Thursday, May 31, 2012
You can probably imagine that being a super celebrity food blogger of my status, I have products thrown at me daily. Marketing departments are begging me to feature their latest and greatest snack food, frosting mix or particular brand of plastic wrap. Why just last week I was approached by the Soup Appreciation Counsel of New England and named Most Dedicated to Lentils for 2012. Would you believe that?
No? No takers? Well, obviously I’ve never gotten any type of product sent to me in my life, in fact, I’ve never really gotten many care packages at all, because I was the youngest and my mom is kind of like me in that she’ll have the package ready, but it will ride around in her back seat for three weeks and then she'll just hand it to you when you get home and maybe one of the packages of cookies has been opened. Thought that counts, right? The only time I got exciting mail was when my biffle Neens used to work for a record company and every few weeks I would get a truckload of Fatboy Slim records and a ton of stickers (which was awesome by the way because I was equally into techno music and stickers in the early 2000s, go figure). So what I’m trying to get at is I felt like a bit of a baller last week when a care package from Goya arrived on my doorstep. Packages for moi? Or should I say packages for yo? Filled with quinoa and beans? How did they know I’m so into ancient grains and legumes?
This lovely gift came by way of one of my dear old college roommates, Natalie. Who started a company several years ago devoted to promoting and networking salsa dancing in the New York area and beyond called Salseek. Well, she must be pretty good at it, because every time I turn around she’s on the morning news in NYC shaking her hips, or she’s having gratis packages of beans and quinoa sent to me courtesy of the Latin Flavor Gods at Goya. I was especially pumped to peep the bag of quinoa since errbody knows I’m heavy into keen-WAH (potential rapper name?) and I know just what to do with it.
QUINOA SALAD with CHARRED CORN and POBLANO PEPPERS
Quinoa, prepared according to package instructions
2 ears corn, charred or grilled
3-4 scallions, chopped
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
½ Poblano pepper, seeded and minced
Juice and zest from 1 lime
1 clove garlic
Olive oil (about ¼ - ½ cup)
Salt and pepper
Prepare quinoa according to package instructions, standard cooking method is two parts water to one part grain and quinoa is great because it cooks up in about 20 minutes. For this recipe I used 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, which ends up making just shy of three cups cooked. Remove corn from its husks and clean completely. Place directly on your gas grill to cook, or, if you’re a thrill seeking type, you can do what I do and blacken it right on the open flame of your gas stove. Just place an ear right on the flame and move it every few moments until nicely blackened in spots. Be careful not only because you are dealing with an open flame, a kernel bursts every now and then sending hot corn water in many directions.
Once charred and cooled, slice the kernels off the cobs and set aside. Chop cilantro, pepper and scallions. Mince garlic clove, sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and then use the side of your knife to scrape it into the cutting board, until it makes a paste. This will mellow it out a little so there is no harsh raw garlic flavor in the finished salad. Zest and juice your limes and set both aside.
In a large bowl combine lime juice with olive oil, garlic, lime zest, a few sprinkles of hot sauce and plenty of sea salt and cracked pepper. Whisk together to combine and then add herbs, corn and minced peppers; toss together. Add quinoa and combine completely. This salad is citrusy, crunchy and fresh, with just a tiny tinge of heat.
It’s perfect to eat as a side dish to any grilled protein, but also great to spoon on top of a salad to bulk it up and add a little more density. You could swap out the veggies and herb for anything you had on hand and trade the lime juice for lemon, or perhaps a dash of vinegar. It’s very simple, but fresh and tasty. Perfect warm weather food.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
I feel like I have been sorely lacking in the domestic department lately. My kitchen has, at best, been used to make coffee and toast in and to serve as a makeshift office for when I sit down to organize my life a bit, upload some photos or chip out a blog. The past two months have cruised by with such a disturbing speed, I’m worried that I may wake up tomorrow and it will be August and I’ll have not gone to the beach, finished wedding stuff or cooked a proper dinner all summer long.
And if I’m not cooking for us, then I’m certainly not hosting much at all. Which is why, despite the fact that I worked all weekend, I was super pumped to host Mother’s Day Brunch. I don’t like doing dishes, but I really, really like being able to set the table and artfully arrange platters and bowls and tiny spoons (you would not believe how many tiny spoons I own it’s sickening). It gives me a sense of satisfaction. Some people may stress when hosting family or friends for a meal, I get high off of it. I could huff it all day long.
I’ll admit I cheated a lot. I kept it simple as possible and pretty much bought everything at the store. The only thing “homemade” I did was the main course, which was a strata I made the night before and simply baked while everyone was arriving. Other than that, it was pretty much putting things on plates. It was secretly so easy I kind of felt like the one grandmother in 16 candles who helps to put out breakfast by opening the donuts with a steak knife, while she has a large Virginia Slim dangling from her mouth.
If you look closely at these photos you’ll notice: granola (packaged), Greek yogurt (thank you Fage), fresh berries (on sale), bagels (bought), smoked salmon (the big splurge), scallion cream cheese (made quite literally by slicing some scallions on a package of Philly), some capers (had ‘em). The pastries and donuts were contributed by Paul’s brother and seriously, the only thing I made was the egg dish. And that took about 20 minutes of active labor. Would you believe that this was brunch for 8 adults, 2 kids, with leftovers and it cost 100 bucks (including mimosas!)? I think that’s pretty good. Could you help me pat myself on the back? I can’t quite reach. Here’s how to make the main dish. Toss this one in your back pocket and pull it out when you want to host but don’t want to break a sweat.
ROASTED TOMATO, SPINACH and CHEDDAR STRATA
½- ¾ loaf ciabatta bread, cubed
1 package cherry or plum tomatoes
2 bags baby spinach
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
1- 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees and set tomatoes in a small baking dish with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Grease a large baking dish with a bit of butter so your strata doesn’t stick to the sides and bottom.
Let the tomatoes roast until blistered and almost caramelized (about 40 minutes). Cube ciabatta bread and set into prepared baking dish. Sauté spinach with a tiny bit of olive oil just to wilt. Spoon the tomatoes and some of their juices, along with the spinach, evenly over the bread cubes; toss about 2/3 of the shredded cheese on top. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and mustard; add salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, veggies and cheese, sprinkling the remainder of the cheese on top. Hit with a pinch of salt and a few turns of pepper, cover and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.
In the morning, remove the strata from the oven and let it come up to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees (I went with 360 because my oven runs cool). Bake for 40 minutes, until set and the cheese on top is bubbly and golden. Turn oven off and let the strata sit in the warm oven for an additional 10 minutes before serving. This will make it more cohesive and easier to slice and serve. Enjoy immediately. Yields: 10 servings. P.S. this would be amazing if you added crumbled bacon to it, but really, what wouldn’t be?
Saturday, May 12, 2012
A few, well, several years ago a girlfriend of mine was living in London for a spell. Despite the fact we didn't know each other all that well, I decided to head on over for a visit. By the time I left 10 days later I had a deep running love for strong draft beers (well okay I already liked those), a lifelong friend and a fresh knowledge about the amazingness that is a Jacket Potato.
Courtney and I spent a cool, drizzle-filled Saturday drinking pints at every bar from the Southern shore of the Thames back up to her apartment, excuse me, flat in Swiss Cottage. I'm quite sure, in the way that happens naturally when you share several beers and 12 hours of walking and talking, that we covered every secret, scandal and funny story that either of us had ever experienced in our whole lives up until that point. It was, an epically good day and we still talk about it even this week, as we email back and forth about the design of my wedding invitations.
On that particular pub crawl, or maybe on one of the others, she ordered a Jacket Potato. Aside from having a completely adorable name (say "jacket" in your head in a British accent I dare you), Jacket Potatos are a pub menu staple for good reason. They are super satisfying and delicious, in addition to being inexpensive and easy. And it probably doesn't hurt that they are the perfect ground layer for a couple of Chimays or curiously strong Stellas.
I brought home a few white flesh sweet potatoes the other day, and I just so happened to have some cooked black beans, so I came up with this slant on a Jacket Potato. I can't believe it took me this many years to recreate this! It was a delicious and filling lunch, which came together easily and was the perfect match for a rainy Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't a pub crawl through 20 miles of London's cutest pubs with an amigo, but for now it would have to do until we can get back over there.
JACKET SWEET POTATO
(serves 1 generously)
1 white flesh sweet potato
1/2 can cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. butter
Splash milk or half and half
Salt and pepper
Shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese
Diced avocado (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)
Rub olive oil and kosher salt on the skin of your potato and bake until tender at 400 degrees (almost an hour in my case). Let cool a bit and slice lengthwise in half. Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl, leaving just a little border of potato next to the skin for stabilty. Preheat your broiler. Mash the flesh from your potato with the butter, milk or half and half and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. You can stir in some shredded cheese here as well, if you'd like, or save it all for the top. Return the mashed potato filling to the skins, top with a few spoonfuls of black beans and shredded cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Top with diced avocado, hot sauce and more salt and pepper.
Any old potato and filling would do...in case you haven't caught on by now a Jacket Potato is just like a twice baked potato, only bulked up into a whole meal. Plus, Jacket Potato just sounds nicer to me than twice baked. Feel free to get creative. Baked beans and cheddar would be amazing or sauteed spinach and tomatoes with grated parmesan and feta. Sweet potatoes needn't be used, it just so happened to be what I had on hand. If I was using a standard potato, I would go with Russets.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
I woke up yesterday morning with an insatiable urge to listen to some Outkast. I couldn't tell you the last time that happened, but like most things that I know will be good for me, I gave in to the urge. Spring is in the air in a major way and I guess that put the need for a little Stankonia before 9 a.m. It has been a damp, chilly week but there are green leaves on all the trees and pollen and tiny white flowers are all up on my windshield.
There are many delicious spring foods, but asparagus ranks way up there for me. Right now, the asparagus is so fresh and so good that you barely have to do anything to it. My usual go-to prep for these skinny green guys is to toss them in a baking dish with some olive oil and minced garlic and roast 'em at 400. However, around this time last year this particular salad, or some version of it was all over the food blogs. I tucked it into the part of my brain devoted to food memory (incidentally the largest and most active part of my cranium) and the other day when the asparagus were looking real good I dusted it off and took it for a test run. It's truly refreshing and completely pretty. You couldn't ask for a better dish to have a little spring fling with.
SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD
1 lb. asparagus
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Juice from one lemon
Salt and Pepper
Heat oven to 350 and toast your almonds for 10-15 minutes, until fragrant; set aside. You will need a sharp vegetable peeler to make the asparagus "ribbons." The easiest way to shave them is to set one stalk at a time on your cutting board and hold it with your non-dominant hand by the root end (the part you would normally trim or snap off).
With the stalk properly anchored, run the peeler upwards towards the tip. It will take a little trial and error until you get the hang of it, but fortunately the little bits that fly off are still plenty delicious, if not quite as pretty as the perfectly shaved ribbons.
Gather the ribbons into a bowl and dress with the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then add in the toasted almonds. Shave in some Parmesan cheese (using the vegetable peeler as well) and toss together. Serve immediately. I made this into a full meal of food by adding a quartered hard boiled egg on top.
True story: this is the first time in my life I have eaten a hard boiled egg on purpose. It was decent but I'm not 100% on board yet. Anyways, it's a terrific fresh salad, great on its own or along side fish or chicken to round out the meal.