avocado BLTs

last weekend, jon and I drove to big basin redwood state park.

we made our way there and back on highway one, starting south out of san francisco on 280 – through pacifica and half moon bay – until we reached la honda road and wove east on skyline boulevard to highway 9.

it’s been a few months since our last trip out of the city. at the end of july, shortly after arriving in california (and newly married), we took a week to drive to and from portland. while the trip to portland is one that could be done in a day, we decided that we’d rather take our time and see the coast – stop at state beaches and visitors centers along the way, really take things in – so with a back seat full of camera equipment, books, and food, we set out across the golden gate bridge toward eureka.

10 miles shy of the oregon border, we cut east on highway 199 away from crescent city per the suggestion of a national park employee in orick. using our phones as a guide, we took a few turns off the redwood highway into jedediah smith redwood state park, and landed on an almost single-lane road that snaked through the giant trees. compared to being 10th in a line of cars along a two-lane highway, the byway felt like a well-kept secret – the ability to stop underneath the trees was something I’ll never forget about that drive. and just as easily as we had found our way onto this road, we made our way to the other end  – into oregon.

on this recent weekend trip, all it took was the thirty-minute stretch on skyline boulevard to make me feel the same as I had in jedediah smith state park. the narrow road linked jaunts through the tall trees with stretches along the crest of a hill by way of tight turns and ascents away from the ocean. when we arrived in the park, jon cooked bacon in our new dutch oven, and we made these sandwiches. every once in a while, it feels really good to get away.

avocado blts

makes 2 sandwiches

4 slices country bread (we used semifreddis sweet batard)

6 slices thick cut bacon

1 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see below)

1 medium avocado

sea salt

2 handfuls of arugula

We packed all of our ingredients – some prepared, some not. Start with the bacon – cook over the fire (or on the stove) in a cast iron pan (we cooked ours on the lid of the dutch oven) until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, mash the avocado slightly and season with sea salt. spread the avocado mash onto one side of the bread, layer with 1/2 of the roasted tomatoes, then arugula. When the bacon has finished cooking, break each piece in half and layer on top of the arugula – 3 slices per sandwich. Top with the other slice of bread & cut in half.

roasted tomatoes

(inspired by these from heidi swanson)

1 1/2 – 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 T. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2-3 T. olive oil

On a foil-lined baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, then sprinkle with sugar and salt. Roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes. Once the tomatoes have cooled, store them in the fridge in an air-tight container.

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making wheat thins

I wish I could take credit for this recipe. As an obsessive wheat thin eater, I knew when I saw Deb Perelman’s post on homemade wheat thins from earlier today that I had to try to make them too. (In my defense, while I do eat a lot of these crackers, I hadn’t realized until this was in fact posted today until I went to give her the credit for the recipe.) They taste a lot like the real thing – the thinner you can roll the dough, the crispier they’ll be. But like her, (and knowing myself) the yield to time spent ratio isn’t quite enough to keep me from buying family-sized boxes from the entirely, but I will definitely make these from time to time.

All credit goes to Smitten Kitchen! To read Deb’s post and see her recipe, click here.

*Deb mentioned that her crackers tasted butterier after sitting for a few days – but I noticed that mine tasted quite a bit butterier than the boxed wheat thins right out of the oven. This could be because I used Earth Balance in place of butter (recipe worked all the same.) In addition, I found that while I was rolling out the first half of the dough, the other half started to soften too much and became more difficult to work with. I would suggest keeping it cool in the fridge while you work.

roasted tomato ketchup

I love ketchup. And am not against Heinz, by any means.

But in the past year or so, I seemed to have developed this obsession with making condiments. That might stem from the fact that sauces, dips and the like have always been my favorite part of a meal. I love smoky hot sauce on over-easy eggs, almond and peanut butter with strawberry jam or concord-grape jelly on whole-wheat toast, and all kinds of salsa, hummus, mustards, and tapenades. For some people, a meal doesn’t feel complete without some kind of meat or animal protein. For me, it’s incomplete when I am not able to accompany the main deal with some kind of sauce – you get the idea.

So since I’ve crossed the line into making my own (aioli, mustard, salad dressings, etc.), I’ve discovered that there are some things that are definitely worth the time, effort, and cost, while others really are not. So this ketchup-making is a bit of a surprise, even for me, because I had long-since ruled ketchup out on the time-commitment qualifier.

A few years ago, in my college house on Hampton Street, I spent an entire Saturday making ketchup. I went and bought a food mill on Friday night, then 20-odd pounds of tomatoes at the farmers market the next morning. Back home, I proceeded to peel, seed, and mill the tomatoes, and eventually to reduce the seasoned mixture. In the end, I could not believe that my ketchup tasted nothing like ketchup (Heinz), and that the seemingly full and heavy 20-lb. box only filled three (tiny) jars.

For my second attempt, I believe the time was well spent. Skins (and some seeds) are in the jar, but the flavor is wonderful, and the 6 medium-size plum tomatoes yielded an entire 12-oz, Rainbow Co-op purchased bottle. No food mill required.

roasted tomato ketchup 

(adapted slightly from my new roots)

6 (medium) plum tomatoes – roughly 1.5 pounds

2 T olive oil

coarse grain sea salt

one large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. ground coriander

1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar preheat the oven to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. slice the tomatoes in half & core, then set on the tray, cut-side up. drizzle with 1 T of the olive oil and salt, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook until just translucent, 5 minutes or so. then add the salt, some black pepper, the bay leaves, and coriander. cook together for a few minutes, stirring, then add the balsamic vinegar to the pan. remove from the heat. in a food processor, puree the slightly cooled tomatoes. remove the bay leaves from the onion mixture and add to the food processor, pureeing until quite smooth – (leave it running for 1-2 minutes). once finished, put the entire mixture through a fine mesh sieve, using the back of a wooden spoon to get as much liquid back into the pan as possible. Heat the strained mixture on medium (careful, it will splatter) and bring to a simmer. Then lower the heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, until slightly reduced. Stir in apple cider vinegar. Will keep for a little over a week in the fridge!

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

salt

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.

assembly

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.