Vegetables that delight.

Tasty Plan Cooking School: Whole Grain Rice Basics

Rice is the backbone of Latin American food, or at least it is in Puerto Rico. I grew up with it, for lunch and dinner, with beans, with chicken, with bistec, and with with shrimp stew. There was nothing, not even the fried street food by the beach, that I associate more with my childhood, my mother, my grandmother, and my country than a good bowl of rice, with enough crispy edges at the bottom of the pan to devour after the meal was done: greasy, salty, crispy, delicious. I loved that stuff so much as a kid, that I made sure to teach all of my roommates in collage how to cook white rice, the right way; the way that would lead to a crispy edge, drenched in black beans, aromatic, hearty, and oh so Latin! Simple food, cooked to perfection, with a lot of love.

As I ventured into eating less meat, (which eventually led to me becoming a full on vegetarian, that neither judges nor tries to recruit!) rice transformed from existing in the background of a meal into a full frontal delicacy I could experiment with. With thrill, a little bit of nostalgia, and a lot of curiosity I recently ventured into experimenting with what is out what is out there in the world of whole grain rice varietals to discover an ingredient that is rich in history and tradition, I found a grain that delights!

 

For the second installment Tasty Plan Cooking School, I bring you the basics to perfectly cooking with Whole Grain Rice, and a simple trick that will change the way you cook rice for life.

I guess, I am old fashioned when it comes to cooking rice. I like to cook it in a pot with salt and oil, over a real fire. I have never cooked rice in a rice cooker, and don’t intend to ever go there. When my mother taught me to cook rice, we used short grain white rice. This varietal cooks in second (okay, okay, twenty minutes total). So when I started cooking with whole grain brown rice I was completely thrown off by the longer cooking times (who has 60 minutes on their hands anyway, right?). As an architectural student I did not have that kind of time at my disposal, and upon moving to New York and getting a real life, that time shrank even more. And while I cook every night, or at least try to, I steer clear of anything that takes more than 30 minutes, which would explain my lack of interest in time consuming, needy, whole grain rice divas! Hence the discovery of soaking!

Soaking grains, like soaking nuts and beans, makes cooking whole grain rice ten times easier and faster. With as little as three hours of soaking rice in water, cooking time shortens half fold.  You could soak for and hour, and up to eight, nine, or ten, the results are amazing. The longer it sits, the less water it needs to cook, the less time, the less effort. The more you soak your whole grain rice, the sooner you can have dinner ready, warm, steaming on a bowl with whatever it is that you like to eat rice with, whether it is soup, a stew, in a salad, or in a bowl with the season’s freshest ingredients. Tasty!

 

Pictured are three of the many whole grain rice varietals readily available in the market: brown basmati, red, and black rice. Each one is significantly different from the other, hence my selection to cook these particular ones.

Brown rice is fluffy and nutty. It puffs up as you cook it, for an easy bite, and a lot of flavor. It goes well with everything and a great substitute from white rice. I like how it selfishly absorbs flavor, no matter how ordinary or sublime. Red rice is earthy and almost sweet. It is very hearty, and stands out as a unique, extremely special varietal that we haven’t’ seen a lot of yet. I particularly like to cook it with hearty vegetables and bold flavors, such as this tomato stew. Black rice is the most decadent, richest, and unique of the three. While you can buy this at any gourmet store, you can get it for cheap in Chinatown. I particularly love this type of rice as a base for salads. Black rice is floral, and it is richer in antioxidants than blueberries, wine, and chocolate combined, a true delicacy, a super food in disguise.

I hope this simple recipe and unique rice varietals will get you in the kitchen, cooking real food, that is wholesome, delicious, and good for you!

 

Perfectly Cooked Whole Grain Rice

Serves 3-4, Cooking time about 30 minutes 

  • 1 cup whole grain rice (brown, red, or black)
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ¼ tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil

Place rice in a large water with 3 cups of purified water. Soak for three hours. Drain soaking water and rinse rice using a sieve. Transfer rice into a pot. Add 1 ¾ cup of water, and if you feel like experimenting a broth of choice (vegetable, mushroom, chicken, etc), salt, and oil. Over high heat bring water to a boil (about 6 minutes), reduce heat to medium-high, and continue cooking, uncovered until most of the water had been absorbed (about 15 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes depending on the varietal, brown rice taking the least, black taking the most amount of time.

Once rice is cooked, tender with a bite (no hard parts!), remove from heat and let rest for five minutes covered. When ready to serve, fluff with a fork and serve while still hot.

Enjoy!

 

   

Aromatic Avocado Rice Salad with Potatoes and Squash

If I had to pick, I would pick avocado. It is decadent. It is good for you. It is creamy. It is light. Nutty, grassy, versatile, distinct, delicate, and robust. I have come to think of it as the perfect food, in perfect harmony with itself, containing all the qualities that make it both delicious and nurturing, no matter the time of the day, month, or year. I haven’t gotten sick of it, and have been eating it all of my life. In smoothies, over toast, in salad, as soup, with chips, and my favorite, by itself, with a pinch of sea salt and the best of olive oils, avocado, I pick avocado!

 

Over the past week, I had been milling over avocado’s potential as a super versatile super food. I was trying to come up with a recipe that would both amplify avocado’s creamy qualities while retaining its flavor; a recipe that would be as balanced as avocado itself. Having Eventually, I stumbled across the idea of transforming avocado into a silky smooth crema (fancy word for cream) that would serve as a base to a decadent, rich summer salad. A thick dressing that was refreshing and textured.

And over the course of a walk through the market, I conceptualized this salad on a bright Saturday afternoon:

Hearty brown rice, coated with a thick, creamy, yet fresh, and light dressing, studded with lots of cilantro, crispy pan roasted miniature potatoes, and lots of summery zucchini. A perfectly balanced salad that could be served as a meal or a side dish, for lunch or dinner, in the park or at home. Bright and lively, yet smooth and decadent this recipe is just perfect, and utterly addictive.

I cant wait to make it again and eat it all!

Dreamy Avocado Crema

Makes about 1 cup 

  • ½ avocado
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • ½ inch knob of ginger, peeled
  • ¾ cup water, plus more if thinner consistency is desired
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • ½ tbsp. tahini
  • ½ tsp. salt, plus more to taste

Place all ingredients in blender. Puree at high speed until creamy and smooth. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.  Keeps for a day in the refrigerator, but starts to loose its vibrancy after a couple hours.

Aromatic Green Avocado Rice with Potatoes and Squash

Serves 4

Cook time 45 minutes, plus soaking time

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 cups baby potatoes , washed and halved
  • 1 zucchini,
  • 1 large handful cilantro, chopped
  • ½ cup Dreamy Avocado Crema

Place 1 cup rice in a large bowl with 4-5 cups of water. Soak for three hours. Drain and rinse rice under cold water. Place rice in a large pot with a cup and half of water and a substantial pinch of salt. Bring water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer until most of the water has been absorbed. Cover, and cook at low heat for 20 minutes. Rice will be ready when fluffy and soft, with a bite. Set aside.

While rice cooks, prepare the potatoes and zucchini. Place a cast iron skillet  over high heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat until it starts to smoke. Add washed and halved potatoes. Cook at high heat for 5-7 minutes. Potatoes should start to blister. Add zucchini that has been sliced into 1-inch pieces. Reduce heat to low and cover using foil paper. Cook for another 10 minutes. Both potatoes and zucchini should be tender and fully cooked.

To assemble salad, place rice, half a cup of avocado crema, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Stir until evenly distributed. Add potatoes and zucchini. Taste for seasoning, and adjust. Stir until just incorporated. Serve immediately.

 

 

Oh, Sweet Cherry Pie!

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A love letter to cherry pie

Sweet, sweet cherry pie,

Oh so succulent, oh so sublime, if only I had met you earlier, life would be different. Like the first time I tasted a fresh cherry, hand picked, freshly bought from a market, ripe as a mid-summer sun rise, I have fallen for you too! Juicy and bursting with flavor, small and cute, but also dark and mysterious.

I remember pitting each cherry, one by one, pit by pit, fingers red, mouth sweet. I remember baking you, the caramel aroma infusing the hot kitchen air. I remember the sound the wine made as it poured through sugar and into a bunch of cherries. So familiar, so sublime, full of delight!

Now only but a memory, you sweet cherry pie, were the tastiest pie I have ever had. Your crust, full of oats, and brown sugar, baked to perfection, hearty and sweet. The perfect pair to a cherry packed, wine drunk, tangy-sweet filling. Oozing with the richest, darkest, most vibrant juices, oh cherry pie, I ate you over a kitchen counter surrounded by old friends and new, after a day of sun and sand. Until we meet again.

Kisses,

Tasty Plan

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Oat Crumble Crust

Adapted from here

  • 3/4 cup gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons quinoa flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold coconut oil

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until crust batter resembles wet sand. Transfer onto pie plate. Press crust batter thin to coat the bottom and sides of the plate. Place in freezer for fifteen minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place hardened crust in oven for  20 minutes. Remove and add filling.

Sweet Cherry Pie Filling

Adapted from here

  • 5 cups pitted cherries (about 1 ½ pounds fresh cherries)
  • ½ cup organic sugar
  • ¼ cup red wine, preferable a fruity one like Pinot Noir
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp. corn starch 

To make filling, start by pitting 5 cups of cherries, about a pound and a half of cherries. Place in a cowl with sugar, red wine, vanilla extract and corn start. Stir until evenly distributed. When crust comes out of the oven, add filling to the pie dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool completely. 

To serve scoop into bowls, by itself, with ice cream, or whipped cream!

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Corn Summer Soup, with Saffron and Turmeric

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I had purchased yellow squash and was longing for a summer soup when the idea for this recipe washed over me like a dream, just as I fell asleep. Years of sleep deprivation as an architecture student taught me that late night “ideas”, as clear and sublime as they might appear at 4 am, are 60 percent delusional, 35 percent nonsensical, and 5 percent pure magic. This time the numbers seem to have reversed. Perhaps wine really does enlighten the mind, or maybe I’m finally sleeping normal hours. The idea felt so real I could taste it; hot, steamy, and aromatic, bright as as sunny summer day. It would be golden in hue, as if kissed by that same very sun, so much so that you could taste it.

The next morning, I woke up to the mouthwatering taste of sweet summer corn, spiced with turmeric and saffron, laced with a spicy green sauce that goes well with anything and everything, refreshing and herbaceous.  As soon as I got home from a grueling day of work, I turned on the burner, chopped vegetables, and cooked my dreams into a reality, kernel by kernel, squash by squash.

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This soup is light with a perfect balance of sweet and spice. The combination of saffron and turmeric makes it exotic, without loosing the familiar summer flavors of corn. When paired with this amazing spicy green sauce, every bite is a comforting and welcome, surprise of flavors. The grassy taste of cilantro and jalapeno add the perfect balance to the earthy and aromatic taste of spices infusing this soup.

I know, I know, soup and summer don’t go hand in hand, but hey; sometimes the belly wants decadence, comfort, and warmth, and this soup’s got it.

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The Amazing Spicy Green Sauce

Makes about a cup

Cook time, 5 minutes

  • 2 jalapenos, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 garlic scape, or alternatively one clove of garlic
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 large pinch of salt 

Place jalapenos, garlic scape, cilantro, and fresh oregano in a food processor, pulse until roughly chopped. Add tahini, olive oil, water, and a pinch of salt. Pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary.  Set-aside until ready to use. Store in an airtight container. Keeps  fresh for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.

Turmeric & Saffron Summer Corn Soup

Serves 4-5

Cook time, 30 minutes

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ red onion, sliced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, sliced
  • 3-4 small yellow carrots cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 ears fresh corns, shucked and silked
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 2 cups water, or vegetable broth
  • Pinch saffron, plus more for plating
  • Several leaves oregano for plating 

Place a large pot over medium-high heat, with 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add red onion, ginger, and carrots. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Onions and carrots should begin to soften, but not brown. Remove corn kernels from husk, then add both kernels and husks into the pot. Add sliced summer squash, then salt, black pepper to taste, and turmeric. Stir. Add 2 cups water, or vegetable broth, into pot with vegetables. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Discard corn husks. Let soup cool for a few minutes.

Transfer components into a blender, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute in a Vitamix.  Transfer back into pot. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.  Add pinch of saffron and stir.

To serve, scoop about a cup of soup  into a bowl. Add a couple saffron threads, a couple oregano leaves, a tablespoon or two of The Amazing Spicy Green sauce, and a couple cracks of fresh ground pepper. I also like to eat this with a slice or two of avocado and a scoop of brown rice. (Taste awesome cold, too!)

Enjoy!

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Super Grains Power Bread

"Behind a great loaf of bread is a deft orchestration, not only of time and temperature, but also of a great many diverse species and interests, our own - for something nourishing and delicious to eat - included."

                                                                    - Michael Pollan, Cooked

I remember the first time I made bread. I was living in Rome, in love with a city I would forever miss, having the best time of my life. It had been a mission of mine to craft a beautiful, golden crusted, airy loaf of bread to enjoy alongside a big bowl of arugula dressed in lemon and olive oil. So delicious, it would be, so Italian, so perfect. Not to undersell this first attempt, but in two words: it sucked!  I blamed it on the circumstance (small, ancient apartment with a crappy oven and not the right humidity) rather than my novice status as a bread maker.

Several years later, as a senior in college, I took an Intro to Culinary Arts class in which we were assigned to make a French loaf of bread in under 4 hours. This time, I had all the necessary tools: a proofer with the right humidity and temperature to encourage the yeast to flourish, giving air to the gluten I had kneaded into perfection. This time, I was ready for it to come out right, and it was ready for me. This time, the loaf was good, though not as good, of course, as one made by a baker that dedicates his or her life to perfecting bread. I didn’t give up on my goal of crafting bread, but little did I know it would look so different from what I had originally set out to conquer.

 

I don’t want to discourage anyone from venturing into bread making, but I will personally think it should be left to the professionals. They know what they are doing, more so than I will ever learn . They have mastered the art of creating the most suitable environment for bacteria to grow and air to give rise to fluffy dough. I’ll let them make the perfect Loaf, the perfect Miche, the perfect Sourdough. I’ll keep making this knead-free, hassle free, Super Grain Power Bread at home, while they make theirs in a professional kitchen.

Sarah B. thought us all how to make Life Changing Loaf of Bread over a year ago. While her recipe is both delicious and brilliant, I wanted to make an adaptation that fit to my needs. I wanted to make a version that contained a hearty dose of good for you grains and filling protein, without having to rely on nuts. After a million (maybe somewhere between 20-30 loaves over the course of a year) attempts, trials, and errors, I arrived at a recipe that I believe is equal parts healthy as it is delicious.

Unlike traditional bread, this recipe relies of the gel-like qualities of chia seeds, flax seeds, psyllium husks to hold everything together. Similar to traditional bread making techniques, this bread requires a process of hydration in which all the ingredients are left to rest, soaking over a period of at least and hour but up to 8. The longer the ingredients soak, the easier it will be on your belly, trust me! Nonetheless having tried both shorter and longer periods of soaking, I can attest that the results are not significant in term of taste or texture.

What’s in it:

Oats: Manganese rich, full of fiber

Teff: Ancient grain used across North Africa, rich in iron

Quinoa: A complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids

Psyllium: Very filling, rich in soluble fiber

Sunflower seeds: Hefty dose of Vitamin E

Chia seeds: Omega-3’s, phosphorous, manganese, and protein

Flax seeds: Number one source of Omega-3’s

 

The combination of oats, quinoa, teff, and sunflower seeds gives each bite a chewy, satisfying texture that when toasted and topped with either sweet (honey, jam, fruit) or savory (olive oil, hummus, avocado, tomatoes, you name it!) it becomes the perfect vehicle. Not too salty, not too sweet, the perfect balance keeps this bread versatile and unique, without being too pretentious.  Sure, the ingredient list might sound intimidating, but once you get to the back from the supermarket all you have left to do is mix, soak, and bake, without having to proof, punch, or knead. I dare you to become a bread baker. It won’t be as hard as you think.

Super Grains Power Bread

 Inactive time: 1-8 hours

Active time: 60 minutes

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (use gluten-free oats if necessary)
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats (use gluten-free oats if necessary)
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour
  • 1/3 cup teff
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 4 tbsp. psyllium husks
  • 1 ½ tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp. coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing
  • 2 cups warm water

Using coconut oil, grease a 9X5 loaf pan. Cut piece of parchment paper to fit the pan with several extra inches of overhang. Place parchment inside the pan and set aside.

Place all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until evenly distributed. Whisk coconut oil maple syrup and 2 cups of warm water in a separate bowl. Pour liquid ingredient into dry and mix well, until everything is completely moistened, making sure there aren’t any dry spots (these won’t stick together and/or bake). Dough will become sticky quickly, so move diligently. If dough is too thick to manage, add a couple tablespoons of water at a time until easier to handle. Transfer batter into loaf pan and smooth the top using the back of a spoon. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rest for at least an hour, but up to eight hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place loaf pan in oven for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan. Those overhanding edges will help you here! And flip onto a baking sheet. Bake for another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To store either refrigerate loaf up to five days, or freeze pre-sliced in a bag. 

Crispy Red Rice and Radish Salad with Olives and Capers

I felt the need to make a really good salad for today’s post. With several other recipes on the back burner, I couldn’t stop myself from talking about crispy fried rice, sweet, roasted radishes, tangy arugula, and salty capers.  I couldn’t stop myself from cooking up a storm by making a fatty, salty, and decadent salad.

The concept sounds counterintuitive; salads should be clean, and healthy, not fatty or decadent. But similar to a good Caesar, this salad is addictive; it has feisty personality, and is not afraid to talk back. I could only compare it to biting into a juicy olive, bitter and briny, or dunking bread into the best of olive oils, sprinkled with flaky sea salt.

Inspired by Sqirl’s infamous “kabbouleh”, the base for this salad is crispy fried red rice. Sqirl’s original recipe calls for brown rice that is cooked until tender, dried over night, and then is deep-fried. Instead of following their instructions, I improvised a bit by frying few-days-old leftover red rice in olive oil. The result was magnificent. 

To balance out the fatty, full body, heftiness of the fried rice, I decided this salad could use cumin-roasted radishes: crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, flavored with my all time favorite spice. To finish everything off: olives, capers, and chive flowers for flavor, roasted pepitas for texture. Each bite is uniquely sublime, containing all the necessary components that make a salad interesting and good. I hope you make this, for your own good. Fatty salads are the new “it” food.

 

Crispy Red Rice and Radish Salad with Olives and Capers

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 1-2

  • 5-6 radishes, cut into quarters
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • Dash of cumin powder
  • ½ cup day old cooked red, brown, or black rice
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6-7 olives, pitted and quartered
  • 1 tbsp. capers
  • 4-5 chive flowers if available, otherwise use chives
  • 2 handfuls arugula
  • 2 tbsp. pepitas (pumpkin seeds) 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash radishes to remove any leftover dirt, then remove stems. Cut radishes into quarters and place into a bowl with 1-2 tbsp. olive oil, cumin powder, and sea salt. Toss until well coated. Place radishes in a baking sheet and roast for 35 minutes, or until golden and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

While the radishes roast, place 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a pan over high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, add rice in two ¼ cup batches. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until rice is slightly puffed and crispy. Remove from pan using a slotted spoon. Place crispy rice over paper towel and set aside.

In the same pan, with a small drizzle of olive oil, sauté capers and chive flowers for a couple or minutes. Remove when flowers have wilted slightly. If you cannot find chive flowers, add fresh chives when ready to serve.

To assemble salad, place crispy rice, roasted radishes, olives, capers and chive flowers in a large bowl with arugula. Add a pinch of salt and toss with a little bit more olive oil to moisten the arugula. When ready to serve, add pepitas. Davour! 

 

Tasty Plan Cooking School: Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Sometime during our trip through The Great West (May 4th to be precise), Tasty Plan turned three years old. With a total of one hundred and ninety recipes, several moves, old jobs gone, new ones found, and a slew of amazing experiences to share, I am happy to celebrate this accomplishment with nothing other than the simplest recipe I know. Normally, I would bake a cake with super healthy ingredients you can only buy in New York City supermarkets.  Today, I am changing things up and making a recipe that requires only two ingredients, a pan, and a spatula. This is the beginning of a new project I want to call Tasty Plan Cooking School.

Even though there is no plan set in stone, the premise is simple: classic recipes that require a few basic ingredients and simple cooking techniques. I want you to learn the fundamentals of cooking through the foods we all love to eat, no matter if we are vegetarian or omnivores, from New York or the middle of the Caribbean. The goal of this project is to get you guys in the kitchen, cooking real food, over and over again, no excuses. 

 

Lets start from the beginning. Lets start with an ingredient we all have in our refrigerator right now. Lets start with the egg. Everybody knows how to fry an egg, right? But do you know how to make scrambled eggs? We’ve all had good and bad experiences with scrambled eggs. Typically overcooked and drenched in anything but eggs, scrambled eggs can be quite boring, when poorly cooked. Good news is, eggs are really tasty by themselves! With a little technique and quality products you can unleash the power within and make a meal in minutes using one affordable, accessible, nutrient rich, healthy ingredient.   

The secret to the perfect scramble eggs: (1) organic farm fresh eggs, (2) low heat, (3) constant whisking, (4) seasoning with good sea salt, and (5) removing from the stove before you think the eggs are ready. If you follow these five simple rules you will indulge in the creamiest, most succulent scrambled eggs. No cream, cheese, or condiments necessary!

 

 

Perfect Scrambled Eggs

Serves 1, multiply as necessary

Cooks time: 5-7 minutes

  • 2 farm fresh eggs
  • ½ tsp. olive oil (or butter)
  • Pinch of good sea salt
  • A couple cilantro, parsley, or arugula leaves, for garnish, optional

 

Crack eggs into a small bowl. Whisk until whites and yolks are well incorporated. Place a small sauté pan over low heat. Add oil, or butter, then eggs to the pan while it is still cold. Using a rubber spatula, whisk eggs gently, but briskly, until small curds start to emerge. Constant whisking will help you achieve even curd size throughout., and perfectly fluffy, creamy eggs. This should take 4-5 minutes. Halfway through add a pinch of salt. Remove from heat while eggs are still relatively “wet”, residual heat will finish the cooking. Eat while hot with a couple cilantro leaves as garnish.

PS. If there are any particular recipes you would like to learn how to master, don’t be afraid to ask through Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter!

 

The Great West Series: Spring Awakening

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It has only been three weeks since we got back. We have settled into our old routines, and are as busy as ever. And while it feels like this all happened during another lifetime, the experiences had and the memories made are still vivid and above all, priceless.  For this last installment of The Great West Series, I wanted to share the shorter, less documented, but equally inspired, second half of our trip, alongside a delicious spring recipe you will love. Documenting this trip through anecdotes, recipes, and images has been an amazing experience for me. I hope you have enjoyed it as much!

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We left San Francisco in a hurry. We were craving the smell of fresh air. We were well rested, a bit hung over, but giddy with anticipation. The dramatic landscapes at Big Sur, the Sand Dunes of Prismo Beach, Malibu, and Los Angeles were still ahead of us.

The southern part of this trip was heavily rooted the two days spent in Big Sur, a tiny town south of San Francisco known for its dramatic vista points and curvy roads along the coast. We had planned to stay two nights in the area to fully appreciate its landscapes. During our stay here, we did a little bit of everything, including a big hike to a wild flower cover mountaintop, sunset cocktails at a fancy hotel, and a two in the morning dip in a hot spring.

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After leaving Big Sur we made our way into Prismo Beach, where we drove through shifty sand dunes before heading into the diverse landscapes of mountains, valleys, forests, beaches, cows, and immense vegetable fields leading into Los Angeles. The anecdotes during these couple of days before arriving to LA verge on the absurd: me screaming at Day for dragging me into the Sand Dunes against my will, followed by our car getting stuck in a dune, running after our tent as it flew away in the wind, using the car’s headlight to cook after the sun had set, and a encounter with a pesky little skunk (we didn’t get sprayed!). All of these incidents made it easier to say goodbye to the wild west coast, and settle back into ebbs and flows of city life, where we stayed with friends and dined with taxidermy.

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We made this recipe while at Big Sur. We ran into a cute little farm stand along the way, and re-stocked our food supply with peas, asparagus, and potatoes. I was so excited to cook with farm fresh, spring vegetables; I couldn’t wait to set up camp and start cooking. This dish is a vibrant combination of textures and flavor sure to please. With every bite, a crisp pop of peas, crispy potato, and aromatic asparagus. Delicious!

To achieve this robust combination of contrasting textures, I cooked each ingredient separately, using a different technique with the tools available (fire, and a pot over a gas burner). It is much easier to make at home, but as delicious.

Since I was determined to make the potatoes as crispy as possible, I drenched quartered potatoes in olive oil and salt, then placed them at the bottom of the fire pit, where the temperature was the hottest. Meanwhile, I cooked the quinoa in a pot over our gas stove. As these two ingredients cooked, I shelled the peas and trimmed the asparagus, which I would cook lightly over a lighter flame. To serve, the potatoes and asparagus are laid on the bed of quinoa for a colorful, green spring meal.

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Asparagus, Potato, and Spring Pea Quinoa

Serves 2

Cook time: 40 minutes

  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4-5 new potatoes cut into quarters
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh , or frozen, spring peas
  • 10-12 asparagus spears, hard ends trimmed
  • Handful of pistachios for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degree oven. Quarter potatoes, then place in a 12”x12” piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cumin powder, and a pinch of salt. Wrap foil to make a sealed bag. then place in oven and cook for 30-35 minutes. If making over an open fire, place the potatoes in the hottest part of the fire, cooking for approximately the same amount of time. Since the heat is less consistent, make sure to check every 10 minutes will prevent the potatoes from either burning or overcooking.

Meanwhile, place 1 cup of water and ½ cup of quinoa in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the water has been absorbed. Cover, then reduce heat again to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes. Quinoa will be done when translucent.

While the potatoes and quinoa cook, shell peas from their pod, if using fresh. Set aside. Trim the bottom quarter of the asparagus, and place in a baking sheet, or aluminum foil with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil. Place in oven with roasting potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. When potatoes, quinoa, and asparagus are done, place pea into the saucepan with cooked quinoa, stir in with a tablespoon of olive oil taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary.

To serve, place cooked quinoa in a large bowl, add potatoes and asparagus on top of the quinoa. Add a handful of pistachios and eat while hot.    

Enjoy. 

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California, until the next time we meet. It’s been fun!

The Great West Series: Roaming through Vineyards and a Windy City

After a straight 6 days of camping, arriving to Napa felt like a luxury; San Francisco, glamorous. I still can’t get the image of washing my hair under an outdoor beach shower in sixty degree weather right before heading into Napa, or the pleasure of the warm running water in a Starbucks bathroom I used to wash my face a few hours later. If anything, I learned, showering is a luxury you must give up to experience real nature, only to better appreciate it on any given Tuesday.

 

While our stay in both Napa and San Francisco was short, we tried to fully immerse ourselves in the culture both cities had to offer. We roamed through the Napa vineyards, making sure to stop at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery (their wine lives close to our hearts as we drank it throughout our honeymoon in Blancaneaux), the Beringer winery for a quick tour of one of the area’s oldest vineyards, Stag’s Leap, and Robert Mondavi. While Napa felt inauthentic and commercialized we enjoyed a once in a lifetime dinner at The French Laundry. I can still taste the spring risotto they made just for me using fava beans, sweet peas, and ramps, all grown in their own garden. I could keep going on and on about this amazing culinary experience (order the vegetable tasting menu!), but I want to keep this post pictorial.

The Golden Gate Bridge awaited us the next morning, embracing and releasing us within minutes. Through thick fog, and light traffic the bridge lead the way into a two-day adventure in a very windy city full of tech guys and pastries. While we stayed most of the time within The Mission visiting quaint, well curated stores along Valencia Street and eating everything Bar Tartine and Tartine Bakery has to offer (dinner at Heirloom Cafe was way better) we managed to explore just enough of San Francisco (Ferry Terminal Building, delicious; the DeYoung Museum, beautiful; Lombardi Street, touristy; and even the Tenderloin, naughty) to get a good sense of the place.

No, I did not cook any of the days, but I hope all the  images satisfy your deepest wanderlust cravings.

Enjoy!

The Great West Series: Fire Roasted Pepper & Tomato Pasta on the Lost Coast

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There is a portion of the Californian West coast known as the Lost Coast. Missed by the Pacific Coast Highway, this part of the State is virgin and untouched. We spent two days in this handsome landscape, driving through rolling hills covered with happy cows and wild flowers and setting camp in empty black beaches alive and wild.

 On our first night on the Lost Coast, we arrived to camp after a two-hour drive through the most idyllic of farms. We arrive at a desolate beach where the Mattole River and the Pacific Ocean meet. That afternoon we hiked through a portion of the Lost Coast trail, notorious for its isolated backcountry camping areas and mountain lions.

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Abundant in wild flowers, poison oak, and empty of people, we spend the second night at the bottom of Usal Road. After a 45 minute dirt road, we set out on a walk to the beach, determined to watch the sun set. With a herd of elk in the background (only a couple hundred feet away) we sat on a log and hung out.  After fifteen minutes, the beach became alive with the widest array of sea life: otters, seals, and eventually a band of whales, sea world in real life, all a couple feet away. Pretty and awesome.

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*Starry night photo credit to Day Jimenez!

This meal was made on our first night at the Lost Coast. With our feet dark from walking on black sands we set out to make this meal.

Since this one of the few nights in which our campsite was protected from the wind, we decided to utilize our daily fire to cook for the first time. We wrapped a red bell pepper and a half pint of tomatoes we had bought the previous day, and placed it above a fire to cook for about half an hour. As the vegetables sizzled, I put a pot with water to boil over a burner for cooking pasta. Within less than half hour we were eating a delicious fire roasted pepper and tomato pasta. The pepper and tomatoes caramelized slowly over the fire, releasing an amazing combination of sweet and smoke. When combined with cumin and olive oil, the flavors transform into a hearty, earthy, sweet pasta!

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Though this recipe feeds two, it can be easily doubled, or tripled to serve a crown on a warm spring/summer day accompanied by a good bottle of wine and a nice piece of bread.

Fire Roasted Pepper & Tomato Pasta        

Serves 2

About 30 minutes

  • 1 cup dried pasta of choice (I used GF, quinoa penne pasta)
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5w cups of water, enough to fully submerge the pasta

 

  • 1 whole red bell pepper
  • ½ cup grape tomatoes, or one tomato sliced into eighths
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • ¼ cup pistachios

 

This recipe requires you to fire roast a red bell pepper and several tomatoes. You can either do this on a grill, on a real fire, or in an oven. For either technique independently wrap the pepper and the tomatoes. If cooking atop an open fire, or the grill, roast over high heat for at least 30 minutes, turning every ten minutes or so. The peppers skin should be charred and the flesh soft. The tomatoes should be fully cooked and soft after 30 minutes as well. If roasting in an oven, set temperature to 450 degrees, Fahrenheit, and roast for 30 minutes.

Once the pepper is ready, remove from the fire, peel outer skin, remove stem and seeds, then thinly slice. Remove tomatoes from the grill.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, olive oil and pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes, or until pasta pasta is cooked al dente. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

 Place pasta back over a medium-low heat burner. Incorporate sliced pepper and tomatoes into the pasta. Stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cumin. Stir until everything is well incorporated, adding pasta water little by little, to help moisten it, especially if it is looking dry. When ready to serve, add a handful of chopped cilantro and pistachios. Serve immediately and eat hot. 

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