We are starting to feel “at home” in our new home.
One of the things we love doing is entertaining friends at home, and for me that means food is going to be involved via brunch, lunch or dinner.
This afternoon we had friends for lunch.
We had met this great couple when we were still living in the hotel. When we moved here last July we had thought we would be in the hotel for a month or 2 at the most. When we realized it was going to be much longer I began looking for a rental with extended availability, (not to mention I REALLY needed a kitchen…I can only tolerate so many breakfast buffets…need I say more?)
We were fortunate to find a lovely one bedroom rental walking distance to downtown, with a cute little kitchen that had all the basics one might need. And there was a six week availability!
The owners were our guests for lunch this afternoon, and we were thrilled to be able to show them the house, but more importantly, share lunch and conversation with them at the table.
They had been so welcoming and accommodating during our time there that it made the stress of moving and construction delays somewhat tolerable. They filled us in on where to go and what to do in our new “hometown”, and for the first time we began to feel what it would be like to live downtown.
Because one of them has recently gone on a gluten and dairy free diet I prepared a gluten and dairy free lunch. With a little forethought and planning it really isn’t hard to do.
We started out with tortilla chips and salsa and home made guacamole.
But when it came to dessert I had to give it a bit more thought, and this is what I came up with.
Angel Food Cake (Gluten-Free) with assorted berries and raspberry sorbet
(For a gluten-free and dairy-free dessert substitute sorbet for the whipped cream!)
Here is the recipe for the cake from the King Arthur’s Flour website.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
- 3/4 cup King Arthur’s all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar
- 1 1/2 cups egg whites (10 to 11 large eggs, separated, yolks discarded or reserved for another use)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract or Fiori di Sicilia, optional
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Baker’s Special Sugar** or superfine sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in its lowest position.
2) Whisk together and then sift the flour, cornstarch, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside.
3) In a large, clean (grease-free) mixing bowl, beat together the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar until foamy.
4) Add the flavorings. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and continue beating until the egg whites have increased in volume, and thickened.
5) Gradually beat in the 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, a bit at a time, until the meringue holds soft peaks.
6) Gently fold in the sifted flour/sugar blend ¼ cup at a time, just until incorporated.
7) Spoon the batter into an ungreased 10” round angel food pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter and remove any large air bubbles.
8) Bake the cake until it’s a deep golden brown, and the top springs back when pressed lightly, about 45 minutes.
9) Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan onto the neck of a heatproof bottle or funnel, to suspend the cake upside down as it sets and cools, about 2 hours.
10) Remove the cake from the pan by running a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan, and turning the cake out onto a plate.
11) Cut the cake with a serrated knife or angel food cake comb. If it’s difficult to cut, wet the knife and wipe it clean between slices.
12) Serve with whipped cream and fruit. Wrap any leftovers airtight, and store at room temperature.
Yield: one 10” cake, about 12 to 16 servings.
Iced coffee has always been my go to beverage when summer hits. Living in San Luis Obispo where the climate is so warm and wonderful year round (with very few exceptions) I now don’t even have to wait for summer to enjoy it.
At a recent visit to a nearby Farmer’s market I stopped to sample some coffee from a local roaster who has a stand there. She told me in detail how to make the most delicious rich “iced coffee” by using the cold brew method.
Cold brewing coffee is something I have heard in passing, but never really knew exactly what it was.
Previously my method of making iced coffee was to pour what remained in the carafe from my strong morning brew over some ice and add some milk/cream and sugar.
While the cold brew method may take a bit of forethought and planning, it is definitely worth the effort. This method of brewing results in a rich strong concentrated brew which makes the most delicious iced coffee!
Although I prefer my hot coffee strong and black, I like my iced coffee with milk or cream and a little sugar . If I really want to be decadent sometimes I even top it off with a scoop of coffee ice cream! And by cold brewing the rich flavor of the coffee is not lost.
Scanning the internet for this method I realized I have come pretty late to the party because cold brewing has been going on for years, but I think it has become especially popular recently with the coffee craze that just keeps growing.
Fellow blogger, Vijay Nathan (Noshon.it) sums it up best in this excerpt from a post of his a year ago…
Why Cold Brew?
What’s so great about cold brew anyways? Why would someone wait overnight for a cup of coffee? Well, let’s see if these facts convince you:
- Compared to brewing with hot water, cold brewed coffee is much less acidic, making it smoother to drink over ice. Also, the long soaking time brings out some of the rounder, fruity notes of the coffee which you may not always taste in hot coffee.
- It doesn’t require any fancy equipment! Seriously, all you need is a jar, spoon, coffee filter, and strainer. Don’t be fooled by all of the new cold brew contraptions out there. You don’t need them.
- You can make as large of a batch as you want at one time. Are you a one-cup-a-day’er? Use a large jar. Pretty much need an IV of coffee hooked up all day? Use a bucket. (Kind of joking, but not really, it works great with any amount!)
- You can store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks without losing freshness. That’s right, make it once, use it all week. Hot coffee goes stale quickly after it cools down so if you’ve been putting your leftover pot in the fridge, you’re doing it all wrong!
- It’s better and cheaper than most iced coffee you’ll buy at a coffee shop.
I also liked his recipe which seemed closest to how I made mine, using the French Press …here it is…
What You’ll Need
Here’s what you’ll need to make cold brew iced coffee.
Yield: 1 cup of concentrate (enough for 1-2 drinks). Just multiply the ratio for as much as you want.
- 1/3 cup coffee, coarsely ground
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Large jar, pitcher, or French Press
- Coffee filter
- Colander or Mesh Strainer
Step 1: Grind and Measure Coffee
For cold brewing, you want a coarse grind on your coffee so it looks like a fine gravel. This is the same type of grind that you’d use for a French Press. If you can, I always recommend grinding fresh but you can also buy beans at your local coffee shop and have them grind it on the French Press setting. Since the volume of beans and grinds can be different, grind the beans first then measure if possible. But in all honesty, this is a pretty unfussy method so do whatever is easiest for you.
Step 2: Pour the Water
Add the coffee grounds to a large jar and add cold water, making sure to soak all of the grounds. For every 1/3 cup of grounds, add 1 1/2 cups of water. This was a 1 quart jar so I doubled that ratio and used 2/3 cup of grounds and 3 cups of water, which came right to the top. This will make about 2 cups of final coffee. You can also use a French Press canister for this step but a jar works just as well.
Step 3: Stir the Coffee
To make sure that all of the grounds are wet, use a long spoon (or in our case, a chopstick) to stir everything up, making sure to get into every nook and cranny of the jar so nothing sticks. (An important note: when stirring, you want to try to use something that is non-metal like a plastic or wooden spoon or a chopstick. Turn a wooden spoon upside down and use the handle to stir since it’ll fit better into the jar. I’ve read from some true experts that when the metal hits the coffee, it can give it a slightly off taste so I prefer to be safe than sorry!)
Step 4: Cover and Let Brew
Cover the jar and let it sit at room temperature on the counter for at least 12 and up to 18 hours. I’ll either start it before dinner so it’s ready the next morning or start it in the morning and strain it that night for use the next day. There’s no need to stir it, just let it be. If you’re using a French Press, cover it tightly with plastic wrap.
Step 5: Strain It
This is probably the most challenging step of the entire process…and it’s really quite easy. To strain the cold brew, line a mesh strainer (or any strainer really) with a coffee filter (it doesn’t matter what kind, just make sure you can pour the coffee into it – the strainer is just to hold the coffee filter). Set the straining apparatus over a bowl and pour in the coffee. Even if you’re using a French Press, you’ll still need to pour it through a coffee filter after plunging to get all of the tiny grounds out. Depending on how fine your coffee filter is (mine was very fine), it might take a while to drip through but just have a bit of patience and it’ll all drip out.
Transfer the strained coffee to another jar (or just wash out the same jar while it’s straining) and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks (I prefer to use it within 1 week but 2 will be fine).
Step 6: Serve and Enjoy
This method actually makes what many consider to be a “concentrate.” Most guides out there will tell you to mix the concentrate 50/50 with water but I find that to be too watery for my taste. I like it straight up over ice (the ice helps dilute it slightly) or by adding 50% of the volume of the coffee in water, such as 1/2 cup of concentrate and 1/4 cup of water, for something a little lighter. Depending on what type of coffee you’re using, a half spoon of sugar can help bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee.
If you like to add milk, there’s no need to dilute it with water! Just pour the concentrate over ice and add as much milk as you like. It’ll make a rich, creamy, and delicious cup of iced coffee that’s definitely not watery. Before you do, though, give this a shot without milk – I think you’ll be surprised with how smooth it is! Also, you might notice that this coffee is a lot lighter in color than what you’re used to. That certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t strong! Remember, it’s been brewing for a long time but the color is more a factor of the roast of the coffee (and for mine, this was a slightly lighter roast).
That’s it! Remember, all coffees are not created equal so don’t use the cheapest coffee on the shelf for this method. You’ll be surprised how different (and sometimes better) the coffee tastes when cold brewing it versus the traditional hot brew. Filled up in a glass with plenty of ice, this is the perfect refreshing drink to start your morning or boost up your afternoon. And the best part is that you can double, triple, or quadruple the ratio depending on how much you want to have around. Since it lasts so long in the fridge, don’t hesitate to make more!
Just a note: The coffee roaster I spoke with gave me another tip which I tried. Add a whole vanilla bean, pod and all, to the brew when you add the coffee grinds and allow that to steep along with the coffee. Remove the pod when you are ready to strain, or simply plunge it down with the coffee grounds if you are using the French Press. It adds the perfect hint of vanilla to your coffee. You can also experiment with cinnamon, or other spices you may like. Enjoy!
Is it a side dish to go with the brisket or is it a work of art?
The answer is it could be both. These roasted carrots began as beautiful bunches of orange, purple, and pale yellow organic carrots with their stems intact that I bought at the local farmer’s market.
Along with a couple of fennel bulbs and a white and purple onion they became the lovely side dish served alongside my brisket at our recent Seder.
After peeling them, and leaving the stems on as many as possible, I tossed them with some extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
The sliced fennel and onion wedges were also tossed with some olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper before I spread them all out on a couple rimmed baking sheets and placed them in a 425 degree oven.
After about 15 to 20 minutes toss them around a bit on the sheets to prevent sticking, switch trays from top to bottom and bottom to top, and continue roasting for another 10 to 15 minutes until they begin to caramelize.
Serve on a platter hot, warm or even room temperature. Delicious!
This year for Passover I decided to make Pavlova for dessert in addition to the traditional Passover Lemon Sponge Cake…
The Pavlova, which will easily serve eight, is composed of a crunchy meringue base with a soft center of whipped cream and fresh fruit. The meringue base can be made up to 2 days ahead if stored in an airtight container. Assemble it within a few hours of serving it so the meringue retains its light crunch.
To assure success, try to choose a day that’s not humid for meringue making. Not a problem for me now that we are living in California!
Note: If you observe the rules of kashruth (keeping kosher) you will have to reserve this delicious dessert for after a dairy meal since it contains whipped cream.
Here we go…
Pavlova (Food and Wine, Diana Sturgis)
6 extra large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 and 1/3 cups superfine sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 small pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 and 1/2 cups raspberries (or strawberries)
4 ripe kiwis, peeled and sliced
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Draw a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper and place on a large cookie sheet.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form.
3. Gradually beat in the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for about 10 seconds after each addition to be sure the sugar dissolves. Beat in the lemon juice. The whites will be stiff, dense and glossy at this point.
4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar over the beaten egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sugar into the whites until thoroughly blended.
5. Scoop the meringue onto the parchment paper and spread to form a 9-inch round. Hollow the center slightly to make a nest, leaving the meringue at least 1 inch thick at the base, and 1 and 1/2 inches high around the sides.
6. Bake the meringue in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer. Turn off the heat and leave the meringue in the warm oven with the door closed for 1 and 1/2 hours or overnight, until crisp and dry throughout.
(Purists prefer an absolutely white meringue, but I like the flavor and color of a pale beige one, so don’t worry if the heat colors the meringue slightly.)
When the meringue is completely cool, peel off the paper. Place the meringue on a flat serving platter
7. In a large bowl, beat the cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar and the vanilla until stiff peaks form. Spread half the cream in the meringue shell and sprinkle with half of the pineapple and raspberries.
Mound the rest of the cream on top and cover with the remaining pineapple and raspberries. Overlap the kiwi slices around the inner rim of the Pavlova and garnish with fresh mint sprigs.
This Passover was a very special one for us. We celebrated the Seder ( the ceremonial dinner marking the beginning of the week of Passover at which we retell the story of the Exodus) in our new home with our sons and their girlfriends at our table.
With 3000 miles separating us we have been unable to share this holiday with them for many years. And now a 3 to 4 hour drive for each has allowed us to all be together. So you see it was a very Happy Passover for us all.
Here are a few photos to share with you…
Moving to a new home especially when it is far from your old home brings with it many firsts. And we recently had some new friends over for our first dinner party here.
For me, setting the table for a special dinner is fun. I love to mix and match and see how I can reinvent items by using them in a different way, sometimes with something new added to the mix.
My Provencal tablecloth designed with olive branches which I have had for years was perfect for my Greek themed dinner.
I had picked up the napkins on sale at Anthropology recently, knowing one day they would come in handy. I can’t resist a really good buy!
The salad plates were part of a very old set of dishes which belonged to my husband’s grandmother, and I love the contrast between those and my contemporary white everyday dishes.
I kept it simple with three small glass bud vases each filled with a couple of olive branches plucked from my newly planted olive shrub on the deck.
I lined them down the center of the table, and five clear glass votives holding white candles illuminated the table.
There is nothing that makes a table look prettier than candlelight, and I regret not taking a photo once they were lit.
The menu included some of my favorite Greek dishes.
We enjoyed appetizers on the deck.
Homemade tabbouleh , a red pepper, eggplant and garlic spread from Trader Joe’s, assorted olives, and Marcona almonds kept us happy til dinner was ready. Tabbouleh recipe to follow on an upcoming blog.
A delicious Greek salad was brought by one of our guests.
After which we dined on my Greek Chicken and Potatoes, grilled lamb chops, Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes. Homemade Tzatziki with grilled pita rounded out our meal.
You can find most of these recipes on my Greek Dinner post, with the exception of the Tzatziki recipe so here it is…
Tzatziki- Cucumber Yogurt Dip (adapted from Lynn Livanos Athan, About.com Guide)
Cool and creamy, this tangy cucumber dip flavored with garlic is the perfect complement to grilled meats and vegetables. It can be served on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki.
3 -4 garlic cloves, minced finely
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Greek yogurt, strained
1 cup sour cream
2-3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced (I prefer Persian cucumbers)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well until combined. Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well. Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill.
Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill just before serving.
Recipe can be doubled or tripled if you wish.
For dessert, knowing that carrot cake was a favorite of some of our guests, I parted from the Greek theme, and baked a good old-fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting which was a real hit!
You can find the recipe here.
When the evening was over everyone went home with a full belly, a goody bag of Tzatziki , and an extra slice of cake.
I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Tabbouleh is a popular middle eastern salad. It is traditionally made of bulgur wheat ( a whole grain low in fat with a mild nutty flavor), tomatoes, cucumbers, finely chopped parsley, mint, onion, and garlic and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Like hummus, baba ghanouj, pita and other elements of Arab cuisine, Tabbouleh has become a “popular American ethnic food”.
There are many variations, running the gamut from the traditional Lebanese version which is mostly herbs and tomatoes with a sprinkling of the bulgur throughout to the many recipes where the grain is the predominant ingredient, or any combination of herbs and bulgur.
So it is definitely something you could play around with and decide what suits your taste.
I included a bowl of tabbouleh with pita as part of my appetizers at a recent dinner. Here is the recipe…
Tabbouleh ( adapted from recipe from Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur)
2 cups bulgur (presoaked for 1 hour)
3 cups fresh parsley, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
3-4 green onions, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a drizzle of extra virgin lemon olive oil (optional)
To presoak Bulgur, place 2 cups bulgur in a bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over bulgur and let stand 1 hour.
In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, gently mix together all ingredients, except the lemon juice and olive oil.
Add the lemon juice, toss and chill for 1 hour to blend the flavors or longer to blend the flavors.
Before serving toss again with the olive oil, and check for seasoning
Place in a serving bowl and drizzle the lemon olive oil on top
Serve with pita, crackers or Romaine lettuce leaves
Another Saint Patrick’s Day, and another corned beef dinner. This is my favorite way to make corned beef. It is simple, but it does take time so plan accordingly. I didn’t, so we ate late this evening, but every bite was worth it.
Glazed Corned Beef
one 4 to 5 pound corned beef brisket (with juices)
Fill a large pot or Dutch oven with cold water. Place the corned beef with all its’ juices and pickling spices in the pot.
Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer, about 180 degrees. The key to a great corned beef is that it needs to cook low and slow. Cover with a lid partially, and continue to cook at a simmer til fork tender, approximately 90 minutes per pound. So a 4 pound brisket will take about 6 hours.
While the corned beef is cooking prepare this sweet mustard glaze…
In a small bowl, blend together:
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard (Country Dijon)
1 tablespoon regular Dijon mustard
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (depending how sweet you like it)
1-2 tablespoons honey (I used a wild sage honey, my favorite local honey I have been getting at the Farmer’s Market)
When the corned beef is tender carefully lift it from the pot, draining the excess liquid, and place it fatty side up on a rack in a roasting pan.
Spread the mustard glaze evenly over the fat.
Place in a preheated 325 degree oven for about a half an hour or until the glaze is bubbling a bit.
Remove from oven and carve into thick slices cutting against the grain.
Serve with roasted cabbage, carrots and new potatoes.
Toss carrots, cabbage wedges, and small new potatoes in extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet with rimmed edges.
Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 15 -20 minutes. Turn, and cook another 15 minutes or til browned on edges, and tender.
Insteadof the traditional way of cooking the vegetables in that fatty broth that you cooked the corned beef in, roasting them is a delicious alternative which will allow you to have that extra slice of corned beef!
Recently I made a batch of my favorite Meyer Lemon Curd. http://dinneratsheilas.com/post/14642659492/meyer-lemon-curd
Besides slathering it on toast, scones, or muffins, it is also delicious sandwiched between gingersnaps or other cookies of your choice.
For an elegant dessert set out bowls of assorted fresh berries along with a bowl of lemon curd for dipping, or fill mini or small tart shells with a spoonfull or two of the lemon curd and top with a little whipped cream or meringue.
But, if my husband has a vote those last couple of jars will be used to make a Lemon Meringue Pie with a Graham Cracker Crust.
Fill a graham cracker crust (store bought or homemade), with the Meyer Lemon Curd. It is already cold cause it’s been in your fridge, so no waiting for it to cool before you whip up a mile high meringue. Slather it on, making little peaks which will brown nicely when you place it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
The hardest part of this whole recipe is waiting for it to chill thoroughly for a few hours before digging in !
I have begun planting on the deck of our new home. On an early visit to one of the local nurseries I spotted this beautiful olive plant. It is more of a shrub than a tree, and I’m pretty certain it won’t bear fruit, but I absolutely love it!
As for the olives, I can buy them weekly at the olive stand at the local farmer’s markets! And I do, cause I adore olives, any size, shape, or color!
I can’t express how happy it made me to come home and plant that beautiful greenery in one of the urns I brought with me from Maryland… a little bit of my east coast garden transported to my new west coast one.
San Luis Obispo has a Mediterranean climate, perfect for so many of my favorite plants…lavender, rosemary, hydrangeas to mention a few.
I am looking forward to learning more about the plants native to the area including some of the endless varieties of succulents that thrive here.
And I think I might finally be in the perfect place to plant that Meyer Lemon tree I have always wanted.