Thursday, May 21, 2015

Baked Wild Cod with Tapenade and Pine Nut Breadcrumbs

Who doesn't love a recipe that delivers big on flavors and taste, yet only requires about 10 minutes of active cooking time, 20 minutes in the oven, and only 6 ingredients?? This is the kind of recipe you keep on hand for guests that's easy yet looks like you spent hours in the kitchen making it.

I love a good baked fish recipe. My husband came home with a lovely piece of wild cod and I needed a quick and easy recipe that didn't require a lot of time and attention.

I made a little breadcrumb mixture by just processing 2 small slices of bread I made earlier in the week and pine nuts.

I toasted them on the stove in a bit of olive oil until they were nice and crispy. While they were cooking, I mixed a bit of mayonnaise with a few spoonfuls of tapenade, which was spread on the fish. I love this one from Trader Joes, but feel free to use whatever brand you want.

Or if you don't have tapenade, just chop up some olives! Don't like olives? Try some pesto instead!

The crumbs were then patted on top of the fish and into the oven it went. After 20 minutes of baking, it came out flaky, delicious, and moist. This recipe is definitely going to be on the "repeat" list.

Baked Wild Cod with Tapenade and Pine Nut Breadcrumbs
2 slices of bread
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tsp olive oil
1 lb filet of wild cod (or tilapia, halibut, flounder, etc)
2 tbsp. mayonnaise
4 tsp prepared tapenade
 Heat oven to 425. In small food processor, process bread and pine nuts until coarse crumbs form. Heat olive oil over medium high heat in small skillet. Add crumbs and stir well, coating with oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until crumbs are golden brown. Meanwhile, season fish with salt and pepper and place in lightly oiled baking dish. In a small bowl, combine mayo and tapenade. Spread onto fish. Remove breadcrumbs from heat and spread on top of fish.
Place fish in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from oven and serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chive Blossom Vinegar

I've always been a warm weather girl. Blame it on my California roots, but there is nothing like spring and summer to me. I'm even one of those weird ones that doesn't mind humidity at all and almost relishes that "I can't breathe" feeling when you open the doors on a hot and humid summer day.

Some of my favorite childhood summer memories are from spending hours outside in the garden with my mom, who has the most incredible green thumb. When I was too young to really help, she'd give me a spray bottle and have me "water the plants." It was the coolest thing to me when I was young and I remember doing it for what seemed like hours.

Now that we have our own garden, there's nothing I love more than spending time outside, planting, trimming, and harvesting from our garden. Later this week, I'll give you a tour of what's in there this year, but today, let's talk about something from my herb garden.

Chives are some of the most effortless herbs to grown, because no matter what you do or how you neglect them, there's always some lovely purple chive blossoms every Spring. Last year, I decided to make some chive blossom vinegar and I think it just might be my new favorite way to use them. It has the most delicious mild onion flavor and is incredible for making salad dressings, adding to summer potato salads, or balancing the flavors in a light summer soup.

Chive blossom vinegar really couldn't be easier to make. You can make as small or as large of a batch as you want - simply cut as many blossoms that can fill a small mason jar. I use my salad spinner to give them a quick rinse and then spin them dry.

Pack into a mason jar and fill with whatever vinegar you choose. Last year, I used white wine vinegar and this year, I decided to go with an apple cider vinegar. Fill and top jar with a non-corrosive lid. I used plastic, but I've also used the traditional metal ring lid with a piece of parchment paper underneath to protect from corrosion.

Place in a cool dark place for a few weeks (I just put them in the back of my fridge) and wait. After 2-3 weeks, remove from fridge and strain out blossoms. You'll be left with the most gorgeous dark pink vinegar. Store the fridge indefinitely, although ours never seems to last long.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

One-hour Parmesan Peppercorn French Bread, aka. my very favorite quick bread recipe

It's no secret that I love baking bread. I love the entire process - the kneading by hand, the multi-step process of rising and punching down and rising.  My kitchen is stocked with specialty bread pans, sourdough starters, and banetton baskets.

But I've got a 10-month old now, which means my time in the kitchen has to be shorter and well planned. So an all day bread recipe that requires several carefully timed steps just doesn't fit in my day. Enter Saf-Instant yeast. Saf-Instant can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first and is more than twice as active as regular compressed yeast. Which means you can have freshly baked bread on the table in an hour. No, seriously.


This recipe is a life saver. It requires about 10 minutes of active time (mixing, kneading, etc) and then 25 minutes to rise and 25 minutes in the oven. That's it. And then you have fresh bread coming out of the oven.  And this dough is so versatile and can be shaped into French bread loaves, sandwich loaves, or even hamburger/hoagie buns. You can make it plain or you can jazz it up, like the recipe below. Here it is, all dressed up with parmesan cheese and freshly cracked peppercorn.

Other variations that have been amazing? Italian seasoning and garlic powder, brown sugar and raisins, feta cheese and kalamata olive, sharp cheddar and diced jalapeno - the list goes on and on. Just use whatever strikes your fancy!

This recipe makes 2 French bread sized loaves, so you can do more than one type if you want! Or give the extra to a friend, because who doesn't love freshly baked bread?

Oh, and this bread makes fantastic toast!

One-Hour Parmesan Peppercorn French Bread

5 1/4 cups flour (I've used AP flour, whole wheat, and bread flour and they all come out great)
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. oil (I usually use olive oil)
2 cups warm water (around 100 degrees F)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. freshly cracked coarse peppercorns
Coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine. Make a well in the center and add wet ingredients. Mix into dry ingredients for a minute until it's mostly all together. Dump out on the counter and knead for 4-5 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each ball of dough in a large rectangularish shape about 1/4" thick. Sprinkle dough with half parmesan cheese and peppercorn. Roll up dough, starting with the long side. Place seam side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with other ball of dough. Top with coarse sea salt if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove plastic wrap from risen dough and slash the top with a sharp knife or razor. Place dough in oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling racks.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lemon Balm & Sage jelly

A few years ago, I put in a small raised bed herb garden. I planted a few things and every year, I'll fill in empty spots with new herbs. I don't remember planting Lemon Balm, but was pleasantly surprised to see it make an appearance this spring. The smell is intoxicating and every time I was weeding or doing something in the garden, I'd walk past and grab a leaf and smell it.

I did some research on lemon balm and Wow! There are a ton of benefits and uses for this wonderful and medicinal herb, including mosquito repellant, used for healing cold sores and fevers, good for conditioner for oily hair or in face washes for acne, and the list goes on and on. I flipped through several recipes for it and jotted several down, but for some reason, making an herb jelly just kept popping up in my mind.

If you've ever planted a sage plant in your herb garden, you know that it will grow like CRAAAAZZYY and produce far more sage than any normal person could ever consume, although we try hard to use ours up! I decided to also throw in some sage and it really adds a nice note to the jelly.

If you're new to jelly making, this is about as easy as a recipe as you can find. I've included instructions for easy no-hot water bath canning, or you can hot water bath process for 10 minutes. And here's another jelly recipe that is super easy and makes good use of summer produce - Hot Pepper Garlic Jelly!

Lemon Balm Jelly

1 c. lemon balm, washed well
1/4 c sage leaves, washed well
3 c. water
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 1/2 c. sugar
1 packet Liquid Certo
1 tbsp. minced lemon balm leaves
Bring water to near boil, add herbs, and steep lemon balm and sage for 10-20 minutes. Strain well and discard leaves. Bring herb infusion and sugar to a rolling boil, add pectin and cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in minced lemon balm leaves.  Pour into 1/2 pint jars and seal.

*The easiest way to can is this - wash and dry canning jars thoroughly. Place lids and rings in a pot of barely simmering water. Once jelly is ready, fill a jar, leaving about a 1/4" headspace. With tongs, remove lid and ring from water, place on jar, and tighten, although not all the way. Turn jar upside down on a dishtowel. Repeat with remaining jars. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn upright and allow to seal. Tighten rings on all jars. If any of the jars don't seal, simply store in the refrigerator once cool. The other jars can be stored in a pantry for 8 months to a year, if it lasts that long.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer Chili

Although it's been John Blazin' hot outside around these parts, I was still craving something spicy, warm, and filling one night after work. I also knew it needed to be good enough to save for leftovers for lunches. I found a recipe online for something called Spicy Skillet Mac, which seemed like a recreation of a dish my mom used to make when I was young, lovingly called "Friday Night Special." It was ground beef and and pasta and cheese with a spicy tomato sauce.

I was immediately intrigued by the idea but knew I wanted to keep it gluten free. (Not that we have gluten intolerance, but we try to eat as gluten free as possible). Combine that with an overwhelming amount of summer squash from our garden, and this idea was born.

I call this summer chili - it still has the beans and the meat (faux for us vegetarians) and the spiciness. But the zucchini keeps it lighter than normal, and you could easily add in any other veggies that float your boat. We used onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, and squash from our garden, but I could see carrots, corn, eggplant, and a host of other options.

Oh, and for those keeping track - I did actually use my stove for this, making a grand total of 3 times since May.

Summer Chili
Serves 6-8

3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 cup diced green pepper
2 jalapenos, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups diced zucchini
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground chipotle chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 (12oz) package Morningstar Crumbles
1/2 cup water
1 (15oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion, pepper, and jalapeno.
 Saute for 3 minutes, then add zucchini and garlic. Saute for another 5-8 minutes, until peppers and onions are soft. Add remaining ingredients, except for cilantro, and stir well. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until zucchini is soft. You can let this simmer much longer if you need to. Stir in cilantro before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fresh Herb Marinade

One of my favorite things this year about my garden is the herb box I put in. There is something about going out the back door, walking a few steps, and harvesting some fresh herbs to add into meals. And there's just nothing like fresh herbs. The flavors, the smells - amazing.

My basil and parsley has been doing very well, so I wanted to use a bunch of it up. Obviously, it needed to be a grilling recipe (I've only used my stove once since the beginning of May) so it seemed like the perfect idea to make a marinade for fish. This marinade would also do well on chicken or pork, if you are so inclined.

And the recipe is dead easy. Chop up a bunch of fresh herbs, add a few more ingredients and you have a marinade!

You could easily bake or saute your protein once it's marinated for awhile, but grilling turns the herbs into little crispy flavor chips of deliciousness. But regardless how you cook it, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy yet flavorful this marinade is.

Fresh Herb Marinade
Makes 1 batch

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice

Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl. My favorite way to marinate anything is to throw it into a Ziplock bag. Allow fish (or other carniverous things) to marinate at least for a few hours. Discard any leftover marinade.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kale Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette

Man, our garden is overflowing and we're loving every minute of it. You just can't beat going outside to harvest something and then eating it an hour later for dinner. It's probably one of my favorite things this summer.

Our kale has done so well this year. I planted it in our larger garden area up against the fence and was worried about it earlier in the season, as I was afraid the fence was blocking out some of the afternoon sun. Turns out it's the perfect space, as it keeps it from that blazing hot sun that can cause it to get woody and end the harvest! We're still getting pounds of it weekly, and I'll take it as long as it wants to keep growing. This is our delicious Red Russian Kale that we grew from seedlings.

One of our favorite things to experiment with this summer has been making our own vinaigrettes. Not only is it easy, but there are so many variations you can make it just minutes. Seriously! This recipe took about 5 minutes from start to finish, and most of that was just shaking the jar.

So you can have a healthy homemade dressing on the table in a flash. Imagine how that'll impress last minute dinner guests. "Oh this delicious dressing? I just threw it together."

The secret to a tasty kale salad is in the preparation of it. You really have to massage it for the perfect texture. "Excuse me - did you say massage?" Yep, I sure did. Don't worry - it's an easy process. But it really helps to soften up the leaf and gives it an amazing texture! You just simply pour the dressing on, and then mix it well with your hands for a few minutes. It's a little bit messy of a process, but I promise you the rewards are so well worth it.

Kale Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette

1 large bunch of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

Garlic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp stone ground mustard
1 tsp agave
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a small mason jar. Place lid on jar and shake until well combined. Yup, that's it. Then drizzle over kale and mix with hands for a few minutes until well dressed. Serve and enjoy!
This also lasts well in the fridge overnight, so it's perfect for taking to work the next day for lunch!