Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms

baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms

My brunch arsenal, the dishes I’ve made enough times that they no longer cause any furrowed brows — a core entertaining principle here at House Smitten Kitchen (sigil: cast-iron skillet) — is as follows: bacon (always roasted in the oven, I mean, unless you were hoping to mist yourself with eau de pork belly*); some sort of fruit salad (either mixed berries and vanilla bean-scented yogurt or mixed citrus segments, sometimes with mint and feta); buttermilk biscuits; a pitcher of Bloody Marys, a bottle of champagne and a couple carafes of freshly-squeezed grapefruit or orange juice, blood orange whenever available; something sweet (our current favorite) and eggs. As I dictated years ago, everything that can be made in advance should be, thus pancakes, individually fried slices of French toast, omelets and even eggs baked in ramekins, adorable as they may be, are verboten. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it’s always the worst.

so much baby spinach
wilted spinach

In the egg category, my favorite for ease and laze is this spinach and cheese strata, however, if I have even 15 additional minutes at my disposal (which, let’s be honest, I do, especially when I spend less time here) remains these baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms. We talked about it, oh, seven years ago, but it’s been so buried in the archives, literally three recipes deep with a single hideous photo, that I’m long overdue to unearth it. At the time, I was charmed by how incredible something so wholesome could taste. These days, I’d add to its list of charms: vegetarian, gluten/grain-free, as good for a weeknight dinner as it is a weekend brunch dish, and oh, did I mention that it looks like an Easter egg basket? That’s a recent development.

add the mushrooms

Continued after the jump »

Friday, April 11, 2014

dark chocolate coconut macaroons

truffle-like dark chocolate macaroons

2014 has been mostly about the chocolate thus far, which is the kind of thing that happens when you outsource what-to-cook-next decisions to my husband and his Mini-Me. We bounced from Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Hearts to Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake before landing on a Double Chocolate Banana Bread which, even a month later leads to the weekly “accidental” purchase of way more bananas that we’d ever eat, so we “have” to make more, no violins necessary. Thus, it would be easy to blame the boys in my family for what I did to an innocent coconut macaroon — that is, saddling it with not one but two types of chocolate, until it was intensely fudgy and brownie-like with an almost gooey center, seriously why aren’t you baking these yet? — but guys, this was all me.

grind the coconut
unsweetened chocolate wins

Because although I do not share my family’s perspective that if it’s not chocolate, it’s not worth eating, I feel adamant that if you’re going to eat chocolate, it should really, really taste like chocolate. And, pitifully, every chocolate coconut macaroon I’ve had, along with some other cookies that will no doubt cause you to storm out of here in disgust once and for all, failed this test.

dark chocolate coconut macaroon batter

Continued after the jump »

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

asparagus-stuffed eggs

asparagus-stuffed eggs

Deep in the Julia Child archives, past the boeuf bouguignon, onion soup, jiggling aspics and the patently untrue yarn about the chicken that fell from the counter, mid-trussing, and was dusted off and put back into use with a remark about “nobody’s in the kitchen but you,” there are recipes so low in butter and bacon that they hardly fit the stereotype of French food as gluttony, as are thus rarely mentioned. A good lot of them are in From Julia Child’s Kitchen; published in 1975, it contained recipes and kitchen wisdom that came from episodes of her PBS show. Gentler to novices than her Mastering the Art of French Cooking classics, the recipes were probably more familiar to American audiences, things like leek and potato soup, sauteed chicken breasts with tarragon and tomatoes, and, here, a riff on deviled eggs that I am making my mission to rescue from obscurity.

does anyone eat their eggs in order?
covering with cold water and ice cubes

I’m a big fan of the hard-boiled egg; I find that keeping a few in the fridge makes for an easy breakfast with a slice of whole-grain cinnamon toast, a wholesome way to add protein to a lunch salad, or for snacks. My favorite way to eat them is slightly undercooked, peeled, halved and schmeared with the thinnest film of mayo and then sharp Dijon, followed by a few flakes of sea salt, but Julia Child’s version might be their highest calling: the potential to stuff their centers with something like a balanced meal, or at least a really gush-worthy appetizer.

simmer to cook

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

three-bean chili

three-bean chili

In my fantasy recipe-writing league, I’d cover everything, a million questions you hadn’t even thought to ask yet. Every recipe would work on a stove, slowly braised in the oven, on a grill, in a slow-cooker, a pressure-cooker, on a train, in a car, or in a tree. You could make the vegetarian carnivorous, the carnivorous paleo, the gluten-full gluten-free, the sour cream could always be swapped yogurt which could always be swapped with buttermilk, or milk and lemon, or soy milk and vinegar. We’d find a way to put kale in everything. You could use flat-leaf parsley instead of cilantro (because cilantro is the devil’s herb, naturally) or none of the above, because green flecks = grounds for dinnertime dismissal. We’d make food that your picky spouse, your pasta-eating kid, and your pesky fad-dieting house guests would applaud at every meal, and all of those promises made by food writers greater than myself in tomes more epic than this blog of food bringing people together for the happiest part of everyone’s day would be made good on at last.

what you'll need
how to get things started

Of course, I’d also write about one recipe a year. Despite understanding this, sometimes I get carried away with The Dream of this kind of recipe-writing. I make Lasagna Bolognese with homemade noodles (but you can use store-bought), homemade bechamel (but you can use ricotta; just don’t tell me about it), and bolognese with milk, wine or both. We make Hot Fudge Sundae Cake for crazy people (everything, down to the cookie crumb filling, homemade) or for people with a life (everything, down to the cookie crumb filling, store-bought). We make Lazy Pizza Dough on three different schedules, whatever your orbit demands that week. And in this episode, I found as many ways as I could dream up to make a three-bean chili, so nobody would have an excuse not to make it.

cooking the dry spices, indian-style

Continued after the jump »


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