Here’s another recipe that was deep in my archives that I still absolutely love, but needed a photo makeover! This is the time of year when I am furiously trying to maximize my consumption of all things summer. The seasonal window for some of my favorite foods is just too short, especially tomatoes. In my classes July through September, I always feature at least two recipes with the beloved tomato and I beg everyone to enjoy them while they last because fresh tomatoes won’t be appearing in my kitchen until the following summer.Continue reading
I’m in the home stretch, friends. Manuscript is due on Monday which means that, although I love hanging out with you, we’re going to have to make this visit quick today because I have a boatload of writing to finish. Although if my editor is reading this post, have no fear, I am totally on schedule! 😉
If you read my last post, you know that we haven’t gone out for Mother’s Day in several years and this Sunday will be no different. Truth be told, I couldn’t be happier for several already mentioned reasons. I am, however, definitely not cooking on Sunday, but instead leaving that to the men for this one and only day. But if I were cooking, I would make these fabulous savory muffins and serve them with a very veggie frittata. Can you tell I am pushing a low-glycemic agenda this week?
Have you ever had too much sugar and carbs at brunch that the entire rest of the day you just felt “off?” Done it, hate it. I always have a hard time bouncing back after starting the day with chocolate chip French toast, a blueberry crumb muffin, fruit salad and a mimosa. No, friends, that is not a balanced meal. Instead, I make a concerted effort to balance out the token coffee cake with plenty of protein and hearty, savory fare.
If my husband brings in bagels, I make sure there’s wild smoked salmon and sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Yogurt gets placed next to the homemade granola and there’s always a savory egg dish of some sort. Even if I’m serving a crowd, I’ll double frittata recipes and bake them in large rimmed sheet pans. Yes, you can do that!
Muffins and quick breads are very popular for brunch, and I have several recipes on this site, but I think these with spinach and roasted peppers are so delicious and a fresh change of pace from the ones you would normally expect. They’re also fairly easy to put together. In fact, you can combine your dry ingredients the day before and have your spinach, feta and peppers prepped and ready to go, so that all you really need to do is stir everything together and bake the morning of Mother’s Day. Like most muffins, these are much better fresh out of the oven, but if you have leftovers, just store them in the fridge and warm them in the oven for a few minutes. These are also the perfect match with any egg dish, whether simply scrambled or baked in a fritatta. My most favorite frittata is this one with Swiss chard, but the one I just posted the other day with asparagus and artichokes is a close second. Certainly, these muffins aren’t just for brunch, but make a great little extra something with a bowl of soup or in the next day’s lunchbox.
In the same way I love looking at what’s in people’s grocery carts (is that creepy?), I love hearing about your menus for holidays and special occasions. Do share with me what you’re planning or what you would love someone to make for you!! Happy Mother’s Day to all you beautiful mamas!
Savory Muffins with Spinach, Roasted Peppers and Feta
Author: Pamela, adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves: makes 12 standard muffins
2 ¾ cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour (or a combo)*
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
¾ cup whole milk or unsweetened plain, hemp milk
½ cup unrefined olive oil
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 large eggs
1 cup thinly sliced spinach leaves
¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup chopped roasted red peppers or drained mild Peppadew peppers
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 standard muffin cups with unbleached parchment paper liners (or cut parchment paper squares to fit.)
Whisk flour, baking powder, paprika, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl.
Whisk milk, oil, maple syrup and eggs in a large bowl and combine well.
Add dry mixture to wet and stir until just combined. Fold in spinach, feta and peppers.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. I use a large ice cream scoop to do this.
Bake muffins until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack or eat warm. Best eaten the same day that they’re made.
*To make these gluten-free, substitute wheat flour with 2 ¾ cups King Arthur Multi-purpose Gluten-free Flour + 1 ½ teaspoons xanthan gum.
London has been amazing! Freezing, but amazing! At least we were prepared with our winter outerwear for the unseasonably cold temperatures. We have seen so much and the kids have really enjoyed it all. After our month in Europe this summer, we learned a bit about how to keep the kids engaged and not wanting to kill each other. We also learned that Mr. Picky, who is 9, has a 1 1/2 hour time limit in any museum (2 hours if he just ate breakfast.) Whatever we didn’t get to see will just have to wait until our next visit.
This week we have also booked a private guide each day, which has taken the pressure off my husband from whatever palace or neighborhood we are checking out. Besides going to many of the major sites, we also had a tour of London’s East End and its many outdoor markets, a rock tour (think The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, not One Direction), and a Shakespeare tour. All worth it and much more interesting for the kids! We are leaving London today for Chewton Glen in Hampshire. My husband visited when he was a child and loved it. I’m hoping it’s still as wonderful 30 years later and I’m hoping we make it in one piece since my husband will be driving us there. On the other side of the road. You know I’ll give you all the details either way!
Now I hope you didn’t think I was going to scamper about England this week and forget about you cooks. Rubbish! Although I’ve been tweeting what I’ve been up to and posting a few things on Facebook, I didn’t want the week to go by without something for you to try in the kitchen. Believe me, after a week of scones and mash (not at the same time, of course), I’ll be ready for a few salads like this when I return home.
First of all, if you think you hate beets, you may not hate them raw so stay with me here. This salad converted everyone who thought s/he didn’t like beets. I am fairly obsessed with chopped and grated salads. One of my favorites is my grated carrot salad with avocados and sunflower seeds. I love vegetables cut into small bits so that you get a lot of different flavors in one bite. And grated vegetables can actually be a totally different experience from their whole counterparts. This is completely true with respect to carrots. If you haven’t tried the carrot salad I just mentioned, you absolutely must!
The one thing you do need to do for this salad is go into your garage behind the piece of exercise equipment, pull out the Cuisinart box and find the medium grating disc which I’m hoping you didn’t throw out thinking you would never use it! If you did, go to the manufacturer’s website or thegourmetdepotco.com where you can buy missing or broken parts to almost any appliance. The grating disc is amazing, one of my favorite kitchen tools especially since I broke up with my mandoline. No love lost there. I use my grating disc to make very quick work of shredding cheese, onions, potatoes, zucchini, apples, cabbage, and of course carrots and beets. One tip I can give you is that many food processors give you the option of feeding your food through the wide part or the much narrower feed tube. In the case of carrots, I like to process them horizontally the wide way for longer shreds for a salad and through the feed tube for short shreds which are better for carrot cake or carrot muffins.
I was doing a Moroccan-inspired menu last month and I desperately wanted to include a carrot salad. Many Moroccan salads are too sweet for me and include dried fruit plus lots of honey in the dressing. In my opinion, carrots and beets are already rather sweet, so this salad is dressed with a cumin-orange-lemon dressing, a little tart and just a little sweet. You can leave this as grated veggies and dressing for a fab 5-minute salad or make a little extra effort and add the delightful fresh herbs which turn this into something really awesome. I eat this without feta since I’ve gone dairy-free (moment of silence), but if you can handle a little goat or sheep cheese, add it and you won’t be sorry! Either way, this is a juicy, crunchy, thirst-quenching, gorgeous salad which happens to be super nutritious and alkalizing.
I have served this salad with all sorts of fish dishes, simple roast chicken, frittatas and vegetable stew. I’m sure it would be great with lamb or grilled beef kabobs. My point is that you don’t have to be eating a Moroccan meal to enjoy this. A little heads-up about eating red beets, though. If you’ve never tried them, just be aware that when you eliminate, there will be a tinge of hot pink/red. I can’t tell you how many stories I heard of people calling their doctors or googling “hot pink poop.” On the other hand, eating beets can be a good indication of how efficient your digestive system is. If you see beets later that day or the next, things are moving nice and quickly. But if it takes 4 days for those beets to appear again, you probably need a little more fiber and water in your diet. Just a thought.
Ok, that’s all I have for today, friends. I’m leaving the hustle and bustle of London for the English countryside and hoping to make it in time for Afternoon Tea which has become my favorite way to wind down after a busy day. I know some people like a glass of wine at 5, but I’m not sure they’ve tried sitting down to tea with a warm homemade scone. Brilliant!
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (I like goat feta)(optional)
Using the shredding disc of your food processor, shred the carrots and beets. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl.
Add herbs to serving bowl.
In a medium bowl or in a screw-top jar, combine lemon juice, orange juice, sea salt, cumin, paprika and olive oil.
Pour enough dressing on top of carrot mixture to coat lightly and toss to combine. Add more if desired.
Add feta on top of salad and taste for seasoning. If you dress the salad early, the dressing will pull water from the vegetables and make a pool at the bottom of your serving bowl. You can just serve from the top or pour off some of the liquid no problem.
Salad can be dressed the day before and herbs and feta added just before serving.
For a delicious, spicy note, add about ¾ teaspoon harissa to the dressing.
While I was away last week, my husband thought it would be a great idea to refinish the cabinets in the kitchen. No wait, we might as well do all the cabinets in the entire house, he thought to himself. Why do those four words generally end up as a bad idea? Why do people think that a small project might as well be a big project? We had a simple plan. Mr. Picky and I would go back East to bring Daughter #1 to camp while my husband brought Daughter #2 to camp and we would come back a week later and my house would look like nothing had ever happened except that my kitchen cabinets would look pretty and fresh instead of beaten up because I’ve taught a hundred cooking classes in my kitchen.
Guess what? This is what my kitchen still looks like! And so does the rest of my house until who knows when. So yours truly is in a bit of a funk because she didn’t get to make and photograph the sure-to-be-adorable and tasty raspberry-blueberry-yogurt popsicles she wanted to post today for Fourth of July. Pouty face. And yours truly has been eating take-out since she returned home from Long Island on Friday night. Verrry pouty face. I’ll get to the frittata in a minute. What I’d like to discuss is takeout. I definitely struggle with finding places to eat when I do need to eat out. Fresh, organic, seasonal prepared food is not as common as you would think, even in Manhattan Beach, California. So I’ve been to Le Pain Quotidien for breakfast two days in a row and Veggie Grill for lunch two days in a row and Whole Foods for one meal. And here’s what I’ve got to say — holy $$$$$! friends. How do people eat out all the time? It’s downright unaffordable. Not only that, it’s beyond difficult for everyone to agree on what to eat. Dinner should not be a democratic decision! Seriously, the last few days have totally reinforced what I have said about cooking at home being easier, cheaper and always more healthful.
Now let’s get to the frittata, which I photographed at my house two weeks ago and again at my parents’ house last week (two different frittatas, naturally.) I was going to post this recipe next week, but like I said, my husband thought it would be nice to surprise me. Pouty face. In any event, a frittata recipe fits in perfectly with my anti-takeout sentiment. Eggs, and therefore frittatas, are an incredibly versatile and high-quality source of inexpensive protein. They are also very easy to make on the fly with whatever you’ve got in your kitchen/garden.
I prepare frittatas all year long varying the ingredients based on what’s in season. Click here for a delicious swiss chard frittata recipe. A few weeks ago, when I saw zucchini blossoms at our farmers’ market with beautiful, tender zucchini, I knew I had to make what I call “Summer Garden Frittata.” It’s the frittata I make most often in the summer and it’s really about celebrating whatever my garden or market has to offer. My family inhaled these last week. You certainly don’t need to use zucchini blossoms, especially if you can’t find them, but I think they’re so pretty and they have a nice, subtle flavor. The blossoms without a zucchini attached are the male flowers which basically just sit around the plant doing absolutely nothing while the female blossoms actually produce zucchini. Why not put those males to good use? I’m here to tell you that if you don’t find something for them to do, you never know what kind of trouble they’ll create for you.
3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), ends trimmed and sliced thinly by hand or by the slicing disk of the food processor
Fine grain sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 large eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
½ cup ricotta cheese or goat cheese or feta (optional, but I used feta in the photographs)
5-6 zucchini blossoms (optional, I used 4 large ones)
½ cup cherry tomatoes or 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 10-inch skillet, warm the olive oil. Sauté the scallions until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini slices and a generous pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir the cooked zucchini mixture into the eggs and combine well.
Place the skillet back over medium heat and add a little extra oil if the pan seems dry. Pour the egg and zucchini mixture into the pan. Arrange the zucchini blossoms on the surface of the frittata or chop and scatter on top. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the ricotta and the cherry tomatoes around the frittata. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
Alternatively, bake in a larger skillet for less time for a thinner frittata.
Or, cook gently over medium-low heat, covered until slightly set on the bottom, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is slightly puffed and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
You know I’m a fan of the do-ahead breakfast for busy (and early) weekday mornings. But holidays and weekend brunches are also the perfect time to prepare a fabulous breakfast the night before. On Christmas morning, the kids love to come down in their pj’s and see what Santa left for them and I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen missing out on all the “oohs” and “ahhs.” It’s also a great feeling to be able to relax after a late night of Christmas Eve revelry and still put a hot breakfast on the table for everyone. Breakfast strata to the rescue!
A strata is technically a layered casserole, which mine is not since I just mix everything together in a bowl and pour it into a casserole dish. This recipe is more of a savory bread pudding to which I add lots of spinach and in the summertime, ripe tomatoes. In my quest for efficiency in the kitchen, I love stratas for using up stale bread and leftover vegetables from last night’s dinner. In these photos I used a multi-seeded bread, which is not the norm for me, but we loved it. Usually I buy a whole spelt bread from Le Pain Quotidien or a rustic whole grain bread from Whole Foods. As for vegetables, you can add anything you would put in a frittata. No spinach? No problem! Take those roasted or sauteed vegetables from last night and add them here. I’ve used broccoli, cauliflower, every leafy green there is, mushrooms, zucchini and cherry tomatoes. A couple of pieces of cooked turkey bacon or sausage links sitting in the fridge? They’re welcome in this strata.
I’ve made a gluten-free strata with gluten-free bread and I’ve also made it dairy-free with hemp milk and a cashew-based cheese. Sadly, I haven’t figured out a substitute for the eggs for those with egg allergies. Don’t be afraid to freeze this, either. Provided you freeze the strata well-wrapped, it will taste exactly the same. We had about 50 people over for brunch the morning after my daughter’s bat mitzvah, and I had made and frozen several stratas 2 weeks earlier. It was such a gift to myself to just pop them in the oven the morning of and not to have to cook, especially since I couldn’t walk from dancing all night. So whether you’ve been “partying” at the shopping mall for the last few weeks or you’re just cooked out, give yourself and your loved ones this one last gift.
A great salad is part perfectly fresh and delicious ingredients and part winner dressing. And the simpler the better. But salad monogamy is not something I believe in. There shouldn't be exclusivity with salad combinations and dressings. A good vinaigrette should be able to play the field. And let me tell you, the mint vinaigrette in this recipe sees a lot of action in my kitchen.
Does it look familiar to you? If you took my class last July, you had it with a Farro, Golden Beet and Cucumber Salad. If you saw the feature in ELLE Magazine of my class at Jenni Kayne's and looked up the recipes, you saw it there, too. But what you don't know is that I have been using this dressing for years on lots of things and you will too!
Why do I love this dressing? Mint is one of my favorite herbs in both savory and sweet dishes. Combined with rice vinegar and red onion, it is fresh and tangy and I could drink this dressing with a straw, I love it so much. It is just perfect with asparagus, peas, cucumber, beets, carrots, potatoes and green beans. Here I've shown you this asparagus salad prepared two ways - either sliced and mixed with butter lettuce or whole spears drizzled with dressing. Easter is just around the corner and I think this would make a lovely light salad for brunch or a perfect complement to roast lamb for dinner.
Don't forget about how nutritious asparagus is. Asparagus is loaded with potassium, Vitamin C and folic acid, which is critical for proper cellular division (especially if you're pregnant.) It also contains inulin which we don't digest, but the good bacteria in our gut do. We want to promote the growth and activity of friendly bacteria so that they make it more difficult for unfriendly bacteria to take over our intestinal tract. Asparagus is also rich in vitamin K, calcium and magnesium, all helpful in building bone strength. I guess you could call this salad a win-win!
Asparagus Salad with Feta, Walnuts and Mint Vinaigrette
1 ½ pounds asparagus (medium thickness), tough ends trimmed
6 ounces butter lettuce, torn into bite size pieces (optional)
½ cup fresh mint leaves, about half of a ¾ ounce package
1 clove minced garlic (or 1 teaspoon, chopped)
¼ cup diced red onion
3 Tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon raw honey
½ teaspoon sea salt (or more if you don't use the feta)
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
½ cup unrefined cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup raw walnuts, chopped
3-4 ounces feta, preferably goat, crumbled
Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus spears for 3 minutes for medium thick spears (less for thinner). Remove asparagus with tongs and immediately submerge in the ice water. Once cool, remove asparagus to dry.
To prepare the dressing: place the mint leaves, garlic, rice vinegar, honey, diced onions, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Begin to blend and with the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Place lettuce on a platter and toss with enough dressing just to coat. Dry asparagus well and cut on the diagonal into fourths. Toss with a little dressing and add to lettuce. Scatter feta and walnuts all over salad and add more dressing if necessary.
The second photo shows how I store asparagus. When you bring it home from the market, trim the ends of the asparagus and store in a container with an inch of water at the base. Keep refrigerated. The asparagus will stay fresher for longer. When trimming asparagus to cook, bend the asparagus back close to the bottom and find the natural break in the stalk. Prepare as desired.
I used to struggle coming up with an hors d’oeuvre that was tasty, fresh and didn’t contain tons of dairy. Have you ever noticed the popular hors d’oeuvres that show up at every cocktail or dinner party – there’s the baked wedge of brie, the spinach and artichoke dip bubbling over with three cheeses AND sour cream, the cheese platter, the mini grilled cheeses and of course, the most sophisticated of all, The Caprese Skewer. Believe me, I’ve made more than my share of boconcini, basil and grape tomatoes on a toothpick, but people, it is no longer 1999! We have got to move on!
So I began thinking about why the Caprese Skewer is so ubiquitous. The Caprese salad is simple and delicious when showcasing perfect tomatoes, aromatic basil and fresh, creamy mozzarella. What could be better than having each of those flavors in one delightful bite? So why not extend the salad-as-skewer idea? What about a Greek Salad Skewer? Grape tomato, spinach or mint-wrapped feta, cucumber, and a pitted kalamata olive sprinkled with dried oregano and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. Hmmmm, I like it, but very summery.
It’s Fall, so I roasted butternut squash and apples with rosemary and skewered them together with red beets. Needs a little green. Take a piece of arugula or spinach and turn it around a piece of feta so that the feta doesn’t crumble when you skewer it. Then drizzle it all with a little balsamic and oil. Who wouldn’t want to eat that?? Don’t answer that.
I will forewarn you, there is a bit of prep involved. There’s chopping and roasting and skewering. Ah, I am seeing the lure of the ease of the old standby skewer, but these are so worth it. The colors alone will make your hors d’oeuvre stand out in a sea of cream and you will be a star!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place the butternut squash cubes in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Transfer to prepared sheet pan and spread out in one layer. Season with sea salt, pepper, and half the rosemary.
Place the apple cubes in the same bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Repeat the same procedure as the squash
Place the sheet pans in the oven and roast squash for about 30 minutes, turning halfway, until tender and slightly caramelized. Roast apples until just tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Thread the squash, apple, beet and arugula or spinach on a small skewer or toothpick. If you decide to use feta, wrap the cube of feta with a leaf of arugula/spinach and skewer. Arrange on a serving plate and drizzle with the vinegar and oil.
*other ideas include parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes.