Saturday, April 19, 2014

lentils with kale, goat cheese, and walnuts


It's springtime in Alaska.  A wondrous time of year, full of piles of brown snow on the sides of the highways, potholes the size of craters ready to take a bite out of your car's undercarriage, and windshields full of rock chips from the copious amounts of gravel on road ways that have yet to be swept up and re-deposited for storage in anticipation of next year's snowfall.  Ah, a magical time of year indeed.
Springtime in Alaska is my least favorite time of the year.  Which is why I'm getting the hell out of Dodge to a sunny destination.



Until then, I will endure the final stages of winter with the rest of my neighbors who are anxiously awaiting that first flicker of green on the trees.  All the while knowing full well that Mother Nature's wicked sense of humor likely means at least one more dumping of snow before the end of May.

Sigh.

I've been keeping my Alaskan Springtime blues at bay by cooking up a storm in my kitchen!  Short ribs, pasta, spring salads, soups...anything to keep the dreary brown grass on my lawn out of sight and out of mind.  Summer can't come soon enough!

I devoured this lovely little lentil salad soon after I took these pictures.  Perfectly light and healthy, yet hearty enough to fill me up, this dish makes a great weeknight meal after a busy day at work.  Even better, the leftovers hold up well for lunch the next day.  Which is exactly what I did with them.




Lentils with Kale, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts

(Adapted from Laura Calder)

1 cup French green (du Puy) lentils
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme, or a pinch of dried
2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil
2 large shallots, diced (or one medium red onion, diced)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups kale, roughly chopped
splash of balsamic vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
scant 1 cup of walnuts
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place walnuts on a sheet tray and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and toasted.  Do not burn!  Once they cool, roughly chop into large pieces.

(2) Put the lentils in a saucepan with 1 1/3 cups of water, the bay leaf, and thyme sprig.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25-30 minutes.  If the liquid is not all absorbed, just drain off any excess.

(3) Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan or dutch oven.  Saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add the kale and cook until it has wilted a bit, about 2-4 minutes.  Add a little more olive oil if necessary to soften the kale.  Season with kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper.

(4) Deglaze the pan with a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar, and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooked lentils, taste and reseason with more salt and pepper, if necessary (I found mine needed quite a bit!  Lentils are pretty bland otherwise).  Add more balsamic vinegar if you like that sweet acidic roundness like I do.

(5)  Place the lentil mixture in a large serving dish, and top with the crumbled goat cheese and chopped walnuts.  Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you like (I enjoyed the way it made the final dish glisten a bit).  Serve warm.

Enjoy!
xo h

Monday, March 17, 2014

chilaquiles


There is no limit to my love of the food and flavors of Mexico.  My office is dangerously close to a delicious, local fresh-Mex joint, where I scarf down street tacos, quesadillas, and ceviche on a weekly basis.  And I use plenty of the salsas from the fresh salsa bar to get my "vegetables" for the meal, thank-you-very-much.  All the spicy, fragrant chiles, simmering sauces, creamy refried beans, fresh lime and cilantro...Mexican is my ultimate comfort food.  And while I luuuurrrrrve Mexican for lunch or dinner, my favorite time of day to enjoy Mexican food is at breakfast.  Why?  Because it includes eggs.
 
Eggs: the most perfect of all foods.
 
Also, it provides me an excuse to show off these beauties from my co-worker Ron's chickens- the hardest-working mother cluckers in the Valley.  A dozen gorgeous gems in a variety of colors.  Who needs an Easter Bunny when you've got eggs like these?!

 
I've discussed my love of Mexican breakfast before when I posted this recipe for huevos rancheros about a year ago, which you should TOTALLY try.  But this recipe for chilaquiles is equally killer, and I borrow the exact same technique for the eggs.  What does chilaquiles mean?  As a woman of Polish decent whose authority for authentic Mexican food stems from conversations with her administrative assistant, who is married to a native of Mexico, and her co-worker Sergio, who was born and raised in Mexico...I feel I better not hold myself out to be an expert.  However, the internets tell me its essentially a dish of tortilla chips and salsa.  I believe the eggs were added to cure hangovers, but better not quote me on that.  Let's just say that experience is the greatest educator of all.
 
I highly suggest you take the time to make my friend Heather's amazing chile verde recipe when you create this dish, which I've included below.  In a pinch, however, any authentic brand of bottled chile verde sauce (such as Herdez) works great too.

 
 
Chilaquiles

Serves 4

1 bag of your favorite tortilla chips
8 eggs
butter for pan
1-16 oz. can refried beans (whichever variety you like) 
prepared or homemade chile verde sauce (see Heather's phenomenal recipe below.  In a pinch, I use Herdez brand)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For topping the dish:

shredded cheddar cheese
crumbled cotija cheese
dollop of sour cream
chopped fresh cilantro


1. Add the refried beans to a small saucepan and place over medium heat, and add 2 tablespoons of water; cook until beans are warm and “spreadable.”  

2. Add the chile verde to another small saucepan and place over medium heat until warm and bubbly.  Turn the heat down to low and keep warm. 

3. In a small skillet, melt a little butter in the pan and crack two eggs into the skillet (you can crack them into a small bowl first and then slide them into the skillet if you're worried about breaking them). Let the eggs set untouched for about 30 seconds, then add 1-2 teaspoons of water to the pan. Cover the skillet with a lid and let the eggs sizzle and steam for 2 minutes, or long enough for the yellow to slightly set but still leave a runny yolk. Sprinkle with kosher salt and a grind of fresh pepper.

4.  Place 10-12 tortilla chips in a separate bowl and add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of the chile verde sauce (depending on how saucy you like it- I like more, some like less).  Toss well, making sure that all of the chips are covered in sauce.

5.  Put a dollop of refried beans on the serving plate, then top with the saucy chips.  Slide the eggs on top of the chips.  Top with the cheeses, sour cream, and cilantro. Serve immediately!


 
Heather's Homemade Chile Verde

(This makes more than you need for the recipe, but leftovers make THE BEST salsa!!)

2 pounds tomatillos, husked and washed
3 poblano peppers, halved and seeded
2 jalapenos, halved and seeded
1 clove of garlic
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
 
(1) Preheat broil to high with rack 6-8 inches below.  Line rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Toss tomatillos and peppers with oil.  Spread on baking sheet, peppers skin side up.  Broil 4-6 minutes, checking every 60 seconds.  Peppers and tomatillos should be blackened and beginning to soften. 

(2) Place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest for 10 minutes. When cooled, peel skin from peppers. 

(3) Place blackened tomatillos, peppers, cilantro, sugar, water and garlic in bowl of food processor. Pulse several times, then process until desired consistency is reached.  (I like it slightly chunky.)

Enjoy!
xo H