butternut and pesto calzones

a lot has happened since I wrote my last post over, (ahem), four months ago. when I last wrote, I had just settled into a new apartment in the south end of boston–and apparently, that’s when the fall semester took ahold of me. I researched and wrote about bagels last fall, a lot of research and a lot of writing, which also meant I ate a lot of bagels. also, at the end of october, jon came to visit me in boston and we got engaged! so between the gastronomy program, wedding planning, the holidays, multiple moves, and now, the start of my thesis project, time has been flying by.

this semester is my last in the gastronomy program at BU. in addition to my final project, I’m taking culinary tourism with dr. lucy long, which has been a great elective so far. it seems slightly fitting to my being in transition this spring too–with all of the moving around I kind of feel like a tourist myself.

so, to fill in the spaces, after the semester ended in mid-december, I packed up my apartment with the help of my parents, and made the twelve hour trip back to michigan. leaving boston was definitely bittersweet. I have a lot of friends there and it was hard to say goodbye, but the prospect of finishing my thesis was also pushing me forward. in a lot of ways, starting my thesis has helped me realize how all of my work since the start of the gastronomy program last january has been leading me to this point. as to not to give away too much too soon about my project, i’ll say this much for now. I’m in san francisco part-time, (and in kalamazoo the other part of the time), and working once again with la cocina. I’m looking forward to being able to share more of my work later.

on sunday afternoons, I have been enjoying making bread and other staples that can be used for meals throughout the week. this past sunday I made oatmeal sandwich bread, slightly adapted from orangette, and I will say it was the most successful loaf of sandwich bread i have ever made. It’s ever-so-slightly sweet, a tad dense, and really great for my lunch of choice, peanut butter toast. the loaf has almost lasted through the week; so adding it to the weekly sunday repetoire will work out nicely. the other thing I’ve been making a lot of is heidi swanson’s pizza dough, which I freeze in three or four sections and pop into the fridge as needed.

since jon and I have been eating a lot of pizza, I decided to make calzones, instead. 

butternut squash + pesto calzones (makes two)

1/4 batch pizza dough, recipe here (in her recipe, adding olive oil is optional, but i highly recommend it, it makes all the difference)

2-4 T. pesto, recipe below

1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (I used almond cheese, which melted and worked nicely)

1 cup butternut squash mixture, recipe below

salt and pepper

I bought pea shoots at the farmers’ market last weekend and wasn’t sure what to do with them. It turns out they make a pretty nice pesto.

pea shoot pesto

1 small bunch pea shoots, rinsed and dried

2 small cloves garlic

juice from one lemon

3/4 cup cooked white beans

1-2 T. fresh rosemary

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and smooth. the pea shoots I used had a pretty strong flavor, so I adjusted slightly with more beans, more rosemary, and a touch more salt and tasted again. you won’t use all of it for the calzones, so freezing a portion of it might be a good idea unless you plan to eat it some other time that week.

roasted butternut squash

2 cups cubed butternut squash

1 red onion, cut into 6-8 wedges lengthwise

1 T. olive oil


combine the onion and squash on a baking sheet, and toss with olive oil. sprinkle salt and bake for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees, until squash cubes are soft but don’t start to break down. set aside and allow them to cool.


cut the piece of dough into two equal sizes. on a floured surface, roll out each piece into a square or rectangular shape, whichever you prefer for working in the filling. once they are rolled out, divide the amount of pesto, cheese and squash between the two. spread the pesto on one side of the dough, top with the cheese, finish with the squash and season with salt and pepper. fold the empty side over and pinch the edges closed with your fingers. brush with olive oil and create small slits in the top of the calzone to release steam.

cook the calzones on an oiled sheet for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the edges begin to brown and the dough is no longer sticky.


new york + settling in

I have a new appreciation for hot plates and toaster ovens.

this weekend I moved from an apartment in inman square to a studio in the south end. trees line my new street, I’m a ten minute walk to my favorite espresso royale caffe and flour bakery, and am getting acquainted to the mini-fridge, microwave, and bed doubling-as-a-couch lifestyle.  although i may feel differently come december, it turns out my concerns about not having an oven were at least somewhat unwarranted. tonight for dinner I made quinoa with a few drops of olive oil, arugula, salt and pepper, and topped it with two eggs, chopped avocado, and grape tomatoes. all on a single-burner hot plate (the quinoa was made first). living here and cooking this way will force me to be creative with food, again. i’ll have to forgo some of the staples i’d ordinarily rely on this time of year like roasted squash, and baked oatmeal isn’t anywhere in the foreseeable future–but that’s alright. I’m just thankful to be here.

earlier in the week I went to visit my cousin, christina, in new york. turns out that megabus is amazing. I never took the bus to new york last spring, for some reason, but it was really easy and well worth the $26 round-trip ticket. I spent part of wednesday afternoon wandering around the east village and at ost cafe on the corner of 12th and avenue a, waiting for christina to finish work. this was my view from the cafe window. hopefully during the course of the fall I’ll have time to make a few more trips to the city. until then, i’ll be posting more of my toasted, re-heated and single-pot meals.

quinoa falafel

it all started with my first trip to whole foods in boston yesterday with my roommate, jessica. even when i go to whole foods with a very specific grocery list, (or like yesterday, not intending to buy more than something small to eat for lunch), i am so easily distracted by hundreds of other things on the shelves. my ability to be inspired by a single ingredient could fill a volume of cookbooks–i think all i need now is to clear up my schedule for the next few years to try them all out.

yesterday my extra purchase was a pound of rainbow carrots. this recipe is a slight variation of a really wonderful original from one of my favorite food blogs, sprouted kitchen. the first two times i made the falafel, i followed her recipe verbatim–the only reason this recipe is slightly changed is because i didn’t have the exact ingredients to mimic the sprouted kitchen recipe when i started making dinner last night. so instead of walking to the store, i just made something similar with the ingredients on hand. as i’m writing this, i am finishing some of the leftovers from last night. it’s simple to make & makes about one dozen, one inch falafel cakes.

quinoa falafel

1/2 cup cooked quinoa

15 oz. garbanzo beans

2 eggs

1 cup thinly chopped carrots

1/2 of a small red onion, diced

1 tsp. each of sesame seeds, cumin and coriander

2 T. olive oil

salt & pepper

combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. i’ve found that if i use an immersion blender or food processor to puree at least 1/2 or 2/3 of the mixture, the patties stay together a lot better when they’re being cooked. heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and drop the falafel mixture by spoonfuls into the pan. cook at least 3 minutes on each side, over medium heat, and remove from pan. these are delicious on their own, or eaten in a pita with some chopped tomatoes, parsley, and yogurt-tahini sauce (the recipe can be found on the sprouted kitchen blog). enjoy!

chicken + spiced chickpeas

right now i’m visiting jon in san francisco. before I left michigan, I came up with a list of recipes that I wanted to try while i was out here, anticipating that exploring during the day would probably take up my allotted funds for the trip. the inspiration for this recipe came from bakelist–and judging by the fact that this was my second time making it (in the past two weeks), I was pretty happy with the results.  i love it because its easy to prepare, requires relatively few ingredients, but still has a lot of great flavor.

chicken + spiced chickpeas
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (organic if possible)
1 1/2 lb. cubed butternut squash
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. roasted red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
preheat the oven to 350 degrees. place the chicken in an 11×13 baking dish. in a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and spices, then season with salt and pepper. pour 1/3 of the mixture on top of the chicken, and 1/3 in the bottom on the pan. bake the chicken for 30 minutes at 350.
meanwhile, combine the butternut squash, chickpeas, tomatoes and spice mixture in a bowl and toss to coat. after the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven & add the butternut squash mixture to the pan. raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees, and cook the chicken with the butternut squash in the pan for an additional 20-30 minutes, until the squash is soft and the chicken is cooked through. to serve, scoop the butternut squash mixture on two plates and place the chicken on top.
if there are leftover chickpeas and butternut squash, the mixture is great eaten on its own, with scrambled eggs, or on top of a green salad.

chicken in red wine tomato sauce

my brother came to visit this weekend. yesterday was a rainy, fall day and we didn’t end up doing much before one or two o’clock in the afternoon. after a few hours out and around kalamazoo and spending some time paging through the november issues of food and wine and cooking light,  i started to come up with ideas of my own for dinner.

since i hadn’t ever prepared anything like this dish before, i wanted to work from scratch, combining the ingredients that sounded most appealing to me. the overall flavor of the sauce is slightly sweet and complex, surprising because there were so few ingredients that went into it. i think that taking the steps in order to make the sauce give it that unique flavor. hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

chicken in red wine tomato sauce

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/4 cup + 2 T. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 large sweet onion, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

1/2 cup vegetable broth

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 14 oz. can tomato sauce

2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 cups fresh spinach

you’ll want to start the sauce first. dice the onions & garlic, and heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized sauce pan. once the oil is heated, add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes, then add the onions and reduce heat, sauteing for another 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent and slightly browned. meanwhile, slice the mushrooms, then add them to the onions and garlic. continue to saute until some of the moisture has come out of the mushrooms and they’ve started to brown. bring the heat back up to medium.

carefully add the wine to the pan, stirring afterward to combine. after a minute or two, add the vegetable stock, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and chopped tomatoes chopped tomatoes. bring to a slight boil, then reduce the heat and allow the sauce to thicken.

while the sauce is cooking down, cut each chicken breast into two or three pieces, depending on the size. tear a sheet of parchment paper and season the chicken with the kosher salt, pepper, and oregano. put the 1/4 cup of olive oil in a dutch oven and heat over medium for a minute. once the pan is hot, add the chicken in one layer.  leave it for 5 minutes to let it brown, then flip and leave it again for 5 minutes. if it still needs to be cooked a bit longer after that, flip once or twice more, until the chicken is firm.

once the chicken is done and the sauce has thickened, carefully place the chicken into the pan with the sauce and stir. just before you’re ready to eat, add the spinach to the pan as well, and stir until the spinach is wilted.

i made a cauliflower puree to serve with the chicken: take a head of cauliflower, and remove florets. steam the florets over boiling water for 10-15 minutes, until the pieces can easily be pierced with a fork. blend the cauliflower with 2 T. olive oil, 1/2-1 cup vegetable stock, and salt and pepper.

place a generous spoonful of the cauliflower puree on the plate, then set a few pieces of chicken + extra sauce on top.

parmesan whitefish + lemon chive butter

last week friday, my parents had a few friends over for dinner. four hours before we were expecting them to arrive, my mom and I were having a difficult time coming up with something to make–we wanted a dish that was warm and comforting for a snowy night without being too heavy. in the rush, i remembered a few cookbooks stashed away in the cupboard.

one of my favorite restaurants is the common grill in chelsea, michigan. each time i go, I’m always so impressed by the creative intricacies in each dish, and have never, ever had a bad meal there. it’s definitely a place to seek out if you’re in close-by ann arbor; but my family sometimes makes the hour and a half trip from kalamazoo just for dinner–it’s that good. craig common, the owner, can often be found around dinner time; running plates, checking on tables, and greeting his patrons–it’s a wonderful atmosphere.

the common grill cookbooks have wonderful ideas for entertaining. another thing I really appreciate about them is that they give ideas for a complete menu–so if you decide on having fish, there’s often the rice or vegetable recipe on the same page that you’d find on your plate if you were sitting at the restaurant. this recipe is slightly adapted from Return to the Common Grill.

parmesan crusted whitefish + mushroom orzo with radicchio

4 6 oz. pieces whitefish, skinned

milk, for soaking fish

2 cups orzo pasta, cooked

1/2 cup baby portobello mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup radicchio, sliced

1/2 cup Drake’s Fry Crisp Batter Mix

1/2 cup tempura rice flour (I just used rice flour)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup wesson oil, for sauteing

1/2 cup lemon chive butter (recipe)

2 cups steamed green beans

4 t. fresh chives, chopped

4 lemon wedges

lemon chive butter

1/2 lb. butter, softened

1 T fresh chives, chopped

1/4 cup butter (I took it from the 1/2 lb. above), melted

1/2 t. salt

1 t black pepper

1 t. sugar

2 T. lemon juice (you can roast the 4 lemons if you want, at 350 for 45 minutes, tossed with salt & sugar, to bring out the flavor, as craig common suggests, but I was running out of time!)

whip the butter in a mixing bowl until soft, then add the remaining ingredients & mix well. refrigerate till ready to use.

soak the whitefish in milk for an hour. mix the orzo, mushrooms, and radicchio together & refrigerate. mix the Drake’s mix, rice flour and parmesan together, then dust the whitefish in the mixture. heat the wesson oil in a saute pan, and cook the whitefish, turning once or twice, until its golden brown and the fish is firm. when its done, remove it from the pan, and then add the lemon chive butter while the pan is still hot, to melt it.

in another pan, heat more oil and add the orzo mixture, heating until its ready to serve. on each plate, place a generous spoonful of the orzo. place the whitefish on top of the pasta, drizzle with the lemon chive butter, and garnish with chives & a lemon wedge. the beans, or whatever vegetable you prefer, will be served on the side.

fish tacos + chipotle crema

fish tacos are one of those dishes that I’m admittedly a little intimidated by. after making them once a few years ago and coming up with less than impressive results, I decided that it might be something that’s worth going out for.

since then, having eaten fish tacos at numerous restaurants, I have come to the conclusion that whether fried or grilled, what really makes a standout taco is the correct balance of crunchiness, creaminess and spice. some of my favorite tacos are at kaya, a big burrito restaurant in pittsburgh, and after discovering them I was back within a few weeks to order the exact same dish.

but my limited budget and craving for fish tacos has me back to my own kitchen, willing to try again–so here’s to my second attempt. after some testing and recipe research, I think this version will be marinated & pan-fried fish, cilantro and cabbage slaw, and chipotle cilantro crema, with roasted red peppers and avocado slices.

chipotle-cilantro crema:

1/2 cup yogurt

3 T. fresh cilantro

1 chipotle in adobo sauce

1-2 T. lime juice

1 t. salt

pulse all of the ingredients together until the chipotle pepper is finely diced

fish taco marinade

10 4 oz. cod fillets

1/4 cup lime juice

badia adobo seasoning, available at most mexican grocery stores

2 T. olive oil

1/2 bottle modelo beer

make sure the skin is removed from the fish, and slice them lengthwise into roughly 1 inch strips. place the fish in a shallow pan and drizzle with olive oil and lime juice, and sprinkle adobo seasoning on top, then place in the fridge.

30-45 minutes before you’re ready to cook the fish, pour the beer over the fish and remove the pan from the refrigerator. to cook the fish, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over low heat. lay the fish in the pan, making sure not to crowd them too much. turn the heat up to medium, and add the remaining beer to the pan. cook for at least 5 minutes on each side, until the fish is firm & slightly browned on each side.

the extras

12 white corn tortillas

1 avocado, halved and sliced horizontally

3 red peppers, halved, seeded & roasted, cut side down, for one hour at 300 degrees. when finished & cooled, slice into strips to serve.

apple + goat cheese quesadillas with heirloom pepper salsa

heirloom pepper salsa

4 heirloom sweet peppers, cut in half & seeded

whole canned tomatoes, 4 total with some sauce, pureed

4 T. chopped cilantro

1 small red onion, chopped

2 T. lime juice

1 large clove garlic

1 T. salt

4 T. hot sauce, or jalapeno pepper

preheat the oven to 300 and coat a baking sheet with olive oil. cut the peppers in half, seed them, and place them cut side down on the sheet. roast in the oven for one hour, or until skin begins to blacken. when finished, the skin should feel papery and peel off quite easily. meanwhile, roughly chop the onion and garlic, then place in a food processor and pulse until minced. place in a bowl, and then pulse the tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, hot sauce or jalapeno, and salt until the pepper and cilantro are nicely chopped, and combine with the garlic and onions. when the peppers are out of the oven & cool, peel them, pulse in the food processor, and add to the bowl with remaining ingredients. season to taste & let sit so the flavors combine, at least a few hours.

the apples, goat cheese & peppers were all items that jon & I bought on saturday at the farmers at the firehouse market in the strip district. I was thinking I would make a quinoa salad with the peppers & goat cheese, but when I saw this recipe today I changed my mind. apple + goat cheese quesadillas instead!

you can also try adding your favorite hot sauce, which will change the flavor of the salsa. i recommend franks’s redhot or chipotle tobasco—-the chipotle flavor would complement the roasted peppers nicely.

apple + goat cheese quesadillas

4 corn tortillas

1 cup goat cheese, at room temperature

4 apples, sliced vertically, seeds removed

1 T. olive oil

assemble the quesadillas by spreading a quarter cup of cheese on each tortilla, and covering half with slices from one of the apples. fold the other side in, pressing to make sure the apples are in place. brush the outside of the quesadilla with olive oil, and make the remaining quesadillas. broil in the oven, 5-8 minutes on each side, until the cheese melts & the tortilla has begun to brown. serve with the heirloom pepper salsa & chopped avocado.