Author Archives: Andrea

A Good Thing: Greek Yogurt with Mango

If I were Martha Stewart I’d add Greek yogurt with mango to the Good Things list.

This summer Greek yogurt usurped the place of cottage cheese and plain American yogurt in my diet. Who wouldn’t gladly surrender to a creamy, sweet snack jam-packed with protein and calcium but smacks of dessert?

Thicker and tarter than its American counterpart, Greek yogurt certainly gives you more bang for your buck. With 20 g protein, 0 g fat, 25% daily value of calcium and only 9 g sugar (compare that with 25+ g in traditional sweetened yogurt), an 8 oz. serving of FAGE‘s 0% yogurt weighs in at a reasonable 120 calories. So skip the Yoplait and Dannon Lights and pick up a carton of FAGE 0% Yogurt.

Mangoes aren’t the only fruit I’ve been adding to Greek yogurt lately. My August standby was peaches with a sprinkle of cinnamon, squeeze of honey and a couple walnuts. And topping Greek yogurt with frozen berries and a handful of crushed shredded wheat had me wondering whether I was eating dessert in the middle of the day.

Martha Stewart or not, I say Greek yogurt with mangoes is a Good Thing.

Mustard’s Grill

"Sorry, everything has ben delicious since 1983"

A couple weeks ago my parents and I went to Napa Valley to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We stopped at a couple wineries along the way, but the highlight of the day was dinner at Mustard’s Grill in Yountville. I had never been to Mustard’s, but I was familiar with the chef and owner Cindy Pawlcyn and her style of cooking because I had scoured the pages of her award-winning The Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. Meriting every ounce of its James Beard Foundation cookbook award, the oversized pages set forth glossy photographs of the chef and her staff at work, vegetables and herbs growing in the garden and the simple yet sophisticated finished dishes. Pawlcyn’s annotations to nearly every recipe oftentimes explain the origin of the recipe (wild rice and game inspired by her Minnesota childhood) and offer tips for the home cook, such as suitable substitutions for chanterelles (morels) or where to look for pickled ginger in the Asian food market (small plastic tubs in the produce section or in the refrigerator). The basics on Mustard’s “truck stop deluxe” menu are all there—pork chops, steak, ribs—but are done-up with that Napa Valley flair: beef tenderloin with Tres Salsas, veal chops with roasted red bell pepper and black olive relish or double lamb chops with tapenade and polenta . Mustard’s Grill, which has been open since 1983, was so well-received that Pawlcyn opened another restaurant, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena. Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen describes itself as “a local joint – hip, casual, not fussy.” It may be casual, but it is certainly not without spunk: the rabbit tostada I had there two summers ago was brilliant. Who would have thought of using rabbit in a tostada? Not to be slowed-down, Pawlcyn opened a sushi and small plates restaurant called Go Fish in 2006, also in St. Helena.

Back to Mustard’s. Before we went into the restaurant, we wandered around the raised beds and rows corn and squash in Mustard’s two-acre garden. Shiny orbs of eggplant hung from bending stems alongside zucchini and summer squash. Between the rows of corn, pink corn husks littered the ground. Green- and orange-mottled winter squash reminded me that autumn was just around the corner. The sun was mellowing in the sky, almost the amber late-afternoon light of autumn.

However peaceful the garden was outside, Mustard’s was all energy inside. With signs out front apologizing “Sorry, everything’s good here” and “Way too many wines” and the fierce loyalty of the locals, Mustard’s had to be busy. Our table was closer to the kitchen-a perfect spot for watching plates of baby rack ribs and piles of shoestring onion rings float by on servers’ arms. The restaurant was loud, but then again Mustard’s marketed itself as a truck stop deluxe.

We had secured a reservation, made the trek to Napa Valley and now faced our next task: ordering. Three-inch industrial looking binders, with “The Wine List” written in orange letters, showcased their extensive and eclectic wine list. Reading the menu and glancing over my shoulder multiple times at the specials board, I finally decided to order the Chipotle Rubbed Quail with Papaya Lime Chutney. The rabbit was tempting, but I’d had that at Pawlcyn’s other restaurant and wanted to broaden my knowledge of fowl. Entrée decided, I frantically scanned a condensed wine list, still overwhelmed by the choices. Our server recommended the Maranet Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, which was an excellent choice. Before we were served our entrees, we were given butter and a chunk of bread. No need for a bread basket—they just plunked it right on the table cloth. Aware of the imminent crumbs, though, the servers had their token scrapers in hand, ready to whisk away crumbs at a moment’s notice. When she brought my quail, our server anticipated my quandary of how to eat quail in a nice restaurant and whispered, “Most people cut it into quarters and pick it up with their fingers. You’d be here all night trying to eat that with a knife and fork.” I smiled thanks, cut my quail in quarters and picked up the toothpick-thin bones of quail. The quail was not as greasy as duck nor as mild as chicken, but somewhere in between the two. The spiciness of the chipotle rub counteracted any greasiness of the quail and the papaya lime chutney and stack of green beans were the perfect complement for the peppery quail—sweet, mild and flavorful. My mom had sea bass with a pesto sauce and my dad had steak, which they enjoyed.

Though we would have normally refused dessert, it was my dad’s birthday and we were in the market to splurge. We decided to split two desserts, a Jack Daniels bittersweet chocolate cake and a corn cake with blueberries. Our server also treated us to a piece of Mustard’s famous Lemon Tart with Brown Sugar Meringue. I’ve made and tasted my fair share of meringue, but this meringue was phenomenal: billowing high, caramel-colored wisps with that earthy, down-home sweetness of brown sugar.

We were stuffed, but it was worth it; a meal like this only comes around every so often and a birthday only comes once a year. I think my dad had a very good day—I know I did. So who has the next birthday?

Espresso Granita

A refreshing summer dessert.

Granitas are coarse ices, which are prepared by freezing coffee, wine, juice or other liquid and scraping ice crystals with the tines of a fork. Shirley O. Corriher, whose cookbook Cookwise is a textbook for Culinary Institute of America students, explains that sugar is the key to the texture of an ice. If you decide to omit the Kahlúa, increase the sugar to ½ cup as this maintains the proper sugar percentage in the dessert.

Ingredients
2 cups cool brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 cup heavy or whipping cream

Method

Stir together espresso, 1/3 cup sugar, Kahlúa and zest. Refrigerate at least an hour to chill well. Pour into a metal or plastic pan or bowl and place in the freezer. When ice crystals begin to form around the edge, stir well every 15 minutes until completely frozen. Fluff crystals lightly with a fork and leave in freezer to dry for about an hour before serving.


In a bowl with cold beaters, whip cream to firm peaks. Whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar. Spoon granita into sherbet glasses, top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

From Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher (William Morrow 1997).

Grilled Sourdough Panzanella

Panzanella is an Italian bread and tomato salad that is popular in summertime. Like much Umbrian and Tuscan cuisine, it was at first more practical than gourmet: a good solution for using day-old bread and summer’s plentiful tomatoes. Excellent served with grilled chicken. Also a good picnic food, but take the bread, vegetables and vinaigrette in separate containers, combining just before serving.

Serves 4-6.

Ingredients
4 – ½ ” thick slices sourdough bread
½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 ½ lb. ripe, meaty tomatoes, cut into ½ ” cubes (yielding 3½ cups)
1 small English cucumber, seeded and cut into ½ ” cubes (see note)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

Method

Brush the bread with ¼ c. olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle with ¼ t. kosher salt and black pepper. Grill on both sides until brown. Cut into ½ ” cubes when cool.

Soak the onion in the vinegar for 10 minutes. Drain the onions and reserve the vinegar, placing the onions in large bowl.

Sprinkle garlic with ¼ t. kosher salt and mash into a paste. Whisk mashed garlic into reserved vinegar. Add ¼ c. olive oil, ¼ t. kosher salt, 1/8 t. pepper until well combined.

Toss bread cubes, tomatoes, cucumber,basil, mint, capers and vinaigrette in the bowl with the green onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook’s Note:

To seed the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise then drag a small spoon or melon baller across the seedy flesh. The cucumber slices will be crescent-shaped.

From Fine Cooking (September 2008 No. 80).

Chiles Rellenos con Queso

In early August we had a mini-family reunion and chose Rancho Cooking as a theme for our meal, inspired by my mom’s new California Rancho Cooking cookbook. It was especially fun because Rancho Cooking, which fuses Spanish and Mexican food traditions, is rooted in the very place I live. The cookbook author, Jacqueline Higuera McMahan, tells stories of her great-uncle coaxing the coals of the fire to perfection or her great-grandmother making tortillas so they could make meals such as this one–and all just 30 miles from my home.

For our barbecue, we made the chiles rellenos con queso, which were a favorite at the party. Though the preparation can be tedious, the ingredients are few and the finished chiles taste delicious. We did not make the crusty chiles variation but opted for simplicity as this was a side dish. We used Monterey Jack cheese and uncooked flour tortillas, which we cooked briefly on the grill. A surefire party pleaser!

Ingredients

1 to 8 Anaheim, New Mexican or poblano chiles

½ cup grated cheese per chile, such as Monterey Jack, Italian Fontina, or Mexican Chihuahua

1 to 8 flour tortillas, warm (optional)

Method

Char each chile over a flame or on a grill and place under wet paper towels to steam for at least 10 minutes. Use a paper towel to help wipe off the charred skin. Leave bits of charred skin on for flavor.

Slit the chile down the side and shake out the seeds, or pull out the heavier seed pod of the pobalno if using that. Fill the chile with grated cheese. Place the chile on a dry griddle and cook until the cheese melts. Eat as is or wrapped in a tortilla, if desired.


Serves 1 to 8.


Variation: Crusty Chiles. Dip each cheese-filled chile in 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water. Spread ¼ cup bread crumbs per chile on a piece of waxed paper and place the chiles on top. Press the crumbs into the chiles. Place the chiles on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle each chile with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil or melted butter Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until golden, about 15 minutes.

Note: Place 4 to 5 slices of day-old French or Italian bread into a food processor. Add 2 sprigs parsley, 1 clove of garlic, and 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese. Grind bread into fluffy crumbs.

From California Rancho Cooking by Jacqueline Higuera McMahan (Sasquatch Books 2001).