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Walnut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

22 Aug

Banana bread with chocolate and walnuts

Is it really the 22nd of August- when did that happen?? Clearly the summer has gotten away from me, as I was in England and Italy for the first half of the month and barely had time to recover before going to New York to pack up our house before my parents’ impending move.  Given that I start grad school next week, I have a feeling my posts will be getting even more infrequent, but I do have a stack of things to post over the next few weeks.  I will start with this, which is sure to relieve any start of school stress we may be experiencing.

As usual, we had some almost-rotten fruit sitting in our fruit bowl  which had to be eaten immediately, so I decided to try out this recipe for banana bread from Smitten Kitchen.  Of course, I had the wrong pan so decided I would make the bread into brownie-sized pieces, and once I decided that I thought I might as well throw some chocolate chips and walnuts into the mix.  The result was wonderful, and lasted for over a week kept in the fridge.  Although the chocolate chips and butter don’t make this the healthiest breakfast, it is certainly one of the most tasty.

Walnut Chocolate Chip Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Equipment: Large mixing bowl, wooden spoon, 9×13 pan or 4×8 loaf pan

Ingredients
4 very ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted salted butter (add a bit more salt if you have unsalted)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.  Mix in the sugar, egg, vanilla, and then the spices.  Make sure to mix in the egg well.  Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.  Add the flour and mix.  Finally, add the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix to incorporate.  Pour mixture into a buttered 9×13 pan, and bake for about 30 minutes.  Check after 25 minutes to see if a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, cut into squares and enjoy!  Keeps well at room temperature or refrigerated, stored in clingfilm or tinfoil.

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Lemon Raspberry Yogurt Cake

1 Aug

Delicious summer cake

Summer seems to have gotten away with us slightly. I still owe you a Morocco post, Roxie has now skipped off on her own vacation, and I have not done nearly enough cooking with all of the beautiful summer produce.

I attempted to "pick my own" raspberries for this, but seemed to have missed the good ones. (I bought extra)

This cake was my first attempt, post-Morocco, to rectify that. It is quick, it is delicious, and it is extremely versatile. Throw in whatever berry you want, switch out the lemon… I think a lime/raspberry combination would also be delicious. I had way fewer raspberries than called for and it still worked out fine, just more lemony than raspberry-y. Basically, this is a great cake to make the most out of summer fruit without too much effort.

I couldn't find a whisk (or many baking supplies at all) in our English kitchen

Lemon Raspberry Yogurt Cake (Adapted, as always, from Smitten Kitchen)

Equipment: Mixing bowls, whisk, zester/grater, loaf tin or other cake pan (adjust baking time if using different sized pan)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup regular sugar plus 1 tbsp caster/superfine sugar, if you have it
3 extra-large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Method: Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a standard loaf tin, then line with greaseproof paper and grease and flour the paper.
Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup of the sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Toss the berries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and carefully fold into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about fifty minutes, checking that a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Towards the end of the cooking time, make a glaze. If using granulated sugar, cook together the lemon juice and 1 tbsp of sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is clear. If using caster/superfine sugar, you can get away without cooking it if you’re lazy like me. (You can also get away with this if using granulated, and will have a nice crunchy glaze.)
When the cake is done, remove and allow to cool for ten minutes in the pan before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake while it is still warm, with something underneath to catch the drippings. Little holes made with a toothpick in the cake help to draw the syrup in better. Cool and serve!

Homemade Pico de Gallo and Guacamole

8 Jul

Yum Pico!

This post is well past due, as Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines (the margaritas may have something to do with this), and guacamole is my favorite Mexican condiment.  I first made this for a barbecue a few weeks ago, and made it again for camping this past weekend.  Although fresh guacamole really doesn’t keep more than 24 hours, it worked well for camping, as I made the pico de gallo and then brought the whole avocados, so all we had to do campfire-side was cut and mash up the avocados and mix the whole thing together.  Some of our group was napping in our tent during the guacamole making/eating, and we only very half-hardheartedly yelled down the path to tell them about it.  Hey, no one wants to share guacamole.  It’s not like they starved, I promise- camping meals included lamb burgers, greek salad, bbq chicken, spicy sausages, and chocolate chip/walnut/raisin cookies.  Clearly we don’t mess around when it comes to food, even if it does have to be cooked over a fire.

Buttery Avocado Deliciousness

To make the pico and guac, you just have to chop up some vegetables and herbs, season with lime and salt, and mash with very ripe avocados.  Although I am sometimes weary of lots of heat, the jalapenos do add a great extra kick to the pico, and they don’t make it overly spicy at all, especially if you take out most of the membrane and seeds.  The most important thing for both of these is to taste and adjust the seasonings at least once- our resident Cali-girl Alicia was an expert at getting the perfect lime to salt to avocado ratio, and you can be too as long as you keep adjusting the flavor until you have perfect guacamole.  Just be careful not to set the plate down unattended, this stuff goes pretty fast.

Pico de Gallo
Makes one small bowl

Ingredients
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/3 onion, diced
1-2 jalapenos, diced (seeded and de-membraned if you’re spice-adverse)
1/2 bunch cilantro, or to taste
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Chop up all the ingredients and add to a medium sized bowl.  Use less cilantro if you want, just discard the stems and chop up the leaves roughly. Mix together, add lime juice and salt to taste.  Pico will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Guacamole
Serves about 4

5 whole avocados
Pico de Gallo
Lime juice from half a lime
Salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half lengthwise, and take out the pit (I use a knife to stab it and rotate, but assume no responsibility if someone chops off their hand with this method).  Scoop out all of the avocado flesh using a spoon, and place all of the avocados on a plate.  Mash with a fork, but leave chunky.  Add a pile of pico de gallo to the avocados and mix together.  Season with lime and salt to taste, and add more pico if desired.  Keeps 24 hours, covered with clingfilm in the fridge.

Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas

23 Jun

Quesadillas!!

Mmmm Mexican food.  It is one of my favorite cuisines- just tonight I was planning on going to yoga, got hungry, and ate a burrito instead.  Story of my life.  These mushroom and spinach quesadillas with goat cheese are not really Mexican-y, but they do demonstrate how easy quesadillas are to make with a variety of fillings.  The main filling is mushrooms cooked with wine and spinach, combined with not one but two types of cheese. They were simple to make and assemble, and I’ve made a few more quesadillas since using leftovers such as the grilled chicken we made over the weekend.

The assembly process

I made these particular quesadillas twice in one week to use up all of the ingredients, and altered them slightly the second time to improve them.  Fontina cheese was suggested, but I didn’t want to buy yet another type of cheese when I currently have NINE different varieties in my fridge (Yes, nine. I just checked. And that doesn’t include what my roommate has. We may have a slight cheese-obsession).  I tried these with mozzarella, but I found the texture to stringy for quesadillas, so I used my cheddar/Gruyere mix the next time which was much better in terms of both texture and flavor.  I think any mildly flavored cheddar or non-soft cheese would work just fine.  When assembling the quesadillas, just make sure that the non-soft cheese is both the bottom and top layer, as this is what keeps the whole thing from falling apart.  I also added some onions and garlic to the veggies the second time around, which greatly upped the interest, and put more wine in the mushrooms.  The end result was delicious, and to continue with the Mexican theme look out for a homemade guacamole recipe in the next few days!

Mushroom and Spinach Quesadillas
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
Makes 1 quesadilla, serves 1 for dinner

Equipment: Knife, frying pan, grill pan (or reuse a large frying pan), cheese grater

Ingredients
1/2 pint cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 clove garlic
1 shallot or about 1/4 an onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup wine or sherry
2 large flour tortillas
3 oz grated cheese such as Fontina or cheddar
2 oz goat cheese
Salt and pepper
Extra butter for tortillas
Salsa for serving (optional)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat and add sliced mushrooms, garlic, and onion.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes, then add wine and continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are brown, another 6-8 minutes.  Remove the mix from pan and set aside.

Return pan to heat and reduce heat to medium-low.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in pan, and add the spinach.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for about 2 minutes, until spinach has just wilted. Remove and set aside.

To assemble the quesadillas, heat a grill pan (or large frying pan), over medium-high heat.  Spread some butter on the grill pan and put the first quesadilla in the pan, followed by 1/2 of the Fontina cheese, then the mushroom mix, then spinach.  Crumble some goat cheese over the spinach and finish with the rest of the Fontina.  Top with the second quesadilla and smear butter on top, then flip and cook the other side.  When both sides are golden brown with some grill marks remove and cut into four pieces with a pizza cutter or knife.  Serve with salsa if desired.

Summer Vegetable Pastas

20 Jun

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream

Taking a break from the plethora of potluck recipes (don’t worry, they will be back- I made amazing grilled ricotta chicken and homemade guacamole for our BBQ this weekend), I thought it would be nice to showcase some summery pasta dishes, using the fresh spring vegetables that are miraculously avaliable everywhere now.  Plus, clearly I can’t go a week without making some kind of pasta concoction, and I figure the addition of mounds of veggies helps me justify eating half a pound of pasta in one sitting.

So many vegetables- Pasta wtih Snap Peas, Asparagus and Goat Cheese

The first recipe is for pasta with prosciutto, snap peas, cream and mint, and I immediately bookmarked it when I saw it on Food 52 a couple of weeks ago.  Not only did I already have prosciutto in the fridge, but I love snap peas, AND it gave me an opportunity to use the first of the mint in our ever-burgeoning herb garden.  It may seem like this has a lot of things going on, but all of the flavors compliment each other nicely, and the snap peas add a crunch which is unexpected in a pasta dish.  I enjoyed that the mint added an extra fresh springy flavor, but if you don’t love mint in savory dishes this would be almost as delicious without it.  Despite having quite a few ingredients, this really just requires some chopping and then throwing everything into a pan, and it came together in pretty much the time it takes to boil and cook  the pasta.

After my discovery of this great combination of flavors I used leftover snap peas and some asparagus I had in the fridge for another summer-inspired pasta dish.  I was out of prosciutto and omitted the cream in this dish, but added goat cheese and fresh basil (also from our herb garden!) for an even simpler version.  Both recipes come together in under half an hour and are great uses of summer vegetables, so go down to your farmers market and get shopping!

Our herb garden! The basil is doing slightly better than the parsley. The mint is separate as apparently it is mean and overtakes everything.

Pasta with Prosciutto, Snap Peas, Mint and Cream
Adapted from Food 52
Serves 4

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto shank, finely diced (regular thin prosciutto works too)
4 shallots or 1/2 onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound fresh snap peas, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3/4 pounds small pasta such as farfalle, penne, or orechiette
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by chopping your vegetables. Put a pan of salted water on to boil.  Add pasta whenever it is boiling, but start to get your sauce ready in the meantime.  Do this by heating the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan- when it is warm add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant but not burnt.  Add prosciutto and cook an additional 3-4 minutes (if using thin prosciutto cook only 1-2 minutes).  Add the shallots or onions and cook until they are beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

With about 3 or 4 minutes left until the pasta is ready, add the peas to the frying pan.  After 2-3 minutes add the cream and quickly bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add the cheese, stir in, and reduce heat to low.  Drain the pasta when it is ready, and toss everything together in a big bowl. Add the chopped mint, garnish with more Parmesan cheese, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Pasta with Snap Peas, Asparagus, and Goat Cheese
Serves 2

Equipment: Saucepan, frying pan, wooden spoon or spatula, knife

Ingredients:
6 oz fresh snap peas (really however much you want- I used half of a 12 oz bag), chopped
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, tough ends discarded and then chopped
1 clove garlic
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Put salted pasta water on to boil and chop your vegetables.  Add the pasta to the water when it is boiling, and heat up olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  When the oil is warm add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Next add the snap peas and asparagus, and cook for another 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to the vegetables.  Turn down the heat if the vegetables begin to brown while you wait for the pasta to cook.  Drain pasta when it is ready, reserving some of the pasta water.  Immediately toss with the vegetables, goat cheese, basil, and Parmesan.  If the sauce needs thinning add some of the pasta water, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately with more Parmesan to garnish.

Strawberries, Two Ways

18 Jun

Summer in a cake

While we’re on the theme of excellent dishes to bring to barbeques/potlucks, both of these fit the bill. I hope you’ve been checking out your local farmer’s market recently, and if you have you probably have lots and lots of strawberries (and not too much other fruit yet, unfortunately). The first dish, a strawberry-balsamic flatbread-y thing, is awesome because it allows you to use up those strawberries even if you don’t want to make a dessert! The dough was also so much fun to work with– really pillowy and soft, it was very easy to knead, so don’t be put off by that. I did end up thinking the bread was a little dry, however– I might reduce the baking time next time. I also don’t think the bread itself would suffer from adding a few more flavorings (though this could be because I forgot to add the salt till the last minute. D’oh). But even as is, this was a delicious addition to a potluck my friends and I had last week.

Foccacia/flatbread/delicious thing

The second dish is a super simple strawberry cake. Though it takes a little time to bake, it’s perfect if you want a dessert to use up a ton of berries and wow your friends (or yourself), without spending a long time messing with pie crusts or anything like that. My batter was a little thick and absolutely COVERED in berries, so I was a little unsure that it would rise up as shown in Deb’s pictures, but it turned out looking absolutely amazing. My one tip would be to layer up more on the edges than in the middle… the middle became basically a pool of strawberries on my cake, which was delicious but perhaps not optimal.
So hurry down to the farmer’s market (or, ok, the supermarket) and snap up some strawberries before the season’s over!

Cramming in as many strawberries as possible

Strawberry Balsamic Flatbread with Goat Cheese (Adapted from Joy the Baker)
Equipment: baking sheet
Ingredients:
5 teaspoons (about 2 packages) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 cups of flour, divided into 1 cup increments
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
zest 1 orange
1 cup thinly sliced strawberries (less than a pint)
coarse sea salt
1/2 cup goat cheese
balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh mint or basil

Method:

In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water.  Stir with a fork to dissolve and break up any clumps.  Add one cup of flour and blend together until smooth (can use the fork).  Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. If your oven has a “proof” setting, and there is no warm place in your house, you can use this.

After the mixture has risen, remove the covering and stir in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, sugar, and orange zest.  Add one cup of flour and stir to blend.  Add the remaining cup of flour and salt and work together into a dough with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/3 cup more flour and knead.  Dough will be slightly sticky, and that’s alright.

Clean out the large bowl and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.  Place dough in the bowl, and flip it over so that it’s entirely coated in oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and knead for just a minute, before pulling and stretching the dough into a 16×9-inch rectangle (a little smaller than a standard baking sheet). Place on a greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

When dough has risen, use your fingers to make random indentations in the puffed dough.  Drizzle with olive oil (carefully, it is difficult to not have it all go in one place!).  Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.  Bake bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden, crisp and baked through. As noted above, if you want it a little softer, perhaps bake for a little less time. If one side is browning faster than the other, rotate the pan once, halfway through baking.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  Chop mint or basil and crumble goat cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar, and then sprinkle with herbs and goat cheese. Slice into twelve pieces with pizza cutter. Serve immediately, it only really keeps for a day.

Simple Strawberry Cake (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Equipment: Electric mixer (hand or stand), 9 or 10-inch springform or cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (can substitute 3/4 cup for barley flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) strawberries

Method: Hull and halve the strawberries, set aside. Butter your 9 or 10-inch springform/cake pan, or 10-inch pie pan (or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan).
Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and one cup sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in egg, milk, and vanilla until just combined. Mixture may look slightly curdled, this is fine. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour (or spoon, in my case) into prepared pan. Spread mixture evenly, if needed, and arrange strawberries on top, cut side down, in as close to a single layer as you can get. (I had to overlap them a bit, and ended up using just shy of a pound because I felt there were enough on there.) Sprinkle remaining two tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake for another 50-75 (my time) minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter. I found I was still getting some crumbs sticking to my tester after quite a long time, but eventually decided that was just due to the moistness of the cake. Let cool in pan on a rack, and serve. It should keep for two days, lightly covered, at room temperature.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad

12 Jun

Dinner! Or lunch! Or a snack! This works for everything.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats and immediately bookmarked it because it is made almost entirely of ingredients that are lurking somewhere in the depths of my very messy fridge or cabinets.  I don’t usually eat canned tuna, but after this I was reminded how versatile and tasty it is- I got the good-quality stuff packed in olive oil, but I’m sure regular old canned tuna would work just fine.  This isn’t a recipe for you if you don’t like quite strong flavors, as it includes red onions, capers, and the tuna, but since the potatoes make up the bulk of the salad the other ingredients aren’t too overwhelming, and all complement each other nicely.  This was delicious as a dinner served warm, and every bit as good straight out of the fridge the next day.  I simplified this a bit from the original, which called for multiple bowls and carrots and onions pretty pointlessly boiling with the potatoes to flavor them.  I’m making this salad again right now for lunch this week, and added some asparagus that I bought today to the mix to spice things up a bit and make it even more summery.

Fingerling Potato and Tuna Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 2-3 (The original says 4, so apparently I eat twice as much as they anticipated.)

Equipment: Saucepan, bowl, knife
Ingredients:
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 can tuna in olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped capers
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Small handful arugula
1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Put potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil with a bay leaf if you have one.  Boil until tender, then drain and slice.  Toss with olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl.  Drain tuna and add to the bowl, along with the chopped onion, capers, asparagus, and parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more olive oil or vinegar if needed.  Add the arugula and toss together.  Serve warm or keep in the fridge and serve cold.


Greek Summer Salad

5 Jun

Greek salad with peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and feta

As the season of endless barbecues approaches, it is always good to have a couple of stand by dishes that are easy to make and easily transportable.  I like bringing side salads that are more substantial than simply lettuce and dressing, such as potato salad or this pepper/cucumber/tomato salad.  I love this twist on a classic Greek salad, which only requires chopping up a few ingredients and throwing them in a bowl.  It is especially good for bringing places because the lack of lettuce and marinade-type dressing means it doesn’t get soggy, and actually gets even more delicious in the fridge overnight as the flavors all meld together.  The dressing is a very fresh red wine vinegar version, made even better by first using it to pickle the onions, which really takes out the bite of raw onion that not everyone is a fan of.  My only regret in making this twice in the past month for various barbecues is that it gets eaten up so quickly that I wish I had saved some in the fridge just for myself.

Greek Summer Salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Equipment: Bowl, knife, salad servers (or a couple large spoons to mix everything)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 a red onion, diced quite finely
2 or 3 bell peppers
1 cucumber
1/4 pound firm feta cheese
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the red wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a smallish bowl until the salt and sugar have dissolved.  Add the diced onion and set aside for a few minutes.

Core and seed the bell peppers, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces, and place in a large salad bowl.  Chop the cucumber and feta into similar sized pieces and put them into the bowl as well.  Drain the onions from the vinegar mixture, but reserve the vinegar for the dressing.  Add the onions to the salad bowl, along with about 1/4 cup of the vinegar mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together and adjust the dressing to taste- I usually use most of the vinegar mixture in the end. Serve immediately or let rest in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Rhubarb-Onion Compote plus Top Chef tour

18 May

Rhubarb compote, pork chop, and roast veggies. Yum.

I am a huge rhubarb fan, and have been craving some delicious rhubarb baked goods since the season started. But last night we were having pork chops for dinner, and I thought I’d pick up some rhubarb to try it out in a savory dish. We often make an apple-onion compote to go with pork chops, so I thought I’d sub in rhubarb for the apple and see how it turned out. I was pretty pleased with the results, though it hasn’t quite satisfied my craving for strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb-Onion Compote
Equipment: Heavy-bottomed saucepan, knife, wooden spoon
Ingredients:
1/2 tbsp butter
1 medium-sized onion
About 7 stalks rhubarb
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste (I used turbinado/raw sugar)
1 tsp ground ginger
Method: Roughly dice onions. Discard ends of rhubarb and chop into half-inch pieces. Melt butter in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook over low heat until they are starting to soften, a few minutes. Add rhubarb, balsamic, and about a tablespoon of sugar, and ginger. Turn heat to low, and simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure the bottom isn’t burning. Add a splash of water if things are starting to look dry, but rhubarb has a lot of water in it. Taste after fifteen minutes. If it is too tart, add more sugar. Rhubarb is quite tart, but the onion provides some sweetness as it cooks. It is done when the onion has lost all of its crunch. Serve over grilled pork chops.

In other food-related news, the Top Chef tour stopped at the Stew Leonard’s near us today, so I went to check it out. The basic idea of this tour is that they have two previous contestants, who come up and have fifteen minutes to make a dish using certain ingredients (they were given some time to prep beforehand, so this wasn’t exactly like the high-stress quickfires on the show). Then judges decide which chef wins. There were two judges from Foodspotting already there, but they picked one from the audience as well. Thanks to my Top Chef trivia knowledge, I got picked! The two chefs were Ash and Angelo, and the food was delicious. Angelo, of course, went all Asian-inspired with a mock kimchi and a spicy chocolate sauce on his beef (the sauce was incredible, but kind of overpowered everything else). Ash made a very fresh herby salad, with an amazing aioli that he made in front of us. We went with Ash as the winner, though I might try out that sauce of Angelo’s when the recipe goes up online. It was fun being able to chat to the chefs and eat the food that I’m always craving when I watch the show… definitely check out if the tour is stopping by near you!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Angelo's dish, a bit more Top Chef-y

Ash's winning dish

Ash makes his aioli

Angelo doing some blending action

Shakshuka (Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

8 May

Does this look like Mickey Mouse to anyone else?

I am a big fan of cheap dinners that use mainly ingredients I already have in my cupboard, and this is one of my favorite go-to weeknight dinners for when I want something more exciting than pasta or a baked potato.  It is an Israeli dish of a spicy tomato sauce with poached eggs and feta cheese, and is seriously delicious.  I suppose the addition of eggs make this a brunch-appropriate meal, but I will eat eggs any time of the day, and have always made this for dinner.  It really only takes about 15 minutes to throw together and another 20 or so to cook, so is easy enough to make whenever you want.  I usually make a big batch, and eat it a couple nights a week, heating up the sauce and adding more eggs as needed.   You can also use any leftover sauce with pasta, cous cous, or as a pizza sauce if you don’t want the eggs every time.  The spice level can also be adjusted to your tastes- I usually err on the side of caution and only add 2 jalapenos, but if you’re making a big batch I would recommend adding one more, as the peppers really lose their spice once chopped up and cooked.

Shakshuka
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen/Saveur Mag

Poached eggs simmering away

Serves 4 to 6

Equipment: Knife, large saucepan, wooden spoon, bowl

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
5 Anaheim or 3 Jalapeno chilies, stemmed, seeded and chopped finely
1 small to medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced thinly
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (diced works too)
6 eggs (or as many as needed)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Pita bread for serving
Salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add chilies and onions and sautee until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, another 2 minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid in a large bowl and crush with your hands (this is a seriously good stress reliever).  Add the crushed tomatoes and liquid to the saucepan, along with 1/2 cup water, and simmer about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly.  Season with salt, then crack eggs over the sauce.  Cover saucepan and cook until the whites are set and yolk still runny, about 5 minutes.  Spoon out eggs and tomato sauce onto plates, and sprinkle the feta and parsley over each plate. Serve with pitas for dipping, or alternatively cous cous on the side.