recent recipes

Recent Adventures

Monday
Nov072011

hearty kale salad with blue cheese, cranberries and a fried egg

For some strange reason, I used to be opposed to kale and blue cheese, but now I've seen the light. We planted kale in our little garden this year and after playing around with all of the ways I could prepare kale, I decided that a wilted salad with salty delicious bacon and a fried egg is the way to go.  I hope you'll agree.

The way I prepare this salad requires refrigerating the kale in lemon juice and salt overnight.  For a quick fix, just saute it in some olive oil.  For the vegetarian version, leave out the bacon.

Ingredients:

1/2 bunch of kale

1 shallot

Juice from 2 lemons

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup walnuts

1/8 cup blue cheese

4 slices of bacon

1 tsp salt

1 egg per serving

Cracked pepper

Rustic bread

 

Cut the kale into bit size bits, put it in a tupperware, coat in the juice from two lemons and 1 tbsp salt. Shake to cover and refrigerate overnight.  What's awesome about this method is that you'll get all the green heartiness of the kale and you don't need additional salad dressing.  

Now let's talk blue cheese.

One of the keys to this salad is a nice strong blue cheese.  Like I mentioned earlier, I didn't like blue cheese as a kid.  What was wrong with me?  I now understand how fantastic it is and I am particularly find of Point Reyes blue.  The bluer the better.

After your kale has refrigerated overnight, take it out of the fridge, and place a few cups worth in a deep dish or a bowl.  Thinly slice your shallots and saute the shallots with the cranberries in about 1 tbsp olive oil until the shallots are just lightly browned. Meanwhile, cook your bacon and fry your egg.

As soon as the shallots and cranberries are cooked, let cool slightly and then place on the kale.  Add the crumbled blue cheese, walnuts and fried egg.  Don't forget the toast because breaking the egg with a fork isn't nearly as satisfying as using a nice chewy piece of buttered toast.  Who said salads can't be fun?

Sunday
Nov062011

braised pork shoulder and roasted tomato ragu with pappardelle

This is an absolutely perfect Sunday meal.  It takes some time, so it's good to reserve a few hours of your afternoon. Unless you're having a dinner party for 10, another reason this meal is perfect for Sunday is that you'll have plenty of left overs to carry you through the first few days of the week. Warming a big bowl of meaty ragu up for lunch makes a Monday just that much better.

Ingredients:

2 lbs pork shoulder

2-3 lbs fresh tomatoes

2 celery stalks

1 carrot

1 fennel bulb

1/2 red onion

3 cloves garlic

1 cup dry red wine

2 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp fresh oregano

1 tsp salt

Pinch of dried red pepper

Cracked black pepper

8 oz pappardelle

Burrata or fresh mozzarella 

Chewy rustic Italian bread

Fresh basil for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, wash your tomatoes and cut them into large chunks.  Toss in olive oil and salt and pepper and place on a cookie tray covered with tin foil.  Bake for about 30 minutes, then turn your oven to broil and broil for about 10 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to char.  Remove and set aside to cool.  

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a fairly decent sized dutch oven and let the pan get really hot.   After a few minutes, place the pork shoulder in the pan.  It will sizzle - that's a good thing.  If it doesn't, the pan wasn't hot enough.  Let the pork shoulder cook on the first side for about 4 min, don't move it while it's cooking.  After 4-5 min, flip it over.   The cooked side should be lightly browned.  Once both sides are cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.  You should have just enough oil and fat in the pan to saute those veggies perfectly. 

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen, besides have the dishwasher wash the dishes for me, is to saute onion, garlic and other yummy root vegetables.  It just smells so good!  Dice all of the veggies and cook for a few minutes in the dutch oven over medium heat. 

Once the veggies are perfectly cooked and smelling really good, add the tomato paste and the salt and pepper.  Cook for another 1-2 min and then add the pork shoulder, roasted tomatoes and make sure to get any of the delicious tomato juices that are on the cookie tray from baking.  Add the red wine, 1 1/2 cups of the chicken broth and the fresh oregano.  Reserve the other 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and adjust the consistency as needed throughout the simmering time.  

Reduce to low and simmer for about 3 hours.  It will smell so good in your house, it's hard to describe. Check on the ragu from time to time, adding extra broth as needed.  After about 3 hrs your pork shoulder will start to litterly fall apart when you stick it with a fork.  When it's nice and tender, break apart all of the pieces of pork and mix well.  Boil water for your pasta and season the sauce with salt and pepper as needed.   Serve with a dollop of buratta or some fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. Because the ragu is a thinner sauce, this dish goes perfectly with a chunk of chewy Italian bread. Mmmm....

Sunday
Nov062011

off the grid

The sun came out today and we decided to head up to Marin County for their version of the epic Off the Grid. We discovered half way up that Chairman Bao, our favorite food truck, was spending the afternoon at the North Beach farmer's market.  Oh well, the treats were still flowing.  Let's start with a delicious fish taco from The Taco Guys

It is truly a perfect fish taco, in every sense of the word.  It's a batter-fried sustainable ono  with shredded little gem lettuce, pickled radishes, Sriracha mayo and cilantro.  Yes, I said Sriracha mayo. It's amazing.  On to one of our favorites, Curry Up Now serving delicious Indian street food.  

I think the find of the day was the deconstructed chicken samosa.  It was so unbelievably good and left no room for anything else!  Just imagine a delicious samosa with the mint and tamarind sauce, inside out and swimming in a soupy bowl of spice.  Oh, was it good.

I'll be thinking about that deconstructed somosa for awhile.  That will do for the adventures for today, now it's time for a nap.

Saturday
Nov052011

swedish crepes with lingonberry jam

This was one of my favorite breakfasts growing up. My mother used to make these delicious buttery, thin and slightly crispy Swedish crepes instead of the "fluffy" pancakes, which I don't love nearly as much. I've grown to love these crepes stuffed with lingonberry jam and a breakfast sausage link.  Sure, if you're scared of the sausage, you can leave it out, but that's no fun. 

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

2 cups milk

3 eggs

1/3 cup butter (melted)

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp sugar

Pinch salt

2 tbsp butter for cooking

Lingonberry jam (or any other type of fruit jam)

Sausage (optional)

Let's not worry about calories or anything for a moment and just indulge in this pefect recipe.  Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until all of the lumps are out.  Now, that coudn't be easier, huh?

Really, the only trick to this recipe is getting the pan hot enough and making sure you don't pour too much batter in the pan.  Heat up a skillet on medium heat and melt 2 tbsp butter.  As soon as the butter starts to brown, add one ladle of the batter and tilt the pan so the batter is spread thin and evenly.  In my experience, the first few crepes end up being a bit thick, but as you move along through the batter, you'll get the hang of it.  Cook the crepes for about 2-3 min on each side, so they're lightly browned but not burned.  While you're cooking the crepes, you should be browning your sausage links.

It should be smelling really good in your kitchen and if you have pets, they've likely gathered around. When the sausage and crepes are cooked, spread a bit of your jam on a crepe, place a sausage inside and roll it up and dig in.  These are really so good. 

Saturday
Nov052011

nordic house

Fueled by the desire to make Swedish crepes this morning, I stopped by the Nordic House in Berkeley to get what every good Swede should have in their kitchen. Lingonberry jam.  To my utter delight, there was plenty of interesting finds at this little market.  While the idea of a fiskekaker doesn't sound exactly delicious to me (it's a canned Norwegian fish patty), this label is one part kitsch and one part vintage, and all parts amazing.

Now on to what I really want to discuss.  Headcheese.  Ever heard of it?  If you have, I'm sure that your memory has been suppressed, and for good reason.  My aunt brought some headcheese to Thanksgiving once when I was a child.   Just google it.  I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Moving on to happier times. These Swedish horses (or dala horses) made me feel very nostolgic today. My mother had these all over our house growing up and I think they are the best. Wikipedia has a whole lot to say about the history of these wonderful little carved horses, including where the largest one in the world is located.

And so you have it - the ups and downs of my little pseudo trip to Scandanaveia today.  On to the crepes and trying to get headcheese out of my head.

Friday
Nov042011

kobocha squash risotto with applewood smoked bacon and pecorino cheese

Thank goodness for fall, and this recipe is one example why.  What better way to close out a rainy and cold (and potentially really irritating) week than with a warm bowl of creamy, sweet, salty and smoky risotto?  There really is no better way.

 

There are a few flavor combinations that seem to truly be destined for one another - tomato, mozzarella and basil; peanut butter and jelly; and bacon and, well, everything.  The mild sweetness of the kobocha squash and the creaminess of the risotto is simply perfect with a few bits of applewood soked bacon and shaved pecorino.

Ingredients:

2 cups kobocha squash (peeled and cut into 1" cubes)

2 shallots (coarsely chopped)

2 garlic cloves (coarsely chopped) 

1 tsp fresh oregano (finely chopped)

6-8 tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 cup arborio rice

4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

4 slices applewood smoked bacon (optional)

Shaved or grated pecorino cheese (optional)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Pinch cayenne

I believe that kobocha squash is the best squash in the world.  If you can't find it, you can definitely use butternut squash but your final product will be much sweeter.  Start by pre-heating your oven to 425 degrees and split that lovely kobocha in half. 

Peel and dice the squash and combine 2 cups with a little olive oil, cracked salt and pepper and bake the squash cubes for 30 minutes or until they are easily probed with a fork.

While your squash is baking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.  Saute  shallot, garlic and fresh oregano until they're just starting to get fragrant and translucent.  Add a bit of salt and pepper and set aside to cool until your squash is done baking.  Once the squash is done, set it aside to cool too.  Now pour yourself a glass of wine. 

In the pan you used to saute the shallot and garlic, add 2 tbsp olive oil and heat the pan to medium.  Toast the arborio rice for about 5 minutes, reduce to low and begin adding the chicken broth about 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir constantly as the risotto begins to soak up the broth, it should take about 30 minutes for the risotto to cook. Add about 1 tsp salt, some pepper and a pinch of cayenne.  Take care not to let the risotto get mushy.  That's very important because no one likes a mushy risotto.

While your risotto is cooking, combine the squash and shallot and 3-4 tbsp olive oil in a food processor or blender.  Mix until it's velvety smooth.  Go on, sneak a taste.

When your risotto is just about done, add the velvety squash mixture to the risotto and start cooking your bacon in a seperate pan.  After adding the squash, you should cook the risotto for about 5 min.  Serve, devour, repeat.  This recipe is begging you to  have seconds.  You don't want to let it down, do you? 

Tuesday
Nov012011

coconut milk battered squash blossoms stuffed with ricotta and mushrooms

I'm sure you've been dying for a good stuffed squash blossom recipe, huh?  Me too. Well, not really, but I thought it would be fun to try.  Boy, oh boy, was I right.  These little bundles of cheesy joy are just with the doctor ordered.  Honestly, they're not that tough to make and you'll truly be the hit of your next dinner party when you tantalize your guests with these little fried blossoms.  Or just make them for yourself, because you're worth it. 

Batter:

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup flour

1 tbsp flaked coconut

1 tsp salt

cracked pepper

Squash blossoms:

10 - 12 squash blossoms

1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 shallot (diced)

2 tbsp crimini or portobello mushrooms (diced)

1 tbsp fresh basil leaves (chopped)

1 tsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Pinch of cayenne

Canola oil for frying

Start out by heating a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, add the shallots and mushrooms, salt, pepper and pinch of cayenne.  Cook until the shallots and mushrooms begin to wilt.  Your kitchen should start smelling really good right about now.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.   Once the mushrooms and shallots are cooled, add the mushroom mixture to the ricotta cheese, fresh basil and tablespoon of olive oil.  Mix together and season with salt and pepper.  

Now it's on the to the coconut milk batter. 

This coconut batter is just fantastic, in my humble opinion.  It has just enough sweetness to be interesting but it's not overwhelming.  Combine the coconut, milk, flaked coconut, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk until all of the lumps are out.  

Turn your canola oil on medium high and while it's heating, stuff your blossoms.  Take about 1 teaspoon of stuffing at a time, insert it in the middle of the blossom, and twist the little flower ends. Take care not to over stuff.  It's very tempting, but try to refrain.   Your oil should be heated well by the time you've stuffed 10-12.   Dip the first blossom in the batter and let one drop of the batter fall into the hot oil.  If it sizzles, it's time to go.  Drop those blossoms in.

It should only take a few minutes for the stuffed blossoms to fry.  When they're a beautiful golden brown, remove from the hot oil and place on a papertowel.  Now it's time to serve.  Bon apetit!

Monday
Oct312011

roasted padron peppers

It's Halloween night, the kids (and teenagers not dressed up, I might add) have cleaned us out of chocolate, I've pressed stop on my "spooky Halloween sounds" and now I can finally finally share the joy of nibbling on some roasted padron peppers.  

 

I first tasted these little gems while having dinner at the communal table at NOPA a few years back and it was love at first nibble.  I'm sure there are many ways to prepare these wonderful and mild little peppers, but I opt for the best way - simple and easy way. 

All you need are a few baskets of fresh padron peppers (readily available at almost any Northern California farmer's market), course sea salt, cracked pepper and some good quality olive oil.  Turn your oven to broil, toss the peppers in olive oil, plenty of sea salt (about 1 tbsp) and some fresh cracked pepper and you're ready to go.  

Don't worry about removing the stems, those will come in very handy later.  Just broil the peppers for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to turn brown and the skins blisters slightly.  Flip the peppers and broil for another 5 minutes or so.  You're ready to go.  See?  Simple and easy.  

Sunday
Oct302011

a day at the market

I love the farmer's market and I hate crowds, so the best of both worlds is the Montclair farmer's market. I mainly love farmer's markets because they're a great excuse to eat a bunch of treats while spending money on stuff, all in the good name of supporting our local farmers.  No problem.  Count me in.  

My favorite goodie at the Montclair market is the chicken tikka masala wrap when you first walk in.  They make the naan right there, what else could you possibly want? I mean, sure, I'd rather have a winning lottery ticket and a permanent vacation, but I'll take fresh warm naan until that happens.

On another note, fall is here and I couldn't be happier, but I say that at the beginning of every season. But fall truly is one of my favorites - full of all sorts of lovely squash, pumpkins and hearty stuff.  I smell a kobocha squash risotto coming on.

 

Any excuse to cook with fennel bulb is a good excuse for me.  I love it.  Saute it, shave it, roast it - it's all good.  Well, until next weekend Montclair.  I'll miss you.

 

Sunday
Oct302011

chipotle turkey burgers with toasted shallot and lemon aioli 

I love a good burger, that's for sure.  Lately I've been craving turkey burgers and after a few trials, this combo was the clear winner.  The medley between spicy chipotle, sharp cheddar and creamy shallot aioli is truly hard to beat.  Throw a grilled avocado on top and you're set.

 

Turkey burger:

1lb ground turkey (I used breast)

2 chipotle peppers in abodo (diced)

Slices of aged cheddar (I used San Joaquin Gold)

Pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne

Good quality buns (toasted)

Toasted shallot and lemon aioli: 

2 egg yolks

1 cup canola oil

Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)

1 shallot (diced)

Pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne

Garnish:

Sliced tomatoes

Iceberg lettuce

Sliced dill pickles                           

Grilled avocado 

Start out by combining the ground turkey, salt, pepper, diced chipotle and cayenne in a bowl.  Just use your hands.  Yes it feels kind of gross, but just go for it. No room for whiners in the kitchen.  Now that you've gotten your hands dirty,  form the burgers into 1/3lb patties, place on a plate, cover and refrigerate.  

Now is the time to heat up your grill so it's ready to go when you're done with the aioli.  I use a Big Green Egg to grill.  If you don't have one, they're amazing.  Get one.  That's my unofficial plug for the afternoon.  Regardless of the grill you're using,  heat it up to about 400 degrees and put some oil on grill rack.

On to the aioli.  I have to mention something about aioli.  It's amazing.  Quite possibly the perfect condiment.  Sure, I've been known to bust out a mayoli from time to time, and I see nothing wrong with that, but when you have the chance to make a real aioli just make it happen.  Your french fries and sandwhiches will thank you.

Dice the shallots and lightly brown them over medium heat in just a dash of olive oil.  It should take just about 5 minutes for the shallots to start getting lightly brown and aromatic.  Remove the shallots from the heat and let them cool slightly.  

In a food processor or a blender, add the cooled shallots, 2 egg yolks, a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne along with the the lemon juice.  Turn the food processor on and mix until the eggs are slightly frothy, about 1 minute. Slowly add the 1 cup canola oil. The key here is "slowly." Patience is not my strong suit, and thus, I've ruined many batches of aioli because I've rushed the pour. Do your turkey burger a favor and don't rush the pour. Slow it down. Your aioli will begin to thicken and it's done when it's just about the consistency of, well, aioli.

Now it's time to get your garnishes together and grill those burgers. 

The burgers will only take 3-4 minutes on each side.  You should have some lovely grill marks after only a few minutes.  I'm convinced a burger tastes better if it has grill marks.  I believe that is a fact. After you flip the burger, put your cheese on and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  As soon as the burger is sufficiently cooked, assemble and serve. Oh ya, grab a napkin.  It's a messy one.

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