Sunday, June 26, 2016

bigger is better

Back in the day, I used to pretend to cater. I bought a bunch of lovely serving devices, and made lots of individually-portioned snacks. Then I ran out of patience. The ooh's and aah's that accompany the presentation of tiny, bite-sized pieces of food can only momentarily wipe away the memory of the work it took to compose those bites.

I avoided that bit of PTSD for tonight's dinner by making big entree-sized portions of Nom Nom Paleo's cute dim sum-like Shrimp-Stuffed Mushrooms. No, we weren't doing 24 individual stuffed cremini mushrooms - we're going to go ahead and split that shrimp paste in half, and serve ourselves dinner in two portobello caps.

I loved all of the flavors here - the sweetness of the shrimp, the porky studs of bacon throughout, and the earthy mushroom base. It's comforting and homey (if your memories include dim sum), and is both light and satisfying. A quick saute of bok choy and snow peas is all I needed here, but I imagine putting this between your favorite roll with some Sriracha aioli would also make a pretty nice sandwich.

Shrimp-Stuffed Portobellos
very slightly adapted from Nom Nom Paleo
serves 2

2 large portobello mushrooms (about 8 oz. total)
2 t. olive oil
8 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. packed cilantro leaves
2 bacon slices, diced
1 T. diced red bell pepper
1 t. fish sauce

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Remove the stems and gills from the mushrooms. Place the mushrooms gill-side down on a small baking sheet, and drizzle 1 t. olive oil on each mushroom. Roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for 10 more.

3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the shrimp, green onion, cilantro, bacon, bell pepper, and fish sauce. Process to a thick paste.

4. Divide the paste between the two mushroom caps, and roast for another 10-15 minutes, or until the shrimp mixture is completely set. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 24, 2016

underwater dream

Truly, you had me at "Chilean sea bass." If it were appropriate to call fish dreamy, this would be it. That texture. The way it flakes right off when you've cooked it right. The way it just about melts in your mouth.

I'm not sure what the sage adds to it other than the stress of keeping it adhered while grilling, and then the panic at having torn a few when flipping. A well-salted and -peppered fillet with perfectly crisp skin and golden grill marks is more than sufficient, especially with the lily-gilding of the fresh and lemon-y almond-parsley salsa.

The vegetables were a nice and easy complement to the fish. The textures of the broccolini, snow peas and haricot verts played upon each other beautifully, and the tahini sauce gave them an earthy flavor that balanced both the greens and the fish. I'm not generally a huge fan of tahini, but whisked into a sauce with coconut aminos and a little acidity from apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice, it works.

Grilled Chilean Sea Bass with Almond Salsa 
slightly adapted from Francis Mallmann's Mallmann On Fire
serves 2

For the fish:
1 lb. Chilean sea bass, skin-on, in one piece
2 T. olive oil
10 sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

For the almond salsa:
2 T. sliced almonds
2 T. chopped parsley
1/2 T. lemon zest
1/2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
salt, pepper, and red chili pepper flakes, to taste

1. Heat a large cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Brush the pan generously with olive oil.

2. Brush both sides of the fish with olive oil. Arrange the sage leaves on the flesh side, patting them down so they adhere. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Invert the fish, sage side down onto the grill, and grill without moving it, for 5-7 minutes.

4. While the fish is cooking, combine the salsa ingredients, and season to taste.

5. Brush the skin again with oil. Check to see if the fish is ready to turn by lifting up one edge - when it is ready, it will release easily. Flip the fish, and cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes, until the skin is crisp, and the fish is just cooked through. Serve immediately with almond salsa

Broccolini-Snow Pea-Haricot Vert Salad with Tahini Sauce
slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty More
serves 4

For the salad:
8 oz. broccolini, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 oz. haricot verts, trimmed
6 oz. snow peas, trimmed
3/4 c. chopped cilantro
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

For the sauce:
3 T. tahini
2 T. water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 T. coconut aminos
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the sauce. Set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the haricot verts, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broccolini, and cook for another minute. Add the snow peas, and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain all of the vegetables, and then run them under cold water to stop the cooking. Dry well.

3. Toss the vegetables with the cilantro and 2 T. of the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with sesame seeds.

Monday, June 20, 2016

why don't you like me

Matty's response to this meal was, "I don't understand why people don't like chicken livers!"

I whole-heartedly agree! They're rich and delicious, and the nutrient-to-calorie ratio is so high. Completely crisped up after living in a parsley marinade, and paired with perfectly charred and mustard-y endive, it's a wonderful meal for two, or shared with more as an appetizer.

Is mustard plus bitter endive a little much intensity, you ask? Absolutely not - when cooked and charred, the endive mellows and sweetens, and the mustard becomes just the right bite you need to balance the richness of the livers.

Chicken Livers a la Plancha in Charred Endive
slightly adapted from Francis Mallmann's Mallmann On Fire
serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

8 oz. fresh chicken livers
2 T. parsley
2 T. olive oil
1 T. brown mustard
12 large endive leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Trim the livers of any fat or gristle. Cut the lobes into 12 bite-sized pieces, and combine in a small bowl 1 T. parsley and 1 T. olive oil. Mix well, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 T. parsley and remaining 1 T. olive oil with the mustard. Lightly toss the endive leaves in the mixture to coat.

3. Heat a large cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Place the endive leaves rounded side up in the pan and cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes, or until the edges are well-charred. Remove them with tongs, and arrange rounded side down on a serving platter.

4. Arrange the livers at least an inch apart in the pan, and cook, without moving them, for 2 minutes, until they are brown and crisp on the bottom. Turn them over and cook for 1-2 more minutes, until they are crisp all over, but still pink within. As the livers are done, place them on the endive leaves. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

i got the sauce

This cauliflower rice thing is starting to grow on me. Then again, it could just be the Lamb Kefta that went on top of it.

The original recipe called for a large can of crushed tomatoes to make a sauce in which to simmer the meatballs, and then float a few eggs in. I'm really pushing the egg intake on this Whole30 round, so I wanted to rein that in a bit.

I also wanted to use some of the massive bounty of Sweet 100 tomatoes that is literally taking over my backyard. So, instead of the can of crushed tomatoes, I took a half pound of cherry tomatoes, and cooked them in with the onions, making a really nice, thick sauce.

The spice mixture was perfect with the less saucy sauce - very in-your-face, very interesting.

Lamb Kefta
adapted from Saveur
serves 4-8

1 1/4 lb. ground lamb
2 T. ground cumin
2 T. paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. ghee
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. white onion, minced
1 1/4 t. red chili flakes
1⁄2 t. ground ginger
1⁄2 t. crushed saffron threads
1 bay leaf
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, diced
1⁄2 c. unpitted Castelvetrano olives
chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Place the lamb, 1 T. cumin, 1 T. paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and mix until evenly combined. Form the mixture into 1 oz. balls, and place on a plate. Chill kefta until ready to use.

2. Heat the ghee in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining cumin and paprika, chile flakes, ginger, saffron, and bay leaf, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and stir to coat in the spices. Add the kefta, and cook, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Stir the olives through to warm, and then serve over (cauliflower) rice with parsley sprinkled on top.

Monday, June 13, 2016

dressin' up

Wonderfully rich salmon gets a little update with a spicy-sweet seasoning crust that keeps things casual in prep, but super elegant in presentation. This is definitely a dinner party trick.

I made a quick side of roasted potatoes and mushrooms, but I think a bed of silky spinach would be more appropriate to keep things on the lighter side.

Chile-Cinnamon Salmon
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 2

2 salmon fillets (about 1 lb.)
1 t. chile powder
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. coconut oil

1. In a small bowl mix the chile powder, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of the salmon fillet. 

2. Heat the canola oil in a cast-iron skillet. When the skillet is very hot, but not yet smoking, add the salmon, skin-side down. Cook it until the skin is very crisp, dark brown and releases easily from the skillet, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let it cook more than about 1/4 of the way through at this point. 

3. Once the skin has crisped, flip the fish, and cook it an additional 2 minutes more. Plate and serve immediately.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

let it go

To be completely honest, I was very nervous about how this dish was going to turn out. It's been a minute since I've done a full-on Sunday Supper.

I had already started with bone-in ribs, when the recipe called for boneless. I thought that might have been the problem when I didn't really get fall-off-the-bone texture after the hour-long braise, and was sure that was the problem. I had followed the recipe instructions in switching the pork and chicken from top to bottom to make sure the braise was even, but towards the last 15 minutes or so, I kept the pork submerged longer because it felt like it could use the extra time.

But after a while, I just called it a day, and tried to move on. If there's one thing I know I can do, it's crisp up a chicken thigh. So I started with that, just to build on strengths. I used coconut oil instead of the called-for peanut oil because a) no peanuts on Whole30, and b) because of Whole30, I left out the sugar called for in the recipe and thought I could make up some sweetness with the coconut oil.

Chicken down, it was time for the ribs. I had no idea how this would turn out, so I just went in with the browning and tended to the reducing sauce.

Oh, that sauce. It smells heavenly, all garlic and lime. But it was not reducing to "the consistency of a thin syrup" - no ma'am. And again, eventually, I just had to call it a day.

Luckily, it was perfect. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but it was intensely aromatic, the meat was rich and tender, and the tomato relish (basically, the best pico de gallo ever) added the perfect amount of freshness to brighten up the whole dish.

Matty's portion was served over brown rice, while I continued to work through the riced cauliflower bag from Trader Joe's. Just to keep things super real, cauliflower rice is a terrible disappointment, and nothing like regular rice. I'd probably be better off just making mashed cauliflower, which actually does taste like mashed potatoes.

Chicken + Pork Adobado
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 6

For the braise:
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
2 T. coconut aminos
2 t. grated lime zest
2 bay leaves, each torn in half
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. cracked black pepper
2 1/2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
2 1/2 lbs. bone-in country-style pork ribs
2 T. coconut oil

For the relish:
1 1/2 oz. red onion, diced
1/2 lb. tomatoes, diced
3 T. chopped cilantro
2 t. fresh lime juice
salt, to taste

1. In a gallon-size zip-lock bag, combine the garlic, vinegar, water, coconut aminos, lime zest, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Zip the bag closed, and shake to combine all of the ingredients. Add the meats to the marinade, turning the bag to coat, and set aside to marinate for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. If your kitchen is more than 75 degrees, marinate in the refrigerator 2 hours.

2. Mix the ingredients for the relish, and set aside in the fridge.

3. Transfer the chicken and pork, along with the marinade, to a large lidded skillet. Put the pan over medium-high heat, and, as soon as bubbles appear, lower the heat to a quiet simmer and cover tightly. Every 10 minutes, lift the lid and turn the pieces of meat with tongs so that they braise evenly. Continue to braise at a gentle simmer until the chicken and pork are tender.

4. Using tongs, transfer the chicken and pork to a large plate. Sim the surface fat from the braising liquid, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil the sauce until reduced by about two-thirds to the consistency of a thin syrup, about 12-15 minutes. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

5. Meanwhile, melt 1 T. coconut oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the chicken skin-side down, and fry until golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until golden on the other side, another 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

6. Melt the remaining T. of coconut oil in the same skillet, and add the ribs. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on each side.

7. Place the browned meat into the sauce, and add any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Plate over (cauliflower) rice, and spoon the sauce on top. Top with the tomato relish, and serve immediately.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

keep me warm

You know it's a dreary day in Los Angeles, when you're watching the Dodgers play in San Francisco, and it's considerably brighter there than it is here.

The silver lining to this is that it means soup weather. I went through my usual cold weather cookbooks - ones about braising, ones with noodle soups galore, etc. I wasn't particularly inspired - everything felt so heavy, and noodles are out on Whole30, so I started switching my search to restaurants to grab dinner from.

But then I turned to the crisper, and found a languishing bundle of asparagus, and garden chard leftover from a salad I made for lunch, and thought it might not be a bad idea to go a fresher route.

The soup still ended up very velvety and rich because I added the coconut milk leftover from my curry two nights ago. You can use 2 full cups of vegetable broth for a lighter soup.

Chard-Asparagus Soup
slightly adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
serves 4

1 T. coconut oil
9 oz. diced onion
9 oz. trimmed asparagus
3 oz. chard, sliced
2/3 c. coconut milk
1 1/3 c. vegetable broth
salt, to taste
4 T. hemp seeds
4 T. flax seeds
4 T. pine nuts

1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, and saute until translucent. Add the asparagus and chard, and stir to coat in the oil.

2. Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth, and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and blend until smooth, in a standard blender, or using an immersion blender. Salt to taste.

3. Divide the soup between 4 bowls, and top with 1 T. each of hemp seeds, flax seeds, and pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

like a child again

One of my favorite meals as a child was a simple braise of pork belly and hard boiled eggs in a coconut sauce. Over rice, it was just the absolute epitome of comfort food.

When I found this Coconut Egg Curry, I immediately flashed back to that childhood joy, bookmarked it immediately, and crossed my fingers that Matt would be into the idea for a dinner soon. He's not that into hard-boiled eggs, but luckily, the coconut curry with caramelized onions part of things convinced him it was worth a try.

Even over cauliflower rice (thanks, Whole30), this dish was massively satisfying. The sauce isn't particularly thick or overwhelmingly heavy - the tamarind paste livened things up in that regard. The richness of the eggs, the freshness and texture of just-cooked haricot verts, and the silkiness of the caramelized onions just absolutely reveled in that sauce. In a way, all of those ingredients were merely there to soak up and reflect the sauce, but they also gave to the sauce - the yolks enriching, the haricot providing a fresh bite in between all of the savory.

Definitely saving this for cooler weather as well, perhaps with potatoes and/or mushrooms instead of the haricot when it's not in season.

Coconut Egg Curry
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 4

2 T. coconut oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 medium eggs
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. tamarind paste
3/4 t. chili powder
1 1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1 c. full-fat coconut milk, mixed with 1/2 c. water
5 oz. haricot verts, trimmed

1. Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add the onions, and fry for 15-20 minutes until brown and caramelized.

2. While the onions are cooking, place the eggs in another large saucepan, and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit for 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. When the onions are caramelized, add the garlic, stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tamarind paste, chili powder, salt, and turmeric, stir-fry for a minute, then pour in the diluted milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Add the haricot verts, and cook until crisp-tender.

4. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel, halve them, and fold into the coconut sauce. Serve immediately over rice, coconut rice, or with flatbread.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

double down

I'm extremely pleased with myself for the amount of thinking on my feet that occurred to put together tonight's dinner.

It started around mid-day at a friend's birthday brunch out of town - what are we doing for dinner? I knew I wasn't going to want to get too crazy after a long drive home to 90+ degree temperatures. But would a salad be enough? I exist in a constant state of craving now that I'm back to that Whole30 life for the month of June, so I was anticipating an extreme hunger level by dinner.

We've done quite a bit of beef and seafood in the last couple of days, so Matt voted to mix it up with some pork. I was originally going to take a Thai Carrot Salad I had bookmarked and bulk it up with some ground pork, but when Matt got to the grocery store, every ground pork option had sugar and other crazy ingredients in it, so we on the fly decided to go with pork chops.

But what on earth was I going to do with pork chops? I looked at the enoki mushrooms and scallions I had in the fridge, thinking some sort of stir-fry could work. But the salad.

A minor stroke of brilliance - there was no way I was going to need as much dressing on the salad as the recipe made, so I took half of it to use as a marinade for the pork. I loved how the tahini made everything so rich and substantial. I would have loved a peanut sauce for both, but as both peanuts and sugar are out on Whole30, standard peanut butter wasn't going to be in the cards.

I loved how the warmth of the chop slightly wilted the chard, while the raw carrots and green beans stayed crisp. The play on textures and flavors, ranging from spicy peppers to sweet pineapple juice to savory fish sauce, made for an endlessly satisfying meal.

Thai Carrot Salad with Boneless Pork Loin Chop
adapted from Minimalist Baker
serves 2-4

For the dressing/marinade:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. tahini
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. pineapple juice
1 T. fish sauce

For the pork:
1 lb. boneless pork loin chops (3-4 thin chops)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 t. sesame oil

For the salad:
4 oz. rainbow chard, thinly sliced
2 t. sesame oil
2 t. lime juice
6 oz. carrots, cut into matchsticks
6 oz. haricot verts, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

1. Whisk together the dressing ingredients.

2. Place 2 T. of the dressing in a medium bowl with the chops. Turn to coat, and set aside to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

3. Whisk the remaining 2 T. of dressing in a large bowl 2 t. sesame oil and 2 t. lime juice. Add all of the vegetables, and toss to coat. Set aside.

4. Heat the remaining 2 t. sesame oil in a cast-iron skillet. Add the pork chops, and cook for 4 minutes. Salt and pepper the top, and flip to cook for another 4 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the chop reads 145 degrees. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes.

5. Divide the salad on serving plates, and serve the pork sliced on top.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

fresh start

This dish is so definitive Whole30 to me - it doesn't seem to traditionally be a breakfast dish, but if you think about it, how far is this from a leek and asparagus omelette/scramble/frittata?

I do prefer the higher ratio of vegetable to egg here - it's such a fresh springtime meal that really starts your day off on the right foot.

Blackened Leeks with Pesto Asparagus + Hard Boiled Egg
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 2

2 large eggs
2 medium leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise
2 T. ghee
12 oz. asparagus, trimmed
1 T. pesto
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a small saucepan, cover the eggs with water. Bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat. Let sit, covered, for 7 minutes, then drain, and set in an ice bath until cool enough to handle.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high until smoking hot. Cook the leeks, cut side down, pressing to ensure contact with skillet, until blackened, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium; add the ghee, and toss to evenly coat the leeks. Divide the leeks between two serving plates.

3. Add asparagus to skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook, tossing occasionally, until bright green and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add pesto, and toss asparagus to coat. Divide the asparagus over the leeks.

4. Peel the eggs, quarter, and place on top of vegetables. Serve immediately with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

roll with it

I will not lie to you. Out of 20 Enoki Beef Rolls, only these 4 looked like they were rolled. The trade-off for tender, fall-apart steak was that it falls apart in the marinade and when rolled around the delicate mushrooms. To be frank, I was close to just scrapping the rolls and turning this into a beef and mushroom stir-fry.

The original recipe called for placing a 1-lb. slab of tri-tip in the freezer for 20 minutes to help thinly slice the steak into 20 slices. Knowing my knife skills and general fear of unwanted manicures, I was thrilled to find at my local Asian grocery store pre-sliced flap meat, perfect for Korean barbecue, or in this case, beef roll-ups.

The original recipe also only marinated the beef in balsamic vinegar, and while I occasionally appreciate a sweet marinade, I wanted this to be a little more savory, especially since these mushrooms are, to me, kind of sweet (as opposed to the their larger, more earthy counterparts). 

The whole package was delightful and packed with flavor. All it needs is a quick sear, a very careful flip, another quick sear, and you have 3 extremely satisfying bites per roll. Simply seared shishito peppers were a perfectly easy accompaniment, but some gingered green beans or snap peas would also be a great side for more texture.

Enoki Beef Rolls
slightly adapted from Chef Sous Chef via @whole30recipes
serves 2-4

1 lb. beef flap meat, in 20 thin slices
1 T. fish sauce
1 T. sesame oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 oz. enoki mushrooms

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Add the meat, and toss to coat.

2. Heat a large cast-iron pan over high heat until smoking.

3. Separate the mushrooms into 20 bundles. Wrap one slice of beef around each bundle of mushrooms. Sear the rolls on both sides, and serve immediately.