Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Foolproof Fusilli: All Roads Lead to Pesto

This, my friends, is a don’t worry dish. As in: Don’t worry. It will all turn out just fine.

3 cups corkscrew pasta (best: Eden Organic Kamut spirals*)
3-inch piece green garlic or 1 medium clove garlic
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves**
¾ cups, rounded, coarsely grated Parmigiana Reggiano
A rounded ¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
1 medium leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and sliced into half rings
1 large zucchini, diced
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Slosh white wine
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved and sprinkled lightly with salt to draw out the flavor***
2-3 handfuls baby arugula****
Kosher salt


Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions (you might want to start it about midway through cooking the zucchini, below).

In a food processor,***** combine ¾ cups olive oil with the garlic, basil, parmesan, and pine nuts. Blend until smooth, try a bit, and adjust ingredients to taste if needed.

Saute the leek in olive oil till soft over medium low heat, about 8 minutes. Add zucchini, raise heat a bit, cook, stirring only occasionally, for 5-10 minutes (the time will depend on how big your dice is) until the zucchini is just tender. If it browns here and there, all the better.

When the zucchini is al dente, add the beans and a sprinkling of salt and stir to combine. Continue to cook, stirring, for another couple minutes, then add a splash of wine to keep it from drying out. Stir once or twice, fold in the tomatoes and about half of the pesto, and turn off the heat. Stir in the arugula.

After draining the pasta, toss with about two thirds of the remaining pesto (enough to lightly coat it). Serve into soup plates, top with the sauce, and serve immediately.******

*Not available in your area? Don’t worry. Any other corkscrew pasta will work just fine.
**Unexpected run on basil in your local grocery store? Don’t worry. Half parsley and half arugula. Trust me.
***Not available yet at your farmer’s market? Don’t worry. Dice a regular tomato or two instead.
****Forgotten in the cart/in the fridge/on the counter? Don’t worry. Tastes just fine without it.
*****Mysteriously misplaced? Don’t worry. Pulse in the blender.
******Guests stuck in traffic? Don’t worry. Leave covered in the pan on the stove. Or nuke in the microwave. Magic.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pasta with Braised Kale, Butter Beans, and Hazelnuts

This one is delightful. Butternut squash, braised kale, hazelnut, and Meyer lemon combine to produce blissful happiness. With undertones of healthy. But soft ones. Layered in goat cheese. Which are the best kind of undertones.

2 very rounded cups whole wheat corkscrew pasta
Olive oil
1 medium shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 bunch green kale, sliced crosswise into thin ribbons
Slosh of chicken broth
1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 - 1 cup diced roasted butternut squash
8-9 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced crosswise
Zest of 1/3 - 1/2 Meyer lemon
1-2 oz. hard goat cheese (like Drunken Goat), coarsely grated
About 10 toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.

Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté for a minute, then stir in the kale. Toss to coat, cover, and cook for about five minutes, stirring from time to time (it's okay if it browns here and there). Sprinkle with salt, add a slosh of broth, and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook per package instructions until al dente.

Meanwhile, add the beans and squash to the kale. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding another slosh of broth when it starts to dry out. Add the sage and lemon zest, stir, and turn off the heat.

Drain the pasta, toss it with the kale mixture, and sprinkle in the goat cheese. Stir once or twice before serving. Top with freshly ground black pepper and a light scattering of chopped hazelnuts.

Serves 2-3.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Toasted Prosciutto and Brie Sandwiches with Sauteed Pear and Thyme

In the mood for something decadent? Look no further. A perfect holiday sandwich. Or morning sandwich. Or evening sandwich. Anytime, really. Especially as an antidote to a gray wintry day.

For a variation on the theme, or if you can't get your hands on a pear that's even halfway ripe, sub sliced apple for the pear and add a pinch of lemon zest.

Ingredients (per person)
1/2 - 1 red or green d'Anjou pear, peeled, sliced, and cut lengthwise into 1/2" strips
1/2 tbsp butter (optional)
1/2 tsp honey
2-3 pinches minced fresh thyme
2 slices sourdough bread (like Village Bakery's walnut levain)
Several thin slices brie or triple-cream (like Cowgirl Creamery's blissfully decadent Mt. Tam)
2 slices prosciutto
1 small handful baby arugula
Olive oil

Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter (or sub olive oil, if you prefer), then add the pear and sauté, stirring, for 2-3 minutes. Add the honey and stir to coat, then sprinkle lightly with thyme. Continue cooking another minute or three until the pears are soft (they should bend easily). Remove from the heat and set aside.

Assemble your sandwich: Cover a slice of bread with slices of brie in a single layer, then the
prosciutto, your arugula, and finally the pear. Top with the second slice of bread.

Use a paper towel to wipe out your pan, then heat it over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil, then set your sandwich in to toast. When the bottom is golden brown (1-2 minutes), flip carefully and toast the other side as well.

Remove from the pan, cut in half if desired, and serve hot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sauteed Leeks and Carrots

Easy, different, and delectable.

Olive oil
2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned thoroughly, and sliced into half rings
1/2 - 1 bunch carrots, julienned
1 tbsp pastured butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When hot, add the leeks and a couple pinches of salt. Sauté for a minute, then turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes. Add the carrots and sauté for 5-10 minutes more until tender. Stir in the butter, salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serve warm.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fish Curry with Gypsy Peppers

The thing about wandering the streets of Paris in search of various foodie quests nominated by the brilliant Clothilde Dusoulier is that one must be prepared to carry back armfuls of freshly baked bread and goat cheese with pressed fig and brilliant red globes of plum tomatoes still on the vine. And, if you stumble into Goumanyat, spices. After gazing with deep longing at the saffron honey and sniffing every spice and pepper packed into their sniff bar, we left with a bag full of treasures, including the most amazing curry ever.

Seriously. The most amazing. Go to Paris and see. (I know. Such terrible homework assignments.)

Post Paris, come home and make this.

Olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped (about 4 tbsp)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated or minced ginger
2 spoonfuls of good-quality curry powder
4 gypsy peppers, sliced lengthwise into strips (or sub 2 bell peppers)
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thickly sliced
4 tbsp coconut milk
Chicken or veggie broth
About .6 lbs opah (moonfish), tilapia, or salmon

Heat a pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and sauté half the shallot, half the garlic, and all of the ginger until they soften slightly. Add a spoonful of curry powder, stir for about 10 seconds till it turns fragrant, then add the veggies and toss to coat. Sauté for a minute, adding a little more oil if necessary, then add 2 tbsp coconut milk, a slosh of broth, and a pinch of salt. Stir, bring to a simmer, and cover the pan. Turn the heat down slightly and let cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers soften their shape and the zucchini is tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat another pan over medium heat, add a generous glug of olive oil, and sauté the remaining shallot and garlic until they soften. Add a spoonful of curry powder, toast for about 10 seconds, then add the fish. Sprinkle with salt, stir, and saute until it's cooked on all sides. Add 2 tbsp coconut milk, a generous slosh or two of broth (you want enough to make some sauce to spoon over your rice), and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fish is just barely cooked through.

Serve the fish and veggies together (you can mix them in a pan or just layer them in bowls) with brown rice and a glass of Barbera.

Serves 2.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Braised Kale and Broccoli with Chorizo

Every now and then, people express surprise that I eat meat.

Like this: "You ate a STEAK? That's not plants."
Or: "Bacon?? So much for mostly plants, huh?"

To which I say, emphatically: Mostly plants. And when possible, mostly pork-flavored plants. For example, here is a dish that is mostly plants, in terms of content, and yet mostly chorizo in terms of flavor. What's not to love?

Olive oil
1 fresh pork chorizo sausage
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 bunch dino kale, cut crosswise into thick ribbons, rinsed well, and dried
1 lb or so of broccoli, cut into bite-size florets, tender part of stems sliced
Sweet paprika (not smoked)
Aleppo pepper (or sub a little cayenne)
Kosher salt

Heat a wide, nonstick saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Slice the sausage from its casing and add to the pan, breaking apart into pieces with the spatula. Allow to brown on one side, then stir. Add the garlic, stir again, then add the kale and broccoli and toss to combine. Sprinkle with salt.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then cover the pan and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until browned here and there and the broccoli is tender. If it's browning too quickly, turn the heat down a bit and add a small splash of water before covering again; if it's not browning, turn the heat up a bit and wait longer between stirs. (Excess liquid? Leave the lid off for a few minutes.)

Serve hot, sprinkled with a little salt over the top.

Serves 2.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mushrooms with Sherry and Thyme

I realize that I claim bests a lot. And that this habit has led to deep philosophical conundrums in the past. But I can't help myself. These right here. These are the best mushrooms ever.

Make them. Eat them. Love them. We'll cross the conundrum bridge when we come to it.

1 tbsp pastured butter
Olive oil
About 10 oz. crimini mushrooms (whole if very small; halved or quartered if larger)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 medium to large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
A slosh (about 2 oz.) sherry
Fleur de sel or kosher salt

Heat a wide nonstick pan over medium-high heat (make sure it's wide enough to cook the mushrooms without crowding them, or they won't brown). When hot, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan, then toss in the mushrooms. Stir once or twice to coat lightly, then cook until the mushrooms turn golden on the bottoms. Toss or turn with a spatula, then continue cooking until golden again.

When the mushrooms are nicely browned, turn the heat down to medium or just below. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and freshly ground pepper, stir, and push to the side of the pan. On the other side, add a bit more olive oil, the shallot, and the garlic. Sauté for a minute or two until they soften slightly, then stir to combine with the mushrooms. Stir in the thyme and parsley, and cook for another minute or two.

Add the sherry, stir, and allow to cook off for about a minute. Serve hot, sprinkle with fleur de sel, and garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Serves 2-3.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Maui, Day 7: Samphire Salad with Papaya and Sesame

Sea asparagus. Because that is totally a thing. Look it up.

2 handfuls (about 3 oz) sea asparagus (a.k.a. samphire), chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado, diced
1/4 ripe papaya, diced
Diced pineapple (about the same amount as the papaya)

Rinse the sea asparagus and then let soak in cold water for 1-2 hours to remove some of the saltiness. Drain, rinse, and dry in a salad spinner.

Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat until fragrant, then add the olive oil and swirl. Remove from the heat. (You could use sesame oil instead here for simplicity—we just didn't have any, and I like the look of the black sesame seeds anyway).

Toss the sea asparagus in the sesame seeds and enough of the oil to coat lightly. Add the avocado and fruit, toss well but gently, and then stick in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to chill before serving. (The acidity of the pineapple should keep the avocado from browning. If you're impatient, stick in the  freezer along with your bowls or plates for 5 minutes and then serve.)

Serves 2-4.

Hiking along the coast near Pa'iloa Beach
Star Fruit (the sort of thing you wonder how you've gone your whole life without)
Abiu (like a cross between a pear and a marshmallow. Kind of weird, but interesting.)
(...but mostly weird.)

Quinoa and braised kale with curry leaf, coconut, and lemongrass

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Maui, Day 6: Fried Red Bananas and a Rainbow of Beaches

What do you do when you're trapped in Hana and you've run out of fish and wild boar?


These are decadent. Serve over jungle rice with some diced avocado tossed with lime and cilantro as a counterpoint to the sweetness. Pairs incredibly well with either Maui Brewing Company's Coconut Porter (available, if you happen to be trapped in Hana too, at the Hasegawa General Store) or a sweeter Torrontés like the 2012 from Terraza de los Andes (available, if you happen to be passing it, at the Costco in Kahului).

1 tbsp butter
Olive oil
2 red bananas that aren't quite ripe (or sub yellow bananas when still slightly green)
1 tsp finely chopped lemongrass
1 tsp minced or finely julienned ginger
1 tbsp toasted grated coconut or crumbled coconut chips

Heat a wide pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and melt, then supplement with a drizzle of olive oil if needed to have a thin layer of fat along the bottom of the pan. Add the bananas in a single layer. Sprinkle with the lemongrass and ginger, then fry until golden brown.

Flip the bananas, sprinkle with the coconut, and fry until browned on both sides. Serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

Cuban red bananas from the local roadside fruit stand
Hike down to the red sand beach for a morning swim
Red and black lava cinders lining the trail
Sunset from the black sand beach at Wai'anapapa

Friday, August 22, 2014

Maui, Day 5: Wild Boar Meatballs over Farro

Apparently, wild boar wreak all kinds of havoc on indigenous plants in Hawaii—this from Keith Robinson, whose family owns Ni'ihau and a large portion of the land on Kaua'i and whose careful conservation work has saved numerous Hawaiian plants from extinction...and who we had the pleasure of meeting in the midst of our helicopter trip on Kaua'i.

Chatting with him was a clear highlight of the trip—his obvious love for his work and the plants and the soil, the view across the canyon, the sight of bees crowded around the first flower on a severely endangered Hawaiian fan palm that he miraculously cultivated in the unfriendly dirt of a dry red mountain near Waimea Canyon.

I will remember that canyon, and those bees, and that palm. And I will remember that wild boar wreak havoc on indigenous plants, which I have taken to mean that eating wild boar is environmentalism at its finest.

We happened upon some at Mana Foods, so we thought we had better exercise our inner conservationists right then and there.

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, 2 smashed and 1 slivered
2 shallots, halved lengthwise and sliced, divided
1 cup farro, preferably unpearled
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, plus a little extra
(adjust if the package directions on the farro call for a different amount of liquid)
1/2 bunch green kale, sliced crosswise into thinnish ribbons
About .6 lbs ground wild boar (or sub ground beef), formed into meatballs
1/2 - 1 basket cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 big handfuls sweet basil, chopped
1 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves (reserving the slivered one) and half the shallot and sauté until they soften, then toss in the farro and stir to coat. Add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and cook 23 minutes or according to package directions, until farro is tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the rest of the shallot. Sauté for a minute until it just starts to soften, then add the kale and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts, then cover the pan and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes more. Add a slosh of broth, replace the cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook another 6-7 minutes or so until the kale is tender. Decant into a bowl and set aside.

Return the pan to the stove and turn the heat up to medium-high. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, wait a moment to heat, and add the meatballs. Brown on all sides.

Push the meatballs to the side of the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. In the other side, add a glug of olive oil, the garlic, and a third to half of the tomatoes. Sauté for a minute, then stir together with the meatballs. Cover the pan and let simmer until the meatballs are just barely cooked through. Toss in the tomatoes, basil, kale, and salt to taste. Cook for another minute to let everything warm up, then remove from the heat.

Drizzle the farro with a little olive oil and toss to lightly coat the grains, then serve into soup plates. Scatter with grated parmesan, then top with meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

Serves 2-3.