Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pistachio Pesto Penne

I owe pasta an apology.  I’ve abandoned it for a bit.  I didn’t hate it!  But somewhere along the way, I just lost my desire for it.  It would sit there in their boxes on the shelf in the cupboard.  Just waiting.  And waiting.  Not being opened.  Just sitting there in their place in the pantry.  But one day recently, I realized I missed it.  And now I can’t get enough.  I’m so sorry to have abandoned you dear pasta.  Please forgive me.  I have no idea what I was even eating all those weeks – rice, perhaps?  I promise to never leave you like that again.  You come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, and go so well with all types of concoctions – tomato sauce, meatballs, cream sauces, olive oil…and pesto.  After trying you with this creamy pistachio pesto, I don’t know how I ever could have abandoned you!  Plus, who can turn down an opportunity for alliteration?

¼ cup pistachios, shelled and salted
¼ cup basil
¼ cup tarragon
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces pasta (I used penne)
1/3 cup reserved pasta water
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice

To make the pesto:  Place pistachios, basil, tarragon, and garlic cloves in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse.  Slowly pour in the olive oil while the food processor is still running.  Set aside. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and make the pasta according to the package directions.  Be sure to reserve 1/3 cup of the pasta water before draining. 

In a large sauté pan over medium-low heat, mix the pesto, reserved pasta water, heavy cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Once everything has been heated, add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss to coat.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chewy Pistachio Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are the love child of Alton Brown’s “The Chewy” chocolate chip cookies and the Momofuko Milk Bar “Compost Cookies.”  Of course, like many children, they possess traits that neither parent can understand or account for, and toss out many of the notions their parents hold dear to fit their new world view.  In this case, that world view is to have a bunch of movie snacks together in one ever-chewy cookie form! Pistachio, pretzel, dark chocolate, and semisweet chocolate… a beautiful melody of sweet and salty.  These cookies do come with one rule, though.  You must drink them with a glass of milk.                      

1 cup unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups brown sugar
2 ¼ cups AP flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground coffee
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pretzels
2 ounces chopped dark chocolate
½ cup salted and chopped pistachios
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and ground coffee.  In another bowl, mix the chocolate chips, pretzels, dark chocolate, and pistachios.  Pour the butter into the work bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl.  Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar, then cream on medium speed (will take a few minutes).  Add the egg, egg yolk, milk, and vanilla extract.  Mix them until everything is well combined.  Slowly add the flour mixture.  Once that has been incorporated, add stir in the chocolate chip and pretzel mixture.  Chill the dough at least an hour.  Heat oven to 375.  Scoop the dough out in about ¼ cup-size portions.  Bake about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on wire racks.  Pour the 1 cup of milk into a glass.  Dunk cookie in milk for 6-13 seconds before eating.  Enjoy.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sausage, Spinach, and Quail Egg Breakfast Salad

I know this sounds really weird, and also involves frozen pre-cooked sausage patties, but it has been working for me recently.  This combination came to me in an extreme moment of hunger that suddenly attacked me.  I started scavenging the fridge and pantry trying to come up with something that felt substantial and that was super quick.  The results of my kitchen raid included spinach, turkey sausage patties, some leftover baguette, and two quail eggs.  So I thought about it a bit, realized I could throw some spinach in a bowl, dress it a bit, place the sausage on top, and then the fried eggs.  I mean, what isn’t better with a fried egg on top?  I was quite wary about the taste of all this together, but when hunger calls, usually anything will do.  I actually liked it!   Then I found myself making it again and again, morning after morning, and I realized I was actually eating a salad for breakfast – which is odd for me.  I’m not generally thrilled to eat them at dinner. But apparently if you give it to me in the morning I’m excited, feeling oh so rebellious, subverting some unspoken food norms about appropriate breakfast foods… 

1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon chopped scallion
handful of sliced grape tomatoes
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 patties (or links) cooked breakfast turkey sausage (so we get these frozen precooked ones that you just pop in the microwave for like a minute; they are so useful to us! But obviously you can use any form of breakfast sausage that you want)
2 fried quail eggs (or one regular egg)*
pinch sea salt
pinch red pepper flakes
2 toasted baguette slices for serving

Place the spinach, scallions, and tomatoes in a bowl.  Drizzle the red wine vinegar and olive oil and toss a bit.  Sprinkle black pepper.  Place the cooked sausage links over that.  Place your fried egg over that, then sprinkle it with a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. Slice and toast baguette, and spread a bit of butter on one side.  

*To fry the egg, melt butter in skillet on medium heat.  Crack egg into skillet and fry just until egg white is cooked, or sunny-side up, roughly 1 minute.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Strawberry Lemon Buttermilk Muffins

I went to the store last week intending to get a quart of buttermilk.  On a side note, I should point out that when I say “I’m going to the store,” it means I am going to our usual grocery store.  No other place is referred to as “the store.”  Any other grocery store is called by its proper name.  It took awhile for Seth to catch on to this, but now I think he gets it.  According to him, any store can be called, “the store,” but that’s just ridiculous, right? Back to the buttermilk.  They only had half gallons of it, so I threw caution to the wind and said, fine, I will use this entire thing before it expires.  And I did!  We had buttermilk biscuits three times during the week ( I may have an addiction), we had buttermilk marinated chicken drumsticks, a buttermilk ice cream, and of course, these muffins.  I just love the way buttermilk adds that tangy moistness to baked goods. 

1 ½ cups chopped strawberries + 2 tablespoons flour
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
zest of Meyer lemon
juice of Meyer lemon
½ cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
lemon curd, for serving, optional

Heat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, gently coat the strawberries with the 2 tablespoons flour together and set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk 2 ½ cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.  In a large bowl, mix together lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, buttermilk, sugar, oil, and vanilla.  Mix the dry ingredients into wet, stirring until just combined. Gently mix in the strawberries that have been tossed with flour.  Line a muffin pan with liners then divide batter among the prepared cups.  Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Serve with lemon curd, if desired.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spicy Chorizo Dip

So here is an embarrassing admission.  We have lived in Southern California since September of 2008 and we have only tried chorizo for the first time like a month ago.  That’s four years without tasting one of our region’s most delicious local delicacies.  It is pretty ridiculous.  So I finally got around to picking some up a few weeks ago, but for some reason, I pictured it being like a sausage in a casing, and that I would slice it then brown it with some garlic and red bell pepper and maybe serve with a fried egg and toast for breakfast.  Well, it wasn’t actually sliceable.  The mixture turned out to have a sort of runny consistency.  I basically just had to squeeze the mixture out of the packaging like it was toothpaste.  I was surprised by that, but I figured I would put that runny quality to good use and make it into…wait for it…a dip! How surprised are you? The crazy thing is that this dip is intensely delicious, like a spicy, meaty bruschetta.  Perfect with some sliced, toasted baguette or tortilla chips.

1 10 ounce package pork chorizo
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ leek, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed
1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves chopped
1 ounce cream cheese
1 tablespoon Mexican crema, optional

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Add the leek, scallion, jalapeno, garlic, and bell pepper.  Toss in the fresh herbs.  Let the vegetables and aromatics soften for about 3 minutes.  Add the chorizo and mix together.  Let everything cook together, about ten minutes.  Stir in cream cheese and the crema and keep over low heat until the cream cheese has melted into the mixture.  Serve with baguette, chips or whatever floats your boat.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mango Blackberry Salad

If Seth had his way, we would be posting a picture of a bowl filled with blackberries.  And only blackberries.  And actually, it wouldn’t be a whole bowl filled with them.  Probably just a small handful.  Seth is very picky about fruit...  The list of fruits he will eat consists of Granny Smith apples and sometimes a tiny bit of blackberries.  Extensive, isn’t it?  (Editor’s comment: This is completely false by the way.) Vegetables are a different story.  He eats them happily.  But since it is mother’s day, I am getting my way and mixing some blackberries with mango (the horror!) and then drizzling with some lime juice, zest, and fresh mint.  A refreshing, simple salad.

6 ounces blackberries
1 large mango, diced
½ teaspoon lime zest
1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint

Mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl then serve.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grilled Mega-Spice Mushrooms

One of the best things in the world is grilling at night.  Something about the mix of the cool air, dark sky, and brightly lit, red hot charcoal is almost magical.  That scent of smoldering briquettes of wood wafting through the sweet air of the night – intoxicating! All those juxtapositions and contrasts makes the act of night grilling simply awesome.  These grilled mushrooms share the same sort of contrasts – sweet touches of cinnamon and sugar play off spicy cayenne and chile powders to make for a truly addicting appetizer.

Mega Spice Mix:
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
1 ½  teaspoons oregano
1 ½ teaspoons basil
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons New Mexico chile powder

Grilled Mushrooms:
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons mega spice mix
1 bag charcoal of choice

For the spice mix: Place all the seasonings in a bowl and mix together.  You will have leftover mix so keep in airtight container.

For the grilled mushrooms: Place the mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl.  Drizzle the canola oil and toss the oil with the mushrooms using tongs.  Sprinkle 1 ½ tablespoons mega spice mix, coating all the mushrooms evenly.  Set aside and prepare grill.

If using charcoal (highly recommended!), light charcoal according to package directions or using your favorite method.  We like to use a chimney starter, because no lighter fluid is required, and the coals will consistently light and burn down in around 30 minutes, regardless of wind conditions.  We get a lot of wind here, so it is very helpful!  Once 80-90 percent of the charcoal is ashed-over, spread them into a single layer, put cooking grates on, cover, and let the grates heat up for five minutes.  Adjust height of charcoal and air vents, if applicable to get a nice hot temperature (around 350-400 degrees).

If using gas grill, set temperature to high (350-400 degrees) and cover for 5 minutes to heat cooking grates.

Using a paper towel or dish rag, coat cooking grates with a thin layer of canola oil.  Try to not let it drip down onto the coals to prevent flare ups.  Place halved mushrooms on grill, cut side down.  Cover, and come back in about 2-3 minutes to check on them.  Once they’ve started to soften up just a bit, and the bottoms have a nice char, remove from grill and serve hot.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Very Vanilla Egg-Free Ice Cream

Sometimes you just want to sit down with a bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream.  Okay, maybe oftentimes.  And by you, I mean us.  After all, this takes like five minutes to throw together before being churned, so can you blame us?  And the only thing that is better than vanilla ice cream at times like this, is very vanilla ice cream.  We find that the taste of the vanilla really comes through clearly by using vanilla extract in a non custard-based ice cream.  In other words, no eggs.  Of course, it helps to have some good quality vanilla extract on hand.  You may find it helps to have an awesome aunt and uncle (hi uncle Steve, hi aunt Paula) who bring you big bottles of vanilla from Mexico when they come to visit!  (By the way, we are running a bit low, so maybe you want to bring us some more next time you come? Just kidding! Kind of.).  This particular mixture also does a great job of staying soft and scoopable in the freezer for many days after it’s made.  I couldn’t tell you the chemistry behind it, but I can say that after trying many different combinations, this is the one that really gets the job done nicely. 

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons vanilla extract
Required equipment: Ice cream maker

Place all ingredients in a bowl.  I like to whisk until a layer of bubbles forms on the surface and the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the mixture into the canister of the ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spiced Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Green Apple and Butter Lettuce

Lettuce wraps are an event.  They are what I like to think of as an “active food.”  And if you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love active foods.  Dipping, wrapping, assembling, breaking open, I’m a big fan of these things.  Your food isn’t just heaped on a plate and placed in front of you with some utensils, ready to be shoveled in.  Active foods, in this case lettuce wraps, make the eating process a ritual, and something I can look forward to for days, or even weeks.  Lettuce wraps are perfect example of this.  First, you pick your perfect lettuce leaf.  Then you spread just the right amount of hoisin over the leaf.  Then you pile in the filling – but not too much.  Then, in this case, comes a sprinkling of diced apple and chopped scallions, before finally cupping up the wrap.  Only then can you start thinking about taking a bite – a glorious bite filled with a symphony of flavors and textures – meaty mushrooms, spiced pieces of turkey, crunchy, sweet apple, and bitter scallions.  And once you are done, you start the process all over again.  After wiping all the juices off your arm …

4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
2/3 cup shiitake mushrooms, diced
20 ounces ground turkey
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ teaspoons rice wine
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
3 scallions, chopped
1 head butter lettuce
hoisin sauce, for serving

Heat 3 tablespoons peanut oil over high heat in a large skillet.  Add the cremini and shiitake mushrooms.  Get those mushrooms nice and brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In a small bowl, mix the black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and coriander.  Place the ground turkey and spices in a large bowl and mix together with a fork.  Add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the spiced turkey meat.  Sauté until browned and cooked through.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add the mushrooms back into the skillet.  In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine, and oyster sauce.  Pour over the meat and mushroom mixture.  Reduce the heat and let everything cook together for a minute or two.  Take off heat.  To assemble the wraps, brush hoisin sauce on a leaf, pile on the meat mixture, then add the scallions and apple.

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