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.

IMG_0226

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.

Continue reading

Passion Fruit Pisco Sours

Over Martin Luther King Day Weekend, Noah and I went to Chicago. When we told friends we were doing this, they gave us are-you-batshit-crazy looks. I supposed this is what anyone planning to go to Chicago in late January deserves, but we were just looking to get away for the weekend and catch up with the many, too many, friends who have moved to Chicago over the last couple of years.

IMG_0178

It was, of course, very cold, but nonetheless worth the trip. We saw a very frozen lake Michigan and Frank Lloyd Wright houses. We ate great barbeque and Mexican food.

photo photo

Mostly, we chatted with friends we miss a lot and poked our heads into cool stores and bakeries. A particular highlight was a visit to the amazing Epic Spices. If you are in Chicago, go. The luscious smell of spices literally permeates the sidewalk in front of this place–I know because I made us stand outside for 15 minutes until it opened, cold weather be damned. If you go, you’ll leave with your tongue tingling from tastes of Japanese Sansho Pepper (a cousin of Sichuan Peppercorns) and with plans to work more fenugreek and orange peel into your cooking.

IMG_0182

We came home to an East Coast that was almost as cold and blustery as Chicago. But, I figured we had just learned how to handle the cold from true experts so I did what any sensible person would do and followed their lead.

My friend Noah, who we were staying with despite the ensuing confusion of having 2 Noahs in a small space, keeps frozen passion fruit puree in his freezer at all times. This, it turns out, is a great idea if you live somewhere gray and cold.

Case in point: Our first night in town, as it snowed outside, we huddled in his apartment, rolled sushi, and played games. At some point someone suggested we make pisco sours. The idea was enthusiastically endorsed before we discovered that we lacked eggs and bitters. An egg retrieved from a neighbor’s refrigerator solved the first problem and Noah pulled out the passion fruit to replace the bitters. The result: a totally winning, fruity, sour, and foamy drink that I think is the ticket to getting you through the winter.

The minute I got home, just before another blizzard began, I dashed to the grocery store and dug some Goya passion fruit puree out of the back of a freezer. It was necessary, I thought, to lay in essential provisions before the storm.

IMG_0211

Continue reading

Orange, Ginger, Goat Yogurt Panna Cotta

Oh, hello again. My family has a hectic November and December. My mother’s birthday kicks it off and then, in quick succession, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, my birthday, Christmas, New Years, and, just when you think you can stop thinking about who needs a present and a baked good, my father’s birthday. There’s been a lot of sugar.

There have also been an unfortunate number of gluten-free cookies that ended up in the trash for being hard as rocks and flavorless (what am I getting wrong with Buckwheat?)  or for utterly collapsing in the oven (did this recipe really work for everyone else?). There were some very good pies and also some kind of disappointing ones. My uncle, mother, and I spent an evening crafting pigs out of marzipan. The pigs show up annually in our Christmas stocking so joining the pig molding party felt a bit like being given the keys to Santa’s workshop (yay, I’m a grown up…crap, I’m a grown up).

photo

Amidst all the sugary baked goods, I discovered this.

photo

My birthday came a mere four days after Thanksgiving this year and I didn’t feel up for more baked goods so instead I made this Smitten Kitchen Panna Cotta (I topped it with pomegranate seeds and rose sugar instead of honey and walnuts, but I’m sure the original is excellent too.) Since, I also had the flu on my birthday this turned out to be an excellent decisions. There were a few days, when all my throat or stomach could stand was creamy, yogurty, panna cotta.

Despite, having eaten it for a week straight, I loved that panna cotta more than all the cookies, pies, and cakes that piled up around us  all month. I decided that I could update it for Christmas dinner into something a little more decadent, but still refreshing. I swapped the greek yogurt for strained goat yogurt, which has a creamier tang. I stirred in orange zest and candied ginger and a few tablespoons of orange juice. We made a pitcher of ginger syrup to go on the side. In the end, I think, it’s really the perfect holiday dessert because when you eat it for breakfast the next morning you feel both indulgent and virtuous all at once.

I plan to make it a Christmas tradition so I’ll be making it again next year. But, if you  don’t want to wait that long, I think you could feel justified making this dessert, even in January. And, if you are looking for something to serve on New Years–in the evening or for brunch–I think this would work well.

photo

I forgot to take a good picture before we dug in, so let this well-cleaned plate stand for how delicious it was.

Continue reading

Pear Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (gluten free)

P1080609

We just celebrated my mother’s birthday. In the last few years, I have begun to host a celebratory dinner for the occasion. This inspires no small amount of stress since my mother sets a rather high bar when it comes to cooking and an even higher one when it comes to baking. Her birthday cakes are not only delicious, but also fantastically beautiful. For my sister and I, there were ball gown shaped cakes encircling barbies; a perfect 7 of hearts playing card for, naturally, my seventh birthday; a delicately piped star fish for an ocean themed party; I even remember on birthday cake for my marina owning grandfather with a meringue sail boat floating on a sea of blueberries.

So, the annual preparation for her birthday has come to involve–I admit–draft cakes. This year, I even solicited feedback from friends and Noah’s classmates. (Admittedly, that may have just been a desperate attempt not to eat three whole cakes in three weeks.) While all this may sound insane, it does mean that this recipe comes to you far more tested than most I post here. While, it is not in the shape of any fantastical creatures, it has been endorsed by my excellent friends and now my mother.

I have had this sprouted kitchen recipe for honey roasted pears bookmarked for ages, so, when I was trying to decide what kind of cake to make, I started dreaming about a honey roasted pear cake. In order to make it gluten-free, I then turned that vision into an upside down cake with a cornmeal base.

Can we pause here to talk about gluten-free upside down cakes? I think this may actually be the key to gluten-free baking. Gluten free cakes are often so dry, but upside down cakes are naturally juicy and whatever is on top infuses the whole cake with the taste of caramelized sugar.

P1080607

Anyway, it turns out pears and cornmeal go together fantastically. Pears get soft and gentle tasting when baked and cornmeal provides a sturdy backing for them without overwhelming their flavor. The honey and thyme in here make the cake feel like an indulgent desert that would also be at home on a breakfast table, especially, say, the morning after Thanksgiving.

Best of all, this cake is shockingly easy to make. It comes together quickly, especially if you can draft a helper into slicing your pears for you (thanks John!).

Pear Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (Pears inspired by Sprouted Kitchen, cake adapted from Feed Me Phoebe)

– 2- 3 Bosc Pears

– 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

– 1/2 cup honey

– 1 teaspoon vanilla

– 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (brown sugar would work too)

– 1/4 teaspoon thyme

– 2 cups cornmeal (I used 1 1/2 cups finely ground cornmeal and a 1/2 cup polenta to give it a little more crunch)

– 1 1/2 cups almond meal

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 4 eggs

– 1 cup sugar

– 2/3s cup olive oil

– 2/3s cup greek yogurt

* Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

* Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan.

* Cut pears in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and then cut into thin slices length wise.

* In a large bowl, mix together cornmeal, almond meal, and baking powder.

* In another bowl, mix together sugar, yogurt, eggs, and olive oil.

* In a small sauce pan, melt butter, add honey, sugar, vanilla, and thyme. Bring to a boil, let boil for one minute and then remove from heat.

* Pour butter-honey mixture into prepared cake pan and spread it to cover the bottom of the pan. Carefully arrange pear slices in a circle that fans out from the middle on top of the honey mixture. (Don’t burn your fingers!)

* Fold yogurt-sugar-egg mixture into cornmeal-almond meal mixture.

* Pour batter on top of pears.

* Place cake pan on baking sheet (this will catch any honey that leaks as it bakes). Bake for about 40 minutes until tester comes out firm and cake is golden brown.

* Let cool for 10 minutes, loosen sides with knife, invert onto serving dish and let cool the rest of the way (at least an hour).

Delicata Squash with Spicy Za’atar Dressing

photo

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!

photo

Continue reading

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.

photo

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.

photo

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.

photo 

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.

Continue reading