Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy 2014, faithful eaters! Might we suggest serving your new year's resolution with a side of delicious? Here's a look back at some of our favorites from 2013.


Poached Egg over just about anything

...and here's to many more to come!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Shaved Fennel Salad with Pomegranate and Persimmon

Every now and then, one finds a life-changing cooking trick.

For example. There was life before the pomegranate hack. Life before the pomegranate hack consisted of, on average, oh-point-five pomegranates per annum per person in our household. In contrast, life after the pomegranate hack, at the present rate, is on track to exceed over 100 pomegranates per person per annum. (Surely the local pomegranate supply...or our paychecks...will run out long before then, however.)

To experience your own epiphanic culinary moment, arm yourself with a pomegranate, a wooden spoon, and this easy video tutorial.

Then, after you gorge yourself on an entire pomegranate or three, consider the many culinary excuses available for replenishing your dwindling supply. Like, for example, this salad.

1/2 fennel bulb
2-4 large handfuls mixed baby greens
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 pomegranate, seeded
1 ripe fuyu persimmon, sliced or diced
1 tbsp lightly toasted pumpkin seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Shave the fennel (I use a carrot peeler to slice off thin pieces). Toss in a bowl of ice water and let sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to crisp, then drain and pat dry.

Whisk olive oil and vinegar together to form an emulsion. Add some pepper. Toss the greens with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat. Add the fennel, toss a couple moe times, and arrange on salad plates. Sprinkle with pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, and garnish with persimmon slices.

Serves 2.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Return of the Pizza: Roasted Butternut Squash, Caramelized Leek, and Prosciutto

As dedicated cookers and consumers of all things delicious, we pride ourselves in our ongoing efforts to champion the most delectable of dishes. Yet it has come to our concerned attention that we have lapsed. Egregiously.

Mostly, we just like saying the word egregiously. With emphasis. Egregiously.

The lapse involved the following: For awhile, there was pizza. And then: there was not. Pizza, I mean. No pizza of any sort.

Egregious, right?

Let's get right on that.

1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp stone-ground whole wheat bread flour
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp plus one pinch salt
2-3 pinches lemon zest (grated on a microplane, else very finely minced)
Coarsely-ground cornmeal
Olive oil for brushing

1 small clove garlic, chopped or pressed
1.5-2 oz grated Gruyère
2 oz grated Monterey jack cheese
1 small leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, sliced into half rings
2 oz prosciutto
1/2 cup (or more) diced roasted butternut squash*
4-5 leaves dino kale, stems removed and sliced crosswise into thin strips

Follow the instructions in this recipe to prepare the pizza dough (or use store-bought dough if you must, but making your own is easier than you think, way healthier, and deeply delectable).

Sauté the leek in a little olive oil over medium heat for about 7 minutes, turning the heat down slightly to prevent browning if needed.

When the dough is ready, preheat oven to 450°F. Brush the flour off your cutting board and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Take the dough out of the bowl and gently form a ball, then place on the cutting board and begin gently pressing and stretching it outward to form a flat pancake. You want to end up with a flat disc that's about 12" in diameter.

Lightly oil a pizza pan or baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Gently transfer the crust to the pan, then brush the upward side of the pizza dough with olive oil.

Rub the minced garlic into the top of the pizza, then sprinkle lightly and evenly with the grated cheeses (leave a thin ring around the outside without cheese). Spread the leeks evenly over the cheese, then layer the prosciutto, squash, and finally kale.

Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 12-16 minutes, until crust turns slightly golden around the edges.

Remove from the oven, slice, and serve immediately.

Makes 8 small but rich slices (enough for two, or as an appetizer for four). Pairs very well with a crisp salad and a glass of Seghesio 2012 Zinfandel (currently available at Costco).

*To roast the butternut squash, halve lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and slice into 1" half-circles. Brush with olive oil, arrange on a baking sheet, and roast at 425° until just tender, flipping the pieces after 20 minutes or so (wait until they brown on the bottom before flipping). Go ahead and roast the whole squash, peel and dice what you want for the pizza, and then use the leftovers later for this or this or this.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Braised Broccoli and Kale with Smoked Bacon

Here's a simple, richly satisfying, wintry sort of dish that's lovely on its own or as an easy pasta topping. It's mostly vegetables, and yet the bacon makes it taste, well, full of wondrous bacon.

You can also sub any kind of sausage meat for the bacon—just break into small bits in the pan and brown. (If it's chicken or lamb rather than pork sausage, you may want to cook it first, remove from the pan, and add it back after the veggies are done to avoid overcooking.)

Olive oil
2 strips Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 head broccoli, cut into bite-size florets (you can slice up the tender part of the stem, too)
1 bunch dino kale, sliced crosswise into strips
(One easy shortcut is to soak, rinse, and spin dry the broccoli and kale together, after they've been cut, in a salad spinner)
1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth

2 1/2 cups whole wheat fusilli pasta, if desired, cooked according to package directions.

Heat a wide saucepan or large dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, drizzle with olive oil. Add the bacon and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon turns lightly brown in a few places.

Toss in the garlic and press into the pan gently, then add the broccoli and stir to coat evenly. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring once in the middle (the idea is to let it start to brown here and there). Add the kale, stir to combine, and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until nicely browned in many places.

Add a splash of broth, cover, and let steam for 3-4 minutes. Stir, add another splash, replace the cover, and lower the heat to medium low. Continue steaming, stirring every once in awhile and adding a little more broth if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan too much, until the kale and broccoli are both tender (usually about 5-10 minutes of steaming will do it. And this is one of those lovely dishes that only gets better if you accidentally let it brown a little extra).

If you're making pasta, toss it, once cooked, with a little olive oil, salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve the kale mixture hot, on its own or atop a bowl of pasta.

Serves 2.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Farroto with Roasted Kabocha Squash and Arugula

As promised, a roasted kabocha farroto from our Kansas correspondent.

If you have not tried kabocha yet, get thee to a grocery store. Unless you live in Sacramento. In which case, stay away from my squash.

A one-pound(ish) kabocha squash (a.k.a. Japanese pumpkin)
1 cup farro, rinsed and soaked for several hours
(soaking decreases the cooking time a bit)
3-4 cups veggie and/or chicken broth
1 large shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced into half rings
1.5 strip applewood smoked bacon, sliced
½ cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
2-3 handfuls baby arugula
4-6 tbsp chopped fresh sage
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated over a microplane
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rinse the kabocha squash and pat dry. Cut the top out as you would when carving a pumpkin, then slice in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds, then slice both halves into even wedges (roughly 3/4" wide at the thickest part).

Drizzle a cookie sheet with olive oil, and arrange the squash wedges on the sheet, turning them over as you go so that both sides are lightly coated with olive oil. (Note that if you overcrowd, they won't brown well, so try to leave a little space between them.) Roast for 15 minutes, flip, and roast 10-12 minutes more or until lightly browned and tender without being squishy. Set aside to cool, then slice from the skins if desired (we like to leave the skin on about half the pieces—just make sure the skin you leave is smooth and unblemished) and cut into half-inch cubes.

Bring the broth to a boil in a smallish, covered pot, then turn down heat to low to keep warm.

Place a dutch oven over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil, then add the bacon. Once these have browned some, remove from the pot and set aside. (You can also discard a bit of the grease from the pan if you wish and replace with olive oil.)

Add the shallot and cook 2-3 minutes until translucent, then add half of the garlic and sauté for a minute more so that it softens without browning. Next, stir in the farro and sauté for several minutes. Once dry, add the white wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Then begin adding the broth by the ladleful as the liquid continues to be absorbed. Cook the farro in this way for about 30 minutes, or until the farro is not crunchy and the grains begin to open slightly.

Meanwhile, place a separate pan over medium heat. Toast the pine nuts till golden, shaking the pan frequently, then remove to a side dish. Add a glug of olive oil to the same pan and add the other half of the garlic. Sauté for a minute, just until soft, then add the sage and sauté for a few minutes more until the sage is very fragrant. Set aside with the pine nuts and bacon.

When the farro is cooked, stir in the arugula, then add the bacon, sage, and pine nuts. Microplane a small amount of Parmesan over the top. Last, add the kabocha and fold gently into the farroto, trying not to smoosh the squash completely so that some of the chunks are left intact. Turn off the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.

Serves 2-4.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Farro with Caramelized Carrot and Feta

The husband cooked this one up in Kansas, loosely adapting a recipe from his produce box. I have now had it twice for dinner, and once as leftovers on the plane back to Sacramento after shamelessly employing my best mournful puppy dog eye routine to steal enough from (his) dinner for lunch the next day. (I couldn't help myself. It's addictive.)

It should be patently obvious that I deserve zero credit for this one, other than in my role as Selfless Taster of New Recipes.

It's a job I could get used to.

1 cup farro, cooked (follow package directions, but use chicken or veggie broth instead of water)*
Olive oil
2 medium shallots, diced
1 bunch carrots, peeled chopped into ¼ inch cubes (rainbow carrots are perfect for this dish, if you find them)
1-2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
5 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

While the farro is cooking, prepare the other ingredients.

Sauté the shallot with a glug of olive oil in a wide, nonstick pan for about 2 minutes, until they soften slightly. Add the carrots and saute in the pan with the shallot, stirring only occasionally, until they brown. When the carrots are golden in places, sprinkle in the Aleppo pepper, and cook for a minute or two more.

When the carrots are browned, add the cooked farro to the pan and fold together. When the farro is warmed through, add the parsley, feta, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Serves 2.

 *Look for whole grain rather than semi-pearled or pearled—often, the only way to tell is that the whole grains have a longer cooking time (30-40 minutes instead of 15-20). The whole grains have more texture and more nutrition. The semi-pearled variety does cook more quickly, if you're in a rush. Our co-op only has semi-pearled, whereas Whole Foods carries the whole grain version (from Bob's Red Mill).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Warm Quinoa Salad with Roasted Kabocha and Pomegranate

After the husband reintroduced me to kabocha squash by way of a brilliant farroto he invented last month (coming soon to a blog near you), I became obsessed. (I say reintroduced because in retrospect, I have eaten it—and always loved it—in Japanese tempura, but never knew what kind of squash it was.) Roasted, kabocha tastes of toasted pumpkin seeds and squashy wonderment. You might think the latter is more of a delirious rant than an actual taste. Roast some yourself and see.

This recipe calls for enough kabocha to make about 2 cups cooked, plus 3-5 extra wedges for snacking, because I am a realist, and realists believe in accurately predicting the amount of a given ingredient that will make it past one's mouth and into the pot. Also because it allows you to have the following conversation:

You: Would you like a slice of kabocha?
Other person: Kabocha?
Other person: Is it good?
Other person: What?
You (mouth full): Mmrmph.

1 kabocha squash (weighing about a pound; or sub butternut squash)
Olive oil
1/2 cup quinoa
3 inches of a medium leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
5 oz veggie and/or chicken broth
2 oz. baby spinach or arugula
Seeds of 1/2 pomegranate
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted in a pan until golden brown
Freshly ground white pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Rinse the kabocha squash and pat dry. Cut the top out as you would when carving a pumpkin, then slice in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds, then slice both halves into even wedges (roughly 3/4" wide at the thickest part).

Drizzle a cookie sheet with olive oil, and arrange the squash wedges on the sheet, turning them over as you go so that both sides are lightly coated with olive oil. (Note that if you overcrowd, they won't brown well, so try to leave a little space between them.) Roast for 15 minutes, flip, and roast 12-15 minutes more or until lightly browned and tender without being squishy. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa and let soak in cold water for 15 minutes.

Heat a pot over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil. Saute the leek with a pinch of salt until it softens, then add the garlic. Saute a minute more, add the quinoa, and stir a few times. Pour in the broth, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, slice about 3/4 of the kabocha squash wedges out of their skin and cut into 1 inch pieces. (You also have time to seed the pomegranate and toast the pine nuts here if you want.) The rest of the squash is yours for the snacking.

When the quinoa is done, fold in the squash very gently (to avoid smushing it) and let heat through, then turn off the heat and cover the pot. Toss the baby greens with a little bit of olive oil and a spoonful of sherry vinegar so that the leaves are very lightly coated. Pour the quinoa-squash mixture over the greens, and let sit for 2 minutes to slightly wilt the leaves. Toss gently, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste, and serve topped with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pasta with Braised Broccolini and Bacon

This is an easy and delicious dinner for one, or double it for 2-3 people (keep in mind that the time it takes something to brown in a pan will increase when you double a recipe because the ingredients crowd together more...using a wider pan will help with this).

Ingredients (per person)
1 strip Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, diced
1 bunch broccolini, cut into bite-sized pieces (or sub broccoli)
2-3 cloves garlic, slivered
1/4 cup chicken or veggie broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. Stilton, crumbled

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water, then follow package directions to cook the pasta. Drain when al dente, reserving a ladleful of pasta water in case it's needed.

Meanwhile (this part takes about 10-15 minutes), heat a wide pan over medium heat. Saute the bacon for 2-3 minutes and then pour off the excess grease. Add a glug of olive oil and the broccolini, and saute for 1-2 minutes more. Stir in the garlic and a pinch of salt, cover the pan, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir, add the broth, and replace the cover, turning the heat down to medium-low. Let simmer for 5 minutes or until the broccolini is tender, stirring once or twice.

Toss everything together, adjusting salt and olive oil to taste, and adding a little pasta water if the mixture is too dry. Sprinkle liberally with black pepper, crumble just a bit of blue cheese over the top, and serve immediately.

Serves 1.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Celeriac and Potatoes with Sauteed Leeks and Thyme

Celeriac. [suh-LAIR-ee-ak] n. An under-appreciated root vegetable in the carrot and parsnip family. Coming to dinner soon at a table near you.

Seriously, make this. It's dreamy. It's also easy—you can prepare most of the ingredients as you're cooking, and just toss them in the pot as you go.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe here

Olive oil
1 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 small to medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 medium leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, washed carefully, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a nonstick, medium-large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Toss in the celeriac, then add the potatoes, leek, garlic, and thyme as you prepare them, stirring occasionally and adding another drizzle of olive oil whenever it starts to dry out. You want the celeriac and potatoes to start to brown in places, which will take at least 10 minutes and not too much stirring.

When the mixture is golden in places, cover the pot and continue cooking for 3 minutes. Stir, add a slosh (about 2 tbsp) chicken broth, replace the cover, and simmer for 5-10 minutes more or until liquid is evaporated. Stir, add another slosh of broth, and simmer for 5-10 minutes again. Continue cooking until the celeriac and potatoes are very tender.

Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and salt to taste, and stir while smashing the celeriac and potatoes a bit. (This improves the texture. Also, it's inordinately fun.)

Serve hot, topped with freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sauteed Beet Greens

Beet greens are like chard, only denser in texture—a bit less watery, and delicately flavored. Cut the tops off the next time you indulge in these, and save the greens for this recipe.

Olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large bunch beet greens, sliced crosswise into strips, washed well, and dried in a salad spinner

Heat a glug of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute, stirring, for 2 minutes or until it softens slightly, then add the garlic and saute a minute more.

Stir in the beet greens and toss to coat with the shallot-garlic mixture. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, then cover the pot and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook another 5-6 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and serve.

Serves 2. Pairs perfectly with a wasabi salmon sandwich, or probably just about anything else.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wasabi Salmon Sandwiches

The Scene: Saturday evening. Feet up. Encouched.
The Game: Scattergories. Three-minute version.
The Letter: W.
The Category in Question: Things You Bring on a Picnic.

The Conversation, Verbatim:
Husband: What did you put?
Me: Wasabi salmon sandwich. You could totally bring that on a picnic.
Him: Ooooh.
(thoughtful pause)
Me: In fact, I kind of want one.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Like, now.
Him: Yeah.
(thoughtful pause)
Him: What are we doing for dinner tomorrow? 
Me: Making wasabi salmon sandwiches?
Him: That is correct.

2 smallish salmon filets (5-6 oz each), carefully deboned
1/2 tsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
Kosher salt
Black sesame seeds
Olive oil
1 tsp wasabi powder*
1 tbsp very good quality mayonnaise or aioli**
1/2 bunch watercress, leaves separated, washed, and dried
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half (or sub slices of ciabatta or a french boule if necessary)

Sprinkle both sides of the salmon lightly with salt, then place skin side down on a plate. Sprinkle the top of each piece with ginger and garlic, and press them lightly into the fish with your fingertips. Last, sprinkle the same side liberally with black sesame seeds.

Mix the wasabi powder with just enough water to form a thick paste. Add the mayonnaise, stir well to combine, and set in the fridge.

Toss the watercress with the rice wine vinegar and set aside.

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, lightly drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Add the salmon, skin side down, and shake the pan back and forth to make sure it doesn't stick. Cook for several minutes until the skin is golden brown and the salmon looks cooked about a third of the way up the side.

Flip the salmon, and cook for 2-3 minutes more until the top of the fish is very lightly golden (but not long enough for the garlic to brown).

Flip back skin side down, and check for doneness (we recommend medium-rare). If it's not done yet, cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for a minute or two more. Remove from the heat just before it's cooked enough (it will cook more as you serve it and carry it to the table).

To assemble the sandwich, spread each piece of bread lightly with wasabi mayonnaise, then sandwich the salmon topped with watercress in between. Cut in half, and serve immediately.

Serves 2. Pairs extremely well with sauteed beet greens, St. Supery's 2011 Virtu (available right now at Costco), and Nina Simone.

*Whole Foods has Sushi Sonic, a freeze-dried version made with real wasabi that tastes entirely different from the horseradish-mustard concoction often used as a substitute.
**Also found at Whole Foods: Sir Kensington gourmet scooping mayonnaise; also well worth seeking out.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Goat Cheese and Sage

Autumn has arrived, with crisp mornings and reddening leaves. Let the roasting begin.

Purple or yellow potatoes, cut in half (if small, you can leave them whole; if large, you can cut into thirds or fourths if you want to reduce cooking time)
Fresh rosemary and/or sage
A little goat cheese or feta, for crumbling over the top

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Toss the potatoes with a generous glug of olive oil and stir to coat evenly. Set a piece of tinfoil, shiny side up, on a baking sheet and brush the foil lightly with olive oil. Pour the potatoes onto the foil, scatter liberally with rosemary and sage leaves, and then pull the edges of the foil inward to form a partially-closed container. (You can adjust the openness of the foil as you roast them—if they start to dry out, close the foil more to retain more moisture. If liquid starts to collect at the bottom, pull the edges outward to let it evaporate.)

Roast the potatoes until browned on the outside and soft on the inside, stirring every 15 minutes or so to prevent them from sticking (as a point of reference, purple potatoes cut into approximately 1" chunks take around 45-60 minutes). You want these a little softer than you'd want a baking potato to bring out the creaminess—the potato should smoosh a bit when you pinch it gently.

Serve hot, topped with crumbled feta or goat cheese. Pairs well with braised broccolini and roasted carrots.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Goat Cheese and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Apparently, the husband is the real cook of the household(s), because while I've been stuck in a repeat loop on old (and newer) favorites, he's been making up recipes left and right. Here's one that I've been promised upon my return to Kansas. (I asked for delivery, but apparently I'm outside the delivery radius. Hmph.)

4-6 Poblano peppers (use 4 if you want leftover stuffing to top with a fried egg the next day)
Olive oil
1 cup quinoa
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
10 oz canned black beans, drained
4 oz mild, soft goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook the quinoa per package instructions.

Create a 1-2" opening in the top of each pepper and remove the seeds. Brush peppers lightly with olive oil, then broil for 7 minutes on each side. Let cool.*

In a nonstick pan, sauté the shallot for about a minute, then add the jalapeno, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté, stirring, until the peppers soften. Add the black beans and allow to warm through. Stir in the cooked quinoa, let warm, then mix in the goat cheese in small pieces to allow it to melt evenly. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the peppers with the quinoa-black bean mixture. Return to oven and broil an additional 8-10 minutes until heated through.

Serve warm. Pairs well with a Caprese salad.

The peppers reheat well in the microwave the next day. Or, reheat the leftover quinoa stuffing and top with a fried egg.

Serves 3-6.

*Helpful hint! If you store a rubber-handled saute pan in the oven because it's too big for the Kansas kitchen cupboards, you should remove the pan before you turn on the broiler. Even if you've been storing it there all summer and haven't turned on the oven yet and so you were thinking of it more as a cupboard than an oven. This PSA brought to you by Concerned Citizens for Oven Awareness.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Smoked Salmon Benedictless

Few things make me happier than the blissful combination of smoked salmon and poached egg.

I feel obliged to note that these lack Hollandaise, because while I want to believe in principle that there is some context in which I would appreciate Hollaindaise sauce, I have not yet found it. Here, the molten egg yolk makes its own sauce, and blends perfectly and richly with the smoked salmon. Tomatoes can provide the slight tang that you'd usually get from lemon in the Hollaindaise, and the tastes end up balancing perfectly.

If you can't picture yourself poaching an egg without calamity striking, go here for a lovely and reassuring tutorial (I do mine slightly differently, but the basics are the same and she has great pictures).

Ingredients, per toast
1 pastured egg
1/2 english muffin or slice of good bread, lightly toasted
Olive oil
1-2 slices smoked salmon
A few leaves baby arugula or spinach (optional)
A few cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2-3 inches of water in a pan (a wide saute pan is best—it lets you lower the egg from just above the water). Meanwhile, break the first egg into a small dish.

As soon as little bubbles coat the inner surface of the pan (before the water starts to simmer—go here for a picture), make a gentle whirlpool in the water by stirring in a circle with a spoon or rubber spatula. Lower the egg dish above the water and slide the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Adjust the heat down a bit to maintain the water at just below a simmer, and let the egg cook for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes (you can very gently prod it away from the bottom of the pan with your spatula if it starts to stick after the first 30 seconds or so).

Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and let drain. Repeat with additional eggs as desired.

Meanwhile, toast the bread, then cut each slice into bite-sized squares while keeping the overall shape of the slice (this gives the lovely illusion of a bread slice without the annoyance of sawing your way through a piece of toast for every bite). Top with a layer of smoked salmon, a few greens and/or tomatoes if desired, and then the egg. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and serve hot.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fried Chickpeas

Protein in a pinch. These are fast, and easy, delectable, and the perfect way to satisfy a wayward fried street food craving without any of that post-fried-street-food guilt.

You can make this without measuring anything, but I've put suggested measurements in parentheses for those of you with a penchant for teaspoons. You can toss the chickpeas in the flour and spices on a plate first, or (easier still) just add everything to the pan, tossing to coat, in the order listed.

Generous glug or two olive oil (1-2 tbsp)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed well and patted dry
2 generous sprinkles stone ground whole wheat flour (1 tsp)
1 generous sprinkle coarse-ground cornmeal (1/2 tsp)
6 dashes cumin (1/2 tsp)
3 dashes paprika (1/4 tsp)
Aleppo pepper to taste (1/4 tsp, or sub a pinch of cayenne)
Sprinkling of kosher salt (1/4 tsp)

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the chickpeas, then sprinkle in the rest of the ingredients, tossing to coat. Fry for 6-7 min until golden brown in places, shaking the pan from time to time.

Serve hot.

Serves 2-3 (but note that if you make them by yourself, you're unlikely to have any leftovers).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bacon-Infused Beluga Lentils with Zucchini

Don't be fooled by its lentil-like appearance. This dish is like a bowl full of bacon. Only, you know, healthy. And easy. Neither of which you'd ever suspect from the taste.

Adapted from here, and reheats well the next day...if you manage to have any left. 

1 strip Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, diced
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup beluga lentils, rinsed and carefully picked through for any stones
1 3/4 cups chicken and/or veggie broth
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 zucchini, halved and sliced crosswise into semicircles

Heat a smallish pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to brown. Add a glug of olive oil and the onion and saute, stirring from time to time, until the onion turns translucent, then stir in the carrot and garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the thyme and then the lentils. Saute for a minute more, then add the broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not soft, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a wide pan over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil, then toss in the zucchini (you want them in a single layer—if they won't all fit in your pan, do them in batches). Fry until golden brown on both sides and tender (if they are browning without cooking through fully, you can cover the pan for a few minutes and turn the heat down to low). When the zucchini are soft but not soggy, salt to taste and turn off the heat.

Serve the lentils in soup plates, topped with the zucchini and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2 (or 4 as a side dish).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One-Pot Pasta with Fresh Basil

If you're anything like me, there's nothing less motivating than the prospect of cooking lunch for one.

Here's what happens. Somewhere around midday, if I'm working from home, I think of something I'd like to eat. And then I think about the number of pots involved, and the fact that I will be the only one eating...and perhaps most significantly, the only one cleaning up afterward...and that dinner comes after lunch, which will mean even more cleaning. Then, in response to this disheartening realization, one part of my mind earnestly tries to convince the other part that a spoonful of peanut butter is really a very well-balanced meal, if you think about it, because it contains protein and um and uh protein and well anyway there would only be a single utensil to wash afterward. (Inevitably, five minutes after I implement this idea, I'm both hungry and glaring at the stupid spoon sitting expectantly in the sink.)

So the other day, I am in exactly this situation—post-peanut butter, pre-spoon-cleaning—and thinking guiltily of the rampant African blue basil on the balcony that has grown to the size of a small elephant in the moist summer heat. A gangly, adolescent elephant. It was gazing reprovingly at me through the balcony door window.

I thought about how I should prune it, and how I was hungry, and how I needed to stop anthropomorphizing plants. (This last part I may have said aloud to our houseplants, Ellie and Beatrix, who nodded knowingly in the circulating air from the ceiling fan.)

And then, less than twenty minutes later, I was sitting down to this. The ingredients can be prepared while the pasta water is coming to a boil. The water boils quickly, because you can use a small pot. And most magically of all, everything happens in that one small pot—leaving you just one thing to clean up afterward.*

Plus it's like mac and cheese comfort meets homemade pesto gourmet deliciousness.

Ingredients (per person):
1 small to medium clove garlic, unpeeled
A bit more than 1 cup whole wheat fusilli pasta**
A big bunch of fresh basil (say, 2 generous handfuls...you'll want about 1/2 cup chopped)
1-2 oz grated extra sharp cheddar (or sub Parmesan, Asiago, or any full-flavored cheese)
Any other pasta-y ingredients that happen to be languishing in your fridge (optional)***
A scattering of pine nuts (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper 

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta (a 2 quart pot is fine for a single serving). Toss in a 1/2 tsp salt.

While you're waiting for it to boil, wash, dry, and chop up the basil (you want enough for about 1/2 cup chopped), grate the cheese, and assemble any other ingredients.

When the water boils, add the garlic clove and the pasta. Boil for 7 1/2 minutes or follow package directions, until al dente. 1 minute before the pasta is done, fish out the garlic clove, rinse briefly under cold water, peel, and smash or chop.

Drain the pasta (directly from the pot if you can, using the lid, to save yourself the bother of cleaning something else), and replace the pot full of pasta back on the stove. Drizzle with olive oil, stir in the garlic and basil and any other pasta-y ingredients you've decided to add, and let sit one minute to warm through. Add the cheese and pine nuts and stir gently until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with black pepper, and serve.

*And the fork, technically. And a plate, if you're being all formal.

**If you're looking for the best store-bought whole wheat pasta by far, ever, look no further than
Eden Organic Kamut spirals.

***e.g., a spoonful or two of roasted red pepper tapenade, a chopped artichoke heart, a little diced tomato, and/or a scattering of chopped parsley.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sukuma Wiki: Kenyan Braised Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens

The husband has been cooking up a storm while he's on his own in the wild midwest. Recently, he adapted a recipe from our Kansas produce box for Sukuma Wiki, a common Kenyan dish of braised collard greens. In Swahili, sukuma wiki literally means "stretch the week," and this dish is surprisingly filling (in addition to being deeply delicious).

And, when we each cook it in our respective kitchens for a Skype dinner date, it can stretch the week from here to Kansas City.

Olive oil
1 medium to large red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large Japanese sweet potato (about 12 oz.), peeled and diced
1 bunch collard greens, lower half of the stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced Roma tomatoes
Dash or six ground cumin
Scant 1/4 tsp turmeric
1 cup veggie broth
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Heat a deep saute pan (one that has a lid) over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until it turns translucent, then add the jalapeno and saute a couple minutes more.

Stir in the sweet potato and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown in places. Next, add collard greens by the handful, stirring to coat. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, and broth. Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low or medium-low (you want to end up with a strong simmer). Cook for 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15, until the collard greens are very tender and the kitchen smells amazing.

Adjust seasonings to taste, top with freshly ground white pepper, and serve warm.

Serves 2-4.