IMG_1956
Post

sunday treat: grandma radeke’s zucchini bread.

Leave a reply

Let me tell you a little ditty about Thelma Radeke (aka Grandma). My father’s mother, Thelma was born in South Dakota in 1914, and at the young and fresh age of 20, she married my Grandfather and began her life in Iowa. They eventually settled in the tiny farming town of Clarence (population 961!), and my grandfather managed the local creamery, churning out award winning butter for all of Benton County. Butter is in my genes, people, and I am not mad about it.

Thelma was a tough lady and managed the family with an iron fist. Also, the woman could BAKE. Like good Lutheran, Iowa farmhouse family matriarch next level sh**. I was born on Thelma’s 66th birthday, so I like to think some of her baking magic passed down to me with that connection. I didn’t get to spend much time with her — she died when I was only six years old — but she did leave quite an impression on my family. I remember as a child, carefully fingering the delicate recipe cards in our family recipe binder — cards with tiny yellow flowers and perfect cursive script, full of her kitchen wisdom.

The legend of her dutch apple pie is known far and wide (it’s my father’s number one request come holiday time), but for me, it’s her zucchini bread that I cherish. It’s the first thing I remember baking (for my 4th grade bake sale) and it’s all I want when I’m craving some family comfort food. And now, good people of Plumber’s Daughter, I am sharing her magic with you.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Grandma Radeke’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves (if you only need one loaf, just cut the recipe in half…but you’ll want to make two, promise)
You will need:

2½ cups zucchini, grated (about 2 medium-sized zucchini will do the trick)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup apple sauce
3 eggs, beaten lightly
3 cups flour
½ white sugar
½ light brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Sanding sugar

Optional additions (optional but HIGHLY recommended):

1 cup pecans, chopped
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Kitchen equipment: two 8×4 bread pans, large mixing bowl, box grater

You know this is a recipe from the early twentieth century because there’s not a lot of fuss or precision to it. There’s no ‘ensure the temperature is exactly 54 degrees’ or ‘beat the eggs for exactly 3.42 minutes until just fluffed’ — it’s basically just ‘put everything all in one bowl and stir until it comes together’. Thank you, Iowa.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour both of your bread pans and set aside until you need them.

Wash and pat dry your zucchini and cut off one end. Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the largest holes on your box grater. Two medium zucchini should produce about 2 1/2 cups. Set aside and turn your attention to the other ingredients.

Put all of your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to incorporate. Add the oil, apple sauce and lightly beaten eggs and stir. At this point, you’ll be like, ‘Tina. I thought we were making bread? Shouldn’t this look like a nice smooth batter, not some weird zucchini cookie dough?’ Don’t fret, my dear baker friend. Add the shredded zucchini and watch the magic happen. Because zucchini has a TON of water in it, your cookie dough-ish mixture will transform into a beautiful batter as the zucchini mixes in with the other ingredients. It will be light and bouncy and batter-ific, just like Grandma Radeke made it.

Once your batter is completely incorporated, fold in the nuts and/or chocolate chips if you’re using them (and you should use them), and pour the batter into your buttered and floured bread pans. Top each pan with an even sprinkling of about one tablespoon of sanding sugar.

Bake for one hour until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

I can’t eat zucchini bread without cream cheese, and I suggest you follow suit. The slightly sour bite to cream cheese pairs perfectly with the rich, slightly sweet flavor of the zucchini bread, it’s pure heaven. Grandma Radeke knew what she was doing in the kitchen, and it shines in this simple recipe. So get your Iowa farm kitchen baking on, and make some zucchini bread for Thelma. Enjoy!

IMG_1955-2 2-2
Post

sunday dinner: summer panzanella.

Leave a reply

I love a good salad. It’s crunchy and refreshing and healthy and comes together easily because no actual cooking is involved. But do you know what I love even more than a regular old salad? A regular old salad with carbs. Lots of ‘em. Take out the lettuce and replace it with bread. Why not? The Italians did it and the Italians know what’s up.

A traditional panzanella (or bread salad) is a simple combination of tomatoes and crusty bread with a little drizzle of vinegar and oil. It’s incredibly delicious and incredibly versatile — you can literally add anything you want and/or have in your fridge. I’ve fancied up my panzanella with the addition of fresh peaches, a little cured meat, and some buffalo mozzarella, and I’ve loaded on the fresh herbs for that extra kick. Summer’s finest, y’all.

Top with a little tangy vinaigrette and you’ve got a party. A party in a salad. A party in a salad with lots o’ good carbs. YUM.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summer Panzanella (aka Italian Bread Salad)

You will need:

Salad
1 crusty baguette, torn into pieces (preferably day old bread but no worries if it’s fresh)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 peach, cut in half and sliced thin
½ log salami or other cured meat, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup arugula
8 leaves basil, torn
8 leaves mint, torn
Handful of Italian parsley (flat leaf), torn

Vinaigrette
¼ cup vinegar (red wine, white wine or apple cider vinegar are best)
¼ extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large salad or mixing bowl

A good panzanella needs an hour or two to sit so the vinaigrette has a chance to soak into the bread and work its magic, so make this a few hours ahead of time and set aside on the counter (don’t put it in the fridge; chilling the tomatoes will completely destroy their sweetness).

If your bread is day old, then all you really need to do tear it into bite-sizeish pieces and you’re good to go. If your bread is fresh, however, it needs a little prepping.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your torn bread pieces on a baking sheet, and toast on the top rack of your oven for 8-10 minutes until toasty but not too brown. Once toasted, remove from oven and add to your large salad bowl.

Slice your shallots into thin rings and add to a cup of cool water. Set aside to soak for about 10 minutes. This will cut the ‘onion-y bite’ that would otherwise overpower the other ingredients while still maintaining their crunch.

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and the salami, and tear the mozzarella into small pieces. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the bread. Wash and dry the arugula and add to the bowl.

Tear the basil, mint and parsley and add to the bowl (are you starting to see a theme here?).

To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl; then, whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a thin stream until completely incorporated.

Add the shallots to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Give it a dusting of salt and pepper and you’re good!

This salad is wonderful on its own (and by on its own I mean accompanied by a bottle of crisp rosé, obvi), but it’s also a great side dish to anything coming off the grill. I like to save a few pieces of toasted bread to add at the last minute so you have a nice mix of bread saturated with the dressing and bread that’s still crispy. Ever bite is a treat — herby and tangy and sweet summer tomato-y. DE. LISH.

Enjoy!

IMG_1948-2
Post

sunday dinner: seared pork chops with peaches & basil.

Leave a reply

Tarzan & Jane. Anthony & Cleopatra. Kermit & Miss Piggy. Simon & Garfunkel. Pork chops & Peaches. Wait. What?

OK, maybe I’m reaching a little by adding pork chops and peaches to a list of history’s great pairings, but hey, I’m a believer (but NOT a Belieber). I’ve always been a big fan of meat and fruit together, but there’s just something about a juicy pork chop topped with equally juicy peaches that just sends me over the edge. A slight departure from the classic pork chop and apple pairing, but well worth the stone fruit upgrade. Simple, clean flavors that come together quickly, because who wants to slave away in the kitchen in the height of summer? With this tasty dish, you’ll be back out on the patio, glass of rosé in hand, in no time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Seared Pork Chops with Peaches & Basil

For the Brine
3 cups water, divided
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf

For the Pork Chops
2 center-cut, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (boneless or bone-in, you decide)
Olive Oil
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper

For the Peaches
2 large peaches, cut in quarters and pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Kitchen equipment: shallow dish for brining chops, large cast iron or stainless steel pan (must be oven safe), tongs

First things first, brine your pork chops. Now, this is not a mandatory step (and this is definitely where my friend, Jaime, would say, ‘Tina, simple recipes do NOT include a step in which you brine pork chops!’) And she’d be right. But, come on, people. How hard is making a little bath for your meat if the end result is the juiciest, tastiest pork chop you’ve ever had? I say it’s well worth it, but if you can’t be bothered and/or you’re short on time, feel free to skip the brine.

If you’re completely bought into this journey, however, bring one cup water to a boil (I did this in a large mug in the microwave), then add your salt and other seasonings to the hot water. Stir to dissolve the salt, then pour into your shallow dish. Add the additional two cups of water to bring the brine to room temperature.

Add your chops to the brine, ensuring they are fully submerged (if not, you can add a bit more water until they are), then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours.

Next, take your cast iron or stainless steel pan and place it on the center rack of your oven. Preheat the oven and the pan to 400 degrees. This genius little trick of preheating your pan will ensure that you get a nice, golden sear on the outside of your pork chop while still maintaining a nice juicy inside.

While your oven preheats, remove chops from their brine (or their packaging if you were all ‘screw your brine, Tina’) and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the chops on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside until the oven comes to temperature.

Once the pan is fully preheated, remove from the oven (very carefully and with oven mitts) and place on the stove over medium-high heat. I would also recommend turning on a fan or opening a window, as your pork chops might smoke a bit when added to the pan.

Now, add your chops to the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t move them around during this step — the key to a good sear is to let them do their thing without interruption. Once the chops have a nice crust on one side, flip them with your tongs and remove from the heat.

Place your pan back in the oven to finish the cooking, which should take about six to ten minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chops. The internal temperature when done should be between 140 to 145 degrees, so start checking them after about six minutes (and every minute thereafter) until you reach the right temperature.

When fully cooked, remove from the oven and place the chops on a plate tented with foil. Pour any pan juices over the chops — these should NOT go to waste. The chops need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to soak up and retain all those good juices, and that’s the perfect amount of time for you to cook the peaches.

In the same pan you cooked the pork, heat on medium-high on the stove. Place the peaches cut side down and sear until browned, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and add to the plate with the pork chops.

Serve the chops with the seared peaches, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a garnish of the chopped basil. I sautéed some green beans with a little garlic and olive oil to go along side, and of course, my trusty summer sidekick, a glass (read: bottle) of crisp rosé.

Enjoy!

IMG_4885
Post

sunday dinner: cacio e pepe (with a summer flair).

1 comment

The Romans, man. They are a good people. They know how to live. And eat. And drink. They’ve brought us game changing inventions like aqueducts, concrete and newspapers. And, you know, numerals.

But my favorite Roman invention? Cacio e Pepe. Say it with me, CA-CHEE-O EH PEH-PEH. Hands up emoji. The simplest of the simple, ‘cacio e pepe’ literally translates to ‘cheese and pepper’. And that’s really all it is. Pasta blended with butter and cheese and pepper that results in a rich, flavorful, incredibly simple dish that I dare you not to love instantly.

Add a little summertime flair (it’s TOMATO SEASON, y’all) and you’ve got yourself a game changer of a meal. Thanks, Romans. Grazie mille.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summertime Cacio e Pepe
Serves: 2

6 ounces pasta (I used bucatini, but you could use spaghetti or linguini and achieve the same result)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan Reggiano
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 small container cherry tomatoes
3-4 leaves basil, chopped in a chiffonade

Kitchen Equipment: large heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, large pot, microplane or zester (for grating cheese), TONGS (I heart tongs)

I love this recipe. It’s so goddamn simple and the end product will just blow you away with incredible flavor. Like, how did so few ingredients pack such a wallop of awesome? Who knows? The Romans know, that’s who.

First things first, get your kitchen prepped so you have everything at your disposal when timing matters later. Using your microplane or zester, grate your cheese and set aside. By using this tool instead of a standard cheese grater, you are making it much easier for your cheese to become melty and saucy later, rather than the undesirable clumpy and oily, because you’re basically grating it in the smallest possible way. You’re making whispy cheese fluff, if you will. And I will. You can use a standard cheese grater if you don’t have a microplane (though I highly suggest you pick one up, it’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen tools), but make sure you use the smallest holes possible.

Wash and chop your tomatoes (if they’re small enough you can just cut them in half) and chiffonade the basil.

Next, take your big pot and fill it with about 3 quarts water and a good few shakes of sea salt (the best chefs will always tell you that pasta should be cooked in water that ‘tastes of the sea’…so salt it up, don’t be shy!). Heat on high until you achieve a rolling boil.

Add the pasta and cook about two minutes shy of the suggested cooking time (I would say about two to three minutes total cooking time for fresh pasta, about six minutes for dried). Don’t you fret, the pasta will finish cooking when we add it to the pan sauce later. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your large skillet or sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the pepper and swirl the pan around for about a minute to toast the pepper. Your butter should brown slightly but not burn.

Next, add the reserved pasta water and swirl the pan again to pick up all the nicely toasted pepper particles. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the liquid is bubbling nicely. Add the pasta and the rest of the butter.

Now. Here’s where the magic happens. Turn the heat down to low and using your tongs, toss your pasta in the pan sauce until evenly coated. Add the grated Grana Padano and toss quickly with the pasta using your tongs until the cheese melts into the pan sauce and starts to coat the pasta. This should take no more than 10-15 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and add the grated Pecorino, tossing in a similar fashion as the Grana Padano. Really swirl the pasta around the pan to pick up all of the pepper and cheese sauce. If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a gorgeous, shiny cheese sauce that smoothly coats the pasta and is punctuated by lovely bits of toasted pepper.

Serve immediately in large bowls and top with the chopped tomatoes and basil.

The only accompaniment you need to this is a good glass of wine and a friend or loved one. And maybe a nice view and a summer breeze. But shouldn’t those accompany all of your summertime meals?

I think so. And the Romans do too.

IMG_1938-3
Post

sunday dessert: blueberry basil lemon tart.

Leave a reply

I have a friend. Her name is Jaime. And one of my very favorite things about Jaime is that she can hang with my particular brand of weird. She never judges, she rarely questions, and she’s always willing to go along for the ride – whatever the ride may be.

Like this weekend, when I texted her, “I think I’m going to make a tart tomorrow. Do you want some?”

Any number of people would respond to a text like that with a side-eye emoji and lots of question marks, but Jaime took it in stride. “Tart night?” she said, “Absolutely!”

Thus, Tart Night was born. We roped in her husband, Doug, and her dear friend, Lexy, and made a plan. We took advantage of her glorious rooftop that came complete with killer views, a perfect evening breeze, and an ever-convenient BBQ. Jaime and Lexy ventured to Whole Foods (which is an entirely different, and completely hilarious, blog post) and returned with a bounty of fresh salmon, zucchini, and corn on the cob – and the real ticket, two bottles of rosé. (Whispering Angel, y’all — look into it). Tart Night was going to be GOOD.

So now I actually had to make the tart. Yikes. And since I couldn’t just make it easy on myself, I took approximately 14 different recipes and combined them into one. And then, there was draaaaaaama along the way! At one point, I feared that Tart Night would, in fact, be tart-less! But. I made it through.

And the tart was perfection. Tart Night was perfection. We laughed and drank and stuffed our faces with the deliciousness we had created, and I didn’t even fall off the roof when I stood on a chair precariously close to the railing to shoot a picture of the tart! (See picture below — and thank you to Jaime’s husband, Doug, my impromptu security detail, for watching my back)

It was amazing. It screamed of all of the best parts of summer, and I want to do it all again next weekend. Jaime, you down? Of course you are.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Blueberry Basil Lemon Tart

Serves: 8 (although one could argue that everyone needs their own pie, so maybe this serves one?)

You will need:

Graham Cracker Crust
12 full-size graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 plus ¼ cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice and zest from one lemon

Blueberry & Basil Topping
2 pints fresh blueberries
1½ teaspoons white sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded (I don’t think that’s a word, but let’s go with it for now)

Kitchen equipment: rolling pin, 9” pie dish, lots of mixing bowls, wire whisk, baking sheet

I’m breaking this puppy down into three parts (plus a bonus fourth part). Each part is relatively quick in and of itself, but there’s lots of ‘cooling time’ in between, so it ends up being quite the process. This is advanced level baking folks, so sit down, strap in, and get ready for a long-ish/entertaining/fairly labor-intensive ride. OK.

Part I – Make the Pie Crust

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

If you need a little outlet for your frustrations from the week, making this graham cracker crust is a great exercise for you. First, take your graham crackers and break them up into smaller pieces. If you have one, throw them in a food processor and pulse until you have mostly fine crumbs. If you are lacking in the food processor area, toss the broken pieces in a sealable gallon plastic bag and crush the pieces into crumbs using your trusty rolling pin. Working through your anger with a rolling pin will produce perfectly smashed crumbs.

Once you have properly crushed crumbs, toss them in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the melted butter and stir to incorporate. You’re going for the texture of wet sand here – you should be able to make small clumps of graham cracker and they should stick. If the mixture is too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you achieve this consistency.

Once you have your crust mixture, evenly distribute in the bottom of your pie dish to form the crust. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and ‘dry looking’. Set aside to cool completely.

Part II – Make the Lemon Pastry Cream

OK, this is where things get tricky. I must confess that my first attempt at pastry cream did NOT go well, but thanks to some strategic googling and Mr. Emeril Lagasse (BAM!) it wasn’t a lost cause, so don’t lose faith, my friend. I will see you through the dark times.

The key to making this thing work is to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. Pastry cream requires your full attention, some serious arm strength (SO much whisking), and an extreme sense of urgency. This is not the time to take a loosy-goosy, lackadaisical, ‘I’m just gonna laze about in my caftan’ approach. This is more of a ‘using any shred of military precision I possess’ type of exercise.

First, put your egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl and COMMENCE THE WHISKING. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are a pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ of batter fall from your whisk when you raise it from the bowl. This will take 2-3 minutes by hand. Once you’ve achieved this state, whisk in the cornstarch until fully incorporated and set aside.

Now to the stove. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar and the pinch of salt and warm until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat.

Next, you want to combine the milk and the egg mixture, but DO NOT for the love of all that is holy and good just dump one into the other. If you do, you’ll end up with sweetened scrambled eggs floating in warm milk. BLECH.

No, instead, you’re going to temper the egg mixture so your result is a beautiful custard not a beautiful disaster. Starting in tiny increments (like no more than a tablespoon at a time), add the warm milk to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about ¼ cup of the milk to the eggs, you can add more at a time in a thin stream, again while whisking constantly. Do this until you’ve added all of the milk to the eggs, then pour the entire thing back into the saucepan.

Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and whisk whisk whisk until the mixture starts to bubble. Keep on whiskin’ for another one to two minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard or pudding. Remove from heat and immediately add the vanilla extract, the butter and the lemon juice and zest; all the while continuing to whisk (I told you there’d be a lot of whisking).

Now, at this point, you may have a beautifully composed custard that is smooth and supple and shiny. You may also have a lumpy, separated mess. If you have the latter, DO NOT FRET. That is exactly what I ended up with and it all worked out for me in the end.

Transfer your pastry cream into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap down onto the custard itself. This prevents the custard from forming a really gross film on the top that will derail any hopes of a beautiful pie. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely, which should take 2-3 hours.

If you’re lucky enough to have achieved a perfect pastry cream, there are no additional steps for you (here’s your blue ribbon, you first class baker, you). If, however, your pastry cream was less than perfection, you’re not done yet. When the cream has cooled completely, take it out of the fridge and using either your trusty whisk or an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cream like mad for 3-4 minutes. Somehow, like magic, it will come together beautifully and all will be right in the world. If it doesn’t come together, keep mixing until it does, and if it still doesn’t come together, you can add up to an additional cup of warm milk to the mixture in small increments until it does. If it still doesn’t come together, then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe have a good cry and start all over.

Part III – Make the Blueberry Topping

You’re nearing the finish line, friend! Now comes the easiest part.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spread one pint of blueberries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar evenly over the top. Roast the blueberries for 10-12 minutes, pulling the tray from the oven and giving it a shake once about half way through the cooking time. The juices from the berries should be flowing freely but most of the berries should still be intact.

Remove from the oven and give ‘em a squeeze of lemon juice. Transfer to a small container and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Wash the other pint of blueberries but don’t do anything else to them. They are beautiful little spirits all on their own.

Chiffonade the basil (roll the leaves into a cigar-like fashion and slice them thinly) and set aside.

Part IV – Putting It All Together

You made it! HURRAH. Now let’s finish this bad boy and get to eatin’.

First, pour the pastry cream into the finished pie crust and spread evenly, being careful to not mix any stray crust crumbs into the cream.

Next, spread the roasted blueberry mixture on top of the pastry cream, leaving a slight edge so the pastry cream peeks through near the crust. This is purely for aesthetic reasons, but I like a little pop of yellow against the dark purpl-y blue of the berries.

Finally, spread the fresh blueberries over the roasted blueberries in a single layer, using enough that it’s well-covered but also leaving a few little spots for the roasted blueberries to poke through. Then, top the fresh blueberries with the basil.

Voila! You’ve arrived. If you’re making this for dessert with friends (which I did, highly recommend) do your best not to dive face first into this little ditty right away. If you made this just for you because YOU DESERVE IT, then get in there!

I’m not going to be coy or modest about this one – it’s bonkers good. Singing from the rooftops good. Dancing a jig in your kitchen good. Making bad decisions because you drank too much tequila good.

Did it take the whole afternoon to make? Yes, likely. Was it worth it? Ooooooooh boy, that it was.

Enjoy!

'Behind the Scenes' of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn't fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

‘Behind the Scenes’ of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn’t fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

IMG_0165
Post

sunday snack: avocado toast, plain & simple.

Leave a reply

I had a realization today. As realizations go, it wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly unique, but it stuck with me. Popping up every once in awhile in the quieter moments of the day. A day filled with celebration. Watching a friend about to take a big leap with her love, surrounded by family and laughter and joy.

You know what I’m talking about though, right? One of those thoughts that comes straight out of your gut and kind of smacks you across the face. It was the universe telling me, ‘Wake up! Look around! Notice things!’ And that realization? That I am surrounded by truly good people in my life. Good down to their bones — caring and funny and smart and genuine. Complicated and brave and hopeful and doing their best to figure it all out one day at a time.

With all the shit we go through every day of our lives, knowing that I have such good people around me is powerful. Maybe I’m extra sentimental these days due to things happening in my personal life (things I’m not even close to being ready to put pen to paper on), but this was an incredibly comforting thought. It felt good to put it all together. It was uplifting.

What this has to do with avocado toast, who the hell knows. But as I sit here enjoying this simple, delicious snack, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such goodness. I am thankful for that. I aspire to be just as good for and to the people in my life.

And that’s all I got for this stormy Sunday (oh hello, flash flood warning).

So to all of the people in my life — you know who you are — thank you. Thank. You. You’re making this journey a whole lot easier (and immensely more enjoyable).

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

OG Avocado Toast

You will need:

1 avocado
Whole grain bread
1 lemon
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is the simplest of the simple. I wouldn’t even call it a recipe — it’s more of a ‘gathering of ingredients’. And it should take approximately four and a half minutes for it to come together.

First things first, drizzle a little olive oil on your bread and hit each slice with a touch of salt and pepper. Turn on the broiler in your oven and toast your bread on a cookie sheet (or directly on the oven rack) for a few minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn.

Once you have some nicely browned toast, scoop the avocado out of its shell into a bowl and add a small drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon). If you want your toast to be extra lemony, you can add a squeeze of juice to your avocado/oil mixture, but this will make the consistency more guacamole-like, which I don’t love. Whatever, you do you. This is your toast.

Mix the avocado lightly, then mash onto the toast. Top with a bit more salt and pepper, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and as many pepper flakes as your palate can handle. Enjoy immediately.

If you want to spice things up a bit (and invest a little more time), you can make the above and flourish with any of the following combos:

  • Tomato + Basil + Balsamic Vinegar
  • Poached Egg + Hot Sauce
  • Bacon + Goat Cheese
  • Feta + Black Pepper + Kalamata Olives
  • Cucumber + Pea Sprouts
  • Grilled/Roasted Corn + Queso Fresco + Lime + Smoked Paprika

Enjoy!

IMG_0123-2
Post

sunday dinner: roast chicken & asparagus with rhubarb butter.

Leave a reply

Confession: I keep a list of my 25 favorite words on my iPhone. And it is one of my very favorite things. Words like superfluous, modernity, flibbertigibbet. Effervescent, ephemera, dusk. They roll off the tongue and just bring me such joy. I have always had a certain love affair with language; it consistently amazes me that there is a perfect word out there to describe nearly every situation. I have another list of words that I don’t love, but that’s another blog post for another day.

And my favorite culinary term, you may ask? It is without a doubt, most assuredly: SPATCHCOCK. Say it with me ‘spatchcock’. S-P-A-T-C-H-C-O-C-K. It’s a truly glorious word (thanks, Ireland). And what sounds like something that is decidedly NSFW is actually just a fancy way of describing the removal of the backbone of a chicken so you can splay it out spread eagle style for cooking. When a chicken is spatchcocked, it cooks more evenly, and it helps the leg/thigh meat cook slightly faster than the rest which prevents the breast meat from drying out. Added bonus? Maximum amounts of crispy, salty skin, which is the primary reason we’re doing this anyway, am I right?

To properly spatchcock your chicken, you can do a little Youtube research and figure it out yourself, but I also highly recommend having your friendly neighborhood grocery store butcher do it for you. Grab a whole chicken of your choosing and toss it in his or her direction, then go about the rest of your shopping. By the time you’re ready to checkout, your chicken will be sans backbone and ready for cookin’ with little to no effort on your part.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Roast Chicken & Asparagus with Rhubarb Butter

You will need:

Roast Chicken
1 3 – 3 1/2 pound chicken, backbone removed
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roast Asparagus
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Rhubarb Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 stalk rhubarb, roughly chopped
Juice of one orange (or 1/4 cup orange juice)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated

Kitchen Equipment: two rimmed baking sheets, small saucepan

With your chicken properly spatchcocked (I just can’t stop saying it), we’re ready to begin, so preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, spread out your chicken on a baking sheet skin side up and pat dry with a paper towel or two. A dry chicken is the best chicken and will lead to the crispiest skin; leave any moisture on the bird and the skin will steam in the oven, leaving you with a flabby mess. No one wants a flabby mess, so pat ‘er down good. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Now let’s turn our attention to the rhubarb butter. Chop your rhubarb and combine with the orange juice, honey and ginger in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft, about 7-10 minutes. Drain the rhubarb in a small bowl and reserve the cooking liquid. Cool the cooked rhubarb before combining with the butter (I stuck mine in the freezer for a bit to save time). When properly cool, mix the rhubarb and the butter together until fully incorporated and the butter has a whipped consistency.

Now let’s get down to business. Grab the tray with your chicken and the rhubarb butter, and with clean hands, carefully slide a finger under the skin of each of the breasts, making two little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Using a small spoon or your hands, insert some of the butter under the skin in each of the four pockets you’ve created. Use the skin to spread the butter evenly, adding more as necessary. Once the butter is applied, add a few sprigs of thyme into each pocket.

Rub the outside of the chicken with one tablespoon olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.

Place your seasoned chicken on the middle rack in your preheated oven, and cook until golden brown and crispy, about 40-45 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest section of the thigh should read 165 degrees when the chicken is properly cooked.

Remove from oven and set aside under a tent of aluminum foil to rest.

While your chicken is resting, turn your oven down to 400 degrees.

Toss the asparagus with one tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until bright green and slightly charred, about 10-12 minutes. Remove asparagus from the oven and transfer to a serving dish, squeezing a bit of lemon juice over the top for an added kick.

Serve your chicken table side and use the leftover rhubarb cooking liquid as a delicious jus. This dish is bright and tangy, perfect for a bottle of rosé, a bit of a Spring breeze and some good company. Get a little boozy and giggle mercilessly while shouting ‘spatchcock’ to the heavens. It will soon be one of your favorite words too.

Side note: grab a few extra stalks of rhubarb at the grocery store, make this rhubarb compote, and serve it over vanilla ice cream for dessert. BONKERS good. *immediately runs to the store to buy more rhubarb and vanilla ice cream*