Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yellow Tomato Bisque with Chive Oil

Yet another recipe that was inspired by a trip to the farm fresh produce stand the other day.  Yes, we like to spend a warm summer afternoon wandering through farmers markets, and produce stands to see if we can come across something amazingly fresh and tasty, and that day we did. In the corner of the stand was a mountain of huge beautiful mulit-colored heirloom tomatoes. The brilliant rainbow colors of these beasts drew us in and Charisse could not leave with out taking some home. We chose to buy only the golden yellow tomatoes in the bunch with a light bisque in mind.  If you can't find yellow heirloom tomatoes where you are, you can use the traditional red ones and this soup will still be amazing but the unexpected yellow ones will add something more summery to the color and flavor. Topped with a drizzle of bright green chive oil really makes this dish striking to look at but your taste buds will enjoy it even more.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Upgrading to the new iPhone operations system

Why is this post so late? And why is it titled "Upgrading to the new iPhone operations system"? What does that have to do with food? Well, Eric wanted to upgrade his old iPhone to the new iPhone os and low and behold, found his computer full of viruses, bugs and problems, and had to reformat. >.< So today's photos won't be available until this weekend. We'll be back to normal come Monday, with some really great new recipes!

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of our Kittens:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cherry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

When we got married, Eric's parents gave us a Tangerine Kitchenaid mixer with an ice cream making attachment and we were so excited about it. You have to freeze the bucket a day or two ahead of time so its nice and frozen for churning the ice cream. So we tossed the bucket in the freezer and let it get nice and solid and got ready for some home made ice cream! But it was cold, so we waited for it to get warmer. Then we moved. Then we got busy working on the house. Then it was winter again. Then we were working on the house again. Then it was memorial day weekend almost 2 years later and we finally pulled out the bowl and got to churning. We had the good fortune of finding a great year-round fruit stand about 5 minutes down the road from us who had Cherries on sale, lost of cherries, not much money, so we went for it and brewed up a Cherry Ice Cream and tossed in some mini Chocolate Chips for that extra something. Check it out after the break and tell us what you think!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Preserved Lemons

This recipe caught Charisse's eye a while back and its been sticking around in her head since then. We've never heard of such a thing as using preserved lemons, but after some digging we found that they are quickly becoming a fad among many restaurants. With her mom's lemon tree in full swing producing more lemons that we could make lemon drops out of, we decided not to pass this up this opportunity and ran out to grab a couple of mason jars for this experiment. After a lot of internet research we found that preserved lemons can be done two ways: plan, or with spices. Since we've never done either we preserved both to see the difference. After 2 months of sitting and curing in the refrigerator the once tart and tough skin should be soft and edible. The skins are then used in various recipes and drinks, especially Moroccan cooking. We are excited to try these lemons and two months seems like a lifetime when all you can do is wait patiently. As soon as they are ready, we will keep you posted on the all the different recipes we come up and let you know if they are worth the wait! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheese Fondue

Last weekend we had some good friends Marissa and Lucas over for a summer time Cheese Fondue, one of our favorite meals to do together. For those of you unfamiliar with Cheese Fondue, it is a Swiss dish that is basically a big pot over a small flame full of melted cheese, into which you dip various things that taste good when covered in melted cheese like bread, apples, carrots etc. Fondue can also be done with a wine or oil base and enjoyed with meat and seafood or with melted chocolate for desert. We've always found that the best parts are the cheese and chocolate fondue, so we tend to skip the meat dish (more room for chocolate!).

Unlike most other meals that take all the work beforehand and then you can sit and eat at your leisure, Fondue requires constant adjustment and tinkering, and the eating can last for hours. For a cheese fondue there are two equally important phases, melting and maintaining. Not paying attention, or not being prepared at either stage and ruin the fondue. Before you start, make sure you have your Sterno can, and that it is ready to go, because once the cheese is melted, it needs to stay that way, any attempt to remelt the cheese will ruin it.

The basics of Fondue are so simple, most people don't think twice about how to do it. Heat up the pot, toss in some cheese, eat. Of course most people have also had bad Fondue before too. Eric's family has been doing Fondue for decades, and he's really invested a lot of time figuring out how to do it right, and he's never shared this with anyone, so hit the break for a bona fide top secret recipe.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Plumbing Work - Day 2 - Old School Pasta Carbonara

This is is what our front yard looked like when Eric got home from work. Now normally, he gets all excited whenever theres a big power tool being put to use, and if it has an engine, even better. Yup, in some ways he never grew up. Go figure. So Eric gets home last night to a backhoe in our driveway, a 6 1/2 food deep trench along the side of the house and Charisse's rose garden in shambles. There are 3 or 4 neighbors in addition to the trencher standing around the edge of the hole saying things like "oooh thats not good" and the trencher says "I've never seen one this bad". When comments like that are being used for your house's exit pluming you know things are not good. When the trencher finally finished and left for the day, we got down to the business of dinner. We could have started earlier, but Eric insisted on keeping an eye on the work. Not because the workers needed supervising, but what guys could not stand by and watch a big yellow machine dig a big hole?

For dinner we put together one of our everyday dishes, a true Pasta Carbonara. Now most restaurants that offer a Pasta Carbonara are offering you a cream based sauce, more of a Alfredo sauce than a true Carbonara. Carbonara actually has no cream in it whatsoever, the sauce is thickened with egg yolks brought to temperature slowly, a time consuming and fragile operation. The tick here is to add the hot water slowly, so the eggs cook a little, and come up to near boiling without actually scrambling. Add the water to fast, you get breakfast, add the water too slow and it cools too much and won't bring the eggs up high enough. When done right, you get a creamy-cheesey textured pasta, without the cream, perfect for anyone who loves pasta! 

Pictures and recipe after the break...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where have the foodies gone?!

Where have those foodies gone??? We're still here, but our kitchen is not in the best shape this week. We've been having problems with our water system for a while, dating back to about the time we moved in so we've had this project on the back burner for a while, but now we're finally forced to face down the problems, and do something about them! Now re-plumbing a house is not a fun experience and we're not looking forward to the next week or two, but were also happy to have a lot of our water problems fixed. Now what does this mean for the blog? Hopefully, not much! We're going to be pretty hectic over the next week or so, never sure when we'll have running water, hot water or anything like that our cooking is going to be tricky. We have a few things ready, and will try and borrow some kitchens this week, so keep an eye open for more great food this week!

So what have we been doing in the meanwhile? Keeping busy thats for sure! Aside from working on the areas that are getting re-plumbed (mostly the kitchen) we've been trying to get some other projects going and find ways to cook without running water. We also welcomed some good friends Steve and Sarah to the neighborhood the other week. Steve and Eric have been good friends for many many years, so it is exciting to have them moving so close. Steve makes cheese and cutting boards like the checkerboard one we've been using recently. He has a selection of boards that are for sale and can even custom build one if anyone is interested. Just send us an email through the link below and we'll get you in touch with him.

Tomorrow we'll show you how to do some canning and make your own preserves, its super easy and a great project to do with the kids!  Check out the cutting boards after the break and see Charisse and Steve doing some welding!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Apple Crisp

The other night we were getting ready for dessert and we're looking for toppings for the big container of Vanilla Ice Cream we had in the freezer and wanted something different. Chocolate syrup? A classic, but not in the mood. Gooey caramel? Too sticky. M&Ms? We ate them for lunch. We started talking about all the other toppings but still couldn't find something that fit the mood. After a few minutes, Charisse wondered why we didn't put the topping UNDER the ice cream. Now we all know that Charisse is about as smart as they come, so it was no surprise that her explanation for this silly sounding idea was very much genius: we would make an Apple Crisp! 

Charisse's Apple Crisp is a Farnsworth Family staple, great tasting, fairly easy to make, and it has apples in it so it must be healthy! (maybe). Full of oatmeal, apples and cinnamon (with brown sugar and butter of course!) an apple crisp is a perfect fall dish, but it works just about any time of the year when a cold front has moved in!
Pictures and recipe after the break...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Potato Chip Crusted Pork Chops

Growing up one of Eric's most common meal was Shake N Bake pork chops and rice. It was quick, easy and tastes pretty good when your 8 years old. As you grow up, tastes tend to mature, what is appealing changes and what was good growing up seems childish. Somewhere in there theres a turning point, a longing for something reminds us of a so called "simpler time", when everything was easier, colors are warmer and everything has that warm and fuzzy feeling about it. Never-mind that it was never actually that simple, and that warm fuzzy feeling is just a trick of the mind and those pork chops always seemed to turn out burnt. There is always something to that desire to recreate the tastes and flavors one remembers enjoying as a child, so when Eric was feeling somewhat nostalgic one day (as usually happens when its time to pay bills, and we remember when this was our parents problem, and not ours!) the flavor of Shake N Bake pork just wouldn't leave his mind, so he decided to defrost some pork chops. Well we don't generally do boxed, pre-made foods, we strive for natural and home made whenever possible, so this posed a small problem, Shake N Bake is most definitely "boxed and unnatural". Something about not knowing or being able to pronounce half the ingredients on the back of a box gives us the heebie-jeebies. 

Keeping this in mind, Charisse took stock of what we did have and pulled out a bag of Kettle Chips, which would make a perfect breading for the chops. We really like this company because the most complicated word under ingredients is "dehydrated". With the spices we added, the flavors were very similar, but healthier and more natural. Next time, we'll probably use BBQ chips, and give it that extra kick. 
Pictures and Recipe after the break...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Plank Grilled Salmon with Avocado Citrus Salsa

After months of weird, cold, rainy weather, summertime is finally here in the Bay Area, its time to light the grills and break out a few cold ones because BBQ season is here! We're on the grill a lot in the summer, mostly because Eric loves to grill, but its doesn't hurt that our little old house heats up like Hades when its hot out. The place just doesn't give up its heat, so we find ourselves outside every chance we get. Especially when it comes to cooking, this weekend has been no different. We have a great patio where a summer house used to be. We had the house knocked down when we moved in and the cement floor and curtain foundation makes a perfect outdoor patio, complete with built in brick fireplace and BBQ. We also have an additional pair of Webber grills, a standard round 22" and a old gas Webber. Eric actually converted the gas grill to an offset charcoal grill for slow cooking and indirect heat. He also claims to not be a collector of things, but Charisse disagrees. For this dish, it was the blue 22" that was fired up with almost twice the normal number of coals. Usually a count between 22 and 28 coals will give you a perfect heat level on a Weber, but for plank grilling, you need a much higher than normal heat, so we stacked the chimney with 50. A charcoal chimney is one of the best inventions since George Stephen, Sr. cut a buoy in half and lit a fire in it. A simple cylinder with a grate 1/4 of the way up from the bottom, and strategically placed air holes you can have pile of ready to use coals in about 10 minutes with no lighter fluid to spoil the flavor. A must have for every summer. Since this was Eric's dad Pat's 56th birthday, we invited the fam and our close family friends the Woodworths over for a Friday night cookout. The Plank Grilled Salmon and Avocado Citrus Salsa was light and refreshing, a perfect contrast to the lingering summer heat and complimented with a chilled Pinot Grigio.

Pictures and cake after the break...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cherry Relish On A Goat Cheese Crostini

We got up to the Pacific Coast town of Gualala early on Saturday morning (we left around 5:30AM to beat traffic, and boy did we ever, didn't see more than about 3 cars for 150 miles) after driving for about three and a half hours. We pulled upto the house around 9 and woke everyone up (sorry!). The house we were staying at was a two story house on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, with sweeping views and a massive kitchen. What more could a couple of foodies want? How about a house full of more foodies? We looked at each other and knew this was going to be something to remember. Or depending on how much wine we had, something to try to remember. Laura started cooking up some crab omelettes while Ian started shucking oysters. Ian as it turned out decided that oysters would be the ongoing theme of our house and picked up a small handful. There were only about 150 left when we got there on Saturday morning, and my understanding is they were gone by the time everyone else left on Tuesday. Theres really nothing like a fresh shucked oyster that was plucked from the sea only a day or two before. After breakfast, we went into town to look around and grab a few last minute supplies while everyone else went through the wake up phase of the day. Saturday night, Ian and Lindsay got together and put on a culinary display, serving a number of different courses and wine parings, and we spent the night wining and dining. It sure is nice to eat great food as prepared by someone else from time to time!

When we got invited to the Abalone Dive and Picnic we were a little concerned about what to make and how to serve the number of people that would be coming (around 100!). We came up with the stuffed apricots but felt that it wouldn't be substantial enough for such a big event. After some digging through websites and looking at recipes until it felt like our eyeballs would fall out Charisse stumbled on the idea of a fruit relish. With Cherry season right upon us a Cherry Relish seemed ideal. Charisse also had some extra jicamas sitting around so we used those too. If your like Eric, the first thing that popped into your head was probably "What the heck is a jicama?". It's a funny looking starchy root. Adds great texture to something like this, without brining much extra flavor to throw off the dish. Now we've not met many people who will eat relish of any kind by the spoonful without something to slather it over, so we toasted up some Crostini and slathered the bread with chèvre. Pile on some Cherry Relish and you've got another super appetizer.

More pictures and recipe after the break

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Apricot Poppers

Well, we made it back in once piece from the big abalone picnic up north, and what an exciting experience that was. We'd like to start off by saying thanks to Laura and Ian Batra for inviting us, and Lindsay and Sean Spanek for letting us join the house! A weekend full of good food and wine, can't ask for much more than that. For anyone who hasn't heard about our trip we'll tell a few stories and share the recipes we brought.

The whole weekend revolved around a big abalone picnic hosted by a few families from the Bay Area. For a few days leading upto the picnic, a hand full of guys go diving for abalone, a challenge in and of itself! The divers must free-dive (no tanks, no air tubes), pry the mollusks from the rocks and return to the surface in one breadth. Because abalone are such a sought after creature (and make such an amazing dish!) California's laws are extremely strict on the sport harvesting of abalone.The divers must be extremely careful about the size and number they pull from the water and follow a strict tagging procedure. The transportation of even the shells that are not tagged correctly can get you in trouble. On Saturday the abalone were cleaned and prepared at an event called the pounding party. We'll show you how the abalone are prepared next time (pictures are still downloading from the camera as of this morning). On Saturday night Ian and Lindsay cooked us a wonderful multi-course meal (it's nice to have someone else cook from time to time!) and we spent all of Sunday morning preparing our two appetizer courses for the picnic.

For our first (and most popular) appetizer we made Apricot Poppers: Apricots stuffed with Havarti Cheese wrapped and bacon and grilled. YUM. We hauled the old blue Weber with us and enjoyed the first official grilling session of the season. (Eric could write an entire post about why the Weber grill is the best grilling device ever made, but we'll get to that another day). Now here is where Eric made a tactical error (and lost some arm hair correcting it). These poppers need to be cooked at low heat with very few on the grill at any given time. Eric ended up overloading one part of the grill, and as the bacon grease started to drip, the coals ignited, sending 4 foot flames to slightly overcook the first batch. 6-10, spread in a ring around the coals is the most you want on there at any given time to keep the flare ups down, and the bacon cooking evenly without melting away all the cheese.

Eric's grilling tip #1: Lighter fluid is forbidden. FOREVER. It leaves a oil on the coals and taints the flavor of whatever your cooking. Buy a Charcoal Chimney, they are cheap, easy to use and start the grill 2-3 times faster than lighter fluid. Just pour your charcoal in the top section, add crumpled paper underneath and add fire. If your serious about good tasting food coming off the grill, this is what you want.
Pictures and recipe after the break...