Monday, July 30, 2012

No recipe this week...

I'm off to Oregon for a friend's wedding so no recipe this week but I'll leave you with a sleepy Poppy picture. Doesn't a nap sound good right about now?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday Sip - Bourbon Peach Smash

Happy Sunday! Gabe's birthday was this past week, so we had a party yesterday. I had planned to make this cocktail for the party but it never happened...oops. Luckily I was able to do a test round to share with you all! This drink combines juicy summer peaches, refreshing mint, and bourbon - perfect for warm summer evenings. The recipe makes two drinks but can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled.

Bourbon Peach Smash (from here):
1 peach, white or orange, cut into thick slices
6-7 mint leaves plus more for garnish
1/2 of a lemon, cut into wedges
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see below for recipe)
4 ounces of bourbon
Ice as needed

Simple syrup is SO easy to make and comes in handy when you're making multiple cocktails. All you do is combine 1 part water to 1 part sugar (I did 1 cup of each) in a saucepan, bring it to a boil on the stove, then let it cool before using. It's also great as a sweetener for iced coffee or iced tea because the sugar is already dissolved so you're not left with sugar crystals at the bottom of the glass.

Muddle peach slices, lemon, mint, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. 

Add the bourbon and a few ice cubes, then shake it all up! Strain and pour into two glasses, add more ice if you'd like, and garnish with a peach slice and sprig of mint.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chocolate Coffee S'mores Pie

This is such a decadent but easy recipe that reminds me why I love baking so much. Cooking is great and I really enjoy being able to throw ingredients together and being able to improvise without worrying about being too precise. But with baking, there's something so satisfying about following a recipe exactly and having it turn out perfectly, you know? That's what happened here, and while there are a few different steps, there's nothing particularly labor intensive about it. It's super decadent, a little whimsical, and a lot delicious.

Chocolate Coffee S'mores Pie (recipe from here)

Graham Cracker Crust

9 whole graham crackers, ground finely in a food processor

2 tablespoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons Nutella

1 ounce semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Chocolate Coffee Ganache

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), finely chopped

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons finely ground coffee beans


2 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

For the crust, just combine the graham cracker crumbs, heavy cream, Nutella, melted chocolate, and melted butter in a bowl. Then press the mixture into a nine inch pie pan to form a crust and refrigerate it for 30 minutes to let it harden a bit. If there are some extra crumbs, they're pretty tasty eaten by the spoonful. Not that I have any experience with that, of course.

I honestly think this was the hardest part - chopping up blocks of semisweet chocolate into fine, easily meltable (is that a word?) pieces. My wrist got a little sore, but what a small price to pay for a creamy, rich chocolate filling. 

Once you've chopped up the chocolate, boil the heavy cream and coffee grounds in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Just as it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate and 1/4 stick unsalted butter. Cover the mixture and let it all melt together - it's like a coffee-heavy cream-chocolate soup. Oh yeah.

Let the mixture sit for about five minutes, then gently stir it together until it's combined. Pour the whole thing through a fine mesh strainer to filter out the coffee grounds.

Now the filling is nice and smooth and ready to go, so you can pour it into the pie crust and refrigerate it for about an hour to let it solidify. It's starting to look really good, right? But just wait for the final step!

This part is kind of magical, seriously. You start with just two egg whites in a bowl, it really doesn't look like much. But as you gradually add in the sugar, it develops into a thick, shiny meringue. Start by using an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until they are frothy, then add in the sugar in four separate increments, beating for a minute on medium-high speed after each addition. Once the sugar is all added in, continue beating until the meringue is thick and stiff - probably about three more minutes.

Spoon the meringue over the chocolate filling, and use a rubber spatula to create a mound in the middle if you're feeling fancy.

Now, Bon Appetit suggests using a kitchen torch to brown the top of the meringue. Really? Who has a kitchen torch? I mean, more power to you if you do, but I certainly don't. I just set my oven to broil on high and put the pie in there for about four minutes - not too close to the top of the oven so it doesn't catch on fire. You'll want to keep a close eye on it; pull it out of the oven just as it starts to brown and look like a perfectly toasted marshmallow.

Dig in! The chocolate-coffee filling will be just a little melty, the meringue will be sweet and toasty, and the crust adds a nice crunch.

And sometimes the crust doesn't hold together so you have to spoon it over the worries, it still tastes amazing!

There's the aftermath...

And here's Poppy in her new fort aka a paper bag. It doesn't take much, does it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Zucchini-Mushroom Enchiladas

Living in California, Mexican food is kind of a big deal. It was an even bigger deal in Los Angeles, where I went to school - taco trucks were everywhere and people are extremely passionate about which truck is their favorite. But even as a native Northern Californian, I love Mexican food, and Gabe realllly loves it. So once when I was visiting him in San Luis Obispo, we made these enchiladas. His apartment was pretty typical for a twentysomething college dude, and the kitchen was a little subpar. But out of this kitchen with a tiny electric stove, formica countertops, and leaky refrigerator, we managed to produce some awesome enchiladas.

I was a little intimidated by making the sauce from scratch, but it really isn't that much extra work - you can even make it a few days before and refrigerate it until you're ready to use it. Roasting the bell pepper adds a really nice smoky flavor to the sauce, and the mushrooms keep the filling hearty without needing meat. 

Zucchini-Mushroom Enchiladas (recipe adapted, barely, from here)

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Enchilada Sauce
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 roasted red bell pepper (see below for the how-to!)
1 jalapeno, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
About 5 tablespoons olive oil, for sauteing and adding to the sauce

Zucchini-Mushroom Enchiladas:
3-4 zucchini, chopped (use more if they're on the smaller side)
2-3 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
6-7 tortillas (I use whole wheat but white or corn are good too!)
2 cups jack or mozzarella cheese, grated

There are a few ways to roast a bell pepper, but I prefer this method. The oven works just fine (cut in half, broil for a few minutes), but there's something exciting about setting the pepper over an open flame and watching it pop and hiss. Just turn the stove on to about medium heat, set the pepper on top of the grate, and make sure it's fairly stable - you wouldn't want it to fall into the flames. Let it roast for about 3 minutes on each side...I recommend using tongs to turn it because it gets super hot!

Once it's nicely charred, remove it from the heat and set it in a bowl. I know it looks nasty, but the more char, the better - it will make the skin easier to remove and bring more flavor to the pepper. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and let the pepper sit for about 20 minutes, allowing the steam to help loosen the skin.

Then gently peel the skin off - it should pull away pretty easily, but you can always run it under water to help clean off any extra bits.

While the pepper is cooling, you can get started on the rest of the sauce. In about three tablespoons of olive oil, saute the onions, tomatoes, garlic, and jalapenos, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes start to split and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.

Once the bell pepper is cool, remove the seeds and spines and cut it into pieces - they don't have to be small pieces, you're just making it a little easier to blend the sauce. Pour the tomato/onion mixture into a blender and add the bell pepper. Blend until smooth, and while blending, slowly pour in two tablespoons of olive oil. This helps thicken the sauce, kind of like an emulsification.

Once the sauce is nice and smooth, pour it into an airtight container or jar, let it cool, and it's ready to go!

Now...onto the enchiladas! I hope you're still with me, I know this is a longer recipe but I promise it's worth it.

As a side note, aren't mushrooms weird?! I used to dislike them because hello, you're eating a fungus? Gross! But then I realized they taste delicious so I just try to get over the whole fungi thing.

Anyway, saute the mushrooms and zucchini (with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper) until they're just al dente - if you cook them too much then they'll turn into mush when they're baked in the enchiladas.

Set the vegetables aside, and now it's time to roll up the enchiladas! Spread a few big spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 glass pan. You can roll the enchiladas any way you want, but I happen to think my method maximizes the amount of sauce in and on the enchilada.

Lay a tortilla in the pan, fill it with a few heaping spoonfuls of veggies and top with cheese, then roll it up! See how the sauce covers the tortilla? Ohh yeahh.

Roll them all up, spoon the remainder of the sauce over the top, then cover the whole pan with a generous helping of cheese. Bake at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes or until bubbly and crisp.'s Poppy in the midst of her seventh nap of the day. It's a hard life being a cat, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Goat Cheese, Peach, and Prosciutto Tartines

Well, I spent a lot of time trying to think of a different, fancier sounding name for an open faced sandwich. While doing some intensive research on the topic, I found this gem on Wikipedia:

"In the court case in the United States of Panera Bread Co. v. Qdoba Mexican Grill, the judge ruled that a true sandwich (from a legal perspective) must include at least two slices of bread." Ah yes, the infamous case of Panera Bread Co. v. Qdoba Mexican Grill. Thank you, Wikipedia, for clarifying the true legal meaning of a sandwich.

Well, whatever you call it - sandwich, open face sandwich, bread baser, Ulrich Sandwich, or tartine, this recipe is a keeper. I came up with it mostly because we had some ingredients lingering in the refrigerator that needed to be used up, and I was pretty pleased with how it turned out...warm goat cheese, sweet peaches, and salty, crispy prosciutto. Yum!

Goat Cheese, Peach, and Prosciutto Tartines:
4 slices of bread (I used a sourdough wheat but anything would be good)
2 peaches, not too ripe
About 4 tablespoons of goat cheese
About 6 slices of prosciutto

Of course there's the added bonus that it's very easy to put together. Just spread the goat cheese on the bread and slice the peaches thinly.

Arrange the peach slices in a single layer on top of the goat cheese.

Pull apart the prosciutto into strips and lay it on top of the peaches, then toast the whole thing in a toaster oven for about three minutes or until crispy. You could also toast it in the oven at 350 degrees for about five minutes. After toasting, I sprinkled some basil on picture of that though, I was too busy eating!

Enjoy! It's going to be messy so have napkins handy! You could definitely switch out the peaches for apples or pears depending on the season.

And speaking of pears, here's my little pear shaped kitty. She's got curves for sure.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Sip: Velo Vino in St. Helena

Gabe and I made a quick trip up to St. Helena this weekend to visit his mom and stepdad who are in the process of moving to the area. Naturally, we incorporated a little wining and dining into our trip!

First, a stop at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville on the way up. It was completely packed and as soon as we got inside we were overwhelmed by the variety of delicious looking pastries! We ended up getting a chocolate cherry scone, chocolate chip cookie, red velvet cupcake (with a cute little fondant French flag on top), and an "Oh Oh," their grown-up, intense version of a Ho-Ho. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures because we devoured them too fast (shared with Gabe's parents too). 

Later in the afternoon, we stopped at Velo Vino, the tasting room for Clif Family Winery. Owned by the same people as Clif Bar, this tasting room is a really beautiful, relaxed space. Since it was 97 degrees outside, we opted to sit at the bar but there was a big patio outside, perfect for cooler days. 

We sampled five different wines, each paired with a different mix of nuts, like Cabernet with rosemary-roasted almonds and pistachios. Definitely a unique pairing but it worked very well!

The tasting room staff were so friendly, the wine was delicious, and the Giants game was on. All in all, a great place to visit! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Corn Fritters with Tomato-Basil Salad

I hope you all had a great Fourth of July! We took the long way over to Point Reyes and it was so nice to just meander along the back roads of Marin County, along Tomales Bay, and over to the coast. 

Then we continued on to Lagunitas Brewery and Taproom in Petaluma for some beer and snacks. The place was packed! It has such a great atmosphere, lots of families and dogs just hanging out enjoying the weather.

Then it was back home to Berkeley, where we were able to watch a fireworks show courtesy of our neighbors from the comfort of our couch.

This week's recipe is a great summer side dish for all kinds of grilled entrees. Sadly we don't quite have the outdoor space for grilling, but last weekend we cooked ribs in the oven and it was a huge success! These sweet, crispy, slightly spicy corn fritters with tomato-basil salad were perfect alongside the ribs. I'd like to think that by being pan fried in olive oil or butter, they're a bit healthier than more traditional deep-fried fritters. Although there's no reason you couldn't deep fry them if you wanted to!

Corn Fritters with Tomato-Basil Salad (adapted from here)
Makes 4 fritters - serves 4 as a side, or 2 if you're really hungry.

1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika OR chili powder - just something for a little kick!
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 ears of corn, grilled (or steamed) and cut off the cob
1/2 cup green onions, sliced

For the tomato-basil salad:
About 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced down the middle
About 1 cup asparagus, grilled or steamed and cut into pieces (you could use any vegetable here - grilled onions, summer squash, eggplant would all be good)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup basil, chiffonaded or chopped

First, grill or steam two ears of corn - if you're grilling, as I did, about 15-20 minutes over medium heat, flipping occasionally, should do it. Let the corn cool, then cut it off the cob.

In a medium bowl, combine cherry tomatoes, asparagus or other vegetable, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Let this salad sit while you prepare the corn fritters.

For the fritters, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika/chili powder. Then add in the milk, egg, corn, and green onions, and stir until just combined. 

Heat a few tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Drop in a few heaping spoonfuls of batter (probably two to three big spoonfuls per fritter). Cook each one just like you would a pancake - flip the fritter once the underside starts to brown, and continue frying until both sides are evenly cooked.

Top the fritters with the tomato mixture, and sprinkle the basil on top.

Eat them quickly before they get cold!

Here's Poppy, showing off how smart she is...just kidding. Poor kitty almost got her face stuck in that glass this morning. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday Sip: Make Westing

We had some great friends visiting this weekend (you know who you are!) and decided to spend a few hours at Make Westing, a bar in Uptown Oakland, for some excellent drinks and bocce ball. Yep, they have bocce ball courts IN the bar! Being of Italian descent, I like to think I have some bocce skills in my blood. If you're not familiar with the game, here is a quick summary. I suppose it's normally played on outdoor courts in the Italian countryside, but it works surprisingly well in a bar setting. Anyway, we paired up in a men vs. women match and I am proud to say the women kicked butt, winning 11-6. 

Photo by Sarah Pendersen via

I'll stop bragging now and get down to the details. This bar is super hip but casual, with a really rustic, warehouse-y interior. Their happy hour is a darn good deal - from 4-6 pm all mixed drinks are $6, beers are $3. And the bartenders know their stuff! My absolute favorite drink is the Garden Gimlet, made with cucumber, gin, basil, and lime - so frothy and refreshing! Another winner is the mojito, which is topped off with prosecco and served in a tall glass. Gabe had the Carolac, a really interesting drink made with rye, absinthe, Averna, and orange bitters. 

So get there early and grab a bocce court, get a drink and some spicy popcorn, and have fun!

Our drinks - excuse the grainy iPhone photo