Monday, September 12, 2016

Easy Cucumber Gazpacho

There were cucumbers again in my CSA box this week. At first, my heart sank. Cucumbers again? There are only so many Greek salads one can eat in a summer, after all. And who knows what else to do with a billion cucumbers. Cucumber sandwiches for a small army? Vegetable carving? Gazpacho?


This recipe was made by breeding this one with this one. The result is rather gorgeous: The avocado provides a subtle creaminess that elevates the whole thing from normal to dreamy.

Make it. It's insanely easy and insanely delicious, and how often do those two things go hand in hand?

3-4 scallions, white and light green parts, cut into pieces
1 small clove garlic, pressed
2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into a few pieces
(if you have oddly sized CSA box cucumbers, just estimate roughly about how many you'd need to make up an average-sized, supermarket cucumber)
5-6 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 red gypsy pepper or 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into a few pieces
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne if you'd like a bit of spice
Chives (optional) for garnish

Blend all the ingredients except the chives in a food processor until smooth. Adjust basil, salt, and pepper to taste (you want to be able to taste the basil without it being overpowering. If you can taste the basil but the soup still tastes a little bland, you can turn up the volume with a bit more salt).

Serve immediately or chill until you're ready for it. Just before serving, garnish with snipped chives and a drizzle of high quality olive oil.

Serves 2-4, depending on whether you're going for bowls or smaller cups.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Halibut with French Herbs

Tarragon, it turns out, is a game changer. Apparently you can chop it up with some parsley and chives and use it to make light-yet-buttery, simple-yet-flavorful, swooningly delicious french fare. Who knew? (Probably the French. But I didn't. You would think, in a fair world, that some people would get life-altering croissants and others would get tarragon, but no, the French got both. Until now. Or maybe it was years ago, when non-French people noticed tarragon but didn't tell me. Regardless, if you need me, I'll be over here, gazing adoringly at my new leafy green obsession.)

½ - ¾ lbs wild halibut (enough for two)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Stone ground whole wheat flour

2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
2 tbsp chopped chives
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

(Goes well over black Forbidden rice—sauté a little chopped shallot until soft, then add the rice and water and cook according to package directions.)

Sprinkle the halibut on both sides with kosher salt and a little freshly ground black pepper, then lightly flour on both sides. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, and white wine in a small dish.

Heat a nonstick or ceramic pan over medium heat. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then add the fish to the pan and fry for a few minutes on each side, until just before the inside is cooked through (I always cut into the middle after it's lightly browned on both sides to get a sense of how much longer it has to cook...nobody will ever know if you serve it with the cut face down or with sauce over the top.) 

When the fish is almost but not quite cooked through, serve immediately over rice (it will keep cooking on the plate from the heat of the rice).

Immediately after serving the fish, replace the pan over medium-low heat. Add the butter, let it melt, then add the lemon-wine mixture. Wait 10 seconds for the alcohol to steam off, then add the capers and a pinch of salt, and turn off the heat. Add the herbs, stir a couple times, then spoon over the fish.

Serve immediately.

Serves 2. Pairs very well with sautéed leeks and baby kale and a French white.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Mostly Plants for Happy Hour

Given the existence of a liqueur made from 130 herbs, plants, and flowers, it was surely only a matter of time before this blog incorporated a happy hour. Introducing Trip the Light Plantastic, a summer cocktail made of (what else?) mostly plants, including juniper (gin), green chartreuse (there's the 130 herbs, plants, and flowers), mint, lime, and cucumber. Or stone fruit. Or whatever else strikes your produce-happy muddling fancy. In addition to its pun-based name, it also answers to "ooh, yes please," "one more over here," and "what was that drinky thing you made with the cucumber?"

Note: If you like your drinks on the sweeter side, go for the berry version below at peak berry season when they're super sweet and ripe, and aim for more berries rather than fewer. If you're not a fan of sweet drinks, head for any of the other versions.

Ingredients per drink:
1 shot gin
1/2 shot green chartreuse
5 mint leaves, muddled
1/2 shot lime juice or a bit less
1.5 - 2 shots club soda
and then choose your own adventure:

Cool Cucumber:
   2 sliced cucumber, muddled
Summer Stone Fruit:
   1/2 an apricot or 1/4 nectarine, muddled
   1 peel of Meyer lemon zest (use a carrot peeler)
Berry Blend:
   2-4 strawberries and/or blackberries, muddled
   1 peel of Meyer lemon or orange zest (use a carrot peeler)

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint and the cucumber or fruit together, then add the lime juice, gin, and chartreuse. Clink in 2-3 ice cubes and shake vigorously until icy.

Serve into cold glasses on the rocks (an oversized ice cube or scotch rock works particularly well, so that the drink doesn't get diluted as the ice melts). Add club soda to desired level of dilution...I like my drinks strong, so I tend to add 1 1/2 shots of club soda to each glass here, but feel free to up the club soda to taste.

Add garnish as desired—cucumber slices if you're doing the cucumber version, citrus zest if you are doing a fruit version—and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Chimichurri Sauce

Sometimes dinner should be simple. And recyclable throughout the week. And delicious. It is in these sorts of cases that one wishes for a magical sauce that could somehow manifest itself out of a handful of ingredients tossed in a blender, and complement just about anything.

Oh look, here's one now.

Serve this over grilled skirt steak, peppers, and summer squash. Or toss it with a farro and arugula salad with some summer cherry tomatoes. Or drizzle it over fancy tacos. Or scramble it into your eggs. The possibilities are pretty much endless.

2 small to medium cloves garlic
2 tbsp chopped shallot
1 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or a bit more
1/3-1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cups olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar

Combine the garlic, shallot, parsley, and basil in a food processor; blend until finely chopped. Add the other ingredients and blend well.

Taste to make sure you can identify parsley, basil, and black pepper (if not, add a bit more of that ingredient and try again). If the sauce tastes bland right at the beginning, add a little more shallot and/or garlic. If you can taste everything but it feels like the taste is too muted, you can turn the volume up by adding another pinch or two of salt. (But don't worry too much—it's going to taste good no matter what you do at this point.)

Store in the fridge for up to a week. Makes about 1.25 cups (if you're making the recipe below, you'll probably want about an eighth of a cup per person).

For skirt steak and grilled veggies:
Sprinkle a skirt steak generously with kosher salt and black pepper. Slice zucchinis lengthwise into quarter-inch strips (err on the thicker rather than thinner side); cut bell peppers lengthwise into halves or thirds and scrape out the seeds. Brush the veggies with olive oil.

Grill veggies on a grill in the 350-450° range until nicely browned and tender. Grill skirt steak 6-9 minutes total or until just before desired doneness (it will cook a little more on the plate but not much, since it's so thin). Drizzle everything in chimichurri for maximum deliciousness. Pairs wonderfully with a Malbec or a Mourvedre. And if you're feeling fancy, you can add this salad.

Monday, June 20, 2016

White Anchovy Toasts

The prodigal cook has returned! With recipes I've been meaning to tell you about. For example. You know how white anchovies are amazing? (It's possible that you don't know. If you don't know, don't tell me. I prefer to continue in my blissful delusion that everyone knows white anchovies are amazing. And there are plenty of anchovies in the sea, but there are not plenty of anchovy recipes on this blog, so I am fixing that. Immediately. Ready? Let's go.)

I was recently in Charlottesville for a conference, where I spent a disproportionate amount of my time dreamily consuming the menu of the incomparable Alley Light, which is a wondrous little foodie destination that you should visit if you are ever in Charlottesville (or a 100 mile radius thereof). This recipe is loosely based on one of their small plates, and pairs wonderfully with a dry rosé and a warm summer evening.

1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 bunch parsley
2 inches of green garlic, or half a clove regular garlic
Olive oil
Boquerones (marinated white anchovies)
Sliced bread (e.g., a baguette) for toasts

In a food processor, blend the butter beans, parsley, garlic, and a glug of olive oil until smooth.

Toast the toasts; let cool for a minute.

Spread the parsley puree on the toasts, top with an anchovy or two, and serve.

Makes enough parsley spread for 15-20 toasts. The spread works well under smoked salmon, too (you might want to add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of lemon zest to the spread itself, and/or sprinkle some capers to pair with the salmon).

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Best Ever Coffee Rub

Once upon a time, in a land only slightly far away, I acquired a Carbonic.

What is a carbonic, you ask? And should it be capitalized?

Probably the internets would know. Also the wine guy from whom I bought the carbonic, who explained exactly how you take a pinot noir and something something carbonic maceration something fascinating chemical process something, but by the time he got to that part, he had poured the (potentially-captial-C but-who-really-knows) Carbonic into the glass and I was entirely focused on the startling and deeply delightful fact that it smelled exactly like someone had opened a freshly ground bag of Peet's 101 blend coffee right under my nose, and this is pretty much one of my favorite smells in the universe, and here it was in a glass of wine right here in front of me, only how did the amazing, earthy, chocolatey, rich smell of just-ground coffee get into my glass of wine? Nobody knew. Least of all me. I swirled and sipped and bought.

I decided that this was a bottle of wine that deserved to be cooked for.

"Dear Carbonic," I wrote, shyly, in my mind. "You are most cordially invited to dinner. I will cook for you. Tuesday. Bring a glass."

On Tuesday, I acquired lamb chops. Also some finely ground decaf coffee. Also purple potatoes and rosemary. Also salad ingredients featuring a pomelo, because I thought the carbonic would like pomelo.

We just knew each other like that.

I opened the carbonic. I poured a little into a glass. I sniffed. Coffee. Paprika? Maybe a hint of herbiness in the background, like oregano or thyme.

I poked around the spice rack. Little of this, little of that. The result? An easy yet mouthwatering coffee rub perfect for lamb chops, steak, roasts...even extra firm tofu might work.

But if you have a carbonic over at your house for dinner? Lamb chops. Rubbed with this. And roasted potatoes with rosemary. And salad with avocado and pomelo.

1/4 cup finely ground decaf French Roast coffee
2 scant tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Lots of freshly ground white pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch dried thyme

Combine in a bowl.

Rub generously over lamb chops about 10 minutes before cooking. Heat a pan over medium heat, drizzle with a little olive oil, then place the chops in the pan. Cook about 3 minutes per side or until medium rare.

Serves 4-8.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Orzo with Roasted Peppers, Butter Beans, and Kale

A year or two ago, I watched a friend of mine toss some peppers in the oven to roast, so that she could use them throughout the week. Now, this friend is an excellent cook, a superbly efficient juggler of work and life and food and laughter, and generally full of top notch advice. In other words, one might think I would have taken notes. I should have gone straight home, acquired a large number of bell peppers, and commenced a happy and full life of weekly pepper roasting.

I did not.

What's wrong with me? Nobody knows. But belatedly, I have remedied my ways. I have become a Weekly Pepper Roaster. Or at least, an occasional weekly pepper roaster. Try it. Today. Or in a year. You'll see.

Make one for this dish, one for a fancy sandwich, one for a dreamy quesedilla, and one to pay yourself in snack taxes as you cook throughout the week.

Olive oil
1 large bell pepper
1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
1 bunch dino or green kale, diced
3 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/4 cups veggie or chicken broth
1 rounded cup whole wheat orzo
1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
Slosh white wine or broth
Zest of about 3/4 of a Meyer lemon
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated with a microplane
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To roast the peppers:
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Take a roasting pan, brush just under where the peppers will go with olive oil, then lay the peppers on their side. Roast for 15 minutes, turn 1/4 turn, then roast another 10 minutes on each side (about 45 min total) until the peppers start to slightly deflate. Remove from the oven and set on a plate to cool. Pull out the core, cut them in half, peel, and de-seed. (Can be kept in the fridge in an air-tight container for at least a week...pour the leftover juices over them before refrigerating.)

While the peppers are roasting or just after they emerge, toss the chopped cauliflower in a drizzle of olive oil to coat, scatter on another baking pan, and cook in the oven until golden brown, stirring every 4 minutes or so (12-15 minutes total).

For the pepper you're using right now: Slice into strips lengthwise, then cut the strips in half crosswise.

Meanwhile, set a wide sautée pan over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the kale and toss to coat with the oil, then cover the pan and let cook for 4-5 minutes or so. Sprinkle with salt, stir, and then let cook for another 4-5 minutes. (It's fine if it browns, and it's fine if it doesn't. Don't stress. It will take care of itself.)

Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot for the orzo. When it reaches a boil, add the orzo, turn the heat down to low, and simmer 9 minutes or according to package directions.

Add the garlic and a little olive oil to the kale and sauté, stirring, for a couple minutes until the garlic softens. Add the butter beans and toss lightly. Stir in a glug of wine (or a slosh of broth, if you don't have white wine on hand). Cover for a couple minutes to let simmer. Uncover, stir in the lemon zest and the peppers, and replace the cover. Turn off the heat.

When the orzo is al dente, drain off any excess broth, then toss gently with the kale mixture. Stir in half the parmesan and a liberal dusting of black pepper. Serve warm, topped with the rest of the parmesan and the roasted cauliflower.

Serves 2.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Spaghetti Vongole

Because clams. They are happy. Hence, you know, the expression.

2 servings of your favorite whole wheat or multigrain spaghetti
Olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped (about 2 tbsp)
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 can chopped clams in clam juice
1-2 sloshes of the white wine you're having for dinner
2-3 handfuls baby arugula or baby spinach
2 tbsp chopped parsley
12-15 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
Pinch cayenne or half spoonful of Aleppo pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions, except minus 30 seconds (it will cook a little more later, in the sauce).

Meanwhile, heat a wide sauté pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil, then add the shallot and sauté for about a minute until it softens slightly. Add the garlic and sauté a minute more. Next, the peas, again for about a minute. Sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, and turn the heat up to medium.

Drain the juice of the clams into the pan, leaving the clams for now. Stir and let simmer for a minute or two until the liquid reduces a bit, then add a glug or two of white wine and again pause for a minute to let some of the liquid boil off.

Add the clams themselves, stir, then fold in the baby greens, most but not all of the parsley, and most but not all of the basil. In just a moment, the greens will start to wilt. Sprinkle in the hot pepper, stir, and turn off the heat. Pour the pasta into the pan and toss well to distribute the sauce.

Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmesan, plenty of black pepper, and a bit of the remaining parsley and basil.

Serves 2.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Farro with Meatballs

Here's a delectable twist on spaghetti and meatballs that's simple, hearty, and full of delicious. The perfect meal for a cozy winter evening.

Olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 1/2 cups semi-pearled or unpearled farro
3 cups chicken broth
Meatballs for 3 servings (about 1 lb)*
1 can Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes
3-4 oz fresh basil, chiffonade
Big handful baby greens (e.g., arugula, spinach, red mustard frisée)
1-2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Slosh or three of the Zinfandel you're having for dinner
Kosher salt

Sauté the shallot and all but one of the garlic cloves in a glug of olive oil over medium-low heat for a couple minutes until they soften. Add the farro and stir to coat. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally, then add the broth (check the package to see how long your farro takes to cook...semi-pearled usually takes 20 minutes; unpearled takes 30. If it's unpearled, you might want to add an extra cup of water at this point because it will absorb more liquid). Drain the can of tomatoes (the juice, without the tomatoes themselves) into the pot, then cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until farro is tender (20-30 minutes or according to package directions). Drain excess liquid and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil, then add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Add the remaining smashed garlic clove and press into the oil, then add the tomatoes and wine and stir well. Sprinkle with salt and let some of the wine evaporate for a minute, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer until the meatballs are as cooked through as you want them to be (the time will depend on how big they are...mine were giant and they took about 15 minutes).

When the meatballs are done, add the farro to the pan and stir well. Add half the parmesan, most but not all of the basil, and the arugula. Toss together. Adjust salt to taste. Serve hot in soup plates or bowls: Farro mixture on the bottom, then sprinkle with parmesan, top with a meatball or three, sprinkle with basil chiffonade. Clink glasses. Consume merrily.

Serves 2-3.

*My co-op has house-made meatballs from pastured beef that they call Best House Made Meatballs. It's the sort of name that makes you suspicious. Best? Really? Best ever? You sure? But then you buy them, and cook them, and eat them, and murmur dreamily about how very best they are. Anyway, that's not the point (unless you live near the Sacramento Co-op, in which case, this information is very pertinent for what I assume is your life goal of achieving everlasting meatball happiness.). The point is, get some high quality ground beef and make some particularly delicious meatballs, or take advantage of your meat counter if they're good at providing them ready-made.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Let Them Eat Vistas

I've been traveling. And eating, of course, but surely that goes without saying. And I forgot to take pictures of the food. So for now, let's feast together on landscapes.

Hiking in Sedona, AZ

Red rock through the trees

Grand Canyon

Catalina State Park

Posing majestically

Snowstorm on the mountains