Tuesday, December 31

Cara Cara Orange, Avocado, & Butter Lettuce Salad

A vibrant winter salad adapted from Suzanne Goin's The A.O.C. Cookbook.

Suzanne Goin's Cara Cara Orange Avocado Salad

Christmas always means that I get a couple of new cookbooks from my wishlist. When I get a new book, I literally read the whole thing from cover to cover and then make a list of all the recipes that I want to try from it, which I add to my iPhone's already incredibly long list of pending recipes and ideas. One of the new ones I just received was Suzanne Goin's The A.O.C. Cookbook, which is based off dishes she makes at one of my favorite restaurants, A.O.C. I'm not even done reading it yet, but I already made an adaptation of one of her salads the other day. She categorizes her dishes by season, ensuring that the ingredients in this winter salad will be at their peak freshness and availability. I picked up the Cara Cara oranges, avocados, and butter lettuce at my local farmers market, although you could substitute whatever type of orange or soft lettuce is available closest to you. The creamy avocado dressing adds a richness to the tender lettuce and sweet orange segments and the hint of chile makes the whole thing pop. It's a fresh, bright way to enjoy winter produce and makes for an interesting side dish among more traditional cold-weather fare.

Cara Cara Orange, Avocado, & Butter Lettuce Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing:
For Dressing
  • Remove the pit from 1 large, very ripe avocado and scoop the flesh into a blender with 2-3 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1/4 c. water, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Blend until smooth, then open the lid of the blender and slowly stream in 1/3 c. grapeseed oil* while the motor is running.
  • Turn off blender immediately once all the oil is added and transfer to a bowl. Stir in 2 tbsp. heavy cream and check for seasoning.
For Salad
  • Remove the core from 1 head of butter lettuce and wash and dry thoroughly.**
  • Meanwhile, cut the skin off of 2 Cara Cara oranges, and then slice between the membranes of each section over a bowl to catch all the segments and juices.
  • Remove the pit and skin from 1-2 ripe avocados and slice thinly. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss the lettuce in a bowl with some of the dressing and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the lettuce onto plates, then scatter some of the orange and avocado slices over, drizzle a little of the orange juice over, and a scatter 1/2 thinly sliced Fresno chili on top.

Serves two (light meal)
Serves four (side dish)
*Available at most grocery stores. Can substitute with a light olive oil.
**The best way to do this is to soak the lettuce leaves in a sink filled with cold water, then spin dry in a salad spinner. You can also wrap the wet lettuce in a dry kitchen towel and whip the towel around until the lettuce is dry.

Friday, December 27

New Year's Eve Appetizers

New Year's Eve Appetizer Recipes

The meaning of New Year's Eve has taken on a lot of change for me over the past few years. Once my
favorite party night of the year, it's turned into a much more relaxed celebration with my husband and a few close friends. Rather than brave the crowds and fork over a hefty cover charge at a nearby bar, we like to host an intimate gathering at home and spend our money on good champagne and a few indulgent eats. We'll most likely have a glass in our hand all night, so I find that serving an array of appetizers is the easiest way to fill up on New Year's Eve without interfering with the fun. These easy and elegant bites can be prepped in advance and then quickly heated or assembled right before guests arrive or in waves over the course of the evening. Serve with your favorite champagne or festive cocktail and enjoy!

New Year's Eve Appetizers:

* Want more ideas? See a full list of my appetizer recipes.

The key to a good cocktail party (besides good cocktails!) is to make sure you're enjoying time with friends instead of spending the night in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite store-bought items to set out as appetizers - no cooking required:
     - Smoked or Salted Almonds
     - Thinly-sliced Prosciutto or Genoa Salami
     - Herbed Boursin Cheese and Water Crackers
     - Crunchy, Juicy Green Grapes

Thursday, December 26

Jalapeno Margaritas

It's five o'clock somewhere with these fresh and spicy margaritas

Jalapeno Margarita Recipe

I'm in Minnesota for a week celebrating my first ever white Christmas with my husband and in-laws. We've been enjoying our share of festive activities: viewing Christmas lights around the city, attending a play, and enjoying traditional holiday food and drinks. But we took a break from tradition earlier in the week and I made a big Mexican dinner for everyone, complete with homemade margaritas. These have a spicy kick from fresh jalapenos and rival the drinks at our favorite restaurant. The key is using fresh squeezed lime juice, which yields the perfect balance of tang and sweetness that you can't get from bottled juice or mixes. I'd recommend using a citrus juicer (I have this durable and inexpensive one at home) to make juicing all those limes a breeze. All of the ingredients can be prepared well in advance (the jalapeno tequila can keep for months!) and can be scaled to feed a crowd. We ended up quadrupling the recipe for our group, which made for a very fun night.

More Cocktail Recipes:
- Kumquatinis
- Mojitos
- Asian Pear Martinis

Spicy Jalapeno Margaritas:
  • Make the simple syrup. Combine 1/2 c. sugar and 1 c. water in a small sauce pan over medium high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • Transfer the simple syrup to the refrigerator until cold.*
  • Cut a jalapeno in half lengthwise and add to a cocktail shaker with a lot of ice and 1/2 c. of silver tequila.**
  • Add in 1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1/4 c. triple sec, and 1/4 c. simple syrup.
  • Put the top on the shaker and shake until very cold.
  • Strain the margaritas into glasses and garnish with thin slices of jalapeno and lime.

Makes 2-3 drinks
*Simple syrup can be made at least a week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. If you don't have much time, you can quickly cool the syrup by placing the container of syrup in a bowl full of ice.
**Another option is to combine the tequila and jalapeno in a container and let sit for several hours or even several days, depending on how spicy you want the drink. The infused tequila will keep for months.

Do you like your margaritas blended? Remove the jalapeno from the infused tequila and combine it with the remaining ingredients and a handful of ice in a blender. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Want to add a salted rim to your glass? Simply rub a lime wedge around the rim of your glass and then dip in a plate of kosher salt.

Spicy margaritas not your thing? Just omit the jalapeno and you'll have the perfect classic margarita recipe.

Wednesday, December 18

Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas

Because I work in online retail, I get better every year at planning out my holiday gift giving early in the season and securing big gifts during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal craze. But no matter how thoroughly I plan, there is always a group of people who I still need to give a small gift to. Homemade treats are a great last minute way to let your friends and co-workers know that you're thinking of them this Christmas. These sweet and savory items are easy and affordable gifts that can be given on their own or as an addition to a holiday gift basket. Cute packaging goes a long way when sharing these gifts: spoon sauces and spreads into reusable glass containers, place cookies and chocolates into festive cellophane bags, and print the recipes out on nice stationery so that your friends can remake these treats after the new year.

Edible Homemade Christmas Gifts:


Spreads & Sauces

Homemade gifts not your thing? Hostesses, home cooks, and foodies will love receiving unique, artisinal goods from Food52 ProvisionsSur La Table  has tons of name brand cookware for under $100. And the gift giving possibilities are endless at Amazon. Today is the last day to get ground shipping in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 17

Bean, Cheese, & Avocado Tostadas with Fried Eggs

You'd never know these tostadas are made from leftovers

Bean, Cheese, & Avocado Tostadas with Fried Eggs

I love simmering a big pot of beans over the weekend and then using the leftovers as a side dish, snack, or part of a meal all week long. I had a handful of leftover beans that I mashed together and smeared onto a hot crispy tostada shell before sprinkling with cheese and topping with a fried egg. It’s a humble meal, but the garnishes of buttery sliced avocado, spicy jalapeno, and fresh cilantro keep it flavorful and exciting. It makes a great breakfast, but I usually eat something like this for dinner on a busy weeknight. There are seemingly endless variations of this recipe and it’s a great vehicle for using up any leftovers you have in your fridge.

Related Recipes:
- Perfectly Cooked Black Beans
- Chilaquiles
- Mahi Mahi Tostadas with Avocado Sauce

Mashed Bean and Cheese Tostadas with Fried Eggs, Avocado, & Jalapeños:
  • Heat 1" of canola oil in a small skillet until very hot and shimmering.
  • Add in 4 corn tortillas, one tortilla at a time, and cook until crisp and golden, using tongs to flip a few times while frying. Let the tostada shell drain on paper towels and repeat the process with the next three tortillas.
  • Meanwhile, mash 1 c. of warm, cooked black beans with a few tbsp. of bean cooking liquid* until thick and spreadable. Season with salt and pepper as necessary.
  • Spread a layer of the black beans on one side of each tostada, then sprinkle with a layer of grated Jack cheese. Place the tostadas on a baking sheet and transfer to a 350F oven to melt the cheese and keep warm.
  • While cheese is melting, fry 4 eggs to your desired doneness and season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer the tostadas to plates, top each with a fried egg, a few slices of avocado, slices of thinly sliced jalapeño, and a few leaves of fresh cilantro.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy.

Serves four
*This is if you cooked your own dried beans. Otherwise, drain canned beans and add a little water or chicken stock as necessary to form the right consistency.

Thursday, December 12

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto

Turn cooked broccoli into a flavorful pesto sauce in this Smitten Kitchen recipe

Broccoli has always been one of my favorite vegetables and I honestly can't understand the bad rap that it gets among some groups of people. It's pretty much available at every grocery store year round and can be used in a variety of preparations. If you're like me, you might get in a rut of just roasting, steaming, or sauteing the florets, but this broccoli "pesto" pasta will remind you of its versatility and provides the perfect solution for using the thick broccoli stalks that often get tossed out. The recipe is adapted from Deb Perelman's and calls for cooking the broccoli and then pureeing it with a little cream and seasonings to form a thick, sturdy sauce. I like to serve it over whole wheat spaghetti and liberally top with red chili flakes and grated parm. It's the perfect weeknight supper and an even quicker meal if you're able to use up leftover steamed broccoli from the night before.

More Broccoli Recipes:
- Broccoli Fried Brown Rice
- Caramelized Broccoli
- Penne with Broccolini and Sausage

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto:
  • Slice the florets off of 1 lb. of broccoli, then peel the thick outer skin from the stem and slice into 1" pieces.
  • Cook broccoli in boiling water for 4-5 minutes, or until tender, then drain and set aside.*
  • In a skillet, add in 1 tbsp. olive oil and cook 1 diced onion over medium heat for 7 minutes, or until soft. Add in 3 minced cloves of garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in the broccoli, 1/2 c. heavy cream, a large pinch of red chili flakes, the zest of one lemon, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Simmer for a minute, then transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until a chunky sauce forms.**
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. of whole wheat spaghetti until al dente.
  • Drain, reserving 1 c. pasta water, and return to the pot you boiled the pasta in.
  • Toss in the broccoli sauce, moistening with 1/2 c. pasta water or more if necessary, until sauce coats pasta.
  • Divide onto plates and top with grated Parmesan cheese and crushed red chili flakes.

Serves four-six
*Or steam until tender and set aside.
**If mixture is too thick, add a little bit of water until it forms more of a sauce-like consistency. You'll be mixing it with pasta cooking water later, though, so don't dilute it too much to begin with.

Wednesday, December 11

Free-Form Apple Tart with Cinnamon Crumble

Soft apples and a cinnamon crumble wrapped in a flaky, buttery crust

The height of apple season is already over, but there's still a lot of good varieties at my local markets (and even in the regular grocery store year round). My favorite types to eat are either Fuji, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady, but I think that the tarter Granny Smiths are best to use for baking. This casual and rustic take on a traditional apple pie has all my favorite components: a super flaky buttery crust, mounds of tender baked apples, and a sweet crumble topping. The tart isn't the most impressive thing to look at but it doesn't require any special tools to put together and the taste more than makes up for the appearance.

Related Recipes:
- Caramel Apple Bundt Cake
- Pecan Pie
- Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

Free-Form Apple Tart with Cinnamon Crumble:
For Crust
  • Pulse 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor until combined.
  • Pulse in 2 sticks (16 tbsp.) cold butter until the butter is the size of peas.
  • Slowly stir in 1/2 c. ice cold water until the dough just barely comes together to form a ball.
  • Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least one hour* in the fridge.
For Tart
  • Peel and core 4 Granny Smith apples and slice 1/4"-1/2" thick.
  • Toss the apples with 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1/3 c. sugar, 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, and 1 tsp. ground cinnamon.
  • In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 c. flour, 1/3 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Stir in 4 tbsp. melted butter until crumbles form and set topping aside.
  • Roll out the dough in a circle about 1/4" thick and place on a baking sheet.
  • Mound the apple mixture* in the middle of the dough, leaving about an inch border from the edge.
  • Fold up the edges of the dough over the apples to form a crust.
  • Sprinkle the crumble topping over the top of the apples and bake in a 375F oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden.
  • Let cool before slicing and serving.

Serves eight
*If there is a lot of liquid at the bottom of the bowl you should drain it off before pouring into the crust.

Tuesday, December 10

Garlic Hassleback Potatoes

Growing up, we'd have some sort of starch (rice, pasta, rolls, or potatoes) on the dinner table every night. To me, no formal dinner is complete without one and most of my favorite starchy sides are potato dishes. These garlic hassleback potatoes are a nice riff on a standard roasted potato but are just as easy to make. The slices in the potatoes separate and crisp as they cook which leaves them looking like little accordions. I stuffed the slices with garlic, but pretty much any flavoring can be added. Because the potatoes are small, they also work as perfect two-bite appetizers or finger food at your next party.

More Potato Side Dishes:
- Potato and Gruyere Gratin
- The Perfect Mashed Potatoes
- Duck Fat Potato Galette

Garlic Hassleback Potatoes:
  • Scrub the skins from 1 lb. of small white new potatoes* and pat dry.
  • Slice the potatoes 1/4" thick all the way across, making sure to only cut 3/4 of the way down the potato so that the whole thing stays intact.
  • Toss the potatoes in 3 tbsp. melted duck fat** and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Slice 5 cloves of garlic paper thin and then stuff the garlic slivers into the slits of the potato.
  • Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet and place in a 400F oven.
  • Roast the potatoes for 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the edges are brown and crispy.
  • Let cool slightly, the top each potato with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of minced chives.

Serves two-three (side dish)
Serves four-six (appetizer)
*Or any waxy small potato, such as Yukon Gold. This recipe can also be done with large potatoes, but you will need to cook them in the oven for longer.
**Or melted butter or olive oil.

Monday, December 9

French Onion Soup Gratinee

Channel Julia Child with this classic French onion soup recipe

Although I love eating out at new and exciting restaurants, there's something about classic dishes that I really love. I was amazed at how few places we ate at in Paris (see my honeymoon recap and restaurant guide here) were serving traditional French fare, though I was able to satisfy my craving for French onion soup a few times. There's something so comforting about breaking open that seal of melted cheese and bread to get to the rich broth and soft onions. The gratinee looks impressive, but the dish itself is so easy and homey to make. This is a classic recipe inspired by Julia Child and requires some patience to make sure the onions melt down into luscious caramelized goodness. It's a great rainy day soup and leftovers are easy to reheat and serve later in the week.

More Classic French Recipes:
- Croque Madames
- Chocolate Souffles
- Sole Meuniere

Note: A full list of all French recipes on the blog can be found here.

French Onion Soup with Gruyere Gratinee:
  • Peel and slice 3 large yellow onions in half, then cut into even 1/2" wide slices.
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over low heat.
  • Add in the onions and stir to coat in the butter mixture.
  • Cook the onions over low heat, stirring every 10 minutes, for 40 minutes or until very soft.
  • Season generously with salt and a small pinch of sugar and turn up the heat slightly until onions have turned a light caramel color, stirring often. This will take another 10-15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle 1 tbsp. flour over the onions and stir for a couple more minutes.
  • Pour in 1 c. white wine and 8 c. low-sodium beef broth and season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for another 45 minutes.
  • Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • To serve, ladle soup into ramekins or bowls. Cover the top of each soup with rounds of sliced baguette* and then sprinkle the bread with a layer of grated Gruyere cheese.
  • Place the soup under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  • Soup will be extremely hot, so let cool for a couple minutes before serving.

Serves six-eight
*Stale, dry bread is ideal here. If your bread is fresh, toast it for a few minutes to dry it out.

Friday, December 6

Traditional Bolognese Sauce

I’m always trying to come up with easy and casual dinners to serve to our friends. It’s fun to make something fancy for a big weekend dinner party, but most of time we get together on weeknights after work and want to dig into something universally appealing and comforting. I served this bolognese sauce for our friends last night and it was the perfect thing to dig into alongside a salad, garlic bread, and plenty of red wine. Everyone went home happy and full and we were left with very little to clean up. It just proves that entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful or formal to be a success.

Note: This is the third Bolognese recipe that I’ve posted. It’s not as easy as the quick weeknight version or as decadent as the “ultimate”, but it comes together quickly, reheats well, and has a traditional flavor that will mimic your favorite Italian restaurant.

Related Recipes:
- Weeknight Bolognese
- Slow-Cooked Ultimate Bolognese Sauce
- Penne with Turkey Sausage & Roasted Vegetable Sauce

Traditional Bolognese Sauce:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a heavy pot or small dutch oven.
  • Add in 1 lb. ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, for 3-5 minutes, or until brown.
  • Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, add 2-3 diced, peeled carrots,* 1 diced stalk of celery, and  diced onion to a food processor and pulse until finely minced.
  • Add the vegetables to the skillet and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, or until soft, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 1 c. of red wine and reduce by half, then add in 24 oz. of canned crushed tomatoes, the ground beef, another heavy pinch of salt, and a pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Add in a few sprigs of fresh oregano, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Serve with pasta, polenta, etc. and enjoy.

Serves six-eight
*I used small carrots, but only use 2 if yours are large.

Thursday, December 5

Delicata Squash, Pepita, & Baby Kale Salad

I serve a lot of salads during the spring and summer, but once winter hits I usually stick to getting my greens from cooked vegetable dishes. There are plenty of delicious vegetable soups and roasted sides out there to enjoy that I’ll forget about all the hearty winter salads I could make. This particular dish is inspired by a starter I had at Gjelina a few weeks ago, although I changed up the ingredients to use ones I like best. The basic thought is mixing together a hearty, leafy green, still-warm roasted squash, crunchy seeds, and salty cheese. My version is full of crispy delicata squash, crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds), tangy goat cheese, and tender baby kale. I go heavy on everything but the greens so it’s filling enough to work as a lunch salad or as a substantial dinner side. 

Related Recipes:
- Lentil, Butternut Squash, & Goat Cheese Salad
- Kale RibbonSalad with Roasted Garlic Dressing & Parmesan
- Mixed Green Salad with Squash & Prosciutto

Delicata Squash, Goat Cheese, Pepita, & Baby Kale Salad:
For Dressing
  • Whisk together 1 tsp. Dijon mustard with 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Slowly whisk in 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil until emulsified. Set aside.
For Salad
  • Scrub the skin of 1 small delicata squash, trim off the ends, and cut in half lengthwise.
  • Scoop the seeds outside of center, then slice each half into 1/4"-1/8" thin half moons.
  • Toss the squash with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet.
  • Roast the squash in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, or until browned and the edges are crispy.
  • Add 1/2 c. of raw pepitas* to the baking tray for the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  • Let the squash and pepitas cool for a few minutes, then add to a bowl with 4 c. baby kale.**
  • Add in 3-4 oz. of fresh crumbled goat cheese and the dressing.
  • Toss to combine and serve immediately.

Serves two (main dish)
Serves four-six (side dish)
*Shelled pumpkin seeds.
**Or any hearty baby green that you like.

Wednesday, December 4

Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu

One of my favorite things to do with leftover roasts and braises is to turn the meat into a ragu. In fact, I often make a big roast just so that I can rework the leftovers in a luscious, meaty sauce. This version starts as basic tomato sauce before folding in a generous amount of roasted duck. I like using a wide noodle like tagliatelle, which sucks up a lot of the liquid in the sauce and stands up to rich duck. It’s a comforting, rib-sticking meal that is perfect for the holidays. Leftovers are even more flavorful the next day, but I’d suggest moistening the pasta with a few tablespoons of water before reheating.

Related Recipes:
- Penne with Pork Ragu
- Slow-Roasted Whole Duck
- Spaghetti with Lamb Ragu

Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. duck fat in a heavy pot or small dutch oven.
  • Add in 1 diced onion, 1 diced stalk of celery, and 2 small diced carrots and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until softened and starting to brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add in 1 tbsp. tomato paste and cook for another minute, then add in 1/2 c. red wine and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Let the wine reduce by half, then add in a 26 oz. can of crushed tomatoes and 1 1/2 c. of cooked, shredded duck.*
  • Let the sauce come to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Check for seasoning.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt, and cook 1 lb. of tagliatelle pasta until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c. of pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add the pasta to the sauce, along with half of the cooking water.
  • Toss to combine, adding more water if necessary to moisten.
  • Toss in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, then divide onto plates.
  • Serve with extra grated Parmesan on top.

Serves four - five
*I used half a duck's worth of meat and leftovers from this roasted duck.

Tuesday, December 3

Pecan Pie

The perfect pecan pie with a sweet and nutty filling surrounded by a buttery crust

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is one of my all-time favorite holiday desserts and this recipe is pretty close to perfect. Some pecan pies can be too sweet, but this one has the right balance and gets a little added flavor from the bourbon in the filling. I used the all butter pastry recipe from The Smitten Kitchen cookbook which takes just a minute to come together in the food processor and can last in the fridge for several days before rolling it out. It serves as a flaky, buttery container for the chewy, nutty filling. I like to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream.

More Recipes for Pies & Tarts:

Pecan Pie:
- 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 stick + 5 tbsp. cold butter, diced
- 2 c. chopped pecans
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 3/4 c. light corn syrup
- 2 tbsp. bourbon
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 c. ice cold water
- 1/2 tbsp. white sugar
- 1 tsp. salt

For Crust
  • Pulse all-purpose flour, white sugar and 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor until combined.
  • Pulse in 1 stick cold butter until the butter is the size of peas.
  • Slowly stir in ice cold water until the dough just barely comes together to form a ball.
  • Flatten dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least one hour* in the fridge.
For Filling
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Roll out the pie dough to 1/8" thick and place in a 9" pie dish. Crimp the edges and trim any excess dough from the sides.
  • Fill the pie with pie weights or dried beans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until barely golden.
  • Meanwhile, toast chopped pecans in a dry skillet for 2-3 minutes, or until warm and nutty smelling.
  • In a small sauce pot, bring 5 tbsp. butter, brown sugarlight corn syrup, and 1/2 tsp. salt to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the pecans, bourbon, and 2 vanilla extract and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk in eggs and pour the filling into the pie dough.
  • Lower the oven to 350F and bake for 40 minutes, or until filling is set and just slightly jiggly.
  • Let pie cool on a baking rack before slicing.

Serves eight-ten
*If you're in a rush, you can cool it in the freezer for 20 minutes instead.

Monday, December 2

Mexican Turkey Soup

One of my favorite things to do with a lazy day is simmer a big pot of soup - something easy that doesn't require a lot of babysitting but will yield a delicious dinner when it's done cooking. This Mexican turkey soup is basically a simple broth with shredded meat that gets most of its excitement from the numerous toppings and add-ons. The broth only has two ingredients: water and the carcass from our Thanksgiving turkey, but manages to have a rich turkey flavor that really makes this dish. The recipe is heavily based on a chicken tortilla soup recipe I shared a couple years ago, so feel free to adapt your broth to that method if you don't have a leftover turkey carcass hanging around. It's a warm, satisfying bowl of goodness that will fill you up without weighing you down.

P.S. I make all my soups in my Sur La Table dutch oven, which is on sale today for Cyber Monday!

Related Recipes:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Turkey Enchiladas
- Turkey Noodle Soup

Mexican Turkey Soup:
  • Place a turkey carcass from a 16 lb. cooked turkey* in a large dutch oven and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 4 hours.
  • Remove the turkey and strain the broth into a bowl to remove any solids.
  • Place the broth back in a pot over low heat and skim any fat off the top.**
  • Add 2 c. cooked, shredded turkey to the pot and simmer for 10 minutes, or until warm.
  • Ladle soup in bowls and stir in 1 tsp. (or more, depending on desired spice level) of canned chipotle peppers in adobo into each. Add a squeeze of fresh lime to each soup.
  • Garnish soup with crispy tortilla strips, fresh cilantro, diced avocado, cubed mozzarella cheese, etc.
  • Serve immediately and enjoy.***

Serves six-eight
*I removed some large pieces of skin and reserved any big remaining pieces of meat for shredding and adding to the soup after.
**Broth can be made in advance and will keep in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for several months.
***Leftover soup (sans garnish) can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

Friday, November 29

Ideas for Thanksgiving Leftovers

Turn leftover shredded turkey into easy turkey and cheese enchiladas.

Thanksgiving is a pretty glorious holiday for anyone who loves food - not just because of Thursday's huge feast, but because of the leftovers that last well into the weekend. Sure, you can simply pop leftover turkey, stuffing, and other sides into the microwave, but there are plenty of more creative things  you can do to makeover Thanksgiving extras. And what about those random ingredients that never made it onto your table, like that half bunch of celery that's sitting in your fridge with no apparent use? These recipes and ideas will help you get the most out of the food you so carefully planned, shopped for, and cooked this Thanksgiving.

Recipes for Thanksgiving Leftovers:
- Turkey & Cheese Enchiladas
- Mexican Turkey Soup
- Turkey Noodle Soup (Including Recipe for Homemade Turkey Stock)

Want More Ideas?
Add leftover turkey and roasted vegetables into a quick and easy fried rice.
Scatter leftover vegetables into a skillet, crack a few eggs on top, and add a dash of cream for baked eggs.
And perhaps the most obvious solution: make a sandwich. I like making a panini of sliced turkey and leftover brie from the cheese plate for a riff on this sandwich.

Wednesday, November 27

Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle

Since all my friends and family read this blog, there's a certain level of pressure that comes with cooking good food over the holidays. I've been put in charge of making half of the desserts for Thanksgiving and have spent the last few weeks testing out different recipes. Apple pie is traditional but can also be controversial (some like a lot of filling, some are all about the crust, etc.), so I tried out this apple cake recipe instead. In the end, I decided that the cake wasn't traditional enough for a feature at Thanksgiving, but it certainly has a spot at future dinner parties and more casual celebrations. Because layers of buttery sliced apples sandwiched between a perfect yellow cake wasn't decadent enough, I covered the whole thing in Trader Joe's salted caramel sauce before serving. The cake is thin and surprisingly light (the lemon zest helps to keep it tasting fresh), making the leftovers a passable breakfast item.

Related Recipes:
- Apple Tart
- Plum Skillet Cake
- Caramel Apple Bundt Cake

Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Drizzle:
  • Peel, core, and thinly slice 4 large apples.*
  • Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add in the apples and sprinkle them with 2 tbsp. sugar and stir.
  • Cook apples for 10-12 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown in places.
  • Let cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. grated lemon zest, and 3/4 tsp. salt in a mixing bowl.
  • Whisk 10 tbsp. melted butter and 3 eggs into the dry ingredients until combined.
  • Divide half of the apples into the bottom of a greased 8" cake pan.
  • Pour half of the batter over the apples, then repeat with another layer of apples and batter.
  • Bake in a 350F oven, rotating the pan once, for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let cool for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and allow to finish cooling on a baking rack.
  • Drizzle the top of the cake with salted caramel sauce.**

Serves eight
*A semi-tart apple is best here.
**Or any store-bought caramel sauce you like best.

Tuesday, November 26

Slow-Roasted Crispy Duck

I love following tradition and strongly believe that there needs to be a turkey on the Thanksgiving table, but every other day of the year I'll choose a different kind of poultry: duck. In my opinion, it's the most delicious bird out there and because it's inherently flavorful you don't have to do anything to make it taste delicious. This slow-roasted duck requires just three ingredients and five hours to create the ultimate holiday roast. The skin crisps to a paper-thin crackling, the meat gets fall-apart tender, and you'll be left with nearly a cup of duck fat to use for future cooking. It's a stunning dish to serve for guests, and at $25 for a whole duck, it's very economical.

More Duck Recipes:
- Duck Breasts with Cherry Port Sauce
- Easy Duck Confit
- Orange Maple Duck Breasts

Slow-Roasted Whole Duck:
  • Remove neck and giblets from a 5-6 lb. whole duck, then wash and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Use a sharp pairing knife to create dozens of small slits all over the skin and fat of the duck, making sure not to pierce through to the meat. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Place the duck, breast side up, in a roasting rack over a roasting pan and place in a 300F oven.
  • Roast the duck for an hour, then pour off and reserve* any fat at the bottom of the pan.
  • Pierce the skin again, this time using the prongs of a fork, and flip the duck breast side down.
  • Roast for another two and a half hours, making sure to drain, pierce, and flip every hour.
  • After four and a half hours, increase the heat to 350F and roast for another 30 minutes.
  • Remove the duck from the oven and let rest, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.
  • Carve and serve.
Serves six
*You'll be left with a cup or more of duck fat by the end of it. Save it in the fridge for up to a week or the freezer for several months. Use duck fat in place of butter or oil in any recipe - it's especially good for roasting potatoes!

Got Leftovers?
Try this Duck Hash or make a Duck Fat Potato Galette with leftover duck fat.

Monday, November 25

Thanksgiving Recipe Guide

Nothing says Thanksgiving like roasting a whole turkey. This recipe for maple roasted turkey doesn't require more than a few ingredients and a little time to achieve the perfect bird.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday and I can’t wait to celebrate with my friends and family. My husband and I are going up to my parents’ house during the day and then we’re all meeting up at our friends’ house for a Thanksgiving dinner. It will be our biggest Thanksgiving yet (around twenty people) and therefore requires more food than ever before. There will be two turkeys, four desserts, and more side dishes than I can count. Everything has been planned out, including two pies that I’m making the day before, but I know that there’s plenty of people who are still deciding on their menu or looking for something to contribute to their host’s table. Here’s a list of easy Thanksgiving recipes that will surely be a hit at your Thursday feast.

Last-Minute Thanksgiving Menu:
- Maple Roasted Turkey
- Pumpkin Soup
- Herbed Ciabatta Stuffing
- Crispy Pancetta Brussels Sprouts
- Apple Tart

Celebrating with a small group? Skip roasting a whole turkey and make Herb Roasted Turkey Breasts with Pan Gravy instead.

Turkey isn't your thing? You're not alone. Start a new tradition and serve a Perfect Roast Chicken instead.

Check out last year's list of Thanksgiving Side Dishes and 2011's  Thanksgiving Recipes Guide for more inspiration.

Friday, November 22

Mushroom Bourguignon

Temperatures have finally changed towards cooler weather in L.A. and I was eager to bust out my dutch oven for some slow-cooked goodness. This mushroom bourguignon recipe, which I first spotted in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook about a year ago, is a genius riff on the classic French dish of beef bourguignon. A variety of mushrooms are caramelized and then braised in a mixture of red wine and beef stock (substitute with a good vegetable or mushroom stock if you want this fully vegetarian) until a hearty stew forms. Try it over egg noodles or with a scoop of sour cream on top for a nod to stroganoff. Like all braises, it's even better reheated the next day.

Related Recipes:
- Braised Chicken and Mushrooms
- Mushroom Gravy
- Mushroom Chicken over Buttered Egg Noodles

Mushroom Bourguignon with Egg Noodles:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a large dutch oven over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, chop 1 lb. of portabello mushroom caps and 1 lb. of cremini mushrooms into uniform slices.*
  • Add a third of mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes, stirring once or twice, until browned.
  • Remove the mushrooms and set aside, then repeat two more times until all of the mushrooms are cooked.
  • Lower the heat to medium, add in another tbsp. of oil, and add in 1 diced onion. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Cook the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until soft and starting to brown, then add in 3 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 2 tbsp. tomato paste and cook for another minute, then add in 1 c. red wine and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Increase the heat and bring the wine to a boil until it reduces by half, then add in 2 c. beef broth, 1 c. defrosted pearl onions, and the mushrooms. Season with another big pinch of salt.
  • Bring everything to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover with a lid.
  • Cook for thirty minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.
  • In a small bowl, mash together 1 1/2 tbsp. flour and 1 tbsp. softened butter, then stir the mixture into the stew.
  • Let stew simmer and thicken for another 10-15 minutes. Spoon into bowls over cooked egg noodles and sprinkle with minced chives.

Serves four-six
*Any mushroom would work here, but I like the using a mix for different textures and flavors.

Thursday, November 21

Sweet & Sour Charred Cauliflower

This recipe is inspired by another dish that we ate at Gjelina last weekend. They do a great job with interesting vegetable dishes, and it's one of the few places where I often like the sides as much as the main courses. Part of their success comes from a super hot wood-burning oven (it's rumored to cook pizzas in 90 seconds) that adds a nice char and smokey flavor to nearly everything they cook. Most of us don't have our own pizza ovens at home, but searing the vegetables in a hot pan and then finishing them in the oven (the same way that I like to cook a lot of meat and fish) is an easy way to get the same dark charred flavor into your dishes.

More Cauliflower Recipes:
Parmesan-Roasted Romanesco
Cheddar Cauliflower Soup
Cauliflower & Pancetta Shells

Sweet & Sour Charred Cauliflower:
  • Combine 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. fish sauce, and 1/2 tbsp. sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet until very hot and almost smoking.
  • Add in 1 head of cauliflower,* cut into florets, and do not stir for 3-4 minutes (this will allow the cauliflower to brown and char in some places).
  • Turn the cauliflower with a spatula, sprinkle 1 sliced Fresno chile** on top, and transfer the skillet to a 450F oven.
  • Cook for 7-8 minutes, then toss with the sauce and cook for another 5 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and cauliflower is tender.
  • Let cool slightly, then serve.

Serves two-three (side dish)
*I used heirloom cauliflower from my farmers market, which is why it is green in the photo.
**Remove the seeds to cut down on the spice.

Wednesday, November 20

Chicken & Black Bean Nachos

The ultimate nachos with layers of melted cheese, grilled chicken, and black beans

Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

In college, my roommates and I were known to come home after the bars and make an epic (or so it seemed after hours of drinking) batch of nachos. It was a collaboration: someone would have a half-eaten bag of chips, a few people would have some cheese or salsa, and we'd throw it all together and eat it straight off the baking sheet. These nachos are so much better than that. They're full of grilled chicken (double or triple the recipe below and use the extras in tacos or fajitas), slow-cooked black beans, layers of melted cheese, and restaurant-style tortilla chips. The ingredients are important, but the real success comes in the construction - nachos need to be constructed in layers so that you're not left with a bunch of naked chips at the bottom. I also like to serve the condiments on the side, so each chip can be dipped in guacamole or salsa as guests wish. This is my ultimate version, but feel free to use whatever toppings you like best.

Related Recipes:
- Baked Tortilla Chips
- Homemade Guacamole
- Slow-Cooked Black Beans
- Tomatillo Salsa

Chicken & Black Bean Nachos:
  • Season 1 boneless skinless chicken breasts with 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. chile powder, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt.
  • Grill chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, or until outside has some char to it and the inside is just cooked.
  • Let rest for a few minutes, then chop into small, bite-size pieces.*
  • Meanwhile, arrange 1 even layer of tortilla chips on a baking sheet.
  • Top with 3/4 c. grated cheddar cheese and 3/4 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 c. cooked black beans and half of the chicken.
  • Repeat with another layer of chips, cheese, beans, and chickens.
  • Bake in a 400F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and fully melted.
  • Sprinkle with thinly sliced jalapeños and serve with guacamole, salsa, sour cream, etc.

Serves two-four (main dish)
Serves six-eight (appetizer)
*Can be cooked a day or two ahead and kept in the fridge. Or use any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand.

Tuesday, November 19

Grilled Skirt Steak with Salsa Verde

My husband and I went on a double date with our friends to Gjelina over the weekend. We'd been looking forward to it for weeks (planning ahead was necessary since the wait for an ideal reservation can be close to a month) and it didn't disappoint. Everything we ordered (ten dishes overall) was shared family style which allowed us to taste a bit of everything and bargain over second bites of our favorites. Later that weekend, I saw a feature on Travis Lett, Gjelina's chef, in Bon Appetit, which was all the impetus I needed to create my version of his food at home. This steak with salsa verde was one of the small plates I created and packs a ton of flavor into each bite. The salsa verde, which is full of bright, briny freshness adds a lightness to the beef but will work well on everything you could ever drizzle it on (vegetables, fish, chicken, bread) or snuck by the spoonful.

Related Recipes:
- Skirt Steak Tacos
- Grilled Chicken with Salsa Verde
- Grilled Flank Steak with Tomato Relish

Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde:
For Salsa Verde
  • Finely mince 2 anchovy fillets,* 1 tbsp. capers, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1/2 c. fresh parsley leaves.
  • Add mixture to a bowl, and stir in 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar and 1 pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Slowly whisk in 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and check for seasoning.
For Steak
  • Lightly brush a 3/4 lb. skirt steak with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes per side.
  • Remove and let rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice against the grain and spoon salsa verde on top.

Serves two (more if serving many side dishes)
*I get fillets that are salted and stored in olive oil.

Friday, November 15

Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade

A summertime classic that's the perfect blend of sweet and tangy

Fresh-squeezed Lemonade

My favorite part of our apartment is our private back patio, and specifically, our lemon tree. As an avid cook and someone who actually enjoys going grocery shopping, it’s even more exciting to actually grow and harvest my own produce. The problem is that sometimes we have more lemons than I know what to do with and if I neglect picking our ripe lemons they will eventually shrivel, rot, and attract hungry insects (ew). Last weekend I spent a good hour pruning our tree, picking all the lemons, and juicing them into mass quantities of lemonade. There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool glass of the stuff, and spiking it with some vodka has become an easy and delicious cocktail favorite. When life gives you lemons, you really should make lemonade.

Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade:*
  • Bring 3/4 c. sugar and 3 c. water to a simmer and stir until sugar dissolves. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, juice enough lemons to equal 4 c. of lemon juice.**
  • Stir together the lemon juice and simple syrup and test for balance.
  • Let lemonade cool in the fridge, then pour into glasses and serve.

Serves ten or more people
*This recipe can easily be halved.
**I juiced about 10-12 lemons.

Thursday, November 14

Baked Eggs with Chanterelles & Cream

There's nothing better than a long weekend to relax and recharge. My husband and I stayed home on Monday and used it as an extra day to laze about and catch up on things after I was away on business last week. I made these baked eggs that are super simple but feel a little indulgent from the chanterelles and cream. The eggs are essentially a blank canvas, so really any type of mushroom or vegetable would work here. It's a great way to use up leftovers in your pantry or to treat yourself to a small amount of something fancy, like I did with these special chanterelles from the farmers market. Make sure to serve with some nice toast and enjoy.

Related Recipes:
- Shakshuka
- Baked Eggs with Beet Greens and Spiced Butter
- Roasted Chili and Cheese Egg Bake

Baked Eggs with Chanterelle Mushrooms and Cream:
  • Thickly slice 1 c. of chanterelle mushrooms and place in a hot pan with 1 tbsp. butter.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until starting to caramelize, then transfer to a plate and let cool slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the mushrooms to a small baking dish* and crack 4 eggs on top, nestling between the mushrooms in an even layer.
  • Drizzle 2-3 tbsp. of heavy cream on top, then sprinkle with a handful of grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper.
  • Bake eggs in a 400F oven for 7-9 minutes, or until whites are set and yolks are still slightly runny.
  • Drizzle eggs with truffle oil** and serve with bread.

Serves two
*You can also divide mushrooms into 4 small ramekins and crack one egg in each.
**Optional, but delicious!

Wednesday, November 13

Herb Roasted Turkey Breasts with Pan Gravy

I was in Chicago last week for a work conference and wanted to make something before I left that my husband could eat for leftovers while I was away. Thanksgiving yields the ultimate leftover situation, but since I wasn't about to roast a whole turkey before a week of hectic travel, I went with just as delicious but much more manageable roasted turkey breasts. Bone-in, skin-on turkey gets rubbed with a flavorful herb-garlic butter and then cooked in the oven until juicy and golden. The drippings get made into a super simple pan gravy that will have you begging for mashed potatoes. Leftovers make the perfect turkey sandwiches and will last for days in the fridge.

Herb Roasted Turkey Breasts with Pan Gravy:

  • Combine 1/2 stick room temperature butter with 1 tbsp. minced rosemary, the zest of 1/2 lemon, and 3 cloves of minced garlic.
  • Pat 2 bone-in skin-on turkey breasts* dry with paper towels, then rub the butter all over the meat, making sure to loosen the skin and smear some butter between the skin and meat. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Place the turkey breasts, skin-side up, in a rack over a large roasting pan and add 1/2" of low-sodium chicken stock in the bottom of the pan.
  • Roast the turkey in a 400F oven for 60-75 minutes, or until the turkey registers 165F in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Transfer turkey to a platter, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, place the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat.
  • You should have around 2 tbsp. of turkey drippings and fat, but if you have more pour off all but 2 tbsp. and if you have less, add enough butter to equal 2 tbsp.
  • Whisk in 2 tbsp. flour until a smooth paste forms, then whisk in 1 c. chicken stock and reduce until the gravy is thickened. Add more stock if it's too thick.
  • Pour in a splash of cream, then strain the gravy through a fine mesh sieve. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • To serve, slice the turkey and serve with gravy alongside.

Serves six-eight
*I could only fine split breasts and the two combined weighed 3 1/2 lbs.

Thursday, October 31

Plum Torte

I am known for making a lot of fruit desserts, so when I told my husband I was going to make another fruit-laden cake he sort of rolled his eyes. But after trying it, we both agreed that this plum torte was one of the best sweets we've had in awhile. Versions of this recipe popped up everywhere (like here and here) a few weeks ago, although the original was posted back in the 80's, and it's easy to see why it was still getting rave reviews. The moist, tender cake is studded with halved plums that bake into soft, jammy puddles. The whole top is sprinkled with cinnamon that adds a nice fall flavor. And it can be easily assembled without any fancy equipment (although I did make this in my turquoise Kitchen-Aid stand mixer that we received for our wedding). It's one of those cakes that you can feel ok about eating for breakfast or dress up with fresh whipped cream for company. Leftovers will keep for at least a few days since the cake is so moist.

Perfect Plum Torte:
  • Whisk together 1 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and a large pinch of salt in a mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl, cream together 8 tbsp. softened butter and 1 c. sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, then slowly add in the dry ingredients.
  • Mix until just combined, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Pour the cake batter into a greased 9" springform cake pan and smooth the top.
  • Halve and pit 4-6 plums* and lightly press, skin-side up, into the cake batter.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cake with 2 tbsp. lemon juice, then 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1-2 tbsp. of sugar.
  • Bake the cake in a 350F oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean of batter when inserted into the middle of the cake.
  • Let cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and transfer to a baking rack to finish cooling.
  • Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves eight
*I used 4 large plums and ended up cutting them into quarters.

Wednesday, October 30

Tofu & Vegetable Stir-Fry

My husband just got a well-deserved promotion at work and we spent the last few days celebrating with all of his favorite things, like cheeseburgers (and a brand new car!). This stir-fry, which I adapted from William-Sonoma's 365 Vegetables cookbook,  is my attempt at layering in something lighter among all the red meat. The slightly crunchy vegetables and golden cubes of tofu are tossed in a sweet, spicy, tangy sauce. My new technique of pressing the tofu between a book squeezes out any excess water and allows the tofu to get a golden brown crust and firm texture that contrasts nicely with the mixed veg. It's a healthy meal that will fill you up and make you feel good (and also less guilty about eating some Halloween candy for dessert).

Tofu & Vegetable Stir-Fry:
  • Place 14 oz. of firm tofu between several sheets of paper towels and place a heavy book on top to squeeze out any excess water.
  • Dice tofu into 1" cubes and dust with cornstarch.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet or wok until very hot and add in the tofu.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, then carefully turn and cook for another few minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Remove the tofu and set aside and coat the pan with a little more oil.
  • Add in 1 thinly sliced onion, 1 thinly sliced bell pepper, and 1 tbsp. minced ginger and cook for a minute.
  • Add in 1 sliced zucchini, 1/2 lb. snow peas, and 3 minced garlic cloves. Season with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tsp. Chinese five spice powder.
  • Stir to combine, then add in 3 tbsp. low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock.
  • Add the tofu back, along with 3 tbsp. hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp. soy sauce, and 1-2 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until vegetables are crisp tender, then turn off the heat.
  • Stir in a dash of rice vinegar and a dash of sesame oil.
  • Serve with steamed rice.

Serves four

Friday, October 25

Baked Penne with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

Our friends just had their first baby and we couldn't be more excited for them. This is the first couple in our L.A. circle to get pregnant and it's been amazing to watch their journey and take notes on the whole experience. Both of their families live out of state, so I decided to whip up a few meals for them to enjoy while mom, dad, and daughter recover from the birth. This pasta is a recent Smitten Kitchen recipe and was perfect since it can feed an army or be frozen and/or reheated without compromising the dish. It's full of gooey cheese and bechamel, pepper broccoli rabe, and crispy nuggets of sausage and is the perfect comfort meal. Note: I made a huge amount so we'd have enough to make two large pans of (one for them, one for us). The recipe can easily be halved for a more standard portion.

Baked Penne with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 2 lb. of penne pasta 1-2 minutes short of package directions. Five minutes before pasta is done, add in 2 heads of roughly chopped broccoli rabe.*
  • Meanwhile, add 2 lbs. of Italian pork sausage to a skillet, breaking up with the back of the spoon until crumbled.
  • Cook sausage until brown, then remove with a slotted spoon.
  • You should have 2 tbsp. of pork fat left in the pan.** Add in 6 tbsp. of butter and melt, then whisk in 1/2 c. flour until smooth.
  • Slowly whisk in 5 c. milk until smooth and slightly thickened, then add in 4 cloves of minced garlic and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Let sauce simmer for 8 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Drain pasta and broccoli rabe and toss with the sausage, the bechamel, 1 lb. diced mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese until everything is combined.
  • Divide pasta into two large baking dishes and sprinkle the top with a little extra grated Parmesan.
  • Bake pasta in a 400F oven for 35 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.
  • Let cool for a few minutes, then spoon onto plates. Serve with red chili flakes.

Serves eight
*If you don't have a pot big enough to fit everything, you can use two separate pots or drain the pasta and then do the vegetables. If you can't find broccoli rabe you can substitute broccolini.
**If not, add more butter until you have 2 tbsp.

Wednesday, October 23

Tomato Soup

A lot can be said about the superiority of fresh tomatoes, but for tomato soup, canned are the way to go. For one, canned tomatoes are always consistent, ensuring that the soup will taste just as good batch after batch. And since good tomato soup is still best used as a vehicle for grilled cheese there's no use in spending a ton of money on fresh ones. Compared to most soups, this version only requires a few ingredients that many cooks already keep in their pantry and fridge. Throwing it together is a snap, and leftovers can be frozen for a few months so that a quick, healthy meal in always on hand.

Tomato Soup:
  • Melt 4 tbsp. butter and 4 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 2 diced onions and 4 minced garlic cloves and cook for 10 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Season with a few large pinches of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. tomato paste and cook for a minute, then stir in 5 c. low sodium chicken stock and 42 oz. canned whole plum tomatoes.
  • Add in a pinch of red chile flakes, then bring to a boil.
  • Lower soup to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes.
  • Puree soup until smooth, then adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serves eight-ten

Tuesday, October 22

Pot Roast

Part of my love of cooking comes from discovering new things, which is pretty obvious given the 600 recipes I've catalogued on this site. New can mean trying some exotic cuisine, my first time cooking tofu, or even "traditional" dishes that I somehow missed growing up. Which leads me to pot roast. Although it's a classic for most American families, I never grew up with it and this was my first attempt at cooking it. This recipe is just slightly adapted (more out of convenience than creativity) from the Barefoot Contesssa and was incredibly easy and flavorful. I didn't have much to compare it to, but according to my husband most pot roast is shredded rather than sliced. If that's your preference, just cook it longer until the meat is tender enough to shred. Either way, the rich velvety sauce will blow your mind.

Pot Roast:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven until very hot and nearly smoking.
  • Meanwhile, season a 3 lb. beef shoulder roast* very generously with salt and pepper and lightly dredge in flour, shaking off any excess.
  • Add the meat to the pan and sear for 4-5 minutes per side, or until darkly browned.**
  • Remove the meat and set aside, then reduce the heat to medium and add 2 more tbsp. oil to the pot.
  • Add in 1 bunch of carrots, cut into 1" long pieces, 2 diced onions, 2 diced celery stalks, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until softened but not brown.
  • Add in 2 c. of red wine and 2 tbsp. brandy, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, then add in 14 oz. canned whole plum tomatoes, 1 c. beef stock, 3 large sprigs of rosemary, and another big pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Put the beef back in the pot and cover with a lid. Place the pot in a 325F oven.
  • Cook for an hour, then flip the roast so the top side gets submerged, and lower the heat to 250F.
  • Cook for another 60-90 minutes, or until the meat is very tender.
  • Remove the beef from the pot and spoon any fat off the top of the sauce.
  • Puree half of the sauce in a blender and return to the pot, along with 1 tbsp. butter that's been mashed with 2 tbsp. flour.
  • Stir the butter mixture into the pot and let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Check the sauce for seasoning, then slice the roast and pour sauce on top.

Serves six
*Or chuck roast or something similar.
**Do not rush this step, it develops a ton of flavor.

Thursday, October 17

Pumpkin Soup

Every year the rest of the country begins celebrating fall with changing leaves, cooler weather, and big hearty meals, but L.A. doesn't start experiencing cold temperatures until well after Thanksgiving. This year I was determined not to miss out on the festivities and have started testing out new autumnal dishes despite the 80 degree heat. This pumpkin soup is an adaptation from a recipe in my new favorite cookbook, William Sonoma's Vegetable of the Day. It calls for canned pumpkin, making it a super cheap and fast meal that's definitely weeknight friendly. I was determined not to let the soup get too sweet or reminiscent of pumpkin pie, so it's blended with savory vegetables and herbs and has a mild kick from cayenne pepper. It's perfect for a light meal (I've been eating it for lunch most of the week) and is already a contender for inclusion at this year's Thanksgiving meal.

Pumpkin Soup:
  • Melt 3 tbsp. butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 1 diced onion, 2 diced celery stalks, and 1 tbsp. minced rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook vegetables for 8-10 minutes, or until soft but not brown.
  • Stir in 3 minced garlic cloves and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 1/2 c. white wine and let reduce for a few minutes, or until half has evaporated.
  • Mix in two 15 oz. cans of pumpkin puree* and 3 c. of chicken broth and stir until smooth.
  • Bring soup to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Stir in 4 tbsp. real maple syrup, 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, and another big pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Blend soup in a blender or food processor until smooth, then transfer back to the pot.
  • Stir in 1/2 c. heavy cream and check for seasoning.
  • To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds or croutons.

Serves four (main course)
Serves eight (appetizer)
*Preferably organic. Make sure this is plain canned pumpkin and NOT pumpkin pie filling.