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Welcome, 2014!

New Years Arches

I hope everyone is spending their new years day getting started on resolutions…or enjoying one last day before resolutions kick in (that can wait til the work week begins, right?) or at least in some way celebrating the turning of a new leaf.

I drug my self not only out of bed but out of the house today to finally catch up on the growing list of recipe posts I’ve been meaning to write for the past several months. So this is an announcement that new posts will be coming! And also an apology that some of them may be slightly holiday inspired…I’ll try to play that down given that January is much better for looking forward than back.

I am also planning to sort through all my photos from my Spain trip back in October (seriously, this is how late I’m running). And so in lieu of a food photo today, I’ve collected a few of my favorites above. Moroccan windows and archways are some of my most favorite architectural details, and to borrow a new years greeting I received myself from the ever caring and eloquent head of design at my alma mater: Here’s to opening new doors and windows in the New Year! That message resonated with me today, and thank you to Dan Boyarski for sending it to me.

And because I can’t completely abandon all recipes for this post, I will, of course, be making black-eyed peas this afternoon based on this post. This year I think I’ll add some butternut squash and, in a bit of a nod to 2013, kale. I think it will maximize my luck potential for the year!

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Some Shockingly Pink Hummus


Hey remember that post back in…august or september, where I complained for awhile about how little time I have to post new recipes and photographs? Turns out quarter two of my new life as a full time employee/pretty much full time student hasn’t proven to be much different than the first. I have, however, managed to squeeze a few notable life changes into the last few months, making them feel like the last few years.
I went to Brazil! As referenced in the short, sweet, expose on Brazilian coffee in the last post. I’m still talking about it because Brazil was at the top of my geographical bucket list and to be perfectly honest I do consider myself a slightly different person now that I’ve seen it.
Also I moved! Over an excruciating October of apartment searches, lease signings, roommate finding, packing, loading, driving, unloading, unpacking I have left the haven that was my old Spanish apartment in Long Beach for a very modern (but lovely, really) unit in West LA. It was a marathon, but the absolute best part of the new place are the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the living/dining nook across from the kitchen. I’m ecstatic to try some shots in a natural light-flooded space, so with any luck (maybe holiday cookies???) I’ll post new photos soon!

In the meantime, I’ve been sitting on these bright pink photos for much too long waiting for a chance to post. A friend of mine (and new neighbor now! So excited, Missy!) and fellow football fan made beet hummus for one Sunday game and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days, had to try it myself. It’s about as easy as you can get. Steam or roast the beets before hand, and then blend them right on in to your standard hummus recipe! I never measure my hummus ingredients anyway so season to taste and you’re done! A slightly more finite recipe follows.

I love this colorful and flavorful hummus idea. It’s a great gluten-free snack option. It’s great on any veggies and I even dolloped some squash soup with it for a hot/cold color shock in some orange soup!
Next I’m thinking maybe avocado hummus? If you have a favorite hummus flavor or suggestion let me know!

Shockingly Pink Beet Hummus
INGREDIENTS
3-4 medium beets (about 1-1½ cups cooked)
1 can chickpeas
1-2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp Tahini
3 Tbsp Olive Oil (depending how much you like/want oil. You could use as little as 2 probably, and some recipes suggest ¼ c. for me it really has to do with consistency. I start with a little less, and then add right at the end if I want to thin out the hummus without watering it down)
1-2 tsp cumin

DIRECTIONS
Peel and cut your beets in to medium chunks and either boil until tender or toss in some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 415 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I love roast veggies and made some extra so this is what I did.
In a food processor pulse the chickpeas and beets with at least some olive oil and tahini to start for lubrication. The beats will also add a good amount of moisture. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, pepper to taste and more oil, tahini, or lemon juice if you prefer, until you have the right taste and consistency.
Note that the flavors will meld when you chill the hummus in the fridge (at least 20-30 minutes is best) and it will also thicken as it cools. So if your warm hummus is a bit runny that’s totally normal.

The West Village

Last weekend I visited an old friend who has recently moved to the West Village of Manhattan. It’s more than a little shocking to realize someone you used to share a box of Barilla pasta with because it was the cheapest meal the grocery store had on offer (thanks, 69 cent Giant Eagle specials) now lives at one of the most enviable addresses in the country.
 

 

We spent the weekend walking around the city, up and down The Highline, sampling the best lattes I could find and, of course, eating very well. The scallops at Extra Virgin were absolutely fabulous (I was too busy celebrating the end of a very long week to take a photo) The cocktails at Entwine were amazing. And I have to say that Ports, serving Stumptown espresso, was still my favorite latte of the weekend. But Sunday brunch found us at Café Minerva on W 4th st.

 

The small but open cafe, with its open kitchen and large rectangular bar in the center of the small space, had just enough small-town welcome to counter the West Village pretense to make it extremely charming. We sat at the shallow bar in front of the window which was perfect for satisfying my people-watching craving and sipped coffee and dined on beautifully poached eggs while watching women in full length furs pushing their shit-tzus in doggie strollers and listened to classic rock. Turns out the 1% like to fancy themselves the everyman every once in awhile… if only in their choice of brunch music.

New Years Day Black Eyed Peas


I suppose all mothers fill their children with superstitions of how to find luck. Picking four leaf clovers, letting tiny red spiders run across your hand, picking up pennies (or not picking up pennies, depending on the side facing you…or the cleanliness of the location in which is was found…if it were MY child), or saying “white rabbits” to all the corners of your room before uttering your first words on the first day of each month to bring a lucky month. What, your mother didn’t teach you that?
My well traveled, texas native, and kitchen-commanding mother also raised me eating black eyed peas on new years day. The peas, that swell when cooked, represent prosperity for the coming year and bring good fortune. Today, this is primarily a tradition in the South, some accounts laying its beginnings in Georgia and spreading west, becoming popular in texas because of the abundance of the crop. I think it’s probably for this reason that the peas are commonly served with collard greens, to represent luck in money in the coming year, and pork (generally bacon or ham hock) because of something about pigs foraging forward, representing forward progress…but that begins to get a little far fetched for me.
Black-Eyed peas are the epitome of comfort food for me. They mean the close of a holiday season, the opening of a new year, apparently filled with promise once we’ve downed our spicy stew, and the coming together of family one last time before everyone returns to real life that January inevitably brings.

Today I made black-eyed peas. I don’t know if it should be called black-eyed pea soup, or stew, it seems to need a qualifier but i’ve never used one. I used this recipe, with a few alterations, obviously, listed below. I made my own kicked up jalapeño cheddar cornbread and it was absolutely delicious. After the marathon of holiday baking, photographing, documenting and all around merriment getting the food on the table was really as much as i could contemplate. I’m sorry not to include a photo but I will admit while the meal was fantastic, presentability really wasn’t its strong suit. And so for the time being I can offer only my family’s christmas card which, no matter how many times I look at it, I find hysterical.

May your 2012 be prosperous, plentiful, and lucky.

F+T Alterations to The Neelys Black Eyed Peas with Bacon and Pork
1. Roast 1 jalapeño on a burner and dice. Add when onions and garlic are browned.
2. De-stem and slice one bunch collard greens into wide strips. Add about 45 minutes before serving (or shortly after the peas are added)
3. Use 1 less cup water than called for, or remove even a bit more for a thicker stew.
4. Just before serving scoop out a ladle or two of beans (try to avoid the meat and greens as much as possible). Blend until smooth and return to the pot. This will help thicken your soup/stew.

Fig Hazelnut Biscotti

I have made biscotti a few times before but I’ve always thought the consistency has come out a bit more brittle than I like. I think biscotti should be a flaky sort of crunchy. Dry, and perfect for dipping, but easy to bite; light and airy. Then I found this recipe in Food&Wine Magazine a couple months ago and as a picky biscotti eater, this is hands down, the answer to my biscotti prayers. I followed it to the letter (ok, full disclosure: I used salted butter and 1/4 tsp additional instead of unsalted butter. But praise the skies it still worked!) These biscotti came out crisp and crunchy, almost like shortbread and the fig and hazelnut combination is an absolute winner.
A warning that this recipe makes so many! I make my biscotti a bit longer, 4-6 inches and i still had nearly 5 dozen.  not that that was a problem at my house, but several did find their way into a biscotti birthday basket with plenty left over. Happy Birthday Granddad. Hope you enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts
14 oz dried figs, I used common black figs
1 1/2 cups cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 bag premium white chocolate chips for dipping

FIG HAZELNUT BISCOTTI
First roast the hazelnuts. Preheat the oven to 325 and spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet. Roast until the skins blister, recommended 12-14 minutes but it took mine a bit longer, about 16-18. When cool enough to handle rub off as much of the skins as you can using your hands or a kitchen towel and chop coarsely.

Steep the figs, fully submerged in a bowl of water, in the microwave for a minute or two until the figs become plump. Drain well and slice into 1/8 inch slices.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in the figs and hazelnuts.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into six parts and roll each into 10″x1 1/2″ logs. Arrange the logs on the baking sheets and shape a logs into biscotti lumps. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes until golden brown and firm.

Let the logs cool for 15 minutes and slice the logs on the diagonal about 3/4 inch thick. Arrange cut side up on the baking sheets and bake for an additional 18-20 minutes until lightly browned.

Dipping White Chocolate
The white chocolate dipped biscotti is really a thing of beauty. It’s a combination that will trump any dessert in my father’s mind and is therefore a daughter’s life goal for which to constantly strive…obviously. Despite the just-short-of-perfection taste and texture of these biscotti I had to go just one step further. They aren’t super sweet to start with so the touch of white chocolate was an excellent addition. For just a bit less sweet try drizzling the chocolate while the biscotti sit on a sheet of parchment.

Using a double boiler (or one pot inside another pot as I do) bring enough water to a boil so that when the smaller pot is set inside it is partially submerged but not sitting on the bottom. Add the chips and reduce heat to low. Watch the chocolate, stirring occasionally.  When the chocolate looks about half melted remove from the heat and stir until smooth (return pot to the water if there are still lumps).
Dip the biscotti to the chocolateness of your liking and lay, undipped side down, on a sheet of parchment to dry for a few hours.

NOTA BENE (or, really good things to know): be careful not to over heat your chocolate as it will burn and get lumpy. if this happens DO NOT add water. trust me, it will make the problem so much worse. In fact, be careful not to get any water into your chocolate at any point. I’ve read that steam from the double boiler — or MacGyvered version thereof — can be enough moisture to cause lumps in the chocolate but it was fine for me.
If your chocolate becomes dry or begins to burn add a bit of vegetable oil (start with a teaspoon) to smooth it out.

Roast Courgettes with Prosciutto and Saffron Yogurt

More than anything it was the craving for Ottelenghi’s Saffron Yogurt that inspired me to create this dish.  I have made his Roast aubergines, paired beautifully with pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and basil several times; always doused generously with this simultaneously citrusy, creamy, beautifully yellow sauce, and it always yields rave reviews, even from stalwart eggplant critics.
When I have it in the house, this sauce goes on everything. I’ve even tried it on figs, but it’s not something I would recommend. Any roast vegetable I have tried so far, however has been a great success. Mini courgettes have the added bonus that they are already a prime shape for dipping.  Add the prociutto for a little extra substance and line them up on a platter for a lovely appetizer with rich and exotic flavors much easier to make than they look!
SAFFRON YOGURT
Small pinch of saffron threads
2 Tbsp hot water
6oz (about ¾ cup) plain greek style yogurt
3 Tbsp olive oil
Juice from ½ a lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt to taste
ROAST COURGETTES
10-12 mini courgettes or zucchini sliced in half lengthwise
plenty of olive oil for drizzling
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
8-10 slices prosciutto
handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
Steep the saffron threads in the hot water for about 5 minutes while you mix the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic into the yogurt. When the saffron is ready add it, water and all, to the yogurt. Stir well until smooth and let meld in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
Drizzle the courgettes with plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper and toss in a bowl so all sides are well coated. Place courgettes cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in a 400° oven for 15-20 minutes or until the courgettes turn a delicious roasted brown color on their face.
Just before serving, tear prosciutto into inch-or-so-wide strips and wrap one strip around each courgette. Arrange wrapped courgettes on a plate, dollop with saffron yogurt and sprinkle with pine nuts.  Toss cherry tomatoes with a bit of olive oil and balsamic and serve along side. Make sure to bring any remaining yogurt to the table for dipping as it is sure to be an instant favorite!

Chicken B’stilla

I’m going through a bit of a Moroccan craze at the moment.  It’s beginning to permeate all facets of my life from apartment furnishings to my website, my wardrobe, and of course, my taste buds. I think that’s why I was so excited when I discovered Chicken B’stilla, a Moroccan sort of chicken pot pie made with phyllo dough, copious quantities of spices and, believe it or not, even some powdered sugar.

As always, I found it completely impossible to follow any one recipe and after reading any and all versions I could get my hands on I heavily adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe.

INGREDIENTS

FILLING

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/3 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

PHYLLO

  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 10 sheets (about 17×12 inches) fresh phyllo pastry or frozen, thawed
  • 1/2 cup (about) unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)

For the Filling

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Mix in cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and saffron; stir 1 minute. I added at least twice the amounts of seasoning as the Bon Appetit recipe and so doubled the amounts here, but definitely taste throughout cooking and season to your liking. I’m a huge proponent of “over-seasoning” but then I think i’ve only thought something was over seasoned maybe once in my life.  Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 minute. Add broth; bring to simmer. Sprinkle chicken with salt; add to broth mixture. Gently simmer chicken uncovered until cooked through, reducing heat if necessary to prevent boiling, about 20 minutes. Stir in raisins. Set skillet aside until chicken is cool enough to handle.

Transfer chicken to plate and continue to let the sauce simmer down while you coarsely shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to the skillet or remove both to a mixing bowl as I did to let sit. The sauce should thickly coat the chicken, if you think it’s a bit thin it probably is, so cook it down a bit more before adding the chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper and let the filling cool completely. Let sit for several hours or overnight. I tend to cook on weeknights when I have to spread long projects over more than one night.  I think this really worked in my favor this time, the chicken marinates in the sauce and gets lovely and moist.  When you’re ready to bake, add the cilantro and take one last opportunity to taste for seasoning before tossing in the oven.

When you are ready to assemble and bake:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Finely grind almonds, powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and cinnamon in mini processor.

Brush same pie dish with melted butter. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface; brush with butter and sprinkle with about a tablespoon of almond mix. Top with another phyllo sheet, brush with butter and sprinkle again.

Now this is where a little creativity comes into play.  My run-of-the-mill phyllo sheets from Albertsons were skinnier than the diameter of my dish, instead of trying to cut rounds I rotated each sheet about 30 degrees from the last and then added a sixth sheet just for good measure. The bottom worked out fine but this will come back into play for the top crust. Repeat stacking with 3 more phyllo rounds, butter, and almonds. (if you’re a big crust fan, maybe continue with 8-10 sheets on the bottom because the moister from the filling will all but liquify your carefully constructed bottom crust. of course ration your almond mixture accordingly).

Now spoon filling evenly over the crust. The top crust is easier to assemble on your work surface so lay 1 phyllo sheet down flat, brush with butter and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon almonds….you know the drill. When you’ve layered dough, butter, almonds up four times, lay the last sheet of dough on top and transfer the whole stack to the top of the pie. Ok now for that creative rotation. If your phyllo sheets are still rectangular you will have lots of corners hanging off the edge. While I think this is a very attractive, rustic look, your phyllo edges will burn to a crisp long before your pie is done so tuck, or ‘crinkle’ the edges if you, like me, prefer the rustic pie aesthetic and top with a dash more butter. Cut 4 slits through top phyllo stack so steam can escape.

Bake uncovered until phyllo is golden and filling is heated through, about 40 minutes. Cool about 15 minutes or until you can’t stand smelling and not eating any more. any extra cilantro or powdered sugar make for excellent garnishes, but really, just a very simple, light salad of leafy greens and oil and vinegar dressing is all you need to make this a fabulous meal.

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