Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sweet Winter Slaw (for Cold Winter Days)

This is my recent go-to, post-skiing lunch (err, snack?). It's gotta kick to satisfy your hunger, some sweetness to satiate that post-turns craving for sugar, and chock-full of healthy ingredients to fill you up (without weighing you down for the next days turns. Or apres-ski, of course). 

I made this for dinner one night to go along with a teriyaki-marinated flank steak, then devoured leftovers for a couple of days thereafter for lunch. The second go-round? Upped the cilantro even more (and added a bit more of a kick to the macadamias). And it went all too fast this week for post-ski lunches (coupled with an equally punchy curried chicken salad, yum). 

Serves 6-8

6 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons butter
1 ½ cups macadamias
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chile flakes

½ a head (6 ounces) Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
½ a head (10 ounces) red cabbage, finely shredded
1 mango, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 fresh red chile, deseeded and finely chopped
1 ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

First, make the dressing. Place all the ingredients, except the oils, in a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat. Once cooled down, strain the sauce into a bowl and whisk in the oils. Set aside. (Dressing can be made up to one week in advance. Store in the refrigerator.)

Melt the butter in a small saucepan or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the macadamias and toast them, shaking the pan frequently until they start to brown. Sprinkle on the sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is melted and starting to turn brown. Scrape the mixture out onto a sheet of parchment paper and allow to cool and harden. 

Place the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients. Add the dressing and toss together. Let sit for about 6 hours. Stir and add nuts. Taste and add more salt if necessary. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What to Do with Leftover Salmon...

... Make salmon cakes, of course!

While last year I made these with panko breadcrumbs, this year, my new gluten-free lifestyle has forced me to think outside the box and find another binding agent that will work - and taste good. My new go-to favorite, millet, is the perfect fit. It's not as cumbersome as quinoa (which has bitter saponins which I find to be a time-consuming pain to rinse off), and when I make a big batch, substitutes for my morning oatmeal (another no-go).

Salmon cakes aren't as tricky to make as you might think. Fish. Binding agent. A bit of mayo or oil. Flavorings, like cayenne, cumin, bacon, scallions, herbs, mango... the sky is the limit. And some rice flour for dredging, to ensure the cakes don't stick to your pan. Here's a quick and easy recipe that is sure to become a family favorite in no time, be it for cocktail parties or at dinner.

Easy Gluten-Free Salmon Cakes

1 pound cooked salmon, such as this maple-bacon salmon
1 cup cooked millet, more if desired
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
Salt, to taste
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of paprika

1/4 cup mayonnaise, more if needed
2 tablespoons mustard
Rice flour, for dredging 
Oil, for cooking

In a medium bowl, combine the salmon and millet and stir well until the mixture is well combined and fish is flaked apart. Add scallions and seasonings and mix well. Add mayonnaise and mustard and mix well. Taste mixture for seasoning, and to see if you need more mayo or millet (it will depend on how moist - or not moist - your ingredients are).

Form mixture into 2-inch patties. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Meanwhile, dredge the patties in flour. When almost smoking, add the patties, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook until golden and crisp, about five minutes. Flip and cook 4-5 minutes more.

Serve immediately with herbed aioli, honey-mustard mayonnaise, or a hearty salad.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Coconut and Cilantro Make for the Best Winter Soup...

Sounds too good to be true, no?

You can call it by name -- Hey you, Mr. Coconut Cilantro.


Yep, coconut + cilantro + pumpkin = pure bliss.
I don't know about you -- when I think of fall, I think of apples and pumpkins. Big pans of tender baked apples, garnished with raisins and a sticky-sweet pan sauce, steaming pots of applesauce. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin butter. Pumpkin ravioli.

And soup.

Being dairy-free (save for some hard cheeses and pastured butter), I’m always on the lookout for dairy substitutes that are, well, REAL. Creamy cream-less soups are a favorite, but I feel like pumpkin soup always needs the help from a bit of dairy (same with tomato)… so it’s been, um, 4 years since I was you last? So when I heard about a heart-warming, tummy-filling soup that swapped cream for coconut, I got all excited.

Plus doesn’t the combination of coconut and pumpkin (and cilantro) just scream summery, flavorful, and oh so fun?!

Well, it did for me. These are unusual soup ingredients (at least if you’re not serving up tortilla soup or chili). But they would be amazing together. Sweet and creamy coconut. Hearty pumpkin. Bright cilantro.

This recipe originally called for a Hubbard Squash. But after visiting my friends at the Norwich Farmers’ Market, the only local Hubbard was all to big for little me, so I picked up a close second, and local favorite for soups – a Red Kuri.

The technique itself is easy. Roast up your squash – save those seeds for a topping! Cool the flesh, mix with stock and coconut, add cilantro stems, and blitz.

For extra cilantro flavor, I used the trimmed stems of the entire bunch, and then half of the leaves in the soup, saving the remaining leaves for a garnish. As well, I toasted the seeds with some curry, cayenne, ginger, maple syrup, and salt. Be sure to taste the soup and season to your liking while it’s still warm. I think next time, I might add a bit of curry powder for a bit more depth (I like my food flavorful), and perhaps a ginger crème fraiche dollop on top.

Coconut Cilantro Soup

Adapted from Diary of a Locavore

Olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 medium Red Kuri or Hubbard squash
2 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 teaspoon curry powder, optional
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed and trimmed, leaves fine chiffonade
Sea salt to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the flesh is fork tender. Remove from heat and turn cut side up. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove warm flesh from the skin.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring often, until tender. Add the roasted squash, sauté a few minutes more, then pour in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Cover, bring everything to a boil, and then turn the heat down. Add the cilantro stems and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender or using an immersion blender, and then transfer it back to the pot.

Turn the heat onto low, add half of the cilantro stems, cayenne pepper, and ginger and stir well. Season with sea salt to taste. Serve hot with cilantro leaves and crispy spiced seeds on top.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Perfect (Roasted) Peaches

I grew up eating my mom’s mom’s peach cake. Years ago, in an effort to capture her mother’s recipes (passed down), my mom typed up her own copy of each recipe onto 3x5 notecards using the old word processing tool – the typewriter. Complete with spelling errors and offset keys where you could tell something was misaligned, the notecards together make for a fun journey that I’ve always enjoyed looking through.

So peach ‘caje,’ as mom wrote it. It’s an old German family recipe. A light and yeasty dough is stretched to fit in a glass baking pan and sliced peaches, tossed with a bit of sugar, cinnamon, and perhaps a drizzle of butter, tops it all off. It was the perfect dessert, with ice cream, or even breakfast (with yogurt).

Now gluten-free, the cake doesn’t have the same appeal it once did. But the peaches. I’d forgotten about peach cake until recently, when I was left with two perfectly ripe specimens. Being a banana girl, I wondered, “what to do?”

Peaches don’t pack well, so they’re not great with lunch at school. But on a salad, with peppery arugula? Or baked until tender to top my morning kamut-meal (like oatmeal for us with oat allergies)? Now we’re talking.

One time, and I was hooked. Opening the oven door to check on the fruit, the aroma of the butter, cinnamon, and juicy peaches sent me right back to the peach cake like I’d just had it yesterday. Funny how memory and scent are linked.

I later made these over my birthday weekend. They were devoured along side bacon, eggs, and gluten free English muffins, and again later tossed with greens. They’re perfect with vanilla ice cream, yogurt, or even crème anglaise. I could even see myself putting them on a pizza, with salty prosciutto and a hearty green, perhaps a garnish of soft goat cheese.

How do you like your baked stone fruit?

Baked Peaches

6 peaches, halved and pit removed
¼ cup maple syrup, more if desired
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In an 8x8-inch baking pan, combine all ingredients. Place peaches cut side down and bake for 30 minutes, checking to ensure the sugar doesn’t burn (this will vary with your peach). Once the peaches start juicing and breaking down, flip the peaches and continue baking until tender, about 60 minutes total. (If you have particularly unripe peaches, I’ve facilitated the tenderizing process by smushing them, cut side first, a bit).

Friday, November 9, 2012

Easy Maple-Bacon Salmon

This is my go-to, I'm-too-tired-tired-to-cook-something-hearty favorite. There is something about the rich, buttery flavor of the fish that melds beautifully with the sweet maple syrup and crisp and salty bacon. And aside from a stop at your local fish market, it comes together easily (and in less than 10 minutes). Serve with a side of steamed snow peas and roasted butternut squash for a healthy, hearty, and utterly delicious meal.

Maple-Bacon Broiled Salmon

One 12-ounce salmon fillet, skin on
4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 slices bacon, cooked to a crisp

Preheat the broiler to high.

Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, in a 9-by-12-inch baking pan. Drizzle half the syrup on top. Place in the oven, no more than 2 inches under the element. Cook for 4 minutes, then rotate pan 180 degrees. Cook 4 minutes more, or until the thickest part of the fish is almost cooked. Remove from the oven, crumble the bacon on top, and return the fish to the oven for 1 minute more.

Drizzle the remaining syrup on top and serve immediately.

Servings: 4
Nut-free, Gluten-free, Kid-friendly

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Carrot Cake for (Carrot) Lovers

It was for my 30th, after all.

First of all, yes. I exist. Sorry for the radio silence. I've just been too busy with work, feeding myself, and playing outside in the wilds of Vermont -- when not sleeping.

But oh boy you are in for it! I plan on ramping things up over the next two weeks, with full-fledged culinary fun coming in December. And if everything-holiday isn't quite your cup of tea, I'll have some fresh and healthy ideas to intersperse with all that triple creme cheese, Champagne, oysters, pie, cookies, and more, you'll be indulging in.

But first things first. I must properly share with you maybe one of my favorite recipes of the year. Not because it's perfect (in fact, far from...). But it was delicious, and is what helped me usher in the next stage of my life - the big 3-0 - with a bang. Perhaps I can blame it on the cake, because I don't necessarily feel old at all (unless you mention the number of friends wedding and bearing kids. Oh goodness...). I kind of feel young and free...

Back to the cake. Gluten Free. Moist. CARROT CAKE. Need I say more?

Kate gets the claim to fame here. Over our annual girls weekend in Rhody, she mentioned some GF creation from Saveur, and my ears perked up.

'WHHAATTT?!!' Cake? Saveur? My old employer!

I'd spent 3 months there, testing recipes, and testing again. Nothing GF. Nothing special dietary-wise. The magazine, I feel, focuses on sharing the flavors of the world with its readers. That's why I was partly surprised. And, once I'd looked the recipe up, surprised and delighted more as the recipe was developed by a colleague of mine!

I was kind of envious of this colleague. Her private cheffing career had taken off. She was a part of this group, the same group I'd looked into, of savvy ladies, cooking up a storm for well-paying families. But I didn't feel ready for it yet, mentally, physically, psychologically back then. Something held me back... (and in retrospect, it all makes sense because it wasn't, isn't, the right thing for me now). She had it all in my mind. Healthful cooking, a joy and warmth she brought to the room. You couldn't not like this woman. And apparently, not like her cake, either.

I followed the recipe to the nines, except for swapping canned pineapple for fresh, finely chopped in the Cuisinart. And I swapped cornstarch for arrowroot, due to my corn allergy. Overall, the flavor of the cake was superb. We baked it in a sheet pan rather than round, but I felt the thin layers were fine given the delicate nature of the sponge-nature of the cake.

For frosting, I thinned out the given recipe with about 1/4 cup of milk, and reduced the sugar by 1/2 cup. Plenty sweet for my taste. The cake was the hit of the night (and the best breakfast ever come Monday morning). It's a new favorite for ushering every new year of my life now!

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

For the cake:

1 tablespoons butter, for greasing pans
4 eggs, divided and at room temperature
2 egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup light brown sugar
1 ½ cups shredded carrot (4 medium)
20 oz. fresh pineapple, finely chopped and drained
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnut pieces
1 cup cornstarch (or arrowroot starch, as I used)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, soft
½ cup butter, soft
2.5 - 3 cups confectioner's sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups sweetened shredded coconut (optional)

Heat oven to 375°F with rack in the center position. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans with butter and line with parchment; set aside. Combine egg yolks with ⅓ cup brown sugar in a medium bowl and beat on high speed 2-3 minutes until very thick and pale in color. Fold in shredded carrot, pineapple and vanilla extract; set aside.

Pulse walnut pieces in a food processor until finely ground. Add starch, baking soda, salt and spices; pulse to combine and set aside.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until foamy. Slowly whisk in ½ cup sugar and beat whites until stiff and glossy. Fold walnut mixture gently into whites, then fold blended whites gently into carrot mixture. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pans and bake 20–25 minutes until cakes are lightly browned and have pulled away slightly from the sides of the pans. Allow cakes to cool 30–45 minutes in the pans. Run a knife around the edges of cakes to loosen from pan, remove parchment and invert onto a wire rack.

Beat cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until well-blended. Slowly beat in confectioner's sugar and vanilla. Place one cake round on stand or serving dish and spread ¾ cup of frosting evenly over surface, leaving a ½-inch border around edges. Sprinkle with ¾ cup of coconut and press lightly into the filling to set. Top with second layer, using remaining frosting to cover surface and sides of cake. Press remaining coconut evenly around sides and over top of cake. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Are We Dam-Ed?

They were a way out of the Great Depression - it was a great idea, at the time, for FDR. But imagine if we opened up all those dams and opened them back up to their (original) ecosystem. Think of the fish and wildlife that would return?

Sure, hydropower is a benefit of damming rivers. It's a clean and renewable energy. But is it significant enough to sustain?

Hear from dam-busters and pro-wildlife supporters and hear their stories yourself. DamNation is a pretty wild film.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Must-See Film: Escape Fire

A little segue from healthy eating and local foods today to talk about healthcare. The US is amidst a healthcare crisis, I believe, with prescription drugs being handed out quite easily, and surgical procedures as the "solution" to many issues -- rather than what we really need -- CARE.

I'm greatly looking forward to seeing this Sundance Film Festival favorite this Thursday. You can, too. Check out their Facebook page to see where/when the film is being shown. We need to do something to fix healthcare in this country. You and I can start simply by listening and watching here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

(Cheater's) Coconut Curry

With weekdays filled with classes and homework, dinner is really an afterthought for me. I come home starving at 4, though, so I need a solid, healthy meal to get me (and my over-working brain) through the night. Because waking up at 2 a.m. for reasons that are only unbeknownst to me until 7am the next day when I take a bite of my toast and realize I'm beyond famished is really not cool.

So, I've taken to cooking up a storm on weekends. And with a jar of green curry paste and a gorgeous hunk of grass-fed meat from a local farm, one thing was on my mind: coconut curry. And I'm not even supposed to EAT coconut. This was worth it.

Being short on time (and not being in a kitchen of my own), I took short cuts and used that store-bought paste as it's senseless to invest in spices right now (they'd go bad before I finished them). But I don't think I sacrificed any taste... just be sure to use quality ingredients - good meat, fresh herbs, tasty, tender vegetables, and it's sure to be a success.

(Dreaming of a dish like this after a day like this, above....)

As I was roasting broccoli for the week and caramelizing onions, those two veggies were the first in the pot. I used up the last of my carrots and threw them in, too. And with a bounty of fresh basil, for a garnish at the end, my dish would be complete. I served this with the nutty quinoa I made, but it would be best over short-grain brown rice or black rice (my favorite). Then again, I kind of like it on its own (as I enjoyed last night).

Cheater's Green Coconut Curry

2 tablespoons coconut oil (skimmed of my coconut milk)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 head of broccoli (including stems), chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 jar green curry paste (if you're sensitive to heat, start with less. I like mine with a smidge of a kick; this barely gave that kick to me)
1 lb meat (I used grass-fed chuck roast from a local farmer; chicken works, too, as would tofu if you wish), cut into bite-sized chunks
1 can coconut milk (I used the real thing, not lite)
1-2 cups water
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt, to taste
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until half translucent. Add the carrots and the rest of the vegetables and continue to cook. Once tender, add the curry paste and cook 1 minute. Then add the meat and cook until most pieces are seared. Add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil (add more water if you like your curry more soupy). Reduce to a simmer and let cook 15 minutes. Add the brown sugar and soy sauce, and taste for flavor. Season to taste, then keep warm until serving.

To serve, scoop the curry (with PLENTY of sauce) over a heaping mound of rice and top with a handful of fresh basil. Then grab a cocktail and enjoy...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Simple Summer Salads

Hi, remember me?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. It's been a while since I've written. Life has kind of "gotten in the way." Not in a bad way, per se. I've been taking a couple of classes, most recently (for the past three weeks) in Vermont, where they've really consumed me fully. Aside from having time for my brain to relax (and grow), I really have no other obligations or responsibilities at the moment, which is utterly amazing at times.

Anyways, spring/early summer in the great green state of Vermont is blissful. Some days it's 40 and I just want to curl up with a cup of rich hot chocolate, or a glass of my new favorite zinfandel, Seven Deadly Zins and a hearty steak dinner

Other days, like today, it's gorgeous, sunny, and a perfect 80 degrees - and I crave a herb-filled salad straight from the greenmarket topped with a hearty quinoa salad like this one, below, filled with toasty almonds, sweet golden raisins and apricots (I recently discovered Cheese Traders and I'm in nut/dried fruit heaven), refreshing lemon zest, and the perfect amount of parsley to bind it all together.

Since weekdays leave me no time for cooking (or really anything else other than class and homework and sleep), my strategy has been to cook up a meat main dish, a hearty grain-based side dish, and have a bunch of vegetables (raw, like greens or zucchini, and cooked, like roasted broccoli or beets) to use when quickly assembling dinner during the week. Last weekend, I went for a simple half roast chicken (using the best birds from a favorite from my college days, Misty Knoll Farm) and spring pea risotto using my go-to base recipe. So good. And this weekend? A delicious green curry made with fresh basil and grass-fed beef from a farm in Shelburne (check back later this week for the recipe, or try this one) and this incredible quinoa salad.

I used to not be a big fan of quinoa, as it somehow never sat right with me. Little did I know that you're supposed to rinse quinoa well before cooking, as there are some saponins on the grains that, to me, taste a little off. So I've gotten into the habit of soaking my quinoa in hot water for not even 5 minutes before draining and combining with a smudge of olive oil and water and cooking. It makes all the difference! The best part of this salad? It's not just for dinner (or served warm). It's the perfect packable lunch, or I may even devour this at breakfast with some more nuts on top (or a poached egg). 

What do you like to put in quinoa salads?

Summer Quinoa Salad

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed well
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
Cumin and paprika, to taste

In a medium pot, combine quinoa, oil, water, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the dried fruit, remove from the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the almonds, juice, zest, and herbs in a bowl. Once the quinoa is ready, season to taste with cumin and paprika. Toss the quinoa with the lemon juice, adding a bit more oil if desired, and season well to taste. Serve immediately.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Ideal Summer Supper

Could this be my life in 10 years? A girl can dream, right?

I can't wait to check out Jeanne Kelley's new book, Salad for Dinner, from which this video hails.

Not only is that my kind of dinner (I'm eating salad for dinner, with a juicy, locally-sourced, grass-fed burger for the meat-eater type-O explorer I am), its the most heavenly of settings. Smack in the garden at dusk!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Pizza that Changed My Life

OK, maybe that is exaggerating a bit... But then again, since going corn-, gluten-, semi-dairy-, oat- (and a whole bunch of other things) free, I haven't had a slice of pizza. None at all. It was once my 3am, post night-out-on-the-town, pre-bed go-to. Now it's rice cakes. And believe me, there is no real comfort or greasy satisfaction there.

So you'd imagine my delight, the former pizza-lover I was, when I discovered some thin crust, gluten AND corn free pizza crusts from Venice Bakery in CA. I was skeptical at first... I mean, how could these taste good? And there is no cornstarch - an evil ingredient, still sadly eponymous in many a GF food - in them?!! Hard to beat. Still doubtful that these were edible, the information I had was further compounded by the fact that these were vacuum-sealed and shelf stable for a week or so at least (I'd rather not test this; mine are in my fridge as the freezer is just too full).

Nevertheless, I trotted on with visions of pizza in my head, and the taste of homemade pesto and caramelized onions in my mouth. I just hoped with all my might that these would not disappoint. And I'll stop keeping you in suspension there. They were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Super crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and strong enough to withstand even my super-loaded curry version. Plus not too big that you would fill up with more bread than goodies. Don't get me wrong - it's not Lucali, Roberta's, Al Forno, or Zero Otto Nove - but it's gluten free, and delicious. DELICIOUS!

For starters, don't nibble on these unbaked (well, un-reheated, as they come cooked already). Kind of bland and dense, but it wasn't any surprise. Baked is better, isn't it? While my pizza stone heated to a blazing 450 degrees, I slathered some pizza sauce, and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses (See, semi-dairy free. Nothing replaces cheese on pizza, and this was worth the splurge), on one half of the pie. A garnish of sun-dried tomatoes, and dollops of my homemade pesto, and I was halfway there.

On the other side, I got crazy. With visions of this Thai Carrot Pizza from Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles, CA on my mind, I was thinking of Kashmiri Curry flavors, plus caramelized onions, bacon, avocado, cilantro, toasted walnuts, and some swiss cheese for good measure. An insane combination, but take it from me, IT WORKED. The once-dense crust crisped up nicely, absorbed a bit of the oil let off by the cheese and pesto, and I even baked it until overly golden, which I usually don't like when it comes to normal pizza crusts (because they burn to dust), but suited these babies oh-so-well.

With three more crusts tucked in the fridge, and plenty of pesto, tomato sauce, and cheese on hand, there is plenty more experimenting to be had. Pesto, raisin, and toasted pine nut is a favorite. Perhaps a breakfast pizza, with scrambled eggs and bacon on top. Or, as the crust has a slightly sweet flavor, what about a dessert pizza, toasted with browned butter, topped with nutella, and a sprinkling of caramelized banana slices or something even more indulgent?

What are your favorite pizza topping combinations?

Last Light

It's been a while since I've written last. Why? Taking time to watch the snow fall, the clouds drift, the grass grow, and the lilacs bloom. Taking some time away from writing and food to be, and to certainly unearth new sources of inspiration (one of which is the below).

Going forward, I may appear infrequently here - I'll be juggling going back to graduate school with a much-needed return to the VT "wilderness" (hey, it's more wild than RI, CT, or NYC...) and I'm thrilled. And nervous.

While this isn't my last light, please do check out how inspiring and absolutely spectacular the glow is here in Glacier Bay, Alaska.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Whole Foods' Dark Rye Online Magazine

A cool teaser for a online magazine focused on food, health, and sustainable living, brought to us thanks to Whole Foods Market. While I much prefer to support small local farmers rather than giant grocery stores like WFM, they've undeniably changed the organic food landscape for the better. And, naturally, I'm eager to see what Dark Rye brings.

See for yourself.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Can Mushrooms Save the World?

What do you think? Fascinating.


Film by Louie Schwartzberg about mycologist Paul Stamets and his work looking at how mushrooms may be a key element of ecological sustainability.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dried Cherry- and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Winter squash can be intimidating. There are a number of varieties, all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. does one cut it, or peel it? And what on earth is that gunk that butternut squash leave on your hands post-peeling - the sap that makes your skin peel off? Almost makes me not want to battle these wonderful winter starches. But they're really worth it...

There are a number of ways to prepare winter squashes. Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and cost the halves for a puree with a touch of caramelized depth. Or cube up the pieces and throw it in the steamer for a lighter puree. I love these tips, or will often peel, cube, and roast the vegetable-du-jour it until each piece is crispy in the corner, tender inside, and with a rich caramelized color all around. Delicious. But even then, after a couple of times of making this (I've used it in pasta, risotto, omelettes, salads, and more), it can get monotonous.

For someone gluten- and corn-free like me, finding healthy carbohydrates to satisfy my hankering can be a challenge. Squash saves the day, so I'm always thinking of new ways to serve up this starch (My vegetables aren't vegetables unless they're green!)

Stuffed squash is one of my new favorite go-tos. Start with some sausage, or for vegetarians, a base of brown rice. Supplement with sweeteners (honey or maple syrup) and spices as you wish, then add a variety of flavorings from cherries and pine nuts to something exotic, like pineapple, coconut, and chopped macadamia nuts. You can even try greens — kale, miso, and a garnish of scallion sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Dried Cherry and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 acorn squash, sliced in half and seeds scooped out
4 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing, plus more for sautéing
4 tablespoons maple syrup, for brushing
Salt, to taste
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
6 turkey sausage links, removed from casings
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup pinenuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Trim off the bottom of each squash half so each sits flat. Brush with olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and bake for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for about 10 minutes or until onions are golden and translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and add the turkey sausage. Cook about 10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked most of the way through. Add the cherries and remove from heat. Set aside.

Once the squash is tender, fill each with stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes, until everything is warmed through. Garnish with pinenuts and serve immediately.

Serves: 4

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Healthiest Cookies You'll Ever Eat

Yes, for you health nuts out there, that is.

Now, let me start my saying I may be a health nut in that I need some sort of physical movement to sleep well, and I love (LOVE!) my dark green vegetables. But I've also been known to dip my fries in mayo, love salted butter on pancakes, and an herb-filled compound butter on my rare steak. But as now gluten and dairy-free (plus oat and corn, really, for me), something has GOT to give.

I recently made these cookies for my sister. I first saw the recipe over at Jess Thomson's blog. And when, to my delight, I found her recipe was inspired by one of those from ANOTHER one of my favorite home cooks and bloggers, Heidi Swanson, and her recipe in Supernatural Everyday for Carnival Cookies. There is no butter... instead, coconut butter (Melissa Clark of The New York Times can even speak to my obsession. See here.) In lieu of flour, there are rich and filling grains like oats and my favorite, millet. They aren't too sweet, thanks to pureed banana, and as with any sweets recipe I like, they include chocolate. Because isn't everything better with chocolate?

See for yourself. Warning. They're messy to roll. But right out of the oven, with a glass of vanilla almond milk (I feel like a crunchy person. Wait, I kind of am), they're oh so so good. They probably shouldn't even be called cookies...

Healthy Oat, Chocolate, Millet "Cookies"

4 large, over-ripened bananas, mashed well
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup melted coconut oil, at room temperature (i.e. liquid and cool, not solid or super hot)
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats (if, like me, oats are a no-no, substitute kamut or brown rice flakes)
3/4 cup raw millet
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup roasted pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 cup popcorn (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet (or two) with a Silpat or parchment.

In a large bowl, combine bananas, vanilla, and oil. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients up to the nuts. Mix well with a fork. Add to the wet ingredients and mix well to combine. Stir in the nuts, chips, and optional popcorn. Stir to combine.

Using a tablespoon, roll dough into balls. (Yes, it's messy and they seem like they're going to fall apart. Pack well and minimize handling.) Place on cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring. Best still-warm, with almond milk.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Super-Rich Dark Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Who doesn't love chocolate? And in honor of Valentine's Day, I had to indulge myself and get baking (baking is the indulgence, not the chocolate. My day isn't complete without at least a small piece!)

Now gluten- and dairy-free, finding a dark chocolate cookie that satisfies my cravings but doesn't leave my stomach aching can be a challenge. No more traditional brownies (I'll take mine made with coconut oil, thank you very much). And sorry City Bakery, I no longer come in for my stressful day fixes (same with you, Levain Bakery... but you're worth breaking the rules). But these hit the spot. Just one small cookie, not too sweet, and oh-so-dark and chocolaty. They're REALLY good.

Dark Chocolate Gluten-Free Crinkle Cookies

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1-inch chunks and partly melted over double boiler
3 egg whites
2 cups confectioner's sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Ghiradelli)
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1/3 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat. Let melted chocolate cool to room temperature. In a mixer, whip whites at high speed til very frothy. Add 1 cup confectioner's sugar and whip until the mixture resembles smooth marshmallow cream, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together remaining sugar, cocoa powder, starch, and salt. Gradually add the mixture to the cream, beating well after each addition, at a slow speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the warm, melted chocolate to the mixture and mix to combine. The dough will immediately stiffen up.

Makes about 25 cookies

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Taleggio-Topped Stuffed Portobello Caps

Over the holidays, I gave my mom Yotam Ottelenghi's Plenty cookbook. With European and Middle Eastern influence, the pages are filled with a number of brightly-colored vegetable-based dishes with all sorts of exotic flavors, with recipes such as warm glass noodles with edamame, Castelluccio lentils with roasted tomatoes and gorgonzola, and Puy lentil galettes - what to make first?

This recipe is inspired by the first recipe I'd made from the book, and it's an instant keeper. Ottolenghi cooks down onions, celery, tarragon, Parmigiano, and sun-dried tomatoes. He then spoons this mouth-watering filling (it's amazing in an omelette, if have leftovers... and can resist not eating it by the spoonful) atop the just-tender portobello caps, and then tops everything off with slices of Taleggio cheese. (Note: The images here are pre-cheese melting. We ate them all too fast to document evidence of their success once they emerged out of the oven again).

I adapted the original recipe a bit, using roasted tomatoes I had made two days prior, and substituting the tarragon with more basil (mine bit the dust too early). I'd also be curious to add some finely chopped zucchini to the mixture. For the topping, I used a mixture of raw milk Taleggio and one made with pasteurized cheese. While I much prefer the piquant aroma and flavor of the raw milk Taleggio, it is super-soft and can be a challenge when slicing. 

These little beauties are well worth the effort, and are perfect for a light lunch, or as I served them, with roasted chicken sausages (and red wine!) for a warming meal on a snowy and cold winter's night.

Taleggio-Topped Stuffed Portobello Caps
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty

3 large portobello caps (mine were about 4-6 inches wide), stems trimmed
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sautéing 
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes (from about 2 pints of cherry tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
1/2 cup basil leaves, chiffonaded, plus more for garnish
6 slices Taleggio, about 1/8-1/4-inch thick

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle mushrooms with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until they start to become tender and begin to release juices, about 20-30 minutes (I baked mine 20 minutes, then turned the oven off and walked the dogs for 15 minutes... Came back and they were perfect).

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with oil. Add the onion and celery and cook until tender, but not yet golden, about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for a few minutes longer. Remove from heat and set aside to let cool completely. 

Once the stuffing is cool, stir in the cheese and basil. Top each cap with about 1/2-3/4 cup filling, and then layer on the slices of Taleggio. Bake for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are tender.

Serve immediately.

Serves three as a starter, a topping for a lunch salad, or as a hearty vegetable accompaniment to meat.

Note: While I link to a recipe where I roast the tomatoes with some olive oil, if you have particularly flavorful tomatoes, no oil is needed. Throw the clean tomatoes in a baking pan and sprinkle with salt. Roast at 400 degrees until the skins begin to burst, shaking the pan about halfway through. Stir the tomatoes to let more juices escape, and cool completely.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Harvest Kale Salad with Honey-Miso Dressing

I love dark winter greens, kale in particular. It's fabulous in hearty vegetarian stews, sautéed, or used in risotto. My favorite preparation, however, is in a salad. Tossed with a good dressing, it never wilts — in fact, I almost like it more the next day.

Harvest Kale Salad with Honey-Miso Dressing

This recipe was inspired by the number of colorful vegetables you can find in the dead of winter (yes, color does exist in a deep freeze). Rich butternut squash, possibly roasted with garlic and rosemary, tart dried cranberries, and buttery toasted nuts. You could also add caramelized onions, or roasted purple potatoes to the mix. And of course, a dusting of snowy, white cheese, if you're so inclined.

For the salad:
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into a fine chiffonade (aka Lacinato or Tuscan kale)
1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 avocado, cut into small chunks

For the dressing:
1/4 cup white miso, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup grape seed oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

For the salad:
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the avocado. Toss well and set aside.

For the dressing:
In a glass jar, combine the miso, honey, and vinegar and mix well. Add the oil and ginger and shake well. (You can also let it sit 24 hours, at least overnight, for the ginger to mellow and infuse.)

Spoon over the kale salad and toss to coat. Let sit for about 30-60 minutes or overnight to allow the leaves to slightly wilt. Add the avocado and serve immediately.

NOTE: If you don't have honey, you can also use maple syrup. No roasted butternut squash? Explore using other roasted root vegetables, like beets, baby potatoes, or carrots. A garnish of goat cheese or blue cheese would also make a nice addition, if you can tolerate dairy.

Servings: 4
Dairy-free, Vegetarian, Gluten-free

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Inspiration

It's a sunny Sunday and the slopes beckon.
With my morning tea and fried egg (thanks Kate and Matt for making this a new favorite), a little fun video to get you excited for spring. I'm doing this with a bunch of friends in NYC. Will you join us?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Make Perfect Pesto

I love Kinfolk Magazine... and pesto. So imagine my delight when this beloved publication came out with  a new video, artfully walking the viewer through making the perfect batch of proper Italian pesto (using the recipe from another one of my food-world favorites, Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks).

Craving pasta with pesto - or, pesto in your morning omelette? Watch now.

Classic Pesto from Kinfolk on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Healthy Super Bowl Snack: Garlic-Ginger Chicken Wings

Super Bowl Sunday is next week. Unlike the past couple of years, I won't be in New York City (or Boston, for that matter) partaking in a darling friend's fabulous shindig with dip, chili, wings, and the such. 

I'll be in snowy Utah, my two current main men (four-legged) on either side. Maybe some others. We'll see. 

Anyways, there will likely be no braised chicken thighs and Marquis-Philips like last year, or margaritas, chips, queso, and guacamole-til-the-cows-come-home like the year prior. But wings? Perhaps. My way. Lighter, a bit less spicy, but not lacking in flavor. At ALL.

Forget the messy barbecue sauce, or hot and spicy Buffalo marinade. My go-to glaze when broiling chicken wings (or thighs, breasts, drumsticks...) is inspired by the cuisines of the Far West. Garlic for a kick, fresh ginger for a sweet note with tang, combined with a mixture of a neutral oil (such as grapeseed), soy or tamari sauce, and maple syrup.

While I simply combined all the ingredients in a bowl, it leaves bits of garlic and ginger (which I prefer). For a smoother glaze, purée the liquids together with the garlic and ginger before adding the chicken.

Indonesian-Inspired Chicken Wings

4 cloves garlic, finely minced
One 2 1/2-inch section fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral cooking oil
1/4 cup soy sauce, preferably wheat-free
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 3/4 pound chicken wings, split

In a large bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, oil, soy sauce, and maple syrup. Stir together well. Add the chicken wings and marinade for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Place the wings, skin side down, in a glass baking pan and top with marinade. Bake the wings for 50 minutes to 1 hour, flipping halfway through, or until the meat just pulls away from the bone when pulled. 

Spoon remaining marinade in pan on top. Let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve.

Servings: 4
Dairy-free, Low-fat, Gluten-free

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Long Time Waiting: Simple Risotto

Yes, I've been a little MIA. Between the holidays and a busy start to the new year, cooking and writing here has (sadly) taken a back seat to life. Hopefully that will change!

I've recently fallen back in love with risotto. A real Italian may be horrified with the approach I've taken (OK, using a little freedom when it comes to ingredient choice), though the outcome both tries was utterly delicious.

Adventure One: Last weekend, when visiting a dear friend and her husband in Boston, the plan was to make a wild mushroom risotto. It was only after we poured our second glass of St-Germain and Sauvignon Blanc (and emptied the bottle) did we realize we had no more white wine. Oops. Red would have to suffice. Thankfully, between the dried morels, morel broth, and button mushrooms (oh, and plenty of Parmigiano!), it was delicious. The perfect complement to a Rioja on a bitter, bitter cold winter night.

Adventure Two: The second adventure in risotto-making took place last night, on the Upper East Side. Two friends, a mad craving kale and butternut squash from the greenmarket, and a good bottle of California chardonnay. I proceeded to lead a brief cooking lesson in risotto 101 to my attentive "student." The outcome (made with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc) was delightful. And even more so the next night. Yes, leftovers with my beefalo!

Below is my simple risotto recipe. It's not an authentic risotto per se - but it's easy to remember and versatile when it comes to adding the flavoring of choice. So what's next for me? I'm looking forward to trying a beet risotto topped with lemon zest, poppy seeds, and creme fraiche. Or perhaps zucchini and caramelized onion. Feeling indulgent? Bacon and Parmigiano - a gluten-free, carbonara-inspired dish that satisfies a craving for comfort food.

Simple Risotto

1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 small cloves garlic, minced
3 cups finely chopped vegetables (here I used 1 small butternut squash, and a bunch of dinosaur kale, finely chiffonaded)
3 cups arborio rice
2 cups white wine
Salt, to taste
4-5 cups chicken stock, warm, if necessary
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pistachios or toasted pine nuts, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and turn to medium. Cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the vegetables (I added the squash. I'd rather have roasted it and waited until the rice had cooked halfway, when I added the vegetables) and cook until halfway tender.

Add the rice and cook until the outside each grain is translucent. Add one cup of white wine and cook, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining wine and continue cooking and stirring. Season with a pinch of salt.

Once the liquid is absorbed, begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the rice absorbs it. Continue until the rice is nearly al dente. Add any greens or cooked vegetables, and add any more stock, if needed. Once just done, add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and season to taste.

Serve immediately, garnished with remaining cheese and nuts, if desired.