All posts in Sweet

Mango, Cucumber & Crunchies Salad

summer salad recipe

Summer makes improvisational cooking a no-brainer. The abundance of aromatic fruit, crunchy veg and verdant herbs, for me, means heading to the farmers’ market with no plans at all. While June’s arrival in San Francisco has offered a dearth of sunshine, the markets allude to sunnier pastures, signaling our tastebuds’ sprint into summer vacation.

These days, heading to the farmers market feels like a reunion with long lost friends – piles of peaches remind me of early evening crisps, bushels of bright herbs trigger sultry solstice memories, and stemy dahlia buds cue nostalgia for the summer I fell in love with San Francisco. Reveling in these memories tends to incite a desire to re-create them, but the overstimulation of colors, smells and noises usually instead lands me with a smattering of produce intended for no recipe in particular. Back at home, and after some lite mental shaming for the lack of forethought, I’ll remember that summer is on my side. In the haze of farmers’ market euphoria, I’ll have undoubtedly collected enough components to create something tasty. Because summer produce needs little work to make it palatable, there’s a good chance a random sample of seasonal goods can be combined to create a sum somehow greater than its parts.

mango salad recipe

This week, I found myself with a fridge full of Crunchy Asian Salad stragglers, a drawer of nostalgic, though directionless lemon cukes and a bowl of impulse buy mangos that weren’t getting any younger. What resulted was another salad for the books (shoutout best new years resolution ever). As I assessed the options, I sought guidance from past salad architecture wins. The perennial mantra: build a salad that offers a variety of textures and flavors in each bite, landed me with this beaut.

crunchy mango cucumber salad

On the texture side of things, juicy, slippery mango and lip-smacking cucumbers are balanced by crispy fried shallots and crunchy chopped peanuts. Over in flavor town, the balance of fresh flavors (herbaceous, sweet, spicy) are only heightened by the presence of complex, earthy and nutty “dry” goods. The result is a salad that kept me surprised bite after bite, not only by its complexities, but by its outspoken side-dish chutzpah. It’s the perfect partner-in-crime for a simple grill night (prep ahead and toss the crunchies on at the end) or as a hit of freshness in a Southeast Asian or Indian-style stew. While I’ll certainly keep this recipe in my back pocket as summer rolls on, I’m crossing fingers that this is only beginning of the season’s creative developments.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 ripe mangos
  • 3 small fist size lemon cucumbers (substitute with 1 English cucumber or a couple Persian cucumbers)
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro
  • A few mint leaves
  • ¼ fresh jalapeno
  • 1-2 large shallots
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 handful roasted, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 handful roasted, lightly salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  1. Slice the mangos along either side of the pit. Cut the halves into quarters and carefully cut the skin away. Slice the quarters into thin strips. Add to a serving bowl.
  2. Use a peeler to remove the skin from the cucumbers. Slice into thin wedges and add to the bowl with the mangos.
  3. Chop the cilantro, slice the scallions on the bias and chop the jalapeno (tasting first for spiciness). Add to the bowl.
  4. Juice the lime into the bowl and add the rice vinegar and 1 tablespoon of oil. Toss to combine all ingredients.
  5. Slice the shallots thinly against the poles. Heat 4 tablespoons canola oil in a skillet until very hot (test by dropping one shallot slice in – when it sizzles immediately, it’s ready). Scatter the shallots in the pan, avoiding crowding. Stir/flip occasionally until golden and crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel until cool.
  6. Top the salad with crispy shallots, coconut flakes and chopped peanuts. Give it a final toss to combine and serve immediately. Alternatively, combine the crunchy toppings and set aside until you’re ready to serve.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

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!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

mexican wedding cookies

Sorry Katy Perry, but last Friday night, I did not dance on table tops, nor take too many shots. Instead, I drank a bottle of wine, listened to the new season of Serial (omg) and baked cookies like they were going out of style.

italian wedding cookies

As the cookies were cooling and I was polishing off my fourth glass of Cab, the dust began to settle on my wild Friday night. Like the dutiful (note: obsessive) blogger that I am, I had already taken plenty of photos of my cookies (and a few failed selfies).

russian tea cakes

As I reflected on what else my night might hold (Some Netflix? A cup of tea, perhaps?), I had a great idea. To quote my homie Ben Franklin, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?” This blog post wasn’t gonna write itself, so I figured the wine might write it for me instead.

snowball cookie recipe

 

What resulted was a special kind of…well, I don’t really know what it was. I’ve decided to refrain from sharing the work in its entirety here in the interest of preserving some of my dignity. But because dignity isn’t one of my top priorities, I’ve selected some excerpts from my late night scribbles to share with you here.

my drunk kitchen

Enjoy, and cheers to melt-in-your-mouth buttery, nutty cookies that look like snowballs and taste like heaven.

On being at Safeway on a Friday night:

“My grocery shopping peers are either old and alone or already drunk and wearing way too little clothing.”

A description of my big plans for the night:

“Netflix and Chill with a glass (or 4) of red.”

In which I get really defensive and a little aggressive:

“While the world around me said ‘Wow Sienna, you’re lame AF for staying in on a Friday night,’ I said back to it, ‘Thank you for sharing, but I’m a grown ass lady and I do what I want!’”

A revelation about the gentleman I waited in line with at Safeway:

“Maybe me and the guy with the Caesar and milk aren’t so different after all.”

Deep thoughts:

“Seriously, wtf is a pecan?”

Drake gets it:

“Started in the bulk bin now we’re here.”

pantry raid

Ingredients (makes about 3 dozen cookies)

  • ½ pound unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups cake flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Use a hand or standing mixer to cream the butter, salt, and sugar together.
  3. Once it’s light and fluffy, add vanilla, flour, and nuts.
  4. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, toss in a little confectioners’ sugar, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-25 minutes. Cookies will still be soft when you remove them from the oven.
  6. Let cool for a couple minutes. Then, carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Once cookies are completely cool, toss in more confectioners’ sugar.

Caramelized Fennel

plenty caramelized fennel recipe

Last night, I was looking for a recipe for a dinner party. First, I turned to my “Food To Dos” Pinterest board. Was there anything there that fit my mood? Nope. Next up, the host of blogs I frequent. Did I find any new material that piqued my palate? Still no. From there, I got tangled up in a mess of tabs, new windows, and futile Google searches. In a moment of grand frustration, I looked away from my screen, only to notice a dusty stack of cookbooks on my counter.

The first one I opened crackled as the spine stretched itself out. The smooth, thick pages grazed the tip of my thumb as I flipped from page to page, the quiet flicking noise whispering in my ear to go on. The glossy photos shimmered with the reflection of the kitchen light overhead and soon enough, I forgot about everything else, lost in the pages before me.

plenty cookbook recipescaramelized fennel recipe

Cookbooks offer something the Internet doesn’t – an experience of directed discovery. The journey they take you on brings forth new ideas, not affirmation for what you already wanted. I could search for “fennel recipes” and find more than enough (actually, too much) material online. Instead, by picking up a cookbook that reflects my culinary personality, I stumbled upon what would become my dinner.

As my grandmother aptly described, reading a cookbook is “comforting.” Unlike a novel, which requires attention and focus, a cookbook allows your mind to wander, to consider how its stories might translate to your own kitchen, and to imagine your own twists and turns on the recipes before you. Food blogs offer a similar experience – a curated anthology of recipes, stories, and photos. But what they lack is a front and back cover – marking the beginning and end of a story, told through the lens of a careful selection of recipes. The story a cookbook tells is succinct and intentional while being packed with new ideas and sensory indulgences.

As the sun went down and my dinner party drew nearer, I settled on a menu incorporating some of my latest discoveries. The most memorable of those was this recipe for caramelized fennel from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The dreamy full-page photo showed cross sections of fennel bulbs being shallow-fried with dried fennel seeds and caramelized goodness. The wispy bits along the edges were charred and crispy looking while the meaty center held the pieces together.

The original recipe suggests serving the dish room temperature with goat cheese, but I went a different route with a cheese-less (I know, blasphemy) and toasty rendition.

fennel dill recipe

I love how quick and easy this recipe is and how little fluff the ingredient list holds. Fennel takes nicely to caramelizing – its subtle sweetness brought to the next level with a little sugar. The addition of fennel seeds and dill gives the whole thing some added complexity and savory flavors.

I served mine hot, though I’m sure it’d stand up as a room temperature dish as Ottolenghi suggests. Goat cheese doesn’t sound like such a bad idea either…

Ingredients (serves 3 as a side)

  • 3 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 sprig fresh dill
  1. Remove the leafy ends of the fennel, leaving only the bulb and a little bit of the end. Cut the bulbs lengthwise into ½ inch thick slices.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat until the butter begins to bubble.
  3. Add the fennel slices to the pan. Flip after about two minutes, or until the bottom side is a golden brown color with a few charred spots.
  4. Repeat until all fennel has been pan-fried, adding more butter and oil as necessary.
  5. Add the sugar, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper to the empty skillet and use a rubber spatula to incorporate into the butter and oil left in the pan. Once the texture is uniform and a little sticky, add the fennel back to the pan and toss to coat.
  6. Serve in a bowl or on a plate and garnish with fresh dill.

Juicy Summer

watermelon juice

Summer in San Francisco means fog, layers, and frequent escapes to warmer, sunnier microclimates. It means being proud of a sunburn and jealous of a tan. It means 65 degrees is shorts weather and dammnit if I won’t sit in a beer garden and drink all day, even if I’m low key shivering the whole time!

Luckily, we’ve got lots of ways to escape Karl the Fog, or at least convince ourselves that he’s totally not cramping our style. Whether it’s an escape to the Russian River or a trip to the farmers’ market, we’re not about to let a little fog cock block our love affair with summer.

Sweater weather or not, summer means there’s an abundance of juicy, sun-ripened fruits and veggies everywhere you look. It’s like the earth has been holding its breath all year long, and has finally given up. One second, you’re complaining about how sick of butternut squash and kale you are, and the next, you’re standing over your kitchen sink eating peach after peach after peach. Where did all this stuff come from, and what the heck are we supposed to do with it??

In an effort to keep up with the madness that shows up in my CSA box every week, I’ve dusted off my juicer and gotten to work.

healthy juice recipes

Side note: We just got a new CSA! CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and is a program that allows anyone to buy into a farm’s crops. They’ll give you whatever’s ready for harvest that week and either ship it to your house or bring it somewhere close by. Our new CSA is from Greenhearts Family Farm, and it’s seriously the bees knees. For $36 I got all this, plus the warm fuzzies that I’m supporting the local farming community and eating organic. Win win win!

Greehearts Family Farm

Don’t have a juicer? What are you waiting for?! Mine was pretty inexpensive and is surprisingly easy to clean. It may take up some valuable real estate in your kitchen, but like my friend Marcel says, it’s worth it.

Here are 5 steps to get you on your juicing high horse:

  1. Buy a juicer. Don’t make it complicated. Just get this one. If you become a juicing addict, you can upgrade later.
  2. Get yer fruits and veggies! Sign up for a CSA, order local produce online, or pick your lazy butt up and go to the farmers’ market! Alemany is my SF favorite for cheap and delicious treats.
  3. Prep, prep, prep! Most fruits and vegetables require very little prep in order to be juiced.
  • Apples: Cut away the core. Those seeds are bad news for the blades of the juicer.
  • Beets: Skin ‘em. I don’t think you actually have to do this, but beet skins are kinda gross, so use your best judgment.
  • Fruits with rinds: Peel them! Why would you want to drink rind juice? Ew.
  • Ginger: Get that skin offa’ there!
  • Fruits with pits: No pits allowed in the juicer. Except for Brad Pitt. He can do whatever he wants.
  1. Juice away! The opportunities are endless! No parents’ no rules!
  2. Drink up. This stuff degrades quickly, so drink your juice fresh. If you have to make it the night before, that’s cool. Just don’t tell anyone. Not even your mother.

These two concoctions are a couple of my recent faves. They’re fruit forward, for all you green-phobes, but also packed with lots of energy and health boosting vitamins.

Watermelon Fresca

Coupled with the recent SCOTUS ruling, the newly re-opened (and since destroyed) Dolores Park, and an unusual amount of sunshine, it was obviously a routy Pride weekend in SF. Before transitioning to strictly alcoholic beverages, we kicked the celebration off with this ultra-refreshing too-good-to-be-true watermelon juice.

Ingredients (juice for 2-3)

  • ½ watermelon, cut into large pieces
  • 1 cucumber, cut into large pieces
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • Handful of mint, muddled and mixed in at the end

watermelon agua fresca

Sweet Greens

When your company outgrows its office, your lease expires, and everything keeps inexplicably breaking and/or exploding (see: toaster oven), it’s time to move. Chewse recently packed up and moved down the street to a wildly massive, super cool new warehouse space. With moving, comes a lot of throwing things away, but I wasn’t going to let our brand spankin’ new Fruit Guys delivery go to waste. No sir! So what did I do? I made this juice!

Ingredients (juice for 1)

  • 2 apples, cores removed
  • 1 Persian cucumber, cut into large pieces
  • 1 kiwi, peeled

sweet green juice

The OG

I don’t know about you, but when I think about juice, I think about this juice. It’s a punch in the face, and you may be afraid of your pee a couple hours later (it’s okay, you’re not dying…it’s just the beets), but it’s really really tasty and good for you in lots of ways I’m not going to research right now!

Ingredients

  • Beets, peeled
  • Carrots, cut into large pieces
  • Ginger, peeled
  • Green apples, cores removed

Spinach, Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche // Savta’s Lemon Bars

san francisco brunch

San Francisco loves the b-word. Brunch is a staple activity in the lives of city dwellers – an experience as over the top as it is expensive, as dreaded by chefs as it is adored by literally everyone else. Dutiful patrons wait in line for hours in pursuit of bottomless mimosas, lox eggs benny, and the like. Before you know it, it’s 2PM, morale is low, and you’re ready to take extreme measures to get to the top of that list. Bribery is an option. So is identity theft. But the real question is, how can we make “Jasmine, party of 6” disappear?

Then, you come back to earth. Brunch is supposed to be lighthearted and delicious, not vengeful and conniving! What is it about the promise of cornmeal pancakes or seasonal flatbreads or anything remotely brunchy that brings out the worst in us? Desperation? Greed? I don’t like seeing that part of me come out, but I also really like brunch.

noe valley brunch

Simple solution? In the wise words of the Pinterest community, “do it yourself!” Here’s why:

  1. There’s no wait when you brunch at home.
  2. You can finally order everything on the menu, because you made the menu.
  3. The drinks are as strong as you want them to be.
  4. PJs are an acceptable wardrobe decision.
  5. There’s no guilt in taking your sweet, sweet time.

Now, I admit that there’s something seriously plush about chocolate chip pancakes magically appearing before your very eyes, eating until you can’t eat anymore, and then having your plate whisked away at the wave of a hand. Under certain circumstances (most often the hung over ones), this kind of thing has its place. But under most circumstances (even some hung over ones) you’re probably better off taking matters into your own hands.

Such was my decision this weekend, when I had brunch plans with some lovely ladies I went to high school with. We had a lot to catch up on, and anxiously standing in line before aggressively shoveling fried potatoes into our faces didn’t seem like the ideal setting. So, I took to the kitchen and made us a brunch worthy of Thrillest SF’s top brunch list.

simple brunch recipes

The formula to the perfect brunch is as follows: sweet + savory + bubbly + caffeine.

You want something elaborate enough to put your weekday peanut butter toast to shame, but simple enough that you can throw it together under that haze of whatever happened the night before. In my case, that involved going to the Symphony (because I’m a classy lady)…followed by drinking a lot of beer at a dive bar (because I’m actually not).

You also want something pretty, because if brunch isn’t pretty, it’s pointless. This is one of life’s simple truths.

lemon bar recipe

What’s better than bottomless mimosas? Sabering your champagne bottle, that’s what! It’s the best party trick in the book and will make you look very, very cool. This is a proven fact.

Other facts that were proven this weekend are that quiche is the best food on the planet and that all desserts should be lemon bars.

Let’s start with quiche. There is simply no combination more perfect than flaky piecrust, stinky cheese, rich cream, and fresh vegetables. The inside is fluffy and springy. When eaten fresh, each forkful trails stringy cheese from the slice behind it. Simply put, it’s pure decadence and I want to eat it every day for the rest of my life.

mushroom spinach quiche recipe

These lemon bars are sweet and sour with a nice buttery cookie bottom and a gooey custard top. They don’t hold their form like many I’ve had, but what good is dessert if you can’t lick your fingers?? I’ve recently become less inclined toward super sweet things (ew, adulthood), but these are a different story. They’re all at once indulgent and refreshing – the perfect dessert to accompany your morning, noon, and night.

sienna mintz

The point to all of this is that brunch is a very important meal. It sounds silly, but it really is a special occasion – a tradition that you only get once, maybe twice a week. So take your time with it! And don’t spend that time waiting in line for an overpriced meal. Spend every waking hour of brunch in the presence of good drinks, better food, and great friends.

Spinach, Mushroom & Gruyere Quiche

  • 1 frozen unbaked pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms of your choice, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups half and half cream
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Pierce the bottom of the piecrust a few times with a fork. Bake for 10 minutes and let cool. Turn the oven down to 350ºF.
  2. Heat the butter in a large skillet. Sautee the spinach and mushrooms until spinach is wilted and mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, and cheese and add a bit of salt and pepper.
  4. Place the pie crust on a cookie sheet and gently pour in the egg mixture until it reaches the very top. Carefully place the cookie sheet in the oven. Bake at 350ºF for 40-50 minutes. The top should be slightly browned. Let cool for at least 20 minutes to allow the eggs to set before serving in slices.

Tips from America’s Test Kitchen:

  • Partially pre-baking the piecrust prevents the base of the crust from being soggy and doughy.
  • They found that baking the quiche at 350ºF keeps the veggies from becoming rubbery while allowing the egg custard to cook slowly and the top to become slightly browned.
  • Placing the crust on a cookie sheet before pouring the filling prevents messy spills in and out of the oven.

 

Savta’s Lemon Bars

This recipe belongs to my Savta (grandmother in Hebrew). She is a gift to earth from the baking gods, so this recipe is close to perfection.

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups + ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF.
  2. Using a hand or stand mixer, combine butter, 3 cups flour, and confectioner’s sugar until dough holds its shape when squeezed together. Press into the bottom of a 14”X8” baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While cookie base is baking, beat the eggs and granulated sugar for one minute. Add lemon juice and zest and combine.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ½ cup flour and baking powder. Add to lemon mixture in batches, combining well between each addition.
  5. Pour lemon custard over cookie base. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

 

Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread

chocolate walnut shortbread

Sometimes, you crave something and nothing, nothing, nothing in the world will be right until it is yours.

Sometimes, you forget about something you once adored, only to re-discover it and love it even more.

Sometimes, you have something to prove, but only to yourself, and you won’t be satisfied until you prove yourself right.

And, sometimes, you become obsessed with something and can’t imagine life before it was in yours.

In order from top to bottom: salt and chocolate, my pistachio KitchenAid stand mixer, the ability to make shortbread, and walnuts.

pistachio kitchen aid

Much to my palate’s and my ego’s delight, these factors collided in happy harmony, the results of which were these Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread cookies.

chocolate shortbread recipe

I’ve been on a salt kick recently. Not just any salt – Maldon salt. I first read about it in Bon Appetit, and then tasted it at Chewse, where we sprinkle it generously on buttered bread, simple salads, dark chocolate, et al. The crispy pyramids are flaky, crunchy, and mild – the perfect finishing touch to just about any food I can imagine. After buying a box of my own and flaunting the stuff in its own little finishing salt dish, I’ve periodically forced everyone who has entered my kitchen to try a pyramid out for taste.

maldon salt

My KitchenAid mixer, a shiny beacon of pistachio goodness, was gifted to me by my lovely grandmother, when I moved into my first big girl apartment. After playing with my new toy (much to my friends’ delight) day and night, I did what most kids do, leaving it to collect dust and take up space on the counter. It moved with me to my next Boston apartment, where it collected more dust, and was eventually packed up and shipped home, across the country.

easy shortbread recipe

Waiting in line at Tartine is a rite of passage every San Franciscan must endure. The delightful scents of churning butter, baking bread, and sugar on sugar on sugar waft out onto the street, where ravenous hipsters and tourists alike wrap around the block like pastry-jonesing ducks in a row. After waiting in said line for longer than I’d care to admit, we collected our earnings (a medley of shortbread cookies and chocolate mousse things) and absconded to Dolores Park like the “good hipsters” we are. I’m glad we went, but the honest to goodness truth was that I thought I could’ve done better. For all you Tartine fans out there, I know this is big talk! Maybe we ordered the wrong stuff – they were out of Pan de Chocolate, okay?! – or, maybe I’m an only child with an inflated ego and nothing to lose, but I was determined to make shortbread cookies worthy of such a tremendous wait.

ice cream sandwich cookiesalt chocolate

The final piece to the puzzle is walnuts. Walnuts are good. This I knew and have always known. But, only recently did I really really fall for their crunchy, buttery, earthy goodness. In my book, walnuts belong in my oatmeal, in a jar on my desk, on my salad, in my pasta, and now, all up in my dessert. I hereby sanction a recall of the phrase “icing on the cake” in exchange for “walnut in the cookie.” Make these Salted Chocolate & Walnut Shortbread cookies and you’ll know what I mean.

log cookie recipewalnut shortbread recipe

Well, I’m proud to admit that these cookies turned out great. They’re not too sweet and just salty enough. The little Maldon pyramids sprinkled on top have the slightest little crunch. The butter packed cookies have that satisfying shortbread break with each bite, but just enough give to fold around a spoonful of ice cream for DIY ice cream sandwiches.

the pantry raid

And, the good news is, I made these with my eyes half closed! No seriously, I’m not bragging here. They’re so easy to make that I actually managed to do so before work! Let it be known that I am not a do-anything-before-work person. No running, no errands, and certainly no baking. But I’m telling ya, these cookies are so easy and quick to make you’ll actually want to wake up a few minutes before the sun just knowing that their salted walnuty chocolate goodness is in your future.

maldon salt dessertchocolate salt walnut recipesienna mintz blog

Ingredients (makes about 20 small cookies)

  • 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 handful raw walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon salt, plus more for sprinkling
  1. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda.
  2. In another medium size mixing bowl, combine brown and granulated sugars.
  3. Use a hand or stand mixer to cream the butter in a large mixing bowl for about two minutes.
  4. Add the sugars and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about two minutes more.
  5. Pour in the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on low in five-second intervals. Pulse like this five times, then turn the mixer on low for about 30 seconds, or until the dough has formed.
  6. Add in the chopped walnuts and salt and mix to combine.
  7. Transfer the dough to a cutting board or clean counter top. Separate it into two balls and roll each ball into a 2-3 inch thick log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least four hours
  8. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
  9. Unwrap the logs and use a sharp knife to cut each log into ¼ inch thick slices.
  10. Place slices a few inches apart on a parchment paper or silicon pad lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with Maldon salt.
  11. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes. Cookies should still feel soft when you take them out of the oven. Let rest for a couple minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.
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