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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Vegan "Mac (Fusilli) n Cheese"

Creamy. Cheesy (ish). Nutty. Saucy. All nestling inside of each and every curve of the suave fusilli noodle.

Sounds pretty sexy, right? Sexy vegan "Mac" n' "Cheese."

But nah this little dish is really quite modest, in fact. Especially since I added frozen peas n' carrots. From sexy to modest to good ol' comfort food. The cheesy-ness comes from making a roux with a vegan butter substitute (I am definitely a big fan of Earth Balance "butter"), some flour, almond milk, and...drum roll please...NUTRITIONAL YEAST.

What the heck is nutritional yeast? Well, to me it looks like nasty yellow fish flakes. However it does provide a quite lovely (yet acquired) nutty taste and it is jam-packed with B vitamins, protein, and all sorts of good things for your bod.

Some love sprinkling nut. yeast on their toast or atop popcorn. I have not gotten there yet. I have, however, found myself basking in the goodness of nut. yeast melted into a "creamy" sauce sans actual cream.

And as always with mac n' cheese (and pasta dishes in general), bread crumb topping or homemade croutons are always welcome and enhance the dish.

Now let's get cooking!

(thanks, Chloe for the great recipe, check out her awesome website)

Chloe's Vegan Mac N' Cheese

makes, oh, 8? servings (yay lunch leftovers!!!!)

1 pound of the pasta of your choice
1/4 cup of soy-free Earth Balance
1/3 cup flour
3 cups nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I used marinara sauce because that was what I had on hand)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder (I used fresh garlic)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
optional: frozen or fresh broccoli or peas n' carrots
also optional: bread crumbs or croutons

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. In a medium saucepan, make a roux by whisking the margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes (yes it looks solid and a bit clumpy, but keep whisking). Add nondairy milk, nut. yeast, tomato paste (or sauce), sea salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, then simmer the mixture until it thickens, about 5-10 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasonings to taste.

3. Toss the noodles with the sauce (and veggies, if using) and as Chloe says, "enjoy the sound of suctioning noodles as you mix."

Next time:
mmm some smoky paprika might be nice! or maybe some pumpkin puree!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Demo: Flourless Chocolate Cakes + Homemade Whipped Cream

6 cakes, over 150 samples, and a 30 minute demo in front of a large room of UC Berkeley students. The Cal Cooking Club.

I arrive a bit flushed from my hectic walk over. My skin is damp with a few drops of sweat, leaving my glasses to slip down my nose every few seconds. Alas, I made it through my demo without burning down the building and spilling chocolate on my blouse.

Flourless chocolate cake. This dessert makes it on the menu at work very often. It is just a simple, comforting, chocolatey delight. And it is such a great base for experimentation and dressing up the plate: Rosemary caramel sauce anyone? Creme fraiche with candied orange peel? Brandied cherry and slivered almonds? Pine nuts, whipped cream, and olive oil (a favorite of mine!)?! The possibilities are endless with this simple base. It could even be fun experimenting with different chocolates-I usually use bittersweet, but I would love to see what you can do with semisweet, dark, even milk chocolate!

Please. If you like to cook, if you like to bake, if you like to eat, do it, enjoy it. Keep cooking. Cook with friends, with family, with strangers. Go into a restaurant and chop garlic all day. Throw dinner parties. Go to happy hours. Go out and try some new food that you would never think to make at home.

Go home and make flourless chocolate cake. You won't regret it. I promise.

Flourless Chocolate Cake/Torte

(thanks, Kiri!)

9 oz. (about a heaping cup) Bittersweet Chocolate (at work I use Callebaut or Valrhona brand, but I am also a fan of Trader Joe's chocolate as well as Ghiradelli)

9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

5 Egg Yolks

½ Cup Sugar

1 ½ Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt

½ Teaspoon Vanilla

5 Egg Whites

In a bowl over a pot with barely simmering water, melt butter with chocolate. Let cool slightly.

In a mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with sugar until very thick and pale (you can also do this by hand).

Meanwhile, add the cocoa powder (sift if lumpy) to the chocolate-butter mixture with sea salt and vanilla.

Fold beaten egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks, being careful not to overbeat. Your whites will looks white and thick (you've gone to far if you start to see curdled chunks). Fold into chocolate mixture and pour into a parchment-lined 9” round pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F until edges are slightly puffed and cracked, and middle is set but just slightly jiggly, about 30 minutes. Let cool (cake will fall slightly). Cut into slices with a hot wet knife (I've heard floss works, too!).

May be wrapped well and refrigerated for several days. Serve at room temperature.

Suggested servings: with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or a personal favorite olive oil and whipped cream. Or add chopped toasted nuts (hazelnuts, pine-nuts…).

Homemade Whipped Cream

1-2 cups heavy whipping cream

about 4 Tablespoons sugar

In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip your cream until thickened and to your liking. Add the sugar and stir for another 10-15 seconds.

Serve atop flourless chocolate cake!

Thank you to Cal Cooking Club for this wonderful opportunity!