Indian Parantha

Indian Parantha

What a week…and I can’t believe it is only Wednesday.  I am only posting this tonight because I need a break from the madness.  Yes, there has been some serious madness going on this week.  I have probably two of the most important meetings I will have all year – tomorrow.  Isn’t that always the way things go?

And just when I didn’t think I could take anymore – tonight my daughter went to her new middle school she was redistricted to next year.  We have all been trying to look on the bright side of this move, but seriously, I see very little positives at all.  The worst part of all is that the majority of her friends will not be joining her.  Tonight they invited current 6th and 7th graders to come and talk about their new school, and what electives they would like to see.  This will be the first of a series of meetings with the kids – because at this point, they still have nothing but a Principal and a couple of teachers.  When she got in the car, she started telling me about how depressing it was.  The school is horribly old and run down, the science classrooms are from the dark ages (unlike her current school that was renovated a few years ago, and is beautiful) – and there won’t be an orchestra room (we are still crossing our fingers for an orchestra – there are 5 in her current school).  She said at one point the principal asked them to write down what they like about their current school – and one of her friends wrote this:

MY FRIENDS

Thanks for taking them away from me

I almost burst into tears.  I guess the principal saw this, and told the girl that they were supposed to be focusing on the positives, and to please turn that piece of paper over.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  My daughter said they are just looking for a way to get out their feelings – and I completely agree with her.  They need to be a little sensitive about this change…geez.

So – as you can see, I am in fine form right now, and trying to get out of this funk in preparation for tomorrow.  So now it is time to switch gears and talk about something that puts a smile on my face.  Indian Parantha.  The other week I took a class at my favorite Community Kitchen – all about making Indian breads.  One of my very good friends is from India and when I was pregnant she would bring me to her house so she could cook for me.  This was one of the things she would make – and she make them so easily – and beautifully.  I have to admit – they were not that difficult to make, and boy did they taste delicious – particularly with some ghee brushed on top.  Maybe if I can get through tomorrow, this will be my treat afterwards.  Personally, I think I will need something a little stronger, but this will be a nice accompaniment…

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (Chapatti Atta in the indian grocery stores)
  • 3/4 cup cool water

Preparation

Using your hands, bring this together in a large mixing bowl to form a ball.  Knead it in the bowl for a minute until the dough comes off your hands.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.

Preheat a cast iron griddle on medium low.  You will have to adjust the heat after the first roti depending on how fast or slow it is cooking, every stove is different.

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions.  Place one portion of dough in the palm of your hand and knead it with your other hand 10 times, roll it into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Pinch it into a flat disk about 3″ in diameter, lightly dust it in dry flour. On a lightly floured wooden cutting board or smooth countertop roll out to a 6″ diameter circle. If it starts to stick, pick it up and dust with more flour. Place the roti between the palm of your hands and shake off any extra flour. Place the roti on the grill for approximately one minute.  When the color of the roti has changed to a slightly deep tan flip the roti. There should be no brown spots on the other side. If there is, lower the heat until light brown spots appear all over the other side. Cook for another minute gently pressing down on the roti with a folded tea towel until light brown spots appear all over the other side.  Flip roti one more
time and cook for another minute gently pressing down with a tea towel slightly turning the roti. The roti should fill with hot air. Continue pressing gently, remove from heat and serve immediately with a dab of butter.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Indian Parantha

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Lunch has never been my favorite meal and I think I know why.  At home on the weekends, it seems to be more of a chore than anything else.  The girls are usually not starving, because they had a late breakfast – and they never know what to eat.  If it were up to them they would have a brunch every day – with eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc…  At work, although I am starving, I have to force myself to get to the cafeteria just to get something healthy in my body.  Then I just march back up the five flights of stairs just to sit in my office and eat while I catch up on email.  How is that healthy?

When I am traveling in Europe it is completely different.  Even when I am in the office we take the time to go to the cafeteria and sit down and eat – that is if we don’t get out of the building and eat somewhere else.  Even when we have meetings, we take the time to have lunch.  When I studied there during college, I remember that was the only meal that I didn’t eat with my French family – that was their family time – the kids left school to go home for lunch, and that was the big meal of the day.  It makes sense – you have hours to burn off the food and then you eat a light dinner before going to bed.

When I am home on the weekends, my go-to-lunch is an egg sandwich.  I tend not to eat eggs for breakfast, but by lunch time that is exactly what I need.  I have been staring at the lentils in my pantry for quite a while now, when this recipe flew out of the stacked pile from Cooking Light.  A big light bulb went off in my head.  Instead of my typical egg sandwich, why not take the time to make this lentil salad that I can enjoy a few times this week, and cook a soft boiled egg to go on top – just like the beautiful picture next to the recipe.  I swear, it was calling me.

My egg was probably a little softer than the recipe called for – but it was perfect for me.  The yolk drizzled over the top of the arugula and the combination with the lentils was to die for.  By the time this was done, the girls had already eaten, and were upstairs – so I had the kitchen to myself.  It was almost luxurious – sitting there with my beautiful salad. Not having to get up and get something for someone.  I took my time, and savored every bite.  Now I can see why lunch is so appealing – if only life always quieted down during the middle of the day.  Keep dreaming…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups dried petite green lentils
  • 6  large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 8 cups baby arugula

Preparation

Place lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water to 3 inches above lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain and keep warm.

Add water to a large saucepan to a depth of 3 inches; bring to a boil. Add eggs; boil 5 minutes and 30 seconds. Drain. Plunge eggs into ice water; let stand 5 minutes. Drain and peel.

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Set aside 2 tablespoons oil mixture. Add lentils, bell pepper, onions, and celery to remaining oil mixture; toss gently to coat. Place reserved 2 tablespoons oil mixture and arugula in a large bowl; toss to coat.

Place about 3/4 cup lentil mixture and about 1 cup arugula mixture on each of 6 plates. Cut eggs in half lengthwise; top each serving with 2 egg halves. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lentil Salad with Soft-Cooked Eggs

Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Accountability.  What an important word.  Over the years, it has become more and more important for various reasons.  It was not a word I really focused on until I was an adult – and the word really made an impression on me with respect to work.  When you are a kid – you always want to blame everyone else for anything that goes wrong.  Mom gets a big brunt of these…but seriously, it is always someone else’s fault.  At times, that can be accurate – but it most cases, everyone has some aspect of accountability in the situation.

We are dealing with a tricky issue right now with my younger daughter.  There is a boy in her class that has been bothering her for quite some time.  At first it seemed innocent enough, and that maybe he had a crush on her – but unfortunately it has gotten a little more serious, and he has started to get physical.  There is always a part of me that wonders if she is egging him on – but at some point you cross the line.  Even some slight antagonism does not deserve physical violence or disparaging language.  Fortunately we are on a good path forward though with the teacher’s support.

Some adults though never really learn to hold themselves accountable – and it can be extremely damaging.  Sometimes all it takes is just a little humility – to let the other person see that you are not perfect.  Sometimes though you wait too long to hold yourself accountable, and by the time it hits you, it is too late.  The damage is done, and there is no going back.

When I started this blog, one of my hesitations was around accountability.  If I was going to post recipes, tell you how great they turned out – then you try them and they are bust – that wouldn’t make me feel very good.  Now I know like everyone else – cooking is as much of an art as it is a science.  Ingredients have a lot to do with how the recipes come out – and ingredients can be different depending on where you live, how fresh they are, etc…  Just last week I got a comment on my banana bread recipe – the person’s banana bread didn’t rise, and she didn’t understand why.  I suspected it had to do with the baking soda/powder she used – and maybe one of them had gone bad.  She tried it again with fresh baking soda/powder, and fortunately – it came out perfectly.  One of the reasons why I post so many recipes from Cooking Light and Bon Appetit – is they have a team of testers that make these recipes before they are published.  Then I make it myself – and if it turns out good – usually I put it on the blog.  I hold myself accountable to posting good quality recipes  – and if you can follow directions, you will come out with good results – but that doesn’t always happen – and when it doesn’t – I am truly sorry.

I know people were eyeing the biscuits that I posted last week with the Broccoli-Cheese Soup – so here they are.  I make a lot of biscuits, but this recipe from Cooking Light is really a keeper.  I loved how quick and easy these were – and that they were seriously light as a feather.  They were by far some of the best biscuits I have ever made – and you can hold me accountable if you don’t agree.

Ingredients

  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 3.6 ounces white whole-wheat flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups very cold fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk to combine.

Place butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute or until completely melted. Add cold buttermilk, stirring until butter forms small clumps. Add oil, stirring to combine.

Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture; stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated (do not overmix) and batter pulls away from sides of bowl. (Batter will be very wet.)

Drop batter in mounds of 2 heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 450° for 11 minutes or until golden. Cool 3 minutes; serve warm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Fluffy Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

Zucchini Fritters

Zuchini Fritters

I can’t believe summer is over…and school is about to begin again (we think – more on that below).  This was definitely a summer that I will remember forever, for so many reasons.  So many good memories, and of course some I would like to forget, but that is the way life is.  Fortunately I was able to do a lot of cooking in August to make up for a very busy July.  I feel nice and refreshed, and ready to tackle the real world again.  There are some important things I need to take care of, and I finally feel like I am in a position to do so.  It is amazing what a couple of weeks of clearing your head can do, and that’s exactly what I did.

So school…back to that topic.  It is actually been nice to see my daughter’s friends start emailing each other about how excited they are for school to start.  Imagine my older daughter’s disappointment when we got the phone call last week explaining why that might not happen.  Yes, Seattle Public Schools may go on strike.  Their contract expired this weekend, but as of Monday they seemed to have reached a tentative agreement – thank goodness.  They were supposed to vote tonight at 5pm, but we have not heard anything yet.  I am hoping that no news is good news…

While we are still in summer mode, I wanted to talk about zucchini – a vegetable that seems to do well in just about every garden except for ours.  I still remember when I would have so many zucchini’s from the garden, we were almost on an all zucchini diet (in fact, I have done my share of zucchini posts on this blog…check them out: zucchini bread, stuffed zucchini, garden rice casserole, even these which look very familiar to this recipe, but with a focus on dill) – now I have to rely on friends to share, or support our local farmer’s at the Saturday Market.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and had to get my hands on some zucchini to test it out.  I love potato pancakes, and thought these would give them a run for their money.  Oh boy did they – these were tender on the inside, crisp on the outside, and that dipping sauce gave the pancakes just a zing of flavor.  What a perfect way to get your kids to eat some veges, if they were where my kids were a couple of years ago.  Of course now my kids dug right in, and they loved them.

If your kids started school last week, I hope things are going well – and if you are supposed to start this week – I wish you luck.  For all of you in Seattle, let’s hope that the right decision gets made – for our teachers and our children.

Ingredients

Soy Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Fritters

  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

Preparation

Soy Dipping Sauce

Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Fritters

Place zucchini in a colander set in the sink and toss with 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let stand 10 minutes, then wring zucchini dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place zucchini in a large bowl and gently mix in egg, flour, chives, and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, drop 1/4-cupfuls zucchini mixture into skillet, flattening slightly; cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to a paper towel–lined plate; season with salt. Serve with soy dipping sauce.

DO AHEAD: Fritters can be made 30 minutes ahead. Keep warm in a 200° oven.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters 2

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg Salad, just writing the words puts a smile on my face.   I am not sure when the obsession with egg salad started, but it is certainly up there with fennel, cream cheese frosting and cucumbers in cocktails.  The problem with egg salad is that there can be so much variation in how it is made, I find myself almost afraid to order it in a restaurant unless I am absolutely sure it is made “my way”.

So let’s talk about where things can go wrong – and understand, this is completely my opinion, I think that egg salad can definitely be an emotional topic, where people feel very strongly that there way is the best.   I personally can’t stand Miracle Whip – I am not into that taste – I am a purest when it comes to mayonnaise.  I like Helman’s (on the east coast), and Best Foods (on the west) – it is the classic eggs and oil mayonnaise – and over the years, I have become partial to the “light” variety.  I think the regular version is just too heavy.  In addition, I like my egg salad to be heavy on the egg, and light on the mayo.  A rule of thumb for me is if you can take a spoon of egg salad, turn the spoon over, and it stays on the spoon, it is perfect.  You have to get the right portion of egg to mayo for that to happen.

Next is the celery – there has to be celery, and if there is no celery to be found, a substitution of fennel, red bell pepper, or something else crunchy will do.  You need that crunch to go along with the softness of the hard boiled egg.  Herbs are another plus – I love putting dill in my egg salad – it takes it to that wow level that I just love.  Then there are the extras when you put the sandwich together – like bacon, lettuce, even tomato goes incredibly well.  I have made mine with black olives, pickles, roasted red peppers, sprouts, the sky is the limit – as long as the base is good – it always comes back to the egg salad.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I had never made egg salad with yogurt before –  I couldn’t wait to try it.  This recipe was OUTSTANDING!!!  What a perfect recipe – the consistency was exactly the way I love it, the hot sauce was an amazing addition, the arugula was a welcome green, and oh those bacon crumbles.  An all around winner in my book – it was so good, I made it multiple times this week just to get my fill.  It was exactly what I needed.

Ingredients

  • 2  center-cut bacon slices
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sriracha (hot chile sauce, such as Huy Fong)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6  hard-cooked large eggs, chopped
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 8  whole-grain bread slices

Preparation

Cook bacon in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Place bacon in a large bowl. Stir in onions and next 5 ingredients (through salt). Gently stir in eggs.

Arrange 1/2 cup arugula on each of 4 bread slices. Top each serving with 1/3 cup egg mixture and 1 bread slice.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Egg Salad Sandwiches

Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

Parmesan Bread Pudding

I have a love hate relationship with salt.  I love salt – it is a necessary ingredient for almost everything, although sometimes too much of a good thing completely backfires.  That’s exactly what happens with salt.  As soon as you cross over the edge of too much salt – your entire recipe is ruined.  Then I hate salt.   There are times when a wedge of potato can fix your mess (like in soups), but there are other times when you are just out of luck.  Boy do I hate when that happens…and it is not always my fault – which makes it even worse.

Over the years, I have gotten really good at knowing when I have salted enough.  If anything, I will err on the side of a little less salt, and put the salt on the table for people to add their own.  My in-laws for instance, do not use any salt – I have to be very careful when I cook for them that there is no hint of salt – I can use a little to bring out the flavor – but that is about it.  Eggs are just about the most difficult thing to judge though – especially when they are raw, and you are trying to salt before you cook.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I have been excited to make it for months.  I finally had the opportunity – and when I read through the recipe, there was one thing that struck me – the amount of salt.  The recipe called for a teaspoon of salt – that is a lot – but then again, there were six eggs.  I decided to follow the recipe exactly, since Bon Appetit usually does an excellent job testing their recipes before they publish.  I should have gone with my instincts.  This dish was so salty, it was almost hard to eat.  I was super disappointed, because I could tell that it would have been awesome had the salt not overpowered the world.  I had to make it again – it was driving me nuts.  This time I put in half the salt – and it was so much better – I could actually taste the pancetta and the cheese, oh and that tender bread that was crunchy on the outside – wow.  Exactly what I had imagined the first time.

I amended the recipe below to save you from high blood pressure, swelling, drinking too much water (hey wait, that’s a good thing isn’t it) – and so you can taste all those other ingredients in this bread pudding.  Don’t worry salt – even though I may hate you at times, I will always find a way to love you again.  Isn’t that what a love hate relationship is all about?  Or is it, I hate to love you, and love to hate you?  Now that’s just plain silly.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium bunch broccoli rabe (rapini), trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole  milk
  • 1/2 pound country-style white bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 6 thin slices pancetta (Italian bacon)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium  heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir until garlic is softened, about 30  seconds. Add broccoli rabe; sea-son with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing, until  wilted, about 2 minutes; let cool slightly.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2  teaspoons pepper in a large bowl to blend. Add broccoli rabe mixture, bread, and  1/2 cup Parmesan; toss to combine. Transfer to a 1-1/2-qt. baking dish. Top with  pancetta and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

Bake pudding until puffed, browned in spots, and set in the  center, 45-55 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta

Parmesan Bread Pudding 2

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Remember a few posts ago, when I was glowing with the happiness of summer, and how the weekends were no longer filled with one event to the next?  Well, I should never write something like that without holding my breath, crossing my fingers – or knocking on a whole bunch of wood.  Even though the kids events have slowed down (I say that, and then I think about the swim meets twice a week), everything else in my life has gone completely out of control for a variety of reasons.  I am getting stressed just thinking about all the fruit I bought last week at the farmer’s market – having all intentions of making tons of jam – but that has not happened.  There is always next weekend, right?

So, what do you make when you are super busy, but having people over for dinner?  Fortunately I am not in this predicament tonight (that would really throw me over the edge), but a few weeks ago – this was my life.  It sounded like a great idea a month before when I arranged everything – but then the date finally came, and I was seriously in a bind.  My husband was all set to grill, which was awesome, but I was in charge of the sides.  I immediately thought about some slaw – but I wanted to make sure it was really easy, and tasted fresh.  Not that I had time to do this, but I looked through a few of my cookbooks, and decided I would just wing it. I had some fresh dill in the refrigerator that was looking right at me, and so I decided on a Dill Cole Slaw.  Wow was that perfect.  I just loved the Cole Slaw with that nice fresh dill flavor – and it seriously only took me 5 minutes to make.  Of course I cheated a little with already pre-chopped cabbage, but there are some shortcuts worth taking.

I hope that you are having a nice relaxing weekend – but don’t fret if you are not – here is a simple recipe to make your life just a little bit easier.  At this point, we should all take what we can get!

Ingredients

  • 5 cups shredded cabbage and carrots
  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

Preparation

Mix all ingredients together, and put in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours to allows flavors to blend. For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Easy Dill Cole Slaw

Easy Dill Cole Slaw 2

Asparagus with Lemon and Brown Butter

Asparagus with Lemon and Brown Butter 2

What a weekend, I do not remember the last time I actually had a weekend where I wasn’t running from place to place.  This was my idea of the perfect weekend.  After the week that I had at work, this was exactly what I needed.  I am not heading into the work week stressed and behind at home – I am actually well rested and caught up.  Wow.  And, it only gets better from here – the next few weekends are the same.  There is nothing on the calendar – nothing at all.  I am loving this summer already.

So – what did I do with all my time?  Most of it was spent on food, in some way or another.  Saturday morning we went to the University Farmer’s Market – and since it was warm and sunny, so did the rest of Seattle.  It was packed, but fortunately we were there early enough to still get some really good stuff.  We bought a beautiful looking brisket and pork tenderloin from our favorite folks at Skagit River Ranch, some amazing chive cheese from this local creamery (wish I could remember their name!), Japanese cucumbers that I turned in these today, and some amazingly fresh asparagus.  The girls each picked out a pastry from the Russian lady as well.  Then on the way home, we stopped at my favorite fruit stand for some more of those delicious strawberries – I just can’t get enough of those.  I was set for a Sunday in the kitchen.

If you read my blog regularly, you know that I love asparagus – it is so versatile, and beautiful at the same time.  One of my favorite Seattle restaurants just released a cookbook – Lark – Cooking Against the Grain – I actually haven’t purchased it yet, but it is on my list.  Fortunately I am on their mailing list, and as luck would have it – they sent a recipe this week for Asparagus with Lemon and Brown Butter.  It seriously took me about 10 minutes to make, and who doesn’t love brown butter on just about anything?  This dish was fantastic – and I probably didn’t even need to peel the stalks, but it definitely gives it a finished look.  The dish looked wonderful next to our smoked brisket at dinner tonight.

Here’s to a perfect summer weekend…a food filled weekend of shopping, cooking and eating!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound asparagus, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • ½ tsp.  Lemon Juice

Preparation

Trim off the woody ends of the asparagus.  Peel the asparagus from about an inch below the tip to the end.  In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch the asparagus until just cooked. Shock in an ice-bath to stop them from cooking any further.    Remove the asparagus from the ice-bath to a plate to let them dry, or you can pat them dry with a paper towel.  Add the butter to a medium sauté pan and cook over a medium heat until it is golden brown and nutty.  It will be quite foamy as it browns. Add the asparagus to warm through. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place the asparagus on a serving platter and dress with the extra brown butter from the pan.  Serve warm.

For a printer-friendly version of this weekend, please click here:  Asparagus with Lemon and Brown Butter

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Tomato Mozzerella Risotto

Did you ever feel just a little too comfortable for your own good?  For example, in cooking.  I do so much cooking and baking, every once in a while I let my guard down, and I have a failure that definitely could have been avoided, with a little more vigilance.  It is definitely a hard concept, and one that often needs constant reminding.  Then I think about my children…and how it is best to start young with that lesson.

My older daughter plays softball – and her team is really good this year.  They are actually undefeated, if you can believe it.  At this point, with their 8+ wins, I can see they are starting to be a little over-confident.  The other night they really got a scare – a team that they had beat 19 to 0, came back in their next game to tie it at 5 runs.  I could tell they were a little nervous – and it was a good thing.  I still cheer loudly at every game – but I worry about them heading to the play-offs if they stay undefeated.  Aside from the expectations they will have – the other teams will be playing their hearts out.

Obviously though, it is a hard lesson to learn.  The other weekend I made some more rhubarb jelly – and I had some pectin left over from last season.  I was feeling pretty confident with my jelly making abilities – and would you believe the jelly never really set?  It is fine if you stick it in the refrigerator, but it is not my normal product.  I should have known better than to use that pectin, and that if it failed the plate test at over 220 degrees, there was probably something wrong.

Fortunately this risotto from Cooking Light is kind of dummy proof.  I made this for the girls after a long day, when my husband was away.  I was definitely not all there when I was making this, and it took me by surprise how good it actually was.  I had to run and grab my camera and take a shot of it – which I had no intention of doing.  It was also a big hit with the girls, even with the spinach – score.  So – the next time you are not feeling completely on top of your game – don’t worry about pulling this out for dinner.  Even if you are over-confident – the results will not disappoint.

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 1/4 cups uncooked Arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 2 ounces chopped fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups torn fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Preparation

Bring vegetable broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Add rice to pan; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup broth to rice mixture; cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Reserve 1/3 cup broth. Add remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next (about 22 minutes total). Stir in tomatoes; cook for 1 minute. Add cheese, pepper, and salt to rice mixture, stirring constantly until cheese melts. Remove from heat; stir in reserved 1/3 cup broth, spinach, and basil. Place 1 cup risotto in each of 4 shallow bowls. Drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over each serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Dairy-Free Truffled Pommes Anna

Dairy Free Truffled Pommes An

Slowly I have been embracing this whole dairy-free diet (among other things), that my husband has been trying to stick with.  I definitely love cooking and baking with butter, but there are other ways to make delicious tasting food, and I have been testing them out.  Fortunately when you are baking, olive oil is a great substitute for a lot of things – and to give food a richness that you get from butter – a little truffle oil can definitely do the trick.

I love truffles – pretty much any kind of truffles, but to be honest, I have never really had real white truffles.  Someday I will though…and it is fun to look forward to that.  In Paris, there is a store that is all about truffles.  My daughter is also really into truffles because once when we were visiting Paris – she had some truffled macaroni and cheese – and she was hooked.  I think I was over 30 the first time I tried truffles – she obviously has a head start.  So during this most recent trip to Paris – we walked by the Maison de Truffle.  We had never been in before, but it was early in the day, and didn’t look crowded. We entered the store and we got an immediate whiff of that wonderful truffle smell.  My mother was very interested in the truffle candies they had on sale, and asked if she could buy just one to try, and they said that they only came in a box of 10.  Then the woman opened this big glass jar though – and asked if she wanted to try one.  I thought my mother would give her a hug.  Not only did she give my mother one, she gave one to my daughter and I as well.  This was the most unusual candy I have ever tried.  It was the consistency of Halva (an Israeli treat) with a strong truffle flavor – out of this world.  My daughter didn’t eat hers…so I still have a secret stash when I really need to remember Paris.

The last time I made these Pommes Anna, I was overwhelmed with the flavor – it was amazing – the butter and truffles were too good to be true.  I decided this would be the perfect candidate to try dairy-free, by substituting olive oil for the butter.  I have to say – I really didn’t miss the butter at all.  The key though is to get it nice and crispy, and once you get the flavor of that truffle oil, that’s all you need.  For those of you cutting dairy out of your diet, you should definitely give this a try.  In fact – make it for someone that loves dairy, and ask the, if they miss the butter – they will be too overwhelmed with the truffle oil to even answer…

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons white truffle oil, divided

Preparation

Preheat oven to 450°.

Combine 2 teaspoons thyme and kosher salt in a small bowl.

Put olive oil into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray. Arrange a layer of slightly overlapping potato slices in a circular pattern in pan; sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt mixture and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil. Repeat layers 4 times, ending with truffle oil. Press potato mixture firmly to pack. Cook over medium-high heat for 6 minutes without stirring.

Cover with foil, and bake at 450° for 20 minutes on bottom rack in oven.

Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Loosen edges of potatoes with a spatula or knife. Place a plate upside down on top of pan; invert potatoes onto plate. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Dairy-Free Truffled Pommes Anna