Sunday, November 11, 2018

Smashed Fried Potatoes

In the Midwest, potatoes are their own food group, meaning they are always a part of the meal, regardless.  No complaints here!

While mashed potatoes are my hands down favorite (yes, even over french fries). this is a new technique I discovered somewhat recently, smashed fried potatoes.

Boil new or red or yukon potatoes until tender, gently smash them to about 1/2 inch in thickness, then give them a quick brown crust in the frying pan. You get the soft squishiness of boiled with the crisp outer goodness of fried. I often boil them in advance and have them readily available in the refrigerator, waiting for brunch or dinner preparation.

And for those curious cats out there, that is pan seared fennel slices next to the smashed potatoes, and yes, that was my dinner a few nights ago, so satisfying!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Eating Vegetables in the Dark Months

So today marks the end of Day Light Saving time, and many people are sad, literally for those with SAD. Do you too desire to howl at the moon over the loss of light and summer vegetables? Well, allow me to offer a few salvos on how to eat those winter vegetables that seem so uninspiring but are truly hidden gems!

First of all, banish steaming from your cooking repertoire. Really, except greens, just Don't Do It!

Oil up your cast iron skillet...What? You don't have one? Get thee to an Ace Hardware immediately (yes, Ace Hardware), and buy a pre-seasoned one immediately.

And we are not talking starchy squash or potatoes here. Yes, they are winter comfort food, but from my perspective they were created to fatten up humans who had spent the long Spring, Summer and Fall months growing and preparing their store of food for the rest of the year, and during that time they worked hard, "to the bone" and became lean. Winter was the time to rest their weary bones and fatten up, hence the starchy foods. Notice that we no longer need to do that, so portion those starchy veggies accordingly.

I am talking Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Fennel, and Romanesco! Prepare yourself for Deliciousness!

All of these recipes can be stripped down to the simplicity of searing vegetables in a hot skillet with just olive oil and salt or exalted with additional touches. It is up to your time and inclination.

Lemon Garlic Broccoli with shredded parmesan or pecorino on top is to die for. Baking works fine but instead of heating up the whole oven (energy waste) just sear them in a pan on the stovetop, covered, and tip the water that evaporates into the cover back into the pan to fully steam it. Leave out the garlic, lemon and cheese altogether for a faster and just as satisfying dish.

Broccoli Fritters with Aioli is great for breakfast, lunch and dinner! If you're not into making aioli, just mix mayo with chipotle sauce for a great dipping sauce or sour cream works great as well.

For the truly ambitious - that it is sooooo worth the work - there is Cheddar Tacos with Broccoli and Sausage (faux or real). Yes, taco shells made from cheddar cheese, filled with broccoli and sausage. I mean, really, can it get any better?


Cabbage's sex appeal is right up there with...broken twigs. But trust me, once you try Pan Seared Cabbage with Honey Mustard Dill Sauceyour eyes and taste buds will be opened!

And if you haven't been entranced by the sweet complexity of red cabbage yet, People! What are you waiting for! Braised Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries and Mint will astound you! Of course you could do your own version of Pan Seared Cabbage with the red stuff, but don't be surprised if the edges turn blue (yes, really!)


Liberate your idea of 'slaw and make this Naked Carrot and Apple Slaw. Shred carrots, apples and add some color (mint or parsley or cilantro) and some squirts of lemon juice and salt and you have a refreshing side dish. Plus it's really pretty!

If your family already are carrot fans, introduce this traditional Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing that is great in Sushi Hand Rolls or drizzled over raw or steamed greens.


Cauliflower and cabbage vie for my most favorite veggie at this time of year, and it's still neck and neck! However, lately this has been my favorite; Pan Seared Cauliflower Parmesan Style. Easier than breading it, (tho here's the recipe for that), quick, delicious, and veggie-centric.

My other favorite does involve the oven, but once you try Cauliflower Gratin, you will start to Gratin EVERYTHING, and I make no apologies for making you understand how easy it is to do!

And for those of you who love Mexican food, Cauliflower and Poblano Enchiladas is for you (and here's the vegan version!).


Truly one of those vegetables that people think, "oh Fennel, how exciting!" but then don't know what to do with it. Sear it in a pan and eat it plan or gussy it up as in Fennel and Orange and Red Pepper fFakes or slice it thin with Celery and Lemon and Parmesan or... you get the picture.

But my latest love is Rye Rags with Italian Sausage and Fennel, from my favorite restaurant and subsequent cookbook, Gjelina. Oh heavens, to eat like this everyday!


Ah, Romanesco! The beauty seduces you, the taste mystifies, and its season is all too short. Eat it up while you can! Roast it in the oven or pan seared, it is wonderful on its own. Pictured is another riff on Gjelina's recipe, Pan Seared Romanesco with Pear and Sumac. While my version went with pears, Gjelina used golden raisins. I love both. If you are going to go the more elaborate route, don't skip the sumac, it makes the dish.

Of course tossing any of these pan seared veggies with olive oil, grated garlic and your favorite thick pasta shape is a great way to have your dinner all in one. Fusilli with Romanesco is one of my easy weeknight meals.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Homemade Granola

There are more than 750 posts on this blog and not one is about homemade granola...because I had never made it, until now.

I know. Those of you in the know are slapping your forehead. What took me so long!

Really, there is no excuse.

And now there is none for you either. Because it is dead simple, and you can make it with all of those bits of stuff in your pantry that you have been saving for whenever you a recipe that calls for sunflower seeds and pepitas and chopped nuts and shredded coconut and, well, you get the picture.

Add in some rolled oats, coconut oil, dried fruit of a sort, spice of a sort and bake for 20 minutes.

Yup, 20 minutes and then you have homemade granola. Just like that. To eat with your homemade yogurt, because that is really easy too. But that's for another day.

Happy Samhain! Halloween! Dias de los Muertos!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Summer Squash and Queso Fresco Tacos

Growing up on the East Coast, the extent of my exposure to tacos was limited to that chain restaurant with the horrible bell at the end of its commercials. Moving to California 10 years ago was akin to going over the rainbow. So many possibilities!

Luckily for us Humboldtians, Fall Farmers' Markets still look like summer ones, so whip up a batch of these summer squash tacos with real or faux sausage and continue to enjoy the season's bounty.

Although I often substitute due to laziness and a desire to use up what's in the frig, resist the urge to skip the queso fresco, it really makes this taco special. The same goes for the cilantro and lime, they are essential!

While most people drink beer with their Mexican food, wine is always my choice of beverage. What to pair with this one? A good fruity rose such as Tarantas' Rose of Bobal from Spain. No, not sweet, but lots of fruit. Any rose of Sangiovese or Pinot Noir would go as well. If you want a white, try Gewurztraminer or a medium dry riesling. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Pan Seared Cauliflower Steaks with Marinara and Parmesan

As the days grow shorter and the nights chillier most people think pumpkin spice. My mind screams CAULIFLOWER!

You always knew I wasn't like the other children...

Yes, the white orb beckons me with its promise of nutty buttery goodness. While roasting it is sublime, waiting for the oven to heat up and then waiting for the florets to cook seems to take forever. Then I realized that pan searing and steaming would work just as well and in record time!

Adding a red sauce and grated parmesan isn't probably your first thought of what to do with that gorgeous cauliflower you scored at the farmers' market, but have faith, it totally works! Searing it in a heavy skillet (cast iron works admirably), and covering it so that it steams in the oil and its own juices, produces a tender but charred cauliflower "steak" that marries beautifully with a plain marinara sauce and lots of parmesan. 

The inspiration came from laziness, not surprisingly. Cauliflower parmesan was a dish the New York Times foodies introduced me to - breading cauliflower florets, baking them and then re-baking them smothered in red sauce and cheese. But while breading is always a good choice, sometimes I am just not up for the extra work. So this shortcut was born. Trust me, you will devour it!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Smoked Salmon Phyllo Pie

Not everyone grew up eating hunks of raw cabbage in their high school brown bag lunch...ok, almost no one. You can guess who is the exception!

But even if you do not share my love affair with cabbage, you will be bowled over by the transformation of humble green cabbage in this phyllo encased pie.

Sweating onion, cabbage and finely sliced fennel in olive oil brings out the sweetness in cabbage and blending it with a minimum of ingredients creates what looks fancy, but us cooks know was actually quite simple to make.

While this pie features smoked salmon or lox, you could easily make it with pork or veggie sausage or just make it a cabbage pie for those of you who share my love of this member of the brassica family.