Category Archives: appetizer

provencal tomato tart


tom tart 2

so the last days of summer seem to be upon us. and i don’t feel particularly sentimental about it. you see, down here in texas the summer is fairly brutal, especially this year. we may be approaching close to 60 days of 100 degree (or better) temperatures. and so there is no love lost between me and summer this year. good riddance. sayonara. adios, mofo.

tom tart flours

tom tart crust in pan

but wait. don’t leave without offering up the last of your tomatoes. i will take them gladly. i will put them in a tart with pesto and mozzarella and offer them up for the last week of summer fest.

provencal tomato tart (serves 6)

don’t let the long list of instructions for the crust scare you off–use your favorite store-bought crust if you can’t be bothered. the tart itself is so easy and versatile: substitute mustard for the pesto, gruyere for the cheese, you get the idea.

adapted from ‘once upon a tart‘ cookbook by frank mentesana & jerome audureau

for the crust:

(or use savory crust of your choice, par-baked)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 semolina flour (this small addition makes for a fantastic crunch)

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

small glass of ice water

put the flours and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. pulse a few times to integrate. add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until mixture forms little balls (like moist crumbs) and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to run it continuously and create a paste. dump dough into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp ice water. using your hands, start forming the dough into a ball, adding more water if needed. the dough should just hold together into a ball, you do not want it to be wet. wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

roll dough out to 1/4″ on a lightly floured board and place gently in tart pan with removable bottom. chill 30 minutes. this will prevent your the sides of your tart from shrinking too much when you bake it.

preheat oven to 400F. prick holes over bottom of tart with the tines of a fork. cover with aluminun foil or parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. bake in center rack in oven for 10 minutes. remove foil or parchment and weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until light brown. cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

tom tart pesto

for the filling:

4-5 tbsp fresh basil pesto

a few handfuls grated mozzarella cheese

6-7 roma tomatoes

a few tsp dried herbes de provence

slice tomatoes and place in colander with a pinch of salt to drain off any excess liquid. spread pesto evenly across bottom of par-baked tart crust. sprinkle cheese over. layer tomatoes like dominoes. scatter herbs atop tomatoes. bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, about 10-20 minutes.

now, visit a way to garden, matt bites, steamy kitchen, and white on rice couple (and their commenters/participants section!) for other delicious tomato recipes this week!


Filed under appetizer, main dish, side dish

smoked paprika roasted chickpeas and why my head is different

chick peas 3

this weekend i was invited to a showing of photographs by a group who was just finishing up a weeklong photography workshop led by my friend and food photography muse, penny. you could tell it had been a long week of work, inspiration, and creative juice extraction. i found myself so inspired and i attempted to imagine what it would be like for those who had attended the entire workshop. at the end of the show, a short video was shown documenting snippets of the week and something one of the group said in the video struck me. it went something like this; “my work isn’t different, but my head is different”.

to me, i thought it such a simple way to say: ‘i’m glad i showed up, i’m glad i participated, i’m grateful to be inspired by others, and i hope i’ve helped each of you to feel the same way’. what a sense of awakening this conjures up. almost like having someone pick up an object that you’ve been staring at for hours, and shifting it just 10 degrees. it’s still the same, but your take on it has completely changed.

when i thought about this week’s summerfest selection, beans and greens, i felt the need to branch out a bit and prepare (i use this term loosely due to the ease in preparation of these) a dish somewhat unexpected for this category, at least for me. i know there have been more than a few recipes for these on other blogs, but the concept is fairly new to me and that was the whole point. and boy are they good. and easy. and you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry as we speak.


smoked paprika roasted chick peas

i’m using smoked paprika for the spice, but you could dress these babies up however you like. the possibilities are endless: chile powder, cumin and cayenne for taco flavor, garam masala, or your favorite curry powder. you get the idea. this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled.

1-15 ounce can chick peas

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tsp smoked paprika (or other spices)

few pinches kosher salt to taste

preheat oven to 360F. drain, rinse, and blot dry chickpeas. place in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients and toss well. pour onto foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 40-50 minutes, shaking pan every 10-15 minutes. you want them to be crisp and dry on the outside with just a hint of tenderness on the inside. remember, there will be a bit of residual cooking, so remove them from the oven before they are completely crispy. allow to cool for about 10 minutes on baking sheet before placing in serving bowl. keeps in an airtight container for several days, but be sure to cool completely first. 

be sure to check out some of the other summerfest participants: mattbites, a way to garden, steamy kitchen, white on rice couple. you will find inspiration if you read their comments sections, as well.


Filed under appetizer, salty snacks

tortilla espanola


tortilla 5

when i was 10 years old my mom asked us, her 3 children, if we would like to go to europe. for a year. like to live there. yes, please! and so we did. true story. we bought a VW van in amsterdam (refer back to the whole cosmic part of my moniker), had it decked out to live in and were on our way to camp europe. when you think about it most of europe is located on a latitude that falls on the cool side when it comes to camping, with the exception of summer.  we ended up  spending most of our time in sunny southern spain. eating this.

most of you probably don’t have memories of pleading with your mother to head up to the bar for a drinky-poo. but we did. it was the only way to get a slice of tortilla espanola (free with a glass of wine!). this was our introduction to tapas back in 1975. mom did her best, but she wasn’t (and still isn’t) much of a drinker. so we just had to learn how to make it ourselves. my sister and i still make these on a regular basis. this was probably one of the first things i ever learned how to cook completely on my own, tollhouse cookies and biscuits from a can, aside.


look at these beautiful eggs from vital farms. they are from araucana hens, i believe. they are the ones that produce the blue-green eggs.

tortilla 3

mmm…lemony, super yellow yolks. commercial eggs ain’t got nothin’ on these.

tortilla 4

you can play with the ingredients a bit. i chopped up some salami i had on hand. like an omelette, you can add just a few handfuls of veggies or meat to liven things up. traditionally in spain, these are sweet red pepper, chorizo, maybe a few sliced mushrooms. but the egg and potato really should remain in leading roles. this is a peasant dish, after all.

tortilla final

tortilla espanola (serves 6-8 as an appetizer)

this is a very fluid recipe, meaning that the amounts may be slightly different for you, depending on the size of your potatoes, eggs, even your pan. the mixture should look roughly like the picture of raw eggs and potatoes in the bowl above before you put in in the pan for the final step. don’t let the amount of oil used in the recipe scare you away. the potatoes should gently fry, but also boil in the oil, then most it is drained off.

4-5 medium sized potatoes  sliced to 1/8″ thickness, then cut slices in half or quarters (i prefer yukon golds, russets will also work)

1 small spanish onion, sliced thinly

5-6 farm fresh eggs

3/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

heat olive oil in non-stick 7-8″ skillet over medium heat. add sliced potatoes and a generous pinch of salt and cook until potatoes are tender and appear blistered. you are not trying to brown them, but it’s okay if the edges are slightly browned. remove with slotted spoon and place in a colander. whisk eggs in a large bowl and add salt and freshly ground pepper. add  potatoes (and any other veggies or bits of meat you are using) and combine mixture. pour off all but 1 tbsp of olive oil from pan into a measuring cup and reserve. heat oil in pan over medium high heat, then add potato/egg mixture. allow to set for a minute or so, then slide pan around a few times while cooking to be sure it doesn’t stick. i will sometimes tilt the pan to allow egg to run underneath tortilla if i feel it is very soupy. cook until lightly browned on the bottom, then place an inverted plate on top of pan. quickly invert pan so tortilla is on plate, uncooked side down. then slide tortilla back into pan and add an additional tbsp of reserved olive oil. turn heat down to medium-low and continue to cook until bottom is slightly browned and tortilla is cooked through. you will have to trust your instincts on this as you will not be able to see inside the tortilla. if i have my doubts, at the end of the cooking time, i place an inverted plate or lid on the pan, turn off the flame and allow it to steam for a few minutes. flip tortilla on a plate, allow to rest for about 10 minutes and enjoy!

this is best served warm or at room temperature. around our house, we eat this over the course of  a day or so. it is also great as a light dinner with a green salad and a glass of white rioja. just store in the fridge and remove at least 20-30 minutes before serving.


Filed under appetizer, main dish

caramelized onion dip

cramelized onion dip-finished 1

we’ve all had it. onion dip made from a packet of powdered stuff and dehydrated onions or prepared onion dip from the refrigerated case in the grocery store (my preference, consistency wise but with all manner of unpronounceable ingredients). but once you find out how easy it is to make your own from scratch, you will never go back, i promise you. unless the reason you are requiring the dip in the first place is that you have had a lot of adult beverages the night before and are really unable or unwilling to cook anything at all. this dip is made distinctively texan by the use of this special onion only available around these parts in the spring; the 1015. washington has their walla walla’s, hawaii their maui’s, georgia has their vidalia’s, and texas has their 1015’s. these are so named due to the recommended planting date of these super sweet monsters. and they are monsters–in the words of tiny elvis, “man, those are huge!” developed and introduced in the 1980’s,  the 1015 has been nicknamed the ‘million dollar baby’ dut to all the money spent developing it’s sweet flavor. not everything genetically modified is bad and here’s proof.

caramelized onion dip-1015 in bag

i LOVE the texas flag.

caramelized onion dip-1015 raw

let the caramelizing begin:

caramelized onion dip-cooking 1

melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 2

add all your chopped onions and a pinch of salt. saute over medium low heat, stirring periodically to prevent from browning too quickly. i know these are SLICED onions. i decided after this first round that chopped onions would make the dip easier to eat (no strings when it comes time to scoop with your chip). be patient, this process takes a while. but you will be rewarded by ridiculously sweet onions.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 3

are they done yet? nope. too blond.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 4

what about now? no, grasshopper. you must be patient.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 5

surely, now they are ready. almost.

caramelized onion dip-cooking 7

nope. you must bring them to the brink of disaster and then…

caramelized onion dip-cooking 8

whoa! now i see, master. my patience will be rewarded. the whole process will take from 45 minutes to 1 hour.

caramelized onion dip-onions finished

mix all your other ingredients together while you are a-caramelizin’.

caramelized onion dip-dip in glass bowl

then add most of your cooled onions, reserving some for the top of the dip to impress your friends.

caramelized onion dip-onions in dip

caramelized onion dip-onions mixed in

caramelized onion dip-onions on top

caramelized onion dip-makes about 2 cups

(adapted from 101 cookbooks and multiple other sources)

2 1015 onions, chopped

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

pinch salt

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt

3/4 cup mexican crema (or sour cream)

1 tsp onion or garlic powder

dash cayenne or hot pepper sauce

salt & white pepper to taste

caramelize your onions as noted above. mix all other ingredients in a bowl (yogurt through salt and pepper). add most of the cool caramelized onions to the yogurt mixture, reserving a few tablespoons to pile on top for presentation. chill for at least 4 hours and up to a day or two before serving. the flavors will meld and become outrageous. best served with salty, ridged potato chips. the salt counter-balances the sweetness of the onions and the thicker chip can stand up to the hefty nature of the dip.


Filed under appetizer

papas pastores

papas in bowl

in honor of a diana kennedy event i’m going to tonight, i give you papas pastores, or shepard’s potatoes, one of her recipes that i’ve been making for years. and boy, are they good. addictive, really, so go ahead and make extra ‘cos you’ll sure wish you had. these are eaten primarily as a snack in mexico, but i serve ’em with grilled steak. it is an outrageously fantastic pairing due to the freshness of the lime in the potatoes. this recipe comes from her cookbook ‘My Mexico’, which came out about 10 years ago.  i was introduced to her by my old friend jack who gave me an original print of her first book ‘The Cuisines of Mexico’, which came out in 1972. it is autographed for someone named scott. maybe i’ll take it tonight and have her cross out scott and write in steph instead! (hey, same amount of letters…).


for those that are not familiar with her work, diana kennedy is said to be the julia child of mexico. she also has some friends (ever heard of fonda san miguel?)and a residence in austin, so we are graced with her presence quite frequently. she is a purist, by all accounts (say ‘no more chips ‘n’ salsa’ like joan crawford says ‘no more wire hangers’), and sometimes i feel guilty when i can’t find fresh epizote or powdered tequesquite and i have to make do. i really do prefer to cook and bake without the aid of esoteric ingredients, but sometimes it’s worth it to go the extra mile when it comes to authenticity. because of her, i now know what to do with all those wrinkled peppers, spices, and other weird lookin’ sundries at my hispanic grocer.


papas pastores (serves 4 as a side dish, 6-8 as a snack)

adapted from diana kennedy

1 pound very small new potatoes*

2 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

1/3 cup finely chopped white onion

1 garlic clove

3 serrano chiles, finely chopped (seed and ribs removed if you prefer less picante)

1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 cup water

*if potatoes are on the large size, just cut them in haves or quarters–these were grown by my good friends at copper dog farms. a bio of them is coming soon!

heat oil over medium high heat in a large heavy pan. add potatoes and sprinkle with salt, shaking pan from time to time until potatoes skins begin to wrinkle and brown. add onion, garlic, and chiles, saute 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. add cilantro and lime juice and continue sauteing for 1 minute longer. add water and cover the pan. cook over low heat until potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid has evaporated.

post script photo:

me & d


Filed under appetizer, mexican, side dish

pickled grapes


i must apoligize in advance for another post about pickled foods. and clear up the fact that my love for pickling things is not due to any recent in change medical condition on my part. i simply love sour. i’m assuming i just have way too many sour receptors located on the surface of my tongue and they can never be totally fulfilled. yes, i have a history of drinking pickle juice. and yes, i eat pickled items straight outta the jar.


but THESE are different than all the others. these are special. these are exquisite. i know the idea of pickled grapes sounds strange, but this is a sweet brine (something i hadn’t even fathomed before!). you’re going to wanna use the freshest grapes possible in order to keep them crisp. no one likes a flaccid grape. or a flaccid anything. and be sure they are seedless. they should be fairly easy to find, but sometimes i grab seeded ones by accident because they’re next to the others. 


this will be a fun recipe to play with. you could switch up the brine, adding or deleting spices, vinegars, etc. next time, i may get all girly with it and use red wine vinegar and pink peppercorns. maybe for mother’s day?


pickled grapes (makes 2 pint-sized or 4 half pint-sized jars)

adapted from smitten kitchen, molly wizenberg

1 pound seedless grapes (red or black or a even a mix)

1 cup white wine vinegar 

1 cup granulated sugar (i used less-about 3/4 cup)

1  1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 stick cinnamon for each jar you are using (i used 4 half pint jars, 4 small sticks)

1/4 tsp salt


rinse and dry grapes. remove from stems and cut off very tip of stem end of each grape. this allows the brine to go well within the flesh of the grape and infuse it with it’s loveliness. place the grapes in clean, dry jars. they do not need to be sterile-these are refrigerated pickled grapes. place the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. stir a few times to be sure the sugar and salt have dissolved and remove from heat. i poured mine into another container to speed up the cooling process (and it had a spout to ease in filling the jars). when the brine has cooled to room temperature, pour over the grapes to cover. place lid on jars and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

we devoured them after about 20 hours of brining so i couldn’t tell ya how long they keep. gosh, they were so good with fresh goat cheese and some black pepper water crackers. even the 16 month old in our group could not get enough…thanks, eli!


Filed under appetizer, fruit, grapes

hot carrots!


if you’re anything like us, if it’s pickled, it’s better.  i’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a few years when my friend (and fabulous hairstylist) stacie was remarking that you just can’t get ‘hot carrots’ here in texas, like we had back in california where we grew up. i had almost completely forgotten about these beautifully tangy and mildy picante carrots found on the table of virtually every mexican restaurant in southern california. ninfa’s here in texas used to have them, then removed them for so-called ‘health department’ rules…oh, well. once you try them, you will find any excuse to pair them with whatever you are eating–they are super addictive.



hot carrots (makes about 8-10 half pint ball jars)

12-14 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4″ on the bias (see picture)

6 fresh  jalapenos, sliced thinly lengthwise

2 onions, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced thinly

5-10 whole garlic cloves, peeled

4-5 bay leaves

about a tbsp of whole black peppercorns

2 cups regular ol’ white distilled vinegar

4 cups water

1 tsp dried oregano


put all ingredients except oregano in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil. make sure you have enough liquid to cover the vegetables, adding more water & vinegar in the same 2:1 ratio if necessary. simmer on medium high for a few minutes until carrots are crisp tender, about 5 minutes (a bit less done than you would normally like to eat them because as they sit off the heat, they will cook a smidge more). remove from heat and add oregano. cover with a lid and allow to sit off the heat until cool. put in jars, covered with the vinegar broth and give them away. or put ’em all in a big bowl and cover tightly if you’re selfish and want to keep them all to yourself (stacie!). you really don’t need to sterilize the jars if you keep them refrigerated–they’ll keep for about a thousand years this way. and they’ll get spicier as they become further infused by the peppers.


these are great on tortilla chips or crackers while you’re waiting for someone to cook you up some homemade enchiladas. or put ’em on some black or borracho beans. or sit at the counter and eat ’em straight outta the jar-you know who you are.


Filed under appetizer, mexican, side dish