Almost every year since moving out of Alaska I have returned for a week or two in the summer to visit with friends and go fishing. This year was one of the few years when my crew of three, (wife, brother and sister) went somewhere other than the Kenai Peninsula. We decided a change in scenery would be good and the fishing better.
Fishing the Kenai River we have it good and easy. We stay at the same cabins or next door on most of our trips there in the last twelve years. It’s an easy walk to the river that takes one minute and the town of Soldotna is just five minute’s drive from the cabins when we need groceries or fishing gear. The fishing is usually good but in the last four years the once mighty runs of king salmon have diminished in a big way. Without the kings to fish for it has been easier to divert from our usual location.
This year we went way off the grid and picked a lodge in the Inside Passage area of Alaska. With the nearest town a thirty minute boat ride from the lodge we got away from it all. That is except for the numerous Humpback Whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions and seabirds too numerous to count. Fish Alaska magazine had spotlighted the area we were heading to in their May issue saying that it is hard to go fishless in the Gustavus area. While we were not in Gustavus our lodge was a mere hour away by boat and many of the fishing spots mentioned in the article were near our lodge. We figured on this being one of the best fishing trips ever.
On our first day we arrived around 11:30 in the morning and were eager to get started. As soon our briefing was concluded we were shown the boat that would be ours for six days. I was to be our guide on this self-guided adventure in this new and exciting wilderness hotspot. Now all I had to do was find fish in an area where there were no other fishing boats to lead us. Off we went in search of halibut that can get up to 900 pounds!
On our first try we were hampered by big tides that kept our anchor slipping and our bait floating up from the bottom a hundred yards off the back of the boat. Not a way to catch halibut. Digging into my memory of fishing in Seward I tried jigging in deeper water for the hidden halibut by Lemesuier Island two miles from our lodge. There I at least managed to get a bite that proved to be the one and only bite of the day. Going fishless the first day was not what I expected but I was undaunted as we headed back to the lodge for more information, dinner and some much needed rest. Our plane leaving Baltimore for an overnight stopover in Seattle was delayed five hours which left us with two hours rest in our hotel. We had hoped to get seven hours of sleep before the flight to Alaska the next morning. It’s tough being sharp after a four hour time change and two hours of sleep when running a boat in tricky Alaska waters.
The first full day dawned blue and sunny as my wife and I headed out just after dawn to catch halibut. I had seen a spot from the flight from our floatplane that I figured would yield halibut. We motored out for fifteen minutes on calm blue-green seas to this promising spot. All the way seeing Humpback Whales, and many otters for our wilderness entertainment. After anchoring up we didn’t have to wait but about fifteen minutes when my wife said, “I’m getting a bite”. I had just enough time to look at her rod tip before it went down hard. I quickly reeled up mine and grabbed her rod to fight this express train heading south and knew we had a big fish.
When I got it up to the boat we were both thrilled to see it was a nice eighty pounder and knew we were going home with plenty of fish on this trip. We caught four more, throwing two of the little ones back before heading to the lodge to get my sleepy siblings for the next fishing session. Over the next four days we caught over four hundred pounds of halibut, but released the biggest, a 170 pound monster, before finishing the week. We all came back with about forty-five pounds of halibut filets each.
The best parts of the trip other than the fishing were meeting and having meals with the other few guests at this lodge that takes on no more than eight guests per week. Seeing a big part of Alaska where we never had another boat closer than two miles from us except once was great too. The wildlife was fantastic! We got charmed by the calls of the baby sea otters squealing what sounded like a three year old human saying, “Mom”! over and over again as they begged for food and attention. Seeing and hearing the mighty Humpback Whales was exciting too, and we saw them every day. Curious seals would approach our boat while we were anchored up fishing halibut looking at us with their big brown eyes and comical whiskered faces from as little as twenty feet away.
The food was very good and while not fancy was delicious and plentiful. We ate king salmon, Coonstriped shrimp, and halibut all caught nearby. Peggy, one of the owners made several dishes I wanted to re-create when I got home including a cabbage slaw with Japanese rice wine vinegar, mayonnaise, and ground cumin that was excellent. She also made a fresh pie made from blueberries picked in and around our cabins. There was a hot bean dip with tortilla chips served just after we returned from hours of fishing one day that was delicious. I figured it was just canned refried beans with a little something added, but wanted to make my own creation when I got home, similar but better.
Since it’s hot in our area with the peak of summer upon us I love cooking in a slow cooker. My bean dip recipe is so easy it just takes five minutes to get it going and when done cooking just a few more minutes to mash the beans and top with cheese for a side dish or a dip. Using the mild Oaxaca dried chilies I bought from Melissa’s Produce the flavor is amazing. It has a rich smoky aroma that pairs wells with shredded Asiago cheese or medium sharp cheddar on top. To get these great dried Oaxaca chilies most of us need to order online, but it’s well worth it. Try this bean dip with a cool glass of sangria for a nice pairing.
In the near future I plan on cooking up some halibut tacos and serve these mashed beans on the side. With a freezer full of halibut I’ll post a new recipe or two in the coming weeks, I hope you give the beans a try and please share this tasty and healthy dish with family and friends.
Slow Cooker Bean Dip
2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
6 cups water
3/4 cups diced yellow or white onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 dried Oaxaca chili peppers, or 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 t salt
Cook all ingredients in a slow cooker for 8 hours on low.
Strain liquid and reserve.
Mash beans with a potato masher, adding back some of the liquid until desired consistency is reached.
Serve with grated cheese on top.
This stores well in the fridge for up to a week. Just reheat in oven, stove top, or microwave adding a little water if needed.
You can mash all or half of the beans and use the remaining whole beans in chili or serve as a side dish.
To order Melissa’s Oaxaca peppers click on this link:
Spinach and Feta Cheese Tostadas
Here we are in the first week of the New Year and I bet everyone is eating healthier thanks to resolutions made on New Year’s Day. If you are a little late to the health food party no worries as I have a delicious and easy recipe for you to try. I keep corn tortillas in the freezer most of the year because they are so versatile,quick and yummy. As long as you fry them in a healthy oil I think they are a great choice for eating better without much prep time. With the right ingredients you can make a full meal deal with them. I usually go vegetarian, but have been known to add a bit of leftover chicken on them if I have it on hand.
In this latest creation of tostada magic I had some feta cheese in the fridge and a jar of sun-dried tomato pesto just waiting to appear on the table. I figured spinach would be a great choice of greens to complete the circle and into the kitchen I went for lunch. It took all of about fifteen minutes to make these spinach and feta tostadas and was deee-lish! Three of these cheesy circles of mouthwatering joy, with a side of avocado, were enough to satisfy my hunger. I probably could have eaten another but after all the high calorie goodness I had during the holidays I was glad to show some restraint.
Give it a try and see if you think this is a worthy recipe for you family and friends. Why you could even serve them for NFL playoff snacks if you wanted to, and if your teams wins they will taste even better!
Spinach and Feta Cheese Tostadas
4 cups fresh spinach 2-3 corn tortillas
6 corn or flour tortillas
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garlic infused olive oil, or regular olive oil
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto, or tomato salsa
2/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Fry the tortillas in a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon oil on medium high for about 1 1/2 minutes each side then drain on paper towels. You don’t need to brown them much.
In the same sauté pan, or a bigger one wilt the spinach in 1 teaspoon oil stirring often for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.
Spread the sun-dried tomato pesto on the flour tortillas, about 1 1/2 teaspoon each.
Top with spinach, then feta cheese.
Bake for 5 minutes on a rack.
Serve with a side of sliced avocado and a bit of the pesto, or salsa.
Serves two but is easily doubled.
With World Cup fever running strong the next game the US team plays against Germany is sure to draw a large viewing audience world wide. Even though I’m not a big soccer fan I love watching the skill and drama that goes with a World Cup series. I had the pleasure of watching the US team hold its own against mighty Portugal on Sunday and look forward to the next match against the even higher ranking team in the group, Germany.
With this being a midweek game most of us are too busy to spend much time preparing food for this round. No worries. There are still some healthy home made goodies you can serve during the game. Take for instance this chips and dip recipe I eat occasionally at home. Just a few simple ingredients and you have a great tasting chip and dip appetizer that goes great with beer, wine, mojitos or margaritas. It takes less than five minutes to make too.
This recipe can be tweaked to include crab, shrimp, hot jalapeño slices or whatever your taste buds desire. It can be served with tortilla chips, pita bread, or baguette rounds with equal yumminess. It can be made fresh and served right away or chilled for a couple hours if needed.
So pull up a chair and root for the home team that has come a long way to get where they are on the world stage, and give this recipe a try. With any luck I will get to add another world cup post for our US team next week!
Avocado and Salsa Dip
2 ripe avocados, about 2 cups total
1 small red and ripe tomato, enough for 1/2 cup will do
1/2 cup of your favorite salsa, Pace Picante medium hot will do
sliced fresh jalapeños, optional
Wash avocados then slice long ways into four equal sized pieces. Peel then cut into about half inch sized pieces.
Cut tomato into half inch sized pieces.
Put tomatoes and avocados in a medium sized bowl and pour salsa over it.
Squeeze lime over it and mix.
Stir gently so you don’t break up the avocado slices.
Add salt to taste and serve with sliced jalapeños.
A half cup of jumbo lump crab meat is a fine addition to this recipe as is cooked small shrimp.
For those who love fresh cilantro chop up a bit and mix it in leaving some sprigs whole to garnish the dip with.
If you love garlic toss in a small clove that is minced fine.
Don’t worry if your avocados have some bad spots. Just cut them out and use the good parts. Perfect avocados are hard to come by.
Today I am back in the kitchen after a four day trip to Monterey, California to see my nephew. I really enjoyed the redwoods in the hills above Santa Cruz, and the beach too. where he took us. It was great to bask in 75 degree weather before coming home to a high of 30 degrees with winds up to forty miles an hour. I believe it’s about the coldest day this winter when you figure in the chill factor. Where oh where is Spring?
I have been super busy all day but found time on my trip to the bank and post office to get groceries for a couple of projects I had in mind. I wanted to bake more kale chips even though it’s not a typical fast and furious recipe. The secret is to do kale chips when you are hanging out by the oven to turn the chips halfway. The most work is cleaning and seasoning the chips which took me about 15 minutes. After that it was 30 minutes in the oven and now I have great tasting kale chips for the next few days unless they are munched in one session of mad munchies fever!
As for the recipe it is simple. Wash, dry and cut into chip size pieces. Drizzle about a tablespoon or two of olive oil on the chips that are spread out on a sheet pan. Sprinkle your favorite seasoning salt, or plain salt on them. Grind some fresh pepper on them, or use something fun like red pepper, or jalapeno powder. Toss them around in the pan almost like tossing a salad to distribute the oil, salt and pepper. You can even rub in the oil a bit while tossing. Pop in the oven at 300 degrees.
Turn the chips and arrange so they are not touching after 15 minutes in the oven. Rotate the pans at this point. Turn heat down to 250 degrees and cook until crisp(about 15-20 minutes) then remove from oven to cool. Now you have great tasting, healthy kale chips for lunches and snacks. They go great with red wine!
So give slow food a try if it fits your schedule, it’s worth it once in a while.
I was recently presented with a challenge to write a menu for a cooking class at Phillips Mushrooms I’ll give in May featuring a Mexican themed menu using mushrooms. Now most of us would never think that Mexican food and mushrooms go together, but I can assure they do. The problem is most of us north of the border have been raised on the belief that Mexican food is taco, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos,fajitas, and not much more. I am glad to report that there is about 99% more to Mexican food than most of us were led to believe.
If you are ever in Chicago’s O’Hare airport with some time for lunch or dinner be sure to try Tortas Fronterra by chef Rick Bayless. Amongst many great choices on the menu is a mushroom dish called Roasted Garlic Mushroom Torta (sandwich) that is one of my favorites. Chef Rick incorporates mushrooms in the menus at most of his restaurants including a Silky Almond Caldo(type of soup) at Xoco with woodland mushrooms.
Today to further my research on Mexican food with mushrooms I dropped in on my friends at R&R Taqueria(seen on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives) to see what they could teach me about using mushrooms with Mexican recipes. First up was a blended mushroom and chicken quesadilla. It was so good I would have eaten the whole thing except they wanted their two employees to get a taste also.
Next was Grilled Portabella Fajitas with onions and bell peppers. This was my second favorite, and I was surprised how the portabella mushrooms made a great meat substitute. When seasoned with R&R’s fajita seasoning this dish just didn’t need meat. A little salsa roja and some cheese made this a winner.
They also tried mixing Oyster mushrooms with pork carnitas, but I thought the pork overpowered the mushrooms. Just for fun I gave them some Maitake mushrooms to saute with onions and garlic so they could taste this type of mushroom for the first time. they liked it and thought it might fit into there future daily special menu as some type of taco.
So armed with this knowledge I tested a new original appetizer today using a tweaked guacamole recipe to stuff white mushrooms with. The result was a silky smooth guacamole with hidden nuggets of pan roasted organic frozen sweet corn that went down nicely, even without a cold beer to chase it with. Come summer the beer would go quite nicely with this appetizer.
Like most of my recipes, this one is also fast, simple and healthy. It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish to make the guac and stuff the mushrooms. Since spring is just around the corner this would be a great treat for a weekend at home happy hour sitting on the patio with your favorite beverage and a comfy chair, or for Cinco de Mayo too! Give it a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment even if you don’t try it.
Guacamole with Pan Roasted Sweet Corn
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn kernels
1 teaspoon garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon minced onion
1/4 tomato salsa, or minced fresh tomato
1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sour cream, optional but makes it smoother and creamier
1-2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno, optional
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro, optional
In a small saute pan add garlic infused olive oil and brown corn on medium heat for 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool while you prepare the guacamole.
Scoop avocado out of shell and place in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add everything but the corn and mix until most of the lumps are gone. I just used a fork to mix and smash it.
Add corn by stirring just until it’s mixed in well.
Note: I like this with chips or stuffed mushrooms with. If stuffing mushrooms use just under golfball sized white mushrooms with the stem removed. Fill the mushroom with the guac and top with an olive slice or a fresh cut jalapeno ring and serve chilled, but don’t prepare too far ahead of time or the guacamole turns brown.
Thanks to Phillips Mushrooms for supplying the mushrooms for recipe testing and this post!
Last year my wife and I went to Ithaca, New York to explore the Finger Lakes region figuring on seeing pretty landscapes and tasting local wines. We did see pretty landscapes, and tasted local wines, but the big surprise was the amazing food scene in the area. We had no idea that Ithaca is home to one of the best farmer’s markets either of us had ever been to. We had no idea there was such a love for heirloom vegetables and fruits there. We also had no idea there were several great eating establishments in the area. With all that, we knew we would return and explore some more this year.
This year it seemed like a good idea to skip Labor Day weekend and go to Ithaca the following weekend for a less crowded vacation. The weather was still quite nice with a couple of clear blue sky days with temperatures around 70 degrees. The farms were still putting out lots of amazing produce. We planned the trip so we could be there for the weekend farmer’s market by Cayuga Lake to get the most out of our trip. This market features several fruit and vegetable growers that show off their heirloom tomatoes that are both huge and beautiful as well as tasty. Most of the produce at the Ithaca farmer’s market is organic or “no-spray” which is a big selling point to me.
A short primer on heirlooms is in order here. Many people are new to the term “heirloom” as it applies to food. If I understand it correctly it is a type of vegetable, fruit or animal that was not mass produced and once planted changed, or adapted to a certain region were it grew year after year. Many years ago there were many varieties of foods than we see in our grocery stores today. If you were buying tomatoes you might have ten to twenty types to choose from.If you were buying apples you might have over one hundred to choose from. Pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and turkeys came in many varieties that were suited to the area and climate that they were raised, and all had their own unique flavor. Many of us foodies are just now realizing how limiting grocery store food is and are seeking out local farmers that are bringing back heirloom varieties on a small scale. The Ithaca farmer’s market opened a door to the heirloom treasure trove of food like I have never witnessed.
There is a fruit grower that had a cute little basket of plums containing four varieties with the smallest being the size of your average grape. They were handing out samples of this small plum that was bursting with sweet juicy plum flavor all its own.
There is the honey guy, the maple syrup guy, the apple cider stand, and more sweet stuff too.
There are a couple of bakery stands, crepes, breakfast foods, Cuban food, and Cambodian food to buy a great hot meal and eat on the nearby lakefront. The Cuban stand had some of the best black beans and rice I have ever tasted! They also serve a delicious baked chicken that goes great with the beans and rice. I ordered the chicken with beans and rice and let my wife and in-laws taste it. They all liked it so much they bought it for lunch also.
One of the smaller farm stands had two types of fresh corn on the cob that we bought and tasted last night. I just tossed it in boiling water for three minutes and wow was it good and sweet!
A short trip up either side of Cayuga Lake brought us to small farm stands selling pears, squash, green beans, Asian pears, onions garlic, and pumpkins. I bought Asian pears, Bartlett pears, and four kinds of apples from “One of a kind orchards” in Lansing, New York. This amazing farm advertises that they have over 200 varieties of heirloom apples, but the owner explained to me that she thought there were probably over 300!
It was there I bought four types of apples I have never had. I bought Freedom, Mother, Paula Red, and Padukah apples to make applesauce with. I’ve tried two of the varieties so far and it will be hard to put them in applesauce they taste so good. I now wish I had bought thirty pounds instead of fifteen.
We also stopped at Bellwether Hard Cider to taste several types of alcoholic cider made from local apples. Once upon a time cider was way more popular than it is now, but Bellwether and others are changing that by bringing cider back to compete with beer as the summer cool beverage of choice. You can find more info about Bellwether Cider at www.cidery.com as they can ship it to you in most states.
The restaurant scene is worthy of a whole post of its own, but I will mention Moosewood restaurant in Ithaca since they are celebrating their 40th year in business. They have won several James Beard awards for their cookbooks over the years, and are quite well known. This creative restaurant has taken vegetarian and vegan food to a whole new level and they have been doing it for years. They have a cookbook celebrating this important anniversary with 250 of their favorite recipes. I bought a copy of it and will start trying out some of the recipes and post the results for you all soon.
We had dinner there and even though it didn’t earn a score of 10 out of 10, I’d still give it an 8. The most amazing dish was the vegan chocolate cake. All of us agreed we couldn’t tell the difference between it and a cake made with butter and eggs from this vegan masterpiece. If you get a chance to go to Ithaca give Moosewood a try even if you are not vegan or vegetarian. They also serve fish on the menu daily for the meat eaters.
There might be a better place for a farm to table food scene, and if there is I want to go there. Next month I’m flying to Portland, Oregon to write a post on the food scene there, and also Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, California. I expect both will be full of great food and fun to report to you dear readers that like to travel as much as I do. Until then here is a recipe using ingredients purchased on the Ithaca area for you to try at home.
Oven Roasted Delicata Squash with Carrots and Golden Beets
This is a versatile dish that can be served as an appetizer, side dish or vegan main dish.
1 medium sized delicata squash
2 to 3 carrots
4-6 golden beets
1/4 cup sliced shallots
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Cut delicata squash length wise to expose seeds. Remove seeds and set aside. Cut squash length wise again so you have four wedges, then cut into about one inch pieces, and place on baking sheet pan.
Wash and cut carrots into one inch pieces, and place in pan with squash. If using organic carrots don’t peel them.
Wash and scrub beets. Trim top and bottom and cut off any other root like bits. Cut beets into almost one inch pieces by first cutting them in half length wise with the first cut and then into quarters with a second cut. Now cut beets into pieces a bit smaller than the carrots and squash(due to cooking time), and add to pan.
Peel and slice shallots and add to the pan. Mix all vegies then drizzle oil over them. Add salt and pepper then bake for 25-35 minutes at 350 degrees or until tender.
Serves six to eight as an appetizer, four as a side dish or two as a main dish.
Note: The trick to this dish is to get the vegies cut to the size that allows them to cook in the same amount of time at the same temperature. Don’t be too worried though as these vegies taste good a bit under or overcooked.
Cook squash seeds in same oven for about 15 minutes with a bit of salt and pepper. Remove sponge like substance from around seed first, and then bake. These are great on soups or salads, or by themselves.
I used purple heirloom carrots, but regular carrots will work well too.
Black Bean Tostadas With Cherry Tomatoes
I admit it. I love black beans! I eat them once or twice every week in one way or another. I cook up a batch in the crock pot overnight on Monday and have them available all week. Lately I have had an abundance of cherry tomatoes from two Sweet 100 plants in my garden. Tomatoes love these hot summer days in Baltimore and reward us with plenty of great produce for about three months.
This Sweet 100 is a new variety I decided to try this year from my favorite plant and vegie farmer at the Baltimore “under the bridge” farmer’s market. They started out slow but by June I could tell these were going to be big. Apparently the bushes get up to 7 feet tall! And boy are they sweet and delicious!
With all these cute tasty little tomatoes rolling about I have used them in new and fun ways every week since they started producing 10-15 tomatoes per day. Yesterday I wanted something to use my hot red habenero sauce on so I dug the corn tortillas out of the freezer and when they thawed out the fun began. Now I rarely fry anything, but I figure it’s no big deal to do up these corn tortillas in one and a half tablespoons of olive oil. Especially since about half of it remains in the pan after frying them. I’m sure the oil I use is better than the oil used in most restaurants the fry tortillas.
So fry I did, and in no time at all I was munching these colorful discs of tastiness and spice. These tostadas can be a starter, a lunch main dish, or party food. You can add green chiles, squash, corn, or even kale. You can make them hot, or not. Goat cheese, and fresh basil would work well with olives thrown in for a Greek flavor treat. Just let your creativeness flow on this one and have fun. Nothing like hot and spicy food on hot summer days.
Black Bean Tostadas with Cherry Tomatoes
4 corn tortillas
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, white or yellow
1/2 grilled bell pepper, red or green sliced thin
12 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 jalapeno sliced thin, optional
In a saute pan cook the tortillas one at a time in the oil on medium to medium high heat just until brown on the edges. This takes about 2 minutes on the first side and a little less time on the second side.
Drain on paper towels.
Drain oil out of the saute pan and heat the black beans for about 2 minutes. This is a good time to add some cumin or chili powder if you like. A 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon should be enough. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Now it’s time to build your tostadas. Put 1/4 beans on each, followed by cheese, tomatoes and jalapenos. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 4-6 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with a side of sliced avocado, shredded lettuce, salsa, black olives or any combination of these ingredients.
These can be cut in half or quarters for a nice party snack.
Pinto beans/refried beans would be good in place of black beans.
Canned beans can be used if you don’t want the bother of waiting for the crockpot beans.
Crockpot Black Beans
2 cups dry black beans
6 cups water
1/2 yellow onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 7-9 hours.
You can shorten this time if you start out on high and reduce to low heat an hour later. This cuts about an hour off the total cook time.
I haven’t bought a can of black olives in a long time so when I received two free cans from the good folks at California Ripe Olives I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Well I popped open a can and munched one, and what do you know I do still like black olives! I’d been caught up in all the olive bar type olives for so long I forgot about my first love affair with olives. Yes I was just a tot when I became fond of black olives right out of the can. Then came black olives on pizza, and it was good. Then came black olives in iceberg lettuce type salads and that was good. Somewhere along the line I started eating stuffed green olives. kalamata olives, oil cured olives, jalapeno stuffed olives,etc. there was hardly a new olive that I didn’t like, but my first love sat neglected on the grocery store shelf for many years. What fun it is to explore the possibilities of black olives in my kitchen and blog about it. These tasty California black olives had a long trip to get to my home in Baltimore. I didn’t know that California produces 95% of the ripe olives in the US, with more than 1,000 multigenerational families taking part in the process. That’s a lot of homegrown expertise. For my entry into the black olive competition I wanted something original, and something using an ingredient from my garden. I love fresh herbs and thought that fresh oregano would be a fun choice for an olive appetizer on a toasted baguette slice. I wanted some color so from the fridge came the roasted red bell peppers I made last week. For the fat content I chose garlic infused olive oil to brush on the baguette slices. For the topping I grabbed some Parmigiano Reggiano to shred on top using my new Oxo Good Grips medium grater. It was a fun project and I tasted several of the treats. The only thing I might do different is put a slice of roasted garlic on each toast slice for a bit more oomph. I was happy that the olive flavor was not drowned out by the other ingredients and took the whole tray to my favorite Vet clinic to have them taste test it.Apparently they scarfed them down quickly indicating a good vote in the first round. With any luck I have a winner for the competition at the upcoming Eat, Write, Retreat food bloggers event in Philly. For all you you that might want to give this a try at home I include the recipe. I think you will find it fairly easy and tasty. Don’t forget your favorite white or red wine to go with it. I would recommend a good, crisp California Sauvignon Blanc. Please leave a comment on what you think of this recipe on my blog. Bon appetit!
California Ripe Black Olives on Toasted Baguette Rounds with Fresh Oregano
1 can of CaliforniaRipe Black Olives, drained and sliced in half lengthwise
1 baguette sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
1 package of fresh oregano
2-3 ounces roasted red bell pepper, in 1 inch slices
2 ounces fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano chese
Brush baguette rounds with garlic infused oil on one side only and toast under broiler until lightly browned. Remove from oven and repeat broiling on other side. Let cool. Pluck the leaves of the oregano for placement on top of the baguette rounds when they are cool. Use just enough to cover about 1/3 of the surface of the rounds, reserving the rest to mince and sprinkle on top at the end. Put on slice of roasted red bell pepper on each round, and two pieces of black olives. Grate parmigiano reggiano over toast rounds. Put minced oregano on top and serve with a Sauvignon Blanc if you like white wines best, or a Zinfandel if red wine is your favorite.
There are many things I am so grateful for in my life. I was reminded of one of those simple pleasures Saturday while cooking for Phillip’s Mushrooms 2nd anniversary of their retail shop in Kennett Square, PA. One of the three appetizers I was cooking during the 4 hour event was my Maitake Mushroom Bruschetta topped with 5 year old Gouda on french bread. Lucky me that I am not gluten intolerant, because this recipe rocks! However out of the approximate 50 people that came through the kitchen to taste the appetizers about 5 couldn’t eat the bread. Twice when I cut the oh so crispy bruschetta to serving sizes I had someone hear that sound of a crusty bread being cut and lament that they could not eat it.
Bread is one on the oldest prepared foods known to human beings! Thousands of years ago it was one of the first things we clever humans mixed up and cooked. I suppose there were other things we mixed and cooked that didn’t pass the taste test, but bread is one of those that stuck with most cultures. I heard on National Public Radio’s Science Friday show several years ago that it is thought that bread is the oldest prepared and cooked item that we eat! Yet now we have a significant portion of our population that can’t eat it without adverse affects. I won’t go into the theories behind this problem, but wanted to point out to all of you out there that can eat bread that we are members in a lucky club indeed! Imagine life without a typical sandwich, toast in the morning, croutons on a salad, stuffing at Thanksgiving, and the list goes on. In celebration of this wonderful food I give you one of my favorite recipes that I made up just last month.
To try in this in your home you need just a few ingredients and about 20 minutes. For this recipe it helps to buy a very good quality loaf of french bread, and a good quality cheese. The mushrooms should be very fresh and if you have it, use fresh thyme added about one minute before sauteing is finished, instead of dried thyme. The result is a simple, wonderful combo of bread, mushrooms and cheese that cries out for a glass of your favorite wine, like a Pinot Gris, or Petit Sirah. This appetizer with a nice salad would work as a light meal on a warm spring day. That way you can celebrate spring and the fact that you can eat bread too. Welcome to the club.
Mushroom Bruschetta with Aged Gouda
1 pound maitake mushrooms chopped
1/2 cup sliced yellow onion
1-2 cloves fresh garlic minced
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 ounces shaved or grated aged gouda or good quality parmesan
1 loaf French Baguette split lengthwise and cut into 3 inch lengths
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Saute onions and garlic in large saute pan with oil for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add mushrooms, and thyme and cook for about 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is cooked out of the mushrooms. Put bread in oven on a sheet pan for 3-5 minutes to toast it a bit. Remove bread from oven and top with mushroom mixture and then cheese.
Return to oven and heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot out of the oven.
Note: Works well with white button, oyster, crimini mushrooms or mix and match.
*Substitute aged gouda with Parmigano Regiano if you can’t find a good aged gouda.
Even though Phillip’s Mushrooms gifted me a couple of pounds of mushrooms to practice with for the cooking demo I would still have written about them as their mushrooms are the freshest I have ever bought, and the price is significantly less than grocery store mushrooms too!
Two 8 oz packages of cream cheese
Two pieces of smoked salmon(about 8 oz), skin removed
One small clove of fresh garlic minced
One jalapeno minced, plus one for garnish, both are optional
One to two tablespoons of plain yogurt, (thins it out a bit)
1/4 cup green onions sliced thin
Break up the salmon in a bowl and pick out any bones. Add room temp. cream cheese, garlic and jalapeno. Mix well. I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, but have done it with a hand held mixer also. Add the green onions last and mix just enough to incorporate. If you mix too much they break down and disappear. I like to garnish with sliced jalapenos before serving.