Marinated Goat Cheese – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

EVOO-pouring

Marinated goat cheese from Amy Chaplin's "At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen"

 

marinated-goat-cheese

 

Marinated Goat Cheese – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen

In a glass jar, layer pulls of soft goat cheese with olive oil, fresh thyme, peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves over and over until you reach the top of the jar. Be sure cheese is completely covered by oil at all times. Let marinate for a few days before using and don’t even think about getting rid of the oil once you’ve used up all the cheese. That is what warm bread is for.

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Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Bake

Quinoa-bake

Winter has been quite bearable thus far over here in the PNW. I caught myself evil laughing the other day when I checked Chicago’s temperature. It was all single digits. Cue maniacal guffaws.

Because flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the bird are chatting it up, I feel antsy for spring and summer’s bounty of colorful fruits and vegetables. But it isn’t their time yet. Patience. There aren’t abundant pops of color at the farmer’s market in February, but there is such a thing as rainbow carrots. They are like tasty, dirt covered jewels and reward you with their sweet side when roasted. Also, sometimes I think, “Is there anything better than roasted cauliflower!?” I mean have it alone, with spreadable goat cheese, on top of pizza or blended into a soup. It will DELIGHT YOU. To no end.

 

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Whether winter still has you in its evil grip or spring feels like it is just around the corner, I recommend this simple, cozy and warming quinoa bake. It uses up the ends of those vegetables lounging in your fridge, creates minimal mess and is pretty healthy so win win win.

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Bake

I used my dear friend, the cast iron pan for this to keep basically the whole meal contained. Obviously use whatever friendly pans you’d like.

Heat up your oven to 450. I like the high quick roast. Pour a bit of olive oil in your skillet to coat the bottom and let it heat up in oven. Roughly chop any/all vegetables you have lying around. Use a rough, large chop. Here I used rainbow carrots, cauliflower, red onion, zucchini and a few garlic cloves. Take out the cast iron pan, add the vegetables and top with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few rosemary sprigs. Stir up and roast. Check and stir every so often. Wait until they get nicely browned and a bit crisp. It’ll take about 15-30 minutes depending on your preference and oven.

While your vegetables roast, make your quinoa. I usually make one cup of dried quinoa. If you have vegetable stock use that in place of water. If not, no big deal.

Once your vegetables are roasted, take out the pan and pour in your cooked quinoa. Stir to combine everything. Crumble feta cheese on top. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper if it needs it. Let the quinoa bake until the cheese melts, then put under the broiler for just a minute or 2 until it lightly browns. Top with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, spoon into bowls and gobble it all up.

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup

 

Creamy-Curry-Cauliflower-soup

 

 

Soup season has arrived.

 

This, my second, Autumn in the Pac Northwest has been a bit more damp than the first one. Soggy, vibrant leaves are crushed underfoot and eventually create outlines, almost fossil-like imprints in the sidewalk. As long as I’ve got my rainboots on and a mug of something warm is within arm’s reach, I am totally on board with all of it.

I been working at my new job for a month now. Going to work everyday in a gorgeous cookbook store with incredible events, and working alongside smart, amusing and hardworking people has done wonders for my disposition. I’m spoiled and it has made the months and months of job searching, applications, interviews and almost-but-not-quite-what-we-are-looking-for’s worth it. Which makes it quite impossible to see this blustery fall as a negative.

It is dark by the time I get home now, and I’m often just a tad carsick from the 8 bus’s constant stop and go while overflowing with riders. They really need to get on top of things with that bus route. It is out of control. Anyway, though surrounded by cookbooks and constant food creativity, sometimes one is just too tired or overwhelmed to create anything gourmet for dinner. Most often, I just require an aromatic, flavorful dinner that induces warmth, comfort and satisfaction. Plus, my immersion blender is so fun to use and it makes my soups seem lavish. With a smooth,puréed soup you can pour that fancy flourish of golden olive oil on top which instantly elevates a simple soup to 11.

 

 

 Creamy Curry Cauliflower Soup

adapted from The Kitchn 

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Cut up a large head of cauliflower into florets, toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper and a couple dashes of cumin. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally till lightly toasty and browned, about 10 minutes or so. Meanwhile heat up some olive oil in your soup pot and dice up a large sweet onion and 3-5 garlic cloves. Once the oil is hot, cook the onions with some salt until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Toss in the garlic and cook until slightly browned. When the cauliflower is done roasting, add it to the soup pot and stir together. Add about 5 cups of vegetable broth and stir to combine. Cover until it starts to simmer. Add a couple pinches of salt, and 1 teaspoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of coriander and any other of these types of spices that strike your fancy. Adjust these to your taste. Let the soup simmer for about 10-15 minutes or so to let the flavors all meld. Take off the heat and blend, using an immersion blender or carefully using a regular blender. Pour 1 cup of half/half or milk or coconut milk into the soup and stir to mix or re-blend to combine.  Return the soup to the stove and keep on low to keep it hot as you come back for seconds and thirds. Taste it to see if your seasonings need adjusting. Dish out into bowls and top with a curl of olive oil, red pepper flakes, fresh parsley and fresh black pepper.

All soups need a warm, bready substance as a delivery system and my favorite with this is Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan. Spread a bit of butter on top and toast in the oven for a couple minutes and you’ve reached absolute dinner perfection.

 

 

 

 

Olive Oil Cake

Lemon-Olive-Oil-CakeI’m not much of a baker. At all really. It was a major feat of courage to make chocolate chip oatmeal cookies a few months ago. But, in my quest to be fearless in the kitchen, I’ve been dallying with some simple baking recipes and the results haven’t been too bad. I’ve made a version of Molly Wizenberg’s French Style Yogurt Cake a few times and once, at The Pantry’s holiday party, she tried it which was quite nerve wracking. Luckily she was very gracious.  That cake is super simple to put together, hence it being my practice cake.

The other night, in a deal made with the spouse that I would make an olive oil cake if he did the dishes, I searched about the interwebs for some new olive-oiley, lemoney, cakey inspiration. Some of the eye catching ones that are on my list for future attempts:

Smitten Kitchen : Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

Cup of Jo: Best Olive Oil Cake You’ll Ever Have

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any fresh thyme on hand, but I made an herbless version of the “Tea Thyme Yogurt Lemon Olive Oil Cake” from Chindeep.comWanting to use my kitchen aid so I’d feel more “bakerey”,  I used it to mix the sugar and eggs for about five minutes to get them nice and creamy. This type of cake is incredibly basic. Mix the wet ingredients, add the dry and pour it all into a baking pan. Top off with a simple lemon glaze and there’s dessert! It came out bright and light, not too sweet. I bet some fresh, macerated raspberries would seriously add to the enjoyment factor. 

Lemon Olive Oil Cake

– Adapted from ChinDeep.com Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a baking pan or simply cover in parchment paper. Mix up 1 cup sugar and 3 eggs until creamy and smooth. If using a KitchenAid keep it going on low as you add ingredients. Add in 1 cup of cream or half and half or plain yogurt.  I used half and half  this time. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Separately, mix up your dry ingredients: 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and the zest of a lemon or two, depending on the size. If you wanted to add thyme, like the original recipe calls for, add in about a teaspoon or so. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine till just mixed.

Pour it all into a baking pan and into the oven for about 50 minutes. Check on it after about 40 just to be sure its turning golden and not getting too brown. Once its done and cooled, mix up a glaze with lemon juice and some powdered sugar to taste. Pour over the cake, slice and serve with hot coffee.

Olive Oil 101

Olive-Oil

My mother had a fanatical reverence for fancy, foreign olive oils and would only rarely venture into the Forbidden Pantry of Italian Ingredients  to bring it to the dinner table. It was usually reserved for my parent’s meals as our young, immature palates were not yet refined enough to appreciate the complex nuances of that golden, green liquid of the gods. 

Following right in her footsteps, I purchased my first “grown up” bottle of extra virgin olive oil in Athens last June. It is strictly reserved for scarce drizzling on light dishes where the flavor can shine. Lets be real though. Does this expensive, organic, hand-picked, foot pressed olive oil taste that much different then  your average supermarket version? Is it worth the adoration and restraint that my mother and I  bestow upon our bottles?

In my quest to discover the answer, I came across the blog Truth in Olive Oil.  This website is like a college course on olive oil.

How to Buy Great Olive Oil highlights

-Bitterness and pungency are usually indicators of an oil’s healthfulness.  Sweetness and butteriness are often not.

-Unlike many wines, which improve with age, extra virgin olive oil is perishable:  like all natural fruit juices, its flavor and aroma begin to deteriorate within a few months of milling, a decline that accelerate when the oil is bottled, and really speeds up when the bottle is opened.

-…be sure your oil is labeled “extra virgin,” since other categories – “pure” or “light” oil, “olive oil,” not to mention “pomace olive oil” – have undergone chemical refinement which strips away olive flavors and many of the oil’s health benefits.

– When choosing bottled oil, prefer dark glass or other containers that protect against light, buy a quantity that you’ll use up quickly, and keep it well sealed in a cool, dark place.

– Good oils come in all shades, from vivid green to gold to pale straw…

– Phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy,” do not mean that the oil was made in Italy, much less that it was made from Italian olives.  Italy is one of the world’s major importers of olive oil, much of which originates in Spain, Greece, Tunisia and elsewhere, so don’t be taken in by Italian flags and scenes from the Tuscan countryside on the packaging.

-Once you’ve bought your oil, store it in a place where it is protected from light, heat and oxygen, the three enemies of good oil, which speed spoilage.

Homework

To see how your favorite Trader Joe’s oil stands up to the expert see here and other supermarket versions here.

For a list of the author’s favorite oils from around the world ( complete with tasting notes) look here.

For up to the minute olive oil news check out his blog here.

And for extra credit, read Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil and write a 1-2 page book report for me by next week.

Now you are ready to start classes at The International Olive Oil School!

Parsnip soup topped with crispy sage and lemon butter

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Though we aren’t in a polar vortex or anything, I can still get some comfort from a piping hot bowl of savory soup. In my opinion, winter is the season for soups. Ok, fall is too but a lot of foods are in season then, so soups tend to fall to the wayside. During the grey monotony of winter, it is more difficult for me to get motivated and creative about dishes other than soup. Especially since we are all supposed to be getting smarter, thinner, cooler and all around er-er after January 1st.

What is easy to make vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free!?!

SOUP soup SoUp.

Parsnip is a funny word right? Down home and rustic yet fancy.

I can imagine Mr. Carson deploring Mr. Mosely for serving the 3rd course to Lady Mary with the wrong hand with a hooked nose glare.  “Mr. Mosely, please refrain from hauling the creamed parsnips willy nilly into the dining room. They’ll slosh”.

I’d never cooked with parsnips before and wasn’t even exactly sure how to prepare them, but this soup from Love and Olive Oil just sounded to cozy to pass up on account of ignorance. Luckily Food52 came to my rescue with an ingenious little video showing exactly how to core a parsnip. Slightly labor intensive, but worth it. Just don’t slice yourself like I may have.

I was excited to use my new christmas present, an emulsion blender to create an easy, creamy luxe soup. It worked deliciously if I do say so myself. My husband agreed.

Parsnip soup topped with crispy sage and lemon butter

Top off 3 garlic heads till most cloves are showing and drizzle with olive oil. Place in foil and tightly wrap so none spills out and scorches your oven. That is annoying. Roast garlic for about 35-40 minutes. When they are done, let them cool a bit and push out the soft warm pods. Inhale deeply.

Chop up a large onion and one shallot. Saute in olive oil in your soup pot until just browning. Core and chop up about 6 medium sized parsnips. Add to the pot with sprig or two of fresh rosemary. Pour in about 4 cups ( 1 container) of vegetable stock and allow to simmer for about 45 mins. Test to see if the parsnips are soft.

Add those mouthwatering garlic cloves and if you want  cream, add about 1/2 a cup or so. Use an emulsion blender ( or a countertop one CAREFULLY) to meld everything together. Season to taste with a healthy dose of salt and fresh black pepper, maybe a squeeze of lemon juice.

Heat up a chunk of unsalted butter in a pan until foamy. Add some sage leaves for about 2 minutes until crisp. Place leaves on paper towel. Add one small lemon‘s worth of juice and take away from heat. Mix up lemon butter.

Serve yourself a bowl, top with a couple crispy sage leaves and a drizzle ( or more) of lemon butter. A crusty slice of bread would not be an out of place accompaniment.

Bake some goat cheese

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May I suggest the following 6 steps to pure happiness:

1. Pour marinara sauce in a cast iron pan

2. Crumble goat cheese alllll around

3. Sprinkle freshly chopped basil on top

4. Drizzle olive oil all over , then top with salt and cracked black pepper

5. Bake for about 20 minutes or so, until it starts to bubble and the cheese browns just a bit

6. Break off a chunk of a warm, crusty baguette and dip it straight in that pan of goodness.

Quick before it cools down!

Wine and cheese spread

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I threw a little wine and cheese party for the spouse’s birthday a few weeks ago.

Really I was just looking for an excuse to use some of our fun wedding gifts. Platters, trays, cheese knives and slate boards!  Oh My!

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Looking back at these pictures, I see I may have made the spread a bit too overwhelming. But I just wanted ample options for creating tantalizing combinations! There were about 5 different cheeses and a variety of crackers and bread, along with pizzelles.

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For toppings I laid out avocados, oil and vinegar, lavender honey, a few savory and sweet jams and spreads, arugula and basil. Also smashed up roasted garlic with oil and herbs.

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I found some  tiny “champagne grapes” at Trader Joes. They were very sweet and looked quite elegant in my pretty white basket.

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Oh! I also used my small cast iron pot to make my new favorite obsession.

Pour marinara sauce and top with a generous dollop of goat cheese. Circle the cheese with a drizzle of olive oil and top with salt and black pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Sharing is absolutely optional. In fact, I discourage it.

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We had a red wine from Greece, a few from Trader Joes and asked our friends to bring some as well. It was fun to mix and match elements to find the best combination of wine, cheese, spread and toppings.

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I take any excuse to get out my funky cocktail glass collection. No two are the same and none of them cost more than $1 each if I’m not mistaken.

Secret: Goodwill and thrift stores. Completely cool glasses that are super fun to mix and match.

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The whole affair was simply elegant, just what I wanted.

Until the group decided to counteract the posh by watching Jackass: The Movie.