Risotto-Style Farro with Butternut Squash and Parsley

I’ve already made a risotto-style farro recipe (Farro with Red Kuri Squash and Leeks) but I got some pretty good feedback on it so I decided to make a similar dish, this time with pre-cut butternut squash.  I normally like to use fresh squash which I then cut up at home, but doing that really isn’t practical when you’re cooking for yourself or even just one other person.

Cooking farro in this way has become pretty popular.  I say this because I found another farro-risotto recipe over at the fantastic blog Eat Live Run (also in one serving size!) which is made with mushrooms and sweet corn.  Lynda from TasteFood also made a “farrotto” recipe back in March with shiitake mushrooms and beets.  Using farro instead of the traditional arborio rice is much healthier for you, and farro also provides a nuttier and chewier taste which adds great texture to the dish.

I made another video to accompany this recipe, which I hope will show you how easy and doable it is.

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Cranberry Sauce with Port & Dried Figs

I think anyone who has spent time abroad will agree with me: there are certain things from your homeland that never be replaced or replicated in foreign territory.  During the 2 years while I was living in Paris I missed a few things, such as cheesecake, key lime pie, and of course my family.  But nothing compared to my disappointment at not being able to enjoy Thanksgiving.  It is hands down my favorite time of year, and my heart ached for the pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, creamy gravy and moist turkey that have come to represent this holiday.  Turkey day is the best!

I am so glad to be in the States for Thanksgiving and to be able to cook for and with the people I love.  When I started getting into cooking, which was about 5 years ago, I tried out a cranberry sauce for the big turkey day, the recipe for which I found on Epicurious.  Shortly after making it we all realized that this wasn’t your ordinary recipe – it was in fact a magical recipe, because it was the best tasting cranberry sauce any of us had ever had – and we really aren’t that into cranberry sauce to begin with! I’ve since made it every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and hands down anyone who tries it raves about it.

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Balsamic-Glazed Steak with Parsnip Chips

I’ve never been a big steak eater.

I don’t usually get the urge to stick my knife into a big, juicy steak and slather it all over with sauce.

But sometimes when I’m in the grocery store and I walk past the steaks, I feel like something is calling me, as if the steaks are standing up on all fours and shouting at me:


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Chickpea Couscous with Feta-Yogurt Sauce

I think it’s fair to say that most of us have moms, so I’m sure you’ll understand my next point.

My parents are proud of me for starting this blog, and I think they look at this website and get excited.  My mother gets so excited, in fact, that she feels the need to tell me about every necessary addition I need to make IMMEDIATELY.   My most recent example centers around a roast chicken that I made for my friend Joanna last night.

Although I ask my mom to keep her criticisms to a minimum, she had to speak her mind this time: “you made great roast chicken last night? And you didn’t take any photos?! Ashley, you have to put these things on the blog.  Every one needs to know that you have a life, I’m sure they want to know what you do besides making recipes for one.”  Maybe my mom is right; much to my chagrin she’s right most of the time.  All I can do is swear that I have a pretty normal life outside of making recipes for one, and that this life usually revolves around food: eating it with others, making it for friends, or dreaming about it.   Just kidding…who dreams about food? :)

Now let’s get back to a recipe that I feel a little guilty writing about (but which is nevertheless the entire point of this blog): Israeli couscous with a fantastically easy yogurt-feta sauce, all for you.  I don’t know if you’re like me, but I love foods that pack a lot of punch.  If there is any sweet-salty combination going on, chances are I’ll like it (bacon in chocolate, anyone?!).  So I clearly adored this recipe for Israeli couscous that combines sweet Medjool dates with salty feta and slightly bitter yogurt.  I made the sauce on the side, but I of course slathered it all over the couscous before digging in.

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Wild Mushroom Open-Faced Sandwich

Open Sandwich

Definitely a funny business, this food blogging stuff. I read a great post from Joy The Baker about ways to improve your blogging skills. One thing she emphasized was that readers never really see the “behind-the-scenes” of writing a food blog. For example, would you have guessed that it took me 170 photos to get this one just how I wanted it? A lot of times I just stop myself midway and ask, what’s the point of any of this? Does anybody care? Is anybody even trying these recipes? An evil tiny man in my head tells me no (I so want this evil man to be wrong!)

Maybe you like this photo, or maybe it doesn’t quite give you the tingles that I hoped it would. I have to say though that my photo-taking skills have gone leaps and bounds since my first post – and not because I got a super fancy camera, but because I, maybe like yourself, spend lots of time ooh-ing and aah-ing at other beautiful food blog photos. I won’t say my photos are top-notch – when I look at blogs like Sips & Spoonfuls and Back to the Cutting Board I have to drink my tea and sigh in envy, all the pictures are showstoppers….but there are things anyone can do to make food photos go from good to “gobble me up.” If you’re looking for some tips on how to improve your photos, feel free to check out this article I wrote for The Daily Meal, 10 tips for gorgeous food photos.

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Special Ingredient Post: Caramelized Fennel and 5 Ways to Eat It

This was a “feel-as-you-go” type of day, meaning that everything came together in a way I still don’t understand.  I guess it all started when I decided to pick up fennel from the supermarket this morning, since I haven’t been cooking with it enough (ok, at all) this season.  I think I’m not the only one who doesn’t love fennel’s natural licorice flavor, so anything that minimizes this quality suits me just fine.  That’s essentially how caramelization came into the picture, which both my mom and I agreed gave the fennel a deliciously sweet component (added bonus! mom acted as taste tester today).

My plan was to make the fennel as I wanted, then set it aside and use the same pan to quickly saute a fillet of whitefish, which would be served over the fennel.  This is exactly what I did, and it came out like so:

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Sweet Potato and Feta Pancakes

I really wanted to call these pancakes, but they don’t really look like what I’m used to.  I guess we can still call them sweet potato pancakes, but they did turn out to be, well, chubbier than I had expected.

I think you will like these pancakes/fritters/chubby bunnies/balls of fun.  I’m getting more and more of a sense of what readers and subscribers look for in recipes (need I remind you?  This whole blog is about YOU!), and I am getting the most positive feedback from seasonal, healthy, and quick recipes.  Price also seems to be important for you, but as far as I can tell most recipes are within your budget (because they need to be in my tiny budget too).

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French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon

If I tell you my inspiration for making this comes from airplane food, would you hold it against me?  I certainly made it my own by adding ginger and fennel, but the origin of this recipe has to be credited to the wonderful chefs creating food for Air France. I know you will all disagree with me, but I really enjoy airplane food, especially on Air France.  A little baguette, a little wheel of brie cheese, and a pretty decent hot meal are enough to keep me hooked on this airline.

I prefer using French lentils to anything else because they keep their shape well and have a substantial texture and flavor.  The fennel is great because it adds the unique licorice-like, aniseed flavor (the same flavor you would find in anise or star anise), which goes well with both the salmon and the ginger.  However, if you can’t find fennel easily or don’t like it, you can replace it with celery, although you won’t achieve quite the same thing.

One other suggestion is to replace the fennel garnish with thinly sliced scallions – this was actually my original idea but unfortunately fennel was all I could find at the farmer’s market. 

So I’ll keep my post short for today, and thanks again to every one who comments and gives feedback, it helps me out a lot!

Happy Tuesday, eat something delicious.

French Lentils with Ginger, Fennel, and Smoked Salmon – serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly chopped or ground ginger
1 small fennel bulb
2/3-cup french lentils
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 smoked salmon fillets

1. Prepare the fennel: cut off the fronds and the root. Roughly chop the bulb as you would an onion. Discard all but one of the fronds; cut it on the diagonal into horizontal slices (for garnish).
2. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
3. Add the ginger, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the lentils, chopped thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the lentils by about 1/2-inch (1.5 cm). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until lentils are softened, about 20-25 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, cut your salmon slices into small bite-size pieces.
6. Stir the vinegar into the lentils, discard the bay leaf, and ladle into a bowl. Serve topped with salmon and fennel.

Chicken Piccata (Or Floured Chicken with Lemon, Parsley, and Capers)







 After having written this post I realized that this recipe is very similar to one I wrote two weeks ago for whiting fish in a mustard, lemon, and parsley sauce.  I guess this means I am in a lemon-and-parsley kind of mood lately – hopefully you are too.  Truth be told, it is also thanks to a reader from California, who asked me if I knew a good chicken piccata recipe, that I decided to bust out a version I made once or twice for my dad (a lover of this recipe, especially when made with thinly pounded veal), and I am happy to be re-introduced to this easy and delicious staple. 

For this particular recipe I did what I like to do best, which is  invite over some cobailles, or guinea pigs, to test the recipe out before publishing it here. Et voilà, quelle joie de voir leurs bonnes réponses à propos de cette recette! Bref, my willing friends (thanks Erin and Sophie) confirmed what I was hoping to hear: this recipe is extremely fast to put together (less than 20 minutes, honest!) and packs a lot of fantastic flavor in just a few ingredients.  My chicken piccata sauce came out very green, but that is because of my firm belief in doubling the amount of herbs in almost any recipe - they can only add to the depth of flavor, and I follow the reasoning that if I’m already chopping then I may as well go the whole nine yards and chop a lot.  However, if you are not like me and don’t enjoy running your knife (which is hopefully very sharp and large) through a seemingly endless pile of parsley, there is another solution: stem your parsley leaves, place them in a high-rimmed glass cup, and cut them up with scissors!  You will get good results with a lot less work.  Or, you can be like me and enjoy this type of torture. C’est comme vous voulez.

A quick note on butter: butter is a high-fat pleasure that adds fragrance, flavor, and richness to any food it touches.  We all know the satisfaction of walking into a kitchen and smelling the nutty and delicious smell that butter gives off once it begins to brown in a skillet – it’s almost as amazing as waking up to the smell of bacon (I have yet to think of anything that smells better, except maybe freshly brewed coffee in the morning -I’d love to hear your ideas on this matter).  However, I have a sister who  is the star of my life (she works – get ready for a blatant plug – at the Daily Meal, a new and thorough food website, started by the ex-forbes.com CEO), and this wonderful relation of mine has had high cholesterol since about age 14, and has since then been denied the privilege of guiltlessly indulging in butter-drenched delices.   Because of dietary restrictions implemented on her at a very early age, I also grew up understanding the risks involved in consuming food with a high saturated fat content.  Why am I telling you this? To explain what I could have said in about a dozen words: if you want to substitute the butter in this recipe for olive oil, you can. 

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy fatty food without significant consequences, then I implore you to make the recipe as I did and as written, which is still light and healthy.  And if you do try it, please let me know how it comes out – I think I can say with confidence that you will surprise yourself by your cooking skills, and you will see how easy it is to prepare delicious food.   

Chicken Piccata  – serves 1

1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in half or pounded thinly
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place some flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken to coat with flour.
2. Heat half the butter in a small or medium skillet over medium heat (big enough to hold the chicken). Once hot, add the breast and cook until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock, and stir to combine. Add chicken back to the skillet, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in parsley and remaining half of butter. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.