Gluten and Dairy Free

Gluten and Dairy-Free Olive Oil Blueberry Muffins

2013-08-13 19.15.09

No fancy camera out here – this is all I got!

In the past week, two chefs in separate interviews have brought up how they note trends and movements in the food world – the ebbing and flowing of ingredients, techniques and ideas – and that those movement have strongly affected the menus they put out at their restaurants today.

I look at the movements of my own life in various ways.

Ten years ago today I signed my first lease in New York, and moved into a 10 x 30 foot apartment on the Upper East Side with three of my closest guy friends from college. Yep, three of us in 300 square feet. Then Brooklyn, then Astoria, then Washington Heights. I have some sharp memories of those places, punctuated by hot summer nights with the boys on the emptied streets of Manhattan, the coffee shops and Italian Ice in Brooklyn, my melting pot of European neighbors and food in Queens, and now the somewhat more subdued, sunlit place I call home.

Ten years ago I was dating Ruark, and we continued dating until four years ago. Now we’re still close friends, and he just moved in with his current girlfriend, which I think is wonderful. In Ohio I dated a man named Adam for a while, and he was sweet and gentle and the kind of man you should date when you’re newly out of a 10-year relationship and need some comfort. He’s now engaged and just bought a house with his fiance, and I couldn’t be happier that he found the kind of love and relationship he deserves. And then there was Aaron, who turned my world upside down by telling me he loved me, and then again when he let me go. I have no idea what he’s doing right now, but hope he’s finding what he needs to feel whole.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Millet Mug Chocolate Cake (gluten and dairy free)

Gluten-Free Millet Mug Chocolate Cake - The Dusty Baker-2

I’ve been so good with the sugar lately.

As my little tackle with Lyme symptoms flaring has made digesting sugar a bit hard (even small portions induce a bit of shaking), I’ve cut back dramatically on my intake and, therefore, the amount that I’ve been baking. But the other night as I whipped up my little Ramp and Maitake Tartelettes, I was craving something sweet. I don’t really keep sweets on hand, and didn’t want to go full force into a new recipe.

I had a bit of Divine cocoa powder left over from my Divine Gluten-Free Cocoa Brownies and wanted to showcase them in something incredibly quick and easy. A mug cake it would be. Continue reading

My Gluten-Free Easter: Pastel Tea Eggs, Portuguese Masa and Angel Food Cake

eggs6-thedustybaker

I’m not gonna lie: Easter is not my favorite holiday.

I don’t mind it at all, but as a lapsed Catholic it always brings up conflict within me. Not that I feel a need to be talked or worked through it, mind you, because I’m very content with my personal beliefs and practices. But my family is very Catholic and our shared holidays are still about, primarily, faith.

I’m all cool with Jesus and Mary.
But here’s where the conflict comes in: homosexuality, abortion, gender inequality. There’s no need to even explain what the conflicts with those are.

I can’t take the good and leave the bad.

So, Easter conflicts me.

How’s that for a horrible introduction to some recipes?

Continue reading

Kitch+Table Brownies with Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise – Gluten and Dairy Free!

Kitch+Table Gluten-Free Brownies, Dairy-free Creme Anglaise and Dairy-Free Fudge Sauce

Kitch+Table Gluten-Free Brownies, Dairy-free Creme Anglaise and Dairy-Free Fudge Sauce

There are moments here in New York City, when I feel like I’m living out a television episode or something. Yesterday, walking from Rockefeller Center to Times Square, I was hit in such a moment.

I’d just come from doing an infomercial at a salon a friend owns, three stories above where the big ol Christmas sits during the holidays. Now and then he treats me to a cut or color or, in this case, a treatment that makes my hair shiny and soft. It’s been just over a year since I’ve been on camera, and though I was put off at first by the much larger production scale than I’d expected (there’s money in beauty product advertising), I quickly fell back into the fun of it. And evidently the 4 years of drama school and 10 years of city living mean I actually can do what I’ve been trained to do, so it sorta kicked ass.

Me getting the treatment down two weeks ago or so.

Me getting the treatment down two weeks ago or so.

I then hoofed it to Times Square to pick up some tickets for my sister (the kitsch factor in that area is laughable now, and most readily avoided), and subway’d it down to Union Square. Being early for brunch with friends (2:30 is totally acceptable time for eggs on a Sunday), I sneaked into a single spot at the bar at Union Square Cafe and treated myself to half a dozen oysters and a killer Bloody Derby*.

Times Square hoofing.

Times Square hoofing.

There was something about the tone of my day – the color, the weather, the bustle of tourists, the quiet subway car, the packed bar, the good food – that reminded me why life in New York is so sweet, and generous, and rather sexy sometimes.

Brunch of Sexiness #1. Totally beat out Brunch #2

Brunch of Sexiness #1. Totally beat out Brunch #2

Now, I feel like this little ramble should connect to this recipe, because if I was a serious food blogger than all things in my daily life would connect to the things I bake and blog about, right? I’d have more of a shtick and more than 3 people who read this would know what a Bloody Derby** is because I’ve referenced it a few times now… I may have even recipe’d it.

Anyway, this recipe connects because my day yesterday and that gorgeous chocolatey thing above are both full of love and kismet… or something like that. The recipe came together because I got some samples in from Kitch+Table, who I’ve worked with for Easy Eats and wanted to try it out on non-gluten-freers my last week of private chef-ing. The adorably talented 13-year old in the family loves brownies, so I figured we might as well have some fun with them.

Photo credit Kathy Schwartz for Kitch+Table

Photo credit Kathy Schwartz for Kitch+Table

First off, the brownies are delicious. I followed the very simply recipe on the bag to a T and was a bit wary when the batter was sticky and thick, but they baked up fudgey yet firm, rich yet not heavy. They have that signature crumb on top that many gluten-free brownie recipes miss. The boss family had no idea they were gluten-free, and the brownie aficionado ate the scraps around our little cut-out hearts with relish, going nuts for them. So stellar product to begin with (and I tried out two bags of this with equally stellar results). Go to Kitch+Table for purchasing or try my boozy Beer Brownies for something totally by scratch.

To spruce them up (this was the week after Valentines day) we used cookie-cutter hearts and layered them with thinly cut strawberries, some dairy-free fudge sauce leftover from my Chocolate Mallow Layer Cake and some dairy-free coconut Creme Anglaise, definitely two staple recipes to have in your pastry book.

Since leaving this job I’ve felt much emotionally calmer and steadier, and I know soon my body will catch up. And until then I’ll be thankful for the little moments, the big ones, the good things people are producing, and a little Creme Anglaise.

Brownie-Layer-Cakes---TheDustyBaker

Dairy-Free Creme Anglaise

This recipe sounds uber fancy but it’s relatively simple. Made with egg whites and just a little bit of sugar, it’s a delicately sweet addition for dressing up desserts.

1/4 cup egg whites
1/4 tsp cornstarch, tapioca starch or arrowroot starch
2 Tbsp white sugar
1 vanilla bean, de-beaned (slice the vanilla bean down lengthwise and use the back of the knife to scrape the beans out)
3/4 cup lite coconut milk

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites and starch.

In a small pot, whisk together sugar, vanilla and milk. Whisk constantly over medium-ish heat until steaming. Pour over the egg mixture, whisking all the while, until thoroughly combined.

Pour back into pot and return to stove. Whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes, until slightly thick, coating the whisk.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a Pyrex measuring cup or small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until cold.

*If you ever meet a guy in Denver with bright eyes who says he penned the name “Bloody Derby” for a Bloody Mary with bourbon in it, you have full permission to box his ears. I came up with it almost two years ago. This name has been pondered and considered. Do not trust this man. Then again, don’t box his ears, because he was in the army and is very able to kick your ass. Maybe just tickle him instead. I think he’s ticklish. Report back if you find out.

**The 4 of you who read this far down now know too. Between the 8 of us and the Denver guy and the guy I dated for five minutes when I came up with it and the bartender at the Ace hotel where we first ordered it I think we can make this Bloody Derby thing a thing. Just remember who started it. And I drank that Derby hours ago so there’s sadly not even a bourbon-infused reason for this rant.

Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake – Lowfat, Gluten and Dairy Free

Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake

Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake

I’ve been working with a new concept lately – “just enough”.

Go with me on this for a little bit.

I’ve never been a “just enough” person. I’m a workaholic who’s only just started admitting that maybe I’m “type A” when I consistently didn’t get the shocked expressions I’d expected after telling someone I’d been accused of being as such. I’m the kind of person who will think nothing of working 7-day weeks. I’m an adult who has dealt with active and repressed Lyme Disease cyclically for almost 20 years, and constantly feel I need to gain strengths to balance out my weakness so that I can be worthy of whatever or whomever is investing in me.

But here’s the thing. That way isn’t working.

Last week I left my job as a private chef, at a position I’ve had for only ten months. It was for a very wealthy, good family, of whom I have no drama to report. But it was too much work. I’d work 40 to 60 hour weeks, without having cut down on writing work and while still going to help my family business out now and then.

As the months passed things started slipping while I tried to sustain the ability to work at my job: I started taking interviews and not having the energy to finish the stories; I dated a man for about 6 months and I can count on both fingers how often we went “out” for anything other than a lazy meal; everything started hurting, so I started medicating to work. Not as badly as I have in the past, but a Percoset or two a day, and two or three muscle relaxers, and maybe some ibuprofen. Even drugged, it was important to me to not let the family I worked for know, and to be as good as my job as I could be. Possibly more than I even needed to be. I was tired, and depleted, and feeling horribly lethargic any time I didn’t have to be “on”.

I gave my notice in the beginning of January.

I came to New York City to be an actor on the stage. And while I’ve had relative success I couldn’t cut being an artist and independently making a living, physically or spiritually. Sometimes I feel like a quitter “retiring” to transfer my energy to writing a few years back. But it was a choice made to devote a little bit more to my health.

And now I’m taking one step further.

“Just enough”.

In January, I’d made a list of all I accomplished in 2012 – a testament to myself of how hard I’d worked and what I’d done, what I’d succeeded at. I’d made good money, good connections and produced a lot of good work. I’d traveled without concern for a budget or an agenda. I’d taken care of my dog and apartment and bought my family presents and helped out my lil sis when she needed some help and paid for my medical expenses. But was I any happier than I had been the year before? Any healthier?

During some healthy meditating with my life coach (yes), I realized that that is a list of misguided accomplishments.

I hadn’t gone to the park for no reason. I hadn’t kept my body healthy by doing the luxurious things it needs like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, saunas, massages. I had missed friends’ shows and family members’ weddings. I had been hurting my own body – the only one I get – by doing instead of being.

And in that way, I wasn’t being me.

So, now, the philosophy is “just enough”.

  • I will work just enough to make a decent living.
  • I will work just enough so that at the end of every year I’ll look back and will have completed one big project very well, in a way I’m proud of.
  • I will work just enough so that I have time to do the things that make my body feel better.
  • I will work just enough so that the next time I meet someone special, I’ll just be with him, and do more with him.
  • I’ll do just enough so that going to the park for no reason is just a part of what I do.

Just enough sounds like so, so much

Rosemary-Lemon-Angel-Food-Cake---TheDustyBaker1

Rosemary Lemon Angel Food Cake

This cake came about during my last week of work, when I was training my replacement and starting to accept the transition that was coming. It’s incredibly light and decadent – I love the magic that is angel food cake batter rising high in the pan.

The key to angel food cake is making sure that your whites are beaten to peaks strong enough to hold the amount of sugar and flour you’re adding, without it crystallizing on top (mine did a little in this version, but it was still divine). I made a batch “normally” with white cake flour for work, then remade it at home for myself with the gluten-free equivalent. Both versions are so good. Light, airy, and almost completely fat free as egg whites do the heavy lifting and no other fat is added. It’s naturally dairy free, and an excellent dessert to top of a big meal (I served this after brisket).

I love adding savory herbs to sweets – check out my Rosemary Mint Linzer Cookies and Rosewater Lavender Shortbread – and this combo won over the boss-fam. At home, I found out it was even better a day or two later, when the sticky lemon glaze had absorbed its way fully into the cake.

Rosemary-Lemon-Angel-Food-Cake---TheDustyBaker3

Ingredients

  • 12 oz egg whites, at room temperature (1 1/2 cups, about 10 whites from large eggs)
  • 12 oz white sugar (around 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of fine salt
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced to around 4 Tbsp, separated for cake and glaze
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 oz high-starch gluten-free flour: I used 1.2 oz (around 3 Tbsp) millet flour, 1.3 oz (around 3 Tbsp) brown rice flour and 1.5 oz (around 5 Tbsp) arrowroot starch
  • 1/8 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 Tbsp very finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, mix cream of tartar and salt. Have 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla extract nearby.

Whisk together the flours and xanthan gum in a medium bowl, then sift together.

Using a standing mixer with the whisk attachment or a metal bowl and hand mixer, beat egg whites on medium/high speed until foamy, around 1 minute. Add cream of tartar / salt mixture and beat until very foamy and opaque, around 30 seconds.

With the mixer on high speed, very slowly add all the sugar in a slow stream (this is most easily done with a standing mixer while you slowly shake the sugar on). Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice and vanilla, and beat until the mixture forms a glossy, stiff meringue, forming a rounded but firm tip when you lift the beater. In a standing mixer this should take only about 3 minutes when the sugar has all been added, by hand it may take a bit longer.

Beat in the rosemary, quickly.

Sift 1/2 the flour mixture over the meringue and fold in with as few strokes as possible with a spatula, until almost all incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour and fold until completely turned in.

Pour into un-greased angel food cake pan and bake for 30-50 minutes (yes, it will vary that greatly depending on how much your cake rises, exact oven temp etc), until slightly brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least one hour before removing from pan.

Meanwhile, whisk together 3 Tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup powdered sugar until completely smooth. Whisk in lemon zest. Cover and set aside until ready to glaze.

To serve, invert cake onto a plate, drizzle with glaze, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy.

Rhode Island Clam Chowder – Dairy Free

Clam Chowder2

There’s a clam chowder made at a restaurant in Westport, Connecticut, that I start to think about a tad too much this time of year.

It’s cold and rainy in New York City but lacking the joy of fluffy snow that makes all the mushy street corners and sopping subway cars worth the mess. I’m dreaming of soup.

This time of year, along with the slush, I get Robert Frost poems stuck in my head (often sung by a madrigal choir) and daydream about the cookies I don’t have enough time to make (I think my neighbors are getting “Happy New Year” cookies this time around). I drag my computer to the living room so I can look at this while I work:

My roommate's cat under our tree.

My roommate’s cat under our tree.

Snow and cookies and Robert Frost and wrapping presents may have to wait, but this soup I just couldn’t shake.

I’ve always been a fan of the lesser known Rhode Island version of clam chowder. The Manhattan version is too tomato-y and rather flat-tasting for my likes. And the New England take is obviously loaded in dairy, which I can’t eat. So when I stumbled into that restaurant in CT one day with a friend and found a variation that not only was allergy-friendly but that tasted just what I want a seafood soup to be, I was hooked. Now I make excuses to stop in there when I go see my family this time of year, and I often buy it by the 2-lb jug. Which is quite silly because, as you can see here, it’s incredibly easy to make myself.

Yesterday was a quiet private chef-fing day, and I wanted to provide something nourishing for my lady-boss, who’s a bit under the weather. There were already a few pureed soups in the fridge, but she needed something with a bit more sustenance. She loves veggies and corn and seafood, so it was the perfect combo to hit the spot.

This is an incredibly easy, quick, flavorful soup to make. In the minimal growing season you can completely get by with high-quality canned clams and corn. You don’t have to peel the potatoes. It only takes a few sprigs of thyme to get some amazing flavors outta it. You don’t even need butter! There are measurements here, of course, but you can eyeball things and taste as you go. Easy peasy.

Soon I’ll get to slow down, wrap those presents, make those cookies, and spend a day watching the Christmas movies I just bought to round out my collection. Until then, I’ll relish in the quiet moments at work where I get to make someone feel just a tiny bit better with a big mug of soup.

It’s the week before Christmas. I hope you’re not sweating the small stuff, that you’re relishing in the happy things you get to do, and that with the coming holidays you get to rest and recharge.

Happy Monday,

– Jacqueline

Clam Chowder1

Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
2 celery stalks, chopped fine
4 small red potatoes, diced small
1 15-oz can corn, with juice
3 6.5-oz cans clams, with juice
1 cup clam juice or fish broth
2 Tbsp chopped thyme
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat 1 Tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until almost brown, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion, celery and remaining olive oil and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5-6 minutes.

Add the potatoes, corn, clams, clam juice/broth and thyme. Fill with enough water to cover, and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to a simmer, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Triple Chocolate Gluten and Dairy-Free Biscotti – The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

Triple Chocolate Biscotti - TheDustyBaker

I am a DORK for the holidays!

As in, I start listening to Christmas music (privately) in October. This year my roommate let me celebrate a few days before Halloween because of Hurricane Sandy so we watched The Holiday with the wind raging outside. While I’m cooking at work (private chef-ing) I have Christmas tunes playing on low on my iPad. And the day after Thanksgiving I strapped a 6-foot, stubby tree onto my car and lugged it into my apartment where it was decorated within a few hours.

That said, this year I’m overworked and exhausted. The holidays are awesome. But yes, sometimes, they wear us out.

Fortunately one thing that living with chronic Lyme has taught me is to just let go of certain things. If I don’t make 300 gluten-free cookies is Christmas Day not going to come?!?! No! If I don’t blog for two or three weeks is the entire internet world of readers going to put me on a black list?! Ha! I think we’ll all survive (if we make it through that December 21st apocalypse thing).

Letting go of certain things I look forward to means that the things I do participate in have that much more significance and give me that extra boost of joy.

Like the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. Continue reading

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas: Private Chef-ing By the Book with Seamus Mullen

Funny story:

Last April I was soaking my arthritic bones in a deep bath full of Epsom salts and essential oils, melting away the wet of Spring, with Seamus Mullen’s soon-to-be-released Hero Food cookbook. I was interviewing Chef Mullen for my column on Serious Eats NY, and the book had been messengered over for my research. As I flipped through the intro, I was flabbergasted: Seamus has rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic immune disease that manifests with symptoms and patterns similar to my own with Lyme. I jumped out of the tub, threw on a robe and, dripping, held the book up to my roommate, with a “you’ll never guess what this cookbook is about!!”

Which was an unfair proclamation.

Because while, indeed, Chef Mullen battles RA, the book isn’t about that. It’s about delicious food that also happens to be good for you.

When I was first diagnosed with Lyme Disease at 12 years old, massive amounts of antibiotics weren’t cutting it. I couldn’t walk for a long period, I couldn’t eat, I attended school sporadically when I could, and in general my brain and body were in Lala land seemingly without end. It wasn’t until my mom found a nutritionist who put me on a strict diet, lots of supplements and IV vitamin drips that my immune system got so strong that my symptoms went away – relatively speaking – even though the Lyme did not.

Growing up with Lyme – including dealing with two serious flairs again in adulthood – taught me a lot about food. There were many I had to avoid – some incredibly strictly during certain periods but in moderation in others – and some that to this day I can’t touch. But there were also some that I needed to load my diet with so that my digestive tract, immune system and joints had a bit of extra help.

Seamus calls them hero foods.

Two decades later, I’m a private chef in a household with no dietary restrictions. Actually, I call myself a “private cook”, because a chef I am not. I am adept at making delicious things and, yes, can cook without guidance. But for inspiration and to widen my skill-set I often take advantage of my job and bring favorite books I want to explore to work with me. And as my blogging time has been diminished by my cooking, interviewing and event-covering time, I figured I should let my professions overlap when possible.

Hence this new series, “Private Chef-ing By the Book”.

It’s fitting that I’m starting with Hero Food because this time of year I’m back in the tub often. My job is physical, and I have to medicate, soak and sleep more often to battle the pain it brings my joints. 

Just reading through Mullen’s Spanish-based recipes brings me comfort; not only do I love the ingredients he focuses on (olive oil, almonds, anchovies, good eggs, good birds, parsley etc.), but reminding myself why they’re healing for me helps me connect more intimately with them, reminding me to give them more attention when I’m frantically cooking in someone’s kitchen.

In Hero Foods this carrot soup is made to celebrate summer, with gorgeous fresh carrots and a splash of citrus. But since it’s chilly and damp in NYC I’ve made a few tiny adjustments. In the original recipe Chef Mullen blanches the carrots: I’ve chosen to roast them. He tops his with yogurt: for my boss-family I stirred some creme fraiche in instead, and for my holiday dinner-party I’ll serve it with tangy goat yogurt so I can enjoy it too. And because it’s autumn now in New York City, I toasted some pepitas and tossed them in cinnamon and a pinch of sugar to sweeten the deal a bit. I adjusted some ingredients a tad and served the soup hot rather than chilled.

This soup is delicious. I’d never thought to add orange juice or zest to a carrot or squash soup, and it brightens and enlivens the rooty vegetables. Streaming in olive oil at the end emulsified it to a smooth cream. And not using chicken stock – which is my go-to for adding flavor and depth – really let the carrots remain the star and the gentle garlic, ginger and tumeric do the flavoring. And while I love tarragon and use it often, serving it on top rather than blending it in as I usually do helps it stand out rather than meld with a pluthera of equally-amazing flavors.

I’ve cooked from Chef Mullen’s book a few times already. And on top of the deep flavors I’ve created, it’s given me mindful time in the kitchen with ingredients that should be constantly in my rotation. Soon I’ll be pickling mushrooms to add to my cheese plate and pan-roasting Brussels sprouts with some (Portuguese… sorry Mullen) chorico for Thanksgiving. At work next week I’m going to make his tender lamb meatballs in a gentle tomato sauce and ricotta. And when the weather warms up again, I’m going to utilize the grill in my boss-family’s summer home to do more smoking, which I can’t do in my tiny NYC apartment.

But, until then…

There’s Hero Soup.

Stay warm and dry, East Coasters,

– Jacqueline

** Note: Chef Mullen is also the owner of Tertulia, in NYC. I took my friend Nikk – the chef whose job I took on – for his going away / birthday dinner. It’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had, and is one of my favorite restaurants around. If you love flavor-packed food, salty fish, cured meats, incredible cheeses, bright vegetables and potent wine, go there soon. If you don’t… um…

Carrot Soup with Tarragon, Ginger and Toasted Pepitas

Based on Seamus Mullen’s Chilled Carrot Soup with Yogurt and Tarragon from Hero Food.
Serves 4-6 depending on serving sizes

Ingredients:

2 lbs carrots, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
1/2 cup olive oil (the book specified Arebquina, which happens to be what I had on hand!)
2 shallots, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/4 tsp whole tumeric
Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
Creme fraiche, if desired, or whatever yogurt you can digest (or omit completely to make vegan)
About 4 tarragon fronds or 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped tarragon

For the Pepitas:

Note: Thanks go to Chef Anthony Ricco at The Spice Market, NYC, for this pepitas idea. He serves it on an incredible sweet butternut squash soup that I’ll be for Thanksgiving. His interview coming up in a few weeks on Serious Eats.

1/4 cup pepitas (small hulled pumpkin seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sugar, if desired

Directions:

Heat oven to 375°.

Combine carrots and about 2 Tbsp oliver oil on a large baking tray. Sprinkle with salt, cover loosely with foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, until almost steamed and completely soft, and slightly browned on bottom. Remove to cool slightly.

While the carrots are roasting, prepare the pepitas: place pepitas and olive oil in a cold skillet and place over medium/high heat. As the temperature starts to rise stir and then start tossing until they crackle, pop and expand. When they’re equally lightly browned and full in size, remove quickly to a bowl. Toss with a pinch of salt, cinnamon and sugar (if desired – you don’t need to).

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add shallots, and cook to sweat, 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and toss quickly to warm and slightly sweat, about another minute more.

Place cooked carrots, shallots, garlic, vinegar, orange juice and zest, tumeric, and ginger in a blender, food processor or large pot (and use a hand blender). Start running the blender on high and slowly add warm water until you get to the “velvety” consistency you desire, about 2 cups. Reduce the speed of your blender/mixer, and stream in about 1/2-1 cup olive oil until emulsified and gorgeously smooth.

Adjust taste with salt and pepper, and add more acid from vinegar or orange if desired.

Pour into serving bowls and top with a dallop of creme fraiche / yogurt, a few fronds of tarragon, a swirl of olive oil and some toasted pepitas.

String Bean and Arugula Salad with Macadamia Nut Dressing and Marcona Almonds: Summer of Salads (and private chef musings)

I’m in a relationship with a blue beach chair.

That is, I think it’s blue.

I’ve only met it at night, at 9pm at the earliest.

It’s one of many tucked under a long wooden walkway from the street across from the house where I work as a private chef (or private cook, as I prefer to call myself based on my skills compared to the chefs I interview for Serious Eats).

It could be green, for all I know. Or gray or black.

All I know is that it has a comfy headrest, and leans me back to the perfect angle. And, despite the dozens of chairs left by trusting locals and ready to be reached for, it’s the one I always grab, no matter where it’s ended up on the line.

I work for a good family, for which I’m very grateful. They have a beautiful home, and are respectful of who I am and what I do, which includes providing three healthful and impressive meals a day for a variety of diets put forth by themselves and their constantly rotating houseful of guests (they are very generous hosts). There are times I’m overwhelmed by the work – by the very early mornings and long days, by the constant focus that is timing food and constantly producing a creative variety of food. Some days it feels like just too much.

There have been a few moments I’ve sunk to the kitchen floor in exhaustion. And many moments when I’ve calculated the days until I can drive home to NYC and be in my own space, with my dog and my kitchen and my roommate and my desk and my dirty laundry and my neighbors and my bed!

But, no matter the lovely guests, the frantic preparation or the random quiet moments when I drive on crowded summer Hamptons streets…

… the day always ends in that chair.

I fill my Starbucks insulated cup with whatever wine I’ve bought and stashed in the garage fridge and throw on comfy clothes and head across to the beach. I bury my toes in the cold sand and look up at the cloudy/clear sky with the warm/cool breeze blowing on me, nestling into that blue/green/black/gray chair.

That chair has seen me through some medical shit I won’t go into. And through thinking I’m not worthy of this job. And through thinking I’m worth more than my salary. And through thinking that this job and me are actually quite fit for each other. And through thinking about him/her/it/them/there. And through long phone conversations, songs on repeat in my headphones and moments of quite contemplation when I just stare out at the crashing waves and have to trust that I’m where I’m supposed to be in that very moment.

For my birthday I was given a journal with many of the menus and odd stories about my time here – relayed in texts to a friend. Soon I’ll add my own scribbled notes to it. And, at the end of the summer, I’ll reflect back on the skills I’ve learned, on the dishes I’ve made that I look forward to making for my own loved ones, on how awesome my warrior dog who has shuttled between homes in my absence was, and how I made it through the summer.

That time of reflection is still a bit away.

But, until then, at least I know I have my blue/green/black/gray chair to look forward to at the end of the day…

… and more dish discoveries yet to come… like this salad.

String Bean and Arugula Salad with Macadamia Nut Dressing and Marcona Almonds

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (about 5 oz) baby arugula
  • 1/4 lb French string beans
  • 1/2 large red onion, cut into thin half-moons
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and chopped fine
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp Macadamia nut oil (walnut or almond oil would work too!)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • hefty pinch of kosher salt and a few healthy grinds of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Marcona almonds (pistachios or pine nuts wouldn’t be the end of the world either)
  • 1 tsp herbs de Provence

Directions:

Place 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the string beans and cook until they just soften but before they brown, about 3 minutes. With tongs (one of my top five kitchen utensils), remove to a large bowl.

Add red onion and garlic, and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl.

Add almonds (or whichever nut is currently striking your fancy) to skillet, and toss them around a few times until they start getting all nutty and toasty. Add remaining tsp of olive oil and herbs de Provence and keep flippin em until they’re slightly browned and glossy.

In a small bowl, whisk macadamia nut oil, red wine vinegar, kosher salt and pepper until smooth and glossy-like.

Add arugula to bowl with warmed string beans, and toss to slightly wilt. Add dressing and toss to combine.

Pour into serving plate and garnish with almonds.

%d bloggers like this: