Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pecorino & pine nut stuffed artichokes

These stuffed artichokes are a special treat in my family. I think they are a lovey thing to serve when you have friends or family over because who doesn't find an artichoke to be delicious and fun to share and eat?!  I love a good interactive food.  These would be a gorgeous & impressive starter to a Thanksgiving feast.

If you want to simplify things, you can just follow the recipe until the artichokes are steamed, serve with some melted butter & call it a day.  But if you have a little extra time, I highly recommend going all the way with the stuffing - it's a whole new level of deliciousness.

Serves 8

4 artichokes
2 c. water
1/2 c. white wine
2 bay leaves
1 lemon - sliced
4 cloves garlic - smashed
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt

1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onion - finely chopped
3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2 T. butter
1 c. fresh, soft bread crumbs
2 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
zest of one lemon
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. grated Pecorino
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
lemon juice, olive oil to drizzle

Cut the stems from artichokes so they can sit flat.  Using a serrated knife, cut off the top 1/4 of the artichoke flower (usually about an inch).  Pull off the bottom layers of tough, outer leaves, and trim the thorns of remaining leaves with kitchen shears.

Heat the water, wine, bay leaves, lemon slices, smashed garlic, olive oil and salt in a large pot with a lid to boiling.  Add artichokes in a single layer, turn heat down to a simmer and cover.  Steam about 30 minutes until tender.  Remove from pot with tongs and allow to cool until you can handle them - about 15 minutes.

While artichoke are cooling, you can assemble your stuffing.  Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently - about 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook one minute.  Remove from skillet and place in a medium bowl.  Wipe skillet clean.

In the same skillet, melt 2 T. butter over medium heat.  Add bread crumbs and toast until golden brown, stirring occasionally - about 5 minutes.  Add to bowl with onion & garlic.  Add the chopped basil & parsley, lemon zest, salt, Pecorino and toasted pine nuts and stir to combine.

Remove the center, inner leaves and choke (the fuzzy, hairy bits) of the artichoke.  I use a small spoon with sharp edge or to carefully scrape the choke out.  Place 1 T. of filling in the center of each artichoke.  Gently spread the artichoke leaves apart and divide the remaining filling between them.  Place in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, drizzle with fresh lemon juice & a little more olive oil and serve.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Farfalle with caramelized onions, sausage, fennel & kale

When I talk about this pasta with my family I have dubbed it "the world's greatest pasta." I joke, of course, because the list of my favorite pasta recipes is long, but this is pretty freaking phenomenal. 

Now, I'm not gonna lie...not the most lowfat recipe.  It's not vegetarian, vegan, Paleo or gluten-free.  Delicious, yes. Satisfying, yes. Tummy & heart-warming, yes.  Perfect for a fall or winter night, yes.  And it has kale in it, so it has to be healthy, right?

Serves 6

3 T. olive oil, divided
1 pound loose Italian sausage

2 medium onions - sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 large fennel bulb - white bulb cored & sliced 1/8 inch thick
4 cloves garlic - chopped
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. ground fennel

1 pound farfalle
4 c. packed, chopped kale (bite-size pieces)
1 1/2 c. cream
1/2 c. grated Parmesan

Heat 1 T. olive oil in a 12 inch, heavy-bottom skillet over medium high heat.  Add sausage, breaking up with a wooden spoon.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned and no longer pink in the middle, about 8 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Soak up any excess grease out skillet with a paper towel, but leave the browned bits from the sausage. Heat remaining 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and fennel, cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.  **At any point, if it seems like the bottom of the pan is burning, add a couple tablespoons of water and stir to deglaze the pan.**  When onions & fennel have softened, turn heat to medium-low, remove the lid and continue to cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Toward the end of cooking onions & fennel, heat up your pasta cooking water.  Be sure to add salt!

When onions & fennel are very soft and golden blond color, turn the heat back up to medium high.  Add the garlic and cook one minute.  Add the cooked sausage, red pepper flakes and ground fennel.

Add farfalle to boiling water and cook according to al dente directions and drain.

While farfalle is boiling, add kale to the skillet with 1/4 c. of water. Cover and cook until kale is wilted - about 3 minutes.  Remove lid and let any water evaporate.  Turn heat to medium low, add cream and stir.  Let simmer 2-3 minutes.

Add cooked farfalle and stir to coat evenly with cream sauce.  Toss with 1/2 c. Parmesan.  It’s ready to serve - pass more Parmesan at the table if desired.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Chicken posole

I guess it has "cooled off" enough here in LA (80's in the day & down to a brisk 65 in the night - whoa.) to actually consider it "soup weather."  Here is one of my childhood favorites...

Posole is a Mexican soup/stew that involves hominy.  If you aren't familiar with hominy, it's fun & awesome. It's a large, puffy, slightly chewy version of a dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral lime bath.  The kernels actually undergo a chemical change and soften & expand into yummy, pillow-y hominy.  It can be found dried or canned.  I just use canned in this recipe for simplicity, but you can soak and cook the dried like beans if you have the time and inclination.  

Some traditional posoles call for pork, but this is a quicker version made with pre-cooked chicken.  It may be a poquito gringo, but it's delicious & nourishing & heart-warming a11 the same!  There are tons of pretty, flavorful condiments to add on top of the soup - it's kinda like dressing up for the whole family! Muy delicioso!

Serves 6

2 T. olive oil
1 onion - chopped
3 cloves garlic - chopped
1 T. chili powder
1 T. oregano
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. masa corn flour (use regular, fine corn flour or all-purpose if you can't find masa)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 t. salt
1 t. fresh ground pepper
3, 15 oz. cans hominy
4 c. cooked chicken - diced or shredded

Garnishes (pick your favorites): 

* chopped cilantro
* limes wedges
finely shredded cabbage 
diced avocado
hot sauce (optional)

shredded jack cheese
sour cream

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until transparent - about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chopped garlic and cook 1 minute.

Add chili powder, oregano, brown sugar and masa corn flour.  Cook 2 minutes to toast spices, stirring occasionally.  Add chicken stock, salt & pepper, hominy and chicken and stir.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer briskly for at least a half an hour, stirring occasionally.  If you have more time, simmer longer to let flavors mingle all the more but at a lower temperature (my mom would let this cook for a few hours on a low simmer).  Broth should reduce a bit and thicken slightly.

Serve in bowls and top with whatever garnishes suit your fancy.  Fresh lime juice & cilantro are a must!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Honey-roasted kabocha with ginger-lime creme fraiche

So fall is officially here.  Say bye-bye to the bins of peaches and plums (it's been real) and extend warm hello to our friends, apples and squash (charmed, I'm sure).  

I feel like sometimes people are a little afraid of squash and somewhat unsure of what to do with them.  This is an easy & awesome recipe with the beautiful kabocha (sometime called Japanese pumpkin).  It's got a delicious natural sweetness and a creamy orange flesh.  And the best part it, the skin is edible (and so tasty) so you don't even need to peel it!

This pretty pumpkin is cut into wedges & simply roasted with some honey & Indian spices.  It's served up with the most insane creme fraiche on the's beyond-words amazing and a perfect tangy balance to the sweetness of the squash. I love this as a vegetarian entree and think it would be a gorgeous dish for a Thanksgiving menu.

Serves 6-8

1, 2 1/2 - 3 pound kabocha squash, well-scrubbed
2 T. olive oil
2 T. honey
2 t. garam masala
1/2 t. sea salt

8 oz. creme fraiche
zest & juice of one lime
3/4 t. grated ginger
1/4 t. sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut kabocha squash in half.  Scoop out seeds with a spoon.  Cut each half in half again (into quarters) and then cut each quarter into 3 wedges, so you have 12 wedges in total.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey and garam masala until well-combined.  Generously brush kabocha wedges on all sides with spiced honey mixture. Place wedges, skin side down (so wedges are facing up), on a rimmed baking sheet that is lined with parchment or a silicone mat.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast in oven 35 - 40 minutes until kabocha is beginning to brown on the edges and is very soft.

While squash is cooking, place the creme fraiche, lime juice & zest, grated ginger and sea salt in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Remove kabocha from oven and let cool slightly.  Serve with ginger-lime creme fraiche on the side.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Spiced steel-cut oats with apple, toasted almonds & coconut

I was at breakfast with some friends the other day and ordered the oatmeal with all the fixin's and was reminded just how satisfying it can be in the morning.  Delicious, healthy... & filling!

This is my personal favorite way to yum it up.  When done right (meaning add lots of tasty, healthy toppings) oatmeal is a pretty perfect breakfast.  The key is to add a variety textures and flavors to what could otherwise be a bland bowl of glop.  You need a crunchy, a creamy, a sweet & a tart.  Generally that means a toasted nut, some sort of sweetener (I prefer honey - keepin' it natural), a dried or fresh fruit & a little milk.  And if you are me, a dab of butter, which I highly recommend!  I also love to add a little cinnamon & cardamom to the oatmeal itself for a touch of spice.

In this recipe I also include some toasted coconut (because I am obsessed) and a spoonful of hemp seeds for extra protein, omega-3's, etc, etc... My nut is the almond and the tart fruit is diced crunchy, Honeycrisp apples (I also love dried sour cherries).  I like to make a bigger batch of the toasted almonds & coconut and keep it on hand in an airtight container because mornings can be so rushed. 

Serves 2

3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. water 
a large pinch of kosher salt
1/2 c. quick-cook steel-cut oats
1/4 t. cinnamon
sprinkle of cardamom

a couple small pats of butter (optional)
1/2 c. toasted coconut-almond mixture (see recipe below)
1/2 c. diced Honeycrisp apple
a drizzle of milk
honey or brown sugar, to taste
1 T. hemp seeds

Combine water and milk in a small saucepan with a generous pinch of kosher salt.  Bring to a boil and add oats.  Lower heat and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.  When finished cooking, stir in cinnamon and cardamom until thoroughly mixed. 

Pour oatmeal into 2 bowls and top each with a small pat of butter.  Divide toasted coconut-almond mixture and apples between two bowls.  Top with a drizzle of milk, honey or brown sugar to your liking, and the hemp seeds.

Toasted coconut-almond mix

1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place sliced almonds on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, add the coconut to the rimmed baking sheet with the almonds and cook 5 more minutes until both almonds and coconut are lightly toasted.  Remove and cool completely.  Can be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Peanut butter-pretzel energy bars

This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in beautiful Santa Barbara.  39.3 miles in 2 bars were definitely going to be necessary!!  I thought it would be fun to make some nutty, salty-sweet ones for the amazing & awesome girls on my "team" instead of buying them.

I pretty much tried to copy a few of my favorite MOJO bars, and although they were all good, the actual recipe for this one came out the best (I'll work on the others, cuz they were all delish).  They are PACKED with nuts and not too sweet at all.  I love the pretzel-peanut-almond combo.  Don't the candy thermometer and talk of the "hard ball stage" scare you...they are actually pretty easy and cost pennies on the dollar compared to the price of just one bar at the market.

Here is a visual on the powdered peanut butter that the recipe calls for.  It's really fun stuff - would be great for smoothies, other baking, etc.  It's full peanut taste with 85% less fat!  I found mine at Whole Foods in the peanut butter aisle.

Makes 20 bars

1/2 c. whole roasted almonds
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 c. roasted peanuts
1/2 c. chopped roasted peanuts (it helps to have smaller pieces to bind the bars together more)
1 1/2 c. roughly-broken, salted pretzels
1 c. puffed millet or puffed rice cereal
2 T. hemp seeds
2 T. powdered peanut butter (i.e. PB2)

1/3 c. brown rice syrup
1/2 c. honey
generous pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla

Before you begin, lightly oil a large bowl, a silicone spatula, a 9 x 13 rimmed baking sheet and the bottom of something flat for pressing your bars into the pan, like a glass or mug.

Combine all the nuts, pretzels, millet, hemp seeds and powdered peanut butter in the oiled bowl and mix well to combine.

In a small saucepan (1 - 1.5 quart) combine the brown rice syrup, honey, salt & vanilla and stir until mixed.  Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reads 250-260 degrees - the “hard ball” stage.  Immediately remove from the heat and pour sugar mixture over nuts, mixing with oiled spatula, until thoroughly coated (work fast here!).

Quickly pour the nut mixture onto the oiled sheet pan and press to fill evenly.  Use your oiled glass mug to pack it down firmly.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

While still a little bit warm, invert your sheet pan onto a cutting board lined with parchment or wax paper (it’s a bit sticky).  Cut the whole rectangle into quarters and then cut each quarter into 5 bars.

Allow to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container with wax or parchment paper between layers (again, a bit sticky!). 

NOTE:  When taking them on the road, I’d suggest wrapping them individually in wax or parchment paper, and tying them with a cute string makes them even tastier :).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Late-summer salad with salmon & dill

So, I know I just posted a salmon recipe not that long ago (grilled salmon tacos with peach & cucumber salsa), but the local, wild-caught stuff is just so GOOD & FRESH & ABUNDANT right now, I can't resist it whenever I look at it.  I'm taking full advantage of it's season and will not apologize for it.  Plus, one can never really have enough simple, heart- & whole body-healthy recipe options, right?

I love using fresh dill with fish and I can't say enough about the cherry tomatoes overflowing everywhere & the perfect late-season corn.  I'm really wishing summer produce would never go away.  This is the end, this is the end, my friend.

I made this for dinner the other night and my husband & kiddos unanimously decided that this meal should go on the blog.   So, requested, dear family.  Enjoy!

Serves 4

2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 c. diced cucumber
2 green green onions - greens and whites thinly sliced
3 T. dill - chopped
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil
3 oz. crumbled sheep’s milk Feta (about 3/4 cup)
sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 pounds center-cut salmon (about 1 inch thick), cut into 4 pieces
olive oil
sea salt & fresh ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, heat water until boiling.  Add corn and blanch 2 minutes.  Drain and place in an ice bath to cool completely.  Drain well and place in a medium bowl.

To the corn, add the tomatoes, cucumber, green onions, dill, vinegar, oil, feta and salt & pepper.  Mix gently to combine.

Preheat grill on medium-high for at least 10 minutes.  Drizzle salmon pieces on both sides with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.

Oil grill grates and place salmon, skin side down, on grill.  Close lid and cook for 4 minutes.  Flip, close lid and cook 4 more minutes.  Remove from grill and let rest a few minutes. 

Remove skin, if desired, or leave it on and eat it crispy :).  Serve salmon along with salad.