California Tapas

I’ve been on a blog vacation since I arrived home two weeks ago. This, of course, does not mean that I have not consumed blogworthy foods or that I have not been cooking. On the contrary, my friend! I’ve been enamored yet again by all of the fresh delicious foods available in California. Whole Foods’ produce and cheese sections alone…it’s like heaven. Heirloom tomatoes! They represent summer for me and I think that in two weeks I’ve already consumed 10 pounds of them. I’m told to choose two cheeses because we are having guests over and need an appetizer and I struggle with commitment issues in the cheese section. So, when my parents suggested I make dinner for some friends I got a little ahead of myself and decided that a variety of tapas was the way to go. And this is the story of how I ended up the most full I have been since my uncle in Spain challenged me to eat a one pound steak…

First course: Grilled Pizzas

Three varieties to be exact.

Number 1: Olive tapenade with red onions, finely shaved zucchini, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.

Number 2: Mushrooms and leeks with brie.

Number 3: Fig jam with figs, mozzarella, and prosciutto.

Trader Joe’s dough – why make your own when you have this (and you know I like to make my own stuff!) – on the grill is just phenomenal. The heat you can’t quite get in the oven, you’ve got on the grill. Plus, fire! It’s pretty simple to do – just stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface, lightly oil the grill, and toss it on there. After about 5 minutes, take it off, flip it and put your toppings on the grilled side. Then put it back on the grill, off of the direct heat, for about 10 minutes. When making three it’s super helpful to have plates with the ingredients all cut and ready to go for each pizza.

Can’t forget the wine! Alban Vineyards: a California Syrah with rich dried fruit flavors.


Second course: Caprese salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata cheese, and Basil

I’m having a love affair with Burrata. I used to think that fresh mozzarella was the best thing ever…and then I met Burrata. There isn’t much more to say about that. So, heirloom tomatoes, basil, olives, and a balsamic reduction. THE summer salad.

Third course: Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with garlic)

This is a typical Spanish tapa. Olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes are heated to cook peeled fresh shrimp. The sauce is as good as the shrimp and this dish must be served family style with some bread to soak up the sauce. An all time favorite in my home and my Dad made this one.

And another bottle of wine, of course! This time from the land I currently call home, Castilla y Leon.

Fourth course: Chicken Satay and Seared Scallops wrapped in Prosciutto

The pictures are getting a little dark as the night progressed. This chicken satay recipe is from and it’s a winner. It’s super easy and, most importantly, delicious. Shallots, garlic, lemongrass, jalape├▒o pepper and fresh ginger get ground into a paste in a food processor and then soy sauce, fish sauce, ground┬ácoriander, brown sugar, and ground pepper are mixed in until you’re left with a thick paste. Half of it goes to marinading the chicken strips and the other half you cook in a little bit of oil and then add coconut milk and peanut butter to create a thick sauce. Here’s the link to the original recipe: Gingery Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

I’m getting hungry… These scallops are wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto and seared in a bit of butter with sage leaves. After taking them out of the pan, we deglazed the pan with a couple tablespoons of white wine (the one we were drinking) and poured the sauce over top. Scallops are one of my very favorite creatures from the sea and their natural sweetness goes perfectly with salty prosciutto. The key here is not to overcook them, just a couple minutes on each side on a high flame so you get that beautiful brown sear.

Last, but certainly not least, dessert: Individual Peach Crumble

I had to do something with all the incredible peaches that are around right now. These little dishes got filled with sliced peaches that had been tossed with sugar and  cornstarch. I borrowed these measurements from a recipe for Peach Cobbler.

I baked them just like this for 10 minutes at 425┬║ F (218┬║C) and then topped them with a crumble topping. Then they went back into the oven for 15 more minutes until the tops were golden brown.

So delicious. The crumble topping is one I borrowed from my aunt’s apple pie – 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup cold butter cut into cubes, and 1 cup of sliced┬áalmonds. You have to mash the butter into it until the chunks are small and all the ingredients are mixed well and then you sprinkle this topping over the peaches. It all spreads out as it cooks to make a uniform topping.

As the month goes on, I’ll bring you more from the land of sunshine. It feels good to be home! And on vacation!


Whole Wheat Pizza

I’m a bit delirious today. Monday there was a high of 55 degrees and from Tuesday on it’s been 85 degrees by noon. I’m never one to complain about hot weather, but when you’ve spent the last six months desperately trying to stay warm, 65 feels like a day at the beach, so this is turning my brain to mush. Sorry spring jackets, I guess you’ll have to hang out and wait until fall… Now, with my┬átinto de verano in hand, aka cheap red wine and seltzer water over lots of ice, I will tell you about my latest culinary creation.

So, pizza. It’s my favorite. Especially homemade pizza. I can’t get enough of it. And since I got my hands on some yeast (finally! I had been looking for it everywhere!) and some whole wheat flour (see my post about Whole Wheat Cinnamon Bread), I have been excited to try incorporating it into some other meals. Granted, this only makes pizza marginally healthier, it’s definitely better for you than Dominos (which I also eat a lot of because my boyfriend currently delivers their pizzas…I’ve never seen anyone more excited to finish college…)

Anyway, here’s Whole Wheat Pizza and an attempt to use up all the odds and ends in the fridge.

It starts with 1/2 cup of warm water with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar and 1 and 1/8 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Mix these gently in a large bowl and let them sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast starts to get frothy (that’s how you know it’s working!)

To this, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 of the flour, which is 3/4 cup. Mix this up until it’s fully incorporated.

Now, little by little, add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour until the dough is slightly sticky, but it doesn’t get stuck to your fingers. If you are lucky, you have a big ass mixer that will do all this for you, but if not, you’ll burn some calories so you can eat more pizza! Yay!

Once you’re at that point, put it on a floured work surface and get ready to knead.

Knead for about 6 minutes, until the dough gets elastic. It will easily form a smooth ball when it’s ready.

You can just see all that whole wheaty-ness! Now this little guy goes into a lightly greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and placed in a warm corner of your kitchen for 1 hour or so, until it doubles in size.

Yeah, that’ll do it…

Now, get your oven preheating up as high as it will go. Mine goes up to 220 C (425 F). If you have a pizza stone, more power to ya. Since conventional ovens don’t heat up as high as the professional ones do, I use a trick I learned from my mom – I bake the crust by itself for a few minutes and then add the toppings and pop it back in to finish it off. This guarantees that the bottom won’t get soggy or be uncooked.

So, spread it out onto a baking dish to the thickness you prefer (I like mine thin thin thin) and put it in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until you start to see it get golden brown in some places.

Now for the toppings, which I leave to your imagination. Here’s my medley of veggies and even a sliced up turkey hotdog (yeah, I know, but I just had one left over from one of those “nostalgic” meals and I didn’t know when I would use it).

A little tomato sauce, some grated cheese, and on they go!


Another day we can talk about creative toppings. But, when I am feeling uninspired and want a pizza that’s out of the ordinary, I like to go onto The Cheese Board in Berkeley or Arizmendi Bakery in Emeryville‘s websites – they post a calendar of their pizzas (they make one unique one per day with all seasonal local ingredients) for some good ideas. Back in the day, when I was fortunate to have Berkeley’s amazing food all around me, I quite enjoyed their pizza and I make it a point to visit when I’m up there (or is it out…or over…I’m not sure anymore).

I’m getting confused with prepositions, so I’ll just stop and give you the ingredient list:

Makes one 12 inch pizza:

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar (or honey)
  • 1 & 1/8 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (divided)

Until next time, au revoir! (I’m learning French…)