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.

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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

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recipe-card-cdabars

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Caramelized Banana Brioche French Toast

Caramelized Banana Brioche French Toast seems like it would be tricky and time-consuming, but luckily, it’s not. Unless you are making these for an army – which you could if you wanted to – they only take a few minutes. This simple recipe is for one, and takes as much time in the morning as a bowl of oatmeal.

I got the idea for a simple caramelized banana sauce from a recipe for caramelized banana pancake squares, from the new release, “The 8×8 Cookbook” by Kathy Strahs. Check out my review of “The 8×8 Cookbook” here and pick up a copy of the cookbook, too.

banana brioche french toast
This is also a great way to use up ripe bananas and slightly-stale bread, but if you can help it, don’t use any bread other than a thickly-sliced brioche bread.

If you’re in San Diego, like me, get it from Cardamom Cafe and Bakery. Trust me; you wont be disappointed.

brioche slice

Caramelized Banana Brioche French Toast

(one serving)

  • 2 thick slices of Brioche bread
  • 3 large eggs
  • a splash of milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 ripe banana, sliced
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 5-6 tablespoons butter
  • powdered sugar for serving

Scramble the eggs and add the milk and cinnamon. Place each slice of bread into the egg mixture and let sit for at least a minute on each side so the bread soaks up all of the egg mixture.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a pan and fry each piece of bread for about 3-4 minutes on each side. While the bread is cooking, put 2 tbsp. of butter in a separate saucepan with the banana slices facedown. Let the banana slices cook for about a minute in the butter to brown them slightly, then add the brown sugar.

Pour the hot banana and brown sugar mixture over the french toast slices, and serve immediately with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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french toast recipe card

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.

Samples from “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen”

This summer, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and I am still undergoing treatment. Before I started treatment, I got as healthy as I could, so I think I am handling chemotherapy better than most. At the same time, aggressive cancer treatments have changed my body – and my taste buds – in ways I never anticipated.

For example, many chemotherapy and radiation patients lose their sense of taste for certain flavors … for me, it was salt. I soon realized that the food I was eating was totally salty, I just couldn’t taste it. I can’t very well just pour more and more salt onto my food just because I can’t taste it, but I can make things  that have tons of flavor packed into it, but minimal added salt.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz, which is a really amazing cookbook with fantastic tips for staying nourished while going through cancer treatment. I can see why it’s won so many awards.

Image courtesy of rebeccakatz.com

Image from rebeccakatz.com

All of the recipes are simple and healthy, but also offer a few extras for cancer patients, that others might not consider. For example, I have a friend who had to go through intense radiation treatments on her head and face, so her mouth, nose, eyes, sinuses, and throat were sore and raw. Eating anything that wasn’t pureed or freezing cold was too painful. This cookbook has great recipes for simple soups and broths, as well as smoothies and granitas, so that even if you can barely swallow, you can at least get some vitamins and nourishment.

So far, my favorite recipe from this book is the Bone Broth — which is extremely simple and very recommended for anyone, regardless of your health, to keep around — and Curried Hummus and Vegetable Pinwheels. These were a lot of fun to make.

curried hummus and vegetable pinwheels

The hummus recipe, like most hummus, is really simple, and shredding the veggies makes it easy on the cancer patient’s mouth and stomach, while still getting in the flavor, the nutrients, and some crunch. I used some really good, fresh, soft wheat tortillas, which made it perfect for me. I plan to experiment with this recipe again using other hummus flavors, and probably some other vegetable fillings as well. I think this would be great with some watercress, or maybe even some lightly-seared portabello mushrooms.

I noticed that in addition to making me unable to taste certain flavors, like salt, chemotherapy also made me really sensitive to spice — and of course, I didn’t notice this little glitch until I was deep into a bowl of Thai curry. It was painful! Since then, I’ve kept something soft and cool – pudding, ice cream, yogurt – on hand, just in case I accidentally eat something too spicy and need to put out the fire in my mouth.

Luckily, my friend who gifted me the book also made me the Cantaloupe Granita with Mint, which was amazing! I basically have a tub of this in my freezer, to shave off a bowl full of cool relief whenever I need it.

cantaulope granita with mint

I can’t wait until my treatment is over, if for no other reason than to be able to eat spicy food again.

So far, the recipes from this book and the helpful advice it offers has been a great help to me. Stay tuned for more posts with recipes from this book in the next few months.

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.