SPICED HEIRLOOM CARROTS with DILL YOGURT

I look up to these women.

My mom (of course). When I get all bunched up, she’ll sing “Don’t worry be happy” in a laborious Jamaican accent — complete with woooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ing interlude.

Alice Waters. When I first saw her cook an egg in the fire, I just about lost my virginity. She says “Cook simply, engaging all your senses.”

Diane von Furstenberg. I don’t actually want to be her friend or anything. I don’t even really dig her designs, but her point of view and her choice of words are golden. “It’s not all about going to a party. It’s life as a party.” Who talks like that? Diane does.

This dish embodies their combined wisdom and distills what I’m striving for in the kitchen: A place to recenter. Simplicity. The everyday sense of celebration.

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SPICED HEIRLOOM CARROTS with DILL YOGURT

for about 4 servings:
1 ½ cups of plain Greek yogurt
a large bunch of fresh dill, stems discarded, more for garnish
dash of kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1-2 pounds small heirloom carrots, peeled and leaves removed
generous dusting of chipotle chili powder
several dashes of cumin (optional)
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 lemon wedges

Combine the yogurt, a large handful of the dill, and salt in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the carrots and saute, taking care not to overcrowd (or the carrots will release liquid). When the carrots turn golden brown and slightly crispy, dust them with the chipotle powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add olive oil as needed along with several dill fronds. Squeeze one of the lemon wedges over the carrots. Saute the carrots for several minutes longer to let the flavors come together. Discard the sauteed dill and remove the pan of carrots from heat. Spoon the dill yogurt onto a plate and place the carrots over the yogurt. Garnish with fresh dill and the lemon wedge. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.

SOFT BOILED EGGS (SATURDAYS)

If someone ever serves you a soft boiled egg, hold that person close. You are loved.
If you ever plan to serve someone a soft boiled egg, follow these directions. You’ll be loved.

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SOFT BOILED EGGS

Prepare an ice bath (a bowl of water with ice cubes). In a large pot, bring 1 inch of water to a boil with a steamer basket several inches above the water. When the water is boiling, set the eggs in the steamer basket and cover completely, steaming for 6 minutes and 30-45 seconds. Remove to an ice bath for approximately 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Enjoy immediately.

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YOGURT with GRANOLA, PERSIMMON & PISTACHIOS    

for the granola (double or triple if desired):
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

for assembly:
about 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
about 1 cup of granola
1 large persimmons, peeled and sliced
raw pistachios, shells removed

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pumpkin seeds and salt. In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, maple syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola in an even layer. Bake until dry and lightly golden, 35 to 40 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way. Remove granola from oven and allow to cool completely. To serve, place the yogurt in a bowl. Sprinkle with granola and add the sliced persimmons and pistachios.

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FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS with POMEGRANATE-TAHINI SAUCE

I was alone in the kitchen, but I had that feeling of being watched — being watched and shamed.

I was deep-frying Brussels sprouts, batch by sizzling batch. They made the noise of screaming children. After a few minutes, the screaming stopped. I lifted them from the oil and drizzled tahini sauce over them as a balm. Then I scattered festive pomegranate seeds on top to induce distraction (it leads to forgetting).

That’s how you make the best Brussels sprouts recipe known to humans.

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FRIED BRUSSELS SPROUTS with POMEGRANATE-TAHINI SAUCE 

based on a recipe by Rawia Bishara of Tanoreen, Brooklyn:
¾ cup tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste)
2 garlic cloves, crushed or coarsely chopped
⅓ to ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice(from about 3 lemons)
⅓ teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
canola oil for frying or roasting
3 to 4 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
½ to 1 cup of pomegranate seeds

Make the sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine the tahini, garlic, 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Add the yogurt and pomegranate molasses and blend again. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste, then set aside.

Make the sprouts: If frying, pour 1/2 inch canola oil in a deep skillet. Heat until very hot but not smoking. (Test by gently dropping a half sprout into the oil; when oil is ready, sprout will pop loudly and sizzle immediately.) Work in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Fry sprouts until browned and crisp but still bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain.

If roasting, heat oven to 375 degrees and place a pan of water on the bottom shelf to prevent sprouts from drying out. Toss sprout halves in about 3 tablespoons corn oil until slick, but not dripping. Spread them out on 2 sheet pans and bake until tender and browned, about 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, spread cooked sprouts on a platter. Drizzle with about 1/2 cup sauce and scatter pomegranate seeds over the sauce. Serve immediately, passing any extra sauce at the table.

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STEAK TARTARE with RYE TOASTS

Enjoying (“consuming” is the default word here) raw steak and eggs raises a taboo, as fear spurs avoidance. Too bad, because with good ingredients and common sense, this classic dish is revelatory. I didn’t know I was a fan of steak tartare until I tasted the version served at Hinoki and the Bird in Los Angeles, where I was tempted to place a second order in the same sitting. The version below is from the excellent cookbook, A Boat, A Whale and A Walrus by Renee Erickson of Seattle.

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STEAK TARTARE with RYE TOASTS

recipe from A Boat, A Whale and A Walrus:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped cornichons
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, plus more for finishing
12 ounces New York steak, trimmed of fat and finely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
3 organic eggs
finishing oil for drizzling
2 dozen rye toasts, drizzled with oil and toasted in the oven

In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, capers, shallot, cornichons, lemon zest and juice, and salt (crumbled with your fingers). Add the steak, mixing and mashing until very well blended. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or lemon juice if necessary, then gently stir in the chives. To serve, form the meat into three football-shaped mounds (called quenelles) on one or more platers. Using the pointy end of the egg, make an indentation in the top of each mound. Crack the eggs one at a time, discarding the white and carefully setting each yolk into the center of one mound. Garish the yolks with sea salt and drizzle the meat with olive oil. Serve immediately with the rye toasts.

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(Note: you can and should chop the meat better more finely than I did!)

SHORT RIB POT PIE with AUTUMNAL VEGETABLE SIDES

I love a good pot pie. I’ll dig into a bad pot pie, too, because they just clamor for affection. This one — featuring luscious braised short rib — is a total diva, so I had to serve it alongside two strongheaded sides. As I imagine James Madison might have said about culinary matters, “the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several dishes in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other.”

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SHORT RIB POT PIE 

for the pot pie crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup vegetable shortening

filling and assembly, recipe from Bon Appetit
3 pounds beef short ribs
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10-ounce package frozen pearl onions, thawed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme, plus 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
flaky sea salt
heavy cream, for brushing

To make the crust, pulse flour and salt in a food processor; add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl and drizzle with 1/2 cup ice water. Mix with a fork until dough just comes together. Knead dough lightly, adding more water by the tablespoonful if needed, until no dry spots remain (dough will be slightly shaggy but moist). Form into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Season short ribs with kosher salt and pepper; toss with 1/2 cup flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and, working in batches, shake excess flour from ribs and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned, 8–10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl.

Add onions to same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown; season with kosher salt and pepper and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic to pot, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened in color, 5–8 minutes. Add wine, rosemary, and thyme sprigs, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 8–10 minutes. Add 6 cups water to pot and bring to a boil.

Return short ribs to pot. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until short ribs are almost falling apart and liquid is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon, 2 1/2–3 hours. Remove bones. Add onions and chopped thyme to pot and stir to break up short ribs; season filling with kosher salt and pepper. Remove herb sprigs.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. Transfer filling to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Place over filling and trim, leaving overhang. Tuck edges under and crimp. Cut a few slits in crust. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sea salt. Alternatively, you can use 8 individual dishes. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake pot pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, 50–60 minutes (35–40 minutes for smaller dishes). Let sit 5–10 minutes before serving.

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BRAISED SAVOY CABBAGE with CIDER, CARAWAY & CREAM  

recipe from A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus:
1/2 a stick of unsalted butter
1 large Savoy cabbage
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 bottle of dry hard cider
2 apples, such as Pink Lady, cored and sliced
1-2 cups of cream
kosher salt and crackled black pepper

Slice the cabbage into quarters, removing the hard stem and core. Slice the cabbage into thick sections and break them apart with your fingers. Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot on medium flame. Add the cabbage, which will shrink as it cooks, in batches and keep covered. When the cabbage is all in the pot, add the caraway seeds and red pepper flakes. Let the cabbage brown slightly before adding the cider to cover the cabbage. Bring to a simmer. Add the sliced apples and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced and the apples are softened. Before serving, stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.

ROASTED & RAW BRUSSELS SPROUTS with PERSIMMON 
red onions, marcona almonds, pecorino, lemon vinaigrette

this recipe is totally improvised:
Brussels sprouts, about 4
persimmons, peeled and sliced
red onion, thinly sliced and soaked in water for 30 minutes
Marcona almonds
pecorino, shaved
fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (equal parts)
Dijon mustard to taste
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

This recipe is improvised. Heat the oven to 400. Slice the Brussels sprouts into shreds, discarding the hardest part near the stem. Use your fingers to break down the Brussels sprouts. Place half of the shredded Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet, drizzle liberally with olive oil, toss with your hands, and place them in the oven until softened and slightly charred. Combine with roasted and raw Brussels sprouts, then add the sliced persimmons, red onion, almonds, and pecorino. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper. Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

SALTED BUTTER APPLE GALETTE with MAPLE WHIPPED CREAM

There I was in a quiet corner of my gym (which bears the melodramatic motto “it’s not fitness, it’s life”). I had to escape the judgmental glare of the clean living cognoscenti who do the endurance spinning class with Tyler (“oh my gosh, he’s amazing”) every morning and Bikram yoga every evening with Jennifer. I too had come to sweat – to make myself a better human being – all until I spotted a glossy magazine on a wall-mounted rack promising “definitive” Thanksgiving recipes.

That’s when I found myself surreptitiously taking iPhone snapshots of the recipe and directions for this salted butter apple galette with maple whipped cream.

I had become that person.

I am that person.

Give this galette a go. Everyone who tasted it was blown away by its simplicity and soulfulness.

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SALTED BUTTER APPLE GALETTE
maple whipped cream

for the apple galette, recipe from Bon Appetit:
¼ cup (½ stick) salted butter
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
basic tart dough (below)
all-purpose flour for dusting
1 ½ pounds baking apples (eg. Pink Lady, 3 large), cleaned, sliced
3 tablespoons dark muscovado or dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste

 Place a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375°. Place butter in a small saucepan and scrape in vanilla seeds; add pod. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until butter foams, then browns (be careful not to burn), 5–8 minutes. Remove pan from heat and remove pod.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a rough 14×10” rectangle or 12″ oblong shape about ⅛” thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Arrange apples on top, overlapping and leaving a 1½” border. Brush apples with brown butter and sprinkle with muscovado sugar. Lift edges of dough over apples, tucking and overlapping as needed to keep rectangular or oblong shape.

Beat egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl and brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake, rotating once, until apples are soft and juicy and crust is golden brown, 40–50 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheet before slicing.

Beat cream in a medium bowl to medium-soft peaks. Fold in maple syrup and serve alongside galette.

BASIC TART DOUGH

1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Whisk sugar, salt, and 1 cup flour in a medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces remaining. Drizzle egg over butter mixture and mix gently with a fork until dough just comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth (a few dry spots are okay). Form dough into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm.

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CIDER MUSSELS with DIJON, CRÈME FRAICHE & TARRAGON

You know that someone is bringing culinary knowledge bordering on the virtuosic when she alludes to the way mussels are served with a dollop of crème fraiche in Normandy. You won’t, however, find a dollop perched atop these mussels, because Renee Erickson prefers to stir the crème fraiche into a heady broth of hard apple cider, Dijon mustard, and tarragon just before serving. It’s just one of many examples from my favorite cookbook of the year A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus of making a classic dish your own. As a whole, the book is an ode to tinkering with tradition as it’s so comfortably expressed in the Pacific Northwest where Erickson calls home. Having inherited the stalwart pairing of moules-frites, tinkering is all you can do. I’ve done it by echoing the autumnal flavors of cider and mustard in the mussels with sweet potato in the frites.

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CIDER MUSSELS with DIJON, CRÈME FRAICHE, TARRAGON
sweet potato fries, thyme and sea salt

for 4 generous servings, recipe by Renee Erickson:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 cups dry hard cider
3 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for seasoning
Kosher salt
3/4 cup crème fraîche
1/2 cup loosely packed whole tarragon leaves
crusty bread, for serving

In a large, high-sided saucepan or soup pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, add the cider, then increase the heat to medium-high. Add the mussels and cook, covered, until they begin to open, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and begin transferring the mussels that have cooked to a large bowl, stirring and prodding until all the mussels have opened and have been transferred to the bowl. (Discard any mussels that do not open.) Increase the heat to high and simmer the cider for 3 minutes, or until it has reduced by about a third. Season the liquid to taste with lemon juice and salt, then reduce the heat to low. Return the mussels to the pot, add the crème fraîche and tarragon, and stir gently until the mussels are warmed through and coated with the cream. Serve immediately, with the bread.

SWEET POTATO FRIES with THYME & SEA SALT

for 4-5 servings:
4-5 sweet potatoes, peeled
3-4 tablespoons cornstarch*
thyme leaves from one bunch
flaky sea salt
canola oil

*The cornstarch will help to ensure crispy fries (which is a whole thing with sweet potato fries). Slice the sweet potatoes into fries. Toss them with cornstarch in a bag. Heat oil on medium-high flame and fry the sweet potatoes in batches until browned and crispy. Remove from oil onto a paper towel-lined platter. Toss the fries with thyme and sea salt.

 

CAULIFLOWER with GREEN GODDESS TAHINI

What is it about those luscious green sauces — chimichurri, pesto, green goddess? I can’t get enough. If I’m having steak, I usually hanker for chimichurri. Sliced tomatoes cry out for just a dab of fresh pesto. And Alice Waters sparked my obsession with green goddess  — for eggs, potatoes, leafy greens, even roast chicken. If you’re wondering, here are the comparative stats:

Chimichurri: parsley, garlic, shallots, chili pepper flakes, oregano, olive oil, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Pesto: basil, garlic, pine nuts, pecorino, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Green goddess: parsley, chives, tarragon, mint, garlic, mayonnaise, buttermilk, anchovies, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

I’d seen cauliflower served with tahini before, but something about serving beige on beige food goes against my deepest convictions. That’s how green goddess tahini was born. Fortunately, it also tastes pretty swell.

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CRISPY CAULIFLOWER with GREEN GODDESS TAHINI, SPICY PEANUTS & MINT  

for 5-6 generous servings:
1/2 cup of peanuts, shells removed
green goddess tahini (below)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 head of cauliflower
2 cups of canola oil*
handful of small mint leaves
lemon, for zesting
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Crush the peanuts with the bottom of a cup. Toast the peanuts until golden brown and toss them with the chili powder and paprika. Prepare the green goddess tahini (below) and set it aside.

Break the cauliflower down into small florets. Make sure the cauliflower is dry. Heat the canola oil in a high-rimmed pot until at least 350. Fry the cauliflower until nicely golden brown, avoiding crowding. Transfer to a platter lined with a paper towel. Repeat in batches until all the cauliflower is fried. *Alternatively, if you prefer not to fry the cauliflower, drizzle the florets with extra virgin olive oil and roast them on a baking sheet in a 425 degree oven until golden brown and crisp. To serve, spread some of the green goddess tahini on the bottom of a plate, spoon cauliflower over it, and finish with a sprinkling of peanuts, mint leaves, and freshly zested lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

for the green goddess tahini:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup tahini (or more to taste)
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh tarragon, chopped
handful of fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2-3 anchovy filtets (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a blender or food processor, puree the first 10 ingredients. Add olive oil to reach the desired consistency. Finish by seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and chill. *The mayo and buttermilk can be substituted with plain greek yogurt.

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

It’s 95 degrees outside (the hardships of life in LA) but my body knows it’s fall. Fall is essentially all about pumpkin. Pumpkin is just dandy for bread pudding. Bread pudding is for lovers. By the transitive property, fall is for lovers.

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PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING 

for 6 servings, recipe from Gourmet:
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
pinch of ground cloves
5 cups cubed (1-inch) crusty brioche or baguette
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Whisk together cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, eggs, yolk, salt, and spices in a bowl. Toast the bread cubes until golden and toss with butter in another bowl, then add pumpkin mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to an ungreased 8-inch square baking dish and bake until custard is set, 25 to 30 minutes (I prefer a deep golden brown). Serve hot with ice cream.