This delicious ensemble of good bread, mellow goat cheese, and slightly spicy chorizo was based on an appetizer I had at Diner (one of my favorite places to eat) recently. A drizzle of honey and whole leaves of parsley boldly but harmoniously balance out the smoky, salty chorizo. To make it, layer the following from bottom to top:
- Not-too-crusty bread, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
- Soft, spreadable chevre, slathered on the bread then warmed together
- Chopped mint
- Spanish chorizo, sliced and lightly heated up in a pan
- A drizzle of honey
- Whole Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
So I finally checked out this salad place called Sweetgreen (origins in DC, one location now in NYC) that I’ve been hearing about. My opinion: very tasty. And while I don’t live or work close enough to blow all my lunch money there everyday, I can at least draw some inspiration from their lovely creations. Take the kale Caesar salad, for example. Totally do-able for the home cook! Makes for a nice packed lunch (albeit with a bit of assembly)! And I love Caesar salad (previously proclaimed it on this here blog), even when it’s a departure from the traditional kind and really just means “contains Parmesan cheese.” What’s in the photo you see above:
- Kale and optional romaine lettuce, chopped or finely torn
- Some grape tomatoes, halved
- Cooked chicken breast, sliced
- Caesar-ish dressing (I just mixed garlic juice from a jar of chopped garlic with lemon juice, a dab of mayo, olive oil, salt, and lots of black pepper)
- Shaved Parmesan (or similar) cheese
- Parmesan crisps (place little piles of shredded Parmesan on a Silpat or parchment paper, bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden and crisp around the edges, flipping once)
- Squeeze of lime juice (I think and you probably think this could be left out)
Allow me to step back to Valentine’s Day for a second, an occasion for which we buy expensive grocery items and make ourselves really good food for dinner (in my household anyway). This year, I found a really good recipe and John did a really good job making it while I worked on other parts of the meal. I’ve been fantasizing about these scallops ever since.
There’s been a lot of pizza in my life lately (my 6-year-old self would be proud that my 31-year-old self has accomplished such things in adulthood). I went on a bit of an unplanned food shopping spree (this happens often, actually) and came home with potatoes, peppadew peppers, fresh mozzarella and a bunch of other stuff I had no specific plans for. I maintain that pizza is an excellent vehicle for assorted odds and ends and cheese.
To make it: Prepare your favorite pizza dough recipe (or use store-bought or pizzeria-bought dough) and roll or pat it out with your hands. Combine olive oil and minced garlic, then spread it all over the dough. Add torn chunks of mozzarella. Toss thinly sliced small waxy potatoes (I used a mandoline set at 1.0 mm) with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then place evenly over the pizza. Add sliced peppadew peppers (or roasted red peppers, or pickled hot peppers). Top with a sharp tasting cheese like parmigiano reggiano or even feta. Bake briefly in a hot oven (I go up to 500) until it looks right.
This was a bit of a lunch masterpiece I threw together, inspired by Thanksgiving (which just happened a little over 2 months ago but it feels like longer doesn’t it?). The only thing missing was stuffing (warm, delicious, crunchy-topped stuffing). Here’s what was not missing:
- sliced turkey
- roasted sweet potatoes with maple and sage
- dried cranberries
- fried shallots
- green beans
- mixed greens
- apple cider vinaigrette
Leftover vegetables and herbs and cheese come together beautifully on pizza, don’t they?
To make it: Toss cubed butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 425 F degree oven until tender. Then toss it all with a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar. (Can be done ahead of pizza time.)
Flatten out pizza dough. Brush with olive oil (I think garlic oil would be pretty good, actually). Top with roasted squash, blobs of chevre, and sliced scallions. Bake it, then top with lots of chopped herbs (I used parsley and cilantro), grated Parmesan cheese, more black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
I did a quick Wikipedia read about straciatella after making this soup, wondering why I’ve seen the name refer to chocolate chip gelato, and cheese, and now egg drop soup. Turns out straciatella means “little shreds” in Italian, so it can allude to broken-up pieces of chocolate, hand-stretched cheese curds, or ragged blobs of gently cooked scrambled eggs. And if you want to add a little something-something to this simple recipe, I also learned that lemon zest, nutmeg, and even a little semolina flour are traditionally added to the beaten eggs along with Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
I’ve become a person who brings lunch to work almost everyday (because 1. it’s cheaper, 2. it’s usually healthier, 3. not a whole lot of exciting lunch options in the surrounding area). I usually pack up 2 days’ worth in what my coworkers and I call my lunch briefcase and take up an obnoxious amount of space in the employee fridge. I usually cook a big batch of grains and add whatever vegetable odds and ends I have on hand (leftover from dinner or otherwise) along with nuts, cheese, herbs, dried fruit, some kind of beans or protein… you get the idea. Here’s a rough guide to what went in my most recent improvisation (along with easy substitutions):
- wheatberries (or any other sturdy, chewy grain such as barley or farro)
- sauteed cauliflower florets
- chopped kale (or any other greens)
- pistachios (or almonds or walnuts)
- crumbled feta cheese (or chevre or leave it out)
- scallions (or red onion) and parsley
- dressing made with harissa, sherry vinegar, and olive oil
Looking for an interesting pizza recipe? Here’s one. It includes thin slices of celery root (a.k.a. celeriac) that get sweet and soft, fresh oregano, red onion, and a nice pop of saltiness from chopped capers. After several attempts to find scamorza cheese, I failed, so I went with smoked mozzarella. It still makes for a very tasty and very pretty pizza.
This is one of those no-recipe dishes that I’m finally able to pull off like a real f*cking adult who has some home cooking experience as I enter my fourth decade of existence.
To make it:
Brown chunks of boneless pork shoulder (also called pork butt) in a bit of oil in a heavy pot (a Dutch oven works perfectly).
Remove the pork, then add finely chopped onion, celery, and carrot in a rough ratio of 2:1:1 (this is called a mirepoix). Add a little salt and cook until the onion is translucent.
Next, pour in some red wine and scrape up all the browned pork bits (this is called deglazing). Add some herbs (thyme, bay leaf, oregano, sage, rosemary, etc) and black pepper (a little nutmeg doesn’t hurt either), some tomato purée from a can, and the pork that was browned earlier. Add just enough water to cover the pork.
Put a lid on it and let everything simmer on low heat for a good 90 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. The meat should become tender enough to break up with a fork. Do that, then let the sauce simmer uncovered to thicken up a bit, or add more water to thin it out if it’s already too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings. Optional: add chopped greens (such as kale) and let them cook through.
Serve with gnocchi, polenta, or homemade pappardelle made by a friend/loved one.