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New Yearakkah

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With Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years Eve all falling within the same week during this past holiday season, Canuck and I really got into the spirit of things. It was the day before Christmas Eve and I was able to buy the last tiny 2-foot tree at Whole Foods (directly from their display, might I add) and I decorated it with our combined seven ornaments and some battery operated rainbow LED light as Canuck made massive batches of candy cane cookies (his family recipe) and rugelach. The next day, we drove the single hour – hardly enough time to listen to the entire Hamilton Mixtape – over the mountain to my parents home in Woodland; a welcome change from flying six hours to New York in a middle seat on an overpacked red eye.

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Canuck’s Christmakkah Cookies

As we passed through the bottom of Lake Berryessa, it dawned on me that this would be the first time in my unreligious lifetime that I would be celebrating the first night of Hanukkah with my dear grandmother, Mema. I knew we would be lighting her beautiful peacock-like menorah, a piece that I’ve admired for years. So much so, that I claimed it “mine” when she began packing up her home in San Diego, preparing for a move to Davis to be closer to her family. What I didn’t know is that she intended to give it to me this year, as long as I continued the tradition of lighting the candle and saying the blessing each night of Hanukkah – or, joining Canuck when he said the blessing each night as I tended to the candles.

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We made sure to light the eighth candle just before our guests arrived

To round out the holiday season, we decided to celebrate New Years Eve by throwing a fancy dinner party – the first of many dinner parties in our new home. And since New Years Eve landed on the eighth and final night of Hanukkah, I thought it would be appropriate to make gravlax for the first course. Naturally, Canuck made deliciously crispy latkes to pair with the gravlax, and also secured a tin of white sturgeon caviar that he served on homemade potato chips with crème fraîche.

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That salad, though…

I ended up eating so much food during the first course (along with the delicious appetizers that our friends brought) that I barely had enough room in my stomach for the main course: leg of lamb with Moroccan couscous, crispy roasted potatoes, and green leaf salad with apples, aged gouda, dried cranberries and roasted walnuts. Canuck – being a professionally trained chef and the best boyfriend ever – took the lead on almost everything, but I was responsible for the salad (my specialty), cocktails, and the gravlax. Since I only had three jobs, I took each one of them very seriously, especially the gravlax.

Gravlax – a Nordic dish of raw salmon cured with salt, sugar and dill – is very easy to make and costs a lot less than store-bought lox. And when done right, it’s a luxurious treat that will impress any guest. The whole process involves a few quality ingredients, about a four day wait, and a really, really sharp knife. The only real variables are the ratio of salt to sugar, the curing time and any additional flavors you choose to add to the curing mixture.

Since it was my first go at this seemingly simple dish, and this was an important occasion (the long awaited end of 2016!), I wanted to insure that I made the best version of Gravlax, using the most gratifying combination of variables. To do so, I went to Serious Eats – a trusted source of Canuck’s – and found a recipe that was developed by Daniel Glitzer after a bit of testing. I was ready to go.

Gravlax With Caraway & Coriander (serves 10+)

  • 1 (2-pound) skin-on, sushi-grade salmon fillet, pin bones removed by fishmonger
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4 TB of kosher salt, plus more for washing salmon
  • 1 TB sugar
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 or 2 large bunches of dill

Mustard-Dill Sauce

  • 3 TB distilled white vinegar
  • 2 TB roughly chopped dill fronds
  • 5 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB sugar
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a mini food processor, combine vinegar with dill, mustard and sugar, and blend until dill is very finely chopped. Add oil and blend until a smooth sauce is formed. Season with salt and pepper.

Start with a short salt water bath: fill a large bowl with cold water and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Add the salmon and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast caraway and coriander seeds in a skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind finely. In a small bowl, stir together salt, sugar, ground caraway and coriander seeds, and white pepper until thoroughly combined.

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The caraway and coriander were a nice touch

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Remove the salmon from bath and pat dry with paper towels. On a clean work surface, turn salmon skin side up and sprinkle about half of salt mixture all over, rubbing in with fingers. Arrange half the dill all over the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold salmon (and wide enough to fit a weight, like a pot of water). Set salmon skin side down on the bed of dill and rub remaining salt mixture all over top and sides of salmon. Top with remaining dill and cover with plastic, then top with a weight. I used a smaller baking dish with a pot of water on top, but you can also use canned beans or anything heavy. Place in the refrigerator.

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After chilling for one day, remove from the fridge and carefully unpack the salmon, reserving the dill. Place the salmon back in, skin-side up. Repack with the dill, cover with new plastic and set the weight back on top. Refrigerate for another 2-3 days, until the salmon is firm and sufficiently cured, then unpack the salmon and remove the dill. Gravlax can be kept refrigerated tightly wrapped in plastic for approximately 5 days after curing.

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Perfectly cured and ready to slice

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Sliced super thin and topped with a little dill

When ready to serve, remove the salmon from the fridge and place on a clean, heavy cutting board. Using a very sharp slicing knife, thinly cut gravlax on the bias. Glitzer suggests serving the Gravlax on pumpernickel bread with dollops of mustard-dill sauce (recipe above) and bits of dill. I used the last bits of leftover gravlax to try it this way a few days after New Years, and it did not disappoint. But it didn’t hold a candle (no pun intended) to the pairing of gravlax and latkes that we had on New Years Eve. Topped off with some mustard-dill sauce (a little goes a long way), and you have the most delicious mouthful of Jewishness that ever occurred. And, although not Kosher at all, the caviar certainly didn’t hurt.

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The most delicious way to ring in the New Year!

The Battle of Bacon Inferno

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I’m rarely scared by anything that involves cooking, but I was pushed to my limits this week when I just barely escaped setting my arm on fire.

As you dear readers know, I often borrow recipes from Bon Appetit. So when I received the June issue with grilled bacon on the cover, I set my sights on it. And then when my Cooking Club elected to center our next meeting around a grilling theme in lieu of pulling recipes from a selected cookbook, I immediately stated that I would be making grilled bacon. As the days passed leading up to our meeting, I read over BA’s directions on how to avoid “Bacon Inferno” several times and I felt pretty confident that I wouldn’t be setting anything (or anyone) on fire. Fortunately for me, my confidence has the ability to transform into calmness when things go south.

Sweet and Spicy Bacon Kebabs with Scallion-Ginger Relish (makes 10)

  • cooking spray (for grill)
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons sambal oelek or red chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon Sriracha
  • 10 slices thick-cut bacon 
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • ½ teaspoon light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt

Special Equipment

  • Ten 8–12-inch-long metal skewers
  • Grilling tongs
  • Grilling mitten

When picking bacon for grilling, be sure to get thick-cut slices or ask your butcher to slice it ¼-inch thick for you. Naturally, I ordered my bacon from Fatted Calf and picked it up the afternoon of the grill fest. Their bacon is particularly fatty, which made me slightly nervous (more fat = more potential for inferno), but it’s the best quality bacon I’ve ever had so I knew it would turn out great regardless. When preparing the bacon skewers, be sure to thread the bacon through the skewers like an accordion, piercing through the meatiest part in each slice.

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You can make the glaze up to a week in advance. In a small bowl combine honey, chili paste, rice vinegar and Sriracha. Transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator until use. To make the relish, combine scallions, serrano chile, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger and brown sugar in a small bowl. Season to taste with Kosher salt, seal and keep at room temperature.

Now, from someone who nearly ruined it all, my tips on how to grill bacon successfully, in order of importance:

Place it over indirect heat. I can not stress this enough. My cooking club cohort and hostess of the evening (who shall be known as Ragazza from this point forth) has a charcoal grill, which is preferred. You can also do this on a gas grill, but be sure to keep one side of it unlit. Initially we had the coals *mostly* banked on one side of the grill, with a few stragglers on the other side. I figured it would be fine like this and I began to lay down the first batch of bacon skewers.

Do not do it this way.

This is the INCORRECT way to arrange your coals and place your bacon. You will also burn the poor onions.

Turn it frequently, about every 45 seconds to a minute. One gal (who shall be known as Almond from this point forth) came out to chat with me while I was flipping the bacon skewers, and I could sense her shared nervousness about the fat drippings onto the coals. I was using tongs that were shorter than I would have liked and when I saw the flames starting to emerge in some of the coals, I asked if she could go grab me an oven mitt (which I may have to replace now). Thank you, Almond for your speedy assistance! As the flames roared up, I swiftly removed the bacon skewers from the grill while simultaneously telling Ragazza that we needed to adjust the coals for the next batch. She responded with, “you’re so calm, Kelsey.” Only on the outside.

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This is the CORRECT way to arrange your coals, with a fresh batch of onions on the side.

Patience is key. For the second batch, Ragazza helped me move some of the coals over to one side of the grill, so we were completely coal-free on the other side. I arrange my bacon skewers over the space and turned them every minute or so, moving them around the left side of the grill to get more or less heat as needed. This method definitely took longer (about 15-20 minutes) but I was VERY pleased to see that there was no inferno, and even more pleased with the results.IMG_6117

Glaze, glaze, glaze. In my first batch, I had been in such a rush to remove the bacon and keep it from burning that I didn’t have time to glaze it. So I added the glaze to the bacon off-grill (still on skewers) and cooked it for a few minutes over the new, coal-free space, turning every 30 seconds. This works better than simply glazing already-grilled bacon because you want it to caramelize a bit and work itself into the fat. Since I had plenty of time with my second batch of bacon, I really focused on the glaze and made sure to give each slice two layers per side, turning frequently so it didn’t get too crispy.

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Share it with people that you really, really like. After all, you are risking your arm hair. I kept the bacon on the skewers for serving, and generously topped it with the scallion relish. There were only five of us so each person got to have two pieces, but we all agreed that we would have ate more if it was there (because, bacon). Ragazza noted that it resembled a really nice pork belly, which I agreed with. In fact, I think you could do this with cubes a pork belly and have a similar – if not better – result. Almond thought that I should put the glaze on everything; I think I will utilize the leftover glaze and relish with some scrambled eggs or broiled salmon.

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Prior to grilling my bacon, I charred a few ears of corn to go into a salad of tomato, basil, onion, thyme and lime juice. The rest of the ladies in my group also contributed beautiful and innovative grilled vegetables to the event: lettuces and squash blossoms with Caesar dressing, cheese and bacon stuffed jalapeños, spring onions with life changing Romesco sauce (the contents of which were all grilled, except the almonds)… we were surprised yet pleased to see so many vegetables on the plate in a grilling-themed meal, and agreed that the bacon was the perfect meaty addition. Almond finished off the evening with a grilled Angel Food Cake with fresh strawberries and homemade whipped cream, which was the perfect sweet reward to battling a bacon inferno.

Asparagus Affection

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I was recently feasting on an asparagus and pea shoot salad with Canuck as I proclaimed, “I really think Spring is my favorite food season. I will be so sad when it’s over.” He quickly reminded me of the existence of tomatoes, and then I felt better. Still, I will deeply miss the abundance of perfect asparagus that I have been enjoying nearly every day for the past several weeks. Some of my favorite recent renditions of asparagus include: a delicious Fatted Calf sandwich with prosciutto, ricotta and lemon oil; fired up over a charcoal grill with sea salt and cracked pepper; blanched and served with a simple lemon aioli; and shaved with Parmigiano, Meyer lemon, poached egg and crispy lonza (thanks Oenotri for offering some fresh veggies on your brunch menu).

But my favorite asparagus-themed meal that I have come across this Spring is (of course) a Bon Appetit recipe that my mother turned me onto. I’ve had it once at the hands of my mother and have now made it twice for friends with a couple slight tweaks that I think improve on the recipe.

A sight to behold

A sight to behold

Pasta with Peas, Asparagus, Escarole and Speck (serves 6 to 8)

  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 2 TB extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzlingIMG_5533
  • ½ lb spring onions; white parts cut into ¼-inch-thick slices, pale green parts cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 TB minced shallot
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ pounds thick asparagus, cut crosswise into ¾-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shelled fresh peas (from about 2 pounds peas in pods) or 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 pound campanelle or gemelli pasta (I prefer the locally made Baia pasta)
  • 1 head of escarole, cored, leaves cut into ¾-inch-wide slices
  • 1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano plus additional for serving
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced speck, cut crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips

The original recipe calls for butter lettuce, but I think escarole has more flavor and texture. It also calls for prosciutto – which is delicious and I encourage you to use it if you can’t find speck – but speck offers a bit of smokiness to the dish that compliments the flavors nicely (credit to Space Cadet for the suggestion).

Delicious speck from Fatted Calf

Delicious speck from Fatted Calf

I've used fresh shelled and frozen peas for this recipe and the difference is minimal

I’ve used fresh shelled and frozen peas for this recipe and the difference is minimal

Melt the butter with 2 TB of oil in heavy large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onions and shallot and sprinkle with coarse salt and cracked pepper. Sauté until tender (do not brown), about 8 minutes. Add wine; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until liquid is reduced to glaze, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to simmer; set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook asparagus until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness of asparagus. After 2 minutes add the peas and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer asparagus and peas to large bowl of ice water. Drain vegetables and set aside.
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Return water in pot to boil. Cook pasta until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, reheat onion mixture. Add drained asparagus and peas and stir until heated through. Then add pasta, 1 cup Pecorino Romano, escarole and parsley. Toss to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by the ¼ cup if dry. Once the pasta has reached your desired consistency, add the speck and taste for seasoning, adjusting if needed.

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Transfer pasta to large shallow bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Serve, passing more cheese alongside. This dish pairs nicely with a medium-bodied red blend, a Provençal style Rosé, or a coastal Chardonnay.

Salade Lyonnaise

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The other night I had some girlfriends over for dinner to celebrate Space Cadet’s birthday. Initially, Space Cadet just wanted to pick up some Taco Bell (has anyone tried the new quesalupa??), but my friend – who shall be known as Georgia from this point forth – and I were able to convince her to elevate the menu a little. I realized that I had all the necessary ingredients for a Salade Lyonnaise, which is basically a fancy breakfast salad. It’s pretty hard to screw up, as long as you nail the poached egg. Luckily for me, I assigned the egg poaching to Space Cadet and since she is a perfectionist they turned out wonderfully.

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Salade Lyonnaise (serves 4)

  • 1 lb of small fingerling potatoes (try the “Teeny Tiny Potatoes” from Trader Joe’s), halved
  • 3 TB olive oil, divided
  • 2 TB dry sherry
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 TB whole grain mustard
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Crunciferous Crunch Collection
  • 1 lb bacon, roughly chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tsp white vinegar, divided
  • 1 TB chopped preserved lemon peel (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the potatoes in 1 TB olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them flat side down on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping them half way through.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a medium jar or bowl, combine 2 TB olive oil, sherry, shallot and mustard. Season with salt and pepper then whisk to combine. Set aside to let flavors meld.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Add bacon and cook, tossing often, for about 10-15 minutes or until your desired doneness. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain some of the fat.

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Divide the dressing equally into four shallow bowls. Add a cup of the Crunciferous Crunch Collection to each bowl, then top with equal portions of potatoes and bacon.

With about 10 minutes left to the potatoes, bring two medium pots of three inches of water to a low boil. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar (rice vinegar also works) to each pot. Crack each egg into a small dish or ramekin (do not break the yolk). Poaching two eggs at a time (one in each pot), use a rubber spatula to make a whirlpool in the pot, then carefully slide the egg into the center of the swirl. Use the spatula to keep the whites close to the yolk, and cook each egg for about 4 minutes. Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and add to the top of the salad. Repeat with the other two eggs.

Top each egg with a touch of cracked pepper and a bit of preserved lemon. Serve and tell you’re guests to slice the egg and mix all the ingredients together, including the dressing on the bottom.

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We all went nuts over this salad. It had enough protein for a dinner, but still leaves you feeling light and healthy. If you want to lighten it up more, use fresh frisee instead of the Trader Joe’s blend (though, I swear by Crunciferous Crunch Collection). I have to give big thanks to Space Cadet for mastering the poached eggs, as the whole salad would have been ruined if the eggs were runny or overcooked – no pressure.

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I also have to give some credit to Canuck for telling me to preserve my own lemons three months ago, because I finally found an opportunity to use one! Just a bit of preserved lemon peel in this dish adds some salty bitterness that compliments the dressing well. In fact, you could probably just add it directly into the dressing. Note: if you’re going to preserve your own lemons, I recommend using Meyer lemons and incorporating 3 parts salt and 1 part sugar, plus cinnamon stick, peppercorn, whole clove and fennel seed. Once ready to use, rinse, remove the flesh, and rinse again. 

We enjoyed this salad with a Twomey Sauvignon Blanc and a Ram’s Gate Syrah – both incredibly different wines but each of them paired deliciously with the salad. In fact, I think this salad would pretty much go with anything, especially your closest silly girlfriends.

 

Give Me Umami

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About two years ago I came across a recipe for Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew in my beloved Bon Appetit. KDD and I had planned to make this detoxifying stew to cure any upcoming hangover Sunday, but some time between then and when I moved to Napa we must have become responsible adults because we were never hungover enough to make this stew. Or maybe we just kept forgetting – also a sign of getting older. In any case, I finally found an opportunity to make this savory stew last week. And although it wasn’t to cure any particular hangover, it did feel extremely detoxifying after a week of too much wine and rich food.

There are two key ingredients in this stew that give it umami: gochujang and kimchi. I had purchased a little jar of gochujang when I was doing the BA Food Lovers Cleanse last month, and I had just enough leftover for this recipe. As for the kimchi, my pickling guru – who shall be known as Canuck from this point forth – had given me half a quart of some kimchi that he made at home. I’m not exactly sure how he made it, but I know it involved fish sauce and cabbage. If you don’t have the time or equipment to make kimchi at home (or you don’t have a pickling guru to “lend” you some), you can find it at Whole Foods or any Asian market, along with the gochujang.

Reid's homemade kimchi

Canuck’s homemade kimchi

Spicy Kimchi Tofu Stew (serves 4)

    • Kosher salt
    • 1 16-oz. package silken tofu, cut into 1” cubes
    • 1 TB vegetable oil
    • 2 cups kimchi, including liquid
    • 1 ½ TB gochujang 
    • 6 scallions, cut into 1” pieces
    • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 large egg yolks

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Reduce heat, then carefully add tofu and simmer gently until slightly puffed and firmed up – about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tofu to a medium bowl and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and gochujang and cook, stirring often, for 7 minutes. Add kimchi liquid and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until kimchi is softened and translucent – about 40 minutes.

Add scallions, soy sauce, and tofu; simmer gently until tofu has absorbed flavors, about 20 minutes. Add sesame oil and season with pepper (the stew will already be salty so there is no need to add more). Ladle stew into bowls and top each with an egg yolk.

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I served this spicy soup to my pescatarian friend and her fiancé (who eats meat, and was actually able to recognize the fish sauce in the kimchi) and they both loved it. While very spicy, it’s not a burn-your-tongue spice but more of an addicting umami spice. The egg yolk does lighten it up a bit and add a touch of creaminess. Having Canuck’s homemade kimchi in my possession certainly gave me a reason to finally make this soup, but it also elevated the dish and added depth of flavor. So much so, that I am considering making my own batch of kimchi at some point! Let’s just hope I don’t push it off for two years like I did with this stew.

FLC16: Highlights from Week 1

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It’s Day 7 of my Wine and Cheese Detox and I’m going strong! I feel light and refreshed, I’m sleeping better, and I have hardly thought about cheating. I even attended a work-related wine tasting on Tuesday afternoon and spit all of the wines. But I have to admit, the feel of Napa Bordeaux blends on my lips was luscious. In continuation with my Food Lover’s Cleanse, I’ve made several delicious and healthy meals the past week:

The Chia Pudding with Pineapple and Apricot and Banana Almond Smoothie made for great breakfasts – very filling, slightly sweet, and easy to get together during a morning of multitasking. I was a little put off by the thought of it at first, but I really enjoyed the texture of the chia pudding.  I will definitely incorporate both of these into my breakfast routine.

Tofu Stir Fry

Brussel Sprout and Tofu Stir Fry

The Brussel Sprouts and Tofu Stir Fry was spicy and and hearty. I love a good stir fry, and this was recipe was pretty dynamic for so few elements. I enjoyed the crunch of the water chestnuts and the tangy spice of the gochujang – a Korean chile paste that I have been dying to use in cooking since I read about it about a year ago. I didn’t prepare the suggested rice side as directed, but I did use some black rice that I cooked with bits of ginger and topped with shredded coconut. I forgot to add furikake to the stir fry, but I remembered to include it on my leftovers the next day and it added a nice umami flavor. I would recommend this dish for a hearty vegetarian stir fry, but double up on the gochujang or add some Sriracha because it’s lacking in heat.
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Last night I made Salmon with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce and Carrot Salad with Garlicky Bok Choy. My favorite component was the carrot salad, which I didn’t make nearly enough of. I didn’t bother toasting cumin seeds and used ground cumin and turmeric instead, so it only took about 10 minutes to prepare; an easy salad to get together before heading out the door in the morning. I enjoyed the yogurt-cucumber sauce on top of the salmon, and added a bit of mint to brighten it up. Overall, this meal was flavorful, light but filling, and the flavors integrated well with each other. I used the leftover salmon filet in a lunch salad with arugula, mixed greens, cilantro, mint, cucumber, carrot, almonds and miso-tumeric dressing – yum!

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By far, the Spicy Orange Hazelnut Bark was the best thing I made all week. Since I haven’t been drinking alcohol, I find myself craving something sweet in its place. I’m not a dessert person by any means, but I can’t resist a piece of dark chocolate. Rather than munching on some hipster chocolate bars I got over the holidays, I decided to get out the double boiler and make my own bark. I’m not a huge fan of hazelnuts so I used some bittersweet chocolate with almonds from Trader Joe’s and added some pistachio pieces to the mix, which was delicious. But it was the orange zest and cayenne pepper that really pulled the bark together. I will definitely be making this on the regular, whether or not it’s a replacement for wine! Here’s to another 7 days…

Braised Moroccan Lamb Shanks with French Lentils

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In continuation with my Wine and Cheese Detox and the BAFLC, I spent the better part of my Sunday braising Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate, and I’m certainly not sorry. As the sweet smells of cinnamon and pomegranate filled my apartment, I knew I was in store for something delicious. Not to mention, I was able to use my newly purchased ceramic Dutch oven!

Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Pomegranate (serves 4)

  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 1 TB cornstarch
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  •  cups pomegranate juice
  •  cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
  • ¼ cup mint leaves

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I paired the lamb shanks with Confetti Lentils, per BAFLC suggestion. They were pretty easy to prepare as long as you have a good box shredder or shredding disc for a food processor. You should be able to find French lentils at most specialty grocery stores, but the only place I could find celery root was at Whole Foods. Turns out, it’s a pretty cool vegetable!

Confetti Lentils (serves 4)

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 medium celery root, peeled and shredded
  • 1 medium onion, shredded 
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more
  •  cups French green lentils

All in all, the lamb takes about 5 hours to prepare so it’s the perfect Sunday roast. Trim the shanks of any excess thick fat (white opaque, rough parts) but do not remove the iridescent membrane, which holds the meat together. Blend together coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, salt and pepper and rub all sides of the shanks with the spice mixture, then let rest for 30 minutes and up to overnight.

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About 30 minutes before you plan to cook the shanks, dredge in cornstarch, covering all sides of the shank. Preheat the oven to 350, then heat 2 TB olive oil in a large dutch oven. Sear the lamb shanks on all sides until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish then add onion, carrot and leek to the pot and cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits that have accumulated, for 1 minute. Add cinnamon and thyme and pour in pomegranate juice and chicken stock. Scrape pan again, then bring mixture to a simmer. Return shanks to pan and season with kosher salt and black pepper.

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Cover pot and transfer to oven. Braise 1½ hours, then check liquid level, making sure there is at least 1″ stock in pan; if not, add water or stock to bring it up to that mark. Continue braising until meat is completely tender and falling off the bone, about 2½ hours.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb shanks to a plate. Discard thyme and cinnamon stick. To serve, bring remaining braising liquid to a simmer, adding more water or stock if needed. Add the meat back to the sauce and cook until warmed through, if needed. Serve lamb pieces off the bone with some sauce and top with pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

Prepare the lentils when there is about 30 minutes left to the lamb. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add carrots, celery root, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in lentils. Pour in 3¾ cups of boiling water and bring to a boil once more. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender but retain their shape, about 25 minutes. Season with more salt, if desired. (Do not drain excess liquid; lentils remain tender better if stored in their cooking liquid.) To serve, use a slotted spoon or mesh strainer.

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The lamb was so flavorful and had the perfect balance of sweet and savory, and the yummy lentils soaked up all of the delicious sauce from the braise. I have tons of leftover lentils and plan to add them to a salad some time this week. Although the lamb took a while to cook (as all braised meats do), it was totally worth it and I know it will taste even better over the next few days. This one is definitely a repeat – next time with a wine pairing!

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