7.20.2014

Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes with Grapefruit Zest

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If only I could have ricotta magically appear in my fridge right now, I would stop typing and make these delicious pancakes. But, there's no ricotta, the store seems soooo far away, the husband is running up in mountains, so all I'm left with are the memories of these fluffy and cheesy little cakes. Life is not always fair.

But sometimes it is, and it usually involves your house smelling like bacon and tea being prepared for you, as you stand over the stove flipping pancakes. 
I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen, and the first time I made these, I had no lemons. So I used grapefruit zest instead. It was so good, I just keep sticking with it. This last time I also used fancy wheat flour, and the texture and flavor were just as good.

Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberries and Grapefruit Zest
Makes about twelve 3- to 4-inch pancakes

4 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups ricotta
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest
1/2 cup all-purpose or wheat flour
handful of blueberries
Butter for the pan
Syrup

1) In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, the ricotta, the sugar, and the zest, add the flour, and stir the mixture until it is just combined.

2) In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold stiff peaks, whisk about one fourth of them into the ricotta mixture, and fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Then add your blueberries.

3) Heat a cast iron pan over low-medium heat and brush it with some of the melted butter. Working in batches, pour the batter onto the griddle by 1/4-cup measures and cook the pancakes for 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until they are golden, brushing the griddle with some of the melted butter as necessary. Transfer the pancakes to a heatproof platter and keep them warm in a preheated 200F oven until you're ready to serve.

7.06.2014

Garden Meals

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Every few days, the husband brings home a basket of goodies from his satellite garden. And so, the last several weeks there's been a lot of vegetable eating -- salads, bruschetta, stir fries. I've been putting our herbs to good use to freshen up everything from chicken salad (above) to pasta dishes. Below is a collection of deliciously memorable meals from the past month.

Sauteed squash, and green beans with minced pork. The husband fell in love with this green beans stir fry. I used coconut oil which added a nice subtle flavor.

 Giant salads featuring giant beans, cucumbers, radishes, olives, romaine, herbs and burrata.
Crab cakes with coconut mango rice, and a cauliflower salad with chickpeas and garden veggies.
For the Game of Thrones finale, we grilled some bread, and slathered it with goat cheese.Then I topped half of the bread with roasted tomatoes and the other half with figs and blue cheese. Served with cucumbers and peaches, these little toasts were almost too pretty to eat.
 Blue cheese and figs are a winning combo.
One night, I came home to a kitchen full of dudes making a mess. The result was homemade pasta and sauce, grilled vegetables and homemade fennel sausage. This past weekend, the husband and his friend purchased a beast of a grinder. There shall be lots more sausage in our future.

6.08.2014

Tulum Travels and Other News

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This past week was spent on a beach in Tulum, Mexico. Besides road trips to Baja for lobster and beer, we've never traveled to Mexico. We quickly learned border crossings by car or by plane take a really long time.

The pace of life is much slower there, and that translates into getting through customs, picking up your rental car, and other things you might expect to be more efficient, like restaurants being open when they are supposed to (thanks Hartwood!). But, that also means long breakfasts, lots of hammock lounging, and post-dinner drinks on the beach. This was the first time we've literally stayed on the beach, in a little bungalow of a hotel called Mestizo, about 50 feet from the water. And although it rained a lot while we were there, the nights were warm and it was peaceful to fall asleep to the sounds of waves, wind and rain.
 First breakfast at Ana and Jose.
 The Tulum ruins. Those Mayans sure picked a good spot.
 Day trip to Valladolid and the Cenote Zaci.
 Lots of shrimp cocktails, mole and agua frescas.
I had delicious panuchos, empanadas and sopes.
 Morning hammocking, followed by breakfast and evening hammocking.

A delicious lunch at Taberna de los Frailes in Valladolid - fish empanada, chorizo and pork.
We had the beach to ourselves. We didn't see more than 15 people at a given time. 
Seafood lunch at El Camello Jr. We went a little overboard with ceviche, a shrimp cocktail, octopus tacos and calamari in garlic sauce. 

The most memorable drinks and dishes were at Casa Jaguar. We had crazy good cocktails loaded with herbs and fruits, fresh snapper topped with ricotta and a passion fruit salsa and the always satisfying conchinita pibil. And there was dessert of corn bread with chocolate sauce and charred bananas.
Hola! Beach selfie. 
Oh, I've been slow on the blogging thing this past few months because I've been too busy being miserable growing a baby, while watching a lot of Friday Night Lights. October is harvest month and we're prudently excited for our lives to be turned upside down. I'm been told to enjoy my energy-lacking 16-hour days of sleeping, until they are gone forever.

5.19.2014

Quick Chicken Pozole + Descanso Gardens

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I am skeptical about 30 minute recipes. Unless you are buying everything washed, rinsed, shredded, and chopped, it's probably going to take you at least an hour to make pozole. Right? Right. But an hour for pozole, delicious pozole, is not bad. It's a lot less than the 5-6 hours I've spent making this soup before.

This chicken version is lighter, fresher tasting. Perfect for spring or summer dinners outside. And because I took zero pictures cooking this soup, I've decided to also share photos of our recent visit to Descanso Gardens. Someone get me a membership there!
Basic toppings - radishes, lettuce, cheese, cilanto, onion, avocado and limes. But, feel free to add whatever else you might have around. Like tortilla chips or pickled carrots and jalapenos.
 They are trying hard to act natural.
 Leftover pozole a few days later. Even more delicious.
Chicken Pozole
Adapted from thekitchn.com
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (1/2 teaspoon dry)
2 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 dried chiles, soaked in hot water and pureed
1 (29-ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed
Posole toppings, use all or some:
Diced avocado
Lime wedges
Diced red, white, or yellow onion
Thinly sliced radishes
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Diced tomatoes
Diced green or red bell peppers
Chopped cilantro
Crumbled cotija cheese
Hot sauce


1) Pat the chicken breasts dry, then pound them to an even thickness using the bottom of a jar or a meat pounder. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and pepper.
2) Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast in a single layer and sear for 1 minute on both sides. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and cook another 10 minutes with the lid still on. Remove the lid, check that the chicken is cooked through, then set aside.
3) While the chicken cooks, bring the chicken broth to a rapid simmer over high heat in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Once simmering, add the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, garlic, cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, chili powder, coriander, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and pureed chiles. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is done.
4) Prepare all the toppings and set aside in small bowls.
5) Tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces with your fingers or two forks (or chop with a knife). Add the chicken and the drained hominy to the pot. Raise the heat to medium to warm everything through, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt or other seasonings if needed. Remove the bay leaf.
6) Serve the soup in individual bowls with the toppings on the table. Let everyone garnish their soup with whatever toppings they like. Leftover posole will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week.

4.25.2014

Roasted Chicken with Clementines, Amongst Other Things

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A while back, I promised to share some recipes from Jerusalem, a belated discovery for me. And then I didn't. So here I am making an attempt again with two recipes that we've really enjoyed 1) Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Fennel and 2) Basmati Rice with Chickpeas and Fried Onions.

I also wanted to mention the husband who has been baking, and promising to share, hasn't been keeping  his commitment. First, he was supposed to write a post on scones, which he's made a couple of times now, and they are definitely worth mentioning.
And then, he was going to write a lengthy  entry on the wild boar ragu we made back in January, sharing photos of his co-worker who hunted the boar, and our attempts to figure out what to do with the meat. It was quiet the cooking adventure, which yielded a memorable meal featuring homemade pasta. But, since the post never came to be, I at least wanted to share a photo of the appetizing looking platter, before it was devoured. 
But getting back to Jerusalem, and it's many tempting recipes. So far we've been disappointed with nothing. There's a lot of flavor, which often means lots of ingredients, packed into each dish. The rice dish in particular has many steps (frying onions takes time), but it's all worth it. I've made it three times already, and it's always loved by the dinner guests.
Roasted Chicken with Clementines
via Jerusalem
6 1/2 tablespoons Arak (or Ouzo or Pernod)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange (or clementine) juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3 tablespoons light brown sugar or honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced thin (I used mandarin oranges)
a few sprigs of thyme
2 to 3 medium fennel bulbs cut lengthwise and then into quarters
2 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed
optional garnish: parsley and fennel fronds

1) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together arak, oil, orange and lemon juices, mustard, brown sugar and salt. Season with pepper, to taste.

2) If roasting immediately: Place chicken skin side up in large roasting pan with clementine slices, thyme sprigs, onion pieces (or fennel wedges) and crushed fennel seeds (if using). Pour sauce over top and gently toss everything together with your hands.

If you are marinating: Place chicken with clementine slices, thyme sprigs, fennel pieces, and crushed fennel seeds (if using) in a large mixing bowl or ziplock bag. Turn several times to coat. Marinate chicken for several hours or overnight. I marinated my chicken for about 4 hours.

3) Preheat oven to 475 degrees. After 30 minutes, check on the chicken. If the skin is browning too quickly, turn the oven down to 400ºF and continue roasting until the skin is brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Remove pan from the oven. I had to flip the pieces at the center of my pan, so they would cook through.

4) Transfer chicken and clementines and fennel pieces with juices to a serving platter. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Or, proceed to the next step. 

5) Optional: Pour cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer until sauce is reduced and you are left with about 1/3 cup. You can degrease by using a spoon to remove some of the fat from top of the sauce. Pour heated sauce over chicken. 

Basmati Rice with Chickpeas
via Jerusalem

1/3 cup wild rice (I’ve always subbed with purple sticky rice that was in my pantry, it adds a nice texture)
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/4 cups basmati rice
Scant 1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 1/2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas (canned are fine)
3/4 cup sunflower oil (I used canola)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp all-purpose flour
2/3 cup currants (I couldn’t find currants in stores near me and used dried apricots)
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1) Start by cooking your wild or sticky rice, until the rice is cooked but still quite firm.  Drain and set aside.

2) To cook the basmati rice, pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid and place over high heat.  Add the rice and 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir as you warm up the rice.  Carefully add the boiling water, decrease the heat to very low, cover the pan with the lid, and leave to cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover with a clean tea towel and then the lid, and leave off the heat for 10 minutes.

3) While the rice is cooking, prepare the chickpeas.  Heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over high heat.  Add the cumin seeds and curry powder, wait for a couple seconds, and then add the chickpeas and 1/4 teaspoon salt; make sure you do this quickly or the spices may burn in the oil.  Stir over the heat for a minute or two, just to heat the chickpeas, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

4) Wipe the saucepan clean, pour in the sunflower oil, and place over high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously.  Use your hands to mix the onion with the flour to coat it slightly.  Take some of the onion and carefully place it in the oil.  Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown, then transfer to paper towels to drain and sprinkle with salt.  Repeat in batches until all the onion is fried.

5) Finally, add both types of rice to the chickpeas and then add the currants, herbs, and fried onion.  Stir, taste, and season with salt and pepper as you like.  Serve warm or at room temperature.