Thursday, May 31

Clam Chowder

Chowder lovers tend be split over two types: Manhattan or New England, but I like infusing all my recipes with a California twist. This version is based on a standard New England recipe, but almost all the ingredients were sourced from my local farmers market and seafood shop. The briny clam juice, tender clams, and fresh veggies and herbs yield a light, summery take on the classic chowder. Be sure to call your fish store ahead of time and request freshly shucked clams, as they can be difficult to come by, otherwise you can use high-quality frozen shucked clams.

California Clam Chowder:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2 tbsp. butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Add in 4 peeled and diced carrots, 4 diced celery stalks, 1 lb. diced fingerling potatoes,* and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the vegetables for another 7-10 minutes, or until soft but not caramelized.
  • Form a well in the middle of the veggies and add in 1 stick butter and 1/2 c. flour. Stir well for a minute or until all the flour has been absorbed.
  • Pour in 4 c. clam juice and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning again, then add in 2 c. whole milk** and 1 lb. shucked clams.
  • Cook for another 5 minutes, or until clams are cooked.
  • Divide into bowls and serve.***

Serves six - eight
*Or any yellow, waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold. Cut all the vegetables into uniform pieces so that they cook evenly.
**Do not use low fat or it will water down the soup too much.
***Or keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Wednesday, May 30

Weekend Review: Santa Ynez

Hamachi Sashimi with Avocado and Crispy Shiitakes at The Ballard Inn
Seared Scallops with Bacon and Chard at Seagrass

This past Memorial Day weekend started off with a surprise proposal from my boyfriend (now fiancé) in Santa Barbara, at one of my favorite bed and breakfast hotels, The Upham. Everything following it was a whirlwind of celebrations featuring excellent food and drinks. We spent the first night eating seafood and sipping champagne over a private, romantic table at Seagrass. The rest of the weekend was spent with our family in Santa Ynez Valley, where we went wine tasting, played some heated rounds of dominoes, and enjoyed some very memorable meals. It was a weekend I'll never forget, and we're already itching to go back again soon.

Prosciutto, Roasted Pepper, and Mozzarella Sandwich from Panino
Chicken and Shrimp Souvlaki with Tzatziki and Grilled Vegetables at Petros
Incredibly Decadent Spinach and Cheese Tortellone from Trattoria Grappolo

Thursday, May 24

Memorial Day Menu Planning

Nothing says summertime better than fresh seafood on the grill. Pictured: Greek Salad with Grilled Shrimp

Memorial Day is traditionally thought of as the start of summer, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to celebrate than by spending time outdoors. My boyfriend and I are taking a trip up to Santa Ynez Valley with our families, where we’ll be relaxing, wine tasting, and eating some truly delicious food. If you’re not traveling, it’s a great excuse to grill outdoors with friends and take advantage of all the fresh produce available at this time of year. Here are some of my favorite dishes that are perfect for a Memorial Day barbecue but equally great to make all summer long.

Take advantage of the last batch of spring produce before it's gone. Pictured: Fava Bean & Mozzarella Crostini

Grain salads are a healthy option and the perfect make-ahead dish. Pictured: Farro Vegetable Salad

End the meal with ripe berries and you'll make everyone happy. Pictured: Strawberry Crostada

Wednesday, May 23

Corn & Chorizo Salad

Fresh corn is one of my favorite things about summertime, so I was super excited to see it show up at my local farmer's market this past weekend. I'd been dying to make this simple dish, which is inspired by something I ate during our recent trip to San Diego. The spicy chili, salty chorizo, and sweet corn lend themselves to a super interesting and flavorful salad that is the perfect side dish to just about any grilled fish or meat. It's so versatile that it would be just as great to pack for lunch and eat room temperature or take to a picnic or potluck.

Corn & Chorizo Salad:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and add in 1 small diced onion.
  • Cook the onion for 3-5 minutes, or until softened, then add in 1/3 lb. cubed chorizo sausage and 1 minced serrano pepper.*
  • Cook the mixture for another 4 minutes, or until the sausage has browned and released its fat.
  • Add in the kernels from 4 large ears of corn and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until the corn is cooked by still crisp.
  • Stir in 1/2 tbsp. fresh minced oregano and turn off the heat.
  • Divide into bowls and serve, or store in the fridge for a few days.

Serves two - four
*Remove the seeds if you like it less spicy.

Tuesday, May 22

Asparagus Soup

Most soups I make need to simmer for at least an hour to bring out maximum flavor, but with all the great fresh produce out now there’s no reason that homemade soup can’t be a quick weeknight meal. I tend to eat asparagus year round, but the spring varieties have the most flavor and require very little seasoning or work to taste their best. This soup takes advantage of that by simply simmering the tips and stalks with a few extra ingredients until tender and ready to puree. I love the tang from the Greek yogurt and lemon, which makes this soup feel light and fresh enough for warm evenings. It would make a great first course at a dinner party, but I found that a large bowl of it and some crusty bread was more than enough food for supper.

Asparagus Soup with Greek Yogurt:

  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add in 3 diced spring onions* and 1 diced ramp** and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Add in 2 lbs. chopped asparagus*** and cook for another minute or 2, then crank up the heat and add in a generous splash of cognac.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper, then add in 4 c. chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer and cook asparagus until tender, about 5-10 minutes depending on size.
  • Stir in a small handful of sliced fresh basil, then transfer the mixture to a blender.
  • Add in 1/4 c. low-fat Greek yogurt and puree soup til smooth.
  • Add the soup back to the pot and check for seasonings. Stir in the juice of 1/2 lemon.
  • To serve, divide into bowls and top with a spoonful of yogurt and a sprinkling of more basil.

Serves four - six (starter)
Serves two - three (main course)
*Can substitute for scallions.
**White and light green parts only. Can substitute for 2 cloves of garlic.
***Cut off the fibrous ends first.

Monday, May 21

Ramp Tart

It feels like summer has already started here in L.A, and with the end of spring comes the end of ramp season. This spring garlic (seen in recipes like this and this) has such a sweet, garlicky flavor that I decided to honor it in one more dish. This tart (adapted from this recipe) is super simple to make, but the strong flavors and rustic presentation make this dish really special. Serve a slice with a green salad and you have the perfect fresh-from-the-farmer's-market supper.

Rustic Ramp Tart:
  • Dice the white and light green parts of 4 large ramps and add to a bowl with 1 egg yolk and 1/4 c. sour cream
  • Season well the mixture well with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, roll out one defrosted pie dough into 1/4" thick circle and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Press 2 tbsp. of thinly sliced ramp tops into the dough, then pour the ramp and sour cream mixture into the center of the dough.
  • Fold the outer corners of the dough inward to make a border and sprinkle the inside of the tart with 1/4 c. grated gouda* cheese.
  • Bake the tart in a 375°F oven for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.
  • Let cool slightly, then slice into wedges and serve.

Serves four
*Or any other sharp, nutty cheese.

Thursday, May 17

Salmon & Leek Penne

I love pasta and usually have some type of noodle dish for dinner at least once a week (with some leftovers in the fridge), but lately it’s been so warm in the evenings that the last thing I want to eat is a steamy bowl of spaghetti bolognese. This salmon and leek penne feels light and summery, and the quick cook time means that I don’t have to spend long in my hot kitchen. The fish can even be cooked the night before (or leftover from last night’s dinner), making it super weeknight friendly. The caramelized leeks add a hint of sweetness and are balanced nicely by the sharp lemon zest. It’s the type of dish that I’ll be making all summer long.

Salmon & Leek Penne:
  • Place 1/2 lb. salmon fillet on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes.
  • Let salmon cool for a minute, then use a fork to flake into pieces.*
  • Meanwhile, bring one pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1/2 lb. penne pasta until al dente.
  • In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and add in 2 thinly sliced leeks.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, or until softened, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and 4 chopped anchovy fillets.
  • Cook for another minute, or until anchovies are melted, then add in 1 c. dry white wine and reduce by half. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/4 c. cooking liquid, then add both to skillet along with the zest of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp. chopped parsley.
  • Stir pasta until most of the sauce is absorbed, about 2 minutes, then stir in the flaked salmon.
  • Check for seasoning, then divide onto plates and serve with a little more grated lemon zest.

Serves two - three
*Can be done 1 day ahead and kept in a resealable container in the fridge.

Wednesday, May 16

Grilled Chicken with Salsa Verde

This dish has just about everything I could want in a recipe: quick to make, healthy, and full of flavor. The salsa verde isn't a salsa in the traditional sense, but it's more like a pesto and packed full of herbs, lemon, and garlic. I use it as the marinade and then reserve extra to spoon over the top the chicken once its cooked, but it would also be great on fish or meat. The fresh parsley, basil, and oregano  add such a freshness to the dish and are complemented nicely by the bright lemon. It's the perfect light dinner during these warm spring nights, and any leftover salsa verde can be frozen or refrigerated for future use.

Grilled Chicken with Herb Salsa Verde:
For Salsa Verde
  • Combine 1/2 c. minced parsley, 1/4 c. minced oregano, and 1/4 c. minced basil in a mortar and pestle.*
  • Add in the zest of 1 lemon, 3 cloves minced garlic, salt, and pepper and mash together to release the herbs' flavor.
  • Mix in 1/4 olive oil and check for seasoning. Set aside.
For Chicken
  • Pour some of the salsa verde into a resealable plastic bag and add in 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts.
  • Let marinate at room temperature for 30-45 minutes.**
  • Cook the chicken on a hot grill for 4-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until just cooked through.
  • Set on a plate to rest for 10 minutes, then divide and spoon the remaining salsa verde on top.

Serves two
*If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can use a bowl and the back of a wooden spoon.
**Or put it in the fridge and let it go for a few hours.

Tuesday, May 15

Gouda & Chard Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Roasted mushrooms are stuffed with sauteed greens, peppers, onions, and cheese

Gouda and Swiss Chard Stuffed Mushrooms

Last year, I bought the most delicious cheese at San Francisco’s Cowgirl Creamery – a super flavorful and nutty yellow gouda that made any dish instantly taste better. Unfortunately, I had trouble reading the cheesemonger’s handwriting and spent the last year looking for “L’Amour Gouda” with no luck. Luckily, I was able to purchase the cheese again on my recent trip to San Fran and found out that it’s actually called “L’Amuse Gouda” and available for purchase online. I used it here on a stuffed mushroom dish, where it adds a rich, creamy finish to the roasted portobellos, hearty greens, and caramelized peppers and onions. 

Gouda & Chard Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms:
  • Remove the stems from 3-4 large portobello mushrooms and use a damp cloth to wipe off any dirt.
  • Drizzle the mushrooms with a little olive oil, season with salt, and pepper, and roast on a sheet pan in a 400°F oven for 10-15 minutes, or until softened.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and cook 1 small chopped onion and 1/2 chopped bell pepper for 5 minutes, or until translucent.
  • Add in 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute, then add in 1 large bunch of chopped swiss chard.
  • Cook the chard for 4-5 minutes, or until wilted, adding in a splash of chicken stock* if it gets a little dry. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the swiss chard mixture into the portobellos and top each with a handful of grated aged gouda cheese.**
  • Place the mushrooms back in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is starting to bubble.

Serves two - three
*Or vegetable stock or water.
**Can substitute for pecorino or parmesan.

Monday, May 14

Blueberry Coffee Cake

One of my favorite things to do is cook for family and friends, but because I always volunteer to make the meals it's not often that I get to sit back and relax while someone else does the cooking. This weekend, I went over to a friend's house for brunch and was treated to an authentic Mexican meal of green chili and chicken chilaquiles, chorizo potatoes, and tequila sunrises. It was such a treat to have someone else make the food, but I couldn't resist bringing some dessert. This blueberry coffee cake has a super moist center (thanks to the sour cream) and a thick crunchy cinnamon crumb topping. The fruit adds a lightness that you don't usually get in most coffee cakes, making it the perfect way to end a filling brunch.

Blueberry Coffee Cake:
  • Butter and flour a 9" round cake pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat together 3/4 stick room-temperature butter and 3/4 c. sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, and beat to combine.
  • Mix in 2/3 c. sour cream, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, and 1/2 tsp. lemon zest and set aside.
  • In another bowl, sift together 1 1/4 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
  • Slowly mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.
  • Stir in 1 c. blueberries* and pour into the prepared pan.
  • In another bowl, combine 1/4 c. white sugar, 1/3 c. brown sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 stick of melted butter.
  • Add in 1 1/3 c. all purpose flour and stir to combine.
  • Use your hands to crumble the topping over the entire cake, then place in a 350°F oven.
  • Bake for 50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool completely on a wire rack, then dust with powdered sugar.

Serves eight - twelve
*I used frozen berries (not defrosted) because they hold up better and don't burst open during the cooking.

Friday, May 11

Salmon Cakes with Yogurt Sauce

I’m always looking for new, easy fish recipes and these salmon cakes fit the bill. They’re very similar to crab cakes (one of my favorite foods) but made with salmon instead. Unlike most fish cakes, which are full of mayo, this version is almost purely fish and veggies, with just a little beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs to bind them together. It’s the perfect way to use leftover salmon and can be assembled ahead of time for a super quick weeknight meal. The low-fat Greek yogurt sauce I served on the side was the perfect complement to the cakes (as was a cold glass of white wine).

Salmon Cakes with Chive Yogurt Sauce:
For Sauce
  • Combine 1/3 c. low-fat Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. minced chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place in the fridge until ready to serve.
For Cakes
  • Place 1/2 lb. salmon on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast salmon in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, or until just cooked through. Flake into pieces with a fork.*
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add in 1 small, minced onion and 1/2 minced bell pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soft.**
  • Add in 1 minced garlic clove and cook for another minute. Turn off the heat and scrape vegetables into a large mixing bowl.
  • Let veggies cool to room temperature, then mix in 1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, and the zest of 1 lemon.
  • Stir in the salmon and 2 beaten eggs and season salt, pepper, and a few dashes of hot sauce.
  • Combine until well mixed, adding a little more egg or breadcrumbs as needed to get the right consistency.
  • Divide mixture into quarters and roll into patties. Place in the fridge to firm up until cooking.***
  • Melt 1 tbsp. butter with 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add in the cakes and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and warm all the way through.
  • Divide onto plates and serve with yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.

Serves two
*Can be made a day ahead and kept in an air-tight container in the fridge.
**Do not brown.
***Can be made one day ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge or frozen for a few weeks. Defrost in the fridge before cooking if frozen.

Thursday, May 10

Fava Bean Crostini

I've been thinking of this pasta for the last few weeks, and with the window quickly closing on fava bean season I couldn’t resist making something similar again. Here the favas go through their double-peeling process and then get mashed with some herbs and lemon before making their way onto grilled bread. Then a roughly torn ball of fresh mozzarella goes on top for some added richness and texture. I love how rustically Italian this dish is, with clean flavors and just a few ingredients coming together to form a really delicious dish. It’s the perfect thing to nosh on with a glass of white wine and hearty enough for a meal alongside a green salad.

Fava Bean & Mozzarella Crostini:
  • Remove 1 1/2 lbs. fava beans from their pods and place in a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
  • Drain the favas and peel off the tough outer shell.
  • Mash the favas with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. chopped parsley, 1 tbsp. chopped chives, a handful of grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 tbsp. lemon juice.
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside.*
  • Meanwhile, brush 2 large 1" thick slices of baguette with olive oil and cook over a hot grill for 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  • Immediately run the bread with a raw clove of garlic, then spread with some of the mashed favas.
  • Rip a ball of fresh mozzarella** in half and place each half on the bread.
  • Spoon some extra fava mash on top and sprinkle with a few more minced chives.*** 

Serves four (appetizer)
Serves two (light meal)
*Can be made one day ahead, covered, and kept in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before spreading on bread.
**The kind packed in water.
***I added some chive blossoms on top as well.

Wednesday, May 9

Springy Linguine & Clams

I love linguine and clams, but sometimes the traditional version can be a little one-note. This riff contains some springy aromatics (like leftover ramps and spring onions from this dish) and olive-oil poached cherry tomatoes for color and flavor. I wish I could take all the credit for bringing these flavors together, but I honestly just dumped all the leftovers from my pantry and fridge in one pot and it turned out great - don’t you love when that happens? The clams quickly steam in a white wine broth while the pasta cooks, making it a super quick (but impressive) dinner. I whipped this up in about twenty minutes before having some friends over for a weeknight meal and they had no idea it was so simple to put together.

Linguine with Clams, Ramps, & Cherry Tomatoes:
  • Place 2 lbs. of littleneck clams* in a bowl of ice water and let sit for a few minutes to get rid of any sand.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of a water to a boil, add in 1 lb. dry linguine pasta,** and cook until 1-2 minutes before al dente.
  • In another large pot, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil*** and add in 2 sliced spring onions, 2 sliced ramps,**** and a large pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Cook the aromatics until soft, about 3-4 minutes, then add in the cleaned clams (discard the water) and 1 c. dry white wine.
  • Stir to combine, then cover the pot with a lid and let the clams steam for 6-8 minutes, or until they have opened.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the pot with the clams and broth.
  • Add in 2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley, 1 tbsp. butter, and about 12 halved olive-oil poached cherry tomatoes.*****
  • Stir for 1-2 minutes, or until the pasta has absorbed most of the sauce and is al dente.

Serves four - five
*Or any other small clam. Make sure that all clams are closed before cooking.
**Or any shape of pasta you like.
***Ideally use leftover olive oil from the poached cherry tomatoes.
****Can substitute ramps and spring onions for 1 large shallot and 3 cloves of garlic.
*****Or use diced fresh tomatoes.

Tuesday, May 8

Olive Oil-Poached Cherry Tomatoes

Use these oil-poached tomatoes as a topping to toasted bread, salads, or grilled meat

Olive Oil Poached Cherry Tomatoes

I’m sort of picky about tomatoes, meaning I don’t like them unless they’re cooked, heirlooms, or cherry. Luckily, there are so many great varieties available at farmers’ markets and grocery stores nowadays that it’s not really an issue. This recipe calls for large cherry tomatoes, but I think it would also work with smaller grape ones. They simmer for just a few minutes in olive oil until just barely cooked, which really preserves their texture and brings out their sweetness. Serve them as a side to roasted chicken or fish, add them into salads, or chop them up for the best bruschetta ever. They should keep in the fridge for at least a few days, and don’t forget to strain out the olive oil and store it for cooking other dishes or as a base for salad dressings.
Olive Oil-Poached Cherry Tomatoes:
  • Add 1 pint of cherry tomatoes to a small sauce pot and cover with olive oil.*
  • Bring a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the skins start to peel away.
  • Remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon, and pour the oil through a strainer.
  • Keep the oil in a jar with a tight lid.

Serves two - four (side dish)
*This requires about 1 c. of oil.

Weekend Review: San Francisco

Pork Chop & Pappardelle with 9-Hour Bolognese at Nopa

I just got back from visiting some friends in one of my favorite cities, San Francisco. I usually try to go at least once a year (see my last trip here) and visit my favorite haunts like Pacific Heights, the Ferry Building, and Ghirardelli Square. This trip was especially busy and full of Cinco de Mayo, Kentucky Derby, and a friend’s birthday parties, so I didn’t get a chance to make it to as many meals as I had hoped. My favorite food highlight was a long, late dinner at Nopa, where we shared a variety of dishes including one of the best pork chops I’ve ever had. I’m dying to go back and spend some more time there, but in the meantime I think I’ll enjoy some of the goodies I brought back home: cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, salami from Boccalone, and the famous gingersnap cookies from Miette.

Short Rib & Butter Bean Huevos Rancheros at Bin 38

Gorgonzola Sausage Flatbread & Fries with Lime Aioli at Nopa

Miette Gingersnaps, Boccalone Salami, & L'Amuse Gouda from Cowgirl Creamery

Crab & Shrimp Sandwich from Pier 23

Thursday, May 3

Cinco De Mayo Menu Planning

Start your day off with a traditional Mexican breakfast. Leftovers are great for snacking on, too. Pictured: Chilaquiles

Cinco de Mayo is a day meant to celebrate Mexican heritage, and there’s no better way to celebrate the culture than with some delicious Mexican food and a few drinks. In college, this day always symbolized the end of finals week and the beginning of summer break, so this year I’m trying to relive those moments by spending the weekend in San Francisco with some of my old college roommates. I’ll be missing out on throwing a party at home, but here’s a list of things I would be cooking under different circumstances. If you want more inspiration, such as my recipe for chicken and cheese enchiladas verdes, you can check out a full list of my Mexican recipes here.

Nothing says a party like chips and dip. Pictured: Guacamole

Still a little chilly out? Warm up with a delicious bowl of soup. Pictured: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Portable finger food is the perfect thing to snack on while holding a cerveza or margarita. Pictured: Baked Chicken & Spinach Flautas