Sunday, June 26, 2016

bigger is better

Back in the day, I used to pretend to cater. I bought a bunch of lovely serving devices, and made lots of individually-portioned snacks. Then I ran out of patience. The ooh's and aah's that accompany the presentation of tiny, bite-sized pieces of food can only momentarily wipe away the memory of the work it took to compose those bites.

I avoided that bit of PTSD for tonight's dinner by making big entree-sized portions of Nom Nom Paleo's cute dim sum-like Shrimp-Stuffed Mushrooms. No, we weren't doing 24 individual stuffed cremini mushrooms - we're going to go ahead and split that shrimp paste in half, and serve ourselves dinner in two portobello caps.

I loved all of the flavors here - the sweetness of the shrimp, the porky studs of bacon throughout, and the earthy mushroom base. It's comforting and homey (if your memories include dim sum), and is both light and satisfying. A quick saute of bok choy and snow peas is all I needed here, but I imagine putting this between your favorite roll with some Sriracha aioli would also make a pretty nice sandwich.

Shrimp-Stuffed Portobellos
very slightly adapted from Nom Nom Paleo
serves 2

2 large portobello mushrooms (about 8 oz. total)
2 t. olive oil
8 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. packed cilantro leaves
2 bacon slices, diced
1 T. diced red bell pepper
1 t. fish sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Remove the stems and gills from the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms gill-side down on a small baking sheet, and drizzle 1 t. olive oil on each mushroom. Roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for 10 more.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the shrimp, green onion, cilantro, bacon, bell pepper, and fish sauce. Process to a thick paste.

4. Divide the paste between the two mushroom caps, and roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp mixture is completely set. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2016

underwater dream

Truly, you had me at "Chilean sea bass." If it were appropriate to call fish dreamy, this would be it. That texture. The way it flakes right off when you've cooked it right. The way it just about melts in your mouth.

I'm not sure what the sage adds to it other than the stress of keeping it adhered while grilling, and then the panic at having torn a few when flipping. A well-salted and -peppered fillet with perfectly crisp skin and golden grill marks is more than sufficient, especially with the lily-gilding of the fresh and lemon-y almond-parsley salsa.

The vegetables were a nice and easy complement to the fish. The textures of the broccolini, snow peas and haricot verts played upon each other beautifully, and the tahini sauce gave them an earthy flavor that balanced both the greens and the fish. I'm not generally a huge fan of tahini, but whisked into a sauce with coconut aminos and a little acidity from apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice, it works.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Almond Salsa 
slightly adapted from Francis Mallmann's Mallmann On Fire
serves 2

For the fish:
1 lb. Chilean sea bass, skin-on, in one piece
2 T. olive oil
10 sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For the almond salsa:
2 T. sliced almonds
2 T. chopped parsley
1/2 T. lemon zest
1/2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes, to taste

1. Heat a large cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Brush the pan generously with olive oil.

2. Brush both sides of the fish with olive oil. Arrange the sage leaves on the flesh side, patting them down so they adhere. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Invert the fish, sage side down onto the grill, and grill without moving it, for 5-7 minutes.

4. While the fish is cooking, combine the salsa ingredients, and season to taste.

5. Brush the skin again with oil. Check to see if the fish is ready to turn by lifting up one edge - when it is ready, it will release easily. Flip the fish, and cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes, until the skin is crisp, and the fish is just cooked through. Serve immediately with almond salsa

Broccolini-Snow Pea-Haricot Vert Salad with Tahini Sauce
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More
serves 4

For the salad:
8 oz. broccolini, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 oz. haricot verts, trimmed
6 oz. snow peas, trimmed
3/4 c. chopped cilantro
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

For the sauce:
3 T. tahini
2 T. water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T. coconut aminos
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the haricot verts, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccolini, and cook for another minute. Add the snow peas, and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain all of the vegetables, and then run them under cold water to stop the cooking. Dry well.

3. Toss the vegetables with the cilantro and 2 T. of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with sesame seeds.

Monday, June 20, 2016

why don't you like me

Matty's response to this meal was, "I don't understand why people don't like chicken livers!"

I whole-heartedly agree! They're rich and delicious, and the nutrient-to-calorie ratio is so high. Completely crisped up after living in a parsley marinade, and paired with perfectly charred and mustard-y endive, it's a wonderful meal for two, or shared with more as an appetizer.

Is mustard plus bitter endive a little much intensity, you ask? Absolutely not - when cooked and charred, the endive mellows and sweetens, and the mustard becomes just the right bite you need to balance the richness of the livers.

Chicken Livers a la Plancha in Charred Endive
slightly adapted from Francis Mallmann's Mallmann On Fire
serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

8 oz. fresh chicken livers
2 T. parsley
2 T. olive oil
1 T. brown mustard
12 large endive leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim the livers of any fat or gristle. Cut the lobes into 12 bite-sized pieces, and combine in a small bowl 1 T. parsley and 1 T. olive oil. Mix well, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 T. parsley and remaining 1 T. olive oil with the mustard. Lightly toss the endive leaves in the mixture to coat.

3. Heat a large cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Place the endive leaves rounded side up in the pan and cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes, or until the edges are well-charred. Remove them with tongs, and arrange rounded side down on a serving platter.

4. Arrange the livers at least an inch apart in the pan, and cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes, until they are brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn them over and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until they are crisp all over, but still pink within. As the livers are done, place them on the endive leaves. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

i got the sauce

This cauliflower rice thing is starting to grow on me. Then again, it could just be the Lamb Kefta that went on top of it.

The original recipe called for a large can of crushed tomatoes to make a sauce in which to simmer the meatballs, and then float a few eggs in. I'm really pushing the egg intake on this Whole30 round, so I wanted to rein that in a bit.

I also wanted to use some of the massive bounty of Sweet 100 tomatoes that is literally taking over my backyard. So, instead of the can of crushed tomatoes, I took a half pound of cherry tomatoes, and cooked them in with the onions, making a really nice, thick sauce.

The spice mixture was perfect with the less saucy sauce - very in-your-face, very interesting.

Lamb Kefta
adapted from Saveur
serves 4-8

1 1/4 lb. ground lamb
2 T. ground cumin
2 T. paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. ghee
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. white onion, minced
1 1/4 t. red chili flakes
1⁄2 t. ground ginger
1⁄2 t. crushed saffron threads
1 bay leaf
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, diced
1⁄2 c. unpitted Castelvetrano olives
chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Place the lamb, 1 T. cumin, 1 T. paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and mix until evenly combined. Form the mixture into 1 oz. balls, and place on a plate. Chill kefta until ready to use.

2. Heat the ghee in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining cumin and paprika, chile flakes, ginger, saffron, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir to coat in the spices. Add the kefta, and cook, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir the olives through to warm, and then serve over (cauliflower) rice with parsley sprinkled on top.

Monday, June 13, 2016

dressin' up

Wonderfully rich salmon gets a little update with a spicy-sweet seasoning crust that keeps things casual in prep, but super elegant in presentation. This is definitely a dinner party trick.

I made a quick side of roasted potatoes and mushrooms, but I think a bed of silky spinach would be more appropriate to keep things on the lighter side.

Chile-Cinnamon Salmon
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 2

2 salmon fillets (about 1 lb.)
1 t. chile powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. coconut oil

1. In a small bowl mix the chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of the salmon fillet. 

2. Heat the canola oil in a cast-iron skillet. When the skillet is very hot, but not yet smoking, add the salmon, skin-side down. Cook it until the skin is very crisp, dark brown and releases easily from the skillet, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let it cook more than about 1/4 of the way through at this point. 

3. Once the skin has crisped, flip the fish, and cook it an additional 2 minutes more. Plate and serve immediately.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

let it go

To be completely honest, I was very nervous about how this dish was going to turn out. It's been a minute since I've done a full-on Sunday Supper.

I had already started with bone-in ribs, when the recipe called for boneless. I thought that might have been the problem when I didn't really get fall-off-the-bone texture after the hour-long braise, and was sure that was the problem. I had followed the recipe instructions in switching the pork and chicken from top to bottom to make sure the braise was even, but towards the last 15 minutes or so, I kept the pork submerged longer because it felt like it could use the extra time.

But after a while, I just called it a day, and tried to move on. If there's one thing I know I can do, it's crisp up a chicken thigh. So I started with that, just to build on strengths. I used coconut oil instead of the called-for peanut oil because a) no peanuts on Whole30, and b) because of Whole30, I left out the sugar called for in the recipe and thought I could make up some sweetness with the coconut oil.

Chicken down, it was time for the ribs. I had no idea how this would turn out, so I just went in with the browning and tended to the reducing sauce.

Oh, that sauce. It smells heavenly, all garlic and lime. But it was not reducing to "the consistency of a thin syrup" - no ma'am. And again, eventually, I just had to call it a day.

Luckily, it was perfect. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but it was intensely aromatic, the meat was rich and tender, and the tomato relish (basically, the best pico de gallo ever) added the perfect amount of freshness to brighten up the whole dish.

Matty's portion was served over brown rice, while I continued to work through the riced cauliflower bag from Trader Joe's. Just to keep things super real, cauliflower rice is a terrible disappointment, and nothing like regular rice. I'd probably be better off just making mashed cauliflower, which actually does taste like mashed potatoes.

Chicken + Pork Adobado
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 6

For the braise:
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
2 T. coconut aminos
2 t. grated lime zest
2 bay leaves, each torn in half
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
2 1/2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 1/2 lbs. bone-in country-style pork ribs
2 T. coconut oil

For the relish:
1 1/2 oz. red onion, diced
1/2 lb. tomatoes, diced
3 T. chopped cilantro
2 t. fresh lime juice
salt, to taste

1. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the garlic, vinegar, water, coconut aminos, lime zest, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Zip the bag closed, and shake to combine all of the ingredients. Add the meats to the marinade, turning the bag to coat, and set aside to marinate for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. If your kitchen is more than 75 degrees, marinate in the refrigerator 2 hours.

2. Mix the ingredients for the relish, and set aside in the fridge.

3. Transfer the chicken and pork, along with the marinade, to a large lidded skillet. Put the pan over medium-high heat, and, as soon as bubbles appear, lower the heat to a quiet simmer and cover tightly. Every 10 minutes, lift the lid and turn the pieces of meat with tongs so that they braise evenly. Continue to braise at a gentle simmer until the chicken and pork are tender.

4. Using tongs, transfer the chicken and pork to a large plate. Sim the surface fat from the braising liquid, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil the sauce until reduced by about two-thirds to the consistency of a thin syrup, about 12-15 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

5. Meanwhile, melt 1 T. coconut oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chicken skin-side down, and fry until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, another 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6. Melt the remaining T. of coconut oil in the same skillet, and add the ribs. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side.

7. Place the browned meat into the sauce, and add any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Plate over (cauliflower) rice, and spoon the sauce on top. Top with the tomato relish, and serve immediately.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

keep me warm

You know it's a dreary day in Los Angeles, when you're watching the Dodgers play in San Francisco, and it's considerably brighter there than it is here.

The silver lining to this is that it means soup weather. I went through my usual cold weather cookbooks - ones about braising, ones with noodle soups galore, etc. I wasn't particularly inspired - everything felt so heavy, and noodles are out on Whole30, so I started switching my search to restaurants to grab dinner from.

But then I turned to the crisper, and found a languishing bundle of asparagus, and garden chard leftover from a salad I made for lunch, and thought it might not be a bad idea to go a fresher route.

The soup still ended up very velvety and rich because I added the coconut milk leftover from my curry two nights ago. You can use 2 full cups of vegetable broth for a lighter soup.

Chard-Asparagus Soup
slightly adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
serves 4

1 T. coconut oil
9 oz. diced onion
9 oz. trimmed asparagus
3 oz. chard, sliced
2/3 c. coconut milk
1 1/3 c. vegetable broth
salt, to taste
4 T. hemp seeds
4 T. flax seeds
4 T. pine nuts

1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, and saute until translucent. Add the asparagus and chard, and stir to coat in the oil.

2. Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and blend until smooth, in a standard blender, or using an immersion blender. Salt to taste.

3. Divide the soup between 4 bowls, and top with 1 T. each of hemp seeds, flax seeds, and pine nuts. Serve immediately.