Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Goat Cheese Cake with Apricot and Pistachio

Cheese plate season is upon us. You know the drill... cheddar cubes, summer sausage and a red grape or two. I love a cheese plate, but it gets old after awhile. So I like to mix it up with an unexpected item or two. For a recent trip to the Missouri wineries, I made this delicious Goat Cheese Cake.


Flecked with tart goat cheese, sweet pistachios and sticky apricots, it's a lovely complement to cheese and salami. I'm calling it cake here, but it's not really a dessert thang. More of a savory cake... very European. Look how fancy you are. You're still fancy if you eat the leftovers slathered in butter for breakfast the next day too.


And since the holidays are upon us, I think this is rather fun and delicious take on "fruit cake" as a gift for family and co-workers.  It's a quick mix too, so easy to multiply or make the day of.


Goat Cheese Cake with Apricot and Pistachio
1 cup flour
5-6oz goat cheese, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
3 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, toss together flour, goat cheese, apricots, pistachios and baking powder. In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the eggs until they are pale. Whisk in olive oil, milk, yogurt and salt. Fold flour mixture into the eggs -- only mix until just combined.

Pour into batter into pan and tap a few times to remove air bubbles. Bake for 30-45 minutes. Poke the center with a toothpick and if it comes out clean the cake is done. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

30

Annnnnnnnnnnnnddddd then I turned 30. Truth be told, I'm feeling weird about it. There is no reasonable explanation and maybe it makes me vapid, but fuck it, I'm allowed to feel weird about it. When the hell did I get this old?


In what is surely a deeply-psychologically rooted slip, I inadvertently invited someone to my 21st birthday party the other day. Embarrassing, but I think telling of any feelings of weirdness. My 20s were amazing and I'm a little sad they will be over.

Living in the light of incredible blessings, I had so much fun, made amazing friends, laughed, cried, freaked out, traveled, hustled to launch my career and met and fell in love with the greatest guy in the world in my 20s. Of course I'm sad it's over. 

What's more, I don't really know how to be a woman in her 30s. Aren't we supposed to be more self-assured, better-dressed and more-established? I'm not sure I'm any of those things yet.

Here's the thing, I need to remind myself that I was just as freaked out at 21. Different challenges, but fear of the unknown is the same. So instead of wallowing in a pit of epic 20s-ending sadness, I'm going to put on a fabulous outfit (new DVF... #treatyoself), sit down to a stellar meal with my favorite guy, pour myself a quality drink and look forward, not back. Take that weird feelings!

The truth is, I know more goodness is to come. More clarity.  Less bullshit. A stronger foundation. Fewer worries about the opinions of others. Maybe a little less heavy-drinking on a Tuesday, but surely goodness. 

And as for my 21st birthday compared to 30th... let's just hope I don't barf in anyone's hair this time. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Favorites and My Tips

Last year was the first time I hosted Thanksgiving. I'd been doing the cooking for years, but always in someone else's home. And what a pleasure it was to have both sides of my family under one roof. To have so many people I love at one table and to serve them a delicious meal was truly my greatest pleasure.

As you no doubt have seen on endless hours of food TV programming and magazine cover after cover... cooking for Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Don't let the hype scare you. Sure, a delicious meal is where it's at, but it's most important to make the most of the precious time with your friends and family. Here are my tips to get the best of both worlds.

Make Your Favorites, But Make Them Well
This day only comes once a year and special foods have a way of making their way into our hearts. Don't fight it for the sake of culinary trend. Enjoy making timeless family favorites, but be sure to take a moment to savor the memory and prepare them well.

My old school favorites? Try my Healthier Green Bean Casserole and a Morgan-family favorite steeped in tradition, Spiced Peaches.





Try One New Thing
You never know when you're going to find a new family favorite and that's why I try one new thing each year. Be it a side dish or dessert, there is always something new to discover. My "new" brussels sprouts from a few years back are now being requested by my sister-in-law and 1st grade nephew. Growing up I had the canned cranberry stuff, but then discovered the amazingness that is Cranberry Salsa when I spent the holiday with my in-laws.

All proof that just a touch of new is a good thing.



Let People Help You
Easier said, than done... I know. We get all this crazy Pinterest shit in our minds and think we need to do it all (and perfectly). The truth is, your guests want to help, so welcome it! My best tip is to be specific with your guests. Rather than say "bring a side" ask them to bring "those delicious sweet potatoes with the pecans you make." This helps you as a hostess better plan and prepare.

But helping doesn't just go for guests. Get your family involved. My husband rocks and fries our turkey every year. I only cede control because fried turkey is the best damn thing in the world. But in all honesty, it's a HUGE weight off of my cooking shoulders. Also in our family that means wearing ridiculous headlamps. #MorePeanutOil



Get Organized Now
Plan your list and get ahead now. My handy timeline is helpful, but take the time to think through your own. The day before is the best time to get your prep work out of the way and get those pies made. Best part? AMC marathons Gone with the Wind. Watch all seventeen hours and taste your masterpiece as you go. As God as my witness, you'll never go hungry or lose your Thanksgiving mind again.



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!