Harissa Roasted Carrots & Onions, with Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranates

The holidays were here — I feel as though, they came and I conquered! Gifts all arrived to their destination on time! When all your family is on the east cost and we live on the west cost, this is a big deal. I will admit, I made Brian do the wrapping, shipping, and card addressing this year. I needed a break as I have been responsible for all of this the past 17 years give or take. But besides that there were cookies made & decorated, pies baked, holiday parties attended, cocktails consumed, entertaining executed, and a christmas dinner devoured with leftovers to spare. We also worked our jobs and snuck in a few naps; but the holidays were here and they were crushed in a triumph. IMG_0261

Time for the new year to roll in. Time to sit back and enjoy what is left of the 2015. Time to nibble and savor. Time to reminisce at all that went right! Wrong? Made us laugh! And even want to dismiss from the mind. Recently we were reminiscing of a dessert we tried on one of our travels. The texture was weird, it was somewhat rubbery, and not very sweet. The look on Brian’s face when he tried it was priceless as he politely chewed on it. Did it make us laugh? Yes, but the taste and experience left a lot to be desired. We can forget that one.

FullSizeRender-3

I do remember harissa roasted carrots and onions - this is one recipe worthy of reminiscing. The carrots and onions were coated in olive oil, dusted with harissa, roasted until tender, served over a layer of lemony thick greek yogurt, and sprinkled on top with pomegranate seeds. Paring this with some warm pita and bright green leafy salad is perfection. Time to make this to bring in the new year…it is slightly spicy, smoky, earthy, and deeply robust. Depending on the spice variety you use, the flavor can vary. Although the one that I use is a nice balance of chilies, paprikas, fennel seeds, along with a variety of other spices. The spices pair nicely with the lemony yogurt, it mellows out the spice while leaving just the right amount that is needed. The pomegranets are bright and burst with flavor amongst the sweet roasted veggies. Over all, this simple dish is one of the more perfect things I ate this year. A dish to remember, a dish...holiday worthy!

FullSizeRender-2

Harissa Roasted Carrots & Onions, with Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranates (serves 4 - 6 as a side dish)

**Notes: If you are looking for a Harissa Spice, you can always order it. I personally like this blend and the company here: https://www.worldspice.com/blends/harissa

6 - 8 large carrots; peeled, trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces

1 onion; trimmed and cut into 1 inch strips

1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp harissa spice

sea salt to taste

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the carrots into thick sticks, about 1/4 - 1/6 of their whole. Place the carrot sticks and onion pieces in a bowl. Mix the olive oil and harissa together and toss it with your carrots and onions until coated.

Next, on a lined baking sheet place your dressed carrots and onions. Sprinkle it to taste with sea salt, and place it in your prepared oven for about 40 minutes (or until they start to caramelize). You will rotate the pan and stir the veggies half way though roasting.

Then, in a bowl mix together your Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Sprinkle it with a couple pinches of sea salt and layer it on the bottom of your serving platter. Chill until ready to serve.

Finally, when the carrots and onions are roasted place them over the lemon yogurt mixture and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds. Serve while still warm. Scoop onto plates; being sure you get the harissa roasted veggies, pomegranates, and a bit of the yogurt. Eat and enjoy.

 

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies

In the past couple of days I have taken the time to reflect on what has passed, what I would like to stay, and in some cases what I would rather forget. There were new things I tried, new destinations we have gone to, new goals that had been made, and new ambitions to be put into place. I have done this for the last few few years as it all comes to a close. In some sorts it is like taking inventory of what I have valued, learned, and let go of. Mixed veggies, very colorful; and ready for the oven.

I do not feel it is uncommon to do this at the end of the year. Getting ready to take on a new one with abandonment and ambition. For some reason it always makes me think of the movie Forest Gump. There is the point in the movie when he is visiting Lieutenant Dan in New York for New Year’s Eve. There is a girl there who says, “Don’t you just love New Years? It’s like everyone gets a fresh start!”

Nicely roasted and fresh out of the oven.

With a fresh start on my horizon I thought about the moments of this past year that stand out the most. The ones I am proud of, and the moments I want to cherish forever. In retrospect it was the moments that were colorful. They made us smile, laugh, giggle, and cheer. That made me think of my dinner last night…it was very colorful: Mixed Roasted Veggies. Using up the miscellaneous veggies we had on hand resulted in an array of color and huge flavor. (We are going away for a few days and we have been trying to clean out the refrigerator.) Maybe if we eat more colorfully we will live more colorfully? It is worth a try. In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all. Be happy, be safe, live it fully, and eat colorfully!

Roasted, plated, and oh so colorful!

Mixed Colorful Roasted Veggies (feeds 4)

*Note: this is more then enough as a side dish for 4, but I have on occasion made this  and have been more than enough as a mane dish for 2 with a light and simple salad to accompany it.

3 purple potatoes, cubed

2 golden beets, cubed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 parsnip, peeled and chopped

5 sun chokes or Jerusalem artichokes, cleaned and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 bulb fennel, trimmed and sliced

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper, freshly ground

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and brush the parchment with a bit of olive oil.

Next, place all your veggies in a large bowl and drizzle about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of olive oil over it all. with your hands, toss it all together. (I like to use my hands for this because you feel if the veggies are coated fully.) Keep tossing until all your veggies seem to have an even coating of olive oil on them.

Then, distribute the tossed veggies among the two lined sheet pans. Sprinkle the veggies with your sea salt and some black pepper and place in your oven to roast.

Finally, let the veggies roast for 20 - 25 minutes. Open the oven and give the veggies a good stir and place back in the oven for about, another 20 minutes. You are looking for a bit of caramelization over the veggies and for them to be tender to a fork. Remove from the oven when done and  serve.

Butternut Squash Gratin, a late winter cure.

There are moments during the late winter when all you want is something warm, gooey, and cheesy to eat.  I don’t know why I feel this way? And I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way. Maybe it is the very few hours we have of daylight? Well, when you get up in the wee early hours of the morning with no sunlight in sight it is easy to understand. In my opinion with it still cold out in the late winter, days are super short, the nights long and so dark, a dish that comforts the dismal end of winter blues must be satisfying. Something maybe like a Butternut Squash Gratin!?! I have made a potato gratin before, but never tried it with any other vegetable. It was time for this culinary creation to take place. Butternut Squash Gratin

Earlier in the week I had taken a walk to Pike’s Place Market and picked up some produce. A butternut squash was among the many goodies I purchased with no real plan for it, but now a plan was in place. The great thing about this dish is there is no real recipe, just simple guidelines to make this dish bake up beautifully. Those guidelines being: slicing your butternut squash thinly, having a cheese that melts nicely, a baking dish with a rim no more than 2 inches deep, half & half or cream to poor over it all, and some onion or shallot if you wish. Layer all these things together and bake them until it bubbles and oozes in perfection. Out of the oven comes a dish that is cheesy, comforting, and indulgent.

Keeping ll the ingredients organized.

In this dish the butternut squash remains nutty and slightly sweet. It bakes up nicely and the slices become fork tender nestled between layers of cheese. The cheese melts uniformly, and without an oily mess. I choose to use sliced shallot amongst the cheese. I felt that the sharp and bright flavor of the shallot was just what the cheesiness and sweet butternut squash needed for some distinction. I topped the whole dish with some bread crumbs so that while the dish bakes together, the bread crumbs create a crunchy and crisp topping above the soft and tender filling. What is not to like in this dish? How could you not make it with the late winter hanging over us? I promise you this is just what winter dinner calls for.

Served up and ready to be devoured.

Butternut Squash Gratin

Note: this is an easy dish that can be made ahead of time and reheated (while covered) before serving.

Butternut Squash, peeled and thinly sliced (about ¼ inch thick)

Grated Cheese; Swiss, Emmentaler, Gruyere, or Provolone

Onion, or Shallot; thinly sliced

Cream or Half & Half

Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper

Bread Crumbs

Unsalted Butter

First, preheat you oven to 400 degrees. Butter your baking dish and place on a baking sheet. Starting with your Butternut Squash, place and even layer across your baking dish (slightly overlapping). Lightly season the squash with sea salt and black pepper. Over the top of the squash scatter some of the onion or shallot. On top of that, sprinkle and even layer of your grated cheese.

Next, you will want to repeat the process above at least two more times. (Making a total of at least three layers.)

Then, take your half & half or cream and pour it over your layers until you can see it rise up until it is almost to the top of it all. Gently sprinkle your bread crumbs over the top of your dish and place a few pats of butter over the top of it.

Finally; with your dish still on the baking sheet place it all in the oven for about 40 minutes (This will depend on the size of your dish and how thick your layers were). Bake it all until the cheese is bubbly & melted, and the topping all crispy. Check its doneness by piercing the squash with a knife, if the squash is tender then it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 15 minutes to let it all settle before serving.

Simple Asparagus

I enjoy the early spring so much. The tree blossoms are edging there way, the tulips are scattering color throughout the neighborhood, and there is a sweet smell in the air of all things growing. The weather is lovely right now in Seattle. I really enjoy the long urban hikes I have been taking to soak up the scenery and come home with an appetite ready to satisfy. In my personal opinion the best part of early spring is how asparagus comes into season. All the joys of spring in Seattle aside, I await the arrival of asparagus with anticipation! It is my most favorite vegetable of them all. I love every possible way you can prepare them and devour every last bit. I have been known to eat an entire bunch of asparagus on my own. Yes, I am just a tad obsessive about this vegetable.

When I went to the market this week I saw that all the local asparagus is in and it looked perfect. I picked up two bunches and ran all the ways I love to eat them through my mind. Roast them? Grill them? Stir fry them? Asparagus has endless possibilities, but I settled on keeping it in its simplest form to really show how fantastic this vegetable can be. Below is a very simple lemon vinaigrette over asparagus that was gently simmered while retaining its lovely texture and bright green color. It is pure and bright in flavor and lets all the natural beauty of its own self shine though. This is a really vibrant dish as a side to some fish or chicken; but also would make a great starter to any meal. I hope you enjoy it when you try it. You might just begin to fall in love with it like myself.

Asparagus with a Lemon Vinaigrette

Asparagus and Lemon Vinaigrette

1 bunch of asparagus

olive oil

juice and zest of 1 lemon

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

First, when trimming asparagus it is best to keep the bunch together and bend the end of a few stalks to see where it will snap / break naturally. It will most likely break around the same area as one another. Use the breakage as a guide line as the where to trim your asparagus. Cut the whole bunch of asparagus along that guide in order to remove the tough ends and avoid the hassle of having to peel each stalk.

Asparagus with a natural guide line for trimming.

Next, rinse your asparagus well and place in a sauté or frying pan. Just barely cover the asparagus with water and place over medium heat. Bring the asparagus to a simmer for about 3 minutes; remove from heat, and drain. I always check to see how “done” my asparagus is by piercing with a knife. You are looking for the knife to sink though the stalk easily. How thick or thin the stalks are may vary the cooking time.

Finally; place the cooked asparagus on a serving platter and drizzle with a bit of olive oil- over that pour your lemon juice and sprinkle with sea salt & black pepper to taste. Toss it all together, then sprinkle the zest over it all and toss again. Serve while still slightly warm and enjoy.

Notes: If you have Meyer Lemons still available it is a great time to take advantage of them. They work lovely in this dish. Also, this is the perfect time to use a really good quality and brightly tasting olive oil. Great ingredients shine through in a simple dish like this

Cream Cheese Biscuits and Green Onion

For about three to four years now I have had a bit of an infatuation with biscuits. I love them all and I have been trying just about every & any recipe I can. I have tried a variety of recipes: drop ones, rolled out ones, different flours, assorted fats, not to mention a multitude of ways to moisten the dough. It seems to be a never ending quest. A few weeks ago I missed my weekly dose of Splendid Table. When I arrived home Brian filled me in on it all, and guess what one of the topics was? Yes! Biscuits! But the show was not just on any kind of biscuit… it was about Southern Biscuits to be exact. Brian went on to explain how they discussed the type of flour they use is considered a winter wheat. This means that the wheat is harvested in the winter time and milled resulting in sweeter flavored wheat. He also told me that in a traditional southern biscuit they combine their flour, cut in their fat, and just pat the dough down. Only to fold the dough onto itself, and pat it down again; then they cut their biscuits out. He said there was no leavener needed?!?

I honestly could not believe what Brian was telling me. Of course I went to the web site and read it for myself. Yes, they didn’t use a leavener. I was talking about this at work when my co-worker told me that she watched Alton Brown do a show on his grandmother’s biscuits. She said that in the episode he said he tried absolutely everything to get his biscuits like hers, but it was a fail. Then he came to the realization that his grandmother has arthritis. Her touch and handle on her biscuit was much more delicate and gentile then his own. Finally his biscuits turned out well, and patting the dough down made complete sense.

After a few tries, I was making better biscuits myself. Yay for me (and Brian)! It made me think about a recipe I tried quite a few times that never followed though the way I had hoped. They were made with cream cheese; and I was always hoping for these flakey, tangy, flavorful biscuits. Instead, try after try resulted in a biscuits that were flavorful but a bit dense and in no way flaky enough for my standards! I retrieved that recipe and went to work on it being as gentle as I could. Patted it down, folded it up, and patted it down again. What was the outcome you might want to know? The biscuits were light, flakey, and tender, with a slight cream cheese tang. I am so happy that my quest after all this time has finally resulted in something so great. You will have to try it and see for yourself.

Cream Cheese Biscuits with Green Onion

Cream Cheese Bisuits and Green Onion (make 10 – 12)

3 cups of cake flour

2 tsp of baking powder

¼ tsp of baking soda

1 ½ tsp of kosher salt

1 tbsp of sugar

1 heaping cup of green onion, chopped very small

4 oz of butter, cold and cut up small

4 oz of cream cheese, cold and cut up small

½ cup of buttermilk

¾ cup of heavy cream

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Place your cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, sugar, and chives in a bowl. Mix it well then add to it your butter and cream cheese. Using a pastry cutter, fork, or two knives cut the butter and cream cheese into your flour mixture. You want to break them down into the size no bigger than a pea. Be sure you do not smear the butter and cream cheese into the flour mixture.

Biscuit Dough, mixed together.

Next, with a fork gently pour in your buttermilk and cream and stir until all of mixture is damp and moistened. Do not break down your butter and cream cheese lumps in this process. Sprinkle your work space liberally with flour and remove the biscuit batter from your bowl. With floured hands pat your dough gently into anything closely resembling a rectangle in form.

First patting down of the biscuits.

Then, using a bench scraper; lift your dough to fold it into threes upon itself. With floured hands, pat down the dough gently again into a rectangular shape again. Using your bench scraper trim your edges and cut the dough into 10 – 12 squares.

The dough folded in three, before second patting down.

Finally, on a parchment lined baking sheet place your biscuits spacing them about one inch and a half apart from one another. Place in the oven and bake for 20 – 30 minutes; until your biscuits are golden on the edges and firm in the center. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. Can be stored at room temperature wrapped in foil for up to 2 days.

Cream Cheese Biscuits fresh out of the oven.

Braised Collard Greens with Raisins

At all the Farmer Markets in Seattle you are seeing greens upon greens. Brian has been bringing home different ones every week. I so enjoy eating any kind of greens; actually I feel I crave them, but that is another blog entry. Anyway, last week Brian came home with collard greens and my mind wondered into all the ways I could prepare them. I wanted to add a bit of sweetness to them in order to counteract the bitterness of the leaves. I also wanted to brighten it up a bit with a bit of spice. By braising the collard greens with some onion, golden raisins, orange, and crushed red pepper there was such a balance of the flavors. I tossed them with chopped toasted walnuts to add a bit of texture upon serving.

I will admit that I could not stop eating them. They were delicious and I felt like with each bite I tasted the season of spring about to arrive. I served them with some roasted sun chokes and sautéed temphe, but I really think this would be perfect with a ham. Something that might complete your Easter dinner menu perhaps!?!

Braised Collard Greens with Raisins

Braised Collard Greens with Raisins (feeds 4 +)

2 bunches of Collard Greens, washed well and chopped

½ onion, sliced thin

2 tsp of olive oil

1 cup of dry white wine

1 orange, zested and juiced

2 pinches of crushed red pepper

1/3 cup of golden raisins

kosher salt to taste

½ cup of toasted walnuts, chopped

First, in a large bowl wash your collard greens well. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and when warm place your olive oil in. Add in your onion and stir well. Cook your onions about 2 minutes before adding your greens. If your greens are still damp that is perfect. I give it a little stir and place a lid on the pan to wilt your greens (about 2 minutes).

Next; add in your white wine, ½ cup of water, your orange zest & juice, crushed red pepper, and raisins. Once again stir it well and replace your lid on the pan. Let it all simmer and braise together for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and season with the kosher salt. At this point the majority of your liquid should be cooked off, if not continue to simmer with the lid off. Cook until there is enough liquid to coat the bottom of your pot but no more.

Finally, remove from the heat and toss in your walnuts. Stir well and ready to serve. (Dish can be made ahead, but do not add the walnuts until you are ready to serve.)

Moroccan Spices and Carrot Puree get rid of a February funk.

All work and no play has made me a dull girl. At least I feel that is the way I have been cooking lately. Long days at work, six days a week, and barely any time at home gets old. Our days in Seattle have been overcast and chilly which does not seem to help. I need some time to regroup, time to nap…maybe just time? February is an odd month at the farmers markets as well. There are bountiful loads of greens, root veggies, and apples are still looking & tasting great. But what else is there? I feel like my rut in life had followed me into the kitchen. I wanted to make something a bit different, something that would liven up our senses with excitement. I started to think of a dish I made last year this time when I was feeling the same way.  It is a carrot puree with olives in it that is 100% deliciousness.  I first read about this dish in Gourmet magazine years ago and I have adapted the recipe into more of my own. What makes it fantastic is the lovely earthy natural sweetness shines through and blends with the olive’s briny flavor. The only problem is that we couldn’t eat the carrot puree all on its own. (Okay, yes I could, but that is not a complete meal.)

Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Carrot Puree and Olives

I thought about the how the briny olives compliment the sweetness of the carrot and how it is similar to what you see in Moroccan cooking. I thought about all of the stewed dishes that are sweet, spicy, and salty through olives and preserved items. Inspired by this, I picked up some chicken and did a little Moroccan spice infused blood orange marinade. After the chicken was marinated and roasted in the oven I served it up with the carrot puree. Brian was pleased, and was more than happy when he learned that there was more than enough for leftovers!  I am sure anyone who is willing to try this will enjoy it. Hopefully you will find it as lively and awakening as we did. Just what a winter meal called for.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken (Serve 4)

Chicken thighs and legs (about 5-6 of each)

1 tsp of cinnamon

1 tsp of coriander

½ tsp of cayenne pepper

2 blood oranges; zest of both and slice one for marinade and reserve the other for garnish

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup of olive oil

First; in a bowl big enough to fit all your chicken place your cinnamon, coriander, cayenne pepper, blood orange zest, salt & pepper to taste, with your olive oil and mix it all together. Place your chicken and orange slices in the same bowl and toss it all together coating the chicken with your spice mix and oranges. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or even overnight.

Next, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. When your oven is heated place your marinated chicken pieces along with the orange slices evenly on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with a bit more of your kosher salt and place it in the oven for roughly 40 minutes (stirring it half way through cooking). You are looking for the chicken skin to be a bit crispy and the chicken to be cooked through.

Finally, Remove from the oven and let rest about 5 minutes. Place on a platter and serve along with the carrot puree. Chicken is also good at room temperature and makes great leftovers. I also use the extra blood orange to cut segments and serve with the chicken. Also, parsley goes well with this plate.

**NOTE: if you do not have blood oranges, a regular orange will work just fine.

Carrot Puree with Olives

Carrot Puree with Olive (serves 4)

2 lbs. of carrots; peeled, trimmed, and chopped into ½ inch pieces

½ a red onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, trimmed

1 cup of dry white wine

1 tbsp of kosher salt

½ cup of pitted olives, preferably kalamata or oil cured; chopped

First; place your carrots in a four quart pot along with your red onion, garlic, white wine, and kosher salt.  I add enough water to this mixture to cover it all.

Next, place your pot over medium to high and let it all simmer together until you carrots are tender when pierced. (About 20 minutes.) Strain the veggies out of the pot reserving the liquid. Place your carrots, onions, & garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Puree a bit adding some of the reserved liquid a bit at a time until your mixture is smooth without being runny.

Finally, place your mixture in a bowl and stir in your chopped olives and serve. Can be made ahead of time and reheated upon serving.