Archive for January 2014

Shakshuka with Swiss Chard

January 31st, 2014 — 6:12am


Shakshuka is a one skillet Middle Eastern meal that consists of eggs poached in tomato sauce. In this recipe, Michael Anthony of the Gramercy Tavern in New York, incorporates Bacon and Swiss chard for an Italian twist on the classic. I loved this dish—not only the ease of preparing a one skillet meal, but the wonderful combination of poached eggs in a flavorful tomato sauce with pockets of cooked Swiss chard—perfect for scooping up with slices of crusty bread. I’m looking forward to trying more of Chef Michael Anthony’s recipes from the recently released The Gramercy Taverrn Cookbook, which looks like a wonderful compilation of recipes from one of New York’s best restaurants.

Shakshuka with Swiss Chard (from Michael Anthony via Food & Wine, Nov. 2013; serves 4)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces meaty bacon, minced
1 medium onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch Swiss chard, stems minced and leaves reserved
32 ounces (4 cups) prepared tomato sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
Crusty bread

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon, onion, garlic and chard stems and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the stems are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, dried basil and crushed red pepper and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the chard leaves for 3 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Squeeze out the excess water. Form the chard leaves into 8 small piles and arrange them in the sauce around the side the skillet.

Crack the eggs into the skillet between the piles of chard. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake the eggs for 12 to 15 minutes, until the egg whites are just set and the yolks are still runny.

Transfer the skillet to a rack and sprinkle the cheese on top. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish the shakshuka with the sliced basil and serve immediately with crusty bread.DSC01460


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Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 1/30

January 30th, 2014 — 5:39am

DSC01520Last week marked the beginning of spring semester at UW-Madison. And yesterday, Slow Food UW kicked things off with a Cafe lunch devoted to banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich that has swept the nation as one of the most popular culinary trends in recent years. I ordered the vegetarian banh mi, served open-face with hard-boiled eggs, radishes, carrots and spicy mayo. I also ordered one of the sides—the beet, apple, and squash root medley, as well as dessert—chai carrot cake with salted whipped cream. All for $7.50.

With so many toppings on a crunchy baguette, served open-face, my friend Pat and I both remarked that the banh mi was rather difficult to eat. After several failed attempts, I settled on scooping off the sandwich topping to eat with a fork, which made it easier to then eat the baguette sans toppings. The Vietnamese meatball banh mi looked delicious, and gave me a bit of food envy—but with three large meatballs, it seemed like more than I could handle for lunch. I really enjoyed the beet and apple salad, particularly the flavors from blue cheese and what tasted like tomato paste. Normally I dislike the taste of blue cheese, but in this salad, it really worked for me. The dessert was a wonderful way to cap off the meal—the cake was light and fluffy with a noticeable but subtle chai flavor, and the salted whipped cream on top made me lick my lips with satisfaction.DSC01522


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Spice Storage Solution

January 24th, 2014 — 9:44am

May 2013 323I’m completely obsessive compulsive when it comes to grain and spice storage and organization. I like consistency and clear, glass containers so I can easily see what is inside (and how much is left of a particular ingredient). I finally found exactly what I was looking for a few years ago when Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen shared her spice storage solution – how to make an overly obsessive spice rack.

I bought a few sets of the same 4.5 ounce airtight glass spice jars and set to work transforming my own storage system. I didn’t use labels on the front of the spice jars – it seemed like overkill to me, and I was worried the labels wouldn’t lay flat on the curves of the small bottles. Just in case, I put a very small post it note with the name of the spice on the bottom of each bottle. It’s become a fun game to guess which spice I need, and then confirm it’s the right one by checking the bottom of the bottle. It’s definitely helped me learn my spices. The jars are easy to re-fill and clean, they look great, and I think the organized system makes cooking more efficient. Similarly, I store a lot of grains and seeds in large mason jars. The labels are helpful, specially for grains that I find difficult to differentiate from one another—like farro and wheat berries, for example.May 2013 503

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Crispy Pork Belly with Kimchi Rice Grits and Peanuts

January 23rd, 2014 — 11:57am

DSC01437Food & Wine is one of my favorite sources for new recipes and cooking inspiration. I usually check out a few issues at a time from the library and earmark recipes I’d like to try most. By the time I’m done, the magazines are a ridiculous site with colorful post-it-notes flapping out everywhere. Sometimes I wonder where to even begin.

But this time it was easy—I gravitate toward comfort foods in the winter, I’ve been on a kimchi kick for at least the past year, and pork belly, like glorified bacon, makes my heart sing. This recipe for pork belly with kimchi grits is from superstar chef, Hugh Acheson, who has four popular restaurants in Athens and Atlanta. His specialty is southern comfort foods with a modern, global twist. This recipe was part of Food & Wine’s “most wanted recipe” feature in the November 2013 issue. Apparently when this dish is on special at Acheson’s Empire State South restaurant, they always sell out very quickly. DSC01427

Upon first glance, the recipe looks complicated. But it’s really not; it just takes time—mostly to braise the pork belly. I used an old coffee grinder to make the rice grits, and it worked beautifully. You could easily make this dish vegetarian by leaving out the pork belly. I think it would also be great with shrimp. My favorite part was the creamy grits infused with heat and flavor from kimchi contrasted with the delicate sweetness provided by the pickled radish and green onions on top.

After Larry and I took our first bites, we immediately locked eyes and remarked, “Damn, this is good.” The rest of the bowl was pure bliss.

Crispy Pork Belly with Kimchi Rice Grits and Peanuts (from Hugh Acheson, via Food & Wine, serves 4)

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Two 8-ounce meaty pieces of pork belly, about 1 inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 small onion, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup rice grits, preferably Carolina Gold (see Note)
1/2 cup finely chopped kimchi
1/2 cup heavy cream
Crushed roasted peanuts, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large, deep ovenproof skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Season the pork with salt and pepper and add to the skillet, fatty side down. Cook over moderate heat, turning, until crisp and browned all over, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet. Add the onion, carrots, bay leaf and coriander seeds and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the carrots just start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Return the pork to the skillet. Cover and braise in the oven for about 2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Transfer the pork belly to a work surface and let cool slightly, then cut each piece in half crosswise. Discard the braising liquid and vegetables and wipe out the skillet.

Meanwhile, in a shallow bowl, whisk the sugar with the vinegar until dissolved. Add the radishes and scallions and refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.

In a saucepan, combine the rice grits and the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, cover partially and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the grits are tender and become suspended in a creamy porridge, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the kimchi and cream and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of water if the grits become too thick.

In the large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the pork belly and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until crispy, about 4 minutes. Spoon the grits into 4 shallow bowls and top with the crispy pork belly. Garnish with crushed peanuts and the pickled radishes and scallions and serve right away.

Notes: Rice grits are available at, but they can also be made at home. In batches, pulse long-grain white rice in a spice grinder or blender just until very coarsely cracked, about one-third of the original size.

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Beet & Cabbage Borscht with Dill

January 22nd, 2014 — 8:56am

DSC01373I promised I’d share more about the beet soup I recently made to accompany golden parsnip latkes. It was actually a borscht, which I learned is a soup of Ukrainian origin that is popular in Eastern and Central European countries. It’s a hearty soup, usually made with beets. Cabbage is also a common ingredient. This particular recipe has strong dill flavor. It’s a great winter soup with wonderful flavor and texture. The beets and cabbage are shredded in a food processor and sauteed in garlic and butter. Even if you don’t love beets and cabbage, everything cooks down nicely and soaks up new, interesting flavors. A dollop of sour cream is a great finishing touch.

Beet & Cabbage Borscht with Dill (From Cook This Now, serves 4-6)

1/2 small head green or red cabbage, cut into quarters and cored
4 medium raw beets, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving

1. Pass the cabbage through the feed tube of a food processor fitted with the coarse grating blade. Transfer the grated cabbage to a large bowl. Pass the beets through the feed tube and add the grated beets to the bowl with the cabbage.

2. Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat until the foam subsides. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add the cabbage and beets. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, tossing occasionally, until the cabbage is wilted, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the broth and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir in the dill, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, and vinegar. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, topped with a dollop of sour cream.

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Golden Parsnip Latkes

January 19th, 2014 — 12:23pm

One night for dinner last week I made golden parsnip latkes with a dill-flavored beet and cabbage soup—both recipes from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now, one of my favorite cookbooks in recent years. More on the soup later. I think this was my first time making latkes. Though more commonly made with potatoes, I was intrigued by the parsnip version. Other than the parsnips, I had everything I needed already on hand: onion, flour, eggs, kosher salt, baking powder, pepper and olive oil. I suppose that was part of the appeal of the recipe.

Thankfully it was quick and easy to grate the parsnips and onions with my food processor. As the recipe warned, cooking latkes tends to make your kitchen a little smoky—it’s a good idea to put the fan on high and avoid wearing your best clothes. Other that that, it’s a fast and simple process to whip up a batch of latkes. As I worked, I stored the finished latkes in between two plates to keep them hot. I served them with sour cream (though I’m sure they’d be equally wonderful with applesauce), and they also made great leftovers. Because the latkes are fried in olive oil, they’re quite heavy, so it doesn’t take more than a few fill up. But they’re so tasty, I found it difficult to stop eating them.

Golden Parsnip Latkes (from Cook This Now; makes about 18 latkes)

1 pound parsnips (about 3 medium), peeled and cut in half crosswise
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chicken fat, duck fat, or olive oil, for frying

1. Using food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the parsnips and onion. Transfer the mixture to a clean dish towel and squeeze and wring out as much of the liquid as possible.

2. Working quickly, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flour, eggs, salt, baking powder, and pepper and mix until the flour is absorbed.

3. In a medium heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, pour in about 1/4 inch of oil. Once the oil is hot (a drop of batter placed in the pan should sizzle), use a heaping tablespoon to drop the batter into the hot pan, cooking 3 to 4 latkes at one time. Use a spatula to flatten and shape the drop into discs. When the edges of the latkes are brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes, flip. Cook until the second side is deeply browned, another 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the latkes to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Repeat with the remaining batter.

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Iron Chef Pomegranate Dinner

January 17th, 2014 — 1:46pm

Left to right, top to bottom: Sweet potatoes with coconut, pomegranate and lime; pomegranate ice cream; chicken spinach salad with pomegranate seeds; pomegranate margarita; pomegranate juice with champagne and gin; pomegranate pancakes with pomegranate syrup; pomegranate lentil soup; muhammara popcorn crunch; pomegranate seeds.

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Maple Bacon Bread-Pudding

January 14th, 2014 — 1:43pm

DSC01357Sundays were my least favorite day of the week growing up. With no sports activities or school, they were just plain boring to me. But now I cherish Sundays. I wholeheartedly embrace boredom. Especially this time of the year. Sunday is my one day of the week  to sleep in, enjoy an indulgent breakfast, and read the newspaper in my pajamas—sometimes all day. Certainly it doesn’t happen every Sunday, but those are the Sundays I now cherish most.

This past Sunday I enjoyed a particularly indulgent breakfast—Maple Bacon Bread-Pudding, a puffy egg bake that is everything you could ever ask for in a breakfast—sweet, savory, bacon, eggs, and french toast, all in one magical dish. I cut the recipe in half to serve two and still had leftovers for the past two days. I assembled the dish the night before, so on Sunday morning, all I had to do was pop it in the oven. I figured it was a special enough dish to break out the homemade jar of maple syrup that our friends Dan and Dione gave us last spring—made with sap from maple trees in their backyard!

Maple Bacon Bread-Pudding (from Zoe Nathan via Food & Wine, serves 8-10)

1 pound thick-cut bacon
Unsalted butter, for greasing
17 large eggs
1 cup crème fraîche
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 3/4 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 1/2 pounds brioche (3 small loaves), crusts discarded and loaves sliced 1 inch thick
Chopped toasted pecans, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the bacon on it in a single layer. Bake the bacon for 25 to 30 minutes, until it is browned and nearly crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain and cool, then coarsely chop it.

Meanwhile, butter a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the crème fraîche, sugar, vanilla seeds and salt, then beat in the half-and-half and the 3/4 cup of maple syrup.

Layer half of the brioche slices in the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with half of the chopped bacon. Repeat the layering with the remaining brioche and bacon. Pour the custard over the brioche and gently press the bread into the custard. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Uncover the bread pudding and bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, until puffed and the center is just set. Let stand for 15 minutes. Serve with chopped pecans and maple syrup.

Make Ahead: The recipe can be prepared through Step 3 and refrigerated overnight.

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A Visit to the Porkies

January 13th, 2014 — 1:23pm

We made our big getaway after the holidays. It was the perfect time to escape civilization and enjoy the beauty of winter in the great outdoors. We met our friends at Gitchie Gumee, a rustic cabin in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Our friends had already been in the area several days, skiing and snowshoeing from yurt to yurt. They’re old pros, making several trips to the Porkies each year, and we were thankful they invited us for a few days of adventure.

The cabin was spacious and comfortable, but completely dark by 5 p.m., save a bit of candlelight. The rule was that if you got up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night (in the outhouse, of course), you had to put a log in the stove to keep the place warm. But I never did wake up in the middle of the night. I was so tired from our excursions, that I slept like a rock the entire trip.

Our days consisted of sleeping in, eating breakfast while planning the day’s adventure, and snowshoeing for 6-7 hours with occasional breaks at conveniently placed warming huts for tea and snacks. Our first day we even spotted a porcupine! The second day was dramatically colder than the first, and I thought my toes were going to fall off.  But the view from the escarpment (think Ansel Adams) more than made up for my cold feet. It was spectacular.

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Kimchi Ramen

January 10th, 2014 — 10:20am

DSC01054I still remember the first time I tried ramen. I was maybe 10 years old and at a friend’s house. My friend whipped out a Maruchen Ramen packet with crunchy, dried noodles and a small envelope of flavor seasoning (in this case, chicken). We threw it all in a pot of boiling water—and ta-da, within minutes lunch was served. It was delicious, and rather exotic for my young palate. I was hooked. Later in life, I realized that packaged ramen is probably not the best staple of a nutritional diet.

I never considered making my own ramen until I was inspired by a recipe I found online. Although it took longer and required real ingredients (imagine that), it was an enjoyable process to slowly simmer the broth and watch it come alive with flavor. The kimchi provides interesting texture contrast and a welcome punch of heat, though I think kimchi selection is important—of the two I’ve tried, I prefer Wildbrine to King’s. I’ve made this ramen twice, topping hot bowls of soup the first time with sauteed shrimp, and the second time with a poached egg. Both are great, but I prefer the shrimp. What a world of difference from my humble ramen beginnings.

Kimchi Ramen (slightly adapted from Happy Yolks; makes 2 heaping bowls)

2 cups ramen or soba noodles
1/2 cup sliced green onion
1/2 pound peeled shrimp

for the broth:
4 cups water
1 onion
1/2 apple, sliced
3 lemon slices
1/4 cup sliced shallots
5 garlic cloves
1″ piece ginger
1/2 cup kimchi
3 tbsp miso paste

For the broth, mix together all ingredients (except for the miso) and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix in miso after 30 minutes and remove from heat. While the broth simmers, cook the noodles, slice the green onions, and cook the shrimp (I sauteed over medium-high heat for 4 minutes).

For each bowl, combine noodles, 1/2 cup of kimchi, green onions, shrimp, and top with 1 cup of broth.DSC01043


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