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Summer Caprese(s)

PeachCapreseA couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend at the Four Seasons Palo Alto for a couple of girlfriends’ birthdays. While it’s largely a business(y) hotel, it’s also a great weekend retreat. For a couple of reasons: 1) it’s not crowded on the weekends when the business types go back home, and 2) their food and bar program is amazeballs. Note: this is the first time I’ve used the term “amazeballs,” something I swore I’d never do, but whatever. I’m practicing flexibility.

So Saturday night at dinner at Quattro we had this grilled peach caprese that was perfect. And of course it became my new mission to replicate it. Can’t be so hard, right? Tomato, mozzarella, basil and some peaches. Balsamic and olive oil. Done and done. But, just in case you want to know how I did it…here you are:

I grilled the peaches using walnut oil and was very happy with the result. You’ll notice in the photo my slices are somewhat small and that’s probably the one thing I’d adjust…use two of same size or go for a larger slice. The peach flavor was slightly overpowered by the rest and should be beefed up. If you’re a basil hound, use two leaves instead of one.

But the coup de grace? This fantastic dressing recipe I found on Kitchen Konfidence. It definitely made the dish and my happy guests smile.

While we’re on the subject of caprese(s), I’ll give you one more. This one I threw together last summer when home visiting family. You’ve got your basil and tomatoes. I used red and yellow pear heirlooms for color and flavor. Burratta cheese. And added blueberries. Reduced balsamic and olive oil to dress it. I’ve found thinner, cheaper balsamics tend to reduce better than their more refined peers, in case you were wondering.

And I just looked in the fridge and noticed a bunch of figs. Which is great because I’ve still got a ton of basil, tomatoes and mozzarella. Yes, I’m a bit obsessive and yes, I’ll likely not want caprese for a couple of years by the time I’m done experimenting.  If it’s good, I’ll be back…

A table full of fun. Ready for some curry.

A table full of fun. Ready for some curry.

A funny thing happened where I was assumed to be a food blogger and was then able to attend the media day for Chef Nooror Somany-Steppe’s upcoming Thai cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. Those of you who know my love for cooking and super sleuth like attention to proper ingredients and techniques will find the humor in this story because you’ll be able to picture me secretly geeking out the whole time I was in the great big fabulous training kitchen. Particularly if you’re my Mom, who’s been scolded on more than one occasion for trying to improvise ingredients for holiday cooking. And you’ll really understand my excitement when I learned we got to take our aprons home. I’m really not normal. I suppose I could have come clean with the fact that I’m not really a food blogger, but then again, I do occasionally blog about food. Like now. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to think I was some sort of undercover spy. Very Bond-like.

Side note: this was the first day “real” eating could happen after a 13 day Master Cleanse, so you can imagine how excited my stomach was too. Especially when we were learning how to make Tom Kha Kai (coconut milk soup with chicken), Massaman Lamb (Massaman curry wth lamb), Pla Koong Avocado (prawns salad with avocado) and Chor Muang (steamed flower-shaped dumplings).

Chef Nooror (R) & Chef Sandra (L)

Chef Nooror (R) & Chef Sandra (L)

So Chef Nooror and her daughter Chef Sandra had just gotten in from Bangkok about 48 hours prior. A darling team those two. Chef Nooror gets down to business while her daughter supplements the atmosphere with great stories and anecdotes about her Mom, their family, and their business.  One of my faves was Sandra talking about her Mom’s wishes to walk along Venice Beach in torn jeans, to which Chef Nooror replied, “I love to wear the broken jeans!” There was a theme of differences between America and Thailand, mostly as it related to food. While I can’t share Chef Nooror’s recipes, I can share those differences and some great Thai cooking tips:

1) In Thailand, if a man wants to find a wife he would judge her character by the way she pounds her curry. A stronger pounder is apparently bossy, a softer pounder more gentle.

2) Coriander root is a common ingredient in Thai food that is not so common in the US. Use cilantro stems instead if you have to.

3) If you’re going to make a dish with raw lemongrass, marinate it in fresh lime juice to bring out color and enhance flavor.

4) White palm sugar is thought to be of better quality than brown palm sugar.

5) American coconut milk and cream is too rich and creamy. Water it down a bit for the right consistency.

6) The root of lemongrass, or thicker end, has a better taste and quality so start on that end when your slicing it. You can also remove the outer layer and slice the rest.

All ready to get aromatic.

All ready to get aromatic.

7) If you want to make Thai food from scratch you’re gonna need a big heavy mortar and pestle ’cause there’s a lot of pounding and grinding to do until things get “aromatic.”

8) Be careful with fish sauce because it likes to dominate. Use sparingly and increase to taste from there.

9) Smashing ingredients before putting them in a pot of broth helps spread the flavor love. And it’s more fun than slicing…sort of cavemanish.

10) Thai garlic is stronger and better quality than traditional garlic.

11) When sauteing protein with oil, place the protein in the pan and then drizzle with oil to avoid things getting too oily. I know…why didn’t I think of that?!?

12) And saving the best for last…”Everything’s bigger in America.” We were talking about shallots and the like, but the crowd couldn’t resist a few laughs on that one.

Galangal on the left. Say it five times fast.

Galangal on the left. Say it five times fast.

Chef Nooror is the owner of the global Blue Elephant Restaurant Group, a cookbook author and owner of the Blue Elephant cooking school. She opened her first Blue Elephant Restaurant in Belgium in 1980 and since then, has expanded to 13 locations throughout Europe and is known as an ambassador for Thai cuisine. Her class is great, so if you’ve ever wanted to improve your Thai cooking skills, or even get them started, get down to Le Cordon Bleu Pasadena. You’ll walk away with some mad new skills. I even met two great food bloggers, Johanna from Low Sodium Blog and Mona from Cook This Get Laid (and Mona turned me on to A Market in Echo Park – one of those awesome markets where you can get all those ingredients you can’t find anywhere because normal people don’t buy them).


Classes Open to the Public

  • ·         Friday, April 26 from 2-6 p.m.: Appetizers taught by Chef Nooror
  • ·         Saturday, April 27 from 2-6 p.m.: Steamed and Stir-Fried taught by Chef Nooror
  • ·         Wednesday, May 1 from 2-6 p.m.: Soup, Satay and Salad taught by Chef Sandra
  • ·         Friday, May 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Soup and Stir-Fry taught by Chef Sandra
  • ·         Friday, May 3 from 2-6 p.m.: Soup, Curry, Stir-Fry and Salad taught by Chef Sandra
  • ·         To register for any of these classes, click here.

And one more thing: if you think cooking next to a Sous Chef from Craft is a good idea, think again. It’s kinda like trying to dance Swan Lake next to Rudolf Nureyev. Back in the day of course.

bigstock-Half_dozen_fresh_eggs_in_box_made_of_recycled_paper-27183092Easter gives us all sorts of reasons to think about eggs. Who doesn’t reminisce over the vinegary smell that fills the house when you’re coloring eggs? It’s akin to liking the smell of gasoline I guess, but nonetheless, we’ve all got fun memories of coloring eggs as kids and now doing it as adults with the little ones.

But forget about the decorative things we do to eggs, I wanna talk about eating them. Breakfast has always been a favored meal for me, so in honor of the Easter weekend and all it’s egg glory, I’ll leave you with two of my current faves. These both started as recipes I found from someone else, but have morphed along the way and I don’t remember their origins. So to those who helped…my sincerest thank yous.

Both of these involved poaching. You can really make your eggs however you’d like, but poaching is my preference. Easiest way to make the perfect poached egg? Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil with about a tablespoon of vinegar (it really does help the whites coagulate and I usually use white wine vinegar). Break your eggs into individual cups. Turn off the water and let sit for about 2 minutes. Dump in the eggs and cover. In about 10 minutes you’ll have perfectly poached eggs to drain out with a slotted spoon.

Sweet Potato Benedict

Take your sweet potatoes and cut into half inch(ish) slices, massage with coconut oil, and bake at 400 until browned, flipping halfway through. Roast asparagus or saute some spinach using coconut oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and some fresh lemon juice. Pile everything up sweet potatoes, then veggies, and finally your eggs to make a healthy version of a benedict that everyone I’ve ever fed loves. If you’re feeling crazy you can add on some hollandaise, but honestly, it’s better without it. But the saucy types might want it, so if you’re so inclined have at it.

Kale Egg Bowl

I’ve been having a lot of this one lately. You can prepare the brown rice ahead of time by placing two parts water to one part short grain brown rice in a rice cooker. For each cup of rice add 3 or so quarter inch slices of fresh ginger, a couple of whole peeled garlic cloves, and a healthy dose of turmeric. Saute some lacinto kale in coconut oil and minced garlic. Put the two in a bowl with your poached eggs (about 1/2 cup rice, 1 cup kale and 2 eggs) adding chopped green onions and vietnamese chili paste. EAT.

I’m writing on a whim so I’ll have to add pictures the next time I make these. But for know, some healthier brunch egg recipes for your weekend eats. Happy Easter and to those celebrating Passover, Chag Sameach!

2013-03-14 15.27.16It’s been a while since I’ve posted about food stuff. Probably a sign I’ve been too focused on work.

But after a long love affair with green juices, I’ve added green smoothies to the mix and I’m OBSESSED. Like a junkie needing their crack, I HAVE to have some form of green smoothie every day. My reason for sharing? I feel it’s a really good way to get those greens in and even more so for those who don’t love ’em like I do. Why? Because you can sweeten your concoctions up with fruit and not even notice their green ingredients. So if you’re reading this and have veggie haters in your life, keep reading because this is a tried and true trick for sneaking in those vital greens.

Trick #1: Spinach. You can throw gobs of the stuff into any smoothie and never know it’s there. A great way to get some raw greens down and it doesn’t change the flavor a bit.

My personal favorite:
1 cup frozen cherries
2 scoops chocolate protein powder
1/2 frozen banana (optional)
1 TB chia seeds
A few ice cubes
Coconut water to your liking
Fill the rest of the blender with fresh organic spinach

Trick #2: Kale. Not quite as sneaky as the spinach though. This one you can taste and see. Very green. It’s definitely for those with a greater affinity for eating green things. But for newcomers to the kale revolution, this is a winner. Great way to get it down in bulk.

Here’s my reco:
8-10 ice cubes
3/4 cup fresh pineapple
2 scoops vanilla protein powder
Coconut water to your liking
Fill the rest of the blender with fresh organic kale (lacinto for me)

This one looks like a Shamrock Shake when all is said and done, so in honor of that, HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY!! Not once in my days of drinking green beer did I ever think I’d celebrate with a green smoothie. Whatever. Stranger things have happened.

So yeah, not exactly insurance nonsense, but it’s good to venture away from it once in a while. Otherwise you might think we’re boring or something. And green smoothies certainly change that…



A little Thanksgiving love from all of us at The Insurist. Enjoy, be well and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Click here to see what’s on our table this week :)

Biscuits Be Gone

This week was spent in Atlanta for the Operation Hope Global Financial Dignity Summit. I’ll spend more time on that subject over the weekend when I’m not playing mad catch up. An absolutely GREAT event with great people, great content, and an in person performance by Ben Bernanke. Ok, so performance is a strong word, but he did talk about the housing market.

Food in the South is generally in the to die for category, but it’s not exactly light. And not so green either. In my plight yesterday morning to vegetize, I asked to substitute my breakfast potatoes with a side of spinach and was sorely disappointed when my dream of a mountain of little green leaves was crushed by a ramekin of frozen nonsense. Not that it was Georgia’s fault. It happens in California too. I did find some delicious fried green beans. At least they were green on the inside.

So I woke up this morning dedicated to filling up with as many raw nutrients as possible. This made lunch a juicing adventure and one I had to share. It delivered a sweet flavor made up of the following:

3 carrots

2 gala apples

2 stalks of celery

1 slice of lemon

1 crown of broccoli, stem included

3 slices of ginger

I’m calling it “Biscuits Be Gone.”  You might think it’s a strange combo, but it’s really good. Light and sweet and the color of pumpkin.

On that note…another fun one is Pumpkin juice. Get crazy.


This all started as a hunt for what to do with the persimmons in last week’s CSA box.

The answer? A little pumpernickel persimmon salsa appetizer, courtesy of Kristine Kidd over at Bon Appetit. BTW, head over to their site. The Halloween logo is great. And so is this recipe: Best with the Smoked Salmon and Pumpernickel and you can use the rest with the Balsamic Glazed Turkey you make for your main.

You’ll notice the persimmon page talks about “The Cure for the Common Turkey,” which lead me to the Balsamic Glazed Turkey recipe on Epicurious. An old favorite I’ve made a million times (ok, maybe not quite a million) and it’s always a hit. You literally throw it in the oven and have a perfect turkey breast 45 minutes later. I’m going to forego the onion bell pepper saute tonight and turn to the Barefoot Contessa for a little roasting. Broccoli and sweet potatoes that is.

Ina Garten does a great roasted broccoli that can get even those anti green thing people to eat it (seriously). I first ran across it at the Amateur Gourmet, calling it “The Best Broccoli of Your Life.” They weren’t kidding.

And fade to Ina again, some roasted sweet potatoes to top things off.

So there you have  it. What started as a persimmon hunt ended with a cleaning out of all produce on hand, just in time for my departure tomorrow. Call me a master of efficiency. I am ;)

Cheers! ~M

Words with friends, football, and a fridge full of fresh produce.

What’s a girl to do other than cook a big brunch to make it the perfect Sunday? Well, perfect other than the 93 degree weather in the middle of October. I’m ready for sweaters, stews, impending holidays and a little rain. NO MORE HEAT PLEASE.

If you’ve been reading with me over the last couple of months you know I’ve been on a juice kick and have been consuming a lot of beets, juiced and solid. When a friend pointed out this beet hash recipe from Whole Living magazine, I couldn’t resist (plus eating my first egg in over a month felt like sneaking out of the house at 16). A few things to note:

1) I used purple sweet potatoes and they were delish.
2) Take their suggestion to poach the eggs as opposed to making the little wells in the recipe.
3) Go heavy on the parsley and onion.

I’m like so Martha Stewart today. Happy Brunching!!

Oh Baby Dahl…

I’ve been making Dahl since I stumbled across Hail Merry’s recipe last October. Trust me on this one…the perks she promises are all real. This is one of the best kept secrets to feeling and looking good I’ve seen in a long time. And with fall coming down the pike, who doesn’t love a big pot of hearty food?

Couple of notes:

Last night I made it with okinawan purple sweet potatoes and it might just be the best version yet. Word of caution…the purple variety takes longer to cook than other varieties, so keep that in mind. They’re worth it though (If you haven’t had these, get on it. The purple ones are so sweet you can eat them plain for dessert.). They’re not found in the usual places either. Japanese markets are a good place to start. I get mine from a great farmer at the Channel Islands Farmers Market).

I tend to double the flavor/spice ingredients in almost any recipe I use, and this one’s no exception. It does get pretty hot, so if that’s not your pleasure, hold back on the jalapeno.

It’s delicious with or without the cilantro and avocado.

I’ve eaten this Dahl with the Cardamom Brown Rice and my own. Both are delish. My concoction throws the brown rice in the rice cooker with 9  – 10 whole garlic cloves, a nice big sliced piece of fresh ginger, a big dash of turmeric, and a splash of olive oil.  To be honest, you can also skip the rice and it’s totally satisfying.

Having a big pot of this on hand is great for the busy types, as it’s a great snack or quick bite once you’ve made it. Not to mention the prep of it is easy and relatively quick for the benefits involved.

Bottom line…if you’re into this kind of stuff, or in the mood for exploring something new, try this one. It’s a staple in my life and everyone I’ve introduced to it.

You can find the goods here: Hail Merry’s Dahl Recipe

Cheers for now!


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