Monday, June 4, 2012

Simple-fancy salad

Hi! I'm back! I've been busy with a new job and new house, but I'm back to working on this blog more frequently.

Let's begin with dinner tonight: roasted beets and pears with baby spinach, pickled red onions, minced dried and reconstituted figs, and herbed goat cheese.

I'm trying really hard to plan out my food for the week--this means planning dinner with ingredients I have already and/or need to use up and packing lunches. I'm doing alright at it. Last week I made a great pizza from scratch using up some of my canned goods and yeast, but I had leftover veggies to incorporate into this week's meals.

I bought goat cheese to eat with crackers and tomatoes at work as well as spinach to go on the pizza, but I haven't finished either. Inspired by a salad I had last Friday night at a restaurant in SF, I decided to not only use up ingredients already on hand, but to also make something I hadn't before. That's another thing I'm really working on: making new things. I want to be inventive with whatever I buy and be experimental. All of this led to the salad above: I had some of the ingredients and I've never roasted beets or rehydrated any fruit!

Besides the obviously awesome bit about using up ingredients on hand, I liked this salad because it didn't require making a dressing. I'm getting better at making dressings from scratch, but I always end up with too much so I tend to try to avoid them. In this dish, though, I roast the beets and pears with a little bit of olive oil, and pickle the onions in apple cider and red wine vinegar, so that plus the figs and goat cheese gives it more than enough moisture, flavor, acid, and creaminess.

Simple-Fancy Salad
(I've named it this because it's simple to make--time-consuming, but easy, and fancy because the ingredients make me feel fancy!)

-2 small beets
-1 dried mission fig
-1/4 red onion chopped into smallish pieces or thinly sliced
-1/2 c tightly packed baby spinach (or more to taste)
-2 bosc pears, thinly sliced
-olive oil
-red wine vinegar
-apple cider vinegar
-herbed goat cheese (I really love that "Silver" brand from TJs that comes in a log)

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven to 425.
2. Wash and peel the beets, halve and quarter the halves (each beet should be in 8 pieces).  Place pieces on double layer of tin foil and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Squish the foil around the beets to make a little packet. Roast for about 1 hour-1 1/2 hours.

3. Peel the pears and thinly slice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast for 20-30 mins or until very tender and starting to brown.

4. Meanwhile, slice the onion. Place in a shallow bowl and cover with half cider vinegar and half red wine vinegar to just cover the onions. Let pickle while prepping everything else.

5. Heat water to boiling. Once it's boiling, pour over the mission fig until the fig is covered and let stand until the water cools.

6. Put the spinach in a bowl and tear into bite-sized pieces, if you feel so inclined.

7. The pears will be done first, so take them out and let them cool in the pan. Next, get the beets out. They're done when they can be easily pierced with a fork. Dump them out of the tinfoil onto a cutting board and continue to let them cool. Roughly chop both into bite-sized pieces.


8. Add beets and pears to bowl w spinach, drain the fig, mince, and sprinkle on top, drain the onions and  scatter on top, and finally, crumble goat cheese on top. Finish with salt and pepper and toss.

The pears will turn pink and it will be just lovely!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Baked buttermilk chicken with roasted potatoes and shallot-green beans

I love this dinner because it's really easy and relatively quick to prepare, yet looks much more impressive! Thank you Smitten Kitchen for the chicken recipe. You prep the chicken the night or day before and the potatoes and veggies don't take long at all. I especially liked this meal because I had most of the ingredients on hand. Even if you don't happen to have frozen chicken thighs in your freezer, shallots on hand, and fresh herbs from your garden, the ingredient list is pretty minimal and infinitely adaptable.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken
barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen


-2 cups buttermilk
-6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
-1 T salt
-1 T granulated sugar
-1 1/2 t paprika, plus extra for sprinkling (I think I used a little bit more, actually)
-pepper to taste (in in this case, to smell)
-2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs. I just kinda guessed here and used maybe 10-12 legs

1. Whisk together buttermilk, garlic, salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper in a bowl.

2. Place chicken parts in a gallon-sized freezer bag (I used a lidded pyrex container) and pour buttermilk brine over them, then swish it around so that all parts are covered. Refrigerate overnight.

3. The next day, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with a little bit more paprika.

4. Roast for 30 minutes, until brown and a bit scorched in spots.

The potatoes can be infinitely adapted. I used rosemary and thyme since I happen to have both on hand, but you could use chives, oregano, basil, etc. I also happen to love rosemary with potatoes as a rule.
For the potatoes:

-3 springs rosemary, or more/less to taste
-2-3 t olive oil
-3 sprigs thyme
-salt and pepper
-1 1/2 lbs small potatoes *Note: any potatoes will work, just make sure they're all about the same size so that they cook at the same speed.

1. Preheat the oven to 375. Finely chop the herbs. Wash and dry the potatoes.

2. Combine potatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, and oil in a baking dish and toss to coat all.

3. Bake for 20-30 min or until tender and skin starts to wrinkle slightly.

For some reason I don't eat green beans all that often, although I really like them. This is one of my favorite simple ways to make them. Additionally, someone in my family bought a ton of shallots at some point, so we always have them on hand. I think they're an easy way to glam up an otherwise-average dish.

Green Beans with Shallots:

-1-2 lbs green beans
-2 shallots, finely chopped
-salt and pepper to taste
-oil to coat pan
-splash of white wine
-splash of water (if needed)
-splash of red wine vinegar

1. Rinse, dry, and chop green beans into bite-sized pieces.

2. Heat a pan over medium heat, add oil just to coat pan. Add shallots and then green beans. Add a splash of white wine and cover.

3. Check on the beans frequently, tossing often and adding water or wine if they start to stick too much to the pan.

4. When the beans are just about done, take the lid off and let the liquid evaporate. When they're done, toss with a splash of red wine vinegar and transfer to a bowl or serve immediately.

Rewind: Christmas Dinner, Main Course!

I realized that the last post would have been way too long if I also explained the main course so it gets its own post. That's how awesome this roast is!

I've only made one other roast besides this one ever, so the complexity and length of the recipe shouldn't scare you! I started it the day before to save me some time and headache, and the actual cooking on Christmas Day was really easy. The one thing that I wish the recipe had told me was: make sure you have a helper! Turning a stuffed roast to wrap with prosciutto and tie is basically impossible to do with two hands. Luckily I have a helpful and handy Dad.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Loin With Roasted Apples

For the Filling:
  • -1 ounce (1 cup) dried whole porcini mushrooms (whole foods has them)
  • -3/4 cup fresh apples, chopped
  • -1 pound kale, bottom stems trimmed
  • -salt and pepper to taste
  • -2 T unsalted butter
  • -1 cup minced onion
  • -1 T finely minced garlic
  • -1 1/2 t dried thyme or a few small stocks of fresh thyme, chopped
  • -1 medium sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • -2 T Calvados (or 1 1/2 T brandy+1/2 T hard cider)
  • -1 pound ground pork

For the Pork:

-1 (trimmed) 2-2 1/2 lb. pork loin, butterflied (get your butcher to do this for you!)

  • -salt and pepper to taste
  • -3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • -5 sprigs rosemary
  • -4 medium apples (such as Granny Smith or Fuji), quartered, or 8 small apples, halved. I used 5 smaller apples I think.
  • -3 T unsalted butter, divided
  • -2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • -1 cup dry hard cider
  • -1/2 cup low-salt chicken stock

To Make the Filling:

1. Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water. Let mushrooms soak until very soft, about 30 minutes. Strain mushrooms. Cover and chill soaking liquid (about 3/4 cup). Finely chop mushrooms and set aside.

  • 2. Blanch kale in boiling water just until wilted, about 1 minute. Using tongs, transfer kale to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until cool. Remove any large, tough ribs. I used two baking sheets to spread them out in a thinner layer.

  • 3. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly golden. Add apples and cook until they begin to soften. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and rosemary; cook for 1 minute. Add brandy/cider and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool completely.

    4. Add ground pork and stir to combine well. *Note: make sure previous mixture is completely cool. In my case, I made everything up to the point where I added the ground pork, but it in the fridge, and went to Christmas Eve dinner. When I got home, I added the ground pork and returned to the fridge over night.

To Make the Pork:

1. Unroll the meat, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap, and, using a meat mallet, pound to an even thickness.

  • 2. Uncover pork and season with salt and pepper. Place kale leaves on top of loin in an even layer, overlapping as needed and leaving a 1" border. I felt like I had a bit more kale than I should have but it worked out perfectly in the end. Spread filling on top of kale.

    3. (Get someone to help here) Roll pork into a tight cylinder. Wrap one layer of prosciutto around roast. Tie roast securely with kitchen twine in 1" intervals. Tuck rosemary sprigs under twine, spacing apart.

    *Note: I did this first thing in the morning, and put it back in the fridge until I was an hour away from cooking it.

    4. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut the apples and put them in a roasting pan.

    5. Melt 1 Tbsp. butter with oil in a large skillet and brown pork on all sides, about 5 minutes total. You aren't cooking the pork, just browning the prosciutto to give it more flavor.

    6. Put the pork on top of the apples in pan. Add cider and 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Pour mixture into roasting pan.

    7. Roast pork until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of loin registers 140° (it will be cooked medium but still slightly pink), about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let roast rest for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours.

    8. Put roast on a platter or cutting board and put apples from roasting pan in another bowl. Spoon off the fat from the juices in pan and discard. Pour off the rest of the liquid and scrape any bits stuck to the bottom into a pan on the stove over medium-high heat and add the chicken stock. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain sauce.

    9. Serve pork with apples and gravy.

    I also served mine with the roasted red onions, a simple spinach salad with pickled red onions, root veggie anna (thinly slice potaotes, celery root, and turnip, layer in a cake pan with butter and rosemary and cook at 400 for about an hour), and cresent rolls (my brother and I are addicted).

Rewind: Christmas Dinner

I got to make Christmas dinner this year! For me, that is a good thing. Since it was just me, my brother, and my parents, it was the perfect time to try something fancier since I was only cooking for four.

We started off the day with stockings and brunch, and then opened the rest of our presents. I started cooking and getting everything organized. We then had a sit-down appetizer of cracked crab around 4 or 5. This was a tradition that I guess my mom's family had done, and my brother thought it sounded really cool, so we figured we'd go for it this year.

My Dad's bday is in December too, so my brother and I got him this beer with an assortment of edible goodies and he waited til my brother came home for Christmas to open it (brother works/lives in NY). And yes, we each got him beer glasses from our respective colleges.

My brother's only task was to crack the crab. He did a very excellent job.

We had the crab with little bowls of shallot-butter sauce and cocktail sauce for dipping and Anchor's Christmas beer. Such a fun thing to do! Not only do people not have the chance to fill up on chips and snacks, it's an unusual enough dish that it made the evening feel extra-special.

I'd started the pork the night before, so my first plan of attack was the roasted red onions.

A friend of mine told me about this recipe from Not Without Salt which is apparently also adapted from Bon Apetit

-5 T extra-virgin olive oil
-1/4 c pomegranate molasses or syrup. I couldn't find the molasses so I went with a syrup which worked perfectly.
-2 T red wine vinegar
-1 T minced fresh rosemary
-salt and pepper to taste
-5 medium red onions, peeled, each cut into 8 wedges through core, with some core still attached to each piece.

1. Preheat to 425°F. Line a pyrex baking dish sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk all but the onions together in a large bowl, add onions and toss. Arrange onions close together in the pan and pour the rest of the juices from the bowl over.

3. Roast 20 minutes and carefully turn onions over. Continue to roast onions until tender and thickly coated with glaze, 20 to 25 minutes longer. If they start to get too brown, cover loosely with foil.

4. Remove when tender and cool slightly. These can be served at room temp.

-2/3 c fresh pomegranate seeds
-1 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
-2 t finely grated orange peel

Combine all in a bowl and toss together. Sprinkle on the onions once they're cooked.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rewind: Christmas Day Breakfast

This year I got to make all of Christmas dinner. This might not sound quite so exciting to some people, but I was really happy. We always do a big multi-family Christmas Eve event, and this year it was just my parents, myself, and my brother for Christmas dinner, so I figured it was the perfect time to try cooking it all.

Our family always starts with stockings and then breakfast once we've opened them. My brother and I have gorgeous stockings that my mom adds buttons to every year (yes, still). This year my brother and I decided that it was about time our parents got stockings too. They loved them!

I'd found Shutterbean's recipe for spiced orange popovers recently, and remembered that I'd found a cast iron popover pan last time I was at my Grandma's. I figured it was the perfect brunch item to make.

They're popping! So exciting to watch this happen.

Here's the recipe:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk (and def use whole--I read up on this and the fat in the milk apparently helps the consistency or something)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (I usually do a little less)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or a pinch. I can never be bothered to measure salt)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil*

*Note: I have a popover pan with eleven cups...yeah I dunno. I guess it's a normal thing. We tried to figure this out. Anyway, I put about a 1/4 t of oil in each and it worked perfectly.

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Blend the eggs, milk, flour, melted butter, salt and vanilla in a blender until smooth. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

2. While the batter is resting, measure 1/4 t of oil into each cup (or more if you have the bigger 8-cup pans). After the batter has rested for 20 minutes, put the pan in the oven to heat the oil for 10 minutes.

3. After the pan has been heating for 10 min and the batter resting for 1/2 an hour, pour the batter straight into the hot pan, dividing between the cups.

4. Bake for 20 minutes (don’t open the oven door) until golden brown on top. Turn out on a rack and let cool. They're really steamy inside so be wary.

For the orange cinnamon clove sugar topping:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

This made more than I needed but I wasn't complaining. It's amazing.

1. Mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and orange zest in a small bowl.

2. Brush each popover all over with the 1/4 cup of melted butter, then roll it around in the sugar mixture. Apparently they're especially awesome with coffee.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rewind: Christmas Eve

Yes, I'm behind. But these recipes are worth it!

Last year, I received a massive hardbound copy of Bon Appetit Desserts. It is is also dangerous because everything in it looks amazing.

My parents hosted my dad's Christmas party and my way of "helping out" was to make desserts. Actually, I lied. Not desserts, but sweet appetizers since we weren't serving dinner and thus could not serve dessert (which implies dinner)...sure, Dad.

I made a double recipe of truffles, not realizing how much I'd made. They came in handy though, since we gave them to neighbors, took them to parties, and brought them to Christmas Eve.

Chocolate-Honey-Lime Truffles
*Note: I do not really like fruit with chocolate. I love both individually, but see no need to combine them. This recipe is an exception. Also, we have a lime tree in our backyard and can never use up the limes quickly enough, so I'm always on the lookout for new lime recipes.

-1 1/2 t lime zest, divided
-2/3 c sugar
-1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
-15 oz bittersweet or semi sweet choc (I used a combo and did my best to get close to 15 oz because that's just tricky)
-1 c heavy whipping cream
-1/4 fresh lime (I added a bit more to really punch up the flavor)
-1/4 c honey
-6 T butter at room temp

1. Finely chop 1 t lime zest and combine with sugar in a bowl, mushing with fingers until combined and moist. Add cocoa and spread on baking sheet. Let dry at room temp 1 day. *Note: I didn't do this. I made it first and then made the truffles and it was fine. Also it made way more than I needed.

2. Put chocolate in a bowl. Put remaining lime zest and cream in a pan and bring just to a boil on medium heat. Cover and set aside 10 min. Uncover and return to a boil, then pour warm mixture over chocolate, let stand 30ish seconds, and whisk til chocolate is smooth.

3. In a small pan combine honey and lime juice. Stir over low heat til honey melts/everything's warm.

4. Stir honey/lime juice into chocolate mixture. Add butter a few T at a time, stirring until the ganache is smooth. You may not use all of the butter.

5. Cover until firm. *Note: It says "at least 4 hours or overnight" and I found 5 hours to not be enough so start this early.

6. Line some baking sheets w aluminum foil and scoop the ganache into lil balls, returning it to the freezer when it gets too warm. *Note: I used a small spoon and my hands. It was ridiculously messy, but at least I got the size and shape I wanted

7. Chill/freeze for about an hour and then roll in the lime zest mixture and eat all of them.

Chive-Lime Sweet Potatoes

Happy New Year!

Yes, it's Feb already and I'm so behind on this. Luckily, even though I haven't been blogging, I have been cooking.

Here's the first of a barrage of posts:

Chive-Lime Sweet Potatoes!

This is so easy and unexpectedly delicious.

Zest a lime, chop some chives, boil agave+lime juice, roast potatoes, mix. The end!

"Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Lime Syrup and Chives" discovered on the wide, wonderful world of Epicurious and slightly tweaked:

  • 3 1/2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 T agave
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 t lime zest
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh chives
  • oil to coat potatoes

  • 1. Preheat oven to 450°F and spread potatoes out in a casserole dish (or more pans as needed), sprinkle with salt n pepper, and oil to lightly coat.

    2. Roast for 15-30 min, depending on your oven. They should be tender when poked with a fork.

    3. While the potatoes cook, bring water, agave, and lime juice to a boil in a little saucepan, then simmer until reduced to a few Ts (3-5 min).

    4. Toss the the potatoes w the sauce, add the lime zest, and finish with the chives!