Wednesday, March 31, 2010

grapefruit yogurt cake

I usually bring a bottle of wine or flowers when I go to someone's house for a meal. But our epic Alinea dinner at Casey and Dan's house also involved a sleepover, so I thought I should step things up a bit.

Knowing that I could not show up with, like, chips and dip for this sort of meal, I decided to make something for breakfast the next morning. After making such a labor-intensive dinner, Casey would probably be too tired to brew a pot of coffee. That's how I would feel, anyway.

Knowing her love of citrus, I decided to make a grapefruit yogurt cake. Most people don't use grapefruits for much other than plain old eating or juicing, maybe the occasional granita. But grapefruit has a bright, perfumey flavor that's more interesting than lemons, and as I found out, translates well into baked goods.

The original recipe, by Ina Garten, is basically a lighter take on a pound cake, with oil and yogurt instead of butter. And a generous amount of grapefruit zest and a grapefruit syrup that you pour over the cake, so that it seeps in and makes the whole thing even moister and grapefruity-er.

We ate thin slices of the cake on Casey and Dan's sun-drenched deck as we groggily leafed through the morning paper. It was the first day of spring and it actually felt like it outside. The cake was moist and tender and as bright as the day itself. A nice breakfast. I mentally patted myself on the back for thinking of it.

And then Casey brought out a plate of warm, homemade cinnamon-sugar donuts and left me speechless once again. How does she do it?

Grapefruit yogurt cake
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe via Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe calls for a glaze, but it seemed unnecessary, so I skipped that step.
(Makes 1 pound cake-sized loaf)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
3 eggs
3 tsp. grated grapefruit zest (I used pink grapefruit)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, grapefruit zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup grapefruit juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the grapefruit-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Monday, March 29, 2010

what's for dinner, kimberly rae miller?

Today's Q&A is with the lovely Kimberly Rae Miller, food lover and blogger extraordinaire. Her many, many sites, which she explains below, focus on healthy living, especially when it comes to food. But I find Kim's perspective really refreshing because she doesn't obsess over calories or subsist on lettuce alone. She has friends over for wine and cheese and potluck dinners, but also gets in her share of healthy smoothies and vegetables. Here's Kim's thoughts on dinner party playlists, her go-to dessert, and why she loves making chili.

1. Name, occupation, and city
Kimberly Rae Miller, Writer, Brooklyn, NY. Besides my professional writing, I write two personal foodcentric blogs. The Kim Challenge, where I chronicle my daily eating habits. My second blog is Forkful of News, where I collaborate with writers all over the country to focus on all things food: recipes, reviews, food politics, gadgets, you name it, if it’s edible we’re into it.

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
I hosted an ethnic/regional potluck in celebration of my birthday. I asked friends to bring foods that represent their ethnic or regional background. It was amazing we had food representing Texas, India, Sweden, Poland, Iran, Russia, Italy, Cuba and a few more that I can’t remember off hand. It was a really great night of eating. I made labels for each dish that included a “What, Where, Who” which really kept conversation flowing. It was great to see people so proud and involved with their food.

3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?

Many years ago a friend bought me a beautiful tea set. I like to air it out once a year for a tea party. It’s a great spread with quiche, scones, fresh clotted cream (or the closest I could make to the real thing), three types of finger sandwiches, cookies and meringues.

4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?

I’m not a big cocktail girl. I like my alcohol pure but my preferences between wine, beer and liquor really depend on what I’m eating. If I could choose one though, I would say you can’t go wrong with wine.

5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?

I love Putumayo World Music compilation CDs. My last party I played their Latin Lounge album
. It’s great unobtrusive background music, it sets a mood without making you feel like you need to really listen.

6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?

Chili. In my opinion chili is casual comfort food, the kind of food people don’t feel weird about taking seconds of…and that’s how you should feel when you’re at someone’s home. Comfort.
I usually make it with ground turkey and always have a few cans of beans and tomato sauce in the pantry for emergencies. It’s also a great way dispose of produce that may be almost stale…anything can go in chili.

7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?

I do (except for the potluck), I’m a total control freak in the kitchen. I’m starting to learn however, that as a host you have more fun if you’re not constantly timing, stirring, and serving.

8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?

Sometimes I’ll buy store bought ingredients, like a pie crust, or chips for a pre dinner gnash, ice cream to go with pie, but I’ve never served a store bought entrĂ©e. The journey is a part of the gift…and cooking for people is a way to show them you care about them.

9. What do you like to serve for dessert?

It depends on the type of party. I'm a huge fan of cookies, and think there's nothing quite as delicious as homemade ice cream sandwiches. If I'm rushed for time I throw throw together clafoutis-it's so easy, yet people are always so impressed with it.

10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?

This will sound totally lame, my grandfather. He was an amazing cook and my family still talk about his culinary adventures. He died when I was very young, I would love to have him over for dinner and show him that the family tradition is living strong.

[Photo: Courtesy of Kimberly Rae Miller]

Friday, March 26, 2010

link-o-rama: passover & easter edition

Looking for Passover and Easter menu ideas? Here are some links for inspiration:


The New York Times has an archive of Passover recipes, including an unconventional Mexican menu [via NYT]

10 modernized seder dinners from Bon Appetit [via BA]

A yummy-looking matzo brei [via Saveur]

He may be known for pork, but Michael Symon's passover menu sounds pretty great [via Food Network]

Passover dessert recipes (honey-nut cake, caramel-matzo crunch) [via Epicurious]


Cute and springy Easter table-setting ideas [via Epicurious]

20 lamb recipes for your Easter table from Food & Wine [via F&W]

And how to carve a leg of lamb [via BA]

"No-fail" Easter entrees [via Food Network]

And a spicy carrot cake for dessert [via Saveur]

Or some egg-shaped lemon cream puffs? [via BA]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

guest post: you too can make an Alinea dish

Today, my lovely friend Casey shares some tips on how to recreate this gorgeous Alinea pork dish without all (well, most) of the labor-intensive bells and whistles. And gels.

Hi, my name is Casey, and as Lisa mentioned, I'm a bit of a nut in the kitchen. Some people unwind with a bottle of wine and the second season of Mad Men on Netflix; I do it with a bottle of wine and an overly complex recipe for grapefruit-caramel pie. To each her own.

And as promised, I'm using my terrier-like tenacity in the kitchen to adapt the pork dish I served Lisa and Dan for the Dinner Party faithful. The flavor profiles in the Alinea cookbook, once you get past the gels and powders, can easily be streamlined without losing their punch. It helps to make the recipes through once, but anyone who loves to read cookbooks will find some brilliant inspiration in this one.

A few notes: I always brine my pork tenderloins and chops the day before I plan to roast or grill them. For lean cuts like these, the brine makes an incredible difference in the texture and taste of the meat. You'll get all the sous-vide succulence without shelling out $450 for an immersion circulator (or staring at a pot of water to keep it at exactly 135˚).

Grant (can I call him Grant? I feel like I know him pretty well at this point) serves his pork with a "sage pudding" that is closer in consistency to pureed Jell-O—the look and texture freaked us all out at dinner, but the extra hint of sage in the dish brought an unexpected depth of flavor. Definitely a reminder to go into these meals with an open mind and palate.

Grant's recipe also calls for braising a pork shoulder, then deep-frying a small portion of the shredded, cooked meat to add a salty crunchy topping to the plate. While I was happy for an excuse to make my favorite pork-simmered tomato sauce with the shoulder, I don't think it's absolutely necessary for our version of the dish.

You can approximate both the flavor of sage and the crispy texture by frying a few sage leaves and adding as garnish.

Roasted pork with fennel, sage, and grapefruit
(Serves 4)

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed of silverskin
1 bag of brine (see below)
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and bulb chopped into 4 inch-thick slices
1/2 stick butter
1 small bunch sage, about 20 leaves
Canola oil
1 grapefruit

Cornbread to serve on the side, if you feel like it

2 quarts (8 cups) water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1/3 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a stockpot, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer brine to a large bowl and cool to room temperature before pouring into a large Ziploc bag and placing in the fridge. Make sure the brine is completely cold before adding the pork. Brine the pork in the fridge overnight (up to 18 hours).

The next day, remove the pork from the brine, pat dry, and let sit on your counter an hour before you plan to roast it so the meat can return to room temperature. Peel and segment your grapefruit, removing all the white pith from four of the segments. (You'll plate with these; the rest of the grapefruit can be eaten now to protect you from scurvy.)

Preheat your oven to 450˚.

In a large oven-safe skillet, heat 1 tbsp canola oil until shimmering over medium-high heat and sear the pork on all sides to brown the meat. Transfer the pork to the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until the interior temperature reaches 140˚. (If you don't have a meat thermometer, for god's sake, what are you waiting for?)

While the pork is roasting, in a separate skillet, melt the butter over low heat. Add the fennel slices and cook for 10 minutes without turning or moving them in the pan until the slices are deeply caramelized. Transfer the fennel to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

When the pork reaches 140˚, remove from the oven, cover the meat, and let rest for 8-10 minutes.

While the pork is resting, heat 1/2 cup canola oil in a small high-sided pot over medium-high heat, and deep-fry the sage leaves for about a minute. Transfer to the paper-towel lined plate with the fennel.

To plate, cut the pork into 1-inch slices and place 3-4 in the center of each plate. Surround the pork with fennel slices (break each one apart with your hand into long segments) and pieces of grapefruit. Drizzle each plate lightly with honey, and coarsely crumble the fried sage leaves on top.

And if you really want to know how to make gray sage pudding, I'll fill you in.

Monday, March 22, 2010

alinea, by way of new jersey

Expectations are different when you go to someone's house for dinner and when you go out to eat at a restaurant. I'm not just talking about service. When you are at a dinner party, no one is going to take your order and refill your water glass every ten minutes. That would be pretty weird. And I'm not talking about quality necessarily. Many meals I've eaten in people's homes trump meals, often expensive ones, I've eaten in restaurants.

When dining out, I expect a certain level of technical precision. Every ingredient should be handled just so, seasoned properly, and cooked to perfection. I don't expect any of my friends, or myself, to dice potatoes and carrots in perfect cubes. Restaurant dishes should also display a level of ambition and inventiveness that comes with being a trained chef. I want original flavor combinations, surprising plating techniques, new methods of preparation. Restaurant food should wow. It should make you moan and lick your plate and chew thoughtfully to detect magical, secret ingredients.

Last weekend, my friend Casey--the Casey of man-bait chicken potpies, Good. Food. Stories., and general kitchen prowess--invited Dan and me to come over for dinner. Casey and her husband Dan own a house in New Jersey. I lived in Jersey for a few years and have deep-seated angst over my time spent there. It takes a lot for me to go back. Especially via Penn Station.

It takes the promise of a six-course meal of recipes from the Alinea cookbook. (And the company of these fine people, of course.)

Alinea is an award-winning restaurant in Chicago that specializes in innovative, whimsical, and at times shocking deconstructions of classic dishes. At Alinea, nothing on your plate is what it seems. Peanut butter and jelly is a single, peeled grape on the stem that is encased in peanut butter and wrapped in paper-thin brioche. One menu item is called "foie gras, spicy cinnamon puff, apple candy" and looks like a tiny, jelly-filled truffle. It takes over a dozen steps to make and contains a substance called Methocel F-50. Don't ask me what that is.

I have never eaten at Alinea, but have tasted chef Grant Achatz's food at the James Beard Awards. His team placed bite-sized morsels of something (I can't remember what) on long, curved skewers so guests had to lean forward to grab a bite straight off the skewer. People were amused, delighted, puzzled, and some even walked away. That is what Alinea does in a nutshell.

Not too long ago, Achatz put out a cookbook for home chefs, and Casey got her hands on a copy, hence our six-course tasting menu. Another Alinea fan, Carol Blymire, is currently blogging her way through the whole book at Alinea at Home, which is a super-entertaining read, if you don't follow it already. I laugh and shake my head at almost every post. I don't know how she does it. I am linking to her blog below to give you an idea of the staggering amount of work that goes into each dish. It's really quite amazing.

And I don't know how Casey pulled this meal off either. There was an ingredient/prep list on her refrigerator that made me feel a little light-headed just looking at it. Had she been cooking for days? After she handed me a blood orange-Cointreau-orange vodka cocktail, we were presented with trays of snacks, Achatz-style. As in, they weren't identifiable.

First course: Idiazabel, maple syrup, smoked salt
This is a cheese cracker that Carol aptly dubs Alinea Cheetos. They tasted a bit styrofoamy, but in a pleasantly chewy way.

Second course: Cheese, in cracker
These pillowy little nuggets tasted like soft Superpretzels filled with cheddar cheese. Meaning: effing amazing. A syringe was involved in the making of this dish. Casey said she got one at her cats' vet. Clever girl.

Third course: Bacon, butterscotch, apple, thyme
This is essentially candied bacon with an extremely thin layer of dehydrated green apple on top. I didn't really pick up the thyme, but the caramel sweetness of the bacon melded perfectly with the tart apple, which almost dissolves in your mouth. A+.

Bonus course: Salad
This is lettuce that has been dehydrated and reconstituted into lettuce-like leaves. Kidding, it's just salad. With Ranch dressing with bacon and blue cheese on the side. Casey's good like that.

Fourth course: Hot potato, cold potato
Casey skipped the truffles on this dish, which we gave her a hard time about, of course. It's essentially a cold, extremely creamy potato soup with tiny cubes of hot potatoes and cold butter and cheese that combine in the broth, heightening the baked potato flavor. It was really sensory and also really delicious.

Fifth course: Pork, grapefruit, sage, honeycomb
This was the entree, and it really was the shining centerpiece of our meal: succulent pork tenderloin, crispy pork bits, grapefruit, braised fennel, a drizzle of honey, and a clear sage pudding underneath that served as an aromatic sauce. Cornbread on the side. Casey will be writing more about this dish later, and how to adapt it to make it a tiny bit easier.

Sixth course: caramel popcorn, liquified
This was a little strange. It tasted like Poppycock but in liquid/foam form, heavy on the butter. I have to say I didn't love it, but it was interesting. And the little espresso cups were adorable.

Bonus course: Ice cream sandwiches
No, this is not another trick. It's an ice cream sandwich with homemade caramel ice cream, served "flying saucer"-style, a la Carvel. Some things should look like what they are. Ice cream sandwiches fall into that category.

The meal was every bit as memorable as anything you'd experience in a big-name restaurant. But if we had eaten these dishes at Alinea, our focus would have been more on the food than each other. Instead, we chatted, listened to music, watched their cats wrestle on a chair in the living room. The meal lasted about four hours, but by the time 11:30 rolled around, we were shocked. Time passes easily when you're with good friends, eating good food.

Dinner parties are about people and socializing, and the food, no matter how incredible, is secondary. Although when someone spends such a considerable amount of effort making it, you can't help but feel even more special.

Friday, March 19, 2010

dinner party on tasting table

I was super excited to see this little ol' site listed in Tasting Table's recent e-newsletter about dinner party planning. How flattering!

The rest of the links are pretty interesting and I encourage you to take a look. There are resources for all the dinner party bases from digital invites to getting organized to choosing a playlist. And if you don't already subscribe to Tasting Table, it's worth a look. It is similar to Daily Candy, but about food, and covers websites, restaurants, trends, and other related stuff.

Happy weekend! I hope it's spring where you are.

Monday, March 15, 2010

in praise of puff pastry

My baking mishaps have been well-documented on this blog. Fugly cakes, runny pies, soggy bar cookies. I'm not a pastry chef, what can I say?

But puff pastry? I'll take that over a layer cake any day. Puff pastry is not hard to work with, even for someone who doesn't have a baker's inherent precision and patience. All you have to do is defrost it, roll it out, brush it with oil or egg, and bake it off. For these small efforts you'll be rewarded with golden flaky perfection. It's not at all like its cousin, phyllo. Phyllo is one temperamental bitch.

Do I make my own puff pastry? I'll let you answer that for yourself. (NO.) I buy it in a box that says Pepperidge Farm and call it a day. Or sometimes in even larger sheets from the nice Middle Eastern grocer down the block.

Puff pastry is fantastic for dinner parties because there are endless ways to use it, both sweet and savory. Like this giant, beautiful specimen. Whoa, right?

This is a chocolate croissant/turnover-like dessert that I created on a whim one night. It's nothing more than puff pastry filled with squares of chocolate, brushed with some egg, and topped with a tiny bit of sea salt. Whipped cream on the side is recommended, but optional.

And then you take your fork and break into the flaky crust and this happens:

It is very, very, very good.

I also like to use puff pastry to make vegetarian tarts, either cut into little squares as an appetizer, or in more generous portions as a main course, usually served with a salad or some other side dish. The roasted tomato and goat cheese tart shown above looks and tastes very French and sophisticated but takes less than an hour to make.

How do you like to use puff pastry? Please share in the comments.

Chocolate pockets
The pockets above are a little huge. I would probably make them smaller next time, or possibly bite-size, which would be adorable. Use this recipe as a guide but play with the size of the pastry if you'd like. You can easily cut the strips of pastry smaller.
(Serves 4 people)

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
12 oz. chocolate squares from your favorite chocolate bar, milk or dark
1 egg, beaten
flaky sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Unfold the puff pastry onto another baking sheet. Using a small knife, cut the pastry lengthwise into four equal strips. Place about 3 ounces of chocolate in the middle of one end of each strip. Be sure not to place the chocolate too close to the edges of the strip or it will leak out. Fold the dough over, and continue folding until you reach the end of the strip, creating a rectangular pocket. Brush each pocket with the beaten egg. Sprinkle each one with salt. Bake the four pockets for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pockets are golden brown.

Roasted tomato and goat cheese tart
Adapted from Dave's Dinners. If it's not tomato season, you could substitute strips of zucchini, some sauteed red onions, grilled eggplant, or whatever vegetable you like.
(Serves about 10 people as a starter)

8 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Olive oil
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 thyme sprigs
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
2 oz. goat cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, then place them cut side up. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the garlic evenly over each tomato. Lay about 12 to 15 thyme sprigs over the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes until soft but still holding their shape, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then pinch off the skins, being careful not to damage the shapes of the tomatoes.

Unfold the puff pastry onto another baking sheet. Brush the surface of the pastry well with olive oil. Lay the tomatoes cut-side up over the pastry, creating a 1-inch border around the edge. Fold the pastry edges up, creating a 1/2 inch border. Press the edges to seal and brush with olive oil. Season the tomatoes with a little more salt and pepper and bake until the crust begins to puff and brown, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove the tart from the oven and crumble the goat cheese over it. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese starts to brown and the crust is golden, another 10 minutes. Allow the tart to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

getting a jump on spring

I haven't written about flowers here in a long time, but now that spring is only a few days away, it seems like a perfect subject. In my neighborhood, grocery stores and bodegas are already trotting out the buckets of two-for-$5 daffodils, colorful tulips, fragrant hyacinth--all the usual spring suspects.

If you want to make a seasonal centerpiece for your dinner table or just a small arrangement to brighten up your house, here's my rule of thumb: go monochromatic. It's easy to get carried away by the sheer variety of flowers and all their pretty, Easter egg shades. But if you're looking for a sophisticated (and easy) look, choose one color and a pick a few different flowers in that spectrum, like the purpley-pink tulips and sweet peas above. It's a no-brainer way to make an arrangement look professionally arranged.

Why? A monochromatic look emphasizes the flowers and their different textures. Instead of a the look of a pre-mixed bouquet you picked up at the grocery store (not that there's anything wrong with that!) a single-color bouquet looks more harmonious. Flowers in similar shades naturally complement each other, you don't even have to think about it.

A few more tips: to keep the arrangement interesting, choose two to three different types of flowers in the same spectrum. If you'd like, add a little bit of greenery in the mix to set off the blooms. Change the water in your vase every other day to extend the life of your arrangement--it should last for at least a week if the flowers are fresh.

Happy spring!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

dinner for one

What do you eat when you're alone? Cheese and a handful of crackers, straight from the box? Indian take-out from the place around the corner? A can of soup? Or maybe you set a plate at the table for yourself with a napkin, fork, and knife and eat a proper meal. A cheese omelet with salad on the side, a single pork chop, a bowl of spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce. Maybe some dessert if you've been good that day.

I fall into the former category. I like feeding other people, hence this whole dinner party blog thing. When I'm alone, I tend to make things like fried eggs, bowls of cereal...and fried eggs. For some reason, cooking for myself doesn't excite me. When I was single, I went through a gross phase where I ate quesadillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I eventually threw away the bag of tortillas just to break the cycle. Thankfully, solo dining isn't an issue for me anymore. I always have someone to come home to and have dinner with, which is one of the best things about being married.

But Dan was out of town last weekend, leaving me to feed me, myself, and I. There was this guy too, but he's on a strict all-kibble regimen.
I won't lie. I ate a quesadilla. Okay, two or three quesadillas. I made them with pepper jack cheese, sauteed onions, and roasted butternut squash and they were delicious. And then I felt a little ill. Flashbacks, I guess.

Why do I spend so much time and effort making food for other people, only to slap together the most basic, mindless meals for myself? I love to eat and I actually really enjoy being alone (no offense, Dan) but for me, food is best enjoyed in the company of others. I think about special meals eaten with my friends and family almost every day. Those single-girl quesadillas, hurriedly wolfed down after work? Not so much. But maybe there's hidden pleasure in eating alone, eating whatever you want. You can eat stinky food, messy food, dishes that other people don't like, drink all the wine, sit on the floor in your pajamas (although I do that all the time).

I resolved to do better, to eat better. And so I made a dinner fit for watching the Oscars by myself. In my pajamas. I thought about what I would make for my usual Sunday night suppers--roast chicken and vegetables, a hearty soup or stew, a big chopped salad. The thought of buying one chicken breast kind of made me sad, so I went for something different, a recipe I've had bookmarked for awhile: roasted broccoli with shrimp.

Yes, I've waxed on about roasting's power to transform vegetables, especially broccoli. It really is the best way to cook it in my book. But this recipe added shrimp to the mix. And chili powder, and cumin, and a hefty dose of lemon. It was roasted broccoli times a thousand. I ate it with a side of steamed white rice and a significant amount of white wine. It was delightful. Although washing all the dishes by myself sort of sucked.

Roasted broccoli with shrimp
By Melissa Clark via the New York Times.
I divided the recipe in half to feel little old me.
(serves 2 to 4 people)

2 lbs. broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. hot chili powder
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and de-veined
1 1/4 tsp. lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

Monday, March 8, 2010

what's for dinner, mollie katzen?

Today's Q&A subject is someone very important to me. Mollie Katzen is the person who basically taught me how to cook. In high school, during a vegetarian phase, my mother gave me a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook and it became my kitchen bible, with its beautiful illustrations and satisfyingly healthy, internationally-influenced recipes. And I'm just one fan out of millions. She is one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time, Health magazine named her one of the "five women who changed the way we eat," and she's been inducted into the James Beard Cookbook Hall of Fame. Mollie was a painter before she became an author and her artistic sensability is felt in all of her books. Each page feels so hand-crafted and special, like a friend in the kitchen guiding you through every step. Thank you for sparking my interest in cooking, Mollie, and thank you for participating in this Q&A.

1. Name, occupation, and city
Mollie Katzen, cookbook author, Berkeley, CA

2. When was the last time you threw a dinner party, and who was invited?
Three weeks ago for three girlfriends

3. What is the best menu you've ever made for company?
Caribbean lentils with roasted tomatoes and olives
Coconut Basmati pilaf with chiles and limes
Caribbean composed salad (greens, mango, radishes, and more)
Artisan bread
Cheese platter

4. What's your preference: wine, beer, cocktails?

5. What's your favorite dinner party soundtrack?
I don't do background music...

6. Some friends are coming over for a last-minute dinner. What do you make?
Pasta with dried mushrooms, white wine, and a dash of cream.

7. Do you usually cook everything yourself, or do you have help?
I cook it all. Love the meditative quality of it, if I start early enough and can work methodically. (Caveat about the "no background music," above: I don't like background music when guests have arrives and we are having a conversation. I do like it when cooking ahead of time or if we decide to dance...)

8. Do you ever buy store-bought food, or is everything on your table made from scratch?

9. What do you like to serve for dessert?
Homemade cookies or brownies (The latter would be a la mode. I would buy, not make, the ice cream. Fudge brownies with ginger ice cream are common at my house.)
Homemade pie or nut tart
(not all the above at once...)

10. If you could invite anyone over for dinner (living or dead), who would it be?

My girlfriends

[Photo: Lisa Keating]

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Looking for weekend dinner party inspiration? Here's a collection of links especially for you.

This risotto dinner for four is billed as being kid-friendly, but I think it's pretty sophisticated [via Bon Appetit]

A hearty "slow-cooked" dinner (kale and pecorino crostini, onion soup with sage brown butter, braised pork shoulder, roasted carrots, buttermilk spice cake) for eight [via Bon Appetit]

16 classic Southern dishes
(buttermilk fried chicken, stir and roll biscuits, shrimp and grits) you can mix and match to create your own menu [via Southern Living]

A winter picnic menu: artichoke and spinach dip, Cuban sandwiches, black bean and quinoa salad, caramel pecan bars [via Food & Wine]

Healthy, seafood-focused dinner recipes (crab salad with corn chips grilled shrimp pizza, bourbon-glazed salmon) [via Cooking Light]

Monday, March 1, 2010

butternut squash and carrot soup

We still 19 days of winter to go and I can hardly stand to look at another root vegetable. I've made it through the season roasting cauliflower and brussels sprouts, caramelizing onions, pureeing parsnips. All have been delicious, but what I wouldn't give for a greenmarket tomato right now. And some sunshine. And green leaves on the trees. Instead, I've got carrots and butternut squash.

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in winter vegetables and is the easiest way I know to make them taste really good with minimum effort. Tired of my usual olive oil-salt-roast-at-400-degrees-and-devour method, I decided to take it a step further and puree the roasted carrots and squash into a creamy soup. I barely added anything to the vegetables, just some water and a touch of cream, so the end result tasted purely of sweet, earthy squash and carrots. It tasted so light and healthy. I could almost feel the vitamins brightening my gray winter complexion. Almost.

The soup was a first course as part of my Indian-ish dinner, so I added a touch of garam masala and a dollop of cumin-spiced yogurt and chopped cilantro on top. If you don't like the flavor of curry, you could use a bit of thyme or basil instead. But keep the yogurt because it adds a nice creaminess.

The soup was a deep, gorgeous shade of orange. It reminded me of that big fiery thing in the sky that comes out sometimes. You know, that warms your face and makes you feel less depressed? What's that thing called again?

Butternut squash and carrot soup
(Makes 4 to 6 servings)

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. garam masala
1 cup of hot water or so
1/4 cup heavy cream, or to taste
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place the chopped squash, carrots, and onions in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil, garam masala and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, shaking the pan a few times to keep them from sticking. Remove from the oven when tender and caramelized. (Brown spots are fine and add flavor.) Place the vegetables in a blender and add 1/2 cup hot water. Puree, adding an additional 1/2 cup water to get a smooth consistency. Add the cream and puree until blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. At this point, you can serve the soup as-is, or if you are not eating until later on, you can refrigerate it and re-heat it in a pot on the stove.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cumin, and add salt to taste. Pour the hot soup into bowls and top each one with a spoonful of yogurt and some chopped cilantro.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin