I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand how flavored store-bought nuts are so heavily coated in the powder that you can’t even taste the nuts themselves. When I came across this recipe for Sriracha powder, I decided to try my hand at homemade flavored almonds to see if I could get the perfect flavor balance.
I know I sound like a broken record every time I utter the words I hate baking. But it’s true. I hate doing things that I suck at. And I, ladies ‘n gents, am a really sucky baker.
My friends always tease me about my OCD tendencies and need for total organization and routine in my life. You would think this personality trait would translate into kick-ass baking. Not so much. I’m a come-up-with-a-recipe-on-the-go-and-sprinkle-a-dash-of-this-and-pinch-of-that kinda gal in the kitchen, and baking is the total opposite of that. Baking is about precision and patience, two qualities that I truly lack, in or out of the kitchen.
I’m honored to share my birthday with the noodle. There’s nothing like a hearty noodle dish to lift your spirits, especially as the weather starts to turn cooler and the days become shorter. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Korea and was spoiled with all kinds of amazing Korean noodle dishes — savory, spicy, loaded with seaweed, dumplings and even rice cakes. Mmmm mmmm.
My favorite color is green. I’m part Irish (I even had reddish hair as a kid. Imagine that – a red-headed, Asian-looking alien child ). My husband’s name is Patrick:
What I’m saying here is I heart St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, my friends treat it like my second birthday — I get cards, gifts, candy, you name it for St. Patty’s Day every year.
The cold, crappy, rainy weather this weekend (PS: I think that groundhog was drunk when he made the prediction for early spring this year – hrmph!) had me craving warm comfort food. I rummaged through my enormous “recipe pile” — recipes and cooking notes written on everything from post-its to gum wrappers — and came across my notes from a pasta-making class I took last year with Dylan Giordan, executive chef of Serafina and Cicchetti. Then the lighbulb in my head went off: GNOCCHI, baby!
One of the best things about working downtown again: killer happy hours within walking distance! I recently checked out happy hour at Lecosho, Matt Janke’s (formerly of Matt’s in the Market) newest restaurant nestled in the Harbor Steps, which just so happens to be a stone’s throw away from my work.
I had heard nothing but great things about this place and finally had a chance to try some of their nibbles at the last Foodportunity event — they served up a delicious, yet scary-looking (think bologna and meatloaf having a love child), duck mortadella over a crostini.
When I joined a friend for a proper meal at the restaurant, we shared the hand-made cavatelli with wild mushrooms and a side order of the cauliflower with bagna cauda. I absolutely fell in love with the cauliflower — perfectly crisp and packed full of garlicky-salty flavor! So naturally, I decided to try making this dish at home. Happy hour prices or not, the Amateur Gourmand is all about being economical these days .
You know what cauliflower is (doi!), but what exactly is bagna cauda, you ask? Bagna cauda means “hot bath” in Italian. A hot bath (or warm dip, rather) made up of olive oil, butter, lots of garlic and anchovies, and usually served fondue-style with veggies. The dish at Lecosho had the bagna cauda mixed into the roasted cauliflower, which I really liked.
I said anchovies…did I lose you? Don’t knock it till you try it people! Anchovy filets add so much depth of flavor! And, once those suckers dissolve and cook down, there isn’t any pungent fishy flavor…just the perfect salty bite.
So anyway, I’m also trying to watch my figure these days so I opted to leave butter out of my version of bagna cauda (I know, I know, first anchovies, now this…). The flavors were still spot-on and I didn’t feel so much like a blimp after eating a bowl…and then licking the bowl clean . I had some Brussels sprouts on hand who wanted to join the party so I threw them into the hot tub time machine as well.
If you have any kiddos or men in your life who need a little extra convincing to finish their veggies, give this recipe a try (let’s face it, some grown dudes are worse than kids when it comes to veggies).
Roasted cauliflower & Brussels sprouts w/ bagna cauda
Serves 2 as a side dish
For the veggies:
- 1/2 lb cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
- 1/2 lb Brussels sprouts, dark outer leaves and stems removed, cut in half
- Olive oil
- Fresh parsley, minced (for garnish at the end)
For the bagna cauda:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4-5 small flat anchovy filets
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss veggies with olive oil and lay in single layer on baking sheet. Roast until browned, approximately 25-30 minutes.
Start on bagna cauda when veggies are about 10 minutes from being finished (you want the bagna cauda to be warm when you coat the veggies). In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes and garlic and sautee until garlic starts to soften, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the anchovy filets – YUM! Reduce heat to low.
Using a wooden spoon, break up the anchovy filets; cook on low heat until they have fully dissolved into the oil mixture, about 5 minutes.
When veggies are done roasting, remove from oven and coat with finished bagna cauda. Toss to coat evenly. Now, if for some reason this isn’t salty enough for you, by all means add more salt. I found it to be plenty salty with just the anchovies.
Top with minced parsley and serve immediately while hot. Buon appetito!
I recently saw an episode of Giada at Home on the Food Network where she made sweet potato and kale chips. With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I decided to experiment with a healthy snack alternative myself (thanks for the inspiration, Giada!).
I decided to combine two of my favorite ingredients – beets and Greek yogurt – to make a figure-friendly version of chips and dip. Give these a try and I guarantee you won’t be grabbing any store-bought potato chips and dip anymore. Well, unless of course you screw up the recipe, in which case, that’s all your own fault . And if you have any guests who hesitate giving these a try, lie to them and say it’s purple potatoes — they won’t know the difference mwahahaha!
Baked Beet Chips w/ Yogurt-Chive Dip
For the beet chips:
- 1 lb beets, greens removed
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the yogurt-chive dip:
- 6 oz nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- Juice of 1/2 a small lemon
- 3 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
- 1/2 tsp Penzey’s shallot salt (celery salt or garlic salt would be good alternatives if you don’t have shallot salt)
- Pinch of white pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the beets. Note: these little suckers bleed and turn everything red — I recommend keeping the beets on paper towels to minimize clean up later.
Using the thinnest setting on a mandolin, slice the beets.
Toss sliced beets with extra-virgin olive oil and salt & pepper. Place a baking rack on top of a flat baking sheet. Working in batches, place sliced beets in a single layer on top of the baking rack.
Bake until crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Note: Keep a close eye on these! The high sugar content of beets make them very susceptible to burning, especially when sliced so thin.
While the beets are baking, start on the yogurt-chive dip. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt and lemon juice.
Add the chives and parsley and mix until well incorporated.
Season with shallot salt and white pepper; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
When beet chips are done, season with additional salt while hot (optional). Plate with yogurt-chive dip, sit back, and watch the Packers kick some Steeler butt!
Oh, and another helpful tip: don’t turn your back for even a second while working with raw beets…or else a sneaky little kitty may get into some mischief (notice the red beet mustache on his face ).
Anyone else doing some figure-friendly Super Bowl nibbles? This Buffalo Chicken Rolls recipe from Can You Stay For Dinner is definitely on my list to try — YUM!
This month marks Amateur Gourmand’s first blog-iversary, and as I reflect back on the past year, I can’t help but feel truly blessed for all the wonderful new opportunities, experiences and friends I’ve made through this blog.
And to add fuel to my blissful state of mind, I received a lovely email yesterday announcing that I’m among the winners of Foodista’s Best of Food Blogs Cookbook contest. My chapchae recipe will be published in the cookbook, which will be released on Oct 19 (you can pre-order your copy on Amazon.com).
Of course this success was due in large part to those who voted for me — a heartfelt THANK YOU to you all. Thank you for your unwavering support and for continuing to encourage me despite how awful some of my photographs turn out or the occassional disasters I create in my kitchen
Here’s to another year of fun food adventures!
For my very last Meatless Week meal yesterday, I decided to really step up the challenge by trying a vegetable that I generally don’t like: bell peppers. Actually, I don’t mind raw bell peppers dipped in some hummus or ranch, but I’m not a fan of cooked bell peppers. I came across this recipe for roasted bell peppers stuffed with a quinoa mixture and was instantly intrigued.
Something this beautiful couldn’t quite possibly taste bad. I was right, this dish is amazing! The hearty and flavorful quinoa mixture with the tender and juicy bell peppers are the perfect combination. I’ll definitely be making this one again…Meatless Week or not.
I learned quite a bit this past week, including wonderful new recipes and ingredients (did you know that quinoa is full of protein?!). I also learned to really listen to my body and eat just enough to curb hunger pangs. It’s amazing how some celery with peanut butter or handful of edamame can do just that. But as fun as it was to be a vegetarian for a week, I look forward to reintroducing meat into my diet today. Now the question is, what will be the first piece of meat I eat. Bacon? Chicken? A sampling of everything?
Roasted Bell Peppers With Quinoa Stuffing
Adapted from Whole Foods Market recipe
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 7 bell peppers (1 cored, seeded and chopped; tops removed and reserved from remaining 6 then cored and seeded)
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 lb baby spinach
- 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions (I used red quinoa – turned out really colorful and pretty )
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews (I used pistachios since I had them in my pantry)
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until transparent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add carrots and chopped peppers, cook until just softened, then add parsley and spinach (in batches, if needed). Let spinach wilt then stir in cinnamon, cumin and cooked quinoa and toss gently to combine. Add salt, pepper and cashews (or pistachios) and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Set aside to let filling cool until just warm.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9- x 13-inch baking pan with oil then set aside. Divide quinoa mixture evenly among remaining 6 bell peppers, gently packing it down and making sure to fully fill each pepper. Top each pepper with its reserved top then arrange them upright in prepared pan. Cover snugly with foil and bake, checking halfway through, until peppers are tender and juicy and filling is hot throughout, about 1 hour. Transfer to plates and serve.
I didn’t have any major cravings for meat this week…until yesterday. All I could think about was eating a juicy piece of meat. So naturally I rebelled and resorted to eating crap…meatless crap. Yesterday’s “meals” consisted of these three food groups: cheese, cornichons, Swedish fish.
I woke up today with a renewed attitude (and grumbling tummy), and managed to make not one, but two delicious meat-free meals to make up for yesterday.
Jeanine, a blogger for Belles of the Sound, passed along this recipe for curried sweet potatoes and lentils. I haven’t met a sweet potato I didn’t like and I’ve actually never had lentils (gasp, I know!) so I was extremely excited to give this recipe a try. It was fantastic — hearty and full of flavor! This would be a perfect dish for a chilly autumn night, which is exactly how the weather felt today despite being the unofficial start to summer (Memorial Day weekend).
Curried Sweet Potatoes and Lentils
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp curry powder
- 3 medium sweet potatoes (1.5 lbs.), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 can (14.5 oz) vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and curry powder, and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Stir in sweet potatoes, lentils, rice, salt, broth, and 2.5 cups water; heat to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until lentils and rice are tender and almost all liquid is absorbed. Let stand 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.
After running a bunch of errands and re-arranging the house, I decided tonight would be a stay-in-and-watch-a-movie kind of night. And what better to go along with such a night than pizza! With some help from Trader Joe’s, I made a delicious semi-homemade pizza with all my favorite toppings: cheese, mushrooms, jalapenos and black olives.
I began by pickling the jalapenos for approx 2 hours in a mixture of distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, water, salt, sugar, onion, garlic and peppercorns.
When it was time to build the pizza, I simply followed the instructions on the fresh pizza dough package (thank you, TJs, for making this Amateur Gourmand-proof ):
- Take dough out of package and let rest for 20 minutes
- Roll dough out on lightly floured surface
- Top with pizza sauce, cheese and desired toppings
- Bake in 450-degree oven until dough is golden and cheese is melted, approx 10 minutes
The original plan was to serve a lentil salad alongside (I received a great recipe from Joyce, author of the The Heritage Cook blog). But I totally overcooked the lentils and they fell apart and turned into the ugliest pile of mush. So I said the heck with it and ate the pizza by itself.