fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce

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I know it’s super-late in the game to talk about tomatoes. BUT, there were green tomatoes at the market last weekend, so I’m taking that as a sign. It was meant to be.

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All summer long, I was on the hunt for green tomatoes. No joke. I went to all the markets. I asked around. My dad happened to get his hands on some in July. But they were kind of small. I was not satisfied.

green tomatoes

Why the obsession? Well, I had the best fried green tomatoes EVER at my friend Lindsey’s 30th birthday soirée back in June. I made my maiden voyage to San Diego just for the occasion, and it was a blast. There were margaritas upon landing, and pool time, and carne asada fries. But seriously, those fried green tomatoes were so incredible that I have not stopped thinking about them. I now associate San Diego with fried green tomatoes. 

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Thank goodness someone finally decided to bring their late crop green tomatoes to the market. I could barely contain myself. I busted out the panko and my cast iron skillet and it was on. There is just something about deep fried goodness. It’s almost unfair. Does anyone remember when McDonald’s used to deep-fry their apple pies? That’s what I’m talking about. Anyway, the combination of crunchy panko exterior, and tender, juicy, slightly acidic tomato just gets me. And when you throw in some tangy, creamy buttermilk dipping sauce, it’s like all the bases are covered. It’s crazy deliciousness. I made them for Sunday dinner and Granny approved. And we’ve got a winner. 

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fried green tomatoes with buttermilk dipping sauce 

adapted just barely from Down Home With the Neely’s via foodnetwork.com

serves 4-6

for the tomatoes: 

vegetable oil (for frying) 

4 green tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon garlic powder

4 eggs

1 -1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

pinch cayenne pepper

pinch paprika

In a deep-fryer or cast iron skillet, preheat oil to 350F.

Season tomatoes on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine flour and garlic powder in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs. In another dish, mix bread crumbs with cayenne and paprika. Dredge tomatoes through the flour, then the eggs, and then through the bread crumbs. Add only a few pieces to the fryer at a time, so they can cook evenly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve with buttermilk sauce.

for the buttermilk dipping sauce: 

3/4 cup buttermilk 

1/2 cup mayonaise 

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped chives

hot sauce (like Crystal Hot Sauce of Tobasco)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and mayonaise. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chopped chives and stir to combine. Add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

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deviled eggs with bacon

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February was fast and furious. I can’t even believe it’s already over. I actually kind of love how fast this year is flying by, which is new for me since I’m usually in a panic when I feel like time is passing too quickly. But there are things I’m looking forward to later this year. So let’s keep this train a-rollin’.

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Deviled eggs, anyone?

My sister is the go-to for deviled eggs in our family. But they’ve totally been my thing this year. People are thrilled when you show up to a party with a platter of deviled eggs – I know this to be a fact. Deviled eggs are the perfect party food. They go well with champagne (and since they’re packed with protein, you can drink even more champagne and not get crunk). And they’re easy to pop in your mouth as you pass the snack table, which is a plus in my book.

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I first made these deviled eggs for this year’s New Year’s Eve soiree. A friend asked if I could show him how to make them sometime. At the time, I couldn’t actually give a recipe because there was no recipe – when I’m not baking, I have a tendency to just throw these things together without measuring. But when I made these for a baby shower last weekend, I made sure to actually measure ingredients and take notes. So, my dear Ryan, this is for you.

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What’s most important about these particular deviled eggs is that they’re topped with bacon. If you’re not into bacon, you can leave it out, the eggs will still be a hit. But there’s a reason why bacon and eggs are a breakfast staple – it’s because they’re a team. And because bacon just makes everything better. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

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deviled eggs with bacon

serves 12

12 extra large eggs (do not use farm fresh eggs; buy eggs at least 5 days before preparing for best results – it makes them easier to peel) 

3/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

grated zest of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

5 slices of crispy bacon, finely chopped

chives, chopped 

smoked paprika

Place eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with an inch of  cold water. Place over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 13 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in a bowl of cold water to cool. When the eggs are cool, carefully crack and peel and place on a towel-lined plate. Pat dry.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Add mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, zest, and pepper to the egg yolk. Process the egg yolks until the mixture becomes smooth. Add more mustard, lemon juice, and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to the pastry bag fitted with a large tip. You can also use a freezer bag; snip off one corner.

Arrange the egg white halves on a platter. Pipe the yolk mixture into the cavity of each egg white. Top each egg with chopped bacon and chives. Sprinkle with paprika. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

savory fig tart

Isn’t it crazy that the holidays are just around the corner? I feel like in the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be here and I’ll be knees deep in pies and sides. I know it sounds slightly insane that this is what I’m obsessing about at the moment since it’s not even Halloween yet (Halloween??!! OMG, I need a costume!), but this is how my brain sometimes operates – freaking out about the future instead of dealing with the present.

In the spirit of staying in the present, I’m giving you a fig tart. I know we’re on the very edge of fig season, which is why I hesitated sharing this with you. I considered waiting until next year, for the peak of fig the season. But then I realized that if I wait a whole year, I might forget entirely about this tart. And that would be a shame.

If you can still find figs at the market (I’ve been buying mine at Whole Foods), you’ve gotta make this tart. It is heavily inspired by the amazing fig tart I ate on my birthday. Figs are my favorite, so whenever I see them on a menu, I go for it. This particular tart is a sweet and savory number, which is always a plus in my book. There are lots of little elements that make this fantastic. Gorgeous figs. Sweet-savory onion jam. Salty prosciutto. Sharp watercress. Pungent blue cheese. Toasted hazelnut for a little bit of crunch. Together they become this little masterpiece. It’s the kind of thing that works beautifully as a first course, or a light lunch. Or if you’re feeling real ambitious, you could make them into bite size hors d’oeuvres. Whatever your little heart desires…

savory fig tart 

inspired by Wood Tavern

serves 4

1 sheet puff pastry

1 cup onion jam (store bought or make your own… I’ll post a recipe soon!)

1 pound black mission figs (about 3-4 figs per tart), quartered

3 ounces prosciutto

1 bunch watercress or upland cress, stems trimmed 

1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled 

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil

kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw the puff pastry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the pastry and carefully smooth out any seams or tears in the dough. Prick the surface of the dough all over with a fork. Cut the sheet into quarters, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place a sheet of parchment on top of the pastry, then place another baking sheet or pan on top of the parchment. This will prevent the pastry from puffing, leaving you with a flat pastry base. Place in the oven and bake until golden, about 15-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

When the pastry is cool, spread 1/4 cup of onion jam on each quarter of the pastry. Arrange figs on top of onion jam. Take slices of prosciutto and arrange on top of figs.

Pour the vinegar in a small bowl and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk until the mixture is emulsified. Add the blue cheese and mix gently until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Just before serving, toss the watercress lightly with the vinaigrette. Arrange a mound of dressed watercress on top of each tart. Top with chopped hazelnut and extra blue cheese from the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

baba ganoush

Is it me, or does time just move faster and faster as you grow older? This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. How the days turn into months and the months turn into years, and before you know it, babies are walking and talking, and almost two years go by before you finally realize that you haven’t seen one of your best friends in forever. It’s a bizarre feeling. I’m not sure that I like it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about friendships and how they deepen and evolve over the years. I am approaching the ten year mark with a handful of friends and it kind of trips me out. How did so many years pass so quickly? How am I so lucky? I love the idea of friendships that span decades, the idea of making memories with the same people for years and years, the idea that there are people in your life that know you way better than you realize; I feel extremely fortunate to have these. I also very much appreciate friendships that stand the test of time and distance and life, the friendships that pick up right where they left off, no matter what happens or how much time passes.

I met Dave in 2003, when we were both young and wild. We were inseparable for almost two years, and when he left San Francisco after college I cried my eyes out. We’ve somehow managed to maintain a very awesome, funny phone relationship, which might explain why it never really felt like two years had passed since we last saw each other. Clearly, a visit was long overdue, so I made my way down to LA last weekend. We spent three days drinking margaritas and ice coffees and shopping and hanging out with the pup. While we were having margaritas at Marix, we called Dave’s grandma, whom I’ve never met, but love to pieces. She recited a verse about the importance of old friends, and though I can’t remember her exact words, it totally resonated with me. As the weekend passed, it became pretty clear how much we’ve both grown up over the years, but in some ways we are very much the same. I find a lot of comfort in that.

This baba ganoush doesn’t really have anything to do with friendship or LA. But it’s what I’ve been eating and I’ve been meaning to share it with you. Baba ganoush is the new hummus in my world. Like hummus, it’s seasoned with tahini and garlic and lemon juice. But the smoky roasted eggplant is what really makes me swoon. It’s great with fresh pita or pita chips or a little crudite. But you might want to eat it by the spoonful like I do. And you should. I won’t judge you if you do.

baba ganoush

adapted from David Lebovitz

makes 6-8 servings

2 medium-sized eggplants

1/4 cup  tahini (roasted sesame paste)

1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

a half bunch picked flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F (190°C).

Prick each eggplant a few times, then char the outside of the eggplants by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside. (If you don’t have a gas stove, you can char them under the broiler. If not, skip to the next step.)

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp. Puree the pulp in a blender or food processor with the other ingredients until smooth.

Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Drizzle with olive oil. Baba ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to five days prior to serving.

hummus

I know. It’s been a while. I wish I had something ultra fabulous to share with you. Instead I’m calling this segment “Keeping it Real With Sandy”. And in the spirit of keeping it real, I’ve gotta warn you – things might be a bit boring around here in the weeks to come.

The sweets and I are taking a break. It had to be done. It’s been eighteen days now. I definitely have more energy. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that all I want to do right now is bake a tray of brownies. And make this cake. I am totally obsessing. I don’t exactly love dieting. I love carbs. I miss baking. So I’ve been making other things to distract me.

Like hummus. I love hummus. So much so that I will eat it by the spoonful. I often buy hummus at the store, but it tends to be on the saltier side. Which is why homemade is really the way to go. There’s nothing like homemade hummus – it’s the easiest thing to throw together and you can adjust the flavors to your liking. I like my hummus mostly smooth with a just a bit of texture, a discernible lemon flavor, and a pronounced (but not too pronounced) garlickiness. Throw in some toasted pita, a few slices of cucumber, red bell pepper, maybe some sprouts. Sounds like lunch…

hummus

adapted slighty from Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes by Tessa Kiros

makes 1-1/2 cups

1-1/4 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or 1  16-ounce can chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved

2 large cloves of garlic

4 tablespoons tahini

juice of 2-3 lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2  teaspoon sweet paprika

kosher salt

Drain the soaked chickpeas, cover generously with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 1-1/2 hours. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Shake the chickpeas in a sieve to remove their skins. Leave skins on for a more coarse texture.

Crush the garlic with a little salt until it forms a paste. Put the chickpeas, tahini, and garlic in a food processor, puree a little, and then season with salt. Add most of the lemon juice and continue to puree until smooth. Scrape out into a bowl and thoroughly mix in the olive oil. If it’s too dry, add some of the reserved chickpea liquid. Check that there is enough salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with more oil. Hummus will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator  for up to a week.

chicken liver pâté and 2011 favorites

There were so many things I meant to do before the end of 2011. Like seriously clean my house. And buy a day planner. And share my list of favorites from the year.

Instead, there were birthdays to celebrate, frantic shoe shopping, cocktails, and lots and lots of friends – old friends, new friends, some staying a while and some just passing through. It was pretty glorious, those last few days of 2011. And before I knew it, I was wearing sequins and we were ringing in the new year.

It seems wrong to share something so decadent after such a celebratory week, especially since I had intended on posting this before the year’s end. But sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Allow me to present to you this chicken liver pâté, or what I like to refer to as meat butter. I have a weakness for pâté. I am known to order it as my main course at restaurants – and not share. I especially enjoyed this pâté, rich and smooth with hints of thyme and a whisper of Calvados.

This was my first time making pâté and it was surprisingly simple to throw together. A pound of sauteed chicken livers pureed with a pound of butter and topped with a little Riesling gelée. It really is the perfect start to any meal (and even better with a glass of wine). I had a little smear of pâté on toast for breakfast almost everyday for a week. Insanely indulgent. Don’t judge.

Speaking of indulging, I just can’t resist. Here are a few of my favorites from 2011:

Bill Cunningham New York – I think this was one of the best things to happen to me. Ever. I could watch this documentary over and over again. Bill Cunningham, well into his eighties, riding his bicycle all over Manhattan, all for the love of fashion. And he still shoots film with an old 35mm Nikon. What a wonderful spirit Mr. Cunningham is. I just want to hug him.

Feist Metals – This took a minute to grow on me, but after I saw her perform live, it stuck. It is such a departure from The Reminder; a bit darker, heartbreakingly  honest at times. One of my favorite voices.

Patti Smith Just Kids – I gave this to my oldest friend for his thirtieth birthday, and immediately got my own copy. New York. 1970’s. Love. Music. Friendship. Magic.

A Night with Broken Social Scene, San Francisco, CA – I bought tickets to this show not knowing that the band had announced an indefinite hiatus and that it was to be their last show ever in North America. No opening band. Two and a half hours of non-stop BSS. It was the best show I’ve ever been to. I had to go home and cry afterwards.

The Boulevardier – Bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth. If you had asked me ten years ago I would have said no way. It’s like the bitter, orange-scented cousin of the Manhattan. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this really was the drink of choice in 2011. Plus, I’m really enjoying the videos that these guys have been making.

M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – This has been playing on a loop for a couple of weeks now and I can’t get enough of it. Really good synth-heavy, shoe-gazey, and acoustic tracks. “Midnight City” alone is so grand. I’ll always remember blasting it in my car on my way to Sausalito on New Years Eve.

Goodbye, 2011! Benvenuto, 2012!

chicken liver pâté with riesling-thyme gelée

from Bon Appetit

makes 3 cups

1 pound chicken livers, cleaned

4 cups milk, divided

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 cup sweet (Auslese) Riesling

sliced baguette

unsalted butter, melted

Mellow the flavor of the chicken livers by placing them in a glass bowl with 2 cups milk. Cover; chill for 2 hours. Drain; discard milk. Return livers to same bowl, add the remaining 2 cups milk, cover, and chill for 2 more hours (or overnight). Drain; discard milk and rinse livers. Pat dry with paper towels.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add livers, increase heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until livers are firm but still pink inside, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in Calvados. Return to heat; cook until Calvados is reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Discard thyme.

Transfer liver mixture to a food processor; add 2 teaspoons salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With processor running, add remaining butter by tablespoonfuls until all butter is incorporated. Transfer mousse to prepared strainer. Using a rubber spatula, press mousse through strainer. Rinse and dry strainer, then strain mousse again, discarding solids in strainer. Divide among small jars or bowls. Chill until firm, 1–2 hours.

Place 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Microwave gelatin mixture until gelatin dissolves and mixture becomes clear, about 30 seconds. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Stir in wine. Spoon gelée over mousse in jars, forming a 1/4″ layer (not all gelée may be used). Top each jar with thyme sprigs or leaves, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelée is set, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Let mousse soften slightly at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with toasts.

vanilla quince jam

As of today, just one day until Christmas, I have made 2 pounds of granola, canned 18 jars of apple butter, and individually wrapped 64 salted caramels for the holidays. And it’s only just begun.

There are pies to be made. A playlist is in the works. Did I mention that I have yet to wrap a single gift?

The one thing I did manage to take care of in advance was preserving. I’ve decided that preserves are my gift of choice this year. I am 100% ready to distribute some jam. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for you.

Quince jam. Quince has become one of those things I’ve become obsessed with in recent years. It started with the quince paste, otherwise known as membrillo, that I used to buy from the cheese section at Bi-Rite market. It was such a great addition to any cheese plate; I was inspired me to make my own.

I’ll never forget the first time I bought quince. It was just days before Christmas and I had planned to make membrillo. I woke up Christmas Eve morning, ready to make quince paste only to discover that my bag of quince was nowhere to be found. Because someone, who shall remain unnamed, had mistaken my bruised quince for rotting fruit and threw them away. A tantrum ensued, followed by a begrudged trek out to Rainbow Grocery to buy more quince (for some reason, Berkeley Bowl had stopped carrying quince that Christmas). It was a rough scene that Christmas Eve morning. But the membrillo was a hit.

This year, instead of making membrillo, I thought I’d make quince jam since it’s easier to divvy up. As it cooks, the pale flesh of the quince becomes a gorgeous rosy color and fills your kitchen with the most incredible aroma – sweet, amazingly floral, a hint of citrus. As with most jams, this particular jam is really nice spread on toast, but it’s even better with a thin slice of manchego. And if you really feel like living on the edge this holiday season, you can slather it on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Merriest of holidays to you and yours!

vanilla quince jam

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes about 5 half pints

6 cups packed, grated quince, (discard cores, leave peel on), about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)

4-1/4 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp lemon zest

1 vanilla bean, split

4 cups sugar

Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.

Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully ladle the quince into a food mill to puree. Return the processed quince to the saucepan.

Add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.

Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly.

To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for at least 8 hours.