Saturday, May 3, 2014

how to be something you miss


Greetings from rainy and windy Belfast! What I wouldn't give to snuggle up to this bowl of Black-Eyed Pea Chili from my celebrity chef crush, Michael Symon. I mean, I hate to talk about a married man like this, but those squinty laugh eyes! That Cleveland accent! *swoon* (Does "squinty laugh eyes" make sense? You know what I mean, though, right?)

I can't even tell you how it tastes, although I have validation from my real-life crush that it was delicious. I made this last Tuesday night so that Matty would have at least a week's worth of food and a little something to miss me by when I left town for work. I let it simmer while I packed, and actually had to ask our houseguest Chet to turn off the burner because my Uber to the airport showed up early.

I'll pretend I have gourmet chili and actual snuggles while I keep myself warm wrapped up in merch samples (because all I managed to pack for five rainy UK weeks is one leather jacket), eating baked beans for breakfast. Actually, this isn't a problem - I think baked beans for breakfast is genius, but what I wouldn't give for one blast of Santa Ana winds.

Black-Eyed Pea Chili
serves everyone forever
slightly adapted from Michael Symon's Live to Cook via The Amateur Gourmet

1 T. ground coriander
1 T. sweet smoked paprika
1 t. ground cumin
4 lb. pork cheeks or pork shoulder, cleaned, trimmed, and cubed
salt and pepper, to taste
4 T. extra-virgin olive oil
12 oz. bacon, thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and very finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and finely diced
1 12-oz. bottle amber ale or porter
2 c. chicken stock
1 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes, with their juice
2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
1 small cinnamon stick

1. In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika, and cumin and toss with the pork. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

2. In a large enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add only as much pork as will fit in one layer to fully brown all sides. Repeat with the remaining pork, if necessary. Transfer back to the bowl.

3. Add the bacon to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and slightly crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos, and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

4. Return the pork cheeks to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles, black-eyed peas, and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil.

5. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours.

6. Season the chili with salt and pepper. Spoon off the fat from the surface and discard the cinnamon stick. Serve the chili in bowls. Garnish with your favorite chili accoutrements - sour cream, cheddar cheese, green onions, etc.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

i must leave you for a little while


Easter is my Spring Thanksgiving. I'm not sure that anything makes me happier than being completely consumed by preparing food for a dozen friends (and one baby - although, technically, I only provided a banana for baby Wyatt's avocado-banana mash, which may or may not be my own breakfast tomorrow).

I was particularly bossy in planning this Easter - it's the last time I get to cook for about 6 weeks, so I only allowed folks to bring booze (and did they ever!).

I have to say - this Easter was brought to you by Pinterest. There were a couple things that would normally be too cutesy for me to make (honeydew fruit basket, baked potato eggs), and usually these are the kinds of things that only end in disaster, as I firmly believe most of the cutest things on Pinterest must undergo some heavy Photoshopping.

But in any case, I discovered the trick for not overfilling and completely destroying the baked potato eggs. It does require separating the whites and the yolk, but saving myself the frustration of overflowing eggs was well worth the extra step.

Baked Potato Eggs
serves 12

12 large Russet potatoes
olive oil, salt and pepper for baking
3 T. butter, cut into 12 even pieces
12 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rub the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, and wrap each potato in a square of aluminum foil. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, then let cool completely. I highly recommend doing this the night before.

2. When the potatoes are completely cool, lay each one on it's flattest side, and cut off the top 1/2-inch of each potato. Scoop out the insides of the potatoes, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell all around. Place a small piece of butter in the bottom of each potato bowl. Reserve the potato insides for mashed potatoes for dinner.

3. Working with one egg at a time, separate the whites from the yolk. Gently drop the yolk first into the potato bowl, and then fill the potato with the egg white, stopping about 1/4-inch from the top. Repeat with all of the eggs.

4. Bake the eggs in a 425-degree oven until the whites are set. Serve with your favorite baked potato accoutrements.

Yet another egg recipe - more appetizer than main course. The texture is a little odd because of all the ricotta and Parmesan - a little gritty, and a lot squishy, but it's an excellent vehicle for carrying smoked salmon in your mouth if you choose to top off a square. It's got great spring-time flavors with the peas and mint, but I really can't imagine having a whole slice for breakfast.

Spring Pea + Ricotta Torte
slightly adapted from Food52

1 T. butter
1 shallot, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 c. shelled peas
salt
1/4 c. water or chicken stock
1 c. whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. finely chopped fresh mint
1 t. black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8"x8" baking dish with foil, and grease the foil.

2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, one minute. Add the peas and salt to taste; sauté briefly to coat. Add water or stock. Cook until peas are tender and liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

3. Transfer half of the peas to the bowl of a food processor, and purée. Add the ricotta, and pulse to blend. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Transfer to a bowl.

4. Whisk in the sour cream and Parmesan. Stir in the remaining peas, mint, and black pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven until edges are golden brown and center is puffed and cooked through, about 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

And yet another egg dish, as our resident omelette maker, Greg, is still laid up in ACL surgery recovery-land. And truly, any excuse to have pasta for breakfast is one I will take. It's one of my favorite dishes at Hugo's - sort of carbonara-like, but not saucy. It makes it slightly more appropriate for breakfast that you can see the eggs.

Pasta Mama
slightly adapted from Hugo's Restaurant
serves 8

1 lb. farfalle
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
3 oz. kale, thinly sliced
6 eggs, beaten
2 T. minced parsley

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the farfalle to al dente, drain, and set aside.

2. In a skillet large enough to hold the pasta, cook the bacon until lightly golden. Add the kale, and saute until wilted.

3. Add the drained pasta, and the eggs, and cook until the eggs are dry, stirring constantly. Serve with parsley garnish.

And now, the sweets. I'm not a huge fan of making cinnamon rolls because there's never enough time to wait for dough to rise most mornings, but it's well worth it for special occasions. I followed the suggestion of letting the final rise happen overnight in the fridge, but I don't feel it rose quite as well, so next time, I'll allow for even more time for all the rising to happen on top of my stove, where it's nice and cozy-warm.

This espresso dough is absolutely divine - in fact, I wonder if I can repurpose it for bread when I don't want to go the Nutella filling route. Not that there's a single thing wrong with the Nutella filling, but I think it would be equally good as a slice slathered with a little cream cheese for a more casual breakfast.

Nutella Espresso Rolls
from Pastry Affair

For the dough:
1/2 c. milk, barely warmed
2 T. butter, melted
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 T. instant coffee
3 T. sugar
1 large egg
2 c. all-purpose flour


For the filling:
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1 t. instant coffee
1/2 c. Nutella


1. In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the barely warm milk and melted butter and allow to sit about 5-10 minutes until the mixture is frothy. Mix in the intant coffee, sugar, and egg. Gradually add in the flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable; however, do not add too much flour or the bread will become dense.

2. Turn out the dough on a lightly-floured surface and knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, or until elastic. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 2 hours.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and espresso powder.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to an 11- by 15-inch rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the Nutella, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges Sprinkle on the brown sugar mixture. From the longer end, roll the dough very tightly until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the dough and cut the log into 1 1/2-inch segments.

5. Place the rolls into a 10-inch round pan. Cover and allow the dough to rise until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden. Serve hot.

And while the rolls were quite enough sweets for the morning, knowing that this brunch would go into the late hours of the afternoon meant brunch dessert was required. And since I'm skipping town in the midst of my garden positively exploding, I thought I'd use up a couple carrots. Including these two naughty ones:


Winning Facebook comments include:
- "That explains where baby carrots come from."
- "It's just a carrot piggyback ride, mind out of the gutter people!"
- "Carrot sutra."

I mean, I honestly nearly screamed when I pulled that out of the dirt at about 11p last night. Really not what I was expecting.

But whatever needed to happen to make this cake happen works for me. It's a light and almost crumbly little thing, with a lovely almond and lemon perfume. It's nothing at all like your traditional carrot cake, all rich and buttery with holiday flavors, but if that's appropriate for a fall holiday like Thanksgiving, then this cake is the Easter equivalent.

I made an awful-looking ricotta-based frosting for this (thank you, sliced almonds, for covering up the mess), so I won't bother you with the recipe - just use your favorite cream cheese or buttercream frosting to dress it up.

Carrot Almond Cake
from Sassy Radish

4 T. butter, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 c. almond meal
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3/4 c. + 2 T. sugar, divided
1 1/4 c. unbleached cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. fine sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 t. almond extract
scant 2 c. finely grated carrots

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the 4 T. of butter and set it aside to cool.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, lemon zest, 2 T. sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat together the eggs and the remaining 3/4 c. sugar on high speed until pale, foamy, glossy, and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining flour mixture and the almond extract, incorporating it until well mixed. Pour the cooled melted butter over the batter and then, quickly, fold it in. Fold in the carrots.

4. Scrape the batter into a greased 9-inch pan, smooth over the top, and place the cake in the center of the oven. Lower the heat to 350 degrees, and bake until the cake is springy to the touch in the center, lightly browned, and is beginning to pull away rom the sides of the pan, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely in its pan. Serve with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

Friday, April 11, 2014

to make it better


This beautiful Friday morning thinks it's Monday. I had to drop off my car at the repair shop because the suspension has gotten so bad I can't hear myself text over it. Then, home for last-minute expense itemizations for my tax appointment. And then, about an hour after I had left my trainer's gym, I realized my shorts were on both inside-out and backwards.

Honestly. The only antidote to this day is Peanut Butter Waffles. They smell more peanut butter-y than they taste, but there were delicious bites occasionally where the blender hadn't done that great of a job combining the peanut butter with the rest of the ingredients. Because of that, I think I'd use crunchy peanut butter next time just to get more bits of flavor in.

Peanut Butter Waffles
from Martha Stewart
makes 6 waffles


1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 T. creamy peanut butter
2 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
sliced bananas and maple syrup, for serving

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a blender, blend the melted butter and peanut butter until smooth, 1 minute. Add the buttermilk and eggs, and blend until combined, 1 minute. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until batter is combined.

2. Brush waffle iron with butter and pour in 3/4 c. batter. Cook until waffles are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer waffles to rack in low oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter. Serve with bananas and maple syrup.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

it doesn't get better than this



A couple weeks ago, a boys' weekend ski trip ended in our good buddy's torn ACL. An ACL that was finally surgically repaired this morning before the sun came up.

After I dropped Greg off at the hospital, I hit the gym to make up for what I was about to do. Make this Chorizo Mac + Cheese for the boys' dinner since I knew I was going to be working late tonight.

It's been a long time since I've gone into hyperbole about a mac and cheese, but all that hyperbole was waiting for was this. It's all pretty straightforward here - spicy, flavorful chorizo and nearly 2 pounds of cheese - but somehow completely perfect. You 100% cannot go wrong. It makes everything better, and bonus - will put you in a food coma even if you've over-caffeinated your Hump Day like I did today.

Chorizo Mac + Cheese
slightly adapted from The Amateur Gourmet
serves 8

1 lb. penne
1/2 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo
4 oz. Cotija cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 c. milk
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 lb. extra sharp cheddar, shredded

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and return to pot.

2. Squeeze the chorizo out of their casings and break into bite size pieces. Cook the chorizo in a large pan until well browned, about 10 minutes. Mix the chorizo and Cotija cheese in with the drained pasta, and set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

4. In the same pan you used to cook the chorizo, melt the butter. Add the flour, and stir until a light-brown roux is created. Add the milk, and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens enough to evenly coat the back of a spoon. Add the cheddar in large handfuls, stirring until melted before adding the next batch. Reserve about 1 c. of cheese for topping.

5. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, and stir all around to coat. Top with the reserved cheddar. Bake for 25 minutes or until crispy brown on top. Allow the dish to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

lots of herb



This photo makes me incredibly happy. It incorporates all of my favorite things in life:
- dinner parties
- basil
- mint
- a theme

Not pictured: our pretty friends Kathryn and Leslie, and Leslie's Frenchie puppy, aka Duchess' new boyfriend. I mean:


I'm surprised we managed to get any work done with all of the cuteness going on around us. I can barely finish this post - I can't stop staring at the pups.

But work we did - a massive meal that really should have involved at least 4 other people to help eat. Kathryn came up with a theme of basil and mint, and I went to town menu planning.

Clockwise from top:

Kale Salad with Avocado Basil Dressing
The garden is completely overrun. We're alternating between kale, spinach and lettuce for dinner just to keep up. This salad dressing called for the kale - really assertively tart, but rich from the avocado. 

Pesto Carbonara
I used to call it Creamy Pesto Pasta, but Pesto Carbonara is more accurate and descriptive. But, a rose by any other name... One of my favorite things on the planet. Made better with homemade pasta. 

Shiso-Pork Belly Rice Balls
slightly adapted from Nippon Nin
makes 20 rolls

1 1/2 c. cooked sushi rice
1 lb. thinly sliced pork belly, about 20 2x4-inch strips
10 shiso leaves, halved lengthwise
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. mirin
1 T. rice vinegar

1. Lay half a shiso leaf on a slice of pork belly. Place 1 T. cooked rice at the short end, and roll up. Repeat with all of the pork belly.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet at medium heat. Place the rolled up rice balls seam-side down in the skillet. Brown in batches. about 45 seconds per side.

3. If a lot of fat has rendered, remove the pan from heat, and blot dry with a paper towel. 

4. Combine the soy sauce, mirin and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Turn the heat back on then pour in the sauce. Gently roll the meat wrapped rice to coat all over. Cook until the sauce is almost evaporated. Serve immediately.

Although they were beautiful, I'd have to say the rice balls were the most disappointing. My main gripe was the lack of flavor, which is shocking considering that bacon and shiso are so flavorful on their own. However, this was just natural pork belly and not actually delightfully salty bacon, and the soy-mirin sauce couldn't stand up to the ball of rice in the middle. I would suggest seasoning the rice aggressively first, and then just worry about using the sauce to season the outside.


Crostini with Peas, Mint + Burrata
slightly adapted from Epicurious
serves 4-6 as an appetizer

12 slices of baguette bread
1/2 garlic clove
1 c. fresh or frozen peas, thawed
salt to taste
2 T. olive oil
2 balls of burrata
torn mint
a few drops of balsamic vinegar

1. Toast the bread and rub with garlic clove.

2. Blanch the peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 2 minutes for fresh peas and 1 minute for frozen.

3. Drain peas; transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Season with kosher salt and extra-virgin olive oil, and process to a rough puree.

4. Spread about 1 T. of the mixture over each toast. Garnish with burrata, torn mint, and a few drops of balsamic vinegar.

I think we could have all made an entire meal out of this crostini. The peas were so light and fresh, and even though the burrata holds all of the calories in the world, each bite was worth every one of those calories.

Minted Braised Lamb Shanks
slightly adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising
serves 4-6

4 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. each
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. coarse salt
6-7 oz. fresh mint, about 4 cups packed leaves, plus extra for garnish
7 c. water
2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 c. dry white wine or dry white vermouth

1. If the shanks are covered with a tough, parchment-like outer layer, trim this away by inserting a thin knife under it to loosen and peel back the layer. Remove any excess fat as well, but don’t peel off any of the thin membrance – this holds the shanks together and will melt down during braising. Put the shanks in a non-reactive bowl or deep dish.

2. Pluck the mint leaves and tender stems from the bunches and wash and drain them. Combine the mint, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add ½ cup water and process to a coarse puree. Pour the mint puree over the lamb. Add the remaining 6 ½ cups water to cover the shanks completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 days. Give the shanks a stir once during brining to ensure that they brine evenly.

3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

4. Remove the shanks from the brine and pat dry on paper towels; never mind if there are bits of mint stuck to the lamb. Strain the brine, reserving the mint puree. Save 1 cup of the brine, discarding the remainder.

5. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the lamb shanks and brown them on all sides, about 8 minutes total. Add the shallots, and let them brown for 1 minute.

6. Pour in the reserved mint puree, reserved brine and the wine. Stir as best as you can to spread the mint around, and bring to a boil. Cover the pot with parchment paper, pressing down so the paper nearly touches the lamb, and the edges of the paper extend about an inch over the pot. Set the lid in place, slide the pot onto a rack in the lower third of the oven, and braise for an hour. Turn the shanks and continue braising until the shanks are fork-tender and pulling away from the bone, another hour to hour and a half.

7. Remove the shanks to a large platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan, discarding the solids. Skim off the surface fat, and if the liquid is not salty enough, boil to reduce. Serve with shanks.

Matty declared this the best lamb he'd ever had. The meat was incredibly tender, and the mint really balanced the gamey-ness well. Mint is such an expected pairing with lamb, but this version, with the mint braised right in with the meat, was subtle but effective. 

We meant to end the night with a mint ice cream pie, but we were all over-stuffed. I only managed to sneak the teeniest spoonful of ice cream after the gals (and Griz) left.  (Who am I kidding? I had a whole bowlful. There's always room for ice cream).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

i need something more


Winter in LA was exactly 4 days long this year. The exact 4 days we visited Matty's parents for his dad's birthday. In the Florida Keys. Where I basically lived in a bikini, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding, aka basically drifting down to Cuba.

That was a week ago, and frankly, I was a little sad to have missed the LA rain. So when I heard it was going to dip into the 50's (gasp) tonight, I tried to conjure up winter with this very warming meal.

It's really more risotto than porridge - I imagine even more so once in leftover form. And it's quite good - flavors are there, and there is something vastly satisfying about making your own curry - but if this was actually winter, I'd want something a little more solid with it. Some poached chicken or shrimp would be ideal.

Green Curry Porridge
slightly adapted from 101 Cookbooks
serves 6-8

2 T. olive oil
2 T. fresh lemongrass, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. ground coriander
1 3/4 c. uncooked brown rice
5 c. water
4 t. salt
1 14-oz. can full-fat coconut milk
1 T. minced ginger, peeled
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 c. cilantro, plus more for serving
1/2 c. green onion tops (reserve the bottoms for serving)
1 c. spinach
2 T. lime juice
12 oz. cubed butternut squash

1. Combine the olive oil, lemongrass, garlic, coriander and rice in a large pot. Stir constantly until the rice kernels are toasted and fragrant, 7-10 minutes. Add the water, slowly and while stirring. Stir in 2 t. of the salt, and let the soup simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until the rice has cooked through and many of its grains have burst.

2. In the meantime, combine the coconut milk, ginger, jalapeno, cilantro, green onion tops, spinach, lime juice and remaining 2 t. of salt in a blender. Blend until smooth, then taste and adjust, if needed. Add the herbed coconut milk, along with the squash, to the porridge. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.

3. To serve, ladle the porridge into bowls and top each with chopped green onion, a small heap of chopped cilantro, and a wedge of lime.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

it's so easy, it's so right


Last-minute dinner guests, listen up. This is what I'll be feeding you from here on out. Nothing simpler, nothing finer. Nutty brown butter sweetened up by my favorite tomatoes, Kumato, poured over perfectly seared salmon, and a delightful plate or arugula. It's sauce, it's dressing, it's perfect.

Salmon with Arugula + Tomato-Anchovy Brown Butter
slightly adapted from Suzanne Goin's The A.O.C. Cookbook
serves 2

2 8-oz. fillets of salmon
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 T. thyme leaves
2 T. parsley
2 oz. arugula
2 T. olive oil
4 T. butter
1 lb. kumato tomatoes, seeded and diced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Season the salmon with the lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Set aside.

2. Divide the arugula between two plates.

3. In a skillet large enough to fit all the tomatoes in one layer, melt the butter. Cook over medium-heat until browned. Add the tomatoes, and turn off the heat. Set aside.

4. In a clean skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the salmon, skin side down for 4 minutes, then flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

5. Top the arugula with the salmon, and then pour over the tomato-anchovy brown butter. Serve immediately.