Posts Tagged ‘Dish Jess’

From Dish Jess:

Well, dishes, the holiday season is here whether we like it or not. Personally, I love holiday food and drink, but can sometimes be a scrooge when it comes to bringing in the warm fuzzy cheer (that’s what eggnog is for). Still, the goodness of holiday eats cannot be denied, so I thought I’d share a new favorite that I’ve been perfecting.

I researched cornbread recipes, both traditional and cutting-edge(ish) to formulate this one. I found that true southern cornbread shouldn’t have added sweetness, and that you can substitute yogurt for buttermilk. Also, that truly authentic crumbly cornbread crust is attained only by baking in an iron skillet which I, sadly, do not possess.

So here’s my not-quite-authentic version – a crusty whole wheat cornbread. One could also substitute white flour here with great results. Makes 6-8 servings.

For the cornbread:

Dry ingredients
1 ½ cups medium-grind corn meal
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients
1 egg
½ c milk
½ c yogurt
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp melted honey

1 tbsp oil (I used olive)

Pour olive oil into skillet or baking pan and set aside.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, beat egg and add the rest of the wet ingredients, whisking together. Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the dry bowl, adding a teaspoon or two of milk if the mixture is too dry. Whisk to combine. Set aside for 15-20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375-400°F – depending on whether your oven is hotter or cooler. Place the skillet or baking pan into the oven and let the oil heat while the batter is resting.

In the meantime, make your honey butter:

4 tbsp room temperature butter
1 tbsp honey

Beat honey into the butter with a fork. If the butter is a little cold or the honey is crystallized, warm the honey slightly. I don’t like super-sweetened spreads, but you can feel free to adjust the ratio to your tastebuds.

When it’s time to pour the batter into the pan, carefully spread it into the hot pan, smoothing the top so that the batter evenly fills the space. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sides begin to darken and a toothpick comes out dry.

Feel free to experiment with mix-ins; for this go-around, I had recently made a plain batch, so I added some chopped scallion, jalapeño and grated cheddar. Bacon would be a great addition, or cilantro, or creamed butternut squash. I haven’t made muffins yet but would welcome any baking tips for a muffin tin.

Let the bread cool and cut into squares. Spread the honey butter lavishly onto a still-warm piece… but don’t blame me if the one becomes two or three – or an entire meal!

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From Dish Jess:

Butternut Squash Gratin

This recipe was conceived as a much richer incarnation of itself for a dinner party a couple years ago, in celebration of Dish Rachelle’s Saucy Little Boyfriend’s birthday. It was thick with cream and butter, and a delightful addition to a very indulgent foodie-filled potluck.

For this version, I scaled down the fat in hopes that these vegetables, fresh from the farmer’s market, would lend enough flavor to pack a punch on their own.


Sliced squashJulienned vegetables

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, halved and cut into ¼” slices
3 leeks, julienned
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
4 oz fresh goat cheese
¼ cup whole milk
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried thyme
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped coarse
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss squash with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a cookie sheet and roast 15-20 minutes, until edges begin browning.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, oregano and thyme and sauté until tender, around 15 minutes.

Ready to bakeWhen the squash is finished, turn the oven to 375°. Use the rest of the olive oil to grease a square baking dish – I used a CorningWare dish about 2½“ deep.

Layer 1/3 of the squash, 1/3 leeks, and 1/3 goat cheese (crumbled or sliced thin) and repeat until all ingredients are used.

Pour the milk over the top and sprinkle with hazelnuts. Bake at 375° for half an hour, or until internal temperature reaches 140° and your kitchen is fragrant with leeks and hazelnuts.

Served with leftover vegetable barley soup, this was a healthy vegetarian meal that satisfied even my unapologetic inner carnivore. Viva vegetables!

Dish Jess goes veg

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From Dish Jess:

Lebanese-style roast chicken with eggplant

I’ve been craving comfort food recently, and often find myself bringing together the flavors from both sides of my family. My mom learned to cook by having to make dinner for her working-class Jewish family in high school, but once she married my dad, she also learned to make the rich, spicy Lebanese food that’s an intimate part of his family’s life, and would often make those dishes for our family.

Roasted chicken was a staple dinner for us, and my mom’s recipe is a classic – seasoning beneath the skin, surrounding with potatoes & onions, sometimes carrots, and then baking & basting along the way. I was looking to make something with a bit more zest and spice than the average roasted chicken, so I incorporated some classic Lebanese flavors into this dish.

Seasoned chickenFor the chicken:
2 chicken legs with thighs, skinless or with skin
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp crushed mint
½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat over to 350°F. Mix all ingredients with a fork until they form a thick paste. Spread the paste in a thin layer over the meat. If you leave the skin on, separate the skin from the meat down to the leg bone, and spread the paste beneath the skin. I seasoned the skin with za’atar, a lebanese spice mixture that includes sumac, oregano & sesame seeds, but salt & pepper would also work well. Place into a roasting pan and surround with vegetables.

For the vegetables:
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 small eggplant, sliced into rounds
1 onion, cut into thin wedges

Toss the vegetables and walnuts with the olive oil and lemon juice. Spread them around the chicken in the roasting pan, and drizzle the yogurt over the top.

Chicken and veggies ready to roast

Roast all together for 45 minutes, basting the chicken once halfway through. Savor the fragrance of roasting onions, spices and chicken that fill your kitchen. Serve with rice and enjoy, making sure to eat some sweet carmelized onions scraped right off the pan!

Roasted and all set to serve

Dish Jess snacking

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From Dish Jess:

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

I have two words for you, readers: Tomato Season!! Here in California it starts way earlier than on the East Coast, and we’re in the height of it right now.  There are gorgeous heirloom varieties everywhere, and I can’t get enough  – sungold, early girls, cherry charm – even their names are irresistible. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods – their versatility and richness of flavor makes them indispensable in sauces, salads and sandwiches, and they lend themselves equally beautifully to grilled, roasted or sautéed dishes.

This saucy salad was part of a light summer meal that I threw together on a weeknight. I’d been eating a LOT of meat, and knew I needed a healthy vegetarian dinner. I’ve never been a fan of mayo-based salads (though a great potato salad easily breaks me down), but I wanted to make something fresh and healthy that would satisfy my craving for chewy pasta and veggies drenched in something super-tasty.  I’ve been on a condiments kick recently, so I decided to make a dressing with a little more depth than your average vinaigrette.

Dressing ingredients

For the dressing:
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove
2 small strawberries, trimmed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp diced red onion
small handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and coarse black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or mixing bowl. I used an immersion (hand) blender to blend; a stand-alone blender would be fine as well.  Puree until all ingredients are mixed and no chunks remain. The dressing should be a little thicker than chocolate milk (whole milk please!); if  it’s too thick, add a teaspoon or two of water and blend again. Let the dressing sit while you assemble the salad; this can even be made a day in advance since the flavors mix well as they steep together.

For the salad:
½ lb whole wheat penne
2 ½ cups fresh baby spinach
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup chickpeas
8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced ¼”
½ cup chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted

Boil and drain the pasta, toss lightly to cool. When still warm but not hot, mix the spinach in.  Add tomatoes, chickpeas, cheese, basil and pine nuts.  Add your Strawberry Balsamic Dressing, toss to coat evenly, garnish wish a sprig of basil.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

I served this with a personalized take on garlic bread – a baguette that I cut, brushed with a garlic & herb marinade leftover from the weekend, and toasted in foil until perfectly crusty and hot. Serves 4, with bread.

Jess with Pasta Salad

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Steak taco closeup

Finally, summer is here!! I know y’all on the east coast have been waiting for-f*@%ing-ever, and out here on the west coast where I’m kicking it for the summer, sunshine, blue skies and warm breezes are already in full swing. Summer is my favorite season — for the sun and swimming, flowers and fruits, barbecues with bounties of sweet produce, fireworks, cold cocktails on hot nights – but above all for the distinct smells and flavors that accompany just about everything!

Lime and mint are two of my favorite refreshing summer flavors, and like some other Dishes, I’ve also been feeling the need to grill up some meat. A trip to visit my good friend Chelsea in Davis was just the opportunity to get affordable pasture-fed beef, homemade tortillas and fresh produce, and whip up a saucy summer meal.

For the steak:
8-oz london broil steak
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp tabasco sauce
juice from ½ lime
¼ cup chili powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
black pepper

01 steak_closeup03 grillin

While heating the grill, place the steak in a shallow dish, mix the liquid ingredients and pour over the meat. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over both sides and smooth it on to make a paste-like coating over the surface.

When the grill is ready, sear the steak on each side for about a minute and a half, just so a nice crust forms, then move it away from the direct heat so that it doesn’t get too well done. Cover and grill it for another 5 minutes or so, depending on how well you like it cooked. We like medium-rare, so it didn’t take much longer. Once done, slice it into small bite-size chunks and pile it onto your tortillas – preferably fresh red chili corn “Mi Abuelitas” tortillas from the farmers market! If you love cheese as much as we do, top the steak with grated cheddar cheese – as hard and sharp a cheddar as you can find.

For the salsa:
2 tbsp olive oil
5 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
½ large red onion, diced
½ cup mint, chopped
juice from 1 lime
dash of sea salt

Peaches, Mise en place

Combine red onion, mint, lime and olive oil in a medium bowl. Stir well to mix. Place peach halves on heated grill. Sear the peaches skin-side first, then let them cook on the flesh side for around 3-4 minutes, until their juices are bubbling onto the grill. Carefully scrape them off so the seared and soft parts stay intact. Dice grilled peaches, being gentle with flesh and skin (but don’t worry if they separate or get really mushy – they’re still delicious). Add to bowl and mix to combine thoroughly. Add a dash of sea salt, then spoon as much as you can fit onto your steak taco!

Steak taco dinner

We garnished our tacos with more fresh lime juice and avocado slices, and served them with a red cabbage and ginger slaw that Chelsea made. It was a beautiful, rainbow-hued meal whose flavors were practically bursting off the plate; with ice-cold Tecate and lime, this dish was the perfect end to a hot summer day.

06 jess_tacos

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Trout Plate

Spring is the perfect time for fresh, lemony fish dishes. Vegetables are finally back in abundance, and leeks are one of my all-time favorites; their delicate flavor and tender chewiness round out almost any meal as far as I’m concerned.

This dish was easy and fun – cleaning and cutting beautiful leeks and frying up a shiny fresh fish were just the way to embrace the season. First I prepped the leeks so they could braise while I was frying the trout.

Trout prep

For the leeks:
1 bunch leeks, cleaned & chopped
1 tbsp of butter, cut into thin slices, plus another ½ tbsp butter
juice from ½ lemon
¼ c dry white wine
aluminum foil

In a medium-large saucepan, heat ½ tbsp butter over medium heat. Add leeks and saute until they begin to wilt. Add lemon and wine, toss to coat well. Reduce heat to low and pat leeks down gently so their surface is fairly flat. Scatter the sliced butter evenly over the leeks, then take a sheet of tin foil and gently press it onto the leeks so the surface is covered, with minimal space between the pot and the foil. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes.

For the fish:
1 tsp olive oil
1 whole fish, cleaned & filleted
1 egg
2 tsp all-purpose flour
½ lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Open the filleted fish and squeeze lemon over the interior surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, then close the fish. In a shallow dish, beat the egg. Sprinkle the flour in and continue beating until it’s well-mixed. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium flame. Pat the fish dry with a towel, then coat it with the batter and place it in the pan. Fry on each side for 7-10 minutes, or until the outside is brown and crisp.

Trout in Pan

This makes two servings of leeks and fish. On the side, I served steamed asparagus and boiled yukon gold potatoes with a generous heap of homemade aioli, which is the easiest and most delicious potato condiment ever. Paired with a dry, fruity wine, this meal was light, healthy and delicious!

Jess with Fish

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Spinach and Feta Quiche

Bonjour from Boston, Dishes! My first contribution is of course, un morceau français…

So, I never thought I liked quiche ‘til I went to France.  There, eggs are for lunch and dinner, and impossibly light and tasty ones are whipped up for impromptu dinner parties in kitchens the size of my closet using toaster ovens and electric hotplates — and they still taste better than most of the crappy quiche you get in cafés this side of the pond.  Ingredients are key; you need fresh eggs, good cheese and of course, butter. (Alas, even living above a chic Euro-import shop, I have yet to come across real lardons in Boston…)

After a long day of research and studying in the library, I needed to kick in en français, so I poured myself a glass of rosé, put on some Edith Piaf, and waltzed around my kitchen trying to purr and growl like a real chanteuse.  (And quickly gave that up, for which I’m sure my roommate was extremely grateful.)  Mais alors, if I can’t sing like a vrai française, I can at least cook with the best of them.

For the crust
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 heaping teaspoon crème fraîche
a dash of salt

There’s something so soothing about the process of making a crust, n’est-ce pas?  In France I learned to make crust from scratch by adding flour to soft butter and mixing it by hand, then pressing the dough into a pie plate – with just a dash of salt or sugar for savories or sweets.  I was incredulous, but it really was that easy. To counter the heaviness that can sometimes accompany whole wheat flour, and because I love it, I also added a heaping teaspoon of crème fraîche to the dough, after mixing the flour with the butter. Separate into two portions and freeze one for next time. Refrigerate the prepared pie plate for around 30 minutes so the crust hardens – or put it in the freezer while you make the filling, like I did!

For the filling:
4 eggs
1 tsp olive oil
½ package frozen spinach – whole leaf or chopped (I used leaf)
¼ lb feta cheese, crumbled
½ tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
½ onion, diced
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
salt & pepper to taste
1 pie/quiche crust

pre-baked quiche

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine the eggs in a bowl and beat thoroughly.  Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat; sauté onions until they begin to brown. Add the spinach and cook until it’s heated through.

Spread the spinach and onion mixture over the crust you’ve taken out of the fridge.  Layer the crumbled feta evenly on top.  Pour the beaten eggs over the entire filling; jiggle the plate a little to make sure they spread evenly.  Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and bake for around 30 minutes, or until the center begins to firm. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano.

jess & quiche

Et voila!  Quiche aux epinards et à la féta, par la petite érudite alimentaire.

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