Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

20170409_184906Will and I have a shared Google Doc called “Will it Buffalo?” It has three columns: To Buffalo, Have Buffaloed, and Did it Buffalo? Everything in “Have Buffaloed,” did indeed Buffalo, including wings, salad, pizza, and now this mac and cheese. Items in the “To Buffalo” column include lasagna, enchiladas, sandwich, pot pie, tacos, and veggie burgers (other suggestions welcome).

I should probably explore other vegetable and Buffalo pairings beyond just cauliflower, but it is a perfect neutral vehicle. My love of cauliflower in mac and cheese is not new either, and I just barely adapted the sauce from this cauliflower arugula bleu mac and cheese for this recipe. Considering the amount of cheese in this I don’t think it quite qualifies as healthy, but half a pound of pasta is stretched with a full head of cauliflower to make six satisfying servings. It definitely counts as a comfort food, but one that is slightly more redeeming than others.

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like macaroni, fusilli, or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 5 ounces of sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the cauliflower into small florets that mirror the size of your pasta. Toss in the oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then spread onto 2 baking sheets (so there is enough room for them to brown and not just steam). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing and switching the pans once.

Put the water on for the pasta, and start your sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it is starting to bubble, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking while the flour and butter cook for about 3 minutes, until it smells a little nutty. Slowly add in the milk, whisking in between additions (or while someone else pours, if you have an extra set of hands). When all the milk is added let it cook over medium heat (or slightly lower if it starts to bubble a lot) for 5 minutes. The sauce should be visibly thicker at this point. Add in the cheddar cheese and hot sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the salt and ground pepper and turn off the heat.

When your cooking water is boiling, salt it and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 minutes, and drain. In the pasta pot combine the pasta, roasted cauliflower,  and the Buffalo cheese sauce and mix it all up.

Grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with the crumbled bleu cheese. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.

I have also assembled the mac and cheese up to the point it is ready to be baked and then refrigerated it. In that case take it out of the fridge for about an hour and preheat your oven to 375F. Then bake for about 30 minutes until the bleu cheese is melted and it is heated through.

 

Last Week I Cooked….

It has been a while since my last meal recap, so there are a few more items here than I made in the past week.

Spicy vegan white pizza with broccoli rabe and truffle cream. I was SO excited to make this, and it was great, just maybe not quite up to the standard of my dreams (which isn’t exactly fair anyways). I really wanted the flavor of the pepperoncini peppers to pop, but they got lost among the other ingredients. The truffle cream was an excellent creamy topping, and really worked well in place of cheese as protein and a binder. I will definitely make this again, just with 3 or 4 times as many peppers.

Easy lentil soup with lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. The gremolata really takes this from a ho-hum brown lentil soup to one that is bright and vibrant. Next time I would even make more of the gremolata for very healthy dollops.

Julia Turshen’s no-freakout fried chicken.  There were so many things I liked about this recipe. It uses a whole chicken that you break down. There is smoked paprika in the marinade. And SPICY HONEY to drizzle on top. It truly did not freak me out, and was incredibly delicious.

20170324_174752-1Chicken pot pie (The Homemade Kitchen) and roasted broccoli rabe with lemon. It has been a while since I made pot pie, and my first time making this recipe.  It is chock full of vegetables, with a great binding sauce, and biscuits on top. I made it for a dinner party and the whole crowd was pleased.

IMG_20170407_184440_285German potato salad (sans bacon, potatoes boiled not grilled), sauteed red cabbage, and beer brats. Is it possible to go wrong with this combination? I had the brat on a roll with a large swipe of beer mustard and some of the cabbage. Later in the weekend I heated up some of the potato salad and cabbage, then topped them with an egg for breakfast.

Mushroom rice burgers (The Sprouted Kitchen) with lemon aioli, avocado, sauteed beet greens, and roasted sweet potatoes. These “burgers” have a long ingredient list, but great flavor. Since they have a lot of brown rice in them, I find them a bit too grainy when put on a bun. I had intended to serve them on a salad but forgot to buy a salad base, so they ended up going with a variety of vegetables in the fridge. It wasn’t the most elegantly composed dinner, but made great use of what I had around.

Chickpeas in a fresh cilantro sauce, tomato, onion, and cucumber koshambari, and bhatura (Vegetarian India). The real showoff of this dinner was the bhatura, an Indian fried bread which I had never eaten more but will be seeking out more often. It was very similar to a pita, but fried instead of baked. The chickpeas did not take much to put together, just a simple sauce made in the food processor.

20170328_190041Pizza with sauteed leeks, Italian sausage, kale, and peppadew peppers. This was a pizza born of random things in the fridge (and it was not my most delicate pie). I had about half a pound of Italian sausage that I cooked and removed from the pan. I sauteed the leeks in the sausage fat. I had some chopped kale that I put on top of the tomato sauce, followed by the rest of the ingredients and topped with shredded mozzarella.

20170322_185139-1Curried lentils with coconut milk, roasted cauliflower with Indian spices, brown rice, and yogurt. I felt like I should have worked harder to make such a satisfying meal. These were so easy and flavorful. Paired with roasted cauliflower and topped with yogurt, this is one of my new favorite vegetarian meals.

Other reading: The Hippies Have Won. I for one am very thankful that miso, tahini, and quinoa are mainstream ingredients now.

Mercado de Abastos – Adventures in Panama

Before we got to Panama, Christina had asked about what we might want to do there. I love to visit food markets and grocery stores when I travel, so she planned for her husband, Patricio, to take us there one morning while she was at work. Besides knowing that this was not Patricio’s favorite place to shop, but the prices were low, I knew nothing about the market. We drove west out of the center of Panama City, which gradually elevated and overlooked a series of apartments that you know are less well off than those in the center of the city, because there is not a single air conditioner visible. The highway continues north and settles back towards the ground, and you pull off the street and are immediately at the market.

20170307_101034You pay to “park” (I forgot to ask Patricio how much it was), which was really just an entrance fee because there was no designated parking area to speak of. The market was a series of stalls, some of which had garage doors to pull down to close them and were about as big as a garage, others had much larger interiors. A few had high ceilings and open sides like a pavilion at a park, and some people were just selling out of the back of pickup trucks. The streets between the stalls were about the width of a large delivery truck, but they were used by said trucks, cars, and pedestrians (many of whom were pushing large dolly’s full of produce) all at once.

img_20170307_105859_555.jpgWe drove at a crawl searching for a space to park, which were really just clear areas in front of stalls that weren’t open. Cruising for a spot gave me time to observe the many stalls, some of which sold an abundance of a single fruit, like watermelon, avocados, papayas, or plantains, or a mix of fruits and vegetables. We followed Patricio as he sought out favorite stands, and selected lettuce, tomatoes, cantaloupe, a green papaya, pineapple, avocados, and passion fruit.

20170307_095759Many pineapple vendors were collected under a large pavilion with their goods pilled on low tables. One of the vendors was holding a pineapple by the greens, and had cut off the bottom and cut around the sides to loosen the fruit. He sliced off wedges and then pierced them with his knife to pass them to us. I had been sold far before the sample, but the incredibly sweet, juicy, tropical and just slightly acidic fruit sealed the deal even further. We sprung for 2 of the larger pineapples he was selling for $2.50.

img_20170307_105552_455.jpgMuch of this experience was cushioned by Patricio, who speaks Spanish as his first language and was familiar with the market. I wanted to try out my Spanish skills, so I went up to a vendor selling a fruit I did not recognize, and asked ¿Que es eso? (What is that?). He responded by telling me the price per pound, which I was fairly certain I hadn’t asked, so I tried again (same response). I think it was impossible for him to fathom that there was a person in the world who had never been presented with a whole passion fruit, or at least learned about them in preschool as I do with kids by showing them apples or potatoes and asking for their name.

img_20170307_110151_433.jpgPatricio was able to identify the passion fruits for me, and I felt I had to buy some. My next challenge was determining which ones were ripe. Some were dark purple and a bit wrinkly, while others were light yellow with taut skin. Another man at the stand was picking them up and shaking them to determine their worth, so I tried handling a few. I was expecting the density of an apple or a mango, but these couldn’t have weighed more than a couple of ounces (maybe they were all ones the other man had already put back). Mostly at random I selected 3 to equal a pound (which cost $2.50 – I knew that!).

Later on in the trip (once I had consumed half of a pineapple), I cut the passion fruit in half to reveal a thick, spongy pith surrounding a dense cluster of gooey seeds. I scooped it out and directly into my mouth and surprised myself with the tartness. Given my lack of passion fruit experience, I chalked this up to picking unripe specimens and not letting them ripen long enough. It was another amusing chapter to my passion fruit story, and I figured I could do better next time.

20170307_100914Later I recounted this to Christina, who laughed and told me passion fruit are tart, and when she lived in the Dominican Republic she watched people cut them open, pour sugar inside, and stir it up before eating. Any passion fruit I had previously eaten was part of a dessert or juiced, and certainly had sugar added before it ever entered my mouth.

I cut open one of the remaining passion fruits, added a teaspoon of sugar, and stirred it up. The seeds are covered by the fruit flesh, and you eat them together. The bright tartness is punctuated by the crunch of the seeds for a very lively eating experience. After experiencing the delight of eating a fresh passion fruit, it is hard for me to justify eating them any other way, which will have to wait for my next adventure to warmer climes.

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Donde Pope Si Hay – Adventures in Panama

Last week, Will and I visited my friend and her husband in Panama City, Panama. It is still their dry season, and it was hot (90F every day). On our second day there, the four of us got up before 7, ate a quick breakfast of cheese on toast, and went to the ferry. We joined a long line of other travelers waiting to get our passports checked and load a small boat to the island of Taboga, 8 miles off the coast.

20170305_081909.jpgWhen the captain asked for English speakers, Will and I were the only ones who raised our hands, a sign that we were in for a true Panamanian adventure. (I do understand some Spanish, but when it comes to boat safety I wanted to make sure I understood all the important bits.) The bay was full of huge cargo ships, waiting for their turn to enter the canal. It took us 30 minutes to get to the small island, and as we approached I couldn’t believe one of my middle school Spanish phrases was useful: ¿Donde está la playa? (Where is the beach?) As the ferry approached, there was no visible sand. Once we docked, you could make out a small corner of beach a 10 minute walk away (which had been shielded by an even smaller island, which was closed off as a bird sanctuary).

20170305_083124.jpgWe walked with everyone else along the narrow street (which doubled as a sidewalk), past small buildings and carts selling popsicles, many fried things, water, soda, and national beer for $1 a can. The beach was a small peninsula, maybe a total of 1/2 a mile long, that seemed incapable of holding the number of people on the ferry I came from (which was one of many to dock during the day). It was nothing like the huge expanses of protected sea shore in MA, that go on for miles and miles.

20170305_105125.jpgI was proven wrong, and as the tide went out the beach got bigger to accommodate arriving ferries. A few people had their own chairs or towels, but for the most part people rented both beach chairs and umbrellas from vendors for $5 apiece. This would get expensive if you went to the beach every weekend, but we certainly appreciated the convenience. Later on in the morning, the wind picked up and the umbrella vendors came around to put an additional stake in the ground in front of your umbrella, which they then looped a string already attached to your umbrella for this very purpose (genius!).

With our spots firmly established, Will and I took a walk back through the small town. The houses were built into the hillside, brightly colored, and very close together. The town square was headed by the second oldest church in the Western hemisphere, Iglesia de San Pedro. Directly in front of the church, in a small, irregularly shaped square, there was a basketball court (make use of the space you have!). We continued walking past the square until we came to a t, then took a left and decided to walk parallel to the way we came.

It was this turn that led us directly to Donde Pope Si Hay, which we had read about in our guidebook as “A simple concrete eatery serving fresh fish, cold green coconut water, and patacones (fried plantains); there is nothing mysterious about Pope beyond its name.” The name is indeed a mystery, as it roughly translates to “Where Pope is there,” but on the signs we saw there was not a picture of the Pope, but of Popeye the sailor man.

It was a good thing we went on our walk, because I have no idea if we would be able to find the spot otherwise. It is on the opposite side of town from the beach, not near other businesses, and there were no street signs. Compared to other structures near the beach, it was much more than a “simple concrete eatery,” with a small covered but open-air dining area containing six or maybe eight tables with white table clothes. Since it was just after 9AM we were not ready for breakfast, and returned to the beach with plans to walk back.

The menu was half a page, with the items they currently offered checked off. Most were fish offerings with different side options. Sadly they did not sell green coconut water any longer, but they did have piña coladas. We ordered the pescado (fish) for $7 and the pulpo creole (Creole octopus) for $9. Service was leisurely, and gave us time to observe the inner workings of the establishment. One younger man took orders of the patrons at the restaurant, answered the phone, and drove an interesting three-wheeled, covered, but open-aired vehicle that delivered food to the beach for an additional $2, or transported restaurant patrons back and forth for free. A woman ran the kitchen, maybe by herself, but we couldn’t see the whole room. The whole establishment could have easily fit within half of a basketball court.

Our dishes came alongside our piña coladas, which were mildly sweet and wonderfully refreshing. We each had our fish dish, alongside rice, a coleslaw-like salad, and twice-friend plantains called patacones (I later learned that I could have ordered coconut rice, but I am trying not to be consumed by this regret). I ate the fish, which was about 8 inches long, very lightly battered, and fried whole. The fish had a crisp exterior, with a mild, white, and flaky interior. Will had the Creole octopus, which was small pieces of octupus (tentacles thinner than a pinky), with onions and peppers in a mild, tomato based sauce. The octopus was meltingly tender, and perfectly complemented by the light sauce. There was a bottle of yellow hot sauce on the table, that was firey, but with a pleasing sweetness. It was especially great on the fish.

We ate slowly, pausing to take sips of our piña coladas to ease the fire from the hot sauce. The small portion of my brain not focused on enjoying the food was thinking: I am living out every fantasy I’ve ever had about eating island food, I am going to remember this forever, and also potentially spend forever trying to find this again, so maybe I should more to Taboga. We cleaned our plates and drained our drinks. I went up to the window to pay, and the man retrieved my change from a cookie tin that was living a second life as a cash register. We went to walk back to the beach, but the man motioned for us to get in his delivery vehicle. The narrow street became more crowded as we approached the beach.

 

 

2017 Food Resolutions

20160730_164413The tradition continues! Here are my 2015 and 2016 food resolutions. But first, how did I fare on my 2016 resolutions?

Cook better with others. This may be a lifelong resolution, but I did make a concerted effort to just let things happen in the kitchen with others (though I maybe didn’t seek out as many of those situations as I could have). The biggest way I improved here was when cooking with kids. They learn so much more experimenting themselves, so I did my best to give them the basics and step back to see what happened.

No longer be afraid of fermenting – I’m not! I made a lot of sourdough bread, and tried my hand at sourdough cornmeal and waffles. I attempted kimchi twice, and full lacto pickles once. My bread ferments were far more successful than my veg ferments. The first kimchi was too salty, and the second too mushy because I left the veg in the brine too long. The pickles were indeed pickles, but I should have tested them sooner and they got softer than I would have liked. So I think it is fair to say I’m no longer afraid, but now I really need to work on being better.

Wasting less in the kitchen. Figuring out how to roll leftovers from one meal into another has become one of my favorite cooking challenges. I’ve been better at checking the fridge to see what should be used up before I plan my meals for the week, and leaving a night unplanned as an opportunity to use up extra leftovers. It has also helped to be less obsessed with everyone having a complete planned lunch (and all three of us eating the same thing). There is always enough for everyone to eat, even if things might be a bit more haphazard than my usual leftovers. I did fall victim to the times something would be pushed to the depths of the fridge and were forgotten about. The next level of this goal is having a fridge that looks like Heidi Swanson’s.

On to 2017 resolutions!

Take on long-term projects. This starts in the kitchen, but translates also to the blog and the rest of my life. It is so easy to focus on short term projects that are quick and satisfying. I want to take more time to do things that can’t be done in a day or a week, whether than involves cooking, writing, or something even bigger.

Read and cook from more diverse books. 2016 put an especially bright spotlight on the need to interact more with people unlike ourselves. The day after the election I was at a loss of what to do with myself, but craved tangible, achievable projects. I made a simple salad with dressing, and then gave my cookbooks a new home (we had moved weeks before and they were all sitting in boxes). I realized I have cookbooks from an incredible variety of cuisines, but the majority of them are by American or British authors writing about another cuisine (such as Julia Child, David Leibovitz, Fuschia Dunlop, Andy Ricker). These voices are still incredibly important, and in many cases brought cuisines and recipes that had never been translated for an English audience. But now the availability of books being translated from other languages is only getting better. Food is a great uniting force, and learning about other cultures through food can only help to lessen our cultural misunderstandings.

Books!

I somehow still keep pushing off The End of Food….but 2017 will be the year! I also didn’t tackle more of The Art of Eating but I have it at the ready.

New this year, it is time for a reread of The Third Plate, plus Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, and Free for All: Fixing School Food in America

Any resolutions in your kitchen? Awesome books from interesting cuisines I should cook from? Books to add to the reading list?

Last Week I Cooked…

20170214_192056Sticky rice with Chinese sausage. There is a Vietnamese grocery store with other Asian ingredients not too far from my house. When I was shopping for something completely different I came across some of this sausage, and decided to buy it and later figure out something to do with it. I then ended up buying sticky rice to make this recipe….but didn’t read how to cook it until it was time to do so. An overnight soak followed by a steam?! Nevermind. I made what is probably an unacceptable substitute (brown rice), but it got dinner on the table that day. Never having eaten this kind of sausage before or had this dish, I wasn’t quite sure how to judge it. The sausage was definitely sweet for my tastes. I made some stir-fried greens with chili oil on the side, but I ended up stirring everything together for the leftovers and found the spice and slightly bitter greens nicely balanced out the sweet sausage.

Mama Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup. I made this a couple weeks ago, when it was soup weather. This recipe comes together so quickly but is exploding with flavor. I accidentally bought silken tofu, which the recipe specifically says not to use. Instead of adding in the tofu and then whisking in the scrambled egg, I added the egg and then stirred in the tofu and everything turned out fine.

Ultimate spaghetti and meatbrawls with serious Sunday gravy (from In My Kitchen). This isn’t how I grew up eating meatballs. The sauce is prepared more like a bolognese, but leaving out the meat (because it is in the meatballs) which makes for a more broth-y sauce. The recipe called for an hour of reduction, but I probably would have given it at least two if I was willing to push dinner off that late. After reducing it further after dinner, then eating it again as leftovers I was sold on the broth/sauce. It turned into a complex sauce full of umami from the tomato and parmesan. Definitely worth making, but just give yourself some time. This would also be especially amazing with fresh pasta if you have the time.

20170221_192722Ground pork and mushroom tacos with baked Spanish rice (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). I had some leftover mushrooms from the previous week’s hot and sour soup, plus ground pork leftover from the meatballs. I sauteed the pork to render the fat and break it up, and removed it from the pan when it was browned through. Then I cooked the minced mushrooms in a couple batches. When they were browned I added in some chopped chipotle en adobo, a few minced garlic cloves, cumin, salt, and the pork back to the pan. It made for a spicy and meaty taco filling rounded out nicely with some lime crema and cilantro. The rice was from Thug Kitchen, and was an easy baked dish. I’ve made similar versions before, but this one was especially good because it was made with brown rice and had just the right amount of liquid to cook the rice but not end up soggy.

Smokey black-eyed peas with roasted sweet potatoes and collards (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). I need to learn that recipes which call for a whole sweet potato per person are just crazy. I made six servings of this and 4 potatoes would have been plenty. The real star here are the beans, which are cooked with chipotle en adobo, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, and garlic. It makes for an awesome stew to balance out the sweet potatoes.

Green chile baked flautas (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). These check off all the right boxes for a tiring work week: fast, easy, healthy. You make a mashed bean filling with sauteed onion, a few spices, and corn (though I subbed sauteed kale), put it in a tortilla, roll it up, and bake it. After having made these a couple times now I think the filling would be better in a different format, because the tortillas don’t get super crisp or add much to the dish like this.

New old-fashioned coffee cake (from Flour). I make this coffee cake about once every five years. It is dense, buttery, and just delightful.

Maple oat scones (from Flour). I’ve made these before and loved them, but this time they turned out a bit dry. Did I not incorporate the butter enough at the beginning? Bake them for too long? Make them too small? They have great flavor and are not overly sweet so I will definitely try them out again.

Lemon cremes with oat-thyme crumble (from The Sprouted Kitchen). I had some leftover silken tofu from the hot and sour soup and had always wanted to try this recipe. The creme comes together about as fast as it takes you to put everything in the food processor and whiz it. The crumble was a simple combo of oats, nuts, coconut oil, and sugar, that I would make again and again just as a granola. For a dessert that came together in about 3 minutes and then just needed to be served, it was quite pleasing.

Last Week I Cooked…

20170205_195301Hot and numbing wings and lo mein. I didn’t even watch the superbowl…but I will use any excuse to make chicken wings. These were crisp on the outside, and moist on the inside. I honestly would have liked them a bit spicier, but maybe my chili flakes are past their prime. The extra fridge space these need for a day is definitely worth not having to bring out the vat of frying oil. I’ve made this lo mein many times, and this go I used broccoli instead of cabbage. I find them slightly under-seasoned as the recipe is written, so I usually add a bit more soy sauce.

20170206_191805Cheesy polenta with sauteed onions, kale, and beans. This was what I meant to make last week when I forgot to buy cornmeal. I used a mix of cheddar and mozzerella in the polenta because there were bits of both languishing in the fridge. I used some schmaltz to saute the onions (saved from the chicken wings), then added in the kale to wilt. When the kale was cooked I added a can of kidney beans, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

20170209_122013Winter squash soup with curry and coconut milk.  This is the only butternut squash soup I love. The coconut milk negates the grainy texture that butternut soup can sometimes have, and the addition of the sour fish sauce and spicy sriracha balances the sweetness.

20170209_145628Just a reminder that wheat toast with peanut butter, honey, and sea salt is a simple delight (especially on a snow day).

Dan dan noodles and fish fragrant eggplant (both from Every Grain of Rice). These dan dan noodles are epic. Spicy, numbing, salty, with a nice richness from the sesame paste. Fish fragrant eggplant is the greatest use of eggplant’s absorbency and meaty texture. I forgot how long it takes to fry the eggplant before you stir fry it though. Definitely give yourself 30 minutes for that step.

20170211_185134Pasta with spicy Italian sausage, peppers, and onions. This is a childhood favorite adapted from a pasta cookbook my mom had that had a recipe for every day of the year (maybe this one?). It was made with wagon wheel shaped pasta, so we always refer to it as “wagon wheels,” even when you make it with another shape pasta (as I did here, because wagon wheels proved hard to find). You saute about a pound of sausage then remove it from the pan. Add some olive oil to the fat and 2 Frenched onions (yes, it looks like a lot of onion). Saute until browned, and then remove from the pan. Add 2 sliced red bell peppers and saute until limp. Add a whole bunch of minced garlic (at least 3-4 cloves), a lot of salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like). Saute for a minute or two until the garlic is fragrant and then add the onions and sausage back to the pan. Drain your pasta and add it to the pan, along with some extra olive oil if it seems dry.

Last Week I Cooked….

img954211Winter vegetable chowder with crispy cabbage. There are so many things about this soup I love. It is simultaneously filling, but not heavy, and bright from the lemon and mustard. It has roasted cabbage on top which makes for a surprising topping. Blending part of the soup makes for a thick base without adding anything additional. If you were looking for the winter soup to break you out of a rut, this is it.

Sauteed kale with bacon, white beans, and mushrooms over farro. This started out as a dish over polenta, but poor shopping made me reconfigure. I sauteed the 3 chopped slices of bacon, took it out of the pan once crisp, then sauteed the mushrooms. I added them to the bowl with the bacon, then sauteed the kale. When the kale was wilted, I added the bacon and mushrooms back in along with a couple cans of drained and rinsed cannellini beans. That went on top of farro, and was finished with a grating of parmesan cheese. It was quick and satisfying.

Citrus Brussels sprouts slaw with rice paper bacon bits and almond parm.  I didn’t go into this recipe expecting to never need bacon or parm again (and things haven’t changed). What I did end up with was a really interesting salad with a nice citrus dressing and crunchy, flavorful toppings. Absolutely worth a try when you need more plants in your life. I made it into a meal by adding some shredded cabbage, roasted cauliflower, and cooked farro.

Chicken Marsala over barley and celery root salad with apple and horseradish (pictured at top, photo by Jesse). I had such a craving for chicken marsala (which was indeed good), but ended up being so much more into this salad. I used 2 celery roots and a quarter cabbage, left out the caraway, and used dill instead of the tarragon. If you can rope your dinner guest into chopping all the vegetables for you, it is a breeze to throw together! (Thanks Jesse!!!)

Parsnip latkes. The latkes themselves are pretty good, but the sauce that goes with these is the real star. It is bright and herby and just what I needed to use up some sour cream and dill in the fridge.

 

 

Last Week I Cooked…

20170122_185742Paella (from How To Cook Everything: The Basics). This is a bare bones version of paella, but the simplicity of ingredients makes for a meal that comes together much more quickly. I made it on a Sunday night, but I think you could squeeze it in on a weeknight in about an hour. I made it even less authentic because I used pedestrian paprika instead of smoked, but didn’t feel the dish suffered too much.

20170123_192613Black bean and sweet potato tacos with cumin cabbage slaw and avocado. I prepped the black beans and sweet potatoes just like I do for burrito bowls. The slaw is just sliced cabbage, a sprinkling of salt and cumin seeds, and a squeeze of lime (adapted from The Homemade Kitchen). I ate the leftovers for lunch sans tortilla, just in a big pile and was just as delighted.

White bean and tuna salad with caesar cabbage slaw. I had to go to an all day training and bring my own lunch. Since there was no microwave access taco leftovers were out, so I made a couple quick salads the night before to bring. Using cabbage with the caesar dressing makes for a salad that stays crunchy even when dressed the night before. I dumped the bean salad over the slaw when I was ready to eat and mixed them into a happy harmony.

20170125_190147Baked potatoes with pan seared broccoli and cabbage, bacon bits, and cheddar cheese sauce. I started with the potatoes in the oven, then crisped up the bacon. I drained off most of the fat, but left a bit in the pan to sear the broccoli and cabbage while the potatoes finished cooking. I used essentially the same cheese sauce as I make for this mac and cheese, but used 8 oz of sharp cheddar instead of the bleu cheese. This is not a meal to make on the regular, but worth the indulgence every so often.

20170126_194052Fish and chips with tartar sauce. Another indulgent meal (it is a birthday week in these parts). The amount of fish called for to feed 2 people is insane. I use 1 lb of fish for 3 servings which doesn’t make for any leftovers (which I don’t want anyways). I could have done with some more tartar sauce though. The batter is easy to make, sticks well, and is well seasoned (which is my complaint with most fish batters).

20170127_185315A party meal! We hosted a birthday party and offered up a full spread. Charred onion dip, smoked salmon dip, cheese and crackers, buffalo cauliflower pizza, loaded potato bites, kale salad, banana cream pie donuts, and grapefruit cake. The potato bits, kale salad, and grapefruit cakes are all from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and I would highly recommend for a party or otherwise.

Beef ragu and pinci (from Pasta by Hand). The last of the requested birthday meals. The ragu takes a whole afternoon (give yourself at least an hour to put together the sauce, then it simmers for 3 more), but is intensely tomato-y and beefy and wonderful.  The pinci are one of the easier pastas I’ve made from this book, and really you are just rolling long tubes (with 2 farm employees in the house, we refer to them as worms). The full recipe makes a huge batch of sauce, but it freezes well.

Snow Day White Bean and Tuna Salad

20170108_122648This weekend was very white for much of the east coast. My apartment is perched in the middle of one of Worcester’s seven hills, looking west. Normally I can see across the entire city, but on Saturday the visible world was reduced to one street. On a day when all your cross-state travel plans are cancelled, you might as well embrace being homebound. I hung up the gallery wall of food art in the kitchen, learned how to play Risk (not my best game), and read on the couch. When it came to eating, it was time to turn to the pantry. This salad entered my brain from something I had pinned ages ago, but when I clicked on the recipe the page was dead.  Going off of that single picture I created what I hoped it would have been like, and was so happy with the results I made it again for lunch on Sunday.

This is more a bean salad than a tuna salad, with a big hit of lemon. I can see it being just as great for a picnic as it is for a day inside, and the flavors improve with a couple hours in the fridge. Eating it by the spoonful is perfectly acceptable, but it is also great on crackers or bread, or on top of a salad (may I suggest this one?).

20170108_123319White Bean and Tuna Salad

  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 28-oz can white beans (or 2 15.5-oz cans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 4-oz can tuna, flaked with a fork
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Pinch of flaky sea salt
  • A few big grinds of black pepper

Add the minced lemon to a medium bowl (large enough to fit the beans in) and pour the lemon juice over. Stir to coat and let sit while you get everything else ready. Add the beans, tuna, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper to the bowl and stir to combine. Taste, and adjust for seasoning.

 

Last Week I Cooked….Happy New Year!

Oh hey….happy new year! I decided to take a break from taking photos of food during the Christmas cooking flurry, but a lot of it happened. A few especially notable dishes: the braised beef short ribs from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook are divine, Julia Child can always be counted on for an excellent roasted chicken, this dill pesto makes for much more exciting roasted carrots (though I used almonds once and pine nuts once instead of pepitas). Returning to my own kitchen paired up with the usual January desire to consume healthier fare, which I am now realizing is exclusively orange/red and green foods (at least in photos).

20170102_182822Tortilla soup (from Thug Kitchen). Vegan and ridiculously fast. Easy enough to put together after a love drive home from a week away. (Though full disclaimer, mine was not vegan because of the dollop on sour cream on top.)

20170103_190308Burrito bowls with roasted sweet potatoes, green sauce, cumin cabbage (cabbage from The Homemade Kitchen), yogurt, and hot sauce. While all manner of vegetables will work in this, I especially love the pairing of sweet potatoes and black beans with an aggressively herbal sauce.

20170104_190740Buffalo cauliflower pizza with bleu cheese and kale. This pizza is still an absolute winner. Great balance of vegetables with a bit of indulgence.

20170105_193811Indian-spiced cauliflower soup. This soup had such potential and smelled amazing, but the flavor ended up a bit weak. I added in a few tablespoons of tomato paste at the end to try to bump the flavor up, and once it had the rice, yogurt, and some bread alongside it things were better.

15 minute creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese. This tomato soup is GENIUS. It truly does take 15 minutes, and since it is entirely tomatoes (no broth or water) it tastes intensly tomato-y. The grilled cheeses alongside were wheat bread with a swipe of Dijon and a mix of grated gruyere and smoked gouda.

Simple Caesar Dressing

20161228_131003I’ve long been on the hunt for a simple, perfect Caesar dressing. My requirements are: easy to pull together and in-your-face flavor. Too many Caesar dressings are creamy, with maybe a bit of pepper to flavor and nothing else. While I’ve made a classic Caesar with raw egg (guided by Alton), it isn’t something you can make a batch of and leave in your fridge (though, it does make for impressive dinner party fare). In my Caesar search I made this vegan version from The First Mess, which is excellent and worth a try. The pine nut parm and roasted chickpeas are full of flavor and wonderful toppings. But all together they take a good amount of work, and involve ingredients I don’t have on hand all the time (in fact, the only reason I have nutritional yeast in my pantry is to make this recipe). Since I’m not vegan, I adopted this flavor profile to fit ingredients I more often have on hand. The result is a simple and intense dressing that you can double or triple easily.

The result is dominated by the flavor of garlic, so if you are sensitive then scale back to smaller or fewer cloves. But it’s worth giving a try at full power – you might be surprised. Instead of the usual romaine (which would still be delicious), I like a mix of kale and cabbage to make more of a slaw as done in The First Mess recipe linked above which is more nutritious than just lettuce and has the added benefit of not getting wilty and watery as leftovers. For a simple side salad you could add grated cheese, croutons, or try the pine nut parm and chickpeas. For a full meal the classic grilled chicken is an easy route, or you could try a vegetarian option. I topped mine with roasted cauliflower and these chickpea burgers for a break from heavier holiday fare.

Simple Caesar Dressing

This makes 3/4 of a cup, about enough for 4 meal salads or 6-8 side salads.

  • 1/4 cup full fat mayonaise
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl or put them in a jar and shake it up. Either way: move them about until fully combined.

2016 in my Kitchen

Last year I wrote about my kitchen trends, and I’m glad I did because now it is so easy to see how they led into this year. While there were plenty of standbys that will probably by in my kitchen forever (eggs with hot sauce, lots of homemade pizza, and big salads), these were the items that newly rooted themselves amongst the ranks of regulars.

Last Week I Cooked...- Vegetal MattersTofu bowls. A vegan meal I crave monthly, if not biweekly. I don’t like to repeat meals often, but I find myself craving these far more than other meals. Last year I wrote about roasted tofu, which features prominently in these bowls and I marinate them with a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha, and garlic/ginger if I have it. I almost always use this miso tahini sauce, which unites rice, tofu, and any manner of vegetables into a delightful and filling bowl. I try to have a mix of raw and cooked vegetables. Raw are usually shredded carrots, radish, cucumber, or cabbage, and the cooked are literally whatever is around, roasted or stir fried. They are easy to adapt, please everyone, and always satisfy the craving for a healthy meal. Their one drawback is sometimes with so many components they take a bit to pull together, but I never regret spending the time.

20160709_174408Collards. If 2016 was defined by a vegetable, it was definitely the year of the collards. I planted some in the garden this year, and they thrived. They were ready to pick before anything else, and sprung up all over the place (within the tomatoes, outside the garden fence, 10 feet from the garden by the driveway…). Since they were growing outside my door they were always fresh, and never taking up space in the fridge wilting. People always seem confused by how to cook collards, but I just use them as I would any other green like spinach, kale, or chard. Sometimes I would pick a few leaves to saute and eat with eggs in the morning. We had them with whipped feta on crostini, with peanut butter, in tofu bowls (see above), in vegetable soup, in place of kale with potatoes and eggs, in chana dal and an eggplant gratin, in a frittata, in saag paneer (or, collards paneer), with cold sesame noodles, in salad, in beans and greens….do you believe in the versatility of collards yet??????????????

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCanned fish. Last year anchovies were my gateway to canned fish. This year that world opened up to me even more. Will and I were lucky enough to go to a Portuguese food and wine class (here, and I highly recommend) and one of the beginning food and wine pairings included sardines. HOLY MOLY. Where have these been all my life?!?! We started having them on hand for easy dinners and picnics. One of my coworkers started bringing me back Portuguese tuna from the south coast of MA and it made me love canned tuna again. I had long ago given it up because big league tuna fishing is bad news and the watery canned stuff just didn’t do it for me anymore. This stuff is line-caught, packed in olive oil, and is actual chunks of fish. I just drain it now and put it on salads for a special treat.

What did you discover or cook the most in 2016?

A few things I was obsessed with this year that weren’t food: Upstate Rubdown, cloudspotting (because of this book and the awesome Facebook page), All the Single Ladies (seriously, no matter who you are: read this book), and explosively juicy IPAs from Brick and Feather (In Absentia) and Cold Harbor (Indian Summer).

Last Week I Cooked…

Mediterranean braised chicken (from How to Cook Everything: The Basics). It took me a little longer than Bittman to brown my chicken because I did it in 2 batches, but otherwise this was a simple meal. I made Alton’s rice pilaf (from I’m Just Here for the Food) and cabbage salad with anchovy dressing to go alongside for a nice Sunday dinner. Along with the tomatoes, garlic, and onions, there were a couple anchovies melted in and olives as well. Next time I would chop up the olives so they flavor the whole sauce, but whole they did add nice flavor and were easily picked out by those who do not favor olives.

20161213_185054Chickpea burgers (from How to Cook Everything: The Basics) with sweet potato fries (from Sprouted Kitchen). I made the mistake of not adding enough salt to my burger mix to start, so I kept adding and blending. This made the mix more uniform than Mark suggests, but the burgers still held together surprisingly well.  Because mine were not as chunky they kind of mushed out of the buns as I ate it, but the flavor was great. I topped them with avocado, lettuce, red onion, and a 1:1 mix of sriracha and mayo. For the sweet potato fries I made a honey mustard dipping sauce (just honey and Dijon mustard, also 1:1).

20161214_190708Mexican tortilla casserole. I’ve made this a few times before and it is like deconstructed enchiladas that take far less time to make. This time I left out the corn and spinach, and used spaghetti squash and kale. It is great with any vegetable and feeds a crowd.

20161215_181729I was most proud of this meal. We finished all of the chicken from the braised chicken earlier in the week, but still had some tomato and rice leftover. The tomato sauce reminded me of shakshuka, so I reheated it in a frying pan and cracked a couple eggs into it. I covered the pan for about 5 minutes as it simmered away, added some crumbled feta at the end, and had it over rice. New dinner from an old one!

20161213_083124Greek yogurt with pomegranate arils. I may like this even more than yogurt with pie. The pomegranate arils are juicy, tart bursts within the creamy yogurt. I don’t even like to add granola, because it muddles the perfect contrast.

Last Week I Cooked….

Of course it turned out that the meals I put the least effort into turned out the best. I barely planned the burritos and finished making them in record time and the whole dinner table swooned over them. The squash dish took far too much time and once I finally got everything cooked through I wasn’t that impressed with the result. Sometimes trying new recipes leads to learning great things….but other times it is at least nice to know I can make something good all on my own.

20161205_193416Burritos with brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, cumin cabbage slaw, salsa, avocado, and hot sauce. These were on the dinner table in an impressively short amount of time. I got home just before 7 and put the rice on. I preheated the oven, cut up the sweet potatoes into 1/2″ cubes, and dressed them with olive oil, salt, paprika, and cumin. They went into the oven for about 25 minutes, and in that time frame I sauteed a small onion and garlic, poured in 2 14-oz cans of black beans, and once they reached a bubble turned the heat down to simmer. Then I thinly sliced a quarter of a cabbage, then tossed it in the juice of half a lime, salt, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin seeds. In the last minutes I heated tortillas in the residual heat of the oven, and put out Greek yogurt, salsa, and hot sauce.

Mushroom pizza with thyme. I used my usual pizza dough, then topped it with olive oil, sauteed mushrooms, dollops of ricotta, shredded mozzarella and fontina, and thyme. (This was a clean out the cheese drawer pizza, using leftovers from last week’s baked pasta.) I think mushrooms get the prize for most improved food when they go from raw to cooked. Sauteing them first in small batches is key to a flavorful pizza. The result is earthy, cheesy, and herby.

20161207_193147Fried honey garlic delicata with white miso and crispy sriracha honey lime tofu over rice.  This was a case of not following my food intuition and being worse off because of it. I was suspicious that the squash would fully cook in the pan….and it didn’t. I cut it about 1/2 an inch thick, cooked it at least 10 minutes per side, and still didn;t cook it all the way through. I ended up roasting all the pieces for 20 minutes at 400F after frying them, which easily make the process and hour or more. Then the sauce was far too sweet – I would have reversed the proportion of honey to soy sauce and added even more miso. I’ve made the tofu before and it was good, but next time I would not make it alongside another dish that needed frying.

20161208_182449Bean and cheese quesadillas with cumin cabbage slaw, yogurt, salsa, avocado, and hot sauce. This was the meal I put the least planning into that pleased me the most. I used the leftover tortillas and beans from burritos, cheese from the freezer, and more of the same slaw I made for the burritos (adapted from The Homemade Kitchen). Just the beans and cheese went into the quesadillas, and everything else went on top like a big salad. Filling, with far more vegetables than you would expect with a quesadilla.

Breakfast sandwiches with scrapple, tomato, kale, onions, egg, and aioli on everything bagels. This was the meal I actually put the least planning into because Will came home with all the ingredients and I made them into these sandwiches. It was my first time cooking and eating scrapple, a cornmeal, spice, and pork mixture, which came from our pork share. The texture was reminiscent of a banger, which usually has some oats or flour mixed in with the pork.  Breakfast for dinner on Friday nights is a a great plan.

20161211_103110My second meal with the scrapple was garlic toast, sauteed kale, a fried egg, and hot sauce. I think I liked it a bit better in this instance, but that may have been because I love garlic bread so much.

20161206_083130This only happens a few times a year…but it is so glorious. Leftover pie with Greek yogurt for breakfast. Don’t knock it until you try it.

Books about food

dsc01942My favorite hobbies are in order: eating food, making food, reading about food. While the first two take precedence to sustain me, I wouldn’t be fulfilled without the third. The holidays are an especially great time to share this love of reading. While I don’t force food books onto everyone in my life, if I had to pick a few to share, these would be at the top of the list.

The Third Plate (Dan Barber). If you need a crash course on Dan Barber (and an awesome show to fall into), watch his episode of Chef’s TableThis book presented our food system in an entirely new way to me. Barber’s argument is that the fundamental problem with our food system is we don’t look at it as a whole. Consumers (chef’s included) demand large amounts of specific plants and animals (like tomatoes or beef), which incentivizes farmers to produce those in mass quantities. Though that may allow them to make a living, it takes a toll on the environment and depletes resources in the long run. He says we should instead be asking farmers what they need to grow or how they need to raise animals to preserve the health of the land, and then we should base what we eat off of that. This forces greater variety on the consumer, and necessitates using more of each plant.

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Michael Pollan). I reread Cooked this year, and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance. While I was lukewarm after the first reading, I was completely enthralled this time around. I love the organization of the book, Pollan explores one food process to match each element: fire (barbecue), water (braising), air (breadmaking), and earth (fermentation). History, science, and technique are interwoven as Pollan shadows experts and attempts processes in his own kitchen (and backyard).

An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler). This book really straddles the line of book about food and cookbook. Recipes, techniques, and food philosophies stew together in Adler’s opinionated and often dramatic prose (“The degrading of mayonnaise from a wonderful condiment for cooked vegetables or sandwiches to an indistinguishable layer of fat has been radical and violent.” p31). Some recipes are written out in the standard ingredient list and instructions format, but the majority of them are within the rest of the paragraphs. While they are a delight to read like this, I have found them much harder to find and refer back to. As the title suggest, Adler believes each meal leads into the next, and we can cook in such a way so little is wasted and maximum flavor is extracted from each ingredient. While her tastes may not match everyone’s, I loved her fiery point of view and many suggestions for simple yet delicious food.

And a few other books I’ve loved: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Consider the Fork, Edible, and Catching Fire.

Last Week I Cooked

Turkey gumbo (from Thanksgiving). This was my first attempt at gumbo, and it did take some effort. I loved that my roux progressed just as Sam said it would, and really looked like shiny chocolate once I added in the onions. I made this roasted turkey stock to use, and though I did appreciate the extra fat that rendered out since I forgot to save any at Thanksgiving, I’m not sure if it was worth the extra effort. I also did not take the time to chill the stock and skim it before using it, so I think that contributed a bit too much fat to the finished dish. It was delicious in the end, and a great way to use up a ton of ingredients that you might have lying around after Thanksgiving without at all tasting like the same turkey meal. It makes a lot, so if your holiday crowd is still around you can feed the whole bunch.

Tofu bowls with miso tahini sauce, cabbage, carrots, and radishes. After all the turkey I needed an overly wholesome meal. Tofu bowls never disappoint for this purpose. I quickly sauteed the cabbage, but left the carrot and radish raw (a quick pickling would have been nice if I thought of it).

20161201_19221820161201_192507Skillet pasta with five cheeses. I fudged the cheeses here a bit….preferring to save my cup of bleu cheese for the next night’s meal. While I may have missed the additional complexity the bleu cheese would have added it would be hard not to like this molten and cheesy dish that took no time to put together. To make this a full meal I made a salad with shaved cabbage and Brussels sprouts and a honey Dijon dressing.

20161202_200506Pork chops with mustardy apples and onions, baked cauliflower with bleu cheese, and a mustard slaw. Will requested the cauliflower dish (which is from How to Cook Everything: The Basics) and is essentially baked cauliflower with bleu cheese and breadcrumbs on top. That gave me an excuse to cook up some pork chops from our pork share, and then I made a slaw with the same honey Dijon dressing from yesterday’s dinner. To be honest, pork chops are not my favorite cut of meat, but with a big pile of mustardy onions and apples on top I was able to forgive them for not being bacon.

Cranberry pie with pecan crumble. What business do I have making a pie the week after Thanksgiving? Well I made a pecan pie and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, but even the best version of each of them would not be my preferred dessert option. Those pies just made me crave a pie I really love, this vividly red and tart pie with a wonderful oat and pecan topping. The tart and sweet balance is just right, and the jammy texture of the cranberries is stellar. I especially like pies that are pretty on their own, with no fancy dough work required. Next year I will probably just bake this for Thanksgiving too, even if no one else wants to eat it with me.

 

Last Week I Cooked….

20161121_191802Red lentil soup with north African spices. My friend Tim hosted for lunch and whipped this up in about half an hour along with some cornbread. It was so simple, but so good! Especially finishing with the paprika butter. The next day I had a long one at work and didn’t really have a dinner plan…so quick, and comforting soup again! I know it is a tease that you can’t see the recipe at that link, but it is worth signing up for Cooks Illustrated trial to get it (or, drop me a line on the contact page and I’ll see what I can do).

Broccoli cheddar soup. A quick, vegetarian dinner completed in the midst of Thanksgiving prep.

20161124_145229Thanksgiving! I stuck to the menu I laid out last week and it all went off smoothly. My personal favorite was the Brussels sprouts with bacon that were finished with cider vinegar from Thanksgiving. Next time I would crisp the bacon, remove it from the pan, then cook the Brussels in the fat, and return the bacon at the very end. The bread crumbs were superfluous to me, but if you like bread crumbs then they were good ones.

20161125_104847Mashed potato cakes with Brussels sprouts and a fried egg. I’ve yet to perfect the mashed potato cake….but as long as they get hot its all fine. I mixed and egg into these to try to firm them up, but should have let them crisp for longer. Flaws were irrelevant once leftover Brussels and a gooey egg went on top.

20161120_084122Pecan pie. My grandma LOVES pecan pie, so I made her this one. I forgot to add the eggs into the filling after it cooled, half poured it into the crust, then remembered and had to pour it all our to rectify the situation. I am honestly not a pecan pie lover, but this one is not nearly as saccharin as others and was happily accepted by the other dessert eaters around the table. The dough is easy as pie, and I doubled it and froze the other half for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Though it is sticky and I wish the weight for the golden syrup was included so I didn’t have to measure it in cups, the filling comes together easily (just don’t forget the eggs!). Oh and I did not parbake my crust, which I think would be nice but I didn’t have the time.

 

Last Week I Cooked…. (and Thanksgiving Prep)

I finally sat down this weekend to make my Thanksgiving menu. The internet exploded with Thanksgiving inspiration before Halloween, but that was too much too soon for me. Within the week is just enough pressure to get my thoughts in order. Here are some of my ideas from last year and my menu this year:

(All the unlinked recipes are from Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.)

Before all meal ideas became turkey-centric, I made a few other noteworthy things this week.

20161114_120804Spicy miso ramen express. I guess this was express because once it was actually time to eat, the ramen came together very quickly (and well, this was the first time I made ramen so I don’t have anything to compare it to). The most time consuming part was not actually part of this recipe, but I decided to make this smoked eggplant topping, which was a lot of work and then completely disappeared in the ramen.  So as written this was a very flavorful soup that is definitely worth making again.

Spinach and chickpeas. This dish was the center of a tapas inspired meal. It came together in half an hour, and went splendidly with salami, bleu cheese, sardines, and some red wine.

20161115_184918Pizza with kale and coppa. I’m still working to recreate the best pizza I’ve ever had, which was at Delancy. It was a magic combination of kale and coppa. It is hard to recreate the quality of ingredients, and I’ll never get the wood-fired effect at home, but the flavor profile is getting there. I used the dough and drained crushed tomatoes from this recipe as the base, then used thinly sliced kale, shredded mozzarella, and coppa over the top. The coppa shrinks a lot when it cooks, so I overlap them to get almost full coverage. I think this time around the cheese was my weakest link, so next time I will experiment with other brands/types.

20161118_191852Send the rice down beef and celery. This is my favorite recipe from Every Grain of Rice. It is quick and incredibly flavorful. I had half a head of cabbage languishing in the fridge, so I also made a simple cabbage dish with vinegar from the same book. Easy enough to pull off on a Friday without being overwhelmed, and then feeling super accomplished for also making dinner.

20161119_104016Breakfast hash with kale and onion. Inspired by the Serious Eats home fries I’ve been making a lot of potato dishes recently with sauteed onions and whatever else I have around. This one ended up being a bit onion heavy, but a runny egg and hot sauce on top masks many flaws.

Beer Advent Calendar

beer-advent-calendarIf you need a great gift for a beer lover, a beer advent calendar is hard to beat. Many liquor stores or specialty beer stores (like Craft Beer Cellar) sell single bottles or make your own six packs. (Looking on the Craft Beer Cellar website right now it even looks like they sell something to make a beer advent calendar…but you can do it on your own!) Find 24 distinct beers, keeping in mind the preferences of your beer drinker, but also the fact that you are buying single bottles of beer which is an excellent opportunity to take some risks. I went with 12 ounce bottles and a few 16 ounce cans, but if you are a big spender you can go for 22 ouncer bottles or bombers. It’s fun to make at least the final beer a bomber, and last year I ended with Culmination (which pleased me greatly). I used paper grocery bags to wrap them and just wrote a number on each, but you could get even fancier (that effort would have been lost on my recipient, so I did not bother).

I love the calendar concept for a gift, even if beer is not your chosen medium. Mix it up with other beverages, chocolates, love notes, or anything else. Combine the childhood delight of getting a new gift every day with your expanded adult tastes (or just make one for a kid, they will still love it). Will liked this so much that we decided it would be an annual tradition and switch off making them for each other (which greatly simplifies the process, because buying and storing beer in secret in this house is HARD).

Another huge benefit of the beer advent calendar (besides maybe getting to partake in the consumption yourself), is the entire prep is done before Decemeber even starts, so you’re immediately ahead of the gift game. Instead of dealing with crowds Black Friday, spend a couple hours curating an awesome gift that lasts all month. Cheers!