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Wednesday
May192010

CHEESEBURGER. ROUND TWO.



So, in case the title of this post hasn't clued you in yet, this is Hugh. Hi.

First off, I want to say thank you so much to those of you who celebrated and encouraged us in the comment field of the previous post. Your genuine excitement was an honor. I think you're all pretty rad.

Anyway, back to cheeseburgers. There's this really neat restaurant just up the freeway called The Counter. You can read about the concept behind the place here, but in a nutshell, when you walk in they give you a clipboard with a checkbox menu, and you get to draft up any one of the 312,120+ different burger options possible with the list of ingredients. Daunting. I generally burn through about three "rough draft" menus before I finally send one off to the kitchen. I came up with the following a couple weeks ago while having lunch with a buddy.

Of course, I had to call Sara with the preventative "does this make sense?" measure before I could actually order it. She said yes. So you know it's good.

BRIE AND CRANBERRY BURGER // Makes 2
If you like things with a kick, add a tsp. of horseradish to the spread.

2 Fresh Buns
2/3 lb. Grassfed Beef
1/2 Cup Sliced Scallions
1/3 Cup Dried Cranberries, soaking in hot water
4 Slices Brie/Preferably Goat's Milk Brie
2-4 Full Leaves Butter Lettuce (or any soft green of choice)
Dijon
Salt/Pepper

1. Put the cast iron skillet in the oven at 400' to heat through. This step is not necessary if you are using any other pan/skillet.
2. Divide the beef in to 1/3 lb patties, and shape them to be about 1/2'' thick. Keep in mind that they will shrink in quite a bit when cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
3. Drain the cranberries and mix with the scallions, set aside.
4. Heat the pan over medium-high heat on the stove. If it is cast iron coming from the oven, you can start working right away. Otherwise, add about 1 tsp grapeseed oil and allow it to heat up a couple minutes. Add one patty at a time, sear on one side for 4 minutes, or until you see the edges of the patty begin to brown and shrink up a bit. In the meantime, put your buns in the toaster or toaster oven. Flip the burger, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the brie and let it melt a minute before you remove the burger. Test the firmness of the center of the burger to gauge it's doneness (Close your hand into a light fist, poke the meaty party between your index finger and thumb, that's about medium).
5. Cover with foil and allow it to sit for two minutes. ** This timing yields a medium cooked burger in a hot cast iron pan. Vary your timing if you prefer it cooked more or less.
5. While the burger rests, put desired amount of mustard on the buns. To assemble: bottom bun+butter lettuce+burger with softened cheese+cranberry and scallion mix+bun top. Booya.

Thursday
May132010

US.

I made a bold claim on my last birthday. I just threw it out into the universe: this was going to be the best year of my life. We celebrated with a surprise party on a boat dock with hummus and brownies, Hugh had designed this site, I got a laptop so I could invest in said beautiful site, I had settled into my studio and I felt ready for life to start happening. Feeling like a 'grown up' clicked that very day. This was my life, my decisions, my relationships to chose to nurture. It was as if I had just cracked the chapter of life being about my passions and doing things I most sincerely cared about. Which brings me to the end of that birth year. In short, the year has been...unexpectedly expected. Yep. I knew last birthday that God was going to do big things, that I may feel uncomfortable, but it would be good. I've made an out-of-character career move, this site has fed me (both literally and figuratively) and most importantly, I have fallen so deeply and wholeheartedly in love with Hugh that my heart may explode. I wish you could know him, because he is hilariously witty, sincere, honest, obviously talented, exceedingly hot and selfless in ways you maybe wouldn't know unless you were me. He gives me the best bites of his food; like the cheesy corner of the pizza, the nub of the sandwich that has even proportions of all the goodies inside or let's me eat half his dessert after I said "I didn't want any", yea... I'm a lucky girl because after eating all his best bites, he wants to marry me.

There was a hilltop picnic, where we dug out of the same tupperware bowl having forgot plates, and alas, he let me eat the best bites. We took in the view and assessed this past year, 'the best year of my life', which I wasn't sure it was, until he got down on a knee. I didn't like seeing him alone down on the floor, and since I knew what was happening at this point, I barnacled him with a gigantic hug and listened to his sweet words. I have a gorgeous ring that he designed, and I am going to spare you the rest of the sap that still seems too good to be true. This is the real thing. We learn to love by being shown love, and I am marrying my mentor in that. So there is no recipe, no stunning picture of produce or a rant of how I love greek yogurt. He is mine and it's the best year of my life. My cup overflows.

Thursday
May062010

VEGETABLE EGGS BENEDICT 



She really is a character all of her own. My mom doesn't really fit a stereotype, so I'm at a loss of trying to put her in a box for you. She was the mom who took us running through golf course sprinklers, and drove the getaway car for my boy crazy girlfriends when we'd go toliet papering in high school. She dressed my sister and I up in her old clothes, and sent us out to make mud pies when the backyard was a mess after the rain. I mean pies actually made from mud- she's never been much for cooking, but she makes up for that in how fun she is. I may not have recipes for 'mom's biscuits', but I have vivid memories of my mom starting the dance party with paper plates as props at my first boy/girl party. I mean, anyone can find a biscuit recipe, but only my mom can party with plates. I was her cautious child, and she always tried to loosen me up... she still does, actually. There is that cliche that says 'you don't understand the depth of a mother's love, until you have children of your own'. I'm sure this is true, but my mom has made her love crystal clear to us. It is deep, really deep, and I know this from her actions. You can say 'i love you' a trillion times, but it's my late night teary phone calls, the articles she sends me in the mail, or helping me plant my herb garden that speak louder than words.

And just because someone doesn't like to cook, doesn't mean they don't like to eat, and my mom loves things with sauce. Food is just her vehicle for more sauce. This is a great mothers day brunch idea. I was inspired by a sauce recipe I found in the Golden Door Cooks at Home Cookbook. It blends up so quickly and tastes lighter than the typical hollandaise you find on an eggs benedict. As soon as you crack the yolk, it marries the bell pepper sauce and serves as the perfect dipping agent for the rest of the stack. If you are not one for poached eggs, you could substitute a fried egg or even a heap of scrambled eggs as an alternative. Experiment with whatever vegetables you have, as I imagine any sauteed green could be used instead of spinach or some caramelized onions or leeks would be wonderful too. For the record: A. This is my new favorite breakfast and B. I love you, Mom.

VEGETABLE EGGS BENEDICT // Makes 4
The sauce recipe is written using jarred roasted peppers. The yellow ones make a sauce that most resembles hollandaise. When bell peppers are sweet and in season near you, I am sure the flavor would be exceptional if you roasted them yourself. Though jarred will save you time regardless of the season. If you don't care for goat cheese, you could use cream cheese instead.

2 Whole Grain English Muffins
4 Large Eggs
5 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Zest of One Lemon
12 Spears of Asparagus
1 tsp. Garlic Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Fresh Parsley for Garnish

// BELL PEPPER SAUCE //

1 1/4 Cup Roasted Bell Pepper Pieces, drained
3-4 oz. Chevre/Goat Cheese (richness to taste)
1/4 Cup Milk
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
Splash of Hot Sauce
Salt/Pepper

Oven to 500'

1. Start with the sauce. Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. In a blender or food processor, combine the warm milk, goat cheese, mustard, lemon juice and the drained roasted bell peppers. Blend until smooth. Cover and set aside.
2. Warm the olive oil in the pan, add the fresh spinach and lemon zest and saute until just wilted. Turn off the heat and let it sit, it will stay warm enough while you finish everything else.
3. Toss the asparagus with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt and some fresh ground pepper. Put in the upper third of the oven for 8 minutes (this all depends on the thickness of your asparagus, alter your timing to get tender but not soggy spears).
4. Bring one quart water + 1 Tbsp. vinegar to a boil, then down to a simmer. This is your egg poaching liquid, there are good directions on how to poach eggs here. If you are doing them one at a time, you can keep them in a bowl with some of the warm poaching liquid until ready to use.
5. Toast the english muffins and get ready to go. Toasted muff+spoonful of sauce+sauteed spinach+asparagus spears, halved+poached egg+another spoonful or sauce+maybe a lovely fruit salad on the side=perfection.

Friday
Apr302010

FARMHOUSE CARROTS



I love feeding people. I enjoy the whole process of collecting ingredients, the creativity in combining flavors, the science of how heat changes foods texture, watching the expressions of people you love have their hunger satisfied, and then sitting there with bellies full and talking about life. Every part of it is so gratifying in its own way. A majority of you are food people (I'd go as far to say, all of you are food people), so this sentiment is likely one we have in common. People are happy when they eat good food, and I like to make people happy. I hope you get time this weekend to make something, and eat with people. We have a few picnics planned to do that very thing.

I think this recipe could change the mind of a cooked-carrot-hater. I can't stand over-cooked vegetables. The minimal liquid and high heat, sort of blisters the outsides to create a tender yet resistant texture. The ingredients are simple, and if you can make it to a farmers market, spring onions are in abundance. Fresh carrots should be very firm- if they have any bend to them, steer clear.

FARMHOUSE CARROTS // Serves 4

2 Bunches Carrots (about 15ish carrots)
1 Cup Thinly Sliced Spring Onion
1/4 Cup Roughly Chopped Savory*

2 Tbsp. Honey
1 1/2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt/Pepper

Fresh chives for garnish

* If you cannot find fresh savory, I would use three parts fresh thyme to one part rosemary as an alternative.

Oven to 400'

1. In a small bowl, warm the butter, honey and cider vinegar together. Break apart the rings of the spring onion. Add the slices and the chopped savory into the honey mixture and let it all marinate. Set aside.
2. Cut off the green leafy parts and clean the carrots with a scrub brush. Leave them on a dish towel to dry completely.
3. Line a baking try with foil or parchment paper (I didn't do this, and I wish I did, much easier to clean). Spread out the carrots in a single layer. Drizzle the honey mixture over and gently toss to coat. Generously sprinkle coarse salt and pepper.
4. Roast on the upper rack for 20 minutes. Carrots should be tender but still have a good bit of resistance too them. Only babies like moosh carrots. Garnish with fresh chives.

Friday
Apr232010

WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH BASIL + MINT PISTOU



This was my first experience with a pestle and mortar. I envisioned it so earthy and rustic. I wanted to appreciate the fruit of my labor, more so than I would with an electric machine. I borrowed one from a dear friend, to see if this age old tool could stand up to it's reputation. However, the sight of me using all my arm strength to try and break through the fibrous basil leaves was maybe more rustic than I was capable. I felt so pretty, there in the kitchen with Hugh, while chards of garlic were spitting back at me and getting lodged in my curly hair. Super cute. I have read the praises of how much better pesto/pistou turns out with the smashing of the ingredients against the marble. I may loose culinary credibility, but I thought it was a mess and couldn't taste the difference. Go ahead, throw stones. Maybe if I were mega buff, coordinated and more patient, it would have been all it cracked up to be.

The means of how I got to this warm plate of crunchy green asparagus, rice and lentils is not the point (but haven't I intrigued you to want to get chards of garlic in YOUR hair?). I am partial to adding grains to my vegetables, because it keeps me full longer. This very well could suffice as a simple vegetarian entree, but is also a colorful side. I have sung my song of how I adore leftovers, so I put the chilled reminance over some salad greens the next day. The pistou dressed everything perfectly. The ingredients had marinated overnight, and was just as nice cold as it was warm. It made the garlic scented locks seem worth it.

WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH BASIL + MINT PISTOU // Serves 4
I used a pestle and mortar for the pistou, but it would be less hassle in a blender or food processor. To save yourself time, you may purchase pre cooked brown rice in most freezer sections now. Any variety of lentil is fine, cooking times will vary.

2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice
1 1/4 Cup Cooked Lentils (I used Black Beluga Lentils)
1 lb. Asparagus
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped, Fresh Chives

// BASIL, MINT + WALNUT PISTOU //

2 Cloves Garlic
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Walnut Pieces
1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (about one lemon)
1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves
1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves
1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste

1. In a food processor or blender, add the garlic cloves, salt and walnuts and pulse a few times. Chop or tear the herbs into smaller pieces, and add them to the processor with the lemon juice, pulse until everything is coarsely combined. Add a generous pinch of pepper and red pepper flakes and the extra virgin olive oil. Again, a few more pulses to combine. I like to leave mine a bit chunky.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus spears on a diagonal, about one inch pieces. Add them to a steamer basket (or to the boiling water, but they will only need about 1.5 minutes here) and steam for about 2.5 minutes. Prepare another bowl of ice water. Remove and add the asparagus to the ice water bath to set their color. After a few minutes, drain completely.
3. Prepare the brown rice and lentils according to instructions. While warm, mix them together in a large bowl. Add the asparagus and a few big dollops of the pistou (amount based on personal preference), and fold gently to coat everything in the sauce. Add the chives, fold again. Garnish with fresh chives.