Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SPRING PANZANELLA

















Yup, still behind. Considering we’re a week past the Fourth of July, I guess I should finish posting last season’s recipes…or at least the ones with “spring” right there in the title. That means breaking my cardinal rule of not posting two Smitten Kitchen recipes in a row and making it obvious that I’m only a few steps away from being a blatant SK fan blog. (I can’t help it! Her recipes are just so good!) This is one I’ve been eyeing on and off for several years, especially since winter panzanella became one of my favorite salads. The white beans in this one always gave me pause—whole, cold beans are still not my favorite, and I knew A would be even less thrilled when confronted with them. But my desire to eat all the spring things, along with the constant need for more main-dish salads in my life, won out.

I made a few adjustments, most notably adding chopped hard-boiled eggs, which I thought might fit in well with the spring theme while also ensuring a fully satisfying, protein-packed one-bowl meal. After we ate, A proclaimed that the egg was an integral part of his enjoyment of the salad, mitigating the presence of the dreaded beans, so a point for me, I guess. I also threw in some green beans because my asparagus bundle looked a bit on the skimpy side (and also because…spring). Finally, after reading many complaints in the comments about the original recipe’s slightly odd leek-cooking method (which involves boiling them whole and then trying to slice them while slimy-soft into chunks that looked off-puttingly large to me), I decided to try slicing them before cooking, which worked just fine. The layers do separate a bit, but the smaller pieces integrated better into the salad—another plus, since A isn’t a huge fan of leeks to begin with. It still feels a bit strange to boil leeks, and I was tempted to roast or sauté them, as some commenters mentioned doing, but I think the simmer does give them a nice, juicy tenderness that’s needed in this salad. (I cut back on the quantity slightly, though, in favor of more green beans.)

The result was an excellent salad, delicate yet flavorful, durable, portable, and pretty. Although I’ll admit the real star of the show might be the incredible garlicky-cheesy croutons.

Croutons:
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old baguette or other bread, cubed
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vinaigrette:
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 to 2½ tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad:
2-4 large leeks
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound asparagus (I used about ¾ pound asparagus and ½ pound green beans, which was delicious)
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained, or 1½ cups cooked white beans
2-4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. For the croutons, mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
  3. For the dressing, mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes before whisking in the olive oil, Dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  4. Bring a few inches of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Break off and discard tough ends of asparagus, then cut the spears into 1-inch segments. Add to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a bowl of ice water, then drain and pat it dry.
  5. Cut off and discard dark green tops and root ends of leeks. Halve each leek lengthwise and rinse well under cold running water to wash away sand. Slice leeks into ½-inch-thick pieces and add to the boiling water in the pot. Simmer, uncovered, until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, drain again, and then pat dry with a towel.
  6. Place asparagus, leeks, white beans, and eggs (if using) in a large bowl and mix in the cooled Parmesan croutons. (If you’re not planning on eating all the salad right away, only put croutons into the servings you plan to eat; store remaining salad and croutons separately.) Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Serves: 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good; store salad and croutons separately until about 15 minutes before you want to eat them.

Friday, July 01, 2016

SHAVED ASPARAGUS PIZZA

















I’ll admit that sometimes I have a kneejerk reaction of avoiding things that are trendy, even when those things are right up my alley. Case in point: shaved asparagus pizza, which seemed to me like something that’s popular mainly because it’s so Pinterest*-ready pretty with its tangle of green, not because it tastes much different from pizzas topped with asparagus in normal-sized pieces. This is one instance where I’m perfectly happy to be proven wrong.

*Second case in point: Pinterest itself, which I finally gave in and joined this past month. Turns out that despite the annoying qualities I’d foreseen (lots of insipid content to wade through, and the general championing of style over substance...or am I just feeling defensive because my rickety old Blogspot blog with the impatiently staged and poorly lit food photos looks so sad in comparison to most of what’s out there?), it’s precisely what I needed to organize my recipes-to-try after the sad, ugly decline of my longtime favorite Delicious. (I tried Pepperplate for a while, but it and other apps designed especially for recipes were too feature-rich for my taste. I don’t need to generate shopping lists, I just want to be able to bookmark web pages, tag them by category and see a photo—that’s it!) I just keep all my boards private, and I have to admit it’s pretty nifty…much like this pizza, to get back to my main point.

I had a hankering for something springy and fresh in the pizza department, so (inspired by a more recent iteration at A Cozy Kitchen) I dredged up this old recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It turns out that shaved asparagus, tossed with oil and red pepper flakes and a generous quantity of salt, creates a totally distinctive pizza experience. The fact that shaving the asparagus is somewhat awkward is actually a plus, because the mix of textures from the unevenly sized strips is really what sets this apart. All the ingredients melt dreamily together, with the occasional pop of a larger asparagus tip making its presence known. My only adaptations were to add red pepper flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice, neither of which were strictly needed, but they are so perfect with asparagus it’s hard to resist.

So better late than never, all aboard the bandwagon! Next spring I’m finally trying shaved asparagus salad.

1 pound pizza dough
½ to ¾ pound asparagus
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ pound shredded mozzarella
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your handles as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler (a Y-shaped one works best here) to create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the tip, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings in a medium bowl with olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and pepper to taste.
  3. Roll or stretch out your pizza dough and transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Sprinkle dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, squeeze lemon juice over the top if desired, then slice and eat.
Serves: 4
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

SWEET SRIRACHA-GLAZED PORK SKEWERS

















While I mainly plan my menus around which vegetables I’m hungry for, A still thinks a meal isn’t really complete without some sort of meaty component, so I’m always on the lookout for easy carnivore-friendly preparations that I can make as a side dish to a big pile of vegetables. And having accumulated an overabundance of chicken recipes, I’m working to expand my horizons into other types of meat. Since my pork repertoire centers mostly on bacon, prosciutto, sausage and ground pork, tenderloin is a good area for new exploration, especially since it’s fairly healthy, inexpensive, versatile, and not hard to prepare.

All these criteria neatly converged in this super-simple recipe—seriously, we’re talking just five ingredients—from Cook’s Illustrated, which I stumbled upon via Pink Parsley. Bite-sized chunks of grilled pork in a sweet-spicy-salty glaze, with prep so quick and low-maintenance that I can focus my efforts on making a hearty salad or other veg-centric dish to serve alongside? Definitely a recipe for mealtime harmony.

The first time I made these, I used my George Foreman grill, and consequently spent the next week trying to scrape burnt sugary residue off the cooking surface. Then I remembered seeing a recipe for oven-broiled pork kebabs over at Budget Bytes, so I swiped the technique and it worked like a charm. You get a decent amount of char in a relatively short period of time, which means it might even be worth turning on the oven in the height of a summer heat wave. But if you prefer to fire up the grill, just follow the original method instead. Either way, you’ll get a big payoff for very little effort.

1½ pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak 4 of them in water for at least 30 minutes to help prevent burning under the broiler.
  2. Toss the pork and salt together in a large mixing bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, and cornstarch. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the mixture and add the rest to the pork, mixing well with a silicone spatula.
  4. Thread the meat onto the skewers. Arrange the skewers on a broiler pan, or on a wire rack atop a foil-lined sheet pan.
  5. Adjust the oven rack so that the top of the skewers will be 5-6 inches from the broiler. Preheat the broiler for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Place the skewers under the broiler and cook for 5 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven, rotate the skewers, and brush with half the reserved glaze. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven, rotate again, brush with the remaining glaze, and broil 5 more minutes maximum, until evenly browned on all sides. (Be careful not to overcook!)
  7. Transfer the skewers to a serving platter, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serves: 4
Time: 50 minutes
Leftover potential: OK.

Monday, June 20, 2016

FRESHER ASPARAGUS SOUP

















I have a perfectly serviceable “fresh asparagus soup” recipe in my archives, although I’ll admit I haven’t revisited it for several years. Nowadays, it’s tough to rotate through my vast repertoire of seasonal vegetable recipes before I either get tired of said veggies or the season is over. Asparagus is particularly challenging because I love it so much I get tempted by new variations every year, but the season for the really good farmers’ market stuff is relatively brief, even in Southern California.

I was apparently in a highly suggestible mood when this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen struck my fancy. It’s not radically different from my old one, but a bit more nuanced—shallot instead of onion, crème fraiche instead of yogurt and milk, no roux, a higher asparagus-to-liquid ratio, and some always-welcome added garlic. It also turned out to be a great test of my fancy new high-powered commercial-grade blender, which I acquired for free from a friend and which is amazing. In fact, I fear this soup might be a bit tough to render smoothly with a less powerful appliance like an immersion blender, because the asparagus is only boiled for a few minutes before pureeing. This (along with the baking soda in the cooking water) gives it a shockingly bright green hue, along with incredible freshness. The flavor is simple, springy and asparagus-forward. The minimal cooking also makes it incredibly quick to prepare: Sautee the aromatics, blanch the asparagus, blend, heat gently and garnish.

Other than doubling the recipe, the only change I made was to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end, because lemon and asparagus were made for each other and I think nearly every soup needs more acid. I was trying to use up a previously-zested lemon, but if I’d had any to spare, I think lemon zest would have been an even better addition. The original recipe showed this served with grilled cheese, but that seemed to be gilding the lily a bit, so I opted for garlic bread instead.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 pounds asparagus, ends trimmed off, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons creme fraiche, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Optional: Lemon juice and/or zest to taste
  1. In a small sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus and set aside. Fill a large pot with a few inches of water, set over medium heat, and add a few pinches of salt and the baking soda. When the water reaches a simmer, drop in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain and transfer to the ice bath. Drain again and press out any water in the asparagus.
  3. Add the garlic-shallot mixture and asparagus to blender, along with the chicken stock. Blend until very smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the creme fraiche and 1 teaspoon salt. Give it one more mix and adjust the salt to taste.
  4. Transfer soup back to the pot (if you like, you can run it through a sieve first for extra smoothness) and warm over low heat. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives, plus a squeeze of lemon juice or sprinkle of zest if desired.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

ROASTED SAUSAGE, BROCCOLI, AND FENNEL

















I was totally on a roll with nifty one-pan dinner solutions this spring. This one from Food52 was a particularly casual-throw-together way to satisfy both the carnivore and the vegetable fan in our household. Chunks of sausage make an easy shortcut meatball; broccoli roasted in mustard, lemon and red pepper flakes is always a beautiful thing; and fennel adds a bit of extra flair. Even though I upped the sausage to 1 pound and probably the broccoli quantity as well by adding all the stems and leaves (thanks to this recipe for showing me how delicious that can be), I did feel the four servings it yielded were a bit on the scanty side, and was happy that I’d decided to serve a poached egg on top, which I will now consider essential. (I still might consider using even more broccoli next time, though.) I also threw on a little Parmesan cheese, because it plays so well with all these ingredients, and garnished with some fennel fronds for freshness. A good reminder that there are still really simple yet innovative weeknight meals to be discovered, beyond the same old boring options.

2 small to medium heads of broccoli
1 medium fennel bulb, plus a few tablespoons of chopped fronds
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
Finely grated zest and one 1 teaspoon of juice from 1 small lemon
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne (omit if using spicy sausage)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12-16 ounces (4-5 links) good-quality pork sausage, hot or mild
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Break down the broccoli into bite-size florets. Don’t throw the stalks and leaves away—peel the thick outer skin off the stalks and slice them lengthwise, then into ¼-inch pieces. You can use the leaves as well. Place all the broccoli in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (broiler-safe if possible).
  3. Trim and core the fennel and cut into thin slices, about ¼ inch thick. Add to the baking dish with the broccoli.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, whole-grain mustard, lemon juice and zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Add to broccoli and fennel and toss well to coat evenly.
  5. Remove sausages from casings and cut into ¾-inch pieces. Nestle the sausage pieces among the broccoli and fennel.
  6. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, or until the broccoli and fennel are tender and the sausage is no longer pink. Toss about halfway through to ensure even cooking.
  7. Optional but highly recommended if your baking dish is broiler-safe: Heat broiler, and place the pan under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp the sausage and slightly char the broccoli and fennel in spots.
  8. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds, and grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with a poached egg on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Friday, June 10, 2016

SHEET PAN CHICKEN TIKKA AND ALOO GOBI

















The year may not even be halfway over yet, but I’m calling it: This is going to be one of my favorite recipes of 2016.

I was suspicious of the sheet-pan supper trend, just as I was leery of the one-pot pasta craze and am pretty skeptical of the current mania for calling every one-dish meal a “bowl.” (Sometimes a salad is just a salad, people.) I love convenience, but not when it’s overly contrived, so it seemed like throwing a bunch of random things together on a baking sheet and roasting them all at the same time might just be a recipe for a lot of unevenly cooked food. But at the same time, pairing main dishes with sides can be a real puzzle, and I’m always looking for more of those magical dishes that give you everything you need in one simple package. So when this genius solution appeared at Smitten Kitchen, a beam of light may just as well have shone down from the heavens onto my brain. Easy Indian-spiced chicken with roasted vegetables is the dream meal I didn’t even know I was looking for.

You’re going to glance at the lengthy three-sectioned ingredient list and think it doesn’t look very easy, but it’s mostly spices that take only a fraction of a second to measure out, and everything really does come together pretty quickly. The chicken has the best Indian flavors of anything I’ve ever tried to make at home, and after a winter spent embracing cauliflower, I was thrilled to see it (spangled with cumin seeds, just like in that soup recipe I love) cleverly joining the roasted potatoes to round this out into a legitimate vegetable-full meal. Whatever you do, don’t skip the quick-pickled red onion and yogurt-herb toppings, which really make all the spicy, roasty flavors sing with their bright, fresh top notes (my one innovation was stirring together the yogurt and herbs with lemon into a single sauce, mostly for convenience in transporting the leftovers).

For the chicken:
1 ¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ cup whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala*
2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, drumsticks and/or halved breasts

For the vegetables:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1¼ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into ¾-inch chunks
1¾ pounds (1 small or half a very large head) cauliflower, cut into ¾-inch florets
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cumin seeds

To finish:
½ red onion, thinly sliced
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt
Yogurt
A few tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro, parsley or mint, or a mix

*No garam masala? No problem. Mix ½ teaspoon ground turmeric; ¼ teaspoon ground coriander; 1/8 teaspoon each ground cumin, cardamom and mustard; 1/16 teaspoon each ground black pepper and fennel; and a pinch each of ground cloves and cayenne.
  1. For the chicken, combine ginger, garlic, jalapeno, yogurt, salt, spices and sugar in a freezer bag, bowl or container. (I pureed them into a paste with my immersion blender first, but you can skip that if you want.) Add chicken pieces and toss to coat evenly. Let marinate for 15 minutes or up to a day in the fridge.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, heat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a half-sheet (13×18-inch) pan with foil and coat it with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add potatoes, cauliflower, salt, cumin, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss together with your hands until evenly coated.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade, leaving excess behind. Make spaces in the vegetables for chicken parts throughout the pan. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, then toss the potato and cauliflower to ensure they’re cooking evenly, and return the pan to the oven for 20 to 30 minutes more, until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender and browned.
  4. Meanwhile, toss the sliced onion in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Stir the yogurt, herbs, more lemon juice and salt together in another small bowl. Serve the chicken and vegetables with the pickled onion and the yogurt sauce on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

BRUSSELS SPROUT, LEEK, AND GOUDA PIZZA

















 OK, here’s the deal: I’ve fallen really far behind on posting recipes, and am in danger of losing control and just giving up entirely, which is exactly what happened last year, leaving me with a whole mess of tried-but-not-posted recipes in dimly recollected limbo and lingering icky, disorganized feelings all around. So I’m going to try to bang out a bunch of them, keeping the writeups short and sweet. We’ll see how that goes… First up, a flashback to early spring!

How do I make a new vegetable feel at home in my kitchen? Put it on a pizza. This recipe popped up on Annie’s Eats right in the middle of my annual “I should get into Brussels sprouts” mood, looking irresistibly fresh and spring-green. I haven’t quite been brave enough to try a shaved Brussels salad yet (next year!), but this is clearly a gateway drug, starting with shredded sprouts dressed with oil and lemon (which get delightfully frizzled and roasty in the oven), then adding leeks for sweetness, Gouda for smokiness, red pepper flakes for a kick, and plenty of creamy mozzarella. In A’s view, this pizza is crying out for some bacon, but I liked it just fine in vegetarian mode, with the smoked Gouda filling in that touch of savoriness. Of course, you could coat just about anything in lemon and red pepper flakes and I’d be into it, but this is still an objectively great pizza combo.

8 to 10 ounces Brussels sprouts, ends and outer leaves trimmed away, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Zest of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pound pizza dough
3 ounces shredded Gouda, preferably smoked
3 ounces shredded mozzarella
½ cup thinly sliced white/light green portion of a leek
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, gently toss the sliced Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet and lightly brush the perimeter of the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle the shredded Gouda and mozzarella over the dough. Top with the Brussels sprouts in an even layer, followed by the leeks. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes.
  4. Transfer the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust and toppings are lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Serves: 4
Time: 35 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.