One of the things I love about the family-focused Club Med resorts: homemade, gourmet baby food at every meal. Today's brunch at Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Florida featured pureed roast turkey with mashed potatoes. I saw several babies sucking it down with every evidence of enjoyment.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I have a teenager who loves to cook vegetables. Particularly greens. Give Emery a bunch of kale, a pile of chard, a bag of spinach, and he's a happy boy. He makes Asian greens soup, spinach fried rice, mustard greens with garlic and soy sauce. When our friends around the corner clean out their organic garden and give away trash bags filled with huge chard leaves, Emery is first in line.
As it happened, I was the one who made the chard and feta pie in the picture above. Emery darted in and out of the kitchen, interrupting his homework a little too often to poke his nose into what I was doing. "It's chardikopita!" he said as he watched me add feta and dill to the lightly sauteed chard.
I love this rustic press-in crust. I tell people it's because the olive oil gives the crust a terrific flavor. The truth, however, is that I love this crust because I'm terrible with a rolling pin. Don't tell. It's a feature, not a bug.
Swiss chard and feta pie
by Erika Kerekes March-22-2012
Lightly sauteed greens flavored with onion, dill and feta make a terrific pie filling. I eat this for breakfast, but it makes a nice light supper too.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 large bunch Swiss chard, leaves and stems, roughly chopped (about 8 cups)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.Put the flour in a medium-sized bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup of the olive oil, the cream, and the salt. Pour the olive oil mixture into the flour and stir together with a fork to make a crumbly dough. If the dough seems too dry to hold together, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough is workable.Tip the dough into a 9-inch pie plate or shallow baking dish. Press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the baking dish with your fingertips to make the crust. Set aside.In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the onion 4-5 minutes until it's softened. Add the chopped chard and saute a couple of minutes; the chard will wilt and shrink down considerably. When it's just wilted, remove the pan from the heat and pour the chard into the bowl that held the dough mixture - might as well not get another bowl dirty, right?Let the chard cool about 10 minutes, then add the eggs, feta, dill and a good amount of ground pepper. Mix thoroughly. Pour the chard filling into the waiting crust and pop the whole thing in the oven. Bake about 45 minutes, until the pie is set and the top is starting to turn golden. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving to let things firm up a bit - otherwise the whole thing will collapse when you cut into it.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings
Monday, March 19, 2012
Want to bring your friends and family to their knees? Want people to tell you they've never met such a genius in the kitchen? Want to see some serious plate-licking and scrap-picking?
Gravlax, or cured salmon, is one of the easiest super-gourmet recipes you will ever make. It has four required ingredients (salmon, salt, sugar, pepper) and several optional ones (fresh herbs, dried herbs, a few drops of vodka or tequila or gin). You'll also need plastic wrap, two baking sheets, and a few cans of tomatoes or beans or whatever's in your pantry. Really high-tech.
I would make this every week if I weren't the only one in my household willing to eat it. Unfortunately, my family is currently on a salmon strike. Crazy people.
Use the freshest salmon you can find. It doesn't need to be sushi grade, but it's not really going to get cooked, so don't use fish that's close to the edge. When it's done, slice it thinly. My favorite way to serve gravlax is with cocktail pumpernickel slices, creme fraiche, a big pile of capers, paper-thin slices of cucumber, and a squeeze of lemon.
By the way, gravlax is excellent party food. Pile the sliced cured salmon in the middle of a platter and mound the accoutrements around the sides. Let people make their own little open-faced sandwiches. Low hassle, extra elegant. If there's no party and it's just you, scale down the amount of the salt mixture and use two smaller skin-on salmon filets rather than a whole fish.
Gravlax (cured salmon)
by Erika Kerekes March-19-2012
The combination of salt, sugar and pepper cures raw salmon and turns it into a true delicacy. Be sure to start this 3-5 days ahead - it takes time for the cure to penetrate the fish.
- 1 whole raw salmon, skin on, head off, fileted
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup ground or cracked black pepper
- 1 bunch fresh dill (optional - substitute 3 Tbsp dried dill or another herb of your choice)
- 2 Tbsp vodka, tequila or gin (optional)
Lay several large pieces of plastic wrap on your counter, overlapping them to form one very big square. Lay one filet of salmon in the middle of the plastic wrap, skin side down.In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar and pepper. Pour the salt mixture over the salmon, mounding it thickly on the flesh of the fish and making sure the whole surface is covered. Lay the dill over the salt mixture if you're using it, then place the other fish filet on top, skin side up. Basically, you're sandwiching the salt mixture between the two pieces of salmon.Now bring the plastic wrap up around the salmon, wrapping it tightly. If you misjudged the first time and didn't end up with enough plastic wrap to go all the way around, take some more. Let me be clear here: You can't really wrap the salmon too much or too tightly at this point. Get it nice and snug in its plastic wrap house.Place the wrapped salmon on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan that will fit in your refrigerator. Put a plate or a smaller sheet pan on top of the salmon and weight it down with a few big cans of something. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator and let time work its magic. Turn the fish over once or twice a day to redistribute the juices that will start to flow. This is why the salmon has to be well wrapped - you want to keep that liquid in with the salmon, not leaking out onto the pan.After four or five days, the salmon should be done. Unwrap it in the sink, scrape off the dill and most of the salt mixture, slice it thinly, and serve with thinly sliced toast and any combination of the following: creme fraiche, capers, chopped onions, lemon wedges.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 20+ servings
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
This is one of those "stupid genius" appetizers you can bring to any party. It's good for the vegans. It's good for the dieters. It's good for the heart-healthy.
Also, it's just plain good.
I brought it to the Super Bowl party we're invited to every year. I'm pretty sure a few people were disappointed, because usually I bring these amazing cheese straws with smoked salt. But I was on Waistline Watch this year. You can't please everyone. Some grumbled, others gobbled. Maybe we'll all live a little longer.
I can get beautiful miniature sweet peppers and Persian cucumbers at my local Costco. If you can't find them, use whatever vegetables you find that work well for scooping. Larger cucumbers work, although the end result will be a multi-bite rather than one-bite morsel. Make your own hummus or use your favorite store-bought brand.
Hummus-stuffed peppers and cucumbers
by Erika Kerekes March-13-2012
File this under "stupid genius" in your recipe box. Use store-bought hummus for the quickest result, or make your own if you prefer.
- 12 miniature sweet peppers, mixed colors
- 3 Persian cucumbers
- approximately 1 cup hummus (store-bought or homemade)
- 3 Tbsp fresh herbs, minced (any combination of parsley, chives, dill, mint, tarragon, etc.)
Wash and dry the vegetables. Prepare the peppers by cutting off the tops, then carefully cutting out the seeds and ribs with a paring knife. Cut the ends off the cucumbers and slice each one into 4 chunks. Using a melon baller, scoop out the flesh on one cut side of each chunk, being careful not to pierce the bottom. You'll end up with hollow peppers and cucumber pieces with little wells, ready for stuffing.Place the hummus into a zip-top bag. Cut off a tiny piece at one corner. Squeeze the hummus down and through the cut hole, using the zip-top bag like a pastry bag, and fill the peppers and cucumbers, finishing each with a little swirl.Place the chopped herbs on a plate or in a shallow bowl. As you finish stuffing each vegetable, dip the top in the herbs, the way you'd dip an ice cream cone in sprinkles. Place the vegetables on a serving platter. Serve immediately.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 24 pieces
Sunday, March 11, 2012
At one point I remember saying to my boys "You haven't lived until you've eaten potatoes fried in duck fat."
Now, whenever I pull out potatoes, they're disappointed if duck fat isn't involved.
I walked away from last week's Food Bloggers Los Angeles meeting with about 10 pounds of mixed yellow, red and purple fingerling potatoes courtesy of the Idaho Potato Commission. When I put them on the counter and saw the boys' hopeful faces, I knew what I had to do.
No frying this time. Oven-roasting works just as well. I put a few spoons of duck fat on top of the cut potatoes, stuck the pan in the oven for a few minutes, and then tossed everything around on the baking sheet with a spatula as soon as the duck fat melted. Even a little bit of duck fat gives the potatoes a rich, savory flavor and ultra-crisp shell. We tried to use our forks but mostly failed.
There were no leftovers.
Roasted potatoes with duck fat
by Erika Kerekes March-11-2012
My kids have learned one lesson well: You haven't really lived until you've eaten potatoes cooked with duck fat.
- 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, any color, scrubbed, unpeeled and cut in 2-inch pieces if necessary
- 2 Tbsp rendered duck fat
- 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Scatter the potatoes on the baking sheet, then spoon over the duck fat and sprinkle generously with salt. Put the baking sheet in the hot oven for a few minutes; once the duck fat has melted, pull the baking sheet out of the oven and toss the potatoes around with a spatula or large spoon so they are all evenly coated with the duck fat. Return the pan to the oven and bake 35-40 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and golden brown on the cut sides. Sprinkle with additional salt if desired and serve immediately.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
|Smoked salmon with horseradish-spiked sour cream on Walkers oatcakes|
Food companies are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to work with food bloggers.
It used to be that only the elite bloggers got to participate in sponsored programs. You know which bloggers I mean - the ones who started long ago, built a huge following when competition for attention was scarce, speak at all the conferences, jet-set to glamorous locations to cook with Michelin-starred chefs, and eventually get their own TV shows. (I am not one of these elite bloggers, in case you were wondering.)
But smart food brands are realizing that even food bloggers who don't bring in millions of page views provide value. A hundred food bloggers with 10,000 page views each equal one food blogger with a million page views. Or maybe a hundred bloggers are worth even more, because they're going to deliver 100 inbound links to the food brand's website, 100 different Facebook and Twitter audiences, and 100 chances that they, too, will each bring in a million page views a month someday.
Some bloggers will only work with food companies when they get paid. That's okay and it's their choice. But budgets are fickle things. Sometimes there's money and sometimes there's not. Which is why smart food brands are starting to think about what else bloggers want and are designing programs around bloggers' motivations and needs.
Money's great, but this blog doesn't support my family. I have a job for that. In the broadest sense, though, that's what I'm working toward - the day when writing about food, in some shape or form, is my way to make a living and a mark on the world.
So if I'm going to work with a food company, what do I really want? Traffic. Exposure to a new audience. Make me famous. Put me in the spotlight. Help people find my blog so I can rope them in and keep them coming back.
A few weeks ago Walkers Shortbread asked me (and, no doubt, many other bloggers) if I'd be interested in making one of their recipes and contributing a photo to their website. No money involved. A skeptic would have looked at the email and said Well, that's one way to get their product photos done on the cheap.
But I think Walkers is smart. They asked for very little from me and played to my motivations. If they choose my photo, it'll be featured on their website. They'll link to my blog from the Walkers Shortbread Pinterest page (the smart PR rep remembered to mention that their Pinterest boards were recently featured on Mashable, which is a pretty big deal).
Traffic. Make me famous. In exchange for a few minutes of my time, I'm getting something that matters to me. And they're getting what they want too: Here I am, writing about and linking to the Walkers website. I don't have a million page views today, but someday I might.
I chose smoked salmon on oatcakes because it was easy to prepare, it was something I was happy to eat, and I was pretty sure I could get a good picture. I sent the photos above to Walkers a few days ago. Here's hoping they make the cut. Either way, the oatcakes they sent me were really tasty.
Smoked salmon on Walkers oatcakes
by Walkers Shortbread March-7-2012
Pull out smoked salmon whenever you want to dress up your cocktail hour. The cool, creamy sour cream provides a nice contrast to the crispy oatcakes.
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
- 1 Tbsp prepared white horseradish
- 16 Walkers oatcakes
- 8 ounces smoked salmon, thinly sliced, cut lengthwise into 16 pieces
- 2 Tbsp fresh chives, minced
- Optional: caviar (for garnish)
Blend creme fraiche or sour cream and horseradish in a small bowl. Arrange the oatcakes on a platter. Top each with smoked salmon, then a dollop of the creme fraiche mixture. Garnish with chives and caviar, if desired.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings
Monday, March 5, 2012
I love my job as a product manager at Deluxe Corporation and I love the people with whom I work. However, I rarely see them in person. Deluxe is spread out all over the place and I'm in an outpost. The people I spend most of my time working with are in Minnesota, Toronto, Massachusetts, Kansas City - in short, everywhere but here.
When colleagues come to southern California, I always invite them over to eat. Business trips involve too few vegetables, too many processed foods, night after night of crappy dinners. Everyone appreciates a home-cooked meal when they're on the road.
Two of my coworkers ended up in Los Angeles last weekend and spent a good part of their Saturday at my house. They'd come from the snow, so I wanted to make a meal that screamed "SoCal spring." We started with blood orange mimosas, then moved on to scrambled eggs with loads of chopped fresh herbs and a kale salad.
We finished up with this strawberry-rhubarb crisp, which my colleague Therese says is on her "best food I ever ate" list. How could it not be? I got the strawberries and rhubarb from the farmers' market an hour before the crisp went into the oven. They couldn't have been much fresher if I'd pulled them from my own backyard.
But here's the real secret to this crisp: I used Kelapo virgin coconut oil in the topping instead of butter. I was catering to a milk allergy and thought the lack of butter would be a sacrifice, but I'm telling you, the coconut oil made the dish. The nutty background flavor, ever so faint, complimented the tart fruit without adding anything overt. You would have noticed the taste of butter. Here you noticed something, but between the sweet-sour juices and the crisp topping, you didn't stop to think about it for more than a fleeting second.
Vegan strawberry rhubarb crisp
by Erika Kerekes March-5-2012
Grab ripe strawberries and the first pink stalks of rhubarb and celebrate spring with this delicious dessert. Coconut oil instead of butter in the topping keeps it vegan and adds both a subtle nuttiness and a light, crispy texture, even with whole wheat flour.
- 2 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
- 4 stalks rhubarb, chopped
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup quick-cooking oats
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil
Toss the strawberries, rhubarb, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour and lemon zest in a large bowl. Let sit 30 minutes at room temperature, tossing occasionally. The fruit will begin to release its juices, which will mix with the sugar and flour to create a sort of syrup.In another bowl, mix together the whole wheat flour, oats, brown sugar and salt. Add the coconut oil and rub the oil into the dry ingredients. It will melt with the heat of your hands, but that's okay - keep mixing and rubbing until the coconut oil is evenly distributed. Store this bowl in the refrigerator until you're ready to assemble the crisp.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray, then pour in the strawberry mixture. Scatter the oat mixture on top of the fruit, distributing it evenly. Bake the crisp about 45 minutes, until the topping is browned and the fruit is bubbling up around the sides. Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving - it's best at room temperature.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 servings
Saturday, March 3, 2012
My dear friend Amanda is staying with us for a few months. In general, this is a wonderful thing, because I love Amanda with all my heart.
The only problem is that, as I think I've mentioned, I am a teeny tiny bit territorial when it comes to sharing my kitchen.
Luckily, Amanda knows me well enough that a) I can admit this to her without worrying about whether she will still love me back and b) she has taken to doing her cooking when I'm at work or asleep. Whether this is out of consideration or self-preservation I'm not sure. But it doesn't matter, because it means that occasionally I get home from work, open the refrigerator, and find delicious things.
Amanda, who's from Wisconsin, says these quick pickles were the first thing her now-stepmother made when she and Amanda's dad began dating. Did the pickles win Amanda over? "Not exactly," she says, "but they made me enjoy going over to her house a lot more."
Amanda's family typically makes these with cucumbers only, but we had some small sweet peppers and tossed those in too. If you like things spicy, add one hot pepper along with the mild ones.
Amanda's quick pickles
by Erika Kerekes March-3-2012
Equal parts of water, sugar and white vinegar make up the brine for these quick refrigerator pickles. When you eat up the pickles, slice up more vegetables and add them to the remaining brine - it'll work just as well the second time.
- 6 Persian cucumbers (or 1 English cucumber), skin on, thinly sliced
- 6 miniature sweet peppers, any color (or 1 large bell pepper), thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
Put the sliced cucumbers and bell peppers in a jar. Add the sugar, vinegar and water, then screw the top on tightly. Shake the jar until the sugar has dissolved. Put the jar in the refrigerator to cure the pickles. They'll be ready to eat within a few hours, but the longer they stand the stronger they'll get. Keep them refrigerated and eat them within a week for optimal texture.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4-6 servings