Herb and Eatery

A few of us lucky food bloggers got a chance last weekend to visit Brian Malarkey’s newest venture, Herb & Eatery – an extension, really, of his award-winning restaurant Herb & Wood.

Herb & Eatery is the front of the store and the Herb & Wood dining room is in the back.

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Herb & Wood has already won a ton of accolades for being the most stylish and sexy new restaurant in town- and now with Herb & Eatery, you can take all of the goodness home with you.

Jars of goodness at Herb & Eatery

Jars of goodness at Herb & Eatery

Herb & Eatery essentially has all of the goodies that make chefs (and humble food bloggers) swoon. Brian Malarkey gave us a sweet tour of the chef’s shop and restaurant before filling us with food.

Brian Malarkey

Almost everything is made in-house. You like the tapenade or the salsa that was part of your (award-winning) dinner at Herb & Wood? Come next door and you can buy a jar of it to take home.

Want some fresh herbs, fresh-baked croissants, imported cheeses, frozen ice cream cookie sandwiches, or even the designer flatware you used? It’s all for sale next door.

View of the pastries from the second floor

View of the pastries from the second floor

Herb & Wood was the first phase of this project; and this awesome shop is phase two. They have already expanded the upstairs area into a lounge for private gatherings; and the adjacent space into an art gallery and private event room.

Art on display in the private event space next door to Herb & Eatery

Art on display in the private event space next door to Herb & Eatery

In addition to a drool-worthy “chef’s shop,” a host of housemade pastries are available, every one of them made around-the-clock by pastry chef extraordinaire Adrian Mendoza.

pastries and kombucha

And don’t forget the house-made kombucha.

pastries

Speaking of croissants, YOU WANT THESE CROISSANTS.

They are made fresh daily (and sell out really fast) with tons of specialty imported butter and they are said to rival the best Parisian café. We enjoyed them plain, stuffed with chocolate, stuffed with meat and cheese, and made into these lovely breakfast sandwiches.

This is the Maple Croissant: filled with maple pork sausage, a fried egg, gruyere cheese, arugula and aioli.

croissant

We also got to sample a few of the baked eggs dishes: Brian was very exited about these … they take a loaf (bread) pan and fill it with scrambled eggs and potato, then bake it, slice it, and cover each slice in one of five different topping combinations.

This is the one with mushrooms, Humboldt goat cheese, herbs, kale, and crème fraiche. It was heavenly.

mushroom baked eggs

And this is the baked egg with tomato, capers, olives, basil pesto and lemon zest:

baked egg with tomato

We weren’t even close to being finished. Next we got to sample a few of the items from the All Day Menu (breakfast is only served from 8-11 a.m.).

One of my favorites was the poke & avocado salad, with kimchi, cilantro, housemade ponzu and mixed greens:

poke

… but I also loved the smoked curry chicken and cashews salad with kale and cilantro.

curry chicken salad

We also sampled some of their amazing sandwiches, like the banh mi with chicken sausage, papaya, and chicken liver pate:

banh mi

… as well as the amazing tuna melt with olive oil-poached albacore tuna, preserved lemons, herbs, capers and white cheddar cheese.

tuna melt

As if that wasn’t enough carbs to put us all into respective food comas, we also got a sample of two of Brian Malarkey’s favorite appetizers: a Marin triple cream brie with seasonal mustard and jelly:

brie

…  plus these beautiful sugar cane Thai chicken skewers:

thai sugar cane chicken skewers

And really amazing root fries with homemade smoked French dressing and yusu aioli:

root fries

Aaaand ice cream cookies …

ice cream cookies

The ice cream cookie flavor blends were perfect: they have chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream; cranberry oatmeal cookies with vanilla bean (my favorite) and peanut butter cookies with banana ice cream.

I’m sure this won’t come as a surprise given the amazing reputation that Malarkey enjoys in this town, but LITERALLY everything they have is amazingly delicious.

This isn’t one of those places where you might drop in for a breakfast pastry because they have a good baker, but not come for lunch or dinner because other items aren’t as good.  Here, everything is good. You can tell that the chefs and employees there take food quality seriously and want you to experience the best. I’ll definitely be back!

The Franken-Cookie

  • Sometimes, you just can’t decide. I was recently at home with a sweet tooth and a pantry full of goodies, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted an oatmeal cookie, a peanut butter cookie, or a chocolate chip cookie. I mean, who can choose?

So I created the Frankencookie. The best parts of all three cookies, rolled into one giant, soft, sweet — and not drastically unhealthy — snack.

Frankencookie

The Franken-Cookie

(makes about a dozen large cookies or 16-18 small ones)

  • 3 cups oatmeal, quick-cooking or old-fashioned
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325. Mix together the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Slowly add the coconut oil, peanut butter, eggs and honey, and mix well until completely blended. Then add the coconut and chocolate chips (and the walnuts if you are choosing that option).

Form the dough into balls (makes about 12 large cookies or about 18 small ones) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Frankencookies

Thanks to coconut oil instead of butter or oil, and brown sugar and honey instead of granulated white sugar, this is even a *relatively* healthy cookie.

Pin or save the recipe card for easy use:

recipe card - Frankencookie

Easy and healthy Cranberry-Date Bars

I don’t know about you guys, but the “cherry pie” Larabars are one of my favorite go-to snacks. I was recently checking out the package, and noticed this:

cherry pie larabars

That’s right! In addition to being raw, paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free, it only has three ingredients!

This year, I entered the Cape Cod Select Blogger Challenge, to join fellow food bloggers in creating some delicious new recipes starring Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries.

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I decided to make these “cherry pie” bars with cranberries instead of cherries. These are easy to make, really healthy and unprocessed, and YUMMY. I also added a touch of honey and cinnamon to counteract some of the tartness of the cranberries.

cape cod select premium cranberries

First, the ingredients. I know there are only three, but they’re important.

The Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries come frozen, so remove the bag from the freezer a few hours prior to making these. Then they’ll be easier to chop into small pieces.

I purchased this package of date paste, or baking dates:

baking dates

Just be sure to check the ingredients. If it says anything other than “dates,” buy something else. No additives are needed. Dates are naturally very sweet, so you don’t want anything with added sugars or oils.

If you can’t find date paste locally (I found it at my local Indian/Asian market), try purchasing it online. If you would rather make it from scratch, try this recipe.

As far as the almonds, the easiest way is to buy a package of the sliced almonds, and then break them up in the bag before you add them to the cranberries and dates.

  • 1 16-oz package of Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries, defrosted and diced
  • 1 10-oz bag of sliced almonds, crushed into very small pieces
  • 1 13-oz package of date paste (see note above)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp. honey

Step 1: Make sure all ingredients are as small as possible. Dice the cranberries, crush the almond slices, and make sure the date paste is smooth. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend completely.

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At this point, try to squeeze out as much excess juice as possible.

Step 2: Transfer to deep-dish baking pan and make sure it is packed in tightly. Bake on the lowest setting in your oven for approx. 2 hours.

Note: Fresh-frozen cranberries are naturally much juicier than dried cherries, so you have a couple of options to dry the bars. If you have a dehydrator, you can also dehydrate then for 3-5 hours on the high setting.

bars on the dehydrator

Step 3: Wrap each bar individually. Keep chilled.

cranberry date bars

Save or Pin the recipe card for easy use:

recipe-card-cdabars

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Easy sourdough bread

Sourdough is one of my favorite types of bread ever, and I can’t believe it’s so easy!

If you don’t have your own sourdough starter, you can find instructions on how to make one here. But I got mine from a lady giving it away in a Facebook group post; and if you know anyone who makes their own bread, chances are very good that they have a sourdough starter to share with you.

It’s very simple: you start with this 8-oz jar of bubbly liquid. You can store it in the refrigerator, and once a week, you take it out and empty out half (4 oz.).

You can use this to give to a friend so they have starter, or you can use it for baking bread or a myriad of other sourdough things: muffins, biscuits, crackers, pizza dough, bread, English muffins, even sweet breads and muffins like blueberry or banana. Then you add 4 oz. of water and 4 oz. flour, and mix well. Now you have starter for next week.

sourdough starter

By the way, you can also keep your starter at room temperature and discard/feed it every day, but who has time for that?! That method is for people who have the time to bake a loaf of bread every day.

Here is a simple, quick bread baking method (no, really, this IS quick, most sourdough bread recipes require at least 12-24 hours for proofing and rising). You can make this in one evening after work or weekend morning/afternoon.

Easy Sourdough Bread

  • 4 3/4 cups bread flour*
  • 3 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (0.25 oz.)
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 tbsp. softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water

First, combine 1 cup of the flour with the salt, sugar and yeast, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients (sourdough starter, milk and butter) and once fully incorporated, slowly add the rest of the flour.

Turn dough out onto a flour-covered surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, then put it back into the mixing bowl (add a little oil first to prevent sticking). Cover and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.

After about an hour, punch down the dough and form into loaves (you can use traditional rectangular bread loaf pans, or form the dough into a ball and bake it in a round cake or pie pan). Let rise another hour.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, then sprinkle the egg wash (a large egg scrambled with 1 tbsp. water) on top of each loaf. Then bake another 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

sourdough bread

*Tip: You can totally use all-purpose flour for this recipe, and it will make a fine loaf of bread. But bread flour is much finer and softer, and will lead to a softer and better piece of bread.

Need more tips for your starter? Check out these tips and tricks on the King Arthur Flour blog.

Win Every Night with the 8×8 Cookbook

I’ve been cooking my way through this new cookbook, and it’s fantastic!

Kathy Strahs has taken the concept of simple baked dishes to another level with the 8×8 Cookbook – not just boring timesavers, but real tips for elevating simple dishes into impressive works of art. There are a million cookbooks out there about using baking dishes, but this one has real-life experience.

8x8 cookbook

First, I tried out the caramelized banana pancake squares. These are really easy, and the “self-saucing” technique Kathy uses makes the fresh pancake squares really impressive and delicious. This is what I mean by a simple technique for elevating a simple dish — everyone loves a banana pancake, but caramelizing the bananas in some brown sugar and butter first adds another depth of flavor to the dish, and it’s just as easy as making a pancake.

caramalized bananas

These would be so much fun to make with kids as a fun weekend breakfast, and I will totally have to make the next time I have a brunch or go to a daytime potluck. Aren’t they cute?

caramalized banana pancake squares

Then I made the roasted cod with gremolata and lemony orzo. This is a really simple and classy dish you can make for your sweetheart or for your whole family. You only need a few simple ingredients, and again, a simple technique — in this case, adding lemon zest to the boiling water when you parboil the orzo — adds another level of flavor that makes it better than your average weeknight baked dish.

roasted cod with lemony orzo and gremolata

The Boursin baked mashed potatoes were next – not the most photogenic dish, but definitely one of the best – a simple cheesy mashed potato recipe, kicked up by creaming the potatoes, adding extra butter, and baking in a hot, hot oven.

I couldn’t get away with a cookbook review without trying at least one of the desserts! The chocolate craving cake (shown here without the accompanying frosting recipe) was really rich and chocolatey. I totally want to make this again and experiment with different frosting toppings — but the fancy technique in this recipe makes it so moist, you hardly need any!

chocolate craving cake

I first encountered Kathy’s work in “The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook,” and “The 8×8 Cookbook” is a perfect follow-up. I can’t wait to see what amazing tips she has in store for her next book.

New summer experiments, smoked porchetta and SwineApple

My kitchen looks like my Pinterest boards exploded all over it this week, but I can’t say I’m mad about it, because all of the experiments I tried for my Independence Day party were great successes!

beer-can chicken and swineapples

Every year, I have a big Fourth of July party, usually starring a few smoked items using my Masterbuilt M7P smoker. This year, like every year, I smoked a few good meats, including a beer-can chicken, but I wanted a few good desserts, too.

The first was super-simple … a cookie sheet, a bunch of Oreo cookies, some marshmallows, and a jar of cookie butter. (The recipe I took this from called for peanut butter, but Trader Joe’s has this thing that actually tastes like cookies, so I thought that would be better. I was right. You should feel free to use whatever gooey, creamy, buttery spread you have on hand.)

s'mOreos

I prepared it before my party started, and when it was dessert time, I just turned on the oven and let them melt and get all gooey. My only mistake was only making one pan full of them.

finished s'mOreos

My next dessert also required a bit of work before the party, but it was worth it. Basically, I made Jell-O shots using a watermelon as the mold … hollow out a watermelon, fill it with Jello-O (oh yeah, with vodka instead of cold water) and then at the party, slice your watermelon into adorable slices.

watermelon Jell-O shots

Just make sure you cut your “watermelon” into small pieces if you’re making them into vodka shots.

For my meat dishes, I had two ideas in mind. I wanted to try to make my own version of a porchetta. In Italy, it’s a small, boneless, suckling pig, stuffed with herbs and roasted over a spit, then served with crusty bread.

Neither my budget nor my outdoor cooking system will accommodate a whole, boneless suckling pig, so I didn’t even bother researching how much that would cost me. Instead I took a trip to my favorite butcher shop, which had super-thick-cut slices of both pork loin and pork belly.

porchetta weave

I wove the thick slices together, coated it with a mixture of herbs on the inside, (green onion, parsley, garlic, cilantro, and white wine), then rolled it carefully.

I let them sit in the fridge overnight and smoked them alongside my other meat items.

smoked porchetta

Then I served the slices of finished smoked porchetta with some nice crusty bread. Again, my only mistake was not making enough.

smoked porchetta with bread

I definitely will be working on the specifics for this porchetta some more before I post a full recipe. I want to tweak the herb stuffing so it’s not so spicy, and tweak the meat so it holds in more moisture without being wrapped in foil while smoking. This was an excellent experiment, for sure … but it could be better.

Lastly, and surprisingly the most fun, was the SwineApple. I had trouble finding two large pineapples (those smaller, sweeter, Hawaiian ones are in the stores now), so I made four small ones. I also found some amazing spicy bulgogi-spiced pork belly and pork spareribs at the local Korean grocery store, so that’s what I used to stuff and wrap my pineapples.

pineapple staging

The most time-consuming hands-on part of the process is properly coring and peeling your pineapples, which is harder than it looks. If you’ve never tried it before, ask your grocer for help or try a You Tube video for some tricks. I found it was easiest to core the pineapples first, then cut the peel off.

And don’t throw away the cores and peels! Save them to make tepache. Trust me.

SwineApple

  • four small (or two large) whole pineapples, cores and peels removed
  • 3 lbs. boneless pork spareribs, seasoned and cut into small chunks
  • 5 lbs. thick-sliced seasoned pork belly or bacon

First, stuff the pineapples with the bits of pork spareribs. Try to keep the pieces small so they cook thoroughly.

pork spareribs

Next, wrap them with the bacon or pork belly, and use a toothpick or two to hold the slices in place if necessary.

swineapples ready to smoke

Place them (gently!) on the smoker and smoke for about 3 hours.

swineapples on the smoker

As you can see, my smoker was a little crowded on Independence Day.

photo courtesy of Annie Greenberg

photo courtesy of Annie Greenberg

Although most of the pork belly wrap seemed to sort of melt into the fruit, the spareribs on the inside stay nice and chunky.

sliced swineapples

Then, all you have to do is slice it up and serve it with some toothpicks.

Winter Fruit Tart and Grilled Steak and Veggie Kebabs

This week, I and a few other San Diego-area food bloggers teamed up with Melissa’s Produce to come up with some fabulous new recipes using locally-grown winter produce.

Our challenge was to make a sweet and a savory dish, using Christmas Crunch seedless grapes, Korean pears, and Jeju mandarins, as well as Melissa’s pre-steamed and pre-prepared (totally ready-to-eat!) baby potatoes, baby beets, and chestnuts.

Korean pear, Christmas crunch grapes and Jeju mandarins

For the sweet dish, using all of those delicious fruits was pretty easy. The Christmas crunch grapes are really sweet, and the Korean pears are less sweet than their western cousins. So, I sliced the pears and cooked them in some clarified butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg before I put them in the finished product. As for the Jeju mandarins — they are so juicy and delicious, and almost too delicate for a tart — I juiced them and used the yummy mandarin juice to sweeten up the cream cheese filling!

The finished product really showcases the deliciousness of the fruits, and it’s not too sweet. It’s the perfect light dessert.

winter fruit tart

Winter Fruit Tart

  • 1 large Korean pear, sliced
  • 2 Jeju mandarins, juiced
  • 1 bunch of Christmas crunch seedless grapes
  • 5-6 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed and cut into squares
  • 5 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick of butter, separated
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. nutmeg

First, prepare the phyllo dough. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and make sure your phyllo dough is ready to use (if you bought it frozen, make sure it’s thawed – or you can make your own dough using this really easy recipe). You can stuff the squares of dough into a (well-greased) muffin tin, and form cups, or you can simply lay the slices of dough on a baking sheet. Add a dab of butter to each cup or slice of dough, and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then remove from the oven and let cool. Set aside.

*Note: I used phyllo dough because I prefer the dough to be a little crunchy, and I wanted the dough to bake into a hardened cup that I could fill with cream cheese and fruit. However, this recipe would work just as well with a puff pastry or other type of dough.

While the dough is in the oven, melt 2-3 tbsp. of butter in a skillet and add the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side until the slices of pear are caramelized. Set aside.

caramelized pears

Mix the Jeju mandarin juice and softened cream cheese together in a bowl, and whip with a fork or whisk until there are no lumps. Set aside.

winter fruit tart cup

When the dough is cooked and has been cooled, fill each cup (or spread each baked piece of dough) with the cream cheese/ juice mixture. Then slices the grapes lengthwise, and arrange the grapes and slices of cooked pear on each cup or piece of dough.

winter fruit tart

You can prepare this up to a day ahead of time. Serve chilled.

winter fruit tart recipe card

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For the savory part of my challenge, I had some of the items ready ahead of time, and luckily, the pre-prepared produce from Melissa’s made everything else really easy to cook.

A few weeks ago I scored some awesome eggplants, peppers and cucumbers, so I went a little crazy pickling things, including a lovely recipe for Lebanese pickled eggplant, from Linda Zeidrich’s book, “The Joy of Pickling.” (Here’s another adaptation of the recipe, but I highly recommend her book, if you do any pickling at all.) Traditionally, the Lebanese pickled eggplant is served with hummus, pita bread, and a myriad of side dishes or tapas, so I that’s how the idea was formed to use my pre-cooked produce for some tasty kebabs. Luckily the foods randomly selected for this challenge were perfect for roasting or grilling.

Normally I don’t go for pre-cooked produce, but I really love all of the options Melissa’s has for pre-steamed, pre-peeled and ready-to-eat vegetables. Check out all of the options offered on Melissa’s Produce Pinterest page.

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This was the hard part of the challenge … beets? Chestnuts?

The pre-steamed and pre-peeled potatoes were obviously ready to skewer and grill, but the chestnuts and beets?

I’ll be honest with you: beets are not my favorite thing to eat.

And, before this challenge, I had never eaten a chestnut (that I’m aware of) – in fact, I’d never even heard of them except in a Christmas song, which helpfully suggests roasting them.

Beets are also pretty tasty when roasted, and of course, so is a steak, so I thought a nice kebab would be the best way to showcase all of the flavors together. The final result was a really good combination of flavors. The chestnuts are a little difficult to keep on the skewers, so I used some in a pesto as well.

kebabs recipe card

grilled steak and veggie kabobs

Grilled Steak and Veggie Kebabs with Chestnut Pesto

  • 1 medium thick-cut New York steak, cut into chunks
  • 1 package steamed baby beets, cut into quarters
  • 1 package peeled and steamed chestnuts
  • 1 package peeled and steamed baby potatoes, halved or quartered if necessary
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more in a spray/spritz bottle
  • 1 tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • wooden skewers (pre-soak before using!)

First, prepare the kabobs. Make sure your wooden skewers have soaked for at least several hours, or use metal skewers (you don’t want them to catch fire!). Arrange the pieces of steak, potatoes, beets and chestnuts on skewers, and season with salt and pepper, then spray with olive oil. Place on a pre-heated outdoor grill and cook for about 10 minutes on each side, until you can see grill marks on the food.

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Next, while the skewers are on the grill, prepare the chestnut pesto. Place the garlic cloves, cilantro, remaining chestnuts (there should be about a cup), plus the dried rosemary, marjoram, and salt and pepper into a chopper or food processor. Puree until smooth, and gradually drizzle in the olive oil. Set aside.

chestnut pesto

Finish up the kabobs by crumbling some fresh feta cheese on top and serving the pesto nearby.

steak/beet/potato/chestnut kabobs

I served my kabobs and pesto with all of my favorite munchies: hummus and pita chips, sliced cucumber and carrot sticks, homemade dilly tzatziki sauce, and lots of good cocktails.

kabob spread
I can’t wait to see what my fellow food blogger friends have come up with for this challenge. As usual, it was a mindbender, but eating the results is always fun!

I invite you to check out the other challenge recipes using Melissa’s Produce products here:

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce graciously provided most of the produce I used in this post, but no other financial consideration was given for my opinions or ideas.