March 28, 2013

Parsnip Bread Pudding

Roasted Parsnip & Gruyere Bread Pudding
{loosely inspired by Martha Stewart}

This one was a fun discovery & definitely one to keep in active recipe rotation. A savory bread pudding using day old wheat baguette & some parsnips leftover from the root vegetable corned beef hash. Easy & healthy enough for weekday lunches, but elegant & pretty enough to serve to a brunch crowd. Some leafy greens would pair really well for a complete meal. 

5-6 parsnips
~2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 whole wheat baguette, cubed
2 shallots, sliced
7 eggs, divided
1/2 cup milk, divided
5 oz gruyere cheese, shredded
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped
1 tsp whole grain mustard
3-5 dashes of worcestshire sauce
handful parsley, coarsely chopped
2 oz parmesean cheese, shredded
salt & pepper, to taste

1. pre-heat the oven to 425F. peel & dice the parsnips and toss to coat with about 1 tsp of olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste. bake the parsnips on a baking sheet until browned & caramelized, approximately 20-25 minutes. rotate half way through to ensure even browning on all sides.

2. meanwhile, saute the shallots in about 1 tsp of olive oil on the stovetop over low-medium heat until the shallots have softened & begin to brown. add a pinch of salt after tossing to coat with olive oil to bring out the natural sweetness of the shallots.

3. if planning to cook the bread pudding straight away, reduce oven to 375F once the parsnips have finished cooking. you could easily make this ahead of time & keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

4. lightly butter a baking dish, then line the baking dish with bread cubes (I used a 9 inch round baking glass baking dish). sprinkle cooked parsnips & shallots around the bread. 

5. whisk together 4 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, gruyere cheese, thyme, mustard, worcestshire sauce, parsley, and salt & pepper. pour the mixture over the bread & parsnips. use your fingers to make sure that the wet mixture really seeps into the bread. let stand for at least 20 minutes (or let sit overnight). 

note: I let mine sit over night at which point I realized the bread pudding could use more wet ingredients.

6. whisk together remaining 3 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, extra parsley, parmesean cheese, and salt & pepper. pour over the bread mixture.

7. cover the baking dish with a foil tent. bake for approximately 40-50 minutes until golden brown and puffy. our kitchen was consumed with the smell of this bread pudding as it finished in the oven. it tasted every bit as good as it smelled!

March 26, 2013

Spaghetti with Clams

Spaghetti with Clams

We rarely have any leftover white wine in an opened bottle. But when we do, I like to take take advantage & cook with it. This clam sauce came together in under a half hour. I am a sucker for pasta served up anyway, but this one hits a particular weak spot, perhaps evoking fond memories of travels through Italy. If serving this for a crowd, I would definitely gussy this one up with 2 dozen little neck clams in their shell to add a wow factor to each plate.

1/2 box thin spaghetti noodles
1 glug olive oil
2 butter pats, divided
1 10 oz can whole fancy baby clams
~1/3 bottle of white wine (we used sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp olive oil
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic
1 inch piece parmesean cheese, finely grated
1 handful of parsley, chopped
1 lemon slice
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
yield: 4 servings

1. salt large pot of water, add a glug of olive oil. bring to a rigorous boil & add pasta. cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. when draining pasta, reserve 1/2-1 cup of the cooking liquids. 

2. meanwhile, melt 1 pat of butter in a pan over low-medium heat. add clams & ~1/2 the juices from the can, white wine, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic. cook until the wine has cooked off (you should not be able to smell it).

3. combine the cooked pasta with the clam sauce & reserved pasta liquids. garnish with grated parmesean cheese, coarsely chopped parsley, a squeeze of lemon & fresh ground black pepper.

March 22, 2013

Bloody Marys!

Homemade Bloody Mary Mix

I don't think I learned the art of the weekend until I discovered Bloody Marys. My distaste for them used to be strong, I think in part driven by make-them-yourself-bars. I used to always fell prey to the array of options, resulting in overly complicated drinks that were less than enjoyable. That is, until I discovered a rock star Bloody Mary ingredient -- clam juice. We drank this straight up virgin style with pickled green beans to garnish. But of course, a shot of vodka or two would be a welcome addition.

1 liter 100% tomato juice
3 tbsp clam juice
7 dashes Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (feel free to use reduced sodium)
1/4 tsp sriracha
pinch red pepper flakes
few grinds of peppercorns
yield: 3 servings (this is easily double or tripled)

1. mix together ingredients. taste & adjust to desired heat level, adding more sriracha & red pepper flakes in small amounts. 

2. pour over 2 oz of vodka & ice or drink virgin.

3. serve with a spicy pickled green bean & enjoy!

March 19, 2013

An Escape from the Cold

Fish Tacos

The recent cold snap in DC was a shock to the system. Just when signs of spring were abounding -- buds coming up, cherry blossoms peeking through, a couple of mid-60s days where everything felt bright. And then bam! a wet, dreary cold that dampened the spirits. We made these fish tacos last night in an attempt to channel warmer weather & provide a mental escape from the cold. 

Tilapia Tacos with 
Avocado & Cilantro-Lime Cabbage Salad

Tilapia is a firm, white, flaky fish with a mild taste that suits a range of cooking flavors. Incidentally, tilapia is considered one of the most sustainable farm-raised fish to eat, given that it consumes a mostly plant-based diet, reducing the need to harvest wild fish to feed them. This is guilt-free indulgence!

2 fillets of tilapia
2 pats of butter
4 flour tortillas

1/4 head of cabbage or 1 packed cup pre-shredded cabbage
1 generous handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
3-4 dashes of hot sauce of your choosing + more to taste
1 avocado, sliced
salt & pepper, to taste

1. sprinkle a bit of salt & pepper on the tilapia fillets.

2. in a frying pan, melt 2 pats of butter & add the tilapia. cook until both sides brown a bit & the inside becomes opaque white, tender & flaky.

3. meanwhile, warm the tortillas. i usually warm mine in a cast iron skillet.

note: ordinarily, i would tout the benefits of a whole grain variety of tortilla, but in this case, the flour tortilla really pulls this together nicely, providing the perfect texture -- don't skimp here, even if you would normally opt for a whole grain or even a corn tortilla.

4. if using a whole head of cabbage rather than pre-shredded variety, slice the cabbage as thinly as possible. then toss together with the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, cumin & hot sauce of your choosing. 

note: feel free to make this salad ahead of time, as it gets better the longer the flavors have had a chance to sit together. 

5. line the warmed tortillas with the tilapia fillets, avocado slices & the cilantro-lime salad. 

6. serve with your favorite warm weather cocktail & enjoy!

March 18, 2013

St. Paddy's Day Weekend Recap

Corned Beef Hash with Root Vegetables
{recipe inspired by Martha Stewart}

Wow, what a weekend! We celebrated my mom's 60th birthday in true Irish fashion. Irish coffees -- spiked with Kahlua, Jameson & Baileys and topped with whipped cream. The Pogues playing in the background throughout the day, followed by traditional Irish jig music to cap off the evening. A house full of people & a gorgeous spread of food -- it was a celebratory occasion indeed. 

One of our contributions to the party was a corned beef hash we made with corned beef that we prepared late last week, as has become an annual tradition around this time of year. This corned beef has was a real crowd pleaser & was a great way to reinvent leftovers.

Last week, we followed Elise's baked corned beef recipe over at Simply Recipes. Honestly, we were a bit disappointed with the results - not sure what went wrong, but it was overly salty (even though we followed her boiling instructions) and it was a bit tough (perhaps this method lends itself to boiling out all of the fats that keep the meat moist?). I was raised on the annual ritual of corned beef & cabbage and this did not even come close to my mom's version. Next time around, we will surely revert back to boiled corned beef or slow cooker style. 

If you happened to make a corned beef this year & have any leftovers, I would highly recommend this corned beef hash. I would take this comforting dish any day over a corned beef sandwich!

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 parsnip, diced
1 heaping handful of parsley, finely chopped
~ 12 fingerling potatoes, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
3-4 turnips, diced
~12 baby carrots, diced
1 box low sodium vegetable stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 corned beef, diced
whole grain mustard (optional)
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. place garlic, parsnip, potatoes, turnips & carrots in a large cast iron skillet pan. pour vegetable stock to cover & bring to a boil. reduce heat, to a slow simmer until vegetables are tender to the touch of a fork.

2. drain vegetables, reserving 1/2-1 cup stock for later use.

3. heat olive oil in a large pan. add onions & saute until onions begin to brown. 

4. add vegetables & reserved cooking liquid. cook until vegetables begin to brown, about 25 minutes. stir in corned beef, chopped parsley, whole grain mustard & fresh ground black pepper. cook until beef is warmed.

5. serve with parsley to garnish or with a fried egg for a complete breakfast.

March 15, 2013

Weekend Breakfast

Banana Pancakes
{orginal recipe from oh joy! blog}

What do you do with overly ripened bananas? I stumbled across this incredibly easy & healthy recipe on oh joy! blog and could not resist. I would imagine this would be appealing to little ones, or even grown-ups with a preference for breakfast on the sweeter side. Its a brilliant way to use up overly ripe bananas, especially if traditional banana breads have become a bit tired for you or if find yourself in a hurry.

1 very ripe banana, mostly browned
2 tbsp almond butter (i used maple flavored)
1 egg
~1 tbsp flour
1 pat of butter
yield: 4 small pancakes

1. smash banana together with almond butter (feel free to use peanut butter as well), egg
& scant sprinkling of flour, stir to combine into a uniform consistency

2. melt pat of butter over low-medium heat in a non-stick skillet pan

3. pour out batter into skillet to form round pancakes. once you can see small bubbles surfacing in the pancakes, the bottom side should be golden brown & they are ready to flip. cook on second side for about 30 seconds.

4. if you doubled this recipe, remove the cooked pancakes from the heat and keep warm. 

5. serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

note: I experimented with different jams and a drizzle of honey, but these were so sweet that I found them to be best just eaten alone.

March 14, 2013

Blood Oranges, Cont.

Blood Orange, Mango, Avocado & Shrimp Salad

Last night we found ourselves in a pinch -- too late to cook dinner & there is 'nothing' in the fridge. A text from my sister showing off the shrimp tacos she & her husband prepared that night proved all the inspiration we needed for a salad that came together in a matter of minutes. Some frozen shrimp, a leftover blood orange, an avocado & a mango brought this inspiration to life.

~2 dozen shrimp, frozen
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 blood orange, segmented
1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 generous pinch salt (preferably maldon)
1 grind of whole peppercorns

1. bring a large salted pot of water to a rigorous boil. add shrimp & cook until shrimp turn pink & float to the top of the pot. pour cooked shrimp into a colander to drain off the water. run some cold water over the shrimp to stop them from cooking. if necessary, peel & de-vein the shrimp.

2. chop lettuce & fruits. place in a large bowl.

3. in a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, cumin, lime juice & spices. taste to adjust. if the dressing is too acidic, feel free to drizzle in some honey.

4. toss together cooked shrimp, lettuce & fruits with the dressing.

5. Enjoy!

March 13, 2013

Lately Sipping On: Blood Orange Infused Vodka

Blood Orange Infused Vodka

Do you ever make infused vodka? Its simple really, as simple as placing the raw ingredient into the vodka & letting it seep overnight. I recently stumbled upon some blood oranges & on a whim we seeped the peels in vodka. These ruby red citrus fruits are a rare treat in our household. And blood orange infused vodka gave new purpose to something we would otherwise throw away. Brilliant!

Citruses are common for vodka infusions, but don't let your creativity expire there. We were on a vanilla bean infused vodka kick for a long time, using beans we picked up on work travels around the world. In the DC area, Mari Vanna has an interesting selection of infused vodkas, including dill & horseradish, both suggested to be excellent in a bloody mary.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but no need to use really high end vodka when infusing other flavors into it. We used Svedka, but any mid-grade vodka would work just fine. The longer the ingredients seep, the more depth in flavor you will achieve. We drank this on the rocks with no mixer, but I suspect this would mix well into a champagne cocktail. We welcome any other cocktails suggestions!
photo credits: Andrei Sinioukov

March 12, 2013

Tailgate Season!

Black Bean, Mango & Avocado Salad

And so it begins! This past weekend marked the first pre-season home game for DC United. Tailgating is a seasonal ritual for our Club Echa Panza, which proudly claims some fantastic cooks. Every tailgate boasts a worthy spread of grilled meats with a wide assortment of beers & other goodies. Anticipating that there would be protein options aplenty, this time around, I made a vegetarian salad. This black bean, mango & avocado salad is fantastic served taco style in a grilled tortilla & complements a wide array of grilled meats.

The Inspiration Board

Black Bean, Mango & Avocado Salad 
with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

1 can black beans
1 mango, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 lime, juiced + more to taste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tsp honey (optional)

1. place the beans in a colander & rinse thoroughly, until the water runs clear. then place the beans in a large mixing bowl.

2. one trick to cutting up a mango is to be mindful of the pit, which is a flat-ish oblong shape in the center of fruit. holding the mango upright with the fat, stem side down, cut the mango into thirds in line with the oblong shape. you will have 2 thick outer pieces with lots of fruit, and one center piece with the pit and a rim of skin around the outer edges. see here for a pictorial. add diced mango to the beans.

3. as with the mango, cutting an avocado is made a lot simpler when mindful of the pit. I always cut the avocado lengthwise in half. the large center pit should slide right out, or you can use a small paring knife to ease it out or if feeling extra fancy a large santoku knife to tap the pit & remove it in one fell swooping motion. with the skin still in tact, I dice the fruit, then use a large spoon to scoop the fruit out of the skin. see here for a pictorial. add diced avocado to the beans & mangoes.

4. fold the chopped tomatoes gently into the beans, mangoes and avocados.

5. whisk together the cilantro, olive oil, cumin, lime juice, & spices. taste to adjust. the mangoes add a natural sweetness to this salad, but if the dressing is tasting a bit acidic, you may want to add a drizzle of honey (~1/2-1 tsp) to the dressing to round out the flavors. 

6. serve in warmed tortillas taco style & add some grilled chicken, shrimp or even steak should you feel so inclined. this is also delicious as an alternative to a 7 layer dip with tortilla chips. for a more complete meal, serve over coconut rice. 

March 08, 2013


Broccolini, Shallot & Parmesean Quesadilla

Quesadilla is such a fun word to say, you know the drill full pronunciation of the "L"s. But perhaps more importantly, this is a really fun food to eat. It is easy to pack a variety of vegetables into a quesadilla & the melted, cheesy goodness can right even the worst of days. This is comfort food at its finest.

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 bunch broccolini, hard ends trimmed off
1 shallot, sliced
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/4 block parmesean cheese, shredded 
2 flour tortillas (we used whole wheat, flex seed variety)

1. warm the olive oil over medium heat. add broccolini, shallot & garlic. saute until shallot begins to brown a bit. set aside sauteed vegetables in a bowl.

2. place one of the tortillas into the same pan. if there is not enough of an oil sheen, add a sprinkle or two of olive oil more to coat the pan. as the tortilla toasts, pack the sauteed vegetables on top of the tortilla. then add shredded cheese to cover vegetables. top with the second tortilla.

3. wait for the cheese & vegetables to set and for the bottom of the tortilla to begin to brown before flipping. timing here is everything, but the more the ingredients have had a chance to set, the easier it will be to flip.

4. use a wide spatula to flip the quesadilla & allow the other side to crisp. once ready, I use a pizza cutter to slice the quesadilla into smaller pieces.

March 07, 2013

Lately, Snacking On: Tzatziki

Skillet Sauteed Chicken with Tzatziki & Arugula 
Served in a Flax-Whole Wheat Wrap

I have a mild obsession with a store bought brand of tzatziki from our local grocer (aka Soviet Safeway). This is rather embarrassing to admit, as tzatziki is certainly easy enough to make oneself (google it and a million and one suggested recipes will surface). But somehow this convenient combination of yogurt, cucumber & fresh herbs calls to me every time I walk down the cheese & dairy aisle. I eat tzatziki gyro style in a flax seed, whole wheat wrap with skillet sauteed chicken breast for some protein & a handful of arugula for an dose of fresh greens. 

March 06, 2013

Its a Wrap

Dumpling Party

These dumplings really set the tone for a fun, interactive evening with a small group of friends. Involve your guests in prepping ingredients, wrapping the dumplings, tending to the crackling fire & ensuring everyone has a drink in hand. Below I offer a vegetarian pumpkin version along with a pork sausage version. At your next get together why not serve these along with other Asian inspired snacks, including edamame & shumai.

Thai-Spiced Kabocha Pumpkin Dumplings

Remember the soy braised Kabocha Squash we made recently? It is quite plentiful, so we roasted the other 1/2 of the squash with a sprinkle of olive oil & salt. The roasted squash scoops out quite nicely & saves well. Half of the squash provided enough filling for two rounds of these for two different parties.

1/2 kabocha squash, roasted
1/3 can coconut milk (feel free to use lite)
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
2-3 drops fish sauce
1 package wonton wrappers (we used nasoya brand)
1 egg white

1. pre-heat oven to 350F to roast kabocha squash with a sprinkle of olive oil & salt. cook until squash is soft to the touch of a fork.

2. once cooked, let squash cool until easy to handle. once cool, scoop the cooked squash from the shell - the skin should peel off very easily. 

3. mix in coconut milk, curry paste, garlic, ginger & fish sauce until you have formed a very thick paste.

4. Fold into wontons according to these four easy steps below:

Step 1:
Fill each wonton wrapper with a spoonful of filling

Step 2:
Fold over the wonton wrapper into a triangle 
& using your finger seal with egg white

Step 3:
Press triangle ends together to form a dumpling shape 
& seal with egg white

Step 4:
Line on a greased baking sheet & 
brush dumplings with remaining egg white

4. bake for about 9-12 minuted until the edges have slightly browned

Maple Pork & Red Pepper Dumplings

1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tube maple pork sausage (without casing)
1 package wonton wrappers (we used nasoya brand)
1 egg white

1. saute the red pepper & onion in olive oil until the onion begins to brown

2. add the sausage & cook through until browned on all sides

3. set aside the pork until it is cool enough to handle

4. fill the wonton wrappers following the 4 steps above & bake for about 9-12 minuted until the edges have slightly browned

March 04, 2013

Cooking Disasters: Dinner on Fire

Yogurt-Marinated Lamb Chops

So do you want the good news or the bad news first? Well, here goes. The good news is that Andrei and I are under contract to purchase our first home together! 

It nice. Chain link fence and everything.

The bad news is that our excitement & fret about this pending financial commitment & looming change of neighborhoods got us in such a frenzy the other night that we caught our dinner on fire. We walked outside & our dinner was literally engulfed in flames. Alas, as Ralph from the Simpons would say, "It tastes like burning".

We have never mastered the art of yogurt marinated lamb chops & we committed to this challenge with a renewed sense of determination. We managed to collect a few scraps from these lambs chops and when they didn't taste like burning, they tasted mighty fine. Basically, we used a Fage whole yogurt, a handful of fresh, chopped mint & a minced clove of garlic to marinate, then lit up the grill, and well the rest has already been revealed. I am tempted to approach this challenge with a re-renewed sense of determination soon.

What did we end up eating for dinner that night you might ask? I scoured the contents of the fridge and found some chicken & artichoke sausages which we sauteed. We paired with sauteed spinach, shallots & garlic. Not bad for a back-up plan, which quickly proved a bit more satisfying than scraps of lamb that taste like burning.