baked tomatoes with white beans + sourdough + mozzarella

baked tomatoes with white beans, sourdough + mozzarella

I was trying to wrap up another post I’ve been working on for a while about a lovely egg bake of zucchini, tomatoes, green onions and eggs… when I realized the wait was over. oxheart orange, lemon drop + mexico midget tomatoes

The tomatoes are here! Spilling over over fences, testing the physics of our twine braces and and slowly bending their cages into submission. The Lemon Drops, the San Marzanos (our imposters, anyway) the Mexico Midgets and Oxheart Oranges… they all mean serious business right now.

lemon drop tomato plant = out of control!A few things in the universe aligned and I ended up with this really great bake I know I’ll make at a time or two before the season is over. Five giant, glowing Oxhearts revealed themselves – they had been secretly ripening while we were doing our best to keep Senior Kitchen Assistant out of the volunteer plants in one of our flower beds. 

On the same day, I picked up a ball of fresh mozzarella JUST IN CASE (What? Don’t look at me like that. You don’t need mozzarella in case of emergency, too?…) and then stumbled upon a Smitten Kitchen post from a few years back extolling the virtues of my idol Ina Garten’s scalloped tomatoes. I skimmed the recipe and realized this was exactly the sort of dish that could do these big, beautiful tomatoes the justice they deserve.

oxheart orange tomato

Also, let’s be real. These were the tomatoes that almost never were. Mister Husband and I had a test of marriage over fencing in the beds and ever since, I’ve waited. And waited. And hoped I didn’t cause a ruckus that was all for naught. I know this sounds a little dramatic, but after a weird, early monsoon season, the spawn of Godzilla the groundhog, and a bunch of blight… we’re lucky we didn’t have to throw in the towel and pull the plants altogether.

This dish is great for many reasons, besides the obvious and well-deserved homage to sun-ripened tomatoes. Thyme-spiked white beans add a heft that easily makes this easily a main course and including them as part of the bake rather as a side saves a few dishes. The sourdough croutons add an extra tang and structure that other breads might not bring to the party. The garlic and herbs are bright, flexible, and pack a lot of flavor into this humble bake. Although we could make this all year long and be happy, I suspect this same dish made in January will be less impressive. And, cheese. Get yourself some emergency mozzarella, already.

baked tomatoes with white beans, sourdough + mozzarella

Recipe for: Baked Tomatoes with White Beans + Sourdough + Mozzarella

Ingredients:
5 cups sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes, toasted until crispy
3 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional, but worth adding)
4 cloves garlic, minced
One 15oz can cannellini or northern white beans
2 – 2 ½ lbs ripe tomatoes, any variety, cut into 1 inch chunks, about the same size as your croutons
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup fresh basil, torn
½ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup grated parmesan (freshly grated, if possible)
½ lb ball or log fresh mozzarella, sliced ¼ inch thick
salt and pepper

Make:
1) Toast the croutons: Heat oven to 350F. Toss sourdough cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until cubes are almost tragically crispy, tossing about half way through. You’ll be baking these again with the very wet tomato and bean mixture, so go for broke, they’ll need to be extra crispy to hold their shape and texture. Transfer to a large bowl.

2) Prep your baking pan: Leave the oven at on at 350. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray (or grease with butter if you’re feeling feisty).

3) Beans + Tomatoes become best friends: Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a deep saucepan and add the garlic and pinch of pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, for barely 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Toss the beans and thyme in the garlic oil until well coated. (You could stop here and just eat this, really…)  Add the chopped tomatoes and toss together. Cook together for about five minutes, until tomatoes are warmed through.

4) Make a big hot mess: Carefully toss the tomatoes and sourdough croutons with the basil, parsley, parmesan. Add salt and pepper as needed (remember, you’ll have already salted the croutons and the parm adds some kick, so you may not need very much.

5) Bake said hot mess:  Transfer hot mess into the prepped baking dish. Top with the mozzarella slices and bake for about 40 minutes, until it’s all bubbling and the cheese is starting to crisp. Let this settle for about 5-10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

mary bee’s marinated eggplant with balsamic vinegar + basil

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There’s a point every summer when the garden is far enough along and there are countless round, green tomatoes of all sizes weighing down unruly six foot-tall-plants. In that moment, I wonder why I thought we’d never have enough tomatoes or zucchini and I was convinced it was a solid idea to plant just one more seedling because we “have room!” I am very much my father’s daughter in this respect and I have to laugh at myself every year, thanking him from 130 miles away that I inherited his ability to max out whatever it is I’m doing. Tomatoes, especially. There will be time for us to talk about tomatoes soon enough. Today, we really need to talk about is this delightful and painfully easy marinated eggplant dish. All you need to do is make it to the market this week and find a fresh, young eggplant and heaps of fresh basil (or perhaps you already have some of both growing and at the ready). Don’t forget to pick up a good loaf of crusty bread because you’ll need that, too.

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This marinated eggplant is one of those recipes my mom always puts together when there’s an extra eggplant laying around the ‘frigo (that’s normal, right?). It’s sort of a staple – it’s always around and it’s always so, so good. Most of all – it reminds me of home. You have my Ma, Mary Bee, to thank for this.

UntitledThis usually makes an appearance on Sunday afternoons when my sister and I are both in the same place at the same time – an unfortunately rare occurrence these days as our adult lives keep us mostly in opposite time zones. We spend hours around our parents’ kitchen table in sweats and last night’s hair, talking about nothing and everything, eating obscene amounts this layered balsamic-y, garlicky, magical eggplant, among other marinated, grilled, roasted, and cured odds and ends. And bread, because… carbs are holy. Although home is not really that far away, this is one of those recipes that reminds me… Ma always knows best. Untitled

Make this – and if you can stand it – give it 24 hours to marinate. You might not be able to contain yourself, though, so no judgement here. The eggplant makes great for a quick before-dinner snack with a glass of wine, or in a larger serving with more bread can make for a great lunch on it’s own. Pair it with roasted red peppers and some cheese for a quick sandwich or as part of an antipasti tray for a weekend get-together. It’s incredibly versatile, but equally as delicious on it’s own.

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Recipe for Mary Bee’s Marinated Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar + Basil 

Note: The measurements of oil and balsamic vinegar for this recipe are really subjective. You’ll need to at least a hefty drizzle to coat both sides of your eggplant for roasting, but for the marinade portion of the recipe, the balsamic and oil ration is really up to you. I prefer a pretty well-marinated eggplant so that each slice is easily recognizable as such, but that it’s easily spread onto bread. Garlic is also easily scaled up or down, depending on your preference for the zip of fresh cloves. You could also opt to roast the garlic with the eggplant if that is more to your liking. If you have the grill fired up, you could also throw the well-oiled eggplant on instead of for an extra dose of Summer.

Ingredients:
1 medium to large eggplant, as fresh as possible
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, at least a half cup
Balsamic vinegar, at least ¼ cup
1 cup fresh basil, torn into large pieces
2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed

Make:
1) Preheat oven to 425F.

2) Slice: Slice eggplant: into ¼ – ½ inch rounds, as evenly as you can. Rotate eggplant as you’re cutting to help keep the slices at an even thickness.
Salt: Spread eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. You may need to do layer up the slices depending on the size of your colander and that’s and that’s ok. Let sit for about 15 minutes while your oven heats.

Note: If you end up with an eggplant that has a lot of seeds when you cut it open, let it sit for an extra 10 minutes. The salt will help draw out any bitterness the seeds impart on the fruit. Smaller, less seedy eggplants need less time.

3) Roast: Dry any moisture on your slices and arrange on a stainless steel sheet pan.

Note: I usually need two pans for one eggplant, so if you only have one just do this in two batches. Don’t overcrowd your pan.

Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle on both sides and black pepper on one. Roast for 25 minutes or so until slices are slightly browned on each side, flipping halfway through.

Note: You can also opt spray your pan if you’re worried about stickage. Just keep an eye on ‘em and they’ll be fine.

When eggplant are finished roasting, let them sit for about 10 minutes to slightly cool. You want them to be warm when you marinate, but not fresh out of the oven hot.

4) Layer It Up: Choose glass or ceramic container or bowl that can double as storage, especially if you’re going to wait to eat this until the next day. Ideally, one with a tight fitting lid. I like to give the whole mess a few good shakes at the end.

Start with a swirl of olive oil and a little of the vinegar. Nestle in a few slices of eggplant; you can pack tightly here. Sprinkle with a bit of garlic and basil. Top with a bit more olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Repeat the layers until you’ve used all of your eggplant, top with one last drizzle of balsamic, cover and give a good shake or three.

If you’re sure how much vinegar to use, err on the light side. You can always add more.

Store this for up to a week in the ‘frigo, but it won’t last that long.

first harvest + karma carrots with tarragon + cumin

Oh hey there – did you forget about me? I hope not. The month of May was a quiet one in the kitchen… all of the exciting action really been in the backyard garden. Over the past few weeks, most (ok… all) of our time was invested in figuring out how to maximize the amount of food we can grow this summer. Who needs a lawn when I can have unreasonable amounts of tomatoes, squash, and eggplant? Who wants to grocery shop in her backyard? This girl.

To achieve the dream, we added a few new raised beds to accommodate more leafy greens like red russian and lacinato kales, red and green cabbage, carrots and rainbow chard. We also have five types of tomatoes, french breakfast radishes, golden beets, yellow squash, yellow zucchini, and two types of eggplant and a bunch of herbs.

french radishes

Seriously – it’s been so long since I’ve written to you that we’ve already pulled our first bunches of radishes and kale. We have all sorts of things planted, tangled, and hanging, and soon enough – with any luck – we’ll be overflowing with homegrown goodness.

red russian + lacinato kales

The most difficult growing challenge this year has been coaxing our our carrot seeds to sprout. I’m not sure if it’s because we sowed them outside just a hair (hare!) too late – or if the birds in our neighborhood are mindlessly confused about which seeds are for them and which are seeds are off limits. I’m really trying to give them the benefit of the doubt…

carrots + tarragon

So – in an effort to put a little good karma into the universe towards our carrot growing – I’ve come up with an insanely simple recipe I hope you’ll make and present at the alter of the carrot gods. I made this a few times and enjoyed it very much. It’s another of those recipes born out of whatever I had on hand and ended up in the rotation.

Honestly, cumin and tarragon are not a combination I would have immediately put together.Tarragon and carrots, yes… Cumin, orange juice, and carrots… yes. Combine whatever I have because I need to make a roasted vegetable side dish to finish dinner in 20 minutes or I will be inconsolably hangry? Absolutely! Tarragon adds a lovely sweetness and cumin adds a little bit of warm, subtle spice. Adjust the amounts according to your preferences, either way, you’ll be happy.

roasted carrots with cumin + tarragon

If you’re not a fan of cumin, you could easily leave it out, but be a little adventurous. You could also replace the carrots (or add to the pan) with  parsnips, beets, radishes or a combination of most any root vegetable. If you have some dry tarragon, you can use that, too.

There are endless possibilities here – the roasted carrots make for a hearty but healthy side dish to grilled chicken or hold their own over herbed quinoa dressed with some tahini. Go crazy – you get the idea.

Recipe for Roasted Carrots with Cumin + Tarragon:

Ingredients:
8-10 medium carrots, washed and peeled if desired
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped (1 ½ tablespoons dry tarragon if substituting.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch kosher salt to taste

Make:
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prep a casserole dish with a little cooking spray (or brush with a little  extra olive oil).
2. Slice carrots into one inch wide coins – or an angle, if you’re feeling fancy. Rough chop the tarragon.
3. Toss carrots, cumin, tarragon, and salt with the olive oil and pour into dish.
4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are soft when pierced with a knife.

 

a tale of two tarts

I don’t have a recipe to share with you today. What have is a tale of two tarts.

This is the story of the tart I thought I was making and the tart I ended up with.

This entire misadventure was based on a very short window of time: the end of ramp season. Those of us nerds who pay attention to these sorts of things know that for a few short weeks in the spring in the Great Lakes to the Northeast and down Appalachia way, these wild leeks, garlicky and delicate, pop up in the woods near the streams, on the mountain sides, and under the beech trees.

I was surprised to find them still readily available and reasonably priced from more than one vendor at our neighborhood farmers’ market this past Saturday. In early April, Mr. Husband and I went down to his hometown in southwestern West Virginia and his Uncle Kenny took us for slightly off-road trip to see if we could find any in the wild. I I guess that means we … foraged? They foraged. I protected the water bottles and snacks from… no one in the middle of nowhere.

wild ramps

The ramps we (they) found were early and small and super pungent. They were tough to spot so we were lucky. Here’s my obligatory PSA: On the off chance you ever end up searching the woods for your own, remember that these little beauties are wild and rare. Harvest only a few, be gentle, and leave plenty behind to keep the patch healthy. I learned from one of the farmers that ramps only flower and seed every eight years, so they are pretty special.

wild ramps

If you’ve never had a ramp before or live out of their range, their flavor is a combination of onion and garlic and earth. They are at the same time sweet and strong, pungent, and soft. The bulb is assertive raw but mellows when cooked in olive oil or butter. The delicate leaves inflate and soften dramatically in a hot pan. Basically, they are a little bit of wild amazing.

Because I again lucked into ramps yesterday at the market, I thought I’d try one of the honorable mention recipes that didn’t make the first cut last month – this one from Saveur

ramp + mushroom + goat cheese tart

Goat cheese, lemon zest, thyme, oyster mushrooms, and ramps tucked into a flaky, innocuous puff pastry … it sounded absolutely perfect for a light spring dinner. Brilliantly, instead of picking up the dough on the way home from the market, I thought – well hell, this day seems perfect for a project! Obviously, I thought it best to make my own tart crust. The dough adventure started with me having to make my own confectioner’s sugar (good news – it can be done!) and ended with the crust spending an absurdly long stay in the oven. It was dead before I filled it, but I was committed. I even have one of those neat tart pans where one can push the bottom up and voila – a perfect tart!

Or, in this case… voila! It’s stuck! But… it’s still pretty gorgeous, right? At least we have that.

ramp + mushroom + goat cheese tart

Oh – also… these oyster mushrooms? Stunning. I have my friend Sarah to thank for these.

oyster mushrooms

In the end, we scraped the super delicious filling off onto plates and ate while standing. It wasn’t the worst of times by any stretch… but maybe next time I’ll remember that massively overcomplicating something does not always improve it. And I might not end up hungry again at 10pm.

Fini.

zippy spring quinoa, greek-style.

greek oregano, first of the season

In English, the French culinary term “mise en place” roughly translates as “put into place.” Read your recipe thoroughly. Gather your ingredients. Chop, dice, organize, and prepare. To put it another way –  “get your shit together.”

I raise my hand and hold my head in shame and admit that I often completely ignore the wisdom this endlessly useful concept. Sometimes outside of the kitchen, too, so let’s please not talk about my junk drawer at work.

A familiar scene around dinner time is as follows: me, part way through a recipe with a vague plan for changes and substitutions, pots boiling, and timers reminding me that very soon I’ll have charcoal briquettes instead of roasted this or that. [side note: vegetable ash. why?] Some ingredients are chopped while others are still waiting to be washed, opened, or even acknowledged, really. I know it’s bad when the Kitchen Assistants start to circle my feet like carrion birds, scooping up any morsel hastily flung overboard by my uncoordinated and sporadic activities up top.

Listen, I won’t cop to being totally disorganized, but I will say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of pleasure I take in the end result of whatever the endeavor and the level of sanity I arrive with at the end. Cooking included.

lemon vinaigrette

Enter this lovely recipe for a zippy spring Greek-style quinoa. A dish greater than the sum of it’s pieces and parts where there is no glory to be had for any single one on it’s own, because it is simply a dish of great combination. And it is even better the next day. Warm quinoa soaks up a tangy lemon and oregano vinaigrette and is tossed with garbanzos, zucchini, summer squash, greek olives, marinated artichoke hearts, feta, and bright springtime happiness.

If you can mise en place your life the night before and put this together for lunch the next day, I bet you’ll start looking at that junk drawer and wondering how life would be if *maybe* you just threw out all the pens that no longer work. Make this on a Sunday night and Monday just might treat you just a little better than you expect!

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

If you can REALLY get your shit together and do the light chopping, measuring, organizing, and thinking this recipe requires before you even begin, well, then I think we might just be on to something here.

greek quinoa + lemon vinaigrette

Recipe for Spring Quinoa with Artichokes, Olives, and Feta

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp good olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1 small yellow summer squash, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained + quartered
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled and divided (or more to taste)
1/2 – 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (use amount to taste)
2 tsp lemon zest (reserved from lemons below)
1 tbsp fresh greek oregano, chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt + pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice (about two very juicy lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh greek oregano, minced
1 tbsp red onion, minced

Notes: This dish can be served room temperature or warm and makes for some pretty killer lunch leftovers. If you prefer it warm, cook the quinoa in a larger pot and complete the last steps there.

Make:
1)   Make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small Mason jar or other sealable container. Shake like crazy until the lemon and olive oil have emulsified. Set aside. Pro-tip: let the minced onions hang out in the lemon juice for about 10 minutes before combining with the rest of the ingredients. This will help take the edge off of a super strong onion.

2)   Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Or, combine 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cut the heat to very low for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3)   In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over medium high. Be careful not to let the oil smoke. Add the smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Fry the garlic for about five minutes, until it is just starting to turn golden brown. It helps to tip the pan to submerge the garlic, but this should be done VERY carefully – don’t tip too far! You do not need a grease fire in your life. Remove set these tasty nuggets aside. After they’ve cooled, mince.

4)   Add the summer squash and zucchini and cook for about five to six minutes.  Season with just a bit of salt and some pepper. Add garbanzos and cook until warmed through. Squash and beans should begin to have a bit of color, but should still be firm.

5)   In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, and the squash and garbanzo mixture. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, most of the feta cheese, the fried garlic, and the lemon zest. Add up to a cup of the dressing. Start with a half a cup, and add more to your liking. Toss gently together. Toss, not mash. (You can do it, Hulk!)

6)   Top generously with more feta, the minced oregano and parsley.

dyed eggs, naturally

dyed eggs, naturally

This time last year I was in the manic, list making and losing, insanely detail-oriented home stretch. I was surrounded by semi-organized-but-mostly-completely-unorganized chaos trying to make a hundred decisions a day. Had we decided on a final menu? What shade of yellow shoes should my sister wear with a still-to-be-determined shade of grey? Wait… did I buy shoes? Hey! Let’s completely change the colors, ok? The novelty of bridal magazines and planners and boards had worn thin and admittedly all I wanted to do was have a quiet meal at home with some trash T.V. and not have to think, period.

Mr. Husband and I are coming up on our first wedding anniversary – eee! I sort of can’t believe it. My dress is still hanging in our guest closet and we still haven’t dealt with some boxes of decorations. But who cares?! We’ve been enjoying the last year traveling, improving our little nest, celebrating unions and new life with friends and family. It’s all been really wonderful and I’m thankful to know the incredible people in my life.

For some reason the Easter season is always very exciting to me. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that newness that comes with the season: the grass waves it’s tiny blades just a little taller to let us know it really didn’t give up and birds are warbling again in the early morning hours (riiiiight outside our bedroom window, yay!).

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I am always the first one to get excited to dye eggs. Sometimes, I’m the only one. I’m quite the traditionalist when it comes to certain things that ‘make’ a holiday and Easter eggs are hands down one of my favorite holiday messes to make. As we’ve gotten older, it’s become less of a big deal to my parents and sister and Mr. Husband never really cared one way or another. This is most likely because they are functional adults and I will most likely never really grow up. My mother can attest to my penchant for acting nonchalant about it all, and then caving for eleventh hour dye marathons the night before. I mean… EASTER EGGS ARE SO FUN! It’s tradition, yo.

dyed eggs, naturally.

So, because we are doing our best to live on the more natural side of things, I went with the natural dye route this year. The bold, beautiful colors from natural dye sources are quite fun. After a little research and a survey of what we already had on hand, I was THRILLED to make use of some back-of-the fridge purple cabbage, red tea bags, turmeric, and beets to create four very lovely and non-toxic egg dyes.

Now, I’ll be straight with you on this: this is a teensy bit more extra work than your typical PAAS-fest in that you have to prep and boil your source material first to make the dye and then let that liquid cool. But after that investment and some overnight soakage, you’ve got some real beauties on your hands. Almost a shame to smash them up for round two of eggy goodness…

Dyed Eggs, Naturally

Recipe for Dyed Eggs, Naturally
Notes: This recipe is the result of lots of reading and advice gathering on the internets. I think it’s really important to note that the final color of the eggs is dependent on how long you keep them submerged in the dye and how saturated that dye color is. I recommend below to leave your eggs in for at least overnight, if not 24 hours for very saturated color.

You should definitely play around with adding extra source material to the lighter colors, like turmeric. Play around with red and yellow onion skins and red tea bags, too!

You should also be VERY CAREFUL with turmeric. That stuff will stain the heck out of anything it touches.

Let the eggs dry very well before handling. Some articles online recommend that you rub the eggs with vegetable oil for shine after they are dry – but I found the dye job to be a little too fragile for that.

Goods:
1 dozen white eggs, hardboiled. (you can use brown, but the resulting colors will be a little different…)
1 cup purple cabbage, chopped [blue] 1 cup beets, coarsely chopped or shredded [dark pink] 3-4 tablespoons turmeric [makes yellow] 4 bags of red tea [supposedly makes lavender, but I’d bet this depends on type of tea] 1 ¼ cups water for every source material you decide to use
4 tablespoons white vinegar or cider vinegar, divided
Old dish towels for clean up.

Stuff:
A pin
A large pot to boil the eggs
As many small sauce pots as number of different dyes you are making
As many glass pint jars or other deep, sealable containers soak eggs in overnight
Reserved egg carton for drying & storing dried eggs

Make:
Boil the eggs using your favorite method. Mark Bittman has a really great, foolproof method in How To Cook Everything and I more or less use this method every time. Bring a large pot of water to just a boil. Add two tablespoons white or cider vinegar. Use a pin to poke a hole in the broad side of each egg. Carefully lower into the boiling water and cook for 11-13 minutes, depending on your yolk preference. Run the eggs under cold water until room temp. You can do this the day before, but make sure the eggs come up to room temp before you dye them.

Make the dye:
Combine one 1 ¼ cup of water with each source material in a sauce pan.
Boil for about 15-20 minutes, until the water has become saturated with color. Your goal here is to get this dye to be a few shades darker than you’d like your final color to be. This is why I think playing with proportions is half the fun.

Strain the source material from the dye, and let cool to room temp. Save yourself a step and cool the dye in the containers you intend to use to dye the eggs.

After dye has cooled, add one tablespoon of vinegar to each liquid.

Dye the eggs:

Add room temp eggs gently to each bowl of dye.

Seal and store in the refrigerator overnight. Gently jossle each container a few times over this period of time, to make sure any pressure points (eggs touching glass) are released to make sure dye covers the entire surface of the eggs.

To remove eggs from the dye, you may find it easiest to slowly and gently drain the eggs over the sink into a strainer. I used tongs, and ended up scratching the dye. Remember, it’s a little more fragile than your typical PAAS noise.

Let the eggs dry at room temp or in the fridge, depending on how quickly you’re going to stuff them into little easter baskets and show all your friends how awesome you really are.

purple sweet potato + corned beef hash


Its no secret that I am a girl who loves projects. I have a list a mile or so long full of things to do that – surprise! – have little to do with cooking, baking, and eating (and nibbling on leftovers before they are actually left over…the term is a technicality, anyway). The big projects – finishing a bathroom reno and remodel, and building a small deck on the back of our little house – will come with time and as our sometimes limited sanity allows. The little, scaled-down projects, like: get rid of my magazine hoard (… begrudgingly, because as my dear friend Betty pointed out, “If you wait long enough, they are brand new again!”) and ordering prints of our wedding (happy almost first anniversary, Mister Husband!) are also bouncing around like tiny, aimless asteroids in our universe, knocking into my brain every once in a while.

I DO actually have a list of food projects that I’d like to tackle some day – here and there I like to throw in a little challenge, something a bit unfamiliar. For St. Patty’s day, I proclaimed to the universe – most defiantly, may I add – that “This Will Be The Year I Make Corned Beef From Scratch!”

Well, guess what? You take a big ol’ piece of meat and brine it. For four whole days. You stare at it in the refrigerator and by Day Four you’re wondering why the heck this bowl is so big and so in your way right now. And then you boil it. That’s basically it… really. True. Story.

bay leaf, juniper berries + coriander seeds

This entire “project” was underwhelming to say the least. Then again, if I had thought about it a little longer than the surge of motivation I had while at the market, I might have gone in another direction and crossed another project off the list instead of this. Fortunately, somewhere around the middle of day two – in between wondering why this bowl of raw meat stew was taking up our entire refrigerator and trying to remind myself not to forget about said raw meat stew… I remembered that the only real reason to ever make your own corned beef at home is so that you can have hash for brunch!! I mean corned beef hash is really the best part, isn’t it? It’s the entire point. (I mean, unless you have some rye, good mustard and a meat slicer…but even then…)

This little hash I threw together differs from the standard diner fare by subbing regular spuds for purple sweet potatoes roasted first with thyme, salt + pepper. The roasted purple sweet potatoes are pretty great on their own, and you could completely skip the corned beef for a vegetarian option, or use the potatoes as a side dish to accompany countless other things. Would it be overselling if I said you could totally just eat them on their own and that you could absolutely roast these the day before to cut hash time by a half an hour? Maybe. But probably not.

thyme-roasted purple sweet potatoes

Top the hash with a gorgeous, runny poached egg and remember that the cramped fridge and nightmares of submerged meat pieces spilling into your vegetable drawers were all worth it.

Recipe for Purple Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs
Note: For the homemade corned beef, I used Michael Symon’s recipe for Nitrate-Free Corned Beef from his book, Carnivore. The recipe for the hash is loosely based on his recipe from the same book, mostly for measurements and proportions of ingredients.

Serves 3-4

Roasted Purple Sweet Potatoes
Goods:
3 cups purple sweet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces. About three small or two larger.
1 tsp fresh thyme, rough chopped
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp good, fruity olive oil
1 tsp each salt and black pepper

Make:
Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the sweet potato pieces, olive oil, chopped thyme, salt + pepper in a large bowl until well coated.

Pour into a 9×13 roasting dish, with the thyme sprigs on top for about 40 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. Check about halfway through and toss if needed. Sweet potatoes are done when a knife slides through easily.

Hash:
Goods:
1 tbsp olive oil, butter, or ghee
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
3 c roasted purple sweet potatoes from recipe above
small bunch kale, any kind, cut in 1 inch pieces
8-10 oz nitrate-free corned beef, shredded, homemade optional
2 tbsp fresh parsley
3-4 large, organic eggs, depending how many you’re feeding.
water
splash of white or cider vinegar

Make:
Fill a small sauce pot with a few cups of water and a splash of the vinegar. Heat over medium heat until the point of barely boiling. You want bubbles and movement, but not a rolling boil. Keep at this point but out of the way until the very end.

Heat oil, butter or ghee in a deep-sided skillet over medium heat.
If using the red pepper flakes, add to the oil or butter and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add onions. Cook until slightly clear – about 5 minutes.
Season lightly with bit of salt and black pepper. Go light on the salt, since the meat will add some at the end.
Toss in the minced garlic and cook for a minute or so more, until fragrant.
Next, toss in the roasted sweet potatoes and mix thoroughly with the onions and garlic. Cook for about five minutes and then toss in the kale.
Cook the whole mess until the kale is tender but still has a bite left. Don’t let it mush!
Throw in the beef, mix well, turn to medium low and cover until the meat is warmed through.

Poach the eggs:
Note: This is my most favorite, and foolproof method to poach eggs. Don’t overcrowd the pot, give the eggs room to breathe. You may need to do this in two batches. Cook a little longer for firmer yolks, although breaking the egg and swirling the yolk around the hash underneath is basically the best thing ever.

Carefully crack an egg into a small bowl. Repeat.
Gently lower the egg into the barely boiling water & vinegar one at a time.
Poach for four minutes.
Rescue your eggs with a slotted spoon and add let rest on a clean kitchen towel until ready to plate.

Top your hash with an egg and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Gently break the egg, grab some coffee, and the newspaper and enjoy!

eggs + kale with lentils

eggs + kale with lentils

Guys. All that snow I was looking for? Welllll I owe the universe a big one. The past two weekends have been a hot snowy mess. Let me just state for the record that we have used and abused these snowy weekends to take a complete vacation from any form of balanced eating. Homemade pizza made an appearance TWO WEEKENDS IN A ROW. We had a board game brunch with some of our best friends and I made a beautiful chorizo and scallion strata. Eggs! Sausage! Cheese! Sourdough! Heavy Cream! Roasted potatoes on the side! Mimosas!? Yes. It’s all been very grand.

It’s like we’ve been part of some vegetable austerity program. “No please, no vegetables. We couldn’t possibly… that would just be too much…”

Mr. Husband and I are going to try and change it up for a few weeks and live on the edge with some healthier eating. Perhaps we’ll be able to atone for the sins of our carb addicted souls. Normally, I try to make Sunday breakfast a little extra fancy. You know, because it’s Sunday and tomorrow we go back to work and get on our little hamster wheel until we jump off next weekend just as our minds are about to explode. If you’re anything like me, you spend Friday night in a self-imposed mental decompression chamber shoving your brains back into your ears. Saturday, you are busy with friends and plans and chores and projects. And then there’s Sunday, wonderful, glorious, quiet Sunday. Breakfast/brunch on this day is a sacred thing. It should be a celebration of freedom, an homage to time well spent. Luxe and delicious and carefree (see ingredients of: Game Day Strata of Tasty Heaven above.).

Today, however, we step back a bit because, you know, balance is key. I didn’t even make coffee (seriously, it’s fine. I haven’t cut anyone yet…) but instead made some Jamaica Rooibos tea that I am currently obsessed with.

jamaican rooibos tea

Instead of some elaborate recipe with four types of dairy and seventy-two instructions, I tempered my ambitions and made a simple dish of scrambled eggs and kale with some warm lentils on the side.

Humble, utilitarian, and absolutely tasty. Exactly what we need to keep us happy on Sunday as we relish in the slowness of the day.

eggs + kale

Normally, eggs and lentils wouldn’t cross my mind as a dynamic duo, but as I thought more about it, my smarty pants self finally saw the connection. Lentils and kale go famously together. Lentils with shredded kale (or fresh spinach in a pinch) is one of my most favorite soups. Eggs and greens are always a good match. So, let’s make this a party and invite everyone!

Recipe for Eggs + Kale with Lentils

Notes:

Most often, I use dry lentils but I always keep a can of pre-cooked lentils in the pantry for a super fast & healthy addition to pasta, soup, or just to eat by themselves with salt and pepper if I’m really pressed for time. Some markets also sell them vacuum-packed near prepared food section.

This recipe is super simple that it almost doesn’t require a recipe. Both the eggs and the lentils come together pretty quickly, the lentils more so than the eggs. You could possibly make them at the same time with two pans, but I don’t like to wash dishes so I made the eggs first. If using canned lentils, drain and rinse first and set aside

Goods:

For the Eggs + Kale:

1 tbsp olive oil or butter

4 organic, free range eggs

1 tbsp water or milk (or cream, or sour cream depending on how decadent you like your eggs)

2 scallions, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic chopped (optional, to taste)

2-3 medium sized leaves lacinato kale, tough stems removed and chopped into bite sized pieces (about a scant cup total)

salt & pepper

 

For the Lentils

1 tbsp olive oil

1 15 oz can pre-cooked lentils, preferably organic and low sodium

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

a few splashes of red wine vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

 

Make:

Eggs + Kale:

  1. Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet.
  2. Gently beat the eggs with water or other liquid. Incorporate air, but don’t over-mix. Set aside.
  3. Saute scallions with a pinch of salt for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two more, until fragrant but not brown.
  4. Add chopped kale and mix thoroughly with garlic and scallion. Cook for a 3-4 minutes until kale is slightly wilted and bright in color. You want the kale to keep a little bit of it’s bite to contrast with the softness of the eggs.
  5. Add egg and gently scramble until just done.

 

Lentils:

  1. Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet (make it easy on yourself and use the same one!)
  2. Add the lentils, salt and pepper to taste and saute until warmed through.
  3. Add a few splashes of red wine vinegar and cook for 1-2 minutes more to round out flavor.
  4. Pair with eggs and enjoy!

 

 

lemon + eggplant risotto…namaste.

lemon + eggplant risotto

Generally speaking, I consider myself a girl who loves winter and everything about it: endless, frozen nights when the our city is firm and quiet, the eerie cracking of frozen, bare limbs reminding us that we’re not the only ones waiting for the frost to break. Sweaters. Tea. Scarves. Red noses and extra trips to the coffee during those long work days when daylight seems to hide for days on end. I particularly love January to the end of March. The gray days are the perfect time for Sunday sauce + meatballs, pasta bakes, spicy shakshuka or chilaquiles for brunch, a few stews and definitely a few roast chickens.

Winter in Ohio is distinctly different beast depending on where in our lovely state you live. Here in the middle lands, we’ve had a gray, boring season. We’re underwhelmed at best while we jealously read the weekly forecast for the Northeast. Winter hasn’t given us anything about it to love this year. We’re cranky and basically over it. Ok, that part about wanting 35 inches of snow… that might just be me.

So – instead of being a crabby, restless mess and ordering lots of pity pizza… I started taking a yoga class! Three days a week! FREE AT WORK. I’d be stupid not to take it, right? Quite honestly, I can’t really move right now because I’m sure I’ve done EVERYTHING wrong, but that’s ok. It’s creating a little crack in this gray funk and I’m already feeling better. Small changes lead to big changes. Or something. I quite remember exactly what the new-agey yogi was talking about today, but it was something to that effect. Maybe one day I’ll be able to pay attention instead of wondering if I’ll be able to unfurl my sad, inflexible body in time for my next meeting.

In addition to getting some zen in my life, I’ve also started to make a concerted effort to actually use our cookbooks. We’ve got so many wonderful ideas quietly fill this shelf and it’s a shame that we’re letting them collect dust. Some of the newest are wedding presents from our dear, wonderful, and amazing friends Tom + Molly who live far, far away in Madison, WI and are probably having a much more exciting snow adventure than we are.

One of their gifts, “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi, is absolutely amazing and full of bright, happy vegetables! (Even if you don’t buy this book – next time you’re at the bookstore or library, go look at it… it’s beautiful. You go to the library, right? I’m blinking at you.)

As I was paging through, I realized I was craving the newness of spring but not ready to give up the ghost with winter quite yet. And then… there it was, right in front of me. The perfect bridge between these gray days and the coming of spring: lemon + eggplant risotto. Creamy, warm rice, cooked in olive oil and onions, slowly swirled with increments of good broth, good cheese and lemon juice and zest… oh my! It’s warm and comforting but fresh and vibrant. Heavy enough to be comfort food, but bright enough to really let the eggplant, basil and lemon shine. There is hope!

What I find clever about this risotto is the duo of eggplant: one oven-charred, one fried in olive oil. The oven-charred eggplant adds a deep creaminess to the rice, and the fried bits remind me how little adornment eggplant really needs to be a delicious little devil. Pair this with fresh basil, lemon zest and good pecorino Romano (…use Locatelli and don’t ever say I didn’t give you good advice). I mean, can you really go wrong with this? I think not.

Many simple combinations of delicate vegetables and aromatics will result in a very nice dish. I’ve had wonderful risottos with fresh peas, asparagus, and cheese. The traditional risotto Milanese (from Milan) is winter comfort food, for real: saffron, beef broth, butter or lard, cheese, and saffron (swoon) Something earthy like mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes and maybe a bit of thyme would be wonderful, too, I’d bet. Find a few things that play nice, and let them shine.

So, let’s back up just a bit. When I’m reading cookbooks, I’m not looking to follow a recipe to the final letter. I look at cookbooks as more inspiration for method, flavor combinations, and interesting tidbits about regional histories – those sorts of things. That being said, my method is not exact, or in perfect lockstep with any recipe, so work with the ambiguous nature of these directions and don’t be afraid to experiment.

To make a risotto – you’ll need about a scant cup of Arborio rice (there are other varieties, but this is easiest to come by in my opinion) and about 3.5-ish cups of warm broth. Gently cook the onion in some olive oil or butter, add some garlic and a heavy splash of white wine until it’s all absorbed. You can add most of your other add ins like, peas, mushrooms, here and stir for a few minutes. Add the Arborio and the broth about a ladle full at a time (… a heavy half cup, perhaps…) and stir until the broth is absorbed. This is the most important part. The time you invest here is worth it. Don’t rush it – let the grains and broth do their thing. Plan for about a half an hour here. Repeat this until the grains are al dente (a little bite left to them) and stir in cheese, maybe more butter, any lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Sprinkle with herbs and a little more cheese and done.

The oven-charred eggplant from Ottolenghi’s recipe was added towards the end with the lemon juice, zest, and cheese. The fried bits were served on top. I continue to be in love with it.

I will definitely be revisiting this recipe in the warmer months to come, when the eggplant and basil are ready in the garden…

Speaking of spring… our seed catalog is ready for a good read … I think I’ll stack it on the top of that reading pile. We should probably get on that whole gardening thing. We’ll talk about that some day.

Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em. Or, Pantry Soup No. One

Pantry Soup No. One

Cooking, eating… it’s kind of my thing. I’d even say it could vy for number one top hobby of mine if it had to arm wrestle photography in a dark, soggy bar after an unreasonable amount of hard liquor.

Needless to say we grocery shop – ALL THE TIME. I haven’t even tried to write down what we spend on food because it is probably a very ridiculously high number – something shameful that other women might spend on shoes.

To me, the grocery store (or the farmer’s market in better weather) is a wonderfully overwhelming realm of possibility. I am driven to  buy all of the things all at once to make every recipe I’ve ever written down, thought of, saved, or read about otherwise. This tendency is also reflected in my Pinterest page and, should you dare to venture into my digital hoard, you have proof positive of ideas wrapped with good intentions. (I am quite sure I am not the only one with a board for ONLY mac & cheese recipes… right?) To be fair, I have the same sort of issue with cookbooks, all of which currently doing their best to peacefully co-exist with my husband’s record collection. He’s perfect and wonderful and we have a quiet, if not completely unspoken understanding that we will, in fact, enable the other to add to our respective collections by exercising minimal judgement. But, I digress…

Long story short – If I don’t walk in to the market with a list and a plan, all bets are off and I end up with a random collection of ingredients that inevitably require me to go buy MORE stuff later in the week to cobble together a meal. While I am organized in meal planning, I will admit to being more than a bit scattered in the execution of the game plan.

At some point, it always comes to pass that I have a pantry and vegetable drawers full of odds and ends: sad carrots, kale that might be so sad and forgotten that it’s ready to give up and juice itself, and maybe a questionable onion or two (…if I just cut this weird gray part off – it’s totally fine, right? Don’t judge me.)

Enter one of my most-often made meals (and actually one of my favorites): Pantry Soup! It’s humble and filling, warm and reassuring, and the best part is that I get to be a little smug in knowing that I didn’t waste food I probably would have thrown out a couple of days later. I’m not making this sound very sexy, but trust me… everyone needs a good dose of Pantry Soup in their lives.

The latest incarnation was a total winner. A few days ago, I was able to use up a big bunch of kale, a medium white onion, three medium carrots (skins on, for vitamins, people!) two russet potatoes (what did I say about skins… leave ‘em!) a few garlic cloves, a few herb bombs of rosemary and oregano (this is what I call summer herbs frozen in olive oil – about two tablespoons worth), celery, parsley and about four cups of chicken stock (I always have this on hand because making it is so easy, I can’t even bring myself to buy it anymore – we’ll talk about this some time.) another four or so cups of water to even it out, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and a pinch of dry oregano to round out the flavor.

Lunch! Dinner! Snack! Pantry Soup for days? I’m in love and I can’t complain… you won’t either.

xo,
M