Kale & Mint Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

For how much I delight in cooking complex, elaborate and time insensitive recipes, it’s remarkable how lazy I can be. And for how lazy I can be, it’s remarkable that I rarely ever order take-out. This obstinacy means I wind up with a cast iron skillet full of Brussels sprouts – aka “the usual” on any night I don’t have planned out. And while I do love me some crispy brassicas, this whole salad for dinner resolution thing isn’t going to resolve itself!

In a recent bout of 6PM hanger, I scrolled through Food52 in search of a salad recipe that required very little effort/ingredients but could also be a stand alone dinner. I know – tall order. Luckily, this recipe saved the night! A quick trip to the store and a deep dive into my Asian pantry for dressing ingredients, and dinner was done.

kale salad spicy peanut dressing

This recipe is quick and painless. The spicy peanut dressing is the star of the show – it’s thick and creamy thanks to the peanut butter with just enough acid from the rice vinegar to stand up to that “green” kale flavor. The kale, hearty as it ever was, is the perfect canvas for this thick dressing, which creeps into each leaf’s nooks and crannies. The mint brings a nice fresh surprise to every few bites without being overpowering. And the walnuts are the perfect crunchy companions to the leafy greens. It’s a healthy, fulfilling, 10-minute meal that with a well-stocked pantry, shouldn’t cost you more than $4! Hanger, begone!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves cut into thin ribbons
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (I used tamarind paste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  1. Place peanut butter, water, rice wine vinegar, pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil and dried chili flakes in a food processor. Blend until fully combined. Taste, and add more salt (soy sauce), acid (rice wine vinegar), heat (ginger, garlic or chili flakes) or creaminess (peanut butter or sesame oil) to taste.
  2. Toss kale ribbons, mint and walnuts in a serving bowl. Add half the dressing and toss to combine. Use clean hands to get the greens fully covered. Give them a squeeze to help break the kale down and make it less tough. Add more dressing as needed. Enjoy immediately, or save up to two days in the fridge.

Late Winter Fattoush

late winter fattoush

It’s been a rough winter here in San Francisco. Go ahead, tell me to “check my privilege,” but there’s no convincing me that this never-ending torrential downpour, which has permanently drenched me to the core, doesn’t suck big time. Nevertheless, I’ve persisted – dripping and shivering – each week, to the farmers market, where I’ve been met with slim pickings of kale and Brussels sprouts week after week.

Now let it be known that I am brassicas’ number one cheerleader. But after a while, a girl starts to miss that crunch of fresh, waterlogged produce that bursts with flavor and tastes best raw. I’ll also be the first to admit that after an entire summer of heirloom tomatoes, avocado and snap peas, I’m ready for something with a little more heft.

This is all to say that right now, we’re in that sweet spot between winter and spring when produce variety is peaking. Citrus is sweet and juicy for a few more weeks, lettuces still reign, root vegetables are hanging out but not stealing the show, and succulent summery vegetables like cucumbers are peaking their way into things. For just a couple weeks, we get the best of both worlds. This salad tastes best right now, but can be twisted and turned throughout the seasons.

fattoush salad recipe

Fattoush is a Middle Eastern salad traditionally made with pita, cucumber and tomato. It’s sort of like the Mediterranean version of Panzanella – lots of toasty bread and a few fresh vegetables soaking together in savory harmony. This fattoush takes a different route – the za’atar pita chips take a backseat to crunchy and sweet produce like romaine hearts and cara cara oranges.

About those oranges – they’re the sweetest, most preciously pink, juicy citrus spheres on the planet, and they’re only here for a quick stint. Get them while you can and eat them with everything (salads, parfaits, cocktails…).

cara cara orange mint

As I’ve learned since resolving to “eat more salad” in 2017, a good salad has lots of layers of texture and flavor. First and foremost – crunch factor is at an all time high here since the bowl is filled with snappy vegetables and crispy pita chips. We’ve also got complex flavors going on: sweet (cara cara), spicy (radish), aromatic (fennel, mint), funk (za’atar) and tang (sumac). Texture and taste play together to pique the senses with a little bit of everything.

spring salad recipe

This is a great main dish, especially if you toss in some quinoa or grilled chicken, but I served it alongside shakshouka (an Israeli egg and tomato dish) with mint iced tea on an sunny Sunday afternoon. As for that dreary San Francisco winter, things seem to be shaping up. Don’t worry, I’ll be “checking my privilege” all the way to the farmers market!

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 pieces fresh pita
  • Olive oil
  • Za’atar
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 1 small fennel bulb, plus some fronds
  • 2 Persian cucumbers
  • Handful small radishes
  • 1 cara cara orange
  • 1 tablespoon sumac
  • Flakey sea salt
  1. Cut the red onion in half and slice thinly, following the lines on the outside and cutting inward toward the center.
  2. Place onion in a small bowl with lemon juice. Toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  4. Cut the pita into 1-inch long rectangles. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, za’atar and salt. Toss to coat pita and add more oil if it still looks dry. Bake until crispy, but not rock solid – about 15 minutes.
  5. Chop the romaine into 1-inch pieces, discarding any parts that are particularly leafy.
  6. Thinly slice the fennel, cutting pole to pole.
  7. Cut the radishes and cucumbers into 1/4 inch half moons.
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut the skins and pith off of the orange. Try to not sacrifice too much of the meat, but cut enough of the skin off that the remaining outside is shiny and pith-free. Turn the orange on its side and slice it into ½ inch rounds. Cut those rounds into quarters.
  9. Add all ingredients, plus a few fennel fronds, fresh mint, olive oil and sumac to a serving bowl. Toss to combine, adding more lemon, sumac and salt as needed.

Chickpea Socca with Greens & Garlic

socca recipe

Socca is an eggy, savory chickpea pancake from Southern France. In many ways, it’s the southern version of a crepe, and in many ways, it’s way way better.

I discovered socca in Nice, on a cloudy day at the Flower Market during my study aboard spring break. I was wandering aimlessly, awe struck by the colors, the language and the abundance of fresh produce, when I noticed a frenzied crowed. They were hovered around a massive cast-iron skillet, from which a voluptuous woman was doling out slices of a golden pancake, the likes of which were no smaller than four feet in diameter.

I didn’t know what it was yet, but managed to muster up enough coins to afford a slice. She passed over a steamy, shiny with oil, slightly fluffy piece of socca and I retreated to revel in what would be one of the most memorable meals of my time in Europe. (No, I didn’t forget about you Roman Carbonara!)

The socca was rich, nourishing, subtly savory and clearly a labor of love and routine. I dream about it often, as it marked the true beginning of my locavore-style travel tendencies. That meal was a full sensory experience. The sounds of the sizzling pancake and the muffled French conversations, the sharp early Spring chill in the air and the smell of toasted oil and nutty chickpeas radiating from the skillet were all seared into my memory at first bite. At a time in my life that was moving so so fast, when I was incredibly naïve and surrounded by unfamiliarity, it’s these hyper-sensory moments in time that remind me where I’ve been and inspire me to keep exploring.

I’ve since learned that socca is almost too easy (and cheap!) to make. Re-hydrate some chickpea flour with water, add spices and egg and cook it mega-pancake style in a well-oiled cast iron skillet. Top with sautéed vegetables and eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

This recipe calls for Indian spices, because I like how the bold aromatic flavors partner with the savory and nutty chickpea flavor. Truth is, the flour isn’t that intrusive, so you can and should play around with what you mix in.

squirl socca recipe

Sqirl, for example, throws vegetables into the batter instead of on top. I’d also love to try out fresh herbs like basil and thyme or dried herbs de provence. You can make one big pancake – niçoise-style, or try smaller fritters for a more traditional pancake serving style. There are really, seriously, no rules here. Go with what sounds good today and you’ll be golden as a socca in the sunshine!

Ingredients (makes 1 big pancake or 4 small ones)

  • ¼ cup chickpea flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • Cumin seeds, turmeric, cumin powder, paprika, salt
  • Olive oil
  • Lacinato kale, de-stemmed and cut into ribbons (or fresh spinach)
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  1. Whisk chickpea flour and water until incorporated. Let rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile…
  2. Heat some oil in a cast iron or non-stick skillet. Sautee greens and garlic with a little salt for about 5 minutes. Turn heat up higher for crispier kale! Remove vegetables and set aside.
  3. Add eggs and spices to rehydrated chickpea flour and beat until texture in uniform.
  4. Add a nice coating of oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering. For a large pancake, pour batter in to coat entire skillet. For smaller pancakes, give enough space between them so they can spread out. Cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes, checking that the bottom is nice and golden before flipping. Cook on the other side until pancake feels firm and batter is cooked through.
  5. Remove from pan, top with vegetables, and enjoy!

 

 

 

Crunchy Asian Salad

crunchy asian salad

My half-hearted new year’s resolution to “eat more salad” was admittedly in direct response to the weeks of gluttony that preceded it, but was also a personal challenge to explore beyond the bounds of my weeknight dinner mainstays (I’m lookin’ at you, pesto pasta).

It began just as soon as the holiday remorse set in, on my cross-country red-eye that topped off a rather indulgent Manhattan day. We’re talking Russ & Daughters, Eataly and $1 pizza slices over the course of eight hours. Yeah, I’m impressed with me too.

As I sat on the plane, loopily searching for inspo on my favorite food blogs, I began to compile a Pinterest board: Salad For Dinner. On it, you’ll find hearty, seasonal, droothworthy photos that make (mostly) raw stuff look pretty damn good.

I’ve been working my way through the recipes, picking out my favorite elements of a few and throwing them together for dinner and next-day lunches. The rules are simple:

  1. The fewer the leaves the better. For a girl whose former salad expertise topped out at Kale Caesar, this one is tough.
  2. It’s gotta have protein. What are we, bunnies?! This is dinner we’re talking about! Beans, nuts or quinoa do the trick for vegetarians, but juicy shredded chicken adds an unparalleled texture to an otherwise crunchy pile of goodness.
  3. Cut wisely! An interesting salad means lots of fresh ingredients so what you see is what you get. Pay extra special attention to the way you cut everything for maximum prettiness.
  4. Dress to impress. Pick a theme, and run with it. Here, I was going for sweet and nutty. Creamy and herbaceous is another good one. I like to make dressings that are light in color, so the ingredients don’t all turn brown.

chinese chicken salad recipe

The rest is up to you! But, if you’re like me, you are a creature of habit, and by habit I mean comfort. Eating salad for dinner is already a little….progressive, so I’m totally on board with finding a go-to and sticking to it.

asian sesame slaw recipe

This Crunchy Asian Salad is just about perfect in every way a salad can be perfect. It’s hearty (you won’t be hungry again in an hour), it’s healthy (cabbage! green stuff! chicken breast! oh my!) and it’s even better the next day (hellooooo lunch). Plus, these ingredients are pretty much available year round and are the perfect vehicle for practicing your knife skills.

Shout out to rule #1 – this salad is leaf-free, making it more of a slaw without the “side dish” reputation. Finely shredded cabbage is crinkly, sweet and crunchy but is totally ready to share the stage with scallions, celery and jalapeño. The juicy shredded chicken adds a different texture, giving the salad some heft that makes it feel dinner-y. The dressing is sweet and nutty, but not too intrusive. It just provides a slick coating for the salad and gives it a discernibly Asian flavor. Salty peanuts and toasted sesame seeds finish it off, adding earthy, salty and a different kind of crunch.

cabbage slaw asian

The result: a full meal that’s easy, healthy, fridge-friendly and ready to make you forget that you ever dismissed salad as a main dish.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • ½ inch ginger, skinned and finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ lime

Salad

  • 1 ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (or cooked chewy grain!)
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • ½ head green cabbage
  • ¼ head purple cabbage
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 scallions
  • ½ large jalapeno
  • 10-ish mint leaves
  • Handful salted, roasted peanuts
  • Toasted sesame seeds

 

Dressing

  1. Combine ingredients in a small, sealable container and shake it up!

Salad & Assembly

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a small baking dish by lining with tinfoil with excess on either end.
  2. Heat some canola oil in a cast iron skillet until shimmering hot. While it’s heating up, season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Sear chicken breast for 2-ish minutes on each side, until a nice brown crust has formed on each side. Transfer to baking dish and wrap the tinfoil around the chicken to seal in moisture. Bake at 375 degrees until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap, and let cool.
  3. Cut the half green cabbage into two quarters. Slice the cabbage very very thinly, with the base of the cabbage facing you. Discard any overly large, chunky pieces. Repeat with purple cabbage.
  4. Slice both the celery and the scallions very thinly, on the bias. You’re trying to make the slices as long and thin as possible.
  5. Remove jalapeno seeds, and chop into small pieces. Taste it first to gague spiciness!
  6. Chop the mint.
  7. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, pull it apart with your fingers to create shreds.
  8. Add vegetables, herbs, chicken and peanuts to a serving bowl. Give the mixture a toss to combine before adding dressing. Add half the dressing and toss to coat. Taste it! If it needs more, you know what to do.
  9. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for a less crunchy, but even more juicy version that will last up to two days.

Silky Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs & Breadcrumbs

 

garlic soup recipe

Soup is binary. At its best, it’s the ultimate comfort fare – a mystifying combination of flavors and textures that spoon-feeds its eater pure unadulterated warmth and nourishment. At its worst, it’s a sloppy sludge of lopsided flavors and offensive texture destined for the compost bin.

Adding lots of random things to a pot and heating them up is a risky move. Sure, some combos are as old as time (we’re looking at you, butternut squash and green apple), but the more complex creative stuff takes a real kitchen maverick to not screw up. You’ve gotta have an intimate understanding of flavor combinations and an acute textural grasp to master the art of soup making, and let me tell you, I am no virtuoso. Yeah – we can all follow a recipe, but give me a farmers’ market and a pot to work with and you’d better find an excuse to cancel our dinner plans.

Perhaps it’s the past few unfortunate batches of botched broth that’re tearing into my ego, but I’ve been feeling pretty down and out about this whole soup thing. Then, I found this recipe and all hope was restored.

poached egg soup garlic

With relatively few ingredients and a short to medium cook time, it’s nearly impossible to fuse flavors that aren’t meant to be. And because it’s blended, you can always add more broth as a Hail Mary if your soup looks more like concrete than dinner.

So, how about all the garlic?? Yes, this recipe uses A LOT of that stuff. Slow sautéing all those cloves catches garlic’s sweet spot – right between its raw spicy moment and its toasted nutty one. Sautéing them until they’re super tender but not browned reveals their velvety, confit-like texture and mellow aromatic sweetness that sets the tone for the rest of the dish. The result is a savory, silky smooth soup that’s completed with a runny poached egg and some crispy breadcrumbs.

bon appetit garlic soup

Unlike other soups, I find this one is best eaten right after blending. Add a little extra broth if/when you heat up the leftovers to avoid sloppy (not silky) seconds.

*Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients (serves 2)

Breadcrumbs

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ baguette
  • Kosher salt

Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ heads garlic – cloves, peeled
  • ½ large leek, halved lengthwise, very thinly sliced (white and light green parts only, dark green parts discarded)
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or Better Than Bouillon and water)
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream
  • Kosher salt

Eggs

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 drop distilled white vinegar

Assembly

  • Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Black pepper

Breadcrumbs:

  1. Tear the baguette into pieces and place in a food processer. Pulse until bread has become chunky (not dusty) crumbs.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Add the breadcrumbs and salt to taste and toast, stirring often, until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside.

*Make ahead! These last one week.

* Variation: Use ½ regular olive oil and ½ roasted garlic infused olive oil

Soup:

  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a small-medium pot over low-medium heat. Add garlic, leeks and thyme and stir often until the garlic is super soft. If the garlic starts to brown, turn the heat down.
  2. Add the potatoes and broth and bring pot to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20-25 minutes. Add the sour cream.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until the texture is uniform. Add salt to taste and some extra broth if the soup is too think for your liking. Cover and set aside.

Eggs:

  1. Fill a skillet with water and a drop of white vinegar and bring to an almost-simmer.
  2. Crack each egg into a separate ramekin or small bowl.
  3. Gently slip each egg into the water with enough room between each one. Use a rubber spatula to coerce the dancing wisps into the center of the egg. Once the yolks have set (about two minutes), lift each egg out with a slotted spoon and gently transfer to a paper towel.

Assembly:

  1. Ladle some soup into a bowl. Top with one poached egg, a sprinkle of breadcrumbs, some fresh parsley, flaky sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Cranberry-Lime Pie

cranberry lime pie

As I flipped through the pages of Bon Appetit’s annual Thanksgiving issue, I saw the usual suspects: off-kilter turkey brines, ambitious stuffings and minute-by-minute instructions for how to stay sane the weekend-of. All of this was a little irrelevant to me. My family is chock-full of kitchen alphas, making that room a veritable combat zone in which it’s every man for himself and we’re all fighting for oven territory. As you might imagine, this has really brought out the pacifist in me. I’ll lend a helping whisk here, lower the turkey into the deep fryer there, but on this weekend I relinquish the helm to the more tenured folk and plop myself down with a glass of red to watch the theater of the day unfold.

But being the that Mintz I am, I can’t sit still on the sidelines for too long. Usually, I’ll make a guest appearance in the kitchen to whip up a pumpkin pie – my perennial responsibility. This year, Bon Appetit’s Cranberry-Lime Pie struck my attention – it looked rich, festive and to my happy surprise, made way ahead of time! So, I’m forgoing the baked-just-before pumpkin pie ordeal and starting a new tradition. Not only is this an unexpected twist on Thanksgiving mainstays, but baking and assembling it at home means I surrender the oven to no one and I don’t have to share the leftover curd.

make ahead holiday piecranberry pie recipe

The holidays are an orgy of butter-logged, sugar-dusted hedonism and for that, I am grateful. But what often comes with that territory is cloying desserts that will sooner send you to the dentist than back for seconds. This recipe scratches that itch for holiday sweets without the saccharine stereotype. With a gingery aromatic crust and velvety, bright red cranberry-lime curd, it’s tangy, fruity indulgence at its best.

easy thanksgiving recipes

Whether you’re a Thanksgiving pacifist like me or are already knee-deep in turkey brine, this recipe is a great way to shake things up. It requires but TEN minutes of oven time and depending on the state-lines of your holiday kitchen, can be made way ahead or just a couple hours before the dinner bell.

(adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

Crust

  • 4 oz. gingersnap cookies
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar

Filling

  • 12 oz. fresh or frozen (thawed) cranberries
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into slices

Crust

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pulse cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Add pecans and pulse until finely ground. Add butter and brown sugar and pulse to combine.
  3. Dump into a 9” pie dish and use your fingers and fist to press the mixture into the bottom and edges of the pie tin. The crust should eventually evenly cover the entire surface area of the dish.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool.

Filling and Assembly

  1. Bring cranberries, 1 cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer until cranberries burst and most of the liquid evaporates, 12-15 minutes. Puree in a food processor. Let cool.
  2. Clean the cranberry pot and fill with 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Whisk together eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lime zest, lime juice and salt in a large glass bowl. Once the cranberry puree has cooled, whisk that in too.
  4. Place the glass bowl on top of the pot with simmering water. Stir with a rubber spatula often, until curd thickens, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool until just warm.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat curd on medium-high, adding butter a piece at a time and incorporating after each addition.
  6. Pour and scrape into the crust and chill until firm, about 2 hours. Serve chilled with whipped cream.

 

 

Curried Snacking Chickpeas

curried chickpeas

Run, don’t walk, to your nearest bulk bin section. That’s what I did on a last minute beer run to Berkeley Bowl the other day. While my friends were deciding between one craft beer and another, I was wandering – eyes wide and jaw dropped – through the sprawling mecca of bulk goods in the back of the store. This is a place devoid of flashy packaging, suggested serving sizes and cringe-worthy markups. It’s just stacks on stacks of plastic cases filled with nuts, grains, flours, seeds, beans, lentils…you name it, they got it. Pick your poison, grab a scooper, and go wild. No ones looking, so go ahead, take an extra scoop of chickpeas…treat yourself!

Such was my inner dialogue on that afternoon in Berkeley, and before I knew it I was headed to a house party with a backpack full of chickpeas, chickpea flour and raw almonds. Never show up empty handed!

Like the overzealous cook I am, I boiled every last chickpea, despite the recipe I was following only calling for half. Left with a boatload of the starchy spheres otherwise destined for the compost bin, I made these!

crispy chickpeas

To be honest, these Snacking Chickpeas turned out better than the original dish I made. They’re seasoned with smoky, spicy, aromatic stuff and roasted until crispy all around, but still a little creamy on the inside. You’ll ask yourself, “Are these fried?” as you shovel handful after handful into your face. I urge you, whether at the bulk bins or huddled over a bowl of these chickpeas, to not ask questions and just keep shoveling.

You can use canned chickpeas, although I’ve tried this recipe both ways and the self-boiled variety has a much better texture. These are perfect for an afternoon snack, cheese plate accouterment, or even on top of a simple salad. I like the spices listed below, but you can get creative with whatever toasty, roast-worthy spices you’ve got on hand. Snack away, chickies!

roasted garbanzo beans

Ingredients

  • 1 -2 cups dried chickpeas
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Cayenne powder
  1. Soak the chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Add them to a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down until the water simmers. Cook like this until the chickpeas are cooked through with creamy, not chalky insides. Drain and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350.
  4. Pour the chickpeas onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil to coat and go crazy with spices. I recommend going heaviest on the smoked paprika, but turn up the heat with more cayenne if that’s your style.
  5. Use your hands to get the spices all up on the chickpeas. Spread out the chickpeas so the all have enough personal space on the baking sheet. Depending on how wild you went at the bulk bins, you may need to use two baking sheets.
  6. Bake for 20-30 minutes, shaking the sheets occasionally to rotate the chickpeas. If they’re not getting crispy like you want ‘em, turn up the heat to 400 for the final 5 minutes.
  7. Let cool for a sec and serve hot or room temperature. Store extras in an airtight container, though let’s be real, there will be no need for that.

Salt-Baked Trout

Mckenzie river oregon trout

Earlier this summer, I spent a week fishing for trout on the McKenzie River in central Oregon. The days were simple: wake up, row, cast, eat, row some more, cast some more, watch the sunset, sleep. I was with my family, generally reputed as a feral bunch of intrepid extroverts ranging in age from 16 to 80. On the McKenzie, we were forced to ditch our antsiness and discover an unknown peaceful, still group dynamic.

helfrich mckenzie river fly fishing oregon

Fishing is about patience. As my dad says, “it’s called fishing, not catching.” Lucky for us zealous city folk, the McKenzie River lends itself to a life of plenty. With a little finesse and the right fly, you’d have a trout on your line more times than not. The slightest flick on the surface of the glassy water would send them zipping toward your bait in no time, and you’d be set for lunch way ahead of schedule.

fly fishing trout oregonmark mintz sydney mintz

Lunch was a hedonistic mess of butter, cast iron and rainbow trout. We’d dock on the river’s edge, stoke a mighty fire and nestle a behemoth of a skillet right in the flames. Then, in went the pound of butter with the cleaned fish following close behind. We were each allotted three trout a day, each one flaky and soaked to the bone with nutty, rich brown butter and simply seasoned with some unidentified spices our guide brought along.

cast iron trout

Day one was a dream. I sat hunched in my sun-faded camping chair over a greasy mess of fish meat, forgoing my fork for some griddled bread used to scoop up every last bite. It wasn’t my prettiest moment, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

As the days lingered on, I settled into the quiet of the river, the meandering conversations, and the routine repetition. But as my tranquility improved, my hunger for trout waned. Five days of pan-fried, butter blasted fish will do that to a person.

Back home, I didn’t dare look in the direction of a single fish for weeks. Eventually, I dipped my toes back in by way of sushi, grilled salmon, and only now, trout.

If there was one recipe ideal for trout reintegration, it was this. Salt-baked fish is at once a science experiment, magic show, and performance art. Since salt has a crazy high melting point, it can withstand super high heat, so packing it around anything creates an airtight oven without permeating whatever it’s encapsulating. It’s also a preservative, so though the fish inside is fully, perfectly cooked. It looks like it just hopped out of the McKenzie when you crack that salt shield open. Oh yeah – and that’s the most impressive part. Prying that sucker open is just about the most dramatic, eye widening party trick in the book.

salt baked recipewhole foods trout

Tldr: Packing your fish in salt keeps it super moist. No, it doesn’t make the fish really salty. I stuffed mine with thyme and lemon, which was yummy. Trout is crazy cheap, so the real magic trick is eating fish without breaking the bank.

lemon thyme trouthuckberry salt baked trout

Due to the showy, salt-hogging nature of this recipe, it’s not necessarily a weeknight quickie, but if my past experience with trout means anything, this fish is best filed in the delicacy department. I’m back on track day dreaming about riverside trout, but this recipe will keep me busy until next summer in Oregon.

sienna mintz pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 1-1.5 lb trout, cleaned (pick the one with the clearest eyes)
  • 4 cups coarse kosher salt
  • 5 dried bay leaves, torn
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 4-6 springs fresh thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.
  3. Place the cleaned fish on the baking sheet and stuff the belly with lemon slices and thyme.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine salt, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Slowly pour in some water, mixing as you go, until mixture feels like damp sand and vaguely holds its form.
  5. Tightly pack the salt mixture onto the fish, leaving the head and tail exposed, but not letting any air in.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 1-2 minutes.
  7. Crack the salt casing open and push aside. Serve straight up, or chop the head off and easily peel off the skin to reveal the meat.

Grilled Halloumi & Herb Salad

Corn and Fregola with Grilled Halloumi Cheese

Summer is for grilling and picnics and fresh produce and spending less time cooking and more time outside. This Grilled Halloumi & Herb Salad covers all the bases, somehow managing to deliver bite after bite that’s all at once smoky, fresh, tender and crunchy. Plus, it gets better with age, as all those flavors marinate and meld into one another. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

With so much going on at once, it’s hard to say which component is the centerpiece, but the grilled halloumi cheese is a good place to start. This Greek sheep’s milk cheese is a grill’s best friend. It gets charred and crispy on the outside, a great canvas for those glorious hash marks. Meanwhile, the inside softens up just so, releasing it’s complex, briny, mint-infused flavors. Torn into the salad along with grilled and shaved corn, halloumi adds some smoky, salty flavors to an otherwise bright meal.

grilled halloumi salad

To counter that big, bold flavor, fresh torn herbs bring the salad to life. Basil, mint, parsley and scallions make this a complete sensory experience – adding sweet, summery aromatics to every bite and whiff.

Holding it all together are our friends fregola and walnuts. Their toasty notes and prominent texture speckled throughout keep things from getting out of hand. Think of them as the cool chaperone at the party.

israeli couscous herb salad

All together, this torn, toasted, grilled, dressed salad is refreshing and substantial. It’s made to last, so make extra and thank yourself later. And hurry! Summer isn’t getting any younger, the corn is as sweet at it’ll ever be, herbs are cheap and everywhere, and your grill has a hot date with some halloumi cheese.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup fregola or Israeli couscous, cooked and cooled
  • 2 ears corn, husked
  • Olive oil
  • 8 oz. halloumi cheese, cut in ¾ inch slices
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ½ cup basil leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  1. Turn the grill on to medium heat. Brush halloumi slices and corn with olive oil and place on the grill, arranging halloumi on the least hot areas. Flip the halloumi after 3-5 minutes, when brown hash marks have formed. Cook for 3-5 minutes on the other side and remove. Rotate the corn until slightly charred on all sides. Let both ingredients cool down for about 10 minutes.
  2. Once cooled, cut the corn off the cob, tear halloumi into bite-sized pieces and add both to a serving bowl. Add fregola, scallions, parsley and walnuts. Tear basil and mint in just before serving. Add lemon juice, vinegar, a glug of olive oil and salt to taste. Toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Summer Panzanella

summer panzanella

Panzanella is Italian for “bread salad,” and there’s nothing wrong with that! Swap out a few of the traditional ingredients with their better-tasting contemporaries and things are looking too good to be true.

There’s just about nothing better than a simple arugula salad. Crunchy, peppery greens are cut with lots of sour lemon juice, grassy olive oil and flaky Maldon salt. It’s my favorite lazy side dish – the perfect accompaniment to just about anything I tend to cook.

Heirloom tomatoes are summer’s candy. The heavy, gnarled fruits are literally bursting at the seams with juice, the ultra-thin membrane just thick enough to contain the outrageous flavor within. They’re good enough to eat like a peach – standing over the kitchen sink with the juices running down your wrist.

There’s almost no feeling more satisfying than that which is experienced upon piercing a shimmering, delicate ball of burrata cheese. The stringy, salty outer layer contains light, unbelievably creamy curdles of nearly liquefied mozzarella. If eating an entire ball is sinful, I hope they have burrata in hell.

I’ll never forget the pungent, porky smell of my neighborhood grocery store in Italy, where entire legs of cured pig dangled from the ceiling. Prosciutto is a delicacy both bold and versatile – thinly sliced, fat-laced pieces drape gracefully on a cheese plate but a quick pan-fry brings out smoky, salty notes and crumble without hesitation for a crunchy finish on any dish.

crispy prosciutto

The transformation that flour, yeast and water undergo to create bread is both magical and mysterious. A fresh baked loaf of thick-crusted, fluffy sourdough or ciabatta needs no dressing up and is perhaps best eaten torn with nothing added (though a smear of butter never hurts). Though the half-life of this euphoria is short – as soon as it’s out of the oven it begins to go stale – a toss in olive oil over a hot stove breathes new life. Fresh croutons bring out the best in bread – its crater-like crumb allowing oil to moisten the inside and crisp up the outside.

panzanella salad recipe

Separately, these foods reach unparalleled heights of perfection – obvious winners in their own categories. Each ingredient is self sufficient, needing no accouterments to bring out their best. Typically, ingredients like this are attention hogs – they need to be the stars of the dish they’re a part of – the flavor centerpiece that the rest of the meal is built around.

It seems sacrilegious, almost, to take that away from them. But together, these ambrosial ingredients create a powerhouse of flavor and texture that is so complete and diverse that there’s no turning back. The impossibly creamy cheese cuts the acidic tomatoes. That indulgent, velvety burrata is challenged by salty, crunchy prosciutto and crispy, jumbo croutons soak up every flavor without giving way to the juiciness surrounding them. Last but not least, arugula gives a burst of verdancy that keeps the whole thing tasting fresh.

arugula burrata salad

This Summer Panzanella is the kind of dish that arouses and challenges the taste buds – rock star flavors enhance one another without losing their own identities, resulting in an experience that’s at once encompassing, indulgent, and seasonal.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2 cups day-old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 large heirloom tomato or 2 handfuls heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • Olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  1. Heat a non-stick skillet. Lay the prosciutto pieces flat in the skillet and flip once or twice until slightly shriveled. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, chop into bite size pieces.
  2. Make the croutons. Add a few glugs of olive oil to the skillet. Once hot, add the bread pieces and toss to coat. Continue turning until bread is toasted on all sides and still soft in the center.
  3. Chop the tomato into bite size pieces. Add to a large serving bowl with arugula and croutons.
  4. Cut the burrata into pieces. Don’t worry if it’s gooey!
  5. Add burrata to the serving bowl and toss with a some olive oil and sea salt. Top with crumbled prosciutto and serve!
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