Monday, December 15, 2014

The Best Guacamole Ever

I posted my favorite Salsa Verde recipe a many months ago, so naturally guacamole must follow.  This is my favorite dip in the world, and I love bringing it to parties and social events.  I usually make a big batch, so this recipe feeds many -- but of course, you can easily cut it in half, and even in half again, if you just want to make it for the family or a few friends.

I start off with a bunch of really good avocados.  Selecting avocados is very important, and there are many good avocado options, particularly in California.  Hass are delicious and readily available, but when you can find them, Fuertes and Reeds are also excellent choices for guacamole.  It is important that the avocado be ripe, but not too ripe.  When you hold it in your hand, make sure that is feels like you could squish it, if you were to squeeze it really tight, but make sure that it does not feel "mushy" at all.  Great guacamole begins with great avocados!  I have 9 here, but there is absolutely nothing magic about that number -- it's just A LOT.  I start by cutting them in half, as pictured, and removing the pits by hitting each pit squarely with a sharp knife, and then pivoting it to the right or left to loosen the pit so that I can lift the pit right out.

Next, I scoop the avocado in large chunks into a bowl and immediately squeeze on some lime juice to preserve the rich bright color.

I chop up a bunch of white onion, green onion and cilantro.  I'd say heaping cup full for 9 avocados is about right.

And I finely chop two seeded jalapenos.  (Keep the seeds in if you like your guacamole extra spicy.)

Next, I mash the avocado very gently with a fork until I get just the right consistency.  It should be both chunky and creamy.

Then I stir in the chopped jalapenos along with a bunch of the onion and cilantro mixture reserving a about 1/4 cup for the top.  At this point, I add more lime juice (1/2 a lime at a time) and coarse salt to taste.

Now, if you have already made some Salsa Verde -- and I hope you have --  (here is the link to my favorite Salsa Verde recipe:, spoon some on top of the finished guacamole, and sprinkle with the reserved onion and cilantro mixture.  Otherwise, just sprinkle on the reserved onion and cilantro mixture and serve with your favorite red or green salsa!

Guacamole is...

Monday, October 6, 2014

Macerated Strawberries - It's What's for Dessert!

When I get one of my uncharacteristic urges for something sweet and "desserty," I immediately go to fruit. Delicious and satisfying, slightly macerated strawberries are the perfect healthy dessert, whether you eat them plain, topped with a dollop of whipped cream, or spooned over ice cream, plain Greek yogurt, or angel-food cake (Noah's favorite!).

Actually, this really isn't cooking, as the preparation could not be easier.  Just rinse, trim, and quarter 1 pound of fresh strawberries.

Then drizzle just the tiniest bit of maple syrup over the top (about 1 tablespoon), squeeze in a bit of fresh lemon juice (again, about 1 tablespoon) and garnish with fresh mint.  Most macerated fruit recipes call for significantly more sugar, which makes for a much sweeter, softer, and saucier dessert, but I really like this fresh, more naturally sweet whole fruit version, plus I've never been fond of overly sweet desserts.

I love the strawberries just like this, while Noah adores them over angel-food cake or spooned into breakfast smoothies. 

1 lb. fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
A few sprigs of fresh mint

Clean, trim, and quarter 1 lb. of fresh strawberries.  Add maple syrup and lemon juice, and toss gently. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh mint and serve your favorite way.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Harissa-Glazed Carrots

This is one of those dishes that just came together as I was staring at random ingredients in my refrigerator.  I knew I wanted to use the colorful carrots I had just purchased, and the rest just fell into place.  

Start with 6 to 8 medium carrots.  I love heirlooms, mostly because I'm a color freak, but standard orange carrots will do nicely as well.

Peel the carrots, and then boil (or steam) them until they are fork tender.

In the meantime, finely chop 1 medium white onion like so.

And sauté the chopped onion in about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until it becomes soft and slightly caramelized.  Then set the onion aside in a large bowl.

Measure out 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of good vinegar (I'm using Sherry vinegar), 1/4 cup Harissa (found in most Middle Eastern and gourmet markets) and a big handful of fresh arugula.

Add the Harissa, vinegar, salt and spices to the cooked onion.

Slice up the carrots and gently fold them into the onion mixture, coating the carrots well.

Plate the carrots, scatter the top with arugula and serve at room temperature or cold.

This kicked up carrot salad is delicious and lovely.


6-8 Medium Carrots
1 Medium White Onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons good vinegar
1/4 cup Harissa
Big handful fresh arugula

Boil or steam carrots until fork tender, and let them rest.  Sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft and slightly caramelized.  Set cooked onion aside in large bowl, and add in Harissa, salt, spices and vinegar.  Slice carrots into thin 1/4-inch disks and gently fold into the onion mixture.  Plate the carrots and top with fresh arugula.  Serve at room temperature or cold.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More Peas Please -- Fresh English Peas with Scallion & Mint

The arrival of Spring brings one of my favorite vegetables, fresh English peas.  Although rather elusive these days, the taste and texture of fresh peas so outshines that of canned and even frozen peas that it is totally worth the effort it might take to hunt them down.  And these peas are most delicious when prepared simply and served right away. High in protein and vitamins, these little bright-green gems are both tender and crunchy (is that an oxymoron, Mom?) making them a real pleasure to eat!

I start with 1 cup of shelled fresh English peas, 3 scallions (sliced thin at an angle), 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and several sprigs of fresh mint, sliced into very thin ribbons.

I just rinse off the peas, toss them in a pot of boiling hot water, let them boil for about 90 seconds, and then drain them well.  They will turn bright green and soften just a bit, but they will still retain their sturdy texture if not overcooked.  Mushy peas are the worst, unless you are making pea soup, of course. 

Then I saute the scallions in the olive oil until just tender (about 2-3 minutes), after which I stir in the cooked peas. 

I garnish with the mint ribbons, some Kosher salt, and plenty of fresh ground black pepper.  The result is tender and crunchy deliciousness, and the fresh mint and scallions really compliment the peas!


1 cup of shelled fresh English peas
3 scallions (sliced thin at an angle)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Several sprigs of fresh mint, sliced into very thin ribbons 
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cook peas in boiling hot water for about 90 seconds, remove and drain.  In the meantime, saute the scallions in the olive oil until just tender (about 2-3 minutes), and then stir in the cooked peas.  Next, place cooked peas and scallions into a serving dish, garnish with the mint ribbons, and season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Serve warm. 

 I recommend making this right before you are ready to serve as the cooking time takes just a few minutes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mediterranean Pasta (with Feta, Tomatoes, and Parsley)

We often make this incredibly quick and easy Mediterranean Pasta recipe for dinner at the end of a busy day.  Delicious, nutritious, and easy, it is a perfect meal when you want something scrumptious and homemade in a hurry.  All you need is some really good feta cheese, Roma tomatoes, fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, garlic, olive oil, and your favorite pasta.  I used spaghetti this time, but I've made this dish with every shape and size of pasta imaginable.

First, I bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook my favorite pasta to desired tenderness.  I like it a little past al dente.  In the meantime I ready the toppings.  For 2 servings, I dice 1 ripe Roma tomato, crumble about 4 ounces of feta cheese that I have presoaked, chop up a handful fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, crush a large head of garlic, and measure out about 2 tablespoons of very good extra virgin olive oil.

As soon as the pasta is ready, I heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan, add the crushed garlic, and heat until the garlic is just toasted (about a minute on medium-high heat).

Then I portion out the pasta into serving bowls, drizzle in the olive oil and garlic, and toss.

Next I layer on the toppings, starting with the feta cheese, then the tomatoes, followed by the parsley.

Finally, I top the finished dish with plenty of fresh ground black pepper.  I find it is not necessary to add salt because the feta cheese contains plenty of salt.

Ingredients/Recipe (serves 2)

1 lb. of your favorite pasta (spaghetti, rotini, mostaccioli, etc...)
1 large ripe Roma tomato
4 ounces of feta cheese
1 large handful for Italian flat leaf parsley
1 large clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta to desired tenderness in plenty of salted boiling water.  In the meantime, soak and then crumble the feta cheese (you can substitute packaged crumbled feta cheese instead), dice the tomato, chop the parsley, and crush the garlic.  As soon as the pasta reaches the desired tenderness, drain and divide into serving bowls.  Next, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan, add the crushed garlic, and saute for just a minute until the garlic is toasted (being careful not to let it burn).  Drizzle the oil and garlic evenly over the pasta and toss lightly.  Then top the pasta with the feta cheese, followed by the tomatoes and the parsley, and finish with a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper.

The warm pasta combined with the cool feta and the fresh tomatoes and herbs is just outstanding!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!