Saturday, May 14, 2016

that's so vanilla

I bought my mother-in-law a double-decker waffle iron, and it's one of my biggest regrets that I didn't think to buy one for myself.

The most painful thing about these Buttermilk-Vanilla Bean Waffles is waiting until all the batter is cooked up to start plowing in. And it's one of the reasons I rarely do waffles or pancakes - you can't just serve it up and have it ready for a crowd (or an impatient and hungry husband-wife duo) without seriously sacrificing quality. As it is, these 3 1/2-ish waffles (all I could muster out of my iron) were agonizing to wait for. The vanilla beans had already perfumed the kitchen from Step 1, and the sizzle and steam of each cooking waffle nearly did us in.

Luckily, the batter process itself was simple. I've seen a few recipes that use egg whites rather than whole eggs for the lightness, but they require whipping them first, and at my age, I can't be bothered to take that time and dirty up the stand mixer, just for breakfast.

I suppose I will have to try it once, just for science, but as written here, these waffles were delightfully crisp on the outside, but tender with an almost mochi-like chew on the inside. I hope that wasn't because I undercooked them in my haste to get fed, but it was just about perfect.

Over top - juicy, sweet, organic strawberries and Noble Tonic 02: Tahitian Vanilla Bean + Egyptian Chamomile Blossom Maple Syrup. Yes, it actually deserves a title that long and descriptive. It hits all the right notes to make this the most vanilla experience, in the best way possible.

Buttermilk-Vanilla Bean Waffles
from Serious Eats
serves 2-4

1 1/3 c. flour
6 T. powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
3 T. butter, melted and cooled
2 large egg whites
1 t. vanilla extract
maple syrup and butter, for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine flour, powdered sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and the scrapings of one large vanilla bean, mixing by hand until the seeds are well dispersed. Add the buttermilk, melted butter, egg whites, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth.

2. Heat the waffle iron until the indicator is ready. Fill the iron as directed, then close the lid and cook until waffle is golden brown but still steaming, 4 1/2 to 6 minutes depending on the depth and heat of your machine. Griddle remaining batter as before, and serve immediately. For best results, hold the finished waffles in a low oven on a wire rack while you wait for the remaining waffles to cook.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

i don't need to hide inside this shell

Greetings from Cannes, where I've just spent a glorious week eating all of the seafood I could get my hands on. It was lovely, and fresh, and inspirational, and reminded me to blog about this magnificent dinner we had just before I left.

I've already waxed poetic about Cape Seafood + Provisions, but my love for it grows by leaps and bounds. Why? Smoked shrimp.

It's hard to pick a favorite element out of this dish. It has so much going on: stuffed mussels made both sweet and savory with a crumb topping of coconut oil and Parmesan, muhammara swirled in for spicy depth, fresh pesto dolloped on top, and of course, the stunningly fresh clams and squid. But my highlight was the juicy smoked shrimp, piled right on top, only slightly warmed by the contact of the just-cooked pasta.

I mean, a tub of this stuff could be anything from a delightful lunch (over mixed greens if you're being classy, or straight out of said tub if you're busy), to a barbecue-friendly variation on shrimp cocktail with some bourbon barbecue sauce. Absolute heaven.

Fideos with Shellfish, Muhammara + Pesto
adapted from Tasting Table and Saveur
serves 2-4

1/2 lb. spaghetti, broken in fistfuls
2 c. clam juice
12 small mussels, cleaned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. manila clams, cleaned
1/2 lb. squid bodies, cleaned and sliced
1/2 lb. smoked shrimp
2 T. panko
2 T. coconut oil
2 T. grated Parmesan
2 T. muhammara
2 T. pesto

1. In a cast-iron pan over medium heat, dry-toast the spaghetti, stirring often, until golden-brown, about 8 minutes.

2. To a large pot, bring a splash of clam juice to simmer, and add the mussels. Cover and steam for 3-5 minutes, until they open. Discard any that don't open. Remove the mussels, and set aside until cool enough to handle.

3. Add the remaining clam juice to the pot along with the garlic, clams, and squid. Cover the pot, and cook until the spaghetti is al dente, and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

4. In the meantime, thoroughly combine the panko, coconut oil and Parmesan. Remove and discard the top shells from the mussels and divide the crumb mixture between them. Broil for 2 minutes until golden-brown. Set aside.

5. When the pasta is done, stir in 2 T. muhammara, and then plate it in the cast-iron pan. Nestle the shrimp and stuffed mussels on top, and dollop with pesto. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

gotta get that green

This Chard Spanakopita has been on my menu for a week. I even cut the chard last Sunday, but then gave up in favor of Chard Dolmas. And then the week rolled by - I've just been too lazy/fearful to deal with phyllo dough on a school night.

This all ended up for the best because it gave our rainbow chard plants an extra week to produce enough leaves for the pound I needed for this recipe.

The original recipe called for 2-2 1/2 lbs. of chard, but that seemed a bit much, so I used what I had, and scaled everything down to fit into a 9-inch pie plate. The resulting pie was a very impresive, sturdy phyllo case of chard, just barely bound together with the egg and feta.

Pie dough is an option to use in place of the phyllo, but I highly recommend going the phyllo route, as a heavier, buttery pie dough would overwhelm the filling.

Chard Spanakopita
slightly adapted from The New York Times
makes one 9-inch pie

1 lb. rainbow chard, stemmed and washed thoroughly
5 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. chopped parsley
2 large eggs, beaten
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
6 13x18" sheets phyllo dough

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add the chard and blanch for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer to the ice water. Let sit just until cool, a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water by taking up bunches of the greens, making a fist around them and squeezing. Chop coarsely and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the greens, herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir the mixture for a minute, until the greens are coated with oil. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs and feta in a medium bowl. Toss with the greens, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Line the pie dish with 1 sheet of phyllo, and lightly brush it with some of the remaining 1/4 c. of olive oil. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo, turning each sheet about a quarter-turn to create a decorative edge. Fill with the greens mixture. Fold the overhang of the top phyllo sheet in over the filling. Brush with olive oil, and repeat with the next two sheets. Twist the remaining three sheets around the

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is golden. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

in the garage

Today was Day 1 of our garage organization project, and we attacked it with the fire of a thousand obsessive-compulsives. By the time we put up the last wall panel, 6 hours later, we were exhausted and starving.

Luckily, this pasta dish comes together very quickly. You can make the pesto in the time it takes for a pot of water to boil, and then trim and slice the snap peas in the time it takes the pasta to cook.

The pesto is so fresh and light - sure there's plenty of olive oil and cheese involved, but there are no nuts in the equation, so it's not at all heavy. Spicy from the arugula, but brightened up with hints of mint. The snap peas cook to al dente as well, and really round out the notes of spring in this dish, while the burrata adds in a couple pops of cool richness. It's still a bowl of pasta, though, so it fills you up, but doesn't weigh you down.

Orecchiette with Arugula-Mint Pesto, Snap Peas + Burrata
slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Taste
serves 6

1 lb. orecchiette
9 oz. snap peas, trimmed and halved
3 oz. arugula
0.25 oz fresh mint leaves
4 T. olive oil
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 garlic cloves
1/2 t. lemon zest
1/2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz. burrata

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Add the snap peas, and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot.

2. Meanwhile, combine the arugula, mint, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Toss the pesto with the drained pasta and peas. Thin it out with a small amount of reserved cooking water if needed. Taste, season with salt and pepper. Divide among warmed serving bowls, and tear burrata over the pasta. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 22, 2016

flavor of the week

My love affair with sheet pan dinners continues. This time, it's a lovely spiced chicken tikka roasted in the same pan as potatoes and cauliflower for an incredibly flavorful and satisfying meal.

The marinade is gorgeously aromatic. I stayed a bit timid and only used 1/4 t. cayenne, but a 1/2 t. would have been plenty tolerable. Neither the cauliflower nor the potatoes crisp up much, but I suppose you could change that if you used skinless chicken thighs.

Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4

For the chicken:
1 T. minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 c. light sour cream
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. paprika
1 t. garam masala
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the vegetables:
2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed, and cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
minced parsley

1. Place the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, sour cream, salt, and spices in a large bowl, and thoroughly mix to combine. Add the chicken, and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.

2. When you’re ready to cook the dish, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the potatoes, cauliflower, and salt on a large sheet plan, and toss with the olive oil until evenly coated.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and leave the excess marinade behind. Make spaces in the vegetables for the chicken throughout the pan. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower to ensure they’re cooking evenly, and return the pan to the oven for 10 to 20 minutes more, until chicken and vegetables are cooked through.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

better luck next time

This dish sounded so interesting on paper (or computer screen), but honestly, I wasn't thrilled. I was hoping for a more funky, savory flavor, but I think the lemon brightened everything up too much for my taste. The lemon also made the sauce seize up for me, creating weird little crispies, where sauce was meant to be.

I'm never one to give up on a recipe with so much potential, though. I think, next time, I would just skip the lemon in the pan, and squeeze the juice over the chicken as a garnish.

Chicken with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce
slightly adapted from The New York Times
serves 4

1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/4 c. olive oil
5 anchovy fillets
2 T. drained capers, patted dry
1 large pinch chile flakes
1 lemon, halved
fresh chopped parsley, for serving

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and let rest while you prepare the anchovy-garlic oil.

2. Mince one of the garlic cloves and set it aside for later. In a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the 5 smashed whole garlic cloves, the anchovies, capers and chile. Let cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies, until the garlic browns around the edges and the anchovies dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the thighs, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

4. When chicken is done, transfer the thighs to a plate. Place the skillet back on the heat, and add the reserved minced garlic and the juice of one lemon half. Cook for about 30 seconds, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to the pan and cook it in the sauce for another 15 to 30 seconds.

5. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Monday, April 18, 2016

i melt inside

Yes, this is just bread, meat and cheese (and mayo and Grey Poupon).  When I want a burger, I don't need a salad next to it (or on it, for that matter).

This is by no means a simplistic burger, though. It's a delicious cumin-spiced pork-only patty stuffed with smoked mozzarella. When you have so few ingredients, you taste every one of them, and they all have to shine. Shine they do.

I did dial back the original proportions quite a bit - the recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs. pork and 1 lb. cheese; I went with 1 lb. pork and 4 oz. cheese, and it was just the right proportion for 4 burgers. Make sure you make the patties larger in diameter than your buns because they do shrink in cooking, and nothing is more sad than lonely hamburger bun edges.

Pork + Smoked Mozzarella Pocket Burgers
slightly adapted from Mario Batali

1 lb. 80/20 ground pork
1 T. cumin
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
4 oz. smoked mozzarella
2 T. olive oil
4 hamburger buns
your choice of condiments

1. Place the ground pork in a bowl, and season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix by hand until the spices are well incorporated. Form your ground pork into eight 2-oz. patties.

2. Cut the mozzarella into 4 1-oz. slices and place 1 slice in the center of each of four of the patties. Place the remaining patties on top of the mozzarella and press down along the edges to form four mozzarella-stuffed pork burgers. Make sure to pinch the sides of each patty until the burger is completely closed off.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Cook the burgers for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until they're just cooked though, and their internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. When the burgers are done cooking, remove them to a plate, and cover with foil to rest.

4. Place the hamburger buns, cut side down, in the cast-iron skillet, and toast. Remove, and build your burger as you like.