Radish & Pecan Grain Salad

Salads like this one remind me of warm weather, picnics, and farmers markets.  While not exactly spring in New England, this plate of crunchy radishes, chewy grains and lentils, and tart dried fruits might just transport you.   

Radish and Pecan Grain Salad
Adapted from Food52
Yield six to eight

2 cups mixed grains/beans/rice (used barley, millet, and French green lentils, but farro, wild rice, and quinoa can also work)
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 pound pecans, slightly chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup mixed radishes (used watermelon and French breakfast) cut into thin slices, preferably using a mandoline (watch your fingers!)
1/4 cup shallot, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dried cranberries/raisins/cherries

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the grains/beans and cook until just tender, about 25 minutes. The barley went in first, followed by the lentils.  The millet was cooked separately due to it's shorter cooking time.

Drain the grains/beans into a colander, then set aside until warm to the touch.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Season with salt to taste.

Irish Soda Bread

Living in walking distance to a bakery is both a blessing and a curse.  Hot and flaky chocolate croissants, fresh baguettes, and holiday treats such as this Irish soda bread happily greet hungry customers.  If wandering the Brookline/Brighton Ave/Packards Corner area, stop in, breathe in the sweet aromas, and walk out happy.

Clear Flour Bread
178 Thorndike Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies

In the continuing journey to find a cookie that combines chocolate, fruit, and oats, this one takes the cake, err, cookie. 

Chocolate Oatmeal Dried Fruit Cookies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
yield: three dozen (using a 1" cookie scoop)

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or powder
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips
1/2 cup dried fruit mix (raisins, cranberries, cherries)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, chocolate, dried fruits and pecans.

Either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet pan and then freeze the whole tray, bag the dough scoops, and freeze for future enjoyment.

If baking immediately, bake the cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.  If baking from the freezer, add 2-4 minutes of additional baking time. 

Peanut Sauce

This sauce has layers of character.  The first few notes are roasted peanut and sesame oil, followed by garlic and chile.  The heat builds, and thankfully, it doesn't blow out your taste buds making you wish for a cold beverage to wash away the fire.  But I guess the chile measurements could be increased to taste.  Per David Lebovitz's writing, this sauce is also delicious as a french fry dip...will trust his recommendation.

Peanut Sauce
adapted from David Lebovitz
yield: one generous cup

1 cup dark roasted unsalted peanuts (toast in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes)
1/2 to 3/4 cup hot black tea (drink the leftovers)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 small chile, seeded and finely chopped (I used a jalapeno)
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2-3/4 teaspoon chile paste or chile oil
1/3 cup packed cilantro sprigs
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

Put the peanuts, 1/4 cup hot tea, and the vegetable oil in a blender.

Let the blender run for a few minutes until the peanuts are almost smooth. Then add the remaining ingredients and let the blender run until the sauce is smooth.

Check the consistency. Add up to another 1/4 cup of tea if the sauce is too thick.

Serve the sauce with cooked Chinese noodles, shredded chicken, sliced cucumbers, and chopped cilantro.

The peanut sauce can be made up to one week in advance and refrigerated, or frozen for up to two months.

TEDxManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat

The TEDx Manhattan "Changing the Way We Eat" conference was an assault on the senses.  Music heard, experts seen, and food tasted and touched. Being thrilled and excited to attend the conference in person, I didn't know what to expect other than go in expecting a TED* style of learning. The event focused on sustainable food and farming with the goal to create new connections and collaborations across various disciplines (academia, restaurants, writers, farmers, and researchers).  

Stepping into the Prince George Ballroom, gilded chairs were set in tightly packed rows forcing a bit of networking and creating a sense of intimacy for participants and presenters.  The conference’s main organizer, Diane Hatz of The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food & Farming, opened the conference with some TED house rules: turn all technology off, be open to the possibilities of new ideas and people, and have fun.  The program kicked off with ETHEL, a three piece string “house band”, performing a portion of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida”.

The day was divided into three parts: what happened, where are we, and where are we going.  In total, 22 speakers delivered powerful and thought-provoking messages in rapid succession.  No lengthy introductions and no question & answer session from the audience.  Each speaker had their spotlight for 10-15 minutes.  Distilling all the information from the 22 presenters was difficult to do.  Below are three presenters (one from each session) that (to me) delivered something innovative, remarkable, and actionable.

“What happened?” session: Karen Hudson, President Dairy Education Alliance, co-founder ICCAW (Illinois Citizens for Clean Air & Water): Karen and her family live in the farmland of central Illinois.  A factory farm moved next door to her home.  Along with her neighbors, she formed a group called FARM (families against rural mess) to protest and organize against the factory’s constant messes and other hidden externalities.  Her work received media and government attention that uncovered the “stinking” issues behind animal agriculture practices.

“Where are we?” session: Ian Cheney, co-founder Truck Farm, Peabody-award winning filmmaker:  Ian opened his presentation with a short video showing the audience his alternative method of urban agriculture: he turned his grandfather’s Dodge pick-up truck into a 40 square foot garden by implementing existing green roof technologies.  His truck (based in Brooklyn) has attracted chefs as well as young, urban dwellers (known as kids) to his project.  He partnered with local schools asking schoolchildren to reimagine urban agriculture.  Ian has grown enough produce to start a small, but modest, CSA for $20 a share.

“Where are we going?” session: Curt Ellis, co-founder Food Corps, Peabody award-winning filmmaker:  Curt was the only presenter that did not use any multi-media to support his presentation.  Just a man, a stage, and a microphone.  He discussed John F. Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps, an organization that celebrates a 50 year anniversary this year.  Curt modeled Food Corps after the Peace Corps with the hope that young people will want to spend a year working towards school food public service. Curt believes that school food is where it all begins and that cafeterias should be transformed into health food venues.

Of course, attending a conference about food means exceptional meals.  With all these wonderful ideas and conversations, brain power foods were much appreciated, and the meals were coordinated by the Cleaver Company.  Breakfast was a simple spread of whole grain breads and savory biscuits.  Baskets of apples were available all-day.  Hot beverages and fresh fruit juices were plentiful.  For lunch, this meal was an easy opportunity to insert a networking activity.  Lunch bags each holding five lunches were assembled for five attendees to make introductions, talk about the conference, and individual focuses.  I thoroughly enjoyed my roast beef sandwich with the most delicious salad (quinoa, black beans, and dried cranberries).  Desserts from City Bakery were waiting in the ballroom’s foyer.  An afternoon chocolate tasting with Vosges Chocolates was a welcome treat and surprise.  The day concluded with a reception  and the always appreciated goodies bag of samples and magazines-my favorite takeaways were the Cleaver Company’s homemade marshmallows and Manhattan Edible Magazine.

Leaving the event with a full stomach and a full brain, I felt very happy to have attended TEDxManhattan.  Lots of key learnings and inspiration about the future of sustainable food.  Based on follow-up emails from the Glynwood Institute, plans are underway for the 2012 conference.  I would encourage anyone interested in sustainable food and farming to apply and become a TEDx-ster.

Pictures of the event can be found here:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedxmanhattan

*click here to learn more about TED

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade

Citrus season is in full swing.  Take advantage of all the varieties of oranges and lemons piled up at markets & grocery stores.   This marmalade is composed of two of my favorites: a blood orange and a Meyer lemon.  Spread the marmalade on toast or serve with biscuits, especially these cream biscuits.  The recipe makes enough to fill two small jars, so keep one in the refrigerator and either give the other jar to a friend or store in the freezer. 

Meyer Lemon & Blood Orange Marmalade
taken from the New York Times
yield: 2 cups

3 medium Meyer lemons, ends trimmed
1 medium blood orange, ends trimmed
1 cup granulated sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)
1 cup Demerara (raw) sugar (*note: original recipe said 1 1/2 cups - thought that would be too sweet)

Place a small plate or saucer in the freezer.

Wash the citrus well under warm water. Cut the lemons and orange in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1/8-inch segments, lengthwise. Cut out any exposed membrane and remove the seeds.

Measure the cut citrus; you should have 2 1/2 cups.  Place the citrus and the same volume of water into a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until the peels are very soft and fully cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the sugars to the pot, stir to combine. Turn the heat up to high and bring back to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and let the marmalade simmer until set. It should take about 20 to 30 minutes, but start checking after 15 minutes to see if it is set by spooning a little onto a chilled plate from the freezer. If it looks like jam and not runny syrup, it’s ready.

Allow marmalade to cool to room temperature before serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and use within a month.

Sunday Brunch at Dorado Tacos

As a former resident of Chicago, a city known for turning out some serious, authentic Mexican food, I searched high and low for a potential substitute for my favorite taquerias in the Windy City.  Located within walking distance of my home, Dorado Tacos & Cemitas fits that bill.  Dorado offers a short roster of tacos, salads, cemitas, and weekend brunch specialities that capture the flavors from the Baja coast and Puebla, Mexico. 

Weekend brunch offers breakfast quesadillas and tacos with scrambled eggs, queso fresco, salsa, and guacamole.  Additional toppings include house-made chorizo (a favorite), grilled steak, vegetables, and chicken.  My pick for the day was a plate of huevos rancheros and black beans with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.

Two sunny side up eggs, corn tortillas, salsa ranchera, queso fresco, scallions & cilantro compose the huevos rancheros.  The eggs don't need a splash of hot sauce due to the fiery punch and bright flavors of the ranchera sauce.  The black beans were perfectly simmered and seasoned.  The simple meal paired well with the Ibarra Mexican hot chocolate.  This steaming cup of chocolate was perfect for a cold day. 


Dorado Tacos & Cemitas
401 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
11 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Beef Stock

This is a modified version of making traditional beef stock.  More like a cheater's version if you don't have the space, stock pot, or desire to clean an oven. 

Beef Stock
adapted from Food52
5 - 6 cups

2 pounds beef marrow bones
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
5 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs Italian parsley

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse the bones with cold water and pat dry. Place the bones in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Roast for about an hour. 

Remove bones from oven, rub with tomato paste, then roast another hour.

Place the bones, vegetables and herbs in the slow cookers/crock pot, with just enough water to cover. Turn pot to high for 45 to 60 minutes, then turn to low and leave it alone for the rest of the day (about 7 hours).

Strain stock through fine strainer, and let cool completely before placing it in the refrigerator overnight.  Placing the stock in an ice bath is also a good idea.

The next day remove and discard fat. Transfer stock to storage containers in various sizes and freeze until needed.

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup

The first time I made this soup was early January 2010 for a New Year's party.  I decided to make the full batch which serves four to six people and when ladled into small bowls, it can stretch for a gathering.  In this recipe, I scaled the ingredients down for a smaller batch.  San Marzano tomatoes are typically sold in 28 ounce cans - feel free to use a 14 ounce can of whole tomatoes (regardless of brand) or open the larger size and use the remaining tomatoes for another use.  I'm sure that won't be a tough challenge!

Spicy Tomato Bleu Cheese Soup
adapted from the Amateur Gourmet
originally from Michael Symon's Live To Cook by Michael Symon

Serves 2 to 3

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small-ish red onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 14-oz can San Marzano tomatoes with the juice
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce, or a little less depending on taste (don't buy it, make your own)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Blue cheese (Roth Kase is recommended; Maytag or Buttermilk are also good)

Heat the olive oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and a large pinch of salt and sweat for two minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sweat for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice and the stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the cream, sriracha sauce, and thyme and simmer for 45 minutes.  Take care to not let the soup boil - heavy cream doesn't like it!

Add the blue cheese to the soup, and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth.  A regular blender could also be used and work in batches if necessary.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot, taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and reheat to serve.

The soup will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for a few days.

How to Cook Rice .. in the Oven

Raise your hand if you have ever under or over cooked rice?  This foolproof way of baking rice in the oven will put a stop to that.  The rice came out of the oven buttery and tender.   

Simple White Rice

serves 1 -2
adapted from the Educated Palate

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup rice
1 1/4 cup water
Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Put the butter in an ovenproof pot and melt over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add the water and season with salt.

When the water begins to bubble, cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if desired.