Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parmesan Polenta with Garlic Kale and Poached Egg

This is my absolute favorite breakfast/brunch dish ever.

Screw pancakes, Belgian waffles, quiche - all that stuff is crap in comparison. It's not quite "last meal" quality (I'm having Steak Bearnaise with creamed spinach and duck fat fries at that meal. A girl's gotta plan ahead) but it's super tasty and one of the only dishes I make on a regular basis. I prefer to eat it alone, in my pajamas, while watching TV when I should be working or folding laundry.

I also eat it alone because the sight and smell of poached eggs make my husband gag. (Marriage is about compromise, even when you're right and they're very, very wrong)

I make it pretty much the same way every time, but never thought to write it down until I found out that my upcoming foot surgery (aka Ortho-pocalypse 2012) would take me out of the kitchen for several weeks. Which means that I won't be able to make my absolute favorite breakfast/brunch dish ever and I'll be dependent upon someone who claims to be allergic to eggs for my fix. 

Doesn't the egg look like Pac-man?
Parmesan Polenta with Garlic Kale and Poached Egg
Serves 1

The object of poached eggs is to keep them round and compact with firm but tender whites and warm, liquid yolks. To help this occur, always make sure to use Grade AA eggs since the yolk and white are firmer. Distilled white vinegar will help the white coagulate, which will also help your poached egg stay compact.

1 egg
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup lacinato kale, loosely packed, shredded
3 tablespoons polenta
3/4 cup water, chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & black pepper to taste

Using 1 tablespoon vinegar to each quart of water, bring water and vinegar up to a simmer in a shallow, wide pan. Break egg into a small bowl or dish. Using the dish, slide the egg into the simmering water. Simmer for 3 minutes until the whites are cooked and firm, but before the yolk becomes solid. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and pat dry.

Quickly dump out the water and wipe out any egg remnants from the pan. Put the pan back on medium heat and add olive oil. When shimmering, add garlic, kale and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Saute for a few minutes (2-4) until kale is just wilted.

Meanwhile, heat water in a small saucepot. When at a simmer, add polenta and whisk vigorously to combine. Polenta should thicken up almost immediately. Stir in butter and cheese, and add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, pour polenta into a bowl and top with garlic kale. Gently place poached egg on top and sprinkle with cracked black pepper if desired. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Christmas in July Champagne Punch

Every July, I throw my husband a birthday party. I hear that's what many wives do for their doting spouses. But Bob's birthday is just a little bit different. In fact, it's not just a single day anymore - the entire month of July is "birthday season."

Some call it crazy, we call it "Bob-a-palooza." There's staff, copious amounts of booze, a decoration budget, costumes, pinatas, prizes, goodie bags. And although I remind my husband every year that most men in their 30s have outgrown the themed birthday, he reminds me that he's not like other men (i.e. mature).  I don't even bother asking him what he wants for his birthday anymore, I just inform him that the party is his gift.

Planning for Bobapalooza starts 10 to 11 months ahead of time. It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge - you paint from one end to another, and when you finish, you just pick up your brushes and buckets and head back to the other end. So when discussions for 2012's theme began in late 2011, there was no theme too bizarre, to0 wild, too inappropriate.

And then the rallying cry came flying from Bob's lips, "Christmas and my birthday have been apart for far too long!"

Seriously? Yep. Bob-a-palooza 2012: Christmas in July

It was a really, really good party. I highly recommend the projects, recipes and decorations we used. Whether you do it in December or July is entirely up to you.

Christmas in July Champagne Punch
(we should really call it knock-you-on-your-ass-deliciousness, but that was a little wordy)
Serves 20-24

4 bottles champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco, chilled
36 oz pomegranate juice, chilled 
36 oz Trader Joe’s cherry cider, chilled
Homemade Ice Mold
Garnish: 4 sliced clementines and/or tangerines, fresh pomegranate seeds

Combine all ingredients in the order listed to your punch bowl. It's important to add the sparkling wine first, as if you do it the other way, it may foam up and make a big mess.

Homemade Ice Mold
time: 24 hours, largely unattended

1 bundt pan, or similar shaped tube pan
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (I got mine from Trader Joe's)
8 sliced tangerines, thinly sliced in rounds
8 cups water

Fill the pan 1/3 of the way up with water (about 2 cups) and drop in 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds. Lay sliced tangerines on top so that they float and just barely overlap. Freeze until mostly solid, about 6 hours. Repeat, until all the fruit is used up and/or the bundt pan is full.

To unmold, fill large bowl with warm water and dip mold into the bowl, being careful not to let warm water into the bundt mold. After a few dips, it should loosen up significantly. Place directly into your punch-filled bowl.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous Salad with Feta

I was on the phone yesterday with the lovely Susan of The Home Artist. We were chatting about recipes, and I mentioned that the teriyaki meatball recipe I'd given her was "wonky." Some students in the past had found it a little bland, others thought there was too much green onion. I suggested playing with it - cooking a mini-patty and sampling it for salt and spice.

She suggested fixing the recipe. And then actually writing the changes down.

Uh. Yeah, why didn't I think of that?

I did. Think of it, that is. I actively chose not to write down my personal changes. I, like most people, only like food that tastes good to me. Unfortunately, not everyone in this world is like me. (Wouldn't that be glorious?! Don't answer that - rhetorical question.) I tell my cooking school students all the time: Food is just like wine. It's only "good" if you like it.

So this is my "good." You'll rarely see me put salt and pepper measurements in my recipes because it's such a matter of personal taste. This salad is tasty just as it is, but it's also really good with farro. Or orzo. Asparagus tips would be nice, or maybe some grilled corn and cilantro instead of olives and basil? Go ahead and tinker. Let me know how it works out for you.

Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous Salad with Feta
Serves 8-10 as a side

1 lb whole wheat pearl couscous (I used Bob's Red Mill)
2 teaspoons salt
1 bell pepper, small dice
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped                                           
½ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
½ small red onion, small dice                                                                    
½ cup feta, crumbled or cubed
¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved (quartered if large)                           
2 cups baby spinach, chiffonade 
¼ cup fresh basil, chiffonade                                                                     
salt & pepper to taste

Bring a 4 quart pot of water up to the boil. Season the water with the 2 teaspoons of salt. Drop in Israeli couscous and cook according to package directions.  

When cooked, drain the couscous well and transfer to a large bowl to cool. When cool, combine all other ingredients and drizzle with a double-batch of Lemon Vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving. Let sit for 20-30 minutes for pasta to absorb vinaigrette before serving.

Note: Any longer than 30-45 minutes and the basil and spinach in this recipe will start to wilt. If you're bringing this to a party this summer (and you really should), I suggest assembling the bulk of the salad at home and bringing the spinach and basil in a separate container. Toss it all together when you arrive.
Another Note: Many thanks to Andrew Wilder at Eating Rules for the free sample of Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pearl couscous!

Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6 as a light salad dressing. This much couscous requires a double batch.
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice                                                           
½- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, pour in lemon juice. While whisking, drizzle in oil a little bit at a time to form an emulsion. Taste after you've added 1/2 cup of juice - 3/4 cup may be too oily for some. After all oil is combined, adjust seasonings to taste.  Option: Add 1 clove minced garlic and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard for a Dijon vinaigrette.

Monday, May 21, 2012

More Guest Blogging for Taste of the Nation

More guest blogging at Taste of the Nation. Just posted the interview with Meredith Manee at Culina, Modern Italian. click on Meet the Chefs!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guest Blogging over at Taste of the Nation Los Angeles

I'm doing some guest blogging over at Taste of the Nation Los Angeles. Over the next few weeks will be interviewing loads of LA area chefs about why they volunteer for Taste of the Nation, what chefs and restaurants they're looking forward to sampling and whether they prefer red or white wine.

It's some hard-hitting journalism, folks.

Check it out: Taste of the Nation Los Angeles. Click on Meet the Chefs. Now up: Chef Susan Feniger of STREET and Border Grill.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cheddar-Chile Biscuits

So it all started with a bowl of chili. It was meant to be vegan and three-bean. It ended up being beef with chipotle. I was going to make cheddar biscuits to go alongside, but I was running late, the husband was on his way home and I had some fingerling potatoes in my grocery bags. You can probably guess how this went.

We had homemade chili cheese fries for dinner. It was awesome.

But you know when something gets in your head and you can't get it out? Or when you have several hours to kill so you decide to make a gigantic mess of your kitchen?

No? You don't do that? neither.

Cheddar-Chile Biscuits
9 ounces (2 scant cups) all-purpose flour + more for rolling out
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chile powder (optional)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
2-3 dashes Tabasco (optional)
2 eggs, beaten + one for washing
1/4 pound (4 oz) shredded Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar, or whatever)
4 ounce can of green chiles or jalapenos, drained

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and chile powder in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix together. Add butter and pulse in short bursts until the butter is chopped up and the size of lima beans. Open the top and dump in the wet ingredients: sour cream, buttermilk, Tabasco and 2 eggs. Pulse until it starts to come together and form a wet, shaggy dough.
Looks pretty gnarly at this stage...
Open the top one more time and dump in the cheese and chilies. Pulse a few times more until it is thoroughly combined. Ideally, you'll still have visible lumps of butter in the dough. Remove dough from processor to a floured cutting board and pat the dough into a square about an inch thick. You may need to flour your hands if the dough is particularly sticky. Cut the dough into squares and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the biscuits with the last beaten egg and then put in the oven. Bake until puffed and golden, about 15-18 minutes. Serve with chili, or any other stew dish that needs bread for mopping up.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Carrot-Zucchini Bread

I've got a lot of really dingy looking produce. Not just bashed around and beat up, but really questionable "this might be growing hair" veggies. How did this happen?

I forgot about them. Well, actually, I conveniently forgot about the juice cleanse I was going to use them all up on.

Normally, I'd toss the vegetation, lament my failures as a wife and secretly hope that none of those starving children in China hear about this little oopsie. But then two weeks worth of freelance work up and walked away and I had a little more in common with those starving children in China than I wanted to.

So, in the words of the oft-misquoted Marie-Antoinette, "Let them eat cake made with vegetables (that very closely resembles bread)!"

That's not what you learned in high school? Well....I did go to private school. It's not your fault.

This is a regular old quickbread, that takes a couple of cues from carrot cake - namely the raisins and chopped walnuts - and combines them with the ever-popular applesauce/oil swap out. You could easily use applesauce instead of the carrot applesauce that I used, but it'll taste more like apples and less like carrots. And that's OK.

1 cup carrot-applesauce (I used 3 packs of Trader Joe's Crushers)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
3 small zucchini and/or crookneck squash, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan, and line it with parchment paper. Whisk together applesauce, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth and well-combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda and powder, salt and cinnamon.

Now, what I did next is not "proper." You're supposed to add the dry to the wet and mix until just combined - which means no white streaks of flour/don't beat the hell out of it. But I did it backwards because I had two different sized bowls and the dry stuff was in the bigger one.

It happens. My bread still tasted good.

So drop your carrots and squash, raisins and walnuts in the flour and toss it around with your hands. This will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the bread. Think of the flour as little Velcro fingers keeping the zucchini elevated. It works.

Then pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Just get rid of the white streaks of flour. Pour it into the loaf pan - it will be very, very full. Bake for 60-75 minutes, until it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted comes out mostly-clean. (It's OK if there are bits of bread sticking to it - you just don't want it to be raw or gluey.)

Let cool, slice and serve. I like it slathered in butter.