Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Love

Okay, so I am having a love affair. A love affair with all of the fresh produce coming from the garden (I can't even say 'our' garden, because my husband has done all the work and deserves all the glory). And I have never experienced anything like this. We have loads and loads of tomatoes, giant zucchini the size of footballs, and more cucumbers- giant, yellow, bumpy, crisp and delicious- than we could ever handle.

We have shared, we have swapped, we have used them for payment (for having my wetsuit repaired but that's another story), we have baked, and we have eaten until we are blue in the face. But if there was ever a food that's good to eat in such excess, it's fresh produce from your own backyard. And having this bounty of freshness, and not wanting it to go to waste (I HATE SEEING FOOD GO TO WASTE!), has led me to try a bunch of new recipes. For today, I wanted to share some of my favorite tomato recipes. The first is from my mother-in-law...a super easy no-cook pasta sauce that will fill your kitchen with the scent of garlic and basil. We tossed it with pasta and then ate it on fresh bread the next day.


1 pound tomatoes (or about 6 large) skinned, seeded, diced*
3-4 cloves minced fresh garlic
1 Cup fresh basil - minced
1/2 Cup fresh parsley - minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 Cup parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup olive oil

*tomatoes are easily skinned if you set them in a pot of boiling water for a couple of minutes and then drop them into ice water. The skin usually pops and is easy to peel off.

Mix all the ingredients and let stand covered on the counter for several hours. You can add extra tomatoes or different herbs if you have them. I didn't have parsley so I just added more basil. You can also add additional salt to taste. It doesn't have to be exact. Recipe can be doubled easily. If you don't use it all, store it in the refrigerator for the next day. You will probably devour it within 24 hours.

My other great discovery during this week of summer produce decadence has been slow- roasting tomatoes. I tried this recipe from Molly Wizenberg, author of "A Homemade Life," pretty much one of the best books of all times. She dedicates a whole chapter to these tomatoes, plucked from her garden, cooked long and slow with olive oil and coriander, and reappearing concentrated and flavorful. And, yes, she is a good enough writer that a chapter about slow-roasted tomatoes reads like a novel that you can't put down. Her recipe is posted on her blog. Now, I'm not normally pushy, but when it comes to this recipe, I want to yell and jump up and down and demand that all of you try it. These tomatoes will leave you speechless. I was eating them like candy, layering them on bread, and draping them over pasta.

And, finally, if you're in the Ventura area, Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark is hosting a "Pick-Your-Own-Romas" event on September 5th and 6th, from 6am to noon. Pick-Your-Own Romas are 20¢ per pound. Already picked Romas are 40¢ per pound. Call (805) 529-3690.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Make a date with your tastebuds

Looking ahead, there are some fun events going on for all you food and wine lovers out there. Mark your calendars...your tastebuds are calling.

Paradise Pantry is hosting a beer and cheese pairing event featuring local, Carpinteria brew masters, Island Brewing Company. Tuesday, September 1st. Taste 6 beers and 6 cheeses for $15. If you haven't tasted this local brew, make sure you get to this tasting or head up to their brewery in downtown Carp for a pint.

The Pantry has also started a wonderful tradition of Sangria Sundays. They claim their sangria is the best in town, calling it "fresh, delicious, and down right POTENT!" This fruity summer drink will be available every Sunday through the month of September.

The Cave now has a new and expanded lunch menu. Tuesday through Friday they serve Sandwiches, Panini's, Burgers, Salads and lots of other lunch items between 11:30am and 2pm. Some of the more tantalizing options include a Cobb salad, a Caprese Panini, and a Cuban sandwich.

Old Creek Ranch Winery
is hosting a Labor Day Weekend Open House Friday, September 4 through Monday, September 7. They are celebrating the end of summer and the release of their newest version of their Bronco Rojo (red) blend. They are offering 15% off all wine purchases, except Bronco Rojo, as they have only 15 cases.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A little sip of heaven

Every once in a while, you're lucky enough to discover a new place, a place that is so unique or so special, that it feels like it belongs in a movie. I discovered such a place yesterday, when my husband and I played hooky and ventured down to Malibu for the day. What we found was the neatest little spot, Malibu Wines.

This little winery - green, lush, and calming - felt like an oasis in the middle of a desert. The lush and green picnic area is filled with quaint tables, a few brightly colored old trucks, an old wagon turned wine barrel fountain, and tire swings for the kids. You can sit in an Adirondack rocking chair under the shade of a tree, or sit at a stone-topped table under the shade of an umbrella, or climb a short hill to sit in the sun with a view of the valley. The bar where you can taste and purchase your wines is tucked to the side, under a grove of trees. They offer bottles and tasting flights of both red and white wines, and friendly, chill service to go along with them.

We tasted a few of their reds and decided on a bottle of the 2006 Saddlerock Cabernet to go with our picnic lunch of fresh bread, sliced tomatoes, Edam cheese, and fresh melon. Dark and smooth, the wine felt decadent, adding to the sense that we were truly on vacation. This is a great spot for a little getaway or a even a daytrip with the kids. If you take the 101 to Kanan Road, its only an hour from Ventura.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brie that never fails me

I recently had the opportunity to review the Bella Victorian Vineyard Tasting Room and Bistro. The wine was delish, the people watching from the patio highly entertaining, but the food was average. While we enjoyed our thin crust pizza and prime rib sandwich, the baked brie left me longing for something better. While the presentation was impressive, the brie sat alone and naked (never a good position to be in) in its own little square dish, heated but not fully melted. I was disappointed because to me the term baked brie implies that it is wrapped in some sort of buttery pastry and baked until the cheese becomes gooey and otherworldly inside. To me, baked brie is a most decadent appetizer- one that is worthy of a splurge, meant to be eaten with bravado. So in the spirit of decadence, I wanted to share my favorite baked brie recipe- simple, delicious, and easy. I love it so much that after a dinner party we planned had fallen through, I made it anyway - for dinner, alongside some crackers and a green salad.

Sallie Wilgus' Baked Brie

Roll out pre-made pie crust (Trader Joe's is my favorite). Slice large wheel of brie in half horizontally. Fill with chopped basil and chopped sundried tomatoes (drained of their oil) and put top layer of brie back on. Place in the middle of pie dough, fold it up, and seal it. Flip it over so smooth side is on top and brush with a beaten egg. Place on cookie sheet and back at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until golden grown. Serve with Stoned Wheat Thins crackers.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fun food outings

McGrath Family Farm is hosting their Customer Appreciation Day on Thursday August 20th from 4-8pm. Chef Rich Mead of Sage and Sage on the Coast will be making some light bites for everyone to enjoy.

If you haven't wandered into We Olive in downtown Ventura yet (294 E. Main Street), be sure to check it out. I stopped in there recently and was truly amazed at the huge selection of oils, vinegars, tapenades, dips, and gifts they have in stock. Prepare to stay for a while and sample tons of different oils - one of my favorites was olive oil flavored with lemon, and another with an intense chili flavor. I also tasted a few balsamic vinegars - thick, syrupy, and dark as night - good enough to drink, and amazing enough to redefine how you see balsamic. You can even bring in your own bottles and purchase some of the We Olive oils and balsamic by the ounce. Definitely a great destination to broaden your horizons, learn, taste, and shop. And on Saturday, August 22nd from 1pm - 4pm they are hosting an Olive Tasting with Perry. Stop by to taste the different olive varieties and combinations and learn from the best.

And finally, Bonanos Fine Peruvian Cuisine has opened up at 100 N. Ashwood in Ventura. While I haven't had a chance to eat there yet, I stopped in to this dark and nicely decorated little restaurant for a menu yesterday. I was greeted with excellent customer service, and left with their menu: a simple menu full of delicacies like fried yucca with a cheese sauce; strips of filet mignon sauteed with onions and tomatoes served with french fries or over spaghetti; and seafood cooked in a Peruvian style similar to fried rice. Stay tuned...I'm hoping to review it for the Reporter after they've been open for a month or two and worked through the kinks.