, (peel if you wish), cut in halves the long way. Carefully remove the interior of the eggplant so that there is about a quarter inch shell. I used a paring knife and scooped it out with a spoon. Use removed eggplant for another dish. Wrap eggplant shells tightly and refrigerate.
Mix all spice ingredients together and set aside.

In another bowl, mix chopped onion, celery and green pepper together. Set aside.

To make the sauce:

Start by making a roux. In a medium saucepan, add ¼ cup oil on high heat. Cook until it begins to smoke. Then slowly mix in ¼ cup flour. Stir with a wire whisk for several minutes until the roux becomes medium brown in color. Remove from heat, and stir in the chopped veggies and 1½ tsp of the spice mix. Set aside.

In another saucepan, bring seafood stock to boil. Gradually stir in the roux. Cook on high heat for about five minutes, then simmer for another five minutes. Remove from heat and strain the sauce into a bowl. Set aside. Discard the veggies.

To prepare the eggplant boats:

Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add milk and 1 tbsp spice mix. In another bowl, add remaining flour and 1 tbsp spice mix. In a third add breadcrumbs and 1 tbsp spice mix. Heat enough oil in a deep skillet to submerge the eggplant at least half way. Unwrap each eggplant. Rub each with about ½ to ¾ tsp spice mix. Dredge in flour mixture, then milk mixture and finally the breadcrumb mixture. Fry until golden brown. Let drain on paper towels. Repeat with all eggplant halves.

To prepare seafood fillings:

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium pan. Add crab meat, half of the green onion, the garlic and ¼ tsp spice mix. Cook for a couple minutes then set aside.

Melt remaining butter in a medium pan. Add shrimp, remaining green onion, 1½ tsp spice mix and cook for a minute. Add reserved sauce and Pastis. Cook until shrimp turn pink.

To serve:

Place eggplant boats on a large heated tray or dish, or you can make individual plates. Fill them first with the crab meat, then with the shrimp and sauce. Enjoy!

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I’ve been out of town at the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno. It was really fun, but I’ve fallen dreadfully behind with you, my fellow food bloggers. So this week, as I re-adjust to the “real world” again, I’m scrambling to get on the ball. To that end, I’m pleased, no, thrilled to announce a September cooking challenge to any and all of you. Heavenly from donuts to delirium and I agreed to try the elegant but surely prone to disaster Julia Child recipe for butter croissants. Follow this link for the recipe.

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, kalamata and marinara

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, kalamata and marinara

The recent Ottolenghi cheesecake challenge was a wild success and amazingly fun. That one was quite specific however. Here, should you be daring enough, you can tinker with the croissant recipe to your heart’s content. I’m already fantasizing about stuffing mine with tropical fruit and mascarpone. All you need do is contact Heavenly or me to let us know that you’re on board. Make the recipe and publish it on your blog on September 19, 2011. We’ll send you a list of links of other participants a few days before for you to add to your post. C’est tout! I do hope all of you try this with us. The more, the merrier.

Today’s rustic pizza doesn’t have a thing to do with Julia Child or butter croissants. But it’s one that I’ve been thinking of trying since July when I saw it posted on Karen’s wonderful The Gourmet Food Blog. Her pizza tri-colore was stunning! I was particularly impressed with her gorgeous crust.

chilly and overcast Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco

chilly and overcast Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco last Sunday

I tried mine on a very cool foggy San Francisco day—you could say almost winter-like weather (I know most of you are suffering over the record-breaking temperatures everywhere, but it has been a might cold in the City by the Bay.) I think that affected my final product. My dough rose, but remained fairly dense, even after I doubled the time. It had a firm texture that really held onto the heavy toppings. It reminded me of Chicago style pizza. I added heirloom cherry tomatoes, feta, Kalamata olives, and marinara sauce. I like a lot of toppings.

Also, I baked mine on our new, amazing-because-you-can-actually-wash-it-with-soap-and-water coated pizza stone! Gone are the days of crusty gross pizza stones growing funk in my oven. Hurrah! It was twice as expensive as the other kind of uncoated stone, but so worth it.

our glorious new washable pizza stone

our glorious new washable pizza stone

rustic pizza with feta, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Kalamata and marinara

for toppings:

½ cup feta cheese
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, in halves
12 kalamata olives in halves
2 tbps. Parmesan
Small bunch fresh basil leaves
Olive oil
Plus some coarse corn meal to move pizza

for marinara:

14 oz. Diced canned tomatoes with juice
1 clove garlic, minced
½ small onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp. Olive oil
1 tsp. Dried oregano
1 bay leaf
½ tsp salt
crushed red and black pepper to taste

Prepare pizza dough from Karen’s recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 425F with pizza stone inside.

In a small saucepan, add 3 tbsp. olive oil, garlic, onion and salt on high heat. Cook for a few minutes. Add remaining marinara ingredients. Bring to boil then reduce heat to rapid simmer to reduce liquid by at least half. Discard bay leaf.

Shape pizza dough. Prepare a board with some corn meal. Place dough on top of corn meal. Spread with marinara sauce. Sprinkle with feta, then heirloom cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and parmesan. Gently slide onto pizza stone. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until crust becomes golden.

Remove from oven then drizzle with some olive oil and finally toss basil leaves on top.

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mozzarella di buffala with heirloom tomatoes salad

mozzarella di buffala and heirloom tomatoes salad with fennel vinaigrette

This is another great recipe from “Plenty.” I’ve had salads like this before but I don’t remember ever having one with fennel seeds. I think they add a distinct touch of licorice flavor to the dish. While shopping for the ingredients make sure that you select the best cheese and that the tomatoes are the freshest, preferably vine ripened. We are lucky here in California as the heirloom tomato season has just arrived. Right now, they’re bursting with flavor. I got three types of heirlooms: yellow, red and chocolate-red. Delish.

mozzarella di buffala and heirloom tomatoes salad with fennel vinaigrette

4 medium sized, assorted heirloom tomatoes, cut into half moons
3 125gr containers mozzarella di buffala, cut into quarters
1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
Zest of ½ lemon
½ tsp fennel seeds
5 tbsp arbequina olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled, pressed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dry roast fennel seeds in skillet for a minute or so. Roughly crush them to release flavor. Transfer seeds to a small bowl. Add lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Pour sauce over cheese and let it rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Arrange cut tomatoes next to cheese, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and serve.

Happy summer!

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This dish comes from a very specialized cookbook I bought last time I was in Brazil: 1000 recipes for salt cod. I know, amazing!

salt codfish croquettes AKA croquete de bacalhau

salt codfish croquettes AKA croquete de bacalhau

I was excited when I bought the book and remain so. I don’t cook many of those recipes as they are a bit naughty and decadent, full of rich sauces with cream, butter, eggs, sometimes deep fried and so on. I try to hold back on this type of cooking for a special treat. Well, Easter weekend seemed the perfect occasion to splurge.

Croquete de bacalhau is a typical fried finger food (generically called salgadinhos in Portuguese) that you might find in Brazilian bakeries. Actually it is just one of many. Others come with meat, fish fresh, palm hearts, potatoes or cheese—and sometimes in combinations of these ingredients. The bakeries in Rio de Janeiro are especially fun to visit since you can try several kinds of salgadinho and order perfectly ripe tropical fruit juice, squeezed to order right in front of you, made from things like mango, papaya, various citrus, or pineapple, all at once, for almost nothing. That is worth doing, and often!

view of Sugar Loaf from Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

view of Sugar Loaf from Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro


some tropical fruit for sale at a market in São Paulo

some tropical fruit for sale at a market in São Paulo

I think that I must have been channeling Rio when I made these the other day. Steven and I have had such marvelous trips there. Perhaps the springtime weather we’ve lately been enjoying is stimulating my wanderlust and taste buds.

The book calls for potato in the dough, but we didn’t have any, so I used cassava root instead. (Isn’t it weird we had cassava root at home but no potatoes?) So you can use potato or cassava (I bought mine peeled and frozen at a little market in the Mission. It is pretty common in stores that sell a lot of Caribbean or Latino foods, so if you have trouble finding it, you might try there.)

salt codfish croquettes AKA croquete de bacalhau

1 cup of tomato sauce (I made my own—see below. Prepared would work, too.)
1½ cups salt cod
3 tbsp chopped onion
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Black pepper to taste
1 cup mashed cooked cassava
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten and slightly salted
1½ cups fine bread crumbs
Canola and olive oil for frying

For tomato sauce:

5 fresh tomatoes
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
pinch dried oregano and basil
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare the tomato sauce:

Cut woody tips off tomatoes then slice them in half. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to a pan. Place tomato halves in, cover and let cook until skins begin to curl. Remove from heat. With the help of tongs, remove peels and discard them. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl, wipe pan off. Simply make sauce by sautéing garlic in olive oil, add tomato and remaining ingredients. Raise temperature to boil then lower heat to simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes.

To prepare croquettes:

Soak salt codfish over night, changing water about 3 times to remove salt.

Bring a pot of fresh water to a boil. Drop cod fish in it. Immediately remove from heat and let poach for about 10 minutes. Remove fish from cooking water and let cool. Remove skin, bones if any, then cut into small chunks. Set aside.

Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent, then add codfish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes longer. Add tomato sauce. Stir and bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Adjust flavors. It should be slightly salty. Add mashed cassava, flour and parsley. Mix to incorporate. It will turn into thick dough. Remove from heat and let cool until easily handled.

rolling croquette in breadcrumbs

rolling croquette in breadcrumbs

formed croquettes ready for frying

formed croquettes ready for frying

Split dough into two equal pieces. Wet your hands with olive oil and roll each piece into a ¾ inch diameter tube or log. Cut pieces and roughly shape them into coquettes.

Roll each croquette in breadcrumbs, then in egg wash, and back again in breadcrumbs. Repeat process with remaining croquettes.

Fill a small cooking pan (8 inch in diameter) with about an inch of oil. Use about 3 parts canola to 1 part olive oil. Heat oil on high. Drop 3 to 4 croquettes in at a time and fry until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Repeat process with remaining. Serve warm with hot sauce. Enjoy your salgadinhos!

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I confess I thought we’d eat out much more during our kitchen remodel. It just hasn’t happened, since neither of us could really get into it. Cooking at home is just too fun. As it turns out, the single, plug-in electric burner on the dining room table and the grill on the porch have saved us. We have been able to cook many of our simple “work-horse” dishes with these. Thank goodness!

steamed wild pacific cod with green pea purée and cherry tomato salad

steamed wild pacific cod with green pea purée and cherry tomato salad

Clean-up is a nightmare without a kitchen sink or dishwasher, and the whole apartment remains a complete mess, but it is nice to feel empowered. You can live fully even kitchen-less. Who knew? I suppose this has been a bit like camping, though I cannot imagine doing that for three or four weeks in a row…

I was thinking about spring when I made this dish, even though our vegetable markets are still carrying lots of winter produce. That’s the reason I used organically grown fresh frozen peas here. Fresh peas should be coming out soon, so look for them at your local markets. The codfish was fresh wild caught in the Pacific Northwest.

Especially considering the limitations, I think this dish came out pretty good. Steven said it looked and tasted like something from a gourmet restaurant. What a compliment.

who says that you cannot cook gourmet in primitive working conditions

who says that you cannot cook gourmet in primitive working conditions

steamed wild pacific cod with green pea purée and cherry tomato salad

for the green pea purée:

1lb fresh or frozen green peas
4 tbsp grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

for the fish:

1lb fresh codfish
salt and black pepper to taste
2 slices red onion
juice of ½ lemon
5 sprigs fresh oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
red pepper flakes to taste

for the cherry tomato salad:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 basil leaves shredded and tossed with tomatoes just before serving

Pre-heat grill to highest temperature (ours gets to around 500F).

Toss tomato, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar together and let it macerate in room temperature for about 15 minutes. Toss with basil just before serving.

Line a small metal baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving enough extra to cover pan. Drizzle lined pan with a bit of olive oil, add oregano sprigs and onion slices. Gently arrange fish on top. Add salt, peppers, lemon juice and olive oil. Fold foil to seal. Put pan on grill and steam fish for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile bring two cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain, reserving half a cup of cooking juices, and a couple of tablespoons of whole peas for decoration.

Throw garlic, cooked peas, olive oil, and reserved cooking juices in food processor. Purée until smooth. Process in cheese, salt and pepper. Adjust flavors if needed. Transfer purée back into the cooking pot and keep warm.

To serve, spoon some green pea purée in the center of a dish, carefully lay fish over it and to one side, and add cherry tomato salad to the other side. Garnish with reserved whole green peas.

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Tensley syrah cioppino

March 25, 2011

Last July when Steven’s parents were here for a couple of days, we took them sightseeing in Sausalito. We got hungry so they took us to an early dinner at Scoma’s, a beautiful seafood food restaurant nestled by the Bay with amazing views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges. Overall […]

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savory sundried tomato, basil, provolone and mozzarella mini-cakes

March 3, 2011

This recipe suggestion comes from Faith at An Edible Mosaic. I’ve only recently stumbled across her blog but have become a huge fan already. She made savory muffins with caramelized onions, feta and rosemary the other day. These looked really good! She also suggested some variations, like savory muffins with sharp cheddar, dried cranberries and […]

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