Tuesday, August 30, 2011

book club, tomatoes and a recipe for chicken provençal?

it is my favorite week at summer fest...tomato week!  each year i profess my love for local, in-season, organically grown heirloom tomatoes and then i struggle with selecting a recipe to blog about.  all i really want to do is eat tomato sandwiches....simply toasted sourdough or french bread spread with a bit of mayo (i have been obsessed lately with vegenaise a vegan version that i think tastes better than mayonnaise), piled high with tomatoes, sprinkled with grey salt and freshly cracked black pepper and eaten while the toast is still warm. nothing better!

i eat tomatoes every day during the month of august and as long as they last in september.  for summerfest's tomato week last year i shared my recipe for the modestly titled best tomato sauce in the world, and a delicious gazpacho from gott's restaurant here in napa.  the year before i did a roundup of some of my favorite bean salads, pico de gallo, tapanade and bruchetta, all featuring heirloom tomatoes. this year i decided to feature a main dish...my version of chicken provençal.

courtesy ann trinca
regular readers know that i often blog about my book club events.  8 of my favorite girlfriends get together once a month for good food, lots of wine (it is napa after all) and discussion of the featured book.  eating, talking, laughing...how does it get any better?  normally we meet on a weeknight...just the girls.  but our tradition is to hold the august meeting at my house...on a sunday afternoon by the pool...and then have spouses, friends and significant others come afterward for more pool and dinner. 
our book for the month was the paris wife, the story of ernest hemingway's first wife.  since the book covered their lives living in paris, and we were getting together on a warm summer day, i decided the food theme would be "alfresco provençal picnic".  cheese, olives, fruit, good bread, roasted vegetables, salads, tarts, crisps and lots of wine. the chicken provençal was the perfect main dish...easy to make and terrific for a party because you can make it the day before and then serve hot, warm or at room temperature.  my friend dina proclaimed the dish "perfection"   wow!   i told her i was going to quote her in this story.  so...take it from dina...try this chicken and tomatoes recipe.

you can cut this recipe in half for smaller parties..or double or triple.  i tripled thinking i would have a lot left over.  between you and me?  i was going to photograph the leftovers for this post but at the end of the night there was only one leg left.  seriously...one leg.  ha!  so that is what i was able to photograph.  happily my friend ann (an artist and photographer) took some shots of the party, food included, so you can have a peek into our party.  thanks ann...

courtesy ann trinca, chicken is dish top left
courtesy ann trinca
food just tastes better when eaten outside, does it not?  combine that with amazing friends and life is perfect.  cheers from the "best book club ever"

courtesy ann trinca
chicken provençal with heirloom tomatoes
(i tripled this recipe for my party)
8 whole chicken legs (organic & free range if possible)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 onions, peeled and sliced
2 pints organic cherry tomatoes
8 heirloom tomatoes, quartered and then cut into eighths
8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 bottle dry white wine
3 tablespoons herbs de provence
additional heirloom tomatoes cut into quarters and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, lavender) as garnish

preheat oven to 350 degrees. you will need one very large, or 2 medium sized rectangular roasting pans for this recipe. generously season both side of the chicken with salt and pepper. (note you can keep the legs attached, or cut into legs and thighs.  i left half of the legs whole and separated the rest ). set aside.

in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until hot.  add the onion and cherry tomatoes and sauté until the onion just begins to brown and caramelize.  add the garlic, heirloom tomatoes and herbs de provence and cook for 5 minutes.

spread the tomato mixture in the bottom of the roasting pan(s).  add the chicken, skin side down, to the pan on top of the vegetables.  add enough of the wine to come halfway up the side of the chicken.  cover pan(s) with lid or foil and place in preheated oven.  bake for 50 minutes.  remove from oven.  remove lid and turn chicken skin side up.  wine should still come halfway up side of chicken.  remove or add additional wine if necessary.  do not let wine come more than half way or chicken will not brown properly.  place chicken back in oven and cook an additional 20-30 minutes, uncovered, until nicely browned.  remove from oven.

if you plan to serve the following day, follow these steps.  allow the chicken to cool.  remove the legs from the wine liquid, place on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator.  pour the rest of the roasting pan contents...wine and vegetables...into a medium sized saucepan and
cook until liquid has reduced by half.  taste and adjust seasonings.  allow to cool, cover and place in refrigerator. 

the following day, preheat oven to 300 degrees. remove the sauce from refrigerator and skim fat from surface.  warm on stove top.  remove chicken from fridge.  uncover and pour sauce/vegetable mixture over chicken.  reheat chicken until it reaches desired temperature. 

if you want to serve the same day you make the chicken, follow these steps:  remove from oven and place chicken on serving dish.  pour liquid and vegetables into saucepan.  reduce by half and pour over chicken.

garnish with the reserved tomatoes and fresh herbs, sprinkled with sea salt and additional herbs de provence.

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your corn tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. join the conversation on twitter at #cookingwith and be sure to check out these delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Seared Chicken with Cherry Tomato Pan Sauce
Haute Apple Pie: Heirloom Tomato & Three Cheese Tart
What's Gaby Cooking: Zebra Tomato and Burrata Crostini
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Roasted Tomato-Basil Ice
And Love It Too: Healthy Lunchbox - Garlic Tomato Basil Pesto Bruchetta
Chez Us: Roasted Tomato Sauce
Daily*Dishin: Refreshing and Rustic - Tuscan Bread Salad
Glory Foods: Fresh Tomato Salsa
Dishin and Dishes: Tomato Tart Tatin
The Purple Cook: Eggplant Parmesan Caprese Salad
I Am Mommy: Tomato Crudite
Cooking With My Kid: Gluten-Free White Bean Chive Cakes with Heirloom Tomatoes
FN Dish: Easy Tomato Appetizers
Add a Pinch: Simple Caprese Salad Skewers
Sweet Life Bake: Salsa Cruda
Virtually Homemade: Farfalle with Roasted Tomato Sauce, Bacon and Shaved Romano
Dixie Chik Cooks: Tomato, Basil and Olive Bruschetta
The Sensitive Epicure: Yemista - Greek Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers with Potatoes
Mooshu Jenne: Sun Burst Tomato Pasta
Cooking With Elise: Tomato Parmesan Biscuits
From My Corner of Saratoga: Cooking from the Garden - Bruschetta Pizza
Fritos and Foie Gras: Tomato Terrine
Creative Culinary: Fresh and Savory Tomato Pie
Big Apple Nosh: Caprese Salad/Tomato Carnage
Spices and Aroma: Quick and Easy Paneer Curry
Zaika Zabardast: Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Breakfast Rolls


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style™ "

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

don't you think it is time for corn & watermelon salad?

sometimes the phrase "perfect timing" is actually appropriate.  it is corn week at summerfest and guess what showed up in this week's csa box?  yes, corn...lovely, beautiful corn on the cob.  i have been waiting and waiting for local corn...summer has been cooler than usual this year...and everything i want...tomatoes, corn, peppers (hot), melon, etc has been late.  when these items are finally ready i plan to eat them daily and not fuss around too much with the preparation.  what could be better than simple grilled corn on the cob topped with butter or extra virgin olive oil and different seasonings?  the first year of summerfest, 2008, i listed 8 different options in my post what do you do with fresh corn?  i also shared the recipe for a very unusual sounding but delicious, chocolate corn cake.  (trust me it is really, really good)

as much as i love corn, i find i only eat it in season. canned corn just does not do it for me.  freshly picked corn quickly shucked and frozen is ok in a pinch...i use it in soups and casseroles...and i think out of season corn, shipped from halfway around the world, is just a waste of time and money.  this leaves me with august and september as prime corn eating months.  happily corn is good for you, full of nutrients, a good source of fiber and is low in calories.  don't you love it when food is delicious and healthy?  whfoods.org posted their nutritional profile for corn and said:

Antioxidant phytonutrients are provided by all varieties of corn. The exact phytonutrient combination, however, depends on the variety itself. Yellow corn is richer in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Blue corn has unique concentrations of anthocyanins. Purple corn provides unusual amounts of the hydroxybenzoic acid called protocatechuic acid. Ferulic acid, beta-carotene, vanillic acid, coumaric acid, caffeic acid, and syringic acid are other key phytonutrients provided by corn. Corn is a good source of energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B5, and phosphorus; heart-healthy folate and dietary fiber; and free radical-scavenging vitamin C and manganese.

hudson ranch corn

hudson ranch csa members party
in addition to corn,  local melons are starting to ripen ...especially the lovely little individual sized "personal" watermelons. i think they are perfect for small families like mine because they average only  two to five pounds.  they have a thinner rind, firmer flesh and are sweeter than their bigger brothers.  so i buy regular size when hosting parties...and "personal" when it is just us. 

i love watermelon salads...and i love corn salads...what could be better than combining the two to make a delicious, refreshing, cool and a bit spicy salad?  this recipe depends on using the freshest, best quality, organic and/or sustainably grown, local produce. you really will notice a difference in taste.   the watermelon juice combines with lime for an oil-free dressing.  jalapeño adds a bit of heat.  feta provides protein and saltiness to balance the sweetness of the melon and corn.   the measurements are  guidelines...adjust to suit your palate. and feel free to substitute the mint for other herbs...basil is nice as is thyme, italian parsley or oregano.  cilantro works really well with the jalapeno...be creative!

we had fresh homemade tamales (homemade, but not by me...on my list of things to learn to make), green chile and refried beans for dinner last night.  the corn & watermelon salad was the perfect accompaniment.  what would you serve it with?

corn & watermelon salad
1 small "personal" size watermelon (or half a regular one)
2 ears corn on the cob, grilled and cut off cob
1-2 jalapeños, minced (start with one.  add the second if you want it very spicy)
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 lime
2 tablespoons mint, chiffonade
grey salt

seed the watermelon and cut into bite sized cubes. (or, if you want to be fancy, use a melon baller.) add to a large bowl.  add the corn, jalapeño and feta cheese. gently stir to combine.  zest the lime and add to salad.  juice the lime and pour juice over salad.  add mint and a pinch of salt and stir to combine all ingredients.  taste and adjust salt if needed.

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your corn tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. join the conversation on twitter at #cookingwith and be sure to check out the recipes from the other participating bloggers:
Dishin and Dishes: Kicked Up Creamed Corn From Scratch
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Fresh Corn Salsa with Basil and Mint
What's Gaby Cooking: Spicy Corn Salsa
CIA Dropout: Truffle Roasted Corn Kohlrabi Soup
Cooking Channel: Fresh Corn Muffins
FN Dish: Southwest Corn Recipes
Daily*Dishin: Sweet Corn and Couscous Main Dish Salad
Pinch My Salt: Peter Reinhart's Fresh Cut Corn Bread with Bacon
Virtually Homemade: Summer Corn Salad
Food2: Creamed Corn Cornbread
Virtually Vegan Mama: Thai Corn Soup
Sunshine and Smile: Scallops with Corn and Pepper Sauce
Spices N Aroma: Corn Pilaf
The Sensitive Epicure: Fresh Corn Fritters with Chive Lemon Chipotle Yogurt (Gluten-Free)
Dixie Chick Cooks: Fresh Corn with Basil Slaw and Feta
Cooking With Books: Corn Favorites
Purple Cook: Corn on the Cob with Cilantro
Glory Foods: Skillet Corn Muffins


diane padoven
"live a green life of style™ "

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

a cherry balsamic vinegar recipe for summerfest?

it is cherry week at summerfest. i am guessing my fellow bloggers will post many recipes for pies, crisps, ice cream toppings, cookies, compote, jubilee, in brandy, salads and possibly dishes including pork or chicken with cherry sauces. i plan to try as many of them as possible because i love cherries and their season is almost over. i'm always looking for new cherry ideas... trust me, there will be a treasure trove of excellent ways to use cherries in this roundup.

today i almost wrote about my cherry clafoutis dish. (try this one from the joy of baking).  this simple, easy dessert is perfect for summer days when you don't want to spend a lot of time making something delicious...but, at the last moment, i decided to take a bit of a different approach. it is mid-summer and my thoughts have been turning toward preserving as much of the season's bounty as possible. don't get me wrong, i am eating as much fresh fruit and vegetables as i can. but i am also painfully aware of just how fast this season is whizzing by. it will be fall before you know it and canning, freezing or pickling my favorite summer produce is my way of coping. my weekly csa box has included these amazing italian green beens called romano beens, so i am canning them into "dilly beans".  i have a ton of cucumbers, so pickles are on the to do list.  loads of cherries?  cherry balsamic vinegar is the perfect solution.

fruit balsamics are easy to make, last for a year and require no cooking.  their intense sweet and tangy flavor works perfectly drizzled over ice cream, in marinades, added to salsa, mixed with extra virgin olive oil for a wonderful vinaigrette, splashed over roasted pork or simply poured over fresh fruit. incredibly versatile and amazingly good.

my recipe includes only three items...so it is vital that you use the best quality possible ingredients:  local, organic/sustainably grown cherries, authentic balsamic vinegar from modena and a vanilla bean for a touch of sweetness.  one note regarding the balsamic...check the label.  real balsamic is from modena or reggio emilia, italy and made from the concentrated juice and must of white grapes...usually trebbiano... and then aged in a series of wooden barrels called a batteria.  many commercial balsamics contain added sugar, coloring and other types of vinegars.  there is a difference in taste, and i find the commercial versions bitter and a bit "off" .  as always, i urge you to go for the real stuff...it is so worth it.  note...you don't need the super aged (and wickedly expensive) ones...just look for a balsamic aged around 4 years.  perfect for this recipe.

balsamic 1/2 filled to show off the beautiful cherries

one last point...i have made this recipe for years and always store the infusing vinegar and the finished product in my pantry... i use excellent quality ingredients, sterilize my jars, keep them in a cool dark place and have never had a problem with spoilage.  if you want to be 100% safe, store this in the refrigerator. either way...make this before cherry season is over.  you will be able to taste summer all year long.
when finished filling, balsamic will come to the top of the jar

cherry balsamic vinegar
3 1/2 cups pure balsamic vinegar from modena
1 cup organic ripe cherries
1 vanilla bean

1.  pour the balsamic vinegar into a large, dry, sterilized jar with a tight fitting lid. (like a canning jar)

2.  reserve 6 cherries and set aside.  stem the rest. using a large chef's knife, gently crush the cherries to release their juice and add to the balsamic in the jar. (yes, pits and all)
3.  split the bean lengthwise and, using a paring knife, scrape out the seeds. add the seeds and the bean pod to the cherry/balsamic mixture. 

4.  add the reserved whole cherries, cover the jar with the lid and...for safety...place in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. (or read my note about the pantry) the longer it sits the more intense the cherry flavor.

5.  line a sieve/strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth and pour in the cherry balsamic. reserve the 6 whole stemmed cherries.  pour the vinegar into dry sterilized bottles, add the 6 whole cherries (1 or 2 to each bottle) and seal with self closures or corks. store the bottles in a cool, dark place. (or, as noted earlier, for maximum safety in the refrigerator).  the cherry balsamic will keep for up to 1 year.

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your cucumber tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. join the conversation on twitter at #cookingwith and be sure to check out all the other participating bloggers. their recipes sound amazing!

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cherry Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream

Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cherry Cornmeal Cake
Cooking With Elise: Roasted Cherries with Lavender and Almond Panna Cotta
Daydreamer Desserts: Cherry Crumble Cake
Ingredient Challenge Monday: Black Forest Ice Cream Done Two Ways
Spices and Aroma: Dilkush with Cherries
And Love It Too: Cherry-Pecan Chicken Salad
FN Dish: The Ultimate Cherry Pie
Daily*Dishin: Simple French Cherry Clafouti
Glory Foods: Collard Greens and Cherry Reduction
Chez Us: Gluten-Free Cherry Clafoutis
Virtually Homemade: Dark Chocolate Cherry Kuchen
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Cherry Conserves
The Sensitive Epicure: Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Clafouti
Cooking Channel: Very Cherry Sangria
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Cherry and Peach Crisp
Mooshu Jenne: Rainier Cherry Panna Cotta
Food2: A Very Cherry Recipe Round-Up
Virtually Vegan Mamma: Fresh Cherry and Almond Scones
CIA Dropout: Italian Cherry Cake
Sweet Life Bake: Honey-Tequila Pickled Cherries
Cooking With Books: Cherry Cooler
Recipe Girl:  Cherry Limeade Pound Cake


diane padoven
napa farmhouse 1885
"live a green life of style™ "
Follow napafarmhouse on Twitter

do you like us? really like us? then please join our facebook fan page

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