Sunday, November 30, 2014

slow down

December 1st. It's only been 4 days since Thanksgiving. I've just finished reading through "101 Ways to Use Pumpkin," and I just saw a Tweet with a "Best of 2014" list. Give me a break. Can I at least enjoy Christmas for half a second before you make me think of 2015? Mariah hasn't even gotten through the first verse of "All I Want For Christmas" yet. Everybody, calm down.

So to protest all holidays ever, and the feeling that I'm being rushed into my future, I give you lovely, unrushed, non-seasonal Uni Risotto. Although of course, I feel any day with uni is a holiday, and this might be a nice, non-traditional twist to your Feast of Seven Fishes, so the holidays are probably winning anyway. They always do.

If you love uni, you will love this risotto. It's not for the faint of heart - 4 whole oz. of uni really comes right through in this recipe. Serve with lots of vegetables on the side - an assertive salad, or the roasted broccoli-cauliflower combo I have here would be perfect.

Uni Risotto
slightly adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon
serves 4

4 oz. uni
2 T. heavy cream
1 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. Arborio rice
2/3 c. dry white wine
4 c. clam juice
salt and pepper, to taste
toasted and shredded nori, for garnish

1. Place uni, cream and butter into a food processor, and blend until smooth. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pan. Add the shallots, sauté for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and rice, and continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until a small white dot remains in the center of each grain of rice.

3. Deglaze pan with wine and stir. Allow almost all the liquid to evaporate then reduce the heat to medium and add a ladle of clam juice, stirring frequently. Each time the liquid evaporates, add another ladle of stock, and continue to stir. Repeat until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

4. Stir in the uni puree, followed by the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (for a glossy finish), until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide risotto into portions and top with shredded nori. Serve immediately.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

the first and the last

If I see one more list of "Last-Minute Turkey Day Recipes," or "Ways To Out-Pinterest Your Friends' Dining Tables On Thanksgiving," or "387 Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving," I will absolutely burst into tears. I should probably quit the Internet for the next week.

It's true I won't be home for Thanksgiving this year, and it's true that a small part of me is devastated. I think it's the part of me that likes to show off a little, or maybe the part of me that's a bit of a control freak, because after all, Thanksgiving for me is basically half a year of Excel sheets and test recipes. The food and family bit is just a nice bonus.

You won't find any Thanksgiving ideas here. Well, maybe the corn salad. Or the green onion pasta. But that wasn't the intention. If I can't tell you about my Thanksgiving feast in a week, I will tell you about the one feast I was able to have - what Matty and I affectionately called "The First and Last Barbecue of the Summer."

It was basically a day to make up for a summer of being on the road, watching football with our nearest and dearest. So it turned into a DAY.

First up, Blueberry Cake Donut Bars. They sound good and taste even better, but let's be honest that if you're baking something in the oven, it by definition cannot be a donut. Even if you have one of them cute donut pans. You just made a circle muffin with a hole in it.

But these Blueberry Cake Donut Bars are quite good - like a lovely, fruity coffee cake. Highly recommended. In fact, it was so good, I skipped making an extra dessert by doubling the recipe and using it to bookend our meal.

Blueberry Cake Donut Bars
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 40

For the donut bars:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 c. buttermilk
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. blueberries

For the buttermilk glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. buttermilk
1/3 c. whole milk

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until well-combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla.

2. Alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients to the butter mixture alternately, in 2 or 3 additions each. Mix until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.

3. Pour the mixture into a lightly greased 9x9-inch cake pan, then bake in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely, then cut into 8 bars.

4. To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar, buttermilk, and milk together to combine. Make sure the glaze is runny. Add additional milk, 1 T. at a time, if needed. Place the bars on a wire rack and pour the glaze over top. Let it set completely before serving.

We did have vegetables, I promise. I lovely tray full of green goodness. You pick your favorites - I had asparagus, celery (actually, not my favorite at all, but seemed obligatory), sugar snap peas and Persian cucumbers. 

To go with the crudite were a Chickpea + Chive Mash and Cashew Cheese. Originally, the mash was meant to be a warm dish, a bit polenta-like, topped with roasted vegetables, but when I tasted the mixture from the food processor, it seemed more useful as a fancy hummus.

And when the Cashew Cheese turned out to be the dip of my dreams, I pulled out my favorite serving dish (I love compartments), and had a nice little appetizer for the game-watch.

Chickpea + Chive Mash
slightly adapted from Dolly and Oatmeal
makes about 2 cups

1 c. drained, canned chickpeas
1/4 c. fresh chives
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 t. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 T. water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Serve immediately.

Cashew Cheese
slightly adapted from Choosing Raw
makes about 2 cups

2 c. raw cashews, soaked 2 hours or overnight in water
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 c. lemon juice
3 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. tightly packed basil

1. Drain cashews and rinse them. Add the drained cashews to the food processor along with the salt, lemon, and nutritional yeast. Pulse to combine.

2. Let the motor run, and drizzle water in, stopping a few times to scrape the bowl down. Keep blending till the cheese has the consistency of a light cream cheese or whipped ricotta. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Serve immediately.

So let's see - sweets, check. Veggies, check. Carbs are next. And this Pasta with Green Onion Sauce quickly became my favorite dish of the night. It's like an elevated pasta salad, and is equally good warm, cold or at room temperature. Really, the perfect potluck/game-watch side.

I don't know what can of voodoo you need to do to turn the green onions into a puree, but I stopped fighting it, and the added texture actually improved the dish for both the mouth and the eyes. If the apple is too weird for you, leave it out, but it was nice to have a little sweetness to go with the bite of the onions.

Pasta with Green Onion Sauce
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

1 lb. of your favorite pasta shape
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. thinly sliced green onions
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
zest and juice of one lemon
2 oz. grated Parmesan
4 c. arugula
1 large apple, diced

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Set aside at least 1/2 c. of pasta water, then drain pasta and set aside.

2. In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Add most of the green onions, all of the garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions soften, and the garlic begins to take on some color, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a couple minutes.

3. Use a hand blender or food processor to puree the green onion mixture along with 3/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. black pepper, zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, and the reserved pasta water. Puree and taste. The green onion flavor should be assertive. Stir in the Parmesan.

4. Combine the macaroni with the green onion sauce in a large bowl. Toss well. Add the arugula and most of the apple and toss again. Taste, and add more pepper, salt, or lemon juice if needed. Serve topped with the remaining apple and green onion.

Here's that possible Thanksgiving contribution - a lovely salad of some of my very favorite things: corn, coconut and almonds. If your tastebuds don't know the genius of this combination, please don't wait until Thanksgiving to find out. Make this immediately. It's fresh and light, with just the right amount of richness from the coconut and almonds.

Coconut Corn Salad
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 8

3 T. butter
5 ears of corn, shucked
salt, to taste
3 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 c. big coconut flakes, well toasted
1 c. sliced almonds, well toasted
3 T. chopped red onions
big squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, and stir well - you want all the corn to be coated. Cook for just a minute, until the corn looses its raw edge, stir in half the thyme, and then transfer the corn to a large serving bowl.

2. Just before you're ready to serve, add most of the coconut flakes, most of the almonds, the rest of the thyme, red onions, and citrus juice. Stir well. Taste, season with more salt, to taste, and serve topped with the remaining coconut and almonds, and more juice, if needed.

And last, and also kind of least, an avocado chocolate pudding that is so delicious as pudding, but somehow didn't manage to translate into pie, strawberry trim be damned. While I have plenty of vegan friends, my game-watch bunch is decidedly un-vegan, and I got a lot of, "There's what in it?," and a couple of, "Does that taste good?" No, you assholes. I'm poisoning you with fake chocolate pudding.

Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme. Forgive me - by that time, the Cowboys had well lost, and I really wasn't having anybody talking back to my pudding pie.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding Pie
inspired by The Iron You
makes one 9-inch pie

For the pudding:
2 very ripe avocados
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3 T. coconut oil
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. ground chia seeds

1 9-inch Oreo cookie pie crust

1. Combine all the filling ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and silky.

2. Pour the pudding into the pie crust, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

So, in case it's another month before I post, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and have extra stuffing for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

let's go get some scrambled eggs

Here's another recipe I don't recall the details of (#backdating), but I do recall that it's delicious and genius. It starts out with a fancy name, Pontormo Salad with Pancetta + Egg, but I don't recall why it's called "Pontormo" - is that a location? Do you have to use lettuce?

Well, I didn't use lettuce because my entire life goal is to use my all the kale in my garden, so just in case that's why it's a "Pontormo," I present to you my Kale Salad with Soft Scrambled Eggs.

Why is it genius, you ask? Well, because sometimes you want more of the stuff than you do of the eggs in a scramble. Sometimes you've just got to lighten things up a little, but a salad for breakfast just isn't warm and comforting enough. So, just put a few gently scrambled eggs on top of a lot of kale, and voila.

I'm not a huge fan of warm lettuce (get off my burger), so I'm not sure I would ever try the original recipe, but bring on the hearty greens variations. Perfectly dressed with both vinegars, and just enough fat from the rendered pancetta. Genius.

Kale Salad with Soft Scrambled Eggs
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 1

2 1/2 oz. diced pancetta
1 1/2 T. chopped parsley
1 1/2 T. chopped fresh thyme
2 eggs
1 oz. kale, shredded
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T.  balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper, to taste

1. In a small skillet over medium-high heat, combine the pancetta and herbs. Cook to render some of the fat from the pancetta, but do not brown.

2. Crack the eggs into a bowl, but do not whisk. Pour the eggs into the pan and cook, stirring over medium-low heat with a rubber spatula, until the eggs are lightly scrambled and still very soft. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from heat to keep the eggs from overcooking.

3. In a bowl, toss the kale with a drizzle of both vinegars. Add the eggs and toss. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.