Monday, October 31

Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Seeds

I've always loved Halloween. Not only do I enjoy dressing in costume (this year I'm going as Black Swan), but I also love decorating the house. Last week, my boyfriend and I went to the local pumpkin patch and each carved our own jack-o-lantern. It's messy fun, and the best part is taking out the seeds and roasting them. This year I tossed them with olive oil, salt, and roasted garlic seasoning before putting them in the oven. They're a great snack and such a fun way to enjoy Halloween.

Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Seeds:
  • Remove the seeds from two medium-large pumpkins.
  • Rinse off any clinging pulp* and pat them dry.
  • Toss the seeds with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. roasted garlic seasoning,** and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.
  • Place the seeds on a baking sheet and roast in a 375°F oven for 12 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  • Let cool and serve.

Makes 3 cups***
*I like to let my seeds soak in cold water overnight so that all the pulp comes loose.
**Or any seasoning blend you like best.
***Varies based on pumpkins.

Friday, October 28

Spicy Pork Stir-fry

My boyfriend loves spicy food and frequently puts extra hot sauce on my finished dishes (as a food purist, I try not to get offended). He actually keeps about eight different types of hot sauce in our pantry, and alternates them depending on the type of cuisine he's eating. I do something similar with my cooking, but stick to my three tried-and-true favorites: Cholula for Mexican food and eggs, red chili flakes for Italian food, and Sriracha for Asian food. This pork stir-fry (inspired by this recipe) uses a good helping of Sriracha to achieve its spicy kick, but still has a balanced flavor from the other herbs and spices. Cool it down with some refreshing coconut rice.

Spicy Pork & Asparagus Stir-fry:
  • Very thinly slice 1 lb. of boneless pork loin chops and 3/4 lb. of asparagus into bite-size pieces.
  • Toss the pork with 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. mirin,* and 1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tbsp. of canola oil in a very hot wok.**
  • Add in the asparagus and 1 tbsp. grated ginger and cook until asparagus is almost tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Remove the asparagus mixture from the wok with a slotted spoon.
  • Add in the pork and marinade and cook until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes.
  • Stir in a mixture of 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. hoisin sauce,*** 2 tsp. Sriracha, and 1 tsp. honey.
  • Add in the asparagus and 1 tbsp. sliced scallions.
  • Cook until the pork is done and the asparagus is tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Divide onto plates and serve with rice.

Serves two - three 
*Rice wine. Available in the Asian aisle of some grocery stores.
**Or use a large skillet.
***Asian barbecue sauce. Available in the Asian aisle of some grocery stores.

Thursday, October 27

Tricolore Salad with Parmesan & Anchovy Dressing

Nancy Silverton's recipe for Mozza's tricolore salad

Nancy Silverton Tricolore Salad

I’ve been lucky enough to go to a few Mario Batali restaurants in my life, first at Babbo in New York City and more recently and frequently at Pizzeria Mozza here in L.A. Although Mario’s name is at the forefront of the Mozza restaurants (there’s also the up-scale Osteria Mozza next door to the pizza joint), the day-to-day operations are generally handled by Nancy Silverton, an L.A. food genius behind the La Brea Bakery. I recently picked up her recipe for Mozza’s tricolore salad with anchovy dressing when it was featured in the L.A. Times and was shocked at how easy it was to put together. Don’t be turned off by the mention of anchovies, they disappear into the dressing and lend themselves to a salty, tasty Caesar-like salad. Serve this with bread for a first course or light lunch, or alongside pizza as a quick weeknight dinner. 

Related Recipes:
- Kale Ribbon Salad with Parmesan & Garlic Vinaigrette
- Celery & Parmesan Salad
- Kale, Fennel, & Radish Salad

Nancy Silverton’s Tricolore Salad:
For Dressing
  • In a blender, combine 5 anchovy fillets (backbone removed),* 1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 minced garlic cloves, and salt and pepper.
  • Blend until smooth, then slowly stream in 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Adjust seasonings as desired.**
For Salad
  • Wash and dry 8 oz. baby arugula, 1 head of chopped romaine lettuce, and 1 head of chopped radicchio, removing any bruised pieces of lettuce.***
  • Season lettuce with a pinch of good-quality salt and toss with half of the dressing and 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Taste for seasoning, adding more dressing or salt and pepper as desired.
  • Divide onto plates and top with an extra sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Serves four (side dish)
*Preferably salt-packed and rinsed.
**Dressing can be refrigerated and stored for up to 3 days.
***Or use any combination of lettuce you like best.

Wednesday, October 26

Coconut Basmati Rice

Swap coconut milk for water the next time you cook rice

Coconut Basmati Rice

I love rice – it’s cheap, it’s an amazing hangover cure (eat a bowl of rice after a night out and you’ll feel better within minutes), and I even have a section in this blog dedicated to rice dishes. I’m addicted to the frozen, double-serving size brown rice packets available at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but my first rice love is Basmati. My mom is the self-titled “Rice Queen” and most of our meals growing up were accompanied by salty, buttery basmati rice. This coconut version is a great variation on the standard, and I love the technique of toasting the uncooked rice in butter before adding the liquid. Serve it under Asian wings, Thai curry, or spicy stir-fries.
Coconut Basmati Rice:
  • Melt a small pat* of butter in a small sauce pot.
  • Add in 1 c. of basmati rice** and toast for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.***
  • Pour in 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk and 3/4 c. water and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
  • Cook the rice for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork and season with salt.

Serves two-four (side dish) 
*About 1/2 tbsp.
**Or any long-grain white rice.
***This brings out the rice's nutty flavor. 

Tuesday, October 25

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom & Artichoke Casserole

Chicken and vegetables are baked in a creamy lemon sauce with a crunchy topping

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom, & Artichoke Casserole

Whenever I visit my parents at their home, I always end up bringing back tons of unexpected goodies. I was there last weekend to attend a fundraiser for my dad’s charity, Haiti Healthcare Partners, and came home with two bags of groceries taken from their fridge. With those items, I was able to make a casserole (adapted from this recipe) with chicken, mushrooms, and artichokes in a lemon-cream sauce. It’s super simple to make but is still a show-stopper for guests. My boyfriend came home while I had it baking in the oven and the whole house smelled delicious and inviting. It was the perfect fall comfort food and was especially decadent when served with creamy mashed potatoes.

Related Recipes:
- Marsala Mushroom & Artichoke Pasta
- Braised Chicken with Mushrooms
- Chicken & Mushroom Pot Pie

Creamy Chicken, Mushroom & Artichoke Casserole:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet.
  • Season 8 chicken cutlets (pounded 1/2" - 1/4" thick)* with salt and pepper and place in the hot pan.
  • Brown chicken on both sides, about 5 minutes total, and place into an even layer in a baking dish.
  • Top the chicken with 8 oz. artichoke hearts** and 3/4 lb. thickly sliced mushrooms.
  • In the same pan that the chicken was in, add in 3 minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant.
  • Add in 1/4 c. sherry, the juice from 1 lemon and the zest of a lemon and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, stir in 1 c. creme fraiche,*** a pinch of salt and pepper, and pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables.
  • Stir together 1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs, 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle evenly over the casserole.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in a 350° oven, or until hot and bubbly.
  • Let cool for a few minutes, then divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four - six
*About 2 lb. total. Purchase cutlets at the store, or pound out boneless skinless breasts with a meat mallet.
**Defrosted from a package of frozen artichoke hearts.
***Can substitute with sour cream in a pinch.

Monday, October 24

Sweet & Spicy Asian Wings

Sweet, sticky, spicy baked chicken wings

Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings

I’ve been a fan of the Big Girls Small Kitchen blog ever since I saw one of the creators on an episode of Barefoot Contessa a few years ago. It’s a premise that’s not much different than my own, featuring recipe ideas from two twenty-somethings for cooking and entertaining on a budget. I love how simple and easy their dishes are, so when I recently stumbled upon their recipe for Asian-style chicken wings I knew I had to try it myself (with a few tweaks). Anyone with a well-stocked pantry and fridge should be able to whip these up on the fly (all I had to do was buy the chicken) and enjoy a new take on classic Buffalo wings. Bonus points for baking and broiling them in the oven, which is a much healthier alternative to the usual deep-fried method.

Sweet & Spicy Asian Wings:
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Dry 2 lbs. of chicken wings* with a paper towel, then toss with 2 tbsp. canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread wings into one layer on a large baking sheet** and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Turn on the broiler and cook the wings for another 10 minutes or until crispy, flipping the wings over halfway through.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. sesame oil in a small saucepan.
  • Add in 1 tbsp. grated ginger and 3 minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant but not brown.
  • Whisk in 2 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 tsp. Sriracha, 1/4 c. honey, and 2 tbsp. soy sauce and cook until the mixture reaches a syrup-like consistency.
  • In a large bowl, toss the wings with the sauce and 1 tbsp. chopped scallions until the chicken is fully coated with the mixture.
  • Sprinkle with extra scallions and serve.

Serves two-four (main course)
Serves six (appetizer)
*These are full chicken wings, not already broken down into separate drummette pieces.
**Line the sheet with foil for easy clean up.

    Friday, October 21

    Steak with Mushroom-Red Wine Sauce

    In order to make my life easier, I usually plan our whole week of meals on Sunday and do almost all my grocery shopping on Monday so that I can relax during the rest of the work week. It's a great strategy for organizing my time and budget, but it can leave little room for flexibility. My boyfriend is much more spontaneous than me, so I try to acquiesce to his sudden food cravings once and awhile. He'd been asking to grill steaks (his most common craving), so we collaborated on this delicious recipe where he grilled the meat and I added some flair with the mushrooms and red wine sauce. It was a tasty reminder about the benefits of a balanced relationship.

    Steak with Mushroom-Red Wine Sauce:
    For Steak
    • Thirty minutes before grilling, remove a 1 lb. steak* from the fridge, rub with olive oil, and season generously with salt, pepper, and garlic.
    • Place the steak over a hot grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side.
    • Place steak on a plate, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
    • Slice steak, divide onto plates, and serve with mushrooms and red wine sauce.
    For Mushroom-Red Wine Sauce
    • Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and 3 smashed garlic cloves in a large skillet until very hot.
    • Remove the garlic** and add in 8 oz. of halved cremini mushrooms.***
    • Cook the mushrooms until softened and golden brown (do not stir them).
    • Remove the mushrooms, keeping any juices still in the pan.
    • Add in 1/2 c. red wine and any juices from the steak's resting plate and reduce by half (about 3-5 minutes).
    • Turn off the heat and whisk in 2 tbsp. cold butter. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
    • Spoon mushrooms and sauce over sliced steak.

    Serves two
    *I used a New York Strip. Rib eye would be great too.
    **By heating the garlic in the oil and removing it, you are infusing the garlic flavor without burning it.
    ***Also called baby bellas. Can substitute any mushrooms you like.

    Thursday, October 20

    Individual Pear Cobblers

    Though I try to share most of my memorable dining experiences with my readers, sometimes I need to take a night off from blogging and simply enjoy the food and my boyfriend's company. So when we recently went on a romantic date to Michael's, I left my camera in my purse and savored each moment of our three-course meal without distraction. His food was excellent (as were the multiple wine pairings) and I fell in love with the pear cobbler and ginger ice cream I had for dessert. This is my own version (adapted from my recipe for peach and raspberry crumble) and I think it's just as good.

    Individual Pear Cobblers:*
    • Cut 2-3 ripe pears** into uniform, bite-size pieces and toss with 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/2 tbsp. sugar,*** and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon.
    • Spoon pears into the bottom of three or four 8-10 oz. ramekins, filling the cups up about half way.
    • Meanwhile, combine 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 stick cold butter cubes, 1 tbsp. slivered almonds, 1 tbsp. white sugar, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
    • Use your fingers to break up the butter into the flour mixture, until the crumble resembles coarse sand.
    • Divide the crumble on top of the ramekins, then place them on a cookie sheet.
    • Bake the cobblers in a 375°F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until topping is brown and fruit is bubbling.
    • Let cobblers cool for 5-10 minutes, then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.

    Serves three-four
    *If you don't have ramekins, you can assemble it in a large baking dish and increase the cook time by 10 - 20 minutes.
    **Depending on size. Slightly under ripe pears are ok, as they will soften when baked. I used comice pears.
    ***You may want to add more or less, depending on how sweet the fruit is.

    Wednesday, October 19

    Penne with Broccolini & Sausage

    Since coming home from Seattle, I've had to deal with busy days at work, a dead car battery, a flat tire, and seemingly endless phone calls and social engagements. With all the running around, I've had little time to spend in the kitchen but finally made it to the grocery store last night. I threw together this pasta (noodles are almost always my go-to on busy weeknights), which is incredibly easy but still totally satisfying. The sausage and broccolini can be cooked in one pan while the pasta is boiling, making this dish come together in no time at all.

    Penne with Broccoli Rabe & Sausage:
    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a handful of salt and cook 1 lb. of whole wheat penne* pasta until al dente.
    • Meanwhile, remove 1 lb. of hot Italian sausage from its casing and crumble into a large, hot pan.
    • Cook sausage until it starts to brown, about 4 minutes, then add in 1/2 lb. of chopped broccolini.**
    • Toss the veggies in the fat from the sausage, then add in 1 tsp. lemon zest and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
    • Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the greens are tender and the sausage is crispy and cooked through.
    • Deglaze the pan with 1/3 c. white wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and letting the alcohol cook for 1-2 minutes.
    • Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking liquid.
    • Add the pasta, 1/2 c. of the liquid, and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese to the pan with the sausage.
    • Toss the pasta with the sauce until almost all the liquid has absorbed and the cheese has melted, adding more pasta water if necessary.
    • Check pasta for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary.
    • To serve, divide onto plates and top with extra Parmesan and red chili flakes.

    Serves four
    *Any shape of pasta will do.
    *Also called baby broccoli. Can substitute for rapini/ broccoli rabe. 

    Tuesday, October 18

    Shrimp Fajitas

    I love fajitas (see here and here) because they make a quick and healthy meal that's still packed with tons of flavor and texture. This is actually a recreation of a dish I made pre-blog and I didn't think to document the recipe at the time. However, I think my second attempt was even better that the first. Just a few ingredients (that I usually have on hand) go into the marinade and flavor the shrimp with a sweet, spicy tang. Crack open some Mexican beer and set out some chips and salsa and you have the perfect party meal for you and your friends.

    Shrimp Fajitas:
    • Combine 3/4 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp* with 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice, 1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil, 1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, 1 tsp. honey, several dashes of hot sauce, and salt.*
    • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet and add in 1 thinly sliced bell pepper and 1 thinly sliced onion.
    • Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 6-8 minutes.
    • Add in the shrimp and marinade and cook for another 4 minutes, or until shrimp is just cooked through and marinade is evaporated.
    • Serve with warm tortillas and guacamole.**

    Serves two - three
    *Make sure to remove the tails too.
    **Let shrimp marinate for 20-30 minutes.
    ***Try my recipe for guacamole or purchase some from your favorite Mexican restaurant.

    Monday, October 17

    Weekend Review: Seattle

    Seafood on display at Pike Place Fish Co.

    I just got back from a reunion in Seattle, WA with my former college roommates where we indulged (sometimes excessively) in some of our favorite activities: imbibing, cheering on the CU Buffaloes, and eating delicious food. We had a busy schedule and gourmet food wasn't always a priority, but all the girls love to eat and we enjoyed some amazing meals. From the exquisite small plates at Black Bottle to the innovative Japanese fusion at Japonessa, I got a glimpse of the expansive and impressive Seattle food scene. My favorite place was the Pike Place Market, where I ogled their beautiful selection of fresh fish, sipped a caramel apple cider from the original Starbucks, and purchased a travel-sized bottle of fresh Tayberry* jam. It was so fun to be reunited with my friends and although I would’ve have a great time just by the company I was with, the food certainly sweetened the deal.

    *A tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry.

    Bacon Lemon Scallops & Frizzled Kale at Black Bottle
    Smokey Wild Boar Ribs at Black Bottle
    Garlic Basil Shortribs at Japonessa
    Calamari with Sweet Chili Glaze at Japonessa

    Thursday, October 13

    Eggs with Prosciutto & Spinach

    I’m going out of town for a long weekend with my girlfriends and wanted to clear out the fridge before I left (since I know my boyfriend is going to be ordering out the whole time I’m gone). We both get free meals at work, so a lot of our leftovers are breakfast foods that we didn’t finish over the weekend and have no use for during the week. This meal was a breakfast-for-dinner inspired creation I made with ingredients in our fridge, but it turned out to be incredibly delicious. The prosciutto adds a rich, buttery finish to the meal, but could certainly be substituted for anything you might have laying around (bacon or smoked salmon would be delicious). If you’re going to omit all meat and make this vegetarian, I would substitute the spinach for something heartier like kale or chard.

    Eggs with Prosciutto & Spinach:
    • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil and 3 smashed garlic cloves in a skillet.
    • Add in 6 oz. of baby spinach and season with salt, pepper, and red chili flakes.
    • Cook spinach until wilted, about 4 minutes, then place into a bowl and wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.
    • Turn the heat to medium-high, add in 2 tbsp. of butter, and fry two eggs to your desired doneness.* Season with salt and pepper.
    • Meanwhile, cut a large ciabatta roll in half and toast both pieces. Spread garlic and herb butter** on the warm bread.
    • Divide spinach on top of bread, straining out any liquid at the bottom of the bowl.***
    • Place 3-4 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto on top of the spinach, then place an egg on top.
    • Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

    Serves two
    *To get a tutorial on how to cook perfectly fried eggs, see here.
    **From this recipe. Can substitute for regular butter.
    ***Don't skip this step or the bread will get soggy.

    Wednesday, October 12

    Rosemary-Garlic Compound Butter

    Bon Appetit had a great article on the ease and versatility of flavored butters in their recent Home Entertaining issue. I'm no stranger to making my own compound butter (such as this one) but loved their idea of making a large batch and keeping it in the freezer for later use. If you're like me and often find yourself wasting leftover fresh herbs and spices, then mixing them into butter is a great way to use them. This garlic and rosemary butter is perfect for spreading onto toasted bread (for the best garlic bread, ever) or melting on top of steaks, chicken, or steamed veggies. It's a great way to jazz up an ordinary meal, and I can't wait to try out more interesting flavor combinations like ginger-soy and chipotle-lime.

    Rosemary-Garlic Compound Butter:
    • In a small mortar and pestle,* mash together 3/4 stick room temperature unsalted butter, 1 tsp. finely minced rosemary, and 3 finely minced garlic cloves.**
    • Season the butter with a pinch of salt*** and freshly ground pepper.
    • Spoon butter into a mound on a piece of plastic wrap.
    • Starting from one end, beginning rolling the plastic wrap over the butter to form a log shape, twisting both ends up like a Tootsie roll.
    • Freeze the butter until solid, then slice and use as needed.
    Makes 6-7 tbsp. of butter
    *Or use a bowl and the back of a spoon.
    **I used a garlic press to get the garlic extra fine.
    ***If using salted butter, you can probably skip this step.

    Tuesday, October 11

    Grilled Radicchio Salad

    I was getting sick of our usual vegetable side dish routine (roasted vegetables or a simple salad) and decided to try making a grilled salad instead. I've had grilled radicchio at some of my favorite restaurants, such as Gjelina,  and I love how the smokey grill can transform a boring piece of lettuce into something complex. Radicchio is particularly hearty, so it stands up well on the hot grill. It can be bitter, but the sweet balsamic dressing really compliments it nicely. Try it out the next time you get in a side dish rut, or if you want to impress your guests with something unique (they'll never know how easy it was to make).

    Grilled Radicchio Salad:
    • Cut 2 heads of radicchio into quarters and cut out most of the thick middle core.
    • Grill radicchio on a hot, oiled grill for 1-2 minutes per side, or until nicely charred outside and still tender inside.
    • Meanwhile, combine 1 tsp. mustard with 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, then slowly whisk in 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
    • Divide salad onto plates and top with dressing, freshly shaved Parmesan cheese,* and toasted pine nuts.**

    Serves four
    *Use a vegetable peeler to shave cheese into long, thin ribbons.
    **Toast pine nuts in a hot, dry pan for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.

    Monday, October 10

    Pumpkin Parmesan Pasta

    I’ve been wanting to try Williams-Sonoma’s Pumpkin Parmesan pasta sauce for over a year, but the sauce is only available during the holidays and last year I waited too long to pick some up before it sold out. It recently appeared in stores again and this time I didn’t hesitate to pick up a bottle. I had high expectations for how delicious the sauce would be but it was even better than I could have imagined. It's surprisingly savory, with a real hint of roasted garlic and something slightly spicy that I can't put my finger on. I wanted to showcase it as simply as possible, so I just tossed it with some whole wheat pasta and sprinkled it with toasted walnuts. It's one of the easiest quick weeknight meals I've come up with, but still sophisticated enough for company.

    Spaghetti with Pumpkin Parmesan Sauce & Walnuts:
    • Cook 1 lb. of whole-wheat spaghetti* in a large pot of boiling, salted water until 2 minutes before the package directions.
    • Meanwhile, heat 1 jar of pumpkin parmesan sauce in a large pan over medium-low heat.
    • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water.
    • Add pasta to the sauce and toss to combine.
    • Stir in 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese and 1 c. of toasted walnuts**. Moisten will some of the pasta water as necessary.
    • Continue tossing pasta until it absorbs most of the sauce and is al dente, about 1-2 minutes.
    • To serve, divide into pasta bowls and top with a few more toasted nuts.

    Serves four
    *Any shape of pasta works here.
    **To toast nuts, place them in a hot, dry saute pan for 3-5 minutes, or until golden.