Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The food blogger's dilemma. The dish that tasted like the essence of awesomeness came out looking sad and limp. Do I post a picture and risk turning my readers off?

Do I do the unthinkable: post photos of the process but none of the finished product?

Or perhaps I don't post the recipe at all.

But now that I've piqued your interest, I can't very well not share. And I certainly can't ruin my reputation by posting nasty photos. So, here it is. The dish was awesome but not so pretty. There you have it.

Poached Salmon with Asian Greens
30 minutes prep
serves 4

2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch of kale, cleaned and sliced in ribbons
1 zucchini, peeled (or not) and sliced in 1/2 inch slices
1/2 cup sake wine, divided
4 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large oven safe, preferably cast iron, frying pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook for a minute or two, till fragrant. Add the kale and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, till the kale is heated through and beginning to brighten. Add the zucchini and 1/4 cup sake wine. Cook, stirring, for another 10 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables to a serving dish and dry out the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat, and - once it's nice and hot - add the salmon fillets, skin-side down. DO NOT FLIP THEM UNTIL THE SKIN IS BEGINNING TO CRISP. (This is where I went wrong and how I ended up with no photos to show for all my efforts.)

When the skin is beginning to crackle and crisp, flip the fish. Cook for another 2-3 minutes before adding the remaining 1/4 cup sake wine, soy sauce, water, and ginger into the pan. Bring the liquids to a boil, cover the pot tightly with an oven safe lid or with foil.

Transfer the fish to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check on the liquids from time to time - if it looks dry, add some more water and/or sake.

Remove the fish from the oven and let it rest uncovered for a minute or two. Use a spatula to delicately transfer the fish to the platter, right on top of your greens.

Serve immediately.

Linking this up to Slightly Indulgent TuesdaysUltimate Recipe Swap and Weekend Bloggy Reading

Posted on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, July 24, 2011

The thing I love most about cooking is improvising. Although I own 89+ cookbooks, I rarely follow a recipe. The fun, for me, is in 'winging it.' Doing my own thing.

Baking isn't usually as much fun. You've got to stick to the recipe or you risk ruining your cake. What fun is that? 

That's what I love about this recipe. Although you do need to follow the basic formula, this recipe just invites improvising! My current favorite combination of fruit is 2 granny smith apples, 2 pears, and 1 cup each of blueberries and cherries. But that'll change as the seasons do. When stone fruit is in season, I can't get enough of fresh peach and blueberry crisp. 

Super Crispy Fruit Crisp This is a basic formula which you can use with lots of different combinations of fruits. I mostly use fresh seasonal fruit but I've also had really good results with frozen cranberries,cherries, and blueberries. My favorite combinations: 

  • pears, apples, and cranberries
  • pears, apples, blueberries, and cherries
  • peaches, nectarines, and blueberries
  • apples (granny smith or any other firm favorites) and dried cherries
  • strawberries, rhubarb, and apples 
  • plums and apples
  • peaches, apples, and cherries

about 6 cups of your favorite fruit, pitted, peeled and sliced as necessary
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
juice of half a lemon
1-2 tablespoons sugar, optional, if the fruit is tart or if you like a sweeter crisp

½ cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
½ cup pecans, broken into small but not tiny pieces

Preheat the oven to 350*.

Combine the prepared fruit, lemon juice, flour and salt in a Pyrex pie plate. Mix well. (Here's my favorite on Amazon.)

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, oatmeal, and nuts. Crumble the mixture with your fingers to make a coarse crumb. (This is my favorite part. I love how the grainy sugar feels against my hands.)

Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake for about an hour, till the top is beginning to brown.

Serve warm or cool completely before covering with foil and refrigerating for up to three days. If you are refrigerating it, bring it back to room temperature before serving.

Posted on Sunday, July 24, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm delighted to be participating in The Secret Recipe Club this week. What a fun initiative! Each member is secretly assigned a participating food blogger to make a recipe from. You choose any recipe from the blog you are assigned, make or bake it, and blog about it on the date specified. My assigned blog was Yumsilicious Bakes. What could be more delicious than a blog dedicated to baked goods? 

Which brings me right to something that I've been bottling up for some time. Here it is. There are certain members (who shall remain nameless) of a certain household (which shall remain nameless). Who, in spite of the fact that their spouse is obsessed with cooking and baking ordinary but delicious foods. And who, in spite of the fact that their spouse avoids artificial ingredients, most packaged foods and white flour on most occasions. Insists that there is nothing quite as delicious as a Drake's Apple or Cherry Fruit Pie. 

So this has been bothering me for quite some time. Each time those Evil Pies make their way into my healthy pantry, alongside the whole grain oats, agave nectar, and coconut oil, a little part of me aches. But I have been powerless to do much about it. There's no arguing about taste.

Until last week, when I found a homemade replacement: These Oatmeal Pie Bars from Yumsilicious Bakes. Yes, they have sugar and plenty of butter. But they come from my kitchen. And I'm pretty sure they don't have Sodium Alginate or Mononitrate, which in my book is a good thing. 

Oatmeal Apple Pie Bars from Yumsilicious Bakes

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
pinch of salt

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 stick (8 oz.) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350*. Line a 9 inch square pan with parchment.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add all of the remaining filling ingredients and cook, stirring often and apples begin to get tender, about 10 minutes. Add water if the filling seems too thick, a tbsp at a time. Set aside to cool, while you start on the crust.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, brown sugar and oats. Add the melted butter and incorporate well. Separate about 1 1/2 cups of the crust mixture and press it into the bottom of the pan.
Spoon the filling over the crust, trying to ensure a more or less single layer. Sprinkle on the remaining crust mixture.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the topping is light golden brown. Cool in the pan completely, and then cut into squares. Leave at room temperature for up to a day or so, or refrigerate for later in the week. 

Linking this up to Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Ultimate Recipe Swap, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Posted on Monday, July 18, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is there a support group out there for people who are addicted to cookbooks?

I kid you not when I tell you that my current cookbook count is at 89 books, and is showing no signs of slowing. The collection has long since outgrown the bookshelves I bought especially for it two years ago. Now the books spill over onto the couch, windowsills, and night table. Yes, I read cookbooks in bed, like normal people read novels and magazines.

The point of this confession, though, is to say this: When I came home on Friday with some magnificent blackberries and figs, not a single one of the 89 cookbooks on my shelf had a recipe for the salad I was envisioning. So I concocted it myself. I take all the credit.

The combination of blackberries and figs might be unexpected, but boy, did it work. The addition of basil in the vinaigrette was a wonderful touch, too. If you can get a hold of some seasonal blackberries and figs, please try this salad. And, if you own anywhere near as many cookbooks as I do, please offer your support by commenting on this post. Your words will be a comfort to my addicted soul.

Blackberry Fig Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4; 15 minutes prep

1 head of green or red leaf lettuce
4 figs
16 blackberries, cleaned and dried
a handful of pecans, toasted
goat cheese, optional
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3-4 leaves of basil (more if they are small)
1/4 teaspoon salt
some black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, chopped

Clean and dry the greens and then set them aside in a large bowl. 

In a mini blender, combine the olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt, pepper, sugar, and garlic. Blend till smooth. (You can use a jar instead. The texture will be a bit less smooth and you'll want to crush the garlic and chop the basil.) 

Immediately before serving, toss the greens with the dressing. Put 1/4 of the greens on each of four plates. Arrange the blackberries, figs, and pecans on top of the greens. Crumble on some goat cheese, if desired. Serve immediately. 

Posted on Thursday, July 14, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Monday, July 11, 2011

Where were you guys before I started this blog? How come no one warned me of the occupational hazards of blogging?

No, I am not referring to the fact that I worry more about the lighting for my food photos than I do about my hungry children. Nor am I talking about the embarrassing (to my children, at least) way I gush over beautiful produce at the farmer's market. And I'm not even talking about the round-the-clock obsession with checking my fellow bloggers' sites and planning our next shoot.

I'm talking about the very unfortunate fact that I have spoiled my children. There was a day when Banana Bread was a treat. ("Wow. Mommy made cake!") These days, they turn up their noses at an ordinary loaf of banana bread. ("Oh. Did we have rotten bananas you needed to use up?") Sure, they pretend they have my blogs' best interests in mind. ("Mommy, don't you want to make something interesting for your blog?")  as they ask for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp,  Chocolate Muffins or my Signature Chocolate Chip Cookies.

So when I came across this recipe on Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice,  there was just a little hint of spite as I clipped it and eyed those browning bananas. As I mashed the bananas and measured out the chips, I have to admit that the expression "I'll show them" did go through my mind.

Well, I showed them alright. This recipe made for such a lovely cake that I wrapped it up in individual slices and forbade everyone from eating it. I caved when they looked at me with their sad puppy-dog eyes and asked for just a tiny bit. And all it took was one "YUMMY" from my two-year-old to make all my resolutions vanish. This cake is good. Good enough to share with my spoiled but very-much-loved family.

Zucchini Banana Bread, adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

3 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 heaping cup zucchini (1 small to medium), shredded
3/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350*. Lightly grease a standard sized loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the banana for a minute or so till well mashed. Add the eggs, honey, sugar, and vanilla and mix for another minute or so, until smooth.

Add the baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix to combine and then add the flour. 

Stir in the zucchini and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for a little under an hour until a toothpick comes out clean from center. Cool for about 1/2 hour before turning the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool some more.

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2011 by Rivki Locker


I know you're thinking it. So just say it. What does a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn know about collard greens? They're as Southern as you get. They just seem out of place on this blog, in her kitchen.

You're right. I don't know much about collards.

But when they showed up on my front porch this morning (in my CSA box), I knew I was in for a good Southern meal.

And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Creamy Baby Collards
Serves 2; about 15 minutes prep
I used baby collards but I think the dish would work well with more mature greens too. Just increase the cooking time by a couple of minutes to get them nice and soft. 

1 large bunch baby collards
2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or a combination
2 scallions or spring onions, sliced thin
a handful of chives, snipped
2 tablespoons cream
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Clean the collards and remove any stems. Cook the greens for about 2 minutes (longer if you're using more mature greens). Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil or butter in a large, preferably cast iron, frying pan. Saute the scallions and chives for a minute or two, over medium heat.

Add the drained collards and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring from time to time, till all the water has cooked out.

Add the cream and continue cooking, stirring, for about 5 minutes till the cream is thickened and no longer watery.

Serve immediately.

Posted on Monday, July 11, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, July 3, 2011

It happens right about this time every year. I can count on it like I can count on my baby waking me up before my alarm clock goes off every day.

I get the summer blues. See, I work through the summer and July is CRAZY time at work. (I head up the Product Management team at an educational software company and we release a new version of our software at the end of July each year, in preparation for back-to-school.)

So, as the rest of the world is slowing down - heading off to less humid places, sleeping late, or just catching up on hobbies and family time - I'm speeding up. Cramming to fit more work into less time. Checking my email practically 24/7. Cutting back on sleep in a desperate attempt to create more hours in the day.

The worst is when people say "I don't know how you do it! Working all summer long with just a few days off." Honestly, most of the time I don't either know how I do it. And some days I don't really want to do it anymore. 

The saving grace is that I love my job, am passionate about what our company has been able to accomplish, and - as I always tell myself - I hate being bored! Sunny sandy beaches? Booooring. Lazy mornings sleeping in? Booooring. Crossword puzzles and chic lit? Booooring. Or so I tell myself. 

Today on "Eat. Live. Be" we're talking about things we can't live without. For me, it's my family and my kitchen. My family because they are always there for me, even when life is hectic and crazy. Coming home to a wonderful and lively crew makes even the busiest seasons fun. And my kitchen, well, my time in the kitchen - peeling, chopping, stirring, kneading - is like therapy for me. It helps me unwind after a long day, helps me put things in perspective. 

Here's my latest happy finding, a recipe that made major waves on the Internet months ago that I just got around to trying. It's fun to eat, super easy to make (once you've cleaned the kale), and - a bonus - super duper healthy

Kale Chips

1 bunch curly leaf kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 325* and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  

Rinse and dry the kale, and remove the stems and toughest ribs. Rip or cut the kale into large pieces - about three pieces per leaf - and then toss with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and toss some more. 

Arrange the leaves in a single layer on your parchment-lined baking sheets. Don't crowd the greens - you want them to roast, not steam. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp. Cool for a few minutes before eating. 

Posted on Sunday, July 03, 2011 by Rivki Locker