A few months ago I started what has become an addition of buying dried beans to cook rather than canned. Not that I still wouldn’t use a can of beans in a pinch, the taste difference between the two is pretty substantial. Chickpeas for instance, once soaked and cooked, are exceptionally earthy and nutty. Cannellini beans are also nutty while also tasting a bit like pasta (israeli couscous or orzo I might say). Black beans are definitely earthy and subtly strong (if I can put those two words together) – its no wonder they is often paired with spicy seasonings and bold meats. I now continually stock dry beans. Most beans do take some planning ahead, however, as they often need to be soaked. To know which beans need the overnight soak and which don’t, I use this site’s chart as a guide. I recommend taking the plunge into the dried bean world.
For a protein packed dinner the other night, I opted to put some freshly cooked chickpeas to use.
Chickpea Croquettes (from So Good and Tasty)
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas
- 3/4 cups hot water
- 1 cup spelt flour
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
- 1 grated carrot
- a handful of cilantro, chopped
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 eggs
Combine the flour, ground cumin, and a healthy pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the hot water and lemon juice and mix. This comes out to be the texture like cream of wheat. In another bowl, mix the chickpeas, onion, jalapeño, garlic, carrot, and cilantro. Add this mixture to the flour and stir until combined. Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk before adding to the chickpea mixture. I waited to add this because I did not want the eggs to cook in the hot water. The eggs are there to bind.
In a saute pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add a spoonful of the chickpea mixture. Even with the egg and flour, the mixture is still a bit loose so one spoonful at a time is about what works. I still had a few rogue chickpeas floating around the pan. Cook until the bottom is brown, about 3-4 minutes, and flip to brown the other side.
This is one of those recipes that I’d probably change up the next time I make it. I’d probably take out some of the flour, maybe just use 1/2 a cup. I’d also then smash about half of the chickpeas so that they served as a bit of a paste. It is nice to bite into the chickpeas so I would certainly leave half whole. I’d also add another jalapeño. You might also experiment with other kinds of peppers. The end result is a little chickpea pancake, similar to the texture of a potato latka.
I served these on a bed of arugula with some cherry tomatoes dressed in a spicy vinagrette (white wine vinegar, oil, lemon juice, honey, and cayanne). You could do a chipotle mayo or spicy aioli on top as well. Salsa could also work as a bit of a garnish.
I came home from work a little early last night, determined to make a good dinner out of some leftovers and another dish for some lunches this week. After stopping quickly at Whole Foods, I put together a salad for dinner topped with shredded pieces of leftover roast chicken from the night before.
As for the other dish that was is destined for lunch, I found inspiration in what Heidi Swanson of 101Cookbooks called Baked Farro Risotto. I’d consider this dish less risotto and more paella if anything. But, since it is one pot and baked, for simplicity’s sake I’m calling it a casserole.
I cannot gush enough about how tasty this baked goodness is. Adam, after finishing dinner, asked if we could have some of the casserole. Worried I had underfed the food monster once again, I asked if he wanted the barley because he was still hungry. No, he responded. He wanted it because it was so good! Well that, my friends, is the kind of review I can live with.
(adapted slightly from 101cookbooks)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups of pearled barley
- 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus some for topping
- 2 chorizo sausages
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I used a large dutch oven with a lid for this dish. If you do not have one, you can start this in a saucepan on the stove and transfer to an 8×8 baking dish and some aluminum foil. Over medium-high heat, saute the onions and garlic with a healthy pinch of salt until translucent. Add the barley and toast for about 2-3 minutes, just like a risotto or paella. Then add the stock and tomato sauce and bring everything to a simmer. Remove from the heat and taste the broth for flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the paremesan cheese and the chorizo (I added my chorizo raw, but you could saute these until browned, remove onto a paper towel and saute the onions and garlic in the rendered fat from the sausage). Cover the pot and bake for about 40 minutes. If you change the grain, the time for the bake might change. 101cookbooks used pearled farro and baked for 45 minutes. Mine came out perfectly at 40 minutes. Serve with some freshly grated parmesan on top.
On Saturday night, six of us (including Uncle Pete & Aunt Meredith!) ventured out into the San Francisco rain for a lovely evening of cocktails and fine food at Bar Agricole.
Our night was transformed as we exited the wet and dreary dark city streets and entered the bustling agro-chic restaurant (LEED-certified and designed by Aidlin Darling Design). Once we finished marveling at the decor, including the impressive glass sculptures that drape from the skylights (designed by local glass sculptor, Nikolas Weinstein) we settled in at our table and started in on the menus.
First, because Bar Agricole is known to shine with their old school cocktails, we each ordered a drink. The orders ranged from the El Presidente and the Whiz Bang to the Turf Cocktail, Ti Punch, and Monkey’s Gland. We each were convinced our own drinks were the best, though that didn’t stop us from trying each others!
Next we moved to the appetizers and small plates for sharing. We enjoyed oysters in the half-shell, sea urchin on toast, smoked crod coquettes (with a luscious smoky flavor!), and chopped liver on toast. The rich chicken liver stole the show.
As we conversed over the appetizers we perused the menu, which changes regularly based on what ingredients are fresh. Our servers were wonderful and extremely knowledgeable as well. Many of our orders came on their recommendation. For our entrees, we had almost everything on the menu between the six of us!
We had turnip green soup with green garlic and semolina dumplings (perfect for soaking up the soft and hearty wheat bread on the table); nettle polenta with brussel sprouts, black trumpets and a fried egg;
grilled white sea bass with white beans, broccoli, and green olives;
rabbit saddle with prosciutto, mustard greens, and black-olive kumquat tapenade;
milk-braised pork shoulder with lemon, sage, red bor kale and green onions;
short ribs with farro, rainbow chard and scarlet turnips;
and yogurt-marinated lamb loin and sausage with purple carrots and cilantro.
Of course, we enjoyed it all with a unique and complex Arbois by Jaques Puffeney, which he allows to oxidize as it ferments into wine in barrels, giving it an older, richer flavor than most wines.
Last but not least, and though we were quite satisfied, we split two desserts: the brown butter cake with candied kumquats and the apple and medjool date turnovers with cardamom anglaise. These desserts were so good that we finished them up over coffee before I could snap a photo.
Fully stuffed, we all took a moment to sit back and reflect on the wonderful night. Nothing beats good food over a family table, and that’s just what it felt like at Bar Agricole.
The list of semi-finalists for James Beard awards is out! If you’re heading out to dinner tonight, this weekend, or, you know, this year – have a look and make your choice.
In DC, José Andrés is still collecting praise, nominated for Outstanding Chef. Johnny Monis of Komi hasn’t lost his edge either, making the list under Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Having eaten both chefs’ food, I can say the competition in those fields must be fierce.
The Slanted Door chef, Charles Phan, in San Francisco, also holds a spot in the Outstanding Chef category. He represents San Francisco in this category along with two other chefs, Michael Mina and Gary Danko.
If you’re just in the mood for drinks, take note of the nominees for Outstanding Wine Service and Outstanding Wines and Spirits Professionals. A16 in San Francisco, Tria in Philadelphia, and The Drawing Room in Chicago all make the cut.
Check out the list, mark some new places and recall some not so new. And of course, eat, drink, and be merry!
Banana Republic wants you to add a little sparkle to your upcoming spring wardrobe!
Just for today, they are offering 40% off their jewelry collection. To take advantage of this deal, use the code BRJEWELRY. The sale is online only and excludes their Chan Luu styles.
Go get your bling on!
Today is usually a day for sharing candies, truffles, wine, and other indulgences.
But today is also a good day to be aware of your heart health and to take steps to prevent heart disease.
- Get out, get active! Being active, even a 30-minute walk, has great heart benefits. There are lots of other active ways to spend some quality time with your significant other while you’re both getting your heart rates up. Check out these 8 ideas for active dates!
- Skip the fancy restaurant and get gourmet at home. This allows you to have control over the ingredients in your food, including the fat & salt content. Remember to increase the amount of veggies on your plate, and make smart substitutions, like olive oil in place of butter, to limit your trans fat.
- Cook with an aphrodisiac! Although whether they really get your mojo flowing is debatable, there are plenty of claimed aphrodisiacs out there that are easy to toss into a home-cooked meal: from almonds and arugula, to figs, ginger, mushrooms, nutmeg, and oysters. Of course, fish such as salmon or tuna are notably heart-healthy. Added bonus: assuming aphrodisiacs really work, you may get some added post-dinner exercise!
- Have a fruitier dessert, lighter in calories, that offers other health benefits. Try any one of these recipes here.
- If you decide that you can’t beat chocolate for dessert, try dark chocolate, which is richer in antioxidants, not to mention flavor.
- Go see a funny movie, or get a massage. Stress can be hard on your heart, but there are lots of ways to relax on a Valentine’s Day date. Laughing out loud is a great way to beat back stress. Massage therapy can help too; a couple’s massage to de-stress with your sweetie could be a fun date idea.
My office is now proudly boasting a large and in charge project table. I think I am in love with this piece of furniture.
This project table from Pottery Barn offers a huge amount of work space on its vast tabletop, which measures 55″ x 38″ (that’s almost 175 square feet!). A major added bonus is the inclusion of two 3×3 bookshelves on each end. These adjustable bookshelves are the perfect organizers for books, office supplies, craft materials, and beyond.
I know that I will be using this space for work projects (picture me with a laptop and deposition binders sprawled all over the table). But, I am also starting to imagine the possibilities of other much more fun projects on this tabletop! Gift wrapping! Invitation making! Photograph framing! Puzzle making!
What are your favorite projects??
Growing up, there were a lot of dinner table rules: elbows off the table, left hand in your lap, no singing, saying “like” 3 times improperly means no dessert. The list could go on. Last night I made a dish that, thankfully, would not violate the unspoken rule of wearing clothes at the table. Gnudi. Call them ricotta gnocchi or ravioli without the pasta shell (nude filling!). Either way, these little buggers, naked as they may be, are delicious!
- 1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 5 tbsp spelt flour*
- 1/2-3/4 cup flour for dredging
*I used spelt flour but all purpose, or other flours will do just fine.
Combine the eggs, parmesan, ricotta, and spinach in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and mix. Roll about a tablespoon or two of the mixture into flattened balls. Dredge each gnudi in flour, tapping off the excess.
Drop each gnudi into boiling water, making sure not to crowd the pot. I used a shallow sauce pan and still worked in batches. These take about 4 minutes to cook. When they are floating at the top they are done. Remove the cooked gnudi with a slotted spoon. They are ready to serve! Pretty simple right?
We dressed ours in a homemade red sauce with some garlic bread. Buon appetito!
Now you can power an automated twirl of the Terrible Towel with just a little tweet! Some social media savvy Steelers fans at an ad agency in Durham, North Carolina, devised a sweet device during their creative time that twirls when you tweet about the #SteelersNation!
All you have to do is tweet (using your Twitter account) and include #SteelersNation in your tweet. The #SteelersNation hashtag is what gets the Terrible Towel twirling! On the website Twerrible Towel you can see your tweet-powered twirl in full effect!
Want a little more info? The graphic below should explain it all:
Now tweet all you can to get those Terrible Towels twirling for the SUPERBOWL! Here we go, Steelers, here we go!
There must have been some sisterly ESP going on this week. Sarah and Elizabeth were both inspired to cook up some Tuscan soup! We both had our own spin on this rustic winter classic.
Sarah’s was inspired by Whole Foods’ Vegetarian Kale and White Bean Soup.
Sarah’s Tuscan Soup
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 c. diced yellow onion
- 4 roughly chopped garlic cloves
- 1 32 oz. box low-sodium vegetable broth
- 4 c. packed chopped kale
- 1 15 oz. can Italian-style diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz. can no-salt-added cannellini beans
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced (optional)
- 2 links Aidell’s Organic Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage, chopped and pan-warmed (optional)
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and let soften for about 3 minutes. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and cook about 2 more minutes. Next add the broth, kale, and tomatoes (I blended the tomatoes for a less chunky texture). Cover and simmer for 5-10 mins. Finally, add in the beans (plus the carrots & sausage if you’re using them). Continue simmering for another 10 mins. In addition to some paprika and Italian herbs (basil, oregano, and tarragon) I also added in a little bit xanthan gum for thickening. Serve hot topped with Pecorino Romano cheese and a little Tuscan bread on the side. Because I made so much, I shared a nice piping hot bowl for my poor sweet little landlord who is under the weather.
Elizabeth found inspiration, as usual, by browsing food blog upon food blog. This time it was at The Pastry Affair where I struck gold. I adjusted a few of the ingredients just slightly and, were I to go back and make it again, I’d probably add carrots and some white beans.
Elizabeth’s Zuppa Tuscana (from The Pastry Affair)
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- a healthy seasoning of paprika
- 2 medium yellow onions, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 10 cups chicken broth
- 4 Russet potatoes, sliced into disks and then quartered
- splash of heavy cream
- 1 bunch kale, torn into bite sized pieces
- Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large soup pot, sauté together the ground sausage and paprika until the meat is browned. Drain off the excess fat and move to a different bowl. Set aside.
In the same pot, sauté the onions and garlic until softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth and heat until boiling. Add the sliced potatoes, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Add the cream, kale, and sausage and cook until heated thoroughly. This soup is best served hot with a hunk of Italian bread.
Take your pick. Both soups are delicious and perfect for snow days. Enjoy!