Friday, December 9, 2011

Sharing my cheesy knowledge over at the Lybations blog - LybationNation.

Quick little post about labeling the cheeses you are sharing this holiday season: Chalk it up to Great Taste

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Greek(ish) Baked Shrimp, for the sour lover!

Greek(ish) Baked Shrimp
When I have a craving for sour, I pull out the pepperoncini and eat a few, right out of the jar.  If that doesn’t satisfy my need for acid, I make this dish.  Each time I make it I’ve added a new component and now it’s a great way to clean out the refrigerator of a bunch of pickled jarred items.  Tastes great too!

  • 4 Tablespoons, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 Tomatoes, cored, cut into large dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 mild roasted red pepper (I used fresh, but jarred is fine), diced
  • 10 Kalmata Olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons Capers, rinsed
  • 3 Pepperoncini peppers, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons of Threbe (Wild Greek Oregano)*
  • ½ Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb peeled, deveined raw shrimp
  • 8 oz. Greek Sheep milk Feta cheese, diced
  • 1 lemon, cut into supremes, broken into bits**

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add 3 Tablespoons of the Olive Oil.  Use the remaining Tablespoon of Olive Oil to oil the inside of a 9 x 12 baking dish.  Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cook the onion in the oil until it becomes softened (5 minutes).  Keep the heat down low, you don’t want any browning.  Add the Tomatoes and garlic.  Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften and the garlic is fragrant.
Add the red pepper, olives, capers, pepperoncini, Threbe and pepper.  Mix well.  Turn off the heat.  Fold in the shrimp, turning gently to coat the shrimp in the vegetable mix.  Pour this into your greased baking dish.
Sprinkle the diced feta over the top.  Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove when the shrimp are just turning pink, do not overcook your shrimp!  For a little more browning on top and to char the tips of the Feta, heat it under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle the lemon bits over the whole dish.
Serve with potatoes or over rice or with bread for dipping into the amazing sauce at the bottom of the dish!
*Wild Greek Oregano is a different plant than Mexican or European oregano.  It has a light herbaceous scent that is a secret ingredient to making things taste VERY GREEK!
**Citrus Supremes: A fancy chef way of cutting up a piece of citrus so you only have the citrus segments, without  peel, seeds, or membrane.  Cut the top and bottom off of the fruit.  Stand it on one of the flat ends.  Using downward slices around the fruit to carve away, not only the peel off the fruit, but the membrane as well; exposing just meat of each segment all the way around.  Trim it up a bit, removing ALL pith.  Now use your knife to remove each juicy segment.  Remove the seeds.  Those are citrus supremes that are left.  Takes practice. J

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fall Classic: Chile Verde

Assorted chiles, roasted, peeled, deseeded and ready to be chopped for the chile.

A favorite recipe for this time of year, now with pics: Cuilnary Vixen's Chile Verde.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thanksgiving Ideas

Have you played with pinterest?  It's perfect for people like me who don't do scrapbooking, but do love to look at pretty things.  Electronic scrapbooking is so much easier than the real thing... no scissors, glue guns or stickers needed. 

I'm collecting ideas for our Thanksgiving Feast right now. I'm also looking at pictures from past holiday gatherings and deciding what to do differently.  Time to get a head count and order that turkey!

Let the holidays begin!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mulled Wine: Our Family's Holloween Treat

As far back as I can remember our house filled with the scent of cinnamon and cloves on Holloween evening. On our block mulled wine was the number one treat for the adults. My mother credits our next-door neighbors, the Reis family for starting the tradition. She has a copy of their recipe dated 1971.  I was five years old that year and I believe the recipe was passed down as the Reis' moved away.  My mom certainly did her best to uphold the tradition.  Each year she would make up a big batch and keep it warm in a Corningware percolator sitting atop a lit jack-o-lantern.  She passed out styrofoam cups to the adults who were chaperoning their kids through the flat suburbs of Lakewood Gardens.

As soon as we became homeowners I began making mulled wine on Halloween night and did my best to pass it around to weary trick-o-treaters.  It's not easy to come into a new neighborhood and pass out hot wine.  People get suspicious.  It has taken years for the locals here in Manhattan Beach to take me seriously about the offer of a hot spiced toddy to fortify them for the candy trail.  One day, I'll have the steady stream of friends, neighbors & locals, as my mother did. Perhaps you will too.


Mulled Wine from the Reis Family


1 C sugar
4 C water
Zest 1/2 lemon        
18 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
12" square of cheese cloth
2 bottles (750ml) dry red, cheap wine

Put sugar and water in a large sauce pan. Tie the lemon zest and spices into a large square of cheese cloth.  Add the spice bundle to the sugar water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the wine.  Heat until steaming but not boiling.  Remove the spice bundle.  Keep warm.  Serve to weary travellers, family members at holiday gatherings, holiday revellers, anemic enemies & friendly strangers. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A cheese kiss to you! QuesoBeso

As you may know, I really like cheese.  I've always had an affinity towards savory foods more than sweets but cheese itself has always held a special place on my palate.  A few years ago I had the opportunity to sell cheese at a farmer's market.  For two years I sampled, bought, sold, cared for, cut, packaged, served, & read about CHEESE!

My newest (and cheesiest) endeavor is writing a cheese app.  Yes, a program for your mobile device. A little something you can carry with you and use daily - when you REALLY need to know more about CHEESE.

The app will be called QuesoBeso.  Bruce (my husband) came up with the name as a way to describe the database I created which describes all the cheeses I have encountered.

QuesoBeso will be a regional, local guide and the first version will be QuesoBeso, CA.  It will cover all things good and cheesy about the state of California, my home state.

The Culinary Vixen blog will continue but with a decidedly pro-dairy bent.

I'll be tweeting @CulinaryVixen as I do my cheese research around California.

QuesoBeso has a Facebook page which is here: QuesoBeso's FB Fan Page  I'll be posting lots of cheesy pictures and comments as I taste my way across California's cheesy landscape.

My first big research trip is a boondoggle to San Francisco in two weeks.  I would love suggestions from anyone who knows of a good place in San Francisco to get a good cheese fix!  Email, tweet, comment, love your cheesy ideas...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Smokey Vinegared Greens

As summer comes on strong, the winter greens are still arriving weekly in my Community Supported Agriculture box of produce each week.  I'm becoming a professional at adding hearty healthy greens to other recipes, boosting the nutrition of the dish as well as using up all this great produce.

This dish was made to compliment the Summer Pork Roast with Stone Fruit and it did exactly that.  Smokey richness from the bacon is a classic addition to greens, the vinegar added a brightness which woke up the fruit flavors which had been mellowed from cooking for hours.

The two together make a really colorful and delicious meal.


Smokey Vinegared Greens
(serves 6 as side dish)

4 slices best quality smoked Bacon
3 bunches of Winter Greens (kale, collards, chard)
Salt to taste*
White Pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons Cider vinegar

Cut the bacon into 1/8" bits and brown over medium heat in a large dutch oven.

Wash the greens, de-stem them and cut into 1 1/2" squares (or ribbons, your preference).

When the bacon is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, set aside.  Remove all but 2 Tablespoons of the bacon fat from the dutch oven.

Add the greens to the pan.  Toss to coat them in the hot oil.  Lower the heat to just below medium.  Put a lid on the pot and cook until the greens are to your desired tenderness (I like them with a little chew to them, others like completely tender).  This will take between 5 and 15 minutes.

Add the vinegar and mix to combine flavors.  Add the bacon and a little white pepper.  Taste and and THEN add salt if necessary or more vinegar if you want more brightness.

Serve with any roasted meat, but even better with that summer pork roast!

*Note: Bacon can have no salt or a lot of salt.... so please, wait until the end of cooking, taste the dish and THEN add salt if needed.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Pork Roast with Stone Fruit Compote

A gluttony of summer fruit, what to do when you have too much of a good thing.

My kids love stone fruit.  They wait all year to get their fill of plums, nectarines, peaches, pluots & apricots.  I tend to fully indulge them when the season hits. We buy pounds of the sweet fruit and indulge all summer.  But sometimes our eyes are just to big for our stomach to keep up.  We buy too much of the sweet stuff and it rots.... FAST.

This year when a big bowl of peaches & nectarines were slowly softening by the kitchen window, I devised a quick plan, a delicious, slow-cooked plan!

Summer Pork Roast with Stone Fruit Compote
(serves 4-6 as main course)

2 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
2-3 lb Pork Shoulder Roast (also called Picnic Roast)
1 Tablespoon ground coriander
Salt & Pepper - to season & to taste
1 Large Onion
3 Ribs of Celery
1 Large Carrot
1 Large Jalapeno
2 lbs. Overripe Stone Fruit
3 Cloves of Garlic
1 " Fresh Ginger Root
1 12 oz Beer

In a large dutch oven heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat.  Rub the pork all over with the coriander and season liberally with the salt and pepper.
Brown the pork roast on all sides, letting it brown well on one side before turning to the next.
Chop the onion, celery, carrot & jalapeno into medium dice.
When the pork roast is on it's final side, add the vegetables to the pan.  Stir around to combine.  Lower the heat to medium.
Cut the flesh off the pit of each piece of stone fruit.  Slice coarsely into thick slices.
Peel & smash the garlic & ginger.  Mince thoroughly.
Add the fruit, ginger & garlic to the pan.  Stir gently for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Pour in the beer, fold into the fruit & vegetable mixture. 
Cover and Braise in the oven @ 325F  OR on the stove-top on low heat - for 3 hours.
Remove from the heat when the pork is fall apart tender.  Take the roast from the pan and put on a serving dish.  If the sauce in the pan is quite runny, boil it over high heat (do not stir or you will break up the fruit) for a few minutes to thicken into a sauce before serving.
Slice the pork, serve with the thickened compote and the Smokey Vinegared Greens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bitter? Melon

This week's CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) box contained a few Chinese bitter melon. I haven't cooked with them before & was a bit hesitant. But now that I've prepped them & had a chance to taste them, I don't get it. Where is the bitter?  All I get is cool, slightly sweet & melony - dense cucumber.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Must Try: Curry Mustard

I don't know where I bought it. Keep on the lookout for it. We
finished our jar last night & I already miss the flavor. Yeah, it's
that good. Made in France. I know, not local. It's a special piquant

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

BFF - Big F*&%ing Fruit

"The Jackfruit is the largest edible fruit grown on trees in the world." This is a quote from the back of a bag of Danielle Premium Hand Cooked Chips. I picked up a bag of these snacks recently out of curiosity. I had never tried Jackfruit and I love crunchy snacks. It turns out I really like jackfruit, it has a wonderful mild pineapple flavor without the tropical overtones of a passion fruit or guava.
The Jackfruit got me thinking about that quote... and big fruit. I consider the watermelon the biggest fruit in my occidental diet. My youngest son loves Watermelon. I rarely buy a watermelon because they are TOO BIG. Sure now adays you can buy small mini watermelons, but I'm already averse to watermelons after years of not being able to pick a perfect one. Why buy when you can't be assured you won't pick the mealy mushy one that isn't sweet? Then there is the problem of being stuck with 5 lbs of BAD fruit!??!
But since my son loves it, sometimes I bring one to a party so we can get rid of it all in one day, whether it's good OR bad. We went to a party recently and brought one, but the hostess had bought one too and already cut hers - Oh No!!
I brought the beastly huge fruit home. We cut into it the next day and for the first time in years, I had picked a good watermelon! Sweet, juicy, crisp! Now we had to find a way to eat it all.
Internet to the rescue, searched for watermelon salad, read up a bit and created my own using up some other great seasonal produce I had on hand. It's simple but complex enough to become addicting. Not too sweet, not quite savory so it will pair well with grilled meats. This simple salad is a great way to use up a bunch of that BFF!

Watermelon & Cucumber Salad

2 lb. Ripe, sweet Watermelon flesh, cut into 3/4" cubes
1 large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4" cubes
1 lb. Jicama (small one or 1/2 of a BFF) peeled, cut into 3/4" cubes
1/2 bunch Cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1 juicy Lime (or two)
2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar or Honey or Sugar


Combine the cut fruits and vegetables in a large bowl. Combine the lime juice and agave. Taste and add more lime or agave to your liking (less sweet watermelon may need more sweetener, more sweet watermelon, more lime). Pour the dressing over the fruit. Stir gently to coat. Sprinkle with the cilantro. Put in the refrigerator for an hour or so to let the flavors combine.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Accidental Brown Butter

With the inspiration of the baby potatoes & huge parsnips I set out to make a garlic herb butter to toss them in before subjecting them to a very hot oven for roasting. A large blue LeCrueset Dutch Oven was on the stove top. I pictured dumping the vegetables right into the pot before spreading them on a baking sheet. I plopped a cube of butter into the big blue pan and turned on the heat.
Distracted by the pressure cooker and then obsessing on getting the pressure, just right, so that no steam was really escaping and it was cooking nicely and then… What’s that smell?
Oh my, boiling butter. I pushed the Dutch Oven off the hot burner and let it cool. It smelled good, not burned, just browned. But I didn’t want or need browned butter for my potatoes and parsnips. It wasn’t going to hold well in a hot oven, it was done, needed to be appreciated for what it was, not filled with herbs and garlic which would mask its nutty sweetness.
The asparagus were begging for the brown butter but they weren’t joining the dinner without the blood oranges coming along. I juiced a few of the blood oranges into the browned butter, added a little salt and white pepper. I roasted the thick asparagus in the oven and gave them a bath in the Blood Orange Brown Butter sauce before serving.
The potatoes & parsnips did get the Herb Garlic Butter & Olive Oil treatment I had promised them.
Sometimes kitchen mistakes turn into something quite tasty!

Carrot Soup with Ginger & Caraway

This week my cooking was inspired by a Food&Wine 'what to cook next' article. What caught my eye was a recipe for pressure cooker pork carnitas which promised tender pork shoulder in 35 minutes. I happened to have had just such a shoulder roast in my freezer.

On Tuesday I shared the carnitas dinner with my dad and family. Everyone was impressed with the tenderness of the pork in such little time. Magical Pressure Cooker indeed!

Later in the week I re-read the Food&Wine article concentrating more on the subject of the article: Nathan Myhrvold the author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. And then my eye caught the carmelized carrot soup recipe.

Last weekend at the Mar Vista Farmer's Market we bought a bounty of produce that really needed to be used and soon! My refrigerator was bursting with:
• Tiny White Potatoes
• Huge Parsnips
• Heirloom Carrots
• Hearty Asparagus Spears
• Blood Oranges
But I wanted to use up the wilting fennel bulb and lonely single leek both lurking at the bottom of my produce drawer. They were begging for soup. Using the article as a guideline I created my own recipe:

Pressure Cooker
Carrot Soup with Ginger & Carraway
Six First Course Servings
5 Tablespoons Butter
1 lb. Heirloom variety carrots*
1 small fennel bulb
1 leek
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda** optional
2 Cups Carrot Juice
2 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
Peel the carrots and cut into ¾” slices. Trim the fennel bulb removing any wilted edges and removing the tough core. Slice into ¾” pieces. Use only the white and light green of the leek. Slice lengthwise and then into ¾” slices. Put the carrots, fennel & leek into the pressure cooker.
Add the butter cut into chunks. Cook uncovered until the butter melts. Mix well. Add the salt & baking soda if using. Cover and bring to 15 psi using your pressure cooker’s manufacturer’s instructions. Cook for 10 minutes at 15 psi. Cool quickly in your sink using cool water.

Return the uncovered pressure cooker to the stove. Add the carrot juice, ginger & caraway seeds. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer. Cook for an additional 5 minutes on low heat. Taste for salt.
Puree and strain the soup using either a blender or submersion blender & then a food mill or cheesecloth & metal strainer.
Serve hot.

*Heirloom Carrots I used a variety of carrots using up what I had as well as adding a few heirlooms for color. Note that some heirloom carrots have a VERY fibrous core. The red variety with a bright yellow core was so fibrous my Wustof chef’s knife would not go through it. These red carrots were the true reason the soup needed to be strained! Without straining, it was inedible, chewy soup.

**Baking Soda The original recipe was for “Caramelized Carrot Soup” and the baking soda is added to speed up the caramelization. I didn’t get any caramelization in my soup, but perhaps the baking soda helps break down the vegetables quicker, so I listed it here, add if you wish.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Farmer's Market Veggie Feast

It's what''s for dinner:

Heirloom Carrot Soup with Ginger & Caraway

Roasted Parsnips & Potatoes in Garlic Thyme Butter

Roasted Asparagus in Blood Orange Brown Butter Sauce

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bread? Easy!

I'm really enjoying my new baking adventure. In the past two weeks I've made two batches of basic sourdough/whole wheat boule dough, one batch of limpa (a honey sweetened and cardommom spiced dough from Sweden), & one batch of olive oil dough.

I've baked foccacia, peasant loaves and sandwich bread. So far I've learned just how easy it can be to fill your home with mouthwatering aromas and oodles of delicious baked goods.

So now, that's easy, to simply get tasty bread on the table. But as I bake, I have more questions: How do I make my breads a bit lighter but keep them healthy with whole grain flours? How can I get them to rise higher? How can I perfect the slashing across the top technique?

I've ordered the second book by the same authors of "Artisan Bread in 5 Mintues a Day", which is titled: "Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day" and I look forward to diving into the new recipes. I'm also hoping for more bread baking tips and techniques.

All in good time. For now, I'm enjoying each baking experience, one loaf at a time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My first loaf

A full year after purchasing "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day", I'm finally getting started on my dough odyssey.  I've mixed up a huge batch of dough and it's maturing in my fridge. The methods in the book are quite easy, as expected, and I'm already looking forward to branching out to the more interesting recipes.

Today I pulled off a hunk of dough to create my first loaf.  I'm fairly pleased with the results, although the shape is a bit bulbous, it has taught me a valuable lesson.  When slashing the top of the bread just before baking, make sure the cuts are uniformly deep.  I must have cut deeper on one side and the dough expanded more, creating the swelling.

It's still cooling or I'd describe the taste and texture.  I'll save that for later!