Cooking For One

Apple-Cinnamon & Almond Smoothie

Posted by on Monday Apr 21st, 2014

I love the feeling of a recipe developing in my mind. A little bit of this, a pinch of that–I can almost taste the combinations as I think them. They say if you imagine a yoga routine step by step in your head, you get a good fraction as flexible and calm as if you go through the poses with your actual body. Since I adore cooking and do its motions so much, when a recipe from my head comes into existence, the tastes and textures ordinarily resemble my unwritten, unmade version. Sometimes, though, the dishes come up short, like a lentil salad I made the other day to go with some crispy hake, where the lentils got overcooked and the toasted pine nuts didn’t add enough crunch to balance out the mush, and also the hake was barely crispy.

Sometimes, the actual preparation surpasses the fantasy, and that’s what happened with this breakfast shake, which I believed would taste like almonds, apples, and cinnamon and instead tasted like candy.

Candy! For breakfast! But I’m not actually talking Peeps and Peanut Butter Eggs.This is a drink whose added sugar content comes from a single teaspoon of honey and then just makes the most of all the natural sweetness of almonds, apples, ripe banana, and honey.

Cure-What-Ails-You Fresh Ginger Tea

Posted by on Thursday Mar 27th, 2014

This afternoon, I’m going to sound like a hack selling some cure-all elixir on the street corner. This homemade, heart-warming, health-giving brew is so good, it’s worth the risk of like sounding like a shill, though.

I promise, this potion of minced fresh ginger slowly steeped into hot water, finished with spoonfuls of honey and squeezes of lemon or lime has cured me of: oncoming colds, indigestion, being freezing, exhaustion, and even the Sunday blues.

I first had a tea like this in a much richer variation, a thick, sweet liquid served hot in tiny cups. You could only drink a few sips, the tea was so rich and sweet, but the taste was so developed that when we looked at the recipe we were amazed to find just three ingredients: ginger, honey, and citrus. The instructions explained a lot. Those ingredients simmered for a long time, maybe even hours, until they reduced and the tea grew syrupy. In the end, I never made it this way–it was just a little too much.

When you need to drink a lot of tea–when you’re dehydrated or feel like you might be coming down with something like a spring cold–that syrupy stuff doesn’t do. You just can’t drink enough of it. And that’s the reason I started brewing a weaker version. The ginger steeps for at least twenty minutes, so there’s plenty of spice and flavor. I can’t explain what deliciousness happens to that flavor when you add the honey and lemon; that’s the moment the cloudy ginger juice goes from a simple tea to an elixir you might want to sell on a street corner, or at least tell everyone about.

The tea has become such a staple of my drinking life that when Skinnygirl Daily asked me to share a recipe inspired by my participation in the Healthy Habits Challenge, I knew it was time to post about the brew.

Not all parts of Brooklyn are the same, despite the worldwide branding, etc. For a while last year, my office was in East Williamsburg, and I rode through a cross-section of the borough on my way from once-dowdy and now maybe a little too hip Prospect Heights to industrial-chic East Williamsburg. Anyway, given those nuances, my favorite place for non-brown-bag-lunch days near work was Newtown, a tiny Middle Eastern vegetarian joint whose nuance clearly designated it ‘Burg-ian, not Heights-ish, but anyway, on indulgent days there, I ordered the most amazing halloumi sandwich (homemade focaccia, herbed cream cheese, mushrooms, eggplant, greens, tomato, and fried halloumi). On regular days, the sabich platter was mine.

Sabich refers to the combo of hummus, eggplant, and hard-boiled egg (I posted about a sabich sandwich once), and a bite of that on fresh pita topped with harissa? That’s one of my top foods.

But lunch out is a treat for me. And so this post is about making sabich-like hummus platters at home–with the same kind of make-ahead approach as the Brisket Burrito Bowls from the other week. The components come together with just a little work on Sunday, then become a daily dose of beautiful, healthful, enviable lunch sustenance.

Because of the season, I nixed eggplant and chose beets and fennel as my vegetables instead. I made hummus using beans from a can, because I didn’t have dried chickpeas to cook and Sunday afternoon was busy. I added a little extra green, and spice, with a simple harissa-like herb mixture used for garnish. Then I kept the protein level high with the sabich-like addition of an egg, medium-boiled and sliced each day.

If there are those among you who prefer the sandwich format over the platter, these very same ingredients will deliver you an excellent veggie and hummus sandwich–just spread on the hummus and green harissa, then pile up sliced eggs, roasted beets, and fennel. Read on below for recipes and guidelines for putting together your very own lunchtime hummus platters, all based on the lunch I ate each day last week.

**How to Make Hummus Platters for the Week**

I’ve shared about a million different iterations of hummus that might inspire you: classic creamy hummus, herby avocado hummus, lentil hummus. This particular batch was made with two cans of chickpeas, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup tahini, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 cloves of garlic, and the juice of 2 lemons–all blended together in the food processor, enough for about 8 hummus bowls. You can almost always find some ingredients for hummus at home–here’s how to work with what you have.

Roasted Beets
Roasted beets are really easy to make. Place a couple of (unpeeled) beets on a baking sheet and toss with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake at 425°F for about 1 hour, until a knife slides in with no resistance. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the skin with the help of a paring knife, then cut the beets into slices or cubes. If you don’t like staining your cutting boards red, pick up yellow beets. For 8 servings, roast 8 small or 4 large beets.

Meatball Pizza (on a Naan Crust)

Posted by on Monday Mar 3rd, 2014

Not that making pizza dough is such a big deal now that we have Jim Lahey and no-knead and Smitten Kitchen’s detailed schedule for getting homemade pizza on the table at night, but I do want to point out that there are all kinds of other vessels to carry your tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings than traditional pizza dough, like English muffins, French bread bagels, tortillas, polenta, pita, and naan.

And, if you settle on one of those and keep it in your fridge, then homemade pizza becomes less of a special occasion supper and more of a last-ditch, but still delicious, meal to make on a weeknight.

Because of my collaboration with Stonefire, I had naan in the freezer. I selected a whole grain package, pulled out a can of tomatoes and smushed them into sauce (no need to cook–just add a little garlic, salt, and oil), shredded mozzarella (supermarket style, fresh can make the pizza soggy), and some homemade meatballs. Technically, I wouldn’t make meatballs from scratch just for my weeknight naan pizza, but if you have some lying around, use ‘em! They don’t take too long to make, to be honest. Or, use sausages or sliced sausage, extra kale or broccoli rabe, any cheeses you have in the cheese drawer.

I’ll be back later this week to share a more authentic use for naan in the next Indian recipe I developed for you guys!

Roasted Broccoli and Goat Cheese Omelets

Posted by on Thursday Jan 9th, 2014

The short-order cooks at the diner and hotel buffet and the local brunch place told me that an omelet was a chewy filled cake made from overcooked Egg Beaters and American cheese–but when I made an omelet at home! That’s when I realized what an omelet could be: delicious, light, fluffy, healthy, and not repulsive at all.

The scales fell from my eyes a long time ago, at a weeklong basics cooking class I enrolled in one summer during college, the same course that taught me everything I know about vinaigrettes and chocolate mousse. The teacher demonstrated a lightening-quick omelet technique he said was authentic to the French way. And, like so many other things the French have mastered (like wine, food, and villages), the omelet technique was right, proper, and good. I continue not to order omelets at diners, buffets, and brunch places, but I recently started making them at home again, with that instructor’s words in my mind. Today, with step-by-step photos, I’m hoping you have your own omelet epiphany.

Creamy Blue Cheese Rotini with Spinach

Posted by on Monday Dec 9th, 2013

This was the kind of weekend that ended with pasta. A late night, two lazy days, a bit of Christmas shopping, a lung-challenging moment with some hot peppers…and by Sunday at 7pm, I was ready for a bowl of comforting spaghetti, or rotini.

Of course this is not all that surprising, given that I could eat pasta for dinner every night! There’s no other meal I find so satisfying on a daily basis, and I love how some of the best pastas actually have the shortest ingredient lists—like this creamy blue cheese number.

I shared this with Cup of Jo readers last month, but it’s one of those recipes that’s really more like a formula than a recipe, so I wanted to make sure you guy didn’t miss it over here.

I’ve always loved making mac ‘n cheese for weeknight dinners, but it wasn’t until I took a cooking course on Italian pasta during college that I discovered this formula for making a creamy and cheesy noodle dish with fewer ingredients and a simpler process than my beloved mac. Basically, you heat garlic in a little bit of olive oil, just until it’s fragrant (don’t let it brown!), then you pour in half and half and keep it warm while you boil the pasta til it’s al dente. The cream reduces, becoming saucy, without any extra thickeners. And then just before the pasta is done, you melt in some fragrant blue cheese. Voila. Done.

Spiked Brooklyn Egg Cream

Posted by on Wednesday Sep 18th, 2013

Brooklyn’s finest beverage, the egg cream, gets a boozy makeover with the addition of hazelnut-flavored liquor, Frangelico. The egg cream has a long and storied history in the very borough where I now live. That history includes neither cream nor egg.

I drank egg creams now and then as a kid, the granddaughter of a Brooklynite. At first, they’re a little disappointing. Where’s the egg, you wonder. Where’s the cream? Instead, there’s chocolate sauce, a little milk, and a huge fizzy pour of seltzer.

As you gulp down the drink–foam, milk, chocolate, and all–it becomes obvious why the egg cream is worthy of ingestion. It is the lightest of the sweet, cool drinks in the world–lighter than any milkshake or malted, lighter even than most smoothies. The foaminess created by the seltzer is as airy as an illusion, and because of the lightness, the grown-up me had no qualms about spiking the old egg cream with hazelnut-flavored liquor, Frangelico. We know from Nutella and this mousse that chocolate and hazelnut harmonize, and I wasn’t worried about bogging down my alcoholic beverage in the manner of some old cream punch. No, this is a refreshing afternoon sip, made at the moment when your thirst needs to be quenched in tandem with your sweet tooth begging for attention.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream is all about the method: the perfect pour of chocolate, which gets purposely left at the bottom, the new shot of booze in the form of Frangelico, the milk (only whole milk foams right – skip the low fat stuff), and the buzzy pop of the seltzer. Here’s how it’s done:

In the good old days, soda jerks pointed spritz seltzer bottles at the egg cream glasses to build up the foam without drowning the milk and chocolate in liquid. We now make do with regular seltzer, poured straight in from the bottle, but I still think it works enough to raise a glass to Brooklyn, to hazelnut liquor, to old-fashioned drugstore drinks. Cheers!

I wrote this sponsored post in partnership with Frangelico to share recipes for using the hazelnut liquor. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that help inspire BGSK’s content!