Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Goat Cheese and Olive-Caper-Pepper Relish

A couple Saturdays ago we were making scrambled eggs for breakfast, and while we weren’t looking, Levi grabbed the cumin from the spice rack, unscrewed the top, and sprinkled some into the eggs. It threw me off (though I was thankful he chose the cumin over the cinnamon). Dustin ran with it. He added some chopped kalamata olives, onions, peppers, and tomatoes and called it a Mediterranean scramble. Then he served it over toasted pita bread spread with goat cheese. Brilliant. Thanks, Levi, for unintentionally (or intentionally?) pointing us in the direction of an awesome breakfast.

Last summer we grilled portobello mushrooms and filled them with goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, and basil. We thought they would be pretty hard to beat. The weekend after the Mediterranean scramble incident, we filled the same umami-packed mushroom caps with goat cheese and a relish made from capers, olives, grilled red peppers, garlic, oregano, and olive oil. The flavors are reminiscent of a Muffaletta sandwich, but a vegetarian version; the portobellos, of course, standing in for the cold cuts. Lately I’ve been obsessed with the combination of capers and olives and how their brininess brightens up grilled meats, seafood, pasta dishes, and in this case, grilled mushrooms. Before grilling them, I added a few dashes of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, just to add a little depth of flavor.

While the weather is still nice, and the grill is accessible, try this meatless meal that boasts of bright flavors and easy preparation (make the relish ahead of time!) And make sure your spice lids are screwed on tight if you have a toddler accompanying you in the kitchen 😉


Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Goat Cheese & Caper-Olive-Red Pepper Relish

(Inspired by Levi’s addition to our scrambled eggs, and the “Vegetarian Muffaletta Wraps” in the book The Fifth Taste – Cooking with Umami; Serves 3-4 – we had some extra filling after stuffing our 3 mushrooms)

3 large portobello mushrooms
Olive oil for brushing
Worcestershire sauce
Soy sauce
Salt & Pepper
1/2 a small red bell pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup roughly chopped Spanish olives with pimentos
1 1/2 tsp. minced capers
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. soft, fresh goat cheese, at room temperature

  • Prepare a charcoal grill for low-medium heat (by controlling the vents to allow the coats to die down).
  • Twist the stems off the portobello mushrooms and scrape the gills out using a butter knife or spoon, discarding stems and gills. Brush or drizzle the mushrooms on both sides with olive oil, a splash of soy sauce, and a splash of Worcestershire. Set aside.
  • Remove the seeds and ribs from the bell pepper half and brush or drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a medium bowl, toss together the olives, capers, parsley, garlic, oregano, and olive oil to combine.
  • When the grill is ready, grill the red bell pepper until blistered and soft. Remove from grill, cool slightly and roughly chop. Add to olive-caper mixture.
  • Grill the portobello mushrooms gill-side down for 5-7 minutes and until nice grill marks form. Flip so they are cap-side down and continue to cook for several more minutes or until almost tender. Carefully spoon some goat cheese into each mushroom cap and spread  into a thin layer. Spoon the olive-caper-pepper relish on top of the goat cheese. Cover the grill and cook until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is warmed, about 2 minutes.

Baked Eggs in Puff Pastry with Goat Cheese & Bacon


I love brunch, but since going out to eat involves taking turns chasing an active toddler around the restaurant, we prefer to make it at home, or better yet, make our favorite brunch dishes for dinner. For this Blogger’s Choice recipe swap (hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking), I was really excited to be assigned the blog The Jey of Cooking. I used the same decision-making tactic that I did for the previous blogger’s choice recipe swap and went straight to Jey’s Eleven Favorite Recipes for 2011, because I really wanted to make a recipe that was a top favorite in her home.

Second on that list, these baked eggs in puff pastry stood out to me. I was craving some sort of breakfast/brunch-for-dinner and this sounded perfect. The versatility of the dish also appealed to me. Jey used cheddar cheese and bacon in her baked eggs; the original recipe called for feta and prosciutto. We decided to use goat cheese (because we had some in the fridge to use up) and made half with prosciutto and half with El Salchichero‘s chorizo bacon (one of our favorites – I raved about it in this salad). When you cut into these flaky, buttery puff pastry “plates,” you find the cheese and the meat under the egg; bacon hidden in anything is a delightful surprise. I served our baked eggs in puff pastry with some roasted asparagus and a mixed greens salad, and Dustin picked out a bottle of this Saison that paired wonderfully with the whole meal.

I need to digress on baking eggs. I’m still waiting to get them right. My first attempt was for this Shakshuka recipe, and while it was delicious, the eggs were definitely overcooked. This time, guess what, I undercooked them, so I had to throw them back in the oven for a few minutes and they were still not as crispy and done as I had desired. I swear one of these days I’ll get it! Or perhaps I’ll just cheat and lay a fried egg on top of whatever called for a baked one. When I make these again, I’ll increase the initial baking of the puff pastry with the cheese and bacon, and also after cracking the eggs into them. I think this will result in a more golden puff pastry crust and a more perfectly cooked egg. The cooking times below reflect the original recipe, and I’m just going to blame my oven in the meantime 🙂

Happy brunch-ing or brinner-ing – whether you make it for breakfast for dinner, you’ll love this dish. Try it with a glass of Saison!

Please note – these pictures were taken before I realized that the whites were still slightly undercooked and that the puff pastry could use a bit more browning. Back into the oven they went, but by the time they were done, I was too hungry for another round of pictures 🙂


Baked Eggs in Puff Pastry with Goat Cheese & Bacon

(Slightly adapted from The Jey of Cooking; Originally from I Will Not Eat Oysters)

2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted*
goat cheese
2 slices prosciutto + 2 slices chorizo bacon (or regular bacon)
4 large eggs
2 TBS. Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

*We were able to get four circles out of one puff pastry sheet

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Heat a large pan on med-high heat and drizzle a little olive oil into the pan. Cook the prosciutto (followed by the bacon) on both sides until crisp. Place on a paper towel to drain off any excess fat. Cool, then crumble and set aside.
  • Using a a bowl about 5″ in diameter, cut out 4 circles from the puff pastry. Transfer to the baking sheet. Score a border about 1/2″ in around each circle. Be sure to not cut all the way through! Prick the inside, not the border, with a fork. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

  • Fill each puff pastry center with dollops of goat cheese and top with crumbled prosciutto and/or bacon, making sure there is none on the border.


Bake for 8 minutes or until the border has puffed up. Press the center down gently with the back of a spoon. Break an egg into a small bowl then pour it into the center of the “plate”. Repeat for each egg. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Place them back into the oven for another 6-7 minutes until the whites of the eggs are set and the puff pastry is golden. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette


Salad for dinner may conjure up images of summer evenings, but this one is about as wintry as you can get, and (dare I say) just as comforting as a bowl of soup. Endive cooked in butter becomes nutty and caramelized, pairing perfectly with sautéed apples, baked walnut-encrusted goat cheese, fresh baby spinach leaves, and a sweet-slightly tart pomegranate vinaigrette. We loved the juxtaposition of warm goat cheese, apples, and endive with the cool spinach and the pop of fresh pomegranate seeds. It’s everything you want in a dinner salad, with winter flair. Since we are traveling the day after Christmas to spend time with family, and probably won’t get a chance to post until the new year, we’ll leave you with this festive salad as a way to say Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!! We look forward to the coming year, when we will celebrate our blog’s 5th anniversary (crazy)! There is also a little family venture that’s been brewing that we will reveal soon . Thanks, readers (whoever you are; I love finding out who is actually following along!) What’s your wish for the new year? See you then!


Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; Serves 4)

1 cup pomegranate juice
6 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts*
3 TBS. butter
2 large Belgian endives, halved lengthwise with core left intact, each half cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 firm, medium-sweet apples (like Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 3 TBS.)
1 TBS. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. (4 lightly packed cups) baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)**
2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives***

* We used walnuts instead.
** Optional, yes, but they look so pretty, don’t they? And they add a refreshing pop to the salad.
*** Our store was out of chives, so I omitted these.

  • Position a rack in the center of an oven and heat to 425°F.
  • In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the pomegranate juice to about 1/4 cup (it should be syrupy), about 15 minutes (mine took about 12).
  • Meanwhile, mash the goat cheese in a small bowl with a fork until smooth (I must have used a dryer goat cheese because it didn’t mash well. I skipped this step and went straight to forming it into rounds). Form the cheese into four 2-inch-diameter rounds. Put the hazelnuts (or walnuts) on a small plate and press the goat cheese rounds into the nuts on all sides to coat. Transfer the cheese to a small baking sheet and bake until the nuts brown and the cheese softens, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • While the goat cheese bakes, melt 2 TBS. of the butter in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the endives flat in the pan (they’ll fit snugly), sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook, undisturbed, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side starts to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
  • Melt the remaining 1 TBS. butter in the skillet, add the apples and shallot, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, shaking the pan often, until the apples start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the pomegranate juice to a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; whisk until combined. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach and apples with half of the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the endives on 4 large serving plates, top  with a mound of the spinach mixture, and then the goat cheese. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta


When the December issue of Bon Appetit introduced me to shakshuka, a popular dish in Israel, it screamed comfort to me. You crack eggs over a simmering aromatic tomato sauce, seasoned with paprika, cumin, jalapeño, and garlic, and then transfer the skillet to the oven for them to poach. Chickpeas add substance, crumbled feta adds creaminess, and chopped cilantro adds brightness. Place the hot skillet (carefully) in the middle of the table and dig in with pita bread for dipping. If you succeed in poaching the eggs just right, the whites will be set and the yolks will be nice and runny. I was not so successful. After the suggested 5-8 minutes of cooking time, my whites were still clear, so I let them go a little longer and then they overcooked. Alas. It was still delicious, however, and I’ve been blogging long enough to feel comfortable admitting my screw-up. The next morning I redeemed myself. I fried two eggs (perfectly over easy, I might add – I’m more comfortable cooking eggs in a pan than in the oven) and placed them over the leftover tomato sauce/chickpea/feta mixture. Amazing. There are not many meals that I’d gladly eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but this is one of them.

The holidays can be a time of stress, whether it’s menu planning for your first Christmas dinner, braving the crowds downtown to find the perfect sweater for uncle so-and-so, or entertaining last minute out-of-town guests. Or in my case, maybe you have a 20 month old who can go from being the sweetest boy in the world to screaming at the top of his lungs when Mommy decides it’s time to leave the children’s section of the bookstore to pay for our books. In the midst of this kind of week, may I suggest this meal as a quick (and more importantly, comforting) weeknight dinner. In 30 minutes it can be on your table, and as soon as you tear off that first piece of pita and dip it into the bubbling sauce, you’ll be reminded of what matters. There is good food to be had. And look at the people sitting around your dinner table – you’re truly lucky to have them. Looking at my own (grown-up) baby reminds me of that baby in a manger, oh so long ago, who embodied love and grace for the world; I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some of that right about now.


Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

(From the December 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely crumbled feta
8 large eggs**
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Warm pita bread

*I used one 15 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, and one 15 oz. can of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (had to make use of what was in my pantry).

**For the 3 of us (yes, Levi actually counts as a whole person now when it comes to serving sizes), I used 5 eggs. I kept the amount of tomato sauce the same, even though the original recipes says it serves 4-6. It makes wonderful leftovers, and you can always fry an egg (or 2) the next morning and place it on top of the sauce.

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeños; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, paprika, and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta evenly over sauce. Crack eggs one at a time and place over sauce, spacing evenly apart. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 5–8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and cilantro. Serve with pita for dipping..

Grilled Sriracha “Poppers”


Remember when I confessed how much I love onion rings? Well there’s one appetizer that I’m even less likely to turn down if I see it on a menu – Jalapeño Poppers. Just like the rings, I wanted to make a version at home that was a little healthier and wasn’t deep-fried. I’d been eyeing a Jalapeño Popper recipe in The Sriracha Cookbook that uses a mixture of cream cheese, Sriracha (naturally), grated Monterey Jack cheese, and cumin for the filling. It sounded so much more exciting than the usual cream cheese, so we decided to use the kicked-up filling, but throw them on the grill instead of breading and frying.

After a couple minutes over direct heat, and a few minutes more on indirect heat, the jalapeños were perfectly charred on the bottoms and the zesty, cheesy filling was happily bubbling. We loved them and didn’t even miss the fried coating. Even Levi ate these poppers voraciously! Apparently at almost 16 months, his heat tolerance level is getting higher. Good boy! If you have leftover filling, it’s awesome on a toasted bagel for breakfast.


Grilled Sriracha “Poppers”

(Adapted from The Sriracha Cookbook; Serves 4-6 as an appetizer/snack)

12 medium to large-sized jalapeños
7 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 TBS. Sriracha
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 tsp. cumin
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Olive oil for the grill

  • Prepare a charcoal grill.
  • Wash the jalapeños and pat dry. Cut off the stems and cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to gently scrape out the seeds and membranes. Arrange jalapeño halves on a large platter.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, Sriracha, Monterey jack cheese, and cumin and mix well. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  • Fill each jalapeño half with the cream cheese filling.
  • When the coals are ready, oil the grill grates. Using tongs, carefully place the Jalapeño Poppers in the center of the grill. Cook for a few minutes, or until the bottoms of the jalapeños just begin to char. Move the poppers to the edge of the grill so that they can continue to cook over more indirect heat for about 5 minutes more. When the jalapeños are soft, the cream cheese filling is bubbling, and the tops are turning golden, they are ready!
  • Transfer to a serving platter. Try not to burn your mouth because they’ll look so good, you’ll want to pop one in your mouth right away.


More Poppers, Please!

Goat Cheese, Tomato & Basil Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms


I failed to produce a grocery list before we entered the store last Sunday. Luckily, the order in which we strolled through the produce section determined the menu. It was hard to miss the pile of huge portobello mushrooms, dwarfing the other fungi varieties around them. We decided that their savory, rich umami flavor would make them a perfect alternative to meat on this particular evening and make them a good match for a charcoal grill. Now that we had our blank canvas to work with, we just needed to decide what to put inside their vast caps. The smell of fresh basil wafting from behind us got our attention and into the cart went a beautiful verdant bunch. Levi tried to grab it as it went in; the smell must have captivated his little senses as well. Next, my eyes were drawn to a stunning heirloom tomato, the colors of an orange and yellow sunset. Even though the classic combination of caprese was becoming our inspiration, we decided to deter a little and use a soft goat cheese called fromage blanc instead of fresh mozzarella.

Every bite of these stuffed charcoal-grilled portobello mushrooms was bright and summery, with that underlying rich portobello flavor. On the side I made a simple rice pilaf and a spinach salad with sliced white peaches.


Goat Cheese, Tomato & Basil Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

(Adapted from My Recipes)

2 portobello mushrooms
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
1 large heirloom tomato
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 TBS. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
your favorite soft goat cheese, such as fromage blanc
a couple handfuls of baby spinach leaves

  • Prepare a charcoal grill.
  • Using a spoon, scrape the brown gills out of the mushroom caps. Discard gills. Remove and discard stems. Place mushroom caps on a large plate and drizzle both sides with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, toss the chopped tomato with the garlic, fresh basil & oregano, and a little splash each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.
  • Place mushroom caps, stem-side down on an oiled grill grate and grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until soft.
  • Fill the caps with a few spoonfuls of goat cheese and spread so that it covers the bottom of the mushroom caps evenly. Lay a small handful of baby spinach leaves on top of the goat cheese, followed by a few spoonfuls of the tomato mixture. Cover and grill for 3 minutes more. Remove from grill and transfer to plates. Sprinkle with a little more chopped basil and serve.

Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread


Here we are in the heart of grilling season. There are a lot of enticing recipes out there – most of which revolve around meat – but I’m going to share something a little different, and if you’re a cheese-lover like me, you are sure to get excited about this one. It’s a cheese plate on the grill! A grilling cheese like halloumi or yanni can withstand the heat of the grill without melting. It softens nicely on the inside, and appealing golden grill marks form on its exterior. The creamy, slightly salty taste is a brilliant match for the sweet rosemary-grape-walnut relish and the the rustic, grilled garlic bread. The relish gets a delicious sweet, smoky flavor from cooking the bunch of grapes directly on the grill (I bet you’ve never grilled grapes before!) The garlic bread adds a nice savory counterpoint. Try this as an appetizer at your next BBQ, or as a dinner in itself (as we did) served with a salad dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Dining al fresco makes it taste even better.


Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread

(From the June/July 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

1 medium red onion, cut into 3 to 4 thick slices
2 Tbs. plus 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. halloumi cheese, cut into 3/8-inch-thick slabs (we used Yanni, a Mediterranean grilling cheese)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small loaf of ciabatta (about 8 oz.),cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 large bunch seedless black or red grapes (about 1-1/4 lb.)
2 to 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar

  • Prepare a charcoal or (high) gas grill.
  • Drizzle the onion slices with 2 tsp. of the oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper.
  • Pat the cheese dry and drizzle with 2 tsp. of the oil.
  • In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil, the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper; brush the mixture evenly over one side of the bread slices.
  • Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the walnuts while still hot and transfer them to a medium bowl. Mix in the rosemary.
  • Place the onion slices and the bunch of grapes on the grill. Cover and grill, turning once, until the grapes are bursting and the onions are grill marked, about 10 minutes. Transfer the grapes to the bowl with the walnuts, and the onions to a cutting board.
  • Use tongs to pull the grapes from their stems as well as crush them one by one before dropping them into the bowl with the walnuts & rosemary. Chop the grilled onions and add them to the bowl. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set relish aside.
  • Clean and oil the grill grate. Place the bread and cheese on the grate and grill uncovered, turning once, until there are nice grill marks on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Divide the bread, cheese, and relish among 4 plates (if enjoying as an appetizer) or 2 plates (as a main dish) and enjoy immediately. A lighter bodied red wine pairs wonderfully with this meal.

And yes, I’m aware of the sippy cup in the background of our pictures. “You know you’re food blogger-mom when …”