Sunday, December 4, 2016

Eggs in Pepper Boats

I was wandering around a Barnes & Noble one night with a friend and happened to spy a copy of Jacques Pepin's latest cookbook, Heart & Soul In The Kitchen. I quickly snatched it up, grinning from ear to ear, because it was on sale for $12. I didn't even have to page through it before buying because Pepin is one of my favorites and I just knew it would be a wonderful book.

When I finally had time to go through the book I was in love. Not only is it full of recipes, but it also has lots of stories, great pictures, and is sprinkled with paintings done by Jacques himself. I quickly started making a list of recipes I wanted to try and these Eggs in Pepper Boats were at the top of the list. 

Tis the season for all things crazy and hectic so I love this easy, yet somewhat sophisticated touch, on breakfast. You really only need about three ingredients. Four, if you want to be fussy. Soften the peppers in the skillet with a touch of water and oil, then crack an egg in with a little cheese. In a short time you have an easy and healthy breakfast all wrapped up in one delicious little present.

Eggs in Pepper Boats
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

2 cubanelles, poblano, or banana peppers (about 4 ounces each)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons water
salt and pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese
4 extra large eggs
cilantro leaves, to garnish

Split the peppers lengthwise in half and remove the seeds and stems if you want. Arrange them cut side down in a large skillet and add the oil, water, and salt, and cook, covered, over medium heat, turning occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until the peppers are softened somewhat but still firm.

Remove the skillet from the heat and, if necessary, turn the peppers over so they are hollow side up. Place the cheese in the peppers. Break an egg into each one and sprinkle the eggs with the remaining salt and pepper.

Return the skillet to the stove, cover, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Transfer to plates, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve immediately.

November Potluck @ I Heart Cooking Clubs

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

We celebrated Thanksgiving with prime rib, baked potatoes, veggies, salad, and of course...pie.  For the first time my prime rib turned out perfectly and it truly was a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots to give thanks for.  The only problem was that there WERE NO LEFTOVERS

No prime rib hash for breakfast, or pie for that matter. After cooking for so long, and hitting a few sales, I hardly felt like making anything complicated so I was very thankful to stumble across Heidi Swanson's recipe for Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens

This is one of those recipes that you put in your back pocket and pull out when you want comforting food that is quick and easy, yet blows your taste buds through the roof. Also, if you're like me and you spent a little too much money holiday shopping, this one is also easy on the wallet. Total score.  All around.

In her book Heidi says, "I get more requests for this recipe than any other. The crisp golden crust on the beans encases a rich and creamy center, creating an irresistibly delicious combination.  The greens provide a nutritionally packed accent as well as beautiful color."  I agree. I found this to be one of the tastiest things I've had in awhile and will definitely be making it again. I think it would be wonderful served over bruschetta, as Heidi suggests in the book. I also think you could spice it up by adding chilies and/or any other spices or seasonings that you favor.  This is a very versatile recipe and one that I will be experimenting with in the future. I highly encourage you to give this a try!

Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Greens
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 6 to 8 as a side

1/2 pound medium or large dried white beans, cooked (or 1 can white beans)
3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
1 onion coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 or 7 big leaves Swiss chard, leaves cut into wide ribbons and 1 or 2 stems cut into 1/2 " pieces
olive oil, for drizzling
Parmesan cheese, for topping

Drain the beans, then heat the butter over medium high heat in the widest skillet you've got. (I like a cast iron pan for this).  Add the beans to the hot pan in a single layer. If you don't have a big enough skillet, just do the saute step in two batches or save the extra beans for another use. Stir to coat the beans with butter, then let them sit long enough to brown on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes, before turning to brown the other side, also about 3 or 4 minutes. The beans should be golden and a bit crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Salt and pepper, to taste, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion softens. Stir in the chard and cook until just beginning to wilt. Remove from the heat and season to taste with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of quality extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan. 

Let's Give Thanks @ IHCC

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Inspired Buddha Bowl

This Buddha Bowl was inspired by Heidi Swanson's Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts. The perfectly golden caramelized rounds of brussels sprouts coated in nutty Parmesan cheese spoke to me every time I paged through my copy of Super Natural Cooking, begging to be made.

Since brussels sprouts themselves do not constitute a buddha bowl, and that is our theme this week at IHCC, I looked around my pantry and gathered ingredients I felt would compliment them. I came out with a quinoa and brown rice mix, sweet potatoes, dried cranberries, glazed pecans, and some Dukkah. An autumnal mix of ingredients for sure.

I cooked the quinoa and brown rice mix adding a touch of butter, cut the sweet potato in cubes and roasted it, and prepared the brussels sprouts. Afterwards I layered it all in the bowl, with the dried cranberries, glazed pecans, and a sprinkling of Dukkah (a nut and spice blend) and called it dinner.

Overall, the bowl was delicious but I do have to say the Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts were my favorite part. I loved the caramelized flat sides, and my favorite parts were the sprouts that were covered in a crusty coating of Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson 
Serves 4

24 small Brussels Sprouts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup grated cheese of your choice (Parmesan)

Trim the stem ends of the brussels sprouts and remove any raggedy outer leaves.  Cut in half from stem to top and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact. Heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don't cook too quickly. Place the brussels sprouts in the pan, flat side down, sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt and pepper, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they're tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grins of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately.

Buddha Bowls @ IHCC

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Winter Rainbow Gratin

It's been a tough and emotional week. At the beginning of the week I found myself very anxious about the presidential election. In fact, on the night the results poured in, I was practically sitting on the edge of my seat. I found myself screaming at the TV, like a devout football fan watching the Superbowl. I knew that no matter the outcome, emotions would be on high. I think I underestimated how high the emotions would be.

The week ended with my baby turning double digits. My little guy, who is definitely not little anymore, turned 10. After the election was over, I poured every spare minute into throwing one last big blowout of a birthday party. We rented a rolling game truck, invited about 15 kids, and went all out.  The kids had a fabulous time and I was happy to throw the party, but I am emotionally, physically, and financially drained.

Desperately in need of easy comfort food, I happened upon this recipe for Winter Rainbow Gratin. Just so happened that I had all the ingredients and the directions didn't have me running for the door. Even still, I had to pry myself off the couch to get started. Within a few minutes I was happily chopping veggies (one of my favorite kitchen tasks) and I felt a certain calm I hadn't felt all week. Kitchen therapy is real.

This gratin is a combination of red potatoes, butternut squash (or you could sub sweet potato), shallots, carrot, green onions, and apple topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It's gorgeous to look at, very savory and satisfying, and ultimately comforting. Just the right thing to end a crazy hectic week.

Winter Rainbow Gratin
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons butter and a drizzle of olive oil
4 small purple and/or red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into wedges
4 small shallots, sliced thinly
1 quarter of a butternut squash, about 1 cup cubed
4 young yellow and/or orange carrots, cut in half lengthwise if thicker than your thumb
4 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 apple or pear, unpeeled, cored, and cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Optional: butter or oil for drizzling on top prior to baking*

Preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Heat the butter in your largest ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. In a single layer, add the potatoes, shallots, squash, carrots, and green onions and toss to coat. Try not to overcrowd the pan, or the vegetables will steam and not brown. If you don't have a big enough pan, split the ingredients between two skillets. Saute over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan a couple of times along the way. The vegetables should start to brown a bit and be tender but not mushy.

Remove from the heat and sprinkle with a generous dose of salt and pepper. Stir in the apple wedges. If you don't have an ovenproof skillet, transfer the ingredients to an ovenproof baking dish or casserole. Sprinkle with all the bread crumbs and half of the Parmesan cheese. (Note: This method produces a fairly dry gratin, so my suggestion is to mix the breadcrumbs with a couple tablespoons of butter and/or oil to add some moisture back into the gratin - see optional ingredients*). You don't want to stir at this point; rather, let the crumbs and cheese perch right on top of the vegetables so they'll get nice and crunchy.

Place the uncovered skillet in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, tossing the vegetables with a metal spatula about halfway through. The potatoes and carrots should be golden, crispy, and caramelized where they touch the pan and soft and tender inside. When everything is caramelized and fragrant, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Serve right from the skillet.

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating squash by sharing both old and new recipes. This Winter Rainbow Gratin is certainly a contender, and much more sophisticated than my old standby, but it's hard to beat Tessa Kiros' Baked Butternut Squash.  Bright orange spears of squash topped with butter, brown sugar, and fragrant bay leaves makes for one of my favorite squash sides. It's a colorful, creamy, and sweet delight that always goes over well.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Risotto-Style Barley with Winter Citrus and Arugula

You know that traditional Italian risotto that everyone goes weak in the knees for? That risotto ain't going nothing on this Barley Risotto. Did I really dare say that? Yes, I did. And I will say it again and again.

Barley risotto is the way to go, folks! The barley puffs up into little round circles that pop in the mouth. Texture-wise they are a huge improvement on the traditional arborio rice used for risotto. What's even more is that I found I not only preferred the flavor of the barley, but also that barley yielded a much creamier risotto than any arborio rice version I've tried. In fact, I loved this barley version so much I might just throw out my arborio rice altogether!

If you've been looking to try something new, then I urge you to give this recipe a try. This is a hearty, comforting, soul-soothing recipe that pleases on all levels. The texture of barley really takes risotto to a whole new level. The bright citrus flavors pair well with the sharp bites of arugula and help to cut through the creaminess from the Mascarpone and Parmesan. Of course, the toasty walnuts on top bring this dish to a 10+ with their added crunch. A stunning dish!

Risotto-Style Barley with Winter Citrus and Arugula
Adapted from Super Natural Cooking
by Heidi Swanson
Serves 4 to 6

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 or 2 shallots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups pearled barley, rinsed and picked clean
1 cup dry white wine or stock
6 cups water
1 orange
grated zest of 1lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
2 big handfuls coarsely chopped arugula, or spinach
Handful of chopped/toasted walnuts, for garnish

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, then add the onion, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper, and saute, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften.

Add the barley to the pot and stir until coated with a nice sheen, then add the white wine or stock and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, until the barley has absorbed the liquid a bit. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, active simmer.

In increments, add about 6 cups of water, 1 cup at a time, letting the barley absorb most of the liquid between additions; this should take around 40 minutes altogether. Stir regularly, because you don't want the grains on the bottom of the pan to scorch. You will know when the barley is cooked because it won't offer up much resistance when chewing (it will, however, be chewier than Arborio rice). I think this risotto is better on the brothy side, so don't worry if there is a bit of unabsorbed liquid in the pot.

Meanwhile, grate the zest of the orange, then peal and segment the orange. Cut the segments in half, reserving any juices that leak out. When the barley is tender, stir in the orange zest, segments and juice, lemon zest, Parmesan, and Mascarpone. Taste and adjust seasoning if need be, then stir in the arugula. Garnish with the toasted walnuts before serving.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Quinoa & Veggie Patties with Harissa

These Quinoa Patties have been a looooong time coming. I bookmarked them way back and they've been on my list for what feels like forever.

 I think one of the reasons they appeal to me so much is because it's one of those basic recipes, like pizza or risotto, which can be taken in many directions, depending on your inspiration.

For example, this time around I was inspired by a jar of Harissa I bought at Trader Joe's. I knew I wanted to use the Harissa as a dipping sauce, so I started there and decided to add in bell peppers, broccoli, feta cheese, and pine nuts.  This version was spicy and full of flavor!

In the future I'm inspired to try many other versions. More than anything, I think a breakfast version with a fried egg and sliced avocado on top would trump just about any other version.  Although, of course, I think an Italian version with pesto, loads of garlic, and Italian cheeses would also be delicious. After that, I can seeing mixing in some lentils or beans, maybe trying my hand at a kale version, and perhaps even a Thanksgiving-inspired version with dried cranberries and nuts/seeds. See, lots of possibilities!! Numerous forms of inspiration.

Also worth noting, I cooked my quinoa according to this recipe, which I prefer because the quinoa is toasted before cooking, which results in a nuttier and more robust flavor.  I cooked the quinoa in chicken broth, but you could use veggie broth if you wanted to go vegetarian, and seasoned the quinoa with salt, pepper, chives, and parsley.

These Quinoa Patties are inspiring. Open up your mind and create your own version using some of your favorite flavors!

Quinoa &Veggie Patties with Harissa
Adapted from
by Heidi Swanson
Makes 12 patties

 2-1/2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
4 large eggs, beaten
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup fresh chives
1 yellow or white onion, chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup steamed broccoli, chopped*
1/4 cup sauteed chopped peppers, chopped*
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup bread crumbs, plus more if needed
water, if needed
1 tablespoon or more olive oil, for frying
Harissa, feta cheese, pine nuts, etc. for garnish

Notes: My changes/additions are noted with an asterisk*

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, garlic, broccoli, and peppers. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a mixture you can easily form into twelve 1-inch thick patties. I err on the very moist side because it makes for a not-overly-dry patty, but you an add more bread crumbs, a bit at a time, to firm up the mixture, if need be. Conversely, a bit more beaten egg or water can be used to moisten the mixture.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add 6 patties, if they'll fit with some room between each, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until the patties are browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the second sides for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.  Alternatively, the quinoa mixture keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days; you can cook patties to order, if you prefer.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ellie's Banana Bread with Chocolate Drizzle

This is the 5th recipe for banana bread I've shared on my blog. Over the years I've made banana bread with many additions: pecans, bourbon, peanut butter, and my all-time favorite - loads of brown sugar. Now I'm back at it again giving banana bread a healthy-ish twist by reducing the sugar, using part whole wheat flour, and replacing some of the oil with yogurt. And you know what? You would never know this is a healthier version!

This is a deliciously moist banana bread with a very nice crumb.  The best part, of course, is the chocolate drizzle. Of course, when I was putting the recipe together I was thinking 1/2 oz of chocolate? How is that going to be enough to drizzle atop the whole loaf? Well, I should have known better than to question one of Ellie Krieger's recipes because of course it turned out to be the perfect amount. Like always, Ellie has succeeded in turning another classic into a healthier and crave-worthy delight! 

If you're a fan of banana bread I would definitely give this recipe a try! The chocolate drizzle really gives this recipe a dessert feel. I found this to be very satisfying and indulgent.

Banana Bread with Chocolate Drizzle
Adapted from The Washington Post
Serves 10, makes one 9-inch loaf

1/3 cup walnut pieces (optional)
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or regular whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large, very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 1 & 1/2 cups total)
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
2 teaspoons milk, plus more if needed
1/2 ounce dark chocolate, 60% - finely chopped

Notes: I opted not to use the walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan. 

If you'll be adding the walnuts, spread them on a baking sheet and toast in the preheated oven until fragrant and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.

Whisk together the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the oil, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl, then whisk in the mashed bananas until well incorporated. Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in the toasted walnuts, if using.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface. Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool in the pan, then transfer the loaf to a plate.

While the banana bread is cooling, combine the confectioner's sugar and the 2 teaspoons of milk in a small saucepan over low heat; stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the chocolate and cook, stirring, until melted and well incorporated, about 1 minutes. If the mixture seems too thick, add another teaspoon or two of milk. Remove from the heat.

Drizzle or spoon the chocolate mixture over the top of the banana bread. Allow the chocolate to cool and set before slicing and serving.