Monday, October 27, 2014

I had a doozy of a day today. Starting with the coffee I forgot to drink until it was barely tepid. (In case you're wondering, cold coffee just doesn't cut it when you're running on five hours of sleep.) Moving right along to a morning knee deep in spreadsheets and other unpleasantries. 

Heading into the afternoon with the realization that I had forgotten my lunch and my apple at home. Lunch, for the record, is simply a protein bar. But still. One does need one's mid-day calories.

And topping it off with the unfortunate realization - as I walked in the door of the house exhausted and cranky - that I had forgotten to wash the dishes this morning.

But the day was miraculously cured of all doozi-ness when my darling 5-year-old princess ran off the school bus and into my arms and announced: "Mommy, you are the best Mommy ever." It's the small things. Oh, and it went uphill from there, ending with a small piece of apple pie that had miraculously survived the kids, and - yes, in that order - a plateful of roasted cauliflower. Simply prepared but wow. Really hit the spot. 

Simplest Roasted Cauliflower
There really is nothing much to this recipe. Please use the best ingredients you can get your hands on: super fresh cauliflower (I'm partial to purple and yellow), fine olive oil and vinegar, and lovely salt. This recipe calls for one head of cauliflower, but I actually made two batches, one with each color. 

1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into even size florets, 1-2 inches each
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon sea salt
pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425*. 

In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, 3 tablespoons of the oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Mix well (I use my hands). 

Spread the cauliflower on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the oven to 350* and roast for about 15 minutes more, till the cauliflower is soft and getting a bit glazed. 

In a small cup, whisk together the remaining tablespoon of oil and the vinegar. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and immediately pour on the vinaigrette. Gently toss to combine. Serve hot, warm, room temperature, or even cold. 

Posted on Monday, October 27, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Promise you won't hold this against me. I'm a person who tends to get just a tad carried away with her hobbies. Like, I like reading cookbooks so I own 134 of them.   

I like technology so I own two iPads, an iMac, a MacBook, and an iPhone. 

I am somewhat obsessed with redheads too (I am one) but I try not to collect them. Generally. Anyway, I like to think my obsessions make me charming. Lovable. Interesting. 

Others in my family like to say I'm eccentric. Obsessed. Weird. (That was my five-year-old's choice of words. Later she told me I'm the best Mommy in the world. Go figure.) 

One hobby that I'm not apologizing for is my knife and pot collection. I love cooking, and I love for it to be comfortable. Sure, I could make do with a rusty old knife and a battered pot. But it's so much more fun to use a pretty Japanese knife. Or even my simple but fantastic paring knife. And of course, my Le Creuset pot. (Or, pictured above, almost as fantastic, my Lodge cast iron Dutch oven.)

Creamy Celery Soup
This recipe makes about six servings. It's a light soup, so I find we enjoy large servings. This is one of those soups that I prefer with water, rather than stock. It allows the subtle flavors of the celery and dill to shine. 

2 tablespoons oil 
1 onion, chopped
8-10 medium cloves garlic, chopped
5-6 cups chopped celery (from about 3 heads)
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped 
¼ cup chopped dill, plus a bit more for garnish
about 4 cups of water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about five minutes, till soft. Add the garlic and celery and sauté for another five minutes or so till your kitchen is fragrant. 

Add the potato and dill, and mix well. 

Add about 4 cups of water, more or less, enough to JUST cover the vegetables. Add the salt and pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. 

Lower the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. If possible, let the soup cool for ½ hour before transferring to a food processor or blender. (You can also use a stick blender if you prefer.) Puree till smooth. 

Reheat gently, adding water if the soup is too thick, and seasonings as needed. 

Serve hot, garnished with dill if desired. 

Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, October 5, 2014

If I was allowed to write about toenails on a food blog, I would have a good story to tell. But sadly, my kids have ruled this topic off limits.  

They are convinced that writing about finding toenails in weird random places in your home might get people nauseated, or turn them off from your recipes. 

Or that they might make people think you have a dysfunctional family. I mean, who finds toenails in random places? 

So I won't. Write about toenails, I mean. I'll just jump right to this very appealing not at all nauseating kale salad. Without further ado.  

Kale Salad with Apples, Hazelnuts and Acorn Squash
This recipe is adapted slightly from Food52

1 acorn squash
1 bunch kale, cut in ribbons
2 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
kosher salt to tast
1 green apple, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted

Preheat the oven to 350*. Wash and dry the squash and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.

Bake the squash for about ½ hour, more or less, till it 'gives' a little when you squeeze it. You want it slightly softened so the cutting is easier, but not baked through.

Remove the squash from the oven and turn the oven up to 400*.

Use a large knife to cut the squash from stem to pole, making two symmetrical halves. Let them sit on the counter, cut side up, for about ten minutes so they are cool enough to handle.

Use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds and wet pulp. Discard them.Peel the squash with a paring knife. Cut the squash into wedges or chunks. 

Spread 1 tablespoon olive oil on a baking sheet and spread the squash in one layer. Brush some more oil on the squash and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes, mixing here and there, till browning. Remove from the oven and cool. 

Meanwhile, put the kale and scallions in a large bowl. Add the oil, vinegar, and salt. 

Use your hands (wear gloves if you like) to massage the dressing into the kale until it's well coated and you can feel the kale softening and wilting a bit. This will take 2-3 minutes. Set the salad aside. 

Immediately before serving, add the apples, hazelnuts and squash to the salad and toss to combine. 

Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2014 by Rivki Locker

1 comment

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Guilt. It's a mother's curse. My day started with guilt over making my son wait out for the bus on a cold, cold fall morning. 

Guilt over not wanting to drive him when the bus never showed up. Guilt over giving in - and then changing my mind - to his pleas to take a lazy day off. 

I moved onto guilt over not giving into my 5-year-old's begging and pleading for an adorable and pricey set of dolls. And then a bit of guilt over making a dinner main dish that two of my four kids wouldn't touch. 

And now - to top it off - I'm experiencing blogger's guilt. Guilt that I didn't photograph this soup while it was in the making. Guilt over depriving you of photos of that big beautiful cutting board spilling over with ripe, juicy tomatoes. 

I was harried. And hassled. And still feeling bad about our bad start to the day. Sorry, folks. To make up for it, here's an amazing recipe from the amazing Bountiful cookbook. It made my kids happy (they ALL LOVED IT! It was a miracle!) and I hope it'll make you happy. 

This is a new favorite, direct from the authors of the White on Rice food blog

Cream of FRESH Tomato Soup adapted just a bit from Bountiful
Yes, this requires fresh tomatoes. Preferably summer ones that are fresh and inexpensive. I bought 8 pounds of local tomatoes for $3.50 in the 'reduced' bin. They were perfectly ripe and quite a steal. Please don't use canned tomatoes or dried herbs for this recipe; wait till next summer if you missed the season. Note that this makes a LARGE batch, enough for about 10 small bowls. It's a heavy soup, so small bowls will probably do just fine for you. They did for us. (Although we did lick the bowls clean.) 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, chopped fine
8 lb tomatoes (I used a combination of beefsteak and plum), cut in chunks
1 cup vegetable stock 
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar (depends how sweet your tomatoes are)
1 to 1.5 tablespoons kosher salt (to taste)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup milk

In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for a minute or two, then add the celery and sauté for another couple of minutes. 

Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock, parsley and basil. Mix well and turn up to high till it comes to a boil. Turn down the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes (longer if your tomatoes were firm-ish). 

Turn off the heat and let the soup cool for about ½ hour if you can, so you are not working with dangerously hot soup. Transfer the soup in batches to a food processor or blender and puree till totally smooth. 

Return the soup to the pot and warm it gently over a medium-low flame. 

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Ladle a bit of the hot soup into the roux. Stir to combine and then pour the entire mixture back into the tomato soup. Add the sugar, salt, cream and milk. Stir well and taste. Correct seasonings as needed. 

Serve warm. 

NOTE: Leftovers last for a few days in the fridge and also freeze REALLY well. 

Posted on Wednesday, October 01, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Is there such a thing as a numb brain? One that is frozen from overwork and abuse? Well, I think I had one most of last week. 

One evening, I got home from work with a full hour to spare till dinner. (Wow, that's a luxury.) 

I opened the fridge and found - miracle of miracles - a drawer full of nice produce. (Wow, that's a luxury.)

But my brain was completely dead. Numb. Out to lunch. And I couldn't think of anything creative or interesting to do with them. 

So, without a plan of any sort, I grabbed a zucchini, three beets, and an eggplant, and started slicing. I chopped and sliced, added some oil and salt, and 45 minutes later, I had this elegant platter. What do you know? My brain was good for something.

Roasted Anything 
When I say anything, I don't really mean anything. So, just to be sure - here's a list of veggies you could substitute: sweet potatoes, string beans, tomatoes (sliced thick), peppers. Keep a close eye on them though. Some will get done faster than others.

1 zucchini or summer squash, scrubbed clean and sliced in ½ inch slices
2 medium beets, peeled and sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 onion, cut in wedges
1 large eggplants, washed and sliced in ½ inch slices
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400*.

Pour two tablespoons oil onto each of two large baking sheets. Brush it over the baking sheets with a brush or paper towel.

On half of one sheet, spread the zucchini slices out on the oil. Let them rest for a few seconds to soak up the oil and then flip the slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

On the other half of the same sheet, spread the beet slices and onion wedges. Again, let them rest a few seconds and then flip them over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. (Sorry if this is sounding familiar.)

Finally, on the second sheet, spread out your eggplant slices. Rest and flip. Salt and pepper.

Bake for about ½ hour, flipping the slices halfway through baking. They may need more or less time depending on the thickness and precise oven temperature. Be sure to check frequently so they don't burn.

Serve warm or at room temperature. (Leftovers are great tossed in a salad.)

Posted on Saturday, September 27, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, September 21, 2014

I know that I'm supposed to be hauling out the pumpkins now. Dusting off the pumpkin recipes. Buying nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon. 

But I'm kind of in denial. Could summer really be over? It flew so very quickly this year.

Maybe because it was so awesome. Because we had our first family trip in years. Because the kids were delightful and so much fun to be with. Because we made wonderful memories and relaxed like nobody's business.

Maybe that's why I don't want to let go.

I will, though. Starting with this acorn squash. A sure sign that fall is here. Here's to a wonderful fall and winter. To the tantalizing smells of pumpkin and nutmeg. To warm stews and hearty soups. And to many more wonderful summers.

Roasted Acorn Squash
This recipe feeds six. Make more or less, depending how many mouths you have to feed.

3 small acorn squash
3 teaspoons butter
3 teaspoons brown sugar
fresh grated nutmeg
dried ginger
salt (I used pink Himalayan but you can also use any coarse salt)

Preheat the oven to 350*. Wash and dry the squash and spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.

Bake the squash for about ½ hour, more or less, till they 'give' a little when you squeeze them. You want them slightly softened so you don't hack off any fingers while cutting them, but not baked through.

Remove the squash from the oven and turn the oven up to 400*.

Use a large knife to cut each squash from stem to pole, making two symmetrical halves. Let them sit on the counter, cut side up, for about ten minutes so they are cool enough to handle.

Use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds. Discard them.

Put ½ teaspoon of butter in the center of each squash half. Let it soften and then rub the butter all around the entire surface of the squash.  Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon brown sugar over each one.

Grate some nutmeg over the squash. There's no precise measurement here; just use your judgment. Sprinkle with ginger and cinnamon to taste, followed by salt, using about ⅛ teaspoon of each.

Bake the squash, cut side up, for another 20 minutes or so, until browning and glazed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted on Sunday, September 21, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, September 18, 2014

I have this theory I've been working out for years. Thanks for visiting and hearing me out. (Or for stopping by and skipping right to the recipe at the bottom of this page. Whichever.) 

Here goes: I think you can learn everything about people's personalities by observing them in the kitchen. Do they wash dishes as they go or accumulate an awful mess of pots, pans, knives, fingertips, and cutting boards by the time they are through with a recipe? Might tell you something about their ability to cope with real life challenges, and about how well they manage when the 'going gets crazy.'

Do they focus on one step of the recipe at a time and move in a linear, organized fashion? Or do they bounce around from step to step to get things done more quickly (sometimes)? Might tell you something about their ability to juggle responsibilities and deal with overwhelming workloads.

People who subscribe to the mise-en-place method are usually organized but maybe a little boring.

People who follow recipes to a 't' are cautious and conservative.

People who wash dishes as they go are capable but maybe just a little obsessive.

So what about you? What's your personality in the kitchen? Do you think it relates to your personality in real life? What do you think of my theory?

All-Out Minestrone Soup
This is an all-out soup because it calls for fine ingredients, and takes just a little more effort than your ordinary vegetable soup. But it's so very worth it. Not that I know very much about Italy, but I promise your kitchen will smell like Italy if you follow this recipe.

½ lb. of your favorite dried beans (get fancy and use these, or another Rancho Gordo favorite)
2 tablespoons of your very best olive oil
3 large leeks, cleaned well and chopped
1 teaspoons dried oregano, or about a tablespoon fresh oregano minced
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and chopped coarse
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, peeled and sliced
2 summer squash, peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons salt
dash black pepper
1 cup awesome red wine (something you would drink, and drink, and drink)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2-3 cups vegetable stock
Cooked small pasta shapes like acini di pepe or ditalini (optional)
Fresh parsley and parmesan for garnish

First, soak your beans in a large pot. You can use a quick-soak or overnight soak method. Cook them up until done but still quite firm. (It's ok if they're just a tiny bit raw in the center.) DO NOT discard the cooking water. Just let the beans rest in their liquid. They call it bean liquor for a reason.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Sauté the leeks in olive oil for about 5 minutes, on medium heat, till they are soft and fragrant.

Add the oregano and garlic to the leeks. Sauté for another 5 minutes or so, till your kitchen is smelling just a bit like Italy.

Add the carrots, celery and squash. Mix well and sauté for about 10 minutes more, stirring a couple of times.

Add the salt, pepper, fantastic wine, and tomato paste. Mix well and then cover the pan with a lid. (Keep the heat on medium.) Let this cook for 15 minutes, resisting the urge to lift the lid and stir. At this point, your house will smell like a wonderful combination of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and herbs. Resist the urge to imbibe it like a strange person.

Now, pour the vegetables into the beans. Add enough vegetable stock to generously cover the vegetables with liquid. You'll need 2-4 cups, depending how liquid-y your beans are.

Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.

If desired, spoon some cooked noodles into your bowls. Then ladle in the soup, and garnish with parsley and parmesan.

Bon appétit!

Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Is there anyone out there who owns an embarrassing quantity of cookbooks? Like spilling off the shelving unit, taking over your night table, embarrassing? 

I might know someone with that embarrassing situation. Someone who spends WAY too much money fueling this habit.

The thing that makes it a little more embarrassing is that said-someone rarely actually cooks from said-cookbooks. She reads them like other people read fiction. She takes them to the beach and to the pool. Seriously. She draws inspiration and ideas from them. But she rarely actually cooks a full recipe from them.

So that's why said-someone was particularly pleased to remember that one of her 139 cookbooks had a recipe utilizing two of the few ingredients in the fridge: string beans and dill. So nice to actually be able to use one of those books and convince said-family that they are not a complete waste of space and money.

Buttered Dilly Green Beans 
This recipe is adapted very slightly from The Essential New York Times Cookbook. It serves 4-6 people as a side dish. Use olive oil or margarine for a vegan version. 

2 cups (about a pound) of string beans, trimmed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (more of less - depends how much you like dill)
2 tablespoons butter

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and return to a boil.

Add the green beans and continue to boil on high for about two minutes until the beans look cooked but are still bright. Test one if you're not sure.

Drain the beans in a colander. Quickly pour cold water over them to stop the cooking. Let them drain completely, for at least a few minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a few times, till the beans are warmed through and the butter is coating them evenly.

Toss the string beans with the dill and serve.

Posted on Sunday, September 14, 2014 by Rivki Locker