No Such Thing As Vacation

Growing up one of my father’s mantra was, “There’s no such thing as vacation; just different places to work.” While I am generally not a rebellious child–more likely to accept parental wisdom as law than to question–I have never fully embraced this vacation doctrine.

So the fact that this Spring Break came not with a flight to somewhere warm or interesting but with a planned five days of uninterrupted work may have brought out an unbecomingly whiny, annoyingly grumpy side of my personality, which I wish I could say appears rarely but that’s probably not true.

I channeled at least a little of that grumpy energy into a baking bender that lasted until Noah made me a pina colada on Wednesday night–sweetly implying that it was time to get over my “why aren’t we in Aruba?” funk. A day later we took off for Rhode Island and I buried myself in a novel while snuggling by a fire.


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From here, I can tell you that even if I didn’t get to go away I did get to make some pretty great things that I had bookmarked for a long time. So, today, I thought I would put up  some links to the excellent food I made this week and throw out a big thank you to the excellent bloggers who pointed me towards these comforting, bad mood-defying treats:

Smitten Kitchen’s Millet Banana Bread: (Gluten-free: 1 cup buckwheat flour,  1/2 cup almond meal)

Casa Yelllow’s Frascatelli: (Wheat- free: 3 cups einkorn flour, 1 cup chestnut flour)

Sprouted Kitchen’s Cauliflower Gratin (Subbed millet for brown rice, added a chopped jalapeno, used chick pea flour in the roux)

My New Root’s Chocolate Buckwheat Granola (Added 1 cup mashed banana to the chocolate and took out the sugar, cut maple syrup down to  a 1/4 cup; threw in some dried cherries at the end).

I’ll be back with a real recipe next week.

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Carrot Socca

I have spent most of the last few months trying to combat this dreadful winter with citrus. Our kitchen is filled with bowls of mandarins, grapefruits, blood oranges, tangerines, and oro blancos. But, as the winter has continued in an unrelenting stream of gray days, I’ve moved my fruit fixations on to even warmer climates and started stocking mangos. It’s possible I should buy carbon offsets for my fruit bowl.

Last night, as I mulled over the fact that we were going North–NORTH– for “spring” break next week and as I stared at a weather report that suggested yesterday’s 50 degrees was going to disappear into rain and snow, I decided enough was enough. I was going to turn one bowl of citrus into something delicious. Having just seen Molly’s recipe for lime curd, my thoughts drifted to a tangerine-lime curd smeared on cookies and toast, layered with whipped cream and cookie crumbs for a trifle, or, to be honest, eaten furtively from a spoon every time I walked into the kitchen.

It totally failed. I juiced my tangerines and limes; I whisked them with sugar and butter. But, I whisked a few minutes too long, turned the heat just slightly too high, and all of a sudden it curdled. Bits of egg floated in melted sugar and butter along with some no-longer bright lime zest. It was gross. To add insult to injury, when I decided I had to taste it before dumping it down the drain, I burnt my tongue. Also there are splatters of tangerine juice and melted sugar all over our kitchen. It’s very sticky. (Cue “this would never happen to Robin” moans now.)

I decided it was all punishment for my globetrotting fruit bowl. “This is New England, Suzanne,” I said. “You should be eating root vegetables.” And so, as penance, I’m here to share with you a recipe for carrots. Luckily, my penance is your gain because this recipe is pretty tasty. And, let’s face it, at this point in the winter, you probably have some carrots sitting in the bottom of your refrigerator. Also, if you’re lucky enough to have citrus, you should not try to mess with it by adding butter and sugar.

This is a recipe for chickpea flat bread–socca–which is really more of a big flat pancake made of chickpea four, water, and a little oil. I discovered socca shortly after going gluten-free and for a while ate it at least once a week because it is so simple to make. Eventually, it fell out of rotation, but I made it recently and remembered how simple it is. Upon rediscovery, I decided that carrots would be an excellent addition to socca. My first attempt, however, ended in another kitchen disaster. I had roasted the carrots and then poured the socca batter around them. When I shook the socca loose from its pan, I ended up with mangled socca and a pile of roast carrots. They were quite good together but not exactly what I was aiming for.

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This time, I grated the carrots, sautéed them in a little butter and garlic and then stirred them into the batter before it went into the pan. The result was a cross between a socca and a carrot latke. It was crisp, sweet, and savory. At this point, I would definitely rather be sipping juice straight from a coconut but this is pretty good too. (And, as you can see, I ate it with a side of citrus anyway.)

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Cauliflower, Smoky Quinoa, and Radicchio Salad

A few weeks ago, Noah texted asking if he should pick anything up for dinner on his way home. (Good boyfriend points!) I told him he should figure it out what he wanted to eat because he was on his own. I had my own plans.

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In matters of taste, Noah and I do not always agree. He dislikes squash, cauliflower, and broccoli. There is a list of things that upset his stomach, which includes raw cabbage, quinoa, and many beans. I hate chocolate ice cream and can’t eat pizza so he also has his own (possibly more legitimate) complaints. In any case, I now rule out many of my favorite foods when I plan dinner (except when I’m on a conversion mission) or try to load all my broccoli and cabbage eating into lunch.

On this night, however, I had an idea for a salad and was determined to make it. When Noah got home and saw what was getting tossed into my bowl he nodded and said, “Now I get it. That’s all your favorite foods.” You see, I had myself a salad of roasted cauliflower, smokey quinoa, and radicchio. I’d also tossed in pickled shallots, jalapeño peppers, mozzarella cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. It was creamy but not unhealthy, spicy and tangy. This is a complicated salad. It takes a while to make, but I thought it was worth it. Even though it contained so many of Noah’s least favorite foods, I caught him sneaking a couple of bites. So, maybe it was a conversion mission after all.

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Soupy Rice, Kale and Lentils

After a string of sexy (or at least sweet and boozy) recipes, I’m bringing this blog back down to earth with the most mundane of dishes. Rice, kale, lentils, and broth. Could anything sound more ho hum? I can’t even describe this dish as a soup since, even if it starts out soup-like on day one, by day two the rice and lentils have slurped up so much of the broth that it has transformed itself into more of a risotto. So, here we are. It’s a very gray, very cold February. The roads are slushy and our food is soupy and also kind of gray.

That said, if you can get past this dishes indeterminate name, boring list of ingredients, and none-too-flattering photographs, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.

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I had absolutely no intention of writing about this dish. I just wandered into the kitchen hoping to use up the kale that was slowly wilting in the refrigerator and warm up our drafty apartment. I didn’t write down what I was doing, just chopped up an onion, scrounged up the lentils and rice, and washed the kale hurriedly while the onion was browning. But, then Noah got home and yelled, “What are you cooking? It smells amazing.”

Then I took a bite, and, well, it’s much more complex than I expected. It’s got the umami-ish depth that comes from melting anchovies into your food. The wine gives it some tang (more so if it is edging its way toward vinegar as mine was). The lentils are toothy and make a bowl of this feel healthy enough for lunch even while the arborio rice makes it feel bone-sticking enough for February. I scribbled the recipe down on a napkin, but I’m moving it here for safe keeping. I’m sure I’ll be making more before the winter is over.

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Delicata Squash with Spicy Za’atar Dressing

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Noah hates squash. While I generally try to keep Noah’s like and dislikes in mind when I’m cooking, I’m not so nice that I don’t sometimes view his dislikes as challenges rather than prohibitions. I am determined to convert him. Then we will move on to cauliflower.

This recipe did not make Noah an avowed squash lover, but he did ask for seconds. It’s inspired by what I believe is one of the great squash recipes of all time: Smitten Kitchen’s Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette. If you haven’t made it, you should.

Here, I used delicata squash because it is easier to cook and eat. (I’m actually not convinced we should ever eat any other squash.) I took the dressing in a middle eastern direction, filling it with Parsley, Za’atar, Sumac, Smoked Paprika and a smattering of Cayenne Pepper. The resulting recipe: it’s easy to make, easy to scale up for a dinner party, and makes great leftovers the next day. I have made it twice in the last week and would happily make it two more times next week, I think it is so good. Enjoy!

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Rosemary “Frites” with Yogurt Parsley Dip

I have been busy. There have been lots of train rides back and forth to New York and lots of weekends away, tramping up mountains through crunchy leaves and squishing through mud looking for mollusks. There have been too many applications to fill out, and more than a few pages have been written. Meetings to go to and tours to give. There has not been a lot of inspired cooking.

But, if you are looking for a dead simple meal that is satisfying and delicious, this what I recommend. Make Amanda Hesser’s baked eggs. Roast some Brussels sprouts. Cut some potatoes up so that they look like french fries and roast those too, maybe with rosemary and olive oil. Squeeze some lemon juice on the sprouts. Make a yogurt sauce for your potatoes.

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Let’s talk more about the potatoes. As many of you know, for many years, New Haven had a fantastic dive bar, Rudy’s, that specialized in Belgian style frites with a long list of sauces. It is, somewhat unfortunately, not an exaggeration to say that I spent at least one night a week eating those frites during my last two years of college. Rudy’s has since upscaled and my metabolism has downscaled. I haven’t actually had any frites since moving back to New Haven. But, when I saw this recipe on Sprouted Kitchen, I decided that I had permission to make a slightly healthier version of Rudy’s frites for dinner.

A yogurt sauce is not the same as samurai sauce, these potatoes are not double fried, but, they are a tasty dinner nonetheless.

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Rosemary “Frites” with Yogurt Parsley Dip (inspired by this Sprouted Kitchen recipe

– 2 fairly large russet potatoes

– 1 teaspoon Rosemary

– 1/2 cup yogurt

– 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

– 3 cloves of garlic, smashed

– Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

* Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

* Slice potatoes into long and thin strips, french fry sized.

* Drizzle potatoes lightly with olive oil, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon Rosemary. Toss to coat. You don’t want the potatoes dripping in oil, just lightly coated.

* Arrange on a baking sheet so that widest, flattest part of each potato slice is against the pan.

* Bake for 30-45 minutes, tossing after about 15 minutes so that all the sides get browned. Remove when potatoes are crispy and brown, but not burnt. (This may take more or less time depending on how thin your potatoes are. Just keep an eye on them.)

* Meanwhile, combine yogurt, parsley, garlic, salt and a teaspoon of olive oil into a dipping sauce for the potatoes.

Enjoy!

Thai Chili Chili

I have a question: In a cooking competition, is spiking a recipe with fish sauce cheating or just savvy? On the one hand, it is pretty much umami distilled; just one small step short of dumping in the MSG and looking the other way as you rack up votes. On the other hand, it’s fish sauce. Thinking to put it in chili required some creativity on my end so I think I’ll just say a gracious thank you for my recent chili cook-off victory and share the recipe.

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Saturday night, my friends threw their annual fall party complete with apple bobbing, sack racing, and, most importantly, a chili cook-off. A few weeks before, as I contemplated my chili contest entry, I told one of the hosts that I was going to try making a Thai chili chili (puns!). I also predicted I would lose the contest. It’s hard to win the chili cook off with a non-traditional chili.

But, this chili is special.  Fish sauce actually turns out to be kind of perfect in chili because it is smokey and sweet. This chili is both of those things but also spicy and meaty. It has a vinegary kick and is finished with coconut milk and lime juice. It’s turkey based. I used edamame in place of kidney beans and shallots in place of some of the onions.

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