Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Penguin Olive Dirty Martini

Happy Holidays.
I'll keep this short and sweet. It's only fitting that I end the year with a vegetable-centric festive cocktail—and a stiff one at that. After seeing a segment featuring this Penguin Olive Dirty Martini on the Today Show this morning, I knew I had to make it, despite the fact that it was only 11am. (I only had a few sips, but I did eat the turnip— probably the only person in the history of imbibing to do so. The penguin is fully edible, but it was just too cute; I couldn't bear to consume it.) Whether you're celebrating in Antartic temperatures or mild humid rain (hello, New York), here's something to keep you warm, at least on the inside, during our traditionally chilly holiday season.

Seriously, how adorable are these little guys?! They're just straight chillin' (that was so bad, but I couldn't resist.) This will be my last post in 2014; I'll see you again in the New Year. What do you have in store come January 1st? I am moving, and finally achieving my dream of an island kitchen! I think 2015 is going to be a good year :)


Penguin Olive Dirty Martini (from Jeanne Benedict)

For the dirty martini:
3 oz. vodka

1/2 oz. dry vermouth
Splash Martini green olive brine

For the penguin olives:
Small and jumbo black olives

1 – 2 large carrots, peeled

Cocktail onions

Sliced turnip, peeled, brushed with lemon juice

Rosemary stems


1. Make the martini: Add vodka, vermouth, and olive brine into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass.
2. Make the penguin olives: cut a slit into the side of pitted jumbo olive and stuff with a small cocktail onion. (It may be necessary to pull a layer off the onion so it fits snugly inside the olive.)
3. Place a pitted small olive on its side on top of the body for the penguin’s head. Stick a toothpick down into the head and through the body to keep him together.
4. Slice a peeled carrot into ¼-inch thick rounds and cut a wedge out of the rounds for the penguin’s feet. Place the penguin body on the feet and push the toothpick down to keep it all together.
5. Cut carrot slivers for his beak. Insert the beak into the X on the olive head, (as opposed to the wider hole in the olive).
6. Insert penguin and rosemary into turnip slice. Place penguin olives in empty martini glasses and fill with Martini.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Smoked Trout Salad Sandwich

Smoked fish is my chicken soup for the [hungry] soul. Sheepishly i'll admit to taking detours in Fairway just to gaze at the corner lox and sable display, and I firmly believe that any problem can be temporarily solved in three steps: Brining some fish, dousing it in mayo, and slathering it on a bagel along with sliced tomato and onion. Upon receiving said problem-solver with contentment I will purr, my heartstrings thoroughly warmed via my belly. Then, I will bloat like a blowfish.

Because, #WhatJewEating? That would be fat, salt, salt, salt, and salt. But isn't the fish healthy? On it's own, absolutely. But shrouded in sodium, mayonnaise, and sour cream? Not so much. Usually, I happily accept this nutritious-naught fate as I dive into my open bagel sandwich topped with a meticulous crafted mosaic of egg, tuna, white fish, and salmon salad. I mean, as a high holy day Jew,  I'm only blessed with a Zabar's spread a few times a year—one must take advantage! But sometimes on days that aren't Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, like yesterday, I want to nourish my old Jewish soul, my truest comfort place. Ergo, I want me some smoked fish. Leave the bloat on the side?

Call me Rosie the Riverter, because we can do it! My pupils transfigured into hearts when I discovered canned smoked trout in canola oil at Trader Joe's (woot woot Omega-3's) for a budget-friendly $3.29 each. Using plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and reduced-fat sour cream instead of mayo, ample herbs to season, and fresh horseradish and lemon juice for bite and tang, I succeeded in making a pretty healthful—and certainly delicious—version of my beloved bagel topper. Then, I took it a step further and forfeited the bagel for whole wheat sourdough, adding as many cucumber and tomato slices atop my open-faced creation as I could. And guess what? It hit the spot. I felt heartened yet healthy; soothed yet svelte. I had finally married Jewish food and nutrition—a union I had deemed incapable of fruition long long ago.

You can substitute any canned fish in this salad that you wish. Though trout is my personal favorite, I imagine canned salmon would work very well here too. Whole grain rye and pumpernickel make great bread alternatives. Serve with a quick salad of arugula tossed with lemon juice and olive oil, or red pepper slices and carrot sticks.

Smoked Trout Salad Sandwich
Makes 1 Sandwich

1 3.0 oz can smoked trout in canola oil
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp freshly grated horseradish
2 tbsp plain nonfat Greek yogurt or canola oil/reduced fat mayo
2 tbsp light sour cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 pieces hearty whole-grain bread, such as sourdough, rye or pumpernickel
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 small tomato, thinly sliced

Drain trout to remove excess oil. Transfer trout to a small bowl, mash with a fork to break up fillets. Add rest of ingredients, mix thoroughly. Toast bread and serve sandwiches open-faced style, piled high with tomato and cucumber slices.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish

I love squash with a fervent ardor. If you see a girl at the Greenmarket trying to transport a giant gourd under each arm muttering to herself that it's really time to switch from 3 lb weights to 5 lb weights at the gym—but grinning like an idiot as she ungracefully continues the struggle—it's probably me. Hey, it's a labor of love! Because once I finally lug those child-sized cucurbitas home, that's when the real work begins. Peeling, seeding, chopping, and roasting for a minimum of 40 minutes—many times over an hour—until it's finally ready to eat. No Whole Foods, I will not give in and by your overpriced, pre-cut, time-saving containers—I treasure those extra three dollars, thank you very much.

Like any regular vegetable zealot weirdo, I have OCD tendencies about the preparation of my squash. Butternut gets cubed and roasted, often added to a chunky minestrone or pureed for a soup of it's own. Acorn is sliced into wedges, drizzled generously with maple syrup and eaten just so as a snack or side. Spaghetti squash is the go-to pasta substitute, heaped under a thick tomato sauce or winter stew.

But then I discovered a game-changer: delicata squash, featured in this Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish recipe.  Similar in size to a kirby cucumber, these guys can easily be bought by the half-dozen without undertaking an accidental arm work out.  Furthermore, they don't need to be peeled—or even roasted! In this recipe, the delicata are cut in half-inch rounds and pan-sautéed for a total of 4 minutes. Unstrenuous squash: who knew!

Because delicata is cylinder-shaped, it sliced into rounds, which transforms into rings after the seeds are scooped out. The shape is super fun, like onion rings or dried apple rings or gummy rings, and make for quite the artistic presentation too: while the recipe is deceivingly simple, the presentation is artistically beautiful; echoing the flavors' sophistication.

Grounding the dish are the squash rings; earthy and heat-kissed, perfectly bronzed and blistered. Lime zest and juice add an unexpected but welcomed tang, while the cider-based relish is juicy and thick; dissolving like candy on the tip of your tongue. This side will standout anywhere, so consider a delicata debut on Thursday's Thanksgiving table!

Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish (By TheWimpyVegetarian)
Serves 4

Crispy Delicata Rings:
  • 2 delicata squash
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 lime
1. Slice the ends off of the squash. Slice into ½" rings and remove the seeds with a spoon. Reserve the seeds for another use or roast them with some cayenne pepper, salt, and cumin and sprinkle over the finished dish.
2. Lightly salt the squash and let sit for 30 minutes. Completely dry off with paper towels, removing the salt. Heat enough oil to coat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Lightly salt the squash rings with fresh salt and add them to the pan. They should sizzle the moment they hit the pan. Don't crowd them or they'll steam more than they'll brown. Sauté until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side).
3. Remove to a plate and add lime zest and juice (use grate and juice of ½ lime per each delicata).
4. Top with the Currant, Fennel and Apple Relish and serve warm. Optional: add spiced roasted squash seeds or fennel fronds.

Currant, Fennel and Apple Relish:
  • ½ cup dried currants (can substitute raisins)
  • ½ crisp apple, peeled, seeded, finely diced (e.g. Pink Lady)
  • 1 fennel bulb, outer layer removed, finely diced
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados (can substitute regular brandy)
1. Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over medium low heat until the cider is reduced by half. Strain and sprinkle over the Crispy Delicata Rings.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction

The original title of this dish is actually Hunter's-Style Chicken. The "hunter" refers to the stew's semblance to chicken cacciatore; both share a commonality of braised chicken, tomatoes, herbs, and wine. But here's the thing. To me, a hunter's stew sounds like a combination of all things meager and scarce: the scrappy, peasanty fruits of a disappointing bow-and-arrow labor in the woods.  (Maybe I'm just picturing myself out there.) Is there deer? Quail? Regarding the mushrooms....wouldn't a more appropriate name be Forager's-Style Chicken? At any rate, the title of the stew wasn't doing it for me, so I renamed it Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction. Because this stew is like Iggy Azalea. It's fancy. 
The "culinary equivalent of a big chunky sweater," this chicken stew is sumptuous and soul-warming, hearty to the core. It begs to be eaten in the depths of winter (or next week, if you've been keeping track of this bomb cyclone business) alongside a cozily-light fireplace and glass of full-bodied wine in hand. How convenient—you'll have an open, almost-full bottle of vino after step 5!
Rich healthy food seems like an oxymoron; indeed, upon seeing a recipe for mushroom-wine sauce my eye immediately scanned for the butter, cream, and fatty red meat to follow.  In this stew, however, full-flavored ingredients define the richness—heaviness is nowhere to be found. Earthy, buttery porcini and crimini mushrooms reach a truffle-like caliber, while the fruity, aromatic red wine adds its own cornucopia of fragrance and frill.  Fresh holiday herbs like thyme and savory give feasting character, and quality tomatoes (try for fresh Campari, canned San Marzano, or both) complete the base of the robust stew. The original recipe called for skin-on chicken parts of meat both light and dark, but the sauce is so wonderfully decadent on its own that you can absolutely stick with boneless, skinless chicken breast and be fine.  It also suggested layering the stew over creamy Parmesan polenta, but in keeping with my rich-yet-healthy theme, I served mine on top of brown basmati rice with a side of steamed broccoli.
My alternate title for this post was "Lazy Hunter's-Style Chicken," because I took a few shortcuts.  After simmering on the stovetop, the stew is supposed to be transferred to the oven and baked for an hour, but my pan wouldn't fit in my tiny apartment oven. So on the stovetop we stayed, with a perfunctorily thickened sauce. (If you can, I would try to bake it—I bet the consistency would be out of this world.) I already mentioned that I substituted chicken breasts for darker skin-on pieces; but when cooked correctly, the latter is fall-off-the-bone tender: it's up to you which parts to use.
Double Mushroom Chicken with Red Wine Reduction (adapted from Food52)
Serves 5-6

5 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts or 1 3 to 3 ½ lb. chicken, quartered (or an equivalent amount of skin-on parts of your choice)
Kosher or sea salt
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
extra-virgin olive oil
¾ pound crimini mushrooms
2 ounces sweet vermouth
1 ½ cups chopped white or yellow onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
3 cups chopped ripe Campari tomatoes or canned peeled San Marzano tomatoes; drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
a pinch of red chile flakes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (such as fresh thyme, savory, and flat-leaf parsley)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.* Arrange the chicken pieces on a plate and pat dry. Season well with salt and set aside.
2. Cover the porcini mushrooms with 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for a few minutes until the mushrooms are soft. Remove the mushrooms, finely chop and set aside. Reserve the mushroom soaking liquid, and set aside as well.
3. Warm 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat.  Brown the chicken parts in batches, skin-side down, until all chicken is browned and crisp-skinned. (If using boneless skinless chicken breasts, cook each side until they begin to bronze.) Remove the browned chicken pieces to a plate and set aside. Pour off all but a thin layer of the rendered fat (if present).
4. Trim and quarter the crimini mushrooms and add to the pan. Cook until browned on all sides, then add the chopped porcini and the red vermouth, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
5. Add the chopped onions to the pan with a sprinkle of salt, adding a little more oil if necessary, and cook until soft and opaque. Add the carrot and toss through, then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chile flakes, wine, and reserved mushroom liquid, stirring well and bringing to a simmer.
Toss the chopped herbs with the mushrooms and return to the pot, stirring through. Nestle the chicken pieces on top, being sure to add any of the juices that have accumulated. 
6. Cook until chicken is tender and red wine reduced on stovetop or in oven: 
FOR STOVETOP: Simmer pot for 15 minutes covered and 15 minutes uncovered, turning chicken once, until chicken is cooked through and sauce slightly reduced.
FOR OVEN: Cover the pot with a parchment lid, and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for at least one hour, preferably more, until the chicken is falling-apart tender and the sauce thick and reduced. 
7. Add salt to taste. Serve over grain of your choice with a sprinkle of chopped flat leaf parsley or thyme sprig on top.

*Only complete this step if you plan on baking the stew. If keeping on stovetop, skip.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola

Because it's decorative gourd season, motherf*ckers, I set out last weekend to plan a fall-themed Saturday up there with the best of them. Last year was apple picking and baking Perfect Pumpkin Apple Bread; this year, hiking and Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola. In retrospect, I totally should've reversed the order of my activities, because the granola would've been a great snack mid-hike!

A few photos from the hike...

Am I the only person who never realized how easy it is to make your own granola, or has Minimalist Baker just triumphed again? This recipe is SO easy! Mix together wet and dry components, combine, bake for 30 minutes. Done. Chock-full of whole, protein-packed ingredients, natural sugars, healthy oils, and fiber-packed pumpkin, this granola is unalloyed pure; a testament to the benefits of whole eating. Choose this toothsome snack for a real energy boost—whether it be to start your day or a mid-afternoon snack—where excessive sugar, unhealthy oils, and processed ingredients won't pull you down.

I chose this recipe because its pumpkin-thrice: real pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds accompany the pumpkin pie spice. So many "pumpkin" recipes just call for the latter ingredient—that kind of feels like cheating, doesn't it? So in addition to the cozy, mellifluous fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and allspice (the combination of which defines pumpkin spice, FYI); the granola is fragrantly coated in a warm mixture of pure pumpkin, maple syrup, and coconut oil too. Seriously falltastic. I'm going to be honest, the taste of chunky pureed pumpkin isn't overwhelming (you kind of have to search for it, in fact....) but the granola's excellently spiced nature will wholly satisfy that pumpkin craving; a total trump over any pumpkin spice latte for sure.

This granola is truly fantastic. The crunchiness of the golden roasted oats, pepitas, and pecans against the sweet, juicy raisins—coated in an autumn blanket of maple and spice—is simply delicious.  When baking in the oven, it smells like a pumpkin pie, spiced apple cider, and pumpkin bread all rolled into one. Despite earning the healthy stamp for its wholesome ingredients and low(er) sugar content, the nature of granola is still extremely caloric: this one runs about 125 calories per 1/4 cup. To avoid eating it all by the handful in one sitting (albeit insanely tempting), try sprinkling it into less calorie-dense mediums like milk and bananas or low-fat yogurt to stay full without packing too many cals.

Amendments to the original recipe: I lessened the 3 tbsp of sugar to 1 tbsp; next time I will omit it all together as the maple syrup is plenty sweet, added in raisins (dried cherries would be a great alt), and doubled up on the cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. I think I'll try adding cooked quinoa in the future too: more crunch, more protein, why not?

Another reason as to why you should make this your annual pumpkin cooking project? It lasts. Unlike pies, breads and spiced ciders which feed a crowd in a single sitting (and thereafter are extremely difficult to keep around), this granola can sit airtight for weeks; an intermittent breakfast or snack ready for you to reap this freaky-as*ed (McSweeney again) harvest whenever you please.

Pumpkin Maple Pecan Granola (adapted from Minimalist Baker)
Makes about 5 cups

3 cups rolled oats
1 ¼ cups raw pecans
⅓ cup raw pepitas
½ cup raisins or dried cherries
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
¼ tsp of sea salt
¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice (plus extra dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice)
¼ cup coconut or canola oil
⅓ cup maple syrup (can substitute agave nectar or honey)
⅓ cup pumpkin puree

1.    Preheat oven to 340 F.
2.    Mix the oats, nuts, seeds, raisins, spices, sugar (if using), and salt together in a large bowl.
3.    In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree and whisk. Pour the saucepan contents over the dry ingredients and quickly mix with a wooden spoon.
4.    Spread the mixture evenly onto two baking sheets* (or bake in two batches) and bake for 23-33 minutes, stirring a bit near the halfway point.
5.    Once the granola is golden brown (usually about 25 minutes), remove from oven and let cool completely. It will crisp up as it cools.
6.    Transfer to an airtight container, where it will keep for a couple weeks.

*This ensures the mixture is completely spread out in a single layer. The mixture does fit on one baking sheet, but it will be compact and not properly crisp if too crowded.