Monday, August 31, 2015

watermelon and feta salad with mint

It's hard to imagine summer coming to a close and I personally have been in denial about it because I have just experienced the hottest, most summery summer in five years. So among other things, I have been stockpiling watermelon. 

side note-did you know about yellow watermelon?!?! It’s a little less sweet and juicy but delicious all the same.

We have had bowls full of freshly cut watermelon in the fridge all summer and I am slicing it faster than Mike and I can eat it. And simple, cold watermelon is perfect but I wanted to try to find another way to enjoy this fruit.

Watermelon and feta is a combination I have seen before and I thought the two would make a satisfying sweet/salty salad with a bit of mint I grabbed at the farmers market and a quick vinaigrette.  We were having burgers last week and I decided this was the side that would lighten the dish up.

Mike made the burgers (bison and beef, in case you were wondering) and I whipped up this refreshing and super easy salad.

watermelon and feta salad with mint
(serves two)
2 cups of watermelon, cubed
4 oz of feta, cubed
10 leaves of mint, roughly chopped
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
a sprinkle of cayenne, salt and pepper
  • whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and spices in a bowl and pour of watermelon
  • toss gently, then add feta and mint
  • serve immediately or chill in fridge

Any other ideas for squeezing every last drop of summer/watermelon? Send them my way!

By the way, I am looking for guest bloggers to share their favorite recipes or food stories with me and my readers. Contact me at if you are interested!

Friday, August 28, 2015

friday kitchen tips!

I get a ton of questions about preserving or stretching an ingredient, or using up something that you buy a bunch of for one recipe (looking at you, cilantro) so I would like to start an FAQ of sorts every Friday!

Hopefully I don't give away all of my tricks today--please submit questions! You can e-mail me at, make a suggestion on Instagram, tweet at me (are you following me yet??) or comment here.

Preserving your herbs
This one can be done in a bunch of ways! To keep them fresher, longer, rinse them after you take them home from the store, and lay them on a paper towel thats big enough to eventually fold over and cover the bunch.

Let them sit and dry on the paper towel for up to 20 minutes, then wrap the paper towel (which should now be damp, otherwise dampen it a bit and squeeze it out) around the herbs, place in a ziploc, squeeze all the air out and seal. they have lasted up to two weeks for me using this method!

The other trick is to freeze them. If you know you won't use them all, chop them up and place them in an ice cube tray and fill it about halfway with good olive oil. This can be dropped in soups or sauces anytime and last for months!

Keeping avocados and guacamole from browning
The most tried and true method is to keep the pit either in the already cut avocado (wrap it in a baggie or plastic wrap), or place it in your guac. If you already threw out the pit, then do a squeeze of lime over the top of your guacamole, place plastic wrap directly touching the top, all around the bowl, then another layer on top of that.

For an already cut avocado, I have seen people use cases like this & this (not sponsored) and swear by them, but I have never tried it myself.

The key is to keep air away from the flesh which is what causes it to turn brown. And I have found that just by cutting off a very thin top layer, the rest of the avocado is usually salvageable the next day.

Oh, and cilantro? I want to add it to salsa, but what about the rest of the bunch? Well Mike and I are brainstorming and pork and chimichurri dish for next week so stay tuned!

If you haven't seen it yet, I am looking for guest bloggers!You don't have to be a blogger already or even a recipe maven- I am just looking to add some recipes here that are outside what I usually make and mix things up a bit.

E-mail me at if you are interested!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

stuffed squash blossoms

My parents have lived next door to the same Italian couple my entire life. They have a big family: kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, extended relatives (if you know anything about Italian families, everyone is an aunt, uncle or cousin) yet they always treat us like family too.

That means sending over THE BEST freshly baked bread, sharing lasagna tips and tricks, (often unsolicited) advice on taming the fig tree and even giving my parents the keys to their house in Sicily to stay during their recent trip.

What I have taken away from them after 27 years of living next door was the access to fresh produce that I had never even seen before and another source of cooking inspiration. I have made it no secret that my parents are fantastic cooks and a lot of what I have learned is from them. But our neighbors inspire me with their simple approach to food.

One day my dad caught one of their daughters picking the flowers off our squash branches. He was curious about it but didn't mind and they continued to stock up on these flowers. Then he finally inquired about why they were so valuable and she said "because you can eat them."

"Wait, what?" We have been growing squash my WHOLE life and never knew about this. I've heard of edible flowers but this was exciting--we had been growing these all along with the intention of getting squash, not knowing there was a second, secret food that we could stuff, bake or fry and eat.

Yep, you can stuff these delicate flowers with cheese, bread or flour them and crisp them up into delicious little flavor packets.

(I did a cheese only, non-fried version below, but you can stuff them with sausage, add breadcrumbs instead of a second layer of flour and even fry them in oil on the stovetop just as easily. I tried to make it a little lighter.)

stuffed squash blossoms
(serves 2)
4 large flowers (about 2 1/2 inches long), or 6-8 small flowers
1/4 cup of whole milk ricotta
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano
1 tbsp minced basil
1 tbsp minced parsley
2 eggs, whisked in separate bowls
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

  • preheat oven to 350
  • mix your filling by combining one of the eggs, the ricotta, pecorino, basil, parsley salt and pepper. add any other seasonings you like-oregano or crushed red pepper would be good
  • prepare your breading station by filling a bowl with the seasoned flour and placing next to the whisked egg
  • line a baking sheet with foil
  • carefully open up the flower and take out the pistils (wow. I actually remembered this class from science class)

tip: its ok if the flower tears slightly, just be extremely gentle with it and only allow one side to tear so you can seal it back up

  • spoon about a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the mixture into each flower, close on the side with a toothpick
  • dredge each stuffed flower in flour, then egg, then flour again and place on baking sheet
  • drizzle olive oil carefully over each
  • place in oven for 15-25 minutes, until a light golden brown. turn over halfway through
  • remove the toothpick after cooking and serve with a cream or tomato sauce, or eat as is

Let me know what you guys think!

By the way--did you see I am looking for guest bloggers? You don't have to be a blogger already or even a recipe maven- I am just looking to add some recipes here that are outside what I usually make and mix things up a bit. 

E-mail me at if you are interested!

Monday, August 24, 2015

grilled pizza

If I told you that this was the easiest and fastest way to make pizza, would you believe me? 'Cause after I tell you all the ways you can mess it up, it will become easy. Learn from my mistakes and enjoy this delicious pizza before summer is over!

way #1 to mess up grilled pizza: not coating both sides edge to edge with oil. it will stick like crazy otherwise. trust. me.

way #2 to mess up grilled pizza: rolling it out too thin. it will fall through the grill grates. yuck.

way #3 to mess up grilled pizza (I didn't do this one but I happen to know someone who did so its worth mentioning): not flipping the pizza and grilling only one side

way #4 to mess up grilled pizza: setting the heat too high and burning the crust while waiting for the cheese to melt. this happened to me the first time I made it and will never make this mistake again. charred pizza is just not my thing. medium heat.

way #5 to mess up grilled pizza: not having all toppings ready to go as soon as the pizza is flipped. you have seconds to get them on there, close the lid, and let the cheese melt. the crust is delicate and you don't want it to burn. see above.

way #6 to mess up grilled pizza: not trying this recipe below. you're welcome!

fig, prosciutto, arugula, goat cheese and gouda pizza with a honey and balsamic drizzle

5-8 fresh figs, sliced and baked in the oven at 350 with a sprinkle of salt, for about 10 minutes until they start to slightly caramelize and the juices ooze (if you cant find fresh, use dried and just use more since they tend to be smaller.)
1 package of prosciutto, usually about 8 slices
2/3 cup of grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated gouda
1/3 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1 lb pizza dough
1 cup arugula
2 tbsp honey, plus a bit extra to drizzle at the end
1 tbsp balsamic
salt and pepper for seasoning
olive oil to coat pizza dough
flour for rolling out dough

  • separate your dough into 2-4 pieces, depending on how thick you like the crust
  • roll out dough to about half inch thickness, at the thinnest. go thicker if you like, and shape it however you want. I never try to make it perfectly round
  • mix cheeses together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper
  • unwrap prosciutto, place on plate with figs, ready to go
  • preheat your grill on medium-high heat
  • using a brush (definitely invest in one of these!), spread olive oil on one side of the dough, from edge to edge
  • lower heat to medium on grill and put dough oil side down 
tip: you can just flip it over from a plate/cutting board right on the grill, just straighten/flatten it with tongs and a spatula

  • brush oil on other side of dough from edge to edge
  • let first side cook for about 3-5 minutes. lift edges with tongs and watch for a medium brown color and some crispiness on the edges
  • flip using tongs and a spatula
  • immediately top with cheese mixture, prosciutto and figs, close the lid
  • let cook for about 4 mins, until cheese is melted. 2 minutes into cooking, drizzle honey and balsamic over the top
  • remove from heat, place on a cutting board and top with arugula and another drizzle of honey
  • slice up and enjoy!

There are so many more toppings you can do here, so go nuts and just get that grill going while you still can! Let me know what you think :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

seattle: the rundown so far

I promised you all a Seattle update after we got settled!

We have been Seattle residents for two months and man has it flown by. Likely due to the fact that I have made a 10 day trip to Boston/Cancun for two weddings, a weekend trip to Austin and a one week trip home to NY during that period, but still.

The trip home was to pick up my cats, Pot & Kettle, and bring them to live with us here. I have had them since I was a senior in college, but they have been living with my parents the whole time I lived in Cali. It was a lot tougher to find apartments that accepted pets in SF, whereas here, everyone does. The trip itself was a little stressful-these two are not used to going anywhere and despise their carriers. I had them cooped up in those things for hours, under the seat on a plane. Kettle actually ripped open her carrier at one point. Needless to say, I had a lot of wine on that flight.

Kettles head peeking out of the carrier on the plane

Now, two happy Seattle cats. Pots face always looks like that, don't worry.

Besides becoming cat parents, Mike and I have been decorating the apartment (I want to share that in a separate post!) and exploring our neighborhood and new city. We live in Ballard and have unlimited access to awesome bars and food, a gorgeous, year-round Sunday farmers market and parks within walking distance.

Before all of this was the 11 day road trip and movers from hell. It was a bit lengthy and more stressful than I would have liked, with very little communication from our movers on when our stuff would arrive. However, it gave us a chance to make so many unexpected stops and have an epic road trip.

We saw the worlds largest oyster in South Bend, WA, relaxed in Cannon Beach, Oregon at a cute BnB, ate and drank our way through Portland, and stocked up on a case of wine on stops in Sonoma and Willamette Valley.

Lets just say we were ready for home by the end of all of this.

On our last night of the roadtrip, in Olympia

Now we are happy Seattle residents, adjusting to real weather and preparing for the gray winter. Wish us luck :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

braised kale

Years ago I achieved what I thought was impossible: getting Mike to eat (and enjoy) kale. Turns out calling it a chip and seasoning it well does wonders.

Well, you all know me to be up for a challenge so once I tackled that, the next impossible feat seemed to be to get him to eat it in any other form. Then a salad worked, again if dressed and seasoned properly. Too easy. I decided I was going to braise this stuff and see where it took me.

I am a strong believer in certain ingredients making a dish instantly better. Butter. Salt. Goat cheese. But garlic is on another level. Its in my blood. The smell of garlic sautéing on the stovetop in a bit of olive oil transports me back to my parents' kitchen on Sunday mornings. Its heavenly smell overtakes my nostrils and makes my mouth water. So yeah, you could say I love garlic.

However, add this to the list of ingredients Mike hates (for those keeping track: its any fish, onions, mushrooms, sour cream and cream cheese in addition to garlic. He also isn’t a fan of tomatoes. Where did I find this one?!?)

fun fact: this dish was the side last night to salmon. Which MIKE ATE. I am as shocked as anyone. Recipe to be posted, obviously.

My thought process for this kale was to prepare it similarly to how my mom makes broccoli rabe: garlic and oil, a bit of red pepper flakes so it is infused with flavor and nearly melts in your mouth. I thought, maybe leave the garlic whole so I can pick it out after I infuse the flavor into the oil…

Find the recipe below and let me know what you guys think…about the recipe, how else I can force feed my boyfriend kale or just opinions on his picky eating habits.

braised kale
1 head of kale, chopped into bite sized pieces, or a bag of pre-chopped (I like lasciano kale which is a dark, Tuscan style leaf, or a curly leaf, but use whatever you can find/have)
3 garlic cloves, left whole and smashed (technique below) or minced finely for the garlic lovers in your life
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for seasoning, about a sprinkle of each
about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
2/3 cup of water
  • pre-heat oven to 375
  • heat an oven safe pan on medium heat with half the olive oil
  • add the garlic and lower to low-medium heat and let sauté. Watch it carefully, stirring in the pan so it doesn’t burn
  • add kale and remaining olive oil (you want it to be slightly coated but not doused) and stir around
  • season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (I use a small dash of red pepper to avoid too much heat)
  • let cook on the stove for about 5 more minutes, turning every so often, then add the water, cover with an oven safe lid and transfer to the oven
  • let cook for 30-45 minutes, until leaves are tender to your liking (some people like a bit of a bite, I like them to melt in my mouth)
  • if garlic cloves were left whole, remove before serving (unless whole roasted garlic cloves are your thing, then go for it!)

garlic smashing: If you don't know this trick, it will change your life!

Take your unpeeled garlic cloves, and one at a time, press them under the flat side of your knife and smash down with the heel of your palm. This will help them peel so easily, and also smash them a bit to release their fragrance and flavor.

You can see a demo in my #instacookingvideo

What do you guys want to see next? Any advice or tips that would be helpful? Comment away!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

summer pasta salad made lighter

I will be the first one to profess my love for macaroni salad or a creamy potato salad, both covered in mayo.

BUT-why not try something else? Greek yogurt has become a staple on every grocery store visit. What used to be the base for my smoothies is now also a salad dressing component, a sauce for latkes, a veggie dip and the coating for a delicious and light summer pasta salad.

The ironic part about this is that I made this recipe on the least summery day we have had in Seattle. Since moving here in June, we have experienced record temps in June (hottest ever!!) and July while never seeing it drop below 70. Until the day I made this pasta salad, as it rained in sheets for hours and hours and I sipped hot cocoa on the couch.

I was originally inspired to make this salad after finding mini farfalle (bow tie pasta) at the store and realizing it had been forever since I whipped up a pasta salad. The greek yogurt lends the creamy texture I crave, and by thinning it out with lemon juice and olive oil, it perfectly coats the pasta. The peppers add a great crunch and feta balances out the sweetness of the tomatoes perfectly.

Make this before summer is over!

summer pasta salad 
(serves about 10-halve the recipe if you don't plan on bringing to a party or eating this for at least a week like me)

1 pound of pasta-your choice!
1 cup of bell peppers (red, orange and yellow), diced. I cut mine pretty small, but any bite sized chop would work
1 cup grape or mini heirloom tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup of feta, cubed
1/4 cup parsley, diced
2 tbsp of salt
1 tbsp pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 and a half cups greek yogurt (I used 0%)
juice and zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup of olive oil

  • bring a pot of water to boil, add 1 tbsp of salt and pasta, cook per directions, drain and transfer to a large bowl
  • mix yogurt, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, remaining salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder and whisk together. You should have a thinned out consistency that still sticks to the back of a spoon without running when you run your finger through it
tip: if its too thin, add a tbsp of yougurt and stir in; if too thick add a bit more olive oil in. as with all my recipes, its not an exact science
  • pour the mixture over the still warm pasta and toss
  • once well combined, add remaining ingredients and toss together
  • serve warm, room temp or chilled right from the fridge
The best part about this is how many variations you can make of this. Of course, any pasta would work and I love orzo or elbows for any pasta salad. But the veggie and cheese options are endless: mozzarella would be really delicious, or any cubed, hard cheese (this is probably the only time I would pass up the goat cheese, since its mild creaminess may get overpowered by the sauce. Shocking, I know.) Shred carrots and zucchini, dice up grapes, toss in arugula. You can even do lemon juice and oil and skip the greek yogurt--though after you try it, I doubt you will want to.

#eggseries finale: omelette

Months later, I woke up and finally decided to make an omelette. I have to admit, I never really learned the proper technique (and I can't promise that has changed much) but it is one of the most popular egg preparations and I felt I owed it to myself to give it a shot.

I think I understand why this is something every chef is expected to know how to make. It's not easy, it takes practice and technique and flaws are clearly visible.

For example, my omelette ripped when I tried to turn it, didn't come out as smooth and round as I wanted and was maybe a little too brown. After the recipe I will share suggestions for how to improve next time and later share with you all any progress I make as I work to perfect this.

I turned to Alton for this one and his steps were very specific, but the recipe felt complex to me. I dutifully followed his "egg warming" technique but he lost me on "snapping" the omelette back towards me and I wished there were pictures.

3-egg omelette
3 eggs
1 tsp butter, softened or room temp
a pinch of salt
any toppings you prefer

I sautéed kale, peppers and turkey before hand, sprinkled in some goat cheese and set it aside in a bowl for later. Use ANY toppings you like.

  • run the eggs under warm water (not hot) for about 3 mins
  • heat the pan on medium high
  • crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork (add salt here or at the end as I did)
tip: Alton suggests a fork instead of a whisk to avoid too much air getting into the eggs
  • butter the pan with one tsp of softened butter, and spread it all over the pan
  • pour your egg mixture in and stir with a rubber spatula vigorously for 5 seconds
  • spread the mixture around the pan by tilting it and then loosen the edges and spread the eggs with the spatula to form a circle and keep edges from sticking
  • let sit untouched for ten seconds
  • shake the pan to loosen, then add toppings to the center
  • fold the edges over each side and slide onto a plate (season with salt here if you did not do earlier)

#instacookingvideo here

Changes to make:

  • add another egg, or a smaller pan. I don't think I had enough egg to cover the pan fully. You can see gaps in the omelette forming
  • move quicker to spread the eggs out
  • lower the heat slightly--the recipe I followed called for medium-high heat, but I think with trying this for the first time, cooking it lower and slower may have helped me
  • lessen the topping amount-that definitely caused my omelette to tear

What do you guys want to see next?!? I have a kale recipe coming up (NOT kale chips), a new spice mixture that I am obsessed with this summer and a tasty spin on quesadillas.