Monday, October 27, 2014

Eggplant Pomegranate Dip

I get really excited when I'm describing my food to people. And maybe that's weird. I'm enthusiastic enough, in fact, that a newbie at the office called me out on the excited tone in my description of leftovers at lunch. And if you know me well, you know there's nothing I love more than someone asking me what I'm cooking.


But these waxing descriptions aren't about bragging for me, it's about taking time to celebrate things that are beautiful and good. The ho-hum of everyday is filled with so many functional conversations, so there is something refreshing about pontificating for a moment on the humble paper plate filled with my own personal expression of passion, color and outrageous flavor.





I think that's just it... it's personal for me. Ask me about what I'm cooking and it's probably a good window into my life on any given day. Perhaps I reveal too much, but you can rest assured, if I'm cooking, I'm happy and maybe that's why I get so geeked about leftovers. Now,  if I'm eating my 4th day in a row of Jimmy John's delivery with a Diet Coke... steer clear.



But let's focus on what's good in the world and that's good leftovers. This recipe I picked up from Plenty, by Yottam Ottolenghi, was one of the better bits of leftovers I've had in awhile. Enjoy as a dip or in a salad. The tart pop of pomegranate is restaurant-caliber flavor and worthy of tracking down pomegranate molasses for.

Eggplant Pomegranate Dip
1 large eggplant or 2 small eggplants
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic glove, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup seedless cucumber, chopped (optional, but good if you want to make more substantial)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional, but good if you want to make more substantial)
Pomegranate seeds
Olive oil

Heat oven broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and pierce the eggplants all over with a fork. Broil eggplants, turn occasionally for 1 hour. They should be burnt and black on the outside.

Cool eggplants until you can handle them, then slice in half and scoop out the flesh. Roughly chop and place in colander for 30 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine drained eggplant with tahini, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in cucumber and tomato, if you choose.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with flatbread or crackers and enjoy.

Recipe inspired by Yottam Ottolenghi's PLENTY -- a simply fantastic cookbook. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tamarind Roasted Vegetables

What's the point if you never try anything new? Seriously, if variety is truly the spice of life, why do we relegate ourselves to eating the same things and cooking with the same ingredients? I suppose it's habit and comfort with the familiar, but if you can't break out of your box on the plate, where can you? Honestly the worst that could happen would be that you don't like it. There... I've convinced you, so let's try something new.

I'm a roasted vegetable lover and it's becoming the time of year when I'll roast off all kinds of veggie goodies on a Sunday to include in salads throughout the week. Knowing I'm a veggie lover, my Stepmother passed along a recipe from her neighbor for a new twist on roasted veg punched up with tamarind paste.



Tamarind paste was certainly not an ingredient I was familiar with, but now I'm obsessed. It has a distinct tang that really brightens up the natural flavors of vegetable. I combined with another new ingredient in my repetoire -- coconut oil -- for a flavor-packed approach. The results are a Indian-tinged melange that is a great side or salad topper. For other recipes, I've been throwing a bit of it into stir frys... yum.


It's a simple prep... just chopping and tossing around with clean hands. Then into a very hot oven to develop some flavor. 


Move it around a few times during the roast and scrape the bottom good stuff. That's how you get that gorgeous color.



Tamarind Roasted Vegetables
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 lb brussel sprouts, halved
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
One inch piece ginger, grated
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon curry
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil or Silpat. Toss peppers, onion, spouts and chickpeas with garlic, cilantro, ginger, coriander, curry, salt, pepper, tamarind paste, coconut oil and brown sugar. Arrange in one layer and place in the oven. 

Roast for 30-40 minutes, until color starts to develop on sprouts, but they are still somewhat firm. Toss twice during roasting. Cool for a few minutes before serving warm. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baked Potato Scones

Can carbs inspire carbs? The answer is definitively yes! I was looking for a way to work through my chive plant in the back garden. Naturally I thought of cheesey baked potatoes, loaded with sour cream and those tiny green flecks. But ya know, I'm not quite that cold yet (rest assured... it'll happen). Then I thought, self... what if you turned all that baked potato goodness into a carb that is socially acceptable to eat at both breakfast and dinner? That's it...scones!



Scones are the triangular cousin of biscuits. Equally butter-y and flakey, but with an inexplicable fancy flair. And let me tell you... homemade and warm are the only way to enjoy them. Walk away from that dried out hockey puck in the Starbuck's pastry case.

As a lover of cheese, I actually prefer a savory scone to a sweet one and man, oh, man do these deliver. With a food processor the dough is a breeze, after just a bit in the oven you'll have warm savory, potato-y goodness.

Enjoy with dinner and put a fried egg on it for breakfast. I die. So good.


Baked Potato Scones
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut in cubes
1 egg beaten
3 tablespoons ice water
3/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
salt, pepper and paprika, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment or silpat. 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper in bowl of food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and pulse 10-15 times until butter is cut into peas size pieces. Dump flour and butter into a large bowl. 

In a separate bowl, combine egg, water and sour cream. Add liquids to the butter mixture and mix with a fork. Add chives and cheeses and knead dough together on a floured board. The dough will be dry and shaggy, but will come together in a few kneads. Stop kneading as soon as it is combined. Form into a 1-1 1/2 inch thick disc. Cut into 8 triangles and carefully place on baking sheet. 

Brush with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle on kosher salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden and fluffy. Serve warm and enjoy. 

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Simple Secrets: Basil Pesto

I had a lot of basil. Like a lot. I found a sunny spot in the backyard and all summer long enjoyed the bounty of a big ass basil plants. Those delicious leaves were called upon for every caprese and batch of scrambled eggs (and even a few cocktails), but the season is drawing to a close. Rather than let all that bright green die back, I wanted to capture the flavor in pesto.



I have to brag for a moment here. As someone who once killed a drug store bamboo... and a houseplant... and numerous orchids... and a few lavender plants... I'm incredibly impressed that I kept this basil alive. I should really give the credit to the Husband who does the watering, but let me feel a bit of horticultural pride.



Pesto couldn't be easier and is oh-so versatile. In one week alone we enjoyed it upon grilled flank steak, mixed with angel hair pasta and cut with lemon juice as salad dressing. If can freeze it too and enjoy a bit of summer in the inevitable depths of winter. Simply mix with olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays.



Basil Pesto
1/2 cup pine nuts
4oz parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup olive oil

Combine pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Add basil and lemon juice and process until chopped. Turn on the processor and stream in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust salt to taste. Enjoy!






Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Roasted Tomato Tart

The book club ladies were coming and I was craving a late-summer treat. If you haven't noticed from my keyword sidebar tool, I'm addicted to tomatoes. This time of year, I literally eat them almost every day and I'm trying to get every last sweet bite in before fall arrives. And goodness, with a monster basil plant in the backyard -- you heard me right, I didn't kill it yet -- my tomatoes have had the perfect compliment all summer.

Okay, okay... you get it... I love tomatoes. But I love this tart too. It's a show-stopper. Bright and beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes roasted until they just burst with juice. Needless to say, it was completely gone by time the book conversation ended and the wine glasses were emptied.


With a puff pastry shell, it's a pretty quick turn dish. You could easily repurpose the filling to suit what's in season too.

Book clubs and tomato tarts. Pretty much the best.

Roasted Tomato Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
Flour -- for sprinkling
1 small log goat cheese, softened
2 pints heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Chopped basil, for garnish

Allow puff pastry to thaw according to package instructions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Flour your surface and rolling pin and then roll out puff pastry large enough to fit a 10-inch tart pan. Carefully lay into tart pan. Use a paring knife to lightly score the pastry along the bottom rim, where the bottom meets the sides. Prick the bottom of the pastry surface all over with a fork.

Bake puff pastry for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and remove carefully from tart plan. If preparing a day ahead, store in an airtight container.

Preheat broiler on the low setting.

On the day of serving, melt butter and sugar together in a pan over medium heat until caramelized. Add tomatoes to pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat tomatoes in caramel mixture. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While tomatoes cook, spread softened goat cheese in the bottom of the tart shell. Broil on low for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melty. Use a slotted spoon to carefully arrange tomatoes on top of goat cheese. Drizzle remaining sauce over tart and garnish with basil. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Weeknight Idea: Nectarine Shrimp Tacos

Okay okay... I know your Facebook feed is full of first day of school pictures and you're dreaming of a new Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper, but Fall's not here yet. Especially in the produce aisle. So put off that damn Pumpkin Spice Latte for a few more weeks and enjoy the freshness while you still can.

When fruit is this good, take it beyond breakfast and try a savory preparation. I love sweet stone fruits in cool dishes this time of year and the flavors of Mexican cuisine lend themselves really well to using fruits. I whipped up these nectarine tacos in under 20 minutes on a weeknight. Fresh, spicy, sweet and crisp.


Pumpkins and boots are coming, but live in the moment why don't you? The nectarines will thank you.

Nectarine Shrimp Tacos
1/2lb cooked shrimp (thaw the frozen stuff or use grilled, if you have it)
1 large avocado, chopped
2 ripe nectarines, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon mango chutney
2 generous pinches salt
6 corn tortillas

Toss together shrimp with avocado, nectarines, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, chutney and salt. Serve in warm tortillas and enjoy.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Kale and Tahini Salad

I've been hitting the kale salads hard this summer. I've done a lot of different versions here -- from massaged to citrus to anchovy -- but this tahini take may be my favorite yet. With a nutty flavor and creamy texture, it gives kale some flavorful heft without the insane calories of a cheese or mayo based dressing. 

If you're not familiar, tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and is common in Middle Eastern dishes. When you put it with lemon juice it's got a depth of flavor that's sometimes hard to put your finger on, but makes you say "hmmmm."

The dressing and kale would be great on it's own, but with some spiced chickpeas, veggies, quinoa and grilled chicken this summer salad sings with flair and is a fulfilling dinner or lunch. 


Kale and Tahini Salad
1 shallot, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups kale, washed and chopped
2 red peppers, sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 cup spiced chickpeas
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced

Combine shallot, lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, salt and pepper in a jar and shake. Toss together dressing with kale and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes. Top with red peppers, tomato, quinoa, chickpeas and chicken. Enjoy!