Sunday, July 5, 2020

Ottolenghi's Shallow-Fried Potatoes with Sumac and Garlic Scapes

Groceries, especially meats, have been at an all-time high the past month. I'm talking $40 for a choice cut roast, $35 for five mediocre pork chops, and $18 for three pounds of ground beef. That is phenomenally high when you consider those things used to cost me $12, $8, and $10, respectively. For this reason, we've been skipping the meat and eating more veg.

I've been venturing out to my local farmer's market lately as it's not crowded and I want to support the local farmers. Garlic scapes are in season right now. If you're not familiar with them, they are the flowers of the garlic plant and need to be harvested prior to harvesting the garlic bulbs. I've been wanting to work with them for a while now but wasn't sure what to do with them.

Turns out, you use them just as you would use garlic. They say the garlic scapes are not as garlicky, so you may need to use more of them if you're using them as a replacement for garlic. Start by cutting the flowery part off - it is full of seeds and you may not wish to eat it (I used mine as a garnish only). You can cut the stem however you choose. I chose to cut mine on a bias, but thin slices will also work. It felt good to try something new.

Let's talk sumac. The sumac bush is native to the Middle East and produces deep red berries that are dried and ground into a coarse powder. It can be described as tart/sour and can be used in place of lemon. It also adds a bright pop of color. I have enjoyed it as a rub, sprinkled on top of hummus, and over certain Middle Eastern salads. I love the flavor, but I don't have an opportunity to use it that much, so I'm always looking for ways to use up my jar.

So now we have potatoes, garlic, garlic scapes, sumac, and bacon fat. Yes, I save my bacon fat. Ottolenghi uses olive oil to fry his potatoes, but in my experience, bacon fat is much more flavorful and effective. First of all, you don't have to use as much bacon fat and best of all, the potatoes will never burn. Bacon fat is simply superior. Start saving it.

You now have 5 superstar ingredients and a recipe for success. You cannot go wrong here. It may seem scary to cook the garlic cloves on the stovetop for 30 minutes - I was skeptical that they would burn and become bitter. This is not the case. I cooked this dish over low heat for 30 minutes and the garlic cloves become golden brown and caramelized, little nuggets of bliss. When I realized how beautiful the garlic was I wish I had used an entire head of garlic and I most definitely will next time!

This is a DELICIOUS dish. Trust me and throw in an entire head of garlic cloves. I loved pairing a potato with an entire caramelized clove of garlic and eating them together. Total heaven! The garlic scapes contributed a subtle garlic flavor but were really much more of a garnish than anything. The generous sprinkling of sumac goes a long way in brightening the whole dish up and making your mouth do a little pucker.

This is a fabulous side dish and/or appetizer and one that I would happily make again! We loved it!

Shallow-Fried Potatoes with Sumac and Garlic Scapes
Adapted from Ottolenghi Simple
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4

10 tablespoons olive oil*
1 pound potatoes, quartered lengthwise
5 garlic cloves, peeled
salt and pepper, to taste
3 rosemary sprigs*
3 thyme sprigs*
2 teaspoons sumac
2 garlic scapes, flowers removed, cut on a bias*

*Note: I altered this recipe to suit what I had on hand. I like to fry my potatoes in bacon fat and I had some on hand, so I subbed bacon fat for olive oil. I also decided to sub the rosemary and thyme for some fresh organic garlic scapes. You can use garlic scapes as you would use garlic, but take note that they are not as garlicky as the cloves.

Get a really good nonstick fry pan or cast iron and place oil and or bacon fat over low-medium heat. Once hot, add potatoes, garlic, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fry gently for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are golden brown and soft. Add rosemary and thyme and or garlic scapes and fry for another 5 minutes, until herbs or scapes are aromatic.

Use a slotted spoon - you want most of the oil to be drained off - to transfer the potatoes and herbs or scapes to a serving plate. Stir in the sumac and serve.

Farmer's Market/Local Feed Week @ IHCC

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Nigella's Mozzarella Garlic Bread

I make garlic bread often as it is a family favorite. I usually slice my loaf in half lengthwise and top both sides of the loaf with butter, garlic, herbs, and Parmesan. Slicing the bread lengthwise gives lots of surface area for the garlic butter and we love the nutty saltiness of the Parmesan cheese.

I wanted to try Nigella's recipe because she slices the bread straight down and tucks the garlic butter mixture in between the slices. Plus, her recipe uses creamy mozzarella in place of Parmesan. I added finely chopped parsley because I have to have herbs in my garlic bread.

Nigella's recipe is delicious. Everyone loved the way the bread looked, with the butter, garlic, and cheese oozing out between the slices. It is definitely very inviting. We loved the flavor and the creaminess of the mozzarella. HOWEVER, we decided that we love the flavor of Parmesan cheese more, SO I will definitely try this recipe again replacing the mozzarella with Parmesan. Either way, you can't go wrong, no matter which way you slice it, garlic bread is sooo addictive!

Mozzarella Garlic Bread
by Nigella Lawson 
Adapted from

7 tablespoons butter, softened
salt, to taste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, finely chopped
1 (16 oz) white sourdough loaf or other chewy bread

 Preheat oven to 425F. Beat butter, salt, red pepper, garlic, and parsley in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in mozzarella. (Note: I don't like getting out extra gadgets and washing them so I did this step by hand).

Cut bread loaf into 1-inch thick diagonal slices, taking care not to cut through the bottom of the bread.

Gently spread the garlic mixture generously and evenly between the slices. Rub any remaining mixture on top of the loaf.

Wrap bread loaf in foil, crimping the foil together at the top to seal. Bake loaf in a preheated oven until the top of the bread is brown and crisp and cheese has melted about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven. Lift bread out of foil and place it on a cutting board. Cut and separate the slices using a serrated knife. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Ina's Lemon Spaghetti {102 Days Inside My House and Counting...}

Today marks 102 days inside my house. I hung in there with the first 90 or so and I am not ashamed to say I am coming undone. 

I cannot handle the TV, the phone, or dealing with leaving the house. The new normal? That's a big no thank you for me. It makes me feel a million different ways, none of them good.

I am thankful I'm able to stay home. Trust me, I'm not taking it for granted. However, I'm also worried about my job and the kids from school. Will we have school in the fall? How are my students doing during the protests and riots? How do they feel about everything going on? Are they ok? Have they lost anyone to Covid-19? Can we do school safely? Will the kids wear their masks? How can I keep them apart? Will we get corona regardless? Will I lose someone I love? What if school is only online? How can I do online better? Nothing but anxiety. Massive anxiety.

I'm starting to feel hopelessly restless, completely unable to devote my attention to any one thing for very long. Is the whole world on fire? It sure feels like it. 

Even cooking, something I feel passionate about, is no longer enjoyable. A handful of ingredients is all I can be bothered to deal with. 

Pasta, butter, lemons, salt and pepper and maybe some basil (Mom would be screaming at me that the basil needs a haircut so basil is a great addition here). You can do this! Does this recipe have way too much butter? Yes! Can you cut it in half? Sure. Did I? No. Did I maybe wish I did? Yes, but that's ok. Pour off whatever butter you don't need for the pasta and save it for another day.

This is delicious. This is rich. This is fresh with the lemon and the basil. This is comforting. This is easy. This is summer indulgence at it's best. This speaks to me. I can do this.

Burying your head in the sand or watch the news. Join a protest or don't join a protest. Go to work or enjoy unemployment. Wear a mask or don't wear a mask. Enjoy the new normal or stay in. Gain weight or lose weight. Do your house projects or ignore them. Read a book or watch TV. Laugh your head off or sit and cry. Share your feelings or keep them to yourself. Say your prayers or send good wishes. Do a little bit of both or do none of them. However you chose to deal with 2020, do it. Do it apologetically. When we come out of this, we will all be stronger. I am anxiously awaiting that day.

Lemon Spaghetti
Recipe Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Makes 6 servings

salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
zest and juice of 2 large lemons
1 lemon for garnish
basil, for garnish, if using*

Add two tablespoons of salt to a large pot of boiling water. Add the pasta and cook just short of package directions (it will finish cooking in the butter sauce). 

Meanwhile, heat a large 12" skillet, add the butter, and heat until the butter is melted. Add the zest and juice of the lemons. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, or to taste, and swirl the pan to combine.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, lift the pasta out of the water with tongs, allowing some of the pasta water to drain back into the pot, and add all the pasta to the sauce. Cook for one minute, adding pasta water to the sauce with a ladle just enough to keep the pasta moist. (I'm a little confused about these directions as 2 sticks of butter keeps the pasta overly moist -in fact it could do with a little less - so use caution with the amount of water you add as you don't want it to get to watery).

Transfer the pasta to a serving platter or individual plates and garnish with more lemon zest, salt and pepper, basil, and maybe a little squeeze of lemon juice on the top. Serve hot.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Giada's Peach and Strawberry Crumble

Saturday morning I needed to get out of my head and leave the house. Our local farmer's market is a real small deal and I was happy with their safety measures. I knew what I wanted. I would be in and out in no time at all.

A flowering basket for my front porch and some beautiful strawberries and peaches from the local orchard. Fruits and veggies that grow together go together so I searched until I found a recipe that paired them together, Giada's Peach and Strawberry Crumble.

Something sweet for all the pain in this world. Kitchen therapy is happening daily in my house.

I found myself really inhaling the aroma of the peaches....the smell of summer. I caught myself smiling at how beautiful the fruit looks all cut up in the bowl, so fresh and colorful. I felt so thankful in that moment. Pleasure nowadays is in the little things.

I reach for my grandma's dishes and scoop some crumble in the bowl, topped with vanilla ice cream, of course. I take it outside on the back patio and enjoy it while looking at the flower and herb garden mom planted. I can still feel her presence out there.

I take a bite of the crumble and it is bright, fresh, delicious. I love the texture of the juicy fruit, cool creamy ice cream, and the crumbly topping with its flecks of sea salt that help to bring out the sweetness of the fruit.

I think about how much my mom would appreciate this crumble. I chuckle because I don't have to wonder what mom would say, she said the same thing anytime anyone made something fresh from the farmer's market or backyard. With the most pleasant smile and a twinkle in her eye she'd always say, "Wow, that is so fresh. It's just special. It's just so special."

Peach and Strawberry Crumble
Adapted from Food Network
By Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 6-8

butter, for pan

For the filling:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1-1/2 tablespoons arrowroot flour or cornstarch
1 pound medium strawberries, halved
1-1/2 pounds yellow or white peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup light brown sugar

For the topping:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old fashioned style oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon*
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, chilled & cut into 1/2" cubes

Serving suggestion: whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or gelato

Put oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8x8" glass baking dish. Set aside.

For the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and arrowroot or cornstarch until smooth. Add the strawberries, peaches, and brown sugar. Gently toss until the fruit is coated. Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared pan. 

For the topping: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and sea salt. Pulse until mixed (Note: I didn't want my crumble blended up real fine so I skipped this process). Add the butter. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Sprinkle the mixture over the filling and bake for 40 to 45minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top is light golden. Cool the crumble for 5 minutes.

Spoon the warm crumble into bowls and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ottolenghi's Brussels Sprout Risotto

This isn't pretty, but neither is the world nowadays. As we sink further and further into what feels like one helluva horror movie I find I'm in need of kitchen therapy.

The repetitive motion of stirring risotto is ALWAYS good therapy. Nothing but your thoughts and a wooden spoon. I can't fix the world, but I can fix risotto.

The prettiest purple brussels sprouts are the inspiration for this dish. I really wanted a recipe that would showcase them.

Needless to say, if you don't love brussels sprouts, this isn't the dish for you, but if you do....well, this is right up your alley. The sprouts are incorporated in two ways: shredded and mixed into the risotto (pictured above) and fried until golden and crispy and served on top (pictured below).

This is a hearty and comforting risotto, maybe not perfect for summer, but perfect if you're in need of comfort, which I dare say we all are right now.

Brussels Sprout Risotto
Adapted from Plenty More
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 4, or more

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
2 lemons, rind shaved in long strips from one, finely grated zest the other
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 pound brussels sprouts, 7 oz. shredded the rest quartered lengthwise
scant 2 cups dry white wine
scant 4 cups vegetable stock
about 1-2/3 cup oil, for frying Brussels
1-1/2 cups grated Parmesan
2 ounces blue cheese, broken into chunks
1/3 cup tarragon leaves, chopped
2 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Place the butter and olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic, thyme, and lemon rind strips and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the rice and shredded sprouts and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Pour in the wine and let it simmer for a minute before you start adding the stock, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good grind of pepper. Turn down the heat to medium and carry on adding the stock in ladlefuls, stirring often, until the rice is cooked but still retains a bite and all the stock is used up.

While the rice is cooking, pour the oil into a separate large saucepan; it should rise 3/4 inch up the sides. Place over high heat and, once the oil is very hot, use a slotted spoon to add a handful of the quartered sprouts. (Take care that they are completely dry before you add them; they will still splatter, so be careful.) Fry the sprouts for less than 1 minute, until golden and crispy, then transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. (Full disclosure: frying these sprouts made one heck of a mess in my kitchen so be prepared to clean splattered oil from everywhere!) Keep the sprouts warm while you finish the dish.

Add the Parmesan, blue cheese, tarragon, and half the fried sprouts to the cooked risotto and stir gently. Serve at once with the remaining sprouts spooned on top, followed, by the grated lemon zest and lemon juice, and a sprinkle of the cheese, if you like.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ina Garten's Radishes with Herby Butter and Salt {seriously so good}!

My parents raised a very healthy eater. When I was a kid, there was no junk food in the house and we almost never ate out. I have a lot of stories about our healthy eating, but this is one of my favorites.

My dad and I loved to snack together while watching TV.  I remember he would go to the kitchen and come back with a bowlful of radishes and green onions in one hand and a salt shaker in the other. He would shake a little salt in the bowl and we would take turns dipping the green onions and radishes in the salt. We would eat a bowlful of radishes and green onions just crunching away, all the while thinking it was the best snack ever. Those are some great memories.

I'd love to say that I snack on green onions and radishes now, but as my mom liked to say, "those friends of yours introduced to you all that junk and there was no going back." However, I still do love radishes and green onions and think fondly of my dad every time I eat them.

So, since I can't visit my dad right now, and also because I'm trying my very best to be healthy, I got out my radishes (I almost always have them on hand) and made this dish. Once again, I expected to like this recipe. I did not expect it to blow my mind. But it did! You would never think this recipe would pack the flavor punch that it does, but it's got flavor and texture for days! It's simply incredible.

Now, this is nowhere as healthy as the snack my dad and I used to share, but I sure do wish I could share this dish with him because I know he would love it. The herby butter with the sliced green onions, parsley, dill, salt, and lemon really brings out the flavor of the radishes. This is a light, crispy, crunchy, salty, and flavorful appetizer that hits all the right notes. I think dad and I were definitely onto something all those years ago because green onion and radish really go well together!

So, this is for you, dad. I know you would love this dish as much as I do. In fact, this recipe is going to go down as one of my all-time favorites for this year!

I do have one tip: I loved this dish most when the bread was warm and toasty from the oven and the butter was starting to melt. Something about the contrast of warm bread and cold radishes with the melting herby butter was irresistible! This is going to be something that I make again and again. If you're a radish lover, run and make this dish. You will fall in love!

Radishes with Herby Butter and Salt
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Serves 6-8

2 bunches radishes with the tops intact
sea salt
Herbed butter, see below
1 French baguette, sliced diagonally

Herbed Butter:
1/4 pound butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons minced scallions
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 350F. While the oven is preheating make the herbed butter: Combine the room temperature butter and all the herbs, etc in a bowl and mix with a spoon. Add salt and lemon, to taste. Place in a small decorative bowl and set aside.

Place the sliced baguette on a baking sheet and lightly toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway to toast both sides. Remove the toasts and place the toasts, the butter, the salt, and the radishes on a platter in a decorative manner.

Spread the herbed butter on the warm toast and top with a radish. Or, dip your radish in salt and take turns eating a bite of radish and then a bite of toast with herbed butter. These ingredients complement each other beautifully. 

Watch Ina's video on how to make this dish. You can be enjoying this dish in almost no time at all!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Mark Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars

One of my projects during quarantine has been clearing out my pantry. Trust me when I say my pantry needs A LOT of clearing out. So far I've managed to organize the food into sections, but my cereal and breakfast section was threatening a takeover. Why do I buy granola and dried fruit like it's the only thing I eat? Can someone answer me this question? I've been doing this for years and I've never seemed to learn that a person can only eat so much granola.

Thankfully I found a recipe for Mark Bittman's Fruit and Cereal Bars. I've made my fair share of homemade granola bars and they've all been ok. I suppose that's what I was expecting with these bars. Only they completely blew my mind. These dang bars are INCREDIBLE! I'd even go as far as to say THESE ARE THE BEST GRANOLA BARS EVER, homemade or in the store. I'm dead serious.

So I don't know if it was the granola I used, or the combination of fruit, or the ratio of the recipe, or what, but I'm for real when I tell you that YOU NEED TO MAKE THESE BARS!

I followed Bittman's recipe, using a lovely granola called Grandyoats Classic Granola(worth sourcing/not sponsored), full of really fresh and healthy organic non-GMO ingredients such as oats, honey, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, coconut, walnuts, cashews, wheat bran, and vanilla. It was fabulous and so fresh. Then I paired that with the required 1-1/2 cups dried fruit, mainly about 1 cup of dates, 3 or 4 dried apricots and 1/2 cup dried cherries. I think this was a magical combination of dried fruits so I'd do the same ratio again.

This is so simple and perfect for the summertime because this is a NO BAKE recipe. Simply blend up the fruit with the oil and honey and a little sea salt. Make sure it forms a very moist paste and mix it into the granola, pushing and packing it into the pan and refrigerate for about a half-hour.

THIS IS ME SCREAMING FROM A MOUNTAINTOP....PLEASE MAKE THESE BARS! Assuming that you use quality granola, as well as this combination of dried fruits, these are simply the best of the best. I ate two and a half in one sitting and had to stop myself from eating more. I could see myself making these every single week for a light breakfast and/or snack. They also make a really healthy dessert. I'm not kidding. They're so good they could pass for a dessert. 

Ok, I've held out long enough. Back to the kitchen for another one.

Fruit and Cereal Bars

Adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook
by Mark Bittman
Makes 10-12 bars

1-1/2 cups dried fruit*
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
fruit juice or water, as needed
a sprinkling of sea salt
1 cup ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, like granola
Optional: coconut, nuts, cocoa, etc, for sprinkling on top

Notes:  I used the most wonderful new granola called Grandyoats classic granola. The granola was full of oats, seeds, and nuts and was probably the very best granola I've ever had - very fresh. I think the granola really made the difference in these bars. You can probably use any dried fruit, but I love dates so I used 1 cup of dates, about 3 dried apricots, and 1/2 cup dried cherries (also my favorite). This turned out to be a magical combination because these bars were incredible! Also, the sprinkling of sea salt helps to bring out all the flavors, so I feel like you really don't want to skip it!

Put the dried fruit, oil, and honey into a food processor or a blender and puree until smooth, adding fruit juice and/or water a little at a time to keep the machine running. You'll need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. (Add small amounts of water or fruit juice if the fruit is dried out and is not processing.).Put the puree into a large bowl and fold the cereal into it. You may want to use your hands at first and then use a spatula.

Line an 8- or 9- inch square or round pan with foil. Spread the mixture into the pan, pushing it into the corners and evening the top. If you like, dust the top with coconut, nuts, or cocoa. Refrigerate until set, then cut into bars.