Fresh Sriracha

In a word: hot.  A little bit of this fresh sriracha goes a long way.  The flavors are cleaner and more pronounced than the bottled stuff found in the grocery store.  When making this at home, be sure to wear plastic gloves when chopping the chiles.

Fresh Sriracha

adapted from Food52
Makes 1/2-3/4 cup

1/4 pound red fresno chiles or a variety of fresh chilies, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled & left whole
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar or palm sugar

Place all the ingredients except the sugar in a bowl and let sit overnight to mellow the heat of the peppers.

Place the chile mixture and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Transfer to a blender and puree for about 5 minutes, until a smooth, orange-red mixture forms. Pass through a strainer and smush out as much sauce as possible.

Pour into a jar & refrigerate.

On-the-Road Dining Adventures

Capturing some of the meals eaten away from my kitchen:

BBQ Chicken Salad courtesy of American Airlines (not terrible, but not spectacular .. it is airline food, after all)

Blazin' Burger with Village Fries (rosemary & thyme) from Good Stuff in DC

Dinner at Carrabba's in Panama City, FL

Spicy Chicken Sandwich & Fries from Chick-fil-a.  Craving achieved.

Chicken/Rice/Green Chile Soup and House Salad with Grilled Corn from Chili's.  Surprisingly good.

Kosher-style hot dog from Five Guys.  Tried to make it Chicago-style but no sport peppers, celery salt, or neon green relish existed.

Black & Bleu Burger from Boston Burger Company in Somerville, MA.  Simple and well-prepared.


What do your dining experiences look like when (or if) traveling for work?

Chamomile Tea

I found fresh chamomile flowers at the Green City Market and immediately wanted to do something with these cute little plants.  They are mini versions of daisies but have excellent health benefits.  Pleasantly surprised at the flavor, I hope that more of the flowers show up week after week at the market. 

Chamomile Tea
serves one or two

1 cup of fresh chamomile flowers with the stems
honey or agave nectar, to taste

Fill a teapot with water and set it on the stove to boil. Rinse off the chamomile flowers with cool water and remove the stems from the flowers. When the water gets hot, throw in some of the chamomile flowers. About two or three teaspoons of the flowers for every cup of water is a good ratio.

Let the water boil and the flowers steep for a few minutes, then pour the tea through a strainer into a cup.

Add honey or agave nectar, to taste.  Drink and enjoy.

Basil Ice Cream

What to do with basil besides pesto and caprese salad?  Make ice cream!

Basil Ice Cream
adapted from Tyler Florence, Eat This Book
yield:1 quart

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
lemon strips (no white pith) or zest
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
large bunch of basil, washed and divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, paste or powder

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk, cream, and lemon strips or zest. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F (77°C).

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add half the basil and stir till incorporated.  Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F (85°C). Do not bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl.  To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours.

Gently whisk the vanilla and remaining basil into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn per the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

Caprese Pasta

Mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.  Three ingredients that always go well together.  Why not toss this trio with pasta and enjoy on a summer day.

Caprese Pasta
adapted from Food52
serves one or two

1 medium red, ripe tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes; I used sun gold)
1/2 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 - 8 ounces pasta (examples: cavatappi, penne, farfalle)
1/2 medium ball fresh mozzarella

A couple of hours before eating, core and roughly chop the tomatoes and tip them into a large serving bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, basil, a few healthy pinches of salt and several grinds of pepper. Gently stir these all together and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour so the flavors have a chance to meld.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of very salty water until al dente. Meanwhile, dice the mozzarella and add it to the bowl of tomatoes, basil, etc. 

When the pasta is done, drain it thoroughly and add it to the bowl. Gently fold everything together and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if you’d like. Let the pasta sit for 5 minutes or so before serving, folding gently a couple of times to distribute the tomato juices and olive oil.

Pizza + Arugula

Early tomatoes are popping up at markets.  Picking up a couple for some undetermined use, I started thinking about the pizza I had last weekend.  It had arugula, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic.  Wanting to avoid stirring onions for 30 minutes and checking on garlic cloves in the oven, I opted not to use them.

This pizza couldn't be easier to make for lunch or dinner: pre-made dough, thinly slices of tomato, torn pieces of fresh mozzarella, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Bake at 450 degrees or higher, if your oven agrees, until the crust is golden (mine takes 8 to 10 minutes).  Add the arugula after the pizza comes out of the oven as it will wilt slightly from the heat.  Drizzle with more olive oil. 

Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Simple, satisfying lunch or dinner for one or two eaters.  Enough said!

Eggs Poached in Spicy Tomato Sauce (also called Shakshuka)
adapted from Smitten Kitchen 

Serves 1 to 2

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 Anaheim chile or 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped 
1/2 small yellow onion or 1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 14 ounce can whole peeled (or crushed) tomatoes, undrained (save the leftover tomatoes for a pasta sauce)
Kosher salt, to taste
2 eggs
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 tablespoon chopped mint 
Warm pitas or country bread, for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/4 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with goat cheese and mint and serve with pitas or slices of bread, for dipping.