Saturday, August 30, 2014

I live a double life. Most days, when I'm in the office, I eat a protein bar for lunch. Yes, it's kind of nasty and tasteless. Yes, it's an embarrassment to the people who look up to me as a good home cook. But it works. 

It gives me the calories and nutrients I need to get through my day, with a minimum of fuss. Am I proud of this habit? Not really.

But here's the saving grace. Once or twice a week I work from home. And when I do, I can usually take a 15 minute break from the never ending meetings and documents to make myself a less-nasty and usually-less-tasteless lunch. 

Last night's leftovers are sometimes involved. 

Beautiful produce is always involved. 

This salad happened on a work-from-home day. But not just any. I had gone to the farmer's market the day before. And I had these absolutely gorgeous heirloom tomatoes in just about every color. Also some beautiful purple basil from my herb garden. Also some perfectly ripe peaches. 

This salad WAY beats a protein bar. Any day. 

Heirloom Tomato Peach Salad 
Although the recipe has 'heirloom' in the title, you have my permission to use regular tomatoes if that's what you have on hand. Your tastebuds won't know the difference (although your plate will feel a little less pretty). This recipe makes one large serving (enough for a one-person main dish) or 2-3 side dish servings. 

4 small tomatoes, cut in large chunks
2 ripe but not mushy peaches, cut in large chunks
1 scallion, minced
a handful of basil, chopped
½ a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Put the cut tomatoes and peaches into a large bowl.

Add the scallions and basil. 

Squeeze the lime over the salad, and then add the olive oil and salt. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine. (At this point, you can leave it sitting for about 15-20 minutes. This salad will get a little mushy if left longer.) 

Right before serving, gently toss in the cheese. 

Posted on Saturday, August 30, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, August 28, 2014

I am generally a fairly devoted mother. I drive my kids to their various extra-curricular and social activities (and I don't usually complain). I get their school supplies and uniforms in order at least a couple of days before school starts. For the most part I make sure they are happy, safe and fairly well fed.

And I'm a pretty caring wife. I make sure there is something in the house for my husband to eat when he gets home close to midnight. I look out for his dry cleaning and other minutiae. I even occasionally buy him gifts.

But there is one exception. And it has to do with eggplant.

For some odd reason, few of my offspring enjoy eggplant. (Are these guys really my flesh and blood?) And neither does my husband. (Well, he's not my flesh and blood, but I did choose him. I don't think I knew about his Eggplant Issue when I did. I'm sure I didn't.)

But I do enjoy eggplant. I really, really do.

Would a truly caring mother find another vegetable to serve with dinner? One that her children and husband didn't completely despise? Perhaps.... Would she at least show some concern for her eggplant-hating offspring and spouse when bringing a dish to the table that she knows good and well they won't touch? Perhaps....

But - and I'm not proud of this - when I brought a plate of glistening Roasted Mini Eggplants to the dinner table, knowing full well I would be the only one consuming them, I didn't feel one bit of guilt. I graciously asked if anyone wanted any. I offered to share. But when they turned up their noses, I happily ate the entire plate of eggplants. Yes. Myself. And of that I'm not ashamed.

Roasted Mini Eggplants
Yeah, you really do need mini eggplants for this dish. Sorry, guys. Try your farmers market in the summer. Or Whole Foods.

10-15 mini eggplants
olive oil
2 cloves garlic
kosher salt
about 30 leaves of basil, preferably smallish

Preheat the oven to 400*. Wash and dry the eggplants. Peel the garlic cloves and slice them thin. You'll need 20-or-so slices.

Use a knife to make a slit from the tip of the eggplant all the way almost all the way up to the stem. You want to leave the stem comfortably intact, so don't get super-close to it.

Use a pastry brush or paper towel to coat a glass baking dish with oil. (You'll need a dish large enough to comfortably hold all of your eggplants.) Then pour a few tablespoons of oil into a cup or shallow dish. You'll use that to brush on the eggplants.

Working with one eggplant at a time, brush the insides and outsides generously with olive oil. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on the inside of the eggplant. Slip in a garlic clove or two, plus one or two basil leaves.  As you go, lay each eggplant in the oiled dish.

When you're done, sprinkle some salt and pepper over the eggplants.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the eggplants look warm through and are beginning to soften. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Linking this up to Wednesday Roundup at Savory Experiments

Posted on Thursday, August 28, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, August 24, 2014

OK, so you know you take food a wee bit too seriously when your eleven-year-old son begs you to take a family trip to Whole Foods before school starts because "this is probably the last chance I'll get for a long time."

Or when you are more likely to have fresh summer fruit in your home than you are to have clean and folded clothing for your kids to wear to camp. (True story.)

But the moment I was sure it had gone too far was when my five-year-old told me nonchalantly this weekend that her best friend's hair smells so good, "it smells like produce." I figured she was mixing up her words. "Do you really mean produce, sweetie? Or did you mean something else maybe, like shampoo or flowers?"

"No, Mommy. Like produce. Like fruits and vegetables. That's how good it smells."

Wow. I think I've taken things too far. My maybe-not-so-healthy obsession with fruits and vegetables might just be rubbing off on my loved ones. What do you think? OK? Not too cool? Would love to hear your thoughts....

In the meantime, here's a recipe from a summer-produce-obsessed gal. I saw these rainbow carrots at Whole Foods and COULD NOT resist. I have made the same recipe dozens of times with ordinary carrots, and truth be told, it tasted just the same. But isn't this just the prettiest thing?

Honey Garlic Roasted Carrots
Makes a nice large pan of carrots, enough for 4-6 as a side dish. You can also toss it with two cups of cooked quinoa to make it into a main dish. 

5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
black pepper, to taste
2 large bunches of carrots (rainbow carrots if you want to be fancy; but plain ones are JUST FINE)

Preheat the oven to 400*. 

Chop the garlic coarsely. Don't mince it too fine or it'll burn. 

In a large bowl, combine the garlic with the oil, honey, salt and pepper. Stir well with a fork. 

Next, peel your carrots and cut them into matchsticks. Yes, I know it's a nuisance and takes longer than just dumping them into the pan whole. Play some nice music or listen to your favorite podcast. And trust me on this. Your mouth will thank me for those happy shaped matchsticks. 

Put the carrot sticks into the bowl and toss them well to combine them with the honey-garlic-yumminess. 

Spray a large cookie sheet with baking spray (or brush on some oil). Pour on the carrots and spread them in a nice layer so they are not overlapping. 

Bake for 25-35 minutes - stirring occasionally - until the carrots are browning and developing a nice glaze. Eat anytime in the next few hours. (Or leave them on the counter and see how long they last.) 

Posted on Sunday, August 24, 2014 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, August 21, 2014

There are so many things I love about summer. The lazy afternoons that roll slowly into evening and then night. Hours in the pool with my kids. The bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Mostly from my CSA.

But I can't stand the heat of the kitchen. And so I usually avoid it. Not by starving my family (um, not usually). I just avoid turning on the oven. I cook mostly on the stovetop and grill, or serve raw foods. But I miss my roasted veggies and baked goods. And I especially miss homemade bread.

That's why I was kind of excited when the temperature dropped this week. I fired up the oven and got to work on some homemade bread.

This is my very favorite recipe. Although it does need 15-20 hours of rising, it's the simplest bread recipe I've ever made. There is no kneading, no rolling, and almost no shaping. As long as you're somewhat organized, and home at key intervals, this bread is an absolute breeze. Like 5-10 minutes of hands-on time. Seriously. And, did I mention it's fantastic? And that it tastes like artisan bread? Yeah, it does.

Oh, you'll need a big old oven-safe cast iron pot to make this recipe. Here's the one I use. It's AWESOME.

Jim Lahey's No Knead Bread, slightly adapted from the New York Times.
Makes one generous loaf.  Buy the book if you want to try variations.

2 ½ cups regular or high gluten flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon dry yeast
1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
1⅝ cups water
Extra flour for dusting

Get started on this recipe the evening before you want to eat the bread. If you want to eat it on Wednesday evening, do this first step on Tuesday evening. Use a wooden spoon to mix the flours, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the water, and stir for a couple of minutes until the dough seems even. It'll be quite a bit stickier than other bread recipes you might be used to. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let it rest in a warm room for anywhere from 12-18 hours.

Move onto this next step when the dough is spotted with little bubbles. This can happen anywhere from 12-15 hours after you've put it up. Dust a counter or cutting board (for easier cleanup) with flour. Dump the dough onto it, giving a nudge with a spoon if needed. Sprinkle the dough with some more flour and fold it over on itself a couple of times. Cover the dough with saran wrap and leave it to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Spread out a clean cotton cloth on your counter. (I use an old - washed - pillowcase. The original recipe says NOT to use terry cloth.) Flour it generously and then quickly shape the dough into a ball, using a tiny bit of flour if the dough is sticking to your hands.  Put the dough seam side down on towel. Dust your dough-blob with more flour. Cover it with another cotton cloth and let it rise for anywhere from 1½ - 3 hours till it's doubled in size.

Half hour before you plan to bake it, preheat the oven to 450*. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (I use this one) in the oven to heat up. When you're ready, put on a thick pair of hot gloves and remove the pot from the oven. Carefully turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. Cover the pot with the oven-safe lid and bake the bread for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake it for another 20-30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack before devouring.

Posted on Thursday, August 21, 2014 by Rivki Locker

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Well, this is awkward. I've abandoned this space for close to three years. Three crazy packed years with increased responsibilities at work and at home. But things have quieted down and I have that extra space back in my life. To breathe. To workout on a somewhat-regular-basis. To cook. And to blog.

So, I'm back. And I hope you will come visit and comment once again. It feels good to open up my kitchen to you and to share my recipes and photos. Thanks for stopping by!

I will introduce this recipe with a disclaimer. I am a self-proclaimed kale addict. Raw kale especially. And with kale season in full swing, there's no stopping me. I usually prepare it 101 Cookbooks style,  but lately I've been branching out. Sometimes even way out.

If you don't like kale, there's nothing for you here. Except maybe a few short words of support and encouragement: I won't hold this against you. Come back next week for something less green and less raw. In the meantime, could I convince you to give it a shot? Would it help if I admitted that I ate more than half this salad (yes, it is supposed to serve six) on my very own?

Kale Nectarine Salad 
Serves 6 normal people, but if you're having me over, count me in for at least 3 portions

Like most raw kale recipes, this one enjoys a few minutes of massaging and relaxation. Who doesn't, really? 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
a couple of dashes each of cinnamon, ginger, allspice
1 small bunch kale
¼ cup walnuts
3 nectarines
¼ of a red onion
few tablespoons white vinegar
¼ cup parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, grated fresh
¼ cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade

In a large salad bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and spices. Use a fork to whisk well.

Use a chef's knife to cut the kale into ribbons. Put them in the bowl with the dressing. 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. Don't skimp.

Let the kale rest. Preheat the oven to 350 and toast the walnuts for about 7 minutes, till fragrant. When they are cool, chop them coarsely and put that on top of the kale.

Meanwhile, slice your nectarines thin and put them on top of the kale as well.

Cut the onion into thin slices and put them in a bowl or cup with enough vinegar to cover them. (This takes the bite out of the onion.) Once they've been resting for about ten minutes, drain and discard the vinegar. Put the onions on top of the kale.

Last, put the cheese and bread crumbs into the bowl and give it a good toss. Eat fresh. If you have any left, it'll keep nicely for a day or two in the fridge.

Posted on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 by Rivki Locker