Thursday, December 20, 2012


Today is my parents 25th wedding anniversary.

I made them paella and a chestnut, beet, and goat salad for dinner to celebrate.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Homemade pho is the best lunch for a sick girl and her sicker guy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

De Veres

Today my boyfriend and I went to De Veres Irish Pub (in Davis) to have some grub.

It was delish.

I had the pastrami sandwich and salad.

He had the chipotle chicken breast club.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cheesecake Brownies

When I worked at Cafe Novo is when I learnt to bake.  At least once a week we would make a half pan of cheesecake brownies--usually more often than that.  These bad boys flew out of the kitchen so quickly you'd think they were addictive... and well, maybe they are.

Since leaving I've managed to find myself a boyfriend who could live off brownies, steak, and salad (I like men who like their veggies).  I've had a lot of brownie baking practice.  So much, in fact, that penning a recipe for Sierra Trading Post's holiday recipe contest was a little difficult--it was like writing down how to put on jeans in the morning.

 Well, luckily I eventually managed to put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard..) and wrote up my recipe.  Being the genius I am, I forgot to mention I use a teaspoon of baking powder (not that forgetting it will ruin the brownies).

It turned out though, it didn't matter.  I won the vote for best dessert! (Very luckily, since I actually didn't even know there was a voting period or I definitely would have coerced some friends to vote for me... I am not above that.)  As a price I received a $250 gift certificate to sierra trading post (just in time for cyber monday) and a feature in their Holiday Recipe Book.

So here it is friends, my cheesecake brownies recipe:

Cheesecake Batter: 
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar 1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brownie Batter: 
3-5 oz good quality (60% to 90%) dark chocolate
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup flour
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Preheat your oven to 350*F.  Grease or line an 8 or 9 inch square pan.

Cheesecake Batter: 

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg together. Put aside.

Brownie Batter: 

In a pan over low heat or in a double boiler (preferred) melt the butter. Melt the chocolate into the butter, stirring. Remove from heat the moment (or just before) the chocolate is fully melted.

 Add the sugar and stir until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

 Add the cocoa powder and salt, mix in until batter is smooth (works best if you sift in the cocoa powder). Mix in the flour until well incorporated.

Pour your brownie batter into your pan. Dollop cheesecake batter in. With a knife, drag back and forth through the batter to create a marbling effect. (Tight zigzags work best).

 Pop in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. The cheesecake should be just golden and the edges should pull slightly from the side of the pan.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Bruchetta is wonderfully easy and absolutely delicious.  This thanksgiving my boyfriend Mark and I went to Seattle to visit his parents.  Mark made us some delicious bruchetta as an appetizer and I decided to "help" by taking photos.

Mark cut up some cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, fresh basil, and cilantro and then drizzled EVOO and balsamic vinegar overtop.

He mixed it together  and let it refrigerate for a few hours so the flavours could meld.  

Right before serving he chopped up some avocado and tossed once more, and then served with some sourdough crostini.  Absolutely delicious.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Spanish Figs

What do you do when you've got a lot of figs?  I mean a lot of figs...

Step 1: Stuff your face.  There's not much more for it, just go to town and try to get rid of as many as possible quickly.

Step 2: Stare blankly at the remaining 800000 figs.

Step 3: Make something.

I decided to make a spread to eat with fresh cheese--mató we call it; a smooth rich ricotta-like cheese that we often eat with honey, quince paste (membrillo) or, in my case now, fig spread.  (Walnuts optional, but a really great idea.)

Turns out it also goes really well with most white cheeses; including some rather strong sheeps cheese I have around as well.

Fig Spread
5 cups or so of very ripe figs
1/4-1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
2-3 large peels of orange zest (use fruit peeler to get easily removable pieces of zest)

Take your figs (use the ripest you've got) and quarter them into a large pot.

Add a few fingers of white wine so that the figs can break down and start releasing their own juices without burning.  Add some sugar and orange zest.

Let it boil for 2 hours or so, or until the desired consistency, stirring occasionally to help break down the figs.  Remove the orange zest and let the spread cool before putting in tupperware or jars, and storing in the fridge and freezing what you don't think you can consume in 1-2 weeks.

I wasn't really into the idea of using 1:1 sugar to figs (which is usually what is needed to make a preservable jam).. I didn't want something overpoweringly sweet to go with my cheese, just a hint of sweetness to complement the salty richness.

I could have kept going--it wasn't super thick by the end, but I like the chunks of fig, and the honey-like consistency of the liquid which spreads beautifully on fresh cheese.  It made about 3 cups worth--one of which I gave away and the other two; well we went through the first cup in about a day, so I doubt it'll be a problem.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

What happens when you're about to leave town for a few weeks, and when you get back you'll be literally moving the next day to your new apartment?

You use up whatever you've got in the freezer/fridge.

So what happens if what you've got is some coconut butter, a bit of nutella, some frozen cherries, a few very ripe frozen bananas (always great to have on hand when you're hunkering for some banana bread) and some pantry staples?

Uh.  This.

I'm a madwoman.

In the end they made some sweet banana-chocolate bars... they were ok the first day but seal them up in tupperware once they've cooled down and the next day they were moist, perfectly sweet and wonderfully buttery.  Next time I'll add walnuts rather than cherries.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Salsa Romesco

Whenever I'm in Spain in the spring, my family has a good old-fashioned calçotada--several boxes of young onions charred over a roaring fire which eat by peeling off the charred skin, dipping it in romesco sauce, tilting our heads back and going for it.  (We have bibs for the whole affair, don't worry...) While the freshly charred onions are delicious, what I always look forward to most is the fantastic romesco sauce my aunt makes.  In my CSA this week I got leeks and eggplant and thought that they too would go fantastically with romesco sauce, so I thought I'd get to work.

It's actually surprisingly simple, so I more or less can show you step by step what to do.


1/2-1 sweet onion
1 red pepper
6 cherry tomatoes
2 tsp sweet paprika (hungarian paprika is fine, just avoid smoked paprika)
1 dried nyora (this pepper is exceedingly hard to find, unfortunately--if you live in the bay area I found mine at the oxbow market in Napa, CA.  Otherwise, substitute by using 2 tbsp sweet paprika instead)
1/2 cup blanched almonds and hazelnuts, mixed.  (You could also use only one or only the other, but where's the fun in that)
1/2 head of garlic
olive oil
red wine or sherry vinegar

Under a broiler, charr the outsides of the onion, red pepper, and cherry tomatoes.  Turn the red pepper a few times as you go, to get all sides nice and charred.  Took about 45 minutes total.

(This is a basic escalivada, fyi.  In Catalunya, this is a pretty common dish; sometimes with eggplant or asparagus.  Just peel the skins (see below), drizzle with olive oil, and serve--hot or cold.)

When they're ready, take them out and cover them tighly with tinfoil to let them steam for 5-10 minutes.  You know its been enough time if the skin of the red pepper slips off easily.  

Peel the skins off of the red pepper, tomatoes, and onion.  Cut off the ends of the onions, squeeze out the pepper's seeds, and, if you want, squeeze out the tomato seeds.  My aunt does, I didn't. 

(Unless you've got "kitchen hands", you might want to let everything cool a bit first)

While you're waiting for the peppers, tomatoes, and onions to steam themselves, peel some garlic.  Im a fan of the smash and peel method.

Drizzle some olive oil over the peeled garlic before throwing them in the oven.  (If you don't have a garlic roasting ceramic thing, just make a foil pouch for them and throw that in the oven.) 

I put them in for about ten minutes--I just wanted to take away the worst of the bite, but really like raw garlic's zing.  You can (and most do) roast them for 30min to an hour.  If you do, no need to peel them first; you can do that after.)

Your kitchen may be a bit of a mess at this point...

Gather your other ingredients.  That squat little pepper by the garlic?  That's a nyora.  They're sweet peppers, not spicy.

Soak it for 10 minutes or so, until soft (probably good to get it started before the garlic comes out, I just wanted my photos to have continuity.)  I had to impale it to let the air bubbles out so that it wouldn't just float on top.

Grind up some salt with your paprika--or you know, use finer grained salt to begin with.  Blend it all together in a blender until desired texture--I personally wish I'd made it smoother, but my sweetie liked the texture it added to the veggies, so there you have it.  Add vinegar and salt to taste.  Thin the sauce, if you need to, with olive oil.  I like it thick and creamy, so I didn't add any oil past what was on the garlic.  Plus; I figure adding less oil means I can eat more in one go, right?

Makes about, uh.. a cup.  

Tip: Save the other half of the onion, and whatever extra cherry tomatoes you roasted, to try it right away.  Roasted onion and romesco is the closest I've had to calçots and romesco.  

Calçots may look a lot like leeks, but they don't taste like them.  That said, leeks and romesco is also delicious... 

Speak of the devil...  You want to trim these, slice them in half (or quarters if they're big, but these were itty bitty) and soak them for about as long as you can--shaking them a whole bunch along the way.  Leeks trap a lot of soil in them, so you want to get that out.

Aren't these the cutest baby eggplant?  I was taught to always salt my eggplant and leave them for up to an hour.  The salt soaks up the bitterness, I was taught.  You wipe away the salt afterwards (it turns a blue-green, which I like to think is the bitterness itself) and roast them with some olive oil drizzled on top.  In case if you didn't guess, they're already salted at that point...

I start cut side up, covered with foil, roast about an hour, turn over, add the leeks and roast another 30 minutes.  The eggplant will be tender and creamy and the leeks will melt in your mouth.

Top it off with some of that romesco sauce you made and you're good to go.  (We eat it as a "primer plat"--first course, basically.  Second is usually meat; but that's your prerogative.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Last Thursday I got the most amazing okra from my CSA box from Feeding Crane Farms.  In the midst of my exhausting bout of prelims (one month of intensive studying while we write three five-hour exams that are ten days apart, which get to determine if we have a summer or not, and then if we stay or the program should we fail the retakes in the fall) I wanted something to distract me from the pain, and decided I'd use this opportunity to make gumbo!

Luckily for me, gumbo was May 2011's daring cooks challenge, so there was a nice play by play instructional recipe ready for me to follow.  I didn't change much from her chicken and andouille sausage recipe; except I accidentally got spicy pork sausages instead so I fried those up seperately, drained the oil, and added them in.  I'm sure it took away some of the authenticity, but it sure was delicious!  Oh, and the spice mix I made was a combination of different creole spice mix recipes, based on what was available to me.

The roux took ages to brown--a good 30 minutes.  Of course, that might be because I realized a little more than halfway through browning the roux that I'd forgotten to prep my vegetables!  I had to turn off the burner, continue whisking until the roux was cool, cut up my vegetables, and heat the roux back up while whisking away once more.

Everything else went swimmingly, however, even though active cooking time was at least an hours worth.  I will say--her note about skimming the fat off wasn't a joke! I got almost a full cup of fat back from the gumbo--and I only made a half recipe (i.e. I started with half a cup of oil).  The rest must have come from the chicken (which I bought whole from the co-op) and sausages.

This is one of those recipes that the moment its done you say "ugh, never again" and then after you've eaten you sigh and say "yeah, definitely making that again" while rubbing your belly.