Monday, January 31, 2011

Spinach dip

This dish is fun because you can serve it in a bread bowl. Everybody loves a bread bowl! It's also really simple. I just happened to have fresh spinach in season. When you have it in season, blanch 1lb batches and freeze for the winter. Frozen spinach is perfect for this recipe.

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb fresh chopped spinach
  • 2 packages cream cheese
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1 t thyme
  • Water chestnuts, chopped (optional)
  • Pimentos (optional)
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
In a microwave safe, covered and vented bowl, microwave the chopped spinach for 5 - 10 minutes until completely wilted. If using frozen spinach, defrost. Drain and press out all the water.

In a pot over medium heat add the cream cheese stirring occassionally to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve immediately or refrigerate and warm in the microwave prior to serving. Serve with or on nice, crusty bread.

Simple sweet potato fries

In Michael Pollan's Food Rules, one of the rules that I follow often is "Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself." He suggests if you do it yourself you'll you won't do it as often due to the amount of time required. He talks specifically about French fries, which as it turns out aren't that hard to make, but definitely take more time than rolling up to a fast food window.

You'll likely make things that are slightly healthier by making them from scratch. And being able to choose your ingredients means you can get what's local and seasonal (those of you in New England with potatoes in your pantry, I'm talking to you). For this recipe, I used sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes to provide more vitamins and a sweetness that no one can pass up (inspired by Yoav).


  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1 T salt
  • parchment paper

The trick to getting perfect fries is to cut them all the exact same size and rather skinny (about 1cm x 1cm). Potatoes have a tendency to roll around on the cutting board. To prevent this, cut off a part of one side to serve to stabilize. Then whenever it starts to feel shaky, turn it again to stabilize. Once you've got the flat pieces it's pretty easy to make the sticks.

In a very large bowl, pour the oil and half of the salt over the potato sticks. Mix to coat well. You can do this part ahead of time and let sit for up to 12 hours. After that the potatoes will start to lose their moisture.

Place in an even single layer on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. I don't like to use parchment paper, but I have a feeling that if I didn't I'd never get them off the cookie sheet.

Place the cookie sheet in the oven preheated to 475ºF. Don't touch them. Enjoy the chirping sound emanating from the oven as they roast, but fight the urge to jostle or flip them. Pull them out after 25 minutes. They'll be a bit charred on the edges and bubbly in the middle. Sprinkle a little more salt on them and serve.

Truffle roasted nuts

Nuts are always a great thing to have around. They're amazingly snackable and pretty healthy to boot. Fortunately, I've got lots of nuts available from the local farmers market. They have all sorts of flavors, but I decided to flavor them myself, inspired by a recipe from Salt House.

  • 1 1/2 lb nuts (whatever you like)
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1 t white truffle oil
  • Salt to taste
Heat honey and tuffle oil in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the nuts and mix well. Spread on a well greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Place in a preheated 325ºF oven. Take out and stir every 5 minutes for 20-25 minutes.

Take out of the oven to cool, sprinkling more salt on after cooling for a few minutes. Break up as it cools. Store in an airtight container, but they're not likely to last long.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monthly micro-batch: spicy café con leche ice cream

While I was in Boston visiting friends over the holiday, my good friend, Jodi, gave me a disc of chocolate from local producer, Taza. Called Chocolate Mexicano, it inspired me to create a fun micro-batch with cayenne peppers I dried during the summer and some of my favorite locally roasted coffee, Ritual Roasters.

  • 1 C coffee
  • 1/8 - 1/4 C sugar (err on the side of less since the chocolate already has sugar in it)
  • 1 dried cayenne pepper
  • 1 C half-and-half
  • 1/2 C whipping cream
  • 1 disc of Chocolate Mexican, chopped rough

Gently heat the coffee over a medium flame. Dissolve the sugar and reduce the coffee by half. Cut the pepper into large pieces and add to the coffee mixture. Mix in the half-and-half and whipping cream. Heat till almost bubbling then remove from the heat. Let it cool then put in the fridge over night to allow the flavors to meld.

Before processing in the ice cream machine, strain through cheese cloth to remove the chunks of pepper. Process till smooth in the ice cream machine. Add the chocolate to mix in, then freeze to harden it up a bit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Roasted potatoes and kohlrabi with Indian spices

I was recently at the farmer's market and a fellow shopper asked me what this bright purple vegetable was and what to do with it. After telling her all about how kohlrabi tastes a bit like a peppery broccoli stalk and suggesting a few ways to cook it, I decided I had to pick up a few myself.

Also, while this is typically a summer veggie, I also remember seeing it at a winter farmer's market in Massachusetts. If you can get ahold of some, they're a great relief to all the roots of winter.

  • 3 small kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
  • 2 medium red potatoes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 large lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 C olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cumin seeds, roasted
  • 1 t mustard seeds, roasted
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 1/2 C white beans, cooked (or canned)
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
Thickly peel the kohlrabi. It seems such a waste to get rid of the beautiful purple skin, but the reality is that it can be rather tough, sometimes woody. Reserve the peels for soup stock

After thoroughly peeling, cut into 1 inch pieces. Do the same with the potatoes (no need to peel). Place the kohlrabi in one Pyrex pan and the potatoes in another. Drizzle both with olive oil and mix to coat completely. Sprinkle with salt. Put the potatoes in a 450 ºF oven for 30 minutes. Take out, turn over with a spatula, and put both the potatoes and kohlrabi in the oven. Cook for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are crispy and the kohlrabi is soft. In the last 5 minutes sprinkle both with the garlic.

While the veggies are cooking, mix the lemon, olive oil, roasted spices, and salt and pepper. Whisk thoroughly. Heat the beans if not already cooked.

Take the veggies out of the oven and toss with the lemon sauce. Mix in the beans and the cilantro. Serve while still hot and crunchy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Robert Rodriguez's hot butt

I'm a big fan of Robert Rodriguez and his movies, but I had no idea 1) that he was an amazing cook and 2) that he's totally hot. His recipe for puerco pibil is out of this world. As an homage to this fine man (and a public invitation for him to come over for dinner) I've recreated this dish.

The original recipe calls for cooking the meat in banana leaves. I couldn't find those, so you can clearly do it without. Also, I couldn't get habanero peppers so substituted 4 serranos for 1 habanero in the recipe.

  • 2 1/2 T annatto seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 T black peppercorns
  • 4 pieces allspice
  • 1/4 t cloves
  • 1/4 C orange juice
  • 1/4 C vinegar
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 serrano peppers, chopped
  • 2 T tequila
  • 2 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 2 tomatillos, chopped
  • 2 T cilantro, minced
  • 1 lemon or lime, juiced
  • 12 tortillas
The assortment of spices is pretty important for this dish: annatto, cumin, pepper, allspice, and cloves. You can find most of the ingredients pretty readily in most locales, but you may have a tough time finding annatto (look also for achiote). This combo of spices will help balance out the tanginess of the rest of the ingredients while also imparting the distinctly homey, Latin taste.

If you have a spice mill/grinder, use that to pulverize the spices. Don't waste your time with a mortar and pestle as the annatto seed is likely harder than most stone. I don't have a separate grinder and was not willing to sacrifice my coffee grinder, so I just used my blender. It didn't turn into a fine powder, but it broke everything up enough to allow the spices to impart all their spicy wonderfulness.

Add the rest of the ingredients (minus the meat and banana leaves if you've been able to find them) and blend thoroughly. I let the sauce sit overnight in the fridge to allow the flavors to come together more fully, but you can use it immediately.

Mix the meat and the sauce together to thoroughly coat the meat. Line a roasting pan with banana leaves (if you have them) or simply put the meat in the pan and make sure to cover tightly (the recipe says to cover with aluminum foil, but I didn't and the meat was perfectly moist).

Cook in a 350ºF oven for four hours. Serve immediately with rice or shredded with tortillas and a green pico de gallo (avocado, tomatillo, cilantro, and lemon/lime mixed together). This also stores and reheats very well.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Butternut squash ravioli with lemon butter

Tis the season for lots of holiday leftovers. After loads of parties and potlucks and family gatherings, I ended up with a fridge full of leftovers. Oh what to do with them all? Casseroles. Sandwiches. Yeah, those are the normal solutions. However, I'm a big fan of raviolis. For this dish, tuck any assortment of the winter squashes or even sweet potatoes into these pillows of pasta for something you can eat immediately of freeze for later.


  • 1 C baked butternut squash
  • 2 stalks sage
  • 3 T butter
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 C Parmesan grated cheese
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • pasta sheets (you can use pre-made pasta or wonton sheets)
  • 4 T butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

This started off as a side dish to a holiday potluck in which I mixed sage, browned in butter, into cubed baked butternut squash. This had about a teaspoon of salt to help bring out the saginess.

With the leftovers, mash with a potato masher. Then add the cheese and mix well.

Cut the pasta sheets into uniform rectangles (or squares or circles, whichever you prefer working with). Bush the edges of the pasta shape with the egg wash. Add about a T of the squash mixture to the center of the pasta. Fold over, pushing out as much air as possible. You can cook immediately, or place on a cookie sheet and freeze.

For a nice light sauce, melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the pressed garlic and saute till translucent. Add the lemon juice and reduce heat. Add about a 1/2 C of the pasta water to help make a gravy. Whisk thoroughly and server over hot pasta.