Sides

Maple Sriracha Brussels Sprouts

I hope you’re ready to up your vegetable game this fall, because you’re about to learn how to make the most delicious roasted Brussels sprouts ever. Spicy, salty, sweet, and a deep dark roast are making this quick dish a frontrunner for all gatherings in the near future.There was never a time that I didn’t like Brussels sprouts. Maybe there was a time when I didn’t know how to cook them but that has long since changed and these mini cabbages are a favorite in our house. Whether sliced up into a hash, a slaw, roasted whole, or fried into chips we’ve covered so many ways to eat Brussels sprouts deliciously. This recipe is one step above a simple roasting but it’s the next step that will make whoever eats these never want to leave your side..or kitchen.

This week I’ve been feeling particularly tired from a big, new, and awesome change to my schedule. I’ve started a new gig cooking for a client once a week (aka personal cheffing!) and so far it’s been really great! I’m still trying to figure out the new balance in my week, hence the tiredness.When I sat down to plot my blog this week, I wanted simple, seasonal, comfort food. I’ve started to see more and more Brussels sprouts stalks popping up in the farmers market. It felt like it was time for this recipe.

Aside from the sprouts, some olive oil, and salt, these are the only other ingredients: maple syrup, Sriracha, and butter. Delicious on their own, but magical when combined.While I was prepping the sprouts for roasting, I missed one that had rolled away. My logic isn’t always strong, and my first thought wasn’t to take out the knife again and give it a quick slice (that would have been too easy..and normal). No, my first thought was “why I don’t dress it up as the lone pirate sprout?!”, because it’s Halloween. And because I’m a little weird.

I give you “A Sprout at Sea”:

I’m not dressing up this year but my food is!
This recipe is great for so many reasons. Aside from it being fast to make, with simple ingredients, it’s also a good canvas for add-ons! Off the top of my head, I bet caramelized onion bits, meats, nuts, and cranberries would all be ridiculously delicious in this. I had a friend who put bacon in it (got to get my hands on some good facon…), and sang its praises for weeks.The ingredients are also really easy to adjust to your taste, whether you want more heat, more richness, or more sweet – just amp it up! Let me know how yours comes out, and whether or not you googly eyed your Brussels Sprouts too!

Maple Sriracha Brussels Sprouts
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1.5 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • ¼ Cup Pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter (I usually am very generous with the amount of butter, maybe closer to 2.5 Tbsp)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. Toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and salt on a lined baking sheet**. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes toss them and finish roasting. These will look a lot less done than how you might normally like them but they will go back in! Lower the oven temperature to 400°F
  3. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the syrup and Sriracha until you have a smooth sauce. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Place the Brussels sprouts in an ovenproof pan or dish that can also go in the broiler. I used a cast iron pan. Pour the sauce over the sprouts and toss to coat. Place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes.
  5. After 10 minutes move the pan to the broiler (or the oven to the broiler setting) and broil until sprouts darken and crisp up. In my oven it took about 10-12 minutes on a lower setting.
  6. Eat immediately. I recommend only stopping to hand out treats to the kids, or pirate Brussles sprouts, at the door.
Notes
**The reason I use the baking sheet and the pan, and not just the pan the whole time, is because for the first roast I'm trying to get rid of more moisture and I find using the pan crowds them too much. If you have a big enough oven-proof pan and want to use it the whole time, go for it!

Cherry Rhubarb Chutney and Whipped Goat Cheese Crostini

This past week while walking through the produce section in the Whole Foods on the Upper West Side I was feeling particularly celebratory as I had just passed the Food Handlers Certificate exam. It’s a little piece of paper saying that I have an understanding of how to work cleanly and safely in a kitchen in New York (which was necessary for one of my many jobs..more on this at a later time).While browsing for something new and exciting to cook with I saw some rhubarb and that moment happened where you hear the angels voices up above and a divine light warms the room and highlights this amazing red vegetable. And then of course everyone is watching because now you’re the crazy person in the room staring at the rhubarb like it’s talking to you. But there it was! I hadn’t seen any for months and it didn’t look half bad. This, of course, made me suspicious. So after a quick google search, and learning about a late Pacific-Northwest rhubarb harvest, I gleefully bagged up a pound (or 2).

Up until recently in my adult life rhubarb had been used for mostly sweet dishes. My associations were either with it being used in a strawberry rhubarb sauce (one of my mom’s most amazing recipes) or in a pie with similar ingredients to the sauce. Both perfectly delicious ways to go from stalk form to in my mouth form. But maybe it’s because I’m ready for cold weather and can’t wait for the fall or maybe it’s because I don’t have such a sweet tooth but I wanted to try to use rhubarb in a different way. After a quick walk around the produce section again I settled on a chutney. Because of some other ingredients sitting at home I knew just how I wanted to eat it.I love chutneys. Loosely, a chutney is a condiment that’s traditionally a blend of spices, fruits, and vegetables – but often it’s really anything goes. It can be pickled or not. Spicy or not. Thick and jam-like or not. It’s lasts for days and is delicious on everything. We love it on and with meats and breads – something a little sweet and spicy to complement savory flavors.

Ever since I bought a cherry pitter a couple months back I’ve found it infinitely easier to cook with cherries. I know, I know, it’s one of those silly “one use” products that just end up taking precious space in your drawers and cabinets. But it’s really not! Well it’s actually a two-use product since you can use it to whack the pits out of olives as well. The reason I finally broke down and bought “the silly kitchen product” it is for the amount of time and mess it saves you as well as keeping your cherries intact for things like this rocking (and pretty) cherry herb and walnut salad I made recently. But seriously, the mess…no more cherry juice stains on everything as you pull apart the cherries with your fingers and grab for the pit before it all slips out and stains your butcher block and clothing red. Yeah, that’s happened a lot.Truth is you don’t really need a pitter for this recipe (ha!) because it won’t matter how pretty and whole the cherry looks while it’s cooking down but it does save you from a ridiculous amount of scrubbing later.

Once the chutney was made and cooled slightly I started prepping the rest of what would make the crostini (Italian for “little toasts”) a complete and perfect bite.

To make a whole bite is a fun challenge. You want to layer flavor and texture so when someone picks up your masterpiece and they bite in they get a little bit of everything and it all comes together seamlessly. Having the bread be toasted is important since nothing else has that element. A satisfying crunch can be everything.Next was the layer between the chutney and the bread. To carry the thick spiced and fruity mixture, and for a good summer bite, I decided on a goat cheese mixed with honey and lightened up with a little (unsweetened) whipped cream.

Sure you can make this, serve it to yourself, and be completely satisfied because it’s so awesome. But you can also keep the chutney and the cheese in the fridge a few days and when people come over grill or toast some bread and assemble it all in under 5 minutes! I guarantee this will impress the pants off your friends (you know, if that’s what you’re going for).
Cherry Rhubarb Chutney and Whipped Goat Cheese Crostini

Serves: Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients
Cherry Rhubarb Chutney
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion (sweet) chopped
  • ½ tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ of a leek - halved the long way (and then use half of that) thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only
  • 1 small stalk of celery in thin slices
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • ½ lb. rhubarb, chopped
  • 1.5 cup cherries, pitted
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup cherry juice*
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar
Whipped Goat Cheese
  • 4 oz of goat cheese (one of the small plastic wrapped logs)
  • ¼ cup of heavy cream
  • 1-2 tbsp of honey
Instructions
Cherry Rhubarb Chutney
  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sauté the onions and ginger together for 3-5 minutes until the onion starts to get translucent. Add the red pepper flakes, celery, and leeks and mix together. Let the leeks and celery soften for about another 5 minutes. Stir every few minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring together to a boil. Allow to boil for a couple minutes and then lower the heat to simmer, stir, cover, and cook for another 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally. When the rhubarb and cherries have broken down and the sauce thickened it's close to being done.
  3. If there is still liquid in the pot take the cover off to let it evaporate while on a low heat. Keep stirring! Salt to taste at the end.
  4. When it's done take it off the heat and allow it cool a bit before either putting it away or using it.
Whipped Goat Cheese
  1. With a hand mixer (or a stand mixer but this seemed to small a batch to break out the big guns) whip the goat cheese and honey together until soft and creamy - to the consistency of a whipped cream cheese. Put aside.
  2. In a separate bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
  3. Fold the whipped cream into the cheese using a silicone spatula (the cheese can get pretty sticky!).
Assemble the Crostini
  1. I quickly infused some olive oil with tarragon, mint, and a pinch of kosher salt. After letting it sit for at least an hour I brushed it onto the bread and grilled it till crispy. You can also use regular olive oil and toast the bread in a pan or oven. Let the bread cool.
  2. Spread a layer of the whipped goat cheese on the bread and then a layer of the chutney on top.
  3. Finish it off with a little mint.
  4. (Apologize to your friends for causing them to lose their pants.)
Notes
*You don't need to use cherry juice -you can substitute pomegranate juice or even water - the juice adds a little more color and an extra layer of tartness but it's main purpose is the liquid.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Last week I made butternut squash mac and cheese. This recipe is not about that mac and cheese (but it’s ridiculously delicious comfort food and you should make it too). The squash I used for it was ginormous, so I kept the second half to make butternut squash gnocchi.Which is a little weird for me since gnocchi and I are not friends in the kitchen.

Gnocchi is one of my favorite things to eat…when someone else makes them. I’ve had little success in making these delicious, saucy, pillows of goodness in the past, but I’m a sucker for punishment.

After working with Chef Louisa Shafia this past month I learned two important things. The first lesson is that I am not as fast as I thought I was in the kitchen. The second, is that when you repeat the same action over and over again, you will get better and faster. For the past four weeks I’ve been making Sambouseh (Persian samosa) in Chef Louisa’s kitchen, and this past week, finally, proved the theory.Back to the gnocchi – I’m getting better (and faster) at making it, but there’s a lot of room for growth. I guess that means I’ll be making and eating a ton of it in the near future…who’s coming over for dinner?

These gnocchi are particularly a bit time consuming to prepare. I picked out a perfectly rainy, dreary day to make them. Consequently, a big bowl of gnocchi are also perfect to eat on those perfectly rainy, dreary days.
For me cooking is my zen spot, and one of the few things I do to clear my head. The process of making gnocchi shares a lot of similarity with the process of making bread (bread making being my ultimate kitchen zen), and a nice way to pass an afternoon. If you’re into that sort of thing. Lately, I’ve needed some quiet time in the kitchen. With so much going on in life, it’s important to carve out these moments to refocus.
Making gnocchi is also an excuse to pull out one of my favorite (but underused) kitchen tools, the ricer. It passes the boiled potatoes through little holes, making them fluffier and removing any lumps. Now that we’ve intimately reconnected over these gnocchi, I’m thinking about breaking out the ricer more often for mashed potatoes and the like.
Rolling them on the fork to get the perfect ridges is both challenging and exciting. Challenging in that they stick to the fork and I was constantly worrying that pushing too hard would turn them to mush, but it’s just SO EXCITING when you nail it. Luckily, this recipe makes a ton of gnocchi, giving you many opportunities to nail the ridges.You can also skip making the ridges and use a finger to make an indent in the dough. The end result is the same – an indentation that helps the gnocchi to hold sauce.

This is not a quick weeknight meal. It’s not super difficult, but it is time consuming and if you’re a gnocchi newbie, there’s a bit of a learning curve. There are ways to cut down the time it takes to make them, like microwaving the butternut squash to soften it vs. roasting, but then you miss out on creating the deep roasted and caramelized flavors. This is more a lazy weekend day event.I’m trying to learn how to do this faster in case I’m ever invited to showcase my skills on Masterchef and am challenged to make gnocchi in under and hour. It could totally happen, right? But ultimately, there’s something really lovely in taking the time to go slow and create this soul-warming, belly-filling dish.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Serves: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound of butternut squash (for me it was just the bottom half - weighed after scooping the seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled and quartered
  • ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1¾ cups (or more) flour
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional) to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cut squash the long way, if using the bottom scoop the seeds, and place on a lined baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over the squash and put it in the oven. Cook until soft and a knife goes through easily, about 1-1.5 hours. Take out and cool slightly before scooping out the flesh and discarding the skin. Purée the butternut squash (I used an immersion blender) and set aside to cool.
  3. While the squash is cooking you can prep you potatoes. Boil your peeeled and quartered potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes or until soft. Let cool slightly and then pass through a ricer and let cool fully. If you don't have a ricer you can push the potatoes through the smallest grater holes on your box grater or even on a cheese grater. The goal is to get those lumps out and make fluffy potatoes.
  4. Mix the squash, potato, egg, ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl until combined. Gradually add the flour. When it gets too tough to mix with a utensil begin gently incorporating by hand and kneading lightly in the bowl. You want to make sure to not overwork the dough. (Think light and fluffy thoughts!)
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly flour surface. Knead a few times (10-15 times) and add flour only if it's super sticky. The dough might be a little sticky but that's ok. Divide dough ball into 8 pieces.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchments paper and lightly sprinkle with flour.
  7. Roll the first piece out to a rope about a ½ inch thick. Feel free to go with your own instinct here when shaping. Slice the rope into individual pieces about ¾ inch long (or however long you'd like!) Using a fork dipped in flour (to keep the gnocchi from sticking to the tines), roll a gnocchi from the top to the bottom lightly pressing into the fork as you go. This video shows the process very clearly.
  8. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets as you go. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour. This can be made 6 hours ahead (kept chilled in the fridge).
  9. When you're ready to cook the gnocchi, boil a large pot of salted water and cook them in batches (I did them in 2 batches, it was a large pot) for about 8-10 minutes (until very soft and tender). Transfer them back to the same baking sheets and parchment paper you used to chill them on. You want the extra flour to keep them from sticking. Cool them completely. You can stop here and package them up in the fridge, again lightly covered with plastic wrap, for 8 or so hours before serving.
  10. For the sauce**, melt the butter in a large sauté pan. I cooked mine in 2 batches and used 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of chopped sage in each. Heat the butter over medium-high heat for a few minutes swirling it constantly so it doesn't burn, but rather browns. Once you have a nice toasty brown color add the sage and let it simmer in the butter for one minute before adding the gnocchi. Toss the gnocchi in the butter and sage and let it cook 3-4 minutes until heated through. Toss often. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately!
  11. To garnish, sprinkle with the extra Parmesan cheese and dried red pepper flakes for a good spicy kick.
Notes
**If butter isn't your thing you can toss them in any kind of sauce you want!

Slightly adapted from this bon appétit recipe 

Roasted Eggplant and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Tahina Dressing

I had my first taste of pomegranate molasses in Turkey when we were visiting Istanbul a couple years back. We were buying grilled fish sandwiches and the vendor lifted a bottle of a dark colored thick syrup and gestured toward the fish, asking if we wanted it on top. Being adventurous, we nodded emphatic yes’s. The sweet, tangy, molasses burst in our mouths adding depth to what was already an intensely delicious bite. Since then pomegranate molasses has become a staple in my kitchen and finds its ways into dressings, spreads, and glazes.

The past few weeks, I’ve had the privilege to work with, and learn from, Chef Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen, on her newest project: Lakh Lakh. Lakh Lakh is an (elevated) Persian street food pop-up happening at Porsena on Monday nights in New York City. The experience so far has been really fantastic and full of inspiring flavor combinations and recipe ideas. Louisa was using pomegranate molasses in one of her recipes and since then it’s been on my brain.

I made up this recipe a while back and it’s one of my favorite side dishes. It can be eaten on its own, heaped on a slice of bread, or serve it as a dip with veggies. It’s also a great early fall dish as we come to the end of eggplant season here in New York. It’s hearty and nutty and bright thanks to the pomegranate molasses!
Roasting eggplant in this way and with just a little bit of oil helps the vegetable (it’s a vegetable, right?) keep its texture so that it almost has a meatiness about it.

My family has an affinity for whole roasting eggplants under the broiler,  scooping out the insides, and turning it into more of a spread. It’s delicious in it’s own right, but I really like that this particular version of roasted eggplant can hold its own against a fork.

Because the eggplant is in larger pieces, it can be tossed in a dressing made separately, as opposed to incorporating everything in one bowl like a baba ghanoush or hummus. The dressing is really tasty, and I’m sure can be used for other dishes; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.
Toasting the walnuts adds warmth to this salad and great crunchy texture. In the autumn I really love to add roasted almonds, walnuts, and/or hazelnuts to so many dishes, and especially as garnish on squash based soups. Not only are they delicious but they make kitchen smell ah-may-zing while they’re toasting. Just talking about this makes me want to put on slippers and curl up in an oversized cable-knit sweater.

Now, if only I had an oversized cable-knit sweater….

I do a lot of taste testing while I cook so I knew this was banging but post-photo taking I just couldn’t help myself from toasting up some thick wheat bread and topping it with this salad. A perfect light fall lunch for sure.

Roasted Eggplant and Walnut Salad with Pomegranate Tahina Dressing

Serves: Serves 3-6 people depending on how it's being served, this recipe can be doubled 

Ingredients
  • 1-1.5 lb Eggplant
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • ½ tsp Curry powder (I used a mild curry powder)
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ½ cup (a little overfull) or 2.5 oz Walnut halves, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2 Scallions, sliced thin
  • ½ cup Cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
For the dressing
  • ¼ cup + 1.5 Tbsp Tahina
  • ¼ cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Pomegranate molasses** (if the taste is too strong cut by ½)
  • 1-1.5 Tbsp Honey (if the molasses has sugar added to it use less honey)
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Cut the eggplant into 1 inch cubes and place in a colander. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and toss so all the eggplant is salted. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the eggplant in an even layer on it. Do not rinse the salt off. Drizzle the olive oil and all the spices and toss with your hands so everything is coated.
  4. Place in the middle of the oven. Roast for 45 minutes turning the pieces with a spoon every 15 minutes. If the eggplant looks like it's burning you might need to take it out earlier. If it isn't cooked through, lower the oven temperature.
  5. Once finished let sit out of the oven on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes to cool.
  6. To make the dressing whisk the olive oil into the tahina slowly so it incorporates. Then whisk in pomegranate molasses and honey. Salt to taste.
  7. Combine the eggplant with the walnuts, scallions, and cilantro and then toss it with the dressing. Sprinkle juice from half a lemon over the top and lightly toss once more.
Notes
**Pomegranate molasses is sometimes difficult to find bottled but it's very easy to make! Here's a great recipe from Alton Brown.

 As an aside, in my quest to start this blog and actually start writing down recipes I’ve slightly changed the way I work in my kitchen.  For instance, I’ve learned to measure which is a far-cry from my “this needs a little more salt” or “that looks like enough oil”. As a result, certain dishes that I’ve typically made “to taste” have turned out a little different than I expected. This is only relevant to those who have eaten at my table, but this is one of those dishes. So delicious, just different. 

I love how recipes are constantly evolving as we experience new foods and dishes, so if you have any feedback, edits, or alterations that you’ve made to these recipes, please share them in the comments! Any and all feedback is sincerely welcome.

Cheddar and Scallion Sweet Potato Tots

There are so many times I read a recipe, can’t cook it in that moment, and then mentally shelve the idea for later. If I don’t totally forget about it, I’ll eventually come back around to try to make it..like a normal person would. But, once in awhile, there are recipes that get seriously stuck and bounce around my brain until I can execute them.After reading a Food Lab article by J. Kenji López-Alt on Serious Eats about the science behind making tater tots, it was almost all I could think about every time I walked into my kitchen. At any point over these past two weeks if you had asked me what I was making next in my kitchen, (or had even just said “what’s new with you?”) we might have had an awkward moment when I got giddy and shouted: “SWEET POTATO TOTS!”.If you think I’m exaggerating I have a couple of friends to refer you to.
The reason it took so long to actually get to frying up some taters was a jam-packed schedule filled with three amazing EatWith meals we hosted in eight days, family and friend gatherings for Rosh Hashanah, and a kitchen internship I started at Porsena under Chef Sara Jenkins (and for the next few weeks on Mondays under Chef Louisa Shafia at Lakh Lakh her Persian pop-up) So lots of awesome time in kitchens..sadly just no time for tots.
Tater tots always seemed liked one of those foods that “shouldn’t be too hard to make at home” and yet I don’t know many people who’ve attempted to create them in their own kitchens. It’s definitely way easier to buy a bag of frozen taters and then heat them up on demand but there’s something special about doing these homemade (isn’t there always?).On the tots scale these place way above the frozen kind but still slightly below my all time favorite tots -I think those are just unattainable greatness. These are spectacular, taste “real”, are super satisfying, and totally customizable (a good quality in any tot).
The truth is, they aren’t hard to make. The biggest commitment is time because you need to work in small batches but even then it’s not so long before you have a warm, crunchy, savory, salty bowl of tater tots sitting in front of you.
When I was ready to chow down on the tots I took a trip to the refrigerator to see what I could whip up for a dip and stumbled on half a container of sour cream. For one of the EatWith’s we did a make-you-own-taco dinner and there were still leftovers! I kind of forgot about that meal and was so surprised when I found the sour cream. We’re both lactose intolerant and it’s just one of those ingredients that gets used significantly less in our home.These tots were SO GOOD and would make for a perfect fall snack for anyone at anytime. You can add any “flavorings” you want -spices, meats, cheeses, vegetables. Just make sure if it’s a solid food flavor you’re adding that you don’t put too much in or the tots won’t hold together when you fry them. This recipe also works the same if you used white russet potatoes, they just won’t darken as much as these, even if you cook them for the same amount of time. Sweet potatoes just take on the color faster – the ones you see in the photos aren’t burnt.Also, if anyone ends up trying this with butternut squash (on my to-do list) please let me know how they turn out.All these tots needed when I was done with them was a beer and a football game.

Cheddar and Scallion Sweet Potato Tots

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds Sweet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 quarts Canola oil (you can also use peanut or vegetable - anything with a high smoke point)
  • 1½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp Garlic salt (optional..if used, cut kosher salt by ½ tsp)
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch or potato starch
  • ½ tsp White sugar
  • 2 ounces Shredded cheddar cheese (plus more if you're like me and need to snack on it...or melt it over the tots!)
  • 2-3 Scallions sliced into thin rings (white and green parts)
  • Black pepper
Instructions
  1. Put the peeled and cubed potatoes in a bowl of cold water and agitate for 10 seconds by sloshing them around with your hands in the water. Remove them from the water and place them in a fine mesh strainer. Let them drain for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over high heat till it reaches 350°F. I use a candy thermometer for this.
  3. Use a paper towel to absorb any excess water on the potatoes. Carefully add the potatoes to the hot oil. Stir them gently using either a wire spider or a spoon (like I did) until they're light golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes. Keep adjusting the flame to maintain oil temperature. You might want to work in two batches for this depending how large your pan is. The more you drop in the oil the more the temperature will drop and it will be much harder to achieve the color and tenderness you want without the potatoes taking on too much oil.
  4. Transfer the lightly fried cubes of potato to a paper towel-lined bowl and allow to cool for 10 minutes and make sure to reduce the heat under the oil to low.
  5. Transfer ¼ of the potatoes to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until broken down into rough ¼ to ⅛th inch pieces, about eight 1-second pulses. Transfer to a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining potatoes, working in three more batches
  6. Add salt, corn/potato starch, sugar, and black pepper to taste. Then mix in the cheese and scallions. Gently mix with your hands to combine - you don't want the little pieces to disappear!
  7. Shape into cylinders, or whatever shape you're feeling, with your hands. Again, go easy here and don't compress the mixture too much.
  8. Bring the oil back up to 350°F and add your shaped tots (you might want to work in batches here too). Allow the tots fry without moving them for 1 minute, then carefully separate and move with your spoon (or metal spider). Fry until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes longer and adjust the temperature of the oil as needed.
  9. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  10. Season immediately with salt.
Notes
Make a dip for your tots (because, why wouldn't you?!): I mixed some lime juice with sour cream and scallions and all was right and well in my kitchen and stomach.

Slightly adapted from this Serious Eats recipe 

Zucchini Pasta with Roasted Corn, Edamame, and Crispy Shallots

Whenever Ari travels I go a little food crazy. He was in Berlin for work last week and while he’s eating/working his way across that city I’m doing some serious damage over here. For instance,  one of the first things I did was schedule a ramen date with my good friend. Ari doesn’t “believe” in ramen the way I do. He doesn’t really get eating a whole bowl of salt and carbs for dinner whereas to me, that makes perfect sense. (He also doesn’t really “believe” in pizza for similar reasons…so I also eat pizza when he’s away.) I made an all dark meat chicken dish and I whipped up some ice cream with mascarpone cheese. Not super healthy but so super good.

So when I woke up this morning feeling the effects of my eating adventures I hit the fridge and pulled out only foods that had once been in the ground.

Zucchini is such an awesome and versatile vegetable. Grating it into long thin strips, either on a box grater or with a vegetable peeler, is an easy way to prep and cook it quickly. It’s also a fun way to pretend you’re eating pasta when your body is telling you not to touch another flour-based food for at least 24 hours.

From the cooking I do in the soup kitchen I’ve learned that a great way to transform corn is to roast it. This works especially well for canned corn or if your fresh corn is starting to go (which mine was). If roasted just long enough it changes the texture and brings out a deeper richness and sweetness than what’s already naturally there in the corn. Don’t you want to stick a spoon in that?

Recently when I’ve bought shallots I’ve had to purchase a bunch at once -either because they came bundled or they were too small to buy just a few. Since there were about a dozen in my kitchen I decided to get some super crispy to add an onion-y crunch to the dish. I might have bent my own breakfast rules of the day but I decided to fry them till they were browned and crispy. Cooking the shallots was a test of patience but totally worth it.
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I don’t have too much experience deep frying (I promise I’m working very hard to gain more) so these were watched very carefully. It took about 15 minutes to get to the brown I wanted. This was the most time intensive part of the whole dish but it was oh-so-worth the extra effort.

Once all the ingredients were ready to go it took just a couple minutes to pull it all together into the best faux-pasta dish you’ve ever had. This would be a great dish to have prepared ahead of time and just thrown into a pan at the last second before serving.

When I dove into it I piled on a ton of the shallots and a few pieces of shaved parmesan cheese. It was a really completely terrific dish. So much so that I almost didn’t miss having bread with my “pasta”…almost.

Zucchini Pasta with Roasted Corn, Edamame, and Crispy Shallots

Serves: Makes 2-4 servings depending on portion size

Ingredients
  • 2 Medium sized zucchini
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 Tbsp Lemon juice to taste
  • Dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Ears of fresh corn or one small 15-16 oz can of corn
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • ¼-1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • ½-3/4 cup Shelled edamame, frozen or fresh
  • 3 small or 2 medium Shallots sliced into thin rings
  • ¾ cup Vegetable oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Grate the zucchini on a box grater using the largest holes. Start at the bottom and pull the whole length of the zucchini along the grater to create long thin strands. Fight the urge to go back and forth! Grate it until you reach the seeds/the core. Then turn to the next side and start again. Set zucchini pasta aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F
  3. If using fresh corn, cook the corn first (boiled or microwaved) and then cut the kernels off the cob. If using canned corn, drain and rinse corn well. Toss corn with 1 Tbsp olive oil, paprika, and salt to taste. Spread corn on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and using a spoon, mix the corn and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  4. Cook the edamame in boiling salted water according the package directions (or your knowledge of cooking edamame). When finished, drain and set aside.
  5. Place the shallots in a small saucepan and add the vegetable oil. Put the pan on medium heat and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if they start browning too quickly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them rest on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while still warm. (I used sea salt on the shallots.) They will continue to crisp up as they cool.
  6. In a skillet over medium heat, warm 1 Tbsp olive oil and add the garlic. Let the garlic soften and brown a little for about 2 minutes and then add the zucchini, lemon juice, chili flakes, and salt. Stir the zucchini so that it cooks evenly. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the zucchini is softened but still has a bite.
  7. Once zucchini is finished, gently toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and serve. The shallots make a great garnish and sprinkling some parmesan cheese on is just delicious. And tomorrow I'm going to have the leftovers with a hunk of bread.

Crispy shallots adapted from a New York Times recipe 

Fried Polenta with Tomatoes and Mushrooms 

This past week I was taking stock of our limited shelf space in the kitchen because I was thinking about buying a new piece of kitchen equipment. I was sitting on the floor trying to create space on the bottom rack of one of my favorite Ikea purchases of all time and playing tetris with an ice cream maker, a food processor, a hot water heater, and all my different sugars and grains. This, of course led to me sorting through all my containers to see what  hadn’t been used in a while and that’s when I saw the corn meal.Typically, I’m buying corn meal to coat the bottom of loaves of bread and also because I’m thinking about how great some hot corn bread would be. (I haven’t made corn bread in years.) It goes like this: buy a package of corn meal, use a little, purge it eventually, and then, soon after, buy a new bag.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been binging on episodes of Chopped recently, but “polenta!” was the first thing I that came to mind about how to put this corn meal to use. Not only haven’t I cooked much polenta but I haven’t eaten much of it either. My only real contact with it at home was buying those logs in the grocery and trying to slice off discs to fry which never really won me over. I set to work scouring my cookbooks and the internet for advice on how to cook it. Turns out…there are so many ways to cook polenta!

This took a few tries to get right. Polenta, like risotto, needs a lot of attention but corn meal might just be fussier than arborio rice. After totally botching the first attempt, it got much easier. The internet taught me some tricks like sifting the cornmeal through my fingers and working really slowly in the beginning. It’s actually reminded me of that challenge when you’re a kid: pat your head with one hand and rub your belly with the other at the same time. This adult-in-the-kitchen version is whisk quickly with one hand and slowly sift in corn meal with the other.

I sampled a bowl of polenta from a less-than-perfect batch and it was really very good (even if it was kinda lumpy). I topped it with cheese and hot sauce. I go through hot sauce at an alarming rate. But for this recipe though I had frying it on my mind so I let the winning polenta cool in a loaf pan and left it in the fridge overnight to set. Lunchtime the next day all I had to do was cut slices and fry.

This is full on savory. The polenta was made with stock and I mixed half a cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese into it. To top it off, since I’m still eating up as many tomatoes as possible, I roasted up some grape tomatoes with garlic, and then sautéed a mix of mushrooms with thyme to go with it. Because in my head cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms all go so well on a pizza so why not a polenta! Mmmpizza…
This was a little time intensive to put together but totally worth it. It definitely got me over my uncertainty about cooking polenta and it turns out it’s easy enough to whisk up a pot of it. I can see myself making this as a quick app before a meal because everything can be made in advance and then brought together beautifully at the last minute. Also if you cool the polenta in a flatter pan (but keeping it thick enough), you can cut out different shapes to serve as edible plates for all sorts of toppings.
Fried Polenta with Tomatoes and Mushrooms

Serves: Makes 3-4 larger servings or 6-8 smaller depending on how you cut the polenta

Ingredients
Polenta
  • 1 Cup Corn Meal
  • 3 cups + 2 Tbsp Stock*
  • ½ Cup of Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Butter or Oil for Frying
  • Cilantro to Garnish (optional)
Tomatoes
  • 1 Pint Grape Tomatoes
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, Smashed
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Mushrooms
  • A mix of Shiitake, Portobello, and Crimini/Button Mushrooms, chopped into cubes and slices
  • 3-4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 1-2 tsp Olive Oil
  • Salt, Pepper, and Dried Red Pepper Flakes to taste
Instructions
For the Polenta
  1. Bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat in a lidded pan. If the stock you're using is not salted, add salt to the water (start with about a tsp, you can always adjust later). Once the stock is boiled sift the corn meal by the handful into the stock very slowly, whisking quickly but gently the whole time (this will help you get fewer lumps). Keep whisking once till it's all incorporated and smooth.
  2. Lower the heat to very low and cover.
  3. Set a timer for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes take the lid off and give it a good whisk reincorporating everything and making sure it doesn't dry out. You might think it looks done but it should ideally cook for 30-40 minutes. Give it a taste now and taste again in 30 min - you'll notice a sweetness and richness that wasn't there before. Keep whisking every 8 minutes and replacing the lid after each session (do this about 4 times)
  4. At the very end whisk in the cheese and salt/pepper to taste. I fried my polenta in a non-stick pan. If you don't have a non-stick the cheese you mixed in might cause the polenta to "melt" a little while frying, making it stick. If you'd prefer not to gamble you can also melt the cheese over the polenta once it's fried and done.
  5. Pour out the polenta immediately into the form you want into to mold to. I used a loaf pan. Let it cool fully, then cover and place in the fridge for at least a couple hours or overnight.
  6. When ready to fry slice or use a shape (cup, cookie cutter...) to make individual pieces. I fried mine in  butter over medium heat-high till each side was crispy and golden (about 3-4 minutes for each side).
For the Tomatoes
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Toss all the ingredients on a parchment lined sheet tray together and roast 18-20 minutes or until garlic is golden and tomatoes are popping open and have a nice brown on them.
For the Mushrooms
  1. Cook everything together in a pan over medium heat until all the water in the mushrooms has cooked out.
To Serve
  1. Mix together the tomatoes and mushrooms and spoon over the fried polenta slices. Optional: garnish with cilantro.
Notes
*I used a meatless/pareve "No Chicken" stock from Imagine because I find it richer and more flavorful than the vegetable versions but any stock would be great here

Curried Cauliflower with Lemon Leek Sauce

Before I jump into anything about this bowl of deliciousness I need to apologize. This recipe marks the third in a row that uses heavy cream. Normally I would never ever apologize for using that ingredient but I realize this might be a little excessive. The reason for all the heavy cream usage is that I bought a large container for my Blueberry Cream Scones and have been building recipes around, in part, what ingredients I have hanging out at home. I’m new to sharing what goes on in my kitchen and I’m still figuring it all out. (I’ve also used leeks twice in a row now, but enough with the counting. On to the recipe!)
This recipe is inspired by the soup-kitchen I cook in twice a week: Crossroads Community Services at St. Bartholomew’s Church in NYC. We’re very lucky to have fresh produce to work with, and we’ve been able to prepare many amazing roasted and/or grilled cauliflower dishes that have gone over really well with our guests. I’ve learned that cauliflower is very quick to break down to its florets, absorbs spices and flavors beautifully, and roasts to perfection in about 20 minutes.
This is totally silly but whenever I eat or talk about cauliflower this (truly brilliant) joke from when I was a kid bubbles up. I’m going to share it with you so you can giggle along as you think about cooking your cauliflower.One day the Duchess of Bialy woke up and decided that more than anything in the world, she wanted to be a cauliflower. She went to the royal witch and said “turn me into a cauliflower!”. The witch, who understood this deep need to be a cauliflower, nodded solemnly and said she would do it, but that the Duchess should know once she was transformed there was no returning to human form. 
“That’s fine by me!” said the Duchess..for she really truly wanted to be a cauliflower.
There was a poof! and the Duchess was changed. 

One day this cauliflower is walking down the street and sees a young boy standing in the middle of the road and he is completely oblivious to a giant truck speeding right towards him. The cauliflower leaps to the boy’s rescue, scoops him up, deposits him safely next to his panicked mother, and then runs away. 
The boy looks up at his mother in shock and awe and asks “Mom, who was that?!” 
“Don’t you know my son?” she replied, “That was super cauliflower ex-Bialy Duchess”. I’m still working on turning this into a full length cauliflower-themed Mary Poppins parody…
Usually, I don’t think cauliflower needs a sauce of any kind but recently my world was rocked when I was in New Orleans and I ate the most exquisite whole roasted cauliflower at Domenica. It was served with  labneh-like feta and goat cheese and my understanding of cauliflower was transformed – from roasting it whole (which is on my to-do list) to serving it with a sauce or dip of sorts.Back at home this past week, while in the kitchen and thinking about what to make for lunch, I remembered that amazing Domenica experience and decided to create a sauce for this roasted cauliflower. I wanted something light but a sauce that would also help elevate the veg to a heartier side dish. As you now know, I already had the cream and leeks. After a quick browse of my refrigerator I pulled out lemons, some garlic, and got to work.
As the final touch, and to pull it all together in taste and color, I threw some sprigs of fresh cilantro over the top. I love how cilantro adds a burst of freshness and plays so well with bold spices and lemon flavors. If cilantro isn’t an herb you use, some fresh italian parsley would be great on this as well.It was hard not to eat it up all at once. I kept swatting Ari’s hand away, then finally gave up, and for the rest of the afternoon we were picking up pieces of cauliflower and popping them in our mouths as if they were candy.

Curried Cauliflower with Lemon Leek Sauce
Ingredients
Roasted Cauliflower
  • 1 head of cauliflower broken down to florets
  • 1 tbsp(ish) Cumin
  • 1 tbsp (ish) Mild curry
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
Lemon Leek Sauce
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium leek, halved and thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • Juice from 1 whole lemon
  • ½ cup of heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
Roasted Cauliflower
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Spread cauliflower florets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the pieces (you'll want to be a little generous here because the cauliflower soaks it all up quickly). Sprinkle the cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper over all the pieces. I like to spice foods boldly but I'll leave this to individual taste. I did use a mild curry powder but it had a bit of a kick to it. Also, a strongly spiced cauliflower will work really well with the cooling effects of the cream sauce.
  3. Get your hands into the tray and rub the olive oil and spices into the cauliflower.
  4. Place in oven for 15 minutes and then take them out and turn the pieces over so they cook evenly. At this point it's a good idea to roll them in any extra oil on the pan to help prevent burning and keep them moist.
  5. Place back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes (check after 5). Check for a deep golden brown and if they start getting too dark take them out and taste to make sure they're cooked through.
  6. Let cool on baking sheet until ready to use (or eat).
Lemon Leek Sauce
  1. In a saucepan over medium-high heat melt butter and add leeks and smashed garlic cloves. Sauté for a couple minutes and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes until the leeks are tender. Make sure to keep stirring them every couple minutes as they might begin to stick.
  2. Once the leeks are soft, after about 15 minutes, raise the heat to medium and add the lemon juice. Stir until the juice evaporates. Add cream and simmer the mixture another 2-3 minutes until the cream begins to reduce. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool slightly.
  3. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth. Strain the sauce into a bowl or pot using a fine mesh strainer- you'll want to create a smooth sauce. Using the back of a spoon (or your hands) push out all the liquid from the solids left in the strainer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To Assemble
  1. Lightly drizzle the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle fresh cilantro or parsley on top.

Lemon Leek Sauce was slightly adapted from this Bon Appetit recipe

Basil and Parsley Pesto on Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes

It’s been a tomato takeover in my food-related news feed the last few weeks. There have been amazing recipes posted all over including this delicious looking grilled bread with ricotta and tomatoes and a post titled “Tomatoes, Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes!“.  Being someone who is easily influenced by gorgeous photos and recipes I was immediately (seriously, immediately) ready to eat handfuls of summer tomatoes. It was too hot to turn on the oven to get a good roasted tomato going so I decided on some fresh pesto pasta as the most perfect vehicle for fresh juicy tomatoes.

Not only is pesto incredibly easy to turn-out, it also lasts for awhile, freezes well, and is great on oh-so-many-food-things…and spoons. Spoonfuls of pesto are awesome too.

My favorite pesto to make is a couple steps away from strictly traditional but it’s equally tasty. First off, I don’t use pine nuts anymore because a few months back my main man got pine mouth after eating some at home and it lasted for almost two weeks Everything he ate tasted metallic and pretty terrible so I use them infrequently now. Instead I’ve started using toasted walnuts which make a great substitute.

I’m also not a basil purist. I love fresh basil but I like to mix things up in pesto by throwing in a big handful of parsley. Parsley has that fresh spring taste, it’s a little peppery, and adds a delicious layer of flavor.
Once the herbs are dry I throw them into the food processor with the nuts, 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice (also not super traditional), some parmesan or pecorino romano (I’ll use either), and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.

Now that you have a big beautiful bowl of pesto it’s time to put it on something. I opted for pasta but it would be perfect slathered on a nice thick piece of toast and tomatoes layered on top, on a pizza crust, in eggs, or any other carb or starch-loaded things you have in the kitchen.

About the pasta- I always have a box or two in the house because it is hands down the fastest way to go from “I want to eat pasta” to actually eating pasta but sometimes I’d really prefer homemade pasta which has a totally different texture and quality. Before the eye rolls start getting sent my way you should know making pasta by hand isn’t all that time consuming (add another 30-40 minutes to the process) or difficult and the results are OH WOW THIS IS SO GOOD. So I made some pasta.

Awhile back I invested in the KitchenAid pasta attachments when I stumbled on a great price. While the traditional hand crank pasta machine is usually perfect, I found that as a lefty I struggle way more than my righty counterparts in coordinating rolling and holding the dough. Using the attachments probably speeds everything up a bit. I’m also using the mixing bowl from the stand mixer the bring the ingredients (egg, flour, water, salt…yup that’s all) together before hand kneading to save on clean-up.

I’ll write a more in depth pasta post in the future but here are the highlights:

PictureThe kneaded dough ball

PictureRolling out sheets of dough (I roll these to 7)

PictureVery salted boiling water and making a vortex in it just before throwing in pasta

PicturePost-knead the dough gets wrapped in a disc to rest

PictureCut pasta on parchment paper and tossed with flour

PictureFresh pasta take so little time cook! I usually test about a minute in and never let it stay in longer than 2 min.

Once the pasta was done I tossed it with the pesto and then cut up the beautiful tomatoes to top it. The tomatoes added a sweetness and an amazing texture to each bite. It was a bowl that tasted like summer.

*NOTE: Here’s the first recipe I’m posting and here’s where you learn that I’m not a recipe writer.

People have asked me for recipes for years and I don’t have the patience (or will) to figure out how much of a spice or oil I’m adding. I will use the words “about” and “not more than” and “to taste”. I’m not aiming to send perfected recipes out into the world since I’m usually the person who takes the perfected recipe and then edits it to my own taste while cooking. Instead, I want to write about flavors, seasonal foods, techniques, and using ingredients in different and delicious ways. If you’re planning to cook what I post here get ready to taste a ton. Some recipes will be more specific than others and I promise to never post something that wasn’t truly awesome.

Now back to the food:

Basil Parsley Pesto with Walnuts
Ingredients
  • 2 cups mixed basil and parsley leaves** I used a little more basil than parsley (Maybe 1 and ⅓ Basil to ⅔ Parsley)
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil (maybe a little more or less)
  • ¼-1/3 cup of shredded pecorino romano or parmesan cheese, I really like either.
Instructions
  1. Pull the basil leaves off the stems and grab the tops of the parsley- some parsley stem is fine- and thoroughly wash and dry.
  2. Throw the greens, garlic, and walnuts in the food processor and blend till they look coarsely chopped. Add lemon juice and slowly drizzle in olive oil. Keep an eye on it - you can always add more oil but if you go over it'll be difficult to edit.
  3. I like to add the cheese now and taste for salt (I primarily use kosher salt in cooking) and pepper and then give it one more spin in the food processor. You can also mix in the seasonings and cheese by hand if you prefer.
  4. Eat immediately or save it to use later. You've probably seen the ice cube tray method and/or just use an airtight container. Either way make sure to add a little extra olive oil on the top before putting it in the freezer to keep that bright beautiful green color intact. Then whenever the mood strikes..pesto!
Notes
**Every pesto recipe starts with x number of cups of "packed" basil leaves. I am still not sure what this really means. I usually take a measuring cup that holds 2 cups and start shoving the greens in but not too tightly. I know that's about as helpful as "packed" but I just still haven't figured it out.