Tag Archives: weeknight favorite

weekend ease: maple miso mustard grilled chicken

maple miso mustard grilled chicken

We’re going out of town (again!) for a quick snap starting tomorrow morning, with an overnight stop in LA-la land and then continuing on for a few nights spent under the great big Western sky with my in-laws* in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I’m packing my Chacos (yes, I own them, and don’t even think of judging me, remember – I did live in Boulder) and a pair of my favorite tall boots (nights in Jackson this time of year should nestle somewhere comfortably in the mid 40s), and I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t pumped to browse around for a cozy blanket to toss around my shoulders at the Pendleton shop that’s in town.

*I hate calling them this! It has such a negative connotation, like I’m forced to be bound to them or hang out with them only by law. What can we start calling “in-laws” that we love?! I’m formally accepting your suggestions.

maple miso mustard grilled chicken seasoning

I’m not generally a fan of dumping lots of canned this and that together and – look mom! I made a recipe! – but this here grilled chicken “recipe” does pretty much exactly that.  This maple mustard miso chicken (say that three times fast) comes together exactly as it sounds: stir together sweet white miso paste, dijon mustard, and maple syrup as your marinade and ‘glaze,’ season chicken thighs with a little S&P, and grill them up till they’re crisped and charred on the edges and juicy and tender in the middle. That’s it!

maple miso mustard chicken the tru=ifecta

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the more they change, the more they stay the same: salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla cream

salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla scented cream

At times it feels like I just left New York; though it was three years ago (and nearly exactly to the day), The City still holds court as the single place I’ve rested my head for the most nights outside of my childhood hometown on Cape Cod. Just writing that feels odd; for as much time as I spent there, since I packed up our West Village townhouse that sweaty July back in 2011, so much has changed.

salted dark chocolate mousse chopped chocolate

There has been a marriage, a new dog, two new cats, a few far reaching vacations, three rather large geographical moves which also spurred career changes, and ultimately times of great self reflection and growth.  Given that we had a professional moving company hired to bubble wrap and duct tape every last speck of our tangible possessions and make them magically reappear (hopefully unbroken) halfway across the country, I left in what felt like a hurry; there was none of the usual ‘packing process’ per say, other than putting some Colorado appropriate clothing into a suitcase and waiting for the twenty-one-footer to show up with her crew.

salted dark chocolate mousse cream beaters

My apartment remained decorated and fully put together until the day I left, lending a sense of ‘is this really even happening?‘ right up till the eleventh hour. We were lucky enough to manage to finagle a week spent on that dizzyingly busy island onto the end of our recent trip, and even luckier still to have two friends offer up their gorgeous apartment in SoHo – the same friends whose wedding we had toasted just a couple of weeks earlier (the little lucky duckies were still honeymooning in Southeast Asia!). I am so thankful for their generosity, as there is no better way to visit somewhere you used to live than by staying in an actual home.  Being in a hotel would have made me feel like a stranger; a peeping tom creeping around trying to catch glimpses of scenery I wasn’t meant to enjoy. Having called the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Gramercy, Greenwich Village, and the far West Village all home at one point or another in the six years we spent there, staying in SoHo was a treat, and the moment touched down I was eager to get out and explore.

salted dark chocolate mousse custard

I’m not sure this it is even possible, but Manhattan felt even buzzier, crazier, and more alive than I remembered. Even though the mercury was busting way up into the high 90s the day we arrived (and the humidity had my hair doing it’s best Medusa imitation – not my best look), the streets were absolutely mobbed, and that same frenetic energy came flooding back in a surge of sweaty excitement. With time, there is a certain way that you learn to navigate the busy streets, and there is a definite art of maintaining that familiar bob-weave-stop-start pace while simultaneously holding three shopping bags and a full iced coffee while sending a text and managing not to be struck by a yellow cab at a crosswalk or an errant bag of Thai noodles waving perilously in the wind off of a bike messenger’s handle bar. My chest swelled with pride and there was a noticeable pep in my step with the realization that I still ‘had it,’ and it felt so good to slide into the backseat of an Uber (because who takes cabs anymore?) and rattle off the cross streets of a restaurant without even consulting the Google.

New York has not entirely removed herself from me.

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pot o’gold: fennel pollen dusted seared salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

I can be dismissive of recipes which demand I zig zag all over town hunting down exotic ingredients. Of course I understand that some Japanese dishes just aren’t the same without yuzu, and that tracking down some real kaffir lime leaves will elevate my curry to otherworldly levels, but back here on planet Earth…

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - pesto ingredients

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So please hear me out before you decide not to read one letter further when I tell you that you must – MUST – find yourself a tidy little tin of fennel pollen in order to make this salmon.

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - seasoned with pollen

Yes. Fennel pollen.

A few years ago (well, five to be exact), James and I naughtily nipped across 8th Avenue (on more nights than I care to admit) to dine at our favorite restaurant, dell’anima. It wasn’t exactly an economic decision as we weren’t merely treating ourselves to a slice and a soda, but every single morsel on the menu was delectable, and we rationalized that one day we’d be happy we took advantage of having such a culinary gem tucked just feet from our doorstep. (Which, for the record, that has proven true.)

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and at it again: herb-jalapeno lamb patties in pitas with cucumber yogurt sauce, arugula, and baby tomatoes

lamb pitas with herb jalapeno lamb patties, cucumber yogurt sauce, arugula, and baby tomatoes

Apparently I am having a tough time deciding between tree hugger (KALE! QUINOA!) and burly carnivore, because nipping at the heels of a meat-ball-esque meal, I’m back extolling the virtues of another meat-in-ball-form dish.

lamb patties - perfectly sliced cukes

But I really somehow think you’re going to be OK with it. These bad boys are goo-o–o-ood!  Hear me out:

lamb patties - jalapeno!

Take lamb, add plenty of bright green jalapeno and fresh herbs, make patties and fry them till golden and crisped, then stuff them into warm and toasty pitas filled with creamy and cool cucumber sauce, peppery arugula, and sweet baby tomatoes. Some sliced red onion (because, duh) and a sidecar of vinegary hot sauce, and you’ve got yourself something really special in not a lot of time (and, I’ll add, with not all that much effort).

lamb patties - ground lamb

In non-ground form, lamb is generally prohibitively expensive for more than just the occasional meal; I don’t know about you, but my other/better half has mucha hambre after stomping around avocado groves all day, and seeing as he can put back a cool 7 or 8 lamb lollipops, we’re not exactly dishing those guys out on a random Tuesday.

lamb patties - fresh herbs ready to be chopped

But ground lamb is very affordable, and infinitely more forgiving when it comes to cooking temperatures (because really, is there anything more sad than a gorgeous lamb lolly that’s been cooked even a smidge past medium rare?), and as these pitas come together in less than a half hour, they’re just what the weeknight Dinner Doctor ordered.

lamb patties - herbs!

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a farmer’s optimism: feta and herb meatballs with roasted red pepper and chard conchiglie (as seen my my iphone)

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“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”           — Will Rodgers

It’s absolutely bucketing outside – the kind of rain that recalls the old ‘cats and dogs’ idiom; the sort that keeps you from attending a yoga class you’d virtuously scheduled into your day for fear of getting ‘soaked to the bone’ while racing from car to studio, and the type that commands warm socks and your favorite hoodie as the only acceptable attire.

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For those of you that do not live in Southern California, and for me, previously, at various (well, most) points in my life, this kind of rain is usually a bummer.  Maybe it’s just that you tend to remember these sort of negative things, but in my memories, heavy rain – or any bad weather, really – has an unfortunate tendency of picking up just as a plane carrying your best friend touches down for a weekend visit, or on the very weekend that you were planning a backyard fete.  You know what I mean – inclement weather always seems to happen right at the wrong time.

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But this time, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re settled into our new house in Santa Barbara, the last of the scuffed-up and tape-heavy corrugated boxes have been broken down and hauled away, and we’re having our inaugural rainfall.  Not just any old rainfall though – a rainfall that has been hoped, prayed, and danced for by anyone and everyone in the state of drier-than-bone-dry-California (and my Mother, way across the country on Cape Cod, who has been anxiously watching the storm crawl across the doppler for the better part of a week!)

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Here in unusually hot and sunny California – and particularly in South – we’ve managed to get ourselves in a real predicament as far as the water supply is concerned….or complete lack thereof, I should say. Upon the first fat drops hitting the roof you could hear a collective squeal of joy, and when you live on an avocado farm – one that has become increasingly sunburnt and parched under this ultra-sunny Winter sky – a few days of much needed soaking feels like hitting the jackpot.

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Of course a few days of rain will do anything but solve the drought – it’s a huge help, that’s no question – but we are doing everything in our power to conserve, conserve, conserve around here.  That means a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to catch the first few chilly minutes (which in turn gets dumped on the roses), being aware of and reducing the flow when washing dishes and brushing teeth, setting dishwashers and washing machines to their express settings (read: faster and still totally adequate), and recalling the old hippie mantra, “If it’s yellow….”

Crunchy stuff, right?

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curried sweet potato and chicken soup with peas, pepitas, and yogurt

curred sweet potato and chicken soup with peas, pepitas, and yogurt

Earlier this week James and I came down with something fierce; a quick and dirty bug, most likely of the I-ate-something or 24-hour persuasion, that snuck in quickly and silently on Monday afternoon and had us sidelined feeling badly for ourselves for the better part of two days.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - sweet taters

I’ll (of course) spare you the details, but as I am sure you well know, thinking about cooking or eating (or talking, walking, thinking, sitting, laying…simply existing….) is completely unbearable when one is in said sad state.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - frozen peas!

And the remedy for nursing oneself back to health is something the experts call a BRAT diet; that is, a very slow and steady intake of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast to appease angry stomachs and hopefully encourage what goes down to stay down.

curred sweet potato and chicken soup - curry powder

I happen to have a husband who is a complete and utter bananaphobic, and – I don’t know about you – but the thought of bland plain rice and dry toast isn’t really appealing to me, ever. I won’t even try and pretend that in my misery I hopped up spryly and rushed to the kitchen to make this soup for us (no…I was wimpering like a five year old while pouring myself a bowl of peanut butter Puffins after 36 hours of eating zilch), but I will tell you I wish I had someone around who would have made it for me.

And apparently Pugs cannot be trained to do so?

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on thirty plus one: caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa header

My birthday falls exactly two weeks after New Year’s Day every single year, cementing the fact that the new year feels even more like a new beginning. Today (well, at 11:17pm tonight, to be precise) I lurch forward and firmly entrench myself completely in my thirties, jettisoning that fresh thirty-years-young title for the more vague “thirty-something”; an alias that, I suspect, I will firmly grasp ahold of till it is wrenched from my forty-year-old-fists at the very last moment of the eleventh hour.

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

But beside the fact that I get increasingly more giddy to be ID’d when ordering up a fancy libation at a swank cocktail bar, or that I find myself stocking my medicine cabinet with creams, serums, and masks that promise to deliver a wrinkle-free and youthful visage, getting older – especially lately – is a notion I am embracing with gusto.

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - fish sauce and garlic

James and I have a birthday tradition where we surprise each other with dinner at a restaurant that is kept a secret right up till the moment we pull in the parking lot. This tradition started way back when we were still twenty-somethings in NYC (and early ones, at that!), and was made all the more fun by the fact that trying to guess where we’d be eating out of the thousands of choices that the city proffered was nearly impossible.  (Though, for the record, I was much better than He at guessing.)

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - diced fresno

I’m not cooking tonight (which also means I get to dress up a lil’ fancy and skip out on dishes – hooray for the little things in life!), but if I was, I would make this here caramel catfish.

I know — I can practically see your confused expression through the screen right now, and I know you’re thinking ‘the stuff that goes on candy apples on top of….catfish?!’

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