International Pizza

In many other countries, hard boiled eggs are a common ingredient in almost any quick meal such as pizza, sandwiches, salads etc. In the States however, hard boiled eggs aren’t seen quite as much. This pizza was devised by myself and my brother after his recent return from Brazil and my trip to Paris where hard cooked eggs are used a lot. Bahian Pizza is the inspiration for this recipe and is named after a state in Brazil that is known for its vibrant culture, music and people. We combined forces and came up with this super satisfying pizza. Bon Apetit and Bon Apeite.

Fresh Packaged Pizza Dough (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)

3/4 cup marinara Sauce

1 cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese

3 Sliced Hard Cooked Eggs

1 Large Yellow Onion – sliced in half moons

1/2 cup Soy Chorizo or Regular Chorizo

Sour Cream to dot on top

Take onion and saute it with olive oil until brown and caramelized. Set aside.

Sprinkle Flour on a clean surface and place pizza dough in the center. Flour your rolling pin and roll out pizza dough until round and thin. In the meantime, turn on oven to 400 degrees and place a pizza stone (if you have one) inside to get hot. If you don’t have a pizza stone a regular cookie sheet will do. Let the oven preheat for 10 minutes and then place your pizza dough on a pizza peel that has been spread with a layer of cornmeal (so that the pizza can slide easily onto the hot pizza stone). If at all possible you want to keep the pizza stone in the oven so that it stays hot and crisps up the pizza dough. Bake the pizza dough for 10 minutes until crispy. Remove pizza dough with the pizza peel (can be tricky but I recommend using tongs to help you get it back in the pizza peel). Top the pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, sliced eggs and caramelized onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and getting slightly crisp and brown on top.

Remove from oven and let cool. Cut and serve with a small dollop of sour cream on each piece.

*Note. Why soy chorizo? If you get the right brand, its actually super tasty and I’m always looking for a way to cut down on meat if doesn’t mean cutting down on taste.

Restaurant Review: Watermark on Main. Ventura, CA

As my husband and I drove down to Ventura from Santa Barbara on our way to dinner I gazed out the car window to see the glistening sun reflect off the beautiful and expansive ocean. As I viewed the beautiful scene I thought how I make this drive so often on the way down to LA and yet almost never stop in Ventura as I pass through. This time we were stopping; excited to see what our destined restaurant had to offer.

As we walked toward the Watermark I was impressed by the building which was located on the corner of the bustling Ventura Main street. Evidently they are housed in an historic building from the 1910‘s. As I approached the door my heart sank for a moment as I saw a sign declaring their dress code. “Oh no!” I thought, “Are we dressed up enough for this place?” I was wearing dark blue skinny jeans and my husband a button up blue shirt with gray jeans. We definitely looked respectable but as I saw the sign it reminded me of an embarrassing encounter we had once at a country club where Michael had to change out of his expensive designer t-shirt for a cheap Geoffrey Beene button up shirt. He was humiliated. I had been to the restaurants website but hadn’t seen any mention of a dress code. I figured we’d have to go in and find out if we were to be scoffed and turned away. As we approached the hostess desk we were greeted by a pretty and friendly hostess who led us immediately to our table. Phew. I guess we looked respectable enough for her to seat us. (I later looked up their dress code online and their only request is for men to wear a button up shirt). We were seated in a pleasant booth next to the window and very quickly were greeted by our waiter. He asked us if we wanted to order wine which we declined but gave him our appetizer order right away. He failed to remove the wine glasses (which I did’t really care about but having worked in the restaurant business for long enough noticed this as a small error). The ambiance was beautiful with the old and new colliding. The murals on the walls were spanish colonial as was the ceiling. You can tell the owners put a lot of thought and pride into the decor with big touches like their second story clock to the small touches such as the small “watermark” on the plates.

Our appetizers came out extremely fast and we dug in. Michael ordered the wedge salad with crispy pancetta, maytag blue cheese, tomato and maui onion. I ordered the lobster bisque. Michael felt his salad was good and delivered as you would expect any simple wedge salad to deliver. (What is there to get wrong?) However, the crispy pancetta was fairly sparse and chopped to the size of dust. The lettuce seemed a day too old and not as crisp as he would have liked. But satisfying nonetheless. My lobster bisque however was noticeably bland. I kept thinking to myself, am I missing something? Perhaps bisque is suppose to be more subtle in flavor and I’m being too picky. After running all the possible options in my mind I realized it was just bland. It definitely lacked seasoning and flavor. Even just a slightly heavier hand with the salt and pepper would have been an improvement. I’m still a little out of sorts with the soup. I looked up the definition of a bisque (thinking again that I might be missing something) and it mentions flavor and seasoning being its biggest contributing factors. Okay, so the bisque sucked. Moving on.

The next course was a raw bar that had mussel, oyster, crab claw, crab leg and shrimp. Being familiar with everything but the oyster I dove into the shrimp. Delish. I dipped it in the cocktail sauce and it was an easy score. Okay, onto the next. The mussel didn’t deliver as much as I was hoping it would. It had a slightly fishy taste that made me think it wasn’t the freshest product. The crab claw and leg were good and I enjoyed that with the horseradish they provided. Last but not least…the oyster…Perhaps its was the stories that I heard that oysters taste like fish snot going down your throat that has deterred me from trying them. Or the fact that you don’t really eat them, you swallow them whole. I was searching for a lemon wedge to squeeze on top but couldn’t find one. I resorted to the horseradish and took the plunge. At first I really just tasted horseradish. Then I tasted ocean. Hmmm. Tastes exactly like what you smell when your walking along the beach. Not bad. I could see getting use to this. Next time, I want a lemon wedge though….

 

For our entree’s I ordered the rib eye and Michael the filet mignon. I was going to order the duck but since I had a disappointing first course I decided to go with a standard that know I like. Duck isn’t something I’ve had outside of chinese restaurants (and not often even then) so I’m not as familiar with the flavor. Michael encouraged me to be safe because I was more adventurous for the appetizers and I think he wanted me to enjoy myself. I ordered my rib eye medium rare but not bloody and Michael did the same for his filet. My rib eye was cooked exactly as I requested. The cut of meat, however, had a fair amount of gristle. I am aware that rib eye is a fattier cut of meat, but having cooked this a few times I know that the key is a good quality product. Since I’ve had better rib eye that I’ve made a home it was slightly disappointing for a $38 plate of food. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it nonetheless. I mean, it is steak after all.  It came with a garlic potato puree that was flavorful and a variety of steamed vegetables. The sauce was a rosemary demi and had some wild mushrooms and roasted tomatoes as a garnish. The sauce was okay as were the mushrooms. I could take it or leave it.The tomatoes were actually packed with flavor and seemed to have been roasted with basil. Overall, it was a satisfying meal but certainly wasn’t something that I would crave or feel like I needed to have again. Maybe I should have tried the duck…

Michael’s filet was cooked unevenly but was close to the medium rare he ordered. The meat was tender and flavorful. It came with Yukon potatoes, parsnips and had a huckleberry and red onion confit. The confit was very thin so it was hard to taste it at all. The parsnip puree was topped with the potatoes diced small and was delicious. It was a very smart was to served the starch and the marrying of the parsnips and potato in this way not only brought out a lot of flavor but also texture. The plate came with  fresh steamed vegetables as well which were a great accompaniment. The plating for both entree’s seemed fairly standard without a lot of thought put into the presentation.

Finally, dessert! Michael HAD to have the chocolate dipped strawberries stuffed with cheesecake and I tried the chocolate carmel tart. Let’s start with my tart…

The descriptions advertised a buttery chocolate crust, creamy caramel, chocolate ganache and grey sea salt. The biggest flaw with this dessert is that the sea salt was sprinkled on top of the tart so that every bite had a different amount of salt and therefore  ran the risk of being a salt lick. It completely overpowered the other components and made the dessert pretty much inedible. Also, the caramel was masked by the large proportion of chocolate on top giving a sickly sweet taste to the chocolate. And the crust wasn’t chocolate as advertised but probably graham cracker. In the end, the dessert should have been advertised as, “Overly Sweet Chocolate Tart with a Sea Salt Lick.” The sea salt should have been incorporated into the caramel itself so that the proportion was perfect. You just can’t leave things like inconsistency in sprinkled salt to chance.  It just doesn’t work.

Michael’s strawberries, on the other hand, were heavenly. It was actually an awesome dessert  to have after a large meal because the proportion of half fruit half cheesecake is the perfect blend of refreshing and indulgent.  Mostly fruit with that creamy bit of cheesecake topped with chocolate was delectable. Michael felt the quality of the strawberry was superb however the cheesecake wasn’t the best he’s tasted. Having said that, this is a recipe I’m going to definitely attempt to make at home. Michael was being nice to share with me since my dessert wasn’t that great but I could tell it was with great effort. Our only complaint was that there wasn’t more. Two strawberries didn’t quite seem enough for some reason…The plating seemed odd as well with one rogue raspberry set to the side. We didn’t get it. It seemed a little lonesome. But that was our only comment and wished they had a back window that they just sold these’s little bites of heaven out of.

All in all, the meal was a bit underwhelming. There was promise in the dishes but they weren’t perfect. Watermark wouldn’t be the first place I think of for an upcoming birthday dinner or special occasion and thats a shame because it has a tremendous amount going for it. Some screws still need to be tightened.

As we left I heard a random gentleman talking to the doorman, afraid to go in because he wasn’t sure if he was dressed appropriately. It would probably behoove the restaurant to drop their dress code. It seems to be scaring paying customers away and their standards aren’t that stringent anyway. Perhaps an inviting but upscale approach would be best.

Food Grades:

Wedge Salad – B

Lobster Bisque – C

Rib Eye – C+

Garlic Potato Puree – B+

Filet Mignon – B

Parsnips and Potato – A

Chocolate Caramel Tart – D

Chocolate Cheesecake Strawberries – A-

Vegetarian Chili & Homemade Hummus from Cooking Class

Byron Elton led our cooking class this month and taught us how to make his vegetarian chili (and hummus!). Now, Byron is a dapper dan man. You know, the kind of guy who always says the perfect thing, has finesse and style. He is always up to date on the latest and greatest, loves to be green (environmentally speaking) and is a vegetarian. So it goes without saying that people generally like being around him, basking in his positive aura. Which is why I was of course excited when I heard he would be leading cooking class held at Shannon Sorenson’s home; our gracious host each month. The chili is hearty, satisfying and full of flavor. I was myself was a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years and what I love about eating vegetarian is that flavors that usually take a back seat are highlighted. The fresh bell peppers, hot jalapeños and beans are a burst of flavor in your mouth like a perfectly executed cha cha. And when topped with creamy sour cream, cheddar cheese and guacamole, how can you go wrong?

Byron the chef & Shannon the host

Byron’s Vegetarian Chili

Add the following to a saucepan and sauté over medium heat:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 chopped jalapenos
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 chopped red peppers
  • 2 chopped green peppers
  • 2 tablespoons garlic

(sauté)

Next add the following:

  • 2 (28oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28oz) can of kidney beans (rinsed)
  • 1 (16oz) can of black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 (16oz) can of vegetarian refried beans
  • 4 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • Approximately 1 tablespoon of green Tabasco sauce ( or 24 shakes)
  • 1 bottle of Mexican beer (OPTIONAL)

Cook for 30 minutes or to your liking

Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese

Optional: add corn, yellow peppers or red onions.

(Note: this recipe makes a double serving)

Byron’s Hummus

How to make your own garbanzo beans: 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans will make 2 cups of cooked beans

  • Soak in water for 8 hours (changing water every 2-4 hours.)
  • Add 1 tablespoon baking soda to the water

(8 hours later)

  • Simmer the beans for 20-30 minutes

In a blender or food processor add:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1/3 cup of Tahini
  • Juice from 1 lemon (half if you’d like)

(Blend on low speed)

  • Add 2 cups of cooked garbanzo beans and blend to your liking

Serve with pita bread from Trader Joes

Optional: add red peppers, pine nuts or sun dried tomatoes

Anita’s Swedish Braided Bread

Anita taught our cooking class this month how to make this delicious swedish braided bread (or swedish tea ring). I have to tell you that this bread was SOOOOOOO good! When I came home, Michael and I decided we would eat a few servings for dessert that night and breakfast the next morning but then give the rest away to our neighbors. Yeah….that never happened. Sorry neighbors! Also, it would seem that this recipe is complicated but its surprisingly easy. Hopefully my photos will walk you through the steps pretty easily so that you have no trouble at home. This is definitely a “show off” type recipe that makes you look like a super baker in front of your friends. I like those types of recipes…..! What can I say? I like attention. ;) Enjoy and thanks again Anita!

(This bread shot taken the morning after… :)

Yields 3 Breads

2 cups dairy sour cream

2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp salt

2 eggs

6 cups (approx) all-purpose flour

2 cans apple pie filling

For Topping:

Toasted Almonds

Buttercream icing

Heat sour cream in microwave until lukewarm. Add butter to the sour cream. (This allows the butter to soften) Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in sour cream, butter, sugar, eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto well-floured board and knead until smooth – about 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover, let rise in a warm place until double in size, about an hour. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Punch down dough; divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each part into rectangle and place 1/3 of the apple filling in each bread. Cut along the sides of the dough with scissors and pull the dough across the top of the filling to create a braided effect. Place on a buttered cookie sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While warm, brush with icing and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

*If doing the tea ring instead of the braid, roll the dough into a rectangle and then turn into a circle and place apples in the center of the dough. Wrap the ends then make cuts to show the apples.

Simple Gorgonzola, Cherry Tomato and Sage Pizza

This pizza has a really delicious depth of flavor and is one of Michael’s favorite pizzas that I do. I always love to hear his reactions when he takes the first bite of something I make. I can always tell if its a home run or just “eh.” His comments range from, “OHMYGOSH! This is so amazing! Remember this recipe honey. This is delicious. (general eating sounds)”

to

“Huh. Its good…I think maybe it needs salt? I mean… don’t get me wrong honey, its interesting for sure…”

to

“Mmmmmmmm….Wow…..this is….Mmmmmmm”

He cracks me up. He has the worst poker face and actually does not have the ability to lie so its great feedback for me. Anywho, I hope you enjoy!

Simple Gorgonzola, Cherry Tomato and Sage Pizza

1 Prepared Pizza Dough*

Tuscan Italian Dressing*

Gorgonzola Crumbles

Shredded Mozzarella

Diced Shallot

Halved Cherry tomatoes

Chopped Sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pizza stone in the oven to warm.

Roll out pizza dough on a flour surface. Place pizza dough in oven for 10 minutes to crisp on stone before adding toppings. Take pizza out of oven and top with creamy tuscan dressing, mozzarella, gorgonzola, cherry tomatoes, shallots and sage. Bake for 10 minutes and then cut and serve.

*I buy the fresh pizza dough at Trader Joe’s. Its costs about $1.50 and is super easy to use and is delicious!

*I use the Tuscan Italian Dressing from Trader Joes . If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s then any creamy balsamic  dressing will do.

California Asian Pasta Salad

California Asian Pasta Salad

My sister Sarah (everyone in the family calls this recipe “Sarah’s Salad”) gave me a version of this recipe that she got from her mother-in-law. Her mother-in-law had gotten it from a friend who had gotten it from a friend and on and on. Its like the game telephone but with a recipe! Its one of those dishes that you eat at a party and just HAVE to get the recipe because its so tasty. Its become a regular fixture at our Fourth of July celebration and  everyone gets excited every time its made. I’ve made a few changes to the original recipe to make it mine so I hope you enjoy!

3 Cups Dice Avocado (squeeze some lemon juice over the avocado to prevent it from browning!)

½ Bunch Chopped Parsley

¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

16 oz package Corkscrew pasta

½ bunch chopped green onions

2 Cups spinach cut in strips

1 cup toasted slivered almonds

Sauce:

½ Cup Soy Sauce

¾ Cup Vegetable Oil

¼ cup mango chutney

¾ cup Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/8 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Whisk together sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Cook pasta. Drain and run until cold water to stop the cooking. Once cooled and drained, place pasta into a large salad bowl and add in parsley, toasted sesame seeds, green onions, spinach and toasted almonds. Toss together with sauce. Refrigerate until cold or overnight. Top with avocado right before serving and crack some salt and pepper over the avocado to taste. Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread:

I seem to make this A LOT. Its usually on a lazy Sunday afternoon when we get in the mood for a treat and I have some extra zucchini’s in the fridge. All the other ingredients are mostly staples of the cupboard. Michael and I love this bread so much and it usually doesn’t last very long. We usually spread butter over the top (because of course a ton of sugar isn’t enough so we have to add fat too) and drink it with hot tea. :) We can never wait for it to cool down before eating so the butter melts into the bread and it becomes this buttery, chocolately mess of heaven. Its great for an after dinner dessert or for a yummy breakfast the next morning. :) Enjoy!

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 beaten egg

1 cup sugar

1 cup finely shredded zucchini, unpeeled

1/4 cup cooking oil

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of an 8x4x2 inch loaf pan; set aside. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

2. In another medium bowl combine egg, sugar, zucchini, and oil. Add zucchini to mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Crispy Beef and Chorizo Tacos

These tacos are my Grandma’s recipe and only complete alongside her enchiladas but they are seriously good on their own too. For me, this is the ultimate comfort food that brings back memories of cozy family dinners that are truly magical. This is the most common dinner my Grandma would make for us and they are oh so delicious. She  would make a big batch of the fried taco shells with the meat in the them and then would put all the toppings out for everyone to build their own. I could eat these all day long…..Mmmmmmmmm

1 Pound Hamburger

⅓ Pound Chorizo (I use soy chorizo from Trader Joes)

Grated Cheddar Cheese

Grated Jack Cheese

Diced Tomatoes

Shredded Lettuce

Green Onions

Black Olives

Sour Cream

Corn Tortillas

Canola Oil

Brown hamburger and chorizo in pan. Drain any fat. Taste meat to see if its seasoned enough. If not, you can add a little packages taco seasoning. Set aside.

Fry corn tortillas in a pan with canola oil filled up enough to cover the tortillas. Fold over the tortilla and start on one side and then once fried turn it over. Drain on paper towels.

For the toppings make sure to set out the rest of the ingredients and let your guests build their own. Enjoy!