Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beet Burgers...An Instant Classic

We cook at home a lot. We also eat out a fair amount but lately, home cooking has been on high priority. My unspoken weekly goal is to cook/eat at home at least 4 nights in the week (though 'life' has a way of getting in the way of these kinds of goals!).
As a result, there are a few 'Greatest Hits' in our kitchen department. In fact, more than half the meals made at home are made from memory alone. There is no hard copy of a recipe to speak of.

A few of these best sellers include: 
-Fish Tacos
-Mixed Greens w/ Poached Egg
-Homemade Pizza
-Soba Noodle Salad w/ Marinated Tofu
-Grilled Fish & Grilled Vegetable
When inspiration strikes, I will attempt a new recipe but the reality is, the tried and true are ones that get played…the same could be said for our music selections when you get right down to it.
That said, every now and then, a new recipe comes along that knocks our socks off and becomes an instant classic.
This culinary explosion occurred just last night, when I made Green Kitchen Stories’ recipe for Beet & Feta Burgers. DH wanted to make homemade veggie burgers and after having The Plant’s beet burger, I’ve had beets on the brain, so this recipe was, well, a no brainer!
This recipe fit my 3-fold criteria of 1) healthy, 2) affordable & 3) delicious. Altogether, the ingredients were around $15, which when you consider could feed up to 8 people, is incredibly low. Additionally, the burgers took 10-15 min to prep, another 30 minutes to rest, and only 5-10 minutes to cook and assemble. A meal this good in less than an hour is worth some kind of domestic award!
Lastly,these Beet & Feta burgers are extremely healthy. The crumbled feta in the burger can be substituted with tofu for a dairy-free version and the rolled oats used to bind the burger can be gluten-free. Even if you follow the original recipe, it is a well-balanced, high-fiber, low-fat meal that I am certain will be a crowd pleaser among young and old alike.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Eating Madrid

Though the focus was far from food on this past week's trip to Madrid, there were surely still ample amounts of it to enjoy.
The focus was instead on my beautiful cousin, Shannon marrying Manu, her Madrileño love. After 'surprising' Shannon a few days before the wedding, we hit the ground running for a week's long adventure in one of the more festive areas of the world, Madrid, Spain.

Weddings, especially the weddings of very close friends and family, are one of the greatest treasures in life. Truly. That they bring generations together to celebrate the past and future is a standard delight of all weddings but knowing the bride or the groom well makes the whole affair all the greater.
I can't help but wish they were more common but alas, it is their rarity that makes them so special.

Shannon and Manu's wedding was no different. A very quick and heartfelt city hall wedding ceremony was followed by an (I'm going to go ahead and use the adjective) epic celebration.

No doubt, the 3+ hour, 6+ course wedding luncheon at Caldea Restaurante in Rascafria was the highlight of all the meals preceding and proceeding it in Spain. The salad of romaine hearts, peppers & tuna was delicious, simple and beautiful. The dessert platters were nothing short of decadent...something out of a mid century Wayne Thiebaud painting and/or a child's fantasy of 'dessert'.


At nearly every meal, there was the requisite plate of the following: jamòn imberico, triangles of a various cheese & croquetas. It is a real wonder folks aren't heavier in Spain, though they do eat far less of everything than I for one am used to.
Padron peppers and fried eggplant with salmorejo (red sauce) were culinary highlights and while I can and plan to make both at home on the regular, it was somehow better there.

Another memorable meal was Sunday's paella excursion to El Caldero, in Shannon & Manu and Maria's barrio. In addition to several starter plates, we ordered a platter of traditional paella and of squid ink paella. It would be impossible to say which was better because I instantly went into a transcendental state at first bite. I. MUST. MASTER. THIS. RECIPE.

Yet another treat was trying the salchichón de chocolate prepared by Mari Carmen, Shannon's new mother-in-law. As I understood, this confection is made with chocolate, nuts, smashed-up cookies and butter and then prepared in the shape of a sausage, refrigerated to harden, and sliced to serve. Though there was a bit of a language barrier, Mari Carmen agreed to share the recipe with me so that I can prepare it properly and in turn share it with all of you!...more on that in time.
If the above photos weren't enough, here's a few more of my favorite edible moments in the delicious community of Madrid!...

I'm ready to go back and repeat it all over again...VAMOS!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Growing slow and acting on instinct.

This Monday, we will put our modest .97 ton lot of Manchester Ridge Chardonnay to bottle and with so doing Trail Marker Wine Company will be official. Actually, with all the hurdles of the ABC, TTB, BOE and LLC (have I lost you yet?!), TMWC won't be official in the eyes of the law until mid November at the earliest. But we will have made and bottled our very own wine, our very own way, from grape to bottle and that counts for something. 

When we started Trail Marker Wine Company last October, the idea was to grow it ultra slowly by one ton each year and to do only Chardonnay for the first two or even three years. It was a good plan but life has a way of making it's own plans. 

While sourcing a second Chardonnay vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, we accidentally fell in love with a Pinot Noir vineyard while we were there.

In relaying the experience to close friends and family, I've compared it to that moment when you fall hard for delicious produce at the farmer's market or that perfect pair of wedge sandals you feel certain were made with you in mind..."it would be foolish not to buy this!", you rationalize. With the best purchases in life, it is not a matter of need or even want, but only a matter of MUST. HAVE. 
That was the case with both vineyards in Santa Cruz. It did not hurt matters that both vineyards have been under the impeccable care of unknown-legend viticulturalist, Prudy Foxx. The Legan Family Vineyard is a modest, out of the way, high elevation vineyard planted to 30+ year old Chardonnay vines. It is slated to produce a paltry 1 to 1.5 tons, a waste of time for most all other winemakers/wineries but for us and for Trail Marker, this vineyard could not be more perfect. One look at the vineyard and it felt as if it had been planted with exactly our ethos in mind.
Severia Vineyard is just down the road from Legan Family and is planted entirely to Pinot Noir. It's been said that great wine is made in the vineyards, NOT in the winery.  Sure enough, one taste of the fruit of these vines and there is NO doubt this will be a beautiful wine. We have no business signing on to process Pinot Noir this year/harvest. We planned to grow slow and stick with Chardonnay only but when fruit this good lands in your lap, you act on instinct, say yes and figure out the rest later.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Early Summer Tomato Jam

We’ve been exceedingly blessed with weather in the Bay Area this year. A mild winter transitioned gracefully into an early spring with sunny days arriving mid-April with seemingly no end in sight. We can’t help but relish these sun-drenched days by spending the entire afternoon outside, soaking up the Vitamin D, sipping on cold white wine and doing very little else. I chalk it up to our Southern California roots but when the sun is out, so are we. As a result of this wonderful stroke of good weather, we’ve managed to get little else done lately…one of those ‘good problems’ to be sure.
That said though, I quietly delighted waking up to a drizzly overcast Sunday yesterday. DH was away for the weekend so I cycled down to the DMV Farmer’s Market, spent a ridiculous sum on waaaaay too much produce and spent the entire day cooking in the kitchen.

On the day’s agenda:
-fresh whipped butter with chopped radish
-fresh ricotta with lemon
and last but certainly not least…
-early summer tomato jam

The original intent for the tomato jam was to enter it in Pizzaiolo’s Jam/Pie Contest for this Sunday’s fundraiser but it’s come to my attention that the fundraiser was cancelled due to lack of ticket sales. Bummer.

This was my first attempt at tomato jam. I wanted to make a more savory jam, ideally with less sugar. Full disclosure, I’ve been attempting to avoid all refined sugar as of late. But sure enough, tomato jam calls for a good amount of sugar to bring the fruit together, arguably more than other summer fruits with higher natural sugar content such as berries or stone fruit. C’est la vie. On with the recipe…
Chop tomatoes and a white onion. Add sugar (some recipes call for as much as a 1lb::1cup ratio but I lessened the sugar ratio to 5lb::3cups). Add spices (cumin, coriander, caraway & cayenne were my choice). Add lemon juice or vinegar. I chose sherry vinegar but balsamic might have been nice with more Mediterranean spices. 
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Keep mixture at a boil for a minute or so, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir occasionally. 
Cooking time from this point on will depend entirely on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Mine were rather juicy so the cooking time was close to 4 hours. Once the mixture reached jam-like consistency, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Then transfer mixture into canning jars and turn upside down to cool. For long-term storage, stabilize cans in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Maybe its from not eating sugar for a full week or maybe it’s just that I expected it to be more savory but the jam tasted too sweet for my taste. DH loved it, especially on toasts with the fresh ricotta. Paired with a Bloomsdale spinach salad with fresh onions, pickled radish, pecans & gremolata, the tomato jam made a nice addition to an easy dinner.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Giant Green Pie & Kitchen Navigations

Navigating the perimeters of a domestic space can be tricky at times. Sharing a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchen with another person requires a fair bit of negotiation & compromise. No doubt.
For our entire relationship, DH and I have enjoyed cooking together with near bliss most days. That said though, there are times cooking together feels more like a cold war than a creative hot spot.
This was the case when we attempted to cook from a recent NYTimes recipe for Torta Pasquina, or giant green pie.

Most often the disconnect is a matter of taste. DH has a taste for adornment while I lean toward more plain, austere flavors & textures. He'd be happiest with a dish made of a million ingredients and I'd be most content with less than five. Also, to be fair, I am a wee bit bossy in the kitchen. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with this but alas, it's true. "You see this kitchen as Emily's kitchen and everything in it as belonging to you", DH accused on this cooking occasion. I confessed, reluctantly, "Well, yes, I suppose that is true.". But I wondered then (and continue to wonder quietly now), what is really so wrong with that?
Anyhow, onto the recipe...
We chose to make this pie because it met the three requirements that matter most lately:
-inexpensive ingredients
DH made the dough while I cooked the greens & onions. 
After mixing the ricotta into the green mixture, spread it over the bottom layer of dough.
Crack eggs onto the greens mixture...
...and cover the pie with two layers of paper thin dough.
Lastly, fold over the pie edges to envelop mixture (certainly could have been more artful than we achieved), coat with an egg wash and slice steam vents in the top. Cook at 375* for 40-50 minutes, depending on the oven.
Serve warm to a loving, grateful sister-in-law!
The one edit I would make to this recipe is to use store bought pie crust or phyllo dough instead of making it ourselves. This would have made an already easy recipe that much easier and arguably better tasting.

Here's to working out those learning curves and speed bumps in the pursuit of domestic bliss!

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to have a near perfect day


-One perfect, sunny day in the Bay
-One free, open day with no agenda
-Two* bicycles
-Two* adventurous spirits
*= can be multiplied exponentially in equal ratios of bicycles to adventurous spirits. Adventurousness is essential.


-Mix well to combine all ingredients
-Ride bicycles to Chrissy Field with sandwiches and a (surprise!) bottle of Anthill Farms Pinot in tow.
-Cycle halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge and decide on a whim to go all the way into the town of Sausalito
-Grab a quick refresher beer at Bar Bocce
-Catch the last ferry back to the Ferry Building**
-Repeat as often as humanly possible!

**=Full Moon is an added bonus