Monthly Archives: October 2012

Homecoming

I went home to LA for my mom’s birthday and as usual, my Bay Area culinary tendencies went straight out the window. Being raised on Southern Cooking is a hard, hard thing to walk away from. And why would you? There is a place in the world for kale slaw and a place in the world for vegetables cooked into oblivion with bacon and butter. I live with one leg in both of these places and plan to keep it that way.

One of my favorite coming home stories involves the fact that every time I fly down, my mom’s mac and cheese is always sitting on the stove waiting for me that night. Without fail. One night I asked my mom why she always made this particular dish for me on my first night home, and she said, “Well, because you usually get in after dinner so I know you just want something light.” Mac and Cheese. Something light. Did I mention she’s from New Orleans?

So it comes as no surprise that when our neighbors showed up with home-grown tomatoes, we found some unripe ones and decided to immediately fry them in fabulous ways. Fried Green Tomatoes. Coincidentally (or just completely not surprisingly) we had also been frying up some bacon, so we decided to fry the tomatoes in…wait for it… BACON GREASE. Yeah, I did.

These beautiful green babies are great on their own, or as the star of the best BLT you’ve ever had in your life. Best served with a glass of home-made sweet iced tea.

Fried Green Tomatoes
Sliced green (unripe) tomatoes
One beaten egg in a bowl
Cornmeal, or a mixture of cornmeal and breadcrumbs, in a bowl or shallow dish
All-purpose flour in another bowl or shallow dish
Salt and pepper
Some creole seasoning or season salt
Canola oil or bacon grease

Add salt, pepper, and seasonings to  taste to your breadcrumb bowl and mix, lining up next to your flour and egg bowls. Dredge tomatoes lightly in your flour bowl, and then dip in the beaten egg until coated. Transfer to your breadcrumb mixture until thoroughly battered, and shake off excess crumbs. Tip: Dip into the dry ingredients with one hand and the wet ingredients with the other – this keeps things a lot less messy!

Heat oil in a pan until nice and hot. Place tomatoes in pan until browned on one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip until the other side is also a delicious golden brown, and transfer onto a plate lined with paper towels or a paper bag.

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Love

I’m not a hugger. I’m not good at giving compliments or telling friends I love you. I’m not always good at talking about important things and I sometimes forget birthdays. But I do know how to feed.

A couple weeks ago I had two of my best buds from middle school visit (you’ll know for me those aren’t even the longest friendships I have, but let’s not split hairs.) For three days my quiet, tiny San Francisco apartment was filled with giggles, shrieks, squeals, and everything else that makes you miss your old girlfriends. And I became a sixth grader. I bickered with them, shared a tiny little bed with them and didn’t sleep, woke up cranky and pouty and overly defensive of my questionable outfit choice. But  one thing was different – I cooked for them. Baked pasta. With cheese. And eggplant. And sausage. I call it Love in a Pan.

I’ve been making this dish for loved ones for a long time. It’s taken from Tyler’s Ultimate – that show where Tyler Florence picks a dish and figures out how to make the most ultimate version of it. This was from his baked pasta episode, and it really lives up to the name. It’s very serious and not for the faint-hearted, with lots of everything, especially cheese. It does takes some time sauteeing the eggplant, browning the sausage, making the pasta, and then baking it all until beautiful, golden, and bubbly. It’s done best when you’re hanging out with some people you can pass days or years with, especially over a bottle of red wine. You can save time a few places – half the time (okay, more than half) I throw in pre-made marinara sauce instead of starting with the canned San Marzanos. I also usually end up buying pre-cooked chicken sausage instead of the raw pork, so all you have to do is brown it. This stuff lasts for days and I never get sick of it. We ate it all weekend – for dinner, and then when ravenously hungry around 2am later that night.  Probably while laughing a lot.

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage
Adapted from Tyler Florence

  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 6 links italian sausage (pork or chicken), chopped
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped (if making sauce)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (if making sauce)
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (or a bottle of San Marzano tomato sauce)
  • A bunch of basil
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated good Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to while you start prepping everything else. Get out a big baking pan. Don’t overcook the pasta!

Heat a 2 count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and toss in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside in a large bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant browned on the outside and soft on the inside. Repeat as needed for the rest of the eggplant, and add to bowl.

If making sauce: Add another 2 count of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick, about 15 minutes. If using pre-made sauce, skip this step!

Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, half the mozzarella, and salt and pepper to the bowl and mix. Pour this into your baking sheet, cover with the other half of the mozzarella and dust with Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a touch more olive oil and baked for half an hour or until deeply golden brown. Share with good people.

Picnics are Bomb

Collabo post! Finally in the same city for one weekend, we naturally had to embark on a meal mission. Finding ourselves wildly overwhelmed in the produce section of the monster Whole Foods on Lincoln, we decided to throw together an Asian/vegetarian taco themed picnic. Which, if you’ve succumbed to all the hipster foodie quackery floating around Los Angeles, isn’t a ridiculously uncommon theme these days. Add a side sesame slaw, sangria and some good people for a gorgeous Sunday afternoon!

Rainbow Peanut Slaw

1 whole red cabbage
1/2 mango (preferably only semi-ripe)
1 whole apple
1 packed cup cilantro
1 cup peanuts
1 shallot or thinly sliced red onion
3 grated carrots
One lime

Dressing:
2 parts toasted sesame oil
1 part rice wine vinegar
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper

Combine cabbage, mango, apple, shallot, and carrots in a large bowl.  Combine oil, vinegar, lime juice, and salt and pepper and toss. Add peanuts and cilantro just before serving.

Shitake Mushroom & Lentil Tacos  with Miso Herb Sauce
Adapted from here

Miso herb sauce:
3 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp. white or yellow miso
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 packed cups basil leaves
1 packed cup cilantro
3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

Shitake Mushroom & Lentils
1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil, divided
half of a yellow onion, diced
6 oz. shitake mushrooms (halve any large ones)
3/4 cup cooked lentils (I used de puy)
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
sea salt + pepper


For the sauce, pulse garlic cloves with the rice vinegar in a food processor to blend. Add herbs and drizzle in oil until desired consistency is met.

In a large pan, heat coconut oil and add onions until translucent. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and just leave them to heat up and start to release moisture*. Once they have reduced in size, about 4 minutes, add the remaining coconut oil and saute to mix. Add the lentils and another pinch of salt and pepper and saute to warm through. Lastly, add the vinegar and stir to scrape up any brown bits in the pan.

Assemble tacos as desired!

The Challenge

The challenge: Feed a staff of  30 for a work breakfast – in under $30.  Did I mention this was a nonprofit?

The solution: It had to be home-made granola. Well, maybe it didn’t have to be, but it was awfully frugal of me and I had been wanting to try making granola for a long time. It’s a DIY project, no doubt about it – something you can definitely pay to avoid. But if you’re feeling crafty, or don’t feel like going over-budget, this is a hugely rewarding and very delicious effort. Making your own granola also allows you to control what goes in – doing things to your liking and not making it too sweet.

Of course when this idea first came up, I immediately called Joni (the baker extraordinaire on this blog). Of course she had a recipe for granola that used no sugar – really, no sugar, replacing it instead with honey and maple syrup. I was pretty skeptical that this would turn out like cardboard, but it was completely and totally delicious. Nutty, flavorful, salty-sweet – everything you really want and need out of a granola. And it only set me back 12 bucks, which left plenty for yogurt and fruit.

This recipe is just the base formula – you can experiment all you want with nuts, dried fruits, and other fun add-ins.

Maple Almond Granola
Adapted from here

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup mild honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 300°F
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, coconut, almonds, salt, and cinnamon.
3. Heat the oil, honey, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat until combined. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture, add the vanilla, and stir until combined. Spread the granola on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
4. Bake the granola, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and aromatic, 25 to 40 minutes. If you have a crummy oven that you suspect is below the desired temperature (been there), you can raise to 325°F, but watch that granola like a hawk. Stir in dried fruit if using and push the granola to one side of the pan to allow the granola to stick together in clusters as it cools (as seen above). Keep the granola in an airtight container for up to 1 month – or serve to a very happy group of coworkers on Monday.