Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zucchini Cream Sauce with Marjoram

Let me preface this entry by saying that this is the first recipe I ever wrote, when I was 19 years old. As far as I can tell there is no dish exactly like it. It is surprising how fabulous slightly bitter and softly gritty zucchini squash tastes when combined with sweet caramelized onions and rich cream. Cook the squash long enough to melt into the sauce and sweat its sweet starch in and they'll coat the pasta and pack every bite with flavor. Earthy, slightly sweet marjoram (a member of the oregano family) really lift the dish from merely rich to complex and absolutely crave-able. Who knows, you may even make a zucchini convert with this sauce. I served it on freshly made fettuccine, but feel free to use the pasta of your choice. Also, this is a pasta that really pairs well with freshly grated parmesan, so don't skimp.

Herbed Zucchini Cream Sauce

Makes enough to cover 1 lb to 1.5 lbs pasta

3 large yellow squash, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced thinly
3 large zucchini squash, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced thinly
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
4 large sprigs marjoram, leaves removed and stems discarded
1 large shallot, minced
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 Teaspoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons sherry
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

1. Add olive oil to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, then butter and when butter is melted add onion, shallots and a very small pinch of salt. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add zucchini and yellow squash, marjoram, black pepper and sherry and saute until squash practically dissolves, about 25 - 30 minutes. You may want to turn down the heat a little if you notice the veggies or onions sticking too much to the bottom.
3. Add in cream and turn heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, until cream has absorbed the flavors and is no longer white, about 5 minutes.
4. Toss with prepared pasta and about 1/3 cup pasta cooking water. Top with freshly grated parmesan and garnish with a small sprig of marjoram.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Butter Beans Braised with Tomatoes, Celery & Parsley

I know, I know I do a lot of bean recipes, but that's probably because beans are as delicious as they are inexpensive, easy to prepare with flair and a nutritious staple. This recipe calls for a type of bean from a family that gets a bad rap: butter beans come from the lima bean family. Many a finicky eater has been begged to finish their lima beans, over protest. But butter beans are the larger, paler, more fluffy member of the family. Their slightly sweet flesh is thick and has a rich taste to it, so they are aptly named. Acidic fresh tomatoes offer a lovely compliment to the bean's rich taste, and herbaceous flat-leaf (Italian) parsley and perfectly bitter celery complete the flavor profile. The beans do take a long time to cook, but this recipe is healthy, cheap and so flavorful you will probably be able to convince that finicky eater. This would be perfect with couscous and some grilled trout or similar fish.

Butter Beans Braised with Tomatoes, Celery & Italian Parsley

Makes 8 - 10 large servings

1 lb. butter beans, cold soaked* 6 - 12 hours, then drained and rinsed
4 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped roughly
3 Tablespoons olive oil
12 cups filtered water
1 lb. heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add celery, onion and parsley and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add beans and water, turn heat up and bring to a boil.
3. Just as the water begins to boil turn heat down to a low simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper.
4. Continue to cook until beans are cooked through, roughly 30 minutes more. Check for doneness by tasting several beans and when several are soft they are cooked through. Serve accompanied by hot sauce or chili paste and garnished with roughly chopped flat leaf parsley leaves.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*More info about soaking and preparing butter beans can be found here:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Favorite Basic Burger

I'm posting this recipe for two reasons: one, I'm participating in a World Cup recipe event and in honor of the USA I present my favorite burger recipe; the other reason is the season: grilling! If you want to add some punch to your regular burger try this recipe. What differentiates it, I hear you asking? Well, herbaceous thyme elevates the flavor from plain old slab of ground beef to delicately seasoned easy gourmet. Grainy brown mustard lends a zesty kick and the perfect amount of acid to complement the fatty beef patties. And the "secret" ingredient, a flavor that compliments the smoky grill flavor? Sesame oil. I've tried these patties with sharp cheddar and they were delicious--I'm sure your favorite sharp cheese will be just as tasty on them! In the pic you can see my veggies grilling--onions and zucchinis.

My Favorite Burgers

Makes 8 small burgers (4 ounce) or 4 large burgers (8 ounce)

2 lbs. ground chuck or 85/15 grass fed ground beef
3 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 Teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 Teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 Teaspoon thyme leaves
1/4 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4-8 buns (depending upon the size you make your burgers)

1. Pulse onion, thyme, oil and pepper in a blender until all ingredients are smooth.
2. In a large salad bowl, mix all ingredients.
3. Form into loose patties. Handling and/or packing the meat as little as possible will produce more juicy and tender burgers.
4. Grill over medium flame for 3-4 minutes per side for the small burgers and 5-6 minutes per side for large burgers (both cooking times are for well-done burgers).

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Vegetable Yakisoba

Yakisoba is a traditional Japanese dish, a version of Lo Mein using Soba, a buckwheat noodle. This recipe is strictly vegetarian, without any protein. Partly this is because I've only ever had yakisoba as a side for takoyaki. Partly because any stir-fry recipe is really just a jumping off point for you to tweak it to your own taste. This is a very easy dish to make.

At my local supermarket I found two of the three toppings that yakisoba is enjoyed with: furikake (sesame and nori seasoning blend) and beni shoga (ginger pickled with shiso leaves), but I couldn't locate any bonito flakes (dried shaved fish). I had to go to Whole Foods for the Soba noodles. What is so special about yakisoba? For one, the noodles, which are buckwheat noodles, lend a pleasing nutiness to the dish and an enjoyably gritty snap to the noodles. The sauce, a sweet and savory mix of sweet rice wine (mirin) and soy sauce is a great compliment to both the bright, mellow veggies and grainy buckwheat noodles. This pairs well with just about any protein: tofu or pork should be julienned, chicken and steak cut into bite-sized pieces, shrimp left whole and sausage crumbled. In every case except for the tofu, saute the protein first, then set it aside until the sauce has been poured over the finished stir-fry; reintroduce.


1 lb soba noodles
1/3 head of cabbage, shredded
2 small carrots, julienned
2 stalks of celery, julienned
1/2 onion cut into 1/2" ribbons

For the sauce:

1 Tablespoons neutral oil (like peanut or vegetable)
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 Teaspoons sugar
3 Tablespoons rice wine (mirin)
1/2 + 3 dashes soy sauce
1/4 Teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 Teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
1 heaping teaspoon corn starch, sifted

1. In a large pot of water, boil soba noodles until al dente. Drain and place on ice.
2. in a hot wok, stir-fry veggies for 3 - 4 minutes, or until they are starting to become tender. Add up to 3 dashes soy sauce to season veggies.
3. While veggies are cooking, combine all sauce ingredients except for corn starch. Cook over low heat until sugar is melted, then slowly whisk cornstarch in.
4. Add noodles to stir fry and cook until just warmed through. Add sauce to stir fry.

Serve topped with a sprinkling of furikake (or just nori and sesame seeds as an alternative) and a pinch of pickled ginger.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Shortcake Biscuits

Boy oh boy it has been quite some time since I did a dessert post! Well, this dish was too lovely not to share, so here I present to you my twist on strawberry shortcake.

One of the best foods this time of year is berries. Summertime berries, particularly strawberries, are best cooked as little as possible. This recipe requires they be macerated, but they're otherwise left alone in their strawberry goodness. They're a lovely accompaniment to the rich and citrus-y cream cheese lemon shortbread biscuits. Completing the dish is some easy to whip up gin spiked whipped cream. I admit that these shortbread biscuits are quite decadent, but the dough freezes well, so there's no need to make them all at once. And biscuit sized shortcakes means smaller portions. Less guilt? Hopefully. Once you taste this version of the dessert I'm betting calories will be the last thing on your mind.

Strawberry Shortcake w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Biscuits

For the biscuits:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar + 1 Tablespoon for biscuit topping*
1 egg, beaten to a froth
1/2 cup butter
1/3 + 1 Tablespoon half n half
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 egg beaten for eggwash

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 ounce gin
1 teaspoon sugar, syrup or honey (optional)

For the strawberries:

1 pint strawberries, cleaned and sliced
juice of one orange
1 teaspoon sugar*

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl add half n half to the frothy egg, then cream cheese. Beat gently until incorporated.
4. Fold butter into dry ingredients, then mix in wet ingredients until just combined.
5. Mix together strawberries, 1 teaspoon sugar and orange juice and set aside.
6. Combine heavy cream, gin and sugar in a bowl and beat with a whisk or hand mixer until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
7. form dough into a ball and turn it out onto floured work surface and pat out to roughly 2 1/2" thick. Cut into biscuits and lay out on a parchment lined cookie sheet with about 2" in between each biscuit. Brush tops with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
9. Allow biscuits to cool for about 5 minutes. Remove whipped cream from refrigerator and whip briefly if it has lost some stiffness.
10. Cut biscuits in half and spread macerated strawberries over the inside. Add a layer of whipped cream and top with upper half of biscuit. Drizzle strawberry juice over biscuit and serve.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*I like to use evaporated cane juice sugar, the molasses content of which is like super light brown sugar, even lighter than turbinado sugar; for the biscuit topping