I cooked for a dinner party earlier this week in celebration of a special birthday. When I say "I" cooked, I really mean "we." Hugh came along and was a giant help. I can be quick, but four hands are more efficient than two. It was a group of twenty new friends, all strewn down the sides of a long table, drinking wine and sharing cheese plates. Nellie came up with all sorts of amazing little of details, from the paper bag menu cards to wrapping the homemade ice cream sandwiches in individual packages of parchment and baker's twine. Remember when I told you things like this were my dream? I love feeding people, and long tables, and laughing, and stringing lights, and grateful hearts. That's got to be my favorite part, making other people happy.
At the party, hosts being vegetarian, I served a version of this alongside some creamy polenta and a crisp butter lettuce, apple and arugula salad. Since I started cooking with beluga lentils, I haven't been able to use any other variety. They are just so stunning in color, and have more tooth to them than your average brown or red lentil. It worked, and I'm pretty sure the meat eaters didn't leave hungry either. Except for the one guy who took full advantage of the "one night off" his diet by finishing his meal with an entire stick of butter. I won't take that personally.
SAUTEED BELUGA LENTILS + BUTTERNUT SQUASH // Serves 4
This is one of those recipes that is to taste on a lot of things. You could adjust the garlic if you prefer, more herbs if you want the greenery, more curry if you like it spicy. However, note that the curry should not be an overpowering flavor here, it's intended to be a compliment. Any squash would work, maybe even a pumpkin. You follow me?
4 Cups Cubed Butternut Squash
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp. Curry Powder
1/2 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tbsp. Muscavado/Natural Brown Sugar
2 Cups Cooked Beluga Lentils, drained
2 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Basil
1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Small Red Onion, Diced
Grated Manchego Cheese
Oven to 450'
1. On a baking tray, spread out the squash, add the olive oil, oregano, curry powder and salt and pepper. Use your hands and toss everything around until the spices are coating the squash evenly. Spread them out in a single layer, with as much space between possible. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 20-35 minutes. (The time differs based on water content of squash, size of cubes etc. Just watch them until the edges are brown and crispy).
2. While the squash are cooking, put the 2 Tbsp. olive oil and minced garlic in a pan over medium heat. Shake it around a few times, and allow the garlic pieces to crisp up a bit in the oil. Add the lentils and saute to cover them in oil. Continue to stir intermittently for about 10 minutes to warm through. Turn off the flame, but leave them in the warm pan until the squash is done.
3. Remove squash from oven and set aside, put the lentils in a bowl and add the red onion, apple cider vinegar, dijon and half of the herbs, stir. Add the squash chunks on top, the rest of the herbs, desired amount of grated manchego cheese and a grate of fresh ground pepper.
Our pastor is requiring us to write promises to each other for the wedding, and read them aloud. It's just part of his program, it's not an option, and I do agree with the reason that it personalizes the ceremony. I enjoy writing personal things, but the thought of speaking in front of 138 people, a paragraph that will relay my commitment, gratitude and humbleness towards marrying a man I am wholeheartedly crazy about, is a bit daunting. I've been brainstorming, and am taking note of every emotion that passes in these next few weeks. We just found a place to live recently, Hugh is moving in next Tuesday, and there is a warmness I feel in anticipation of having a home with him. It will be our place - a place we get to wake up, drink coffee, read books, work together, tell secrets, enjoy friends, stay up late watching movies and all else that fills our days. Sure, we don't exactly own any furniture at this moment, but I'm actually excited to eat canned soup on the floor while we don't have a table, a stocked kitchen, or unwrapped pots and pans. Isn't that all part of the endearing cliche of being a newlywed? My point is that just as a school is a place you learn or a hospital is a place you get well, a home is a place you love and I CAN'T wait. We won't be in this place forever, but the intangible parts of building a 'home' begin now.
So cheers to home; the occasion calls for a treat like this. The perfect combination of ingredients as we transition from the end of summer towards the beginning of fall. It's something perfect to share, and regardless of where you live, a crumble tastes just as wonderful on the floor of a new apartment as it would on a pretty kitchen table.
PEACH + BLACKBERRY CRUMBLE // Makes 6 Small Ramekins, 4 Large, or 8x8 pan
You could use more or less honey depending on the sweetness of your fruit. I got the tail end of these summer fruits, so I found this measurement to be a perfect compliment to their sweetness. There is flexibility in this recipe - you can use any citrus juice for the orange, your nut of choice, or another flour you have on hand. This could easily be a vegan crumble by substituting the one egg white for a bit of flaxseed meal, and topping it with a non-dairy frozen treat.
3 Peaches (about 1 lb.)
2 Cups Blackberries
1 Tbsp. Fresh Orange Juice
2 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Honey
3/4 Cup Oats
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 Cup Muscavado or Natural Cane Sugar
3.6 oz./ 1/3 Cup Unrefined Coconut Oil, warmed to a liquid
1 tsp. Real Vanilla Extract
1 Egg White
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream/Gelato for serving
Oven to 375'
1. Wash and dry fruit. Cut peaches into 1'' chunks and place in a bowl, add the blackberries as they are. Toss the fruit with the fresh orange juice and thyme leaves. Sprinkle the whole wheat flour and honey over the fruit, and toss gently. If the mixture looks fairly wet, depending on the ripeness of your fruit, add a bit more flour.
2. Fill the ramekins or pan about 80% full of the fruit mixture. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the oats, whole wheat flour, muscavado/natural cane sugar, pecans, salt, cinnamon and mix. Add the coconut oil, vanilla, and egg white and combine into the dry ingredients. It should resemble a loose, crumbly dough. Distribute evenly between the ramekins, or on top of the 8x8 pan.
4. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet, and set on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden and a bit of fruit juice is bubbling up the side. I like the fruit to stay a bit firm, if you like it soft, give it another 5-10.
People who care about food, have a philosophy about what they eat and why they eat it. Some are vegetarians for animal reasons, or vegan because of health purposes, you may not eat gluten because of an allergy, or some stay away from it as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. No red meat, no foods with a face, just fish... there are so many ways you could qualify your eating habits. While eating a gigantic bowl of this salad, I was reminded of why I try to eat well as often as possible. You feel so much better. I don't want to get into a discussion of the right and wrong of what to eat, because I don't feel it's a black and white issue. You have to respect yourself and those you're feeding, and believe that what you are putting inside, does matter, and then make your own decisions. All I can say is that for myself, I find a big bowl of raw kale salad, a subtle reminder of how good it feels to put healthy things in our bodies.
I know it's a bit early in the season to be singing the praises of kale, but this salad is my current obsession. If you are familiar with this hearty green, the thought of eating it raw sounds a bit daunting. It is tough, and somewhat bitter. I don't often cook with it because it tastes so earthy, and now I am eating it raw, by the bowlful. You toss it with this light tangy dressing, while it's speckled with bits of grainy bread crumbs and salty parmesan and it's amazing how something so simple and good for you, can taste this great too. The salmon here is not meant to have any strong flavors, as the kale salad adds enough zip for both components. You could easily serve the salad with some roasted chicken, marinated tofu or with the ever-so-versatile poached egg as well.
LEMON KALE SALAD + SEARED SALMON // Serves 2
The kale salad recipe is adapted from Dr. Weil/True Food Kitchen. Make a little extra if you like leftovers, the kale stands up to the dressing really well, so you can keep it lightly dressed in the fridge and it only gets better. This will likely make more dressing than you need, but better to be prepared.
4 Cups Kale (lacinato or cavolo nero best), rinsed and dried
1/3 Cup Fresh, Whole Grain Breadcrumbs
1/3-1/2 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese
Red Pepper Flakes to taste
2 (5 oz.) Pieces Wild/Sustainably Raised Salmon Filets
1 Tbsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Garlic Salt
1/2 Cup White Wine
// Dressing //
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Cloves Garlic
Pinch of Salt/Ground Pepper
1. Remove the ribs from the kale, lay leaves on top of each other, and slices into 1/4'' ribbons. Put them all in a bowl.
2. For the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic cloves and pinch of salt, pepper and red pepper in a blender/food processor and blend to combine. Taste for spice and lemon to olive oil ratio, I find that this is a personal preference. You can also add a touch of honey to mellow out the tang if need be. Pour desired amount over the kale and toss so the leaves marinate in the dressing while you finish the salmon.
3. Dry both sides of the salmon, and gently rub on the garlic salt, pepper and dried basil. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat with a bit of oil to avoid sticking, add the salmon filets, and allow them to get crispy on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the filets, sear for a minute, and add the 1/2 cup of wine to the pan. Cover and cook until just cooked through. This will likely take another 5 minutes, but will vary depending on thickness of your filet. Use your judgement and watch the center of the fish. Remove.
4. Add the breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, a bit more dressing and give the salad another toss to combine. Serve each plate with a hefty portion of kale, and a piece of salmon.
I am lucky to live in a place where you really could eat outside most months of the year. We have a special little spot, the grass hill above Salt Creek Beach, that has been our go-to picnic spot for a number of years. It's no secret, families and couples gather on that hill around 5 o'clock with coolers of mismatched tupperware, wine in plastic cups or take out of choice. It's a pretty mild incline, so while eating on a hill may sound bothersome, it's quickly excused when you figure the expansive view of the ocean everyone sees because of it. One of these days we'll post a picture for you, because it truly is one of my favorite spots on earth.
While the people watching at dinner time is entertaining, we recently discovered the joy that is picnicking in the morning. I pick up breakfast burritos, Hugh brings coffee in a thermos, and we watch the quiet waves. It's almost too perfect, oh and I love it. The only caveat is that there aren't too many breakfast foods that travel well. I imagine a frittata would suffice, or maybe even some pancakes if you wrapped them in the right container. However, a breakfast burrito requires no utensils and in the case of the recipe below, you get your grains, protein, and vegetables in one package! If you do decide to make them, whether you're picnicking or not, add or take away fillings as you desire. Change the cheese, add bacon or potatoes if you're feeling authentic. Whether it's your backyard or a short drive to a pretty spot, this is the season to eat outside, go.
PICNIC BREAKFAST BURRITOS // Makes 4
The deal with burritos, is that if you use standard size tortillas, the goods burst out. So after trial and error, we suggest either getting the large tortillas, or using corn tortillas, and making breakfast tacos as an alternative. Alter the amount of filling according to what size tortilla you choose.
1/4 Cup Whole Milk
1/3 Cup Chopped Cilantro/Basil
Pinch of Sea Salt/Pepper/ Red Pepper flakes
2 Cups Baby Tomatoes
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
3/4 Cup Diced Yellow Onion
Pinch of Sea Salt
2 Cups Baby Spinach
1 Cup Shredded Pepperjack
4 Large, Whole Grain Tortillas (see note above)
Oven to 350'
1. Halve the baby tomatoes and put them on a rimmed baking tray. Add the diced onion, pinch of salt, olive oil and toss to coat. Roast on the upper rack for 20-25 minutes while you get everything else ready.
2. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl, add the milk and generously pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and pepper and whisk well. Whisk until they are a consistent color and all yolks are broken up. Add the eggs into a saucepan over medium heat (you really want almost medium low, as eggs that are cooked a bit slower tend to have a softer texture that flash cooked on high heat. Remember, you have to wait 20 minutes for the tomatoes anyway). Scramble the eggs slowly, when they are a few minutes to done, toss in all of the chopped herbs and turn off the heat, they will continue to cook, I promise.
3. Warm each of your tortillas over the stove to warm through, I like mine to get a few little blisters on each side. Lay them on a cutting board and sprinkle with the cheese. Make a layer of baby spinach, pile a quarter of the eggs, and the roasted tomato/onion mix, down the middle of each tortilla. Layer thin slices of avocado on top. Fold both ends, and roll if using a big burrito tortilla. If using taco size, you'll halve the amount of goodies per tortilla.
I'm fresh off a girls road trip to Napa, California. We stayed at a wonderful hotel in Calistoga called Solage, rode bikes to local wineries, ate, laughed and participated in a self led water aerobics class. We think we're so funny, the lounging pool folk may attest otherwise. We enjoyed a personal tour and tasting at Kelly Fleming's vineyard, and chatted around her big farmhouse table. I get so inspired when I watch people pursue what they love. It is absolutely gorgeous up there. As a Southern California girl, I am awe struck by the landscape that is a mere 8 hours north.
My kitchen has been quiet the past few days, so we're sharing a recipe we had posted on The Kitchn earlier this week. Tara at Seven Spoons posted a version of this recipe quite a ways back, and her images haven't left my mind since. I knew that when I next committed to make a decadent, buttery, serious business cookie, this would be the one. Her post was about a year ago, which goes to show I don't have the self control to make 'serious business' cookies very often. They certainly met my expectations. After a year of thinking about them, they materialized into the soft centered, slightly crisp exterior I had hoped they'd be.
CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CHERRIES + PECANS// Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
If you like a salty bite to your sweets, I would suggest giving them a sprinkle of sea salt just before you put them in the oven. Pairs perfectly with cold milk or some vanilla bean ice cream.
1 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/4 Cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
1 Cup Pecans, toasted and chopped
1 Cup Dried Cherries, chopped coarse
8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped into small pieces OR chocolate chips
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 Cups Muscavado/Packed Dark Brown Sugar
1 Extra Large Egg
1 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
1. Use parchment paper or a silpat* to line several standard baking sheets and set aside.
In a bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2.In another bowl combine the oats, pecans, dried cherries and chocolate.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a whisk and a strong arm, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add the egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
3. Gently sift, or with the mixer down to low, add the flour mixture to the bowl. Stir until just combined. Finally incorporate the oats, nuts, fruit and chocolate. Do not overmix.
4. Roll these portions lightly between your hands in about 1/4 cup portions, then place on each baking sheet, spaced evenly. You can make them small, but adjust your baking time a few minutes less. Wet your hands and lightly press the dough to a 1-inch thickness. Bake the cookies, two trays at a time, in a preheated oven for 12 minutes. Rotate the trays top to bottom and back to front and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cookies are uniformly golden, but still wet in the middle. They should appear slightly undercooked.
5. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
* You can find a silpat at Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon. They keep the bottoms on cookies or biscuits from burning, while also creating a non-stick surface. They come in a few sizes, so be sure it fits the measurements of your cookie sheet!