Monday, October 5, 2015

Not-There-Yet Samosas

I debated whether of not to post this...since they were declared "not there yet." But I've posted flops before and this wasn't quite that. It's passable and I liked them. But the mini-foodie disagreed with me.

The Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf has been wanting to make baked samosas. So, on their first evening of Fall Break, we gave it a go. Jake, the Precise Kitchen Elf, and I all thought they were great. EKE said, "Mommy, they're not there yet." He didn't like the meat I put in the filling and he said that the dough was too doughy - "not quite crisp enough." So, we'll try again. But these are our Not-There-Yet Samosas.

  • 2 C cubed potatoes, boiled and slightly smashed
  • 1 C green peas, blanched
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 1" knob fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 t organic yellow mustard seeds*
  • 1 t garam masala (you can find my version in this post: Lamb Tikka Masala)
  • 1 t curry leaves*
  • 2 C flour
  • 2/3 t baking powder
  • 1 T Ajwain seeds*
  • 1 C warm water
  • 5 T olive (I used olive oil)
  • 1 t freshly ground salt
To Serve


Make the dough first so that you can make the filling while the dough rests. In a medium mixing bowl add flour, baking powder, salt, Ajwain seeds, and oil. Mix well. Pour in water and knead to a sticky dough. If too sticky, add more flour 1 T at a time. You don't want the dough too stiff. Cover with a wet cloth and set aside for 30 minutes and make your filling.

Heat olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan and add the onions, garlic, ginger and spices. Cook till spices are fragrant and the onions translucent. Add in the ground turkey and cook till browned completely. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

To Assemble
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F while you form the samosa. After the dough rests for 30 minutes, pull off slightly larger than golf-ball sized pieces of dough. Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into a large circle on a floured piece of parchment paper. Cut the circle in half to form a semi-circle.

Place a heap of the filling in the middle and fold the dough into a triangle shape. Pinch the edges together to form seal. Place the samosas on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 

Brush the samosas with oil all over. Then bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. The samosas should be crisped and lightly browned. Serve immediately with a side of chutney.

So, these are not-there-yet, according to the EKE. We'll be tweaking the recipe and reposting soon. Right now, the Kitchen Elves are off on vacation with my parents. And there is no cooking going on there!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cooking for Solutions Party with Alton Brown

While the boys are away, the parents will play. In this case, the parents will attend the Cooking for Solutions Party with Alton Brown.

I was cluelessly looking at the food tables when Jake urged, "Hey, do you want to meet him? Get in that line before other people figure out where he is." My smart man!

When we stood in line to say hello and get a photo, there were - maybe - a dozen people in line ahead of us; when we passed the same line about three hours later, there were well over a hundred people in that same line. Yikes.

So, we waited and met him. Jake told him that we were standing in line because our 11-year-old son just loves watching his show. I had him sign the only thing I had on me - a cocktail napkin. Yes, indeed, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf now has a napkin that reads: "To D-. Cook Smart. AB."

I carefully tucked the napkin in my purse, so I didn't accidentally use it! We figured that he will be mighty jealous that we got to meet Alton Brown. At least D has his signature now.

With that task checked off the list, we had the rest of the evening to stroll, explore the chef tables (all bites were focused on sustainability), sip some wine, enjoy the exhibits, and goof off a little. We made our way to the Splash Zone just to cuddle up in the giant clam.

While almost all of the food was outrageously good, a few chefs' offerings stuck out in my mind...

Chef John Fink of The Whole Beast in San Francisco had a whole pig, maybe two, because there were actually two heads on that table! "Winkler Mangalitsa Pig. Apple brined and 14-hour smoked over applewood. Served with apple-caraway slaw on a Hawaiian bun." Click to read more about the Winkler Mangalitsa pigs: here.

I can never say no to octopus. And Chef Sam Choy who owns half a dozen restaurants around the world, including Seafood Grille and Hapa Bar in Honolulu, Hawaii, was handing out plates of octopus with rice and veggies. I didn't actually read the sign as to what it was. Whoops. It was tender and delicious though. I refrained from getting seconds. Actually, I probably would have gotten a second plate, but the line was ridiculous by the time I walked by a second time.

We actually did go back for seconds on this Bloody Mary-inspired dish from Parcel 104 in Santa Clara. While the bloody mary itself is important, the garnishes are what make it awesome! This one had pickled onions and cucumber, a quail egg, a goat cheese-stuffed shisito pepper, and a cube of ham. So, so tasty. I did admit we went back for seconds, right??

Other notable plates - without photos, sorry! - Chef Yulanda Santos of Sierra Mar served 'Sticks and Stones' which were chocolate truffles in the shapes of rocks with chocolate twigs. Chef Jason Franey of Restaurant 1833 offered a smoked sturgeon plate with tiny bubbles of sauces; his dessert counterpart, Chef Ben Spungin, ran out of whatever he was serving, so I didn't get to try that. Cannery Row Brewing Company had a pumpkin soup that was creamy and tasty. 

Though I was teetering on the edge of being uncomfortably stuffed, we heard about the table manned by Chef Mark Dommen of One Market Restaurant in San Francisco. He had me at 'bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin' then he served it with a dandelion persillade with salsify.

While I sipped from several vintners, Jake was thrilled that there were beer offerings as well. We kicked off the evening with Leopold 7 (I actually wrote a blogpost - Belgian Brewery Set for Cannery Row - about them for Edible Monterey Bay not too long ago, but I had never tried their beer.)

Local vintners present included Bonny Doon Vineyard, Scheid Vineyards, and McIntyre Vineyards. The Hess Collection came down from Napa Valley. And there were probably a dozen wine tables at which I didn't even stop. So. Much. Wine.

Katie Blandin Shea of Bar Cart Cocktail Co. was pouring some delicious non-alcoholic libation that included huckleberry syrup and was garnished with tiny strips of Kaffir lime leaves and Monterey Bay sea salt. And I was tickled to see my article about her, that appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of Edible Monterey Bay, prominently displayed at her table.

Click to read my article about Blandin Shea -  Local Libations: From Field to Glass.

And it's not a party without caviar and oysters, right?  I did have some of the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar but skipped the oysters. After I got food poisoning from too many oysters one evening in New Orleans, it's like Russian Roulette for me. Sometimes I'll be fine; other times, I get a raging stomach ache. Jake asked me not to risk it. Probably smart...and I listened.

 There's probably more to share, but I'll let this suffice. And despite being there with 1500 other people, it still felt like a great date night. Though this is Cooking for Solutions' 14th year, this was the first time we attended. Good food, good wine and good times.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Under a Full Moon on Lìpari + Passata di Pomodoro

Years ago, at the tail-end of my time in Italy, I traveled to Lìpari, an island off the coast of Sicily, and rented a cottage on a farm. Everyday the family left me different things in a basket by my door - fresh tomatoes one day, garlic another, and freshly laid eggs on the next. It was glorious to make dinner each night with something from their farm.

On the second to the last evening I was there, I was sitting outside with a glass of wine, crusty bread, fresh cheese and beautiful, sun-kissed tomatoes from the farm. Signorina! came a voice from the main house. I put down my glass and walked toward the house. The farmer's wife asked me if I would like to watch them make tomato sauce that evening. Vieni fuori alle due, d'accordo? Come outside at 2 in the morning, okay? Okay.

At two in the morning, I pulled on some jeans and a sweater and walked out in the chilly morning air. It was a full moon though I don't know if that was significant in this family ritual, or if the timing just worked out that way. I made my way towards a pyre in the middle of the field. Vieni, vieni! beckoned one of the sons.

In the middle of the fire was a large cauldron. It reminded me of the cast iron whale pots at Point Lobos that were used by whalers to render blubber into oil. On one side were crates and crates of tomatoes that looked like the same kind I had been given earlier; on the other side were crates and crates of empty beer bottles.

Like a well-oiled machine, all of the activity was a blur. Two people tossed whole tomatoes into the pot. Two more people shoved the tomatoes around with a large wooden paddle. As the tomatoes lost their shape, someone with a bucket attached to a stick pulled buckets' worth of tomato sauce and dumped them into a mill. The farmer cranked on the mill and the sauce, now evenly ground, poured out into more buckets. Three people were carefully pouring the passata di pomodoro into the beer bottles and capping them. They continued for hours. I watched for hours. As the sun was beginning to crest over the hill, the mound of tomatoes was gone, the pot was empty, and an entire army of bottles stood, filled, in crates. I was astounded.

The family I had worked for for ten months had crates just like those and it's how I made pasta dishes for them throughout the year. I wondered who made their passata di pomodoro because I'm fairly certain no one in that house had done what I had just witnessed.

So, whenever I have a glut of tomatoes, I make passata and long for Lìpari. That morning, under the full moon, was one of those food memories that is forever etched into your brain.

Passata di Pomodoro is a starter sauce. Cooks in Italy use it as the base for any tomato sauces. So, for instance, you might saute garlic in a pan, add the passata, pour in some wine and let that simmer until thickened, and fold in fresh herbs before tossing into pasta. 

You can make passata with just the tomatoes and lemon juice and season with herbs later. A note about the lemon juice - they didn't use any lemon juice when I was on Lìpari, at least not that I saw, but best practices for canning food dictates you need some acid for safety. So, I use it. I also use sterilized jars and lids, chuckling at the memory of those old beer bottles that might have been rinsed out before using. Maybe. Maybe not.

Ingredients makes approximately 10 pints
  • 15 pounds tomatoes (I had San Marzano tomatoes from Serendipity Farms)
  • 1 T dried basil
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 10 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them in a large pot.

Bring to a simmer and let cook for at least 30 minutes. The tomatoes should be softened and have released much of their liquids.

Carefully ladle tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the blended tomatoes back into the pot. Stir in the dried herbs. And let simmer for another 60 to 90 minutes. It will reduced by about 25%. If you want it more concentrated and thicker, cook for longer.

In the meantime, sterlized your lids, bands, and jars. Place 1 T of lemon juice into each jar. Then, carefully ladle the sauce into the jars. Wipe the rims and finger tighten the lids. Place the jars into a water bath and process for 35 minutes. Let the jars cool on a kitchen towel until they are sealed and fully cooled. If any jars do not seal properly, place them in the fridge and use within 2 week.

I'm still trying to figure out what to do with my second 15-pounds of San Marzanos. A friend suggested: more of the same...and send some jars to Michigan!

Friday, October 2, 2015

#ItalianFWT: Roasted Flank Steak with Zucchini-Mint Pesto with an Umbrian Merlot

This month the Italian Food, Wine & Travel - #ItalianFWT - blogging group is traveling to their twelfth region of Italy: Umbria. I'm joining for the just the third time and was thrilled to be heading to Umbria by goblet since I never made it there in real life.

Umbria is bordered by Tuscany to the west, Marche to the east and Lazio to the south. Partly hilly and partly flat, and fertile owing to the valley of the Tiber, its topography includes part of the central Apennines. Completely landlocked, it is the only Italian region having neither a coastline nor a common border with other countries.

Poet Giosuè Carducci writes about Umbria, il cuore verde d'Italia, 'the green heart of Italy.'

Oscure intanto fumano le nubi
su l'Apennino: grande, austera, verde
da le montagne digradanti in cerchio
l'Umbria guarda. 

Follow along the Umbria journey with my other Umbrian fans; you can also chat with us live this Saturday morning at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!

From the #ItalianFWT Group...

In My Glass...
I chose a merlot from Umbria. Falesco hand-harvests its grapes from the hills around Orvieto, ferments in stainless steel, ages in barrels for seven months, then bottles - without filtration. In the glass, the merlot was a deep garnet in color with an exotic blend of aromas. Blackberry, tobacco and vanilla play on the palate to a lingering finish.

Full-bodied and velvety, I thought this would pair beautifully with some pesto-covered beef. And, I was correct. Next time, I think I'll try a lamb dish with mint chutney.

On My Plate...
I was inspired to make Roasted Flank Steak with Zucchini-Mint Pesto. To fully embrace the Autumn season, I topped all of it with crisped shiitake mushrooms and softened fennel.

Roasted Flank Steak with Zucchini-Mint Pesto

  • 1 flank steak, between 2 and 3 pounds) 
  • 1 T organic brown sugar 
  • 1 T paprika 
  • 1 t freshly ground salt
  • 1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 t ground cumin 
  • 1/2 t ground coriander 
  • 1 T crushed mint leaves
  • olive oil
Zucchini-Mint Pesto
  • 2 C fresh zucchini, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 C fresh mint
  • 2 T fresh oregano
  • 2 T fresh parsley
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • optional: freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper
To Serve
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 C shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the flank steak on a parchment-lined baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, paprika, salt, cumin, coriander and mint. Sprinkle the spices over the flank steak and rub it in. Drizzle with olive oil. Then roast in the preheated oven for between 25 and 40 minutes, depending on desired level of doneness.

Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving. While the flank steak roasts and rest, prepare your sauce.

Zucchini-Mint Pesto
Put all ingredients in blender and pulse to a thick paste. If it's too thick, add more olive oil. If it's too runny, add more zucchini. Remove from blender and set aside until ready to serve. 

To Serve...
Soften the fennel in a splash or olive oil. Crisp the mushrooms and set aside. Here's how to crisp mushrooms. Place thin slices of flank steak on a plate. Spoon zucchini-mint peso over the top. Then lay softened fennel and crisp mushrooms on top of the pesto. Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars for #PumpkinWeek 2015

Welcome to #PumpkinWeek day 5! Last day. Hosted by Terri from Love and Confections, nineteen bloggers will be sharing nearly seventy pumpkin-filled recipes over the course of the week. Be sure to come back every day to see all the delicious creations - from muffins to cakes, cocktails, breakfast baked goods, savory pastas and stews, and gluten-free recipes, too. You can also find these great recipes and more on Love and Confections' #PumpkinWeek Pinterest Board!

#PumpkinWeek day 5 recipes:

I vowed to stop buying granola bars this school year. I was tired of the wrappers and they are so, so easy to make. Every Sunday night, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I whip up a batch of granola bars for the week. This week, in honor of #PumpkinWeek2015, we decided to add some pumpkin flair to the batch. Yum, yum, yum.

  • 2 C old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 C pumpkin seeds
  • 1 C sliced almonds
  • 1/2 C flaxseed meal
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T hemp seeds
  • 1/2 C ginger syrup
  • 1/4 C organic coconut sugar
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T pumpkin puree (how to make pumpkin puree: version 1version 2)
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 t ground cardamom
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 C mixed dried fruits (we used dried cranberries, golden raisins, shredded coconut, and chopped dried figs)

Grease a square baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread the oats, pumpkin seeds, almonds, flaxseed, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes so nothing burns.

In the meantime, combine the ginger syrup, sugar, olive oil, pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, spices, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is nicely toasted, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Add the oat mixture to the ginger syrup mixture, fold in the dried fruit, and stir to combine. 

Scoop mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down with the bottom of another baking dish, with your hands, or with a spatula.

Place in the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Cut into squares. These will keep for about a week in an airtight container. 

Blue Apron Adventure + Pressed Chicken Tortas {Review}

Last week a good friend offered me a voucher to try Blue Apron. All I knew: it's an ingredient delivery service. But, the first week was free, so I agreed. I signed up for the two-meal family delivery. There is also an option for a three-meal, two person delivery.

Yesterday I received the box with ingredients for two dinners with four servings per dinner. "A great recipe is composed of incredible ingredients" read a cardboard insert in my package.

While I certainly agree with the sentiment - and find their one-use packaging visually appealing (read "super cute") - there is a lot of packaging and plastic in that box. Most is recyclable; some looked compostable. But it's a lot of packaging. A lot.

I received ingredients and slick, glossy recipe sheets for Pressed Chicken Tortas and Shepherd's Pie. Because I had a meeting at school last night, I didn't get a chance to try either. So, I woke up this morning and made the chicken tortas for lunches.

I wish they included the ingredients of the 'Chicken Tortas Spice Blend' so we could make it again on our own. But, I suppose, that's not really the point. They want you to go back and order ingredients from their online store.

Okay. Here we go on a Blue Apron adventure, making Pressed Chicken Tortas. 

Step One: Season and cook the chicken.

Step Two: Layer your torta.

Step Three: Press the tortas.

Step Four: Enjoy!

  • It's convenient. Everything for two dinners is delivered straight to your doorstep.
  • It's almost effortless. Everything is packaged in the necessary measurements that are needed for the recipe.
  • It's easy. The photographic instructions make the dishes easy to complete even if you aren't well-versed in the kitchen.
  • The dinners are complete. When I write "everything is included", I do mean everything. The delivery yesterday included the pat of butter and 1 T of Worcestershire sauce (in a tiny little plastic bottle) you needed to complete one of the dishes.
  • It's fun. The choices of meals, as I looked at future week deliveries, seem inviting, especially to someone who is just beginning to really cook. The selections might get people to try dishes and recipes they wouldn't normally tackle.

  • There are a few cons, including ingredient selection. For example, the one tomato that came with the box for the Pressed Chicken Tortas recipe was fine. It was red and it was round. But it wasn't perfectly ripe. It was slightly firm and a little bit mealy. I prefer ugly tomatoes that ooze summer sweetness. So, the tomato was visually appealing, but not the one I would have selected if I were at the market myself. And I would have opted for a whole wheat bread if I were buying the ingredients myself.
  • There's not enough for leftovers. I usually pack dinner leftovers for our next day's lunches. But the ingredients provided just enough for the one meal.
  • I already talked about the packaging. The amount of packaging is off-putting to me.
  • But the objection that puts the nail in the coffin for me: It's expensive. The two-meal family delivery plan costs just under $70 for the two meals. When I write "just under", I mean $69.92. Odd total. There was an option for three two-person meals for just under $60. I usually budget between $175 and $200 for twenty meals and snacks*, not including our CSA box. That means that these two meals, at $35 per dinner, cost nearly double the amount of what I normally spend on food. Back in April, I wrote a post about $15 dinners for four. In case you don't want to click and read that post, I concluded that just the main dish was do-able for $15, but to get a full meal, including salad, dessert, and wine, you're looking at between $30 and $40. So, Blue Apron is in the ballpark for price, but without the dessert and the wine.
*Twenty meals because I usually cook every meal - breakfast, lunch, and dinner - for my family at home. Lunch is to-go for school and work, but I pack it. And I left off one meal, instead of the twenty-one meals in a week, because we might grab one breakfast out, usually bagels.

I definitely see the appeal of a service such as this. And I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to try it, but I won't be a subscriber. I know there are other companies to try. But I think I would have the same objections.

Have you tried one of these ingredient-dinner delivery services.
What did you think?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Pumpkin-Chocolate Babka for #PumpkinWeek 2015

Welcome to #PumpkinWeek day 4! One more day. Hosted by Terri from Love and Confections, nineteen bloggers will be sharing nearly seventy pumpkin-filled recipes over the course of the week. Be sure to come back every day to see all the delicious creations - from muffins to cakes, cocktails, breakfast baked goods, savory pastas and stews, and gluten-free recipes, too. You can also find these great recipes and more on Love and Confections' #PumpkinWeek Pinterest Board!

#PumpkinWeek day 4 recipes:

  • 1/2 C warm water
  • 1 T active dry yeast
  • 1 T organic coconut sugar
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 4 1/2 C flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • olive oil
  • 5 T butter, softened
  • 1 C  pumpkin puree (how to make pumpkin puree: version 1version 2)
  • 1 C organic coconut sugar, divided
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 C semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 C sliced almonds
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T organic coconut sugar
  • 1/2 t  pumpkin puree
Combine water, yeast, sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl. Let bloom for ten minutes - until it gets foamy on top. Add in the flour, then the eggs and vanilla extract. Knead until it comes together in a ball. Oil the bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes to two hours.

During the rise, make your filling. Place all of the ingredients, but only 1/2 C coconut sugar, up to through the pumpkin pie spice, in mixing bowl. And, with a fork, blend everything together until a thick paste is formed.

Once the dough is risen, roll it out on a parchment paper. You can divide the dough into half; I kept it all together in one loooooooong roll of dough in the end. Spread the pumpkin mixture over the rectangle. Sprinkle the entire roll with 1/2 C coconut sugar, chocolate chunks, and sliced almonds.

Roll the rectangle lengthwise into a jelly roll. Cut it down the length of the roll so that you have two long skinny pieces.

Wrap and twist the two pieces around each other so that you have a twisted loaf. I wasn't feeling well and my twists were not very photogenic, so I didn't take a photograph of that step. Sorry.

Let the loaves rise for an hour and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the loaves until golden brown and baked through, approimately 20 to 25 minutes.While the loaves are baking, make the glaze. Bring sugar, butter, and pumpkin puree to a simmer until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside to cool somewhat. As soon as the babka is pulled out of the oven, brush the syrup all over. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing!

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