Easy Baked Polenta with Greens and Eggs

26 Jun

This one-pan baked polenta with greens and eggs from the NY Times Coronavirus Cooking series was easy and satisfying and took about an hour.

I started with half an ear of corn and a whole large shallot (minced) sautéed in butter, and baked them with polenta, water, and about three cups of chard greens from the garden. Near the end I made divots and added in eggs to bake in place, and I finished it with various green herbs and a little grated parmesan.

Trout Roasted in Fig Leaves, Succotash

25 Jun

An excellent and relatively easy dinner.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Salt trout, let it rest 15 minutes, drizzle good olive oil over it, and wrap it tightly in fig leaves (it took about eight big leaves from the tree in our yard, overlapped, to fully enclose two packets without holes). Bake it for about 20 minutes until flaky and done.

The fig leaves gave off an excellent fruity aroma as they roasted and when we tore them open, and the trout itself was moist, soft, and delicious (with almost a hint of coconut flavor from the leaves? is that crazy?)

The succotash was made from fresh-shelled cranberry beans (boiled in well-salted water), mixed with sautéed onions, dragon tongue beans, zucchini, and corn. Then at the end we mixed in some soft cheese, green coriander seeds, and basil.

Vietnamese-Inspired Meatballs

14 Mar

I’ve made these Vietnamese-inspired meatballs three times, and they’ve been satisfying in a lettuce wrap with piles of fresh herbs, on a bowl of brown rice with a spicy cucumber salad and steamed vegetables, or simmered in poultry stock from the freezer (a good way to use leftover cooked meatballs the next day…):


I was inspired by this NYTimes Cooking recipe but have tweaked it each time I make them, my current version is:

For a large recipe (~44 mid-size meatballs, about 6 servings):

Make a paste of:

  • 1.5 cups breadcrumbs
  • 0.5 cup yogurt (or milk)
  • A little water if needed to really wet the breadcrumbs

Then add:

  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • ~6 Tbsp fresh ginger (a lot! I grated/microplaned half of it, and cut half of it into thin matchsticks for some texture and gingery bites)
  • 1.5 – 2 Tbsp good fish sauce (I used Red Boat 40°N)
  • Cilantro
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • Salt + pepper to taste
  • When using ground turkey rather than ground pork I also added ~1 Tbsp sesame oil (or other oil) on the theory it could use a bit more fat

Then lightly mix in ground meat, just barely combining while trying to keep the mixture uncompressed and loose:

  • 2.5 lbs ground turkey thigh, or ground pork

Form this into meatballs (~44 medium-size ones), still trying to avoid compressing them, lay them out on an oiled tray, and bake at 425 for ~15-25 minutes depending on the size of meatball. I used a thermometer to check doneness– nominally aiming for 165F, but one time I cooked turkey meatballs to an internal temp of 180-185 and they were still moist and delicious. Overall, this made juicy, fluffy meatballs with a ginger kick and a lot of umami aroma from the fish sauce.

When served in a lettuce wrap or rice bowl, they were good with a nuoc cham sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, chopped fresh chiles, and a little sugar. Or they made a great soup just simmered in a smoky turkey broth (we made 8 quarts of this from the carcass of the turkey we smoked over Thanksgiving) with chopped greens stirred in a few minutes before serving.




Pasta with eggplant, tomato, and herbs

14 Dec

Another quick pasta meal incorporating some vegetables from the garden (roughly a pasta alla norma): Fry small eggplants in a little olive oil for 10-15 minutes until soft (should have peeled them first), season and set aside. Saute some onions and garlic and chili flake– then add diced tomatoes and cook down (maybe 15 minutes). Add the eggplant back in, combine with pasta, pistachios, grated parmesan, and lots of chopped fresh basil…


Fava anchovy “pesto”

7 Dec

This summer I grew a small plot of fava beans– not enough for a main dish, but I improvised a sauce for pasta combining fresh favas, green garlic, a few anchovy filets, pecorino, parsley, and mint (plus more cheese at the end):


Tandoori Chicken in a Charcoal BBQ

30 Nov

Earlier this fall I made some delicious tandoori-style chicken for an Indian-themed dinner party. This may be the best-tasting chicken I’ve cooked in a long time.


I figured, I have a kamado-style ceramic-walled charcoal grill / smoker that can easily get up to 700 degrees F (which I’ve used to make pizza in the past)– there must be some way to use this as an approximation of a tandoor. I did some reading, and as often seems to be the case, there was an article by Kenji on Serious Eats on this very idea.

The keys seemed to be thigh meat (delicious, doesn’t dry out as easily if the temperature gets a bit high), heavy use of a thick yogurt-based marinade (continues to shield the surface and provide moisture), and fast cooking in a hot-on-all-sides grill/oven, above open fire that can give it some char.

For twelve people (as part of a feast with many other dishes), I made about 5 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

The marinade:

Grind these spices together:

  • A few spices toasted in a skillet for 1-2 minutes:
    • 4 T cumin
    • 4 T smoked paprika
    • 2 T “extra bold Indian coriander seed”
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 T achiote powder


  • 16 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 T ginger (microplaned)
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups yogurt
  • 1/2 cup(!) salt

The marination:

I slashed the surfaces of the chicken thighs deeply with a knife (to make it easier for marinade to penetrate), and marinating them in the fridge for about four hours:


The tandoor:

I started a fire in the grill/smoker about an hour before cooking, to give it time to burn down the coals and heat up the entire chamber, I had the grill temperature stable around 600-650 degrees by the time I was ready to cook. The chicken did end up sticking a bit– I could have better-oiled the grill.

I pulled the chicken out of the fridge 15 minutes before cooking to let it warm up a bit, then put the skewers (still dripping with the thick yogurt sauce) on the grill and lowered the top so they’d cook from all sides…


At this high temperature, they only took about 12 minutes to cook (I flipped them after 7 minutes, then checked the appearance and internal temperature a few times after that– looking for about 165 degrees for these thighs). Beautiful!


With such a short cooking time, some of the tangy spiced yogurt was still moist on the outside of the chicken– different from what I’m used to in restaurants, but delicious– and the chicken thighs hadn’t dried out at all.

We served this with a pile of lemon wedges and fresh cilantro, alongside freshly-made garlic naan, saag paneer by H with homemade paneer, deep-friend pakoras, and multiple types of daal and homemade chutneys– a great evening eating outdoors with friends…

Garlic Naan at Home

29 Nov

For an Indian-themed dinner party that included tandoori chicken cooked in the charcoal grill / smoker, I also wanted to make fresh naan. As usual, there’s a Serious Eats article about it. I made a few test batches the previous weekend with both white and whole wheat flour, cooked under either the broiler or in a cast iron skillet:




While I liked the taste of a 50% white-whole-wheat-flour naan and it cooked fairly well,  white bread flour combined with a preheated oven + pizza steel + broiler on during cooking led to a really fluffy, puffy naan, which I used for a larger dinner party. If I tried it again, I’d use whole wheat flour but add some vital wheat gluten powder as I’ve done with bagel-making.

The recipe I used most recently, for 24 “mini-naans” about 4 inches across (for 12 people):

Mix dry ingredients:

  • 14.7 oz bread flour (king arthur)
  • 0.16 oz yeast
  • 0.29 oz salt
  • 0.53 oz sugar

Then mix in the wet ingredients:

  • 4.7 oz greek yogurt
  • 4.7 oz milk

Knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Divide into 24 balls, flour lightly, cover loosely with a floured dish towel, rest until doubled, about another 2 hours.


An hour before you’re ready to cook them, preheat the oven hot (500F), with a pizza steel (or stone) on the top rack near the broiler. You can also melt butter with lots of minced garlic in it.

Then, when you’re ready to cook, change the oven from bake to broil– now you’ll be rapidly cooking the naan from both sides.

Roll out each ball of dough, quite thin, toss it carefully on the hot pizza steel– the dough should start to develop bubbles, then puff up… and fully cook in about 2 minutes or even less (no need to flip them). It took some experimentation to pull them out early enough that they weren’t crunchy, they cook incredibly fast.

IMG_20190914_202429IMG_20190914_202500 (1)

As you take them out, brush liberally with garlic melted butter, and prepare to eat…




Vegetable Pakoras

28 Nov

I’ve made pakora-inspired fried vegetable fritters a number of times in different contexts. After some experimentation, here’s the approach I like best:

Coarsely shred a range of root vegetables, alliums, and brassicas.

  • My favorite mix: carrots, onions, broccoli, cauliflower
  • An alternate winter mix: Brussels sprouts, onions, carrots, cabbage

For a large batch of pakoras as appetizers for a 12-person dinner party, I combined:

  • 6 cups coarsely shredded vegetables (squeeze in a colander to get as much liquid out of them as possible)
  • 6 small green chiles, chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic (or more)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger (or more)
  • 1 T garam masala

I let them sit for another 30 minutes in the colander to drain, then squeezed the liquid out of them one more time. Then added:

  • 1 tsp ajwain
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour


I heated a pot of oil over medium heat (target: 375 degrees F? I didn’t have a thermometer at the time), then dropped in spoonfuls of loosely-packed batter one at a time:


I fiddled with the temperature to get it to a point where the pakora batter floated back to the top, and turned golden brown over the course of about five minutes while cooking through– too hot and the outside turned dark brown while it was still raw inside, too cool and it just absorbed oil and never browned.

As they finished, I put them on a wire rack (not paper towels) to drain– this keeps them crispy by allowing moisture to escape. There was no way to be precise without tasting some…





Beans, Veg, Yogurt, Meat

23 Nov

Another simple meal pattern: legumes, roasted vegetables, yogurt, and optionally meat.

In this case, fresh shelling beans (simmered on medium-low 30-40 minutes with aromatics + herbs), winter squash from the garden and broccoli (both chopped, tossed with olive oil and salt, and roasted in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes), and a pan-fried sausage and some yogurt (optional: fermented hot sauce).

It does take three pots/pans, but only 45 minutes (depending how long the beans take to cook), so it’s on our roster as a common weeknight or weekend meal with endless variants…IMG_20191003_201919.jpg

Leek / mushroom / eggplant pasta

16 Nov

An easy weeknight two-pot meal combining a range of fall ingredients I like.

  • Wash, trim, and chop two leeks (keeping most of the green part as well)
  • Put them in a skillet with a pat of butter on low heat, salt, cover, and let slowly cook for about 30 minutes as they give off water and reduce, until creamy-soft and sweet (stir once every 5 minutes or so)
  • While they’re cooking, skin and dice eggplants (I used 6 tiny eggplants from the garden, could also use one medium eggplant). Add them to the leeks for the last 15 minutes or so of the cooking time.
  • Clean and roughly break up chanterelle mushrooms, add them for the last 3-4 minutes.
  • Boil salty water for pasta, cook the pasta, throw diced green beans in for the last minute.
  • Drain the pasta, add to the skillet, and cook another minute. Serve.