Dorie Greenspan’s Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies Just For Me

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rye-cranberry chocolate-chunk cookies

I’m here today with a sweet treat. I know desserts are crowd pleasers, so you could see these cookies as a peace-offering – or maybe just an apology. The last time I presented something sweet the bees were buzzing and the birds were chirping. It was a time of renewal. What calendar watchers would call spring. Now its autumn and I’m left wondering where summer went. Why didn’t a burger post happen? Or coleslaw? Shouldn’t I have churned up ice cream in an inventive flavor? These things used to be my seasonal rituals. However, this summer I began to feel my blog slipping away from me. Or maybe I mean me slipping away from it. Anyway, I’m hoping to sweeten my little blog (and my place in the blogosphere) by turning to cookies, Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies to be exact.

We’re all busy. We’ve all got our stuff. My stuff involves caregiving for my partner’s elderly mother. We’re in a particularly trying phase of life here. I hesitate to call it the end-phase (because I don’t believe that it is) but there is certainly a slowing down of routines. Dressing is a big chore. A walk down the hall takes two rest stops when it used to take one. Little things like meals can take a whole afternoon. So as the calendar year closes I find myself carefully choosing the activities I call my own.

Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

This week I chose baking. And I thank Mokonuts Cafe and Bakery and Dorie Greenspan for just the right inspiration. Greenspan has a charming story in the New York Times about how she discovered these Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies. I’ll let you read that on you’re own. But I promise it will make you want to board a plane for Paris before the last paragraph. If only I could…

What caught my attention in this recipe was the ingredient list: rye flour, poppy seeds, and flaky sea salt. These are savory ingredients that become sweetly complex when paired with cranberries and chocolate chunks. You might be tempted to call her cookie just another version of a Chocolate Chip Cookie, but you’d be shortchanging the appeal by more than a dollar. Filled with shards of melted chocolate and laced with pinpoints of poppy seeds it’s the texture that separates these cookies from the other cookies in the jar. They’re baked at 425 degrees F and are deeply browned. They’re imperfect to the point of craggy and would never be mistaken for store-bought. This recipe makes just 15 cookies so these cookies are big (mine weighed 54 grams each before baking). Which is another appealing aspect in my opinion. While these Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies are indeed slightly savory – they’re still the sweet treat I promised myself. GREG

Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 15Source Dorie GreenspanPublished

My dough divided in fifteen 54 gram balls before baking.

chocolate-chunk cookies

Ingredients

  • 130 gram medium rye flour (I used Bob's Red Mill dark rye flour)
  • 85 gram all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 140 gram unsalted butter (at cool room temperature)
  • 100 gram granulated sugar
  • 100 gram light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 50 gram poppy seeds
  • 80 gram moist, plump dried cranberries
  • 113 gram bittersweet chocolate (chopped into chunks)
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

Whisk together the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sea salt, and baking soda; set aside.

Working with a mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment, if you have one), beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until blended; scrape the bowl as needed. Add the egg, and beat 2 minutes more. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once, then pulse the mixer a few times to begin blending the ingredients. Beat on low speed until the flour almost disappears, and then add the poppy seeds, cranberries, and chocolate. Mix only until incorporated. Scrape the bowl to bring the dough together.

Have a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or plastic wrap nearby. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place on the baking sheet. Cover, and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 3 days. (If you’d like, you can wrap the balls airtight and freeze them for up to 1 month. Defrost them overnight in the fridge before baking.)

When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the cookies on the sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (work with half a batch at a time and keep the remaining balls of dough in the refrigerator until needed). Sprinkle each cookie with a little flake salt, crushing it between your fingers as you do.

Bake the cookies for 10 or 11 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using cold dough and a cool baking sheet.

Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.

Almond and Swiss Chard-Tahini Dip with Pita Chips

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I love finger foods and make a point of bringing you frequent posts featuring some sort of finger food. For me, there is something magical about finger food. It seems both sophisticated and mischievous. I suppose it’s because finger food is party food. The trouble is that finger food can be a real chore for the home cook. It’s fiddly, time-consuming and, if I’m honest, pretty dull to make. Entertaining can be hard work – that’s a given. After all, if parties were easy caterers would go out of business. That doesn’t mean, however, if you do throw a party you need to spend days in the kitchen or hundreds of dollars on caviar; there’s party food that can be made without much hassle. Chips and dip come to mind. Almond and Swiss Chard-Tahini Dip.

If you love hummus this dairy-free Almond and Swiss Chard-Tahini Dip will become a new favorite. Make sure you have plenty of warm pita chips to scoop it up. GREG

Pita Chips

Spicy Cumin Pita Chips

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Sweet Paul MagazinePublished
Spicy Cumin Pita Chips

Ingredients

  • 2 pita breads
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle)
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Directions

Place oven rack in center position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each pita into 6 pie-shaped wedges, then separate the layers creating 24 “chips”. Lay these onto 1 or 2 rimmed Parchment-lined baking sheets in a single layer, rough interior side up.

In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, parsley, thyme, lime juice, Worcestershire, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Brush the entire top of each of the pita chips with a generous amount of the spiced oil, making sure to get some of the herbs and spices on each chip. Save the extra spiced oil for serving.

Bake in the oven until deeply golden and crispy, 6 to 8 minutes. Make sure to check them often as they can go from light gold to burnt quickly. You may also find it necessary to rotate the baking sheets part way through cooking, depending on your oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with your favorite dip or additional oil for drizzling if desired.

Chard Tahini Dip

Almond and Swiss Chard-Tahini Dip

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 3 cupsSource Adapted from Maydan, Washington D.C.Published
Almond and Swiss Chard-Tahini Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pound green-stemmed Swiss chard (2 or 3 bunches)
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 5 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ⅓ cup chopped almonds (or more if needed)
  • ½ cup tahini
  • ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • sea salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • water (if needed)
  • pita chips (see recipe)
  • lemon wedges (for serving)

Directions

Remove the center stem and rib from each of the Swiss chard leaves. Tear the leaves into small pieces and roughly chop the stems and ribs. Set both aside separately.

Warm ⅓ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Cook reserved stems and ribs in the warm oil, stirring often until tender and beginning to color. Add garlic; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add reserved chard leaves by the handful, letting them wilt some before adding more; cook, tossing, until all the leaves are wilted and tender, 10–12 minutes total. Let cool.

Place Swiss chard and any cooking liquid in a food processor, add chopped almonds, tahini, lemon juice, and remaining ⅓ cup oil. Season with salt and process, adding a little water if needed, until dip is creamy and speckled with chard. This could take several minutes. Season with more salt if needed. If the texture of the dip seems too thin add a tablespoon or so additional chopped almonds and blend again.

Transfer dip to a serving bowl. Serve with pita chips and lemon wedges.

Cold Sichuan Summer Noodles

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I was flipping through the LA Times recently and came across a simple recipe for Sichuan Summer Noodles that made me stop and stare. It’s not that these cold noodles are particularly photogenic. You can see by the photo I did that it’s hard to get noodles to smile for the camera. No, it’s not their aesthetic charisma that made me stop and stare. It was the simple realization that though I may eat Sichuan Summer Noodles (or some sesame splashed, peanutty cousin) at almost every Asian restaurant I stop into, I never make them at home. Which is surprising because it’s an incredibly easy dish to prepare and you can serve it as a main course or appetizer.

When the weather gets hot, the noodles get cold.

The other thing I took notice of in this recipe was the fact that these Sichuan Summer Noodles are served chilled. Most Asian noodles I’ve come across are served in steaming bowls of broth, tossed with spicy sauce. However, when the weather is blazing hot it’s perfectly acceptable to cool down your noodles. Sure, these noodles may never be Instagram stars, but I promise they’re mysteriously yet profoundly refreshing – and just spicy enough to zip across your palate. GREG

Cold Sichuan Summer Noodles

Sichuan Summer Noodles

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Tiantian QuiPublished

Less sweet than balsamic but with more depth than white wine vinegar, black vinegar is a staple in Chinese cuisine. It can be found in most Asian markets or online.

Sichuan Summer Noodles

Ingredients

  • 4 ounce brown sugar
  • 4 ounce granulated sugar
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ pound dried Chinese noodles (not egg noodles)
  • ¼ cup black vinegar (see note)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 cup mung bean sprouts
  • chile oil (to taste)
  • 1 cup shredded chicken (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped green onions

Directions

Make the sweet soy sauce: In a large, deep saucepan, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, soy sauce, and water. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced by one-third, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool. This makes 1½ cups of sweet soy sauce, more than you need for this recipe. Store the extra sauce covered in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Prepare the noodles: Boil the noodles according to package instructions until tender, then place them in a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well and reserve in a medium bowl.

To make the sauce mix together ½ cup of the cooled sweet soy sauce with the black vinegar and garlic. Toss the reserved noodles with the sauce. It’s alright if the noodles seem a bit soupy. Let them chill in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally, at least one hour and up to overnight. The noodles will absorb the sauce and its flavors.

To serve: Place the bean sprouts in the middle of a medium bowl. Mound the chilled noodles in the center of the bowl over the bean sprouts. Spoon some extra sauce on top if you like then drizzle some chile oil over the noodles. Top with the chicken (if using) and green onions. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Grenache Wine Region: Maury, France

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Maury France

Happy International Grenache Day! Didn’t realize that today’s the day? Don’t really know what Grenache is? It’s the grape varietal represented by the “G” in GSM (Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre) a popular (and wonderfully balanced, delicious) Rhône blend. It is also a primary ingredient (out of a possible 13) in Châteauneuf du Pape. This warm weather grape produces a bright, red-fruity, easy drinking to elegantly complex wine. Grenache speaks with a different accent in different parts of the globe. You may love Garnacha from Spain for instance – same grape. I had a particularly striking Lomita, Pagano Garnacha in Baja, Mexico recently. Being a Californian I’m partial to expressions from our very own Rhône Rangers (Tablas Creek, Bonny Doon, Dashe, Donkey & Goat).

Maury, France

But I’m here to tell you about wine from a growing region that might not immediately jump to mind: the Côtes Catalanes, a sub-appellation of the Roussillon in France. We’re talking Spain-adjacent, a bit west and south of the Rhône. Steep windy hillsides, black schist soils, plenty of sunshine and a cooling maritime influence allow the old vines planted there to offer up a ripe, savory bouquet to the nose and palate. Winemaker Dave Phinney, of The Prisoner and Locations fame, fell in love with the area and set up shop in Maury, France some ten years ago. France has Departments, the way America has States – so Dave named his winery Department 66 after Maury’s location.

Department 66 wines

Don’t worry if you neglected to get me a gift for International Grenache Day. Dave’s team generously sent me a trio of his Grenache based gems to try.

  • Department 66 “Fragile” Rosé 2017 SRP $18
    Nose: floral, rhubarb
    Palate: crisp white peach and nectarine, juicy (but not overly sweet) strawberry and perhaps a touch of kiwi flow over a stony river bed. Refreshing and invigorating, a lovely complement to cold poached salmon both aesthetically and culinarily.
  • Department 66 “Others” Red Wine 2015 SRP $25
    Nose: herbs! garrigue (typical for Southern France), earth, plum
    Palate: both savory and sweet, damson, cherry cola, raspberry mid-palate, mushroomy earthiness, somewhat rustic with a lingering mineral finish.
    Grenache gets the masculine treatment here, smooth yet firm tannins and good acidity that would pair nicely with a bacon cheeseburger.
  • Department 66 “D66” Grenache 2014 SRP $38
    Nose: savory, bright, red fruit, spicy
    Palate: round, medium-plus body, pomegranate, currant, anise, lovely balance, powerful with a watermelon Jolly Rancher finish.
    Serious punch from ample alcohol, feisty fruit expressive of warm climate. To sip and savor with or without food. Yum.

At the risk of sounding hackneyed, I submit that Grenache Is The New Pinot. If you love an elegant, balanced dare I say “feminine” wine (as opposed to a big brawny manly fruit bomb), give Grenache a try. As one of the world’s most widely planted red wine grapes it’s easy to find –you can even order Department 66 wines online. KEN

Maury, France Maury, France Vineyard

Eat Corn Now: Charred Corn Soup

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Charred Corn Soup

Charred Corn Soup! Get the klieg lights, roll out the red carpet ‘cuz corn has arrived in Hollywood and this fan has big plans. It may take a while longer in Los Angeles than other parts of the continent for the really good corn to arrive. I don’t know why that is. We in Southern California have grown spoiled by the availability of spectacular produce all year long. Corn is an exception. The early corn is usually shipped in from other places and lacks a certain corniness I can’t quite define. So when the first of the local summer corn starts to make its annual appearance I have one motto: Eat Corn Now!

And it did not take a lot of effort on my part to decide to do a summer corn soup – an unusual Charred Corn Soup topped with a crisp corn tostada round for added corn crunch.

This Charred Corn Soup has an unusual sweet secret ingredient in it. It’s an idea I stole from Yotam Ottolenghi and it makes perfect sense. Especially here in Los Angeles where the best corn comes in that shoulder period between the end of summer and the beginning of winter squash season. You see the secret ingredient is a hint of sweet and savory pumpkin. Still, it’s a very corn-centric soup and I have made every effort I could to keep the corn front and center here. But don’t worry this isn’t one of those overly sweet corn soups. This soup is a burnt corn soup!

Which may seem odd. But don’t recoil automatically. A slight char brings a subtle bitter element to this soup. Which adds depth to the naturally occurring sugars in the corn and pumpkin. Making it a very sophisticated soup.

Besides, mastering a controlled char on all sorts of food is the sign of a good cook. Food52 wisely lists the competent use of high heat as number 23 in their list of “30 Qualities of a Good Home Cook”. GREG

Charred Corn Soup

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Adapted from Yotam OttolenghiPublished
Charred Corn Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 ears fresh corn (kernels removed)
  • 5 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 3 stalks celery (small diced)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 2 cup small diced peeled pumpkin (or other orange-fleshed winter squash)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon fresh lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (or to taste)
  • 4 cup water (or more as needed)
  • 8 ounce sour cream (or more as needed, divided)
  • lime wedges (as needed)
  • 6-8 crisp tostada rounds (or tortilla chips)
  • crumbled cotija cheese (as needed)
  • fresh cilantro (as needed)

Directions

Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet (at least 12 inches) over medium-high heat, add the corn kernels, toss and let it sit in as close to a single layer as possible until lightly charred, about 6 minutes, mix it up and let it char again about 6 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside. If you do not have a large enough skillet work in batches.

Heat the oil in a medium soup pot, add onion, garlic, celery, ground cumin, ground coriander, and a little salt, and sauté stirring often on low heat for 12 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the pumpkin, bay leaves, lime zest, chipotle chile powder, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft. Add the charred corn and cook for five minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out about half of the vegetables, and remove and discard the bay leaves. Blitz the remaining soup until smooth, then return the vegetables to the pot and bring to a light simmer. Add a little more water if you find it too thick. Stir in half the sour cream and taste for seasoning.

Divide the soup into six bowls, squeeze the juice of half a lime into each portion, lay a crisp tostada round on top, and drop about a tablespoonful of sour cream in the middle. Garnish with plenty of crumbled cotija cheese and cilantro. Serve with additional lime wedges on the side.

Charred Corn Soup

A South American Sausage Sandwich: Choripán with Chimichurri

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choripan with chimichurri

This is a choripán sandwich whose name is a mash-up of the Spanish words for sausage — chorizo — and bread — pan. The choripán has changed little in the centuries that it’s been popular in Argentina and Uruguay. That’s probably because the concept is so simple. It’s a grilled chorizo sausage (could be beef could be pork) slapped on a roll and slathered in spicy chimichurri sauce. The greatness of a  traditional choripán sandwich rests on three simple things: the quality of the bread and the sausage, and of course, the perfect tang in the chimichurri sauce. Though I’ll admit I like to serve mine with diced tomatoes, I don’t know how traditional that is.

I’ve read that in South America — where grilled meat reigns supreme — the choripán is often considered an appetizer. That’s because in a traditional parrilla the asador or grill master throws all the meat onto the huge grill at the same time and the sausages are the first thing to finish cooking. Hungry folks grab a chimichurri laced roll and then a sausage. Once the mess is married the simple choripán sandwich is created. The spicy sausage fat soaks into the bread to bind things together and the chimichurri creates a welcome bolt of bright, sharp, herbaceous acidity that takes this fire-cooked sandwich to new heights. People’s hands may be a little messier, but their appetites are quelled long enough for the real meat to hit the plate. Although in my world a half-pound sausage is way more than something to start a meal. So when I make them at home they pretty much are the meal.  GREG

A choripán sandwich is as simple as I’ve described above. You don’t really need a recipe. However, I did include Ox Restaurant’s (Portland, OR) version of chimichurri sauce because it’s the recipe I turn to when I crank up the grill and pull out the links.

Raw Sausage LinksOx's Chimichurri Choripan with Chimichurri

Ox’s Chimichurri

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2 cupsSource Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez DentonPublished

To get some of the prep work out of the way, make chimichurri up to 4 days in advance but do not add the vinegar; bring it to room temperature and add the vinegar a few hours before serving.

Ox's Chimichurri

Ingredients

  • ½ cup minced yellow onion
  • ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated or minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon reshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar

Directions

In a medium bowl or jar, combine the onion, parsley, oregano, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper. Add the oil and vinegar and mix well. Store covered for a couple of days and use before the herbs start to turn brown.

A Not so Bitter, Bitter Cocktail

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Gin Aperol Summer Sour

Somewhere back in our vulnerable past, we relied on our detection of bitterness to avoid eating certain plants because they’re toxic. So what can explain the trend towards bitter in modern-day cocktails? Sales of bitter liqueurs such as Campari and Fernet Branca are way, way up – especially among the fashionable crowd in large metropolitan areas. Is the stylish set bent on destroying itself through the consumption of the very bitter roots we are predisposed to avoid? Are tragically hip hipsters really that tragic? Is the bitter cocktail some cruel form of natural selection? Or is there a certain beauty found in the forbidden?

A Bitter Cocktail

What about you? Do you like a bitter cocktail? It seems to be a very personal thing. In fact, there is scientific proof that not everyone perceives bitter in quite the same way. There’s a gene in our DNA that determines how we perceive bitter. All people have two copies of every gene, and how these bitter gene variants line up determines the genetically based differences in our bitter taste receptors (taste buds). This affects whether we perceive something as intensely bitter, somewhat bitter, or without taste. Which means, of the five tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet, umami) bitter may be the most complex.

As for me, I probably fall in the middle category. I’ve grown to love bitter flavors. But I realize they’re not for everybody. So the challenge in presenting a bitter cocktail on this blog is to try to judge just how bitter I can go and still create a drink that will get along with anyone.

Aperol Gin Summer Sour

Which is why I reached for Aperol.

Aperol can indeed get along with anyone. It’s got a hint bitterness, but only delicately so. This Italian liqueur has the complexity of orange peel yet it goes down easy. It’s easy on the eyes too – with a crimson hue that sparkles gold in the setting sun. Making this the perfect not so bitter bitter cocktail for those possibility-filled hours between work and dinner. GREG

Gin Aperol Summer Sour

Gin Aperol Summer Sour

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Published

To make basil simple syrup stir together ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Lower heat to very low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until a syrupy consistency is achieved about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add 5 or 6 fresh basil sprigs; let stand 30 minutes then remove basil. Syrup may be stored covered in a cool dark place for up to 1 month.

Gin Aperol Summer Sour

Ingredients

  • ice cubes (as needed)
  • 1 ½ ounce London dry gin
  • 1 ½ ounce Aperol
  • 3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce basil simple syrup (see notes)
  • 1 fresh basil sprig

Directions

Fill a Collins or similarly sized highball glass with ice cubes. Set aside.

Combine gin, Aperol, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker ⅔ full of ice and shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with basil sprig.

Clam Ceviche en el Estilo de la Guerrerense, Ensenada Mexico

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Clam Ceviche en el Estilo de la Guerrerense: Ensenada Mexico

I just got back from a trip to the Pacific coast of Baja California, Mexico. It’s a beautiful place, not the least because it’s home to some of the most mind-blowingly good ceviche tostadas you’ll ever eat. With the luck of geography, a cold current brimming with pristine fish runs straight from Alaska to Ensenada. It’s why lucky locals, high-flying chefs, and culinary travelers like me all line up on a sidewalk in the blazing Mexican sun to get their hands on the best of the best: a cup, a shell, or a crackly tostada from the Ensenada food cart La Guerrerense. It’s the ultimate street food experience.

To be sure La Guerrerense can be a hectic encounter. Be prepared for shouted questions and fast-paced answers  – all in Spanish. But be brave. Navigating the hungry crowd and elbowing your way to a spoonful of La Guerrerense’s signature salsa may seem intimidating. But one look at all this fresh local fish and you’ll be happy to stand in line with the rest of us. Once you’ve gotten these treats in hand be prepared for an explosion of flavors as the shell shatters and the toppings fall all over your plate, your hand, and your shirt. These tostadas ceviche de mariscos have been proclaimed among the best in the world by the Sultan of Street Food himself, Anthony Bourdain. For me La Guerrerense is a must stop anytime I’m anywhere near the vicinity of Ensenada, Mexico.

La Guerrerense

Located on the corner of Lopez Mateo and Alvarado, La Guerrerense is not too far from the cruise ship terminal. So, thanks to the many accolades from across the world, La Guerrerense and her tostadas ceviche de mariscos has become the first stop on many a cruise ship shore excursion. A word of warning, however. Try not laugh when I tell you this, but you have to be careful. A sneaky competitor is trying to steal a bit of the La Guerrerense fame. As you walk along Alvarado from the harbor you’ll come across another food cart with seemingly similar wares. It’s stealthfully called Le Guerrero and the line is quite long with folks, I’m afraid, who had their hearts set on La Guerrerense!

Salsa Choice Lime Squeeze on La Guerrerense Tostadas Guerrerense Awards CLAMS La GUERRERENSE

Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell

What to order when you find yourself at the front of the line at the authentic La Guerrerense? Crab Salad with Scallops is popular and the Sea Snail Ceviche is award-winning. You should also know that La Guerrerense’s most famous tostada is a Sea Urchin Ceviche with clam on top. I get it every time I go. Savory is the only way I can describe it. Deeply, intensely savory. It’s truly one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. I would love to make this tostada at home. However, there’s no way I could deconstruct the recipe, I don’t even know where to begin. Some things are best enjoyed in their place of origin.

So I choose to offer a recipe as close to La Guerrerense’s Clam Ceviche served on the Half Shell as I can. The La Guerrerense version is pictured above. It’s a perfect balance of flavors – sharp and focused, sweet like the sea – these clams are marinated in lime juice with a hint of chile and cilantro. All elements that already suit my Southern California palate. It’s cool and refreshing and packed with vibrant flavors.

While I wasn’t given a recipe for these clams from La Guerrerense herself, I do feel I did a more than adequate job of recreating her Almejas en Su Concha (Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell) here.

La Guerrerense is open from 10:00-5:00 all week long (except Tuesday). If you’re down that way don’t miss it. GREG

Clam Ceviche en el Estilo de la Guerrerense: Ensenada Mexico

Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Clam Ceviche on the Half Shell

Ingredients

  • 12-15 medium to large clams (such as Pismo or Cherrystone, about 3 pounds)
  • ⅓ cup minced red onion
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño (seeded and minced)
  • 1 Roma tomato (seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • thin slices of ripe avovado (optional)
  • lime wedges (for serving)

Directions

Shuck the clams over a medium bowl, using the bowl to capture the liquor and clams. Scrape and clean 20 of the best half shells. You may alternatively use 4 to 6 large clamshells, 4 to 6 small bowls, or some combination of all the above. Whatever you choose, refrigerate the vessels before continuing.

One by one scoop the clams from the bowl and cut them into ½-inch pieces then place them into a separate chilled bowl. Strain ¼ cup of the clam liquor over the clams. Add the onion, lime juice, jalapeños, tomato and cilantro and season with pepper. If you feel that the mixture looks a little dry add a bit more strained clam liquor. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 2 hours.

To serve, divide the mixture and it’s liquid evenly between your chosen vessels. Top with a few shakes of hot sauce (if using) and a couple of thin slices of ripe avocado. Serve with lime wedges for spritzing.

Non-Traditional Farro Risotto

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Farro Risotto with Spinach Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

I can be a bit of a traditionalist. Take risotto. It’s hard for me to imagine an alternative to the traditional Arborio rice I’ve always used. After all, risotto is one of those nearly perfect dishes that is so much better than its simple ingredient list leads you to believe. Yet, risotto manages to amaze me every time I make it. Which is why I surprised the traditionalist in me when I gave Farro Risotto a try. The whole experiment started because I was interested in taking a favorite dish and making it just a little bit more healthful. I never thought that I would actually prefer these chewy, nutty grains to the more traditional rice.

But I just might…

Like Arborio rice, farro releases a little starch when cooked – in combination with warm broth – risotto-style. Farro grains are not quite as starchy as rice so Farro Risotto isn’t quite as creamy as traditional risotto. Still, the similarities are quite striking.

Most farro is sold pearled or semi-pearled. Which means that some (or all) of the bran has been removed. Pearling has the advantage of allowing the grains to cook quicker. Despite the processing pearled farro still has more health benefits than rice, but if you have time seek out whole-grain farro. You’ll stand at the stove stirring a little longer, but it’s this unhurried process that produces the best risotto whichever grain you choose. GREG

Farro Risotto with Spinach Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Farro Risotto with Spinach Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from Sam KassPublished

Ingredients

  • 3 cup baby spinach leaves (packed)
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan (divided)
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds (chopped, plus more for serving)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 lemon
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon water (or as needed)
  • salt and pepper (as needed)
  • 6-8 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 ½ cup farro
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1-2 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • lemon wedges (optional)

Directions

To make the pesto place spinach, half the Parmesan, nuts, garlic, and the zest and juice from 1 lemon in a food processor. Process until paste forms. With motor running, add oil and just enough cold water to get the mixture moving; process until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. The pesto keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 10 days. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

To make the risotto bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low.

Melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until foamy. Stir in the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in farro and cook, stirring to coat each kernel with butter, for 1 minute. Stir in wine and 1 teaspoon salt and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the wine has nearly been absorbed about 3 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and begin alternately adding in the stock to the farro 1⁄4 cup at a time, stirring continuously with each addition. Do not add more liquid until the previous 1⁄4 cup has been completely absorbed by the farro. Keep repeating the process until the farro is tender and creamy. You might not use all the stock, but if you run out of stock too quickly continue the process with warm water (not too much). The process should take about 25–50 minutes depending on whether the farro is pearled or whole grain.

Once the texture is correct stir in the spinach pesto then season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish the risotto with cherry tomatoes, remaining grated Parmesan, and additional chopped almonds. Serve with lemon wedges on the side (if using)

 

Peach and Camembert Baguette

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Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper.

Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper. It’s an unusual combination, but, at its heart, it’s not unheard of. If you’ve ever wondered the streets of Paris you know that Camembert or Brie is often smudged between baguette slices to make an easy to carry sandwich-on-the-go. The first time I walked those streets it was the 1980s. I was quite young and a tad romantic; armed with just enough French to feel cocky I decided to conquer all the sights, sounds and yes, flavors I could in one brief two-day visit. One of the first stops was a French bakery or boulangerie.

I remember being overwhelmed.

Now, I’m no patsy to the ways of French pastry. My mother had been making brioche at home since my childhood. Still, all the unusual bread shapes struck me: baton, bloomer, boule, epi, ficelle, fougasse, pistolets…the list seemed endless.

On that first trip I sorta froze and quickly settled upon the simplest and most iconic of yeasty prodigies– a baguette sliced lengthwise and stuffed with gooey Camembert cheese. Camembert Baguette, oh my! What a sensation that was. The simple combination thrilled me and I often recreate the experience when I’m looking for a simple sandwich-on-the-go. But that is another story for another day.

Because I’ve got a problem I’d like to discuss. It’s the season. Summer is a very hard time of year for me. You see I’m an addict. In fact, I’m a relentlessly unreformed addict. There’s no 12 step program powerful enough to ultimately keep me from my obsession. In that regard I’m hopeless. In my defense, however, I will say that I’m an addict with boundaries. An addict with plenty of self-control – most of the year. That’s because I’m a peach addict. Let me be more precise. I’m a summer a peach addict.

January, February, March, April, May, and even June. My addiction is under control. I can go all that time without even thinking about peaches. Sometimes I see them at “off” times winking in my direction. But they lack the proper pheromones and I don’t even bother to pick them up and squeeze them. Why should I? February peaches are easy to resist.

I’m not saying I haven’t had a few illicit dreams in the dreary months of winter. Every addict has these dark secrets. But these thoughts are held deep in my subconscious and rarely keep me from performing my day-to-day duties.

Still, I have to admit that I have a problem. Fortunately, it’s a problem I can deal with. I can even keep my affliction under control in July. Well, most of July. Come August however and I know that the bingeing will start. I’m powerless to control it. Which is why I find myself tucking peach slices into my Camembert Baguette – slightly ashamed of the changes I’m making to this classic sandwich. But I can’t help myself.

Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper.

Once August begins to wane my identity as a peach addict gets serious. As my usual sources start to dry up. I find myself driving to Farmers Markets further and further from my home. By September it just gets worse. I’m often caught holding onto a plastic produce bag from the grocery store – standing over the sink, mealy peach in hand – totally jonesing for the juice to come dripping off my chin. So before the drip has completely dried up I’m sticking in a few peach slices wherever I can.

Hello. My name is GREG and I’m a peach addict.

Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper.

Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 2-4Source Inspired by Ola O SmitPublished
Peach and Camembert Baguette with Basil and Black Pepper

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz) wheel Camembert cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 loaf baquette (slied crosswise and toasted)
  • 1-2 ripe peaches
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • whole fresh basil leaves (as needed)

Directions

Carefully slice the Camembert. It will be quite gooey and you’ll need to clean your blade several times in the process. Lay the cheese slices over one side of the toasted baguette, all the way to the edges.

Halve the peaches, remove the stones, and thinly slice them. Arrange the peach slices over the cheese, then season with black pepper and finish with a scattering of basil leaves. Top with the other half of the baguette, then press down firmly and evenly to crunch the bread and “glue” the ingredients together. Slice and serve.