Octopus Salad with Green Harissa

Octopus salad with pickled pears, shaved vegetables, and green harissa

Octopus salad. Ok maybe not your usual go-to for a quick, week day meal for the family. It isn’t a standard in our house either but the menu-planning-stars sort of aligned this week so I thought, “why not?” But even though it’s not being a regular on our menu at home I absolutely love octopus! When done well, the different textures and flavors work so well in most cuisines. AND it’s surprisingly easy to cook! So actually, it IS a great meal to add to your family’s menu…. You just hafta get the kids on board with the whole tentacle thing.

This octopus salad recipe is quite simple in technique. Most of the prep time revolves around the breakdown of the octopus, which is notoriously chewy and tough unless cooked in one of two ways: a low and slow braise (or if you’re like me and scored a sweet pressure cooker, pressure cooked for 10 min) or on really high heat for a short amount of time…. or I guess you could also thrash your octopus against a Grecian rock (Greek fishermen actually do this!) but I’ve only worked with the first two techniques so I’ll stick with that this time around. Whichever the approach you choose, the goal is breakdown the connective tissue resulting in a soft and tender cephalopod.

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This recipe is a great beginning-of spring dish. I included a bunch of my favorite crunchy vegetables, a nutty farro grain, and finished it with an aromatic and spicy African green harissa sauce. Plus the added char of the octopus adds a subtly complexity. I’m telling ya- if your family was ever on the fence about eating baby octopus, they wont be after a bite of this flavor-packed octopus salad!

Notes: Check out this pressure cooker! Not only does it cut down on cook time but it also has lots of other features to make cooking easy!

Print Recipe
Grilled Baby Octopus and Shaved Vegetable Salad with Pickled Pears and Green Harissa
Set aside some time for prep early in the day and let the ingredients chill until dinner time, making for quick assembly!
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Octopus
Salad
Pickled Pears
Green Harissa
Prep Time 30 min
Cook Time 2 hours
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Octopus
Salad
Pickled Pears
Green Harissa
Instructions
Octopus
  1. Start by combing the marinade ingredients, dividing into 2 bowls, reserving 1 for later. Add the octopus to 1 bowl of marinade, toss to coat, then add to pressure cooker or stock pot. Add enough water to cover octopus. Cover with lid and cook on low for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove octopus from pot and add to reserved marinade. Toss to coat and place in fridge until just before serving/grilling.
Pickled Pears
  1. Combine all of the pickling ingredients in small saucepan, minus the pears. Turn on high and bring to a boil. Pour pickling liquid over sliced pears (making sure liquid covers all of the pears) and place in fridge to cool.
Harissa
  1. Add harissa ingredients to blender or food processor. Blend until smooth but not completely pureed. Leaving a little texture gives the harissa a nice texture.
Finishing
  1. If grilling, cook octopus until slightly blackened. (You can also saute the octopus or just leave chilled). Toss salad ingredients with (drained) pickled pears and octopus. Finishing with drizzle of olive oil and harissa.

Paleo Shrimp Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles

Paleo shrimp pad thai with zucchini noodles

Ok so I get that it’s Friday and having a healthy bowl of veggies in your shrimp pad thai is maybe not what your stomach had in mind. But we’re literally days away from Spring (thank goodness!)…. which means lots of spring vegetables….. which also means beach season..? (I dont know, I dont particularly care for the beach…unless a lobster roll is involved- then I’m SO there!) Either way, I’m over the hearty stews and soups of winter and ready for some crisp veg! Annnnd not only that but this shrimp pad thai satisfies my craving for Thai food without slowing me down as I head into this weekend!

cabbage, green onions, carrots, egg, cilantro, garlic, cashews. limes

What I love about pad thai is that its a great “gateway” recipe for people to learn how to cook Thai food. I know it can be an intimidating cuisine to dive into but we’ve all had pad thai at some point. Use that comfort of tasty Thai food to jump right on in to this recipe!

My paleo version takes a few creative (and healthy) liberties but the outcome is 100% pad thai. In fact, I’ll bet ya wont even miss the stuff I altered!

Paleo shrimp pad thai with zucchini noodles

Tips: Check out these items to help prep this meal:

Print Recipe
Paleo Shrimp Pad Thai with Zucchini Noodles
A healthy twist on a crowd favorite! Perfect dish to count down to the warm Spring season.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 10 min
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1/2 cup` tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos Coconut aminos is a great paleo alternative but can substitute with soy sauce.
  • 2 tbsp honey Traditionally made with palm sugar. Can substitute with sweetener of choice.
  • 1 zucchini thin julienne with spiralizer or peeler
  • 1/4 bunch cilanto rough chop
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews rough chop. Traditionally made with peanuts but I subbed with cashews to make it paleo.
  • 1 lime
  • 18 16/20 shrimp 16/20 is the size of the shrimp. Peel, devein, tail off.
  • 1/4 bunch green onion thin slice
  • 1 cup veggies of choice Traditionally preserved radish and bean sprouts are added but feel free to use any veg you like!
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Thai
Prep Time 20 min
Cook Time 10 min
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Pad Thai Sauce
  • 1/2 cup` tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp coconut aminos Coconut aminos is a great paleo alternative but can substitute with soy sauce.
  • 2 tbsp honey Traditionally made with palm sugar. Can substitute with sweetener of choice.
  • 1 zucchini thin julienne with spiralizer or peeler
  • 1/4 bunch cilanto rough chop
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews rough chop. Traditionally made with peanuts but I subbed with cashews to make it paleo.
  • 1 lime
  • 18 16/20 shrimp 16/20 is the size of the shrimp. Peel, devein, tail off.
  • 1/4 bunch green onion thin slice
  • 1 cup veggies of choice Traditionally preserved radish and bean sprouts are added but feel free to use any veg you like!
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
Instructions
Sauce
  1. To make the sauce, combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan. Heat until warm and set aside.
Pad Thai
  1. Start by stir frying the shrimp with 1 tsp oil in hot skillet. Cook on both sides for 30-60 seconds then add 1 tbsp of the sauce. Set shrimp aside. In same skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil on high until smoking. Add the the carrots first then add the additional veggies and garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of the sauce. Add the zucchini noodles, cilantro, green onions, and 1/2 of the juice from the lime. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp back to the pan and mix until coated in sauce. Add more sauce for desired taste. Garnish with cilantro and cashews. Serve with lime wedges!

The Tale of Motherhood, the Picky Eater,… and Chicken Nuggets

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No mice were harmed in the making of this product

They say that nothing can help prepare you for parenthood. It’s unpredictable, frustrating, beautiful, empowering, exhausting, soul satisfying… it’s the most rewarding aspect of my entire life. And even though there have been (and will be) times in my daughter’s life that are more challenging than others, nothing breaks a mother’s heart more than when they’re sick.  My goofy, energetic munchkin has been temporarily replaced by a sad, lethargic little puddle of vulnerability. And this Mama Bear has never felt so utterly helpless and yet so important in my entire life.

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“Mama Bear mode” was triggered on day one, let’s be honest, so going to bat today versus any other day isn’t very different. And interestingly, I think L’s day one (Mama Bear Inauguration Day) correlates to the shift in how I view food. As you’d expect, becoming a parent opens your eyes to aspects of your life/world that seemed futile before.  Meh, who cares where this chicken I’m eating came from; who cares that I don’t know what half of the ingredients listed on the box of cereal are; Is it cheap? Sure! I’ll get that one then… etc, etc, etc. Believe it or not, most chefs succumb to the marketing ploys of the modern food industry too. But ever since the munchkin came into my life, I’ve slowly started making changes to our personal food culture- changes that I hope will positively shape her entire future but also help our environment as well. I may not have an organic farm (yet) or purchase all our produce from CSAs (soon!), but I can make small changes now that can affect major change later.

Sooo, chicken nuggets.

My former chef self is manically laughing at me, for sure, but these chicken nuggets are just one small piece of that life-changing puzzle… and delish too. Prompted by my super picky eater (ugh…a painful admission for a chef to make. Apparently 2 year olds don’t care that you were a professional chef and can cook amazing food), I developed this insanely easy, healthy, natural alternative to the questionable “chicken” nuggets that are on the market now (even the “healthy” products contain ingredients I disagree with!).  And I even gave myself bonus points for the fact that she enjoyed them too! Call this “A Mama Bear win” for sure.

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Toddler-Approved Chicken Nuggets

Yields 40 nuggets

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs chicken things, boneless and skinless
  • 2 lbs chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 4 cups baby spinach, wilted in boiling water, drained and water squeezed out or leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ¼ onion, rough chop
  • 1 carrot (or leftover baby carrots hanging out in the fridge)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed, optional

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 cups of you child’s favorite cracker, ground
  • Salt, to taste (if using. Omit if prefer salt free)

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Start by cooking your carrots, garlic, celery, and onions- I steamed mine (retains more nutrients) but you can roast, boil, whatever is easiest. Just make sure they are soft. Add the cooked veg, spinach, chicken breasts and thighs, eggs, flax seed, salt, and 1 cup of the ground crackers. Blend in food processor until combined. Roll into desired shape (Mickey Mouse shape optional), coat in remaining ground cracker, and place on sheet pan lined with parchment. Place in freezer until frozen and package for later use or cook in 400 oven for 10-15 minutes (until golden brown). Serve with toddler condiment of choice!

Why I Left The Restaurant Industry

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I used to be a restaurant chef. I hated it. Not because it wasn’t fulfilling…. It was. I actually thrived in it. It was hot, fast-paced, and loud. And I loved it. I was able to overcome the chaos and dive deep within myself to find clarity, peace, and creativity. I was nicknamed “ninja” because I could stealthily move throughout the busy kitchen faster and quieter than anyone else. But I wasn’t happy. The long hours and the low pay were hard to cope with. I wanted more. Mostly I wanted a “real” life. One that didn’t start at noon and end at 2am. But mostly I wanted the possibility of having a family.
Now I know it’s entirely possible to be a woman, a chef, and a mom. But I was never able to see how I could be 100% happy with that path. So I left. I left longgggg before my wife and daughter were even a blip on my radar. There are times I miss it. I miss not having a space to constantly create. I miss the camaraderie, especially with those that understand my love borderline insane passion of food. You don’t come across people who can talk for hours about the origin and uses for lemongrass or benne or uni like you do in a professional kitchen. I suppose that’s one benefit I hope to gain by writing this blog. Are you out there, ready to dig deep into a culinary convo with me?

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But what I don’t miss? The burns… the cuts… the exhaustion… the lack of contact with the outside world. Sure I may have taken a step others wouldn’t have. And that’s fine. I’m ok with that actually. I’m ok with not being “a real chef” in some eyes. Because I gained so much more. Yeah, I may never serve my pork cheek dish to a James Beard official… but seeing my daughter’s face light up when I pull a freshly baked loaf of bread out of the oven is more rewarding of a feeling than any culinary honor could bring. I’ll take her smile over a Michelin star any day.

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So what does this used-to-be chef make for dinner now that she has all of this “free time”. Sometimes it’s an intricate, lengthy, exotic recipe. Other times (most times) it’s a dish like this- a few simple ingredients, prepared gently to coax out the innate flavors inside. Bonus: it’s a great week day side dish! Active prep time is only about 10 minutes. Toss it all together and serve it alongside a roasted chicken, seared steak, or slow-roasted salmon (like I did this week!).

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Roasted Acorn Squash and Cauliflower with Preserved Lemon, Apricot, Chili Threads, and Basil

Yields 2 large portions

Ingredients:

    • 1 medium cauliflower, cut into florets
    • 1 acorn squash, seeded and cut into cubes
    • ¼ cup dried apricots, cut in half
    • 6 Thai basil leaves, picked
    • Olive oil
    • Salt, to taste
    • Specialty ingredients (click image below to can find online!):
    • ¼ preserved lemon peel, cut into thin strips
    • Pinch of chili threads (or red pepper flakes if threads are not available)

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Toss cauliflower and acorn squash in olive oil and season with salt. Place on separate roasting pans, sprinkle apricots evenly on both trays (mix to incorporate) and roast for 15-20 minutes, until slightly charred. Remove from oven and toss together with preserved lemon, basil, chili threads, and salt to taste. Finish with olive oil and a few more chili threads.

Pho

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Has anyone else had a crazy-busy January?? (Raises hand.) Where did the month go? Pink hearts and Valentine’s Day decorations adorn every store already and I’m over here like: “Wasn’t Christmas yesterday??” But despite the exciting schedule my family had this last month, I was able to spend some amazing quality time in the kitchen. Whether it was finding creative recipes for those post-holiday blues, concocting delicious cocktails (ugh politics…at least there are fun drinks with umbrellas to help), or tackling all-time favorite foods that require patience and finesse, my January has been a fun and culinarily-challenging month. And today’s recipe certainly plays to that theme.

From the moment I first tried pho in college, it became one of my favorite foods. There really isn’t anything more comforting than a large, steaming bowl of this Vietnamese aromatic noodle soup. And since California has seen more rainy days lately than I can remember, I knew I had to learn about and conquer this dish so that I could enjoy it without leaving my warm, dry home. And here’s something cool I learned during my pho education: its actually not that difficult to make! Patience, quality ingredients, and a good 24 hours is all that’s really needed to make this popular dish at home. Follow the tips and techniques below and you too will be a pho aficionado!

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Pho

Yields 4 portions
Ingredients:
Broth
  • 3 lbs beef bones, preferably knuckles or marrow*
  • 2 anise seed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1½ tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 4-inch piece of ginger, cut in half from top to bottom
  • 1 white onion, cut in half
  • 2½ tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 3-4 quarts water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Serving

  • 2 lbs protein of choice, very thinly sliced (chicken, tri-tip, sirloin, etc. or just veggies)
  • 1 package banh pho noodles (rice noodles)
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly julienned and soaked in cold water for 30 min

Garnishes

  • fresh herbs: Thai basil, cilantro, mint
  • bean sprouts
  • jalapeno slices
  • lime wedges

Notes:

*Beef knuckle and marrow bones are full of collagen which produces a thicker broth and is arguably where the great nutrients and heath properties lie. Plan your shopping trip to the butcher days before your pho day too. Some butchers don’t keep bones around for too long, so if no one scoops them up, they end up getting tossed. The next bones up for sale may not be available for a couple of days.

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The key to great pho is taking special care of each ingredient on its own. So to start, place the onion and ginger halves, face up, on the top rack of a broil pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until the tops are very charred. You can also use a grill to achieve the same results (preferred method, if possible). Set the ginger and onion aside. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the spices until fragrant. Set toasted spices aside.

Place bones in a 5qt stockpot and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Drain bones and rinse with warm water, scrubbing any impurities stuck to the bones. Quickly scrub the pot to remove any residue and return bones to the pot. This step is key to clear, beautiful broth. Skip this step and you may have to do a lot more skimming during the cooking process and the end result will be cloudy.

Add your charred onion and ginger, the toasted spices, fish sauce, and sugar to the pot. Over low heat, cook the broth uncovered for at least 10 hours until as long as you’d like! The longer the broth cooks, the more collagen (and flavor!) is extracted from the bones, making your pho more luscious, delicious, and addictive. Keep an eye on the level of the liquid throughout the cooking process and add more water as needed. Also skim any fat pooling at the surface as you go. Don’t stress too much about this step, however. Once you get the broth cooking, just let it do its thing. Your part is done, for now; it’s the ingredients’ time to shine.

Ok, so your broth has been on the stove for many hours, the house smells INCREDIBLE, and you literally can’t handle the anticipation anymore. Now it’s time to finish the dish. Start by straining the bones, onion, ginger, and spices from the broth into a second large stock (or drain into a big enough container, then clean the stock pot and return clear broth to same pot).

To ensure the clearest broth possible you can strain the broth through cheesecloth. Once strained, return broth to a low boil. Cook your pho noodles according to the packaging (cool under cold water until ready to serve). You can quickly (20-30 seconds) blanch the bean sprouts in the noodle water as well.

For the protein portion: all beef and chicken is typically sliced super thin and placed raw in super hot broth. The combination of the two will produce perfectly cooked piece of meat without threat of being over or under done. To ensure this you can do several things:

  1. Ensure the serving bowl is warm before placing the soup inside. A cold bowl will drop the temperature of the broth too fast before the protein has time to cook.
  2. Make sure you’re serving the pho in deep bowls, not shallow salad bowls. A deep bowl will better retain heat.
  3. Bring your broth to a rolling bowl 2-3 minutes before serving to make sure it’s extra hot.
  4. Don’t add the cooled noodles until the meat is cooked. Adding the cold noodles will drop the broth temp before the protein cooks.
  5. If you’re worried about whether the meat will cook in the broth before you devour the whole bowl, you can always blanch the protein in a pot of boiling water for 1-3 minutes.

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Here it is! You’ve waited all night and day, you can see the finish line just around the corner, your mouth has been permanently salivating since you came home from the grocery store…but wait just a few moments more. Don’t forget to prep those garnishes. Customization is one of the best parts of pho. Arrange the prepped garnishes on a plate for the middle of the table so each diner can choose their favorite combinations. I love spicy pho so I add a few more jalapeños. My wife loves the herbs so she drowns 3-4 more leaves in her pho than I do. Its the easiest part of making and the most fun.

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Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon

img_4888Welp… presents have been unwrapped, stockings are empty, and Santa is probably on his way to Hawaii for some much needed r & r. I don’t know about you but I had a great holiday season – lots of fun time with family, friends, and food. I even competed in a little stollen (traditional German Christmas bread) throw down!

Annnnndd then January 2nd hit and it was back to reality.  I know I wasn’t the only person dragging their feet back to work yesterday. But I will say that I am very excited to get back to playing in the kitchen! Since my diet for the last month has basically consisted of cookies, candy, and holiday treats I thought I’d start my New Year’s week off with one of my favorite salmon recipes. Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon is super easy, super healthy, and full of flavor. Pair it with some roasted winter squash and lemony-wilted greens and you have the perfect dinner to start your year off right!

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Rosemary and Balsamic Glazed Salmon

Yields 4 portions
 
Ingredients:
  • 4-5 oz  portions of skinless wild salmon*
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves picked off and finely minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 2 cups of balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of red chili flakes, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
 
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Preheat oven to 375°F. Place salmon fillets on a greased sheet pan and lightly season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add in the garlic and rosemary and sauté for 15 seconds. Stir in the dijon mustard, honey, and optional red chili flakes. Add in the balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.  Once the vinegar reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium and simmer the vinegar. Don’t forget to turn on your kitchen fan! The vinegar will give off strong fumes as it cooks. Continue to simmer the balsamic vinegar mixture (stirring constantly to avoid burning) until it reduces in quantity to about ¾ – 1 cup (about 7-10 minutes). The glaze should be slightly thick and syrupy (the mixture with thicken as it cools). Let the glaze cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled, coat the top of each salmon fillet with glaze. Place the glazed salmon fillets in the oven and roast for 7-9 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 139°F. 
 
*Note: Since it isn’t currently salmon season, don’t be afraid to use frozen salmon for this recipe! 
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Pumpkin and Berbere-Spiced Lentils with Shaved Apple-Brussels Sprout Salad

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If there is one thing that my wife and I love more than eating food, it’s eating ethnic food — and Ethiopian food is one of our absolute favorites. I knew I was falling in love with her when I took her out for Ethiopian food when we were first dating. There are few women who would enjoy eating curry with their fingers on a first date, and she was a pro. So understandably, I made it a goal of mine to create an Ethiopian-inspired dish that we could enjoy at home. And since Ethiopian food is predominantly finger food, I’m hoping to introduce it to my daughter soon as well.

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Berbere, a blend of paprika, coriander, fenugreek, allspice, cayenne, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and cardamom, is a spice used in many Ethiopian dishes.

This Ethiopian-inspired lentil dish is by no means authentic, but I do apply techniques and flavors I have learned over the years. I approach this dish as I do with most curry-type recipes: with caramelized onions, ginger-garlic paste, and fried spices… And then I add my own twist. If you like warm spices, finger foods, and a full winter-belly feeling, give this recipe a try!

The shaved salad component was an addition I came up with to contrast the textures of the lentils and injera. While it may not be traditional, I feel it adds brightness and crunch to a soft, full-flavored stew.

Pumpkin and Berbere-Spiced Lentils with Shaved Apple-Brussels Sprouts Salad

Yields 8 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1 red onion, julienned
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 7 oz pumpkin puree (half a can)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes in juice (preferably low or no sodium added)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ cup plus 1 tbsp coconut, vegetable, or avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp. berbere spices (can be found at your local grocery store! Look for Ethiopian Berbere Spices)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or juice from 1 lemon)

Peel the ginger and place in a food processor, small blender, or finely mince by hand with the garlic to create a “paste”. In a large stock pot over medium heat, add oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and stir occasionally until caramelized (about 20 minutes).

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Tip for caramelizing onions: splash the bottom of the pot with water if the onions are browning too quickly without being fully caramelized. This will lengthen the cook time without the risk of burning the onions.

Once onions are caramelized, add in the ginger-garlic paste and cook for 30 seconds. Add in the berbere spice and “bloom” with the onion-ginger-garlic blend. (This technique will release the oils within the spices, opening up the dish to a level unattainable without this step.) Stir the mixture constantly as to not burn the spices (using the water technique mentioned above if needed). After 1-2 minutes of blooming, add in the canned tomatoes, pumpkin puree, water, and lentils. Cover the pot and turn heat to low. Stir occasionally because as the lentils absorb liquid, they may stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. If you’re finding that the lentils are sticking frequently, turn the heat off for a minute or two, stir the lentils off the bottom of the pot, then turn the heat back to low. Over a low boil, cook the lentils for about 1 hour, or until soft. Add additional water if the lentil are undercooked. When the lentils are cooked, stir in the salt and lemon juice. Continue to cook the lentils for another 10-15 minutes on low heat.

For the shaved apple and Brussels sprouts salad, grate the apples and Brussels sprouts with a cheese grater. Toss the shaved apples and sprouts with apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp oil, and a pinch of salt.

Serve the lentils over flat bread, rice, or Ethiopian bread called injera. Top the lentils with the shaved salad and enjoy!

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Try your lentil dish with Ethiopian injera – either store bought or, better yet, homemade like we did!

Warm Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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If I haven’t said it enough, I LOVE fall/winter produce. I think it’s because the complimentary flavors and spices remind me of family, warmth, and the holidays… basically nostalgia in a bowl. So when we had a dinner party with friends this past weekend, I wanted to make a dish with all of my favorites. This warm salad makes a great side dish for dinner, lunch on a cool day, or even breakfast when topped with a fried egg!

Warm Winter Squash and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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Use a vegetable peeler to help peel off that tough butternut squash skin!

Yields 6 portions

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 3 medium delicata squashes
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 tart apples
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 sprig of thyme, leaves picked off
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup plus ¾ cup neutral oil (avocado, canola, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • salt and pepper

In a blender combine 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds, maple syrup, garlic, thyme, cayenne, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, oil, ½ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Blend vinaigrette until emulsified* and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if you would like. Add in the remaining whole pomegranate seeds and reserve vinaigrette until later.

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*Emulsified means breaking up the oil molecules so that they are suspended within the vinegar, creating a cohesive dressing.

For this roasted salad you’ll either need 4 baking sheets or you can roast in batches then reheat all of the vegetables in the oven just before serving. I know that’s a lot of roasting but bear with me, this dish is amazingggg.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the Brussels sprouts in quarters and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and 1 tsp oil. Arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, or until edges start to brown. To prep the delicata, cut the ends off and then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and cut delicata into 1 inch cubes. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon,  and 1 tsp. oil. Arrange delicata in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

For the butternut squash, peel skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut top and bottom stems off, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut butternut squash in 1 inch chunks and season with a pinch of salt, pepper, ¼ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. oil. Arrange butternut squash in a single layer on a baking sheet roast for 15-20 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

The onion and apples can be prepared together: cut the top and bottom stems off the onion, cut in half, peel off the skin, and cut into 1 inch pieces. Core the apple and cut into 1 inch pieces. Place both on the same baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.

So — that wasn’t so bad, right? Now all that’s left to do is mix the warm vegetables with toasted pecans, ½ cup of the vinaigrette, and serve! Autumn, holidays, cozy nights by the fire, snowy mornings, and warm fuzzy feelings all wrapped up in a pretty (and delicious) dish.

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Homemade Chicken Stock

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Now that you’ve roasted the most delicious whole chicken and carved it to perfection, don’t be so quick to throw the bones in the trash. Even after you’ve wished upon that wish bone, the leftover bones are the beginning of many tasty soups, stews, and sauces… in the form of chicken stock, that is. Chicken stock is incredibly easy to make and freezes for up to 3 months…just long enough to keep you warm during chilly winter days. And if you plan ahead, this is a great place to use up scraps from onions, garlic, and carrots that you’ve saved up throughout the week.

img_4156Chicken Stock

Yields 10 cups

Ingredients:

  • Bones from whole chicken
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of thyme

Preheat oven to 450°F. Rough chop onions, celery, and carrots and place on a sheet pan. Roast for 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly. Place whole chicken carcass on a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, place herbs, garlic, roasted vegetables, and roasted chicken and cover with water (about 12 cups). Once boiling, turn heat down to low, cover with a lid, and simmer chicken stock for 1 hour. After 1 hour, strain stock through a fine mesh strainer.

Make sure you cool the stock down to 41°F within 6 hours if you’re not using it immediately. Also, a note on seasoning: I chose to make my stock unsalted so that I can add in the salt when I’m using it for a dish. Feel free to add your own seasonings if you prefer.

How To Carve A Whole Chicken

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Carving a bird at the dinner table has been a role of great prestige in my family. I remember watching my grandpa cut into the turkey every Thanksgiving with the biggest smile on his face as he stood and cracked jokes with the family crammed around the table. And my dad always took pride as he cut into the turkey he spent all day on for his family. I find that my weekly carving of our Sunday night roasted chicken is a little homage to those special men I had in my life. But it did take some practice. I, too, was a little intimated about cutting into that Thanksgiving turkey when I had my chance. My grandpa and dad made it look so easy. And it actually is! A chicken and a turkey are basically the same in terms of the carving process. With these tips, you too will find carving-ease on Sunday nights, Thanksgiving afternoons, or any other day you you’re craving a delicious roasted bird.

There are several ways to cut a chicken, but for this tutorial I’m going to explain the 6-piece and 8-piece cut chicken. Both are standard, simple techniques and the only difference between the two is cutting the leg into the drumstick and thigh. These techniques are great money savers too. Why spend twice (or three times) as much on pre-cut chicken when you can cut your own!

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  1. Start with a perfectly roasted (and rested) chicken (or raw chicken, if you prefer to roast individual pieces).

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2.  Cut into the skin just above the leg — this will expose the thigh socket and joint.

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3. Forcefully pull the leg away from the body until the joint pops. This will be surprisingly easy if the bird is cooked completely.

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4. This is where you turn a 6 piece cut chicken into an 8 piece. To cut the drumstick from the thigh, cut along the groove that visibly separates the two. Wiggle the edge of your knife around slightly to find the joint and pry the thigh free from the drumstick.

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8-piece cut chicken separates the thigh and drumstick. Easiest for sharing at the dinner table.

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5. To cut the wing, pull it slightly away from the bird and then use your knife to cut through and separate the wing joint.

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6. Now you should only be left with the breasts! Cut along the breast bone at a 45° angle. To help with a clean cut, use your hands to pry the breast meat away from the bone as you cut it. Serve the breasts whole or slice at a 45 °angle into 1 inch pieces.

Extra secret chef tip: Have you ever looked for, or better yet, tasted a chicken oyster?? Not actually a seafood oyster, the chicken version is comprised of two oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat hidden on either side of the backbone. It’s arguably two of the tastiest pieces of the chicken. So before you throw your chicken bones into the stock pot for homemade chicken stock, hunt for these little guys first! Just turn the carved chicken over to expose the backbone and the oysters should be staring right at you.

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See, its a piece of cake (er…chicken?). No need to worry when Thanksgiving rolls around. Grab that carving knife and wield it with pride.

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Whole roasted chicken cut into 6 pieces.

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Whole roasted chicken cut into 8 pieces.