Farmer’s Market Dinner

When I first moved to San Francisco I was enamored with the Saturday farmer’s market at the Ferry Building. It was probably one of my most favorite places to visit – stand after stand of fresh produce, home-made cheese, freshly caught fish, just butchered meat. I swore that I would spend every Saturday shopping at the market and cooking a truly farm to table meal. But alas I soon discovered the rest of the city (and outside the city) and my Saturday trips to the farmer’s market became a small treat to myself when I wasn’t so busy exploring everywhere else.

When I got sick several months ago my exploring and running around came to a screeching halt. There would be no more trail runs for me, no more bike rides to Marin, and no more strolls up and down the monstrous hill to Union street for a little shopping. All of it was a lot to take in but what killed me the most was my inability to simply live my life the way I wanted to. The worst for me, was waking up on a fog-free, sunny Saturday morning and knowing that there was no run in my future. On one of those particularly low Saturday mornings I drove myself down to the Ferry Building farmer’s market and strolled around. There wasn’t a lot of produce but I did grab myself a Blue Bottle coffee and a delicious pastry and it was perfect.

So last Saturday when I awoke to a bluebird sky I knew exactly where I wanted to head, except last Saturday I was also determined to get a little run in as well. Run I did – from Chrissy Field beach to the Golden Gate Bridge (who turned 75 last weekend quite elegantly with a ridic firework display) and back. That was a big win! The reward . . . the hubby took me to the farmer’s market and we shopped for a delicious home-cooked farm to table meal.

It is amazing what a different a month makes. Those barren stands were now overflowing with squash, lettuce, peas, apricots, cherries, and some super early peaches. I was in heaven. We picked up some Flap Steak from the 4505 butcher and settled on steak and salad for dinner with a cheese plate app. Yum! It was truly the perfect Saturday. Thanks hubby for one amazing day!

Wine pairing: We opened up a delish 2006 MacRostie Merlot that we got on the cheap from my favorite friends at D&M Liquors. They literally will taste every bottle of wine they choose to carry in the store and have crates of wines under $15 in the front with great tasting notes making shopping so easy! I know Sideways gave Merlot a bad rap but honestly the wine, when made correctly, is truly delicious. It has darker fruit than a pinot but not has heavy as a cab without a ton of tannins. Simply put it is a great sipping / food-pairing wine. (a little secret because Merlot’s are so out favor you get a great value on most brands)

“Grilled” Flap Steak with Roasted Squash, Walnut, and Manchego Cheese Salad

(an original recipe)

Serves 2

1.5lb Flap Steak (this is more than enough for 2 dinners and a few steak sandwich leftovers)

1/2 cup Soy Sauce

1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Salt Pepper

1 head of Butter lettuce

2 small summer squash (we used a paddy pan and a small zucchini)

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1/8 cup chopped walnuts

Manchego cheese

Olive Oil

Vegetable Oil

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Be careful with the salt if you are not using low sodium soy sauce. Place the steak in a shallow dish and marinate it for about an hour with the 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the summer squash and toss with mushrooms and olive oil (probably a 1/2 tbsp) – just enough to coat.  Place on a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until they start to lightly brown.  Place the chopped walnuts on a roasting pan and toast for 2 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat. Use 1/4 to 1/2 tbsp of vegetable oil in the pan to coat.  When the pan is hot and the oil is almost smoking place the steak in the skillet. If you have a steak as big and thick as ours and you want a rare steak, you probably want to cook it for 5 minutes a side (10 minutes total on the stove) and then place in the oven to finish it off for about 7 to 10 minutes. Adjust this time depending on thickness or desired doneness.

While steak is resting, assemble the salad. Layout the leaves of the butter lettuce (cut into smaller pieces if you have a large head of lettuce). Place the roasted squash, mushrooms, and walnuts on top. Using a vegetable peeler, top the salad with shaved pieces of Manchego cheese. Dress with your favorite salad dressing – we used olive oil, lemon, and gray salt.

When the steak has rested for 5 to 10 minutes slice and serve.

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Halibut with Pesto & Roasted Tomatoes

Between all of our whirlwind travel the past few weeks I somehow missed that it became fall.

We were driving to a friend’s house on Saturday.  As we cruised along the tree-lined street in the suburbs I noticed that the leaves on the trees were no longer green but a golden-yellow.  “Is it really fall,” I turned the hubby and asked.

“I guess so,” he responded.

Growing up on the east coast you had a warning that fall was coming: you cleaned out your closets to replace your shorts and sundresses with sweaters and pants, air-conditioning was no longer needed to sleep through the night, and you needed a jacket when you left the house in the morning.

I am starting to learn what the signs of fall are in San Francisco: you can break out the summer clothes that have laid dormant in your closet all year-long, you get to wake up to sunshine every morning, and take in amazing sunsets every night (no fog!).

So rather then cuddle up on the couch with a warm blanket, a new sweater, and a cup of hot apple cider, I find myself baring my legs in skirts, going for long runs outside, and drinking white wine. Bring on the SF summer.

So in honor of our little SF summer I perused a farmer’s market this weekend and found myself planning meals that featured one of the last remaining fresh vegetables of summer: tomatoes!

The stands were selling the most delicious looking heirloom tomatoes and I simply couldn’t resist.  I mean what says summer more than an heirloom tomato caprese salad complete with fresh basil and mozzarella?  It was delicious and the perfect start to our meal.

Next the halibut and my very first and own fish recipe!

Our house is stock full of tomatoes from the heirlooms I couldn’t say no to at the farmer’s market to the pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes at Whole Foods.

I love roasting the cherry tomatoes they come out absolutely delicious and are the greatest topping for a simple pasta dish. But we weren’t in the mood for pasta and so came to be:  Halibut with Pesto and Roast Tomatoes.

First preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and clean and dry a quarter pint of cherry tomatoes.  Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile heat a nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat.

Pat dry the halibut and season with salt & pepper.

Add 1/8 of an inch of olive oil to the saute pan and heat (but do not allow it to smoke). When hot add the halibut, skin side down, to the saute pan and let cook for 7 to 8 minutes (depending on thickness).

If fillets are super thick (like ours were), rotate onto each side for an extra minute. So top for a minute and each side for a minute. Cooking time of 10 to 11 minutes total.

When fish is done put on plate, add roasted tomatoes and top all with pesto. I used some leftover homemade pesto but I am sure you can use store-bought.

It was perfectly delicious. My fish might have been slightly overcooked but the hubby’s was just perfect. Score 1 for an original recipe.

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Rib-Eye Steak with Arugula and Roasted Red Peppers

I can not tell you how many perfectly good pieces of meat have faced their second slaughter in our kitchen. Honestly, I come close to shedding a tear every time we cut into a steak only to realize that the sear isn’t just on the outside, it’s brown all the way through!

We’ve cooked steaks in a skillet on the stove top, in a skillet on the stove top then in the oven, in a skillet in the oven, but never in a saute pan on the stove. Giada, you truly are a genius! No tears in this kitchen last night.

I have to say both the hubby and I were a bit skeptical with the saute pan technique. First of all, we were terrified that searing a steak in our beloved All Clad saute pan would ruin it. Secondly, we did not think that a medium-high flame would be high enough to do the drink. Neither of us have ever been so happy to be proven wrong.

So what is this genius technique? Heat a large saute pan with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on a 1lb 1 inch thick rib-eye steak then rub it in with salt and pepper. Place the steak on preheated skillet and cook it roughly 5 minutes a side. DO NOT move the steak once you put it down, this ensures you get a great sear on the outside. When the steak is done, take it off the saute pan and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

So a perfectly cooked steak would have been enough for me, but then Giada puts it on top of this delicious and simple salad and it really is pure perfection.

For the salad, place 1 and 1/2 cups of washed and dried arugula on a large tray. Add 3/4 cup of rinsed, dried, and sliced roasted red peppers.

For the dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and any juices from the steak that accumulated on the plate.

Put it all together with a little shaved Parmesan cheese and you have quite the Thursday night meal. We were planning on reusing the herb butter from Monday night’s salmon but it was perfect as is.

Thank you Giada – no more ruined meat in this kitchen again!

Rao’s Famous Lemon Chicken and Caprese Salad

Several months ago I went on a cookbook buying binge. I felt constrained by my then cookbook collection and wanted to branch out, try new recipes, and really up my cooking game.  I thought what better way to do this than to go out and buy books that inspire me.  So I did, much to my hubby’s dismay.

I waited with anticipation for the books to arrive and then spent the evening reading through them and dreaming of the recipes that I would make. The end. Just as my hubby predicted, they would sit on the cookbook shelf with the rest of my cookbooks as I went back over and over again to my tried and true cookbooks with recipes I knew I could master. Every time I opened the cookbook cabinet those books stared right back at me until this week when I took the plunge and grabbed the Rao’s book off the shelf.

Everyone I know who owns that book can not stop raving about that Lemon Chicken so I went for it. The only problem, I forgot that we did not have a broiler pan in our apartment. I googled broiling without a broiling pan and quickly realized that cooking a chicken for 30 minutes in an oven under a broiler without a broiling pan would be literally asking for my first kitchen fire. So to the store I (or my hubby) went to grab a broiler pan. Finally I was ready.

While the half chicken cooked under the broiler, I started making the lemon dressing.  I juiced the lemons, added the olive oil, red wine vinegar, minced garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper.  Wisked it all together, and set aside.  Easy so far.

At 15 minutes, I flipped the chicken over and it looked like it was cooking pretty quickly so I opted for 25 minutes under the broiler and not the full 30 suggested.  I was only making half the recipe, so figured why not.  Well I also did not take into account that my half chicken was as big as a full chicken they suggest halving.  At 25 minutes I pulled out the chicken to cut it into 6 pieces as recommended. I pierced it with a fork to make sure the juices ran clear.  They did, so I started cutting, separating the breast from the leg, and then I saw that the meat in the inside was definitely not cooked. Back in it went for another 5 minutes.  I hoped it wouldn’t get dried out but feared the worst.

Well it looked delicious, so far so good. I cut it into 6 pieces, put it in the bottom of my new broiler pan, poured the lemon dressing over it and back in the broiler it went for another 3 minutes.

While my chicken finished cooking, I assembled the Caprese Salad. I have been dreaming of this dish since heirloom tomatoes first made their appearance a few weeks ago but couldn’t stomach their cost. Thank you Whole Foods for putting them on sale this week. How pretty!

Some thick slices of heirloom tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil and I had my first home-made Caprese salad of the season.

Finally the chicken was done and dinner was served!

As I had feared the white meat did get a little over cooked and dried out but that deliciousness of a lemon sauce made up for everything. It really was AMAZING. I think the red wine vinegar was the secret ingredient to really pull it all together. Next time I will just have to get the chicken right.

Weekend Wrap Up

So I am sure you guessed from my radio silence that something was going on this weekend.

It was a big something – two of our very good friends got hitched and they did it in style!

It was the perfect weekend full of sunshine (it has been really foggy here), great food, good friends, and lots of laughs.  While we were staying in a beautiful house up in wine country with an unbelievable kitchen, I chose to spend the weekend eating food not making it.

Here are some of the highlights:

Lobster and butter lettuce salad with corn, watermelon radishes, white nectarines, and lemon tarragon salad dressing.  YUM!  I spent four years of my life living in Maine and eating lobster so I am a total sucker for a Maine lobster salad and this one did not disappoint.  What could be better than a late afternoon lunch with my hubby, on a boat dock in Sausalito, sitting in the sun and sipping a glass of wine? Where is this fabulous oasis?  Our favorite little, pseudo hidden spot Le Garage, which is, in fact, a garage.

We then managed to find the wine country equivalent.  On an early morning bike ride through the vineyards we passed through Glen Ellen and spotted The Fig Cafe.  After working up quite an appetite we headed back for lunch, bracing ourselves for a long wait knowing it was the sister restaurant to The Girl and the Fig, a Sonoma favorite.  Lucky us, we walked right in, sat down and had the most delicious lunch – a fig and arugula salad followed by a heirloom tomato pizza.  It was the perfect start to a great afternoon of wine tasting.  We loved this place so much that we had to head back the next morning to taste the fig french toast – AMAZING.

But, of course, the highlight of the weekend was the wedding.  The rehearsal dinner, or welcome fiesta, did not disappoint.  Our friends actually hired a taco truck for dinner and it was soo good plus what better way to finish a summer dinner than with an IT’S-IT ice cream sandwich.  For those of you not from Northern California it is a classic – two oatmeal raisin cookies, filled with ice cream, and then dipped in chocolate.  What more could you ask for?  For us it was an amazing wedding for our two great friends and that they did have.  It was full of delicious food, lots of laughs, a few tears, and some great dancing.

Congrats DR & BG – we all had a blast and you could not have looked happier.

Weekday Dinner Party: Part I

I have never been a huge fan of entertaining.  I find it so stressful.  I usually freak out over what to cook, how to meet everyone’s dietary restrictions, and how to you cook multiple dishes that all need oven time when you only have one oven.

My hubby, however, loves nothing more than a full house.  The more the merrier.  What there aren’t enough chairs for everyone?  Let’s break out the camping chairs (I really am not kidding about that one.)  Not enough plates?  Let’s just use paper and plastic silverware (also not kidding about that one either.)

I have had to learn to relax my expectations for throwing dinner parties.  No Ina Garten perfectly decorated tables for me; just good company and, fingers crossed, good food.

With more and more of our friends having kids and being homebound, the weekday dinner party has become the new norm.  The challenges with this weekday dinner party: (1) What is yummy enough but easy enough to cook for more than two on a weeknight, and (2) What travels well when you have to pack it up and bring it over to homebound friends.

Last night we had our first weekday dinner party with our newest friends to become parents.  Rather than pick up take out I thought a home cooked meal would hit the spot so I went with one of my favorite weekday dishes but switched it up with a new side dish.

First the side dish – Arugula and Watermelon Salad.  Ina, I might not make a dinner party like you but I still love your recipes.

This was super easy to make, tasted great, and traveled exceptionally well.

First, cut a seedless watermelon into 3/4 inch cubes.

Then toss with arugula.

Mix up the salad dressing – lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper – in a separate bowl.

Shave the parmesan cheese into curls.  Or if you are me, buy them pre-shaved from Whole Foods.

If you are bringing this over to someone’s house, package the salad, dressing, and cheese separately to assemble there.

I have to say this is definitely a new addition to the salad rotation.  The spiciness of arugula balances the sweetness of the watermelon so nicely.  The tartness of the lemon and the saltiness, nuttiness of the parmesan cheese add a nice compliment.  It is such a delicious combination – the new parents thought so too.

You will have to check back tomorrow for my favorite weekday dinner recipe.