Wednesday, August 22, 2012


An estimated 40,000 people hurled tomatoes at each other in Buñol, Spain, for La Tomatina, a festival held annually on the last Wednesday in August. In one hour, the town's plaza transformed into an ocean of red pulp with crowds of sticky, tomato-soaked revelers.

Here is a recipe to celebrate the occasion without the splatter....

Chicken Thighs with Spicy Tomato-Pepper Sauce (serves 10)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced
12 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 pounds plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt
Piment d'Espelette or hot paprika (see Note)
20 chicken thighs (about 8 pounds)
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sherry vinegar

  1. In a very large ovenproof skillet, heat 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, bell peppers and garlic and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened and all of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes longer.
  2. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and puree until smooth. Season the vegetable puree with salt and Piment d'Espelette.
  3. Wash and dry the skillet. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in each of 2 very large ovenproof skillets. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add 10 of the thighs to each skillet, skin side down. Cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until the chicken is golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer the chicken to a platter and pour off the fat in the skillets.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of the brown sugar to 1 of the skillets and cook over high heat, whisking constantly, until melted, about 1 minute. Off the heat, carefully whisk in 1/2 cup of the vinegar; turn away to avoid the fumes. Cook over moderate heat, whisking and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until thick and syrupy, about 1 minute. Add half of the vegetable puree and bring to a boil. Return 10 of the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin side up. Repeat with the second skillet and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup of vinegar, puree and chicken thighs. Cover both skillets and simmer the chicken over low heat until cooked through, about 12 minutes.
  5. Preheat the broiler and position a rack 8 inches from the heat. Uncover the skillets and broil the chicken until the skin is lightly browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, spoon the sauce on top and serve. 

Piment d'Espelette is a smoky, mildly spicy ground chile native to the Basque region. It is available at specialty food shops, spice shops and by mail order from Piperade (415-391-2555 or

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Green Fig Canapé

This fig canapé recipe is so very easy to make, which is absolutely perfect for entertaining. They serve as appetizers for a dinner party or hors d'oeuvres for a cocktail gathering. They look fancy, taste delicious and make for great conversation makers. Follow these few quick steps and you will have your guests applauding your gourmet skills.

Green Fig Canapé (serves 4-6)
9 Fresh Ripe Green Figs
1/4lb Bleu Cheese 
3Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Rinse and dry figs. Cut figs in half {place 3-4 pieces on a small plate for individual servings or place uniformly on a platter for hors d'oeuvres style}. Top with small crumbled pieces of bleu cheese. Drizzle with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  

Serve and enjoy!!

Recipe courtesy of California Gardens

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Friday, August 10, 2012


I Love baked goods that include figs as one of their main ingredients or simply as an ingredient, any time I can get my hands on any - it is a very dangerous situation for me!! I just love the texture of the fig and the many flavor profiles it can provide. I also love the subtle tartness of the fruit, it gives such a perfect balance to the pallet. It's sweet, crunchy, earthy and delicious.....I know! I just love them!! 

Anyhow, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes, the crispy crust and the gooey-'caramely' fig filling in this galette will blow your mind.
Making your own pie crust is always best, but not everyone can or has time to do so. Trader Joe's has a pretty decent frozen butter crust available that is folded, and packaged in a box.

Fig Galette (serves 6-8)

1 butter pie crust {homemade** or store bought}
1 1/2 pounds mission figs, tips cut off and discarded, quartered
1/4 cup orange marmalade {or another jam of your liking - I recommend peach or if you like tart flavorings,use strawberry}
2 Tbsp sugar
To make pie dough: Put into a food processor 1 1/3 cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar, pulse to combine. Add 4 ounces (1 stick) chilled butter cut into small cubes (cubes best frozen), pulse 9 times, until butter is size of peas. Slowly add 1/4 cup of chilled water, and maybe a little more, pulsing after each addition, until the dough just begins to form clumps. Empty the dough onto a clean surface, form into a ball with minimum handling. Pat down into a disc shape. Chill for at least an hour before rolling out.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out dough to a 14-inch diameter round of even thickness. Place on a parchment or Silpat-lined rimmed baking dish.
Spread marmalade on the rolled out dough, leaving a 2-inch border along the edges. Arrange the quartered figs in a circular pattern, again leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle sugar over the figs.

Fold the 2-inch bordered edge of the crust over the figs, pleating the crust.
Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned and the fruit is bubbly.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
Chef's Note: 
The minute you even think you might want to make a pie crust, cut up a stick of butter into smallish (about 1/2-inch) cubes, and put it into the freezer. The colder the butter the better luck you'll have with creating a flaky crust. Freeze the butter at least 15 minutes, better an hour, best overnight. (I usually keep cubed butter in the freezer ready to go for making pie crusts.)that is the trick to a wonderfully flakey butter crust (along with barely handling). Frozen cubes of butter. Bits of butter that you can easily distinguish when you roll out the dough. When the butter melts while the crust is baking, it forms layers in the dough, layers that result in a flaky crust.

All Butter Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies (Pâte Brisée)
{Makes 1 pâte brisée crust, enough for one tart}
This recipe makes 1 pâte brisée crust, enough for one tart. If you are making a pie with a bottom and top crust, double this recipe and form two discs of dough instead of one.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 to 4 Tbsp ice water, very cold
The minute you even think you might want to make a pie crust, cut up a stick of butter into smallish (about 1/2-inch) cubes, and put it into the freezer. The colder the butter the better luck you'll have with creating a flaky crust. Freeze the butter at least 15 minutes, better an hour, best overnight. (I usually keep cubed butter in the freezer ready to go for making pie crusts.)
Place the flour, salt, and sugar into a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 times. Then add the other half of the butter cubes and pulse 6 to 8 more times. You should have a mixture that resembles a coarse meal, with many butter pieces the size of peas.
Add a couple of tablespoons of ice cold water (without the ice!) to the food processor bowl and pulse a couple of times. Then add more ice water, slowly, about a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition, until the mixture just barely begins to clump together. If you pinch some of the crumbly dough and it holds together, it's ready, if not, add a little more water and pulse again. Try to keep the water to a minimum. Too much water will make your crust tough.
Remove the crumbly mixture from the food processor and place on a very clean, smooth surface. If you want an extra flaky crust, you can press the heel of your palm into the crumbly mixture, pressing down and mooshing the mixture into the table top. This is a French technique, called "fraisage". Do this a few times, maybe 4 to 6 times, and it will help your crust be extra flaky. Then, use your hands to press the crumbly dough together and shape into a disc. Work the dough only enough to just bring the dough together. Do not over-knead or your crust will end up tough. You should be able to see little bits of butter, speckling the dough. When these bits of butter melt as the crust cooks, the butter will help separate the dough into flaky layers. So, visible pieces of butter are a good thing, what you are aiming for, in the dough. Sprinkle the disc with a little flour on all sides. Wrap the disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. (At this point you can freeze the dough disk for several months until ready to use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before proceeding.)
When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove the disk from the refrigerator and place on a clean, smooth, lightly floured surface. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take just enough of a chill off of it so that it becomes easier to roll out. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a 12 inch circle, to a thickness of about 1/8 of an inch thick. As you roll out the dough, check if the dough is sticking to the surface below. Add a few sprinkles of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Place on to a 9-inch pie plate, lining up the fold with the center of the pan. Gently unfold and press down to line the pie dish with the dough.

Recipe Courtesy of Simply Recipes

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012


August also brings the Fabulous Fig, wish is another one of my favorite ingredients to eat and cook with. For me the fig always adds a textural and flavorful balance to any dish it is added to. It can be prepared in a variety of techniques and can be found in many recipes throughout the world that range from breads, appetizer, side dishes, to desserts.  In my opinion the possibilities are endless.
The edible fig is one of the first plants that was cultivated by humans. Nine subfossil figs of a parthenocarpic type dating to about 9400–9200 BC were found in the earlyNeolithic village Gilgal I (in the Jordan Valley, 13 km north of Jericho). The find predates the domestication of wheat, barley, and legumes, and may thus be the first known instance of agriculture. It is proposed that they may have been planted and cultivated intentionally, one thousand years before the next crops were domesticated (wheat and rye)Figs were also a common food source for the Romans. The fruits were used, among other things, to fatten geese for the production of a precursor of foie gras.
Figs can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in jam-making. Most commercial production is in dried or otherwise processed forms, since the ripe fruit does not transport well, and once picked does not keep well.
Two crops of figs are potentially produced each year. The first or breva crop develops in the spring on last year's shoot growth. In contrast, the main fig crop develops on the current year's shoot growth and ripens in the late summer or fall. The main crop is generally superior in both quantity and quality than the breva crop. However, some cultivars produce good breva crops (e.g., Black Mission, Croisic, and Ventura).
There are basically three varieties of common figs:
  • Caducous (or Smyrna) figs require pollination by the fig wasp and caprifigs to develop crops. Some cultivars are Calimyrna, Marabout, and Zidi.
  • Persistent (or Common) figs do not need pollination; fruit develop through parthenocarpic means. This is the variety of fig most commonly grown by home gardeners. Adriatic, Black Mission, Brown Turkey, Brunswick, and Celeste are some representative cultivars.
  • Intermediate (or San Pedro) figs do not need pollination to set the breva crop, but do need pollination, at least in some regions, for the main crop. Examples are Lampeira, King, and San Pedro.

Figs are one of the highest plant sources of calcium and fiber. According to USDA data for the Mission variety, dried figs are richest in fiber, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and vitamin K, relative to human needs. They have smaller amounts of many other nutrients. Figs have a laxative effect and contain many antioxidants. They are good source of flavonoids and polyphenols including gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, syringic acid, (+)-catechin, (−)-epicatechin and rutin.In one study, a 40-gram portion of dried figs (two medium size figs) produced a significant increase in plasma antioxidant capacity. Figs are also one of the easiest, most problem-free fruits you can grow.

FIg Facts Courtesy of Wikipedia
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Monday, August 6, 2012


Eggplant and Parsley Dip (serves 8-10)

2 lbs. eggplant (about 2 large eggplants)
1⁄2  cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cored and
   roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and
   roughly chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,to taste
Toasted pita or bread, for serving

Build a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to high. Grill eggplants, turning, until charred and soft, 18–20 minutes. Let cool. Peel eggplants; scoop out seeds. Chop eggplants; drain in strainer for 30 minutes. 

Heat 1⁄4 cup oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat. Add peppers; cook for 10 minutes. Add jalapeños and continue cooking until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl of food processor along with reserved eggplant, remaining oil, parsley, vinegar, and garlic. Process until slightly chunky. Season with salt and pepper. Chill to meld flavors. Serve with toasted pita or bread.


Photo: Penny De Los Santos
Recipe Courtesy of Pin It

Friday, August 3, 2012


Making moussaka is something of an undertaking—a rich meat sauce (made here with lamb, but you can substitute other ground meats such as turkey, veal, or even pork, if you prefer), layered with tender eggplant and a cheese sauce. You can make the moussaka in two smaller casserole dishes to serve one now and freeze one to bake later. 

Lamb and Eggplant Moussaka (serves 12-14)
3 lb eggplant (2 large or 3 medium)

2 large russet potatoes

Salt as needed

1/3 cup olive oil, or as needed

2 cups diced onion
1 1/4 lb ground lamb (or substitute beef, turkey, pork, or combination)
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
2 tsp minced garlic
2 cloves
Small piece cinnamon stick (or 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 bay leaf
Pinch ground allspice
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 cups Cheese Sauce**

Peel, salt, and rinse the eggplant if desired (see "note" below).

Place potatoes in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Over medium-high heat bring them to a boil and boil lightly for 5 minutes. Cool, cut into 1/8-inch slices, and set aside.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the eggplant to the hot oil a few slices at a time and sautéthe eggplant slices, turning as necessary, until tender and lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to a rack to drain while you sauté the remaining eggplant, adding more oil to the skillet as necessary.

To prepare a meat sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the ground meat and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat loses its raw appearance, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, allspice, salt, pepper, and about 1/2 cup water. Simmer until thick and flavorful, about 30 minutes. Add the tomato paste and red wine and continue simmering until the wine has developed a sweet aroma, about 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To assemble the moussaka: Scatter the bread crumbs in a deep, rectangular baking dish. Place a layer of half of the eggplant slices over the bread crumbs. Add the meat sauce and spread it into an even layer. Place an even layer of sliced potatoes over the sauce. Add the remaining eggplant in an even layer over the meat sauce. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese sauce is thick and golden brown and the eggplant is very tender, about 45 minutes. Let the moussaka rest for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.
Many recipes instruct you to salt eggplant before you cook it. Some say this step is necessary because it draws out any bitterness in the eggplant. We think it's a good idea, even if the eggplant isn't large or bitter. Drawing out some of the moisture in eggplant collapses the vegetable a little, so it doesn't act as much like a sponge for oil when you fry it. 

Peel the eggplant if you wish and slice the eggplant to the required thickness. Place the slices in a colander and put the colander in a large bowl. Sprinkle the slices liberally with kosher salt and let them rest until the salt begins to draw moisture to the surface, about 20 minutes. Rinse the eggplant thoroughly, let drain, and blot dry.

** Cheese Sauce (makes 2cups)
5 tbsp butter
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
Few grains of nutmeg
Salt as needed
Freshly ground black pepper as needed
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk, working out any lumps that form. Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to low and gently simmer, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Whisk the egg yolks in a small boil and add a bit of the hot sauce to the yolks. Blend well, and return the yolk mixture to the rest of the béchamel. Stir in the cheese and blend well. Keep warm while preparing the moussaka.

Recipe Courtesy of
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August has many savory seasonal offerings and one of my very favorites is the delicious eggplant. This is an ingredient that can be cooked in so many different ways and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes of multiple coultures.

The eggplantauberginemelongenebrinjal or guinea squash (Solanum melongena) is a plant of the family Solanaceae (also known as the nightshades) and genus [[Solanum]]. It bears a fruit of the same name, commonly used in cooking. As a nightshade, it is closely related to the tomato and potato. It is native to India.

It is a delicate perennial often cultivated as an annual. It grows 40 to 150 cm (16 to 57 in) tall, with large coarsely lobed leaves that are 10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 10 cm broad. Semi-wild types can grow much larger, to 225 cm (7 ft) with large leaves over 30 cm (12 in) long and 15 cm (6 in) broad. The stem is often spiny. The flowers are white to purple, with a five-lobed corolla and yellow stamens. The fruit is fleshy, has a meaty texture, and is less than in diameter on wild plants, but much larger in cultivated forms.

The fruit is botanically classified as a berry and contains numerous small, soft seeds which are edible, but have a bitter taste because they contain nicotinoid alkaloids; this is unsurprising as it is a close relative of tobacco.

The Eggplant : courtesy of SocialEats

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