Friday, August 22, 2014

Marinated Mushrooms

Dear Lauren,

I've been placing bets with myself over who would do it first. Every morning I sit on the spot on the couch closest to the arm and in front of the ottoman. At night, Dad does. Every morning I balance my coffee cup on the arm like it's an end table. Every night, Dad does the same with a Diet Coke. The old sofa arms were rolled and a little flattened with age and made better end tables. The new sofas have track arms, but I like how they look.

Maybe I should go drink my coffee upstairs where the old couch is?

Yes, I spilled the coffee this morning. 

This has nothing at all to do with mushrooms, does it? 

I'm not much of a vinegar fan, but I had a baked chicken dish that I wanted to make and it called for mushrooms. Mushrooms can be kind of bland so I thought, "why not?" Let's marinate! The chicken dish was all the better for these mushrooms and I really think the orange zest I added helped, too. I'm still working on that chicken recipe, you'll have to wait for it!

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Parsley
and Sauteed Marinated Mushrooms
Marinated Mushrooms

8 ounces mushrooms
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white - I used sherry wine vinegar)
lemon juice from half a lemon, about 1 Tablespoon
a heaping Tablespoon fresh chives, minced
a heaping teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
a heaping teaspoon fresh dill, minced
1 small clove garlic, minced

Clean the mushrooms and set them aside. You can slice, quarter, or leave them whole based on what you will use them for. Put all the rest of the ingredients in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and shake until well-combined. Taste and make adjustments for salt. Add the mushrooms to the bag and refrigerated for at least 4 hours. Serve.


P.S. I won $50 on the bet!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Fish

The salmon shown here is served with rice grits.
Dear Lauren,

Most years we have a family get-together somewhere in North America with my parents, my sister and her family, my brother, and my family. This year's trip will include Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon. We have all taken part in the planning this year and my part was to plan the menus. You'd think that would be a no-brainer for me, but apparently that is just what I have this year - no brain. So, with very little time left, here I am again, trying to get the meals planned.

This fish dish is a winner for an occasion such as ours, but I really cannot think of any occasion for which it wouldn't be a winner! It takes so little prep and cook time and it tastes delicious! 

Vacation Fish
Adapted from Trout David from Secrets of the Best Chefs
Serves 2

1 large fish filet, skin intact, about 1/2 pound (I've used salmon, the original recipe used trout, you can use whatever fresh fish that you like)
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon, cut the lemon into wedges for serving
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (Whatever you like and have available. The author suggested oregano, sage, and basil. I had all of these in my herb garden and they were delicious with this dish!)
1/4 cup olive oil

Put your oven rack 1 inch from the broiler and preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Place the fish on the baking sheet, skin side down, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl, and top the fish with this mixture. Let the fish marinate on the counter or in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

Cook the fish for about 5 minutes, until the fish is firm and there are a few bubbles in the herby olive oil. You can take two knives and make a small separation in the herbs and into the fish to see if it is done to your liking.



P.S. Lauren, I am looking forward to the day-trip you planned for us with All-Star Canyon Tours. Will Carson overcome his fears and get on the helicopter? Will any of us survive the Grand Canyon hike? Will the VIP treatment really be VIP? We will soon see!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Dear Lauren,

The first time I ever had chilaquiles, I made them. I'd rather have something new in a restaurant first and then try my hand at it so I know what I'm aiming for. Wouldn't you? But, that fall the allure was just too great because I'd read that making chilaquiles with Thanksgiving turkey was a great way to use up leftovers and I loved the idea of it! The reality was even better and I became a big time chilaquiles lover from that day forward! I suggest you put chilaquiles on your list for Thanksgiving leftovers, too. Or, you can make them with rotisserie chicken or eggs, like I did today.

The green salsa is wonderful. Put it on your list of salsas to make and not just for chilaquiles. As you can see, the color of the salsa is excellent! So vibrant and pretty! Tastier than any green salsa I have ever made. 

Adapted from Secrets of the Best Chefs (Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, Founder, Hot Bread Kitchen, New York City

For the tomatillo salsa:
1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed
3 Poblano chilies, skins charred and removed, seeded and deveined
3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 small onion, chopped
Salt to taste

1 Tablespoon olive oil
Corn tortilla chips or strips*
4 fried eggs, or 8 egg whites made into 4 egg white omelets
Radish, sliced or chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
4 ounces queso fresco or cotija cheese, grated
Mexican crema or sour cream (optional)

Add the tomatillos to boiling water and cook until the tomatillos are soft. Drain. Add all tomatillo salsa ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Add salt if needed.

In a saucepan, add the salsa and 1/4 cup of water over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add tortillas strips or chips and cook for about 1-2 minutes until they have softened. Divide the mixture between 4 plates and top with egg and radish. Serve hot

*To make your own tortilla chips: Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get out a rimmed baking sheet and cover it with a sheet of parchment paper to make for an easy clean up. Stack your tortillas and cut in half. Stack them again and cut them in 1/2-inch strips along the short edge. Place the tortillas on your baking sheet and pour the oil on them. Toss them til evenly coated and then spread the tortilla strips in a single layer on the sheet. Bake for 4-5 minutes til crispy. Watch closely so you don't overcook them. Set aside. (You can also cut your corn tortillas in triangular shapes if you wish.)


P.S. Lauren, do you remember that first year I made chilaquiles with turkey leftovers? We lived in Valencia and I loved that house and Starwood Place, our street! Loved it, still my favorite!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cucumber Quinoa Salad Toast

Dear Lauren,

I joined a new cooking group. The group is based on cooking out of all of the Ottolenghi cookbooks.I like to call him Otto. When I joined the group, I did it to lurk. To see what the other cooks liked out of Otto's books. But the very first day, I changed my mind. No lurking for me! The group posts a page number and the name of one of the cookbooks and asks us to consider making that recipe. We can share photos and make other recipes but when I realized they were going to tell me what to make? Well, I develop recipes and answer questions and think (up all sorts of nonsense) all day long, so I quickly realized after being added to this group that I LIKE being told what to cook! I really do!

One of the cookbooks I have really enjoyed this year is Keepers and I've made every "toast" in that book and then some! When I saw the recipe the Otto group chose for this week, Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad, I immediately thought...TOAST! I put a little olive oil on some sourdough and plopped it in the toaster and the rest of the salad I made as Otto ordered. I was able to use tomatoes from my garden and try out my new rice cooker to cook the quinoa, so even if this recipe hadn't been amazing, I would have enjoyed the process. But it IS amazing!! Yum, yum! Off to a good start!

Cucumber Quinoa Salad Toast
adapted from Quinoa and Grilled Sourdough Salad in Plenty

serves 4

1 cup cooked quinoa (use this method and save the leftovers for another use)
4 tomatoes, cut in bite size pieces
2 cucumbers, ends cut off, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed, cut in 1/4" slices
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional to brush the bread
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

4 slices sourdough bread

Place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. In a second bowl, whisk next 5 ingredients until combined. Put the dressing over the salad and toss. Set aside. Toast the bread in the toaster and brush with a little olive oil. Place a piece of toast on each plate and divide the salad equally on top of each toast. Serve.


P.S. Lauren - "Listen Linda!"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Diet Mac and Cheese with Zucchini Ribbons

Dear Lauren,

You have been cooking up a storm lately. I noticed you cooked a lot whenever we were home together. You'd ask me question after question and then get me to help you. Then you'd tell me how you cooked this or that, here or there. You'd say things this or that recipe on my blog, Mom? 

Recently, Dad and I went out of town and you stayed behind to take care of our cats, Max and Catarina. And you cooked even then. You cooked out of books and you cooked based on what was in the freezer and you cooked and you cooked and you cooked. 

Then last night, you cooked for Dad and me.

As a recent college graduate with a marketing major, I figure you'll approve of the marketing title of this recipe. This is not really diet mac and cheese. We named it so because of the bread crumbs you used that were in the freezer...crumbs I made with bread Dad and I use when we're on Weight Watchers. See? Diet!

Diet Mac and Cheese with Zucchini Ribbons
by Lauren
Adapted from Sweet Paul and his cookbook, Eat & Make

Try these. So easy.
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour

3 cups whole milk, heated
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyère*, grated
1/2 cup Jarlsberg*, grated
1/2 cup Monterey Jack, grated
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil (I think we have every single variety of Sciabica, it's amazing)
2 zucchini, thinly sliced or spiral cut into ribbons with this tool like Lauren uses
1 pound dry pasta (Lauren uses cavatappi, any similar shape is fine)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (Lauren uses Personalized Bread Crumbs)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted

*Gruyère and Jarlsberg is tasty, but can be expensive. If your budget doesn't allow for it, substitute 1 1/2 cups grated Swiss.

Preheat oven to 425°F. You will need a 9 x 13" baking dish.

Boil a large pot of salted water, and while you make your cheese sauce, cook your pasta.

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Whisk in milk slowly to prevent lumps. Add the cream and continue to whisk for a few minutes, until the mixture is heated through. Take your time with this. To prevent scalding, do not heat the mixture too quickly. Add the cheeses. Turn the heat to low and don't allow the mixture to heat above a simmer.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and cook until golden brown.

Lauren made Ina's Jalapeño Cheese Crackers 
while we were out of town.
Stir together the drained pasta, the cheese sauce and the zucchini and pour it into your 9 x 13" baking dish.

Stir together the bread crumbs and the melted butter in a bowl until combined. Sprinkle it over the mac and cheese in the baking dish. 

Put the baking dish in the oven and bake until the bread crumbs are golden and crispy and the cheese is bubbly, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool 5-10 minutes and serve.