Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Farro, Apples, Chestnuts and Nutmeg

I'll admit it.

I enjoy watching reality cooking TV. Maybe a little bit too much. There's something totally entertaining about watching people cook, though Michael Pollan's new book "Cooked" is making me think more about the time we spend watching others cook compared to the time we spend actually cooking. More on that to come.

That said, recently I've felt like a contestant on Chopped.

McCormick is sponsoring a series of Go 4 Gourmet contests. They sent out boxes of ingredients around different themes, and they challenged us to create a recipe featuring those four ingredients.

Who could resist?

This week's challenge was called Artisanal Autumn, and bloggers were called to combine apples, grains, nuts and nutmeg to make one stunning dish.

Here's my contribution: roasted acorn squash stuffed with farro, apples, chestnuts and nutmeg. The apples are lightly sauteed with butter and just a hint of nutmeg.  The farro is cooked risotto style, so it's a bit creamy and helps hold everything together.

It's perfectly complex, with just the right balance of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy within every bite.

What dish would you create with those four ingredients? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

A student told me today he had four brothers and another one on the way. I looked at him and said, "That's half a year of entries in your writing notebook!" 

That line, tweeted from an elementary school teacher, lingered with me last night. For that little boy, growing up as one of six brothers will provide him with endless inspiration for writing. Even a simple car ride gains significance, showing him the value of compromise when he makes a deal with Brother #3, trading his place in the front seat of the car for a pack of baseball cards. 

Writers return to their favorite writing territories again and again, lingering with them, revisiting them in entirely new ways and ways that feel utterly familiar. These territories draw us back to our favorite authors, knowing we'll find a bit of something familiar in each new book they publish.

Right now, peanut butter is my territory. It's where I'm lingering. It focuses my recipe searches and my grocery store purchases. Recently, I've been experimenting with chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies, trying out countless variations to find one worthy of sharing with all of you. 

This is definitely it. They're almost too large, but you won't hear anyone complaining. They're soft and chewy,  loaded with extra oatmeal. They're a little light on the sugar which really lets the peanut butter shine through.

Make a batch to share, and freeze a few to have when the urge hits in the future. This is one territory you'll certainly want to return to again and again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sesame-Crusted Baked Tofu

Like a blank artist's canvas, I love the transformative potential of tofu. You can coat it in any spices, and it takes on that flavor. You can bake it, and the texture changes.

Every tofu recipe I make is a little bit different.

It keeps life interesting.

This tofu dish is just delicious. The tofu soaks in an Asian marinade with a bit of heat. The sesame seeds add a bit of texture and crunch; they're slightly toasted by the time the tofu finishes cooking. The baking (a major change I made to the recipe) keeps the dish even healthier.

Served on a bed of greens, it's the perfect vegan supper.

It's back to the drawing board for me. I've get several more blocks of tofu in the fridge to experiment with!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse

Rough gems.

That's how Ralph Fletcher, a fabulous teacher of teachers and young writers, described rough drafts.

Isn't that language just beautiful? I love the idea of seeing our drafts, our first/second/third tries at writing something, as these gems, not totally polished yet full of incredible potential.

I'm trying to see my writing that way. These past two months, I've started post after post, jotted a few paragraphs and then stopped. I've questioned my words, doubted the power of my stories, hit discard when I felt like I could go no further.

Fletcher's words gave me that permission I needed today to write something messy, something far from perfect, and then to step back, reflect and see the beauty waiting in it.

I'm grateful for those words, and I'm glad to be back here. Writing. Blogging.

Luckily, these past two months have brought no shortage of time in the kitchen.

Here's one of my favorites from our time apart. This is a rich and creamy dessert, nothing rough about it, save for the peanut butter cups crumbled on top. Each bite is layered, loaded with chocolate, peanut butter and more chocolate and peanut butter.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blood Orange and Sake Spritzer

Recently, I hosted one of the founders of The Drift for lunch and a cocktail photo shoot. The day we met up, it was dreary and humid. Today it's 90 degrees in Brooklyn, perfect weather for a cocktail like this.

I decided on blood orange and sake spritzers, inspired by a drink at my local ramen restaurant. They're light, vibrant and refreshing. With just three ingredients (including the adorable garnish), they're perfect for those nights entertaining when you don't want to spend all evening mixing drinks.

For me, it was just a treat to work with Jenn. Her camera and her photography skills far exceed what I've mastered with my iPhone. She shot at angles I'd never even considered, and she took such a variety of photos.

Visit The Drift to access the recipe for the Blood Orange and Sake Spritzer (it couldn't be easier!) and to see more photos of our afternoon together. While you're there, explore the site. They're quickly becoming my go-to resource for what to do in the city, and they're keeping me informed about the lastest music and fashion trends!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wheat Berries with Kale, Chickpea and Chard Pesto

Some people see vegan as a limiting diet, overflowing with sacrifices. They pepper me with questions about everything I'm missing out on.

Not that I've limited myself too much. I'm still using all those goodies in my baking, though I've cut down on the quantities quite dramatically, even testing out some vegan desserts here and there.

I just see things a bit differently. It doesn't feel like a sacrifice to me.

Here's how the conversation tends to go:

You're eating vegan? Really? What about butter?

I don't miss butter, really.

But what do you put on your popcorn?

Nutritional yeast, a generous amount, with a dash of olive oil. Delicious. 

Then what about toast?

I've been loving ripe avocado. And drizzled olive oil with za'atar. 


Tofu. Maybe with some nutritional yeast thrown in to give it that traditional flavor. Or tempeh. 

Huh. I could handle giving up eggs, I guess. Maybe even butter. But I could never, NEVER give up cheese. I just love it too much. How do you do it?

I just leave it out. I plan recipes without it. It's amazing how many beautiful recipes there are without cheese. Plus, BONUS, you can taste all the other ingredients so much more clearly. 

And there's this fantastic new pesto I just discovered. It's cheese free.

Really, Katie? Really?

Yes. It's loaded with chickpeas. It's so healthy. It's so tasty. It's perfect. 

Hmm.... I'm curious. Tell me more!

It's one of the best pestos I've had, and it's certainly the healthiest. I loaded it onto wheat berries and filled the bowl with green peas. It's hearty. Each bite is loaded with flavor. You should try it. Really. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

On Trader Joe's and Fresh-Baked Bread

I woke up naturally on Sunday at 8 a.m., a delightful surprise, and immediately decided to make the most of being awake by dashing off to Trader Joe's. I'd be there by 8:45 a.m., long before the mid-morning rush. I fantasized about walking through the aisles with ease, investigating every nook and cranny of the store, even making it to the sampling counter to get a bit of coffee to fuel me through.

I don't know what I was thinking.

A few minutes before 9 a.m., Trader Joe's was packed. The line weaved across the front of the store, down one long aisle, across the back of the store, and down another long aisle, despite the fact that more than 20 cash registers were open. That meant that carts blocked all the main walkways in the store. That meant no cornbread samples, fresh out of the oven. No eggs; navigating through carts three deep just wasn't worth it. And no coffee.

The cashier at Trader Joe's was the first person I talked with that day. After incorrectly telling him to put all my heavy canned goods in my tiny cloth bag and my fragile peppers in my huge canvas bag (he politely questioned my decision, suggesting that a different arrangement of goods might make more sense), he told me I was lucky to find the store "this empty" on a Sunday. "Usually you can't get your cart through a single aisle," he said.


Might I add that this Trader Joe's doesn't even carry wine?

No thank you.

I was reminded why I prefer the grazing method of grocery shopping, with a bigger grocery run to my local store on Sundays, lingering visits to farmers' markets, and lots of little stops on my walks home to pick up a fresh baguette or some creamy green olives.

Upon returning home, I whipped up my first loaf of five-minute bread. It took less time to make the bread, set it out to proof and get it in the oven than I waited in line at Trader Joe's.

This bread is pretty fantastic. It's the prettiest bread I've made by far, with a hard, golden brown outer crust, an interior studded with holes, and a taste somewhat reminiscent of sourdough.

I won't be visiting Trader Joe's anytime soon, but this bread is entering my everyday rotation. I've got a new batch in the fridge right now.

Visit Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for more information about this delightful bread and a whole bunch of recipes you can make from your master bread recipes. Here's a link to their master bread recipe. If you're looking for something a bit more substantial, try their European Pesant Bread, which includes whole wheat and rye flours.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Barley Risotto with Ramps, Peas and Cannellini Beans

Life is about enjoying all the little moments.

Like the gorgeous table overflowing with ramps in the Union Square Farmers' Market this weekend. I'm still kicking myself for not taking a picture.

Despite the fact that it was early afternoon, all the ramps were still crisp and fresh. Dirt clung to their green roots, evidence of how recently they'd left the ground.

Their rich, wild onion smell lingered around the table.

The ramps were so fresh, I could hardly wait to get started cooking. I whipped up a healthy, barley risotto that incorporated the ramps, green peas and cannellini beans. The greens from the ramps and the peas add a splash of color to the dish.

I'm a huge fan of barley risottos, both for cost ($1.19 for a big bag of barley at my local grocery store as compared to the price of arborio rice) and the health benefits.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, this dish has a secret ingredient.


Totally unnecessary. Wine is a perfectly fine substitute.

But on the incredibly rare occasion where you find yourself with an extra cup of prosecco, pull this recipe out. Put on your cutest apron. Pour it in. Watch it bubble up.

Then pour a glass for yourself.

It's a totally satisfying splurge only you'll know about. But you'll taste it there, just the faintest hint of it showing its face in the background of each bite.

You'll be filling your meal with all kinds of delightful little moments.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dark Chocolate Chip Pistachio Cookies

In just a few short hours, New York City food bloggers are scheduled to descend on the Brooklyn Flea to raise money for No Kid Hungry. The list of food being brought looks incredible.

Mini flourless chocolate cakes.

Coconut lime shortbread.

Smoked bourbon chocolate.

Lemon bars with a lavender shortbread crust.

S'mores brownies.

The list continues on, and I'm delighted to be contributing these dark chocolate chip pistachio cookies. They're overflowing with pistachios and dark chocolate chunks (the quantities of those included almost mirror the quantities of all other ingredients, combined).

Anything with four minutes of butter and sugar mingling has to be delicious, and these cookies are no exception. They've got layers of flavor, and they make the typical chocolate chip cookie far more exciting.

We'll be at the Flea from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., unless we sell out before then! Stop by!

Saturday, April 27, 2013


This soup is Gazpacho's cousin.

On the surface they seem similar, both a rich red color and loaded with tomatoes. They both feel light and refreshing. Both are loaded with garlic.

That's where the similarities end.

Whereas gazpacho is loaded with veggies, salmorejo gets its heft from a generous dose of olive oil, almonds and toasted bread.

Gazpacho is made at the height of summer, with the freshest vegetables imaginable. Salmorejo is more forgiving. Sure, fresh, ripe tomatoes would probably be best, but it's almost equally delicious in the dead of winter, loaded with canned plum tomatoes.

There's something fantastic about having a soup that tastes this fresh in early spring, months before tomatoes show up in the market. We drank it by the cupful, literally.

I topped it with chopped hard-boiled eggs. The true Spaniard would add chopped ham, but I left it out.

The leftovers froze beautifully and made a perfect meal for another night.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Chickpea, Freekeh and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Za'atar

The bagel shop down the street introduced me to za'atar. It features prominently in one of their breakfast sandwiches: a whole wheat everything bagel, sliced and toasted, topped with thinly sliced hardboiled eggs, and then drizzled with olive oil and za'atar.

It's the perfect sandwich for mornings when you want to really eat, like those long train rides to museums outside the city or the mornings when you rush off to a workshop and know you won't get a break for hours.

My dad sent me a huge box of za'atar. Delightfully huge. Big enough to fill a large canning jar plus some. It felt like Christmas came early.

The thing is, you generally only use a few tablespoons of za'atar at a time, which means I've got a lot of experimenting to do.

I could use up all the za'atar my dad sent in this salad, just making it again and again every week.

Whatever you call this--salad, hearty main dish, a bowl of perfection--it's just delicious. The za'atar brings a Middle Eastern flavor to the dish, and the lemon juice brightens things up. The roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions add a bit of sweetness, and the eggplant and carrots give you something to look forward to in every bite.

I ate this hot, at room temperature and chilled, and I loved it every way.

This salad does require some significant preparation, but I spaced it out over the course of two days. When I put the chickpeas and freekeh out to soak, I chopped and roasted the vegetables and caramelized the onions. The next day, I simply needed to boil the chickpeas and freekeh and mix everything together. Simple.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Marinated Olives with Lemon

Simple can be best.

A cup of black coffee, roasted from the perfect beans.

A stroll though the farmers' market on a Saturday morning.

Chocolate peanut butter cookies just out of the oven.

A fresh, green salad overflowing on my plate.

Homemade pillows. Lots of them. In various sizes and patterns.

And these olives, marinated for a few days (or for two or three weeks) with lemon, olive oil, garlic and pepper. The lemon lingers in the background. It's present without being overbearing.

These olives come together in a few minutes, and then get thrown in the refrigerator until you need them. They need some time to come to room temperature before you eat them so the oil melts.

They make the perfect addition to a make-ahead appetizer table.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are all about flexibility.

You see, I ran out of brown sugar about a week ago, and I forgot to pick some up at the store last weekend.

Disclaimer: I could have solved my problem. Easily. Within a five-minute walk from my apartment, there are at least two 24-hour grocery stores and bodegas that would definitely have brown sugar. Also, it was the middle of the day. And it was beautiful out. I could have left the house and enjoyed it.

Needless to say, I didn't. I proceeded to make cookies with no brown sugar, substituting molasses and white sugar instead.

I was nervous at first. The dough had that distinctive molasses taste at first, and I worried it would show its face in the final product. It seemed too strong.

I persevered. I kept eating cookie dough. All of a sudden, I didn't mind the molasses at all.

Then I let the dough chill for a few hours and baked it up.

I bit into the first one before it cooled.

Delicious. No molasses taste at all. Chewy, with a bit of a crunch on the outside. Just loaded with chocolate chunks. 

I made these cookies for my mom to celebrate her birthday, loaded with oatmeal just like she likes them. I shipped them off this weekend in hopes they'll be to her today. 

Happy birthday to you, Mom! Sending lots of love your way. Like the molasses, I hope these cookies will substitue a bit for my absence. Wish I could be there with you today!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How To Enjoy Hosting A Dinner Party

Ever hosted a dinner party and realized, at the end of the night as you crawled into bed exhausted, that you didn't really get to enjoy it at all?

 Sure, there's a lot of enjoyment to be gained from watching others devour food you made. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the fact that you spent all evening in the kitchen, while your guests socialized in the living room. I'm talking about not being able to hold a conversation of any significance because you keep getting distracted by that pot that's boiling over or the bread that's almost too toasted in the oven.

Thankfully, I'm not that girl anymore. I've learned a lot these past few years about how to host AND enjoy a dinner party.

You can do it too. I promise.

1. Start planning in advance. At least a week in advance, I choose the recipes I'll make. I read through them, mapping out how much of each ingredient I need to buy. Then, I schedule out what I'll do each day leading up to the dinner. I try to do less time-sensitive jobs, like picking out what bowls I'll use for what dish, in advance.

2. Choose make-ahead appetizers. Think roasted nuts, marinated olives or a cheese plate. Look for dishes that can be prepared in advance and easily uncovered just before your guests arrive. It's so nice to have snacks out when guests show up, and having them prepped in advance ensures you're ready.

3. Prep, prep, prep. Once you've mapped out how much of each vegetable you need, prepare it in advance. Before my last dinner party, I peeled and trimmed five heads of garlic. I chopped six onions and thinly sliced two others. I roasted four peppers and chopped two more. I saved time the day of because so much prep work had already been done.

4. Be realistic. Don't make every dish a show stopper. This is one of the areas where I struggle the most. I made homemade bread for my last dinner party, and I felt like I had to tell people so they knew and could appreciate it. Everyone would have been just as happy with store-bought bread, and I could have saved myself a few hours of work. Pour your energy into one or two main dishes your guests will really savor.

5. Don't worry about what you can't control. Did a bowl of crackers crash to the ground and shatter? Someone spill tomato soup all over the rug your mom made? It happens, and there's nothing you can do about it but reassure your guests that it's ok, and get started cleaning it up. Stressing out about the situation will just make you and your guests feel bad, lessening everyone's enjoyment of the meal.

6. Sit down and eat. Even if the dinner is casual, take the time. Drink refills can wait for a few minutes. People will survive for five minutes without more salad. You worked hard, and you deserve the time to savor the meal. Clean your plate, and then get up.

Following (almost) all of this advice lead to one of my most enjoyable dinner parties yet (more recipes and photos to come).

What's your best advice on enjoying the dinner parties you host?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower and Lima Bean Stew

This is the little black dress of soups. You can eat it every day for a week, and, just by switching up your toppings, feel as though you are eating something different.

Monday. Caramelized onions.

Tuesday. Chopped raw apple.

Wednesday. Smoked salmon.

Thursday. Olive oil and paprika.

Friday. Mini garlic croutons made out of homemade bread.

Saturday. Oven-roasted tomatoes.

Sunday. On its own. Delicious.

I'm linking up with Healthy Vegan Fridays. Visit to see a ton of delicious, healthy vegan dishes!