Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mixed Greens with Mandarins & Hazelnuts

One weekend, one salad, four parties
This last weekend was approximately 400% more social than most.  And like most get-togethers, food took center stage, with sports both played and watched a very close second.  The seasonal availability of mandarins and the extra hazelnuts I bought for biscotti, made the Zuni Café Cookbook recipe for Mixed Greens with Mandarins, Hazelnuts & Hazelnut Vinaigrette (pg 141) a clear choice … twice.  For another get-together we all enjoyed shopping for, preparing and savoring BiBimBop … wow.  It definitely wasn’t simple, but the high enjoyment factor (and leftovers) more than compensated.

I recently counted all the recipes in the Zuni cookbook and found a total of 281 recipes … many of which would push me WAY out of my cooking comfort zone.  Squab.  Mock Porchetta.  Rabbit Sausage.   Well, one day at a time.  After recently enjoying Risotto with Wild Rice, Squash, & Wild Mushrooms (pg 197), I figure I have 273 more recipes yet to try-adventure-experiment-rollercoaster through in 2014.  This winter salad is definitely a keeper and easy to make ahead and bring to a party.

We observed that I am on a citrus pinwheel kick. 

Mixed Greens with Mandarins & Hazelnuts

 For one of these salads I didn’t find Frangelico liqueur or hazelnut oil within my grocery shopping time limit… but with a broader search we secured the liqueur and included in the second dressing.  With or without is delicious.  I especially like J. Rodgers’ suggestion of dipping a lettuce leaf into the dressing to taste, and adjust seasons before finalizing (both times I added more olive oil).  I also like to combine the greens and dressing with my hands, the best and gentlest tools for the job.

Time:  10-20 minutes
Cost: $4-5
Servings: 4 adults + 4 kids as a side dish


1/2 c Hazelnuts (skins removed and coarsely chopped)
6-10 mandarins peeled and cut into pinwheels (video above)
½ extra virgin olive oil
2 T Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 tsp Frangelico liqueur or hazelnut oil (optional)
~10 c salad greens cleaned and dried
As you slice mandarins transfer them to a bowl and save juice.  In small mason jar combine oil, vinegar, liqueur or hazelnut oil if using, a trickle of juice from mandarins, and salt to taste.  Securely put lid on jar and shake vigorously.  Taste dressing and adjust seasonings.  Drizzle 1-2 T of dressing over sliced mandarins.

Just before serving the salad, drizzle and toss the lettuce with the dressing, coating lightly (you could have ~1/3c dressing left for another night).  Taste a lettuce leaf and add more dressing if needed.  Place mandarins on greens, sprinkle with nuts and enjoy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hazelnut (Cornmeal) Biscotti

I used to compare cooking with little kids like having sharks snapping at your ankles while everyone devolves into an agitated state of panicked frenzy.  I oh so wish this was an exaggeration.  Now cooking with my (older) kids is something I enjoy and savor and only occasionally do I still loose my cool.  As I tested out the Zuni Cornmeal Biscotti (pg 478) I kept thinking ... this is so pleasant and seams to be coming together just as intended.  That's weird.  Then, I realized the missing ingredients - my sharks, I mean, helpers.

Tonight the boys wanted to watch The Incredibles, and having almost all the lines memorized by now - I opted to bake ... The peacefulness in the kitchen was divine, equal only to the biscotti.  The flavor to me is really more hazelnut than cornmeal, and the recipe below is adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook in regards to salt (less) and cornmeal (more).  Ironically, I think this would be an incredibly fun and straightforward recipe to make with kids ... with a little Aloha, of course ... imagine numerous smaller biscotti logs rolled by smaller hands and a mismatch of final cut pieces.

Luckily, I may have another chance.  There are two versions to test out ... Coffee in hand.  Dunk. Crunch.

Hazelnut Biscotti

I like that the butter and egg are supposed to be cold.  I NEVER remember or know far enough in advance when I am going to make something to bring the ingredients to room temp.  C'est la vie ~

Time: 50 minutes
Cost: ~ $5 (depends on if you have anise seeds and anise flavor in the pantry - I didn't, but am glad I do now, so I am ready for the next batch)

3/4 cup hazelnuts
4 T cold salted butter
1 large cold egg
1 1/2 tsp anise flavor
1 1/4 c flour (whole wheat white ok)
3 T fine cornmeal (corn flour ok)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp anise seeds

Preheat oven to 325 deg and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

If the hazelnuts still have their skins on - roast on a baking sheet until fragrent, about 15 minutes.  Place hazelnuts into a spread out kitchen towel and gather "bean bag style" and massage to loosen skins.  Pick out the nuts and discard the skins.  Finely shop 1/4c of the nuts; coarsely chop remaining 1/2c nuts and place in large metal bowl.  Add flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and anise seeds and whisk to combine.

In bowl of electric mixer "barely" cream butter and sugar.  Beat in egg and anise flavor to combine.  Add flour mixture in ~ 3 additions and stir until mix well.

Gather dough in your hands and divide in half.  On the same cutting board where you cut the nuts roll out one half of the dough into a long 1-inch thick log, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. (You may need to dust the cutting board with flour, but I found the nut dust from the chopping was perfect).   Repeat with remaining dough, and place logs with ~2 inches b/w them.  Bake for ~ 20 minutes, until "slightly brown and firm on the surface".

Transfer the cookie logs to cutting board and slice on an angle ~1/2" thick.  Place cut side down back onto the warm baking sheet and return to oven for 5 minutes.  Cool completely on baking sheet and transfer to airtight container.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Orange Slices with Rosemary Honey Drizzle


For me, the best dessert is simple and bright, and often overtly sensual.” ~ Judy Rodgers, Zuni Café Cookbook

By this standard the recipe for Oranges with Rosemary Honey (pg 456) in the Zuni Café Cookbook, must be one of the best deserts in Rodgers’ mind.  It is tremendous in my mind for its simplicity, sweetness and use of oranges otherwise not well suited to peeling.  It was a joyful surprise after a rich dinner of Shrimp Cooked in Romesco with Wilted Spinach (pg 334).

Ctirus Slices with Rosemary Honey Drizzle

Thrifty, simple and fast – the triple threat trifecta.  I look forward to experimenting with a mix of citrus for an upcoming baby shower.  Recipe below adapted from Zuni Café Cookbook.

Time: 20 minutes
Cost: $2-3$
Servings: 4


3 T Honey
4 tsp water
1x small sprig fresh young rosemary
6 oranges, or mix of oranges, grapefruit (lemon or kiwi?)

In smallest saucepan combine honey and water.  Pick off rosemary leaves and mash in mortar with pestel or with back of knife on cutting board.  Add crushed rosemary leaves to  saucepan.  Warm, without boiling, over low heat until honey dissolves.  Let infuse for 15 minutes while you prep fruit.

Using a sharp paring knife, remove peel and slice oranges into pinwheels, arrange on serving plate and drizzle with honey mixture.

Note: Rodgers provides an excellent (!!) description of how to make oranges into beautiful pinwheels on pg. 457.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gourgeres Fun: Pickled Onions

Laughing and crying in the kitchen, within the space of one meal's preparations, is a good sign.  Crying courtesy of onion slicing on the mandolin for Carol's Pickled Onion's (pg. 271) and uncontrollable giggles while "piping" out New Year's Eve Gougeres (pg. 116) (imagine, little cubes of cheese not quite fitting through the tip ... well ... you will just have to try it).  We savored the (extravagant for us) Gruyere and had the (unusual for us) experience of eating an appetizer for dinner.  We agreed they make an excellent appetizer, but growing boy appetites prefer more hearty fare in the dinner category.

My favorite part was the easy, fast, tart and inexpensive addition of pickled onions; I am looking forward to trying them on sandwiches (BLT!) and salads. Recipe below adapted from Zuni Cafe Cookbook. 

Pickled Onions
Use a Mandolin with a great caution - my fingers get seasick just thinking of one - having danced too close to the edge one to many times...

Time:  20 minutes (with a Mandolin)
Cost: $3

3 medium yellow onions
1 1/4 cups Champagne Vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 T sugar
2 bay leaves
1 small dried chili (e.g. thai)
Pinch of black peppercorns
Salt to taste

Slice onions 1/8" thick, ideally falling into rings.  Combine remaining brine ingredients into saucepan large enough to accommodate addition of onions.  Bring mixture to a simmer over med-low heat, turn heat up to medium and add onions.  Gently stir brine and onions and return to a simmer for 1 minute.  Carefully pour onions and brine directly into a mason jar(s), cover and store refrigerated ... indefintetly.

New Year's Eve Gougeres with Arugula and Bacon
These were made with absolutely no idea what a Gougeres looked or tasted like  - or in fact how to pronounce .. a quick google search shows we weren't too much off the mark in looks.  Now how to say it ...  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dropping Anchor

It has taken me near 35 years to realize the pattern ... I get blue in January.  Perhaps because of a post-holiday letdown or looming birthday - hard to say.  This personal phenom was avoided last year, and I realize now it was due largely to a crazy swim training obsession I was in at the time.  So, for the first two weeks of 2014 I have have been casting about, seeking an anchor; a crazy (or not) obsession to keep me sane until the days lengthen and the weather warms.

My thoughts keep coming back to the recent death of chef and cookbook author Judy Rodgers.  I was given her Zuni Cafe Cookbook as an anniversary present and have enjoyed making a handful of the recipes over the last five years, most notably of course the recipe for roast chicken, which was a repertoire game-changer.  In an attempt to become a better home cook, keep my sanity and immerse myself in a particular style of cooking, I declare 2014 a Zuni Year.  Not sure exactly what this will entail now, but know that I will try to cook as many (all?) of the recipes from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook in 2014.  Why not?

As a kickoff, last night I tested out the Pasta with Spicy Broccoli & Cauliflower (pg 203).  I was looking for a recipe best suited for the variety of vegetables we received in our Friday CSA, which this week included two beautiful heads of broccoli and a fennel bulb.  So, I substituted the fennel for the cauliflower and tapered back on the red pepper flakes, so as not to send the boys into a fiery tizzy.  For next time, I may try roasting the vegetables on a baking tray in a hot oven, as I think they were more crowded then intended in my cast iron skillet.  This was also my first time using anchovies ... a subtle flavor addition.  I will be keeping my eyes out for a good source (or recipe?) for 'salt-packed anchovy fillets'.  Now, for tonight ...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spidey Boys

Hopefully the boys will don these spiderman costumes on Halloween. 20 days to prime time - fingers crossed that all comes together (literally). Glow in the dark paint and zippers are next on the list, not in that order.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Buffalo Gals

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chicken Drumsticks with Asian BBQ Sauce

I am shocked at how cheap drumsticks are. At Trader Joe's 5 'Natural' chicken drumsticks will run you about $3. Granted, this recipe calls for 16 drumsticks (I use 3 packages which is ~ 15 sticks), so the price climbs to ~$10, but we stretch it over many meals (say 4 large adult portions and 3 kid portions). In our home we eat a lot of meat - admittedly one of the reasons our food budget is larger than our peers - so if I can find good recipes that use cheaper cuts, all the better.

This recipe is from Food & Wine (from who knows when) and since securing it in my recipe book I have made it 5 or so times, and enjoyed each meal. It is however, not fast. I give myself an hour from start to finish.

This makes me realize that I need a whole suite of recipes that use cheap cuts of meat and take 30-40 minutes to make. I joke (though it is all too true) that cooking with kids around makes your kitchen feel like an alligator pit, with hungry critters nipping at your ankles. In sum: not relaxing. So the faster a meal the better.

One thing this recipe uses that I do love and does make things quick: my Immersion Blender. Love it. I use it in this recipe to whip together the ingredients for the sauce and save dishes versus using the big blender. Delici0-s0.

Chicken Drumsticks
with Asian Barbecue Sauce
I did not have hoisin sauce the last time I made it, and had to substitute plum sauce making it sweeter than normal. Also - I totally consider the seasame seeds optional. I found cheap sesame seeds in bulk at our local natural food store.

Servings: 4 adult, 3 kid
Cost: $12-15
Time: 20 minutes active, 1 hour total

2 T vegetable oil
1 (+) tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
15 chicken drumsticks (~ 3 lbs)
Salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup sweet Asian chili sauce or hot pepper jelly
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
2 T minced fresh ginger
2 (+) large garlic cloves
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 - 1 cup toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl mix the oil and 5-spice powder. Add the chicken, season with Salt and Pepper and toss to coat. Line a baking sheet with foil, and arrange the chicken in two rows. Roast for 35 minutes, turning twice. (If things get busy - as in the alligators start biting - it still turns out great if you forget to rotate the chicken.)

In a bowl or cup combine ingredients for sauce: hoisin, chili sauce, rice vinegar, broth/stock, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Puree with immersion blender until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan, bring to boil and simmer for ~ 5 minutes.

Once chicken is cooked transfer to clean bowl and power sauce over to coat.

Turn oven to broil. Place the chicken back on the tray and return to oven to broil for another 10 minutes, turning once. Brush with extra sauce. Remove from oven.

Place sesame seeds in a bowl. Using tongs, immerse one end of the cooked chicken in the bowl of sesame seeds and transfer to a serving platter. Enjoy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Camping

Definitely not the traditional approach to maximizing the Mother's Day free-to-relax- card, but a wonderful way to get outside the day-to-day routine. This last weekend found us in Henry Coe State Park gobbling up Smores, savoring Banana Muffins, and ... well ... wearing all of our clothes to stay warm.

And just a moment to say how awesome it is to camp. I love it. It was SO wonderful to see the boys running, jumping, and peering down 'creature holes. Note: just peering - I did my best to enforce a no hands or feet down holes rule. And THRIFTY. We split a campsite with another family for a grand total of $32/family or $16/night. That is good old fashion cheap fun.

We did however totally splurge on the Mother's Day Breakfast - which was very sweet and the first time we had eaten biscuits cooked on a griddle (imagine a really thick pancake with butter and jelly instead of syrup).

So, sigh. Perhaps not the way you picture 'relaxing', but rejuvinating and memorable all the same.


Not that you need a recipe, but just for inspiration, consider ....

graham crackers
golden roasted marshmellows
peanut butter

Place the graham cracker and chocolate on a BBQ grate near the campfire or wrap in foil to get the chocolate nice and gooey while you roast your marshmellow. Once you've roasted, smoosh together your ingredients, and enjoy. Probably will need a wet wipe to clean up ... especially those little hands.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I am having so much fun researching a paper on residential greywater recycling. This is an article (and video) about a woman, also a reporter for the LA Times, who created a plumbing system to capture the water from her washing machine to irrigate her front yard ... for $312 and two days of work. I should add ... it sounds like she spent MANY more days planning, researching and procuring!

My mind is full of ideas for our own house ... wonderful.

Other sites for inspiration:
Greywater Guerillas
Oasis Design