Gardening Day

          I hadn’t realized that it’s been nearly two weeks since my last post (I apologize!) Since the garden has long been depleted, and with inspiration lacking, life seem to steer me out of the creative kitchen for a moment. But with a flurry of fall garden activity occuring and the wrap up of Kichen_Play.com’s Inaugural menu, the next couple of days I should be busy and productive!
          It was about time to rip out the garden so the fall selection could get planted. The weather has been beautiful lately, in low 70’s with tons of fall sunshine, and it has finally stopped raining. I also kept this day off as long as possible, besides being slightly lazy I also wanted to harvest as much as I could from the remaining plants. It a strange lot, not sure what I’m going to make of all this. The large watermelon, about 11 pounds would make for fantastic carving, but my sister has become quite the canner and pickler, making delicious jams like rose watermelon and spicy thai chili jelly. hmmmmm,…what to do?As for the eggplant, I’ll most likely just make a little baba ganoush this evening and eat with house made lavash (if I’m not called into work)
the last of the summer bounty:
3 watermelons
1.5# of various chilis
6 small eggplants
the overgrown mess…ugghh!
after harvesting, the remaining plants were ripped out
slowly tilling and ripping out all the grass (the area hit by sunshine done!)
Okay so I didn’t get as far as I had hoped. It was past noon and the results for Project Food Blog had just been announced so I got deterred. Not too mention it was lunch time. I’ll bang the rest of it out tomorrow. Sunday is La Sumida Nursery day! Fall additions to the garden will include, midget carrots, tokyo turnips, multi-colored beets, broccoflower, onions and potatoes. 
Check back in the next couple of days, I’ll be posting about the final two courses for Kitchen_Play.com’s Inaugural menu, the entree (Roasted Beef with Reggiano Cream) and dessert (Pink Peppercorn Ice cream sandwiches!)

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White Bean & Rosemary Bruschetta

both caramelized white beans and a white bean spread top this bruschetta
 Appetizers are by far one of the best thing about a meal, a couple of bites and it’s done. There’s no real commitment to an appetizer, you needn’t dirty flatware or even a plate, it’s finger food at it’s finest. It’s leisurely passed on a tray at a party or it can be placed on a  buffet table and left to the holiday masses. But don’t let this free spirited course fool you, it can indeed be dressed up and served as a plated course to your guests. Elegant rustic? yes, indeed,  just my style.

This is the appetizer course of the Inaugural menu featured on http://kitchen-play.com/ and sponsored by the awesome people at http://www.surlatable.com/. Sur La Table is a foodie haven that has high quality kitchen wares for the novice or professional chef. A great place to spend an afternoon and get lost in.

Again, for this dish only bullet points in the way of ingredients were provided: 1.white bean 2.rosemary 3.bruschetta (grilled garlic toast). All the ingredients are straight forward. Bruschetta, for all intents and purposes is toast, it literally means bread that is to be “roasted over coals”. It’s always rubbed with garlic cloves and dressed with a bit of olive oil. Secondly, it’s topped with fresh chopped produce, cheese or even a country pate. Though the toppings can vary from traditional tomato, to roasted wild mushrooms and even slow roasted garlic cloves, for this course we’re using white beans.


First start by heating up about a cup of good quality olive oil. Be careful not to scorch it, it shouldn’t come to smoking, just a gentle warm up. Add two to three sprigs of rosemary to a bowl and pour your heated olive oil over it. Roughly crush 2 cloves of garlic and add them to the mix. Allow the rosemary to bathe in the olive oil for a good 12-15 minutes. The warm oil will pick up the subtleties of the aromatics you add to it. This one sings the sweet smell of focaccia to me, as it’s the same oil I use when baking such delicious Italian treats. You’ll definitely have some rosemary oil left over, so start planning on other uses!


Rosemary grows like a weed here in Santa Barbara, I actually had to have a professional gardner come out and remove the gigantic rosemary bush that stood 5 feet high and spread itself equally as deep. When garnishing butters for service, we gather wild rosemary at the restaurant.

rosemary soaking in warm olive oil
ingredients
pulsed chunky spread

For 6-8 guest you need only about 12 ounces of beens. Regardless if you use fresh or canned beans, rinse and place half of them on paper towels and let dry in the sunshine. With the other half, add to a food processor. To the beans, add 1/4 of a red onion, the leaves of soaked rosemary sprigs, one of the soaked, crushed garlic cloves and just under 1/4 cup of the rosemary oil. Pulse to a semi smooth spread, you still want to know what it is so there’s no need process to oblivion, let there be chunks of white bean for a rustic feel.  

Next, take the other half of beans that you had been sun drying and place in a hot cast iron skillet, add a bit of the rosemary oil. You will definitely want to cover with a splatter screen or lid as the beans will begin to pop, reduce the heat to medium and allow to caramelize for about 6 minutes or until you see a beautiful golden beans. At the last minute add fresh chopped rosemary and a pinch of sea salt. Remove from the heat and allow to cool while you are toasting up the bread.
The best kind of bread is what ever you love, light and airy or crunchy and dense, choose a bread you like eating. Slice at a thickness you like and generously rub with a halved garlic clove and brush with a bit of the rosemary oil. Pop onto a grill or into the toaster and allow to golden crispiness.
Once your bruschetta are perfectly toasted, top with a bit of the white bean rosemary spread then spoon caramelized beans to finish it off, garnish with rosemary. eat or serve!
a beautiful array of white bean & rosemary bruschetta

quick, easy and delicious!

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Grilled & Stacked Ratatouille Salad

Theres no better way to get your family to eat a variety of vegetables than with this grilled ratatouille salad. The layered presentation alone is drool worthy and each vegetable brings a smokey, caramelized version of itself to the dish. Served room temperature and with a garlic lemon thyme vinaigrette, it includes fresh summer zucchini, patty pan squash, eggplant, sweet orange & red bell peppers, onion and heirloom tomatoes.

Ratatouille is a traditional French dish of Provence and is usually vegetables stewed or simmered in olive oil. It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, hot or cold and with bread or artisanal crackers. I find it a very  communal dish that can be placed at a picnic table or served at a holiday dinner. It satisfies your meat centric diners as well as the vegetarian ones.

This dish is the second of Kitchen Plays Inaugural six course menu that I am working through. To check out this and all the other fabulous things Kitchen Play provides to food bloggers everywhere go to http://kitchen-play.com
This dish is quite simple to pull together, it really only entails three things, slicing, grilling & stacking. I used a smaller grill, my thrifty George Foreman, so if you have an outdoor grill or a full stove top one you can reduce the cooking time by half. 
What you’ll need for this dish are some vibrant late summer vegetables. 
The bounty of colorful summer vegetables still available this time of year is astounding. Santa Barbara is definitely experiencing an Indian Summer with daily October temperatures in the 80’s. Seeing that this summer was basically nonexistent, having had the coldest summer in 77 years, we’ll take it.

Clean and trim the vegetables, then run them through a mandoline. 
I kept the thickness of each vegetable close to or just under a 1/4 inch, so that each vegetable could hold up to grilling. Nothing is worse than coming back to the grill and finding your precious dinner half burned away and half stuck to the grill because it’s integrity was compromised by being too thin. I recommend using a mandoline over a knife so you can get more uniform slices and get through all the vegetables quickly. I used my OXO Stainless Steel Mandoline from Sur La Table (http://www.surlatable.com/home.do). 
After slicing the vegetables, lay them on salted paper towels  and sprinkle with more sea salt. Allow to sit and sweat for 10-12 minutes. The salt draws out some of the bitterness associated with nightshades and sometimes seen in older squash. This is the perfect time to heat up your grill. Make sure that the surfaces are clean and then oil with canola oil.
Once the vegetables have sweated, blot with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Into a mixing bowl, add the individual vegetable with lemon thyme and olive oil, then place onto the hot grill. Surprisingly, it took about 15 minutes for each vegetable to grill to the appropriate softness. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature while you finish grilling the rest. Do not however grill the heirloom tomatoes, they are the ideal texture as is.
After everything is grilled, the stacking can begin! 
start with a hearty piece of orange bell pepper as your foundation
the fresh summer zucchini was the only vegetable not close in relative size as the other vegetables, but they can easily be layered in a spiral formation so to fill in the same amount of space as the other vegetables
if you didn’t have access to the wide patty pan squash, then use the yellow italian summer squash and just layer as you did with the zucchini above 
the sweet grilled onions are next 
a  stunning slice of heirloom tomato
then the eggplant
and top with a red bell pepper. Now you could stop the stacking at this point and drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve…or you can keep going! Following the same pattern as the first, layer yet another piece of each vegetable until you get…

If you wanted you could use a cylindrical mold so to avoid the leaning effect, i think it’s rustic to allow it to stand on its natural accord. The entire tower is drizzled with delicious vinaigrette whose base is your standard balsamic. One part balsamic, three parts olive oil, 2 cloves garlic crushed and two teaspoons of fresh lemon thyme. After a good mixing I actually placed the metal mixing bowl into a 400 degree oven for 2 minutes. The heat warmed the sharp bitterness out of the garlic and adds a nice warm touch to the salad.
If there are left overs, chop roughly and place on toasted baguette with some parm and olive oil. If its morning time, poach an egg and place it on top and you’ve got a lovely Provencal breakfast.

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Amuse Bouche- Grilled Shrimp, mango and guacamole bites

Amuse bouche, or other wise known as a “palate pleaser”, is something the chef sends out to the table before your dinner gets started, a tasty little tidbit (a single bite) that is to get your mouth watering and you ready for the meal. You frequently see amuse in upscale 5-star dine dining establishments such as Daniel in NYC and more often than not, they’re a nice complimentary surprise.
Many of you followed and supported me as I moved through the challenges of Project Food Blog the past couple of weeks, and I thank you immensely but alas I didn’t move forward after the Luxury Dinner Party. I did however have a fantastic time and was introduced to a lot of wonderful and talented food bloggers to which I am grateful for being a part of. As a result of my very short adventures into competitive food blogging I think I may have become addicted to food challenges and found this wonderful site to nourish my cravings.
presented to by the great folks at:
&

This amuse is the first of six courses I hope to recreate that are part of Kitchen Play’s Inaugural Menu. To check out more information and the rest of the menu, go to http://kitchen-play.com. Each of these monthly menus are sponsored, and this month our lovely sponsor is Sur La Table, a gourmand haven  that supplies fine cookware, cutlery, kitchen electronics and other fun gadgetry made for professional and ameteur chefs. If you don’t have one close by, never fear, their website is phenomenal, http://www.surlatable.com. It stocks all of their goodies found in the stores and you can have whatever you need delivered.
Now on to the delectible edibles! The great thing about Kitchen Play’s menu items are that we can put our own little spin or interpretation on the dishes. Some basic ingredients are listed but no recipes provided. The ingredients listed for the amuse bouche were 1. grilled shrimp 2. mango 3. guacamole. This was surprisingly quick and easy to make, it only took about 10 minutes to put together. As many of you may know by now, I don’t write recipes in the traditional list format, it’s tedious for me and boring for you. I do however write everything in prose with measurements included.

Mango puree

Take one ripe mango and remove and discard the skin and the pit. You should be left with about one cup of mango flesh. Now because the mangos I found at the produce stand were lacking sufficient juice, I added two medium golden tomatoes from my garden (skins removed as well) so that pureeing would be easier. Place both into your food processor, along with 1/3 cup of white wine and season with sea salt.

puree until smooth then put through a strainer or sieve to eliminate lumps.
after the puree is strained, set aside.

Guacamole
This too, is super simple. Take one avocado, removed the pit and dice the creamy flesh, combine with a quarter of a red onion, juice of a half of a lemon & a tablespoon of cilantro, then season with salt.



Grilled Shrimp
Devein and clean your shrimp,and count one shrimp per person. Season with sea salt and place onto a hot oiled grill. Cook for maybe 75 seconds, then remove and set aside

Putting it together:
gently spoon some of your puree into some ceramic soup spoons (available at Sur La Table)
next, scoop a spoonful of your chunky guacamole onto the mango puree. 

finally, top with the grilled shrimp.
voila!

 ready to serve to your guest.
The sweet tang of the mango goes beautifully with creamy avocado. That extra lemon in the guacamole provides a bright zing that brings out the grilled nature of the shrimp. Sweet, savory & smokey in textures that melt in your mouth. You may just have to make 2-3 per person or turn this into an appetizer, its that good.

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watermelon rind pickles

A late summer favorite! It’s such a shame to let a good rind go to waste, so why not make use of that starchy green flesh closest to the rind. A refreshing snack that you can just grab from the fridge. Keep the rind on so that the integrity of the flesh stays crunchy, then trim as needed or just eat as is.
 moon & stars melon
yes, lots of seeds so the flesh of the melon was better for juicing rather than eating. After taking all the seeds out the flesh what was left in small pieces of pulp to which was pickled in left over brine or used in a spinach salad
sorbet swirl melon
This pickling recipe was adapted by Linda Ziedrick’s The joy of Pickling. It’s the perfect simple pickling recipe: 7-6-5-4, (7C rind, 6C water, 5C sugar, 4 C cider vinegar) with all the aromatics you like. But because I’m not a super fan of “sweet” style pickles, I held back and only added 3 C of sugar. After bringing this delectable syrup to a boil I added 2T of pickling spice, and 1 tsp each of clove, allspice and star anise. 
After trimming the rinds they were added to 2 large quart jars. One jar got 4 serrano chili’s and 1T of black peppercorns, the other 1T juniper berries and 2T dried dill. The pickling syrup is poured over the two quarts of rind while still hot and allowed to cool.
Since these are fresh pickles you’ll be able to enjoy them after about 24 hours in the fridge. They’ll keep for about 2 months.
enjoy! eat with a nice charcuterie plate or straight out of the jar!

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this mornings harvest

Everything harvested from the garden! now the hard part, trying to figure out what to make with this beautiful bounty! stay tuned….

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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