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Wednesday
Nov252009

BUTTERNUT SALAD WITH CIDER DRESSING

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There is something about purchasing vegetables from a farm stand that makes you feel like you are buying happy produce. The people who work there are typically humble, hands on, and generous in preparation advice. They will gladly peel open an orange so you can taste how much bolder it is than its conventional grocery store counterpart. I remember my first day working at an organic farm up in San Luis Obispo, they handed me a hatchet (Hugh is shuddering at the thought of this) and we began pulling out deep rooted celery, my arms working so hard they were shaking. I put in hours in exchange for a big box of vegetables at the end of the week, and even after shoveling goat doody, filthy clothes and shaking arms, I still feel I got the best end of the deal. It’s usually the ugly ones that taste the best, the nubby, chunky squash that you can hardly figure how to cut open in the first place. The whole ‘beauty is skin deep’ cliché applies just as well to produce as it does to those mean girls from high school. I realize that not everyone has a local farm, but if you are so lucky, you should support it. I guarantee you will meet some wonderful people and happy vegetables.

This is the green salad that you make for people who think green salads are boring. The specks of pomegranate add a touch of tang, the bright nubs of tender fall squash, a crunch of nut, and the dressing has a grown up depth of cider and dijon. Butternut is far from an ugly squash, but it is accessible and perfect here. I passed this recipe on to a few friends when they asked for side dish recommendations; I promise people will remember this salad. The components were inspired by Ina, and then altered to be absolutely everything I love in a salad.pomsquash_02

BUTTERNUT SALAD WITH CIDER DRESSING // Serves 6
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
I recommend plating this salad either on a long platter or individually, otherwise all of the goods will end up at the bottom of the bowl.

3 Cups Baby Spinach
3 Cups Butter Lettuce
2 lbs. Butternut Squash, peeled and cut into 1’ cubes
½ Cup Toasted Pistachios
1 Cup Pomegranate Seeds
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tbsp. Real Maple Syrup
Block of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes

Cider Dressing//
¾ Cup Apple Cider
2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tbsp. Shallots
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
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Oven to 425’
1. In a rimmed baking pan, toss the squash cubes in the oil and syrup. Sprinkle with salt, red pepper flakes and fresh ground pepper. Roast on the top rack for 20 minutes. Remove and cool.
2. While the squash are baking, bring the apple cider, cider vinegar and shallots to a boil in a small saucepan. Boil for about 8 minutes to reduce and remove from the heat. Whisk in the dijon and a pinch of salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Allow dressing to cool.
3. In a large bowl add the baby spinach, butter lettuce, and toss with a small amount of the dressing. Place tossed salad on a serving platter and distribute the pomegranate seeds, pistachios and then the squash pieces on top. Drizzle a bit more dressing on the squash and shave large pieces of fresh parmesan on top.

Friday
Nov202009

CHEESEBURGERS?

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Hi there. It's Hugh. Sara had a super busy week with the day job and couldn't make it to the kitchen before the sun went down; she asked me if I could carry the torch... So, while I'm in charge, we're having cheeseburgers.

I'm a creature of habit. I could eat a cheeseburger every day, and if it weren't for Sara, I probably would. Luckily, she's around, knows what's good for me, and makes things taste good. That's not to say that I don't order the entrée in question nearly every time we go out.

Of all the burgers I've eaten, a few stand out- tallest among them is a burger from Mission Beach Cafe, in SF, a restaurant suggested by Heidi, and one from Vine, a local spot here in South OC. What I really like about both of these burgers, is that the ingredients are simple. What takes them to the next level, is the quality of ingredients and the method of preparation. You can add all sorts of creative, off the wall ingredients to spice up a burger, but I think it's tough to beat something that is straight forward and properly crafted.

After a recent indulgence at Vine, I decided that I was going to learn the art of cheeseburger. I read an article in Sara's Food and Wine magazine, googled a bit for some inspiration, and then started tossing things in as I went along. The resulting recipe turned out well. Not as simple as I imagined, but tastier. And mind you, I'm not much of a foodie, so I don't have spot on reasons for a lot of what follows, but the end result seems to have pleased the few people I've had over for lunch.
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THE BACON CHEESEBURGER // Makes three cheeseburgers

1 lb. Grass Fed Beef, 80% Lean
1/4 Cup Bread Crumbs
1 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
1 tsp. Fresh Thyme
Garlic, Minced
Raw Milk White Cheddar, Shredded
6 Pieces of Crispy Bacon
3 English Muffins
Arugula
Butter
Salt and Pepper

THE SAUCE
Mayo
Whole Grain Mustard
Marsala
More Garlic, minced cheeseburger_03

1. Fire up the grill, nice and hot. Mine tops out around 450', which seems to do the trick.
2. Start the bacon in a pan. Make sure it's crispy. I avoid the microwave.
3. Chop the onion, toss it in a bowl with the bread crumbs, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Break up the meat and throw that in as well. Make sure all the flavor elements combine with the meat, and form three patties about a half inch thick.
4. The measurements for the sauce are up to you. I usually rock roughly even parts, mayo and mustard, a healthy dose of garlic, and a splash of marsala. And maybe some black pepper as well.
5. Here's where things get weird. Put the patties in a 9x9 pan, and fill it up with cold water. Give them about 10 seconds to soak, then drop them on the grill. Add a little pat of butter to each side of the patties as they cook. Cook to desired doneness (I give them just a little more time on the grill than I used to, without the water bath, and I haven't over cooked one yet. At 450', I give them about 4 minutes on each side, flipping only once). Don't forget to add the cheese.
6. Pull the patties, cover them with foil, and let them rest for 5 minutes. Drop your muffin buns on the grill for a little toast.
7. A bit of sauce to each bun, patty, bacon, and arugula.

Thursday
Nov122009

GRAPE SALSA ON GOAT CHEESE CROSTINI

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My sister is not the easiest person to feed. She has all sorts of food aversions so I’ve learned not to get offended when she doesn’t clear her plate. She loves to shop, I hate it. She’s a free spirit, I’m somewhat of a planner. She likes to stay up late, I'm early to rise... you get the idea. At some point, after playing in the clothing racks at Target and bathing together, we stumbled into completly different interests. We’re the kind of friends that probably wouldn’t have chosen the other out of a group, yet I consider my relationship with her indispensable. We all need broader perspective, and it’s the people who are least like you, who make you see things through new eyes. She is going to be a famous clothing designer, and spends long nights in front of a humming sewing machine, cutting, threading and studding pieces I am consistently impressed with.

If there is anything I have learned about working, it is that you need good snacks. Can I put that on a resume? Sitting down and using no other muscles besides your brain and hands can get awfully exhausting. So this is what I made for Cydney, a snack that is difficult not to like. I hope this was a nice respite from your frozen taquitos, sister. I love you.
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RED GRAPE SALSA CROSTINI // Makes One Quart Salsa and About 20 Crostini
This makes a great holiday appetizer and can be made a day in advance. It keeps well, the onion just becomes stronger. Also goes well on some fresh fish or with some simple quesadillas, so you shouldn’t have an issue with leftovers.

1 1/2 lb. Seedless Red or Blue/Black Grapes*
1 Anaheim Chile
1 tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro, Finely Chopped
Half a Small Red Onion, Finely Chopped (more or less to taste)
Salt and Pepper

1 Whole Grain Baguette
8 oz. Chevre, room temperature
2 tbsp. Milk
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Oven to 375’

1. Cut the anaheim chile into fourths and remove the seeds, dice as small as possible. Dice the red onion as tiny as possible, and throw those into the bowl as well. Use your discretion with how much onion you like. Dice the grapes, best to halve length and width wise, then chop. Add the vinegar and ½ cup of cilantro and toss. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper to your taste.
2. Slice the baguette, on a bias into ¼’’ slices and arrange on a baking tray. You will need to do this in two shifts. Bake on the upper rack for about 4 minutes, take them out and flip them over, bake for another 4 minutes and let them cool. Repeat with the other half.
3. Put the goat cheese in a small bowl, add the milk and mix it around to make it spreadable. Swipe one side of the baguette with about 1 tbsp. chevre. Place a heaping spoonful of the grape salsa on top and garnish with fresh cilantro.
* By using the most fresh, firm grapes you can find, you will make the chopping easier on yourself. Not to mention the texture benefit. I think using two tones of grapes, makes a beautiful final product.
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Thursday
Nov052009

STUFFED PORTABELLOS WITH HERB SAUCE



I wish I wrote in my journal more often than I do, but I seem to only find myself there when I am sad, working through decisions, or traveling. In each new journal, I have a list of goals on the back page. I always know where to find them, and it's fun looking at journals past to see what I actually attempted to pursue. The six pack abs and fluent spanish and are still pending a number of journals later. For some reason I've taken more action on those in my present journal, and in regards to cooking, I have: 'learn to make a tasty roast chicken' and 'perfect at least three new sauces'.

This recipe, sent to be by my Aunt Suzy who heard it on NPR's Splendid Table, certainly knocks out one of the three. It is easy, sweet, fresh and versatile. It is fairly thick, and would make an amazing spread on a sandwich. You could even thin it out and make it a salad dressing. Like I said, versatile, like the favorite sweatshirt of sauces.


STUFFED PORTABELLO MUSHROOMS WITH HERB SAUCE // Serves 4

4 Large Portabello Mushrooms
2 Bunches Fresh Spinach, Chopped
2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice, still warm
Zest of One Lemon
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

GEORGIAN CILANTRO SAUCE // The sauce is adapted from Martha Rose Shulman's series Recipes for Health in The New York Times. It keeps in the fridge for about 5 days, but be warned that the garlic develops as it sits and effects your breath accordingly.

2 oz Dried Apricots
1 Cup Boiling Water
1/3 Cup Toasted Walnuts
2 Garlic Cloves (to taste), halved, green shoots removed
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt (more to taste)
2 cups Cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 Cup Parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mixed Basil, Tarragon, and Dill
1/4 Cup Walnut Oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil works fine too)
3/4 Cup soaking water from the Apricots, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes



For the Sauce:
1. Place the dried apricots in a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Let sit for at least an hour, more if possible, even overnight. Drain over a measuring cup and retain 3/4 cup of the soaking water.
2. Turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the garlic. When it is chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl. Add the walnuts, and process with the garlic. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the drained apricots, the lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper to the bowl, and process to a puree. Add the cilantro and other chopped herbs, and puree, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides several times. Combine the walnut oil and soaking water from the apricots, and with the machine running, gradually add it to the puree. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl. Taste and adjust salt. Best at room temperature.

For the Mushrooms:
Oven at 375’

3. Remove the stems from the mushrooms, brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper. Put them on a baking sheet, and bake on the upper rack for 8 minutes to soften. Remove.
4. Remove the stems from the spinach and give it a rough chop. Saute the spinach in 2 tbsp. olive oil until just wilted. Add to the warm brown rice and mix together. Add the lemon zest, pinch of salt and pepper. Amount of oil is your discretion here.
5. Add a heaping half cup of the spinach and rice mixture onto the gill side of the mushrooms and sprinkle with fresh herbs and desired amount of sauce.

Friday
Oct302009

HEARTY APPLE LOAF

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There are days I feel like cooking, and there are days that it sounds like the last thing I’d like to do. Hugh does an excellent job of romancing you into the Sprouted Kitchen, but believe me, toast and hummus work fine for me some nights. For this experiment, I strapped on an apron to remind myself that I mean business. I doubled this recipe, trusting it would work out. I like to have a tasty option waiting for me for breakfast and I also wanted to take action on my long time intention to send a loaf to a new friend. If you make this, I suggest you do the same. I have never met a person who does not like surprise mail, and I guarantee there is someone in your life who could use a surprise.

The lovely thing about this hearty loaf, is that you could use apples, pears, stone fruit or berries and make it yours. Throw in whatever you’re in the mood for. If it is a day you need to toss in the rest of the bag of chocolate chips you have into the batter, I encourage that. It tastes more like a bread than a cake due to the whole grains and modest amount of sweetener. It definitely needs this yogurt topping, which goes with just about anything, and this fibery gem gets along so lovely with the creamy tang. Hugh preferred a good schmear of butter; you pick your poison.apples_03apples_02

HEARTY APPLE LOAF // Makes one loaf
Muscovado sugar is a natural sweetener that has a more intense flavor than brown sugar. It is also more moist and sticky, so it holds up well in baked goods. It has a nutritional profile rich in minerals as a result of not being over processed. Turbinado sugar is much easier to find and would work fine as an alternative, just expect a coarser texture.

2 Heaping Cups Chopped Apples, Fairly Small Pieces
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Almond Meal
½ Cup Oatmeal
1 tbsp. Baking Powder
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tbsp. Fresh Ginger
1 tsp. Salt
2 Eggs
1 Cup Buttermilk
1 tbsp Real Vanilla Extract
½ Cup Ricotta
¼ Cup Butter, Just Barely Melted
½ Cup Muscovado Sugar (plus 2 tbsp for the top)
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Oven at 375’
1. Butter the loaf pan.
2. Put the chopped apples in a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and let them sit.
3. Whisk the eggs, butter, ricotta, vanilla and buttermilk together.
4. Add the dry ingredients together, including the cinnamon, ginger and salt and mix to combine. Gently mix in the buttermilk mixture til incorporated.
5. Drain the apples in a colander and give them a little shimmy to shake off excess water. Fold in the apples, do not over mix.
6. Fill the loaf pan and sprinkle remaining 2 tbsp. of the muscavado. Bake on the middle rack for 45 minutes until golden on top and springy to the touch. Test for doness with a toothpick, as the type of pan and oven vary. Do not overcook, as it will continue to cook a bit more when you remove it. Remove and cool.
7. While cooling, mix together your yogurt frosting. Cut yourself a slice of the loaf and drizzle her with a generous dose of the yogurt goodness.apples_05