Keep Indefinitely

I bought red miso paste this weekend to use in a new recipe. Yes, this is another “specialty” ingredient that I anticipate using only occasionally. So why didn’t I resist the urge and skip this recipe?  Well, upon seeking out the item at Fairway, I found one brand, which came in a jar.  I inspected the label and read “Refrigerate and keep indefinitely.”  How perfect!

Plus, it was pretty interesting to open up the red miso container and see this message:


Sounds good to me!

I know what I’ll be making next!

As a side note, this week is Earth Week, and I hope it caused you to pause for a moment here and there to think about how you can consume less and reduce waste. The newest step I am going to take is to purchase a rain barrel that will capture rainwater I will then use for my garden this summer.

Back to my “earthy” meal: I picked this unusual recipe merely because I had a head of fresh broccoli leftover. Anther head had been prepared via the simple and boring – yet still tasty – method of steaming, and served alongside pasta.

This was my first encounter with Bagna Càuda, and had I not looked into it further, I would have assumed it is always made with miso paste. But I learned that it is an Italian dish, specifically Pietmontese, made and served similarly to a fondue for dipping (Italian) vegetables like carrots, fennel, and artichokes. The name means “hot bath,” and usually involves olive oil, garlic, and anchovies, and sometimes incorporates butter or cream. It sounds comforting and delicious; why is this the first I’ve heard of it? Well for starters, perhaps I should have continued my subscription to Bon Appetit … Ironically, my reading loyalty has instead gone to Cooking Light .

I love the folks at Tasting Table, but their style of writing recipes in this particular series annoys me. They write that the recipe yields two servings, plus leftover bagna càuda that can be refrigerated for up to a month. But they don’t tell you how much bagna càuda to put on your two servings of broccoli, and how many servings you will have left over! The original bagna càuda subsection of this recipe called for 4 sticks of butter. Needless to say, I cut that down to one, and made sure that I had leftovers from that.


Roasted Broccoli with Miso Bagna Càuda
adapted from TastingTable’s adaption of a recipe from Stephen Thorlton, sous chef at San Francisco’s State Bird Provisions
Serving size: at least 3 servings as a side-dish. It really depends on what you consider to count as one serving of a broccoli dish!

~1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets – mine yielded 13.7 oz of florets
3 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Bagna Càuda:
1 stick unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves
, finely chopped
3 ounces scallions, white and light green parts only, very finely chopped
1.333 Tablespoons red miso paste (I know, I know…)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Finishing touches:
~1/2 Tablespoon lemon zest and ~1/2 Tablespoon orange zest, plus ~2 Tablespoons each freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice (or the zest and juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon, if you have that)
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 Tablespoons toasted panko or bread crumbs (optional)

Make the broccoli: Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat the oven to 475°. This is when a little alarm goes off in my head to turn on the hood van in the kitchen, and/or open some windows. 9 times out of 10 that I use my oven at more than 400°, and especially when the broiler is involved, you can expect the smoke alarm to go off. Then it’s off to the dining area with a chair and a towel, waving frantically in the air while attempting to simultaneously plug at least one of my ears. I hope I’m not the only one.
To a large mixing bowl, add and mix together the first 5 ingredients (through red pepper). Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven (mine was in the oven for about 10 minuets) and add the broccoli to the baking sheet, shaking the pan to evenly distribute. Return to the oven and roast until the broccoli is charred and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.
DSC_4384Transfer broccoli from baking sheet back into the mixing bowl. Add panko to baking sheet, and place in oven, which has been turned OFF, for about 5 minutes until toasted. The leftover heat should be enough.

Make the bagna càuda: To a large saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter. Once the butter begins to melt, add the garlic and scallions. Whisk to combine. Once the garlic is very fragrant and lightly toasted, after about 5 minutes, turn the heat down to very low or off and whisk in the red miso paste. I read elsewhere that miso paste has a very bitter taste if burned, so it is important to avoid a high boil.

While whisking, drizzle in 2 heaping tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.

Transfer broccoli to serving bowl, or individual plates. Spoon the bagna càuda over the broccoli. Serve sprinkled with the zest and juice, grated Parmesan cheese, and toasted breadcrumbs (if using).

I served mine with half a pulled pork sandwich with Dinosaur Barbecue sauce, the leftovers from Matt’s Sunday session with our smoker.

Fill to the Max

This is going to be another recipe designated as “healthy.” It happens to involve lentils again, and I’m sorry for the lack of variety so far in that department. I swear I’m not that obsessed with lentils. Though it is impressive how satisfying they can be, acting as a protein-provider in the absence of meat. Vegetables are the star in this one.

Let me talk a little bit about the ingredients. This recipe calls for another one of those herb bunches, this time: mint.
I had bought the mint a few days earlier, actually, to use in a recipe for chicken biryani. Where is this recipe, you ask? Well, it wasn’t exactly…good. My version of this Indian rice dish with spices turned out bland! There were a few problems. Even though I went as far as to use some whole spice freshly ground, I didn’t have all of the exact spices. (Apparently, BLACK cumin seeds are a critical ingredient in garam masala). And I was cooking with a friend with whom I was also catching up, and I was distracted and didn’t taste until it was too late (thank goodness Tom Colicchio wasn’t judging). We all ate it anyway, of course, with the help of good old pepper and salt. Perhaps I’ll try this again and apply what I learned and tell you about it then.


Please forgive the white balance problem with this picture. One of these days I’ll work on photo editing. My kitchen window frame and walls are not actually that yellow-orange.

I picked up the asparagus, red pepper, and red onion for this recipe. My red onion was actually large enough that I used half of it thinly sliced in a simple salad with two small fresh vine tomatoes, chopped and one sliced avocado in a cider vinegar/lemon-lime juice vinaigrette (to satisfy a craving for a dish that had been served at Matt’s Aunt and Uncle’s Easter feast). Asparagus represents Spring, of course. In fact, it was a beautiful, bright sunny afternoon/evening when I made this food, with the early bulbs in bloom in my garden. Here’s a look at the view of my back yard from the window by my kitchen counter:

And I love, love, love keeping goat cheese on hand. I can eat that stuff with almost anything–greens, vegetables, legumes, grains, pasta…you name it. Remember, I had it on the kale pizza last week.

Let’s get to it:

Lentil Salad with Roasted Veggies
from Good Housekeeping‘s March 2013 “Dr. Oz’s 7-Day High-Energy Meal Plan” article
2 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1 small red pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup (from 2-3 limes) fresh lime juice
1/3-1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Mixed greens
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In 4-quart covered saucepan, heat 6 cups water to boiling on high. Stir in lentils. Reduce heat to maintain simmer. Simmer, covered, 25 to 30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in large jelly-roll pan, toss asparagus, red pepper, and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil (regular olive oil stands up to heat better), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Roast 18 to 20 minutes or until tender, stirring and turning pan halfway through.
For the dressing: in a large bowl, whisk together lime juice, mint, 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Add hot lentils and vegetables to dressing; toss until well coated. Divide greens among serving plates. Top with lentil mixture and goat cheese.

I ate this warm for dinner. I took a leftover serving to work the next day and ate it cold for lunch–it works that way too! I mentioned the high protein content earlier, and the high fiber also makes it filling. Those facts were clear later in the afternoon, when I felt no need for a 2:30pm snack. HIGHLY unusual.

Happy Spring!

Bready Goodness

I am very lucky to have a husband who likes to bake breads, pizzas, rolls, etc. I bought him some sourdough starter a couple of years ago, and ever since, as he has kept it alive with regular “feedings,” and remained fairly committed to using it often. Since we are a family of two, and we liked to vary our diets, this habit keeps our freezer well stocked with pre-made pizza dough, or leftover bread which I have sliced or cubed. (That is one thing he doesn’t do — put away the leftovers. After all the work he puts into the risings and the kneadings, once it comes out the oven, he would have it left out on the counter going stale for hours or days if it wasn’t for me! I suppose we make a good team.)

The reason I mention this is because I had some wheat sourdough bread cubes in the freezer that really needed to be used. Bread pudding is such a flexible recipe, someday perhaps one day I’ll even be able to make it up as I go along without reference. This time I found a recipe from the Tillamook County Creamery that matched up with ingredients I had on hand, plus some greens I had been craving. Perhaps my version will similarly inspire you, but you may feel confident enough to make it your own!
Savory Bread Pudding
from Tillamook
Serves: 4 (Original recipe served 6-8, but I halved)

2 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
13 oz (~1.5 C) milk
8 oz (1 C) heavy cream
4 oz (1/2 C) plain greek yogurt
(crème fraiche, sour cream, or buttermilk are all great substitutions)

1/2 Tablespoon butter, to butter casserole dishes
10 oz stale bread cut into 1 inch cubes (some bread pudding recipes insist on weak white bread, but for this recipe you can use hearty bread like my wheat sourdough, whole wheat, French, Italian, or rye. If your bread doesn’t feel stale, dry it out in a hot 350°F oven on a sheet pan for 7 minutes)
5 oz cooked bacon (smoked turkey, ham, or sautéed mushrooms, for vegetarians, can be substituted. I ended up making two smaller dishes that incorporated the bacon and one that simply left it out for a vegetarian version)
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (thyme, rosemary, or parsley can all be substituted)
3 oz caramelized onions*
4 oz kale, briefly sautéed in
olive oil, with
1/2 Tablespoon garlic
3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
I highly recommend planning your schedule to make this recipe the day before you want to bake it. As you can see, you need to cook bacon, toast bread, and sauté greens before you can even assemble the dish to go in the oven. *Having a batch of caramelized onions done in advance will be helpful. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting way too long for dinner to be ready, like I was. I was starving by the time I was caramelizing the onions via two different shortcuts (they worked fine for the purposes of this recipe, but the onions were definitely more of a weird mushy texture I wouldn’t have wanted to use for anything else).
DSC_4320        DSC_4321

DSC_4324So I made extra kale with garlic and put it on sourdough pizza crust that had been sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan cheese and topped it off with some crumbles of goat cheese.
DSC_4329    DSC_4331

But I digress. Here are the instructions:

To make the egg mixture, whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs, salt and garlic powder until well blended. Add milk, cream, and yogurt and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Butter a casserole dish (at least 1.5 quart capacity) or multiple smaller baking dishes. Take half the bread and layer among the bottom of the dishes, then half of the bacon, half of the sage, half of the caramelized onions, half of the greens, and half of the cheese. Sprinkle with ~1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Repeat with remaining half of ingredients, sprinkling cheese and then remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper on last. Carefully pour custard over filled dishes, soaking evenly. You want all of the bread to be wet, so push down into custard if necessary.
Cover dish and refrigerate at least one hour and preferably overnight. Uncover and bake in an oven pre-heated to 325°F for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 157°F or until gently puffed and lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop into bowls to serve; serve warm.

Pictures–especially ones taken with my cell phone camera because I am too hungry and excited the next day to get a real camera–don’t do this kind of comfort food justice. Eat up!

Bottles Upon Casks Upon Jars

Last week, I decided it was about time that I found a way to use some of the specialty ingredients that have been sitting patiently in my refrigerator or pantry, expiring away.

It takes a sincere effort to use up an entire jar or bottle of these things, before they pass their date.  I lamented about this fact when my friend Kristen and I discovered expired and unusable Sriracha in my pantry once when cooking together in my kitchen.  I told her I liked having it on hand, but didn’t want to have a full bottle. She is an avid Sriracha eater, so she offered to transfer some of hers over to a small jar for me to have. How great is that? This kind of friendly/neighborly trade makes so much sense to me, and it harkens back to the idea of neighbors lending a cup of sugar.  Do neighbors even do that anymore? I have trouble imagining myself knocking on someone’s door to ask for some sugar, flour, sauce, etc., even in my safe and relatively comfortable suburban neighborhood. It would be interesting, though, if groups of people in a local vicinity “went in on” smaller quantities of goods.
I won’t tell you how long past expired the sweet chili sauce was, but unlike the Sriracha, there was little difference in taste, and I searched through the web to find a recipe that could take advantage. Here’s what I settled on.

Spicy Shrimp with Thai Peanut Rice Noodles
Based on recipe found via the Food Network here
Servings: ~4

~6 ounces rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce
(Trader Joe’s)
1 teaspoon spicy chili garlic paste
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup broth
plus extra as needed. Use whatever kind you have around–I had an open container of vegetable broth in the fridge, and I thought it worked fine.
1/3 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 -3 green onions
, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
, chopped
1/2 pound frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
, tail on,
thawed overnight in the fridge or if you need to cheat, carefully thaw in bag submerged in room temperature water, replacing the water as it cools.
Chopped peanuts

Optional Thai Sauce:
1/3 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon vinega
r, white or rice
1/8 teaspoon sweet chili sauce
1 pinch crushed chili flakes
1 small carrot
, shredded

Prepare rice noodles according to package directions, placing in a bowl with hot water until soft. Noodles can be al dente since they will be added to the pan and simmered for a few minutes with the shrimp and sauce.

Melt peanut butter in a small microwave safe bowl for 15 seconds. Whisk in lime juice, sweet Thai chili sauce, chili-garlic sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, broth and curry powder. This can be made ahead of time and re-whisked immediately before adding to noodles.

Make optional sauce ahead of time, if using. This sauce is for drizzling over the noodle bowls upon serving. I was skeptical, because it didn’t taste like much on its own, but it does add to the final taste product. Prepare sauce by combining the following in this order: cold water, sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, sweet chili sauce and crushed chili flakes. Grate carrot, add to bowl, and stir.

Heat oil in a large nonstick fry pan at medium-high heat. Add onions and let cook for about 30 seconds. Add garlic and sautee for about 1 minute. Add thawed shrimp to hot pan. Cook for about two minutes per side until just pink.

Add drained rice noodles to the pan along with prepared peanut sauce. Cook for a few minute until all ingredients are heated through and rice noodles soften. If mixture seems dry, add 1/2 cup more broth to loosen up.

Place lettuce on serving dishes and top with rice noodles and shrimp. Drizzle with 1-2 Tablespoons of optional sauce. Top with fresh cilantro, if you have it, and chopped peanuts. Additional carrot can also be shredded on top.

Enjoy! Try not to dwell on the fact that you haven’t made a noticeable dent in the various bottles and casks and jars…

Bake it into a cake

Last week, I kept seeing in the freezer a container of leftover canned pumpkin and thought, I better use that up.  Pumpkin is generally though to be a fall/winter ingredient, and we are heading straight into summer, based on the weather forecast.  I do wish that pumpkin recipes better matched up with the standard quantity in cans, because there is always some remaining!

As I said before, my first idea for using a leftover ingredient often involves baking a dessert.  Fortunately, this was going to be a welcome addition to my husband’s family’s Easter meal gathering the next day.

Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Frosting

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Food Network Recipe

For the cake:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs, or 4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese
scant 4 ounces plain yogurt (I used greek)
1 1/4 C confectioners’ sugar, sifted
~2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup minced dried crystallized ginger
pinch of kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan (also known as a jelly roll pan?). Line the pan with parchment paper, or in my case a silpat, and add grease and flour to that–it is very important so the cake doesn’t stick!

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high until light yellow and thickened (this goes faster if your eggs have fully come up to room temperature). With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin, then slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.

While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton dish towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar evenly over it. (This is to prevent the cake from sticking to the towel). Remove the cake from the oven and immediately loosen it around the edges with a rubber spatula. Invert cake squarely onto the prepared towel. Peel away the parchment paper or silpat.
Gently roll the warm cake and the towel together (without squeezing), starting at the short end of the cake. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Ina’s recipe calls for 12 oz Italian marscapone cheese, 1 1/4 C confectioners sugar, and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream. My beloved Trader Joe’s was out of marscapone, so I followed a reviewers suggestion of using cream cheese. Since I only bought one package, I thought I needed to beef it up closer to 12 ounces. But there was plenty of frosting — I probably could have just used the cream cheese and reduced the sugar to 3/4 Cup. I also used the skim milk I had on hand rather than buying a container of heavy cream.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and milk/cream together for about a minute, until light and fluffy. I added just enough to milk to reach the desired consistency. Stir in the crystallized ginger  and salt.

To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the cake evenly with the filling.


Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel as a guide. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve sliced. (I refrigerated to preserve for the next day, and sliced immediately before serving.)

Ta-da! My first roulade:

Healthy Choice

Remember the leeks from the broccoli soup recipe? Well, the store doesn’t sell leeks individually — you have to buy several — so I had some left over.  I also wanted to use fish in a meal I cooked one of these days.  As you may know, one of the those recommended habits for healthy eating is incorporating 2-3 servings of fish per week, to gain the benefits from healthy fats.  This meal was going to be shared with my husband for once, and while quite fit in general, Matt’s blood work has shown that he could improve his cholesterol levels.

I came across a recipe on the Food Network website by Ina Garden for “Salmon with Lentils.”  Subsequently, while searching for a particular recipe among my saved selections and reading through several, I discovered that leeks and salmon and leeks and lentils are common combinations. I am going to try to store this tidbit in my memory for future planning. This recipe also used–surprise surprise–more celery and carrots from my refrigerator stock.

Salmon with Lentils

adapted from Ina’s Barefoot in Paris

Serves 2 plus 1-2 servings of leftovers

6 ounces lentils (I had this much left of black beluga lentils I bought in a whim with a gift card to Williams Sonoma. These are great lentils though, if you can find them, and they work well in place of green lentils, which could also work here).
a few tablespoons of olive oil
1.75 cups chopped yellow onions
1.5 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (Leeks can acquire a lot of dirt and grime during harvest. To prepare, cut to separate white and light green part from green leaves. Cut once lengthwise. Submerge in a bowl of cold water and slosh layers around. Drain and then arrange pieces together to chop crosswise).
3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup homemade chicken stock, or good canned broth
1.5 tablespoons tomato paste (Hint: when you open a can of tomato paste, which rarely needs to be used in its entirety, measure individual tablespoon amounts into small pieces of plastic wrap or into ice cube trays and freeze.  Keep scoops together in a container for later use)
1.5 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
6-8 oz center-cut salmon fillets, in the quantity of the number of people you are serving (in my case, 2, wild-caught all the way)

Place the lentils in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.

Heat oil in a medium-large saute pan.  Add the onions, leeks, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. 

Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the drained lentils, celery, carrots, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Add the vinegar and season to taste.

While the lentils are simmering, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

For the salmon, heat a cast-iron or other oven-proof saute pan over high heat for 4 minutes. Rub both sides of the salmon fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


When the pan is very hot, place the salmon in the pan and cook over medium heat without moving them for 2 minutes, until very browned. Flip fillets, and move pan into preheated oven.  Cook 5-7 minutes, until the salmon is cooked rare and still moist. Scoop lentil-vegetable mixture on plates and place a salmon fillet on top.

Enjoy your meal, and look forward to the dessert you can afford to have because you made a healthy choice for dinner! 🙂