Thursday, August 27, 2015

Watermelon Jicama Salad with Cotija, Cumin and Lime

A piquant take on the ubiquitous watermelon feta salad, this gets a boost from crunchy jicama, cotija cheese, and an eye-opening dressing.


*Many thanks to Jered's Pottery, Cogworks and Milkman for sponsoring the blog this month! Click the links to be transported to Berkeley-made ceramic tableware, New Hampshire-crafted wooden serving boards, and San Francisco-squeezed nut milks that taste like magic. Thank you for supporting the small local brands that support this site!*


How do you feel about watermelon? I was just not that into it until one summer when I tagged along with Jay's band to Nantucket. There I discovered the wonders of Dark n' Stormy cocktails, cranberry bogs, and the joy of having an ocean that's actually warm enough to swim in. One evening we attended a gala of sorts on the beach which featured stands of oyster shuckers, bottomless champagne, and an enormous buffet complete with roasted meats, platters of cheese, and several cold salads. The watermelon feta was my favorite. Now watermelon salad will be always be linked with the feeling of cool sand in my toes and watching the late summer sun set. 


I've always felt pretty meh about most melons and especially watermelons, but that salad changed my mind. And maybe it's the unusual heat in SF this year, but lately I can't seem to get enough watermelon. Our co-op has been carrying some adorable varieties such as Tiger Baby, and I couldn't resist picking one up (not just because it's named after my spirit animal, but because I actually wanted to eat it). 


I had no plans for said watermelon, but one hot day last month I found myself with some leftover cotija cheese from chilaquiles adventures, an organic jicama that Jay's been slicing into green salads, and some rogue herbs. I threw some cumin and coriander in a pan to toast, then I mixed everything up with some ancho chile powder, good olive oil, and sliced cucumbers.


We inhaled the salad. 


After lunch, Jay rhapsodized, "Salty and sour, sweet and savory – that just had everything going on."



For a hot minute, I fancied myself a highly original domestic goddess. I was wrong. Watermelon, jicama and cotija salad is a well-loved flavor combination


And for good reason. Cotija is queso fresco's more flavorful cousin and it plays well with sweet watermelon the same way that briny feta does. The cumin and coriander add savory notes and dimension to tangy lime and olive oil dressing. Ancho chile isn't spicy, but it adds a toasty warmth and brick-red hue. Jicama and cucumber add crunch along with fresh mint and cilantro. And the little bits of salty cotija give you something to sink your teeth into. Sometimes I add slivered red onion and chunks of avocado when I'm feeling extra fancy.


I like this salad best when left to marinate for a few hours in the fridge; this makes it a perfect party or pot luck salad.


What do you like to do with watermelon? Here are a few recipes I've got my sights on.

Drink:
Watermelon White Sangria From Cookie + Kate
Watermelon Basil Colada from What's Cooking Good Looking
Watermelon Hibiscus Margarita from Supergolden Bakes

Eat:
Watermelon Gazpacho from Simply Recipes
Spicy Ginger Watermelon Popsicles from With Food + Love
Grilled Halloumi and Watermelon from Camille Styles
Watermelon Salsa from Gimme Some Oven

Plus!:

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Salad days:

Watermelon Jicama Salad with Cumin, Chile and Lime 


Few foods are as welcome on a hot day as this salad! Feel free to be loosey-goosey with the ingredients here, adding more or less of anything to your taste. Ancho chile powder is usually not spicy in the slightest, but it lends a warm, toasty flavor to this salad. If using a spicier chile powder, add it pinch by pinch to taste. If you can't find cotija cheese, trade in queso fresco or feta, or leave off the cheese for a vegan variation. I like this salad best when left to marinate in the fridge for a few hours so the watermelon can absorb flavor from the spices and herbs. 

Makes 2 large or 4 smaller servings

Dressing: 
1 teaspoon coriander seed 
½ teaspoon cumin seed 
¾ teaspoon mild ancho chile powder 
½ teaspoon flaky salt (such as Maldon) 
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper 
1 tablespoon super good olive oil 
juice of 1-2 limes (to taste) 

Salady Bits:
3 cups (1 pound / 460 g) chunked watermelon flesh (about ¼-½ of a mini seedless melon) 
1 smallish Persian cucumber (1/2 cup / 60 g), thinly sliced 
1 cup (120 g) peeled, slivered jicama 
2-4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (1/2 - 1 cup) 
a few handfuls mint leaves, torn if large
a few handfuls cilantro leaves, torn 
½ - 1 large avocado, ripe but firm, chunked (optional) 
a bit of slivered red onion (optional) 

Place the cumin and coriander seed in a small, dry skillet, and toast over medium heat, shuffling the skillet often, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Cool, then grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

In a large bowl, combine the watermelon, cucumber, and jicama. Sprinkle with the ground spices, chile powder, salt, pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil and juice of 1 lime. Toss to coat, then toss in the cheese, herbs, and onion and avocado if using. Taste, adding more of anything you feel the salad needs. Serve right away, or cover and chill for up to 4 hours. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Basil Plum Pimm's Cup

The classic Pimm's Cup cocktail gets a summery twist from fresh plums and basil. 


Even though I lived a mere 10 minute drive from San Francisco's acclaimed vegan restaurant Millenium for a decade, it wasn't until it moved to Rockridge that I finally got to eat there. 


After a quick and only semi-sketchy Bart ride, I met Sarah for a dinner date one night last week. A server greeted us with lettuce leaves and a bowl of dip made from herbs and legumes. The menu was a panoply of deliciousness that was impossible to choose from, but we managed to settle on a pickle plate, a starter of little polenta cakes with mushrooms, cashew cheese, and something akin to ratatouille, and a creamy red lentil curry topped with a crispy cake of rice and lots of pretty vegetables. Dessert was a raw and vegan peach cheesecake on a chunky pistachio crust. 


I'd heard mixed reviews of Millennium throughout the years, so perhaps my expectations were low,  or maybe it was the fabulous company, but I absolutely loved our meal. 

On my way to the ladies' room, I saw a familiar crop of blond hair and recognized it as belonging to Michael Bauer, the man most feared by every restauranteur in the Bay Area. Back in my pastry cook days, restaurant kitchens would post a snapshot of his face along with a sign that read, "If you see this man, notify a manager immediately." Executive chefs would personally plate his meals, extra courses and amuses bouche would be added on, and the atmosphere in the kitchen would become unbearably tense until he left, chefs anxiously awaiting his verdict in the paper in the coming weeks. 


Back at my seat, I revealed my finding to Sarah, and we wondered whether the restaurant was privy to the diner who would decide their fate with a few taps on a keyboard. We decided to ask the waiter. 

"Is Michael Bauer here tonight?" I asked. 

Our server looked confused and mumbled something that sounded like, "I don't know who that is." 


It was then that I feared for Millennium. 



During all of this drama and intrigue, I sipped another delectable menu item, a Pimm's Cup packed with muddled pluots and fresh herbs. Pimm's Cups have been popping up on menus everywhere, and for good reason. The gin-based spirit dates back to the mid 1800's where it was invented by the owner of an oyster bar who offered up tankards to aid digestion. It has the complex notes of an Italian aperitivo or an old-fashioned gin and tonic – at once bitter, sweet, spicy, and herbaceous. I first learned about this drink from Todd at HonestlyYum who posted this stunning version. I always order a glass from Hog Island Oyster Company in San Francisco's Ferry Building, which comes adorned with fragrant bay leaves. And sometimes I'll whip up a pitcher filled with strawberries and mint a la Kimberley Hasselbrink's version in Vibrant Food.


While I eagerly await a return visit to Millennium with my mostly vegetarian man, who is the least harsh restaurant critic I've ever met, I'll be mixing up these basil plum Pimm's cups. They're quick to put together once you've tracked down a bottle of Pimm's No. 1, a bit of gin and a bottle of good ginger beer. This gets the sweet/sour/boozy ratio just right, while a few slices of plums or pluots plus a handful of basil leaves and some crisp slices of cucumber add a touch of summer.


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Summer Sips:

This beverage also is part of a virtual boozy bash honoring the bounty of late summer and hosted by Sherrie and Renee. See below for more #DRINKTHESUMMER libations!
Hummingbird High | Thyme Lemonade
Brooklyn Supper | Bloody Maria Cocktails
Cake Over Steak | Blackberry Bourbon Cocktail
Loves Food, Loves to Eat | Coconut Nectarine White Wine Spritzers
Dunk & Crumble | Ginger Peach Whiskey Smash
my name is yeh | Nutella Egg Cream
The Pancake Princess | Strawberry Balsamic Shrubs
Edible Perspective | Rosé Slushies
Vegetarian 'Ventures | Sparkling Peppered Plum Blush
Appeasing a Food Geek | Sugar Plum Margarita
Hungry Girl por Vida | Peanut Butter and Berry Smoothie
The Clever Carrot | 5 Minute White Peach Margaritas
Cookie and Kate | Watermelon Sangria
Chocolate + Marrow | Raspberry Thyme Smash
what's cooking good looking | Watermelon Basil Colada
i am a food blog | Thyme Gin and Tonics
Fix, Feast, Flair | Berry Peachy Kentucky Mules
Hungry Girl Por Vida | Peanut Butter and Berry Smoothie


Basil Plum Pimm's Cup


Inspired by Kimberley Hasselbrink's Vibrant Food and Millennium's Pluot Pimm's Cup

All ounce measurements are by volume.

Makes 2 large or 4 smaller servings

4 ounces Pimm's No. 1
2 ounces gin (Hendrick's is my favorite)
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/2 a lemon, sliced
1 large plum or pluot, sliced
~1/4 cup cucumber, sliced (I used lemon and Persian cucumbers)
a handful of small basil leaves (or larger leaves, torn)
ice
4-8 ounces good ginger beer (I like Bundaberg and Ginger People best)

In a pitcher, combine the Pimm's, gin, lemon juice, sliced lemon, plums and cucumbers. Add ice, give it a stir to chill, then add the ginger beer, starting with the smaller amount and adding more to your taste. Serve immediately or let sit for a bit to infuse the flavors, then ladle into glasses and serve.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bourbon Fig Butter + Smoked Sugar Ice Cream with a Fig Swirl

Silky fig preserves kissed with whiskey join an earthy ice cream base for scoops of late-summer bliss. 


A few quick things before we get down to ice cream bidness:

1) I'm looking for a handful of volunteers to test gluten-free, alternative grain sweets recipes (such as this one) for my cookbook. If you're game, shoot me an email at agoodie[at]gmail.com. Thanks!

2) We're hosting a giveaway over at WindyChien.com! Click over for a chance to win one of Windy's gorgeous hand-carved spoons (pictured below). To enter, scroll to the bottom of her home page and sign up for the newsletter. 


Figs seem to be a sort of feast or famine fruit. The ones at our co-op are spectacular in quality, but also in price (famine). But the other day, my dear friend Amelia called to ask whether she could bring over some figs from her grandmother's tree. Fresh figs are one of my very favorite fruits, so the answer was an emphatic yes. In Amelia waltzed with an entire flat of figs. (Feast!)


Similarly, last year Phi and I went fig picking on a friend's land and hosted a fig feast with Nik where every course featured tons and tons of figs. Shortly after, I spoke with another friend who had searched high and low during the same time and couldn't find fresh figs anywhere. 


Figs are somewhat elusive in that they have two seasons – a first, tiny crop in early summer, and then a full harvest in the late summer and early fall. They boast hundreds of varieties (over 700!) but here in the states you'll be lucky to find one or two fresh ones in the market. 


I love figs for their sweet flavor, vibrant hue and juicy texture, and they shine when paired with contrasting flavors such as salty cheese, savory herbs or warming spices. When I was through making tarts, cakes, pies, breakfast pastries, pizza and smoothies, I still had enough figs left for a pot of fig butter which I swirled into this ice cream.


Figs need little more than a touch of sugar, heat, and a bit of acidity to be transformed into a thick, smooth puree ideal to spread on toast with almond butter, goat cheese crostini, or stirred into yogurt for breakfast. The alcohol in the bourbon cooks off but it leaves behind a deep complexity that adds dimension to the sweet figs. Putting the cooked figs through a food mill makes quick work of removing the skins; alternatively, pulse the cooled fig mixture in a food processor. 


For the ice cream, I finally made use of the bourbon smoked sugar that's been sitting on a shelf in my kitchen for the past year. I snapped it up after I tried it at a different Feastly meal hosted by Phi where she sprinkled it over pan-fried tomatoes for a savory-sweet appetizer. (Heaven.)

Apparently I'm not the only one who likes smoked sugar...


The large, coarse sugar crystals smell toasty and warm like a campfire, and while the smoke doesn't translate strongly in the custard, it lends a deep, earthy flavor to the finished product. The ice cream is delicious on its own, and it pairs beautifully with a swirl of bourbon fig butter and a sprinkle of extra smoked sugar for a bit of crunch.


When the ice cream had set, my friend Windy (whose amazing home was recently featured on SF Girl by Bay) came by to share some scoops and show me her impressive collection of wooden spoons that she lovingly carves by hand. Each spoon takes several hours to make, and each comes from beautiful wood ranging from walnut to cherry. She gives them a wide handle which feels good in one's hands, hence her cheeky name for them: Fat Bottomed Girls. Each comes wrapped in a hand-painted cotton cloth along with a pot of spoon butter for oiling the wood and keeping it supple. 


You can read more about Windy, see her studio, and learn a thing or two about San Francisco on Spotted SF. Head over to Windy's site for a chance to win one of these beautiful creations (just scroll to the bottom and sign up for her newsletter to enter) and check out all the other lovely things she makes at her San Francisco studio.


Wishing you all a feast of figs this summer.


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Gettin' Figgy With It:
Baked Rolled Barley with Figs, Berries and Cardamom
Za'atar Broiled Figs + Goat Cheese Honey Ice Cream
Huckleberry Fig Shrub

Ice Ice Baby:
Matcha Mint Chip Ice Cream

Bourbon Fig Butter


Black missions make a pretty purple fig butter with a rich texture, but any variety of fig should work. If you don't have a food mill, you can pulse the cooked figs in a food processor; it will have a slightly coarser texture.

Makes about 1 cup

1 1/2 cups (225 g) packed chopped fresh figs
1/4 cup (50 g) organic granulated sugar
6 tablespoons (90 ml) bourbon whiskey
pinch fine sea salt

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the chopped figs, sugar, whiskey, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture is thick and jammy, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Let cool slightly, then run the fig mixture through a food mill to remove the skins. Chill airtight until needed, up to 1 week. 

Bourbon Smoked Sugar Ice Cream with a Fig Swirl


If you don't have smoked sugar on hand, feel free to make this with a raw sugar such as demerara or turbinado. (Brown sugar may be too acidic and could make the ice cream base curdle, so I don't recommend it here.)

Makes about 1 quart

1/2 cup (95 g) lightly packed bourbon smoked sugar (or raw sugar such as demerara or turbinado)
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1 recipe Bourbon Fig Butter (above)

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla pod and scrapings, salt and milk. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the milk is steamy-hot. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large, heat-proof bowl and place a strainer over the top. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and place the bowl on a damp towel.

When the milk is hot, whisk it slowly into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so as not to curdle the eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and cook over a low flame, stirring constantly with a flexible heat-proof spatula, until the custard begins to "stick" (form a film on) the bottom of the pot and/or registers 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Immediately pour the custard through the sieve and into the cold cream to stop the cooking. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 day. (Alternatively, chill the mixture over an ice bath for quicker cooling.)

When the base is cold, churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place a large loaf pan in the freezer to chill. When the ice cream has churned, scrape 1/3 of the ice cream into the pan. Dot with 1/3 of the fig puree. Repeat with the remaining ice cream and fig butter, working quickly so the ice cream doesn't melt, then use a chopstick or knife to swirl the top layer. Freeze until hard, 2 hours and up to several weeks. For longer storage, press a piece of parchment paper to the surface of the ice cream to discourage ice crystals from forming and wrap tightly. 


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Eggplant Parmesan Hand Pies {gluten-free}

The flavors of eggplant parmesan – roasted eggplant, tomato, basil, mozzarella and parmesan – come together in a flaky gluten-free pie crust for portable deliciousness. 


*Many thanks to Cog Works for sponsoring The Bojon Gourmet this month! This New Hampshire-based brand makes beautiful wooden serve boards and other fineries. I've got my eye on the black walnut...*



Today's post is extra special because it features not 1 but 3 recipes, made by not 1 but 3 bloggers!


(Also, it features orange cats.)


Betty of Le Jus D'Orange was in town last week, so we convened at Sarah's house, rolled up our sleeves, and baked up a trio of buttery sweet and savory pies filled with summer's finest to share with you today. Following a trip to the Monterey Market, we spread out in Sarah's kitchen and covered every surface with flour, butter, and produce and set to work.


Betty combined sweet corn, bacon, scallions and miso into an umami bomb all wrapped up in a buttery wheat dough.


Sarah tucked caramelized peaches kissed with rosemary with white chocolate mascarpone in a tender gluten-free crust.


And I satisfied my eggplant parmesan craving, folding the usual suspects as well as some briny black olives into my favorite gluten-free pie dough. This dough is full of whole grain flours, free of gums, and gets its pliable texture from ground chia seed. It bakes up super flavorful and flakey.


I've been fan-girling Betty since I discovered her breathtaking recipes and photography earlier this year, and getting to bake and shoot (and eat!) with her and Sarah was sheer bliss. She creates delicious things like lychee and peach ice cream, matcha mint panna cotta, and taro milk tea rolls. She makes kimchi and kombucha from scratch. She makes stop-motion videos and teaches food styling and photography workshops. Oh, and she's planning to go to med school next year. NBD.


We contemplated kidnapping Betty...but instead, sat down to a picnic of buttery goodness. (And a big green salad topped with strawberries, pepitas and herbed goat cheese. Because we're healthy.)


Head over to Sarah and Betty's blogs to get the recipes for Miso Corn and Bacon Hand Pies and Rosemary Peach Hand Pies with White Chocolate Mascarpone.


All images were shot in collaboration with Sarah and Betty

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Eggplant, previously:

Eggplant Parmesan Hand Pies


If gluten isn't an issue for you or your guests, feel free to make these with your favorite wheaty crust (this is mine). I would stay away from fresh mozzarella here as it will probably make the crust soggy; stick with the dry stuff instead. 

Makes 6 hand pies

1 recipe gluten-free pie dough (enough for one 9" single crust)
oat flour, for rolling the dough
1 1/4 pounds (500 g) eggplant
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
8 ounces (225 g) dry mozzarella, sliced
1 cup (4 ounces / 110 g) cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
2 ounces (60 g) parmesan, shaved
2 ounces (60 g) pitted olives such as picholine or kalamata, halved (1/3 cup)
a few handfuls basil leaves
1 egg, any size
cracked black pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. 

If the eggplant is the long and slender variety, trim it and slice into generous 1/2-inch thick rounds. For the globe varieties, cut the eggplant into 1- or 2-inch chunks. Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil and salt, tossing to coat. Spread the eggplant slices in a single layer and roast in the oven until golden and very tender, 40-50 minutes, flipping the slices about 30 minutes into the baking time. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 400ºF.

Meanwhile, divide the chilled pie dough into 6 portions; work with 1 portion at a time and keep the rest chilled. On a surface dusted lightly with oat flour, roll out each portion into a round that is roughly 1/8" thick. Trim each portion into a smooth, even round, and stack them on a plate. Cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

Lay the dough rounds on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment for easy clean-up. Have the ingredients prepared and standing by.

Place a couple of mozzarella slices on a dough round. Top with some parmesan shavings, roasted eggplant slices, cherry tomatoes, olives, basil leaves, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Fold up the edges of the dough to make a crust, leaving a couple of inches open in the center. Repeat with the remaining dough rounds; you may not need all of the filling ingredients. (If you have extras, they are perfect piled on toast or tossed into pasta.) If the dough has softened, chill the pies again until firm, 30 more minutes.

Beat the egg in a small bowl until lightened in color and foamy. Use a pastry brush to brush the edges of the dough, then sprinkle with a bit of cracked black pepper.

Bake the pies at 400ºF until the crusts are golden and crisp, 25-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Top with some fresh basil leaves and serve warm or at room temperature.

Extra pies keep well refrigerated airtight for up to 2 days and can be reheated in a 350ºF oven or in a skillet set over a low flame.