I was born and raised in Kansas and learned to cook alongside my mother. Now, along with my wonderful husband, I have taken the plunge into the city life in New York. These are my food adventures: in my own tiny kitchen, and in the many restaurants of the city.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Clean Out the Fridge Pasta

I opened the fridge door and let the cool rush of air wash over my face. Leaned in, took a deep breath, and then prepared to show no mercy.

I was in the midst of a deep clean of my kitchen. Going through the fridge, the pantry, the cupboards and getting rid of anything that was underused, past its prime, or just unnecessary. There were a couple of bottles of condiments and a package of oats that I'm pretty sure I brought with me when I moved into this apartment. Spices that I've had since college. Items that I don't even remember buying. My kitchen was in desperate need of this scouring. Offering it up a rebirth of sorts. Once finished with the purge I felt lighter, more at peace. And definitely ready to cook something up in my newly organized space.

In an effort to use what I have on hand more often and avoid throwing food away, our dinner that night was a pasta made solely from items I already had around. Sun dried tomatoes, half a container of mushrooms, the remainders of a bag of spinach, cured meats, a basil oil I'd made for soup. It merged together into an interesting, tasty meal and left my fridge even cleaner than before.


Clean out the Fridge Pasta
This isn't so much a recipe, but a guideline on how to take ingredients you have on hand and create a solid dinner out of them. 

Put a pot of salted water on to boil.
Chop up any veggies, onions, meats, etc. that you have on hand. Grate some Parmesan, pecorino, or asiago cheese.
If you have a hearty pasta that takes a longer time to cook you may want to toss it into the boiling water before starting on the "sauce." If it is a skinny/fast cooking pasta you may want to wait until the sauce is almost ready before cooking. Before draining make sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water to possibly use in the sauce.

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil and a couple of tablespoons butter in a large saute pan. If using, start by sauteing the onions. Next up you will want to add any really hearty vegetables: carrots, celery, leeks, turnips.
If you have any uncooked ground meat you will add that to the vegetables once they are just tender and cook it through.

Next into the pot would go any medium veggies: kale, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic. If you have some tomato paste that you want to use now would be a good time. Any cured meats (prosciutto, chorizo, etc.) could be added now as well.

Check the fat level in the sauce: if it is too dry you may want to add a bit more butter to have something to stick to the pasta.
Now toss in any light veggies: spinach, herbs. The sauce is now ready for the pasta.

I like to add the pasta to the sauce pan over a medium-low heat, tossing it all together with a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to make a creamy, cohesive sauce that coats the noodles. Then turn off the heat, top the whole thing with grated cheese and fresh basil or parsley if it's on hand, and serve.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Thyme Roasted Beets and a Beet Vinaigrette

It's been more than a month since I've come home from LongHouse yet I still find myself reflecting on my experiences there.

It was an intense six weeks of work. We created 3 documentaries, 3 slide shows, wrote articles, wrote blog posts, recorded a radio program, cleaned and set up the barn for the gathering, weeded and attended the garden, cooked, helped build a wood fire oven, and more. And didn't forget to capture the whole of it through photographs and audio recordings.

I learned so much through the program and through our speakers/teachers who passed through during our stay in Rensselaerville. Molly O'Neill, Kathy Gunst, John Rudolf, Sara-Kate Gillingham, Penny de los Santos, Darra Goldstein, Dudley Reed, Victor Schrager, the Smiths of Smith Bites....just to name a few. And that doesn't even include the list of incredible speakers who attended Revival itself. An overwhelming display of riches from the food media world to say the least.

Yet out of it all, the most important thing I stepped away with was the connection to my fellow scholars. There were nine of us, eight girls and one guy. We came from various parts of the country, from different backgrounds and experiences and at different points in our lives. Yet there was a link forged between us that will never be broken. We lived in intimately close quarters, all piled into Molly's home, six of us sharing one room (lovingly dubbed "The Orphanage"). Working, eating, sleeping side-by-side every moment for a month. We became a family, even squabbling occasionally as siblings. As a team we confronted the challenges and triumphed in the successes. When one was down, there was always a shoulder to cry on or a strong arm to help prop them up.

Though we have now re-scattered to the winds to our own parts of the world, we remain ever close. These are the friends I turn to for advice and encouragement as I forge my way down my new path. Each one is insanely talented and I will cheer them on loudly towards their own successful careers. I am thankful everyday for the opportunity that brought these eight friends to me.

To check out some of the work we created, read our blog series that we each posted throughout the program here. You can see my photos from the event here. And listen to the interview we gave this summer to Heritage Radio here!

Thyme Roasted Beets and Beet Vinaigrette
I tend to find roasting beets a bit frustrating because they always seem to take longer than I'd like. However the great thing about this dish is that the beets can be prepared beforehand and served cold if you'd like, so there's no need to put dinner on hold while you wait for them to finish up in the oven.
The vinaigrette uses the juices that run off from the beets as they roast. It can be tossed with the beets themselves, but I like to use it on mixed greens and serve alongside for a complete meal.


Roasted Beets
1 bundle beets
2 TB olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
4-5 springs thyme
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
creme fraiche

Heat oven to 425.
Trim the beets, cutting the top off to remove the green stems completely. Scrub the beets thoroughly with water and then pat dry. If the beets are large, chop in halves or quarters.
Tear off a large piece of aluminum foil and place into a baking dish. Add the beets, the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss together to coat. Sprinkle in the thyme sprigs and then wrap the whole mix tightly in the foil. You want to make sure the juices do not leak out.
Roast until the beets are tender. Check on them after about an hour, but they may need another 15-30 minutes to roast completely. Then remove from the oven and cool slightly. Reserve the roasting liquids for the vinaigrette. Peel the skins from the beets and chop into bite sized pieces.
Plate the beets and then drizzle with a fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Dollop creme fraiche on top and serve.


Beet Vinaigrette
Juices left from roasting the beets (remove the thyme stems)
3 TB apple cider vinegar
3 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. mustard powder
1/4 t. seasoned salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. olive oil

Place the beet juices, anchovies, garlic, mustard powder, seasoned salt, and pepper into a small bowl. Mix together, mashing the anchovies as you go. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Toss with beets to serve or with mixed greens as a side salad.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Eggs in Purgatory

In my younger days my life goals included skydiving. The thrill of jumping out of a plane and falling through the air invigorated me. Yet as I edged closer to my 30s and still hadn't checked it off my list, I found the idea less and less captivating. A fear of the prospect settled in that hadn't been present before. I started doubting whether I'd ever have the courage to actually step foot out a plane door so far above the earth's floor.

Fear is a funny thing sometimes. It truly is incredible to me to look back on my early 20s and see how carefree and how fearless I could be. Living it you can't see it, the clarity of self truly only comes with age, along with the knowledge and understanding of your own mortality. So often now I am thankful for this comprehension when I make smart decisions, yet there are other times where I miss the spontaneity and the dive-head-first-into-anything approach of my youth. 

Right now is one of those times. I am staring over the edge at a new career direction. I believe in it, yet doubt and fear are making me step back and rethink the leap that I must take to get there. It feels almost impossible, especially when turning back just means returning to the comfortable life I currently have around me. Why risk shaking that up? Why put myself through the hassle of change? 

Yet the rewards offered by making the jump are enormous. A career I can feel proud of. A job I look forward to everyday--even kind-of enjoying the bad parts. Being my own boss and my own employee--because I know no one will work harder. Expressing my creative side through my work, yet also having an opportunity to exercise the left side of my brain through the business aspects.  

I'm channeling my 20 year old self as I step to the door of this plane. My (almost) 32 year old self is double checking every strap and lever before I go, ensuring safety measures are in place, but my toes hover over the edge, I take a deep breath, and I get ready to let go.

Eggs in Purgatory
Far from being scary, eggs in purgatory is an easy dish that is nice for brunch, but I find to be a perfect simple weeknight dinner. Vary the flavors simply by changing the herbs you use, but I personally would never leave out the chili flakes since the heat is what gives the dish its kick. If you can find good quality canned tomatoes, it really does make a difference in the flavors, but even I sometimes make it with the store brand if that's all I have on hand. Diced or whole stewed both work--if you have larger tomato chunks just break them up with a wooden spoon as you cook the sauce.


serves 2
2 TB olive oil
2 TB chopped shallot or onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (14 oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes 
2 TB fresh oregano (or 2 t. dried oregano)
1/4 t. crushed red chili flakes (or more to taste)
salt and pepper
4 eggs
crusty bread for serving

Heat the olive oil in a 12" pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and chili flakes, breaking up any large tomato chunks with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Break the eggs into the sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the egg whites are set and the yolks are runny, about 2-4 minutes. Serve immediately, with toasted bread for dipping.