Monday, October 26, 2009

Eat Orange Food, Part 1: Curry Pumpkin Soup

I love me some orange food - and if my blog posts for the week are any indication, I eat naturally orange food a lot this time of year when the gorgeous winter squash are abundant and turning on the oven is a reasonable thing to do. Here's the first of a five-part series on some of my favorite Fall recipes, brought to you by the color orange.

Halloween is this week, so you know what that means: ghosts, goblins and ghouls (boo!), the end of the season for the Napa Farmers Market (boo hoo!), and pumpkins (booyah!).

Pumpkins are just a matter of fact - everyone will have them at home this week. I love everything about them: toasting the seeds (I add chili powder and garlic salt - mmm), carving the Jack-o-Lanterns, roasting them for a side dish, making soups.

In order to load up on our Halloween haul, I dutifully made the pilgrimage to our neighborhood pumpkin patch at the Stanley Lane Market in Napa. Even without a kid in tow this year (just the big kid, Randall - he's good at pulling the wagon), we had fun wandering the corn rows, climbing the hay bale towers and inspecting the goods. With the dizzying sea of choices available, picking out our one pumpkin each was daunting. But we passed by the Turban, Buttercup and Carnival Squash; said so-long to the Fairytale, Gold Nugget and Sugar Pie Pumpkins, and just opted for the plain old big, round, orange variety. And that will suit us just fine.

This Curry Pumpkin Soup is one of my favorite Fall recipes; a perfect use for retired Jack-o-Lanterns that get roasted and turned into puree. (That is, considering they make it unscathed on the porch from the merry tricksters, aren't loaded with candle wax drippings, and are brought inside and used well before fuzzy mildew takes over. I've been guilty of all three at one time or another. Duh.) But it's a super quick recipe, and a crowd pleaser for sure. Serve it in small pumpkins that have been hallowed out to serve as a bowl, a beautiful presentation every time.

Curry Pumpkin Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree (cheat and use canned - I won't tell)
  • 1 13.5 oz. can of coconut milk (not light)
  • 1/4 cup +/- red curry paste (to your taste)
  • The juice of 4 limes; lime zest for garnish
  • Salt, to taste
In a large pot saute the onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until the onions are soft. Add the remaining ingredients and blend well (use an immersion blender to for a smooth consistency - but sort of chunky is good too!). Simmer and stir, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt; garnish with lime zest when served.

Eat Orange Food, Part 2: Turkish Orange Eggplant

This is another case of a vegetable purchase made solely on good looks. My nephew Michael had these beautiful little heirloom Turkish Orange eggplants, which he had grown and was selling at his Sun Born Organics booth at the farmer's market. I snapped them up, eager to see how they compared to the other varieties of eggplants I had been devouring this summer.

I've gotten into a bit of an eggplant rut. Every week, I'll come home laden with eggplant from the market - Thai eggplants; bulbous, shiny aubergines; creamy white albino eggplants... whatever looks good. I load up my BBQ with eggplant slices, and add the grilled results to salads and sandwiches for lunches all week long. Sometimes, I just eat the grilled eggplant mezza style- plain, but alongside tabouleh, hummus, grilled peppers, olives and pita. Or, I'll roast it in halves (rather than slices), and make a baba ganoush-style spread. I can't seem to get enough. so when I saw these stunning specimens, I knew I had to throw them in the mix.

They were too small to slice, so the went onto the grill cut in half. When they were soft and charred, off they came for a taste test. I found the skins to be very bitter - too bitter for my taste, even after having been heavily salted*. But once I slipped the skins off, the flesh was as delicate and tender and tasteful as any other. I commenced eating them one by one.

And that's it for eggplant for me until next season. It can't come soon enough!

*If you're not an eggplant fan because you find the flesh to be bitter: heed my advice. Salt the eggplant slices liberally in a colander and let sit/drain for an hour or so before attempting to use in any recipe (rinse the salt prior to using). The salt will leach out the bitterness, leaving you with perfectly palatable eggplant.

Eat Orange Food, Part 3: Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Apple Cider Vinaigrette

This recipe is one of those that can satisfy quite a few things: a healthy dose of leafy greens; comfort food in the form of warm, roasted butternut squash; seasonal, fresh ingredients; and a burst of flavors guaranteed to satisfy. There's really not much more to say. Curl up with this salad alongside a warm bowl of soup and some crusty bread - heaven. My version was inspired by an Ina Garten recipe; hope it inspires you as well.

Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Apple Cider Vinaigrette
  • 1 to 1-1/2-pounds of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan; coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.

For the vinaigrette, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

To assemble, place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash, pomegranate seeds and walnuts. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well (the warm vinaigrette will wilt the arugula). Garnish with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Eat Orange Food, Part 4: Carrot-Harissa Spread

The first time I tried this recipe, I have to admit I was skeptical. It was being made by a friend for inclusion in the Fare to Remember cookbook, and I was astounded that her go-to dish was a spread made from a base of only steamed carrots. I like carrots plenty, but still... the dish sounded... mushy. But one bite and I was hooked. Really hooked. It is, in a word, irresistible. But if I had to give you a few more words, I'd include simple, healthy, colorful, flavorful and addictive. Trust me on this one, even if the idea of steamed carrots doesn't appeal to you, this spread will change your mind forever.

Carrot-Harissa Spread
Contributed by Anne Vrolyk
  • 2 pounds carrots (if large, cut into pieces for steaming; if small, steam whole)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste (North African chili/spice paste available at gourmet specialty stores or online; recommended brand: Mustapha)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered cumin
Steam carrots until soft. Put together into a food processor with oil, harissa and cumin. Process until smooth. Salt to taste. A little more oil can be added if texture is not creamy enough. Serve with toasted Pita bread triangles, crackers or flatbread.

Eat Orange Food, Part 5: Roasted Golden Hubbard Squash

Beta-carotene! Get your beta-carotene here! Like any orange food, Hubbard squash is loaded with an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins (A and C), fiber and phytonutrients, all proven to be good for your skin, eyes and heart. Research has even shown that vibrantly-colored fruits and vegetables (orange, enter stage left) may also decrease your risk of cancer.

So eat up! I sure do. This time of year when winter squash is in-season, you will almost always find one variety or another sitting on my kitchen counter awaiting its turn in the meal rotation. This bright orange Hubbard squash is one good example, and the prep couldn't be easier.

I simply roast the squash in a really hot oven (400 degrees) with a little coating of olive oil, maybe a dash of salt. But to really crank it up a notch and make it like mom used to do (or Ran's mom used to do... I don't recall my mom ever making winter squash while we were growing up. Hm. No wonder we all wear glasses.), I finish it off with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of dark brown sugar. That makes my DH happy, and it certainly makes me happy. It'll make you happy too.

Bottom line: eat more naturally orange food. Start with squash. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Working Out, Dining In

What would you get if you put a half dozen hardcore workout fanatics and fitness freaks in a room together for a dinner party? (No - this isn't the opening line of a joke...) Protein shakes? Egg white omelets with steamed broccoli? Brown rice heaped with lean protein? (Oh wait- maybe that opening line was a joke! Those are all things I eat on a regular basis!)

But no. Not this time around.

Last weekend, my oh-so-fun group of workout partners and their spouses got together for a long-overdue dinner party, and let me tell you: we all know how to appreciate a good meal.

A little background on our group: I have been a devoted member of the Napa Adventure Boot Camp for more than three years (has it really been that long?). Once I signed on for their outdoor boot camp-style fitness program, I never looked back. Buh-bye gym! Working out has always been a priority in my life; a requirement for not only my physical well-being, but my mental health as well. Boot camp just turned the heat up on the intensity of my fitness training, at precisely a time when my body started to betray me and I was having to abandon some of my long-time, much-loved physical pursuits in search of something different. Boot camp has since become my drug, my addiction, my sanity. Along the way, I have met some truly incredible people, and have forged wonderful new friendships - also very much needed, since I scarcely knew a soul in Napa prior to joining the camp. I am an unabashed fan, and can't imagine my life without it.

That being said, about a year or so ago, a small group of us from camp started Kettelbell training twice a week with our fearless leader, Jeff. Read up on Kettelbells if you're not familiar; to say that it is the toughest, most intense, most effective workout I've ever subjected myself to is an understatement. I love it. Our group is there to train rain or shine, every Monday and Wednesday; if one of us is unexpectedly absent, it is cause for concern. I spend more time with these people than anyone, with the exception of coworkers and my husband (we all also attend regular boot camp on the other nights of the week). Lucky for us, we all click. It's a great group of people, and we have entirely too much fun for people who may appear utterly insane (swinging hulking balls of iron around isn't exactly an everyday sight). This group motivates me, challenges me and keeps me striving to do my best (I'm the youngest in the group, but by far the weakest, slowest and most in need of physical improvement. I'm working on it!)

But it's a strange phenomenon: nearly every one of our workout conversations inevitably gets steered toward the topic of food. It seems as though almost everyone there is like me: food is fuel, yes, but it's also one of the great pleasures in life. We all are very conscious of our diets, and do watch what we eat, but we'll work out harder if it means we can earn a cheeseburger from Taylor's.

So after a year of our bonding over intense physical exertion and much talk of our dining habits, we finally made it official and had a dinner party. And what a dinner party it was.

Allison, our gracious hostess, opened her beautiful home to us for the evening, and we all contributed to the meal, pot-luck style. The wine was free-flowing (thanks Rick!), and the appetizers got us off to a delicious start: Rick's wife Terri made decadent cheese-stuffed and bacon-wrapped jalepenos (my version below); Melodie pitched in an amazing artichoke and spinach dip unlike any I've ever had before (if I beg, can I get the recipe?!!).

We sat down to a dinner table resplendent with grilled beef filet topped with homemade chimichurri sauce, courtesy of Alison and Tom; a grilled vegetable pasta salad of Glen's creation (does Dolly get any credit?) that would have fed an Army; my favorite raddichio salad; and a Caprese-style salad that was a bit of a group effort, made with some of the season's last gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. Dessert came in the form of a dozen Kara's Cupcakes, as well as Carmelita Bars from The Model Bakery about which Jeff had been tempting us for weeks.

Calorie and carb counters flew out the window that night. We were just there to enjoy and, of course, make some memories. So we ate and we ate; we talked and we talked. There were many laughs, lots of stories, and plenty of chatter about the detox workout that would inevitably follow sometime this week.

So to Jeff, Tiff, Glen, Dolly, Alison, Rick and Melodie: thank you for the good food and good times. Looking forward to more of the same down the line. Keep on swinging!

As I mentioned, Rick's wife brought along this amazing appetizer to the party. I happened to have reason to bring an appetizer to a mixer the very next afternoon, so I gave my hand at recreating her dish. I used Anaheim chilis, whereas she used jalepenos, but they turned out to be just as decadent and delicious. Clear out your arteries and make way for this snack - it's a keeper!

Cheese Stuffed and Bacon-Wrapped Peppers
  • Anaheim chili peppers, sliced lengthwise, seeds removed
  • Cheddar cheese, cut into long, thin rectangles to fit inside the chili pepper halves
  • Applewood smoked bacon, 1 strip per pepper half
Place the cheese inside the cleaned chile pepper half; wrap with a strip of uncooked bacon. Place on a baking sheet; roast in a preheated 400-degree oven until cheese is melted and bacon is cooked to your preferred crispness (mine went for about 10 minutes).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How Corny: Becoming a Corn on the Cob Convert

Look at what I found at the market the other day - sweet red corn! You almost never see the red corn for sale as an edible entity; it usually only crops up this time of year in dried form intended for use in Autumn decorations. So when these garnet beauties winked at me from across the produce aisle, I was smitten. There was no question that a few of the ears would be making their way home with me.

But get this: historically, I've never been a fan of corn. Not in its straight-from-nature form anyway. Niblets make me gag; corn on the cob (even slathered with butter and salt) is just icky - I'll take a pass, thank you. Don't even think about mentioning creamed corn. But not liking corn on the cob - I find that fact pretty inconceivable. This is me we're talking about here - lover of all things fresh from Mother Nature. And I adore corn in other forms: polenta, tortillas, cornbread, popcorn, high-fructose corn syrup in every manufactured food on the planet (kidding about that last one, of course). Seriously - my corn aversion was just inexplicable.

And that's where some Mexican migrant farm workers entered the picture, and changed my attitude about fresh corn forever.

As you know, I live in the beautiful Napa Valley. We have a little thing called the grape harvest here, and every year right about this time, the valley is inundated with migrant field workers who are essential to the whole harvest machine. It's no secret that many of them are from Mexico, and the cultural influence they have on the valley - harvest time or otherwise - is astounding and rewarding.

After moving to the valley some eight years ago, I learned real quick that the entire economy would screech to a halt if the Mexicans were suddenly out of the picture. I also learned that farm workers of any nationality not only work hard, they play hard. And when they play, it's almost always traditional Mexican fare that graces the tables of the fiestas.

I'll never forget my first harvest party. It was a beautiful Indian summer evening, warm well after it got dark. The barn where the party was held was simply lit; hay bales for seating; doors flung wide open, perfectly framing the views of the colorful vines. Cowboy boots were the most prevalent footwear; cowboy hats almost as popular. Beer, overflowing (as the saying goes, it takes a lot of beer to make wine); Tejano music somehow playing in the background.

(We're still talking about corn, right? Sorry - I digress.) So the food - the food! The smell of traditional carnitas, slow-cooked for days, wafted through the air. Fresh tortillas were being turned out and griddled almost as fast as they could be eaten. Tripe, pesole, hand-rolled tamales, rice, beans... and grilled corn on the cob. I was devouring everything in sight - tripe included (I think) - but still, I ignored the corn.

Noticing my obvious disdain for the most simple thing on the menu, a couple of the guys pointed out to me the garnishing method they employed for their corn on the cob, and assured me that I would not only like it, but come to crave it.

Their not-so-secret secret? Dipping a wedge of lime into chili powder, and squeezing the wedge as it is rubbed up and down the length of a hot cob fresh off the grill. The lime juice saturates every nib, taking the chili powder along with it. No butter. No salt. And un-frikkin-believeable. I sat there like one of the kids - who were all well versed in this method - letting the corn/lime/chili juice freely run down my arms, getting the fibers caught in my teeth, and cleaning the cob like a logger clear-cutting a forest.

The Mexicans were right - I had instantly become addicted.

From that point on, there has been no turning back. I now look forward to corn season - and not just for the corn bread. And everyone I have ever introduced to this method has loved it as well. I still turn up my nose at niblets, and I'll never be able to stomach creamed corn, but corn on the cob? I'm a convert.

I don't know about you, but I call that good. I also call it Fare to Remember. I suggest you try it immediately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

99 Ranch Market, A Love Story

Am I weird? Is it odd that I love love love really good grocery stores and will find a good reason to be in a far-off neighborhood to frequent some of my favorites? As a grocery store geek, I was ecstatic when I heard that the legendary 99 Ranch Market was opening a new location in Concord, a mere 34.5 miles from my house door-to-door. And, as luck would have it, I actually have legitimate reasons to be in or around Concord on a fairly frequent basis. One of those reasons (a darling niece's 2 year-old birthday) just happened to coincide with the market's grand opening celebration. No brainer - 99 Ranch, here I come.

If you're unfamiliar with 99 Ranch Market, just imagine all of Asia under one roof. They are gorgeous stores, with aisle after aisle teeming with Asian products I'll never decipher (most labels are not in English). In fact, I have to stick to the peripheries of the stores - heading into the heart of the market is just out of my league (fish powder? seaweed candy? dried nuts, seeds and herbs that look unlike anything I've ever seen? Yikes - I need some cultural immersion!). At any rate, the outside edges of the stores are where the good things are anyway; several laps were in order.

There are massive bakeries with stunning pastry concoctions; immense fish markets with sushi-grade fish, live fish and fresh shellfish; beautiful produce sections stocked with all the basics, as well as plenty of exotic things you've never heard of; and of course, the take-out counters. You can load up at the buffet and get your fill of everything from Pad Thai to Mu Shui Pork. Or stop by the grill to get a Peking duck or a roast chicken. Or my favorite, the Dim Sum bar, where you can get 3 pieces of dim sum - anything on display - for $2.20. Are you kidding me? No wonder the little old Chinese ladies and the high school saggy-pants boys were jockeying for position in the line that snaked to the back of the store.

So I braved the crowds and loaded up. I took home enough dim sum to feed me for a week (lunches, done!), and spent all of about 14 bucks. I also got some beautiful fresh tuna, some pretty desserts, a packet of dried mandarin peel, some nori wraps for sushi, and a random can of soup (Randall called... he wanted clam chowder. Go figure.) I was out of there in under three hours - maybe a record (oh how I love to browse...) - and have been enjoying my bounty pretty much ever since. Take a look for yourself, and be sure to get there when you can. There's perfectly good dim sum just waiting!

Bao (I got chicken and BBQ pork)

Pork Shumai

Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaves

Grilled and Stuffed Eggplant; Shrimp Wonton

My Dim Sum Bonanza

My Dim Sum Bonanza, v.2


Pineapple Candy; Lotus Cake

Monday, October 12, 2009

Napa Valley, Harvest 2009

I think I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, because honestly - what else can I say? I live here. It's gorgeous. Come visit.

To see the complete slideshow of the day I spent puttering around my hood (oh yes, there are LOTS more photos of this stunning time of year - these are just a tease), please visit my flickr site:

Happy Birthday to Me

I had a birthday over the weekend. Not a milestone year (one that ends in a zero), but rather, my last birthday to ever start with a 3. My youth: officially over. (How did that happen?) But time marches on, and lucky for me, I had the fortune of ringing in my 4th decade in true Fare to Remember style: good friends, good food, good times.

It was a happy day.

So what does happiness look like when you're me? Pretty simple:

  • Happiness is a husband who plans a party and cares enough to fill me in on the surprise.
  • Happiness is a friendly game of softball, played simply for the joy of camaraderie.
  • Happiness is six strike-outs for the kids, and practice swings all around.
  • Happiness is having a mom who not only came all the way from Utah to help celebrate, but spoiled me rotten when she was here.
  • Happiness is five dozen gourmet cupcakes. Five dozen.
  • Happiness is grilled hot dogs with all the fixins. Sausages too.
  • Happiness is peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
  • Happiness is Jessica's chocolate peanut butter brownies and Jeff's Amish Apple Cake.
  • Happiness is a crowd of friends and family members, many strangers to each other, making themselves at home.
  • Happiness is a brand new set of pots and pans.
  • Happiness is Linda's famous 3-ingredient artichoke dip.
  • Happiness is a dad who can always be counted on to have a cooler full of ice and drinks.
  • Happiness is a perfect October afternoon.
  • Happiness is a barking blind dog.
  • Happiness is Anthony's first base skills, Dolly's second base skills, Dunny's outfield skills and Glen's lack of base running skills.
  • Happiness is Jeff on the mound, and Kelsey taking one for the team.
  • Happiness is the Australian pulling off the bunt play.
  • Happiness is "Happy Birthday" sung by Mia.
  • Happiness is dozens of kids, both young and old.
  • Happiness is having way too many happy moments than could ever be listed here.
Thanks everybody who came out to play. It means the world. As for next year? Bring it on 40, bring it on.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara, When Only Pasta Will Do

When I get home from a long day, making dinner is usually the last thing on my mind. Food, yes. But cooking? Fuhgettaboutit. But if I haven't been diligent over the weekend and planned ahead (I try to pre-plan and even prep or pre-cook our meals for the week), I have generally two options: flirt with my husband until he is under my spell, therefore tricking him into cooking; or, forage. Neither are exactly ideal. Don't get me wrong - I love it when Randall cooks for me, but if you've seen some of his Hubby Helpings on this blog, you know I could wind up with something not exactly from the health food aisle. As for foraging, apple slices smeared with peanut butter is often as good as it gets.

It's times like these when a comfort food of my youth comes to the rescue. A simple spaghetti carbonara is a breeze to prepare, comforting after one of "those days," and perfectly satisfying. It's a dish my single mom would make for us three kids after her own long, harried days (job 1/job 2/job 3) - let alone ours (school/sports/ballet/music/homework/chores/horseplay). The fact that she could get dinner on the table at all astounds me now that I look back on it, but it was the one thing we did with scheduled regularity as a family. So this dish makes sense to me in that context - it's quick, filling, and an economical way to feed a crowd.

Of course, I've given it my own spin over the years. I don't eat pasta too much, but sometimes, you just gotta have it. I've gotten in the habit of using whole wheat pasta for starters, and tend to load up the dish with herbs as well as steamed or sauteed vegetables (great way to sneak in the veggie servings!). So I guess my version is a cross between a carbonara and a primavera. But call it what you want - I just call it good.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Carbonara
  • 1/2 pound of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 pound of pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Olive oil - be your own judge on the quantity
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional: fresh herbs (I like basil), fresh tomatoes, sauteed or steamed veggies (use what's in season, and load it up! My favorites to toss in with the pasta are asparagus, peas, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, artichoke hearts and mushrooms).
Cook the pasta according to package directions, making sure to properly salt the cooking water. As the pasta is cooking, brown the pancetta or bacon in a saute pan to the crispiness of your preference. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. When the pasta is done, drain and quickly return to the still-warm cooking pot (the heat can be turned off or keep on very low). Immediately toss the pasta with olive oil - enough to coat it lightly. Add the pancetta, eggs and Parmesan; toss to thoroughly coat the noodles. The residual heat will cook the eggs. Add any optional herbs or vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

So Much Sorrel, So Little Time, Part 1: Pan-Seared Halibut with Sorrel Sauce

Any sorrel fans out there? I'm a big fan, but my affection for the leafy herb is still young. The first time I ever had sorrel was a scant year ago when my friend Jane made sorrel soup as her contribution to the Fare to Remember cookbook. She made the elegant yet simple soup from sorrel grown in her own garden, cultivated from seeds that had been lovingly been brought from France by another mutual friend.

The soup was a revelation. I learned that I've been missing out my entire life! Ever since, I can't get enough of it. I promptly bought a seedling, and when my herb beds were completed last Spring, the seedling had a permanent home where it has grown and grown...and grown (sorrel is know for its propensity to grow like a weed). No matter. Sorrel has a bright, verdant flavor that requires little else to spruce it up - so I've been using it in salads and oftentimes in place of spinach in certain recipes. It's divine.

This recipe came about simply because my garden was brimming with both sorrel and parsley. And after reading up about sorrel, I learned that pairing sorrel sauces with fish is very traditional in French cooking. Well ooh la la... saisissez le jour!

As for the soup that started it all... there's plenty more sorrel in my garden, just waiting for "soup weather" to arrive. Any day now... any day.

Pan-Seared Halibut with Sorrel Sauce
  • 2 pounds of fresh halibut filets, skin removed and cut into portion-sized pieces
  • 2 shallots, minced fine
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil (maybe more to pan-sear the fish)
  • 1-1/2 cups dry white wine (I used a chardonnay - a typical "fat" Napa chard with lots of buttery/oakey flavors... not what I like to drink, but perfect for this recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat sour cream (or go for broke and use creme fraiche or heavy cream)
  • 2 cups fresh sorrel leaves, rough chopped
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Place the shallots and olive oil in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the shallots are soft. Add the sorrel and parsley; cook gently until the herbs are wilted. Add 1/2 cup of the wine to deglaze the pan; cook until reduced by 1/4. Transfer everything to a blender; blend until smooth. Return to saucepan and add the remainder of the wine; bring to a simmer and reduce again by 1/4. Add the cream and continue to simmer until the sauce naps a spoon. Do not allow to boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste; remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, lightly brush the halibut with olive oil on both sides. Preheat an oven-proof skillet on the stove with a coating of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. When the pan is smoking hot, drop in the filets in a single layer and sear each side until caramel in color. Transfer to hot oven and continue to roast until done (about 10-12 minutes per inch of thickness).

So Much Sorrel, So Little Time, Part 2: Sorrel Pesto

If you read Part 1 of this little sorrel series, you know that I have too much of a good thing: a garden overflowing with beautiful French sorrel. Yumm-o! By overflowing, I mean more sorrel than my little household will ever use in a timely or realistic manner. So, pesto to the rescue!

I have been making pestos right and left with all of the bountiful herbs in my garden. Pestos are one of my favorite things to do with copious quantities of fresh herbs. They last and last (you can freeze or can them); are extremely versatile (I use them on pastas, meats of all kind, grilled veggies, sandwiches, omelets... too many uses to list!); and can be made in an endless variety of ways (just made a sage/walnut pesto that is amazing, if I say so myself). Pestos are a great way to brighten up your meals any time of year... but I know come January when fresh herbs and veggies are limited, I won't be hurting for vibrant flavors since I can just bust out a pesto or two from my frozen stash.

This sorrel pesto is a simple take on the classic basil pesto, using pinenuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. It is pictured served with a grilled tri-tip steak. Simple, and so, so good.

Bring it on January. Bring it on.

Sorrel Pesto
  • 2 cups fresh sorrel leaves, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for drizzling into food processor
Add all ingredients to a food processor fit with the flat blade. Blend until smooth, adding the reserved olive oil by drizzling into the pesto as it is being blended. The oil will act as an emulsifier and the finished project should be creamy, but not necessarily smooth, and have a thick, paste-like texture.