Archive for February, 2016

Belgian Endive Boats

endive boats with grapefruit

They say we adopt the qualities of the people around us, and I am no outlier. Spend enough time with someone and I’ll start talking, walking, even laughing like them.

I am not alone in my copycat tendencies. Mark Twain wrote, “When a great orator makes a great speech, you are listening to ten centuries and ten thousand men.” In other words, we are but an amalgamation of our interactions and experiences. No idea is a new one, just another version of once that’s existed forever.

grapefruit goat cheese salad

Lucky for me, the people I’ve met along the way have been easy to admire and hence exemplars of the identity I’ve been carving out for myself in the meantime. And many many many of these people have been women. Despite my former obstinate objection toward female friends (See: “I just don’t get along with girls,” and “Most of my friends are guys”), I’ve since managed to assemble a cohort of badass lady friends who have not only taught me the ways of “Yaaas” and Taylor Swift, but have set the tone for what it means to be a strong, brave, smart young woman.

These women have shown me what it looks like to stand up for yourself, to take the lead, to swallow your pride, to say no, to say yes, to say “I don’t know,” to be independent, to love others completely, to listen, to speak, to confront, to shut up, to be grateful, and to never stop asking questions. For real, I can trace each one of these talents (yes, talents) to specific real life ladies. Best of all, no one was trying to teach me a lesson. I’ve learned solely through osmosis.

belgian endive champagne vinaigrette

So, this one goes out to all my gal pals who have shown me what it means to be the best version of me. You all deserve much more than a blog post about bougie salad, but I’m giving you this because I made said bougie salad on Valentine’s Day for a gaggle of girls who came over to nibble on brunchy snacks and sip Bloody Mary’s in my living room.

valentines brunch san francisco

I was feeling the love hard that day, not only for the ridiculous nutty delicious scones Rachel made (maybe if we all beg her for the recipe she’ll share it), but in gratitude of those people who have loved me all along, long before I was the me am I am today and into the future of the me I will become.

Love your friends. Love yourself. Love this salad. It’s crunchy and refreshing and great finger food for Sunday brunches, appetizer spreads, or nights at home alone where you eat dinner with your fingers.

the pantry raid

Some tips:

  • Make sure your endives are super fresh so they stay nice and crisp (ew, flaccid lettuce)
  • Keep your goat cheese in the fridge until just before serving – it’ll crumble much more easily that way.

Ingredients (serves 5-10)

  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/8 cup Champagne vinegar
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • 4 heads Belgian endives
  • 2 ruby red grapefruits
  • Goat cheese
  • Slivered almonds
  • Flaky sea salt (I use Maldon)
  1. Combine the chopped shallot, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt in a jar and shake well to combine.
  2. Chop the ends off the endive bulbs and separate the leaves. Rinse and dry them using a salad spinner or gently pat with paper towels.
  3. Use a large, very sharp knife to slice off the peel of the grapefruit. Cut pole to pole, just deep enough to reveal the flesh without any pith. Cut ¼ inch cross sections, and cut those sections into smaller sections.
  4. Toast the almonds in a skillet over medium heat until crispy and flavorful, about five minutes.
  5. Gently toss the endive leaves and Champagne vinaigrette in a mixing bowl.
  6. Lay the leaves out on a flat platter. Top with grapefruit pieces, crumbled goat cheese, slivered almonds, and flaky sea salt. Try to scatter the toppings so they land in the little endive boats for easy serving and eating!

Mastering the Art of Grandma’s Cooking

mastering the art of french cooking

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – JC

Everything I know and love about cooking, I learned from my grandma. I’m not talking knife technique or how to make a brisket. She taught me the fundamentals, like making a mess, licking the spoon, using all the butter, and not losing your shit when the sauce doesn’t come out quite right. She didn’t mean to make me fall in love with cooking, but then again Julia didn’t mean to either.

A couple months ago, I was visiting Los Angeles and my grandma pulled out a dusty copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was her 1964 copy, with a weathered spine and pages brown the way only loved books can be. Bookmarked were some of her favorite recipes, the red-edged pages of which were scribbled with her notes in curly, barely legible cursive. She said I could keep it – she’s been making these recipes since the 60s and hardly needed a guide anymore – so I did.

julia childs cookbook

“Once you have mastered a technique, you barely have to look at a recipe again.” – JC

I read the book cover to cover, feeling a strange sense of familiarity with the recipes, the asides, and Julia’s overall approach to cooking and entertaining. Considering I knew shamefully little (bordering nothing) about Julia Child, this simpatico seemed odd. But then I realized that I had known Julia as long as I’ve been cooking with my grandma. My grandma’s playful, creative, make-it-work approach to cooking is a ricochet of learning to cook the Julia way. While I can’t say I’m nearly as graceful or intuitive as either of them are, the book – scribbled notes, splattered pages and all – pointed out that the cook I want to be is the one I grew up watching.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – JC

“You’ll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” – JC

When I started talking to people about Julia, everyone was shocked and appalled that I hadn’t ever seen Julie and Julia – the Amy Adams/Meryl Streep film that tells the side-by-side stories of a quirky panicked blogger and an American living in Paris learning to cook. I watched it while pathetically nibbling on overcooked gnocchi during tooth-pocalypse 2016 and haven’t stopped doing the Julia Child voice since.

Conveniently enough, my turn to prepare team dinner was around the corner. I consulted the cookbook, recruited a squad of fellow Chewse chefs, and planned a menu that required more butter and fat than I’ve consumed in the past year. The ingredients were few – French cooking isn’t much more than carrots, onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, herbs, and butter – but the quantities were large.

pearl onionsfresh pearl onionsbraising beefmushroom bourguignon

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.” – JC

My first attempt at these long winded recipes was for a group of 25. What’s more, we had a few vegans in the building, which is probably the dirtiest word in the dictionary according to Julia. As I ordered the margarine on Instacart, I could practically feel Julia turning in her grave. Alas, we altered a few recipes to keep our vegans far from animal products but still damn close to the indulgence we all enjoyed.

smitten kitchen mushroom bourguignon

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” – JC

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” – JC

chewse syssitia

The recipes I chose are a mix of my grandma’s favorites and French classics. We cooked nearly all day, first getting the mise en place assembled, then browning the meat and caramelizing onions, and finally assembling everything at the last minute. We had French Onion Soup with Gruyere toast, Niçoise salad, scallion mashed potatoes, Boeuf Bourguignon, and mushroom bourguignon.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a hearty, wine saturated braise, so while drinking at work is generally frowned upon, Julia’s orders to always cook with a glass of the wine you’re using took precedence over the rules.

i love to cook with wine

“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…” – JC

The night before, I was telling my grandma about my master plan to bring her old cookbook to life. Her only concern was that I wouldn’t have time to work all day (she was right) with my ambitious menu and instructed me to save time by caramelizing the onions with the boeuf in the oven, where they would “simmer and make love to each other all day.”

The meal came together perfectly – plates were full and then empty, full and then empty. The soup was sweet and comforting, infused with the flavors of day-long caramelized onions, cooked in white wine. The salad was fresh, herby, and simple – great balance for the Boeuf Bourguignon. Speaking of which, the boeuf was fall apart tender and the sauce, brilliantly silky and rich – perfect for a side of creamy mashed potatoes.

Salade niçoisenicoise dressinghard boiled eggs

“Everything in moderation…including moderation.” – JC

I introduced the meal in my best Julia voice and passed out hearts for everyone to wear a la the film’s portrayal of Julia and Paul’s Valentines Day party. Lucky for me, my company loves to eat. There were firsts, then seconds, more wine, and plenty more after that.

The meal we ate tasted like something unique to that evening – the amalgamation of hard work (damn you, pearl onions) and local ingredients – but it also tasted nostalgic. These recipes belong to my childhood – the flavors and smells bring me back to my grandmother’s house, to dinner parties where she cooked and I baked Hershey’s chocolate cake, to each special moment we’ve shared where she, without really meaning to, has helped me master the art of French cooking.

julia child valentines day

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” – JC

Recipes as they appear in Mastering The Art Of French Cooking, with a few adjustments from Grandma, and a few more from me:

Soupe À L’Oignon (serves 6-8)

  • 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 quarts beef or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.
  2. Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.
  4. Off heat, blend in the liquid. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

Salad Niçoise (serves 6-8)

  • 1 cup vinaigrette with herbs (combine the following ingredients)
    • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
    • Salt
    • 6 tablespoons olive oil
    • Tarragon, chopped
    • Chives, chopped
  • 3 cups French potato salad (combine the following ingredients)
    • 3 cups Yukon gold potatoes, boiled and quartered
    • 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup pitted Niçoise olives, halved
  • 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs, cold, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 head Boston/butter lettuce, separated, washed, drained, and dried
  • 3 cups cold, blanched, green beans, halved
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  1. Put it all in a bowl and toss it!

Boeuf Bourguignon (serves 6)

  • 3 pounds chuck roast beef, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied red wine
  • 2 to 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 18 to 24 pearl onions, braised in beef broth
  • 1 pound quartered crimini mushrooms, sautéed in butter
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in hot oil in a cast iron dutch oven, until nicely browned on all sides. Remove from dutch oven.
  3. Brown the vegetables in the dutch oven with the leftover oil.
  4. Return the beef to the dutch oven and toss with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set dutch oven uncovered in middle position of pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 more minutes. Remove the dutch oven and turn heat down to 325 degrees.
  5. Stir in the wine, and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to simmer on top of stove. Then cover the dutch oven and set in lower third of preheated oven. Simmer in the oven for 3-4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pieces it easily.
  6. While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set aside until needed.
  7. When the meat is tender, mix in the onions and mushrooms and serve!

Mushroom Bourguignon (directly from smitten kitchen)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 pounds crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/2 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pearl onions, peeled
  1. Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a heavy sauce pan over high heat.
  2. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
  3. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the wine, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste and broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.
  6. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
  7. Stir the flour into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

broccoli cheddar soup

When my peers got word that I’d be getting my wisdom teeth removed, the horror stories flooded in. I was traumatized by tales of allergic reactions to anesthesia and month long recoveries, warned about the perils of chewing with your front two teeth and plucking food from the forthcoming “tooth holes,” and questioned scrupulously about which shows I planned to binge watch and how much Vicodin I had been prescribed.

This, coupled with my crippling fear of “going under” and the unknowns about how my body would respond to having 4 sizable bones plucked from their cozy enclave inside my face, did not make for a confident attitude toward the oncoming surgery.

Lo and behold, the first weekend after the Friday morning surgery was alright. I mean, how bad can Netflix and Chill while two Jewish mothers provision you with pudding, almond milk frappuccinos, Wise Sons potato salad, mint-citrus-maple popsicles, and zucchini pesto soup be? By Sunday, I was basically back to normal. At least, normal enough to grab some groceries and make this soup all by myself. Things were looking up for me and my tooth holes!

the pantry raid

But this soup, creamy and delicious and healthy as it may be, also marks the turning point from the surprisingly best weekend of my life, to the very worst. I’m trying to forgive this soup. I know it doesn’t deserve blame for the dry socket that rendered me useless and emotionally unstable for the next week. In my heart of hearts, I know that rich, smooth, cheesy soup could never be the culprit of such trauma, and that likely the ownness is on Shanghai Dumpling King, where I ambitiously ventured for soup dumplings on Monday night. And deep, deep down, I know that it’s not Shanghai Dumpling King’s fault either – it’s mine for being an overachiever through and through, even when it comes to chewing.

vitamix soup recipe

So instead, I’ll look at the bright side. This meal was the last pleasurable experience I had, the last meal I didn’t dread eating, and the first of many more pureed soups to come. And for that, I am thankful.

pureed broccoli soup recipe

I’m basically back to normal now, and am making up for lost time with plenty solid foods. But once liquid stuff no longer reminds me of sleepless nights and painful days, I’ll be keeping warm with a big bowl of this Creamy Broccoli Soup and a generous slice of crusty bread to boot.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, boiled
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 7 oz. white beans
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt & pepper
  • Cheddar cheese
  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet until small bubbles appear. Add shallots and garlic. Sautee over low-medium heat until shallots start to become transparent. Add beans and 1 cup of vegetables broth. Let simmer for a few minutes, or until potatoes and broccoli are ready.
  2. Combine and puree all ingredients in a blender (work in batches if your blender isn’t very powerful). Add more broth until desired thickness is reached. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Top with freshly grated cheddar cheese!
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