I hope all of you have recovered from the holidays and are ready to tackle a New Year. 2018, can you believe it? I am speechless when I look at the number. I never thought I would reach this number but here I am, doing what I have always done. My body is telling me to slow down as the days go by faster and the years disappear. When I get engulfed by fear of the future I try to find my happy place and one of those happy places is my kitchen where I put on my apron on and start cooking.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen and be a slave but I love to play around and come up with something tasty. My Ahi tacos with tropical fruit and avocado salsa always reminds me of the Hawaiian Islands and I hope they bring you all some sunshine during the dark days of January.
The dish comes together quickly but needs to be prepared ahead of time. Everything needs to be cut and ready to go because it would be sacrilegious to overcook the Ahi. I usually get Ahi at Costco and I have never been disappointed. The first thing I prepare is the seasoning, then I make the salsa. I serve these tacos with some cut tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and black olives on the side. Nobody would object to some extra sour cream or créme fraîche .
As you probably all know, California has had a lot of rain over the last two months. But today the sun is shining and our neighbor’s fruitless plum tree is in full bloom. The beach is littered with everything that has washed ashore. It is time to collect some driftwood.
It rained and rained and rained some more. The trees fell to the ground and the wind was furious. I was lucky because I had electricity, so I cooked and cooked and cooked. I cooked a whole duck. I made a winter “farro" salad and tried a new recipe for hummus. I am working on these recipes, and will post them later. Cooking distracted me from the scarier and darker moments of the tempestuous weather. I was fortunate to be able to stay in my home and not having to evacuate like so many others.
Life is all about change and loss. What prompted me to write this was a sentence I read this morning from my blogging friend, Jo, at https://coastalcrone.com about being brave enough to change. At this stage in life, I have to contemplate changes I do not look forward to but have to face. And will have to deal with sooner or later. I usually push most of them aside. I prefer the joyful, well-lived life. Don’t we all.
But during those dark hours of rain and storm, I grieved for the loss of my oldest friends from Germany. She died last summer in a horrible car accident. She would be there forever, or so I thought. Gabriele has always been very special to me. She was like a sister. We met in boarding school when she was fourteen and I was fifteen. She fled East Germany with her parents and siblings and later worked her way to becoming a principal and advocate for special needs children.
During one of my visits, we went to a Turkish home and she told the reluctant father that his severely handicapped daughter had to attend school in Germany—by law. I was sure we would get in trouble. Another time, she saved my life when we hitchhiked as young girls in Germany. I remember so many stories full of laughter and tears, as well disagreements and hurt feelings. Why am I posting this? I am not so sure. I have mixed feelings.
What I want to say is: Be kind and gentle with the world and especially your friends. When we said goodbye last May in Germany, she hugged me and cried. Little did I know it was the last time I would ever see her.
“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.
In honor of my friend, Gabriele, I would like give you the link to one of her favorite recipes: seafood pasta.
Pretend your are in a fancy, expensive spa and imagine being pampered with a delicious meal. I have been making this recipe for my health conscious friends for years using different types of fish. The butternut coulis and mushrooms are vegan and are very low in calories. For fish I have used whatever is available and fresh. Red snapper or cod are good choices. For this occasion I roasted some asparagus as an additional vegetable. This meal serves four with some leftover coulis.
I live in Santa Cruz where over half the population is vegetarian and some folks are vegan. This is the perfect dish because they don't have to eat the fish and all I have to do is substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The coulis can be turned into a delicious healthy soup by adding additional broth. Last Saturday I invited some friends who were in a middle of a health crisis and needed a comforting and healthy meal. This one fits the bill. A good meal will let you forget about the problems and fears you are facing and enjoy the moment. For an appetizer, I served my baked goat cheese with fresh herbs and garlic. We sat outside enjoying the warm evening, dipping fresh baguette in our goat cheese and sipping a glass of 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hewitt Vineyard which my friends had brought.
The meal was a great success. The halibut was a little overdone, so watch the time when you roast it. My friend’s immune system would not allow any uncooked fish. This is one dish I always plate before serving. I am sorry about the quality of the photos, it does not reflect the food. I have tried to photograph this several times before but what can I say?… I am a slow learner and I am not devoting much time to improving my photography skills. It shows! My dream is to take a workshop somewhere in Europe where I might improve my photography skills.
I had some fresh raspberries and blueberries in my refrigerator . For dessert I decided to make my favorite galette. Okay, this is where I chose not be too healthy and got some bitter caramel ice-cream from the Penny Ice-Cream Shop in Santa Cruz. These guys make the absolutely best ice cream ever. I loooooove the bitter caramel and yes, I know that vanilla ice-cream probably would go better with the galette. But I couldn't help myself. If you are ever in Santa Cruz and before you hit the beach, treat yourself to ice cream from this wonderful creamery. It is worth every bite.
This is an over-the-top salmon dish. Crespelle, an Italian pasta-like version of crepes, makes this a showpiece for a home-cooked meal. The Italians call it Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone. With a name like this, you can’t go wrong. Crepes or cannelloni are filled with salmon, fennel, shallots, parmesan cheese, crème fraîche and basil. A lemony béchamel sauce puts it all together and creates a memorable meal to share with family and friends. Everything can be assembled ahead of time, which in my opinion is perfect for entertaining.
I found the recipe for the crestelIe in an old Gourmet magazine. I miss Gourmet! I think the crepes give the dish an elegant presentation and add flavor, but you can substitute fresh pasta made into cannoli. Although I have to say, I prefer the crepes.
First, I make the crepes and stack them between paper towels and cover everything with plastic wrap. The béchamel sauce can also be prepared ahead of time, but needs to be reheated before using and maybe thinned out a little. It will save you same time if you can have your fish monger skin the salmon and cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Spring is asparagus time and that is what I serve as a side dish. I cut off the woody ends and peel part of my asparagus. I massage them on a cookie sheet with some hazelnut oil (although regular olive oil is fine), sprinkle some salt and pepper on then bake it in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes according to size. I like my asparagus crunchy.
Fregolotta, an Italian giant cookie that is easy to make and the perfect ending for this special meal. Click here for the recipe.
I missed my last book club meeting because I was in Germany. As our next book, our group choose Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, an Australian prisoner who escapes and lives in the underworld of Bombay. It’s a 936-page epic novel about living in the slums, romantic love, prison agony, criminal wars, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas. It’s a huge novel that embraces every human experience imaginable, all framed by a love for India. It was an interesting but long read. I liked it.
This finger food has it all—it is healthy and low in calories (160 calories for three). Sesame wonton cups filled with smoked salmon, ginger, green onions and avocados. A showpiece at any cocktail party or whenever you want to serve a delicious appetizers.
In my last post, I wrote about my roasted eggplant spread that I served for appetizers at our first book club meeting. I also wanted to add some yummy-tasting appetizers with a wow factor to our meeting. It was like magic. I transformed good old won ton wrappers into the cutest little cups by simply brushing some melted butter over them and arranging them in a mini muffin pan to bake in the oven. How easy is that—and makes a great presentation. The only trick is that you have to own a mini muffin pan. If you don’t, maybe your neighbor or friend has one you can borrow. I deserve no credit for this idea, but my passion for collecting recipes does. This little jewel was hiding in my appetizer folder. It came from an old Sunset magazine.
My friend Diane shared her paella recipe with me. It is delicious and a lot of fun to make.
Unfortunately I didn't have any good photos of the finished paella.
My Andalusian Paella Recipe
by Diane Marvin Koenig
My paella recipe comes from my love affair with flamenco, the music and dance of Andalusia, southern Spain. Paella originally comes from the region of Valencia, Spain but every good flamenco party centers around the making of a paella, then of course the music and dancing follows until morning hours. Cooking outside with an open fire and making the dish in front of your guests is fun and brings people together for a wonderful evening of sitting by the fire and sharing a meal from the same pot.
Paella is about the rice and the saffron that flavors it. I like to use ‘Matiz’ a rice grown in the Albufera National Park in Valencia, Spain. It can be found in specialty shops and our nearby ‘Shopper’s Corner’ carries it. Paella rice is a short grained, absorbant rice that along with saffron is the basis of a good paella. I have used basmati as a substitute and it comes out well. You will also need a good paella pan. Mine is about 14” in diameter, has a lid and is not an authentic paella pan but is low with slanted sides and will feed 10-12 people
The fire! You will need a good fire maker to tend the fire and make sure it is not too hot or too cool. I have cooked paella indoors in a pinch on a gas flame but the fire gives the paella it’s flavor and it’s good to enlist some help.
Diane and George have a beautiful oasis on top of the Santa Cruz Mountains between Aptos and Watsonville . Driving up to Diane and George's place is an adventure in itself. It is a mile long narrow road to the top of the mountain. Once you are there it is a green redwood oasis with a scenic view of the Monterey Bay. This place has hosted many weddings , parties , and celebrations. The property has a vegetable garden and some fruit trees
Shrimp baked with tomatoes and feta cheese and served with quinoa and peas. A great meal to entertain friends and family.
I'm in my little cabin in the Sierras enjoying summer's last hurrah. Fall is definitely in the air. There is some smoke from distant fires that are burning in the foothills, but our little area has been spared so far. A couple of years ago, we had a huge fire in the Emigrant Wilderness that made it difficult to be here. People living in the area had to stay inside during the day because of the smoke. But this year, people are able to come up from the Central Valley of California to enjoy the High Sierras and our lake. There are lots of hikers and campers at the forest service office who get permits to enjoy the high mountains. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses at the top of Sonora Pass at an elevation of 9500 feet. The John Muir trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail to the south. When I do my day hikes in these beautiful mountains, I always imagine the first settlers crossing these treacherous mountains. Some areas have appropriate names like Deadman's Creek.Here in Pinecrest, we are 60 miles (as the bird flies) from Yosemite National Park. Since I can't fly, I have to go the long way around the Emigrant Wilderness to visit Yosemite. South of the lake is a charming little town called Sonora, a historic commercial center where gold miners brought their gold. Next to Sonora is Columbia, a smaller historic gold mining town. My husband's grandfather and his brother used to hitch up a wagon to deliver produce to the miners from their ranch in Knight's Ferry which is in the Sierra foothills.
Well, you ask yourself, what does this have to do with a cooking blog? Nothing really, but I enjoy sharing part of my world with my blogging buddies—just as I enjoy reading about Australia, England, Italy, and other countries where some of my blogger friends live.
Today, I'm going to share a recipe with you that I have made numerous times. It is a scrumptious meal to share with friends and is easy to make. The recipe comes from Elfie Krieger at the “Food Network.” I tweaked it quite a bit. It is not inexpensive because it requires almost two pounds of shrimp. I usually serve this dish with quinoa and peas. Sometimes I serve it with polenta, but always with crusty bread and a salad.
A healthy and tasty way to prepare fish and vegetables in their own juices --
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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