Currently Snacking on….. Tomato and Ricotta Crostini

Tomato Ricotta Balsamic and Sea Salt Bruschetta by A Little Yumminess

This one’s in the running for summer’s most perfect bite. You can get quite creative and fancy with bruschetta, but sometimes simplicity rules. A slab of ciabatta layered with the best ricotta you can find (or make your own — it’s easy) and a simple salad of juicy farmers’ market tomatoes dressed liberally with balsamic vinegar, jewel green olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and flakey sea salt. We could eat this everyday and twice on Sunday.

Flavor Brigade: Italian Ice in Oakland!

Flavor BrigadeItalian ice hasn’t quite “become a thing” the Bay Area — at least not yet. In fact the only place we know of that specializes in it is Flavor Brigade on Fruitvale Ave in Oakland. We make it a point to try and position ourselves in the vicinity of Flavor Brigade as often as possible so we have an excuse to stop in for some Philly style “water ice” (another name for Italian ice). If we lived closer, I’m pretty sure we’d be there ALL the time. Continue reading

Summer Cooking To-Do List

Summer Cookin

Summer Cookin' 2015

An inspiration board for our summer of kids’ cooking.

 

As we were having dinner after the last day of school, I invited the kids to come up with a list of things they wanted to cook this summer. While they are pretty interested in cooking in general, when they come up with the cooking projects themselves it’s a whole different ballgame. They put their heads together and in about 2 minutes had come up with the following list, with some things I might have predicted and a few surprises too. While it would be nice to see more veggies and whole grains make the list, at the end of the day the most important ingredient is always enthusiasm. That’s the starting point for everything. We’ll plan a few trips to our gorgeous summer farmers’ markets which I’m sure will provide some extra inspiration too. Continue reading

Peruvian-Chinese Grilled Chicken

 

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Peruvian Grilled Chicken Marinade_A Little Yumminess.jpg

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We discovered this absolutely great marinade for grilled chicken recently and I wanted to share because it’s a good one for all those summer BBQs coming around the corner, and really for any time of the year if you turn to your broiler instead. The marinade combines some familiar flavors in a really tasty way: soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, paprika and cumin. It’s actually a pretty interesting cultural and culinary story when you think of it…. the fusion food legacy that came directly out of a Southern Chinese immigration to Peru (mainly Lima) in the early 20th century. I’ve heard from homesick friends from India about their beloved Indian-Chinese food, but Peruvian-Chinese food is a new one for me and a topic I can’t wait to continue to explore. Continue reading

All Natural DIY Shave Ice

DIY Hawaiian Shave Ice by A Little Yumminess  DIY Shave Ice A LittleYumminessI certainly wouldn’t call a shave ice maker a kitchen essential, but it sure is fun…. and it’s loads cheaper than a trip to Hawaii. We recently purchased  this cheapie Hawaiian Shave Ice brand shave ice maker and finally got to to trying it out this week. I’m sure the more deluxe models out there have their advantages, but we were quite happy with the results this one produced. The ice was fluffy and machine was quick and easy to use — even my 5 year old was able to operate it (but there are sharp bits inside the machine, so supervision is key). I will admit to enjoying the intensely hued, artificial syrup versions from the shave ice shops in Hawaii, but for our own experiment we tried using more healthful pureed fruit, sweetened up with  simple syrup and a little lilikoi jam we brought back from Hawaii. Our combination of raspberry and pineapple/lilikoi was spot on  — fantastically bright and sweet enough to pass for the “real” thing. With our maiden voyage of DIY shave ice under our belts, our minds are going wild with visions of “shave ice innovations” in our future.

DIY, All-Natural Shave Ice  (not so much a recipe as some ideas to get you started)

  • Freeze your ice using the mold included with the shave ice machine using plain old water (this is what we did)……or infuse flavor into your ice by adding juice or condensed milk to your water. The condensed milk will give your shave ice a more Taiwanese Sno Ice twist.
  • In a blender puree fresh or frozen fruit (bright, vibrant ones will  give you that real shave ice feel). Try raspberries, pineapple, mangoes, blackberries, peach, watermelon, pink grapefruit….. Sweeten your puree as needed with a simple syrup (see below) or a dallop of jelly or jam. The final consistency should be pourable and syrupy. You could thin your puree with either juice or water, but be careful of watering your puree down too much flavor-wise. As the shave ice melts into your syrup the flavor will become more muted. [We sweetened our raspberry puree with simple syrup and gave our pineapple puree a little extra yum with a glug of lilikoi jam. We fitted some Pellegrino bottles with cheap bottle pourers to dispense our purees, but you could certainly spoon your puree right over your shave ice too]
  • Optional – trick out your shave ice, Hawaiian style, with a scoop of ice cream at the bottom, a scoop of azuki beas or a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk or sweetened coconut milk.

Simple Syrup
Using a ratio of 1 part water to 1 part granulated sugar, add the water and sugar to a sauce pan and heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Your simple syrup will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed bottle or jar for several months. You can infuse your simple syrup with ginger, lemon, mint, spices or other flavors you like. Just add a generous amount of your flavoring (roughly chopped mint leaves, thick slices of ginger, curls of lemon zest, whole spices or etc) and let them steep in the warm syrup for about a half hour, then strain out the solids. An infused simple syrup is great for sweetening your iced tea too!

You may like these other frozen delights: Pink Grapefruit Granita, Pomegranate Ice, Kulfi: Indian Ice Milk PopsTaiwanese Sno Ice, Fluffy Sno (more Taiwanese Sno Ice)

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese

Sicilian Pesto Trapanese | A Little Yumminess

One of our favorites as far as pasta sauces go is summery, bright green pesto Genoevse (basil, garlic, pinenuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil). When we start to see cherry blossoms on the trees and get a whiff of spring in the air (like right about now….) I start counting down the days until we begin to find giant bunches of fragrant Italian basil at the farmer’s market. My kids have gotten past the aggressively green hue of pesto Genovese and happily scarf it up and I always keep a special, secret little hoard in the way back of my freezer just for me.

Continue reading

Weekend Baking: Angel Food Cake with Fresh Summer Berry Sauce

Angel food cake has always been my cake of choice for birthdays…. I guess it’s the tallness of it, the pillowy-ness that intrigues me. And you have to love the name, right? As a kid I imagined angels riding around on puffy white clouds eating their cake with silver forks. Given that I have an August birthday and grew up in San Francisco, my birthday memories are mostly of fogged out swimming parties, misty picnics at the park, and receiving back to school supplies as gifts (ack!). But the angel food cake was always a high point.

My fondness for this cake makes sense given my general tastes in sweets. It really is the perfect dessert for us marshmallow fans and those of us who happily skip both the chocolate and the frosting. It turns out that angel food cake actually has a lot in common with a marshmallow. Both start with a base of whipped egg whites — for the cake you fold in flour, sugar and a few other bits and for the marshmallow you whip in sugar syrup. So there you go! As an adult, I can also now fully appreciate that angel food cake is a not-too-guilty dessert. With no yolks, oil or butter, it’s virtually fat free.

The angel food cakes of my youth probably came from a boxed mix, but it really is quite easy to make one from scratch. Once the egg whites are whipped with sugar, cream of tartar and vanilla, all that’s left to do is to fold in flour that you’ve sifted with salt. That’s it. I still think it’s magical how whipping plain old egg whites can transform them into gorgeous, glossy mini mountain tops and it’s this culinary magic trick that makes angel food cake-making so fun to do with kids. I bet your young bakers will be rather impressed (plus they get to use the mixer which is always fun). And once you’ve mastered the art of the egg white in this recipe it’s only a short journey to souffles, meringues, baked alaska and French macarons. Go for the souffle, Luca!

But let’s first start with a super pretty, no-cook, easy peasy berry sauce to drizzle on top. Along with some fresh fruit, this is all you need to serve your cake in style. This berry sauce, however, goes way beyond cake. Make a batch and I promise you will have no trouble thinking of things to swirl it on. We like to enjoy it with our oatmeal, pancakes, ice cream and fruit salad and this berry sauce is right at home in two of our favorite snacks, Luca’s favorite Pink Milk and Ria’s Granola Towers.

Fresh Berry Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh berries of your choice , washed and stems removed. (You can substitute other fruit like peaches, pineapple, mango. Frozen fruit is fine too)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon or more of your favorite jam
  • seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod (optional)
  1. Puree your berries, a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt together in a blender or food processor. If needed, add another tablespoon of water to help get your puree started.
  2. Taste for sweetness, stirring in jam a spoonful at a time until the flavor works for you. Blend again for a few seconds to incorporate everything.
  3. Push the sauce through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl using a rubber spatula. This step is not necessary but will give you a fabulously smooth and seed-free sauce. If you want to splurge stir in some seeds scraped from a vanilla bean pod.
  4. Use a funnel to transfer sauce into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to use. It will keep several days. You can freeze sauce you are not using in the next week in an airtight container.

Classic Angel Food Cake

Our go-to for angel food cakes is Martha Stewart, so here’s a link to the full recipe and the how-to. But in the meantime these are the ingredients you will need as well as a few of our notes.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

NOTES:

  • Separating your eggs:  To avoid any shells or yolks in your cake, separate your eggs one by one into a small bowl before transferring the whites to the large bowl you will use for the recipe. Even a bit of yolk can keep your whites from beating properly.
  • Soft vs. Stiff Peaks: Soft peaks will only sort of hold their shape when you dip a spoon into them and will be kind of floppy. For stiff peaks, when you dip a spoon into the egg white you should get a little peak that holds it shape well even when you turn your spoon upside down.
  • Don’t overbeat your egg whites: If your egg whites start to look dry instead of glossy stop immediately — overbeaten egg whites will not hold the air and will break down when you cook with them.
  • Using a tube pan: The cake gets it’s height because it is able to stick to the sides and center cone of the tube pan. The best option is a tube pan with a removable bottom (vs. a bundt pan or other shape). The straight sides will allow you run a knife along all the edges to release the cake.
  • Cooling the cake upside down: I always wondered about this. It turns out the inversion will keep your cake from shrinking and will keep it lighter. If your tube pan doesn’t have feet, you can invert it over a wine bottle.

You might also like: Leftover Cake Pops, Coconut Pound Cake, Cheesecake Flan, Super Easy Chocolate Cake, Instant Chocolate Cake in a Mug, Tres Leches Cake: Cheater’s Version

This kid, on the other hand, has no problem with the frosting.

Succotash Polenta

If the word succotash makes you think of a limp and lifeless lump of cooked to death vegetables, this could not be farther from that notion. Think instead…. a big bowl of bright, fresh, sweet summer vegetables tumbled onto creamy, creamy polenta. Are you with me? I don’t always think of making polenta this time of year, but it turns out that it’s the perfect canvas for a basket of gorgeous summer vegetables. I think this is absolutely fantastic as is, but you can easily turn this into a more substantial meal for brunch, lunch or dinner by adding a poached egg, a piece of grilled chicken or fish or even a broiled sausage. The soft and creamy polenta is ideal for little teethers and older kids can help you pick out the vegetables, snap green beans and shell fresh peas if you’re using them.

For the succotash, use any combo of vegetables you like but definitely include shallots, corn, tomatoes and green beans. We like to add fresh english peas and fava beans when we can find them. Favas take a little extra work (shelling the beans, then blanching them in salted water for 30 seconds and removing their tough skins) but are definitely worth the extra trouble. You could certainly add sliced zucchini and finely chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme) would be lovely too.

For the polenta, I like to use Marcella Hazan’s no stir polenta method. Be sure to stir in a little butter and a whole lot of grated parmesan cheese. Your polenta will stay creamy as long as you keep it warm, but the leftovers are worth spending a few minutes on. Turn leftovers into a baking dish or cookie sheet. When it cools it will set and you can cut it into squares which you can grill or fry or simply reheat. The squares wont be creamy like just made polenta but are still delicious and great with any saucy Italian recipe. You can wrap the squares in parchment paper and freeze them to enjoy later.

Succotash Polenta

  • Cook your polenta using Marcella Hazan’s “no stir” method. It will take about 45 minutes in all, but only a minute of stirring every 10 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, stir in butter and grated parmesan cheese to taste and keep warm.
  • Prep all your vegetables: finely mince shallots, trim green beans (I like 1″ pieces sliced on the diagonal), halve cherry tomatoes, cut corn off the cob. I like to cut my corn on top of a cookie sheet to catch all the juices and stray kernels that try to get away. When all the corn has been cut off, run the back of your knife along the cob to release the “corn milk” which you can cook along with your kernels.
  • Sprinkle the shallots with a few pinches of salt and saute in oilve oil until softened. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and their juices and cook 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute just to heat through. Add a tiny splash of red wine vinegar and stir. Taste and correct seasoning, adding a little more salt or vinegar if needed.
  • Spoon the succotash over polenta and sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice.

You might also like these summery faves: summer corn and lobster ravioli in a light corn broth; Easy Summer Fruit Cobbler; Tomato Water Pasta; Summer Obsession: Roasted Sweet Peppers; Summer Ratatouille

Michael Ruhlman’s Tomato Water Pasta

If you can dice a tomato and boil water then this pasta is for you, courtesy of chef Michael Ruhlman. More of a technique than a recipe, it’s the perfect way to showcase a few gorgeous end of summer tomatoes. Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you, this is real-deal pasta. We’ve heard it’s one of Chewbacca’s favorites when he has friends around for dinner. Like Chewbacca, I love the technique of macerating the tomatoes and making a sauce from their juices fortified with a little butter, then tossing in the chopped tomato at the last minute to keep that fresh tomato flavor and texture. You can put this one together in just minutes, your kids will scarf it up — what’s not to love?

Invite some friends and serve this with some garlicky sauteed shrimp our favorite zucchini carpaccio and you are set for a great summer supper!

Get the recipe and a how-to video right here from Michael Ruhlman’s website.

Baby’s First Ratatouille

Our little one has just started to eat solid food. He’s sampled the usual apple sauce, bananas, green beans and sweet potatoes and enjoyed them well enough. Tonight he stepped into the land of real food with this rustic ratatouille which, with a few tweaks, also happened to be our dinner. He really, really enjoyed eating this as much as the rest of us did. Maybe it’s the sweet-savory flavor combination or the sunny yellow color that won him over. All I know if that he scarfed it right up.

This ratatouille makes a delish side dish, but you can easily make it a bit more hearty as the main event for dinner, brunch or lunch with the addition of a soft egg finished under the broiler and toasty crostini on the side. We’ve been eating more “mostly vegetarian” family meals and this this a good one with summer peppers and squash just around the corner. I would say the crostini are key, especially for little eaters like my Luca who might at least dip if all else fails.

Ratatouille with Soft Eggs and Parmegiano Reggiano

adapted from “Avec Eric” by Eric Ripert

Ingredients: 3 Red, Orange or Yellow Sweet Peppers; 1 Onion,; 4 Cloves Garlic; 3 Medium Tomatoes; 1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce or Puree; 1 Large Italian Eggplant; 3 Yellow Summer Squash; Parmegiano Reggiano; Eggs; Crusty Bread; Olive Oil; Lemon Juice/Vinegar (optional)

Ahead of time:

Poach several eggs a little under where you like them because you will finish them under the broiler. Try a minute less than what you would normally do. After poaching them, immediately move them to a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking. They can be held this way in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Here’s a handy link on poaching eggs.

  1. Heat several Tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add another drizzle of oil as you are cooking the vegetables if anything starts to stick.
  2. Chop 1 large onion into medium dice. Mince 4 large cloves of garlic. Add them to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from 3 sweet bell peppers (yellow, orange and red) and chop into medium dice. Lightly season them and add them to the pan.
  4. Chop 3 yellow summer squash into medium dice. [To me long-cooked zucchini are not the prettiest shade of green, so next time I’ll opt for yellow squash in this recipe]. Lightly season them and add to the pan.
  5. Remove half the peel of a large Italian eggplant because the peel can sometimes be bitter. Cut off alternating strips giving it a purple and white stripe effect, then cut it into 1/2″ thick slices and then into medium dice. Lightly season with salt and add to the pan.
  6. Chop 4 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of cherry tomatoes) into medium dice. Lightly season them with salt and add them to the pan.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or tomato puree.
  8. Stir and lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt as needed, black pepper and a dash of vinegar or lemon juice if you like.
[You can make the ratatouille in advance, it will keep for several days.]
  • Heat the ratatouille if made in advance. Spoon the warm ratatouille into a baking dish (or individual oven-safe bowls would be nice) and put it under the broiler until it is bubbling and piping hot.
  • Dry the pre-poached eggs well and arrange them on top of the hot ratatouille, seasoning each with a little bit of salt. Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmegiano reggiano. Return the dish to the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute just to heat the eggs through without cooking them too much more.
  • Garnish with minced parsley and serve with slices of good, rustic bread, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.