Friday, August 28, 2009

Anything for Blueberries

I usually spend all of my free time in the kitchen, but this last weekend the hubby and I hiked Larch Mountain. It was a strenuous 5 mile hike, very steep and uphill both ways (no kidding!). I ended up with a sore hip and knee. And the thing is, I’d done that trail before, so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. Why would I exert myself like that? Well, blueberries are still in season, and I knew that if I went on the hike, I would get to visit the blueberry grower on the way home. The lengths I will go to for fresh fruit.

Blueberry-Lemon Cornmeal Muffins
Printable Recipe

Nonstick pan spray, optional
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup fine cornmeal
1 cup sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick pan spray or line with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the blueberries. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the edges of the muffins start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and finish cooling completely.

Makes 1 dozen muffins. They keep well and stay moist for 2 to 3 days in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. Fresh blueberries are best, but if they are unavailable, use frozen—just don’t thaw them before adding to the batter or you'll end up with blue muffins.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Are you the sort of person who needs variety, or do you find a favorite and stick with it? Personally, I fit into the former category. I get bored easily, I have a limited attention span, and I need to mix it up. I CRAVE. ENDLESS. VARIETY. Witness my tea assortment:
1. White
2. Sencha
3. Genmaicha
4. Matcha

5. Pi Lo Chun
6. Yunnan Green
7. Gunpowder
8. Monkey Picked Tieguanyin
9. Silk Oolong Formosa
10. Green Dragon Oolong
11. Oriental Beauty
12. Heaven Mist
13. Keemun Black
14. Lapsang Souchong
15. Darjeeling
16. Assam
17. Jasmine
18. Dragon Pearl
19. Jasmine Blossom
20. Bergamot
21. Lychee
22. Rose
23. Strawberry
24. Original Russian Tea

Why, you may ask, would a person be so obsessed with variety that she needs 24 different teas in her cupboard? Well, perhaps for the same reason other women need dozens of pairs of impractical high heel shoes. A pair to match every dress, a tea to match every dish. You know what they say about variety.

Matcha Meringue Kisses
Printable Recipe

2 ounces powdered sugar
2 tablespoons matcha tea
2 ounces egg whites, at room temperature
2 ounces sugar

Preheat the oven to 175ºF. Sift together the powdered sugar and matcha. In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the egg whites on medium to soft peaks. With the motor running on high, gradually add the sugar. Continue to whip on high to stiff peaks. Gently fold the matcha mixture into the meringue. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe 1 ¼-inch kisses about an inch apart onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until dry. Transfer kisses to a rack to cool.

Makes about 3 dozen. Kisses keep for several days in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fish Tacos Deconstructed

Having salsa in the fridge inspires many beautiful meals. And so, my Mexican food kick continues…

Masa Crusted Rockfish with Cabbage Slaw & Avocado Salsa
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons masa harina
¼ teaspoon pure chile powder
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
4 4-ounce skinned and boned rockfish fillets
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Canola oil, for frying
6 ounces thinly sliced green cabbage
4 ounces thinly sliced red cabbage
2 ounces thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup minced cilantro
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup Avocado Salsa

Mix together the masa harina, chile powder, and granulated garlic in a large, shallow dish. Season the fillets generously with salt and pepper. Dip into the masa harina mixture to coat and shake off any excess. Add enough canola oil to a large, heavy nonstick frying pan to come to a depth of 1/8 inch. Heat over medium heat until a pinch of the masa harina mixture sizzles immediately when added. Add the fillets skinned side up and fry without disturbing for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Using a fish spatula, turn the fillets and fry another 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Meanwhile, toss together the green cabbage, red cabbage, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil in a large bowl and season to taste with salt. Remove the fillets to a paper towel-lined plate and drain for about a minute. Arrange the fillets on individual plates, divide the slaw among them, drizzle with the salsa, and serve immediately.

Serves 4. Offer warm corn tortillas on the side. If rockfish is unavailable, you can substitute any other firm-fleshed white fish.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A New Home!

How do you like my new digs? Let me show you around…Hungry Cravings is now at! That’s minus the “blogspot”, and let me tell you, it feels super exciting—a lot like moving out of an apartment and into a first house! There’s also a new and improved About Lucy section, so that we can get to know each other a little better. And in case you’re wondering, any bookmarks and links should still work, which means you won’t get lost on your way over.

While the big move didn’t require any boxes or bubble wrap, it did involve a maddening “Another blog is already hosted at this address” error flashing in red for a whole week, an ignored “Magical Custom Domain Form” (and no, I’m not making that up), and then a “404 Not Found” error along with several panic-inducing minutes during which the blog was offline, and I was left asking, “Why does Google hate me?” But luckily, a very smart stranger came to my rescue, walking me through the convoluted steps required to make everything work. Thanks Chuck, words cannot convey my appreciation!

Needless to say, this move has been a long time coming, and I’m just thrilled! I’d like to wish you a warm welcome to my new home, so sit down and stay a while. And while you’re over, have some Blackberry-Lemon Crème Brûlée, which was inspired by blackberries I recently picked at the park.

Please make yourself at home!

Blackberry-Lemon Crème Brûlées
Printable Recipe

4 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
4 large eggs
6 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces heavy cream
6 ounces blackberries
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugar and lemon zest on low until very fragrant. Add the eggs, then the lemon juice, and then the cream, mixing on low for several seconds after each addition until just combined. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Skim off any foam from the surface. Divide the blackberries among 6 ramekins. Divide the lemon mixture among the ramekins and place them into a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins and bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until just set. Remove from the water bath and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or until firm.

Top 1 crème brûlée with 1 teaspoon of the Turbinado sugar and swirl to coat. Caramelize the sugar with a culinary torch. Finish the remaining crème brûlées with the remaining Turbinado sugar in the same manner. Serve immediately.

Serves 6. These custards are super puckery and not for the faint of tart—ideal for serious lemon lovers. Avoid whipping air into the eggs as they are being incorporated into the sugar mixture. You can tell that the crème brûlées are done when they jiggle like gelatin. If you don’t have a culinary torch, you can caramelize the sugar topping under a preheated broiler. These crème brûlées may be baked up to a day in advance and kept covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Add Turbinado sugar and caramelize just before serving.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Salsa Series: Avocado Salsa

This is the second post in a series on salsas.

Salsa isn’t just for corn chips any more. This was my sudden mind-blowing, earth-shattering realization. It came way back during my college days after a working interview at one very famous Southwestern restaurant. They fed me dinner—a grilled tenderloin steak smothered in a smokey salsa—in exchange for my night’s work. I had only ever eaten steak plain, and my life would never be the same. I got the job. But more importantly, I opened my eyes to the possibilities of salsa.

Salsas, whether they’re made from chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, avocados, or fruit, are an integral part of Mexican and Southwestern cuisines. They vary from mild to medium to spicy, and they can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold. Salsas can function as either dip or sauce (in fact, salsa is Spanish for sauce), and they are the perfect accompaniment to everything from eggs to tacos to rice and beans. They can transform a simple grilled steak, pork chop, chicken breast, fish fillet, or even veggie into a spectacular meal. It’s no wonder that salsa has overtaken ketchup as the most popular condiment in the U.S.

But while I’m singing the praises of salsa, I want to make clear that I mean homemade, from-scratch salsa. Homemade salsa is vibrant and fresh and delicious and healthy, and it can perk up anything you put it on. (In comparison, the store-bought stuff is appallingly expensive and completely tasteless.) And if there’s a batch in the fridge, it’s sure to inspire many amazing meals.

Avocado Salsa
Printable Recipe

2 ripe Hass avocados
6 Serrano chiles, seeded and diced
¾ cup packed cilantro
2 cups water
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt

Halve, pit, and peel the avocados. Combine the avocados, Serranos, cilantro, water, and lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Makes about 3 ½ cups. Heat level: mild. If you like it hotter, leave the seeds in some or all of the Serranos. This light and refreshing salsa is especially good with seafood. Keeps for a day or two tightly sealed in the refrigerator—browning is only slight. Serve at room temperature.

More salsa recipes are available here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fish Sticks and a Mixed Blessing

I have a second oven-fried recipe for you, but don’t go thinking that I’m on some kind of healthy cooking kick here. That’s not it at all…A couple of years ago (whoa, has it already been that long?) I had this brilliant cookbook idea. I was going to call it “Golden Brown”, and it was going to be all about deep-frying, pan-frying, and oven-frying. Like a sort of follow up to my first cookbook Seared to Perfection. At least I thought it was a great idea—I mean, who can resist fried food? So I spent hours and hours putting together a book proposal, complete with a dozen tested recipes, and then my agent handed it over to the publisher…

And the publisher liked it. At first. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, I got the news, “Marketing doesn’t think they can sell it.” It always boils down to marketing. (The little matter of the economic meltdown didn’t do me any favors either.) Was I devastated? Hell, no! Well, maybe just a little bit. But, to be completely honest, I was relieved—I mean, do I really need to be testing and tasting an entire cookbook’s worth of fried food? I can just see it now: the French fries would’ve gone to my waist, the onion rings to my thighs, and the donuts directly to my heart. I would’ve battered, breaded, and rolled myself straight into my grave. In an XXL coffin, no less. The rejection hurt, but it was a blessing in disguise.

So that’s the reason for two oven-fried recipes in a row. They just needed a new home. By the way, when I was working as a private chef, my employer deemed these “the best fish sticks ever”. Which still cracks me up.

Oven-Fried Halibut with Tartar Sauce
Printable Recipe

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup grated yellow onion
1 dill pickle, minced
2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Several drops Tabasco sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
½ teaspoon paprika
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 ¾ pounds 1-inch thick center-cut halibut fillet, skinned, boned, and cut into 1-inch wide pieces
¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Blend together the mayonnaise, onion, pickle, parsley, lemon juice, and Tabasco in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate.

Whisk together the egg, granulated garlic, paprika, and 2 tablespoons of water in a large, shallow dish. Mix together the panko and a generous pinch of salt and pepper in another large, shallow dish. Season the halibut pieces generously with salt and pepper. Dip each one into the flour to coat and shake off any excess, then into the egg wash, and then into the panko mixture to coat, patting so that it adheres. As you work, arrange the halibut pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray. Using a pastry brush, brush them all over with the melted butter. Let rest in the refrigerator for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450˚F. Bake the halibut for 16 to 18 minutes, or until just cooked through. The fillets will begin to flake when they are just cooked through. Arrange the halibut pieces on individual plates, divide the sauce among them, and serve immediately.

Serves 4. These “fish sticks” are a hit with adults and kids alike. For a complete fish 'n' chips dinner, serve them with Oven Fries and Classic Coleslaw.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Behold, a basket of perfect fries. Irresistibly crisp and delicious.

And oven-fried. Yes, it’s shocking but true, these really are Oven Fries! For the record, I don’t make them this way because they’re healthy, I make ’em this way cuz I’m lazy. Not that deep-frying is difficult or time consuming, but oven-frying is even easier. Plus, there’s less of a mess to clean up and no used oil to deal with. I want to reiterate these aren’t just roasted potatoes—they’ve really earned the title of fries. They cook up so crisp that more than one person has mistaken them for deep-fried.

Oven Fries
Printable Recipe

Nonstick pan spray
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 ½×½×½-inch sticks
¼ cup canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450˚F. Grease a baking tray with nonstick pan spray. Toss together the potatoes and oil in a large bowl, making sure that the potatoes are evenly coated. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes. Using tongs or a spatula, turn the potatoes and bake for another 14 to 16 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Serves 2 to 4. For the best browning, use a heavy baking tray, like the aluminum sheet pans used in restaurants, and be sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Planning a vacation makes for rather contentious conversation around our house. (“Dreaming of” is actually far more accurate than “planning”, but that’s beside the point…) I like to see cities and towns, take in the culture, shop the markets, and partake in as much of the local cuisine as my belly will allow. He likes to head for nature, do strenuous physical activity, and get as far away from everybody else as possible. What is it we have in common again?

Further complicating the choice of vacation destination is the very small matter of the budget (pun intended). Despite my intense desire need to see more of Europe, it is not on the list of options this year. My top choices of France, Italy, and Spain will have to wait *sigh*.

It seems we’re going to have to keep it in the western hemisphere. So what’s my next choice? I do not have one. There isn’t a single, solitary place on this side of planet Earth that I desperately long to visit. He doesn’t believe me, so he keeps asking the question over and over again, hoping that my answer will change. I wish it would change too, but it doesn’t.

We even resorted to the process of elimination. Seattle? Too close to home. Canada? Not conducive to basking on the beach. Hawaii? Too expensive. Oregon coast? Been there, done that. Oaxaca? Tales of civil unrest still scare us. We’ve decided and undecided on San Francisco, like, 7 times already—we love it but want to see something new. The result: no result.


I know, I know, deciding on a vacation destination is a fine problem to have. But still, I take it seriously. If hungerlust [noun: a very strong or irresistible impulse to consume foods in faraway places] kept you up at night, you would know exactly what I mean.

And then he said, “All I wanna do is go someplace where I can play on the beach and have a $3 ceviche.” Hmmm, a beach in Mexico—now I think we’re getting somewhere…

Hubby frequently reminisces about the enormous, unbelievably cheap, impeccably fresh ceviche he ate once upon a time on a beach in Mexico. He loves Mexican food. Recently, he requested “something fresh and light, like ceviche, but not ceviche” for dinner. This is what I made for him.

Mexican-Style Baked Shrimp
Printable Recipe

1 cup diced tomatoes
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large shrimp (26/30 count), peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced cilantro

Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Toss together the tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, oil, and lime juice in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide half of the tomato mixture among 4 individual baking dishes. Season the shrimp generously with salt and pepper and divide among the baking dishes, arranging them in a single layer. Divide the remaining tomato mixture among the baking dishes, spooning it evenly over the shrimp. Arrange the baking dishes on a baking tray and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the shrimp are just cooked through. The shrimp will be firm to the touch, the color will be opaque and pink, and they will begin to curl when they are just cooked through. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve immediately.

Serves 4. Serve this quick and easy dish with Guajillo Salsa and either tortillas or Mexican Rice on the side.

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