Saturday, October 08, 2016

ANTIPASTO PASTA OR KALE SALAD


















Long story short: Here is a bunch of stuff I didn’t think I liked (Raw chickpeas! Pepperoncini! Artichokes!) in a big bowl with a lot of tasty salty briny things, all swimming in an amazing garlicky oregano dressing. I love it.

Long story slightly longer: My friend S brought a delicious pasta salad to one of our picnics earlier this summer, explaining that she’d adapted it from the Smitten Kitchen version of Nancy Silverton’s chopped salad from Mozza. Despite the presence of the aforementioned stuff I didn’t think I liked, I adored it and immediately wanted to re-create it for myself (and A, who was out of town and had thus missed out). I did, and we both loved it.

I have a surfeit of pasta recipes, though, plus I’m trying not to eat pasta every single week, so I also wanted to try this in straight-up salad form, but the traditional iceberg lettuce format of the original didn’t appeal to me. Considering this concoction is chock-full of items cured, pickled, and preserved, I thought it could use a little more veggie oomph, and kale seemed a natural fit. It plays well with Italian ingredients, its sturdiness stands up to the heavy dressing, and it has enough flavor of its own to avoid getting lost in the shuffle. I was right; this made an excellent salad—a truth that was tested when A had to fly to Indiana unexpectedly on the day I’d planned to make it, leaving me with all six servings to eat on my own. Sure, I was a bit weary of antipasto salad by the end of the week, but none went uneaten. It was really that good.

A few notes: The Smitten Kitchen recipe called for way, way too much salt considering all the processed ingredients bringing serious sodium of their own. I halved it and it was plenty. I also halved the salami and cheese quantities and still thought there was plenty of each. I’m not a huge provolone fan and had trouble finding any (except presliced sandwich cheese) at Trader Joe’s, so I used Pecorino Romano. For the pasta salad I cut it into matchsticks, but that made it too assertive, so I simply shredded it for the kale version and it was perfect. S had added a few pickled cherry peppers to her salad for a bit of heat, and I followed her lead. She also used artichokes, so I bought some for the very first time and dutifully added them in. I guess they bring another vegetable to the mix, but honestly, artichokes do absolutely nothing for me. They hardly taste like anything. I’ve tried them multiple times in many formats and still don’t understand why people seem to be so gaga for them. I’ll finish the jar, but I’m not sure I’ll bother buying any more in the future. Adding arugula to the pasta version of the salad was also S’s idea, and it brings a nice, fresh, green element to what—let’s face it—is not exactly the healthiest salad on the spectrum. It is, however, a substantial, satisfying, protein-rich, all-seasons crowd-pleasing main dish I’ll be making again and again, in both forms.

4 cloves garlic
1 generous tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into paper-thin rings
4 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, coarsely shredded
4-6 ounces sliced salami, cut into ¼-inch ribbons
4 medium or 8 small pickled pepperoncini, sliced into rings
2-4 pickled cherry peppers, diced (optional)
4-6 jarred artichoke hearts, diced (optional)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
For the pasta salad:
12 ounces rotini, cooked, drained and rinsed in cold water
6 generous handfuls arugula
For the kale salad:
1 very large or 2 small bunches Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
  1. To make the dressing, roughly chop the garlic and then add the oregano, salt and up to ½ teaspoon ground pepper. Chop the mixture together and use the side of a knife or a mortar and pestle to make a grainy herb paste. Transfer the paste to a small bowl, then add the lemon juice and vinegar. Mix with a fork, allowing the salt to dissolve, then add the oil and whisk until well combined. The dressing should be thick with garlic and oregano.
  2. For the pasta salad: Combine the cooled pasta, chickpeas, red onion, cheese, salami, pepperoncini, cherry peppers and artichokes (if using), and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add about half the dressing, toss well, and then add remaining dressing to taste (I used all of it). Adjust seasonings to taste. Fold in the arugula immediately before serving.
  3. For the kale salad: Combine the shredded kale with about half the dressing in a large bowl. Toss with your hands, massaging the kale until it becomes tender. Let sit for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Add the chickpeas, red onion, cheese, salami, pepperoncini, cherry peppers and artichokes (if using), and cherry tomatoes to the bowl. Toss well and add remaining dressing to taste (I didn’t quite use all of it). Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serves: 6-8
Time: 30-40 minutes
Leftover potential: Great. For the pasta salad, store the arugula separately and add one generous handful to each serving directly before you eat it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

PESTO CHICKEN SALAD SANDWICHES


















This is going to be one of those posts where I marvel at suddenly liking something I used to abhor. Beans, corn tortillas, fish, mayonnaise, cauliflower, runny eggs, cabbage, potato salad—the list goes on. I would wonder who I even am anymore, except that I still consistently detest beets and olives. In fact, with every new food obstacle conquered, I feel even safer in declaring my hatred of beet and olives a fundamental and unshakeable aspect of my being. As a reformed picky eater, I have diminishing patience for picky eating in others, yet I believe it’s legit to allow everyone two or three really vehement food dislikes, especially if they’ve given those items a good fair shake and still can’t get on board.

All this is to say that I was always repulsed by chicken salad (which was of course a side effect of my feelings about mayonnaise), and then I saw a photo of these sandwiches from Damn Delicious on some random food site roundup and craved them desperately. This is one of those things that’s so simple and sensible it’s barely a recipe you need to write down—essentially just a caprese sandwich, bulked out with chicken that’s perked up with pesto and made creamy with a bit of yogurt. But it never occurred to me before, so maybe it’ll be news to you too. Although it’s nothing fancy, it’s easy, fresh, and satisfying summer fare. What’s more, I suddenly find myself bookmarking all sorts of chicken salad recipes right and left. Maybe it’s the maturing effects of time teaching me to broaden my horizons, or perhaps it’s just the endless SoCal summers making cold, creamy, and crunchy seem like the best way to eat everything.

1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted if desired (I used sliced almonds)
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups cooked shredded or diced chicken breast (I recommend poached chicken)
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 baguette, halved lengthwise and cut into 4 equal pieces (I used 4 split Italian-style sandwich rolls and thought the slightly softer texture worked well), toasted (I brushed the flat surface with a bit of olive oil and ran them under the broiler until golden brown)
2 cups arugula
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  1. To make the pesto, combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor; season with salt and pepper to taste. With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified.
  2. In a large bowl, combine chicken, ½ cup pesto, Greek yogurt, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Serve chicken pesto mixture on baguette/rolls with arugula, tomatoes, and mozzarella.
Serves: 4
Time: 25 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; chicken salad mixture will keep for several days in the fridge. Store all the other sandwich components separately and assemble them just before serving.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

GREEK CHICKEN FARRO SALAD

















I’ve talked about this before, but one thing I’m still wrestling with—even after 12 years in the food blog game—is the feeling that I need to have a perfectly curated recipe collection with just one ideal example of each type of recipe. (Being an editor, essentially a professional content curator, doesn’t help. It’s a difficult reflex to turn off at the end of the day.) When I see a recipe that looks enticing but has notable similarities to a recipe I already have, I have to resist the urge to click on by. I remind myself that there are only so many ingredients in the world, so there’s bound to be overlap from time to time, trying new recipes is fun and low-stakes, and who cares if my recipe collection is sprawling and inconsistent? Plus, every now and then you find a better roasted chicken or a kickass cauliflower soup that supplants the old one.

Thus, when I saw this pasta salad recipe at Budget Bytes, my first impulse was to pass it over, even though it looked delicious. After all, I already have a favorite pasta salad recipe, and this one was basically Mediterranean pepper salad meets chicken gyros meets tabbouleh anyway. I’m covered! But I still wanted it, so I threw caution to the wind and made it—using farro instead, because I’m trying not to eat pasta every week. And you know what? Despite having very similar ingredients and flavor profile to dishes I’ve already tried, this one is its own thing—and that thing is a fresh, colorful, crunchy, savory, lemon-bright, utterly satisfying main-dish salad, aka everything I want in a summer meal. Even A, not a farro fan, pronounced it “not bad,” which translates into high praise. So lesson learned, I guess? Life is messy and repetitive, but sometimes it brings us good salad.

Marinade/dressing:
1 lemon
¼ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, divided
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Salad:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup farro
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 medium Persian cucumbers, diced
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2-4 ounces feta
  1. Remove the zest from the lemon and set it aside. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into a separate bowl. You’ll need at least ¼ cup juice.
  2. Prepare the dressing/marinade by mincing two of the three cloves of garlic and combining them in a small bowl with ¼ cup lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper, and a pinch of the lemon zest. Whisk these ingredients until well combined.
  3. Place the chicken thighs in a ziplock bag and add half of the dressing, saving the rest to add to the salad later. Mince one more clove of garlic and add it to the chicken and marinade. Squeeze the air out and massage the bag to make sure the thighs are well coated in the marinade. Refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.
  4. While the chicken is marinating, cook the farro according to the package directions, drain in a colander, and let cool to room temperature.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, add them to the pan, and cook on each side until they are well browned and cooked through (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the cooked chicken from the skillet and let it rest for about 5 minutes. Once it’s slightly cooled, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Finally, build the salad. Add the cooked and cooled farro to a large bowl. Top with the bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, and chopped chicken. Crumble the feta over the top and add a pinch or two of the lemon zest. Pour the remaining dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 1 hour, plus 30 minutes to 24 hours marinating time
Leftover potential: Great.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

RYE CRUMBLE BARS WITH JAM

















I’m currently having a torrid love affair with rye. This is not a sponsored post, but an awesome artisan flour mill opened in my neighborhood a few years ago, and my friend S gifted me some of their products last Christmas, including a bag of whole rye flour. I immediately started Googling recipes, and it turns out I adore the nutty, malty flavor that rye adds to baked goods. So far I’ve made bread, brownies, and chocolate chip cookies (those last two really deserve posts of their own, but were fortunately/unfortunately devoured before I could snap photos, so gosh darn it, I’ll have to make them again), but the real winner has been these bars from Kim Boyce’s much buzzed-about cookbook Good to the Grain, found via Orangette. I always have jars of old jam under my bed that need using up, so the fact that it uses a whole cup and a half of the stuff is a definite bonus.

Let’s face it: This recipe looks incredibly fussy, especially compared to the much simpler jam bars already in my repertoire. The bottom crust and the top crust are made separately with slightly different ingredients, you have to melt and cool butter twice, the bottom crust needs to be frozen for 30 minutes, and the baking time is astonishingly long—nearly two hours. It’s not something you throw together on the spur of the moment. But I made it on a Friday night, and I was surprised by how non-annoying it actually was. The bottom and top crusts share similar ingredients and are a cinch to mix up; you can make the top one while the bottom one freezes. (Or, as Orangette notes, you can even make this in stages over the course of a few days.) After that it’s mostly hands-off, and you can wander away and watch TV or do yoga or something while it bakes. Most importantly, the result is terrific. They definitely put the “crumble” in crumble bars, and I felt that they benefited from some time in the fridge or freezer to keep them from being a sticky disintegrating mess, but the flavor is so, so good, with the toasty, buttery, salty shortbread balancing out the sweet tartness of the jam. I used berry jams the first time, and am planning a second go-round to use up last year’s cranberry preserves. At the rate I’m going, I’ll need to restock on rye flour before I even get to the rest of the recipes I want to try (shortbread, crackers, more bread)!

Shortbread crust:
65 grams (½ cup) dark rye flour
120 grams (1 cup) all-purpose flour
50 grams (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crumble:
100 grams (1 cup) rolled oats
32 grams (3 tablespoons) dark brown sugar
52 grams (¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons) dark rye flour
30 grams (¼ cup) all-purpose flour
38 grams (3 tablespoons) sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
85 grams (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Filling:
350 ml (1½ cups) jam, preserves, or fruit butter (I had closer to 1¼ cups, and it turned out just fine)
  1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 275 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan (I just used a regular cake pan, lining the bottom with parchment, and it was fine) with butter or cooking spray.
  2. To make the shortbread crust, combine the flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl, and whisk to mix well. Add the melted butter and vanilla extract, and stir until thoroughly combined. (If the mixture looks dry, use your hands to squeeze and massaged the dough until it comes together.) Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes, while you make the crumble. (If you want to do this step ahead of time, wrap the pan in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge or freezer. If it’s in the fridge, just remember to transfer it to the freezer for 30 minutes before baking.)
  3. While the shortbread is chilling, put all of the crumble ingredients except the melted butter into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the oats are partially ground, about 5 or 10 seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with your hands, squeezing the mixture to create small crumbly bits. Set aside. (If you want to do this step ahead of time, wrap the bowl in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. Take it out about 30 minutes before using, and if needed, use a fork to break up any giant clumps that have hardened.)
  4. Bake the frozen shortbread until pale brown and firm when touched, about 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, and raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  5. To assemble the bars, spread the jam over the shortbread crust, and then top with the crumble, evenly sprinkling it over the surface and squeezing bits of it together to create irregular nubs. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden brown on top, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking.
  6. When the pan is cool enough to handle but still warm, run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to loosen any jam that may have stuck. Remove the ring if using a springform. Completely (or mostly, anyway) cool the bars in the pan before cutting into wedges.
Serves: About 12 to 16
Time: 3 hours
Leftover potential: Good; I kept mine in the freezer and they lasted for a few weeks.

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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

PASTA WITH BROCCOLINI AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE

















And still another veggie makes its Bookcook debut! Clearly, I’ve been feeling experimental lately. (Is it sad when one of the biggest thrills in your life is trying a new vegetable? Not to me.) I had tried broccolini (which is not baby broccoli, but a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli that my spell-checker doesn’t yet recognize) a few times on and off over the years and liked it, but it’s started making more reliable appearances at our farmers’ market, so I figured I’d better give a shot for real.

Naturally, I turned to pasta. The sausage-and-broccoli/broccolini/broccoli rabe combo is a classic one, but I had to comb through a surprising number of variations on Google that weren’t quite what I wanted before I found something near enough. I used this recipe from the Weekend Gourmande (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated) as a jumping-off point, doubling it and adding lemon zest and juice for a springy zip (what even is the point of a green vegetable without lemon?). I garnished with basil because I had some that needed to be used up, but it isn’t necessary. While hardly groundbreaking, this is a straightforward and delicious meal that lets the broccolini shine but gives veg-skeptics (ahem, A) enough meaty-spicy-cheesy-savory elements to sink their teeth into.

If you don’t want to shell out for broccolini (or just can’t find it), regular broccoli would work here. I’d love to try it with broccoli rabe sometime, but I’ve never spotted it at our farmers’ market. Broccolini does seem to be an up-and-comer, so maybe its cousin will be next to join the club.

1 pound orecchiette (or a short, curly pasta like rotini)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
4 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 to 1½ pounds broccolini (about 2 bunches), cut into 1-inch pieces, stems halved lengthwise if thick
1 to 1½ cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
  2. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s warm, add the olive oil and the Italian sausage. Cook until browned, breaking up the chunks with a spoon. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add the broccolini, ½ teaspoon salt, and broth to the skillet. Cover for 2 minutes to steam, until broccolini is bright green. Remove lid and cook until broccolini is tender and most of the stock evaporates.
  4. Add drained pasta, lemon juice, lemon zest, and ½ cup Parmesan to the skillet and stir well, adding pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with additional Parmesan on top.
Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

ROASTED POTATOES AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH BACON

















Another new vegetable addition to my palate’s palette. Brussels sprouts have, of course, been rehabbed from their bad rap and served at the cool-kid tables for years, but I was slow to pick up on the trend because they’re basically tiny cabbages, and up until last year I wasn’t a fan of the full-sized version either. But you can’t throw a stone anymore without hitting a gastropub, and you can’t throw a stone in a gastropub without hitting a bowl of roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, usually the only green vegetable on the menu, so eventually I tried them and enjoyed them. I did roast them at home a few times, but apparently none of the recipes I tried were especially notable, because they never made it to the blog. This year I vowed I’d get better acquainted with Brussels sprouts.

I chose this recipe from The Kitchn because I knew the bacon would mollify A (as well as being a natural pairing for sprouts), mustard improves almost everything, and the addition of potatoes makes this an easy way to cover two-thirds of the protein + starch + veg meal formula (a template I don’t usually feel compelled to follow, but I needed something to serve with lemon garlic chicken and this seemed like a properly substantial side). It was effortless and excellent. I used a slightly higher sprouts-to-potato ratio because I like green things, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I do think I should have put the sprouts in earlier, because my bacon was a little too toasty by the end (and I say this as someone who likes it extra-crispy) and my sprouts not quite dark enough for my taste, but that’s easily remedied next time.

So: Brussels sprouts: yes. Not sure if I’m ready to level-up and try them in raw salad form, but roasted, I’m on board with.

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¼ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
¼ pound (about 3 slices) thick-cut bacon, diced
¾ pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the ½ tablespoon olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the potatoes and bacon in the bowl until evenly coated.
  2. Spread the potato mixture evenly on a large, heavy baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are tender but not too browned, stirring every 10 minutes.
  3. Turn the oven up to 475 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. Push the potatoes to one side of the pan, and arrange the Brussels sprouts on the other half of the pan, cut sides down.
  4. Continue roasting for about 15 more minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and browned, and the bacon is crisp. Salt to taste.
Serves: 4
Time: 70 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

SWEDISH MEATBALLS WITH PICKLED CUCUMBER AND RADISH

















I’m well versed in lefse, rosettes, spritz and krumkake, but somehow managed to live 27 years in Minnesota minus any memorable encounters with Swedish meatballs, which I attribute to (a) youthful pickiness, (b) a generally noncarnivorous nature, and (c) the fact that they didn’t open an IKEA in the Twin Cities until after I moved away. In exile from my Midwestern homeland, my interest in things Scandinavian has grown exponentially, and one of my favorite ways to eat meat now is in ball form (well-seasoned, bite-sized tidbits beat big boring slabs any day), so it seemed appropriate to finally get into Swedish meatballs.

I bookmarked a number of recipes over the years, but never felt inspired to take the plunge (who really needs more meat and cream in their lives?) until I saw a photo of this Jet and Indigo recipe somewhere online and fell in love with the idea of taking things to the Nordic next level with a gorgeously colorful topping of pickled vegetables.

I went with America’s Test Kitchen (via Elly Says Opa) for the meatballs themselves, and they’re the best I’ve ever made. I don’t quite know what does it (the mixture of beef and pork? the grated onion, which at least on my crappy grater turns into a watery, gelatinous mess that seems like it’s going to make everything sodden but is in fact the perfect way to spread oniony goodness through every cell of the meatball?), but dang, they’re tender and delicious. I found the inclusion of sugar a bit odd, especially in the sauce, and the first time I made this, everything just seemed off-puttingly sweet, especially when combined with the pickled veggies (which tend toward the sweet side as well). I investigated a number of other Swedish meatball recipes and found a few that had sugar in the meat but none that also used it in the sauce, so on the second go-round I omitted it and everything was perfect. It’s possible the sugar works better with heavy cream in the sauce—the first time I used creme fraiche because I happened to have some on hand, and the second time I opted for sour cream, which seemed more traditional. I also threw in a big handful of parsley, just to freshen things up, along with a ton of dill in the pickles. I hate that the recipe calls for just “1 slice sandwich bread,” which seems a lot vaguer than measuring the bread in ounces (I tend to keep odds and ends of various breads in the freezer for making crumbs, but rarely “sandwich bread” per se), but hilariously, on my second try it ended up forcing me to double down on Scandinavianness when it turned out that all I had on hand was marble rye. I can’t say I could taste the caraway in the finished meatballs, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

I know it might seem weird (it certainly did to me; kudos to A for encouraging me to forge ahead) to take a perfectly normal serving of meatballs in a nice gravy and then dump some cold, sweet-and-sour radishes and cucumbers all over it, but I’m telling you, that’s what takes this dish from solid to WOWZA. The brine cuts the richness of the meat and cream, and the cool crunch and beautiful pink and green hues are the perfect foil for the velvety beigeness below. If you simply can’t bring yourself to mix them, you can serve the pickles as a sort of side salad and alternate bites between the two dishes, but trust me on this one: PICKLES ON TOP 4 LYFE.

High-fives were exchanged over the dinner table during this meal (in a very brief pause from shoveling the food into our mouths; I’m a too-fast eater to begin with and yet still embarrassed by how extra quickly I devoured these meatballs every time). I’m ridiculously pleased with it, not only because I managed to merge two recipes and totally nail it (on the second attempt anyway), but also because, like many of the recipes I’ve been trying lately, it represents something that would have repulsed (or at least failed to interest) my younger self. It’s been fun to have the chance to discover foods gradually in my own time instead of just being a jaded sushi eater by age 8, but still, my younger self was totally missing out! I’ll just have to eat many more Swedish meatballs this year to make up for it.

Pickles:
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
7 ounces radishes, thinly sliced
2-3 small Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

Meatballs:
1 large egg
¼ cup heavy cream (or half-and-half or milk)
1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into ½-inch pieces
1 small onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
¾ cup beef broth
¾ cup sour cream or heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 large handful fresh parsley, minced

For serving:
8 ounces egg noodles, cooked and drained
  1. To make the pickles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl, and mix well until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cucumber and radish to the bowl, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, mixing occasionally. When ready to serve, stir in the dill.
  2. To make the meatballs, whisk the egg and the cream (or half-and-half or milk) together in a large bowl. Add the bread and stir to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add the remaining meatball ingredients, except for the oil, and mix together lightly with your hands or two forks, just until combined. Form into about 25 to 30 1-inch meatballs.
  4. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the meatballs in a single layer. Cook for a few minutes per side, until browned all over but still slightly underdone. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with the rest of the meatballs.
  5. To make the sauce, return the empty skillet to medium heat and melt the butter. Add the flour and whisk constantly until it’s light brown. Whisk in the chicken and beef broth, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, which will take approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and return to a simmer. Add the meatballs and simmer for about 5 minutes to warm them through and finish cooking. Add the lemon juice and parsley, and season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over egg noodles and top with pickles.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; store pickles separately.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CHOCOLATE BANANA BAKED OATMEAL

















Way back in 2013, when I discovered my beloved funky monkey baked oatmeal, I commented on the wrong-feelingness of eating chocolate in the morning (and, indeed, 75% of the time I’ve made that recipe since, I’ve omitted the chocolate and coconut so it’s just banana-peanut butter), and speculated about using cocoa powder so that the base of the oatmeal itself was chocolaty, instead of being studded with chocolate chips. I never bothered to follow up on this idea, or I would have seen that my trusted baked oatmeal recipe source, Budget Bytes, already had a chocolate banana version in its archives. I only spotted it recently, while posting about banana coconut baked oatmeal, and I immediately knew it was the next logical step in my breakfast journey.

It’s hardly shocking to reveal that this oatmeal is objectively delicious, but I was still surprised that I enjoyed it so much. I’ve never been one to crave chocolate cake for breakfast, even in my carefree youth, so it took a few bites to overcome the twin disconnects of (a) eating something that looked and smelled like a brownie at 8 a.m., and (b) eating something that looked and smelled like a brownie but was barely sweet. Once I recalibrated my senses, however, I loved how the deep flavor of the cocoa shone through (use a good-quality cocoa powder, because it’s going to be the main flavor here), and how I felt fully as satisfied and energized until lunchtime as I do from any other oatmeal. If you do actually hunger for dessert first thing in the morning, this may be a good way to trick yourself into thinking you’re indulging. For me, it’s another fun riff to add to my baked oatmeal rotation.

The original recipe suggested a number of possible add-ins, including coconut and peanut butter, but to make sure I got plenty of protein to carry me through the morning, I went with sliced almonds. I toasted them for added flavor, but they still got largely overshadowed by the blast of cocoa. I appreciated their crunch, however, so they’ll be making a return appearance.

3 large or 4 medium ripe bananas
2 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 cups milk
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mash enough bananas to make 1½ cups.
  3. To the bowl of mashed bananas, add the eggs, cocoa powder (I like to sift this in to eliminate lumps), brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk together until smooth. Add the milk and whisk again. Make sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder. Stir the oats and almonds into the bowl.
  4. Coat the inside of an 8-by-8-inch casserole dish with nonstick spray. Pour the oat mixture into the pan.
  5. Place the oats in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes, or until firm. Cut into six pieces and serve warm, with milk.
Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great. Oatmeal will keep for a week in a covered container; reheat individual pieces in the microwave each morning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

ASPARAGUS CARBONARA

















Despite being a lifelong fan of Calvin Trillin, who has famously claimed that spaghetti carbonara should replace turkey as the national Thanksgiving dish, I had never made (or, I think, even eaten) carbonara before—initially because I was grossed out by undercooked egg yolks, and more recently because I was afraid I would love it insatiably and perilously. But when The Brewer and the Baker posted this recipe last spring, I no longer had good reason to resist. Here we have a two-to-one ratio of springy green vegetables to pasta, perhaps not enough to counteract the richness of the bacon, egg and cheese, but enough to feel like a reasonable one-dish weeknight meal—and, honestly, much more interesting and appealing to me than plain old carbonara.

This is one of those recipes that comes together so quickly, it behooves you to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start. I always thought making carbonara was tricky, but the technique doesn’t get any more advanced than tempering eggs, which basically means stirring a little hot liquid into them so they warm up slowly and don’t immediately cook and congeal. Beyond that, the only hard part is the timing—making sure your noodles and your sauce come together at exactly the right moment. The good news is that if you muck it up a little bit, as I did the first time—foolishly believing that I could simplify things by simply mixing the pasta with the sauce in the hot skillet—and your eggs scramble a little instead of turning into a smooth sauce, it will still taste pretty great. When I returned to this recipe a year later and actually followed the directions precisely, it was even better. Working quickly and confidently is the key…and practice makes perfect, so clearly I’m going to have to try the entire range of spinoff recipes: Roasted cauliflower, my new BFF! Roasted broccoli! Spinach and sweet potato! What vegetable wouldn’t taste amazing in a peppery, smoky-salty, cheesy, magically creamy-without-a-drop-of-cream sauce? (Beets, probably.)

8 ounces spaghetti or other long pasta
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 slices bacon, cut into cubes
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1¼ pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt to taste
  1. Heat a large pot of salted water to a boil for cooking the pasta. (If your asparagus is very thick or you like it very tender, once the water boils you can blanch your asparagus in it for a few minutes to give it a head start on cooking, removing it with a slotted spoon to a colander before adding the pasta to the same pot.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon pieces to a crisp and remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl.
  3. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve ¾ cup of pasta water before draining.
  4. Add black pepper to bacon drippings in skillet and cook for two minutes. Add asparagus and cook about 5 minutes, until fork-tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Whisk egg, yolk, 2/3 cup Parmesan, and ¼ cup very hot pasta water in the bowl with the bacon.
  6. Add drained pasta and the contents of the asparagus skillet to the bowl and toss, adding splashes of reserved pasta water to create a creamy sauce. Season with salt to taste and serve topped with extra Parmesan.
Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND MUSHROOM PIZZA

















I believe it’s safe to call my journey toward becoming a cauliflower eater complete, having toured four of my favorite food groups—soup, fritters, pasta, and now pizza—with successful results. I don’t want to play favorites, but this powerhouse recipe from Bev Cooks (found via the Kitchn) is my current obsession. Cauliflower in its best form (crisp and toasty) gets an assist from umami-bursting browned mushrooms, slivers of red onion, savory herbs, plenty of cheese, and, just to flirt with gilding the lily, a crust bathed in roasted garlic oil. Anyone still think vegetables are boring?

I made two slight improvements on the original, to help balance out all the earthiness: adding red pepper flakes for a welcome pop of brightness and heat, and complementing the creamy mozzarella with a sharper cheese—Parmesan on my first try and, even better, Pecorino Romano the second time around. I’m also going to note that you really should use fresh mozzarella here; I usually find it too watery for pizza and opt for the aged, low-moisture kind, but since the other ingredients in this case are fairly dry, the extra juiciness is welcome.

I’m especially grateful for this recipe because it wouldn’t otherwise have occurred to me to combine cauliflower with mushrooms, but maybe that just goes to show what a cauliflower newbie I am. Clearly, further experimentation is still needed!

1 pound pizza dough
1 medium cauliflower head, broken into florets
½ pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
10ish fresh sage leaves
6 large garlic cloves, in their skins
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
½ cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
5-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Place the mushrooms on one baking sheet, and the cauliflower florets on another. Nestle the garlic cloves in with the veggies. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, sprinkle with fresh thyme and sage leaves, and toss well (make sure the garlic cloves in particular are well coated with oil).
  3. Roast the mushrooms for 30 minutes and the cauliflower for 45, or until you get some good roasted color all over. Remove pans from oven and set aside. Increase oven heat to 450.
  4. Using tongs, fish out the garlic and press the cloves out of their skins into a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and mash into a paste.
  5. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured work surface and transfer to an oiled or cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Evenly brush the garlic oil over the crust and par-bake for 2 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle Romano or Parmesan over the crust, and evenly top with the roasted mushrooms, cauliflower (don’t forget all the herbs on the baking sheets! I crumble the crispy sage leaves with my fingers and scatter it over the pizza) and red onion. Finish with the mozzarella and bake another 12 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and bubbly, and the dough is cooked through.
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

CREAMY POTATO, KALE, AND SAUSAGE SOUP

















This soup might look familiar. It’s apparently based on Olive Garden’s “Zuppa Toscana,”* and it’s quite the Internet sensation. I can anecdotally report that it seems to be approaching the cult status of the Mrs. Fields/Neiman Marcus cookie, and perhaps someday its origins will be as shrouded in mystery. I first had it years ago, when my visiting friend L improvised a soup based on one her aunt had cooked for her. It was tasty, so when I saw this version at Budget Bytes recently, I decided to give it a shot. Funnily enough, that exact week, my mom was describing a soup recipe she’d gotten from my aunt that she was planning to try that week…and lo and behold, it was just another variation on the very same ur-soup.

All this popularity isn’t unmerited. Sausage, potatoes, and kale are best friends (see this similar combo from my own soup archives), and adding cream only sweetens the deal. Apparently, the original soup contains bacon, although many of its imitators do not; the slightly lightened recipe I tried adds smoked paprika as a stand-in, dials down the cream to half-and-half, reduces the sausage and swaps in some white beans for added protein and creaminess. It’s delicious and I wouldn’t change a thing. The only slight tweak I made was adding the half-and-half near the end of the cooking process so it didn’t curdle, as some commenters suggested and most other versions do. I went ahead and used hot Italian pork sausage for max flavor, but you can substitute a chicken variety if you prefer.

*Insert obligatory foodie snideness about the Olive Garden here, along with the requisite disclaimer that I’ve only eaten there twice in my life, during my hungry/cash-strapped/silly college days. And you know what? It was fine.

½ pound Italian sausage (hot or mild)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
2 cups half-and-half
3 medium red potatoes (1½ pounds), quartered lengthwise and then cut into thin slices (about ¼ inch thick)
1 bunch (½ pound) kale, stemmed and chopped
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing into a large pot. Sauté over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks. (If you’re using chicken sausage, you may need to add a little olive oil to keep it from sticking.)
  2. Once the sausage is mostly browned, add the onion and garlic to the pot and sauté until the onions are softened.
  3. Add the beans, smoked paprika, chicken broth, water, and salt to taste (my chicken broth had no salt, so I added 1 teaspoon kosher salt; use less if you’re using a commercial broth that contains sodium). Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the potatoes and kale, stirring until the kale wilts. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for at least 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the half-and-half, heating until warmed but not boiling. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Serves: 6-8
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

PASTA WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND SAUSAGE

















The Cauliflower Chronicles continue. Of course the surest way for me to enjoy a new vegetable is on pasta, but it took me a surprisingly long time to find the right recipe. Although there are umpteen million variations on the classic cauliflower + pasta + breadcrumbs combo out there, none of my usual sources served up exactly what I was looking for. I definitely wanted the cauliflower to be roasted, because that’s how I’ve enjoyed it best so far. I wanted big, bold flavors, but no olives or anchovies or capers or raisins (all recipe dealbreakers for me, and all frequently found with cauliflower and pasta). And I thought a little meat would make it an easier sell to A. I usually stick to trusted blogs and websites for recipes, but I finally had to resort to straight-up Googling to hunt down this one from the Candid Appetite that seemed to have it all: roasted cauliflower, Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, and plenty of onion, garlic, lemon, and red pepper. (Strangely, the only thing it lacked was cheese, which is kind of a necessity when it comes to pasta in my opinion, so I added a sprinkling of Parmesan.)

I was pleased to discover that I’d chosen well; this recipe is pretty genius. Roasting the cauliflower with lemon juice, red pepper flakes and plenty of salt gives it tons of flavor (although all the liquid does interfere with the browning a bit because the cauliflower basically steams before it starts to roast, and I found I had to keep it in the oven much longer than the recipe dictated in order to get the level of caramelization I was looking for). The acid and spice balance perfectly with the nutty/cabbagey cauliflower, savory sausage, sweet onion, toasty breadcrumbs, and bright parsley for a rich and roasty but still fresh and not-too-heavy meal.

Other than correcting the cheese deficit, my only other change was to use fresh breadcrumbs instead of the odd mix of panko and “plain breadcrumbs” (aka storebought dry breadcrumbs, I guess? Why bother using two kinds?) called for in the original recipe. I’m a panko fan, but I know from past experience that I love the flavor and texture of toasted fresh breadcrumbs in pasta dishes, especially when they get all soft and super-flavor-soaked in the leftovers. I also skipped cooking the parsley with the breadcrumbs, to keep the green taste and color of the fresh herb intact. As for the Italian sausage, I usually default to chicken, but since I was a little concerned this dish would turn out too bland and/or dry (not really having a sauce per se), I went half-and-half with pork and thought it was perfect. It wouldn’t be terrible if you wanted to do all chicken sausage, but that extra little bit of grease and meatiness really amps things up.

The conclusion of this latest chapter in my cruciferous vegetable conquests? It’s safe to say now that I definitely like cauliflower. And what’s more, I’ve found my new favorite pasta.

1 medium to medium-large head cauliflower
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium lemon, juiced
1½ teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 to 1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 pound cavatappi or other curly pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the cauliflower and toss until evenly combined. Shake pan to distribute the cauliflower into a single layer. Roast for about 25 to 40 minutes, stirring the cauliflower and rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until browned and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. While the cauliflower is roasting, place a small skillet over medium heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil, and when it’s warm, add the breadcrumbs. Toast, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are crisp and golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Right before draining, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  5. While the water is heating, place a large skillet over medium heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the sausage and break down with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned, then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown.
  6. When the pasta is drained, immediately throw it into the skillet with the sausage and onion. Add the reserved pasta water, roasted cauliflower, parsley and most of the breadcrumbs (reserve a few tablespoons for garnish). Stir until evenly combined and cook for a minute or two.
  7. Serve with a sprinkling of the reserved toasted breadcrumbs, and grated Parmesan to taste.
Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

BANANA COCONUT BAKED OATMEAL

















I’ve tried many, many kinds of baked oatmeal, but only a few have been worth repeating. Texture is my main criteria: I’ve found that I don’t really enjoy anything that involves chunks of non-pureed fruit, which rules out a lot of options, and in my opinion the recipes from Budget Bytes are the best (a bit fluffier and more custardy). My favorites by far are pumpkin and peanut butter banana (funky monkey without the coconut and chocolate), each of which I make at least monthly, with occasional forays into plain, banana walnut, or funky monkey for variety. It hasn’t happened yet, but it would be a sad day if I were ever to get sick of my old standbys, so I was thrilled when this new variation popped up a few weeks ago and was interested to see that it used coconut milk for added flavor. Of course I had to try it out.

I swapped in cardamom for the nutmeg (because I think cardamom should be in just about everything) and doubled the vanilla, figuring I might capture the quality of the coconut cardamom rice and tapioca puddings I love. It tasted delicious, although the texture was different than my regular baked oatmeals, denser and more solid. This one has a few more oats and less liquid—13.5 ounces is only about 1.7 cups, whereas all my other recipes use 2 cups milk—and I might try supplementing with an extra splash of dairy milk next time, but I came to appreciate the chewiness, and just added a bit more milk when serving. All of the others in my repertoire also contain nuts, and I was slightly worried the reduced protein in this one wouldn’t fill me up sufficiently (there was also only one egg instead of two, which I’m guessing might be an attempt to offset the coconut milk’s richness), but it wasn’t a problem. I’m pretty sure this is going to be making regular appearances in my breakfast rotation.

1½ cups mashed ripe bananas (3 to 4 large)
1 large egg
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
13.5 ounces canned coconut milk
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil the inside of a 2-to-3-quart casserole dish. (I like to use coconut oil spray.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, egg, brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut until evenly combined. Add the coconut milk and whisk again until smooth. Add the rolled oats and stir until combined.
  3. Pour the oat mixture into the prepared casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week; reheat individual portions in the microwave.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

PICKLED CARROT STICKS

















Back in my pickier eating days, raw carrot sticks were my go-to vegetable—in fact, I think I may have taken cheese, crackers, and carrot sticks to school for lunch almost every day of my K-12 education. I still grab them on occasion when I need vitamins and crunch on the go (plane trips, for instance), but let’s face it, they’re on the bland side. I wish it hadn’t taken me about a decade to realize that the way to make myself fall in love with raw carrots again was to pickle them.

I had this recipe from Sassy Radish bookmarked for more than a year before I finally took the briny plunge. As my friend S and I were planning our annual Halloween scary-but-not-too-scary filmfest and fall feast, I realized we’d need something crisp and fresh to balance out all the delicious cheese and snacks and sweets, and what could be more appropriately festive for than bright orange carrots? These pickles were a cinch to throw together and a huge hit with me, S, A and everyone else I’ve shared them with since. The flavor is a knockout, with an absolutely perfect salty-sour-sweet-spicy ratio, and I love the texture too—not mushy from cooking, just gently bathed in the hot brine enough to barely soften them and still retain their bite. They make a snappy, refreshing accompaniment for rich winter meals like goulash, and an addictive snack all year round.

I inadvertently made this recipe even better when I realized I’d run out of dill seed, couldn’t find it at any of the grocery stores I visited (note to self: Whole Foods has it), and decided to swap in cumin seed instead, on the theory that cumin and carrots often make appearances together. The pickles turned out so fantastic that now I’m afraid to mess with a good thing, and I keep right on using cumin seed even though I’ve replenished my dill supply. Other than that, the only changes I made were to use red pepper flakes instead of a whole chile, and to pack my pickles in a flat rectangular glass container because I didn’t have any appropriately sized jars, which necessitated increasing the liquid quantities just slightly so the brine covered all the carrots. I don’t normally peel my carrots and didn’t bother the first time I made this, but I went for it the second time around and do think it helps the brine penetrate, as well as resulting in prettier pickles.

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks
1¼ cup cider vinegar
1¼ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A heaping ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon celery seed
¼ teaspoon yellow mustard seed
  1. Place carrots in a large jar (or I use a shallow rectangular glass container with a lid).
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 3 minutes.
  3. Pour pickling liquid over carrots, and let cool, uncovered.
  4. Seal and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.
Yields: 1 pound
Time: 20 minutes (plus at least 24 hours of pickling)
Leftover potential: Pretty much the whole point. Will keep in the fridge for up to a month, getting more flavorful every day.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

CAULIFLOWER AND FETA FRITTERS WITH POMEGRANATE

















I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with cauliflower yet, although I definitely like it roasted. I’ll admit I do enjoy finally being part of the club, since it’s been one of the cool-kid vegetables in recent years and avoiding it meant ignoring quite a few recipes, especially in winter. Now that I have my cauliflower radar turned on, it’s fun to see how many good-looking recipes I missed out on in the past. Case in point: this Smitten Kitchen one from way back in 2012. Fritters are totally up my alley and so is feta, but since I’m also a latecomer to pomegranate I can certainly see why I clicked right on past when this was first posted. (Although perhaps I didn’t—a search of fritter recipes on my own blog reveals that I contemplated making them nearly three years ago.) I’m a little sad that I went so long without this deliciousness in my life, but I guess there’s something to be said for finding the right thing at the exact moment you’re ready for it, or some such self-help mumbo-jumbo.

These fritters are definitely cauliflower-centric, although well-seasoned enough with lemon, garlic and red pepper to avoid the blandness I feel is one of cauliflower’s major potential pitfalls. But it’s a good gateway drug for newbies, too, since the vegetable is processed nearly beyond recognition (I cut mine perhaps a tad smaller, boiled it a tad longer and mashed it a tad smoother than the original recipe called for, and was not sorry), bound together with plenty of salty melty cheese and browned to an irresistible crisp. I implore you not to skip out on the pomegranate, which is far from just the pretty garnish I initially assumed. The pops of tart juiciness are the perfect complement to the richness of the fritters.

1 small head cauliflower (1 pound florets; i.e., stems and leaves removed), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
A few gratings of fresh lemon zest
3 ounces crumbled feta (about 1/2 cup)
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes; less if using regular red pepper flakes, which are hotter
¾ teaspoon table salt, plus extra to taste
½ teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil for frying
¾ cup yogurt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 large handful pomegranate arils
  1. Cook cauliflower in simmering salted water, uncovered, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still somewhat firm. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Spread on towels to dry as much as possible.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, garlic and lemon zest. Add cauliflower florets and mash with a potato masher until they’re crushed into an average of pea-sized pieces (i.e. some will be bigger, some smaller, but most will be little nubs). Sprinkle in feta and stir to combine egg mixture, cauliflower and feta. In a small dish, whisk flour, salt, pepper and baking powder until evenly combined. Sprinkle over cauliflower batter and stir just until combined.
  3. Heat a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat. Add a good slick of oil, about 2 to 3 tablespoons. When the oil is hot, scoop a two-tablespoon-size mound of the batter and drop it into the pan, then flatten it slightly with your spoon or spatula. Repeat with additional batter, leaving a couple inches between each fritter. Once brown underneath, about 2 to 3 minutes, flip each fritter and cook on the other side until equally golden, about another 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer briefly to paper towels to drain, then to a wire rack (or keep warm in a 200-degree oven if desired).
  4. Once all fritters are cooked, mix yogurt with cumin, salt and pepper. Spread fritters on serving platter. Dollop each with cumin yogurt and sprinkle with pomegranate arils.
Serves: 2-4 (original recipe says it yields 18 two-inch fritters; I usually get about 10 slightly larger ones, which feeds both of us as a main dish with a side salad)
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. Leftover fritters can be frozen or refrigerated; reheat on a baking sheet in a 400-degree oven, or in a dry skillet over medium heat, until warm and crisp.