Spanish Tortilla

My good friend Martha is an excellent cook. She has traveled the world and always has a unique dish or healthy way to prepare common ingredients. One of my favorites is her Spanish tortilla. This is generally served as an appetizer – but my teenagers love it for breakfast. I start with some small yukon gold potatoes.

Sliced Yukon Golds

Sliced Yukon Golds

Slice them evenly and thinly – about 1/4 inch thick. Add a healthy amount of olive oil to a non-stick pan and heat until it sizzles when a potato is added – don’t let the oil get too hot and smoke. If you choose, you can also add chopped onion. Cook the potatoes on medium heat until they can be pierced with a fork. Strain the excess oil into a ramekin – I use it within a few days for other potato dishes. Season with salt and pepper and dried herbs of your choosing. This morning I used some of those Herbes de Provence I brought back from France a few weeks ago. Make sure to use enough salt or the dish can be bland.

Cooked Potatoes

Cooked Potatoes

Now, mix about five eggs with a splash of milk, more salt and pepper and herbs. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the cooked potatoes.

Eggs

Eggs

Cover and cook gently until the bottom and the top of the tortilla is quite set.  Slide the tortilla onto a plate – place the pan upside down over the plate and flip the tortilla over – cook an additional ten minutes.

I slice it up and serve with their favorite hot sauce!

Spanish Tortilla

Spanish Tortilla

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A Meal in Provence

I have just returned from a fantastic trip to France. After accepting a generous invitation to join some friends at their home in Provence, I was unprepared for the staggering beauty that the countryside offers; lavender fields, vineyards, truffle trees and medieval villages set on green hills. The abundance of ingredients offered at the local open air markets made planning dinner a delight.

Provence

I would like to share one such dinner with you. The most simple ingredients were transformed by fire, a gratin dish and a beautiful view. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Lamb Chops with Rosemary

An open fire made with gathered firewood was all this lamb needed.

Preparing to Grill

Two beautiful potatoes, sliced thinly, and arranged in a gratin dish with chopped tomato, olive oil and herbes de Provence. Okay – I put a little butter on them – it is France! Bake at 375 degrees until golden and cooked through. (Test with a fork).

Potatoes Ready to Bake

A cucumber salad with fresh tarragon added a bright and cooling component to the meal – sprinkle with olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Cucumber Salad with Fresh Tarragon

And the meal is ready! Bon Appetit!

A Meal in Provence

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California Egg Sandwich

I have already mentioned the mustard green and egg sandwiches I would carry to school for lunch on freshly baked Italian bread. Here’s a slight modification on that to give it a healthier twist. I take a beautiful, locally grown bunch of mustard greens and wash them well. I trim the tough stems off at the part where the leaf starts.

I then chop the greens into bite size pieces and mince a few cloves of garlic.

I start by adding the greens to olive oil that has been heated in a cast iron pan. I add salt and pepper and let the greens wilt a bit while they give off some moisture. This is when I add the garlic – adding it now prevents it from burning when it hits the hot oil. I let this cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat – test the greens to see if they have become tender – it may take a little longer.

Now I beat about four eggs with a fork and turn up the heat under the greens. Pour the eggs into the greens and scramble until satisfied. Instead of Italian bread I use a sprouted whole wheat, toasted and lightly spread with mayonnaise. You can add tomato, mustard, hot sauce – whatever you enjoy on a sandwich – but here’s how I like it:

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Spring Chicken

I am revisiting artichokes today because I have just harvested some from the large clay pots in my vegetable garden. We planted these a few years ago and have had only a few artichokes produced, but this year they are plentiful. I also noticed that the sage we planted last year made it through the winter and is starting to grow again.

I gathered some of the smaller artichokes and a handful of sage leaves. After rinsing the artichokes, I sliced them in half and tossed them in a little olive oil. I love to roast chicken for an easy dinner so I arranged the sage and artichokes in a baking dish with some organic chicken legs, thighs and wings.

Salt and pepper the arrangement and I also put a little water in the pan. Roast at 375 degrees.

The crispy sage leaves and artichoke are a nice garnish and fun to nibble on.

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Orange Rosemary Marmalade

My relatives on the East Coast have historically been the beneficiaries of our abundance of citrus. It tends to ripen all at the same time in February and March. I wash it and pack it into “if it fits – it ships” boxes along with a recipe for lemon bars, lemon chicken etc. There is always more than I can ship and the fruit starts dropping to the ground rendering it “lost”. This year I have decided to make marmalade.

I picked about six large oranges and scrubbed them well.

I prefer a more savory marmalade so I chose to add rosemary to the oranges. The rosemary is beautiful with its small blue flowers.

After scrubbing the oranges I sliced them very thinly and cut the disks into eighths. The sliced oranges, and six cups of water are added to a large pot and cooked at a full boil for about 45 minutes – or until reduced by about half. The orange rind should be quite soft. Add three cups of sugar and a handful of fresh rosemary to the pot and bring it to a boil again. Be careful to watch the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over – if it does just reduce the heat to control the situation. Once the mixture thickens (fifteen minutes or so) test it for readiness by putting a spoonful on a cold plate – wait a full minute and tilt the dish to see if it is runny or jam-like. If it is runny, continue to cook until a thicker consistency is obtained. Can the marmalade according to “Libby’s” instructions – boiling the jars and returning the filled containers to a hot bath to be sterilized (it’s really not as hard as it sounds).

Serve on toast or drizzled over honey yogurt.

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Simple – Steamed Artichokes

The most beautiful artichokes start arriving in March. Unscathed by their short trip over the Santa Cruz mountains to our local market they are green and blemish free. A short hour away in Castroville one can see artichoke bushes fading into the horizon in every direction. This is a dream come true for an Italian artichoke lover!

A very simple way to serve artichokes that showcases their wonderful flavor is to steam them and serve them with an herb and garlic mayonnaise.

I start by trimming the stem and the sharp side leaves. then slice the tight remaining leaves at the top.

I set the artichokes in a steamer over about 2 inches of water and steam until the stem is pierced easily by a fork. The dip is made by mixing mayonnaise with finely chopped fresh dill, a minced garlic clove and a twist of black pepper.

 

Using a grater dust the mayonnaise blend with some lemon zest to finish.

The final product – the purple choke in the center of the artichoke is easily scooped out with a spoon.

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Roasted Wild Mushroom Risotto

When autumn arrives I start using my well worn, cracked, blue, Le Creuset Dutch oven almost every night. Soups, vegetable stews and risotto are wonderful choices for colder evenings and so easy when the pot is brought straight to the table. I have been making this mushroom risotto recipe for decades, but only recently started roasting the wild mushrooms to add at the end as a garnish.

 

Roasting brings out the deep woodsy flavor of the mushrooms, and when I sprinkle them with olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary and sage it is quite beautiful. I have never been brave enough to forage for my own mushrooms and am quite happy buying the “variety pack” at my local Whole Foods.  I use crimini (also known as Baby Bella) mushrooms for the base in the risotto along with a yellow onion.

Start by cooking the chopped onion with olive oil, salt and pepper until it is translucent. Add the sliced crimini mushrooms and turn up the heat a little bit to evaporate off some of the moisture they release while cooking:

I then pour into the pan about a half cup of white wine and crank up the heat to reduce. After the wine has reduced and the mushrooms and onions start to brown slightly I add one cup of Carnaroli rice along with a handful of chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and sage.

Then slowly add – cupful by cupful – turkey broth that has been warmed either in a Pyrex cup measure in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. I use turkey broth this time of year, and specifically for this recipe, because it has such a rich flavor. I either make my own by simmering the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey for hours or buy the Trader Joe’s brand – which is a seasonal product – so STOCK UP! After about 15 minutes of stirring and adding broth until it reduces and stirring and adding broth until it reduces and stirring…you get the picture…I start testing the rice for doneness. I prefer my risotto less on the “al dente” side and more on the cooked fully-through side. Be your own judge.

Finally, I stir in about a 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a handful of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano until well incorporated. I like to use a ramekin or cup measure to plate the risotto. I then arrange the roasted wild mushrooms, some fresh chopped herbs and a grating of cheese.

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A Great Breakfast

I love avocados. I love them so much that sometimes they are all I can think about. This obsession with avocados is a California-born one. Growing up in Boston I wanted to like avocados. They were just never ripe. Try as I did to ripen one at home and catch it at the right moment – I always failed. I could not get the timing right. They were either brown and rotted or hard as an apple. Right now with avocados at the peak of ripeness here in California I am buying them ripe and ready – chopping, mashing and scooping them all over everything. Here is my favorite breakfast treatment for avocados:

You’ll need a lime. Here is a photo of some beautiful Bearss limes from the tree in my yard.

You’ll need a ripe avocado. This is from my local Whole Foods – I wish I had a tree!

 

Now – toast a slice of whole wheat bread. Find the densest, chewiest brand you can – Trader Joe’s has some flourless sprouted breads that are great for this. Grab some olive oil, salt and pepper and see below:

 

Scoop out the avocado pulp and mash away…squeeze on the lime juice, drizzle the olive oil, and salt and pepper to your liking…

 

Feel free to add a soft boiled egg…

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