Friday, February 27

Homemade Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli

Buying fresh pasta at the store makes it quick and easy to make ravioli at home

Homemade Spinach and Cheese Ravioli

I love keeping ravioli in my freezer for quick weeknight meals. There are some great store-bought options for ravioli at most supermarkets now, but it's easy and fun to make your own. We had some leftover spinach pasta sheets from a lasagna we cooked with our friends the other weekend and we repurposed them into this recipe for spinach and ricotta ravioli. Mixing the filling only takes a couple minutes and then it's all about assembling the ravioli. I like to make large raviolis because it looks dramatic and it takes less time than making a lot of small ones. This is a great project to do with another person, especially kids. Spend an afternoon and crank out a huge batch that you can freeze and keep on hands for multiple meals.

Note: If freezing your ravioli, set them out in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and freeze completely. Then transfer the frozen ravioli to a baking sheet. If you put the fresh raviolis in a bag in the freezer, they will completely stick together.

Related Recipes:
- Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Shells
- Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter
- Best Three-Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Homemade Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli:
- 1 lb. fresh pasta sheets, preferably spinach pasta
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 c. steamed spinach (fresh or de-frosted)
- 1 c. ricotta cheese
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
- kosher salt
- black pepper

  • Wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible out of the spinach.
  • Mix together the spinach, ricotta, parmesan, 1 egg, and a large pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and a splash of water until combined.
  • Lay out a sheet of pasta on a flat surface and drop tablespoons of the filling 3"-4" apart.
  • Brush some of the beaten egg around each spoonful of filling, then carefully lay another sheet of pasta on top.
  • Use your fingers to press the pasta around the filling to form a seal, then cut the raviolis into squares.
  • Repeat the process to make the remaining ravioli.
  • To cook, bring a large pot of water to a low boil and season with salt. Carefully add the ravioli and cook 2-3 minutes for fresh and 5-7 minutes for frozen.

Makes about twenty ravioli

Wednesday, February 25

Kale & Smoked Salmon Baked Eggs

This effortlessly elegant baked egg dish can be made ahead for brunch or dinner

My Paris Kitchen Baked Eggs, Smoked Salmon, Kale

I started making baked eggs over a year ago and they're now one of my favorite easy breakfasts. Like other egg dishes, they're a blank canvas for whatever flavor combination you like and are a great way to use up odds and ends in your fridge or pantry. This recipe comes from David Lebovitz's cookbook My Paris Kitchen and is the best baked egg dish I've ever made. He calls for a few extra steps that make a big difference: cooking and seasoning the greens before baking, a layer of fresh goat cheese that melts into the eggs and adds even more creaminess, and a crunchy, garlicky breadcrumb topping. You can certainly swap out the smoked salmon for another meat or veggie or exchange the kale for a different green, but don't omit the crunchy topping. I cooked this dish for brunch over the weekend, but the Parisians like to eat eggs for lunch or dinner. If you're serving this to guests and want to make it ahead, you can assemble everything and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to bake them before eating.

More Egg Recipes:
- Baked Eggs with Chanterelles & Cream
- Mini Spinach & Onion Frittatas
- Corn, Cherry Tomato, & Spinach Quiche

Kale & Smoked Salmon Baked Eggs:
- 1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed, thinly sliced, washed and not-too-well dried
- 2-3 slices of smoked salmon
- 4 to 6 large eggs
- 1/3 c. panko breadcrumbs
- 3 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 2-3 tbsp. half and half or cream
- kosher salt
- red chile flakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 2-3 small baking dishes, pans, or ramekins, with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  • Melt 1 1/2 tbsp. butter in a skillet and add in 1 clove garlic, the panko breadcrumbs, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, or until golden brown.
  • Transfer the breadcrumbs to a bowl, wipe out the skillet, and return it over medium high heat.
  • Add in the remaining butter and garlic, the kale, and a large pinch of salt and red chile flakes. Cover with a lid, and cook, stirring once or twice, for a few minutes or until the kale wilts.
  • Tear the smoked salmon into pieces and divide among the bottom of the baking dishes, then layer in the kale.
  • Crack 2-3 eggs into each dish, then sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle with half and half. Finally, sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the white have set but the yolks are still a bit soft.
  • Let cool slightly, then serve.

Serves two - three

David Lebovitz Kale and Smoked Salmon Baked Eggs

Tuesday, February 24

Chicken Phở

A comforting bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle soup with tons of fresh garnishes

Chicken Pho Smitten Kitchen Slanted Door

It's been so warm in L.A. this winter that I was actually thrilled to see that rain was in the forecast for the weekend. We were busy celebrating my husband's birthday on Friday and Saturday, but we cleared all plans on Sunday to enjoy a lazy rainy day at home. Making pho is the ideal activity for such days because the broth needs to simmer for a few hours but the actual active cooking time is very minimal. This recipe comes from The Slanted Door (a renowned Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco) by way of Smitten Kitchen. Most of the steps and ingredients center around a deeply rich and flavorful chicken broth, which is the backbone of the soup. The broth, shredded chicken, and rice noodles are the only mandatory ingredients in the pho, but it's all about the garnishes. The point is to load up on the garnishes as you eat your way through the soup to preserve the contrast in texture, freshness, and flavor. I personally added in sliced jalapeño, fresh cilantro, fried shallots, and lime juice but included other suggestions below. Have fun personalizing the pho to your tastes and making perfect bites as you go along.

Note: This is a great recipe to make in two steps. The broth can be prepped a day or more ahead of time and stored in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for a couple months. It will be even better to skim the fat off the cold broth.

Related Recipes:
- Lazy Pho with Bok Choy
- Tom Kha Gai Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Phở:
- 3 lb. chicken wings, backs, or bones
- 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 12 oz. rice noodles
- 2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
- 1 knob of ginger, sliced 1/2" thick
- 1/4 c. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 2 star anise (optional)
- 2 cardamom pods (optional)
- 4 cloves (optional)
- 4 large shallots, peeled, thinly sliced, and separated into rings
- canola oil, for frying
- garnishes, such as: lime wedges, sliced jalapeños, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, sriracha, hoisin sauce

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Place the ginger and onions on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes until a bit charred. Or grill or char them over an open flame.
  • Place the onions, ginger, chicken wings, chicken breasts, salt, sugar, star anise, cardamom, cloves, and about 4 qts. of water in a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken breasts are cooked through.
  • Remove the chicken breasts and allow to cool while the stock continues to simmer.
  • Shred the breasts, reserving the skin and bones, and transfer the meat to the fridge.
  • Add the skin and bones back to the stock and simmer for another 2 hours.
  • Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth and wipe out the pot. Return the broth to the pot, skim any fat off the top, and add in the fish sauce.
  • In a small deep skillet, add in the canola oil to come up about 3/4" and fry the shallots over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until brown and crunchy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles in boiling water according to package instructions.
  • Divide the noodle among 6 bowls and then top each bowl with some shredded chicken. Ladle the hot broth on top and serve with fried shallots and other garnishes.

Serves six

Thursday, February 19

Cheesy Garlic Naan Bread

Homemade Indian flatbread stuffed with soft cheese & brushed with garlic butter

Cheesy Garlic Naan Bread

Fresh naan bread is one of my favorite things to order at Indian restaurants. It's a flatbread that's sort of similar to pita bread and can be made plain or stuffed with things like cheese or garlic. It makes a great snack or accompaniment to saucy dishes like chicken tikka masala. This recipe is the first dish I've made from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen, which is funny because it's a French cookbook and this is the only Indian recipe in there. It just goes to show that ethnic food is growing in popularity everywhere, even in a city with such a strong food history. The dough is pretty low-maintenance and quick compared to most homemade breads and requires little active cooking time. After it rests, the breads get rolled out, stuffed with cheese, cooked in a hot pan, and then brushed with garlicky clarified butter. These are absolutely amazing when eaten warm, but leftovers will keep for a couple days and can be reheated in the oven or toaster oven.

Note: This recipe calls for Laughing Cow cheese, which David Lebovitz swears is the cheese of choice at Indian restaurants in Paris. If you can't find it at your grocery store, I think that cream cheese would make a nice substitute.

More Homemade Bread Recipes:
- Buttermilk Rye Bread
- Crusty No-Knead Bread
- Buttermilk Cornbread

Cheesy Garlic Naan Bread:
- 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 12 wedges Laughing Cow cheese, unwrapped
- 2/3 c. warm water*
- 6 tbsp. clarified butter or ghee, melted
- 1 package (7g) dry active yeast
- 2 tbsp. plain yogurt
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- pinch of sugar

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted, combine 3/4 c. flour, water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for thirty minutes and mixture will become frothy.
  • Add in the remaining 1 c. flour, 3 tbsp. clarified butter, yogurt, baking powder, and salt. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on medium speed for five minutes to form a smooth, shiny ball.** 
  • Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and let sit for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into six equal pieces. 
  • Working one at a time, roll out the dough into a 4" disk on a flour surface. Place two wedges of cheese in the center of the dough and use your fingers to press them down and spread them out a bit. Fold the corners of the dough over the center to a form a square package, then roll out the bread again, this time in about a 6" square.
  • Transfer the breads to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet or wok that has a lid over high heat. Working one at a time, brush the pan with some clarified butter and add in the bread. Cook for one minute, or until the bread is bubbling and charred in some spots, then flip and cook for another minute.
  • Combine 1 tbsp. remaining clarified butter with the garlic in a small bowl. Lightly brush over the hot naan.
  • Repeat cooking the remaining naan bread. Stack on a single plate to stay warm, then serve.

Makes six breads
*You want the water to be about body temperature. Too hot and it will kill the yeast.
**If you don't have a mixer, knead the bread by hand for 5 minutes.

Wednesday, February 18

Simple Mixed Greens with Roasted Fennel & Lemon Dressing

An easy and elegant green salad with lots of roasted and caramelized fennel

Mixed Greens Roasted Fennel Salad

I was in Seattle the other weekend to go shopping with my best friend for her wedding dress. In between our appointments, we stopped by Purple Cafe & Wine Bar for some much needed sustenance (most importantly: white wine). Everything we ordered was delicious, but it was the simple green side salad that made a lasting impression. It seemed basic enough - mixed greens, grape tomatoes, vinaigrette... and something else I couldn't identify right away. It was roasted fennel, sliced thin and caramelized until brown and a little crispy at the edges. The fennel added sweetness and texture and completely perked up an average bowl of mixed greens. I've been adding it to my simple salads at home ever since and it's a total game changer. This recipe keeps it simple, but there are endless variations and additions you could try. I've made it with heartier greens like kale, added in fried capers, and tried different types of dressing. As long as you add in the roasted fennel, you really can't go wrong.

More Salad Recipes:
- Mixed Green & Fennel Salad with Fried Capers & Anchovy Dressing
- Green Salad with Grapefruit, Fennel, & Avocado
- Winter Caesar Salad

Green Salad with Roasted Fennel & Lemon Dressing:
- 4 c. mixed greens
- 1 head radicchio, core removed and thinly sliced
- 2 fennel bulbs, core removed and thinly sliced into half moons
- 1/4 c. plus 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard
- kosher salt
- ground black pepper
- parmesan cheese, for serving

  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Toss the sliced fennel with 2 tbsp. olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
  • Roast the fennel for 20 minutes, stirring once with a spatula, until caramelized. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the mustard and lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
  • Place the mixed greens and radicchio in a large bowl with the fennel and toss with the dressing.
  • Grate some parmesan over the top and serve.

Serves four (side dish)

Tuesday, February 17

Chicken Tikka Masala

A favorite Indian dish of grilled chicken simmered in a creamy spiced tomato sauce

Chicken Tikka Masala

I recently watched the movie The Hundred-Foot Journey and it got me interested in trying to cook  Indian food at home. Chicken tikka masala is one of the more popular Indian dishes out there and consists of heavily-spiced chunks of grilled chicken that simmer in a flavorful and creamy tomato sauce. I used this highly-rated recipe from Food2 and it came out great - the chicken was tender, the sauce was rich, and the seasoning was spot on. None of the steps are difficult and the ingredients can all be found at a regular grocery store, but it does take some time and planning to make this dish. If you want to take a short-cut, the grilled marinated chicken tastes delicious on its own without the sauce. Leftovers taste even better the next day and can keep for awhile, so I'd plan on making a big batch so you can enjoy your chicken tikka masala multiple times.

Related Recipes:
- Curry Coconut Chicken
- Indian Butter Chicken
- Grilled Indian Chicken

Chicken Tikka Masala:
For Marinade
- 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
- 1 c. plain Greek yogurt
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- a few grinds of black pepper

For Sauce & Assembly
- 28 oz. can of peeled whole tomatoes, chopped*
- 1 c. half and half
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into half moons
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 serrano chile, seeds and stems removed, minced
- 3 tbsp. canola oil
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- a few grinds of black pepper
- fresh cilantro, for serving

For Grilled Chicken
  • Stir together the yogurt, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, cloves, cumin, garam masalacayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Add in the chicken and stir to coat, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.
  • Heat a grill or grill pan to high. Thread the chicken onto skewers and discard any remaining marinade.
  • Grill the chicken for 12-15 minutes, turning on all sides, or until the chicken is cooked through and has nice grill marks. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
For Sauce & Assembly
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and cook, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes, or until caramelized.
  • Add in the garlic and serrano and cook for another minute, then stir in the garam masala, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Cook for another minute, then add in the tomatoes any accumulated juices and stir, scraping all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Stir in the half and half and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, or until thickened.
  • Remove the grilled chicken from the skewers and stir into the sauce. Let the chicken simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Serves four-six
*Do not add in all the tomato juice in the can or it might get too watery. Reserve and add only if you need to thin out the sauce a bit.

Wednesday, February 11

Texas Red Chili

Tender beef and pork simmered with chiles and spices make this Texas-style red chili

Texas Red Chili Food52

There are two distinct types of chili people: those who add beans in their chili and those who wouldn't dream of it. Preferences tend to be based on a person's upbringing and home state, but since I didn't grow up eating chili in L.A., I've only recently adopted a side in the great chili debate. My vote goes with Texas style chili, which means meat and spices cooked into a rich stew and no beans allowed. My husband was firmly on the other side but recently converted after trying this Food52 recipe I made for the Super Bowl. Ground pork, cubes of beef, and a flavorful mix of ground spices and dried chiles form the base of this stew. The meat simmers until it becomes super tender with a rich and deeply-colored sauce. Dress it up with a variety of garnishes like fresh cilantro, cool sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese, and a touch of lime. It tastes even better the longer that it sits, which makes it a perfect make-ahead meal or leftover lunch the next day.

More Chili Recipes:
- White Chicken Chili
- Pork Guajillo Chile Mole Stew
- Turkey & Bean Chili
- Grilled Chicken Chili

Texas Red Chili:
- 3 lbs. beef chuck, trimmed, diced into 1/2" pieces
- 2 c. low-sodium beef broth
- 2 c. tomato sauce
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 3 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 1/2 c. ground pork
- 1 1/2 tbsp. bacon fat or butter
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 7 tbsp. ground chile powder
- 2 tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 oz. bittersweet chocolate
- Big pinch of dried oregano
- Big pinch of ground black pepper
- Grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, etc. for garnish

  • Heat the bacon fat in a large dutch oven over high heat.
  • Add in the beef and pork in two-three batches and cook until browned all over, removing the seared meat to a plate with a slotted spoon while the other batch cooks.
  • Return all the meat, plus the onion, garlic, beef broth, and pepper to the pot. 
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cover with a lid. Cook for 90 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine the ancho and guajillo chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let the chiles sit in the water for 30 minutes to soften, then drain off most of the liquid and blend in a food processor to form a paste.
  • After 90 minutes, stir in the chile paste, chile powder, cumin, salt, tomato sauce, chocolate, and oregano, and cook for another 30 minutes.
  • Add in the brown sugar and cook, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • Divide the chili into bowls and serve with garnishes.

Serves eight

Tuesday, February 10

Cucumber Mint Lemonade

A refreshing blend of fresh mint, cucumbers, and lemons

Lemonade's Cucumber Mint Lemonade

February is a great month to be a Californian. The rest of the country is still in the throes of winter and it's already starting to feel like spring in L.A. We've been entertaining in our backyard a lot lately and did some work to clean it up, plant some new herbs, and prune our lemon tree. It's the peak season for citrus right now, and our tree is absolutely loaded with ripe lemons, including some that are almost as big as grapefruits. I posted a picture of it on my Facebook page (follow me for the latest blog posts and updates) and a friend suggested trying out this cucumber mint lemonade recipe. It comes from the Lemonade cookbook, which is a local restaurant chain in the L.A. area that has - you guessed it! - a wide assortment of lemonade beverages. The cooling flavors of cucumber and mint make a drink that's even more refreshing and flavorful than traditional lemonade, which is perfect for warm days. I added in some vodka for a delicious cocktail and my husband said it was even good with bourbon.

Related Recipes:
- Fresh-Squeezed Lemonade
- Green Smoothie
Jalapeño Margaritas

Cucumber Mint Lemonade:
  • In a blender, combine 2 1/2 c. peeled, chopped English cucumbers, 2 c. lemon juice, 3/4 c. sugar, and 1 1/2 c. fresh mint leaves.
  • Blend for about a minute, then strain through a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids.
  • Transfer the mixture to a pitcher and add in 3 1/2 c. water. Refrigerate until serving.

Serves eight-ten

Tuesday, February 3

Mango Guacamole

Traditional guacamole gets a twist from the addition of sweet mangoes

Mango Guacamole

We eat a lot of avocados in California. Everyone thinks of L.A. as a place where everyone juices and eats kale salads, but it's avocado that I think everyone is the most obsessed with. We buy a bag of them at our farmers market every week and end up throwing them in a salad, making avocado toast, or using a few slices to garnish pretty much any dish I make. For the Super Bowl, I wanted to do a twist on traditional guacamole and chips, so I made this chunky mango version (inspired by a recipe in The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook). Ripe mangoes have a similar texture to ripe avocados, so it makes for a seamless pairing. The mangoes cut through the creamy richness of the avocados, the spice of the serrano, and the bright acidic lime juice. It makes a great dip for tortilla chips, but it would also make a lovely accompaniment to a simple piece of grilled fish.

Related Recipes:
- Traditional Guacamole
- Queso Fundido Dip
- Warm Spinach Artichoke Dip

Mango Guacamole:
  • Finely dice 4 large, ripe avocados and 2 small, ripe mangoes and place in a bowl.
  • De-seed and mince 1 serrano pepper and 1 large shallot and add to the bowl, along with the juice of 1 1/2 limes.
  • Add in a pinch of kosher salt and 1/2 c. minced fresh cilantro and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

Serves six-eight (appetizer)

Monday, February 2

Fontina & Prosciutto Crack Bread

This addicting party appetizer is called "crack bread" for a reason

Crack bread with fontina cheese and prosciutto

I have been seeing crack bread recipes on blogs and Pinterest for months, and it was only a matter of time before trying my own version. This massive loaf of sourdough bread is scored all over, soaked with garlic butter, and stuffed with melty fontina cheese and salty prosciutto. As the bread bakes, the cheese melts and oozes into the cracks of the bread and the prosciutto crisps up. Guests can easily snack by pulling out fingers of the cheesy, buttery bread. It's a "wow" dish that was perfect for our Super Bowl party but would also be great for a potluck or any other occasion when you need to feed a crowd.

Related Recipes:
- Savory Leek & Mushroom Bread Pudding
- No-Knead Bread
- Herbed Ciabatta Stuffing

Fontina & Prosciutto Crack Bread:
- 1 large loaf of sourdough bread, unsliced
- 1 lb. fontina cheese, grated
- 8 paper-thin slices of prosciutto
- 1 stick (4 oz.) butter
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • Cut the loaf of bread in 1" horizontal slices, then cut it into 1" vertical slices, making sure not to cut all the way through so that the whole loaf stays intact.
  • In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and garlic and heat until butter is melted and garlic is sizzling.
  • Pour the melted butter all over the bread, then stuff the bread with the fontina, making sure to shove the grated cheese down into all the cracks.
  • Place the bread on a baking sheet and loosely cover with foil.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and wind the prosciutto in between the cracks of the bread.
  • Bake, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
  • Let cool slightly, then transfer to a platter and let guests dig in.

Serves eight