Search

CATEGORIES


Orange County Wedding Photographer

Navigation
Tuesday
Apr032012

GARNET PILAF

I had planned the menu for Easter in my head before we even started making plans. I wanted to have a brunch in my parents backyard with a smoked salmon frittata, a spring pea and greens salad, a pastry with strawberries and some sort of grain salad, this one here would have been great.

As it is, one thing leads to another and it turns out we'll be driving out to the desert to visit one of my grandmas. Traffic. Heat. Eating at The Sizzler (I'm not kidding, it's one of the only options out there and Grandma Gladys uses the oven for storage space so you know she's not cooking). So I made the grain salad for a dinner with friends the other night and it was so simple and so pretty I had to share. There are three cooking vessles used, which for some dismisses this dish from the "simple" category, but grains are hands off cooking, so I think it classifies as such. I keep all the sweet potato nuggets on top for presentation sake, covered in a blanket of fresh chopped chives, but mixing eveything together works just fine.

I hope you have lovely weekend plans with family and friends and a table full of good food.

In other news, our "tech guy" (Hugh) has the email subscription up and running again, so if you're still trying to get updates, fingers crossed this attempt proves successful for all of you! Thanks for your patience.

GARNET PILAF // Serves 4-6

1/2 cup brown rice

3 sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika, divided

sea salt + pepper

1 small yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed

1 cup water or broth of choice

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

sprinkle of red chili flakes, if you like some heat

1 bunch fresh chives, chopped (about 1/3 cup)

Preheat the oven to 425'.

Rinse and cook the brown rice according to instructions. This takes the longest, so start the rice first.

Wash and dice the sweet potatoes into 1'' cubes. Pile them on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 Tbsp. of the smoked paprika and a few pinches of sea salt. Toss everything together with your hands to coat and spread them all out in a single layer. Sprinkle a few grinds of pepper.

Roast on the middle rack for 23-25 minutes until the edges are browned and crisp.

In a pot, add a drizzle of olive oil and saute the diced onion until just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, a pinch of sea salt, 1 cup water or broth of choice and bring it to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15-17 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork and cover it for another few minutes to finish.

When both the rice and quinoa are cooked, put them both in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the remaining Tbsp. of olive oil, remaining 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, red wine vinegar, chili flakes if using and toss everything together to mix. Taste for salt and pepper. Top it with the cubes of sweet potatoes and a ton of fresh chives and serve.

*It may not all be piping on at the point of serving and that is ok. I found it tasted best just a tad warmer than room temp.

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.