Tag Archives: lemon juice

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!
L1030069

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.

Peach Crisp with Brown Butter Crumble

DSC_6052The older I get, the more aware I become of my place in the world, good or bad, as a woman.  Being raised in the Midwest (in the 80’s), I was taught, whether advertently or inadvertently, that women were second-class citizens.  My sister and I were not encouraged to speak up for ourselves, nor for other girls/women.  Perhaps because of this, I found myself interested in the notion of feminism after I left for college, even if I didn’t wholly understand what it meant.

My first job out of college was working as a Women’s Advocate at a domestic violence shelter in southern Minnesota.  It was a cause I knew something about, having witnessed it and heard about it throughout much of my childhood.  I loved that job, and learned much about the cycle of domestic violence, and why it can be hard for so many women to break that cycle.  In my naiveté, I thought “good people” would support this kind of work, and applaud my young idealism.  But I was dumbstruck one night at dinner when a distant (female) family member said, “What about domestic violence shelters for men? ”  Anger washed over my body, and it took everything in me not to scream at this woman.  Did she not know the national statistics on domestic violence?  How could she be so ignorant?  That was the first time–and thankfully one of the few times–I remember a woman going against the Sisterhood Code.  I don’t remember how I responded that night, but I do recall thinking that I needed to remain polite and nice in my response, because I was a young woman and had no right voicing my opinion.  Back then, I didn’t have the courage to speak up when I encountered an ignorant, racist, or misogynistic comment.

Fast forward 16 years, and I still struggle with asserting myself when it’s the right thing to do, mainly because I am female.   It’s hard to unlearn what you are taught as a child.  I love that feminism has taken center stage in recent years.  People might disagree on the specifics of the definition, but no one can argue that, in general, it means full social, economic, and civic rights for all women.  That said, I think one of the most difficult parts of being a feminist is dealing with the day to day, and often more subtle, situations, comments & behaviors that women encounter and have to navigate.  For example, is it ok for me to disagree with a male colleague in a work meeting or will I come across as a loud-mouthed bitch?  If I point out a sexist statement made by an acquaintance, will I be labeled an uptight feminist who needs to “relax”?

I recently experienced the latter scenario, but I did not call out the misogynistic behavior and comments.  My rationale was that I didn’t want to cause a kerfuffle, but if I’m truly honest with myself, I also didn’t want to be labeled That Girl.  That Girl is super-sensitive and prides herself on policing sexist language, etc.  I lacked the courage to speak up in a really uncomfortable situation, and I am disappointed in myself.  There is still the young, naïve, and idealistic girl inside me who thinks, maybe they just don’t know!  I’ll explain why this is offensive to them, and they will take back what they said!  But there is also the cynical, frustrated pessimist in me who thinks that misogyny, racism, etc. simply have to die out with the older generations.  The next time I encounter language or behavior that doesn’t jive with my values, I hope to be braver.

I am a big lover of fruit crisps.  However, some are better than others.  The “crisp” part of the dessert can really vary depending on the recipe:  sometimes it’s super-sweet, other times it can be very crispy with not a lot of heft to it.  The crisp in this recipe is aptly named a crumble, because that’s exactly what it is.  And my god, is it delicious, largely due to the brown butter crumble.  Browning butter adds so much depth of flavor.  I want to start advocating that we brown butter whenever butter is called for in a recipe.  Make this asap (peach season is almost over!) and thank me later.

DSC_6040

Peach Crisp with Brown Butter Crumble
Adapted from Food and Wine

Peach Crisp
Unsalted butter, for greasing
2 lbs. ripe peaches, pitted and cut into 1/4-inch thick wedges
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Brown Butter Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1/4 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
2.  In a large bowl, toss the peaches with the sugar and lemon juice.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the peaches have released some of their juices.
3.  Drain the peaches in a colander set over a small saucepan, then return them to the bowl.
4.  Add 1/4 cup of water and the cornstarch to the peach juices and bring to a simmer.  Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened and translucent, about 1 minute.  Add the thickened juices and the salt to the peaches and toss to coat.  Scrape into the prepared baking dish.
5.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the oats, the 3 sugars, the salt and cinnamon.  In a small saucepan, cook the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until deep golden and nutty-smelling, about 8 minutes.  Scrape the butter and any browned bits at the bottom of the pan into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
6.  Press the topping into small clumps and scatter over the peaches.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crisp is golden and bubbling.  Transfer to a rack and let stand for 15 minutes before serving with vanilla ice cream.

Pistachio Pavlova with Rhubarb Cream

DSC_5996One of my oldest and dearest friends came out to visit with her 5-year-old son last weekend.  I had no idea how much I had missed her over the years.  Since she’s had kids, we haven’t had as much time to see each other, or even have phone chats more than a few times a year.   Her son, Trevor, is such a sweet kid, and I found myself repeatedly being amazed by how well-behaved he was the entire weekend.   One funny aside:  on the plane out to NYC, they sat next to a guy wearing a yarmulke and reading–what I’m assuming was the Torah–in Hebrew.  After noticing this, Trevor turned to his mom and asked, “What language does MaryAnne speak?”  This struck me as both very thoughtful and very hilarious.
DSC_5967DSC_5980Mr. K was kind enough to babysit Trevor Saturday night so that my friend, Meghan, and I could have some solo lady time.  I don’t have a lot of close girlfriends who live nearby, so I cherish my visits with those friends who I only see once a year.  While sipping delicious cocktails, we caught up on all of the necessary things.  Over the course of the weekend, I felt  like a plant, not knowing that it was a bit dry, being watered.  There is something so comforting about an old friend who knows you so well.  Unlike spending time with newer friends, there is no effort in trying to get to know them better, wanting to present yourself in the best light, etc.  It’s like curling up with an old pillow you’ve had for 20 years that fits your head perfectly.
DSC_5974This was my first time making pavlova.  It was a bit intimidating at first, as I’ve heard horror stories about people making pavlovas, only to have them collapse after taking them out of the oven.  Luckily, I did my research before making this, and learned that it is of the utmost importance to leave your pavlova in the oven, after turning it off, until it has been completely cooled.  This slow decrease in temperature prevents the pavlova from collapsing.  If you are a fan of meringue, or marshmallow, or both, you will love this dessert.  And even better, it is an homage to rhubarb season.  Enjoy!
DSC_5988Pistachio Pavlova with Rhubarb Cream
Adapted from Food & Wine

Pavlova
1 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar

Rhubarb Cream
4 ounces rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces (1 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup hulled and quartered strawberries, plus 1/2 cup small strawberries for garnish
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, chilled
1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
In a small bowl, toss the pistachios with the cornstarch.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the salt at high speed until foamy, 2 minutes. Beat in the vinegar, then beat in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the whites are glossy and stiff peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Gently fold in the pistachio mixture. Using a large spoon, dollop the meringue onto the prepared sheet and spread into a 10-inch round with a slight indentation in the center. Lower the oven temperature to 225° and bake the meringue for about 1 1/2 hours, until crisp but still chewy on the inside. Turn the oven off; let 
the meringue rest in the oven for 1 hour. Transfer to a rack and let cool.
  3. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE RHUBARB CREAM
    In a small saucepan, simmer the rhubarb, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice over moderate heat, stirring and mashing the rhubarb with the back of a wooden spoon, until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb breaks down, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the quartered strawberries and vanilla bean paste. Let cool completely.
  4. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat the cream with the mascarpone at medium speed until moderately firm, about 3 minutes. Stir 1/4 cup of the whipped cream into the cooled rhubarb, then fold the mixture into the remaining whipped cream. Spoon into the center of the meringue. Garnish with the small strawberries and chopped pistachios and serve.

 

Kale and Cabbage Slaw with Roasted Shallot Dressing

DSC_5326A few months back, Mr. K and I went to get a second opinion regarding our fertility situation.  We had been through four rounds of IVF over the last 2 ½ years, and we were frustrated about not getting any clear answers from our current fertility doctor.  We braced ourselves in the waiting room.  I pulled out a square of dark chocolate, popped it into my mouth and focused on that until our names were called.  The meeting went by quickly.  The fertility doctor was warm and yet very direct:  we had a 5% chance of success at best if we were to do another round of IVF.

You hear stories all the time about fertility issues tearing couples apart.  They shutdown, pull away from each other, resentment builds, and divorce is imminent.  In our case, strangely enough, I think the opposite happened.  Throughout this horrendous, heartbreaking process we’ve actually grown closer and become stronger as a couple.  On the one hand I think, perhaps we were just lucky–although we both agreed that we wanted to have a child, it didn’t define our relationship or our future together.  And yet I remember having several discussions with my husband about the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to conceive and what that would mean for us.  What would our future look like?  What would give our lives meaning?  Could we still be happy?  Over the last year or so, as we considered this outcome to be more of a possibility, we decided we would use this experience as fuel to lead full and significant lives.  We will travel so much more!  All over the world!  Buy a home in Tuscany while our friends tend to their screaming toddlers!
DSC_5311As we walked home from our appointment, I turned to Mr. K and asked him how he was feeling now that we knew for sure.  I was prepared for him to be sad.  Of the two of us, he felt more strongly about having children.  He turned to me and said, “Actually, kind of relieved.  Now we know for sure.”  And with those words, 2 ½ years of hormonal mood swings, countless painful injections, and a nightmare hospitalization all melted away.  I also felt relieved.  And it felt so euphoric to be so relieved!  In fact, I became so giddy about our news that I started to question how our lives might have went had we actually been able to have children:  we would be raising a child until we were in our late 50’s!  We immediately began talking about what we wanted this next year to look like.  We were ecstatic that we had come out the other side, thrilled to be with each other.

When I first came across this recipe, I knew it had potential to be delicious, but I was focused more on the healthiness of it.  I was in dire need of a salad post-Christmas gluttony, and I thought this would do the trick.  Well, I ate this every day for 10 days straight.  That’s how good it is.  The roasted shallot dressing, in particular, is magical.
DSC_5316Kale and Cabbage Slaw with Roasted Shallot Dressing
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

3 cups diced butternut squash
1 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt, smoked paprika and cinnamon

2 bunches Tuscan kale
1/2 head red cabbage
1/2 small red onion
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup grated parmesan
3/4 cup toasted pecan pieces

Roasted Shallot Dressing
2 small or 1 large roasted shallot*
handful fresh chopped chives
1/4-1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. each sea salt and ground pepper

*Roast a shallot like you would a head of garlic.  Trim the end, toss it (skin on) in a little olive oil and pinch of salt, wrap it in foil and place in oven for 45 minutes until softened and caramelized.  Time will vary by size of the shallot(s).  Remove to cool to the touch before squishing it out of its skin.

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the butternut cubes with the olive oil, salt, smoked paprika and cinnamon to coat.  Spread in an even layer and bake for 20 minutes until just tender but not mushy.  Set aside to cool completely.
3.  In a blender or food processor, mix all the dressing ingredients together until smooth.
4.  Stem the kale and chop it ultra thin.
5.  Using a mandolin or knife, shave or chop the red cabbage and onion.  Collect these items in a large salad bowl.
6.  Add the raisins, parmesan and pecans, drizzle desired amount of dressing and toss to coat.  The kale and cabbage can handle sitting in the dressing for 10 minutes before serving.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

My husband and I just returned from the best vacation we’ve ever taken.  We went up to Cape Cod for 5 days, and then spent another 3 days in Boston.   I love getting away from NYC in the summertime.  There is something about breathing in the smell of fresh cut grass, strolling outside with a hot dog or ice cream cone, and adjusting to the slower rhythms of small town life that makes me nostalgic for childhood summers.

For the first three days of our vacation I walked around with a big, idiot grin on my face.  I kept remarking to Mr. K that something would inevitably go wrong on this trip since everything up to that point had been so perfect.  He would simply respond by shaking his head at me.   Whether slurping down raw oysters, reveling an IPA, or breathing in the smell of salty ocean air, I was in a kind of vacation trance, whereby everything we did seemed to me to be the perfect thing to be doing at that exact moment.

One of the highlights of our trip to Cape Cod was the 3-course breakfast we were served every morning out on the back patio of our Bed and Breakfast.  The owners of the B&B were this extremely gracious older couple, and the husband proudly told us that he made all the meals.  Every morning I would go for a jog, and then my husband and I would proceed downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating that day’s breakfast.  The courses included dishes like baked eggs in prosciutto “cups”, applesauce pancakes with bacon, and fruit parfaits.  Mr. K and I would take our time savoring every bite, and I took added pleasure in being served a home-cooked meal.

After we returned home, one of the first things I did was write down all of the great moments from this trip that I didn’t want to forget.  The next time I have a stressful day or week, I will look at that list to be reminded of life’s pleasures.
DSC_5026Speaking of which, this salad is truly of one of my current pleasures.  I can’t eat it without moaning just a little bit.  I got the idea for it from a local restaurant that makes a similar salad.   If you like bacon at all, you will enjoy this salad.  Oh, and my apologies for only taking one picture this time around.  I was running late and we were starving, so it was the best I could do.  Quick tangent:  when we were in Boston we ducked into a run-of-the-mill pub near Boston Common for lunch one day.  I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered a BLT, thinking I would just eat the 2 or 3 strips of bacon out of the sandwich along with the tomato and lettuce and that would be that.  Well, the sandwich had a PILE of bacon in it.  We’re talking at least 8 strips of bacon.   I ate a pile of bacon for lunch, and I had absolutely no regrets.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings

5 oz. baby spinach
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 Fuji apple, quartered and diced
8 strips of applewood-smoked bacon

Ginger Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
sea salt
black pepper

1.  In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy, around 8 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2.  Meanwhile, place spinach on 4 plates.
3.  Crumble goat cheese and distribute evenly, along with walnuts and apples, over each salad.
3.  Roughly chop cooked bacon and distribute onto salads.
4.  Add olive oil to a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk in lemon juice, ginger, sea salt and black pepper.  Dress salads, toss, and serve.

 

Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios

DSC_4995I’ve been uncharacteristically happy lately.  I saw my therapist last week for the first time in a month, and didn’t know what to talk about.  I’m so used to spending my sessions focusing on how to improve things in my life—preventing negative behavior patterns, setting personal goals, etc.  Walking in to see my therapist, I was worried that there would be an uncomfortable silence due to my lack of problems to discuss.  On the contrary, my therapist assured me that these are important sessions to have because we can look at what is working in my life, why it is working, and how to create more of it in the future.  Eureka!

I am definitely someone who feels better in the spring and summer months, but even so, I can’t remember feeling this content in many years.  I even have frequent moments of straight up joy and euphoria these days.  It feels so goddamned good and foreign at the same time.  I want to hold onto these moments, but they are fleeting.  And they should be; we wouldn’t want to savor them otherwise.  I go about my day feeling grateful I have a life that I absolutely love.  I’m working on not reacting to people’s words and behaviors as much as I used to.  I am learning to be kinder to myself and not critique every little thing I think or do.
DSC_4983I want to shout my happiness out to the world.  I want to dance in the streets.  And yet I find myself being shy about sharing my jubilation with others.  When friends ask how I’m doing, I have been replying with, “I’m really good.  I’m really happy.”  I want to go on and on about why so I’m happy and how great it feels, but I think that would be strange.  It would feel boastful, and I was raised in the Midwest where excessive pride in one’s achievements or accomplishments—hell, talking about yourself at all—was frowned upon.  I did call my 85-year-old grandma last week and share my happiness with her.  I think it delighted her.

This carrot salad was my obsession for the entire 4 days it was in my refrigerator.  I love cilantro, especially in the summer, and it compliments the sweetness of carrots beautifully.  Cilantro makes everything taste fresh.  I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who despise cilantro.  Those people are crazy.  There, I said it.  The lemon juice adds a nice acidity so the vinaigrette does not taste heavy at all.  Be sure not to add the pistachios to the salad until right before serving, or they will turn soft.  I can’t wait to make this again.
DSC_4992Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  4-6 servings

1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios
3/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt
1 lb. carrots, peeled, julienned or coarsely grated
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
2.  Toast coriander in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
3.  Whisk garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and coriander in a large bowl, then whisk in oil; season with salt.
4.  Add carrots, toss, and let sit at least 30 minutes.  Toss with cilantro and pistachios just before serving.

 

 

Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce

DSC_4941Many moons ago, I had a friend who I met at my first job in New York.  She was lots of fun and we hit it off right away.  We’ve since lost touch, but I still look back on those days fondly.  She showed me the grittier side of New York, when I was still caught up in an image of New York consisting primarily of my Upper West Side neighborhood.  She grew up in a suburb of New York and had endless stories about sneaking into Manhattan as a teenager.   She would go to clubs, drink alcohol, experiment with drugs, and get involved with older men.  Having grown up in a very small town in Minnesota myself, it all sounded to scandalous and exciting to me.  I felt like I missed out on an important teenage rite of passage.

My friend—I’ll call her Sara—was always very encouraging to me on the dating front.  She persuaded me to jump headfirst into dating and gave me the confidence to believe that New York men would find me charming.  One morning Sara came into the office and said she had someone in mind for me; she wanted to set us up on a blind date.  The guy she had in mind worked as a fishmonger in her neighborhood, and apparently he was really nice and very handsome.  She said he looked like Tyson Beckford, the male model (remember him??).  Of course I immediately felt inept and had a million reasons why it would not be a good idea for me to date someone who looked like a MALE MODEL.  But Sara would not hear any of it.  She insisted we meet each other and was sure that we would each enjoy the other’s company.
DSC_4920He and I met up at a bar/restaurant in the Lower East Side that I frequented on the weekends.  I figured even if we didn’t hit it off, I knew the place had good food and excellent live music.  She was right:  he was gorgeous and looked uncannily like Tyson Beckford.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have much else to offer.  He was boring as hell.  At one point, we started discussing movies and I started to perk up a bit since I am an avid movie-goer and love talking about interesting films.  However, I’ll never forget when he said, “I don’t think there’s such a thing as a ‘bad movie’.”  That’s when I knew the date was over.  Done.  Finished.  Check, please!

Dud or not, I guess you could say he was thoughtful, if not somewhat oddball-ish about his thoughtfulness.  Because he worked as a fishmonger, he brought me a COUPLE OF POUNDS of swordfish.  On the date.  He brought it to the restaurant, like it was a box of chocolates.  I think Sara must have told him that I liked to cook.  At the time I remember thinking:  Ok, well this is something.  I’ll learn how to make swordfish!  But when I opened up the package the next day it stunk to the high heavens.  I swear to god that fish was rotten, which means a man brought me a bag of rotten fish on a date.  To this day, I can’t eat swordfish.  In fact, I can’t really eat any steak-like (white) fish that is reminiscent of swordfish.  I’ll eat tuna all the live-long day.
DSC_4930That said, I think it’s curious that I was not able to eat this sea bass that I made the other night.  I’ve had sea bass countless times at restaurants in New York and it’s always delicious.  I’d never attempted making it before, simply because it is a mucho expensive fish.  However, I figured it was worth the splurge since I would be sharing the recipe on my blog.  There is absolutely no chopping of anything for this recipe, but you do have to own a food processor, as many things need to be pureed.  I loved the chickpea puree and the parsley sauce.  I could have eaten 10 bowls of each of these.  But the fish was just too evocative of that horrible swordfish experience and I couldn’t get past the texture.  If you like meaty fish, you will really enjoy this dish.  My husband raved about the fish and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat it.  He likened it to me turning down a good burger.  Touché.
DSC_4936Roast Sea Bass with Chickpea Puree and Parsley Sauce
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
Four 6-oz. skinless sea bass fillets (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
4 fresh bay leaves
4 small rosemary springs, plus 1/2 tsp. minced rosemary
2 cups lightly packed parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Two 15-oz. cans chickpeas. rinsed and drained
1/2 small garlic glove

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and line and rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a medium baking dish, mix 1/4 cup of the olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon zest and the paprika.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.
3.  Add the fish to the marinade and turn to coat, then nestle the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs between the fillets.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the parsley with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the water and puree until nearly smooth.  With the machine on, gradually add 1/2 cup of the oil until incorporated.  Season the parsley sauce with salt and pepper.
5.  In a food processor, combine the chickpeas with the garlic, minced rosemary, 1 cup of water and the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice; puree until smooth.  Scrape the puree into a medium saucepan and season with salt and pepper.  Stir over moderately low heat until hot, about 5 minutes; keep warm over very low heat.
6.  Remove the fish from the marinade.  Gently roll up the fillets and set them seam side down on the prepared baking sheet.
7.  Roast for about 12 minutes, until just cooked through.  Spoon the chickpea puree onto plates and top with the fish.  Drizzle on the parsley sauce and serve.

Cream Puffs with Lemon-Cream Filling

DSC_4579I am getting better at acceptance:  self-acceptance, acceptance of others and acceptance of what is.  I don’t know that I’ve ever fully accepted myself.  It’s always been too easy to focus on my shortcomings and imperfections.  But it’s also exhausting.  My therapist once told me to think of thoughts as a bunch of balloons in your hand.  We should try to let go of the ones that are negative and useless to us.

I’m getting better at it.  I think.

I sometimes find myself slipping into old habits, and my immediate reaction is to start with the negative thoughts.  But I’m also becoming better at confronting those thoughts.  I challenge them and talk back to them like they’re a Fox News anchor.
DSC_4562I can be a reactive person.  Often times, I will have a knee-jerk response to something someone says.  I’m not sure if this was a coping mechanism I learned in my childhood, but it doesn’t really matter.  Adults aren’t always supposed to react.  We are all trying to become more enlightened, and a big part of this is learning how to sit with the uncomfortable.

Accept.
Don’t react.
It will pass.

I went to bed last night with an uneasy feeling.  Something that had happened earlier in the day definitely created some anguish in my mind.  I really wanted to reach for that Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream in the freezer, but I chose to go to bed instead.  I took a deep breath and recited a mantra:

This feeling will pass.
This feeling will pass.
This feeling will pass.

I immediately felt more relaxed.  I fell asleep focusing on today being a new day.
DSC_4567So:  Lemon Cream Puffs!  I had no idea they were so easy to make.  I’ve always associated them with fancy French desserts that I assumed took long, laborious hours in the kitchen and therefore, weren’t worth making at home.  I was wrong.  I was so wrong.  Not only is this recipe very straightforward, but it’s really the best of both worlds—your friends will be amazed by your baking prowess and you won’t have expended too much energy in the kitchen that you could be spending on more important things, like say, binge watching Jeopardy with your adorable husband.
DSC_4572Cream Puffs with Lemon-Cream Filling
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Lemon-Cream Filling

1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Cream Puffs

¾ cup water
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, divided

Special Equipment

Pastry bag with ½-inch plain round tip

Lemon-Cream Filling

  1. Combine sugar, egg, lemon juice, lemon peel, and pinch of salt in heavy small saucepan; whisk to blend.
  2. Add butter.  Stir constantly over medium-low heat until curd is hot and thick enough to coat spoon (do not boil), 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer lemon curd to small bowl.  Press plastic wrap onto surface; chill until cold and slightly firm, at least 2 hours.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled.)
  4. Transfer lemon curd to medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream in another medium bowl until peaks form.
  5. Fold whipped cream into curd in 3 additions.  Cover and chill filling 1 hour.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Keep chilled.)

Cream Puffs

  1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Bring first 4 ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, stirring with wooden spoon until butter melts.
  3. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan.  Continue to stir until film forms on pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  4. Transfer dough to large bowl.  Cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 1 egg and, still using wooden spoon, beat until blended.  Add remaining 5 eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each, then beat until dough is smooth and shiny, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with ½-inch plain round tip.  Pipe 1-to 1 ¼-inch mounds, spaced about 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets.  Using wet finger, smooth tops of mounds.
  6. Bake puffs 15 minutes.  Reverse baking sheets.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Continue to bake until puffs are dry, firm, and deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.  Cool puffs on baking sheets.

Assembly

  1. Cut each puff horizontally in half; pull out any soft dough.
  2. Fill puff bottoms with 1 tablespoon lemon-cream filling.  Press on puff tops to adhere.

 

Dutch Baby Pancake

DSC_4022I am a complete pancake snob and it’s all my grandma’s fault.  She owned a café when I was growing up, and she made the best buttermilk pancakes in all the land.  If cooking/travel shows had existed back then, I am positive they would have declared her pancakes to be the best.  She would have made Bobby Flay weep in a pancake “throwdown”.  My grandma essentially ruined pancakes for me for the rest of my life. *sigh*  Her pancakes were like a beautiful stack of clouds with crispy, golden brown edges smothered in fresh butter.  My parents would drop off my sister and I at the café almost every morning throughout my first year of school.  It was my grandma’s responsibility to feed us before we walked to school.  I don’t remember eating anything other than those pancakes.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  Looking back, I wonder if she ever became concerned that I was carbo-loading before school every day.  I was already a slightly chubby kid, and the pancakes ensured that I grew out of my pants very quickly. DSC_4014Now, I’ve tried hundreds of pancakes throughout my 37 years.  For many years, it was my go-to brunch choice.  I thought if I just ordered pancakes at enough restaurants, eventually I would strike gold.  They can’t ALL taste like cardboard, can they??  Oh yes, yes they can.  Since then, I have only found one other restaurant (ONE!) that makes pancakes as good as my grandma’s.  It happens to be a greasy spoon diner in Manhattan called Johny’s Luncheonette.  They are moist and tangy from the buttermilk and yet nice and crispy around the edges.  This place is actually one block away from my husband and I’s old apartment in Chelsea.  We lived together in that apartment for three years but we didn’t discover Johny’s until the last six months we were there.  I was both elated to find it and yet saddened that it had been there all along without my knowledge.  I am serious about my pancakes.  DSC_4017I wish I had known about Dutch baby pancakes much earlier.  I guess I did, technically speaking.  There is a restaurant in Rochester, MN called Pannekoeken that makes pancakes in the style that originates from The Netherlands/Belgium- essentially Dutch baby pancakes.  They are much wider and thinner than American pancakes, and are typically baked in a skillet.  I know I had them occasionally at Pannekoeken growing up but they were never all that memorable.   Again, thanks Grandma.  A friend alerted me to this recipe a couple of years ago and said I had to try it.  She was sure it would make the cut.  She was right.  I think I ate half the pan that morning in-between raving about it to my husband.  The recipe comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite.  It’s a great investment if you are looking for a worthwhile cookbook to add to your collection.

Dutch baby pancakes are eggier and sweeter than American pancakes.  There is also plenty of butter in the pancakes themselves so no need to add any on top.  After they have finished baking, all you have to do is sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice on top and voilá, breakfast is served.  The best part is that you don’t have to stand over the stove and make an infinite number of pancakes, which can be time consuming.  Dutch babies are baked in the oven and take all of 15 minutes.  I added a dollop of elderberry jam to mine, just because.

DSC_4027Dutch Baby Pancake
Adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite

Yield:  1 pancake

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)

1.  Preheat the oven to 425°F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, cinnamon, and salt until combined.  The mixture will be lumpy.
2.  In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  When the butter has melted, carefully pour in the pancake batter and transfer the skillet to the oven.  Bake until the pancake is puffy and golden brown around the edges, about 15-20 minutes.
3.  Working quickly, take the skillet out of the oven and, using a fine-mesh sieve, shake the confectioner’s sugar over the pancake.  Return the skillet to the oven until the butter has been absorbed into the pancake and the sugar is lightly caramelized, an additional 3 minutes.
4.  Splash the lemon juice over the pancake, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.