Roast Pears

Damn you, Costco. Damn you and your cute food. I can never resist the bags of those dainty and delicious Forelle pears. They beckon me, in their out-of-season-shipped-from-Chile voices. Pear bastards.

RoastPear2Cmed

Next to nectarines, pears are my favorite fruit. Fresh, they are a dream. But when it comes to cooking, they just lose their essence. Their delicate flavor is lost and a mealy texture remains. I thought when I discovered Pear Honey it would be the solution, but that’s just so damn sweet. (Yes, I see the word honey in the title. That stuff is amazingly delicious, btw, and you should make some immediately. But I digress.) 

RoastPear3BCmed

 

So, I’m walking past three pounds of pears on the dining table for a week, waiting for them to ripen. The magic day arrives – and I realize I have to eat three pounds of pears in the next 48 hours or they will go bad. What to do, what to do. 

RoastPearCUPbCmed
With spoonful of plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey and some fresh thyme. (Himself called that gilding the lily, and prefers them plain.)

 

So last night, I got out the mandoline and made some pear chips. (Thank you, Martha.) Yum! Need some chèvre to eat ’em, though.  This morning I woke up and said, chuck all – I will just toss them in lemon juice and sugar and roast them all. 

RoastPear1med

 

All in all, this was pretty easy. Any pear would work for this, although personally I wouldn’t use a Bosc. Mainly because they are a pain in the ass to peel and cube with that long skinny neck. D’anjou and Bartlet will do just fine, or the Farelle.

So, why roast? It cooks out some of the liquid in the fruit, and concentrates the flavor. That, with that tinge of caramelization makes for a more pear-tasting pear. Trust me, this is delicious.
Ingredients
4 large or 6 medium pears, just barely ripe
Juice of ½ lemon
¼ c sugar
Instructions
Heat oven to 375*.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Peel, core, and cube the pears.
Toss with the lemon juice and sugar.
Spread out evenly not touching on the baking sheets.
Bake about 40 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. The bottoms of the pears should be just barely caramelized, and the top edges tinged golden.
Ways to eat them
By themselves, straight off the tray.
With plain greek yogurt (or crème fraîche), thyme and honey.
With whipped cream and sprinkled with chopped candied ginger.
On top of vanilla ice cream.
On top of yogurt.
Frozen and pulsed into a sorbetto/granita hybrid in the cuisinart with chopped candied ginger.
Baked in to a coffee cake.
Pulsed with some fresh pear cubes and a little simple syrup and made in to popsicles.

Servings 4
Calories 182
Fat 0 g
Sodium 3 mg
Carbs 48 g
Protein 1 g

Avocado, Blood Orange & Fennel Salad

Could you hear me squeal all the way to your house on  Saturday? That would be when I saw the blood oranges had arrived at Sprouts.  I just love their color. Of course I had to wander around the produce department after that, looking for something to make with them. The avocados looked amazing, and that sealed the deal. 

A blood orange, a bulb of fennel and thou....
A blood orange, a bulb of fennel and thou….

This is a delicate salad, with very subtle flavor.  Make sure your avocado is absolutely prime.  

AvocadoFennel1cMED

This is rich and smooth with the lovely anise crunch of the fennel. I liked it best after it had sat for about an hour, to let that nice heat from the jalapeno really soak in.  We have some left, and I am on my way to the store to get some shrimp to grill and serve with rest. Dang I wish I’d thought of that first.

AvocadoFennel3cMED

 

And, here’s a cheat on how to peel the oranges.
Ingredients
1 small bulb fennel, sliced in ¼” crescents
1 avocado, in ½ ” dice
3 blood oranges, peeled and sliced in ¼” crescents
1 tangelo, peeled and sliced in to ¼” crescents
¼ cup red onion, in ¼” crescents
1 Tbsp. jalapeño, in wafer-thin crescents
¼ c. minced italian parsley
Drizzle olive oil
Drizzle sherry or rice vinegar
S&P
Instructions
Assemble.
Chill for an hour.
Eat!
Notes
Would be amazeballs with some fat gulf white shrimp, grilled over mesquite. Served with a blood orange mimosa, of course….

Servings 4
Calories 202
Fat 8 g
Sodium 39 mg
Carbs 27 g
Protein 3 g

Purée de choufleur à l’ail et aux fines herbes

When I was growing up, mashed and vegetables together meant one thing: potatoes. Then I went to Paris – they call it a purée there. And you can purée lots besides potatoes – carrots were quite popular. Then I had a friend from New England tell me how her family always had mashed turnips instead of potatoes for the big feasts.  Food is so awesome – a virtual root cellar full of possible variations.

Take one bag of frozen cauliflower....
Take one bag of frozen cauliflower….

Forgoeing mashed potatoes when Himself had to change his diet was probably the most traumatic thing for me. Mashed potatoes are their own food group in my family. But, luckily there’s the interwebs. And friends.  Through some trial and error, I’ve come up with a great flavorful creamy purée that we look forward to at our house.  I’ve had a couple friends ask for the recipe, so here it is – Purée de choufleur à l’ail et aux fines herbes.  Although we just call this cauli mash at our house.  I was hoping if I fi-fi-chi-chi’d up the name a little, it would fancify things a bit.  Now, before you go any further please take heed: this is not mashed potatoes.  Let me repeat:  this. is. not. mashed. potatoes.  If you want something that tastes like mashed potatoes, you will need to actually eat mashed potatoes.

What this IS (caveat aside) is a delicious, rich, smooth purée that captures the slight sweetness of the cauliflower and garlic and which has a lovely creamy texture that goes great with roasted or grilled meats. 

CauliMash1MED
A little butter, a little garlic, a little sour cream, some herbs ….with and “h”.

 

Honestly, if we could eat real cheese in our house, I would totally put this in a buttered casserole and toss it in the oven with some cheddar on top. That would be freaking amazing. … …. if we could eat cheese. Not that I’m bitter or anything. Cheese. Damn my dairy-rejecting genes. Bastards.

CauliMash3MED
With a little daub of Kerrygold butter, of course. Because butter.

 

 

I really hope you try this one. If you like cauliflower, this is an awesome and fast side dish that will fill the craving for creamy spudnicks without a starchy overload. And remember it has herbs. With a fucking “H” in it. Try it!

Ingredients
1 20oz package generic frozen cauliflower
1 fat or 2 small cloves of garlic
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp sour cream or cream cheese (or, if you live at our house, Tofutti sour cream)
2 tsp. Penzey’s “Buttermilk” seasoning blend (or italian herbs if you don’t have Penzey’s lying about.)
Instructions
Put the cauliflower and the garlic in ‘wave safe bowl, covered, in the microwave on high until it’s quite soft and hot. That takes 9 minutes in my wave. Drain off any water that come out during cooking.
Put that and the rest of the ingredients in the food processor. (Or the kitchen robot, if we keep up our Frenchie trend.)
Pulse until it’s a delightful smooth concoction; you may need to stop and scrape down your sides. Don’t go too far, I’ve heard you wind up with a gluey mess. I’ve not experienced that, but best to stop before that happens

Servings 3
Calories 138
Fat 10 g
Sodium 66 mg
Carbs 11 g
Protein 4 g

Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Dill and Mint

CukeMelonSalad2Cmed
Sweet, salty, savoury, crunchy.

 

Are you ready to taste summer? I am. I have found myself daydreaming about the bounty to come – piles and piles of tomatoes and squash and melon. And the salads. Oh, the salads.  I find myself rejecting recipes of late if they involve turning on the oven.  Mind you, it’s not super hot yet. Not at all. It’s just that I’m ready.

So it’s safe to say the baking tornado of the last few months at The Yum are at an end. Which left me, well, idea-less for a post. After much guilt, I gave myself permission to say fuck all and go out for the day. Stop #1 – Za’atar for a falafel breakfast.  I fucking love that place.  Hopped over to Caravan while waiting for my order, and he had these gorgeous crates of mint and dill and cucumbers and eggplant and lemons and ……aaaaaah. I had to have some.

Those, some olives, some fig jam and sesame candies for Himself and away I went.

CukeHerbCollage

When I saw the watermelon in the fridge as I was putting things away, I knew what to make. And then immediately consume.

This is fast, and should be served and eaten immediately.  I even got to feel all fancy-pants when I rolled the dill up in the mint leaves for a quick chiffonade.  (Thank you, Sarah Moulton and FoodTV!) This baby is all about the fresh and crunch. Mmmmmm. Chompa-chomp-chomp.

You could totally add some cubed feta and a wedge of bread and call this summer supper (just leave out the salt if you do).  I inhaled mine as a snack. Couldn’t even wait to grill some chicken or something to eat with it.

CukeMelonSaladCmed

Come on, Summer. This just has me wanting you more.
Ingredients
2 c. watermelon in ½” dice
1 c. jicama in ½” dice
1 c. cucumber in ½” wedges
1 thin slice red onion, separated in to rings
Drizzle of olive oil
Drizzle of white balsamic or wine vinegar
Four or five fresh mint leaves and a thumb-sized sprig of fresh dill, chiffonaded
Dash of S&P
Instructions
Toss together and eat.

Servings 2
Calories 83
Fat 1 g
Sodium 6 mg
Carbs 20 g
Protein 2 g

Cauliflower Bacon Bisque

So a couple Saturdays back, I needed to do something with some leftover bacon in the fridge. (I know, right?! How the HELL did THAT happen? I do not know), and that made me think of my mom’s potato soup when I was a kid. Only we don’t do potatoes now, but we do cauliflower and….wait! That’s it! And there you have it, another snap shot of the way my brain works. 

CauliflowerBisque3BCmed

Regardless of brain workings, this soup is delicious. And easy. And filling. And fast. Plus, bacon.
When I made this again for the blog, I had to cook the bacon. This added some time – so plan ahead and make extra bacon at breakfast, then hide it.

Three main ingredients.
Three main ingredients.

Ya’ll know we can’t do dairy so much, so I made this with cashew cream. And really, you should make it that way the first time because it is AMAZEBALLS. Or, wimp out and use heavy cream – because I am not your dairy police. That’s between you and your intestines.

BACON!!!
BACON!!!

Hey, look! There’s a slice of that homemade bread featured a few weeks ago!

Give this bad boy a whirl, and share your results!
For the cashew cream
½ c. raw cashew pieces
¾ c. warm water
½ tsp. corn starch
½ tsp. nutritional yeast
For the Soup
20 oz. pkg frozen cauliflower
6 slices thick-cut bacon (about 6 oz)
2 Tbsp. bacon fat
½ white onion, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1.5 qt. chicken stock
S&P to taste
Instructions
If you are doing this with cashew cream: put cashews and water in your blender, set aside to soak the cashews.
For the soup
Cold pan fry up that bacon. Chop 5 of the slices and reserve the 6th to crumble as garnish. (Now, this is assuming you can control yourself around bacon. If you cannot, cook extra slices accordingly.)
Take 2 Tbsp of the bacon grease and use it to sweat the onions in a big soup pot.
Once they’re clear, add the thyme, nutmeg, cauliflower, chopped bacon and chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Simmer about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is fall-apart soft.
At this point, if you are using the cashew cream, put the corn starch and the yeast in the blender and set it on high/liquefy for about two minutes. You may need to stop/scrape midway. You should end up with a super-smooth mixture that looks like cream. Rub a drop between your fingers – it should not feel grainy. If it does, give it another minute or so until it is super smooth.
Scoop the cooked cauliflower (and whatever onions and bacon make it along for the ride) in to the blender. Keep the lid open a crack (so you don’t have a soup explosion) and puree until smooth. You may need to add a little broth to make it work. Pour all that back in to the soup pot with the broth and simmer about ten or fifteen more minutes. (If you eschew the cashew, put enough liquid in the blender with the cauliflower to puree it; then you can add 1 c. heavy cream and simmer for the same amount of time.)
Serve it up, garnished with some of that bacon and a sprinkle of more nutmeg.
Notes
This reheats great – I have not tried freezing it, but the next day for lunch? Super deelish.
And – this is soup consistency soup. If you want a super-thick, stand up your spoon kinda purée, cut the liquid in half. And use the food processor to purée instead of the blender.
Bon appétit!

Servings 8
Calories 197
Fat 12 gg
Sodium 430 mg
Carbs 14 g
Protein 10 g

Red Wine Shallot Vinaigrette

So, this week I’m making what every French child knows how to make by the age of 8. (Right before they start smoking and after they’ve been drinking wine, of course….)

Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.
Red wine vinegar, dijon, minced shallot and black pepper.

Why do we all buy salad dressings? Sometimes when I’m on auto pilot at the grocery and find myself reaching for a bottle, I stop to think, “you idiot.”

Seriously – is there anything easier?  Make it at home – control what’s in it.

mincy mince mince
mincy mince mince

 

Why not try making your own?  Fresh, easy, delicious; and you probably already have all the ingredients and don’t even know it. Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and add parsley and thyme.  Or cracked green peppercorns. Whatever. Just play with your food.

Seriously wish you could smell this right now...
Seriously wish you could smell this right now…

This is a big batch – fills a whole bottle from Cost Plus. Feel free to halve or quarter it, or double and give some to the neighbors…..

And, I whisked it – but of course later remembered this great tip from Cooks Illustrated – just put everything in a jar with a lid and shake it til it’s emulsified.  Remember those Good Seasons italian dressing cruets when we were kids? Like that…..
Try it! Share how it turned out.
Ingredients
¾ c. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
3 Tbsp. dijon mustard
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1.5 – 2 c. good oil.
Instructions
In a large bowl, or blender, or 4-cup measuring cup, whisk together everything but the oil.
While you’re still whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until you get an emulsion. (It will thicken, and become dull instead of shiny.)
Keeps in the fridge for at least a week.
Notes
Play with the ingredients, too – leave out the shallot, add tarragon. Or leave in the shallot and parsley and thyme. Or cracked green peppercorns.
For the oil, I like to go half plain veg oil and half extra virgin olive oil. I think going all olive overpowers this. Save that for the balsamic vinaigrettes – they can handle it.
Serving size is 2Tbsp – or 1oz.

Servings 24
Calories 28
Fat 28 g
Sodium 47 mg
Carbs 0 g
Protein 0 g

Baked Tomatoes

Love those  Campari tomato clamshells from Costco.  We eat these. A lot. 

Somewhere between a cherry tomato and a regular tomato....
Somewhere between a cherry tomato and a regular tomato….

And, because it is winter we usually bake them with some olive oil, parmesan and S & P.

...just like the Grinch's heart....
…just like the Grinch’s heart….

Because Himself has to really limit the starches now, we needed to add a second veg option to dinner (and weekend breakfasts, too). This is simple and fast. And very, very tasty. 

Baked Tomatoes 6BCmed

 

Got 30 minutes? Let’s go!
Ingredients
4 Campari tomatoes, washed and sliced in half.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
S & P
Instructions
Preheat oven to 375*.
Place the tomatoes cut side up in a shallow baking dish.
Sprinkle with S & P.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 25 minutes. The cheese should be crispy brown on top of the toms
Serve immediately.
Notes
If they’re not brown at the end of the time, turn on the broiler for a minute or two to toast up that cheesy top. (Assuming you’ve used a pan that can take it, obviously….)
This is great with steak, roast chicken, omelettes, green beans, and just about anything you can think of.
You can sprinkle with some herbs before the cheese layer for variety: basil, tarragon, chives, etc. The cheese will seal the herbs in with the tomato’s juice and keep them from burning.

Servings 2
Calories 200
Fat 16 g
Sodium 161 mg
Carbs 10 g
Protein 5 g

Cheesy Herb Garlic Zucchini Sticks

It’s one of those uninspired weeks – where I start thinking on Wednesday, “What am I going to blog about this week?!?”  I want to go nuts with the cakes and cookies, but it’s just kind of mean to make the whole house smell like that when Bill can’t eat any…..So, I went with what was in the fridge: zucchini.  

Cheese Herb Garlic Zucchini Sticks
Cheese Herb Garlic Zucchini Sticks

 

 

And, I just love zucchini with lemon and thyme, but I only had the dried herb.  I knew I wanted to roast the squash, but that was really incompatible with those hard little sticks – what to do, what to do…. so I pounded it with some salt and garlic in the mortar and pestle. Problem solved!

ZucchiniPanel1

ZucchiniPanel2

 

Bill says they’re good. And, although the garlic smell is really out there while they’re cooking, the end product is just lightly garlicky.  Heads up, though! You might think you’re in Gilroy while they’re baking. 

mmm......crunchy cheesy bits....
mmm……crunchy cheesy bits….

And, who am I kidding? This might have been the best part of the whole thing – cheesy paper for grown-ups! 

Let’s make some – and tell me how yours turn out!
For the toss
1 clove garlic
½ tsp. dried thyme
Dash kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp lemon zest
For the rest
2 zucchini, cut to look like wedge fries
¼ freshly grated pecorino romano or parmeggiano reggiano
Instructions
Preheat oven to convection 400* (or plain old 375*)
Smash the garlic clove in the M&P.*
Add in the salt and thyme and pound till the thyme is no longer hard little sticks.
Add in the olive oil and lemon zest, and pound it a few more times to mix it all together.
Transfer the paste to a bowl, toss zuke sticks in it and then spread them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Sprinkle w/ the cheese.
Bake 20 minutes, then turn to broil for a few to get things crunchy and brown.
Notes
*You could totally skip the M&P if you have fresh thyme. Just mince the garlic, then smoosh it with the salt and thyme with the side of your knife right on the cutting board.