I was in Santa Barbara last week at the invitation of some of my Murphys friends who also live down there half of the time. I had never been to Santa Barbara before, no really. I LOVED it! Of course the ocean and beaches are beautiful, the sailboats, the mission and architecture...but the FOOD is over the top delicious. I had plenty of amazing eats, the pork tacos at Lilly's Taqueria downtown, the chicken meatball pizza from Honor Bar in Montecito, Huevos Rancheros at Delgados in Carpenteria and this wonderful nectarine salad at Garden Market, also in Carpenteria. I took notes as I was eating it and a picture for memory's sake and decided it would be a great blog post. I loved the yellow-orange of the fruit against the dark green of the kale, so pretty. Here is my rendition. Thanks Susie, Roxie, Pamela, Rob and Mikey for showing me a great time. Mu-wah!
Nectarine+ Kale Salad
2 nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced thinly
4 green onions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 bunches of kale, stems removed (either cut them out or just hold onto the stem and pull the leaves off)
1/4 c shelled, toasted pistachios, chopped coarsely
1/2 feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper
Mix the vinaigrette first and have ready. Coarsely chop the kale into 2" x 2" pieces.
toss with the vinaigrette and massage with your finger tips for a few minutes so that the dressing starts to break down the kale. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss. This can hang out in your fridge for a couple of hours so it's a great side to take to a bbq.
2 T *Gravenstein apple-white balsamic vinegar
1 t honey
1 t dijon mustard
6 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon or lime
pinch of salt, grind of pepper
Mix together the vinegar, lemon or lime juice, honey and mustard. Slowly add the oil, whisking to emulsify. Add salt and pepper.
* I get my vinegars at Marisolio here in Murphys. They ship!
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.
Cara Cara oranges are a wonderful surprise! They look exactly like regular navel oranges but cut them open and you are transported to a tropical vacation of glorious pink yumminess. I love them paired with roasted yellow beets, baby spinach, avocados and fennel for a refreshingly beautiful winter salad. Diet friendly too!
Cara Cara orange + roasted yellow beet salad
2 Cara Cara oranges (regular navel oranges or ruby red grapefruit work too) ends cut off, peeled and *supremed
1 avocado, cut into quarters, peeled and chunked
1 fennel bulb, top stalks cut off, sliced very thinly with a mandoline or sharp knife
8 cups baby spinach
4 small golden beets, **roasted, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 c toasted and salted sunflower seeds (optional)
Toss the spinach leaves in the vinaigrette and place on individual salad plates. Gently toss the orange segments, fennel and beets together witha little of the vinaigrette and top the spinach. Place the avocado chunks on top, drizzle with a bit more dressing and top with the sunflower seeds, if using. Alternately, toss all ingredients together with the vinaigrette, top with sunflower seeds. Serves 6-8.
1 t dijon mustard
1 t honey
2 T white wine vinegar (I just found out that Marisolio a wonderful olive oil and vinegar store, here in Murphys, has a Cara Cara Orange-Vanilla white balsamic vinegar. It would be an excellent choice for this dressing! Wow, thanks for letting me know Aubrey!)
2 T juice from prepping the oranges (squeeze the membranes for their juice)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt + pepper
In a small bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Gradually add the oil, whisking to emulsify. Salt and pepper to taste.
*Supreming is a technique that removes the membrane from citrus fruit so it can be served in slices. To supreme an orange or grapefruit, begin by trimming off the very top and bottom of the fruit with a sharp knife. Next, set the fruit on end, and carefully cut the skin from its flesh, beginning at the top and following the curves down. Then, carefully cut out each section of the fruit by inserting the blade of the knife between the flesh and the membrane on both sides. The wedges should come out easily, leaving only the membrane intact.
**Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the beets, whole, on a large piece of tin foil. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap beets tightly in foil and place on a sheet pan or small baking dish. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 to 60 minutes, depending on size. When cool enough to handle, rub with a paper towel to remove skins.
I am enjoying my time spent in Mexico. I am devouring all the culture I can and cooking with ingredients found locally while at the same time, choosing to write about and share ideas and dishes that you can make during the winter holiday season at home. Last year, my son Alex bought me a cookbook for Christmas called Frida's Fiestas. It's all about Frida Kahlo, her favorite recipes and her love of cooking for friends and for her famous artist husband Diego Rivera. As it so often happens with great cookbooks, my friends here in Mexico have a copy too. I thought it would be a great time to finally read this book and gain some food inspiration while I'm at it. In the chapter titled "December" I came across this delightfully different, refreshing salad. I think it would be a great choice for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or anytime really. I changed a couple of things but the idea remains Frida's. I wish I could have been a guest at her table when she was throwing her parties at the 'Blue House' in Coyoacån, she had such enthusiasm for life, loved preparing food and had a passion for entertaining, kind of like me!
Roasted Beet, Jicama, Orange and Peanut Salad, Honey-Lime Vinaigrette
2 medium or 1 large jicama, peeled and sliced thinly
2 oranges, peeled and sliced
2 medium beets, *roasted, peeled and sliced
3/4 c peanuts, roasted, salted, chopped
1/4 c cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)
6 T olive oil
3 T fresh lime juice
1 t honey
zest of one orange
pinch of chile powder or cayenne or both!
salt and pepper
To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to blend well, the honey will emulsify the dressing. On a large platter, arrange the jicama slices in a circle then the oranges. Pile the beets in the middle. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the peanuts and cilantro. You could sprinkle with a bit of Tajin (a chile-lime salt available in most stores) as a finishing touch or sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for more color.
*To roast the beets, heat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle whole beets with olive oil, salt and pepper and wrap in foil. Roast for 1 hour, cool then peel, dragging the dull side of a knife over them to remove the skin. Slice or chunk, your choice.
Sometimes you just feel like a nice, warm bowl of homemade soup but haven't at all prepared for this craving. That is exactly what happened to my daughter Lily one night last week. It was too late to go to the store so she went to the pantry instead. She found a can of pumpkin and a can of chicken stock... soup perhaps? She started to work with an onion and some spices and in a few minutes she had what she wanted, a nice, steaming hot bowl of comfort that tasted like it had been simmering all day. Best of all there's no need to pull out the food processor!
I was lucky enough to consume a bowl of this wonderful orange yumminess first hand and I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you. This soup is so simple and requires only a few 'on hand' items. Best of all you can switch it up for a bunch of different flavor profiles. Try Thai coconut milk and a squeeze of lime or heavy cream with a few tablespoons of peanut butter and a chopped bacon garnish. I garnished mine with a dollop of plain yogurt and some crumbled, fried sage leaves. Get creative and have fun. Serve next to this delicious seasonal fall salad, it's the perfect accompaniment for a light but hearty dinner by the fire. You could sub sliced Fuyu persimmons for the apple as we get closer to winter or add already cooked chicken breast for some good protein. Enjoy!
‘Instant’ Pumpkin Soup
4 T butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely (no blending so make it a small dice, or use onion powder if you're lazy!)
1 t each (more or less depending on taste) curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, garlic powder
1/2 tsp (more or less depending on taste) nutmeg
3 14-oz cans of pumpkin purée (I love Trader Joe's organic)
4 c chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 c. real maple syrup + 1 Tbsp organic sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream (or almond milk, coconut milk)
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t black pepper
Melt butter and sauté onion in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until lightly browned. Add spices and cook for 1 minute. Add pumpkin purée and cook 2-3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Add maple syrup, sugar, salt and pepper. Taste for spices, salt and sugar and add more if needed (spices intensify as they sit so don't be too heavy handed right away). Stir in cream, coconut milk or almond milk, keep warm. The key to this recipe is to adjust proportions as needed according to your own preferences. If it seems like it's lacking something, it's probably either sugar or salt.
Fall Greens Salad
3 c mixed hearty salad greens
1 c arugula leaves
1/2 head radicchio (about a cup when sliced thinly)
1 lg Honeycrisp or Braeburn apple, sliced into matchsticks
toasted pepitas or walnuts
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp each cinnamon, curry,
cumin, black pepper
1 T dijon mustard
1 t salt
1/2 c. oil (I often use olive
but walnut oil would be delicious)
Whisk everything but the oil together to blend then the oil slowly, in a steady stream to emulsify. Toss the greens and apple together in a salad bowl with the dressing as needed, top with the nuts and serve. Add some good crumbled blue cheese such as Pt. Reyes on top too if you like, or any other cheese for that matter! This makes more dressing than you will need so just store the unused portion in a jar on the counter and use within a week or so.
As a caterer for over 30 years, I have established a reputation for consistently creating original menus inspired by the occasion and the season, presenting them with an ease and elegance uniquely my own. Fresh, locally-sourced ingredients are the basis of my creative “from scratch” menus, which range from the classically elegant to rustic and whimsical.
"Love your recipes! Pat made your avocado toast a few weeks ago, delish! I'm taking them to a party in a few weeks, although the mushroom crostata looks pretty darn good!"