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Zucchini Blossom Quesadilla

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I’ve been keeping my eye out for zucchini blossoms during my past few trips to the farmers market, and finally spotted some this weekend. The last time I bought blossoms was the day before the earthquake – of course they did not get put to use – so it’s been almost two years since I last cooked with blossoms. I’ve only ever stuffed them with ricotta and pan-fried them, but I wanted to do something different this time. Space Cadet suggested doing a quesadilla, which sounded appealing and different. With her helpful tips and some inspiration from this recipe, I got to work on collecting the remaining ingredients.

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I couldn’t find any Oaxacan cheese at Whole Foods, but I sampled some cave-aged Gruyere that they had out. Even though I’m not always crazy about Gruyere, this stuff was delicious and melts easily so I thought it would make a fine substitute. I also selected some healthier tortillas, which are my new favorite: Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Flour Tortillas with Flaxseed and Rolled Oats. Trust me, they’re great. I also made some salsa verde and avocado crema to serve with the quesadilla, because why not?

Zucchini Blossom Quesadillablossoms

  • 1 small poblano pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of diced yellow onion
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 large whole grain flour tortillas
  • 1/2 cup grated cave-aged Gruyere cheese
  • 6 zucchini blossoms, stems and stamen removed and torn into smaller pieces

Avocado Crema

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 TB nonfat Greek yogurttomatillo
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of smoked paprika

Fresh Salsa Verde

  • 5 tomatillos, quartered
  • 2 serrano chiles, stems removed
  • 6 cilantro sprigs, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup water

Start by roasting the poblano pepper. Cook it close to the broiler for 5 minutes, turning once halfway through. Transfer the pepper to a plastic bag and seal. Let sit for 20 minutes, then peel the pepper and remove the stem and seeds. Chop into small pieces and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the salsa verde. In a food processor, combine tomatillos, chiles, cilantro and water and pulse until the salsa is coarsely chopped. Transfer to a serving bowl. For the avocado crema, mash together all ingredients and season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl.

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Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Once hot, add onion, garlic and poblano and sauté for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

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Return the pan to heat and add a single tortilla. Flip the tortilla once it starts to puff up a bit – about 30 seconds. Add the cheese, pepper and onion mixture, and blossoms. Top with another tortilla and heat for about a minute. Carefully flip the quesadilla so that the top tortilla browns, and cook for another minute. Transfer to a plate and slice into 6 pieces. Serve with salsa verde, avocado crema, and a dry floral white wine such as Gruner Veltliner or Albarino.

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These quesadillas were really yummy, especially with the addition of fresh salsa verde! I made a ton of it, so I will be sure to repurpose it throughout the week, even though it’s quite spicy. And I am so happy to have found another way to enjoy my precious blossoms. Next time I think I will try putting them on pizza. Yum!

Asian Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles

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In the category of things I can now eat because I will allow cilantro to touch my lips, I bring you Asian turkey meatballs by Skinnytaste! So far Gina has yet to disappoint me, but I was still a little wary about this dish because turkey meatballs can be very dry if there aren’t enough wet ingredients. Fortunately, these meatballs came out perfectly; crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. And the dipping sauce (which I tweaked ever so slightly) added a burst of umami.

Asian Turkey Meatballs (serves 2)

  • 1/2 lb of lean ground turkey
  • 2 TB panko crumbs
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, mincedIMG_1996
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Cilantro-Lime Dipping Sauce (makes 1/2 cup)

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 TB chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 TB water
  • 1 scallion, chopped

Asian Zoodles (serves 2)

  • 2 zucchini, shredded with a julienne peeler
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 TB diced red onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the meatballs. Mix together and form into 1/4 cup sized balls. Line a baking sheet with wax paper, then place meatballs evenly on the paper. Place in the oven and bake for 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Combine all ingredients and stir until the oil is evenly incorporated. Set aside.

To make the “zoodles” heat a large nonstick pan over a medium flame. Once hot, add sesame oil and swirl around the pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini, leaving undisturbed for 1 minute. Sprinkle salt, then sauté and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and divide into two bowls. Top with three meatballs each, and add a spoonful of dipping sauce onto each meatball.

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These meatballs were delicious – full of flavor and not dried out at all. I enjoyed the zoodles, but I think these meatballs would work even better over some soba or thin rice noodles with shredded carrots and zucchini. Maybe next time!

Springing for Steelhead

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The Napa Farmer’s Market is back on! It actually opened two weeks ago, but I couldn’t make it until yesterday. And I was so excited that I forgot to get cash and only had $8 with me. The first thing that caught my eye was a small bag of shelled English peas. It was $3, but I had never cooked with them before so I splurged. I wandered around the rest of the market, scouting each stand to see what looked the best. I stopped at the seafood stand in the back and noticed some Steelhead trout filets – something else I had never cooked before. I purchased (with my credit card) a filet that was over half a pound and went back to another stand to pick up assorted zucchini, squash and a spring onion for a little over $5, but the farmer let it slide. You won’t get that at Whole Foods!

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Spring Pea and Zucchini Salad with Pan-Seared Trout (serves 2)

  • 1 medium zucchiniIMG_1956
  • 1/4 cup Sherry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 10 oz wild trout
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 radicchio leaves, torn
  • 1 small fennel bulb, sliced very thinly with a mandoline
  • 1/2 cup shelled English Peas
  • 8 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 10 parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Slice the zucchini lengthwise with a mandoline. Sprinkle zucchini evenly with salt and place in a small colander in the sink for about 5 minutes. Rinse the zucchini under cold water and lay out on a clean dishtowel. Carefully fold the towel over the zucchini and roll to squeeze out the excess water and let sit.

In a small food processor, pulse a shallot. Add lemon juice, Dijon, anchovy paste, Sherry vinegar, salt and pepper. Process to combine, and add 2 TB oil in a slow, steady stream. Transfer to a small container and set aside.

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In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 TB olive oil over a medium flame. Add garlic cloves and toss off heat to flavor the olive oil. Bring the pan back to the heat and add trout, skin side down. Chop two fonds off the fennel bulb and add to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to sear the skin, then lower the heat and cover; continue to cook for about 8 minutes, or until the flesh is light pink. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for a few minutes.

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Meanwhile, assemble the salad: radicchio, fennel, peas, mint and parsley. Top with the zucchini slices and dressing to taste (add by the tablespoon), then toss to combine. Top with half of the trout filet and serve! I enjoyed this meal with 2013 Madam Preston White Rhone Blend – a family favorite! It’s bright and crisp, but the Rhone varietals add slight creamy undertones that make the wine stand up well to a heartier seafood.

Put an egg on it!

Put an egg on it!

The best part of making this meal was the leftovers! I incorporated the trout, english peas and fennel fonds into a quinoa breakfast bowl and it was spectacular. Sauté chopped fennel fonds with chopped white onion and garlic for a few minutes. Add the peas, trout (broken up), 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa, and a handful of coarsely chopped spinach and sauté to combine. Once hot, top with an egg, cover the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 5 minutes then devour. I actually enjoyed this more than the salad, but that may have been due to my slight hangover.

Helluva Halibut

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I’m ashamed to admit that I have developed a new habit of shopping at Whole Foods. It was innocent at first; an organic free range chicken thigh here, some ezekiel bread there. Before I knew it I was buying chia seed peanut butter and Pamplemousse La Croix by the case. It’s especially depressing after a trip to Trader Joe’s, where I typically spend under $70 for a week of groceries, only to be followed by a stumble into Whole Foods where I spend $70 on 6 items. What can I say? It’s convenient and it smells good in there.

This past week I saw some sustainably raised halibut for $24.99 a pound. Initially I guffawed at the sticker, but when the woman in front of me ordered some I thought, other people are doing it so it’s okay if I do. Damn peer pressure grocery shopping. Alas, it was worth it because it was a helluva halibut.

Panko Crusted Halibut (serves 2)

  • 2 halibut fillets, skin removed
  • 1/2 cup Panko crumbs
  • 4 basil leaves, julienned
  • 2 TB chopped parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 TB freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • cooking spray

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and lightly coat the foil with cooking spray; set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine Panko, basil, parsley, garlic, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Coat each halibut fillet in lemon juice and olive oil, then coat evenly in the panko mixture. Place fillets on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes (this helps the Panko stay on).

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, until the fish is flakey when touched with a fork. Serve with a medium-bodied Sauvignon Blanc or a bright Chardonnay, roasted asparagus with garlic, and lemony herbed orzo or Israeli couscous – perfection!

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Okay Whole Foods; you win.

Ad Libbing It

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I’m sure many of you have heard of the famed Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville, and more recently the $300,000 worth of wine that was stolen from the prized cellar, and recovered in North Carolina shortly after. This happened on Christmas Day, days after Keller closed The French Laundry for four months for renovations. During the closure Keller opened a pop-up in Silverado Resort called Ad Lib, which was recently extended through October (and possibly beyond). Initially it was hard to get a reservation, but things have since settled down and you can usually get in on a Monday or Thursday without too much advance planning (or you can be like me and book a reservation six weeks in advance). I finally had my long-awaited first Thomas Keller dining experience last week and it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

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I was worried that Ad Lib might be stuffy and too fancy (à la The French Laundry) but it certainly had its own character, which was far from stuffy. Maybe it’s the young, flirty staff or the retro menu, but it has a very fun, laid back vibe to it that really puts the diners at ease. It also helped that my dining companions were three fabulously entertaining foodie fems: Miriam, Space Cadet, and MaeMae.

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We had a fantastic view of the golf course at Silverado Resort

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While the wine list at Ad Lib is quite impressive, we preferred to bring our own bottles and pay the $50 corkage fee (which was still far below any bottle we would have purchased). MaeMae brought a 2005 Mumm DVX Cuvée, which was the perfect start to the evening. And Miriam brought a Pine Ridge Epitome Cabernet Sauvignon, which she had previously used a Coravin on about a year ago, so we were taking a bit of a gamble with it. It was obvious some wine had been removed from the bottle so we told the sommelier that we had used the Coravin on the wine before we left – you know, to make sure that it was drinkable. I don’t know why we felt the need to lie, but in the words of Space Cadet, “our credibility came down to our cork. If it turned out to be corked, we would not only be caught in a lie but we would lose our credibility as badass industry bitches.” Thankfully, the wine was perfect.

Even the bread was beautiful! And melt-in-your-mouth flakey.

Even the bread was beautiful! And melt-in-your-mouth flakey.

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We wanted to try as much food as possible without overdoing it, so I suggested ordering family style. We easily agreed on two orders of Caesar salad, a side of mac-n-cheese, a side of wilted greens, filet of salmon, chicken schnitzel, and beef wellington (serves two). The Caesar salad is prepared and served table side – sometimes by Keller himself if he’s around. Our salad artist for the evening was a lovely young lady named Erica, a newbie to Napa who is slated to work at The French Laundry once her stint at Ad Lib is up. She started by seasoning the salad bowl with peeled garlic, then she prepared the dressing using anchovy paste, an egg, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Space Cadet actually filmed it, which I encourage you to watch until you get bored (you might want to mute the sound unless you want to be subjected to our our snarky banter).

We had requested the sides to come out separately, before the entrées, but they began to bring out the beef wellington after they cleared our salad plates. There was some whispering and they quickly slid the cart away, but we all caught a glimpse of the drama. Apparently our silly server, Louie “made a mistake”. Clearly it worked out in his favor (and the rest of the kitchen staff) because they had an extra beef wellington to chow down on. In any case, they quickly corrected their error and brought out our mac-n-cheese and wilted greens. The mac was so yummy and surprisingly light, and the greens were perfectly seasoned. It made for a nice middle course before our much-anticipated main courses.

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The beef wellington was beautiful. They prepared it with a mushroom paté between the beef and the pastry, instead of the traditional foie gras. This made the dish lighter but also gave it an earthy quality, and the moisture from the mushrooms made the beef even more tender. It was outstanding. I was also a big fan of the salmon filet, which was cooked to perfection with a crisp exterior and coated in a delicious lemon-dill burre blanc. The schnitzel was pretty yummy, but a little too salty if you ask me.

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As we were finishing our entrées we noticed the waitstaff carrying what looked like a torch to a nearby table, and we realized it was someone’s birthday. Space Cadet spoke up and mentioned that her birthday was a few weeks ago, and that she would appreciate a sparkling surprise. Well, the staff must have been thoroughly entertained by us because they indeed brought us a slice of seven layer coconut cake with a sparkler in it, in addition to banoffee trifle and Tahitian vanilla bean crème brûlée – all of which they graciously comped. It was the perfect finish to a glorious evening of fine dining – with a little bit of ad lib, indeed.

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Easter Treats

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KM2, my best best friend since third grade, just visited me for a whole week to celebrate her 30th Birthday! She happened to be staying with me over Easter, which was a big deal because it’s one of her favorite holidays (and she was also born on Easter). So to make it feel special I planned a little gathering and we made some delicious Easter themed treats!

KM2 and me enjoying some bubbly!

KM2 and me enjoying some bubbly!

KM2 found this cake on Pinterest and set her mind to making it. Unfortunately, we left all the ingredient shopping to Easter morning and had a really hard time finding yellow peeps. But they HAD to be yellow otherwise the sunflower wouldn’t make sense. After trying Lucky’s, CVS, and Safeway with no luck, I thought KM2 was going to lose her shit. But we made one last attempt with a visit to Walmart and luckily they had a few boxes of yellow peeps left. PHEW. She used her this amazing brownie recipe to make the cake, and now I will never eat any brownies other than these. And of course, the hunt for yellow peeps was totally worth it because the cake looked so damn cute.

Sunflower Peep Brownie Cake!

Sunflower Peep Brownie Cake!

KM2 also came up with the brilliant idea to make these candy pretzel bites, which can be used for any holiday if you just find the right holiday-themed candies (i.e. Christmas colored M&Ms).

Candy Pretzel Bites (makes 30)

  • 30 square-shaped pretzels
  • 30 Hershey’s Kiss Hugs
  • 30 Easter colored peanut M&Ms

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Arrange pretzels on a baking sheet and top each with a Hershey’s Kiss Hug. Bake until just melted (about 1-2 minutes), and watch carefully to make sure the hug doesn’t melt too much. Top each with an M&M and transfer to the fridge for at least 30 minutes to cool. Transfer to a serving bowl and devour! Note: the peanut M&M is key to reach the right salty:sweet ratio.

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My job was to make Deviled Eggs. I had only done it once before and all I could remember was how long they took to make. So I decided to cut some corners by buying the Trader Joe’s packaged hard-boiled eggs. This saved A LOT of time but perhaps made the yolks too hard. In any case, they were a big hit and I was happy to contribute something Easter-themed!

Mexican Deviled Eggs (makes 12)

  • 12 eggs, hard boiled, cooled and peeled
  • 2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 2 TB mayo
  • 1 TB Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 TB chopped chives
  • 1 TB chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest

Slice each egg in half and arrange the whites on a serving platter. Using a 1/2 teaspoon, carefully remove the yolk from the eggs and transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients (except lime zest) and mix until combined and smooth. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

If you do not have piping equipment, place the egg yolk mixture in a sealed plastic bag, squeezing out all excess air. Snip a corner of the bag to create a hole, then squeeze the yolk out of the hole and into each egg white. Sprinkle with lime zest and serve.

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This was sort of experimental, but it worked out well! I liked the addition of cilantro and chives directly in the yolk, rather than sprinkled on top. And the Greek yogurt added a smoother texture to the yolk without adding too much yogurt flavor. But my favorite touch was the lime zest because it really brightened it up. I would definitely make these again – WITH the TJ’s pre-boiled eggs!

Dat Salad Tho

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I’m always looking for new ways to dress up my usual kale salad. My favorite combo involves some type of grain and a lemon based dressing, but I always have to find new ways to keep it interesting. That being said, I never get sick of this salad. The tahini dressing adds a faux creamy element when combined with avocado, but it’s way healthier than something like Ranch. Plus, these chicken thighs are so delicious and can be repurposed throughout the week if you make a big batch.

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Chicken Thighs (serves 2)

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs

Kale Salad (serves 2)

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 TB tahini
  • 2 TB water
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 8-10 leaves Tuscan kale, removed from stemmed and thinly chopped
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red onion
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 3 TB pine nuts
  • 4 basil leaves, julienned

Make the marinade for the chicken: combine lemon, spices, mustard and olive oil and whisk vigorously until combined. Place into a sealed container or Ziploc with chicken thighs and refrigerate overnight.

Heat a nonstick pan over a medium-high flame. Add chicken thighs and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from pan and chop into slices. Add back to the pan and cook for another 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain on paper towel, then set aside.

Meanwhile prepare the tahini dressing; combine lemon and tahini and whisk until thick. Add water by the teaspoon and whisk until smooth. Combine kale and onion in a large serving bowl, then add 3/4 of the tahini dressing to the bowl and toss to coat. Add tomato, avocado, pine nuts and basil. Top with chicken and a drizzle the remainder of tahini over the salad, then serve.

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Tossed

Pack it in, bring it in

Pack it up, bring it in

This is the perfect post-workout salad, full of nutrients and protein. It’s also easy to divide into lunch for the next day; just separate the quinoa and chicken into one small container, the tahini dressing in another, and the rest of the salad in a large container. Microwave the quinoa and chicken for a minute and a half before tossing with salad and dressing. Delish!

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