Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Celebrity goat cheese: tomato tart (and smashed potatoes too)

Let's talk goat cheese.  I love a good artisan goat cheese like Capriole Farms from southern Indiana, but I'm on my second buy of the Celebrity goat cheese trio from Costco and you should grab some too while it's available.  You know how good things mysteriously and maddeningly come and go from Costco.  There are three flavors:  garlic and fine herb, Mediterranean and chipotle.  It's not that they are so unusual, but when I go beyond serving them for a little gracious living with wine and crackers then I have a blog post waiting to be written.

Use flavored goat cheese in grilled cheese with good summer tomatoes, fresh basil and some great multi grain or ciabatta loaf or go all out and get a good foccacia.  I'm telling you, go to Amelia's bakery stand at the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market.  Or grill or bake some cheese toasties with a little olive oil brushed on both sides and a good spread of goat cheese melted on top served with a salad.  Crumble some into your salad with a light vinaigrette or just good olive oil and a nice wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add some to your mac and cheese along with some cheddar, I'm thinking the chipotle in some mac would be fabulous.

I had some nice little purple and yukon gold potatoes from the farm stand, boiled them in salted water until they were fork tender and then drained them.  Leaving them in your saucepan add some goat cheese and a little chicken or vegetable broth and smash it all together.  In the hot pan the cheese will melt and it's going to take every bit of willpower for you not to finish the whole pot.  Sure my potatoes were a little funky and purple but the chipotle goat cheese made them crazy good.

I found this tomato tart recipe in a cookbook review in USA Today or the WSJ or the New York Times when I had gleefully grabbed all three papers from the Delta Sky Club traveling with Greg to Charleston for the Fourth.  I love newspapers.  I love the indulgence of all the papers in one sitting.  Plus I got to read these in first class because my husband is smart enough to give me a turn at an upgrade if he's on the same flight.  The recipe would be perfectly good with plain goat cheese, but the garlic and herb was pretty darn tasty.  I totally splurged on this recipe and bought a really nice all butter frozen puff pastry sheet from Whole Foods for more than double the cost of the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets.  While I was at it, I bought really nice fresh house made ricotta from WF too.  Soooo much better than the grocery version.  Might have to learn to make my own which I read all the time about being super easy.  I grow lots of basil and I had gorgeous tomatoes from the farm stand too.  I served this for a little Monday night dinner party with Dave and Maureen.  Whenever Greg is actually in town we have to keep the party going since it's a rare occasion and will be getting much rarer pretty soon.  I also made a terrific grilled skirt steak salad with marinated and grilled onions, roasted poblanos, red wine oregano vinaigrette and feta.  That post is next.  Not bad dining for a Monday.

Tomato Tart

flour for rolling pastry
one 7-8 ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cold per package directions (thaw in refrigerator 2-3 hours)
2 T olive oil, divided
1 C ricotta cheese, drained if fresh
4 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled (I used Celebrity Herbs and Garlic from Costco trio pack, but plain would be just fine)
2 large eggs
1/4 C fresh chopped basil leaves (a good bunch)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
3 medium to large ripe local tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds and drained on towels

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lightly flour parchment and roll dough into a 10 x 15 inch rectangle.  With the tines of a fork flat or blade of a small knife, press indentations or  cut slits part of the way through the dough about 1 inch from edges all the way around the rectangle.  Prick the center of the rectangle all over with tines of a fork on end to keep the center from rising as high as the sides of the dough rectangle.  Brush the inside of the rectangle with 1 T of the olive oil.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta and goat cheeses with the eggs, fresh basil, 1/2 tsp of the kosher salt and 1/4 tsp or more of freshly ground pepper.   Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the center of the rectangle all the way to the edge of the 1" border.  Top with tomato slices (when I lifted mine from the paper towels, the seeds stayed on the towels which is way easier than coring and seeding the tomatoes), overlapping them a bit.  Drizzle with remaining 1 T of olive oil and lightly sprinkle about 1/4 tsp of kosher or flaky (Maldon) salt across the top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and the filling is set.
Cut into squares and serve warm.  Serves 6-8.

tart before baking
after baking, with my filling spilling all over but in a good way

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

salad assignment? Graham's Party Salad

Greg's new VP of Asia gig brings "the band back together" as he is working for Charlie for the third time (for the third company) in the past 16 years.  This happy alliance took us to Detroit (well, Rochester), Cleveland (Hudson) and Kansas City (never actually moved there, but one very good husband commuted there for 7 years, who knew it would go that long?).  And now we're off to Australia as soon as all the stars are aligned and all the logistics fall into place.  Some of our best friends come from what I think of as "the team", the guys that have worked and moved with Greg some since the TDK days 20 some years ago.  Most of them have also been regulars on Greg's annual fishing trip to the boundary waters of Canada.  So many stories, weddings, race weekends, parties and good times with the team.  One of the team members, Graham, happens to also be a great cook and made this salad one night for a big steak dinner party at his house which appears to be 13 years ago because the recipe is printed from an e-mail sent to me at an e-mail address I don't even remember as mine.  Geez.

This is a salad for a party.  It's big and universally liked.  Graham's original recipe uses mayonnaise and it's a well-established fact that I do not knowingly eat mayonnaise (and my mayo radar is always on) unless I love you a lot and you feed it to me and then I'll try a bite of your salad because I love you and you were unaware of my rules.  Thankfully, Greek yogurt works just as well.  The herbs used to flavor the dressing can be from your pantry shelves or your herb garden in season.  You can use whatever vegetables you like.  Graham sliced his bell peppers in big, pretty rings and I always try to do that too because they look amazing.  Mushrooms are great in this salad but honestly, I forgot that and did not buy any for the salad I made this weekend (because why would you actually review a recipe before you go to the market?).  The original recipe calls for layering your salad vegetables in your serving bowl, topping it with a layer of feta and then spreading the dressing evenly across the top.  The bowl is covered tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated 4-24 hours and then tossed with the croutons just before serving.  I usually just layer it all up and keep the dressing in a jar or covered bowl but both methods work just fine.  

Graham's Party Salad


1 C plain Greek yogurt (fat free or 2%)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese 
1/4 C red wine vinegar 
1/2 C lemon juice
1/4-1/2 C olive oil (start with 1/4 and add more to get your desired creaminess)
3-5 shakes of hot sauce (I used about 1/2 tsp Cholula)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T tamari (reduced sodium soy sauce)
1/2-1 tsp dried herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary) OR small handfuls of fresh herbs, chopped fine
(I know that's a lot of approximations, but you can't really do it wrong with fresh and with dried just start with 1/2 to 1 tsp of each and all a little more to taste).

three heads romaine lettuce, core removed, tough outer leaves removed, torn in pieces, washed and spun dry (love little gem if you can find it because those heads have no dark and tough leaves, I get mine at Costco or Meijer)
two bell peppers cored and cut in big rings
two to three tomatoes cut in pieces or sliced OR a box or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
sweet red onion, thinly sliced
one 10-oz. box sliced mushrooms
1 C or more of crumbled feta cheese
one package nice whole grain garlic and herb croutons

Whisk all dressing ingredients to blend and if making ahead, pour dressing into a mason jar or other pourable container and refrigerate to dress the salad before serving.

Layer salad ingredients in a very large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not serving right away.  Toss with dressing, feta and croutons and serve immediately.  

Serves 15-18 easily.  Can be topped with grilled chicken, grilled skirt steak or cooked shrimp for an entree and omnivore version.  If you cut the recipe in half, don't reduce all of the seasonings by half maybe just a bit less of everything you whisk into the yogurt, Parmesan, red wine and olive oil.  

dressing ingredients

before whisking

creamy and ready to chill or dress

pepper rings, onion slices, tomato pieces and romaine (it's hiding under there)

ready to cover and chill without dressing

Saturday, June 28, 2014

rainy summer days: (blueberry) brown sugar oat muffins

Rainy day at home and rainy day at Wimbledon.  After an early and damp visit to the Broad Ripple Farmer's Market and the weekend errands, I am ready to settle in and watch tennis even if they are playing only on Centre Court (i.e., the only covered one).  At some point today I absolutely have to work on something or anything organizational and move related, but not apparently right now.  So this is the beauty of the laptop, I can camp out in front of the television AND still get something done.  Fighting a bit of a cold so a little slacking is probably good.  I need to plan a menu for dinner with neighbors Tuesday night with special guests from Australia.  Because the world is crazy like that, Becki and Dave who lived across the street here in Indiana moved to Sydney last year for an international assignment.  So we'll have lots of food and wine and lots to discuss.  Here's what I'm planning so far:  grilled skirt steak with house made steak sauce, summer corn salad with avocado and chimichurri vinaigrette and creme brûlée cheesecake.  Solid foundation.  Pondering appetizers.
So that and this post are my sitting and tennis viewing work for the day.

On my way out the door for my early market run, I grabbed a blueberry brown sugar oat muffin from the freezer.  I baked them earlier this week and passed them around during a visit to lulu to hug some friends and pick up some hemming.  I adapted this recipe from "flour, too" by Joanne Chang of the fresh and delightful flour cafes in Boston.  Her recipe is for cherry muffins, but any fruit in season would work.  I had an extra basket of blueberries, so there you go.  She uses creme fraiche, I used greek yogurt.  She uses whole milk, I used buttermilk and some vanilla to mellow it out.  Mainly because that's what I had on hand plus my options were better nutritionally.  The original recipe calls for preparing the batter and letting it rest in the refrigerator 8 hours or overnight.  I just baked mine straight away and they were fantastic, but it is a nice option to get up in the morning and just scoop batter and bake so you have warm muffins for breakfast.  I'll try it sometime and let you know if there is any difference in texture or height.  Maybe I'll try rhubarb from last week's market trip.

I'll take some process photos next time, but here's the end result in all it's glory.

(Blueberry) Brown Sugar Oat Muffins
3 1/2 C rolled oats (not instant, I like Bob's Red Mill in a big bag)
1 1/4 C greek yogurt (nonfat was just fine)
1 C lowfat buttermilk
1/2 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled (I had very soft butter at room temperature)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C sugar (I like superfine)
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 1/2 C blueberries (or fresh pitted cherries, diced apple, diced peaches, diced pears, cranberries....)
1 1/4 C white whole-wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt

brown sugar-oat topping
1/4 C rolled oats
3 T brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, stir together oats, yogurt, buttermilk and butter until combined.  In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together and pour into the oat mixture.  Stir in the vanilla, sugar, brown sugar and fruit until well-combined.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, powder, soda and salt.  Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and fold until just combined.  Cover and refrigerate batter for 8 hours or overnight if you like, completely optional.  

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the muffin tin cups with paper liners and then coat liberally with non-stick cooking spray.  Scoop the batter into the prepared cup until full (very full to get the muffin crown).  Make the topping by stirring together the oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinke the topping evenly offer the muffins.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown and the tops spring back when pressed.  If you start to smell muffin-y goodness at 35 or 40 minutes, quickly check your muffins and remove from the oven if done.  Maybe your tins are smaller or your oven is hotter, but you want a nice moist muffin.  Cool in tin a wire rack for 20 minutes before turning out to cool completely (or eat them warm).  

12 muffins

Friday, June 27, 2014

and I'm back: salted chocolate chunk cookies

April, May, June almost all passed by during my blog hiatus.  So many thoughts unwritten, so many recipes tried and undocumented but the end of my lulu run and the beginning of my resumed position as relocation coordinator and a few technical difficulties necessitated a break from blogging.  Our very clean and very loved house is on the market just waiting for the one right family to come through the door.  Greg is happily busy in his new job as Vice President of WAVE spending most of his time at his plant in Shanghai and adjusting to the 24/7 life of working on the other side of the planet.  His email to our actual paid relocation coordinator describing his adjustment as "drinking from a fire house" fairly sums that up.  We're both very excited about all the possibilities over the next three years on our international assignment in Sydney, but we're both experiencing all the emotions that leaving much of of the good life we've spent 30 years building behind will stir up.  Today I told him we'll just make that life portable.

This is my first post on my very first laptop, a beautiful MacBook Air,  which should be super exciting for you too, because it means I can post while watching Wimbledon (doing that now, c'mon Venus), porch sitting with wine (that could be a whole new interesting twist) and from wherever I might be over the next months and years.   Bear with me as I have yet to accomplish the big data transfer that will save my iMac and enable me to open iPhoto again without fear.  Photos might be a bit scarce for a bit.  My IT department, aka Sara, and I are contemplating updating the look of blueskiesandlime.com and possibly migrating over to the visually superior WordPress format.  Possibilities.....

Last night some of my awesome tennis team mates came over after our match and we hung out in the kitchen eating snacks and drinking wine.  I have no one else to feed right now, so I brought out this and that for everyone to try and eventually busted out the Cuisinart and did a little demo on white chocolate pretzel peanut butter making.  I really need to teach cooking classes some day, for now please just enjoy the 263 food posts here and feel free to shoot me questions.  I had one bag of salted chocolate chunk cookies left in the freezer and everyone wanted the recipe so this is where we will start.  This post was sitting in the draft file just waiting for me to come back.

Sara was home for three weeks so you know there was baking going on.  Hands down, the best new recipe was from Bon Appetit for salted chocolate chunk cookies.  Even Tammy, who makes her famously good chocolate chip cookies, wanted the recipe.  High praise, indeed.  I was out of brown sugar (well, not out but somehow got some moisture in my canister and all my brown sugar turned into a cylindrical brick) plus I kept forgetting to put it on my shopping list in "notes" on my phone (and we all know that nothing happens if it isn't written down, nothing) so we used turbinado sugar.  That probably gave the cookies a little extra texture since it doesn't cream down like superfine or brown sugar.  Note there are three different sugars in this cookie.  I've only ever used powdered sugar in our Christmas cookie dough.  Seems to work nicely here.  I did have both dark and milk chocolate in my pantry and it was the good stuff: Callebaut from France via Whole Foods.  WF sells nice big chunks of Callebaut chocolate for $7.99 a pound.  Buy some.  And of course I had Maldon salt flakes to finish the cookies.  If you don't want to commit to a whole $10 little box of salt, come over and I'll give you a little bit of my stash.  Probably not moving the salt to Australia.  This recipe just makes 24 cookies which is probably a good thing.  Enough to share and enough to get your fill, but if it made 5-dozen you would have to freeze them or hide them because you would inevitably eat them all.

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher slat
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 C unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C turbinado sugar or packed light brown sugar
1/2 C sugar (I use superfine)
1/4 C powdered sugar
2 egg yolks (save the whites for meringues or an egg-white omelet)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
8 ounces semisweet, dark or milk chocolate coarsely chopped
Maldon or other flaky sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk flour, baking powder, kosher salt and baking soda in a medium bowl, set aside.  Cream together the butter, turbinado/brown sugar, sugar and powdered sugar until light and fluffy (3 minutes or so).  Add egg yolks, egg and vanilla and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (4-5 minutes), occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture (or you'll have a flour dust storm) and mix just until blended.  Fold in the chopped chocolate by hand with a spatula.

Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing the cookies about 1-inch apart.  Our dough was very soft, but the cookies turned out fine.   Lightly sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the flaky sea salt.  Bake until just golden around the edges, rotating the sheets about  halfway through, about 10-12 minutes.  The cookies will firm up as they cool.  Cool for a couple of minutes on the sheets then transfer to wire racks to ostensibly cool completely, but I know you are going to eat a few while they are hot.  Why else do you bake?  (Answer, to eat the dough which is why you may only end up with 20 cookies instead of 24).

Note that I made this again using all the various sugars and the cookies were still delightful, just a little pale compared to the first batch where I was out of white sugar.  Since I baked just for me, I divided the cookies into quart ziploc bags of 4 or 5 cookies and stuck them in the freezer.  I pull one out every now and then and eat it basically frozen and this is a darn fine cookie cold.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pick me! Zoobilation Twitter Team food blogger? Yes, please!

The posting hiatus continues as it's all my two hands on-deck prepping our gorgeous family home for sale by the end of the month before our move to Sydney, Australia in the fall.  Eeeeeee!  So many words, so many recipes (busy, but you still have to eat and we are hosting all the parties to enjoy all the company before we are on the other side of the globe) and it's all just going to have to wait until June.  
But in the meantime, I'm in a little twitter battle today with formidable (and appreciably younger) competition to be the Zoobilation twitter team food blogger at the hottest (and not just literally because it's in mid June) soiree of the season.  Cross your fingers and I'll keep warming up my thumbs for the twitter war!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

buttermilk love: Chocolate Brownie Pound Cake

I used to subscribe to all kinds of magazines when I had that great hour or two in the afternoon before the girls got  home from school and I scheduled reading and nap time for myself.  Please sense the wistfulness in that last sentence.  Good times.  But today I only subscribe to Fine Cooking (totally worth the annual $29), Yoga Journal (not renewing, but it's been a good read) and Oprah (after so many years you would think I would be impressively self-improved).   In a moment of hunger and weakness I picked up a Bon Appetit (probably subscribed to BA for 10 years, but so much content is available on Epicurious it seemed frivolous) because the cover had short rib pot pies and there was a feature on buttermilk.  Good enough justification that particular day in the grocery checkout.  I use buttermilk all the time in my kitchen.  My buttermilk brined oven fried chicken has evolved with the purchase of the Lemonade cookbook and is just amazing.  Ridiculously moist and tender.  I should probably share that with you soon. Buttermilk is awesome in smashed or mashed potatoes/sweet potatoes.  Fresh buttermilk ranch is not nearly as tricky as it sounds and tastes so much better than store bought.  I also love to bake with buttermilk to lighten up cakes and muffins.  It's a miracle ingredient.  It's not expensive, you can buy it in small quantities, it freezes well if you are super thrifty and it's got a decent refrigerated shelf life.  That becomes important when you are feeding only one or two people.  Amazing how little I could shop for empty nester hood.  Note the "could".  Hard adjustment.

This week after having to go 36 hours without solid food (routine maintenance over 50) and being sedated, of course I came home and started cooking and baking.  Don't worry, I eventually grabbed a down blanket, my iPad, the Apple TV and the cats and crashed into a Friday Night Lights marathon.  The day before I voraciously read the Bon Appetit magazine (reading about food when you can't eat is incredibly appealing to me).  I chose a quick little chocolate pound cake recipe and made a few adjustments.  Whenever I make chocolate cakes the best part by far is cleaning up the bowl and the paddle.  I'm not even a huge chocolate fan.  But brownie, Texas Sheet Cake and this pound cake batter are just completely irresistible.  I'm sure a whole serving of this cake was consumed in raw form.  This cake uses coconut oil which I buy at Trader Joe's or the 365 brand at Whole Foods.  I'm not paleo (obviously), but the coconut oil has it charms.  Still can't sell me on it's widespread use.  Too many years of the nutritionists warning us off all tropical oils.  But in this recipe it's delightful.  This recipe also uses butter and buttermilk so there are three fat sources (well probably 5 because there is also  cocoa powder and there are 3 eggs involved).  The three eggs are what makes this so rich and brownie like.  I'm not going to tell you this is health food, but it's better than the average brownie or cake.  At least you can pick your poison here.  Maybe you are in the real butter camp, or the coconut oil camp or the low fat buttermilk camp.  If you can't pledge allegiance to one over the other, in this case you do not have to make a decision.  Me?  I'm just for whole foods.  If you've been reading, you know that.  I'm blessed with a decent metabolism.  I've got cardio and strength training routinely in my schedule.  And I just believe life is too short to skip dessert.  So this little pound cake baked in a loaf pan really just tastes like a very tall brownie.  This one is topped with unsweetened natural coconut flakes and coarse sugar, but you could throw some chocolate, peanut butter or whatever chips or nuts in or on it.  Or just leave it plain.  A super tall brownie really doesn't need embellishment.

cake before oven, after this my day got a little hazy post sedation and recovery

Chocolate Brownie Pound Cake

3/4 C white whole wheat flour
3/4 C almond meal (you can use 1 1/2 C all purpose flour instead of these two flour/meal choices)
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 T King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer, very optional but helpful
1/4 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 C sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 C buttermilk
1/4 C unsweetened natural coconut flakes (bulk section at Whole Foods)
1 T coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, meal, cocoa, salt, baking powder and cake enhancer if using.
Using a mixer, beat coconut oil, butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).  Taste it.  Ha, don't.  But I always do because you know they fed me butter and sugar sandwiches when I was a toddler (times have changed).  Add eggs, one at a time beating well between additions.  Beat until mixture is light and volume is increased, another 5 minutes or so.  Beat in vanilla.
With the mixer speed low, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk starting and ending with dry ingredients just until all is incorporated.  However this works out for you is fine, just don't beat it too long.  Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle top with coconut flakes and some coarse sugar, if desired.  Bake at 325 for 70-80 minutes until a tester comes out clean.  You may need to loosely tent the cake with foil after a bit if the top is browning too fast.  Let cake cool on a rack about 20 minutes before turning out and flipping right side up to finish cooling.  Tempting to eat this warm, but let it cool or it will break into pieces if you cut it when it's warm.  You can always pop it in the microwave.
Keep cake tightly wrapped and store on the counter for up to 5 days.  Bet this would freeze beautifully too.


yummy batter that I didn't eat raw in my loaf pan

coconut and sugar sprinkled before oven
I'll make it again and give you a pretty slice picture

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

more sunny salads: Carrot, Avocado and Orange California Salad

This salad just has to be called a California salad.  All the ingredients would be fresh and local for my Kelly in LA almost year-round.  It's another salad that just tastes sunny. And truly this just seems like something I'd order in LA.  Greg was home when I made it at lunch the other day and remarked that it was all the things I love.  True.  He loved it too, by the way.  I've seen a few similar recipes out on the interwebs, but I think my spin is fantastic.  Give yourself time to roast the carrots and have them cool a bit.  It's great cold, but if you make a nice big bowl of it, it's pretty terrific a little warm too.  Serve it on arugula or baby greens if you'd like.  Grilled shrimp would be a lovely addition too.

Trader Joe's had the best rainbow carrots around the holidays, and I'm hoping I'll see them around again soon:  red, orange and yellow.  They'll be some of the first vegetables at the local (read cold-weather) farmer's markets which won't be too long now.  Any nice carrots will do.  If you buy them in young bunches, leave about a half-inch of the green tops on just because.  I had nice organic carrots without tops and just cut them into baby carrot size.  Oranges are awesome this time of year.  I used blood oranges because I love them.  Cara cara oranges are another favorite with their pretty dark pink segments (and you can get nice big bags of them at Costco).  Buy oranges (all varieties) that seem heavy for their size.  That seems hard to judge, but pick up a few and you'll get the hang of it.  Light ones are dried out, heavy ones are juicy.  You really should cut off the membranes, but that is ridiculously time consuming and I always waste too much orange, so just peel them and pull apart the segments unless you really want to overachieve.  Always keep avocados in your house.  Ripen them on your counters and when they are soft to a gentle push, put them in the fridge and they'll be just fine for 4-5 days.  Throw them in your salads, in your smoothies, on your sandwiches or burgers and on your whole grain toast.  One of the great joys of life.

Carrot, Avocado and Orange California Salad

4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt or Maldon salt (fancy flaky sea salt)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 C olive oil, divided
1 1/2 pounds young carrots, scrubbed (with 1/2 inch green tops left on or trimmed, your call)
1/2 C vegetable broth or water (optional)
3 tennis-ball sized oranges
2 avocados
juice of half-whole lemon (to taste)
handful of cleaned and trimmed cilantro leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Crush the garlic cloves with the handle of your knife and slip off the peels.  Mince the garlic together with the salt to almost make a paste.  Pour 3 T of olive oil on a baking sheet/pan and add the garlic/salt paste, carrots, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes.  Toss to generously coat the carrots and spread them evenly over the pan.  Roast the carrots for about 20 minutes, stirring them once or twice.  Add the vegetable broth or water, stir and continue roasting another 15-20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed and the carrots are nicely browned.  You can skip the liquid and extra roasting, just make sure your carrots are toothsomely tender after the first 15-20 minutes or give them another 10-15 minutes as needed.  Two-stepping with broth adds a little flavor and helps the carrots to be tender.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Peel and segment your oranges.  If you have any juice on your cutting board add it with the segments to your serving bowl.  Halve your avocados, remove the pits and slice in the skin about the same width as your carrots.  Run a spoon under the flesh and scoop your slices out into your serving bowl.  Scrape your carrots and their roasting spices off your baking sheet and into the serving bowl.  Squeeze half a lemon over top.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil as desired.  Gently toss and taste for lemon, salt and pepper.   Garnish with cilantro.

Serve on arugula or mixed greens if desired.  Toss in grilled shrimp if you're feeling extra flush.

roasted carrots and spices

sliced avocado and segmented oranges added to the bowl

tossed, dressed and garnished

Thursday, February 20, 2014

bright food: snow pea "spaghetti", corn and creamy lemon dressing

This whole vegetable odyssey is filling the refrigerator with so many good things for meals at home or on the go.  I love the glass containers with the snap on plastic lids.  So easy to find what I need in the refrigerator and they get so clean.  So aesthetically appealing.  Costco sells a big set of them for under $25, interesting assortments are always on the shelves at Homegoods (a place I shop maybe quarterly, but I they are reliably available at discount prices).  Another little obsession is Weck canning glass jars with the clip-on flat lids.  I have lots of little single-serve sizes and a few little jars.  Love them.  They are available at Crate and Barrel and West Elm.  I have kind of a thing against plastic containers.  Wet plastic containers out of the dishwasher, specifically.  I have no idea why, but they irritate me.  I pack my lunch or dinner for work almost always and my bag is ridiculously heavy from glass containers and a shift's worth of liquids (big fan of the Love bottles for water because they stay cold, maybe my Sigg thermos with tea, maybe a Vitaminwater Zero, maybe a Zevia Ginger Ale - our water at the store is warm and tastes like poison to me, again I will admit to quirkiness).  There are a lot of little shopping links in there.  Enjoy.

Anyway, this recipe is not in the Lemonade cookbook, but they make a version with cojita cheese (not easy to find in Indy) and I was pretty sure I could make a satisfactory version with the lemon vinaigrette I made for the Israeli Couscous with Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon TruffleVinaigrette.  The truffle oil is not necessary here, so if you don't have that bottle of liquid gold you're fine.  This is another very bright tasting dish.  We had a thaw the other day and finally cleared off the grill to make burgers.  We had oven salt and pepper fries and this yummy dish instead of a salad.  Good trade.  It's kept nicely for 3 days in the refrigerator.  You could easily double it for a party or picnic (might need to warm up a bit for real first).

Snow Pea "Spaghetti", Corn, and Creamy Lemon Dressing

2 C snow pea pods, sliced lengthwise into thin "spaghetti-like" strips
1 C frozen sweet corn, thawed (summer sweet corn, cooked and cut from the cob will be awesome too)
1/4 C lemon truffle vinaigrette
1/4 C plain Greek yogurt (nonfat was fine)
1/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice the snow pea pods into spaghetti-like strips (use a nice sharp knife and cut into the thinnest strips you can).  Thaw the sweet corn (or if it's in-season, cook your sweet corn however you like and cut it off the cob (2 ears).  Make the lemon vinaigrette.  Stir the yogurt into the vinaigrette until well blended.  Toss the snow pea strips, corn, dressing and cheese together.  Taste for seasoning.

slicing snow pea pods

nice blurry picture of the vinaigrette  and yogurt

ready to toss

almost done

feta tossed in

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back on the roll: Farro, Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

After the brief cherry dessert interruption (hope you tried it) we will get this rolling again with amazing, not that complicated but certainly not the usual dish number 2 from Lemonade in LA.  We could just jump right into it, but what fun would that be?  None.

It's sleeting outside which has totally broken my cross-country skiing streak.  Days on days of snow and adventures over my trails, trails left by the two other skiers in my neighborhood, unplowed streets and trails I blazed through at least a foot and a half of snow.  Do you know I live in Central Indiana?  We do not get snow like this, but I wish we did.  I may be the only one.  I love to shovel.  I love to work hard outside and get all warm inside.  I love snowflakes on my face and wind-burn on my cheeks.   I love this all because it's almost all optional.  I work in the mall.  I have a nice big warm home.  I have plenty to eat.  Rio, our older cat loves to sit in the windowsills and sniff through the screens.  I love to indulge him and open the window for a few minutes.  We both stick our faces in the window to feel and smell the bracing cold air.  And then we close the window because eventually the heating bill comes and that will take all the fun out of a little open window time.

So the recipe for this dish is another one that is served room temperature or cold and right now with the sleet tapping on my windows, it seems a little out of season.  But it tastes light and bright and is nutritionally very sound.  It makes a great lunch dish.  So different.  You'll need spaghetti squash which is easy to find in the winter (and don't be a squash snob, it's delightful here).  Farro is a trendy ancient grain that looks a lot like barley crossed with wheat berries to me (similarly nutty in taste too).  Trader Joe's sells it in a nice small bag.  Unlike the giant bag of quinoa from Costco that's lasted me a year (still trying to like it more).  Dried cranberries brighten up the dish nicely.  I upped the quantity in my version.    Pomegranate juice is pricey, but you just need a little bottle.  It's super tasty and good for you, though so buy a medium bottle for cost savings and add a splash to a beverage.

The cookbook I have adapted this recipe from notes you can omit the vinaigrette and toss the warm farro and squash together with the other ingredients and a pat of butter for a warm dish.  Gonna try it and let you know.  Have a feeling there are a few more cold days left this winter.

Farro, Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed (scoop them out with a big strong spoon)
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 C farro
1//4 C fresh Italian/flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C Pomegranate Vinaigrette
1/4 C crumbled feta or goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drizzle the cut side of the spaghetti squash halves with the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place cut-side down on a baking sheet (I usually roast things right-side up, but this worked great).  Roast until you can pull strands easily with a fork, about 45 minutes (the skin will be nice and browned).  Pull out the squash flesh with a fork and and place in a mixing bowl to cool.

Cook the faro by brining a 2 quart pot of water (with 1 heaping tsp of kosher salt added) to a boil.  Add the farro, stir and reduce heat to medium low.  Cover the pan and simmer until the farro is tender and the grains have split open or about 20-25 minutes.  Drain and cool (in the colander is fine).

Make the vinaigrette.  Add the farro to the squash along with the parsley, dried cranberries and feta.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and taste for salt and pepper.  Toss before serving.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
1 C pomegranate juice
1/4 C honey or agave nectar
1/2 shallot. peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
1/4 C or more of olive oil
kosher or coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

Pour the pomegranate juice into a non-reactive saucepan and place over medium-low heat.  Add the honey or agave and gently simmer until the juice has reduced to 1/4-1/2 C and is thick and syrupy (about 10-15 minutes).  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the pomegranate syrup, shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.  Shake of whisk to blend.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Start with 1/4 C olive oil and add more if you like the taste or appearance better.  I was fine with the smaller quantity.  Extra vinaigrette keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

Serves 8-10


squash ready to roast

roasted and fork tender

pomegranate syrup in the making

ready to toss

now we have vinaigrette and feta in the photo


Saturday, February 15, 2014

We interrupt our previously scheduled post for: Cherry Almond Crisp

Yep, half way through my next Lemonade/California post and I decide that we need dessert for Valentine's Day, I make something with what I have on hand and it turns out to be outrageously good.  So, we'll take a detour because we do that all the time.

Greg did take me to Petit Chou for their Valentine's weekend dinner on Thursday.  It was sweet and quiet there on a cold Thursday night.  It was also delicious.  So I cooked dinner Friday night after another nice ski around the hood after a (surprise) 5-plus inches of snow fell while I was at work.  Roasted asparagus with blood orange creme balsamic vinegar (splurge from Whole Foods that was totally worth it).  Chicken piccata deglazed with a yummy Chardonnay and brightened with lots of lemon and capers.  Salad, the basic kind.  And then cherry almond crisp.

Costco sells a really terrific big bag of frozen cherries with tart and sweet whole cherries that are perfect in my morning yogurt or muesli.  I've had my eye on that bag for a dessert too.  Almonds and cherries pair perfectly so I thought I'd go all nutty and use almond meal instead of flour in the crisp topping.  Bingo!  Ha, that was an unintentional pun.  Delicious.  One note, I do not have almond extract but I do have almond emulsion from King Arthur Flour.  It's thicker, but I'm pretty sure the pure extract would work just the same.

It's Presidents' Day this coming week so make a cherry dessert in honor of our first president.

Cherry Almond Crisp

4 C frozen cherries (tart or mixed)
1/2 C sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp almond emulsion/extract

1/2 C old fashioned oats
1/2 C almond meal/almond flour
1/2 C loosely measured light brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is nice)
4 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  I used an 8x8x2 dish but any shape or size in the 2 quart range would work.

In a medium bowl, toss frozen cherries (do not thaw) with sugar, cornstarch and almond emulsion/extract.  Pour cherries into prepared baking dish.
In a separate bowl, stir together oats, almond meal, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cut in the unsalted butter using a pastry blender, two forks or work it through with your fingers until some big crumbs form.  Distribute evenly over cherries.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Loosely cover with foil if getting too brown.  Eat warm with vanilla ice cream, yogurt of whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

I'll make it again and take photos along the way.   Need to get the whole light box thing working to improve your viewing.