Friday, August 15, 2014

keep chuggin' along


Operation: Bell Pepper continues for tonight's dinner. I only got rid of two more - not every dinner can take up a dozen. I'm really starting to worry about what happens when I leave. He might have to open up a stand at the farmers market.

One pepper went into this Coconut Shrimp Ceviche - a dish that almost didn't happen. For some reason, it took forever for the shrimp to "cook" - my guess is that mixing the lime juice and coconut milk together lowered the acidity, thereby leaving the shrimp still a little more raw than I would have liked. Luckily, it was really great quality shrimp, and we like sashimi. In future, though, I would definitely just marinate the shrimp in pure lime juice until it was cooked, and then toss in everything else afterwards.

Coconut Shrimp Ceviche
slightly adapted from My Columbian Recipes
serves 4

1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp, cut into thirds
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 red onion, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 c. coconut milk
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, mix together the shrimp and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and opaque all the way through.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly to combine. Serve cold.

I served it on top of this delightful Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint. If I were a little less afraid of slicing my digits off whenever I peel/slice a mango, I would make this all the time. I'd go way heavier on both the cashews and the mint, but that's your call.

Mango Slaw with Cashews + Mint
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen
serves 8

2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
1 lb. Napa cabbage, sliced very thinly
1 bell pepper, julienned
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. fresh lime juice, from about two limes
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Sriracha, to taste
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. toasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1. Toss mangoes, cabbage, bell pepper, and onion in a large bowl. Add the lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and Sriracha, and toss to thoroughly combine.

2. Before serving, toss with mint leaves and sprinkle with cashews. Garnish with additional Sriracha, if desired.



And finally, for dessert - no, not bell peppers - an Apricot Buttermilk Pie that makes me exceedingly happy. It takes dried apricots, so you can have it year-round. Wonderful news for the traveler who will never be in the kitchen when her favorite stone fruits are in season.

I do wish the texture was a bit smoother. Perhaps, this is a job for the blender rather than the food processor. Will try again and report back.

Apricot Buttermilk Pie
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
makes one 9-inch pie

For the filling:
8 oz. dried apricots
1/2 c. hot water
2 T. Maker's Mark
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. lemon zest
3 large eggs
2 T. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
8 T. butter, melted until browned
1 c. buttermilk
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. pure vanilla extract

For the crust:
8 sheets phyllo dough
baking spray

1. Place the dried apricots in a small bowl. Pour hot water and bourbon over the apricots, and let sit for 5 minutes. Place the apricots (water and bourbon included) into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process for about 3 minutes until smooth. Set aside.

2. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, and whisk until thick and well combined. Add flour and salt, and whisk to combine. Add butter, and stir to incorporate. Add buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth. Fold the apricots into the pie filling. Set aside.

3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

4. Working quickly to prevent the phyllo sheets from drying out, alternate 8 sheets with a spritz of cooking spray, turning each sheet 45 degrees to make a fairly even border. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the pie is puffed up and the center no longer jiggles in waves. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate until ready to serve.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

doin' my job


My assignment for my week home was to help get through the bell peppers that are threatening to overtake our tiny garden. To be fair, the kale, now about as tall as I am, are definitely laying stake in their corner, but the sneaky thing about these peppers are that they're green, and just as you start thinking you've made a dent by collecting the dozen you need for dinner, your eyes adjust, and you realize your boyfriend is shit out of luck while you're on the road.

The original recipe only called for 4 peppers, but I don't know what kind of crazy GMO peppers you'd need to have to put all of that filling in only 4 peppers, but it took 12 homegrown ones to make it work.

While there's cheese on the pepper in the photo, I'm still trying to maintain a dairy-free life (except in Chicago - all the cheese gets eaten in Chicago), so I didn't use any cheese or sour cream in the filling. Instead, I used Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, which was wonderfully creamy, and (I like to think) better for you with the less fat and more protein elements.

This was so hearty and wonderful, with some of the heaviness offset by the cool kale salad. Trying to kill two garden-pruning birds with one stone.

Beef- and Rice-Stuffed Peppers
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
makes 12 peppers

For the sauce:
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 1/2 t. dark cocoa powder
1/4 t. ground cumin
1 c. pale ale
1 1/2 c. canned crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

For the peppers:
1 T. olive oil
1 lb.  ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 jalapeños, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. chili powder
2 c. cooked white rice
1 c. canned crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
salt and pepper, to taste
12 small (about 4 oz. each) bell peppers - tops sliced off, seeds and white membranes scooped out

1. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add oregano, chili powder, cocoa powder, cumin, and beer. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. Make the filling: Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add beef and cook, breaking it up into little bits, until cooked through. Add onion and jalapeños, stir to combine, and continue cooking until vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cumin, chili powder, rice, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Tofutti, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Continue cooking until filling is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from heat.

3. Arrange peppers in a baking dish standing upright like cups. Generously mound filling inside peppers and ladle sauce all over. Cover with foil and bake until peppers are tender, about 1 hour, removing foil during the last 15 minutes of cooking. Let peppers rest to 10 minutes, then serve.


Dessert, though, was a little disappointing. This is a delicious pound cake, but I was hoping for more bay flavor, especially since I promised this for my bay-loving friend Greg for his birthday. 

I was planning on making this cake last night, but quickly fell into my old habit of falling asleep on the couch watching Perry Mason, so the bay leaves steeped in the brown butter all night rather than just the required hour. Even then, I didn't feel the cake carried any of the flavor. It smelled lovely, but the taste just wasn't there. I'd make the cake again, but take out the descriptor to not lead anyone astray.

Bay Leaf Pound Cake
slightly adapt from 101 Cookbooks
makes one 9-inch cake

6 T. butter
10 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
3 large eggs
1/2 c. Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 t. vanilla extract

1. Brown the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add 3 of the bay leaves. Let steep for 1 hour.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Dab one side of the remaining 7 bay leaves with a little bit of butter and place the leaves, evenly spaced, on the bottom of the prepared pan, buttered side down.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, Tofutti, orange zest, and vanilla until combined. Whisk the bay leaf butter into the egg mixture.

4. With a spatula, gently stir the egg mixture into the dry mixture, just until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, being careful not to disturb the leaves. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, August 11, 2014

but now i'm back


Home again, home again. Time for the overachieving to kick in.

Cauliflower, prepared two ways. Seared salmon. Impromptu, but very seasonal, fruit crumble for dessert. A la mode, clearly.

Cauliflower - basically, if you see a crudite platter missing all of the pretty white florets, it means I've been there and cleared them out. Other than a sugar snap pea, there are few raw vegetables that make me quite as happy.

I'll take cauliflower roasted, too. But like a lot of vegetarian/vegan food, I've never been into it pretending to be something it's not. So I was a little skeptical at the idea of making both "couscous" and puree, which of course, the no- to low-carb folks call "mashed potatoes," out of cauliflower. I was also afraid it would taste like too much of the same thing, but was I ever wrong.

First of all, the cauliflower puree was shockingly good, and tasted exactly like potatoes. Think of how much richer they would be if I had used whole milk rather than almond milk. Shocking.

And then the cauliflower "couscous," which I could eat for the rest of my life. Some of it was the addition of pistachios and mint - this was almost more a coarse cauliflower pesto, but so light and fresh from the minimal olive oil and abundance of lemon juice.

Salmon with Cauliflower Puree + Minted Pistachio Cauliflower Couscous
slightly adapted from Leite's Culinaria
serves 6

For the couscous:
12 oz. cauliflower florets
1 c. roasted and salted shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
4 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. pistachio oil
salt, to taste

For the cauliflower puree:
12 oz. cauliflower florets
1 c. almond milk
2 T. butter
1 T. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

For the salmon:
6 3-oz. salmon fillets
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Place the cauliflower florets in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until they’re a couscous-like texture. Remove to a large bowl.

2. Place the pistachios and mint in the food processor and pulse to a bread crumb-like texture. Add to the cauliflower. Clean out the food processor and set aside.

3. Add the lemon juice and olive oil to the cauliflower-pistachio mixture, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the cauliflower and almond milk to a boil. Simmer until the cauliflower is very tender. Drain the cauliflower, reserving the milk. Place the cauliflower in the food processor, add the butter and lemon juice, and process until smooth, adding a little reserved milk if necessary to attain a purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm while you cook the fish.

4. Pat the fish dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat enough olive oil to coat the surface of a large skillet. Place the fish in the skillet, skin side down, and cook until crisp and golden, about 2 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook until the fish is opaque throughout, another 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.

5. To assemble, place a dollop cauliflower purée on each plate, top with cauliflower couscous, and place a fish fillet, skin side up, alongside.


And for dessert, Aprium Crumble, served with French vanilla ice cream, only because I forgot I stopped eating dairy. 

You see, I cut dairy a few weeks ago in an effort to a) manage my slight lactose intolerance, and b) help myself avoid the evils that usually come with a cream sauce or any dairy dessert. I've actually been pretty good about it. I didn't even cheat with a cheesesteak in Philly. But I hit Chicago, and consciously un-quit dairy - life is too short to not eat Garrett cheese popcorn and deep dish pizza. 

I got so used to my Chicago rules that I didn't even think twice topping my crumble with ice cream, and then proceeding to eat the fire out the whole thing. 

But even without ice cream, this will definitely be a seasonal party trick - just equal parts oats, flour and brown sugar, mixed together with some butter, all packed over whatever is delicious at the moment. I'm bummed I wasn't home for cherry season, but I think I'm going to check the farmers' market every time I'm home to pick the best fruit going, and hurry home to make this.

Aprium Crumble
serves 4

1/3 c. oats
1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
4 T. butter, diced
4 c. diced apriums

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Add the diced butter, and process with your hands until the butter is mostly incorporated.

3. Fill your ramekins about half way full with fruit. Add a small dollop of crumble, and fill the ramekins the rest of the way with the remaining fruit. Divide the crumble evenly between the ramekins.

4. Set the ramekins on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are browned. Let cool slightly, and serve warm.

Monday, July 28, 2014

i believe that's called al fresco


The 72-hour cooking marathon comes to an end tonight. I leave for the East Coast tomorrow afternoon (after fun things like laundry, packing and a consultation for the wisdom teeth extraction that I'll have to do on my next your break), and it's back to a mix of catering and tracking down The 35 Best Burritos in America.

We've spent a lot of time outside on this break. Can I show off a little?



So, it only made sense that our last meal (how dramatic) was an al fresco situation where we could admire our newly-found talent for succulent design.

These Lamb + Artichoke Kebabs are the best. So easy, and such a big return on time investment. While the lamb is marinating, you can make the aioli from scratch, which I didn't bother to do because I started panicking about my packing situation. Turns out putting mint and garlic in really good quality mayonnaise does the trick as well.

I basically made my kebabs into spiedies with some Trader Joe's garlic naan, which is more or less the best flatbread ever. A beautiful way to say goodbye to LA for a month.

Lamb + Artichoke Kebabs with Minted Aioli
slightly adapted from Food52
serves 3

For the kebabs:
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 T. white wine vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 T. fresh oregano, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 14 oz. cans of artichoke quarters, drained
1 1/3 lb. lamb top ground, cut into 1-inch cubes

For the aioli:
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves, minced
4 T. mayonnaise

flat bread

1. Combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic in a large bowl. Add lamb and artichokes, marinate for 1 hour. Thread artichokes and lamb onto 9 skewers.

2. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients for the aioli. Set aside.

3. Heat grill to high. Oil the cooking grate, using tongs and a wad of oiled paper towels. Grill kebabs, turning once, until meat and artichokes are browned, about 8 minutes. Serve with flat bread and aioli.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

mix it up


The 72-hour food parade continues with a Bourbon-Roasted Lobster dish I bookmarked way back before tour started. I've actually taken a food blog reading hiatus as well as a writing one - it would just be too painful to have so much inspiration and no kitchen in which to act upon it.

Due to some bit of poor planning on my part, I couldn't get enough thawed lobster to follow the recipe to the letter. That turned out for the best since adding scallops really made the dish even more special. Next time, I'd decrease the amount of scallops and add shrimp and/or mussels and clams for more visual interest.

This dish is pretty much perfect - changes are only to elevate it even further. The butter sauce is divine - all the aromatics mixed with the shellfish juices, and well, butter. I couldn't help but throw pasta into the mix to soak up all that sauce, but it would be equally good with some good bread for dipping.

Bourbon-Roasted Lobster + Scallops with Fresh Linguine
slightly adapted from Saveur
serves 3

12 oz. lobster tails, halved lengthwise
1 lb. sea scallops
3 T. canola oil
3 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. bourbon
1/4 c. dry white wine
6 T. butter, cubed
3 T. minced chives
salt and pepper, to taste
9 oz. fresh linguine

1. Heat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 T. oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Cook the lobster, shell side down, turning as needed, until the shells are bright red, about 1 minute.

4. Add remaining oil, the shallots, and garlic; cook until shallots and garlic are soft, 1–2 minutes. Add the scallops.

5. Add bourbon and, using a match, carefully ignite; cook until the flames subside, about 1 minute. Add wine and place pan in oven; bake for 5 minutes until lobster and scallops are cooked through. Transfer lobster and scallops to a large plate. Add the butter, chives, salt, and pepper to skillet and stir until butter is melted. Add the cooked pasta and toss to thoroughly coat. Return the lobster and scallops to the skillet and serve.

i'm coming home


Hello again, friends!

Home for 72 hours, and the first order of business was, obviously, to cook. However, being gone for 5 weeks meant the fridge, supervised by 2 boys, was in a dire straits.

Luckily, all these Shortbread Waffles required were flour, sugar, eggs and butter. They're serious - heavy, dense, and well, like a shortbread cookie. Not crumbly, but not the same soft inside/crispy outside you'd normally be used to in a waffle. Rich, sweet and the perfect way to kick off the day/early afternoon.

I only had two triangles. Any more would have rendered me incapacitated for the rest of the day, and there's more cooking to be done!

Shortbread Waffles
from Orangette
makes about 4 waffles

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 c. (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1. Sift the flour and sugar together into a large bowl.

2. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs with an electric beater until fluffy. Add the eggs to the flour-sugar mixture, and beat together until just combined. Add the butter, and mix until smooth. Do not overmix. The batter will be very thick.

3. Use an ice cream scoop—or a 1/3 cup measuring scoop—to dollop the batter onto a heated waffle iron. Cook until golden.


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.