Herby Sunchoke Gorgonzola Salad

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Sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes), when roasted in a pool of olive oil and liberally decorated with salt, make my heart do strange things. I just can’t get enough of the their nutty artichokey potato-ness, so satisfying and downright earthy. I pitter patter at their smooth savory finish, and will fight you for the caramelized edges. Ugh, I could just stand by the oven and eat a whole tray of those scintillating little stunners. (Wait, I have. But I don’t recommend it — those dudes have some pretty tough-to-break-down skins if ya get what I mean.) So, as a lesson in moderation, mix them with a bunch of other stuff and make it last longer than one stove-side binge session. Hence, salad. I’m SO good at moderation.

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Also I don’t think I used actual gorgonzola in this salad. It was just a generic (read: cheap) bleu (blue? blew?) cheese. So, substitute away as necessary. And let’s take a moment for a General Announcement about substitutions. This is a Salad. As such, you can’t f up “the recipe” too badly. (We used to joke in college that as long as you had a big assortment of stuff in a bowl, it counted as salad. Which led the way to cereal salad, spaghetti salad, cookie salad, etc. We had the right idea.) Because it’s not a real recipe, like for cake, which won’t taste like cake if you leave something out. It’s a suggestion. It’s Salad. It will literally and definitively still be salad no matter what you add or don’t add. So use whatever stinking cheese you want. (Or don’t use it at all, you rebel, you.) End of General Announcement.

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But do let me suggest this specific mix of ingredients cause dang they’re good together.

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one year ago: roasted eggplant and pepper soup with orzo and homemade baked bean and pineapple tacos 

Herby Sunchoke Gorgonzola Salad

a swanky original

¾ lb sunchokes, scrubbed and unpeeled, cut into irregular-sized small chunks (about 2 cups)
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
1 cup wild rice, cooked (or sub brown rice)
½ cup loosely packed parsley leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup loosely packed mint leaves,  roughly chopped
1 cup shoots mix, or use arugula
½ cup red grapes, sliced
2-3 tablespoons gorgonzola, crumbled
s&p

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sunchokes and olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet; add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Roast for about half an hour, turning occasionally, until browned, softened, and tantalizing. 

Let sunchokes cool down while you mix all remaining ingredients in a big bowl. Add sunchokes. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and serve. 

 

Butternut and Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos with Pepita Crema

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Every morning Daniel asks the same questions — “How’d you sleep?”, followed by “any dreams?” If I say yes, the next question is “exciting dreams or Ilanna dreams?”

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“Ilanna dreams” meaning those completely mundane dreams you confuse with real life upon waking up — “Oh I got three emails from my college lab partner about throwing a party for…wait…that was a dream.” or “I went to our usual coffee place but the waitress from the Thai place was the barist…. hm, nope, dream.” They’re always Really boring. I feel like I’ve failed my creative theater brethren with my dreamlife.

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The night after I made these peppers, I had the most vivid dreams I’ve had in months. One involved me walking around a pool in an Aladdin-esque Saudi Arabia in a bikini while everyone around me was fully covered. It felt like the set of Mad Men, complete with 60s music and the surreal sensation that no one was paying attention to me but everyone was surreptitiously following my every move. There may have been a green screen involved? After my lap around the pool I was given an ice cold lemonade and pile of skirts and scarves by my friend Nina and her boyfriend, who were very concerned for my modesty.

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I also dreamt my intern lived in a lavish Victorian mansion with high ceilings near Washington Square, and overnight crafted gigantic wings to be worn in the Halloween parade. Which is sorta what she’s supposed to be doing right now honestly, but in the dream everything was bigger and glitzier and momentous. And I doubt her dorm room resembles a mansion. ….but now that I’m writing this down it sounds quite dull. A true Ilanna dream after all. Damn, thought I had reached new dreamheights.

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Someone should try these peppers and let me know if the dreams (fine, one dream) were (was?) a fluke. Also because this pepita crema is so creamy, despite not having any actual cream! That alone is worth a try. And don’t overlook that these peppers contain all my favorite parts of bastardized Mexican food (see also: gringa-Yankee-vegetarian tacos): spice, cheese, roasted orange vegetables, etc. Mmm.

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one year ago: sweet sesame cauliflower, snow pea, and kale salad 

Butternut and Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos with Pepita Crema

adapted from simply healthy family and the bojon gourmet

Don’t want to make pepita crema? a) you’re crazy but b) try instead with a hot-ish sauce like my new favorite or perhaps whip up a batch of tomatillo peach salsa 

4 poblano peppers (or 3 poblanos and 1 normal green pepper if your CSA provided an odd number…)
½ T olive oil
½ an onion, diced
1 heaping cup butternut squash, in small cubes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup cooked quinoa
1 T creamy goat cheese
1 c Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded
cilantro, roughly chopped
pepita crema** (recipe below)
**to make crema, you must soak your pepitas in advance! Anywhere from 4-12 hours. Do it in the morning when you want to make this for dinner!

Turn on your broiler as high as it will go. Place poblanos in a cast iron skillet and stick under broiler. Roast for 8 minutes. Take them out of the oven and carefully flip peppers over with tongs. Roast them for another 8 minutes. At this point, skin should be slightly blackened and puckering. Stick back under broiler if more time is needed, and don’t worry if skin gets pretty darn charred. It just adds flavor! (If you’re using regular green peppers, this will take at least twice as long.) Place directly into an ice bath, and turn oven to 450 degrees.

In the meantime, make your filling. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook onion and squash for 7-9 minutes, until onions are translucent and squash has begun to soften. Add corn, beans, and quinoa. Mix and take off heat. Add goat cheese and mix until just combined. (This recipe makes way more filling than necessary — feel free to make more poblanos or just cook the filling a bit longer and eat as a salad, or fried egg accompaniment, or inside a quesadilla, etc…)

Remove skin from peppers carefully. Cut a small slit in each and remove seeds, either by shaking them gently in the ice bath or carefully cutting the inner core out. Don’t worry if you accidentally puncture the peppers as long as they’re mostly in tact. Scoop filling into peppers, reshaping as necessary. Place them in a baking dish or back into the cast iron. Cook at 450 for 10-12 minutes, or until squash are tender. Cover with Monterey Jack and return to oven. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until cheese is totally melted.

To plate, make a pool of crema on a plate. Place poblano atop crema and sprinkle with cilantro.

To make Pepita Crema:

(makes more than you’ll need…)

½ c pepitas (pumpkin seeds), soaked for 4-12 hrs
1 scant t cumin seeds, toasted
1 lime, juiced
½ clove garlic, roughly chopped
¼ t fine sea salt
⅓ c water

Combine everything in blender. Blend for 3-5 minutes, scraping down sides as needed, until crema thickens. Don’t doubt it; just keep blending! It really works!

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two-in-one! Extra filling makes a great egg accompaniment the next day.

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carnivore adds slow-cooked shredded chicken to his (but it’s totally unnecessary!)

Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

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In college I was sort of obsessed with this one roasted red pepper and smoked gouda soup. They only served it at one of the obscure “cafe”-style dining facilities on campus (confusingly called The Spa because of local history and not due to any imminent massages). I made it a habit to go through The Spa every couple of days in search of this soup. It was my Moby Dick, my elusive prize, a fattening and mouthwatering anticipation that rarely landed. But on those cold Saratoga days, when the stars aligned and the soup flowed free and hearty (well, free with an asterisk, as is everything in college, as in you’ve already paid for it…times 7), and I trudged through the snow to yet another rehearsal at the faraway theater building with a small bowl tucked into my overflowing bag, this soup was everything.

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There’s no shying away from the fat content of this recipe. We have butter, heavy cream, and cheese, all in healthy quantities. And by healthy I mean delicious. This is food that tastes goooood. So serve with a salad, go on a long bike ride later, and quit dwelling on it. And maybe only make it when you have a huge CSA haul of green peppers and you’re not sure you’ve ever even bought a green one before (sorry, greenies, I just love the red ones too much).

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What this sauce has in taste it lacks in beauty. I mean, have you ever even heard of a roasted green pepper recipe? Roasted reds, yes, in soups, pasta sauces, condiments, you name it. But a quick google search for “roasted green pepper pasta sauce” is fairly lackluster, both in recipe quantity and the beauty factor of those that do appear. Forgive the pallid sheen, the light gray (could that count as green?) countenance, the, dare I say, mucus-y apparition in front of you.

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I implore you to give the greenies a chance! It’s not their fault that red peppers are so dang sexy and make such good soup. Even if the green peppers don’t do it for you, hopefully the smoked gouda changes your mind. And I promise you don’t have to be learning Chekhov lines in the student center at 2 am for the roasted pepper and smoked gouda combo to win you over. This version is perky and summery, quick and delicious. Try it and see!  

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one year ago: caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese (swoon) and a hop down memory lane of all the delicious things I ate last summer

Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

3 green peppers
pasta, about half a box
4 T butter, divided
1 small red onion, diced (or a normal yellow one)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t white wine vinegar
¾ t sugar
¾ cup – 1 cup veggie broth
2-4 T heavy cream
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
½ c smoked gouda, thin slices or grated
s&p

To roast peppers: turn burner to a medium flame. Place one pepper directly on the flame. Cook for about 5 minutes, rotating frequently, until pepper skin is black and puckery and pepper itself is soft and starting to implode. Repeat for remaining peppers. Wrap individually in foil and and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until cool. Use your fingers to easily rub off skins. It’s fine to leave a bit still attached, it just adds depth of flavor! Cut into big strips and set aside.

Meanwhile, make pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add 2 T butter. When melted and shimmery, add onion and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until onion just begins to change color.  Add roasted pepper strips and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Transfer onion/pepper mixture to a food processor and process until just blended.

Heat the remaining 2 T butter in the same saute pan. Add pulverized onion/pepper mixture, white wine vinegar, sugar, s&p, and veggie broth. Start with ¾ c broth and add more if you want a thinner sauce (remember it will thicken just a bit when you add cream later.) Stir. Cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. I used 2 T and found it plenty creamy but feel free to keep dolling it out. Yum. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add pasta, smoked gouda, and parsley into pepper sauce and stir until cheese melts and pasta is coated evenly. Serve with extra cheese and parsley.

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Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

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Frequent topics of conversation these days include what city we want to go to next, as based on a mini obsession with the show Street Food Around the World (despite its relentlessly annoying host), and Coffee.

Daniel recently purchased an AeroPress, which, he’ll be the first to tell you, has Changed His Life. Gone are the days of multiple daily visits to our local coffee shop, here to stay are the sink-full of coffee mugs and multiple bags of not-quite-enough-for-a-coffee-but-too-much-to-throw-away beans. I love the eagerness with which I am offered a cup in the morning (or in the afternoon, during dinner, right before bed, immediately after I get out of a shower…).

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As a barista, I am around coffee more than I care to admit. The longer I’ve worked around coffee the less appealing it has become. (Less true the summer I worked at Cold Stone in high school.)  The less I drink it, the more my “good coffee” guard slips down–I appreciate a bottomless diner mug as much as our fancy, single source, perfectly calibrated brew. Although I’ve always loved the smell and taste, coffee has held less joy for me. Until Now. Until Aeropress. I’m fancy again.

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And nothing says “I do love a good cup of coffee!” like smoked cheese, amiright?! One of our favorite post-rehearsal habits is the long walk to Chelsea Market. I’m pretty good at battling the tourists and beelining to my favorite haunts, which right now means Buon Italia. Their dried pasta section elicited girlish giggles (from both of us) and the cheese section kept me enraptured for a good ten minutes (we also have them to thank for these fregola cuties). Although I couldn’t find the soft smoked ricotta I recently tried at BK Winery and have not stopped thinking about, the smoked scamorza was a dang good choice.

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So! In summary: pasta, good; (smoked) cheese, good; coffee, also good. Keep it simple, let the ingredients Be The Best They Can Be.

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Me: Look! I actually took a nice picture of all the lovely-ly arranged ingredients! Daniel: Wait, isn’t there supposed to be cheese in this? Isn’t that the POINT? Me: You’re concentrating on the wrong thing! And, uh, shit.

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I’ve located the cheese… can’t miss it now! (please appreciate my newby photo editing skills)

Simple Pasta with Smoked Scamorza and Tomatoes

sorta adapted from Bon Appetit 

¾ lb. pasta, more or less (12oz or so) (we used radiatore/organetti but any fun curvy shape would be good here)
4T olive oil
½ large onion, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes (11 oz), halved (or quartered if larger)
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ c vermouth (or white wine!)
¾ c fresh basil leaves, sliced, plus extra for garnish
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried parsley (we used a “Tuscan herb blend” because we were out)
scant ½ c kalamata olives, chopped
7 mini balls smoked scamorza or smoked mozzarella (or use fresh, non-smoked!), sliced (about ½ c once sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions, erring on the side of al dente. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large ovenproof saute pan. Add onion and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to brown. Add cherry tomatoes; cook for 3 minutes. Next add garlic; cook for two more minutes.

Add vermouth and give everything a good stir. Scrape up any browned onions or tomatoey bits. Next, add basil, oregano, parsley, and olives and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Taste sauce; season with s&p. Add cooked pasta to sauce and stir to coat evenly. Add half the scamorza and mix to incorporate. Top pasta with other half of scamorza and place in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until cheese gets melty.

Top with fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and crack of black pepper.

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BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos + Upscale Bar Food Dinner Party

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Imagine: You invite two friends over for dinner. You may have previously bragged a bit about how much you love cooking and recipe planning etc. You chat about blogs, Bon Appetite, restaurants, food trends. You promise to go all out.

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Flash forward to two weeks later, the morning of said pre-planned dinner. You have some frozen corn in the freezer from last week’s CSA. That’s it. You realize that you have roughly nine hours to create a beautiful and memorable meal. You have a minor freak out.

But then coffee was consumed and magazines and blogs were consulted. And so a theme was deliberated over: Bar food? No, Mediterranean. No, fancy bar food. Bourgeois bar food! The barista thinks its a good idea.

Commence brainstorming: some sort of soup, but on toast? something like dip, but in salad form? how much fried stuff is too much? do we need dessert?

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And so, four grocery stores, one bike ride, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, and many hours later, this is what we came up with.

“Spinach Artichoke Dip” Salad

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not pictured: a very healthy dose of parmesan and feta, and lots of lemony vinaigrette

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” 

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Daniel says, “yeah those tasted great but dang were they ugly. I’m not taking no pictures.” And I said “oh okay YOU=CAULIFLOWER.” And its my blog so here’s his picture.

Sesame-Soy (actual) wings

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“Stuffed jalapeno” individual polenta cakes (leftovers amazing with scrambled eggs!)

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a healthy dose of bacon to please the carnivores

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chip nachos, vegetarian and meaty versions

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With beer and whisky. No need for dessert.

We mostly just followed other recipes, tweaking as we went. But, in honor of the blog name, here’s the recipe for those awesome nachos.

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Vegetarian (or not) BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos

adapted from the Food Network

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices with a mandoline
vegetable oil for frying
¼ c salt
⅛ c ground pepper
⅛ c garlic powder
healthy dash cayenne
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, one diced and two cut into thin rounds
1 T tomato paste
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb ground beef, optional
2 cups shredded cheese; we did half smoked gouda and half monterey jack
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped, optional
sour cream to serve, optional

Make sweet potato chips:

First make seasoning mixture by combining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. (Keep in mind this makes a ton! Keep leftovers for future chip batches.) Break out a large heavy pot (5 quart if you have it), fill it up to roughly ⅓ with vegetable oil (I’d say about 4 inches depth. You’re going to use a lot of oil here), and heat it until it reaches about 360º (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer). Place enough sliced sweet potatoes in to create a fairly dense surface layer and start actively patting them down under the oil with a slotted spatula. The temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, but if it stays above 180º you’ll be fine. Keep stirring and turning and drowning for 5 to 7 minutes, and just when you start seeing the hearts of your sweet potato chips going brown, start removing them and place them on a thick bed of paper towels. Sprinkle your seasoning mixture and coat to taste. As soon as the oil temperature reaches 360º, repeat. Once your crispy batch cools enough, toss them into a bowl, but keep the same paper towels on the plate for reuse with all cooked batches. As you repeat this process, more and more of the seasoning will rest on the paper towels, so keep that in mind as you’ll need to coat each new batch a little less. Also, feel free to eat as many of these chips as necessary to “test” that you’re doing it right, as well as to revel in how amazing it is that you’re making chips all by yourself.

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Make BBQ beans/meat:

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and garlic smells wonderful, about 5-6 minutes. Add diced jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the air smells spicy. Add tomato paste, black beans, and s&p. Mix so tomato paste coats everything. Add BBQ sauce and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until mixture thickens and smells amazing. Add extra BBQ sauce if mixture becomes too thick. If you want a non-vegetarian version as well, heat another medium skillet. Add a small splash of oil and add ground beef, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and cooked through. Add half of bean mixture to beef and simmer together for another five minutes or so.

To make nachos:

On a rimmed cookie sheet, or any other large platter, layer sweet potato chips, bean/beef mixture, jalapeno rounds, and cheese. Repeat. Place in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets melty, about 5-7 minutes. Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream and serve while hot!

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Smoky Beet Reuben Sandwiches

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Things that make me feel badass:

  1. Motorcycling to New Jersey from Brooklyn. (Never mind that it was for a salsa dancing pool party, which is decidedly un-badass but very decidedly fun. Also never mind that I will never be the Super Badass driving the thing, but alas always the eye candy holding on tight. Ah, how hard the life, being eye candy… JOKES.)
  2. FINALLY buying a motorcycle jacket, which is good for all seasons, not made of leather, not a gazillion dollars, and has great padding and is almost sexy (note above comment about eye candy). Plus, persons at said salsa pool party said I looked like I was from the Matrix and/or Battlestar Galactica. I will take that as a compliment.
  3. Making incredibly delicious and fattening and filling vegetarian sandwiches. Just because there isn’t any meat does not mean we are sacrificing flavor or calories here, people.
  4. Having my roommate tell me, after consuming above-mentioned delicious and fattening and filling sandwich, that I should open a sandwich shop because this was sooo gooood. She took a picture of the sandwich and sent it to a boy on Tinder and pretended she made it, so that’s probably a pretty good sign too.
  5. If I had a sandwich store it would definitely be called a SHOPPE, because letsbereal, those are always the best and most legit.

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This is how Daniel would’ve written this blog entry, according to a late-night gchat where I kvetched about not knowing what to say:

Daniel:  Ok: “I MADE SANDWICHES NOM NOM NOM NOM NOMMMMMMM” the end.

Simplicity is key.

He has a point. I know you want to nom nom on a sandwich now.

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Smokey Beet Reubens, or “Ruebeets” if you think you’re cute
Makes 3 sandwiches
adapted, barely, from Food and Wine magazine

2 beets
smoked salt (we used Hickory Smoked Sea Salt from The Spice and Tea Exchange)
ground coriander
1/4 cup mayo
1 T ketchup
2 t fresh lemon juice
s&p
6 slices rye bread
softened butter
sauerkraut
6 slices Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle beets with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and rub in until evenly coated. Wrap individually in foil and cook for about 1 hour, until easily pierced with a fork. Let cool. Peel off beet skin and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle slices with smoked  salt and ground coriander.

To make Russian dressing: Mix mayo, ketchup, lemon juice, s&p.

To assemble sandwiches, preheat broiler. Spread butter on all the bread slices and broil for 3ish minutes, or until slightly toasty. Set aside 3 slices toast, and flip over the remaining 3 on broiler pan. Top each slice with a healthy schmear of Russian dressing, a pile of sauerkraut, a layer of smoked-salted-beets, and 2 slices of cheese. Return to broiler for one minute, or until cheese is melted. Top with buttered bread and dig in while still piping hot! Have a pile of napkins nearby.

Sandwiches were delicious with a side of mustardy potato, kale, and green bean salad!

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