gardens are cool

Here are a few pictures of our garden and its goods. We have some baby tomatoes that are flowering, small corn plants, lettuce, brussel sprouts, bitter mellon, beets, arugula, some herbs, and artichokes. I think the artichokes are the star of the show here, one of the plant's bull choke is huge, lovely, and I presume delicious. I can't wait to eat it tomorrow.


don't cry for me...French Onion Soup

This dish is sure to bring tears to your eyes...when you cut the onions, you'll cry yourself silly, unless you've developed swift slicing skills. I slice relatively swiftly, but not fast enough to spare myself the spectacle of sobbing in the kitchen over a cutting-board full of onions. This French Onion Soup is simple to make, requires only a few ingredients, and tastes as though you spent hours slaving over the stove. It is simple, flavorful, and highlights the flavor of the onions.

French Onion Soup
4 Servings

4 large yellow onions, sliced
olive oil--to caramelize onions (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)
1 cup homemade chicken stock
water--to make the soup as brothy or as oniony as you like it
salt and pepper to taste
Jarlesberg cheese, grated (enough to top each toast)
1 slice toasted (per bowl of soup) Sourdough bread (or French crusty bread)

1. heat olive oil in pot and slice onions.

2. add onions to pot and slowly cook until transluscent

3. Add chicken stock and water, cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle

4. salt and pepper to taste

5. Turn broiler on, grate cheese and toast bread.

6. ladle soup into oven-safe bowls, place one slice of bread on top of the soup, cover with cheese and broil until golden, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch  your soup so it doesn't burn!


Pan-Seared Halibut with Lemon Beurre Blanc, Rosemary Potatoes, and Creamed Broccoli

Tonight was a hit, at least my hubby and I think so. I'm not much of a sauce kind of person. You are right, I am not a BBQ sauce girl, never have been. And I don't fancy ketchup either. In general, whatever you smother with sauce tends to be overpowered by the saucy-ness of the dish. That is, I don't like sauces unless the sauce highlights the flavors of the dish by marrying them together in a mouthful of goodness. That's what happened this evening when I drizzled the Lemon Beurre Blanc over the golden pan-fried Halibut. It was a match made in heaven. But I can't forget about the rosemary potatoes that were creamy and rich on the inside and lightly crispy and golden on the outside. Nor can the creamed broccoli go without mention, all three things were perfectly balanced with each other and made a satisfying meal--physically and psychologically. 

Lemon Beurre Blanc
about 1/2 cup serving (you only need about 1-2 tablespoons per person as the sauce is very rich)

1 tablespoon minced shallots (be sure to use shallots, if you use onions they have a much sharper flavor)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 oz (half stick) butter, cut into pieces (use a good flavorful butter, the sauce will reflect the quality of the butter)
salt to taste
white pepper to taste 

1. In a non-aluminum saucepan, combine shallots with the wine. Reduce until slightly syrupy. 

2.Add the lemon juice or vinegar and reduce. 

3. Remove from heat and add butter slowly, piece by piece, stirring with a whisk to blend. Slowly add all the pieces of butter until well combined. If you need to return the sauce to the heat to incorporate all the butter, do it over very low heat, or the sauce will break.

4. Strain the sauce (optional) through a fine mesh strainer and serve immediately, or hold in a double boiler over barely simmering water, or in a Thermos.

Pan-Seared Halibut
2 Servings

1/2 lb fresh Hallibut (MSC certified is preferable) 
flour and cornstarch (half of each) to coat fish
salt and pepper
Canola oil 

1. coat the bottom of a pan with canola oil, turn heat to medium high.

2. mix flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper on a flat surface.

3. coat fish in dry mixture

4. when oil is glistening, add fish to pan skin-side down. 
5. turn fillet over when bottom is golden

6. using an instant read thermometer, check the temperature of the fillet. FDA recommends 140 °F, but it gets dry at that point. I turned the heat off when my fillet reached 132 °F. 

Rosemary Potatoes 
2 Servings
1-2 tablespoons loosely packed fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring a pot of water (enough to just cover the potatoes) to a rolling boil. When boiling, add cleaned potatoes (keep the skin on) and cook until pierced with a knife.Drain potatoes and set aside.

2. Add olive oil to pan, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes. 

3. Add potatoes to pan and cook (don't over stir, or they will fall apart) until slightly crispy on the outside. 

Creamed Broccoli
2-4 Servings

1 head brocolli, washed and cut into pieces
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
olive oil for caramelizing onions and garlic

1. steam broccoli until bright green and tender

2. Drizzle olive oil in pan and add onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent. 

3. Chop steamed broccoli and add to onion and garlic mixture. 

4. Add cream, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

5. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth but still slightly chunky. 

Voila! There's your meal:

For dessert...strawberries! They are in season and they are delicious. Sometimes, I'll dip them in a little bit of local honey. Yum! I hope you enjoy this meal or parts of it, it was fun to make and even better to eat. 


Quinoa = Keen-waa

I promised asparagus dishes right? Well, here's another one made with one of my favorite ingredients: quinoa. Quinoa is a South American "grain" or seed that is a complete protein; therefore, it is a great choice for vegetarian dishes. This dish is very nutty and earthy so the lemon adds brightness and the feta cheese adds a salty tang. It was very simple to prepare and didn't take much time at all. 

As you can see from the pictures we always have a salad with our meals. This time I added avocado, red onion, and pepitas. I buy raw pepitas and then toast them in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, until they start "popping." For the dressing, as usual calculate about 3:1 oil to vinegar. I used a sweet red wine vinegar (Sotarini brand), salt, pepper, and about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Mix it up and you've got yourself fresh dressing.

Lemon Quinoa With Asparagus And Feta 

2-4 Servings  

Recipe inspired from cookthink

2 cups quinoa (mix regular and red quinoa to add color)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used 4 small bunches)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 ounces feta, crumbled (if you can get sheep's milk feta, I buy it at Whole Foods and find it to be less salty and more creamy than the usual feta)
Juice of 1-2 lemons, depending how lemony you want it

1. Toast Quinoa in heavy pan until fragrant. 
2. Bring 4 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in medium saucepan. When the water boils, add the quinoa and stir. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all the water, 15-20 minutes. Set aside covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it's hot and shimmering, stir in the shallot. Cook, stirring often, until the shallot is light brown, 5-7 minutes.

4. Add the asparagus and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the asparagus is tender but still bright green, 8-10 minutes. (Add a tablespoon or so of water halfway through cooking to steam the asparagus a little).

5. When the asparagus is done, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the quinoa, then the crumbled feta, lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Tainted Beef

Other countries won't even import factory-farmed beef from the US. Be informed! Eat organic grass-fed beef. 

Check out this article in the USA Today:



Asparagus Frittata

Asparagus is one of those vegetables I can eat over and over without ever feeling sick of it. In season, it has a rich flavor with a spicy undertone. That's why during asparagus season I stuff myself silly with the elegant green spears and hope for a prompt return the following season.
One of my favorite ways to eat asparagus is to steam or grill the spears until bright green and still slightly crisp, then dip them in mayo. Yum. Another one of my favorite dishes with asparagus is a pasta dish my husband learned from his Italian roommates in college, I will cook that later this week and post a recipe. It is an asparagus-saffron pasta, everyone I know who we've made it for has loved it.
Asparagus is very versatile. Eat it alone or accompanied by other dishes, throw it in a soup, over rice, or into eggs. Tonight, I chose eggs. Below is an easy asparagus frittata recipe which we ate with a simple salad of lettuce and avocado with a light lemon vinaigrette.

Asparagus Frittata
2 Servings

1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion, sliced
1 large bunch asparagus, washed, trimmed, and chopped
4 eggs
.5 cup diced Fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste (about .5 teaspoon each)

Melt butter in heavy broiler-proof 10-12-inch skillet (doesn't have to be nonstick, but if you have one, use it) over medium heat. Add onions and sauté about 5 minutes. Add asparagus, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until tender, about 7 minutes depending on the size of your asparagus. Whisk eggs and half of all the cheese. Add egg mixture to skillet mixing gently to combine. Cook until almost set--the top still looks raw. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the frittata and broil until puffed and cheese turns golden, about 2 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

Lemon Vinaigrette
makes about a half cup

1 teaspoon lemon zest
2.5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to container and mix. Add olive oil and zest and whisk together. Taste to adjust flavors. I love very lemony dressing, so sometimes I'll add extra juice or zest. For a twist, add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

beans, beans, the magical fruit...

It isn't because Steve is my cousin, it is because he is passionate about beans and because his beans are the best. If you think you don't like beans, you might surprise yourself if you buy ones that are heirloom and haven't been dried for too long. Rancho Gordo sells a wide variety of flavorfull and beautiful beans that when cooked simply, are the stars of the show. Personally, I'll throw some onion into a pot (or slow-cooker), beans, and water. Let it cook all afternoon and then I have beans to add to dishes I make throughout the week.Feast your eyes on these beauties:


first food entry!

Tonight was a fishy kind of night. We found some beautiful MSC certified Salmon at Whole Foods this morning and figured we'd cook it over our charcoal grill. We also made our usual Sunday run to the Hillcrest Farmers' Market where we bought a bounty of delicious vegetables, amongst them were some fresh potatoes that would go nicely with the fish. In the afternoon, we worked on our garden, planted some corn, weeded, and picked the last of the spinach which would be a perfect addition to dinner. Our meal was perfectly rounded now: Salmon, potatoes, and spinach.

When I cook, I try to highlight the flavors of whatever it is that I'm cooking, not overpower them with spices. For the Salmon, which I delegated to Matt (my husband), he rubbed it in a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. When the charcoal grill was ready, on went the salmon. Cook time will vary depending upon your grill, the thickness, and size of the fillet. We use an instant read thermometer to determine whether the fish is done. It is a great way to make perfect meat every time, if you pay attention, you'll never have overcooked meat or fish again!

The potatoes were so fresh they cooked very fast, had a rich texture, and full flavor. Here's the recipe:

Rosemary Potatoes
2 Servings

1.5 cups cubed potatoes
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
.5-1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Mix potatoes, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a baking dish. I use my hands to mix everything together, they are the best utensils in the kitchen. Bake covered for 10-15 minutes, stir potatoes around and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until easily poked with a knife. Lastly, put the potatoes under the broiler and cook for 5-10 minutes or until just golden on top. Keep a close eye on your potatoes so they don't burn in the broiler!

"Creamed" Spinach
2 Servings

Approximately 6 cups fresh spinach (I filled a plastic bag when I picked it in the garden)
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly and evenly
1 pinch fresh nutmeg (use a microplane to grind the fresh nutmeg)
1 pinch fresh lemon zest
4 tablespoons homemade chicken stock (if you don't have homemade, use whatever you have)
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Turn heat to low, drizzle olive oil. Chop onions and add to pan, stir and caramelize over low heat. Add Spinach and cover, stirring occasionally. When spinach is wilted, add chicken stock, cream, nutmet, salt, and pepper. Using an immersion blender (if you don't have one, use your blender or food processor) and puree spinach mixture. Once pureed, add lemon zest.

For the final version of dinner, here are all three elements together on the plate:

Strawberries are in season and they are full of flavor. For a light dessert, slice them up and drizzle them with a bit of cream. We drank some Rooibos tea with the berries. If you have never had rooibos, I highly recommend EcoTeas Organic Fair Trade Rooibos - Loose Tea, it has a great flavor, subtle and smooth. It is also caffeine-free.