Easy Blood Orange Ice Cream

Disclaimer: This is the last time I talk about blood oranges this year. I promise.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we went to Chez Panisse to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. The whole meal was delicious, but my favorite was dessert–blood orange ice cream with almond biscotti. If Alice Waters and I ever met, I’m pretty sure it would be a blood orange love fest. We appear to share the same affinity for this strange little fruit.

The minute I got home, I plucked some oranges off the tree and started researching base ratios for my ice cream. The thing about ice cream is that it doesn’t have to be hard to make. I generally try to stay away from custard bases because it requires cooking and more waiting. I know, I’m super lazy. I finally decided on a really simple base of whipping cream, half-and-half, sugar, blood orange juice, and vanilla. Super simple, right!

The whipping cream gives the final product a fluffier texture, almost like a sherbet. I actually preferred it to the dense custard-based ice cream we are used to. The ice cream itself reminds me of a slightly more tart Creamsicle. (Do they still make those things?) But the best part about this ice cream is its beautiful pink color–so vibrant that it almost looks artificial. Of course blood oranges vary in color, but you’re bound to end up with some shade of pink on the spectrum. I once heard that the more dimpled the rind is on the outside, the more pigmented the juice is on the inside. Who knows if this is actually true.

Since there are so few ingredients that go into the base, I recommend buying high-quality whipping cream and half-and-half. It makes all the difference, and I’m not just saying that to be snobby. Also, be sure to use quality vanilla extract–not the crappy imitation stuff. I used my homemade vanilla, which is like the gift that keeps on giving!

If you have a little extra time on your hands, try making candied orange peels with the juiced oranges. They look beautiful when served with the ice cream.

Anyone else out there love blood oranges as much as I do? What do you like to do with them?

Easy Blood Orange Ice Cream
Yield: About 3 cups

  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice (the juice of about 6-8 small oranges)
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
  1. In a large bowl, combine the heavy whipping cream, half-and-half, vanilla extract, and blood orange juice in a bowl. Add the sugar and gently stir to combine. (Blood oranges vary in tartness, so start by adding 1/2 cup of sugar and increase from there. Mixture should taste slightly sweeter than what you want your final product to be. It will decrease in sweetness once it’s frozen.)
  2. Place the bowl in the refrigerator until the mixture is completely cold. Alternately, put the mixture in a metal bowl and place in a larger bowl filled with ice water. Gently stir the mixture until it’s completely chilled.
  3. Add the mixture to your ice cream machine and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Ice cream should look like soft serve at this point.
  4. Transfer ice cream into an airtight container and freeze until hard.

Brussels Sprout, Bacon, and Roasted Onion Pizza

It was unseasonably warm last week in the Bay Area. I can’t lie–the minute it hit 70, I broke out my bikini top and sunhat and got my tan on. After eight years in Seattle, my mind has become programed to savor every last bit of a sunny day. And wear ridiculous summer wear when the temperatures climb above 60.

After being afflicted with a monster cold virus that put me out of commission for a week, I am finally back on my feet and cooking non-liquid food again. With the prospect of spring right around the corner, I’m trying to cook all my favorite winter veggies while they’re still around. This includes the controversial brussels sprout.

Nobody is indifferent to brussels sprouts–you either love the things or hate them. And I totally get it, these cruciferous little vegetables are strongly flavored and can be very abrasive if they aren’t prepared correctly. My mom is a great cook, but when I was little she had an affinity for boiled, unseasoned brussels sprouts. I hated them for years. It wasn’t until well into my adult life that I discovered how delicious they could be when roasted, sauteed, even fried. Anything but boiled.

This pizza was inspired by a delicious warm brussels sprouts salad I recently had at a restaurant. Brussels sprouts and bacon (or pancetta) seem to complement each other effortlessly. The saltiness of the bacon seems to offset the bitterness of the brussels sprouts and gives the pizza a nice smokey flavor.

In this recipe, I render the fat from the bacon and use the grease to coat the shredded brussels sprouts. I know it sounds really unhealthy, but it’s really just two pieces of bacon for the entire pizza–nothing too crazy. I just have a hard time throwing away bacon grease because it adds so much flavor to dishes. It’s like throwing money away. You just don’t do it.

I shredded my brussels sprouts into about 1/4 inch slices. This is just personal preference really. They cook much quicker in the oven this way, but you are welcome to quarter the sprouts if you want them to be a little chunkier on the pizza.

In terms of cheese, I ended up going with a Fontina because it’s mild and melts well. Trader Joes also carries a very affordable and delicious Fontina–the one with the red rind. If you don’t have access to Fontina, you can definitely play around with other white melting cheese such as classic mozzarella.

Finally, I love using this Alice Waters technique for stress-free roasted onions. Just coat one small chopped onion with olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small oven-safe saute pan. Pop it in the oven on 375°F for about 30 minutes, and done. I love using these roasted onions on pizzas because they cook while you tackle the dough and other toppings. They also make the house smell amazing.The other day I actually went to Chez Panisse to celebrate my sister’s 18th birthday. I ordered the mushroom pizza, and it definitely had these onions on it! They add a very distinctive flavor to pizzas and other dishes.

The hardboiled egg might seem a little random, but it really complements the flavors in the pizza. I usually use about two chopped eggs per pizza, and let people add it to their own slices so they can control the amount. It tastes great and adds some additional protein.

Hope you enjoy!

Brussel Sprout, Bacon, and Roasted Onion Pizza
Yield: One 12 to 14-inch pizza

  • 1 pizza dough, store bought or homemade
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • About 2 cups shredded brussels sprouts, cleaned and shredded into 1/4-1/2 inch strips
  • 2 cups Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Hardboiled eggs, diced (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place diced onions in a small oven-proof saute pan and add enough olive oil to coat, along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well and place pan in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning. The onions are ready when they are tender and golden.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the brussels sprouts: trim the ends of the brussels sprouts and discard any discolored or damaged leaves. Cut each sprout in half then into 1/4 to 1/2 inch strips. Clean the shredded sprouts with water and pat dry. Set aside.
  3. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch slices and add in a saute pan over med-low heat. Slowly render out the fat until the bacon is cooked and crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon and set aside on a paper towel. Turn the heat off. Add the shredded brussels sprouts to the pan, and toss with the remaining bacon grease until evenly coated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Once the onions are cooked and removed from the oven, turn the oven up to 450°F. Roll out the pizza dough and start assembling. Distribute the grated Fontina cheese onto the pizza and top with the brussels sprouts. Top with the bacon and roasted onions. Brush a light layer of olive oil on the crust so it will brown nicely.
  5. Cook the pizza on a preheated pizza stone (if using) until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes. Serve each slice with a few drops of fresh lemon juice. If desired, garnish with the chopped hardboiled eggs.

Weekend Snapshots

Jeff and I are vehemently against expensive fixed-menu Valentine’s Day meals. Nothing personal really–we’ve just had some bad experiences with restaurants jacking up prices and rushing service to fit in more seatings. Instead of going out for a fancy dinner on Valentine’s Day, we decided to take a trip through wine country last weekend to do some wine, beer, and food tasting.

Here are a couple of shots from our trip!

First stop, In-n-Out Burger to class things up.

We had brunch in Sonoma at a lovely little restaurant called The Girl and the Fig. We had a delicious cheese platter, fresh grilled sardines, a sirloin burger, and their signature arugula, fig, and prosciutto salad. The prosciutto was house-cured and oh so delicious. If you are in Sonoma, don’t miss Hawkes Vineyard  & Winery for Cabernet Sauvignon and Rosseler Cellars for Pinot Noir. These are two of the least pretentious tasting rooms you will find in the area.

Instead of staying in Sonoma or Napa, we decided to stay in a little town called Petaluma. I wasn’t expecting to find anything spectacular here. But to my surprise, we found Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a giant heirloom seed bank housed in a vintage bank. I went full blown nerd in this place. Special thanks to Jeff for letting my have my moment.

This location is one of three Baker Creek storefronts in the country. You can also order seeds online or subscribe to their annual catalog. I ended up buying daikon, french finger carrot, and summer squash seeds. In this genetically-modified world, I have such great respect for the people who help preserve these rare varieties of fruits and vegetables. It’s truly a special place.

Last but not least, we headed to Santa Rosa for the release of a beer called Pliny the Younger at Russian River Brewery. Pliny the Younger is a strong, hoppy IPA that is only offered once a year for about two weeks. It has a high alcohol content of 10.5% and went straight to my head. Despite the long lines, we had a great time tasting beer and enjoying the sun while it lasted.

Happy boyfriend; tipsy girlfriend.

Alas, it was time to go back to reality. Nothing like a drive across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge on a moody Sunday to wrap up an unforgettable weekend trip.

Bulgogi Bibimbap

Asian food can sometimes be a little intimidating to cook at home. But the truth is, most of the dishes you order at your local Korean, Chinese, or Japanese restaurant can be easily recreated at home using everyday ingredients and a little creativity.

I started my blog almost a year ago, and oddly enough, I’ve never posted an Asian food recipe. Since I’m Asian, my boyfriend’s mom is under the endearing impression that I grew up on a strict diet of sushi and dim sum–thus making me a bona fide Asian food expert. While this isn’t actually true, I do in fact love experimenting with a variety of Asian dishes at home, including Bibimbap.

Bibimbap is one of my all time favorite dishes to order at Korean restaurants. It’s a mixture of seasoned vegetables and meat over a bowl of rice. It’s usually topped with a fried egg, and then mixed up and eaten with some Korean red pepper paste called gochuchang. At first glance, this dish seems very complicated to make. But once you get the basic flavors down, it’s a very healthy and simple way to get rid of leftover veggies in your fridge. My variation of bibimbap may not be completely  traditional, but I’d say it’s pretty darn good.

The trick to making bibimbap without going insane is staying organized. Make sure all of your vegetables are cleaned and chopped before you get started, and use one large plate or platter to put all the cooked vegetables and meat when they are done. Also make sure that your other basic ingredients are within reach at all times–including soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, pepper, and sugar.

The great thing about bibimbap is that you can really use any type of vegetable that’s available. Carrots, shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, and spinach are generally the norm, but you can also include lettuce, cucumbers, seasonal summer squash, or even cabbage into the mix. To get the nice julienned slices, I highly recommend using a mandolin to save time.

As you cook the vegetables, taste them as you go. The balance of flavors is really a preference thing, so I was intentionally a little vague about the measurements. Start out with a “splash” (teaspoon or so) of sesame oil where noted, but feel free to increase that amount if you want. Do the same with the soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar.

I chose to use bulgogi in this recipe simply because it’s delicious. You can really use any type of meat or tofu–or, you can just stick with just the vegetables. If you do make the bulgogi, ask your butcher to thinly slice the meat for you, or put the meat in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing to make the job much easier.

Some people argue that the crispy rice in bibimbap is the best part. You can run out and buy a traditional Korean stone pot, but I think you can achieve a somewhat similar result by using a heavy frying pan or skillet. (Don’t use nonstick, since the nonstick coating likely isn’t safe for such high temps) Turn the heat up to high and lightly coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable or canola oil. (Sesame oil has a lower smoke point and will likely set off your fire alarm…I may or may not know this from personal experience) Spread the rice onto the pan and press down gently using a spatula. Let the rice cook, undisturbed, until you reach your desired crispiness. Break the rice up with the spatula and distribute into bowls.

Bibimbap can be eaten cold or hot. I personally like the veggies cold, so I prepare them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. When dinnertime rolls around, all I have to worry about is the meat and the rice.

Bulgogi Bibimbap
Yield: 4 servings

Bulgogi
Adapted from All Recipes

  • 1/2 pound flank steak, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sugar
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Bibimbap

  • Short grain rice, cooked
  • 1 bunch of spinach, washed
  • 2 carrots, washed, peeled, and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large handfuls of bean sprouts, washed
  • 1 zucchini, washed and cut into matchsticks
  • 5-8 shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated if dried, and sliced into thin strips
  • Dark sesame oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Ground pepper
  • Eggs
  • Rice vinegar (optional)
  • Gochujang, Korean red pepper paste, for serving (optional)
  1. Prepare the bulgogi: Place the meat in a large zip lock bag. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, sugar, scallion, garlic, sesame seeds, ground pepper, and sesame oil. Pour mixture over the meat, seal the bag, and massage the marinade into the meat to ensure every piece is covered. Place in refrigerator and marinate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Cook the veggies: Place zucchini in a bowl and mix with a pinch of salt. Set aside. The salt will force all the excess water out of the zucchini so it doesn’t get mushy when cooked.
  • Spinach: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the spinach in the water and blanch for 1 minute, or just until it is wilted. Using a spider or small strainer, scoop the spinach out of the water and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze out all of the excess water and season with a splash of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon soy sauce and salt to taste. Mix and add to the platter.
  • Bean sprouts: Using the same pot of boiling water, cook the beansprouts until they are pliable, about 3-5 minutes. Drain the beansprouts well, and season with a splash of sesame oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a splash of rice vinegar if desired. Mix and add to the platter.
  • Carrots: Heat a splash of sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the carrots and cook for 1-2 minutes until they are tender. Season with salt and add to the platter.
  • Mushrooms: Again, heat a splash of sesame oil to the frying pan and add shiitake mushrooms. Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Cook for 1-2 minutes until all of the moisture is absorbed by the mushrooms and add to the platter.
  • Zucchini: Drain the excess water that has accumulated in the bowl. Again, heat a splash of sesame oil in the frying pan and add the zucchini. Cook for 1-2 minutes until it is tender and heated through. Add to the platter.
  1. Cook the bugolgi: Turn an outdoor grill or indoor griddle on high heat and lightly oil the grill with canola or vegetable oil. Cook the meat until slightly charred and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  2. Assemble the bibimbap: Distribute rice into individual bowls. Top with the vegetables and meat. Add one sunny side up egg per bowl. Serve with gochuchang, and additional soy sauce and sesame oil, if desired. Mix and enjoy.

My Favorite Food Books

Happy Monday, everyone! Right now, all of my books are stashed away in storage somewhere in rural Washington until we find an apartment. I’ve been missing them a lot lately, so I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you.

Tell me your favorite food books so I can add to my collection!

1. The Everyday Cookbook

The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. If I had to choose one book that most closely aligns to my cooking style, this would be it. This no-frills book covers the basics of a well-stocked kitchen, everyday techniques and tips, and simple recipes that rarely include exact measurements. I love that it encourages people to think holistically about cooking, rather than mindlessly following a recipe. Alice Waters at her finest, in my opinion!

2. The Memoir

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. There are a lot of crappy memoirs out there about food. This is not one of them. A Homemade Life is a thoughtful, beautifully-written memoir that follows the life of Molly Wizenberg, a food blogger and now restaurant owner. Every food lover will be able to relate to her love of cooking and honest, heartfelt writing. If you are ever in Seattle, you absolutely must try Delancey, the subject of her next book.

3. The Reference

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. I got this book for Christmas, and I’m slowly but surely plowing my way through. This book provides fascinating context to the most basic cooking questions (e.g. why does an egg solidify when exposed to heat?) It explains the history and science behind almost every element of food and cooking. On Food and Cooking was originally published the year I was born, and is more relevant than ever in 2012. I am amazed at how much I’ve learned from this book, and I imagine that it’s required reading for every culinary school in America.

4. The Special Occasion Cookbook

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller. I’m usually not a fan of recipes that have a zillion steps, but I make a special exception for Thomas Keller. Ad Hoc at Home is a very special cookbook, full of intricate recipes, helpful tips, and absolutely beautiful photos. This is the cookbook you bust out when you have people to impress and a whole day to prepare.

5. The Picture Book

Food Rules by Michael Pollan, illustrated by Maira Kalman. If you follow my blog, you probably already know that I’m in love with Maira Kalman’s artwork. Her beautiful work melds so well with Pollan’s short tips and rules about eating sustainably. This short but sweet book makes a great gift or small coffee table book.

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

We’re three weeks into our San Francisco apartment search, and my patience is running low. The notoriously competitive rental market compounded by the recent influx of tech people relocating to the Bay Area has culminated in the perfect real estate storm. It’s not good, dear readers. On the bright side, I’ve become an expert at detecting Nigerian scammers on Craigslist and deciphering real estate listing language (e.g. “cozy”=less than 450 square feet; “unique”=former hippy commune; “garden apartment”=small patch of outdoor space to compensate for the dismal state of the actual unit)

Luckily, my family lives in the Bay Area so we have been living with them in the meantime. Living at home has actually been a lot of fun. Every Thursday, my sister and I make dinner for our family since since my mom works late. Last night we made 40 clove chicken, roasted veggies, and mac n’ goat cheese. It was quite the production. I love having access to a spacious kitchen and six burner range–something I am likely not going to have once we move to the city.

Another bonus to living at home: the garden. My family has a fig tree, apple tree, olive tree, and a variety of herbs. Just the other day, my mom told me we actually had a blood orange tree in the backyard too. I couldn’t believe my ears. I live for blood orange season–which lasts all of two months in the dead of winter. I love blood oranges in desserts, savory dishes, or simply juiced. But my absolute favorite way to eat blood oranges is in an olive oil cake. Deb from Smitten Kitchen posted this recipe last year, and I have been hooked ever since.

I know what you’re thinking. Olive oil in a cake? That’s what my family said too, but I turned them into believers. The olive oil combined with the greek yogurt (or sour cream) makes the cake really moist. It also gives the batter a much more complex flavor–way more exciting than your average butter-based cake! Since the olive oil completely replaces the use of any butter, I feel a lot less guilty about having an extra slice or two.

This recipe requires you to supreme the oranges–basically a fancy word for releasing the flesh of the orange from the peel and the membrane. I recommend using a sharp paring knife for the job. Check out this video if you need an extra visual.

I’ve probably made this recipe over two dozen times and it just does not get old to me. It can be eaten as a dessert with a little whipped cream and compote, but I much prefer it for breakfast–straight up, with a cup of coffee. If you don’t have access to blood oranges, you can always use normal oranges. I am also going to experiment with Meyer lemons in the near future. If you have experimented with other flavors in your olive oil cake, I would love to hear about it!

Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite via Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 blood oranges
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
  • Honey blood orange compote, for serving (optional-see note)
  • Honey whipped cream, for serving (optional-see note)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Grate the zest from 2 of the blood oranges and place it in a bowl. Add the sugar and, using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the sugar is evenly flecked with the zest and smells strongly of orange.
  3. Supreme two oranges: Cut off the bottom and top so a bit of the fruit is exposed and the orange can stand upright on a cutting board. Starting at the top, cut away the peel and white pith, following the curve of the fruit. Slice down one side of a section and the other, using your knife to wiggle the fruit out, releasing it from the membranes and letting it fall into a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the sections and do the same to the second orange. Break up the segments with your fingers and set aside.
  4. Halve the remaining orange and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. You should have about 1/4 cup. Add enough sour cream or greek yogurt to the juice until you have 2/3 cup of liquid. Pour the mixture into the bowl with the zested sugar and whisk well. Add the eggs and and olive oil and whisk until incorporated.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gently whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Switch to a spatula and fold in the orange segments. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
  6. Bake the cake for about 55 minutes, until it is golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan and onto the wire rack, right-side up, and cool to room temperature. Serve with whipped cream and Honey-Blood Orange Compote, if desired.

For Honey Blood Orange Compote: Supreme 3 more blood oranges according to the directions above. Drizzle in 1 to 2 teaspoons honey. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir gently.

For Honey Whipped Cream: Chill a mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. In the mixing bowl, beat 1 cup chilled heavy cream with 1-2 tablespoons honey to taste, until soft peaks form. Do not over beat, as I clearly did in the picture above! This will make about 2 cups of whipped cream, so adjust the ratio of ingredients as needed.

Brown Butter and Sage Carrots + A Big Move

I’m happy to announce that we finally made it to the Bay Area on Christmas Eve! It was a mad dash to the finish line as we grossly underestimated how much crap we had accumulated over the years of living in our apartment. The last room to be packed of course was the kitchen. The stand mixer, Le Creuset, and food processor stayed out until the bitter end, because packing them away in boxes made the move feel all too real. I dutifully packed up all of my clothes with little hesitation or thought, but when it came time to pack away my cookbooks, sh*t suddenly got real. Every time I placed a book into the box, I felt a pang of sadness as if I were personally breaking up with Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and David Chang.

I am definitely going to miss Seattle. Over the past eight years, I attended one of the best schools in the country (Go Huskies!!), met some of my closest friends, had a successful five year run at an outstanding company, and found the person who makes me laugh harder than anyone I know–my boyfriend. I’ve always had an interest in cooking and food, but it wasn’t until I moved to Seattle that I realized it was actually a passion. I experimented endlessly in various apartment kitchens across the city and learned from trial and error. It was in Seattle where I went through my cheese making phase, my pickling phase, and my (short lived) homemade bagel phase.

I also learned how to truly enjoy the act of eating. It sounds silly, but I finally stopped worrying about calories and just savored food for what it was. This made dining out a much more enjoyable experience. Seattle has a lot of amazing food that I am really going to miss. I know exactly where to go when I am craving salted mackerel (Miyabi), oysters (The Walrus & The Carpenter) or a fresh old-fashioned doughnut (Top Pot).

On our last night in Seattle, we went to a restaurant called Spinasse with our favorite couple friends, Rebecca and Jason. Spinasse is known for their hand-cut egg pasta, which is truly magical. Rebecca appropriately calls them crack noodles. The restaurant is truly testament to how good simple food can taste. All the times I’ve gone to Spinasse, I’ve always ordered the same exact thing: butter and sage pasta and a side order of carrots. Their delicate noodles are finely cut and highlighted, not overpowered, by a light butter sauce flecked with sage. Meanwhile, the rich, buttery whole carrots are perfectly roasted with a hint of acid to offset the sweetness. And I will stop with the descriptions because I am almost in tears thinking about how far away Spinasse is now. Needless to say, this is the perfect meal in my opinion.

I have been trying to recreate Spinasse carrots at home for a very long time. I’ve tried various combinations of olive oil, butter, lemon juice, and vinegar achieve the right flavor. After much trial and error, I’ve concluded that this is a near impossible feat–they must use some kind of magic ingredient hidden away in a safe somewhere. But in my efforts to crack the code, I’ve actually managed to create a version of the dish that encompasses all of the flavors I love at Spinasse, just in a different way. My carrots are roasted in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and red wine vinegar, then topped with browned butter and crispy sage.

The trick to this dish is using the freshest carrots you can find–preferably from a CSA box, farmers market, or organic grocery store. Go for the smaller skinnier carrots over the big chunky ones, because they generally have the best flavor. I like to buy top on carrots because I like the rustic look of them. But this is a preference thing really. For a lighter side dish, these carrots taste great even without the brown butter and sage.

Spinasse is one of the many things I’ll miss about Seattle. Over time, I know I’ll gradually develop my repertoire of go-to restaurants in San Francisco. I’ll discover the places that serve the most authentic cioppino, the freshest sushi, and the most creative desserts in town. But it’s comforting to know that I have a dish in my back pocket that will always bring back memories of great food and great times in a great city.

Brown Butter and Sage Carrots

  • One bunch of carrots, cleaned, peeled, and tops trimmed
  • 6-8 sage leaves, left whole if they are small or sliced into strips if they are large
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss carrots with a generous pinch of salt, a splash of red wine vinegar, and just enough olive oil to lightly coat the carrots.
  2. Place carrots in a pan or oven safe dish and cover with tin foil. Cook for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the carrots are just tender.
  3. Remove the foil and cook for 10 more minutes to lightly caramelize the carrots. Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a small saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the sage. Cook until the sage is crispy and the sauce is flecked with light brown particles. Take the pan off the heat and season with salt if using unsalted butter.
  5. Arrange carrots on a serving dish and drizzle with brown butter sauce. Top with the crispy sage.

Ricotta Gnocchi + Spinach Walnut Pesto

Congrats again to Brinleigh R., the winner of the Emile Henry pizza stone! Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and shared your favorite family food traditions with me.  And now, on to a much needed new post!

There are two reasons why I love ricotta gnocchi. First, it is delicious. The mixture of ricotta and parmesan give the dumplings a tender texture without being mushy. Second, I am lazy.  Some nights I can’t even fathom the thought of busting out the ricer to make potato gnocchi. While you still need to let the ricotta drain for about 30 minutes, this is a very hands off step. Once you get used to rolling, cutting, and shaping the dough, I think that this gnocchi could even be made on a weeknight.

Gnocchi made out of ricotta cheese and a little bit of flour is actually called gnudi (yep, that’s pronounced “nudie”) And that’s about where my knowledge of those little Italian dumplings ends because I accidentally slept through my gnocchi workshop class. True story. I still haven’t forgiven myself or my iPhone alarm, which I partially blame by default. I may not have traditional technique down, but I’ve tried this recipe enough times to pick up a few common sense pointers.

The trick to working with the dough is making sure that everything is well floured. You should be able to gently work the dough without it sticking to your fingers like gum. I always keep a little ramekin of flour within arm’s reach just in case. If things get sticky, just use a little more flour.

I also find it helpful to work with small amounts of dough at a time. If you try to roll out a quarter of the dough at once, things are probably going to get a little dicey. I like to cut the dough in eight even pieces and work with two pieces at a time. This seems to make the job much more manageable, especially if this is your first time working with gnocchi dough.

Before I started cooking a lot, I never really understood the importance of a bench scraper. Since I am more of a cook than a baker, the idea of having a designated kitchen gadget for maneuvering pastry dough didn’t quite resonate with me. But now I see the light. I use my bench scrapper every day, to cut dough, transfer food from the cutting board to the stove top, and even as a spatula sometimes. It really comes in handy when you are working with gnocchi dough. If you do not have a bench scraper, you can always use a normal knife to cut the dough, and use a spatula to transfer the dumplings.

Once you cut the gnocchi into little pillow shapes, you can boil and eat it just like that. But I love how traditional gnocchi have all those ridges and crevices that the sauce gets stuck in. I find it so much more flavorful and visually appealing.

You can definitely purchase an inexpensive gnocchi board if you wish, but I am not a huge fan of “unitasker” gadgets. In my opinion,  rolling the gnocchi over the tines of a normal kitchen fork actually achieves the same effect. Of course it’s going to look a little less professional, but who’s judging! Getting the hang of the rolling motion may be a little strange at first, so just stick with it until it feels comfortable. I even find it slightly therapeutic! But I’m a little weird that way.

You can use any kind of sauce with this gnocchi. Whenever I have leftover greens (arugula, kale, parsley, spinach, or basil), I make pesto or salsa verde. This time, I ended up making a spinach and walnut pesto and topped it with some crisped prosciutto left over from a party. Really though, you can make whatever you want–brown butter and sage, ragu, pesto, marinara, anything that strikes your fancy.

Ricotta Gnocchi
Adapted from All Recipes
Yield: 4 servings

  •  1 cup ricotta (whole milk recommended, but part skim works too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, or as needed
  1. Place ricotta cheese in a strainer lined with a couple coffee filters or paper towels over a bowl. Place in the fridge and let drain for 30 minutes.
  2. Stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic powder (if using)  in a large bowl until evenly combined. Mix in 1 cup of flour. Add additional flour if needed to form a soft dough. You should be able to touch the dough without it sticking to your fingers.
  3. Divide dough into 8 even pieces, and roll each piece into a round ball. On a well floured surface, roll each piece into a rope about 1/2″ thick. Cut each rope into 1″ pieces and place the gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet.
  4. One at a time, place the gnocchi on the tines of a fork, and press down on the dumpling using your pointer finger. Lift the edge of the gnocchi closest to you with your thumb and gently roll it away from you until the edges of the dumpling are touching. Place the gnocchi back on the baking sheet. (At this point, the gnocchi can easily be frozen by placing the baking sheet in the freezer until they harden, then transferring them to an airtight container.)
  5. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, boil the gnocchi until they float to the top of the pot, about 1-3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to lift the gnocchi out of the water and set aside. Top the gnocchi with your choice of sauce.

Spinach Walnut Pesto
Yield: 1 cup

  • 2 big handfuls of fresh spinach, washed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic

*Toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly brown. Shake the pan or stir the walnuts constantly to avoid burning.

  1. Pulse the garlic and walnuts in a food processor or blender.
  2. Add spinach, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese and blend, while slowly drizzling in olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Emile Henry Pizza Stone Giveaway!

Photo: Williams-Sonoma

Giveaways are definitely a little out of character for me, because I am really skittish about self-promotion. However, I have an extra Emile Henry pizza stone that is in unopened and pristine condition. It pains me to think that it’s being wasted right now, and I want to find it a happy home. I own one of these pizza stones and I absolutely adore it. You can check out the reviews on Williams-Sonoma where it was originally purchased.

To enter this giveaway, please do the following by 10pm PST on Sunday, December 4th:

  1.  If you haven’t already, “like” All Things Simple Blog on Facebook. I will announce the winner here.
  2.  Then, leave a comment on this post with your first name and last initial. Also tell me what food or dish you are most looking forward to this holiday season. (I thought this would also be a good way to get to know my readers a little better!)

A winner will be drawn at random and I will announce the results on Monday, December 5th. Good luck!

Earl Grey Latte + Poor Man’s Milk Foam

Greetings from Missoula, Montana, where the temperature is hovering around 20 degrees! I’m not sure what the weather is like around the rest of the country, but I’ve been drinking my fair share of warm beverages. We are spending Thanksgiving with Jeff’s family in Missoula. The city got some early snow this year, so it’s absolutely picturesque here–complete with pristine, snow-covered mountains and fragrant pine trees. It’s the one time of the year when I can shamelessly rock my leggings tucked into Sorels. Don’t judge.

Before we left, I spent some time perfecting my Earl Grey latte aka London Fog. I had my first London Fog last year at Starbucks and I just loved the concept: Earl Grey tea with a hint of vanilla and sugar, topped with a bit of foamy milk.

The tea is the straight forward part. Brew either loose-leaf of bagged Earl Grey as you normally would. Only for this drink, double the amount of tea bags or leaves you would usually use. Be sure to follow the directed steeping time though, because the tea will get bitter if it is allowed to sit too long. (I learned from experience) The trickier part is the vanilla syrup and frothy milk. Sadly, my $1.99 Ikea handheld frother bit the dust a couple weeks ago (shocker!). While I was researching alternative frothing methods, I happened upon a post from The Kitchn about microwave-frothed milk.

I was skeptical at first, but it really works! You basically take a jar and fill it with fresh milk. Cover the jar and shake it like a maniac for about 30-40 seconds until the milk is foamy and doubled in size. Take off the top of the jar and microwave the milk for about 40-45 seconds. The heat of the microwave stabilizes the foamy milk and makes an awesome accompaniment to tea or coffee drinks.

I’ve tried this with all kinds of milk–whole milk, 2% milk, nonfat milk, soy milk. The trick is using very fresh milk. The older it is, the less frothy it will get. Interestingly enough, I have actually had great results with the kind of soy milk that you buy in cartons. I speculate that this is because the milk is not exposed to air until I open it up at home. In contrast, some of the milk you buy in the refrigerated section of the supermarket has been sitting around for weeks exposed to air. Maybe that makes sense…maybe it doesn’t. But that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

This method will not give you the most frothy, sweet foam that you can find at the coffee house, but it is just enough to give your morning routine a little extra pizazz. Be sure to use a large jar because the milk will expand a lot while being heated in the microwave, and then deflate as it cools. I recommend you play around with different brands, percentages, and types of milk to find the one that works the best for you.

I messed around with a few different sweetening options, but I found a vanilla simple syrup worked the best for this recipe. You can certainly use store-bought syrup if you are in a time crunch. My recipe is a simple mixture of sugar, brown sugar, water, and vanilla bean. I think two tablespoons of syrup per serving is a good starting place. I use a little under that amount because I like my lattes less sweet, but you can adjust to your tastes.

Using a real vanilla bean in a simple syrup may seem a little extravagant, but nothing goes to waste. After scrapping the seeds out of the bean, I dry it off and bury it in a small canister of sugar. After a couple weeks, the vanilla sugar will taste great in cookie recipes, coffee, whipped cream, and more.

Earl Grey Latte
Yield: 1 serving

  • 1 cup strongly brewed Earl Grey tea (bagged or loose-leaf)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla simple syrup (recipe below)
  1. Pour the vanilla simple syrup into a mug and set mug aside.
  2. Brew Earl Grey tea using double the amount of tea you would usually use. Steep for the recommended time on package.
  3. While tea is steeping, pour milk into a microwave-proof jar. Cover, and shake vigorously until the milk is frothy and doubled in size, about 30-40 seconds.
  4. Remove the cap from the jar and heat the milk in the microwave for 35-40 seconds.
  5. Pour tea into the mug and mix until the simple syrup is incorporated. Using a spoon to hold back the foam in the jar, pour the milk into the mug. Top the latte with the remaining foam from the jar.

Vanilla Simple Syrup
Yield: About 1/4 cup

  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. With a sharp knife, split vanilla bean in half so that the beans are exposed.
  2. In a small sauce pan add the sugar, brown sugar, water, and vanilla bean over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Once the mixture comes to gentle boil, turn the heat down to medium-low. Gently simmer the mixture until the it reduces by about half, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Allow mixture to cool completely. Fish out vanilla bean, scrape out the remaining seeds with the back of a knife, and add to the simple syrup.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.