Caprese Bruschetta

caprese, caprese salad, caprese bruschetta, bruschetta

We love basil.  We love bread.  We love mozzarella.  We love garlic.  We love tomatoes.  We love all these ingredients combined into one little morsel of love.  We love a lot.

What do you love?

Caprese Bruschetta

One loaf of crusty Italian or French bread
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
6 ripe roma tomatoes, seeded
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls), cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive, plus extra for brushing bread
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Position rack to the center of the oven.

Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dices, and the bocconcini into 1/4-inch cubes. Place the tomatoes and mozzarella in a bowl, and mix in the finely minced garlic, dried oregano, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Mix well, and then adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Lastly, toss in the chopped basil and incorporate into the tomato mixture.

Slice the bread diagonally into about 1/2-inch thick slices. Brush each slice of bread with extra virgin olive oil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and bake for about 5-6 minutes, or until the bread begins to toast.

Arrange the bread on a serving platter, oil side up. Spoon tomato mixture onto each slice of bread. The bread will get soggy, so this must be served and eaten immediately. Conversely, you can also have the guests spoon the tomato mixture if they desire to do so at their time and convenience, and to their liking.

Makes 12 slices of bruschetta.

Fresh Basil Pesto… the perfect prescription to doctor up pasta, grilled chicken or salmon, or as a dip!

pesto, basil pesto, fresh pesto, fresh basil pesto

Our basil and parsley have been growing out of control. Okay, that’s sort of an exaggeration. But it has been doing quite well since we planted the starter plants. We made it our goal to harvest and use everything from our small “farm” this year because we let everything die or go to waste last summer.  It’s true.  We had roma tomatoes, basil, key limes, and peppers growing up, down, and sidways, and we left it to die.  We always have so much fun with planting the starter plants, but rarely do we ever enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s silly.  But I think it’s pure laziness, and partly because who wants to harvest stuff when it can get up to 115 degrees F during the summer months.  Blech.  But this year is going to be different.  I can feel it.  I intend to eat every darn thing that grows this year, whether I get sick of it or not.  Again, another exaggeration.  But you get the point.

Anyway, getting back to this post.  So what not a better way to use up the basil and parsley than to make a pesto. Especially since I had extra parmesan, lemons, and garlic lying around from my latest obsession with caesar salads. We also always have an abundance of a variety nuts in our freezer for salads, desserts, and what not.  Basil pesto is our favorite prescription to doctor up pasta, over grilled chicken or salmon, as a sandwich spread, and as a dip for our caprese “salad” skewers for party hors d’oeuvres.

What’s your favorite way of using pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto

3 cups fresh basil, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, packed
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for tasting
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste

In a medium sized pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts until they get fragrant. Watch these carefully as these can get toasty fragrant to burnt very quickly.

In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, solive oil, and lemon juice. [But not the parmesan cheese. We'll get to that in just a little bit.] Pulse until the mixture has a smooth, but thick paste-like consistency.

Poor the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl, and fold in the parmesan cheese. Mix until the cheese has been thoroughly incorporated.  Add more lemon juice and salt to taste. But trust me, you really won’t need anymore salt after this because of the saltiness from the parmesan cheese. However, do add more lemon juice because it really livens up the pesto sauce. But then again, we like lots of lemons in almost everything we eat :)

Makes 3 cups of pesto.

The Real Deal (with eggs and anchovies) Classic Caesar Salad with Sirloin Steak

I’ve been on a recent obsession with classic caesar salads with anchovies and all.  I know some would turn their noses to anchovies, but I love those little suckers.  Salty and fishy.  Yum.  It’s the anchovies that make the caesar salad dressing.  Not the shaved parmesan.  Not the croutons.  It’s the anchovies.  I think it’s blasphemy to call a caesar salad dressing when the little fishies are omitted.  I just doesn’t taste the same.  Caesar salads are nostalgic to me.  It reminds me of our days living in the Parnassus library at the UCSF campus studying pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, and pharmcotherapeutics.  We would be the first ones there and the last ones to close down the library.  And like any library, we weren’t allowed to eat there (at least not to their knowledge).  We definitely had our fair share of Pringles chips, coca-cola flavored gummies, boba tea, sodas, coffee, chocolate, chips, and more.  When we were finally craving real food , we walked down to Pluto’s on Irving and 8th Avenue, and I always ordered the steak caesar salad.  The steak was over cooked and tough, but the dressing.  Wow.  And when the croutons soaked up all the dressing at the bottom.  Oh em gee.

Classic Caesar Salad with Steak

1 teaspoon garlic, smashed into a paste
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 anchovy fillets, mashed into a paste with fork
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 large raw or coddled egg yolks
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 romaine hearts, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices, rinsed, and dried very well
Croutons

If you can’t stomach the raw egg component of this recipe, try making a coddled egg, which essentially is an egg cooked briefly in boiling water. The taste of coddled egg yolks is similar to that of a raw egg. It’s just not as raw as a raw egg :) To make a coddled egg, place whole eggs into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 1 minute. Crack eggs and separate whites from yolks.

Mince the garlic, and then sprinkle a little salt over the minced garlic on your cutting board. With your chef’s knife in hand, press and crush the garlic with the knife on an angle. The salt draws out the liquid from the garlic, but also acts as an abrasive to mash the garlic into a paste. Continue this until a paste is formed.

Finely chop or mince the anchovy filets. Mash the anchovies into a fine paste using the back of a fork. Continue doing this until you have a smooth anchovy paste to work with.

In a large bowl, whisk together garlic paste, anchovy paste, and lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in Worcestershire, dijon mustard, and egg yolks. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing has completely emulsified. Add 1/2 cup of Parmesan, salt and pepper to taste, then whisk until completely combined.

To serve, plate the romaine lettuce and croutons. Drizzle dressing overtop each serving, then sprinkle liberally with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Sleeeeeeeeeeeepy. I can barely focus.  You know what’s worse than not being able to cook and practice food photography?  Restless, sleepless nights.  Ones where you don’t fall asleep at all.  Tossing and turning, keeping yourself entertained with your laptop, iPhone, or TV to pass time.  Trying to lay still to not stir anyone from their dreamy night by counting sheep, but your mind races with thoughts that don’t make sense so you can’t really focus on the sheep.  Wanting to try a hot cup of almond milk to soothe and calm yourself, but it’s too damn cold to get out of bed.

I’ve had a lot of those nights lately.  So what do I do to remedy that?  Prescription sleep pills.  Something I didn’t think I ever needed.  Ever.  I was and still am a light sleeper, but I never had problems falling and staying asleep until the last few years, but it’s only gotten worse.  I used to poke fun at friends who couldn’t sleep without a prescription sleep aid.  Karma sucks.  I finally broke down and asked my nurse practitioner for a prescription sleep aid.  I told myself it was only going to be for when I absolutely needed it… like trying to fall asleep, but after an hour of trying and failing, then I could take the pill.  But then it got to the point where I would anticipate possibly not falling asleep, so I used it as a crutch.

I’ve recently decided to wean myself from the prescription sleep aid, and the result of this is lack of sleep.  I think this is going to be a long, painful process of little to no sleep for a long time while my body adjusts to the change.  It’s very interesting how your body can adapt and change to something easily, but takes a long time to adjust back.

So while I lay sleepless the other night, I came across a recipe calling for roasted beets with a honey roast garlic dressing that looked mouthwatering.  I thought it was going to be a great recipe to adapt with all the red beets that I just purchased from the farmers market.

Roasted Beet, D’Anjou Pear, Mache Salad with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (adapted from No Recipes)

For roasting:
2 beets
1 head garlic, top cut off

For salad:
2 D’Anjou Pears, sliced into O’s, core ones with seeds, and then slice in half
3 cups of Mache salad
Blue Cheese
Candied Walnuts

For vinaigrette:
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Wrap each beet tightly in foil. I usually like to double wrap mine in foil. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a little salt onto the garlic bulb, and wrap tightly in foil. Place both the beets and garlic on a baking sheet. Roast garlic for about 30-40 minutes, and beets for about an hour (or once you can poke a knife all the way through).

While the beets and garlic are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Once cool to handle, peel “skin” off the beets. Slice beets into 1/8-inch slices. Dress the beets with enough vinaigrette to coat in a separate bowl. Do not do this in the same bowl where the vinaigrette was prepared, or else you’ll have a purple dressing. But if that’s okay with you, then by all means, go for it!

To assemble the salad, place three slices of beets on a plate. Place three slices of the pears onto each slice of beet, with the round shape of the pear facing out. Lightly dress the mache lettuce with the vinaigrette, and place a handful on top of the beets and pears. Top with some crumbled blue cheese and candied walnuts. Repeat the same process for three more plates.

Makes 4 servings.

Roasted Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps

ratatouille, ratatouille soup, ratatouille bisque, roasted ratatouille, roasted vegetables, vegetables, parmesan crisp

ratatouille, ratatouille soup, ratatouille bisque, roasted ratatouille, roasted vegetables, vegetables, parmesan crisp

I’m losing my mind.  I have been so forgetful lately.  And I feel like it’s only getting worse.  I’ll think of something that I need from the bedroom, walk to the bedroom, and completely forget what I needed in the two seconds it took to walk to the bedroom.  I know the example is a common problem for a lot of people.  However, I seem to be doing this many times during the day, several days a week!  Here’s another example that I have been doing a lot of lately… I go to the grocery store with a huge list of items to purchase, gather all the stuff, place all the items on the belt at the cash register station, and just as I am about to pay I realize that my wallet was left at home!  It wouldn’t be so bad if I went to the grocery store a few blocks away, but the two places I love to shop at is a 15-20 minute drive EACH way.  So what should be a 45 minute endeavor, ends up being an hour and a half grocery store trip from hell!  No bueno. This cuts into my limited cooking time.

Ratatouille Bisque with Parmesan Crisps (adapted from Modern Comfort Food)

For the soup:

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeds and pith removed, sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced to large cubes
1 medium-sized zucchini, peeled and diced to large cubes
2 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (mix of heirlooms, cherry, vine and plum tomatoes), cut into halves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups of chicken broth
1/4 cup fat-free half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread the tomatoes, red bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray.  Use two baking trays to not overcrowd the baking tray with too many vegetables.  I find that when I “crowd” the baking tray, the veggies tend to “steam” rather than roast properly.  Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove vegetables from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, thyme, cayenne, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Remove sprigs of thyme from the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to medium heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Garnish with a parmesan crisp.  Forget the crouton.  Do the crisp.

For the parmesan crisps:

2 cups shredded parmesan cheese

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Sprinkle four 1/4-cup mounds of parmesan about 2 inches apart onto each prepared baking sheet; slightly flatten with a spoon. Bake until golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool for 30 seconds. Using a thin metal spatula, drape the crisps over a rolling pin until hardened into shape, about 3 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.

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