Saturday, April 30, 2011

coming home

It's been an insanely heavy week. I'm not exactly sure which way is up, and I've actually only got this free minute to update because I went to the wrong location for a video shoot, and can't make it back across town for it before Reverse Osmosis' 10-year anniversary dinner. I won't have free time until May 14. Please, oh please, don't burst my bubble and tell me someone's planned something for that weekend. I'm not sure I'll be able to take it.

Anyway. Let's go all the way back to Tuesday, shall we? Matty's parents were with us for a few days, on the tail end of their amazing 3-month around-the-world trip. I wanted something quick and light in case they were jet-lagged and wanted to get to bed early. After roasting the eggplant (which I did that morning before work), making the stuffing takes just a few minutes on the stovetop and then another 20 in the oven. Lightning fast by my norms.

Time management aside, there was also a question of what to stuff the stuffing in. I briefly considered stuffing it in cannelloni or even large shells, topping with a bechamel or browned butter sauce, but I ended up using the eggplant skins as the original recipe called for.

The skins actually became the perfect vehicle because eating them added the right eggplant kick to a stuffing that was mostly overwhelmed by the spicy Italian sausage I used. I think I'll use an unspiced ground meat next time (maybe turkey for an even milder flavor) to let the roasted eggplant really come through.

And that's white asparagus wrapped in bacon on the side, roasted alongside the eggplant. I've got awful childhood memories of a white asparagus and crab soup, but I think those asparagus came from a can, rendering them mushy and terrifying to this child. Y'all could have spit up your broccoli and Brussels sprouts into a napkin when you were kids, but let me tell you, there's nowhere to spit up asparagus soup.

I hate to think that's what kept me from fresh white asparagus for so long. The real thing is delicious - light and crisp, with bite even after having been roasted for a half hour. I ran out of bacon before I ran out of asparagus, so I've got a whole other bunch to myself in the crisper.

Stuffed Eggplant
adapted from The Atlantic
Serves 4 as a light meal

2 medium eggplants
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. diced green pepper
1/2 c. chopped mushrooms
1 c. panko, divided
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1/4 c. grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Lightly salt the bottom of a baking sheet and place the eggplant flat side down. Roast for 45 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, green pepper and mushrooms, cooking until onion is nearly translucent. Add sausage, breaking up with the back of a spoon. When the sausage is cooked through, add 3/4 c. of the panko and set aside.

4. When eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides with a spoon, leaving the skin intact (like a boat) to stuff. Roughly chop the eggplant and add to the sausage mixture, stirring to combine. Evenly distribute the stuffing. Top with the remaining bread crumbs and Parmesan.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the top is well-browned. Serve immediately.

And what homecoming would be complete without dessert? This was also incredibly easy, whipped up in the time it took to bake the eggplant, and taking over for it in the oven while we were eating. I thought the yogurt-flour filling was incredibly odd-textured - the wallpaper paste comparison in the original recipe wasn't far from the truth. I think I kind of expected the yogurt to melt between and into the strawberries, but I guess I should have known once the flour got in there. The strawberries were perfect, though, so thankfully, that paste wasn't completely overwhelming.

Strawberry Yogurt Pie
adapted from Worth the Whisk

1 unbaked pie crust
1 lb. fresh strawberries, trimmed and halved
1 c. flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 c. Greek yogurt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Into a large mixing bowl, sift flour and sugar. Add yogurt and blend until flour is incorporated (it will be very thick). Gently fold in the berries.

2. Pour fruit into pie shell and using a spatula, gently spread to edges. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake an additional 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

happy easter

I generally like to keep my meals balanced. Sure, I'll go on the occasional mac and cheese binge, but for the most part, I make sure there are as many vegetables as meat products, and more or less as much freshness as fried. Except today. Today, for Easter Sunday, you can tell from the spread that I forgot to serve anything other than meat and carbs. Fried (and some baked) meat and carbs.

Friends were bringing breakfast-y items (Brooke with her delicious Paula Deen-inspired pecan French toast, Greg with his made-to-order omelettes, Paul with his fruit mix, Tim with Porto's goodies, and Brandon with his bacon and mimosas), so I got to have a little fun with some traditionally non-brunch items. I also got to use the crap out of my kitchen scale to portion everything out evenly, which pleases my OCD self to no end. However, that's the only scale I'll even dare to look at after today's feast.

Now these are Easter eggs. Scotch Eggs. Some people laughed when this particular menu item was shared. Why? Is it some formerly trendy food item that no one's admitted making/liking since? Because I'm all in for eggs wrapped in meat, coated in panko and fried. Half a dozen were wrapped in mild Italian sausage, and the other half was wrapped in hot Italian sausage - denoted by the pepper I fished out of my olive jar. Clever, no?

They were just perfect, and good at any temperature, which meant I could snack on them all day long. The only differences from Melissa Clark's recipe below is that I used a bit less meat (given all the other meat on the menu), and didn't bother spicing the already well-seasoned sausage mixture. I wish I had thought to cut them up so you can see the meat, but we were in too much of a hurry to eat them.

Scotch Eggs
adapted from A Good Appetite
Makes 12 scotch eggs

14 medium eggs
2 lbs. bulk Italian sausage
1 c. panko
canola oil for frying

1. Place 12 eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off heat and cover for 7 minutes. Remove eggs to an ice bath to stop cooking. Drain and pat dry.

2. Divide the sausage into 12 equal patties. Enclose each hard-boiled egg completely in a sausage patty, molding the sausage into place.

3. In a small bowl, beat the remaining two eggs. Dip the sausage-coated eggs in the beaten eggs, letting the excess drip off, and roll them in the panko, coating well.

4. Fill a large pot with 1 inch of oil. Heat to 350 degrees. Fry the eggs in batches, turning them occasionally until golden and cooked through, about 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Good served immediately, warm or at room temperature.

My favorite thing by far on the menu were the Lamb Pies. I don't even really like lamb, but Hank Shaw's description (albeit his description of his venison version) sold me. And the flavor wasn't terribly lamb-y - it was just really rich without being fatty, with the dominant flavor of oregano, strong but not overpowering.

Everything about them was perfect. The dough was a dream to work with - it didn't stick to anything and rolled out without resistance. I was a little afraid that they'd be soupy from the fat rendering out, but you could literally pick them up with your hands and bite down without fear of dripping everywhere, although that's not to say they were at all dry. It was just amazing how much they came out exactly as I had hoped they would. Bonus: how gorgeous did that egg wash make them look? I'm sorry, but I really had to pat myself on the back for this one.

Lamb Pies
adapted from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Makes three 6-inch pies

For the dough
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 T. butter
3/4 c. warm water (about 115 degrees)
1 yeast packet

For the filling
1 lb. ground lamb
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. fresh oregano, chopped
2 T. parsley, chopped
2 T. green onion, chopped
2 t. salt
1 t. black pepper

1. Mix the yeast and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let hydrate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt, and then work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. Add the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Using the dough hook, mix until a smooth ball forms. Cover the bowl with parchment paper and let rise for an hour. Meanwhile, mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

3. Divide the dough into thirds. Divide one third into thirds again - these will be the top crusts. Divide the remaining two-thirds into thirds - these will be the bottom crusts.

4. Roll each of the 3 larger balls into 6-inch circles (about 1/8-inch thick). Divide the filling between these three circles, leaving about a 1 inch border. To make the top of the pies, roll the 3 smaller balls into 5-inch circles. Lay on top of the filling. Pull the bottom crust up to meet the top crust and pinch and crimp it over to seal the pie.

5. With a very sharp knife, slice vents in the top of the pie. Beat an egg with a little water and brush all the pies with it. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Let the pies rest on a rack for at least 10 minutes. Good hot, cold or at room temperature.

And finally, glorious dessert. Even though we had all sworn hours ago that we couldn't eat another bite. I'm both proud and disgusted with myself that I started the second wind of eating by requesting an omelette at about 2:30p. After that, dessert seemed easy.

Tres leches has long been a favorite. Add mango puree to the whipped cream? Why, don't mind if I do. Please and thank you, Melissa Clark.

Mango Tres Leches Cake
adapted from A Good Appetite
Makes 18 slices

5 T. butter, melted, plus more to grease pan
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. plus 2 to 3 T. sugar, more to taste
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. plus a pinch fine sea salt
6 large eggs, separated
1/3 c. plus 3 T. milk
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. cream of tartar
2 c. cubed very ripe mango
1 can (15 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 3/4 c. of the sugar, the baking powder and 1/4 t. salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, melted butter, 3 T. of the milk and vanilla.

2. Using an electric mixer set on medium, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until thick, fluffy and white but before peaks form. Add 1/4 c. of sugar, a little at a time, and continue beating until the whites are glossy and firm peaks form when the beaters are lifted.

3. Whisk half the flour mixture into the yolks (it will seem like paste). Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in another quarter of the whites. Sift half of the remaining flour mixture over the batter and fold in. Fold in another quarter of the egg whites followed by the rest of the sifted flour and finally the rest of the whites. Scrape batter into the pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool.

4. Meanwhile in a blender or food processor, purée the mango with 2 to 3 T. sugar, or to taste depending upon how sweet your mango is.

5. When the cake is cool, use a fork to poke holes all over the top, then cut the cake into 18 pieces, but don’t take the pieces out of the pan.

6. In a small saucepan over medium heat stir together the coconut milk, condensed milk, remaining 1/3 c. milk and a pinch of salt. Heat until steaming, then pour it evenly over the cake. Cover and chill the cake for at least 1 hour or overnight.

7. Just before serving, whip the cream with the cinnamon and half of the puréed mango until thick and mousse-like. Taste and add more sugar if it tastes flat. Spread the mango cream on the cake, then dollop on the remaining mango purée. Use a spatula to swirl the mango purée into a marble-like pattern. Or use the purée as a sauce when you serve the cake.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

i melt

Just a quick one today because I'm late for my first taste of USC football this year, and I won't be able to elaborate later because I'll be eye-deep in Easter brunch prep. This is my tribute to April, aka National Grilled Cheese Month and the Grilled Cheese Invitational, which I'll be missing due to aforementioned Easter prep.

When I first saw this Grilled Cheese Eggsplosion, I thought it was pure genius. I mean, two pieces of toad in a hole sandwiching cheese? Yes, please. Unfortunately, in practice, it's kind of unnecessarily complicated. It was a fun diversion for a Saturday morning, but next time I get a similar craving, I'll just make myself a fried egg sandwich with cheese.

Grilled Cheese Eggsplosion
from Serious Eats
Makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices of bread
4 T. butter
4 eggs
4 slices Kraft singles

1. Melt the butter on a griddle.

2. Cut a hole out of the center of each slice of bread and toast both sides in the butter of the hole-y toast as well as the holes themselves. Crack an egg into each hole and cook until the bottom is set enough to flip.

3. Place a slice and a half of cheese over two of the eggs. Divide the remaining slice over two of the toast holes. Top each cheesed half with its partner. Cook over low heat until cheese has fully melted. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 18, 2011

that's what you get

I almost don't want to share this because I have nothing good to say about it. Nothing against the recipe - I just didn't have the brain space to retain the fact that this needed to marinate a minimum of 2 hours and preferably overnight. I only had enough time to slam my laptop down in frustration after reading those instructions, and marinating at room temperature for 30 minutes. Oops.

As such, this was just Chicken in Spiced Tomato Sauce and not Murgh Makhani. I was devastated. But maybe you're better at following directions and won't bore your mouth like I did.

Murgh Makhani
adapted from Tastytype
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch dice
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
1 t. salt
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced
2 t. Garam Masala
1 medium onion, chopped
2 whole cloves
2 black peppercorns
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 T. agave nectar
8 ounces whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
cooked basmati rice
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1. Stir together yogurt, ginger, salt, garlic, jalapeno and Garam Masala. Stir in the chicken to cover completely. Marinate in the fridge for at least two hours or up to overnight.

2. In a large saucepan, cook the onion, cloves, and peppercorns until onions are translucent. Add the chicken, tomatoes, and agave nectar and stir together. Simmer together until all ingredients are heated through and flavors come together.

4. At this point, you could let it cool, refrigerate it and reheat it the next day. The flavors will be more intense. To serve, add the cream and butter and stir together. Bring up to a simmer and let butter melt.

5. Serve over basmati rice and sprinkle with cilantro.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

this earthly heaven

What this Truffled Fusilli with Blue Cheese-Mushroom Gratin lacked in good looks, it more than made up for in taste and comfort. What I should have done, just for neatness, was toss the pasta with the mushrooms (perhaps adding some liquid to prevent the pasta from drying out), sprinkle on the blue cheese-crumb topping and let the whole thing bake. At the same time, it was fun to serve them separately and swish everything together individually.

What a great set of textures. The chew of the pasta, the crunch of the almonds, the creaminess of the pockets of cheese. I loved that the thyme, still a fairly earthy flavor, was the brightest note in the whole dish. I took out all the lemon zest and juice called for in the original recipe (a little gun-shy after having an otherwise-stellar burger completely overwhelmed by its lemon aioli this weekend), but if you think you'd like more brightness, toss a bit in to the mushroom mixture before baking.

Truffled Fusilli with Blue Cheese-Mushroom Gratin
adapted from What We're Eating

For the gratin:
3 T. duck fat, divided
2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch chunks
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, halved
1 lb. oyster mushrooms, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 c. cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 c. almonds
1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 t. salt, more to taste
1/2 t. pepper, more to taste
2 T. butter, diced
3 oz. crumbled blue cheese

For the pasta:
1 lb. fusilli
2 T. truffle oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat 2 T. duck fat in a 12-inch skillet. Add portobello mushrooms and saute until they just take on color, about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the mushrooms, the thyme and remaining duck fat, and saute until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, combine the garlic, almonds, flour, rolled oats, salt, pepper and butter in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until small crumbs form. Add crumbled blue cheese and toss with your hands to fully incorporate the blue cheese into the crumb mixture. Set aside.

4. Once the mushrooms have reduced, add the cream and Parmesan and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with the crumb mixture and transfer the skillet to the oven to bake for about 30 minutes or until the crumb topping is golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well and toss with truffle oil and a dash of salt. Divide among serving bowls.

6. When the gratin is done, let cool for 10 minutes before scooping over the pasta bowl and serving.

a good start

This is a highly unoriginal statement, but Heidi Swanson rules. The food blogosphere is aflutter with the release of her newest book, Super Natural Every Day, and rightly so - it's a gorgeous compendium of healthy, real food presented in a beautiful and most importantly, accessible, way. You're not being preached at to include grains, etc. in your diet. It's more like, "Hey, look how gorgeous these grains look. Don't you want some?" I don't think it's possible to turn down any of her photographs.

Baked Oatmeal. A far cry from my breakfast of jelly beans last Friday. It smells like heaven while it's baking - the aroma of roasting strawberries may be one of the greatest joys in life. I prefer a drier oatmeal, so the texture of this dish was perfect for me. I used agave nectar rather than sugar or maple syrup, and I thought the light sweetness was a good level since the pops of strawberry and banana were more than sugar. I thought about grabbing some bacon as a side, but then I figured, why ruin this beautiful simplicity?

This could be easily veganized with a flax seed egg and non-dairy milk - almond would probably be my choice.

Coconut-Strawberry-Banana Baked Oatmeal
adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day via Lottie + Doof
Serves 6

2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. shredded coconut
1/4 c. agave nectar
1 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
2 cups milk
1 large egg
3 T. coconut oil, melted
2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups strawberries, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack in the top third of the oven. Generously butter the inside of an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a bowl, mix together the oats, shredded coconut, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the agave nectar, milk, egg, coconut oil and vanilla. Pour over the oat mixture, add strawberries and stir gently to combine.

4. Arrange the bananas in a single layer in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the oat-milk mixture over the bananas.

5. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and the oat mixture has set. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Friday, April 15, 2011

make it up as we go along

For having started the day at 5:00a, and already angrily stress-eating jellybeans by 6:00a (breakfast of champions), wrapping it up with an off-the-cuff Asian-Style Salmon Po'Boy was a way better ending than I could have expected.

Generally speaking, I like to plan the menu for the week each Sunday, do all the grocery shopping that day, and just roll into the kitchen to work when I get home from the office. At the very least, I'll have a recipe picked out before the end of the day and grab ingredients on my way home. Lately, though, things have been super hectic - my work is all-consuming, I'm back singing again, and Matty's been rehearsing nonstop. We haven't had many dinners at home in a while (hence the inactivity on this blog), and I think I'm out of practice on meal-planning.

Couldn't quite find inspiration for tonight's dinner in my food blog round-up, so we just decided to play it loose, something I am NOT good at doing. But, I was tired, and just wanted to get home, so I played along. Once home, we decided we wanted fish, ran through the seafood chapters of a few cookbooks, and then just decided to make a fish sandwich.

We had gone to a Japanese country restaurant a couple weeks ago, and while we ordered nearly everything off the menu, we didn't end up going with the first thing that caught my eye, the salmon tempura. Since we didn't get it then, I thought it might be fun to incorporate it into this sandwich. To add some freshness and crunch, we quick-pickled some cucumber and piled on some bean sprouts and mint.

When I saw the outrageously low price of salmon belly ($1.99/lb. vs. $9.99/lb. for fillets), I couldn't justify not purchasing it. Sure, it's super fatty, and I was going to bread and fry it, but $1.99! When I got home, I skinned the slices and was starting to discard that skin when I realized - dude, I specifically go to sushi restaurants and order and pay money for salmon skin. So nothing was wasted - sliced the skin into little matchsticks and fried them in the same vegetable-sesame oil mixture I was frying the tempura, and topped the sandwiches with a bit more crunch.

Think po'boy meets banh mi under the sea. This sandwich did end up being pretty heavy - between the fatty fish, the breading and the massive pan de sal, it was a good thing we didn't plan on doing anything tonight but fall asleep in front of the TV. In future, I'd stick to milder white fish for sandwiches, but breaded and fried salmon does qualify for future appetizers. I can imagine it would also be amazing on top of a variety of salads - mixed greens, something Asian-style with cabbage, etc.

Asian-Style Salmon Po'Boy
Makes 4 sandwiches

3 Persian cucumbers, sliced into "noodles"
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 lb. salmon belly pieces, skinned and cut into 1"x3" pieces (optional: reserve salmon skin to make "chicharrones")
salt and pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 c. panko
vegetable oil
sesame oil
4 pan de sal rolls
Sriracha, to taste

1. Start by making the pickles: Combine the water, vinegar and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved, and then add cucumber. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Pour enough vegetable oil into a heavy-bottomed saucepan to come up halfway up the sides of the salmon pieces. Add half as much sesame oil. Heat over medium-high heat until it's too hot to hold your hand above the pan. Season salmon with salt and pepper, then dip in first the beaten egg and then the panko, turning to coat thoroughly. Add to the hot oil, about 5 at a time and fry until golden brown. Repeat with remaining salmon. End with salmon skin, if desired, but be careful as they splatter more than the salmon pieces.

3. Toast pan de sal, if desired. Mix mayo and Sriracha to taste and spread on each side of pan de sal. Pile on salmon and top with pickles, mint, bean sprouts and chicharrones. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

i feel lighter

I've really overdone it these last few days. Want the recap?

Thursday: Went for a crappy, but totally hit-the-spot salty, pastrami burger with two of my greatest friends, Paul and Tim. Also ordered even crappier onion rings, but I only had one. I mean, sawdust was never meant for batter.

Friday: Have had a steak craving for weeks now, so Matty and I went to a sub-par steakhouse for Date Night. Even the cover band thumping behind the wall of our booth couldn't save it.

Saturday: At Thursday's hang, Paul and Tim talked barbecue. Saturday, they and Matty and I did all we could to destroy Smoke City Market. Except I think it destroyed us. 4 beef ribs, 1 full rack baby back ribs, 1/2 lb. brisket and 4 pint-sized sides aren't too much for 4 people, are they? We forgot to order the sausage.

So come Sunday, I wasn't even thinking about meat. Matty offered me a bite of his bacon-topped breakfast, and while I accepted, I didn't want another bite. I mean, me - refuse more bacon? Unheard of.

This Cornmeal Crunch is basically glorified baked polenta, but what glory it is. Caramelized onion and Parmesan perfectly flavor, and the vegetables, tossed with a little bit of balsamic before returning to the oven for the last 5 minutes of roasting, are the crowning centerpiece. The vinegar adds complexity, and I think it's terribly redundant for me to say how much I love the crisp edges where they were kissed with olive oil, and the warm, melty centers. A perfect echo of the cornmeal. I didn't miss the meat, but the boys wanted some protein so I made (what else) bacon for them to top their servings with.

Cornmeal Crunch
from 101 Cookbooks

1 1/2 c. medium grind cornmeal
4 c. yellow onion, chopped (about 3 medium)
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 c. water or vegetable broth

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of a 13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl combine the corn meal with 1 1/2 c. water or broth and 1/2 t. salt. Stir and set aside.

3. To caramelize the onions, heat a splash of olive oil in a large thick-bottomed skillet with a pinch or two of salt. Cook until the onions collapse and turn deep brown in color. Remove from skillet and set aside.

4. Bring 1 1/2 c. water or broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the water and cornmeal mixture, bring back up to a boil and stir until it is thicker than a heavy frosting - about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese and onions. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it to an even thickness, and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom is golden and the cornmeal begins to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

the hunger

Remember back in March when I did that juice cleanse? And remember how I said it was easy, and I didn't feel hungry at all? Well, it turns out, that's not how it always goes with juice cleanses. How do I know? Because yesterday's was the most heinous thing I've ever done. Well, not really. But it was pretty bad.

Some of it may also have been the fact that I didn't ramp down at all. The night before, I had beef stroganoff. Delicious beef stroganoff that our friend Carson made when we came over for dinner with him and his lovely wife. Beef stroganoff that was still in my head when I ordered my "Citrus Cleanse" juice in the morning.

I was cranky for most of the day, I considered cheating several times with the various chocolate products I now have stashed around the office, and the kicker was I had to skip an office birthday celebration and the accompanying cupcakes from Toast. By then, I was on my "Gimme Green" juice, which is not quite a chocolate-dipped marshmallow frosting chocolate cupcake.

And because I'm some kind of masochist, I flipped on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and watched Guy Fieri grub on some BLT with tomato jam while I sipped on my miso soup (didn't bother posting the recipe as it's one T. white miso paste to one cup of boiling water).


All I wanted tonight was pasta and cheese, and by goodness, I was going to have it. I took the basics from this Baked Farro Pasta recipe and turned it into my very own Brussels Sprouts + Pasta Gratin. Whlle I love pasta with potatoes, I wasn't that hungry, so just upped the pasta and the Brussels up a tad. I had 8 oz. of ricotta that I couldn't foresee using in the near future, so I put it in the middle of this gratin. For no reason except that it sounded delicious.

And this was just about perfect. Tender, barely creamy pasta punctuated with rich ricotta surprises every other bite. I would consider not pre-cooking the Brussels sprouts next time so they retain more texture, but as they were, they were melty little bites of brassican delight. I also loved the slightly random pops of spicy mustard, so I would maybe even double the amount called for next time.

Brussels Sprouts + Pasta Gratin
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 6-8

1 lb. whole wheat rotini
1 1/2 T. butter
2 medium leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 garlic gloves, minced
1 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 c. vegetable broth
1 1/2 T. whole grain mustard
1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
16 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
4 oz. Fontina cheese, grated
8 oz. ricotta cheese

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until soft, a few minutes. Stir in the garlic and Brussels sprouts. Whisk the mustard in with the vegetable broth and add to the pan. Season with salt and cook, covered, for a few minutes, or until most of the liquid has cooked off. The sprouts should still be bright green with a bit of crunch.

3. While the sprouts are cooking, toss the pasta with 1 c. of the Parmesan cheese, half of the slivered sage leaves and all of the Fontina. When the sprouts are done, add them to the pasta mixture and toss to thoroughly combine.

4. Arrange 1/2 of pasta mixture back into the pan. Dollop the ricotta evenly over top. Arrange the remaining pasta over the cheese and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and slivered sage.

5. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

still waiting for spring

LA Weather, you're so bipolar. It wasn't hardly 4 days ago when I was waxing poetic about the coming of spring, yet you've managed to 1) hit 90 degrees on Thursday and Friday, 2) be more or less gloomy Saturday, 3) drizzle Saturday night, and 4) today, be ominously cloudy just south of me, but tease me flashes of blinding, sunshiny Southern California beauty. Am I supposed to go out and enjoy the day, or do I batten down the hatches and curl up with a cup of tea and endless supply of mochi scraps?

My decision is being made for me today because I have work that will tie me to the computer for a couple hours starting at 10a, and then the Lakers play at 12:30p. Thankfully, I can have a little bit of spring with me while I'm inside - this Artichoke, Kale + Ricotta Pie, while not taking advantage of the full spring bounty because the artichokes come from a can (but think of the time saved!), yields slices of pure sunshine.

Artichoke, Kale + Ricotta Pie
from The Kitchn
serves 4-6

1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, quartered
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. Parmesan
4 eggs beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and cheeses. Roughly chop the veggies and add to the cheese/egg mixture. Stir until combined. It should just look like thickly-dressed salad.

3. Pour contents of bowl into the greased cake pan and cook until custard is set, about 40-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Friday, April 1, 2011

happy to give

Hi, friends. If you can, would you come down and see me and buy a couple dozen little Mochi Cupcakes for Japan tomorrow?

Bake Sale for Japan
TOMORROW, April 2, 10:00a-2:00p
3823 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
cash and checks ONLY

There will be green tea, chocolate and strawberry mochi cupcakes from your Professional Bakist, packaged in half-dozens and dozens, single- and multi-flavor packs. All sales are by donation, so give what you can.

If the Eastside is a little too far to trek, check out the Bake Sale For Japan website for additional locations around LA and around the country. My mochi and I won't be offended - as long as you're giving somewhere.

For these adorable mini cupcakes, I revisited the recipe I used for my Dad's birthday. I was going to bake them straight up in mini cupcake pans, but I'm making about 12 dozen, and didn't think filling and refilling the two mini pans I have would be very efficient. The cakes also bake up to a lovely, but boring golden brown exterior, and I really wanted to highlight the brilliant pastels of the green tea and fruit variations I would be making. So, after spending literally an hour staring at the baking section of Sur La Table, I decided it would be best to bake the batter in an 18x12 inch pan (which only barely fit in my oven) and then stamp out the "cupcakes" with a 1 1/2-inch fluted biscuit cutter. That way, the pretty coloring can be revealed in all its glory. I'm so shallow.

I have a dinner tonight, so thought it would be best to a) test out of one of the variations (the chocolate one) and b) use this opportunity to test how long I would need to bake a pan this size (45 minutes), wait for it to cool (about 30 minutes) and then stamp out the approximately 4 dozen "cupcakes" (a really long time). But that's okay. It's all for a good cause, and now I know how to pace myself for the 3 cakes in the morning.

I do hope you can come out and support. And insider tip, Pazzo Gelato, conveniently located right next door, opens at 11a. I'm sure you could make yourself a fine breakfast with a cup of gelato and something delicious from the bake sale. See you tomorrow!