Sunday, December 21, 2014

Chickpea & Sumac Onion Salad with Roasted Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

I've had a bag of dried garbanzo beans in the cabinet for a while, sitting next to the flax seed and coconut oil and other Things That Are Good for Me. I try not to let that shelf get too dusty.

On Saturday morning I bypassed my usual weekend ritual—gulping down coffee in bed and staring at my phone—and instead meandered into the kitchen with dinner plans forming.

Soaking beans, slicing onions, and sprinkling said onions with salt and sumac. Sumac is wonderfully tart, and after several hours in the refrigerator, the onions were mellowed, chilly, and full of flavor.

I had a few Meyer lemons in the fridge from the Baton Rouge gourmet delivery service Indie Plate. I wish I were one of those people with the overabundant Meyer lemon trees, because I could use them in the kitchen every single day. I used the bundle I got from Indie Plate to make salmon en papillote, a Sensation-style salad dressing, and now a roasted Meyer lemon vinaigrette complete with honey and balsamic. (Next time 'round: preserving and limoncello, for sure.)

Finally I added fresh mint and parsley and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, which I first made as part of a homemade cocktail kit for Country Roads Magazine.

Then I served!

Chickpea & Sumac Onion Salad with Roasted Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette 
Yield: 6 servings

3 cups chickpeas, cooked*
1 white onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon salt
10 leaves fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the roasted Meyer lemon vinaigrette (sourced from Sandwich Sunday):
2 Meyer lemons, halved
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic
3 tablespoons olive oil

*I used dried chickpeas and soaked them for a few hours before soaking another hours in a pot of boiled water removed from heat. I then used fresh water to cook them, simmering, for another two hours.

1. Make ahead: In a medium-size bowl, combine onion slices, sumac, and salt. Cover and chill for several hours.
2. For the vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 400. Place lemon halves (cut side down) in a baking dish, alongside unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 25—30 minutes, until lemon tops have begun to brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Then squeeze out roasted garlic into a small prep bowl. Mash, then squeeze in lemon juice. Add honey and balsamic, then whisk in olive oil.
3. To make the salad, combine chickpeas, onions, mint, and parsley in a large bowl. Pour in vinaigrette, olive oil, and pomegranate molasses. Toss and serve.

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'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.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Great Zucchini Basil Caper!

Summer's winding to a close, and while I'll readily say sayonara to the mind-melting heat, I find myself in premature mourning for the produce.

Especially when I happen upon a gem like this, adapted from Food52. A flavorful mélange of herbs, garlic, and pickled flower buds acts as a delicate, gauzy shawl to Madame Zucchini. Nothing fried or heavy. No cheesy blanket to stifle your summer vegetable. Just a quick sauté, a "knife pesto," and a finishing sprinkle of fresh herbs and pecans.

So let's accent our zucchini, shall we? 

Sautéed Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Capers (adapted from Food52)
Serves 2–3.


2 medium zucchini, sliced (1/4-inch thick)
Olive oil (for sauté)
4 cloves garlic
1 heaping tablespoon capers
5 leaves basil
10 leaves mint
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
Fresh basil and mint leaves, torn (for garnish)


1. In a medium skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add half of zucchini slices and sauté, flipping occasionally, until golden-brown on both sides (about 10 minutes). Reserve slices to the side and add in second batch of zucchini. Cook in same manner.
2. Meanwhile, combine garlic, capers, basil, and mint on cutting board and chop together, creating a sort of "knife pesto" (quoting from Food52). Set mixture aside.
3. Once second batch of zucchini is browned, add back in the rest of the zucchini, along with the red wine vinegar and the herb mixture. Turn off heat and toss gently, until zucchini is coated.
4. Serve, sprinkling each plate with pecans and torn herbs. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Stuffed Tomatoes à la Grecque

Here's another outing with Indie Plate ingredients. Indie Plate is a Baton Rouge, La.-based grocery delivery service, sourcing from farms and artisans all around the regions and then bringing that bounty straight to your doorstep.

Rotten tomatoes you toss at things you find odious and offensive (like bad movies, for instance). Fresh, local treasure those babies. You find a way to spotlight that natural sweetness and bright color.

And then I guess you eat them or whatever. Your mileage may vary!

To glorify my lovely tomato babies (which came from Morrow Farm out of Ponchatoula, La.) I turned to the masterful Gastronomique. French cooking can be daunting, no lie, but the recipe for stuffed tomatoes à la grecque was simple enough and served my aim to make something simple, well-spiced, and pleasing to the eye.

My one problem: someone stole my damn saffron. I am just mad about saffron (that is, my kitchen's current lack of it)! (It is probably not stolen. I misplace things.) So anyway, I substituted turmeric and the world moved on.

Ultimately, I produced two tomatoes teeming with toasted, spiced rice and golden raisins. And now you'll be able to as well! Recipe follows.

Stuffed Tomatoes à la grecque (from LaRousse's Gastronomique)
Serves 2 as side or appetizer.

Ingredients:2 homegrown tomatoes
1/2 cup jasmine rice
1/2 cup golden raisins
Pinch of powdered saffron (I used turmeric as a less costly substitute)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Bouquet garni (mine consisted of 1 stalk celery, 1 medium carrot, 1/2 medium white onion, all chopped, and two sprigs thyme—tied up in cheesecloth which was folded over just once)
Olive oil

1. Soak the golden raisins in 1 cup lukewarm water until they swell, then drain.
2. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice and toast, stirring frequently, until the grains become transparent.
3. Add 1 cup boiling water to saucepan, stirring to make sure rice does not stick to bottom of pan. Add saffron, salt and pepper, cayenne, and bouquet garni.
4. Return rice to a boil and then cover and simmer until rice is all the way cooked (about 20–30 minutes).
5. Preheat oven to 475. Slice the tops off the tomatoes (reserving tops) and remove pulp and seeds. Season the inside of the tomatoes with salt and then turn them upside down to drain in colander.
6. Once the rice has cooked, drain and cool before stirring in raisins. Taste and reseason as desired.
7. Dry the hollowed tomatoes and then drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil inside each tomato. Fill each tomato with mixture and then replace the sliced top.
8. In an ovenproof dish coated with oil, place each tomato, nestled closely together. Bake for about 15–20 minutes or until tomatoes have started to soften.
9. Serve immediately.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Kale Tabbouleh

Boy, I love a colorful dish. And it's a good thing that this was supposed to be served cooled, because I was photographing it till the sun went down. (That is not a figure of speech.)

It's cool. It's crunchy. And, wonderfully enough, it fits in with the vegetarianism I'll be trying for the next month. I'm hoping to re-inspire myself in the kitchen, and to spend some time getting more ambitious with ingredients. My ambition has fallen away!

Here we have a dish that's fairly simple: a little chop-chop-chop with the various ingredients, cook your quinoa and let it cool, and then toss it all in a simple dressing.

But the variety of ingredients and the hushed beauty of how they tumble across the's the perfect summer dish, I think. One you'll want to eat in the evening light with a chilly, crisp vino. Anyway I'm getting silly just staring at these colors again. Try it out for yourself!

Kale Tabbouleh (adapted from the glorious Food52)
Yield: 4–6 servings.

1/2 bunch curly kale
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup quinoa
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 Persian cucumbers, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
Juice from two limes
1/4 high-quality extra-virgin olive oil

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, wash the parsley and kale and pat dry. For each, chop off stems, then slice into 3/4-inch ribbons. Rotate bunch clockwise, then repeat process. Slice until greens are very finely diced, but do not form a paste.
3. In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion. Add parsley and kale. Drizzle in lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add quinoa and toss until fully combined.
4. Serve!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes

I adapted this recipe from Anupy Singla's Vegan Indian Cooking, which is filled with earthy, exciting opportunities to improve my health. And I fully intend to turn to it more often!

For now, we've got this Punjabi eggplant and potato dish, or—as Singla has dubbed it—"Babaji's Eggplant with Potatoes," called so after her paternal grandfather.

I made a few adjustments, but Singla's recipe does a fantastic job of emphasizing the simple wonder of the eggplant. Meaty and juicy, a ready canvas to whatever array of seasonings you choose to sprinkle on it.

Let's go ahead to the recipe then!

Punjabi Eggplant with Potatoes (adapted from Vegan Indian Cooking)
Serves 4.

2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1, 2-inch piece of giner root, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-long matchsticks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Anaheim chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
2 large eggplants with skin on, roughly chopped, with woody ends left intact (Note: the author recommends the woody ends as the meatiest part of the eggplant, to be cooked along with the rest of the dish)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high.
2. Add the garlic and onion powders, cumin, and turmeric, along with the ginger root. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the potato and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Add the onions and chiles and cook for 2 more minutes, until the potatoes have begun to brown.
5. Add the chopped tomato and cook for 2 minutes.
6. Fold in the eggplant, then add salt, garam masala, coriander, and cayenne. Cook for another 2 minutes.
7. Reduce heat to low, partially covering the pan, and allow the ingredients to continue cooking for 10 minutes.
8. Turn off the heat. Cover the pan completely and let set for 5 minutes as the flavors blend.
9. Garnish with cilantro and serve.