April 28, 2011

Braised Leeks with Lemon Vinaigrette

So I debated including the picture you see accompanying this post. Mainly because it is not pretty. Braised leeks aren't really that pretty to begin with and I am certainly not a food stylist. I am sure someone somewhere can make a plate of braised leeks look pretty. I am not that person. So, please accept my apologies for the slimy looking green vegetables on the red plate.

Now, on to the the important things. These leeks are amazing! I was shocked they ended up as flavorful as they did. I got the idea for having leeks take the starring role of a dish from Molly Wizenberg, blogger extraordinaire, published author, Bon Appetit contributor, and co-owner of Delancy, a restaurant in Seattle, with her husband. I haven't read her book, but I love the way she writes. I look forward to her column in Bon Appetit every month. (I just read her FAQs on her site and it turns out that April 2011 was her last column for BA. Big sad face.)

Anyway, last September, she posted about leeks vinaigrette and I was intrigued. I didn't use her recipe for this dish because I didn't want to boil my leeks. Instead I used Mark Bittman's recipe for leeks braised in olive oil from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. At the end I poured a lemon-mustard vinaigrette over the leeks. The result was so flavorful and satisfying. The tart vinaigrette paired wonderfully with the sweet meltingly succulent leeks.

April 20, 2011

Braised Lentils with Roasted Vegetables

I did mix them together when I ate them...

I have been craving lentils, which is kind of strange, because I associate them with winter and we are forecasted to hit 85 degrees today in DC, so it is decidedly NOT winter. I also had some vegetables that I wanted to use before I left town for Easter (RI - here I come!), so I got out Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I figured if anyone can help me, Mark Bittman can! I used his braised lentils recipe as a guideline; my recipe is below.

Braised Lentils with Roasted Vegetables
Serves 3-4


1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 medium golden beets, peeled and diced
2 handfuls baby potatoes, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sweet onion, diced
1 link fresh sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (I think it is about 1/4 lb)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup lentils, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon or more dried Italian seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. 

2. Toss the sweet potato, beets and baby potatoes together with a tablespoon or more of olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.

3. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot (or Le Creuset brasier!) over medium heat. Add onion and sausage and cook until onion is soft and meat is brown (7 or so minutes). Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add lentils, broth, wine and the Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, then partly cover the pan and gently simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Put the vegetables in the oven when the lentils start to boil. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once. 

5. The lentils should be tender after 25-30 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid left in the pan, raise the heat slightly so some evaporates. You want there to be some liquid remaining. 

6. Taste the lentils and the vegetables for seasoning and enjoy!

April 19, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

I know, you all must think I am crazy for posting another banana bread recipe (for those keeping count, this is number 5). Perhaps I should change the name of the blog to The Banana Bread and Fennel Enthusiast. (That doesn't really help my crazy status, now does it?)

This particular recipe is from a blog called Cassie's Kitchen: Adventures of a Laid-Off Lawyer. I don't follow her blog, so I can't tell you anymore about it. I just happened to have a print out of this recipe in one of my recipe binders, which I was cleaning out this past weekend. What interested me the most about this recipe was the whole teaspoon of nutmeg. So I decided to give it a shot!

I followed the recipe as written, except I didn't think 3/4 cup of chocolate chips looked like enough, so I used 1 cup. Don't be a piggy like me, this bread does not need 1 cup of chocolate chips. I happened to have a little bit of slivered almonds lying around, so I threw in about 1/4 cup. I loved the crunch they gave the bread without overpowering the banana and spice flavor. I think walnuts or pecans or some other nut would have been too powerful.

All in all, this recipe is a keeper. The bread formed a crunchy top, which I absolutely love, was moist and had the perfect crumb. Additionally, the spices added another dimension that you don't expect, but complement the banana flavor wonderfully.

April 18, 2011

Peony Update

We've got two buds!

April 13, 2011

Roasted Veggie Couscous with Ricotta Salata

I have a new obsession: beets! Some of you who have known me for a long time are probably shocked to hear that come out of my mouth (er, fingers). But it's true. And I blame this experience and this dish as the start of the obsession.

Just this past weekend I found myself randomly thinking about beets and how I would have to go to the grocery to get some. (Of course when I was at the store, I managed to buy some fennel, too, because that is another obsession that just won't die!) I also had some ricotta salata in the fridge that was just begging to be used, so I decided to make roasted vegetables with Israeli couscous and ricotta salata. It was delicious! (If you have never had ricotta salata, it is worth trying. The best way I can describe it, is that it is like feta, but not as salty and not as creamy. It doesn't really melt, so you get always get a bite of cheese that has integrity!)

Roasted Veggie Couscous with Ricotta Salata
Serves 2-3


3 medium sized golden beets, peeled and diced (a regular vegetable peeler makes quick work of the beets' skin - much easier than peeling after it is roasted whole)
1 large fennel bulb, diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup uncooked Israeli couscous
Handful flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Couple ounces ricotta salata

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, toss the beets and fennel with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven until tender, about 30-40 minutes, depending on how large you chopped the veggies.

3. Meanwhile, cook the couscous according to package directions. Mix in the parsley and taste for seasoning.

4. Transfer the couscous and the vegetables to a serving dish and combine. Top with crumbled ricotta salata.

April 12, 2011

Peony Update

Looking good!

April 11, 2011


This blog clearly needs more pictures of pets. Herewith, some animals!


My mom's horse, Dino

MM and two fat donkeys!
Zeke, one of my mom's dogs, taking a drink or taking a bath, or both

April 7, 2011

One-Year Blogiversary and Biscotti

Glamour Shot

Today is BlB's one-year blogiversary! To celebrate, you get biscotti! 

My mom was in town this past weekend and helped me make her famous recipe for almond biscotti (with and without chocolate chips) and one of Giada's recipes for Almond and Lemon Biscotti. I looooved Giada's recipe. The extra crunch of the cornmeal and the subtle lemon flavor were fabulous (Giada's is the biscotti at the top of the picture). My mom's recipe is below.

Almond Biscotti

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1/8 c. – fill half-way with water, then add 1-2 tsp almond extract, fill remainder with vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 c. whole almonds coarsely chopped
¾ c. mini chocolate chips (optional)
1 egg beaten for egg wash

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a stand mixer, mix flour and sugar together. Add eggs and water mixture. Stir in almonds (and chocolate chips). If the dough is really sticky (to the point you can't handle it) add more flour and mix again.

Divide into 4 or 5 portions. Roll on lightly floured surface to form “logs”. Each log should be about 10 inches by ½ inch. Brush egg wash on top of logs with a pastry brush.

Bake on parchment paper-covered cookie sheets until light brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Let cool a little and then cut on the diagonal. For harder biscotti places pieces on their sides and bake a little longer. For more chewy biscotti do not bake again.

April 6, 2011

Cauliflower Soup with Farro

It may not be pretty, but it is delicious!

Continuing along with my "eat more vegetables and use recipes from magazines" kick, this delightfully simple soup recipe is from La Cucina Italiana's April 2011 issue. The addition of the farro makes it surprisingly hearty (and we know how much I love farro!). I threw a couple of oyster crackers on the top for a crunchy salty bite.

April 5, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

Sorry, dear readers, but my brain is lacking in the "group words into a sentence" department, so I will leave you with a plate of pretty roasted vegetables: creamy sweet potato, crisp fennel, sweet onion, purple cauliflower and green beans. Yum!