harissa ravioli

I can’t remember the last time I ate broccoli. When I was a teenager, I developed a broccoli allergy and have since stayed far, far away. It actually used to be one of my favorite veggies, but my body says no. I don’t break out in hives or anything, I just feel like I want to die after I eat it, so much so that I avoid anything that resembles broccoli, including broccolini and broccoli rabe.

When I saw Heidi’s recipe for harissa ravioli with brocolli, I began to think twice about my ways. I love harissa. Harissa is a chili paste used commonly in North African cuisine and any excuse to use it is a good one. I wouldn’t dare eat broccoli, but I thought maybe I could handle a little broccolini or broccoli rabe. Why not live a bit dangerously?

I survived the broccolini. As a matter of fact I loved it. I’m not sure what came over me, but I was feeling pretty bold and decided to cook some broccoli rabe. Oh, dear. What a mistake. I was laid up on the couch, dying for almost four hours. After drinking two glasses of 7-up and even resorting to Pepto, I made an executive decision and puked my brains out (sorry, tmi). If you ask me, no vegetable is worth that kind of drama.

But I’m glad I got all of that settled. Broccoli and broccoli rabe remain on the Do Not Eat list. But luckily for me, the broccolini gates have opened and I can throw it in this great pasta dish. The ravioli is really just a blank canvas for all of the layers of flavor here – spicy, lemony harissa oil, salty black olives, crunchy pepitas, tangy feta with really nice texture from toasted pepitas and broccolini. It’s a nice way to incorporate veggies into a meal, and the whole thing comes together in a snap. It’s an ideal weeknight meal.

harissa ravioli

from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

serves 4

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons harissa

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces fresh or frozen cheese-stuffed ravioli or tortellini

8 ounces broccoli florets or broccolini, trimmed into bite-size pieces 

1/4 cup pepitas, toasted

scant 1/4 cup crumbled feta

5 or 6 black oil-cured olives, pitted and torn into pieces

Bring a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, sprinkle the smashed garlic with the sea salt and shop into a paste. Transfer it to a small bowl and stir in the lemon juice, harissa, and olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed. Set aside.

When the water boils, salt it generously, add the ravioli, and boil until they are cooked through, about 1-2 minutes (they will float to the top). About 30 seconds before the ravioli have finished cooking, add the broccoli to the pot, boil for the remaining time, then drain.

Transfer the ravioli and broccoli to a large mixing bowl. Toss with a couple spoonfuls of harrissa oil and most of the pepitas.  Taste and add salt if needed. Turn out onto a serving platter and top with more harissa oil, the remaining pepitas, the feta, and olives.

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vanilla chia pudding

Okay people. We’re going there. If you were hoping for something decadent, come back in a week or two. This recipe can be filed under healthy. Or wholesome.

What we have here is chia pudding. Chia? Yes, like ch-ch-ch-chia. Chia seeds have become popular in the way that flax and hemp seeds are. They’re rich in antioxidants and omega-3s. I am definitely a fan of flax seed, but I never quite got around to trying chia seed. But then I landed on this recipe for vanilla chia pudding while flipping through the January issue of Martha. Something about it was very intriguing. Perhaps because it was described as being like rice pudding, and I do love rice pudding. I decided to give it a whirl.

There are plenty of good things in this pudding – it has a homemade cashew milk base, it’s sweetened with dates and maple syrup, and contains a little bit of coconut butter for richness. The chia seeds actually have a very tapioca-like texture, which I rather enjoy. And the berries on top are perfect, adding a pop of color and a brightness in flavor.

I will warn you now that this pudding is not for everybody. But if you’re looking for a healthy dessert or you just want to try something new, then you might just love it. It’s not necessarily something I would serve while entertaining. I would, however, share it with friends who are being conscious about their diets but still want to satisfy their sweet tooth. I plan on making it again and again.

vanilla chia pudding

from Amy Chaplin via Martha Stewart Living

serves 6-8

1/2 cup chia seeds(available at healthfood stores and on-line)

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, pod reserved

1 cup cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours to overnight

4 cups filtered water

7 medjool dates, pitted

pinch of sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons coconut butter

4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups mixed berries

3/4 cup maple syrup for drizzling

Place the chia seeds and vanilla pod in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.

Drain the cashews and rinse well. Transfer the cashews, filtered water, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds to a blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Pour the cashew mixture into the bowl with the chia seeds and vanilla pod. Whisk well. Let the mixture stand for 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently to prevent clumping.Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

To serve: Discard the vanilla pod. Whisk the pudding and divide among bowls. Top with berries and drizzle with maple syrup.

garlic pea shoots

While I was running errands the other day, I couldn’t figure out why I felt like I was hungover. I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol since New Year’s Eve. But when I got home and threw myself on the couch, I realized it was because I had picked up the bug my sister had during the holidays. Ugh. Isn’t it funny how you forget what being sick feels like when you haven’t been sick in a while? Why is my head pounding? Why does my entirebodyache? Why does my throat feel sooo scratchy? Hmmm…

When I’m under the weather, there isn’t much I really want to eat due to my taste buds going whacky. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about greens. I took that as a sign that my body needed veggies. So I headed to the farmers’ market. But in my haze of sickness I found myself driving towards New Chinatown instead and ended up at one of the markets there. I knew exactly what I wanted.

I headed straight for the produce aisle and picked out a bag of pea shoots. I love pretty much all Chinese greens, but pea shoots (dou miao) are most definitely my fave. When sautéed they are something like spinach, but with a little more body, a bit more texture and crunch.

This is the kind of thing you want to eat at the start of the new year – simple, healthy, fresh, green. Pea shoots are a great alternative to your usual sautéed greens. They are very nice over a bowl of steamed rice or alongside fish or shrimp or chicken. I’ll be eating lots of them this season.

garlic pea shoots

serves 2-4

1 pound pea shoots, washed

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (any mild flavor oil is fine)

3-4 cloves garlic, smashed then chopped

1/2-inch nub of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

ground white pepper

In a large saute pan or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shiny looking, add the garlic and shake the pan constantly to cook until softened and barely golden.

Add the ginger and cook for another minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the pea shoots to the pan and toss in the oil and garlic to coat thoroughly. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring frequently so that the greens wilt evenly. Add soy sauce and white pepper to taste and serve immediately.

chicken liver pâté and 2011 favorites

There were so many things I meant to do before the end of 2011. Like seriously clean my house. And buy a day planner. And share my list of favorites from the year.

Instead, there were birthdays to celebrate, frantic shoe shopping, cocktails, and lots and lots of friends – old friends, new friends, some staying a while and some just passing through. It was pretty glorious, those last few days of 2011. And before I knew it, I was wearing sequins and we were ringing in the new year.

It seems wrong to share something so decadent after such a celebratory week, especially since I had intended on posting this before the year’s end. But sometimes you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Allow me to present to you this chicken liver pâté, or what I like to refer to as meat butter. I have a weakness for pâté. I am known to order it as my main course at restaurants – and not share. I especially enjoyed this pâté, rich and smooth with hints of thyme and a whisper of Calvados.

This was my first time making pâté and it was surprisingly simple to throw together. A pound of sauteed chicken livers pureed with a pound of butter and topped with a little Riesling gelée. It really is the perfect start to any meal (and even better with a glass of wine). I had a little smear of pâté on toast for breakfast almost everyday for a week. Insanely indulgent. Don’t judge.

Speaking of indulging, I just can’t resist. Here are a few of my favorites from 2011:

Bill Cunningham New York – I think this was one of the best things to happen to me. Ever. I could watch this documentary over and over again. Bill Cunningham, well into his eighties, riding his bicycle all over Manhattan, all for the love of fashion. And he still shoots film with an old 35mm Nikon. What a wonderful spirit Mr. Cunningham is. I just want to hug him.

Feist Metals – This took a minute to grow on me, but after I saw her perform live, it stuck. It is such a departure from The Reminder; a bit darker, heartbreakingly  honest at times. One of my favorite voices.

Patti Smith Just Kids – I gave this to my oldest friend for his thirtieth birthday, and immediately got my own copy. New York. 1970’s. Love. Music. Friendship. Magic.

A Night with Broken Social Scene, San Francisco, CA – I bought tickets to this show not knowing that the band had announced an indefinite hiatus and that it was to be their last show ever in North America. No opening band. Two and a half hours of non-stop BSS. It was the best show I’ve ever been to. I had to go home and cry afterwards.

The Boulevardier – Bourbon, Campari and sweet vermouth. If you had asked me ten years ago I would have said no way. It’s like the bitter, orange-scented cousin of the Manhattan. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this really was the drink of choice in 2011. Plus, I’m really enjoying the videos that these guys have been making.

M83 Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming – This has been playing on a loop for a couple of weeks now and I can’t get enough of it. Really good synth-heavy, shoe-gazey, and acoustic tracks. “Midnight City” alone is so grand. I’ll always remember blasting it in my car on my way to Sausalito on New Years Eve.

Goodbye, 2011! Benvenuto, 2012!

chicken liver pâté with riesling-thyme gelée

from Bon Appetit

makes 3 cups

1 pound chicken livers, cleaned

4 cups milk, divided

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided

3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

3 sprigs thyme, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy)

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin

2 teaspoons sugar

3/4 cup sweet (Auslese) Riesling

sliced baguette

unsalted butter, melted

Mellow the flavor of the chicken livers by placing them in a glass bowl with 2 cups milk. Cover; chill for 2 hours. Drain; discard milk. Return livers to same bowl, add the remaining 2 cups milk, cover, and chill for 2 more hours (or overnight). Drain; discard milk and rinse livers. Pat dry with paper towels.

Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; set aside. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add shallots and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add livers, increase heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until livers are firm but still pink inside, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in Calvados. Return to heat; cook until Calvados is reduced by half, about 30 seconds. Discard thyme.

Transfer liver mixture to a food processor; add 2 teaspoons salt and pepper. Process until smooth. With processor running, add remaining butter by tablespoonfuls until all butter is incorporated. Transfer mousse to prepared strainer. Using a rubber spatula, press mousse through strainer. Rinse and dry strainer, then strain mousse again, discarding solids in strainer. Divide among small jars or bowls. Chill until firm, 1–2 hours.

Place 1/4 cup water in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes. Microwave gelatin mixture until gelatin dissolves and mixture becomes clear, about 30 seconds. Add sugar; stir until dissolved. Stir in wine. Spoon gelée over mousse in jars, forming a 1/4″ layer (not all gelée may be used). Top each jar with thyme sprigs or leaves, if desired. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelée is set, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Let mousse soften slightly at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with toasts.