Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mooooovin' on Up

Hey folks.

I have a new site.

That's Right. Check it out.

I've transferred all of my posts over and I'm kicking off the new site with some bangin' recipes for Green n' Yellow Risotto and Bananas Foster Bread.

Come and get it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Steph's Granola: Everything Mus(t) Go!

Sipped on day-old coffee (yes, day-old coffee) as I filtered through my closet...I have a large pile of cute clothes and ballet attire to give away. Come n' get it.

Started to read a book for fun. Made a space on my tiny porch for a towel and my body. Sunshine. Lovin' it.

Relaxing (-ish) sun-filled days complete with evenings entailing dinner + drinks + friends.

Can I tell you the truth? I'm not very good at this whole "relaxing" thing. But, I'm trying, and trying feels nice. Champagne helps. Champagne feels nice. Things in jars help, too. Things in jars make me want to vomit (too cliche) but also flirtatiously bat my eyes (jars=cuteness).

Granola is the name of the game right now. Why are there so many "Mom's Granola" recipes out there? Sure, Mother's day is coming up. Sure, I love my mom. My mom has never made me granola before. "Mom's Grilled Cheese" suits her better than granola.

Today I give you "Steph's Granola." Sometimes, it is all about me. Well, actually, sometimes it is all about using up the random accumulated food in your pantry/fridge before you move across the country. And thus "Steph's Granola" was born.

Steph's Granola was born out of multiple recipes and attempts of granola (and granola bars) as well as too many things that need to get used up before she moves out of her apartment.

Things I used up:
-leftover trail mix from Trader Joe's in which I had eaten out all of the dried cherries, cranberries, and pineapple and was left with cashew and almonds
-more almonds
-about half of a cup of leftover salty mixed nuts which I only left the brazil nuts and about 6 hazelnuts
-wheat germ (I have SO much left, gah help me)
-raw quinoa (adds a lovely crunch. I also recommend sesame seeds)
-a small pack (about 1/4 cup) of applesauce (helps with the "wet" ingredients and to add less sugar)
-the end of my cinnamon jar
-some almond extract
-used up about 1/2 cup of banana chips and 1/2 cup of choco chips that have been sitting in the pantry for about 7 months

More ideas that you may have to use up in your pantry:
-chopped candied ginger
-peanut butter
-pretzels, chopped
-mashed banana

Steph's Granola

adapted from multiple recipes, today from Food & Wine's annual cookbook 2010

Makes 7 cups

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1.5 cups of nuts (see above for what I used)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup raw quinoa
1 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted nuts)
1 tablespoon hot water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon agave (I think I used some random maple syrup made with agave?)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup or one of those small individual packs applesauce
a few shakes of cinnamon
a few drops of almond extract

add-ins after baking:
golden raisins, banana chips, choco chips (yes! I used up the little bit that was left of all of these)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a bowl, toss the oats, nuts, wheat germ, and quinoa. In a separate small bowl, whisk the water, salt (if using), honey/agave, vegetable oil, and apple sauce. Stir the liquid into the nuts to coat thoroughly, then spread on a large rimmed baking sheet.

2. Bake for 40 minutes in the center of the oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until nearly dry. Turn off the oven and prop the door open halfway; let the granola cool in the oven, stirring (I only did this for a few minutes because it was too hot to leave the oven open). Toss the granola with the raisins, banana chips, and choco chips. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Want more granola recipes?
-Extreme Granola
-Homemade Granola Bars

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Polenta Circles with Shrooms, Flowers n' Beans

Plating food on a square white plate makes me feel all fancy pants.

A drizzle of balsamic is my go-to for a finishing touch.

A sprig of something green (in this case, a snip of carrot top greens) makes all the colors pop.

Crisp browned edges are my weakness.

Hi dinner.

Polenta Circles with Shrooms, Flowers n' Beans

vegetarian, gluten-free

serves 4

1 large head of cauliflower, chopped
8 oz of mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tube of already made polenta, sliced into circles
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

olive oil

Heat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread out your chopped cauliflower and drizzle with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until nice and browned around some of the edges.

Meanwhile, heat a (cast-iron, if you have it) skillet with some more olive oil. Add as many polenta circles as can comfortably fit in the pan and fry on each side until crisped looking with a little color. Repeat with remaining polenta circles.

While the polenta cooks, heat a clean pan without oil and add the mushrooms. Saute for a few minutes. Then add some oil and sliced red onion. Let cook until soft and colored.

Add the beans and roasted cauliflower to the pan with the mushrooms/onions. Drizzle in some balsamic.

Serve next to or atop polenta circles. Use a square white plate if you're feelin' fancy pants. Or add a "not-so-fancy-pants" sprig of green to appear fancy-pants.

-Basic polenta
-Polenta cake with olive oil and rosemary
-Mushroom etc. and sausage ragu over polenta

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Drool-Worthy: Alice Medrich's Best Ever Cocoa Brownies

So I am going to describe something and you are going to drool. Ready?

Browned butter cocoa brownies with walnuts, pecans, and chocolate chips mixed in, sprinkled with flaky sea salt, and baked until a cracked in all-the-right-places top develops. Fudgey, moist, rich perfection. The sinfully sweet balance of gooey and chewy, of salty savory dark and sweet. Oh, and this is a one-pot recipe. And you don't have to clean the baking pan after baking.

How'd I do?

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter
Adapted from The Cilantropist, originally from Bon Appetit, February 2011, recipe by Alice Medrich

***My adaptions are in bold

1 1/4 stick unsalted butter (10 tbsps) cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 teaspoons water

2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans (I used a mix of pecans and walnuts), chopped
~1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Extra sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit, and line the inside of an 8x8 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving 2-inch overhangs and pressing the foil tightly to the sides of the pan. (If you like spray the aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray, though I didn't find this necessary.)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring often. The butter will first melt, then foam, then form more clear bubbles. Once the butter has only bubbles (and no foam) and there are browned bits at the bottom of the pan, remove the butter from the heat. Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt, and 2 teaspoons water. Let the mixture sit for about 4-5 minutes to cool, then mix in the eggs one at a time, beating quickly after each addition. Once the chocolate mixture looks relatively smooth, mix in the flour, and then beat well for a few minutes. Mix in the chopped nuts, and transfer to the prepared pan, smoothing the top before baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes or more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean - if there is still a tiny bit of moist batter at the very bottom that is ok. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, remove the brownies from the pan using the aluminum foil overhangs; then pull the aluminum foil away from the brownies and cut them into 16 square pieces. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Give me an "M": Matzo Lasagna

Matzo lasagna and a shot-glass full of Manischewitz wine. Good dinner. Good dinner, indeed.

Hey it's Passover, the Jewish holiday that remembers and celebrates the Jewish people's exodus from slavery. Good stuff. Traditionally Jews celebrate by having a big dinner called a "Seder" (Hebrew for 'order') where the story of this exodus from slavery is re-told. Then for 8 days it is common to refrain from any bread products except for matzo, which is an unleavened sheet of crunchiness.

You can make loads of awesome goods with matzo: matzo brei (aka matzo n' eggs), matzo pizza (aka melted cheese and sauce atop matzo), matzo granola, matzo toffee crunch, matzo spread with butter, matzo spread with cream cheese, matzo slathered with baba ganoush (eggplant dip), etc. etc.

Tonight I give you MATZO LASAGNA. It's just like regular lasagna but instead of lasagna noodles, I used sheets of matzo that I ran under cold water.

And let me tell ya, this is goooood stuff, especially when you turn on the broiler for the last 5 minutes of baking. Browned cheesy delight.

I sauteed some onion and dino-kale to add between the layers of sauce and cheese. Feel free to use mushrooms, spinach, summer squash, whatever you want.

If you are in a Passover rut, or just like matzo, or just like lasagna, this is the business right here.

Oh, and don't forget the Manischewitz wine. So sweet, so delish, so much needed.

Matzo Lasagna

I've have been making this recipe for over 2 years. I printed it online, possibly from "The Jew and the Carrot" although I have yet to find exactly where on the website.

makes a 13 x 9 inch pan's-worth of goodness
(8-12 servings?)

1 cup part-skim ricotta
2 cups non-fat cottage cheese
4 cups tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 large bunch kale
Enough matzo sheets to make four layers in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish, lightly softened with water (I just ran it under the tap water for a few seconds as needed)
Grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a saute pan, brown onions and chopped kale in some olive oil and set aside.

3. In a bowl, mix ricotta, cottage cheese, and some salt and pepper.

4. Spoon 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with one layer of moistened matzo. Layer 1/3 of the cheese mixture, 1/3 of the vegetable mixture, and 2/3 cup of the sauce. Add some salt and pepper between each layer. Repeat twice. Cover with a final layer of moistened matzo, sauce, and mozzarella cheese.

5. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, uncover and bake another 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted and beginning to brown (I turned the broiler on for the last few minutes of baking). Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Heaven in a mazto.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kiss n' Swirl Meringues

Little bites of heaven. Sweet, but not too too sweet, melt-in-your mouth heaven. 4 egg whites whipped up to make 2 cookie sheets filled-to-the-brim with mini meringues.

I experimented with different ways of piping.


n' swirls...

so pretty, oh my.

Egg whites, sugar, a pinch of salt, and a dash of vanilla make these treats have more of a toasty marshmallow flavor than an eggy flavor.

Springy, colorful, satin-like pillows of sweet. AND, these pretties are gluten-free, fat-free, Kosher for Passover, perfect for a light Easter treat, or just a sweet after-dinner delight. Love 'em, eat 'em.

Kiss n' Swirl Meringues

From EatGood4Life

4 egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
food coloring (all you need is 1-2 drops)

1. Preheat oven to about 200-250 degrees F. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment (or by hand), whip your egg whites with pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. SLOWLY add the sugar, about 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the egg whites form a lovely glossy shiny look. This should take about 5 minutes or so. Add the vanilla extract. Fold in the food coloring as you wish (I saved some white, then I added 2 drops of red coloring for pink meringues, then 1 drop of blue for purple meringues).

2. Spoon the mixture, a little at a time, into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe onto a parchment lined baking sheet.

3. Bake for about 1.5 hours, turning once while baking. The meringues should be dry and crisp and easily lift off the parchment.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pumpkin Chickpea Quinoa with Haricot Vert and Almonds

Oh hey, remember like half a year ago when I made my own pumpkin puree? And then I made mac n' cheese with it? Yep. Me too.

Well I froze a few large yogurt containers-worth of puree. I let one thaw out in the fridge over night yesterday. And today I added a bunch to some quinoa, along with some sauteed onions and haricot vert, chickpeas, and slivered almonds (I also added about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast for some hidden protein).


(I'm sort of sick of quinoa, though)

I promise that I will bake you something soon.

I promise that in addition to a tray of garlic-y rosemary roasted potatoes and cauliflower I will soon give you fresh-baked cookies.

I promise that I'll stop posting about quinoa and find another grain to fall in love with (I have my eye on farro...).

Spare me, for now.

Pumpkin Chickpea Quinoa with Haricot Vert and Almonds

Serves 6 (?)

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 small onion, sliced thin
large handful of haricot vert (green beans), cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup of pumpkin puree (or squash)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon cumin
salt, pepper
1 can garbanzo beans
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
grated cheese (Pecornio or Parmesan)

1. Prepare your quinoa. Add 1 cup of dry quinoa and 2 cups water to a saucepan. Boil. Turn heat to low/simmer, cover, and leave it for about 15 minutes until done.

2. Saute your onion in olive oil until transluscent. Add the green beans and cook for about 4 more minutes. Add the pumpkin, nutritional yeast, cumin, salt, pepper. Add the cooked quinoa, garbanzo beans, almonds, and raisins. Grate cheese over the top.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Roasted Beets, Sauteed Chard, and Quinoa Salad with YUBA!!!

I've been trying to cook quick, healthy meals for myself. For me, and for you.

Well, ok, a balanced diet can allow a chocolate chip cookie with sea salt sometimes too, especially when I bought it at a HUGE bakesale with all of the proceeds going to Japan. Yum.

And ok, I believe that a balanced diet also allows a trip to Oakland's newest mac n' cheese hotspot, Homeroom. "Mac the Goat" (goat cheese and scallions) and Peanut Butter Pie. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was phenomenal.

Alright alright, back to quick healthy meals. Today I took a walk to the farmer's market. I sat in the sun, I started to read a book for fun, and I bought some colorful items to cook for dinner.

Chioggia Beets (google image them, so beautiful!) aka Candy-Stripe Beets:

Red-Stemmed Swiss Chard:

Yuba aka Tofu Skins:

I roasted the beets with a little water for about 45 minutes to an hour. I chopped my beets and added them to my sauteed chard. I mixed everything together with some quinoa and black beans and topped it all off with my spicy yuba.

I now have a happy tummy. I've been needing this.

But really, can you please come over for dinner? I need some company and I want to cook for you AND I will do your dishes. Please. It will be fun, I promise.

Roasted Beets, Sauteed Chard, and Quinoa Salad with YUBA!!!

I listed all of the ingredients in italics before each step

Serves 4-6 (or 1 + leftovers!)

Beets, about 1 pound
red vinegar

1. Roast your beets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash and trim your beets then place them in a baking pan, sprinkle the beets with salt, and fill the pan with about 1/8th of an inch of water. Cover and roast for about 30 minutes to an hour, until a knife can very easily pierce the beets through to the center. Cool, peel (I used a combo of a paring knife plus my hands; its messy, don't sweat it), chop, and sprinkle with salt and some red vinegar.

1 onion, chopped
1 bunch chard
water or broth

2. Saute the chard. Slice an onion and set aside. Wash your chard. Pull the leaves from the ribs. Trim the ends from the ribs and then cut them into thin slices. Cut the leaves into wide ribbons. Heat a pan with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the chard and cook until the leaves are tender. Add some salt. Add a little bit of water or stock if the pan gets dry and the onions begin to stick and brown.

1 cup dry quinoa

1 cup water
1 cup broth

3. Prepare your quinoa. I used 1 cup of quinoa (rinsed), 1 cup of vegetable broth (leftover from making my polenta earlier this week), and 1 cup of water. Combine everything in the pan, boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 mintues.

Everything in steps 1-3 + black beans + yuba

4. Assembly. Combine the beets and the chard. Dump the quinoa into the mix. I added black beans because I had some left over from earlier in the week. Salt, pepper, vinegar (I used red), and top with yuba, or cheese, or nuts, or whatever the heck you feel like.

Monday, March 28, 2011

15 Minute Dinner. Melty Goodness in a Pinch.

Roasted broccoli. Sliced cherry tomatoes with a pinch of flaky Maldon sea salt and a drizzle of balsamic. Creamy avocado and sprinkle of black beans. Melty cheese sandwiched between two corn tortillas all grilled up in my cast-iron skillet. 15 minutes. Ready, set, go.

Roasted Broccoli

1 head broccoli, chopped
Olive oil drizzle
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place your cut up broccoli on the pan with a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper. 15 minutes. Go.

Corn Tortilla Quesadilla

oil (I used olive oil)
2 corn tortillas, or enough for however many quesadillas you want to make
Cheeeeese! (I used mozzarella and Pecorino)
sprinkle of black beans
sliced cherry tomato

1. Heat your cast iron skillet (or any skillet that you fancy). Add a touch of oil. Place one tortilla on the pan. Sprinkle your cheese mix and a few beans, 4 baby tomato halves, and 3 small avocado slices. Place the other tortilla on top. Cook, flip, you get it. Melty goodness. It's hard to just have one.

Don't forget to eat those fried cheesy bits leftover in the pan. To-die-for.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mushroom Etc. And Sausage Ragu Over Polenta

What a great weekend. French-style brunch by day, Scottish pub by night. Work making pastries by early morning, homework by early afternoon. Stretching in downward dog at yoga class and running out my pent-up energy in the overcast, beach-style weather.

I've made a mini-goal for myself. I am going to try to cook dinner BEFORE I get too hungry. That way, when I am actually hungry I will have dinner made and I won't snack the entire time I cook.

In addition, I want to save time by prepping my fruits and vegetables right after I buy them. I put my breakfast in a tupper-ware and take it on-the-go most days of the week, so I decided to make my own fruit salad to add to my yogurt or oatmeal. With a sprinkle of cinnamon, my fruit salad was complete. Now I can just eat as much as I want out of the big bowl in my fridge whether it is with breakfast, after dinner, or as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. I also chopped my celery and carrots into easy to eat pieces and I can just put them in a ziplock baggie to take with me for lunch.

Fresh Fruit Salad

serves 4-6

2 kiwis
1 banana
4 large strawberries
1 pear
1 fugi apple
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Chop all your fruit. Mix everything in a large bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon and stir. Spoon some fruit salad over your morning yogurt, oatmeal, or eat it on its own. YUM!

After my grocery run this evening, I cooked up a filling, healthy, hearty dinner that made leftovers for lunch tomorrow! I took this recipe I found in a CookingLight magazine and gave it a little twist. Thus I call this a Mushroom Etc. And Sausage Ragu Over Polenta.

Before I started heating any pans, I made sure that I had everything that I needed for this dinner chopped and ready. Then I began sauteing my chicken sausages in a nice hot pan until browned.

Once browned, I took the sausage pieces out of the pan and set them in a bowl.

Next I sauteed some onion and once the onion got soft I added my mushrooms.

After they got nice and browned and soft, in went the garlic, followed by some chopped asparagus and halved cherry tomatoes.

While everything was simmering I was working on the gorgeous creamy polenta. Then it was time to EAT!

Mushroom Etc. And Sausage Ragu Over Polenta


Cook the polenta while the ragù simmers so everything will be ready and hot at the same time.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup polenta and 1 cup ragù)


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage (I used about 2-3 Italian Chicken Sausages from Trader Joe's)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used a red onion)
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained (I used fresh rainbow cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth (I used veggie broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked polenta
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (I used 2 tablespoons plain yogurt, a pinch of mozzarella, and a generous grating of Pecorino cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon butter


1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Remove sausage from casings and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3-5 minutes or until browned, stirring. Remove sausage from pan.

2. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in sausage, asparagus (if using), 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium; simmer gently for 15 minutes.

3. Bring broth and 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta, stirring well. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes or until thick (mine took about 10 minutes or less), stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt, cheese, and butter. Serve with sausage mixture.

Nutritional Information

This is if you use the CookingLight recipe without my adaptations, but it should still be quite similar regarless
Calories: 428
Fat: 18.7g (sat 8.4g,mono 8.5g,poly 1.4g)
Protein: 18.2g
Carbohydrate: 46g
Fiber: 4.6g
Cholesterol: 53mg
Iron: 3.3mg
Sodium: 821mg
Calcium: 74mg

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Orange Cornmeal Cake

I love olive oil cakes. Love them. With cornmeal/polenta, with citrus. They are so easy, no fussing with softening butter, melting butter, or having to turn a blind eye when you see how much butter is actually in the cake that you are about to make and then eat way too much of.

Olive oil cakes are sophisticated. They are rustic and fruity and crumbly. This Orange Cornmeal Cake is made with whole wheat pastry flour, which makes it a bit dense, but I like that. Last night I ate this cake spread with orange fig preserves while sipping the most scrumptious blood orange mandarin tea. This morning I ate more cake with a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. What a treat it is to read the actual newspaper than to stare at my computer screen and read the news online.

Orange Cornmeal Cake

from Linden&Rosemary (thanks, Lindsay!)

**NOTE: You can use extra virgin olive oil in this cake. It will be more fruity and flavorful (which I quite like) vs regular olive oil's milder flavor. EVOO is also slightly more expensive. I struck a balance and used 1/4 cup of EVOO and 1/4 cup of canola oil. You can also use vegetable oil if you wish.

2 eggs
1/2 cup of olive oil (see note above)
3/4 cup of sugar + 2 tablespoons sugar
zest of 1 large orange (I used CaraCara pink oranges, because it was what I had on hand)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 cup finely ground (I used medium ground because I like the bite) cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used Kosher salt)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and spray an 8-inch round cake pan (I used a spring-form pan) with nonstick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, 3/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. In a small bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk lightly until just combined.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cake in pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and invert onto a plate. Re-invert cake onto a rack to cool completely.
  5. Serve with marmalade, and a warm drink.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Turn Your Gray Day to Green: Spinach Broccoli Soup

So much for a warm, sunny few days in Los Angeles. In all my years growing up here I have never seen such screaming rain (well maybe I have? but I've blocked it out of my memory). Sigh, Los Angeles needs rain, I guess they do. Rain turns things from gray to green.

My (gray) day today consisted of a (quick and pleasant) visit to the "gynie," a brief jog in the drizzle before the storm, finishing up the final season of Big Love, and making bright green Spinach Broccoli Soup.

Tonight my family had over an old friend for dinner. This old friend was taking care of me from when I was a tiny baby until I was 7 years old. She was 21 (my current age) and taking care of baby Stephanie. Crazytown. She now has her own baby girl who is not such a baby anymore but a beautiful sophisticated 5th grader. And tonight this beautiful sophisticated 5th grader ate the dinner that I cooked. She ate my spinach broccoli soup. She ate my grilled barbecue chicken, my whole wheat Israeli couscous, and my roasted balsamic green beans and tomatoes. She ate my homemade orange cornmeal cake with orange fig marmalade. This girl rocks!

Please try to find some green in your gray. It'll make you feel good, I promise.

Ok so this soup is thick and you definitely have to like broccoli to eat it. You also might need floss handy after you are done slurping. I really loved it as a mini pre-dinner course because you get the perfect little 1/2 cup of soup to start off and brighten up your meal.

Spinach Broccoli Soup

adapted from JoytheBaker

This served 5 of us a mini pre-dinner course

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 large head broccoli, cut into large florets, about 2/3 pound
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (preferred) or water
1/4 teaspoon each of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup spinach leaves (or arugula), packed
squeeze of 1/2 a lemon

For serving, more fresh black pepper and sea salt, Parmesan slivers

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan/pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the broccoli and cook for about 4 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green in color. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

Add the vegetable stock or water, lower the heat, and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the broccoli has been softened and is just tender.

Being careful and working in 2 or more batches, transfer some of the soup liquid and broccoli to a blender, add half of the spinach and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or another pot while you blend the second batch of soup with the rest of the spinach. Return to the pot over a low flame, check to see if it needs more salt/pepper, squeeze in the lemon and serve with Parmesan and more fresh ground pepper.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cardamom Ice Cream

My life is going to change soon. In just a few months, I won't be living in Berkeley anymore, I won't be living in CALIFORNIA anymore. I know it sounds crazy, but I need a change. And as we all know, change can be scary.

After 4 years in Berkeley I have finally made a dent here, especially in the food scene. I have compiled a restaurant list for the Bay Area (soon to become a blog post!). I am friends/friendly with and have previously worked with many chefs/restaurant owners/managers at most of my favorite restaurants here. A large part of me is ready to experience the east coast, ready to dive into something new and spontaneous. Yet, a hefty chunk of me has this nervous feeling, this unsettling anxiety about the fact that I have little if any restaurant connections on the other side of the country. There really is nothing else like the freshness of California Cuisine, the laid-back atmosphere of a neighborhood restaurant.

I remember coming into college, I had just finished reading Alice Waters' and Chez Panisse. I had a goal and that goal was to work in her restaurant. I was determined to slip into the Bay Area food scene, and that I did.

Looking back on some food memories of my Berkeley beginnings, I will never forget one of my favorite vendors at the Berkeley farmer's markets, the Three Twins Ice Cream ice cream stand. All I had to do was sample one of their most famous (and my absolute favorite) flavors, "Dad's Cardamom," and I was completely hooked (a comforting note, Three Twins is sold at some grocery stores on the east coast...).

Below you will find my recipe for Cardamom Ice Cream. I used a basic vanilla bean ice cream recipe and just added cardamom to it. Many moons ago a friend gave me a big bag of cardamom pods from Israel. Making this ice cream was the perfect excuse to use the pods.

Kudos to nostalgia, love, good food, and scary/exciting change.

Cardamom Ice Cream

adapted from David Lebovitz's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe in Ready for Dessert

makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6-10 green cardamom pods, split open and seeds crushed in a mortar and pestle (or about 2-3 teaspoons ground cardamom)
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, salt, and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the saucepan, then drop in the pod. Add the cardamom. Cover, remove from heat, and let steep for 30 minutes (sometimes I just get lazy/impatient and don't steep for a long, my ice cream still comes out amazing).

Pour the cream into a medium bowl and set a mesh strainer across the top.

Reheat the milk mixture until it's warm. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan (this is called "tempering"). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula.

Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the heavy cream. You can rinse your vanilla pod and save it to use again in another recipe.

Set the bowl containing the custard over a larger bowl of ice water. Stir the custard until cool. Freeze the chilled custard in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.

***WANT MORE CARDAMOM RECIPES? Pistachio Cardamom Cake with Slivered Almonds

Friday, March 11, 2011

Italian White Bean Soup

What is my favorite thing to cook? My answer is almost always SOUP.

I love to make soup. Soup is something that is soothing and will last me more one night (these days I am finding it hard to make food that produces leftovers, too hard).

My go-to soup recipe usually has:
-an aromatic base (onions, garlic, this case it is fennel)
-then just a vegetable and liquid overload of heaven
-I love to add leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard...)
-and some sort of grain (rice, pasta, barley...)

This Italian White Bean soup has no grains in it, however I purchased some gorgeous levain (French Sourdough) bread from a local bread company called Acme to go along with the soup. This soup is simple and that's that. I don't cook collards enough, and this was a great way to get my collards fix. I always like to finish off my soups with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some salty hard cheese. Mmm.

Oh and please try to find some San Marzano tomatoes. These precious rubies are to die for. Really, the taste is just so fresh and rich.

Italian-style soups are great. I have been slapping myself to make a lovely Ribollita soup and a nice Italian Wedding Soup. One of these days I will get there...

For now...Italian White Bean Soup...

Italian White Bean Soup

from A Couple Cooks

serves 10

1 fennel bulb
2 bunches of greens (anything like collards, chard, kale, spinach, mustard greens...)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes (preferably San Marzano tomatoes)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
2 cans of white cannellini beans
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt

Balsamic Vinegar, for drizzling
Pecornio Cheese, slivered and/or grated on top
Fresh Levain Bread, for dipping and/or slathering with soft salty butter

1. Chop the fennel bulb into a large dice. Wash the greens, remove the stems, and chop them roughly.

2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Saute the fennel for 5 minutes.

3. Add the 2 cans tomatoes with their juices and simmer for about 8 minutes.

4. Add 4 cups vegetable broth, 2 cups water, and 2 cans of cannellini beans. Bring to a boil.

5. Reduce to a simmer and add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1 teaspoon salt.

6. Add the greens and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Served garnished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, grated pecornio, and sliced levain bread.