port-y nibbles

We were invited to a port party last weekend. Kind of like a wine party without the wine. Each person had to bring a bottle of a specific kind of port (we brought the Tawny port) and something to go with it. I wasn't sure what to make so I called up my sister who is an excellent cook She makes a delicious endive appetizer that always ends up being a hit at parties. Endive, glazed pecans, gorgonzola cheese....how could I go wrong? I wanted to bring a second appetizer and came across some fig spread at the market. I thought it'd be good with goat cheese so I picked those two things up too to make little toasts. Below are pictures and the quick recipes that went over really well at the port-y.

Endive Appetizer

2-3 endives, leaves separated, washed and dried
gorgonzola cheese, crumbled or creamy--it is your preference
glazed pecans, chopped and whole
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1. wash endives and set out on plate

2. mix cheese and pecans (some chopped and some whole) in a 1:2 ratio so the mixture is heavy on the nuts

3. scoop mixture into each leaf

4. mix olive oil, vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper and drizzle over endives.

Goat Cheese, Fig, Sage Crostini

1 baguette french bread
Goat cheese, plain (not flavored)
fig spread
sage  leaves, washed and dried
olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 400 °F

2. Slice baguette diagonally into thin, even pieces

3. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush one side with olive oil and bake for 10-20 minutes, or until toasted and golden.

4.  heat olive oil in pan, when glistening, add sage until no more bubbles appear and drain on towel lined plate.

5. When toasts are done, spread a thin layer of cheese on each toast, to with a small amount of fig spread and crumple the sage leaves on top. 

6. Lay remaining whole fried sage leaves on plate as garnish.

a carrot you will like

Sunday's farmers' market was in full bloom. Too bad I didn't take my camera with me to capture the explosion of colorful food that lined the tables---I was too busy buying food and filling up my grocery bags with the gifts of the season. The carrots were bright orange and huge. I don't think I've ever seen carrots that big at the market before, they must have loved all the rain we got this year! Although I do love carrots, I don't really love them raw. I do, however LOVE them in soup. I took Alice Water's recipe from The Art of Simple Food but replaced most of the butter with olive oil. It turned out delicious and is even better a couple of days after you make it. You could dress it up by adding a dash of cream, thyme, parsley, green onions, or some rosemary. It is great as I made it below. We had it with a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich which I have to say is one of the best ways to eat a portobello mushroom. It is simple, filling, and amazingly flavorful. I hope you have a chance to try one (or both) of these recipes. Enjoy!

Carrot Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
approximately 6-8 Cups sliced carrots
2 Cups chicken stock
water to cover carrots
salt and pepper to taste
dash of heavy cream


1. heat olive oil and butter in pan, add onions and saute until translucent over low heat

2. Add carrots and saute for 15 minutes (or longer if you have more time)

3. Add stock and water, enough to submerge carrots.

4. Using an immersion blender (if you don't have one, use a food processor or blender, just be careful not to burn yourself!) puree the soup mixture.

5. cook for another 15 minutes and up to about 45 minutes...this soup is not a science, the longer the flavors mingle the better it will taste.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste

7. Once served in a bowl, pour a dash of cream into the center, using a fork or knife make a swirling motion and the cream should create a design---you can just add the cream and forget about swirling if you want to.

8. Enjoy hot, cold, and save some for leftovers because it is even better a couple of days later!

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich
2 servings

1-2 Portobello mushrooms
mayonaise (I personally love Vegenaise)
4 slices sourdough levain (we get ours from Bread and Cie, you can use regular sourdough too)
mild cheese (optional)


1. Heat grill, once hot grill mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes per side depending upon heat of your grill.

2. spread a very light layer of Mayo on one slice of bread, cover with sliced grilled Portobello mushroom, cheese, and then cover with the other piece of bread.

3. Grill sandwich using a panini press, a George Foreman grill, or you can use a non stick skillet. Once cheese is melted and bread is toasted it is ready to serve.

4. Cut sandwich in half and serve warm.


Kitchen Tools

According to Cooks Illustrated Magazine, every kitchen needs a few key tools. One of the tools they recommend is a 10" non-stick fry-pan. They rate certain brands based upon performance, wear, and of course cooking ability. I have never owned a non-stick pan and consider myself absolutely clueless when it comes to choosing one, so I took Cook's recommendation and set out to purchase my very first non-stick pan to complete my set.

One of the most surprising recommendations they made was that I should purchase the cheapest (yet effective) pan I can find because non-stick pans get beat up and have to be replaced relatively frequently. The pan recommended by Cooks was not available anywhere, so I went ahead and bought one that was comprable to it, the Belgique Hard Anodized Fry Pan, 10".  So far I've used it to make frittatas and Spanish Tortillas which have turned out perfect! I can't believe how much better they turn out now and how much easier they are to separate from the bottom of the pan so they look nice when plated. So, if you don't have a non-stick pan yet, you should go get one. Your life (cooking life, that is) will be much easier. Just remember, don't use metal utensils on a non-stick pan, use wood or if you have to, plastic.

I'll be back later this week (hopefully) with a few new recipes. Until then...


miso-glazed sea bass and sesame-citrus massaged kale salad

San Francisco has some of the best dim sum around. On one of our trips, my mother took us to her favorite dim sum restaurant, not your usual sort of dim sum joint. This one was quite the experience, a tad on the fancy side, but serving up succulent dishes. Hands down, the best dish we had was the giant puck of miso-glazed Sea Bass. From that day on, we just had to know how to make it! After some research, I found a recipe for the miso-glaze on Epicurious.com, I included the link below. Along the way, we also discovered Patagonian Toothfish, better known as Chilean Sea Bass. It has the consistency of rich butter, it literally melts in your mouth. It was the perfect fish to glaze. This fish is endangered, so please find MSC certified fish--it is supposed to be a well-managed fishery. You could probably substitute another mild fish, but I promise you won't get the same effect as you will with the Patagonian Toothfish. We usually enjoy our fish with some steamed Japanese rice (Koshihikari), but since we didn't have any, we had whole-wheat couscous. On the side we had a citrus-sesame massaged kale salad--fresh kale from the garden...we aren't the only ones who love kale! You will see what I mean in the photo below. It took me a long time to inspect each and every leaf for tiny green crawly guys. But in the end, I got them all off, thank goodness. Here's a picture of the darned little critter: can you see him?

Miso-glazed Sea Bass
4 servings
Inspired from this recipe

1/3 Cup Sake
1/3 Cup yellow miso paste (we use different kinds, depending upon what we have on hand, so I know that red paste works well too)
1/3 Cup Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine)
3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1-1.5 lbs Fish, cut into individual serving sizes

1. Mix first 5 ingredients together, add fish and allow to marinate for 20 minutes to 4 or 5 hours maximum. I prefer to let it marinate for no more than 1 hour.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 °F, place fish in glass baking dish, discard excess marinade.

3. Bake fish covered for approximately 15-20 minutes or an instant read thermometer reads 130-135 °F. Whatever, you do, don't overcook it!

4. Turn broiler on, broil fish for about 5 minutes, or until the top of the fish is slightly caramelized. Watch closely, oven times vary and you don't want to burn your fish!

5. By this time, the instant read thermometer should say about 140-145 °F. Enjoy!

The fish was baked on end, here they fell on their side, so you can only see the edge of the caramelized side of the fish...

Sesame-Citrus Massaged Kale Salad
Servings 4

4 cups Lacinto kale, chopped or as I measured it: 4 fist-fulls kale, chopped
2 small Valencia oranges
1 clove garlic, minced (or pressed)
1/4 small red onion, sliced paper thin
2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1-1.5 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (if you don't have toasted ones, just throw them on a warm skillet and toast until aromatic, keep stirring so they don't burn)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash kale, dry well, and chop. *Use a very sharp knife so you don't bruise the kale

2. Massage kale with Olive oil--use your hands and rub the kale, don't skip this step as it is what makes the kale more pliable.

3. Squeeze juice of 1/2 an orange, set juice aside.

3. Peel and cut (into chunks) remaining 1.5 oranges, add to Kale.

4. Thinly slice onion, add to salad.

5. mix salt, pepper, and garlic into orange juice. Toss into salad when you are ready to eat.

6. At the last minute, toss the salad with the sesame seeds, they will get soggy if you toss them in and let the salad sit, so be sure this is the last thing you do!

Lacinto Kale: there are differnt kinds of kale, so be sure you get Lacinto...it works really well for salads

And here you have it, dinner (you can see the caramelized side of the fish from this angle):



Tacos are very versatile. You can throw almost anything into a fresh, warm, corn tortilla and it will melt in your mouth. Here's a great recipe we learned while living in Rhode Island, where we couldn't find any Mexican Restaurants that lived up to our California favorites. I admit, we get spoiled by the food here. This recipe is relatively simple and quick once you get used to peeling the peppers. Watch out, because each bite can pack a spicy punch! Choose your peppers wisely!

2-3 servings

6 Poblano Chile Peppers (you can use Pasilla chiles instead if you like)
1/2 white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
vegetable oil to sautee the onion
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
salt to taste


1. Drizzle oil in pan, turn heat on medium.

2. Slice onions and add to the pan.

3. Peel garlic, slice, and add to pan. *Note: if you smash the garlic clove it will peel easily, I use the flat side of my knife.

4. Roast peppers over fire (we use the bbq, but you can do it on the stove)

5. Peel, seed, and slice the peppers into strips. Rancho Gordo has nice step by step instructions here

6. Add sliced peppers to onion and garlic, add stock and let cook down. We use our immersion blender to make this into a paste, but you can eat them as they are meant to be eaten--in strips.

7. Add salt and cream if you want and serve with fresh corn tortillas.

If you have never made fresh tortillas, I highly encourage you to start. The flavor is beyond anything you'll find out of a package at the store. They are simple, you just need a tortilla press, the masa (tortilla flour), water, and a hot pan.

Tortilla flour is available at most supermarkets, just be sure the one you buy contains the mineral lime. Mix according to the package. I use wax paper on my cast iron tortilla press, once the dough is flat, scoop it up and put it in the hot pan, cook each side for approximately 30-60 seconds. Keep the tortillas in a cloth so that they steam each other and get their flexible consistency.