Thursday, July 16, 2015

Panzanella Salad: Because when you find a good Baguette you celebrate it!


Yesterday I decided to take a quick trip to the beach and jump into the ocean for a swim. The water was perfect and as I laid out in the sun to dry off I started planning my route home so that I could also shop for dinner along my way.
Once I was dry I walked back to my car and was on my way.
I walked into a little market by my house, and the first thing I saw were baguettes. They called to me and I responded by putting one in my basket and deciding that I needed to make a Panzanella Salad.

If you don't know, Panzanella is basically an old school Italian way to use stale bread. You cube your bread and whatever veg you have and toss in a vinaigrette. You let it sit the the bread softens up, and then you eat!!
So since I bought a fresh baguette, and you probably will to when you make make this, we'll have to toast the bread. But before we get to that lets talk veg.

My go to for this salad never really changes, but you can use whatever you want. I stick to what seems to be the usual suspects for this salad. Tomato, red onion, different color bell peppers, and lots and lots of basil. You can use whatever you like though. Throw in a cucumber if you would like. If raw onions aren't your thing, take them out, and try some scallions. There are no rules here.

To make mine, here is what you'll need;
- Tomatoes -  See what looks ripe. If they are large get 3. Small, get 5. And medium, get 4.
- Bell peppers - One orange and one yellow is what I like. they taste better than the green and red, and I like the way they look better
- One small red onion
- Fresh Basil
- Salt and pepper
- Dried Parsley
- Garlic Powder
- Olive oil
- Vinegar or Lemon juice. I like Red Wine Vinegar for this

So this is really easy. Start with heating a sauté pan on medium and add about a table spoon of Olive oil. I like to season the oil while it heats with a little salt, pepper and parsley flakes. This way the oil gets flavored.
While thats heating up, take about half of your baguette and cube it into bite size pieces. When you're done with that your pan should be hot enough. Dump all the cubes in and toss them around so they all get a light coating of oil. Now let them toast. This will take like 15 minutes. You don't want the heat too high, so it takes a little while. (Think grilled cheese. You know how when you rush that, and the bread gets too brown, and the cheese hasn't even melted..?)
So let the bread toast, tossing the cubes every few minutes or so until they are all golden and hard. Like big croutons.

While thats happening cut up your tomatoes and peppers into cubes the same size that you made the bread. Everything should be the same size at this point.
The onion however you can cut however you want. If you LOVE raw onion, feel free to cube it. If you just want a little of the flavor, you can only use a few thin slices.
And of course, chop up lots and lots of fresh basil. I like to Chiffonade  my basil for this.

Your bread should be perfect by now. Once it's cooled off enough get everything into a bowl.
Now you want to dress your salad. You can use a classic vinaigrette if thats what you like.
I eyeball everything, so I salt and pepper the veg and bread, and also sprinkle garlic powder as well. Then 3 or 4 turns around the bowl with the vinegar, and finally the same 3 or 4 turns around the bowl of Olive Oil.
Toss everything together and taste. Adjust however you think you may need to and then set the salad aside in your fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. You want to wait to serve this until the bread softens a bit.

Thats it! Its super refreshing and light. A wonderful summer meal on it's own, or a perfect side to some nice grilled meat or fish.
However you do it, you're gonna love it, and your guests will be excited for switching up the same old boring side salad!!!

Don't forget to add the love and remember to leave me comments! I love to hear how these things turn out!

XO - P

Monday, June 29, 2015

Say Fish Taco Truck

So it's week 3 as a Californian, and I have yet to get food out of a truck. So tonight I went to Fresco Market in the Monterey Hills, and there they were!
I forgot it was Monday, and they have food trucks there every Monday night from 5:30 until 9:30.
I was there to buy stuff to make a salad, but that plan side tracked quickly.
Out of the 3 trucks that were there I chose the truck with the fish tacos. Only because out of the options, that's what I wanted.
I read the menu and decided to go for what seemed to be their most popular dish. It's called a "Sayulita Fish Taco" It's fish, deep fried in an old school dark beer batter, original SFT sauce, shredded cabbage, salsa, and a homemade corn tortilla.
And I got the combo, so it came with fries :)
Not as healthy as the salad I was going to make, but it was only 6pm, so it's early enough to have a little fired fish.
Anyway, let me just tell you that I wish I had ordered 5 of these tacos!
First lets talk about the sauce. It was the first thing that I tasted. I have no idea what it was. I wanna say it was mayo based, but could very well have been crema based. whatever it was, it gave me just the right amount of circle in my mouth to start eating this taco. Next to hit my tongue was the salsa. That was great too. Only a little heat, so there could be a little hot sauce added to this taco, but the salsa was good. Hoping that was homemade too.
Then the fish.... it was NOT greasy or weird like I've had on so many other fish tacos. It was light and fresh tasting, and the batter was delicious.
The cabbage added a great, and traditional crunch, but what really sealed the deal was the homemade tortilla!! Oh my gosh.. it's been a long time since I had a tortilla so perfect. It was soft, and flavorful. It didn't break apart, and wasn't super chewy either. I don't even really know how to explain it, but after the other great flavors of this taco, it just seemed perfect.

That's really all I can say about these tacos. I'm so happy that I decided to stop by the truck. I will definitely be back for more.. A lot more...

Actually there is something else I can say about the taco. And the fries for that matter. Even something to say about the way it was plated and wrapped up to go. 
It really showed that these guys give a shit about what they are doing. There was love in the food, the platting, and the way they interacted with people.
Super well done guys! See you soon!

If any of you wanna check them out, here is a link with all their info including where they are going to be parked this week. 

Lots of love,
P. -  XOXO

Saturday, June 20, 2015

11 dishes you should be able to make by the time you're 30. (Via Thrillist)






11 DISHES YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO MAKE BY THE TIME YOU HIT 30

DREW SWANTAK/THRILLIST 

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Sure, ordering takeout every night has served you well so far in life. The girls were impressed by that General Tso’s in college, so why stop now? For one, it gets expensive after a few years of your parents not footing that bill. Plus, you’ve made it to the 30-year mark, so it’s probably time to learn how to cook. Ease your way in with these 11 basic dishes. We promise the recipes are even easier than putting on your pants to answer the door for delivery, which is also something you should work on doing regularly if you’re over 30.
DREW SWANTAK/THRILLIST 

Scrambled eggs

It's the world's easiest breakfast, it's nutritious, and it's safer than chewing raw eggs and hoping the heat of your mouth cooks them.
Here's how: Thrillist's in-house recipe genius Perry shows you how to make these perfect scrambled eggs in a 30-second video, and it only takes 10 minutes to make.

Mac and cheese

Because while it's great out of a box, it's better when it's homemade. And this recipe is so easy you'll have no excuse.
Here's how: The blender does all the work in this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. You just have to do the eating. If that's still too complicated, you can boost boxed mac and cheese with these 10 hacks.

Tomato sauce

Even an idiot can boil water and make pasta. But not everyone knows how to make homemade tomato sauce. And it'll make that pasta taste a million times better.
Here's how: Since making tomato sauce takes a little bit of elbow grease, we like this recipe from The Kitchn because it makes eight pints of the stuff, and teaches you how to choose the right tomatoes for it.
DREW SWANTAK/THRILLIST 

Pizza

Delivery pizza might be convenient, and frozen pizza might be even more convenient, but nothing beats the taste of homemade pizza.
Here's how: We made a simple, delicious SpaghettiOs version that you can throw on top of this ridiculously easy, from-scratch dough. You can too. Buy a pizza stone and block out an hour for the most delicious pizza you've had outside of these places.

Grilled steak

You could pay a billion dollars for a steak in a restaurant, or you could just grill one yourself. We opt for the way where you don't pay a billion dollars and you get to use your grill.
Here's how: Iowa Girl Eats has a simple strip steak recipe that only uses a few ingredients that you definitely have in your pantry already. To make things even easier on you, she even recommends pairing that steak with steamed broccoli. Fancy dinner in a few minutes!

Salmon

It's good for you. And if you're cooking for someone else, it will make it look like you put more time into cooking than you actually did. You trickster, you!
Here's how: Any recipe that requires you to put something in an oven and bake it is a recipe we love, and we really love Well Plated's balsamic-glazed salmon.
DREW SWANTAK/THRILLIST 

Roasted chicken

It doesn't get any easier to make dinner. Five ingredients (including chicken). One hour. Done.
Here's how: You don't even need a roasting pan for this skillet recipe, but if you want something even easier, we've got you covered with eight ways to make roasted chicken in a slow cooker.

Guacamole

Not only is it a great dip for parties (even parties of one), you can throw that avocado-y goodness on basically anything.
Here's how: Chipotle released its guac recipe, and you should make it just so that you can experience their guac without paying extra.

Meatballs

You're already going to make the tomato sauce from earlier, so you might as well have something to pair it with.
Here's how: The Slow Roasted Italian's herb-packed meatballs are baked, and the hardest task you'll have is to "mix."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Holderness Family's new Thanksgiving Video "All About the Baste"


I'm a little early, but I just saw this video and thought it was a good of time as any to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!
The video is more than a little cheesy, but the faces the little girl makes kills me! 
I'm #allaboutthebaste
Gobble gobble! Enjoy the day! XOXO -P

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pavlova with Almond Cream and Berries

Last September while in Europe, we stayed at a good friends house just outside of London. It was a beautiful, old farm house. I fell in love as soon as we stepped in the door. 
The house belonged to Andrew and his roommate Murray. Murray made us a wonderful roast Lamb dinner and a Pavlova for dessert. 
We had never had Pavlova, nor had I ever even hard of it. But you know what? I fell in love with it even more than I loved the house!! What Murray had made was an amazing and prefect dessert for me. I rarely eat dessert because I am usually too full. I am way more a savory person, not a sweets kind of guy, so I tend to have seconds at dinner and leave no room for dessert.
A Pavlova however is a light and airy meringue that seems to usually be covered in whipped cream and fruit. Most people seem to think it was invented in New Zealand, so I think Kiwi is a popular choice for the fruit.
Murray went with berries, and so did I.
It took me a year to attempt this because I was afraid. I suck at baking and pretty much hate doing it. One reason I hate it so much is because you have to be perfect when you bake. The "no recipe, recipe" does not exist in backing. I live for no recipe cooking.
That being said, we were invited to a friend's house in Brooklyn for brunch, and we were asked to bring a dessert. Damn!!! 
I know it would be super easy to run and buy something, but that's not my style, so this seemed like the right time to google Pavlova recipes, and break out the mix master. I failed miserably twice. Third time and a hybrid of 2 recipes later.... I had what I needed, and fell in love again!
It's a mix of The Barefoot Contessa's recipe and a recipe I found from another cooking site. What I did was follow the Contessa's recipe, but took a foolproof tip from the other site. Here it is:
Ingredients
4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Directions
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. 
Ina says to bake at 180 degrees, but 250 worked better for me. She also says to bake for 1.5 hours and let cool for one hour in the oven. The recipe below from http://www.essentialkids.com.au suggested letting it cool for 3 hours in the oven and that was perfect!
Also, http://www.essentialkids.com.au had this tip that made all the difference; 
Bring 1/2 cup of water to the boil in a small saucepan. In a cup, mix the cornflour and vinegar together to create a slurry, then pour the slurry into the boiling water, stirring immediately to create a thick paste. Cook for a further minute, stirring constantly and remove from the heat.
When Ina says to add the corn starch and vinegar, add the slurry instead!
It came out perfect!!!

Now the rest of Ina's recipe;
Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
Triple Raspberry Sauce, recipe follows
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 half-pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam (12-ounce jar)
1 tablespoon framboise

Sweetened Whipped Cream:

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't over beat!


Triple Raspberry Sauce:

Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam, and framboise into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth. Chill.

The only thing that I did different was add a few dashes of Almond Extract when I whipped the cream.

It was amazing and about 4 minutes after my friends started eating it, it was gone. Like GONE!

So I know this is a confusing way for me to explain this, so I am here for you if you have any questions. But if you take your time it'll be great. If I can do this, I am sure you can do it, and do it even better than me!

Good luck and don't forget the love!!

XOXO - P

Salmon Wrapped Asparagus


In the late 90's I moved to LA for a short time. I just needed to get out of Connecticut, where I grew up, and learn to be my own person. I was 20, and a little lost.
Luckily for me, I had a friend from home who also planned to be there for the summer to study art at UCLA. She planned to be there for 2 months, but to my happiness, she never left! So for the year that I lived there I had my friend Nicole with me for when I needed a friend.
Once when I needed her, she came through with a crazy easy, crazy cheap, and crazy good recipe for a cocktail party I somehow found myself hosting. She showed me how to make these crunchy bite sized pieces of Asparagus wrapped in soft, saltily, and sweet pieces of Salmon. They were a total hit, and the few times after that, that I made them, they were a hit too. Now fast forward about 15 years later.. I missed them. I wanted them, and I had a great opportunity to make them. The thing was I needed to figure out how to jazz them up a bit. I love simple, but since I learned them, I learned a lot about eating with your eyes!
When I first made them it was a 3 ingredients recipe. A Salmon fillet, a bunch of Asparagus, and a bottle of Teriyaki sauce. Now, it's pretty much the same, but I added a finishing glaze and some garnish. Here is what you'll need for the 2014 version!:

*A one pound Salmon fillet  - Skinless ( I know I've said to stop eating it in the past, but organic farming has come a long way since then)
*A bunch of Asparagus
*A bottle of Teriyaki sauce. Spend a little on a good one. (We use a gluten free brand because of P2's allergy)
*Honey
*Chinese Five Spice
*Sesame seeds
*Green Onion
*Cilantro
*Sriracha

Thinly slice the fillet of Salmon crossways then cut those slices in half. 
Soak them in 1/4 of a bottle of teriyaki sauce. 
Cut Asparagus spears in 2 or 3 pieces depending on their size and wrap them with the Salmon.
Preheat your oven to 375.

While the oven is preheating put the remaining 3/4 of the teriyaki in a sauce pan with 3 table spoons of honey, a few pinches of Chinese five spice, and reduce it over medium low until it's reduced by half and/ or nice and thick. 
Cook the salmon and asparagus on a sheet pan for 7-10 minutes.
When done, plate them, and drizzle liberally with the glaze. Garnish with sesame seeds, and chopped cilantro and green onion. 

If you and your guests like a little spice, add a little bit of Sriracha to the glaze.

I promise totally success with this one. I didn't realize that I was making these the other day for a bunch of people who didn't like Salmon, but they loved it!!!
Please try these and let me know what you think!

Don't forget to add the love!!!
XOXO - P


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Chicken & Eggplant Kebabs with Persian Style Rice and a Mint Yogurt Sauce

OK, so this recipe is fun for me to share because I learned a few things by making it.
1. Brining chicken breasts should be mandatory. When I took my first bite of this dish I would have sworn that it was dark meat chicken and not breast. As brining promises, it made the chicken SO moist and tender. I think I may have even smiled with that first bite. And 2. If you boil rice like pasta it will come out perfect every time. This is coming from a guy who is really really bad at cooking rice. Even when I use my rice cooker it comes out too soft and starchy.
Although this is clearly a recipe that can be swapped out in so many ways, I found that the Eggplant and the yogurt sauce went really well together. If you want to just make Eggplant Kebabs it could be equally satisfying as a dinner.
First I'm going to talk to you about the rice. I really have no idea if this is a Persian method of making rice, but when I first saw this method on T.V. the other day Martha Stewart was making a Persian dish, and then when I Youtubed it, most the videos were of Persian people making some variation of that same dish Martha made. So, I'm calling Persian. Basically it's just rice boiled like pasta. All the recipes I saw were made with Bismati rice. I however used good old Uncle Ben's because that's what I had.
I filled a large sauce pan with water, added a little Olive Oil, some salt, and a big pinch of dried Parsley. When it came to a boil I dumped a cup of rice in the water, and let it boil until soft. Strangely I saw some recipes that said it takes 10-12 minutes and some that said 15-20 minutes. My rice took 22 minutes. However long yours takes, the next step I think is the important one. Pour the rice into a strainer and then let it sit for at least 10 minutes. I covered mine to keep it warm while it sat. After that you have perfectly cooked rice. Fluffy, firm, and not starchy at all.
Now, I know I'm working backwards here, but I am so happy I can make good rice now, that I just had to start there. But when you are ready to make this dish you need to start with the sauce. If you can, you will want to make this sauce the day before. I had a little this morning from last night's left overs, and the flavor got way better.
If you can't make it the day before, a few hours will do.
You'll need a couple hours to brine the chicken too, so keep that in mind.
For the sauce you'll need Yogurt, a little lemon juice, a few sprigs of fresh Thyme, about 10 Mint leaves, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika.
Depending on how much you need to make will determine how much of everything to use. I used about 2 cups of Yogurt and about 2 big table spoons of chopped Thyme and Mint combined. I added the juice of half a lemon, and seasoned with all the other ingredients slowly until I reached a flavor I was looking for. You'll want the sauce to be light and delicate. It should compliment your Kebabs -Not overpower them.
Now it's time to brine the chicken. I cubed up a package of chicken breasts and soaked them in slated water for 2 hours. I didn't measure out the salt to water ratio, I just made the water taste like the ocean, and that seemed to work. Just make sure all the chicken is covered with the solution.
Next up, when it's time to take the chicken out of the brine, rinse it off well and dry all the cubes with a paper towel. Then I coated them with Olive Oil, a tiny bit of salt (the chicken will be salty from the brine), pepper, garlic powder, and some more paprika. Mix it all together and set the chicken aside. Now that I had it, I would add some heat too. Just a little, so if you have it, maybe add a tiny bit of Cayenne pepper.
Next cube your Eggplant about the same size as your chicken cubes. I used 2 baby eggplant instead of the large kind. I wanted to make sure each piece had skin on it so they would hold up to being grilled and not fall off the skewers. After they were cubed I drizzed them with Olive oil and seasoned with just salt and pepper.
Now it's time to skewer. I used wooden skewers that had been soaking in water since I made the Yogurt sauce. That's important so they don't burn on the grill. If you have metal skewers they will work just as well.
Now just grill 'em up and your done. Just about 5 minutes on each side on a really hot grill and you should be good to go. It will really depend on the size of the chicken and Eggplant cubes you've made.
Plate by making a bed of rice on a plate, place a few of the kebabs on the rice and drizzle liberally with the yogurt sauce.
You're gonna love it. I promise!! And like I mentioned before, this is a recipe that can be changed up a thousand different ways. The yogurt sauce especially. I think dill would work well, and maybe even Tarragon.  Also beef or lamb instead of chicken could be great as well. It's up to you really.

Again I would love to hear from you. If you make it, let me know what you think. Or, if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

Enjoy your dinner and don't forget to add the love!!
XOXO - P