In keeping with New Year’s health resolutions, the past two weeks for me have been almost meat free. Now, don’t get me wrong- I have no plans to become a vegan or even a vegetarian, but all of us could do with a few less animal products in our daily lives. On Monday I had lunch with my mom at an organic cafe in San Francisco called Plant, where we shared one of the most tasty and satisfying homemade veggie burgers that I had ever had. The burgers were bright magenta in color because they had been made of beets, which in a weird way made them look more like meat burgers and perhaps helped the mind feel more satisfied. The menu noted a few of the ingredients in the burgers, so I decided to try making them at home. The outcome was delicious. Seriously, friends! Try these at home! You will love them and they will help you not crave meat so much!
1 cup bulgar wheat
1 bunch beets (about 4 medium beets), cut in cubes
2 cups mushrooms (I used Button but Crimini would be perfect)
2 cloves garlic
A handful of cashews
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper as needed
Begin by preheating the oven to 425 and preparing your beets to roast by drizzling some olive oil on top. The beets will take about 45 to an hour minutes to roast til soft, so you probably have about 20 to go about your business before you need to start with the rest of the meal. Once you are ready to get started, set up the bulgar to start cooking. Pour the cup of bulgar with two cups water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, let simmer like rice until the water is absorbed and the bulgar is soft and ready to eat (about 15 minutes). Roughly chop the garlic, scallions, shallots and mushrooms. Heat a glug of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat and toss in the garlic, the scallions and the shallots. Once everything is soft add the mushrooms and sauté until cooked through. By now your beets and your bulgar should also be done. Set the bulgar aside while you combine everything else in a blender or food processor. Add the handful of cashews and an egg and blend until it has about the texture of ground meat. Put in a bowl and add the second egg. Add bulgar one handful at a time until the mixture is solid enough to form into patties that stay together. Start heating your grill pan or a large sauté pan with a tiny bit of oil- these burgers won’t give off fat the way a meat burger would, so the oil prevents it from sticking. Form your patties as you would with meat and grill like usual. The cook time is about the same as it would be with meat, leaving it without flipping until the edges are cooked through. I topped ours with a little bit of shredded Gruyere to make cheese burgers and ate them with fresh brioche buns. Add some tomato and avocado and you’ve got yourself quite a burger! Enjoy!
Last night for dinner I was desperately in the mood for comfort food. I had been feeling kind of blue all day, stressed about the holidays and silly things like visas and returning to England in January, and just wanted to curl up. Plus, we went to see Somewhere on Monday, and I have been digging the idea of homemade Mac and Cheese since the moment Cleo asks the concierge at Chateau Marmont to bring her a cheese grater. Then, as if the universe could read my mind, the Saveur Weeknight Meals email hit my inbox with Greek Mac and Cheese at the top of the list. The recipe on the website is adapted from Michael Psilakis and is as follows:
3 slices crustless white bread, torn into small pieces
9 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt, to taste
8 oz. hollow pasta, preferably elbow macaroni
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
4 cups grated graviera or kefalotyri cheese (about 12 oz.)
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 large shallots, finely chopped
16 oz. baby spinach, roughly chopped
8 scallions cut into 1/4”-thick rounds
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
1 3/4 cups crumbled feta (about 8 oz.)
Put bread into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Put bread crumbs and 3 tbsp. butter into a small bowl and combine; set aside. Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until cooked halfway through, about 3 minutes. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water, and set aside. Heat remaining butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Still whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in milk and cook until sauce has thickened and coats the back of a spoon, 10–15 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in graviera, cinnamon, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper; set béchamel sauce aside. Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a 5-qt. pot over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3–4 minutes. Add spinach and scallions and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved béchamel sauce, the dill, and the reserved pasta and transfer mixture to a 9” x 13” baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with reserved bread crumbs and the feta. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Now, I have to be honest, I made a few changes. First of all, I used panko instead of pureeing white bread. I used much less butter… about 4 tablespoons in my bechamel, and olive oil on the crumbs rather than butter. I was low on shallots (only one left) so I used a mixture of shallots, red onions and white onions instead of shallots and scallions. I had delicious looking kale in the fridge and threw it in with the spinach to add more green than the recipe calls for. Because I am not super precise when I am cooking, my bechamel was getting too thick… but I was out of milk so I had to improve. I ended up using some chicken stock to smooth out the cream sauce and it was DELICIOUS. I highly recommend it. Finally, Graviera or Kefalotyri are hard cheeses to come across if you don’t live in an area with a large Greek population (which I don’t!) and after some research on the internet I found the closest suggestion was Parmesan. The end result was delicious and just what I needed to cheer me up. Well, that, a good friend and a nice glass of white wine.
When I first began this blog over a year ago I posted a recipe inspired by my favorite pizza from Zinc Cafe. I suggested that the pizza be made using Trader Joe’s Pizza dough for $1.99. Times have changed greatly since I posted the recipe… I have begun baking my own bread, simmering my own chicken stock, and making pasta from scratch… so naturally I now make my own pizza dough! It honestly is one of the easiest things in the world to whip up, and it’s a great crowd pleaser for parties. The recipe is taken from Saveur’s reporting of pizza inspired by Pizzeria Mozza in LA.
1/2 tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 cup warm water
3 cups flour
In a bowl, combine the olive oil, yeast, sugar, salt and warm water: let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a dough. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until smooth (about 10 minutes). Cut the dough in half and roll each portion into a ball. Put the balls on a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic, and let sit in a warm place until soft and tripled in size (about 2-3 hours).
Once the dough is made your options for pizza toppings are limitless! The pizza in the photo had cooked simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, pitted black olives and prociutto crudo. MMMM. Enjoy!
It is incredibly easy to feel bogged down by food choices in the winter months. Root vegetables are in season and it’s cold outside, making it easy to do roast after roast. Not to mention the abundance of baked goods and “holiday cheer”. This week our bodies were not so subtly telling us they had had too much and it was time for something much lighter for dinner. I scrapped up this salad using the left over chicken from Sunday night’s roast and a handful of other things already in the fridge. Check it out!
Half a head of Red Cabbage, shredded
Half a head of Green Cabbage, shredded
4 or 5 carrots, julienned (or cut into matchsticks)
half a cucumber, julienned
a handful of sliced almonds
leftover roasted chicken, shredded
handful of bean sprouts
2 parts Olive Oil (I would have used sesame oil but I didn’t have any on hand)
1 part Soy Sauce
1 part Rice Vinegar
pinch of dried red pepper
1 part chopped ginger (I used ginger jarred with white wine vinegar)
Like any salad: Chop, Assemble, Dress, Toss, Enjoy!
A friend and I made lasagne for the first dinner party that we hosted in college. We used her mom’s Oklahoma recipe and made three variations: one meat, one turkey, and one veggie. I don’t remember the recipe exactly, but I do remember that there were three key ingredients no matter the variation: cottage cheese, mozzarella and heaps of parmesan. Now, if I told my Italian friends that lasagne was a dish made up mainly of cheese— cottage cheese, at that— they would roll their eyes. Classic lasagne bolognese isn’t about cheese at all. The dish is a delicate dance between meaty tomato sauce, creamy béchamel, and eggy pasta sheets, using parmesan at the end only as a way to bubble and brown the top. It is a dish that is comforting and rustic, without oozing with too much cheese.
These days when I make lasagne I like to toss in as many veggies as possible while retaining classic feel. Usually this means less meat, more mushrooms and sometimes diced eggplant. It always means adding wilted greens in my sauce. Lasagne is a great midweek meal because generally you can make it using staples already in your kitchen, and you can always prepare it early before the evening madness. Plus, leftover lasagne is an excellent lunch! So, without further ado…
1 Onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 cup pancetta, cubed (optional)
3/4 pound meat (I like using Italian sausage)
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
2 small cans chopped tomatoes (I like one chopped, one strained… to maintain a little tomato texture)
2 cups Kale, chopped
Begin with a small glug of olive oil and the pancetta over medium heat. It isn’t necessary to have the pancetta, but I find that it adds nice flavor. As the meat starts to glisten toss in your garlic, onions and carrot. Stir over low heat for about 5 minutes and then add the mushrooms. Next add your ground meat. Cook the meat until browned and then season with a nice pinch of salt, a few cracks of pepper, a bunch of fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Add the tomato, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. You want to retain the tomato juices, so if it is getting dry add a little bit of water. Once you are getting to the end of your simmering toss in your kale and cover to let wilt.
Béchamel Sauce (basic):
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups milk
Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Pour in all the milk, whisking constantly until it starts to boil. Season with salt, lower the heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. If the sauce is too thick add more milk, if too runny add more butter and more flour.
Now comes the fun bit. Use a little bit of olive oil on the bottom of your dish and place a layer of lasagne noodles. Next add a layer of the meat sauce, a layer of béchamel, and a layer of noodles. Repeat until you run out of sauce… I generally do three layers, ending with the meat sauce topped with parmesan. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is slightly crisping. Enjoy!
Risotto is one of those basics that once mastered gives you infinite possibility. Like other pasta dishes, you can pretty much chuck in whatever you want, a nice creamy mushroom or pumpkin and sage risotto for the fall, fresh peas and spring vegetables in the early spring, lobster when feeling decadent. The dish is a bit labor intensive, but it is worth the effort. There is something about it that I find romantic, and I highly recommend adding it to your bag of tricks.
My close friend Kristy visited a little over a week ago, and upon finding some intriguing black mushrooms at my neighborhood butchers, we turned to each other and suggest “Mushroom risotto?” at almost the exact same moment. It was perfect, served with a nice simple green salad. Earthy and creamy and comforting… exactly what we were looking for for catching up with close friends on a cold fall evening.
2 pints chicken stock (as needed)
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups of arborio rice
1/2 cup of dry white wine (as needed)
chopped mixed mushrooms
parmesan and pecorino cheeses
Warm your stalk in a small saucepan. In a separate large pot begin with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil. Add your chopped shallots and garlic and cook over low heat. As the vegetables soften and become translucent add your chopped mushrooms and a few large pinches of fresh thyme (remove from the branches). As the mushrooms start to soften add your rice and turn up the heat. Stir the rice so that it doesn’t burn, but toast it until the rice looses it’s opaque color and becomes translucent. At this point add your half cup of dry white wine. Keep stirring until all of the wine has been absorbed by the rice. This is basically the key to risotto: add liquid, stir til absorbed, add more and stir again. Once the wine is absorbed, add your first ladle of the stock. At this point turn the heat down to a simmer so that the rice doesn’t cook too quickly. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring slowly, allowing each scoop of stock to be absorbed before adding another. This process should take about 15 minutes. Taste the rice to make sure that it is cooked, and continue until the rice is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you run out of stock before the rice is done continue with boiling water. Once the rice is cooked, remove from heat, add a knob of butter and a nice handful of blended parmesan and pecorino cheese. Stir this well and let the risotto absorb the cheese. Serve with fresh thyme and enjoy!
Make Apple Sauce!
My friend Peter is sort of the king of apple sauce. I mean, there might be better, but I haven’t tried it. The secret, according to him, is a nice long, SLOW simmer to give the apples a nice caramelization. Apple sauce is super easy to make and it freezes well if you want to put some away to remind you of fall when it is spring. Plus apple sauce makes a great healthy substitute for butter when baking!
Honestly, there isn’t a lot too it. Start with maybe a batch of four decent sized apples. Peel and core the apples, eventually cutting the fruit into chunks. Put into a sauce pan with a few splashes of water (2 tablespoons should be good). Cover and cook on low heat as the apples break down. Taste and add sugar as needed… MAX a teaspoon… it will get sweet naturally as you let it cook down. Let simmer on low heat for a long time. We are talking, an hour or so…. until your apple sauce is a dark golden color and has a nice sweet apple-y taste. Enjoy!
As promised: a recipe for lentils! These lentils du puy are a killer side dish or can be tossed with arugula, goat cheese and roasted butternut squash for a lovely salad.
1 carrot, diced as finely as possible
2 shallots, diced as finely as possible
Leaves of 2 stems fresh thyme
1 1/4 cups lentils du Puy
1/3 cup red wine
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Over medium-low heat, sauté the carrots and shallots in a good glug of olive oil. Season them with the thyme leaves, salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until they are just sweating and soft and fragrant. Add in the lentils, and season again with salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high, and pour in the red wine. Stir, and cook until the wine is absorbed. Add the stock. Cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low, keep covered, and cook for around 25 minutes to a half an hour, until the lentils are tender, but still have a good bite to them, and hold their shape. Add salt and pepper as needed and enjoy!
It seems to me that there is always one week every fall where all of a sudden it seems like everyone around you has gotten sick. The weather gets colder, the days get darker, our schedules get busier and sometime around early October our bodies seem to come to a general consensus to just stop putting up with us. For me, and for seemingly everyone I know in London, that week is this week: Cold Season is upon us. How better to treat a cold than to snuggle up in your warmest grandpa cardigan with a cup of tea and homemade vegetable soup? Not only is it comforting, but your body is desperately in need of as many vitamins and antioxidants as you will give it to fend of the intruding virus.
Vegetable soups are great because they will absorb pretty much anything you are willing to toss in. They make a great home for the last two leeks hanging around my vegetable drawer as well as the celery that my boyfriend refuses to eat raw. So, bundle up, toss in the veggies and voilà you’ve got vegetable soup!
1/4 cup Pancetta, cubed
2 leeks, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 cup (frozen) peas
Handful of vine tomatoes, quartered
1 bunch of kale, chopped
1 cup of white beans, cooked
3 cups chicken broth
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Crushed Red Pepper
As with most things, you are going to begin with “sweating” your aromatic vegetables. These are the vegetables that build your base for flavor… your leeks, onion and celery. Because the other base of flavor for this particular soup is the fat from the Pancetta, you are going to let the vegetables cook using the fat. SOOOO start with heating your pot over medium heat with a small glug of olive oil. You don’t need much because your pancetta will get greasy and give you plenty of oil to work with, but you want something so that it doesn’t crisp up too quickly and stick, burned, to the bottom of your pot. Once the meat starts to glisten, toss in the leeks, the onion and the celery. Let them soften, stirring every so often. Once translucent add in your frozen peas. Normally I am a huge advocate for only eating what is fresh and local and seasonal, but when you are sick you want to add as many vegetables as possible, and if that means a scoop out of the bag in your freezer, then scoop it should be. Stir, and if things are getting dry add some olive oil, you want everything to stay well lubricated. Next add the tomatoes. Then the white beans. Stir everything around, adding plenty of sea salt to bring out the flavors. Here is where I would add some cracks of pepper and a small dash of red chili peppers, for a little bit of heat, but not to influence too much of the flavor. Next add the chopped kale and let everything cook down with the chicken stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling lower down to a simmer, cover and cook. Let simmer for about a half an hour- tasting for flavor, adding salt and pepper as needed. Serve with a little bit of nice Parmesan cheese and feel better soon!
How often do you find yourself with very little time and very little inspiration before dinner time? It happens to the best of us, let me tell ya! Even with a passion for cooking, without kids to feed and bathe and a vocational reason to spend time in the kitchen, there are still days where inspiration has run dry. What to do? Pasta! With what? I always keep a range of pasta shapes on stock in the cupboard so that you can always find something to suit your needs. Over the past few weeks “Pasta with What’s in the Fridge” has been dinner twice (that I’ll admit to). First up:
Spaghetti alla Checca con Rucola.
Some of you may remember my post from the summer about Capellini alla Checca. Guess what? This is the SAME DISH! Only instead of basil you toss the pasta with about 2 ounces of wild arugula (maybe half a bag). The arugula not only adds some extra nutrients (wahoo! cruciferous vegetables!) but also a nice peppery flavor. Enjoy!
And Pasta Number Two:
Pappardelle with Mushrooms, Spinach and Butternut Squash
Shitake Mushrooms (Sliced)
Butternut squash (Cubed)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese (Grated)
I have to be honest, this recipe began because I had leftover roasted butternut squash. Most of the time these days I only cook for two, and a whole squash is way too much for us to eat in one night. Luckily there are a MYRIAD of things to do with left-over roasted squash (loads of which I will talk about over the next month as it is squash season), and this pasta is one of them! If starting from a raw squash, though, you are going to want to begin by tossing a large glug of olive oil (or butter if you would like) in your sauce pan and cooking the squash. Cook over medium high heat until almost tender, stirring often— about 6-ish minutes. Oh! Of course before you begin you are going to want to get your pasta water boiling. As the squash starts to get tender add the mushrooms with another glug of olive oil, a few dashes of truffle oil (use sparingly: a little goes a long way) and some salt and pepper. Stir until soft (about 8 minutes). A few minutes in your water should reach a boil, and your mushrooms should start to soften indicating that it is time to “buttare la pasta” as the Italians say: THROW THE PASTA (into the water). Cook according to package instructions (about 5 or 6 minutes until al dente). Once your mushrooms are tender toss in your spinach and cover to let wilt. Drain your pasta, reserving some of the pasta water to add to your sauce if dry, and toss everything together. Drizzle a few more drops of truffle oil, crack some more fresh pepper, and shake in the Parmesan. Enjoy!
(I forgot to take a picture, so this is borrowed from epicurious.com)