Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Corn, Black Bean, and Kale Quinoa Bowl with Guacamole

This is a fantastic one-dish meal. Perhaps even the ultimate meal-served-in-one-bowl. It has yellow and green vegetables, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory kale and creamy, good-fat avocado, beans for protein, super-nutritious quinoa (in two colors!), and delicious spicy peppers, garlic, and onions. Plus, it has a lot of lime juice, so you won't be getting scurvy any time soon!

 I made this late last week, and after S and I took a train to Long Island to pick up the car and drove it back into the snowy city on Friday night, my first time back to driving in the city since before Christmas, I was happy to hurry back home to a big bowl of spicy guacamole and delicious corn, kale, and bean salad. 

S and I picked up the car so we could drive out to PA for some skiing on Saturday. This is my fourth winter teaching S to ski, and by teaching S to ski, I mean making him chase me down ski hills all over New England, which is certainly not his favorite activity. 

S is not the winter-loving type. And while I wouldn't say I am the winter-loving type, I do love skiing. So I'm determined to get S to love skiing too, which is a bit of an uphill battle. However, I believe going into the (early) ski morning well fed and warm will make a vast difference in terms of fun had on the hill.

Which is why I made sure S ate a big bowl of this delicious, nutrient filled dinner the night before we skied. And then I brought muffins for the car, clementines and granola bars for the hill, and cheese and crackers and aged sausage for lunch. No soggy, cardboard-tasting ski resort hamburgers for us. 

I want to say it was all the monounsaturated fat in the avocado, or the protein-rich beans and quinoa giving him an extra boost of energy and a great equilibrium, but S did not fall once skiing on Saturday. Ok, maybe he fell walking down a hill in his ski boots, but it's my experience that the better you are at skiing the more likely it is that your one fall of the day will be while walking, or while goofing around in the lift line. I am a notorious lift-line faller. 

 When we returned home from skiing I was truthfully bummed that we had already eaten all of this as it would have made a fantastic post-skiing meal as well! We settled for delivery Chinese, which is never a disappointment down here in Chinatown.

I would describe this dish as being most akin to a burrito bowl, but better. To be totally honest with you, I've never actually had a burrito bowl from Chipotle or Qdoba or one of those tex-mex fast food places, but S has and he confirmed that indeed, this is a more flavorful version of the burrito bowl. The kale packs a lot more punch than your typical cilantro, and the quinoa is like a more flavorful, colorful, textured, and all around better version of rice.

You could mix this up as you like, subbing in dandelion greens or arugula for the kale, white beans for black, less pepper, more pepper, or different peppers in the guacamole. If you're into salsa on your quinoa (not for me), add a scoop of salsa next to your guacamole. This makes a fantastic dinner, or a delicious and hearty lunch, and is great room temperature or chilled!

Corn, Black Bean, and Kale Quinoa Bowl with Guacamole.
Makes approx. 4 servings

3 avocados
3 garlic cloves
1/2 med onion
1 jalapeno
1 lime
red pepper flakes

Black Bean Corn Salad
3 corn ears
1 13.5 oz can black beans
1 small bunch kale 
1 1/2 limes
1 tbsp  coconut vinegar*
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp dijon
1/2 tsp agave

1 C dry quinoa
2 C water or vegetable broth
1 lime

For the guacamole, cut the avocados in half, remove pits, peel, and cut into quarters, place in a medium sized bowl. Finely chop 1/2 a red or yellow onion, add to bowl with avocado. Chop the jalapeno fine as well and add to the avocado bowl, if you prefer a less spicy guacamole, use just 1/2 the jalapeno. We used a whole medium sized jalapeno and the guacamole was pretty spicy. 
Juice the lime using a citrus juicer, or cut it in half and poke it with a fork while squeezing it, add the juice to the bowl. Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste, then mash everything with a large fork until the guacamole is pretty smooth, around 3-5 minutes. Set bowl aside. 

For the quinoa, place two cups of water or vegetable broth in a medium sized sauce pan and bring to a boil, while the water heats place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it under running water. When the water boils, add the quinoa and reduce heat to low, cover the quinoa and allow it to cook for about 12-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and the quinoa has puffed and sprouted. Fluff with a fork, cut a lime in half, juice it, and add the juice of both halves to the quinoa, mix well.

While the quinoa cooks, if you have a gas stove you can roast the corn on your range, by turning your burner to medium low and placing the shucked corn ears directly on the range so the flames barely lick the kernels. Turn every few minutes as the area exposed to flame blackens. 
If you don't have a gas range, you can oven roast the corn following this recipe.
Set corn aside to cool. 

Open the can of black beans and pour into a strainer, rinse well under running water. Set aside in strainer to drain.
Wash and dry kale, then stack several leaves together then roll them tightly into long kale cigars. Next, using a sharp knife cut across, starting at the top, to produce thin kale strands. See here for more info. Set kale aside.

Once corn is cool, stand it up on its wider end and using a sharp knife, cut straight down flush to the cob to remove the corn kernels. Collect the corn kernels and place them, the black beans, and the kale into a medium sized bowl.  Toss to combine.

Cut up two limes and squeeze the juice of 1 1/2 of them into a small bowl, add the dijon mustard, agave, and coconut vinegar (or other vinegar), add a hearty grating of black pepper and a pinch of salt (I use sea salt),  then whisk to combine. Or use an immersion blender, I love my immersion blender for making smooth salad dressing. Keep whisking (or blending!), and slowly drizzle in the coconut oil. Whisk continuously while adding the coconut oil in a very thin stream, the idea is to emulsify it into the dressing so it will not separate. The immersion blender is great for this, but whisking fiercely and pouring the coconut oil really really slow works well too. 

Add the salad dressing to the corn-black bean-kale mixture and toss well to combine. 

Add a scoop of quinoa to each bowl, top with a hefty helping of the kale, corn, black bean salad, and finish with a big scoop of guacamole. Enjoy!

*Coconut Vinegar is a Southeast Asian product that I love, it's clear and tangy and a bit sweet, but it's not especially common in the US. A white wine vinegar or even rice wine vinegar, perhaps a scant tablespoon, would work as a replacement.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Spicy Sausage and Pesto Scalloped Potato Bake

This dish is one of my go-to, easy, one-pot winter dinners. I make a bunch of versions of it, chorizo and spicy potatoes, rabbit sausage and parmesan potatoes, and merguez with paprika spiced potatoes, but this creamy pesto, Romano topped, spicy italian sausage skillet bake is my new favorite. 

S and I have both been working a lot lately, I've picked up a bit of work in Brooklyn and after a dark trudge through the cold and snow, and a train ride back into the city I relish a warm, hearty dinner that comes together easily, and this is just the dish for that desire.

I grew up in Northeast Ohio, land of the lake effect snow, so I like to think I'm pretty tough about winter. I ski, I walk to work when it's freezing and snowing, I generally don't get worked up about snowfall in the single digits of inches, so when I completely wiped out in front of the City Building the other day, it was fairly embarrassing. 

I was walking home from work on a particularly wet and chilly night, it was sleeting after snowing earlier in the day, and the ground was wet and slushy. I was wearing rain boots, good ones, with tread. I am not into impractical footwear. I was standing on a slight incline of a curb cut, waiting to cross a main artery of the Financial District, at rush hour, with lots of other commuters around when all of a sudden my boots started to slide, and before I knew what was happening I was slipping, and I sat down, catching myself with my hand and soaking my glove. 

As if that wasn't enough, I glanced around as I stood up to take stock of who saw that especially graceful moment in my life, when I caught the eye of an older gentleman waiting to cross the street with his wife, and he shook his head at me, not in a friendly we've all been there kind of way, but in a judgmental nice one, walk much? kind of way. Mortifying. I felt all my winter credibility fly away on the chilly breeze. I wasn't even walking. I slipped while standing still. Who am I to claim to have mastered winter, king of all seasons?

It's events like this that require hearty, rich meals consisting of potato covered in cream sauce and topped in meat. After embarrassment and cold city sludge on my gloves all I want is creamy pesto sauce and bubbly brown cheese.

I'm not sure I'd ever had creamy pesto prior to this dish, but it's lovely. The basil soaks into the heavy cream which thickens to a lovely sauce before going in the oven and then thickens more, soaking into the potatoes while the bake, producing a delicious bubbling pot of herby scalloped potatoes cradling spicy sausages.

I imagine you could sub out the pesto sauce for 2/3 Cup of any kind of pesto of your choosing. I recommend allowing the skillet to cool about 3-5 minutes before serving, to let the sauce thicken a bit more. Also, the more cheese you grate on top, the more brown, crispy, bubbly topping you'll get, so feel free to load up on the Romano topping!

Spicy Sausage and Pesto Scalloped Potato Bake

5 cloves garlic
2 C cream
3/4 C chicken broth
2 lbs potatoes 
1 loose packed cup of basil
1/3 C Romano or Parmesan cheese plus extra for topping
1/3 C Walnut halves
1/2 lemon
1/4 C plus 1 tbsp  olive oil, divided
4 hot Italian sausages
Salt and Pepper to taste

First, make the pesto. Place basil, 2 cloves of garlic, walnuts, 1/4 C olive oil, cheese, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon into your food processor. Blitz until ingredients form a green paste. Add more olive oil if too grainy and dry. Set pesto aside.

Slice potatoes thin, less than 1/4" thick, and set aside. 

Add the 1 tbsp olive oil to an oven safe skillet and heat over medium, once oil is hot, add sausages and brown on each side, about 1-3 minutes per side. Turn off heat, remove sausages and set aside, but leave grease in pan. 

Chop remaining 3 cloves of garlic and add them to the skillet, returning to medium low heat. Allow garlic to soften and release some of its flavor. After about 2 minutes, add the cream and chicken broth, while whisking to deglaze the bottom of the skillet. Add the pesto and mix it into the cream. Add the potatoes. If all the potatoes are not covered, add a bit more cream or broth. 

Turn heat to medium and when the cream begins to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fairly soft. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees during this time. 

When potatoes are softened, remove pan from heat, arrange sausages on top, and grate a bunch of extra roman or parmesan over top of the skillet. The more the better. Place in the oven for around 40 minutes, until potatoes and sausage are cooked through and skillet is bubbly.

Allow to cool about 3-5 minutes before serving. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Raspberry Lemonade Streusel Muffins

Baking muffins transports me back to my midwestern childhood, waking up on winter mornings in a warm little house smelling of fresh baked blueberry muffins. In the midst of a chilly, grey January a batch of homemade baked muffins, especially these citrus-y, berry laden ones, is like a mini vacation to a warm, sunny place where everything smells of lemon trees and butter cake.

One of my favorite things about blogging has been keeping a record of at least some of what I cook, and being able to look back over that record and notice patterns. For instance, there are some food pairings I really seem to love. Bacon on Pizza. Chocolate and Caramel. Cheese and Beer (and more cheese and beer). Now I can add lemons and raspberries to that list, as this is my second time using this pairing as well.

I try to cook at least somewhat seasonally, but Winter is difficult. One can only eat so much kale, citrus, squash, and apples before one runs out of ways to prepare them. Last year was the winter of hearty greens. S and I ate kale or collards nearly every night it seemed. By the time spring rolled around I could barely remember what other green vegetables tasted like. 

So sometimes I crack. For instance, it is certainly not raspberry season, but I was thinking about lemon muffins and my brain kept whispering Berries. All muffins need berries. Call me weak, but I couldn't resist the idea of a juicy raspberries hiding beneath a streusel crust.

If I lived somewhere lush and verdant like California, I am sure I could eat nothing but seasonal, locally grown produce all the time and never get bored because of the biodiversity out there, but in New York City, where almost nothing grows, and the winter is long, sometimes a little package of berries from the tropical climes of California is the perfect reprieve from the grey and the cold.

The perfect remedy to the winter seasonal food blahs is frozen fresh fruit from summer. If you've never taken fruit at the peak of ripeness, and frozen it until winter, then you don't know what you're missing. A bite of a tree ripened peach in January is heavenly. It's earth shaking, revelatory. This year I froze tart cherries and yellow and white peaches S and I picked at an orchard, and blueberries we picked in the New Jersey Pine Barrens while camping. 

It's great knowing I can reach into the freezer and make a fresh cherry clafoutis or a sweet peach crisp that tastes as if I picked the peaches yesterday. There is also a little bit of triumph in every bite, a little bit of delicious pleasure derived from knowing that you thought ahead enough to pick fruit in the summer and freeze it, and that you had the strength of will to resist eating it all throughout fall, your frozen treats have made it, and you're going to have tasty fruit desserts throughout winter.

If only I had thought ahead enough to pick some raspberries too! Alas, the truth is our refrigerator is very small (whenever I say that, S says "It's bigger than the last one I had here!"), and the massive bags of cherries and peaches are already hogging almost half the space. 

So I made do with winter-grown Californian raspberries and they were delicious. These muffins are moist, but not too heavy, and have a lovely crumb. The raspberries are lovely spots of bright fuchsia in the yellow lemon cake, and the crumble topping rounds it off with a bit of crispiness.

The lemon cake is tart and sweet and tangy, like a glass of lemonade, the lemon flavor is not light, but it doesn't overwhelm either, and the raspberries studded throughout are little pockets of sweet jam-like deliciousness. 

These would be lovely at a brunch, baby or wedding shower, or just any old weekend breakfast. S and I also ate them for dessert Sunday night and they were as delicious as any cupcake. 

Raspberry Lemonade Streusel Muffins
12 large muffins, or around 15 medium muffins


3/4 C oats
1/3 C brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 tbsp butter


2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp coconut oil
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
scant 1/2 C milk
1 lemons worth of juice
2 lemons worth of zest
1 C raspberries
1 tbsp sugar for raspberries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place your raspberries in a bowl, add 1 tbsp sugar and lightly mash the berries so they're a bit broken up. I recommend using fresh berries for this, if using frozen perhaps omit the sugar and mashing as they'll be plenty wet on their own. 

Combine all streusel ingredients besides butter and mix. Chop 6 tbsp butter into cubes, and add to streusel mixture. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the streusel until the butter is well broken up and the mixture forms little clumps. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. 

Place 4 tbsp lightly softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, add the sugar and beat with stand mixer or hand mixer until creamy. Add the coconut oil and beat again, then add the eggs, milk, and vanilla, beat until well combined, then add the lemon zest and juice, beat again until well mixed. 

Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula until they're fully combined, but be careful not to over mix.

Grease muffin tin, or use paper or silicone muffin cups. Fill muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full. Add a bit of raspberry and sugar mixture to each one and swirl it in with a spoon or butter knife. Don't add too much raspberry juice as the muffins will be overly dense.

Top each muffin with a sprinkling of the streusel topping. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or if using a stoneware pan like me, 30 minutes.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Gouda and Caramelized Onion Biscuits

Fresh, green, herbal thyme, sweet caramelized onion, and nutty, cheesy aged gouda- these biscuits have it all. I baked them up on a cold, grey weekend recently, and the house smelled heavenly for hours.

Cheesy biscuits were one of my first endeavors when I began baking savory treats, anything you can put cheese on, I am interested in. When I lived in Olympia I would make big batches of cheese biscuits, experimenting with cheese types and fresh herbs from our lush, overgrown garden. They added a bit of warm, cheesy luxury to the damp, dreary winters of the Washington.

I woke up in a grey, chilly Manhattan last weekend, longing for the dripping evergreens of the Northwest and craving cheesy biscuits. I decided to make a hearty, wintery version using aged cheese and sweet and tangy apple cider soaked caramelized onions. 

One bite of these biscuits, hot from the oven warmed the grey winter chill out of my bones, the pockets of melty, nutty gouda and bites of sweet, golden onions complementing the earthy thyme. 

I made both drop and cut biscuits with this recipe, and both had their own perks. The drop biscuits were quicker to make, had more crisp edges and were a bit denser, while the cut biscuits were a bit more effort to make, but were lovely and fluffy inside with a lightly crisp outside that was fantastic.

S and I devoured these dipped in creamy garlic soup, but I also ate them for breakfast and brought them to work as a snack, and they were heavenly every time. 

I imagine they would also be fantastic alongside roast meat, or a hearty stew, and I am certainly dreaming of scarfing them down for breakfast covered in sausage gravy. 

Gouda and Caramelized Onion Biscuits

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped thyme
4 tbsp butter
1/2 lb aged gouda cheese
1 med-large yellow onion
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c milk
3/4 C sour cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chop the onion into small pieces about 1/4" long and place them in a skillet with the 1 tbsp olive oil. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar and continue to cook until onions are caramelized and vinegar is soaked up, about 7 minutes. Remove onions from pan and place on paper towel lined plate to drain any excess grease. 

Cut the butter into small cubes and keep chilled, I place mine in the freezer for a few minutes. Grate gouda into fairly small bits, I found a food processor helpful for this part, just cut the cheese into cubes and toss it in, blitz until the cheese is pretty well chopped. 

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and chopped thyme. Work in the cubed butter with a pastry blender or your fingers. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs and butter pieces are pretty small. Stir in the cheese and onions.

In a small bowl combine the milk and sour cream, stir it into the flour/butter mixture. Mix until just combined, then with well floured hands knead a few times. 

If you wish to make drop biscuits scoop them with a spoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. For round biscuits turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and using floured hands pat it to about 1 inch thickness. Use a glass, cookie cutter, or knife to cut the dough into desired shapes, and place at least 1 inch apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Eat immediately or allow to cool, they're delicious either way!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

I hope everyone had a lovely Holiday Season! I took a little hiatus after my Christmas ham, and headed to Cleveland, my childhood home, to see my family, and it was great. It snowed nearly the whole time, which is pretty much the main thing I want from a Cleveland Christmas, a whole boatload of fluffy white snow covering everything.

I partook in two other's hams and made a second ham of my own, so this was a four ham kind of Christmas for me, which is also supremely awesome. I baked gingerbread cookies, and ate almost a whole box of Malley's red sea salt dark chocolate caramels as well. Not to mention the Cambodian feast, and two fancy dinners out. And bar food with friends. Basically, I ate like there was an award for most calories consumed during the holiday season.

Which is why S and I have been on a salad kick since I returned. Not so much because I fear weight gain, but because my stomach has been rumbling the words "fresh greeeeeeeens" ever since I boarded the plane back to LaGuardia. 

With the bacon fat dressing this salad is hardly exemplary of a healthy, low calorie salad, but it is insanely delicious. When I was a kid my mother would make classic spinach salad, with bacon and onions and hardboiled eggs, and the vinegar-bacon fat dressing. This was basically the only way she could convince me to eat leafy greens. It wasn't until after college that I came to realize how delicious vegetables are.

Nowadays I don't especially like hardboiled egg or raw onion, so when I set off to make a salad with a warm bacon fat dressing, I knew I wanted to veer away from the classic spinach salad. I stuck to baby spinach because the way it wilts a bit beneath the warm oil is fantastic, but you could certainly try regular spinach. 

I wanted to stick to seasonally appropriate accompaniments for the spinach, and of course everything had to stand up well to a drizzling of warm fat. The apples retain their crispness, the nuts their crunch, and the cranberry's dried skin stands up well to the hot oil. The flavors play off one another well and their sweetness, paired with the warm mustard-y dressing is lovely, all the rich flavors and hearty nuts and dried berries make this a great wintery salad. 

This is a great main dish salad, first I devoured three bowls of it as my lunch, then S and I enjoyed it alongside bowls of creamy garlic soup for dinner. Between the nuts, bacon, and dried fruit it makes for a pretty hearty salad, and the warm dressing is just what a salad needs in this cold, wet season.

Winter Salad

5 Heaping Cups baby spinach (about 4oz weight)
1 C Walnuts
1/3 C Brown Sugar
1 apple
1/2 C dried cranberries
5 pieces bacon (preferably thick cut)
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey or maple syrup
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 tsp honey mustard
salt and pepper

First, the brown sugar walnuts. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the walnuts and brown sugar in a small saucepan and heat over low, stirring occasionally, until the brown sugar has almost all melted,  stir well for a moment to coat the walnuts, then pour them onto the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Shake so they all have a bit of room around them and leave to cool. 

Place the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium-low heat until crisp and cooked through.

While bacon is cooking, roughly chop the candied walnuts, and cut apple into shoestring pieces using knife or mandolin. I tossed my apple pieces with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning while preparing everything else.

Once bacon is crisp, remove from pan and place on paper towel on a plate to drain grease. I like to sprinkle a bit of brown sugar over my bacon as soon as it comes out of the pan. Once it's cool, chop or crumble bacon into small pieces.

In the bacon pan you should have about 4 tbsps of bacon grease, to this add the balsamic vinegar, honey or maple syrup, lemon juice,  honey mustard, a hefty grating of black pepper and a dash or two of salt. Heat over low while whisking until mixture is well combined and warm. 

In salad bowl combine spinach, apples, walnuts, bacon, and cranberries, toss lightly to mix.

If serving entire salad immediately, pour dressing over salad bowl while mixing the salad. If not serving whole salad at once, pour the warm dressing into a measuring cup or gravy boat and pour over individual bowls of salad. Dressing can be rewarmed and whisked before serving if you have leftovers.