Big Sur, California

Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table

I've been meaning to share photos from my trip to Big Sur for a while but never got to it until now. With groundhog day done, it seems this is the best time to talk about spring and summer travel. Big Sur is a magnificent natural treasures that you must try to visit at least once if you can. In an ideal situation, you have one person to drive while you stare through the car seat window across the massive and spectacular stretch of land that meets the ocean. Big Sur is dramatic and colorful. From the plants that cover the landscapes, to the whales that you might see far into the deep blue ocean or the condors soaring in the sky, Big Sur is every bit a jewel of the west coast. 

Though, we didn't spend the entire weekend at Big Sur, there are plenty of places you can rent and stay the entire weekend. We did however, make a mandatory stop at the famous Big Sur Bakery and we were glad we did! We had a small snack at the bakery and later ate dinner at the restaurant. We ordered the steak with shaved wasabi root, the shishito peppers and sea bass with risotto. You know your fish is cooked to perfect when it falls off like a soft buttery flake. For dessert, I got the lemon ice cream pie, it's very lemony and citrusy with a delicious pistachio crust. 

Just a little tip, even though we made reservations online at the Big Sur Bakery's website, their kitchen was closed when arrived for lunch. I highly recommend trying to call them up to make sure they actually have their kitchen open for the hours you want to visit . We did call in advance but couldn't seem to catch a hold of them but they were very apologetic and nice. We ended up staying there for dinner which as I said before was well worth it! I'm going to stop talking and let you take a look at Big Sur.

Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur. CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur Bakery, CA |A Brown Table
Big Sur, CA |A Brown Table

milk and pistachio cookies

Milk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table

Just earlier this week, I was telling you guys about the impending doom of blood oranges going-out-of-season nightmare here but lo and behold, I checked the pot where I planted a dwarf morow blood orange tree and it's full of little flower buds that I'm hoping will bloom and give us some fruit next year! I'll be tending to those oranges like a protective hen watching over her chicks. Squirrels and bugs, stay away! 

This week, I have a little interview with Common Table Co where I'm sharing my thoughts on food and photography. I keep meaning to share this super useful post by Michelle who has made a pretty comprehensive collection of pie baking tips that you should check out and bookmark. 

I like milk flavored things and in cookies with tea, it's a bonus. I did a few experiments when making these whole-wheat cookies. I started with milk, then tried condensed milk and even evaporated milk but the flavor and sweetness from the milk were just not right plus, the more liquid you add the batter keeps getting messed up. I finally tried some non-fat dry milk powder which did the trick. It brought the flavor and natural sweetness of the milk into the cookie. These cookies aren't too sweet or buttery but they've got that nutty flavor from the pistachios along with the hint of milk. They're good with tea and/or coffee or just for those moments when you want a little treat. I strongly recommend adding pistachio extract but if it's hard to find use almond extract, the pistachio extract however really bumps the fragrance and flavor of the cookies. 

Milk and Pistachios Cookies | A Brown TableMilk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table
Milk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown TableMilk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table
Milk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown TableMilk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table
Milk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown TableMilk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table

Here are some of my kitchen tips when making these cookies;

  • Crush pistachios using a rolling pin in a small ziplock bag, less mess and it's easy. 
  • You can fold the pistachios in the mixer by mixing the final dough at low speed but I prefer the hand method, it gives me better control over the dough. 
  • Chill the dough before you bake, it will make give you a more flavorful and crispier cookie. 
Milk and Pistachio Cookies| A Brown Table

milk and pistachio cookies

yields: approximately 30 cookies 

ingredients 

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

3/4 cup (5 7/25 ounces) sugar 

1 large egg, cold

1/2 teaspoon pistachio extract or almond extract

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon (3/4 ounces) non-fat dry milk powder

2 cups (9 1/2 ounces) whole-wheat pastry flour 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 cup (2 1/8 ounces) pistachios, coarsely crushed

1. Place the butter and sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar on medium-low speed for about 4-5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl using a silicone spatula. Then add the egg and continue to mix for another minute until combined. Add the pistachio/almond extract and mix for 10 seconds. 

2. In a large mixing bowl dry whisk all the dry ingredients from the milk powder to the salt. Add half of this mixture to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl and mix on medium-low speed until almost combined. Then add the rest of the dry mix and mix until combined. Remove the dough and transfer the dough onto a cool surface such as a marble pastry board or a non-stick silicone pastry work surface or parchment paper. Flatten the dough with your hands and place the pistachios in the center. Fold the dough gently to combine the pistachios. 

3. Take a clean sheet of 12" X 16" parchment paper. Shape the dough into a log that is around 12" in length. Wrap the roll with the parchment paper starting from one end by rolling the paper over the dough. Wrap the roll with clingfilm, place it on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to overnight. 

4. To bake, place a wire rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 350F.  Remove the cookie dough roll from the refrigerator and using a sharp serrated bread knife cut the dough into 1 cm thick individual cookies. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking silicone mat, about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake one set of cookies at a time in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges just start to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. 

polenta coconut almond baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce

polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

Somewhere between my meyer lemon tree and a stack of sweet potato vines, sits my Moro blood orange tree. Unlike the lemon tree, it hasn't produced any flowers this season but there are tiny little leaf buds between each and every portion of the stems of this little tree. So until the day arrives that this plant will hopefully produce some fruit, I make do with ransacking the stores and markets in the neighborhood for the blood oranges. And some of those blood oranges went into making this sauce to be drizzled over this pudding.

Ahh, how I love puddings! They are convenient and comforting yet can be made fancy to suit one's needs. I like to think there's something sweet waiting for me in the refrigerator when I come home after work, so every now and then I'll make up a batch of puddings that will satisfy my sweet cravings. This pudding is made with sweet polenta and the creamy delicious flavors of coconut and almond milk and there's also a lightly burned caramelized blood orange sauce that goes over the pudding. Happy flavors and tasty puddings.

By the way this Califia coconut almond milk combination is rather delicious!


polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Tablepolenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

Here are some tips that you might find useful when preparing these puddings,

  • You can skip blood oranges and use regular oranges to prepare the sauce. Remember to adjust the sweetness of the sauce accordingly.
  • The puddings will rise during baking and then sink a little after they are chilled. I trim the crust off the exposed end of the pudding to give the dessert a smooth finish. 
  • I gently bake the pudding for about 2 hours in the oven at a lower temperature so it doesn't burn but helps to get rid of most of the liquid.
  • You can adjust the sweetness of the dessert to your liking by changing the amount of sweetener added. 
  • Garnish as needed with candied orange chips if desired
polenta coconut almond milk baked pudding with burnt sugar blood orange sauce | A Brown Table

burnt sugar blood orange sauce

yields: approximately 1 cup

ingredients

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup blood orange juice, fresh and strained 

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

  1. Place the brown sugar in a small thick bottomed saucepan and heat on a medium-high flame for about 3 minutes until the sugar just begins to darken and caramelize (watch the sugar carefully to avoid it from burning). As soon as the sugar begins to caramelize, remove the saucepan from the stove and carefully stir in the orange juice. Return to stove and stir until the caramelized sugar has completely dissolved. 
  2. While the sauce is cooking, stir the cornstarch and water to form a slurry in a small bowl. Stir this mixture into the sauce and quickly whisk. Continue to cook with constant stirring, the mixture will begin to thicken and begin to boil. Continue to stir constantly and cook for one additional minute. Remove the saucepan from stove and pass the sauce through a sieve to remove any clumps. Transfer the sauce to a container and refrigerate until completely chilled. 

polenta coconut almond milk baked puddings 

yields: 4 servings

ingredients

1 cup (6 ounces) polenta 

1 tablespoon toasted unsweetened shredded coconut 

2 tablespoons sugar

1  1/2 tablespoons cornstarch 

1 tablespoon water

a little coconut oil for greasing

  1. Add all the ingredients from the polenta to the sugar in a large thick bottomed saucepan. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil on medium high heat and then reduce the heat to a medium-low. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to form a slurry and fold this slurry into the polenta. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook and stir the the polenta until there is little to no visible liquid left, this should take about 8-10 minutes. The mixture should resemble a thick porridge like consistency. Remove from stove.
  2. Grease 4 X 4 ounce heatproof glass canning jars with a little coconut oil. Using a ladle fill the jars up and using a spoon flatten the mixture to release any trapped air bubbles. Bake the jars for 2 hours at 250F on a baking sheet on the middle rack of a preheated oven. Rotate the tray halfway through the baking process. Remove the hot jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Wrap the mouth of each jar with cling film and refrigerate until chilled for at least 3-4 hours. The puddings will shrink a little in the refrigerator.
  3. To release the puddings, run the blunt edge of a knife between the jar and the pudding. Tap the jar over a plate to release the pudding. Trim off the crusty end of the pudding using a sharp serrated knife and place the pudding in a serving plate. Garnish the pudding with a candied orange slice and drizzle generously with the burnt sugar blood orange sauce. Prepare the remaining three puddings similarly.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Califia and all opinions stated here are purely my own.

butternut squash and green chutney tartines

Butternut Squash and Green Chutney Tartines | A Brown Table

I like sandwiches of all sort, shapes and sizes. Tartines are no exception and I love them loaded, stacked with all sorts of stuff with contrasting flavors and colors! I'm a firm believer that every bite into a sandwich should offer different and distinct layers of complexity in taste. So, I've prepared a little fall inspired tartine to eat and share with you this weekend. 

Butternut Squash and Green Chutney Tartines | A Brown Table
Fall in Virginia | A Brown Table

All week long, we've been eating a lot of these guys! These tartines are layered with my green cilantro-mint chutney along with a few cubes of butternut squash, a generous layer of mozzarella and a single whole shiitake mushroom. It's simple yet tasty, full of fresh herbs and flavors and a colorful open-faced sandwich at that. An easy dish that can easily be made into a snack or appetizer for a party. 

Butternut Squash and Green Chutney Tartines | A Brown Table
  • I used a rustic ciabatta bread here but any type of rustic bread will work for the bread base. 
  • Fresh pumpkin cubes can also be used in place of butternut squash. 

Go ahead and make yourself a few tartines and enjoy your weekend!

Butternut Squash and Green Chutney Tartines | A Brown Table

butternut squash and green chutney tartines

yields: 6 individual tartines

ingredients 

2 cups cubed butternut squash or pumpkin (about 1/2 inch sizes cubes)

1/2 cup red onion

1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

6 slices of ciabatta bread

6 small shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup green cilantro-mint chutney (click for recipe)

1/2 cup low skim fresh mozzarella cheese (drain excess water and pat dry with a clean towel, and tear the cheese into bits)

1 tablespoon olive oil + a little more for drizzling over the tartines

a little more salt and pepper for seasoning 

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Toss the butternut squash and onions together in a mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the salt and pepper and spread the mixture on baking sheet lined with parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes until tender. Remove from oven and keep aside. Do not switch the oven off.

2. Take one slice of the bread and spread a generous 1 1/2 teaspoons of the green chutney with a butter knife. Place about 1 -2 tablespoons of the butternut squash mixture on the bread and 1 shitake mushroom in the center. Layer the top with about 1 tablespoon of the torn mozzarella cheese. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Prepare the rest of the tartines similarly and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the tartines with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven at 350F for about 10-15 minutes until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese has melted. Remove from oven and serve immediately. 

 

carrot and rhubarb soup

carrot and rhubarb soup #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #carrot #rhubarb #soup

One of my self-appointed goals in life, is to make rhubarb popular as a savory ingredient. Don't get me wrong, rhubarb is amazing in desserts and I love a good rhubarb pie and crisp with fresh strawberries (and other berries) but it is also a wonderful addition to savory dishes. It's high in acid which helps it contribute a touch of sourness to several dishes. This year with all the crazy moving, I didn't get to cook a lot with rhubarb, so I figured before the warm season leaves us, I should make you one special dish that would be bold, bright and colorful!

carrot and rhubarb soup #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #carrot #rhubarb #soup

This is really a very simple recipe, a few ingredients with a few steps. Prepping the carrots and rhubarb is probably what takes the most of amount of work, after that it is pretty much a matter of "dumping" things together to make it all come together. 

I started off this soup by oven roasting the rhubarb and carrots together and blended them to form one thick and creamy soup. I have a batch of purple basil growing in my container garden whose flowers I normally just pick off and toss into salads, they made a nice colorful contrast against the bright orange color of the soup. Of course you can garnish this soup with any of your favorite ingredients, so play around and keep it colorful!

carrot and rhubarb soup #food #foodphotography #foodstyling #carrot #rhubarb #soup

carrot and rhubarb soup

yields: 4 - 6 servings

ingredients

2 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped

1 cup rhubarb stalk, diced 

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cloves

4 black peppercorns

1 teaspoon kosher sea salt 

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 liter low sodium vegetable stock

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (or any other sauce you like, you can also leave it out)

a few fresh purple basil flowers, to garnish (optional)

1. Place a wire rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Toss the carrots, rhubarb, olive oil, black peppercorns, and cloves together in a large mixing bowl and spread them out on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer the contents to a large stock pot. 

2. Add the turmeric and stock to the vegetables and bring to a boil on a medium high flame. Remove from stove and then using an immersion blender, blend all the ingredients together until completely smooth (alternatively, use a blender and blend the soup in batches until smooth). Return the stockpot to the stove and cook for another 15-20 minutes on a medium-low flame. Stir in the sriracha sauce. Taste and adjust the amount of salt if necessary. Stir occasionally during cooking, serve hot and garnish with fresh basil flowers.

fig and zucchini bread

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

Where do I begin! The first time I baked this bread, the dog stole it and ate the entire thing! I left the freshly baked bread out to cool on the kitchen counter and stepped out to take care of a few errands, boy was I in for a shock! By the time I came back, it was gone and there were no traces of any crumbs! I thought perhaps, I was being absent minded as usual and had stored the cake in the refrigerator or kept it some odd place. In the 4 years since I've had Snoopy he has never eaten anything off the table and we never feed him table scraps. My suspicions were confirmed later that day, as he voluntarily skipped his usual dinner begging routine. As you can probably imagine, Snoopy never skips a meal, he starts begging an hour before and when I do feed him, he munches his food down in a few seconds. I was worried he would throw up or fall sick and that is no fun. Thankfully, the bread was still in its testing phase and I knew that none of the ingredients in the first version would be deadly to him. Snoopy was just overstuffed and I knew that I would need to be more vigilant and careful when it come to him and our food. Lesson learned!

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking
fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

After Snoopy stole the first version of the bread, I knew a repeat was going to happen soon, there were several things I needed to fix to make this a good bread, I wanted it to be the best zucchini bread I have ever made in my kitchen to date. I wanted the bread to have some amount of whole wheat in it and I didn't want the bread to a soupy overly wet mass and it needed a little spark of flavor. I also wanted the bread to be simple, zucchini bread is comfort food and comfort should not be tedious to prepare, it should be easy, comfortable to make and comfortable to eat.  

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

I tried a trick I learned from watching America's test kitchen (this is what they do with bananas for banana bread), I microwaved the zucchini to force out the excess liquid. I got a little over a cupful of liquid from the shredded zucchini which made a huge difference. The rest of the recipe, is all about stirring the ingredients together, the hardest part is probably grating the zucchini! 

fig and zucchini bread #dessert #wheat #foodphotography #foodstyling #zucchinibread #baking

 

fig and zucchini bread

yields: 1 loaf (8 1/2 " X 4 1/2") 

ingredients 

1 tablespoon walnut/olive oil + a little all purpose flour for coating the loaf pan.

1 lb zucchini

1 cup dried figs, chopped 

2 large eggs

1/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon walnut oil/olive oil (I tried both separately)

1 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract

3/4 cup ( 5 7/25 ounces)  raw brown sugar

1/4 cup plain low-fat greek yogurt

4 1/4 ounces all purpose flour

4 1/4 ounces whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup (2 3/5 ounces) chopped walnuts

6 whole figs dried, thinly sliced across their length

1. Place a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Coat a 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" loaf pan with a little oil and dust with a little flour.

2. Trim the ends off the zucchini and grate them into fine shreds. Place the shredded zucchini into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Transfer the zucchini into a larger strainer lined with two layers of cheesecloth/muslin. Allow the zucchini to drain for about 30 minutes or until you have about 1 cup of liquid. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the zucchini to release as much as liquid as possible. Discard the liquid (you can use this liquid to prepare smoothies/juices or stocks) and place the shredded zucchini in a large mixing bowl.

3. Add the 1 cup of chopped dried figs to the zucchini along with the 2 large eggs, oil, vanilla, sugar and yogurt. Stir the contents together with a wooden spoon until combined. 

4. In a separate bowl, quickly whisk the flours, ginger powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Quickly stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients in the large mixing bowl until combined. Fold the walnuts into the batter and then transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Tap gently to release any trapped air bubbles. Place the thinly sliced whole figs in a single center row on top of the batter in the pan.

5. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, rotating the cake 180 degrees once during the baking process. The bread is done when the center is firm to touch or a knife should come out clean from the center of the bread. Allow the bread to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and the run the edges of a knife around the cake. Remove and allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve as needed. 

Note: This is a quick bread recipe. I recommend proceeding as quickly as possible to the baking stage as soon as you prepare the wet and dry ingredients. This will prevent excess liquid being released from the zucchini.