Za’atar Roasted Salmon with Greens

Posted by on Thursday Oct 24th, 2013

Oh gosh, I’m not totally sure how to sell this one to you. This is what we eat for dinner when we don’t know what to eat for dinner. It’s quick. There are five ingredients. What you spend on wild salmon, you make up for with nearly no prep and just 10 minutes of cooking. This is really good and really healthful, detox food that will still fill you up.

In fact, this is Alex’s recipe. He used to make it before I made dinner for us most nights. All you do is sauté garlic, add a lot of greens, arrange the salmon on top, and bake for a couple of minutes. In the oven, the greens get slightly crisp on top but rich underneath, since they benefit from cooking in a little bit of the salmon’s fat, just like the potatoes from Alex’s roasted chicken. Don’t get me wrong, though: this is not bachelor food. The pink salmon presents itself pretty handsomely, sitting there on top of tender farmers’ market greens.

Of course the za’atar is my addition. I’ve been sprinkling it on salads and sandwiches since this post, when I started my Middle Eastern exploration with Sargento. With the salmon, the herb mix serves two purposes. One, the combination suits salmon perfectly: the thyme is fragrant, the sesame seeds are rich, and the tangy sumac, like lemon, helps cut through salmon’s fattiness.

Chicken Soba Soup with Miso and Spinach

Posted by on Monday Oct 14th, 2013

As I learned last week when the nights turned cold again after a tank-top weekend during which I nonetheless spent Saturday simmering stock, containers of homemade chicken soup in the fridge translate into quick, warming dinners even on weeknights. On Tuesday, we sipped plain chicken broth, and on Wednesday, I made this, only with homemade chicken broth instead of veggie. On Thursday, I made risotto.

I hardly ever have homemade chicken stock, even though I know it’s neither hard nor labor-intensive to make. And I don’t love buying pre-made chicken stock at the grocery store. It’s not cheap, and shelf-stable perishables make me squirm a little.

Ever since I read an article (I think by Ruhlman) about building up stock as you cook a meal, I’ve no longer been in a bind when I want to make a quick soup or broth-based meal on a weeknight, even when there’s no stock–homemade or otherwise–in my pantry. Instead, I sauté aromatics and other vegetables with some chicken and just add water. By the time the chicken is cooked, the water has turned into a light, flavorful chicken stock. This is no slow-simmered, rich-as-butter broth, but it’s pretty damn good!

All that’s needed is a spoonful each of several ingredients from the Asian section of my pantry–miso, soy sauce, and mirin–and this soup is on its way to being a hearty and healthy–and incredibly easy to make dinner. A weeknight gem.

Baked Sweet Potato & Andouille Hash Browns

Posted by on Tuesday Oct 8th, 2013

Remember my favorite hash brown recipe? I went and updated  it. It wasn’t broken, but I didn’t fix it. I just replaced half the potatoes with sweet potatoes, and I added Andouille sausages–two little changes, but they’re big reasons to revisit these two-step, lovable, shakeable hash browns.

If you haven’t been shaking your potatoes for a year, here’s more about why you should: when you parboil your taters, drain them, return them to the pan, and then give them a sort of violent toss with olive oil and smoked paprika, you create tons of notches on the potatoes–aka extra surface area. When the potatoes go into the oven to bake, that extra surface area turns into extra crisp.

There was nothing wrong with the original version, made with Yukon Gold potatoes, but I saw no reason not to add sweet potatoes, perfectly autumnal, and some sausages I picked up at my favorite butcher the other day, combining brunch’s two most important side dishes into one crispy sensation.

Each element delivers a slightly different type of crisp. The Yukon Golds are dense on the inside, with French fry-crunchy exteriors. The sweet potatoes have a softer texture, both inside and out. And the sausages are deep brown and almost crumbly, and they lend their spice to the neighboring potatoes for an-all around win of a flavor booster.

Hummus at Home, No Excuses

Posted by on Wednesday Jul 31st, 2013

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about hummus, just because the recipe I link back to most often on here requires that you soak dried chickpeas, cook them, then blend them. None of this is hard, but it does ask that you plan out your hummus cravings in advance.

But hummus can entail a whole lot less work than that. Less work, even, than going to the store to buy pre-made hummus if you’ve got a very few pantry items around. (I don’t really understand supermarket hummus, because it doesn’t taste like hummus to me. It tastes gritty and sour. Okay, I hate it. And why eat subpar condiments when good hummus is so easy and cheap to make at home?! And now you know what sparked the writing of this post.)

To de-mystify the multiple forms of the food we call hummus, I decided to make a stop on my Middle Eastern exploration to show you the ins and outs of the insanely popular chickpea-based dip and clue you into the fact that pretty decent hummus is only one can of chickpeas and a glug of olive oil away.

Also, did you see today’s New York Times piece about the cookbook Jerusalem? Middle Eastern food is trendy.

Hot Fudge Milkshake

Posted by on Wednesday Jul 10th, 2013

Until 2009, Herrell’s Ice Cream sat at the corner of Dunster Street and Mass Ave. in Cambridge. The ice cream there was good, and the hot fudge was better. Almost every day of college, I walked to Herrell’s in the afternoon, and I ordered a cup of Cookies ‘n Cream with Hot Fudge Sauce. I thought this was decadent–ice cream with hot fudge, every day! Until one day, when I stood in line behind a couple who placed an order ten times more decadent than my wildest ice cream dreams.

They each ordered a medium ice cream, in a cup. I don’t remember the flavors because of the shocker that came next. To drink, they asked for milkshakes. Milkshakes to wash down their ice cream! More ice cream to quench the post-ice cream thirst! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of this before. Not that I’d do such a thing. I like water with my ice cream and hot fudge with my milkshakes.

See, back before Herrell’s trained me to eat ice cream every day, I ate ice cream once a week, on Wednesdays. This was at camp, and Wednesdays were trip days. On the way back from the mountains, the waterfalls, or the freezing cold beaches of Maine, we stopped at a joint for ice cream. Normally, we went to local, homemade-type places and ordered flavors like Moosetracks, but once we went to a Dairy Queen.

At the Dairy Queen, I ordered a Hot Fudge Milkshake. Though the shake was cold, each slurp tasted of hot fudge. Not like chocolate sauce, and not chocolate ice cream. This had a butteriness like no chocolate sauce or chocolate milkshake before it. It tasted like vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce, blended.

Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta Dip

Posted by on Wednesday Jun 19th, 2013

Every so often, I feel like a college student. When I wear a backpack. On nights when I procrastinate by staring into space instead of doing the work I’ve planned to finish. At midtown lunches when I walk in with messy hair, wearing flat sandals and chipped nail polish and everyone else sports cute wedge espadrilles and structured skirts. Events where there’s free food and I feel the urge not only to stuff myself silly but to wrap fresh rolls in paper napkins and scoop good guacamole into a plastic cup and stow the booty in my pockets and my purse and my backpack for some unidentified later.

I’m not doing work for teachers anymore, so procrastinating is doubly silly. I like flat sandals and chipped nail polish and messy hair, pencil skirts be damned. I love carrying a backpack, especially when I bike. But the food thing is just weird.

I’m lucky enough to have a fridge so stocked I can eat good-quality food almost whenever I want, and I don’t have to bogart the fresh dinner rolls or good guacamole when offered, at least not the way I did my senior year of college when I catered events for hungry students (aka me) and ate as much of our spread as I could before returning to the glum trays of the dining hall. Back then, every third Friday, the day of the events, my co-cook, Lisa, and I would drive to the local bread bakery at 8am to buy dozens of loaves–for tea sandwiches, mini grilled cheeses, and crostini.

At the bakery, we would breakfast on samples. No matter that it was 8:30am, Lisa always went straight for the Sun-Dried Tomato & Feta dip sitting beside whichever bread the bakery had put out for us to try that day. I would feast on the dip with her. It was salty, rich, and full of umami. On the car ride back, our exhales reeked of garlic.

One day, we ventured to ask the clerk what was in the dip. Perhaps we could serve it at our events, we thought. If only we knew the recipe.

Roasted Caponata Salad with Chickpeas & Goat Cheese

Posted by on Wednesday Apr 24th, 2013

Tonight, after a packed day, I’m heading to our monthly girls’ potluck, still known as Mag Club in spite of not having adhered to the original meaning (we’ll all present an article from a magazine! and a dish the article inspired! yeah, right!) for years. These days, instead of dating and parties, we talk of engagements, weddings, and apartment decoration. In spite of these topics, we manage to have fun getting together.

Back to that packed day. One of the challenges of living and working in New York City is the extended time we spend away from our apartments. To leave at 7am and return when the clock strikes 10pm, after work, dinner, and the gym is exhausting in its own right, never mind the work and plans that take a toll on people like me who enjoy fresh air, homemade lunches, and 8 hours of sleep. Being out all day often means carrying a lot of bags, too, wedging ourselves plus our gym clothes, lunch bags, and scarves into an already slim column of air on the 4 train.

Even when it means an extra bag, I like to bring a homemade dish to Mag Club. (We don’t dock membership if you buy sushi, sesame noodles, or pizza, but have you met me? I’m the queen of homemade.) Since everyone has become pretty health-conscious, my last few carb-y contributions (Swiss Chard Lasagna, and a huge container of fried rice) weren’t ideal for the occasion. I decided to eliminate the carbs and load up on vegetables in tonight’s roasted vegetable salad with chickpeas and goat cheese inspired by the sweet-and-tangy flavor combination of eggplant caponata. I hope you – and the girls tonight – like it!

And here’s how to be a potluck party all-star.