February 26, 2013

Brown Bag Lunch: Soba Noodle Salad

Soba Noodles with 
Shrimp, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Kale Chips & Onions

Remember the braised kabocha squash? The next day we threw together this soba noodle salad with shrimp which we cooked in the leftover kabocha braising liquids. This was a perfect reinvention of leftovers to bring to lunch the next day. A peanut sauce would work really well here in lieu of the braising liquids. Whole wheat spaghetti would also work in lieu of soba noodles, but I really like the nutty flavor & lighter texture of these Japanese buckwheat noodles.

1/2 large sweet potato (or leftover kabocha), diced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 bunch kale, deveined & cut into bite-size ribbons
1.5 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 dashes of worchestire sauce
salt & pepper, to taste
1 bundle soba noodles (usually about 1/3 package)
2 thick pats of butter
~1.5 dozen fresh or frozen shrimp
1/2-3/4 cup braising liquids, or peanut sauce
cilantro & scallions, chopped (optional)
yield: 3 servings

1. preheat oven to 350F

2. line baking sheet with sweet potatoes & onions. sprinkle with olive oil, worchestire sauce and salt & pepper to taste. in a separate baking sheet, line with kale & sprinkle with olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. both should cook for about 20 minutes, although the kale make cook more quickly, depending on the size of the sweet potatoes. you will need to turn both about 1/2 way through to make sure everything cooks on both sides evenly.

3. bring large salted pot of water to boil. add soba noodles to a rigorous boil for 1-2 minutes, or until noodles soften. (warning: soba noodles cook much more quickly than regular pasta noodles.)

4. pour cooked noodles through a colander, and immediately run cold water over them to stop them from cooking. toss with sweet potatoes and kale.

5. melt butter in a non-stick or all-clad pan over low-medium heat & add shrimp. 

6. if using frozen, you can expect these to let out some liquid, which you will want to drain off. add the braising liquid from the kabocha (or peanut sauce, if using) & cook until shrimp turn pink. 

7. once shrimp have finished cooking, toss together with the soba noodles & vegetables. garnish with chopped cilantro & scallions.

February 25, 2013


BLTs with 
Sweet Potato Fries

Bacon, Arugula & Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches 
with Dijonnaise on Flax Seed Bread

We recently popped into Seasonal Pantry, an inspiring supper club & shop in DC's Shaw neighborhood. We picked up a slab of bacon & quickly agreed BLTs were in order. Here is our take on this American classic.

1 slab of bacon
1 tbsp mayo
1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
slices of bread, toasted
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
2 cups loosely packed arugula

1. if using a whole slab of bacon, slice into thin strips. cut off the skin (save for another use!). cook bacon strips to desired crispness.

2. mix mayo & mustard to make a dijonnaise. spread mixture onto toasted bread.

3. the trick here is to layer the ingredients onto the bread in such a way to keep the sandwich in tact as you are eating -- tomato on one side, bacon on the other, arugula in the middle.

ShoeString Sweet Potato Fries 
with Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

1 sweet potato, sliced into thin strips
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 dash soy sauce
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt & pepper, to taste

1. pre-heat oven to 350F

2. line baking sheet with sweet potatoes & coat with olive oil and salt & pepper to taste

3. bake sweet potatoes until tender to the touch of a fork & crisp around the edges.

4. in a small mixing bowl, whisk together honey, mustard, soy sauce, cayenne pepper & garlic

5. serve sweet potato fries with a dallop of honey-mustard 
photo collage credits: Lonny Magazine

February 21, 2013

Weekend Outings: Hana Japanese Market

Hana Japanese Market

Our local supermarket leaves a bit to be desired. Aptly named the 'Soviet Safeway', it is hard to count on basics let alone interesting & rare ingredients that inspire. Cue in Hana Japanese Market a store managed by a helpful gentleman bearing a remarkable likeness to his cartoon representation. This tiny space is filled with a diverse range of Japanese ingredients. Fresh Japanese produce is delivered from LA & local farms on Thursdays. Our recent excursion to Hana inspired the following.

Steamed Flounder 
with Soy Braised Kabocha Squash

Steamed Flounder

Do you ever use a bamboo steamer to cook? Its a great way to bring forward the subtle, natural flavors of seafood & vegetables. When steaming fish, a white flaky fish seems to work best. This flounder was superb. We have a nonstick 9 inch Calphalon pan that fits perfectly under the bamboo steamer. Use any pot or pan that will allow for at least one inch of water underneath to steam, being careful to not submerge the bamboo in the water below. We line the steamer with banana leaves, but I suspect cabbage would work just as well. 

2 fillets of white flaky fish
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp mirin
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, minced 
1 clove garlic, minced
maldon salt (optional)

1. Arrange the fish fillets on the banana leaves.  

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, pressed ginger & garlic. Brush fish with sauce.

3. Bring about 1 inch of water in the pan below to a boil (feel free to play with the flavor of the water -- think balsamic or rice vinegar, garlic or ginger) & steam the fish for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness. If you are using stacked steamers, you will need to rotate them half way through the cooking process to ensure even cooking.

4. Garnish with maldon salt. 

Soy Braised Kabocha Squash
{original recipe found here}

Simply put, this was finger licking good. Kabocha Squash is so delicate it feels like it is melting in your mouth. This savory side dish really lets the kabocha shine, but as with pumpkin its uses are plentiful. This paired really well with the fish & makes for an easy, knock-out side dish for a dinner party.

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic
3 scallions, diced
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock (+ more, as needed)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp honey or sugar
1/2 kabocha squash, sliced into 1/4 inch wedges

1. heat oil over medium-high heat. add ginger, garlic, scallions and saute until garlic browns a bit & mixture becomes fragrant. add stock, soy sauce, mirin & honey. 

2. scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. add squash into liquids & dial back heat to a simmer. cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes, until squash softens. rotate 1/2 way through cooking so all pieces can glaze at the bottom of the pan.

3. if you have any leftover braising liquid (we had a good 1/2-3/4 cup leftover liquids), save it! be on the look out for an up-coming post featuring a soba noodle salad using these braising liquids!

February 20, 2013

Brown Bag Lunch: Tabouli Salad & Hummus

Quinoa Tabouli Salad with 
Hummus, Wheat Toast & Sliced Tomato

Quinoa Tabouli Salad

I am a sucker for tabouli salad, I always have been. When traveling far from home, I find tabouli to be a familiar taste & I find great comfort in this. This tabouli recipe uses quinoa, rather than bulgar or cracked wheat, as a base. Quinoa pumps up the protein & lends a distinctive texture.

1 cup quinoa
1.5 cups water
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
generous handful of cherry tomatoes, coarsely diced
4 scallions, diced
~12 fresh mint leaves, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced (plus more to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

1. combine quinoa & water in a medium sized pot. add a pinch of salt. cook over low heat until water has absorbed & small white rings have formed around the quinoa grains.

2. once the quinoa has cooked, add in parsley, cherry tomatoes, scallions, mint, olive oil & lemon juice. stir to combine. 


Have you ever made hummus that takes just as great as readymade supermarket varieties or restaurant offerings? I have not. I have been making homemade hummus over the course of the past 10 years, and I can. not. get. it. right. Anyone out there have any trade secrets? Below was my most recent approach.

1 can chickpeas
1 garlic clove, smashed to release the paper skin
just under 1/2 cup roasted tahini
just under 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup water (plus more)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
yield: ~ 1.5 cups

1. in a food processor combine the chick peas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, water, olive oil and salt & pepper.

2. add more water as needed in 1 tbsp increments, until you reach desired consistency.

note: one thing i have learned over the years is that using canned chickpeas as opposed to dried beans really helps achieve a smoother consistency hummus.

February 19, 2013

Lately Snacking On...Ricotta Cheese

Wheat Toast with 
Ricotta Cheese, Crushed Almonds & Honey

Do you ever eat ricotta cheese? I only recently discovered that its uses extend beyond simply layering it into a lasagna. Even though I may be late to this party, I am making up for lost time -- ricotta with crushed almonds & a honey drizzle on wheat toast is really hitting the spot lately. A prettier pairing and presentation on this same idea involves fresh berries in a range of colors. 

February 18, 2013

Argentine Chimichurri

{original recipe from Simply Recipes}

In Argentina, chimichurri is a popular companion to grilled steak. Vibrantly green & bursting with flavor, chimichurri can be used as a marinade or a pairing sauce. The variations on this recipe are endless, and its uses extend well beyond red meat. We served with a grass fed NY Strip & a bottle of Malbec. And we continued to enjoy this chimichurri for several days afterwards -- see below for other suggested uses for chimichurri.

1 cup packed fresh flat leave parsley
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar 
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1. finely chop parsley & garlic. place in a small bowl.

2. stir in oregano, olive oil, vinegar, salt & peppers.

3. serve immediately or refrigerate. return to room temperature before serving. can keep for several days.

Other Suggested Uses:

leftover chimichurri makes for a great sandwich condiment. spread chimichurri on a toasted wheat bun, layer with sliced feta & peppered turkey. or serve in a warmed tortilla with sliced avocado & diced cherry tomatoes. 

alternatively, try with grilled chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, or even potatoes. 

we would love to hear from you - let us know if you discover any other creative uses for chimichurri!

Photo collage credits: Andrei Sinioukov

February 17, 2013

Egg Tacos

Egg Tacos 
with Refried Beans & Sliced Avocado

Eggs are an almost daily feature in our lives. For me, usually eaten in a tortilla, for Andrei, usually served alongside bacon. In Tanzania, fresh eggs were delivered to our doorstep by mayai touts on bicycle, as depicted in Sarah Markes' compelling Dar sketch series. I viscerally missed tortillas the 2 years we lived in Tanzania and I now appreciate ready access them. These egg 'tacos' make for a great weekend brunch offering or even an easy week night dinner.

2 eggs
1 tsp milk
1/5 tsp whole grain mustard
1 small pat butter
1 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper, to taste
cilantro to garnish
yield: 2 tacos, very easy to double or triple

1. crack 2 eggs into a small mixing bowl. 

2. beat milk & whole grain mustard into eggs until whites have combined with the yolks  

3. melt butter over low-medium heat in a nonstick pan. tilt pan to coat with butter.

4. pour eggs into the pan & let them set. add cheddar cheese & continue to cook until cheese melts.

5. meanwhile, warm tortillas on stove top.

6. place eggs in warmed corn tortillas. garnish with chopped cilantro & hot sauce of your choosing. 

7. serve with refried beans & sliced avocado & lime wedge.  

February 15, 2013

Tea & Crumpets

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

All hail the weekend! These muffins would make for an excellent companion to a pot of tea or coffee on a lazy weekend afternoon. A smear of lemon curd or this Goat & Cream Cheese topping would make these otherwise healthy muffins truly indulgent.

2 cups all purpose flour
heavy pinch of salt
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup chia seeds
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 cup water
1/3 cup applesauce
yield: 12 muffins

1. pre-heat oven to 350F

2. grease muffin tins with butter or line with oil and dust with flour

3. in a large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, chia seeds & lemon zest. stir until ingredients are fully mixed.

4. create a well with the dry ingredients. add sugar, oil, water & apple sauce. stir to combine. be careful not to over combine. pour out batter into pre-greased muffin tins & let batter sit for a few minutes.

5. cook for 10-15 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted into the batter comes out clean.

6. serve with a smear of lemon curd or this Goat & Cream Cheese topping

photo credits: top collage, photos 1,2,3 Lonny

February 14, 2013

Valentine's Dinner

Happy Valentine's Day!

Whether your Valentine's dinner will be a romantic evening for 2 or a more festive gathering among friends, here are a couple of menu suggestions to ensure your celebration is one of substance & style.

Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Roasted Carrots

Its the perfect holiday to play up bold reds! This pairs excellently with a robust red. We recently discovered an Italian red, Taurino Salice Salentino, compliments of our friend Steve - an excellent cooking companion with good instincts in the kitchen & purveyor of the finer things in life.

Rib Eye Steak, bone-in
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 glug of olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

1. when using high quality ingredients, a  simple approach lets the flavors shine through - a dusting of nutmeg, a glug of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt & pepper will go a long way to bringing out the flavors of a grilled steak.

2. make sure your grill grates are clean to prevent the meat from sticking. use an oiled paper towel & a wire brush to clean the grates. 

3. once the steaks go on the grill, the cooking process is fast. for approximately an one inch thick steak, if you are looking for a medium-rare temperature, the cook time will be about one minute on each side on a really hot grill. if you are careful with your steak placement - 12 o'clock position followed by a 1:30 position on each side, you can achieve diamond pattern grill marks that appear oh so professional.

4. pay attention to the "give" of the meat - a medium rare steak should be firm yet maintain a good amount of give. 

5. resting your meat once it comes off the grill is one of the most important aspects of the "cooking" process. let your steak rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it or serving, depending on the thickness of the steak. 

Roasted Carrots with Leeks & Honey

6-8 carrots
1 leek, sliced into coins
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
freshly ground salt & pepper, to taste

1. pre-heat oven to 400F.

2. peel carrots & cut really thick carrots in half.

3. line a baking sheet with carrots. spread leek coins over the carrots. drizzle honey & sprinkle with salt & pepper. a dusting of cayenne pepper plays nicely against the honey drizzle.

4. bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until carrots are tender to the touch of a fork.

Ponzu Braised Chicken with Bok Choy

If your persuasions lie on the white & sparkling side, try this whole roasted chicken recipe & serve with a bottle of champagne, prosecco or even a hoppy craft beer.

1 chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 onion, diced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp ponzu
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2-3/4 cup chicken stock

1. pre-heat the oven to 350F.

2. if you are working with a whole chicken, rather than pre-cut chicken, then you will need to cut the chicken in half. we used our kitchen scissors for this job, but a butcher knife would work just as well.

3. cover all sides of the chicken with salt & pepper

4. warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat-high, sear the chicken skin side down, until the skin is nicely browned.

5. remove the seared chicken from the pot. toss garlic, onion & ginger into the cooking liquid from the chicken, stirring until the onions brown. 

6. once the onions have browned, add ponzu, soy sauce & rice vinegar. using a wooden spatula, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

7. return the chicken to the pot, with juices and braising liquids. add enough chicken stock to have about 1 inch of liquid in the pot.

8. cover the pot & cook the chicken in the oven until the meat is falling off the bones. 

Sweet & Spicy Bok Choy 

We paired this chicken with sweet and spicy bok choy, and frankly the jury is still out about which one was better?!

1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp seasame oil
8-12 stalks of baby bok choy
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp sriacha

1. warm olive oil in a skillet pan. add seasame oil once warmed.

2. once the seasame oil is fragrant, add the bok choy, shallots & garlic. stir to coat.

3. once the shallots soften a bit, add soy sauce, honey & sriacha. continue to stir fry until the flavors blend the the bok choy has absorbed the flavors.

Collage Photo Credits (left to right, top to bottom): Lonny, Southern Living, Lonny, Lonny, Lonny

February 13, 2013

Super Market Rotisserie Chickens

Chicken Stock

I confess, sometimes we buy rotisserie style whole chickens from Safeway. This month's issue of Bon Appetit gave a strong nod of endorsement to this practice in their article "Rotisserie Chicken is Your Friend". These savory chickens provide ready access to protein for meals throughout the week. This week the rotisserie chicken proved the gift that kept on giving, as we made homemade chicken stock with the carcass. 

Here are a few tips to a foolproof stock compliments of my old-school, hard back copy of the Joy of Cooking:
  • the higher the ratio of solids to water, the more flavorful the stock
  • add just enough water to barely cover the ingredients, too much water makes for a less flavorful stock.
  • never allow a stock to boil
  • a well made stock contains little fat - trim meat and bones of visible fat 
  • keep refrigerated for 3-5 days or frozen for prolonged storage 
  • ice cube trays work well to freeze smaller amounts & are perfectly proportioned for recipes calling for only a small amount
Below is a recipe for our take on a homemade chicken stock -- we rely on our le creuset for tasks like this.

chicken carcass
3 bay leaves
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
6 baby carrots
12 whole black peppercorns
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch of salt

1. combine ingredients into a large stock pot. add just enough water to cover. 

2. simmer uncovered over low heat for approximately 2-3 hours, until extremely fragrant. the stock is finished when there is no flavor left in the solid ingredients.

3. place a mesh colander in a large bowl. once finished, pour ingredients through the strainer & collect in the large bowl. discard solids.

4. cover in a tightly sealed container. remove any fat that rises to the surface when ready to reuse.

Thai Green Curry with Chicken, Sweet Potatoes & Kale

I have already described our household predilection for Thai green curry. This is an opportunistic version of green curry, making use of this chicken stock & some seasonal vegetables we had on hand to transform leftover chicken into an easy & tasty week night meal. 

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet potato, thinly sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, pressed
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1/2 can coconut milk (that was the amount we happened to have -- feel free to use more and adjust down the amount of chicken stock in proportion)
1.5 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp Thai green curry paste + more to taste
1 tsp fish sauce
2-3 leaves of kale, ribboned
3/4 cup frozen peas
~1 chicken breast (pre-cooked), cubed
1 pinch freeze dried lemongrass or 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, pounded (optional)
kaffir leaves (optional)
lime wedges
3-4 scallions, diced
cilantro, chopped
yield: ~3 servings

1. warm olive oil in large stock pot over low-medium heat. add sweet potato, onions, garlic, ginger & 1/4 tsp fish sauce. stir to coat with olive oil. cook until sweet potatoes soften a bit.

2. add the coconut milk, chicken stock, Thai green curry paste, fish sauce, kale, peas & chicken, as well as lemongrass and kaffir leaves, if using.

3. simmer over low-medium heat until the flavors combine. taste & adjust to desired heat level, adding more curry paste in .5 tsp increments.

4. once finished, cover & let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

5. garnish with lime wedge, chopped cilantro & diced scallions.

Photo Credits: #1: Urban Outfitters Blog; #2 from here; #3 Andrei Sinioukov

February 12, 2013

Irish Oatmeal with a Tropical Twist

McCann's Steel Cut Oatmeal 
with Coconut, Chia Seeds & Fresh Mango

My breakfasts consist of a diverse rotation of foods most would not consider "normal" breakfast foods, including salads and turkey-avocado sandwiches. It is all the more exciting when I switch back to breakfast classics, including oatmeal. Steel Cut Oats are the least processed type of oat cereal and very high in protein, providing a filling start to the day. This overnight method cuts the cook time for steel cut oats dramatically, allowing these to come together easily in the morning.

3 cups water
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup steel cut oats
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut flakes
~1/3 tsp fine grain sea salt
fresh sliced mango
yield: 4 servings

1. bring water & coconut milk (feel free to use lite coconut milk here) to a boil in a large pot. add steel cut oats, chia seeds, coconut flakes & salt. lower heat & simmer for 1 minute. note: the salt is necessary here to bring out the natural sweetness of the oats.

2. cover pot and store overnight in the fridge (or on the stove top, as I did)

3. the next morning, cook the oatmeal on low for 9-12 minutes; stirring occasionally.

4. serve with fresh sliced mango & pair with the morning beverage of your choice.

Suggested Alternatives:

feel free to treat the coconut as optional - both the milk & the flakes. instead use 4 cups water. feel free to experiment with a variety of toppings. 

--any berry will pair well with these oats, including blueberries & strawberries.

--when fresh berries are not in season, you can take a dried fruit & nut approach here - cranberries, apricots, almonds, hazelnuts would all work well -- add a drizzle of honey to pull everything together.

--sliced banana and a swirl of peanut or almond butter adds an extra protein punch. 

--flax seed can easily be used in lieu of chia seeds.