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Sunday
Apr012012

SAUTEED CHARD + GRUYERE GRILLED CHEESE

First off, my Dad wanted a personal aknowledment for cleaning all the dishes I used to cook with at their house last night. Here it is, Dad! Thank you. As long as we get to share dinners together, I will likely be the one cooking and you will likely be the one cleaning. It's our team. I'll be waiting for my thank you on your non-existent blog whenever your ready. 

We also got to spend some time this weekend with our nearly-three-year-old niece. She picks up on the slightest details and her cuddles make me want to stop time, but it's always refreshing to hear how she takes life in with such fresh eyes. Through her, I witnessed a more life-like example of how inhibited we become as we grow up. She runs without fear, wants to pet every dog, easily expresses sadness, approaches other children without hesitation, certain they will be quick friends. That state of mind takes you by surprise when you are coming from a stage of life without kids, and spend most of your time with friends who don't have kids yet either. I admire her. I just watch her, hoping that she stays so precocious, and for myself, curious about when I started to let fear creep in and judgement manage the things I do and say. I'm not going to go too far down the rabbit hole, but every now and then the older are not always wiser. 

This grilled cheese satisfies the need for something warm and tasty. The greens and apple keep it on the fresher side, and the gruyere is mixed with some chopped shallots (a tip from Ruth Riechl at Gilt Taste) to add just enough kick to that perfectly melty, nutty cheese. Why people choose cold over hot sandwiches, I'm still not sure. We teamed up with the people at Wisconsin Cheese to compose a video of our grilled cheese sandwich recipe. You can watch it here. They are also hosting a recipe contest to enter an idea of your own with a pretty nice prize!

SAUTEED CHARD + GRUYERE GRILLED CHEESE // Makes 2

A few fine tuning notes. First of all, you want to let the moisture out of the chard so it doesn’t get soggy in the sandwich, so keep your sauté moving to release the pockets of steam. To get nice melty cheese, do not use pre shredded kinds. It has a coating on it to keep from sticking that tends to leave the cheese a bit dry. Fresh grated cheese will give you the best possible meltiness which we all prefer in a grilled cheese. Keep in mind, the measurements are all rough, so give and take as you wish.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

4 leaves of swiss chard, stem removed and thinly chopped

1/3 cup fresh grated gruyere

1/4 cup fresh grated mozzarella

1 heaping tablespoon finely minced shallot

4, ½’’ slices fresh whole grain bread

roughly 1/4 cup thinly sliced apple such as braeburn, honey crisp or pink lady

1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

sea salt

While preparing the sandwiches, start preheating your cast iron or grill pan over medium heat.

Combine both grated cheeses and the finely chopped shallot.

On two slices of the bread, divide the mustard and spread to all edges of the bread. Lay two to three slices of thinly sliced apple on top. Divide the shredded cheese on top of the apple slices in an even layer. Lastly, divide the sautéed greens on top of the cheese and top with the remaining slice of bread.

Drizzle olive oil on the top, an optional sprinkle of sea salt and put it in the pan, oiled side down. Cover with a press if using and cook for two minutes. Drizzle oil on top and flip the sandwich over, cook for another two minutes until the cheese is melted through.

Cut in half and serve warm.

 

Tuesday
Mar202012

BEET GREEN CHOPPED SALAD

"Beet's concentrated jewel-like color is both its joy and its downfall. It is Murphy's law that it should marry so happily with the virginal white of goat cheeses, mascarpone, and thick puddles of creme fraiche, none of whose looks are improved by a pink stain curdling the outer edge" - Nigel Slater, Tender

I love them for their boldness. For their unmatched flavor and unapologetic way of making everything pink (when using the red ones), like Slater mentions. They are what they are, without reservation, a concept that I've been wrestling with on a personal/career level this past week. I likely sound nutty, but there are lessons to learn in the growing, cooking and serving of food aren't there?

Beet greens are not for the faint at heart. For years I threw them away, not knowing they were perfectly edible. They boast a subtle sweetness, assertive in their vegetable taste and along with that lovely essence of dirt that the whole beet has, leaving no person to waver on liking them or not. The greens beckon the same taste buds, someone who is not afraid of their vegetables tasting of vegetable. They are tough, kind of like swiss chard, but cook down as tender as any green, can wiggle themselves into frittatas or stand up well in a green salad with a bold dressing. I like to chop mine pretty small, and would even go so far to say that I like when they have some time to marinate in the dressing before I dig in, as they have a certain sturdiness to them. This is another one of those salads that can sit in the fridge for a couple days to snack on, take to work, add a protein to, and will travel well. It's not for everyone, and you could use any other salad green if you just want to stick with the roasted beets sans greens. 

BEET GREEN CHOPPED SALAD // Serves 4 as a side

1 bunch of beets, including fresh looking greens

olive oil for cooking

4 scallions, white and light green parts

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

1 small avocado, diced

1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds

 

// tahini dressing //

2 Tbsp. tahini

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1-2 tsp. agave nectar, depending on desired sweetness

3 Tbsp. water, or as needed

hefty pinch of salt and pepper

1 clove of garlic finely minced

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 450'.

Cut the greens from the beets at their stem. Rub a bit of olive oil on the skin of the beets, sprinkle with salt and wrap them all in a foil pack. Set on the middle oven rack and cook for 45-55 minutes until you can easily piece through with a knife. Set them aside to cool.

While the beets roast, clean and dry the greens. Chop off and discard the long red stems. Chop the greens and put them in a large mixing bowl. 

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, vinegar, agave and water. Mix in the garlic, hearty pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add more water if you prefer it thinner. Mix in the chives. Adjust to your taste and set aside. 

Once the beets are cool enough to touch, you should be able to just push the skin off with your fingers. Use a paring knife to help it along. Dice the peeled beets. Thinly slice the scallions. Add the beets, scallions, quinoa and avocado to the mixing bowl and toss with a generous amount of dressing (note: the salad will turn pink from the beets. If this bothers you, you can toss everything without the diced beets, and sprinkle them on top). Sprinkle in the sunflower seeds, give it one more toss.

I prefer mine to sit a few minutes before digging in. Will keep up in the fridge for two days. 

Wednesday
Mar142012

SWEET POTATO CAKES

I am inspired by cookbooks. I appreciate the beautiful pictures; most make me want to cook and they can remind me of the vegetables I haven't picked up in awhile. I still like to play around with recipes a bit (I have a strange aversion to following directions). The neat thing about the book that I pulled this recipe from (which is actually a marriage of two of Ottelenghi's recipes with a bit of Sara thrown in), is the random act of kindness of how this book ended up on my bookshelf. I had admired the book in a bookstore months ago, and filled my phone with photos of some of the recipes. I didn't buy the book then, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Lo and behold, the book ended up on my doorstep a few days later from a dear friend who had picked up on a twitter comment. A kind note and a high five for finishing a big step in the book process. That sort of thoughtfulness is the inspiration I am after. Not just thinking how I can help someone or noting a quiet compliment, but DOING something to pass on compassion and encouragement. I can't look at the book without thinking of Kelsey's gesture, so I figured it was worth mentioning how loudly one single act of kindness can speak.

I really liked how these turned out, especially the sauce, but I won't tell you they are the most attractive meal you'll ever make. My first mistake is that I was too shy with the coconut oil/butter when cooking the patties, and they stuck to my cast iron pan. I'm not much for frying in general, but I suggest you be generous with the oil in the pan to get a good clean crust. You can serve them with some dressed greens, with black beans or poached eggs on top. Just finish them with a good douse of yogurt sauce on top and it won't matter what they look like underneath. Sauce is always the answer...and kindness. Sauce and kindness.

SWEET POTATO CAKES // Serves 4

Potato cakes adapted from Yotam Ottelenghi's Plenty

1 3/4 lbs peeled sweet potatoes, cut in large chunks

2 tsp. butter or coconut oil, plus more for cooking

1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 tsp. salt

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup oat flour or unbleached all purpose flour

1 egg, well whisked

yogurt sauce

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or basil

2 Tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass*

pinch of salt and pepper

* I know it's unlikely that most people just have lemongrass lying around, and while it adds a ton of flavor here, don't bust your buns if it's not easy to get a hold of. You could also substitute in chopped shallot.

Steam the potatoes until tender throughout. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes cook, warm the butter or oil in a cast iron pan. Saute the leeks until softened, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, blend all of the yogurt sauce ingredients, besides the cilantro or basil, together in a mini blender or food processor. Lastly, add the herbs and give it one or two more whirls just to blend in the herbs. Set aside.

When the potatoes have released most of their moisture (steam), transfer them to a bowl and mix them with the tamari/soy sauce, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and flour to combine. You want the mix to be tacky not wet, add more flour if it seems too moist to hold shape. Add the leeks and egg and mix to combine.

Add enough coconut oil, butter or a mix of the two (which i prefer), to your nonstick/cast iron pan to generously coat the bottom, and warm over medium high heat. Dont be shy. Make small, two tablespoons patties and drop them into the hot pan, pressing down to flatten. Cook until well browned on each side, about 7-8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary if they start to burn. Remove to a paper toweled lined plate to absorb excess fat while you cook another batch.

Serve with some lightly dressed greens and a generous portion of the sauce. These would be so wonderful with a poached egg on top or other protein of your choice.

Wednesday
Mar072012

PANTRY STAPLES: COCOA COCONUT BITS

These may be the new favorite treat around here. I tried a brand called Hail Merry coconut macaroons at a friends house last weekend and with their simple ingredient list, I knew I could recreate them myself. A small ingredient list, all in one bowl AND delicious. I don't like selling people on recipes, but decadence doesn't often come by so simply.

In keeping up with the proposed Pantry Staples series, I am adding a few notes on my most frequently used fats. The list is pretty short, but there are controversies over canola, grape seed, corn and other vegetable oils, so I stick to the few mentioned here. Again, I am not a dietitian nor do I have any nutritional degrees. These are my opinions based on experience and light research.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is a monounsaturated fat which is said to be a "good fat" that can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. The range of flavors in olive oil is pretty impressive. You can get under ripe, grassy, creamy, fruity and more. Depending where you live, there may be a local brand at your farmer's market, but there are a ton of markets and specialty stores with great brands as well. I typically have two bottles - one moderately priced one that I use for cooking (which should only really be used for moderate heat for the integrity of the flavor and nutrition), and another slightly pricier bottle that we use for dipping and homemade salad dressings, where the flavor is truly appreciated. Speaking of dressing, I love using this lemon oil from Stonehouse. Not overly lemony, just perfect. It usually has a shelf life of about a year, and should be kept in a cool, dark place to keep it as fresh as possible.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: This is my quickest answer to a non-controversial, high heat fat. It is a saturated fat, so it has made a strong come back from a history of being frowned upon for that reason. There are studies that say it is easier to digest than other fats, and the presence of certain acids make it good for skin care, stress relief, weight loss and immunity. It is a solid at room temperature, much like butter, so can be gently melted to be used in baked goods or warmed in a pan for a sauté.

There are some brands that smell more coconut-y to me, but for the most part, I find the flavor pretty versatile. You want to purchase an extra virgin, unrefined version. I keep mine in the pantry because I use it pretty often, but if you don't, it lasts longer in the refrigerator.

Nut Oils: These babies come with a higher price tag and distinct flavors, so I mostly use them as finishing oils or in salad dressing. A nice drizzle of hazelnut oil on some roasted squash, or pistachio oil in a quinoa salad - they have the essence of their nut, while also giving that moisture to the overall texture. The flavor changes with heat, so if anything, only use them with low heat. Like nuts in their whole form, they can go rancid fairly quickly, so should be kept in the fridge if you don't use them often. Be sure to check the dates where you purchase these oils too, as you want to buy from somewhere with a quick turnover to help ensure you're getting a fresh bottle.

Organic Butter: While dairy is composed of saturated fats, which affect cholesterol levels, butter is a natural food, so it still comes out as a better option than some of the other oils marketed as "healthy fats."There is no substitute for this flavor, first and foremost. I like butter on fresh, crusty bread or on top of weekend pancakes, but try and be conscious about using it in moderation. Because of the milk solids, butter burns at high heat, so is best used with lower heat cooking or in baked goods. The work around for this heat specific temperment is to clarify the butter, which is a simple process that removes the milk solids, so you can cook with it at higher temperature. My New Roots has a great post on how to make it and why. I do my best to buy organic dairy whenever possible. These days, it's pretty easy to find.

Sesame Oil: This oil has both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals. Like any of the other oils, these health benefits are still to be considered with a high caloric content, so should be used in moderation. The flavor is pretty assertive, so I use sesame oil when that flavor is welcomed, mostly Asian inspired meals. It can handle higher heats, but definitely has a nutty flavor to it. You can purchase plain or toasted sesame oil, and while I love the flavor of the toasted, it is pretty strong, so with cooking, I often go half toasted sesame and half coconut oil to mellow it out and avoid any burning smells or flavors. I keep the toasted variety in the fridge for a longer shelf life.

COCOA COCONUT BITS // Makes 20

Because these are vegan, they can also be enjoyed raw. You can scoop them into balls, chill them for about an hour, and enjoy as such. I baked mine at a low heat, because it gives them a texture of somewhere between truffle and cookie and I really love that. A crisp crust and a soft center. Perfection.

1 1/2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut (sometimes tough to find at markets, easy to get online)

1/2 cup natural cocoa powder

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup grade b maple syrup

1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

In a mixing bowl. Combine the coconut, cocoa powder and rolled oats together. Stir in the maple, coconut oil, vanilla and optional dash of cinnamon. Mix to coat everything evenly. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 215'.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a mini scooper or your hands, make 1 inch balls and set them on the baking tray (they don't spread, ample space between is not important). Bake them on the middle rack for 20 minutes. Remove to cool.

Monday
Feb272012

BROCCOLINI + CHARRED LEMON FLATBREAD

I went to college thinking I wanted to write for a health and fitness magazine. I would major in journalism, maybe take an internship after school and try not to live in New York City (the hub of most magazine companies) if I could help it - no offense New Yorkers, I'm just not a city girl. But as the story usually goes, I changed my mind at some point in those four years. To tell you it changed to wanting to write a cookbook and dabble in freelance recipe development would be lie. I never planned to be doing what I am doing now. I wouldn't know how to tell someone how to write a book on cooking and I don't even have a concrete answer as to how I learned to cook myself. Sometimes things sort of happen, and you learn the hard way while it's all happening, and it just works out. I've mentioned before that the learning curve with this whole book process has been a rocky one for both Hugh and I. We ate a lot, argued, did a TON of dishes and I cried when frustrated...which may have been often, but it recently occured to me that I'm on the other side of it now. The contents are still in the design process, but the book is available for pre-sale on Amazon. Me! Us! On Amazon! Like the place where we buy all our books and most other items I am too lazy to go to a store and buy myself! This is the thrill I was waiting for - the moment it feels like the learning curve evened out and there is fruit to the labor. I am sure the fear and self consciousness will creep back in at some point, but for now, I am so excited to share with you, party people.

In the way we sort of fall into jobs and oportunities and figure them out as we go, homemade pizza has the same story. I usually just pile things on, flavors that make sense to me, and while it may not be perfectly articulated with a clear expectation, it turns out just fine. And maybe even better than planned.

BROCCOLINI + CHARRED LEMON FLATBREAD // Serves 2 as entree, 4 as an appetizer

No Knead Pizza Dough recipe from Jim Lahey in Bon Appetit

I halved the published recipe to yield two crusts and the toppings mentioned are written for one pizza. I made mine with unbleached white whole wheat flour and it came out a bit dense...as expected. Next time I'd halve it with bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour.

I am giving general amounts for the toppings, but pizza should most definitely be made to your preference, so I suggest winging it. My only tip is to use more cheese than appears necessary, it always seems like less once it comes out of the oven.

Crust Recipe from Jim Lahey

(I halved it and got two 13'' thin crust pizzas)

1 small bunch broccolini

1 small meyer or eureka lemon

2 Tbsp. finely chopped shallot

6-8 oz. soft goat cheese

1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt and pepper, for topping

// roasted garlic spread //

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt and pepper

1 head roasted garlic (helpful instructions here)

Make the crust according to instructions. I usually start it the night before so it's ready for the next day - takes some forethought, I know, but you can do it!

Preheat the oven to 500'.

Steam the broccolini for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove to a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Give it a rough chop and set aside.

Cut the lemon into as thin of slices possible with a serated knife. Remove any seeds.

To make the roasted garlic paste, put the olive oil and pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of the head into the oil and smush fiercely with a fork to create a paste. This could also be done in a mini blender for smoother consistency. You want it creamy? Add a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream.

Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface (I used 1/4 of the published recipe I linked to for one pizza). Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal or flour on a cookie sheet and transfer the dough to the cookie sheet. Evenly spread the garlic paste, desired amount of broccolini, shallots, generous amount of goat cheese, lemon slices and the grated parmesan. Drizzle the top with olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and put it in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 13-15 minutes until brown spots start to show on top. Remove, slice and enjoy warm. If you feel you went too easy on the cheese, sprinkle a bit more parm.