All posts in Umami

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.

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!

Minestrone Soup For A Crowd

minestrone soup

My attitude toward cooking for a group is divided. On the one hand, there’s no greater feeling than that which is achieved by feeding someone. I’m a firm believer that food is love, so sharing a meal – a meal I created, no less – with a group of friends, is the ideal way for me to express that affection. The feeling of accomplishment associated with sitting down to a damn good meal you made yourself is escalated tenfold when you’re surrounded by smiling faces. And if your friends ask for seconds? Now you’ve really made it.

On the other hand, the stress associated with preparing enough food to feed a crowd is the most explicit expression of pressure I can imagine. If there’s not enough, if it’s ready too early, if it tastes just down right awful – the list of self deprecating circumstances goes on. You’ve been tasked with the job of nourishing a small army. If you screw this one up, they’ll perish in battle. Or worse, they won’t come back for another dinner party.

Such was my conundrum when it became my turn to cook dinner for my new roommates. I waffled between stews and pastas, stir fries and curries, finally landing, rather emphatically, on Minestrone Soup. I’d never made the stuff before, but it was a little cold outside and my throat had a slight tickle that could only be assuaged by the likes of hot, garlicky broth.

vegetable broth

After some basic research, a survey of the week’s CSA haul*, and a rather comprehensive discussion with my aunt about the benefits of Parmesan rind used in soup making, I took to the kitchen. This is the recipe I came up with and I think I speak for all my roommates when I say that it was as good as it gets.

With so many ingredients, it’s tough to find a bite of this soup that doesn’t offer something new. Each vegetable has a different texture and tenderness, but the earthy rosemary and silky garlic flavors weave throughout every spoonful. The broth is just thin enough to qualify as soup, yet thick enough to hold everything together.

crushed tomatoes trader joes

If you’re thrown off by the long and specific list of ingredients, fear not! All you really need to make good minestrone is rosemary, Parmesan rind, crushed tomatoes, soffrito, and beans.

soffrito

The rest is pretty much up for negotiation, though I will say that this combo of veggies has great texture variety. I particularly like the last minute addition of kale, since it stands to add a little crunch to each bite.

vegetarian minestrone soup

You can also replace the macaroni with barley, or keep things carb free altogether. Point is, this is a hearty soup that’s easy to make for a crowd and sure to please. Make it a day ahead of time or night of and divide any leftovers into mason jars for future lunches. I ate this soup every day for a week and I still can’t wait to make it and eat it again.

healthy lunch soup

Enjoy with a crusty baguette and good company. Expect requests for seconds.

*CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and is basically like a co-op for a farm. You pay a weekly, monthly, or seasonal fee to essentially own a portion of a farm’s harvest. We use Full Circle, which isn’t a CSA, per se, but sources organic produce from local farms for weekly deliveries. I highly recommend it!

Ingredients (serves 10)

  • 2 quarts low-sodium organic vegetable broth
  • 1 quart water
  • Parmesan rind
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 springs fresh rosemary
  • 1 russet potato, quartered
  • 2 large parsnips cut into thick pieces
  • 1 cup dried macaroni pasta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 28 oz can diced unsalted tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped into big pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 15 oz cans white beans, rinsed
  • 1 large zucchini
  • Handful fresh parsley
  • 4 cups lacinato kale, cut into 2-inch pieces

 

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet, heat broth and water. Once warm, add Parmesan rind, bay leaves, and rosemary. Once broth is simmering, add potatoes and parsnips.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook macaroni according to instructions and set aside, once al dente.
  3. Heat a couple tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions become just barely translucent (about five minutes). This is called soffrito in Italian cooking!
  4. Add soffrito, diced tomatoes, and garlic to broth. According to taste, season with salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. Let simmer for 20 minutes, tasting occasionally for seasoning preferences.
  5. Add beans, zucchini, parsley, and kale to the soup. Stir to combine. Soup is ready once kale is wilted.
  6. Discard Parmesan rind, rosemary stems, and bay leaves.
  7. Optional: Use a microplane zester to mince garlic in a small ramekin. Finely chop extra rosemary. Mix the two together and serve as a garnish.
  8. Either mix in macaroni or serve alongside the soup.

 

Bacon’d Brussels

bacon brussels sprouts

It isn’t easy to make the best thing ever even better. Internet trolls and software developers would argue that this is false. “Just add bacon!” they would say. While I have been historically known to argue this point, those swine enthusiasts are in this case, right.

center cut bacon

For me, Brussels sprouts are the ultimate best food ever. My former roommates will tell you that I once ate Brussels sprouts for dinner every night for two weeks straight. Most college apartments smell like weed and socks. Ours smelled like olive oil coated, and then roasted, sprouts (but also weed and socks).

raw brussels sprouts

Once, my adorably, if not ironically, concerned roommates researched the potential negative side effects of consuming too much of the cruciferous vegetable. Only one case of sprout overdose has been recorded, featuring a Scottish gentleman who was hospitalized when his Christmas Eve side dish didn’t agree with the anticoagulants he was taking. These magical veggies are super high in Vitamin K, but until I’ve got a blood clotting issue, I’m going to keep the dream alive.

roasted brussels sprouts recipe

So why has it taken me so long to spread the good word of Brussels sprouts? Well, if you’re one of the more unoriginal souls on Tinder who has introduced themselves with a Brussels sprouts anecdote in response to my short but sweet “I like Brussels sprouts,” bio, my work here is done. For the rest of you, let’s get this party started! No – not that kind of party. Don’t be gross!

For your entertainment, here are some wise words from the Tinder community. Pick up lines aren’t what they used to be, people!

Carlo says, “Yo I fuck with Brussels sprouts.” That’s not a very nice thing to do to!

Alex inquires, “Roasted or steamed, though?” Please, Alex, do you even read The Pantry Raid?

Barrett chimes in, “I like celery & peanut butter.” No one invited you, Barrett. Go home.

And to finish things off, Casey leaves us with a statement of truth: “Brussels sprouts tho.” Yeah, Casey gets it.

Let’s get back to Alex for a second though. Poor, naïve Alex. Did he really think I would steam Brussels sprouts? In his defense, we are total strangers and he doesn’t know that I would never EVER do such a thing.

pantry raid

See, the reason I’ve never posted my recipe for B-Sprouts (nor publicly admitted to being on Tinder) is because it’s not very interesting. The most redeeming quality possessed by the veggie of the hour is its unique, stand out flavor. My theory is, why mess with a good thing? In case you’re dying to know my OG recipe, here you go:

Ingredients

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Mix it up, put it in a cast iron skillet, and roast those babies at 400º until they’re nice and crunchy.

simple roasted brussels sprouts

Not particularly interesting, is it? It’s a make-it-every-night-because-you-can kind of recipe, not a blow-your-readers’ minds kinda thing.

Well I’ll tell you, my mind was blown when I discovered this here rendition of my dearly beloved food. It comes as no surprise that it was introduced to me by Paleo-eating, Cross Fitting, folk. This is only a make-it-every-night-because-you-can recipe if you’re lifting oversized tires (or whatever they do at Cross Fit) and have sworn off of bread and sugar (two of the best things on the planet). For the rest of us, it’s a jazz-up-the-usual or get-the-kids-to-eat-the-green-stuff alternative to the above recipe.

paleo brussels sprouts

So, here you have it: Bacon’d Brussels Sprouts. They’re sweet, salty, hearty, and way, way addicting. The bacon totally enhances the sprouts’ stand out flavor and the balsamic makes this stuff good enough for dessert. Which reminds me, this is no quickly thrown together side (or main, if you’re me). We ended up digging into ours as a second course due to poor time management…so allot at least an hour to whip these bad boys up.

paleo challenge bacon

brussels bacon paleo

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Brussels sprouts
  • Olive oil to coat sprouts
  • 5 pieces center cut bacon
  • Salt & pepper
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and arrange bacon on top. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While bacon is in the oven, cut the stems off the sprouts and halve them.
  4. Remove bacon from the oven and pour bacon grease into a mixing bowl with sprouts. Toss to coat, adding enough olive oil so that the sprouts are shiny. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spread sprouts out on the bacon cookie sheet. Bake for 40 minutes, rearranging occasionally.
  6. If bacon isn’t totally crunchy yet, finish it off in a skillet over high heat. Let cool and then chop into fine pieces.
  7. Sprouts are done when they’ve got a slight char and are tender on the inside. In a serving bowl, toss sprouts with half of the bacon bits and the balsamic vinegar. Serve warm.

easy paleo recipe

Hurried Curry

trader joes curry

Ah, curry. It’s the sometimes mysterious, often spicy, and always comforting dish native to many many cultures. It comes in green, orange, red, and every color in between; a combination of spices and flavors that’s difficult to discern. It’s not just curry powder that makes this dish so special, but the hours spent simmering and bubbling as who-knows-what sneaks its way into every crevice and aperture of whatever exotic vegetables are graced with its presence. It’s the indescribable combination of this powder and that pepper that somehow creates a similar, although entirely unique, flavor.

It’s the fragrance of cumin, coconut, exotic pepper, and so on that makes you swoon the moment it comes into contact with your nostrils, which are pining desperately for another whiff. It’s best enjoyed in dingy restaurants where you wouldn’t dare try to pronounce its name. “I’ll have the Pra-.” The waitress finishes your sentence, though you have no idea what she just said. It’s a blind draw, most of the time, though what lands in front of you is worth the risk. Whatever kind of curry it is, it’ll likely make your nose run and make you empty  your water glass over and over again. Your only reprise is the moist rice, which gives you a break from it all, but also serves as the perfect vehicle for soaking up the last drops of curry sauce, once the potatoes, meat, and the myriad vegetables beyond recognition have been consumed.

Let it be known, this is not that kind of curry. This is the kind of curry made by people like myself, whose pantries are not stocked with whatever insanity goes into the real stuff but sometimes, in the comfort of their own PJs, crave the styling’s of non-descript Thai restaurants. Order in? Not on my watch!

easy curry recipe

This is not to say that this curry is no good. In fact, it’s very very good and very very easy. You’re in for a creamy and smooth texture made rich with coconut milk and the spices of my favorite trader, Joe. You can use whatever veggies you like, but I found the combination of waxy potatoes, bright carrots, and bristly broccoli create the perfect trifecta of flavors and textures to soak up the mouthwatering curry.

hurried curry

This dish takes about thirty minutes, which is no small feat in the world of curry curation. In so many words, this dish is simple, easy, delicious, and reminiscent of (but not identical to) late nights in Thai Town and early mornings with leftovers. And, made entirely with Trader Joe’s ingredients, it’s a perfectly affordable recipe that won’t send you to the ends of the earth to track down rare and exotic ingredients. You can “Khorb Khun Ka” me later.

easy thai curry

Ingredients

  • 4 small Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked (optional)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup Trader Joe’s Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste (more for a spicier curry)

1. Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes. Cook for 5-8 minutes, until potatoes are just tender. Remove, and slice into quarters.

2. In a large pot, bring coconut milk and curry to a boil. Add potatoes and carrots and turn heat down to a simmer.

3. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add in broccoli, chicken, and chili paste.

4. Stir and simmer until vegetables are the desired tenderness and add more chili to taste.

 

Farmer’s Frittata

farmers frittata

Today marks the public debut of my roommate Liz’s cast iron skillet. Now, don’t be deceived; the skillet is not a recent addition to our home. Instead, it’s been hiding under our coffee table, collecting dust and cat hair since Christmas.

That’s a long time to keep something so valuable in a dormant state and out of use. But alas, we have another skillet (see: Swiss Chard Mélange & Turkey Quinoa Burgers) that is much more manageable in size and is, ahem, already seasoned.

This skillet has almost gotten its break a couple times. Once, at a party, I saw someone pull it out from under the table to admire its cast iron-y charm. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a dinner party, so he put it back and chugged his beer. I think we may have used it at least once, when washing the other one seemed more daunting than our present state of hunger could handle.

The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection seemed to be the perfect occasion to officially introduce the skillet to our kitchen. We invited some friends over to make brunch, sip mimosas, and make use of our porch. Liz suggested Farmer’s Breakfast, which, she says, was a staple when she was growing up. (No, Liz does not come from a farm family. Her mother is a diplomat and her father builds military bases.)

skillet breakfast

I took her lead, and the result was marvelous. Potatoes in eggs?! I am a changed woman. I’ll level with you – the veggie selection was more spontaneous than planned, as we used whatever was in the fridge. You can add just about any greens, reds, or what-have-yous to the skillet, just don’t forget the potatoes.

farmers breakfast

I understand that Farmer’s Breakfast is usually more of a scramble, but baking and serving it in slices made it easy for a crowd.

baked egg recipe

Alas. Our dear cast iron skillet has reclaimed its rightful place under the coffee table, where it will likely remain until the next time we feed a substantial group, or, at least until a curious drunk discovers it at another party.

the pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • 10 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Olive oil
  • 10 small red potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375oF.
2. Whisk eggs and milk together. Set aside.
3. In a large oven safe skillet, heat butter and some olive oil.
4. Add potatoes, onions, paprika, garlic salt, salt, and pepper and sauté until browned and a little crispy.
5. Sprinkle remaining vegetables and half the cheese on top.
6. Pour eggs over everything, distributing evenly.
7. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and grind a bit of black pepper over the top.
8. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and serve warm.

Swiss Chard Mélange + VT Life Lessons

swiss chard melange

Spring Break is usually a week of reckless behavior and liver abuse at the beach/in a pool/atop a roof, wearing no more than a bikini and, maybe, a crop top. That is, unless you’re me.

I spent my break in tropical Burlington, VT.  And yes, this was by choice. I figured that I might not be sticking around New England for much longer, so I took some time to check out a town that’s been on my to-do list for some time now.

I didn’t exactly return home with a sunburn or a damaged liver, but I did bring back some important life lessons:

1. Everything tastes better with maple, especially lattes. The Chubby Muffin is a cute little café serving up sweet and savory pastries and strong coffee. I tried mine with maple syrup instead of sugar and boy, was I impressed. Later, at Muddy Waters, a café that feels more like a forest bungalow, I indulged in the Maple Latte. Maple syrup is steamed with the milk and then added to bold espresso for a mug of sweet, sweet perfection.

2. The world’s smartest (and dumbest) people work at Ben & Jerry’s. It wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a visit to the Ben & Jerry’s factory. We took a tour with other likeminded sweet tooths (mostly under the age of ten) and saw behind the scenes. While looking down over the factory, we witnessed a huge spill that resulted in what looked like gallons of cream covering the entire factory floor. This was easily forgotten  with the help of the banana & cinnamon ice cream with chocolate chunks and caramel swirl that we sampled at the tour’s end. I’d like to hug the genius who came up with this combo.

ben and jerrys factory  secret ben and jerrys flavorben and jerrys

3. Beer is awesome. Okay, I already knew that, but Vermont beer is really awesome. I tried Switchback at Radio Bean, a funky venue/bar where I witnessed a 16-person band lie on the floor mid-performance. We also visited the Magic Hat brewery, where I sampled the Belgo Sutra, a dark Belgian Quad brewed with figs and dates. Yes, I said figs and dates.

magic hatradio bean

4. Cheddar should only be consumed after two years of aging. Shelburne Farms is a popular Burlington destination during the warmer months. Though it’s not open to the public at the moment, I did get to chat with a Shelburne cheese maker, who was slicing samples inside Burlington’s food co-op. I took home a hunk of 2 year aged cheddar that has changed me forever.

5. Swiss chard needs to become a staple in my diet. I’ve always been on Team Kale, but I couldn’t pass up the local Swiss Chard on sale at the co-op. And, just like that, I’ve officially converted to the dark (and leafy green) side. I whipped up the below recipe with my Burlington souvenir. It was the perfect healthy meal after a weekend of beer and Lake Champlain Chocolate.

sauteed swiss chard

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups sliced/torn Swiss chard
  • 1 thick cross section of a large yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken sausage, sliced (Trader Joe’s does it best)
  • ½ cup yellow quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • White vinegar
  • Black pepper

1. Place quinoa and one cup of water in a small pot over medium heat. Simmer until all the water has absorbed, about 15 minutes.
2. Boil some water in another pot.
3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until just beginning to brown. Add sausage and cook until crispy on the edges. Add chard and sauté for about two minutes, until greens are soft and wilted.
4. Turn heat off and add quinoa to skillet, folding to combine.
5. Add a bit of vinegar to the pot of boiling water and poach each egg individually.
6. Serve in a bowl, topped with poached egg and freshly ground black pepper.

Turkey Quinoa Burgers

turkey burger recipe

I really don’t have much of a story to share about these burgers, other than that I made them and they were really friggin’ good.

My favorite form of procrastination is browsing food blogs for culinary inspiration. The other day I stumbled upon a recipe that looked a little something like this one, only a lot less awesome. It was actually a pretty weird recipe, but I liked the idea of putting quinoa in turkey burgers, so I ran with that.

quinoa fritters

The result was these really flavorful and juicy burgers. With garlic, scallions, sesame oil, and red pepper, there’s no dearth of flavor here. The quinoa makes for a nice crunch on the outside, and a moist inside. Egg, quinoa, and lean turkey make this a protein packed meal, especially if you opt for low fat turkey white meat.

pantry raid

Like I said, not much to say here, other than that you should hurry up and give this recipe a try. You’ll never go back to plain old turkey burgers again.

Ingredients (makes 4 medium-size burgers)

  • ½ cup uncooked white quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ pound ground turkey white meat
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 scallions
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons Canola or grape seed oil
  • 4 slices of your favorite cheese (optional)

1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and cook until all the water is absorbed.
2. While quinoa is cooking, slice scallions and finely chop garlic.
3. Once quinoa is cooked, let cool for five minutes. Then combine quinoa, turkey, garlic, scallions, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. It’s easiest to do this using your hands.
4. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Using your hands, create 4 3-inch patties and set aside on tinfoil.
5. In a cast iron or other sturdy skillet, heat canola or grape seed oil until very hot.
6. Cook two burgers at a time, flipping after about four minutes.
7. If desired, add cheese when burgers are almost finished. Cover pan until cheese is melted.
8. Serve on toasted bread with your favorite toppings or plain, alongside a salad.

sienna mintz

This is Blue Apron

blue apron

Last week, I did something pretty cool. Instead of experimenting with my own recipes, I left the menu in the hands of my trusty friends at Blue Apron. Blue Apron is a service that drops a refrigerated box off at your house every week. Inside the box are all the perfectly proportioned ingredients you’ll need to make three outstanding meals.

meal delivery service

In other words, Blue Apron does all the legwork and lets your taste buds travel around the world in a week. What I mean is this: say you want to make homemade ramen. To do so, you’re going to have to track down hoisin sauce, white miso, and beef demi-glace, not to mention fresh ramen noodles. If you’ve ever been to an Asian supermarket, you know that miso paste rarely comes in a size smaller than your skull, so you’d better come up with some more miso enriched meals stat or risk wasting a bunch of the salty stuff. The same goes for just about any interesting ingredient you could imagine. Cooking great food isn’t tough, but keeping your palate guessing is. With Blue Apron, mixing it up is a cinch.

homemade ramen

My box arrived on Tuesday, with all the fixin’s for Beef Ramen, Mexican Mole, and Shrimp Etouffee along with recipe cards picturing step-by-step instructions for each. The result: three totally delicious meals that were 100% “pat-on-the-back” worthy.

Night 1: The ramen was spectacular. I’m a huge Asian noodle fan, and ramen is my go-to. However, I’ve always seen it as something I have to go out for. This recipe was packed with umami flavor. All the ingredients of my favorite slurpy bowls were there, and the noodles themselves were fresh and chewy. The steak was a nice substitute for the usual fatty pork, too. All in all, this was a soupy success.

best miso ramen

Night 2: Mole is something I never thought I’d actually make, much less order off of a menu. Chocolate and chicken just don’t seem like they were meant to be. But let me tell you, this mole sauce was really rich, in a delicious but not a dessert-y, way. The dark chocolate was mostly bitter, and added an element of depth to the sauce. The lime cilantro rice was a perfect partner, contributing a twist of sour flavor to balance out the bold main.

homemade mole recipe

Night 3: Shrimp Etouffee is going to be a new staple of mine. This sea-kissed stew tastes like New Orleans in all its glory. The Cajun seasoning gives the complex stew a bit of spice, and the fresh shrimp is infused with the flavors imparted by the zillions of chopped veggies in the pot. Yum.

cajun shrimp recipe

In other words, you should try Blue Apron. It’s perfect for kitchen-phobic people because it makes cooking super easy, and is also great for seasoned chefs looking to try something new. Each box is $60, and comes with three, two-person meals, although, to be honest, we had plenty of leftovers each night. Think of it as $10 a plate for six + gourmet meals that use only the freshest ingredients. Leaves a good taste in your mouth, doesn’t it?

Beef Ramen Noodle Soup

  • 9 ounces flank steak
  • 4 ounces choy sum
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 scallions
  • 2 ounces enoki mushrooms
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 3 tablespoons beef demi-glace
  • 3 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup hoisin sauce
  • 12 ounces fresh ramen noodles

1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a large pot of water to boiling on high. Finely chop the stems of the choy sum into small pieces, then roughly chop the leaves into large bite-sized pieces. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the white bottoms and green tops. Cut off and discard the root end of the enoki mushrooms.

2. Cook the flank steak: Season the flank steak with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Cook the steak 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until it reaches your desired degree of doneness. (Loosely cover the pot with aluminum foil to help the steak cook faster.) Transfer the steak to a plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. Let the steak rest for at least 5 minutes, loosely covering the plate with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3. Cook the aromatics: To the pot with the steak drippings, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat on medium until hot. Add the garlic, ginger and white parts of the scallions, and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly softened, stirring frequently. Add the choy sum and season with salt and pepper. Cook 1 to 3 minutes, or until the choy sum is slightly softened and wilted.

4. Add the seasonings: Increase the heat to high. Stir in the enoki mushrooms, beef demi-glace, miso paste, soy sauce and 4 cups of water. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer 4 to 5 minutes to develop the flavors.

5. Slice the flank steak: While the soup is boiling, find the lines of muscle (or the grain) of the cooked flank steak and thinly slice the beef against (perpendicular to) the grain. Add any steak juices from the cutting board into the soup. Transfer the sliced steak to a small bowl and toss with the hoisin sauce until well coated.

6. Cook the noodles and plate your dish: To the large pot of boiling water, add the fresh ramen noodles and cook 1 to 2 minutes, or until the noodles are tender, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly. Stir the cooked noodles into the soup and remove from heat. To plate your dish, divide the soup and noodles between 2 bowls and lay the coated flank steak on top. Garnish with the green parts of the scallions. Enjoy!

sienna mintzpantry raid

Mexican Chicken Mole

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 1 ounce dark chocolate
  • 1 shallot
  • ½ cup long grain white rice
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon mole spice blend (chili powder, smoked paprika, cinnamon, coriander & cumin)

1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic and shallot. Finely chop the chocolate. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the green tops and white bottoms. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; roughly chop the leaves. Peel the lime, avoiding the white pith; mince the peel to make 2 teaspoons of zest. Cut the lime into quarters.

2. Cook the rice: In a small pot, combine the rice, 1 cup of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the finished rice with a fork and stir in the lime zest, juice of 2 lime wedges, half the cilantro and all but a pinch of the green parts of the scallions (reserve the rest for garnish); season with salt and pepper. Leave uncovered and set aside.

3. Cook the chicken: While the rice cooks, season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the chicken and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. (Loosely cover the pot with aluminum foil to help the chicken cook faster.) Transfer the chicken to a plate, leaving any drippings in the pot. Loosely cover the plate with aluminum foil to keep warm.

4. Start the mole sauce: To the pot with the chicken drippings, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat on medium until hot. Add the garlic, shallot and white parts of the scallions and cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until caramelized, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently.

5. Finish the mole sauce: Stir the raisins, chopped chocolate, Mole spice blend and 1½ cups of water into the mole sauce and season with a little salt. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced in volume and the flavors have melded. Add the cooked chicken, including any juices on the plate, and the remaining cilantro. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until thoroughly combined and the chicken is heated through.

6. Plate your dish: Divide the rice and chicken between 2 plates. Top the chicken with the mole sauce. Garnish with the remaining lime wedges and green parts of the scallions. Enjoy!

easy mole recipe

New Orleans-Style Shrimp Etoufee

  • 10 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • ¾ cup jasmine rice
  • 2 ½ tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning (salt, paprika, garlic, onion, cayenne & black pepper)

1. Prepare the ingredients: Wash and dry the fresh produce. Remove the shrimp from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature. Peel and mince the garlic. Thinly slice the scallions on angle, separating the white bottoms and green tops. Pick the parsley leaves off the stems; roughly chop the leaves. Remove and discard the stem, seeds and ribs of the bell pepper; medium dice the bell pepper. Halve the celery stalk lengthwise, then small dice. Peel and small dice the onion.

2. Cook the rice: In a small pot, combine the rice, 1½ cups of water and a big pinch of salt. Heat to boiling on high, then cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff the finished rice with a fork.

3. Make the roux: While the rice is cooking, in a medium pot, melt the butter on medium-high. Once the butter is completely melted, stir in the flour and mix until well-combined. Cook the roux 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring constantly.

4. Cook the vegetables: Add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper and white parts of the scallions to the roux; cook 2 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the shrimp: To the pot of vegetables, add the tomatoes, bay leaves, and as much of the Cajun seasoning as you’d like depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Season with a little salt and pepper and add 1½ cups of water; cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and add to stew. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove from heat and stir in half of the parsley.

6. Plate your dish: Divide the rice between 2 dishes and top with the shrimp stew. Garnish with the green parts of the scallions and remaining parsley.

shrimp etoufeetomato shrimp

White Bean & Bacon Salad

white bean bacon salad

Well, here we are in the dead of winter. Nothing to do but hole up at coffee shops and watch Netflix in bed, right? Wrong. As much as I really need to finish watching Orange Is The New Black, I’ve got a serious case of cabin fever. This past weekend, I think it spread to my roommates, too.

In Boston, as I’m sure is the same everywhere during this polar vortex, any temperature above 20 degrees means it’s T-Shirt weather. Well, it was 40 on Saturday, which means it might as well have been summer vacation. And what’s everyone’s #1 summertime activity? No, not Slip-N-Slide. Grilling!

Our charcoal was waterlogged and frozen solid, so we were thankful when our charming corner store still had plenty of their summer supply left. For the record, by “charming” I mean filled with porno mags and paraphernalia…and, luckily, charcoal.

That night we huddled around the barbecue and grilled more bratwursts than we could eat. As fresh corn is hardly in season, we decided to concoct this here white bean and bacon salad as our side dish. It was one of those recipes that is less of a recipe and more of a bowl filled with a bunch of stuff that you hope tastes good.

bean salad

Well, it was amazing. The cannellini beans are crazy creamy, the homemade tomato sauce is smoky, the parsley and lemon lend a fresh flavor, and the bacon adds an always welcome dose of umami crunch. Yum.

fresh tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves about 10)

  • 2 16 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 8 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bacon strips
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • juice of ½ a lemon

1. In a small saucepan, bring tomatoes, thyme, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper to a simmer. Stir occasionally until fragrant.
2. Cook the bacon until crispy. Let cool on a paper towel lined plate.
3. Drain and rinse the beans. Place in a large serving bowl.
4. Crumble bacon into bowl and add tomato sauce, parsley, and lemon juice. Toss to combine. Add extra salt to taste.
5. Refrigerate if you prefer a chilled side or serve immediately.

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