Tequila-Spiked Cranberry, Apple and Jalapeño Relish

Tequila-Spiked Cranberry, Apple and Jalapeño Relish

This is not your ordinary cranberry sauce. Spiked with tequila and boosted with jalapeño, this relish is bright and spicy, promising a nice kick at the holiday table. Be sure to keep the recipe on hand, post-festivities. Tequila-Spiked Cranberry, Apple and Jalapeño Relish is also a fresh and zesty accompaniment to roast pork and chicken.

Tequila-Spiked Cranberry, Apple and Jalapeño Relish
Makes 2 cups

12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled, cut in 1/4″ dice
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, finely diced
2 tablespoons tequila
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine cranberries, sugar, orange juice, vinegar and mustard seeds in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer, occasionally stirring, until cranberries pop and sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer one minute.  Remove from heat and cool.  Refrigerate, covered,  at least 2 hours or overnight to let flavors develop.

Tomato Confit

Tomato confit a

It’s amazing where you discover the darnedest things: Last week I discovered a recipe for Tomato Confit in the wilderness of a national park. I was on kitchen duty for my daughter’s school outing to a Bay area national seashore. Each autumn the students spend several days immersed in nature, nestled in a camp high in the hills overlooking the Pacific. Kitchen duty is a full-time volunteer position. We rise before dawn and spend the day preparing 4 meals for 80 hungry children and adults. While it’s hard work, it’s great fun in a spectacular setting and rewarding to make the best food possible for all. This year we hired a kitchen manager, Sebastian, an alumni of the school who currently sous-chefs at the acclaimed Napa restaurant Oenotri.  He was easily convinced to trade in his wine country chef whites and come to the beach for a few days to help out his old school.

One night for dinner we prepared an Italian themed menu which included a variety of pasta dishes. Sebastian made a tomato sauce as one of the accompaniments which consisted of heirloom cherry tomatoes, olive oil and salt. It’s was simple and intense. The tomatoes cooked and broke down in a generous amount of oil for an hour or so, resulting in a thickened and rich confit. Delicious with pasta, for sure, yet extremely versatile, I wanted to experiment with the recipe and made a Tomato Confit at home this week. I made a large batch, so I could divide it up and freeze for later use. I saved one cup and used it as a topping for crostini. I think I’ll use my next batch as an extra ingredient in a cheese fondue. I suspect it will be delicious – I’ll be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Tomato Confit

Tomato Confit

Cherry tomatoes may be substituted for heirloom cherry tomatoes. Makes 4 cups.

4 pints (about 4 pounds) heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional

Combine tomatoes and olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot. Simmer over medium-low heat until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring occasionally and breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Continue to cook until all the tomatoes have broken down and sauce is thick, about one hour in all. Add salt and taste for seasoning. If necessary add sugar.

Crostini with Goat Cheese and Tomato Confit:
Cut 8 – 1/2 inch slices of a baguette. Brush slices with olive oil and bake in a 400 F. oven until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Stir 1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper together in a small bowl. Spread goat cheese on each baguette. Top with a teaspoon of tomato confit. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Pasta with Tomato Confit:
Bring 1 cup tomato confit, 1 cup heavy cream, 2 rosemary sprigs and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Remove rosemary sprigs. Toss with 1 pound freshly cooked penne and 1/2 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese.

Tomato Confit Crostini

Lemon Curd and a Lemony Recipe Roundup

When life hands you a crate of lemons what do you make? I reflected on this question recently, since I was handed a crate with 100 lemons. They were leftovers from a middle school outing in which I participated as a kitchen assistant. Aside from spending time with my daughter and her class in beautiful Mendocino, this crate of lemons was a highlight of the trip. For me, 100 lemons are far more than leftovers – they are a gift.

The first recipe I tackled was Lemon Curd, one of my favorite food products. Lemon Curd is delicious as a garnish with fruit, meringues, cakes and breads. It keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and also freezes beautifully. I like to make my curd especially lemony, and manage to slip in an entire cup of freshly squeezed juice, as well as a heaping tablespoon of zest. I prefer to keep the sugar content on the conservative side so that the citrus can sparkle.

6 lemons down, 94 to go.


Lemon Curd
Makes about 2 cups

8 large egg yolks, whites reserved for another use
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Combine egg yolks and sugar in a heavy noncorrodible saucepan and whisk together. Add sugar, lemon juice, butter and salt. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. As the butter melts continue stirring until the curd begins to thicken. Do not let the curd boil; if it begins to give off steam, briefly remove pan from heat, stirring constantly. Once the curd thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon, strain the curd through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl and cool. The curd may be refrigerated up to two weeks, or frozen up to 2 months.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Salsa

Black Bean Salsa tf

Here is one easy way to jazz up your dinner plate. Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Salsa is spicy, bright and colorful. It’s delicious as an appetizer with tortilla chips, as a salad or an accompaniment to grilled fish, meat or chicken. Like any good salsa this one combines a variety of textures and tastes, balancing sweetness with spice and acidity. And, like all good salsas, there is no one way to make it. Take advantage of the vegetables and fruits you have on hand, selecting for a variety of colors and textures, and a balance of sweet and savory components.

Black Bean, Corn and Red Pepper Salsa

For the best texture, cut the ingredients in uniform pieces, as much as possible. Makes about 4 cups

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, or 1- 16 oz. can black beans, drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed, or uncooked corn from the cob
1 small red pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
4 green onions, trimmed, white and green parts finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro sprigs

Combine all the ingredients except the cilantro in a bowl. Toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate one hour or up to 4 hours. Before serving, add cilantro and toss to combine. Serve as a salad or accompaniment to grilled fish, chicken, meat.



It’s the little things that can sometimes make a big difference.  Harissa is one of my favorite “little” condiments that features on our table, especially during grill season.  Until now, I have only referred to it as a link in other recipes, but it’s high time that harissa gets its own post.

Harissa is a Middle Eastern condiment that is a blend of roasted peppers, chiles, garlic and ground spices.  Savory, sweet, and hot, it adds a fresh and fiery component to grilled meat, fish, and chicken.  Mix it in with rice dishes and tabbouleh, soups and dips, or simply eat it with a spoon.  It elevates anything it garnishes and is guaranteed to fire up your tastebuds.

Makes about 2 cups

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded, coarsely chopped
2-3 small red serrano chiles, stemmed, minced with seeds
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh coriander and/or mint leaves

Toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and caraway seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about one minute. Transfer to a mortar with pestle.  Grind seeds to a fine powder.
Combine ground seeds, red peppers, chiles, garlic and olive oil in bowl of food processor.  Process until smooth, adding more olive oil, if necessary, to desired consistency.  Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
Let sit at least one hour and up to 24 hours before serving.  (Refrigerate before use.)
Serve garnished with coriander or mint leaves.

Tip:  Adjust the heat to your taste by omitting or adding the seeds and membrane of the chiles.  Remember that there should be some heat to Harissa.