Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Something yummy and something new

As many of you may know, I entered the Trader Joe's sandwich recipe cookoff a while back. Well, I'm here to report that I'm actually a big giant loser. No, I didn't make the the finals or any second round for that matter. But the good news is that Trader Joe's has posted the recipes from the finalists. I thought my sandwich recipes were good, but these mouthwatering creations sound like they are to-die-for. Check them out, and please post if you try any of them. I know I sure will.

On a different note, Bonano's Fine Peruvian Cuisine is going to be opening up a Ventura location, in the former home to Sushi Teri at 100 N. Ashwood. This unique little restaurant, renowned for its Peruvian rotisserie chicken, is little sister to the original location in Northridge. Not only is it exciting to see a new restaurant opening in this crazy economy, but something totally new and different for Ventura.

They are mentioned in the LA Times for their "crisp-succulent roasted chicken." According to their article, most Peruvian restaurant menus "are similar to one another: a march of saltados, fried rice dishes, ceviches and Latin soups. And potato dishes, lots of potato dishes. Because Peruvian food is inherently multicultural, there's something for any eater to relate to. There are Chinese ingredients, Japanese techniques, African flavors, laid over a foundation of Latino and Andean cooking. Peruvian food might be the only cuisine that combines cheese, nuts, soy sauce, cilantro and fried plantain all in the same bite." Don't know about you, but I'm already salivating. This place is definitely worth checking out once they are opened.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Farmers Markets

The Ventura County Certified Farmers’ Market Association has opened up a new farmers’ market at Moorpark College. According to the press release from Janis Flippen Public Relations, the new market will be located in the Moorpark College campus in Parking Lot G1 at Campus Park Drive. The hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 12 noon every Saturday. 25 certified farmers will participate in the new market along with several food vendors offering a wide array of fresh produce, honey, eggs, fresh-cut flowers, potted plants and more.

Also, the Thousand Oaks Farmers’ Market returns to The Oaks Shopping Center after having occupied space for the past two years at the Hillcrest Center. This particular market offers an array of freshly grown produce including an ample supply of organic varieties, fresh cut flowers, bedding plants and more. Several food vendors also provide tasty selections at the Farmers’ Market including Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales, Mom’s Products, Yankee Doodle Bakery, Lourdes Tohme, Inc., Les Bles Bakery, Marcie’s Pies and Frontier Kettle Korn.

To celebrate the move back to its original location at The Oaks Shopping Center, the Thousand Oaks Farmers’ Market will hold a Grand Opening Celebration on Thursday, June 25. The celebration will run through regular market hours, 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. at its location on the east end parking lot on the corners of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Wilbur Road.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Delicious things to eat, drink, do and learn

Happy Hour at the Cave
The Cave at Ventura Wine Company is now offering a Twilight Happy Hour. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 4pm and 6pm any bottle of wine you purchase from their Retail Store may be opened in The Cave with no corkage fee...how cool is that? They've also got lots of new wines in their enomatic machines and a few new items on their menu: Sesame and Pepper Crusted Tuna with Won-Ton Crisp & Avocado Relish; Ciopino with Clams, Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels and Catch of the Day; and Potato & Crimini Mushroom Gratin.

Paradise Pantry
Thursday, June 25th: Stop by and meet Steve & Pam Lock of Ecluse Vineyards from Paso Robles!! 5-9pm. Also, pop in to pick up some of their amazing crabcakes....apparently they are so good that customers keep demanding that they make more.

McGrath Family Farm
McGrath Farm is now selling My Florist Bakery Bread at their farmstand every weekend- the perfect complement to their fresh produce. Whats fresh and in season right now? Strawberries, lemons, beets, radishes, lots of greens and lettuce mixes. Also, if you would like to join their CSA (community supported agriculture program) now is the time. You essentially buy a share of the farm's harvest, and every week you get a bountiful load of the freshest produce.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coconut Bread

I love a good sweet bread for breakfast, and this one takes the cake. I don't even know what to say...it speaks for itself and tastes just as good as it sounds. The toasted coconut and the coconut milk make this more like a dense cake, so I feel like I'm getting away with something when I get to eat it for breakfast. I like to eat a big slice plain or lightly toasted with a little bit of butter. This comes from Tyler Florence's "Real Kitchen" cookbook.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBL baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
1-1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1-1/2 cup shredded coconut, toasted

To toast the coconut, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring at least twice. It will get golden brown. Set aside.

Adjust oven temperature to 375 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan (I use cooking spray with flour). In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In another large bowl, whisk together the melted butter with the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold everything together until you have a smooth batter. Gently fold in the shredded coconut until evenly distributed. Pour into prepared loaf pan and set it on a cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of bread comes out clean. Rotate pan occasionally to ensure even browning. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then remove to rack or cutting board to cool completely.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Who wouldn't love brie sauce?

A few months back, we had some friends over for dinner who happen to be vegetarians. No biggie, I just went to my notebook of recipes (which by the way, would be one of the first things I would grab should my house be burning down), hit the vegetarian section- but nothing was calling to me this time. So, a friend e-mailed me this recipe, which she had received via some Real Simple Magazine newsletter.

I was skeptical at first, it almost seemed too simple. How could something with so few ingredients really be good, and company-worthy for that matter? Well, it is. The brie really does just melt and become a perfect sauce for the pasta. I ate so much, my stomach hurt. After making it one time and seeing how easy and good it is, you could try different veggies and pretty much throw anything in there (think garlic, roasted peppers, artichoke and olives).

Creamy Rigatoni with Broccoli and Brie

Courtesy of Real Simple

* 1 pound dried rigatoni
* 1 head broccoli, florets and stalks cut into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed
* 1/2 cup (2 ounces) pine nuts, toasted
* 8 ounces Brie (with rind), cut into 1-inch pieces
* kosher salt and pepper

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.

2. Add the steamed broccoli, pine nuts, Brie, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until the cheese melts. Divide among individual bowls.

Tip: The Brie's rind adds a rich, earthy flavor to the pasta, but you can try fontina or Taleggio instead.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Looking ahead...lots and lots of Lavender

They are really pulling out all of the stops in Ojai in preparation for the upcoming Ojai Valley Lavender Festival. In addition to the festival, check out these two lavender-themed cooking classes in June.

Karen Evenden, author of the cookbook and memoir, A Taste of Croatia, will be teaching a class at The Ojai Cooking School at The Lavender Inn on Saturday, June 20, at 1 pm. Learn how to prepare lemonade, savory tomato jam, seared scallops, a seasonal salad of chicken, pistachios and strawberries, and biscotti – all blessed with lavender. Please call the Lavender Inn at 646-6635 to reserve a space. The cost is $55 per person.

On a different, but still lavender note, join Nancy Michali at the Ojai Culinary Studio for “A Taste of Provence” on Sunday, June 28 at 12:30 pm. In this hands-on cooking experience you will prepare a salad, red snapper, grilled chicken, scalloped potatoes, carrots and fougasse (the flatbread of France), all with the flavor of Provence. Did you know that lavender is one of the key ingredients in Herbes de Provence? Enjoy your meal with a glass of wine and top it all off with Lavender Crème Brulée. The cost is $50 per person; sign up by calling 646-1124 or going to the website.

To get you in the mood, here is a simple recipe shared by Kyle Crowner of the Ojai Lavender Festival:

Lavender Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup lavender blossoms
Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is melted. Remove from heat and add the lavender blossoms; cover and allow to steep for about 15 minutes. Strain into a jar and refrigerate. Use to sweeten homemade lemonade & iced tea, drizzle over fresh fruit or pound cake, sweeten strawberries, or add to heavy cream before whipping.