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!