Valentine’s Day Heartfelt Salad

Valentine’s Day meals aren’t only about the chocolate for dessert. They begin with a salad made with hearts of romaine, artichoke hearts and red bell pepper hearts. The heart-healthy dressing marries olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, celebrating the happy coincidence of Meyer lemons ripening on Valentine’s Day.

serves two sweethearts

14 oz can Artichoke hearts

1 heart of romaine lettuce

1 red bell pepper, cut into heart shapes

Dress with Meyer lemon vinaigrette:

3 Tb Meyer lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh minced garlic

Combine ingredients in blender and run on high until emulsified.

Rainbow Roasted Vegetables

This colorful dish is easy to make. Just sprinkle vegetables with garlic olive oil, pepper and sea salt and roast for 45 minutes.

2 red bell peppers

4 small yellow zucchini or crookneck squash

4 small green zucchini

1 red onion

smoked sea salt or regular sea salt to sprinkle lightly

black pepper – a few grinds

Heat oven to 450’.

Cut red bell pepper in half and remove seeds and membranes. Slice zucchini lengthwise. Peel and quarter the onion. Cover a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with foil.

Lay vegetables on foil and drizzle lightly with garlic olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast for 45 minutes.

Slice vegetables into strips and toss together. Serve warm or room temperature. Nice served with Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – Garlic Shrimp

Reserve half a roasted red pepper for Spicy Red Deviled Eggs

Spicy Red Deviled Eggs (low mayo)

These deviled eggs are spicy with cayenne, blushing with red bell pepper, and have only 2 Tb mayonnaise.

Perfect for Easter! or Passover!

I roast the bell pepper ahead of time (450 ‘ for 45 minutes) until it is smooth and, well, slimy.

You can also use jarred red bell peppers. Be sure to remove the skin, seeds, and membrane, or they will clog the tip of the pastry bag.

I based this recipe on 

I dedicate this recipe to Sofia, who loves my deviled eggs so much she even ate them the time I screwed up and added too much salt!

Makes 1 1/2 dozen deviled eggs

9 eggs
1 Tb baking soda
3 Tb  roasted red bell pepper (1/2  pepper), skin, seeds and membrane removed.
2 Tb mayonnaise
1 tsp yellow or Dijon mustard
about 1/8 tsp of cayenne (about 4 dashes or so) to taste
1 1/2  tsp  lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt to taste
4 fresh chives

The important and rather frustrating thing about making deviled eggs is that your eggs must peel  perfectly smooth, or they will look ugly and may fall apart completely. There are several tricks to ensuring that the shell and membrane slide off the egg smoothly:

Buy the eggs at least a week before cooking.

Add 1 Tb baking soda to the cooking water.

Immerse cooked eggs in an ice water bath

Crack the shells of the cooked eggs by tapping on them with the back of a spoon so  the water seeps inside, between the shell membrane and the egg white. 

Peel the eggs carefully under cool running water.

Cooking eggs: Place 9 eggs in a large pot and cover with one inch water and gently stir in 1 Tb baking soda. Cover pot, heat to boiling, then turn off heat. Let eggs sit in the covered pot for 15 minutes. You can test them by spinning on a hard surface. If they spin quickly with no wobbles, they are done. Drain the water, then add cold water and several glasses of ice cubes and let the eggs cool for 15 minutes. Then crack them by tapping the shells with the back of a spoon. Add more ice to keep water cold,  and wait at least 5 minutes before peeling eggs. Peel under running water, starting at the tip where there’s a little pocket, then pull off the shells and membrane together.

Pulse the red bell pepper in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste.

Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently pop out the egg yolks into the food processor.  Add the other ingredients except chives, and pulse until yolk mixture is smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Place the egg halves cut end up on a paper towel to dry. Then arrange them on a platter.

Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip and fill it with the yolk mixture. Pipe the yolk mixture into the egg whites. Garnish with the fresh chives.

For this last batch, I made the filling ahead of time and refrigerated the whites and the filling in plastic containers. I filled the eggs the next day right before serving them.

Broccoli and Veggie Quiche for a Nursing Mother

My cousin just had a baby and I wanted to make her a quiche rich in calcium and easy on the spices. I included broccoli which is rich in calcium (178 mg per cup) and sharp cheddar which complements the broccoli. I topped it with sliced heirloom tomatoes, because well, they are in season and also complement the cheese. For flavor and color I added a bit of fresh thyme, red onion, red bell pepper and a couple of large mushrooms. I used 1% milk but it came out nice and creamy.

Make a single pie crust using my pie crust recipe.

Then brush a beaten egg in the bottom to guard against sogginess from the filling. (One egg will be more than enough to cover the pie bottom. Add the leftover egg to the custard.)

Preheat oven to 375◦

Filling ingredients: Makes 1 quiche (using a 9” pie pan)

Filling:

1 tsp olive oil

1 small broccoli with stem

1 very small red onion

1 red bell pepper

2 large mushrooms

1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

1/4   tsp salt

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 medium tomato (I used an heirloom tomato)

Custard:

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1/4 tsp salt

Slice onion and bell pepper and sauté in 1 tsp olive oil. Slice mushroom and add to sauté.

Strip the outer peel from the broccoli stem and slice broccoli stem. The stem is actually quite tender underneath the tough peel. Slice florets and discard lower branches. Add to vegetables with fresh thyme leaves and salt. Continue to sauté until the broccoli and other vegetables are well cooked, but broccoli florets are still a bright green.

For the custard, I warmed the milk for a minute in the microwave. Beat eggs, and add milk and salt. I used the blender, but you can beat it with a whisk instead.

Place 1/4 cup grated cheese on the bottom of each crust and add the vegetables. Pour in the custard. It should be at least 1/2 inch below the top of the pan, otherwise it will spill all over the oven!

Slice 1/2 of a  medium heirloom tomato into 3 rather thin slices and place them atop the custard. Sprinkle on the rest of the cheese. Bake for 30-40 min in 375◦ oven until top begins to brown and an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool before eating.

 

Calabacitas (Spicy Squash Casserole)

I make this every summer when squash and corn ripen. My sister Leanna grows beautiful squash in her sun soaked Southern California garden. We made calabacitas (call-ah-ba-SEE-tas) with it when she visited me.

I discovered the recipe in the children’s book Carlos and the Squash Plant / Carlos y la planta de calabaza by Jan Romero Stevens. It’s a tale of a boy who won’t wash his ears until a squash plant grows out of his ears. His mom serves him calabacitas when he finally washes the plant out.

I put my own touch on her recipe, by substituting olive oil for margarine, adding oregano, red bell pepper and tomato for color. Our friends Victor and Mary Lau Valle, who are master chefs,  brought us homegrown squash and oregano and taught me Victor’s mother’s version, using the Mexican cheeses asadero and cotija. (Victor and Mary are the authors of Recipe of Memory:Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine)

asadero cheese

 

Asadero is a Mexican mozzarella and melts wonderfully. Although it is a low-fat cheese, it has a wonderful buttery taste not usually associated with mozzarella.

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca cheese I’ve also used Oaxaca cheese with good results. The cotija we used was a powdery cheese in a bag, (not the kind that comes in a brick.) It made a nice crunchy crust on the casserole when we broiled it. I found my cheeses and chilies in the local Mexican market.

Ingredients:

IMG_3139

2 Poblano  peppers

2 jalapeños (add more jalapeños for extra heat)

2 cobs of corn

4 Tb olive oil, divided

1 onion, diced

sea salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tsp fresh oregano

5 small to medium summer squash  (I used sunburst and zucchini)

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 Roma tomatoes, seeds scooped out and chopped

1 1/4 cups coarsely grated or chopped Asadero or Oaxaca cheese. If you can’t find these, substitute Monterey Jack.

1/2 cup powdered cotija cheese

1/4 cup cilantro leaves to garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350′

Place chilies directly on a gas flame until they char, then turn until all sides char. If you don’t have a gas stove, use the barbecue. And if you don’t have a barbecue, then char them on a heavy comal or frying pan placed over a burner on high. Place charred chilies in a small pot and cover until they are cool enough to handle. ???????????????????????????????The chilies will sweat and the skin will soften.

Cook the corn on the cob in the microwave.  Leave the husks on and run water over them, then place them on a large plate and cook for 7 minutes. Let them cook while you cook the other vegetables.

tomatoes scooped out

Cut tomatoes in quarters, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the tomatoes and let them sit while you are cooking the other vegetables.

Chop the onion first, then chop the squash and red bell pepper while the onion cooks.

IMG_2075

Pour 2 Tb olive oil in large frying pan or wok and heat on medium until it begins to shimmer. Add onions and turn heat to low.  Cook onions about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent.

Raise the heat to medium and add squash and garlic with oregano and a pinch of salt. Saute squash until it is beginning to brown on all sides and onions begin to crisp. Put them in a large bowl.

Saute red bell pepper in another Tb of oil until it begins to char. Add it to the onion and squash in the bowl.

cooking tomatoes

Squeeze out remaining juice from tomatoes and chop them. Saute the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt in another Tb of olive oil. Be sure to spread the tomatoes out so that they can caramelize. Add 1 tsp fresh oregano, and cook tomatoes over medium heat until they are mostly dry, Caramelizing the tomatoes concentrates their flavor – they are so delicious!

???????????????????????????????While tomatoes are cooking, remove the chilies from the pot. Put on some thin latex gloves to protect your hands. Slice the chilies open lengthwise and remove the stem and seed pod. Scrape the charred parts from the skin, then scrape the seeds and ribs from the inside. Keep some seeds if you want spicier calabacitas. Julienne the chilies into thin strips.

 

Add the chilies and cooked tomatoes to the vegetables in the bowl.

Remove the husks and ends of the corn cobs from the cooked corn. Hold the cob on a large plate and use a large knife to cut the kernels from the cob. Stir the corn in with the other vegetables.

vegetables in bowl

Stir in 1 cup of the grated Asadero, Oaxaca or Jack cheese. Spray a flat casserole or 11′ x 8″ cake pan with non-stick spray, and pour the vegetables and cheese into it.

Sprinkle the rest of the Asadero cheese on top of the calabacitas. Then sprinkle with cotija powdered cheese.

Bake at 350′ for 20 minutes.

Move a rack to the upper third of the oven and turn on the broiler.

baked calabacitas

 

Place under the broiler for 3 -5 minutes, until the cheese turns a golden brown.

serving with cilantro

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Delicious served with corn tortillas to soak up the cheesy sauce. You can mix it in with Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans)

Got leftovers? Add them to chilaquilas

Tacos de carne asada – steak tacos

Steak and avocado is a match made in Mexican heaven. I love bistec con aguacate, and these steak tacos are loaded with avocado and fresh tomatoes, red bell pepper and cilantro. They are an easy weeknight meal and economical too: One pound of steak makes 10 generous tacos. Throw a steak on the grill, cut it up with the veggies, add some Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans), and tuck it into a warm corn tortilla. Top it with your favorite salsa and a sprinkling of lime.

Serves 5 – makes 10 tacos

1 pound sirloin steak

2 medium avocados

2 medium fresh tomatoes

½ large red bell pepper

A handful of cilantro leaves

1 lime

10 fresh corn tortillas

Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa to taste

Let steak sit for ½ an hour at room temperature, then generously salt and pepper it. Oil barbecue grill and heat on high.  Grill steak for about 5 minutes on each side, until browned yet rare in the middle. Remove from grill and trim fat. Cut in strips against the grain, then cut into small pieces.

Chop vegetables into small pieces.

Heat tortillas on comal or heavy frying pan until warm and slightly crispy and can hold their shape when folded in half. Spoon steak. Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans), and vegetables into the tortilla, squeeze lime over it and top with salsa to taste.

Summer Corn Salad

Today’s the first official day of summer, and it’s a scorcher! I made a corn salad to cool  off.

I’ve had a version of  this with black beans, but I like pintos better.  My husband Jesus says leave out the beans altogether. You do what you want.

Use a ripe yet firm avocado and stir gently unless you want a guacamole texture. The lime and Tajín chili powder add zing.

Eat as a salad or as a dip with tortilla chips.
Serves 3:

3 cobs of corn

1 avocado – ripe yet firm

1 red bell pepper

3 Tb (to taste salsa), such as salsa casera

¼ cup Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans) (optional)

½ tsp (to taste) sea salt

2 Tb (to taste) fresh cilantro leaves

Juice of one lime

chili powder or Tajín (chili powder with salt and lime)

Boil corn until done, about 10 minutes. Let cool. You can do this ahead of time. Using a large sharp knife on a cutting board, strip the kernels off the cobs.

Chop red pepper, and cilantro leaves and stir into corn. Stir in beans, salsa, salt and lime juice. Slice the avocado and gently stir in or it will smoosh! Sprinkle with Tajín or chili powder.

Twice Cooked Fajitas

For Cinco de Mayo I am making fajitas: spicy from two kinds of chili,  fragrant with lime, and tipsy on beer.  This recipe was inspired by my late brother-in-law and Texas barbecue master, Larry Luna. The juicy and flavorful chicken is twice cooked, first on the grill, then braised in the oven with its marinade.  I made  chicken fajitas  here, but you can also make them with skirt steak. Marinade the steak for at least 3 hours, grill it whole, then cut across the grain into strips before braising it in the marinade.


Serves 4

¼ cup boiling water

3 dried chilies such as Chile California, stems removed

2 jalapeños

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 cup light-colored beer such as Tecate

2 limes, juiced; zest peeled in long strips

1 whole boneless, skinless chicken breast fat trimmed and sliced,  or  2-3 lb skirt steak.

1 small onion, sliced

4 bell peppers (1 red and 3 green), seeded and cut into strips

2 Tb olive oil

If using skirt steak, slice against the grain and cut into strips. Trim off the fat. Using a tenderizing mallet, pound each strip so that the tenderizing marks show. This is a good way to work out your frustrations and aggressions.

Add chilies to boiling water and let soak for at least 15 minutes. Peel lime zest with vegetable peeler into a long strip, then juice limes. Pour beer, 1 Tb olive oil, and lime juice in blender. Add chilies, jalapeños, soaking water and other seasonings to beer mixture. Whir in blender. Trim fat off of breast, cut into strips, and marinate for an hour or more.


Place chicken on grill, reserving marinade. Put bell peppers and onion in a grill wok and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.  Grill over medium heat until chicken and onions and bell peppers begin to char. (You can also use a wok or heavy pan over the stove).

Heat oven to 300’ Pour marinade into a casserole or clay pot. Add cooked chicken, peppers and onions and lime zest. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and avocado slices. Serve with tortillas, Frijoles pintos (Mexican pinto beans) and  Sonia’s guacamole.

Blushing Hummus bi tahinah


The Arabic word hummusحمّص means chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It’s the main player in the popular Middle Eastern dip of the same name. Add some tahini (sesame butter),  lemon juice, red pepper for a nice blush, and a garlic clove, a bit of olive oil and water, sprinkle in salt and a dash or two of cayenne pepper for a bit of zing, top with a small handful of pine nuts, and you have an easy and tasty dip for a crudite plate or pita bread spread.

I got my beans from a local Middle Eastern market (Indus Foods in Berkeley) for 33 cents; the whole dip cost about $1, much cheaper and fresher than shelling out $4 for the commercial version.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups

1 clove garlic

1/4 fresh  red bell pepper. Roasted red peppers work well also – use one.

1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained

¼ cup tahini

¼ cup lemon juice (one medium lemon)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tb to pour on top.

1 Tb water

shake of cayenne to taste

¼ tsp salt, to taste

2-3 Tb toasted pine nuts (pignolias)

1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro to garnish

Peel garlic and mince in food processor using blade. Add rest of ingredients except pine nuts, and run processor for at least a minute until hummus is smooth. Sprinkle pine nuts on top. If desired, pour a bit of olive oil on top and garnish with cilantro.

Serve with carrot or celery  sticks, cucumber, jicama and red bell pepper spears, pita chips, or wedges of toasted pita bread.

Makes a great sandwich spread on pita or olive bread with cucumber slices.

Spicy Salmon Steaks with greens

This easy fish dinner is a bit spicy, moist and colorful. I made it first with spinach and the second time with red Swiss chard. If using chard, add it with the other vegetables. Spinach can be added at the last few minutes, since it only needs to wilt. You could even use both!

1 lb salmon steaks – 2 steaks

2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles

¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes

several grinds of black pepper

several shakes sea salt

½ lime or lemon

1 red bell pepper, chopped

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch Swiss Chard, both stems and leaves, chopped

OR /and one bunch spinach, de-stemmed

1 tsp olive oil


Heat olive oil in heavy skillet. Add rosemary and garlic. Wash salmon and sprinkle both sides with salt and chili and black pepper. Squeeze lime or lemon on both sides. Place in pan on top of herbs on medium flame. Add chopped red bell pepper, mushrooms, and chopped red chard on the sides of the fish. Cook about 8 minutes, until fish browns. Turn fish over. If using spinach, add it to cover fish, and cover pan. Cook for 5 minutes.

I served this with red Quinoa in a heart shape for Valentine’s Day