Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night: Anytime Banana Bread with a Textural Twist (Granola!)

I don’t have a pithy story about banana bread. All I have are lots of frozen overripe bananas. When my bananas  turn spotty and black, I peel them straight into a resealable freezer bag. Two to a bag, slightly mushed after sealing by massage the outside of the bag. Date it with a Sharpie and into cold storage they go.

What I love about banana bread—and I’m talking good banana bread—is that it is moist enough to stay fresh and delicious for up to a week. That means I can break off a piece or a corner whenever a sweet craving strikes, perhaps while I’m waiting for my morning coffee to steep (I’m a French press fanatic), for a mid-morning pick-me-up, as a late afternoon snack, or after the kids have gone to bed with tea or hot cocoa (with mini marshmallows of course—why should kids have all the fun?).

For supreme moistness, I use light brown sugar, a hydroscopic sweetener that keeps moisture locked into the crumb. A generous heap of crème frâiche (or sour cream in a pinch) makes for a rich, thick batter. Oil also helps for a spongy-soft interior (butter tends to turn leaden after a day or two). For texture, a cup of granola adds a hint of multi-grain-like appeal. Any kind of granola will do, just be sure the flavors jive with banana bread (in my last batch I used Early Bird granola with pecans and coconut). If your granola comes in clumps, put it in a resealable plastic bag and smash it with the bottom of a soup pot to break them up quickly before adding to the dry mix.

Banana Bread with Granola

Makes 1 loaf

This cake stays incredibly moist and delicious up to a week after baking. It helps to slice just what you need rather than slicing the entire loaf at once. Frozen bananas can be stored for up to four months; to use defrost at room temperature or in the fridge, or microwave at 50% power until mostly thawed. When I don’t have time to make my own (see recipe below), I use Vermont Butter & Cheese crème frâiche. It’s lovely and super thick—if using homemade crème frâiche instead, your batter will be lighter and the loaf will have a more open crumb.

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature or nonstick pan spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup grapeseed or canola oil
  • 3/4 cup crème frâiche or sour cream
  • 2 bananas, lightly mashed
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, granola, whole wheat flour, baking powder, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined (about 30 seconds of vigorous beating). Whisk in the oil and then and the crème frâiche and bananas, whisking to combine. Use a wooden spoon to stir the dry ingredients into the banana mixture and switch to a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
  4. Bake the cake until the center resists light pressure and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Run a paring knife around the edges of the cake and invert onto a cake plate before slicing and serving.

Homemade Crème Frâiche

This is Suvir Saran’s recipe for crème frâiche. It’s tangy and gorgeous–don’t be surprised when you start topping anything and everything with it. It really is that good. Use the best quality heavy cream you can find (Suvir uses this kind made near his country home in upstate New York).

In a medium saucepan warm  3 cups of cream with 1 cup of buttermilk and the juice of 1 lemon over low heat until it has lost its chill and is just warm. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and set a plate (one larger than the bowl’s width) on top of the towel. Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours. Whisk the mixture and then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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Filed under Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Dessert, Quick Bread, Recipe

Caramely Spiced Carrots for a Sweet New Year

New Years resolutions often revolve around self-improvement, such as: this year I’m going to stretch everyday (that was mine, it lasted until January 3rd) or I will stop eating sugar (not my resolution and never ever will be!). What I have found to be more effective, though, are resolutions that hone in on attitude adjustments. Such as: this year, I’m going to be more patient with my kids—when they annoy me, I will take a deep breath, smile while exhaling, and try to amend the situation from a positive place. That’s a resolution I can stick to because it acknowledges a fault while resolving to improve over time.

How does this relate to carrots?

Well, carrots and I have history, as in I really, really dislike them. As a kid, my mom would keep a bowl of baby-cut carrots (carrots trimmed to baby size via machine versus actual baby carrots pulled from the ground before they reach maturity) or carrot sticks in a bowl in the fridge. She’d cover them with water and there they’d linger for days on end.

Embracing the concept of a new year, trying new things, having new adventures, and turning over new leaves, I decided t was time I made peace with carrots. I saw a bunch at the market. I stared at them for a while. And then, like the sad last-of-the-litter puppy yelping for attention, I picked up the carrots by the scruff of their greens and dropped them into my basket.

I dressed the carrots with olive oil, honey, orange juice, lots of ground cumin, and a healthy dose of salt. Then I popped them into a cold oven. I figured that by the time the oven hit 425°F (ten to twenty minutes, depending on your oven), the carrots would be one-third to halfway done roasting—so why waste that preheating time?

The carrots were insanely good! They charred, they shriveled, they sweetened, they glistened in their honey-orange glaze. We devoured them (even me). There was a problem, though: the honey and orange juice turned to asphalt in my baking dish and it took four days, a dryer sheet (anyone else know this trick? Add a dryer sheet to an especially troublesome pan, fill with hot water, and soak over night—for most pans it works like a charm), a half bottle of Barkeeper’s Friend, and two scrubbies to get the darned thing clean.

So I tried a few more times, with the goal of the same deliciously caramelized carrots minus the mess in the pan. Roasting the carrots with olive oil and salt to start and then adding the honey-orange juice mixture at the midway point seemed to work well. There was a little deep brown stickiness in the pan at the finish, but nothing that a quick scrub couldn’t remedy.

Carrots and I are making progress. We’re taking small steps together. While I still harbor many carrot prejudices, I’m happy for this New Year’s triumph that wasn’t necessarily a resolution, but had a happy ending anyway.

Oven Caramelized Carrots with Honey and Cumin

Serves 4 to 6

The cumin gives the carrots a fabulously earthy flavor, a taste combo I first experienced at ABC Kitchen in Manhattan, one of my absolute favorite restaurants. If you’re not a cumin lover, take it down to 1/4 teaspoon but please don’t cut it out entirely.

  • 1 1/2 pounds medium carrots, scrubbed and unpeeled, halved lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  1. Place the onions in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Arrange them lengthwise so they’re in a single layer—you may need to place shorter carrots crosswise at the short ends of the pan. Drizzle the carrots with the olive oil and add the salt, roll them to coat.
  2. Place the carrots in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 425°F.
  3. Roast the carrots for 25 minutes. While they roast, whisk together the orange juice, honey, cumin, and pepper. Pour the mixture over the carrots and use tongs or a wooden spoon to roll them in the honey mixture.
  4. Continue roasting until the carrots look glazed, the ends begin to darken, and the tip of a knife easily slides in and out of the biggest carrot, 15 to 25 minutes longer (I like my carrots extra dark and sticky, like the photo above, so I let them go until they reach that point).
  5. Remove from the oven and use tongs to transfer them to a serving dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of flaky salt if you like, and serve warm or at room temp.

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Filed under Dinner, Recipe, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian

Easiest Holiday Cookies EVER: Mandelbrot (Jewish Biscotti)

To commemorate the holidays, all of the families in Rhys’ nursery class were asked to bring in a dish that is meaningful to their holiday celebrations. My first thought went to lefse, a thin Norwegian flat bread made from potatoes. When I was growing up, the best part of the holiday buffet table was always Nana’s lefse. She spread them with a thin swipe of lingonberry jam, and rolled them into tight cylinders. Nana’s lefse were more tortilla looking than other lefse I have seen, which look almost like lavash in size and thinness.

When I was 16 my Nana passed away and over the course of a decade, my grandma passed down Nana’s recipes and cooking equipment. I put dibs on the recipes, her Jell-o molds and tins of various design (fish, tubes, Bundts, grape clusters), and Nana’s coffee pot. I also inherited her lefse pin (a large rolling pin with striations in it so the potato dough doesn’t stick) and like a total moron, gave it away. Ugh, that stupid decision still gnaws away at my soul and makes me want to cry. So when I spotted a lefse pin on sale at Sur la Table a few weeks back, I snagged it and thought myself the luckiest person alive.

Of course I’d make lefse for Rhys’s holiday party. Of course! I picked up lingonberry jam at a small Swedish sweet shop in the West Village. I had the potatoes ready to boil. I looked in the recipe box at Nana’s recipe at to my shock, it was a recipe FROM THE BACK OF A LEFSE MIX!!! No way Nana! Devastated (I mean, it’s like learning your mom’s mashed potatoes come from potato flakes!), I turned to the internet and discovered this lefse website and quickly became intimidated–would I need a lefse boogie board to roll out the dough? What about that lefse stick? A lefse grill? Did Nana have all those lefse toys (somehow, in her itty bitty Chicago kitchen without even a proper counter–she did all of her cooking prep work on a formica kitchen table)?

Okay, by now it’s nearly 10am and the party is at 2:30. In between which I have to drive and deliver my dad to Delta at the airport. Lefse was quickly escaping my grasp…should I try anyway? I quickly envisioned myself happily ricing potatoes, making the dough, rolling the super thin pancakes, the dough sticking, the frustration growing, the dough tearing, flour getting everywhere, nothing working, and me throwing dough across the kitchen, stomping my feet, and having a full-on potty-mouthed tantrum. Okay, skip that. I made mandelbrot instead.

Mandelbrot is known as Jewish biscotti. It is usually made with oil instead of butter and with almonds. Mandelbrot was probably the first baked good I ever made and the recipe has been the same since I was old enough to lick the dough from a spoon: butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour, salt. Done. no leavener, no nuts, no oil. My husband is not a huge fan. He thinks they’re boring and kind of plain. I think they’re quite simple, semi-sweet, tender, buttery, and lovely. “Can’t you dip them in chocolate,” he asked? I glared at him. “You dip them,” I threatened. That ended that conversation.

This is a simple cookie. You make the dough, shape it into two long flat rectangles on a baking sheet (like biscotti) then bake it off. When it’s blonde and just starting to brown around the edges, you slice the bricks into 3/4-inch wide pieces, and then turn each on its side. It bakes for another 20 minutes (flipping the cookies over midway through). These are delicious with coffee, tea, or just out of hand. It’s a straightforward cookie without sprinkles and frosting and chocolate drizzles or dragés. And this time of year, a little simplicity is kind of a nice thing.

Mandelbrot Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a stand mixer, a hand mixer, or a wooden spoon and elbow grease, beat the butter with the sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is airy and light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, increasing the mixer speed to medium-high between additions to ensure the batter comes together before adding the next egg, and scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until just combined.

3. Set a parchment paper or silpat-lined half-sheet pan (18- by 13-inches) on your worksurface so the long sides are at the top and bottom and short sides are to the left and right. Place half of the cookie dough on the lower third of the baking sheet and place the remaining half on the upper third. Fill a bowl with cold water and set it next to the pan. Dip your hands in water and pat the dough out into two long rectangles. The rectangles should be about 1/2-inch thick and about 15 inches long. Re-wet your hands as needed so the dough doesn’t stick. Smooth out the top and square off the corners as best you can.

4. Bake the two long rectangles until they are golden and spring back to light pressure,  about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through. Remove the pan from the oven and slice each rectangle into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Remove the rounded ends of each slab (these are a treat for all of us impatient bakers–they’re super yummy hot, yum!) and turn the sliced pieces on their sides.

5. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cookies are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes longer, turning the cookies midway through if you like. Remove from the oven and cool. They keep very well  in an airtight container for up to ten days.

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Filed under Baking, Cookie, Dessert, Holiday, Recipe, Uncategorized

Balance and Bite: Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

What does it mean to develop a recipe? What does it mean to test one? What does it mean to adapt a recipe? What is a truly original recipe? These questions represent the fundamental core of what I do as a recipe developer and food writer.

To develop a recipe means that you start at square one, with an idea, and make some hits and misses along the way. You tweak, you taste, you tinker. Until the recipe is just right. Sometimes all it takes is one shot. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, and years (like my ongoing quest for perfect biscuits and cornbread). To test a recipe means you are cooking a recipe, top to tail, exactly as written. You’re noting problems, making observations on timing, and perhaps suggesting shortcuts. The main goal is for the recipe to remain true to the creator’s intent–my fingerprint shouldn’t be detected whatsoever. To adapt a recipe means you take a recipe and change an ingredient or two. Perhaps switch out honey for sugar or take a recipe for a whole chicken and “adapt” it to be suitable for chicken breasts. It’s when a new idea totally piggybacks on someone else’s method.

I’m at my happiest when I’m developing. When I’m truly creating, thinking and imaging the possibilities of what could happen if.

It often starts with a concept. It hits me, starting like a small itch, and develops into a full on compulsion until I get the idea just right. A few months ago it was deviled tea eggs stained and marbled by tea and spices, and then halved and stuffed with deviled duck rillette. Then it was little cookie-cup s’mores stuffed with chocolate truffles and topped by a tanned marshmallow (stay tuned for that recipe). This week it was this risotto.

This risotto all began with the most innocuous butternut squash. When I cut the seemingly perfect squash open, the entire bottom half was semi-rotten. Useless, trash. But the neck of the squash was fine. Not enough to roast solo for a side dish, I decided to turn it into my main dish–which would be risotto. Instead of cooking the squash in the same pot as the risotto, I decided to roast it so it would retain its independence. Rather than cooking down and melding with the rice, roasting concentrates its flavors, making it extra sweet, extra browned, and texturally divine. Bacon and butternut squash are great friends, and a little bacon added a fantastic smokiness to the squash as well as the overall dish. Roasting apple with the bacon and squash gave the dish a sweet-tart tang and the peels offer petals of color. Fresh rosemary with its piney woodsy-ness can never hurt.

I stirred this combo into a basic finished risotto. It needed something, though…something crunchy and something sharp. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, fried with some cumin ended up to be a stellar choice. As they toast in the skillet, they expand into crunchy little pumpkin flavored footballs. Scallions add a  pungent bite. Creamy/crunchy, earthy/buttery, roasted/fresh; smoky/sweet. The risotto is a great snapshot of balance and bite, and of what happens when you wonder.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Apples, Bacon, and Cumin-Popped Pepitas

Serves 4 or 6 as a side

To make this vegetarian, leave out the bacon and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the roasting pan when cooking the butternut squash. I like creamy, sturdy carnaroli rice for risotto.

For the squash

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 apple, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 bacon strips, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the pepitas

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the risotto

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
  • 6 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

1. Roast the squash: Place the squash, apples, bacon, and rosemary on a rimmed baking sheet or in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast until the squash is tender and starting to brown and the bacon is crisp, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once midway through.

2. Make the pepitas: Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pepitas in the pan and cook, stirring often. Add the cumin after 6 minutes and then continue to cook until the seeds have popped and browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the seeds out onto a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.

3. While the squash is roasting, make the risotto: Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown around the edges and soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir to coat with the aromatics. Cook until the rice begins to smell toasty and turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add about 1/2 cup of broth. Cook, stirring often (you don’t have to stir constantly, but you don’t want to leave the pot standing unstirred for longer than 1 minute), until the rice nearly absorbs the broth—the pot shouldn’t look dry at the bottom and there should be a slight amount of liquid remaining, enough to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. Continue to add more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring between each, until you have added about 5 1/2 cups of broth (this will take around 25 minutes). Taste the risotto. You want it to be every so slightly al dente in the center—like pasta with a semi-white core. Continue to add broth and stir if necessary. Remember that, like a steak, risotto continues to cook once the heat is turned off. So it’s better to err on the side of undercooking than overcooking.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and the Parmesan cheese. Stir the squash mixture into the risotto and taste; add more salt if needed. Serve sprinkle with scallions and the pepitas.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Pork, Recipe, Side dish

Saving Money and Feeling Organized Takes 10 Minutes

Hands down, the question I am asked the most by friends is how I organize and plan out a week of meals. Whether you’re a parent or not, planning a week of meals ahead saves money, time, and is a ton healthier than calling for takeout when it’s 6pm and you have no idea what to make for dinner. Elizabeth Larkin @AboutOrganizing interviewed me for her blog and put together a  column that highlights how I think about the week to come. Here’s the link–let me know your thoughts and please share your tips on how you plan for the week ahead at your house!

And yes, that’s my fridge. On Fridays I always take stock of the fridge (and freezer) and figure out what needs to be eaten up over the weekend, and what can wait until Monday/Tuesday. It also helps me figure out the week to come: what staples do I need (whole milk, veggies, protein, etc.)  Here’s what I need to use up in the next few days:

  • leftover mushroom couscous (would it be weird to add this to an omelet? Oh, I also have that baby spinach in the fridge. That could work nicely.)
  • asparagus (I put it in the door front and center to remind myself to use it asap!)
  • leftover Indian cabbage (maybe I’ll make some spiced rice and lentil dal on Sunday)
  • leftover roasted pepper-cream sauce (this with the  boneless chicken thighs I have in the freezer plus roasted asparagus is a killer meal–I might do that for Saturday since that asparagus needs to be used pronto)
  • ham hock soup (last night I went to two fantastic film screenings: The Color Wheel and Girl Walk All Day. Since I knew it would be a busy exit strategy what with the sitter coming by 6pm, I sauteed some delicious pork sausage from Greene Grape Provisions and tossed with pasta and the soup for an easy sauce; might cook rice in leftover soup component for a delicious pilaf-y/biryani/risotto-esque meal)


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Filed under Dinner, Meal Planning, Organizing, Press/Appearances, Recipe, Soup

Easy Appetizer: Creamy Chèvre, Caraway, and Caramelized Onion Toasts

Around this time of year, my refrigerator becomes slightly schizophrenic. Whereas I usually have an orderly selection of fresh vegetables in the crisper, one or two cheeses in the cheese box, meat or seafood on the shelves, and other staples (eggs, butter, Sriracha) stockpiled, during the holidays when it’s all about entertaining–whether at home or away–it’s an anything-goes scenario. Which is absolutely exciting and fun and I totally embrace the chaos. Right now in my fridge there is bear fat (yes, the rendered fat of a bear), enough heavy cream to send a calorie counter into shock, grape must jam, homemade crème fraîche, and other random odds and ends: chicken stock, halved lemons, Parm bones (leftover rinds–great for soup!), a pork tenderloin, a pound of sea bass, and gingerbread people piled high with candies and sparkles (courtesy of Julian and his classmates). Also in the mix: a container of leftover creamy chèvre

Creamy chèvre is one of my favorite go-to party toppings. It’s goat cheese whipped with heavy cream and a few pinches of salt. Once that extra fat is whipped in, the tang of the goat cheese is curbed and its mouthfeel enriched by a million degrees. It becomes silky and airy and positively luscious.

I like pairing the spread with slowly caramelized onions, earthy caraway seeds, and olive oil-doused  baguette slices that get gently toasted so they’re crunchy on the outside and tender within. A drop of balsamic tweaks the taste of the onion jam ever so slightly, perking up sum total of the toast with its zippy twang. Serve the toasts spread and ready to go or encumber a platter with a pile of plain toasts and place the creamy chèvre and caramelized onions off to the side so people can schmear, dip, and doctor as they like.

Creamy Chèvre, Caraway, and Caramelized Onion Toasts

Makes about 2 dozen toasts

The flavor of earthy caraway seed and the sweetness of caramelized onions works beautifully with a whole wheat baguette. That said, a traditional baguette works just fine.

  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (or 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary or thyme)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus a few good pinches
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette (preferably whole wheat), thinly sliced on a bias
  • Flaky salt
  • 4-ounce log of fresh goat’s milk cheese (chèvre)
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the caraway seeds and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook until the onions are very sticky and dark brown, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. If the onions start to stick or burn at the bottom of the pan, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water and stir and scrape up any browned bits into the onion mixture. Once the onions are caramelized, stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat, stir in the balsamic vinegar, and transfer the onions to a small bowl. Pour 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the onions and set aside.
  2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Place the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet and brush the them with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with the flaky salt and toast in the oven just until the edges are browned and crisp and the top of the bread slices is dry but still gives to light pressure, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then transfer to a platter.
  3. Place the chèvre in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on low speed to break it up. Add 4 tablespoons of the heavy cream and a few pinches of salt and beat. If the mixture is still pasty and thick, add more cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating between each addition, until the mixture is airy and light. Spread some of the caramelized onions on top of each cooled toast. Top with the chèvre cream and serve.

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Filed under Appetizer, Cheese, Holiday, Recipe, Vegetarian

A Simple Meal in 20 Flat: Salt and Pepper Trout with Green Beans, Brown Butter, and Toasted Almonds

After a giant belt-loosening wallet-draining feast like the one I enjoyed last Thursday, I ground myself with basic, simple, straight forward food. Nothing too rich, too fancy, or too time consuming—just a good meal my kids will eat that doesn’t dirty every pan in the house.

We had a fun day in the city yesterday and took the boys to see the Muppets (my older son, Julian, totally jammed to “We Built this City” it was a truly fantastic sight! And thankfully no one was sitting in front or behind my little head banging Starship thrasher), followed by chess in Union Square, a walk through the holiday market, and bubble tea in the East Village. On our way home, I witnessed a horrible accident on the Bowery: a Vespa got smashed by a car making a left turn. Thankfully the driver was fine and while we weren’t involved in the bang-up, I did my civic duty and waited 30 minutes for the cops to arrive (insane). By the time we made it over the bridge home to Brooklyn, it was nighttime, the boys were hungry, and I was wiped.

I popped into Greene Grape Provisions, my local food shop for all things twice as expensive as they should be yet often worth it, especially in the meat and seafood department. Since I wanted dinner on the table quickly, I knew I had to either go veg or go with a quick protein. After all the intense meat eating of last week, I opted for a quick trout saute, paired with steamed green beans that get a good sear in browned butter. The duo of a meal counts on five ingredients total: trout, butter, green beans,  sliced almonds, and lemon. If you count salt and pepper then I guess it’s seven. Plus you can get it done in less than 20 minutes Hallelujah.

Farmed rainbow trout has a nice flake and a mellow flavor. It’s a good graduation from benign tilapia and a heck of a lot cheaper than salmon or tuna (don’t let the head-on attribute throw you–this just means it’s super fresh! After it’s cooked, I use kitchen shears to easily snip the head off–and it’s fun for the kids to look at!). Plus it’s a sustainable fish to choose since it is domestically farmed in an eco-friendly manner. I like to give it a fast sear in a nonstick pan with a little butter. While it browns in butter on my left burner, on my right burner I steam up some green beans (you can totally do it in a microwave too–add a few tablespoons of water to a microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, poke a few vent holes in the top, and zap until tender, 6 to 8 minutes). They come out of the pan and in goes some butter–it browns fast because the pan is already hot–add sliced almonds to toast, and then toss in the cooked green beans. Salt, pepper, lemon on the fish, done. It is the opposite of a Thanksgiving feast, but man am I thankful for it!

Salt and Pepper Trout with Green Beans, Brown Butter, and Toasted Almonds

Serves 4

  • 1 pound green beans, topped and tailed
  • 2 whole trout (about 1 pound), gutted and cleaned
  • Kosher salt and a few twists of black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 lemon sliced into quarters

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a Dutch oven or large pot. Insert a steamer basket and add the green beans to the basket. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and steam until the beans are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. (When you remove a bean to test it, recover the pot quickly so all of the steam doesn’t escape!) Turn the heat off and transfer the beans to a medium bowl. Pour out the remaining water and place the pan back on the burner. Wipe the pan out with a kitchen towel.

2. Place the trout flesh-side up on a cutting board. Season each trout with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 trout, flesh-side down, and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Slide a spatula under the trout and flip it over (as shown, above). Cook it skin-side down until the flesh feels firm (not rock hard but not spongy) to light pressure, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Repeat with another tablespoon of butter and the other trout.

3. While the second trout is cooking, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the pot used for the green beans over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the almonds, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until they’re toasted, stirring often. (The butter will brown as well). Stir in a pinch of salt and then add the cooked green beans, tossing to combine with a few more pinches of salt. Divide the beans among 4 plates.

4. Slice off the head and fins from the trout and divide each fish into 2 fillets (kitchen scissors work nicely). Place a fillet on each plate, squeeze a lemon wedge over each fillet, and serve.

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Filed under Dinner, Fish and Seafood, Quick Food, Recipe, Side dish, Uncategorized, Vegetable