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In the Kitchen

Pecan Chia Pudding with Rum-Stewed Asian Pears

October 7, 2015

Pecan Chia Pudding with Asian Pears

I think I can officially say that, despite lingering daytime temps in the 80’s here in Palo Alto, it is now my favorite time of year– fall! Aka pumpkin season. Aka corn maze season. Aka the best time of the year.

This particular recipe may be pumpkin-free, but it still tastes like fall to me. Between the rum and the chia seeds, it’s equal parts decadent and healthy. Not that I’m much of a health nut. I may or may not have eaten half of my rum-soaked asian pears before they even made it on top of the pudding. No judgement if you want to do the same. They’d also taste pretty delicious over yogurt or oatmeal if chia pudding isn’t your jam.

I’m not gonna lie to you, this is one heck of a fancy breakfast. And by fancy I mean slightly high-maintenance. First you have to make your own pecan milk. Some of you may have stopped right there and said, “Forget it! Too much work.” Making home-made nut milk is actually pretty simple, it just takes some time to let the nuts soak. That said, feel free to use store bought almond milk or your favorite replacement instead for an easier prep.

Pecan Chia Pudding with Asian Pears 2

Pecan Chia Pudding with Rum-Stewed Asian Pears

For the Pecan Milk:

  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 cups water
  1. Put pecans into a bowl or mason jar and cover with water so all are submerged. Cover and let sit overnight or up to two nights in the fridge.
  2. Drain pecans and rinse. Add soaked pecans to blender with two cups of fresh, clean water. Blend on high until pecans are pulverized.
  3. Strain pecan mixture through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth to remove pecan pulp. Set aside pecan pulp in a sealed container for another use.

Pecan Milk

For the Chia Pudding:

  • 2 cups Pecan Milk
  • 1/3 chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, whisking vigorously to incorporate.
  2. Let sit five minutes and then whisk again to prevent clumping.
  3. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes in order for the chia seeds to begin to gel and set into a pudding-like consistency.

For the Rum-Stewed Asian Pears:

  • 2 Asian Pears, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp high quality sipping rum, like Ron Zacapa
  1. Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and heat until the liquid begins to bubble.
  2. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan.
  3. After five minutes, remove the top and allow to cook un-covered, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced and the pears are soft.

Spoon the Asian pears over the chia pudding, top with crumbled pecan pieces and cinnamon, and enjoy!

Asian Pears

In the Kitchen

Homemade Sriracha

September 20, 2015

Homeade Sriracha 2

Today I’m going to share with you my recipe for homemade sriracha. You may know it better as Rooster Sauce, or that ubiquitous green-capped hot sauce that young folks nowadays love so much. At it’s simplest, sriracha is a fermented blend of hot peppers, salt, garlic, and vinegar. Though it’s precise origins are not known, sriracha was used as a condiment in Thai and Vietnamese cooking long before it was popularized by the wildly successful Huy Fong Foods, which made the green-capped, rooster-emblazoned version that we’re all so familiar with.

This homemade version doesn’t taste exactly like the original, but what fun would that be? After all, variety is the spice (ahem) of life. Don’t mind me. I crack myself up. This version tastes a bit brighter, and depending on the pepper type that you use, can be significantly hotter than the Huy Fong version.

This recipe also allows you to customize the level of fermentation. I personally like the complex, umami flavors that are added through the fermentation process, so I usually let mine go through at least several days of fermentation, tasting every day until I find the flavor profile I like. Once you reach that desired flavor, simply add the vinegar, which stops the fermentation process and preserves the flavor as it is in that moment.

Picking Your Peppers

Ripe Red Filius Blues

Sriracha is typically made with fully ripened red jalapeños. (Did you realize that jalapeños eventually turn red if you leave them on the plant long enough? Now you know. Knowledge is power, y’all.) However, I am a big proponent of not making things the way they’re typically made, so my recommendation is to experiment with your sriracha recipe until you find the pepper type, or pepper ratio that you prefer.

I happened to have a bumper crop of a special little pepper known as the Filius Blue growing in my garden this summer, so I decided to use those instead of the typical jalapeños. Filius Blues are so named because the peppers start out a beautiful blue-purple color– at which point they are quite spicy– before ripening into a slightly milder, mature red.

Purple Filius Blue Peppers

Red Filus Blue Peppers

Filius Blue peppers are quite a bit hotter than your average jalapeño. Whereas a jalapeño measures in at approximately 10,000 to 20,000 Heat Units on the Scoville scale, a Filius Blue clocks in between 40,000 and 50,000 Scoville Heat Units. If you’re not up for the heat, or can’t get your hands on these relatively rare peppers, try substituting jalapeños, serranos, or Fresno chiles, for a milder heat.

Another trick for using extra hot peppers is to mix them with a milder pepper. In this recipe, I use half Filius Blues by weight, and half sweet, red bell peppers. The bell peppers help to dilute the extreme spice of the hot peppers, while also adding more available sugars for the fermentation process.

A Peck or a Pound? Weighing Your Peppers

Weighing the Peppers

One last note on experimenting with hot sauces before I unleash y’all on my recipe. I decided to write this recipe by weight in order to make it both more accurate and easier to customize. The ratio of peppers to salt is fairly important. Generally speaking you want to add 2% salt by weight to your pepper mash, or 2 grams of salt for every 100 grams of peppers. Knowing this ratio makes it very easy to scale this recipe up if you decide you want to make four times the amount, or if you decide to triple the ratio of bell pepper to hot pepper for a milder heat. Just adjust the salt accordingly.

Homemade Sriracha

  • 100 grams or approx. ¼ lb Filius Blue peppers*, stems removed
  • 100 grams red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 grams sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  1. Blend peppers, garlic, and salt in a food processor until it forms a paste. Scrape the paste into a clean pint-sized mason jar and cover with a paper towel and rubber band. It will only half-fill the mason jar, but that’s okay. The pepper mixture will rise as it ferments, so it’s good to give it some extra room.
  2. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 2-7 days, stirring the contents each day and checking to ensure no mold is growing. Bubbles should form on the surface within 2-3 days, which means your sauce has started fermenting. This where the rich, complex flavor comes from in sriracha. Try the hot sauce each day until it reaches the flavor you like best.
  3. Once the hot sauce has fermented to your liking, add the fermented pepper paste back into a food processor with the vinegar and blend until uniform in texture. Store the sauce in a tightly sealed container in a refrigerator. It will keep for up to 4 months.

*Filius Blues can be difficult to find if you’re not growing them yourself. Try substituting ripe red jalapeños, serrano peppers, Fresno chiles, or any other hot red pepper for a different heat and flavor profile. Experiment until you find the combo you most enjoy!

Homemade Sriracha

In the Kitchen

Kickin’ Pumpkin & Bacon Mac N Cheese

September 10, 2015

Individual Mac N Cheese

In keeping with our theme of spicy foods for September, here is a delightful little recipe I dreamed up for a white habanero-infused mac n cheese. It’s got just the right amount of spice, and with chunks of pumpkin and thick-cut, smoky bacon mixed into the macaroni, it’s a hearty dish to start your autumn off right.

Kickin’ Pumpkin & Bacon Mac N Cheese

This recipe is loosely adapted from Laura Macek’s award-winning Best Ever Mac N Cheese.

  • 1 pound of elbow macaroni or cavatelli pasta
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1 cup of raw pumpkin, butternut, or red kuri squash, cubed
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 white habaneros, finely minced
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 3 ½ cups whole milk
  • 2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ½ cups Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the macaroni. Remove the pasta 3 minutes sooner than it says on the package instructions. It’s okay it’s still a little al dente—it will finish cooking when it goes in the oven to bake. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pour cooked macaroni into greased baking sheet.
  3. Cook the bacon until crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Reserve 1 tbs of bacon fat. Crumble the bacon when cool.
  4. Sauté pumpkin cubes over medium heat in bacon fat 5-6 minutes, until starting to brown. Remove pumpkin, and mix into the cooked pasta in the greased baking dish, reserving as much fat in the pan as possible.
  5. Add butter to reserved bacon fat. Sauté shallots and minced habaneros over low heat in remaining butter until shallots become translucent. Whisk in the flour and cook 1-2 minutes more. Increase heat to medium and, whisking constantly, slowly pour in the milk and continue whisking until mixture begins to bubble.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar and Gruyere cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and pumpkin and stir to evenly distribute.
  7. Combine breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and bacon and sprinkle over top.
  8. Bake until cheese is completely melted and the top is slightly browned. 20-30 minutes. Enjoy!

This dish goes exceptionally well with Southern-style BBQ meats like pulled pork and brisket, which is how I found out that a little bit of BBQ sauce on top just makes it that much more delicious.

Individual w: BBQ

 

 

In the Kitchen

Holy Moly Habanero Guacamole & Salsa

September 4, 2015

Guacamole and Salsa

What goes better with margaritas than salsa and guacamole? Pretty much nothing. Which is why I came up with these spicy versions of the beloved classics to go with the Habanero Watermelon Margaritas I posted earlier this week.

Salsa and guacamole may seem like a no brainer appetizer, but adding a hot and unexpected twist to these time-honored crowd-pleasers in the form of minced white habaneros will keep your dinner guests on their toes and clamoring for more. So break out the spice and don’t forget to keep the margarita refills handy!

Pink Watermelon Margarita

A Note on Handling Hot Peppers

Real quick, before we dive into the recipes, I just want to remind everyone to please be careful when handling ultra-hot peppers like habaneros, scotch bonnets, and the like. If you’ve ever touched your eyes after chopping jalapeños, you know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’t made that mistake yet, trust me– it is not fun. I always wear disposable gloves when handling super hot peppers, and I highly recommend you do the same. Now, let’s get chopping!

White Habaneros & Gloves

Habanero Tomato Salsa

Habanero Tomato Salsa

This salsa is fresh and light, with a mild heat.

  • 3 cups diced tomatoes, approx. 5-6 small tomatoes
  • ¼ cup packed cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 habanero, sliced thin, seeds and all
  • ¼ tsp cumin powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • juice of one lime

Pulse everything in a blender or food processor until it reaches your desired consistency. Refrigerate for an hour before serving to allow flavors to meld together.

Holy Moly Habanero Guacamole

This guacamole gets a lovely hint of sweetness from the mango, and a bit of heat from the seedless habaneros. Spoon lavishly onto corn chips and dunk into the Habanero Salsa for added heat.

Guacamole

  • 4 large avocados
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 mango, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 white habanero, seeds removed and minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Scoop avocado flesh into a large bowl and mash together until it reaches your desired consistency. Squeeze lime juice into bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

To store guacamole, cover with saran wrap and press wrap down so that it touches the surface of the guacamole to prevent discoloration.

Enjoy!

Habanero Guacamole and Salsa

In the Kitchen

Habanero and Watermelon Margaritas

August 31, 2015

Pink Watermelon Margarita

Looking for a perfect beverage to get you through the final days of summer? Look no further. This watermelon and habanero margarita perfectly matches the weather as we head into the first days of fall. It starts off cool and refreshing with a hint of sweetness from the watermelon, just like those first crisp days of September. Then the habanero kicks in, like a late summer heatwave, just when you thought you were through with all that. It’s sassy, sultry, and definitely not for the faint of heart.

My summer garden is beginning the slow descent into dormancy for the winter, but my hot pepper plants are just starting to ripen into their final fiery colors: white habaneros, orange scotch bonnets, red and purple Filius Blues, and the mother of all things spicy– ghost peppers.

White Habaneros

Scotch Bonnets

Filius Blue Peppers

Ghost Peppers

As they’ve started to ripen, first one by one, and then two by two, and now all in a jumbled mess of super-heat, I’ve started to panic. When one or two habaneros is enough to bring a pot of chili to my perfect heat level, how on earth am I possibly going to eat the dozens of peppers that are practically dripping off my plants? I’ve had to get creative to find new places to sneak in the heat. This watermelon habanero margarita is the first of a string of hot pepper recipes I’ll be posting over the coming month, so keep your eyes peeled for a host of tongue-tingling recipes as part of my new month-long series: September Spice!

White Habanero Watermelon Margaritas

Serves 6, or 4 thirsty individuals.

Not sure if you can take the heat? Don’t worry. These margaritas are the perfect blend of sweet and sour with just a hint of spice. But if it’s still too much you can modify the recipe to use a jalapeño instead, or omit the peppers altogether. You can make these with traditional red or pink watermelon, or try it with an heirloom yellow watermelon for a fun twist! Or be like me and make both!

Margaritas

To make the Habanero Tequila:

Infusing the Tequila

  • 2 cups tequila
  • 1 white habanero, sliced into rounds

Place habanero slices in a pint-sized mason jar or other sealable container. Pour tequila over top and seal. Let sit for 4 hours or overnight. Strain out habanero pieces before using.

To make the Margaritas:

More Margarita Ingredients

Margarita Ingredients

  • 1 cup habanero tequila
  • ¾ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 3 oz Cointreau
  • 1 oz agave syrup
  • 6 cups cubed watermelon, orange or pink
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Add all ingredients to a blender and whiz until smooth. Strain to removed watermelon pulp, or leave as is for a little extra texture. Pour over ice and enjoy with some salsa and guac!

Yellow Watermelon Margarita

In the Kitchen

Dill Cucumber Spears

August 10, 2015
Cucumber dill pickle spears ready to be bottled

Eat Your Flowers

Did you know that dill flowers are edible?

They tend to get a bad rap because, as with all annuals, the appearance of flowers is a sure sign that your dill plant is about to kick the bucket. The flowers, though a harbinger of impending death, actually have a lot going for them. They’re wonderful pollinator-attractors– bees, in particular, are big fans– and if you leave the flowers to set seed, you can harvest the seeds for use in breads, spice rubs, and seafood dishes. You can also use the flowers fresh, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating one whole, they can be used with great effect to flavor pickles and soups– anywhere where you would like a subtle hint of dill.

I recently came across a bunch of flowering dill at my farmer’s market and was immediately seized with the need to make dill pickles.

Dill Flower

I’ve been getting cucumbers almost every week in my CSA box, and though I feel like a gardening fraud to admit it, I’m not really that big of a cucumber fan. I’ve gotten better at eating cucumbers, especially if they’re liberally dunked in hummus, but I still much prefer them in their pickled form. So when I got a bunch of pickling cucumbers in my CSA box the very same week that flowering dill appeared at the farmer’s market, I took it as a sign that it was time to get a’ picklin’!

Cucumber Pickles

Recipe: Cucumber Dill Pickle Spears

This recipe makes one quart jar of pickle spears.

These pickles are incredibly easy to make, and will last for 2-3 weeks in the fridge, though I’ve eaten them up to a month after making them, with no sign of deterioration of quality.

  • 2 large kirby cucumbers
  • 2 flowering dill heads*
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  1. Wash the cucumbers well, rubbing off any spines. Cut off the stem and blossom ends, and quarter lengthwise. Pack the spears into a clean quart-sized mason jar, trimming as needed to ensure they fit inside with a bit of room to spare at the top.
  2. Add the dill flower heads, spices, and garlic to the mason jar.
  3. Bring the salt, water, and white wine vinegar to a boil on the stove. Pour the boiling brine over the cucumbers to cover. Seal the jars and store in the refrigerator for a week before eating, to allow the flavors to meld together. Enjoy!

* If you can’t find dill flowers, you can simply substitute a sprig of dill leaves instead.

 

Cucumber Dill Spear

In the Kitchen

CSA Saturday

July 25, 2015
All of the beautiful produce that came in my CSA box

It’s been an excellent seven days in the kitchen, and I’m so excited to share my CSA-inspired meal ideas of the week with you today on this lovely CSA Saturday. Last Saturday’s box came packed to the gills with plums, tomatoes, green beans, red onions, jalapeños, a cantaloupe, and an Armenian cucumber. Many of these are repeat visitors as you may recall from previous CSA Saturdays, but I like to keep things fresh and exciting so read on to see what new things I made with them this week!

Let’s break it down.

Cucumber

I had big plans for this cucumber. He was going to get cooked (cooked!) with honey and rice vinegar and other exciting flavors. And then I ate him raw instead, without doing a single fancy cooking thing. I’m a barbarian like that.

Plums, Melon

Melon and Plum Salad

Juicy ripe cantaloupe and crimson plums played nicely with fig wedges and slices of the tiny tart apples I picked during an excursion to the Taylor Street Farm in San Jose this past Sunday. This tiny, tucked away urban farm is located practically beneath the 87 freeway exit for Taylor Street in San Jose. It’s a joy to wander around in– a tiny oasis in the city– and even has a U-Pick option for families who want to stop by and snag some local veggies and show the kids how food is grown. I couldn’t have made this tasty little fruit salad breakfast bowl without ’em! Of course, the melon and plums helped too.

Green Beans

Glazing the Beans

I recently picked up a copy of one of my favorite food & garden blogger’s cookbooks, and found myself cooking my way through several of her recipes this week, with a few tweaks and edits of my own (I can’t help myself! I’m a tinkerer.) These lovely balsamic-glazed green beans came from The CSA Cookbook by Linda Ly. I have to say, I’m a huge fan! Both of the beans, and the book. If you’ve enjoyed my CSA Saturday series, you will definitely enjoy her cookbook, which focuses on how to use all of a garden’s bounty, including some of the underutilized and under-appreciated parts of plants, like tomato leaves and watermelon rind, both of which are totally edible! Who knew?

Balsamic Roasted Green Beans

Slicing Tomatoes

My tomatoes were so ripe when they arrived this week that some of them were already starting to split and run by Sunday, which meant I needed to use them ASAP! I sliced up the ripest of the lot and cooked them in a galette with the last of my homemade (frozen) pesto from my very first CSA box, three weeks ago. This recipe was also inspired by the CSA Cookbook. My main innovation was to swap out the ricotta the original recipe called for with goat cheese, and to drizzle a little local honey over the pie before serving, which kicked it up a notch and lent a subtle sweetness to the otherwise super savory dish.

Tomato Tart

The remaining tomatoes went into the freezer to keep them from spoiling, but reappeared later in the week in the form of a soup.

Cherry Tomatoes, Frozen Slicing Tomatoes

Cream of tomato soup. It’s a classic. You can’t really go wrong. You don’t even need a recipe. I just threw all my remaining tomatoes– both cherry and large– into a pot with some garlic and Italian herbs and simmered until I was ready to eat. Then I just added a dash of heavy cream and whizzed it all up with my immersion blender. I didn’t measure a thing and it was delicious.

Tomato Soup

Jalapeños 

I’ve got one word for you: chilaquiles. I vaguely followed this recipe, but I used all three of the jalapeños that came in my CSA box, and I roasted them and the tomatillos in the oven before blending them into the salsa verde. Once again, I didn’t measure a thing, so don’t worry about sticking too close to the recipe. Measuring is overrated. (Says the person who finds carpentry particularly challenging).

Chilaquiles

Red Onion

Making the Quinoa Cakes

I could think of no higher calling for red onion than cheesy quinoa cakes. Mince half of an onion and chuck it into a bowl with 3 cups of cooked quinoa, some chopped green onions, 2 beaten eggs, somewhere in the ballpark of 1/4 cup of flour (enough to hold the batter together), and a hefty handful each of goat cheese and cheddar. Form the resulting batter into rounds about 1/4 cup in volume and fry over high heat with olive oil, and you’ve got yourself a light and lovely vegetarian lunch.

Grilling the Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa Cakes

Bon appetit!

Bon Appetit

 

In the Kitchen

CSA Saturday

July 11, 2015

Whew! Is it Saturday again? Time does fly when you’re cooking up a storm. Welcome to the 3rd edition of CSA Saturday. Let’s jump in, shall we?


CSA Produce

This week I came home with corn, more peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, an onion, and a melon. Not pictured here– potatoes. Those naughty potatoes jumped right into a pot before I could photograph them with their vegetable brethren, but fear not! I have provided photographic evidence of their existence below!

Zucchini & Cherry Tomatoes

It happened to be the 4th of July when I picked up my box, so a good portion of our produce ended up either on the grill or on top of something that got grilled.

Can you spot the zucchini amongst the madness?

Zucchini

Check out those grill marks! Yum!

After being grilled, the leftover zucchini got chopped up and added to a simple pasta dish with egg noodles, olive oil, the cherry tomatoes, grilled chicken, and a hearty grating of parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Tomato Pasta

Onion

Like much of our produce this week, the onion succumbed to Fourth of July preparations. Here it is, caramelized to perfection and ready to be piled high atop many a burger or brat.

Onion

Potatoes

Aha! There are the sneaky potatoes, running off before the group picture.

Sneaky Potatoes

As punishment for their sneakery, they got cut into cubes, steamed, and smothered in potato salad fixin’s. A just punishment, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Potato Salad

Melon

Sliced and devoured. Sometimes it’s the simple things.

Peppers, Tomatoes, Corn

The peppers, several of the tomatoes, and the corn made their way into my Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers, which I posted a recipe for earlier this week.

Roasted Peppers

Tomatoes

The remaining tomatoes that weren’t sliced onto burgers or cooked into stuffed peppers ended up making it into one of my very favorite summertime dishes– an open-faced tomato sandwich. It’s as easy to make as it is to eat, and boy is it easy to eat. You may not be able to tell in this photo but there is bread under that stack of tomatoes!

Tomato Sandwich

The essentials: a  slab of good crusty bread, mayo, salt, tomatoes. As much as I can be a purist about my tomato sandwiches, I also have been known to mix it up form time to time, and this is an easy sandwich to customize. Swap out plain french bread for sourdough, whole wheat, or, as I did in this case, kalamata olive-studded. Add cheese. Add avocado. Drizzle with balsamic. Top with basil. With so many options, tomato sandwiches are an easy, tasty option for lunch or dinner that I never tire of.

That’s it for this week folks. Happy eating!

There will be no CSA Saturday next week as I will be away traveling and unable to cook for a week. CSA Saturday will return the following week with new recipe ideas and suggestions for making the best of your vegetable bounty!

In the Kitchen

How to Roast Garlic

July 9, 2015

Roasted garlic was the star of many a meal in my apartment last week, after I received three heads in my CSA box, and today I’m going to give you my top secret (not actually secret at all) recipe. If you’ve never roasted garlic before then you, my friend, are in for a treat!

Start by hacking off the pointy tip of each head like so. The idea is expose the top of each of the cloves.

Cut Garlic

Swipe a bit of oil on the bottom of your roasting pan, then arrange your cloves, root side down in the pan. No need to peel the head or cut off the roots. It’s all groovy.

Next, drizzle some olive oil over the top, making sure to get some in and around all the cloves. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on there. I prefer to use sea salt or kosher salt, but feel free to use whatever your heart tells you. I’m a firm advocate of following your heart, especially in culinary matters.

Ready to Roast

Almost ready! All that’s left now is to cover your roasting pan with aluminum foil and pop it into a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Voila! Roasted garlic. Easy as pie. Easier, actually. None of those pesky pie crusts to mess with.

Roasty Toasty Garlic

To get to the ooey gooey melted deliciousness that was once a humble garlic clove, grab the head at the base and give it a good squeeze. The cloves should pop right out. What you do with them next is only limited by your imagination. May I suggest a hearty roasted garlic and potato soup? Perhaps a pasta sauce with a secret garlicky surprise? Whatever you choose, I bet you won’t be disappointed.

Happy roasting!

 

In the Kitchen

Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

July 6, 2015

Remember how I told you I had a special recipe in the works that I was saving my chives for? Well, this is it. Full Belly Farm, the farm that I get my CSA from, asked me to contribute a recipe to their weekly newsletter for next week!

I was so excited by the opportunity to put together a special recipe that showcases a number of the seasonal products that will be in all the Full Belly CSA boxes this coming week. I wanted to make something that would be accessible regardless of dietary restrictions, so whether you’re vegetarian or gluten-free, this recipe should work for you! I think you’ll like it. I know I do. So, without further ado, here’s my take on a spicy vegetarian stuffed pepper dish using Full Belly Farm‘s Flamingo peppers, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and chives.

Corn & Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 4 Flamingo peppers*
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3-4 small tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped finely
  • ½ – 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped finely
  • ½ bunch of chives, minced (approx. 1/3 cup)**
  • ½ cup instant grits
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese
  • ¾ tbsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut off the top half inch of the peppers and remove the cores and seeds from inside. Slice a tiny sliver off the bottom of each pepper, if necessary, to get it to stand upright. Stand peppers in a rimmed, greased baking pan or ovenproof pot.
  3. Roughly chop the tomatoes into cubes, and cook on the stove over medium heat with a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until the juices release and the flesh starts to fall apart (5-10 minutes). Remove from heat and let sit.
  4. Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add cooked tomatoes and mix until evenly moistened. Spoon mixture into hollowed out peppers until full. Replace pepper tops and cover the entire pan with tin foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Serve warm. Don’t worry if the peppers get a little bit charred and wrinkly looking—they’ll still taste great!

* This recipe makes more than enough stuffing for four average-sized peppers. I personally like to cook the extra stuffing in a separate pan. It gets nice and crispy and you can serve it with the peppers for those that enjoy a higher filling-to-pepper ratio, but you could also buy two extra peppers and stuff those instead.

** You can substitute scallions for the chives in this recipe.

Roasted Peppers

I hope you enjoy my recipe for vegetarian stuffed peppers! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

In the Kitchen

Happy 4th & a CSA Saturday

July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day! I hope your day is filled with good friends, good times, and most importantly, good food. Which brings us right to the point of today’s post because it’s that time again– time for another CSA Saturday!

As far as I’m concerned, it’s not summer until I’ve bitten into the first vine-ripened tomato of the season, which makes June 27th my personal first day of summer, since that’s when I got the first tomato in my CSA box. It was beautiful– not quite round, not quite red, completely delicious. It transformed, almost like magic, into a decadent pizza with almost no input on my behalf. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s a take a look at what else arrived in my box this week.

CSA Produce

Bell peppers, tomatoes, and corn, oh my! The trifecta of summer. Not to mention that juicy honeydew melon. I’m not talking about those bland watery green balls you buy at the supermarket. We’re talking sweet, delicious honey-flavored flesh. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Excuse me while I go cut off a slice…

…and we’re back. What else? Let’s see. We’ve got some kirby cucumbers, a mess of green beans, three heads of garlic, and a bunch of chives.

So what did I cook up in my kitchen this week with all that deliciousness? Stick with me, and we’ll find out.

Garlic

I’m putting garlic first on this list because those three heads of garlic became the base of most of my meals for the week. First, I roasted the heck out of them.

Roasty Toasty Garlic

Then I spent the rest of the week squeezing out the melty roasted cloves and smearing them on everything in sight. They got spread across thick-cut slices of toast, covered with smashed avocado, and topped with a fried egg. They got whizzed into a mouth-tingling roasted jalapeño-garlic aioli and smeared on grilled corn.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

Most importantly, they formed the basis for my next recipe…

Tomatoes & Peppers

Mamma mia, it’s a pizza! Whole wheat pizza with roasted garlic smashed right onto the crust, smothered in tomato sauce, and topped with more roasted tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It was good. It was real good. It hit the spot.

Tomato & Pepper Pizza

Sweet Corn

That first pizza was so good, in fact, that I made a second pizza, just so the first one wouldn’t feel lonely in my belly. This one got the leftover pesto treatment (from last week’s CSA!) before being sprinkled with sweet corn kernels fresh off the cob, chopped zucchini and a judicious amount of cheese. Heck yeah.

Pizza

A couple more ears of corn got tossed on the grill and smeared with the aforementioned jalapeño-garlic aioli. It was a revelation. I’m never eating plain corn again, and you shouldn’t either.

Melon

Melon is a beautiful invention. I like to think of it as nature’s bowl. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and you’ve got yourself the perfect little cup to hold a helping of yogurt. The combo of sweet melon and sour yogurt is a big winner in my book.

Melon

Cucumbers

Speaking of sour, this week we got all kinds of pickle-happy in my kitchen. I mean that in a strictly culinary sense, I promise you. Check out these dill cucumber spears, made with the randomly sized cukes we inherited in our box this week. I can barely wait the week it takes for them to fully soak in the brine! They look so good now.

Cucumber Pickles

Green Beans

This was our second week of green beans and we went in a radically different direction this week. Last week we made a Green Bean and Potato Curry. This week we made… more pickles! This is a special little recipe I’m developing for hot ‘n garlicky fermented green beans and okra. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out! I’m no psychic, but I’m seeing lots of Bloody Marys in these pickles’ future.

Green Bean Pickles 2

Green Bean Pickles 1

And that’s all for this week folks! You may have noticed I didn’t use the chives in any of my meals this week, and that’s because they got saved for a special recipe that I’ll be releasing sometime in the next week and a half, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Now go grill things! Happy 4th.

In the Kitchen

CSA Saturday

June 27, 2015

Something exciting happened at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market last Saturday, and it wasn’t me getting that cutie from the produce stand’s number. Not yet, at least.

Last week I picked up my first ever CSA box!

If that sounds like Greek to you, let me explain. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it’s a system of purchasing produce directly from a farm, usually in advance. Often sold as “shares,” a common CSA arrangement involves paying a certain fee upfront to the farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of produce for the length of the contract. A CSA share might be for a month, a season, or even an entire year. It’s a great system for farmers because it allows them to get a percentage of their profits for the season upfront, which gives them a certain amount of security and also takes the burden off at the beginning of the season when the farmer is buying seeds and materials for planting.

I love the idea of being part of a CSA, and though I’ve shopped at farmer’s markets for the past couple of years, I’d always shied away from taking the plunge and committing to a CSA until this summer. I worried I wouldn’t have the time to cook all that food, and I certainly didn’t want to find myself throwing away perfectly good produce just because I didn’t know what to do with that much basil. (Turn it into pesto, duh!)

Old Me had a food commitment issue. She couldn’t be bothered with the responsibility of caring for a weekly box of fresh produce. But New Me? She’s all about it!

I decided to go for a seasonal share for my first ever CSA. After careful consideration, I chose Full Belly Farm as my provider. Fully Belly is a certified organic farm located in Guinda, California, in Yolo County (I still chuckle every time I say that). That means my food will be travelling less than a hundred and fifty miles to make it from the farm to my doorstep. With the average American meal travelling thousands of miles from field to plate, that sounded relatively local to me. I also liked that all of the produce that goes into their CSA came from their farm, rather than being a mix and match of local purveyors as sometimes occurs in other CSAs. Best of all, they delivered to the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market, less than a two-block jaunt from my new apartment. Talk about convenient!

Picking up my box was a breeze. When I got to the Full Belly Farm stand, I just walked around the back, where the delivery truck was parked. There was a list of names of all the people with boxes that were being delivered that week, and mine was at the very top. Maybe it’s because my last name starts with “A,” but I like to think they were just excited to have me! I snagged one of the boxes and emptied the contents into my tote bag, getting a sneak peak at my veggies for the week as I did so—Armenian cucumbers! Bushels of apricots! Kohlrabi! I’m not gonna lie to you, I did a little veggie happy dance on the spot.

I couldn’t wait to get my haul home and empty it out on the counter so that I could ogle it in private! Here it is in all its glory (plus a couple of other sundries I picked up the market):

CSA Haul

There were new potatoes, green beans, Blenheim apricots, plums, a big bunch of green basil (my misguided fears come true!), Armenian cucumbers, beets, kohlrabi, and a honkin’ big onion.

If you’re wondering what in the heck you do with kohlrabi, then you, my friend, are in the right place, because this is the start of a new series I’m calling CSA Saturday. In it, I’ll be posting a weekly update on what arrived in my CSA box the previous week and what I did with it. I’ll be sharing recipes and meal ideas, as well as storage and cooking tips that will help you grill, sauté, bake, braise, broil, fry, or can your way through your CSA box, farmer’s market haul, or backyard harvest.

So what did I do with all that wonderful produce? Let’s take a peak!

 

Green Beans, Potatoes, Onion

A green bean and potato curry, garnished with chopped cashews and cilantro flowers.

Green Bean and Potato Curry

Potato, Onion

Hash browns, piled high with sautéed greens and drizzled with yogurt.

Hash Bowns and Greens

Basil

Pesto, duh!

Kohlrabi, Beets

Roasted beets and kohlrabi on a bed of tri-color quinoa, with sautéed kohlrabi greens, pesto (see above!) and feta cheese crumbles.

Beet and Kohlrabi Quinoa Bowl

Apricots

The majority of my apricots ended up in a delightful crème fraîche and apricot tart, with a pistachio crust. Head on over to The Bojon Gourmet for the recipe. It’s one of my favorites!

Apricot Pie

The rest got cooked down for a couple of minutes on the stovetop with a sprinkle of sugar and a dash of balsamic before being spooned over yogurt and topped with leftover pistachio crumbles. Yum!

Yogurt and Apricots

Armenian Cucumber, Plums

These guys didn’t make it into a recipe. They disappeared into my belly before I could even snap a picture—cucumbers slathered in hummus, and plums icy cold and fresh from the fridge after a long bike ride.

All in all, a very successful first CSA! Stay tuned for next week’s CSAs adventures, plus some original recipes.