Tag Archives: tomato

Fresh Open-Faced California Sandwich

This past weekend I attended the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival in San Francisco, California, 2,700 miles away from my home. Traveling alone is always a meaningful, reflective experience for me, and over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing vignettes that I hope are meaningful to you, as well.

. . .

“Can you tell we’re tourists?” the gossamer-haired man asked the woman at the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) information desk after she guided him through the process of purchasing a ticket. He chuckled toward his smiling wife, and they walked over toward the ticket machine.

I walked up to the information desk, wondering if I was about to annoy the attendant by asking a question she’d already been asked a hundred times this morning. Like everyone else I’d met so far in the Bay City, though, she cheerfully offered detailed advice. With some help from the tourist couple who’d gone before me, I successfully purchased a subway ticket and stepped onto the escalator to descend into the rumbling belly of the city.

After a posing a few more clueless questions to kind San Franciscans, I stepped onto a BART train and settled into my seat with a self-congratulatory sigh. We sped off only to hear a robotic voice a few seconds later announcing the next stop: “Montgomery.”

Oh. Montgomery? I looked at the map on the wall. I was trying to head to the Mission area to visit the gorgeous, iconic Tartine Bakery. Montgomery, however, was in the opposite direction — toward Oakland across the bay. Once again I turned to a stranger. “If I’m trying to get to 16th and Mission–” I began.

“Oh, you’re headed the wrong way,” she said with a smile. “You needed the train on the other side of the tracks.” It suddenly dawned on me that of course the trains, like cars, would go in two different directions. I felt a little sheepish.

“Oh, thanks! I guess it’s a good thing I realized after only one stop,” I said.

“Definitely. You’re fine. You’re not under the water yet!” she replied.

Her reassurance at once comforted me and alerted me to an alarming fact that I hadn’t considered about the trains: they go under the water. Under the San Francisco Bay. Seriously? I could hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “What if there’s an earthquake while you’re under there?!” I jumped off at the next stop and changed trains, relieved that I didn’t have to go under the water until I visited Oakland later in my trip.

A couple of hours later I stood at a bus stop, blissful after devouring a frangipane croissant, a gruyere and black pepper gougere, and a Mexican Coke at the communal table in Tartine. I hurriedly grabbed $2 out of my pack as the bus pulled up, but I had the good sense to pause on the bus steps and ask, “Do you head toward Lombard?”

I expected the bus driver to wave me onto the bus, impatient with silly tourist questions, but again, I was met with generosity: “Oh, you want the 22 that runs on the other side of the street.” He pointed to the bus stop across the way. A kind man at the bus stop confirmed the bus driver’s words, “Just wait over there and another bus will be along in a moment.” Buses, it seemed — like trains! and cars! and everything else, Julie! — ran in both directions. Since you might be wondering at this point, I promise I’m not dumb.

I walked across the street, once again redirected by the kindness of others.

Are you plowing ahead on your own power lately? Personally, I never grew out of that independent toddler stage of life — the one where you’re constantly insisting, “I’ll do it myself!” There’s nothing quite like being alone in a strange city across the country from your home to break you of that intransigence, though.

I found my way to Tartine and then up to the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday because I was willing to accept the generosity and support of others. (And if I hadn’t found my way to Tartine, what a tragedy that would’ve been!)

Reach out for help when you need to. You don’t have to handle everything alone. And hey, you’re not under the water yet.

. . .

What better way to kick off my California posts than with a gorgeous open-faced California Sandwich? It’s just as healthy as it looks, but don’t worry — it doesn’t lack a thing in the taste department. In fact, it’s one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever made in my kitchen. It’s a fresh, tangy combination of flavors that you just feel good eating. I made it on sourdough bread, which I love — and how appropriate for all this talk of San Francisco.

Was there a time in your life when you’ve had to break down and accept the help and kindness of others?

Fresh Open-faced California Sandwich



Recipe by: Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake
Yield: 2 open-faced sandwiches

This quick sandwich is cool and refreshing. The bright California salad is comprised of tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and avocado bathed in lime juice. It rests on a tangy chive spread and a thick, toasty slice of sourdough bread. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the finished product was considering how little effort went into assembly. This sandwich would make the perfect lunch or light dinner.

Chive Spread Ingredients:
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
Salt and pepper, to taste

California Salad Ingredients*:
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 tomato, cored and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Squeeze of lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper, to taste
*This makes enough salad for 4 sandwiches, if you wanted to put a smaller amount on each, but I really heaped it on. I wanted more salad and less bread per sandwich. Yum!

Other Things You Need:
2 slices of thick sourdough bread
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Directions:
Make the chive spread by mixing the yogurt, mayonnaise, chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Toast the 2 slices of bread in toaster or in a buttered skillet over medium heat. Lay these out on a plate.

Make the California salad by tossing avocado, tomato, cucumber, lime juice, cilantro, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Spread each slice of bread with half of your chive spread and pile on half of the alfalfa sprouts. Then top with half of the California salad, piled high. I ate mine with a knife and fork and considerable enthusiasm.

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Billion Cheese Ravioli with Red Pepper Pancetta Sauce

Until a couple of days ago, I was planning a romantic takeout Thai feast for my Valentine’s dinner with Mike. Perhaps that seems lazy, but my Clementine Burst Cupcakes were a two-day affair, and I just couldn’t work up the motivation to make a fancy dinner to go with my fancy dessert. Well, at least not until I saw the sweetheart Four Cheese Ravioli over at Annie’s Eats. Food that is adorable can always motivate me.

I’ve had a hankerin’ to make homemade pasta for awhile now, but I don’t own a pasta machine. Some brilliant mind on the interweb recently made the point that old Italian grannies didn’t necessarily have pasta machines either, so when I saw Annie’s ravioli, I decided to throw rationality to the wind. That’s right! I was making pasta by hand!

You’ll hear horror stories about how difficult it is to do so, but I was surprised by how straightforward the process was. It involved some elbow grease (I rolled with all my might!) and some, um, wrist grease (kneading the night away!), but in the end, it was relatively easy. My little ravioli did end up a little tough, so I’ve adjusted the kneading time in the recipe below, and also recommend that you roll out your dough extremely thin. I cut mine into hearts to celebrate my sweetheart (who is currently in a carb coma), but any old shape will do. In fact, you can even grab a ravioli mold to make dozens of ravioli at a time. I can’t help it, though; I’m partial to hearts!

Even though they were a little toothsome (thanks, Kevin from Top Chef!), these little ravioli were the star of the Valentine’s show! Each petite parcel was stuffed full of fresh herbs and (as the title of this post suggests) about a billion cheeses. Specifically: Parmesan, mozzarella, asiago, fontina, Romano, provolone, ricotta, and goat cheese. Most of these were in the form of a 6-cheese blend I picked up at my grocery store — nice!

The sauce was a bit like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster — but what a tasty conglomeration! I wove odds and ends from two tempting recipes together to form a bright, sharp flavor that paired perfectly with the mellow, creamy cheese and herbs inside the ravioli. Delicious sauce calls for some bread for sopping, of course, so I also fixed up some garlic bread. I sliced a loaf of Italian bread from my grocery store’s bakery and sloshed on some melted butter, garlic, and basil. After heating it in the oven, I topped each slice with cheese and heated them again to melt. Cheesy garlic bread: the perfect accompaniment to our fresh pasta!

If you’ve been shying away from homemade pasta because you don’t have a pasta machine, today’s the day to go for it! The taste will be worth it, but the feeling of accomplishment when you bite into your sweet, handmade ravioli is even better.

Billion Cheese Ravioli with Red Pepper Pancetta Sauce



Recipe by: Adapted from Annie’s Eats (pasta and ravioli); sauce adapted from Pioneer Woman, and Lissi
Yield: enough pasta to serve about 2 people

Ravioli Pasta Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon water, plus more as needed (I ended up using several full tablespoons)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole ricotta
1 cup 6-cheese Italian blend
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
fresh basil, chopped, to taste
fresh chives, chopped, to taste
fresh thyme, chopped, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
3 whole red bell peppers, roasted
3 tablespoons pine nuts
pancetta
3-4 tablespoons tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil
splash of wine or water
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup ricotta
splash heavy cream
Fresh Parmesan, shaved

Directions:
Make the pasta: In a food processor, combine the eggs, water, olive oil and flour. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well mixed and a dough begins to form. If the mixture is not coming together, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough is formed. Transfer the dough from the food processor to a work surface. Knead 1-2 minutes by hand. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Knead again for 1-2 minutes, or until dough starts to feel more supple and elastic. Let rest for another 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. If you have a pasta machine, see instructions here for how to prepare the sheets of dough. If not, roll one piece of the dough out on a lightly floured surface, pressing hard and rolling diligently until the dough is very thin. Use a large heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out ravioli pieces. Let these rest while you mix your filling.

Mix filling: Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Taste and season accordingly.

Assemble ravioli: Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of half of the heart shapes, leaving a clear edge around the perimeter. Dip a finger in water and lightly brush around the edges of a heart topped with the filling. Place one of the remaining pasta hearts on top and press the edges of the pasta shapes together to seal around the filling, being careful to press out any excess air. Repeat with the remaining dough shapes.

Make the sauce: Lightly toast pine nuts in a skillet. Puree peppers with pine nuts. Set aside. Lightly fry pancetta to release fat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Slide this mixture to the side of the pan. Add 3-4 tablespoons tomato puree and cook until slightly caramelized. (I put my pasta water on to boil right around now). Add a splash of wine and scrape bottom of the pan to get all the good bits into the sauce. Pour in pepper puree and stir together, seasoning with salt to taste. Pour in cream and ricotta and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.

Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain well and add ravioli to the sauce, tossing to coat. Serve with a spring of basil and shaved Parmesan.


Valentine’s Day dinner for two.


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