Saturday, August 31, 2013

Roast Tomato Soup

Tomatoes, onions, garlic, oil, salt and pepper

Roasted tomatoes

Roasted tomatoes with bay leaves and stock
Using an immersion blender

Roasted Tomato Soup with cream and garnished with roasted grape tomato

My plants bearing medium-large tomatoes are in full bloom.  So with an abundance of tomatoes but not enough to can, Roasted Tomato Soup sounded good.  When I Googled “roasted tomato soup”, this one sounded best to me.  This is adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe on
Roasted Tomato Soup
2 ½ lbs fresh tomatoes (mix of plum, heirloom grape)
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 small onions, sliced
½ C vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
½ C chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
¾ C heavy cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. If using vine cherry tomatoes for garnish, add them as well, leaving them whole and on the vine. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot (set aside the roasted vine tomatoes for later). Add 3/4 of the stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by about a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, adjust consistency with remaining stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish in bowl with a splash of heavy cream and 3 or 4 roasted vine cherry tomatoes.
OMG! This was quite a revelation because up until a few years ago I was not fond of tomatoes, raw or cooked.  Tomato soup sounded and looked like water-downed catsup, or tomato juice at best.  But this soup!  This soup was so rich and delicious!!  My family and I couldn’t get enough of it.  Roasting not only concentrates the flavor of the tomato but adds to it by way of caramelization.
As I said above, this recipe is adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe.  For instance, I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.  This did not make a difference in the flavor because the outcome was rich and robust.  I also substituted sage for basil simply because I did not have basil.  Therefore you can add practically any other herb you have on hand such as oregano, thyme, tarragon, etc.  Just be sure to adjust the amount to your taste.  And finally, I only added the cream as a garnish to maintain the soup’s tomato-ey color and flavor. 
If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer the soup to a regular blender or food processor to puree it.  Then transfer it back to the pot to finish cooking.
Since I harvested more tomatoes the other day, and can’t possibly use them all, I roasted enough for 3 more batches of this soup.  After cooling the roasted tomatoes I transferred them to a freezer-safe container. This way whenever I want Roasted Tomato Soup in the fall or winter, all I have to do is defrost a packet, add broth and finish off the recipe.  This is a quick way to preserve my tomatoes without having to can them or take up a lot of freezer space. 
So when are you going to make this soup?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower


It was cool and foggy where we live last week and I suddenly got a craving for roasted vegetables.  So I added potatoes and carrots to my roasted chicken.  I also made Roasted Cauliflower for my vegetarian husband.

Roasted Cauliflower with Plum Sage Jam


1 ½  teaspoons roasted garlic

1 ½ tablespoons Plum Sage jam

2 teaspoons lime juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon minced fresh sage

1 teaspoon minced fresh mint

1 large head cauliflower

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Rack should be at the lowest level.  Grease bottom of baking pan.

In a small bowl whisk together roasted garlic, jam, and lime juice.  Slowly pour olive oil into mixture until an emulsion is formed.  Add sage, mint and salt.  Set dressing aside.

Trim cauliflower of leaves.  Slice into “steaks” about ¾- inches thick.  Place slices in baking pan in a single layer.  Bake until edges of cauliflower turn a little brown, about 25 minutes. 

Drizzle jam dressing over cauliflower slices.   With rack still at the lowest level, change oven setting to broil.  Broil until cauliflower has browned some more and jam has caramelized, 5-10 minutes.


Roasted garlic is made by taking an entire head of garlic, cutting it half crosswise and pouring about 1 tablespoon olive oil on it.  Roast in 350°F until garlic is tender about 45 minutes.  When cool, squeeze softened garlic into a bowl.  Add oil from roasting pan and store refrigerated.

Roasting any vegetable concentrates its flavor.  Doing so to cauliflower which is kind of bland, gives it a rich, smoky flavor.  By roasting the jam dressing with the cauliflower, you will experience an explosion of flavor!  Lime juice tempers the sweetness of the jam, fresh sage heightens the earthiness of the herb in the jam, and fresh mint adds a refreshing finish.

This dressing may also be used in salads or as a marinade for roasted pork loin.  What would you use it with?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Snow Peas with Tofu

Chinese rice wine

Chinese rice wine label

Soy sauce
Sesame seed oil

Snow Peas with Tofu

I was in the grocery and bought some really fresh snow peas.  Initially I thought of stir frying them with a bunch of other vegetables but instead opted for a simpler dish. 
Snow Peas with Tofu
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 C sliced green onions
1 lb deep-fried tofu
1 lb snow peas, trimmed
½ C Chinese rice wine
¼ C soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil (optional)
Saute ginger and green onions in oil on medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add deep-fried tofu, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.  Add snow peas, toss to coat.  Add rice wine and soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until snow peas are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.   Add sesame oil just before serving.
This dish would make a great vegetarian meal served with some rice, or part of a meal with meat.  It is very pleasing to the eye with the vibrant green snow peas and golden deep-fried tofu.  It is fragrant from the combination of green onions, ginger, soy sauce and rice wine.  The snow peas provide a nice crunch from not being cooked too long, and the puffy deep-fried tofu is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The addition of sesame oil brings everything together and lends a luxurious silkiness to the dish.
 As with any stir-fry you can jazz up this dish with mouse ear mushrooms, cashew nuts, canned baby corn, bamboo shoots, sliced water chestnuts, sliced carrots, pieces of dried chile de arbol, oyster sauce,  etc.  The possibilities are almost endless!  Just be sure to cut meat or vegetables bite-sized so they cook quickly and evenly.  Deep-fried tofu can be found in most Asian markets.  You can also deep-fry it yourself.
Let me know if you need help finding some of the ingredients.  What will you put in your next stir-fry?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Furusato Korean BBQ

Furusato Korean BBQ


Slices of beef brisket

Marinated chicken

Meat cooking on the grill.

My plate.

I thought I would post something different today.  My daughter and I visited Furusato Korean BBQ located in Gardena, CA.  As in a typical Korean BBQ restaurant the diners cook their own meat on a grill built into the table.
Shortly after being seated we were given a bowl of salad greens with a thin soy sauce dressing, a saucer of kimchi (fermented cabbage, salt and chile), a saucer of marinated cucumber, seasoned soy bean sprouts, and a saucer of sweet potatoes.  There are many different kinds of kimchi and sides which are collectively called banchan.  We each got a bowl of steamed rice, and 2 dipping sauces (a thin soy sauce and seasoned oil). There was also a plate of rice paper.  You may request sliced onions and hot sauce.  Apart from water, you may order tea, soda or beer.  We weren’t that hungry so we ordered (A). 
Some BBQ restaurants have an all-you-can-eat salad/side dishes bar.  One of the things that sets Furusato apart is that they only have 2 items on their menu: (A) $9.99 person, and (B) $16.99 per person.  (A) gets you ultra-thin slices of beef brisket, slices of pork belly which is a bit thicker than thick-cut bacon, and marinated chicken.  On the other hand, (B) gets you the three items mentioned above plus: 1 Black Angus sirloin steak (1 steak /2 people max), Black Angus marinated beef ribs, marinated beef, beef tongue, spicy marinated pork, beef small intestines, seasoned webfoot octopus and seasoned sea mussels.  You can get unlimited quantities of everything except the Black Angus sirloin steak.  Use the tongs to transfer raw meat onto the grill.  Use your chopsticks to pick up cooked meat from the grill.
The crisp salad greens and banchan whetted our appetite.  As soon as the meat arrived we transferred some to the hot grill.  The meat started to sizzle and soon the color started to turn.  The smell of cooking meat was in the air.  This was a feast for the senses!  I dipped my meat into the oil seasoned with salt, but my daughter prefers the sweetish soy-based sauce.  The beef was very tender and was wonderful adorned with the simplicity of oil and salt.  The pork was good but a little less tender than the beef.  It’s a good thing it is given to you already cut up into bite-size pieces.  The chicken thigh meat takes longest to cook but is equally tender and flavorful.  After devouring the first round the server asked if we wanted more.  We ate the second plates of meat at a more leisurely pace.
Furusato is a no-frills kind of place.  Parking is extremely limited especially during their peak hours.  You may have to share your table with other diners.  Service may be a little slow and the servers may be a little brusque.  This place is popular with the younger crowd and tends to get noisy.  It’s more fun when you go there with a group of people.  They are open Monday through Saturday 11 AM – 12 midnight, and Sunday 11 AM – 11 PM. 

Do you think you would order (A) or (B)?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tomato Frittata

Leftover tomatoes

Sliced tomatoes in skillet with a little oil.
Tomatoes with egg mixture and chopped chives.

Nice and fluffy

Crispy edge

It's been 3 days since I picked a basketful of tomatoes from the backyard and already there are a lot of ripe ones out there.  Not ready to go into gardening mode at 11:30 this morning, I just got the ones that fell off the vine.  Just then my mother-in-law walked into the kitchen looking to see what she could have for lunch.  I knew just the thing!
As I was packing my daughter's lunch this morning, I noticed I had a lot of eggs in the fridge.  And  the leftover roasted tomatoes for the Pan Fried Scamorza with Roasted Tomatoes recipe over the weekend.  And I still had a lot of tomatoes on the kitchen counter.  And more were coming.  I got the already-roasted tomato halves and cut them into half.  This is my recipe for Tomato Frittata:
1.  Pre-heat broiler.
 2.  Heat 2 T oil in an oven-proof skillet.  Add 1 ½ C sliced tomatoes and cook 3 minutes.
 3.  Beat 10 eggs and pour into the skillet.  Use a spatula to move tomatoes around so that they are evenly distributed. Season with salt and pepper.  Add chopped chives.
 4.  When egg is half-way set, transfer to broiler and cook until golden brown on top.
 5.  Slice into wedges and serve with crusty bread or salad.
So my in-laws and I had Tomato Frittata for lunch with lightly toasted Rosemary Olive Oil Bread. It was light yet filling.  The tender egg backdrop was perfect for the sweet robust flavor of the tomatoes.  And the bread provided a satisfying crunch. 
Frittata is an egg-based dish from Italy.  It is like an omelette with the addition of various vegetables, meats or cheese.  It may be flavored with herbs.  An alternative to tomatoes is sliced zucchini, peppers or whatever vegetable you have on hand.  You can also add meat or cheese or a combination of ingredients for a heartier meal.  Salumi may also be served on the side.  As long as you have eggs this would be a good dish to make when you want to use up leftovers.

What do you do with leftover sliced tomatoes?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Plum Sage Jam

Jars of Plum Jam with a sprig of sage.

Bits of fruit and sage are visible in the jam spread on a slice of bread.

Back in June we went on a family vacation/reunion.  We met up with my two sisters-in-law and their families near Yosemite National Park in northern California.  Jeanne brought vegetables (zucchini, tomatoes, onions and peppers) from her garden.  She also brought apricots, nectarines and plums from her in-laws’ orchard.  I brought home fruit that we didn’t eat and promptly froze them.  Since then I’ve made several batches of jam.  But there’s still almost an entire shelf of fruit in our freezer so I decided to use some today.
I decided to make something a little different by adding an herb.  Now, I’m not usually enamored of sweet and savory together so I was curious how this would turn out.  I got the idea upon watching Giada De Laurentis make a berry jam with thyme.  But I think I hit the jackpot when I stumbled on a blog called Northwest Edible Life by Erica.  She has a downloadable Signature Jam Flavor Maker Chartwhich suggests pairing different kinds of fruit with herbs, spices and liquor.  Since I was using plum today I chose sage as the flavor to pair with.  Erica’s chart says to use ¼ tsp of “dry zing” (her term for dry flavor additives).  But since I was using 4 lbs of fruit and 8 cups of sugar I thought I could stand to use more.
Here is the recipe for Plum Sage Jam:
6 cups prepared fruit (about 4 lb. fully ripe plums)
1/2 cup water
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
8 cups sugar, measured into separate bow (See tip below.)
2-3 tsp. minced fresh sage
Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
Pit plums. Do not peel. Finely chop or grind fruit. Place fruit in saucepan; add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 min. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.
Stir pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Add sage.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
How to Measure Precisely
To get exact level cup measures of sugar, spoon sugar into dry metal or plastic measuring cups, then level by scraping excess sugar from top of cup with a straight-edged knife.
This recipe (adapted from the Kraft website) yielded 8 8-oz jars, and 7 4-oz jars of jam, or roughly 92 oz of jam.  Plum jam makes a lovely spread with its jewel color.  In the picture above you can see bits of fruit and minced sage.  The taste is fantastic!  There’s  tartness from the plums and sweetness from the sugar, and then the hint of sage in the background.  The sage is mild enough as to not overpower the rest of the flavors.  Yes, I think I’m definitely on to something here.
What flavors would you pair together? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Siobhan's Birthday Luncheon

Sliced tomatoes with oregano sprigs ready to be roasted.


Deli sandwiches

Pan Fried Scamorza with Roasted Tomatoes

Polenta Elisa

Stuffed Mushrooms Caps

Jam Cake

In honor of my daughter’s 14th birthday, we had a luncheon for her, and invited family and some friends.  She decided to have Italian food as she is part Italian.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was at my local Costco when Franco & Angelo ( was doing a demo on their various mozzarella products.  So I used their products in some of the following dishes:
Assorted Olives – Store bought black olives and marinated Italian green olives.
Fried Pedron and Cubanelle Peppers – I grow these which are similar to Italian frying peppers.  Fry in olive oil until blistered in spots.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.
Tomatoes with CiliegineCiliegine is cherry-sized mozzarella made from 100% whole cow’s milk.  On a riff on Caprese Salad, I combined ciliegine with mixed grape tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, Italian herbs, kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.
Stuffed Mushroom Caps– I combined the mushroom stems with softened cottage cheese, walnut pieces, onion powder, garlic salt and kosher salt.  Puree in a food processor, and stuff the mushroom caps with the mixture.  Bake at 350°F until golden brown.
Pan Fried Scamorza with Roasted TomatoesScamorzais a plastic(or stretched) curd cheese, in which the fresh curd matures in its own whey for several hours to allow acidity to develop by the process of lactosebeing converted to lactic acid. Artisanalcheesemakers generally form the cheese into a round shape, and then tie a string around the mass one third of the distance from the top, and hang to dry. The resulting shape is pear-like. This is sometimes referred to as "strangling" the cheese.  The recipe I used said to slice the scamorza and pan-fry them on high heat until they start to melt.  Well, my scamorza slices started to melt immediately.  They did not turn out like the picture in the cookbook which was slices with well-defined borders; my melted slices were like blobs, but tasted good nevertheless.  So I placed the scamorza on a bed of spinach (you could use any salad green like arugula, dandelion, etc.) and topped with roasted tomatoes (sliced and roasted with salt, sugar, olive oil and oregano sprigs).
Deli Sandwiches – On a sandwich roll, I placed a slice of mozzarella, mortadella with pistachio, sopressata and capicola, sliced tomatoes and baby artisanal lettuces.  You can use any combination of salumi and greens.  Then I added Italian dressing using a squirt bottle to the sandwich.  The vegetarian version featured grilled sliced eggplants/red bell peppers/scallions instead of meat.
Linguini with Pesto– There are different kinds of pesto but perhaps the most popular in the U.S. is the green Pesto alla Genovese.  It is made from garlic cloves, pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, coarse salt, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheeses all ground up traditionally using a marble mortar and wooden pestle.  A food processor may be used instead for convenience.  It may be stored refrigerated in an air-tight container by adding extra virgin olive oil on top to prevent discoloration.  Pesto must be served room temperature on top of, or mixed with hot pasta. 
Polenta ElisaPolenta is cornmeal that once boiled into a porridge, can be eaten as is, or baked, grilled or fried.  Make one recipe of polenta by boiling 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk.  Slowly whisk in 1 cup of polenta and cook until the mixture thickens and the polenta is tender.  Season lightly with salt.  Pour into a greased casserole dish.  I topped it with sliced Provolone as I couldn’t find Dolce di latte.  Make another recipe of polenta and pour on top of the first layer, and add more sliced cheese.  In another saucepan, sauté coarsely chopped garlic and minced fresh sage in butter until lightly browned.  Pour on top of polenta/cheese.  Bake until browned in spots.  A denser polenta may be made by using 3 cups of liquid; this kind of polenta may be sliced and fried or grilled.
Jam Cake – I suggested getting pound cake, filling it with Meyer Lemon Curd and dusting with powdered sugar.  But my daughter wanted a French vanilla cake instead.  So we made (2) 13x9” cakes and filled it with Triple Berry Jam.  I make both the Meyer Lemon Curd and Triple Berry Jam.
Let me know if you would like me to post details or actual recipes of any of the above dishes, or if you want me to give more information about a specific ingredient.  In future posts I will tell you more about my jams and other DIY food projects!  I hope you enjoyed this description of my dishes.  Buon appetito!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tomato Pictures

Marglobe, German Queen, Marianna's Peach, Champion & Black Russian
Red Grape, Yellow Grape, Green Grape, Juliet Roma
Today I was asked by one of my readers to add more pictures to the posts.  I am so glad he asked because I was just thinking about that last night.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

I spent most of my day prepping ingredients for my daughter’s birthday luncheon tomorrow.  Several weeks ago she asked me to make Italian food in honor of her Italian heritage.  I love to plan the menu for a party.  It’s as much fun as the party itself!  In my post on 8/13 I mentioned my delight upon seeing burrata at Costco.  It’s because I was planning this luncheon.  By the way, I was at Costco today and I am even more delighted that burrata was on the shelf.  A domestic and an imported one!  Getting back to the prepping, I needed tomatoes for the menu.  So I went out into the garden to pick some.  It was a good thing I brought a basket.  Hidden under and behind all those leaves were big ripe tomatoes!  The medium-sized ones I cut in half and roasted in lieu of plum tomatoes for one of the dishes.  So the pictures here are only of the large heirloom tomatoes and the small grape tomatoes. 

My mother-in-law saw the basket full of tomatoes and asked if I am giving some of them away tomorrow.  “Yes,” I said.  There are too many for us to eat ourselves.  My sister-in-law Jeanne will be here but she’ll be traveling so I won’t give her any.  However, my other sister-in-law Marie will get some.  So will my mom and my son, Toby. 

What do you do when you have an abundance of tomatoes? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tomatoes in the Garden

A couple of months ago my sister-in-law, Marie showed me a copy (of a copy, ad infenitum) of The Gardens for All Book of Tomatoes.  I am grateful to her because even though I had already planted all 14 of my tomatoes for the year, there was so much I had to learn. 

My parents were avid gardeners, and my mom still is.  Regardless of where she lives she always has a cacti and orchid collection.  She would forego buying a new outfit to buy an unusual specimen.  Such is her passion.  When I started living with my mother-in-law I observed how she planted a small vegetable garden every year.  There is a raised area in the backyard enclosed by railroad ties that hosted tomatoes, carrots, radishes, etc.  Since she went back East each August she always missed the harvest, and thus lost some interest in planting vegetables.  One summer I was free from work and decided to plant a garden.  However, we live on a hill on the coast of Southern California where snails are rampant.  And then we were besieged by gophers.  I purchased 4 planter containers from Earthbox ( and suddenly I was getting produce!  Snails were still a problem though.  Then last year we embarked on a family project.  We removed all of the soil from the raised garden, up to 1 foot below the ground level, and laid a thick plastic mesh.  The soil was sifted for small rocks and replaced.  No more gophers yanking plants from beneath the surface of the garden.  Our garden did well! 

This year I got more ambitious and converted parts of the lawn into planting areas.  My main crop: tomatoes.  I planted 14 seedlings (11 varieties), and have 2 volunteers.  I had read that the Glacier variety does well in cool weather.  Predictably, we had homegrown tomatoes in May.  Oh how sweet they tasted!  Of my grape tomatoes (red, yellow and green), the green was sweetest.  But the sweetest of all are the Sun Gold.  Thanks to my other sister-in-law, Jeanne who introduced me to that variety!  It’s a good thing I planted two them.  What a delight it is to pluck some of the little tomatoes and pop them into your mouth like candy!  So these are what I planted this year: Marglobe, Red Grape, Sun Gold, Yellow Grape, Green Grape, German Queen, Juliet (Roma grape), Mariana’s Peace, Champion, Glacier and Black Russian.  I think one of the volunteers is a green grape.  Next year I plan to add a couple kinds of plum tomatoes like San Marzano and Roma.  The little ones are great in salads like those in my post the other day.  The large ones are great sliced and tucked into sandwiches.  When I have an assortment I like to chop them up and have a fresh tomato sauce with pasta.

Gardens for All, The National Association for Gardening was a non-profit organization established in 1972.  It is now known as the National Gardening Association.  They published a series of gardening books in the 70s and 80s.  I bought a (hard copy) book from Amazon (ninth printing – 1984) and treasure it!  It is the be all and end all of how to grow tomatoes.  Even if you’re a veteran tomato gardener you are sure to learn something new from this book.  It takes you from preparing the soil to transplanting to supporting the plants to fertilizing to treating common problems to harvesting.  There is even a short section on canning and recipes.  One of my favorite parts is a list of tomato varieties that are categorized by season (number of days from transplanting to harvest), resistance to disease, and growth pattern.  It also includes comments for each of the varieties.  The book is 35 pages long and has lots of illustrations.  It may be old but the information is timeless.

When we visited Jeanne in late June I noticed that her tomato plants were small but had a ton of fruit.  Mine on the other hand were big and lush but had few fruits.  I guess it’s because of where we live.  I’ve been lamenting that although we have had a very mild summer, no days over 75 °F, my tomatoes have been heat-starved.  Since May we have had fog every day.  Some days all day.  I placed strips of mylar tape above the plants to deter birds from feasting on my tomatoes.  However, they don’t glint because it isn’t sunny and the birds come.  So I wrapped tulle around the plants and that works.  It is only the middle of August and sadly my tomatoes appear to be saying good-bye.  I guess the fog and cool temperatures are telling them to shut down.  Oh well.  Maybe it will be better next year.

Do you grow tomatoes?  What is your favorite variety? What do you like to do with them?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


One of my favorite DIY recipes is Gravlax.  It is so easy to make!  Five ingredients and three days will yield a moist, delicious and impressive appetizer.

Gravlax comes from gravid lax, which means “buried salmon” in Swedish.  When I first heard the word I thought it was the same as lox (smoked salmon that you place on top of bagels).  But it’s better!  The fact that it is not smoked or cooked, and the addition of fresh dill gives this dish a clean and delicate taste.


1/3 C packed brown sugar

¼ C  Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 1-pound skin-on salmon filet

3 tablespoons brandy

1 C coarsely chopped fresh dill


1.        Combine sugar and salt.  Place salmon, skin side down, in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish.  Pour brandy over salmon, making sure to cover entire surface. Rub salmon evenly with salt-sugar mixture, pressing firmly on mixture.  Cover with dill, pressing firmly.

2.       Cover salmon loosely with plastic wrap, top with square baking dish or pie plate, and weight with several large heavy cans.  Refrigerate until salmon feels firm, about 3 days, basting salmon with liquid released into baking dish once a day.

3.       Scrape dill off salmon.  Remove fillet from dish and pat dry with paper towels before slicing. Gravlax can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 1 week.  It should be left whole and sliced just before serving.


Slice the salmon as thin as possible and against the grain for a more tender and buttery texture.  Serve on toasted rye bread with some cream cheese, or plain crackers and Swiss cheese on the side. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Burrata with Tomatoes

I made this dish/appetizer the other night.  Although not on my menu for the week, I couldn’t pass up the burrata on my shopping trip to Costco.  Yes, Costco.  I was actually there to scout out items for my daughter’s upcoming birthday celebration and thus was circling around the refrigerated cases of cheese and Italian salumi.  As I rounded the corner I spied a huge sampling kiosk of mozzarella.  This wasn’t your typical sample-lady-with-a-tray.  No, there were two ladies enclosed by three tables giving out samples of ciliegine, ricotta, scamorza and burrata!  The company is Angelo & Franco, located nearby in Hawthorne.  I was giddy with excitement!  I used to have to drive to Gioia Cheese Factory in El Monte but this is so much closer.  One of the sample ladies told me they sell their products at Whole Foods.  Angelo & Franco’s website is   For those of you who live in the valley, Gioia’s website is


Burrata means “buttered” in Italian, and is made from mozzarella and cream.  This type of cheese starts out like a regular mozzarella and is formed into a pouch.  Halfway in the process, the pouch is filled with mozzarella scraps and fresh cream.  Burrata should be served room temperature. 


There is no recipe for this.  All it is is sliced burrata with halved cherry/grape tomatoes tossed on top.  Extra virgin olive oil is drizzled, and is finished with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. 


Although the extra virgin olive oil I used had a fruity flavor, I would have preferred one with a peppery finish as it would have been a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes.  By the way, these tomatoes are from my garden!  They are red grape, yellow pear, green cherry, and Sun Gold.