Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Roasted Beet Pesto

Hot pink pasta! Scarlet spaghetti! Neon magenta macaroni! Fuchsia fusilli! Yep, this spaghetti sure is bright and eye catching. I used beets in an otherwise pretty traditional pesto recipe, and created this explosion of color and deliciousness. 

Beets are delightful, and delicious. If you've never cooked with them before they can seem just a smidge intimidating with their dark red color and rock hard raw texture. But they cook up just like a potato, and there are oodles of delightful ways to prepare them. Roasting is my personal favorite beet cooking method. Boiling is fine, but I love the dark, slightly caramelized taste the high heat of roasting lends to the beets. 

Pesto is one of my go-to weeknight dinners- just pop a bunch of ingredients in a food processor, turn it on, and you've got a fresh, flavorful sauce. There are tons of pesto variations out there using different nuts, or adding additional herbs or spices, but I wanted to change the base of the pesto, to add a whole new ingredient that would add body and texture as well as taste. The end result is a deliciously smooth and mildly earthy pesto I would happily devour any day of the week.

If you wanted to save time on this recipe you could easily roast the beets a day (or even two) before, skin them, and pop them in a container in the fridge until you're ready to whip up the pesto. You can also feel free to vary the kind of nut used. For instance, if you have walnuts or pistachios instead, I am sure either of those would be just as lovely as almonds in this pesto. 

This bright pink pasta is so colorful, lovely, and delicious, it'll certainly please guests at a dinner party, and I bet children would be so taken with it's color they'd be happy to give it a try. Or you could make it on any old night, and turn a weeknight into a brightly colored dinner celebration. Enjoy! 

Roasted Beet Pesto

1 lb spaghetti
4 med beets
1 oz fresh basil
3 oz (1/3 C) almonds 
2 oz Pecorino Romano, grated (+a bit extra for serving)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 C ice water

Preheat oven to 400F. Remove and discard (or save for a another recipe) the greens from the beets, wash beets, and place on a large sheet of tin foil. Drizzle beets with a bit of olive oil, wrap them in the tin foil and roast for 50 minutes - 1 hour. When the beets are soft enough to poke a fork in easily, remove from the oven. Fill a small bowl with 1 cup of ice water and one by one, place the beets in the water for a few seconds, then remove them, and the skins will easily slip off. Skin all 4 beets this way and set aside. You can do this the day before and keep the roasted beets in your fridge if you'd like. 

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the 1 lb pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, and drain in a large colander. 

While the water heats up, juice the lemon, pop the beets in the bowl of a food processor and add the basil, lemon juice, almonds, grated cheese, and olive oil. Process on high for 3-4 minutes, until the pesto reaches your desired texture. I like mine mostly smooth, but with a bit of a grain.  

Place cooked and drained pasta in a large bowl or pot and add the beet pesto, toss until well coated. Serve with extra grated cheese sprinkled on top. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Toasted Ham, Brie, and Raspberry Sandwiches

Grilled cheese is probably one of the most nationally loved foods here in the USA. Sure, the French have the Croque Monsieur's, and the English have their toasted cheeses, but we Americans take grilled cheese, and really the love of melted cheese on bread in general, to a whole new level. 

In Cleveland, where I grew up, we have a restaurant called The Melt, which specializes in huge, gratuitous grilled cheeses so thick you can barely get them in your mouth, and full of crazy toppings like chorizo and potato, or whole pierogi. You can even custom make a sandwich with just about anything you can imagine in it- sauerkraut, pork belly, pulled beef brisket, even meatloaf! 

Meanwhile, in New York City, we have Little Muenster, purveyor of adorably perfect little grilled cheeses, and Milk Truck, the on-the-go purveyor of grilled cheese, and a chain of grilled cheese spots called Melt Shop. And then there's Beechers, the Seattle based fromagerie with a Flatiron location whose grilled cheeses sport fantastic, exotic cheesy insides, and perfectly buttery caramelized toasted outsides. 

But the best grilled cheeses are always the ones you make yourself. You can decide if you want them so cheesy it squishes out the sides, or so toasty the crunch can be heard across the room, and you can come up with any crazy combination of toppings you like. This just so happens one of my favorites, thin sliced ham, creamy brie, sharp arugula, and a delightful layer of raspberry jam.  

Ham and cheese is a classic combination, and brie is such an easy cheese to pair with other flavors, its mild creaminess is the perfect companion to the sharp arugula and the sweet raspberry. This is a lovely lunch to throw together when you have the ingredients on hand, or could be a delightfully simple weekday dinner for two!

Toasted Brie, Ham, and Raspberry Sandwiches

4 Slices Sandwich Bread
2 tbsp Raspberry Jam
1/3 lb Brie
1/3lb Thin Sliced Ham
1 Handful Arugula 
2 tbsp Butter

Using 1 tbsp butter, butter one side of each slice of bread. This is the outside of your sandwich. 
Thinly slice the brie, set aside.
To assemble sandwiches, take two pieces of buttered bread and place them buttered side down on a clean plate. Spread approximately 1 tbsp raspberry jam on one slice of bread. Take 1/2 the total amount of sliced brie and split it between both pieces of bread. Arrange 1/2 the ham on one slice of bread, and 1/2 the arugula on the other. Close sandwich and set aside. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 2nd sandwich.

Heat remaining 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place sandwiches in hot skillet and cook for approx 5 min, checking for toasted-ness occasionally. Flip sandwiches, and cook another 5 minutes. Sometimes I cover my pan to make my sandwiches super-duper melty. Once both sides are nicely golden brown and the cheese has melted, remove sandwiches from heat, cut in half, and enjoy! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cold Destroying Green Smoothie

It seems like it's impossible to make it through a Northeastern winter without catching a cold. I know science says the slushy, cold, icy winters we have around here do not actually cause colds, but when I lived in the mild, damp Northwest I don't remember ever catching a cold. 

Around here, everyone seems to get sick every winter. That might have more to do with the fact that we all cram so tightly onto the subway that we're essentially breathing air directly out of each other's mouths than it does with the miserable weather, but the sleet and slush certainly doesn't help. 

Last weekend a I was suddenly overcome by an achy feeling of exhaustion, coupled with a runny nose, and an endlessly scratchy throat. I knew I had to battle this cold off before it got its claws in me and stole my whole week. I popped zinc tablets, dropped oregano oil into my orange juice, made big steaming mugs of honey-ginger-lemon tea, and a big blender full of this delightful smoothie.

Oranges pack a ton of vitamin C, which is said to help shorten the duration of the common cold,  the pineapple is loaded with bromelain, an anti-inflammatory which will help you fight off the cold, and relieves coughing. Ginger and cayenne are both excellent for clearing the sinuses, the honey will soothe your throat, and kale is simply nutrient packed and good for you. It's always wise to get extra vitamins and nutrients while you're sick! 

By Monday I had whipped up and drank at least three servings of this lovely smoothie, and I was feeling much better! I hope you can stay healthy throughout this winter, but if you happen to catch a doozy of a cold, at least you can make this delicious, healthy smoothie to help you get through it!

Cold Destroying Green Smoothie

4 Oranges
1 Small Bunch Kale (approx 6-8 leaves)
1 C frozen pineapple
1.5" ginger root
2 tbsp honey
1/4 tsp cayenne

Jubilee the oranges by cutting off the tops and bottoms, then standing up the orange and cutting away the peel from the sides. Alternatively you can peel them. Cut the oranges into quarters. Set aside.

Cut the ginger into small chunks, rip up the kale leaves. 

Now you have two options. If you have a super high powered blender, like a vitamix, you can probably just toss everything in it and run it on high. I have a regular blender, so I juiced my kale with my oranges and ginger, so I wouldn't end up with any leafy bits in my smoothie. 

Juice peeled oranges, kale, and ginger in a juicer, save the juice. Then, add the kale/orange/ginger juice to your blender, along with the frozen pineapple, honey, and cayenne pepper. Run on high until the pineapple is all blended into the juice and the drink is smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Roasted Sweet Potato, Date, and Olive Salad

I know I get very excited about these recipes, that I spend a good chunk of every post gushing that the subject is the best cake! The loveliest bread! The spiciest soup! And I always mean it, but this time, guys, this time I like really really mean it. This is amazing. This is incredible. This recipe is my new favorite thing. I want to eat it every single day. 

Midway through winter it can be easy to grow tired of root vegetables. They're one of the only things still in season at the grocery store, they're on every seasonal restaurant menu in town, it can begin to feel like you've had them just about every way you can. This recipe totally shakes up sweet potatoes for me and makes them into something new and different and exciting. 

The dressing is super easy and quick to make, and I feel you could make substitutions to it freely. If you don't have any champagne vinegar, for instance, feel free to use apple cider vinegar, or even lemon. I originally wanted to use date syrup in place of maple, but I couldn't find any date syrup in my neighborhood, so I went with maple which was delightful. Who doesn't love maple and yams?

Roasting dates and olives may sound a bit strange if you've never tried it before, but both are truly delightful roasted. The roasted olives are warm and sort of meaty in texture, with bubbly skins while the dates become deeper and darker in flavor, more condensed tasting, caramelized,  their skins become firm and crispy and the flesh gets chewy and wonderful. 

I made this dish on Sunday morning, and after photographing it I headed out for a run. It was chilly and clear and a bit breezy, and there were many more runners out than your average morning, probably hoping to make up for all the calories they were going to ingest at Superbowl Parties later. I was listening to an episode of Serial on my phone as I jogged and I ended up getting so caught up in it (and the Moth project episode that followed it) that I ran my longest run ever. 

As soon as I got home, my cheeks windburned, my skin frozen, my leg muscles on fire, I collapsed on our couch and devoured a huge bowl of this stuff. The chewy dates, meaty olives, creamy-earthy sweet potato, tangy goat cheese, and crisp almonds were so lovely, and the flavors so perfectly blended, it was the perfect post-workout meal. 

I know I'll be adding this roasted salad to my dinner party lineups asap. It would be wonderful served alongside a lamb chop, or with roast chicken. It's also wonderful on it's own as lunch, or served over a bed of wilted greens for a vegetarian dinner. Enjoy!

Roasted Sweet Potato, Date, and Olive Salad

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 heaping cup dates
1 heaping cup olives
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 C goat cheese crumbles (or cashew cheese if you're paleo/vegan)
1/4 C sliced almonds
2 tbsp maple 
1 scant tbsp champagne vinegar
1/2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. 
Cut potatoes into 1" cubes, toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper and spread out covering half of a large sheet pan. Roast for 20 minutes. 
 While potatoes are roasting pit any unpitted olives and dates and toss together with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. After potato has roasted 20 minutes, remove the sheet pan from the oven, speed the dates and olives out on the remaining empty half, and roast for 10-12 minutes, until they're sizzling and bubbling and lovely. Remove from oven. 

While roasting, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the maple, champagne vinegar and mustard. Set aside.

Combine roasted potatoes, olives, and dates in a large bowl. drizzle with the dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle crumbled goat cheese and sliced almonds on top and serve. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lemon Blueberry Cake

So I had this whole brilliant, funny post written to go along with this lovely lemon blueberry gluten-free, date-sweetened cake. It talked about how lemon always brightens up a gray, dull winter like the one we're having in New York this year, and about how wonderful it is that citrus season is winter when nearly all the other fruits are off-season. 

But then, even though I had saved the draft, and even confirmed that it was still there later, this morning the great google machine blogspot had swallowed it up into the infinite abyss of lost posts, and it was gone. 

A true tragedy. There's nothing that ruins your morning quite like finding out you have to redo something that was already done. Not to mention remembering the details of what I wrote yesterday. Lets see, I wrote about the grayness of winter, and about how winter is thankfully citrus season, oh, and I told a really embarrassing winter story so maybe it's for the best that the post was lost...

Oh, what's that? You still want to hear my embarrassing story? Ok, fair enough. So I was out for my morning run on Sunday, and it was very rainy so I was running on a path beneath a roadway by the river, I was running down to my bank to deposit some checks at the atm and then back up to the apartment, a bit over a 3 three mile round trip. 

At one point on the run, I have to cross out from under the highway, and on my way down I noticed that the ground exposed to the rain was a bit slushy with melting snow from a recent snowy day. I was careful across it, but it didn't seem that slippery anyway. So I continued on to the bank and then looped back on the same route.

As I approached the corner right before the slushy area I reminded myself to be careful, but from my first step into the slush I knew it was going wrong. My toes started to slide around in the inch of clear melted ice coating the asphalt. I took another step and this time my left toes slid wildly to the right, while my elevated right foot came down towards the ground my left foot slid even further, completely crossing over my right causing me to trip myself with my own right foot. 

I windmilled my arms around wildly, yelping and whooping in fear, imagining my knees and elbows slamming into the asphalt, the cold slush rising up to soak my clothes, my socks, my phone. I stumbled  a few more steps before managing to come to a stop in a twisted, cross-legged version of chair pose, and as I regained my balance I chuckled to myself. 

And then I heard my laughter echoed back at me from an overhang near the river. I looked up to see three guys taking shelter from the rain while laughing enthusiastically at my struggles. They were positively cracking up. One of them was even a little doubled-over laughing at my near-miss with the pavement. 

Needless to say, I jogged off slowly, with my head hung in shame. I jogged home and whipped up this cake, so I could eat way my embarrassment. And it is a lovely cake. I'm just crazy about these date cakes. This is the third one I've made for this blog (Chocolate, Spice Cake), and I just don't get sick of them. They have such a brilliant texture- dense, but not heavy. And they're pretty darn simple to make, too. 

I love that this cake is decadent, rich, and very flavorful, yet it's totally gluten and sugar free. It has a lovely consistency that reminds me a bit of a clafoutis. It's sturdy enough to hold together just fine, but has a light custardy texture that I adore. It makes a lovely dessert on a cold blustery winter's night, but would also be delightful as a sweet note to round off your brunch, and is just perfect eaten as a little afternoon pick-me-up!


8 oz dates, pitted
1/2 C butter, melted* (butter-free option below)
3 tbsp honey
5 eggs, separated
1/3 C coconut sugar
1 C ground almonds/almond meal
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 lemons
1/2 C blueberries

Blueberry Honey Sauce:

10 oz blueberries
1/4 C honey

*If you don't eat butter, feel free to use about 1/4C melted coconut oil, mixed with 2tbsp melted coconut butter/manna.

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit, and grease a 10 inch springform pan, (if you don't have a springform line a pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make removing cake easy.) I also like to cut a circle of parchment paper to match the bottom of my springform pan, and line it with it, to make cake removal a snap.

Zest all three lemons, set zest aside. Juice 1 lemon, pour the juice into a small skillet, add the pitted dates, and heat over medium low heat, stirring dates occasionally, for 2-3 minutes, until dates are plump and have absorbed some of the lemon. 
Pour dates and any remaining lemon juice into the bowl of a food processor, add the honey, and blitz until a thick paste forms. Using a spatula, scrape puree into a medium sized bowl, and add the melted butter to it. Mix until butter is well incorporated. 

Juice the remaining two lemons, set aside.
In  a second medium sized bowl beat the egg yolks and coconut sugar until creamy and slightly foamy. Stir egg yolk mixture into date mixture and mix until well combined. Mix in the ground almonds, lemon juice and lemon zest. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the batter gently. Do not be over aggressive mixing in the egg whites quickly, take time and fold them in slowly and gently until they are well mixed in to the batter. 

Pour batter into prepared springform pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost entirely clean. Allow to cool for atleast 10 minutes before removing from the pan. 

While the cake bakes, make the topping. In a small saucepan combine the blueberries and honey. Heat over medium low heat, occasionally smushing some berries with your spoon and stirring 10-12 minutes, until the berries have eeked out their juices, and the liquid has thickened some. Sauce will thicken more upon cooling, but you do want it to be beginning to thicken when you remove it from heat. Cool for atleast 15 minutes before serving, to allow it to thicken. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Coffee cake is a wonderful dish. It's basically dessert for breakfast, which I can always get behind, and it involves streusel topping, which is certainly one of the great wonders of the world. I decided to mix it up a bit with this coffee cake, so I cut back on the amount of cinnamon and added cardamom instead.

Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. I discovered it when I got into making my own Chai blends in college. It hails from India, Pakistan, and Nepal- all chai making countries, and has a spiced, deep flavor similar to cinnamon or ginger, but also entirely it's own. Though powerful in flavor I wouldn't call cardamom spicy, unlike cinnamon or ginger too much won't give you a bit of a mouth searing. 

I was getting over a nasty virus, hence the lack of posts last week, so I decided to take a bit of an easy way out, and I slightly modified a Pioneer Woman recipe for this cake base. I knew this would be a safe option because I have never tried a Ree Drummond recipe I did not like! 

I cut back on the sugar, and added cinnamon and cardamom to the cake base because I love spices in the coffee cake itself, not just in the topping. What I didn't do was cut back on the quantity, even though I know every Pioneer Woman recipe produces enough food to feed an army. Seriously, sometimes S makes her Mac'n'Cheese, and I tell him to cut the recipe into one-third of it's original quantity, and we still end up with leftovers. Consequently, I ended up with a big 10" coffee cake and a few muffins made of leftover batter! 

Luckily, the cake is delicious. I know most coffee cake is delicious, but this stuff is a step above any coffee cake I've ever tried. The cardamom streusel is really out of this world. I mixed a bit of cinnamon into the butter with the cardamom so there would be familiar notes in the streusel, but the major flavor is definitely the cardamom, which makes a brilliant, sweet, spiced, complex streusel. On the first day, when it cools, it's crispy crunchy, but by the second day it's softened up a bit from all the butter it's soaked in, and then it's really magical.  

The cake has a magnificent texture. Not too dense or too airy, it holds together well but isn't thick or hearty. It's distinctively light and almost melts in you mouth- that's the 3 sticks of butter in action. The cinnamon and cardamom give the cake nice lightly spiced taste, so even a bite without streusel  still tastes lightly of cardamom. 

We ate it for breakfast, and dessert, and occasionally a snack, for about 4 days before we finished it off last night. When I told S we were eating the last slices, he was disappointed. I told him not to worry, I already want to make this cake again, but this time with blueberries and lemon in it! Or maybe apples! Let's make it with ginger streusel next time, I said, and put vanilla bean in the cake! The adaptations and changes you could make to this cake base are endless. Enjoy!

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, softened
1 2/3 C Sugar
3 C Flour
4 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/4 C Whole Milk
3 Egg Whites
1 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Cardamom
Pinch of Salt

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, softened
3/4 C Flour
1 1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 tbsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 cake pan, or a 10" springform pan (also line the bottom of the springform with parchment paper)
In a medium sized bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

In another medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Whisk together. Set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter. Alternating, add the milk and the dry ingredients in thirds while mixing. Mix until everything is well incorporated, but do not overmix.

In a separate bowl, combine all streusel ingredients with a fork, pastry cutter, or your hands, until thoroughly combined. 

Pour batter into prepared pan, if batter rises above the halfway point, use the rest of the batter to make some tasty muffins* (directions below). Sprinkle half the streusel topping over the batter, and use a butter knife to lightly swirl it into the top of the batter. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping on top (reserve some for muffins, if making)
Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool atleast 6-7 minutes before removing from springform pan, or before serving from a 9x13 pan.

*For Muffins: 

If you have leftover batter, grease a muffin tin or line it with paper or silicone liners, and fill each cup just a bit over halfway. Sprinkle leftover streusel topping over the top. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.