Hello, Gorgeous....


Loving these Fuerte avocados from the farmers' market this week. One huge attribute this variety has going for it is that it doesn't brown on the inside. I guess one could say Fuertes age gracefully. I just have to remember to feel them more often since they stay green when ripe. If you can find them, pick some up. They're such a refreshing change from the Haas. No offense, Haas. You know you're always welcome in my house.

A little bit about the Fuerte....

Harvested late fall through spring, the Fuerte is the original high quality California Avocado.

  • Pear-shaped
  • Medium seed
  • Peels easily
  • Great taste
  • Medium to large fruit, ranging from 5 to 14 ounces
  • Smooth thin green skin
  • Creamy, pale green flesh
Ripe Characteristics:
  • Skin remains green
  • Fruit yields to gentle pressure when ripe 
Source: The California Avocado Commission, www.avocado.org


Arroz con Leche (y Coco, y Canela!)

What does one do when they need to find a use for the leftover coconut milk in the fridge? Substitute 1 cup of it for the milk in arroz con leche, of course! At least that's what occurred to me. And Dan will be one lucky husband/babydaddy when he comes home tonight to find it hanging out on the top shelf. In the exact same place the leftover coconut milk was this morning.

Arroz con leche (or rice pudding in english speaking parts of the world) is incredibly easy and quick to make. I did this in about 45 minutes this afternoon, with very little effort, and it turned out beautifully. The coconut essence is subtle, yet very much there, and the cinnamon imparts a lovely, pale rose color. I don't like it too sweet, so I only used 1/3 cup of sugar. If you find it's not sweet enough for your liking, you can definitely add more.

                         1 cup white rice
                         2 cups water
                         1 cup milk
                         1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
                         1/3 cup sugar
                         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Bring the water to a boil, add the rice, and cook on low until most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add the milk and cook, stirring frequently about ten minutes. Then add the sugar and cinnamon and cook until the rice is very soft and the milk is almost completely absorbed (another 10-15 minutes).

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from How to Cook Everything, Mark Bittman

Spicy Green Coconut Curry with Tofu

I've been feeling in the mood for a delicious green curry for some time now. Yesterday afternoon, as I was poking around having a look, the can of coconut milk in the pantry was imploring, "Please...for the love of God, Shawn. We can't take this darkness and isolation any longer." At least that's what I thought I heard it say when I looked at it tenderly. And so it was done. That's the softy side of me. I give in to the voices inside my head more often than I'd like to admit. James and I headed to Seaside to pick up some extra firm tofu, peanuts, and a few other goodies.

What I love about this dish is that it comes together so effortlessly, and you can add or subtract ingredients depending on what your tummy desires (or what you happen to have on hand). I wouldn't skimp on the peanuts, however, although you can certainly try something else, like slivered almonds. They add a fabulous contrasting texture that compliments the tofu nicely. Of course, throw in some other vegetables from the fridge that may need to be used or a little yard bird if you're not into tofu to mix things up a bit.

          2 tablespoons safflower (or peanut) oil
          1 small onion, thinly sliced
          1 clove garlic, minced
          2-3 serrano chiles, minced (depending on your courage)
          2 1/2 teaspoons green curry paste (someday I'll make my own...)
          3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
          1/2 cup vegetable broth (I like low-sodium, but it's your choice)
          1 tablespoon tamari (soy)
          1/2 tablespoon mirin (rice wine)
          1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
          1/4 cup cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
          1 package extra-firm tofu
          1/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
          2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped

Drain the tofu and cut it lengthwise through the middle to make two 1/2-inch thick sheets. Cook over medium-high for a few minutes with 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet (we like our ridged grill pan for better browning). Then flip and cook for another couple of minutes until golden. Let cool, cut into smaller squares and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in a wok or large, heavy saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, and chiles and stir fry for a minute or two. Stir in the curry paste, coconut milk, broth, tamari, mirin, sesame oil and cilantro, and simmer for five minutes. Add the tofu and simmer a little longer, until heated through.

Serve over rice. Garnish with cilantro leaves and peanuts.
Makes 2-3 servings.

Inspired by Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, Deborah Madison


My Life As A Sprouter

Yes, we are now sprouters. Meaning we sprout. And we are enthusiastic sprouters, at that. What you see above, in case you don't already know, are sprouted wheat berries. Harvested fresh this morning from our kitchen window sill. To date, we have sprouted mung beans, garbanzo beans and wheat berries.

My friend, Kristy, turned me on to sprouting a couple of summers ago when we were visiting her and her sweet family at their home in Vermont. She sent us home with a green plastic sprouting lid that fits on a standard mason jar - and I looked at it a hundred times before deciding to jump into the strange and whimsical world of sprouting.

Upon researching, I came across the following basic facts about sprouting:

1. Sprouts are considered wonder foods. They rank as the freshest and most nutritious of all vegetables available to the human diet. By a process of natural transmutation, sprouted food acquires vastly improved digestibility and nutritional qualities when compared to non-sprouted embryo from which it derives.

2. Sprouted foods have been part of the diet of many ancient races for thousands of years. Even to this day, the Chinese retain their fame for delicious mung bean sprouts. Sprouts provide all the essential vitamins and minerals. They should form a vital component of our diet. All edible grains, seeds and legumes can be sprouted. 

3. Medicinally and nutritionally, sprouts have a long history. It has been written that the Ancient Chinese physicians recognized and prescribed sprouts for curing many disorders over 5,000 years ago. Sprouts have continued to be a main staple in the diets of Americans of Oriental descent. Although accounts of sprouting appear in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, it took centuries for the West to fully realize its nutrition merits.

4. There is an amazing increase in nutrients in sprouted foods when compared to their dried embryo. In the process of sprouting, the vitamins, minerals and protein increase substantially with corresponding decrease in calories and carbohydrate content. 

5. The increase in protein availability is of great significance. It is a valuable indicator of the enhanced nutritional value of a food when sprouted. The simultaneous reduction in carbohydrate content indicates that many carbohydrate molecules are broken down during sprouting to allow an absorption of atmospheric nitrogen and reforming into amino-acids. The resultant protein is the most easily digestible of all proteins available in foods.

6. Sprouts are an extremely inexpensive method of obtaining a concentration of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. They have in them all the constituent nutrients of fruits and vegetables and are ‘live’ foods.

Naturally, after reading about the many benefits of sprouts, I was eager to give it a try. And we have found that sprouting is simple, fun, and extremely rewarding. Not to mention the sprouts themselves are beautiful. For everything you wish to know about sprouting, visit sproutpeople.com. They are a wonderful resource and seem like good folks. Happy Sprouting!

Sprout facts found on www.isga-sprouts.org.

Shawn Loveth Heirloom Tomatoes

I swear I almost gave this little yellow one with a stem a kiss today as I was admiring it on the counter. It's so cute; I feel bad eating it. But I will. Tonight.


Sunday Morning Granola

I have been saving the bag from an amazing granola blend I picked up at my favorite 'bodega' in San Miguel de Allende over a year ago. I see it in the pantry behind a tote container we store snacks in at least twice a week. Originally I had thought to save it so I might try to source the brand online, which I tried to do several months ago with no success as it is made in a city an hour and a half away from where I bought it. But I couldn't bring myself to throw it away. And then yesterday I had the brilliant idea of attempting to duplicate it. And it worked! Splendidly. With a couple of modifications, of course. Why this didn't occur to me sooner, I will never understand. I intentionally used very little honey for sweetening, as I prefer to drizzle it fresh over the top instead. Incidentally, the bowl in the photograph was picked up at the street market on that very trip.

                         2 cups rolled oats
                         1/4 cup almonds, chopped
                         1/4 cup pecans, chopped
                         1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
                         1/4 cup flaked, unsweetened coconut
                         3 tablespoons sesame seeds
                         1/4 cup currants

                         1/4 cup olive oil
                         3 tablespoons honey

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Set aside on large, rimmed baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

Heat the oil and honey over low heat in small saucepan. Whisk to combine well, then add to the oat mixture and stir well with a spatula, making sure all the ingredients are evenly coated.

Spread evenly on the baking sheet in a thin layer and bake for 30 minutes (or until golden brown and nicely toasted), stirring every ten minutes or so. Let cool completely, then store in an air-tight container.


P.S. I needed a gift for our neighbors, and this made a beautiful one!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Dan and I went through an intensive natural frozen yoghurt phase last summer and consequently our ice cream maker has been on sabbatical. Until this weekend. I had been looking forward to making this delightful treat ever since my dearest Libby told me about it months ago. Every now and then I fantasize about something so often, I inadvertently build castles in the sky, believing that when it finally happens it will be the GREATEST THING EVER. And then it's not. Woolgathering, so to speak. Well, folks, let me just say that this was not the case here. This was the pot at the end of the rainbow. Seriously.

I omitted the food coloring the original recipe called for (soooo much prettier), and used bittersweet chocolate exclusively (as well as a little less) rather than half semisweet and half bittersweet. The mint came off a fresh plant that has been existing peacefully on our window sill for the last couple of weeks. The results were magical.

                       6 egg yolks
                       3/4 cup sugar
                       2 cups whole milk
                       2 cups fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
                       1 cup heavy cream
                       6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

In large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.

In heavy medium saucepan over moderately low heat, stir together milk, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and mint. Heat until steaming but not boiling, then remove from heat.

Ladle about 1/2 cup hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent eggs from cooking, then slowly stir the egg mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly. Place over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat back of spoon (finger drawn across spoon will leave clear path), 5 to 6 minutes total (do not let boil or custard will curdle). Strain through fine-mesh sieve into large bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids. Whisk in heavy cream.
Cover and chill until cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Process custard in ice cream maker, adding chopped chocolate during last minute of churning. Transfer to airtight container and freeze until hard, about 3 hours.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Adapted from Isaac Mizrahi's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Epicurious, September 2007.


Brown Rice Medley with Winter Greens

Last night when Dan asked me what we were making for dinner, I thought "Alright, Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley. Now that you've cajoled me into throwing you into my shopping cart with your colorful alluring ways, let's give this a whirl and see what you've got." And the medley did not disappoint. He had been waiting all week for his moment to shine, after all. The mix is a combination of long grain brown rice, barley, and daikon radish seed. I decided on using some kale and collards from the fridge, and Dan got right to work on making tofu matchsticks. Finished with a poached egg on top, the meal was satisfying and delightful.

                         1 cup Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley
                         8 1/2 cups water
                         2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
                         1/2 bunch kale, coarsely chopped or torn
                         1/2 bunch collards, coarsley chopped or torn
                         1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
                         1 package extra firm tofu
                         1 tablespoon sesame oil
                         2 poached eggs
                         salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and drain the rice. Combine rice, 2 1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt in medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, and simmer 35 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.  

Bring 6 cups water to a gentle boil. Add rinsed collards and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until collards begin to soften. Add kale and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat when greens are at their greenest. Drain well and toss with sesame oil.

To make Heidi Swanson's tofu matchsticks: Drain the tofu and pat it dry. Cut the block of tofu lengthwise through the middle to make four 1/4-to 1/2-inch thick sheets of tofu. Two at a time, cook in a dry skillet or well-seasoned skillet over medium-high for a few minutes until browned on one side. Flip gently, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy. Let cool, enough to handle, then cut crosswise into matchsticks (see photo). Repeat with the remaining sheets.

Add greens to rice medley and combine well. Serve matchsticks over rice and greens and top with a poached egg.

Makes 2 servings.


Minty Innocence

Well hellooooo there, beautiful, unsuspecting mint plant enjoying the brief sun coming through my kitchen window. Little do you know I will be enjoying you after we freeze your essence with milk, cream, eggs, and sugar this weekend.

Grilled Eggplant Open-Faced Sandwich with Smoked Gouda

Did someone say open-faced sandwich? I'm in. I am a complete sucker for the things. Not only are they so much more beautiful and enticing than the typical sandwich, but the flavors and textures of the contents are allowed to stand out in all their glory, rather than live a life of oppression by bread. Don't get me wrong...I love a good sandwich as much as the next person for reasons of practicality and variety, mainly. But these beauties steal my heart any day of the week. Throw eggplant, smoked gouda and tomatoes into the mix and it's a party in your mouth.

So last night, when we were standing around wondering what to do with the eggplant I picked up at the store (not the easiest vegetable to plan a mean around), and we needed something quick and easy - voila! Open-faced grilled eggplant sandwiches sounded perfect. And they were. Dan made a quick run to Seaside Market and called to tell me what the bread options were. I was hoping for a rustic, country-style loaf, but in that way that life has of surprising you with something even better than what you had in mind, I decided on the black olive when presented with the options. Now I'm normally not a black olive kind of person; in fact, I'm a bit of an olive snob (gasp!). But, I was intrigued since we were going for smoky gouda smothered eggplant slices with tomatoes and parsley and it sounded like it might be a fit. I took the chance - and it payed off. The flavor combination was superb!

During the summer, we would have grilled these on an actual grill, but since we've had 8 INCHES OF RAIN IN SAN DIEGO THIS WEEK, our ridged grill pan and broiler fit the bill.

                           2 cups tomatoes on the vine, chopped
                           1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
                           1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
                           1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar
                           1/4 teaspoon black pepper
                           1/2 teaspoon salt
                           smoked gouda, thinly sliced
                           4 slices country-style bread (from a fresh loaf)
                           1 eggplant (sliced lengthwise into 1/2" slices)

Heat grill (or grill pan) over medium heat. While grill is heating, stir together tomatoes, parsley, 2 tablespoons oil, vinegar, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.

With a cheese plane or vegetable peeler, shave cheese into thin slices.

Brush bread on both sides with 1 tablespoon oil per slice.

Trim off top and bottom of each eggplant, then cut 4 slices lengthwise from center eggplant. Brush sides with 3 tablespoons oil (total) and sprinkle with remaining salt.

Lightly oil grill rack, then grill eggplant slices, turning occasionally to avoid overbrowning, until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. While eggplant is grilling, grill bread, turning over once, until grill marks form, 1 to 2 minutes total, and transfer to a large platter.

Transfer eggplant to platter, then top evenly with sliced cheese and return to grill and cook, covered until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute. Arrange eggplant slices over bread. Then spoon the tomato mixture over the top.

Makes 2-4 servings.

Inspired by recipe from Gourmet, May 2006.


The. Best. Tortilla Soup.

I've always loved tortilla soup. It's one of my favorite things about being in Mexico. I'm not sure what I enjoy more -  the combination of flavors and textures or the beautiful presentation of all the garnishes when they bring it to the table. Putting it together before you eat it feels special. Unfortunately, it's never that good when I order it here in the States. Typically it's just chicken broth or a flavorless tomato soup on the sweeter side leaving much to be desired in terms of fresh toppings. It's been raining all week, which is unusual for this part of the world, and soups have been making us happy and keeping us warm inside. The pasilla chiles are a must, as they lend a rich, smoky flavor that makes this soup.

                              2 tablespoons olive oil
                              1/2 large onion, chopped
                              2 large garlic cloves, chopped
                              6 tomatoes on the vine, quartered
                              3 dried Pasilla chiles, rinsed, stemmed, seeded
                              1 tablespoon chili powder
                              1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
                              4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
                              2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (optional)

                              2 corn tortillas cut in 1/2" strips and toasted until crisp
                              1 chopped or sliced avocado
                              coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
                              crumbled cotija cheese
                              creme fraiche or crema mexicana

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cover and cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally, about 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes, chiles, broth, chili powder and oregano. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Puree in blender to desired consistency and then return to pot. Stir in shredded chicken (optional).

Ladle soup into bowls. Top with tortilla strips, avocado, cilantro, cheese and a dollop of cream.

Makes 2 large, or 4 small servings.

Adapted from recipe in Bon Apetit, 2000.