Livin’ La Vida Healthy

I have a confession to make.

I am on a quest to lose a lot of lbs.

Towards that end, I’m eating truck loads of whole grains, lean proteins, fruit and veg. And, I’m exercising on a regular basis (a bit too regular for my liking). It’s super fun. I heart healthy, clean living.

I am also learning to cook healthier. I’m not so great at it… yet. Most of my attempts thus far have turned out less than stellar. I have, however, had success with fish and seafood.

One recipe I am particularly fond of is for an arugula salad with pan-seared scallops. It has a fresh orange dressing, orange supremes, Asian pear, and red onion.

What is an orange supreme? It’s an orange segment without the pith, outer skin, and seeds. It can be a bit tricky to supreme an orange. Watch this helpful video before attempting to do so if you haven’t done it before. The guy in the video uses some fancy shmancy knife but you can just use a paring knife. It works fine.

Arugula Salad with Pan-Seared Scallops and Orange Dressing (Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 6 dry-packed sea scallops (do not use bay scallops- you’ll be hungry!)
  • A wee amount of canola oil (to sear the scallops)
  • Baby arugula (enough to cover two dinner plates)
  • One Asian pear, thinly sliced
  • Supremes from 2 oranges
  • A few thin red onion slices

Orange Dressing

  • 2 tsp finely minced shallots
  • Juice from the 2 oranges you used above
  • Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste ( go light on the salt)

To make the scallops:

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Put in the canola oil. A tablespoon or so will do. Don’t use a non-stick pan. If you do, the scallops won’t develop that nice crust. And soggy scallops with no crust are nasty. Trust me. I tried using a non-stick pan and spray oil and the results were no bueno.

While the oil is heating, make sure to blot the scallops on a paper towel to rid them of excess moisture. Then coat them well with salt and pepper (this and the blotting aids in crust development).

Place the dry scallops into the heated pan. Put them far apart enough in the pan so they’ll sear, not steam. Also, resist the urge to flip them too early. HINT: You’ll know you are trying to turn them too early if the scallops stick to the pan. Cook them about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

To make dressing:

Supreme the oranges and set aside. Squeeze the carcasses of the oranges over a bowl to catch the juices. Add minced shallots, champagne vinegar, EVOO and S&P to the bowl. Use a whisk to incorporate. Alternately you can put the lot into a jar with a lid and shake, shake, shake to your heart’s content. Taste. Adjust the seasonings accordingly. Set aside.

To compose salad:

Divide arugula evenly amongst two large, shallow bowls or dinner plates. Artfully scatter the orange supremes, Asian pear slices, and the red onion over the greens. Spoon some of the dressing onto each salad (I prefer a light hand with the dressing). Top each salad with 3 warm scallops.  Serve immediately.

Options: This salad is great with the addition of fresh goat cheese and toasted pecans.

Posted in cooking, food, healthy cooking, knife skills, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Frozen Watermelon Margaritas: Pink Drinks for the Ladies (and My Dad)

I am not very prolific when it comes to blogging. However, I’ve been asked for this recipe 4 times in the past week so I thought I’d save myself some key strokes and send it out into the blogosphere for the two additional people that read my virtual scribble.

Unlike my father, I stay away from drinks both frozen and pink in nature. However, these margaritas are sweet, tart and most importantly, FRESH. I hope you get a chance to enjoy them before summer fades into fall.

Serve with guacamole and spicy cheese dip!

Ingredients

1 medium seedless watermelon (remove rind, cut into cubes and freeze in gallon freezer proof bags overnight)

½ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes) – DO NOT use that bottled crap. I’m generally easy-going on swaps but that sh#$ is just nasty.

½ cup silver tequila (or to taste) NOTE: I prefer silver tequila in most margaritas.  Save reposado for sipping.

1 generous tablespoon of agave syrup

Optional:  ¼ cup of Grand Marnier or triple sec (you may want to dial back on the agave syrup, if you use) or a wee bit of freshly squeezed orange juice.

How You Do It

Put all of the liquids into the jar of the blender. Fill the blender ½ full with the cubed frozen watermelon.  BLEND!!  Add more watermelon and BLEND again. Continue to add watermelon until the concoction gets to your desired thickness. I like mine a little on the thick side (wink) so I generally end up putting in almost a full bag of fruit (about a 1/3 to ½ of the cubed watermelon).

One blender jar full makes about 3 to 4 drinks.

Serve with guacamole or spicy cheese dip. Don’t forget the crudité and chips!

Salud!

Posted in cocktails, easy party recipe, entertaining, healthy cooking, recipes, stylish entertaining | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cast Iron Pan– Oh, how I love thee!

Cast iron pans are da bomb. Serious.

You can use them on the stove top and in the oven. They are cheap. You never have to wash them (well, you shouldn’t use soap which just seems like so much work sometimes…).

Where I go to eat za (besides zero zero and Pizzetta 211) when I don’t make it for myself

I use cast iron pans to fry up eggs, bacon (oink!), steak, and fish. I make taco shells from tortillas in a cast iron pan. And, I use them to make frittatas and deep dish pizza.

I own two. One (about 11 inches in diameter) that can easily cook two New York Strip steaks and is good from making taco shells and other types of shallow frying. My otra fry pan is about 8 inches in diameter. It works great for a making personal pizza or frittata for two.

Go get yourself a cast iron pan or two today. Here are two recipes to get your started for what will surely become a life long love affair with your pan.

Easy Peasy Dumpster Frittata

Ok, unless you are an urban forager (and I have to admit, they sorta annoy me) you probably won’t get your ingredients from a dumpster but the point I am trying to make with the name is that you should only use what you have on hand. There is no need to BUY anything specifically for a frittata. That’s why I love them. I can whip myself up a frittata when it looks like my cupboards and fridge are bare.

And this one is beyond easy. I’m not even sure if you can technically call it a frittata but whatevs…

Equipment and Ingredients:

A small cast iron pan

Enough canola/vegetable oil or bacon grease to coat the bottom and sides of the pan

3 or 4 eggs (depends on how eggy you want it)

A couple of generous tablespoons of milk, ½ & ½, or cream

Salt & pepper to taste

From here, you can add:

  • Protein- I’ve used prosciutto, French ham, Mexican chorizo, and bacon. You could also use crisped pancetta, or cut up leftover steak or chicken. Don’t forget to cook the chorizo or bacon prior to adding it to the frittata mixture.
  • Vegetables- Last night veggies are a great add to your frittata. Try cooked asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, chopped haricot vert (French green beans) or fresh baby spinach. My veg drawer was bare last time I made a frittata so I pulled some jarred roasted red bell pepper out of my cupboard and cut it up into strips.
  • Carbs- Cooked potatoes, chunks of stale bread, or cooked pasta
  • Aromatics/herbs- I like the freshness and mildness of spring onions. You could use chives, herbes de provence (a dried herb mixture), Italian parsley, basil, etc…
  • Cheese- Optional, I guess. However, for me formage is never an option, but a necessity. I’ve used feta, gruyere, and plain old skool sharp yellow cheddar.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease your fry pan with either canola or bacon grease. Don’t forget the sides! I sometimes use a paper towel to make sure I get the sides thoroughly coated.

Break the eggs into a small mixing bowl. Add the cow juice of your choice and S&P. Use a fork to gently mix the egg mixture thoroughly (don’t over mix as it will make your eggs tough). Then add in the mix-ins and combine into the eggs.

Pour your egg mixture into the pan and put it in the oven. Cook until the center is just cooked through (should only jiggle ever so slightly, like my tush). It should take about 20 minutes to cook, but depending on your oven it might take longer or shorter, so watch it carefully.

Once it’s set, pull it out of the oven. Get two plates that are the same size or slightly larger than the fry pan. Hold the fry pan in your one hand (make sure you have on an oven mitt). Place one of the plates on top of the fry pan. Now quickly flip your hands so that the fry pan is now on top. Say a quick prayer. Lift the fry pan. Hopefully, you’ll be looking at the bottom of your frittata intact!  Place a plate on top of the frittata and flip your hands again. Lift the top plate (which was the bottom plate just a moment ago). Viola! Frittata!

I like to serve it with fruit, salsa, buttered toast, champers and coffee.

Personal Deep Dish Pizza- Animal Style

Why call it animal style? I’m thinking maybe animals would like it cuz it’s full of meat and cooked onions. I dunno.Give a girl a break.

This dish requires you preheat the pan in the oven prior to assembling the pizza. (It’s kinda like using it like a pizza stone.)

Ingredients:

Olive oil (doesn’t need to be virgin)

A ball of raw pizza dough (I buy the whole wheat version at Trader Joes). Don’t make dough unless you are trying impress someone….

2 cups of Bolognese (aka meat sauce, sometimes I use a turkey meat version)

Grated Romano cheese

Fresh mozzarella, roughly sliced or torn

Brocollini, Broccoli rabe or Broccoli – I blanch and shock the weeds in boiling water prior to putting them atop the pizza.

Good extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, red pepper flakes, and parmigano reggiano are all optional (but oh so yummy!)

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How to make the pizza:

Place your 8 inch cast iron pan in the oven and preheat to a smokin’ 450 degrees. While your oven and pan are pre-heating, shock and blanch the brocollini.

When your stove and pan are preheated, pull out the pan (use oven mitts or you will be really sorry!!!) and place it on a pot holder.Pour a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Take approximately half of the dough and spread it into a circle to fit the bottom of the pan. Important: use your fingers and hands and the weight of the dough to get it to the right size and shape outside of the pan BEFORE placing it in the bottom of the pan. Be careful, the pan will be hot, hot, hot!

Once you’ve arranged the dough in the bottom of the pan, spoon the meat sauce onto the dough. Toss some of the grated romano on top. With a light hand, put some of the sliced mozzarella on top of that. Then arrange the brocollini on the tippy top (TIP: sometimes I cut down the stems of the brocollini to get them to fit the pizza). Using oven mitts, put the za in the oven. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cheese should be bubbly and turning a wee bit brown around the edges.

Once you pull the pan out of the oven, allow the pizza to cool and set for a few minutes before lifting it out of the pan. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, torn basil, red pepper flakes, and parmigano reggiano to taste.

Pizza

Deep dish pizza with brocollini and meat sauce

Posted in comfort food, cooking, food, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What I’m obsessed with right now…

Summer is a busy time for me. I don’t have a lot of time to food shop or prepare meals so I’m all about quick and easy during the season of the sun. Here are four “recipes” I’ve been obsessed with lately:

Pomodoro Sauce with Linguine

I’ve been making a ton of this quick and easy pantry meal in the past few weeks.

Recipe:

Warm up some olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Throw in some thinly sliced garlic. Open up a large can of San Marzano tomatoes. Tear them apart with your hands (it kinda feels a wee bit naughty). Dump the contents of the can into the pan. Heat thru. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Tear up some fresh basil and toss it into the sauce. Boil your favorite pasta (I like whole wheat linguine) and add to the sauce. Dump the lot into a pasta bowl and add freshly grated parmigiano to your heart’s content. Sit crossed legged on your couch and consume.

Negroni

I recently got an iPad. I HEART it. Please don’t tell my friend that works at Apple. I feign indifference when he speaks of his beloved company (read the book, Stuff White People Like and you’ll understand why).

I digress.

Anyway, I’ve mostly used my iPad to read. Interestingly, in the last two books I’ve read, both memoirists talked about the pleasure of drinking negronis at sunset in Italy. Unfortunately, I won’t be revisiting Italy anytime soon but I do intend to drink these gorgeous little drinks for the remainder of the summer.

I enjoyed this gorgeous drink on a recent trip to My Father’s Office in LA.

Recipe:

4 parts gin, 2 parts Campari, 1 part sweet vermouth, twist of orange (don’t leave this out!). Shake and strain. Up or on the rocks. Good stuff. I prefer mine with a couple of big cubes of ice. Lovely.

Mango Lassi

I love fruit shakes (smoothies). And, I love mangos. So, the mango lassi is purrfection in a glass to me.

Recipe:

Cut up a ripe mango and put in a blender. Yes, cutting up fresh mango is a pain in the a@# but it’s worth it. Add a half cup of 2% Greek yogurt and the same amount of 1% (or your choice) milk. Toss in a handful of cubed ice and a teaspoon of vanilla. Then blend, baby, blend! Pour it into a pretty glass and add a colorful bendy straw as a finishing touch. Trust me, it will make you smile.

Spicy Cheese Dip (adapted from Gourmet, February 2003)

This dip makes a great addition to any bbq or picnic!

I’ve been making this dip nonstop since I unearthed the recipe from my archives (read: a drawer in a side table in my living room).  It’s healthy(ish); super easy to make; and full of flavor! The trick is to make the dip enough in advance so that the ingredients have time to meld and then serve it at room temp. Last tip is to serve the tortilla chips heated that accompany the dip. Soooo good!

Recipe:

  • ½ cup finely chopped drained bottled roasted red peppers
  • 1 1/2 to 2 fresh serrano peppers, minced
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese (use feta, if you can’t find cotija)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and cover. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Serve at room temp with warm tortilla chips. I’ve serve mine with Trader Joe’s Baked Blue Tortilla Chips in an attempt to amp up the healthy quotient.

 

 

 

Posted in cocktails, cooking, easy party recipe, entertaining, food, healthy cooking, lifestyle, recipes, stylish entertaining | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m loco for coconut (ice cream pie)!

This post is for mi amigo, Jim.

Recently, a few friends and I spent a weekend in wine country. We chillaxed, swam, cocktailed and dined al fresco. It was a PURRFECT summer weekend!

I made a ton of food and drink including some yummy gourgeres, healthy(ish) frozen watermelon margaritas, short rib tacos, and a rich hash brown casserole.

However, the hands down favorite of the weekend was also the easiest to make. It was a coconut dulce de leche ice cream pie. The ingredients are a tad on the expensive-side and a little hard to find. But hey, this isn’t a weeknight-at-home-in-front-of-the-boobtube sort of dessert.

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Coconut Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Pie

  • Graham crackers (not the cinnamon topped variety). You’ll need about a packet and a half.
  • A stick of unsalted butter melted and slightly cooled
  • Coconut curd or coconut jam (I used Hey Boo Coconut Jam that I purchased at the Pasta Shop in Berkeley) Image
  • A pint of slightly softened dulce de leche, caramel cone, vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream
  • Toasted pecan pieces and shredded sweetened coconut to sprinkle on top
  • Freshly whipped cream (I prefer my whipped cream unsweetened with this as the curd and ice cream are sweet enough)

That’s it!

To make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the graham crackers in a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Use something heavy (a small cast iron pan, hammer, rolling pin, etc…) to beat the hell out of them until they are nothing but crumbs. Then pour in the cooled melted butter (I melt mine in the microwave in a glass measuring cup), seal the bag and use your hands to massage the butter evenly into the crumbs. Pour the crumbs into a round pie pan. Press firmly into the sides and the bottom of the pan (HINT: I use the bottom of a small glass as a pressing aid). Bake crust in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. You are just trying to harden it up a bit. Be careful not to burn the crust!

Alternative: Buy a premade graham cracker crust

To assemble the ice cream pie:

Plop the pint of slightly softened ice cream (you just want to be able to spread it) into the cooled (THIS IS IMPORTANT) pie crust.  Using a spoonula or an offset spatula, spread the ice cream into one even layer.  Sprinkle with toasted pecan pieces and toasted shredded sweetened coconut. Put the pie in the freezer for at least 3 hours to firm up. 

Pull it out of the freezer about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to serve dessert and top it with freshly whipped cream and some more of the toasted pecans and coconut. Serve. 

It’s crazy how tasty this ice cream pie is!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mac Daddy Mac-n-Cheez

I HATED mac-n-cheese growing up because my Mom made that orange crap that comes out of a box. We would have it with boiled hot dogs on nights my Dad had to work the night shift. I called it our welfare meal.

My feelings about cheesy pasta changed when I moved to New York City in 2003. My first apartment was on the cusp of Hell’s Kitchen, close to The Eatery. The Eatery is a comfort food place with a totally kick a#$ mac and jack with frizzled onions. Full of tangy flavor and creamy goodness. YUM!!!

Shortly after enjoying that amazing dish at The Eatery I tried to recreate it in my own kitchen. I attempted to fancify it by tossing in peas and bacon and topping it with potato chips. Dear readers, did I ever tell you that I have a penchant for gilding the lily?

Anyhoo, it was too much of EVERYTHING and not the right ratio of cheese to pasta. I like my mac and cheese tangy with a velvety mouth feel and a bit on the saucy side. After much trial and err, I found a recipe that is exactly right for me. I hope you enjoy it.

This serves 4 to 6.

Tacla Mac

  • 1/3 cup of unsalted butter with a tad more for the top
  • ½  of a yellow onion sliced very thinly
  • 1/3 cup of flour
  • 2 cups of milk ( I use whole milk)
  • Approx. 2 cups of a melty cheese with a bite shredded (I use Gruyere or Cotswold)
  • ¼ cup of parmigano reggiano, asiago, or romano finely grated with more for sprinkling on top
  • 3 oz of cream cheese or mascarpone (this is part one of the secret to creamy mac)
  • ¼ cup of plain lowfat greek yogurt (this is parte dos)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (Go light on this. Mac-n-cheese shouldn’t bite you back)
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (use your microplane- it’s the perfect tool for the job)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾  to the whole box of cavatappi pasta (or penne rigate or good ol’ fashioned elbow)
  • Panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs are fine in a pinch)

Cotswold,goat cheese, mascarpone, greek yogurt, mustard, nutmeg, cayenne pepper

First things first.  Boil the pasta until just this side of al dente in a pot of salted water. Drain and set aside. I’d go about 2 to 3 minutes shy of the time recommended on the packaging.

Once the pasta has started, melt the butter in a largish sauté pan over medium heat. Once the butter has liquefied, add the sliced onions. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. When the onions are translucent, toss in the flour and begin to stir. What you are doing is cooking the flour taste out of this thickening mixture, which is called a roux. You’ll need to stir the roux consistently for about 5 minutes. If it gets brown flush it down (well, throw it out and start over).

Pour the milk into the roux and whisk continually. Before your eyes it will start to thicken (it’s the flour, baby!). Once it’s a sauce consistency, pull it off of the heat and add the cheeses. You’ll need to stir in the cheeses until they melt (I like to do this with a wooden spoon). Next toss in your flavorings: whole grain mustard, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Toss in the cooked pasta. Stir to incorporate. TASTE it. And, then add salt and pepper accordingly.

Pour the warm gooey pasta into an 8 x 8 pan. Sometimes I scoop some out and put in one cup ramekins for individuals servings. Regardless of the vessel, I top with bread crumbs and dot with butter. The lot goes into a 350 oven uncovered and cooks until the top is golden brown and bubbly. It generally takes around 20 minutes (sometimes longer…keep an eye on it).

Trust me. It’s awesome.

Posted in comfort food, cooking, food, New York City Restaurants, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chorizo Tacos, Spicy Mango Margaritas and the Single Girl

Faithful readers (or should I say, faithful reader ), I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in a long, long time.  I could proffer some lame excuse about being extremely busy or about how my life has changed extraordinarily over the last few months– but I’m bad liar. I just haven’t felt “it” for awhile.

However, I’m in need of a little distraction at the moment (work/boy/sick) and I recently bought an iPhone with a kick ass camera so I figured I’d give this blogging thing another try.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I made a quick visit to the Ferry Buildings Farmers’ Market where I procured the makings of a slaw (watermelon radish, green cabbage, scallions, serranos, and cilantro). 

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Are you wondering how I got to chorizo tacos and spicy mango margaritas from slaw?

It goes something like this:

I was at the farmers’ market around lunch time.  There were a TON of awesome things to eat but it was a total clusterf#$@. I have a massive aversion to lines so eating there was not gonna happen. A Nick’s Crispy Taco sounded like a great alternative.  Then I thought, “Why not get a fish taco?” 

It spiraled from there.

“ Fish tacos have slaw.

I have a little leftover sweet and sour dressing in the fridge…

 and I have chorizo in the freezer.

What about chorizo tacos with slaw?

And, if I’m having tacos why not make spicy mango margaritas to go with? “

 A quick trip to Safeway and it was game on! 

Let’s start with the cocktail. It’s only proper.

Spicy Mango Margaritas 

You’ll need:

  • 3 or 4 thin slices of a serrano pepper (if you use pickled you’ll be sorry)
  • A  jigger and a half of silver tequila
  • A couple of tablespoons of triple sec  (or to taste)
  • ¼ cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup of mango juice (something kind of thick)
  • Crushed or cubed ice
  • Mixture of cayenne pepper, salt and chili powder to rim the glass

Special equipment: a cocktail shaker and something to muddle with.  

Dip the lip of your glass in the lime juice and then into the mixture of pepper, salt and chili powder.  Set aside. 

 Place the slices of serrano pepper into the bottom of the cocktail shaker.  Muddle the peppers to release their juices.  Pour in the tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and mango juice.  Put the lid on the shaker (hold on to it!) and shake, shake, shake! 

 Makes one nice-sized margie.

 Fill your glass half full with ice.  Pour the margarita over the ice. Enjoy! Garnish with lime wedge and slices of serrano if it floats your boat.

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 Now for the tacos:

Chorizo Tacos with Slaw

 Taco Meat

  • two tablespoons of canola oil
  • ½ pound of mexican chorizo (don’t buy Spanish … they are not the same thing)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (you’ll get enough fat from the chorizo)
  • taco seasoning (chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and cumin)
  • 1 bell pepper (you pick the color) chopped
  • A mexican or cheap american beer ( I like Modelo or Tecate)
  • hot sauce

 Taco Accoutrements

  • taco shells (I’ll walk you through making taco shells in a subsequent posting)
  • cheese ( I used jack, but feta or cotija would work)
  • salsa
  • slaw ( I’d go tangy and sweet as opposed to creamy)
  • sliced avocado

Place a largish sauté plan on medium high heat. Add the canola oil. When it’s hot (not smoking) add in the chorizo (make sure to take it out of the casing) and the ground beef. Cook until brown, stirring occasionally. Once it’s browned, add the taco seasoning and the beer. Bring to boil and then turn down to medium or medium low (so it will simmer). Allow the liquid to reduce and thicken and then add the bell pepper. Cook until the bell is tender. 

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Serves 4 hungry peeps!

To make the tacos:  Add the meat to taco shells and top with the cheese, salsa, slaw and sliced avocado. Enjoy with spicy mango margarita!

Posted in cocktails, cooking, entertaining, food, lifestyle, recipes | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Be the #1 Kiddie—Get your Food Enthusiast Dad the Best Gift for Father’s Day

A Frisian Holstein cow in the Netherlands: Int...

Image via Wikipedia

Does your Papa like pate’? Does Daddy do dim sum on the weekends? Or is your Pop a lot like mine, just a simple guy who enjoys good food but could give two sh#$s about whether it is trendy, chic, or cool as long as it tastes good. Here are some food-focused gift ideas for that very special man in your life for Father’s Day:

  • Buy him a cow- Well, probably just a partial bovine as a whole cow would be a sh#$load of beef.  My parents went in with my sister on a half of a cow and enjoyed great tasting rib eyes, tenderloins, and ground beef for ages.  Just make sure Pops has a spare freezer in the garage before you buy.
  • Butchery Classes- You know that saying, “Give a man a fish…” blah blah blah. Well if you don’t want to give your Dad a cow, teach him to butcher one. Many butcher shops and restaurants are now offering butchery classes for regular folks. 
  • Dinner Out at a Restaurant- Don’t make reseys any old place. Pick something that is related to what he typically enjoys but with a twist. Is he a traditional steak-house lover? Take him to a churrascaria. Does he get more excited about appetizers than the main course? Make reseys at a tapas joint.
  • Bacon of the Month Club - There  is really no need to explain why this is the awesomest gift EVER!!!!
  • A Great Bottle of Olive Oil or Vinegar - I bought my Dad a bottle of very nice olive oil with essence of meyer lemon a few years ago for Father’s Day and he loved it so much that he asked me to buy him another bottle (he rolls like that).
  • Bake him his favorite dessert – This shows him you truly care. One year, I made my Dad a tres leches cake. That damn cake took me tres dias to make.  And, I hate pastry soaked in anything (it’s a texture thing) but my Dad loves it so I sucked it up and made the thing. 

Happy FatherDad Gussied Up Cowboy Style’s Day!

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Rockin’ Guac

Avacado

I toyed with the idea of entitling this blog post, “Holy Guacamole!” but like most of my brilliant ideas–it was already played out. So, rockin’ guac it is.  They probably have rockin’ guac on the menu at Pink Taco but a girl like me only has so much creativity…

For those of you not intimately familiar with my eating habits, let’s just say if someone forced me to eat only one cuisine for the rest of my days it would be Mexican. Saying I HEART it is an understatement.  My hangover food = al pastor anything.

And, I’m a lucky girl as I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to indulge in some truly rockin’ guacamole. Work took me to my second home, New York City.  At first glance, NYC might seem like an odd place for good Mexican food (in that it is so far from Mexico and most of its Latin population comes from places other than Mexico). However, NYC seems to be leading the rest of the country in Mexican fine-dining style.

 I got the opportunity during that week to indulge in some fancy schamncy Mexican from Rosa Mexicano and Dos Caminos. I should note, I am also a HUGE fan of Maya, Crema and Mexican Radio but I only had so many days.

Enough of my reliving the past, let’s get to the task at hand. Everyone makes guacamole, but let’s be honest, some of us do it better than others. Not to toot my own horn but my guac…. ROCKS.

Here’s my recipe:

  • An avocado or two (I can eat a whole avocado myself)
  • Half of a Serrano chile (jalepenos are for babies)
  • Cilantro (Don’t like it? Omit if you must, but realize you are going to miss some serious flavor)
  • Finely chopped white onion- I use about a third of an onion when using a single avocado.
  • Lime(s)- how many depends on the juicability of your lime… lately mine have SUCKED)
  • Hot Sauce- I’m a Tapatio fan, but El Pato works in a pinch
  • Salt and Pepper (use more of both than you think you need)

Esto es todo to make a muy bueno guacamole.

HINT: Only idiots use an avocado other than a Haas. You can tell if an avocado is ready if it gives slightly when you squeeze it.  If you apply pressure with your fingers and you get NADA—put it back. Same thing, if you squeeze and it leaves an indentation. No bueno. Put it back in the pile and let some other poor sap buy it.

Take your avocado and slice in have horizontally. I use a chef’s knife to do this.  Twist the two halves apart. Hack your chef’s knife into the pit and twist. Pull out the pit with the knife and toss it in the garbage (if you live in SF you can stick it your little green pail).

Using your chef’s knife (or your paring knife, if you prefer) cut each half cross-wise several times and then turn and do the same thing so you have pretty little diamonds.  Use a spoon to scoop them out of the skin into a bowl.

Next, roll your lime(s) on the counter a few times to get the juices rolling.  Slice in half and use a reamer or a fork over the bowl to extract the juices. 

Cut the chile in half lengthwise (I use my paring knife). Using a teaspoon with a pointed top, scoop out the membrane and seeds. Finely dice the chile. Throw half in your bowl. You can add more later if you need to but it’s awful hard to take it out.

Finely a dice a half of a white onion. I generally start with a third of an onion.

Rip off a small handful of cilantro. Use your chef’s knife to chop it to bits. No one likes big chunks in their guacamole.  Toss a half of it in your bowl. Again, you can add some later if needed.

It’s Tapatio time… Yay! Shake in a few dashes.

Salt and pepper- add more of both than you think you need. Under-salted guacamole is very, very boring. 

Grab a fork and mix your mezcla, being careful to maintain its integrity.  In other words, you don’t want it to be smooth like buttah but have some bumps and lumps.

Taste it! What does it need more of? Add it. And taste again until your boca is satisfied.  

Serving suggestions: I love a thick, hardy chip and some fresh salsa or pico de gallo with my guacamole. If you are lucky enough to have someone that can make fresh corn tortillas…. INVITE ME OVER. I will be eternally grateful.

What’s Next:

I’m so capricious lately so who knows?  I attended my first crawdad boil this weekend. The crawdads were good but I fell in love with a rice, beans, and chorizo dish that Chef Brian made. (I also ate at least 4 ribs, 4 slices of corn bread with butter, and a rather largish slice of key lime pie but who’s counting?) That chorizo/rice/beans dish made me crazy so I’m thinking I’m gonna have to recreate it. 70 lbs of crawdads-- oh my!

 

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Posted in comfort food, cooking, entertaining, food, knife skills, lifestyle, New York City Restaurants, recipes | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The 3 Rules of Good Gift Basketing

Homemade Toasted Coconut Marshmallows a la Contessa

Toasted coconut marshmallows, a part of a welcome basket I gifted recently

I love the idea of gift baskets. The reality of (most) of them….um, not so much. You know the “gourmet” one your boss gave you last Christmas that included the meat log, processed cheese, and the wine you could get at Safeway.   Not too terribly exciting. I actually used some of what I received in my last gift basket as the basis of my earthquake preparedness kit.

 I’ve been known to give a few gift baskets in my day and not of the pre-packaged variety.  It’s really not that hard to do and can be a lot of fun. You just need to know a little about your giftee and have a few hours to spare. 

Gift baskets are great way to welcome weekend guests, celebrate birthdays, congratulate new parents, or just thank someone for doing something nice for you.  Think about it, isn’t your favorite part of Christmas opening your stocking?

MY BFF and two other gal pals came up for a visit this past weekend. One of us was celebrating a significant birthday (NOT ME). Now, my apartment is the size of a postage stamp so unfortunately the girls couldn’t stay with me and instead had to stay at a hotel.  However, I wanted them to feel at home so I decided to put together a gift basket to welcome them to my lovely city.

I knew I wanted to include homemade items along with some purchased goods (this is Rule #1 for good gift basketing).  I also wanted them to have some sweet treats; something to nosh on when they woke up; and some items to make their recovery from all of the celebrating we were to do easier. They were moving hotels each evening so I decided that rather than doing a basket a pretty bag full of treats would make the most sense. 

Here’s what I included:

Welcome Bag for a Group of Gal Pals Visiting from LA

  • Morning muffins- made fresh from scratch that a.m.
  • White peaches- in season and gorgeous!
  • Coconut water- for the morning after
  • Vitamin water-also for the morning after (we intended on doing A LOT of celebrating)
  • Homemade toasted coconut marshmallows- I knew my BFF had a sweet tooth and liked coconut
  • Tim Tams (Australian biscuits)- yum!
  • Strawberries- a fantastic midnight snack for après barhopping

Does good gift-basketing still seem too daunting?  It isn’t.  ANYONE can make muffins, quick bread, drop cookies, or brownies.  And EVERYONE loves to eat homemade baked goods no matter how basic. And if marshmallows are a wee bit too taxing try making French bark. Or, go to a nice confectionary and buy a pretty mixed box of chocolates. At the end of the day keep your giftee in mind, be creative, make at least one thing from scratch, and have some fun!

Here are some other gift basket ideas:

Gotta movie buff in your inner circle? Put together a basket of his/her fave flicks, actual flicks (you know, the candies), caramel popcorn (make your own), pimento cheese (try it, you’ll like it), and some Pullman bread (for the cheese).

Need a Father’s Day present? Try a bbq-themed basket.  Fill it

with one of those cool wireless meat thermometers, tongs, bbq sauce (make your own –it’s SUPER easy), and several selections of meat (you can’t have a bbq without meat no matter what vegans say). 

Sound expensive? That’s the rub with gift baskets. To do them well you’ll probably need to spend some coin (RULE #2). No hunting around your house for weird odds and ends.

Last rule- when selecting your basket (or bag), go smaller than what you’ll think you’ll need. Baskets look better when they runneth over (RULE #3)

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Posted in baking, easy candy recipes, entertaining, food, holiday candy, lifestyle, recipes, san francisco, stylish entertaining | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments