Sunday, December 4, 2016

i'm so inspired by you

This post is inspired by my otherwise very healthy friend, who walked into the office the other day carrying a bag from Panda Express. "It looked good," was his only explanation.

Well, frankly, I don't blame him. In my younger, and higher-metabolism, days, a two-item combo with orange chicken and BBQ pork with a combo of fried rice and chow mein, of course, was the dream. It was only when I thought I should be slightly healthy and include a vegetable would I ever consider adding a third item - beef with broccoli.

When I first saw this recipe, I was intrigued by the soy and butter combo, but I thought the beef and mushrooms could be livened up a little with something brighter and with more texture - beef, mushrooms and steamed rice seemed a little boring to the tooth. The Panda Express inspiration the other day drove me to the store for a couple crowns of broccoli, and thus, dinner was born.

Beef with Broccoli + Mushrooms
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

1 lb. flank steak, sliced into 1/8-x2-inch pieces
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 t. rice vinegar
5 t. soy sauce, divided
2 t. sesame oil
1 t. cornstarch
1 lb. mixed mushrooms, sliced
12 oz. broccoli florets
5 T. ghee
4 garlic cloves, minced
steamed rice, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, sugar, pepper, rice vinegar, 1 t. soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch. Add the beef, toss to coat, and let marinate for 30 minutes.

2. Melt 1 T. ghee in a large skillet. Add the beef, spreading it out evenly, and cook without moving until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Cook for another minute, stirring regular. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside.

3. Melt 2 more T. ghee in the skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccoli, and continue to cook until the broccoli is crisp-tender. Add the remaining 4 t. soy sauce. Stir and add in the remaining 2 T. ghee and the garlic. Toss until fragrant, about 1 minute, then return the beef to the wok. Cook, stirring, until beef is cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a serving platter immediately and serve over rice.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

sweet dreams are made of cheese

I had another dinner plan for tonight, but Matty reminded me that it was focaccia day at our Italian deli, and requested that dinner be built around that.

That focaccia could be dinner in itself - massive, towering, topped with melted tomatoes, and buttery as all get-out. The only responsible thing to do would have been to make a massive salad to balance it out, but I got to thinking about pasta, and then couldn't let the idea go.

I couldn't quite go full spaghetti or anything, but when I combed through my Pins and dug this Ricotta + Spinach Gnudi back up, I thought to myself, "That's just a bit of flour, and all cheese! What could go better with focaccia than cheese?!"

Well, turns out, nothing. I added a little sausage for protein since I could hear my doctor in the back of my brain telling me that everything I ate should involve protein, and the dish turned out to be the most decadent little scoop of heaven I could ask for. The gnudi was somehow ethereal, but where they browned against that butter, they were crisp nuggets of cheesiness.

This easily serves 4. If you try to be a hero and go back for seconds, I hope you have a nice comfy spot picked out for your food coma.

Ricotta + Spinach Gnudi with Italian Sausage
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 4

1 c. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c. ricotta
1 c. grated Parmesan
3 egg yolks
salt and pepper, to taste
3/4-1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage links, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 T. butter

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Add in flour, 1/4 c. at a time, until you have a sticky, but workable dough. Roll handfuls of the dough into 3/4-inch ropes, and then cut each rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Transfer them to a floured baking sheet as they are finished.

3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Drop the gnudi into the pot and cook until they float. Once they float, cook for a further 2 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate.

4. In a large cast-iron skillet, brown the Italian sausage. Once cooked through, transfer the sausage to a plate.

5. Add the butter to the skillet, and allow to melt. Add the gnudi, and cook undisturbed until golden-brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip to allow the other side to brown. Add the sausage and toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately.

pretty on the outside

I've not chosen a sweet breakfast over a savory one in a long time. Sure, I find it difficult to turn down waffles, but I rarely want a Danish, or even a muffin, over eggs in the myriad of beautiful ways in which they come.

However, I was incredibly intrigued by these Carrot-Tahini Muffins, and used the opportunity of having a house guest to make a dozen that could potentially be polished off much faster than if it was just me and Matty.

How impressive are they? Incredibly high-domed and golden, they certainly make for a beautiful display. Unfortunately, I felt they were a little bland to stand on their own. Sure, with nice brown sugar glaze or at least a huge smear of (salted) butter, they're certainly passable, but otherwise, they're no more interesting than a dinner roll (not that there's anything wrong with dinner rolls).

If we were going full breakfast with these, I'd add a little more brown sugar (and I never say that about anything), and maybe even some warm spices like cinnamon or ginger to give them a bit more personality.

Carrot-Tahini Muffins
from Smitten Kitchen
makes 12 muffins

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. well-stirred tahini
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 c. milk of your choice (I used half whole milk and half coconut milk)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 c. all-purpose flour
9 oz. carrots, finely grated

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, tahini and brown sugar. Whisk in the eggs, then add the milk and vanilla. Whisk in the baking powder, baking soda and salt, then switch to a wooden spoon to stir in the flour and carrots, mixing just until combined.

3. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with a nonstick spray. Divide the batter among the 12 cups. Bake the muffins for 14 to 16 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean. Let them cool in pan for 5 minutes on a rack before transferring them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 2, 2016

turned on its head

This salmon and noodle dish ended up very differently than its original inspiration recipe.

The original was a beautiful, chilled salmon dish, impeccably garnished with mini sprouts, grated daikon, and sesame seeds.

I knew I wasn't going to get away with calling that dinner to the two grown men who had been working on our bathroom remodel all day. Instead, I turned it into a warm noodle dish with the very interesting almost-instant ramen packets I bought on a whim at a local grocery store.

And for how quickly it came together, it certainly didn't taste instant. The salmon was cooked just right, the noodles were flavorful and tender, and both were a perfect vehicle for a dressing that was equally fresh and spicy from the ginger, and just the right amount of sweet and savory.

Ginger-Poached Salmon with Jade Pearl + Forbidden Rice Ramen
inspired by No Recipes
serves 4

1 T. grated fresh ginger
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
4 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. salmon fillets
12 oz. of your favorite pasta (I used 2 packets Lotus Foods Jade Pearl Rice Ramen and 2 packets Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice Ramen)
20 medium rainbow chard leaves, cut into 1-inch ribbons

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and salt. Set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. If using Lotus Foods packs, season the water with the two seasoning packets that come with the Jade Pearl Rice Ramen. Add all 4 ramen cakes, and cook for 4 minutes, until tender. Add the chard with a minute left in the cooking. Drain and set aside.

3. Bring another large pot of water to boil. Remove the skin and any bones from the salmon and cut into bite-sized pieces. When the water comes to a boil, add the salmon all at once and then give it a quick stir. Boil for 20 seconds and then turn off the heat. Let the salmon poach for about 2 minutes or until it flakes easily.

4. Transfer the salmon with a slotted spoon to the bowl with the dressing, and gently toss to coat. Add the drained ramen, and gently toss again to thoroughly coat. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

right quick

This was a great flavorful meal that ticks all of the Thanksgiving Eve Eve boxes - fast from fridge to table on this first day of Turkey Day prep, and completely the opposite of any flavors that might end up on Thursday's table.

I used the brown rice-quinoa pasta from Trader Joe's, and loved how the taste and texture complemented the shrimp and saffron. Rich and satisfying, but not heavy.

Now, on to the cornbread.

Saffron Shrimp Pasta with Leeks + Herbs
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 4

12 oz. pasta of your choice
4 T. butter
2 t. saffron threads, crushed into powder in a pestle and mortar
4 T. warm water
2 leeks, whites and light green parts only, halved, and thinly sliced into half-moon shapes
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1/2 c. chopping parsley
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp
salt to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente, and drain. Add the butter, and set aside.

2. Divide the saffron powder in two. To one portion, add the warm water, stir, and set aside. Leave the other batch as is, in powdered form.

3. Heat a deep 12-inch saute pan over medium heat, and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the leeks, and sauté till they begin to wilt a bit, just about 5 to 7 minutes. Do not brown or overcook leeks.

4. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp and saffron water. Sauté till the shrimp turn pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the buttered pasta, and heat through. Add the herbs and reserved powdered saffron, and gently stir to combine. Salt to taste, and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

soup of the evening

It's "cold" in LA, so we're braising and souping things up.

As you see it here, I have the best of both worlds tonight - a curry noodle soup. Matty's parents are in town, and his dad isn't a big fan of spicy things, so I added about 1/2 c. vegetable broth to the original recipe to curb the red curry paste. The flavor was all there, but of course, that made the braise a bit thinner, and more of a soup consistency than a sauce consistency. I leave it saucy below, but feel free to add that broth if you have a similar issue with spice, or you just want soup.

I also shaved about half the time off of the braise because I wanted to keep the chicken thighs whole rather than braise them down to a shreddable consistency. It wasn't the smoothest thing to cut through chicken in a bowl, so you might want to cube up the chicken before you braise.

The gremolata adds great fresh flavor and a crunch to an otherwise snuggly dish. It's like being fully wrapped up in your full-length, down-filled coat, but you still get to catch a couple snowflakes on your nose. Don't skip it.

Braised Peanut Chicken Curry with Thai Gremolata
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 8

For the curry:
1/2 c. (4 oz.) Thai red curry paste
1/2 T. canola oil
1 13.5-oz. can coconut milk
1/4 c. peanut butter
juice of 1 lime
1 T. fish sauce
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
16 oz. soba noodles

For the gremolata:
2 small shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. roasted, salted peanuts, minced
zest of 2 limes
1/2 c. minced cilantro

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium Dutch oven, stir-fry the curry paste and peanut oil together until the paste is softened and fragrant. Add the coconut milk and whisk to combine. Add the peanut butter, and whisk to combine. Add the lime juice and the fish sauce, whisking to combine. Simmer for a 3 minutes, then add the chicken thighs to the pot.

3. Place the pot into the oven, covered,  and braise for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.

4. Meanwhile, cook the soba noodles in a large pot of salted water to al dente. Drain and set aside.

5. Make the gremolata: dry-sauté the minced shallot, garlic, and peanuts, stirring frequently, until toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

5. To serve, divide the soba between 8 bowls, and serve the chicken and curry over top. Toss the peanut, shallot, and garlic mixture with the lime zest and minced cilantro to complete the gremolata, and garnish the bowls.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

i want it fried

I think life is too short for a grilled fish taco. If it's not breaded, I don't want it. Save your grilled salmon for a fancy dinner, and fry me up a fish taco.

This is a delightful compromise for those who don't fry for health reasons. The mayo-based dredge, and the unique combo of pepitas and panko create a coating that was light, but still earthy. Pepitas are underutilized, in my opinion.

The recipe is great for a group since you can easily scale up and cook everything at once rather than waiting in line at that fryer. Toppings are also endlessly customizable - with more time, I would have down a red cabbage slaw like at my favorite fish taco place in my old neighborhood, but a quick pickle of some thinly sliced leeks, the last of our garden bell peppers chopped up, and actually, the esquites made in this recipe, really filled out every bite.

Pepita-Crusted Fish Tacos with Esquites
slightly adapted from Epicurious
serves 4

1 1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 c. panko
2 1/4 t. kosher salt, divided
3/4 t. black pepper, divided
1 lb. tilapia fillets
2 eggs
1/2 c. mayonnaise, divided
3 t. chili powder, divided
nonstick vegetable cooking spray
4 ears of corn, husked and cut off the cob
12 taco-size corn tortillas
sliced avocado, diced red bell pepper, and pickled onions (for serving)

1. Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

2. Pulse pumpkin seeds in a food processor until finely chopped. Toss with the panko. Transfer to a large plate and stir in 3/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper.

3. Whisk eggs, 1/4 c. mayonnaise, 1 1/2 t. chili powder, 3/4 t. salt, and 1/4 t. pepper in a medium bowl.

3. Cut each fillet in half lengthwise. Slice each piece on a diagonal into 3/4" strips.

4. Set wire rack into rimmed baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray.

5. Dredge each piece of fish in mayonnaise mixture, then roll in pumpkin-panko mixture, pressing to adhere. Arrange in a single layer on prepared rack.

6. Toss corn with remaining 1/4 c. mayonnaise. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 t. chili powder, 3/4 t. salt, and 1/4 t. pepper and arrange on a second baking sheet. Place baking sheet with fish on upper rack of oven and corn on lower rack. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flesh flakes apart when pierced with a paring knife, and corn is tender.

7. Divide fish among tortillas and top with avocado, bell pepper, and onions. Serve with corn alongside.