Sunday, January 29, 2012

don't go too far

I wouldn't go so far as to call this Broccoli-Basil Mac + Cheese "mac and cheese," but I would call this a pretty good pasta casserole. It doesn't have the ooey-gooeyness of mac and cheese (even though I tried to amplify it with some fresh mozzarella scattered in the middle there), but it does have a ton of vegetables, which makes it, um, healthy?

I loved the idea of the broccoli-crumb topping - I thought it would mimic the crisp edges of my beloved roasted broccoli. While it didn't quite get there (perhaps less panko next time to really accentuate the broccoli), it was a nice contrast to the tender pasta. I didn't feel like squash (and Matty's not a huge fan of the stuff), so I substituted a cubed eggplant, which added a little extra creaminess to the dish. And then I added the rest of the broccoli florets into the body of the dish just so it wouldn't go languishing in fridge.

I actually rather enjoyed the consistency of the dish before it was baked - the juicy sweet tomato-basil puree, the creamy (and surprisingly, not tangy) Greek yogurt, and the strands of Gruyere connecting everything together was mac-and-cheesy. I felt it was overly dried after the baking process, but Matty liked it and said he wasn't sure he would have preferred it the other way. I think I'd still give the other way a try next time, perhaps toasting the broccoli crumbs separately to sprinkle.

Broccoli-Basil Mac + Cheese
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 medium eggplant, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
12 oz. broccoli florets, divided
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 oz. basil leaves, divided
1 c. panko
1/4 c. Greek yogurt
8 oz. Gruyere, grated
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cubed (optional)
10 yellow cherry tomatoes
1 lb. cavatappi

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle. Put a large pot of water on to boil.

2. Place the eggplant and 8 oz. of the broccoli on a large baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden.

3. In the meantime, pulse half the basil, the panko, and 4 oz. of the broccoli with 1 T. olive oil in a food processor until you've got a fine crumb. Transfer to a small bowl and give the processor a rinse.

4. Place the cherry tomatoes in the food processor with the remaining basil. Pulse a couple times to break things up, then add the Greek yogurt and Gruyere and stir to thoroughly combine.

5. Boil the pasta in well-salted water for 2 minutes less than the package directions. Return the hot pasta to the pan and add the cheese mixture to it. Add the eggplant and broccoli and give it a good stir.

6. Transfer half of the pasta to a 13x9 pan. Sprinkle over the diced mozzarella. Top with the remaining pasta. Sprinkle the green breadcrumbs evenly across the top and bake for 20 -25 minutes or until the topping is crunchy. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

if you ask me to

Matty's been pressuring me to make brownies for a whole week. It started when I asked him to grab some flour at the store - I was all out. As we were unpacking groceries, he asked out of nowhere, "Is this flour for the brownies you're going to make me?" He asked me the same question when the peanut butter came out of the grocery bag a few seconds later.

Using my extremely powerful skills of deduction, I figured that he was looking for some peanut butter brownies to come his way. And when I found this recipe on Bake or Break, I knew it was fate - Jennifer posted the recipe on Matty's birthday back in 2008!

If you like chocolate and peanut butter, there is absolutely nothing to not love about these brownies. They're a cinch to make - all hail one-bowl brownies! I used bittersweet chocolate chips to give it a little more adult and less cloyingly sweet flavor. The additional chocolate chips and the peanut butter chips make these extra decadent, but it's really the extra dollop of peanut butter in the middle that puts these brownies over the top.

Oh, and happy National Peanut Butter Day!

Brownie Peanut Butter Cups
adapted from Bake or Break

3/4 c. sugar
2 T. butter
1 T. water
3/4 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 large egg
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/2 c. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. peanut butter chips
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or grease 12 muffin cups.

2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine sugar, butter and water. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until butter is melted. Stir in 3/4 c. chocolate chips until melted. Whisk in egg and vanilla extract. Add flour and baking soda, stirring until blended. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then, stir in 1/2 c. each peanut butter chips and chocolate chips. Spoon 2 heaping Tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup.

3. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out slightly wet. Place pan on wire rack. Centers of brownies will fall upon cooling. If not, tap centers with the back of a teaspoon to make a hole.

4. Place peanut butter in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, then stir. While brownies are still hot, spoon about a tablespoon of peanut butter into the center of each brownie. Top with semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter chips. Cool completely in pan.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

tears and laughter

I think I've given up on NFL football. I'm tired of getting excited about early Cowboys wins, and then 2 consecutive months of let-downs. And with all the love in my heart, all my closest friends like crappy teams, too. The only thing making these losses bearable is getting together over good food to make fun of them.

This week's pairing: Giants-Niners (you could see the apathy dripping off the walls) and a Black Bean + Jalapeno Soup, or as Matty calls it, Really Good Meatless Chili. It's nice to have a nice, hearty vegetarian option, especially with The Most Boring Game of the Season coming up in two weeks. It's kind of an unassuming soup, but once half of it gets pureed, the extra body really amps it up.

Black Bean + Jalapeno Soup
adapted from The Atlantic

6 jalapenos
1 poblano
olive oil
2 T. butter
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 c. dry red wine
16 oz. dried black beans, soaked overnight and drained
5 c. vegetable broth
2 T. lime juice
salt and pepper
1/2 c. sour cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the jalapenos and poblano with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet for about 35 minutes, until the peppers are browned and softened. Transfer to a medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the carrot, onion and garlic for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and let reduce for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel and seed 4 of the jalapenos and the poblano. Roughly chop. Reserve the 2 whole jalapenos.

4. Reduce the heat on the saucepan to medium. Add the seeded jalapenos and poblano, beans and broth. Simmer for about an hour and a half, or until the beans are cooked through. Remove from heat and add lime juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Remove half the mixture and puree in a blender, then return it to the pot and stir well.

5. Blend the remaining two jalapenos with the sour cream until smooth. Divide the soup among 4 bowls, garnishing each with the sour cream mixture. I recommend serving with cornbread croutons and shredded sharp Cheddar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

don't bother

When I last left you all on Monday, I was telling you how I couldn't really get the flavors right in my meals lately, and needed to reset my palate to make better decisions the next time I went into the kitchen. Well, I'm glad we have dinner plans with friends tomorrow night because I definitely didn't have my mojo back tonight.

Matty liked the eggplant, but they were entirely too sweet for my taste. That sesame-peanut mixture would have been so savory and delicious without any sugar at all. I left it out of the recipe below. I had one for observation purposes, but my tastebuds wouldn't let another one past them. On a positive note, I think it would make an excellent crust for a coconut cream pie, cilantro and all - it's that sweet.

The noodles were okay, but living on the Eastside means I can spin in any direction, walk a couple blocks and find a better pad see-ew than I made. Some things should just be left to the experts. No need to make that mistake ever again.

Sesame-Peanut Masala Eggplant with Pad See-Ew Noodles
inspired by Andrea Nguyen and Serious Eats

For the eggplant
1/2 c. toasted white sesame seeds
1 c. lightly salted roasted peanuts
1 t. ground turmeric
1 t. cayenne
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 T. water
1 1/2 lbs. Thai eggplant
3 to 4 T. olive oil
1/4 c. water

For the noodles
8 oz. rice noodles
2 large eggs, beaten
2 T. sweet dark soy sauce
2 T. hoisin or oyster sauce
2 t. soy sauce
2 t. rice vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sesame seeds, peanuts, turmeric, cayenne, garlic and cilantro, and process until crumbly. Add the Tablespoon of water and process until the mixture looks like wet sand. Set aside.

2. Slice off the top 1/2-inch of each eggplant. With a melon baller, scoop out about a teaspoon of the eggplant flesh and reserve. Fill each hollow eggplant with the sesame-peanut mixture.

3. In a skillet large enough enough to hold all the eggplant, heat the olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant on its side and lightly brown on all sides. After about 3 minutes, set each on its bottom and add the 1/4 c. water. Lower the heat, cover the skillet and cook until eggplant is tender.

4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rice noodles and cook according to package instructions. When done, drain and toss with a bit of oil so the noodles don't stick together.

5. Return the pot to the heat with a little bit of olive oil. Add the reserved eggplant flesh and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the egg and scramble into large curds. Add the noodles and the sweet dark soy sauce. Toss to break up the egg and combine the sauce. Cook undisturbed for about a minute until the noodles are browned. Add the hoisin, regular soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes, relatively undisturbed.

6. Portion the noodles onto serving plates and top with a few eggplant. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 16, 2012

separate ways

I'm taking Matty out for dinner tomorrow. I think my ambition to cook more coupled with my need to keep my diet vegetarian is making me grasp desperately at recipes without really thinking about how they'll taste or how they'll go together. I need to reset my mental palate, and I think going out is the way to do it. Kinda shake myself from this little cobweb of overachievement.

The sum of tonight's meal was not greater than its parts. Which is a shame because all the parts were quite good on their own.

I started with the Falafel "Meatballs" - so delicious when everything minus the egg was in the blender. Great nuttiness, lightened by notes of lemon. Then I went to add the egg, and a) I immediately made it non-vegan, and b) I think it contributed a little mealiness to the overall texture of the finished meatball. Your ordinary falafel doesn't use an egg, rather flour, to bind it - I think that's the way I'll go next time.

The soup (pureed cauliflower and spinach) was amazing. I think I'll have to make it coming out of my next juice cleanse. It's creamy, rich and satisfying without any cream, and without even any potatoes. I forgot to get veggie broth, so I just used water, and it was still magnificent.

But I underestimated the thickness - I didn't think it would be substantial enough for dinner as just soup and meatballs, so I decided to make some parsley'ed pasta - just tossed with a little salter butter and the parsley suggested for the soup's garnish. The pasta didn't end up swimming in the soup as I had envisioned (although obviously I could have thinned the soup out with more water or broth), and then the whole thing took on a life of its own. A life that reminded me I don't really like parsley. I would have felt much better about cilantro in this dish.

So the leftovers all got refrigerated separately - pasta, falafel, soup. And that's how I'll eat them - separately.

Falafel "Meatball" Soup
adapted from Food52
Serves 4

For the falafel
1 small onion, diced
1 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
10-12 sage leaves, minced
1/2 c. walnut pieces
1/2 c. panko
one 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg (or to keep the recipe vegan, add a couple T. of flour to bind)
salt and pepper

For the soup
3 c. water
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 large handfuls of spinach
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
cilantro for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add the garlic, sage, walnut and panko and saute until the panko becomes golden.

3. Place the contents of the skillet into the bowl of a food processor. Add the garbanzo beans, lemon zest, and process until finely ground. Add the egg and process into a paste-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Form the paste into 16 equal meatballs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.

5. While the meatballs are baking, bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower, cover and simmer until very tender. Add the spinach and stir through to wilt.

6. Pour the contents of the pot into the jar of a blender. Add the lemon juice, and taking extreme caution with the hot liquids, blend until smooth. Return to the pot and re-warm, if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.

7. To serve, ladle a few spoonfuls of soup into a shallow bowl. Top with 4 meatballs and garnish with cilantro.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

willpower changed my mind

In the two weeks since I've been doing this vegetarian thing, I've never once wanted to cheat. I mean, when I was offered a mini pastrami sandwich at a shoot on Friday, I nearly forgot and accepted, but I pulled my hand back just in time. I mean, it was pastrami - I had to run clear to the other end of the room to say no.

However, when I was browning these steaks for Bisteces Rancheros for Matty's dinner tonight, it took everything I had to refrain. Use the drippings to make the tomato sauce, and add that cumin, and my willpower survived the greatest test it may have ever had.

This should have been a Sunday Suppers event, but we had folks over for the Broncos-Patriots game last night and were just a a little lazy and anti-social tonight. Unfortunately (or fortunately), that means we have tons of leftovers of that and the Tex-Mex Rice I made as a side for him, and a main for myself.

The rice was just okay. I almost preferred it as a rice salad with the cooled-down rice and the individual ingredients before the extra cooking time melted all the cheese and made it very risotto-like. Not that there's anything wrong with risotto, but I felt all those bright Tex-Mex flavors went away. I guess I better learn to like it, though - plenty of leftovers there. Hmm...maybe Tex-Mex arancini is in our future.

Bisteces Rancheros
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising

2 medium poblano peppers
2 lbs. boneless chuck or shoulder steaks, cut into 8 or 10 individual 1/2-inch thick steaks
salt and pepper
4 T. olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 T. ground cumin
2 t. ground coriander
one 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 lb. small red potatoes, sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds
2 T. red wine vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

2. Set the poblano peppers directly on a gas burner and turn the flame to high. Roast, turning with tongs as each side chars, until all sides are blistered and charred. (If you don't have a gas burner, roast the peppers on a hot grill or under the broiler). Transfer the peppers to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cool enough to handle.

3. When the peppers are cool, slip off the charred skin with your fingers. Slice the peeled peppers open, cut away the stems and remove all the seeds. Cut the 1/4-inch-wide strips and set aside.

4. Season the steaks all over with salt and pepper. Heat 3 T. of the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add half the steaks and cook, turning once with tongs, until they develop a ruddy brown exterior. Transfer the steaks to a large plate and brown the second batch.

5. In the same skillet, add the onions and garlic and saute until limp and beginning to brown in spots. Add the cumin and coriander, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, smashing them against the side of the pan. Season with salt and pepper, stir and simmer the juices to thicken them a bit, about 4 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

6. Move the sauce to one half of the pan. On the "empty" side, layer half the beef, half the potatoes and half the pepper strips. Move the sauce over to cover that side, and on the other "empty" side, repeat the layers. Evenly spread the sauce over all. Cover the pan tightly with heavy-duty foil and slide it into the middle oven rack. Braise until the steaks and potatoes are fork-tender, but not falling apart, about 1 hour.

7. After an hour, remove the foil and braise until the tomato sauce is brown and crusty around the edges, another 20 to 25 minutes.

Cheesy Tex-Mex Rice
adapted from The Kitchn

2 c. brown rice
4 c. water
6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 green pepper, diced small
one 16-oz can diced tomatoes
1 c. frozen corn
one 4.25-oz can minched black olives
1-3 teaspoons chili powder, to taste
1-3 teaspoons salt, to taste

1. Bring 4 c. water to boil in a large nonstick pot. Lower the heat to a simmer, add the rice and cover. Cook until tender and the water is absorbed. When the rice is done, spread it out on a large baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in the pot. When the rice is cool, add it and stir until everything is thoroughly combined. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring only every five minutes. The cheese will melt and start to form a burnt-looking crust on the bottom of the pan. Every time you stir, scrape up this crust and mix it back into the rice.

3. Let the rice cool a little before serving.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

but not for me

I can never remember that I don't like slow-cooked greens. Or any slow-cooked vegetables for that matter. Vegetables were meant to be eaten when bright and with crunch.

But maybe you like slow-cooked greens. If you do, here you go! :)

Collard Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits
adapted from The Yellow House

For the biscuits:
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. honey
1/2 t. salt
5 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 c. buttermilk

For the collards:
12 oz. soy chorizo
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 c. vegetable broth
3 lbs. Trader Joe's Southern Greens Blend (collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens and spinach)
3/4 c. milk
2 T. cornstarch

1. Make the biscuit dough: In a food processor, pulse flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, honey, and butter until the butter is in pieces about the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse until it forms a mass. Turn out the dough onto a surface dusted with cornmeal and knead a few times until the dough completely coheres. Roll the dough out about 3/4 to 1 inch thickness. Cut into round biscuits. Place the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the refrigerator.

2. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large ovenproof pot. Add the onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the chorizo and stir to heat through. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the ribboned collards in batches, stirring after each addition.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Dissolve the cornstarch into the milk, and add to the collard mixture, allowing it to simmer a bit more, uncovered, until the mixture thickens up a bit. Remove from heat.

4. Remove the biscuits from the refrigerator, and lay them on top of the mixture. Bake the dish in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until biscuits are deep golden brown and collard mixture is bubbly. Let the cobbler rest for 10-20 minutes before serving

Thursday, January 12, 2012


These Quinoa Patties deserve so much better than this photo. But I ran over my actual camera with an SUV (well, I dropped my purse in parking lot, and then Matty ran over the purse), and all I have is my phone camera now.

Anyway, make these quinoa patties immediately. But use a nonstick pan because otherwise, you'll have a delicious like biryani or something, and not actual patties. So these pretty ones were the ones I put on Matty's plate with some Flash Cooked Salmon, while the less cute ones were not photographed and placed between two wheat mini pitas and topped with a slice of Kumato tomato and a generous dollop of guacamole for the most amazing quinoa burgers ever. I think the key here is the different types of quinoa - lots of layers of nuttiness.

We only ate 5 of them, so I formed the other 7 into patties and froze them for another day. I'm not quite sure what to do with them - bake 'em from frozen, or thaw them out and try to pan-fry them again, but I can't wait to tuck back into them.

Quinoa Patties
adapted from Eating Well...Living Thin
Makes 12 patties

2 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 c. mix of regular, red and black quinoa
3/4 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 c. low-fat cottage cheese
1 small carrot, finely grated (about 1/4 c.)
3 eggs
3 T. flour
2 green onions (all of it)
1/2 t. sugar
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. garlic powder
olive oil for frying

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and salt to boil. Add quinoa and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed, and the quinoa is tender. Spread on a baking sheet to cool.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. When the quinoa is cool, add it to the bowl and stir to combine thoroughly.

3. Heat a few T. olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop mixture into pan and lightly flatten to 1/2 inch thick. Fry until golden-brown, about 4 minutes on each side.

***EDIT*** If you have leftovers, freeze them separately on a baking sheet. When frozen, you can throw them all in a Ziploc bag and they won't stick together. When you're ready to reheat, throw them on a lined baking sheet in a 450-degree oven for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. If desired, add a slice of cheese in the last 2 minutes to melt before serving.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

in your memory

I don't even know how many years ago it was that my friend Jay Nash introduced me to the Los Angeles institution that is Angeli Caffe. I gasped aloud when Ms. Evan Kleiman Tweeted that she was closing the doors forever.

The Twitter tributes started pouring in, and then my Facebook news feed caught up with the news. My friend Scott noted that her Pasta Alla Fantasia was his go-to dish for unexpected company. Hmm...a job for the Google machine.

Spaghetti with peppers and onions. My heart fell a little. Confession: I'm not the hugest fan of peppers and onions. I mean, I'll eat it, but it's never going to be my first choice. But Matty loves it, and as I read further down the ingredients list and my eyes fell upon Gorgonzola, I decided to bite the bullet and try it.

I may have been converted. The peppers aren't cooked down to oblivion - 10 minutes still allows them to retain some freshness and crunch. And the orange is just so pretty! In another life, I would have stopped at adding the blue cheese to the hot pasta and called that dinner, but in tribute to Angeli, I continued with the recipe.

I added a handful or arugula to clean out the fridge, and next time I might add a little more - you could hardly taste the amount I had left. But the rest of the dish also deserves to shine on its own. You may have a different experience depending on the type of Gorgonzola/blue cheese you use, but the crumbled stuff from Trader Joe's I had provided just the perfect pungent contrast to the sweet peppers. The cheese and the olive oil from sauteing the vegetables were just the right amount of sauce - not heavy, but still rich.

Pasta Alla Fantasia
adapted from Viana La Place + Evan Kleiman's Pasta Fresca

1 lb. pasta
3 T. olive oil
2 small onions, thinly sliced
3 large orange bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
salt and pepper
handful of arugula, roughly chopped
6 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown at the edges, about 10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Put the arugula in a large bowl. Drain the pasta and add to the bowl with the arugula. Add the Gorgonzola and toss gently until it begins to melt. Add the vegetable mixture and toss again. Serve immediately.

Monday, January 9, 2012

all the ways to love

I love this couscous dish. More than anything else I've eaten this year. It's healthy. It's easy. It's endlessly variable to use the veggies you have on hand. You can eat it warm right out of the pan, or you can carry it around the Rose Bowl Flea Market all day, eat pizza instead, put it back in the fridge when you get home, and then eat it cold for lunch in the office the next day.

I was concerned that the orange juice used in cooking the couscous and in soaking the cherries would make the dish too orange-y. I have a problem with orange in savory applications - I don't know why, but it turns my tastebuds off. Luckily, it only lent the slightest amount of sweetness, and wasn't necessarily a flavor that could really be picked out in the dish. I added a stalk of celery because I thought it could use a little more crunch, but here you go with the variations - pop in radishes, or cucumbers, or lovely fresh peas come springtime.

Only other change for next time? Double the recipe to have extra for lunches all week.

Pearl Couscous with Cherries + Arugula
adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 4

For the couscous
1 c. water
2/3 c. orange juice
8 oz. Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend

For the salad
3 oz. baby arugula, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 c. pinenuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup orange juice
2 T. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar

1. Put the arugula, shallot, celery and pinenuts in a large serving bowl.

2. Put the water and the orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover the pan, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook according to package directions, about 10 minutes. When the couscous is done (it will have absorbed all the liquid), add to the bowl.

3. Put the dried cherries in a microwaveable bowl and add the orange juice to cover. Microwave for 2 minutes, then drain and add to the couscous. Drizzle in the oil and vinegar, and toss thoroughly. Serve warm.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

starting again

Okay, okay, Mushroom Lasagne is not really New Year's Resolution type of food. Well, it would be if this were 2011.

Last year, I resolved to start a Sunday Suppers thing where I would make some massive, warm, comforting dinner, inviting a few friends over and have a dinner party. I didn't do that. Not once. Ask me if I kept even one of my resolutions last year. Oops.

But 2011 would be very proud of me. Our friend Greg came by to help with this lasagna (impossibly creamy and worth the nearly two hours of prep for all the chopping and grating and bechamel making - next time might be a good time to buy the pre-sliced mushrooms and pre-grated cheese), and Dinner Party #1 is in the books. Who's up for DP2?

Mushroom Lasagne
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

1 1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 3/4 c. boiling water
10 T. butter, divided
1 T. thyme leaves
2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 T. chopped tarragon
4 T. chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1 shallot, chopped
scant 1/2 c. flour
2 1/3 c. milk
13 oz. ricotta
1 large egg
5 oz. feta, crumbled
6 oz. Gruyere, grated
1 lb. no-boil lasagna noodles
5 oz. fontina or mozzarella, grated
1/2 c. grated Parmesan

1. Cover the porcini with the boiling water and let soak for 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve set over a bowl, reserving the liquid.

2. Melt 5 T. of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. When foaming, add the thyme, porcini and fresh mushrooms. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened, and the liquid they exude has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the tarragon, parsley and some salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3. Use the same pan to make the bechamel. Put the remaining butter and shallot in the pan and cook on medium heat for about a minute. Add the flour and continue cooking, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes; the mix will turn into a paste but shouldn't color much. Gradually whisk in the milk, and porcini soaking liquid, leaving any grit in the bowl. Add 1/2 t. salt and continue whisking until boiling. Simmer on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickish. Remove from the heat.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta and egg, then fold in 3 T. of the bechamel and all of the feta. Add the Gruyere to the remaining bechamel in the pan and stir well to get your main sauce.

5. To assemble the lasagne, pour one-fifth of the sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof dish that is aout 10x14 inches. Cover with lasagne noodles. Spread one-quarter of the ricotta mix on top, scatter over one-quarter of the mushrooms and sprinkle with one-quarter of the fontina. Make three more layers in the same way, then finish with the bechamel.

6. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and cover loosely with foil. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling around the sides. Lift off the foil and bake for a futher 10 minutes, or until the top turns golden. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

let's start the new year right

I was stunned when I walked into Trader Joe's this morning. The rows of produce now face in the other direction! Where is everything?

I organize my grocery list according to the route I would have to take through TJ's, and unless I've forgotten something on the list, I usually make one lap, and am out of there. I circled about 3 times today. I guess it's been almost a month since I've been grocery shopping. That'll disorient you, for sure.

So here we are - first grocery trip and first meal cooked of 2012. And what a fantastic way to start the year (and the day). Really tender eggs, flavored fantastically with chiles and tomatoes. They're not spicy (Matty added Cholula), but there's a nice amount of smoky depth to them. I didn't have sour cream, so I subbed a dollop of ricotta for the garnish, and the extra creaminess really made the meal extra decadent.

I also didn't get a chance to get duck eggs, so I'll have to try that next time. I mean, if the superiority of duck over chicken is any indication, I'd be a fool not to get the right eggs next time.

Scrambled Smoky Eggs on Sourdough
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty
Serves 4, lightly

4 dried chipotle peppers
4 thick slices sourdough bread
2 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 small shallot, sliced
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
6 eggs
1 t. salt
4 T. ricotta

1. Tear the dried peppers into large chunks, discarding the stem and seeds. Place them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Then drain, chop into rough chunks and set aside.

2. Toast and butter the bread.

3. Heat up the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and shallot and cook lightly on medium-high heat. When they begin to turn golden, add the tomatoes and peppers and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork, adding the salt. Pour the eggs into the frying pan and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly to create runny scrambled eggs.

5. Put the toasts on serving plates and spoon the eggs on top. Serve immediately, with a dollop of ricotta on top.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

very good

Happy Resolutions Day, everyone! Here are mine, disguised in a list of 3 Very Good Things.

1. Road Trips
With frequent stops at vista points like the above at Inspiration Point on our drive home from our NYE in Tahoe - i.e. I resolve to take time to enjoy my travel outside of my sweet La-La bubble.

2. Journey
Journey came up an awful lot on our shuffle on the drive home. Including "Be Good To Yourself" - i.e. I resolve to get into the best shape of my life, which will culminate in my doing a sprint triathlon this fall for my 30th birthday. Workout plan is already written out in my calendar, and starts tomorrow.

3. Very Good Things
I love lists. Including this weekly list of Very Good Things. More often than not, my lists are of the to-do variety, and while I may love those most of all (if only to be able to cross things off of them), I resolve to be better about keeping this VGT list a weekly activity. This resolution includes the extension of blogging (and obviously, cooking) more regularly.

What did you resolve to do this year?