Broiled Tomatoes

broiled tomatoes

I could eat tomatoes every single day when they’re in season and never tire of them. Our counter has been covered with bowls of cherries and San Marzanos fighting for space next to pedestals bearing larger heirloom varieties. Sliced and topped with mozzarella or burrata or tossed into a salad, they seem to find a way into every meal.

This simple baked tomato dish is a great side for grilled meat or fish. The topping puffs up a bit and when you cut into the tomato the juices spill out onto your plate so be sure to have a piece of bread ready to sop them up. The Dijon mustard lends a little tang to the creamy topping while the chives give it a subtle onion flavor. The tomato is still the star, but this topping really makes it shine.

Broiled Tomatoes (adapted from Diane Worhtington)

3 medium tomatoes
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the about 1/4 off the top of the tomato. Place cut side up in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, parsley, chives, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the mayonnaise mixture on top of each tomato, spreading to cover the top. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

Bake until hot, 10 to 12 minutes; the time will depend on the size of the tomato. Turn the oven to broil, move the tomatoes to the broiler, and brown until glazed and bubbling. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Eggplant Meatballs

eggplant

I have a thing for meatballs. I grew up peering into the frying pan in my grandmother’s kitchen on Sunday mornings in hopes of scoring one before they went into the gravy (sauce). I still am a sucker for them along side a plate of spaghetti as long as I know the cook! There’s nothing worse than a bad meatball. Whenever I see a meatball sandwich on a menu I am always tempted to place an order, but I’ve been disappointed more times than not so now I mostly pass and order something else. There is one exception-Pizzeria Mozza-their meatballs are as good as mine or maybe I should say that mine are as good as theirs…

When I first came upon this recipe in Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy (if you don’t already have this book you really should) I knew it was just a matter of time until I was frying them up. This eggplant meatball is creamy, flavorful and for a minute you might just forget that it’s made from a vegetable. For some reason eggplant tastes a little bit like meat and once simmered in tomato sauce you have one tasty starter or side dish. Be sure to dust a little grated Parmigiano over top-I took my photo before I got out the grater.

Eggplant Meatballs (from Domeinca Marchetti)

1 large (16 ounces) shiny purple eggplant
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
28 ounces canned, no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 large fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn, plus 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
3 rounded cups fresh bread crumbs
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ounces pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup flour, for coating, or more as needed
Vegetable oil, for frying
Water (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prick the eggplant a few times all over with a fork. Place it on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until the skin is crinkled and collapsed and the interior is completely tender. Cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce: Crush one of the garlic cloves, then warm it in the olive oil in a saucepan large enough to eventually hold the eggplant meatballs over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the garlic to release its flavor. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic begins to sizzle; do not let it brown. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and their juices (the oil will spatter) and stir to coat with the oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; increase the heat to medium-high. Once the mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes, to form a sauce that has thickened, with oil that is pooling on the surface. Remove from the heat and stir in the 3 basil leaves. Cover to keep warm.

Slice open the eggplant, then scoop the flesh onto a cutting board, discarding the skin. Mash the eggplant flesh with a potato masher or chop it coarsely with a chef’s knife. Scoop into a large bowl, along with the bread crumbs, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the pecorino Romano, minced basil and parsley. Use a garlic press to add the remaining 2 garlic cloves, then use a wooden spoon or flexible spatula to gently yet thoroughly incorporate the ingredients.

Spread the flour in a shallow bowl. Line a platter with waxed or parchment paper.

Use your hands to form the eggplant mixture into about fifteen 2-inch balls (golfball size). Coat them all over with the flour, then and transfer the lined platter, gently pressing down on them gently to flatten them slightly.

Pour enough vegetable oil into a saute pan or cast-iron skillet to reach a depth of at least 1 inch. Heat to about 375 degrees, over medium-high heat and heat the oil to about 375 degrees. If you do not have a thermometer, drop a small pinch of an eggplant meatball into the oil; if it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough.

Carefully add half the eggplant meatballs to the hot oil; fry until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a spatula to turn them over and fry for 2 minutes until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the sauce in the saucepan, allowing them to drain any excess oil. Turn them over to coat with the sauce. Repeat with the remaining eggplant meatballs, adding vegetable oil as needed and letting it heat to 375 degrees.

Return the saucepan with the eggplant meatballs to medium-low heat. Cook, turning them once or twice, about 10 minutes. If the sauce seems too thick — the balls will absorb some of it — add a tablespoon or two of water, or as needed, and gently stir it into the sauce.

Serve the eggplant meatballs hot, with the sauce spooned over them and a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, if desired.

Sable-The French Sugar Cookie

7c-4

Some times the most simple thing can brighten your day. A good cookie does it for me and these sables are exactly what I hoped they would be. I find them to be the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee and I love to serve them tucked into a scoop of ice cream. I made these with a friend in mind and I hope these cookies were able to put a smile on her face.

Sable is the French word for “sandy” and these buttery bites are just that-tender yet crispy, sugary, crumbly and a bit salty. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it your own by adding different flavorings-why not try adding a little orange zest with cardamom or dip them in chocolate after cooling?

Sables (recipe from Dorie Greenspan)

2 soft, plump vanilla beans
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, preferably high-fat European-style, softened
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1-1/3 oz. (1/3 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks
9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
Sanding sugar, white or colored

Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the seed pulp into a small bowl; add the granulated sugar. Using your fingers, rub them together until blended.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mix the butter on low speed until smooth and creamy (you don’t want it to get light and fluffy), about 1„ minute; mix in the salt. Add the vanilla sugar and the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add 1„ egg yolk and mix for 1 minute. Still on low speed, mix in the flour just until blended; the dough will be soft.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently a few times. Divide it in half and shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3„ hours.

Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners.

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup sanding sugar onto a piece of waxed paper. Combine the remaining egg yolk with a splash of water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Brush each log with the egg wash and roll it in the sanding sugar until evenly coated. Trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged. Using a knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Put them on the baking sheets, leaving about 2-„inches between rounds.

Bake the cookies, rotating and swapping the baking sheets’ positions halfway through, until the cookies are brown around the edges and golden on the bottom, 18„ to 22 minutes. (Maybe it’s my oven, but I only baked these for 14 minutes and they were done). Let cool on the sheets for 5„ minutes; then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving. Sablés shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need to cool so that their texture will set properly.

Help!

tomatoes

Need I say more? I’m a little overwhelmed, but more than willing than work my way through these tomatoes! Here are a few old favorites that I see in our future:

Tomato Tart
Scalloped Tomatoes
Frittata di Pane
Stuffed Tomatoes
And of course-Bruschetta

I did try a new and very simple dish from a book that I love-Verdura-by Viana La Place. This book is chock full of Italian inspired recipes featuring fresh vegetables, many of them requiring no cooking at all-perfect for those hot summer nights.

The beauty of this dish is that it can be eaten hot, at room temperature or even cold. I’m planning on having the leftovers for lunch on a crusty roll.

Tiella Doppio Rosso (Double Red Gratin)

3 large red peppers
4 large ripe tomatoes
Extra-virign olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried
1-2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Roast the peppers over a gas flame, under the broiler or on the barbecue. Remove the skin, cut the peppers in half, core and seed. Cut peppers into thick slices. Core tomatoes and thickly slice them.

Oil a large baking dish. Arrange a layer of tomato slices on the bottom of the dish. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle some of the herbs and capers on top. Cover with a layer of pepper strips. Season again with salt and pepper, herbs and capers. Continuing layering ingredients topping the final layer with bread crumbs. Moisten the gratin with a drizzling of olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Serve this dish hot, warm or at room temperature. It’s quite refreshing served cold. Serves 4-6.

Chocolate Chip Cookies-My Search Has Ended

cookies

My love of cooking began way back in grammar school. I am lucky to have a mother who let me help her out in the kitchen and it wasn’t too long before I was allowed to make some things on my own. Chocolate chip cookies were probably the first thing that I made and all these years later I’ve been using the same recipe-the one on the back of the chip bag!

Every once in a while I would try a new recipe, but I never found a new one that I was committed to. Well all that changed today when I used the recipe I found over at Smitten Kitchen. I chopped about half of the toasted walnuts finely and the rest I left in larger pieces. J. prefers his cookies a little browner and in spite of that I found that they were done in less than 18 minutes as stated in the recipe. Start checking them at about 14-15 minutes. These cookies have a lot of chocolate in them-just the way that I like them. J. was picking them over looking for ones with fewer chips-oh well, more for me!

Smitten Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt or 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (130 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat to 300F (150C). Line three baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the sugars and butters together until smooth. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and baking soda.

Stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets.

Bake for 18 minutes, or until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

P.S. The peanut butter cookies from the Smitten Kitchen are pretty amazing too!

I Was Outstanding In The Field

closeup empty table

I have sort of a short bucket list and yesterday I checked off one of my wishes. I’ve been following the exploits of the Outstanding in the Field team for some time now, all the while dreaming about taking part one of their events. Last night I attended their dinner at the ranch of the Temecula Olive Oil Company located in Aguanga CA located about twenty miles east of the town of Temecula.

patio

patio2

The ranch is the perfect combination of rusticity and elegance. Yes it’s a working farm, but it’s also a great spot for an event. The owners give tours on the second and fourth Saturdays so be sure to take a look at their website (linked above).

bar

The evening started with drinks provided by a local winery and a brewery offering two different beers (San Diego has a well earned title as the craft beer capitol of the country). Hors d’ouevres were passed with a focus on seafood-the chef for this dinner was from The Fishery located in San Diego. My favorite starter was the grilled horseradish marinated shrimp with a tomato shooter. J’s pick was the deviled eggs topped with spicy crab and sea beans.

eggs

shrimp

I have to say that I’ve read a lot about the Outstanding in the Field events and have heard from various people and read on line that many thought that there’s not enough food. I will say that the starters were passed for well over an hour and you certainly could have filled up on the four options that were offered.

w:crusher

Next up was a mini tour of the ranch led by the owners who gave a good overview of how the company and this ranch came to be along with the lowdown on how their exceptional oil is produced. The oil maker is on the California Olive Council and his passion for the product and knowledge of the industry was evident in his talk.

house

catherine

pathway

By this point we were all wondering “where is the dining table?”. We were led down a path and finally ended up in the midst of trees where you had to pick up your plate. Diners are encouraged to bring their own plates (which we did) but they have plenty available if you don’t. Finally we discovered the one long table that was set for our dinner.

plates

sitting down

another sitting down

Once at the table you got to choose your own seat where the menu for the dinner was tucked into your napkin. Baguettes were strewn around the able along with bottles of Temecula Olive Oil and dipping was encouraged. The waiters were busy pouring wine and answering questions from the diners.

the menu

at the table

We started with an arugula salad with cured salmon, peaches and soy gelee. Next up was my favorite dish of the evening-swordfish meatballs served atop a squash and cherry tomato medley. Hopefully you will be seeing this dish on the blog soon because I am going into the kitchen to attempt a recreation!

swordfish

whole table

The last entree was seared ahi with a perfect summer salad of roasted corn, avocado and cherry tomato. One of the highlights of my evening was when J. said “this food all tastes like you made it”…

corn and ahi

at the table2

I am never one to pass up dessert and this one was the perfect ending to the evening. The sun had set, candles were brought to the table and I couldn’t wait to dig into this summery berry delight. The cake was light with a crunchy streusel topping and we were all thrilled to find that there were extra slices on the platter.

dessert

Between the wine, the incredible food and the new friends made at the table I have to say that this was an evening to remember. Thank you to Temecula Olive Oil Company for being the host, to the Fishery for the food and to the Outstanding crew for your hard work.

dark table

Cooking Yes, Blogging No

Do you think I’ve given up on cooking? My blog seems that it might be the case. I actually have been in the kitchen, but usually it’s in the evening when it’s too dark to take photos and truth be told, some nights I’m in too much of a rush to do anything more than get the food on the table.

In lieu of showing you my creations I am linking you to all the great dishes that I’ve been making that came from Food 52. The first one up is Thai Curry Noodles With Shrimp. This recipe is a keeper. How can you go wrong with noodles, shrimp and a curried broth? The best part might be the fried onions that get sprinkled over top. Do not skip this step!

Cheap Creamy Chicken Curry is exactly like it sounds. I have my go to curry recipes, but for a “get it served quick on a weeknight dinner” this dish will bring a touch of India to your table in a flash.

Next up is Shrimp Biryani. While the fragrant spiced rice bakes in the oven you saute the shrimp and dinner is served.

And possibly at the top of my list for simple sides is this Baked Pasta Risotto. You start by sauteing onion and then add your pasta (I used acini di pepe). After adding the wine and broth it goes in the oven so no stirring as with risotto. Once it comes out of the oven a good dollop of mascarpone cheese adds just the right amount of creaminess. Top with sauteed vegetables or serve it on its own. Be sure to read the comments under the recipe as there are a few mistakes regarding the quantity of broth in the original recipe.

Screen shot 2014-06-18 at 7.41.03 PM

Last but not least, this is a dessert that I’m still dreaming about-a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake. Maybe it’s because I haven’t made cheesecake in years or maybe it’s because I just love the citrusy flavor of Meyer lemons. Whatever it is, the sour cream topping is the perfect finishing touch. (Photo from Food 52)

La Cioccolateria-Lucca

chocolate

Anyone who really knows me is very aware of my love affair with chocolate. No matter where I am I have to have at least a little piece every day. A bite or two mid afternoon and I’m a happy gal. My passion for chocolate is such that every year I go cold turkey for the six weeks of Lent. It started as a kid in Catholic school and has followed me for years where now I think I do it to prove it to myself that I can indeed put a temporary hold on my obsession.

choc2

That being said, as soon as Lent is over I am back to my daily treat. To break my fast J. always indulges me with a box of See’s chocolates which is a staple if you live in southern California. Growing up we had a neighbor with family in Los Angeles so I was introduced to this candy as a youngster. When I’m at home I’m happy to have a pound of See’s around, but once I get to Lucca it’s Caniparoli Cioccolateria for me.

truffles

This shop is always one of my first stops when I get to Lucca. I love to buy their chocolates as gifts for friends and clients that join me on my tours, but of course I’m really there to stock up for my addiction. I think I’ve I’ve tasted everything in these photos and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

krispies

I’m a fool for anything with hazelnuts so white and dark chocolate in the top photo is usually my first purchase. There’s also bark with puffed rice (see above) similar to a Nestles crunch but taken to a whole new level.

biscotti

Do not hesitate to buy one of their cakes. They come in a variety of sizes, one even small enough to have all by yourself. I am dedicating this post to my two amazing friends Bonnie and Bev who can appreciate how great this shop is. Bev is the creator of the cake shown below-an amazing recreation of the one from La Cioccolateria that we shared on our last night together in Lucca. Thank you B & B for following me to one of my favorite Lucca spots day after day.

bev's cake

Caniparoli Cioccolateria
Via San Paolino, 96
Lucca

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