Soba valentine.

IMG_3397

Winter is drinking out of mugs and eating from bowls. Winter is Valentine’s Day- we say we don’t like it but love it anyways. Winter is the scarf you knit in eighth grade and still wear; it’s remembering and nesting. And, as it happens, winter is finding the last delicata squash, sweet and tender and golden, in a picked-over bin at the market. Which is what happened this past week and is what leads me to soba.

This recipe employs a lean winter larder- seaweed, soba, kale, squash- and a bit of memory. When I was in high school, I spent some time as a foreign exchange student in Japan. My first bite on the mainland was that of soba. It was summer, and the soba was hot, and I was jetlagged in an Ambien-induced haze. Needless to say, soba was not particularly impressive to my sixteen year-old self; it would take a nudge from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, seaweed, and a little pantry desperation to make me reconsider the earthy, buckwheat soba noodle.

IMG_3389IMG_3356IMG_3343

Living near the ocean in Seattle makes me want to try new things. Maybe that’s why unbelievably ridiculous shows like Jersey Shore and The Real World happen on the beach. The expanse of unknown water, the strange little creatures that make their way onto the shore, the barnacles and salt; I’d like to think that, though oceanic nudging, I’ve become a new-found devotee of many new things, including soba. (Other subjects- thigh tattoos, double IPAs, purposeful hipster mullets- are still under debate.)

In recent times, soba has gone mainstream and you’ll find it in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores. Watch it when you’re boiling the noodles; cooked too long soba will be as bland and mushy as boiled cardboard noodles. Cooked al dente and seasoned while still warm and soba takes on a new identity: buttery, complex, and beautifully supple.

So, soba, tonight for Valentine’s Day dinner when you ask me to remember you and to cook and to love you, I will check “yes.” You taste exotic and yet comforting, humble and rich. You absorb flavors like no other noodle and you soften tough vegetables like kale and seaweed. It’s nice to dine with you again. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! ❤

IMG_3421

Soba with Seaweed and Delicata Squash

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango” from Plenty.

Serves four.

  • 2 medium delicata squash, cored and sliced in 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (such as canola oil)
  • 1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • small bunch of lacinato kale, roughly chopped
  • 12 ounces / 3 bunches dried soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • grated zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 sheets dried seaweed laver, cut in strips
  • handful of fresh cilantro and/or parsley, chopped
  • handful black sesame seeds and/or peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

In a large bowl, toss delicata squash rounds with  1/4 cup brown sugar, canola oil, and a hefty pinch of salt. Pour out onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally , until squash is crisp and caramelized.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Make the dressing by combining vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger , sesame oil, and lemon zest and juice in a jar. Shake jar until sugar dissolves and liquids emulsify.

Cook the soba noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, per package instructions, or until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry in the colander or on a tea towel. While the noodles are still warm, place in a large bowl and toss with dressing, cooked squash, onions, kale, some of the seaweed, and most of the herbs. Garnish with remaining seaweed, remaining herbs, and peanuts and serve warm.

IMG_3372

Y’all, buttermilk biscuits!

IMG_3272

While home in Georgia for the holidays, I took Harvard University’s dialect test online.

Well, y’all, turns out I’m a southerner.

IMG_3231

IMG_3244

When I was growing up in Atlanta, I wasn’t very fond of the south.

Actually, I did everything I could to prove I was not southern. When asked where I was from, I said Australia. During the “Freedom Fries” mania, I ordered French Frites. Okra made me gag. My parents were the only liberals within a forty-mile radius who dared put “vote democrat” signs in their yard, and I was proud of it. In high school, I skipped as many football games as was humanly possible without committing social suicide. And I insisted on leaving the south before I turned fifteen, escaping to the farthest parts of the world I could think of: Japan, India, Guatemala, Nepal.

Yet no matter how hard I tried, I still say y’all. I would trade my future child for a Price’s Chicken Coop fried chicken dinner; I know the words to every Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton song. And yes, oh yes, I love down-home, sweet and flaky, buttermilk biscuits.

For years, I have searched for the best biscuits. I’ve tried many in restaurants– Skillet Diner in Seattle and Swallow at the Hollow in Atlanta make my favorites. But I needed to eat biscuits that I had made in my own kitchen. I needed to cut butter and lard into flour, to feel silken buttermilk as I worked dough together with my hands. It would prove to myself who I was: a southerner.

It seems fitting that, just as I have begun to accept the south, I would find my homemade biscuits. It happened on New Year’s Day. My mom fried quail and boiled collards and beets; I made biscuits, trying out a new but sworn-by recipe. Sitting down to the table, we were a picture of the post-church Sunday Dinner Southern Gothic.

The biscuits tasted as they should: light yet sour, flaky yet rich. To me, they tasted like the south: tender and sweet.

IMG_3273

Ma Mae’s Buttermilk Biscuits

Recipe adapted from fellow Georgian and foodist brother, Alton Brown, who, for years, has sought to recreate his Ma Mae’s* biscuits. I suggest you serve these biscuits with butter and sorghum or molasses, as pictured above. It’s the southern way.

*Ma Mae: n. southern for grandmother (synonyms: mammy, grandmammy, granny, me-ma, etc…)

Makes a dozen.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces, cold
  • 2 tablespoons shortening, cut into small pieces, cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk, cold

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease a rimmed baking sheet or pie pan. Prepare a clean surface with flour.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. As quickly as possible, rub cold butter and shortening into dry ingredients with your fingertips until mixture looks like small peas; don’t let the fats melt. Make a well in the center and pour in the cold buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together; it will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on rimmed pan so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible, and continue cutting.

Bake until biscuits are tall and golden brown on top, 12 to 18 minutes.

Christmas dinner.

IMG_2766

It’s a magical time we’re in now, isn’t it?

Magical except for the constant traffic, frightening encounters with last-minute shoppers, and annual family conflict reenactments. It’s a bummer that life gets stressful during the times we hope to savor; but, hey, this is why we have sugar cookie highs and mulled wine! To keep Christmas sane and the candy canes and silver lanes aglow, my family’s planning a simple Christmas dinner.

We’ll have smoked ham glazed with Byrd & Duncan beer syrup, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, my grandmother’s famous cream of chicken soup dressing, deliciously southern sorghum green beans, and a couple homemade pies. There will be plenty of wine and a cocktail or two. There will be the conversation about civil war ethics, how much we love/hate Charles Dickens, and, of course, a ridiculous amount of laughter, even more than the amount of wine we will drink.

Happy Christmas! Here’s to peace, good food, and your crazy-wonderful family.

IMG_2764

Green Beans with Sorghum and Sesame

Makes enough for 8 as a side. Adapted from Bon Appétit.

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sorghum syrup or 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let cool. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Toss beans and oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk soy sauce, sorghum, sesame seeds, and cumin in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add warm beans and toss to coat.

A savory pumpkin pie.

IMG_2788

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is almost here!

I was impressed at how quickly holiday spirit happened this year. Only one day after Halloween, radio stations started to play Christmas music, candy canes showed up at the grocery store, and my email inbox bulged with the blogosphere’s proliferation of Thanksgiving recipes; I blame/thank all the people strung out on pumpkin spice lattes. The holidays are a happy time (come on, who doesn’t like an excuse to overindulge or to get presents) and, even after too many glasses of eggnog, I always wish they would stay around longer.

IMG_8321

Because the pumpkin spice latte craze and winter celebrations are here to stay, I’ve been experimenting with creative takes on traditional holiday fare to keep November interesting.

Consider the pumpkin pie. Creamy, cinnamon and nutmeg spiced, the pumpkin pie’s a Thanksgiving staple I want to like. But I can’t get over its often overly sweet filling or soggy, bland under-baked crust; most pumpkin pies are too disappointing to even call pies. So when I found a recipe for savory pumpkin pie from Nigel Slater, a Brit who most likely does not celebrate Thanksgiving and (thankfully) is not familiar with disgraceful American pumpkin pies, I got excited.

Nigel calls for puff pastry in place of pie dough, a choice that yields perfectly crisp, golden, anti-soggy crust, and I love how just a pinch of cinnamon and salt brings out pumpkin’s natural sweetness. In short, savory pumpkin pie actually tastes like pumpkin. (Yes!)  I’m thankful this pie will earn a annual spot on my Thanksgiving table.

IMG_2804

Savory Pumpkin Pie

From Notes from the Larder: A Kitchen Diary with Recipes by Nigel Slater.

Serves six as a side.

  • 2 and 3/4 lbs peeled and seeded pumpkin
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Thick slice of butter
  • Generous pinch of cinnamon, salt, and pepper
  • 13 oz puff pastry
  • Egg, lightly beaten, for brushing
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Prepare two baking sheets, one with foil and the other with parchment.
  2. Cut pumpkin in to uniform, small cubes and steam for 15 to 20 minutes, or until flesh is tender.
  3. Remove from heat and transfer to foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with oil, butter, cinnamon, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 30 to forty minutes, until the pumpkin begins to lightly caramelize. Remove pumpkin from oven and mash with a fork. Maintain oven temperature.
  4. Lightly flour a cool surface, cut pastry in half, and roll out each piece to a 9 x 14 inch rectangle. Lay one rectangle on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Leaving a margin on the corners, pile pumpkin on the pastry. Brush pastry margins with egg. Lay second piece of pastry on top and press edges firmly to seal. To prevent splitting during cooking, make 3 slits on the top of the pastry. Brush pie with egg, then freeze for 20 minutes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Mandarin and cumin salad.

1-DSC_0109-001I moved!
Well… ahem, I speak too soon. Am moving; I’m still in transition, which is a nice way of saying that the apartment is filled wall to wall with suitcases, IKEA boxes, dirty clothes, and a collection of nude statues I forgot I had packed.

1-IMG_0264

Cosette, my new old blue typewriter. (Aie!)

Cosette, my new old blue typewriter (aie!), above. View from my garden rooftop, far above, and a sunset from Carkeek park, below.

1-IMG_0286

Needless to say I’m craving a little zen in the midst of my mess. These past days I haven’t had much time to cook and am opting for easy salads instead. One of my recent favorites is a simple early summer salad of crisp hearts of romaine, toasted almonds, and sour-sweet bits of orange sprinkled with poppy seeds. It pairs nicely with a refreshing honey and cumin vinaigrette I recreated from one I tried at Vinaigrette in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Yesterday I savored my mandarin and cumin salad with Pacific salmon caught that day, sunset over the city, and a glass of chilled white wine. Wine will help the boxes unpack themselves, won’t it?1-DSC_0103

Honey-Cumin Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil or almond oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon honey
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of salt

  1. Whisk ingredients together until emulsified and serve over salad of oranges, cucumbers, lettuce, and almonds.

Pizza that talks back.

1-DSC01426-006What does every college student crave?

1-004

Pizza. Gooey, greasy, crusty pizza.

The collegiate pizza-phile phenomenon is not exclusively American. My fellow classmates and I feasted on thin, rice flour crusts covered in yellow curry, tako octopus suction cups, and buttery scallops after school in Japan. In Nepal, my roommate and I celebrated her impending Nepali marriage ceremony and my return from independent research  over a 19th century desert plate-sized pizza. We ordered seconds even though the musty waterbuffalo’s milk cheese didn’t exactly taste like home.

These days pizza is so integrated into food cultures that you can’t even call it an Italian export.   1-DSC_0399-001

1-DSC_0413-001

1-DSC_0424

When I was a freshman in high school, my parents took me and my brother  to Naples. We went with one purpose. We sought to try pizza in its birthplace, in its most elemental, quintessential form.

We sat outside a small trattoria, our cafe chairs wobbly on the cobblestones. It was midday and hot and we were hungry from a long day of feigning Italian and playing Frogger in Naples traffic. It was the golden hour of our Italian journey and we ordered Pizza Neapolitan.

After a literal hour, the waiter dropped a burnt, anemic crust decorated with two lonely slices of mozzarella, a handful of basil leaves, and a mealy tomato on the table like a plate of norovirus or maybe Twinkies; it depends on the waiter’s opinion of American Hostess snack cakes.

Needless to say, our palates were disappointed. We didn’t realize it then, but we were looking a richer, more subtly flavored pizza we would never find in Italy. As soon as we got home and recovered from jetlag, we made a pizza piled high with Gruyere cheese and garlic and mushrooms and savored every piece of it.

1-11

In the past four college years my stomach has seen a lot of pizza; I’ve never been to a college event where I haven’t had the addictive triangle slices pushed on me as if they were a litter of free pound puppies awaiting death row.

Pizza from a box satisfies something deeply primal and collegiate within us. But when you toss dough smooth with olive oil or a friend crumbles feta over homemade sauce, pizza becomes a community event. It becomes a collective, anticipated, expressive celebration.

Pizza Neapolitan and Japanese curry pie are tastebud adventures, but no pizza compares to the kind you make with a couple friends, a cold beer, and your own accent.

What does your pizza’s accent sound like?

1-Spring 2013

1-DSC01425-002

Handmade Pizza

Makes two 10-12 inch pizzas. Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

Pizza Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105°F-115°F)
  • 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (can use all-purpose but bread flour will give you a crisper crust)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Cornmeal (to slide the pizza onto the pizza stone)

Pizza Toppings

  • Tomato sauce (depending on preference, you can use tomato puree, chunky jar sauce, or anything in between.)
  • Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Feta cheese
  • Caramelized mushrooms, thinly sliced (or whole if you’re going for a looker pizza), see below for caramelizing directions
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Pesto or minced garlic
  • Onions, thinly sliced
  • Optional and extravagant: salami or prosciutto, thinly sliced

Part One

  1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved or foaming.Add olive oil, flour, salt, and sugar and mix on low speed for about a minute with a stand mixer, hand-held mixer, or your very own brawny muscles.
  2. Knead dough in stand or hand-held mixer on low to medium speed with a dough hook attachment. Or, if you’re a poor college student without any sort of mixer or just want to get some frustration out, add a 1/4 cup flour to the dough and  turn out on to a floured, clean counter top. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (If the dough seems a little too wet, don’t be afraid to sprinkle on a bit more flour.)
  3. Place ball of dough in a bowl that has been coated lightly with olive oil. Turn the dough around in the bowl so that it gets coated with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit in a warm place (75-85°F) until it doubles in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or several hours longer, a longer rise will improve the flavor). If you live in North Dakota or are an air conditioner addict and don’t have a warm spot in the house, turn on your oven to its lowest setting for 2 minutes, let it cool a bit, and add your bowl of dough to rise.

Side Note: At this point, if you want to make your dough ahead, you can freeze the dough in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Part Two

  1. Place a pizza stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for 30 minutes (or an hour if you’re using a pizza stone.)
  2. Punch risen dough down so it deflates a bit and divide in two. Place each in its own bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Prepare your toppings. To caramelize mushrooms, with a bit of olive oil, salt, and baking soda (about 1 tsp) on medium heat for 10 minutes, our until golden brown. Prepare other toppings. (Note that you are not going to want to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings as the crust will end up not crisp that way. About a third a cup each of tomato sauce and cheese would be sufficient for one pizza. One to two mushrooms thinly sliced will cover a pizza.)

Part Three

  1. Take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further or reaches the desired diameter – 10 to 12 inches. Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. You can pinch the edges if you want to form a little crust fence. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil (to prevent it from getting soggy from the toppings). Use a fork to poke little holes along the surface to prevent bubbling. Repeat with the second ball of dough.
  2. Lightly sprinkle your extremely hot baking sheet with corn meal. and transfer one prepared flattened dough.
  3. Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza. Bake pizza one at a time until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy with a cold, cheap beer and a term paper.

Hot cross buns.

1-DSC_0990

Sometimes god feels near. And other times far away.

Yesterday morning I rolled hot cross buns between my palms and their sticky dough was fragrant with cinnamon, their flesh studded with little black currants and stained cranberry pink.

1-DSC_0918-001

Every Easter morning that I can remember, Daddy has made hot cross buns. I’d wake up early to watch him cross the top of risen dough with a sharp knife. He or Mimi would say, “Christ is risen.” I’d savor the sacred liturgical feel of it all; my reply, “Christ is risen indeed,” would be as delicious as the rolls’ spiced, fluffy crumb.

Grandma Lorena had baked hot cross buns on Easter when Daddy was growing up and so when he made them yesterday it was without question or anticipation. Easter hot cross buns have become a wonderful, almost sweet inevitability.

1-DSC_0935

When Grandma made hot cross buns, she got up hours before sunrise to take the dough from its overnight refrigerator rise. Grandpa left as the rolls baked to prepare for his sunrise sermon at church. Then Daddy and his two brothers bumbled downstairs. They were hungry and adolescent, drawn toward the smell of yeast and caramelized currants that would soon actualize on their plates with gooseberry preserves and butter.

1-DSC_09311-DSC_1059-0011-DSC_0930

Yesterday morning it had just rained and dew drops hung from budded branches. The air was heavy, almost balmy with spring and life.  I dressed the rolls’ wounds with white powdered sugar quietly. The morning, its movement of life, converged in that moment of torn bread becoming whole. Christ is risen indeed.

1-DSC_09201-DSC_09261-DSC_0937

What’s a tradition that makes you feel whole?1-DSC_0989

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 24 rolls. Recipe from Lorena Blount’s kitchen and her mother, Pearl’s, cookbook, 1953.

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (equal to 1 package of yeast)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup milk, scalded
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 well-beaten egg
  • 3 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup currants, raisins, or cranberries
  1. Soften yeast in warm water (110 degrees.)
  2. Combine milk, butter, sugar, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add softened yeast and egg. Gradually stir in flour to form soft dough. Beat vigorously.
  3. Cover and let rise in warm place (around 82 degrees) ’til double in bulk, about 2 hours. (Most rolls require only thorough mixing, with little or no kneading.)
  4. Form into 2 dozen buns and flatten slightly. Brush tops with milk or slightly beaten egg white. Let rise ’til very light. Using a knife, cut top of buns at right angles to form cross. Bake at 375 degrees, 25-30 minutes.
  5. Cool. Then make crosses with powdered sugar icing. Snip off the end of a clean envelope to make decorating tube for frosting. Cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, or vanilla make a good frosting– you won’t need much.

Aside: (my notes say that bigger buns are preferable to small ones which dry out during baking.)

{(Oh}m)ega salad.

1-DSC_0745

When I was eleven, I was convinced that someday I would become an Olympic ice skater.

1-009Somehow the problem of actually learning how to ice skate never entered my mind.

All I needed was to step foot in an ice skating rink. There, I told myself, I would float across the ice, spinning and twirling in a sparkly leotard so gracefully that a famous skating coach would see me from her spot in the bleachers and say there, that girl, she will be my famous ice skater. The rest would be Olympic history.

That is until Mimi finally gave in to my pleading and took me ice skating one Saturday. I had been to hundreds of ice rinks– in my imaginative mind. For some reason the real ice rink was different. Too different. For the first hour, I clung to the side of the rink experiencing a mixture of confusion, fear, and loathing for all iced things; there would be no coach, no blue leotard bedecked in white glitter. I was crushed.

But for some reason I hung on. I wobbled my way around, clinging to the side wall. Towards the end of the second hour, I managed to push off and stand a couple feet from the rail. And by the start of hour three, I was free of the rail and glided in short bursts with my arms balancing to either side. It was magical. But then it was time to leave.

1-DSC_0704

I’m remembering ice skating dreams as I reflect over my past four exhausting, wonderful years at Davidson. At first it was rough to get my footing; I worked twelve hours a day, signed up for thirteen clubs, and stayed up late talking with good friends in the little time between closing my eyes and doing it all again.

But with a semester of balanced living and eight-hour slumber nights behind me, I can confidently say I’ve gotten the hang at all this; I’ve written more A plus papers, cooked for more dinner parties with friends, and had more time for myself than ever before. I have pushed off the rail and finally got the hang of college life.

Which is funny because it’s almost over. Why does life change just when we feel like we get it?

1-DSC_0703

I think it’s the universe’s way of keeping life surprising, humbling, and beautiful all at the same time. Life is about finding nourishment in whatever uncertain, ever-changing form of light appears to us.

This coarse pepper seared salmon with cranberries and leafy greens is definitely one form of nourishment and light. After savoring this salad’s omega-3s and antioxidants, you might even push away from the side rails in your world and achieve even the loftiest of Olympic ice skating dreams.

1-DSC_0747

Cranberry and Salmon Chard Salad

Serves two.

  • 1 salmon filet, cut in half, skin-on
  • coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of chard or other leafy green
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette
  1. Lightly steam chard and let cool while you start a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat with 1 Tbsp olive oil.
  2. Add salmon to hot pan and coat, side facing up, with 1 pinch of coarse salt and 1 pinch of coarse pepper. After 5 minutes turn filets over and add minced garlic. Let the garlic and salmon caramelize for 4 minutes and then turn off heat.
  3. Toss chard, cranberries, and balsamic vinaigrette. Divide on to two plates and serve with salmon filet. Bon Om-ega!

Butter-roasted carrots.

1-DSC_0393

Remember these guys?

1-DSC_0343 1-DSC_0348

Well, they’re back with a recipe (and more pictures.)

1-DSC_0449

These roasted carrots are so easy. Inexpensive. Quick. They add a lot of color to a plate, making them great for dinner parties. And when roasted in butter, (just a little bit, I swear!) they become guiltlessly addictive.

1-DSC_0388

1-DSC_0325-001

1-DSC_0326-001

1-DSC_0386

Butter-Roasted Carrots

Serves 6 as a side. Adapted from Cooking Light.

1 lb carrots, sliced longways and finger-length (wash well but leave the skin on– it’s where most of the nutrients are and it’s easy)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil (it’s important to use both butter and olive oil; the oil will raise the flash point of butter and prevent it from burning)
2 generous pinches of kosher salt
1 smaller pinch of coarse black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Toss carrots with melted butter and olive oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, or until tips of carrots are crisp and the skin begins to wrinkle.

Locavore: smoky chicken sliders.

Sometimes the grind gets to you.

1-DSC_0412

1-DSC_0423

It’s about that time of winter when I crave summer: sundresses, peaches, picnics, the whole sunlight thing. Summer is dinnertime smoke from the grill  and something cool to drink. Summer is a burger or the crunch of a garden cucumber.

But there’s no chance for fresh fruit or cucumbers; many CSA programs have been discontinued since January because farmers felt guilty giving their customers 6 weeks of kale and an occasional sweet potato. The grill and picnic blanket hibernate. Sundresses fear my legs, which are so white they could play a starring role in the Twilight series. (And for the record, if someone gives me 6 boxes of kale I definitely won’t complain. I might even massage it.)

1-DSC_0441

If we are ever going to get summer, even spring, we need to cook her to us.

For a winter twist on summer, I made small chicken burgers, really meatballs, with cool tzatzeki yogurt sauce. Adding chipotle chili powder brings the smokiness of a summertime grill to your stove top. And the Mediterranean yogurt sauce recipe comes from a Cypriot professor, who is forever exiled from Turkey and parts of Cyprus for helping to lead Cyprus’s separatist revolt.

1-DSC_03571-DSC_0374 1-DSC_0382 1-DSC_03661-DSC_0435

If “local” didn’t include ideas of sustainable social, personal, or economic health, “local” for me would include the Tyson chicken plant. But, “local” means more than just a 100-mile radius. So instead of supporting Tyson, I get my chicken from a man who raises free range broiler chickens, processes them himself, and sells them from a food truck around town.

When you buy chicken from Tyson, you buy a lot of chlorinated water. Because they process thousands of chickens who live too close together in feces their whole lives, chicken processing plants need to sanitize their birds in a water, salt, and chlorine solution. The birds absorb this solution which evaporates as you cook the chicken, making your chicken dry and lacking in flavor.

We’re not all chicken farmers, and we might need to get out chicken from the supermarket. But knowing where your chicken comes from is important. To stop buying chlorinated water with your chicken, look for chicken that is “Air Chilled.” The Cook’s Illustrated Test Kitchen’s favorite brands (which I also reccomend) include Bell & Evans Air Chilled Boneless-Skinless Chicken Breasts and Mary’s Free Range Air Chilled Chicken.

Happy Winter Summering!

1-DSC_0458-001

Smoky Chicken Sliders

Serves 4; makes 12 small sliders or meatballs.

2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, quartered
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoons siracha
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chipotle chili power
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 oz each) quartered; local if possible
2 Tablespoons olive oil

  1. In a food processor, process all ingredients except chicken and oil.
  2. Add chicken and pulse until chopped finely, about 12 times, and ingredients are combined. Form into patties or meatballs according to preference.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add patties and cook, stiring often to brown all sides, about 3 minutes for each side. Serve warm on steamed vegetables, fresh salad, or bread with yogurt sauce.

1-DSC_0438-001

Yogurt Sauce

1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup cucumber, grated
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 clove garlic, pressed
pinch of salt

  1. Mix all ingredients and serve with sliders as dipping sauce or topping.

1-DSC_0429