Thursday, February 28

Salted Caramel Banana Royale

A banana royale is basically a banana split with two scoops of ice cream instead of three. It sounds fancy and way less gluttonous than eating an entire banana split to yourself but it tastes just as good. My fiancé and I originally made these on Valentine’s Day using ice cream and hot fudge from Sweet Rose Creamery, a wonderful small batch shop in our neighborhood, but the leftovers lasted for a few more nights. I loaded mine up with one scoop each of salted caramel and vanilla ice cream, tons of warm hot fudge sauce, half a ripe banana, homemade whipped cream, and chopped pecans. Like a banana split, they can easily be customized with whatever flavors you like best. It’s such a fun dessert to put together and will instantly make you feel like a kid again.

Salted Caramel Banana Royale:
  • Beat 1 c. heavy cream and 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar with a whisk* until soft peaks form. Add in a splash of vanilla extract and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, let 1 pt. of salted caramel ice cream and 1 pt. of vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature for 5-7 minutes.
  • Peel one ripe banana and cut in half lengthwise, then again cross-wise. Place half of the banana into each of two bowls.
  • Add one scoop of each flavor into the bowls, then top each with hot fudge sauce and some of the whipped cream.
  • Sprinkle the top of each sundae with 1 tbsp. chopped pecans and top with maraschino cherry

Serves two
*Or a hand or stand mixer.

Wednesday, February 27

Lamb Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed peppers and stuffed potatoes are classic comfort foods, but what about stuffed eggplant? I’d never thought of such a dish until recently, but now it’s been popping up in cookbooks and blogs all over. This is my own version (adapted from a recipe in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem), which incorporates some of my favorite Middle Eastern flavors and some random ingredients I had lying around. The spices, especially the cinnamon, add a really interesting and warming depth of flavor to the filling, while the lamb adds richness and the walnuts add crunch. The eggplant is a great vessel for stuffing things since it absorbs the filling’s flavors like a sponge and is tender enough to eat whole. I served it with a yogurt and tahini sauce, but regular Greek yogurt would be just as good and has a nice cooling effect on the hot (and a little spicy) eggplant.

Lamb & Walnut Stuffed Eggplant:
  • Slice two large eggplants in half and place, skin side down, on a large baking sheet.
  • Gently score the flesh of the eggplants in a criss-cross pattern, brush lightly with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast eggplants in a 425F oven for 25-35 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet and add in 1 diced onion.
  • Cook onion over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes, or until softened.
  • Add in 3/4 lb. ground lamb and place in an even layer in the pan.*
  • Season with a large pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tsp. paprika.
  • Cook lamb for 5 minutes, or until browned on the bottom, then stir and continue cooking until little pink is left.
  • Stir in 1 tsp. tomato paste and a very small pinch of sugar and cook until lamb is completely brown.
  • Stir in 1/4 c. chopped walnuts* and 1/4 c. minced parsley.
  • Spoon lamb mixture into the eggplant, pressing down to pack as much filling in as possible.
  • Return eggplant to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes, or until eggplant is very soft.
  • Let cool slightly, then divide onto plates and serve with Greek yogurt.

Serves four
*The key to browning ground meat and developing a lot of flavor is not disturbing it too much. Mash it into one layer and wait to turn it for about 5 minutes.
**Or pine nuts.

Tuesday, February 26

Warm Bacon, Mushroom, & Egg Salad

I generally don’t make salads for dinner, but this recipe is surprisingly satisfying as a quick weeknight meal. To start, it’s served warm, which I always find preferable to cold dishes for supper (especially in the middle of winter). The crispy bacon and sautéed mushrooms add a nice meatiness and their drippings form a quick vinaigrette when mixed with some balsamic vinegar. A fried egg gets broken over the top so that some of the yolk mixes into the greens and bits of white get into most bites. It’s a unique and tasty way to eat a spinach salad and would also make a fun side dish for a more elaborate feast.

Warm Bacon, Mushroom, & Egg Salad:
  • Dice 5 strips of thick-cut bacon* and place into a skillet with 1 tbsp. olive oil.
  • Cook bacon over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until crisp and most of its fat has rendered.
  • Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  • Remove 1 tbsp. bacon fat into a small bowl and set aside.
  • Add 1 thinly sliced shallot to the pan with the rest of the bacon drippings and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add in 8 oz. thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms** and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add in 1/2 c. water and scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Let liquid reduce by at least half, then stir in 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.
  • Check for seasoning and acidity, adding more vinegar or olive oil to achieve the right balance.
  • Stir the bacon bits back in and pour the mixture over 5 oz. baby spinach and toss to coat.
  • Meanwhile, heat reserved bacon fat in a small skillet over medium heat.
  • Crack one egg in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and flip once, until whites are cooked and yolk is still runny.
  • Slide egg over the salad and break into pieces. Toss once more and check for seasoning.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four (side dish)
*About 1/3 lb. total.
**Or any type of mushroom you like. Discard any tough stems.

Monday, February 25

Truffle Mashed Potatoes

I'm a strong believer in extending holidays and special events for as long as possible. When it comes to birthdays, there's never just one celebration, but at close to a week's worth of special meals, gifts, etc. My fiance's birthday was last Thursday, and we agreed to keep the evening pretty low-key with a special dinner at home and a nice bottle of wine (little did he know that we'd be doing a bigger celebration that weekend with a surprise trip to Terranea). He requested a steak (typical) and mashed potatoes, which I jazzed up with some truffle butter. The potatoes soak up the truffle flavor like a sponge and are are mashed until super rich and creamy. It's definitely a decadent side dish, but that's what birthdays are all about.

Truffle Mashed Potatoes:
  • Peel and dice 3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes and place in a pot of cold water.
  • Bring to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes,* or until very tender.
  • Drain the water from the pot and place the potatoes back over very low heat.
  • Use a potato masher or ricer to mash the potatoes as smooth as possible.
  • Add in 1/3 c. half and half, 3 tbsp. truffle butter,** and a large pinch of salt.
  • Continue mashing until potatoes are very creamy, adding a little more half and half as necessary.
  • Check for seasoning and divide onto plates to serve.***

Serves two-four (side dish)
*Cooking time will vary depending on size of potatoes. A fork should easily be able to glide through the potatoes when they're tender.
**Available at some grocery stores and specialty food shops. I used black truffle butter, but white is just as delicious.
***Potatoes can be covered with a lid and kept warm for a few hours. Turn over low heat and add a little more liquid if necessary when reheating.

Friday, February 22

Roasted Salmon with Beet Farro

Salmon and beets are a great pairing, since the richness of the fish works well with the earthy roots. I put them together in a simple weeknight meal of roasted, crispy-skinned fillets with a lemony farro and beet salad. For some reason, they only had gigantic beetroots at the market and I just needed one to make this dish, but I had originally planned to buy a variety of baby beets for a cuter presentation. The salad would be great on its own for a light lunch or side dish, so make extra for the next day.

Roasted Salmon with Beet Farro:
For Farro Salad
  • Peel and dice 3/4 lb. of beets and place on a baking sheet.
  • Toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper and put in a 400F oven.*
  • Roast beets for 30 minutes, or until tender.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook 1 c. farro until al dente.**
  • Drain and place in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the juice of 1 meyer lemon,*** 1/4 c. minced parsley, and 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the dressing and the roasted beets to the farro and toss to combine.
  • Crumble in 2 oz. fresh goat cheese and toss again.
For Salmon
  • Coat a heavy, oven-proof skillet with canola oil and heat until almost smoking.
  • Season two 6 oz. fillets of salmon with salt and pepper and add skin-side down to the skillet.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, then transfer to a 400F oven (still skin-side down) and roast for 6-8 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  • Divide onto plates and serve with farro salad.

Serves two
*Note: I use a light olive oil or canola oil for roasting vegetables and a more flavorful extra-virgin olive oil for dressing.
**I've started to see quick-cooking farro at the grocery store. Traditional varieties can take up a while to cook and can be made in advance.
**Or regular lemon, if you can't find meyer.

Thursday, February 21

Beef Barley Soup

My fiancé pointed out that nearly all the soups I make are vegetable purees (because they’re my favorite), so in the interest of switching things up, I made a manly beef barley soup. It’s really more of a stew, with tons of vegetables, al dente pearled barley, and a rich beef broth.  This is taken from a Barefoot Contessa recipe and uses inexpensive beef shanks to add an extra deep, meaty flavor to the soup that stock alone cannot create. It’s a great one pot meal and leftovers reheat really nicely for the next day. The barley is pretty sturdy and will not get mushy after sitting in the soup for a few days, so  this is also a great dish to make and keep in the freezer for a later date.

Hearty Beef Barley Soup:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large dutch oven for medium-high heat.
  • Season 1 1/2 lbs. beef shanks* generously with salt and pepper and add to the pot.
  • Brown the meat for 5-8 minutes per side, or until nicely caramelized.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
  • Add in 1 diced onion, 2 diced leeks, 3 stalks of diced celery, and 6 diced carrots.**
  • Cook the vegetables for 10 minutes, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Once veggies are tender and starting to brown, add in 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and 2 bay leaves.
  • Add the beef shanks back in, along with 8 c. low-sodium beef broth, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pot with a lid and simmer for 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, add 1 c. pearled barley to a saucepan with 4 c. water and bring to a boil.
  • Cook for 30 minutes, or until barley is almost tender, then drain and set aside.***
  • Skim any fat off the top of the beef broth and fish out the thyme stems and bay leaves.****
  • Add the barley and heat for another 5 minutes. Check for seasoning.
  • Divide soup into bowls and serve.

Serves six
*The original recipe called for oxtails, but I couldn't find any. Shanks are a good substitute.
**I like a lot of vegetables in this soup, but feel free to add more or less based on your preference.
***Can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge until ready to add to the broth.
****I also fished out the beef shanks at this point. But, if you like, you can eat them with the soup.

Wednesday, February 20


There’s nothing like a three-day weekend to relax and revitalize my spirits. Even though my fiancé and I didn’t go anywhere, we made the most out of our time off and treated it as a mini-vacation. We stumbled across fresh sugar cane at the farmers market and were immediately transported back to our trip to Costa Rica in November, where nearly every cocktail we drank was garnished with a stick of it. We decided to replicate a drink at home and chose to make mojitos, which we sipped on while enjoying the warm sunshine. We gnawed on the soaked sugar cane sticks and took a breather from everyday life, pretending we were still living in the pura vida spirit.

  • Combine 1/2 c. sugar and 1/4 c. water and bring to a simmer in a small sauce pan.
  • Stir until the sugar dissolves and let the simple syrup cool.*
  • Meanwhile, muddle together 15 fresh mint leaves and 1/2 of a large lime until very fragrant.
  • Add in 1/4 c. simple syrup and 4 oz. white rum and shake to combine.
  • Pour drinks into glasses filled 3/4 way with crushed ice, then float a layer of club soda on top.
  • Garnish with sugar cane sticks and serve immediately.

Serves two
*Can be made a few days ahead, covered, and kept in the fridge.

Tuesday, February 19

Lobster & Truffle Pasta

Maybe it’s the upcoming wedding, but Valentine’s Day just didn’t seem like as big of a deal this year. After all, we have so much to look forward to as a couple in the next few months. We decided to keep it low key with a special meal at home, a bottle of our favorite champagne, and a few shows we had recorded on TV. I originally planned to make scallops but they were all out of them at my fish shop so I grabbed the last two lobster tails in the case (much to the disappointment of those waiting in line behind me). The sweet lobster meat paired really nicely with a simple truffle pasta – yes, a pasta that’s actually made with truffles – and a light cream sauce. It turned out to be a pretty exquisite and decadent meal, not bad for an impromptu dinner in front of the couch.

More Lobster Recipes:
Whole Steamed Lobsters
Lobster Risotto
Lobster, Corn, & Bacon Chowder
Lobster Tails with Garlic Panko Crust

Lobster & Truffle Pasta:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt.
  • Add in 1/2 lb. truffle pasta and cook until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, melt 3 tbsp. butter* and 1/4 c. heavy cream in a pan and bring to a simmer.
  • Season with salt, pepper, and a small pinch of cayenne, and add in 1/2 lb. chopped, cooked lobster.**
  • Drain the pasta, leaving some water stuck to the noodles, and add into the cream mixture.
  • Toss the pasta until most of the sauce is absorbed, 1-2 minutes.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two
*For an even more truffle-y flavor, you can use truffle butter or a combination of the two.
**I placed 2 small lobster tails in a steamer and cooked for 5-8 minutes, or until bright red and slightly curled.

Friday, February 15

Roasted Sunchokes with Almonds & Goat Cheese

I fell in love with sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) on restaurant menus but could never seem to find any to make at home. They look very similar to ginger root in their raw form, so I nearly bypassed them at my local farmers market before realizing what they were. If you’ve never had them, their texture is very similar to a potato but their flavor is much nuttier and sweeter. I did my best with them by recreating a dish I tried at a local restaurant, Tar & Roses, and it was to die for. Seriously, my fiancé and I were fighting over the bowl (I won). The lemon zest and goat cheese add a zip and tang and the almonds reinforce the chokes' nutty taste and provide extra crunch. It's a beautiful, complex side dish (or light lunch) that will probably upstage your main course.

Roasted Sunchokes with Almonds, Lemon Zest, & Goat Cheese:
  • Thoroughly scrub 1 lb. of sunchokes under running water.*
  • Pat dry and chop into bite-size pieces, then place on a baking sheet.
  • Toss with 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast in a 425F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until tender and browned in some areas.
  • Add in 1/3 c. whole amonds and toss with the sunchokes and return to the oven for another 3 minutes.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the zest of 1 lemon and 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese.

Serves two-three (side dish)
*Sunchokes tend to be very sandy and gritty.

Thursday, February 14

Blood Orange Cake

The citrus this winter has been unbelievably good, with my personal favorite being the blood orange (a less-acidic, deep red variety of the fruit). I’ve been buying three-pound bags at our farmer’s market and juicing or snacking on them but have wanted to incorporate them more into my cooking. This cake uses their zest and juice in three different steps and really highlights the orange’s unqiue flavor. I love the bright pink color of the glaze, which makes it perfect for Valentine’s Day or a girly birthday party.

Blood Orange Cake:*
  • Butter a loaf pan, then sprinkle in flour and tap out any excess. Set aside.
  • Combine the zest of 2 blood oranges with 1 c. sugar in a bowl and use your fingers to rub together and release any orange flavor.**
  • Whisk in 1/2 c. mild olive oil until smooth, then whisk in 2 eggs, one at a time.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp. orange zest and 1/3 c. Greek yogurt and whisk until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, stir together 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp. baking soda in another bowl.
  • Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and place in a 350F oven for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Let cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a baking rack.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1/4 c. blood orange juice and 2 tbsp. sugar in a small pan until sugar is melted, about 3 minutes.
  • Poke holes into the cake and pour the blood orange syrup on top.***
  • Let cake cool completely, at least an hour, then combine 3/4 c. powdered sugar with 2 tbsp. blood orange juice in a small bowl.
  • Pour glaze over the cake and let harden, about 20-30 minutes.
  • Slice and serve.

Serves eight-ten
*Adapted from a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.
**The sugar should be moist and have a slight orange color.
***At this point, the cake can be kept in an airtight container and glazed the next day.

Wednesday, February 13

Winter Veggie Stir-Fry

I always find February to be one of the hardest months to eat healthy since it includes my fiance’s birthday and Valentine’s Day, and it’s usually one of the coldest months of the year. Salads are just so unappealing compared to warm stews and braises, but I can get excited about a flavorful stir-fry. This version is packed with some of my favorite winter veggies – kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli – and tossed with a simple sauce made from just a few ingredients. It manages to be fairly hearty, especially when served alongside some brown rice, and it will make you feel a little less guilty about eating that box of chocolates.  

Purple Kale, Broccoli, & Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a wok over super high heat.
  • Add in 1 large head of broccoli florets, cut into small pieces, and 1 lb. of quartered brussels sprouts.
  • Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until caramelized and crisp-tender, then remove to a bowl and place the wok back over the heat.
  • Add in another tbsp. oil and 2 bunches of sliced purple kale,* large stems removed.
  • Cook kale for a few minutes, or until wilted, then add in 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 1 tbsp. freshly grated ginger, and 1 minced jalapeno pepper.**
  • Cook for another minute, or until garlic and ginger are fragrant but not brown, and add back in the rest of the vegetables.
  • Meanwhile, mix together 1/4 c. oyster sauce,*** 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. lime juice, and a pinch of sugar.
  • Pour sauce over the vegetables and toss to coat, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Serve with brown rice and enjoy.

Serves three-four
*I like purple kale for its color and tender stems and leaves, but any variety will do.
**Keep the seeds in for more spice, or remove them for a milder stir fry.
***Available in the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores.

Tuesday, February 12

Braised Chicken & Mushrooms

The weather here has been absurdly chilly by southern California standards, with the only upside being the soups, stews, and braises I’ve been making to warm us up. This chicken is a great option since it’s super comforting but doesn’t take as long to cook as some other tougher cuts of meat. The mushroom gravy is richly flavorful but surprisingly light, and the chicken stays juicy and has a wonderful tenderness. I like to brighten things up with simple arugula and lemon salad and some crusty baguette for mopping up extra sauce. Leftovers reheat well on the stove the next day, and make your whole house smell delicious and inviting.

Braised Chicken & Mushrooms:
  • Heat 1/4 c. olive oil in a large dutch oven over high heat.
  • Meanwhile, season 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs with salt and pepper and lightly coat with all-purpose flour.
  • Place chicken, skin-side down, in the pot and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, or until darkly golden brown.*
  • Remove chicken and place on a plate, then add in 12 oz. cremini mushrooms, 4-5 whole garlic gloves, and 4 sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • Cook mushrooms for 5-7 minutes, or until browned, then add in 1/8 c. dry sherry and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add in 1 c. white wine, 1 c. chicken stock, a large pinch of salt and pepper, and add chicken (skin-side up) back to the pot.**
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover with a lid and move to a 325F oven.
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through, then move chicken to a clean plate.
  • Discard the thyme stems, and heat chicken braising liquid over medium heat.
  • Meanwhile, mash together 1 1/2 tbsp. room-temperature butter and 1/8 c. all-purpose flour into a paste.
  • Add the butter mixture to the sauce and stir to thicken.
  • Cook sauce for 5 minutes, or until desired thickness, then season with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Return chicken to the pot to heat through, then divide onto plate and serve.

Serves four-five
*Don't crowd your pan or the chicken won't brown. You may need to brown chicken in batches.
**The chicken might not be entirely covered with liquid, which is fine.

Monday, February 11

Brussels Sprouts & Cheddar Frittata

Egg dishes are almost as common as pasta now in my list of weeknight workhorse meals, largely in part by how terrific the fresh eggs are at my local farmers market (and my fiancé guilting me into cooking less carbs and more protein).  This frittata couldn’t be easier and more impromptu – created from a craving for brussels sprouts and a need to use up a wedge of cheddar I had leftover from this recipe – which means it can be tweaked to any vegetable/meat/dairy combo your heart desires. The key, though, is in the cooking method. Placing the frittata under a hot broiler causes it to puff up like a soufflé and brown in the most wonderful way, giving it another dimension of texture and flavor. It’s the perfect breakfast, or lunch, or brunch, or dinner … or really anytime meal.

Brussels Sprouts & White Cheddar Frittata:
  • Quarter 1 lb. of brussels sprouts, removing any bruised or brown outer leaves.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a medium skillet* over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 1 thinly sliced onion and cook for 7 minutes, or until softened.
  • Add in 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute, or until fragrant.
  • Add in a little more oil and the sprouts and cook for 5-7 more minutes, stirring once or twice, or until caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, whisk together 3 whole eggs, 2 egg whites, and a splash of milk.** 
  • Season eggs with salt and pepper and pour into the skillet over the vegetables.
  • Immediately sprinkle 1/2 c. grated white cheddar cheese over the eggs and transfer under a hot broiler.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes,*** or until puffed and golden brown.
  • Let cool slightly, then slice into wedges and serve.

Serves three-four
*About 8"-10".
**Or use all whole eggs. I cut out some of the yolks to be lower in calories, but used some milk to add a little creaminess.
***Watch carefully, cooking time will depend how hot the broiler is and how close the pan is to it.

Thursday, February 7

Chicken & Chard Penne

I eat so much kale that I often disregard other types of winter greens: mustards, collards, etc., but I recently reignited a love for Swiss chard after making this dish. Between the bags of washed and chopped chard that Trader Joe’s recently started stocking and the colorful varieties at our farmer’s market, it’s tough to pass up. The leaves are more delicate than some other greens and cook down quite quickly, but I found that dicing the more fibrous stems and adding them to my cooking adds a wonderful texture and flavor. Here, sautéed chard is mixed with roasted chicken, whole wheat penne, and a generous handful of Parmesan cheese for a well-rounded main course.

Chicken & Chard Penne:
  • Brush 1 boneless skinless chicken breast with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Place chicken on a baking sheet and roast in a 375F oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Let chicken cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces.*
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta until al dente.
  • In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil and add in the finely diced stems from 2 bunches of Swiss chard.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add in 1 heaping tbsp. of minced garlic and a pinch of red chile flakes.
  • Cook for another minute, or until garlic is fragrant, then add in the chopped leaves of the chard.**
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until leaves have wilted.
  • Add in 1/4 c. white wine and 1/3 c. chicken stock and cook for a few minutes until wine has reduced.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking liquid, and add to the chard along with the chicken.
  • Sprinkle 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese over the pasta and toss until combined, adding some of the pasta water in to moisten.
  • Check for seasonings, divide onto plates, and serve with more Parmesan, if desired.

Serves four - six
*Or use leftover or rotisserie chicken. Can be done a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
**I like to add the washed leaves while they're still a little wet, which helps them wilt. Chard may need to be added slowly in batches and wilt a little before all of it will fit in the skillet.

Wednesday, February 6

Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats

A grown-up spin on the kid-favorite Rice Krispies treats

Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats

I’ve chronicled my interesting diet as a child before – how I was picky (or a “purist” as I like to describe it), how I ate vegetable sushi and a whole pint of sliced strawberries for school lunches, and mostly how I managed to miss out on a lot of classic kid-favorite foods. It wasn’t really until college that I started tasting some of these kids' menu favorites and started trying to make them at home, which is why it shouldn’t be too surprising that last weekend was the first time I’ve ever made rice krispies treats. I’d eaten a few at parties growing up, but since my mom never made them they were always sort of a mystery to me. Luckily, a recipe in Smitten Kitchen caught my eye and now I can sing the praises of the easiest ever dessert, a real crowd-pleaser that can be made in minutes. The brown butter and salt adds a wonderfully nuttiness and complexity to the lighter-than-air treats and I like to amp up the amount of marshmallow so they’re extra sticky.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats:
  • Melt 8 tbsp. of butter in a large pan until it foams, turns clear, and then start to brown.*
  • Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and add in 16 oz. marshmallows and a pinch of flaked sea salt.
  • Stir until the marshmallows completely melt and turn smooth, then turn off the heat from under the pan.
  • Stir in 6 c. rice krispies cereal until coated with the marshmallow sauce.
  • Pour into a well-buttered baking dish** and press down to pack them in and smooth the top.***
  • Place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until hardened.
  • Cut into squares and serve.

Serves eight-twelve
*Watch carefully, butter goes from brown to burnt very quickly.
**Such as a 9"x9" or 9"x13" pan.
***I like to spray my hands with non-stick spray to easy pat them in.

Tuesday, February 5

BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders

Bite-size pulled pork sandwiches with melted cheese & refreshing broccoli slaw

BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders with Broccoli Slaw

As I mentioned earlier, I made quite a generous amount of carnitas last week and ate the leftovers for days. Although the original dish is Mexican, its basic flavor profile (from only seasoning it with salt while cooking) lends itself to all types of reincarnations. Here, I tossed it with a good store-bought BBQ sauce for a quick and easy take on pulled pork sliders. The pork is topped with caramelized onions, a little cheddar cheese, and a light broccoli slaw and served on small slider buns – although you could make full-size sandwiches if you prefer. It’s a great quick weeknight meal or picnic lunch that makes the most out of leftovers.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders with Broccoli Slaw:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet and add in 1/2 thinly sliced onion.
  • Cook onions on low heat for 15 minutes, or until soft and caramelized. Set aside.
  • Whisk together 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, and 1 tbsp. olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Toss yogurt dressing with 1 bag of broccoli slaw mix* and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, combine 2 c. warm roasted, shredded pork** and 1/3 c. barbecue sauce.***
  • Heat your broiler to high and arrange 6 slider buns on a baking sheet.
  • Toast buns under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until golden, then remove top buns and set aside.
  • Divide pork onto the bottom buns and top with some of the caramelized onions and a small slice of cheddar cheese.
  • Place sliders under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  • Remove sliders from  the broiler and top with some of the slaw and the top bun.
  • Serve warm.

Serves two-three (main course)
*Or any type of coleslaw mix you like best. You will have leftover slaw for snacking.
**I used leftovers from this recipe.
***I find store-bought BBQ sauce to be a little on the sweet side. I like to doctor it up with a little hot sauce and or vinegar.

Monday, February 4

Crab Dip

I love crab dip because it's equally fitting for a special occasion (holidays, meeting the in-laws) as it is for a casual gathering. I made this version yesterday for the Super Bowl as a tribute to the Baltimore Ravens and it was a huge hit (and I'm not ruling it out as the reason they won the game). It almost seems wrong to combine a bunch of dairy and spices and breadcrumbs with fresh lump crabmeat but it tastes so right. The balance of heat and salty and creamy with the sweet crab provides so much flavor that it gets addicting. I like to pair it with a simple cracker or toast point so that it doesn't compete with the dip.

Crab Dip:
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a skillet and add in 2 minced shallots.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened, and add in 1 tbsp. of water.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard, 3/4 tsp. Old Bay seasoning, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
  • Add in 3/4 c. half and half and bring to a simmer, then slowly whisk in 8 oz. of softened cream cheese, a little at a time.
  • Once all the cream cheese has melted, stir in 1 3/4 c. grated white cheddar cheese and stir for a minute or two.
  • Turn off the heat and add in 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, 10 oz. fresh crabmeat, and 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley.
  • If desired, transfer crab dip to a small baking dish.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dip with 1/4" pieces of bread* and dot with 1 tbsp. of butter, torn into small bits.
  • Bake in a 400F oven for 20 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbling.
  • Let cool slightly and serve with toast points or crackers.

Serves six-eight (appetizer)
*I used brioche but white or sourdough bread would be great too. Remove the crusts.

Friday, February 1

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Even though I’ve converted my fiancé into liking eggplant (with this, this, and this), there’s still a little bit of a competitive side that comes out when I make a meal like this that forces me to say, “See? Isn’t this delicious?”. But really, it’s not hard to convince anyone to like eggplant parmesan, even a slightly healthier (and easier) take on the classic dish. The crispy-crusted eggplant gets layered with tomato sauce, basil, and a lot of mozzarella before baking into bubbling, cheesy goodness. I like it even better than my chicken parm, which is saying a lot. This recipe will feed an army – I served it to some friends who all had seconds and we still had leftovers – but it tastes even better then next day.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan:
  • Slice two large eggplants in 1/2" rounds.
  • In a large shallow bowl, beat 3 egg whites and season with salt and pepper.
  • In another shallow bowl, add in 2 c. panko breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper.
  • Coat eggplant in egg white, then in breadcrumbs, and place in a single layer on two large, lightly oiled baking sheets.
  • Bake eggplant in a 375F oven for 20-30 minutes, or until tender and lightly golden.
  • Meanwhile, add a thin layer of marinara sauce* to the bottom of a large baking dish.
  • Add in a layer of the eggplant, then more tomato sauce, then several leaves of fresh basil, and then sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese.**
  • Repeat layering until all the eggplant is used, ending with a layer of tomato sauce and cheese.
  • Top the dish with 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese and place in a 375F oven.
  • Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.
  • Let cool for 5-10 minutes, then slice and sprinkle with a little chopped basil.

Serves six-ten
*You will need 2 jars of tomato sauce total.
**You will need about 1 lb. total.