Monday, February 25, 2013


I love a good fritter, and after making chili-lime roasted squash salad recently, I’ve been intrigued by the combination of spicy southwestern flavors with sweet orange root vegetables, so when I saw this recipe at Budget Bytes, I…bit.

I halved the recipe because it promised to make a ton, and leftover fritters are never quite as good. Since it’s difficult to halve an egg, I took the suggestion from the original recipe to increase the breadcrumbs a bit, but maybe I needed to increase them more or maybe I had a bit too much sweet potato, because they turned out slightly damper than I think they were intended to. No big deal; I just had to dollop them into the pan rather than forming them into patties first, they were a little more difficult to flip, and they didn’t get quite as crisp as I’d hoped. The flavor, however, was spot on. Taking inspiration from the chili-lime squash, I added some chipotle chili powder, and the smokiness was a perfect foil for the sweetness of the potato and corn. And ironically, we still had some leftovers, and when I heated them up in a dry skillet the next day, that second frying dried them out a bit and achieved the crispy texture I’d been hoping for the first time around.

I served black bean salsa on the side because I thought it would be a great combo (which it was), but the fritters were much more filling than I expected, so really, a small green salad is probably all you need to accompany these. 

A isn’t a huge sweet potato fan (except in fry format), and he doesn’t usually like yogurt, but we both enjoyed these bold, colorful, and hearty patties with their creamy, garlicky sauce (to which I might add a bit of lime juice next time, to liven things up even further) as a fun and different addition to our fritter rotation.

1½ pounds sweet potatoes
½ cup frozen corn kernels
1 green onion, sliced
2 large handfuls (or to taste) chopped fresh cilantro, divided
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
¾ cup panko
1 egg
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 small clove garlic, minced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes, prick them all over with a fork, and place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove potatoes from oven and let cool until they can be handled, then cut them open and scoop the flesh into a large bowl, discarding the skin.

2. Add the green onions, 1 handful cilantro, frozen corn kernels, salt, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper to the bowl with the cooked sweet potatoes. Stir until well combined.

3. Add the cornmeal, panko, and egg to the bowl. Stir until evenly combined. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to absorb moisture.

4. While the sweet potato mixture is refrigerating, mix up the garlic yogurt sauce. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and a handful of chopped cilantro leaves. Stir until combined and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

5. After the sweet potato mixture has refrigerated, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and heat until the surface appears wavy. Shape the sweet potato mixture into small patties (about 2 to 3 tablespoons each) and cook about 4 at a time in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown on each side, about 5 minutes per side. After cooking, drain on a paper towel-covered plate and then transfer to a cooling rack. Add 2 more tablespoons oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining sweet potato mixture.

6. Serve warm with the garlic yogurt sauce.

Serves: 2–3
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: OK. Leftover fritters can be revived by heating in a dry skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until warmed through and crisp on both sides. (If you want, you can heat them for 30 seconds or so in the microwave first to ensure that the centers are warm.)

Monday, February 18, 2013


I have long professed myself a disliker of cauliflower. I always thought of it as having a cabbagey taste and smell (I love that Mark Twain called it “cabbage with a college education”), and overall it just seemed like a more depressing version of broccoli--which does share that cabbage-like whiff, but at least has a lovely green color and flavor going for it. But deep down, I knew I wasn’t giving it a fair shake. Most of my encounters with cauliflower were raw, as a crudite surrounding a bowl of dip on a party platter, or floating around in a salad. I heard that, as with many difficult vegetables, roasting would transform cauliflower into something wonderful, but I was never brave enough to give it a shot.

A few years ago, A’s brother served us cauliflower soup as a first course at Thanksgiving dinner, and while I was suspicious, it tasted pretty good, not cabbagey at all. So when I spotted this cauliflower soup recipe in Cooking Light, I figured it would be the perfect way to bring cauliflower into my kitchen for the first time, since it featured both roasting to enhance the flavor and pureeing to obliterate the texture, plus a topping of prosciutto that I knew would entice A. And I was not wrong. I liked this soup, and A really liked it, several times specifically mentioning how good it was, and even willingly eating a leftover portion the next day, a rare compliment where soup is concerned. The soup itself is silky and subtle, with a delicate nutty flavor, and the ham-breadcrumb-almond-parsley topping adds interesting flavors, textures, and colors. It’s definitely a keeper; I made it basically as written and wouldn’t change a thing.

With this as my gateway drug, the next step is for me to try unpureed roasted cauliflower. If that’s a success and I decide to admit I don’t hate cauliflower anymore, then the list of vegetables I think I don’t like is growing pretty darn short. Which means that if I want any more challenges like this, getting to know Brussels sprouts is probably in my future.

8 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head or 2 medium)
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray or olive oil
4 thin slices prosciutto or other cured ham, chopped (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 cup water
½ cup half-and-half
1 ounce French bread baguette, torn into coarse crumbs (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place cauliflower in a large bowl, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray, a small amount of oil, or parchment. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring once after 30 minutes.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil. Add prosciutto and cook 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Melt 1½ teaspoons butter in pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, stock, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in half-and-half. Place half of cauliflower mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth, then pour pureed soup into a bowl and repeat with remaining cauliflower mixture. (Alternatively, you can just puree the soup in the pan with an immersion blender.) Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

4. Melt remaining 1½ teaspoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add breadcrumbs and sauté 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Combine ham, breadcrumbs, parsley, and toasted almonds. Ladle soup into each of four bowls, and top each serving with a quarter of the toasted breadcrumb mixture.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Great; I stored the toasted-breadcrumb topping mixture for the leftover portions separately from the soup in an attempt to keep it from getting too soggy, but I’m not sure how much of a difference that really made.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Can you believe this was my first time making a raw fennel salad at home? I fell in love with cooked fennel a couple of years ago, and shaved fennel has been a restaurant menu trend for a while, and I know that in its raw state it’s crisp and less licorice-tasting, yet still I delayed, believing, perhaps, that it would be a hard sell to A, or just feeling too lazy to slice something paper-thin. Then, while dining out, I had a salad that included fennel, and what do you know, it was incredibly delicious, and an obsession was born. I bookmarked about a million (or, you know, four) tantalizing-looking fennel salad recipes, but settled on this one from The Purple Foodie for my inaugural attempt because it’s otherwise quite similar to other salads I’ve made and enjoyed. You can’t go wrong with apples, greens, walnuts, cheese, and lemon vinaigrette, and it turns out that fennel fits in beautifully.

I really loved this salad, and I think A enjoyed it too. The fennel flavor is subtle, but its juicy crunch makes its presence felt and echoes the texture of the apple. I chose arugula as a base (the original recipe just called for salad greens), and its peppery flavor was perfect with the sweet apple, herby fennel, tart lemon, toasty nuts, and salty cheese. I threw some Dijon into the dressing, because that’s what I usually do with lemon vinaigrettes, and it did not go amiss. For some reason, the Parmesan shavings were a big revelation to me here, and in fact, a stripped-down version of this salad, just arugula with sliced apple, walnuts, shaved Parmesan, and lemon vinaigrette, has become my favorite side dish of the moment, because I almost always have those ingredients on hand. But that’s not to say that the fennel version isn’t worthwhile; I’ve already made that one twice. In other words, this is on its way to becoming one of my go-to winter salads.

1 large fennel bulb
2 medium apples (I used Fuji)
4 handfuls baby arugula
4 tablespoons shaved Parmesan
4 tablespoons toasted walnuts
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cut the fennel bulb in half vertically (through the trimmed shoots to the base), then cut each half in half vertically again. Cut out and discard the hard core at the base of each fennel quarter. Place each piece of fennel on a cutting board, flat surface down, and slice it diagonally starting from the base, making sure to keep the slices as thin as possible (or use a mandolin if you have one).

2. Quarter and core the apple, then cut it into thin slices.

3. Place the sliced fennel and apple in a bowl, making sure to separate the ones that are stuck together, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.

4. Add the arugula, walnuts, and Parmesan to the bowl and toss together.

5. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly.

Serves: 4
Time: 15 minutes
Leftover potential: OK, although I haven’t quite figured out the best approach; the first time, I had a smallish fennel bulb and made kind of a mess of slicing it up, ending up with only enough for two servings (the original recipe says it serves 2 to 3, so that didn’t surprise me). Since I had extras of all the other ingredients, when it came time for leftovers I just made the salad without the fennel, which, as mentioned above, was just dandy. The second time around, I just cut up half the fennel bulb and one of the apples to make two servings of salad to eat right away, and then the next day I cut up the rest of the fennel bulb (which I’d wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in a baggie in the fridge) and the other apple, basically just making the other two servings of salad from scratch (except the dressing, which I’d stored in the fridge). That worked fine but was a bit more labor-intensive. I suspect you could simplify things by mixing up all the ingredients except the arugula and storing that in the refrigerator, then just dolloping some of that atop some greens whenever you felt like eating.

Saturday, February 09, 2013


I feel like I rambled a lot in my last entry, so I’ll keep this one short and sweet...much like these carrots!

Despite the title of this blog, it’s been quite a while since I’ve cooked from a book instead of the Internet, but a couple of weeks ago, perpetually unable to eyeball quantities accurately in the hustle and bustle of the farmers’ market, I ended up with a huge carrot surplus that needed to be used up. Looking for something interesting to do with them, I decided to consult Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day, one of the few cookbooks that’s earned its keep in my kitchen. Sure enough, I turned to “Carrots” and found that I already had this recipe flagged to try. The basic recipe is for maple-glazed carrots, but there were two variations listed at the end, and the one that involved adding mustard called out to me--since, as you know, mustard has become my new favorite secret ingredient.

The result was a magically easy and delicious side dish. The carrots braise in a small amount of water and syrup, softening and picking up a gentle glaze that’s flavorful but not sticky. I’m definitely glad I went with the mustard, because otherwise I would have found it too sweet. As it is, there’s still an addictive candy-like quality (which caused A to love it), but the savory, salty mustard balances it out. I hated cooked carrots for many years, and I still prefer them roasted or pan-browned, but this is the best steamed/boiled treatment for them I’ve found, and I definitely plan to make it again--especially since I’m sure I’ll never stop accidentally buying too many carrots.

1 tablespoon butter
2 medium shallots, minced
1 pound carrots, cut on the diagonal into ½-inch-thick ovals
½ cup water
2 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B preferable)
1 pinch ground nutmeg
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, then add the shallots and saute until golden, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the carrots, water, maple syrup, nutmeg, and salt to taste. Cover and cook for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the cover and stir in mustard. Simmer briskly until the carrots are tender but not mushy and the liquid in the pan has thickened and coats the carrots nicely, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the parsley, and add a bit more salt if necessary.

Serves: 4
Time: 25 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


Even though they’ve become trendy as a “superfood” (I just can’t bring myself to use that word without the scare quotes), pomegranates still seem exotic to me. My elementary-school best friend would occasionally bring a segment to school in her lunchbag (she was Jewish and I conflated these two things for years), but other than that, I never encountered them until I was an adult. Now that I live in California, I see them for sale at my farmers’ market sometimes but have been a bit intimidated by them. The fact that multiple methods exist for opening them, detailed in a host of online step-by-steps procedures, only makes them more daunting. (Internet tutorials can be extremely useful, but generally, if a cooking technique requires a video to teach it, I tend to avoid it. I’m not claiming this is a wise philosophy, since it kept me away from poaching eggs and making mayonnaise for many lost years.) I’ve bought the convenient boxes of seeds at Trader Joe’s a few times, but they’re ridiculously expensive, nearly four times the cost of a whole pomegranate. When I saw this delicious-looking recipe from A Tasty Love Story at The Kitchn, I decided it was time to buckle down and get friendly with pomegranates.

Following directions from, yes, The Kitchn, I found it quite easy to open my pomegranate underwater, with just a few stray squirts of juice marring my kitchen, and only when I got too enthusiastic about pulling the seeds out forcefully (one red splash stained my forehead and glasses, which I didn’t notice until hours later, and with some alarm until I figured out its source). The rest of the salad came together easily enough, although it takes a bit longer than some of the others I’ve made, between negotiating the pomegranate and having to candy the almonds. That process is quick and nifty enough in itself, just a few minutes on the stovetop, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results. Maybe I overcooked them, but my almonds tasted a little bitter, and they were incredibly sticky; unable to reach the parchment, I grabbed the waxed paper instead to line the baking sheet I poured them onto to cool, and when I tried to remove them later, they took the paper right along with them. I had to spend 15 minutes trying to peel the tiny scraps of paper off, and then chopping them was equally awkward. All that and I’m not sure whether they added a lot of flavor to the salad; the dressing already has balsamic and honey in it, and when all was said and done I could barely even notice they were candied. I would be tempted to use plain ones in the future, but A disagrees that the flavor was indetectible, so maybe I was just cranky about my waxed paper gaffe.

One crucial improvement I made was to add sharp cubed cheddar cheese to the mix; besides the kale, and the almonds beneath their candied coating, everything else here is so firmly in the tart-sweet spectrum that I felt something creamy and savory/salty was needed to balance it out. Maybe I had a huge pomegranate, but there were a lot of seeds in there, although I appreciated the liquid they provided in each bite because there were also a lot of almonds, which sometimes make my mouth feel dry; I might slightly reduce the quantities of each next time. There was so much going on in the salad that the grassy flavor of the kale was in danger of being overshadowed. I thought kale was nearly indestructible, but it even seemed to be getting a little soggy under the weight of all the other ingredients. Perhaps I should have followed the original recipe in using finely chopped curly kale instead of the sliced Tuscan I prefer for salads, but Tuscan was all I could find at the farmers’ market that week anyway. In particular, with its balsamic base, the dressing was much more assertive than the lemony ones I usually use for kale, not to mention that it stained all the ingredients an unfortunate brown.

It sounds like I’m complaining, doesn’t it? I did really enjoy this salad; the flavors go together well and it has a tremendously pleasing juicy crunch. A liked it even more than I did, and in fact, I think the very things that make me compare it unfavorably to some of my other kale salad recipes--the big, bold, sweet flavors and the backgrounding of the kale itself--are precisely what he liked about it. So I’ll definitely be making it again as a nice change of pace, and I am now firmly in the camp of pomegranate eaters.

¾ cup almonds
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon honey, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch kale (I used Tuscan)
1 pomegranate
2 apples
½–¾ cup cubed sharp cheddar cheese

1. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast the almonds for 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar; as soon as the liquid has evaporated, add 1 tablespoon of honey and stir for 1 minute. Transfer almonds to a baking sheet lined with silicon or parchment and let them cool. Afterwards, chop them coarsely.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, the remaining 1 teaspoon of honey, the Dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, continuing whisking until dressing is emulsified.

3. Wash and dry the kale. Remove the stems and slice the leaves into thin strips (if using Tuscan) or chop them finely (if using curly). Place the kale in a large bowl.

4. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add them to the bowl. Core and thinly slice the apples and add them as well, followed by the cheddar and almonds.

5. Add the dressing to the salad and toss well to coat.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013


When I was first getting to know A, one anecdote he told made a particularly vivid impression on me: When he was a little boy and going through an especially picky phase, he got to have pumpkin pie for breakfast. His pediatrician told his mother to give him whatever he would actually eat, and that at least pumpkin is high in vitamin A, protein, fiber, and other nutrients. To this day, when we visit his mom for Thanksgiving, there is often an extra pumpkin pie just for him to eat in the mornings.

In contrast, I’m an orthodox breakfast eater from a family of orthodox breakfast eaters. I’ve never had any kind of pie for breakfast, and as I’ve mentioned before, I eschewed pumpkin completely for the first 34 years of my life. Pumpkin pie still isn’t my favorite, but pumpkin ice cream, cookies, pancakes, pudding, and even gnocchi have won me over, so when I saw this recipe for pumpkin baked oatmeal at Budget Bytes, I was intrigued. Ever since I discovered baked oatmeal three years ago, it’s been my go-to warm breakfast food, but I’ve always stuck with the same recipe, with the only variation being that I occasionally use dried cranberries instead of raisins. Clearly, it was time to branch out.

This recipe is pretty similar to my usual except for the pumpkin, the spices, and the addition of baking powder, which makes the oatmeal just a bit fluffier. It called for 1½ cups milk, but then mentioned that you could use up to 2 cups, subbing in plain yogurt for some of that. I liked the idea of adding a bit more protein from Greek yogurt, so I used ½ cup of that plus 1½ cups milk. I think this may have been a bit too much liquid for me, in addition to all the pumpkin; the end result had a creamier consistency than I’m used to, although it’s also possible I didn’t cook it long enough (I did cook it for longer than the recipe says, because after the given baking time it was still runny and jiggly in the middle, but I probably still erred on the side of underdone). This wasn’t a huge problem, especially since baked oatmeal becomes just a bit drier with each day it spends in the fridge, but I’m wondering if next time I should reduce the liquid slightly. I’m also wondering if covering the baking dish is really necessary; this isn’t called for with my other recipe, and I think it increased the needed baking time for me. As long as the top doesn’t get overly browned, I might skip it. To provide some textural variation, I sprinkled chopped pecans atop the oatmeal right before I ate it each morning, and it was such a tasty addition that I’ll just throw them right in before baking next time.

Small consistency issues aside, this oatmeal is incredibly delicious. It really does taste reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but better, in my opinion, because it’s not so sweet and smooshy; the nutty, chewy oats help balance it out. It’s a cheerful shade of orange, and I love knowing it’s packed with even more good-for-you punch than my usual version. If you’re a devoted cereal eater like me, it’s not often you can claim to have had nearly a full serving of vegetables by 9:00 a.m. Whether the idea of pumpkin pie for breakfast sounds like a great idea to you or a crazy one, this happy medium is a tasty, wholesome breakfast treat. It’s going into my regular rotation; in fact, I might make another batch today!

Update, September 2013: Still a favorite, but I've made a few changes. I now include ½ cup of pecans before baking, and I bake it uncovered the whole time with no ill effects—but if you find the top browns before the interior is solidified, by all means cover it. I also leave out the yogurt and just use 2 cups milk; as much as I like the idea of extra protein, I think it was adding a tart undertone I didn’t care for. In addition, instead of premixing my pumpkin pie spice, I'll often get lazy and just dump spices directly into the pumpkin mixure--a heaping 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon each cardamom and ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg. Can't really tell the difference!

15 ounces pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice*
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½–2 cups milk
½–1 cup plain yogurt (optional; use as replacement for part of the milk, with no more than 2 cups liquid total; e.g., 1 cup milk + 1 cup yogurt, or 1½ cups milk + ½ cup yogurt)
2½ cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not quick)
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Nonstick cooking spray or canola oil

*I made my own pumpkin pie spice by combining ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, and ⅛ teaspoon each of ground cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg in a small bowl. It yields a bit more than 1 teaspoon, but you can use the excess for something else.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder until smooth. Whisk in the milk (and yogurt if using).

2. Mix the dry oats into the pumpkin mixture, and add the pecans, if using. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray or a small amount of oil. Pour in the pumpkin oat mixture, cover with foil, and bake for 45 minutes or until center is set, removing the foil after the first 30 minutes.

3. Divide into portions and serve topped with milk or yogurt, nuts, maple syrup, or whatever else you like (on a special occasion, I'm sure whipped cream would be fantastic).

Serves: 6–8 (original recipe says 8, but I like a hearty breakfast and split it into 6 instead)
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; will last in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least a week. I bake it, let it cool, divide it into portions, put them in separate covered bowls in the fridge, and heat one up in the microwave each morning, pouring milk over the top before eating; you could also just cover the original baking dish and scoop out a serving each morning.