Back to School, Back to the Kitchen

Garlic, cilantro, and potatoes

 

It’s starting to really feel like autumn, and while I LOVE the summer, I’m ready to get back to my back-to-school routines. After a lot of eating out, indulging and other recreational pastimes, it’s time for me to turn inward and get back to meal planning, packing lunch, and eating dinner at home with my husband.

Having a schedule and a routine helps me make better choices about what I’m eating and how much money I’m spending. I’m sharing three simple tips that I live by to integrate cooking more fully into my daily life.

1. Meal Planning – I’m a teacher, so lesson planning is a weekly routine for me. But what about meal planning? Every Sunday, I take about 10 minutes to jot down dinner meals for Monday – Thursday. So come Tuesday, I’m not spending the mental energy to think up a meal or scramble for dinner, but simply just following a plan. Try this weekly meal planner template to get your brain juices flowing. Also, by meal planning in advance, I create a grocery shopping list from those meal plans to have all the necessary ingredients on hand (which also helps reduce food waste from unwarranted grocery purchases).

2. Grocery Shopping – Grocery shopping can be a stressful task in New York City, particularly at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods on a weekday at 6pm when you’re hungry. I love both of those establishments, but can’t put forth enough emotional energy to withstand them at times that are convenient for me. We often choose a 6-8am Fresh Direct delivery that arrives as I’m getting ready for work on weekdays, which ensures that our groceries are in our fridge without having stepped out of the apartment. We also have a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share with Nextdoorganics which we pick up weekly for our locally sourced fresh veggies.

3. Keeping it simple by mastering techniques, not recipes – I often find that people get pretty obsessed with recipes, and having all the ingredients to cook them. Sometimes recipes can also take twice as long if you aren’t yet comfortable in the kitchen. If you master a few basic techniques, such as sautéing, roasting, steaming and pan-searing, you can eventually substitute ingredients and build your own intuition in the kitchen. Check out my simple video tips to see what I’m talking about.

What are some tips that make it easier for you to cook on a regular basis? Leave a comment below!

Mercado a Cocina, in Mexico City

Recipes by Chef Ruth Alegria

Cucumber Lemonade with Chia Seeds (Agua de Pepino con Chia)

Cucumber Drink

Fills one pitcher

Ingredients:

2 frozen cucumbers, peeled and cored, no seeds 

Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste

5 cups of water

Sugar to taste

5 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Add cucumber and water to a blender and puree. Strain into a pitcher. Add lime juice to taste, and sugar. Sprinkle in chia seeds. This recipe can be made with any type of fruit from pineapple, melon, watermelon or strawberry.

 

Grilled Cactus Salad

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Serves 6 as a side dish

In Mexico City, vendors sell cactus paddles already cleaned, meaning the spines have been removed. They sell various sizes, but the smallest are the most tender and flavorful. This dish is very easy to prepare and can be done in a skillet, comal or over a grill.

 

Ingredients:

12 tender young cactus paddles, spines removed, and washed

12 spring onions or large-bulb scallions, washed

1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 red onion, sliced

Small amount of olive or vegetable oil

Salt and white pepper

Leaving the root end intact, score each cactus paddle with a sharp knife. Heat dry skillet, comal or griddle over high heat. Brush paddles with oil and grill until tender, and paddles have changed from a bright to dull green color. Add bell pepper, onion, and spring onions and cook until charred.

Season cactus and onions with salt and white pepper. Remove to serving platter. Try using a simple vinaigrette using a fine herb vinegar (we used a lovely tarragon vinaigrette).

 

Molé de Olla (Meat and Vegetable Stew)

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Serves 6

Ancho and pasilla chiles give this stew its deep color and rich flavor. It can be made with pork neck bones or boiling beef (brisket/shoulder/short ribs). Use bones for a deeper flavor in the broth.

Ingredients:

For the meat:

2 quarts water

3 pounds stewing beef or pork, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 onion, quartered

1 tsp of pimienta gorda (whole black pepper; pimienta gorda is specific to Mexico, but whole black pepper could be substituted)

 

Chiles for seasoning the Molé

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4 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (for a milder flavor, or leave them in for more heat)

4 guajillo or pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded (for a milder flavor, or leave them in for more heat)

1 pound tomatillos, husked

1 “sour tuna” xoconostle cut in quarters (here’s a link to dried xonocostle from an online Mexican specialty shop)

1 medium onion, chopped

½ head of garlic, roughly chopped

Pinch of whole cumin seeds, freshly ground

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

Vegetables, cleaned and trimmed

4 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks

½ pound green beans (preferably French), cut in half

8 oz potatoes peeled and quartered

2 chayotes, peeled and cut into quarters, seeds removed  

2 ears of corn, each cut into quarters

2 carrots, roughly chopped into 1 inch chunks

3 sprigs epazote (Mexican herb also known as stinkweed – foragers you can likely find this in a nearby city park)

 

Cover the meat, onion, and pimienta gorda with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer covered until the beef is tender, about 1 hour. When the beef is cooked, strain the broth, reserving the broth and the beef.

On the comal or a dry skillet, “roast the chiles.” Place the dried chiles on each side until they puff up from the heat and air, which only takes a few moments. Once they’ve been “roasted,” add them to a large bowl of water.  Roast the xoconostle, tomatillos, garlic, and onion on the comal, until slightly charred. Add to water with chiles. Let soak for 20 minutes.

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Place this mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat the oil in a large pot like a Dutch oven, and add the puree into the hot oil and cook over medium low heat, stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes to desired consistency. 

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Add the meat and its broth. Cook for about 30-45 minutes, until meat is fork tender.

Add the vegetables when the meat is fork tender and cook for another 30 minutes.

Add the epazote (if available) LAST – about 5 minutes before the mole is ready to serve.  

Serve with hot tortillas, lime wedges, and finely chopped white onion.

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A Peek at my Top 10 Kitchen Items

Today, I’m inviting you into my kitchen.

I‘m sharing my most utilized tools, and why I love them.

 

I started cooking about 11 years ago when I first moved to New York City. I rented an apartment in Harlem with two roommates, and lived right off of the 125th Street 2/3 train. When I would exit the subway, my guilty pleasure was to stop by Marshall’s to see what kitchen or home goods were on offer. I started to build my kitchen supply box, testing out this pan and that pot, and this spatula and that ladle.

Last year, I got married. My then-fiance (now husband) patiently sat next to me on the couch while I filled out our registry on crateandbarrel.com. Each package that came found a new home in our kitchen and elevated our cooking game.

Over the past 11 years living in New York City, I’ve accumulated a fair amount of kitchen utensils and gadgets. With each move, I’ve given some away, and after reading The Life Changing Magic by Marie Kondo, I’ve focused intently on only keeping things that “spark joy.”

The following items not only spark joy for me, but are used on an almost daily basis. If I were better at writing reviews, they would all receive 5 stars. I hope they make an appearance in your kitchen as well!

Chef’s Knife

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This is my go-to knife. It is a Shun (Japanese) Chef’s knife, beautifully made and makes preparing food a joy. I bought it at Williams Sonoma after trying out a few western and eastern knives.

 

Paring Knife

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A paring knife is a great addition to a Chef’s knife if you only have two knives. It’s great for cutting hard cheese, cutting seeds out of jalapeños. Mine is a Wusthoff (German), also from Williams Sonoma.

 

Cutting Block

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This beauty was from our registry from Crate and Barrel (thanks Michele and Josh!). It is slightly elevated which makes it easy to cut on, and is beautiful for serving food as well.

 

Cast Iron Skillet

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We use this bad boy for searing steaks, frying up potatoes, kimchi bacon fried rice, roasting chickens – you name it! We’ve also taken it camping and thrown it on the campfire. It is DURABLE and VERSATILE.

 

Tongs

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These Oxo tongs are my most utilized kitchen tool. Veggies? Chicken? Spaghetti noodles that I want to transfer to a sauce? I especially love that the tongs are non-stick and will not scuff your cookingware.

 

Fish Spatula

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Bon Appetit suggested this tool and I have not regretted it. The fish spatula can turn over delicate fillets like a pro, and is great with eggs and anything else that needs flipping.

 

Microplane

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I bring this tool with me regularly to tutorials. It’s wonderful for grating lemon zest or hard cheeses like Parmigiano. It really is beyond the capabilities of your average grater.

 

Silicone Over-the-Sink Drying Rack

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After I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, I knew we needed a different drying rack solution. Our friends Will and Grace (yes, that’s their real names) had one in their kitchen…and I can’t sing its praises enough. It rolls up conveniently, and the dishes drain straight into the sink which helps avoid standing water and mold. It saves so much space!

 

Dutch Oven

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These Le Creuset Dutch ovens have seen me through so many braises, soups and winters. They are my go-to dinner party cookware. When the guests arrive, I’ll often transfer the pot from the oven straight to the table for serving.

 

Steak Knives

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These knives are a bit of a luxury. Thanks to our registry and our dear friend Daniela, they live permanently on our dining room table. Wusthoff has made a sharp, elegant steak knife that doesn’t have a massive handle and blade like many others. It makes our dinners a classy affair.

 

So there you have it! I’d love to know – what are YOUR favorite kitchen goods? Leave a comment below on the blog – I’d love hear about it!

The three ingredients I recommend to every first time client.

Whenever I first work with a client in their kitchen, they often want to know, “Do I have the right stuff?” I take a quick glance around their cupboards, pantry and counter space. More often than not, they have plenty of pots, pans, baking sheets, and appliances. Their pantry is filled with spices (that have likely been sitting unused).

Before we meet, the number one question I ask is: Do you have salt, pepper, and olive oil?

That’s it. I love to cook with a variety of spices and flavors, but an amazing meal can consistently be created with fresh ingredients, salt, pepper and olive oil

These three ingredients are the foundation of almost every meal for me. Roasting? Salt, pepper, and olive oil. Sauteeing? Salt, pepper, and olive oil. Pan-searing? Salt, pepper, and olive oil.

 

Check out the three recipes below that I use to make a simple, healthful and delicious dinner. They’ve got our superstar staples and will take less than 30 minutes to make.

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Roasted Carrots & Fingerling Potatoes

1 bunch of carrots

1 lb of fingerling potatoes

Salt, pepper and olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop fingerling potatoes in half. Roughly chop carrots approximately the same size as potatoes. In a flat baking sheet or roasting pan, toss in olive oil (you can use your hands here to make sure it’s fully coated), season with salt and pepper. Make sure everything is in one single layer. Slide into oven on top rack and cook for 30 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork. Watch my roasting video here.

 

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Sautéed Kale

1 bunch of kale

Salt, pepper, and olive oil

 

Roughly chop kale. In a saute pan, drizzle olive oil and bring to medium heat. Place kale in pan, season with salt and pepper. Use tongs to toss and cook for 6-7 minutes, until kale is wilted. Watch my sautéing video here.

 

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Pan-seared Chicken Breast

2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts

Salt, pepper, and olive oil

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a cast iron skillet or frying pan, drizzle olive oil and bring to medium-high heat on stovetop. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Place chicken skin-side down in skillet. Let cook for 5 minutes without touching it. Use tongs to turn over and cook for another 5 minutes skin-side up. Then slide skillet (or pan) into oven below or next to roasted veggies. Cook for another 20 minutes in the oven. Watch my pan-searing video here.

Paris!

Le chat est noir! The cat is black. 

La chienne mange un bonbon! The dog eats candy.

Le garcon est riche! The boy is rich. 

J’aime vin rouge! I like red wine.

These are the type of nonsense sentences I’ve been spouting off for about a month before my trip to Paris. With my duo lingo app handy on the subway, I surely was learning all of the essential phrases in French. (Forgive me, I was too lazy to insert accents.) I was well equipped with restaurant recommendations, neighborhood walks, and most thankfully, a friend who lived in Paris. I remembered to say, “Je suis desole, anglais?” (I’m sorry, English?) with a big smile and most people were helpful and friendly enough. My Parisian friend Eddy taught me to elongate my “Merciiiiiiiiiiii” and I was rewarded with excellent service and courtesy.

Below are some photos from my trip to Paris. The only and last time I had been was ten years ago when I visited with my family when I was studying abroad in England. This trip I was fully able to meet my travel objectives. Eating my way through Paris, and people watching in different neighborhoods. I also went on some memorable runs along the Seine, watching people drink vin and eat fromage, and even grill already!! There was also a capoeira event. 🙂 I’ll try and post some more pictures soon.

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Above you can see Jardin de Luxembourg, where Parisians were clearly soaking in the sun and enjoying themselves.

 

 

Yup, that's ramen. We finally found "authentic Japanese cuisine" to my dear French friend's delight.
Yup, that’s ramen. We finally found “authentic Japanese cuisine” to my dear French friend’s delight.
Soufflé at La Régalade Saint-Honoré after a delicious black squid ink risotto with calamari and braised beef cheek.
Soufflé at La Régalade Saint-Honoré
after a delicious black squid ink risotto with calamari and braised beef cheek.
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My dear friend Kim urged me to go to Marché des Enfants Rouges in Le Marais to meet this amazing sandwich man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wished for duck...and I got it. :) This meal also came with aubergine caviar, fromage de chevre, sea bass, pommes frites, and the list goes on...
I wished for duck…and I got it. 🙂 This meal also came with aubergine caviar, fromage de chevre, sea bass, pommes frites, and the list goes on…
Incredible fallafel at L'as du Fallafel in Le Marais. Matzah bread because it was Passover.
Incredible fallafel at L’as du Fallafel in Le Marais. Matzah bread because it was Passover.

 


Appetizers for your Dinner Party!

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Just because holiday season is over, doesn’t mean your dinner parties have to be. Party it up with these recipes below, people!

Baked Brie with Honey

Ingredients:
Small wheel of brie
Honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Drizzle honey on brie. Bake for 5-7 minutes until oozing but not melted completely.
Serve with crackers.

 

Kale Walnut Goat Cheese Dip

Ingredients
½ head of kale, stems removed, torn into pieces
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove of garlic
1-2 tbsp of goat cheese
extra virgin olive oil
handful of walnuts
salt and pepper

Lightly sauté kale and shallot in olive oil. Transfer to food processor, toss in garlic clove and splash of olive oil. Blend well, then add goat cheese and walnuts. Blend until mixed together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Asian Infused Tuna on Toast

Ingredients
1 lb tuna
1 ripe avocado
juice of 4-5 limes
1-2 fresh chillies,
3 tbs sesame oil
1 handful of micro cilantro or fresh cilantro
fresh ginger, grated
Soy sauce, 1 tsp
Finely dice tuna and place in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Let sit for about 15 minutes for flavors to meld together. Serve on thinly sliced toasted bread.

 

Mulled Apple Cider

Ingredients
1 gallon of apple cider
1 orange, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 whole allspice berries
3 thin slices of ginger root

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

 

Smoked Salmon-Pear Blankets

Ingredients
smoked salmon – 6-8 oz
1 Asian pear, sliced
Juice of 1 lime
12 whole chives
4 oz. goat cheese (chevre)

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chives and blanch for 15 seconds. Remove the chives and plunge them into the ice bath (This will make the chives pliable and will help them retain their bright green color).

Combine the goat cheese and lime juice and mix until smooth and well combined. Wrap each pear slice in a piece of smoked salmon, and tie the package with a chive. Top with a dollop of the goat cheese-lime mixture.

 

Rack of Lamb Lollipops with Cilantro Vinaigrette

Ingredients
1 rack of lamb, frenched
3 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper
cilantro
1 clove of garlic, minced
zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season rack of lamb on both sides with rosemary, salt and pepper. Heat a sauté pan to medium-high. Add olive oil. Place fat side down in pan for 5 minutes. Use tongs turn over and cook for another 5 minutes. Slide into oven and cook for 5 minutes. Let rest at least 10 minutes underneath foil before slicing and serving.

Meanwhile, prepare vinaigrette. Add 2 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice, lemon zest and chopped cilantro and garlic in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon onto lamb lollipops. Yum.

 

Chocolate Covered Pears and Almonds

Ingredients
chocolate for melting
2 pears
almonds

Heat a small pot of water to boil. Place a small glass bowl in the heating pot of water. Place chocolate in glass bowl to melt. Dip fruits in melted chocolate and place on parchment paper. Cool in refrigerator or at room temperature for at least 20 minutes until chocolate hardens

Roasting Recipes

 

Roasting Tutorial

There’s something extremely comforting about roasting a whole chicken or turkey. The aroma fills the air, and once you’ve dressed it and put it in the oven, you can just relax. You can put veggies underneath to roast – they just catch up the drippings from the bird and have extra flavor. I hope you try these recipes for some serious comfort!

Roast Chicken
one 3-4 lb whole chicken
6 slices of prosciutto
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 lemon, zested and halved
small handful of thyme, leaves picked and stems removed
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place roasting rack inside oven. Rinse chicken inside and out, removing any innards. Pat down with a paper towel. Set onto roasting rack. In a medium-sized bowl, mix butter, garlic, prosciutto, thyme leaves and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Preparing the stuffing.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix butter, garlic, prosciutto, thyme leaves and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Gently separate the breast skin from the meat. Work your fingers and then your hand under the skin, freeing it from the meat. Go slowly and try not to make any holes. Gently push the butter/prosciutto/garlic/thyme/lemon mixture underneath the skin, in between the skin and the breast. This will ensure that the breast stays nice and moist throughout the roasting. Take any remaining butter mixture and slather it all over the bird. Make sure the entire thing is seasoned with salt and pepper. Place the lemon into the carcass. Pull out roasting rack from oven, and place chicken on top of the rack. Put foil on top of bird, and push roasting rack back into oven to cook for 75 minutes.

Roast vegetables

Roast vegetables.
1 bunch of beets, quartered
1 bunch of carrots, roughly chopped
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil

Chop all the vegetables so they’re roughly the same size. After the chicken has been cooking for about 20 minutes, place the vegetables underneath the chicken in the roasting pan. Using tongs, toss with melted butter and drippings from the chicken. Continue to cook chicken and vegetables for approximately another 40 minutes. Veggies should look golden and delicious.

Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tsp Kosher salt
¾ cup of whole milk
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leave
¾ stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Cut potatoes into 2” pieces. Place potatoes in a large pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1”. Add 1 tsp of kosher salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until very tender for about 20 minutes.

Drain potatoes. Return potatoes to pot and set over low heat. Gently stir until dry, about 1 minute.

In another small pot, heat the whole milk, thyme, bay leaves and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Remove herbs from mixture. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes. Gradually add milk mixture to potatoes, continuing to mash and then using a wooden spoon to stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve mashed potatoes with a few pats of butter on top.

Mulled Apple Cider

Apple Cider
1 gallon of apple cider
1 orange, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 whole allspice berries
3 thin slices of ginger root

Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

Cooking with Squash and Apples

 

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The weather’s changing, people are posting Facebook pictures picking pumpkins and apples, and I have officially packed away my sandals. Autumn is here and I’m embracing the cool air and the changing colors of the leaves.

I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd at either of the Apples & Squash tutorials I hosted. The first group consisted of warm elementary school teachers who were very quick to provide feedback about their learning experience. The second group was comprised of spirited, boisterous women, eager to hack into a jack o’lantern and discuss the pros and cons of city life and making human connections. One of my favorite parts of hosting tutorials is the great company, and I am always grateful for the energy that everyone brings!

Below are the recipes we created for the Apples & Squash tutorial. If you make any of these dishes at home, please post them to our Facebook page, so we can ooh and ahh at your autumn delights!

Harvest: Apples and Squash!

Autumn Salad with Delicata Squash & Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

 

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Ingredients:
Any salad greens
1 delicata squash
Squash seeds, roasted
1 tsp of maple syrup
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp for roasting and 3 tbsp for salad dressing
Salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the delicata squash lengthwise, then remove the seeds (no need to remove skin – it’s edible and adds a nice little crunch!). Then cut each half of the delicata squash into little half-moon pieces, and place into a large bowl. Drizzle the squash with 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss with tongs so the squash is evenly coated. Place in one layer on a large metal roasting pan and roast for about 20-25 minutes, turning over after about 12-15 minutes so each side is a nice golden brown.

While squash is roasting, prepare vinaigrette. In a small glass jar, combine maple syrup, balsamic vinegar olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Give the glass jar a good shake to combine well. When squash is done roasting, allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Combine salad greens, squash seeds and dressing.

Roasted Acorn Squash Soup

 

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Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
chicken or vegetable stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, halve the acorn squash. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Drizzle with olive oil and face down on a roasting metal roasting pan. Cook in oven for about 35 minutes.

Prepare a medium-sized pot for soup. When acorn squash is roasted, spoon squash into pot. Add 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, so that squash is covered. Bring to boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bucatini Pasta with Butternut Squash Purée

 

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Ingredients:
1 butternut squash
3 tbsp of maple syrup
½ stick or 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
10 oz of Buccatini pasta (or any pasta you like)
10 oz of bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, halve the butternut squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Place butternut squash down on a metal pan (with a rim) and pour in about ½ cup of water to steam the squash a little bit. Cook in oven for about 35 minutes.

Once butternut squash is roasted, scoop out squash flesh into a large bowl. Add half a stick of butter and 3 tbsp of real maple syrup (no Aunt Jemima friends). Using a potato masher, mix together squash, butter and maple syrup. Spoon into a blender and purée until smooth. Add a little chicken or veggie stock if it looks too thick.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt generously and cook pasta according to package directions. Cook to al dente and drain. Set aside in a colander.

While pasta is cooking, place chopped bacon in a large sauté pan. Once bacon is in pan, bring to medium-high heat. After about 3-4 minutes, add garlic and onions and sauté until nice and golden, about 3-5 more minutes. Add cooked pasta and butternut squash purée and toss to coat with tongs. Serve with grated parmigiano or pecorino.

Pumpkin Chilaquiles

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Ingredients:
tortilla chips
chicken (or other meat), leftover (braised, roasted, already cooked somehow how you like it)
1 can of pumpkin
1 onion, chopped
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
cheese – feta or cotija or another crumbly cheese

Directions
In a medium-sized pot, combine pumpkin, chopped onion and 1 cups of stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, then blend using an immersion blender or blender. Warm leftover chicken or other meat in a separate pan.

On a large plate, spread out tortilla chips. Place chicken, puréed pumpkin, and cheese on top.

Apple Crumble (recipe via Food Network)

 

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Filling:
4 large apples, about 3 pounds
¼ cup sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Topping:
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of fine salt
8 tbsp (1 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces)
Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional)

Directions
Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Peel, core, and slice apples into 1/4-inch slices. Place apples in a large mixing bowl and toss with sugar, lemon juice, flour, and cinnamon. Pour into a lightly greased 9 by 13-inch baking dish, and spread out into an even layer. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix together the nuts, flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt for the topping. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, gently work in the cold butter until pea-sized lumps are formed.

Top apples evenly with mixture and bake until apples are bubbly and topping is golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating once halfway through cooking.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Mulled apple cider

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Ingredients
1 gallon of apple cider
1 orange, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
2 whole allspice berries
3 thin slices of ginger root

Directions
Place all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

Pack Your Lunch to Work

Packing your lunch will save you money, and is generally healthier than what you’d be ordering in. It can be a pain to think of on a day-to-day basis, but with a little bit of planning and a few recipes that will serve as lunch for 2-3 days, you can start to make it a part of your weekly routine. If you’re a notorious Seamless customer, set a reasonable goal for yourself. Packing your lunch three times a week is a great start (better than none at all).

Dedicate at least two days where you have 30-45 minutes to pack your lunch.
I plan for Sundays (to prepare for Monday – Wednesday) and Wednesdays (to prepare for Thursday-Friday). Let’s say your goal is to pack lunch Monday – Wednesday; then you just set aside 45 minutes on Sunday to set yourself up for success for those three days.

Here are the types of things you can do on Sunday (or your prep day) to prepare for lunch for the week:
-Map out what you’re going to eat for lunch (look in your fridge first to see what you have to make sure nothing goes to waste!)
-Once you have a list, grocery shop
-Roast vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, the list goes on and on…)
-make a pot of lentils
-make a pot of grains (quinoa, couscous, brown rice, freekeh, bulgur wheat, etc.)
-prepare a soup or stew (when it’s chilly out 🙂
-chop vegetables
-make a vinaigrette/dressing
-hard boil eggs
-roast a chicken (or buy a rotisserie one)

Think about how you can make these items work together (obviously, the combinations are limitless!):
– greens, lentils & goat cheese
– lentils, leftover roasted vegetables and hard boiled egg
– quinoa, leftover roasted vegetables and avocado
– couscous, avocado and hard boiled egg
– brown rice, leftover chicken and avocado

Grab and go items for work (handy to have in your office pantry and easy to pack)
hearty crackers
cheese
dips – hummus, guacamole, yogurt dips
charcuterie
hard boiled eggs
avocados
cooked grains
salad greens
nut butters
fruit
seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, hemp)
almonds, cashews
sea salt & pepper
olive oil
lemon

Here are recipes that are good served at room temperature, cold or warm (and will keep in your fridge for at least three days)! 

Soy-ginger soba noodles with leftover chicken, mushrooms, cucumber, soy-ginger-sesame dressing

 

Ingredients:
leftover chicken, shredded (approximately 2 breasts or 2 legs)
soba noodles, cooked according to package instructions
handful of shiitake or oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
½ cucumber, julienned
2 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp apple cider (or white or rice) vinegar
ginger, finely grated

Directions:
Cook soba noodles according to package instructions (generally these means boil them for about 5-7 minutes). In a medium saute pan, add oil and saute shiitake mushrooms for 4-6 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, vinegar and ginger in a small bowl. Mix with a fork. Drain soba noodles, and mix noodles, mushrooms, cucumber and soy sauce mixture. Sprinkle scallions on top. Enjoy!

Brown rice salad (or any grain salad)

T2Tbrown_rice_salad

 

Ingredients:
brown rice or other grain (i.e. couscous, quinoa, freekeh, bulgur wheat, etc.) cooked according to package instructions, and refrigerated overnight
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of carrots
2 large handfuls of greens (arugula, spinach, tatsoi, mizuna, etc.)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roughly chop carrots and place in a medium-sized baking pan. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cherry tomatoes in a large baking pan and also toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables in separate baking pans in the oven for 35-45 minutes until veggies start to brown.

Meanwhile, prepare a vinaigrette. Mix the juice of 1 lemon with approximately ¼ cup of olive oil. The general rule of thumb is 1 part acid to 2 parts oil. Put chilled brown rice (or other grain) in a large bowl. It is important for the grain to be a day old – while it’s cold it won’t absorb the vinaigrette and get mushy (which will happen if you do this when it’s hot). When veggies are done roasting, allow them to cool. Toss them with the brown rice, green onions, handfuls of greens and vinaigrette until rice is well mixed and coated.

Open-faced sandwiches

T2Topen_faced_sands

Ingredients:
leftover chicken
ricotta
honey
avocados
hard-boiled eggs
cheese
charcuterie (salami, prosciutto, chorizo, etc.)
butter
cucumber
sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

Directions:
The trick to open-faced sandwiches is having a durable cracker in your pantry. If you already have this at work, you can quickly grab any of the above ingredients (the list is endless, these are just a few examples) to create your own. It’s pretty much like a smorgasbord, which is easy to assemble once you’re at work if you have some items on hand.

What are your go-to lunches? Or, what’s stopping you from packing your lunch? I’d love to hear below!

Grilling Tutorial

As a public school teacher, there is nothing more treasured than the time of the year
that we call summer. School’s out, I turn off my alarms, and officially become a lady of leisure.

Some people ask, “Do you get bored with all of your free time?” Umm, NO! Aside from savoring long walks with the dog, riding bikes and generally having no agenda, I love to grill. On hot summer days, it’s easiest to bring the heat of the kitchen outdoors and save having to wash pots and pans by throwing everything on the grill.

At the end of July, Tutorial to Table kicked off its first grilling tutorial on our outdoor terrace in Bedstuy.I ordered all of our groceries on Good Eggs. Shopping on Good Eggs is shopping seasonally. They only offer what’s fresh, local, and in season. Each order comes with something special, like a bouquet of hand picked wildflowers from Pretty Streets Botanicals.

We started the evening with lots of cuddling with my pooch Bella, then started prepping our dinner together.

Our menu consisted of:
Sriracha Glazed Chicken Skewers
Grassfed Beef Burgers
Charred Corn and Carrot Salad
Grilled Kale and Peach Salad

So, all the recipes are below. I’m going to hook you up with my grilling tips first; these are generally for a charcoal grill, my favorite kind for that yummy, charred taste.

The Tips.

Use a charcoal chimney to start your coals.

blog_post_photos_chimney

You can buy one at Home Depot for around $15 and they help get your coals blazing. We got ours as a gift from Will, who writes an awesome blog about beer and food tastings. Basically, you fill the chimney with coals, and put paper (could be paper from a brown paper bag or a newspaper) underneath. Light the paper, the smoke and fire will infiltrate and heat the coals. No lighter fluid necessary.Give it about 15-20 minutes and they’re blazing hot and ready to glow.

There will be hot spots and cooler spots.

If you pour your charcoals in the middle, the outer spots are cooler. If you pour them on the left side, the right side will be cooler. In some recipes, you want to be strategic about this because some foods don’t require direct blazing hot heat. Know your hot spots and not-so-hot spots and use your tongs to move things around accordingly. It’s great to get a nice char on your chicken skin in a hot spot, then move it to a cooler spot to cook the inside. It’s not great to leave it in the hot spot, burn the outside and undercook the inside. Grillmaster’s worst nightmare.

Get good utensils.

You can try using your current kitchenware, but grill utensils are designed to be longer so that your hands don’t have to get too close to the heat. You also don’t want to melt any of your current utensils – I recommend these simple tools from Weber. I mainly just use the tongs, the spatula once in awhile, and rarely use the fork.

More oxygen = more heat, less oxygen = less heat.

When you grill with the lid off, the coals are getting gulps of oxygen, which keeps them hot and blazing. When you cover the grill partially, the coals get less oxygen, and cools things down. If you cover the grill completely, including the air holes, you will suffocate your coals. Leave the holes open to keep the grill going (but obviously if you are done grilling and want it to cool, close the holes). I generally only put the lid on when I’m cooking chicken with bone in and skin on that needs a longer duration of time.

You can cook lots of things on a grill using different types of pans you already have.

Burger_Onion_Grill

Yesterday I grilled Korean-style scallion pancakes on the cast-iron that I threw on the grill. I regularly use a small metal baking pan to grill veggies that are cut up small that I don’t want to lose in the grill. Think about our more primal days – everyone cooked with fire; they just placed a big pot or spit over the fire. There was no low, medium, or high setting. You just figured out the hotter spots and the cooler spots and adjusted your cooking accordingly. There are tons of grilling accessories available to purchase that perform all these functions – again, I say get the tongs at least, and see what you have in your kitchen instead of buying a kabob set, fish basket or kettle rotisserie.

Plan your grilling.

Hot coals

Using charcoals offers a finite amount of time when the coals are at their hottest, and depending on how many you use, can last between 35-45 minutes. Have everything ready to go on a table next to the grill. It’s a pain to have to re-start some coals when you realize that your coals are dying and you still have those burgers to throw on.

That being said, I can’t believe it’s already the middle of August and my summer is coming to a bittersweet end. We still have a nearly full 20 lb bag of charcoals though…I’ll keep holding onto my grilling days as long as I can.

 

The Recipes.

Sriracha Glazed Chicken Skewers
courtesy of Bon Appetit

blog_post_photos_skewers

½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
½ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
⅓ cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
¼ cup Sriracha sauce
2 tsp. finely grated peeled ginger
1 ½ lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 ½” – 2” pieces
8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water at least 1 hour (so they don’t catch on fire when you grill them)

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto each skewer.

Transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup, 7-10 minutes). Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

 

Grilled Kale and Peach Salad

Ingredients

1 head of kale
2 peaches, halved
1 lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Massage 1-2 tbsp of oil into whole kale leaves and season both sides with salt and pepper. Brush oil on peaches and place them flesh side down onto grill, grilling for about 5-7 minutes until they have nice grill marks; remove from heat and let cool. Grill greens, turning often, until lightly charred in spots, about 2 minutes.

Transfer to cutting board and let cool slightly. Remove thick ribs and stems from green and discard (or eat if you like them). Tear kale leaves into large pieces. Slice peaches. Combine kale and peaches, and use a squeeze of lemon. Add goat cheese or another cheese if you’d like!

Charred Corn and Carrot Salad

charred_corn_carrot

Ingredients

5 ears of corn, husked
1 bunch of carrots, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, with seeds, thinly sliced into rings
juice of 2 limes
2 oz. fresh feta cheese
1 handful of cilantro, thinly chopped
4 tbsp of vegetable oil, divided
salt and pepper

Prepare grill for medium heat. Place chopped carrots in a small metal baking pan. Season with salt and pepper and toss with olive oil to coat. Place metal pan on straight on top of grill, tossing occasionally with tongs. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until carrots are fork tender and golden.

Meanwhile, cut kernels from 1 corn cob and toss with jalapeno and lime juice in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper and set aside. Brush remaining 4 ears of corn with 2 tbsp of oil and grill, turning occasionally, until very tender and charred in spots, 10-12 minutes. Let cool. Cut kernels from cobs and add to reserved corn mixture along with carrots, cheese, cilantro and remaining 2 tbsp of oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.