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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fancy Fish Tacos with Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

There are only so many times you can present me with fancy tacos from trendy food trucks before I decide it's high time I make my own.

Three, it turns out, is the number. In case you were wondering. Feel free to try it. (Presenting me with tacos, I mean.)

After that, these happen. And then everyone is happy. Because tacos.

1/2 lb white fish (Petrale sole or black drum are particularly good; cod is fine as a backup)
Whole wheat flour
9 oz Greek yogurt (Voskos or Fage are particularly good)
1/2-2/3 bunch cilantro
1 lime, halved
2-3 handfuls Serrano or Padron peppers (or sub a couple Anaheims and a jalapeno)
Fresh whole wheat or multigrain tortillas (it's worth investing in particularly delicious tortillas. Look for local ones that are softer and fluffier than your garden variety dry disc).
1/2 cup grated Pepperjack cheese (optional)
Diced avocado (optional)

Combine the yogurt, cilantro, and juice of 1/2 the lime in a blender or small Cuisinart and blend until smooth.

For Serrano or Padron peppers: Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil, add the peppers, and sauté, shaking the pan occasionally, for a few minutes until peppers blister and soften slightly. Remove from heat and let cool, then slice crosswise into rings. (You can eat the seeds, so don't worry if a few get into the rings.)

For other peppers: Dice or slice into strips, and sauté in olive oil until they soften, 5-7 minutes.

Salt and pepper the fish, then dredge in the flour. Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Add the fish and shake the pan to prevent sticking. Cook until the fish is browned on the bottom, then flip and cook until just before the fish is done (it will finish cooking from its own heat). Remove from the pan and set on a cutting board for a minute to cool slightly, then cut crosswise into strips.

Meanwhile, toss your tortillas in the microwave between a couple damp paper towels for a few seconds to warm them.

Take each tortilla and sprinkle lightly with a little cheese. Pile in the fish, drizzle generously with cilantro-yogurt sauce, top liberally with peppers and a couple slices of avocado if desired, and garnish with lime wedges. Serve warm.

Serves 2.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Lemon Ricotta Orzo with Crispy Prosciutto

Not yet ready for pumpkin everything? Wade into autumn with this perfect blend of zesty lemon ricotta (remember summer?) and toasted walnuts with crispy prosciutto (hello, fall). Surprisingly easy to make, especially if you toast your walnuts ahead of time, and a delightful balance between tasting decadent and feeling light.

For the pesto:
1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic
1 handful baby arugula
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 giant spoonfuls ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
Generous drizzle olive oil
Slosh white or rose wine

For the pasta:
1 rounded cup whole wheat orzo pasta
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
(toast for 7-9 minutes at 400° until fragrant and golden brown)
2 slices prosciutto, diced (optional)
1 handful baby arugula
1 giant spoonful ricotta

Combine the pesto ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.

Heat 1 1/4 cups water in a small pot to bring to a boil. Add the orzo and a pinch or two of salt, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 8 minutes, or 1 minute less than package directions suggest.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil, then scatter the prosciutto in a single layer to fry. Fry about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until crispy. Drain and set aside in a small dish.

When the orzo is done, return the nonstick pan to the stove and set over medium-low heat. Drizzle with olive oil, then add the orzo and pesto and fold to combine. Let heat through for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then fold in your second heaping spoonful of ricotta. Add a handful of arugula, fold to combine, and turn off the heat.

Serve into soup plates, scatter liberally with prosciutto and walnuts, and serve hot.

Serves 2 with a side salad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Feta

Quick. Before the last of the summertime sunshine and summertime tomatoes fade into foggy memory under the cool crisp footsteps of fall. Get thee to a picnic.

1 ½ cups semi-pearled farro
2 cups chicken broth + 1 cup water
2 medium shallots, diced
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 medium to large zucchini or other summer squash, diced
3/4 can chickpeas, rinsed
1 heaping basket fragrant cherry tomatoes, halved and sprinkled lightly with salt
Olive oil
1 lemon, zested and then juiced
6-8 oz feta, cubed
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth and water to a boil in a covered pot. Stir in the farro, replace the cover, and return to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer according to package directions (probably about 20 minutes, or longer if unpearled) until tender. Drain well, toss with a drizzle of olive oil, and set aside.

While the farro is cooking, heat a wide nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and the shallot and sauté for a minute, then add the garlic and sauté a minute more. Add the zucchini and a sprinkling of salt and toss to coat evenly. Cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. When the zucchini is cooked through, stir in the chickpeas, cover the pan again, and turn off the heat.

Prepare the rest of the ingredients. When everything is ready to go, drizzle the farro with a little more olive oil and toss with the arugula so that it wilts a little. Add half the oregano, half the lemon juice, and all of the lemon zest, then stir in the zucchini mixture, tomatoes, and feta. Adjust oregano, lemon juice, and salt to taste (you’ll probably want half the remaining oregano and half the remaining lemon juice, but play with the amount until the zip of each one adds a clear bright note to the taste without being overpowering). Sprinkle with black pepper and chill until you’re ready to eat.

Serves 4-8 as a main course or side salad. Works well for potlucks, picnics, road trips, or just a stash of something delicious and ready to eat for a busy work week.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Curried Potato Salad with Cilantro and Ginger

A few weeks ago, while lunching outdoors in Berkeley on a shady patio, basking in the summery summertime, I was offered a bite of potato salad.

"Potato salad?" said the bite-offerer, descriptively.

"Um," I replied.

I paused. I'm not such a fan of potato salad, after all. I believe in the overcooking of all potatoes always forever, and potato salad potatoes are so frequently al dente. And then there's the mayonnaise thing. And the cold thing. And the lack of any hint of flavor drama.

And yet.

Maybe this was THE potato salad. Maybe this would be the moment at which the summertime picnics of my life would change course magically and irrevocably in a blissful epiphany of potato salad perfection. Maybe the secret ingredient was hidden inside this very forkful.

I forked.

I chewed.

I marveled at how very much this potato salad tasted exactly like every other potato salad I had ever tried in the history of summertime picnics.

Enough was enough. I was tired of being a passive potato salad bystander, sitting wistfully on the sidelines of summertime picnic history. It was time to act. It was time to make this.

It is in many ways, as you will see, the anti-potato salad potato salad. No mayonnaise. No white potatoes. Bursting with flavor. And best of all, delightfully overcooked.

1.25 lbs yellow or purple potatoes
Rounded 1/2 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds, lightly toasted in a pan until fragrant (about 30 seconds)
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Scant 1 tsp good quality curry powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Handful cilantro, chopped (about 2 1/2 tbsp)
Small handful baby arugula, chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced

Bring a pot of water to boil for the potatoes, then boil 15-25 minutes until the skins split and the potatoes are very tender (i.e., delightfully overcooked). Drain, rinse with cold water or an ice bath to cool, and peel (the skins should pull off easily).

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, curry powder, ginger, and salt. Put the peeled potatoes in a bowl and break apart into bite-sized pieces with a fork, then drizzle with the curry mixture and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle in the mustard seeds, cilantro, arugula, and scallions, tossing gently to mix evenly. Adjust seasonings to taste (the spice of the curry, tang of the vinegar, and cilantro-y-ness of the cilantro should balance each other out -- if one seems to be missing from the flavor, add a bit more. If the flavor just seems muted overall and you want to make it louder, sprinkle in a bit more salt).

Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge to chill while the flavors blend until you're ready to eat.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mostly Plants for Breakfast: Farro with Fruit and Greek Yogurt

You may have noticed that I have a thing about conquering new foods.

First it was kale, I think. Then fish. Cauliflower went from dubiously tolerated to deeply beloved, and brussels sprouts followed suit. At some point, I confessed to a sudden, irreversible, life-altering change in my relationship with tomatoes.

It became a thing. Find a food I think I don't like, and then find a way to prepare it that makes me change my mind. It was true of anything, I declared loudly. There IS no food I don't like, and if I think there is, I just haven't come across the right version yet.

Except yogurt.


Yogurt, it seemed, was the last holdout. The final frontier. The unbeatable edible. get the idea.

People thought they could solve this one easily for me. Just try Greek yogurt, they said. Make sure it's the such and such brand. Try French style. Try it with strawberries. Try the parsnip yogurt, because seriously, parsnips! (Verdict, on all: Ew.)

Until quite recently, when my mom intervened.* And this is what she suggested.

And the yogurt?

Delightful. Necessary. A perfect complement in both flavor and texture. And most importantly? Vanquished.

1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
10 oz or so plain Greek yogurt (my favorites, texture-wise, are Fage and Voskos)
Local honey**
1 lemon (preferably Meyer), zested
1/2 - 1 tsp grated ginger
Plentiful fruit (sliced strawberries, blueberries, diced kiwi, sliced kumquats, you name it)

Mix the yogurt with the lemon zest, ginger, and a spoonful or two of honey. Serve in layers: a scoop or two of farro, a scoop of yogurt, a heap of fruit. Eat blissfully. Repeat as needed.

Serves about 4, and saves easily in the fridge, separately, for breakfasts throughout the week (just reheat the farro and serve).

*You may remember my mom as the well-intentioned radish foister.
**Turns out honey is one of the most adulterated food products in the U.S. (along with olive oil), so it's worth splurging a little on a source you trust.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Black Beans with Everything

Time is short. Food is delicious. What to do? A simple pot of home-cooked beans can form a delectable base for every meal from breakfast to dinner and back again. And once you make the basics, your fridge is stocked for the week, or even an impromptu dinner party.


For the black beans:
1 1/2 cups dried black beans
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf

For the rest:
1 1/2 cups volcano rice or other brown rice
Pepper jack cheese, grated or thinly sliced
Handful or two cherry tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters
Handful or two fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 avocados, diced as needed just before serving
Good quality tortillas
Olive oil
Any or all of the following:
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2 small or 1 large zucchini, cut crosswise into thirds and then lengthwise into sticks
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cut lengthwise into strips
1 shallot or red spring onion, halved and sliced into half rings
Several handfuls spinach or baby kale
Pastured eggs
Greek yogurt or sour cream
Lime wedges

Rinse the black beans. Place in a pot, cover with 1-2 inches of water, throw in 3 cloves of garlic and the bayleaf, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for 45-60 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Remove from the heat, salt to taste, and set aside.

Cook rice according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, sauté the veggies: Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Toss in the garlic, stir for a minute, then add the zucchini and cook until golden here and there. Add the peppers and continue cooking until soft, covering if the pan starts to dry out. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot. And/or, heat a pan, drizzle with olive oil, sauté onion or shallot until softened, and then toss in some greens and cook until tender.

Toss together the tomato and cilantro. Scramble a few eggs if you're headed for breakfast burritos. At the last minute, dice the avocado.

Serve as a bowl: Rice, a sprinkling of pepper jack, beans, and then veggies, avocado, tomatoes mixed with cilantro, avocado, whatever else. Or serve ingredients separately and hand guests tortillas to make fajitas with whatever they would like. Or arrange your rice and beans alongside egg, veggies, cilantro, and a dollop of yogurt for a divine breakfast burrito. The possibilities are infinite. Or at least varied enough for a week of easy eating.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Guacamole with Green Garlic and Cilantro

'Tis the season for green garlic. Which means: Make this.

4 ripe avocados
2 tbsp minced green garlic (or sub 2 small cloves garlic, pressed)
4-6 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Several dashes ground cumin
Cayenne or Aleppo pepper to taste
Pinch or three of salt

Coarsely mash the avocados in a bowl. Mix in half the garlic, most of the cilantro, and most of the lime juice, then add a couple dashes of cumin, a couple pinches of cayenne pepper, and a light sprinkling of salt.

Taste, and adjust all the proportions as desired. Cumin and salt will both help round out the flavor if it tastes thin, but note that you may want to under-salt (or taste with your chips) if you're serving with something salty.

Serve. Eat. Sigh. Resolve that you'll totally obviously definitely share next time. Right?

Serves 3-4.

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.******

Serves 2-3.

*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.