Sunday, June 30, 2013

Salmon Rillettes

Salmon rilletes on sourdough toast, with rainbow summer salad
A "rillete" means a soft-cooked meat, preserved in it's own fat, sort of like confit. In fact, a lot of rillettes (duck, pork, rabbit) start as a confit, and then are mixed with fat to form the rillette.
So all rillettes are really just fatty, meaty spreads. So obviously, I love them.
Salmon rilletttes are delicious. You mix delicate steamed salmon with smoked salmon, butter, lemon, a tiny bit of sour cream, shallots and chives. It's savory, smoky, fresh, and totally delicious. Serve it on toast--I prefer sourdough. To make it especially fabulous and decadent, fry your bread in olive oil instead of merely toasting.
A perfect summer dinner.
I first started making rillettes when my sister gave me Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook for Christmas. It had a chapter on "potted food": rillettes, pates, terrines. Everything in that chapter is fatty and smoky--the kind of thing your Eastern European grandparents would have liked.
I've adapted his salmon rillettes recipe somewhat--my version is easier to make and eliminates raw egg yolks (which tasted faintly to me of mayonnaise, my enemy).

Salmon Rillettes (makes enough for several meals-for-two, or a party)


6 oz lox
1 lb of fresh salmon (I bought a full filet and used about half)
1 bunch chives (I bought a package from the grocery. I would measure this at a handful)
3 lemons
3 shallots
1 stick butter
3 TB sour cream
1/4 cup white wine (whatever kind you want)

What to do

Cut the skin off your fresh salmon if it came in a filet. We will start by steaming your fresh salmon fillet. You want a delicate salmon--don't overcook! Place your fresh salmon in a pan and lightly salt. Cut a lemon in half and place beside the salmon. Cut a shallot in half and place beside the salmon. Add 1/4 cup white wine and 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer for about 6 minutes. You want the salmon just barely cooked through.
Before steaming.
After steaming.
Place the steamed salmon in a bowl. Add the smoked salmon.
Melt the stick of butter in a small saucepan. Chop the shallots. Add them to the butter. Cook the shallots in the butter for about two minutes--you want them cooked, but not browned. Add the shallots and butter to the bowl with the two kinds of salmon. 
Finely chop the chives and add them to the bowl. 
Juice two lemons and zest one lemon. All the juice and zest to the bowl. 
Add the sour cream to the bowl.
Sprinkle lightly with salt. 
Ingredients before mixing.
Use a fork to mix everything together. Mix to spreadability, but not to mush. You want distinct chunks of fresh and smoked salmon.
Taste--does it need more salt? More lemon? Re-season as needed.
Finished rillettes.
Chill in the fridge for about an hour. 
Serve spread on toast or crostini! 

This keeps great in the fridge for weeks. 

Invite someone wonderful to dinner and have a toast-feast. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fiery Veggie Masala and Cucumber-Mint Raita

This masala is SPICY. 

This is another thing I made for Bachelor-watching Indian Feast night. I wanted to make something seriously spicy to go with raita. Raita is a refreshing yogurt sauce designed to relieve the burn of a tinglingly-hot dish. If I was making the raita, I wanted to really NEED the raita. So I made a basic chana (chickpea) masala with cauliflower, and just loaded it up with jalapenos, fresh red chiles, and cayenne.
If you want a delicious, hearty vegetarian meal without the burn, just halve or eliminate the spicy things in the recipe.
Lastly--raita is a wonderful sauce. So easy to make, and pairs great with any number of things. It takes about three minutes to make.

Veggie Masala of FIRE


  • 2 TB butter or oil 
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or grated (I blitzed mine in the food processor) 
  • a 4 inch, chubby piece of garlic, minced or grated (I blitzed this up with the garlic) 
  • 3 TB garam masala spice power
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp cumin 
  • 2 TB sugar 
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 large 32oz can of diced tomatoes (or use crushed tomatoes for a smoother sauce)
  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped up or pulled into florets 
  • 3 jalapenos, diced, with seeds
  • 2 red hot chiles, minced (note: I bought a bag at the Asian grocery and keep it in the freezer--they freeze great) 
  • 1 TB cayenne pepper 
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped 

What to do:

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until barely browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala powder, cinnamon,, and cumin, and fry the spices with the onions and butter for about a minutes (this brings out more fragrance and flavor). Add the ginger and garlic and continue cooking for a few more minutes. All the ingredients should be cooking through and your kitchen should smell great. It's ok if the mixture begins to look at bit dry.
Add the canned tomatoes to the pot--don't drain. Mix, scraping up all the spice which may have started burning on the bottom of the pot. Get the tomatoes simmering, then add the sugar, chick peas, cauliflower, jalapenos, chiles, cayenne, and a dash of salt. The sugar helps the tomatoes "meld" and gets rid of the metallic "canned" taste.
Cover the pot and let everything simmer on low for about ten minutes.
Taste--does it need salt? Do you want it even spicier? More sugar? Season to taste.
Allow to cool slightly. Mix in the chopped cilantro.
 Serve with raita!


Cucumber-Mint Raita

1.5 cups of plain yogurt (don't use nonfat)
half of a cucumber, grated
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
3-4 TB (a small handful?) of mint leaves
juice of 1 lemon
salt to taste

What to do

Put the yogurt in whatever container you plan to use.
Toast the cumin and fennel seeds in a dry pan. To do this, get the pan hot and add the seeds. Shake the pan a bit to prevent burning. They should be toasted in about a minute. Add to the yogurt.
Grate your half cucumber and add to the yogurt.
Chop the mint finely and add to the yogurt.
Juice the lemon and add to the yogurt.
Sprinkle in a pinch of salt.
Mix everything.
You have raita!

Finished raita!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

A fantastic summer dessert. 
I really don't have much of a sweet-tooth, so while I bake a lot, it's almost always bread, pretzels, biscuits, etc. I am also pretty bad at baking--baking requires recipe-adherence discipline, and I just don't stick to recipes. I've had some notorious baking disasters--like the time I forgot the eggs in pecan pies for Adam's birthday. I realized it about 20 minutes into the baking so I just added the eggs late to the bubbling caramel. So it was a sweet, scrambled egg pie. Needless to say, that shit was super gross.

Cobblers are an exception to my sweet-baking reticence! I love making cobblers in the summer--the sticky, soft fruit tastes more intensely peachy (or plummy, or berry-y) than eating the fruit raw. Plus, you don't really need a recipe--it's more like a formula--and they are nearly impossible to mess up.

Basic cobbler formula 
You need a full pie-dish worth of stone fruit (peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots) OR berries or apples, or any combination. If using stone fruit, apples or strawberries, thinly slice. (Technically you should peel these, but I never bother). Small berries like blueberries or blackberries can be left whole.
Add to the fruit 2 TB of white sugar, 1 TB of cornstarch, 2 TB of lemon juice.
Then, make the crumb, biscuit or pastry topping, and bake at 400 for 25 minutes.

Personally, I like a nut-based pastry top. Here is what I used, a pecan-based pastry. This makes enough for two cobblers.

Blend the following in a food processor:
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup flour
tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
Dribble of cold water

Blitz everything but the water in the food processor. It will look like gravel or sand, depending on how dry the air in your kitchen is. Dribble in the water until it forms a coherent ball (this will only take about 2 tablespoons).
Then, pinch the pastry into little leaves and place over the fruit. Done!
If you are only making one cobber, the other half of the pastry freezes well. Leave it in the freezer for your next cobbler!

Fruit filling. I used five peaches and a small crate of blueberries.

Before baking

All done!

I love to use blueberries in cobblers because they explode during baking, creating a rich, purple fruit syrup all through the bottom.

I plan to make a lot of cobblers this summer with different fruit combinations. We have a plum tree in the backyard--but so far it's produced a single, rock-hard, midget of a plum. My home-grown cobbler dreams my not come to fruition. Heh. Fruition--get it?

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken tikka is warming, spicy, complex, and totally delicious.
I have always loved Indian food, and Chicken Tikka Masala was the first Indian dish I learned to cook at home. It is easy and fabulous. I originally got my recipe from the Pioneer Woman, but I've messed with it over time. This is a recipe I've made so many times I have it memorized. 
I made this for Bachelor Night--a tradition at my house. Turns out a lot of the teachers at my school have my same appalling taste in television--and also love drinking cheap wine and eating good food in the middle of the week. Our Tuesday night gatherings are a great excuse for me to cook for a crowd. 
Because I have so much free time--it being summer and all--I made an Indian feast! Chicken tikka, veggie masala, homemade garlic naan, and raita to cool the spice. Yum.

Here is the recipe. It's PW's, with my alterations: 


  • 3 whole (to 4) Chicken Breasts or thigh (any boneless, skinless chicken is fine)
  •  Kosher Salt
  •  Ground Coriander
  •  Cumin Powder
  • 1 cup Plain Yogurt
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 8 cloves Garlic
  • 1 chubby 4-inch piece of ginger
  •  Garam Masala spice powder (usually available at regular grocery stores)
  • 1 large can (28 Ounce) Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno or other spicy element (like cayenne or red pepper flakes)
  •  Sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • Cilantro

What to Do:

Start by seasoning the chicken breasts with some kosher salt. Next sprinkle them on both sides with some coriander and cumin. Then coat the chicken breasts completely with the plain yogurt. Set the chicken on a metal cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet and place it about 10-12 inches below a broiler for 5-7 minutes per side. Watch carefully so as not to totally char the chicken. It should have slightly blackened edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
Next dice  the two  large onions. In a large skillet melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and sauté until they are slightly browned, about 6 mines. As the onions cook, mince your garlic. Next, cut off the outer skin and mince or grate the big hunk of fresh ginger. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions. Also throw in about 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook for about 3 minutes.
Next you are going to add about 4 tablespoons Garam Masala spice. And if you like it hot, this is also when you will add your spicy element--jalapeno or chiles. If you don't want spice, just omit these. Let the spices cook in the butter for a few minutes, stirring constantly. 
Now add your can of diced tomatoes. Continue cooking and stirring, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Let this mixture simmer on medium for about 5 minutes.
After the Tikka Masala sauce has had a chance to simmer for a little bit, add in the 1 ½ cups of heavy cream. Now, chop up your chicken breasts into chunks and stir them into the Tikka Masala sauce. A handful of chopped fresh cilantro is a nice addition if you like cilantro. 
Serve with naan or rice!

Note: make "Indian" rice by adding a few dashes of tumeric and a cup of frozen peas, then cooking rice as normal. 
Ingredients for the yogurt-marinated roast chicken.

Chicken before roasting. 

Roasted chicken. The yogurt gives it fantastic flavor. 

Finished Tikka! 

The whole meal: homemade garlic naan, cucumber-mint raita, chicken tikka masala, and fiery vegetable masala. Doesn't this make you want to drink boxed wine and watch bad TV? 

My plate. And a jealous chihuahua photo bomb!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Grilled Lamb Chops

Garlic and rosemary marinated lamb chops.
Lamb chops are fancy, easy, and delicious. They look like tiny T-bone steaks! You feel like the giant in the 80"s version on Jack and the Beanstock, feasting like a tyrant. I sometimes make these for special occasions--but in this case, the special occasion was It's Monday and Lambchops Were on Sale. 
When considering how many to buy, I think 3 per person is a good amount, especially if you're serving sides. We made ten--that was dinner for two plus lunch for one. 

Making lamb chops is super simple. 
Lamb chops (any amount)
A few garlic cloves, minced
A few twigs of rosemary, chopped
olive oil

What to do: 
Salt and pepper the chops lightly on both sides. Scatter the garlic and rosemary over the chops, then pour olive oil over each. The chops don't need to be drowning in oil--I used about half a cup for 10 chops.
Let the chops marinate for a couple hours.
Then, grill the chops on a very hot barbecue. For medium rare, we  grilled each on for about 2 min per side--but the cooking time depends on how hot your grill is.
Let the chops rest for about 5 minutes before eating. Yummm!
Lamb chops marinating
Two lobbyists in favor of lamb chops
This smells of garlic, rosemary, and bubbling lamb fat.

Lamb chops resting.

Lamb chops, corn and squash casserole, green beans and arugula, and homebrew. Perfect  summer dinner!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Megan's Enchiladas!

Spicy, tangy, creamy, salsa verde; sweet, chili-spiced chicken; bubbly cheese. This is the ultimate comfort food.  These enchiladas are SO GODDAMN GOOD. 
This recipe comes courtesy of my friend Megan. She invented it and has been making it for years. These enchiladas are TO DIE for. They use a creamy chile-verde enchilada sauce, which plays perfectly against sweet, tomatoe-y chicken filling.
Meg and I met in high school and became friends through a shared love of cheap vodka, the Berrybender novels, stupid puns, skipping class to go swimming, and games of Who Would You Rather Bone? all through civics.
Then! Me, Meg, Claudia before prom. 2000
High school girlfriends back in Chico for my bachelorette. 2013
Meg is an AMAZING cook. She gets it from her mom and her Nana, who are both incredible, too.
I remember the day I first tasted Meg's enchiladas. We were all about 22.  It was the spring break of my first year of teaching, and I'd gone to California to visit my HS friends. I was teaching high school English in a tiny town at the bottom of Texas, and my friends were doing stuff like working at Hooters, finishing college, waiting tables at cool restaurants. Compared to them, I was already middle aged--we would leave the apartment at 11pm to go to a club--they would dance, and I would fall asleep with my head on a loudspeaker. All the Redbull and Vodkas in Southern California couldn't bring back my vanished youth.
So when Meg suggested a movie night, I was like "Fuck yes" We watched Harold and Maude and she made these enchiladas at her apartment in Long Beach.
They were the best enchiladas I'd ever had. I got her to email me the recipe and I've been making them ever since.

Here's the recipe:

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (breasts are ok, but thighs taste better)
1 16 oz jar of salsa verde
2-3 jalapenos ( I used 2 and mine were really spicy)
1 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup sour cream
1 red onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves
20 tortillas  (I used multigrain flour tortillas. Corn tortillas work too)
2 chipotle peppers from a can
1 TBS Chipotle chile powder
1 TBS cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp all spice
3-4  TBS tomato paste
1 TBS honey
4-6 cups grated cheddar
Salt and pepper to taste.

What to Do: 
1.) Put chicken in pot of water with a dash of salt, a few garlic cloves, the chipotle peppers, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until chicken is just barely cooked. Don't cook too long or it will get dried out. Remove chicken to cool on plate. Reserve the water with the garlic and onions for later.

Chicken simmering.
2.) In a blender or food processor, blend salsa verde, jalapenos, cilantro, ranch and sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Creamy salsa verde enchilada sauce!
3.) Shred chicken with your fingers or a fork, if it's too hot. Dice the onion up.

4.) Heat oil in a skillet and add the the onion. Cook until soft. 2-4 minutes
5.) Add chicken, tomato paste, honey, and all of the spices, along with all the garlic and some of the water (1/2 cup?) reserved from the pot (this is to keep the chicken from drying out-- add more water if needed-- the chicken should not be too saucy either.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for only a few minutes. turn off heat.
Chicken filling
6.) Put a little bit of olive oil in large skillet. Heat to medium high and cook tortillas (get the oil on both sides-- just enough to coat lightly-- you should not be frying them in oil), until they are slightly golden. This will keep the tortillas from breaking when you dip them in the sauce and roll them. 
7.) Dip cooked tortillas in green sauce to coat. Roll with chicken and a little cheese (they should be fairly full), and place in a large baking dish (You will probably need at least two of these for all the enchiladas.) This part gets messy. 

8.) Top with any remaining sauce and cheese. 
Before baking.
9.) Cook in preheated 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until cheese starts to brown on top.
Oh yeah

Sloppy and delicious
These are fabulous! Enjoy!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tomato Salad

This salad means SUMMER. It's as delicious as staying in bed while your groggy lover drags himself to work. As delicious as boxed wine and the Cooking Channel at 2pm for the third day in a row. As delicious as laying on a towel on the lawn, finishing a novel in one day. As delicious as not working for three damn months.
I make tomato salad all summer long and we eat it with everything--goes beautifully with lamb chops, BBQ chicken or steak--all the kind of things you eat grilled, on days when it's way too hot to turn on the oven.
I have always loved tiny tomatoes--they are sweeter, somehow more tomato-y than big ones. The most difficult aspect of this recipe is not popping too many of them into your mouth as you chop.

2-3 lbs of small tomatoes. Try to find a variety of colors and types. The very BEST way to make this salad it to get the rainbow heirloom ones from the farmer's market--but a few tubs from Albertson's also works.
1 head of fennel
1 bunch fresh basil
1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

I used basil from the garden!
What to do:
Start by slicing the tomatoes. I cut each in half.
Sliced tomatoes
Put the sliced tomatoes in a bowl.
Then, dice the head of fennel and add to the bowl with the tomatoes.
Chop the basil and parsley together and add to the tomatoes and fennel.
Chopped herbs
Pour a glug of olive oil and a few lashings of Balsamic into the bowl.
Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
Taste and re-season if needed.
This is a delicious, refreshing salad. My fingers are crossed that our tomato plants allow me to make it with our own produce later this summer--save the fennel, I am growing all these ingredients in the backyard.