Monday, September 21, 2009

Which Way is Up?

I planted few Milkweed plants three years ago in the hope of attracting Monarch Butterflies to lay eggs in the garden. Within few days we had eggs which hatched into 24 caterpillars! Last year there were no eggs, but this year we have 6 juicy caterpillars devouring the plants. Gotta love nature!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fig Walnut Ice Cream, an Anniversary, and a Request

Ten years have passed since the death of my mother in law. She died too young, and I can't believe it still. Somehow every time we drive to Los Angeles, I picture seeing her, hugging her, enjoying her company. She was a great lover of food, and one great supporter of my creations, and never said no to a cake I would bring to all the family meetings. I miss her terribly, so this ice cream is dedicated to Marilyn, who would have licked the spoon with delight.

My friend Darren is raising money in order to participate at the Leukemia Cup Regatta that is being held in the San Francisco Bay next weekend. This regatta is part of a bigger fund raising effort by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with events throughout the States. Darren has raised 69% of his contribution but unfortunately he is $600 short of the minimum that will allow him to sail on Saturday. Today is the last day he can try to raise the final $600. In this tough economy he relies on the generosity of his friends and relatives, so it would be really sad if he weren't able to participate to this event which means so much to him. I am asking my readers to generously donate any little amount to help my friend honor his mother and her long struggle with Leukemia. So please visit his web page and follow the directions. As someone who lost a loved one to a long struggle with cancer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, every little amount counts.

I recently tried a sorbet made with figs and walnuts and it was delicious. You could first taste the sweetness of the figs, followed by the slight bitterness of the walnuts. Since I can't eat enough figs, and they are so bountiful and relatively cheap now, I tried this combination in an ice cream version.

A recipe by David Lebovitz was the starting point for this ice cream, to which I added a step in which I steeped some walnuts in the cream for an hour, and omitted the lemon. The resulting ice cream has a wonderful texture, is not too sweet and delicious!

Fig Walnut Ice Cream
3 cups

2 pounds fresh figs, cut in 8th
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Cook the figs with the sugar until jam like consistency, set aside to cool. Bring the cream to a boil and steep the walnuts for an hour. Add the cream to the cooled figs and puree until the desired consistency. Chill the ice cream base completely and then freeze it according to your ice cream maker. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fig Tart-Pure Buttery Bliss

First came the fig, then the tart, followed by pure buttery bliss. Fork is optional, eating with your fingers is allowed.

I am truly enjoying the fruits of late summer, like tomatoes, pears, and figs. This tart is one of the best things I have eaten in my life, complete sensory satisfaction. For the recipe and the procedure follow the method for the rhubarb tart, just add quartered figs, no extra sugar is needed.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tomato Quinoa Salad and Roasted Portobello

This meal was eaten a while back, but it wasn't until today that I found time to post about this wonderful dish (this is what happens when the full moon wakes you up at 4 AM). I discovered quinoa more than 10 years ago, when I had it for lunch in Washington D.C. when I was there for a biochemistry conference. I immediately fell in love with this grain and have been making salads with it since then. Quinoa, or Chenopodium quinoa, is a super food, rich in proteins, easy to digest, and very versatile. This plant belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, and is not quite a grain or a cereal, but a relative of plants like beets and spinach, and has been cultivated for thousands of years by the Incas. It comes in three colors, light brown, deep red, and black. Béa, the talented author of La Tartine Gourmande, wrote recently about this wonderful grain, including photos of her trip to Peru. I especially like quinoa paired with tomatoes, they balance each other very well. This time though, I used oven roasted tomatoes to increase the flavor, added avocado and purple basil. I served the quinoa salad with an oven roasted portobello mushroom on a layer of wild arugula, a great combination indeed.

Roasted Tomato Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups cold water
2 pints cherry tomatoes, or any other type of small tomatoes.
one shallots, chopped fine
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
fresh basil, julienned

Cut the tomatoes in half and roast them in a 375F oven until cooked through and they begin to dry, set aside to cool. Cook the quinoa until it is soft, fluffy, and the little outer ring releases. Drain and cool completely. Cut the avocado in cubes, add it to the quinoa, together with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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