Video Time: Ladies Brunch

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I love getting together for brunch. Unfortunately, on the days I brunch, I usually do little else. Luckily, I don't brunch often. At least not with other people. On this particular afternoon, I invited my favorite former coworkers for an end-of-summer brunch featuring Bloody Mary's, watermelon gazpacho and an herbed tomato tart. This tart, is a must make. Find some cherry tomatoes this weekend, and get to it. You won't be disappointed.

Filming this video was interesting, and I learned many things, the most important being -- cooking on camera can be pretty boring, and it's not a bad idea to have some sort of a script. Maybe next video, if there is a next video, we'll get things down better, and I can learn some make-up tricks to get my huge eyes to look LESS huge. 

I want to thank the lovely ladies who were a good sport and didn't mind being greeted by a camera man. A thank you also goes out to to my camera man, director and editor, Mr. Rule, for squeezing me into his increasingly busy schedule. And how could I forget the husband and his creepy lurking? I think you'll agree, that despite being dirty and unshowered throughout most of the filming, he still shines, just like in the first video.

Watermelon Gazpacho
adapted from www.kp.org 
Serves 4
6 cups watermelon, black seeds removed
5 big tomatoes, quartered
2 tbsps smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted 
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce
Kosher salt to taste
crumbled feta
cucumber, finely diced
1) Stuff your blender with ingredients up to about 2/3 full and blend until very smooth. Do this again with the rest of the ingredients. Taste and adjust. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Garnish each bowl of gazpacho with feta and cucumber.
Herbed Tomato Tart
2  9" x 11" sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed and chilled
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
12 anchovy filets in oil, drained 
and finely chopped 
3 lbs. cherry or grape tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
   to taste
1⁄4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
Freshly grated nutmeg
1)  Heat oven to 375°. Fit pastry sheets side by side into a parchment paper–lined 13" x 17 3⁄4" rimmed baking pan, pressing pastry against bottom and sides. Trim inner edges of pastry sheets so that they form a seam in center; trim pastry hanging over sides of pan. Prick bottom of pastry with a fork. Line bottom and sides of pastry with parchment paper and fill with dried beans. Bake until edges of tart are golden, 25 minutes. Remove beans and parchment paper, sprinkle Parmesan over tart shell, and bake until cheese is melted and tart shell is golden all over, 15–20 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool.
2) Heat oven to broil and arrange a rack 4" from heating element. In a large bowl, mix together oil and anchovies; add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Transfer tomato mixture to a rimmed baking sheet and broil, shaking pan once or twice, until tomatoes blister, 12–14 minutes. Let cool slightly. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomato mixture to the prepared tart shell; distribute tomatoes evenly.
3) Increase oven heat to 425°. In a medium bowl, combine the parsley, chives, oregano, and nutmeg; sprinkle herb mixture evenly over the tomatoes. Return tart to oven and bake until hot, about 15 minutes. Let tart cool slightly before serving.


Couch Day + Pork Party '12 Recap + 500th Post!

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This year, our beloved, made-up Couch Day celebration almost didn't happen. But, the husband insisted on it. And I'm glad for that. Some new and exciting things took place this time around.

1) I made a delicious pineapple salsa to go with slow-roasted pork. Enjoy the recipe at the end of the post.
2) We tried playing board games. It kind of worked, kind of didn't. We were all in agreement that Pictionary Man is pretty dumb. And we got to know each other better through Whoonu.
3) Our friend decided to read a couple of Grimm Tales aloud. We learned what really happened in Cinderella. It was bloody.

And per last year, we ate a lot of pork! Delicious, tender, rich pork In the end, I was tired and sleepy, and we had a lot of dirty dishes and empty beer cans, which can only one thing -- Couch Day was a success.

Before I finish up here, just wanted to mention, THIS happens to be my 500th post. Hot damn. That's a lot of posts. Hope you've enjoyed reading them, as much as I've enjoyed sharing.
Pineapple Salsa
makes 5 cups
2 cups finely chopped pineapple
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
½ cup fresh lime juice
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
4 serrano chiles, stemmed and minced
1 small red onion, minced
Place all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss until evenly combined. Let sit at room temperature to meld flavors, at least 30 minutes.


Eggplant and Pork Noodles

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Last month ended with a few unfortunate events, so I've been behind on my posting, and cooking. It's been a hectic couple of weeks. We filmed another video, went camping in Sequoia, and have spent little time eating at home. With Fall around the corner, that's all about to change. I love coming home and cooking when it starts to get darker earlier and there's a chill in the air. Or possibly just in my head.

Until then, it's catch up time. This dish came about after we ate at our new favorite Chinese restaurant, 101 Noodle Express in Arcadia. They have these delicious, although unappetizing-looking noodles, called something along the lines "cold eggplant and pork". The eggplant is pale, and almost green looking, there's minced pork, and a strange salsa verde-like sauce. If this sounds odd, it's because it is. But somehow, it works magically. And the flavors are deliciously addicting. The husband and I will randomly crave these noodles several times a week. You also get a choice of noodles - hand torn or regular. The hand torn noodles are incredible, and worth the extra 50 or so cents.

So back to MY eggplant noodles. Let me start by saying they are nothing like the Noodle Express noodles. There were a LOT of  reasons for this. First, my dish was pretty attractive looking. Second, I used Hungarian bacon. Third, I used pappardelle noodles. All very non-Chinese. Fourth, I served my noodles hot.  And fifth, I didn't spend much time researching this strange restaurant recipe, and gave up after a solid three minutes. After my quick internet defeat, I chose to follow a few other recipes that looked good which utilized all the ingredients I had. It's hard to post the actual recipe because I had a lot of eggplant and just ended up winging it. But, I'll list the ingredients below and encourage you all to give your own version a shot. Because even though these were not as good as the Noodle Express noodles, they were a close second. Kind of. The important thing is, they were super tasty. And I would definitely make them again. I just need to spend some time remembering what I did, and find the post-it (featured in a photo below) that lists some sort of proportions. 
Non-Chinese Eggplant and Pork Noodles Ingredient List

Hungarian bacon
pappardelle noodles
green onions
chicken broth
sou sauce
garlic bean paste
cider vinegar
grape seed oil

Here's what I recall:
1) Brown eggplant in oil. Set aside.
2) Cook bacon, then add garlic, ginger and chiles.
3) Mix your saucy ingredients together, add eggplant back to pan and cook in sauce for about 15 more minutes.
4) Stir in your green onions and serve over noodles.

Kind of helpful, right? I'll try harder next time.


Pinto Beans Over Rice, with Pickled Onions

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It has been a long time since I've posted about a can of beans and contributed to my "Fancy Beans Series". But, just so you know, we eat a lot of beans in this house, beans that never get their moment in the spotlight, mostly because I'm too lazy to document every meal. Since it's been a while, and this can of beans proved to be particularly tasty, I figured another post was in order.

On this evening, I had pinto beans over brown rice, heated on the stove with roasted bell peppers and store-bought salsa, then topped with pickled onions and queso fresco. A filling, meat-free meal. Perfect for when you're too tired to do any real cooking, and don't want to settle for eating out. Paired with a glass of white wine, and eaten in front of the TV, this is one of my favorite comfort meals.

Pickled Squash

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When I saw this recipe on The Kitchn, I was relieved. We have eaten a lot of squash this summer, mostly on the grill and in soups, and here was something new and different to try. A pickle! I love pickles. Especially, uncomplicated, quick pickles. And this recipe is very simple, and interestingly delicious. I say interestingly, because I wasn't sure what to expect when I made these. I've never heard of pickled squash before, and thought it would be a new way to use this vegetable, but wasn't necessarily expecting to fall in love. But, I am here to say, this is a delicious pickle! I am in love. Well, actually more like strong like, but either way, it was a pleasant surprise. Sorry I ever doubted you, pickled squash.

Pickled Yellow Squash

Makes 3 cups squash (strained)
2 pounds small yellow squash
1 sweet onion, preferably Vidalia
1 small red bell pepper
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground mustard

1) Slice squash into very thin rounds. 
2) Remove both onion ends, peel, and cut in half lengthwise. Slice 1/2 of the onion into very thin strips, reserving the other half for another use. 
3) Seed and finely dice the bell pepper.
4) Toss squash, onions, peppers, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add a handful of ice cubes and just enough cold water to cover. Stir well to combine, and set aside for thirty minutes.
5) Rinse the vegetables well and place in a colander or sieve to drain. Meanwhile bring the vinegar, sugar, and ground mustard to a boil in a small saucepan. Immediately remove from heat, stirring to make sure the ingredients are dissolved, and allow the vinegar to cool for 3-5 minutes.
6) Gently pat vegetables dry with a towel and place in an airtight container. Pour vinegar over the mixture, tossing a fork to make sure all the slices get soaked. Cover and refrigerate until cool. 
7) Strain from brine before serving.


Burrata, Tomato and Arugula Salad

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This salad was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. It was also the easiest salad I've ever made. For reals. Wash and dry your arugula, top with sliced tomatoes and burrata cheese. Drizzle with balsamic syrup, a tiny bit of olive oil and sea salt. 

The colorful salad would make a worthy first course for a fancy dinner party, or if you happen to forget to make dinner one night, you can eat this all on it's own, standing up in your kitchen. Either way, dig in and enjoy.