Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Three Spring Vegetable Bruschetta Recipes For A Memorial Day Feast

There is just something amazing about sauteed or roasted fresh vegetables piled on top of delicious grilled french or sourdough bread. The toast is rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with excellent, fruity extra virgin olive oil. I often have this for dinner with a glass of good wine. It makes me happy.
So happy that I decided to serve a bruschetta assortment for my Memorial Day party this year. Three different types, a big hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, some salami, and the aforementioned wine. Sounds perfect!

Fava Beans

My first bruschetta is topped with a delicious, garlicky, fava bean spread. I first shared the recipe back in 2009. Click here for the whole story but, to save you time; I reprinted the recipe below:

Fava Bean Spread Bruschetta
3 pounds favas, peeled and skinned (follow the technique in the 2009 post)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 peeled garlic cloves, smashed
additional extra virgin olive oil
grey salt
freshly cracked black pepper
tiny pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Add favas, 3 tbsp olive oil and garlic cloves to saute pan. Cook until the favas are tender and can be mashed easily when pressed with a spoon (10-15 minutes). Stir occasionally during this step and add a bit more oil if necessary. When favas are cooked, put the entire contents of saute pan...favas, garlic and the olive oil...into a food processor or blender. Pulse until you have a chunky paste...I like some texture...but keep going until it is as smooth as you like. Add additional olive oil and pulse again. The amount of oil depends on your preference. Start with 2 tbsp. Add the red pepper flakes...pulse again and season to taste...add additional oil if needed to achieve a smooth, spreadable puree.

Serve the fava bean spread with slices of bruschetta and pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano. I spread some puree on a slice of bruschetta, top with a bit of cheese, drizzle additional extra virgin olive oil (best quality is important with this) and sprinkle a bit of grey salt....amazingly good!

Fava beans, peeled and unpeeled

Two other bruschetta recipes to try:

Happy Memorial Day Everyone!

It is "Memorial Day Side dish" week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite spring side dish recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network. Their recipes will be posted at noon on Thursday so please check back then.


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pasta Salad With Arugula, Bell Pepper & Spring Onion

Pasta Salads...love or hate? I fall into both categories depending on how they are prepared. Limp overcooked pasta with soggy vegetables and drenched in dressing? Hate. Perfectly cooked al dente noodles lightly tossed in a delicious fresh vinaigrette with crisp, in-season vegetables? Love.

I feel like I am invited to a potluck lunch or dinner every week and often look to this recipe as my offering. The pasta salad fits the "Love" category and is always a crowd pleaser. Sweet yellow or orange bell pepper, spicy fresh baby arugula and mild spring onion look beautiful and tastes great. It's a keeper. Enjoy!

Pasta Salad With Arugula, Bell Pepper & Spring Onion
(serves 6)

1 lb tubular pasta (any shape you like)
1/4 lb baby arugula
3 spring onions, chopped (white and green parts)
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, divided
1-2 tablespoons chile infused olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a high boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions ensuring you do not overcook noodles. Using a strainer, remove pasta and add to a colander. Rinse pasta in cold water, drain and add to a large bowl. Set aside.

Stir arugula into the bowl with pasta. Add spring onions, bell pepper and garlic.
Toss with 3/4 of the vinaigrette. Chill for 1 hour.

Remove from the fridge, stir in 1/4 cup of the pine nuts and remaining vinaigrette. Taste and add sea salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the chile oil drizzled over the top and the remaining 1/4 cup pine nuts sprinkled over the salad.

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place 2/3 cup olive oil, vinegar, mustard, shallot, and a large pinch each salt and pepper in a lidded mason jar. Shake until combined.

It is "Pasta Salad" week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite pasta salad recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network.

The Mom 100: Pasta Salad with Chicken, Picholine Olives and Ramp Vinaigrette
Homemade Delish: 
Spring Orzo Salad
Pasta Salads That Go Beyond Mayonnaise
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Pasta Salad with Arugula, Bell Pepper & Spring Onion
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: 
Chicken Pasta Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing
Taste with the Eyes: 
Refreshing Rice Noodle Salad, Lime Ginger Dressing
FN Dish: 
Picnic-Ready Pasta Salads with Hundreds of Sky-High Reviews


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Five Fast & Fantastic Spring Side Dishes

Wow! My schedule has become super crazy. I am on the board of directors for four nonprofits, am the president of one and the treasurer of another, have my consulting business, my blogs and, since late January, have been creating and filling the position of volunteer coordinator for our local animal shelter. This means that most nights I don't have a moment to breathe much less prepare dinner. So I keep a list of fast and easy side dishes that pair perfectly with a protein. Grill a steak, broil some fish or, even easier, pair with a purchased rotisserie chicken. Dinner is served!

Broccoli Salad
1 head broccoli
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup mayonnaise (or veganaise)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave syrup or honey
1 tsp aglio, olio, peperoncino or red pepper flakes
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 tbsp Italian parsley

Stem broccoli, break into florets and chop into bite sized pieces. Place in a steamer pot and steam for just a few minutes...until the broccoli is bright green and crisp-tender.  (ensure you keep it very crunchy).  Add broccoli, raisins, and onion to a medium sized bowl.  In a small bowl, add the mayo, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, agave syrup or honey, aglio (or red pepper flakes), a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.  Mix well.  Pour 1/2 of dressing over broccoli mixture and stir to combine.  Taste and add additional dressing as desired. Taste again and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve as is or, if you have time, Refrigerate for 4 hours.  When ready to serve, garnish with parsley.

Purple Cabbage Slaw
3 cups red cabbage, shredded
1 red delicious apple, cored and diced
2 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp honey
pinch sea salt
pinch black pepper
1/4 cup chopped pistachios, optional

Add cabbage and apple to large bowl.  In a jar with tight-fitting lid (I use mason jars for my vinaigrettes) add vinegar, e.v.o.o., honey, salt, and pepper.  Screw on the lid and shake vigorously until combined.  Drizzle half of vinaigrette over cabbage mixture.  Stir to combine.  Add more vinaigrette to your liking.  

This slaw keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Three more fast and fresh recipes to try:

It is "Quickest Side Dishes Ever" week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite quick recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network.


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This Is The Best Carrot Cake I Have Ever Eaten

I have baked all my life, and while I usually do not create the recipes, I am pretty good at following them. That is the difference with cooking and baking. Cooking can be totally inspired. A bit of this, a little of that. Creativity is encouraged. Baking is such a science. Tweaking the ingredients can lead to disaster.

That was a major source of frustration when I moved to Taos, New Mexico. We are at 7000 feet, and the altitude change from sea level has caused my baking successes turn to failures. Cakes and cookies do not bake evenly, collapse, and taste different. I have not been able to find the appropriate adjustments to make my favorite recipes work.  So I cannot explain the joy I felt when I discovered the Mountain Mama Cooks blog. The author has perfected the art of high altitude baking. Now, if you live at or near sea level, this may not mean much to you...but to me? Desserts are back!

I was scrolling through the site and stumbled upon this recipe for carrot cake. It looked so good that I made it that very day. Not only was it delicious, but it was also the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. (and I have eaten a LOT of carrot cake in my life. I made the cake again for a potluck dinner, and it was a hit. Many people came up to me and exclaimed: "This is the best carrot cake I have ever eaten!" The cake was so successful that I made it again for another potluck (I am invited to many potlucks!) and received the same reaction. So I have been making carrot cakes, (and cupcakes from the same recipe) for every function where I am asked to bring dessert, and I have received rave reviews every time.

This is carrot week at Food Network. I could not think of a more perfect recipe to share. And it is a bundt cake which is so much easier than a layer cake. How cool is that? I made very slight tweaks to the original. I replaced the called-for vegetable oil with olive oil because I like it better and ensured alum-free baking powder was used. Otherwise, totally the delicious original recipe. Thank you, Mountain Mama!

The Best Carrot Cake I Have Ever Eaten
from Mountain Mama Cooks
(cake serves 12 or makes 20 cupcakes)

Note, the Mountain Mama blog suggested adding nuts to only half the cake top. That way you satisfy the nut lovers and the nut haters. Feel free to add nuts to the top of the entire cake if desired.

2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon alum-free baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
4 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 batch Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-cup bundt cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together on medium speed the eggs and sugar until pale yellow, light and fluffy. (about 3 minutes). Add the olive oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts until just incorporated. Stir in the creme fraiche, carrots and coconut.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of cake comes out cleanly with no raw batter. Remove from oven and let cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake plate and let cool completely.  When completely cooled, frost with the cream cheese frosting and top with nuts if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Add the softened butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium-high speed until combined and light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute or until incorporated.

This recipe has been creating for baking at altitudes around 7000 feet. The Mountain Mama site suggests increasing the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and increasing he baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon if baking at sea level.

*Scant means lacking a small part of the whole; not quite up to full measure. In other words, 1 scant teaspoon means not quite a whole teaspoon but a little less (from Whats Cooking America)


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Asparagus, Onion & Pesto Pizza

Asparagus season. That signals spring to me. I can eat it almost every day. Raw, steamed, blanched, sauteed, stirfried...all delicious. But my favorite way to prepare is to roast. Roasting brings out a sweet, smoky flavor that is intoxicating. Perfect as is, even better when paired with cheese. So, pizza? Yes, pizza.

The beauty of pizza (aside from the taste) is the versatility. This recipe is a great example. Today's version includes red onion and two kinds of cheese, but you could add roasted garlic, red pepper, greens, spring onions, sundried tomatoes packed in oil; whatever you like. You could create a party menu by putting out all of these options, the dough, and pesto and letting your guests create their own masterpieces.

Now, about the chili oil. To me, this is an essential ingredient. The smoky/hot oil adds the perfect bit of heat which complements the asparagus and cheese. Set out a bottle next to the pizza. I bet it will get lots of use.  Happy spring.

Pizza, Onion & Pesto Pizza
(makes1 pizza)

8 oz. asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons best quality balsamic vinegar
purchased pizza dough for 1 pizza (or homemade if you have the time)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup basil pesto (purchased or homemade)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
sea salt
black pepper
Calabrian chili oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel if stringy. (You probably will only need to peel very thick stalks. Thin stalks are usually fine as is). Place asparagus in single layer on prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, roll the asparagus in oil until coated on all sides. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over asparagus. Generously season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 15-30 minutes or until the asparagus are beginning to brown and caramelize. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the stalks. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven.

Prepare raw dough according to package directions. Turn a baking sheet upside down and sprinkle bottom of the pan with flour. Place pizza dough circle on top of floured baking sheet  Spread pesto evenly on raw dough leaving a 1-inch border of dough uncovered. Top pesto with mozzarella cheese. Arrange roasted asparagus and onion over cheese. Slide dough off pan directly onto rack in oven (place the pan on the rack below pizza to catch drips) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over pizza. Add back to oven and bake an additional 5-7 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese bubbling.

Remove from oven, cut into slices, and serve drizzling the chili oil over pizza if desired (Highly recommended)

Other Asparagus Recipes You May Enjoy:

It is Asparagus week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite asparagus recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network. 

Creative Culinary: Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Garlic and Parsley
Homemade Delish: 
Asparagus Crostini
25 Ways to Use Asparagus
Feed Me Phoebe: 
Spring Quinoa Mujadara with Asparagus
In Jennie's Kitchen: 
Asparagus & Arugula Panzanella
Healthy Eats: 
5 Fresher Ways to Prepare Asparagus
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Asparagus, Onion & Pesto Pizza
Red or Green: 
Roasted Asparagus with Spicy Thousand Island Dressing
The Mom 100: 
Millet Greens Salad
Taste with the Eyes: 
Modern Asparagus Spring Rolls - Red Chili, Black Sesame, Almond
FN Dish: 
6 Ways to Bundle Up Asparagus This Spring


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.