Kale and Carrot Salad, inspired by Avec


This is the sort of people my family members are: when my sister had an opportunity to go to Chicago for an extracurricular activity, we all essentially said, “Pizza? Yeah, I could do that,” and then bought our plane tickets. I solicited recommendations from epicurean friends and made an intense schedule with each meal, and a snack a day, planned out, because I’m that person on trips. Sorry not sorry.

Food tour of Chicago was pretty splendid. As it always is with travel, though, it was heavy on the golden-brown spectrum (obviously the better side). And I was already a few days into the beige wonderland, as I’d chained a work trip before the fun trip. So, while, yes, the pizza and pie and burgers were all eat-in-silence good, I was equally excited (well, nearly) to see a kale salad at Avec for lunch one day.

Since I tend to leave the deep dish pizza creating to the professionals, this kale salad’s one of the few meals from that trip I’ve been able to take home, too. Not that I’ve been particularly true to their version, which is very good, but I suspect uses fresh herbs I don’t often have lying around. I stuck to their basics: kale, carrot, rich but not cloying dressing, and a little crunch. I’m not sure if I’ve ever clutched a bowl of my own homemade kale salad and exclaimed, “Yay, leaves!” as I did that day, but, it’s a decent salad.

Kale and Carrot Salad

1 bunch of kale
1 can of chickpeas
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
optional: cumin, smoked paprika
2 carrots
1 teaspoons of olive oil
1-2 teaspoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
optional: 1 clove of garlic
salt and pepper to taste
optional: small handful of crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Clean and rip the kale into small pieces. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and maybe a sprinkle of lemon juice if it looks particularly fibrous. Massage that kale like you are a kale masseuse working at a fancypants kale spa.

Let the kale sit while you toss the (drained and rinsed) chickpeas in the tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and if desired, cumin & smoked paprika. Let bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re roasted and lightly crispy.

While the chickpeas are baking, finely mince your garlic, if you’re using it. Combine with lemon juice, tahini, additional olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Let the dressing sit a little while to let the garlic mellow out a little bit.

While you’re waiting, you can add the carrots to the salad. I use a vegetable peeler to get the long strips, but a standard shred or matchsticks would work, too.

About 10-15 minutes before serving, add the dressing to the salad and give it a couple squeezes to really incorporate.

Top your salad with the crisped chickpeas and a sprinkle of feta cheese just before serving. (Yay, leaves!)

Near & Far by Heidi Swanson: Cookbook Review


Heidi Swanson is kind of the queen bee of food blogs, and I’m basically an endless trove of 101cookbooks jokes that only a very specific set of people find funny. I mean, my most used blog category is one of them. You guys know what I’m talking about.

But the thing is, as much as I discuss how I’d like to go a little bit further than “just a kiss” with cheese, the thing is, her dominance of the market is actually sort of warranted. Her blog is beautiful, and her recipes are wholesome without being hateful (mostly), and they’re all really good. A lot of my oft-requested dishes are Heidi recipes, or, as I do it, Heidi riffs. And, to be fair, she seems like a totally decent human being. My bitterness is all my own creature.

So, yeah, I finally caved, and I now own one of her cookbooks. Near & Far is split up by regions, which was appealing to me since I like cooking “internationally,” though the premise did feel like a bit of a humble-brag about how often one travels the world. But, goddamnit, the recipes are actually good. The book takes flavors from various regions of culinary note: Japan, Italy, France, Morocco, and Heidi incorporates them into her own kitchen style. It’s the sort of thing I love to cook at home: Californian-style cooking with a little bit of influence from international cuisine. The San Francisco section of the book is obviously super-appealing to me. (God, I hate being predictable.)

Pictured above is my version of Heidi’s harira, a hearty Middle Eastern stew that was lovely. I didn’t include pasta like she did, for eating-fewer-white-things purposes, but it was meal-worthy all the same. Below is her rye quickbread, which is a pretty solid improvement on her easy little bread, which used to be a standby of mine.

So, yeah, Near & Far is a hit. Obviously. Cue envious eye roll here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.

Chinese-ish Roast Chicken


If your family’s like mine (that is, 4 people who do enjoy a meal but aren’t, you know, actually bears), then, maybe a whole turkey is just too much bird, even on Thanksgiving. As much as I strangely enjoyed spatchcocking a turkey that one year — cracking the breastbone reminded me strongly of CPR training, and you’re now relieved I’ve never performed CPR — it’s just too much food. And I never say that. I selfishly still want the ta-da moment of pulling the dinner centerpiece out of the oven, though, so just doing part of a turkey wasn’t going to happen. I don’t know if it’s sacrilege to eat another type of poultry during Thanksgiving for other families, but for one who regularly eats sushi for T-gives, a chicken’s pretty darn traditional.

Bonus, it’s also significantly easier to roast a chicken without dry outsides and raw insides. Cooking meat is hard, you guys. I struggle sometimes.

That said, this one’s really not bad. I am a little paranoid about it all and use a thermometer, but tons of people manage to roast chickens without fancy equipment and haven’t perished from salmonella or whatever, so, don’t feel like you need to. I also splurged for one of Mary’s chickens since I eat meat quite rarely, but there’s no need if you don’t feel like dropping serious dollas for a raw chicken. I admit, it’s pretty tough to do so when I know I can get an already cooked one at Costco for $5.

Chinese-ish Roast Chicken
Adapted from Rasa MalaysiaNot Quite Nigella, and my mom!

1 whole chicken
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon neutral oil with high smoke point

1 bunch of scallions
4ish cloves of garlic

Assorted vegetables for roasting: picture above are Tokyo turnips, rainbow carrots, new potatoes

Quickly rinse the chicken and remove any giblets inside. Pat dry and let air dry while you mix the soy sauce, honey, peppercorns, and sesame oil.

Rub the chicken down with the sauce, taking care to cover it completely. Let the chicken air dry for as long as you have, at least 30 minutes.

Roughly chop any large roasting vegetables and arrange them in a roasting pan or cast iron pan.

When you’re ready to roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 400˚F. Rub the chicken down with the remaining Tablespoon of oil and truss the chicken by tying its legs together at the bony point (away from the thigh) and tucking the tips of the wings behind the back.

Tuck your aromatics — scallions and garlic — inside the cavity and set the chicken on your roasting vegetables.

Roast for about an hour. The chicken is done when the thickest part of the thigh reads just barely 165˚F, or, when the juices are clear when you separate the leg and thigh. Let the chicken sit for 10 minutes or so before serving. We never bother carving it — just dig in!

Harissa Tofu with Greens and Roasted Veg with Miso-Tahini Sauce


In my aspirations, I’m the obnoxious sort of home cook who’s blending up homemade hummus and nut butters and sauces and just sort of blinks blankly when people buy that sort of thing at the grocery store. In reality, I frequently buy those things at the grocery store despite technically having the capability to make it all at home because, I don’t know, I use my time to do other stuff, like read numerous novels written for teenagers. I sometimes make that stuff… but mostly I buy it. I don’t know, I guess what I mean to say is, I’m going to talk about making it, but I vehemently encourage you to just purchase it if that feels right. You do you, you know?

I’m pretty sure I made this meal during my week of being funemployed, which is why I even bothered spinning up the food processor. And even so, I nearly bought the harissa.

This meal combined two of my recent obsessions — Ottolenghi (forever obsession at this point, I guess), and Tara O’Brady’s brilliant move of combining miso and tahini in her hummus from Seven SpoonsThe former: I faithfully (well, for me) followed Ottolenghi’s harissa recipe from Jerusalem (posted in Epicurious), because at this point, I trust his recipes. The latter: melding of Asian flavors with anything is an easy, easy win for me, and this one’s great. Slight funkiness and saltiness from miso and rich nuttiness from tahini — so good. I’ve started routinely adding miso to my tried-and-true hummus. I’m the worst at appreciating classic recipes. Sorry.

In contrast with the fuss of making your own harissa (actually fairly time consuming, but makes the apartment smell really good) and hummus (not bad, but requires planning if you go from dried chickpeas), putting together the meal after’s easy. In addition to the roasted veg and greens with tofu, recipes below, you’ve got hummus with pita chips and a simple green salad.

Roasted carrots with miso-tahini sauce
1 bunch carrots (rainbow if you can find ’em, if only for presentation)
olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons miso
1 Tablespoon tahini
lemon juice
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 375˚F.

Cut carrots in half crosswise, then slice into halves or quarters. Toss with olive oil, spices, and a bit of salt and pepper, and roast in the oven until they’re browned, around 40 minutes.

Sauce is a quick mixture of miso and tahini (dat A+ flavor combo), thinned with lemon juice and water. Drizzle on the vegetables. I also topped with some chopped cilantro because I had it kicking around.

Harissa tofu with greens
1 block of firm tofu
1-2 lbs of greens (I used whatever I had, which was a mix of broccolini, kale, and collard greens)
2-3 Tablespoons harissa
safflower oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F. (Temperature is actually somewhat flexible, if you’re baking something else… it’ll probably be fine.)

Slice the tofu into small cubes. Arrange on a parchment or silicon-mat lined baking sheet, and bake until the tofu is golden and puffs up. The amount of time this takes is variable, depending on the firmness and moisture level of your tofu.

Heat up enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy pan. Let the oil get quite hot, until it’s nearly or just barely smoking. Add the greens to the pan and let them char a little bit, adding a touch of salt and pepper.

Just before serving, arrange the tofu on top of the greens. Top evenly with harissa.

Ottolenghi’s lentils with broiled eggplant


The Real Talk portion of the post is as follows: I’m in a bit of a funk. I’m not feeling that inspired in the kitchen, even though fall’s just around the corner (respite from the heat, please come!), and it’s my favorite season for produce.

Part of it is my new job that’s keeping me busy. The new job is hard, you guys. It’s good to be challenged, and I keep reminding myself that this is what I was looking for, but I’m tired when I get home and don’t have a lot of extra oomph for cooking. It’s good that the thing that I do for the plurality of my time is challenging me to grow. It’s just made me wonder if my previous (somewhat) prolific posting was more of a coping mechanism for a job that had grown not right for me. I hope I can strike a balance, soon.

And the other part of it is that I seem to have put on a little additional padding ’round the middle and am reluctantly revisiting diet mode. Le sigh / le worst.

And, lastly, it’s so hot here. I know it’s such a ridiculous problem, but I just don’t want to turn on the stove. I just want to eat popsicles. See above problem.

I had an unexpected helper to break me out of it all, though, for this meal. I found a small box of “micro greens” at Trader Joe’s, which I thought would make my food look terribly fancy. So, obviously, it came home, and I shamelessly have been topping everything I make with micro greens. I feel like I’m eating at a fancypants restaurant.

And, yes, I’m still obsessed with Plenty.

Lentils with broiled eggplant
From Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, recipe posted on The Guradian

2 medium eggplants
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 cup lentils, preferably the small, dark variety
2 medium carrots
1 bay leaf
1/2 yellow onion
2 Tablespoons olive oil
12 cherry tomatoes
handful of basil leaves
2 Tablespoons Greek yogurt
salt & pepper

Pierce the eggplants in a few places. (This is important! Plenty‘s headnotes say that if you don’t do this, the eggplant explodes. Ain’t nobody got time to clean eggplant off their oven walls.) Place them on a foil-lined tray and under the broiler, turned to high, for about an hour. Turn them a few times. When the eggplants are done, the skin will be burnt all over, and the eggplants will be quite soft and deflated.

While the eggplants are broiling, you can prepare your vegetables. Dice the carrots and onion, halve the cherry tomatoes, and slice the basil into ribbons.

Bring a medium pot of water to boil and salt generously. Add the lentils and bay leaf, and boil until the lentils are done, about 25 minutes. Drain and remove the bay leaf. Season with salt, pepper, about half the vinegar, and a drizzle of olive oil.

When the eggplants are done, remove from the oven and set the temperature to 275˚F. Let the eggplants cool slightly, and then split in half. Scoop out the flesh and let it drain on a colander for about 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and about half the vinegar.

While the eggplant is draining, toss the cherry tomatoes and carrots with a bit of olive oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until the carrots are cooked (but not mushy), about 20 minutes.

To serve, combine the carrots and tomatoes with the lentils. Toss with the ribbons of basil and add more salt, pepper, oil, or vinegar if needed. Pile the eggplant on top of the lentils, and top with a spoonful of Greek yogurt.