Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika

Is it too hot to cook inside? It sure was this Sunday in the Bay Area. Smoking hot. Of course, there are two answers to hot weather: grilling and gazpacho. We did both. (Gazpacho to come later, I promise.)  

This little lamb skewer comes from none other than my favorite person, Diana Henry--this time from her cookbook, A Change of Appetite. (Want to read a great review of this book?  See here.  While Alex Guarnaschelli says she loves the book, she finds that it's culinary whirlwind tour a little discombobulating and she's not sure what she would turn to this book for. I do. I turn to it whenever I want something light and fresh and filling without weighing me down. And that happens throughout the year--be it on a hot summer day or after enjoying too many holiday treats come January. I know exactly why I come to this particular Diana Henry book.)

So the husband fired up the grill and made some lamb, which was simple enough. Shockingly simple, indeed. And I hoisted out the blender to mix up this Adzhika relish/salsa from Georgia (the country, not the state) on the side. My only regret is that I did not make even more of this sauce. While this recipe made plenty, and we had a good deal of it leftover, I found myself mixing it in with everything over the next few days. Tuna and bean salad? Okay. Yogurt with tomatoes? Sounds fine to me. Should we grill up some more meat? I'd top that too, but it appears I have eaten all of the Adzhika and need to make more. 

Want to learn a little more?  Here are two links, one describing it as a salsa and another as a hot pepper relish. Is it no surprise then that I love it? A sauce? To go on morsels? Hush, say no more.

Adzhika is hot--or as hot as you want to make it, given you get to control how much of the chile you put in. But it is complex. The dill and cinnamon and celery are unexpected, at least for this palate, but the heat of the chile next to the cilantro brings me right back home to a more familiar salsa. However, upon some searching, this may be much more Adzhika "inspired" than Adzhika replication. Some adzhikas have no celery or cilantro and some purists claim that they should be only chiles, salt, and very specific herbs (coriander, dill, blue fenugreek, garlic). I guess I need to get on a search for true adzhika. 

In the meantime, I definitely am going to layer this sauce on the gaminess of lamb for a big, bold flavor. Perfect for a hot summer afternoon with a side of rice to help cool your mouth after this palate cleanser. I am so on board with this salsa. At least until I can find some true adzhika. 

And I suspect I would be on board with that, too.


Lamb Kebabs with Georgian Adzhika

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Change of Appetite

4 Servings

1¼ cubed leg of lamb
¼ cup olive oil
1½  tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 celery stick, coarsely chopped
3-4 red chiles, chopped (seeded if you would prefer a milder sauce)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dill leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
3½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil

1. Trim the lamb of any fat or sinew. Mix the olive oil through the 2 garlic cloves, crushed, together in a bowl. Put the lamb in the spice mixture. Turn the meat over in the marinade, cover with plastic warp, and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-24 hours. Turn the meat over every so often. Soak six bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

2.  To make the adzhika, put the garlic in a food processor and blend. Add the celery, chiles, and bell pepper and pulse-blend to a salsa-like mixture. Add the herbs and pulse about 3 times. You don't want a puree--just a rough mix. Scrape into a bowl, add salt, vinegar and olive oil.

3.  Thread the lamb cubes onto the skewers and season with salt. Cook on a grill pan or a grill, until golden brown, turning them regularly. Keep these a bit rare in the middle, so these need about 7 minutes total. Serve with the adzhika. (We clearly also added some rice and wild rice--see pictures.)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Ginger-Chicken Meatballs in Broth with Greens

We have been away--I have gone back to Illinois and then the husband and I went up to Mt. Shasta to see a volcano and to hike around. But we still need to eat.  

Is it Tuesday? (Okay, truth here, it's Saturday, but this dish will do anytime during the week.) Do you, too, need something to eat? Are you willing to put in 30 minutes? Do you need a revelation in broth? Well here's the little soup for you, no matter if you're traveling or hanging out at home.

The meatballs are a snap. As many of you know, I am huge fan of Diana Henry, in part because she takes ordinary ingredients and whips them into fine flavor combinations. More importantly, though, she does so without a lot of fuss and fanfare. Just make a meatball. Then put it in a broth. 

But before you do that, why don't you make your broth a little more flavorful? Don't have time? 

Let's not talk nonsense.

All you need is 10 minutes, some ginger and some chiles. If you have homemade broth, this is going to be divine. If all you have is store bought, well, trust me on this one--infusing it with some aromatics will boost this little soup. And, well, we all need a little boost from time to time. Why not now?

So let's get to it. We all have to eat, and whether we're going fully homemade or just upping the ante on what is in our pantry, Diana Henry is to the rescue, as usual.  Let's have some soup together.


Ginger-Chicken Meatballs in Broth with Greens

Adapted from Diana Henry's A Bird in Hand

4 Servings

1 lb ground chicken
2 garlic cloves, minced
1½ Tbsp soy sauce
1-inch piece ginger root (¾-inch finely minced, plus 2 slices, about ¼-inch thick)
4 scallions, sliced, divided
salt and pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 chile (red or green), halved, seeded, and minced, divided
2 Tbsp olive, peanut, or sesame oil
4 small heads of bok choy (feel free to substitute spinach and add more than you think)
juice of 1 lime

1. Using your hands, mix together the chicken, garlic, soy sauce, ¾-inch finely minced ginger, and half of the scallions. Season with salt and pepper. Wet your hands and shape the mixture into small balls, each about the size of a walnut. If you have time to chill, these will be easier to work with. Set them on a baking sheet, and put in the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 15.

2.  Bring the chicken stock to a boil. Add the ginger slices and half the chile. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat--this is just to flavor the broth with the ginger.

3.  Heat the oil in a saut√© pan and cook the meatballs, rolling them over to ensure that they brown all over--you may need to do this in 2 batches. It should take about 10  minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate using a slotted spoon.

4.  Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Reduce the heat, return the meatballs to the pan, and bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the greens (and then add a little bit more than you think you should) and the rest of the chile and cook for another 3 minutes. The meatballs should be cooked through and the greens should be tender. Discard the ginger slices. Add the lime juice and remaining scallions. Serve with more chile, if you like.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fire-Roasted Trout with Grilled Figs in Huck Out West // Cook Your Books

In this Cook Your Books series, I have chosen 15 books to read in 2017 based on somewhat arbitrarily chosen categories. My theory (bogus it might turn out to be) is that all 15 of these books will somehow connect to food. And I plan to write about that food. And it turns out that these entries are a sort of long-form blog-post. So settle in. This sixth installment is a book published this year.

No doubt, I feel a kinship to Mark Twain. The summer of 1984, I went to Hannibal, Missouri, with my family. One hundred miles north of St. Louis, Hannibal boasts being the boyhood home to Mark Twain and the inspiration for Tom Sawyer's spelunking adventures and picket fence white washing and for Huck Finn's hogshead barrel sleeping. It was also the site of numerous family and school trips. But one trip stands out in particular.

Instructed to buy one souvenir, I lingered over plastic trinkets and snow globes and novelty spoons, I am sure. But something in me wanted more. I wanted something grown up, because I was feeling grown up. I was about to turn ten and I felt the weight of a full decade upon me. So I browsed the bookshop, tracing hard cover spines with my whole palms, and I settled on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I still have this copy. The inside cover of the book boasts my name, the date (7-6-84), "Hannibal, Missouri" (in a handwriting that is distinctively mine still) and my name written again (with more flourishes this time) on a fancy bookplate depicting a unicorn rearing up, its hind legs perched atop the earth, a rainbow snaking through the celestial spheres, and a twinkling crescent moon. I was almost ten, and Mark Twain certainly would have been hometown proud.

Since then, I have taught this book many, many times, and it frustrates, delights, disgusts, and challenges me. It is the book of my youth, my adulthood. Hemingway even claimed that "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." So it came as no surprise that I snapped up Robert Coover's Huck Out West earlier this year, and tore through it.

In Coover's postmodernist extension of Huck, we find Huck exactly where we should--the wild west of Kansas, Texas, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Montana during and after the Civil War.  Indeed, Huck lit out as promised for the "territories" with Tom and Jim, in order to join the Pony Express. Given that the Pony Express won't take Jim, Tom sells him off to a slaveholding Cherokee tribe. And then uses the money to buy riding boots. Of course.

And so Coover gets this world right. Tom, ever amoral, commands Jim's fate once again and Huck, ever the innocent abroad, records it all. However, Tom departs soon (headed east to study law in order to control the sivilized world when he can and rekindle whatever romance there was with the wealthy Becky Thatcher), and we find Huck alone, scouting for General Custer, bedding down in Deadwood Gulch, riding shotgun on coaches, wrangling horses on a Chisholm Trail cattle drive, and suffering an almost hanging for a trumped-up murder charge. 

Given my project of cooking my books, I had plenty of food to choose from, including roasted horse meat (22), post-wedding beer with jelly and donuts (36), bread and coffee (54), buffalo jerky (113), corn bread and wild pig sausages (182), thin, brothy soup (211), Becky-Thatcher-offered butterscotch cookies (252), dried corn and desecrated fruit (284), and plenty of whiskey. Plenty of whiskey. Huck did not fall far from Pap's tree. He just knows how to hold his liquor better.

However, I chose fish (trout to be exact when crappie is called for, but I know you're willing to go along with me, right). A grilled fish on the frontier, pulled straight from the river and roasted over an open fire (with a rather long pull of whiskey), well, this just seems like the perfect meal for one out west in search of their very own Edenic paradise away from the ever-encroaching, swindling, "sivilizing" forces of the east, right? And so it is for Huck, who has come to see the simple processes of fishing and cooking as the act of making a home. He says, "When I rode Ne Tongo [his horse] into the little hid-away cluster of unpainted broke-down shanties and raggedy tents at the edge of Deadwood Gulch, nigh to cricks too fast and shallow for rafting, but prime for fishing--there was even a patch of sweetly clovered meadow beside the crick for Tongo to graze on--I knowed I was home. A place I could take my boots off all day long" (3-4). A bit of a dangerous place with a shallow but fast current. No more constraints of footwear. Just sweet clover and a prime creek and your munching horse.

And Huck goes on about this paradise (and I am going to quote a little more extensively here because this is almost homily):
I opened the smoke flap in the tepee and started up the fire, and then took my pole down to the crick to catch us some supper. Dusk's half-light is always prime for fishing. Hardly before I'd begun I had me a handsome black crappie close to a forearm long to go with the half-dozen panfish on my morning trotlines, some of them still snapping their tails about in a kind of tragic greeting when I hauled them up. I know it don't make them happy, but it seems only fair for us fellow creturs to give up our bodies to others' appetites. I don't want to get et by mountain lions, but I won't hold it against them" (15).
There is a sense of ritual without pomp: the preparation of a fire, the knowledge of the land and its best times for fishing, a fortuitous capture. There is recognition of community with his fellow creturs. He cleans the fish, and he smokes from a carved stone pipe given to him by the Lakota people. "It was what I had for good luck when the world was mostly throwing bad luck at me. It was such moments as made me feel I'd finally come to the right place. Plenty grub and an easy life, ain't no bad thing.... (15) He recognizes it won't last, that at the next moment he could be mountain-lion dinner, but he relishes this time for what it is and when it is. And this time won't last (and he says as much, "At the same time, I misdoubted it would last" (15))--not in the novel, not in American history--so he urges us to relish these little moments of peace, even if they are singular and stolen, while we can.

Later, he says, "A river don't make you feel less lonely but it makes you feel there ain't nothing wrong with being lonely" (35). This river, these fish, this frontier without the sivilizing influences makes you feel there ain't nothing wrong with being by yourself, with being with only yourself. Sounds like a home to me.

That said, we were "this close" to making pancakes again. This was almost a post on the reconnection of friends (although ostensibly, it already is). There is a brief reunification with Jim, who makes a cameo appearance as the chuck wagon cook on a trail of missionaries searching for a fountain of youth, quite possibly in Montana, or hoping to join the Mormon trail.  Calling Huck "Huck honey," Jim once again shows a love of Huck that he is perhaps not deserving of, if simply by association with Tom. Recognizing how "dog-hungry" Huck truly is, Jim puts together a stack of flap jacks (69-71). Together they let out unrestrained whoops, embrace deeply, share stories, and tuck into breakfast. However, this, like all other moments, cannot last. Distracted by the flirtations of woman who distracts herself with flirtations, Huck has to leave (and rather quickly) this particular trail ride and his beloved Jim, despite promising Jim he would not leave his side until they find Jim's wife and children. Another promise made. Another promise left unmet.

However, despite Huck's quickness to flight, this is, of course, a book about that companionship where which we can find a sense of home, a sense of connection beyond explanation. 

Throughout much of the book, Huck's closest companion is Eetah, a Lakota Indian and another self-described misfit who was"having about the same trouble with his tribe as I was having with mine" (3). And their bond is strong--in part because Huck loves a story teller, and Eetah tells Huck Coyote and Snake stories, many of which Huck cannot understand but still appreciates. Coyote, that great trickster, has always fascinated and attracted Huck--no wonder, then, that he was and is so enamored of Tom, who enters into the novel at the almost magically perfect moment.

Oh and when he does, Tom lights this novel up. And we hate ourselves for that. Saturnine and amoral, Tom literally comes in hot, guns blazing, sharpshooting a lynching rope from the gallows just as the trap door opens, and thus saving an about-to-be-hanged Huck. But Tom's a gold-hungry imperialist, a murderer of Indians, a dominant and aggressive shaper of stories, a racist, and the consummate adolescent. He has never grown up, despite the oft-mentioned growing bald patch on the back of his head, and it seems unlikely that he ever will. 

Undoubtedly, Tom is titillating in this book; his hyperactive antics drive a novel that is hardly concerned with plot beyond the picaresque, and he brings us narrow escapes and bawdy sex and horrific violence, all seemingly without consequences. And it is an thrilling, if harrowing, comment on our desire for excitement, for stories without endings, or repercussions.

But then there's Huck. A scrappy innocent, uncorrupted in a world that, as Coover himself describes in The New Yorker, is quite worrisome: 
I probably worry more that America today is making me think (or write) differently about late-nineteenth-century America. The story starts at the outbreak of the Civil War and ends with the Deadwood Gold Rush. This era, not the Revolutionary period, was what truly made us who we are. It was an adventurous time, but also one full of greed, virulent hatreds, religious insanity, the slaughter of war and its aftermath, widespread poverty and ignorance, ruthless military and civilian leadership, and huge disparities of wealth. Not a pretty history. But I hoped that Huck’s sympathetic and gently comical voice might make it bearable.
Huck makes us want to see consequences for all of these actions--both personal and historical--that leave the vulnerable at the mercy of charismatic and unscrupulous leaders (Tom or otherwise). And in a world where these consequences don't come often, where stories are strung together with the most tenuous of connections, Coover presents us a world of Huck, Eetah, and Ne Tongo, who are trying to save what is worth saving. This is the world with the ability to sit with your closest friend and fellow misfit and with your loyal companion over some simple fish. 

At other points in the novel Huck interrupts three men frying fish from Huck's trout lines (107), and he cooks fish for breakfast after hiding guns in his tent (138). But more importantly than not, just as the book opens with fish, so it closes with it. This is a ritual. A way to carve these little moments that Coover suggests don't last long but are the ones worth savoring. Otherwise, all we have is Tom commanding this unethical and almost pornographic world. Let's just have some fish by ourselves or with others. Let's just enjoy something caught with our own hands for the time being.

As the story progresses, through a series of Tom-instigated plot points--because Tom stars in his own story without regard to others or concern for the outcome--Huck is in the position to have to save Ne Tongo in order to go with Eetah to "where the war ain't" (291): 
Then I spied a gnarly old miner with a shovel and a pan and a bottle he attended to regular. I went over and told him we was looking for a partner with a shovel, and he was happy to obleege. He says his name was Shadrack and he was from Ohio where he's been a farmer mostly till the grasshoppers et him out. I knowed Tom would a somehow got him to pay for the chance to shovel up the steps in the pit, but I was grateful just to have the shovel, and mostly let Shadrack lay off. Him and Eeteh nodded at each other without saying nothing, and Shadrack went down to the water with his pan to poke around, he didn't find no gold, but he catched a big fish, which he shared with his partners (292). 
Another fish caught, this time not by Huck. Another fish shared one's partners, even if they are not Huck and Eetah. Another community making a connection, deciding whom to include because they are your closest companions, and whom not to. 

Ne Tongo is saved, he and Huck race "all the way to the sunset" (296) four pages later, and then Tongo leaves them, this time for good. So in rides Tom again, wearing white (both hat and gloves) and a red bandana tied around his neck, "so he warn't Tom so much as Tom's fancy of Tom" (297), ready to betray Huck (and by extension Eetah and Tongo). Huck, for a moment, holds his ground, knowing that "Tom was hurting and I was sorry, but I was hurting too. And I was worried about Eeteh" (299), whom any of Tom's friends could shoot without worry about retribution or justice. But Eetah's community comes to save Eetah and Huck. Not out of any allegiance to Huck, but out of allegiance to Tongo, who is a "spirit horse. God dog" (301). A friend of Tongo's is a friend of the Lakotas. A community. A set of partners. 

And Huck invites Tom to join him to light out once again. Tom refuses and so Huck goes, leaving Tom behind. One community forged, another abandoned.

Finally, this book opens and closes with fish. Or at least the potential of fish. In a final chapter, as Eetah and Huck light out, no clear territory in mind, just away from Tom and his new moral order of constant worry of betrayal, Eetah tells the story of Coyote's talking "members," of which apparently he has multiple. Huck tells Eetah that he heard Coyote speak directly to him when he was on a wild 4-page ride with Tongo, and Eetah suggests that it was Raven, not Coyote, who spoke to him. Huck is confused, "lost again" (308), he admits, because he doesn't know who or what dismembered body part has been speaking to him. All he knows is that Coyote and his stories are truly Eetah's, not his. He is content enough knowing that there "was a crick down below us in the twilight without no prospectors on it, where we could probably fish up a supper." There they will make camp, drink whiskey, and "muddytate" on trickster tales. And so, it is without a doubt that Huck will make, if only for a moment, another Edenic home or another "right place," over fish, with his true friend--one without malice or motive. 

And so, perhaps, should we.


Fire-Roasted Trout with Grilled Figs

"I larded up a frypan and set it on the fire, throwed in some salt and the cleaned fish, and set back to enjoy an evening pipe... It was such moments as made me feel I'd come to the right place. Plenty grub and an easy life, ain't no bad thing..." (Huck Out West 15).

Very liberally adapted from Twenty Dinners

A pretty little dish, this is as easy as can be, and rather economical. Every time we make fish, we say, "We should make fish more often."  You can grill with or without the head (the husband chose to grill without the head). Be careful of bones, but seriously, this is worth a grill-firing-up. The figs are a sweet counterpoint to the unctuous skin. The smoke from the grill is the perfect and only necessary accompaniment to the fish, though the microgreens (or just a salad of mixed lettuces) are a nice touch. Twenty Dinners does a great job here making a perfect backyard Eden. 

Serves 4

1/2 cup hazelnuts (optional)
12 fresh figs
grapeseed or vegetable oil
4 whole trout (about 1 pound each), cleaned and butterflied (ask your fishmonger to do this for you)
Extra-virgin olive oil
8-12 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
A few handfuls greens (or microgreens)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Salt, pepper, and olive oil for finishing


1. Prepare your fire and set up your grill. Allow the fire to get really hot--and the grill to be completely cleaned from the heat of the fire--then wait for it to burn down enough so it's a very hot be of coals.

2.  Toast the nuts: When the fire is ready, set a small saucepan over the grill grate and allow it to heat. Toss the nuts and let them toast, until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

3.  Coat the figs with grapeseed oil. Coat the fish with a small amount of olive oil, both on the outside and inside the cavity. Stuff each fish with 2-3 sprigs of thyme, 1 bay leaf, and a pinch of salt; then lightly salt the outside. Arrange the fish and the figs on the grill, leaving enough room to flip the fish over when the time comes. Cook the trout for 3 minutes on the first side, then flip over with a thin spatula and finish for 2 minutes on the other side, or until the fish is just cooked through. While the the fish cooks, return the small saucepan to the grate. Add the balsamic vinegar and let reduce by half. Reserve.

4.  When the fish is done remove it from the grill and let it cool for 3 minutes on a warm plate. Meanwhile, roll the figs around with a spoon so they don't overcook on one side. Remove the figs and toss them in a bowl with the reduced balsamic vinegar while still hot. Set aside.

5.  Once the fish has rested, serve the fish whole, advising them to be aware of errant bones. Make a bed of greens on each plate and top with a few figs. Lay a trout on top of the figs and finish with a generous squeeze of lemon, a sprinkling of salt, the hazelnuts, and some olive oil.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Baked Eggs, North Indian-Style from Seven Spoons

Life has been complicated as of late. 

From switching jobs again to moving homes, from having our new home burglarized (man, oh man!) to a quick visit back to Illinois, my personal world has been somewhat hectic. (The burglary was scary, but everyone's okay, including the cats. And we're still in the annoyance of figuring out insurance. No one was home and the damage was, all things considered, minimal.) 

I could say something pat that this is an uncomplicated dish in response to a complicated world, but I think this dish is a little more nuanced than that as were the experiences of the past three months. But one still needs good food even when trying to figure out insurance itemizations.

From Tara Brady's Seven Spoons, these baked eggs  have some complicated spice mixtures. It is similar to shakshuka, and I can get behind anything that pairs eggs, tomatoes, and spices. 

When I was young, I used to make scrambled eggs with every spice imaginable from the spice drawer.  Who says oregano, garlic salt, tarragon, red pepper flakes, chili powder, and dill do not go together? Then I would feed them to my seven-year-younger sister. She probably had a better palate than mine, for she turned away from those concoctions. Had I been able to make something like this, perhaps she would have liked them more.

This is a relatively easy, Tuesday-night kind of dinner and doesn't require a lot of fuss or precision. Lord knows I am not great at timing eggs (you can even tell in the pictures that they are a little over cooked, in part because the husband prefers a hard-cooked egg and I prefer a runny egg. He won out.). They still turned out tasty and satisfying.

A few things to note--O'Brady suggests serving with some combination of toasted almonds, fresh green chutney, minced fresh chile and lime wedges. I didn't include them below. I used the fresh dill she suggested. Also, she asserts that some baby spinach, baby kale, or pea shoots would be fantastic with this. I mixed in about 3 handfuls of spinach into the dish itself, just to tuck in some more veggies. Trust her assertions.

Now I hope things become a little less complicated, and we can settle in a bit this summer. I am ready for backyard barbecues and rose on the deck. Are you with me?


Baked Eggs, North Indian-Style

Adapted from Seven Spoons

4-6 Servings

2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 onions
1 bunch of cilantro
3 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt
1½ tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp dried red pepper flakes
4 pounds fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped or 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
2 bay leaves
2-3 big handfuls of spinach
⅓ cup plain yogurt (O'Brady suggests greek-style, I used European. Everyone was okay)
4-8 eggs
freshly ground black pepper
Fresh dill, roughly chopped
Cooked grain of your choice

1. To make the eggs and sauce, in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-low eat, melt the butter or heat the olive oil. Saut√© the cumin seeds, shaking the pan often, until the cumin is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the onions and cook until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. 

2.  Pick the leaves from the cilantro and set aside. Mince the cilantro stems. When the onions are cooked, add the cilantro stems and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, and chile powder, and stir constantly to toast the spices for about 30 seconds.

3.  Pour in the tomatoes and their juices and add the bay leaves. Raise the heat to bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes with occasional stirring. Season with salt. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.

4.  Preheat the oven to 375℉.

5.  Dollop the yogurt into the sauce, then use the spoon to marble the sauce and yogurt together slightly. Create small wells for the eggs with a spoon, and crack the eggs, one by one, into the wells. Season with salt and pepper.

6.  Bake the pan in the hot oven, uncovered, until the eggs have reached the preferred set. It takes about 12 minutes for a firm-set white with a loose yolk. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the reserved cilantro leaves and dill. You can also serve with a grain (brown or white rice, barley).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Raspberry and Brown Sugar Loaf

I love a good picnic. However, the husband and I have very different ideas of what a picnic should be. I fancy a game of croquet and a gaffe over the strawberries a la Emma Woodhouse. The husband is satisfied with a length of salami and a hunk of cheese. So this was my compromise.

We hiked on a Saturday afternoon the northern-most tip of Point Reyes National Seashore.  A simple (but longish) drive to Pierce Point Ranch (a dairy ranch from about 1858 to the 1970s) and a few-mile hike afford gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and Tomales Bay (assuming the fog hasn't rolled in). If you're lucky, and we were, the elk will be on full display, and there are plenty of rock outcroppings and a one Monterey cyprus tree patch, all just aching for a picnic blanket (and no croquet). 

Yes, I brought some salami, and we stopped in Point Reyes Station at the Cowgirl Creamery for some Red Hawk. However, I also made this Raspberry and Brown Sugar Loaf--an adaptation of Diana Henry's Blackberry and Brown Sugar Loaf. Henry's own loaf is an adaptation of John Thorne's Raspberry and Brown Sugar Cake. So I fiddled a bit more, and here we are. In Henry's recipe, she uses blackberries and lemons. Here I use raspberries and limes. I encourage more fiddling on your part.

While I wasn't able to channel the wit, charm, acerbic tongue, and forced humility of Emma, I was able to munch on this hearty, no-nonsense cake as we listened to song birds and watched the fog roll in. There was no croquet, but there was lounging, a picnic blanket, and warm water from water bottles. 

You take what you can get. You watch elk. You hike. You have a beautiful picnic, complete with salami and cake. 


Raspberry and Brown Sugar Loaf

Adapted from Diana Henry's Plenty

Makes 1 loaf, Serves 8-10

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten until frothy
2 heaped Tbsp sour cream
1 Tbsp grated lime zest and the juice from one lime
pinch of ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 ounces (1⅔ cups) raspberries 

1. Preheat the oven to 325℉.  

2.  With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light. Then add the brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, and beat until creamy. Turn the speed down to low, and add the sour cream, zest, lime juice, cinnamon, and flour. Beat until the mixture just comes together.

3.  Sift the baking powder over the top, sprinkle on the raspberries, and gently fold these into the mixture with a wooden spoon, breaking them up as little as possible.

4.  Spoon the mixture into the buttered loaf pan, smooth the top, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

5.  Let the loaf cook in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge and turn it out onto a wire rack. Turn right side up and let cool completely.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Grilled Bread, Broccoli Rabe, and Summer Squash Salad

Can I confess: I don't particularly care for salad. I find lettuces, for the most part, boring. I get tired of carrots and radishes and cucumbers. I just don't think I would do well on a raw diet. So I was delighted when I received this latest cookbook from Food 52 because I am always looking for ways to up my salad game.

And so I begin my foray into Mighty Salads with a fantastic grilled bread salad chock-full of grilled veggies and spectacular dressing made from the mayonnaise marinade. Yes, you heard me right. Mayonnaise marinade. Okay, maybe this salad is not the healthy-eating alternative I was longing for, as we kick off summer. But I still consumed about 729% more vegetables in this salad alone than I did the entire month of May. It's summer, and lordy, people, I have got to get this diet back to salads and soups and smoothies and healthy eating. Because lately it's been cheetos and chocolate. And this is just the cookbook to do it.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the salad, let's talk about the book, since it is a new acquisition. Gorgeous, slightly moody photography from James Ransom. Spectacular color choice for the introduction pages (I am a sucker these days for gray/green). Sixty recipes. Clever organization (Leafy Salads, Less Leafy Vegetable Salads (my section), Grain and Bean Salads, Pasta and Bread Salads, Fish and Seafood Salads). Yep. I am sold. It's looks like it's salad season for me.

From Fresh Corn Cakes with Crab-Tomato Salad, Farro and Golden Beet Salad with Chive-Sage Dressing, Steak and Tossed Salsa Verde Salad, to even Radiccio and Caulifloer with Currant-Anchovy Vinaigrette (see even one with leafy greens), I am excited about digging in, fork first.

So I did with Grilled Bread Broccoli Rabe and Summer Squash Salad. As I said, the mayonnaise marinade is a miracle. It means you need no dressing for the salad once the broccoli rabe (or in my case, baby broccoli) and the zucchini come hot off the grill. Just toss with the grilled bread, the pine nuts and the fresh herbs. May I recommend a fizzy little white wine with this? A hot June day? And a backyard? Because that's how we did it, and it was not a wasted afternoon, I promise you. 

Now I just need to crack the spine to peruse the Leafy Salads section. Maybe I'll come around.

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


Grilled Bread, Broccoli Rabe, and Summer Squash Salad

Adapted from Food 52's Mighty Salads

Serves 4

1 cup full-fat mayonnaise
½ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Aleppo pepper or ½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1 large bunch broccoli rabe or young broccoli
3 summer squash, cut into rounds (I did long slivers and survived)
¼ cup olive oil
4 thick slices of crusty bread, such as ciabatta or sourdough
salt and pepper
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
handful each of torn basil and mint
Freshly squeezed lemon juice for drizzling

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin seeds, Aleppo pepper, and paprika until smooth and fully integrated and emulsified.

2. Trim the broccoli rabe stalks. Cut any stalks that are more than ½-inch thick lengthwise. Add the broccoli rabe and summer squash to the marinade and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.

3.  Heat the grill to medium. Brush clean grates with olive oil. Working in batches if necessary, arrange the broccoli rabe and squash in a single layer on the grill. Grill until they are tender and blistered in some spots--a few minutes per side. Transfer the vegetables to a baking sheet and spread in a single layer.

4. Evenly coat both sides of each bread slice with the olive oi Season with salt and pepper. Grill the bread, checking it frequesntly, until charred in spots but soft in the center, a few minutes per side. Move to the edges of the grill if they are charring too quickly. Let cool, and then cut into ½-inch cubes.

5.  Place the bread cubes, broccoli rabe, and summer squash on a large serving platter. Scatter the nuts, basil, and mint. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve warm or at room temperature.