Friday, March 16, 2018

Cheesy Couscous and Vegetables

I debated for a while about what to call this. "Israeli Mac and Cheese"? Seemed kind of bold coming from someone who is decidedly non-Israeli. "Couscous Mac and Cheese"? I have a problem calling something mac and cheese that doesn't involve both pasta and cheese sauce. So here you go, not a terribly inventive name and an unappetizing appearance, but a pretty tasty dish. I do a lot of couscous and veggies for lunch (often with feta and/or a vinaigrette), and this felt like a great way to step that up for dinner (while making it decidedly less healthful, which is kind of my jam). Like many dishes, you can really customize this - swap in black beans and corn, sweet potatoes and parmesan, even use farro instead of couscous. I decided to go with broccoli (one of my staples) and carry on the Middle Eastern theme with chickpeas, tahini, paprika, sumac, and parsley, in addition to my usual mac and cheese ingredients - garlic, shallot, and mustard powder.

Despite my claim about this recipe's healthfulness, it's actually not terrible - whole wheat couscous and vegetables (and at least the cheese sauce is homemade! Plus, as I always remind people, cheese has lots of protein). I think it would be a treat for lunch or dinner!

Cheesy Couscous and Vegetables
Yield: 4

1.5 lb broccoli
1 1/3 cups dry Israeli couscous
1 15.5-oz can chickpeas
Minced fresh parsley, for garnish
For the cheese sauce:
4 tbsp (1/2 stick or 1/4 cup) butter
2-4 cloves of garlic (you know I used 4), minced
1/4 cup minced shallot (about 1 medium shallot)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp sumac (optional)
2 tbsp tahini
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Cut broccoli into bite-sized florets. Peel stems and dice. Mix broccoli on a sheet pan with a few tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 425 for 15-20 minutes, or steam until tender - your choice!
  2. Cook couscous according to package directions.
  3. While broccoli and couscous cook, add butter, garlic, and shallot to a medium-large saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until garlic and shallot are very fragrant and butter is melted.
  4. Add flour to pan and whisk for 2 minutes to cook off raw flour taste.
  5. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly. Add spices (mustard powder through optional sumac) and tahini and continue to whisk for about 5 minutes, until thickened.
  6. Remove from heat, add cheddar, and whisk until smooth and melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Add couscous, broccoli, and chickpeas to the pot with the cheese sauce and toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with parsley.
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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sweet Potato Melts

I made these the day after making the Brussels sprout melts. I think this may become a lunchtime theme. I had plenty of bread left over, and I needed to use up more of my farmers market haul. Veggie melts like these are a great way to get in your vegetables and they make quite a yummy lunch. This one was inspired by my love of sweet potatoes fries with garlic aioli, and then I added some onions and parmesan because, well, I always do. Unlike the Brussels sprouts melt, this actually was planned in advance - I got the idea one day just sitting around, so I wrote in in the notes section of my phone as usual. Unfortunately, I was missing one element from my original plan that I think would have been delicious - I was planning on topping these with a little arugula lightly dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. If you have those ingredients, I'd highly suggest you give it a try (and then tell me what you think!). But I assure you these sweet potato melts are still plenty delicious without!

Sweet Potato Melts
Yield: 2 servings

For the sandwich:
1 sweet potato
1 medium red onion
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Garlic aioli (see below)
4 1/2-inch thick slices of hearty country bread
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
For the aioli:
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425. If you've scrubbed the sweet potato, you don't need to worry about peeling it unless you feel strongly about such things. Cut in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4-inch thick half moons. Peel the onion and slice in the same way as the sweet potato.
  2. Add to a baking sheet (or a rimmed pizza stone, if you have one) and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Once the vegetables are out, preheat the broiler if needed.
  3. While the vegetables cook, make the aioli: add the mayonnaise and parsley to a bowl. Mince the garlic, add a pinch of the kosher salt, and use the flat side of your knife to mash it to a paste.
  4. Add the garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice to the mayonnaise, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. The aioli should have a fairly strong garlic flavor.
  5. Spread a thin layer of aioli on each slice of bread1, top with the vegetables, and finish with the parmesan. Cook under the broiler until cheese is melted and browned.
  1. You will have leftover aioli. I fully expect you to roast any vegetable you can find and use the aioli as a dip.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Brussels Sprout Melts

Happy Thanksgiving week! I've got a very fall recipe for you today. I'd love to say that this one was premeditated, but the reality is that I went to make mushroom toast with some mushrooms I really needed to use up, only to find that I was a couple of days too late (RIP mushrooms, you deserved better). Fortunately I had some Brussels sprouts from the farmers market (I wonder how many times I've said that exact phrase?), so I instead threw them on top of the bread I'd bought for the mushroom toast. It was delicious! Even my sister (a Brussels sprouts hater) said so. With such a ringing endorsement and a small ingredient list, I'd suggest you make this very soon (a light Thanksgiving lunch, perhaps?).

Brussels Sprout Melts
Yield: 2 servings

1 small or 1/2 large sweet onion
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
15-20 medium Brussels sprouts
Olive oil, for the pan
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
4 1/2-inch thick slices of hearty country bread
2 tbsp softened butter1
Garlic salt (optional)2
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Cut the onion in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. Add to a skillet over medium heat and cook until caramelized to your liking3. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Preheat the broiler if yours is the type that needs preheating. While the onions cook, clean and dry the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them crosswise (you don't even need to halve them, in which case you will essentially be cutting thin circles off the sprouts).
  3. Add the Brussels sprouts to another skillet with a glug of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the sprouts, stirring often, until they are beginning to brown. Remove from heat and mix in the onions.
  5. While the Brussels sprouts are cooking, spread the butter on the bread, sprinkle with garlic salt, if using, and run under the broiler to toast lightly4.
  6. When the bread is toasted, pile on the Brussels sprout/onion mixture and top with the parmesan. Broil again until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Enjoy!

  1. I had some delicious garlic-chive butter that I made over the summer in my freezer, so I defrosted that and used it on the bread. It was delicious, and I'd recommend making some: add a pasted garlic clove and a few tbsp chopped chives to a softened stick of butter. Combine in a bowl and then re-shape into a stick. Roll in plastic wrap, seal in a ziploc bag, and store in the freezer.
  2. If you don't have the aforementioned garlic butter, a nice sprinkling of garlic salt over the butter before broiling would be wonderful as well.
  3. Caramelizing onions takes a long time! Some recipes will tell you 15-20 minutes, but that's simply not true. This is more like a 40-minute process. Fortunately, you can make them in advance and store them in the fridge for quite a while.
  4. Even if you like your toast dark, don't overdo it here. The bread will go back under the broiler once it has the sandwich ingredients on it, and if you toast it too darkly at first, it will burn.
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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Top Chimichurri

This was, improbably, one of the best things I have made in quite a while. I don't even like carrots overly much. I made the fritters because I had some (admittedly beautiful rainbow) carrots leftover from a stew I made (recipe coming eventually), and I made the chimichurri because I can't bear to throw out a huge bunch of edible greens. I did not expect the warmly spiced fritters to have such a glorious balance of flavor and texture, and I didn't even expect to like the chimichurri that much at all. I was worried the whole thing would be too overwhelmingly carrot-y - soggy fritters with a bland, oily sauce on top. But, improbably, I made them despite these concerns. And, equally improbably, they were unbelievable.

I could go on about what chimichurri is and how this is a twist on the classic, how you don't need to measure anything for the yogurt sauce or any spices for the fritters, and how my terrible nighttime pictures don't do them justice, but I'm just going to tell you to make these. Seek out carrots with leafy tops, rainbow ones if you can, and make these fritters ASAP.

Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Top Chimichurri
Yield: about 20 fritters (serves 4-6)
Fritters adapted from King Arthur Flour
Chimichurri adapted from Love & Lemons

For the chimichurri:
1 c finely chopped carrot greens
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil

For the yogurt sauce:
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt
Drizzle of olive oil

For the fritters:
1 lb carrots, scrubbed but only peeled if you're particular about that sort of thing
2 eggs
1/4 c flour, plus more as needed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
Vegetable oil
  1. Make the yogurt sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Set aside to allow flavors to meld.
  2. Make the chimichurri: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste on a cracker or small piece of bread and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  3. Make the fritters: Preheat the oven to 200 (or lowest setting). Line a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels and set aside.
  4. Grate carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Lightly beat the eggs, then mix all ingredients in a large bowl. The batter will not look very cohesive, and that's fine, but if it's really loose, add flour 1 tbsp at a time until the carrots look lightly coated.
  5. Heat a few tbsp oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once a small pinch of batter sizzles when dropped in the oil, you can start cooking the fritters.
  6. Drop batter by rounded spoonsful into the oil and press down gently with a spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes on a side, and transfer to the prepared baking sheet when done. Keep warm in the oven until serving time.
  7. Serve warm with the two sauces and rice, if desired (the sauces are fantastic on rice). Enjoy!
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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Butternut Squash Tacos

"Greater than the sum of its parts" is probably over-used in food writing, but it nonetheless is sort of a Holy Grail. To be able to take simple, easily available ingredients and make them into something delicious and satisfying is a pretty cool thing. I think this is true for a couple of reasons: readily available often means (relatively) affordable, using ingredients you can find at your local grocery store means you can replicate this recipe whenever, and it makes you feel like an awesome cook for just throwing together a few things and producing something wonderful (these reasons are mainly from a home cook's perspective, but hey, that's what I am!). Tacos are generally regarded as a type of recipe that fits this description, but I hadn't had much luck with homemade tacos until not too long ago. Truthfully, I'd only had a few really mind-blowing tacos in my lifetime, so I didn't have much to go on. Technically, I suppose, anything that is put in a tortilla and folded in half can be a taco, but having a few simple guidelines really helps. Starting with a flavorful, well-seasoned base of either meat or vegetables is a given, and from there I'd recommend only 2-3 toppings that each contribute something different. For example, these tacos have pickled red onions for an acidic, savory pop, ricotta for creaminess, and chopped cilantro for bright herbiness. Simple ingredients, but together they are magic. Did I mention these tacos are also cheap and filling?

Also, hello! At this point a several-month hiatus is becoming the norm (grad school...), so I figured there was no point in addressing it. I've got a few more things lined up that hopefully I'll get around to posting, including a few very loose recipes like the one for today.

Make these - warm, bright tacos on a winter evening are a lovely change of pace.

Butternut Squash Tacos
Yield: Honestly, however many tacos your little heart desires
Pickled red onions from Saveur

For the pickled red onions:
Half of a large red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1-2 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
3/4 c red wine vinegar
For the squash:
Butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used about 1/3 of a huge one for four tacos/one serving)
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Paprika and ground or whole cumin seeds
Minced garlic
For serving:
Corn tortillas
Ricotta cheese (or queso fresco or feta or...)
Chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Ideally at least an hour before dinner: Combine the onions and 1/2 tbsp kosher salt in a bowl and let sit for about 15 minutes, until onions start to soften and release a bit of liquid. While that happens, combine the rest of the pickled onion ingredients in a pint jar and shake. Add the onions when they are ready and refrigerate. The recipe says to wait at least four hours for using, but I found them delicious after just an hour or so.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. Toss the squash with enough olive oil to lightly coat and season with salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Roast until soft all the way through, then turn off the oven, toss with garlic, and return to the oven.
  3. While the garlic cooks lightly in the oven, heat a nonstick skillet over high heat. Once it is very hot, (very) lightly moisten the tortillas one at a time and cook in the skillet on both sides, until warm, dry, and pliable, with a few small brown spots.
  4. Add a few spoonsful of the squash/garlic mixture to each tortilla and top with pickled onions, a few small dollops of ricotta, and some cilantro.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Plum & Apple Dutch Baby

Bonjour de France! I am in Grenoble, France for two weeks to learn about interferometry at IRAM (a European interferometry observatory). I've been eating a lot (90% of which has been bread) and doing a lot of science. I won't talk about the science here because truly almost nobody cares about interferometry. And because I've been talking about science all day.

But food. That's another story. Grenoble is in the south of France, and while it's a reasonably large town, in some ways the culture here feels closer to that of rural France (which I've largely read about and gleaned from pop culture, rather than experienced) than to that of Paris. In part, that means that most of my meals have involved some glorious combination of potatoes, cream, cheese, bacon, and chicken. It's been a bit heavy, but to be honest, that's kind of my jam. Some days I've only eaten one real meal (either lunch or dinner), and then just some combination of pastries, bread, fruit, and yogurt for the other two meals. I've decided this is my ideal way of life (gratuitous pictures of said way of life below).

But I also come bearing a lovely fall recipe! I fully intended to get this out before plums were totally gone, but I suspect I may have failed. This would probably still be good with off-season plums, though, since they are cooked down until syrupy anyway. And it would be equally good with all apples. I've been daydreaming about this combination since shortly after last year's plum season (how many times am I going to say something like this? I'll probably have some great summer recipe ideas in about a week). It did not disappoint. I ate it as breakfast/dessert for dinner, but you really could have it for any meal or dessert (if you're going the dessert route - or if you're not - a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream would be parfait).

Plum & Apple Dutch Baby
Yield: 2 large meals or 4 small-ish dessert servings
Dutch baby recipe adapted from smitten kitchen

Dutch babies:
4 eggs
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted (let's be honest, I didn't sift)
2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp softened butter
Plum & Apple Filling:
1 tbsp butter
1 medium apple
1/2 lb plums (about 6 small)
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon, plus more to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and butter two 9-inch cake pans or oven-safe skillets1.
  2. Place eggs in a blender or in a bowl with beaters and mix until pale yellow.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined (I had some small flecks of butter and everything turned out just fine).
  4. Divide evenly among prepared pans and bake 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until pancakes are gloriously puffed and light golden brown.
  5. While the pancakes bake, thinly slice the apple and plums. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, and add the apples once it is melted.
  6. Once the apples have just started to soften, add the plums. Cook until slightly syrupy, then add the honey, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon. Continue cooking the fruit, stirring occasionally, until very soft and coated in a thick honey syrup.
  7. Remove pancakes to two plates and divide the filling evenly between them.
  1. I used an 8-inch skillet (because I don't have a 9-inch one), and my pancake puffed tremendously. I was a little worried about the batter overflowing before it cooked, but that was not a problem. It was awesome.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella

This one has been in the works for a long time. I really like the idea of making a panzanella where I grew the tomatoes and baked the bread myself, and finally my plants are giving me ripe fruit!

For those of you who are unfamiliar, panzanella is essentially a bread salad. Traditionally it was made as a way to use stale bread, but here we will toast the bread to get a little extra flavor. Though I don't dislike greens, it's nice to mix things up a bit (I've been eating a ton of greens since I often get them in my CSA box), and this salad is all tomatoes and bread. The vinaigrette is very punchy, which I think is necessary in this type of dish and also makes it quite refreshing. Following a brilliant tip from a Serious Eats article on the subject, I salted the tomatoes and collected the juices to add to the vinaigrette, which really made it pop. I thought I'd want some sliced red onion in the panzanella, but I actually found that it wasn't necessary - there was plenty of flavor already. This panzanella is "dressed up" because there are some extra herbs and chunks of mozzarella in addition to the bread and tomatoes. The mozzarella soaks up some of the dressing too, making it super flavorful. This panzanella is the perfect late summer dish!

Dressed Up Sourdough Panzanella
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Serious Eats and NYT Cooking

2 1/2 lb mixed tomatoes
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
12 oz (3/4 lb) crusty sourdough bread
6 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed
10 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 small shallot, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (if you want an extra strong dressing, you can even bump this up a bit)
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
A couple of big handfuls of basil leaves, slivered (to taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme (lemon thyme is great, if you can find it)
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Large dice the tomatoes and toss with 2 tsp kosher salt in a colander or strainer set over a bowl. Set aside to drain for 15 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, cube the bread to about 1". Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp but not browned.
  3. Set the bread cubes aside to cool and remove the tomatoes to a serving bowl. To the bowl with the tomato juices, add the shallot, garlic, mustard, and red wine vinegar. Whisk to combine, and continue whisking as you add the remaining olive oil (1/2 cup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the bread cubes and mozzarella to the tomatoes and toss with the vinaigrette. Gently fold in the basil and thyme. Let the salad rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until bread cubes are soft but not soggy. Dig in!
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