Monday, January 19, 2015

Meyer Lemon Tart

If you've never had a Meyer lemon...I'm sorry. I was lucky enough to grow up with a tree in my backyard and it took several years before I realized not all lemons were as sweet and perfumey as these. If you love lemon desserts, I suggest doubling the curd.

Meyer Lemon Tart

For the crust
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (or cashews, pecans...whatever nut you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 
Blend oats, nuts, salt, flour together in a food processor. Meanwhile in a heavy saucepan melt the butter over low heat until it becomes just browned. (beurre noisette) Remove from heat and stir in honey while still hot. Pour hot butter mixture into heatproof bowl, add vanilla. Dump flour mixture into the hot butter-honey and stir until just combined in a big wet clump. Grease a 9" tart pan with a little butter and drop the dough into the center of the pan, pressing it down evenly. Prick 10 times or so with a fork and bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes until just golden and fragrant.

For the curd
    • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
    • grated zest of one Meyer lemon
    • 1/2 granulated sugar
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into bits
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 egg yolks

    Whisk together eggs and yolks in a small bowl and set aside. Melt sugar, butter, lemon juice, zest in heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted. Whisk a little of the warm mixture into the eggs to warm them, then dump the eggs into the saucepan and heat over low heat stirring constantly until it begins to bubble around the edges and thicken. Pour through mesh strainer directly into the pre-baked crust. Bake for 5 minutes at 350F until the curd sets. Decorate with raspberries, et voila!

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Mulligatawny Soup

    We've been on a real soup kick lately. And it hasn't even been cold. In fact, I'm sure it hit the triple digits outside at least once while we ladled soup into bowls. But I'd like to think we can will a little more winter weather by cooking up a pot of spicy and delicious Mulligatawny soup. Some of us native Californians actually do like a little cold now and then.

    Typically I make a very basic chicken and rice soup. It's completely satisfying, easy to throw together and I'm sure I'll get around to posting the recipe one of these days. But having recently undertaken a systematic re-watching of all nine seasons of Seinfeld, the amazing Soup Nazi episode was fresh in my mind. It's a classic for a reason.

    Jerry: You will be stunned.
    Elaine: Stunned by soup?
    Jerry:  You can't eat this soup standing up. Your knees buckle.

    While Jerry pines for the crab bisque, Elaine gets the Mulligatawny on Kramer's recommendation and her knees do, in fact, buckle. Being a fan of most Indian flavor profiles, I adapted this recipe for Mulligatawny soup based on what I happened to have on hand. If you have the time to make your own stock, obviously this is superior. It doesn't take much in the way of skill and will ultimately taste better. But I'm a working woman with limited time on Sunday evenings and I stand by this method 100%.

    While I don't normally eat soup standing up, after tasting this I really doubt it would have been possible. Consider me stunned.

    Mulligatawny Soup
    • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 4 small yellow onions, diced
    • 2 red jalapenos, diced
    • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 32 oz low sodium chicken stock
    • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground brown mustard seeds
    •  1/4 teaspoon ground chile powder
    •  2 lemons, juiced, about 1/4 cup
    •  2 teaspoons salt

    Salt chicken breasts liberally, cover with cold water, bring to a boil. cook 20-30 minutes until cooked through. Shred chicken and set aside.

    Sauté onions and jalapenos with olive oil in heavy bottomed pot until onions start to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and carrots and sauté another 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and spices, simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Return chicken to pot, add lemon juice and salt. Serve in bowls with short-grain brown rice and a dollop of nonfat greek yogurt.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Onion & Cheese Bread

    I knew as soon as I saw something called "Onion and Swiss Rye Bread" on this month's Kitchen Play menu I would have no choice but to participate in this amazing contest brought to us by the National Onion Association. What really appealed to me about this recipe, is it seemed like I could recreate it using things I always have in the house. Onions, some kind of Swiss cheese, whole wheat flour, yeast. All I have to do is make sure I get a few extra onions to caramelize. Easy, right?

    Yeah, well. Not so fast. Turns out, for a household of only two people, we go through about a pound of onions every day. I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually went out and bought "extra onions" on four separate occasions, each time thinking, "now these are for the bread." But then I wanted to make guacamole. And roast a chicken. Cook an omelet. Whisk up a little salad dressing. Turns out everything we eat in this family begins with onions. The lesson here? Buy in bulk and buy often. This bread is worth it.

    Onion & Cheese Bread (adapted from Cookistry)
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 3 cups whole wheat flour
    • 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
    • 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
    • 1/2 cup caramelized onions
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • Olive oil

    In a large bowl combine water, yeast and sugar. Stir to combine and let proof for about 5 minutes.

    Add flour, gluten, cheese, and onions. Work with wooden spoon until the dough is elastic. It should come together fairly quickly, though the dough will be quite wet and sticky. Incorporate salt and butter.

    Form dough into a ball, drizzle olive oil in your bowl and rotate the dough a few times until fully coated with oil. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

    Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Flour your work surface and knead the dough just enough to get it formed into a ball. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and evenly press the dough into the pan. Let rise again for about 30 minutes.

    Bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden, about 40 minutes. Cool in the loaf pan for 10 minutes, then let cool on rack completely.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Blackberry Crumble Pie

    In my second year of boarding school, on the coldest day of the coldest spring Northern Michigan had to offer, I sat on the floor of my dorm room eating a mediocre cherry pie with my bare hands. No, I was not a burgeoning competitive eater. Nor was this part of a misty-eyed break-up montage. I was suffering from a severe lack of pie, and the summery warmth it provides.

    Let's face it, pie is the best dessert. It's simply the most delicious taste in the whole world. I eat it on my birthday instead of cake. And at my wedding, well, let's just say I hope the structural integrity of the crumble is somehow better than its name suggests.

    And, yes, I know I'd be a better person if everything I ate was locally sourced and seasonally appropriate. My life could be a satisfying series of soft-focus sepia-toned facebook albums. In the winter, I'd make swiss chard soup in vintage crockery. In the spring, I'd roast asparagus with homegrown herbs. And in the summer, there'd be self-brewed beer and handspun picnic blankets. But, folks, blackberries are available only a couple months a year. And without them, there is no blackberry pie. And without that, there really isn't much reason to do anything at all.

    So before you ride off on your European bike to the artisanal cheese shop, allow me to make a case for frozen berries in April.

    Though they're far from being the ideal berry, glowing in little baskets at your weekend farmer's market, the frozen ones are really the next best thing. Think about it this way, frozen berries were plucked from the vine in their succulent prime and quickly preserved to provide you with year round tastiness. So, grab your re-usable grocery bag, head to Whole Foods, buy yourself the biggest bag of organic blackberries imaginable, and pat yourself on the back. Job well done. You don't have to feel bad about the impact to the environment or your gylcemic index. Utilizing oats, agave, and whole wheat flour, this probably comes out to just 180 calories/serving. Unless your serving is the size of a pie pan. In that case, be civilized. Use a fork.

    Blackberry Crumble Pie

    For the topping:
    • 1 cup oats
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1/4 cup (half stick) butter, melted
    For the filling:
    • 4 cups frozen blackberries
    • 1/4 cup agave syrup
    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
    • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour

    Heat oven to 350. Toss fruit with agave, flour, cornstarch, and lemon juice and zest. When fruit is coated, pour into ungreased pie dish.

    Combine oats, flour, sugar, and baking powder in medium bowl. Pour in egg and mix until combined. Topping will be somewhat dry and crumbly.

    Sprinkle topping evenly over berries, then drizzle with melted butter. Bake about 40 minutes, or until topping is toasted and fruit is bubbling and tender.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Banana Bread

    Some people have it in their minds that banana bread is some kind of dumping ground for unused, overripe bananas, like the threat of wasted produce is what drives them to get in the kitchen and bake.

    "I just don't know what I'll do with all these leftover bananas, guess I have to make bread."

    And while my struggle for dominance in the produce aisle is far from over, I, like anyone else with an oversize sweet tooth, have learned something important.

    Bananas are not the boss of me.

    You see, I no longer let my rotting fruit strong-arm me into anything. I have taken a stand. When I go to the grocery store I assertively buy bananas for one reason and one reason alone. And that is banana freaking bread.

    Even if that means slapping a half-eaten banana from a loved one's hand and screaming, "I need those!", I remain vigilant and ready to defend. Sorry, Nathan.

    Bottom line, banana bread is not happenstance, it is a treat. A delicious, creamy, on-purpose treat that should be honored as such. That said, there's no need to get gluttonous about it. Have your sweets and mind your waistline, folks. This here's the healthiest and most decadent banana bread you'll ever taste. So don't worry if you eat half a loaf. Like we did immediately after this picture was taken.

    Banana Bread
    • 2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large, overripe bananas, mashed well
    • 1/2 cup agave syrup
    • 1/4 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
    • 1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wipe a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with olive oil and dust with flour.

    In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, almonds, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

    In a medium bowl, combine the mashed bananas, agave syrup, yogurt, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla extract. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined. Don't mind the lumps, those are tasty!

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake about 60 minutes, but check it with a toothpick at 45. When the toothpick comes out clean, take it out of the oven. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

    Now, I like a slice of piping hot banana bread as much as the next girl but trust me when I say, once this baby is cool, put it in a ziplock bag and leave it alone overnight. In the morning, the sweetness of the bananas will have intensified and it will be about one million times better.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Mexican Roast Beef Tacos

    Aside from having my mother, my grandparents didn't do a whole lot of things right. They illegally immigrated from Durango, Mexico sometime in the forties; and, I assume in the process of trying to survive, deal, and acclimate, quickly developed some horrible habits in the barrios of Los Angeles, California.

    My grandpa was a towering man with giant forearms and the visage of a wooden Indian. He worked at a gas station and loved baseball but he really wasn't any good at either. I mostly remember him getting fired and never wanting to play catch with me. Really, it seemed like his true talents lied primarily in drinking and falling asleep in places that were not a bed or his house.

    So every morning my grandma would half-mindedly call around looking for him. Somehow while dragging me around the kitchen on a blanket and re-frying the leftover roast beef, she managed to check with each one of his friends. And usually, by the time I was finishing the last bits of my breakfast, my grandpa would wander in, reeking of cheap beer and gas.

    My grandparents would yell at each other in Spanish for a few minutes. Call each other drunks. And then mull about in silence, giving each other crusty looks until dinner time.

    Clearly, my grandma was a woman of fortitude and resilience. But, as her purpose and identity in life was consumed with chasing after her borracho, I feel like her culinary genius went largely unrecognized and under-appreciated. Sure, she cooked with lard. And maybe she went a little heavy on the salt. So, while I'm not interested in that kind of dietary abuse, I am interested in honoring that incredible roast beef. And thankfully, Gilly and I figured out a delicious way to recapture it with just as much flavor and a lot less of the slow, impending death.

    Now, if only I could trick someone into dragging me around on a blanket.

    Mexican Roast Beef Tacos
    • 4-5 pound chuck roast
    • sea salt & black pepper
    • olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
    • 1 large onion, sliced
    • 1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
    • 2 cups beef broth
    • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
    • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • 3 bay leaves
    • corn tortillas
    • Guacamole

    Season all sides of the beef with a good amount of salt and pepper. Don't be shy, you want the outside to be well coated. In a large Dutch oven, or other heavy pot with a tight cover, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef to the pot and sear it on all sides, taking the time to build a nice golden crust all the way around. Add the onion and garlic and allow to soften and brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, plus 1 tomato can of water, beef broth, and spices, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Add just enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer with a lid for 3 hours until the meat is fork tender. Let the meat cool in the liquid. Shred meat and set aside.

    When you’ve made your guacamole and arranged your taco fixings, reheat the shredded beef in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. This makes the meat slightly crispy on the outside and still juicy and delicious on the inside.

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Green Spaghetti

    I have two little sisters. One is in a junior in college, and one is in preschool. They both live in Colorado, they both have blonde hair, and they both gave their families a hard time when dinner was something other than macaroni and cheese. While my college-age sister has moved on to more interesting culinary exploits, we can all thank her childhood stubbornness for forcing our mother to invent green spaghetti. It's a pasta sauce made of bright, just-wilted spinach, Parmesan cheese, and garlic. Topped with say, a sliced chicken breast and some halved cherry tomatoes, this is a great weeknight meal and a healthy substitute to your favorite cheesy pasta.

    Green Spaghetti
    • 6 cups baby spinach, washed and damp
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
    • splash milk
    • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 pound whole wheat pasta of your choice

    Cook pasta in boiling salted water until very al dente. While your pasta is cooking, put garlic, spinach and butter in large skillet and cook over medium heat until just wilted. Toss into your food processor (I use an immersion blender) with Parmesan and nutmeg. Add a conservative splash of milk and blend until smooth and creamy (If your ratio is off, you can add more milk to thin and cheese to thicken). Salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over hot pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan, top with tomatoes/chicken/addition of your choice and have at it.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Southern Sweet Potato Casserole

    It's raining in Southern California. And unlike transplants from other parts of the country, I'm not complaining. We have seasons here, people. And I like them. So in honor of the gloriously cozy weekend I am about to spend staring out at the stormy San Gabriels, I'm making comfort food.

    The worst thing about this sweet potato casserole is that everyone thinks they already know what it's going to taste like. You might be thinking "I don't like sweet potatoes like that," and remembering something your Aunt Susan brings to Thanksgiving that's syrupy and overly sweet. And while it's true that this recipe comes directly from my grandmother's holiday traditions in South Carolina, I'm not exaggerating when I say this will change your mind.

    It's a casserole. And beside some roast chicken and vegetables, it totally works as a side. But it's also kind of like pudding, and I like it best in a bowl. For breakfast. Or dessert.

    Southern Sweet Potato Casserole
    • 6-8 sweet potatoes (or garnet yams*)
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 can orange juice concentrate, slightly defrosted
    • package mini marshmallows

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper. Poke a few holes in your potatoes with a fork, place on baking sheet and cook until very tender and oozing slightly, about 2 hours.

    When the potatoes have cooled enough to be handled, scoop out the insides and blend with your machine of choice (I like to use an immersion blender, but a food processor of any kind will do). Add butter and orange juice and blend until very smooth, light, and almost fluffy.

    Pour into baking dish and reheat in oven (still at 350 degrees) for about 30 minutes, until warmed through.

    Cover the top with marshmallows and place dish under broiler for about 10 seconds. Keep your eyes on them the whole time, rotating if needed until tops of marshmallows are just browned.

    *There seems to be a lot of confusion for people about what a sweet potato actually is. Basically, there's a white kind and an orange kind. We want the orange ones. US grocery stores tend to label the orange variety "yams" to help you differentiate. Read more here.

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Linzer Sablés

    This looks like a Christmas cookie. Especially if you're Swiss or German. Thankfully I'm American and I can do what I want, however culinarily insensitive, so let's make Christmas cookies in March.

    These are actually really easy to make provided you have a cookie cutter. Somehow I managed to make it to my mid-twenties only owning ONE gingerbread man-shaped cutter. So further disrespecting our position on the calendar, I attempted to make a few Linzer Sablemen. These were not a success. This cookie's delicate and crumbly texture does not want to have arms and legs. It wants to be circular. So I relented and used to an upturned egg-cup as a makeshift cutter and voila, Lenten Linzer Sables were born.

    Linzer Sables
    • 1 1/2 cups almond meal
    • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 egg
    • 2 teaspoons water
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup raspberry jam plus 1 teaspoon water

    Put the first 5 dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk together. In another small bowl, stir the egg and water together using a fork.

    In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, about 5 minutes.. Add the egg mixture and beat for about another minute until well combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough too much once the flour is incorporated.

    Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, put the dough between two large sheets of plastic wrap. Using your hands, flatten the dough into a disk, then use a rolling pin to roll out the dough, turning it over frequently until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Leave the dough in the plastic and repeat with the second piece of dough. Transfer the wrapped dough to a baking sheet or cutting board (to keep it flat) and refrigerate or freeze it until it is very firm, about 2 hours in the refrigerator or 45 minutes in the freezer.

    Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

    Peel off the top sheet of plastic from one piece of dough and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter—or...whatever you have—cut out as many cookies as you can. If you want to have a peekaboo cutout, you can use the end of a piping tip to cut out a very small circle from the centers of half the cookies. Transfer to the baking sheets, leaving a little space between the cookies. Set the scraps aside—you can combine them with the scraps of the second disk and roll out and chill again before you cut more cookies.

    Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden, dry, and just firm to the touch. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature.

    Place the jam in a small saucepan or in a microwaveable bowl and stir in the 1 teaspoon water. Bring to a boil over low heat or in the microwave. Let the jam cool slightly, then turn half of the cookies flat side up and place about 1/2 teaspoon jam in the center of each cookie; sandwich with the remaining cookies. Finish off with a dusting of powdered sugar.

    Saturday, February 19, 2011


    Anyone who tells you that guacamole is just a mashed avocado with a little salsa and lime juice is out of their minds. While I'm the first to admit avocados are delicious on their own (or mashed into toast with a little salt--yum), guacamole deserves to be as interesting and spicy as your favorite salsa. It just takes a little legwork. Or in this case, wrist work.

    It bears mentioning that I will almost always find a way to incorporate smoked Spanish paprika into my food. I would highly recommend that you pick some up. It gives everything an addictive smoky complexity. Great on meats, in soups, salad dressing, eggs, popcorn...actually I struggle to think of something it wouldn't improve. Whole Foods sells it, but I tend to buy mine in bulk from here.

    • 3 ripe avocados
    • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/8 tsp pepper
    • 4 tsp hot sauce (Tapatio is my weapon of choice)
    • 1/4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (optional)

    Place garlic and onion in a medium bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, salt, pepper, hot sauce and paprika. Allow to sit for about 20 minutes and then whisk again. Place the meat of the avocado in the bowl and use a fork to mash until very smooth and creamy and hot sauce mixture has been incorporated, about 5 minutes. Season with additional hot sauce & salt to taste. It's best given a bit of time to sit, so I try to remember to make this a couple hours ahead of time. But sometimes I don't. And sometimes the bag of tortilla chips is calling to me, and it's still delicious.