Deserted Island Coconut Fish Chowder

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Coconut Fish Chowder

It’s been wet where I live. Which was fun for a while, but lately I find baked pasta and kümmel cocktails are no longer enough to fend off the chill. As the rain continues to come down in Los Angeles I’m reminded of the old phrase: “be careful what you wish for”. I admit I’ve been wishing for rain for the past six years. Which is ironic because now that it’s arrived I find myself slurping an Asian-Spiced Coconut Fish Chowder and reverting to another of my popular fantasies. The old “stranded on a deserted island” daydream. I find it comes in handy while negotiating oceans of standing water on Hollywood Blvd. It’s easy to imagine my Prius lost at sea.

But seriously, if I ever did find myself shipwrecked, I hope I’d wash ashore on an island full of coconut palms. The way I see it is this: a beachful of coconut trees is all I need to survive.

Coconut palms are very prolific. They contain enough liquid to quench my thirst and plenty of tasty meat to quell my hunger. They can bloom up to thirteen times a year and produce as many as sixty coconuts with each bloom. So if I were a castaway I’d need all sorts of coconut recipes, for all sorts of meals. In this country, coconut is used primarily as an ingredient in desserts such as coconut cream pie. However, my deserted island is far more likely to be found near Thailand or Indonesia where they use coconut meat to flavor curries and soups, not unlike this Coconut Fish Chowder.

Coconut Fish Chowder

However, coconuts are more than the primary ingredient in my deserted island kitchen. The trees also yield wood for shelter and fires, as well as fiber for rope. Rope, that I imagine I would use to macramé myself a fish net. You can’t make Coconut Fish Chowder without fish.

Because of the rain I’ve also tossed green beans and baby potatoes into my recipe to make this soup a chowder appropriate for the cool weather. Yes, I realize I’ll have trouble finding green beans and baby potatoes on my deserted island. But this is my rainy day fantasy. Just go with it. GREG

Coconut Fish Chowder

Coconut and Asian-Spiced Fish Chowder

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Coconut and Asian-Spiced Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil (may substitute vegetable oil)
  • 1 yellow onion (peeled, halved, and thinly sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • kosher salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • 3 cup fish stock (may substitute clam juice)
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (may substitute 2 teaspoon lime zest)
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and julienned)
  • 6 ounce baby potatoes (cut into ½-inch pieces)
  • 2 celery ribs (thinly sliced on the bias)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¼ pound green beans (trimmed and cut into bite size pieces)
  • 1 pound firm white fish (such as halibut or cod, cut into 1-inch chunks)
  • 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cilantro (as needed for garnish)
  • shredded unsweetened dried coconut flakes (as needed for garnish)
  • thinly sliced Thai bird chile (as needed for garnish, optional)

Directions

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and a big pinch salt; cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add fish stock, kaffir leaves (or zest), and ginger. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes.

Add baby potatoes, celery, and bay leaf to the simmering stock and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk. Bring the broth back to a simmer then add green beans and cook 1 to 2 minutes (depending on how crisp you like them). Add the fish, continue to simmer without stirring until the fish is just cooked through and the green beans are tender-crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on thickness.

Stir in fish sauce and sugar. Discard the kaffir and bay leaves. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with cilantro, shredded coconut and chile slices (if using).

 

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Ziti with Bechamel: The Be All and End All

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Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Yes, it’s the first month of a new year. Yes, I’ve noticed fellow bloggers and their admirable resolutions. No grains. No dairy. No this. No that. Yes, I’m supposed to be embracing the latest foodie fads by guzzling green smoothies or chomping the new kale salad (whatever it may be). But frankly, I’m not ready to give up the decadence of the waning season. In fact, thanks to the rain that’s finally come to Los Angeles, I find myself craving creamy and comforting, hot-from-the-oven, super steamy, yet crunchy, baked pasta. Something your mom and mine might call a casserole. The thing that (the best) casseroles have in common is Bechamel.

Bechamel is made by combining hot milk with a pale roux made from butter and flour. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s a versatile sauce that can serve as the base for – well, this, that, and everything. I bet I could turn a green smoothie into a decent casserole with a healthy dose of Bechamel.

Bechamel is considered one of the mother sauces of classic French cooking. Add cheese to it (as in this recipe for Baked Ziti with Zucchini) and it technically becomes a Mornay sauce. I was raised on classic French cooking by a Julia Child obsessed mother. Even as a kid I knew what Bechamel (and Mornay) was even before I knew that baseballs were for boys and Easy-Bake Ovens were for girls.

BechamelTomato Sauce

Zucchini Slices

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Baked ziti is an Italian baked pasta dish that all cooks should have in their repertoire. There’s nothing like pulling a bubbling casserole dish of noodles out of the oven to bring people to the table. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the preparation, or maybe it’s because baked pasta is so easy to adapt to the situation and your pantry, but I’ve eaten endless variations. Most of these versions feature ricotta. That’s the traditional Italian way to go with the dish. However, I like the tips of the noodles to stick out and get dark crunchy brown in the oven. I find that ricotta, when cooked too long gets a bit dry and grainy. Bechamel is the perfect solution. It may not be traditional but it won’t dry out. So go ahead, don’t be afraid to leave it in the oven to get good and crispy.

Yes, because of the Bechamel turned Mornay sauce, this recipe is rich. It probably won’t work for most people’s New Year’s resolutions list. However, a healthy heaping of zucchini makes it practically the same as a green smoothie (or whatever salad the new kale salad may be), right? GREG

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel
Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Inspired by Bon AppetitPublished

Depending on the number of eaters at the table I often divide this recipe into 2 smaller baking dishes. That way I can freeze one for later and bake the other immediately.

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup whole milk (gently warmed) plus a splash more if needed
  • 2 ½ cup grated Parmesan (divided)
  • ½ cup olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large onion (peeled)
  • 3 ounce pancetta (thinly sliced and finely chopped) optional
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt, freshly ground pepper (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced, lightly packed fresh basil
  • 2-3 small to medium zucchini (sliced on a bias into ½-inch pieces) about 1 pound
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence
  • dried ziti pasta (or similar small tubular pasta, such as penne, or rigatoni)
  • 1 pound mozzarella (chilled and roughly grated)

Directions

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Sprinkle flour over and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until béchamel is thickened and no longer feels grainy when rubbed between your fingers, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups Parmesan, whisking until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

Working over a bowl use the large holes of a box grater to grate the onion; set aside.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Cook pancetta (if using), stirring often, until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. Add grated onion and all its juice, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until onion is softened and just beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes to the saucepan. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and flavors have melded, 20–25 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss zucchini, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs de Provence. Spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet in as close to a single layer as possible. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

While the zucchini is roasting bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain the pasta well and set aside.

Once the zucchini is out of the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Gently reheat the béchamel, using a splash of milk if necessary to get it moving in the pan then transfer to a large bowl; add partially cooked pasta, roasted zucchini, and grated mozzarella; toss to combine. Add all but 1 cup tomato sauce and gently fold mixture a few times, leaving streaks of béchamel.

Transfer pasta mixture to a 3-quart shallow baking dish, dollop with remaining tomato sauce, and scatter remaining ½ cup Parmesan over pasta. Bake until mozzarella is melted and sauce is bubbling around the edges, 15–20 minutes.

Heat broiler. Broil until pasta and cheese are dark brown and crunchy in spots, about 4 minutes. Let pasta sit 5 minutes before serving.

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Cream of the Crop Creamy Cabbage Soup

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Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

I know that creamy cabbage soup isn’t the sexiest sounding recipe I’ve ever presented. But trust me, this cabbage soup will have you wondering how a homely cabbage can develop such complex sweetness. The answer (of course) is butter. When smart cooks sauté cabbage with copious amounts of cream and/or butter it loses all its cabbagey-ness and takes on an unexpected sweetness. Of course, peak-season farmers market cabbage helps this recipe succeed as well. And not just any cabbage but the tastiest, most prized cabbage of the entire Brassicaceae/Cruciferae family. Savoy cabbage.

The Savoy variety is a bit harder to find than your standard cabbage; and where I live it is much more seasonal. So be on the lookout, its time is now. It’s not hard to recognize. It’s a beautiful emerald green and looks like a giant corsage. A big frilly green corsage, not unlike the one that accompanied you to your senior prom!

Fancy cabbage aside, I know what you’re thinking – cabbage soup is a stinky, slithery mass of green pulp dished up in nursing homes everywhere. While it’s true that boiled cabbage is infamous for its pungent odor, I promise that if you make this soup, your house won’t smell like burnt tires. The nefarious cabbage odor only happens when you boil it for hours on end.
Savoy CabbageSavoy Cabbage

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Which means cabbage deserves better PR. Cooked low and slow with onions in a bath of butter, this soup is stupendous. A bit reminiscent of a classic Leek and Potato Soup with simple but refined flavors and textures. I cannot say enough good things about this soup. Really, even now I can’t stop. It’s that good. This soup is not only delicious but pretty to look thanks to a swirl of bright green chive oil and a penetrating top note from a scattering of freshly toasted cumin seeds.

Which brings me to this creamy cabbage soup and its most important attribute: the wow factor. Nobody expects cabbage to be anything special, so the cook’s art becomes apparent when this lowly offering shines. Serve big fat beautiful spears of asparagus, and your guests will praise the vegetable. Serve a transformative bowl of creamy cabbage soup, though, and everyone will praise the cook. GREG

Chive Oil

Chive Oil

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 cupSource Bon AppetitPublished

Chive oil can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Chive Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley (thickest stems removed)
  • 1 ½ cup mild flavored oil (such as grapeseed or vegetable)

Directions

Set a coffee filter in a sieve set over a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.

Purée chives, parsley, and oil in a blender until well blended. Transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is sizzling, about 3 minutes.

Remove chive oil from heat and strain through prepared sieve (do not press on solids or oil will be cloudy); let cool.

Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Naomi Pomeroy, Taste & TechniquePublished
Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and crushed into a pulp)
  • 4 cup Savoy cabbage (cut into thin ribbons)
  • 1 ½ cup water (plus more if needed)
  • 1 cup whole milk (plus more if needed)
  • ½ cup cream
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 dash red Tabasco sauce
  • chive oil (as needed, see recipe)
  • freshly toasted cumin seeds (to taste)

Directions

Melt the butter over low heat in a 4-qt or larger soup pot or Dutch oven with a lid. Add the chopped onion and half the salt. Sweat the onions, stirring often, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Raise the heat to medium-low, add the cabbage ribbons and water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Return the heat to low, add the remaining salt, and cook covered, for an additional 40 minutes until the cabbage is completely soft. Check the moisture level and stir the pot often. Add additional water if needed.

Once the cabbage is well softened remove it from the heat and let it cool about 10 minutes, add the milk, cream, and crème fraîche.

Working in batches as necessary use a high-powered blender to purée the soup until very smooth. Test the consistency, it should pour from a spoon in a slow steady stream. Adjust consistency with more milk if necessary. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and gently reheat without boiling.

To serve, stir in lemon zest and hot sauce and ladle the soup into warm soup bowls. Garnish with chive oil and a light sprinkling of freshly toasted cumin seeds. Serve immediately.

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Seasonal Broccolini with Cherry, Chile, and Feta

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Grilled Broccolini with Cherry, Chile, and Feta

It’s that rare time of year when it’s hard to find good vegetables in Los Angeles. We have a 6-week period when most of the stuff in the grocery store is imported and our Farmers’ Markets aren’t yet busting at the seams. Yet, I find myself a bit bored by carrots, parsnips, onions, and potatoes – I want green stuff. Sure, we can get winter greens like kale, chard, and spinach. And I should be grateful for that. But the truth is we’re just a few skinny weeks shy of spring here. So while I’m eating as many leafy greens as I can braise I find myself anticipating asparagus and other stars of the springtime garden.

Which is how my veggie starved eyes came upon broccolini at the market recently. Broccolini shares some genealogy as well as the same basic shape of asparagus. I bet I could get creative with broccolini. It has the further advantage of making itself available at precisely the time when the big fat spears of asparagus I love are still spindly little sprouts just beginning to poke their pointy tips from the ground.

The thing is I have a love/hate thing with broccolini. When I first saw it in stores I was baffled. It seemed more like a marketing scheme than a vegetable. But I gave it a second look and found I truly enjoy broccolini – sometimes.

I say sometimes because broccolini is more seasonal than the marketing monsters of Big Ag would have us believe. If it’s been cut and shipped more than a few days prior to purchase, those lovely sugars we expect in cruciferous vegetables will begin to revert to starch, leaving a cabbagey, bitter note. In fact, broccolini can be a bit finicky so choose your stalks wisely. It’s intolerant to extreme temperature changes. It’s more sensitive to cold temperatures than broccoli but less tolerant of hot temperatures than broccoli. Making the California coast an ideal environment. So buy it during the peak of its season, which is essentially now until early April where I live. With another good crop coming in early autumn, after one of our cool coastal summers.

So yes, I admit, I’m anxiously awaiting asparagus. But in the meantime, I’m happy to gussy up grilled seasonal broccolini with dried Rainier cherries, chile de Arbol, and feta cheese. GREG

cherries and chileGrilled Broccolini

Broccolini is actually a trademarked name for a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale (called gai lan). It was developed in 1993 by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan and brought to the United States in 1998. It’s often (confusingly) labeled baby broccoli.

Grilled Broccolini with Dried Cherries and Chile

Grilled Broccolini with Cherry, Chile, and Feta

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Grilled Broccolini with Cherry, Chile, and Feta

Ingredients

  • 3 ounce dried cherries
  • 2-3 dried chile de Arbol (split, seeded and roughly chopped)
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • kosher salt (as needed for breadcrumbs, water and seasoning)
  • 2 pinch freshly cracked black pepper (divided, plus more for seasoning)
  • 1 ½ pound fresh broccolini (ends lightly trimmed)
  • extra-virgin olive oil (as needed for grilling and drizzling at the end)
  • 1-2 ounce feta cheese (crumbled)

Directions

In a small bowl soak the dried cherries and crumbled dried chile de Arbol in the vinegar for at least 1 hour.

In a small skillet heat the canola oil over medium-high heat until it just begins to shimmer. Stir in panko, a pinch each salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until crumbs are golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from skillet to keep from burning and set aside.

Meanwhile, to blanch the broccolini, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and set a large bowl of ice water next to the stove. Divide the broccolini into two or three bunches and place one bunch into the boiling water. Cook until bright green and slightly tender, about 2 minutes; transfer to the ice water. Repeat with the remaining broccolini. Drain and transfer to a towel to dry.

Light a charcoal grill or turn a gas grill to medium-high heat. Coat the blanched broccolini with some extra-virgin olive oil and season with big pinch each kosher salt and black pepper. Place the stalks on the grill in a single layer, turning with tongs to cook evenly, until deeply charred in places. Don’t be afraid to let them really blacken here and there, that’s the point.

Move the grilled broccolini to a serving plate. Pour the dried cherries and all their liquid over the top, sprinkle with feta cheese, season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with breadcrumbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

 

 

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How to Roast Beets for Maximum Mojo

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Roasted beets with grapefuit and frisee

Forget cooking. It’s been chilly in my corner of the world. I’d like to crank the oven and just sit in my kitchen with a good book. Because honestly, I’m having a little trouble finding my Sippity Sup mojo lately. It seems to happen to me every year just after the rush of the holidays. It’s a bit like postpartum depression I imagine. Not that a food blog is like a baby. Oh wait, what am I saying? That’s exactly what a food blog is like. Because in order to thrive, a blog takes constant care and feeding.

So I’ve decided the drab weather is Los Angeles calls for something vibrant enough to get my mojo back in line. Roast beets can provide that vivid pop of color even in the dead of winter. Just the mojo-enhancing inspiration I need.  Besides, I like to roast beets. You can crank the oven on a cold day and get a lot of impact with very little effort. Roasting beets can be as simple as tossing them with olive oil, wrapping them in foil and sticking them in the oven. That’s exactly how I’ve done it for years. But is it the best way?

How to Roast Beets for Maximum Flavor

Sometime in our past we humans were digging around in the dirt looking for grubs and worms to eat when we hit upon the idea of eating roots. The world has been a better place ever since. There are many ways to enjoy these vegetables from the underworld, but roasting is just about my favorite. Roasting root vegetables, like beets, intensifies their flavors and brings out their distinctive, rustic charm. It actually amplifies their inherent richness and bolsters their sugars.

As I said it can be a very simple process. But the thing about simple foods is in order for them to succeed you need to be sure the simple method you choose is not just simply a short-cut, but rather the fast lane to perfection.

Lately, I’ve upped my game when I try and answer the question of how to roast beets by including simple aromatics like citrus peels, halved garlic cloves and herbs. I’ve also discovered that just a little bit of water in the pan helps cook the beets more evenly with steam heat.

Most importantly don’t just stick them in the oven and forget them. Add more water during the cooking process if needed. Beets will likely take from 40 to 60 minutes to cook properly. They’re finished cooking when they feel slightly resistant to pressure all the way through the vegetable. So make sure and poke them to the center before deciding they’re done.

Beets of different sizes and varieties may have different cooking times which means you need to be extra diligent. Even beets of different colors can cook at different rates. Start checking them about 40 minutes into the cooking process. If you wait too long, beets can begin to feel fluffy when poked which means they’re probably overcooked.

Lastly, roasted beets peel much easier than raw beets. Once the beets come out of the oven wait until they’re just cool enough to handle. Then slice off leaf end and push skins away using your thumbs. If it doesn’t easily strip off, the beets probably need more time in the oven. Try another 10 minutes.

So that how to roast beets for this simple Beets Salad with Grapefruit, Frisée and Minted Crème Fraîche. I can taste the mojo already. GREG

How to Roast Beets

Roasted Beet Salad with Grapefruit, Frisée and Minted Crème Fraîche

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Adapted from Naomi Pomeroy, Taste & TechniquePublished
Roasted Beet Salad with Grapefruit, Frisée and Minted Crème Fraîche

Ingredients

  • 3 pound medium beets, preferably a mix of colors
  • 6 clove whole garlic (halved crosswise)
  • 3 (½-inch wide) strips orange peel
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • 3 teaspoon minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar (plus more for drizzling on roasted beets)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling on roasted beets)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 grapefruits (pelled and cut into supreme segments)
  • 2 heads baby frisée
  • 1 cup minted crème fraîche (see recipe)
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the greens and scrub the beets well. Arrange the beets on a roasting pan large enough to hold them in a single layer and add the garlic cloves, orange peels, thyme, bay leaves, black peppercorns and water. Drizzle the mixture with ¼ cup olive oil and season generously with salt. Cover tightly with foil and bake up to 1 hour, or until the beets are tender (start checking at 40 minutes); transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool somewhat; discard the liquid and aromatics.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the shallot and vinegar. Whisk in extra-virgin olive oil; season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Set aside.

Peel and trim the beets and slice some of them into bite-sized wedges and some of them into rounds ¼ inch thick. Separate the beets by color to avoid discoloration. Drizzle beets with a little red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, tossing to coat. Set aside.

Strip away and discard the tough, darker green outer leaves of the frisée. Rinse and dry the remaining leaves well.

To serve: dress the frisée with half the prepared vinaigrette. On each of the plate spoon a dollop of minted crème fraîche. The use the back of the spoon to swoop into a gentle curve. Arrange the beets and grapefruits on top and tuck in the frisée in neat tufts. Drizzle a small amount of remaining vinaigrette onto the salad. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Minted Crème Fraîche

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10-12Source Inspired by Naomi Pomeroy, Taste & TechniquePublished
Minted Crème Fraîche

Ingredients

  • 2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoon minced shallots

Directions

Roughly chop the mint leaves. Add them, along with the crème fraîche, the vinegar, and zest to a blender. Season with a generous pinch of black pepper. Blend until smooth. Stir in shallots and serve. Can be covered and refrigerated up to 5 days before using.

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Lamb Sloppy Joe’s are More Familiar Than You Think

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Lamb Sloppy Joe's

What could be more American than a Sloppy Joe? Sweet and tangy – a little spicy and a whole lot messy! But it’s a new year and there are ways to elevate this familiar sandwich from its mid-century America Manwich roots if you put your mind to it. Instead of settling for conventional ground beef, you could follow chef Daniel Holzman’s lead and choose ground lamb. Lamb Sloppy Joe’s! While you’re at it, why not top that Joe with something special too. Coleslaw is a good way to go. So are fried onions. Maybe even guacamole. Use your imagination.

What’s so amazing about this sandwich is the familiarity of it. Yes, I realize the Sloppy Joe sandwiches of your youth were not made from lamb. But it’s not the choice of ground protein that makes a Sloppy Joe so familiar.

It’s something more basic than that.

Some foods are memory triggers. For me, sandwiches have the ability to take me back to childhood more than any other category of food. Sloppy Joe’s are no exception. They’re like time machines transferring me back to my middle-school hot lunch line, where hair-netted lunch ladies ladle heavy spoonfuls of tomatoey meat onto sesame-studded hamburger buns.

Lamb Sloppy Joe's

Lamb Sloppy Joe’s

The familiarity doesn’t stop there. At least not for me. Daniel Holzman’s Lamb Sloppy Joe’s are served very much like the lunch lady versions from my adolescence. By that I mean plain. Even in those days, I tended to personalize my food. Most of the boys scarfed these sandwiches down without even peeking under the bun. That’s because in middle-school the lunch hour is practically as competitive as P.E. class, and often just as stressful. The more aggressive boys at my table were typically in a race to see who could eat the sandwich the quickest. When that form of domination began to bore them, they’d run off to see if they could trick the lunch lady into a second sandwich – just so they could prove their superiority all over again.

Not me, I’d sit quietly (out of their peripheral vision) and lift the bun to consider how I could dress up this boy’s version of a Manwich. Potato chips, crunchy pickles, or maybe something from the salad compartment of my indented lunch tray. You just never knew how creative I could get with a Sloppy Joe. Though I admit Lamb Sloppy Joe’s were (at that point in my life) a little beyond my imagining.

Today however a Lamb Sloppy Joe feels just right to me. So I peeked under the bun of Mr. Holzman’s recipe and chose a few creative additions of my own. I don’t think he’ll mind my adaptations. Because what really matters is the place your mind goes when you pick up one of these Lamb Sloppy Joe’s and take a bite. Once you taste the crunch of cabbage and feel that slow drizzle of tomato sauce slipping down your chin, you’ll feel just like a 12-year-old trying to avoid the loud boys at lunchtime. GREG

Lamb Sloppy Joe's

Lamb Sloppy Joe

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source adapted from Daniel HolzmanPublished

Suggested condiments: Quick pickled cabbage slaw, fried onions, guacamole and maybe even tater tots.

Lamb Sloppy Joe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ½ large yellow onion (peeled and cut into tiny dice)
  • ½ red bell pepper (seeded and cut into tiny dice)
  • ½ yellow bell pepper (seeded and cut into tiny dice)
  • ½ green bell pepper (seeded and cut into tiny dice)
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4-6 toasted burger buns

Directions

Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the lamb, stirring frequently to break it up, until browned and beginning to crisp; about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the lamb from the pan and set aside, leaving the oil and rendered fat in the pot.

Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, paprika, cumin seeds, and cayenne pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently until soft (about 10 minutes).

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, until the tomato paste begins to caramelize and stick to the pan; about 3 minutes then add crushed tomatoes, sugar, wine, vinegar, water, salt and reserved lamb. Bring the stew to a simmer, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for half an hour. Enjoy on a toasted bun.

 

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Crab Linguine with Foraged Meyer Lemon Sauce

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Crab Linguine with Meyer Lemon Sauce

I like to eat locally and, for me, this Crab Linguine with Meyer Lemon Sauce is about as local as you can get.

Today, as I do most days, I went for a walk in the hills near my house. I did it for exercise, sure. But I also did it because I was hungry. It’s citrus season where I live. Which doesn’t really matter all that much if I were hungry for, say, an orange – oranges are easy to find in the grocery store all year long. They also hang ripe on the tree here pretty much year-round. No, not oranges. I can have an orange pretty much any time I like.

Not so with Meyer lemons. Meyer lemons are very seasonal. Where I live Meyer lemons seem to ripen all at once and then fall from the branches. Also, Meyer lemons aren’t easy to find in the grocery store, even when they’re in season. Their thin, soft skins make them difficult to transport.

Meyer Lemon

Meyer Lemon Sauce

Meaning Meyer lemons are special ingredients and I try to use them in as many recipes as I can while they’re around.

I’ll tell you why. The next time you have one handy scratch the skin of a Meyer lemon and inhale its citrus aroma. I did and was inspired to make Dungeness crab linguine tossed with a special prosecco and Meyer lemon sauce. I say special because if you take another sniff of that Meyer lemon in your hand I think you’ll also notice fragrant floral notes and even some pine. Meyer lemons are perhaps the most complexly scented citrus fruit I know. Just the whiff of a Meyer lemon evokes sunny California in the wintertime.

We in California are blessed with what’s known as a Mediterranean climate. Which has a great many advantages besides mild temperatures and year-round sunshine. One of the greatest pleasures in my life is the simple act of pulling a ripe Meyer lemon off a tree branch hanging over the walkways of the streets where I live. Of course “pulling” isn’t quite the right word. The best way to harvest a thin-skinned Meyer lemon is to gently twist it off the branch. I’ve had practice, so I know.

I call this practice urban foraging. The Meyer lemon sauce in today’s crab linguine is the product of one of my foraging adventures right here in my own neighborhood.

Local Meyer lemons pair beautifully with West Coast Dungeness crab, both are in season right now, and they come together fragrantly in this simple to prepare special-occasion pasta. GREG

Crab Linguine with Meyer Lemon Sauce

Linguine in White Crab-Meyer Lemon Sauce

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Rocky MaselliPublished
uine in White Crab-Meyer Lemon Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large shallot (peeled and thinly sliced)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1 ½ cup dry prosecco (or other sparkling dry white wine)
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 2-3 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 pound cooked, shelled Dungeness crab (or other type crab locally available)
  • 1 pound fresh linguine

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Season with red pepper flakes and salt. Cook an additional minute until fragrant, then add the prosecco and creme fraiche; stirring to combine.

Lower the heat and continue to cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

While the sauce thickens, boil the fresh linguine until just tender 2 to 4 minutes.

When ready to serve stir lemon juice, lemon zest, parsley, and crab into the sauce. Drain the pasta and gently toss it with the sauce. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

 

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Vichy Cycle, a Calvados, Vermouth, and Kümmel Cocktail

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Vichy Cycle, a Calvados, Kummel, and Vermouth Cocktail

The Vichy Cycle cocktail is a sophisticated collaboration of French vermouth and German kümmel with a clever name. Have you ever noticed that some of the best cocktails have clever names? I suppose that’s because it’s easy to be clever when you’re drinking.

I first encountered this drink several years ago at the Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle on a rainy evening just before the holidays. I was researching drinks for my book Savory Cocktails and was smart enough to know that Zig Zag Cafe needed to be part of my research. Zig Zag Cafe is my kind of bar – first, because it’s so hard to find, and second, because once you find it you’ll never forget it. At least I didn’t. Nor did I forget the perfectly savory notes of the Vichy Cycle cocktail served to me by Erik Hakkinen. I even included the drink as conceived by Erik in my book.

The drink is defined by the super savory caraway and cumin seed kümmel liqueur. It’s a bold spirit and might be a bit challenging to many palates, but cocktail geeks love it. The past several years have seen an explosion in the popularity of funky herbal liqueurs such as Cynar, Fernet-Branca, and kümmel. They’re all relics of a time when spirits were made by monks and aristocrats and were thought to have medicinal properties.

Kümmel

If you’re scratching your head at every mention I make of kümmel, don’t worry. Kümmel was practically unheard of in North America until this latest cocktail revolution. However, the Brits have always enjoyed it, especially among the “upper-crust”. It seems kümmel is particularly popular with anyone who grew up in a stodgy boarding-school. It crops up in David Niven’s autobiography, The Moon’s a Balloon and Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. It even makes an appearance in Ian Fleming’s novel Goldfinger, when “tough cheery men” quaff double kümmels after lunch. GREG

Vichy Cycle, a Calvados, Kummel, and Vermouth Cocktail

Vichy Cycle

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1Source Erik Hakkinen for Savory CocktailsPublished
The Vichy Cycle cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 ounce Dupont Fine Reserve Calvados
  • 1 ounce Dolin Dry Vermouth
  • ½ ounce Gilka Kaiser Kümmel
  • 2 dash The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas’ Own Decanter Bitters
  • 1 lemon twist (as garnish)

Directions

Combine the Calvados, vermouth, kümmel and bitters in a mixing glass half-filled with ice. Stir until chilled and properly diluted, about 20 seconds. Julep strain into chilled coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist; its oil expressed onto the surface and rubbed onto the rim of the drink then dropped on top, peel side up. Makes 1.

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Holiday Salads: How to Make Cheese Crisps

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Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing and White Cheddar Crisps

It wouldn’t be the holidays if I didn’t present something a little fancy. This Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing and White Cheddar Crisps fits the bill. It’s a special salad, befitting the holidays, but it’s not too difficult to pull off because everything can be made ahead. This salad features little gem lettuce which can make any salad feel special. The creamy dressing is made memorable with chunks of apple and toasted walnuts. You can see that this is shaping up to be a fancy salad. But it’s the garnish I want to discuss. This post is really about how to make cheese crisps.

I’m not talking about crackers when I say cheese crisps. I’m talking about something a bit more special. You’ve probably been to a restaurant where a salad or some other savory bite came embellished with a delicate web of crispy cheese – like a Florentine cookie, only savory. It might surprise you to know that these cheesy little discs can be made at home. It’s literally as simple as sprinkling grated cheese on a silicone mat or parchment-lined baking sheet and popping in the oven for 10 minutes.

Really.

How to Make Cheese Crisps

Naturally, the first lesson on how to make cheese crisps starts with the cheese. The best cheese choices for cheese crisps are hard cheeses, like Parmesan, white Cheddar, and Manchego. From an aesthetic point of view, white cheese is better than orange cheese. Most importantly, avoid any sort of processed cheese. Even pre-grated cheese. Pre-grated cheese is mixed with a powdery substance to keep it from clumping. This powder also interferes with the process I’m about to describe.

silpat

Now, as with most “simple” things cheese crisps are only simple if you know a few quick tricks. First, you must line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. This trick is useful almost any time you’re baking. But it’s not merely useful when making cheese crisps; it’s crucial. If you don’t line your baking sheet with parchment, your cheese will attach itself to your cookware practically permanently.

Second, you need to fashion your piles of cheese carefully. Construct them into flat plateaus, not mounded hills. They will spread out as they bake, but they need to be delicate with some gaps between the strands of cheese, to begin with, or they’ll be burnt at the edges, gooey in the middle, and not at all lacey.

Cheese Crisps Prep

I say that the baking time is 10 minutes. But the actual time in the oven will depend on how dry the cheese is – Parmesan will cook faster than cheddar because it has less moisture. Manchego can have a little or a lot of moisture depending on how long it has been aged. The crisps are done when they’ve deepened to a uniform golden brown and have a lacy texture.

The rest of the salad takes no special skills, but I suggest you take time with the presentation. This Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing and White Cheddar Crisps is meant to be a fancy salad. GREG

Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing and White Cheddar Crisps

Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Published
Little Gem Salad with Creamy Walnut-Apple Dressing

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 2/3 cup toasted walnut pieces (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon creme fraiche
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup walnut oil
  • 1 small apple (peeled, cored and tiny diced)
  • 12 LIttle Gem lettuce heads
  • 2 tablespoon minced chives
  • 2 teaspoon minced tarragon
  • 18 white cheddar cheese crisps (see recipe)

Directions

Make the dressing: Place shallots, vinegar, salt, half the walnuts, creme fraiche, Dijon, and walnut oil in a blender. Blend until mostly smooth, but not entirely pureed. Pour the mixture into a small bowl, stir in apple and tarragon.

Assemble the salad: Trim off the end of each lettuce, leaving as much of the head intact as possible. Slice each in half lengthwise. Gently rinse each half and carefully dry, making sure to keep the leaves attached.

Arrange 3 or 4 lettuce halves on serving plates, drizzle liberally with the prepared dressing, garnish with remaining walnut pieces and 2 or 3 cheese crisps. Serve immediately.

How to Make Cheese Crisps

Cheese Crisps

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8-10Source SlatePublished
How to Make Cheese Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 ounce grated Parmesan, cheddar, or Manchego cheese

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F, and line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Form about 1 tablespoon of the cheese into a thin, even circle on the silicone liner or parchment paper; repeat with the remaining cheese, leaving 2 inches between circles. Bake until the cheese is golden brown and lacy, 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet, then bot on a paper towel and serve.

How to Make Cheese Crisps

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Holiday Bites: Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese & Dates

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Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts

So how do you want to finish this year? Naughty or nice? These Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts are rich and decadent and feel just a little bit naughty. So come on, you’ve been nice for months on end. Santa has already made his list (and checked it twice) he’s noticed how nice you’ve been. Nice. Nice. Nice. Besides he’s so busy this time of year I doubt he’ll even notice what you’ve been up to these last few days of 2016. So snuggle up to the appetizers this holiday season. I think you’ll find that naughty has never been more nice.

Rugelach is traditionally a Jewish “cookie” of sorts. Typically you’ll find them to be jam-filled. But nuts make an appearance just as often. Chocolate rugelach is delicious too. Technically rugelach can be filled with just about anything. So why not a savory rugelach? Because the thing that defines rugelach isn’t so much the filling as it is the pastry. Made with cream cheese, the dough is very rich and very short, meaning that it has a lot of fat: by weight, there’s almost equal amounts of cream cheese, butter, and flour.

Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and WalnutsSavory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts

Savory Rugelach

For me, all that luscious fat deserves a special friend, and dates make succulent partners. Besides, I love dates – especially this time of year. When I was a kid I used to pop them in my mouth and wait for the explosion of honeyed sweetness. Which is something I did almost every Christmas morning of my younger years. Dates (and nuts and naval oranges) were always part of our stocking-stuffers. So naturally I like indulging in them during the holidays now that I’m an adult.

Because if there’s on thing I know about the holidays it’s this: Santa just doesn’t have the time to keep tabs on how many bite-sized snacks we’ve snuck. So roll up some rugelach, I won’t tell whether you’ve been naughty or nice. GREG

Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts

Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 16Source adapted from Good HousekeepingPublished
Savory Rugelach with Blue Cheese, Dates, and Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 4 ounce cold cream cheese (cut into 4 pieces)
  • 4 ounce cold unsalted butter (cut into 4 pieces)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 ounce blue cheese (crumbled)
  • 16 large dates (pitted)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions

Let the cream cheese and butter pieces sit on the counter for 10 minutes so that they are slightly softened but still cool to the touch.

Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a food processor, scatter over the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough comes together in jagged clumps that are just beginning to release from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day.

In food processor with the blade attachment, process 1⁄4 cup walnuts until finely chopped; transfer to small bowl and reserve. In same food processor bowl, process blue cheese and remaining ½ cup walnuts just until a coarse mixture forms.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment; set aside.

Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large rough round a scant ¼-inch thick. Use an 11 to 12-inch plate as a template to cut the dough into a neat round with clean edges. Save the extra dough for another use. Cut dough into 16 equal wedges (do not separate). Beginning 1 inch from the edge, sprinkle the blue cheese mixture in a 2-inch-wide ring, leaving the dough in center exposed. Place 1 whole date horizontally on the outer, wide curved end of each wedge. Starting there, roll up each wedge, jelly-roll fashion.

Place rugelach, point side down, 1 inch apart, on cookie sheet.

In a small bowl, lightly beat egg white with water. With a pastry brush, brush rugelach on all sides with egg-white mixture and roll evenly with reserved walnuts.

Bake until golden, 30 to 35 minutes. With a wide spatula, immediately transfer rugelach to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight container up to 3 days, or in freezer up to 3 months. Makes 16 appetizers.

 

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