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.

Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Primavera


The temperatures start to rise, we begin to shed a few layers of clothes that we piled on through the winter. And then we realize maybe it's time to shed a few pounds we added during the colder months as well.

It is easy to put on a bit of weight during the cooler season as we fill up on hearty dishes and comfort food and cuddle up on the couch for hours to stay warm. Luckily spring helps make it easy to drop those unwanted pounds. Sunny, warm days lend themselves to long walks, and spring produce starts to pop up to encourage lighter, fresher eating.

After an over-indulgent weekend trip with friends to Woodstock (think a stop by Sonic, homemade personal pizzas, skillet chocolate chip cookies and far too much candy) I was especially in need of a detox this week. To counter-balance the quantities of bad food I'd taken in it was time to respond with a meal full of veggies. Yet I wasn't ready to give up on the comfort. Spaghetti squash was the answer. After roasting its tender flesh transforms into pasta-esque shreds which are the base for a vegetable strewn dish.

It's so easy to adjust this based on whatever you have on hand: spinach, mushrooms, or cherry tomatoes would make a welcome addition. Regardless of your vegetable mix-in decisions your taste buds will feel indulged as your waste line says thank you.

Spaghetti Squash Primavera
serves 6 or so as entree

1 spaghetti squash
olive oil
salt
pepper
1 bundle of asparagus
4 TB butter
2 zucchini, chopped
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. fresh basil, chopped

Heat oven to 425.
Cut the spaghetti squash in half and clean out the seeds. Rub with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast until the flesh is tender and easily shredded with a fork, about 45 minutes-1 hour (depending on size).
Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, toss in the asparagus and boil for 30-90 seconds (depending on diameter of stalks). Drain and drop the asparagus into ice cold water. Once completely cool, chop into 1" pieces.
Once the squash is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh.
Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the zucchini and cook until just tender, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and the sun dried tomatoes and cook for 30 seconds more. Toss in the spaghetti squash and cook until heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bean and Cheese Taquitos

Sometimes life surprises you with its twists and turns. Yet other times the changes it throws your way were foretold long ago and you just didn't have the proper clarity to see them.

I picked up photography at the ripe old age of 10. Signing up for 4-H for the first time my mom allowed us two choices each for our first year to keep us from getting bogged down and for some reason the camera called my name. Over the years I took classes and workshops, even attended photography camp. I spent hours and hours in the darkroom with fellow 4-H'er Kendra--that time led us to become best friends (a title we hold for each other to this day). I shot for the newspaper and yearbook in high school.

Once college rolled around, however, my focus turned toward theater. Sure, I carried my camera to parties and contributed significant numbers of pics to the annual theater banquet slide show, but I no longer was a student of the form. After college I stopped even carrying a camera most of the time.

Yet last fall as I trudged through the Food Media intensive that I was involved in, my love for photography pushed itself back to the surface. I remembered the thrill I get from capturing a fleeting moment and preserving it for the future. I even realized that I can get some of the same joy out of working in the digital Lightroom as I did the old school darkroom (though I do miss the company). Somehow this old hobby has slowly reemerged as a strong component of my current and future career. It's something I never expected.

As I relearn and continue to evolve my craft, I've embarked on a Project 365 that started on January 1: posting a photo a day to force myself to think with a photographic eye, to make sure I'm carrying my camera more often, and to help capture the moments that make up my year. You can follow the project on my Tumblr or check out all the photos so far on my Flickr.

Bean and Cheese Taquitos
Regardless of changes in life it's always nice to come home to a simple meal. Canned beans get a bump in flavor by cooking with some onions and spices then get mashed and rolled up in tortillas with plenty of cheese. Baking them adds crispness without too much oil. Then they are served topped off with a homemade chunky salsa, whipped avocado, and sour cream.


5 TB cooking oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 large can black beans
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. seasoned salt
1/4 c. stock (or water)
2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 c. cotija cheese, shredded
12 flour tortillas

for the salsa:
1 c. chopped cherry tomatoes
1/4 c. finely chopped onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2-1 jalapeno, chopped (depending on heat preference)
2 TB cilantro, chopped
1 TB lime juice

for the whipped avocado
2 avocados
2 TB sour cream

Sour cream, for serving

Heat the oven to 400.
Drain the beans and rinse them under water.
Heat 2 TB cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until tender. Add the beans and the cumin, chili powder, and seasoned salt. Stir together and cook until the beans are warmed through. Add the stock or water and mash the beans slightly. Remove from the heat.

Place the remaining 3 TB cooking oil in a small bowl. Use a pastry brush to brush the bottom sides of the tortillas with the oil. Spread a couple of tablespoons of beans on the inside of each tortilla and then sprinkle with cheddar and cotija cheese. Roll up tightly and place on a baking sheet. Bake until browned and crispy, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make the salsa. Mix together the chopped cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

For the whipped avocado, scoop out the flesh of the avocados into a bowl and beat vigorously with the sour cream.

Serve the taquitos topped off with the salsa, whipped avocado, and a dollop of sour cream.



Friday, March 7, 2014

Potato and Leek Soup

Take two ingredients that are less than glamorous: potatoes, knobby and dirty, and leeks, full of grit, and blend them together and somehow what emerges is a soup that sings with elegance. It's a peasant dish that I would be comfortable serving at the fanciest of dinner parties.

Slowly cooking the potatoes and leeks side by side and then blending them together releases something magical into the soup. It is creamy and decadent--a far cry from it's humble beginnings. Each time I make it I am surprised by the stunning result despite the lack of effort in its creation.

The secret lies in first poaching the ingredients in butter, infusing and fusing the flavors into one. Water is all you need to thin it out, but a bit of cream increases the indulgence. Though it needs no accompaniment a drizzle of basil oil or a green onion pesto can lend contrast.

As winter clings on, head to the kitchen to prepare a pot: for guests or just for yourself. Then settle in and indulge on classy simplicity.


Potato and Leek Soup
serves 6
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 leeks (white and light green parts only), cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 TB butter
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
3 c. + water
1/2-1 c. heavy cream (optional)

Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the potatoes, leeks, garlic, salt and pepper before it starts to sizzle. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, turning down the heat to low after a moment or two. The goal here is to essentially poach the vegetables in the butter to meld their flavors together. You don't want the butter to start to brown or burn.
Add 3 cups of water to the pot, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back down to a simmer and cook until the potatoes and leeks are very tender. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Working in batches, carefully puree the vegetables and broth in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot over medium heat. Add in the cream, if using, and then add in enough water to thin the soup to your desired consistency. I like to keep mine fairly thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Once the soup is heated through it is ready to serve. Garnish with green onion and parsley pesto if desired.

Green Onion and Parsley Pesto
1/4 c. parsley, finely chopped
1/4 c. green onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
2 TB walnuts, finely chopped
juice from 1 lemon
2-3 TB extra virgin olive oil

Mix together all of the ingredients. Serve a dollop on top of each bowl of potato and leek soup.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tribute (and Hasselback Potatoes)

There are the teachers that stand out during the course of our educations. Those that make an impact in our minds, our growth, and stick in our memories. Then there are those that rise above even this by somehow transcending what it means to educate and find their way into our hearts.

Dr. Dan Davy was one of these teachers. He was a professor of Theatre History at Kansas State University. He was one of the smartest men I've ever met. His mind was deep and full of layers upon layers of knowledge yet his classes were never dry or boring. His passion for the subject helped to rise above even the difficult scripts we studied. He made it fascinating to delve deep into discussion over Greek dramas or modern comedies. Despite his genius Davy never made it intimidating to speak up in class with your thoughts or opinions. He encouraged us to speak our minds, to even challenge his ideas. It felt like a badge of honor to receive praise from him for a well-constructed thought during a lecture.

Dr. Davy also had an energy about him that I've never encountered anywhere else. When excited by an idea he would hop, or run around the room, crawl on the floor, flip the light switches on and off, run out of the room and slam the door behind him. You were sure to pay attention when he spoke. Something about the way he could turn a phrase was awe-inspiring. It was not uncommon for those in his classes to spend more time writing out his quirky quotes in the margins of their pages than to take detailed notes on the test-worthy information he was giving out. But if you were really listening you wouldn't need those notes to study anyways. You understood the material and the concepts deeply because he taught it so well. He always told us we should know the info "Bob's Diner well" which meant that if we were at Bob's Diner at 2:30am (meaning we had just left the bars and been drinking) we would still remember it. To this day, over 10 years after taking his classes, I still have discussions with my husband and friends over things we covered then. My whole concept of theatre was formed and shaped by this man, and I am far from alone in saying so.

He was kind and obviously loved what he did and loved his students too. I always remember him stopping by to say hello when I was working at Dillons and he and his wife would come in to shop. He gave freely to so many advice on careers and life. He was far more than just our professor.


We lost Dr. Davy unexpectedly this past weekend. It seems so strange that he would be gone--somehow I had the sense that he has always been and would always be. An everlasting force in the world, much like something from some of those ancient plays he taught us. Yet if I consider it, I believe each of us who passed through his classroom holds a bit of his knowledge, his heart, his passion within us. We carry it out to the world, to the art we create, to the students some of us teach. With this, his legacy does, and will, continue on.

Rest in peace, dear Dr. Davy. You are dearly missed.


Hasselback Potatoes
It seems odd to try to blend saying goodbye with a recipe. In a way, though, there are similarities between this dish and Dr. Davy: the layers, the sense of complexity, yet in actuality they are quite approachable. And though I never shared a meal with him, I have a feeling that Davy relished good food and good conversation, and these are definitely the first and invoke the second. Share them with those you love and be sure to tell them how you feel, because you never know if you'll get another chance.


10 small potatoes (about 2" long)
4 TB butter, melted
2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Scrub the potatoes clean and pat dry. Take a thin slice out of the back of each of the potatoes along the length so they lie straight without rolling. Take a pair of wooden chopsticks and place one on either side of the potato (this will help keep you from slicing all the way through). Cut many thin slices along the width of the potato and then pull them slightly to spread the slices out. Place on a baking sheet.
Mix together the melted butter and rosemary and baste this over all of the potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until slightly browned and tender, about 40-45 minutes, basting with the butter from the bottom of the pan every 10 minutes or so. Serve immediately.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Comfort in a Pot of Beans

It is no surprise that I love to cook and spending hours in the kitchen working on a complex recipe is one of my favorite ways to pass a day. Yet there are times when I am awed by the power of a simple recipe. A pot of beans is just a few minutes of mis en place plus some wait and a soulful dinner is on the table. There's something reassuring knowing I can throw a handful of ingredients into a pot and churn out a hearty meal that costs only a few dollars.


Yes cooking dried beans does take time. Yet it is time where the beans themselves are doing most of the work, leaving you to clean the house, play a game, catch up on your DVR, read a book. There's no need to hover over the pan as it cooks, though you may want to with the scents that waft around as it bubbles away. Dishing up and tucking into your bowl feels wholesome, hearkening back to days of our parents' and grandparents' meals and seems something to be passed on to generations ahead.

It doesn't take a master in the kitchen to conjure a delicious meal out of dried beans. This is a recipe a novice can, and should, make. It is an entree in its own right but can take on countless iterations: burritos, dips, soups, cassoulet, etc. with just a few adjustments. A large enough pot can make a variety of dinners for a whole week. If you can get your hands on heirloom  beans they may cost a few more dollars but pack an even larger punch of flavor (I highly recommend any from Rancho Gordo. I'm not receiving any compensation or product from them, they are just that good that I really can't help but promote them).

Winter is obviously not done with us yet. As the cold, snowy winds blow outside, keep yourself indoors and put a pot of these on the stove. Add a pan of cornbread and a meal of endless comfort is complete.

Cooking Dried Beans
4-6 servings as an entree

1 lb. dried beans (Jacob's cattle, cannellini, pinto, etc.)
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 t. salt

Soak the beans. If you have enough foresight to know the day before or early in the morning the day you will eat them, place them in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of water. Soak for around 6-8 hours. If you haven't anticipated this wait (as I never do), place the beans in a large bowl and cover with 2 inches of boiling water. Let these sit for 1 hour. Many people will tell you to drain the water after soaking, but I feel that this takes away some of their flavor and some studies are actually showing that this drains away some of their nutrients as well.

Heat a large pot over medium with the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Pour the beans and their soaking liquid into the pan. The beans should be just covered with water--if not add some more to top off. Add the bay leaf. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

Here is another area where opinions differ on method: some say to cover the pot and others leave uncovered. My understanding is that a covered pot will cut out a bit of time but will make for beans that are a bit mushier (great if you are making a dip or refried beans). An uncovered pan will yield beans with a bit more structure but may take a bit longer (better for soups). Both have their uses, so consider how you will utilize the beans when making your call here.

The time it takes to cook the beans varies thanks to many factors: type of bean, freshness, how long they were soaked. After about 45 minutes start testing the texture. You want them to be soft enough to eat but not to totally break apart into mush. Certain varieties may be ready after 45 minutes, others may need 2 hours. The more you cook beans the more familiar you will get with their specific cook times. I like to add salt when the beans aren't quite finished yet--when they have about 15 minutes or so left to go (when you test them and feel they are soft but could use just a bit more time). It does take some time for the beans to soak up the salt so give them a few before tasting and adding more.

Once perfectly tender remove the bay leaf and remove from the heat. You can serve the beans right away or now use in another recipe. If there is a bit of broth leftover go ahead and put it in your soups or stews--it is full of flavor.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Papas Bravas

Inspiration hits from so many angles. From the vibrations ringing through my body as I pound the pavement on a run. Experiencing the product of months or years of work by a group of dear friends. A phone call from mom. The glossy pages of a favorite food magazine, flipped through for the first time. Even from the disappointment of a missed opportunity.

Anymore it seems easy to miss these bits of creative energy reaching out to us. Social media needs updating, the text messages buzz in the pocket, a digital game hooks you in. That tiny piece of technology riding around with your every move has taken up a disproportionate amount of time in your life. I know I let myself get sucked into it all. Instead of writing first thing in the morning when the drive and the focus is there, I check into each site, not wanting to miss a post. By the time I’m done my brain has been jumbled past the ability to reach a zen-like creative state, missing the opportunity a good night of sleep has given me. Occasionally missing the moment while in it for the desire to let everyone else know that I’m in the moment.


It’s a struggle to stay up-to-date and in-the-know and to let up a bit of control over that crutch, the smart phone (and the internet in general). There are great things to be had within these, but in this year I hope to set it aside a little bit more. My goals are to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and actually utilize it to be a better, more consistent friend by truly checking in on the people that mean the most to me. To use Instagram to explore photography and food, but not let it get in the way of conversations. To read articles that bring me knowledge and understanding and growth in place of just dumb humor. To spend less time in the digital and more time in the now. To let the tiny moments of inspiration out there wash over me and give me a push as I live them with every sense alert. To be present in the here and now. And to savor my food as I eat it.


Papas Bravas with Garlic Aioli
These simple roasted potatoes are always a go-to at any tapas joint. The smoky paprika takes them up a notch from the ordinary and the creamy aioli adds a hit of brightness. These are sure to please a crowd so are the perfect side for a winter dinner party.

serves 6 as side
3 lb. small, waxy potatoes
2 TB olive oil
2 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper

1/2 c. mayonnaise
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic

Heat the oven to 425. Scrub the potatoes well and pat dry. Cut into 1" cubes and place on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. Toss together until well coated. Roast for about 40-45 minutes, flipping and tossing the potatoes about half way through, until the potatoes are browned and tender.

Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl with the lemon zest. Use the zester to finely grate the garlic into the sauce. Stir together.

Serve the mayonnaise sauce drizzled over the potatoes.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Orange Hazelnut Salad

In the dark, cold, short days of winter, there's something so encouraging about the arrival of seasonal citrus fruit to the supermarkets. Though the brightly colored treasures aren't local I don't deny myself the juicy treat of artificial sunshine. Their burst of summer-like flavors guide me through the gloomy months.

This salad can help lighten up a hearty cold-weather meal. I served it in contrast to a spicy and hearty orrechiette with sausage and broccoli rabe but I can see it matched up nicely with braised or roasted meats as well.


Orange Hazelnut Salad
serves 3-4 as appetizer
3 TB red wine vinegar
3 TB olive oil
1/4 t. seasoned salt
pinch of paprika or piment d'esplette
1/8 t. fresh ground pepper
3 large oranges
pinch of sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. toasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
micro greens

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, seasoned salt, paprika (or piment d'esplette) and pepper until well mixed.
Peel the oranges and trim away any excess white pith. Cut the oranges into 1/2" slices and layer these onto a platter. Sprinkle with pinch of sea salt and drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil. Pour the red wine vinaigrette over top and then scatter the hazelnuts and micro greens over top as garnish.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes

It's a snow day for many after a windy, brisk storm dropped 6+ inches of snow over our concrete city. The sun is shining, but the temps outside are in the teens, making me want to stay inside and be productive. Unfortunately I've got to head out later and face the cold to trek to work.

If I could get out of it I would hunker down with a book, my journal, and a tea for a few hours before spending the evening in the kitchen preparing a dinner that takes a little more effort. This kind of day is perfect for such an undertaking. If you are lucky enough to have the time and the energy today, I have just the dish for you: homemade gnocchi.

I find gnocchi to be more fool-proof than regular pasta once you've figured out the proper consistency. Plus it never seems to take as long to get together (especially if you skip the rolling for grooves step). It creates a base that compliments many flavors from bright pesto to hearty ragu. This time around I went somewhere down the middle with a brown butter, sage, and shitake sauce to give it depth but still keep it on the lighter side. It's just the thing I want to curl up with as the snow blows against the window panes.


Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Shitakes
serves 3-4
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3/4-1 c. flour
8 oz. sliced shitake mushroom caps
1 TB olive oil
4-5 TB butter
10 sage leaves, chopped
2 TB parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until they are tender and fall off a fork when pierced. Strain out the potatoes, reserving the cooking water in the pot.
Push the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer onto a counter-top. Cool for about 10 minutes. Then sprinkle 1/4 c. of flour over top of the potatoes. Use a bench scraper to "chop" and mix the flour into the potatoes. You want to try to incorporate the flour without overworking the dough too much. Once the first addition of flour is almost mixed in, add another 1/4 c. of flour and repeat. Then add a third 1/4 c. of flour and chop and mix again. Now the dough should almost be pliant and ready to roll. To test, roll a small piece into a 1/2" tube and drop into a pot of boiling water. It should pop to the top of the water in about a minute or so. If the piece does not fall apart the dough is ready. If the dough does fall apart, add the remaining 1/4 c. of flour and test again.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and roll out each one into a snake about 1/2" in diameter. Cut into pieces about 3/4" long. Sprinkle with a bit of flour and toss using the bench scraper to cover the gnocchi and help keep them from sticking. Then roll each piece on a gnocchi board or along the back of a fork to create grooves. Place the gnocchi onto a wax paper lined sheet pan as you repeat with the remaining dough.
Once the gnocchi are prepped, start on the sauce. Heat the 1 TB olive oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the shitake mushrooms once hot and saute until browned all over. Add the butter. Once it is melted and starting to sizzle, add the sage leaves. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the sage is fragrant and the butter is slightly browned. Turn off the heat and set aside until gnocchi is boiled.
Return the potato cooking water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, probably in two batches to avoid sticking. Cook until the gnocchi bubbles to the top and let boil for about 30 seconds before removing from the water and straining. Be sure to reserve at least some of the pasta cooking water for the sauce.
Once the gnocchi have been boiled and strained, return the mushroom butter sauce to a medium-high heat. Stir in about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and let boil for about 30 seconds until it thickens up a bit. Add the gnocchi and toss. Add a bit more pasta cooking water if necessary. Remove from heat, toss with parsley, and grate on Parmesan cheese to serve.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich

I am counting down the minutes until Sunday afternoon, when my little sister will arrive to NYC from Austin. We haven't seen one another in person for a year and a half and haven't spent a holiday together in much longer. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to spend a holiday with a family member in tow.

My sister is two years younger than me and so has been by my side as long as I can remember. We were very close in high school, spending a lot of our free time and extracurricular time together (save for a few fights here and there: one especially that involved an amateur haircut that went awry). It still doesn't feel right to spend so much of our time so far apart. I can't wait to show off my home, my friends, and my city to her over the next week as we catch up and spend our days once again side by side. I'm truly thankful for this opportunity to share it all with my little sis.

Greens and Ricotta Sandwich
There's no photo of this since I whipped it up as a simple, quick dinner one night and wasn't considering it for a post. Yet when I took the first bite I knew I had to share this remarkable, easy meal. It is packed with healthy greens, a creamy ricotta, and crunch from store-bought spicy kale chips. If you can't find pre-made kale chips at your store you can easily roast up a batch (although they probably won't be quite as crispy), but make sure to add some chili flakes to your greens to give the sandwich its heat.
Serves 2

very thin focaccia or flatbread (if it is thicker than 3/4", cut in half lengthwise to form the two halves of your sandwich. Basically you want 4 pieces of about 4"x3" bread that is 1/2" thick.)
2 TB olive oil
3 c. kale, chopped
5 c. spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1-2 TB extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
spicy miso kale chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the focaccia onto a large baking sheet.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the kale and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. At this point, place the focaccia into the oven to warm through (about 4 minutes). Add the garlic and the spinach to the kale and continue to cook until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.
Take 2 pieces of warmed focaccia and spread half of the ricotta onto each. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Top off with the greens and then finish with the crispy kale chips. Top with the other slice of bread 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. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Corn Soup

The husband and I just got back from a wonderful few days visiting the mother-in-law in Albuquerque. We spent the days exploring Santa Fe, hiking through the tent rocks, basking in the magnificent views. Nights were passed lounging with wine and conversation, often on the back patio with a fire burning and the stars twinkling above. What a relief to step out of the overbearing heat of NYC for a few days and feel the calming effects of open air and uber-friendly strangers.

Now we are back to the grind and the close to 100 degree temps that are making New York even more difficult to handle this week. Luckily I can still throw together a simple dinner to be shared with Joe at our dinner table that lends itself to lingering over discussions of our days and helps us remember to slow down a bit.

This soup takes full advantage of summer at its best: peak in-season corn lends a sweetness that you won't get from it at any other time of year. Chopped scallions can add some bite, a drizzle of parsley oil or pesto an added freshness, and a dollop of creme fraiche brings it all together with a tangy note on your tongue.


Corn Soup
about 3 servings
3 large ears of sweet corn
2 TB butter
1 TB olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper

optional:
pesto
parsley oil
creme fraiche
scallions

Slice the kernels off the ears of corn, reserving as much of the liquid as possible (sometimes it's easier to do this by slicing off the kernels inside a large bowl).
Heat the butter and olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until transparent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute then stir in the corn and its juices for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the stock and the heavy cream, bring to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 15 minutes to meld all of the flavors.
Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Then pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids, pressing down to make sure to get all of the juices out. Return the strained soup to the stove, heat through, and add salt and pepper to taste.
I garnished ours with a ramp pesto thinned with extra virgin olive oil and a dollop of creme fraiche, but parsley oil, regular pesto, or chopped scallions would be just as nice.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fava Bean and Shitake Saute

Growing up in small-town Kansas I knew all of my neighbors. They all knew me. They all knew all of my business (and weren't afraid to tell my parents that business even when I thought it should be private, such as when they saw me kissing a boy who dropped me off after school). I always imagined that part of the draw of moving to New York City would be not knowing the neighbors. Being able to live in a private bubble of sorts without gossip-catching eyes following me around. Being able to come and go without stopping for long bouts of small talk.

Imagine my surprise then, when last week I ran into some of my neighbors who were finishing loading the moving truck to head back to the Midwest to be near family and open a restaurant and my heart cracked a little, feeling pain at the loss of those familiar faces down the hall.

I'm not sure where the change started, perhaps it is a little bit growing older, a little bit about the fact that we've lived in the same apartment for more than four years and feel a deep love for our neighborhood and the community that is building around it. Over the years we constantly bump into the same people over and over again. You learn the names of those on a similar schedule as you or who shop at the same stores. With Lindsay and Derek (and their two cute sons), the ones who just moved away, we met on Thanksgiving a few years ago when they were moving into their apartment on our floor during the holiday so I couldn't resist inviting them to join our gathering.

We were never especially close: we always talked about making time for drinks or exchanging batches of homemade ice cream.  Life and work ate up time and left months slipping away without a meet-up, but it was always reassuring knowing that if we were in need of something there were friends down the hall. The little boys' laughter floating through our front door as they scooted towards the elevator never failed to bring a smile to my face. Lindsay always seemed happy to see me when we crossed on my way to work and her way home. These neighborly pleasantries will be missed.

Of course we know other families and individuals on the floor and in our building and we even met the new tenant moving into Derek and Lindsay's place just days after they left. Our little community will shift and change as time edges on, but now I appreciate and look forward to being part of my building mates' lives and having them as part of mine.

This fava bean and shitake saute would welcome any neighbor for a friendly meal. You could share the labor of shelling the fava beans and trimming the mushrooms. By using the plastic wrap method of poaching eggs there's no need to spend too much time by the stove, cooking them all at once instead of one at a time, leaving more time to get to know one another.


Fava Bean and Shitake Saute
serves 3-4
2 lbs. fresh fava bean pods
1 lb. shitake mushrooms
1 TB baking powder
2 TB butter
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
4 eggs, poached*

Shell the fava beans. Then peel the skins from the individual beans. A simple way to do this is to bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 TB baking soda. Add the shelled fava beans and boil until the skins split, about 2 minutes. Then drain the beans and place into an ice bath for a couple of minutes. You should now be able to just squeeze the beans quickly and easily out of their shells.

Remove the stems from the shitake mushrooms and discard. If the caps are large, cut into half inch slices. Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over high, add the butter and once melted toss in the shitake caps. Once slightly browned and cooked through add the fava beans to toss for about 30 seconds. Stir in the salt and pepper. Place on a platter and top with the poached eggs to serve.

*The plastic wrap method of poaching eggs is a great one when you need multiple eggs at one time. Here' a video how-to from Chow.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Wedges with Dill Creme Fraiche

Once summer hits, the number of things to do in New York City rises exponentially. The city that never sleeps is pumped full of exciting things to do, see, experience and I get overwhelmed at the thought of trying to fit it all in before the cold sets in again come fall.

The summer, just beginning, already seems to be slipping away too quickly (especially as I will be out of town for a full month towards the end of it. Details on this to follow). However, I have been able to check a few items off of my should-do list: a concert with friends, margaritas sipped by open windows, a trip to the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, long walks along Brooklyn Bridge Park and through my favorite neighborhoods, the Big Apple BBQ, mint juleps while cooking dinner, and trips to 2 exhibits at museums that I didn't want to miss.

First up was a trip to the Rain Room at the MOMA. Basically it is a giant black box that has a huge square of rain inside, but the technology used makes it stop raining where you are standing. So you are surrounded by the rain but have your own personal "umbrella" of sorts that follows you around (as long as you move slowly enough--little kids do not seem to have this ability when judged by my visit here :). I wasn't quite sure if it would be worth the long wait in the hot sun to get in, but once finally enveloped by the cool, black room with it's single spotlight I felt refreshed and invigorated. And I wanted to dance.



After exiting the Rain Room we made our way up to the Park Avenue Armory (with a quick side trip for lunch to the King of Falafel's Street cart for the best falafel in the city) for the Paul McCarthy exhibit "WS."

Close to a week later and I'm still not quite able to put into words the effect that the exhibit had on me. I'm not sure I liked it, but it definitely left me thinking. The overwhelming experience of sounds, videos, environment left me feeling more wiped out than I have in a long time. It took hours (and a few cocktails) before I was able to feel back to normal again. Though I feel this is a sign of good art, I'm not quite sure I could ever go back.

The mental workout that this exhibit gave me left me with the need for something uncomplicated for dinner. Something that wouldn't require excess thought but would comfort me as well. Luckily the husband had begged to pick up some sweet potatoes from the greenmarket last weekend. So after a quick wash and a few slices, into the oven they went while I whipped up a simple dipping sauce out of dill and creme fraiche. These are hearty enough to hold up as an entree if served with a simple side and a bit of bread but are excellent as a starter or side dish as well.


Sweet Potato Wedges with Dill Creme Fraiche
serves 3
3 large sweet potatoes
2-3 TB olive oil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. piment d'espelette (or paprika)

4 oz. creme fraiche
2 TB fresh dill
1 clove garlic, finely minced
zest of 1 lime

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the sweet potatoes length-wise into 8 wedges each. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil on all sides. Sprinkle half of the salt, pepper, and piment d'espelette on the potatoes and then flip and repeat on the other side. Roast until tender, about 25 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, place the creme fraiche, dill, garlic, and lime zest into a small bowl. Stir together. Dollop onto cooked potatoes to serve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Green Garlic Toasts with Soft Scrambled Eggs

Every once in a while I pull off a dish that, as I set it on the table, I think, "I wouldn't be ashamed to serve this in a restaurant." It's that combination of attractive plating and flavors that combine to sing to the taste buds, having that special little something that feels a little fancier than your own home kitchen.

This simply prepared spring meal was one of those times. It isn't a fancy, charge $30 for an entree kind of restaurant meal, but one of those that you imagine being served over the lunch hour at a locally driven, homey neighborhood place. The eggs (of course from my local greenmarket) are cooked slowly, possibly in too much butter, but in a way that makes them oh-so-creamy and then mixed with tomatoes to lend a bit of acidity to cut the richness. These get topped with a flavorful cheese and green garlic stems that have also been cooked slowly to a tender perfection. Served on top of toasted country bread the whole shebang becomes a satisfying lunch or light dinner, combining lots of simple flavors into one complex dish.

If you can't find green garlic or it is out of season use small leeks instead, but they may need a bit more cooking time to achieve tenderness.


Green Garlic Toasts with Soft Scrambled Eggs
serves 4
5-6 stalks green garlic (the light green and white stems only--reserve the bulb and the dark green leaves for other uses)
2 TB olive oil
salt and pepper
5 large eggs
1/2 c. heavy cream
5 TB butter
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
3/4 c. grated gruyere or raclette cheese
4 large,thick slices of country bread (or 8 smaller pieces), toasted

Slice the green garlic stems as you would a leek: slice in half lengthwise then chop into half inch semicircles. Place the stems into a fine colander and then place the colander into a large bowl. Fill with water and use your fingers to rub the green garlic to help remove some of the grit. Drain, empty the bowl of water, and then repeat about 3 more times to be sure the garlic is clean. Pat dry.

Heat 2 TB olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the green garlic and stir constantly until it reaches a soft, creamy texture, about 15 or so minutes. If the garlic begins to brown too quickly, lower the heat. Taste and season with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Beat the eggs with the heavy cream in a small bowl. Add about 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper. Heat 2 TB of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the eggs to the pan and stir constantly with a spatula, scraping the sides often. Slowly add the remaining butter, 1 pat at a time, continuing to stir until the eggs reach a soft-curd consistency, about 10-12 minutes or so. Right at the last minute stir in the tomatoes so they have just a moment to heat through.

Place the toasted country bread onto 4 plates, top with the soft-scrambled eggs, sprinkle with gruyere or raclette cheese and then top with the green garlic to serve.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Duck Breast with Pear Jalapeno Compote

The morning air is still crisp and cool. Days are noticeably longer. The parks are lush and full. Allergies are annoying the senses but the irritation is worth it for the knowledge that Spring is really here.

The husband and I spent a morning the other week wandering through the flowering vegetation of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Blossoms exploded in colors every way we turned, lilacs scented the air, children ran barefoot through the new, tender grass. A good amount of the afternoon was passed enveloped by the cherry blossoms, occasionally feeling the patter of their ethereal pink "snow".

Afterwards, in need of refreshment, we found a nearby patio to continue to enjoy the beautiful weather as we slowly sipped margaritas and munched on fresh guacamole. The scent of jalapenos from our neighbors' tacos wafted over us, turning our thoughts to dinner. Duck was set to be the main dish, and now we knew that some spicy heat would kick it up as well. The husband requested a fruity-spicy blend--perhaps pear--and that's how dinner was formed.

The rich main course was served alongside a refreshingly crisp celery salad based on one we had eaten last summer at Prune that was paired with toasted country bread topped by Valdeon blue cheese. I never would have considered pairing the celery and blue cheese in this way, but Gabrielle Hamilton understands the balance of flavors better than anyone and it just makes sense once you eat it.

Duck Breast with Pear Jalapeno Compote
serves 2
1 (1 lb) duck breast
salt and pepper
1 pear, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and finely chopped
3 TB butter

Lay the duck breast on a cutting board and slice through the skin at an angle about every inch, going through the skin and fat but not cutting into the meat. Turn the breast 90 degrees and slice through the skin again, creating a diamond pattern. This will allow the fat to render from the breast. Pat the duck all over with a paper towel to soak up any excess moisture and then generously sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the duck skin side down in a cold, heavy-bottomed skillet. Place on the stove and turn the heat onto medium-high. Cook until the skin has turned brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Flip the breast over and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 135 for medium rare (about 4-5 minutes more) then remove the duck to a plate to rest while finishing the sauce.

Pour out all but about 1 tablespoon of duck fat from the pan (strain the rest and reserve for future use). Add the pear and jalapeno and turn the heat down to medium. Saute until the pear is tender, stirring up any bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Add the butter and stir until melted, then and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove from the heat.

Slice the duck into half inch pieces. Top with the pear sauce and serve.


Celery Salad with Blue Cheese Toast
Food52 has a great interpretation of this Prune dish and I based my version on theirs with very few changes. Check it out here for the recipe.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Watercress and Scallion Soup

The healthy side of my body/brain always breaths a sigh of relief once the spring produce starts hitting the greenmarket stalls. It knows that many meals full of fresh veggies are on the way and that heavy dishes or junk food will be a little fewer and farther between for a while. It's not that I never eat these things which aren't quite as good for me, but it's hard to ignore the piles upon piles of fresh things that are on offer through the warmer months. It's easier for me to say no to a bag of chips (yes, a whole bag sometimes) when I can make myself a fast heirloom tomato salad or saute a bundle of asparagus.

Though the weather is turning, the market isn't at it's booming point just yet but last week I did stumble onto a huge pile of wild watercress and some gorgeous scallions. With my soup binge I seem to be on around here, it seemed the most natural conclusion. 

This is fresh and bright and truly tastes of Spring and the promise of all that is to come. With a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil and a dollop of creme fraiche, it becomes truly elegant. I would be proud to serve this as a starter at a fancy dinner party.


Watercress and Scallion Soup
about 4 servings
1 bundle of scallions, washed and trimmed of roots
2 TB olive oil
2 bundles watercress, thoroughly washed and any rough stems and roots trimmed
32 oz. chicken or vegetable stock
3 TB fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
creme fraiche
extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop the white parts of the scallions. Chop the green parts into large pieces and set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the white parts of the scallions and saute until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the green parts of the scallions and the watercress and toss in the hot oil for about 1 minute. Then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 4-5 minutes, letting the watercress and scallions become tender but not completely overcooked. Remove from the heat and then use a blender or immersion blender to puree the soup. If you are ok with a coarse texture you can leave as is, but if you would like a smoother, more elegant soup pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.
Return the soup to the pan and heat through. Stir in the lemon juice and then taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Dish into soup bowls and garnish each with a dollop of creme fraiche and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.

Monday, April 29, 2013

French Goat Cheese Salad

Sometimes I think it is difficult to talk about a vacation when you first arrive back home. All of the emotions, memories, experiences are piled up on top of one another in your head and seem to be too much to process in a way that would make sense to other people. It takes some time to really let it all sink in, and for the truly memorable pieces to achieve focus so the stories can be told without all of the superfluous details.

And thus, I have not yet been able to discuss our trip to Paris/Dijon here on the blog. There were too many things to say. Now after being back for close to 2 weeks I am finally feeling the ability to put it all into words for you, so will be covering some of the important bits over a couple of posts.

To begin, I mostly want to discuss how truly lovely the French are. Almost every restaurant, bar, grocery store, shop, etc. that we walked into felt like our local neighborhood joint thanks to the warm welcome we received  The shopkeepers would ask us questions, talk about our day, give us suggestions on things to eat or drink. Certain places felt so comfortable that you it was as if we were passing the evening at a friend's home. I can't get over the sense of warmth that the French seemed to constantly exude. How wonderful to feel so welcomed despite my dreadful attempts at their home language.

This warmth carried over to all of the food we were served: how can something not taste delicious when you truly feel that the proprietors of the establishments are so happy to have you there with them. The sense of pride in French food doesn't hurt, either.

There were many dishes that you would see on multiple menus throughout the city, but one that seemed to be on every single menu we saw was the goat cheese salad. Basically the French bread was sliced (and oh, god, the French bread really is that much better than the bread anywhere else in the world) and topped with goat cheese and then baked. This warm, cheesy "crouton" was then served on top of a salad. Simple as that.

When we returned home I knew this easy to prepare yet complex tasting salad must grace our table. My version was also inspired by our side trip to Burgundy by flavoring the dressing with sweet yet tart creme de cassis and Dijon mustard. The sweet and spicy dressing pairs so nicely with a rich goat cheese and figs over top of mesclun greens. I've come back a bit of a cheese snob and knew I didn't want the too mild, boring grocery store goat cheese, so bought a little Le Chevrot which had a little age and more depth. However, I won't judge if the grocery store variety is all you have on hand.


French Goat Cheese Salad
serves about 3-4
8-10 slices French bread
7 oz. Le Chevrot cheese or other goat cheese
6 c. mesclun mix
9-10 figs, thinly sliced

4 TB creme de cassis
2 TB Dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the goat cheese and place slices on each piece of French bread. Place the bread onto a baking sheet and bake until the cheese has become gooey and melted a bit and the bread is slightly toasted, about 4-5 minutes.
Meanwhile place the mesclun greens and figs into a large salad bowl.
To make the dressing mix the creme de cassis, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Then toss the dressing with the salad. Top with the goat cheese toasts to serve.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette

As spring ever so slowly inches towards us, I increasingly feel the need to fill my body with healthy food. I believe it is the body trying to shed any excess winter pounds to be ready to move and be active in the warmer months (and the media washed brain's desire to not look horrifying in a bathing suit). There's also the body craving those summer garden foods that it has had to go without all winter long.

I'm also trying to do a bit of a detox in a way before our trip to Paris. Cutting out some of the crap, not eating too much cheese, not drinking quite as much...all to get ready for eating too much cheese and drinking too much wine while on vacation.

Our meal last night felt exceptionally healthy (aside from the buttery garlic bread served alongside): these hearty, almost-meat-like cauliflower steaks served alongside a simply dressed arugula and dried plum salad. After a nice long run during the day, ending the evening with this food made me feel that I would wake up the next day full of energy and ready to conquer all.

The cauliflower steaks come from Dan Barber and Food52. This is one of those dishes where you really don't miss the meat: when the cauliflower is seared and browned like this it has an almost meaty flavor. I topped mine off with a salty, bright anchovy and caper vinaigrette for added variety and depth. Instead of using the rest of the cauliflower as a puree, I went ahead and chopped it up and sauteed it after the "steaks" were finished. You really could just saute the whole head of cauliflower instead, but the steaks do make for a gorgeous presentation and feel a bit more formal (and a bit more like a main course instead of just a side dish).

Cauliflower Steaks with Anchovy Caper Vinaigrette
adapted from food52
serves 2

1 head of cauliflower, washed and dried, green leaves removed
cooking oil
salt and pepper

5 anchovy fillets
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 TB capers, drained and rinsed

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower in half. From the middle cut one 1" "steak" from each half of the cauliflower (the stem will help keep the whole thing in one piece). Chop the remaining cauliflower into florets (you can use these as a puree as in the Dan Barber recipe linked above or saute them in the pan after cooking the steaks).
Rub each cauliflower steak with just a bit of the cooking oil. Heat another tablespoon or two of the cooking oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot and almost smoking, add the cauliflower steaks in a single layer. Sear until browned and crispy on the bottom (about 2 minutes or so) and then flip over and cook another 2 minutes. Then place the whole pan into the preheated oven. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.

In the meantime make the vinaigrette. Place the anchovies in a small bowl and mash well with a fork. Add the lemon juice and whisk together. Continue to whisk as you add the extra virgin olive oil, creating an emulsion. Stir in the capers and set aside.

Once the cauliflower is baked and tender, remove to a platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette and capers to serve. If you would like, now add a bit more oil to the pan and return to the stove top at medium high and saute the cauliflower florets until browned and tender, about 4-5 minutes. Place these around the steaks and drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette to serve.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ricotta Cavatelli with Mushrooms

I am blessed to have a husband who understands (and tolerates/encourages) my passions and obsessions. So, of course, I received multiple food gifts from him this Christmas. Though they were all great the one that has been the source of all kitchen inspiration through that last month has been my pasta roller attachment for my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

In the past I've struggled to get my pasta to the thin, delicate texture it requires while not having the dough fall apart completely under my rolling pin. Now with just the flip of a switch I am able to roll out doughs of multiple thicknesses ready for a million different applications. Therefore dreams of pasta have been swimming through my brain for weeks.

I started off with a basic tagliatelle tossed with truffle butter for a simply elegant first outing for my new toy. As a follow-up I went with a non-Italian "pasta": pork and chive dumplings. The attachment helped me to roll out the flour and water mixture into sheets of an ideal thickness to hold in the juicy, porky filling while not falling apart during cooking (if you are curious, I used it down to the #4 setting for these). I used a glass to then cut perfect little rounds since my previous attempts to hand-roll always left me with irregular, lumpy shapes.

Note that my dumpling folding needs a little practice...

Next up for the roller is a tortellini you will be seeing here soon and I have ideas that pierogies should be making an appearance shortly as well.

The pasta kick I have been on even extends past those using the attachment. I have been testing my pumpkin gnocchi recipe for my Valentine's Day event over and over to get them perfect for my customers. I'm finally happy with the result but glad I don't have to eat them again myself for a long time. :)

I then decided to make my all-time favorite pasta; cavatelli, with the assistance of another new little kitchen tool: the gnocchi board.

In my gnocchi tests I discovered it overworked the dough and required too much flour to use the board for actual gnocchi. They became dense little pucks that were nowhere near the light, fluffy dollops I wanted to serve. But I realized it would be a perfect tool to roll out the ridge-covered, chewy, ricotta-based cavatelli.

The method of hand-rolling these little dumplings definitely takes time, but it is a repetitive task that is soothing and mindless, like folding napkins at work or knitting. It keeps your hands busy but allows your mind to wander and dream. I foresee many relaxing afternoons of rolling out batches of these to offer up to my friends and loved ones, perhaps with a negroni in hand and a dream of Italy in my mind's eye.

Cavatelli pair well with many types of sauce but my favorite is to present them with sauteed mushrooms that are tossed with ricotta to create a creamy yet light sauce. A bit of the pasta cooking water is added to help keep it loose. Though more cheese is unnecessary, a sprinkle of Parmesan to finish the dish adds an extra salty bite.

edit: Buy your own gnocchi board here on Amazon. Cheap ($5) and arrives quickly. You won't regret it after you whip up a batch of these guys.

Ricotta Cavatelli in Mushroom Ricotta Sauce
for the cavatelli*:
4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 egg
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 c. whole milk or heavy cream

*note: this makes a double batch of the cavatelli, but I went ahead and made it all and froze half for later use. To freeze, lay the cavatelli in a single layer on parchment paper covered baking sheets and then place in the freezer. Once frozen, place in a plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

Pour the flour into a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Make a well in the center and fill with the egg, ricotta, and cream. Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry until it comes together to form a dough. Dump the dough out onto the counter (discarding any excess flour) and knead for 3-4 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and roll into long, 1/2" thick snakes (I find it is easiest to do this if you don't use much flour yet--the flour keeps the dough from sticking meaning it slides back and forth and won't get thinner). Cut into 1/2" thick pieces and sprinkle them all with a good portion of flour. Now take your bench scraper in one hand and use it along with your other hand to toss the little dough pieces with the flour to coat them on all sides.

Take each little dough piece and roll it out on the gnocchi board. Place the long side perpendicular to the ridges, press down with your thumb as you roll the whole piece towards the bottom of the board. You want to apply a pretty firm pressure to really make those ridges thick and to help roll the cavatelli into itself. Push the cavatelli off onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough.



For the sauce:
12 oz. mushrooms (preferably a mixture of oyster, shitake, cremini, etc.), chopped
2 TB butter
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 t. thyme, chopped
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 the cavatelli from the above recipe

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Heat a large(12"), heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once the butter is melted and the oils are hot, add the mushrooms and give them a good toss. Allow them to cook for a couple of minutes without stirring to help them brown and then flip/toss and brown them on the other sides as much as possible. The sprinkle on the thyme, salt and pepper and toss the mushrooms for another 1-2 minutes.

While cooking the mushrooms, add the cavatelli to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Before draining be sure to reserve about 1/2 c. of the cooking liquid.

Now add the ricotta cheese and about 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to the mushrooms. Toss for about 1-2 minutes until the sauce comes together. Now add in the cooked cavatelli and toss. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese to serve.