Warm Romaine Salad with Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil

A couple weeks ago, I was at one of my favorite and strangely under-noticed restaurants (even though its Michelin rated….wierd). La Provence on Guerrero and 23rd has a veal carpaccio that’s served with shaved fennel, parmesan and truffle oil. It’s ridiculously amazing and as I was selfishly devouring it, I decided that I would start using more truffle in my own food. The only hesitation I have about it is that when I get truffles now, it’s novel and so exciting. If I can have it anytime I want will it lose its appeal? Will the excitement dwindle? Like a secret whirlwind romance, will it stop being hot afterr it’s available to me whenever I want?

After careful deliberation, I decided that – also like a secret whirlwind romance – I’m gonna take all I can get until I get sick of it and so I took myself a little trip down to the Ferry Building. Mmmmm Far West Fungi is so great. I perused the ridiculous selection of interesting mushrooms and based on some interesting recommendations, I decided on:

Lions Mane Mushrooms


some Sea BeansSeaBeans

a bit of Mezzo Secco from my favorite cheese monger, Cow Girl CreameryMezzoSeccoChz
The Mezzo Secco got along famously with the nuttiness of the truffle oil, but there seems to be a little bit of confusion over this cheese. I don’t know what the truth of the matter is, but the reviews and descriptions of Mezzo Secco that I have read say its rind is coated in black pepper, but Cow Girl told me it was cocoa (which I believe is true for this wheel). It must just be a variable.

Oh, and I got a bottle of black truffle oil, too. And here’s the first thing I made with it: WarmRomaineSalad.

Warm Romaine Salad w/ Goat Cheese and Truffle Oil

    1 head of romaine, chopped
    1/2 c. raw walnuts
    1/4 c. goat cheese. crumbled
    3t butter (or Earth Balance)
    1/2t. black truffle oil
    1t grated piloncillo sugar (or substitute brown sugar)
    1/2t fine sea salt

    pinch of Fume de Sel, (chardonnay smoked salt) (optional)

To toast the walnuts:

    1. Heat 2t butter in small saute pan
    2. When butter starts to brown, add walnuts and let them start to brown
    3. When they start to brown, add salt and slowly add sugar so that it doesn’t burn
    4. Toss often while in the pan
    5. Take off heat when well browned and aromatic

For the Salad:

    1. In a new saute pan, heat the last half t. of butter
    2. When it starts to brown, add chopped romaine
    3. Cook romaine just until starting to wilt and brown
    4. While still warm, toss with walnuts, goat cheese and truffle oil, top with sprinkle of Fume de Sel (or any coarse salt)
    5. Eat it!

Watermelon, Installment 3: Gazpacho

The third and (second to) last installment of how to use up all that watermelon you have left over from the spicy salad that I know you all made:

    gazpacho: A refreshingly cold, summertime soup hailing from the Andalusia region in southern Spain.

Contrary to popular belief, its not only the tomato, pepper, cucumber etc variety of soup (the “salad as a soup” variety, if you will). Gazpacho offers you more than that. True, it is usually tomato based, but it can be any kind of cold soup, and this one is watermelon based (a watermelon salad as a soup, perhaps??)

Its especially important to not over-blend the ingredients. There is so much water in watermelon (duh) that’ll quickly and easily get runny and not that good.
Watermelon Gazpacho

    1/4 med seedless watermelon, rind cut off ad cubed
    2T crumbled feta cheese
    1t coconut cream (coconut milk is too watery)
    1t seasoned rice vinegar
    pinch salt
    pinch cayenne

    for garnish:
    drizzle of chili oil, coarse grey salt, fresh ground black pepper and 1 small heirloom tomato chopped in small cubes

    1. Combine all ingredients (except for garnish) in blender and pulse quickly
    2. Serve topped with chili oil, coarse salt, ground pepper and chooped tomatos
    3. To eat, mix in toppings
    4. Eat it!

Spicy Watermelon, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

When people think “California summer”, they think roller-blades, sun block, smooth, brown tans and palm trees in the breeze. Unfortunately, the truth of my California summer is quite the opposite. San Francisco’s June, July and most of August is usually comprised of windy, over-cast and foggy, chilly days who turn into damp, cold-ass nights. These last few days, though, have been a joy of true summer: mid-80’s, sunny and humid.

And so, I needed something appropriate…. It’s way too hot to even use the microwave – I needed something that is creative and cools me down from the inside out?

I wracked my brain – what would be tasty and refreshing? Cold soup, of course, but I’ve already done the Avocado-Cucumber soup (which, by the way, is intimidatingly perfect for this weather) and I don’t really like tomatoes, sotraditional gazpacho is out. And then, there it was, in the middle of the produce aisle: round, smooth and green; the very reason God himself invented the hot day: Watermelon.

A quick mental list followed:

    Chilled Watermelon Soup with Basil and Champagne
    Martinis with Watermelon Ice
    Watermelon Salsa
    Pickled Watermelon Rind
    Spicy Watermelon Salad
    Spicy Watermelon and Arugula Salad

      2/3 C. cubed fresh watermelon
      2/3 C. arugula greens
      2T soft herbed goat cheese

      1t flavored rice vinegar
      1.5T extra virgin olive oil
      3/4t mild chili oil
      1t juice fresh from over-ripe tomato
      pinch of salt
      twist of fresh ground black pepper
      teeny-tiny pinch of fleur de sel (French grey salt)

      1. Put all vinaigrette ingredients into a bowl and whisk vigorously
      2. Put all dry salad ingredients into bowl
      3. Pour vinaigrette slowly over the watermelon, arugula and cheese (in small batches, making sure not to over dress)
      4. Toss salad with your hands, gently creaming the cheese
      5. Eat it!

    The rest of the recipes for the dishes in the watermelon list above will be posted soon, as well.

Zucchin Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pine Nuts and Rice

My usual process for recipe making is perhaps a little easier than a lot of people’s. Four out of every five things I think about are food, so when it comes to actually preparing food for a first time recipe, I’ve already gone over it a million times in my head, so it only takes 2 times to get the written and finalized recipe done.

However, for some unfortunate reason, one of the simplest vegetables (actually, technically a fruit….) was quite elusive. This recipe took me a grip of trial and errors. First, I tried zucchini rounds with just ricotta cheese and chili flakes. Not bad, but not good enough to try to get other people to make it. I tried a few different variations on this zucchini-ricotta business and none were fantastic. Then I figured it out: I needed a different cheese, and more substance to it! From here, it was a breeze. See for yourself:

Per 2 Zukes (I used regular, but round globe zucchini would work perfectly)stuffedzuke

    ½ cup cooked brown rice
    ¼ cup soft, fresh goat cheese
    3T white onion, finely minced
    2T pine nuts, toasted*
    2t minced garlic
    ½ t mild chili powder
    ½ t cayenne

    ½ – 1T fresh parmesan (to taste)
    pinch of red chili flakes (to taste)

    Pre-heat to 450
    1. Slice Zucchinis length-wise down the middle and use a small spoon to scoop out the center, leaving a canoe-like Zucchini boat. Reserve the meat!
    2. Coat the boats in evoo, salt and pepper and bake face down until slightly browned on the skin and soft inside. (7-10min)
    While they are baking:
    3. Heat a bit of olive oil and butter on medium heat and add garlic and onions, cook until onions are soft.
    4. Throw in brown rice to heat, then add zucchini meat, chili powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
    5. Cook until zucchini softens, about 3 minutes.
    6. Transfer to bowl and add goat cheese in small increments, stirring to mix completely.
    7. Stuff mixture into the cavities of the baked zucchini, sprinkle with Parmesan and red chili flakes to taste.

Another tasty variation for finger-food appetizers:goatcheesezukes

    1. Slice the zucchini into ¼ inch rounds, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 450 until just soft (leave a little bite to it, you don’t want squishy zucchini).
    2. Top with dollops of the cheese and rice mixture (leaving out the zucchini meat from the mixture.)
    3. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chili flakes.

Some good substitutions for the goat cheese could be feta, or for those who aren’t fond of the goats at all – cream cheese. It will achieve generally the same consistency as the goat cheese.

*Its super important to always toast nuts before you use them. Nuts are oily, and the flavor is all there in the oil that comes out when heated. Put them in a small sauté pan and heat on med until just a little browned. Watch ‘em because they will burn easily and once they’re over the edge, they’re gone forever.pinenuts