Ratatouille with Goat Cheese and Basil Pistou

Image 10-12-17 at 2.29 PM.jpg



Yield: 6 to 8 servings

This dish probably won’t grab your attention right away, but it should.  Tender vegetables, topped with tangy goat cheese and silky basil pistou will have the Francophile in you screaming for joy!  I first had this at a restaurant when someone else ordered it (because GASP! This would not grab my attention on a menu) and thought about it with regularity until I went back and ordered it for myself a few months later.  Omit the goat cheese and pistou (if you dare) to make a traditional ratatouille…but really, you’re gonna want to keep them.  The zucchini will take the longest to cook, so when you’re tasting for doneness, make sure to grab a bite of zucchini.


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oilå

1 large onion, chopped

1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 yellow pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 spring of fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces goat cheese


1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/3 to 1/2 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large Dutch oven or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and translucent.  Add the eggplant and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes more.  Add the zucchini, bell peppers and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes longer.  Add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf, stirring to combine.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook for 15 minutes longer, until the vegetables are completely tender and most of the liquid has been released.  Taste for seasonings and adjust, as necessary.


Make the pistou while the vegetables are cooking: combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to finely chop.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing to make a slightly chunky but homogenous sauce.  Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Preheat the oven to 350° and transfer the vegetables to a large baking dish, draining off some of the liquid before transferring.  Crumble the goat cheese on top and bake for approximately 10 minutes, until the goat cheese has softened.  Remove from the oven and drizzle the pistou over the top.  Serve as a side dish or with toasted bread slices.


Coconut-White Chocolate Scones



Yield: 8 to 10 scones

I had a disastrous experience trying to perfect some strawberry muffins for y’all and I needed some reassurance that I wasn’t a total failure at baking so I whipped up some of these scones.  These come from the fabulous blog, What’s Gaby Cooking.  I follow her on social media and watched her snap some delicious raspberry-white chocolate scones for Mother’s Day and after a quick search on her site, found these babies just screaming for me to make them.  I just happened to have some coconut cream from that creamy coconut rice that you all should have made already, and I needed to use it up stat.  P.S. if you haven’t already gone to What’s Gaby Cooking, you really should…her food is delicious, fresh and beautiful.  P.S.S. (or P.P.S.? I never know) you should also follow her on social media because she’s super cute and entertaining.


2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

5 tablespoons cold butter, coarsely grated with a box grater

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top


1/4 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk)

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 to 2/3 confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut, for topping


Preheat the oven to 400°.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.


Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and whisk to combine.  Add the grated butter and, using a fork, toss to combine until you see butter running throughout the flour mixture.  Add the coconut and white chocolate chips and stir to combine.  In a measuring cup, combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the heavy cream.  Gently mix the ingredients together, taking care not to overmix the dough.  The dough should not be sticky and just come together.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle approximately 1/2-inch-thick.  Cut the dough into 8 to 10 wedges and transfer to the parchment-lined sheet.  Alternatively, you can use a scoop to form 10 to 12 small mounds of dough.  Brush heavy cream on top of each scone and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until lightly golden brown.


Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.  If you are using coconut milk, you may not need to add the heavy cream to achieve the right consistency.


In a small skillet, toast the coconut over medium heat, stirring frequently, until lightly golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Let the scones cool slightly; drizzle the glaze over top and sprinkle with the toasted coconut.


Inspiration: Vanilla Coconut Scones on


Shaking Beef



Yield: 4 servings

This is the signature dish from The Slanted Door, a modern and trendy Vietnamese restaurant in the Ferry Building in San Francisco.  I ate there on a trip last year and was so impressed by the food.  I’m pretty sure we ordered half the menu between two people, but there were so many mouthwatering items on the menu.  If you ever have the opportunity to go (which you should), I highly recommend the papaya salad, crispy Imperial rolls, and this dish, of course.  This recipe is from The Slanted Door cookbook, which I’ve rewritten slightly for simplicity and because I prefer the onions a little softer than the recipe calls for and adding some arugula to the traditional watercress for that peppery bite.  I’ve made this several times in the few months since I returned from my trip and it’s perfect for someone who eats a low-carb diet (MOM).



2 pounds trimmed beef tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup light soy sauce

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce


Juice of 2 limes

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


3 to 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

5 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces watercress and/or arugula, thick stems removed


In a mixing bowl, combine the beef cubes, 1 tablespoon oil, sugar, salt and pepper, tossing thoroughly to coat.  Let marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.


In a small bowl, combine all of the sauce ingredients and stir to dissolve the sugar.


In another small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the lime dipping sauce and set aside until ready to serve.


Heat the largest skillet you have over high heat for at least 5 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup of the oil; it should start to heat and shimmer right away.  Add the beef in a single layer and sear for approximately 3 minutes until browned on the first side; stand back because the oil will violently spatter.  Using tongs, turn the beef cubes onto the other side and sear for 1 minute more.  You will have to sear the beef in two batches.  When all of the beef is seared, add half of the soy-vinegar sauce and 1 tablespoon of butter, shaking the pan to ensure all of the beef is coated in sauce.  Allow to cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more.  Remove the beef to a bowl and set aside.


Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the pan and add the sliced red onions and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Over high heat, cook the red onions, stirring constantly, until softened and translucent, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Add the green onions and garlic and cook for 1 minute more.  Add the remaining soy-vinegar sauce and 1 tablespoon of butter and shake the pan again to coat.  Add the beef back to the pan and allow to cook for 1 minute more to allow all the flavors to combine.   Remove from the heat.


Add a handful of greens to each serving plate and spoon the beef-onion mixture on top, draining off the sauce.  Serve with the lime dipping sauce.


Inspiration: Shaking Beef, The Slanted Door by Charles Phan


Random Musings

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.”— Carl Jung

Hey friends, are you still out there?  I’m here!  I promise I haven’t forgotten about you…I just had to spend some time with myself.  Life and my dreams had quite a hold on me and I couldn’t break free.  Now, my mind is much more clear and I decided to make some major life changes.  I’m following my heart and my heart tells me to cook!  I’m leaving my job (11 years…I’m scared!) and moving closer to family, friends and more opportunities.  I’m going to make something of myself doing what I love to do, so stay tuned!  I’ll have tons of recipes coming in September.  I will hopefully have a few business plans to share with you too!  Thanks for sticking around and keeping me company while I found myself.  I appreciate you.


Burrata with Pickled Cherry Peppers and Tomatoes





Yield: 1-2 as a main course salad, 4 as an appetizer

Hey friends, I know I’ve been absent for a bit.  Life got ahold of me and wouldn’t let go.  But what better way to get back into it than with…

Burrata…oh how I love thee.  My life was forever changed when I had my first taste of this creamy masterpiece of a cheese.  I remember everything about that day.  Now, my life’s mission is to incorporate burrata into every possible dish I can.  This is a beautiful light appetizer that can easily double as a salad for one to two people (I mean, I can eat the whole thing by myself…don’t kid yourself).  The pickled peppers and tomatoes cut through the richness of the creamy cheese, and the arugula provides a peppery bite, and turns this into a more substantial starter.  It’s a Caprese salad reinvented with burrata, arugula and pickled peppers and tomatoes.


1 ounce baby arugula

1/4 cup loosely packed basil, cut into chiffonade

1 to 2 balls of burrata

2 tablespoons thick balsamic vinegar (glaze), plus more to taste*

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


16 cherry peppers, rinsed

2 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cloves garlic, cut into thirds

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved/quartered (depending on the size)


1/2 baguette, sliced thinly into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


*If you do not have a high-quality thick balsamic vinegar, you can reduce your balsamic over medium heat for approximately 9 to 12 minutes, or until thick and syrupy.  Take care not to boil for too long or over too high of heat, or you will end up with balsamic caramel.


**For a quicker recipe, Trader Joe’s sells pickled cherry peppers.  Drain the peppers and cut into slices; halve the cherry tomatoes.  Pour some of the pickling liquid from the jar over both the peppers and tomatoes in a small bowl and sprinkle with salt.  Allow to sit in the liquid for at least 30 minutes to pick up the flavors.


To make the pickled peppers and tomatoes: remove the stems of the cherry peppers.  Combine the peppers, vinegar, water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  In the meantime, put the garlic, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a jar large enough to hold all the peppers and liquid.  Once the mixture has come to a boil, pour into the jar and cool with the lid off for at least 30 minutes.  Store in the refrigerator once cooled and reserve until ready to use.  Approximately 30 minutes before you want to serve, remove about 8 cherry peppers and slice into thin strips.  Place into a bowl with about 1/2 cup of the brine and the quartered cherry tomatoes and allow to sit until ready to serve.  You will have about twice the amount you need for this recipe, but you can store in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Alternatively, if you can find high-quality store-bought pickled cherry peppers, you can use these, following the recipe at the point of removing the cherry peppers from the brine to prepare to serve.


Preheat the oven to 400°.  Lay the sliced baguette on a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for approximately 7 to 9 minutes, until the crostini are golden brown.


Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of the balsamic around the plate.  Arrange the arugula and basil on a serving plate.  Place the burrata in the center and arrange the pickled peppers and tomatoes around the burrata, ensuring to drain the brine before adding to the platter.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar over the top of the salad.  Serve with the crostini.


Caramelized Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats





Yield: 25 to 30 squares

This has an absolutely obscene, almost embarrassing amount of butter.  These are so rich that you really can only eat just one, so this will serve a crowd.  I love Rice Krispies that are soft and gooey long after they cool, and these are just that.  For an extra-rich treat, go ahead and add a full pound of butter…it makes the treats even gooier!


3/4 pound (3 sticks), salted butter

Two 10-1/2-ounce bag marshmallows

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

One 12-ounce box Rice Krispies cereal


Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet by buttering the bottom and sides.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  It will melt, separate into milk solids and clear butter, foam and then start browning.  It will take a lot longer than you think it will, but do not venture far and stir often, because once it starts to brown, it will go quickly.  Once the butter is browned and smells nutty, add the marshmallows.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the marshmallows melt.  Once the marshmallows melt, begin whisking until the butter and marshmallows are a homogenous mixture.  Add the salt and vanilla extract, and continue to cook the mixture until lightly browned, about 4 to 6 minutes.


Turn off the heat and add the Rice Krispies.  Mix well using a silicone spatula.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking sheet and press down lightly. Let cool, and cut into small squares.


Inspiration: Caramelized Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats, The Essential New York Times Cookbook by Amanda Hesser


Mozzarella en Carozza




Yield: 2 to 4 servings, depending on the size of your loaf of bread and if you serve half sandwiches

In Italian, mozzarella en carozza means mozzarella in a carriage.  This sandwich is basically the baby of grilled cheese and French toast. I know it sounds weird to fry a grilled cheese, but remember, the temperature of the oil is the key to frying, and having the oil at the proper temperature significantly reduces the amount of oil absorbed by whatever you’re frying.


4 ounces whole-milk or fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

4 slices good sandwich bread (like from a bakery!)

4 eggs, stirred with salt and pepper

1/2 cup flour, stirred with salt and pepper

Basil and/or microgreens for garnish, if desired


Preheat the oven to 300°.  Add vegetable oil to a large cast-iron skillet until you have about 1/2-inch of oil.  Heat over medium heat until the temperature reaches about 350°.  Dredge sandwiches in flour mixture and pass through the egg mixture right before you are going to fry them.  Place sandwiches in skillet and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until lightly golden.  Line a large baking sheet with paper towels and drain the sandwiches after frying.  Place the pan in oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese, or for the amount of time it takes you to load the dishwasher!  Let stand for 2 minutes before slicing in half so your cheese stays in the sandwich.  Garnish with basil or microgreens and marinara sauce, if you like.  Serve each person a half sandwich for a starter!