Wednesday, March 30, 2016

30 minutes, the blink of an eye

Sheet pan dinners are all the rage these days, and while this particular meal dirties up a couple extra bowls (dressing) and pans (if you were to want to saute some rainbow chard from your garden to serve the salmon over), this is a really simple and satisfying meal with a huge flavor pay-off.

I'm not much of a capers girl with my bagel and lox - that's a salt bomb I just don't need that early in the morning. However, these capers fit perfectly with the rich roasted salmon, and (really) quick-pickled jalapeno made things interesting without being too spicy.

I loved the mix of regular and sweet potatoes, tied together with the cilantro pesto that will apparently keep forever. Round it out with some flash-sauteed rainbow chard for an extra burst of fresh green-ness, and dinner's on the table in 30 minutes.

Salmon with Jalapeno-Caper Vinaigrette w/ Pesto Potatoes
inspired by Bon Appetit
serves 4

12 oz. Yukon gold potatoes, diced
12 oz. Murasaki sweet potatoes, diced
3 T. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
4 salmon fillets (1 lb. total)
1 jalapeno
2 T. rice vinegar
1 T. olive oil
2 T. capers
2 T. pesto

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss both kinds of potatoes with 1 T. olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast for 15 minutes.

3. Remove the baking sheet from oven. Rub the salmon fillets with 1 T. olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Push the potatoes to the edges of the baking sheet, and place salmon in the center. Roast until salmon is opaque throughout, 5-10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, combine the jalapeno, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt in small bowl, and let sit until chiles are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Mix in the capers and remaining 1 T. oil, and season with salt and pepper.

5. Plate the salmon, and drizzle with jalapeno-caper vinaigrette. Toss the potatoes with the pesto, and serve alongside the salmon.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

the big one

Spring Thanksgiving, aka Easter Brunch, was a massive success this year. And I mean massive. From overflowing carbo loads of shakshuka focaccia to nearly unmanageable lengths of chocolate babka dough, serving 14 adults and 4 kids could have been a disaster, but love and magic combined to turn everything into a very joyful gathering.

Tons to learn from, not the least of which was the star of the show, the Shakshuka Focaccia. I doubled the dough recipe in hopes of filling a larger sheet pan, but then discovered that the aforementioned sheet pan would not fit in my vintage oven.

I found a slightly larger pan, and then quite blindly just put all of the dough in there to rise. Even after the rise, it looked like it was going to work out, but after the parbake, I realized that I had 3-inch tall focaccia to contend with, and there was no way I was ever going to make proper wells in the dough for the tomato sauce.

What to do - well, I just spread all of the sauce over it like it was a pizza, and then dug little wells in the whole mess to hold the egg so that it wouldn't slide to the edges of the pan. That's when I started panicking that the now too-thick focaccia would not cook all the way through. Sigh. Into the oven it went with prayers.

In my overzealousness for fully-cooked dough, I may have charred the edges a bit, and had to, with the help of my friend Grant, jerry-rig a multiple cutting board lever system to get it out. And once it was out, all the flavors were there, but the sheer amount of bread in each portion was exhausting. 

Here's how I should have done it:

Shakshuka Focaccia
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 12

For the focaccia:
6 1/2 c. flour
2 T. salt
1 t. active dry yeast
3 1/2 c. warm water
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
Coarse sea salt 

For the tomato sauce:
3 T. olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 large jalapeño, cored, seeded, and diced
7 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. tomato paste
one 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 t. salt
1 T. smoked paprika
1 T. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. black pepper

12 large eggs 

1. Make the focaccia: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the warm water to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Pour the 1/4 c. olive oil into a 6-quart plastic food container with a tight-fitting lid. Transfer the focaccia dough to the plastic container, turn to coat, and cover tightly. Place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 8 hours or for up to 2 days. 

2. When you're ready to bake, oil an 20- x 15-inch jelly roll pan. Remove the focaccia dough from the refrigerator and transfer to the prepared pan. Using your hands, spread the dough out on the prepared pan as much as possible, adding oil to the dough as needed to keep it from sticking. Place the dough in a warm place and let it rise until it about doubles in bulk, about one hour. When the dough is ready, it should be room temperature, spread out on the sheet, and fluffy feeling. 

3. Make the shakshuka: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and jalapeño and cook just until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and sauté for another 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the tomatoes. Stir in the bay leaf, sugar, salt, paprika, cumin, and pepper, and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. This mixture can also be made 2 days in advance. 

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Spread the sauce all over the dough. Bake the bread for 15 minutes, until the bread is just starting to brown. Remove the bread from the oven, and evenly space 12 wells in the barely-cooked dough to hold the eggs. Crack an egg into each well. Sprinkle the eggs with salt and freshly ground pepper and put the pan back into the oven until the eggs are set, about 5 minutes. Allow the bread to cool until you can touch it, then cut into 12 squares.

While all of that drama is happening, assembling a salad you already know is good can be mighty calming. The only change - Easter-appropriate hues of white, purple and baby green: Cauliflower, Grape + Cheddar Salad.

My absolute favorite part of brunch was the Creamed Spinach Popovers with Smoked Salmon. It was a dream I had after a predictably (in a good way) delightful Tam O'Shanter dinner - I saw Creamed Spinach Popovers on the menu, skipped it because I was still on Whole30, and dreamed about it for weeks.

I was hoping that the Internet would provide a recipe where creamed spinach could just be baked into the popovers, but it turns out that it's more of a slice-and-fill situation - bake the popovers, cut them in half, and fill with creamed spinach. This ended up being much better for me for serving size and portion control - you're not going to have just one of these, so two halves is better than two wholes, mentally speaking.

Creamed Spinach Popovers with Smoked Salmon
cobbled together from Serious Eats and Food52
serves 12

For the popovers:
4 large eggs
1 c. flour
3/4 c. whole milk
2 T. water
1/2 t. salt
6 T. canola oil or drippings

For the creamed spinach:
2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach
4 T. butter
2 T. flour
2 T. diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/2 t. black pepper
3/4 t. celery salt
6 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, cubed

12 oz. smoked salmon

1. Make the popovers: Combine the eggs, flour, milk, water, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Let batter rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, for best results, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate batter overnight or for up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator while you preheat the oven.

2. Meanwhile, make the creamed spinach: Place the frozen spinach into a medium saucepan, and cook until warmed. 

3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and add the flour. Blend and cook a little, but do not brown. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until fragrant. Add the evaporated milk, black pepper, celery salt, cheese, and cooked spinach. Cook until all is blended. Set aside.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Divide drippings (or other fat) evenly between one 12-well standard muffin tin. Preheat in the oven until the fat is smoking hot, about 10 minutes.

5. Transfer the tin to a heat-proof surface, and divide the batter evenly between every well. Immediately return to then oven, and bake until the popovers are deep brown all over, crisp to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped, about 25 minutes.

6. Rewarm the spinach, if necessary. When the popovers are cool enough to handle, slice each popover in half and fill with creamed spinach. Serve immediately with smoked salmon.

The only new recipe that didn't cause me any trouble was this Coconut Rice Pie with Kale + Gruyere. It was very deceptively just called "Green Rice" - boring. But, when you dig in to the recipe, you realize the possibilities.

One of the comments on the original recipe post suggested using Trader Joe's frozen medley of brown rice, red rice and barley. That sounds incredibly hearty and delicious to me, and I started microwaving it until I realized that barley contained gluten, and one of our guests was gluten-free.

Back in the fridge it went, and out came leftover Coconut Grains - the brown rice and red quinoa mixture I had made for dinner the other night. And now we were talking - tons of complex flavor, rich and delicious.

Coconut Rice Pie with Kale + Gruyere
slightly adapted from Food52
makes one 9-inch pie

4 T. butter
1 c. sliced green onions, white and light green parts only
2 c. cooked rice
2 to 3 eggs, depending on how big they are and how much rice you have, beaten with a fork
1 to 1 1/2 c. milk
2 c. grated Gruyere
1 c. chopped kale
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the green onion slices to the pan, and cook until they are golden and just begin to crisp up. Salt lightly, to taste. 

3. In a large bowl, toss the greens onions with the cooked rice to thoroughly combine. Stir in 2 beaten eggs, 1 c. milk, the cheese and kale. Here you'll have to eyeball the liquid content - if it seems too runny, add another beaten egg. If it seems too thick, add a little more milk. It should be between gloppy and runny.

4. Pour the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan. The liquid should fill up to the level of the rice, so add more if it looks like it will burn or dry out while baking. Bake until set, about 45 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And back we go to drama. This was all completely my fault. Not content to divide the dough into two halves for twisting and baking in two loaf pans, I decided I just had to have a babka wreath. I quite unwisely took the entire amount of dough, made a longer roll-up than I knew what to do with, and then just basically prayed.

Next time, I'll do as the recipe directs. I just had nothing to prove. You don't see the other third of the wreath because that was the stubby end that wasn't as cute. Two loaves would have been better than fine.

Chocolate Babka
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 16

For the dough:
4 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 t. instant yeast
1 t. grated orange zest
3 large eggs
1/2 c. water
3/4 t. salt
2/3 c. butter, at room temperature
canola oil, for greasing

For the filling:
4 1/2 oz. dark chocolate
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/4 t. cinnamon

For the syrup:
1/3 c. water
6 T. granulated sugar

1. Make the dough: Combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and zest in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add eggs and 1/2 c. water, mixing with the dough hook until it comes together. If it’s on the dry side, add extra water, 1 T. at a time, until the dough forms a mass. With the mixer on low, add the salt, then the butter, a spoonful at a time, mixing until it’s incorporated into the dough. Then, mix on medium speed for 10 minutes until dough is completely smooth, and the dough begins o pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it doesn’t, you can add 1 T. extra flour to help this along.

2. Coat a large bowl with oil, and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave in fridge for at least half a day, preferably overnight.

3. Make the filling: Melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, cocoa and cinnamon, and stir until a spreadable paste forms.

4. Assemble loaves: Coat two 9- by 4-inch loaf pans with oil or butter, and line the bottom of each with a rectangle of parchment paper. Take half of the dough from fridge. Roll it out on a well-floured counter to about a 10-inch width and 12-inch length.

5. Spread half of the chocolate mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush the end farthest away from you with water. Roll the dough up with the filling into a long, tight cigar. Seal the dampened end onto the log. Repeat with the second half of dough, and transfer to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.

6. Trim the last 1/2-inch off either end of each log. Gently cut the log in half lengthwise and lay them next to each other on the counter, cut sides up. Pinch the top ends gently together. Lift one side over the next, forming a twist and trying to keep the cut sides facing out. Transfer each twist into a loaf pan. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise another 1 to 1 1/2 hours at room temperature.

7. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towels, and place each loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into each loaf meets with no resistance.

8. While the babkas are baking, make the syrup: Bring the sugar and water to a simmer in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, and set aside to cool. As soon as the babkas leave the oven, brush the syrup all over each. Let cool about halfway in pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way before eating.

And last but not least, a dessert option for our gluten-free guests - a lovely, jammy, comforting dish that was dangerously addicting. I think a lot of us thought we'd be polite and take half a biscuit along with the berries swimming just underneath, but more often than not, we'd go back in - "well, I might as well finish this other half." Truly no greater joy than to see that happen over and over again.

Breakfast Cobbler
slightly adapted from Joy Wilson's Homemade Decadence
serves 15

For the berries:
6 c. fresh mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)
3 T. cornstarch
3/8 c. fresh orange juice
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 t. salt

For the biscuit topping:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. old-fashioned oats
3/8 c. granulated sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2  c. cold buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 13- by 9-inch pan with butter. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the berries and cornstarch until the cornstarch dissolves. In a separate small bowl, combine the orange juice, brown sugar, and salt, and then pour it over the berries. Gently combine the mixture and pour it into the prepared baking pan. Bake on the center rack until the berries soften and begin to burst, about 15 minutes.

3. Make the biscuit topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingers, quickly break up the butter in the dry mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center of the mixture. Pour in the buttermilk, and gently stir until all of the flour mixture is moistened.

4. Remove the berry mixture from the oven. Dollop 15 1/3-cup scoops of the biscuit topping onto the berry mixture. Sprinkle with 2 T. granulated sugar.

5. Return the pan to the center rack. Bake until the biscuits are golden brown, and the berries are bubbling and thick, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, March 25, 2016

richer than we know

What a special Friday night dinner. It took a little time, but it was a leisurely time - the duck breast has to sit in its garam masala dry rub for 45 minutes, but in that time, you can make brown rice and quinoa cooked in coconut milk, and steam perfectly simple broccoli so that you're good to go when the duck comes out of the oven.

The scent of the roasting duck is delightfully intriguing. It's spicy of black pepper and cloves, but also warm and sweet of cinnamon and cardamom. Top it with sweet-tart grapes and sticky sauce of balsamic vinegar and the duck fat from the pan, and you have a rich, complex flavor experience. I'd try this again in a heartbeat with cherries.

The coconut grains were a lovely base to the duck - their richness stood up well to all that was going on above them. Nothing more than a fresh burst of green was needed to complete the meal.

Seared Duck Breast with Garam Masala + Grapes
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

2 lbs. duck breast
3/4 T. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 t. garam masala
1 c. red seedless grapes, sliced in half
1 t. ground cinnamon
2 T. balsamic vinegar

1. Using a paring knife, score the duck breast by cutting a crosshatch pattern into the fat. Make sure you cut all the way through the fat but not through the meat itself. Season the duck on both sides with the salt, pepper, and garam masala. Let sit, at room temperature, for 45 to 60 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat for a minute or two. Place the duck in the skillet, fat side down, and don’t touch it. Let it cook like this for 4 minutes. Lots of fat will melt out—that’s a good thing. Use tongs to turn the meat over. The skin should be a deep, chestnut brown and the fat should almost all be melted away. If you still see white, continue cooking on the fat side until it’s gone (but without letting the skin burn).

3. Place the skillet in the oven. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes and then take the temperature of the duck breast. It should be 120 degrees for rare and 130 degrees for medium rare. Remove the duck to a cutting board to rest.

4. Pour off the duck fat for another use. Return the skillet to medium heat, and add the grapes and cinnamon. Stir for a minute. Deglaze with the balsamic vinegar, stirring and cooking until the sauce is syrupy, about 1 minute.

5. Thinly slice the duck, on the bias, and fan it out on a platter. Spoon the grape sauce on top and serve.

Coconut Grains
slightly adapted from Vogue
serves 6-8

2 c. medium-grain brown rice
1/4 c. red quinoa
1/4 c. unsweetened dried coconut
1 14-oz. can of unsweetened coconut milk
2 c. water
1 1/2 t. salt

1. Add all the ingredients in a pot, bring to a simmer, put a lid on it, and cook on low for about 45 minutes. If the pot seems dry, add more water 1 c. at a time, and cook until the rice is al dente.

Oh, except for chocolate cake. Matt's been asking for chocolate cake since I was well in the throes of Whole30, and I've been putting it off because I had found this recipe, and it's a project. A worthwhile project, but a project nonetheless.

There are so many dirty bowls. I've rinsed the mixer attachments several times. But this pillow-y soft meringue, studded with both chocolate and hazelnuts, all over an intense, but airy flourless chocolate cake that could have so easily stood on its own is worth any amount of kitchen mess.

Use your very favorite chocolate here because you will most certainly taste it. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Hazelnut Meringue 
slightly adapted from Martha Stewart
makes one 9-inch cake

10 T. butter
1 c. hazelnuts
3/4 c. firmly packed light-brown sugar
6 large whole eggs, separated
4 large egg whites
12 oz. dark chocolate, melted and cooled, plus 4 oz. roughly chopped
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1 T. Maker's Mark
pinch of salt
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. superfine sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-3-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment, and grease the parchment. Set aside.

2. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until fragrant and skins start to crack, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and rub vigorously with a clean kitchen towel to take off skins. Let cool, and roughly chop. Set aside.

3. Make the cake batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until pale and smooth. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate, vanilla, and Maker's Mark, and beat until combined. Set aside.

4. In a clean mixer bowl, combine 6 egg whites and salt. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining beaten egg whites just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake 25 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the meringue: Combine the hazelnuts, chopped chocolate, and cornstarch in a small bowl, and set aside. Place the remaining 4 egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean mixer bowl. Using a clean whisk attachment, beat on high speed until frothy. With the mixer running, slowly add the superfine sugar, and continue beating until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in the hazelnut mixture.

6. Remove the cake from the oven. Using an offset spatula, spread the meringue mixture on top of the cake, and return to oven. Bake until the meringue is lightly browned and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let stand 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen, and release sides of pan. Let cool, about 30 minutes, before slicing and serving.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

we're in this together

The hidden hipster in me is a little irritated that I love as big a trend as sheet pan dinners, but the mom in me (which, let's be honest, is much more the forefront of my personality anyway) lives and dies for this kind of ease and convenience.

Certainly, some of the suggestions can be quite trite, but this is a solid shining example of the kind of hearty, full-flavor dinners that can come out of just a minutes of arranging food on a baking sheet, and broiling it for a couple more.

There aren't a ton of words necessary to describe this. Beef, good. Beets, good. Oh, but make sure that if you don't like your steaks mooing like Matt and I do, you might want to give the steaks a few extra minutes in the oven before you pop on the vegetables.

Broiled Filet Mignon, Beets + Beet Greens
slightly adapted from PureWow
serves 4

four 8-oz beef tenderloin steaks
4 medium beets with greens attached
3 T. olive oil, plus more for brushing steaks
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring the steaks to room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. While the steaks rest, prepare the vegetables: Trim the beets, reserving the greens. Peel, and use a sharp knife or mandoline to slice the beets very thinly. Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces.

3. In a large bowl, toss the beets and greens with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

4. Arrange the beets and kale on a greased baking sheet. Brush the steaks on each side with a little olive oil, and season each side with salt and pepper. Arrange the steaks directly on the baking sheet (not on top of any vegetables).

5. Place the baking sheet under the broiler, and broil for 3 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven, flip each steak over and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Your doneness will depend on how far your sheet is from the heat source. Adjust the cooking time to your preference.

6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the steaks to rest 5 minutes before serving. To serve, divide the steaks and vegetables evenly among four plates.

Monday, March 21, 2016

i wanna be like you

Fairfax has become one of my favorite food areas, the crown jewel of which is Jon + Vinny's. I daydream about it regularly, mostly around 11:30a Monday-Friday.

I think some of the joy is that their menu is full of familiar classics done so well that you don't bother to even consider the fact that you could probably make it all yourself at home.

So imagine my delight when Bon Appetit let loose the recipe for J+V's perfect Fusilli alla Vodka, and I realized it was as simple as can be, stirring ingredients I almost always have for about as much time as it takes the pasta to cook.

And it was heaven. Simple, comforting, rich.

Fusilli alla Vodka
from Bon Appetit
serves 4-6

1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. finely diced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. tomato paste
2 T. vodka
1 c. heavy cream
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. fusilli
2 T. butter
1 oz. finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until paste is brick red and starts to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the vodka and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the cream and red pepper flakes, and stir until well blended. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, cook the fusilli in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet with sauce along with the butter and 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until butter has melted and a thick, glossy sauce has formed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 oz. Parmesan, tossing to coat. Divide pasta among bowls, then top with more Parmesan.

Serve with cut-up Romaine and Avocado Caesar Dressing to add a twist to the J+V's Gem Lettuce Salad (their version of the Caesar). This makes almost 2 cups of dressing, so be prepared to be happy for a very long time.

Avocado Caesar Dressing
slightly adapted from Food52

1 t. minced anchovies
2 cloves garlic
1 t. fish sauce
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 medium avocado
uuice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. mayonnaise
drained oil from a 2-oz. tin of anchovies (save the anchovies for the salad)
1/2 t. salt

1. Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. If the dressing seems too thick, whisk in a tablespoon of water just prior to serving. Place the dressing into a bowl covered with plastic wrap actually pressed onto the dressing and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

only prettier

I don't generally post prep photos, but trust me when I say that pesto and green beans that have been baked in foil in the oven do not a pretty picture make. Had I known that, though, I would have taken better care to take a better "before" photo.

I thought about not posting, but the unbelievably delicious combo of flavors deserved mentioning tonight.

May I re-acquaint you with this Cilantro Pesto? Apparently, it's good on everything - I've put it on sandwiches, swirled it in to breakfast hash, and now, it became a great crust for perfectly-baked salmon. It's a thicker pesto, so it crisped up a bit rather than creating a runnier sauce, which was just lovely as a contrast to the melt-in-your-mouth fish. I loved how the more exotic flavors of cilantro and coconut elevated what would otherwise be a relatively plain packet of fish and veggies.

Pesto Salmon + Green Beans in Foil
slightly adapted from Cooking Classy
serves 4

4 salmon fillets (1 lb. total)
1 lb. haricots verts, trimmed
salt and pepper, to taste
4 T. cilantro pesto

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, and cut four pieces of aluminum foil into 14-inch lengths.

2. Boil the green beans for 3 minutes, then carefully drain. Divide them between the four pieces of foil.

3. Layer the salmon over the green beans and then spread 1 T. of pesto over each fillet.

4. Wrap the sides of foil in and crimp the edges, then wrap the ends upward to seal. Place the packets side by side on a baking sheet, and bake until salmon has cooked through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

not crabby

It's one week until Spring Thanksgiving, folks. That's right, Easter brunch.

Consider these Crab Imperial Eggs en Cocotte your leg up. I won't be making these next week since one of our guests is allergic to shellfish, but if your guests have no such restriction, they'll be quite pleased with this. This is infinitely scalable to the number of guests (and ramekins) you have. Each portion is deceptively filling on its own, so one per guest is perfect as part of a larger spread. One was perfect to fuel me for the Internet wormhole of Easter menu planning.

I cut the amount of mayonnaise called for in half - I love me some mayo, but I couldn't imagine needing more in the crab base. It was still so rich, sweet, savory, luxurious. This would be incredibly decadent over a generous slab of sourdough, or if you're not looking to go gluten, pair it with a nice side salad, or do as I did, and slice up (my new favorite) baked Murasaki sweet potatoes, fry them in a little olive oil, and stick the little soldier in the cocotte.

Crab Imperial Eggs en Cocotte
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 2-4

8 oz. crabmeat
2 T. mayonnaise
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. minced parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs
2 T. almond milk
Boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the crabmeat, mayonnaise, mustard, and parsley until evenly mixed. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Divide the crab mixture evenly between 4 ramekins. Form a circular depression in the center of the crab in each ramekin, and crack an egg into each ramekin. Drizzle the almond milk around each egg.

3. Place the ramekins in a baking dish large enough to hold them all, and transfer to oven. Carefully pour enough boiling water into the baking dish to submerge ramekins 3/4ths of the way. Bake the eggs until the whites are just set, about 15-20 minutes.

4. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Carefully lift each ramekin out of the hot water. Set ramekins on a clean kitchen towel to dry bottoms, then transfer to plates. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

not your average

Chicken salad is just so sad. Traditionally, it's just a pale goopy mess, with potentially more mayo than chicken. And if you're talking about chicken with your salad, it's probably equally pale, dryer than the cardboard box it comes in, with questionable grill marks.

But this - this is delicious. Well-marinated chicken thighs, that take no time at all to cook because they flatten out so easily, served on top of sliced avocado and massaged kale, fresh from the garden.

This was meant to be taco filling, but once I saw how perfect it was cooking up, I felt I had to let it stand alone and shine. Don't get me wrong - this chicken would turn into a very high-quality taco. Do what you must.

Cilantro-Lime Chicken
from Rasa Malaysia
serves 2-3

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For the marinade:
3 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. finely chopped cilantro stems and leaves
2 T. lime juice
1 heaping t. red chili flakes
1/2 t. salt or more to taste

1. Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl, mix well. Add the chicken into the marinade, stir to coat well. Marinate for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.

2. Heat a grill pan over medium heat, and grill the chicken until strong grill marks form. Turn over, and grill until done.

Friday, March 18, 2016

orange crush

Among my favorite weekend breakfasts is aimless farmers market wandering, sampling the fruits of the season. I truly cannot wait until mid-summer, when my favorite stone fruit stand is ready with its stunning peaches and plums.

Winter is more difficult, even in LA. It's a lot of citrus, and frankly, I usually don't bother since I know Cuties are always delicious, and are super convenient for me, both in terms of sourcing and snacking. However, I couldn't resist one particular display this Monday, and am slightly sheepish in admitting such excitement over citrus, but I was literally stopped in my tracks by a Cara Cara orange wedge.

I knew I had this recipe in my arsenal, so I tucked a few in my bag. The oranges were a true highlight. The pudding itself is incredibly tart between the Greek yogurt and less interesting store-bought juice, but the sweet sliced oranges and bananas round everything out nicely.

Orange Yogurt Chia Pudding Bowl
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 3

1 c. Greek yogurt
1 c. orange juice
1/2 c. chia seeds
1 Cara Cara orange
1 banana

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, orange juice, and chia seeds. Divide the pudding between 3 8-oz. mason jars, and chill overnight.

2. The next morning, serve with sliced oranges and bananas.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

i know what i want

You know I love a theme. I was all ready to make some pesto salmon over green beans for dinner tonight, and contribute to the growing collection of green-hued foods for St. Patrick's Day, but when I got home, the last thing I felt like eating was salmon. It happens.

But, I was also starving, so I needed something quick. I kept the haricots verts in, but my protein became garam masala-dusted chicken liver quickly browned in ghee. I can't talk about how hideous these March tomatoes were, but the liver and beans were all I needed and wanted. The liver was rich and satisfying, and the beans were a cool and crisp complement.

French Chicken Liver + Green Bean Salad with Garam Masala
slightly adapted from The New York Times
serves 2

4 oz. haricots verts, trimmed
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 T. ghee
1/2 lb. chicken livers, trimmed
1 t. garam masala
salt, to taste

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the haricots verts, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.

2. Melt the ghee in a large skillet. Season the livers on both sides with garam masala and salt, and add them to the skillet. Cook them for 2 minutes, then flip, and cook for another minute.

3. Divide the haricots verts, tomatoes, and livers between two plates, and serve immediately.

honey, i'm flexible

As it turns out, you can over-roast spaghetti squash, and when you do that, you basically get just regular roasted any-other-squash, with none of the wonderful al dente strands that could (with your tastebuds squinting) stand in for spaghetti.

My overzealous prep-work last night - roasting the squash last night, throwing it in the fridge - to make Pinterest-worthy "spaghetti" with mushrooms and a poached egg/fried egg/just the yolk on top, served from the "bowls" of the spaghetti squash shells quickly turned into mild panic when I add the squash to my pan of mushrooms.

Mild panic soon turned into resignation that there was no going back to al dente status, and to make the most of it, I squashed (get it?) it all down into a giant pancake, and when Matt came home from walking the dog, he had a giant rosti to dig into. An additional perk of using this rather than any other squash is that it's not as sweet as most of the stuff you can get mash from, so it was just as lovely a savory breakfast as I had already planned.

Spaghetti Squash + Mushroom Rosti with Fried Eggs
inspired by Feasting At Home
serves 3

1 medium spaghetti squash
olive oil, for drizzling
4 t. ghee, divided
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
3 large eggs
salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes, to taste
parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle a little olive oil on the cut sides, and lay the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast until the squash is tender, about 45-60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Melt 3 t. ghee in a large skillet, and saute the mushrooms until golden brown. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, and add to the skillet, pressing down to flatten. When the bottom is browned, flip the rosti from the pan onto a large plate, and then return the un-browned side to the pan to cook. Be careful - this rosti is not as solid as it looks, but if you break it, just press it all back together again. There should be enough caramelization to keep it mostly together.

4. Melt the remaining t. of ghee in a small pan, and fry the eggs until they're done to your liking. Serve immediately atop the rosti.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

let's bowl

One of my fondest summer memories as a kid was having half a cantaloupe to myself, it's center filled (and overflowing) with (B/D)reyer's vanilla ice cream. A close second was half an avocado, it's center filled with straight up white sugar. (Don't knock it 'til you've tried it).

As you can see, my obsession with bowls that aren't bowls started at a young age. And while my Whole 30-mandated dairy integration went well on Tuesday, I'm resetting for the Big Kahuna tomorrow - GLUTEN. I cannot wait to eat toast and sandwiches and pasta.

So no yogurt (or ice cream) in the middle of this cantaloupe bowl today, but instead, a cashew "yogurt" that I found on one of my favorite new (to me) websites: Half-Baked Harvest.

It certainly wasn't as rich and delightful as Tuesday's Siggi's breakfast, but I mean, it was kind of tart and convincing enough. Matt summed it up best - it tastes like cashew butter, but thinner. And I guess that has to do with two things: 1) I only had roasted and salted cashews, and 2) I only had whole roasted flax seeds, so I'm sure both contributed to make the end result a little more savory, rather than pick up the sweetness of those dates in the mix. I didn't mind it - it recalled one of my new favorite breakfasts - a diced-up pear drizzled with tahini. Do it right, though (as indicated below), and you may have a better approximation!

Cantaloupe Bowls with Roasted Cashew-Almond Yogurt
slightly adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
makes two 4-oz. servings

3/4 c. roasted, unsalted cashews
3/4 c. almond milk, divided
1 T. lime juice
2 soft medjool dates
1 1/2 t. chia seeds
1 1/2 t. ground flaxseed
1 medium cantaloupe
1/2 c. blueberries
1 T. hemp seeds

1. To a high powered blender or food processor, add the cashews, 2/3 c. almond milk, lime juice, and dates. In a small bowl combine 2 T. almond milk, chia seeds, and ground flaxseeds. Allow both mixes to sit about 10 minutes.

2. After 10 minutes, add the chia seed mixture to the blender. Blend everything together on high for at least five minutes. Chill until ready to serve.

3. When ready to serve, slice a cantaloupe in half, and remove the seeds. Fill them with the yogurt, and top with blueberries and hemp seeds.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

who would've thought

I'm so pleased with how well this shockingly easy recipe turned out. And it came from a calorie-counting app's blog!

It's easy enough for a solo weeknight dinner (Matt's still in the studio), but presented in the skillet in all it's glory, it's impressive enough for a small group dinner.

To ensure success and ultimate tenderness, undercook the pork. I'm serious - it won't kill you. Go to 140 degrees rather than 145. By the time you let it rest, covered in foil, it'll get up to 145 anyway. And you'll be happy.

This becomes Whole 30 if you use a compliant mustard, but I only had (and really like) Grey Poupon, so I turned a blind eye. Add carbs if you must, but I find Brussels sprouts to toe the line between vegetable and starch just by nature of its texture once roasted, so I didn't think anything else was necessary.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin + Brussels Sprouts
slightly adapted from MyFitnessPal
serves 4

2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. salt
one 1.5-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 T. orange juice
1 t. Grey Poupon
2 t. olive oil
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1. Preheat the oven to 400. Combine the cumin, garlic powder, thyme, and salt in a small bowl. Rub 2 t. of the spice mix evenly over the pork. Stir the orange juice and Grey Poupon into the remaining spice blend, and set aside.

2. Heat 1 t. oil in a large 12-inch cast iron or other ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the pork tenderloin, and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Toss the Brussels sprouts in the remaining 1 t. olive oil, and add them to the pan.

3. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, brushing the pork with the orange-spice sauce every 5 minutes. Flip the pork halfway through the cooking time. Continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 140 degrees. Remove from the pan from the oven, cover with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice the pork, and serve immediately with a side of Brussels sprouts.

Monday, March 7, 2016

i'm bored

Yes, actually - this soup is as boring as it looks.

I'm sorry about that. I thought it would be a lovely, comforting, yet different meal for a formerly rainy, now just cold, day. And I mean, it's fine, but without things like added spice, added citrus, it's basically nothing.

Breton Fish Stew
slightly adapted from A Sharp Knife + Salt
makes 12 cups of soup

1 T. coconut oil
3 oz. diced white onion
6 oz. thinly sliced leeks
4 oz. thinly sliced fennel
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. gold potatoes, cut into chunks
6 c. chicken broth
3 sprigs thyme
2 lb. Alaskan cod, cut into chunks
salt, and red chili pepper flakes, to taste
lime wedges, for serving

1. Melt the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the onion, leeks, fennel, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

2. Add the potatoes, broth and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, and cook until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes.

3. Add the fish, and simmer until just opaque in the center.

4. Remove the thyme sprigs, season with salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes, then ladle stew into bowls and serve hot with lime wedges for squeezing.