Easy Meals: Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of our favorite seasonal foods here in the Bay Area is stonefruit. Colleen loves it so much, she got peaches tattooed on her back. True story. I was at the Alemany Famer’s Market today to stalk the sour cherry vendor (2 more weeks…) and snagged a tasty-looking sample from a neighboring stall. All they had were yellow nectarines, which happen to be my favorite.

Holy moly! They were amazing. So sweet, juicy, tart and creamy – the perfect stonefruit. I picked up a big bag of them for $3/lb (organic, too) with no real intentions for them other than shoveling them into my face.

I left the Alemany market, took a detour for the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market and found that Cowgirl Creamery is now selling mini 4oz. tubs of burrata. While I have no issue plowing through a full 16oz of this sweet, creamy, heavenly cheese, I decided it would be better for my heath and pocketbook if I bought the little tub. It’s the perfect amount for two people and it only cost me $5.

I remembered a cheesemonger once told me that the perfect accompaniment for burrata was stonefruit. I then recalled a salad I recently had at Eno Wine Bar in Union square with grilled peaches, peppery greens and burrata cheese. It was heavenly, although the peaches were under-ripe. I thought I would do the concept justice and make my own rendition at home with perfectly ripe fruit. I picked up a big bag of watercress from County Line Harvest and took my bounty home to Brisbane.

My husband and I enjoyed this lovely salad accompanied with a peppery champagne vinaigrette and a bottle of Wind Gap 2012 Trousseau Gris. Trousseay Gris was once widely planted across California, but these days there’s only about 10 acres of it left. It creates a wine that is delicate and fresh with aromas of honeysuckle, mineral & citrus. It’s so fresh and delicious, I thought it would be a lovely compliment to our summery salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pair was a match made in heaven. You can pick up this wine for yourself for the super low price of $24. It’s hard to find a wine this delicious and well-made at this price point, so I suggest buying up as much of it as you can if you see it in a store.

The salad was very easy to make, the recipe is below.

Nectarine & Burrata Watercress Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette
(serves 2)

Ingredients:
1/3 lb. watercress, pepper-cress, spring mix, arugula, or whatever
1 tree-ripe yellow nectarine or peach
4 oz. burrata
Olive Oil
Champagne vinegar
Pinch of salt
Fresh ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Put the greens into a large bowl.
  2. Pour equal parts champagne vinegar & olive oil (about 1 oz each) into a 4 oz canning jar with a lid or a small bowl.
  3. Add salt and pepper to the dressing.
  4.  Put a lid on the jar and shake the dressing, or whisk in the bowl.
  5.  Cut your nectarine or peach into pretty slices.
  6.  Cut your 4 oz. of Burrata into wedges.
  7.  Pour the dressing onto the greens and toss.
  8.  Plate equal parts of greens into two separate bowls.
  9.  Fan out your stonefruit slices and place them in the center of the salad.
  10.  Garnish the stonefruit slices with two wedges of burrata.
  11.  Drizzle the burrata with olive oil and give it another grind of black pepper

Enjoy your amazing salad and wash it down with copious amounts of California Trousseau Gris.

 

Cooking Techniques: How to (easily) poach an egg

poachedegg

If you’re anything like me, you love brunch. You love it specifically because it provides a valid excuse to go out and eat poached eggs. They are delicate, fresh-tasting, healthy and satisfying. If you’re anything like me, you have spent countless hours trying to perfect this technique at home only to have your attempts explode into a water-logged, filamentous mess.

Through much trial and error, I finally came up with the easiest and most fool-proof method of poaching eggs. In my opinion, it’s easier than frying an egg and healthier too. No oil or butter, no cracked yolk, no hard-cooked nastiness.

Here are the important points to keep in mind:
1. Your eggs must be HELLA fresh. I am talking, right-out-of-the-chicken fresh. The older your eggs are, the runnier the whites will be and the harder it will be to poach them. You can determine how fresh your eggs are here.
2. Vinegar in the cooking water helps keep the white of the egg “tight” and keeps it from exploding.
3. You don’t want to plop the egg into the hot water; you need to lower it gently within a container other than the shell and gently DISPLACE the egg into the pan from the container with water.
4. You don’t want your water to boil hard or to create a “whirlpool” in the pot of hot water. While I’m sure someone, somewhere is able to poach an egg like this, I never have been able to and find that it just makes things really difficult.

I hope that this tutorial demystifies the process for you and helps you achieve perfectly cooked, tender, just-runny enough goodness.

What you’ll need:
Water
Extremely fresh eggs
Light-colored vinegar (champagne, white wine, apple cider, white)
Salt
A tall-sided skillet or shallow pot
Slotted spoon
4 oz canning jar, metal ladle, or a small bowl that can get hot
Something to put your poached eggs on (get creative)

Method:
1. Fill your tall-sided skillet or shallow pot with 2-3 inches of water.
2. Bring your water to a simmer. You should see lots of small bubbles and a few big bubbles (see photo).
3. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar and a large pinch of salt to the hot water.
4. Crack your extremely fresh egg into your 4 oz canning jar, ladle or bowl.

rawegg
5. Gently lower the jar/ladle/bowl into the hot water and displace the egg from the container with the water.

displacedegg6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you reach the total number of eggs you want to eat (but don’t crowd them).
7. Set your kitchen timer for 3 minutes (soft cooked) or 3.5 minutes (medium cooked). We don’t poach eggs hard around here.

poachingegg
8. Gently remove the egg from the hot water with a slotted spoon and put on whatever vehicle you have chosen for your eggs.
9. Throw some shaved aged parmesan, chopped parsley, sea salt & pepper on there for a truly exquisite brunch. Skip the hollandaise sauce if you want to live a long and healthy life.

That’s it! Enjoy new skill.

Easy Weeknight Food & Wine

One of the things I’ve learned is that wine is something that should be enjoyed every day. I like to treat wine like a part of life, like cooking. It can be prohibitively expensive, and that scares a lot of people off. It’s hard to find a great California wine in the $15-$25 range; it’s even harder to find good wines cheaper than that. Wine is one of those things where, unfortunately, quality often dictates price. However, you can find some exceptional values in some of the less “popular” wine varietals such as Syrah and Carignan, in rosé wines, and in those which are grown in lesser-known AVAs.

I also think people don’t cook at home enough. Our busy lifestyles have created a culture where people often eat out for every meal of the day. It’s so hard to maintain a healthy diet when you are letting someone else prepare your food and you have no control over what is going into it. Additionally, eating out is expensive. Cooking at home may be cheaper, but it’s also time-consuming and exhausting. I prefer to prepare easy but delicious meals on weeknights.

One of my favorite weeknight meals is fresh ravioli from The Pasta Shop. This is a local purveyor of freshly made pasta with exceptional quality ingredients. You can buy them by the pound at their flagship store (linked above) or in many local grocery stores & Farmer’s Markets across the Bay Area. A package of fresh pasta is around $5 (serves 3-4) and a package of the fresh ravioli is anywhere from $8-$13 (serves 2 as an entree) depending on what the filling is.

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Every weekend I buy a package of these ravioli from the Pasta Shop stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Preparation is super simple. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, drop in the ravioli, then simmer for 6.5 minutes. Drain, then toss with good olive oil and a handful of fresh arugula leaves. Place into bowls, grind some fresh black pepper over the top, give a good grating of aged organic Parmesean and voila! One of the best meals you could imagine in less than 15 minutes.

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Tonight is our Ravioli night and this week I bought the Sweet Onion & Red Chard ravioli in Roasted Red Pepper pasta. This is totally vegetarian and $10 per pack. It’s not cheap by any means but you would easily pay $15-$20 for a plate of these ravioli in a restaurant. These aren’t your Chef Boyardee ravioli of yesteryear. They are unbelievable.

The wine I am serving with the ravioli is Broc Cellars 2011 Carbonic Carignan. This wine is fresh, juicy, fruity, lightly tannic, medium bodied and slightly herbaceous. Carignan is often used as a blending grape but is catching momentum in California as a varietal wine. They are generally very easy to drink and inexpensive. I think it will pair nicely with tonight’s pasta.

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This wine is made in a similar style as Beaujolais called Carbonic Maceration. It produces a wine that is generally lighter in body, fruity, fresh, easy to drink when young, and can be slightly herbaceous because of the stem contact during fermentation. I like to pair slightly-vegetal tasting wines with vegetarian food since they seem to really play nicely together. This particular wine is drinking nicely right now, I highly recommend you drop by the Broc Cellars tasting room in Berkeley to try it yourself and maybe go home with a bottle or three.