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Monday, February 28, 2011

Do Not Dis This Dough

Pizzette with Wild Mushrooms and Gremolata a  la Chez Panisse Cafe
(no, you don't need glasses - the picture is a bit blurry, sorry)
(scoff not pizza dough from scratch makers) 
Another fun dinner I had with Cousin Lee and her husband Jay up in the Bay Area last month was at the uber-famous Chez Panisse, albeit the less costly upstairs Cafe.  Legendary Chef/Owner Alice Waters was in the foyer welcoming guests and I knew we were in for a special dinner.  We started with a salad of mixed greens, gold and red beets, fresh ricotta cheese, and the brilliant addition of fresh mint.  I can't believe it's never occurred to me before to add fresh mint to a salad other than tabbouleh - move over basil, cilantro, dill, there's a new herb in town. 

The salad was followed by this incredibly thin pizza dough topped with wild mushrooms, and gremolata, a parsley, garlic, lemon zest mixture, then lightly covered in melted mozzarella cheese.  Since I haven't been able to get this flavor combination out of my mind, and since I happened to have most of the ingredients on hand, and since I had a package of frozen bread dough in the freezer and know that it's never let me down before (remember to defrost 1 loaf in the fridge the night before), I cranked the oven up to 500 and the results are pictured above, described below, and completely eaten already.

Homemade Preserved Lemons, Fresh Cilantro, Dried Porcini Mushrooms, Fresh Garlic


My Gremolata
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro (because I like this better than parsley, always)
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
zest of 1/2 a lemon (then put lemon in fridge to juice another day)
6-8 Tbsp. preserved lemon oil (how-to preserve lemons coming to this blog real soon)

Mix the above together and set aside

Wild Mushroom Portion of Pizzette
1 package dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water about 20 minutes (save mushroom water and use in soup or risotto or something but do not waste)
1 fresh portobello mushroom cap, chopped
sprinkle of Kosher salt
olive oil

Saute' the portobello mushroom in a bit of olive oil for 3-4 minutes, then add the rehydrated porcinis + sprinkle of Kosher salt and stir until combined.  Set aside.

The Dough & Big Finish
1 loaf frozen bread dough (forgive me Alice), defrosted and cut into 2
olive oil for brushing
mushroom mixture
shredded mozzarella

Put a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet.  Spray or brush with olive oil. 
Roll out each piece of dough and place on oil brushed, parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush top of dough with more oil.  Pierce dough all over with a fork.  Bake about 10-15 minutes until dough starts to brown.  Carefully remove pan from oven, place on stove top and add the following:
- 1st spread with gremolata
- add mushroom mixture on top of this
- sprinkle cheese over everything
- brush a little bit more oil on crust
Return to oven for about 5 minutes until cheese has melted.
Remove from oven (carefully), let cool as long as you can stand to wait, then pull those kitchen scissors out of the drawer and snip yourself off a big slice.

                                                     Pizzette & Pinot = Perfect!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Take Time for Tea

I love tea.  I love egg salad.  On a recent trip to Chado Tea in Los Angeles I was delighted to find tea-infused egg salad as one of the choices of little tea sandwiches (I love little sandwiches).  Infusing tea into foods has become more popular in the last few years and I've used tea in baking, chocolate truffle making, and other desserts.  But this was my first venture infusing something savory and it was a big success.  Here's my recipe:

Tea Infused Egg Salad
3 eggs, hard boiled and cool to the touch
2 1/2 cups boiled water
3 oolong tea bags
1 1/2 Tbsp. Vegenaise
2 pinches wasabi powder
2 grinds of seasalt
4 honey wheat dinner rolls.

Put the tea bags in the boiled water in a large cup and seep for about 15 minutes.  Peel the hard boiled eggs.  Remove the tea bags and place the peeled eggs in the tea.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.  After soaking, remove the eggs, pat them dry, then dice them into a bowl.  Add the Vegenaise, wasabi powder, and seasalt and mix well.  Spread equally among the 4 split dinner rolls.  That's all there is to it.  So delicious, you might have to pinch yourself.

These are a few of my favorite teas
 Tea is something I've loved since I was a little girl (see profile picture below) and my Moroccan grandmother and mother would brew wonderful mint tea.  Little bags of orange pekoe were the perfect comfort during a winter cold.  Then I discovered the English tradition of afternoon tea with little sandwiches (love these), scones, lemon curd, etc., and thought "wow, this tea thing is really great" - special shout out to Earl Grey.  More tea enjoyment came from Asian green, black and white teas, exotic Indian blends, herbal mixtures (tisanes), and  appreciating how delicious teas of every kind taste, how they can lift you up, calm you down, make you feel better, and just add so much to la vida loca.

(Note: If you like a bit of fresh lemon in your tea but hate those pesky seeds, check out Melissa's Seedless Lemons at

Warning:  There will be a lot more about tea in the future.  Probably more about little sandwiches too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Apple A Day Project

Of course there's a lot more to keeping the doctor away than just eating an apple a day, but an apple a day is a great way to feed your sweet tooth and fill your stomach with good nutrition.  So, being as there are so many apple varieties to enjoy, e.g., Crimson Gold, Ambrosia, Green Dragon, Pink Lady, Fuji, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Sweet Orin, and Gala, just to name a few, and so many ways to enjoy them, e.g.,  in a pie, on a stick covered in caramel, roasted with onions and Brussel sprouts (I'm not kidding), or just naked, let's all strive for at least one, juicy, tart, filling apple a day.  As a little incentive, comment on this post and I'll send you the colorful and informative Apple Variety Refrigerator Magnet shown in the picture.  (Quantities are limited to stock on hand.)
Cool Refrigerator Magnet & Apples
You know those really delicious cinnamony dried apple slices they sell at farmers' markets?   Just thought I'd let you know they are super simple to make, and here's the recipe:

Super Simple Oven Baked (Dried ) Apples
Unblemished Apples, mixed varieties, washed and dried
2 parts confectioners' sugar to 1 part ground cinnamon, combined
parchment paper lined baking sheet

Heat oven to 250 degrees.  One apple at a time, starting away from the stem end, cut into 1/8" slices.  Place the slices on the parchment lined baking sheet as shown above.  Obviously it's ok to have imperfect and partial slices.  Put the sugar and cinnamon in a shaker can and lightly sprinkle the mixture over every slice.  Bake about 45 minutes or so, turn over the slices and sprinkle again, and bake another 45 minutes.  Yum!

A Bowl of Baked/Dried Apple Slices Per Day?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mosaics Through the Millenium

Blogger/Artist's Self-Portrait
According to Wikipedia, the earliest known examples of mosaics made of different materials were found in a temple building in Mesopotamia, in the 2nd half of the 3rd millenium BC.  Through the ages, artists have gone on to create thousands of variations of found object mosaic art, with religious significance, or in royal tribute, or with cultural significance, or personal sybolism.  My own mosaic journey has recently been inspired by the classic game of bowling and the simple joy of a few spares, a couple of strikes, and a cold brewski, as in the happy self-portrait pictured above.

Cynthia's Turtle Stone
 In my ongoing quest to share knowledge and skills I helped my friend Cynthia create her own mosaic with this stepping stone starring her favorite creature, the turtle. (Sorry but I should have turned the stone around so the turtle had its feet on terra firma, not on its back as in the photo).  I hope you are inspired to make your own mosaic soon - maybe at a mosaic workshop I'm planning to have in the near future.  In the meantime, think about something you'd like to create using this ancient art in a meaningful modern way.

P.S.  I know my photography NEEDS A LOT OF WORK so any tips would be appreciated.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Belated Chinese New Year

This is the Year of the Rabbit, but leave it to me, the Imperial Procrastinator, to be slow like a turtle and wait until the last day of the Lunar New Year period to spread the word.  Recently I was so lucky to have the chance to celebrate with good friends Sue and Martin Yan, my newly found cousin Lee and husband Jay (more on our reunion later), plus other Yan family friends.  Here's a picture taken by Stephanie Jan, Martin's Production Wizard, at our fantastic dinner.  As most of you know, Martin made classic Chinese food recipes accessible and very do-able for millions of Americans through his tv shows, books, and appearances.  To find out if the busiest celebrity chef is show business will be in your neck of the woods go to

Many fruits and vegetables have special symbolic meaning during Chinese New Year, so I've included long noodles (long life) and baby bok choy (green, prosperity) in this simple, quick, delicious dish  I'll call Long Life Noodles.  (Special bonus when applicable, the rice noodles are wheat-free.)

Long Life Noodles
1 pkg. Rad-Na Noodles (made from rice but like fettucinni)
4-5 heads (a small bunch) baby bok choy, cut into long, thin pieces
4 green onions, sliced thinly in 2" lengths
1 1/2 handfuls of shredded carrots
4 Tbsp. light soy sauce
4 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
4 Tbsp. white miso paste
3 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. chili garlic sauce
pinch of Chinese five spice
white and black sesame seeds

Whisk all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.  Fill a large pot with water, add a little Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.  Add the dried noodles, pulling them apart with tong or a fork, and continue boiling about 3 minutes.  Add the strips of baby bok choy to the noodles and boil another 1-2 minutes.  Add the carrots for 1 last minute.  Drain the pot into a colander, return to pot, douse with the sauce until combined, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top, grab your chop sticks, and enjoy!

Of course you can add other veggies, put more or less of any of the sauce ingredients in your mixture, and top the whole thing with some crushed nuts and/or tofu.  For more info on a plethora of Asian produce and ingredients visit

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Not to Love

Valentine's Day may only be one day of the year, but that doesn't mean you can't put a little love in your life everyday.  I took a package of ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough, rolled it out flat, embellished it with some chopped up chocolate & coffee (now there's a love match) fudge from my friend Terrill, used a heart shaped cookie cutter, and voila - delish embellished cookies so easy to love.  Of course you can make cookies from scratch, when you have time and if that makes you happy.  What makes me happy is always having a package of cookie dough in the freezer ready to go whenever I'm feeling the love (of cookies).  Embellishing is one of my favorite things - what about you? 

Recipe of the Week

This week's recipe was inspired by a salad I had at a restaurant a few years ago.  I've made hundreds of salads and it's always a happy revelation when I come accross a combination of ingredients I haven't put together before.  This is happening more and more across the culinary landscape as we're seeing the delicious and exciting pairings of sweet & savory, fruits & veggies, etc., etc., in salads and every other course on a menu.  Just goes to show that keeping an open mind in the kitchen will surely lead to new, tasty dishes.

Italian Salad a la Roberto
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 cup sliced cremini mushrooms
1 Roma tomato, cubed
1/3 cup corn (fresh is best, canned/frozen is ok, preferrably quickly sauteed or grilled)
3-4 basil leaves, torn
2 slices veggie bacon, diced (optional)
shaved hard cheese (to taste)
2 Tbsp. Melissa's Pine Nuts
quick vinaigrette: olive oil + seasoned rice vinegar 1:1, plus a splash of balsamic
seasalt or Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Make the quick vinaigrette and set aside.
Combine the salad ingredients in a bowl, toss, drizzle with the vinaigrette, divide into 2 portions, serve and enjoy.

Like in all the recipes I come across and all the recipes I create or make my own, feel very free to substitute any ingredients that you don't love for ones you do.