Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cottage Cheese Cakes with Garlic Green Sauce

I know the title is about as unglamourous as you can get, but trust me on this one. And especially if you're looking for something easy to throw together to hold back the hordes as you prepare the big special dinner, this easy peasy recipe is it.

Toss a carton (15oz) of cottage cheese with 2 eggs and 3 tablespoons flour and blend well and then pan fry. Voila! Super tasty and crowd pleasing! Usually I spoon over some sort of garlic and greens puree whether its fancy with basil or some cooked swiss chard. Either way, it always pleases.

This is a great weeknite dinner as well, don't confine it to brunch!

Oh, and happy solstice, yule and christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Flourless Chocolate Cake - Vegan

One of my greatest faults (and sometimes virtue) is ambition. Not for money or fame or even praise but projects, grandiose and extravagant projects. Making flourless chocolate cake for 70 middle school and high school students without trying the recipe first, that's the kind of ambitious projects I attempt. Or not. Since there are also a few vegans who buy lunch I usually provide a vegan option. Vegan options do get a test run at home since they do tend to be more experimental. Hence this recipe.

And while the ingredients seem really whacky, trust me, this is delicious and decadent! Super rich, it easily serves 16 - 20, without being overly sweet. Be careful and measure carefully because with too much coconut oil it crystalizes and looks a little icky.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Best Fish Tacos Ever!

Fish Tacos are as common in California as Chef's Salad in mediocre golf restaurants across the country. So to make one that really (and I mean REALLY) stands out for a native Californian, it has to be something pretty special.

And this is it.

Yup, it's got some special ingredients, but nothing really beyond the pale. There is no deep frying (something done only maybe once or twice a year in my home kitchen), but there is a special sauce made with butter, lime, jalapeno and sambal oelek that gives this taco its claim to superiority.

A cabbage salad is de rigor to balance the spice of the sauce and the fish. It still is a really quick meal that comes together in 30 minutes if that is important to you.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Crispy Potato Galette

Crispy * Potato * Galette*

Is that not music to your ears?

It's crispy, it looks like a dessert and it tastes like the bestest hash browns you have never yet had!

Really folks, why has it taken so long for me to find this recipe? Even my hubby thinks it's one of the greatest things ever (and mashed potatoes never fail to make his ultimate list!)

Grab a large russet potato and your mandoline - don't have a mandoline? Perfect reason to buy one right now!

A little more prep than just chopping up some potatoes and pan frying them for breakfast, but well worth the end result! Try it, you'll love it!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Chocolate Ricotta Mousse

Eons ago, when I first consciously decided to become vegetarian - kind of on a whim, on Thanksgiving of 1992 - Moosewood Cookbooks were my first veggie cookbooks, and I adored them. Good, tasty, hippy food. And usually not requiring too exotic of ingredients. They introduced me to Arrancini, good homemade French bread and hummus.

As my culinary interest expanded, Moosewood figured less and less in my repertoire. So it was with a great sense of nostalgia that I came across this recipe for a simple chocolate ricotta mousse. Just three ingredients. I mean, really, how can you beat that! And ridiculously delicious!

If you are a frequent visitor and reader to Kirsten's Kitchen you know that desserts do not tempt me, and sweetness is not my favorite taste. But you can make this as sweet or not depending on your own desires, just adjust the type of chocolate you use!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pan Roasted Romanesco with Pear and Sumac

Romanesco is one of those truly seasonal vegetables - grab it while it's here, cause when it's gone, its sayonara until next year!

I love it roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, but if you're feeling fancy (or perhaps getting really for a really big feast that includes something called a gobbler...) you might give this one a try.

It sounds exotic, sumac and tahini, but it's really just gourmet comfort food!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Eggplant and Sardine Gratin, Sicilian Style

I know, I know, you are thinking, "What the hell kind of dish is this?" And, "she's taking an awful lot of poetic license with that name...!"

Yes and no.

It is cooked veggies - garlic, eggplant and some tomatoes (canned, pureed, I've even used a little leftover soup) plus sardines just for the fabulous taste of them, and mixed with some capers and hard cheese and baked with garlic breadcrumbs on top. So, sue me if the title doesn't quite fit the description. It is mind-blowingly delicious!

The Sicilian part is the eggplant and sardines; the gratin is the precooked portion mixed with cheese and topped with breadcrumbs. Now do you see how the name evolved? No? Forget about it! Just make it!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Homemade Fresh Ricotta Cheese - DIY Pantry

When it dawned on me that fresh ricotta has been a staple in my kitchen for at least five years and had never made an appearance in the DIY Pantry section of my blog, I was incredulous! Even easier than paneer and more of an instant gratification than other DIY Pantry items, it was next on the list no matter what was in the blog queue!

I freely admit that buying ricotta is easier, when confronted with a price tag of $8 for 15 oz of organic ricotta, my thrifty self says, "it's cheaper to make" and better tasting to boot! If you have the time and inclination (and truly it didn't take more than 20 minutes to make, and so little involves cook prep time!) go for it!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Blue Cheese Tart with Tomato Jam Topping

How many times do you have grand plans for an ingredient and just doesn't happen. A hunk of blue cheese has been taunting me in the refrigerator for a couple of days because I didn't make the tofu "buffalo" wings that would have been accompanied by a great blue cheese dressing.

Enter a desire for a savory tart, a subsequent google search and the appearance of a "blue cheese tart." I mean really, could the universe have been more specific!

Not wanting to go to the store - this is how my laziness manifests - tomato jam was substituted for the fresh tomato and avocado and we pronounced it delicious! With some homemade ricotta on hand, this came together in a snap, but the extra egg was added due to the dryish nature of the homemade ricotta; most store bought is a little more loose.

I apologize for all of the abundance of sub-recipes. But really, use store bought crust and ricotta to make things easier, I just happen to have them on hand. If you don't have tomato jam - Really??!! You don't have it in your fridge at all times!! (wink wink). I would go with some thinly sliced tomatoes or even some salsa with a sprinkle of sugar and some lemon juice; it helps balance the richness of the tart.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Easiest Flakiest Olive Oil Crust

Making homemade crusts for quiches and savory tarts has been my regular m.o. for more than 25 years. It was cheaper and had better ingredients: no brainer. But the cutting in of the butter, chilling of the dough, and then rolling out is quite the process. Then I discovered this recipe! Eureka! Soooo easy, soooo flaky, and no chilling or rolling!

The "freeze the olive oil" crust that Post Punk Kitchen circulated a few years ago was an improvement on the butter, chill, roll method, but this one takes the cake or more aptly, the pie! Try it, you'll like it! You may never go back!

You can thank me as you're spooning that flaky goodness into your mouth, or crushing the last bits with your fork tines and watching lovingly as they mash together oh so beautifully, not dry and crunchy. And quick! Did I mention how fast it comes together. What's not to love!

As usual, I had to reduce the liquids since I was using spelt; see the original recipe if you're using all purpose flour.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Goan Style Paneer

Once you discover the joys of homemade paneer you will probably find yourself making it more often then you would imagine!

Unlike homemade pasta, (which is just as rewarding) it requires a lot less actual work on the part of the cook, just some time to hang around and wait for the milk to come to 180 degrees, then curdle it (with lemon juice or white vinegar), pour it into cheesecloth and then pat it into a pan to chill in the refrigerator. I usually make a double batch, but you will need to eat it within a week since it will go bad.

Goan style stews are really delicious, coconut, tangy and lightly spiced compared to other regions in Indian. This was a real hit with some Zucchini Besan Sabji (my favorite way to make veggie side dishes when I make Indian dishes).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bang Bang Cauliflower

Having worked in a restaurant as a maker of hot wings, it is hard for me to resist anything that is crispy and coated with hot sauce. When Olives for Dinner posted her version of Bang Bang Cauliflower, I knew it would make an appearance on my dinner table sooner rather than later. Yup, it was super yummy! Even the teenager loved it!

While I prefer a runnier sauce, similar to a hot wing sauce, this is made with mayo, so it there is more of a creamy coating on the cauliflower. Next time I will try it with less mayo, always fun to experiment.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spinach Spaetzle with Sundried Tomatoes and Olives

Spaetzle is one of those names that sounds extremely foreign, enough so that many people probably think it is a) hard to make, b) not worth the effort, and or c) over rated. Wrong, wrong and wrong!

Not only is it fun to make and delicious to boot, but easy as well. Whodda thunk it!

While this recipe came from the New York Times' David Tanis, it was a comment from a German cook that tipped me off on how to easily create fun little spaetzle; using the dull edge of a large knife to slide slivers of dough into the boiling water. Brilliant and fun!

Obviously you can add bacon (David's version) instead of the olives and sundried tomatoes that I mixed in. Either way, do keep the crisp sage leaves, they are a real treat.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Harissa Eggplant

Eggplants always seduce me, particularly at Farmers' markets and even more so when they are the long eggplant Japanese variety. Often they get used up in pedestrian ways but this time my brain thought of a really fun way to eat them, baked with a Moroccan infused flavor explosion!

My harissa is based on Aziza owner's cookbook and it is not super spicy but is very flavorful. Mashed with some preserved lemon, dried mint (actually more appropriate than fresh in this case), it was perfect! Even my vegetable suspicious husband really liked it!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

30 Minute Pizza Crust - Pesto Pizza with Homemade Veggie Italian Sausage

It was one of those nights, when cooking seems like the hardest thing to do - yes, it happens, even to me. And then Vegan Richa's new post popped up and she promised a 30 minute pizza crust. Intriguing and turns out, quite good!

Oddly enough it is a normal crust - flour, water, yeast, oil, salt. There is very little rise period, which makes for a very crispy crust. Take care not to overbake it or it will be too crispy!

Having just made some veggie Italian sausage and being gifted with two huge bunch of fresh basil, it was perfect for a pesto pizza with pan fried sausage on top!

Do note that I made my crust with spelt flour so the water in the recipe is slightly less; check Richa's recipe for the wheat flour version.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Homemade Veggie Breakfast Sausage (or Italian Sausage) (gluten free)

Ahhh, sausage, my one true food love! As a vegetarian for 13 plus years, I finally caved and began eating real sausage. My sisters called me a sausatarian. But it was because I was tired of eating bad faux meat with unprounceable ingredients. Failing to make good faux veggie sausage, I had subccumbed to the real stuff. But then the vegan sausage revolution happened and things changed! Unfortunately, gluten is not my friend, so after some experimentation, this gluten free version was born!

It does hold together pretty well when frying, but certainly will not hold up in a stew. But super tasty it is! This is a basic recipe that can be changed according to the seasonings to make it Breakfast sausage or Italian Sausage, or maybe one day I'll even try to make a bratwurst!

I like to make the breakfast sausages really fat so that I can slice them thin and cook like a patty. Yum!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Apologies to whomever (or whereever) I first saw a recipe for mashed potato pancakes! The website is completely lost from my memory.

What a wonderful idea! And yes, they are as delicious as you would expect: pillowy pancakes made of mashed potato goodness. Wednesday is mashed potato night for us and leftovers are made on purpose to make these tasty morsels for weekend brunch.

While they are tasty on their own, we like to slather them with chipotle mayo or chevre or tomato jam or pesto. Kind of anything goes well with them, the sky's the limit!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Eggplant Involtini with Feta and Raisins

Involtini - a thin slice of something wrapped around something else. Kind of non-descript but oh so Delicioso!

Borrowing from a New York Times recipe, this version is thinnly sliced eggplant wrapped around feta, raisins, and nuts. Strange combination you may think? Not really, very traditionally Sicilian, and trust me, those Sicilians know a thing or two about how to make great food!

Not surprisingly, my version diverts from the original recipe, mainly because I got distracted and forgot to add the lemon zest and dried mint. They were spectacular without those extra ingredients but next time they will be in there.

Yes, it takes a bit more time than a 30 minute meal; closer to 90 minutes. But it is so worth the effort. For myself, my time spent preparing food is my alone time, my daily meditation. But if that time commitment is daunting, you can make part of it ahead of time; fry the eggplant and refrigerate it, bringing it to room temperature before stuffing and rolling it.

Since we are in full blown tomato season, just go with a very simple topping of chopped fresh tomatoes. Do drain off the extra tomato juice (or slurp it when no one is watching, cook's perogative!)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bearnaise Sauce...on Halibut Steaks

As mentioned before, French cuisine has always intimidated me. But since mastering hollandaise (and aioli ages ago), Bearnaise sauce was next on the list to conquer. Eh Voila! So easy if you follow these steps!

Usually Bearnaise is served on steak or lamb (and it is also delicious with fries!) but being mainly pescatarians it was halibut steaks for us and it worked beautifully.

A few words of advice. Do be overly cautious about overcooking the yolk mixture; remove the double boiler bowl from the heat often because once you overcook the yolks, the sauce is ruined. You will have to start over. Believe me, this has happened to me with hollandaise sauce, and it is as frustrating as it sounds! But patience is a virtue and this sauce is worth the time!

Reread the recipe several times to understand the process. Don't be overwhelmed by the length of instructions, it is just helpful tips so that you will be successful on your first try.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Kerala Beefy Mushrooms

Mark Bittman is my food god. End of story. But when he posts a recipe that appears to be fairly afield from his usual cuisine talents - Asian, Mediterranean, American - my suspicious nature raises its ugly head. Never fear on this one, it was incredibly good! And so surprising

Who knew that cooking lots and lots of chopped onions, adding spices, tamarind and yogurt could produce such an amazing tasting dish!

Adding seared portabellos was my inspiration, and it worked well. To keep it veggie, add seared seitan or some other faux meat if you like, or the traditional beef if you like. But the mushrooms are what I will be sticking with in the future!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Garam Masla Salmon with Plum Mango Salsa

This is just a variation on the fruit salsa with grilled salmon that has mde it way to this space before. But plums in the mango salsa was a first for me and it was so delicious! Not being a huge fan of plums, I rarely think of them. But having been gifted with some this seemed like a great way to use them.

You could substitute peaches or nectarines or even some good tomatoes if they are prime where you live. Mango is always my favorite so that is usually my starting point. But let your own preferences guide you.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Prawn and Veggie Tempura

Tempura is one of those dishes that you have probably assumed can only taste good at a restaurant. Guess again! This is nearly a fool-proof recipe from the God himself (that would be Mark Bittman in case you had forgotten!)

Simple, easy, quick and delicious! Yes, it does require a lot of oil. So it is not something that happens very often in my kitchen. But it sure is worth it!

The assortment of veggies listed below leaves out any of those that require a parboil before frying - carrot, sweet potato, yam - so feel free to add them in if you want to. I find easy is better.

I have tried beer battered tempura but find that Bittman is right on this recipe - light but crispy. It allows the flavor o the vegetables to shine.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Moroccan Eggplant Pizza

This is truly one of those "no recipe" recipes. It was inspired by a lone eggplant hanging out in the refrigerator and my desire for pizza. And it was delicious enough that it made it to this space!

While the suggestion below is for squeezing lemon juice over the finished pizza - trust me on that, you need to at least do that - if you have preserved lemon, mince it super fine and sprinkle it over the pizza before baking. That will probably be even more fantastic!

Although fresh mozzarella is not usually my choice, it works better here than regular mozzarella because the tomato sauce needs to be more of a dominant flavor than it tends to be when covered up with melted mozzarella. Think of this as more of a flat bread than a pizza and you will have a better understanding of the concept I was attempting to create.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Best Healthy Creamy Garlic Herb Dip

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say, whomever "they" are! When I needed a healthy snack to have around the house for the returning college students, this dip popped in my head: cottage cheese whipped into creamy deliciousness with garlic and herbs. What's not to love!

Whether you eat it with raw veggies or sour cream and onion thick cut potato chips, it's healthy and filling - not the potato chips perhaps, but the dip is!

This would make a great addition to any 4th of July picnic, an easy way to get veggies into your Independence Day festivities.

This is literally a snap to whip up and if you haven't discovered the ease and joy of fitting a small mouth mason jar on your blender for making such dips, do it with this recipe; you will never go back to your carafe!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Homemade Sriracha - DIY Pantry

Yes, that is a honey bear with homemade Sriracha in it. It is kind of the perfect container and the irony of spicy sweet condiment inhabiting a honey bear tickles my fancy quite a bit!

I like to make my own sauces and condiments because it's fun, and often cheaper if you do it in season. With Sriracha, you can only do it when the jalapenos are red, usually at the end of the summer, so keep this recipe at the ready for when you can scoop some up.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nicoise Inspired Chopped Salad

This is one of those dinners that was thrown together with what was in the fridge and because it "looked pretty" according to my hubby, I took a picture. And thinking that more people should do likewise in using up odds and ends from the frig, it has now become a blog post.

Nicoise inspired because there is fish on it (that would be leftover cooked salmon and anchovies), boiled potatoes and eggs, but the sauted zucchini, avocado and feta is just what was available and looked tasty. This is one big satisfying salad, and I have made it with canned sardines, cooked asparagus, radishes and cucumbers. Make it with whatever is in the pantry to bulk up your meal. Try it, you'll like it!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sockeye Salmon with Green Sauce

Salmon is truly one of life's great pleasures, at least from my perspective. And having it so readily available in our fish counter at the North Coast Co-op has surely spoiled me, but that is just fine and dandy with me!

Finding new ways to prepare salmon aside from my usual favorites is a fun pastime, and this version from David Tanis of the New York Times (and Chez Panisse) never fails to please. It is more of a summery version, all fresh green herbs and lemon juice.

French in origin, it pairs wonderfully well with mashed potatoes (of course, to my hubby and I, everything goes with mashed potatoes! especially Indian food, really, you'll love it!) But it also is great with boiled new potatoes, steamed green beans or asparagus, or some other spring/summer like veggie.

My version relies heavily on the fresh tarragon, but that's just me. Use chervil if you can find it/grow it. This is my go-to salmon dish when there isn't any creme fraiche brewing for this version. But only make it with fresh tarragon. Either way, prepare for a repeater; it's easy and scrumptious!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Unless you have only been cooking from cookbooks (and if so, bully for you!) but everyone else should have undoubtedly heard of the cauliflower crust pizza. This is even better, trust me!

It is like a giant zucchini fritter with pizza on top, sooooo amazingly good! Feed it to your skeptical diners, they will reward your with praise! Even my hubby, who couldn't believe his eyes, actually said it might be better than real pizza crust! It was good enough that I planted extra zucchini plants to freeze shredded zucchini to have through the winter!

I have to admit that I have not been able to achieve the "crisp" crust that so many of the bloggers brag about, even though I bought a silicon baking mat specifically for that purpose. But it still tastes delicious!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Herb Crusted Baked Halibut

Although my diet has technically been pescatarian for most of my adult life, cooking fish was not a standard of my repertoire until I relocated to the North Coast of California. Not to brag too much, but the abundance of locally caught (often line caught!) cod and salmon is truly astounding and awe-inspiring. Cooking fish well, like doing most anything, comes from practice, and learning a few simple tips.

Always buy fish the day you want to cook it!!

Almost all fish, unless you bought it off the boat in your local port or harbor, came to where it is sold on ice or most likely frozen. It is then defrosted and sold. As it defrosts, it loses textural integrity and gets mushy: totally unappetizing.

Like cuts of meat, fish needs to rest and will continue to cook off the heat.

Most fish gets overcooked because cooks are afraid of it not being done in the center and overcook to compensate. You can stick a knife in the center of a thick steak (salmon, halibut, swordfish) to check its doneness. But it really will continue to cook as it rests.

Also similar to cuts of meat, the flesh becomes noticeably firmer once it is cooked.

All fish (and scallops and shrimp/prawns) will become more opaque as they cook, and the flesh becomes firmer. Notice how raw fish feels, because the flesh tightens up when it cooks, and often forms dense flakes of fish flesh.

Keeping these tips in mind will lead to beautifully cooked fish and happy diners! Add this super easy creamy garlic herb topping to any fish and they will be ecstatic!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Linguine Alfredo with Crispy Morel Mushrooms

Yes! It's morel mushroom season again! Go, pick, find them now at your farmers market (or natural food store if you're lucky!) Or forage for them yourself if you are fortunate to know of the secret growing places that people guard with their lives (at least some of them!)

Morels are tasty morsels and though they look expensive ($20 plus a pound) you can buy plenty and not spend more than $5 and have a feast with them! Here I simply fried them in olive oil until they were crispy and then added them to a classic Alfredo sauce. What a total delight!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Cucumber and Radish Salsa

While I know little about Ayurvedic food preparations, it doesn't take that kind of specialized knowledge to know that cooling fresh salads or salsas are necessary to balance out the spicy richness of certain dishes. I created this one for the tofu peanut satay featured in last week's post. And it was a match made in heaven, even for those who think they don't like radishes!

While basil is the herb featured here, feel free to substitute cilantro or parsley or Thai basil if you can find it.

Cutting the vegetables in different shapes was an aesthetic call; some people might go for all the same shape just for ease of slicing.

The dressing on this is really up to you; add more vinegar if you like or more sesame oil. What is listed is really just my preferences.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce

This is one of those dishes that makes you throw back your head in ecstasy and believe in all things that are good.

Really, it's that amazing.

As my husband put it, "this is a flavor explosion!" Yes, truly it is.

When one goes to the internet looking for a recipe, generally from a cuisine that one did not grow up with, it is hard to know what is really going to taste good, which recipe is really worth the effort. I'm sure you can guess that this one was...

It seems complicated - lots of ingredients, advance prep - but it all comes together so quickly, and it is so beyond satisfying, you'll wonder why you haven't made it sooner!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

White Spelt Pizza with Swiss Chard, Olives and Sundried Tomatoes

Spelt is a dicey flour to work with; on the one hand, it is softer than wheat yet it absorbs more liquid and thus requires less than traditional wheat flour. And if you have ever tried to make the perfect pizza dough, you know that the prospect of changing ratios of liquids and solids is not a simple one. So when I finally - finally!! - figured out how to make a good spelt crust, excitement abounded!

The best crust I ever produced was following Peter Rheinhart's instructions - and if you google his name, you will find that great pizza dough/crust and his name are synonymous. Thus making a great crust with spelt that could come close to what his instructions produced was a key goal of mine.

The secret is in the cold rise in the refrigerator. No kneading involved. How simply wonderful is that! Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Marinated Portobellas with Chimichurri Sauce

Despite the fact that describing mushrooms as having a "meaty" taste and texture is so cliche and unoriginal, it does not belie its truth, and portobella mushrooms in particular. While I find that description so meat centric, it did inspire this dish!

Chimichurri is the bright green condiment from South America that is traditionally served with steak (as the link for the recipe displays it). But it is equally (if not better!) with these marinated 'shrooms. Totally delightful and unexpected! These could easily be made with little cremini mushrooms (baby bellas) with a dollop of chimichurri for a delightful little amuse bouche! Hmmmm, ideas abound...

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Seared Fennel and Orange Salad

My love affair with Gjelina continues...

It seems that they just adore searing vegetables in a hot pan and then adding a few choice ingredients to bring out the best of the vegetable's flavor. How can you argue with that! It certainly is making my hubby see vegetables in a whole new light, and eat ones that have never passed his lips to date. That's a win in my book!

This is not the exact recipe as listed in the cookbook, but we were happy with the results! Clearly this dish is best in the winter when citrus is most plentiful. But do not let that deter you, eat some fresh spring fennel with those non-seasonal oranges, I won't tell!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cauliflower and Roasted Poblano Enchiladas

The last gasps of winter - you hope - will let you make this delicious but very gringo-minded enchilada...with cauliflower! Yes, it sounds crazy but think of tender roasted cauliflower smothered in a cheese and roasted chile sauce. You see the appeal!

It looks like many steps, but once you've made enchiladas this is an easy one to add to your repertoire, and so veggie-licious. This combo makes me think of other non-traditional fillings like roasted yams and chile or sauteed summer squash and chiles. The possibilities are endless!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Brussels Sprouts and Parsnips with Bacon and Dates

Yes, Spring is upon us, but in some places Winter still has a grip on the land, and that means Brussels Sprouts are still firm and sweet. Scoop some up and make this utterly amazing dish!

This is yet another wonderful vegetable dish from the Gjelina cookbook. Really, I can't gush enough so buy it already! You will not regret it!

Since there were a few parsnips laying in the larder they went into the mix and were just as tasty as predicted.

Just for this dish, bacon made it's way into our pescatarian home. He was shocked, "Is this bacon!!" Yes, it was and it was good.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Classic Linguine Carbonara

Can you believe I have spent nearly five decades on this earth and a few weeks ago was the first time I ate, let alone made, pasta carbonara? Me neither!! Who knows what failure that was, or whose fault, but no more!

Trying out a pasta machine that was recently gifted to me I decided it was time to end the strike against carbonara. Let me say it again, WOW! Make some fresh pasta and douse it with eggs, yolks, bacon bits and lots of cheese and you too will be in heaven!

What could be simpler? Quick fry bacon into cubes, cook pasta, whip eggs and yolks and grate in some cheese and then stir it all together and presto! Pasta ecstasy!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Peppadews Stuffed with Garlic Herb Cheese

One of the fun parts of living with someone who works at a grocery store is that he will bring home strange and interesting items that are either expired or about to be so. It is like my own Chopped! challenge of what to do with X ingredient. This is how peppadews came into my life.

Pickled sweet red peppers about the size of cherry tomatoes, they are sold hollowed out and just waiting to be stuffed. With some cream cheese burning a hole in my cheese drawer and plenty of fresh herbs in the crisper, garlic herb cheese was just the ticket!

Goat cheese will work if you want to get fancier, but the cream cheese was delicious too. These were served at an Oscar party and everyone loved them!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Roasted Yam Planks and Swiss Chard Lasagna, Bolognese Style

My hubby works for a food co-op and we get lots of "seconds" produce, which I love to receive! But sometimes the greens, usually swiss chard, starts to pile up in the refrigerator and then creativity is needed to use it up. This was a sensational way to do just that!

Since wheat is no longer my friend, any pasta passing my lips needs to be gluten free (ick) or made from scratch using spelt flour. But since there happened to be about a cup of bechemel sauce sitting in the refrigerator (which was to have been used to cream said bunches of swiss chard but didn't happen), I realized making a Bolognese style lasagna using oven roasted yam slices would probably make an amazing "lasagna." Yes, yes, it did!

Of course Italians would have been horrified at the heresy of roasted yam planks for lasagna noodles, but since I wasn't the first to think of it - hello Paleo folk! - I figured I wasn't going straight to Italian cuisine hell.

Bolognese style lasagna differs dramatically from what most Americans think of when it comes to lasagna. No abundance of cheese, usually a meat and tomato sauce, and bechamel sauce, that distinctively French sauce used to make cheese sauce. Trust me, you will want to try this if you have never had it!

Yes, it is lots of steps, but go easy on yourself and make a few things the day before; it is how I always do it when making lasagna with homemade pasta. Also, do not fret about using the tomato sauce shortcut; it was some leftover sauce in the refrigerator that cemented my idea of this recipe!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Parmesan Parsley Drop Biscuits

Good biscuits are one of life's great pleasures, especially when they are as easy as these!

If you read up on biscuit making, the fanatics will insist on a soft wheat flour because it makes for a lighter biscuit. Enter spelt! By its very nature it is a softer flour because it lacks one of the gluten protein's found in wheat flours, ergo always softer.

The beauty of this biscuit is how quickly it comes together - no chilling time needed. Adding the cheese and parsley just gilds this lily, but why not! you're eating biscuits for god's sake, heap on the good stuff!

As you can see in the picture, these are great for an eggs benedict, but also wonderful on their own.  I have even made them without the cheese but it does make them lighter and tastier. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Smoky Swiss Chard with Caesar Dressing and Garlic Breadcrumbs

When I lived in Los Angeles my sister and I started our own eating out club, trying fun and more high end restaurants so we could eat good food, dress up, and have a sisters' night out. On one of those nights we ate at Gjelina in Venice Beach, on Abbott Kinney Boulevard and a love affair began.

Small plates, amazing pizza, great wine list, fun people watching and just mind blowing food, every single time. And then 101 Cookbooks posted a recipe from Gjelina the cookbook. Who knew! Bought the book immediately and made this; it felt like I was sitting in that noisy corner restaurant again only we're more than 1,000 miles away. I can't rave enough, so I'll just sit back and let you all enjoy discovering the magic.

Reading through the book cover to cover in one sitting, no joke, I realized again the importance of garnishes and sauces for making a dish special. The vegetables really are the stars although there are chapters on meat and fish; but don't be fooled into thinking vegetarians won't adore this book as well. What chef Travis Lett does with condiments will split your head open like you had inhaled pop rocks!

Lett grills lots of greens in the restaurant and many of the recipes include this technique. While I made the dressing exactly as the recipe directed, I used the swiss chard that I had and grilled it on a flattop cast iron pan (it's round like a pan but has no sides) and it produced an incredibly smoky flavor with the chard. When summer comes, grilling greens (kale, lettuces, chicories) will surly become a staple.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Huevos Rancheros

Growing up on the East Coast in the 1970s huevos rancheros were not a part of my world. They were never on menus and it wasn't until at least 2009 that I became aware of their existence, after moving to California of course. Native Californians (my husband in particular) truly do not believe me. Honest to god truth!

While fried eggs have been very low on my totem pole - childhood trauma, no need for explanations - getting over food ickies is high on my list, so I made huevos rancheros.

They were good, they were great! Life became more interesting and I conquered a fear! So now they make a regular rotation on our weekend brunches. Good thing because they are quick, easy and tasty.

A friend of hubby - Hi Luciano! - pours the beans and salsa on top of the eggs as they cook to make an even more delightful concoction. It seems to work best with individual pans for each serving.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Arancini - Rice Balls Stuffed with Mozzarella in Tomato Sauce

Arancini are street food of the gods...or so they tell me. While I have not actually eaten them on the streets of Italy, once discovered about 25 years ago they have made the regular rounds in my cooking repertoire.

Arriving at the table looking like meatballs in sauce, they are actually crunchy morsels of rice wrapped around a cube of mozzarella and doused in your favorite tomato sauce. Such deliciousness!

It was shocking to realize that there was no arancini post on this blog, so naturally I whipped up a batch to remedy the situation. These are stuffed with cheese, but apparently the Italians will stuff them with ragu (meat and tomato sauce), or peas and mozzarella, which all sound tasty but too complicated for me.

For this meal I also made a grilled smoky chard dish that had garlic breadcrumbs so I showered some on the arancini, great move!

Traditional arancini are usually made with white rice but brown rice has always been my choice. I like the nubby nutty texture and taste better than white rice, and it makes for a healthier meal (despite frying them in oil!)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Pan Fried Salmon with Aioli

Once I discovered how easy it was to make aioli, it has been a struggle not to make it all the time. It could make an old shoe taste good! Imagine what it does for a gorgeous piece of Sockeye Salmon like that pictured above. It boggles the mind!

This dish is almost too simple to be an actual recipe, more of a suggestion. So if you need another excuse to make aioli (or force yourself to learn) here is the link to my post with all the tips to ensure success.

As for cooking salmon perfectly, make sure your pan is really hot and that you have a cover for the pan (preferably one that does not fit snugly). Unless you are blackening the salmon, only cook it on one side, skin side down, and cover it to steam it so that it doesn't dry out. Remember that salmon is similar to any meat you cook and will continue to cook once removed from the heat source. Once the white stuff begins to ooze out of the flesh (which you can scrape off for a more appealing presentation), it is getting close to being done. Don't be afraid to stick a knife in the center to see if it is cooked through. The flesh will turn a slightly duller color when it is cooked and you can also feel how the flesh is firmer once cooked. You do want the color to change all the way through the fillet but just barely so that it is not dry.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Green Beans with Feta and Crispy Shallots

This is one of of those simple side dishes that kind of sneaks up on the main event and steals the show! It's inspired by a traditional dish that was always at my family's Thanksgiving feast - steamed and chilled green beans with chevre and sliced almonds - but since there were an abundance of shallots in the veggie bin, I decided to fry them up in super hot oil and make some crispy toppings for these steamed beans.

For years I resisted the idea of being "fancy" with my meals, but slowly I have given in to the wonders of garnishes and sauces - they really do make the meal feel special and don't require that much extra effort. Here making the crispy shallots was simple and quick, my kind of garnish!

In our house feta and chevre are always on hand, so why not gild the lily! Crunchy, creamy, green bean deliciousness awaits you!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Spelt Biscuits

Good biscuits are one of life's true pleasures. They can be tricky if you're not used to working with butter/margarine in flour but once you get the hand of it, just try to not make these all the time; they are such a reward for the effort!

Ever since I discovered the vegan version of "buttermilk" biscuits, buttermilk has no place in my refrigerator, which is great, because you use so little for the biscuits and then you're stuck with lots of leftover buttermilk. (Ok, you can make this pie, but some of us are still trying to fit in the clothes we own, so it's pie or biscuits...Biscuits for the win!) So don't fret, use baking soda and cider vinegar and you are all set. Cider vinegar will curdle dairy milk just as well as it does non-dairy milk.

What was even more exciting in this version of my beloved biscuits was realizing that the soft wheat flour that all truly traditional southern biscuits are made with is very similar to spelt! Less gluten and it absorbs more liquid (i.e. butter/margarine) so more to love! These were fantastic, light, fluffy and rich!

In case you're curious, the round sausages are my own DIY vegetarian breakfast sausage, gluten free to boot! Yup, just a party in your mouth around here!

And if you are looking closely at the picture you will notice that there are rocks on the stovetop. Yes, yes, they are rocks. We dry our dishes on the stovetop and the rocks keep them from sliding around.... It's also pretty to look at!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Thai Seafood Curry with Noodles

For the seven years of my self-imposed banishment to small college towns, otherwise known as my graduate school years, Thai food was the holy grail of cuisine unavailable to my friends and me. Big cities had Thai food; we had pizza and tacos if we were lucky. So when I realized how easy it was to make a Thai curry with the help of store bought curry sauce it was a liberation moment for the ages.

Ahh, coconut curry with veggies and an assortment of seafood is still decadent, but now it's easy to make at home even though I once again live in a small college town - voluntarily! in bliss!

You can make this curry at home with just coconut milk and curry paste, but if you can find fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, snatch them up. The lime leaves freeze well and they add a more authentic taste.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

Eggs Benedict with Hollandiase....just that phrase used to paralyze me. It sounded soooo French, so impossible to make, so far from my culinary skills. Until I realized it was kind of like hot aioli.

Eureka! Not as hard as I thought!

My beau loves the bennies with hollandaise and although I cannot stomach (literally) poached eggs that didn't mean I couldn't attempt his favorite brunch meal at home. Yes, it takes time and patience, but he was so excited and impressed with the result that it was totally worth it.

You can serve bennies on toast, a warm croissant or go one step further like I did here and make biscuits (which I ate as well, so yummy!!).

If you don't have a poaching pan (the little metal insert with the reverse scooped out molds for the poached eggs), fear not. You can make it in simmering water and they come out just as tasty, if a little more rustic in nature. But smothered under all that Hollandaise, who's noticing!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Homemade Spelt Naan

Ahhh naan, it's the reason you go to an Indian restaurant, especially if they have a tandoor oven in which they make this fresh, delicious flat bread. You would think that it could only be made well in such a specialized oven, but fear not dear reader, you too can make delicious naan at home!

It does really help if you have a cast iron flat pan or griddle, but supposedly you can make it on a pizza stone as well (this sounds totally reasonable to me, although I have never tried it.)

When wheat and I parted ways, spelt came to my rescue and this is my version of naan with white spelt flour. As usual, it requires a little less liquid in the dough, but still makes a wonderfully chewy naan that everyone really appreciated!