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.