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My name is Michelle but my friends call me Mitch. I live in New York City the Silicon Valley part of California, where I work as a clinical dietitian. These are my adventures (and boring weekday evenings) in home cooking.

Contact me at mitchinthekitchen[at]gmail.com

© 2009-2014

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8 September 14

seared scallops with fennel and tomatoes

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I looooove scallops. They aren’t cheap, but they are very easy to prepare. All that stands between them and an impressive dinner is a quick sear in a hot pan. Since scallops are pretty mild-tasting, I think they go best with flavors that aren’t so aggressive. I picked up some very sweet late-summer cherry tomatoes today that were perfect for this. And of course, there was wine: a bottle of crisp chenin blanc to deglaze aforementioned hot pan and complete my lovely Sunday evening at home.

(serves 2-3)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sea scallops
2 cloves garlic
1/2 bulb fennel, sliced
about 25-30 cherry tomatoes
splash of white wine (something light and crisp)
water
salt and pepper
chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Pat scallops dry with a paper towel to make sure you get a really good sear. Add them to the pan, and make sure it’s not all crowded in there (if it is, use a 2nd pan). Stay calm while everything splatters noisily. When the scallops are nicely browned and crusty, flip them carefully. When the other sides are seared, move the scallops to a plate, season with salt and pepper, and cover with a foil tent. I like to keep them in my turned-off oven for extra warmth.

Reduce heat to medium and add garlic and fennel. Add a splash of white wine and enjoy the aroma of deglazing. Scrape up all the browned bits in the pan (this is called the “fond”). Add cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add extra water to make a sauce. Turn off the heat and stir in chopped parsley.

Put the fennel-tomato mixture on a plate and nestle the scallops between the tomatoes. Devour with 1 to many glasses of white wine.

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8 August 13

fennel, avocado, and mint salad

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I love this salad and have been bringing it to potlucks for years. Now’s the time to use cute little baby fennel from the farmers’ market, which I like because there isn’t much of a tough core to cut out. With fatter, more fibrous fennel, I like to use a mandoline to shave it thin. After years of waffling, I finally sprang for a little bottle of pistachio oil, which, it turns out, really does take this salad to some other level. Having said that, I would still happily devour the olive-oil-only version.

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22 January 13

fish poached in fennel-tomato sauce

Here’s my latest in eating well while eating light. I think almost any kind of fish would work; I’ve tried both salmon and tilapia with pretty good results. Have it with something fluffy that can soak up all the extra sauce, like bread, couscous, rice, polenta, quinoa, or mashed potatoes.

To make it: Heat olive oil in a pan. Add sliced garlic, sliced fennel, a little salt, and red chile flakes (optional). When fennel has softened, add tomatoes with their juices (I used the canned stuff), olives, capers, and enough water or broth to cover everything. Bring to a simmer. Place fish fillets in the sauce, then cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and begins to flake. Garnish with black pepper and fresh herbs.

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13 April 12

fennel and citrus salad

I keep reading about citrus salads (here, and here, and here) and I probably don’t need to tell you that this is a delicious idea. Here’s a basic template I use:

  • Citrus: Plain old navel oranges are great, but grapefruit and blood oranges work splendidly too.
  • Fennel: Shaved or thinly sliced.
  • Baby greens: Adding something bitter (arugula, radicchio, frisee) makes it a grown-up salad, but ain’t nothing wrong with baby spinach or the ubiquitous mesclun mix.
  • Other veggies: Beets! Avocado! Celery!
  • Nuts: I love pistachios in this. I’m okay with walnuts too.
  • Herbs: I think the salad is pretty interesting with everything listed above, but every now and then I’ll add leafy herbs like parsley, mint, or basil if I have them.
  • Dressing: Usually just a simple lemon vinaigrette with sliced red onion or shallots.
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18 November 11

pickled fall vegetables

I was brainstorming things to have around as snacks in the stomach-gurgling hours before Thanksgiving dinner (oh yes, I am hosting a family Thanksgiving again). I came up with a lot of cheese. And bread and crackers. And spiced nuts. But I needed something to provide a little relief from such things. Something… pickled, it turns out. So I went on a long stroll through the Union Square greenmarket and picked up a few things that caught my eye: carrots of all colors, green cauliflower, a bulb of fennel, a small orb of kohlrabi, and celery that I need for other stuff anyway. The carrots and cauliflower were lightly blanched before going in the jars with everything else. The brine consists of apple cider vinegar, water, salt, sugar, garlic, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and black peppercorns. They will hang out in the fridge until Turkey Day (which will be celebrated with pork chez Mitch and John, actually). As long as these taste okay and don’t contain botulinum toxin (don’t worry family, they don’t), I think Thanksgiving will start out quite nicely.

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27 October 11

roasted fennel with raisins, walnuts, and parsley

I kicked off this blustery week with a new take on fennel, a vegetable I usually have raw and thinly shaved in salads. The difficulty-of-preparation-to-deliciousness ratio is very low. You cut up some fennel and while it’s roasting in the oven, you combine raisins, walnuts, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. When it’s all done, you get softened, licorice-y pieces of fennel coated in a bright lemony dressing, chewy raisins, and crunchy walnuts. It’s probably obvious by now, but this is a simple and worthwhile fall vegetable side dish to try out, in my opinion. The recipe is from The Meatball Shop, featured in New York Magazine.

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25 August 11

fennel, green bean, and carrot salad

Here’s another salad for your viewing and eating pleasure. I pulled out whatever vegetables and herbs were left before my CSA pick-up day and put ‘em all together with a simple mustard vinaigrette.

1 small fennel bulb
1/2 pound green beans
1 small carrot
1 tablespoon finely minced red onion
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
chopped herbs (I used dill and parsley)

Blanch or steam the green beans until they are crisp-tender. Dunk them in ice water, then dry them off and cut into bite-size segments.

Slice the fennel and carrots very thin using a mandoline or a very sharp knife (and crazy good knife skills if you want to compete with the mandoline).

Combine onion, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir until salt dissolves. Toss with vegetables. Finish with a good drizzle of olive oil and chopped herbs.

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11 November 09

winter squash pizza with caramelized onion, fennel, apple

This pizza is a collage of fall flavors from the farmers’ market. I was feeling ambitious today, so I ended up spending way more time than usual on dinner for just myself. Anytime I’m hungry (or just getting off the subway), it’s always tempting to saunter into Little Luzzo’s and grab a decently delicious slice. Tonight I decided to knead and puree my way to homemade pizza that was eaten at 10pm. Was it worth it? Always. And I have leftovers too.

I made my pizza crust with a blend of whole wheat and regular flour, and pureed carnival squash (similar to acorn squash) stood in for the usual tomato sauce. I also used small squares of sliced cheese instead of piles of shredded cheese. As much as I love cheese (and I do love cheese), I can’t go around creating fatty calorie-bomb pizzas for a regular night’s dinner if I’m going to study and work in nutrition. Right?

1 small yellow onion
1 small fennel bulb
1/2 medium apple
4 small sage leaves, chopped
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
olive oil
5 to 7 oz mozzarella or fontina cheese, sliced

1 1/2 cups of winter squash puree with roasted garlic (details below)
pizza dough (details below squash puree details)

fried sage leaves for garnish
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Heat a large pan over medium-low heat with a bit of olive oil. Cut onion and fennel in half lengthwise, then very thinly crosswise. Peel apple and cut into thin matchsticks. Add onion, fennel, and apple to the pan, along with chopped sage, thyme, some salt, and pepper. Let mixture cook until soft and lightly browned, tossing frequently. It should take 20 to 25 minutes or so. If stuff starts sticking to the pan, add a tiny splash of water.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan (about 18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper. Or you could use a pizza stone.

Sprinkle some corn meal on the baking sheet. Place the dough on the baking sheet and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Shape dough to fit pan. If it won’t stretch, let it rest a bit before handling it.

Spread squash puree over dough. Spread onion fennel apple mixture over squash. Top with cheese slices. Bake in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is slightly bubbly and crust is slightly golden. Top with fried sage leaves (directions: just throw some sage leaves into hot oil and fry until they become translucent, then sprinkle a little salt on them) and grated cheese.

Winter Squash Puree
(adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Cooking)

Cut the squash(es) in half (whether this is lengthwise or crosswise doesn’t matter) and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet or baking pan. Throw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves (optional). Bake in a 350-degree oven until the flesh of the squash is soft. The only way to know is to keep checking, since the time will vary depending on what type of squash you have and what size it is. Let it cool, then scoop the flesh out. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery stuff. Mash squash and garlic with a fork, potato masher, or food mill. Add a small spoonful of cream to smooth things out. Season with salt and pepper. I added some fresh thyme as well.

This stuff is also great in soup (add to broth with herbs and a little more cream or milk), as a sauce for pasta (add some herbs and cream or milk), or as baby food (because I’m pretty sure infants love roasted garlic).

Basic Pizza Dough
(adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works)
makes two 12-inch, thin pizzas, or a large rectangular 18 by 13-inch pizza

1 packet (2 1/4 tsp or 1/4 oz) yeast
1 1/8 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/8 tsp salt
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups flour (I use 3/4 cups whole wheat flour and regular unbleached flour for the rest)

Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl. Whisk with a fork, let stand 5 minutes.

Add oil, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Mix with a wooden spoon for at least 5 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky, but not so much that you can’t pick it up with your hands. It should form a ball.

Add 1/4 cup of flour to a large cutting board (or any clean, flat surface such as a large baking sheet). Dust your hands with some flour. Knead dough for at least 8 minutes, incorporating flour. If the dough is still way too sticky, add flour 1/4 cup at a time. The end result should be a smooth ball of dough that isn’t too dry. For those of you who don’t know how to knead, all you do is fold the dough towards you, then push forward with the heel of your hand, then rotate a quarter turn and repeat. It can be therapeutic, like those stress-relief balls that you squeeze. Tip: to prevent your kneading surface from slipping, place a damp towel under it.

Place dough in a well-oiled, large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (such as your kitchen stove) for 1 hour (or whatever the yeast packet instructions say).

After the dough has doubled in size, divide it into two portions (if making two pizzas) and use one per pizza.

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Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh