Monday, August 22, 2016

Deviled Eggs Two Ways: Mustard-Cornichon and Smoky-Toasted-Rosemary

You know, I would like to say that I am a sophisticated urbanite who does not hanker for the staples of her childhood potlucks. However, I would be lying.

Yet such hankerings do not include Jell-o molds. Nope. (To be clear, I have nothing against the Jell-o set. I love my aunts dearly.)

Kristin Donnelly of Eat Better, Drink Better has recently launched a new cookbook that drags the potlucks of yore into the modern age. Gone are the green bean and condensed (of course) cream-of-mushroom soup casseroles, the pigs in a blanket, and the cheese balls rolled in mixed nuts. Instead, Donnelly sets new rules for potluck fare that include
  1. Staying power (it's gotta withstand its tenure on the buffet table)
  2. Simplicity (too many components equals prime fussiness; potlucks do not equal fussiness)
  3. Crowd pleaser with a bit of a surprise (it's a potluck, but it's not the 1970s)
These are all rules that I can get behind. Her modern recipes include Apple-Ginger-Bourbon Cocktails, Indian-Spiced Spinach-Yogurt Dip, Ribollita with Lemon-Chile Relish, and Peach-Blueberry Slab Pie. Yes, please.

However, one does not simply have a potluck, a true potluck, without deviled eggs.

Donnelly updates the deviled egg to have a little more punch and pizazz than your standard mustardy, mayonnaisey, gloppy affair.  Instead, she gives us toasted rosemary and smoky paprika or whole-grain mustard and tangy cornichon. Neither really whips the deviled egg into unfamiliar territory. Instead, they nudge you from the familiar to the delightful, and Aunt Jenny won't be taken too far off guard.

These potlucks retain all the familiarity and coziness of a family affair and combine them with the edge of the unexpected.

On a personal (and side) note, I served these deviled eggs as an appetizer before a birthday (potluck) dinner held in our backyard for one of our friends. Said friend is French, and she and her husband (also French) had never had deviled eggs before. We had to explain that these little bites were totally retro, absolutely nostalgic, and still a little special.

I felt like an ambassador of the American potluck.

(Let me just point out: there were none left. American and French diplomatic relationship remains intact.)

All in all, I am enjoying cooking my way through this fun little book. The recipes are pleasing, the layout easy to follow, and the design satisfying (if the cover is a little reminiscent of one of my favorite David Tanis cookbooks, One Good Dish from 2013).

Plus, Donnelly is urging us to use the "power of the potluck" to come together, truly see each other for the complicated and baggy and frail humans that we are rather than the projections we present behind the veil of the internet, share in the labor (of love) of cooking for one another especially in an age of costly ingredients, and settle our real and imagined differences over a meal.

Including ones with deviled eggs.

Now, that's something I--and all of my aunts--can get behind.

Smoky Deviled Eggs with Toasted Rosemary

2 dozen deviled eggs

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
48-64 fresh rosemary leaves (pulled from the stems) (just eyeball it)
12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp smoked paprika (she calls for 1/2 tsp, but I found it was not enough)

1. Set a paper towel next to the stove. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil. Quickly fry the rosemary in the heated olive oil, for about 30 seconds. Stir frequently while frying. Remove the rosemary with a slotted spoon, spread it on the paper towels in a single layer to drain the oil. 

2.  Halve the boiled eggs, and use your fingers or a small spoon to remove the yolk, being careful not to tear the egg whites. Put the yolks in a mini food processor and blend until smooth. If not using a processor, either mash with a fork or press them through a sieve. Add the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and smoked paprika and mix. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange the egg whites on a platter, and then spoon or pipe the filling into the cavities in the egg whites. Garnish with the fried rosemary.

(Donnelly even has the solution for transporting deviled eggs!) 

Mustard-Cornichon Deviled Eggs


2 dozen deviled eggs


1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
6 cornichon pickles, finely chopped, plus 1 thinly sliced for garnish
Salt and pepper

1.  Halve the boiled eggs, and use your fingers or a small spoon to remove the yolk, being careful not to tear the egg whites. Put the yolks in a mini food processor and blend until smooth. If not using a processor, either mash with a fork or press them through a sieve. 

2. Mix in the mayonnaise, mustard, and chopped cornichon. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Arrange the egg whites on a platter, and then spoon or pipe the filling into the cavities in the egg whites. Garnish with the sliced cornichon.

(Donnelly even has the solution for transporting deviled eggs!) 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Caramelized Onion, Eggplant, Olive, and Kale Calzones

For many of you out there, the thought of turning on the oven makes you almost swoon. In fact, some of you are already swooning because of the heat. If this is you, bookmark this recipe and come back to it this fall when the eggplants are beginning to shrivel on the plant but are still quite good and when the kale is a little wilty but still edible.

Or better yet, defy the heat and make this tonight: but put it inside a Campfire Foil Pack and toss this on the grill (or even better yet, a campfire).

However, in the Bay Area, we are getting the August fog, that wall of cool, wet weather that makes me almost shiver, not from the cold, but in delight. In fact, tonight as we were driving (to Target for cat litter and Kleenex if you must know the boring details of my daily life), the wall of fog was firmly planted just on the edge of the Bay at the Oakland border.

It will creep in, not on little cat's feet as Carl Sandburg suggested, but in puffs and blooms as we get deeper into the night. But it will indeed sit on its haunches, looking over the city and the Bay and keeping its comforting quiet.Oh, I love August in the Bay Area.

(Let's face it--I dislike September, however, with its hot, dry days and the refusal to bring me a proper autumn). I have digressed, have I not? Let's return.

Turn on your oven. Fire up the grill. Construct your campfire.

And then make a simple calzone. I used Sarah Britton's My New Roots as inspiration. However, I will admit it--I changed so much in the recipe it hardly resembles hers. I am not sure I should even mention it in the same breath. But, I encourage you to do the same here: use this post as shabby inspiration and make this satisfying pocket of pizza your very own.

Britton's calzone is much, much healthier than mine. (And maybe you would like to make hers:  I cannot find a link to the original recipe. If you do, let me know.)

Yes, Britton makes her dough from a spelt flour. I bought mine at Market Hall. Because I am lazy that way. And theirs is good. Don't judge.

I added eggplants and tomato sauce (because I had them, and I also like a tomato sauce in my calzone to keep it from drying out).

I may have also piled on the herbs.

I may have added more cheese than she suggested. This is definitely true.

I am going to digress again for a moment, but stay with me. I promise I will land this plane:

As many of you know, without guidance my smoothies all taste the same because I use them to clean out my veggie crisper in the fridge. I think one can take this same philosophical stance on calzones. If it's in your fridge, throw it in. There is no shame here.

Only a very tasty, relatively easy (especially if you buy that pizza dough!), and crowd-pleasing dinner. No matter the time of year or the temperature outside.

Caramelized Onion, Eggplant, Olive, and Kale Calzones

Inspired by and heavily changed from Sarah Britton's My New Roots

4 Servings

4 medium onions
A few pats of butter, ghee, or coconut oil
salt and pepper
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 medium eggplant
1 small bunch (1/4 pound) kale
1 pint (16 ounces) cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 cup tomato sauce, plus more for dipping
flour (for the cutting board)
pizza dough (seriously, store bought is fine)
6 ounces feta, crumbled
Handful of fresh oregano leaves (or other herbs or a mixture)
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and preheat a baking sheet pan or a pizza stone.

2. Slice the onions into thin rounds. Heat the butter, ghee, or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a few pinches of salt and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, and when the pan becomes a bit dry, add the balsamic vinegar. Cook until the onions are golden and caramelized, 20-25 minutes, or so.

3. While the onions are cooking, cut the eggplant into a 1/2-inch dice, leaving the skin on. Sprinkle with salt. Heat another pat of butter, ghee, or coconut oil in a different pan from the onions, and sautee the eggplant becomes soft, about 10 minutes. Resist the urge to add more fat. 

4. While the eggplant is cooking, remove any tough stems from the kale and slice the leaves into ribbons. Since the tomatoes into quarters. 

5. When the eggplant is soft, add the kale and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes, or until the greens have wilted. Transfer to a large bowl. 

6. When the onions are golden, add them to the eggplant and kale mixture. Pit and roughly chop the olives, and add them to the bowl. Stir in 1 cup of tomato sauce; season with salt and pepper to taste. 

7. Divide the dough into 2 chunks. Sprinkle a big pinch of flour onto a clean, dry workspace. Roll each portion of the dough out into a 8-10-inch round. Divide the eggplant and kale filling between onto each rolled-out dough round (putting the filling on one half of the round). Sprinkle with the feta, oregano leaves, and black pepper. Fold the other half of the dough over and pinch the edges together (with your fingers or the edge of a fork), ensuring that the dough is sealed.

8. Carefully slide the calzones onto the preheated baking sheet or the pizza stone. Bake the calzones for 14-18 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes, and then drizzle with olive oil. Cut the calzones in half, and serve each half with additional tomato sauce on the side.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Ottolenghi's Thai Red Lentil Soup with Aromatic Chile Oil

Sweet lord.  Double this recipe.  

Don't question me. Don't doubt me. Just do as I say, not as I did.  Because the sheer tragedy of this recipe is that I did not double it, and the amount of left overs was paltry, indeed. And this soup is really good.  As in, really, really, I-cannot-find-the-words-so-I-will-just-repeat-really, really good.

And it's so good not for any one particular reason. It truly is the sum of its parts. The savory and creamy red lentil soup has these aromatic hints of makrut lime and lemongrass, the chile oil bursts with lemon and star anise, and the parboiled peas add just the right sweetness and crunch.

Sure, sure, you might scoff at the long list of ingredients. You might even balk at having to hunt some of them down. (Yep, fresh makrut lime leaves can be a bear to find sometimes. But you can find dried ones here.)

Even culinary hero Yotam Ottolenghi himself champions messing around with ingredients, substituting some in and leaving others out (in fact, I heeded his advice, for he calls for sunflower oil in his recipe; I had only olive oil). I urge you, move away from the long list, play around, but seriously, just make this dish.

Thankfully, you will make too much chile oil (and to cut down on preparation time, you can make the chile oil over the weekend, for it keeps in a sealed jar for about a month in the refrigerator). That means, you can drizzle this amazing oil on just about anything. Eggs. Sandwiches. Pasta. I don't care--you'll even think about drizzling it on cake, ice cream, pancakes. It's that good.  But maybe just stick to the savory stuff.

And the only thing you will regret with this recipe is that you didn't make more. No matter how much you make.

Thai Red Lentil Soup with Aromatic Chile Oil

4 Servings


For the chile-infused oil:
3/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp peeled and coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 red chile, coarsely chopped
1/2 star anise pod
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp tomato paste
grated zest of 1/2 lemon

For the soup:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised with a rolling pin
4 fresh Makrut lime leaves (or 12 dried)
1 1/4 cups dried red lentils

4 ounces sugar snap peas
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

1. For the chile oil: Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot, garlic, chile, star anise, and the curry powder; fry over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring from time to tome, until the shallot is soft. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining oil and the lemon zest and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.

2. For the soup: Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onion. Cook over low heat, with a lid on, for 10-15 minutes, stirring one or twice, until the onion is completely soft and sweet. Stir in the red curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, red lentils, and 3 cups of water [I used 2 cups water and 1 cup chicken broth]. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft.

3.  While the soup is cooking, bring a small pan of water to a boil and throw in the sugar snap peas. Cook for 90 seconds, drain, and submerge in cold water to halt the cooking process.  Set aside to dry. Once dry, cut them on the diagonal, about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside.

4. Remove the soup from the heat and take out (and discard) the lemon grass and the lime leaves. Use a blender or food processor to puree the soup until it is completely smooth. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce and 1/2 tsp salt and sit. 

5. Return the soup to medium heat, and once the soup is almost boiling, ladle into bowls. Scatter the snap peas on top, sprinkle with cilantro, and finish with a lashing of chile oil drizzled over each portion. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Chive Crepes with Avocado and Smoked Salmon

This little recipe is perfect for lunch. It's simple, it's very light, it's as healthy as can be, and it's satisfying. Let's break that down, shall we?

Simple:  Mix batter. Make crepe. Fill. Roll up. Eat. 

Perhaps the hardest part about this recipe is making the crepe. I don't know about you, but the first crepe, much like the first pancake, is always a little wonky. But once you get the pan to just the right temperature, all of your crepes will turn out beautifully with that satisfying little crinkle at the edges. But I get ahead of myself.

Very light: Yes, buckwheat can be a bit assertive, but thinly spread out into a crepe and topped with smoked fish, well any buckwheat crepe is going to back down a little and let the innards shine. And while there is an abundance of fat in this crepe, said fat leads both to the healthy and the satisfying.

Again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Healthy as can be:  Friends, it's buckwheat (champion of lower cholesterol and blood pressure, hero of fiber, calcium, and lignans), salmon (aquatic vertebrate with oodles of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, bioactive protein molecules), and avocado (purportedly the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and another fruit that boasts plenty of potassium). 

I repeat: Buckwheat! Salmon! Avocado! Perhaps the only thing that could make this healthier is if this little crepe could floss your teeth.

Satisfying: Okay, we have already established the satisfying crinkle at the edge. However, let's hear it for avocados and smoked salmon. Avocados are just so rich. You never need a lot (but I will admit to occasionally eating halves of them with just some salt and a spoon). 

And I love smoked fish. It gives you all the umami flavors that our palates crave and the protein your belly needs to feel full. If anything, I would add a sprinkling of capers. However, that's because I am a little predictable and love smoked salmon with its usual standby of cream cheese and capers. But next time I make these, and there will be a next time, I am just going to give into that tug of indulgence. 

Otherwise, don't change a thing. Not. One. Thing.

Chive Crepes with Avocado and Smoked Salmon

2-4 Servings 

Scant 2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 eggs
Handful of chives, minced
Coconut oil or olive oil
2 large avocados
9 ounces smoked salmon
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Olive oil (or infused garlic, chile, or chive oil if you have it)
Salt and pepper
Capers (optional)

1. Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bow. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and chives. Pour into the flour and stir until the well combined and lump-free. Let sit for 5 minutes, then sir again, and thin the mixture by adding water (a splash or a tablespoon at a time) until the the batter has the consistency of heavy cream.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Melt a little coconut oil or heat olive oil in the skillet. Then pour in 1/4 cup batter to thinly coat the bottom, rotating the pan as you pour so that the batter spreads across the entire pan. Cook until golden and the edges of the crepe are beginning to curl and lift. Flip and then cook the second side.

3. Transfer to a plate (cover with a clean dish towel) and cook the remaining batter the same way. 

4. Halve, pit, peel, and thinly slice the avocados. Arrange some salmon and avocado in the center of each crepe. Squeeze some lemon, drizzle some olive oil, add some salt and pepper, and, if you're in the mood, a sprinkling of capers. Roll up and enjoy.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nuts

My affinity for bookclub is strong. These three other women and one man are truly fabulous people, and I am not just saying that because one of them is related to me (Hi, Father-in-Law!).  No, I am saying that because they are smart readers who push me, after two hours of snacking and drinking very good wine, to reconsider whatever bogus theory I have had about a book, and who push me to see far more deeply into books.

Even if I haven't finished reading them. But I swear, I actually finished this one.

So, when bookclub rolled around this July, I mixed up this perfect grain salad.

And it's a delightful summer salad. It is nutty and savory and a perfect mate for all of the morsels and sauces that inevitably--and delightfully--make up the bookclub table fare. From pakoras to olives, cheeses to almonds, our table boasts eclectic and inclusive food--much like the eclectic and and inclusive members of the book club, given that it is made up of a journalist, a businesswoman, two artists (one a librarian and the other a teacher), and an education administrator (that's me!).

This salad won't overwhelm, but delightfully, it won't underwhelm. It's just the right amount of companionable. I like the congenial. I am a fan of the affable. Hence, I am a champion of farro, one of Italy's many contributions to the ancient grain world.

Farro, sometimes called emmer, is a hearty, nutty, crunchy little wheat grain that makes a spectacular little salad. And it is loaded with fiber, protein, magnesium, and iron. Farro, like many grains can be confusing, as it comes in whole, pearled, and semi-pearled versions.

--Whole farro has all the grain's nutrients but all the grain's dilatoriness in cooking.
--The semipearled has had part of the bran removed but still contains some of the fiber.
--The pearled takes the least amount of time to cook, but it has no bran at all.

This can be confusing, especially when the packaging at your local food purveyor merely says "farro."

What we're looking for here is the semi-pearled version, only because it cooks a little faster than the whole and has more fiber than the pearled. But if you have some cooked farro, of any sort, on hand, you'll be fine. And if you're not sure which kind of farro you have, just keep cooking until it is chewy and satisfying.

No one is here to judge.

In fact, if you need to substitute out freekah or quinoa or wheatberries, the gods will still be on your side.  This will still be a healthy dose of goodness.

However, I remain a fan of good old farro with this recipe because the nuttiness plays of perfectly with the eggplant.

But you choose your grain. There is no farro police.

A few notes on the changes I made to the recipe below. I found that it needed lot more vinegar, olive oil, and salt than Maria Speck's original recipe; I have merely made the changes below. However, you should play around with the amounts to suit your proclivities. 

Further, the next day for lunch, I drizzled some yogurt over the top, just to add a little more creaminess. The yogurt was a nice addition, especially because of the mint.

Let's turn our gaze back on bookclub before we close out this post, shall we?

We read John Lachester's Capital. Oh, I liked this book. It has absolutely no connection to farro or eggplant or mint or pine nuts. But, my friends, you just might need a good book this summer, one that considers money and capital and immigration and gentrification and community and real estate and death and family and passion on the precipice of the 2008 economic collapse. This is the one. It's a staggering little book that clocks in at 500 or so pages, so I guess it isn't so little, but my friends, it's worth a read, if for no other reason than the description of Petunia's garden.

Finally, the book lends itself to a great discussion of about wanting what other people have, a central point in this book.

I could be glib and say that others will want this farro salad, but I won't. Just make it and share it. Simple as that.


Farro Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nuts

I made some shifts in this recipe, for I found the original to be a little dry. My alterations are below.

4 Servings (as a main dish, 6 as a side dish)

2 cups water
1 cup semi-pearled farro (or about 3 cups cooked) (if you use the whole-grain variety, you'll need an overnight soak)
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chile pepper
1 tsp minced hot green chile, such as serrano
3/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
3/4 tsp dried mint
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided (more as needed)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup loosely packed torn fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup lightly toasted pine nuts
8 ounces ricotta salata or feta

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. To prepare the farro, add the water, farro, bayleaf, and dried chile to a 2-quart saucepan, and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grain is tender with a slight chew, 20-25 minutes. Remove the bay leave and chile, drain if needed, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the minced chile, Aleppo pepper, and dried mint. Toss to combine.

3. Meanwhile, place the eggplant and the onion on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and combine well, using your hands. 

4. Roast the mixture until the eggplant pieces have softened and are browned in spots and the onion slices have caramelized, turning them once with a spatula, about 30-35 minutes. remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately sprinkle the vegetables with mint and drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the vinegar. Toss well with a spatula.

5. To finish, add the warm eggplant mixture to the farro. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and vinegar and toss to combine. Season with salt, olive oil, and vinegar to taste. Top with the remaining pine nuts and cheese.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Potato and Leek Soup

There is not much at all to this soup. In fact, even my photographs are a little stupidly simple. But I have always been a fan of potato and leek soup. And I like stupidly simple from time to time. Usually on a weeknight.

Oil. Leeks. Potatoes. Liquid. Salt. Dairy. Parsley. Do you really even need a recipe? 

Given that this is a food blog, I am going to provide you one. But, seriously, change every amount to fit your palate, your taste, your proclivities on a random Tuesday night. Throw this recipe to the wind. Sure, use it as a guide if you want, but you should play and dabble and change this one for yourself.

But let me tell you a little secret about this recipe. Even though I don't fully believe in it, I have a soft spot for the recipe and for its cookbook. But I am about to donate this cookbook to the little free library in my neighborhood. 

I loved this cookbook in the 90s, and I have waxed nostalgic about it previously. But it's time. It's time to let this cookbook go. 

Sadly, I have used it only twice in the past six years, and both times it was because I had given myself the gimmick of cooking from a specific page (page 210 and page 215). I find myself reaching toward other, more recent cookbooks. 

In part because in the 90s, I was a new cook, and I would have needed the recipe to guide me. In part because my palate has changed. In part because I think there are a plethora of really great vegetarian cookbooks out there.

But I do want to bid a proper farewell to this standby cookbook. So, I give you a recipe that I loved in the 90s and I have strayed away from in the 10s.

But this book has served me well.

Potato and Leek Soup

Adapted from Almost Vegetarian

4 Servings 

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 large leeks, cut in half, cleaned, and sliced into thin crescents
4 large boiling potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup plain yogurt (nonfat, lowfat, or full-fat)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the leeks and saute until the leeks begin to soften, but do not brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the potatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. 

3. Simmer until the potatoes are tender enough to cut with a spoon, about 40 minutes.

4. In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in the cooking water and broth, doing this in batches and/or adding more broth and water if necessary. Then return to the saucepan.

5. Add the yogurt, and heat slowly over low heat, uncovered, until just warmed through. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.