Preserved Citrus

It is that time of year again! The citrus trees in our yard are heavy with ripe fruit and I am busy packing boxes to ship to my relatives on the East Coast. I have been seeing a lot of recipes for dishes that contain preserved lemons and I have decided to preserve a jar of my Bearss limes. They are a little sweeter than lemons, but have a bright yellow color when  ripe and are bursting with juice.

Ripe Bearss Limes

Ripe Bearss Limes

I scrub and dry enough limes to fit into a large sterilized Mason jar. The limes are then sliced into quarters without completely cutting through to the end.

Sliced - but intact

Sliced – but intact

I pour a heaping tablespoon of coarse sea salt into the center of each lime.

Sea Salted Lime

Sea Salted Lime

I place the lime top down into the mason jar and press firmly with the back of my (clean) hand squeezing some of the juice as I go. Repeat this until the jar is packed full and juice surrounds all of the fruit. A wonderful benefit is that your hands smell of fresh citrus all day!

Pressed Fruit

Pressed Fruit

Place the jar in your refrigerator. Wait about two weeks and use in any recipe that calls for preserved lemons. I suppose this could be done with any citrus fruit.  You would have some creative results tweaking traditional recipes that contain preserved lemons by replacing with the citrus of your choice. I will post a recipe with these as soon as they are ready!

Ready to Refrigerate

Ready to Refrigerate

 

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Arroz con Pollo

On our way back from an amazing sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands we had a longer than expected layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We decided to take a car into San Juan and get a feel for the the city instead of sitting at the airport reading People magazine. I am so glad we did. We started by heading into “old town” and getting a coffee and pastry.

Coffee in Old Town

Coffee in Old Town

After finishing our coffee, and, buying a bag of the beans to take home, we strolled through  cobblestone streets and enjoyed the Colonial-era architecture. San Juan was founded in 1509.

Colonial-era San Juan

Colonial-era San Juan

As a military city the town was built inside a fortress.

Old San Juan

Old San Juan

After a good long walk we decided to try some authentic Puerto Rican cuisine – “the kind Grandma cooks”. We were directed to a residential neighborhood near the airport and a wonderful restaurant called “La Casita Blanca”.

La Casita Blanca

La Casita Blanca

The warm hospitality and charming interior brought nostalgic feelings for 1960’s era San Juan. Old T.V.’s, mid century patio furniture, framed yellowed newspaper articles all reminiscent of a time gone by. Grandma’s food did not disappoint. Our gracious waiter offered us an appetizer of local avocado (how did he know about this obsession of mine?)…

Local Giant Avocado's

Local Giant Avocado’s

He returned with one sliced and sprinkled with oregano – large enough to feed a family of six.

Sliced Avocado

Sliced Avocado

It was a Saturday, and Saturday is the only day they cook Arroz con Pollo. A traditional Puerto Rican dish of braised chicken, rice and tomato Arroz con Pollo is easy to make. Brown a cut up chicken that has been seasoned with salt and pepper in olive oil. Remove from pan. Add a chopped onion, a chopped red pepper and a chopped green pepper to the hot oil and cook until it has softened. Add the chicken back to the pan. Add a cup of white rice and stir to coat with the oil and other ingredients. Pour in two cups of chicken broth and one cup of chopped tomato. Stir to scrape off any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper liberally – I also like to add a few cloves of garlic that have been smashed. Cover and cook on low until the rice is done (about 30 – 40 minutes).

Here is La Casita Blanca’s version. Far better than mine – but I can keep trying.

Arroz con Pollo

Arroz con Pollo

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Hawaiian Poke on Fried Wontons

When I moved to the Bay Area from Boston I assumed the fish would be as wonderful as it always was on the East Coast. The Pacific ocean is right over the hill – there are fish in it – why wouldn’t it be? I can’t tell you how many times I have made the drive back to our well known branch of the “sparkling seafood” purveyor to return some smelly fish they had wrapped up for me, because it happens too frequently. It’s truly hit or miss. A “hit” being something decent – not great.  I have only recently found fish that is not only just as good as New England, but some of the best I have ever had. I found the vendor at our local farmers market one Sunday morning. I had been walking right past the Stagnaro Brothers “Santa Cruz Fish” table for years thinking, “Fish at the farmers market ? Nope…”, but one day I was desperate for some fish to grill so I took a look. The color, variety and fresh off the boat difference took me by surprise. I was hooked! Last Sunday they informed me they have opened their wholesale business to the retail public – woo hoo! So I drove to Santa Cruz.

When I asked for tuna this is what was dragged out of cold storage:

Whole Tuna

Whole Tuna

When I asked for a few steaks – the kind man sliced me two from the center of the slab…

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This was the most beautiful tuna I have ever seen. I am an ahi addict and have been worried about preparing raw fish at home – but if there ever was a time to try it – the time was now!

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Rinse the fish in cold water, dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Toss with a generous sprinkle of soy sauce, a splash of sesame oil, finely chopped scallions and a shake of sesame seeds. Refrigerate immediately while preparing the wontons.

Ingredients Ready for Poke

Ingredients Ready for Poke

I use packaged fresh wonton wrappers that can be found at most grocery stores in the refrigerator section. I cut them into triangles and fry them individually in peanut oil – careful they burn very quickly. Drain the wonton crisps on paper towel.

Wonton Appetizers

Wonton Appetizers

Top the crisps with the ahi poke and enjoy!

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Sunflower Seed Baklava with Honey Yogurt and Apricot Preserves

Anyone that has shared a meal with me knows that I am deathly allergic to tree nuts. You will not find any dishes on Western Hippie Cooks that contain tree nuts. You will, however, find plenty of recipes that contain seeds. They are my “go-to” nut substitute. I love sesame and sunflower seeds. They allow me to experience that “nutty” flavor – without the trip to the hospital.

I recently served this beautiful dessert at a dinner party. No one missed the nuts.

This recipe is simple to prepare, but takes time…so start with the yogurt. I take a 24 ounce container of full fat Greek honey yogurt and empty it into a mesh strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth and placed over a bowl. You can find cheesecloth in the cookware section of most grocery stores.

Strain Greek Honey Yogurt

Strain Greek Honey Yogurt

Let this sit in the refrigerator overnight – you will be amazed at what happens. The result is thick and “ice cream scoop-able”. This will be served on the side once the dessert is plated.

Now to assemble the baklava. Preheat the oven to 350 F. I start with store bought phyllo dough. This is in the freezer section of your grocery store. Thaw it out according to the instructions on the box. Phyllo dough dries out quickly, so once it is out of the plastic, cover with a clean, damp dishtowel. Choose a baking pan or cookie tray with sides – I am using a 9×13 baking pan. Toss two cups of shelled, salted and roasted sunflower seeds with 3 tablespoons of sugar. You can leave the seeds whole or pulse them in a food processor to get the chopped nut effect. Melt two sticks of butter to use in layering the pastry and sunflower seeds. Take a pastry brush and coat the bottom of the pan so the first layer won’t stick. Lay down a sheet of phyllo and brush with butter – layer and brush a total of 10 sheets of phyllo.

Brush Phyllo with Butter

Brush Phyllo with Butter

Now pour half of the sugar dusted sunflower seeds over the buttered 10 layers – spread out evenly.

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Cover with another 5 layers of individually buttered sheets of phyllo. Pour and spread out the remaining sunflowers seeds. Then top with another 10 buttered sheets of phyllo. Tuck the edges in as you layer so no dry edges remain. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cut diagonally into diamond shaped pieces. Return the baklava to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes or until golden – don’t let it get too dark.

While the baklava bakes empty an 18 ounce jar of apricot preserves into a saucepan. Add one cup of water and bring it too a rapid boil. Let this reduce a bit and thicken – maybe 5 minutes. Most baklava recipes call for a combination of honey, sugar and water. I find it to be far too cloying and super sweet. So I came up with the idea of using apricot preserves adding the sweetness, but a little tart apricot flavor as well.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour the hot apricot sauce evenly over the baklava. Using a butter knife, outline the cuts again so the sauce gets fully incorporated. Cover with plastic and let sit overnight.

Apricot Sunflower Seed Baklava

Apricot Sunflower Seed Baklava

When it’s time to serve – place a few pieces on a plate and scoop the honey yogurt using two teaspoons dipped in hot water.

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb!

If you could find me braiding “Mother Nature’s Hair” with a babysitter in the 1970’s, you can probably guess what I was doing in the early 1980’s. That’s right – rocking to Joan Jett at the college pub! When I saw these Cherry Bomb peppers at the farmer’s market this weekend I had to smile.

Cherry Bomb Peppers

Cherry Bomb Peppers

The woman selling them warned that they are “really hot”. The question now was what to do with twenty one “really hot” peppers. I decided to roast them, stuff them with a cooling cheese filling and store them in olive oil to use later as an appetizer.

Carefully remove the tops of the peppers with a sharp knife. Using the tip of the knife, scrape out all of the seeds and membrane. Be very careful not to touch your face while preparing these!

Carefully remove tops and seeds

Carefully remove tops and seeds

Place all of the cored peppers top down on a parchment covered cookie tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 400 F for ten minutes.

Roast at 400 F for 10 minutes

Roast at 400 F for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, roughly chop a handful of parsley and a small bunch of scallions. Add to a log of goat cheese and a half package of cream cheese. Using a fork blend together in a bowl until all ingredients are fully incorporated.

Ingredients for filling

Ingredients for filling

Once the peppers are cool start filling them with the cheese mixture. I use a less expensive brand of olive oil to gradually fill a Mason jar while layering the peppers. I sprinkled some dried oregano between the layers.

Gradually fill the jar while stuffing the peppers

Gradually fill the jar while stuffing the peppers

Store the final product in the refrigerator and use within a week. Serve the peppers cut in half, and drizzled with the oil, on sliced baguette.

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Too Many Tomatoes

There is such a thing as too many tomatoes. I am currently experiencing this problem and it happens at this time every year. It is hard to remember, impossible to imagine actually, at the beginning of tomato season.  Every tomato harvested tastes amazing and I wait eagerly for more to ripen. But right about now I am knee deep in tomatoes. I really hate to see them go to waste. This preparation solved a recent debate I had with myself – whether to toss a bowl of too ripe tomatoes – or cook them. I started by layering them at the bottom of a baking pan.

Layer of Small Ripe Tomatoes

Layer of Small Ripe Tomatoes

I then took a whole chicken and trimmed every bit of extra fat off of it. This is to help keep the tomatoes from ending up in a deep, greasy bath of chicken fat as they cook. I placed the chicken right on top of the tomatoes and seasoned with Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper.

Whole Chicken Ready to Roast

Whole Chicken Ready to Roast

Roast at 375 F until chicken is cooked through (depends on the weight of the chicken and your oven). The chicken is crisp and juicy and the tomatoes have melted into an incredible sauce.

Roasted and Ready to Carve

Roasted and Ready to Carve

Roasted Tomatoes and Chicken

Roasted Tomatoes and Chicken

I think this deserves a fresh loaf of crusty sourdough, a side of steamed green beans and a glass of pinot noir.

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Cauliflower Appetizer

I have a few kitchen essentials that have made my cooking easier and more delicious. A Le Creuset blue dutch oven, olive oil, well-seasoned Lodge cast iron pans and salt and pepper. My newest discovery, and the one I use most, is parchment paper. I used to think that parchment paper was for fancy baking, but while at a friend’s house for dinner I noticed she used it to roast salmon on a cookie sheet. No messy cookie sheet to clean and an evenly roasted piece of fish. I immediately bought a huge roll and have been roasting everything on parchment ever since. It has transformed cauliflower for me.

Farmer's Market Cauliflower

Farmer’s Market Cauliflower

Cauliflower, steamed, sauteed or au gratin has always been a disappointment to me. It tends to get watery and bland so I avoided using it for years – then I decided to roast it. I cut it into small florets.

Small Florets

Small Florets

Then I toss the florets in a bowl with olive oil and cumin seeds. If you haven’t used cumin seeds before you should give them a try. I love them roasted with any fall vegetable or toasted in a cast iron pan and added to creme fraiche as a dressing or dip.

Toss Cumin, Florets and Olive Oil  in a Bowl

Toss Cumin, Florets and Olive Oil in a Bowl

Then spread the cauliflower out on a parchment covered cookie sheet, salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven until golden and crispy – never soggy.

Spread Evenly on Parchment

Spread Evenly on Parchment

Serve immediately.

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

 

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Roasted Peppers

You know you live in California when your husband comes home from a business meeting with a gift bag of freshly picked heirloom tomatoes and peppers. After washing the bounty, I arranged a tumble of colorful peppers in a bowl to display and enjoy as a centerpiece for a few days. Last night I decided to roast them and serve as an antipasto.

Colorful Peppers

Colorful Peppers

Simply grill the peppers until blistered and charred on all sides.

Peppers on the Grill

Peppers on the Grill

Once they are grilled – place them in a paper bag and roll closed. Letting them sit in the bag for about 10 minutes allows the steam to loosen the skin and make for easier peeling.

Peppers Ready to Peel

Peppers Ready to Peel

Peel the skin off of the peppers and remove tops and seeds. Slice into thick strips. Roughly chop a clove of garlic and some fresh basil. Toss the garlic, basil, peppers, and some olive oil in a bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. This can be served immediately or refrigerated and used within a week.

Roasted Peppers

Roasted Peppers

These are also delicious on sandwiches.

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Late Summer Salad

I returned from all my travels this summer to find my tomato plants the height of small trees. The amount of ripe fruit on them ensures that I, along with my friends and neighbors, will be eating these beautiful tomatoes for months to come.

Tomatoes in Every Size

Tomatoes in Every Size

Today at the market avocados were $1 each and perfectly ripe so I bought five. Tonight I am grilling some cumin rubbed steaks so I naturally thought of guacamole – but extra chunky and as a salad.

Beautiful Ingredients

Beautiful Ingredients

Tomatoes, avocado, minced garlic, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper – that’s it.

Chopped

Chopped

Mix together – season to taste – and watch it disappear!

Guacamole Salad

Guacamole Salad

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Bali Hai

This summer I completed my own version of Eat-Pray-Love…the travel and food version. I have just returned from the most exotic place I have ever visited – Bali, Indonesia.

 

Bali

Bali

I had no experience with Indonesian food and wondered what I might learn from this trip. I was fortunate enough to join a very talented cook while he prepared a beautiful lunch for us. We had requested an authentic Balinese meal and he transformed some very simple ingredients into one of the most delicious meals I have ever had. He started with diced garlic, shallot, green pepper, red pepper and stir fried it in some oil.

Diced and ready to stir fry.

Diced and ready to stir fry.

Then he added purple cabbage, carrot and bok choy tossing it over high heat he added leftover white rice, paprika and some soy sauce. After some more tossing and seasoning adjustment – here’s the result:

Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng

Really delicious – then he tossed some cubed chicken breast in salt, pepper and chopped garlic. Arranged them onto bamboo skewers and grilled brushing with dark soy sauce.

Chicken breast for skewers.

Chicken breast for skewers.

Turning them into this:

Chicken Satay

Chicken Satay

Yum – Finally he took the legs and wings from the whole chickens he had dismantled for the skewers and browned them in oil adding red peppers, green peppers, onion, carrot, coconut milk and a magic curry packet:

Magic Curry Packet

Magic Curry Packet

We ate this way almost every day we were in Bali – amazing food.

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry

And an amazing place.

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