Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Southern California Is Sizzling

cayenne spiked avocado and orange smoothie

Southern California meteorologists are giddy.

Lately they've been able to do something they usually only fantasize about: talk about actual weather. For most of the year, everyday is the same here: a sunny, 68 degree day in July looks and feels exactly the same as a sunny, 68 degree day in January.

For the last few days, however, its been more like New England style weather -- cold then hot then humid. Temperatures reached a fiery 112 degrees in parts of San Diego just a few days ago.

Used to saying, "It'll be another sunny day here in Southern California," meteorologists have been using words they haven't used since their days in school -- barometric pressure, cloudy skies, drizzle, and humidity.

That's why instead of my original idea to post a recipe for autumn-friendly belly-warming boozy chili or comforting mac 'n cheese, I'm posting on a cool Spicy Avocado and Orange Smoothie. Made with creamy avocado, frozen banana, and nutty almond milk, this smoothie is packed with health-boosting potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, lean protein, and complex carbs. But I'd better drink them quick; it'll be sunny and 68 again in no time.

Spicy Avocado and Orange Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
Print recipe only here.

1/2 medium ripe avocado, squirted with lime juice
1/2 small frozen banana
2/3 cup orange juice, preferably freshly squeezed
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk product of your choice)
1 teaspoon honey
A pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add more orange juice of milk if you like it thinner.

Variations: Feel free to play around with ingredients. Instead of banana, try mango, fresh pineapple, ripe pear, or frozen raspberries. Like it sweeter? Skip the cayenne and add a little extra honey, or use agave nectar. Don't like orange juice? Replace it with apple or pomegranate juice or milk of your choice such as skim, soy, rice, or nut milk.

You might also like these recipes featuring avocados from Food Blogga:
Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole
Watercress, Avocado, and Orange Salad
Breakfast Egg Sandwich with Avocado and Chipotle-Mayo

You might also like these sweet avocado recipes:
Avocado Cake recipe from Accidental Hedonist
Banana Avocado Bread recipe from Tasty Kitchen
Avocado Coconut Milk Ice Cream from Peter via The Perfect Pantry

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Call Me Fig Blogga

fresh fig, orange, and pecan muffins

I wasn't gonna do it. I wasn't gonna post another fresh fig recipe. But then I received this email the other day:

Hi Food Blogga,

You're so lucky to have all those fresh figs in San Diego. I made your fig and rosemary cake last year and it was a HUGE hit! Do you have a recipe for fig muffins? I'm having my parents for brunch this weekend and want to make something easy with figs. Thanks so much!


I didn't have a recipe for fig muffins. But how do say "no" to a reader who loves your recipes and wants to make muffins for her parents? You don't. You create a recipe.

So, here it is: Fresh Fig, Orange, and Pecan Muffins. I don't know what's better about making these muffins, the sweet, citrus smell that floats through the house while they're baking or the soothing warmth of a buttery soft, fig in your mouth. You decide.

Just call me Fig Blogga.

fresh fig, orange, and pecan muffins

Fresh Fig, Orange, and Pecan Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
Printable recipe.

These muffins are made with white whole wheat flour which makes them light in color yet equally nutritious as those made with tan colored whole wheat flour.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup orange juice, preferably fresh squeezed
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup fresh ripe but firm figs, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (2 tablespoons reserved for tops of muffins)

1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12 mold regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, buttermilk, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture and stir quickly until well combined. Fold in the figs and pecans. Spoon the batter evenly into the 12 molds. Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons of pecans.

4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing.

You might also enjoy these fig recipes from Food Blogga: 
Savory Fig Recipes:
Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza
Fresh Fig, Arugula, and Mascarpone Bruschetta
Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Fig, and Burrata Salad

Sweet Fig Recipes:
Fig Cake For Fall
Dessert Risotto with Wine-Poached Figs
Fresh Fig, Ricotta, and Honey Breakfast Crostini
Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits
Fresh Fig, Walnut, and Rosemary Upside-Down Cake

Wait, here are more fig recipes!
Fig Galette recipe from Simply Recipes
Fig and Almond Tart recipe from Zen Can Cook
Gluten-Free, Vegan Fig Newtons recipe from Elana's Pantry
Fresh Fig and Rum Upside-Down Cake from Veggie Belly

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hatch Chile Withdrawal

roasted hatch chiles

Where's the roasted hatch chile guy? He was at our local farmers' market in August. Now he's gone, and I'm angry. That's because last time we saw him, Jeff turned to me and asked, "Do you want a 5-pound bag or a 20-pound bag?"

"20 pounds?! What am I gonna do with 20 pounds of roasted hatch chiles?" I said, incredulous.

We bought the 5-pound bag. Now I'm hatch chile-less.

I had no idea I'd become so attached. I can't stop thinking about them. I can still see that circular roaster tumbling warm hatch chiles like clothes in a dryer. I can still smell their woodsy, spicy fragrance that reminds me of crisp autumn nights in front of a fire. I can still taste their smoky, mouth-filling flavor and salivate at the memory every time.

I'm in hatch chile withdrawal.

grilled steak with hatch chile, corn, and shallot sauce

If you've had hatch chiles, then you understand. If you haven't had hatch chiles, then find some. Quickly. Then add them to salsas and relishes, put them on hamburgers or hotdogs with Jack cheese, and fold them into scrambled eggs. When you run out, call me. We'll commiserate.

I haven't told Jeff this, but if the hatch chile guy doesn't show up at our farmers' market soon, I'll be catching a flight to New Mexico -- hatch chile heaven. Unfortunately I've missed their annual Hatch Chile Festival, but I know that you can't walk more than a couple of blocks in New Mexico without stumbling upon a man with a roaster and 20 pound bags of roasted hatch chiles.

Grilled Sirloin Steak with Hatch Chile, Corn, and Scallion Relish
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

4 (6-ounce) pieces of steak, such as top sirloin, rib eye, or T-Bone
1-2 teaspoons olive oil for rubbing steak
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon olive oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 ear sweet corn, kernels removed from cob
1/2 cup roasted hatch chiles, stems removed, chopped (about 2 whole chiles)
a few shakes of salt, to season

1. Pre-heat grill to high. Allow steak to come to room temperature. Rub it all over with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

2. Warm 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add scallions and corn kernels and saute 2 minutes, until just browned. Add chopped chiles and warm through, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt. Set aside.

3. Place steaks on the grill. Grill 5-6 minutes. Flip once using tongs (forks can puncture the meat, releasing tasty juices). Cook another 5-6 minutes for medium. Cook less time for rare and longer for well-done. Do the finger test for doneness: Press steak with your fingertip. Rare should feel soft and spongy; medium should feel moderately soft; well-done should feel firm. Transfer steaks to a plate. Cover with aluminum foil and let rest 5 minutes to seal in juices. Top each steak with a quarter of the relish, and dig in!

You might also enjoy these recipes from Food Blogga:
The Southwest Hamburger
Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Turkey Burgers with Apples, Gruyere, and Sage Mayo
Healthy Chipotle Chicken Chili with Crispy Spiced Tortillas

Here are more hatch chiles recipes you might enjoy:
Fresh Chile Sauce recipe from Fat Free Vegan
Green Chile Sauce recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess
Hatch Chile Potato Salad recipe from San Diego Food Stuff
Turkey Green Chile Chili recipe from The Perfect Pantry
Confetti Green Chile Corn Muffins recipe from Laura's Best Recipes
Blue Cornmeal-Crusted Green Chiles recipe from Use Real Butter
Roasted New Potato Salad with Green Chiles recipe from Use Real Butter

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Are Fresh Black Currants? Not Dried Currants and Not Raisins.

black currants
Fresh black currants from Pudwill Berry Farms in Nipomo, CA.

What comes to mind when you hear the word "currant"? Raisins? Scones? The Brits? It's a confusing matter. So after purchasing a basket of fresh black currants at the Little Italy Mercato a couple of weeks ago, I did some sleuthing on the internet. Here's what I have learned about the differences between fresh black currants, dried black currants, and raisins.

Fresh black currants are small, round, glossy, black berries that pack a tart punch. They are related to red currants, white currants, and gooseberries; they are NOT grapes.

Dried black currants, also called Zante currants, are dried Corinth grapes, so technically they are raisins. With their black, wrinkly skins and sweet flavor, they look, smell, and taste just like traditional raisins.

Raisins are dried grapes, usually green Thompson grapes whose color darkens when dried. Similar to dried currants, raisins are shriveled, chewy, sweet, and fragrant.

black currants and boysenberries
Fresh black currants and boysenberries from Pudwill Berry Farms in Nipomo, CA.

Where can you buy fresh black currants? In cool, rainy places such as the UK. In the US, the Pacific Northwest and northern California grow fresh currants which can be found at farmers' markets and organic markets. They're also sometimes found in the freezer section of organic and specialty markets.

How do you cook with fresh black currants? Fresh black currants are most often used  to make jams and jellies, ice cream and sorbet, schnapps, and pies. They're also delicious in baked goods such as scones, muffins, and cakes. Fresh black currants have a savory side too: they make a tangy sauce for meats such as chicken, pork, and lamb and can be tossed into salads. If you have a recipe calling for fresh black currants and can't find them, then blackberries and gooseberries make good substitutes.

What are the health benefits of fresh black currants? Fresh black currants are high in vitamin C and potassium. They're also are rich, little nuggets of antioxidants (2X the antioxidants of blueberries!) which help reduce inflammation and may help lower your risk of cancer.

Now it's time to get cooking with fresh black currants, so check out the tempting list of recipes below.

Greek Yogurt, Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits
Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits from Food Blogga

Read more about fresh black currants:
"A Tart Berry Reintroduces Itself" from the NYT
Fresh Black Currants information page from Specialty Produce in San Diego 

Black currant Savory recipes:
Black Currant Chicken recipe from Anne's Food
Lamb Chops with Black Currant BBQ Sauce recipe from Suzi's Blog

Black currant sweet recipes:
Black Currant Sorbet recipe from NYT
Blackcurrant Pie recipe from Bron Marshall
Black Currant Scones recipe from Local Kitchen
Red and Black Currant Parfaits recipe from Country Living
Black Currant Schnapps recipe from Danish Schnapps Recipes
Blackcurrant Swirl Cheesecake recipe from Good Food Channel
Black Currant and Orange Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe from Epicurean
Apricot Almond Tart with Black Currants and Lavender Syrup from Vegalicious Recipes

Friday, September 17, 2010

TFIG: Kara Newman's Spice & Ice Cookbook Review

spiced iced tea cocktail from Spice & Ice
Spiced Iced Tea

Sorry, Cosmo girls. Sweet cocktails are out. Spicy cocktails are in. It’s time to update your cocktail wardrobe.

Adding sliced chilies is perhaps the simplest and surest way to spice up a cocktail, but don’t stop there. Spicy cocktails have a wide flavor spectrum: Think sprigs of heady rosemary, a drizzle of sweet maple syrup, or a dab of nose-tickling wasabi.

According to Kara Newman, author of Spice & Ice: 60 Tongue-Tingling Cocktails (Chronicle Books), spicy cocktails come in a range of flavors. The most important thing to remember when mixing savory cocktails is balance. Why does the quintessential spicy drink, The Bloody Mary, remain a perennial favorite? Because of its balanced interplay between sweet tomato juice, pungent horseradish, and savory celery salt. 

Newman clearly explains the "elements of spice" which run the gamut from fruity and floral to spicy and savory. She gives readers "spicy do's and don'ts," such as "do start with less heat," and "don't use shriveled, old peppers; fresh is best." She even tells you what to do if your mouth feels like it's on fire: drink milk, or eat cheese, bread, or a teaspoon of sugar. 

Newman explains how to make infused liquors, such as jalapeno-infused tequila and simple syrups, such as chipotle-orange syrup. She even tells you how to garnish drinks and rim a glass with panache.

sunburned berry cocktail from Spice & Ice
Summertime Sunburned Berry Cocktail from Spice & Ice.

The recipes in Spice & Ice are divided by season and often include fresh, seasonal ingredients such as blood oranges, blueberries, and tomatoes. The recipes are a collection of Newman's own as well as those of chefs and mixologists across the country.

So if you're looking for something sexier in your cocktail wardrobe, then get yourself a copy of Kara Newman's Spice & Ice. It's like wearing a pair of red peep toe heels; you can't help but feel hot in those!

Spiced Iced Tea
Makes 1
Printable recipe.

1 tea bag (preferably orange or black tea)
4 ounced vodka
1 Thai chile or serrano pepper, sliced
2 ounces triple sec
1 whole pepper, for garnish

1. Immerse the tea bag in hot water for 10 seconds. Then remove it and immerse it in the vodka. Allow to steep for 5 minutes. During the last minute, add the sliced chile pepper. Remove the tea bag before proceeding.

2. In a shaker filled with ice, shake the infused vodka and the triple sec. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the whole pepper.

You might also like these cocktail recipes:
Blood Orange Vodkatini
Homemade Creamy Limoncello from my NPR article, "Have Your Limoncello, and Eat It Too"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Brain Food: The Thinkfood Cookbook Is Here

NPR recently caused a brouhaha -- ooh, I love that word -- when they posted the article, "Food For Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter."

According to anthropologists, about 2.3 million years ago, humans began "dining with dogs," or at least scavenging the same carcasses. Because meat has more calories and fat, our brains, which are high energy users, responded well to it. While our brains enlarged, our guts shrank, allowing us to spend more time on higher brain activities like making better tools.

This doesn't mean that vegetarians are dumber. It does, however, mean that they may have less energy than meat-eaters. Fortunately, there are many brain-healthy foods for all types of eaters ranging from carnivores to vegans. Some of the best brain-healthy foods include omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed; antioxidant-packed foods such as berries and crucifers; and whole grains such as barley and oats.

So if you're looking to eat your way to a smarter you, then consider getting yourself a copy of the newly released cookbook, Thinkfood: Recipes for Brain FitnessPosit Science (a leader in brain training software) joined forces with 50 bloggers, including me, to create this cookbook, featuring 50 unique, delicious, brain-healthy recipes ranging from appetizers to desserts. You can also sign up for their free email Recipe of the Week campaign; each Wednesday you'll receive a brain-healthy recipe, meet the blogger who created it, and get tips about brain-fitness foods.

Brain-healthy recipe: Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta; photo by Posit Science

My family has been eating Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta for as long as I can remember, not because tuna is high in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, which it is, but because it's simple, delicious, and Italian. Tuna is also rich in both B-vitamins which help improve your energy and memory and tryptophan which helps you sleep.

Since my parents will be reading this post, I have a feeling my mom will be making Quick Italian Tuna and Olive Pasta a lot more often. Mensa better get ready for the Russo's.

Here are other brain-healthy recipes from Food Blogga you might enjoy:  
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pears
Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Salad
Orange and Ginger Glazed Planked Salmon
Shrimp, Pineapple, and 7 Whole Grain Pilaf Salad
Sicilian Sardine and Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Would You Like to be a Recipe Tester for My Sandwich Cookbook?

Mexican torta
Mexican Torta, one big, belly-busting sandwich.

It's time to make the sandwiches!

You know I have been working on my upcoming cookbook, The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches: Recipes, History, and Trivia for Everything Between Sliced Bread (Quirk Books). Now it's time to test the recipes. Would you like to help? If so, read on!

monte cristo
Monte Cristo, the American version of the Croque-Monsieur.

Here's how the recipe testing process will work:

1. Email me at Foodblogga AT yahoo DOT COM today or tomorrow. Please put RECIPE TESTING in the subject line so I can flag it. Send me your full name, home mailing address, and phone number.

2. I will send you a list of sandwiches and will assign them on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you'd like to test more than one recipe, please let me know.

3. Things will move quickly! You'll receive the recipes in a couple of days, have about a week to test them, and send me your feedback via email no later than Thursday, Sept. 30th. The recipes are straight-forward and easy, though some like pulled pork require several steps or longer cooking times.

4. What will you get out of it? A great sandwich, your name mentioned in the cookbook, and my eternal gratitude.

chicken cutlet sandwich 1
Italian Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Broccoli Rabe and Provolone. Mangia!

pork tenderloin sandwich
Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, Indy's pride and joy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seduced By Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits

Greek Yogurt, Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits

Oscar Wilde said, "I can resist everything but temptation." I think he had fresh figs in mind when he said that.

Consider this: Yesterday morning at the Hillcrest farmers' market, I spotted close to a dozen people eating fresh figs as they shopped. That's because everything about fresh figs is irresistible -- their pleasingly plump stature, their velvet skin splitting with ripeness, their ambrosial pink flesh.

fresh calimyrna figs
Fresh Calmyrna figs grown in San Diego County. 

Despite fresh figs' high price tag, usually $4-6 per pound, San Diego shoppers couldn't get enough of them, including me. I also can't get enough of these simple, no-bake Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits. This dessert proves that opposites attract -- sweet figs and tart black currants, syrupy honey and spicy cinnamon, and earthy rosemary and tangy lemon zest are enfolded in luscious, creamy Greek yogurt.

I just know Oscar Wilde wouldn't have been able to resist them either.

fresh figs DSC_0041
Black Mission figs grown in LA County.

Greek Yogurt, Fresh Fig, and Black Currant Parfaits
Makes 2 servings
Printable recipe.

2 tablespoons honey
A couple of pinches of cinnamon
A couple of pinches of salt
A couple of pinches of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt
6 fresh figs, quartered
1/2 cup fresh black currants*
1 tablespoon pistachios

1. Heat honey, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest, and rosemary either in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm and smooth. Remove from heat.

2. Use two cocktail or other pretty glasses to assemble parfaits. Start with yogurt at the base. Then top with fig pieces, currants, pistachios, and honey sauce. Repeat. Eat. Make again tomorrow.

*Note: Black currants are small, round berries with a glossy black skin and tart flesh. They're available at farmers' markets and organic markets. If you can't find them, blackberries make a good substitute. Dried black currants are more widely available, but their flavor and texture is sweeter like a raisin.

black currants
Fresh black currants grown in LA County.

Here are more fresh fig recipes you might enjoy:
Vanilla Bean Fig Cupcakes recipe from Dessert First 
Fresh Fig Bread Pudding recipe from Circle B Kitchen
Fresh Fig and Banana Milkshake recipe from Pinch My Salt

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Join Us for Fun, Food, and Farming at Olivewood Gardens with Chef Ann Cooper, "The Renegade Lunch Lady"

Sugar pumpkins at Olivewood Gardens.

Everyone is talking about school lunch reform and eating more healthfully -- First Lady, Michelle Obama, Jamie Oliver, Ann Cooper -- and Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in San Diego is making it happen.

Heirloom red corn at Olivewood Gardens.

Olivewood Gardens in National City is dedicated to "reconnecting students and families to the natural environment through food, community engagement, and education." Each week, local school children visit the garden and learn important lessons about how food is grown and how to cook and eat more healthfully.

Swiss chard at Olivewood Gardens.

They are taught by dozens of committed volunteers, including San Diego chefs, food writers, master gardeners, and community members who teach, cook, and garden with the children.

Olivewood Gardens House, National City, San Diego, CA
Home where cooking classes are taught at Olivewood Gardens.

They need your help. October 1-3, is the 1st Annual Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center Fundraiser, created by San Diego chefs Julie Sayer Darling and Melissa Mayer. Nationally renown chef, author, and children’s nutrition advocate, Chef Ann Cooper, widely known as the “Renegade Lunch Lady,” will be the featured guest.

Chef Ann has been featured on ABC News Nightline, CNBC, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show, and TED, and is committed to “changing the way we feed our children, one lunch at a time.” Now you can meet her in San Diego!

Below are several exciting opportunities for schoolchildren, their families, and community members to get involved, talk with Chef Ann, and help promote children’s nutrition in San Diego.

Tomatoes at Olivewood Gardens.

I hope to see you there! 

DAY 1, FRIDAY, OCT. 1, 2010:
Junior League’s Southwest Exchange Conference
Keynote Address by Chef Ann Cooper, “The Renegade Lunch Lady”
6:00-8:00 pm; Fibonacci’s, 10300 Campus Point Dr, San Diego, CA 92121
$10 per person and open to the public; includes appetizers and cash bar

San Diegans will have the opportunity to engage in an inspiring discussion about how to make school lunches healthier for our children both nationally and here in San Diego. You don’t want to miss a chance to see this dynamic nationally recognized speaker.

DAY 2, SATURDAY, OCT. 2, 2010:
Organic Dinner and Conversation with Chef Ann Cooper
6:00 -10:00 pm; Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, 2505 N Ave., National City, CA, 91950
Tickets: $200 per person. Purchase online through Olivewood Gardens. Guests may also RSVP: 619.336-2253 /

80 guests will enjoy an exclusive dinner under the stars with Chef Ann Cooper on the  beautiful grounds of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Guest San Diego chefs and mixologist, Ron Oliver of The Marine Room, will create a sumptuous, organic champagne reception and 5-course dinner. All organic produce will be donated by Suzie’s Farm. A silent auction with choice items will take place throughout the evening with proceeds benefiting Olivewood Gardens.

Chefs include: Amy DiBiase of Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, Flor Franco of Indulge Catering, Katie Grebow of Cafe Chloe, Ricardo Heredia of Alchemy, Joe Manganelli of Cucina Urbana, Melissa Mayer of Suzie’s Farm, pastry chef Sara Polchynski, Rancho La Puerta, and Chad White of Roseville.

DAY 3, SUNDAY, OCT. 3, 2010: 
Family Garden Picnic with Ann Cooper
11:00 am- 3:00 pm; Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, 2505 N Ave., National City, CA, 91950
Tickets: Adults, $50, kids 12 and under, $10. Purchase online through Olivewood Gardens. Guests may also RSVP: 619.336-2253 /

Families will enjoy fun, farming, and food at the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center! Guests will tour edible gardens, learn about gardening and nutrition with hands-on activities, and eat freshly prepared local foods cooked by top San Diego chefs and food writers. And don’t forget your bathing suits and flip-flops! The pool will be open with a lifeguard on duty. A national television show will be filming the events that day too. Come and see who it is!

Chefs include: Amy DiBiase of Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, Ricardo Heredia of Alchemy, Kristen Conairis of Wicked Goodies, MIHO Gastrotruck, pastry chef Sara Polchynski, Rancho La Puerta, personal chef, Diane Stopford, and Chad White of Roseville. Food writers include: Caron Golden and Susan Russo

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's the Difference Between Regular Whole Wheat Flour and White Whole Wheat Flour?

white whole wheat flour

Has this happened to you? You're in the baking aisle of the supermarket looking for whole wheat flour. You locate it and grab one. As you're putting it in your carriage, you notice a another bag of flour marked "white whole wheat flour." You pause and think, "What’s the Difference Between Regular Whole Wheat Flour and White Whole Wheat Flour?"

Since you can't go grocery shopping with Dorie Greenspan, here's what you need to know about the differences between regular whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour:

Regular whole wheat flour is milled from hard red spring wheat which results in a flavorful, tan colored, high-fiber flour. It creates heavy, denser, nuttier flavored baked goods.

White whole wheat flour is milled from white whole wheat, not red, which makes it lighter in color and less bitter in flavor. Yet it’s got the same nutritional value of regular whole wheat flour, which is great! It creates lighter, sweeter baked goods.

Are regular whole wheat flour and white whole wheat flour interchangeable in recipes? Yes.

Are white whole wheat flour and all-purpose bleached white flour interchangeable in recipes? No. Because of the difference in gluten, the texture will be affected. Start by replacing 1/3-1/2 of the all-purpose flour with the white whole wheat flour, then work your way up from there to make sure you like the texture, color, and flavor.

White whole wheat flour is ideal for people who want the sweeter flavor of all-purpose bleached white flour with the nutritional punch of regular whole wheat flour. Use it in muffins, breads, scones, waffles, pizza and more. You'll be glad you did.

More on white whole wheat flour from:
Dani Spies
The Kitchn
Bon Appetit
Kalyn's Kitchen
The Perfect Pantry

Here are whole wheat flour recipes you might enjoy:
Whole Wheat Pie Dough recipe from Andrea's Recipes
White Whole Wheat Biscuits recipe from Baking Bites
Whole Wheat Vanilla Pancakes recipe from Cooking With Amy
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffin recipe from Pinch My Salt
Healthy Cherry, Banana, and Oatmeal Breakfast Bread recipe from Food Blogga
Savory Butternut Squash Muffins with Apples, Caramelized Onions, and Cheddar Cheese recipe from Food Blogga

Monday, September 6, 2010

Watermelon Radish and Armenian Cucumber Salad Is Good Enough to Fight Over

Armenian cucumber also known as  "snake cucumber" or "snake melon"

What's this I see? Kids fighting over vegetables? Yes, it's true.

This past Saturday at the Little Italy Mercato in San Diego, two little boys were tussling over cucumbers. Well, not just any cucumbers, Armenian cucumbers, otherwise known as "snake cucumbers" and "snake melons."

"I wanted that one!" said the freckled blonde, stomping his right foot on the ground.

"Well, it's mine!" said the dark-haired one, fiercely, as he handed a curly, striped cucumber as tall as he was to his mother and asked: "Can I have this?"

I sighed. Ahhh! There is nothing so touching as seeing children fight over fresh farmers' market vegetables.

watermelon radish

If you've seen an Armenian cucumber, then you understand why they're so alluring.  Though a variety of melon, an Armenian cucumber looks and tastes like a regular cucumber, but can grown up to three feet long!

Pair them with electrifying pink watermelon radishes (a mild flavored variety of red radish) and you've got yourself one seriously spirited salad.

heirloom watermelon radish and cucumber salad

Watermelon Radish and Armenian Cucumber Salad
Makes 4 small or 2 large servings
Printable recipe.

1 1/4 cups watermelon radish, sliced thinly into half moons (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups Armenian, Persian, or regular cucumber, sliced on the diagonal (about 2)
2-3 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place radishes, cucumbers, and basil in a small bowl.

2. Whisk remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over salad. Toss lightly to coat. Serve.

You might also enjoy these recipes:
Watermelon and Green Olive Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Pickled Watermelon Radishes recipe from The Garden of Eating
Roasted Purple Cauliflower and Arugula Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Chilled Yogurt and Armenian Cucumber Soup recipe from The Armenian Kitchen
Watermelon Radish and Purple Cabbage Slaw recipe from Haw Berries & Kumquats
Feggous Salad (Armenian Cucumber Salad with Orange Flower Water) recipe from

Got a second? Support local farmers' markets by liking SD Weekly Markets on FB!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Is the End of Summer and the Start of Fig Season

fresh california figs
Brown Turkey Figs grown in San Diego County.

It's September 1st. Summer's over. Of course, here in San Diego, summer never actually started. Temps hovered around 68 straight through August. Surfers grumbled. Tourists shivered in their tank tops. Dogs demanded sweaters. San Diego dogs are seriously spoiled.

I'm probably the only person in San Diego who isn't sad that September has arrived. Why? Because September is the start of fresh fig season, and you simply can't be sad when you see fresh figs.

heirloom tomato, fresh fig and burrata salad with mint vinaigrette

Figs are a sensual fruit. Their velvety soft skin emits a sweet, floral fragrance and often splits with juicy ripeness. They are the prized jewels of farmers' markets, and nowadays most major supermarkets sell them as well. Figs are highly perishable, so buy them when you know you'll eat them in a couple of days. Otherwise, it's best to store them in an air-tight container lined with paper towel in the refrigerator for up to three days. Don't worry though. They'll never last that long.

I don't care what San Diego's weather is like this September. As long as I have my fresh California figs, I'm good.

fresh figs DSC_0041
Black Mission figs grown in LA County.

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Fig, and Burrata Salad with Mint Vinaigrette
Makes 2 large or 4 small servings
Printable recipe.

Serve this salad in pretty cocktail glasses or serving dishes for a first course or atop a bed of mesclun or arugula for a larger plate. Burrata cheese is soft, fresh mozzarella cheese with a creamy center. It's available at Italian specialty markets, cheese shops and many major supermarkets.

2 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh figs, quartered (5-6 figs)
1/2 cup diced burrata cheese (3-4 ounces)

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint

1. In a serving bowl combine tomatoes, figs, and burrata cheese.

2. In a small bowl whisk all vinaigrette ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss gently. For fullest flavor, let salad rest for 30 minutes before serving and do not refrigerate.

You might also enjoy these fresh fig recipes:
Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza recipe from Food Blogga
Prosciutto Wrapped Figs and Brie recipe from Proud Italian Cook
Fresh Fig, Arugula and Mascarpone Bruschetta recipe from Food Blogga
Fig Salad with Arugula, Brie and Walnuts recipe from Stacey Snacks
Fig, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese Pizza recipe from Cookography