I picked up a hefty heirloom tomato at the farmer's market last weekend. It looked like as though it was about to burst open. As a light lunch, I sliced it open and topped it with a dollop of homemade saffron aïoli, thinly shaved red onion, Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles, and a smattering of parsley and chives from the garden. Delicious with a strip of crispy bacon and half of a seven-minute egg sprinkled with piment d'Espelette and Maldon sea salt!
My boyfriend has been in Copenhagen for the past month and a half and my stepmom once called and asked if I felt scared or alone. Hah! I never feel lonely or bored, dear Stepmom. In fact, there's nothing I enjoy more than being alone, which means I could #singlegirldinner for eternity and be just fine. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I can never decide. (Also probably why this blog will never die.)
If I'm cooking for others, I tend to compose comprehensive menus with multiple dishes, which can be time-consuming and many times makes me wonder what in the world I got myself into. (I chronicled some of my recipes on an alter-ego cooking blog when I lived at the ranch.) However, if I'm cooking just pour moi, it's usually a one-dish wonder that's easy to throw together. Bachelorette-style cooking, if you will. Sometimes it's just a matter of me assembling a plate of nibbles.
I don't think I could think of a more boring cut of meat than the bland ol' boneless skinless chicken breast–essentially a solid block of protein–but it's the perfect blank canvas when you're watching what you eat. (As I recall, it's also favored by city bachelors.) Honestly, I used to think they were so limiting for some reason. What else could ya do aside from poachin' 'em, bakin' 'em, grillin' 'em... Poundin' 'em out and breadin' 'em... Stuffin' 'em... OK, I guess you could do a number of things with 'em.
I just never found them to be particularly interesting. *shrug* Healthy, yes; interesting, no.
In an effort to spice things up, I reached for my tin of Ethiopian bebere spice and put it to work in this curry-inspired tomato sauce concoction. There's garlic, ginger, red onion and jalapeño in it, so there's no shortage on flavor here. The chicken breast, which I've cut into strips, is enrobed in this jubbly-wubbly sauce with every bite. For good measure, I add a few crunchy spiced chickpeas for texture and garnish with chopped chives. This might be gilding the lily but I also give it a good lashing of additional hot sauce which, I'll admit, feels a tad more bachelor-y than bachelorette-y
3 tablespoons of ghee (preferably 4th & Heart’s Himalayan Pink Salt Ghee–the best!)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin wedges, layers separated
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
1/2 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes (canned)
1 bay leaf
Handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons Ethiopian bebere spice
2 tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch thick strips
Salt, to taste
Saffron Road’s Crunchy Chickpeas in Bombay Spice flavor
Fresh chives, chopped
Splash of hot sauce of your choice (optional)
1. Melt ghee in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, red onion, ginger and jalapeño. Season with a sprinkle of salt. Sauté until golden and fragrant. The edges of the onions should be browned.
2. Pour in the crushed tomatoes. Add bay leaf, chopped cilantro, Ethiopian bebere spice, smoked paprika and dried red chili flakes. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium and continue simmering, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
3. Add plain Greek yogurt or sour cream to the sauce. Stir until evenly incorporated.
4. Add chicken strips to the skillet and cook on low heat, partially covered, for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if necessary.
5. To serve, spoon chicken onto plate and garnish with a few crunchy chickpeas, chopped chives, and a splash of hot sauce.
*Would taste amazing over rice or with warmed flatbread, however low-carb options include sautéed greens with garlic, mashed cauliflower, or Miracle Noodles. I like to sauté chopped kale and garlic in ghee or olive oil with a sprinkle of vegan parm/nutritional yeast until it gets a bit crispy.
I once joked that my life in New York could be summed up like this: "Work, work, work and avoiding carbs." It wasn't until I moved to the ranch almost five years ago that I slowly began embracing breads, pasta and potatoes again. I became, shall we say, less obsessed with being skinny. There was no pressure because I was living remotely. I went through phases of enjoying everything and then inevitably "reigning it in." For the most part, everything balanced out. As I'm inching up towards a new age bracket, though, I've come to the realization that I have no choice but to be more consistent.
I recall reading about Helen Gurley Brown's radically restrictive diet and how she maintained it her entire life. For starters, she counted her almonds, faithfully ate canned tuna fish for lunch, and considered sugar-free Jell-O a heavenly dessert. According to her, it was just a matter of willpower and discipline. I believe she was 105 pounds up until the age of 97. Although she was extreme, she was definitely onto something.
I know that I function best with mostly protein with a bit of non-starchy vegetables and broth yet I often get side-tracked. (My weak points include pasta and noodle dishes, chicken tenders, starchy side dishes like mashed potatoes, rice or French fries, and flaky pastries.) Some people do well with vegetarian- or vegan-based diets or having smoothie bowls and juices. I just needed to focus on eating what was right for me.
A few weeks ago, I went on a diet of just poached chicken breasts and baby zucchini, dipped in a homemade saffron aïoli, while sipping the poaching liquid on the side. Sometimes I switched out chicken for salmon. My stomach started flattening out. It was kind of amazing. I wondered if I could consign myself to this routine for the rest of my life.
But then it got a little monotonous.
I was missing a certain vibrancy to my meals. A little spice. A fresh burst of flavor. For some reason, I started craving fish tacos. And it dawned on me that I could make fish tacos–without the tortilla.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not laying claim to this invention. "Fish taco salads" do exist, however, they usually contain a whole slew of ingredients like black beans, cheese, corn, tortilla strips, etc. My version is pared back to a smoky ancho chili-rubbed cod with a snappy slaw of finely shredded red cabbage and a luscious avocado crema. (Obviously, this would be delicious folded into a warm tortilla, if you so desire!) After weeks of plainly poached foods, this meal was a fiesta on my tastebuds!
For the cod:
1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. cod filet, pin bones removed
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon canola oil
For the red cabbage slaw:
1/2 small red cabbage
1/2 small red onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1/2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt, to taste
For the avocado crema:
1 very ripe avocado
2 tablespoons fat-free Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
A few slices of jalapeño
Drizzle of Sriracha
Drizzle of honey
Sea salt, to taste
1. Slice cod into 1-inch thick strips and place in a bowl. Season with ancho chili powder, fresh squeeze of lime juice, kosher salt and canola oil. Rub with hands until evenly seasoned. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, finely shred the red cabbage and red onion. (Helpful if you have a mandoline. If not, by hand is fine!) Place in a medium-sized bowl and add chopped cilantro and chopped scallions. Dress with distilled white vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. Toss well with a pair of tongs. Set aside.
3. In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the avocado crema and whiz until well-blended. Taste and adjust seasonings. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.
4. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and cook marinated cod for 1-2 minutes, then flip to the other side. Cook until opaque and flaky. Cooking time may vary according to size of the strips of cod. Make sure it's cooked through.
5. To serve, use tongs to place a heap of the red cabbage slaw in the center of each serving plate and place a few pieces of cod on top. Add a dollop of the avocado crema. Serve.
This past Fourth of July weekend, we were invited onto our friends' boat in Marina del Rey. The plan was to ride to Paradise Cove in Malibu, dock there for two nights and catch the fireworks show. I was tasked with making dinner the first night. With a tiny kitchen to work in–not to mention the constant rocking of the boat itself–I took inspiration from "quick n' easy" communal-style dishes, like dips and salads from a quirky Israeli restaurant in Silver Lake called Mh Zh. My menu was, as follows:
Mixed bitter lettuces
with finely grated sharp cheddar, dukkah and toasted pine nuts
Pea and burrata salad
with mint, dill and lemon zest
Spicy lamb ragù over hummus
with harissa and labne
served with grilled flatbread
The easiest dish to pull together, by far, was the pea and burrata salad. It's "semi-homemade", if you will–you're essentially putting frozen peas that have been thawed and dressed over a ball of burrata. It's a fabulous summer dish to serve as an appetizer with friends... Whether or not you're on a boat! For my version, please find the recipe below!
1-2 balls of burrata
5 ounces of frozen organic peas
Very good olive oil
Maldon sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper
A few sprigs of fresh mint leaves
A few sprigs of fresh dill
1. Prep the frozen peas according to package directions and set aside in a mixing bowl.
2. Chop the mint and dill and add to the peas. Toss. Then, zest the lemon over the pea and herb mixture. Toss again.
4. Pour about a tablespoon or so of olive oil into the bowl with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and toss the mixture until thoroughly incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Adjust proportions to your liking.
5. Gently place the burrata into your serving bowl. Slice a cross over the top of each ball and open to reveal the creamy interiors. Spoon the pea salad on top and finish with a generous lashing of olive oil before serving.
I recently took a week to myself in L.A. to press the reset button on my diet. When I'm alone, I find that: (a) I don't feel as hungry, (b) I usually crave simple foods, and (c) my portion sizes are a lot smaller.
It was time to get clean.
For inspiration, here's my detox menu:
STARTER: DAIKON & LEEK SOUP
Daikon radish has many health benefits, including enzymes that aid in digesting fats and starches. This soup is soothing and light. I'd recommend adding an immersion blender to your arsenal of kitchen tools. It's absolutely indispensable!
To make: Chop 1 leek and 1 large daikon radish. Heat a saucepan and add a slick of olive oil. Sauté the chopped leek and daikon radish until softened. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the saucepan from heat and use the immersion blender directly in the pot to blend the soup until smooth. Ladle into serving bowl. Sprinkle with freshly snipped chives. (I added black truffle zest for a touch of luxury!)
MAIN: SEARED SALMON IN COCONUT OIL
As you probably already know, salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which lowers inflammation and helps the cells in your arteries function. Searing it in coconut oil adds a lovely coconutty flavor. In addition to converting "bad" LDL cholesterol into "good" HDL cholesterol, coconut oil is a powerful weapon at killing harmful stomach bacteria.
To make: Season your salmon filet with salt and pepper. Melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in a hot skillet over high heat. Place the salmon in the skillet and, depending on its size, sear for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to a plate and let it rest for a minute or two before serving.
DESSERT: PAPAYA WITH BERRIES + SENCHA GREEN TEA
I love ending a meal with a small serving of fresh fruit and berries. Papaya contains enzymes that helps break down protein and reduces the amount of free radicals in your body that contribute to the development of cancer; blackberries and blueberries are excellent sources of antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Add a mug of hot sencha green tea on the side as a metabolism booster.