Tag Archives: TasteFood

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Rosemary

Certain food combinations are not meant to be messed with – and this is a classic example: Plump seductive figs, salty supple prosciutto, and fresh creamy goat cheese are a holy triumvirate. Teamed up with rosemary (does that make it a quadrumvirate?) and roasted in the oven until crispy, bubbling, and luscious, you have a sensational appetizer – period; forget the Latin lesson.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese (and Rosemary)

The rosemary sprigs do double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the cheese and figs with woodsy aroma while they bake in the oven. The trick is to discard the roasted sprigs and replace them with fresh leaves as a decorative garnish for serving.

Makes 16

8 ripe figs
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
16 (3/4-inch) rosemary sprigs with stem
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary leaves
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut each fig in half lengthwise and place on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix the goat cheese and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Fill the indentation with goat cheese. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around the fig, like a belt. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves.

Place the figs in a baking dish and lightly brush the prosciutto strips with olive oil. Bake in the oven until the prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and transfer the figs to a platter. Gently remove and discard the baked rosemary sprigs; fill the incision with a few fresh rosemary leaves. Lightly drizzle the figs with honey and garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

In Praise of Lentils and a recipe for Soup

Lentil Soup tastefood

Why do I overlook lentils? These humble legumes resembling tiny pancaked pebbles are often bypassed in my pantry, as I reach for rice, farro, couscous. When I finally do cook with lentils, I remember how good they taste, how satisfying they are to eat, and how easy they are to prepare. Imminently flexible, they can stand in for a grain, starch, even a protein. They are healthy too – rich in nutrients, high in protein, iron, and fiber, arguably placing them neck and neck with other lauded superstar foods in the nutrition department. They cook quickly and without any fuss, gamely absorbing the flavors and seasoning from their fellow ingredients and braising liquids, adding a hearty, earthy, and rich base to soups, stews, side dishes, even salads. Really, I must eat more lentils – and you should too.

Lentil Soups tastefood

Lentil Soup

This soup is simple, to the point, and deservedly all about the lentil.

Serves 4.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and sorted through
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Madeira or Port wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and sauté until the carrots begin to soften and brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, lentils, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (The soup should be somewhat thick. If desired, thin the soup to your preferred consistency by adding additional chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time.) Stir in the sugar, wine, vinegar, salt, and pepper and taste for seasoning. Simmer the soup, partially covered, over low heat to thoroughly heat through and meld the flavors, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with the parsley.  Serve hot.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Tomato Pasta Plate x

Are you looking for an easy and healthy weeknight meal? Here is a light and fresh pasta dinner that is guaranteed to please everyone. I make this recipe when I have gads of cherry tomatoes on hand. Slow roasting coaxes out their natural juices and sugars and intensifies the tomato flavor. Fresh arugula is tossed into the mix, slightly wilting from the heat of the cooked pasta. The final touch is a shower of toasted olive oil breadcrumbs, which adds comfort and a rich crunchy texture to the dish.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

Roasted Tomatoes:
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs

Olive Oil Breadcrumbs:
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs (or panko)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 pound gemelli or fusilli pasta
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the tomatoes:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and any pan juices to a large serving bowl.

Toast the breadcrumbs:
Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet. Add the oil and stir to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (They will brown quickly so watch them carefully.) Remove and immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to prevent further cooking. Cool 5 minutes, then stir in the cheese.

Make the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Add the pasta to the tomatoes. Add the arugula, cheese, and oil. Toss to combine and slightly wilt the arugula. Add half of the breadcrumbs and stir once or twice to blend. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Back to School Basics: Easy Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Everyone needs a good granola recipe up their sleeve. Homemade granola is a healthy pantry staple, great for quick breakfasts and wholesome snacks. It’s also very easy to make, requiring only 30 minutes. I follow a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have on hand.  Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Granola:

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

This recipe also appears in my Food and Drink column at Marin Magazine.

Upside Down Baking: Raspberry, Fig and Almond Cake

Fig Raspberry Cake TasteFood

Upside-down baking is  irresistable to me, whether it’s in the form of a tarte tatin or a cake. The common denominator is a gorgeous, gooey caramelized bottom, which, once inverted, becomes the top. Nestled in the sticky caramelized goodness are hunks of seasonal fruit, which release their juice and perfume the pastry, while studding the topping like jewels in a crown.

The other winning quality of upside-down desserts is that they are generously flexible with the seasons. In the fall, pears and apples are the fruit of choice. In the summer, stone fruit, figs and berries display their wonders. Mix and match to your taste. It’s impossible to go wrong.

Rasberry, Fig, and Almond Upside-Down Cake
Serves 10 to 12

1/2 cup plus 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
8 large figs, halved lengthwise
3 ounces raspberries
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Tightly wrap the bottom of the pan with foil.
2. Melt the 1/2 cup butter and the light brown sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, whisking to combine. Pour into the springform pan. Arrange the figs, cut side down in a circular pattern in the sugar. Fill in the gaps with the raspberries.
2. Beat the 1 cup butter and the granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the buttermilk, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond extract. Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the batter, mixing just to combine. Pour the batter over the fruit and smooth with a spatula. Bake in the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes then invert onto a plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Yogurt, Pistachios, and Mint

pomegranate chicken skewer tastefood
The secret ingredient in this recipe is pomegranate molasses, a viscous syrup made from the juice of pomegranates. Sweet, tart and sticky, it adds a unique flavor to marinades and sauces. I like to use it with chicken breast meat, because it gives a welcome flavor boost to the mild white meat, and the sugars help to caramelize the chicken while grilling. Pomegranate molasses is a popular Middle Eastern condiment, and can be purchased in the international section of your supermarket or at specialty stores.

I made these skewers for a cocktail party I catered a few weeks ago and posted a photo without a recipe on Facebook and Instagram. They were a huge hit with the guests – and my followers – and a number of you asked for the recipe. At last here it is.

Pomegranate Chicken Skewers with Pistachios and Mint
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked for 30 minutes
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon chopped mint

1 cup whole milk Greek style yogurt
1 garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside about 1/4 cup for basting. Place the chicken in a large bowl, pour the marinade over, and stir to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Whisk the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.
3. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Thread the chicken on the skewers. Grill the skewers over direct heat, basting once, then turn and continue to cook until the chicken is lightly charred and thoroughly cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning again as needed.
4. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle the 1/4 cup pistachios and 1/4 cup mint over the skewers. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon pistachios and 1 teaspoon mint over the dipping sauce. Serve with the chicken.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini

crostini peppers

Late summer reaps brimming bushels of peppers in a kaleidoscope of color and shapes. I shop with my eyes, because the first thing I do when I get home is pile my peppers into a bowl where they do double-duty as a decorative centerpiece. Gnarly basques, pristine cherries, sturdy pimentos, and pert jalapeños vie for my attention, and I slowly pick away at my psychedelic pile of peppers as I cook throughout the week, adding them to salads, stews, pasta, and pizzas.

This simple recipe showcases a colorful assortment peppers on crostini and makes a great starter to a meal. I like to use a mix of sweet and hot for more complex flavor. When using hot peppers, such as poblanos, serranos, and jalapeños, remember that they can vary in heat, so take a small bite to test their strength. The heat is concentrated in the ribs and seeds of the pepper, so remove as much as desired with kitchen gloves or the tip of a paring knife to protect your fingers from the oils.

Hot and Sweet Pepper Crostini with Mozzarella

Choose a variety of peppers to your taste – for this recipe I used poblanos, hungarian pimentos, and gypsy peppers. Makes 12 large crostini.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
12 slices baguette, cut on the diagonal, ½-inch thick

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound sweet summer peppers, stemmed and seeded, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
¼ cup basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Make the crostini:
Heat the oven to 375°F. Whisk the oil, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and lightly brush with the oil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the bread is lightly toasted, 12 to 15 minutes.

Saute the peppers:
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers and saute until crisp tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper and saute 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Arrange a slice of mozzarella over each crostini. Top with some of the peppers. Broil in the oven until the cheese begins to melt, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and  garnish with fresh basil.  Serve immediately.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onion, and Pecorino

squash blossom pizza

The title of this recipe might make this pizza sound pretty fancy, but it really isn’t. Squash blossoms are everywhere at the farmers market at this time of year. I’ve been eyeing them, contemplating ways to incorporate the floppy, sunny flowers into a meal. I’ve had blossoms fried and stuffed, but to be honest, I find them oily and heavy (at least the ones I’ve tried).  So I decided to layer them into a “white” pizza (with no red sauce) and see what happened. The results were resoundingly good and a unanimous hit at the dinner table. The flowers added a subtle, nutty flavor to the crisp and cheesy pizza, rounded out by the sweet Italian peppers, onions, and a kick of heat from crushed red chili flakes. It’s very clear the squash blossoms may be delicate, but they are no shrinking wall flower.

Squash Blossom Pizza with Sweet Peppers, Onions and Pecorino

Make your own dough (recipe here), or purchase prepared dough. For quick dinners I often purchase good quality dough ready to form from my supermarket. For family meals I stretch one package into a large rectangle, but feel free to shape it into 2 smaller pizzas. Makes one (10 x 15-inch) pizza.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 prepared pizza dough, about 1 pound
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 small yellow onion, thinly sliced, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet peppers (I used 2 “Jimmy Nardello” peppers)
8 squash blossoms, quartered lengthwise
1 (8 ounce) fresh mozzarella ball, patted dry and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the grill for indirect cooking over high heat (about 500°F for a gas grill) and preheat a pizza stone for at least 15 minutes. (Or preheat the oven to 500°F. Place a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack and preheat for at least 15 minutes).
2. Whisk the oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
3. Stretch the dough out as thinly as possible and lay on pizza peel (or rimless baking sheet lined with parchment). Lightly brush with the oil. Sprinkle half of the Pecorino over the pizza. Top with the onions and peppers. Arrange the squash blossoms over the vegetables, then place the mozzarella around the squash. Sprinkle the oregano, chili flakes and pepper over the pizza and lightly season with salt. Top with the remaining Pecorino.
4. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone. Close the grill lid and grill until the pizza is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and brush the crust with some of the oil. Drizzle any remaining oil over the pizza. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately.

BLT Salad with Avocado and Grilled Croutons

BLT salad view

Bacon-ends: contemplate that. I spied a bag of bacon ends at the farmers market and had to examine. The bag was hefty, lumpy, and thick with triangular hunks of bacon mounded in vacuum packed togetherness. Bacon indeed, but not the typical neatly fanned skinny slices. You see, when those tidy OCD sliced packages are created, all irregular knobs and ends are discarded in order to produce supermarket packaged perfection. I am here to tell you that you want those ends. They are veritable chunks of heaven for bacon lovers, evoking food craving delirium. Of course I bought them.

BLT saladBLT Salad with Bacon Ends, Avocado and Croutons
Serves 4 as a main course salad

1 1/2 to 2 pounds bacon ends, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups coarsely torn bite-size pieces of levain or ciabbata bread

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large head red leaf lettuce, leaves washed and torn into bite-size pieces
4 small vine ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges
Corn kernels cut from one ear of corn
1 large hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for indirect medium heat (about 400°F for a gas grill). Trim any excess fat from the bacon ends. Cut the ends into 1-inch chunks and arrange  on a grill rack (or grate) set over a grill pan to capture the rendered fat. Grill until the fat is rendered and the ends are crispy golden, about 25 minutes. (You can do this in the oven with a broiler pan, if you like.) Transfer the ends to a plate.
2. Toss the bread in the rendered fat and lightly season with salt. Spread the bread on a grill pan or the grates and grill until golden and crisp, turning as needed. Set aside.
3. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.
4. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to coat. Scatter the bacon and croutons over the salad and drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately.

30 minute Dinners: Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil

broccoli shrimp tastefood

This light and lovely dish is healthy, low maintenance, and delicious. A series of quick cooking steps ensures that each component is perfectly cooked before tossing together to serve. Tender broccolini spears and sweet shrimp are independently sautéed with chili flakes and olive oil just long enough to brighten in color and coax out their natural flavors without overcooking. A simple tomato sauce consisting of plum tomatoes and garlic has a short simmer just long enough to blend while still tasting fresh. Then all of the elements come together in a big serving bowl with a shower of fresh basil leaves which release their aroma in the warmth of the dish. This recipe is a keeper and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. It’s perfect for easy family dinners and simple cooking on a warm summer day.

Spaghetti with Shrimp, Broccolini and Basil
Serves 4

1 pound spaghetti or linguine
Extra-vrigin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 pound broccolini, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails intact
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
1/2 cup whole basil leaves, torn if large
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain  and transfer to a large serving bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the broccolini and sauté until bright in color and crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the broccolini to a plate and lightly season with salt.
3. Add 1 tablespoon oil and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the same skillet.
Add the shrimp and cook over medium-high heat until pink on both sides and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to another plate and lightly season with salt.
4. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar. Simmer over medium-low heat until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes, breaking the tomatoes apart with a spoon.
5. Add the tomato sauce, shrimp, broccolini, and basil to the spaghetti and gently stir to thoroughly combine. Garnish with a generous grind of black pepper and serve immediately.