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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Radish Tartine

Summer work days, spent indoors, denying the beauty that waits outside. A necessity at times to get anything done during the long, warm days. Yet there is joy to be found in the quiet of the apartment, the stillness wrapping around the soul like a favorite throw. A solo lunch, simple, somehow elegant. Prepared with only a few deft swishes of the wrist and a quick chop of the knife. Plated on the fancy dishes, a reward for accomplishing the work that must get done. A moment or two of reflection as you chew. Sigh, at peace, renewed, ready to get back to the task at hand.



Radish Tartine
for one
A slice or two of well made bread, just barely toasted
the best butter you can get your hands on
6-8 or so French breakfast radishes, sliced lengthwise
fancy, coarse sea salt, such as Maldon

Spread a good schmear of butter on the toasted bread (you've earned the extra calories). Lovingly layer the radishes over top and sprinkle with the sea salt with abandon. Relax. Take a bite. Enjoy. Repeat. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fig and Olive Crostini

I look at the calendar and it takes my breath away. How is it possible that summer is half gone? That it's been a month and a half since my last post? It seems I step into every June imagining the endless lists of things to do to enjoy and take advantage of the warm, long days yet somehow find myself come August wondering how I spent my summer. With so much to do and so little time, schedules fill up fast and leave me longing for the dreamed-of lazy days draped in the park, on the beach, or at an outdoor movie or barbecue. The endless options available keep me busy and tend to help me avoid the computer and the blog. Some year will I figure out how to enjoy it all while keeping a firm grip on my work to be done? Until then, I'll just keep plodding away, packing as much joy into the glistening days as I can and if some things hit the back burner in lieu of a little fun, I won't let it phase me.


Fig and Olive Crostini
The salty, umami packed bite of oil cured olives contrasts sharply with the smooth, lightly fruity notes of fig, yet somehow the combination just works. Spread onto toast points with ricotta and honey it transforms into a lovely snack for summer afternoons or for a backyard dinner party. 

8" French bread, cut into 1/2" rounds
extra virgin olive oil
1 c. ricotta cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 c. oil cured olives, pitted and minced
1/4 c. honey
 5-6 fresh figs, sliced

Place the bread rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle slightly with extra virgin olive oil. Toast under the broiler until lightly browned, then flip and toast the other sides.
Spread each toast point with a schmear of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Mix the olives and the honey together in a small bowl and then drizzle over the ricotta. Top each with a few slices of fig and serve.  


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spring Garlic Pesto Pasta

The warm weather arriving in New York is like the city opening its doors and saying "come on in." We can finally leave the confines of our tiny apartments without fear of snow and cold beating us down and we take to the streets to rejoice.

As I've wandered the city over the past few weeks it's felt like coming home again. I remember all that is on offer here and rush to soak it up. And this time around my camera is usually slung by my side, waiting to grab little pieces of the city that capture my heart.







Spring Garlic Pesto Pasta
The warm weather also offers up a fresh bounty at the markets. Here's one way to take advantage.

6 stems spring green garlic
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/3 c. walnuts
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/2-3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

1 lb. pasta (I like strozzapreti or fusilli)
3 TB butter
1/4-1/2 c. pasta cooking water
1 c. ricotta cheese
3 TB Spring garlic pesto
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

*In the picture you can tell that I used pancetta in my original recipe. It is very tasty with the pesto, but does take away some of the spotlight on the green garlic so left it out of this recipe. If you would like to add it back in, cook it in the pan before adding the butter and pasta. 


To make the pesto: trim the roots and the toughest top parts of the greens from the green garlic (you should be able to use most of the stem and bulb) and chop roughly. Place in a food processor with the Parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt, pepper, and 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil. Process until the mixture is blended and just slightly coarse. If it is too thick, add a bit more olive oil and process again. You will want about 3 TB or so for the pasta recipe. The rest you can freeze in ice cube trays and then wrap in a ziplock bag to pull out when needed.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 1 c. of the pasta cooking water. In a large pot (perhaps the pot the pasta was cooked in after it has been drained) heat the butter until melted over medium heat. Add the pasta and toss, then add about 1/4 c. of the pasta cooking water and toss again. The butter and water should start to form a creamy sauce over the pasta. Add the ricotta cheese and about 2-4 TB more of the pasta cooking water and stir a bit more before adding the pesto and the Parmesan cheese. Once coated well and warmed through, the pasta is ready to serve.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Mushroom and Ramp Crepes

Spring conjures images of endless blue skies and warmth, yet in actuality it often brings along rainy, grey days. A peak out the window on one of these mornings reveals a seamless off-white sky, fog hanging around the edges of every building. As I step outdoors on my way to the park for my run the mist immediately coats my skin. Yet there is a warmth hanging in the air, a sense that the rains of spring are bringing me an offering: and then that gift drifts into my nostrils. The scent of green: fresh, new, and bright. Peering through the matte air around an almost empty park, I am enveloped by an emerald city. Shades pale, fluorescent, deep, all mix, mingle, and overwhelm every direction I turn. Seemingly overnight the rain has helped transform the landscape from the barren browns and greys of the long, hard winter, to the sea of new life promising relief.

The wet days also lend their hand in the growth of the season's crops. Ramps and green garlic finally hit the stalls at the greenmarket, leading the way before the onslaught of bounty. I take advantage of their appearance, preparing them simply, an offering of thanks for the rainy days that brought them to me.


Mushroom and Ramp Crepes
crepes: (from Ratio by Ruhlman)
(This will make more crepes than you will have filling for. You could always make more ramp filling, but I like to add a little sugar to the batter towards the end and use the rest for dessert.)
1 c. milk
4 large eggs
1 c. flour
pinch of salt

Mix together all of the ingredients, creating a smooth batter. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a 6-8" skillet over medium heat. Give the pan a quick brush with a bit of butter or oil. Pour in just enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan after you have given it a bit of a swirl. Cook until set, about 30-40 seconds, and then flip. Cook the other side for about 20 seconds or so and then remove to a platter. Continue with remaining batter.

filling:
2 TB olive oil
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, chopped
1/4 lb. ramps, divided into whites and greens and chopped

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and once hot toss in the oyster mushrooms. Cook for a few moments then add in the chopped white parts of the ramps. Continue to saute until the mushrooms are browned all over, then add the chopped green parts of the ramps and toss together. Remove from the heat.


tarragon sauce:
4 TB butter
2 TB flour
1 c. heavy cream
1 TB fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper

In a small saucepan heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour, stirring for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the heaving cream while continuing to whisk. After a few minutes the sauce should begin to thicken. Add the tarragon, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

To serve:
Fill a crepe with a few tablespoons of the mushrooms and ramp filling. Roll up and then drizzle with the tarragon sauce. Serve immediately.

serves 2




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.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasted Baby Artichokes

How quickly the mind can shift if you give it a chance to be open. Listen, explore, don't take everything you see at its word.

In recent years I've read books and articles that led me to believe one thing about my food and where it comes from and where it should come from. Yet over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to chat with students, farmers, professors that open my sights to the other side of things and show me a wider angle. Not that what I believed was all wrong or what they say is all right, but I've come to see how the truth must lie down the center somewhere. A thing I must seek out on my own, letting my heart feel its way to its own conclusion.
I won't bore you with the specifics--I'm still figuring it all out for myself anyhow. Yet I urge you that when you read or hear something about the food you are putting into your body, be willing to listen yet don't let it become your personal truth without a little digging first. Be open to both sides, knowing there are personal motivations clouding each angle. One story on the 6 o'clock news or one article in the Sunday paper shouldn't have full sway over your diet with just a whim. Step back and try to take in the full view before jumping down that bunny hole.

Roasted Baby Artichokes
Trying to keep myself open to all sides in a debate--to be well informed before making a decision--carries over to what foods I put on my dining table. I force myself to try things I think I may not like or that I haven't liked in the past. This has opened me up to many ingredients and dishes that would have been closed to me otherwise. One such ingredient is the anchovy. Always touted for being "gross" or "weird" in circles I grew up in, it's come to be one of my favorite ways to add umami and depths of flavor to a dish.I'm thankful for my refusal to deny myself a taste of any sort of food. Here it helps pack a salty punch with capers in a bright topping for crispy, roasted baby artichokes.


serves about 6 as an appetizer
9 baby artichokes
1 t. salt
1 lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
olive oil

1 can anchovies
2 t. capers
juice of 1 lemon
2 TB parsley, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the baby artichokes. Here's a great guide from Saveur. Then cut the artichokes in half after cleaning and trimming.
Heat oven to 425.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the salt, sliced lemon, bay leaf, and halved artichokes. Boil until the artichokes are tender, around 15 minutes (depending on the size of the artichokes). Drain and then pat the artichokes dry once cool enough to handle.
Place the artichokes cut side up on a baking sheet. Brush each with just a bit of olive oil. Roast until they are slightly browned and crispy, about 25-20 minutes.
Meanwhile place the anchovies into a bowl and mash well. Stir in the capers, lemon juice, parsley, and extra virgin olive oil. Serve the anchovy sauce over the roasted artichokes.


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.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Smoked Duck and Brie Panini


Thank goodness spring is officially upon us. The weather seems to want to actually cooperate with the calendar day this year, giving us a breath of warm air and blue skies. I even saw spikes of green leaves poking out of the brown earth on my run through the park today. All offering us the promise that the cold will soon be behind us.

As the warmer weather swoops in I find myself wishing for days spent lazily lounging in the park with a book or taking a long stroll around the neighborhood. Yet my calendar fills quickly at this time of year, appointments and responsibilities seeming to shake themselves out of hibernation. As I struggle to fit it all in yet still make the time to enjoy the season I try to make dinner short work while still keeping it exciting.

Panini are an excellent fall-back when crunched for time. They come together in no time flat yet still have an air of elegance that you don't quite get from a regular sandwich. This recipe blends together smoky duck breast with sweet and tart cherry preserves to help the taste buds also remember that spring and summer produce is just around the corner.


Smoked Duck and Brie Panini
1" slices of Italian bread
smoked duck breast, sliced thin*
1/4" slices of brie
arugula
cherry preserves
extra virgin olive oil

*if you are lucky enough to live in NYC you can pick up smoked duck breast at the greenmarket through Hudson Valley Duck farm. Otherwise there are many options out there these days in supermarkets or online. They can be used for everything from sandwiches to soups (ramen!!) to a charcuterie board so I recommend you pick one up to try asap. 

Heat your panini press according to instructions. If you don't have one, don't despair: heat your cast iron skillet nice and hot and use something heavy (such as a foil-wrapped brick) to press your sandwich into shape.

For each panino place a bit of brie on each of two slices of bread (a little cheese on each side will help hold it all together). Add a layer of smoked duck breast, a good smear of cherry preserves, and a pile of arugula on one piece and then top with the second. Drizzle the outside of both sides of the sandwich with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Place the panino in the panini press and cook per the machines directions until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. If using the cast iron skillet place the sandwich in the hot pan, top with the brick, and cook until the bottom is browned and crispy. Flip the panino over and repeat. Serve warm.

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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

One Day Cassoulet

The snow falls as the day opens and on until its close. Soft at times, swirling and heavy at others. I spy some girls making a snowman on the roof of the building next door. Hear the snow plows grind down the street. I go out to buy a few things for dinner and to stock up on wine and I see home owners, supers and those trying to make a few bucks with shovels in hand, breath puffing like smoke as they push the piles from sidewalk to street, making a slight dent before more falls in its place. How lucky I am to head home and hunker down in the warmth of my cozy apartment.

I imagine inviting all of those hard workers in from the cold and sharing a huge pot of this cassoulet with them. It takes a good chunk of a day to make this version (although traditional ones take a few days to do properly, so this is a compromise) but once you dig in to the rich interior hid under a layer of crispy breadcrumbs you will forget any effort you put forth. Hearty and layered with flavors, I can think of nothing more comforting after a slog through the icy streets. Take a snow day or a Sunday and spend that extra energy, then invite over a gaggle of friends to tuck in and savor this filling French casserole with a few bottles of red wine. It is sure to warm  your body and your soul.


One Day Cassoulet
When hibernation mode tries to set in during the coldest months, I crave dishes that are hearty and allow me to spend some extra time in the warm kitchen. This dish delivers while surprising your tongue with many layers of flavors. It is well worth the time spent to cook but save a bit during prep by cutting the onion, carrots, garlic, and thyme for both the beans and the broth up front and then dividing. 
Serves 8

16 oz. cassoulet beans (I recommend the ones from Rancho Gordo)
6 slices bacon
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf

2 legs duck confit
2 large sausages
1/2 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 t. fresh thyme, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
2 c. chicken stock

1 c. panko breadcrumbs

Place the beans in a large, heat-proof bowl. Cover with boiling water by about two inches and soak for one hour.
Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven. Once crispy, remove from the pan and set aside (leaving bacon grease in pan). Add the onion and carrot and cook until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme. Add the beans and their soaking liquid to the pan, along with the bay leaf and 3 slices of the cooked bacon, crumbled. There should be about one inch of water covering the beans: if not add more to the pan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the beans are tender (about 1-1 1/2 hours). Remove the bay leaf when finished cooking.



Meanwhile, prepare the "broth." Scrape most of the fat off of the duck legs and reserve. Heat a heavy skillet over medium high and sear the duck legs on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Sear the sausages on all sides and remove and set aside. Add the onion and carrot to the pan and saute until tender. Stir in the garlic and thyme for about 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to a boil, and cook until mixture has reduced and thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.

Pull the crispy skin from the duck legs and chop and set aside. Shred the duck meat and discard the bones. Chop the sausages into about 4 pieces each.

Heat oven to 350.

When the beans are cooked stir into the tomato broth. Stir in the duck meat, the sausage pieces, and the remaining 3 slices of bacon, crumbled. Top the mixture with the breadcrumbs and the crispy duck skin. Drizzle the duck fat over top. Bake until the mixture is bubbling and thickened and the breadcrumbs are browned and crispy, about 1-1.5 hours. Allow to set for about 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta

Weeknight meals may seem overwhelming after a long days work. Hungry before even walking through your door, preparing something to eat can feel like an impossible task. Yet having quality ingredients on hand makes the job less daunting. They don't need your help to taste delicious. Well-made bread just needs a quick toast, a special olive oil drizzled on top will elevate almost anything, Parmesan cheese adds saltiness as well as umami. By understanding the basics of fresh, true flavors I feel like I spend much less time creating recipes and more time enjoying the results. 

Take a trip to your farmers' market and specialty foods store to pick up a few things to see for yourself. In-season veggies taste fuller than their shipped-in-from-other-countries-supermarket counterparts and need much less time in the kitchen to make tasty. Dropping a bit of extra money on high quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, or sea salt can save you money in the long run since a little bit goes much farther than the cheap stuff in the flavor department. A special spice (such as fennel pollen or piment d'esplette) can take many dishes up a notch with just a pinch. Cured meats can be appetizers or can flavor salads or pastas. Canned anchovies surprisingly can do the same. Keeping a few of these things on hand ups your kitchen game while often cutting down on your effort.  

Creamy Lobster Pasta and Lardo Bruschetta 
An elegant dinner can be possible in no time at all if you let your ingredients work for you. A pre-steamed lobster picked up from the fish counter cuts out time, hassle, and a bit of the guilt (at least for me). The sauce mostly just needs measured and poured. Cured lardo? Just a few quick slices to a decadent appetizer. A fancy dinner ready from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

for the bruschetta
ciabatta or French bread, cut in half and cut into 3" pieces
extra virgin olive oil
clove of garlic
sea salt
cured lardo, very thinly sliced

Drizzle the bread with extra virgin olive oil. Toast until browned under the broiler. When cool enough to handle, rub each piece with the clove of garlic. Drizzle with just a bit more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and then top with a slice or two of lardo. Place into just barely warm oven for a few minutes to help melt the lardo over the toast. Serve immediately.

for the pasta
1 (2 lb.) lobster, steamed
12 oz. strozzapreti pasta
3 TB butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
3 TB parsley, chopped

Crack open the lobster and pull the meat from the shell and coarsely chop. Reserve the tomalley. 
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook as directed.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and once melted, the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, after about 30 seconds to 1 minute, add the heavy cream to the pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring often. Add the salt, pepper, and tomalley to the sauce. Continue to cook until the cream thickens, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce along with the lobster meat and parsley. Stir until well mixed and lobster meat is just warmed through and serve.

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, January 2, 2014

Cinnamon Rolls

I don't know that there is any breakfast more comforting or that makes you feel more loved than cinnamon rolls. Especially when homemade, soft, large, and topped with just the right amount of glaze. Is this just the Midwesterner in me or is this a universal feeling?

This is another recipe  pulled from my childhood and my grandmother's recipe box. Cinnamon rolls are something that I only seem to crave in winter, remembering the warm treat offered up Christmas morning, or whenever we stayed the night with my grandmother, or alongside a bowl of chili (again: who else has this tradition? I seem to know some people who insist on the cinnamon roll and chili pairing and others who have never heard of such a thing). Since the husband shared the tradition of the Christmas morning cinnamon rolls in his family, it is one that we have made part of our small celebration every year as we hunker down in New York City, trying to ward off the homesickness of being far from family on this special day. To be honest, our first couple of years we popped open a refrigerated can the morning of to satisfy the craving, but the last couple of years, as my kitchen and bread skills improved, homemade rolls graced the table.

Doing our best to not look completely hung over on Christmas morning.
The best part of making a batch yourself is the ability to share and spread the love. This year I made a 1 1/2 sized portion and divvied it up to 3 pie pans to hand out to fellow friends stuck in the city far from family. A treat that hopefully made them feel more at home.

Cinnamon Rolls
This recipe is based off of my grandmother's dinner roll recipe. It creates a barely sweet, flaky, soft dough that is only improved by the addition of a bit of butter/sugar and glaze. This recipe makes 12 large rolls, but it never hurts to multiply the recipe to share a bit of winter cheer with those who may need it. 
photo courtesy of The Husband
for the dough:
1 package yeast dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. warm water
4 c. flour

for the filling:
1/2 c. (8 TB) butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 TB cinnamon

for the glaze:
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 TB milk

Add all the dough ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix until well combined--dough will be very sticky. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Then place the covered bowl into the refrigerator to cool the dough about 30 minutes-1 hour.
Mix together the cinnamon and brown sugar.
Lightly flour the counter and dump the dough onto it. Roll out into a 9x15" rectangle (you want the dough to be about 1/2" thick). Spread with the butter and then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Starting with the long side, roll up the dough fairly tightly. Once rolled, pinch the seam to the roll to close off the roll.
Use a sharp knife or a long piece of string to cut the log into 12 rolls (you may want to slice off the very end pieces first to make for more even rolls). Place 2" apart in a 9x13" baking dish. Cover and rise for about 30 minutes-1 hour. (Note: at this point you can also cover the rolls and then place in the refrigerator to rise slowly overnight to bake off in the morning. OR you can place the rolls on a sheet pan in the freezer at this point. Once frozen, wrap carefully in wax paper and place in a freezer bag. When ready to cook, place the frozen rolls 2" apart in a 9x13" pan and let rise and thaw for about 2-3 hours. Bake as directed below.)
Heat the oven to 350.
While the rolls are rising, make the glaze. Mix together the ingredients, adding more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken or more milk if necessary to thin.
Bake the cinnamon rolls for about 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and no longer doughy. Cool slightly, then drizzle with glaze.