September 3, 2015

GRILLED NECTARINES and PEACHES WRAPPED IN BACON


Oh my, it has been a while since I've shared with you here. I'm sorry. Summer totally got away from me. Between travel, photography work, kids home from school, and a family health crisis, the past couple of months have slipped by. Yesterday, the last of my brood went back to school, I breathed in the empty house, and within minutes was cooking up this post for you. It's really nice to be back!

Earlier this summer when I needed a quick appetizer, I wrapped peach wedges in bacon and tossed them on the grill for my in-laws. Within minutes, everything had been devoured so I figured... this is a recipe worth sharing. With Labor Day coming, I thought this easy, crowd-pleasing concoction could come in handy if you're cooking for friends this long holiday weekend. Bacon is always good and here it hits a pretty darned transcendent note when it's wrapped around peaches and nectarines all warm and juicy from the grill.

I started the summer with a stone fruit recipe and I'm ending the summer with another one - delicious bookends.



INGREDIENTS
serves 4 as an appetizer, or you can double/triple the recipe to feed a crowd
  • 2 medium ripe, but firm peaches and/or nectarines 
  • 8 slices of bacon (I really like the thinly sliced bacon here)
  • olive oil
  • 16 fresh basil leaves
  • aged or reduced balsamic
Preheat a grill to medium heat. Or preheat a cast iron grill pan over medium.

Slice each peach/nectarine into 8 wedges. Cut each slice of bacon in half. Wrap each peach/nectarine slice with a strip of bacon (if you carefully wrap the bacon around the peach and let it stick it to itself, I find that you don't need a toothpick to hold the bacon in place). Lightly brush the outsides of your wrapped peach/bacon with olive oil to prevent sticking to the grill.

Grill wrapped peaches/nectarines for about 5 minutes per side until the bacon is crisped to your liking. If you use a thicker cut bacon, adjust cooking time accordingly.

Top with a fresh basil leaf or chopped basil, and a drizzle of balsamic. Eat right away.

Happy Labor Day!




June 17, 2015

HONEY-MASCARPONE FROZEN YOGURT


You know that feeling when you bring home a new cookbook and as you flip through the pages, you find yourself bookmarking recipe after recipe? To me that's the first sign of a great cookbook. Confirmation of greatness comes when the recipes deliver delicious results. Well, Yogurt Culture, by my buddy Cheryl Sternman Rule, is that kind of book. There are so many recipes I want to make, I've lost count. And every one I've tried has been simple and fantastic.

Yogurt Culture is about yogurt of course, but it goes way beyond what one might expect of yogurt recipes - yes there are wonderful lassis, smoothies and tatzikis, but with well over 100 recipes, Cheryl tempts us with Smokey Egglant-Tahini Dip, Coriander-Lime Grilled Chicken (our family loved it!) and Regal Creamy Beef Curry, just to name a few.

The first recipe I made from Yogurt Culture was this delectable Honey-Mascarpone Frozen Yogurt and I knew I had to share it with you. Cheryl's clever additions of mascarpone, lemon zest, olive oil, and vanilla bean elevate fro yo to a heavenly level of sophistication, yet the recipe couldn't be much easier to make. Cheryl suggests drizzling a bit of olive oil over the frozen yogurt and I readily second that notion. My favorite concoction is a kind of summer sundae -  Honey-Mascarpone Frozen Yogurt with slivers of donut peach, marcona almonds and that splash of olive oil. I think you'll love it too.


INGREDIENTS from Cheryl Sternman Rule's Yogurt Culture
  • 2 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone
  • scant 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • scrapped seeds from 1/2 plump vanilla bean
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • optional for serving: sliced peach or nectarine, salted-roasted marcona almonds, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
In a large mixing bowl whisk together yogurt, mascarpone, honey, olive oil, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. You can serve the frozen yogurt in this soft serve form, or transfer the frozen mixture to a small baking dish and place it in the freezer to harder further.

When you're ready to serve the frozen yogurt, take it out of the freezer 10-20 minutes before serving to allow the yogurt to soften a bit.

I suggest topping the frozen yogurt with peaches or nectarines, marcona almonds and a light drizzle of olive oil.






 Serves 4

May 20, 2015

NETTLE OMELET WITH SPRING ONION

I know.... it's weird that we cultivate weeds in our backyard, especially when you consider how unfriendly nettles appear to be. One touch and you know why they're called "stinging" nettles. But this luscious weed is worth the hassle. Not only are stinging nettles absolutely delicious, they're super good for you...packed with fiber, protein, vitamins A, C, D, and K. Nettles are a miraculous anti-inflammatory, treatment of seasonal allergies, and a known blood purifier. We brew nettles as a simple tea, saute them as we could spinach or other tender greens, and puree them into pesto. Once nettles are cooked, the infamous sting disappears.

Nettles seem to be cropping up at more and more farmers' markets these days. I've even seen them at Monterey Market. Or if you're of the adventurous foraging ilk, you might find nettles growing wild nearby. Please, harvest the nettles with care. Using gloves is always a safe bet, though I find a good set of tongs and scissors to work for me as long as I'm careful not to casually brush my arm against the bush while harvesting.








Nettles and eggs make delicious companions. The tender greens are so good sauteed with a little spring onion and Parmesan and tucked into a tender omelet. Of course you can eat this dish for breakfast, but remember omelets make a nice lunch or easy supper.

If you're curious about nettles, read more here and here.

INGREDIENTS makes 1 omelet, though you can easily double, triple... the recipe to feed as many as you choose
  • 3 packed cups trimmed and washed nettle leaves (see my notes above about the necessary precautions for handling fresh nettles)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped spring onion or scallion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan 
  • 2-3 eggs
  • splash of water
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • unsalted butter
  • optional for garnish: chopped onion greens and/or onion blossoms
Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add nettle leaves. Use tongs to toss nettles and coat them in the warm oil. Add a sprinkling of sea salt to the greens. Cover the pan, turn then flame to low and continue to cook nettles for a few minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender.

Place cooked nettles on a cutting board, and coarsely chop. Set chopped nettles next to your stove so that you can easily add them to your omelet in just a few minutes. Place your grated Parm next to the stove top as well.

Set a small, well-seasoned cast iron (or non-stick) pan over medium heat so that it can thoroughly preheat before you cook your omelet. In the meantime, whisk eggs vigorously in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and a tiny splash of tap water.

If you're new to cooking omelets and would like some visual help, you might want to check out this post from my archives. 

Place 1/2 tablespoon butter in the hot pan. Swirl it around to coat all sides. (If the pan is too hot and the butter browns, use a paper towel to wipe out the pan, adjust the flame and start with a fresh pat of butter.) Once the melted butter has coated the sides of the pan, immediately add the whisked eggs. Grab the handle of the pan and tilt it so the eggs evenly coat the bottom, and slightly up the sides of the pan. Once the eggs start to form large bubbles, use a spatula to pull the eggs from the edge towards the middle of the pan, letting the runny eggs fill the void. Repeat this action in 3-4 places until there's no longer any excess runny egg.

Once your eggs have a nice rumpled surface, sprinkle the grated Parm onto the omelet. Next add the chopped, cooked nettles. (If the omelet still looks a little underdone to your taste, turn the flame to low and cover the pan for just a minute or so. I personally like my omelets with a slightly gooey middle.) Slide the omelet from the pan onto a plate, letting it fold onto itself.

Serve omelet right away and garnish with onion greens (and blossoms, if you've got them.) Enjoy!
 

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