Sunday, April 24, 2016

gotta get that green


This Chard Spanakopita has been on my menu for a week. I even cut the chard last Sunday, but then gave up in favor of Chard Dolmas. And then the week rolled by - I've just been too lazy/fearful to deal with phyllo dough on a school night.

This all ended up for the best because it gave our rainbow chard plants an extra week to produce enough leaves for the pound I needed for this recipe.

The original recipe called for 2-2 1/2 lbs. of chard, but that seemed a bit much, so I used what I had, and scaled everything down to fit into a 9-inch pie plate. The resulting pie was a very impresive, sturdy phyllo case of chard, just barely bound together with the egg and feta.

Pie dough is an option to use in place of the phyllo, but I highly recommend going the phyllo route, as a heavier, buttery pie dough would overwhelm the filling.

Chard Spanakopita
slightly adapted from The New York Times
makes one 9-inch pie

1 lb. rainbow chard, stemmed and washed thoroughly
5 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 c. chopped parsley
2 large eggs, beaten
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese
6 13x18" sheets phyllo dough

1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add the chard and blanch for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer to the ice water. Let sit just until cool, a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess water by taking up bunches of the greens, making a fist around them and squeezing. Chop coarsely and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onions. Cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the greens, herbs, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir the mixture for a minute, until the greens are coated with oil. Remove from the heat.

3. Beat the eggs and feta in a medium bowl. Toss with the greens, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Line the pie dish with 1 sheet of phyllo, and lightly brush it with some of the remaining 1/4 c. of olive oil. Repeat with the remaining sheets of phyllo, turning each sheet about a quarter-turn to create a decorative edge. Fill with the greens mixture. Fold the overhang of the top phyllo sheet in over the filling. Brush with olive oil, and repeat with the next two sheets. Twist the remaining three sheets around the

5. Bake 40 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the crust is golden. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

in the garage


Today was Day 1 of our garage organization project, and we attacked it with the fire of a thousand obsessive-compulsives. By the time we put up the last wall panel, 6 hours later, we were exhausted and starving.

Luckily, this pasta dish comes together very quickly. You can make the pesto in the time it takes for a pot of water to boil, and then trim and slice the snap peas in the time it takes the pasta to cook.

The pesto is so fresh and light - sure there's plenty of olive oil and cheese involved, but there are no nuts in the equation, so it's not at all heavy. Spicy from the arugula, but brightened up with hints of mint. The snap peas cook to al dente as well, and really round out the notes of spring in this dish, while the burrata adds in a couple pops of cool richness. It's still a bowl of pasta, though, so it fills you up, but doesn't weigh you down.

Orecchiette with Arugula-Mint Pesto, Snap Peas + Burrata
slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Taste
serves 6

1 lb. orecchiette
9 oz. snap peas, trimmed and halved
3 oz. arugula
0.25 oz fresh mint leaves
4 T. olive oil
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
2 garlic cloves
1/2 t. lemon zest
1/2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
8 oz. burrata

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes. Add the snap peas, and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the empty pot.

2. Meanwhile, combine the arugula, mint, olive oil, Parmesan, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor, and process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

3. Toss the pesto with the drained pasta and peas. Thin it out with a small amount of reserved cooking water if needed. Taste, season with salt and pepper. Divide among warmed serving bowls, and tear burrata over the pasta. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 22, 2016

flavor of the week


My love affair with sheet pan dinners continues. This time, it's a lovely spiced chicken tikka roasted in the same pan as potatoes and cauliflower for an incredibly flavorful and satisfying meal.

The marinade is gorgeously aromatic. I stayed a bit timid and only used 1/4 t. cayenne, but a 1/2 t. would have been plenty tolerable. Neither the cauliflower nor the potatoes crisp up much, but I suppose you could change that if you used skinless chicken thighs.

Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 4

For the chicken:
1 T. minced ginger
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 c. light sour cream
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. paprika
1 t. garam masala
2 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

For the vegetables:
2 T. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed, and cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
minced parsley

1. Place the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, sour cream, salt, and spices in a large bowl, and thoroughly mix to combine. Add the chicken, and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.

2. When you’re ready to cook the dish, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the potatoes, cauliflower, and salt on a large sheet plan, and toss with the olive oil until evenly coated.

3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and leave the excess marinade behind. Make spaces in the vegetables for the chicken throughout the pan. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower to ensure they’re cooking evenly, and return the pan to the oven for 10 to 20 minutes more, until chicken and vegetables are cooked through.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

better luck next time


This dish sounded so interesting on paper (or computer screen), but honestly, I wasn't thrilled. I was hoping for a more funky, savory flavor, but I think the lemon brightened everything up too much for my taste. The lemon also made the sauce seize up for me, creating weird little crispies, where sauce was meant to be.

I'm never one to give up on a recipe with so much potential, though. I think, next time, I would just skip the lemon in the pan, and squeeze the juice over the chicken as a garnish.

Chicken with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce
slightly adapted from The New York Times
serves 4

1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper, to taste
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/4 c. olive oil
5 anchovy fillets
2 T. drained capers, patted dry
1 large pinch chile flakes
1 lemon, halved
fresh chopped parsley, for serving

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and let rest while you prepare the anchovy-garlic oil.

2. Mince one of the garlic cloves and set it aside for later. In a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the 5 smashed whole garlic cloves, the anchovies, capers and chile. Let cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies, until the garlic browns around the edges and the anchovies dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the thighs, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

4. When chicken is done, transfer the thighs to a plate. Place the skillet back on the heat, and add the reserved minced garlic and the juice of one lemon half. Cook for about 30 seconds, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return chicken to the pan and cook it in the sauce for another 15 to 30 seconds.

5. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve.

Monday, April 18, 2016

i melt inside


Yes, this is just bread, meat and cheese (and mayo and Grey Poupon).  When I want a burger, I don't need a salad next to it (or on it, for that matter).

This is by no means a simplistic burger, though. It's a delicious cumin-spiced pork-only patty stuffed with smoked mozzarella. When you have so few ingredients, you taste every one of them, and they all have to shine. Shine they do.

I did dial back the original proportions quite a bit - the recipe called for 1 1/2 lbs. pork and 1 lb. cheese; I went with 1 lb. pork and 4 oz. cheese, and it was just the right proportion for 4 burgers. Make sure you make the patties larger in diameter than your buns because they do shrink in cooking, and nothing is more sad than lonely hamburger bun edges.

Pork + Smoked Mozzarella Pocket Burgers
slightly adapted from Mario Batali

1 lb. 80/20 ground pork
1 T. cumin
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
4 oz. smoked mozzarella
2 T. olive oil
4 hamburger buns
your choice of condiments

1. Place the ground pork in a bowl, and season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix by hand until the spices are well incorporated. Form your ground pork into eight 2-oz. patties.

2. Cut the mozzarella into 4 1-oz. slices and place 1 slice in the center of each of four of the patties. Place the remaining patties on top of the mozzarella and press down along the edges to form four mozzarella-stuffed pork burgers. Make sure to pinch the sides of each patty until the burger is completely closed off.

3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large cast-iron skillet. Cook the burgers for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until they're just cooked though, and their internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. When the burgers are done cooking, remove them to a plate, and cover with foil to rest.

4. Place the hamburger buns, cut side down, in the cast-iron skillet, and toast. Remove, and build your burger as you like.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

you inspire me


I've had a crazy couple of days, and I simply haven't been able to wrap my mind around menu planning. I know - I'm surprised, too. Cooking is such therapy for me, and as cheesy as it sounds, prepping, chopping, stirring, etc. calms me down, and keeps me socially acceptable.

Sure, I had flipped through my usual blog stops, and half-heartedly gone through a few cookbooks. The only thing that even vaguely piqued my interest were the Kale Dolma from Essential Turkish Cuisine, but I was too tired to act on it Friday night, and ended up reluctantly agreeing to leave my laptop for the first time that day for some actually excellent curry at a new spot down the road.

Sundays are always my reset day, though, and today was no exception. After a really productive morning that gave us quite a start on our garage reorganization project, I felt the inspiration come back as I planned my farmer's market grocery list. A cohesive and balanced plan for the week just worked itself out, starting with that cooker's block from earlier in the weekend.

I turned the kale dolma into chard dolma because of the overabundance of chard in our garden. I loved that this wasn't the same old grape leaves around rice that I frankly don't care for. This was basically a well-seasoned meatball wrapped in sweet greens that end up braised to melting tenderness.

To round out the meal, I made muhammara for the first time, and wondered where it had been my whole life. I mean, you want me to blitz bread with peppers and smoky, delicious spices, and then I can put it on more bread? Yes, please.

In hindsight, this would have been the perfect meal to cook and eat when I was feeling less than myself, but that makes tonight's dinner all the sweeter.

Chard Dolma (Sarma Style)
slightly adapted from Engin Akin's Essential Turkish Cuisine
serves 4

20 rainbow chard leaves, about 3 inches wide (or halve larger leaves)
1/2 lb. 85/15 ground beef
3/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 T. ghee
1/2 c. diced yellow onion
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. salt

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch the chard leaves in hot water for 30 seconds. Reserve 1 1/2 c. of the water, and drain the chard. Run them under cold water, and let them drain until ready to use.

2. Mix together the ground beef, cornmeal, ghee, onion, allspice, pepper, garlic, and salt.

3. Lay a leaf with the stem end facing you, and place about 1 heaping T. of filling on the leaf. Pull the stem end up and over the filling, and roll to the end of the leaf. Continue with the remaining leaves and filling.

4. Place the filled chard leaves close to one another in the now-dry pot you used to blanch the leaves. Place a small plate on top of the dolma, add 1 1/3 c. of the reserved water, and cook over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Serve immediately.

Muhammara
from Food52
makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 red bell peppers
2 slices whole grain bread, toasted
80 g. raw walnuts
1 t. smoked paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic
1 T. pomegranate molasses
3 T. olive oil, divided
1 T. lemon juice
salt, to taste

1. Brush the bell peppers with 1 T. olive oil, and broil about 3 inches from the heat source, turning occasionally, until blackened all over. Set aside until cool enough to handle, and then peel and seed the peppers.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the bread, walnuts, paprika, cayenne, cumin, garlic, and roasted peppers. Process until well combined, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the molasses, remaining 2 T. olive oil, and lemon juice, and process until well combined. Adjust molasses and/or lemon juice, and then salt, to taste. Serve as a dip or a spread.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

almond eyes


I never realized how much I loved marzipan until I came across these Marzipan-Stuffed Almond Sugar Cookies and nearly swooned. It was instant mouth watering.

And while these are firmly Pinned, I didn't think they'd lend themselves well to the ice cream sandwiches I had promised to bring to dinner with our friends Chris + Tara so I went on a furious Google hunt for something, anything else marzipan.

As luck would have it, these Chocolate Chip + Marzipan Cookies were not too far down the search results. I haven't made a solid chocolate chip cookie in a long time, and the addition of big marzipan "chips" won me over.

I left the dough quite crumbly, and basically just squeezed together a fistful of dough to form each cookie - the chocolate and marzipan chunks didn't really allow for much else (I know - wah, wah) - but in the oven, they all settled into perfect rounds of buttery, chocolate-y, almond-y goodness. We gilded these lilies with two divine pints from Salt & Straw, Sparkling Ginger and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons. If you make your ice cream sandwiches open-face, you can try both flavors, right?

Chocolate Chip + Marzipan Cookies
slightly adapted from I Am A Food Blog
makes 2 dozen cookies

1/2 c. butter
2 T. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
1 t. vanilla
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
8 oz. dark chocolate chips
100 g. marzipan, rolled into small balls

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

4. Add the egg and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix until combined. Add the flour and mix, with a spatula, until barely combined. Fold in the chocolate and marzipan. Portion the cookies out onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until the cookies are golden-brown on the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and serve warm.