July 29, 2011

goat cheese with honey, figs and roasted almonds



As I continue to learn more about eating well, it's become important to me to support local producers of food. Lately I've been buying raw goat's milk from a local farm along with eggs and chicken. Buying from an organic farm also means I get whole food that is minimally processed, free from unnecessary chemicals and fresher than most of what I might buy at a typical grocery store. Since we planted a garden this past spring, our backyard is now also a (very small scale) local producer of food. The flavor of freshly picked zucchini, green bell peppers, cantaloupe and herbs is richer, deeper, and wonderfully fragrant. It's also no small amount of work, and gives me a small glimpse of just how hard a farmer works to provide food of quality to the consumer. It's a night and day job where you are dependent on the soil and weather and have to be diligent to keep the pests or disease that inevitably appear from consuming your crop. Having a garden reminds me of how dependent we are on things that are predictable, such as rainfall, not becoming unpredictable.

July 22, 2011

tortilla soup pizza



It's no secret that I love pizza. I like trying unusual sauces and toppings, and adding to my stock of pizza ideas is an unending goal. The idea for this pizza came about as I imagined combining roasted chicken leftovers with a few favorite Mexican flavors. For the first version of the pizza, I used a store-bought Mexican salsa for the pizza sauce, and took my cue for toppings from "Classic Tortilla Soup with All The Trimmings" in the cookbook Mexican Every Day by Rick Bayless. For the second version of the pizza, I adapted Rick's recipe for the tortilla soup's tomato-chile base so it was a little thicker and not too watery for using as a sauce on the pizza. If you don't want to make your own sauce, a thicker Mexican-style salsa works surprisingly well.

July 15, 2011

one pan salmon pie



One of the nice things about summertime is that I get to spend it hanging out with my husband. From about the middle of August to the end of May he works as a teacher, so when June and July roll around, unbound by schedule, we do mostly what we want to do. Of course this includes cooking and eating as often as possible.

You might remember the especially good Spanish-style omelette with zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and goat cheese featured on the blog back in April. Once again, the husband of the musician who cooks is back with another creative contribution that I like to call "One Pan Salmon Pie." It's a take on a Spanish dish called Empanada Gallega, a typical savory pie with a puff pastry-type dough that's filled with fish and vegetables sautéed in olive oil. When we visited Spain many years ago, we did a lot of driving to cities and towns around the country. This tends to make you hungry. The great thing about these Spanish towns is that they abound in hole-in-the-wall tapas bars with amazing food discoveries. A tuna-filled empanada with a flaky crust, the filling moist with a rich olive oil, caramelized onions and roasted red bell peppers was one of many food memories etched in our minds from that trip.

July 8, 2011

pickled banana peppers



Last night I walked around the garden as the sun was setting. It's my favorite time of day, with its mix of shadow and light and the warm glow that bathes everything and seems to put its arm around you and say "Here, sit. Relax."

In our garden, the brown turkey figs are finally beginning to blush and ripen. Every summer it seems to take forever, but that's just because I get anxious and worry. I didn't re-pot the fig trees this year, and have noticed several little shriveled figs sitting on the soil beneath the tree. Hiro, our dog, the garden's guardian, always seems to find them and make a small meal of them while I water. But even though I worry when I see shriveled figs sitting on the soil, the garden has a rhythm of its own and will blossom when it is time.

July 1, 2011

sweet potato fries with herb mustard maple glaze

It may be tradition to grill outside on the fourth of July, but when I imagine grilling outside on an uncovered porch with the southern Texas sun beating down upon my head, in this regard I am a tradition breaker. So unless we get invited to someone's house where they have water misters on their covered porch or their property is next to a lake with a cool breeze, we'll be taking our celebration inside, thank you very much.

These sweet potato fries require no grilling and have a herb maple mustard glaze that would also be great basted on roasted chicken. I adapted the recipe from Bobby Flay's "Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges" on the Food Network and made it work for the indoor oven. Even if you happen to have spectacular outdoor grilling weather where you live this weekend, saving space on the grill can be helpful too. The fries are cut in rustic 1/2-inch pieces, microwaved to tenderize, slathered with the glaze, and lined up on wire cooling racks sitting on a baking sheet, then put under a broiler to caramelize. Simple and addicting, I'll be making these often to go with my healthy homemade hamburger meal.