April 15, 2015

Mustard greens and other discoveries

Re. mustard greens—I don't like them. This was hard for me to admit since I usually love bitter greens (arugula, dandelion) but these beauties are too strong and mustardy. I tried them raw. I tried them sauteed Asian-style then I gave up. I want to like this health-packed food. Anyone have ideas?

Re. a solution to the dirty socks my kids leave all over the house—sock jail. Just wait until they've got blisters because all their socks are incarcerated in my tasteful wooden vase on the bookshelf.
Mua ha ha ha ha...

Re. our youngest dog, Bear who ate the house painters lunch that he'd briefly left on the front steps while he carried in his gear—so I had to make a Chipotle run instead of taking a run myself. By way of apology Bear is giving me another reason to put off folding the laundry.

Re. butter—doubled it for cupcakes made out of this spice cake recipe and they were tasty and moist and one more reason the above-mentioned laundry has been on the couch for 2 days. More butter = more better.

April 8, 2015

Pasta with Cauliflower, Ricotta and Spiced Oil

I found the bones of this recipe in a People magazine, one I felt lucky to get my grubby paws on in a doctor's waiting room. I've been spending more time in various medical offices around town —a story for another post. But I will say that most of these places have the saddest assortment of reading materials. They should stock the most outrageous celebrity rags and travel magazines to help people get their minds off whatever worry sent them there in the first place. 

Alton Brown wrote it (is he a regular contributor to People magazine?) so I figured it was foolproof and it kind of is. He recommend this new way of cooking the pasta (start it in cold salted water, bring to a boil, then simmer to done) and it didn't really work for me but the other ideas were good like adding lots of roasted cauliflower to pasta. I added generous dollops of ricotta for pools of tangy creaminess and then made a spicy oil to drizzle over the top (optional). Substantial but still light tasting. 

I prepared it while my daughter did her homework and she gave me the thumbs up on the spiced oil aroma—she said it smelled like chorizo. Who doesn't like chorizo? Somehow the oil compliments the other flavors in the pasta without burying them. I can't get enough of it. 

Pasta with Cauliflower, Ricotta and Spiced Oil

Adapted from People Magazine
serves 4

1/2 lb. pasta
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized chunks
Olive oil
Kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh cherry tomatoes or small can chopped, drained
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 1/4 cups (approx.) ricotta
1 cup breadcrumbs (freshly made or plain store-bought)
Big handful of fresh basil 

Preheat oven to 400º
Toss cauliflower and fresh tomatoes (if using, if going with canned—wait) with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large saute pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cauliflower is lightly browned. Meanwhile cook pasta to al dente in well-salted water then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. 

Put saucepan over medium heat and add tomatoes if using canned, garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute until tomato water mostly evaporates then add pasta, Parmesan and enough of the pasta water to coat. Toss to combine, top with big dollops of ricotta and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and breadcrumbs. Put back in oven for 20 minutes until breadcrumbs are toasty. Remove, sprinkle with fresh basil and serve with spiced oil alongside, if desired. 

Spiced Oil

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Heat everything until it sizzles then remove from heat, swirl and serve. 

April 1, 2015

Spring on the salad!

This weekend I'll attend Passover dinner on Saturday and Easter brunch on Sunday. My family is Catholic so Passover is relatively new for us, a gift, if you will, from my mother's Bronx born and raised Jewish husband, Marty. He loves a good opera and a good sandwich (quite possibly in equal measure), celebrates Christmas with us enthusiastically (especially the tree) and makes handmade wooden toys for all the grandkids. He is without Midwestern reserve and often blurts out what's on his mind. Scared us a little at first until we got a gander at his heart—which is huge and hangs off his sleeve for all to see. So on Saturday we'll all put on the little pita bread hats and take turns reading from worn booklets reciting passages from the Torah that Marty explains to us, eat the matzo, the bitter herbs and all the rest. The kids groan when I tell them we're going to Passover dinner at Grandma and Papoo's but it always ends up being a good time with plenty of laughter and tasty food. We're always glad we went.

March 13, 2015

Roasted Pepper Crostini and a Rant

I've been blogging for a few years now and it's an impulse I can't fully explain. My stock answer is that blogging is a creative outlet, which is true. Taking pictures, writing and cooking are relaxing and an opportunity for expression. Connecting with others in the food blogging community has been nice too and there are many compelling blogs with creative food and photos and narratives written by people who have thought-provoking, informative or funny things to say.

There are also lots of blogs out there with decent looking food and nothing to say other than "my family gobbled these up!!"  or "these are fast and easy and sooooo good!" Shit, I've probably been guilty of these kind of statements. But they don't sound convincing and they don't tell me anything about the person behind the blog. They sound like a commercial and I feel tricked.

March 8, 2015


Here are my latest duds. Or at least the ones I took pictures of...

Crispy Meat Accessories in honor of fashion week—not a bad idea just not enough of an idea. Good snacking though and the dogs were appreciative. 

February 25, 2015

Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad

Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad

Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad

Hey, Quinoa. Yeah you, Quinoa, poster child of healthy eating. I've got you figured out and I don't hate you any more. I just didn't know how to cook you properly and found your hard-to-pronounce name a bit pretentious and Gwynethy. So I stayed away. Until today when bags of your tiny meek self were discovered in the back of my pantry where the farro and couscous I adore should've been and I had no choice. You were rinsed to wash away your bitter coating, cooked in milk (you probably haven't been introduced– milk is a creamy, white liquid produced by something we non-vegans call a cow) and then hard-seared in oil to give you crust and crunch and sass. Feels good, right? 

February 17, 2015

Grapefruit Cookies

Grapefruit Cookies

Grapefruit Cookies
My kids have always been crazy about those sugar cookies at Target. You know the ones. They're big, soft, thickly iced with bright colored frosting and have a list of ingredients as long as the Apple Agreement I reflexively hit "Agree" to but have never read. They contain sugar, flour, margarine and all kinds of artificial flavorings and colorings. Yuck. I mean, yum! Yum! They're good. I get it. But maybe I can make something just as good, better or at least a respectable stand-in that includes ingredients I could find at any natural food store or co-op. 

I know, it takes more time than plopping down a few bucks for a pack of 6 or 12. I have no quarrel with that, but once you get the hang of dough making and keeping the ingredients around, it's pretty quick.

Having a stand mixer helps hugely. It's not even fair comparing a baker who has one and a baker who doesn't. A stand mixer is speed and freedom for your hands to prep other stuff, wash up, etc. while your butter creams. It's a damn fine piece of machinery and I think I'd give my car away before I gave up my mixer. Okay, maybe not my car but for sure the snowblower. We haven't had a lot of snow this year and my memory is short. 

February 10, 2015

Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn

Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn

I'm trying to cram in a years' worth of movie viewing this month in preparation for the Oscar's in a few weeks. Saw and loved Birdman (best soundtrack by a set of drums plus I'm kind of mesmerized by Michael Keaton's mouth...that sounds weird, right?), sincerely appreciated Boyhood and thought Grand Budapest Hotel was a fun romp. Three down, five to go. I'll never make it. But it's OK—I'll still watch the ceremonies with friends, drink champagne, eat good food and root for my favorite performances, speeches and dresses in the comfort of my family room. It's a tradition. 

I usually provide popcorn for my guests and have been playing around with this variation—a sweet and spicy caramel corn. Cardamom, which is a mellow cousin of the ginger family, is one of my favorite spices for sweet things—so warm and flavorful. It's kind of luxe to use cashews instead of peanuts but it fits the fancy Oscar theme, so why not? Next time I think I'll throw in dried cherries to provide a little chew and two more 'C's' for my title— Chewy Cherry Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn!

February 5, 2015

Chard Salad with Crackling Bread Croutons

Chard Salad with Crackling Bread Croutons

Did you hear? Harper Lee has a new book coming out, Go Set a Watchmana book she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird. This has prompted me to do two things I've never done before. One is preorder a book and the second is to make crackling bread, or at least a version of crackling bread using bacon bits and bacon fat in place of the usual pork cracklings and fat. 

January 28, 2015

Quick Roti — Or how carbs can cure the blues...

Quick Roti

I learned an expensive lesson last weekend. We hosted a post-holiday Holiday Party for my husbands office crew of about 60 people and, knowing I had a busy week, decided to cater it. We planned a Spanish wine tasting and tapas theme because a good friend of ours is a wine writer/purveyor and he suggested it and was willing to secure all the wine. For the tapas I looked around at local caterers and settled on one that had been in business for a long time and had a good reputation. The owner was very confident, asked a minimum of questions, sent me a sample menu and we were off.

January 17, 2015

Tahini Roasted Broccoli

Tahini Roasted Broccoli

I've been roasting broccoli and cauliflower for years and it's always a winner. Put a little brown on vegetables and they really shine. But I'm always on the hunt for a twist and came across a few recipes that drizzle roasted vegetables with a tahini dressing after they come out of the oven. Tahini is a middle eastern sesame seed paste that frequently co-stars with chickpeas in the blockbuster known as hummus.

January 14, 2015

Duck Hash

Duck Hash

Duck Hash

The Christmas before last (2013) I received a big can of duck leg confit with duck fat. It looks like this: 

January 8, 2015

Cauliflower and Greens Soup

Cauliflower and Greens Soup

And thus begins the bleaker side of winter. Yeah, it's cold. Yeah, it's dark. Yeah, my feet are freezing...all the time except when I'm in a hot bath. But it's not so bad. We burrow in, watch TV, read, chase the dog around the house to wear him out, wear layers of homey comfort and "forget" to shave our legs (fur = warmth). And of course cook, bake, eat and repeat.

January 4, 2015

One Pan Sausage & Broccoli with Sweet Potato Mash

I cook a lot—everyday, sometimes all day. Baking in the morning, making breakfast, preparing lunches for my daughter and myself, then dinner and in between some other dish that I'm playing with. I begin each recipe chock full of optimism that this is going to be the tastiest dish ever and when it's not, I'm woefully disappointed and hell-bent on working the thing until it is and then I'm so sick of it that I'm sure not make it again for a very long time.

Are other people like that? Did Pete Sampras tire of his serve? Does Thomas Keller still like his little caviar cones? Is Martin Scorcese bored with his nightclub sequence shot in "Goodfellas"? Am I comparing myself to these titans of their profession?

December 14, 2014

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

UNCLE, I say!
To bacon that is.
You win.

Universally loved and appreciated (not that many vegetarians or kosher-keepers in my circle) I don't know why I've resisted so long and in this case, deviled eggs with pickled celery and homemade bacon bits, a little goes a long way. A bit of work peeling, scooping out and re-stuffing the eggs but worth it for the happy people who scarf them up at the "bring an app" party. The pickled celery is so good too. Great idea from Smitten Kitchen. Tangy and crunchy like a pickle but without the assertive flavor of dill.
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