Monday, June 28, 2010

Grilled Stone Fruit Salad

Stone fruits are fruits that have pits in the center such as peaches, apricots and plums. They are in season now and I bought a large variety to eat and use in different preparations.  A good way to use them is to grill them, which gives them a slightly charred and smoky flavor. I chose to make a salad using grilled plums and peaches with organic mixed greens, thin sliced prosciutto, grilled corn and red onions. Lots of good flavors and textures, smoky and sweet fruit, salty ham and crunchy corn kernels all lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinaigrette.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Farmers Market Ratatouille with Chicken and Pesto

Market Squash Assortment

Grilled Ratatouille with Chicken and Basil Pesto
A early morning wake up allowed me to get to the local farmers market before it became too crowded. Summer's definitely here and it shows with all the market bins overflowing with fresh produce. My plan is always to walk the whole market and note the price and location of items I like, then I can go back and get what I want for the right price. Today I saw lots of squash varieties available and the first thing that came to mind was the classic Mediterranean dish Ratatouille, a combination of different squash, eggplant, onions and tomato drenched in olive oil. I had to make this and I found everything I needed plus I bought a huge bunch of basil to make pesto to go with chicken thighs that I planned to grill later in the day. With a hot charcoal fire burning I first grilled the vegetables for the Ratatouille then I put the chicken on, with the chicken cooking I diced the cooked vegetables and blended the pesto. Everything came together fast and easy with incredible fresh flavors. I cant wait to go back and explore the aisles.

Black Bean Soup with Chicken

Black Bean Soup

This soup is a favorite of mine and I like it even in the Summer when the weather is warm. Black beans are simply cooked either in water or chicken stock, seasoned with sauteed garlic, onion, cumin and chili powder. After the beans have simmered until very tender they are blended. If it is too thick it can be thinned out with the addition of more water or stock. I garnished my soup with diced chicken, cherry tomatoes and cilantro. There are lots of different options to making this kind of soup, such as maybe leaving some whole beans in for texture and using fried tortilla strips for crunch. Give it a try next time you are having a Latin-themed menu.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fresh Corn Pancakes

Fresh Corn cake with Chicken & Cherry Tomato Relish

A trip to the weekend farmers market left me with a abundance of fresh corn, so I came up with the idea of making pancakes using whole kernels and chopped scallions folded in them. In addition to the corn cakes I made a saute of chicken breast with a relish of cherry tomato-corn to go on the pancakes. A good way to increase the corn flavor of the pancakes is using a puree of corn in the batter and some corn flour as well. The pancakes will have a very fresh corn flavor with the crunchy texture from the whole corn kernels. This is a rustic corn cake dish, but for a more upscale recipe try a dollop of sour cream with caviar.

Corn Pancakes
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 egg
1/2 cup corn flour
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash kosher salt
1 pinch sliced scallions
Milk as needed

1. Puree half the corn in a blender (reserve half for batter.)
2. Add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Add milk while running till it reaches a thick batter consistency.
4. Add whole corn kernels and scallions.
5. Cook on a hot greased non stick pan till golden on both sides.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fast Week Day Curried Vegetables

After a long day cooking for others all day I just want to cook something fast and easy for me. A curry with vegetables found in the fridge sounds like a winner.
To start I saute sliced fennel bulb and onions in vegetable oil, next I add garlic, cooked chick peas and Madras curry paste and simmer for a few minutes. Next I add a splash of water to finish cooking the vegetables, and add fresh cilantro from the garden which is chopped and sprinkled on top. This is very simple and good, if I really had the energy I would have cooked Basmati rice to go with it.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken

The Caesar salad can be be found on almost every menu here in California, there are lots of variation's but the most common is crispy romaine lettuce, croutons, shaved Parmesan cheese and a tangy creamy garlic dressing. The origin of where it originated is not known for sure but the story of Caesar Cardini in Tijuana Mexico is the best known, one busy 4th of July in 1924 he ran out of most of his restaurants food and came up with the salad with what he had on hand.
The biggest concern with Caesar salad in restaurants is that the dressing is often made with raw eggs which has the risk of Salmonella infection, it's rare and the acid in the dressing can help. I avoid the risk by using store bought mayonnaise as the base and adding Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic and anchovy paste. Tonight's salad had grilled chicken breast and crispy pita chips for crunch. Lots of different variations can be used such as chicken, shrimp, salmon, bacon and avocados.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Home Grown Artichokes

A few months after planting and watering my Artichoke plants, my first Artichoke appears and into a hot saute pan with garlic and olive oil, just a small taste of what I hope will be a big crop.

Thai Style Grilled Chicken

Today I made chicken thigh skewers with a marinade of Thai inspired herbs and spices. I like using chicken thighs because they have more flavor and they will not dry out the way chicken breasts do.  I made a marinade of crushed lemon grass, cilantro, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, lime juice and Thai green curry paste. The double skewered thighs were tossed in the marinade and allowed to sit over night. When it was time to cook, a hot charcoal fire was made and the chicken were placed on the hot clean grill and after about five minutes they were flipped over and allowed to finish cooking. I added scattering of chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish. They turned out really good and if there are leftovers they will be used in a Asian chicken salad.

Note: Fish sauce and green curry paste can be found in well stocked or Asian markets.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dinosaur Kale & Tomato Pizza

I made a healthy vegetarian pizza today using wilted "Dinosaur" kale, oven roasted roma tomatoes and Fontina cheese. It was cooked on a oven baking stone with the heat cranked up to 500F (260c) It gave it a nice crispy crust and let all the flavors ooze and blend together. It turned out great and I didn't even miss not having any meat on it. Next time I will add feta cheese and olives for a more of a Greek style pizza.

Monday, June 07, 2010


Kale is not always the most popular green vegetable, maybe because of its strong cabbage taste and somewhat of a tough texture? It is highly nutritious with powerful antioxidant properties and high levels of beta carotene, vitamin K and vitamin C. In the effort to eat more healthy, I chose a variety of kale called "Dinosaur Kale" it is said that its leaves resemble the tough scaly skin of reptiles. Since its very similar to cabbage it should be cooked the same way, I washed, cut and wilted the leaves with garlic, olive oil and a splash of good vinegar.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Summer's here and it's about time

Next to Spring I really like Summer with the flood of amazing vegetables it brings.
The garden I planted two months ago has already been producing strawberries, squash, radish and cilantro, and I now have green tomatoes that will start getting big and turning different shades of red in a few weeks. Later this Summer my lettuce, garlic, green beans and chili peppers will be ready for harvest. I like the idea of going out side and picking produce to cook with; I know for a fact that its fresh and organic.