Sunday, July 29, 2012

so sick

I hate summer colds. There's just no reason for them, and there are few things quite so horrible as sniffling while it's super hot out.

One thing that does go on the list of things that are more horrible: when a summer cold prevents you from going to a long-awaited Cooking Club session. And not just any session, a brunch session where you were going to be responsible for donuts!

Cooking Club Lisa did send through an amazing-looking recipe for Chorizo Refried Beans while we were in the planning process, and I just had to have them, so I adapted Cooking Club Gina's perfected recipe for Huevos Rancheros:

- Entirely too lazy to make my own ranchero sauce, so I doctored up some store-bought salsa with a spoonful of canned green chiles.

- I used Friday's avocado-basil spread as a guacamole substitute. While the basil added a nice fresh flavor, I think a good old normal guacamole with funky cilantro would be the way to go. No need to mess with the tried-and-true.

- And those bell pepper eggs that are all over Pinterest. I really only made them because I felt a little guilty about not having any green on the plate, and I like my eggs over-easy, so they don't come out as attractive as sunny-side-up eggs.

The refried beans did not disappoint, though. I've never understood bean-and-cheese burritos (why, when you can have STUFF in them!), but with these beans, I just might. My chorizo wasn't super spicy, so I added Cholula to the mix, but I bet using that delicious and perfectly-spiced soy chorizo from Trader Joe's would be a perfect (and vegan) alternative.

Sadly, it'll be a while before I can do donuts. It's hard to justify deep-frying for two, even if the LA Weekly tempts you with a list of the top 10 donut places in LA, just days after missing making my own. I'll just have to get my fix with Lynn at Donut Man.

Huevos Rancheros with Chorizo Refried Beans
adapted from Tyler Florence and inspired by the glory that is Pinterest
Serves 2

For the refried beans:
1/4 c. diced Spanish chorizo
1/4 c. olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
2 15-oz cans red kidney beans
Cholula, salt and pepper to taste

1 bell pepper, sliced into 4 rings
4 eggs
2 corn tortillas
your choice of toppings: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, more Cholula

1. Combine the chorizo and olive oil in a medium pot, and fry the chorizo for a few minutes to infuse the oil. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the beans and their liquid and simmer for about 10 minutes. Mash with a potato masher to form a coarse puree. Season to taste and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

3. Heat some more olive oil in a medium skillet. When shimmering, add the bell pepper rings and crack one egg into each ring. Cook until the eggs are done to your liking.

4. Crisp the tortillas on a small baking sheet in the oven for 2 minutes. Remove onto serving plates and top with a smear of the refried beans, the bell pepper eggs, and your choice of toppings. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 27, 2012

for the summer

Just a quick, light, delicious summer dinner. The "dressing" is the stuff of the gods, or privileged babies - a fine, rich puree that, while excellent straight from the food processor bowl, may have been a little too rich with the creaminess of the beans. I might use just half an avocado next time, or thin it out with a litte more olive oil - which is what I provided for in the instructions below.

Prosciutto-Bean Salad
adapted from Food52
Serves 2

1 avocado
1 c. basil leaves
1 14-oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.
1 14-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
a few handfuls mixed greens
juice of half a lemon
4 slices prosciutto
4 slices bresaola

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the avocado, basil leaves, artichoke hearts and enough olive oil to form a smooth puree. It should be the consistency of thick dressing. Salt and pepper to taste.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the beans and about 1/2 c. of the dressing. Adjust seasoning.

3. Dress the greens with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Plate and top with the dressed beans. Top with the prosciutto and bresaola.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

this is the stuff

Can I keep talking about my new kitchen? I mean, I am just so happy with the improvement from my last one, that I just want to share it with you, but then again, I don't want to be that grinning asshole who's too happy, y'know?

Thank you for bearing with me. Today's contentment is derived from the amazing amount of cabinet and pantry space that I get to have. I'm being super precious about it now that it's new, so it's all showroom-ready, all the labels are facing front, and everything is within arm's reach. Once I get over that and start getting utilitarian with it, I can stash enough canned foods to last through any apocalypse. There is so much space that I want to go to Costco and over-buy just because I can.

All kidding aside, I do want to have a well-stocked pantry now that I have the space, instead of having to go buy new things every time I want to make a new recipe. I love grocery stores (although I don't love Trader Joe's parking lots), so it's not really an issue to go, but it's sometimes nice to look around the house and create from what's already there.

I had that kind of feeling this morning, so I started by going through the freezer, aka Where Good Intentions Go to Die. Nestled at the bottom were packs of sausages that have been eagerly awaiting those barbecues we've not been able to schedule because the house isn't quite ready for guests yet. I figure 4 sausages wouldn't decrease the quality of the barbecue by that much, so I set them out to thaw, intending to make sausage and peppers for dinner.

Now, it's not that I don't like sausage and peppers, but I don't love sausage and peppers. And the Interwebs have such a way of leading me to stuff I do love that I couldn't help but do a little search. What I came up with may be a new staple - Sausage-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms.

Now, a lot of of these recipes call for cooking loose sausage first and then just essentially reheating them in the oven in your vehicle of choice, whether it be peppers or portobellos. I was looking for more of a meatloaf-style stuffing, so I caramelized a couple veggies (I imagine it would be stellar with fennel come fall), and stuffed the mushrooms with raw patties that just took a little longer to cook in the oven.

So, so good. The sausage cooked just perfectly. The veggies added a little bit of sweetness to the wonderful savoriness of the sausage. I like to think the one egg I added also added to the fluffiness of the stuffing. I can imagine this would be awesome used to stuff baby bellas or even regular white mushrooms for a nice appetizer, or formed into small meatballs and simmered with a nice tomato sauce to go over top of pasta. You know, if one were to eat pasta (one day, my friend).

Sausage-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
inspired by Food 52
Serves 4

olive oil
1 c. finely diced eggplant
2 artichoke hearts, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
1 bell pepper, finely diced
4 large portobello mushrooms, gills removed, stems reserved and diced
salt and pepper to taste
4 sweet Italian sausages
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. When shimmery, add the eggplant, artichoke, carrot, pepper and mushroom stems. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, uncase the sausages. Add the cooked veggies and the egg, and mix together gently, but thoroughly with your hands.

4. Divide the sausage mixture into 4 patties and stuff the mushrooms. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the sausage reads 165 degrees. Serve immediately with a side salad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

tandoori nights

One of the main perks of home ownership has been the huge step up from my galley-style kitchen. Besides counter space, light and ugly old cabinets Matty's mom and I lovingly sanded and painted to the best shade of black to complement our incredible turquoise appliances, I have an oven that works like it's supposed to.

Mainly, I'm talking about the broiler. Do you see that salmon up there? That's what I've wanted broiled salmon to look like for years. I mean, really kids, it's the little things.

And this is super simple. Just a little marinade time, but these days, marinade time means continue-fixing-the-house time, so it all works out. I've made a Wasabi Salmon before that is baked in a coating of mayonnaise, and just loved how lovely it turned out, so I replaced the yogurt with mayo here. I also halved the amount of garam masala called for because I wanted to taste the ginger and garlic - this ratio to me was the perfect combination of fragrant and pretty.

Tandoori-Style Charred Salmon
adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2

1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 inch ginger, grated on a microplane
4 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
1 t. garam masala
salt and pepper, to taste
2 salmon fillets
12 oz. broccoli florets

1. In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, ginger, garlic and garam masala. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and salt and pepper to taste. Brush it with the marinade. Toss the broccoli in the same bowl to coat with the mayonnaise as well. Add the salmon to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your broiler.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Arrange the salmon and broccoli in a single layer on the baking sheet, spreading it out as much as possible. Place under the broiler for 10 minutes for medium salmon. Arrange on a bed of rice and serve.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

the jam

Indeed, this is more of a photo of my awesome O'Keefe & Merritt oven than it is of this delicious Apricot Pie, but once I realized my vintage Bauer pie plate matched the oven, I couldn't resist.

I've made an apricot tart before, and while it was delicious in all its simple glory, I couldn't resist the thought of a crumble topping made with almonds and two kinds of sugar. Especially when I remembered that when I am asked to melt butter, I can always take it a step further and brown the butter - I felt the crumble was richer for it.

Unfortunately, I also thought the crumble topping was a bit grainy. Maybe I didn't whisk enough for the sugars to disappear? Maybe I should have used more flour - oats also, for body? I was just expecting more of a biscuit-y crumble topping than dollops of buttered sugar.

The apricots, however, did not disappoint. They yielded into jammy pieces of heaven, still tart because they were only topped with and not tossed with sugar. A perfect slice to have with friends over a cup of tea. Or for breakfast.

Apricot Crumble Pie
from Herriott Grace

1 9-inch single pie crust (frozen, or your favorite recipe)
2 lbs. apricots
4 oz. butter
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/3 c. sliced almonds

1. Roll out your pie dough, fit it into a 9-inch pie plate, crimp the edges and put it in the freezer for at least 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Pull the apricots apart into quarters with your fingers; do not peel them, but remove the pits.

3. Brown the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the sugars, then the flour. Add the sliced almonds, stir to combine.

4. Put the apricots into the unbaked shell. Cover them with the sugar mixture.

5. Bake the pie for 10 minutes, and then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for 35-45 more minutes, until the top is crusty and golden. You might want to set it on a foil-lined baking sheet in case the apricot juices bubble over.

6. Transfer to a rack and cool before serving.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

all sides

I cannot roast chicken to save my life. And I mean pieces, here - a whole chicken might give me a panic attack.

This one's kinda pretty, but I did put an Instagram filter on it. I mean, at least it cooked through. I just wish I could get the skin golden brown and crispy like the instructions tell you to do. I mean, maybe the "sear" time needs to be longer? Maybe the oven should go up to like 425?

I don't know. The chicken was kind of boring, but luckily, the sides ended up pretty outstanding and could have been a meal in and of themselves. You do just about nothing to each of those - the flavors of the asparagus salad get all cool and pickly on their own on the counter, and the potatoes just live in their vegetable oil sauna until the chicken is done. Way better than hand-wringing in front of the oven.

And yes, I did cheat on my psuedo-Paleo diet with a tiny bit of Parmesan, but let's not get crazy. Brie Binge 2012 won't happen until after my triathlon.

Roast Chicken with Asparagus Salad + Fried Potatoes
Adapted from Tasting Table & Anne Burrell
Serves 4

For asparagus:
1 bunch of thin asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced thinly crosswise
1/2 red onion, diced
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 T. tarragon vinegar

For potatoes:
1 lb. small yellow potatoes
vegatable oil

For chicken:
4 chicken leg quarters (about 4 lbs.)
salt and pepper
1 T. olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, toss together all the ingredients for the asparagus salad. Set aside.

3. Heat the olive oil in an oven-proof skillet large enough to hold all the chicken without crowding. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the oil is shimmery, add the chicken, skin side down and cook until the skin is browned and crisp, about 7 minutes. Turn the chicken over and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes, or when a thermometer reads 165 degrees.

4. Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a pan just big enough to fit the potatoes in one layer. Add oil to cover the potatoes by two-thirds. Bring the oil to a simmer over medium heat, then lower the heat to barely maintain the simmer. Fry the potatoes, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in a potato doesn't meet any resistance.

5. Plate and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

just another

This is hardly even worth posting. While it was originally inspired by Saveur, it turned into something only barely related.

- Mustard seed-martinated cod: I got a gorgeous piece of halibut from Whole Foods, and Matty couldn't stand to see it be smeared by mustard, so I just seasoned it with salt and pepper and sauteed it.

- Pea cream: I'm doing pretty good on this no-dairy thing, and although the pea cream looked amazing, I didn't think 2/3 c. of cream was worth the cheating. I'll save that for my Brie binge. What I did do instead was saute some sugar snap peas and toss it with leftover pesto.

And I added a super-spicy watermelon salsa. We were up in Santa Barbara a few months ago for the BFF's birthday, and had a fantastic Sunday Supper at Petit Valentien, which included a tiny but delicious piece of fish accompanied by watermelon two ways. I've since forgotten the first preparation, but the second was a watermelon salsa that I've been waiting for a proper barbecue to make.

I think I'll have to go for the store-bought jalapeno if I'm making this for a crowd - the jalapenos we have in the garden are insanely spicy. In fact, that's Matty's plate above - I could only bear to have some to taste for seasoning and skipped it for my meal.

Watermelon Salsa
Serves 4

2 c. watermelon, cut in small cubes
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 T. chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste and let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to marry. Serve over fish or as a traditional tortilla chip dip.

Monday, July 16, 2012


You guys! It's been almost a month since Matty's mom left 8 herbs, 2 pepper plants and a tomato plant in my care. Not only are they not dead, dare I say, they are THRIVING! I mean, the cilantro looks like dill a little bit, and I read a couple places that it's because been so damn hot, and they tend to flower immediately when it gets too warm. Oh well. Maybe I'll get coriander out of it. (And you can have it - I hate coriander).

Anyway. Besides the excessive pride I have in not doing anything out of the ordinary - just managing to get by - I get such a kick out of not having to buy the little plastic boxes of herbs. Oh, I need thyme to rub on the pork chops? I'll just go grab the lemon thyme growing in the yard. Oh, there's lemon zest in the rub, too? I'll just grab a lemon from the neighbor's tree (don't worry, they said it was cool). Basil for pesto is no problem. I mean, so much excitement!

These chops were good. Probably more for the reasons above than anything extraordinary about the recipe, but they were good. I'd up the thyme next time, or not serve it with the pesto - I like my pesto super garlicky, but that meant the delicate lemon thyme was lost next to it.

Thyme-Rubbed Pork Chops with Pesto
adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4

leaves from 1 small bunch lemon thyme
3 cloves garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
4 T. olive oil
4 pork chops
3 handfuls fresh basil
1/4 c. almonds

1. Finely chop the thyme and 1 clove of garlic. Transfer to a small bowl and add the lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive. Stir well. Rub the mixture onto the pork chops and let them rest for 10-15 minutes.

2. In a food processor, combine the remaining 2 cloves of garlic with the basil and almonds. With the machine running, add olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Heat a pan large enough to fit all the chops. Add the pork chops and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until they are golden and caramelized on the outside and up to at least 145 degrees inside.

4. Remove from the pan and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with pesto spooned on top.

Monday, July 9, 2012

start over again

The year is more than halfway over. Major things I've done in the first half:
- bought a house
- worked on getting a movie out

Major things I haven't done in the first half:
- train for the triathlon I signed up for in March

Oops. I also haven't been to the gym in over a month in all the madness that's been going on.

So the second half of the year begins for me much the way the first did - with lofty resolutions, but this time, with a deadline of September 30th to bring to fruition. That starts with exercise (I'm a little scared about open water as well as riding any other bike than my fat-tired 21-speed cruiser with the basket in front), but also includes diet. I'm trying to keep carbs and dairy to a minimum, to be reserved for only the most stressful of days.

Here's my first go - lots of protein, lots of veggies and not any bread, pasta or cheese in sight. One day down, 82 to go.

Vietnamese-Style Steak
adapted slightly from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen via Saveur
Serves 4

4 T. Maggi
4 T. vegetable oil
12 garlic cloves, minced
pepper to taste
2 lbs. top sirloin steaks

1. In a wide, shallow dish, combine the first 4 ingredients. Add the steaks, rub with marinade and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Heat and oil a grill pan large enough to hold the steaks. When hot, but not smoking, add the steaks and grill to desired doneness.

3. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil. After about 10 minutes, slice thinly across the grain and serve over rice or your choice of salad. My salad included butter lettuce, baby corn, straw mushrooms, snow peas, broccoli, sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

in the air tonight

I know the house is going to smell like curry for the rest of the week (I forget that I have a range hood in this kitchen!), but this was totally worth it. Surprisingly flavorful for something that's so simple and quick.

I added the cauliflower because I didn't feel right about not including a vegetable in the meal. I was going to add potatoes, too, because every curry I ate growing up had potatoes in it, but I decided to keep it light. Some other veggies that might be good - bell peppers, eggplant...possibilities are endless!

Oh, and that cilantro on top there? That's from my garden*. No big deal.

*By "my garden," I mean the handful of herbs, tomato plant and pepper plants Matty's mom planted while she was here. Anyone with an over/under on when they die left under my black thumb?

Creamy Chicken Curry
adapted from Food52
Serves 4

1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
2 T. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 T. plus 2 t. curry powder
4 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 t. ground turmeric
1 T. tomato paste
12 oz. cauliflower florets, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a Ziploc bag, toss the chicken pieces with 1 T. curry powder. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for another minute.

3. Stir in the cumin, turmeric, remaining curry powder, red pepper flakes and 2 t. salt. Cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and mix to combine.

4. Add the curried chicken and cauliflower, and stir to combine. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

5. Serve hot over rice, garnished with cilantro.