I was driving through the valley earlier this week and stopped at my favorite roadside stand. They had those beautiful strawberries that I have written about before but they also had beautiful fresh apricots. I LOVE dried apricots but I have never been much of a fresh apricot fan. I bought some anyway... for inspiration. One of my 'go to' dishes in my catering menu selections is a grilled, skewered chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto and arugula. It is colorful and so flavorful. I got to thinking...what about using pork tenderloin in place of the chicken and adding fresh apricots to this tasty scheme? This is what happened!
Grilled Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Prosciutto + Arugula + Fresh Apricots
1.5# pork tenderloin, silver skin removed and cut into 1" chunks, about 21 pieces
6 slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise and then crosswise in half
a bunch of baby arugula
6 fresh apricots, pitted and quartered
2 T olive oil
salt + pepper
Glaze (optional but really adds a bit of sweet and spice)
1/4 cup apricot jam
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 T white wine, orange juice or water
Soak eight 12" wooden skewers in water for 15 minutes, or use metal ones. Drizzle the pork with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and black pepper and toss to coat. Pick up a piece of pork, grab some arugula (a few sprigs) and hold them together while you wrap with the prosciutto, slide onto a skewer to secure. Next, skewer a piece of apricot. Continue until all pieces of pork have been wrapped, adding the apricot in between. Grill over a medium hot fire for 10-12 minutes (5-6 minutes per side) until charred, brushing on each side with the glaze (if using).
I'm excited to be going to visit my mother this Sunday and spend some quality time with her. I'm not a big fan of eating out on Mother's Day, the restaurants are unusually stressed and the experience can be expensive and mediocre at best. I'm going to make a simple but delicious Quiche Lorraine and eat at her home instead. We might even go on a picnic...even if it's just to the back yard. This quiche, along with some fruit and a simple salad is the perfect brunch or lunch dish for this Sunday or anytime. Happy Mother's Day everyone!
The victory of a "Mexican David beating a French Goliath" is the reason for celebrating Cinco de Mayo on Friday the 5th of May. It seems that the Mexican government was a bit short of money to pay back a loan to France and rather than wait a couple of years for repayment, France decided to attack. In 1862, Napoleon III sent his 6,000 man navy to Mexico where they were beaten by an army of just 2,000 Mexican soldiers. According to one source, the observance of Cinco de Mayo in America first started in California in the 1860's in response to the resistance to French rule in Mexico. "Far up in the gold country town of Columbia (now Columbia State Park) Mexican miners were so overjoyed at the news that they spontaneously fired off rifle shots and fireworks, sang patriotic songs and made impromptu speeches." What a coincidence... Columbia is only a few miles from Murphys, where I live! It wouldn't be a proper Cinco de Mayo without the ubiquitous guacamole and though there are many good recipes out there, I wanted to share mine.
2 avocados, split peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1/4 red onion, diced to 1/4"
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1/2 c cilantro, chopped coarsely
juice of one lime
1/4 t salt and a pinch of ground pepper
Put the avocado in a bowl and mash with a fork, leaving it a bit chunky. Add the other ingredients, stir and taste to adjust salt. Serve with tortilla chips. Feel free to add some diced fresh tomato, a spoonful of good salsa or, as my friend Mary Jo does, diced mango!
I recently purchased a package of tofu for a vegetarian meal on a catering job. I ended up with half a package leftover so I sliced it, pan seared it in a bit of olive oil and ate it for lunch. I'd forgotten how much I LOVE tofu. Low in carbs and fat, it's high in protein and iron which makes it ideal for vegetarians and vegans. It's the perfect canvas—having a bland taste, it absorb marinades well and can be tossed into soups or stews or deep fried and added to noodle dishes. I've even replaced the cheese on a fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, heirloom tomato sandwich with tofu! I came across this crusted and fried tofu recipe from an Israeli-born, London based chef named Yotam Ottolenghi (cookbook author, deli owner and restauranteur) and wanted to try it. I'm taking it to a girls' luncheon today as an appetizer. I think they are going to love it.
Crusted Fried Tofu
3/4 c panko crumbs, (Japanese bread crumbs)
grated zest of 1 lime
1 T coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 T sesame seeds, white or black or a combo is good
1 - 14 oz package of firm tofu, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 c flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 t water
1/2 t salt, more to taste
peanut or vegetable oil, for frying, about a 1/2 c
1 T cilantro leaves chopped for garnish
1 T honey
1 T lime juice
1 t sesame oil
1 t siracha chile sauce
2 t rice wine vinegar
pinch of chile flakes
2 T peanut oil, veggie or corn oil, not olive oil unless it is very mild
To make the dipping sauce, whisk together the honey, lime juice, sesame oil, sriracha, rice vinegar and a pinch of salt. Continue to whisk as you slowly pour in the peanut oil, until fully emulsified. Set aside.
Place the panko, lime zest, coriander seeds, sesame seeds and salt in a bowl and mix well. Toss the tofu in the flour, dip into the egg and then finally toss it in the breadcrumb mix until well coated. Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot add half the tofu pieces and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, turning so that all sides get golden brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the last of the tofu, adding a little more oil to the pan if necessary. Serve with the dipping sauce.
I stopped in the valley to pick up strawberries last Tuesday, on my way home from the bay area. I always stop at the same place, a stand run by a family that farms the land just behind. Their strawberries are the best and you must eat them within days or make jam, that's how ripe they are. They grow a few other things too, and on this day they had beautiful fava beans! I always get excited when I first see favas, the season is short so you have to buy them and eat them when you can. They also had gorgeous asparagus and some snap peas, the kind you have to string (I am so spoiled with the packaged 'stringless' variety) but I didn't care, they were so fresh and vibrant! I have been wanting to make something with farro (an ancient grain) forever so I started to put together this salad. It just screams SPRING! It is easy, tasty and beautiful and it holds up well so it would be great for a picnic...maybe Mother's Day?
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 t chile flakes
1 1/2 c farro
2 t salt
6 c water
1 bay leaf
Heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet that has a lid. Add the garlic and the chile flakes and cook for 3 minutes, the garlic will begin to brown slightly. Add the farro and begin to toast it, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Add the water, salt and bay leaf, stir, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until done. It will still be chewy (don't cook until it pops or it will be mushy). Drain and spread out on a sheet pan to cool.
Fava Bean + Snap Pea + Asparagus + Toasted Farro Salad
2 c snap peas, *parred, cut in half
2 c asparagus, *parred, cut in 2" pieces
1 c **fava beans, *parred (about 2# in the pod)
2 T chives, chopped
4 T mint, ***chiffonade or chopped
3 T parsley, chopped coarsely
4 oz feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste
Toss with the cooled farro and the Meyer lemon vinaigrette.
*To par the veggies, heat a pot of water to a boil, add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute, using a strainer, scoop out and plunge in to an ice water bath. Next cook the asparagus in the same pot of water for about 2-3 minutes (depending on their size), scoop out and plunge into the ice water bath.
To cook the fava beans, see below.
Drain all well.
**to prepare the favas, just run your thumb down the slit in the pod, opening it up and releasing the inner beans (very zen). Drop them into boiling water for 2 minutes then scoop out and splash in to an ice water bath. When cooled, take the out and press the outer whit covering gently and the green inner beans should pop right out. They are now ready to use. It may seem like a bit of trouble but believe me it's worth it!
***to chiffonade the mint, pick the leaves off of the stem. Stack the leaves into a pile and roll them into a cigar shape, slice thinly across to get a fluffy pile of mint.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (if using regular lemon, add 1/2 t sugar)
1 T red wine vinegar
3/4 c good olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
Zest and juice the lemon. Mix in the vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil a little at a time to emulsify. Pour over salad and toss.
Voted Best Caterer for Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties 2016