Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Brunch Tart with Roasted Garlic and Tomato, Kalamata, Orange Salad

Do you remember Christmas morning as a child? I remember my mom making cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve and letting them rise all night. When we awoke, she popped them in the oven, so by the time we finished plowing through our loot, we had some real sustenance. They were the highlight of our year.

Unfortunately, after we had nibbled through all of the chocolate, oranges, candy canes and nuts filling our stockings, we needed sugar about as much as an alcoholic needs another drink. That didn't stop us. By 11AM we were all blissfully sick with a stomach ache.

Now that I'm all grown up, I like to think about how food will make me feel before I shove it into my face. So, when I made this tart a few nights ago, I realized immediately its potential for a perfect Christmas morning breakfast. The best part, at least as far as I see it, is that you can stumble through preparation in the morning with about as much effort as it takes to start coffee. Happy Christmas!

serves 4-6 

1 head garlic, roasted
4 eggs
1 cup half and half
sea salt and white pepper, to taste

1 prepared tart shell (I made mine from Annalise Roberts' Gluten Free Baking Classics)

1 cup grape tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
zest from one orange
1 tablespoon olive oil

Blind bake the tart shell for about 7-10 minutes.

Whiz the garlic, eggs, and half and half in a blender until thoroughly combined.

(At this point, you can put the shell and filling in the refrigerator until the morning.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the tart pan on a larger cookie sheet. Pour the filling into the shell. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tart is set and top begins to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Toss the salad ingredients together and serve atop the tart.

(adapted from Tyler Florence, who else)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hollandaise, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Some things in life stare you in the face for ages until you finally truly see them, like those horrible hidden pictures sold in the mall in the 90s. You know the ones? They were brightly colored, almost pretty, with some kind of hidden image that I was either too aloof to recognize or didn't exist at all.

For me, two food realities, no three, are emerging:
1) there is no substitute for tamarind paste.
2) artichokes are easier to prepare than I thought.
3) and, hollandaise rocks my socks off.

I discovered the first in my previous post on stuffed eggplant with lamb, cinnamon and tamarind. The remaining two discoveries happened simultaneously when I attempted to recreate a scene from Julie & Julia in which Julie and Eric enjoy steamed artichoke with hollandaise sauce. (If that's not food porn, I don't know what is.)

Don't tune me out. I know hollandaise sounds a little antiquated, like some boring gravy-esque sauce that your grandma ate before she learned that egg yolks raise your cholesterol (not entirely true), and your mom didn't because she already knew that, and you haven't because no one has told you how sexy and delicious hollandaise is or taught you how to make it. And, since most of the micronutrients in an egg are in its gloriously silky yolk, I should think that hollandaise practically a health food.

Okay, maybe that's a stretch.

You really don't need me to give you the recipe. It's been published in a million nearly identical forms already. (Try Alton Brown's hollandaise recipe.) I can't even post "my version" -- it's one of those things that cannot be improved upon.

So, promise me you'll make it?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb, Cinnamon, and Tamarind

Several nights ago, the women on my street planned a girl's night in with recipes prepared from the cookbook Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (available at Anthropologie). I had the privilege of making the main course, and though I'll admit it was a little time consuming, it was so worth it!

Have you ever ground your own meat? I purchased lamb and ground it coarsely with a Kitchenaid. The difference between purchasing pre-ground meat and grinding it myself was noticeable. The former tends to stick together, like a paste, whereas the latter tends to maintain its crumbly texture, allowing for increased browning. If you do not have a grinder, choose a piece of eat and have your butcher or the person working the meat counter to do it for you. 

I adjusted the recipe somewhat to suit my tastes and yield enough to feed my friends. It's perfect for a cozy fall dinner with a bottle of Shiraz or dry sparkling wine.

serves 4-6 
olive oil
2 eggplants, sliced lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 yellow onion, minced
3/4 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup pine nuts
handful fresh parsley 
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
4 cinnamon sticks 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

plain yogurt, for serving

In a large, glass baking dish, snuggle the eggplants skin-side down. Brush them with olive oil, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated 425 degree oven.

Meanwhile, mix together the spices and divide in half. Cook the onions in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. After the onions have softened somewhat, about 5-7 minutes, add half of the spice mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes, then turn the heat up to medium-high, push the onions to the side of the skillet, and add the lamb. When it has browned, add the pine nuts, parsley, and tomato paste. Continue cooking until the lamb is cooked through. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining spices with the water, lemon juice, tamarind, cinnamon sticks, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the sugar. Pour this mixture into the bottom of the eggplant roasting pan.

Spoon the lamb mixture over the eggplants, then cover tightly with foil and bake for an hour. Remove from the oven and baste with the sauce, adding more water if needed. Return to the oven to cook for another 30 minutes to an hour.

Serve warm or at room temperature with parsley and plain yogurt.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Caramelized Onion Pizza with Leeks and Balsamic

This past Monday, I was writing at a cafe near my house and met two women from the 1,000 Days Partnership. They invited me to join them for an evening with Candice Kumai, their first chef ambassador, at Scott Conant's restaurant, Scarpetta in Beverly Hills. I'll pretend I wasn't starstruck. Yeah, no big deal, just sharing a drink with one of the Iron Chef judges at a world-renowned restaurant. Sure. All in a day's work.

 The organization was created three years ago by Hilary Clinton to shine a spotlight on the time from conception to a child's second birthday when the nutrition he or she receives is more pivotal than at any other time in life. According to the project, the right nutrition during the 1,000 day window can:
  • save more than one million lives each year;
  • significantly reduce the human and economic burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS;
  • reduce the risk for developing various non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, and other chronic conditions later in life;
  • improve an individual’s educational achievement and earning potential; and,
  • increase a country’s GDP by at least 2-3 percent annually.
When I realized that both of my boys were past the window, I'll admit, I felt just a tinge of fear. Did I do everything right? Did I breastfeed them for long enough? Did I delay the introduction of solid foods for long enough? Did I invite them to try enough fruits and vegetables? I guess the same questions plague every mother, whether or not she faces food scarcity, like most women in the developing world do.

I walked away from the event with a new found admiration for Candice Kumai and a deep desire to partner with the 1,000 Days program in whatever ways I can to encourage women to nourish themselves and their babies.

To that end, I also walked away with Candice's cookbook Cook Yourself Sexy. I'm working my way through it for a review I'm doing for one of my food writing clients and last night, I tried her grilled mushroom and leek flatbread pizza. It was, hands down the best pizza I have ever eaten. Seriously.

You know why I'm a horrible food writer? All I want to say is, yum, chew, yum, just, chew, try it, yum. nom nom. Oh, that will never do. Must learn to describe food better. For now, let the photography and the recipe inspire you.

serves two 
olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced in rounds
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, rinsed, dried, and very thinly sliced
1 leek, thoroughly rinsed and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 pizza crusts
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup basil chiffonade

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions until they begin to pick up some color, about 5-7 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, and cook until soft, another 3-5 minutes. Push the onions to the edges of the pan and melt one tablespoon of the butter in the center of the pan.

Turn the heat up to medium-high. Brown the mushrooms in two or three batches, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Push the finished 'shrooms to the side as you work your way through them.
Add the leek and salt, and cook for another two minutes.

Top the crust with a light drizzle of olive oil and the topping. Grate a generous helping of parmesan over the top. Bake according to the directions of your pizza crust - more if it's frozen, you know the drill.
Remove from the oven and grate another shower of parmesan over the top and the basil chiffonade. Share only with the people you really, really love.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Roasted Root Vegetables with Balsamic and Goat Cheese

For several years, my brother lived in a little town in Northern Italy called Sacile. We visited him last year just after the significant earthquakes hit the balsamic capital of the world, Modena, deeply damaging both the production of balsamic and cheese making.
So, a few weeks ago, when my brother asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, wine or balsamic, I was quick to beg for balsamic. I thought he would send one bottle. Imagine my delight when the following showed up in the mail last week!
Four gorgeous bottles straight from Modena. Each is worthy of being tasted by the spoon (which reminds me, I should bring them out tonight. The women who live on the homes on my driveway are coming over for dinner. We're making foods from the cookbook Jerusalem. More on that later.)

I wanted a recipe that would showcase the balsamic without letting it overpower the dish. As he usually does, Tyler Florence came through. I used the recipe in his book Tyler's Ultimate as my inspiration. He suggests it as a side dish, but with a few mixed greens and lemon, it makes a perfect fall lunch.

They say stolen food is the sweetest. And stolen vegetables are far more appealing to little diners. Maybe that will be my new tactic for encouraging them to eat more.

Serves four 

1 parsnip, peeled and sliced into rounds
2 turnips, peeled and quartered
2-4 shallots, peeled and halved
4 carrots, peeled and left whole
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6-8 cups mixed baby greens
juice of half a lemon
4 ounces goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place vegetables in a large baking dish and toss to coat with olive oil and a generous pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

Roast for about 30 minutes. In a small dish, whisk together the balsamic and honey. Remove the par-cooked vegetables from the oven and toss with the balsamic-honey mixture. Return to the oven and roast for about an hour more, or until the vegetables are fork tender and caramelized.

Serve warm with mixed greens and a few chunks of goat cheese.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mofongo and Eggs

The problem with becoming a professional food writer -- and hear me say, I am so not complaining -- is that you spend all your time cooking for a camera and sending your recipes off to an editor. I miss just sharing them with you, getting to tell stories about the food, launching into brief but satisfying political diatribes, and talking about food simply for the sheer pleasure of cooking and eating.

So, after working full time in Santa Monica as a staff writer and editor for the last several months and helping launch a new online magazine, I'm thrilled to be back to my freelance career with a bit of time to spare indulging in this blog. This is my first post since March, so I thought it should be good -- no pressure -- and waited until I had something worth sharing.

A couple weeks ago Rich and I went on a surf date at Venice Beach and then hit up this adorable brunch spot called Sunny Spot. Nothing is more satisfying that a strong cup of coffee and a huge messy platter of savory food after two hours in the ocean. Topping the brunch menu was Muh-F'k'n Mofongo and Eggs. (Yes, that's it's actual name.) Mofongo is native to Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic and typically contains mashed, fried plantains and garlic with pork. Sunny Spot took mofongo to the next level though with caramelized fennel, applewood smoked bacon, fried eggs and Sriracha. Seriously. Really, really, really good.

Plantains look like large, angular bananas, but they're starchier and less sweet, making them a perfect ingredient in savory cooking. So, get your hands on some and whip up mofongo.

For each serving
2 slices applewood smoked bacon
1/4 fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ripe plantain, peeled and sliced on a bias
1 egg, fried  
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cilantro, for serving

Cook the bacon over medium-low heat until it renders a significant amount of fat and is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the meat and reserve two tablespoons of grease.

Cook the fennel and ginger for about 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove the mixture to another dish, leaving as much of the oil in the pan as possible.

Add the reserved bacon grease and turn the heat up to medium-high. Fry the plantains, browning them on each side. Remove them to a large mortar and pestle and mash together with the garlic and fennel mixture. Cut the bacon into small pieces and add to the plantain mash.

 Meanwhile, return the skillet to the stove and cook an egg sunny side up.

To serve, place the mofongo in the center of a serving bowl, top with the egg, garnish with cilantro and drizzle Sriracha around the plate.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Grapefruit Aperitif

The branches of grapefruit trees hang low with heavy, ripe, sweet fruit in the Valley right now. The only sensible option --no arguing here, it is the only sensible option-- is to make a batch of Alice Water's vin de pamplemousse,or grapefruit wine. If you're finding yourself drowning in citrus, consider this your lifeline. It's delicious beyond imagining.

yields about three liters 

3 bottles crisp, dry white, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1.5 cups vodka
4 grapefruit, sliced in 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 Meyer lemons, sliced in 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cup sugar

Place all of the ingredients in a large, glass pitcher and agitate until the sugar is dissolved. Store in your refrigerator, stirring as it comes to mind, perhaps once or twice a week.

Taste weekly, adding sugar to adjust the sweetness as desired. Careful, not too much, or you will lose some of the delightful, bitter complexity of the grapefruit.

After about four weeks, strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth into glass bottles and store in the refrigerator.

The exact alcohol percentage depends on the original wine used, but I generally consider similar to port, at about 18 to 20 percent.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Vegan Paleo Collision Chocolate Chip Cookies

What do you get if you cross a vegan and a paleo recipe? No eggs or grain. What's left? Pure bliss! 

I have made these cookies half a dozen times since I stumbled upon a similar recipe on Real Sustenance. I have also gained about three pounds since then. Coincidence? Probably not. My husband knows that all of my puritanical abstinence from junk food is no match for chocolate chip cookies. The salty chewiness of the dough married with the hard pieces of dark chocolate is a religious experience. 

Since I went gluten-free about two years ago, I have searched for a suitable chocolate chip cookie recipe. I made this version last year, but they're nutritionally void, especially when compared to this recipe based on almond meal. They're vegan friendly too, if you want to swap the butter and milk for earth balance spread and almond milk. 

makes 1 dozen

1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk 
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream the brown sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond meal, salt, and baking powder. Stir together the dry and wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate pieces.

Place rounded tablespoon-fulls of dough onto the cookie sheet. The dough will have a somewhat pasty consistency.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. Cool on a cooling rack and then store in a covered container in the refrigerator. In my opinion, these are at their absolute best after cooling completely, even the next day if you can wait that long.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Savory I'itoi Onion Tart

The i'itoi onion is not native to Arizona, having hitched a ride to the so-called new world with Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century. Nevertheless, we have adopted it as our own, and no one more so than the folks at Crooked Sky Farms, who possess an evangelical zeal about this amazing little onion. It multiplies rapidly, from one small bulb to as many as 140 in just one season. And, it grows about 11 months out of the year here. That's a big deal in a place with an annual rainfall of about eight inches. 

So, when Frank at Crooked Sky sent me home with a huge bunch of these onions, I was eager to see whether their flavor equaled their agricultural chops. They're somewhere between shallots and scallions, however, their green tops are more fibrous than scallions'. They stood up well to a brief saute and baking in this simple supper or brunch tart. 

serves four

olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small bunch i'itoi onions

4 large, cage-free eggs
1 pint organic half and half 
4 ounces grated hard cheese, such as asiago, romano and parmigiano reggiano 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

prepared 10" tart shell, blind baked 

Remove the top half of the onions and split them lengthwise. Saute them for about two to four minutes in olive oil and butter. Remove them to the tart shell.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the eggs until smooth, then add the half and half and grated cheese. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Pour the mixture over the onions in the tart shell and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and mostly set. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wilted Collard Greens with Chorizo Cantimpalo

This week I interviewed Frank Martin, owner of Crooked SkyFarms in South Phoenix for a piece I’m writing on sustainable agriculture for Have I mentioned how much I love my job? I walked away from Crooked Sky with a bundle of fresh produce, including kohlrabi, collard greens, kale, chard and a bunch of i’itoi onions.

Every day since has been a culinary adventure, reminiscent of my 2010 Eat Local project. We started with diced kohlrabi, julienned chard and tofu stir fried with peanut sauce on Tuesday night. Today for lunch, I enjoyed a simple salad of wilted collard greens with chorizo cantimpalo and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Simple and delicious!

The trick with this salad is to cut a very thin chiffonade of the collard greens, which yields a lacy texture and helps avoid them clumping together when you cook them momentarily.

Serves 2 as a starter or side

Extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce chorizo cantimpalo, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2-4 leaves collard greens, tough ribs removed, fine chiffonade
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
½ lemon, juiced

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Typically, the quality of olive oil is lost when cooking, but the cooking time is so brief here, you still enjoy the flavor profile of your particular oil.   

Pan fry the chorizo and garlic for about 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn. Toss in the collard greens and cook for about 1 minute, or until they’re bright green and wilted. Squeeze with lemon juice and season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Be conservative with the salt initially; the chorizo has a wonderful saltiness all its own. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup & Hot Toddies

On Monday morning, I woke up with the slightest tickle in the back of my throat. By the evening, I began to reconsider the liberality with which I have kissed and snuggled with our sickly but adorable children.

At 7:00PM we raised our glasses and toasted the New Year in Reykjavik, five hours ahead of us, and put the babies to bed. I followed closely behind with a swig of Nyquil. Not exactly the celebration I had imagined.

Fast forward a few days, three trips to the doctor and a long line at the pharmacy. Looks like I'm not the only one who's sick around here. So, here's my idea: Let's all make chicken noodle soup and hot toddies and pop in some equally vapid but comforting movies, such as Mama Mia and Julie and Julia. Oh, I feel better already!

Chicken Noodle Soup
yields four servings 

extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stems thyme
32 ounces chicken broth
2 ounces noodles
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add the carrots and celery, and cook for about four minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Cook for about one minute, then add the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Break up the noodles and toss into the pot. Cook until al dente, then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Hot Toddy 
yields one serving

1 ounce whiskey
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup boiling water

Place the first three ingredients together in a glass, then whisk in the boiling water until dissolved.