Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Salad in a Jar: Lunch Ideas

I'm told I'm way late to the game on "salad in a jar." But forget that! I am behind on a lot of trends, and that doesn't lessen my enjoyment any.

"Salad in a jar" is just a good idea. And perfecting the technique—while it might not help you contribute to water cooler conversation, if that's still a thing—is simple and immediately yields dividends. It's all about layers, and building your salad carefully so as to keep the ingredients fresh, crisp, and just as delicious as you need them to be when lunch hour looms. Ingredient amounts and jar size will vary depending on what sort of salad you'll make. Side salad? Go for a half-quart jar and balance your ingredients accordingly. Entrée? I used a quart jar and loaded it up with chickpeas and quinoa ... greens were sort of an afterthought, but definitely made it in!

Your layering strategy should be as follows (find my route in italics):

• dressing on bottom: I doubled Cooks.com's recipe and reserved the extra.
substantial vegetables next: Chickpeas, grape tomatoes, then zucchini.
grains: I cooked a cup of red quinoa and added 1/4 cup to the two jar salads I made, reserving the rest—quinoa gets used quickly around here.
• cheese: Feta crumbles.
greens: Spring mix and kale.

To serve:
Shake the jar and then empty contents into a shallow bowl. Toss, then enjoy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How To: Reseason Cast Iron

If you're a cast-iron disciple, you know to hold it dear. To gather the rest of your household and solemly tell them, "You see this skillet? Don't worry about this skillet. I will care for my precio—I mean, my skillet. Thanks for listening, you are dismissed."

The basic tenets in cast-iron care are these:
  • Do not put it in the dishwasher.
  • Do not even let it near soap.
  • Do wipe it down gently with a towel using vegetable oil or shortening and hot, hot water.
  • Do throw in a lilting Irish lullaby if you happen to have one handy.
But, as Bender tells us in The Breakfast Club, the world is an imperfect place.

Should tragedy (or stubborn food or old-age or *gasp* soap) befall your cast-iron, there is a road back. Here's a short tutorial for stripping and reseasoning your pans. I made good use of these instructions this weekend while setting up a new kitchen. A little online authority and a well-ventilated kitchen (It might get a little smoky, so open up those windows) will result in some gorgeous pans. Have a celebratory dinner recipe at the ready!

How To: Reseason Cast Iron

1. Preheat oven to 200. Line bottom rack with foil to catch any drips from the pan (this comes later down the line).
2. To strip your pan of rust and stubborn food, sprinkle the inside with lemon juice and kosher or sea salt. Scrub out with a towel or steel wool.
3. Dry your pan in the oven. Then remove and adjust heat to 350.
4. Pour just a little bit of vegetable oil into your cast iron, then use a clean towel to spread a thin layer of the oil all over the pan, inside and out. Apply more as needed, but err on the side of caution.
5. Place pan upside down on the top rack of the oven. If your oil layer is thin enough, you should see no drips onto the foil below.
6. Bake for one hour. Turn off oven and let pan cool inside for another hour.
7. Whoop in triumph! You've got a rejuvenated cast iron to enjoy.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce

A delicious, brightly tangy sauce will carry you far. "I could eat this for breakfast," said my fiancé. We mopped up every last dribble of this lemon caper topping last night. I'd be cruel not to pass the recipe along.

I just moved into a new house (read: new kitchen) this week, and I spent my first weekend morning arranging the spice cabinet, stacking my oh-so-useful kitchen cart, and reseasoning cast iron.

We ended the day with plump tuna steaks, rubbed with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground rainbow peppercorns, then grilled in my shiny, renewed cast iron grill pan. Asparagus, chopped and grilled with herbes de Provence.

And that lemon caper sauce. The capers were sautéed in a little butter and lemon juice until aromatic. Then as the tuna steaks came to bold-lined fruition, I added bits of cold, cold butter to the skillet until the capers were frothing and warm.

Spooned it over the tuna steaks and dinner was served. (We paired with a tall glass of Lucky Bastard ale.)

Now to envision dozens and dozens of future uses...

Grilled Tuna Steaks with Lemon Caper Butter Sauce
Yield: 2 servings

2, 6-oz. tuna steaks (about 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
For the sauce:1 oz. capers, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon butter for sautéeing, plus 2 tablespoons chilled and separated into small pieces
Freshly squeezed juice from one lemon
Salt and pepper (to taste)
For the asparagus:
1 bunch, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herbes de Provence

1. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon butter over medium heat until frothing. Add capers and sautée for 20 seconds, until aromatic. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper and continue to cook—stirring frequently—until liquid has evaporated (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and reserve.
2. Using a medium skillet or grill pan (I used the same pan for the asparagus and tuna to conserve—carried-over seasoning was a bonus), heat up one tablespoon olive oil or medium-high heat. Add asparagus and herbes de Provence. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 6 minutes, until asparagus is bright green. Reserve in a small, covered bowl to keep warm.
3. Rub tuna steaks with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat up lightly oiled grill pan to medium-high heat. Grill tuna steaks for 5 minutes on each side, until sides are white and opaque.
4. While tuna grills, return the capers to medium heat in pan. Add chilled butter, bit by bit, until melted, browned, and bubbling.
5. Spoon sauce over tuna steaks, surround with a ring of asparagus, and serve.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Kenyan Braised Kale & Tomatoes

Here's another quick and easy recipe! After the decadence of Thanksgiving, it's welcome. I don't have my usual smattering of pictures ... and they didn't particularly feel like necessary guidance. The joy of this recipe is in its basic goodness: a heap of greens swimming in spiced tomato juice. In Swahili, they refer to this style of meal as sukuma wiki ("week-pusher" or "stretch the week"), due to the ready supply of kale and other greens in the country. It stands alone wonderfully as a main course, and you're not breaking the bank (or scale) to indulge.

Find the recipe below for your replicating pleasure.

Kenyan Braised Kale & Tomatoes (Sukuma Wiki)
Yield: 4 servings

Note: I did not use onion, though most recipes in this fashion call for it. I went for garlic instead, since I had it on hand, but I see no reason why you can't throw in a little of both.Ingredients:1 pound of kale, cut from rib and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1  teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice (to garnish)

Method:1. Heat up olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add in garlic and stir gently for 4–5 minutes.
2. Sprinkle in turmeric, cumin, and coriander. Add tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
3. Cook down tomatoes for 2–3 minutes, stirring often.
4. Raise heat to medium-high. Add in kale one handful at a time, stirring to combine with each addition. Once all kale is added to the pot, pour in one cup of water. Stir greens again, then reduce heat to medium and cover the pot.
5. Cook for twenty minutes. Then season to taste and serve hot, squeezing lemon juice over each bowl.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Roasted Broccoli with a Twist

There's not much to this recipe—and that's the beauty of it. I find myself craving roasted broccoli almost always, and tonight I indulged myself, while adding enough spice and variety that it felt blog-worthy.

Garam masala rained down with might. Ginger grated softly in the aftermath. All resulting in a sharp, dynamic heat, the sort that keeps you serving up forkful after forkful in wonder.

I'm saving this recipe as much for myself as for you. Hope you enjoy!

Roasted Broccoli with a Twist
Yield: 3–4 servings

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets, chopped
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon garam masala
2 inches of ginger, freshly grated

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a medium mixing bowl, combine broccoli, cauliflowers, and tomatoes. Drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle garam masala and ginger on top. Toss to combine.
2. Spread vegetable mixture evenly across 9x12-inch baking dish. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through. Serve.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Oh, man, here's a new favorite! Brussels sprouts suffer a bad rap, and to their dissenters I usually counter, "Well, you just haven't had them the right way."

When I say that, I'm referring to roasted. Trimmed and halved, salted and spiced, and seared to golden-crusted goodness. But now I've got a new incarnation to tout when people give me grief about b-sprouts.

Raw—and grated directly into the salad for a mild and pleasant crunch. Heck, you don't even have to tell your kids or your picky friends that they're eating Brussels sprouts. Unless you get a kick out of being right.

Kale, bitter on its own, is mellowed by a lemon-dijon dressing, toasted almond slices, and a finishing sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan.

Lightly dressed, full of strong, healthy ingredients, and it'll slide easily onto a holiday sideboard. Give it a shot!

Kale & Brussels Sprouts Salad (adapted from Epicurious)
Yield: 8–10 servings (as side)

1 bunch kale, sliced into thin ribbons
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, grated finely
1/3 cup almond slivers
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup Parmesan, freshly grated

For the dressing:1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 cup olive oil

1. For the dressing, combine all ingredients except olive oil, whisking together thoroughly. Set aside to let flavors meld.
2. In a large bowl, add kale and grated Brussels sprouts.
3. Heat up tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet. Add almond slices and toast, turning often, until golden (about 3–4 minutes). Reserve on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt.
4. Add almond slices to bowl. Finish dressing by adding 1/2 cup olive oil and whisking to combine.
5. Dress salad, then sprinkle on cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa

Just in time for the blessedly dipping temperatures, this full-flavored side accompanies the Pan-Seared Gulf Grouper I made for Country Roads Magazine's Test Kitchen. Sweet, nutty squash spiced with smoked paprika and cinnamon, drizzled with olive oil and roasted. Folded into a quinoa and arugula mixture and tossed rapidly with red wine vinaigrette and honey.

Calling this one a success! I've never actually had a pumpkin spice latte, so consider this my method for heralding fall. You can find the grouper recipe—with an achingly good, silky sundried tomato and caper topping—right here.

Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa
Yield: 3–4 servings


1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
Olive oil (for roasting)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
4 ounces baby arugula
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup toasted pecans


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, toss squash with paprika, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and drizzled olive oil. Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender.
3. Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions, using half vegetable broth and half water for the liquid.
4. Stir arugula into cooked quinoa. Add red wine vinegar and honey, tossing rapidly. Fold in the roasted squash.
5. Serve, adding a sprinkle of toasted pecans to each plate.