Monday, September 27, 2010

Meatless Monday: Cauliflower & Caramelized Onion Frittata and Figgy Salad

I will admit upfront that this meal used an absurd amount of dishes. I only sort of anticipated this. And, to be honest, I'm not sure there's a way to cut down on the number of dishes used; some things just are what they are.

Having said that, this would be such an elegant dish to serve at a brunch. It came out light, fluffy, savory, with a hint of sweetness from the onions - definitely a taste winner. There were a few setbacks, however: the aforementioned dishstravaganza; and the fact that the frittata clung stubbornly to the bottom of its baking dish even though I buttered the crap out of it. Next time, I'd cook it in a nonstick pan - like what you'd bake a cake in (9" X 9").

If you're an egg person, you'll probably really like this recipe. It's not as frou-frou as a quiche (not that I'm knocking quiche, I love the stuff), but it's a bit fancier than, say, scrambled eggs and toast for dinner (which I eat embarrassingly often).

This is a Meatless Monday post, but of course you could meat this up a bit. I actually tweaked it from a Food & Wine recipe that used bacon. Bacon would be delicious (DUH), as would ham, sausage, pancetta, etc. The great thing about a recipe like this is you can just take the base ingredients and swap them out to your liking. Hate cauliflower? Swap it for broccoli or asparagus. Not a fan of caramelized onions? You may be crazy, but nonetheless you could skip those, too.

Make this one your own! And go with a nonstick pan, for cryinoutloud - in fact, bring out the Pam spray! You'll thank me later.


8 eggs, beaten
splash of half and half
salt and pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
sprinkle of sugar
2 medium (or one giant) onion, halved and sliced thinly
1 T. olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
sprinkle of water
fresh chopped parsley
lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Salad Dressing:
5-6 fresh figs, quartered
~1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
drizzle of honey
squirt of mustard
spring mix
sliced cucumbers
1 medium carrot, sliced
2 T. olive oil


Heat a pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter and sliced onions. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, until caramelized. Sprinkle a little sugar over the onions and cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.


Heat an ovenproof dish (such as a Dutch oven) over medium-high heat (if you don't have a cooking pot that can transfer from the stovetop to the oven, no worries - just cook the cauliflower, add it to the eggs, then pour it all in a casserole dish). Add a little olive oil, then add the cauliflower, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes, until cauliflower is beginning to turn golden brown. Add about a 1/4 cup water to the pan, add the garlic, cover, and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 8 minutes.


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Meanwhile, beat eggs, half and half, salt and pepper, parsley, and a good amount of parmesan cheese in a large bowl. When the onion is cool, stir it into the egg mixture. When cauliflower is done, scoop it out and allow to cool on a plate. Rinse and wipe out the ovenproof dish. Rub a little butter into the dish. Pour the egg/onion mixture into the dish, then sprinkle the cauliflower around. Top with more grated parmesan. Bake until frittata is set, about 30 minutes. When set, switch oven to broil, and cook under the broiler until the top is brown in places.


While the frittata is baking, put the balsamic and figs (with a pinch of salt) in a small saucepan, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, until figs have basically disintegrated into the vinegar. Remove from heat, transfer to food processor, add squeeze of honey, and process until smooth. Add the mustard. Process again, and drizzle the olive oil in through the top until the mixture is emulsified. Set aside while you get the salad greens ready. Toss the greens with the dressing. Slice the frittata into pieces, serve with the salad, and enjoy!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Baked Rigatoni with Mushrooms

If there's anything positive about the short Chicago summer melting into fall, it's that it's easier to plan meals around cheese melting into pasta.

These past few days have felt particularly autumnal, and since tonight was a lazy night in, a baked pasta dish sounded perfect. I basically took the idea of baked ziti - which I used to eat, in a very rudimentary form, in college, all the time - and twisted it a little bit.

Using whole wheat pasta and adding mushrooms boosts the nutrition (as does serving it with a big green salad, which I did), and, while tons of melty cheese isn't exactly health food, it does add protein (and, obviously, it's ridiculously delicious).

This dish takes awhile to make, especially if you make the sauce from scratch, but on a Sunday, when you have plenty of time, it's totally worth it. It was soooo delicious. Ross, against his better judgment, ate two huge platefuls, then moaned in pain afterward. Still - totally worth it.

Happy Fall, everyone!


2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large can whole fire-roasted tomatoes and all juices
fresh chopped parsley
fresh chopped basil
sprinkle dried oregano
~1/3 cup half and half

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 container baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, sliced
~1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

~10 oz. whole wheat (or regular) rigatoni
1 baseball-sized ball mozzarella, torn into large pieces
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano for sprinkling on top

Make the tomato sauce [note: if you're in a hurry, you could skip this and use any jarred marinara sauce you like]: heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat. Cook the onions, carrots, and celery until browning in some places. Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir in the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and chopped fresh herbs and oregano. Stir, cover, and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon every now and again, until tomatoes have broken down and sauce has reduced a little. Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce (or skip this). Turn off the heat and stir in the half and half. Taste and adjust seasoning. Cover and set aside, off the heat.

Boil the noodles until slightly less cooked than al dente (they'll continue to cook while baking). Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butter and oil. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms, and allow to cook without stirring or shaking the pan for about 5 minutes. Then stir and continue to cook for a few more minutes, until some of their water has cooked off. Pour in the balsamic and stir until it evaporates a bit. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook until many of the mushrooms have dark edges. Remove from heat and stir into the marinara sauce.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When the noodles are done, stir them into the pot with the marinara and mushrooms. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Top with the mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle a little salt, red pepper flakes, and oregano over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until edges look bubbly. Switch the oven mode to broil and cook for another few minutes, until the cheese has a lot of brown crispy spots. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sardine Mousse & Argula Manchego Salad

YOU: Sardine mousse? Really? Really?

ME: Really!

I have been wanting to experiment with sardines for awhile now, because, according to
several reliable sources, they're magic in a can! Plus, there's something so rustic and decidedly low-rent about eating fish from a little tin. I feel like I should also be sporting a handlebar moustache and smoking from a pipe while wearing my tattered argyle sweater vest.

I conceived the idea for sardine mousse...well, I don't remember when, exactly. But having semi-recently had chicken liver mousse at a restaurant and really liking it, and having been experimenting with my food processor, I thought I'd try my hand at a fancy classic. And it was good!

It tasted, actually, a lot like tuna salad. And who doesn't like the occasional tuna salad? It was definitely a bit "fishier" tasting, but not in the creepy maybe-this-is-too-old-to-eat way. It was pleasant. And I got to fantasize that I was wearing a gauzy white tunic, standing on a rocky cliff overlooking a hidden little fishing village somewhere near...this place:

Or this one:

Maybe even this one:

You get the idea. On crisp grilled toast, with a nice fresh salad and a fancy pants clementine soda, the sardine mousse was a perfect lunch. And my nutrient-fortified body agrees!


1 tin sardines packed in olive oil
1/3 stick butter, room temperature
spoonful of mayonnaise
1 clove garlic
red pepper flakes
3 slices French bread, sliced about 1/2" thin on a deep bias
a little olive oil for brushing
fresh chopped parsley for garnish

handful baby arugula
a few slices manchego cheese
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
small drizzle olive oil
small drizzle balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Add all the mousse ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides of the processor as needed. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Rub a little olive oil onto the bread slices. When the pan's hot, grill them, using something heavy (like a cast-iron pot) to weigh them down so they get pronounced grill marks (this is not required, but it speeds up the process). When the bread has nice grill marks, spread some mousse on each piece and top with parsley.

Make the salad: in a bowl, toss the arugula with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and balsamic. Scatter the manchego and red peppers on top. Serve with the sardine mousse and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chicken Rosé & Basil Smashed Potatoes

Rather than use this space to discuss the finer points of the flavors in this dish*, I'm going to use it to rant about my food annoyance du jour (because it's my blog, dammit): FROZEN MEALS.

I realize I'm probably preaching to the converted; if you're reading a cooking blog, you're probably not the type to throw a Lean Cuisine in the microwave and call it dinner. (Clearly, that logic isn't going to stop me.) My deep-seated loathing of frozen meals started at work. Day after day, I queue up outside one of our 2 office microwaves...and wait. And wait. And wait, while some of my illustrious coworkers heat their Healthy Choice ("healthy" choice) fettuccine alfredos ("fettucine alfredos") for upwards of 6 minutes per meal. SIX. MINUTES. When you're starving, have 15 minutes to eat between meetings, and have been thinking about your, say, leftover Chicken Rosé since 9:00 a.m., six minutes might as well be the Mesozoic Era.

I bet you thought I was going to rave about their staggering list of ingredients, their extreme over-processed-ness, and/or their general lack of nutrition. Nope. That all goes without saying. I have more faith in the American consumer (especially the fine folks of my ad agency) than to think that they actually believe that fettuccine alfredo created months ago, shuttled from warehouse to truck to warehouse to frozen food case, then reheated in a plastic container could be healthy, let alone truly satisfying. My biggest issue with those Lean Healthy Cuisine Choice meals is that they're masquerading as real meal in the first place: clocking in, on average, at around 250 calories, there is no way they could legitimately fill up an adult human being. And when you're not satisfied at lunch, the stale bagels from this morning's meeting start to not look so bad, after all.

You've probably stopped reading by now, but if you haven't - I salute you. And I apologize for surrounding these delicious looking photos with my blatant high horsery. In conclusion, I hope you make this for dinner tomorrow, and pack the leftovers for Thursday's lunch. And I really, really hope you don't get stuck behind a Stouffer's single-serve Mac 'n' Cheese.

*I couldn't completely ignore the dish at hand. This was mega delish! I named it Chicken Rosé because I used up some leftover red and white wine. If you're not a boozehound like me, feel free to pick one or the other, although I'd lean toward red to maintain the rich, coq au vin-esque flavors of the original. The sour cream was a downright naughty addition, but boy did it make for a silky, tangy sauce. The smashed potatoes offered a nice textural contrast and a pleasant brightness from the basil, although if you really wanted to knock someone's socks off, a traditionally made creamy, smooth mashed potato would be elegant and incredibly tasty. I hope you love it as much as I did!


1-2 T. olive oil
6-7 chicken drumsticks, skin removed
salt and pepper
3 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 lg. container button mushrooms
1 lg. container baby bella mushrooms
~1/2 cup red wine
2-3 T. balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, minced
handful chopped fresh parsley
~1/2 cup white wine
~1/2 cup chicken broth
~1/3 cup light sour cream

8-10 small, thin-skinned potatoes (like baby Yukon Gold)
2 T. butter
salt and pepper
~1/3 cup milk
~1/3 cup chicken broth
2 T. chopped fresh basil

frozen peas
salt and pepper

Heat a Dutch oven or big pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, and brown the chicken (in 2 batches if neccessary), seasoning with salt and pepper. Turn chicken and brown on the other side. Remove and set aside on a platter.

Reduce the heat a bit, add butter to the pan, let melt a bit, then add the onion and mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for a couple minutes. Then add the red wine and balsamic vinegar. Boil uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the mixture gets a little dry (the liquid should reduce by about half).

Return the chicken to the pot. Add all the rest of the chicken ingredients except the sour cream. The liquid should just barely cover the chicken (with maybe a few little pieces sticking above the liquid line). Cook on medium high (it should be boiling), uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Once again remove the chicken from the liquid and set aside on a plate. Continue to cook the liquid until it's reduced by about half. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the sour cream. Continue to cook until the mixture has thickened to a gravy-like consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return the chicken to the pot, cover, and keep warm on low until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes until very tender. Drain. Return the cooking pot to the burner, and reduce heat to low. Add butter to the pot and let melt a bit. Return potatoes to the pot while still very hot, and begin to smash with a masher or the back of a wooden spoon (you want a chunky consistency, not creamy smoothness). Add the basil, milk, chicken broth, and salt and pepper.

Cook your peas in a little water until hot. Drain, return to pot, and season. Scoop some smashed potatoes onto each plate and top with 2-3 chicken drumsticks as well as some mushroom "gravy." Serve peas alongside. Enjoy!

Red Pepper & Walnut Pesto AND Corniest Corn Chowder

OMG where have I been?!

Well, let's see: after my AMAZING birthday trip to Punta de Mita, Mexico [surfing La Lancha, deep-sea fishing for swordfish, relaxing by the pool, snorkeling, sun soaking, pina colada sipping, guacamole overdosing], Ross and I embarked on the Great New Apartment Adventure! We are now in a MUCH more spacious and completely adorable one bedroom right in the heart of Lakeview.

Not a week went by after my return from Mexico that I was whisked away to LA for work (not the most terrible place to work, I must admit). Amidst the travel, the moving, then being swallowed up in a downright challenging barrage of work and social activities, I didn't cook a thing for the entire month of August (unless you count late-night scrambled eggs on toast, which, frankly, you shouldn't).

All excuses aside, to my loyal blog fans: many apologies for my absence, but here's to looking forward to an autumn filled with squash, cider, and cozy nights at home (in front of our WORKING FIREPLACE!!!). And check out our "Urban Surf Shack" bedroom:

Sascha Fierce is enjoying the extra room to run wild, Ross is loving his very own Surfboard Storage Space, and I'm loving my big, open, granite-countertop-boasting kitchen (WITH A DISHWASHER!!!) which, I promise you with this post, I will be creating more of the delicious meals you've come to expect. So, as atonement for my laziness, please enjoy not one but TWO Fearless recipes that will take you from late summer to early fall.



1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 jar roasted red peppers
~1 cup walnut halves/pieces
big handful basil leaves
1/2 bunch parsley
6-8 kalamata olives
salt to taste
juice of one lemon
~1/4 cup water
~1/3 c. olive oil
1 box whole wheat penne pasta (or any other pasta you like)
grated Parmesan cheese for topping


Place all ingredients except pasta and Parmesan into food processor and blend until smooth. With the blade running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.


Meanwhile, boil the noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain and return to cooking pot. Toss with the sauce and heat on low to warm sauce through. Serve topped with Parmesan. Enjoy!



3 T. butter
1 small onion (or 1/2 a large onion), diced small
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes
10 cobs fresh corn, husked
3 cloves garlic, sliced
~1/2 carton chicken broth (probably about 2 cups)
1/2 pint half and half
4-5 large fresh basil leaves, in ribbons
sour cream, grape tomatoes, and fresh basil for garnish

With a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the corn cobs into a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot. Add the onion, corn kernels, and salt/pepper/red pepper flakes. Stir and let cook until onions begin to get translucent.

Add enough chicken broth just to cover the kernels. Add the garlic and basil, stir, then cover and cook over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a little chicken broth if the mixture seems to be getting a little dry.

Use an immersion blender to break down most of the corn kernels - you want a soup that's not pureed, but that's creamier than cream corn. You could also do this step in a blender or food processor. If you want it chunkier, leave more kernels. If you want it creamier, puree the heck out of it.

Reduce the heat a bit and stir in the half and half. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve in bowls topped with quartered grape tomatoes, slivered basil leaves, and a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!
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