Thursday, February 12, 2015

KALE COBB SALAD

















Meet our new favorite salad. I feel a little silly being like, “Hey guys, look what I just discovered!” when Cobb salad has been around since the 1930s, but the addition of kale makes it hip, right?

Having grown up with a horror of so many ingredients all mixed together, especially cold meat and eggs, I never really gained much familiarity with the classic salads of yore, and I certainly never saw a Cobb look remotely appealing until I paged to this recipe in Dinner: The Playbook (yes, again; and here is the original post at Dinner: A Love Story). It was so pretty, and I realized, Wait! I like avocado and bacon and tomatoes and cheese and eggs and chicken! I also love kale, and swapping it in for lettuce here isn’t just blind trend-following—it gives you a definitive green presence that stands up to the weight of all those hefty toppings and, better still, lasts for days without wilting so you can stash the leftovers all ready to go. We’ve already eaten this twice in one month, and it’s destined to become a year-round staple. I love the rainbow of wholesome ingredients and fact that it makes a perfectly easy, protein-packed work lunch that’s hearty without being heavy; A loves that it’s a satisfying meal with a variety of flavors and textures, especially bacon and blue cheese to help temper his kale skepticism.

I made a few slight modifications—omitted sugar from the vinaigrette, massaged the kale with half the dressing right away and let it marinate a bit (key, in my view, to a successful kale salad), and increased some of the toppings to make an even more substantial main dish—one egg and one slice of bacon per serving, and more tomatoes to amp up the color. And I went a bit easy on the cheese, because blue isn’t my favorite, although it definitely adds an important flavor contrast here. The original recipe says you can use feta instead, and the second time around I tried that and preferred it, with just a light dusting of blue for a hint of funk.

A came in just now to prod me to go to bed on time, but granted me a reprieve as soon as he saw what I was working on, saying, “The world needs to know about Cobb salad.” So there you have it! It may not be breaking news, but just in case you weren’t aware, Cobb salad—this one, at least—is delicious.


















1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and thinly sliced
2-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 to 1½ cups poached, grilled, or roasted chicken breast, shredded or cubed
3-4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-4 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions or minced chives
½ to 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or quartered if large)
1 avocado, diced
¼ to ½ cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
  1. In a small bowl, mix the mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice, then season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
  2. Place the shredded kale in a large bowl and drizzle with about half of the vinaigrette. Mix thoroughly with your hands until the leaves are evenly coated, and let sit for at least 15 minutes while you assemble the remaining ingredients.
  3. Portion out the dressed kale equally into four salad bowls. Top each portion with a quarter of the eggs, chicken, bacon, scallions, tomato, avocado, and cheese, then drizzle with a quarter of the remaining dressing and toss gently. (If you prefer, you can just mix all the ingredients together in a very large serving bowl and go from there. Or you can place each component in a separate bowl and let everyone assemble their own, salad-bar style, especially if you have picky eaters on hand.)
Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes (1 hour if you need to boil the eggs, cook the bacon and poach the chicken)
Leftover potential: Awesome. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

CHICKEN PARMESAN MEATBALLS

















I don’t get the big deal with chicken Parm, so it wasn’t the title of this recipe that drew me in—just the alluring photo of cheese-blanketed tomato-sauce-glazed chicken meatballs nestled alongside wilted spinach I spotted while paging through Dinner: The Playbook at the library. Apparently this is one of the most popular recipes at Dinner: A Love Story, but had somehow missed it until the book version. I figured meatballs are always a crowd-pleaser, and not surprisingly, our crowd of two was very pleased with this light, easy weeknight comfort meal.

Of course you can serve the meatballs with any vegetable side you want, but I like the red-and-green color contrast and the way the tomato sauce spills over and infuses the spinach. It’s pretty basic; I just heated 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat; added 12 ounces fresh spinach, 1 minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper flakes; stirred until wilted and seasoned with salt and pepper. You can do it while the meatballs bake.

1¼ pounds ground chicken
½ cup dried breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
½ cup grated Parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 egg, whisked
Grated zest of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
14 ounces pizza sauce (I just doctored canned tomato sauce with dried oregano and basil, but this sauce would be even better)
About 4 ounces fresh mozzarella (16 thin slices)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, using your hands, gently mix together the chicken, breadcrumbs, onions, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, fennel, egg, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Shape into 16 golfball-size balls and place a few inches from each other on a lightly oiled foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of your pizza sauce with the olive oil. Brush this mixture on top of each meatball. Bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove meatballs from oven and turn on the broiler. Spoon some pizza sauce on top of each meatball, and cover each with a slice of cheese. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.
  5. Warm remaining sauce in a small saucepan. Serve meatballs with a dollop of sauce.
Serves: 4
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. You can also freeze the baked meatballs after Step 3. Thaw them in the fridge the day you want to eat them, then heat up in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes before continuing with the remaining steps.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ROASTED CHICKEN WITH SMOKED PAPRIKA, BLOOD ORANGE, AND GINGER

















 I messed up big time. I first made this dish (by Melissa Clark via Elly Says Opa) on May 7, 2013. I took a photo. I recall enjoying my meal. Then, for some reason, the recipe languished untouched in my “Try Again” file for the next year and a half—so long I couldn’t even remember why it was there anymore. Was it blogworthy? Was it worth revisiting? When are blood oranges in season, again?

At last, seized by a recent fit of New Year’s-inspired mental housecleaning, I spotted blood oranges at the farmers’ market and decided to release the recipe from its limbo one way or another. And the joke’s on me, because this is one of the most delicious chicken recipes I’ve made in recent memory, and we all could have been eating it on the regular for the past 18 months if I hadn’t been such a putz. An unusual assortment of super-flavored ingredients are pureed into a vibrant green paste somewhat reminiscent of Cuban mojo sauce, but with the spicy bite of ginger in there too. I actually wouldn’t say the smoked paprika and blood orange of the title are the dominant tastes (in fact, I don’t see much reason why you couldn’t just use a regular orange, except that blood oranges are cool and I never remember to buy them otherwise)—cilantro and jalapeno are at the forefront for me, but maybe that’s just because I can’t resist using double or more the quantity of cilantro (2 tablespoons just looks so scant!). I’ve always been a sucker for tomatillo salsa, green chutney and Peruvian green sauce, and this fit right into that family.

After some marinating (a whole day is preferable) and a stint in the oven, you get tender, burnished, brightly flavored roasted chicken and a sauce so fantastic you’ll want to make sure you have something to soak it up. I highly recommend baking a batch of Smoked Paprika Roasted Potatoes along with the chicken and then drizzling them with the pan juices. Throw in something green (asparagus or green beans or salad) and you’ve got a lively, mostly hands-off dinner for just about any season. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on it for so long.

1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice, preferably blood orange
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-4 tablespoons cilantro
1 jalapeño, seeded if desired, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon smoked paprika
1¾ to 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, or whole legs
Sliced scallions, cilantro, and orange wedges for serving
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the orange zest and juice, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, ginger, salt, and paprika. Blend until pureed. Combine the chicken and marinade in a large bowl; cover and refrigerate 1 to 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place the chicken and its marinade in a 9-by-12-inch baking dish and roast until skin is browned and meat juices are no longer pink, about 45 minutes. Serve drizzled with juices and sprinkled with scallions and cilantro, with orange wedges for squeezing over the meat.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 to 24 hours of marinating
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

CURRIED ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP

















Let’s just forget about my previous cauliflower soup. That perfectly serviceable recipe made cauliflower palatable to me, but this curry-spiked one (from Food and Wine via Joy the Baker) renders it downright delicious. All of you who are freezing your butts off in the wintery parts of the country should cook this ASAP. Rich and creamy (but not heavy), with warming toasted spices (my first time using cumin seeds and I’m a convert!) and a gentle sunny hue, it’s a bowl of comfort and cheer that fits right in with your eat-more-vegetables resolutions. I know I’m as guilty as any food blogger of tossing around clichés and hyperbole, but this soup honestly was a revelation for me. If I’d managed to post it before the 31st, it would have made the 2014 favorites list, even in a field of heavyweight contenders.

I suspect you could leave out the butter if you want to lighten things up, but I wanted to make the recipe as written the first time and it was so wonderful I’m not sure I dare to mess with it—but maybe I’ll try decreasing to 2 tablespoons and see how it goes. I added about ½ to 1 cup more broth, because I like my pureed soups on the thinner side, and probably a bit more yogurt as well, because it really is a genius finishing touch—adding creaminess (especially if you use Greek yogurt) but also that zip of acidity that most pureed vegetable soups cry out for. Joy suggested pairing this with “some sort of cheesy bread situation,” and following her advice is an excellent call; alternating spoonfuls of soup with bites of melted sharp cheddar on baguette was heavenly.

1 large head cauliflower (1½ to 2 pounds), halved, cored, and cut into 1.5-inch florets
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 small to medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
¼ cup plain yogurt
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread cauliflower florets on a large rimmed baking sheet (lined with parchment if desired for easier cleanup) and sprinkle with cumin seeds and curry powder. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Season with a big pinch of salt and another of red pepper flakes. Place in the oven and roast until just tender, about 25 minutes
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the last tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the roasted cauliflower to the pot along with the butter, bay leaf, and broth. Simmer over medium heat until liquid has reduced some and the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes. Pick out and discard the bay leaf.
  3. In a blender, carefully puree the soup in two or three batches until very smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the yogurt. Rewarm over medium heat, adding more broth to create a thinner consistency if you’d like. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serves: 4 to 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; freezes well.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

FAVORITE RECIPES OF 2014

















In my 2013 roundup, I spent a lot of time lamenting how infrequently I’d blogged that year. In 2014, I reached a new all-time low of just 32 posts. I still want to write more, but this year I’m not beating myself as much up over it. Reviewing those 32 recipes, I realized that nearly all of them are solid-gold keepers. Having limited time to blog can be frustrating, but at least it’s really helping the cream rise to the top. I try a lot of recipes that I never even bother to write about, because when I look back at the photos a month later (which is about how long I’m usually running behind on posting), I don’t feel like saying anything about them—a good sign that I might never bother cooking them again, either. With 550 recipes in my archives, I don’t have room in my life for new ones that are just OK.

The recipes that make it to Bookcook these days are the ones I can’t wait to tell someone about, the ones I want to urge everyone to try, the ones I’ve already made several times and already want to eat again. So even though this year only yielded a small pool of new posts, it was tough to choose favorites when so many have already become standbys. But here are the 10 that stood out as so magically tasty I can’t imagine life without them anymore.
  1. Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies: This was the first recipe I posted in 2014, and I correctly pegged it as a contender for the year-end best list. With three of my favorite cookie ingredients, how could they not be great? I did also used the word “favorite” a few months later to describe Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, but ultimately, if I had to choose just one cookie to eat for the rest of my life, it would be these.  
  2. Carnitas: Meltingly tender, super-flavorful pork with very little effort = Miraculous.
  3. Roasted Tomato Pizza Margherita: A game changer. As written, it helped me use up extra cherry tomatoes all summer long. Even without the roasted tomato topping, the sauce is so good it’s become my go-to, supplanting the recipe I’d been using for 10 years. I haven’t looked back.
  4. Winter Panzanella: When I want a main-dish kale salad, this is it. The cheese, croutons, squash, and apple give it satisfying substance, and the flavors are phenomenal. Forget winter; I’ve been eating it year-round.
  5. Baked Egg Rolls: Deliciously crunchy and fairly wholesome, these made A especially happy and helped me get more comfortable with cabbage.
  6. Chicken Fajitas: An invaluably easy and crowd-pleasing weeknight staple.
  7. Potato Salad: The recipe that overcame my lifelong aversion, made me an instant convert, and got me through the interminable Southern California summer.
  8. Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding: I love pudding, and I love chocolate with peanut butter. Win-win.
  9. Vanilla Roasted Pears: It doesn’t get much simpler or more transformative than this. Fruit for dessert will never be a letdown with this recipe.
  10. White Bean Chicken Chili: I got this one in just under the wire because I knew it was listworthy. A smart, vivid iteration of the comfort-food standard.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI

















I’m rushing to post this before midnight so it can be eligible for my list of favorite 2014 recipes, because there’s no doubt it belongs there. Although I’m not a white chili connoisseur (I’ve heard of it but never eaten it), I see no reason to dispute Serious Eats’ claim that this is the best one. The Food Lab knows its stuff, and when that stuff is creamy, cheesy white beans with smoky-spicy chilies, lime, and plenty of cilantro, we should all just get on board.

The recipe sounds a little futzy, but let me assure you that it comes together easily, and there is a good reason for every step. Clever touches that put this head and shoulders above the rest include brining the beans in salty water (that old saw about salt making beans tough is the polar opposite of true), roasting the chilies for deeper flavor, poaching the chicken right in the soup until just tender, and pureeing some of the beans for extra creaminess. With a little patience, you get a bright, zesty, melty and ultra-satisfying stew with just the right balance of heat, freshness and richness.

A few miscellaneous notes: We found the spice level perfect, but you can use plain Monterey Jack if you’re worried that pepper Jack will put it over the top for you. The original recipe calls for a full pound of cheese, but 12 ounces seemed plenty generous to me; do what you like. I skipped the pickled jalapeno and juice because I didn’t feel like buying a whole jar/can, but now I know that this isn’t crazy spicy, I might add it last time—I can particularly see how the pickling juice would be nice, because I ended up adding extra lime juice to boost the acidity. I also skipped peeling the peppers in the broth; the original recipe says it’s easier, but having to then strain the broth and clean extra dishes didn’t sound worth it to me. The skins of the Anaheims and jalapenos slipped right off, but the poblanos did give me a little trouble. I ended up with a few scraps of skin still left on, but since the peppers just get pureed anyway, it wasn’t a big deal. (This might lead you to wonder why you should bother peeling the peppers at all, but since they get pretty blackened I think it would add too much burnt flavor.)

You should make this in 2015. Heck, if you hurry, you can make it tonight and end the year on a properly delicious upswing.

1 pound dried small white (Navy), Great Northern, or cannellini beans
Kosher salt
2 fresh poblano chilies
4 fresh Anaheim or Hatch chilies
2 jalapeño chilies
1 medium onion, peeled, trimmed, and split in half from top to bottom
8 medium cloves garlic
1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, plus 2 tablespoons pickling liquid from the can (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 quart homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)
3/4 to 1 pound shredded pepper Jack cheese, divided
2 tablespoons fresh juice, plus 1 lime cut into wedges for serving
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves, divided
4 to 6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  1. Place beans in a large bowl or pot and add 1 gallon (4 quarts) water. Add ¼ cup salt and stir until dissolved. Cover and let rest at room temperature at least 8 hours and up to 24. Drain and rinse beans.
  2. Adjust broiler rack to 8 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Place poblanos, Anaheims, jalapeños, onion, and garlic on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toss with one tablespoon oil, using your hands to coat. Season with salt to taste. Broil, turning peppers and rearranging vegetables occasionally, until peppers are blackened on all sides and skins are wrinkled all over, 15 to 20 minutes total. Gather up foil and form a sealed pouch. Let chilies rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Peel chilies, discard seeds and skin, and transfer flesh to the cup of a hand blender or a standing blender. Add broiled onion, broiled garlic, and the pickled jalapeño pepper (if using; don’t add the pickling liquid yet). Blend until a smooth purée is formed. Set aside.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add cumin and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili purée and cook, stirring, until incorporated.
  5. Add chicken broth, soaked beans and chicken breasts to pot, adding water as necessary until beans and chicken are fully submerged. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken breasts register 150°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes.
  6. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer chicken breasts to a bowl and let rest. Continue simmering broth and beans until beans are fully tender, about 1 hour total. Remove 1½ cups of beans and their liquid, and transfer to a standing blender or the work cup of an immersion blender. Blend until completely smooth. Stir back into pot.
  7. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and stir back into stew. Stir in half of cheese until melted. Stir in jalapeño pickling liquid (if using), lime juice, and half of cilantro. Season to taste with salt.
  8. Serve topped with extra shredded cheese, lime wedges, cilantro, and scallions. Tortilla chips make a nice accompaniment.
Serves: 6-8
Time: 2 hours, plus 8-24 hours to soak beans
Leftover potential: Excellent; freezes well.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

VANILLA ROASTED PEARS

















I first made this Smitten Kitchen recipe during a visit from my parents. I recall it being easy, elegant, and enjoyed by all. I failed to get a photo, bookmarked it for a repeat attempt…and then about four years went by, for no good reason. I don’t make dessert that often, I never buy that many pears, I’m out of vanilla beans—I don’t know what my excuses were, but they all seem flimsy in retrospect. Because finally, last month, when I happened to have a surplus of ripe, ungainly little Bartletts (farmers’ market seconds left over from a canning project), I revisited it and fell in love all over again. A one-dish dessert that transforms a handful of basic ingredients into meltingly tender, tart-sweet fruit bathed in a fragrant caramelized sauce—how could I have wasted so much of my life not eating roasted pears?

Friends, don’t be like me. These pears will make you feel like a culinary rock star without breaking a sweat, help you celebrate the pear harvest in style, wow your dinner party guests with a sophisticated and seemingly effortless finale, or let you whip up a fairly wholesome weeknight treat. I have no doubt that they would be delicious over ice cream, topped with cream or crème fraiche, served with a cheese plate or spooned over oatmeal, but I have yet to do more than eat them straight from the pan. It may be counterintuitive to post this recipe during the holiday season, the one time of year when I feel compelled to tackle ambitious baking projects, yet it’s an excellent reminder that the simplest things really are often the best.

¼ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean (or a whole one if you’re feeling decadent)
1½ pounds ripe or slightly underripe medium pears, peeled if desired (but not necessary), halved though the stem and cored
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  2. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.
  3. Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod pieces among the fruit. Pour the water into the dish and dot each pear with some butter.
  4. Roast the pears for 30 minutes, brushing them occasionally with the pan juices. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer (a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance).
  5. Serve warm, topped with the caramelized drippings from the pan.
Serves: About 4
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; leftover pears can be eaten cold or reheated briefly in the microwave.