Thursday, January 31, 2013


These were fantastic. A nice solid protein with a refreshing salad that feels slightly decadent because of the creamy dressing.

A couple thoughts on changing things up for next time:

- I don't think the rye is completely necessary. There's not enough used that you would really tell the difference except for the very occasional bite onto a caraway seed. Use whatever you have on hand.

- Be very careful to not overcook the cakes. I pan-seared a tiny patty to taste for seasoning, and it was absolutely divine. I left the regular-sized cakes in the oven for a few more minutes than I should have, and they were bordering on mealy. Oven-baking these things is so convenient, especially for making the accompanying slaw, but I think next time, I would just pan-fry until golden brown on both sides and call it a day.

Rye and Salmon Cakes
adapted from Tasting Table

3 slices rye bread
3/4 lb. fresh salmon, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 c. cannellini beans
6 garlic-stuffed green olives
1 T. grainy Dijon mustard
1 large egg
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, pulverize the ry bread until finely ground, about 1 minute. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and toast in the oven until golden-brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.

3. In the newly-empty food processor, combine 1/3 c. of the toasted breadcrumbs, the salmon, beans, olives, mustard, egg, salt and pepper. Process until well-combined.

4. Divide the salmon mixture into 5 or 6 equal portions, and shape into a 1-inch-thick cake. Dip the salmon cakes in the breadcrumbs to coat on all sides.

5. Spray an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet with nonstick pan spray, and set the salmon cakes on top. Lightly spray the top of each salmon cake with nonstick pan spray. Bake the salmon cakes until they are browned and firm, about 18 minutes. Serve immediately.

Shaved Apple, Fennel + Celery Salad

adapted from Rosemarried
Makes about 6 cups

1 Granny Smith apple, sliced thinly
1 c. sliced celery
2 c. sliced fennel
1/4 c. roasted, salted pistachios
1/2 T. olive oil
1/2 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. mayo
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the apple, celery, fennel and pistachios.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider and mayo. Taste and adjust the proportions and seasonings as necessary.

3. Gently toss the salad with the dressing, just to coat. Good at room temperature, or chill while you prepare your main if you prefer.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

you're not the best

No one actually watches the Pro Bowl for the football. The only reason to watch is to have an excuse to eat wings. And make mac and cheese. And eat it all without even a hint of a side salad anywhere.

Okay, fine - I did end up feeling guilty and threw in the leftover arugula I had in the fridge. In hindsight, I should have just said, "Screw it" and left it alone. It didn't make it worse, but it certainly didn't make me feel any healthier.

I mean, this wasn't the most amazing mac and cheese in the world, but it definitely worked for a mediocre football game. It's actually kind of Kraft Mac + Cheese-y - the vegetable broth and blended shallots lend a subtle but addictive sweetness, and the smoked Gouda (essentially classy processed cheese) creates a rich, creamy, almost leaden sauce. Use the curlicue-iest pasta you can find to trap as much cheese as possible.

Smoked Gouda Mac + Cheese
slightly adapted from Tasting Table
Serves 12

1 lb. pasta
2 2/3 c. vegetable broth, divided
5 1/2 T. butter, divided
1/2 c. flour
2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
3 small shallots, roughly chopped
7 cloves of garlic
1 lb. smoked Gouda cheese

1. In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. In a separate medium saucepan, melt 5 T. of butter. Add the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture looks like wet sand. Continue to stir until the mixture is thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, 1 to 3 minutes.

3. While whisking, add in 1 1/3 c. vegetable broth. Once the broth is incorporated, whisk in the cream. Simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat.

4. In the saucepan you used to cook the pasta, melt the remaining 1/2 T. butter. Add the shallots and garlic, and cook until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/3 c. broth, and simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the shallot mixture to a blender, and blend until completely smooth. Pour the blended mixture into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Turn the heat on to medium, and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Add the cheese a handful at at time, stirring until melted.

7. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, and stir to thoroughly combine. Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish, and cover with foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 25, 2013


"How is there foie gras on this menu??" I thought to myself while I was perusing the Bistrot Lepic menu in DC this weekend.

Oh. We're not in California anymore. Needless to say, I immediately chose the prix-fixe option that had me start with the seared foie gras served with caramelized mango (omg) and port wine sauce (OMG). And then that reminded me that I had a small piece of foie gras in my freezer pre-ban.

At the risk of looking like a bougie glutton for eating foie gras twice in the span of a week, I decided to make Foie Gras-Steamed Clams. Originally, Matty thought this was a waste of good foie - why bother melting it down into basically a pool of expensive fat?

Well, basically, because it is the most delicious pool of expensive fat in the world. I did agree with him initially, but to be honest, my foie was a little frost-bitten from having been in the freezer for almost 7 months. That made me feel less bad about using it this way.

The original recipe calls an additional 4 T. of butter in the sauce, but I imagine we would have had immediate heart attacks if I had added that. The sauce is just short of unbearably rich even without the butter. Just make sure you do a good job of whisking the foie into the broth, and strain, strain, strain. The remaining foie solids make a great chef's snack on a nubbin of bread. Or so I've heard.

Foie Gras-Steamed Clams
slightly adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 2 as a main course

1/4 c. olive oil
1 red onion, cut into 8 wednges
24 Manila clams
1 c. vegetable stock
2 T. white wine vinegar
2.5 oz. foie gras
chopped parsley, for garnish
grilled bread, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Arrange the onion wedges in a pie plate, and pour over the olive oil. Cover the pan with oil, and roast in the oven for 40 minutes. Drain, reserving the oil to brush on the bread before grilling. Coarsely chop the onion.

3. In a large, deep pot, combine the vegetable stock, white wine vinegar and foie gras. Bring to a boil, whisking to blend the foie into the sauce. Add the clams. Cover and steam over moderately high heat until the clams open, about 10 minutes. Transfer the clam to serving bowls, discarding any that do not open.

4. Strain the broth into a medium bowl, and return to the pot. Make sure you press down on the solids to get as much goodness out as possible. Add the roasted onion, and cook until just heated through. Pour the sauce over the clams, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately with grilled bread.

Monday, January 14, 2013

when it's cold outside

Have I mentioned it's cold in LA? I hate it deeply. (Well, the part that warrants a fire in the fireplace is okay, but the part from the Gas Company is not cool - the heater's been on all night every night, and my wallet is displeased).

I guess the part with the soups and the stews, the braising and the baking, is all okay, too. I guess I just don't like the being outside part. Unfortunately, the smoker is outside, and when I realized I still had about 7 lbs. of brisket in the freezer from our last barbecue, it made me sad.

So what does one do with 7 lbs. of brisket in the winter? Well, if one has Molly Stevens' brilliant book, All About Braising, one splits that brisket into two pieces and makes brisket two ways to feed one's boyfriend while one spends all week working late and traveling.

The first preparation, and tonight's dinner, was Beef Rendang. I've been on a bit of a ginger and other warm spice kick lately, but I couldn't resist the call of doing it all again tonight. The aroma of this cooking is absolute heaven, and while it's a beefy calorie bomb, one serving makes for a solid dinner. I'd love to explore doubling the spices and coconut milk to make it more like a curry, or even adding broccoli towards the end of the cooking time for a more intense beef with broccoli dish.

Beef Rendang
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
Serves 4

For the spice paste:
2 dried pasilla peppers, seeded
zest of 1 lime
4 small shallots, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
one 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 t. ground turmeric

For the braise:
2 T. canola oil
3 whole star anise
5 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 lbs. brisket, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 1/2 t. sugar
salt, to taste
1 14-oz. can of coconut milk
1 c. beef broth

1. Combine the peppers, lime zest, shallots, garlic, ginger and turmeric in the bowl of a food processor, and process to a coarse paste.

2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the spice paste and fry, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the paste appears a bit glossy as the oil begins to separate out of it, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the star anise, cardamom and cinnamon, and stir to combine. Add the beef, and stir to coat the meat evenly with the paste. Season with the sugar and a big pinch of salt.

3. Add the coconut oil and enough broth to just cover the beef, and stir to blend the paste into the liquid. Bring to a gentle simmer, and braise, uncovered, until the meat is almost tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Stir the beef every 20-30 minutes, and check that the simmer remains quiet.

4. As the liquid reduces to a thick paste, continue braising, monitoring the pan more closely. Eventually, a clear oil will separate out from the paste. When this happens, stir more frequently, and then fry the beef in the oil until it becomes mahogany brown, another 30 minutes or so. Season to taste, and serve immediately over rice.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

my new resolution

Two years ago, I published my 11 in '11 - my list of New Year's Resolutions. Given how successful I was (not), I have never publicly admitted to my resolutions again.

However, when I came across that old list, I started thinking about #7 - starting Saturday/Sunday Suppers. We love to entertain, but throwing ragers every weekend is a thing of the past. I think we can seriously try to do 4-6 person dinner parties on a regular basis, though. Put in your reservation now! ;)

Here's the first Saturday Supper of 2013 - homemade ravioli with a pesto sauce made from home-grown basil, the only thing reacting to this cold LA weather worse than I am.

Sausage-Spinach Ravioli with Creamy Pesto Sauce
Makes 2 dozen

10 oz. bulk hot Italian sausage
3 oz. spinach
7 oz. ricotta
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, brown the sausage. Add the spinach, and stir until wilted. Set aside to cool.

2. Flour the ravioli mold, and prepare your favorite fresh pasta dough. I like Barbara Lynch's recipe.

3. When the sausage mixture has cooled, add the ricotta and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Use about one teaspoon of filling per ravioli.

4. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli in batches for about 3 minutes each. As they are done, add them to a large bowl of creamy pesto - it's okay, and actually great, if a little of the pasta cooking water is added along with each batch. When all the ravioli have been cooked, toss well to thoroughly coat with pesto. Serve immediately.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

she cooks you sweet potato

I have a confession to make. I really don't like sweet potatoes.

Let the groans begin. "What about sweet potato fries?" Nope. "What do you mean you don't have sweet potatoes with marshmallows for Thanksgiving?" Don't like 'em (but if you put a little bourbon on them and bring them to my house with what is essentially bacon fat caramel, I'll have a taste).

So why bother making a Sweet Potato + Peanut Soup with Lentils + Kale for dinner? Well, it was really the peanut part of the equation that drew me in. And everything else just sounded so wholesome and filling and comforting, that I couldn't pass it up.

To be honest, the peanut part was a little disappointing, but that was mostly my fault. I tried to get a lower fat peanut butter, and didn't realize until I got it home that one of the ingredients was something like unfatted peanut flour or something. I mean, I don't even know what that means, but my best guess based on the flavor is that it's not peanuts.

Luckily, this soup didn't need additional peanut flavor to be delicious. The fantastic spices - ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric - really balance out the cloying sweetness I dislike so much. The original recipe calls for only half-pureeing the soup so there are still chunks of sweet potato present, but I pureed it completely. I felt that made it a better vehicle for the lentils and kale.

Sweet Potato + Peanut Soup with Lentils + Kale
slightly adapted from Food52
Serves 8

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. fresh ginger, minced
2 lbs. sweet potatoes, chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground turmeric
dash of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
salt, to taste
5 c. vegetable stock, divided
1/4 c. creamy peanut butter
4 c. kale, roughly chopped
2 1/2 c. Trader Joe's steamed lentils
2 green onions, finely sliced

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot set on medium head. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and cayenne, and stir to combine.

2. Add 4 c. of the vegetable stock, or enough to cover everything by about an inch. Bring the mixture to a boil. When the soup boils, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are very tender. Add the peanut butter, and stir well.

3. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until it is all pureed. Stir in the kale and lentils. Thin the soup with another cup of vegetable stock, if necessary. Cook until kale has wilted, and lentils have heated through.

4. Season to taste, and serve immediately with a garnish of green onions.

Monday, January 7, 2013

all that's left

I'm not going to lie. I went over MyFitnessPal calorie limit with this Ginger Fried Chicken, but I stayed well within the bounds of my Worth-It Diet by having an extra serving.

I really wanted to celebrate the last college football game of the season, but considering the piss-poor competition, I will focus on the chicken instead. Here are my changes to the original recipe:

- Instead of marinating the chicken in soy sauce, sake and fresh grated ginger for an hour, I just used Maggi seasoning for 20 minutes

- I put some of that ginger flavor in the flour coating. I think I'll double the amount next time - I'm not sure if I noticed it just because I knew it was in there, or if it was actually very present.

And that's it. Like a more delicious Chicken Nugget because you know exactly where it came from - the thigh, the most delicious part of a chicken. I'll admit I had my doubts about the crispness factor from just a potato starch coating and not some triple-dipped, buttermilk-involved batter, but I had nothing to worry about. By the time the bite-sized morsels were golden brown, they crisped up to perfection, and the meat was cooked to just the best level of juiciness.

I mean, it's fried chicken. Total last supper material for me. I wasn't going to not like it regardless of how it turned out. The Sriracha "aioli" (a bit of mayo with as much Sriracha as you can stand) was the frosting on the cake, although I most certainly didn't tell MyFitnessPal about it.

Ginger Fried Chicken
adapted from Viet World Kitchen
Serves 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 T. Maggi seasoning
1/2 c. potato starch
1 t. ground ginger
grapeseed oil, for deep frying

1. Cut the chicken thighs into 2-inch pieces. Place the pieces in a large bowl and add the Maggi. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. In a large plate, combine the potato starch and ground ginger. Dredge the chicken pieces in the starch mixture, coating well.

3. Fill a medium saucepan with about an inch of oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 325 degrees. Gently drop the chicken pieces into the oil, and fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and done. Drain briefly on a paper towel-lined plate, and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

spice up your life

The original recipe that inspired this Kerala Fish Fried Rice was for a good old-fashioned fish fry that I was going to serve over a bed of jasmine rice. However, the guilt I felt when I looked through the fridge and saw the huge bag of vegetables that was meant to have been consumed at our Sun Bowl game-watch, but was rightfully ignored for wings and pizza, was overwhelming.

How to blow through the stash? Fried rice. Well, maybe not blow through the stash, but feel a little better about not leaving them to languish in the crisper.

I used Trader Joe's frozen cod because it was left over from my Feast (it was supposed to be the 7th item), but I would love to try this with a more assertive fish, maybe salmon. The cod was nice, but it kind of just disappeared in with the rice. Some shrimp might be really good, too.

I would love to try it again with fillets or steaks, and fry them up real nice, but I would think about taking half of that spice mixture for the rub, and then put the other half into a tempura-style batter and deep-fry. A little less healthy, for sure, but I'm already getting excited about it.

Kerala Fish Fried Rice
inspired by Serious Eats
Serves 4

For the fish:
1 t. peppercorns
5 bay leaves
1 t. fennel seeds
1 t. cumin seeds
1 t. dried unsweetened coconut
1/2 t. turmeric powder
1 t. lime zest
1 lb. fish, cut into 2-inch pieces

For the rice:
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1 1/2 t. grated ginger
4 green onions, diced
1/4 c. finely diced carrots
1/4 c. finely diced celery
1/4 c. finely diced sugar snap peas
1/4 c. finely chopped broccoli
1/4 c. finely chopped cauliflower
1/4 c. frozen corn
2 c. cooked jasmine rice

1. Place peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and coconut in a large skillet, and toast on low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Allow mixture to cool. Add turmeric and lime zest, and grind with a mortar and pestle. Rub mixture evenly over fish, and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes, and up to 3 hours.

2. Heat the olive oil in the same skillet. Add the fish, and cook to done. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

3. Add all of the vegetables to the skillet, and cook to crisp-tender. Add the rice and reserved fish, and gently combine to heat through. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 4, 2013

refuge when it's cold outside

Los Angeles evenings have been bitter cold since we've been back from the even more bitter cold back East, and all I've wanted for dinner has been soup. I finally got around to it tonight, and now all I want is variations of this soup for the rest of winter.

You are going to have to ignore how much sodium is required to get this soup to move the needle from bland to delicious, though. Perhaps the fact that it's ultra low-calorie will help? I think one of the next variations will include a little bit of wakame - not that that's going to help in the sodium department, but I think that extra layer of flavor, as well as the gorgeousness of the green, will further enhance the soup.

Asari Miso Soup
adapted from No Recipes
Serves 4-6

1/2 lb. manila clams
1/2 lb. bay scallops
8 c. water
3.5 oz. package of enoki mushrooms, separated
9.5 oz. package of king trumpet mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 T. light yellow miso (or to taste)
14 oz. fresh udon noodles
2 green onions, chopped

1. Rinse the clams and set aside with the bay scallops.

2. In a large saucepan, add the mushrooms to the water, and bring to a boil. Ladle out about 2 cups of liquid and beat in the miso so there are no clumps in your soup. Return the miso mixture to the saucepan. Add more miso according to your taste.

3. Add the clams, scallops and noodles, cover and boil until the clams open.

4. Divide into serving bowls, garnish with green onions, and serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

with a little bit of luck

Have you heard that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is good luck for the whole year?

Oh. You've been bombarded with that info from every food blog between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans?


While I've always known about the tradition, this is the first year I've actually gone for it. I figure there would be no better year to start going for luck when I spent last night on a steady diet of Cold-Eeze and Emergen-C and fell asleep by 9:00p.

I'm feeling tons better now, and I think this meal deserves some of the credit in perking me back up. It's light, but somehow still filling, and the smoked Gouda adds just the right amount of creamy punch to a dish that may otherwise be just too healthy.

Normally, the other lucky thing to eat on New Year's Day is sauteed collards (because the green folds symbolize money heading your way), but I decided to make a small dent in our leftovers by having some of the Brussels sprouts-arugula-artichoke salad I made this weekend. We'll pretend we have enough money to be eating it at some point later this week.

Black-Eyed Pea, Mushroom + Leek Saute
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 4-6

2 T. olive oil
3 leeks, trimmed and sliced into half-moons
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 14-oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained
salt and pepper, to taste
2 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded

1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the leeks and mushrooms, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until they are lightly caramelized.

2. Add the black-eyed peas, and stir just to heat through. Salt and generously pepper to taste. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, and serve immediately.