potato salad

Back in April, I took my adorable niece to the LA Arboretum for their Beatrix Potter in the Garden Easter Celebration. We spent the day together having brunch with Peter Rabbit, listening to story-time tales with Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, shopping with Ginger & Pickles, roaming through Mr. McGregor’s Garden, and of course, hunting for Easter eggs with Flopsy, Mopsy, & Cotton-tail.

Before the day was over, we headed back to Mr. McGregor’s Garden for some radish-picking and got a few of our own radish seeds to plant in a pot. Since my niece was visiting me from San Francisco, she left the pot of planted radish seeds in my care. They actually started sprouting a couple days later and eventually outgrew the pot. Anthony and I replanted it next to our heirloom tomatoes and now, almost closing-in on July, the radishes are finally ready for picking! Beautifully red with pinkish hues and great, big, dark green leaves, they really do look pretty enough to eat =P

Since they were picked fresh this morning, I really wanted to enjoy them in their raw state. And looking outside the kitchen window, I knew it was going to be another beautiful day in sunny California… a perfect day for picnicking and potato salad =D

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french tomato tart

Yes, it’s true. It’s no coincidence that three out of our four recipes so far this month, including our exclusive newsletter recipe, have basil in it. In an effort to expand our ‘living pantry,’ we went out got ourselves a basil plant =) And since it is summertime and the leaves are bountiful, we couldn’t help but resist picking them fresh and using them in another recipe… this time around, in a crisp, sweet tomato tart.

This tart is truly made the French way, where every element is cooked separately and then brought together in the end for a beautifully delicious finish. The tomato confit takes about two hours to slowly dry in the oven, but oh boy, is it worth it =P Confit is a general means of preservation by immersing food in a substance, usually fat or sugar, but in our case, it’s olive oil. Slow-roasting the tomato petals with olive oil brings out every bit of goodness in the tomato… all that is sweet and wonderful =D

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penne alla vodka

If I had to guess who I was in my past life, I’d have to say an Italian =P  Italians can take a few simple ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, shallots, olive oil, a bit of cream and a splash of vodka and make something so comforting, so heart-warming and incredibly soul-satisfying that it just brings you back home, no matter where you are or who you’re with at the time. It’s no wonder that Rachel Ray called her version of penne alla vodka, You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta =P

Our version of penne alla vodka is a bit simpler, but sometimes the simplest solution just so happens to be the best ;)

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the right knife for the job

On our very first day of culinary school, we were each presented with our very own knife set, complete with more than fifteen knives of various shapes and sizes and other sharp objects, some of which I had absolutely no clue as to what they were used for, but one thing was for sure: they were all incredibly sharp. Naturally, the first thing they taught us was how to use our knives properly as there’s a right knife for every job. After all, you shouldn’t use a paring knife to French a rack of lamb just as you wouldn’t use a paint brush to paint a room, right? It’d surely wear you out faster and take you a whole lot longer.

With the right knife at hand, you can reduce the amount of time and energy you spend on prep work and make your life a whole lot easier in the kitchen. (Not to mention, impress your friends and family with your awesome knife skills!)

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checklist: le creuset

To make a proper pot of stew, beef bourguignon, roast chicken, chowder, bouillabaisse, coq au vin, cassoulet, or just about anything braised, slow-roasted or simmered, you’ll need to use the best and freshest ingredients you can get your hands on… but to make it out of this world, you’ll also need the proper cookware, and that’s where Le Creuset comes into play.

Le Creuset’s enameled cast-iron, round French oven is probably one of my best investments in cookware as I’ve already seen profitable returns in the form of countless delicious meals and with its lifetime warranty, there’s sure to be plenty more for perhaps generations to come? ;)

Our blue 3 1/2-quart oven is just the right size for us, but then again, we are just a family of two… for now =P It’s not quite big enough to hold a large chicken or whole pot roast, but it’s perfectly sized for a young chicken, cornish game hens or half a pot roast… and just about everything else =) It’s not so big that I have to move around shelves and stuff in the fridge to make room for it and also not so heavy that I have to grunt every time I take it out of the oven and onto the stovetop. Nevertheless, it’s still a good workout =P

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