Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

Every so often, you need to get fancy.  As in: fancy = your highest heels + your reddest lipstick + the expensive bottle of wine you’ve been saving.

Or, when you’re gestating a human, and you want to put on your best lined slippers and your size-up yoga pants…the good news is you can still cook with really fancy ingredients, to make up for the wine you’re missing.  I’m talking those things you bought when you went to the specialty kitchen store or spice bazaar and your husband was like, seriously? Do we even have room in the cabinets?  When are we going to use these things?  And you give him a look that says: this is already done.  You know what I’m talking about.

Saffron, fennel seeds, calasparra rice, all in one dish.  You can even wear red lipstick.

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Artichoke + Fennel Seed Paella

  • olive oil
  • two white or yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange and a green)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • small handful fennel seeds
  • small handful saffron threads
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 and 1/4 cup calasparra rice (super hard to find – you can substitute another short grain rice like bomba or calrose)
  • 1 cup dry sherry or white wine
  • bunch parsley, washed and roughly chopped
  • small handful smoked paprika
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • other vegetables as you please: grape tomatoes, scallions, spinach, etc.
  • 1 lemon
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add a bit of olive oil and then onions + peppers and cook until softened, about 8 minutes.  While these cook, pour the veggie stock into a bowl with the saffron and allow that tasty goodness to infuse the broth.
  2. Add garlic and fennel seeds to the pan, saute for another few minutes, or until onions begin to brown.  Turn the heat up and then add a bit more olive oil, add the rice and cook for a few minutes.  Pour in the sherry or wine and cook until the liquid mostly evaporates.
  3. Add salt, pepper, parsley, and smoked paprika – stir and cook for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, turn down the heat to medium again and leave your paella alone.  No really.  No stirring.  Let the rice cook in that beautiful stock until there is just a tiny bit of liquid bubbling on top – about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Add the artichokes and/or other vegetables into the top of the rice and push them down (again, taking care not to stir the rice).  Cook another 5-10 minutes, then turn off the heat and cover the whole thing, in order to let all the liquid absorb.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the juice from the lemon all over the paella and scatter with parsley.

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 The Verdict:

This paella gets even better on days 2 + 3 (which is a good news because this is a LOT for two people, even one person who counts as 1.5).  Depending on your level of love for artichokes (mine is quite high) I might even suggest doubling up on those.  Get really fancy.

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Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

I’m sad to report that the last couple of meals chez nous have not been worthy of a post.  There was a failed curry.  There was a frozen pizza…and then pizza delivery.  And then for the last couple of days, there has been Lipton’s soup, as I struggle to fend off a cold.

But this meal redeems me to me.  And to my husband.  And based on the punches I received to my uterus, baby as well.  I guess butter + pasta will do that.

 

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Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

  • olive oil
  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 8 leaves fresh sage
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package ravioli (I used root vegetable ravioli from TJ’s)
  • splash dry white wine
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • pepper, salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spread the butternut squash evenly in a jelly roll pan, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and give the whole thing a toss.  Stick in the oven for 20 minutes – use this time to slice up your mushrooms and prep your garlic.
  2. At the 20 minute mark, add the mushrooms to the pan with the squash, give the mixture a toss, and then stick it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  (This is actually the perfect amount of time to do the rest of the steps below!)
  3. Start boiling water for the ravioli – add a bit of salt for flavor.  Cook the ravioli according to directions; drain and reserve just a splash of the starchy water.
  4. While water boils, heat a small skillet over medium heat – when hot, add the butter.  When the butter starts to turn lightly brown at the top, add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, and then add the sage.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then remove from heat.  Add a splash of wine, the lemon juice and just a touch of pepper.
  5. Take your veggies out of the oven.  Serve raviolio topped with veggies, and then drizzle the sauce over the top.  Don’t forget to garnish with the sage – this is delicious.

The Verdict:

HOLY DELICIOUS.  How have I never been taken aside before for an explanation of the glories of brown butter sage sauce?  Mom, where were you on this one?!

 

Two-Tomato Basil Lentil Salad

After gorging ourselves on french onion soup mac & cheese for a week, it’s time to atone for our sins.  Or at least get some new vegetables circulating in the system.

I’m practicing my future mom skills with this “recipe:” what’s in the fridge tonight, will it be done in less than 20 minutes, how can I make it look like pasta, and will it be at least as good the second and third and fourth times?

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Tw0-Tomato Basil Lentil Salad

  • 1 cup red split lentils (these turn almost risotto-y when you cook them, which is a bonus for me)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • big handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped (green parts only)
  • big handful basil, chopped
  • big handful feta
  • dash olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt, fresh ground pepper
  • optional: salad greens (spinach, mixed greens, arugula, etc.)
  1. Combine lentils, water, garlic cloves, bay leaves, and a dash salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it cook for about 15 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.
  2. While the lentils cook, chop the rest of your veggies.
  3. When the lentils are done, remove the bay leaves – and if you have a garlic press, which I really, really hope you do – pass the cooked/softened garlic through the press and mix it all around.  Combine lentils with tomatoes, scallions, basil, feta olive oil, lemon and give a good toss.
  4. Serve on top of salad greens for a little more oomph, top with freshly cracked pepper.

The Verdict:

The big bonus from this lentil salad is: it actually looks and tastes like risotto.  So basically, we’re eating straight pasta for the second week in a row! Hollerrrrr.

Apple Pie (with homemade, flaky crust)

This is what happens when it’s fall: you break out your tall, brown boots.  You buy that army green vest you’ve been eyeing at the Gap for a while, hoping maybe the Husband might just spring it on you but then you get the coupon in the mail, and oh, whoops, I’ve just conveniently bought it for myself.  You get overly excited about the fact that you can now turn off the air conditioning, open the windows, and stick it to Pepco.

Also: you decide it’s time to go apple picking and bring home 32.8 pounds of apples.  That’s right.  32.8 pounds.  The nice lady only charged us for 32 pounds.  Probably because she felt badly for my husband, who had to carry them, and who definitely was the smart one asking “do we really need another apple?” while my sister, sister-in-law, and I announced that we had found the perfect addition.

We spent all of Sunday baking.  We made only a very small dent.  Expect more apples on the blog.

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Apple Pie

for the crust (this will make a top and bottom crust):

  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 tablespoons ice water

for the pie:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar, plus a pinch for dusting the top of the pie
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • 5-6 tart apples (we’ve got more Pink Ladies than we will ever eat.  Let me know if you live in DC.  We will give them to you.)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (to thicken the filling)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into small bits
  • splash milk, in a bowl
  1. Make your pie crust.  In the container of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and butter and pulse until mixed through (about 10 seconds).  Place the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water, forming it into a ball (use more ice water if needed).  Divide the ball in half (one for the top, one for the bottom) and place in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.
  2. While the dough chills, peel, core, and slice your apples.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar and spices, and add the apples.  Add lemon juice and cornstarch and give the whole thing a good toss.
  3. Roll out both sets of dough.  Kitchen God Mark Bittman recommends rolling the dough out between two sheets of saran wrap, and I couldn’t agree more.  Makes the whole things less sticky, and less apt to stick to your rolling pin.  Roll it out until it fits to your pie plate, and then carefully place it in (helps to put the plate over the dough and then flip it over.)  Trim excess dough.
  4. Add the apples to the bottom of the plate and try to arrange them semi-neatly, so they cook relatively evenly.  Dot with the little bits of butter (confession: we forgot this step & it was fine.  There’s enough butter in the crust to go around.)  Add the top crust and crimp the sides together.
  5. Now’s the time to preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Turning back to your pie, brush the top with milk and sprinkle with a little bit of sugar for some extra fun.  Make a few small slits in the top of the pie, to allow steam to escape.  Refrigerate until the oven is ready.
  7. Bake the pie on a cookie sheet (easier maneuverability) and cook at 450 for ten minutes.  Turn down the heat and bake for 40 minutes at 350.
  8. Make whipped cream/buy ice cream/rejoice.

IMG_4087The Verdict:

Is that an apple crisp you note in the picture?  Why yes, yes it is.  Expect more apples, as noted above.  (And, this pie recipe is the pie recipe to beat.  Thank you Mark Bittman.)

Back. (& a Kale and Sesame “Sushi” Bowl)

It’s been almost exactly two months since I last posted.  I’ve read lots of blogs where people talk about taking a break or needing some fresh ideas, or going on some crazy, awesome trip, but the truth is, I just ran out of time.  And if I want to be even more honest, I ran out of energy.

The last two months have been among the two craziest & change-filled months of my life.  There have been some incredible highs – my best friend getting married, for one – and some low lows.  Suffice to say, you want to put your best foot out on the interwebs, and I’ve been missing my fancy footwear.

And clearly, a LOT has happened.  The weather has changed, for one, and I’m back to taking pictures of food in the dark.  A favorite blogger is now vegetarian.  Eater published the best-ever interview of Ina Garten and it made me love her even more, if that’s possible.  Tom Brady (continued to) earn my eternal love and respect through sheer domination on my fantasy squad, and then left me hopelessly baffled and saddened through his “non-endorsement” endorsement of Donald Trump.  No words.

AND – it’s been over a year since I started this blog.  Going forward, I’m hoping to start posting regularly again, if not a little less frequently, due to a job change and less time to experiment in the kitchen.

So now, in honor of my vegetarian friend who sent me nice little notes during my period of absentia (thank you!!), I bring you the following, from A Modern Way to Eat.

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Kale & Sesame “Sushi” Bowl

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • salt
  • 1-2 cups frozen endamame (sans pods)
  • 1 pomegranate (you’re really just after the seeds, so feel free to buy pre-seeded)
  • dash sesame oil
  • 2 big handfuls shredded kale or other crunchy, leafy green, stalks removed
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • optional: 1 egg (poached)
  • for the dressing:
    • zest and juice from 1 lemon
    • tablespoon honey
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • dash rice vinegar
    • salt, pepper
  1. Cook your rice according to package directions (ain’t no shame in the minute style).
  2. Heat the endamame through, either in the microwave or by putting them in a bowl and covering with boiling water.
  3. De-seed your pomegranate, as needed – instructions here.
  4. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, add a splash of sesame oil and saute the greens until a bit wilted, above 3-4 minutes.  Keep warm.
  5. Make your dressing by whisking all ingredients together.  Add a bit of the pomegranate juice, if you have any from the de-seeding process.
  6. Pour the dressing over the warm rice, add the sesame seeds and give the mixture a toss.  Add the rest of your salad ingredients and top with avocado and cilantro…and if you’re feeling good about it, a poached egg.  Add dressing as needed.

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The Verdict:

Not really a recipe?  I understand your point.  Still, it feels good to be back, and it feels good to eat this.  So that’s a win, in my book.