Archive for August, 2009

Cookbook Winner!

August 16, 2009

Thanks to all who entered my little cookbook giveaway.  It was fascinating reading about people’s favorite book.  There were some I have and adore (Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Tartine), some that I have but don’t use nearly enough (Breads from La Brea Bakery), some that I had never heard of and am intrigued by (Eating Cuban, Hali’imaile General Store), and some you might be surprised to know I don’t have (anything by Mark Bittman, Super Natural Cooking).  In short, I have some shopping to do.  :)

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As you can see, I had a very scientific method for picking the winner – my son Graham picking a number out of a bowl.  Drum roll, please.

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Comment #10 was from Sara at Sprouted Kitchen.  She mentioned Super Natural Cooking which is the cookbook written by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame.  Sara’s blog,is one of the most beautiful blogs out there.  Sara, send me an email (danatreat [at] gmail [dot] com) so I can get your address.

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We had our summer party last night and it was so much fun.  I tried to do as much as possible in advance, but I still felt like I was scrambling for the first hour or so just trying to get all the food out.  I had some terrific helpers who made things so much easier, but I still don’t feel like I got to talk to people as much as I wanted to.  I will share a couple of recipes in the next few days, but right now I need to clean up my kitchen.



Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata

August 13, 2009

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Have you ever had burrata cheese?  If you follow food trends, you may know that it’s one of those “it” ingredients these days.  The “it” status is well warranted because it is over the top amazing and it makes this salad, which has so many wonderful things going for it, a masterpiece.

Burrata is an Italian invention and it is essentially mozzarella and cream.  Really.  The outer part is pure mozzarella and the inside is a soft mixture of mozzarella and cream.  Or it can just be described as mozzarella times 10.  It can be hard to find (Seattle people can find it at DeLaurenti) and it is expensive ($28/pound) but it really is one of those magical transforming things.

Because it is so rich, you really don’t need much.  I scaled up this recipe and was planning on buying 1 1/2 pounds of it.  When I saw the price, I quickly brought that amount back down to 1/2 pound and supplemented with fresh mozzarella (again for Seattle folks, DeLaurenti makes their own mozzarella on the weekends.)  As I was tucking the cheese in among those gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, I realized that I probably didn’t even need the extra cheese.  The guys, all of whom had never heard of burrata, went totally crazy over this salad – especially the cheese.

Don’t forget – you have a chance to win a copy of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook by telling me about your favorite cookbook here.

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One Year Ago:  Farro with Green Beans and Corn

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Burrata, Torn Croutons, and Opal Basil
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 6

This is the recipe as written but as I mentioned above, you could use less cheese.  If you are unable to find burrata, I would use fresh ricotta or soft goat cheese rather than mozzarella.  If this recipe seems overly fussy for what is essentially a tomato and bread salad, please proceed and make it.  It’s worth the effort.

1/3 pound country white bread
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. oregano leaves
1/2 clove garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
3 pounds heirloom tomatoes, assorted sizes, shapes, and colors
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
2 tablespoons sliced green basil
1 pound burrata cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Cut the crust off the bread and tear the remaining loaf into rustic 1-inch pieces.  Using your hands, toss the pieces with 2 tablespoons olive oil, squeeze the bread gently to help it absorb the oil.  Toast on a baking sheet 12 to 15 minutes, stirring a few times, until the croutons are golden brown and crispy on the outside but still a little soft and tender inside.

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic, and a heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt to a paste.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the vinegars.  Whisk in the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and taste for balance and seasoning.  (DT: If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, place the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle the salt over it.  Using the side of your knife, smoosh the garlic and salt together until you get a paste.  Then cut the oregano very finely into the paste.)

Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.  Core the heirloom tomatoes.  Cut half of them into wedges and set them aside.  Then one by one, hold the remaining tomatoes on their sides and cut them into 1/2-inch-thick slices.  Season the slides with the fleur de sel and some pepper.  Place the slices overlapping on a large platter, spoon a little of the vinaigrette over them, and scatter a little basil on top.

Cut the burrata into twelve slices, and tuck them in and around the slabs of tomato.  (DT: My cheese was too soft to cut so I just pulled of almond sized pieces and scattered it around.)

Toss the heirloom wedges and cherry tomatoes gently in a large bowl with the sliced shallots, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, a pinch of pepper, and 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette.  Taste for seasoning, adding more vinaigrette if you like.  Gently toss in the croutons.

Arrange the salad on the platter, piling it in the center, allowing the slices of tomato and cheese to peek through.  Scatter the parsley and remaining basil leaves over the top of the salad.



An Upcoming Party and a Giveaway

August 12, 2009

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This coming Saturday, my husband and I are hosting a summer party.  We have a good party house and this has been a summer to celebrate in Seattle with all of the gorgeous sunshine.  What more reason do you need to have friends over?  Clearly though, we need to pick up the yard a bit.

I’m going to do a giveaway.  It’s a first here at Dana Treat but it’s time.  You see, the other day I bought a cookbook.  No big deal, right?  It’s just that I have something of a cookbook situation on my hands here.  There are lots of them.  They are stacked everywhere.  I am usually very careful about the ones that I buy because I already have so many.  I look at them carefully, I make sure there are not lots of repeats of recipes I already have, and if a cookbook is worthy, I buy it.

This one, I bought on a whim without looking at it.  I had heard about The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook from multiple sources.  That it’s a story as well as a cookbook.  The story of two great chefs who open a restaurant in the majestic area that is Big Sur and all the wonderful people who help them along the way.  Everything I read about the book was wonderful, including lots of compliments about the recipes.  What’s not to like?  So I bought it without so much as a glance at the table of contents.

It is a truly cool cookbook.  The story is great, the photos are gorgeous, I love the profiles of the farmers, beekeepers, and employees of the restaurant.  For every one of us who has thought of opening a great restaurant in a place that you love – this is a book to have.  Here is the problem for me.  There is LOTS of meat.  Now, not every cookbook in my collection is vegetarian.  I have The Joy of Cooking, The New Basics, The Silver Palate, four of Ina Garten’s books, and many other cookbooks which feature plenty of meat recipes.  I use those books often.  This one just, well, it kind of turned me off.  There are some lovely salads and exquisite sounding desserts, but after I finished paging through it, I realized I didn’t want it anymore.

Here is where you come in.  I’d love to send this book to one of you who could use and appreciate it.  I would much rather do that than have it sit on my shelf, unopened, unloved.  I have a few books like this in my collection – books bought on a whim who now sit sadly neglected.  I plan to give a few more away before the year’s end.  And to be more careful with my book purchasing.

All you have to do is leave me a comment and tell me what your favorite cookbook is.  I will most likely replace this one’s spot on my shelf (or on the table or the floor) with one that you suggest.  US and Canada only please (with apologies to Hilary and Jacqui – two of my faithful UK readers).  Deadline to enter is party time – Saturday, August 15th at 6:30pm (PDT).

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(Proof that my life really is surrounded by trucks.)



Cold Melon Soup

August 11, 2009


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One of my former clients told me, before she was my client, that she didn’t like soup.  I thought that was an odd thing not to like.  I mean…soup.  Kind of broad isn’t it?

In the three years that I cooked for her, I think she grew to like soup.  I hope she did because I certainly made a lot of them for her and her husband.  I was careful about not doing them too often for a main course and if I did, I was sure to stick with things I knew she loved.

I used to think I didn’t like fruit soups.  Being more of a savory person, I would really never choose to have a soup be sweet.  If I want something sweet, I will wait for dessert – or so my thinking went.  While I was planning last weekend’s five course dinner for boys, I came across this recipe for melon soup.  The appetizer, salad, and main courses were going to be quite savory, why not a sweet soup for some variety?  And why not use another recipe from the genius that is The Millenium Cookbook?

In that book, there are four recipes for cold soups and three of them come with partner recipes for flavor enhancing ices.  The one I chose, Sharlyn Melon Soup, suggests you make Cucumber Chile Ice to scoop on top.   This is what sealed the deal for me.  I knew the soup wouldn’t be too sweet when topped with a cucumber and citrus spiked ice.

Sharlyn is a type of melon that is similar to a honeydew.  I couldn’t find one but found an heirloom melon instead that had green flesh.  I think green looks best with the soup although an orange melon would be fine.  And by all means, use honeydew if that is all you can find.  I put the ice in an 8×8 pan to freeze and just let it soften enough to be scoopable when I went to serve it.  There was much more than I needed for the soup and I had to dump the extra.  Next time, I will put it into ice cube containers and fill them only half full.  That is the perfect size for the soup and you can always use the extra for a pitcher of mojitos!

Side note:  I just got off the phone with my brother.  He told me that, of all the things I made for that dinner, the soup was the favorite of the guys.  I made some really good food, if I do say so myself, so best is saying something!


Sharlyn Melon Soup with Cucumber Chile Ice
Adapted from The Millenium Cookbook
Makes 6-8 servings

The recipe in the book is vegan.  I chose to use honey so therefore mine was not.  I give both options below.

1 small Sharlyn melon, seeded and flesh scooped out (about 6 cups)
5 ounces silken tofu
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup lemon juice
4 tbsp. Sucanat or fructose (or honey)
5 cups cold water
1 tbsp. light miso (optional)
1 bunch mint, stemmed, plus stems for garnish
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Cucumber Chile Ice (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the garnish and mix with a fork to break up and distribute the tofu.  In a blender, blend the mixture in batches until smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.  Top each serving with a small scoop (or ice cube) of Cucumber Chile Ice.

Cucumber Chile Ice
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 serrano chile, seeded
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
2 scallions, white part only, chopped (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 cup water

In a blender, blend all the ingredients together until smooth, adding more water as necessary to achieve the consistency of cream rather than a thick purée.  Pour the mixture into a sheet tray that will fit in your freezer and freeze for a minimum to 2 hours.  (Or use ice cube trays as described above.)

At serving time, remove the tray from the freezer and scrape the ice with the tines of a fork to flake off the ice crystals.



Cooking for Guys

August 10, 2009


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On Saturday night, I had the pleasure of cooking for 6 guys in their early 30′s.  It was a blast.  My brother Michael’s best friend is getting married on Labor Day and, rather than throw him a bachelor party with strippers and tequila shots, he asked me to cook the groom-to-be and some friends a dinner.  In the past, I have donated dinners to a couple of auctions and for this night I decided to do one of my “auction worthy” meals.  Five courses – appetizer, soup, salad, main, and dessert.  I thought I was getting six carnivores, but in fact I got two vegetarians, two carnivores, one not-eating-much-meat-these-days, and my brother whose friends once sent him a Bacon of the Month Club membership as a gift.  Enough said.

I recently saw someone on Twitter say something along the lines of, “Why would vegans have restaurants?  Clearly they hate to eat.”  Now, aside from just being nasty, that statement is so clearly not true.  If I knew that person I would invite them to check out The Millenium Restaurant in San Francisco – or at least their cookbook.  Their food is so exquisite, so lovingly and respectfully prepared, I’m sure it would make that person retract their statement.  Whenever I want to make something really, I pull out that cookbook or it’s follow-up, The Artful Vegan.  Vegan?  For a special dinner?  Yes.

For this dinner, I found inspiration from The Millenium Cookbook for the appetizer and soup recipes.   Normally, if I am going to make five courses, I really try to balance the food so there isn’t too much of it.  If I do a substantial appetizer, I make the salad lighter.  If I do a filling soup, I make sure the appetizer is small and simple.  Cooking for young men allowed me to just make what I want and not worry so much about appetites.  If anything,  I worried that I didn’t have enough food.  But I am Jewish and that worry is stamped on my DNA.

I had seen recipes for vegetarian pâté before and was always scared off by an ingredient that sounds like a character in the Star Wars movies – agar agar.  Now, gelatin, which is used in many ways to firm things up – you find it in panna cotta, some mousses, marshmallows, even some yogurts – is not vegetarian.  It is made from cow hooves so I avoid all things with it listed as an ingredient.  Agar agar is a type of seaweed and it has the same gelling properties of gelatin.  You can buy it in flake or powder form and I am here to tell you, the stuff really works.  I had my doubts but no more.  I found mine at Whole Foods.

The Millenium Cookbook actually has four recipes for pâté, but I chose to make the one with mushrooms and walnuts.  It seemed the most pâté-like and also the most hearty.  As with any time I try a new recipe, I wasn’t sure it was all going to work but it did.  It came together as it was supposed to, it came right out of the pan as it was supposed to and it tasted great.  The only thing I changed is that I used pecans instead of walnuts because the guest of honor that night can’t do walnuts.  Hopefully this recipe doesn’t sound too “out there” for you because it’s really very good.  It makes a very special appetizer.

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One Year Ago:  Olive and Jarlsberg Sandwich

Mushroom, Walnut, and Rosemary Pâté
Adapted from The Millenium Cookbook
8-10 Servings

The only other slightly odd ingredient in this recipe is nutritional yeast.  You can find it in health stores or, my old standby, Whole Foods.  It’s in the bulk section or the spice section.

1 red onion, cut lengthwise into thin crescents
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 cup mixture of shiitake and cremini mushrooms
1 cup red wine
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), toasted
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp. powdered agar agar, or 2 tbsp. agar agar flakes

In a large skillet, heat up just enough olive oil to coat the pan over medium heat.  Add the red onion, garlic, and mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until starting to brown.  Add the red wine and continue to cook over medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from the heat.  Add the sage, thyme, rosemary, nutmeg, pepper, and yeast and stir well to incorporate.

Transfer to a blender.  Add the walnuts, soy sauce, vinegar, and 1 1/2 cups of the water.  Blend until smooth.

In a small saucepan, bring the remaining 1 cup of water to a boil.  Whisk in the agar agar and turn the heat to low.  Continue whisking until the agar agar is thoroughly dissolved, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add agar agar mixture to the blender with the mushroom mixture and blend until incorporated.

Test the pâté to ensure that it sets up by refrigerating 1 tablespoonful for 10 minutes.  If the test pâté isn’t firm by then, dissolve another 2 teaspoons agar agar powder or 1 tbsp. agar agar flakes in boiling water and add to the pâté.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.  Unmold and cut into slices.



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