9/30/11

How to cook a Spaghetti Squash? KISS: Keep It Simple (Stupid)

When I was at the grocery store last weekend, I noticed a spaghetti squash. Without giving it too much thought, I picked one up.

To be honest, I had no idea what I would do with it.

It seems like in the US, people love roasting squash with butter and brown sugar. That is so NOT my idea of what I want to eat for lunch or dinner. Instead, I make all my squash dishes savory.

After getting home and thanking the cooking gods that I was able to  cut the spaghetti squash in half without hurting myself, I decided to simply roast it in the oven and then add a few ingredients to make a light, healthy, yet flavorful dish.

Note 1: you can save the seeds from the spaghetti squash, wash them and then roast them with salt and pepper.

Note 2: if you have a microwave, you might want to microwave the squash prior to slicing it in half to soften it up just a little bit.

I showed the squash who is the boss!


KISS: Keep it simple stupid: Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Parsley and Red Pepper Flakes

Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
olive oil
salt & pepper
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 pinches red pepper flakes, or more if you like your food spicier
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Drizzle two halves of spaghetti squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place the squash on aluminum foil cut side down and bake for 35 minutes.
3. Turn the squash cut side up and bake for another 15 minutes.


4. Allow the squash to cook for a bit and using a fork scoop it out from its shell. Add parsley, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. If necessary, add more olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold.


How do YOU like to serve spaghetti squash?

 

Have a wonderful weekend!

9/28/11

How to make Kale Chips at home

First, I want to wish everyone a very happy Rosh Hashannah. Hope this year is sweet for you and your families and friends! If you are still looking for something sweet to bake for tonight's dinner, try this Honey Cake with Almonds and Orange Zest.

And now let's return to our regular programming. It seems like it's been at least a year since I've heard of kale chips. You basically buy kale, rip it in pieces, add some olive oil, spices and bake in the oven. What you are supposed to end up with are crunchy chips that supposedly taste like potato chips.

As my darling sister would say, RIGHT!!! Of course I knew that the kale chips would not be as good as potato chips (and by good I mean taste and not nutrition), but I finally decided to give them a chance.

I followed Andy Bellatti's instructions for temperature and time in the oven, but used my own spices.



Spicy Kale Chips

Ingredients

1 bunch kale, stems removed, washed, ripped into pieces {use a salad spinner if you have one to get rid off as much of the water as you can OR just use towels}
salt to taste
2 teaspoons Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
good drizzle of olive oil

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a bowl combine kale, salt, Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning and olive oil.
3. Add kale in a single layer to the cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

before


after


My thoughts: photographing kale chips is a pain in the behind! But let's talk about the taste: they were pretty good. I think I overdid it on the oil, and some of them weren't superbly crunchy. Maybe I overcrowded the cookie sheet?

Also, just like the roasted chickpeas, these should be eaten immediately. Otherwise they become soggy.

Will I make these again, unlikely. I think I prefer kale in a soup.


Have you made kale chips? What are your thoughts?

9/26/11

Recipe for Honey Almond Cake with Orange Zest for Rosh Hashanah: Shana Tova

I would never get an award for the best Jew.

I eat pork. I love shellfish. After a dinner of steak, I don't mind eating a dessert that has dairy in it.

Several years ago I gave up fasting for Yom Kippur, because instead of having a reflective day, I'd be miserable because all I could think about was not being able to eat and drink.

I have only dated one Jewish guy...and even he was only 1/2 Jew.

But all that doesn't matter to me. I attend cultural events at 6th & I synagogue, I love the traditions behind Jewish holidays, have fond memories of the two times I traveled to Israel, and matzo ball soup (even if it's from a mix) is one of my favorite soups ever.

This Wednesday is Rosh Hashanah: Jewish New Year. I decided to bake a honey cake to represent a  sweet and happy upcoming year (fingers crossed it'll be true!).

But here's a thing: I actually don't like honey. And I've never baked a honey cake before. Luckily, Gayle tweeted me a recipe for Honey Almond Crunch Cake from Food Network.

When it comes to cooking, I rarely follow recipes: I just come up with my own creations. Baking is another story: I try to stick to a recipe as much as possible, but it's oh so very hard for me! In this case, I increased the amount of nuts and added zest from one orange. I also, by mistake, used 3 instead of 1 eggs....luckily, the cake still came out tender and was quite a success with one adorable 2 year old.

{Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, “Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Julia Moskin: Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 1999}
Ingredients
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted  (I used 2/3 cups of almonds)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • zest of one orange (my own addition)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 3 tablespoons of melted butter into a bread loaf pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of brown sugar, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds.


2. In a large bowl whisk the egg, remaining brown sugar and orange zest. Add the rest of the melted butter and honey. Gradually mix in buttermilk.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix till smooth.


4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes and invert it onto a plate.


I was so glad the cake wasn't ruined due to my lack of recipe-reading ability! Some of the almonds got stuck to the bottom of the pan, but overall I'm very pleased with the results.


Shana Tova to everyone celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

9/22/11

Where to eat out in Denver, Colorado

It has been about a month since I've come back from a long weekend vacation in Denver. I've already shared with you my thoughts about a meal in Watercourse, photographs from a farmers' market and some non-food related activities.

Below are a few other restaurants I visited with Kenny in Denver. Alas, some of the ones we wanted to check out just did not happen: not enough hours in the day for all the delicious food.

When you go salsa dancing the night before, you want something more than just a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. Luckily, Sam's No. 3 had many different options to choose from. Not only was it on Food Network's Diner Drive-ins and Dives, but it was also recommended by some of my Twitter friends. I was looking forward to a late breakfast there.

But we had to wait. About 20 minutes. And I'm so not a fan of waiting. Finally once my name was called, we decided to sit outside and enjoy the gorgeous Denver weather while waiting for our food.

Here's a bit of history from Sam's No. 3 site:

Sam’s No. 3™ was the third of five Coney Islands restaurants opened by Sam Armatas during the 1920′s.

The original location was at 1527 Curtis Street in the heart of downtown Denver.

On Sept. 28th, 1998, Sam’s son, Spero, with his grandsons Sam, Alex, and Patrick, re-established his most famous of the Coney Islands restaurants, Sam’s No. 3™.  In honor of the age old tradition, they made a promise to each other to continue to provide excellent quality of food and embrace the inviting, warm atmosphere started by “Mr. Sam” more than 75 years ago!

I chose a Mexican Breakfast: 3 eggs scrambled with chorizo, onion, jalapeno, tomato & Jack cheese. Served with 2 flour tortillas, side of Kickin' Pork Green Chili and refried beans. Let's just say that I could not finish the entire plate despite not eating the tortillas, and there was no lunch that day.

I absolutely loved the spicy chorizo mixed with the eggs, cheese and tomatoes. The Kickin' Pork Green Chili wasn't extremely pretty, but had a nice amount of heat and was something I'd enjoy on a cold day with a piece of sour dough toast.

Kenny ordered one of the specials: lamb chops with potatoes and poached eggs. Lamb for breakfast? Apparently it's not a weird thing ;) Who am I to talk? I can eat dinner leftovers for breakfast. The lamb was medium rare and very tender. The egg yolks ran freely as soon as they were poked with a fork. This was definitely a success.

The second breakfast in Denver took place at Pete's Kitchen. Once we stepped in the place, I felt like we were transferred a few decades back. Family photos on the walls, booths, and many framed awards made it clear this place was loved by both the locals and the tourists.

I really liked the round carousel that held customers' orders.

Once again, Kenny chose lamb for breakfast: this time it was a lamb gyro.

I had chicken souvlaki and fries. The chicken was well charred and incredibly tender inside. The garlicky yogurt sauce was perfect for dipping my fries. This was another filling breakfast, which was necessary as this was yet another late morning after a night of salsa dancing. Plus, we needed a lot of energy because following breakfast we went to the Botanical Gardens...and you know my obsession with taking flower photographs!

Check out this retro pink and green clock: gorgeous!

As I've mentioned before, there were no lunches in Denver. So here's one of the dinner destinations we visited: Sushi Sasa.

This place was recommended by a few of my Twitter friends and by our shuttle driver in Denver. I love sushi and was looking forward to some seafood after eating a few meat-centric meals. The decor of the restaurant was clean, refreshing and at the same time very welcoming. Both the manager and our server were attentive, knowledgeable and clearly loved what they did. This was the trend in Denver: great customer service!


I ordered a seaweed salad, which turned out to have Granny Smith apples, tomatoes, carrots and sprouts. I must be honest: I was slightly dubious, but the dish turned out great: crunchy, satisfying and not heavy. Kenny had one of the Sushi Sasa's soups with radishes, mushrooms and mini corn. This was the type of soup you wanted to dive into.

Here are two of the four sushi rolls we ordered. I can't seem to remember what they were. Sorry. But they were great and there wasn't a single piece left on the plate.


And finally I want to tell you about one of the best meals I've ever had. Unfortunately we were going salsa dancing right after dinner and I did not want to bring my camera with me, so you just MUST check out the stunning photos on Rioja's website. This restaurant was recommended by at least 7 people. The menu is "inspired by Mediterranean ingredients and influenced by local and seasonal products." The decor features "hand-blown glass fixtures, copper-topped bar, and exhibition kitchen."

We did not to think to make reservations and were told we'd have to wait about 2 hours. NO way. Instead, we decided to sit at the bar with the view of the open kitchen: this was a winning decision. Once again, the service was immaculate and the food...well, the food was almost beyond words.

I started with pomeginger Skyy vodka, pomegranate juice, ginger, and twist of lemon. All I can say is that I must try to replicate this at home. This was such a pretty drink and a great take on the typical pomegranate cocktail.

Appetizers:
 
rioja house salad, baby arugula, Medjool dates, gorgonzola, toasted almond vinaigrette
Main courses:
pan seared halibut, cucumber wrapped salad of: Dungeness crab, avocado, hearts of palm tarragon crème fraîche, heirloom tomato carpaccio and vinaigrette, crispy shallots, micro parsley

I had a salmon dish that no longer appears on the menu. It had little corn cakes full of the sweetest juiciest corn you can imagine!

Dessert:

beignets, sweet goat cheese and black mission fig filled pastries, ruby port wine reduction

You guys: I pretty much licked the plate. We were tempted to order a second order of these and probably should have. If you love figs and fried dough and goat cheese, this has your name all over it!

I thanked the chef at the end of the meal and was surprised the restaurant doesn't even have a Twitter account. If you are ever in Denver, you MUST check out this restaurant. They also have brunch, which alas we just could not make.

My next mini trip is to Asheville: let's see what great food I find there!

white miso soup with steamed mussels, Prince Edward Island mussels, miso broth, honshimeji mushrooms, sweet chili, cilantro

9/19/11

An intimate dinner party for four: a plan for success

What happens when people find out you have a cooking blog? They expect you to cook for them...because after all, you love food and cooking, right? Oy the memories of certain ex boyfriends who did not understand why I did not want to buy the groceries, make the meal and then clean the kitchen...no wonder they are ex.

But then there are occasions when cooking for someone is really appreciated and something I don't mind doing at all. This past week I was visiting my family in Seattle and together with Anna we cooked a few meals for our family together with our brother Misha. This, however, is not a blog about those meals.

Instead, this is a blog about an early intimate dinner party Anna and I cooked for our good friend Lera who will be turning 30 in November. God, I remember when we met at the University of Washington and she was a few years younger and it seemed like we had decades separating ours...not so much anymore. We've traveled to Portland together, celebrated mine and Anna's 30th birthdays (we are twins!) in Vegas, went to wineries, had dinners in and out, and I've even been bitten by Lera when I did not want to share my food...I'm not even kidding: the girl LOVES food. And we love her.

So when Lera suggested Anna and I cook dinner for her and she'll provide the wine, we were in. Lera asked for beets, fennel, lentils and duck. We had to figure out the recipes. Let's just say this wasn't the easiest task: both Anna and I have our own ideas and despite being twins don't share the same brain ;) Plus, we are Aries: stubbornness is something we share.

Below are the wines and sparkling wine: the sparkling wine was opened as soon as Anna and I arrived at Lera's. The wines were masterfully paired by Lera for each course.


First course: roasted beets, segments of oranges and grapefruit, goat cheese and toasted pecans on a bed of arugula. The dressing is a combination of orange and grapefruit juice with a bit of olive oil. Anna, Lera and Lera's boyfriend Travis, who did ALL the dishes from dinner (!!!), also had fennel (it was thinly sliced and marinated in the citrus juice). To go with the salad we had a French baguette, sliced, drizzled with chile & garlic oil and crisped up in the oven.


For the French lentils, we washed them, then cooked them in salted water with a bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme. We then sauteed them in oil with garlic and shallots.


Here is the second course: a pot of polenta cooked in salted water. We then flavored the polenta with goat cheese and cream. The duck was all Anna's doing. I was a bit frightened of it, but Anna did a superb job. We bought duck breasts, which Anna scored (on the skin side), seasoned with salt and pepper and then seared on both sides (skin side first). Cook the duck till it's medium rare: about 130.


Here's the full second course: goat cheese polenta with French lentils, roasted carrots and duck with pomegranate molasses. I can't even tell you how spectacular this was.


And then it was time for dessert. Earlier that day Anna went to the store while I slept and made lemon grass & ginger panna cotta. Check out her recipe! But that would not have been festive enough. I suggested we serve it with mangoes (shocking!). So we made a mango topping: chop a few mangoes, brown them in butter with brown sugar, crystallized ginger, and sparkling wine.




This was such a successful dinner party and allowed us time to hang out, drink, chat, and relax. Best part, other than friends and food, was that Travis cleaned up the entire kitchen: he's definitely a keeper!

Have you thrown an intimate birthday party for a friend? What was on the menu?

9/15/11

Fig & Goat Cheese Panini Recipe

Just a quick "HI" from Seattle!

I'm having a good time hanging out with my family and friends, dancing, eating, making a few jewelry projects for my mom and sleeping in.

Since many of you liked my "recipe" for Fig salad with goat cheese, arugula and pickled onions, here's another idea for what to do with the same ingredient PLUS French baguette: Fig & Goat Cheese Baguette.

This is an incredibly quick sandwich to make and it's portable: in fact, I packed it on my flight to Seattle! It was so much better than the food I could have purchased at the DCA.

Ingredients
French baguette, sliced lenghtwise
goat cheese
figs, sliced
arugula
pickled onions
best balsamic vinegar you can get, reduced till it's syrupy




Directions
1. Slightly grill French baguette on your panini maker. If you don't have one, just use a skillet or a toaster.
2. Build your sandwich: bread, cheese, figs, arugula, onions, balsamic reduction, bread. 
3. Using a panini grill, grill the sandwich for about 5 minutes. Cut in half. Eat or pack for later. 




When you travel, what food do you pack with you? I'm talking more about a meal and not snacks. Please share: maybe I'll use your ideas on my flight back from Seattle to DC!