Fun Little Baked Potato Shooters

Baked Potato Shooters with Bacon, Crema, Cheese, and Chives

Baked Potato Shooters
Bacon, Mexican Crema, Cheese, and Chives
Chive Blossoms Too

I credit Graham Elliot with this idea. A couple weeks ago, we had a wonderful meal at his eponymous bistro in Chicago. On the menu – baked potato soup / traditional accompaniments, untraditional ways.

At a recent party, I served liquid baked potato untraditionally in 2 oz. shot glasses with traditional accompaniments of bacon, sour cream, cheese, and chives. They were a big hit. Thanks, Graham.

And with their savory garlic-oniony flavor and pretty lavender color, chive blossoms from my garden added a charming untraditional finishing touch.

Baked Potato Shooters! Bacon, Mexican Crema, Cheese, and Chives, Chive Blossoms Too

Baked Potato Shooters Recipe

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Rhône Blend White Wines are a Dream to Pair with Foods

Fried Goat Cheese, Butter Lettuce Cups, Green Apple, Almonds, Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream

Fried Goat Cheese
Butter Lettuce, Green Apple, Almond, Borage
Sweet Meyer Lemon Cream with Cardamom

paired with

Le Cigar Blanc 2012
Bonny Doon Vineyard
Arroyo Seco, Monterey County, California

for

Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

Rhône Blend white wines are a dream to pair with foods. Who can resist the tempting flavors of peaches, apricots, ripe pears, sweet spices and honey, or the seductive aromas of honeysuckle and tropical fruits? White wines from France’s Rhône tend to have these characteristics. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, and to a lesser extent Picpoul Blanc – are the dominant varietals in the region. Many of the wines tend toward a creaminess that is rich but not heavy, with a refreshing acidity, and a pleasing minerality and nuttiness.

California Winemaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon Vineyards has been a tireless champion of the grapes of the Rhône for decades. It is difficult to resist his stylish wines as well as his quirky sense of humor. This wine, Le Cigare Blanc (The White Cigar) is named after his flagship, Le Cigar Volant (The Flying Cigar), so-called in honor of the cigar-shaped flying saucer banned by decree of the village council of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s a true story,  in 1954 the mayor and the council voted to ban alien craft from the airspace of their hamlet in order to protect their precious crops.

The 2012 vintage of Le Cigar Blanc is made of 48% Grenache Blanc, 44% Roussanne, and 8% Picpoul Blanc. The Grenache Blanc adds notes of green apple and lemon-lime citrus. The Roussanne brings honeyed notes with a rich mouthfeel and nutty aromas. These characteristics are highlighted and elevated by this salad’s rich goat cheese, sweet/tart meyer lemon cream with a hint of warm cardamom spice, allumettes of green apple, and lightly toasted almonds. Soft butter lettuce, creamy cheese with a toasty panko breadcrumb crust, and crisp Granny Smiths add contrasting textures.

This goat cheese salad and Rhône blend make a quite dreamy pair.

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Food & Wine Pairing: Ahi and Pinot Noir

Food & Wine Pairing: Ahi and Pinot Noir

Pan-Seared Ahi Tuna
Lavender-Scented Soy Butter Sauce with Thyme
Lentil Pomegranate Arugula Salad

paired with

Paraiso Pinot Noir
Santa Lucia Highlands 2011

for

Grocery Outlet’s
Spring Wine Sale

The culinary confluence of the first days of Spring in my garden, the mind-boggling wine sale at Grocery Outlet, and irresistible fillets of fresh ahi tuna from my favorite fishmonger – all meld together into a beautiful synergistic seasonal main course.

Pinot Noir is eminently food friendly due to the elegant balance of fruit, acidity, and light tannins. Fruitier versions make a great match with salmon and tuna. Black cherry, pomegranate, and cranberry flavors with hints of spice, smoke, and toasty oak in Paraiso Pinot Noir pair beautifully with fresh-caught yellowfin tuna.

The marriage is a mutually advantageous conjunction revealing deeper layers of flavor for both the dish and the wine. Earthy lentils and peppery arugula reflect those same flavors in the wine. Pomegranate arils mirror those fruit flavors, adding a touch of fruitiness without being too sweet. In the sauce – soy brings salty and umami flavors while butter adds nutty flavor and unctuous mouth-feel. The well-loved fragrance of lavender adds more than a just a scent but also an unexpected burst of flavor that heightens the wine profile. Thyme and black pepper elevate the underlying nuances of this Pinot Noir. The dish is a relaxed, natural presentation of a pristine fillet of fish paired with a delightful bottle of wine, all in the celebration of Springtime.

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Smoked Salmon Pizza, Chive Blossoms, Fried Capers, Horseradish Cream Cheese

Smoked Salmon Pizza, Chive Blossoms, Fried Capers, Horseradish Cream Cheese

Smoked Salmon Flatbread Pizza
Chive Blossoms, Chives, Fried Capers
Dill, Lemon, Maui Onion, Horseradish Cream Cheese

Smoked salmon pizza was one of a trio of flatbreads we served for lunch aboard Oasis on a recent cruise over to Two Harbors at Catalina Island. Lunch on the aft deck could not have been more delightful – with perfect weather, breathtaking scenery, and wonderful company.

Our three light and crispy flatbread pizzas (smoked salmon, roasted brussels sprouts, and a version of vegetable with arugula) were accompanied by a lively chopped Israeli salad and refreshingly cool sangria.  Flatbread pizzas make for a super-satisfying lunch on board. They are fast and easy to cook in the galley, and they’re not as filling as traditional pizza – so after lunch we were buoyant and ready for a fabulous 6 mile hike around the island.

Cruise to Catalina Island

Smoked Salmon Pizza Recipe

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Figs and Sabayon à la Julia Child

Figs and Sabayon à la Julia Child

Celebrating Julia Child’s Birthday
with
Macerated Fresh Black Mission Figs and Marsala/French Vermouth Sabayon
Roasted Hazelnuts, Maldon Sea Salt, Borage

It has been a tradition since the beginning of Taste With The Eyes in 2007, to celebrate and honor Julia Child in the month of August. She passed away eleven years ago today, and her 103rd birthday would have been on Saturday.

With the happy confluence of the call for chilled desserts by my friends at the Food Network, the need for an elegant dessert course for my virtual restaurant – The Borage & Basil Bistro, and the annual tribute to our beloved Chef – it is my sweet pleasure to share Figs and Sabayon à la Julia Child.

Julia Child Tributes

Travel back in time and enjoy French food and revel in its perfection as Julia describes her very first meal in France in 1948. (here)

Sneak into Julia’s kitchen to watch her make the authentic Caesar Salad and Salmon in Papillote in her usual charming and un-fussy manner. (here)

Join Julia and her friends in a beautiful courtyard, seated at a little white table beneath a leafy trellis for a splendid lunch, while they uncover the secret of loup de mer. (here)

Joyeux Anniversaire Julia Child
Joyeux Anniversaire Julia Child

Julia Child
August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004

“…A careful approach will result in a magnificent burst of flavor, a thoroughly satisfying meal, perhaps even a life changing experience. Such was the case with the Sole Meunière I ate at La Couronne on my first day in France, in November 1948. It was an epiphany. In all the years since that succulent meal, I have yet to lose the feelings of wonder and excitement that it inspired in me. I can still almost taste it. And thinking back on it now reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite – toujours bon appetit!“

  -Julia Child, My Life In France

Figs and Sabayon à la Julia Child Recipe

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Santa Barbara Sea Urchin à la Jean-Georges

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin à la Jean-Georges

 Santa Barbara Sea Urchin à la Jean-Georges
Black Bread, Butter, Jalapeño, Yuzu, Maldon Salt

I was sitting in the dining room of my virtual restaurant, the Borage & Basil Bistro, reading about Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Santa Barbara Sea Urchin.

“This dish is the perfect example of how uncluttered Jean-Georges’ cuisine is, as well as the volumes he can make his dishes speak. The bright iodine from the uni marries perfectly with the buttered pumpernickel toast. It’s just delicious from both a textural and flavorful standpoint,” said Chef Wylie Dufresne.

Contemplating getting on a plane to NYC to try this utterly sublime dish, it occurred to me how silly it would be to travel across the country from LA – to eat Santa Barbara uni! 

Not only is the uni local, we also have the rare yuzu tree (an important component of this dish) growing in our garden. So that is how Santa Barbara Sea Urchin à la Jean-Georges ended up as the appetizer on tonight’s dinner menu at the Borage & Basil Bistro, this summer’s virtual restaurant where all the menu items feature fresh snipped herbs, exotic ripe fruits, and edible flowers from our garden.

With its salty, clean ocean scent and hues of gold and deep orange, its sweet, exotic, haunting taste and creamy, buttery texture – the captivating sea urchin roe makes for an elegant appetizer, indeed.

Santa Barbara Sea Urchin à la Jean-Georges Recipe

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Filet Mignon à la Nancy Silverton

Beef Filet, Horseradish-Olive Tapenade, Cannellini Beans, Spinach, Arugula Flowers

Filet Mignon, Horseradish-Olive Tapenade
Cannellini Beans, Wilted Spinach & Arugula, Arugula Flowers

Welcome back to the Borage & Basil Bistro, this summer’s virtual restaurant where all the menu items feature fresh snipped herbs, exotic ripe fruits, and/or edible flowers from our garden.

Tonight’s dinner special is inspired by Chef Nancy Silverton, adapted from a recipe she shares in A Twist of The Wrist, a terrific book of quick flavorful meals. It’s a version of a meat lover’s entree that had been popular for years at Campanile – a truly seminal restaurant – one that influenced the LA dining scene with its farmers market-driven fare spanning over two decades…

The beauty of this dish is that it marries the flavors in one pan – our filet mignon is seared – then the beans are heated in the beef juices, greens added at the end to wilt. Silverton’s suggestion of jarred black olive tapenade paired perfectly with the filet, but here at Borage & Basil, we swirl in some prepared horseradish, which gives the dish an extra kick. Our arugula is flowering, so to finish the plate, the attractive tasty arugula blossoms are scattered about. Arugula flowers taste much like the leaves, but with a delicate crepe paper-like texture.

casual bouquet of roses, fennel flowers, yarrow, and Mexican heather

Borage & Basil’s centerpieces come from the garden as well. Tonight the tables are adorned with a casual bouquet of roses, fennel flowers, yarrow, and Mexican heather.

Beef Filet, Horseradish-Olive Tapenade Recipe

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Unique Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad - Pomegranate Syrup, Feta, Cucumber, Red Onion, Borage, Cayenne, Olive Oil, Sprouted Watermelon Seeds, Basil

A Unique Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Brick, Pomegranate Syrup, Feta, Cucumber
Borage, Basil, Red Onion, Cayenne, Olive Oil, Sprouted Watermelon Seeds

Borage and Basil Centerpiece

 Welcome to My

BORAGE & BASIL
Bistro

The Borage & Basil Bistro is a bright sunny spot, a virtual place to enjoy summer’s bounty on a pretty plate. A relaxing place to sip a nice cool, crisp and melon-y Sauvignon Blanc. Fresh picked herbs and edible flowers dominate the menu.

Today’s salad special takes the ubiquitous combination of watermelon and feta and adds our eponymous borage & basil. Like bright stars falling from the summer sky…with it’s electric blue color and a faintly sweet flavor with hints of cucumber, borage makes the presentation pop! Pomegranate syrup adds sweet and tangy notes, while sprouted watermelon seeds add interest – they’re high in protein, with a nutty flavor and a crunchy texture. It’s a visually striking salad, light yet satisfying. And it just screams summer!

Watermelon Salad - Pomegranate Syrup, Feta, Cucumber, Red Onion, Borage, Cayenne, Olive Oil, Sprouted Watermelon Seeds, Basil

Unique Watermelon Salad Recipe

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Sublime Franco-Korean Elderflower Soju Martini

Sublime Franco-Korean Elderflower Soju Martini

Sublime Franco-Korean Elderflower Soju Martini

St-Germain Liqueur is created in the artisanal French manner from freshly hand-picked elderflower blossoms. Its sublime taste hints at pear, peach and grapefruit, yet none of them exactly. It is a flavor as seductive as it is elusive.

Soju is a Korean alcoholic beverage distilled from rice that has slightly floral and barely sweet flavors. Pleasantly light with a round mouth-feel and an alcoholic content of 20% (about half as much as vodka), it is usually enjoyed neat, sipped from a shot glass.

Angostura Bitters, a product of Trinidad, is an aromatic preparation of botanically infused alcohol. Just a couple dashes of its distinctive herbal spice flavor enhances the other components by adding another layer of complexity.

To create an Absolutely Bewitching Martini, pair soju with elderflower liqueur and angostura bitters, and enjoy a fusion cocktail that is delicate, captivatingly complex, and impossibly irresistible.

Elderflower Soju Martini Recipe 

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Fennel and Cabbage Slaw with Bacon, Egg, Peas

Fennel and Cabbage Slaw with Bacon, Egg, Peas

Warm Fennel, Cabbage, and Celery Slaw
with
Bacon Lardons, Poached Egg, Peas, and Scallions
Garlic Whole Grain Croutons

I just blinked an eye and my fennel bush grew four feet. And those umbels of petite yellow florets seemed to suddenly appear too. I didn’t want to harvest the bulbs – the plant is so pretty in the garden with its bright feathery leaves – but I did want to use those fronds and flowers in a dish. It turns out that my friends at Food Network are featuring all kinds of SLAW this week,  so I started with fennel and cabbage (from the farmers market) as a base and built this delightful salad from there.

Unlike most slaws, it is served slightly warm. And there are many flavors and textures in the dish that harmonize with each other. It is flexible too – going low-carb or gluten-free? Just leave out the croutons. Vegetarians can omit the bacon. Everyone can still be happy. Guaranteed.

Fennel Cabbage Slaw Recipe

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