Thursday, April 28, 2011

Farmers Market Tomato and Okra Salad - serves 4

One of the great things about Dallas is its Farmers Market, especially in the spring.  Although all the vendors who work there, my favorite is located in Shed 1, where local farmers bring their goods that come directly from their dirt as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables.  If you go, you have to visit my sweet friend, Anna, a pint size, Hispanic woman who will TOTALLY take care of you if you visit her first and often.  In fact, I was just there to pick up fresh green beans and left with 4 bags of free vegetables, ranging from corn, okra, apples (from her tree, of course), onions and a few avocados.  She really knows how to take care of me and even fed my kids an afternoon snack of fresh, homegrown mangoes.  It doesn't get better than that, nor does this recipe.  Tomatoes from Betty's (located in the same shed) with a few of the vegetables that Anna provided, sparked a salad that says "hello, spring!" and would have made Anna grow a few inches taller out of pure satisfaction.


2 Beefsteak tomatoes, sliced thick
4 ears fresh corn, roasted with hulls(bake at 375 for 30 minutes, then cut from cob
2 cups okra, stem and ends removed, then sliced (add to a bowl of salt water to remove slime)
3/4 cup ground cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 cup olive oil (vegetable or canola may also be used)
2 eggs, beaten
8 basil leaves
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Balsamic vinegar (optional) for drizzling
Olive Oil for drizzling

Stack 2 slices of tomatoes on plate.  Meanwhile, in two pie pans, add cornmeal mixture to one and beaten eggs in another.  Heat 1 cup olive oil in large pan.  While heating, in batches, add okra to egg then to cornmeal, tossing to coat. Add to oil and cook, tossing occasionally, for about 4-5 minutes per batch.  Drain okra in a paper towel lined bowl, adding salt per batch.  Repeat until all okra has been cooked.
Add okra and corn to plate and top tomatoes with 2 basil leaves.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle plate with olive oil and balsamic.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cuban Style Strip Steak with Mojo - serves 4

I had the pleasure recently to teach a cooking class to a 12 year old.  Yes, a 12 year old.  This child, kid (my son is the same age and does not like to be referred to as a "child") was visiting his aunt and uncle from Florida during his spring break.  Sadly, this young man, from what I learned, doesn't get a lot of attention back at home and gets loads of it when he comes to visit Texas.  As I learned, he's not a big fan of school because at home, no one sits down with him to help him with his homework.  He really doesn't have someone to tell him how important school is and it's necessity in life.  He lives with his dad and step-mom and from I understood, would rather travel than spend quality time with their son.  My heart was breaking as I listened to his story.  After a few minutes of teaching him basic onion cutting and simmering, he told me that his dream was to become a chef. This is a great kid, who's aunt and uncle ADORE him.  They fly him to Texas as often as they can and give him the things kids should have and let him experience fun things like cooking classes.  And, cooking is right up his alley and mine.  We had a great time together, cooking up, by his request, this Cuban concoction.  And from what I learned that day, standing beside a smart, funny, good-natured kid, is what we, as parents, need to remember.  Concocting memories that will one day form our children into great human beings.  Here's to the aunt and uncles out there who fill in to those who don't.

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 thin sirloin steaks (8 ounces each)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Vegetable oil, for the grill
2 sweet onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick 


Mix the lime juice, water, orange juice, salt, oregano and pepper in a bowl.
Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan over moderate heat. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden, about 2 minutes. Very carefully add the juice mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the mojo cool to room temperature.
Arrange the steaks in a large glass baking dish. Add the cilantro to the mojo and pour half of it over the steaks; turn several times to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Reserve the remaining mojo.
Light a grill. Lightly brush the grate with oil. Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry. Brush the onion slices with some of the reserved mojo. Grill the onion slices over the cooler part of the grill, until lightly charred and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Grill the steaks over high heat until medium rare, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the steaks and onions to a platter; spoon the remaining mojo on top and serve.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It Takes Two (or 8 women spending a weekend at the lake) Tomato Soup with Shaved Fennel - serves 4

I certainly hope none of you have been not cooking since my last post or that your family hasn't disowned you from lack of eating.  Per my last entry, life around the household has been a mess and quite chaotic, with a few emotional crisis' here and there.  But, there are a few things in life that can take you away from the everyday hassles.  Calgon (is that around anymore?) and a weekend at a girlfriends lake house with 7 other wonderful women.  I had the opportunity to host a blissful, kid and husband free weekend laughing until it hurt, cooking up a plethora of mouth-watering food and serving up beverages to help "put-aside" any stress.  As my shoulders (and head) began to ease up from tension, I began to realize that life is waaaaay to short to be too busy not to hang with tha gals.  Even if it means spending a weekend with someone you don't know as well, it always ends up being a good thing and another mark in my BFF book of life.  Like this tomato soup and singing Rob Base's and DJ EZ Rock's "It takes two...", it really takes a few great women to unconsciously tell you "its going to be ok".


1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbs for fennel
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
4 thyme sprigs
3 tbs tomato paste
Salt and fresh ground pepper
4 cups water
Two 28 oz cans peeled Italian tomatoes, juices reserved
3 oz Fontina cheese, diced

Heat oil in large Dutch oven.  Add onions and garlic and saute until carmelized and slightly charred, about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat 3 tbs olive oil until shimmering.  Add fennel and saute until carmelized and browned, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.  Set aside.
Add tomatoes and their juice to pot, breaking up tomatoes. Add thyme and tomato paste, stirring to incorporate.  Add water and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste,then in batches, add half of soup to blender, only blending half the soup (be SURE and cover lid with hand and dish towel or you will have a mess!).  (You can also use a hand puree.)  Ladle the soup into bowls and top with fennel and Fontina and serve.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spicy Peanut Noodles - serves 4, quickly

My life is quite chaotic right now.  It's hard to believe that school is almost out, sports are in full swing and the catering business is starting to kick into gear.  I am a little overwhelmed, like a lot of women, that there's so much to do between now and the end of the school year.  And we think summer will be better?  Funny how the cycle works.... we look forward to summer so we can "sit-back" yet we can't wait to get the kids back in school so we can "sit-back".  What does that mean, really?  To me, this recipe just lets you "sit back".  It takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare, no kidding.  You can use whatever veggie you have left in your fridge and when you're done, you can sit.  Take a deep breath.  Exhale.  And calmly, eat your quicker-than-a-flash meal.  Then off to do homework.


1 pd spaghetti, cooked to package directions (save one cup pasta water)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 green onions, including green parts, chopped
1/4 cup organic, creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Sriachi sauce (optional)

Drain pasta.  Add all ingredients, through peanut butter.  Add pasta water to mixture and toss well.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Plate into bowls and top with cilantro and a dollop of Sriachi sauce on the side and serve.