Saturday, July 23, 2016

Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl with Snap Pea and Edamame Salad

What I love the most about my CSA box is the surprise every Tuesday. While Full Belly Farm sends an email newsletter on Monday announcing what they will be sending, I like to resist that siren call and to open the box to find tomatoes and grapes and basil and potatoes. 

It's like my own Tuesday-afternoon version of Chopped.

Recently one of my mystery ingredients was cabbage. As in more cabbage. As in this is the third time I have gotten cabbage this summer. I never knew there wold be so much cabbage in July. 

While certainly this is the tail end of the season for cabbage, it is the key ingredient in all of your slaw needs this summer.  And what better way to make a slaw than one that accompanies an ahi tuna poke bowl? 

Have you noticed, by the way, the recent popularity in rice bowl cooking? They're everywhereAs in everywhereEverywhere

This fascination with serving food atop of a starch, usually rice but quinoa or barley or freekah or farro have made appearances, seems to have its roots in Asian cooking--Korean bibimbap (one of my favorites) or Japanese chirashi immediately come to mind. The popularity of these grain bowls (and what separates them from, say, a stir fry) is that all of the veggie and meat components are composed atop the starch, and you get to decide how to mix them together. 

And, indeed, rice bowls have moved far from their Asian influence: you can make Mexican, Peruvian, Greek, and yes, even Californian bowls. Have at it, I say.

Sara Forte, of Sprouted Kitchen, has made a lovely contribution to this food trend with her book Bowl + Spoon, which I wrote about here. So, when cabbage showed up in the CSA box, I decided to crack open her little book, jump on this culinary bandwagon, and make this perfectly summery, Hawaiian-influenced poke bowl with a snazzy little slaw of edamame and sugar snap peas on the side. 

It is a little bit of a special occasion bowl (as sushi-grade ahi can be expensive), but it smacks of easy-going dining, begs for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and encourages backyard sitting. 

Hop to it, my summer-loving, cabbage-cooking, food-trending, Chopped-challenge-willing friends.

Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl with Snap Pea and Edamame Salad

4 Servings 


3/4 cup rice (brown is fantastic, but choose what you like)

For the Salad:
1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds (black, white, or a combination)
2 tsp yellow miso
1 tsp honey
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Ahi tuna
1 1/2 pounds sushi-grade ahi tuna
3 Tbsp soy sauce (low sodium is fine)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
wasabi paste, sriracha, or your favorite hot sauce
2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 large, ripe avocados
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
3 sheets of dried nori, crumble

1.  Make the rice according to whatever method you generally use. If you don't have a preferred method (I just use my rice cooker), here's a simple method that takes about 45 minutes, during which you can put together the rest of the recipe. (This recipe for rice is from Rinse the rice with cold water for 30 seconds. Bring 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat in a heavy pot with a lid. When the water is boiling, add the rice, stir, and partially cover. Cook on medium heat for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, pour the rice into a sieve. Return the strained rice to the pot off of the heat. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and set aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. 

2.  Meanwhile, add the peas to a large bowl with edamame, cabbage, green onions, cilantro, and mint. Stir everything together.

3. For the dressing, in another bowl, whisk together the miso, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and pinch of salt and pepper until smooth. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Chill the salad until ready to serve.

4. Cut the ahi tuna into 1-inch cubes. In another large bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, and a bit of wasabi or sriracha. Add the ahi and green onions and stir gently.

5.  Just before serving, pit and dice the avocado into small cubes. Gently stir them into the ahi with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds and a hearty grind of pepper. 

6.  Arrange the bowl with a scoop of salad, a scoop of rice, some of the ahi mixture, and crumbled, dried nori on top (which I forgot).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lavender-Goat Cheese Crostini with Peaches and Mint

I have mentioned the husband's new hobby: cheese. That means I have been looking for multiple ways to use cheese. On its own, in omelettes, tucked into frittatas, crumbled onto salads. 

And now: slathered onto crostini with a drizzle of lavender honey and a layer of sweet peaches. 

This little appetizer is, let's admit it, overkill in terms of summer. Lavender! Honey! Mint! Peaches! And it needs just the right creaminess of goat cheese to root it down a little, to remind these crostini they need not be so brazenly ensconced in full-blown summer.  

You could mix out the peaches for a slice of apple or a pile of pears. You could top the fruit with basil or even a pop of rosemary (imagine with me now--atop roasted figs). Sure, you could go these other, more autumnal or late summer routes. But this little toast refuses to let you get ahead of yourself and it insists you grab these peak days of July and hold onto them.

Because come autumn, I'll be mixing the goat cheese into souffles or with the last of the tomatoes into a tart or even with a pasta topped with beets, squash, and sage.  And I'll miss these heady days of sweet peaches and lavender and mint.

But I guarantee, the husband will still be making cheese.

(P.S. Do you see his first foray into ValençayI am going to admit it here--it was quite good.  All fresh and nutty and creamy and mild. Well done, husband. Well done.) 

Lavender-Goat Cheese Crostini with Peaches and Mint

Adapted from Twenty Dinners

4 Servings

1/2 cup honey
A pinch of lavender, fresh or dried
2 peaches
1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch slices, toasted
6-8 ounces goat cheese (any kind--young, aged, covered in ash)
Fresh mint leaves, chiffonade

1. In a small pan, warm the honey and lavender on low heat for about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the honey to cool to just above room temperature.
2. Slice the peaches into wedges, about 1/4 inch thick.

3. Spread the toasted rounds with goat cheese. Top with peach slices. Add a few mint slices, then lightly drizzle with the lavender-honey mixture. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ottolenghi's Lemon and Eggplant Risotto

Risotto is such a delightful dish. Comforting, creamy, simple, stable.  

And I am a huge fan.

As in, I will make me a risotto any chance I get, with any sort of ingredient you can imagine. It doesn't matter--any season. 

Spring--lemon and peas; 

Summer--tomato and parmesan; 


Winter--butternut squash and pancetta. 

If it's in your fridge, you can put it in this Northern Italian rice dish.

However, you will want a very specific kind of rice--a high starch, medium- or short-grain rice--in order separate this delicacy from any other rice dish. The high starch means that as you cook it, it releases its starch, making that requisite creamy smoothness to risotto.

The most popular risotto rice in the United States is, hands down, Arborio rice. This short-grained rice isn't as starchy as some of its popular Italian counterparts, but it is the most easily procured. However, a great article from Fine Cooking that details other risotto rices that are becoming more readily available in North America, including carnaroli, vialone nano, baldo, and Calriso.

All risotto follows a pretty standard process--in fact it never really changes. 
  • Cook up a mirepoix or simply some onions or garlic in some butter or oil. Then cook the dry rice in the fat and aromatics. This early step coats the rice in fat. 
  • Then you toss in a bit of wine, which is quickly absorbed by the rice. The wine adds another layer to the dish.
  • And then the adding of the broth begins (and here's where risotto takes patience that pays off).  Stock is added one ladleful by one ladleful, as you stir constantly and ensure that the rice completely absorbs the broth before adding more. This constant stirring and the slow adding of broth loosens the starch from the surface of the rice (remember, you want that high starch rice for a reason) and creates that smooth, creamy texture that separates risotto from a bowl of rice. That said, you do want the rice to still have a little "bite" or "chew," like you would a good al dente pasta, so you have to be careful not to add so much broth that you make mush.
  • After all of the liquid has been absorbed, you take the risotto off the heat and add the mantecatura, the final fat (usually cheese or butter) that you stir in at the end.
Even Yotam Ottolenghi, our culinary hero of the 21st century, makes his risotto just like that.

And so, when we were away for the week, I put together Ottolenghi's simple, summery risotto--in part because some beautiful eggplants arrived in our CSA box from Full Belly Farm.

The lemon in this recipe is strong, but it's just perfect for the hot days of summer. Remarkably, this dish felt relatively light, even though it is a cooked rice dish. Seriously, though, try this dinner the next time you need a simple vegetarian entree or want a lemon-y side dish for grilled chicken from your bbq. 

Lemon and Eggplant Risotto

Adapted from  Ottolenghi's Plenty

4 Servings 

2 medium eggplants
½ cup olive oil plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup arborio rice (or other risotto rice, see above)½ cup white wine 
3¼ cups hot vegetable stock* 
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
1½ tablespoons butter
½ cup grated parmesan cheese 
½ cup basil leaves, shredded
Salt and black pepper

* recipe for a simple, very good veggie stock from Parsnip Dumplings in Broth follows

1. Begin by burning one of the eggplants. This can be done one of several ways: 

  • On a gas stove, the eggplant can be put directly on a moderate flame and roasted for 12-15 minutes (turning frequently with metal tongs) until the flesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. 
  • To roast in the oven, pierce the eggplant with a sharp knife in a few places. Put it on a foil-lined tray and place in a 500 degree oven for 1 hour. 
  • Or on a grill, place the eggplant over a high heat flame, and using metal tongs, keep turning it for about 20-25 minutes. 
No matter your method, the eggplant needs to deflate completely and its skin should burn and break. 

2.  Once the eggplant is ready, remove it from the heat and make a long cut through it (allow any steam to escape before handling). Scoop out the soft flesh while avoiding the skin. Discard the skin. Chop the flesh roughly and set aside.

3.  Cut the other eggplant into a ½-inch dice, leaving the skin on. Heat ⅓ cup of the olive oil in a pan and fry the eggplant dice in batches until golden and crisp. Transfer to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

4. Put the onion and remaining oil in a heavy pan and fry slowly until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the wine, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until nearly evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium.

5. Add the hot stock to the rice, a ladleful or cupful at a time, waiting until each addition has been fully absorbed before adding the next and stirring all the time. When all the stock has been added remove the pan from the heat. 

6. Add half of the lemon zest, the lemon juice, grilled eggplant flesh, butter, most of the parmesan and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir well, then cover and set aside for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if you like, plus some black pepper. Stir in the diced eggplant, the remaining parmesan, the basil and the rest of the lemon zest.

7. To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and serve with additional basil, parmesan, and lemon zest.

*Here's the recipe for a good, basic broth from Ottolenghi's recipe in Plenty for Parsnip Dumplings in Broth
The broth can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to add to the risotto. I actually began the broth as I was waiting for the oven to preheat for the eggplant, and then the broth and eggplant were ready at about the same time.

Vegetable Broth
Adapted from  Ottolenghi's Plenty

4-6 Servings 

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut in slices
5 celery stalks, cut in chunks
1 large onion, quartered
1 small celeriac, peeled and quartered
7 cloves of garlic
5 thyme sprigs
2 small bunches of parsley, plus some for garnish
10 black peppercorns, whole
3 bay leaves
8 prunes
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add all the vegetables and garlic, sauté until the vegetables color slightly. Add the herbs, spices, prunes, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for 90 minutes, adding liquid as needed to maintain the water level. Strain the broth through a sieve into a clean bowl, salt and pepper to taste. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Braised Cabbage with Chewy Fried Potatoes, Feta, and Dill

Nope.  It's not possible to have a simpler--or more satisfying--summer dinner. 

This week in the CSA box, we were gifted both cabbage and potatoes. In my Midwestern upbringing, this might mean a heavy meal of German Brats and Sauerkraut or smack of Irish (or New England) Boiled Dinner

Don't get me wrong. I love both. But they both feel a little heavy for a July dinner, don't you think?

Deborah Madison, described by Lucky Peach as the "Queen of Greens," is America's answer to what to do with the CSA box question.  She is also one of my heroes

She argues that Summer Braised Cabbage (combined with potatoes and dill and a smattering of fresh feta) will keep dinner on the lighter side, lift the spirits, and keep it all a bit simple in the process.

Don't we all need that?

Plus, we got to use some of the feta made by the husband-cum-fromager. Seriously, he's getting pretty good at this cheesemaking thing. And thankfully feta goes so very well with cabbage.

(I have been nudging him to let me do a post on cheese making with him. We shall see, we shall see.)

Let's pause for a moment to consider the healthiness of the humble cabbage, shall we?  

Another relative of that brassica family, this leafy veggie is kin to broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.  Apparently (at least according to this website with source material mentioned at the bottom of the page, but it's difficult to decipher which one), cabbage retains its cancer-fighting properties only if raw or lightly cooked. Thus, I guess you're out of luck here (except for cabbage's high fiber properties, which are always helpful). 

And, friends, cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, which is good to know (actually, that's really good to know for anyone on blood thinners such as Warfarin, as vitamin K can be dangerous). And it's a darned good source of Vitamin C, B6, Manganese, Potassium, and B1

Instead, let's just come back to a simple braise, a nice fry of potatoes, a sprinkling of dill and feta, and some salt and pepper.  Simple, light, and perfect for summer. 

Thanks, Deborah Madison, for once again guiding me through my CSA box.

Braised Cabbage with Chewy Fried Potatoes, Feta, and Dill

4 Servings 

Olive oil, for frying
4 large fingerling or other waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Salt and Pepper
1 pound cabbage
1/4 cup chopped dill or parsley (or a mixture)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Heat 1-2 Tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, turning them occasionally, until golden and just tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.

2. Meanwhile, slice the cabbage into 1/2-inch wide ribbons. Put them in a wide pan with 1/2 cup water. Cook, covered over medium heat, until the cabbage is wilted and tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Drain the cabbage well, put the cabbage in a large bowl, and toss it with butter to taste. Add the potatoes and dill and toss well. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Finish with feta and serve.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toasted Oatmeal with Earl Grey Tea-Soaked Raisins

We spent the weekend away up the California coast, where the days (and nights) are cool and foggy, if you're lucky. (Sunny and bright, if you're not.)  As you know, I love the cold density of the fog and the way it nudges you towards sitting next to a fire and reading that book you've been avoiding for no other reason than sheer laziness.

I will admit it: I read three books this weekend. Three.

On Monday morning, I woke up late and I made this beautiful bowl of oatmeal. However, this was no oatmeal. It was fancy oatmeal, from Tess Ward's The Naked Cookbook.

First you soak the raisins in Earl Grey tea, not only infusing them with flavor but also ensuring a caffeine pick-me-up for the morning (I guess you could go with decaf if that's your fancy). Then you toast the oatmeal with a little orange zest. Let's admit it here and now: the toasting is what makes this oatmeal nutty and sweet perfection.

While it all may seem a little fussy and perhaps not your typical Monday breakfast, this oatmeal was lovely with raisins bursting with tea, with crunchy almonds and nutty almond milk and sweet coconut (and a lashing of maple syrup if so desired (side thought: do people use lashing as a verb with anything other than maple syrup or butter?  It's not as if one asks for a lashing of ketchup)).

On top of all of that, Tess Ward's cookbook is a beauty: even its cover is stripped back to the basics of book board and an exposed spine. While she does get into a whole chapter on detoxes (which I still find somewhat suspect), her chapters are devoted to "Pure," "Raw," "Stripped," "Bare," "Nude," "Clean," and the aforementioned "Detox." Eschewing processed or refined foods, Ward celebrates creative cooking with pure, whole ingredients.

In fact, an unnamed opening chapter demystifies broths, stocks, dressings, dips, infused oils, sauces, and dressings in order to ensure the foundations or the toppers to your meal are as healthy as the meal itself.

She then launches into a slew of recipes that will soon find themselves in my belly, not the least of which "Molasses and Ginger Porkballs with Bok Choy," an unfortunately named "Yoga Bowl" of curried sweet potatoes, "Salmon Tartare and Wasabi Creme Fraiche," and "Lamb Meatballs with Rhubarb Sauce."

However, given a foggy Monday morning, I could only opt for a hearty bowl of oatmeal as I watched two fawns bed down in the yard. And yes, Monday was the Fourth of July, so that also meant a trip into Mendocino for rather chilly parade watching and then town wandering.

But I had a hearty layer of fancy oatmeal to keep me warm.

All in all, not a bad way to enjoy this delightful new cookbook and two needed days off from work.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Toasted Oatmeal with Earl Grey Tea-Soaked Raisins

1-2 Servings 

1/3 cup raisins
1 Earl Grey tea bag
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest, plus more for serving
1 cup almond milk, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Unsweetened coconut flakes and/or slivered almonds, for serving
Maple syrup, for serving 

1. Put the raisins and the tea bag in a mug and pour in just enough boiling water to cover. Let soak for 10-15 minutes, until infused.

2.  Meanwhile, put the oats and orange zest in a pan over medium heat and toast, swirling the pan or stirring constantly, until they begin to release a lightly toasted aroma, about 5 minute.

3.  Remove the tea bag from the mug, then add the raisins and the liquid to the oats, along with the almond milk and vanilla, if using. As soon as the oatmeal starts to develop bubbles, stir adding more liquid as needed or desired.

4.  Transfer to a bowl and top with extra orange zest, flaked coconut, and slivered almonds.  Serve with a little extra milk and the maple syrup.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

I am a big fan of Diana Henry (and have written about her here and here). She is cheeky yet thoughtful, sophisticated yet simple. This cookbook (A Change of Appetite), one I turn to time and again to up my salad game, is her gander at healthy eating.  

Her take is simple:  More veggies, less meat. Heavy on freshness, light on processed foods. 

And Henry takes us on a whirlwind tour of healthy food from across the world. From Scandinavia to Cambodia, North Africa to Peru, this cookbook opens up a world of possibilities for the healthy palate. 

I have been thinking about my diet more these days.  One of the most important people in my whole life is in the midst of a health crisis, and we have been talking a lot about food that is good for you. There's a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of advice that contradicts itself. I just want something that is simple and easy to follow.

Enter Diana Henry.

She just advises to eat well, to enjoy the process, and to be aware of what you put in your body. She doesn't get too preachy, she encourages indulgences, and she always delivers something satisfying. These are mantras I can embrace.

This recipe for a Japanese chicken is an easy one, but it does take some advance planning. There is an hour long marinade and a bake time of 40 minutes. However, the active time with this dinner is pretty light. 

Yep, there's some chopping at the outset, but then settle in with a glass of wine and a book while you wait for dinner to be done. (But make it one glass, and of red wine, or at least according to the multitude of information about the power of red wine for heart health.)

So, let's do this together, friends. Let's be a little healthier this summer.

Starting with this dinner right here.

I promise, you won't miss any of the unhealthy things you have been eating, and you won't get any misinformation from Diana Henry.

Japanese Ginger and Garlic Chicken with Smashed Cucumber

4 Servings 

For the marinade
3 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp sake or dry sherry
3 Tbsp packed dark-brown sugar
½ Tbsp brown miso
2/3 cup ginger, peeled and finely grated
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 tsp togarashi seasoning (or ½ tsp chile powder)

8 bone-in chicken thighs

For the salad
1 1/2 cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp pickled ginger, finely shredded
Small handful of shiso leaves, or mint leaves, torn (optional)

1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients. Pierce the chicken on the fleshy side with a knife, put the pieces into a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Massage it in well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and put the pieces in a shallow ovenproof dish in which they can sit snugly in a single layer. Pour half of the marinade onto the chicken. Roast for 40 minutes, basting every so often with the cooking juices and the leftover marinade. Once 20 minutes have passed, don't add any more leftover marinade – it needs to cook properly as it has had raw chicken juices in it.

3.  When the chicken is at about the 1/2 way point, peel and halve the cucumber, scoop out the seeds and discard. Set the cucumbers on a board and bang them gently with a pestle or rolling-pin, then break them up into chunks with your hands. Crush the garlic with a pinch of the salt and massage this and the rest of the salt into the cucumber. Put in a small sandwich bag, squeeze out the air and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
4.  After 40 minutes check the chicken for doneness – the juices should run clear when you pierce the flesh with a knife. Remove from the oven.
5.  When you're ready to eat, drain the cucumbers in a sieve and add the pickled ginger. Add the shiso leaves or the mint. Serve with the chicken and, if you're in the mood for something more filling, some rice or rice vermicelli.