Grilled Skewered Lamb with Garlic, Cumin, and Ginger

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It’s no secret that I really, really love food. But lately, it’s been challenging to know when to unplug.

That being said, I took a short blog-breather and brought this food scene offline (admittedly, instagram did not suffer). It was a great way to start 2013 without too many commitments. As a result, I attempted my first 21 day cleanse. I fell in love with juicing, wandered aimlessly around farmers markets, and have actually stuck to my new years resolution of lifestyling (diets are no fun).

But all good things come to an end, which is why I’m excited to end this blog hiatus. And I promise to never leave you again.

Grilled Skewered Lamb with Garlic, Cumin, and Ginger

I spent last weekend at my parents house in Marin. My mom and I were rummaging through piles of old Gourmet magazines, and came across a lamb recipe we hadn’t had in years.

One of the reasons I love food so much is that the best recipes are timeless, regardless of the decade. This recipe was published in the February 1993 issue of Gourmet and couldn’t be any more current. I know you’ll love it. It’s the perfect crowd-pleaser for the onset of daylight savings time, spring, and barbecues.

You will need:

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup Chinese rice wine

1 1/2 tsp Asian toasted sesame oil

2 1/2 tbsp sugar

2 1/2 tbsp minced garlic

1 1/2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger

2 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1 1/4 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes

3 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

Twelve 10-inch bamboo skewers, soaked in cold water for 1 hour

1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted lightly

1 bunch of watercress, rinsed, spun dry, and the course stems discarded, for garnish

1. In a large bowl whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, and the red pepper flakes, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Add the lamb well, and let the lamb marinate, covered and chilled, stirring occasionally for at least 8 hours or overnight.

2. Thread the lamb loosely onto the skewers, reserving the remaining marinade, and grill the skewers, turning them and basting them occasionally with the reserved marinade, for 6 to 10 minutes, or until they reach the desired degree of doneness. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle them with the sesame seeds, and garnish them with the watercress. Serves 6. Try it with sweet-and-sour cabbage slaw! (recipe below)

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Sweet-and-Sour Cabbage Slaw with Hot Peppers

1/2 medium cabbage, cored and cut into very thin shreds

1 tbsp salt

1 cup rice vinegar

1/2 cup sugar, honey, or agave

2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger

one 3-inch fresh hot red chili, seeded and sliced thin (wear rubber gloves) or 1 1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes

3 medium carrots, cut into very thin shreds (about 1 cup)

1. In a large colander toss the cabbage with the salt, weight the cabbage with a plate and a 1-pound can, and let it drain, at room temperature for 3 hours.

2. In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, sugar, ginger, and chilies, whisking until the sugar is dissolved, and add the cabbage and the carrots. Toss to combine, and chill for 4 to 8 hours before serving.

Enjoy!

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Moroccan Chicken Tagine

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I recently discovered the magic of one-pot meals and I’m a little bit obsessed. They are perfect for cozy winter nights where leaving the house is not an option.

This dish is combines complex spices with fresh ingredients – and it’s guilt free! It tastes so divine you will think it has butter and cream in the recipe. If you are an aspiring chef, or just want to explore with different flavors in only one pot, than chicken tagine is a must try. Just make sure you’ve allotted a few hours for prep work and cooking time. I can’t wait to try braised beef for my next one-pot recipe, so get ready for that one. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Adapted from In the Small Kitchen

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Serves 10

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, each halved

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil

3 medium yellow onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices

One 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

About 1 quart chicken stock

1 pound of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 pound of butternut squash, peeled/seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup dried turkish apricots, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Note: You can make the stew through step 5 and then refrigerate it overnight. Just reheat it for 30 minutes over medium-low heat until you are ready to eat, and continue with the remaining ingredients.

1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Coat a large pot or Dutch oven with a thin layer of olive oil. Heat it over high heat and brown the chicken, in batches, making sure not to crowd the pot. If the chicken sticks to the bottom, don’t worry — this will help develop the flavor of the sauce. Remove the browned chicken from the pot and set it aside in a mixing bowl.

2. Add the onions to the same pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and saute until translucent, making sure to scrape up any remaining drippings from the chicken, about 7 minutes.

3. Stir in the garlic, cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, and salt. Cook until the spices are fully incorporated and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, and add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Toss to combine.

4. Pour in enough stock to submerge all the contents (this may be less than 1 quart, depending on the size of your pot) and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat back down to low and cook, uncovered, for at least 2 hours, the longer the better.

5. During the last 45 minutes or so of cooking, add the sweet potatoes and butternut squash, submerge them in the liquid, and cook until tender.

6. Add the apricots, half the cilantro, and the lemon juice. Simmer for 10 minutes.

7. Spoon the tagine into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with some of the remaining cilantro, sprinkle with the almonds, and serve with some rustic crusty bread or cooked quinoa.

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Ricotta Crostoni with Peperonata

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When you’re passionate about food, it becomes surprisingly difficult to play favorites. That’s why I have a hard time selecting dishes for this blog; it’s so hard to choose.

That being said, I know I have a winning dish when I make it more than once. I have used this recipe as my go-to for recent potlucks and get togethers with friends. There are only a few ingredients, and the peppers can be made up to three days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator. I think you will love this dish because it puts a classic spin on your traditional bruschetta. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Ricotta Crostoni with Peperonta*

*adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Mozza cookbook. This is an Italian must-buy for your cookbook collection!

You will need:

1/2-inch-thick slices from a loaf of pane rustica or another large, flat peasant loaf

Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing the bread

1 garlic clove

Sea salt (or fleur de sel if you want to be fancy)

fresh coarsely ground black pepper

3 cups fresh ricotta

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh Italian parsley leaves

For the peperonata (makes 1 quart):

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic (about 10 large cloves)

2 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 orange bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup Basic Tomato Sauce or Marinara

1/2 cup pitted Nicoise olives

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh Italian parsley leaves

To make the peperonata:

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until it is almost smoking and slides easily in the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, season with one teaspoon of sea salt and several turns of pepper, and saute, stirring occasionally to prevent the onion and garlic from browning, until the onion is tender and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the peppers, season with the remaining teaspoon of salt, and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, oregano, and sugar, and stir to combine the ingredients. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for about 2 minutes to meld the flavors. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper, if desired.

3. Transfer the peperonata to a large baking dish (at least 9 by 13 inches) or a large, ovenproof skillet and smooth the top with a wooden spoon or spatula to make it level. Place the peperonata in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the olives, and return it to the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is charred, especially around the edges.

4. Remove the peperonata from the oven and allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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To make the ricotta crostoni:

1. Adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350° or preheat a sandwich press.

2. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet, brush the tops with olive oil, and back them for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown and crisp. Alternatively, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and toast them in a sandwich press.

3. Remove the crostoni from the oven and rub the oiled sides of the crostoni with the garlic. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.

4. Put the ricotta in a medium bowl and stir vigorously with a spoon to fluff it up. Pile 1/4 cup of ricotta in mounds on each crostoni and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle a teaspoon of parsley, and coarsely grind black pepper over each crostoni.

5. Arrange the crostoni on a serving platter or board and serve with peperonata. Alternatively, you can spoon the peperonata onto each crostoni and serve.

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Crab Salad with Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette

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Living by the coast has its perks, one of them being same day fresh dungeness crab. It’s something I look forward to every winter, perhaps even more than the holiday season. Best of all, making crab is a great excuse to stay indoors and entertain with friends.

This salad is light, yet full-bodied enough to satisfy your hungry boyfriend. I followed this recipe to cook the crab (make sure to ask your seafood purveyor to crack and clean the crab; Whole Foods will do it for free), which is a great meal for dinner itself. Truth be told, this salad was created because of leftovers from the aforementioned dish. And it was so good.

To make the salad, I combined the cooked lump crab meat with arugula, grapefruit slices, carrot ribbons, green onions and toasted walnuts. Toss it together with a fresh lemon-tarragon vinaigrette, and you have a gourmet crab salad made to impress even the most discerning eaters.

Crab Salad with Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette

You will need:

2 cups cooked lump crab meat (roughly)

4 cups organic arugula

1 grapefruit; cut into slices

1 cup walnuts; toasted with olive oil and a hint of brown sugar

1 carrot; shaved into thin ribbons (use a potato peeler)

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (zest of 1 lemon)

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves

2 cloves of garlic; whole

2 tsp minced green onions

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 tsp honey

1. To make the dressing, combine tarragon, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and honey. Blend until smooth using a food processor.

2. Combine lump crab meat, grapefruit slices, toasted walnuts, carrots, and green onion. Serve on top of a bed of arugula and lightly toss with dressing.

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Sauteed Chard and Gruyere Grilled Cheese

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It’s been raining for days and I couldn’t be happier. Since the weather in San Francisco is so unpredictable during the winter and summer seasons, I get excited when it actually meets my expectations. I spent the majority of this weekend indoors alongside my cozy fireplace, in awe of the storm outside my windows. When it came to dinner time, or any-time snack time, I couldn’t resist this unforgettable grilled cheese recipe from my favorite blog-of-the-hour Sprouted Kitchen. I served this grilled cheese with a mug of carrot-ginger soup, which I picked up from the local grocery store. The combination was heaven, and I spent a total of 15 minutes in the kitchen. Perfect.

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Butterscotch Apple Pie

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Nothing says “holiday classic” like old-fashioned apple pie. I must admit, this was my second attempt ever at baking apple pie from scratch. Although it may seem intimidating, baking a pie is easy if you follow the instructions exactly. That’s the most important part of baking — so you can never skip a step.

This recipe, adapted from Gourmet Holiday, is the perfect accompaniment to any holiday dinner party.  The best part: it only takes 45 minutes of active time, so you can spend the majority of your evening entertaining and relaxing. Also, don’t forget to wear a cute apron (mine came all the way from Sardinia) so that flour doesn’t end up on your new holiday dress.

Butterscotch Apple Pie

Serves 8

You will need:

3 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1/8 tsp salt

2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 1/2 lb mixed tart and sweet apples (about 7), peeled, cut into 6 wedges and cored

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Double recipe All-Butter Pastry Dough

1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp warm water

1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Extra equipment:

small pumpkin or leaf-shape cookie cutters (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425° with a baking sheet placed on middle rack.

2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, then whisk in brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Gently toss apples with sugar mixture, lemon juice, and vanilla and let stand 5 to 15 minutes to macerate fruit.

3. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch round. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Roll out remaining dough into a 13-inch round.

3. Transfer filling to shell. Dot with butter, then cover with pastry round. Trim edges, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang (reserve scraps). Press edges together to seal, then fold under. Lightly brush top crust with some of egg wash, then cut 3 (1-inch-long) vents.

4. Roll out dough scraps about 1/8 inch thick and cut out pumpkin or leaf shapes. Arrange decoratively on top of pie, pressing gently to help adhere. Lightly brush top crust and cutouts with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake pie on hot baking sheet 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 375°F and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 40 to 45 minutes more. Cool to warm, 2 to 3 hours.

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Thai Balls

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is three days away. I spent this last weekend prepping for and enjoying “friendsgiving”, hosted by delightfulcrab + a bunch of awesome people. When you love food as much as we do, celebrating Thanksgiving once just isn’t enough.

Last night, I decided to savor the last few moments of the pre-holiday craze and make something non-traditional.  These Thai meatballs are perfect for any occasion. You could even serve them as appetizers during Thanksgiving or at your annual holiday party. It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year, and I couldn’t be more excited. Enjoy!

Thai Balls with Peanut Sauce

Adapted from The Meatball Shop Cookbook; Makes 2 dozen 1.5 inch balls

2 tbsp olive oil

1 pound ground pork

1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and roughly shopped

2 large eggs

3/4 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil, roughly chopped

1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped

2 thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1/2 bread crumbs

2 tbsp minced lemongrass or lemongrass paste

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

juice from 1 lime

2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp sesame seeds

2 tbsp fish sauce

For the Garnish:

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

2 large carrots, julienned or grated using the large holes of a box grater

10 fresh Thai or Italian basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro (including stems)

10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1 tsp sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Drizzle the olive oil into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

2. Combine the ground pork, shrimp, eggs, basil, cilantro, mint, chiles, bread crumbs, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Roll the mixture into round, golf-ball size meatballs (about 1.5 inches), making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.

4. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165° F.

5. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish. Meanwhile, to make the garnish, place rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, carrots, basil, cilantro, mint, peanuts, and sesame seeds in a bowl and toss to combine.

6. Spoon the garnish over the top of the meatballs and serve with toasted whole wheat Naan and peanut sauce (recipe below).

For the Peanut Sauce:

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

juice from 1 lemon

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp fish sauce

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and toast in the oil, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to turn golden brown, about 1 minute.

2. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, fish sauce, and cayenne (if using). Whisk together until a smooth consistency is achieved. Add a few tablespoons of water to thin the sauce, if needed. Cool in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before serving.

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