Apple Fennel Salad

The ants are back. Sigh.

I don’t know why they bother me so much, but they do. It’s really annoying. They haven’t found the pantry again yet, so that’s a plus. They did find the microwave above the stove which isn’t used so much for cooking as for a place to store things that aren’t in a well sealed container. They seem to be have found a new way in — one that I haven’t found yet. I will find it. I will stop them. I always win. Always.

The ants definitely signal the season’s change, much like the produce in the grocery store. All the gourds are out. There are more variety in apples than I can count. I’ve gone through at least two cans of pumpkin.

Fennel is fast becoming my vegetable of choice. I’m a sucker for that black licorice flavor and the fact that it’s crisp totally contradicts the soft black licorice my taste buds expect. The rest of this salad is damn near about as fall as you can get. Apples? Pistachios? Arugula? So nice. Every time I need something thinly sliced, I curse not having a mandolin. I’m convinced the risk of slicing my hand off is worth the evenly sliced fruits and vegetables. Now that I look back, I’m not really sure what apple I used. I think I just grabbed one. Whatever it was worked well with what this salad is trying to accomplish, which I’m pretty sure is just being delicious. What other job should a salad have really?


Inspiration: Joy the Baker

Ingredients

  • 1 large apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, evenly sliced
  • 2-4 handfuls of arugula, depending on your handful and love of arugula
  • 2 tablespoons diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup diced dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded

Preparation

Add the thinly sliced apples, fennel, arugula, and red onions to a large bowl. Toss until combined. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil and use your hands to make sure everything is coated. Add the apricots, pistachios and cheese. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. That arugula is going to get wilty otherwise.

Banana Coconut Cookies

I feel like I hardly ever bake anymore [for good reason since I'm way more inconsistent in quality], but when I do, I make a few things in rapid succession and then shelve the baking skills for another day. I’m sure practice makes perfect, but I’d much rather “practice” my cooking skills. I prefer the savory to the sweet 98% of the time. Unless it’s a fresh sopaipilla smothered in honey from La Panza that I had last night. I’ll choose that 98% of the time.

To be fair, these “cookies” hardly count as baking. I turned the oven on and they practically made themselves. It was equal parts convenience and sheer luck that I actually had a couple of ripe bananas on hand that I wouldn’t be able to use before they went bad or at least amassed an army of fruit flies to do their bidding. Putting bananas and shredded unsweetened coconut into a food processor is about as hard as it gets. You must must MUST like both of these flavors. Don’t make them otherwise or you’ll be sorely upset. It’s definitely banana and coconut all up in your mouth. Very tropical. Very daiquiri-ish without the booze. They turn extremely banana-y the longer you keep them, and they keep pretty well in a sealed container. No browning like I expected. They’re soft, even with the baking, but hold a cookie shape well. Keep them in until the coconut starts to toast. Necessary.

Inspiration: Grok Grub

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a baking sheet or three with a SILPAT [greasing it or using wax paper, also options]. Add the bananas and coconut to a food processor and pulse until well combined. Use a cookie or ice cream scoop to get uniform balls of banana coconut mush and space them out evenly on the baking sheet. Press them down into cookie shapes. They won’t spread so keep that in mind. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan. They’ll set the longer they cool.

Fig Galette

Remember when I made a pie back in…2013? Wow, that long ago.

Anyway, when I made that pie, I tossed the extra crust in the freezer because I make pie next to never in case you hadn’t gathered that already.

I clearly forgot about it had been saving it for just such occasion. I was really surprised it hadn’t been subjected to freezer burn. It was a little dry, but unnoticeable once baked. You’d have had no idea if I hadn’t said anything.

This whole thing started because of figs being on sale. I haven’t really eaten a whole lot of figs in my lifetime except in the last year or three. I’d even guess I never had them growing up, unless in Fig Newton form. While that might not be the same thing [or even close], they’re such a guilty pleasure. I was so giddy last tax season when the office brought some in as snacks. I always just want one, not the whole box.

Anyway, the galette speaks to me. It’s my kind of pie, a lazy [wo]man’s pie. You roll it out, put things on it, fold up the edges, brush with an egg, sprinkle with sugar, and bake. Does it get much easier? I mean, it’s meant to look ugly. I believe they call it “rustic” or “free-form.” I’m all for calling it like I see it. Speaking of guilty pleasures, once baked, the galette pretty much reminds me of a figgy Pop Tart. I pretty much lived on fudge Pop Tarts, beef jerky, and Mountain Dew growing up. Epitome of health!

PS – apparently galette and crostata are the same thing, just French vs. Italian. I’m used to hearing galette, so I went with that. Interchange at your own leisure.

Inspiration: William-Sonoma

Ingredients

  • 1 pie crust
  • 1lb fresh figs, quartered
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vermouth
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Turbinado sugar, for dusting

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°. Roll out the pie crust to about 1/8″ thickness on top of either parchment paper or a SILPAT. If your pie crust cracks because it’s been sitting in the freezer for years, just moisten your fingers and press it back together. You can trim the dough into a round or really go extra rustic. Place the paper/SILPAT onto a baking sheet.

In a bowl, mix together the figs, brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and vermouth. Toss to combine. Arrange the fig mixture on the crust in an even layer, leaving about an inch border. Fold up the the border over the top of the fig mixture. Brush the dough with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove and allow to cool before slicing and eating. It’ll be nice and juicy.

Italian Pulled Pork and Butter Bean Salad

I know the weather is changing the second I start to smell grapes when I come and go from the house. Our neighbor has a tree that likes to grow over our fence, and within its branches climbs a grape vine that produces a lot of grapes. A lot. I’m not sure what kind they are; I’m guessing something like concord. That’s what they smell like anyway. I haven’t tried eating them, but Roma has. Now that they’re getting ripe and full, they’re falling in the yard. It’s always a fun time trying to keep her from eating them.

Tis the season for the slow cooked, comforting meats I suppose. Isn’t that what fall is for? I’m not a pumpkin spice kind of girl, but I can get behinds pork roast slow cooked in a Dutch oven. Starbucks can’t do that. They’ll probably try soon now that I’ve said this. Gross.

How weird is it that I made the pork purely because I wanted an excuse to buy some butter beans? It was a pretty bizarre craving [even for me] that I’d been having for a few weeks, that was finally about to be satiated all in the name of a juicy, shredded pork. It’s usually navy, black, or garbanzo when I’m grabbing for beans, so butter beans were a nice change.

Inspiration: The Italian Dish

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4-6lbs pork shoulder
  • 28oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5oz arugula
  • 1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 300°. Mix the onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper in a small bowl before covering all sides of the pork shoulder. Put the pork shoulder into the Dutch oven. Pour the tomatoes over the top. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover the pot. Place in the oven for about 5-6 hours, turning it over about half way through. Start checking the shoulder for doneness at about 5 hours. If it falls apart with a fork, you’re done. Otherwise keep going. You can take the pork out of the pot and shred it on a cutting board if you prefer or just leave it in there and shred with forks. I’m a fan of leaving in all the vegetables with the cooked meat and letting it soak up all of the delicious tomato juice before serving. You can take them out if you want.

Toss the arugula and butter beans in a large bowl. Drizzle the oil and vinegar and toss to evenly distribute. I like to use my hands to make sure there isn’t a dry leaf. Serve on plates or bowls and top with the pulled pork.

Grilled Zucchini and Leek Salad

Another gem of a Bon Appétit salad. Simplicity at its finest, really. I hadn’t ever thought to grill a leek, but it makes perfect sense that it would be as delicious as it was. Grilled onions are awesome after all. After my anti-toasting confession, I went ahead and dry toasted the walnuts in this salad. Not only did they smell great, but mixing their warmth with the olive oil, lemon, and garlic was really quite heavenly.

It comes together almost unnecessarily quick since it’s just grill and slice. Sometimes that’s all I want to do. Spending more time slicing ingredients than eating is usually unfulfilling. I don’t get any sort of warm fuzzies doing it, unless I’m cooking for other people. I’ll gladly do it for you.

Inspiration: Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, dark green parts removed, sliced in half length-wise
  • 2 large zucchini, sliced in half length-wise
  • 1/2 up flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped [remove any tough stems, unless you like eating grass]

Preparation

Preheat your grill to medium, or about 400°. In a large dry skillet, toast the walnuts on a medium-high heat. Stir them often so they don’t burn. They’ll darken in color and smell delicious when they’re done, which is about 5 minutes. In a bowl, toss the warm walnuts with three tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and garlic. Set aside.

Cover the leeks and zucchini in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place them cut side down on the hot grill. Turn then often until char marks appear. The leek will finish faster than the zucchini. Be careful not to leave everything on too long so it wilts — 5-8 minutes for the leek and 8-10 minutes for the zucchini.

Remove everything to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, chop into bite sized pieces and add to your bowl with the walnuts and oil mixture. Add the parsley. Toss to combine. Serve with a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper.

Gai Pad Prik Gaeng [Chicken and Green Beans Stir Fried in Curry Paste]

It’s already been a year since visiting Asia. Time Hop has done a great job of reminding me, showing the photos and check-ins from the three weeks spent in Thailand and Cambodia. I thought I would need longer than a year to detox from the sensual assault that was Asia, but here I am already thinking about going back. The Thai food we’ve been eating is definitely stirring that desire a little more than normal. The Mark Wiens videos have been viewed again, and he’s been posting more recipes as well as reviews of restaurants. His video of this dish absolutely prompted its making. The Tom Yum soup is on deck at some point. It’s easy. It has to be if you’re going to make it quickly from a road-side cart. The key is getting your hands on the ingredients [kaffir lime leaves] or making them yourself [curry paste]. Well stocked “ethnic aisles” in the store or even straight-up Asian markets make this pretty dang easy. In a perfect world, I’d make my own curry paste, but it just wasn’t happening. The thing is with pre-made curry paste is salt. Holy hell is it salty. In a traditional curry, the coconut milk takes care of that sodium. In this dish, there is nothing to help tone that salt down. Tread lightly if you don’t make your own. Start low and then make up a batch of rice to help with what saltiness is left.

When you get that magical balance, it’s just freakin’ delicious. It comes together so quickly, which is perfect for hungry stomachs that just don’t want to wait. The smell of this as it cooks is so hunger inducing, you’ll be thankful it’s just a quick stir fry.

I didn’t go out of my way to find the Chinese long beans. Plain ol’ green beans will do. Frying an egg on top is optional, but let’s just call it necessary because it should be. Keep the fish sauce and sugar around. I started low when I stir fried it up, and then added more to my plate as I ate.

Inspiration: Eating Thai Food

Ingredients

  • 1/2-3/4lb chicken breast, diced into small pieces. Think small and then dice it smaller.
  • 1/2lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • 2-3 tablespoons red curry paste [make your own]
  • 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2-1 teaspoons sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon high heat oil [canola or coconut]
  • Rice and fried eggs for serving

Preparation

Add the tablespoon of oil to a large pan or wok on low heat. Toss in your curry paste and stir it into the oil so it soaks it up. Stir often so it doesn’t stick or burn and let it heat up and smell delicious. It’ll darken as it toasts up. It shouldn’t be longer than a minute. Turn the heat up on high and add the chicken. Stir often, coating the chicken in the curry paste. Add about a teaspoon and a half teaspoon of sugar to start. Cook for 2-3 minutes, adding a little bit of water if necessary because it can dry out. When the chicken is fully cooked, add the green beans and lime leaves. Remove from the heat after about 30 seconds so the green beans are still crisp.

Serve with rice and top with a fried egg.

Green Bean, Chickpea, and Barley Salad with Toasted Spice Vinaigrette

How about one more word in that title? Geez.

This is going to be a quick one today. I’ve been buried in taxes for the last week, easily powering through 12 hour days. The big crunch is over Monday, but I’ll still be in the 10 hour day range until October 15th. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Have you hugged your accountant lately?

Anyway, this salad. This glorious, glorious salad is made so glorious purely from the vinaigrette.

I’ve never been much of a “toast” anything kind of person really. Toasted nuts. Toasted quinoa. Toasted…toast. I never really did it in any sort of recipe that suggested it. I seriously prefer un-toasted bread 97% of the time [butterless too, please]. I felt like I couldn’t disobey this time. I mean, what’s a toasted spice vinaigrette without toasted spices? Soggy spices probably. Sounds awful awesome.

The salad isn’t a slouch either. It covers all the bases, especially if you grill up some flank steak to go with. The vinaigrette goes great with it, too. All of this came straight from Bon Appétit, and as usual it was all awesome. So good that I definitely made it two nights in a row. The second time solidified my love for all aspects of this salad, but especially the dressing. It’s a smokey little spicy number that is gladly soaked up by the barley and chickpeas and stands up to the punchy bits of feta cheese. The green beans add a little bit of texture in their crisp-tender form. I’ve been using the whole “put all the dressing ingredients in a jar, tightening the lid, and shaking it up. So much easier than my wild whisking that usually ends up on the counter and my shirt more often than not.

Inspiration: Bon Appétit

Ingredients

  • toasted spice vinaigrette
  • 1/2lb green beans, ends trimmed and then cut in half
  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed, drained, and those little skins removed
  • 4oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans. Cook only for three minutes before removing to an ice bath or a colander to run it under cool water. Keep the pot of water on a boil and add the barley. Drop the heat to a simmer and let it cook until tender. Check your package or at 25-30 minutes. Drain the pot and spread the barley out on a baking sheet so it can dry out a bit.

In a large bowl toss the barley, green beans, chickpeas, feta, dill, and lemon juice. Dress with the vinaigrette. Grill some steak. Enjoy every bite. Tastes great with a bright summery white wine.

Samosa Hash

I finally made a point of going to the Wednesday farmers market to pick up some eggs. I also picked up some beautiful red and white dahlias. That’s not really the point. The point is eggs. The whole interaction made going for this special egg mission totally worthwhile. The older gentleman sitting at his table of eggs leaped to his feet and thanked me for dressing up to attend the market. I was at lunch during office hours, so I was rocking a pencil skirt, blouse, and heels. I told him it was the least I could do. He picked his favorite dozen of his stock, and promised that I’d enjoy them. You can’t get that kind of interaction at the fridge New Seasons. Flattery will get you everywhere with me.

And I do enjoy them. I love any excuse to use them.

This hash is paleo if that’s your thing. It’s not my thing. I just happen to like all of the ingredients in the bowl. I feel like rutabagas don’t get enough love. They always sit in the produce shelves next to the turnips [which always make me do a double take when I'm trying to make sure I grab one versus the other] and snap peas, and most people walk past them for broccoli or the leeks. The spice mixture is out of this world, too. Curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon. Using coconut oil versus the bacon grease doesn’t hurt either.

I ended up making the whole batch of hash and just added eggs as necessary for each meal.

Inspiration: Paleo Cupboard

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs
  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 5 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 4oz can roasted green chilies
  • 1 rutabaga, diced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach

Preparation

Make sure you cut the vegetables in a uniform size so everything cooks evenly.

In a large heavy skilled, heat the coconut oil on medium-high heat. Add all of the spices, stirring so the coconut oil is absorbed. Stir often. It’ll start smelling awesome. Add the onion, garlic, and green chilies. Sauté for a couple minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the ground chicken, breaking it up as it cooks. After a minute or two, add the rutabaga. Evenly distribute and cover. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer everything for a good 10-15 minutes until the rutabaga is tender. Stir occasionally so nothing sticks. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts. Season with salt and pepper.

Cook as many eggs as you need, two per person. Poach ‘em for all of that yolky goodness.

Baby Kale with Peaches and Jalapeño Dressing

This was the final weekend of my summer classes so I can start studying for the CPA exams. I didn’t need to take anything in particular, so QuickBooks and Nutrition it is. I’ll let you guess which was more entertaining. We had three books to read in Nutrition—Fast Food Nation [Eric Schlosser], Food Fight [Daniel Imhoff], and In Defense of Food [Michael Pollan]—all of which I’ve been meaning to read. I mostly liked them all in some form or another. I also managed to squeeze in Eat Pretty [Jolene Hart] and VB6 [Mark Bittman] for fun. Call it over achieving; call it a new genre of books I like. Either way, I like it. Have you read any of them? I find them fascinating, if a bit preachy at times, but they often present new information to chew on [PUN!]. I think about food a lot, but I don’t always thinking about it in political or it’s nutritional sense, so it’s a nice change of pace.

The summer of the salads lives on despite it being September 1stAs long as summer keeps bringing me fresh produce, I’ll keep eating it. It’s meant to have mache, which apparently is known by other names such as Lamb’s lettuce and corn salad. I had my eye on the mache at the fridge one day, went back a few days later, and it was gone. Instead of making something else entirely, I went with baby kale. Not exactly what the recipe had in mind, I’m sure, but it worked. You basically want something tender, yet hardy, to stand up to this potentially spicy-as-hell dressing. I hit the jalapeño jackpot with this dressing. I feel like I can go weeks with less than spicy stuff and then *BAM* melt your face. This was bordering on melt your face. I should really learn to taste test before I toss them in, but I don’t. Ever. Playing Russian roulette with peppers. I live on the edge.

Thankfully the creaminess of the mayo [or creme fraiche] and the avocado help tame the spice. The peach is the right amount of sweet. The feta comes in with a salty and pungent change of pace, and it’s just generally dang delicious. The lentils are really just there for added protein and fiber, and mostly because I seem to be doing that a lot lately. Summer of salads and lentils, I suppose.

If you’re going to take the extra step and boil down the fresh orange juice, please please please pay attention to it. It goes from super liquid to a sticky orange toffee consistency really quickly and generally when you stop paying attention. Story of my life.

Inspiration: Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients

  • juice from 1 medium orange [or half cup of orange juice]
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 shallot, quartered
  • pinch of sea salt
  • handful of cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayo or creme fraiche
  • 5-6 cups mache or baby kale
  • 2 avocados, cubed
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1/2 cup lentils, cooked and cooled
  • 2oz crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

Simmer the orange juice in a small pan until it reduces a bit. Char the jalapeño until it’s blackened all over [I used my gas stove top]. Peel the charred bits off and chop. In a blender or food processor, add the ingredients from the orange juice to the mayo/creme fraiche. Blend until smooth. Taste for additional salt or mayo to soothe the potential heat.

In a large bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. This will likely be more dressing than you need, so start small. Layer with the avocado, peaches, and lentils. Toss gently before serving into a plate. Top with feta before serving.

Drunken Noodles with Chicken

Like I mentioned before, I’m kind of on a Thai food kick thanks to Sen Yai Noodles. It’s even got us talking about going back to Asia next year. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it’s really fun to think about.

When I go to places like Sen Yai, Chiang Mai, or Tarad, I’m ordering something out of the ordinary from a typical Thai restaurant menu. I’ll eat kuaytiaw khua kai [wide rice noodles stir-fried in rendered pork fat with chicken, cuttlefish, egg, and gren onions served on chopped lettuce] or pad naem woon sen [naem sour pork sausage and marinated ground pork stir-fried with woon sen noodles, egg, tomato, garlic, Thai chili,onion and green onion topped with cilantro]. Other places? Pad kee mao or drunken noodles. 97% of the time that’s what I’m going to order. Medium spice. Unless it’s from Baan Thai downtown. Then it’s mild plus at best. They use the freshest, hottest chilies I’ve ever had in a Thai dish which can be a death sentence if you’re not careful. Luckily they vet you pretty hard if you order anything above a medium.

I never make drunken noodles because I can hardly find the wide rice noodles without going to a specialty market. It’s always pad thai or vermicelli. I gave into the call to make it even with the wrong noodles though. Blame the bag of frozen shrimp. It made me do it. It still tastes like drunken noodles despite the smaller noodles. I think I’m mostly okay with it, but I still prefer the wider ones. If I ever get my hands on some again, I’m stocking up. I couldn’t find the thicker soy sauce the original recipe recommended, so I picked up hoison for the first time. I couldn’t even describe to you what it tastes like before I bought it even though I’m pretty sure I’ve had it a few times. Even still, it’s hard to describe. It’s like soy but more complex. That’s about as descriptive as I can get.

PS – I’m in the market for a new wok. Any suggestions? I’m looking at something like this or this.

Inspiration: Lollipopsicle

Ingredients

  • 12oz rice noodles soaked in warm water for 10-12 minutes until tender then drained
  • 2 tablespoons hoison or thick soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 eggs, whisked in a bowl
  • 1 large chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed

Preparation

Preheat a large skillet on medium high heat. While it heats up, whisk together the hoison, soy, oyster, fish and Sriracha in a small bowl. Add the canola oil to the hot skillet. Add the garlic and shallot, stirring to coat in oil and cooking until lightly browned. Add the chicken and cook until mostly cooked through. Add eggs and stir to scramble. Stir in the shrimp. Cook for about two minutes before adding the remaining ingredients, including the noodles. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the noodles are reheated and starting to get crispy in spots.