Monday, July 22, 2013

we are thrown together

Two over-ripe bananas I haven't had time to eat + an impromptu barbecue + a renewed obsession with pistachios = these delightful Pistachio Banana Muffins.

I love a good one-bowl recipe, especially when I'm running tight on time. However, the ease of putting it all together worried me about the quality. How could something thrown together with so little thought and care turn out good?

Luckily, the answer appears to be magic ingredients just make themselves. Out of the oven, the muffins have a lovely banana aroma, but the actual flavor in the muffins is tempered a bit by the rich pistachios. The coconut oil brings just a faint tropical aura to each bite. I imagine this would be ridiculously decadent with the coconut oil replaced by browned butter, especially if you throw some cream cheese frosting on it and call it a cupcake.

Pistachio Banana Muffins
slightly adapted from Nibbles and Feasts
makes 12 muffins

2 over-ripe bananas
1 egg
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. raw pistachio meat
1 t. baking soda
1 1/4 t. salt
4 T. coconut oil

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with liners.

2. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas. Beat in the egg. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir just until the flour is incorporated.

3. Divide the batter between the muffin cups, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

guac on

Guacamole. I love it. What hot-blooded Californian doesn't? But with all the amazing Mexican restaurants in town, and hell, even Trader Joe's Avocado's Number, why bother making your own? I save my avocados for sandwiches and salads, and pop down to Cacao Mexicatessan for guac. But challenge me to a guac-off, and I'll not only enter, I'll make two kinds. Some may call me competitive.

The first to go was my Avocado with Chimichurri adaptation. I loved it so much as bruschetta that I figured a more finely-diced version could qualify as a chunky guacamole. It was certainly polarizing - that red wine vinegar and the red pepper flakes are unforgivingly pungent, but, to me, in a good way. However, I will have to say I prefer it as bruschetta - these flavors need a chunk of bread to stand up to them, not just a tortilla chip.

But the guac that I'm newly obsessed with is the one on the left - Guacamole with Pistachios. It's alarmingly simple - avocado, jalapeno, onion, cilantro, lime, salt and pepper. Oh, but then add toasted pistachios and the oil it was toasted in. Simply stellar. I bet this guac would also be great with the spiced pine nuts from this pasta recipe, but I can't believe I've never thought to pair avocados and pistachios before. A real California dream.

Guacamole with Pistachios
slightly adapted from Empellon

1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. raw pistachio meat
3 ripe avocados
2 T. diced white onion
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño, diced
1 T. lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the pistachios, and fry for 2 minutes. Drain the pistachios, reserving the oil. Place the pistachios on a paper towel-lined plate to drain further. Season them with salt.

2. Mash the avocados in a large bowl. Add the onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lemon juice and 1 T. of the reserved pistachio oil, and stir to combine. Fold in all but a handful of the pistachios, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the remaining pistachios, and serve.

Friday, July 19, 2013

trust your intuition

This recipe sounded genius. The end-product looked genius. We (me, Matty and our friend Brandon) all went back for seconds. And yet, there was still an ounce of regret because I tasted the pasta before I put it in the oven, and the slightly dry tray that came out reaffirmed the gut feeling I had that I shouldn't have bothered to bake it at all.

Unbaked, it was a lovely, saucy dish - spicy from the jalapenos and sausage, but still nicely matched by the cheese. I had never made a mac and cheese with pub cheese before. It might be the new Velveeta. Much lighter, like a whipped Velveeta, although I've recycled the pub cheese container, and can't/don't want to compare the nutrition value of the two to confirm.

Here's the recipe as I would have done it:

Andouille Mac + Cheese
adapted slightly from Serious Eats
serves 8

1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 jalapeños, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. fusilli
2 andouille sausage links, cooked and diced
8 oz. cheddar pub cheese
3/4 c. shredded cheddar
1 c. milk
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and jalapeños. Stir and cook until the onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat, and add the garlic. Saute for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Add the pub cheese, shredded cheese and milk to the boil, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the cooked pasta and the cooked sausage, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

easily swayed

I'm easily impressionable when it comes to food. I don't have to be hungry, but a good restaurant review, and my stomach starts growling. I watch dancing Coke cans in movie previews, and I have to excuse myself for one (and maybe some Junior Mints).

So you can imagine how helpless I was rendered when I read Molly's review of Ottolenghi's Pasta with Yogurt, Peas + Chile. I had to make it immediately. Unfortunately, it was well past bedtime, and I don't ever have that much yogurt on hand, so I made a note for the grocery store, and went to sleep dreaming of peas and spiced pine nuts.

Of course, I had my reservations. Would Matty even like this? It seemed too related to pasta salad, something he abhors (along with all previously-warm, then made-cold salads - egg, potato, chicken - but can we talk about the chicken salad sandwich at Salt's Cure? HEAVEN). And he doesn't like yogurt much anyway, much less warm yogurt sauce.

Wait. Did I just say "warm yogurt"? Forget Matty - was I going to like this after all? Should I at least wait until the next time he's on the road or at a rehearsal to make myself my own test subject? Should my fridge be better stocked when I do try it in case it's a massive failure, and we have to make a second dinner?

But, I trust Molly, and she definitely didn't steer me wrong this time. Sure, the sauce does have a little bit of a tang to it, but once combined with the salty feta, sweet peas, and spicy, savory pine nuts, it just became one of an amazing combination of flavor profiles than anything overwhelming and weird.

Matty helped himself to two servings. I only stopped myself because I was out of calories for the day, and shockingly, regardless of how vegetarian this is, pasta, full-fat yogurt, nearly a cup of olive oil, pine nuts and half a pound of feta does not a low-calorie meal make. Was it worth it, though? Absolutely.

Pasta with Yogurt, Peas + Chile
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem via Orangette
serves 8

2 c. whole-milk Greek yogurt
10 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen peas
1 lb. orecchiette
1/2 c. pine nuts
2 t. red pepper flakes
8 oz. crumbled feta

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the yogurt, 6 T. olive oil, garlic and 2/3 c. peas. Process to a uniform pale green sauce, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Add the remaining peas just to warm them, and then drain. Set aside.

3. While the pasta cooks, heat the remaining 4 T. olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and chile flakes, and cook for 4 minutes, or until the pine nuts are golden.

4. Gradually add the drained pasta to the yogurt sauce, mixing all the while. Add the feta, and salt to taste. Serve immediately, with 1 T. pine nuts spooned over each serving.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

olive you

I had half a martini (dry, up, twist) last night while waiting for a gorgeous steak dinner to arrive, and you guys, I think I got a little tipsy. The kind of tipsy that makes you eat an entire slab of prime rib as big as your face, and not tell MyFitnessPal about it.

What does this have to do with Olive-Crusted Cod, you ask? Well, other than the red meat detox, the only reason I was drinking the martini was because Matty ordered his with olives, and they brought the twist. And I didn't want it to go to waste, so...

I might have finished the whole drink had it been served with the jalapeño-stuffed green olives from this dish. They're nothing too fancy - just a jar from Trader Joe's, but they had the familiar salt punch of olives while adding this pleasant warmth with every bite from the jalapeños.

Olive-Crusted Cod with Haricot Verts
adapted from Proud Italian Cook
serves 2

1 lb. fresh cod fillets
16 large, jalapeño-stuffed green olives, about 1 c.
3 garlic cloves
3 green onions, white and light green parts only
1/4 c. tightly packed parsley leaves
zest of 1 lemon
8 oz. haricots verts, trimmed
2 T. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the olives, garlic, green onions, parsley, lemon zest and 1 T. olive oil. Process until coarsely chopped. Set aside.

3. In a glass baking dish large enough to hold all the fish in one layer, pour in 1 T. olive oil. Top with the haricot verts, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the fish, and then cover with the olive mixture.

4. Cover the dish with foil, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

oh cherry, oh baby

Happy Bastille Day, everyone! A little Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the Tour de France today. Except I missed the race-watching due to an hour-long conference call in the car. Luckily, I have the kind of friends who will walk the mean streets of Beverly Hills with champagne, and they met me at the car with a glass as I was wrapping up.

I can't believe this is the first sweet clafouti I've made on this blog. This should really be regular breakfast fare. So easy to whip up (unless you have to hand-pit the cherries), and endlessly adaptable to whatever fruit is in season. I made a cherry one (because I'm obsessed with cherries, and only didn't use Rainier cherries because I can't stop eating them out of hand), a blueberry one (because Monsieur Host doesn't like cherries), and two little pluot ones (because I had extra batter, and one pluot lying around).

Or toss in some chocolate chips and put chocolate chip pancakes to shame. Can't go wrong!

slightly adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking
serves 8

2 1/2 c. pitted, halved red cherries (or blueberries, or really, anything)
1 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. + 2 T. granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
1/8 t. salt
1/2 c. flour
powdered sugar, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Grease a 9-inch pie plate with butter. Pour the cherries into the plate. Sprinkle 2 T. sugar over the cherries.

3. Combine the milk, 1/3 c. sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour in the jar of a blender, and blend at top speed for 1 minute. Pour the batter over the cherries.

4. Bake for about an hour, or until the clafouti is puffed and browned, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. If desired, sprinkle the top of the clafouti with powdered sugar just before serving.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

moving in elliptical pattern

You guys. Please indulge me for a moment.


Anyway. So MyFitnessPal works. Except I can't stop eating. I still want all the food all the time. So much so that I went to the gym between work and the grocery store to do the elliptical in anticipation of eating this Steak with Pepper-Fennel Relish. I have a vague feeling that's not the end-goal of the app, but if we're playing the net calories game, I will find every loophole.

This is more a recipe for the relish than the steak. Make the steak any way you like. And I don't mean to be disingenous - the relish really is just basically peppers and onions (which then makes me think of sandwiches piled with cheese - perfect for leftovers). But the small additions make the whole dish - the fennel seeds and fresh fennel add an earthy depth of flavor to balance out all the sweetness of the peppers and onions. And then there's the red wine vinegar that gives just the right pop of acidity to further round everything out.

We went carb-less tonight, but this combo would be right at home with the aforementioned rolls and cheese in a sandwich as it would in tortillas for tacos, or between tortillas for a quesadilla. Would probably make an excellent omelette/scramble filling as well. Or combine with diced leftover potatoes for a breakfast hash.

See what I mean about all the food? I should probably go back to the gym right now.

Steak with Pepper-Fennel Relish
adapted from Tasting Table
serves 2-4

For the relish:
4 bell peppers, assorted colors, diced
1 T. olive oil
2 t. dried fennel seeds
1 large onion, diced, about 2 c.
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and diced, about 2 c.
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
3 T. red wine vinegar

For the steak:
1 1/4 lb. New York strip steak
salt, pepper and granulated garlic, to taste

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel seeds, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the rest of the vegetables and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Rub the steaks with salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste. Grill until done to your liking. Let rest on a cutting board, tented with aluminum foil, for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with relish.