In a dream world, money grows from a branching tree somewhere in my expansive and flourishing vegetable garden. It comes out in hundred dollar bills and blooms year round. From that tree, I'd make dinner for people all the time. There would be a long wooden table with bench seats and I would get to watch people savor fresh foods and enjoy each other’s company. Lots of candles, mason jars, big white roses and lilies. I’d host brunch after church on Sundays, and kids would chase the chickens that laid the eggs we were eating. People would be real. We would talk about how we’re really doing and eat slow. Something I certainly need to practice before this fantasy plays out.
Bringing it back. This week I started cooking for a family and have a dinner party tomorrow. Intimidating, yes, but I think the flavors I have going on below are crowd pleasers. As mentioned, I like feeding people and Hugh likes being the test bunny (what?), so these side jobs are a pleasure. If you find yourself in a position of feeding a group of people, and I hope you do, this recipe is affordable, and can be easily doubled or tripled. The colors contrast beautifully with a crispy green salad.
My mom has always been good with plants, I'll be working on that tree.
Love by giving.
GRILLED CORN POLENTA AND LEMON FISH (Serves 2)
I used Pacific Cod as the fish, which is easier to find at a fish market than a grocery store. Remember that polenta expands like rice, so use a big pot for ample stirring.
3/4 Cup Polenta/Corn Meal
3 Cups Organic, Low Sodium Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Good Quality Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Organic Whole Milk
2 Ears of Corn
1 Large Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (divided)
Juice and zest of a Lemon
Handful of Fresh Chives, Chopped
Garlic Salt and Fresh Pepper
2 6oz. Pieces of Pacific Cod (or what is sustainable and available near you)
1/4 Cup Good Quality Feta Cheese
3 Tbsp. Cup Lowfat Greek Yogurt (sour cream or mayo work as well)
1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley, divided
1 Lemon, Sliced VERY Thin and a bit of juice
Turn on the grill and oven to 475’.
1. Peel back the husk and silk of the corn, discard. Give it a little drizzle ½ tbsp. olive oil and a bit of garlic salt and put on the high heat of the grill. Continue to rotate, cook for ten minutes. Remove to cool. Cut the kernels off.
2. Heat the other ½ tbsp. olive oil. Add the sliced onion and sauté on medium until light brown in color, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat.
3. Prepare the fish topping. In a small bowl, mix the feta cheese, yogurt, garlic salt, lots of pepper, lil lemon juice and 2 tbsp of the chopped parsley. Mix.
4. Coat with cooking spray either a small baking dish or baking pan, put the fish skin side down.
5. Sprinkle fish with pepper and a pinch of salt. Divide the feta topping on top of both fish pieces and lay a few slices of lemon on top, slightly overlapping. Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Put in on the top rack of the oven and keep an eye on it while you proceed with the polenta. Fish should take about 12-15 minutes depending on thickness.
6. Continue with the polenta while fish is baking (if you read recipes prior, start heating the stock while prepping the fish). Bring the stock to a simmer. Slowly add in the milk. Pour in the polenta and continue to whisk until it begins to thicken, this should take about 15-20 minutes, you want it a bit thinner than mashed potatoes. Take off the heat. Gently fold in the caramelized onions, grilled corn kernels, juice of half a lemon, handful of chives and salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, fold in the 1/2 cup of feta cheese.
7. To serve, put a good portion of polenta on the plate, top it with the lemon fish and sprinkle with a generous amount of parsley.
Sometimes there are weeks when a series of events, small as they may seem when isolated, get the best of you. I appreciate reading my favorite blogs, where their authors willingly discuss cooking failures just as poignantly as tough aspects of their lives that tug at heart strings. In an attempt to change the course of my week, I filled my room with fragrant white flowers and set forth on making this tasty treat inspired from a picture in Bon Appetit, as my heart melts for cookie crust. As for the rest of the week, it did not turn out as planned.
This recipe, my friends, is precisely why I consider myself more cook than baker. I don’t like measuring, and when it comes down to baking science, the ‘little of this, more of that’ tactic does not fare well. I changed the proportions to more creme fraiche and less lemon, not taking into account that those measurements explicitly stated in the recipe played a role in the final product. Who'd have thought? The proportions given in the recipe below, do not correlate with the melting mess we had to take pictures of. So should this intrigue you, your luck may be better than mine. I think this pie would be great for entertaining, as it's fridge/freezer time gives you good reason to do it in advance.
Chemistry faux pas aside, nearly half of the final product managed to make it's way into Hugh's mouth while he was shooting it. "Clean as you work," he says.
PEACH DISASTER WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST // The science of this pie, is that the lemon reacts with the milk products to help the filling firm up. So be sure to give it ample time to do it’s thing before serving.
The Crust //
10 oz. Gingersnap Cookies
3 Tbsp. Butter
1 14 oz. Can Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk, lowfat optional
½ Cup Crème Fraiche
¼ Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 ¼ Cup Ripe Peaches, Peeled and Diced
1. In a food processor, grind the gingersnap cookies. Add the butter and pulse to combine.
2. Press the cookie mixture evenly into the sides and bottom of a 9’’ glass pie pan. Pop this in the freezer while preparing the filling.
3. In a bowl, whisk the condensed milk, crème fraiche, lemon juice, and cinnamon together. Give the peach pieces a good squeeze in your fist to crush them up a bit, and add to the cream mixture. Whisk together. Add the filling to the chilled cookie crust.
4. Let the pie firm up in the fridge for at LEAST 4 hours. We put ours in the freezer, and then let it sit for a bit before serving.
I really like free things. I’m the girl who tries multiple flavors at the frozen yogurt place, has a collection of toothpicks in hand at a farmers market and shoves all toiletries in my bag when leaving a hotel. Whoever said 'there is no such thing as a free lunch', has never been to Costco/Sam's Club on the weekend. When POM Wonderful sent me a box of 100% POM juice, I felt all blog efforts had paid off. I’ve seen the nubby bottles in the produce section, but breeze right past, as juice doesn’t tickle my fancy. I will start by saying it makes a refreshing slushy after a short stint in the freezer. This grain salad however, packed with bold flavors, is a perfect way to take advantage of the end of cherry season. Wheat berries are easily found at Whole Foods or a local health food store. They look like plump brown rice, but have a nuttier flavor.
The recipe below makes a great vegetarian side dish, and Hugh mentioned he thought it would be great along side of a burger. I made this for a dinner party at my parent’s house and added some crispy, salty bacon into the final toss. I hate to admit this, seeing as bacon doesn’t have a seat in the Sprouted Kitchen, but it was a layer of flavor that put this salad over the edge. The recipe below does not include the pound of crispy bacon I added in for my parent’s party, but if you partake in eating little piggies, just make sure it’s extra crispy. Eish, can't believe I suggested that.
WHEATBERRY SALAD WITH ARUGULA, CHERRIES AND POM DRESSING // Serves 4
1 Cup Wheat Berries
3 Cups Arugula
2 Cups Bing Cherries, pitted and cut in half
1 tsp Kosher Salt
Zest of one Lemon
POM DRESSING // This will look like a lot of dressing and seasoning, but the wheat berries are very dense and soak up a lot of the liquid from the dressing while in the fridge. Use less if you prefer, but it is what gives the wheat berries any flavor.
1 Shallot, roughly chopped
Big Handful of Fresh Fennel Fronds or Dill, Chopped
3/4 Cup Soft Goat Cheese
1/3 Cup POM, 100% Pomegranate Juice
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
½ tsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
Rinse the wheat berries in a strainer. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the wheat berries. Boil for about 45 minutes or until tender and split open a bit, add water if they dry out before cooking. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
While the wheat berries are cooking, make your dressing. In a processor or blender, add the shallot, fennel frond/dill, POM, cumin and pepper. Blend to combine. Add the goat cheese and olive oil and give another whirl.
While the wheat berries are still warm add the dressing and mix. Let it cool for a few minutes. Add the arugula and cherries (and bacon if you please) and mix again. At this point, add the lemon zest and taste for salt and pepper. Don't be shy with the seasoning.
~You can either serve at room temp, or chill in the fridge to let the flavors saturate and serve it as a cold side salad.
I have been in love with breakfast before the health industry beat to death the breaking news that 'eating breakfast is healthy'. I know I am not a pioneer in this, and that there are many of you who, like me, think about breakfast as you're falling asleep the night before. You pour into your favorite coffee mug, the one you always use, despite the many you have to choose from. You are partial to a smoothie with either a straw OR spoon and know the tipping point where scrambled eggs go from perfect to overcooked. It is worth waking up early to experience the charm that is breakfast.
Some of my best, most heartfelt conversations are at breakfast time. It’s before you brain becomes trafficked with the to-do lists and clutter of the day. The comfort found in a warm beverage breeds shared thoughts with good company. Though my efficient, productive self tends to be in motion first thing, my dream world would always start off with a nice breakfast. I don’t like them to be laborious, or involving a plethora of ingredients, which is why this panini is ideal. Just enough flavor, minimal effort. I humbly admit that my panini skills are one of the reasons Hugh fell in love with me. So here’s to my favorite person to spend breakfast with <3
BREAKFAST PANINI // Makes 2
If you don’t have a panini press or grill pan, you can use a saucepan and wrap something heavy in foil, to use as a weight to press down on the sandwich.
4 Slices Whole Grain Bread
½ Cup Fresh Spinach Leaves
2 Scallions, Chopped
3 Eggs, 2 Egg Whites
2 tbsp. Milk
½ tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 Cup Goat Cheese
1 tbsp. Grainy/Dijon Mustard*
3 tbsp. Basil, Chopped (any green herb of choice will work)
1 tsp. Milk
1 tsp. Lemon Pepper
1. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat. Combine eggs and egg whites in a bowl, add milk and garlic salt and whisk them until well combined and frothy. Spray the pan.
2. Add the scallions to the eggs and pour them into the pan. Let them cook about 2 minutes with the lid on, lift up on the edges with a spatula and let the liquid egg drain beneath, cook another minute. You are trying to make a rectangle of this egg mix, like an omelette.
3. When it begins to set, fold over both edges towards the middle and flip it over, cover the eggs and turn off the heat.
4. In the meantime, add the spread ingredients to a bowl and combine with a fork.
5. Toast your bread slices on the panini or grill pan for a minute for a very slight toast. Evenly spread a generous tbsp. on each slice of bread. Divide the spinach leaves on two slices. Cut the egg rectangle in half so you have two squares, and put one half on the spinach leaves. Press the other slice of bread on top of the sandwich goodies.
6. Heat your panini press/ grill pan, rub a lil olive oil on the outside of the bread and sprinkle with salt, put in the panini and warm through for about 6 to 8 minutes. If you are using a grill pan, flip the panini half way through.
*Dijon has more of a ‘mustard’ flavor while the ‘whole grain’ is more delicate. Hugh prefers the delicate, I think it would have been better with Dijon, but that’s you’re call.
Going to sushi only feels right when you can sit at the sushi bar. Focused Japanese men slicing and rolling, the occasional yelp and ching ching of their Sapporos. My Dad eats the sweet shrimp with the eyes and crunchy tentacles poking around, so gross. He tries to pick the strangest items and offer wagers to who wants to try them. Uni with quail egg, anyone? I've never left sushi a richer woman than when I walked in. Despite the games he likes to play, we both appreciate a good sashimi salad. We’ve frequented many sushi bars in town, assessing the proportions of lettuce or salty soy sauce dressing. Though I’m not one to digress from critiquing the food, sushi with my Dad is where we have our heart to heart talks. If he can tell my sister or I need a good talk, a little advice or direction, he initiates a sushi date. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I like it so much, it has represented a number of great conversations with my pappy.
This is a white girls attempt at a seared ahi salad; all sorts of flavors, lots of crunchy veggies and big chunks of fresh fish. My proportions are nothing like that of a sushi restaurant, as I kind of have a thing for vegetables. Ahi (aka yellowfin) Tuna is the least oily of the family, so it does well with a quick sear to prevent from drying out. Try to seek out a place you trust for fish, especially when eating it on the raw side such as this salad.
ASIAN AHI SALAD // Serves 4
1 Pound Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna
1 Head Napa/Savoy Cabbage (About 5 Cups Sliced)
1 Red Bell Pepper, Thin Slivers
1 Cup Shredded Carrots
¾ Cup Shelled Edamame
½ Cup Green Onion
1 Avocado, medium diced
2 tsp. Tamari
1 Lime, Zest and Juice (approx 3 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. Rice Vinegar
2 tbsp. Sesame Oil
1 tbsp. Agave Nectar (or sugar)
½ tsp. Hot Sauce of Choice
1 tsp. Wasabi (or wasabi powder)
1 tbsp. Toasted Sesame Seeds
1 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper
1. Heat grill to medium high heat. Coat both sides of the ahi with a bit of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Sear on a hot grill pan or grill for about 2 1/2 minutes on each side. You don’t want to cook it all the way through. Remove to cool and place in the fridge while preparing the rest of the salad.
2. For the dressing, add the tamari, rice vinegar, lime zest and juice, agave, hot sauce and wasabi to a bowl. Give it a whisk. Add the sesame oil, sesame seeds, and pepper. Whisk and taste. Add what your tastes prefer, be it heat, salt etc.
3. Chop the cabbage as thin as possible. Add the cabbage, carrot, bell pepper, edamame, and green onion to the large bowl. Toss with about 3 tbsp. of the dressing.
4. Cut the ahi into 1’’ chunks. Add the avocado and ahi to the remaining dressing and toss to coat. Let it sit a minute, and place a generous scoop of the ahi avocado atop the slaw.