Curried Scallops with Acorn Squash

By Katherine

Since it's now mid-October, we are firmly in autumn - although you wouldn't know it living in San Diego (it's sunny and 78 today).  Nonetheless, I still feel the pull of seasonal eating, and I can't resist all of the winter squashes that are popping up at the grocery store.  I picked up an acorn squash on a whim the other day, and then set about to find something to do with it.  Here's what I came up with. . . . 

Curried Scallops with Acorn Squash

Adapted from Gourmet , serves 2

1 medium acorn squash

2 tablespoons butter

3/4 lb. sea scallops

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 cup water

3/4 cup coconut milk

1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the squash in half, remove seeds, and season with salt and pepper.  Place the butter in a medium roasting pan, and put it in the oven while it is preheating.  Once the butter is melted, place the squash halves face down in the roasting pan, and roast until tender, about one hour. 

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Once squash has roasted for 30 minutes, begin preparing the scallops. Pat them dry and season with salt.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sear scallops on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Set the scallops aside and toss with the turmeric.  

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In the same skillet, add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil and cook the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, and lime juice for about one minute.  Add the water and cook until the mixture is softened and water is evaporated, about 4 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and garam masala and simmer for 2 minutes.  (Hopefully your squash is about done now; if not, you can pause here - just take the curry sauce off the heat.)

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When the squash is done, return the scallops to the skillet with the curry sauce and heat through.  Place each squash half on a plate, scoop the scallops and sauce into the hollowed-out part of the squash and garnish with cilantro. 

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Easiest Baked Chicken

by Laura

I don't frequent Pinterest that often but one of my go-to weeknight dinners came from a recipe I found there. On Pinterest it was titled, "Melt in your Mouth Chicken" and I have never been able to make it look quite as appealing as it does there, BUT it is easy, healthy and delicious. 

Final product

Final product

I seasoned the chicken with a little salt and pepper before putting the yogurt on.

I seasoned the chicken with a little salt and pepper before putting the yogurt on.

2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup Greek yogurt (I've used both 2% and fat free)

1/2 cup Parmesan (plus extra to sprinkle on top) 

1 tablespoon Lawry's seasoning salt

Preheat oven to 400

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Place chicken in glass baking dish. Mix together yogurt, seasoning salt and Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread over chicken evenly and sprinkle with Parmesan. Place dish in oven and bake for 45-55 minutes until top is golden brown.

 

 

The Belgian Sugar Waffle Quest

by Elissa

Our neighborhood farmer's market features a Belgian caterer (Les Caprices de Joelle) that sells Belgian sugar waffles, which are sometimes called Liege waffles after their city of origin. These waffles have a cult following around here, and people willingly shell out $4 for a smallish waffle.  I was a skeptic until I actually tasted one of these waffles--it was not like any other waffle I've ever had. These waffles are made with a rich, yeasted dough and are studded with chunks of sugar that melt and caramelize while the waffle is in the iron. Because the sugar is baked into the waffles, no syrup is necessary and they are a fabulous handheld snack.

I went on a mission to try to recreate these waffles at home. The first step was acquiring a waffle iron; I picked up a Waring Belgian waffle iron at Costco (similar to this model) . Our neighbors grilled the chef at our farmer's market for details about the waffles, and he told them that these waffles must be made with imported Belgian pearl sugar. Don't be tempted by pearl sugar from other sources, as it will not be the right size! I ordered several boxes of Lars Belgian pearl sugar from Eurogrocer (it's also available from Amazon and other online retailers). 

Belgian pearl sugar--ignore the Scandinavian imitators! 

Belgian pearl sugar--ignore the Scandinavian imitators! 

Now it was time to start trying out recipes. I started with the recipe on the back of the pearl sugar box, which was a little too sweet and did not come together all that well (I had difficulty combining softened butter with flour evenly). After trying a few other recipes online and experimenting some, I ended up coming up with a recipe that is pretty delicious. The dough is thick and a little sticky (I find a stand mixer to be a big help in mixing it). And in order to give the yeast time to work I generally make the batter the night before.

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An ice cream scoop is the perfect tool to get the dough into the waffle iron. Because the dough is so rich, I find a single generous scoop to result in a waffle that's the right size for a single serving.  

Waffle nirvana

Waffle nirvana

Because the Belgian pearl sugar is a little pricey, it's actually not that much cheaper to make these at home. And the fact that you need to make the dough the night before means that these are not a spur-of-the-moment food. But they are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! 

Belgian Sugar Waffles

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

3/4 cup lukewarm milk

1 packet active dry yeast

3.5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Belgian pearl sugar (about 3/4 of an 8 oz. box) 

Begin making these the night before you plan to serve them.  Pour the yeast into the lukewarm milk and give it a few minutes to dissolve. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool for a couple of minutes. Add the vanilla to the melted butter. Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Use the paddle attachment to mix them together and, with the mixer running, pour the butter and vanilla into the flour mixture.  Add in the eggs one at a time and then pour in the milk. When you have a uniform mixture turn off the mixer.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.

The dough should have doubled in size by the next morning. Shortly before you are ready to begin making waffles, stir in the pearl sugar (the dough will decrease in volume, but that's okay). Preheat your waffle iron to close to the hottest setting (I use 5, with 6 being the hottest). Use an ice cream scoop to put a heaping scoop of batter into the iron once it's hot.  We like ours a little to be a little on the chewy side, so I usually end up taking them out after about 3 minutes or so. If you like a crisper, more caramelized exterior you can cook them for longer. Makes about 8 rich waffles. 

 

DC Sandwich Report

by Elissa

It's been a crazy fall for us so far, with Lane starting a new school and a busy couple of  months for me at work. I have not been all that inspired in the kitchen lately. But I've been buying lunch a lot, and I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite DC sandwiches.  

South Street from Taylor Gourmet

South Street from Taylor Gourmet

Taylor Gourmet is a DC sandwich chain that features Philadelphia-style hoagies.   My favorite option is the South Street, which features a breaded chicken cutlet, goat cheese, pesto, and tomatoes. I was skeptical initially because it sounded like a lot going on, but this is a sandwich with great balance. (My runner up for favorite Taylor sandwich is the Cobble Hill, a spicy meatball sub.)

Futbol Club Barcelona from the Pepe Truck

Futbol Club Barcelona from the Pepe Truck

Jose Andres is a DC institution--he is probably our most famous local chef and owns several popular restaurants in town. A year or two ago he started a food truck called Pepe that sells gourmet sandwiches. I made my first visit to the Pepe truck last week and went with the Futbol Club Barcelona sandwich, made up of thinly sliced chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and shallot mayonnaise. This sandwich definitely exceeded the sum of its parts and tasted like the BLT of my dreams, with bonus chicken. I think the keys may have been the fresh butter lettuce and the delicious mayonnaise. This was definitely worth waiting in line for!

Lobster Roll from Luke's

Lobster Roll from Luke's

Luke's Lobster started in New York, but they have three DC locations and I think they make an excellent lobster roll that goes heavy on the claw meat and that does not have too much mayo.  I am particularly fond of the butter toasted bun and the sprinkling of celery salt that adorns each roll.  

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And a bonus of going to Luke's for lunch is that I can get a bottle of my favorite ginger beer.  Ginger Brew from Maine Root is a super-spicy soda that I can't get enough of.

 

A Wedding Feast

By Katherine

Last month, Sean and I tied the knot on Martha's Vineyard in front of a very small group of family and friends.  It was wonderful in every way, including the amazing lobster dinner we had afterwards.  

We rented the beautiful home of our old friends/neighbors, the Guineys, in Seven Gates Farm in Chilmark for the week.  We had the ceremony in the backyard (thankfully the rain that day stopped just in time) and the post-wedding feast on the lovely screened-in porch. 

Photo credit:  Meg Higgins Photography

Since we were on the Vineyard, we knew we wanted a locally-inspired meal to celebrate.  Lobster was a must, and we rounded things out with corn on the cob, green salad, and garlic bread. It was not a menu to be eaten daintily or tidily, but luckily Laura got some pretty adorable bibs printed up for us.  

Photo credit:  Meg Higgins Photography

Even with the bibs for protection, most of us opted to change out of our wedding clothes so we could really dig in.  

Photo credit:  Meg HIggins Photography
Photo credit:  Meg Higgins Photography

Even these little rascals got in on the action. . . . 

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And for dessert, there just had to be pie. Blueberry, peach, and pecan to be exact.  

Yum!

Yum!

It was a day--and a dinner--that we'll always remember! 

Mozza Pesto

by Laura

I've written before about my love for Pizzeria Mozza, and I bought the Mozza Cookbook as soon as it came out. But then I let it sit on my coffee table for two years without trying to make anything in it. When I leafed through it all of the recipes felt too fussy, too time intensive or needed too many specialty ingredients. I finally braved the pesto that is served with my favorite Mozza dish, the caprese salad, and it took me all of 20 minutes. Serve with some combination of cheese and carbs and you can't go wrong.

Caprese, grilled bread with olive oil and maldon sea salt.

Caprese, grilled bread with olive oil and maldon sea salt.

Mozza's Pesto 

Pine nuts, garlic, and first half of basil and olive oil

Pine nuts, garlic, and first half of basil and olive oil

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 tsp chopped garlic

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups whole fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

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Combine pine nuts, garlic, salt, half of the basil, and half of the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender. Pulse until the basil is finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add remaining ingredients. Puree until the ingredients are smoothly blended together (and not a moment more, says Nancy!). You can add more olive oil if it isn't looking right but that ratio worked out very nicely for me! Spoon it over burrata cheese and tomatoes for a caprese, serve on pasta, spread it on the bread of your grilled cheese...go crazy. 

 

Leftovers dressed up a grilled cheese with sliced heirloom tomatoes.  

Leftovers dressed up a grilled cheese with sliced heirloom tomatoes.  

Roasted Eggplant with Scallion Oil

By Katherine

Sean has been experimenting with a pseudo-Paleo diet , which is pretty much my worst nightmare, since it eliminates all grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, soy, and potatoes. What is left to eat?!  I've been trying to figure that out.  In trying to come up with something to make for dinner the other night, I remembered a recipe from a cookbook I hadn't cracked open in a while:  Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, by Mai Pham.  Pham is the chef/owner at Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, a Hart family favorite.  I've had this book for a few years, and it really makes Vietnamese cooking accessible at home. Best of all, it introduces you to exciting flavor combinations that you can incorporate into your cooking generally, not just the recipes in the book.  Many of the recipes are very simple, and this eggplant recipe is one of them.  Here's what you'll need:  eggplant, scallions, Thai or serrano chiles, fish sauce, and vegetable oil. 

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Pham recommends using skinny, Asian eggplant, but I used regular, round ones with no problem.  You're aiming for about a pound of eggplant (my overgrown ones were about a pound and a half - no worries, this recipe is forgiving).  Roast the eggplants directly over a flame, either on your gas stovetop or on a grill.  Use tongs to rotate the eggplant - you want the outside to be evenly charred and the inside to be soft.  If you're using thin Asian eggplants, they will be done much more quickly than their fat cousins - about 5 minutes vs. about 20 that it took me this time around.  I also think that doing them on the burner is faster than on the grill, since the eggplants are closer to the flame. 

Before...

Before...

After! 

After! 

Allow the eggplant to cool, then peel the charred skin (and caps) off and discard.  Pham recommends doing this under cool running water, which is helpful if you haven't allowed quite enough time for cooling.  Then roughly chop the eggplant flesh (or just pull it apart if it is very soft) and reserve in a bowl.  Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat and add 3-4 chopped scallions. They will hiss and foam a bit upon contact with the hot oil.  Stir, and let them carry on like that for about 20 seconds.  Then remove the pan from the heat and add two chopped chiles, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the eggplant and toss gently.  You can either serve it warm or at room temperature. 

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I served the eggplant alongside this simple marinated, grilled chicken breast recipe and a spinach salad.  

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It was a delicious dinner, and I didn't even notice that it was paleo-ish.*  

*As written, this recipe is not 100% paleo because I used canola oil, which is a no-no, and the brand of fish sauce that I used has some added sugar, also a no-no. Don't tell Sean. You could easily substitute more compliant ingredients. 

Chile Lime Chicken

by Laura

After indulging for about 10 days nonstop, first in Martha's Vineyard (yay Katherine and Sean!) and then at the 2nd Annual Murray Aronson Labor day weekend at the Desert Ridge Estate, I was excited to make some healthy-ish home-cooked meals. This chile lime chicken was easy, tasty and great as leftovers. I also made a large batch of Mark Bittman's quinoa with corn and black beans.

Adapted from Aida Mollenkamp:

Wash hands thoroughly after this! 

Wash hands thoroughly after this! 

2 1/2 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken breasts

4 serrano chile peppers, diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

Fresh lime juice of 2 limes

Zest of 1 lime

1 tsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400. In a small bowl, mix together peppers, garlic, lime juice, oil and salt. Place chicken in a baking dish and using your hands put half of the marinade under the skin. Pour the remainder over chicken and let it sit for 30 minutes. Roast in oven for about 50 minutes.

Before

Before

After

After

Avocado Honey

By Katherine

In honor of Rosh Hashanah, which is traditionally celebrated with apples and honey to usher in a sweet new year, I am taking a moment today to highlight my favorite honey: Honey Pacifica's Avocado Honey. 

 

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I first heard about avocado honey in a Chowhound discussion of ideas for a food gift that would be unique to San Diego.  San Diego County is blessed with a number of avocado orchards, and avocado honey is one delicious by-product of the avocado harvest.  To be clear, there is none of the green stuff in avocado honey - it's just that the bees that made this honey feasted on the nectar in avocado blossoms.  The honey is rich and dark, with caramel overtones. 

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It is delicious on toast or mixed into Greek yogurt, and I bet it would make one heck of a Gold Rush - that's on the to-do list.   My local Whole Foods carries the Honey Pacifica brand, but it appears that it may only be available in Southern California and Nevada stores. It's also available for order online, but I am curious to hear if any of you out there are able to find any other brands of avocado honey in your local markets. If so, please tell me about it in the comments!

Shanah Tova to all who celebrate! 

Magic with Frozen Bananas

by Elissa

This probably belongs in the old news category, because this trick has been bouncing around the internet for a few years, but I finally tried making ice cream from frozen bananas and was amazed by how good the outcome was. I first read about this technique on The Kitchn a couple of years ago; this post describes how you can use a single ingredient to make delicious ice cream.

One of the most challenging parts for me was accumulating enough overripe bananas to conduct the experiment--we go through bananas very quickly and never make it to the end of the week with extra bananas. I finally decided to buy double the normal amount so that I could freeze a few fully ripened bananas. Once you have some nicely brown-speckled bananas, peel them and break them into chunks (or slice them), and freeze them in a ziplock bag. Let them freeze for a few hours (or a few days or weeks). When you're ready to make some ice cream, take the bananas out of the freezer and let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Put the frozen bananas in the bowl of a food processor (I bet a good blender might also work) 

Put the frozen bananas in the bowl of a food processor (I bet a good blender might also work) 

Process the bananas for a minute or two. They will initially end up in small chunks, like this. I like to stop and scrape down the bowl with a spatula once or twice. 

Process the bananas for a minute or two. They will initially end up in small chunks, like this. I like to stop and scrape down the bowl with a spatula once or twice. 

Keep running the processor, and you will eventually end up with this. 

Keep running the processor, and you will eventually end up with this. 

Scoop into a bowl, and wait for the rave reviews to come pouring in. 

Scoop into a bowl, and wait for the rave reviews to come pouring in. 

I didn't believe it until I tasted it myself, but this stuff really does taste like excellent ice cream. The texture blew me away, and it's got a delicious pure banana flavor. Best of all, I can feed my kids a banana for dessert and they think they are getting a very special treat.

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Lemongrass Shrimp with Coconut Rice

by Laura

I try not to cut too many corners, but there are some things that are just not worth the effort. Three things that fall into this category for me are fresh garlic, ginger and lemongrass. Granted, I have never actually tried to chop fresh lemongrass but I've heard it is a real pain so I was glad to pick up a tube of it in the produce section of my grocery store. And I know, I know. There are times when it really is worth it to peel and chop fresh garlic and ginger but for a marinade like this one, I was willing to cheat. 

This was a really easy meal and would be great on chicken as well if you aren't into shrimp.

 Lemongrass Shrimp

adapted from Wolfgang Puck 

Ingredients;:

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1 1/4 lb. large shrimp, peeled and de-veined (my grocery store didn't have ones that were already peeled and deveined and it was not fun. Useful video here though if it is also your first time.)  

1 tbsp chopped (or from a tube) lemongrass

1 tbsp chopped (or from a jar) ginger

1 tbsp chopped (or from a jar) garlic

1 tbsp honey

5 scallions - greens chopped and whites cut into small pieces, separated

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil

Generous pinch red pepper flakes (optional) 

1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

Preheat broiler.* Peel and devein the shrimp if they didn't come that way. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except scallion whites and red bell peppers. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.  Place bell peppers and scallions on rimmed baking sheet and add shrimp and enough marinade to coat shrimp and vegetables. Broil for about 5 minutes (depending on the size of your shrimp), giving the baking sheet a good shake halfway through.

Served next to spinach salad with Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Salad Dressing

Served next to spinach salad with Trader Joe's Spicy Peanut Salad Dressing

Remove from oven and serve over coconut rice. Garnish with cilantro and sriracha

 *The original recipe calls for the shrimp and vegetables to be skewered and grilled. I am sure it would be delicious, but if you couldn't tell already, I was feeling lazy.

Coconut Rice:

1 cup rice

1/3 cup coconut cream (or the creamy stuff that rises to the top of a can of coconut milk) 

1 and 2/3 cup water

Fresh cilantro as a garnish

I made this in my rice cooker and it turned out great. A little creamier than normal rice but not too coconutty for those who are wary (why do so many people fight the deliciousness that is coconut?!).

 

 

Fresh Corn Muffins

by Elissa

We have been getting some incredible local corn around here lately. While it is pretty spectacular eaten off the cob with butter, I was looking to branch out a little. Ruth Reichl recently posted this recipe for muffins that incorporate fresh corn, and I got inspired. Her recipe is pretty similar to my favorite corn bread recipe, with the addition of fresh corn kernels cut from the cob.

Corn muffin ingredients

Corn muffin ingredients

I tweaked the recipe a bit and doubled it to make a dozen muffins in preparation for a brunch we were hosting. The recipe is simple enough to throw together before you're fully awake, and the results were great: not too sweet and tasting like late summer.

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Served with butter, honey, bacon, and fruit, I can't think of a better breakfast. I definitely need to make these again before corn goes out of season. 

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Fresh corn muffins, adapted from Ruth Reichl

If you want to make this as cornbread instead of muffins, bake in a greased 8x8 pan for 30-40 minutes. These muffins are amazing served warm from the oven, but they are almost as good the next day if you split them in half and toast them. 

Corn kernels cut from two ears of fresh corn

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour  

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 12-cup muffin tin. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Mix together the buttermilk and egg, then gradually stir in the melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, then fold in the corn kernels. Divide batter among muffin wells and bake until browned on top and a toothpick comes out dry, 16-20 minutes.  

Pluot Galette

By Katherine

Our fruit & veggie fairy, DiAnne, generously shared her CSA bounty with us again this week.  Included in the haul was a beautiful bunch of pluots. 

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Although I love eating any kind of stone fruit simply out of hand, I decided I wanted to make a dessert with these beauties.  I also decided that I needed to face my fear of pastry crust.  After doing some searching online, I settled on a galette.  Because they are rustic and free-form, galettes seem less intimidating than pies and tarts. 

You begin by making a simple pastry crust.  Cut cold butter into flour, with a dusting of sugar and salt mixed in as well. 

Finally using my pastry blender! 

Finally using my pastry blender! 

Add ice water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together as a dough.  Knead it briefly and shape it into a disk.  Cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. 

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Then roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface until it stretches to about a 12-inch circle.  Don't worry if your edges are ragged or uneven!   Then back it goes into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes before proceeding.

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Sprinkle a mixture of ground almonds and sugar on the crust, then arrange the sliced pluots in a pinwheel shape on top, leaving a 1 to 2-inch border around the edge. Dust the fruit with sugar.  Next comes the part I was most nervous about, but it ended up being a cinch:  start folding the crust up over the fruit in sections, overlapping at regular intervals, pinching the crust together to make sure there are no holes for pluot juice to leak out. 

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Brush the crust with melted butter, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 400 degrees on a pizza stone for 45 to 50 minutes.  Now for the hard part:  let it rest for 20 minutes before digging in.  If you want to gild the lily, glaze the fruit with a little warmed jam before serving. 

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Pluot Galette

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crust

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Ice water

Filling

2 tablespoons ground almonds (whole almonds whizzed in the food processor will do the trick)

1 tablespoon flour

5 tablespoons sugar

10 ounces galette dough, rolled into a 12-inch circle and chilled

5 medium pluots, sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 generous tablespoon plum jam (optional)

Make the crust:  Mix the flours with the sugar and salt in a wide mixing bowl. Add the butter and cut with a pastry blender or two knives until it looks like coarse cornmeal.  Add four tablespoons ice water and stir with a spatula.  If it's not coming together as a dough, add more water a tablespoon at a time until it does.  Knead briefly with your hands, and shape it into a disk.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Take your chilled dough out of the fridge and let it sit for about 5 minutes before proceeding.  Place your disk of dough on a floured surface and roll it out into a 12-inch round. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill again for at least 30 minutes. 

Make the filling and assemble galette:  Preheat the oven (and a pizza stone, if you have one) to 400. Stir together the ground almonds, flour, and one tablespoon sugar.  Spread this mixture over the crust, leaving a 1- to 2-inch border around the edge.  Then arrange the sliced pluots, skin side down, over the top of the almond mixture. Sprinkle the fruit with two tablespoons sugar.  

Beginning at 12 o'clock on the crust, fold the exposed crust up and over the fruit.  Rotate the crust clockwise and continue folding until the fruit is enclosed. Pinch the crust together where it overlaps to make sure the galette is sealed. 

Brush the crust with melted butter, and sprinkle the crust with the remaining two tablespoons sugar.   Bake the galette for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool for 20 minutes on a rack before serving.  If desired, brush the fruit with warmed jam prior to serving. 

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Roasted Ratatouille

by Elissa

It's the time of year when summer vegetables are at their best, and I can't leave the market without stocking up on zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. So it's the perfect time of year to make ratatouille.  But I'm somewhat picky about my ratatouille and really dislike versions that are watery or that feature insufficiently cooked eggplant. I got the technique that I use for making ratatouille from Cook's Illustrated . You start by roasting the eggplant and zucchini in a hot oven until nicely browned.

Roasted eggplant

Roasted eggplant

Roasted zucchini

Roasted zucchini

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While the eggplant and squash are roasting, you saute an onion and add some thyme, garlic, and tomato.  When the vegetables come out of the oven, you add them to the tomato mixture and, after a minute or two of commingling, you're ready to go. 

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Roasting really concentrates the flavors of the vegetables and keeps this ratatouille from being bland. This just tastes like summer to me, and it's substantial enough that it can serve as a vegetarian main course--just add some quinoa or bread with cheese and you've got dinner!  If anything, this tastes even better the next day, so it's great for making ahead or providing delicious leftovers.

Roasted Ratatouille, adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 medium eggplant, chopped into half-inch pieces

2-3 zucchini or summer squash, chopped into half-inch pieces

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

2-3 large tomatoes, chopped (or you can use a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes) 

salt  

6-7 leaves basil, julienned (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 450 while you are chopping the eggplant and zucchini.  Spread the vegetables over two rimmed baking sheets, drizzle each pan of vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat.  Roast until well-browned, around 30 minutes, switching the pans halfway through.  While the vegetables are roasting, saute the onion in the remaining olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt over medium heat until softened.  Stir in the thyme leaves and the garlic, a minute or two later add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes have broken down and released their juices. Add another 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir in the roasted eggplant and zucchini and let cook with the tomatoes for a minute or two. Taste for seasoning, top with basil (if using) and serve.

Spiced Lamb Chops with Mint-Mango Sauce

By Katherine

Last week, I found myself with an overabundance of fresh mint, and I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into a main course for dinner. After browsing the internet, I settled on this recipe from Epicurious for Spiced Lamb Chops with Mint-Mango Sauce.  I made the recipe as written, except that I used lamb rib chops instead of loin chops, since that's all my market had. I used 6 rib chops and otherwise cut the recipe in half, but I had extra sauce and spice rub, so I probably could have reduced the recipe further.  Sean and I managed to eat all 6 chops -- I'd call it a generous two servings -- but I'm sure larger loin chops would stretch further.  The recipe is quite simple and comes together quickly.  

First, you make the mint-mango sauce by blending chopped mango, mint, scallions, serrano pepper, and lime juice in a food processor.  This sauce was delicious and I think would be great with chicken or fish as well.   I reserved a bit of the chopped mango and added it to the sauce after blending, to give it a chunkier texture, as suggested in some of the comments on Epicurious. 

Mint-mango sauce, ready to go

Mint-mango sauce, ready to go

Next, you make a spice rub by combining cumin, coriander, salt, cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, and cloves in a shallow bowl.  Then you brush the chops with olive oil and chopped garlic and press them into the spice rub on both sides. 

Spice-rubbed lamb chops, pre-grilling

Spice-rubbed lamb chops, pre-grilling

The next step is to throw the chops on the grill and cooked to desired doneness.  If you're using smaller rib chops, keep an eye on them because they'll cook quickly.  Ours were a little overdone, but they were still delicious. 

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I served them with plenty of the sauce, roasted potatoes, and spinach salad (not pictured). I think it would also be great with cous cous, if you've got that in your pantry.  

Bon appetit!

Bon appetit!

Mexican Crock Pot Chicken

by Laura

Lately I've been making a batch of this and bringing it for lunch all week. It is super easy, fairly healthy and there are lots of variations so it doesn't get boring. I used this recipe I came across on Pinterest as a base. 

This is blurry but it is because I was taking it at 5:30 am. That is how easy this recipe is...you can be half asleep. 

This is blurry but it is because I was taking it at 5:30 am. That is how easy this recipe is...you can be half asleep. 

Mexican Crock Pot Chicken

3 large frozen chicken breasts

1 can kidney beans (black would work too) 

1 can diced green chiles (4 oz) 

3 jalapenos diced (this makes it fairly spicy so adjust depending on your audience) 

1 cup chopped red onion

1 cup salsa

1 cup frozen corn

Throw it in the pot and walk away

Throw it in the pot and walk away

1 1/2 cups greek yogurt or light sour cream

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

Shredded cheese  

 

Lay frozen chicken breasts on the bottom of the crock pot. Pour in the rest of the ingredients (except shredded cheese). Cook on low for as few as six hours but I've left it in there as long as 12. Stir and use a fork or spoon to break up/shred the chicken. Top with cheese and serve over rice or in tortillas. 

Lunch for the week! 

Lunch for the week! 

Summer Cocktail: Aperol Spritz

By Katherine

My friend Amanda recently spent two weeks in Italy on her honeymoon, and she came back with a new favorite drink:  the Aperol Spritz.  Lucky for me, Amanda is a delightful and generous hostess, and after enjoying a Spritz at her house, I am fully on the bandwagon.  Aperol is an Italian aperitif, bitterwseet with citrus and herbal flavors.  It is similar to Campari (and comes from the same parent company), but at 11% ABV, it has less than half the alcohol content of Campari. That's one of the reasons it makes such a refreshing summer cocktail - it's light enough that you can drink it all day long (not that I would suggest such a thing).  The Aperol Spritz is a simple cocktail - you just need Aperol, Prosecco, and club soda. 

I didn't have any Prosecco in the house, so I substituted Trader Joe's finest dry German sparkling wine. 

I didn't have any Prosecco in the house, so I substituted Trader Joe's finest dry German sparkling wine. 

Aperol Spritz

3 parts Prosecco or other sparkling wine

2 parts Aperol

Splash of club soda

Orange slices for garnish

Ice

Fill your glass with ice, then pour over the Prosecco and aperol. Stir gently, then finish with a splash of soda and garnish with orange.   (Amanda reports that in Italy, it is often served with a green olive, but I like the orange and that's what's recommended on the Aperol bottle.)

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In poking around the internet to learn more around Aperol, I stumbled across a Spritz variation that recommends adding about an ounce of gin ("You know.  For the older drinker.")  In the name of science, I tried this version as well, and I'm pleased to report that it is also delicious, though it does somewhat undermine my earlier remarks about this being such a light, lower-alcohol summer cocktail.  Finally, if you've invested in a bottle of Aperol and want to branch out beyond the Spritz, Serious Eats has a bunch of ideas for you.  Cheers!

Top-Notch Fajitas

by Elissa

I was poking around on Serious Eats the other day when I came across J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's article about fajitas.  He describes how, when someone orders fajitas at a restaurant, everyone's heads turn to follow the platter of sizzling meat as it's carried through the seating area.  It took me back to my first trip to Chili's in junior high school when a friend ordered fajitas and I was so jealous because her food looked and smelled so much better than mine.

I still like fajitas, but I haven't been to Chili's in a long time.  And now, thanks to Kenji's recipe for fajitas, I can make fajitas at home that are superior to any restaurant fajitas I've ever had.

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I've made the recipe twice now, and the results have been excellent. Definitely try to find skirt steak, and I love the trick of reserving some marinade to pour on the onions and peppers. I prefer cooking the onions and peppers on the stove rather than on the grill, but either way it's a quick meal. And this was a hit with both the adults and the toddler-preschool set.  

Vietnamese Marinated Flank Steak

By Katherine

I love the flavors of Vietnamese food, especially when the weather heats up in the summer.  The combination of sweet, sour, salty, and hot, along with fresh herbs, is somehow so refreshing.  San Diego has a good assortment of Vietnamese restaurants, so when I get a hankering for these flavors, it usually means stopping by one of them to pick up some bun or a banh mi.  But I was browsing through the New York Times' food section over the weekend, and this recipe from Melissa Clark caught my eye.  It looked doable for a weeknight, so the ingredients (none of which were too exotic) went onto the shopping list for this week.  It ended up being a very tasty, easy weeknight dinner!

Cucumber-radish salad

Cucumber-radish salad

Flank steak topped with cilantro, mint, & sesame seeds

Flank steak topped with cilantro, mint, & sesame seeds

Due to a last-minute change of plans on Tuesday night, I ended up marinating the meat overnight.  I'm generally not very good at planning ahead, though, so next time I am more likely to end up at the other end of the recommended marinating time spectrum (30 minutes). I also used jalapenos in the marinade as suggested in the recipe, but I think I'll try serranos or Thai chiles next time, since I thought it could be a little spicier.   I'm looking forward to enjoying the leftovers tomorrow!

Dinner's ready - yum!

Dinner's ready - yum!

Googling Dinner - Corn, Tomato, Feta Salad

by Laura

On a fairly regular basis, I Google the ingredients I happen to have in my kitchen and see what comes up. Not surprisingly, the results have been mixed. But tonight it worked great. I like to imagine that one day, someone like me will Google corn, tomato, feta and lemon and this post will pop up and that person will enjoy a delicious, sort of healthy summertime dinner. This recipe from Chow.com was my inspiration and the ratios could be adjusted depending on what you have on hand or your preferences.

Serve with toast and call it dinner

Serve with toast and call it dinner

Ingredients:

2 ears fresh corn (frozen corn thawed would work in a pinch)

4 small tomatoes on the vine  

2 cups arugula or green of choice

1/4 of a red onion finely chopped

1/3 cup crumbled feta (my favorite is Pastures of Eden Israeli feta from Trader Joe's) 

2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook corn for 4 minutes and remove. While corn cools chop other ingredients and place in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cut corn off of cob and add to other ingredients. (The recipe called for an ice bath for the corn but that seemed like way too much trouble.) Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over all ingredients and toss.