Skip to content

Archive for

Spring Onion & Leek Crostada with Ricotta and Back Bacon


 

We love brunching, we frequently find ourselves trying out new places in town (like here, here or here) or venturing to old standby’s (including here, here, here and here) when the world is still quiet and sleepy.  Every now and then we are lucky enough to be invited over to friends’ houses where we can nibble bites and sip our coffee at a more leisurely pace.  A few Sunday’s back, we were just in luck and threw together a spring onion and leek crostada with back bacon and ricotta…all thanks to our CSA box from that week.

When I started cooking the back bacon – I’ll explain what it that is in a minute…I didn’t really have a firm plan about when I was making and how it would take shape.  When this happens, sometimes the end product is brilliant…and other times, well…that is when it’s time to stop by a bakery on your way over.  This time, it was lovely!  The spring onions and leeks from our CSA box were too beautiful to not use and they screamed to be the feature of a dish.

So back bacon is not made from pork belly – it is the center cut boneless pork loin and is much leaner and meatier than regular American bacon.  It might also be labeled as Irish bacon.  It can be tricky to find so regular, good ‘ole bacon will do just fine.  We found it at a Fresh & Easy market, whose parent company is British…which explains why they carry it.

I started by washing the leeks and then slicing the leeks and the spring onions into very thin slices.  The ramekin in the back holds none-other than rendered bacon fat.  We always have it in the fridge and it keeps very well.  Whenever you cook bacon, just strain the warm oil that was left in the pan and cool, then place in the fridge.  Dare I say, it makes a decadent grilled cheese and it is very spreadable!  I also prepared a short crust – something like you would use in a tart or a quiche – generally it is just flour, salt, cold butter chunks and a little ice water.  Whenever you are making a pastry dough, it is important to let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out. Which is plenty of time to slice and cook your onions and leeks and cook the bacon.  I sautéed the onions and leeks in butter and some of the bacon fat for about 5 or 6 minutes as I wanted them to sweat but not gain any color, and I seasoned them with fresh thyme.  Turn the oven on to 350º so it has plenty of time to reheat.

Next, I rolled out the crust and placed it on a piece of parchment on a half-sheet pan.  We had some ricotta left in the fridge which was perfect because this crostada needed something to hold it all together and work as a base.  I thinned the ricotta just a bit with some heavy cream and of course, seasoned it with salt and pepper and a little more of the fresh thyme.  Spread it evenly on the rolled out pastry leaving a 1-2 inch border on all sides and top with the back bacon slices leaving at least 1 piece to sprinkle on top.  Next, spread the spring onions and leeks over the top and top with another sprinkle of salt.

Now, fold the pastry in towards the center starting on one edge and working your way around.  A crostada is not a fancy food…so it does not need to be perfect!  Top with the last slice of bacon either sliced or crumbled.  Count yourself lucky if you manage to hide the last piece from your husband who is trying to sneak as many nibbles as he can blaming his actions on pure famine!  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned and some of the onions and leeks have crisped on top.

Our CSA box had also arrived full of late harvest citrus and some fresh mint…so we brought those along with us as well.  Start by slicing off the top and bottom of the orange and then slice the peel and as much of the pith off of all sides.

When serving citrus served like this, it is best to ‘supreme’ the fruit…I can’t figure out an easy way to write up instructions for you…but I found a great video on youtube that will show you exactly how to do it here.  Next, chiffonade some mint and toss it with the segments of orange – very refreshing and easy to eat as there is no pith or seeds to pick out of your teeth.

The crostada is delicious warm or room temperature and was a delightful addition to the brunch buffet.  It was crumbly and savory, with a nice oomph of onions and leeks!

What dishes have you made that turned out surprisingly well despite no real plan when you started?  We are always on the lookout for new recipes that travel well…what are your favorites for a potluck brunch?

 

Chicken Piccata


This is pure comfort food for me.

Chicken Piccata was a standard in our household when I was growing up.  Although for a while it was referred to Tonkatsu Chicken as my brothers and I preferred to dip our chicken in Tonkatsu sauce (basically a Japanese Worcestershire sauce) rather than squeezing fresh lemon over the top.  

I digress.  This is such a simple dish…and very easy to make on a weeknight as well.  Although I don’t have a crowd to feed…it was always a crowd-pleaser.  The chicken breasts I used were humongous…I probably should have cut each one in half once I had pounded them and saved half of the meat for another meal.  But it did make for some great leftovers, so I can’t complain.

Chicken Piccata

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1-2 cups of breadcrumbs (panko or regular)
2 lemons (1 sliced and 1 juiced with seeds removed)
1-2 tbsp. capers
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
2-4 tbsp. of butter
½ cup of white wine

First, place 1 chicken breast in a gallon size ziplock bag and using a meat pounder or rolling-pin, pound each breast until it is about ¼ to ½ inch thick.  This helps tenderize the meat and will help it to cook evenly and much faster.  Next, open a bottle of wine…pour yourself a glass and leave some to help deglaze the pan.

Next, ready your breading set-up.  Shallow bowls or plates with a lip on them, or even cake pans can work really well for this.

I was gifted these a few years ago and LOVE them.  They link together so you avoid the drippy egg all over the counter and they help maximize your workspace as they fit together tightly unlike round plates or bowls would.  When breading, remember wet sticks to dry and dry sticks to wet.  So start with the flour, the next pan should have the eggs lightly beaten and the last pan is for the breadcrumbs and don’t forget to season at each step.  I heavily season the chicken breast before the flour dredge and I usually season the egg with salt and pepper as well.

Next, put your pan on the heat and add some olive oil and a pat of butter…the oil has a higher smoke point and the butter helps things to brown nicely.  Once the pan is hot, gently lay the first chicken breast down.  I turn the heat up a bit at this point because as soon as you add your chicken, the pan will cool quite a bit.  If there’s room (don’t crowd the pan), add in the second chicken breast.  I turn the oven on warm (150-180º F) so I’ve got a warm place to hold the chicken while I make the sauce.

Turn the chicken breasts once the bottom side is browned handling them gently as you want to breading to stay on the chicken.  Remove the chicken from the pan once it is cooked through and the second side is browned as well – place on a plate in the oven.

Now it’s time for the sauce.  If there is a ton of oil in the pan, run a paper towel around to remove some of it without wiping up the little brown bits.  Next, throw in half of your lemon slices and some of the capers, and cook a bit as you want them to break down.  Remove the pan from the heat, and add the white wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to get all the delicious browned bits up and incorporated into the sauce.  Add in the juice from 1 lemon, a dash of salt and pepper let all the liquids combine.  Before two much of the sauce has evaporated, add small and very cold chunks of butter to the pan and stir them in completely before adding the next chunk.  This is called mounting the sauce with butter.  The cold butter emulsifies and thickens the sauce.  Just before serving add in the rest of the capers, another few slices of lemon and the chopped parsley.  Plate the chicken, top with lemon and drizzle the sauce over and serve it with rice.

C’est Parfait!

Dinners…that don’t look much like dinner!


Have you ever had so many events and nights out that all you want to do is just veg on the couch at home?  Obviously you need to eat, but putting much effort into dinner…especially anything that would typically look like a dinner, is just way to hard.

We’ve had a lot going on this last month or so…in fact sometimes May/June tends to feel a lot like the holidays when you find yourself eating nibbles from the hors d’oeuvres tables and cookies and having perhaps a few more drinks during the week than you planned…when following an ‘eat healthy plan’ seems all but impossible.

Our solution – popcorn, apples and cheese.  My husband grew up with this meal as a Sunday night tradition.  It’s easy, feels like a treat and doesn’t require a lot of planning or shopping!

As mentioned here, I crave salty snacks…and popcorn is one of my favorites.  In fact, I would dare say that our air popper is one of our most used small kitchen appliances.  This particular evening, I popped up 3/4 cup of popcorn, drizzled it with melted salted butter and sprinkled it with salt.  I sliced up a Gala apple and some Dubliner cheddar cheese and settled in on the couch to watch some indulgent reality TV.

It is the perfect antidote to an overly busy social calendar…and feels somewhat healthy too!

What is your go-to, quick fix, alternative-to-typical-dinner meal?

Why, Thank You…!


Just the other day, upon opening my inbox, there was one email I opened right away…something about ‘comment…inspiring…lovely’.

Sara of SaraInCucina nominated me for The Very Inspiring Blogger  AND the One Lovely Blog awards.  She is writing for us all the way from Italy!  I could not be more flattered!  So first, I must give a big thank you to Sara.  It’s always nice to know someone out there is reading, and it is icing on the proverbial blogging cake to get comments and be nominated for an award (or two)!

Now there are some responsibilities that come along with these *prestigious* awards.  🙂

1.  Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their site. (check)

2.  Share seven things about yourself.

3.  Link to 7 blogs who inspire you and link to another 7 blogs that you consider quite lovely.  (sometimes these awards are combined)

4.  Leave a comment on each of the blogs nominated letting them know!

So here goes…

  • There have been years where I spent more nights in a sleeping bag in the wilderness than on a mattress with a roof over my head.  That’s just how I roll.  And sometimes I even cook out there.  (you are correct – that is squeeze butter – an invaluable tool in certain situations!)

  • I completed a triathlon this year.  Okay…it was not an Ironman (’cause that sh#@&’s c-r-a-z-y) more of a spring distance…but that does not make me any less proud!
  • My first name (Gentry) is a typical last name…it was my great great grandmother’s maiden name and causes frequent confusion…thanks Mom and Dad.
  • I love to cook eggs (fried, poached, over-easy) but I’m not a big fan of eating them in these forms.  
  • I am slowly becoming a less-reluctant-Southern-Californian.  I don’t think anyone I know would have predicted that I would end up settling down in the LA basin…but I’m full of surprises.  Also…people tend to tune out when you complain about how hard it is to wear flip-flops every day and how you’re getting tired of 70º and sunny.  Call me crazy, but I like some “weather” now and again.  Don’t worry…it’s growing on me.
  • Sometimes…I don’t use the right tools for the job…even though I might own the right tools.  I attribute this to pure and momentary laziness.
  • Let’s just put it out there…I might be slightly addicted to shows like Monsterquest…which have a) no basis in reality; b) are somehow on the History Channel (how can it be history if there is no proof…?); c) some producers somewhere and a whole bunch of other people get paid to work on making shows about possibly real/more likely imaginary creatures; and d) don’t tell my husband…he’s a scientist!

It’s hard not to be inspired when you see what these bloggers are doing…click on over…take a peek and maybe even leave ’em a note.  It’s just the nice thing to do!

  1. Garlic, My Soul – what’s not to love, really?
  2. Nothing But Bonfires – truly inspiring and hilarious!
  3. Semi-Rad – ’cause we’re all semi-rad.
  4. Hunter Angler Gardner Cook – reminding us that it doesn’t have to come from the grocery store.
  5. Foodie House – keepin’ it real!
  6. Tales From My Second City – perfect for a quick read and some laughs every now and then.
  7. Burnt Carrots – I promise…not everything is burnt 🙂

And let’s not forget about all of those lovely blogs out there that are making the interwebs a better place…and keeping it pretty too!

  1. Bun Boy Meets LA – love me some hometown info on local eating establishments!
  2. Triangle Honeymoon – you might learn a few things…
  3. Life Begins at Thirty, Right? – just lovely.
  4. Our Humble A{bowe}d – bringing you DIY loveliness from Montana
  5. Rosemarried – some awesomeness!
  6. Pearl and Pine – great photography and stories!
  7. ClookBook – a whole lot of greatness and some fabulous food photography tips!

So keep the blog-love going…and, of course, always thank those who read and click and share and write!

THANK YOU!

Refeshing Chopped Italian Salad


Raise your hand if you like salt…?  Yup, I see a few hands out there.

Salty or Sweet…????  I count myself in the salty category and in fact have been given various nicknames that reflect my affinity for the natural crystal, including ‘old salty’.  I would much rather snack on tortilla chips or popcorn than have a cookie.  I crave salt.  This salad is just perfect…a fresh (and a little bit salty) salad for summer with a hint of sweetness from golden raisins.

I was inspired to make this salad after dining out with my husband here and enjoying a dish very similar…we both remarked “why don’t we eat more chopped salads?”  This is, in fact, a very good question!  Salads can be tricky…I like them dressed and tossed; they can be awkward to eat if the greens aren’t cut to an appropriate size; and they can so easily be ruined by too much dressing.  The chopped salad is the answer to all of these issues.

Chopped implies a certain size…so no worries with the giant lettuce leaf sticking out the side of your mouth smearing dressing up and down your cheek.  Chopped salads also typically are chock full of ingredients going beyond greens…which makes them heartier (better as a whole meal), and more flavorful…so the need for a lot of dressing is significantly reduced.  Chopped salads are also a great way to use up leftovers…perhaps you have one baked sweet potato left and a couple crumbles of blue cheese along with some pecans…add greens and a light vinaigrette and poof – dinner.

This particular chopped salad is distinctly Italian with dry salami, black and green olives, radicchio, and feta. The saltiness is countered with golden raisins and the unexpected but totally necessary nutty component – pistachios and a good handful of Italian parsley.

Nice Chopped Italian Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce
1 head radicchio
½ cup of golden raisins
1/3 cup of canned black olives, sliced
1/3 cup of green olives, sliced
¼ to 1/3 of a small dry salami, cubed
½ cup of pistachio meats (shells removed)
1/3 cup of feta cheese, crumbled
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Slice green and black olives and cube the salami.  Next, slice and chop the iceberg lettuce and radicchio and put in a large salad bowl.  Throw in all the toppings – olives, raisins, pistachios, and salami.  In a small bowl, whisk your dressing together.  I went with a very simple red wine vinaigrette which I never measure…just eyeball the amounts and always taste as you go…it consists of olive oil, red wine vinaigrette, a tiny bit of salt and some pepper – just whisk it all together before drizzling it over the salad.  Make sure to err on the side of too little dressing as you can always add more.  Once dressed, add in the feta and most of the chopped parsley, toss again and then serve up with another sprinkling of parsley and some toasty crisps.

Do you like chopped salads?  What are your favorite additions?

PS:  Don’t underestimate the importance of the raisins!!!  I’m not always a giant raisin fan…but I wouldn’t imagine eating this salad without them.

%d bloggers like this: