Sunday, November 01, 2015

My First Breakfast in Turkey

My first breakfast in Turkey a few weeks ago in Kayseri. The day before had been 20+ hours of travel and I needed something restorative.  This rich, spicy mutton soup did the trick. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kebab in Antalya

This wonderful eggplant and lamb kebab is from Antayla on Turkey's Liikya Coast, known to tourists as the Turquoise Coast.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Pomegranates in Greece

Pomegranates are everywhere in Greece -- in backyards, hanging temptlingly over fences near city sidewalks and of course in the markets. This photo was taken in a small super market on the island of Hydra, Greece.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Greek Food Photo of the Day -- Pita Kebab with "Everything"

I'm on the road again folks, so you know what that means my irregular posing of (mostly) food photos of my adventures.

Right now we are in Athens where we had this charcoal-grilled lamb pita kebab at a locals cafe near the very meat-centric Central Market.  The waitress asked if wanted it with everything, which of course we did.  Everything turned out to be red onions, tomatoes, yogurt sauce and French fries. The pita was chewy and tasty, the meat was succulent and the overall experience a good one.  The first of many such snacks as we travel through Greece and Turkey, I suspect. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Give a Fig - With Recipes for Lamb with Figs, Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce (with Sea Salt) and a Frozen Fig-Banana Dessert

I like figs - dried, fresh and cooked. Fresh they are juicy and earthy. Dried they are little nuggets of complex sweetness. Cooked they bring color and flavor to a dish.

I enjoy creating recipes with them for both this blog and my Jewish food column in the J weekly.  Seeing fresh figs in the farmers' market or produce store sets my imagination racing about new recipes I can develop and ways I can find to eat these.

It doesn't have to be a fresh fig either to get me going.  The first time I had fig jam slathered over cheese (try a creamy blue or a soft goat cheese) on a whole wheat biscuit-style cracker was a revelation.  Dried figs are like candy in my house to eat out of hand or create confections.

Figs are in season right now in California, which means my fig radar is going full blast.  For more about the types of fresh figs, tips and recipes using figs in recipes and more, check out the California Fig Advisory Board's website.

In honor of the board's upcoming California Fig Fest in Fresno, CA later this month (August 15), I thought I would share some of my recent fig recipes using fresh figs, dried figs and a wowser of a hot chocolate sauce with fig jam and sea salt. To see my recipe for pistachio fig tart with a honey glaze click here. For my fig almond tart in a cornmeal olive oil crust click here.

In the Jewish-Christian tradition, figs symbolize endurance, peace and fruitfulness. Adam and Eve clothed their nakedness with fig leaves. Early scholars ascribed medicinal value to the fig, which is biologically a flower rather than a true fruit. Today, California grows almost 98 percent of the U.S. crop of figs. Worldwide, Turkey is the number one grower of figs. Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Syria and Greece are also major growers. 

For the Lamb with Figs below, I used black mission figs, but brown turkey figs would also work. Sample before buying since figs’ intensity and sweetness vary.

The Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt can be made in advance, refrigerated and gently reheated. Use non-dairy ingredients for a vegan sauce. Bananas give the vegan Fig-Banana Frozen Dessert a surprisingly creamy texture.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Celebrate Bastille Day with Payard's Pink Champagne Raspberry Granite

Recipe and photo courtesy of Chef Francois Payard

I normally don't use others' recipes or photos but the pr person from Payard sent me these and I was smitten so I decided to share them anyway.

My fondest memory of Bastille Day is one more than 20 years ago spent at the cafe at Domain Chandon in Yountville sipping champagne and listening to cabaret singers.

This relatively easy dessert brings back those memories.   Granité is a sorbet-like dessert made without an ice cream maker.  It it has a more granular texture. The Italians have a similar dessert known as granita.

Happy July 14th!

Pink Champagne and Raspberry Granité

Makes 6 to 8 Servings

2 ½ pints raspberries
½ pint blueberries

1 ⅓ cups sugar
One 750-ml bottle rosé champagne
Juice of 1 lemon

1)    Combine 2 pints of raspberries, the sugar, and ¼ cup of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
2)    Strain the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Stir in the champagne and lemon juice. Scrape the mixture into a shallow metal baking pan, cover, and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours. (You can make the granité ahead and keep it covered in the freezer for up to 3 days.)
3)    Using the tip of a spoon or the tines of a fork, scrape the granité into chilled dessert glasses, garnish with the remaining ½ pint raspberries and the blueberries, and serve immediately.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In the Pink -- Pucker Up for Rhubarb: Recipes for Borscht And Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb Beet Borscht
I'm still seeing lots of rhubarb on the shelves of my supermarkets and produce stores here in California, which seems late in the season for these purplish red and green-tinged stalks.

I hope you have access to lots of fresh rhubarb where you live, but if you don't you can use frozen rhubarb available in many some  groceries, natural foods and specialty markets, and on line (no need to defrost for the recipes below, but defrost and drain first if using in baking.) That makes me think of buying some stalks, cutting in pieces and freezing them myself so I can have the tart goodness of rhubarb throughout the year.

My memories of this astringent ingredient are sweet, not sour. My Grandma Clara used to stew me up a batch of rhubarb harvested from a neighbor's field. 

The plant's stalks cook up pink.  Often strawberries or sugar are added to tame its astringency. In the borscht, I combine rhubarb's tartness with beets' sweetness. If serving cold, you may need additional seasoning.  I like to serve the soup cold at parties as "shooters" in shot glasses topped with a swirl of yogurt and sprinkle of minced dill or mint as an appetizer.

Buckwheat is from the same botanical family as rhubarb and blintzes made with the flour are an earthy complement to the tangy Strawberry Rhubarb Compote. The blintz wrappers are very versatile and can be used with a variety of fillings. Try the compote on top of cheesecake or ice cream.

Since your rhubarb may be more or less astringent than mine, taste as you add sugar since you may need more or less than I've indicated in the recipes.

Be sure to discard any rhubarb leaves as they contain toxic compounds.

Rhubarb Beet Borscht
Serves 6-8

1 1/2 lbs. beet roots, trimmed
8 cups vegetable stock or broth
2 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 lb. fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. sugar or more as needed
1/2 tsp. lemon juice or more as needed
Garnishes (see below)

Thinly peel beet roots. Cut into 1/4" dice (4 cups). Bring stock to simmer. Add beets and garlic. Simmer 15 minutes until beets have begun to soften. Slice rhubarb into 1/4" pieces (3 cups). Add rhubarb, salt, pepper, and cardamom to soup. Simmer until rhubarb is falling part and beets are completely soft, 30-40 minutes. Taste. Add sugar and or lemon juice to balance taste sweet-tart. Cool and puree half in blender or with immersion blender and return to pot. Serve warm with garnish(es) or chill. If serving cold, taste and correct seasoning before garnishing.

Garnishes: Chose from one or more: sour cream or yogurt; sliced hard-boiled eggs; sliced, boiled potatoes, and minced fresh dill or mint.
Creative Commons license see below

Buckwheat Blintzes with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
Makes 10-12

4 Tbs. melted butter, divided
1 recipe Buckwheat Blintz Crepe Batter (see below)
1 recipe Blintz Filling (see below)
1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Compote (see below)
1 Tbs. butter

Melt 3 Tbs. butter. Heat 8" omelet, fry or crepe pan over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter.  When sizzling, lift pan up and pour in 1/4 cup batter, swirling to coat bottom evenly. Return to heat.  Cook for 1 minute or until the top of the crepe is set and bottom is light brown or has brown spots. Turn out on a clean dishcloth. Repeat until batter is done, reapplying the melted butter before each crepe.

Lay browned side down. Place 2 Tbs. of filling in middle, leaving about a 1" margin at top and bottom of crepe. Fold top over filling, then fold bottom over. Fold one side over, then the other. Repeat with remaining crepes. Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a large fry pan over medium heat.  Fry in batches for 2 minutes on each side. Serve topped with compote.

Buckwheat Blintz Crepe Batter: Combine in a blender 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup buckwheat flour, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cold water, 2 eggs, 2 Tbs. oil and 1/4 tsp. salt. Blend on high until well mixed, then for 20 seconds.  Let sit for 1 hour and blend again.

Blintz Filling: Combine 2 cups ricotta cheese, 1 beaten egg, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Mix well.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:  Simmer 1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb with 1/2 cup of orange juice until just soft. Add 2 cups quartered strawberries, 1 Tbs. lemon juice and 2 Tbs. sugar.  Simmer until strawberries are just cooked. Chill. Use at room temperature.
Photo credits: Soup: Blog Appetit; Rhubarb, By RhubarbFarmer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Another version of this post appeared in the j weekly.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My, My, My Negroni

Inspired by Negroni cocktails I had during the recent Negroni Week, I thought I would celebrate the Golden State Warriors' championship win tonight with the tipple.  

I also had almost everything at home for this simple cocktail except orange peel for the garnish.  I ended up garnishing my cocktail with slices of a Frog Hollow Farm apricot.  To complement the garnish I added a splash of peach schnapps. I liked the results and I share them with you as "My Negroni." For a traditional negroni, simply leave out the schnapps and garnish with the orange peel. I thought my version was a tad smoother.

For a more woodsy version of a Negroni, I direct you to the excellent Sunset Magazine version I had on my recent media tour. It is not more complicated, but the taste is more piney and the ingredients are more specific. The Forest Negroni is the creation of Sunset editor Nino Padova.

My Negroni
Makes 1 large drink

I used a traditional shot glass as a measure

1 measure Campari
1 measure sweet red (rosso) vermouth
1 measure gin
1/4 measure peach schnapps
2 slices of apricot or 1 slice peach

Fill shaker with ice. Pour in Campari, vermouth, gin and schnapps. Shake well.  Strain into chilled glass. Garnish with apricot slices.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Last Hurrah at Sunset Magazine's Menlo Park Campus This Weekend. Come Celebrate the Best of the West!

Sign from 2014 Celebration Weekend
If Sunset Magazine is said to celebrate the life in the West, the sale of it's famed 1951 Cliff May-designed Menlo Park campus is the end of an era and this weekend's Celebration Weekend could be the public's last chance to experience the mid-century landmark.

The move represents not just a change for the home, garden and travel icon of the West but for the population it serves in the coastal and southwestern U.S. Ever larger homes and gardens in suburbia are in many areas being replaced by an urban lifestyle accented by chickens, sustainable container gardens and recycled, homemade artisan maker-style crafts and projects.

Perhaps that shift in interests is reflected by the magazine's planned move in December from it's seven acre suburban campus filled with indoor and outdoor test kitchens, test gardens, wine cellar and offices to Oakland's Jack London Square. A second facility with wine and garden facilities is also planned for Sonoma County north of San Francisco.

At least that's the take I get from talking to Sunset editors at a recent media preview of the June 6 and 7 Celebration Weekend and from Editor in Chief Peggy Northrup's blog post.

Editors at the magazine vow to continue its coverage for both suburban and urban sectors of its audience and their passion for helping their readers live better shone throughout my tour.

The public can come experience all Sunset has to offer during the magazine's 17th annual Celebration Weekend at its campus at 80 Willow Road in Menlo Park.  It is always well attended but Sunset is expecting upwards of 20,000 attendees this year, so I recommend buying tickets in advance. (Plus you'll save $10). Tickets to some tastings and special activities are already sold out.

I went to the weekend last year and thoroughly enjoyed the food samples, kitchen tour, gardens, special exhibits and vendors for home, garden and travel as well as the entertainment and food trucks.
(Here's my write up of last year's event.)  Check the Sunset website for a full schedule of cooking demos (from famed chefs and Sunset staff) as well as entertainment, gardening, decorating and travel presentations..

This year I attended a media preview of Celebration Weekend.  Some highlights of that are below.
Please watch for a separate post with a cocktail and a mocktail recipe from the event.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Trip to Queens and Central Asia

Bukharian Jews lived in Uzbekistan in Central Asia on the spice route, so the seasonings in their food are complex and satisfying. These mantu (meat-filled dumplings) are from Salute in the New York City borough of Queens.  It is located in a neighborhood filled with amazing kosher and non kosher food providers with Russian, Middle East and Central Asian specialties ranging from pickled vegetables, cured meats, savory and sweet pastries to cheeses and much, much more.