Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roasted Radishes with Vanilla Salt and Basil

Donuts are red, donuts are blue.  I like donuts.  How about you.  These were the lines uttered over and over and over and over again by my sister on the way home from the city one day.  For 2 1/2 hours.  My mom did indeed get us some donuts to placate her.  I have no idea why I thought about that right now, perhaps beause radishes are so vibrantly red, and that red color is such an important part of it.  Radishes are red, the basil is, well, I hope it's not blue...  I like radishes, how about you?  And while I adore radishes...  I now really want a donut.

And on that note, here we have another dish this week where radishes pop up.  I guess in this case it is more than "popping up," it is the raison d'etre.  And vanilla salt as well!  I sometimes fear that the radish is a lonely vegetable.  Oftentimes, it is just sliced and then relegated to a platter of crudites to be half-heartedly and mindlessly dunked in ranch dressing or some ranch look-alike.  Also, my gram had come into an abundance of radishes (I say it as though it is an inheritance), and was wondering what she could do with them.  I have a serious soft spot for this vegetable, but radishes can only take so much exclusion from other ingredients, so much rawness, and so much ranch.  Only so much boredom and ennui and unappreciation from the people who munch on it.  Though this veggie is known for its bitterness, it has a vulnerable and sensitive soul.  Once you char it in the oven, of course.

2 bunches radishes, halved
1/2 teaspoon vanilla salt*
1-2 tablespoons walnut oil

1/2 cup basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon walnut oil

*Vanilla Salt
1 cup kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half

*For the Vanilla Salt:  Place in an airtight container, and leave to mingle for a couple days before using.

For the basil orange mixture: Pulse in a food processor until blended.

Coat the radishes in walnut oil and vanilla salt.  Roast at 425 for about 30 minutes, until they have some caramelization and have softened.

Coat the cooked radishes with the basil and orange mixture, then serve.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Avocado and Salmon Crostini with Vanilla Salt

I feel as though I have disappointed these crostini.  They look all gussied up and festive with their creamy green spread, vibrant red and purple radish slices and that pink salmon.  They totally thought they were going to some swanky coctail party, to be nibbled on between sips of wine and cheerful cocktail chatter.  But instead we made these on a Sunday afternoon, greedily keeping them all to ourselves and in an atmosphere of pure comfort.  They were disappointed.  But not us.  

1 baguette, sliced
olive oil
vanilla salt*
freshly ground black pepper

1 ripe avocado, pitted
3 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon grapefruit zest
1/4 teaspoon vanilla salt
dash black pepper

handful of radishes, sliced thinly
6 ounces smoked salmon
1/4 cup chopped chives

*Vanilla Salt:
1 vanilla bean, split in half
1 cup kosher salt

For the vanilla salt: Place salt and vanilla bean in airtight container for at least a week.

Heat oven to 375.  Place the baguette slices on a baking sheet (I used a Silpat to line mine).  Pour olive oil in a bowl, and brush the oil on each slice.  Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on each.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden-brown.

Mash the avocado, grapefruit juice, grapefruit zest, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Spread on each toasted baguette slice.  Then top with one or two slices of radish, smoked salmon, then a sprinkling of chives.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kale, Walnut, Plum Salad with Plum-Walnut Dressing

So I thought I was going to be all smug and self righteous this summer and not post a salad.  Since salads weren't really floating my boat these past few weeks...  For some reason, I apparently thought this made me rebellious.  I am unable to account for how I got this notion.   I picked up some kale at the farmers market recently, and thought to myself, I'm going to make some fresh pasta and then toss it with the kale and some other things.  That sounds yummy!  Then it got hot.  And stayed hot.  Like, oh my god, I wish I had an air conditioner hot.  We live near the ocean; we're not supposed to get hot like this!  Come back ocean breeze!  My tolerance for heat must have plummeted since moving here...  But anyway, I realized that rolling out some homemade pasta would be like a mild form of midieval torture, which cooking really shouldn't be.  So I made a salad to use up the kale, and surprisingly (or not surprisingly), I really liked it!

For the salad:
1 bunch curly kale, stem removed and chopped
2 pieces of bacon
1 scallion, chopped
1 plum, pitted and sliced
bit of shaved Parmesan cheese
bit of shaved carrots
handful of toasted walnuts

For the dressing:
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 plums, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup canola
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For the salad: Fry up bacon slices on a griddle over medium heat.  Once both sides have crisped, remove from griddle and place on a paper towel. Place kale, scallions, plums, Parmesan cheese, carrots, and walnuts in a medium-sized bowl.  Chop the bacon pieces, and those into the bowl as well.  Toss everything together.

For the dressing: Place everything in a food processor and pulse a few times until it all comes together.  Then drizzle over the salad and mix together.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Chocolate Strawberry Cake Cookies with Orange Zest

I am so completely open to the power of suggestion when it comes to food.  I either read, see, or hear about food, and then suddenly, I want it that instant.  At the end of 'One Hungry Monster', the little boy takes out an apple muffin, and I think to myself, why yes, yes, an apple muffin, that does sound perfect!  When we watch a Seinfeld DVD, we generally end up wanting Chinese takeout. Even if we're stuffed.  There is always room for Chinese food...  Then there is the book, 'If You Give a Mouse a Cookie', that Max loves.  Of course, by the end of it, I'm always thinking, wow, yes, a cookie, that is most definitely what I need in my life right now!  Why won't someone give me a cookie?  So, after reading that book one too many times the other day, I finally said, cookies need to be made.  

What kind of cookies?  Well... we all know what I have been addicted to lately.  Stawberries!  I promise from now on to rein in the strawberryness.  Or at least I will try.  It really doesn't help that the Saturday farmers market right down the street sells big boxes of strawberries for like six dollars.  So it is just right there begging to be bought and used up.  I blame them for my addiction.

1 1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
scant 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1 pint strawberries, chopped
1 tablespoon flour

Heat oven to 350.  Whisk 1 1/8 cup flour, baking soda, salt, and orange zest, and set aside.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a mixer until they are well combined.  Then add in the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined.  In a small bowl, toss the chopped strawberries with a tablespoon of flour.  Then using a wooden stir, stir in the chocolate chips and strawberries into the dough.  Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough onto greased baking sheets.  Makes about 24 cookies.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until the edges have turned golden brown.

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking "Chocolate Chip Cookie" recipe

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baked Flour Tortilla Chips, Crisp and Flaky

Remember those chips in the background of this post?  We loved them so much, we thought we'd give them their very own shiny post.  These chips are all about simplicity.  Wedges of flour tortillas are coated in canola oil and sprinkled with salt, then tossed on a pan to get all crisped up in the oven.  That is all it takes to get some crispy, flaky baked chips.  It's a great, healthy alternative to fried tortilla chips, and we honestly think they taste better too, with the right tortillas.  You just don't get that flakiness with deep frying.  Oh, and a word to the wise... do not use gluten free spinach tortillas you find at Whole Foods just because they sound cool.  They do not taste good.  At all.  Just use Mission flour tortillas...

4 flour tortillas (I like using Mission brand tortillas)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat oven to 350.  Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges, like a pie.  Place in large bowl.  Drizzle with oil and salt.  Using tongs, coat each wedge with the oil and salt.  Place the wedges carefully on two baking sheets (you don't want them stacked on top of each other), and place them in the over for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Smoky Strawberry and Corn Salsa

Jerry Seinfeld once argued that cinnamon should have a rightful spot in the pantheon of tabletop spices, standing right next to salt and pepper.  Yes, once again, I am referencing an episode of Seinfeld.  I am that topical with my pop culture references - Seinfeld, MASH, Alanis Morissette.  This, among other things, I take as evidence that we are old at heart.  

But I am in complete agreement with Jerry about cinnamon.  It definitely deserves to stand proudly next to the salt and pepper on tables everywhere.  Lately, however, I feel like I would add something else to that mix, and it may be a bit surprising... strawberries.  Apparently I've become quite smitten with them, adding them to everything from pate to breakfast sandwiches to black bean wraps to muffins - and now salsa.  This salsa omits tomatoes entirely in favor of strawberries, and when I say salsa, yes, I mean for chip dipping.  Sweet, spicy, smoky, and sour, it's a surprisingly great match, and the fact that it looks a bit like regular salsa is a fun play on the senses.  Just one more example to convince me that strawberries can be used almost anywhere to make something better.

1 cup corn kernels, either thawed if frozen or fresh
1 1/2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese

This is super easy.  Just toss the corn, strawberries, and jalapeno in a bowl.  In a small bowl, stir together the liquid smoke, lemon juice, and lemon zest.  Toss with the corn and berries, then stir in the cotija cheese.  Serve with chips.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Brown Butter Macaroni and Cheese

I'm such a sucker for fall. Pumpkins, maple syrup, nuts, pumpkins, vanilla, nutmeg, apples, pears, cinnamon...did i mention the pumpkins?  Then there are the changing colors of the leaves and those crisp sunny days with a slight chill filling the air.  I totally pine for all those romantic fall activities - pumpkin patches and apple orchards, hay rides and corn mazes.  So, it is ironic.  Hmm, I don't think ironic is right, unless we are talking about the Alanis Morissette definition of ironic.  But it is a wonderful cosmic life coincidence that I now live in Southern California... where there is no autumn.  Don't get me wrong, I really do love and appreciate the weather here, but every now and then, I long for fall, especially on hot, humid, summer days like today.  So I bring fall home to me, imagining that there are deciduous trees outside my window - with leaves changing color and full of those brilliant shades of gold and red and orange instead of palm trees, and i surround myself with pumpkins and squashes and scents of cinnamon.  I eat food that makes me think of fall.  I recently had one of those days.  My very own fall day created inside my head... and I ate this mac and cheese.  It has an earthy, nutty taste with flecks of crisp orange carrots that just says fall to me.

10 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni, just slightly undercooked
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 cup finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and ground
1/2 cup panko
2 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
1 stick of butter, chopped into small, even-size pieces
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 pound good quality cheddar (I actually used Beecher’s Flagship cheese), grated
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

In a bowl, mix together the carrots and cauliflower and set aside.  In another bowl, mix together the panko, flax seeds, and walnuts, and set aside.  In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Keep and eye on the butter, it will become foamy and brown specks will be at the bottom of the pan, and it will have a wonderful nutty fragrance. Be sure not to blacken the butter.  Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the flour.  Return the pan to medium heat.  Once a roux has formed, stir in the milk, stirring frequently.  Once that has thickened (about 8 minutes), stir in salt, mustard, and cheeses.  Add in the macaroni and the vegetables.  Heat oven to 350.  Grease an 8x8 pan. Pour in the macaroni mixture.  Top with the panko mixture.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the inside is bubbly.  Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Crispy Buttermilk Sage Chicken Drumsticks

This is the chicken you imagine bringing on a picnic.  You know the picnic... the one where you gather all the appropriate utensils and and a blanket (preferably a red plaid one), and you place them ever so lovingly in an oversize wicker basket.  Then you gather a couple other food items, maybe a crisp green salad, a rustic looking stone fruit tart, and a bottle of wine, a chilled rosé if possible.  You head to a ridiculously scenic location with an ocean view and wildflower blossoms surrounding you, of course.

But... you never actually go on that picnic.  It isn't because you don't like picnics in theory.  You just don't like picnics in practice.  You realize that the chicken will probably be cold and the salad wilted.  That scenic location is actually a public park, so you can't bring that bottle of wine.  I mean, i guess you could bring a flask, but that is a bit less romantic.  And you remember the ants and other assorted bugs creeping around the food and blanket.  So instead, you eat the chicken in the comfort of your own home, warm and crispy, fresh out of the oven, on clean plates with your glass of rosé, and imagine the original, umblemished version of that picnic at the beach.

6 chicken drumsticks
1-2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup chopped sage leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pie pan or 8x8 baking dish

Place the chicken in a ziplock bag and pour enough buttermilk over the pieces so that they are coated.  Let the chicken marinate in the buttermilk overnight.  Heat oven to 450.  Pour melted butter in the baking dish.  In a shallow bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and sage leaves.  Take each chicken drumstick and coat generously in the flour mixture.  Place in the baking dish and repeat for each drumstick.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until the bottom side is nice and crispy.  Flip and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until the other side is browned as well.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Clam Dip

I could feel the clams mocking me. Mocking me for my predictability. They were
right. I was going to make linguine with clam sauce. With canned clams. Thats right.  canned clams.  I can feel your disdain seeping through the computer screen. But I will contend that the canned clams actually work better than fresh for sauce or dip purposes. Each bite gets some of that briny clam taste.  And also, my mom would make me linguine with clam sauce every year for my birthday growing up. So there is the nostalgia factor, and as we all know, that nostalgia factor can be quite powerful. But incidentally, while I can make my mom’s linguine with clam sauce… it never is quite the same. So mom, next time I visit, i need you to make me linguine with clam sauce!  So back to the clams. The canned clams. I decided to throw them a curve ball. I decided to turn them into a dip. Naturally!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
6.5 ounce can of chopped or minced clams 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
8 ounce wedge of brie, chopped
6 ounces cream cheese
generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped oregano

To prepare the dip: Heat oven to 375.  Heat olive oil and butter over  medium-low and add shallot and garlic.  Saute until shallots are soft.  Add the white wine and increase the heat.  Reduce.  Add the the can of clams, including the juice, as well as the lemon juice and lemon zest.   Add the brie and cream cheese.  Stir in the pepper and oregano.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden-brown.  Stir and sprinkle more oregano, if desired. 
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