6.23.15 Spicy Thai Kohlrabi Salad

Kohlrabi has never been my favorite vegetable. Okay, not even close. It’s more like my almost least favorite vegetable (sorry beets, you’re still the reigning champ there). It’s not that I dislike the taste or the texture of kohlrabi, it’s just that it’s so...blah. Me, I’d much rather be eating something bright and flavorful.

Of course, when one is participating in a CSA that, for some reason or other, seems to grow a lot of kohlrabi, one has to get over this dislike. It may be kohlrabi, but I still feel bad letting any of my beautiful CSA produce go to waste. Which is why I’ve had to become a bit creative in the kohlrabi department.

Case in point, our latest CSA box, which contained three (that’s right THREE) kohlrabi bulbs. Admittedly, they were on the smaller side, and also admittedly, they will probably be the last CSA kohlrabi until fall, but still. That’s a lot of kohlrabi. Fortunately, I had a plan. Since I’ve always felt that kohlrabi was a bit lacking in the flavor department, I usually try to prepare it in some way that adds a big hit of flavor. I tend to do things like pickle it, ferment it into kimchi, or in this case, make it into a spicy, flavor-packed salad.

Inspired by Thai green papaya salad, I shredded the kohlrabi, mixed it with fresh herbs, chiles, and shallot, then tossed it with an ultra-flavorful fish sauce and lime dressing. Topped with some crunchy peanuts, this salad makes kohlrabi - dare I say - delicious. Mission accomplished.

Spicy Thai Kohlrabi Salad

serves 2-3

If you have a food processor with a shredding attachment, now is the time to use it. You’ll be able to shred even the most daunting amount of kohlrabi in seconds.

  • ½ lb kohlrabi, shredded or finely julienned
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Thai basil
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 medium shallot, very thinly sliced
  • 1 red chile (or more to taste), very thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. In a large bowl, combine the shredded kohlrabi, mint, Thai basil, cilantro, shallot, and chile.

2. In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, ginger and garlic until well combined. Pour over the kohlrabi mixture, and toss to mix well.

3. Mix in ⅔ of the peanuts, then transfer salad and any juices in the bottom of the bowl to a serving plate. Top salad with remaining ⅓ of the peanuts and serve immediately.

6.19.15 Grilled Summer Squash Tacos with Avocado Salsa

A few days ago, I figured it was high time for some grilling to happen. And what better to grill, I thought, than some delicious taco fixings. We’d just gotten our first CSA share of the season and included in that box were some particularly tasty looking summer squash and scallions. When I saw those, I immediately began formulating a plan for these delicious grilled vegetable tacos.

When I told Forrest we were having tacos for dinner, he immediately got really excited. He loves tacos (but really, who doesn’t). When he finally got around to asking what kind of tacos and I explained that they were, in fact, going to be vegetable tacos, he immediately got way less excited about taco night. Forrest does not normally approve of vegetables of any kind in his tacos, and to have a taco that was (god forbid) all vegetables was a bit more than he could handle.

But, I explained to him, these weren’t going to be any old boring vegetable tacos; they were going to be spectacular. I marinated the summer squash, scallions, and some poblano peppers in a spicy chipotle marinade, grilled them to charred, smokey perfection, and threw them on some grill-warmed tortillas with a generous pile of chunky avocado salsa, crumbly queso fresco, and farmer’s market cilantro. Forrest, being the good sport that he is, begrudgingly gave the tacos a try and was pleasantly surprised. In fact, he ate his fair share of them. Making a convert out of a previous veggie hater and getting to enjoy some delicious tacos? I call that a win.

Grilled Summer Squash Tacos with Avocado Salsa

serves 2-3

vegetables:

  • ¼ cup (loose-packed) cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotle chiles (the canned kind in adobo sauce)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 small summer squash, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 large scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces

salsa and assembly:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small tomato (or a handful of cherry tomatoes) roughly chopped
  • 1 fresno chile, finely chopped (seeded if less heat desired)
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ Tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • corn or flour tortillas
  • crumbled queso fresco, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges for serving

1. Start by making the marinade for the vegetables. Combine the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, chipotle chiles, and soy sauce in a blender and puree until smooth.

2. Pour marinade into a large zip-lock bag and add the chopped squash, peppers, and scallions. Press excess air out of bag, seal, and shake to coat veggies evenly with the marinade. Let vegetables marinate at room temperature while you heat your grill to medium high heat (about 20-25 minutes).

3. While vegetables marinate, make your salsa by combining the avocado, tomato, chile, lime juice, chopped shallot, and salt in a bowl and mixing well.

4. When grill is hot, skewer the vegetables on metal or wooden skewers (if using wood, make sure to soak in water first so they don’t catch fire) so they can be easily cooked on the grill. You can reserve any excess marinade to use as a sauce on your tacos.

5. Place vegetable skewers on the grill and cook, turning periodically until veggies are tender and beginning to char, about 20 minutes.

6. Once vegetables are cooked, remove from grill, cool slightly, and remove from skewers. Place tortillas on the grill quickly to warm, flipping once.

7. Assemble tacos by placing some of the grilled vegetables on each tortilla. Top with avocado salsa, queso fresco, and fresh cilantro.

6.16.15 Strawberry, Balsamic, and Lemon Thyme Smash

I’ve always been a sucker for a good, summery cocktail. You know the kind I’m talking about - a deliciously drinkable libation, perfect for a leisurely summer afternoon spent lounging on the porch. Come summertime, that’s my jam. Usually. Of course, being pregnant kind of puts the whole cocktail thing on hold. But truth be told, I’ve found that it’s really not that big of a deal. I’ve just had to make slightly more creative, alcohol-free porch sippers.

This one in particular is a real standout. Obviously, when strawberries are in season, it’s hard not to make anything you put them in taste delicious. But I’ve found that this winning combination of sweet ripe strawberries, tart balsamic vinegar, and bright lemon thyme is particularly tasty, making for one perfect summer refresher. And being alcohol-free means there’s no inevitable hangover if you accidently have a few too many. Because with a drink this tasty, that’s a definite possibility.

Strawberry, Balsamic, and Lemon Thyme Smash

makes 1

If you’re not in the process of growing a tiny human and are looking for a slightly more potent beverage, a generous pour of vodka would make a good addition here.  

  • 4-5 medium strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 sprigs of lemon thyme (plus one more for garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp good quality aged balsamic vinegar
  • sparkling water (plain or lemon-flavored is best)
  • ice

1. Muddle the strawberries, lemon thyme, sugar, and balsamic vinegar in a large 16 oz glass (I like to use a wide-mouth pint mason jar), until strawberries are well smashed and releasing juices, about 1 minute.

2. Top glass off with sparking water, stirring to combine with the strawberry mixture (it may be a bit foamy at first, but foam will quickly subside). Add ice, garnish with a sprig of lemon thyme, and serve.

6.12.15 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

For what feels like forever, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the beginning of strawberry season. And now that it’s here, I don’t ever want it to end. This is the one time of year that these little red berries are at their prime. Sweet and summery and juicy - I can’t get enough of them. I don’t even want to tell you how many pints (okay, more like quarts) of berries I’ve procured at the market, only to find that they never even come close to making it back to my kitchen.

I’ve found that actually cooking with strawberries can be a challenge for this very reason. After all of the berry snacking that goes on, there’s usually almost nothing left over to work with. But every once in a while, I have enough berries that, even with my enormous propensity to eat them, like, immediately, there are a few left over to experiment with in the kitchen. It’s a good thing too, because otherwise, I never would have made these strawberry rhubarb crumb bars.

Strawberries and rhubarb are the perfect pair. One super sweet, one terrifically tart; they balance each other perfectly. When you put them both together, you end up with a wonderful, brilliantly red, sweet-and-sour combo. It’s perfect in many ways, but lately I’ve been enjoying it in bar form, sandwiched between sweet buttery layers of crumbly crust. Served straight up, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, this is my kind of summer dessert.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

makes about 12 bars

crumb crust:

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk

filling:

  • 1 ½ cups hulled and chopped strawberries
  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 9 baking pan (an 8 x 8 pan will work as well).

2. Start by making the crumb crust. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, and salt until well combined.

3. Cut the butter into small pieces, and use forks, a pastry cutter, or your hands to work the butter into the flour mixture until a grainy texture is achieved. Add the egg yolk, and mix until dough starts to come together in a big clump (dough will be crumbly).

4. For the filling, combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir together until evenly mixed.

5. Press half of the crust dough into the bottom of the pan, making sure it is covered evenly. Top bottom crust evenly with the fruit filling, then crumble the rest of the dough evenly over the top.

6. Bake bars until top is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 35-40 minutes. Cool bars slightly, cut into squares, and serve.

6.9.15 Spicy Grilled Chicken, Avocado, and Mango Salad

Last year, on a whim, I decided to plant lettuce in my garden. For reasons I can’t explain, I had always been under this impression that lettuce was hard to grow, that it took a lot of extra work to get nice, tender, healthy greens, and that it was probably easier to just buy my lettuce from the farmer’s market. Boy was I wrong.

I ended up planting an intriguing heirloom variety I bought from Seed Savers called crisp mint; a flavorful romaine-type variety. It doesn’t really taste like mint, but the bright green serrated leaves are reminiscent of mint, and the flavor of this particular lettuce is, as it’s name would imply, incredibly light and refreshing. I planted my seeds in a huge, oversized planter I have on the back patio and within a few days, my little lettuce seedlings had popped through the soil. With minimal effort on my part, it wasn’t long before I had a planter chock full of beautiful baby salad greens, ready for eating. After that, planting lettuce in my garden became a no-brainer.

It’s a beautiful thing being able to pop outside and pick your own homegrown lettuce whenever the mood for a salad strikes. Our salads have never been fresher and more flavorful, and goodness knows, we’ve been eating a lot of them. Like this one we enjoyed a few weeks ago - a hearty dinner salad full of spiced grilled chicken, creamy avocado (one of my recent cravings), tart-sweet mango, crunchy cucumber, spicy chiles, refreshing mint, and a tangy cumin-lime vinaigrette. It comes together quickly, and when served with a side of naan, makes for one tasty summer supper. Yes, we’re going to be eating a lot of salads this summer, and with this one under our belts, I think we’re off to a good start.

Spicy Grilled Chicken, Avocado, and Mango Salad

serves 2

chicken:

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chile powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 large chicken breast (approx ½ lb or slightly larger)

dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp honey
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp cumin seed (or sub an additional ¼ tsp ground cumin)
  • pinch of salt

salad and assembly:

  • 4 oz salad greens
  • 1 mango, peeled and cut into cubes
  • ½ avocado, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 fresno chile pepper, thinly sliced (seeds removed if less heat desired)
  • ½ medium shallot, thinly sliced

1. For the chicken, heat your grill to medium-high heat. Combine the cumin, coriander, chile powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Rub spice mixture evenly over the surface of the chicken breast. Grill chicken until outside is browned and crispy and chicken is cooked through (internal temp should be 160 degrees). Cool chicken for about 5 minutes, then chop into cubes.

2. For the dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar until completely combined. Season to taste with additional salt if desired.

3. In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with the dressing until greens are well coated. Divide greens evenly between two plates.

4. Top each salad with equal amounts of the grilled chicken, mango, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, mint, chile, and shallots. Serve immediately, preferably with a side of warm, buttered naan.

6.5.15 Salted Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are one of the best desserts out there. Compared to most baking projects, they’re pretty darn easy to make, and the results are supremely satisfying. Let’s be honest, few things are better than a warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven, especially when accompanied by a tall, cold glass of milk.

Yes, I’ve been slightly cookie obsessed for quite a while now. And while I love most types, from spice cookies to shortbread (really, for that matter, any cookie that doesn’t involve raisins), chocolate chip has always been my favorite. And with good reason. Truth be told, I’ve gotten so good at making chocolate chip cookies, I can make them in my sleep. I figured there was really no way that my old standby chocolate chip cookie recipe could get any better.

And then it did. Hard to believe, I know, but hear me out. While chocolate chips are indeed marvelous, when you replace them with big dark chocolate chunks, you end up with a cookie that just oozes chocolatey goodness. And while that’s good, adding a healthy pinch of flaky sea salt to the tops of your fresh-baked cookies makes them even tastier. It’s a whole new level of cookie awesomeness.

Salted Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

makes 2 dozen

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 5 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • flaky sea salt, such as Maldon

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl.  

3. In a larger bowl, mix the butter and both sugars together until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla and stir until combined.

4. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the dark chocolate chunks.

7. Form cookie dough into 1” balls and drop onto greased cookie sheets. You should end up with about 2 dozen cookies.

8. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown. As soon as cookies come out of the oven, sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of flaky sea salt. Cool cookies in pans for about 10 minutes before removing. Store any extra cookies (like you’ll have any) in an airtight container.

6.2.15 Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Pickled Greens

I’m happy to report that once again, our grill has survived the long winter months and is fully back in commission. Truth be told, now that it’s back in use, I’m finding it hard to want to cook anything not on the grill. I can think of worse problems. Also wonderful is the fact that after several weeks of first trimester nausea and lack of appetite, I’m finally back to craving real food again.

Which is why, last weekend, I decided to make these most delicious pork chops. I spend a lot of time around pork at my job, and when I get home from work,  I’m not always in the mood for more. But for some reason, last weekend a nice, juicy pork chop on the grill seemed like just the thing. I whipped up a super simple sweet and smokey spice rub, and after grilling our chops to dark golden grilled perfection, I knew I had made the right call.

But as tasty as those chops were, topping them with a big pile of spicy, tangy, pickled greens made them even more delicious. Forrest has never been one to truly enjoy eating a big pile of greens (unlike yours truly), but even he had to admit that once pickled with garlic and red chiles, they were pretty tasty. Served with a side of fluffy parmesan mashed potatoes, it was the perfect dinner.

Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Pickled Greens

serves 2 with extra greens

You’ll end up with some extra pickled greens, but they’re so tasty on sandwiches, atop rice bowls, or even just eaten straight up out of the jar that I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a use for them. The greens take some time to pickle and flavorize fully, so plan accordingly.

pickled greens:

  • 6 oz chopped fresh greens (such as kale, collard, turnip, or mustard greens)
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 large fresno chile, thinly sliced (seeded if less heat desired)
  • 1 ½ cup water
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

pork chops:

  • 2 bone-in pork chops, ½-¾ lb each
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper

1. Make the pickled greens: Combine the chopped greens, sliced garlic, and chiles and pack them into a heatproof jar (I recommend a wide-mouth quart size canning jar).

2. Combine the water, cider vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is just boiling and salt and sugar have dissolved completely, pour brine into jar over greens. Use a spoon to push greens down to ensure that they are completely covered by the brine. Cover jar and let sit at room temp until cool, about 2 hours. Place jar in refrigerator and let sit for at least 4 hours before serving.

3. For the pork chops: Blot the surface of the chops with paper towel to ensure that they are very dry. Combine the brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne in a small bowl, then rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of the chops.

4. Let the spice-coated chops sit while you heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium high heat. When grill is ready, cook the chops, flipping often, until surface is beginning to caramelize and interior temperature of the chops registers at 145 degrees.

5. Remove chops from grill, let rest for 3-5 minutes, then serve topped with the pickled greens.

5.27.15 Ginger Cardamom Lime Soda + Something Extra Special from Scratch

You may have noticed in the last few weeks that my blog posts have been a bit fewer and farther between. It’s not because I’ve forgotten about you, don’t worry. It’s because I’ve been working on a very special project.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been making something from scratch that’s taking a little longer than any of my usual recipes.  Actually, a lot longer. Like 9 months longer. That’s right, we’re having a baby!!!! Forrest and I couldn’t be more excited!!! Also slightly terrified, a little nauseous (well, at least one of us is), and craving cheese (but really, when don’t I crave cheese?). But mostly, very, very excited!

During the last several weeks, I’ve mostly been eating noodles, bread, cheese, and any combination of the above. It’s ironic because this is pretty much the same diet my super picky sister used to eat when we were growing up and I always used to make fun of her about it. I guess this is what I get. Since bread and cheese isn’t much of a recipe, I’m instead giving you this perfectly spicy, and not-too-sweet recipe for homemade ginger ale, of which I’ve been drinking a lot lately. Especially since it’s the only ale I’ll be getting until this baby is born in November.

Ginger Cardamom Lime Soda

makes about 2 cups concentrate

After drinking my fair share of ginger beer in lieu of the real stuff over the past couple of months, I can say that my biggest complaint about most ginger beers out there is that they’re way too sweet. I also like my soda to have a nice, gingery kick. With this recipe, I’ve managed to achieve both. If you prefer a sweeter soda, feel free to add more honey to sweeten things up.

  • ¾ cup peeled and roughly chopped ginger root
  • 8-10 green cardamom pods, crushed slightly
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup honey (or more to taste)
  • sparkling water

1. Place the ginger and ½ cup water in a food processor or blender and blend until ginger is very finely chopped.

2. Put the ginger mixture, crushed cardamom pods, and 1 ½ cups more water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes - liquid should be a dark brown.

3. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture steep for an additional 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl or measuring cup.

4. Return strained liquid to the saucepan, along with the honey and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

5. When ready to drink, pour as much of the ginger concentrate as you would like into a glass, add ice, and top off with sparkling water.