Tuesday, April 30

Maple-Balsamic-Orange Roasted Strawberries

I find that fresh strawberries have an extremely short shelf life even when I store them properly (unwashed, in a single layer between paper towels, in an airtight container) and buy them fresh from the farmers market. After a few days they start to get bruised and a little too soft, which isn’t ideal for someone like me who only makes a trip to the grocery store once or twice a week.  Roasting them is a great way to preserve and salvage berries that have seen better days. I tossed them with a mixture of maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and orange juice which helps them to caramelize and release some of their juice while cooking. The roasted strawberries will keep in the fridge for several days and are great on ice cream, French toast (pictured below), yogurt, and just about anything else you can imagine.

Maple-Balsamic-Orange Roasted Strawberries:
  • Slice the tops off of 2 pints of strawberries and cut in half.
  • Place berries on a baking sheet and toss with the juice of 1/2 an orange, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, and 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.*
  • Arrange berries in a single layer and bake in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until berries are soft and have released some juice.
  • Let cool slightly, then serve.

Makes ~3 cups of berries and juice
*Try and use high quality balsamic that has a sweeter, less acidic flavor.

Monday, April 29

Slow Cooked Black Beans

My tastes have changed so much over time and I find myself liking more and more foods that I used to stay far away from. Beans of all kinds used to be at the top of my list of least favorite ingredients, but I recently decided to try making black beans at home and was surprised by how much I enjoyed them. Unlike canned beans (which I still won't go near), dried beans can be cooked until your desired doneness - I prefer mine pretty al dente - and simmer in a seasoned liquid that imparts a great flavor. This recipe (inspired by one in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook) takes a few hours to cook but will last for days after. Eat them simply as a side dish, sprinkle into tacos or burritos, or fold into rice for cheap, easy meals all week.

Slow Cooked Black Beans:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large, heavy pot.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and cook over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
  • Add in 3-4 minced garlic cloves and cook for another minute.
  • Add in 2 tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tbsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. paprika, and 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring, until it turns a rusty color.
  • Add in 8-9 c. water* and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Stir in 1 lb. dried black beans, a large pinch of salt, and a few sprigs of fresh oregano.
  • Bring the beans to a boil, then cover with a lid and lower to a very low simmer.
  • Cook beans for 2 1/2 hours,** or until tender but not at all mushy.
  • Stir in the juice of 1 lime and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Drain off excess liquid and serve.***

Serves eight-twelve
*Or no-sodium chicken broth.
**Dried beans' cooking time can vary greatly. I'd recommend checking the beans at 90 minutes, but they might take over 3 hours to cook.
***Beans will keep in the fridge for several days.

Wednesday, April 24

Fava Bean Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs

I had a box of beautiful multicolored quinoa in my pantry, so I decided to make a riff on my classic quinoa cakes using some of my favorite spring produce. The cooked quinoa gets incorporated with a bunch of shelled fava beans, scallions, and herbs for a patty that’s full of flavor and texture. I like to pan fry them for a buttery crust and warm, soft center. The poached egg on top takes it from side dish to meal, although they work great as a snack or appetizer with some yogurt or sour cream. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for a few days and can be reheated in the oven to preserve the crispy crust.

Fava Bean Quinoa Cakes with Poached Eggs:
  • Combine 1 c. quinoa with 2 1/2 c. water and a pinch of salt in a small pot.
  • Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain quinoa and rinse with cold water until its room temperature.*
  • Add quinoa to a mixing bowl with 3 minced scallions, 1 tbsp. minced basil, 3 beaten eggs, 3/4 c. panko breadcrumbs, 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir in 1/2 c. fava beans** and combine everything thoroughly.***
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil and 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet.
  • Roll the quinoa mixture into ball and place into the skillet, then use the back of a spatula to flatten the balls into patties.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until outside is crunchy and the center is warm and cooked through.
  • Repeat cooking process for the remaining quinoa mixture until all patties are formed.****
  • Stack a couple patties on each plate and top each stack with a poached egg.*****

Serves two-three (main coarse)
Serves four-six (appetizer)
*Quinoa can be cooked, cooled, and stored in the fridge a few days in advance. Bring to room temperature before using.
**From about 1 lb. of fava bean pods. To prepare fava beans, remove the beans from the pods, place in boiling water for a minute or two, drain and peel the outer skin from the beans.
***Let mixture stand for a few minutes so that everything gets absorbed. If it seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs or if it seems dry, add in more egg or water.
****I like to keep the patties on a baking rack over a cookie sheet in a 175F oven while the rest cook.
*****See my tips and recipe for making a perfectly poached egg here.

Tuesday, April 23

Orange Peel Shrimp

I will occasionally get takeout from P.F. Chang’s when I don’t feel like cooking and always order the orange peel shrimp. This is my attempt at making it at home, which I think comes pretty close to the original recipe. The shrimp gets quickly cooked in a hot wok and then mixed with a sweet and spicy orange sauce that’s flavored with honey, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Because the sauce is mixed with a little cornstarch, it thickens in just a couple minutes and coats the shrimp with a thick, beautiful glaze. I like to serve it with some brown rice and sugar snap peas for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Spicy Orange Peel Shrimp:
  • Combine 1/2 c. orange juice, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch, 1 tbsp. honey, 1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce, and the zest of 1 orange in a bowl and whisk until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil in a large wok until very hot and almost smoking.
  • Add in 3 thinly sliced scallions and 3/4 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp.
  • Season shrimp with salt and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they turn pink and opaque.
  • Add in the sauce and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until sauce has thickened and coated the shrimp.
  • Divide onto plates and serve with brown rice.
Serves two-three

Monday, April 22

Baked Cinnamon Walnut French Toast

My fiance and I had a great time hosting brunch for some friends on Saturday. I had been looking forward to this gathering for a while and thought a lot about creating an easy menu that would satisfy a diverse group of eaters. Some brunch foods aren't doable for a crowd (like making poached eggs to order), so I chose dishes that could be prepped in advance and served family style. I made bacon and scallion loaded home fries, this brussels sprout and cheddar frittata, and baked brioche french toast with cinnamon walnut crumble. Normal french toast isn't a crowd-friendly dish but this recipe calls for all the bread and custard to soak and bake in one dish like bread pudding. The cinnamon-walnut topping adds a little crunch and extra sweetness, making this a killer dessert for a brunch party.

Baked Cinnamon Walnut French Toast:
  • Slice 1 loaf of brioche bread* into 1" thick slices and arrange, slightly overlapping, into a large baking dish.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 8 eggs, 2 c. milk, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract until smooth and all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Pour the egg mixture over the bread and keep in the fridge for a couple hours or up to overnight.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1/3 c. brown sugar, 1/3 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.
  • Work 4 tbsp. diced cold butter into the sugar mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
  • Sprinkle the top of the french toast with the topping and place in a 375F oven.
  • Cook for 45-60 minutes, remove from the oven, and let cool slightly.
  • Serve with maple syrup and/or fresh berries.

Serves eight-ten
*I like to leave the bread out uncovered overnight to dry it out a bit.

Friday, April 19

Wild Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Flatbread

Now that I've shown you the recipe for easy pizza dough, I need to show you what I made with it. Since it doesn't have any tomato sauce, I'm calling this dish a flatbread (some may call it a white pizza), but all you need to know is that it's one of the best things I've eaten in months. Gooey mozzarella and nutty gruyere cheese melt together with sweet caramelized onions, savory wild mushrooms, and fresh thyme. The crust gets nice and crispy while the toppings bake and melt together in cheesy umami goodness. I like to serve it with a peppery arugula salad for a quick and satisfying dinner that will make you feel like you're at the coolest pizzeria in town.

Related Recipes:
- Easy Homemade Pizza Dough
- Whole Wheat Corn & Shishito Pepper Pizza
- Prosciutto, Mushroom, & Fennel Pizza

Wild Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Flatbread:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat.
  • Add in 1 thinly sliced onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until soft and golden brown.
  • Transfer the onions to a bowl and place the skillet back on the stove over high heat.
  • Add in another tbsp. oil and 2 c. sliced wild mushrooms* and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until softened.**
  • Roll out pizza dough until 1/4" thick and place on a floured baking sheet.
  • Evenly sprinkle dough with 1/2 c. grated Gruyere cheese and 3/4 c. grated mozzarella cheese.
  • Evenly sprinkle the onions and mushrooms over the pizza and season with salt.
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves over the top and drizzle entire pizza with a little olive oil.
  • Cook in a 450F oven for 15 minutes, or until crust is golden and crispy and cheese is melted.
  • Let cool slightly, then slice and serve.

Serves two-three
*I used a mix of shiitakes, chanterelles, hedgehog, and oyster mushrooms. You can use whatever you can get your hands on.
**Both mushrooms and onions can be prepared in advance.

Thursday, April 18

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

I've seen recipes for "no-knead" easy breads and pizza doughs for awhile but have been hesitant to try them. My wariness is mostly because I get nervous cooking with dry active yeast and am worried it won't rise properly (this happened to me once when I tried to make doughnuts in high school and I haven't trusted yeast since). Thankfully, I worked up the nerve to try out Smitten Kitchen's easy overnight pizza dough (found in the cookbook, but based on this recipe) and will never go back to buying store-bought dough again. All you need is water, flour, salt, yeast, and time. I made the dough the night before (it only takes five minutes!), kept it in a bowl in the fridge overnight, and then left it out at room temperature while I was at work. When I got home, all I had to do was roll out the dough, sprinkle on the toppings, and bake for 15 minutes. It's quicker than ordering delivery and so much better.

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough:
  • In a large bowl, combine 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast with 1/2 c. warm water.*
  • Let mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbles/foam form at the top of the water.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour** and 1 tsp. kosher salt until combined.
  • Dump dough out on a floured surface and knead for a few minutes, or until a smooth ball forms.
  • Wipe out the bowl with a paper towel and lightly grease it with olive oil.
  • Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and store in the fridge overnight.***
  • Take the dough out to room temperature and let sit for at least an hour.
  • Roll out the dough on a floured surface, sprinkle with toppings, and bake in a 450F until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serves two-four
*Water should be slightly warmer than room temperature (110-115F). If it's too hot or too cold, the yeast will not activate.
**You can use a combination of half all-purpose and half whole-wheat flour if you prefer.
***Or for at least 8 hours.

Wednesday, April 17

Pork Chops with Apple-Onion Reduction

This is another one of my favorite dishes, first written up years ago (here), and slightly refined and tweaked over time. When my fiance and I were first dating, this was one of his most-requested meals and something we had almost once a week for dinner. The sweet, cider-braised onions and meaty, bone-in pork chops are a delicious and comforting pairing. I served it this time with quick-cooking polenta for an easy, well-rounded weeknight meal that comes together in under thirty minutes.

Pork Chops with Apple-Onion Reduction:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Generously season 2 bone-in, center-cut pork chops* with salt and pepper and place in the pan.
  • Cook for 3-5 minutes per side, or until darkly browned on each side.
  • Transfer chops to a baking sheet and cook in a 350F oven for 5 minutes, or until just cooked through.**
  • Remove the pork from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add a little more oil to the pan and add in 1 thinly sliced yellow onion.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until softened, then add in 3/4 c. apple cider, 1/4 c. chicken stock, and a couple sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • Let onions cook for 5-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has reduced and the onions are soft.
  • Season with salt and pepper and add in 1 tbsp. of cold butter.
  • Turn off the heat and stir until the butter melts. Remove the thyme stems.
  • Add the pork back to the pan and toss with the onion mixture.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two
*I like to let the chops sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before cooking, if possible.
**Cooking time will depend on how thick the chops are. Try not to overcook or the meat will be tough and dry.

Tuesday, April 16

Orange-Maple Duck Breasts

Duck is one of my secrets for looking like a gourmet chef without much effort or time. I find that it’s actually easier to cook than chicken because it doesn’t need to be cooked well done and is easy to keep moist thanks to its generous layer of fat. The key is to deeply score the skin and fat and cook it skin-side down in the pan for the majority of the time so that most of the fat renders out and bastes the meat while crisping the skin. This recipe calls for a simple orange-maple glaze on top that adds a sweet-spicy-sticky lacquer over the duck. It’s an impressive, decadent dish that’s totally doable for a special weeknight meal or for entertaining a crowd.

Orange-Maple Duck Breasts:
  • Use a sharp knife to score the skin of 1 lb. of duck breasts* in a criss-cross pattern. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot.
  • Add the duck, skin-side down, to the skillet and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until most of the fat has rendered and the skin is darkly golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the zest of 1 orange, 3 tbsp. maple syrup, 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, and 1 large pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Flip the duck to skin-side up and brush generously with the orange-maple glaze.
  • Cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until duck is light pink in the center.
  • Remove duck from the pan and rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Serves two-three
*Generally, this is about 2 large duck breasts.

Monday, April 15

Chicken & Broccoli Fried Rice

Lately, I've been looking back at some of my old posts and re-creating past dishes. Most of the recipes I posted at the beginning of the blog (almost two and a half years ago!) are still some of my favorites today. A lot of my oldest recipes are dishes I grew up with or developed in college and were originally written up without exact measurements but have been honed and refined in the past few years. This chicken fried rice recipe (first seen here) is one of my favorite things to cook and has been tweaked to find the right balance of flavors. The vegetables and meat can be adapted to personal preference or whatever leftovers you have on hand but this is my favorite combination. It's a fast, fresh, flavorful meal that never disappoints.

Related Recipes:
- Chicken & Mushroom Fried Rice
- Beef Stir-Fry
- Broccoli Fried Brown Rice

Fried Brown Rice with Chicken & Broccoli:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil a wok over high heat until very hot and nearly smoking.
  • Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl until combined and add to the wok.
  • Scramble the eggs and cook for 30 seconds, or until no longer runny.
  • Transfer the eggs to a bowl and set aside and return the wok to the heat.
  • Add in 1 more tbsp. of oil and 1 head of finely chopped broccoli florets.*
  • Cook the broccoli for 3-5 minutes, or until crisp-tender, then add in 3 thinly sliced scallions, 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger, and 2 minced cloves of garlic.
  • Stir to combine and cook for 1 minute, then add in 3 c. cooked brown rice, 1 1/2 c. cooked shredded chicken,** 3 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. sesame oil, and several dashes of Sriracha hot sauce.
  • Add in the eggs and toss until everything is well mixed.
  • Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce or hot sauce as necessary.
  • Divide into bowls and serve.

Serves two-three
*About 1 c. total. If you have leftover, already cooked vegetables, you can just add them and add the rest of the ingredients right away.
**I used leftover roasted chicken from this recipe, but store-bought rotisserie chicken would also work.

Friday, April 12

Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Parmesan Farro

This is another variation of my super versatile farro salad recipe (seen here and here) and might be my easiest yet. Just-in-season spring fava beans are paired with nearly out-of-season meyer lemons for a light season-transitioning meal. There are only a few ingredients in the salad, so it’s important that everything is fresh so that the flavors will really shine. Shelling two pounds of fava beans from their pods is a little bit of work (I like to mindlessly peel them in front of the TV) but can be done well in advance of assembling the final dish. I find that farro salads hold up really well over time (even when they are dressed), so leftovers should keep in the fridge for several days.

Fava Bean, Meyer Lemon, & Parmesan Farro:
  • Rinse 1 1/2 c. farro under cold water, place in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Add a generous pinch of salt, lower your heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid.
  • Cook farro for 25-30 minutes, or until al dente.*
  • Meanwhile, remove the beans from 2 lb. of fava bean pods.
  • Cook the beans in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then immediately transfer to a bowl of cold water.
  • Pop the beans out of their tough shell and set aside.**
  • Drain the farro and rinse with cold water until grains are room-temperature.
  • Toss the farro with the fava beans, the zest of 1 meyer lemon, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 meyer lemon, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, and 2 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the dressing over the farro and toss to combine.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to shave a small block of Parmesan cheese over the salad.
  • Divide into bowls and serve.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four - six (side dish)

Thursday, April 11

Lentil & Kale Ragout with Fried Eggs

This is another easy dish that works as well for brunch as it does for dinner. The lentils get mixed with onions and kale to form a hearty ragout that would be great on its own as a side dish, but the fried egg on top makes it a complete meal. When the yolk gets broken, it mixes with the lentils and creamy goat cheese crumbles to form a delicious sauce. Serve it with some crusty bread and you have a quick and unique meal. 

Lentil & Kale Ragout with Fried Eggs:
  • Add 1 c. lentils to a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.
  • Lower to simmer, cover partially with a lid, and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until al dente.*
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and add in 1 minced onion.
  • Cook onion for 5-7 minutes, or until softened, then add in 2 minced garlic cloves and 1 bunch of chopped kale, stems removed.**
  • Cook mixture for 3-4 minutes, or until kale is wilted, then add in 1/4 c. chicken stock and 1/4 c. white wine.
  • Season with salt and pepper and let mixture cook down for 3-5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has absorbed.
  • Drain the lentils and add to the vegetables. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • Divide lentil ragout onto plates and top each with 1-2 oz. of fresh crumbled goat cheese.
  • Fry 2 eggs to your liking and top each plate with one.

Serves two
*Can be done a day ahead. Store cooked, drained lentils in the fridge.
**I used purple kale but any variety will work.

Wednesday, April 10

Radish & Butter Tartine

There are so many colorful radishes at our farmers market this time of year that it’s hard to resist bringing a bunch home. They are a super versatile vegetable and are great roasted, added to salads, or served as a snack. Radishes and butter are a classic pairing and are usually seen together in English tea sandwiches which was the inspiration for this quick and easy tartine. The radish tops have a great peppery taste which adds a nice flavor and color to the compound butter. Just spread the soft butter over a crusty baguette, layer some thinly sliced radishes on top, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. It makes the perfect appetizer or afternoon snack and looks and tastes of Spring.

Radish & Butter Tartine:
  • Combine 2 tbsp. room-temperature butter with 1 tbsp. finely chopped radish tops.*
  • Cut a demi baguette in half and spread the butter on top.
  • Thinly slice 4-5 radishes and layer over the bread, then sprinkle with coarse sea salt flakes.

Serves two-four (appetizer)
*Compound butter can be covered and kept in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a few months.

Tuesday, April 9

Loaded Wedge Salad

I usually eat simple salads that focus on highlighting a few fresh ingredients but I’m a real sucker for a loaded wedge salad. This is a slightly de-constructed and updated take on the classic featuring leaves of butter lettuce (over the traditional iceberg), chunky, creamy blue cheese dressing, chopped tomatoes, bacon bits, and crispy fried onion strings. The onion strings are my brother’s recipe and super low-maintenance as far as deep frying goes – no complicated batter or deep-fry thermometer needed – and taste as good on their own as they do in the salad. The wedge is filling enough to serve as a main course, although it would make a real show-stopper at a potluck.

Loaded Wedge Salad:
For Dressing
  • Combine 3-4 oz. crumbled blue cheese with 1/4 c. creme fraiche and 1 tbsp. buttermilk.
  • Whisk to combine, slightly mashing the cheese into the dressing, and season with salt and pepper.
For Onion Rings
  • Heat 1 1/2" of canola oil in a saucepan until very hot but not quite smoking.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice 1 small yellow onion into rings.*
  • In a shallow bowl, combine 2 c. flour with 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. black pepper and stir to combine.
  • Working in batches, place some of the onion rings into the flour, then dip into a bowl of 2 c. buttermilk, then coat back in the flour.
  • Shake off any excess flour and carefully add to the hot oil.**
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning once, or until crispy and golden brown.
  • Remove onion rings with a slotted spoon and immediately season with salt.
  • Keep onion rings on a baking rack on top of a sheet pan in a 200F oven while frying the remaining batches.
For Salad
  • Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add in 1/2 lb. diced bacon.
  • Cook bacon for 7-10 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy.
  • Let bacon drain on paper towels.
  • Arrange 4-4 large leaves of butter lettuce onto two plates and drizzle with the blue cheese dressing and some extra blue cheese crumbles.
  • Scatter 1 chopped tomato and the bacon over top, then add a few onion rings.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four - six (side dish)
*I like to use a mandoline and cut it 1/4" thick.
**Oil should sizzle and bubble up around the rings immediately when you drop the onions in.

Monday, April 8

Simple Roasted Chicken

An easy recipe for a crispy, juicy, perfect roasted chicken

My fiance just got home from his bachelor party in Las Vegas and I wanted to welcome him back with a home-cooked meal. Roast chicken is such a traditional Sunday supper for so many people that I thought it would be a comforting meal after his busy weekend and the whole house smelled incredible when he walked in. A whole bird may look intimidating, but it takes less than five minutes to prep the chicken and then the hot oven does all of the work. It roasts for about an hour and a half, or until the skin gets golden and crisp and the meat turns tender and juicy. Leftovers can be re-purposed for tacos, salads, etc., for a quick lunch or dinner later in the week - not to mention chicken stock that can made from the carcass.

Related Recipes:
- Fauxtisserie Chicken with Potatoes
- Fried Chicken
- Thanksgiving Turkey

Simple Roast Chicken:
  • Remove the giblets from the cavity of a 4-5 lb. chicken and season the inside with salt and pepper.
  • Cut a lemon and onion into quarters and stuff half into the cavity along with several sprigs of fresh thyme.
  • Rub the outside of the chicken with 2 tbsp. softened butter and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Tie the legs together with twine and tuck the wings under the bird.
  • Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and place the remaining onion and lemon wedges and several cloves of garlic in the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour 1 1/2 c. of chicken stock in the bottom of the pan and place in a 425F oven.
  • Cook for 75-90 minutes, or until the juices run clear in between the leg and the thigh.
  • Tent the chicken with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Carve the chicken and serve with lemon wedges, as desired.

Serves four

Friday, April 5

Beet & Goat Cheese Tart

I've been a fan of savory tarts ever since I made this caramelized onion one a few years ago and couldn't resist trying out a roasted beet and goat cheese version I saw on Food52. The sweet earthy beets are a nice pairing with the tangy goat cheese, slightly-bitter greens, and flaky, buttery dough. Defrosted store-bought puff pastry makes this a weeknight-friendly meal, especially if you've cooked the beets in advance like I did. My fiance and I ate it for dinner but it would also make a fun appetizer or party snack for entertaining and is just as good warm as it is at room temperature. The colorful beets make for a beautiful presentation, too.

Beet & Goat Cheese Tart:
  • Slice the tops and roots off 1 bunch of beets and wrap each individually in foil.
  • Roast beets in a 400F oven for 40-60 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then rub off skins and slice into cross-wise into coins.*
  • Wash, dry, and chop the beet greens, removing any tough stems. Set aside.**
  • Roll out 1 sheet of de-frosted frozen puff pastry into a 12"x12" square.
  • Brush a little water around the edges and fold over 1"of the dough on all sides to form a border.***
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 4 oz. fresh goat cheese with 1 egg and a generous pinch of salt and pepper until combined.
  • Slowly whisk in 1/4 c. heavy cream until smooth, then pour into the puff pastry.****
  • Carefully arrange the beet slices on top of the goat cheese and bake in a 400F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pastry is golden and custard has set.
  • Remove tart from the oven and let cool slightly.
  • While tart is cooling, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add in the reserved beet greens.
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until greens have wilted.
  • Top the tart with the greens, cut into slices, and serve.

Serves two-four (main course)
Serves six-eight (appetizer)
*Beets can be cooked, cooled, and stored in the fridge a few days in advance.
**Greens can be washed, cut, and kept wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag for a few days.
***I used a fork to crimp the edges a little bit, too.
****Try not to let the goat cheese custard overflow, but mine did and it wasn't a big deal.

Thursday, April 4

Strawberry & Ricotta Scones

As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t resist picking up some strawberries at the farmers market last weekend. I was excited, so I naturally bought a whole three-pack and put some to use in these strawberry and ricotta scones. I adapted this recipe slightly from my Smitten Kitchen cookbook and was relieved at how easy they were to make (especially compared to this recipe). The dough gets mixed and kneaded in a single bowl, patted into a square, and then cut into even shapes (I like to make triangles). I added a little more sugar to the batter and a dusting of powdered sugar on top since I like my scones on the sweeter side, but if your fruit is already really sweet you could cut back to ¼ cup. When the scones bake, the strawberries turn into delicious jam-like pockets of goodness and the whole house smells like melted butter. They make great breakfast pastries, snacks, dessert, or gifts.

Strawberry & Ricotta Scones:
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1 c. all-purpose flour, 1/3 c. granulated sugar,  1 tbsp. baking powder, and 1 large pinch of salt.
  • Dice 6 tbsp. cold butter and add to the flour mixture.
  • Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.
  • Toss in 1 1/2 c. diced strawberries and coat with the flour mixture.
  • Add in 3/4 c. ricotta cheese and 1/3 c. heavy cream and stir to combine into a dough.
  • Use your hands to knead the dough into a ball at the bottom of the bowl, then transfer to a well-floured surface.
  • Gently pat the dough into a 1" tall square and cut into triangles.
  • Place the scones on a parchment-lined baking sheet* and brush the tops of each with a little heavy cream.
  • Bake the scones in a 425F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  • Let scones cool slightly, then dust with powdered sugar and serve.**

Serves eight-twelve
*Scones can be frozen at this point. To cook, just add frozen scones to a baking sheet and cook for a few extra minutes.
**Scones will keep in an air-tight container for a few days.

Wednesday, April 3

Penne with Tomato Vodka Sauce

It seemed like forever since I'd properly entertained at our home, so I was excited to have our friends over for dinner and game night last weekend. Weekend entertaining is always less stress for me since I have time to prepare almost everything in advance and can enjoy spending time with guests outside of the kitchen. I chose to serve Ina Garten's recipe for penne in vodka sauce since it makes the whole house smell delicious and is so easy to do before company arrives. The tomatoes, onions, and vodka cook in the oven for over an hour before getting pureed into a smooth sauce and mixed with basil, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Once guests are ready to eat, it only takes a few minutes to boil the pasta and toss with the sauce before serving. It's rich and delicious and is bound to please whoever you make it for. And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it tastes even better the next day.

Penne with Tomato Vodka Sauce:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 diced large yellow onion and 4 minced garlic cloves and cook until soft but not brown, about 7 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes and a large pinch of dried Italian seasoning and stir to combine.
  • Carefully* add in 1 c. vodka and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until reduced by about half.
  • Drain two 28 oz. cans of peeled whole tomatoes and use your hands to crush each tomato and add to the pot.
  • Stir the mixture and sprinkle in 2 tsp. salt and a large pinch of black pepper.
  • Place a lid on the pot and transfer to a 375F oven for 90 minutes.
  • Let tomato mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.**
  • Wipe out the pot with a paper towel and pour the sauce back in and place over medium-low heat.
  • Stir in 1 c. heavy cream and 3 tbsp. sliced fresh basil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Check sauce for seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. penne pasta until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and add to the pot with the sauce.
  • Toss the pasta with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Divide pasta onto plates and serve with more basil and cheese.

Serves four - six
*Remove the pan from heat before adding the alcohol to avoid any fire.
**Can be done a day in advance, let cool, and then kept in the fridge. Warm the sauce before adding in the remaining ingredients.

Tuesday, April 2

Fava Bean, Asparagus, & Goat Cheese Omelet

Spring seems to have officially hit our farmers market with the first signs of fava beans, ripe strawberries (more on that later this week), and green garlic. I put some of the veggies to use in a simple omelet for Easter brunch with my fiancĂ©. I mixed a bunch of minced garlic chives and a little meyer lemon zest into the eggs and then folded in shelled favas, asparagus tips, and some creamy goat cheese. I have to admit that I’m not an expert on making omelets (usually I opt for the no-flip frittata or scramble) but these were simple and stress-free to make. The fresh flavors are a perfect way to transition out of winter and into the warmer months.

Fava Bean, Asparagus, & Goat Cheese Omelet:
  • Remove the beans from 1/2 lb. of fava bean pods and trim and chop 1 bunch of asparagus.
  • Place the vegetables into a pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until crisp-tender, then transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  • Pop the fava beans out of their tough casing and set aside with the asparagus.*
  • Meanwhile, whisk together 6 eggs with 1 tbsp. creme fraiche,** 2 tbsp. minced garlic chives, 1 tsp. meyer lemon zest, and a large pinch of salt.
  • Melt 1/2 tbsp. butter into a saute pan over medium heat.
  • Pour in half of the egg mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the outside is mostly set.
  • Sprinkle half of the vegetables into one side of the pan, along with 1 oz. crumbled goat cheese.
  • Carefully fold over the other half of the omelet on top of the vegetables to form a half moon.
  • Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until the center is no longer runny.
  • Transfer omelet to a plate and repeat steps (starting with adding butter) one more time.

Serves two
*Vegetables can be prepped and kept in the fridge a day in advance.
**Or milk or cream or nothing at all.

Monday, April 1

Beet & Blue Cheese Salad

Tender lettuce with roasted beets and a light blue cheese dressing

Beet, Butter Lettuce, and Blue Cheese Salad

My fiance and I just finalized the menu for our wedding reception after having our official tasting on Friday. We were really impressed with all of the food we tried and had the most trouble choosing our starting salad since we really liked two of the options equally. One of our favorites was a butter lettuce and roasted beet salad with a blue cheese dressing (which we ultimately decided against because we thought some of our guests might not like beets or blue cheese). The buttermilk dressing was unusually light for a blue cheese salad but had a great flavor that I tried to recreate for this dish. The ingredients are really simple but pack a punch from the sweet roasted beets, crunchy lettuce, garlicky chives, and tangy dressing. It's an elegant starting course to any meal and most elements can be prepared in advance for easy entertaining.

More Beet Salads:
- Grilled Kale, Beet, & Burrata Salad
- Roasted Beets, Burrata, & Arugula
- Beet, Orange, & Goat Cheese Salad

Beet & Butter Lettuce Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing:
For Dressing
  • Combine 2 oz. blue cheese, 1/4 c. buttermilk, and 1/4 c. creme fraiche in a blender and puree til smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside.*
For Salad
  • Trim the roots off of 1 bunch of beets** and wrap each individually in foil.
  • Place the beets in a 400F oven for 45 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted without any resistance.
  • Let beets cool, rub off the skins with your hands, and cut into quarters.***
  • Wash and dry 1 head of butter lettuce and divide onto four plates.
  • Drizzle some of the dressing over the lettuce and sprinkle with a handful of garlic chives.
  • Add some beets on top of each plate and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Serves four (side dish)
*If dressing is too thick, add a little more buttermilk. Can be made a day in advance and kept in the fridge.
**About 4-5 beets. I like the small-medium size beets for this salad.
***Beets can be roasted a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge.