April 28, 2013

Spring Salad with Smashed Beets & Beet Vinaigrette

Pea Shoot Salad with Carameilzed Beets

I was so happy to see some bright young things at the co-op today - pea shoots and baby choi. I knew I wanted to try these smashed beets and I was planning to combine them with mashed potatoes (I had a whole colcannon idea going on) but reversed direction right there in the produce isle and decided to make a fresh spring salad instead. 

Smashed beets aren't poached in booze, they're flattened and fried. I like to get them really brown, almost black for a little char flavor. The liquid they cook in is reduced (get your BTU's on) and made into a smooth, slightly sweet vinaigrette. Egg adds richness and protein but you could also add feta or blue cheese, walnuts or chicken and keep the spirit of this. 

Spring Salad with Smashed Beet

Serves 2-4

3 golden or red beets, scrubbed, tough ends and whiskers trimmed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, peeled
3-4 cups spring lettuces/greens (pea shoots, baby choi)
1 egg, hard boiled

Beet Vinaigrette
Reduced beet cooking liquid
1 garlic clove (from beets)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper

1. Put beets, vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and garlic into a saucepan. Add water just to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and cook uncovered until fork tender, turning as liquid reduces (30-40 minutes). Remove beets and set aside. Remove and reserve garlic clove. Boil remaining cooking liquid until reduced to a 1/4 cup (about 8 minutes).  Cool slightly.

2. Cut beets into 1/2 inch slices (no need to peel - the skin gets pleasantly crispy). Put between two sheets of wax paper and thump with something heavy (a can or rolling pin) to flatten slightly. Lightly salt both sides. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add beets, making sure you have room to flip them. Cook until you have a brown crust (approx. 5 minutes), then flip and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Remove to a plate.

3. Grate hard boiled egg on largest holes of grater and set aside.

4. Mash garlic clove and add to reduced cooking liquid then whisk in dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper,

5. Put lettuces on a platter and top with beets and egg. Drizzle dressing over and serve.

Fried Caramelized Beets

April 24, 2013

Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup

Carrots are the candy of the vegetable world. That's why they say to start your babies on the greens (peas, green beans) before oranges because if they sample the sweetness of carrots first, other veggies will taste bitter in comparison. Even kids and adults who don't eat veggies will eat carrots (usually with a LOT of dip or hummus). I remember pulling tiny carrots out of my grandmother's garden and eating them in the hot summer sun - I can still taste the flavor of warm soil mingling with the carrot. I wonder if some daring chef out there has tried to add a soil flavor. Maybe that's what mushrooms are for. One of those diets, Atkins? Zone? put carrots on the "see me after class" list. Too much natural sugar. Really? Can a vegetable be bad? Just skip the fries and chips, save special occasions, and eat all the vegetables you want. And eat a whole potato too - with the skin (another slightly soil-y flavor).

This soup is packed with sturdy dependable old carrots - delicious, though I hope this is my last hot soup for awhile (and I'll spare you any comments on the temperature here because I know you want to move on - me too but I'm still strapped into my Smartwool socks and turtleneck so....).

Roasted carrots

Thick and rich tasting with just a few spoonfuls of cream (or yogurt).  Easy too - just roast the carrots, saute the onions and garlic, add the stock, puree and you're done. Try and get hold of some Pimenton - it's such a great spice; slightly hot and smoky and makes all the difference in a simple dish like this. Once you have it you can use it to perk up lots of things - grilled cheese sandwichs, soups, meats and sauces. 

Roasted Carrot Soup

Inspired by Reeve via Food52 

Serves 4

2 pounds peeled organic carrots (cut into 1/2 inch chunks)
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
6 cups vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves (1 tablespoon), minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cream or plain yogurt*
1 teaspoon pimenton/hot spanish paprika
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Truffle salt (optional - see note)

1. Preheat oven to 500ยบ.

2. Put cut carrots on a sheet pan, toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Roast in oven until brown and soft, about 15-20 minutes.

3. Bring stock to boil in saucepan then add ginger piece and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Put chopped onion and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in stockpot and saute until lightly brown and translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minutes then add pimenton, carrots and stock (removing ginger knob). Bring to a boil and simmer until carrots are soft enough to puree. Puree in in blender along with cream or yogurt, then add lemon juice and salt to taste (I added a heaping teaspoon). Serve with a sprinkle of truffle salt if you've got it.

* if using plain yogurt whisk it up with a little milk so it blends smoothly into the soup.

Note: Truffle salt is incredible. I can't describe the flavor - salty, yes, but something else and it's surprising. Elevates whatever savory thing it's sprinkled on. Worth the investment as it will last a long time. Most grocery stores have it - usually near the meat or deli counter.

April 21, 2013

Yogurt Corncake Trifle

Yogurt Pancake Trifle

Why don't you...

Yogurt Corncake Trifle

Make a bunch of corncakes, layer them with berries and yogurt cream, call it a trifle and eat it for breakfast?

I am so tickled by this twist.

Inspired by humble pancakes. 

Photography by Priscilla Rattazzi

"You don't have to be born beautiful to be wildly attractive."

-Diana Vreeland


Makes enough for approx. 2 14oz. trifles

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1/4 cup blueberry Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

1. Put cornbread mix in bowl. 
2. Mix all wet ingredients together and add to dry. Stir just until combined. Let sit for 10 minutes.
3. Pour by tablespoonfuls onto medium-hot griddle to make 3 inch pancakes. Flip when bubbles appear and cook for another few minutes but don't undercook - you may need to turn heat down to make sure these cook all the way through. Set aside on plate (no need to keep warm). 

Berry Compote

2 cups frozen berries (blueberry or triple berry mix)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Put 1 cup of berries and other ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil, turn heat down and cook for 5 minutes on low. Add remaining cup of berries and simmer for another 5 minutes. Pour into a heatproof dish to cool. 

Yogurt Cream 

1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons blueberry Greek yogurt

1. Put cream and yogurt in a bowl and whip with electric mixer until soft peaks form (you may be tempted to add sugar to this but I advise against it - the completed trifle is plenty sweet).


Take a 14 oz. lidded glass or jar. Stuff a corncake into the bottom of your glass. Follow with a layer of berries (and a spoonful of juice) and a healthy dollop of yogurt cream. Then another corncake (press down to compact a bit), berries, yogurt cream, etc. until you get to the top. I used 4 corncakes. You can end with a corncake (neatest) or berries (berryful). Put the lid on and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight, flipping upside down halfway so juices soak through a bit. Invert onto plate and tap glass to release or eat it straight from the jar. 

You can get these lidded glasses here.

April 17, 2013

Will Farro

We're bearing up under the nastiest transition to spring in recent memory. April 17 and there are several inches of snow on the ground with temperatures that keep me in my puffy coat. I'm ready to pitch the grubby winter clothes and start replenishing my vitamin D. But it's not to be. The only bright side is that the kitchen retains its allure and offers a warm and dry place to cook and listen to podcasts all afternoon while I wait to be tempted outside.

Today I made these farro salads. First time I've tried this grain and I am impressed. Nutty, chewy with a firm almost pasta-like feel. Tastes great and is nutritious - a good source of fiber (3+ grams) and almost as much protein as an egg. Really makes a salad feel substantial.

I'm trying to eat more raw (rawer?) so I'm combining it with thin-as-I-can-slice-it-without-shearing-off-skin cauliflower, red cabbage and avocado cubes but I also made it with roasted cauliflower for my family. Both have a fresh parsley vinaigrette and are best served a little warm (at least under our current meteorological conditions).


Serves 4 (makes 3 cups)

1 cup pearled* farro
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

1. Roll farro on a clean damp towel to remove any dust.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add farro. Toast, shaking periodically, until fragrant and somewhat darkened (5 minutes).

3. Heat water and salt until boiling in saucepan. Add toasted farro, stir and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for approximately 25 minutes or until al dente (don't overcook - gets mushy). Drain.

*Farro is available in pearled, semi-pearled and unpearled varieties which refer to how much, if any, of the hull is left on. Pearled cooks the quickest.

Parsley Vinaigrette

1/2 cup parsley, loosely packed
1/4 cup plus olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice, white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Put parsley (leaves and top-most stems), olive oil, salt and lemon juice or vinegar in a food processor. Process until smooth-ish.

Roasted Cauliflower

1. Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Slice about half a cauliflower thinly (it will break into tiny pieces). Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt then spread out on sheet pan.

3. Roast until brown around the edges (10 minutes).

Assemble: Put farrow and vegetable(s) in a bowl. Add a few tablespoons of dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle avocado cubes over the top, if using, so it doesn't get squashed. Add more vinaigrette to taste.

April 15, 2013

Double Lemon Cupcakes and Enough Already with the Cupcakes!

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Everyone is good and sick of cupcakes, right? I remember watching Maggie Gyllenhaal raving about Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and doing a blind taste test on the Isacc Mizrahi show back in 2003 (where I also saw Nikka Costa sing Everybody Got Their Something and I immediately downloaded three of her songs). Anyway, let's call that the official start of an onslaught of cupcake gushing, competitions, blogs and cute bakery boutiques bursting with rick-rack trim, gingham and pink cheer.

What's wrong with a good layer cake? Maybe it's part of the social isolation in our culture where people don't gather to share a cake, but connect via facebook, instagram etc, and therefore only have need for individual cupcakes. "I'm eating an a-m-a-z-i-n-g cupcake right now (click, post)."

It does take care of that "my piece is smaller than yours" thing that happens when you're sharing and also you can pick different flavors to please different types. But still, enough. They're just cupcakes. Let's focus on something more important like why the weather is so nuts, the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots or why kosher salt feels like an undead pet on your tongue (true - heard a salt expert from Portland, naturally, talking about this on the radio today). Maybe salt is the next cupcake - beware.

Strange rant on a day when I'm making...cupcakes. But I'm baking for the Jr High Bake Sale (really - they allow homemade treats and I feel so motherly) and they needed individual pieces. I just hope the kids talk to each other when they eat them. Tough to text, peel and eat a cupcake all at the same time?

This recipe is adapted from Billy's Bakery via Martha Stewart and produces moist cupcakes with great lemon flavor. The frosting has lemon too - so you get some extra pucker.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

April 12, 2013

Polenta Al Forno with Chard and Sausage

Baked Polenta with Chard and Sausage

Do you like polenta? Then you'll like this. Don't like polenta? Move on. Or maybe not if you enjoy a good egg bake. This dish contains no eggs but there's something about its soft yet sturdy consistency that had me thinking "egg bake". 

I made the mistake of telling my husband it was sort of like lasagna with polenta instead of noodles and he refused to love it because lasagna is one of his favorite dishes. Anything less set him on a path of disappointment (and me on furious selling..."but the cheesy middle with the sausage is so similar" and "don't you love how creamy the polenta is?"). He wasn't having it. Had I presented it as an alternative to an egg bake I think I would've been hearing a different tune. But instead all I got was, "It's OK but it's not like lasagna - where's the red sauce and noodles?"  Important to manage expectations. Lesson learned.

This version of Polenta Al Forno had me swooning and it's even better warmed up the next day. Creamy and slightly crispy polenta with an even creamier center of ricotta, chard, lemon zest and sweet Italian sausage. It would be great for a brunch spread - you can assemble it the night before and bake in the morning.

April 3, 2013

David Chang's BBQ Pork with Homemade Pickle

BBQ Pork with Homemade Pickled Onions

David Chang is floating around my hemisphere these days. If I'm not watching him on "Top Chef", I'm hearing about his Bao Buns and Crack Pie (does this guy have a tush fetish?) on public radio. He's definitely having a moment. Dining at one of his NYC restaurants isn't in the cards for me right now, so I thought I'd try one of his recipes.

I'm starting with something familiar, BBQ pork. His sauce is vinegary and a little sweet with just a hint of bitterness from...coffee grounds! I made some quick pickled onions  - so tangy and good with the pork. Coleslaw too. Use the softest, whitest buns you can find - I think these are best when they fall apart and you have to eat them with a knife and fork.

BBQ Pork with Homemade Pickle
adapted slightly from David Chang via Food & Wine Magazine

5-6 lbs. pork shoulder
½ cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoons hot/smoked paprika
1¼ cups apple cider vinegar
1½ cups ketchup
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon coffee grounds
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
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