Category Archives: Main Course

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate

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I went back to Minnesota in August to visit my family. It was a really great trip overall. I had really nice moments with family, and had some quiet moments to myself that allowed me to reflect on how far I’ve come in my relationships with my family members. We’ve all done our share of personal growth, and it’s been manifested in the way we interact with each other. Of course, we still have our moments, but we can work through them much faster than we did in the past.

I visited my 88-year old grandma while there. She has had dementia for a while now, but she has been holding on fairly well. I know that people with dementia can deteriorate pretty quickly, but I was still not prepared for what I saw. She has whittled down to almost nothing, and she was barely lucid during the two short visits I had with her. My grandma has not had an easy life. Her husband was not a good man – he was mean, was never around, and had several affairs. She raised 8 kids largely on her own. I’ve often wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn’t met my grandpa. I think she always yearned for a bigger life. She wanted to contribute something to the world other than being a mother and a housewife. She is a very smart woman who liked to stay informed of politics and social justice issues. I remember her once telling me she was so happy that I had moved away from my small town. I think the little joy she got out of life she obtained through other people who were living happier and more fulfilling lives.

It was heartbreaking to see her now in this condition. However, my dad truly impressed me with the way he interacted with her during our visit. He was very loving and tender – making sure she had enough water, asking her if she was too warm. It almost brought me to tears. Because my dad was not a very warm and nurturing person while I was growing up, his kindness today can often times stop me in my tracks. It’s such a beautiful thing to see how people can evolve and become better human beings. My dad was never close to my grandma, and, in fact, I think they had a bit of a contentious relationship when he was growing up. Knowing this makes his caretaking of her now that much more touching.

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I lurrrrrve sweet potatoes. However, I think I am unusual in my disliking of them in a sweet preparation. That will NEVER happen in my kitchen. People, they are already sweet to begin with! And they pair so nicely with bitter, savory, and umami flavors. One of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes is to turn them into french fries, covered in rosemary, garlic and sea salt. It beats McDonalds fries any day of the week. Ok, maybe not when I’m pms’ing, but you get the point. This is a great recipe to make this time of year. Summer is winding down and the first few hints of fall are in the air. It’s a hearty dish but it’s still light enough that it won’t weigh you down. Of course, if chorizo is hard to find in your neighborhood (or you just don’t eat pork), you can substitute chicken, beef, lamb, etc. I bet lamb would be extra delicious in this recipe.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: 4-6 servings

1/2 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
3 cipollini onions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
Salt & pepper; Course sea salt
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Sliced avocado
Pomegranate seeds
Finely grated lime zest

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Set each sweet potato on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with course sea salt.
2. Wrap the potatoes in the foil and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chorizo and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onions, chile and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions are softened, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Add the pomegranate juice and cook until nearly absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
5. Unwrap the sweet potatoes and arrange on a platter. Cut a lengthwise slit in the top of each one and fluff the insides with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and fill with the chorizo mixture.
6. Top each sweet potato with crème fraîche, sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds, grated lime zest and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

L1030066I am one week into my new food regimen.  I like to think of it as a regimen rather than a diet.  I don’t do well with diets.  The minute I am told I can’t have a particular food, I immediately want it.  This regimen was prescribed for me by a naturopathic doctor that I have been seeing for my IBS.  As you know from my last post, peri-menopause has caused quite a bit of havoc in my life over the past 18 months. I can’t believe it took me this long to seek medical treatment. I am a firm believer that much of what ails us has to do with our diets. So when my doctor prescribed this specific diet for my condition, I decided to give it a go. One year ago, I probably would have said, “No thanks”, but I am desperate to feel better. The regimen is  similar to the Paleo diet in that it excludes sugar, dairy, and all cereal grains. However, I am allowed a few types of cheese (thank god) as well as legumes.  I joked to my husband that I might join the CrossFit/Paleo cult that has swept the nation. I saw fear in his eyes.

I had awful headaches during the first few days. I’m assuming this was my body going through sugar withdrawal. But after they passed, it got a lot easier. I’m feeling pretty good and not feeling deprived at all. In fact, the thought of sugar doesn’t even sound good to me, which is strange. I was planning on allowing myself a piece of cake next weekend for my birthday, but I decided that I am going to make a healthy dessert instead.  Black bean brownies, anyone? I will try to post that recipe here in the coming months. It’s one of my favorite things to eat when I need something sweet.

In the meantime, get a load of this salad! It may sound boring, but I can assure you that it’s full of flavor and slightly addictive.  The dressing has a nice bite/tang to it, thanks to mustard and shallots. Give it a whirl!
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Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: 8-10 servings

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.
2. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
3. Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
4. Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet

L1040015If anyone had told my younger self that I would go through menopause in my late thirties, I probably would have shrugged and went on with my life.   Back then, I thought menopause would merely be a ceasing of menstruation and maybe a year of hot flashes.  However, I’m learning that the experience of menopause is a heck of a lot more than that, and it’s a really difficult transition.  Just the other day I was so frustrated and disheartened that I thought to myself, Why aren’t there menopause support groups the way that there are AA meetings?  The thought kind of made me laugh, but then I soberly wondered if any actually exist.
L1040007It wasn’t until recently that I came to the conclusion that all of my ailments were due to my hormones being out of whack due to menopause.  It’s pretty amazing how much control our hormones have over how our body functions; they control everything!  They’re like the lobbyists of the U.S. political system.  (Ok, I won’t get political…but isn’t that a good analogy?!)

I am trying to remain patient and maintain some sense of normalcy with this transitional phase of my life, but it has been a struggle the last few months as my symptoms become more acute.  Yoga definitely helps.  And I’ve started training for the half-marathon that I will be running in April.  Every little thing helps.  I just hope that I am one of the more fortunate women for whom menopause lasts two years instead of ten.  Gulp.
L1040004This was my first time making a cassoulet.  I came across this recipe in Food & Wine, where a Minneapolis chef was sharing riffs-on-casserole recipes.  If you haven’t ever made one, they are as easy as a casserole, and even more delicious.  And this particular cassoulet is perfect for hunkering down on a cold winter’s night.  It’s almost March, people!
L1040013Harissa-Spiced Cassoulet
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  10-12 servings

1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced, plus 2 large carrots, cut into 2 1/2-inch lengths
14 oz. can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Four 6-ounce chicken sausages, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces rustic peasant bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  1. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, cook the bacon over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered. Add the onion, celery and diced carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning 
to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the beans and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°. In a small skillet, toast the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer 
to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the smoked paprika and crushed red pepper and grind the harissa blend into a powder.
  3. Wipe out the casserole and heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in it. Add the sausages and cook over moderate heat, until lightly browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Do not wipe out the casserole.
  4. Add the sweet potatoes, turnips and large carrots to the casserole. Season with salt and black pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, 5 minutes.  Add the harissa spice blend and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the bean mixture and the chicken broth and bring just to a simmer.  Cover and bake the 
cassoulet for about 1 hour, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the oven and uncover the cassoulet.  Mix in the sausages.
  6. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, toss the bread, parsley, lemon zest and the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the bread over the cassoulet and broil until golden and crisp. Let the cassoulet stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Pad Thai

L1030054I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions.  Rather, I prefer reflecting on the past year–my accomplishments and what I am grateful for.  It helps me to take stock of where I am in life and how I want to move forward in the coming year.   2015 was a very good year:  I was promoted to General Manager of the bakery I work at, I concluded therapy after 4 years with an incredible therapist, and I traveled to Norway, Sweden, France and Switzerland with my husband.
L1030053Seeing as that I’m turning 40 this year, I feel the need to try some new things and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I signed up for a Half-Marathon in April, and Mr. K and I plan on taking a trip to China this summer.  I also want to learn Spanish, once-and-for-all!  Of course, always on my list is trying out new recipes, and this past week it was Pad Thai.  I, like most people, love Pad Thai, but I rarely order it when I eat out, as it’s usually a really heavy dish, and loaded with calories.  I found this Mark Bittman recipe and decided to tweak it a bit to make it lighter and healthier.  Enjoy!
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Healthy Pad Thai
Adapted from Mark Bittman via The New York Times

4 ounces fettuccine-width rice noodles
1/8 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup red cabbage
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Put noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until noodles are just tender; check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they do not get too soft. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, put tamarind paste, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, oyster sauce, salt, pepper, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.
  3. Put remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt.
  4. Add drained noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro.

Cannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADespite the fact that we got ourselves a cute little tree, I’ve been listening to Christmas music while getting ready in the morning, and I spent an entire weekend (and then some) making edible holiday gifts, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.  It might be partly due to the fact that it’s been insanely warm for this time of year-–it’s been in the 60’s for weeks now!  Ugh.  My husband finds it humorous that I should complain about this, but I stand by it.  I want a little chill in the air, enough so that a winter coat is mandatory.  I want to walk down the streets of NYC, looking through the windows at the whimsical holiday displays while sipping a hot cocoa.   Is this too much to ask??  The world can be a tough place to stomach sometimes, and I feel like December is the one time of year when we are allowed to live in a fantasyland in our heads––dreaming of sugarplums, reindeer, and snowmen.  I am going to try and make the best of it.  At least we’re not housebound due to a huge snowstorm, eh?

You HAVE to make this dish, and soon.  I’ve made it twice in the past month, and I can’t get enough of it.  Not only is it a perfect, comforting winter meal (even if it is warmer than usual), but it’s super-easy and pretty healthy.   It takes all of 10 minutes, and you can make it in one pan.  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACannellini Beans with Bacon & Spinach
Adapted from The Splendid Table

Yield:  4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces smoky bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 (28-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups baby spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a large (approximately 10-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and let it get hot.
2. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and shallots, and cook for 30 seconds longer. Add the beans and cook for another 2 minutes.
4. Add the spinach and salt, season with pepper, and cook until the spinach wilts, about 4 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if needed, to help the spinach along. Serve immediately.

Portobellos Stuffed with Corn and Mushrooms

DSC_6104It’s been a while since I posted here.  I recently got a promotion at work, and am now managing a bakery.  I’m very excited about the opportunity, but it will be a lot of work.  This is our busiest time of year, but I don’t want to neglect this blog.  It is important for me to have a creative outlet on the weekends.  I love cooking and baking so much, especially this time of year!  I hope to have some seasonal food posts in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.
DSC_6090I made this dish a few months back–towards the end of summer–when corn was in its prime.  It was really delicious; creamy with a nice bite from the vinegar and garlic.  It would be a nice way to break up all of the heavy Thanksgiving leftovers I am sure you are all enjoying right now.
DSC_6099Portobellos Stuffed with Corn and Mushrooms
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
4 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
8 5-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms
1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as oyster and stemmed shiitake), sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup crumbled Cotija or feta cheese

  1. Whisk 1 cup oil, garlic, vinegar, 3 teaspoons thyme, and 2 teaspoons oregano in medium bowl to blend. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/3 cup garlic-herb oil to small bowl; reserve.
  2. Trim and thinly slice portobello stems; set aside. Brush both sides of portobello caps with remaining garlic-herb oil; place caps, rounded side down, on large rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Preheat broiler. Broil portobello caps until tender, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from broiler. Turn caps rounded side down.
  4. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add assorted mushrooms and portobello stems; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in reserved 1/3 cup garlic-herb oil; sauté until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add corn; sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add cream; simmer until almost absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among portobello caps, mounding in center. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.)
  5. Preheat broiler. Broil portobellos until heated through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons each thyme and oregano.

Zucchini Bread Pancakes

DSC_6087I ran a 10K a few weekends ago.  It was the first one I’ve run in 2 1/2 years.  A friend of mine gave me her spot in the race, so I took it as an opportunity to try and push myself.  My workout routine became very slack over the summer months– that and perhaps too many sweets­­– which resulted in my pants being tighter than they should be.   So it felt good to have a goal to work towards.  I did a lot of running intervals on the treadmill at 6 a.m., and subsequently, remembered what it was like to feel euphoric after a good workout.   Things went along pretty smoothly over the course of my 4 weeks of training, even though I knew I might be pushing myself more, and faster, than I should be.   However, on my last long run before the race, I hit a wall.  I don’t know what happened, but I had to stop and walk several times.  My legs felt like lead.  It was a horrible run, and I felt really shitty about it.  In retrospect, I might have been focusing too much on my speed.  Afterword, I tried to reassure myself that a less-than-stellar run was o.k.  Despite my anxiety about the upcoming race, I told myself to focus on going slow and running the entire 10K, and not worry about my finishing time.
DSC_6078I woke up at 5:30 a.m. that Sunday morning and headed into Manhattan.  I tried to shake off any lingering doubts about my recent running performance.  I repeated a mantra:  Slow and steady; just finish.  It was a beautiful morning.  The sun was just coming up, and there was a cool breeze coming off the Hudson River.  I ran what I thought was a super-slow pace.  Many, many people passed me.   I just put my head down and kept running.   I felt really good for the entire race.  I figured if I had enough energy towards the end, I would pick up my pace a bit and try to finish strong.   Indeed, I did.  I ran an 11-minute mile, which is a personal best for me.   I was incredibly proud of myself, and my feeling of euphoria lasted the rest of the day.  I remember thinking that I wanted to hold on to this feeling for as long as possible.  If only we could retrieve feelings the way we can pull up a song to elicit a memory.  I hope to remember that feeling when I’m having a crummy day.  As a reward for the 10K, I treated myself to my favorite pancakes in the city at Johnny’s Luncheonette.
DSC_6081Speaking of pancakes (I didn’t even plan that transition!), these zucchini bread pancakes need to go on your Make Immediately recipe list.  Light and healthy, they also scream, “Fall is finally here!”  And the maple yogurt is the perfect topping on these, as straight up maple syrup would be too sweet for these beauties, in my opinion.  Instead, the tang of the yogurt provides a nice complement to the sweet spices.
DSC_6089Zucchini Bread Pancakes
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield:  10 to 12 pancakes

2 large eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or 2 tablespoons each of milk and plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini)
1 cup all-purpose flour (half can seamlessly be swapped with a whole wheat flour)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
Butter or oil, for coating skillet

1. In a large bowl, combine eggs, olive oil, sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth. Stir in zucchini shreds.
2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into zucchini batter, mixing until just combined.
3. Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet on a middle rack.
4. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Once hot, melt a pat of butter in pan and swirl it around until it sizzles.
5. Scoop scant 1/4-cup dollops of batter in pan so the puddles do not touch. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another minute or two, until golden underneath.
6. Transfer pancakes to prepared pan to keep warm as well as ensure that they’re all cooked through when they’re served. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm.

Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_6074The summer after my freshman year of college, a new friend came home with me for the weekend before flying home to Colorado.  I remember being very anxious about her staying with my mom and I.   At some point during my senior year of high school, my mom had to sell our house, and we subsequently moved into a small apartment above her hair salon.  As uncomfortable as I was about this, I was also a self-consumed teenager who probably spent more time thinking about superficial things.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my small town didn’t vary a great deal economically:  most people were somewhere between lower middle class and upper middle class.

After I left for college, my family’s economic standing became more apparent to me.  I went to a private liberal arts college, and the majority of kids were from upper middle class and upper class homes.  Although this divide between the kids who came from money and those of us who were there largely due to financial aid was pretty obvious to me, I tried to not let that get in the way of who I became friends with.  The girls on my dorm floor were all great, and we all got along really well for the most part.  However, I was always very aware of the economic differences between us.  Something as simple as, “Who wants to go to McDonalds for dinner tonight?” would make me extremely uncomfortable; I barely had enough money to buy toiletries.  I rarely, if ever, talked about my economic background my first year of college.  I was too ashamed, and too young to know that it did not define me.
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The girl who came home with me that first weekend after our freshman year was a very sweet and sincere person.  She was actually the very first friend I made at college.  I remember walking across the parking lot with her to the freshman orientation and thinking that Colorado was a long ways from Minnesota.  We had gotten to know each other pretty well that first year, and we had had many quintessential college conversations discussing things like our families, our goals, and our fears.  But still, the thought of her seeing where I lived paralyzed me with fear.  I remember spending a lot of time that weekend watching TV with her, simply because I didn’t know what to say and felt like I needed to explain my situation to her, maybe even apologize for not having a more “comfortable” home.  When I look back now, I wish I could tell my 19-year-old self to be proud of where she is from, and that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

I have come to the conclusion that you can add bacon and raisins to any vegetable, and you will have a delicious, and still fairly healthy, meal.  This coleslaw is no exception.  Make it while it’s still warm enough for a cool salad.
DSC_6075Broccoli Coleslaw with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield:  6 servings

6 slices of bacon (4 oz.)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt and pepper
1 large head of broccoli (1 1/4 lbs.), cut into bite-size florets and thinly sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Set a rack over a baking sheet.  Arrange the bacon slices on the rack in a single layer.  Bake for about 25 minutes, until browned and crisp.  Drain on paper towels, then coarsely chop.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the vinegar and sugar; season with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the broccoli, raisins, onion and bacon and toss to coat evenly.
4.  Transfer the coleslaw to a serving bowl.

Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts

DSC_5826I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before how I used to despise brussels sprouts when I was a kid.  My mom would simply boil them and serve them to us, as though they were supposed to be edible.  Since then, I have come to love brussels sprouts.  In fact, they are one of my top 5 favorite veggies of all time.   I love their bitter earthiness, and they are so versatile – you can pair them with sweet, sour, spicy, umami, whichever flavor profile you want!  They won’t let you down.  One of my 2015 goals was to make more Asian dishes, because, well, why not, really.  I came across this recipe in a recent Bon Appétit issue, and ripped it out immediately to add to my recipe folder.   Taking a look at my folder reminded me that I need to post on this blog more frequently, lest I want to end up being a recipe hoarder and die by having a box of recipes fall on my head.

This recipe is for all of the brussels sprouts lovers out there, as well as the Asian food lovers.  Enjoy!

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Kung Pao Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Bon Appétit

2 lb. brussels sprouts, halved
5 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped, peeled ginger
2 Tbsp. hot chili paste
6 dried chiles de árbol, lightly crushed
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts

1.  Preheat oven to 425 F degrees.  Toss brussels sprouts and 4 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
2.  Roast, tossing once, until softened (but not soft) and browned, 20-25 minutes.  Set aside.
3.  Meanwhile, mix cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water in a small bowl until smooth.
4.  Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high.  Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden brown, about 2 minutes.
5.  Add chili paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 2 minutes.  Add chiles, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil; stir in cornstarch slurry.
6.  Simmer, stirring, until sauce coats spoon, about 2 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Toss brussels sprouts with sauce and serve topped with peanuts.

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger Vinaigrette

DSC_5873My relationship with my dad has come a long way.  I feel like he respects who I am, and how I live my life, even if he doesn’t always agree with my decisions.  We don’t talk on the phone that often, but when we do, we make sure to always say, “I love you” before hanging up.  However, as a kid, you could not have convinced me that I would one day have a loving relationship with my dad.  Back then, he was a very different person.  I just don’t think he wanted to be married, and he most definitely did not want to be strapped with two children in his mid-twenties, let alone with two girls.    He was pretty mean and angry, and I was basically scared of him a lot of the time.  Looking back now as an adult, I have empathy for him as a young parent who didn’t have the tools to be a good father.

Things started to slowly shift when I was in my teens.  I’m not sure what changed for him, but I could tell he was working on becoming a better man, and parent.  I remember him blowing up at me for something I did, and then later coming upstairs to my room and apologizing.  There was so much sadness in his eyes.  He looked at me and said something along the lines of how he had reacted was the complete opposite of how he should have reacted, and that he would try to do better next time.  Hearing my dad say that shifted something in the universe for me that day.  It was one of the first times I comprehended that adults, people, could change, and for the better.   We aren’t born a certain way, predestined for a specific path.  Rather, we decide who we want to be.

I’ve often wondered if my dad carries around any guilt or shame about the kind of dad he was to my sister and I growing up.  A few summers ago I went home for a visit.  My dad and I went out for an early morning walk, and we started talking about how things were when I was a kid.  I told him that the only way for my brain to reconcile the man he was back then with the man he is today is to think of them as two completely different people.  It’s like at some point, he shed the skin of my younger dad, and morphed into my older dad–one who is patient, kind, affectionate, and considerate.   I have so much love for my dad.  And although we are a lot alike in many ways, we see the world differently.  After all that we have been through, it feels so good to think of my dad, and smile.

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I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’ve ever made a dish using fresh tuna.  I was shocked at how easy it was.  I mean, it should be easy, because it’s fish, but making a tuna dish always seemed so intimidating to me.  If you enjoy fresh tuna and have never attempted a dish in your own kitchen, start with this one.  It’s super simple and very tasty.

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food and Wine

5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
5 Tbsp. sake
2-1/2 Tbsp. mirin
3 Tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp. finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of Broccolini, trimmed
Two 1-inch-thick yellowfin tuna steaks
2 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds

1.  In a small saucepan, simmer the soy sauce, sake, mirin and shallot until the liquid is slightly reduced, 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat: stir in the ginger.  Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
2.  In a steamer basket set in a large saucepan of simmering water, steam the Broccolini until tender, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to plates.
3.  Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Season the tuna with salt and pepper.  Sear over high heat until golden brown but still rare within, about 30 seconds per side.
4.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Slice against the grain and transfer to the plates.  Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
5.  Serve with the remaining vinaigrette.