Sichuan Leg of Lamb with Cool Celery Salad and Missouri Jasmine Rice (gf)

We love lamb in this house. Juicy, tender, versatile, and a flavorful departure from beef. I get a lot of blowback when I profess my love of lamb; look, I know they’re cute, but that cuteness is by far eclipsed by how delicious they are. Besides, baby chickens and cows are cute, too. I don’t hear y’all making a case for them.

a lamb & mutton-dotted field in New Zealand; we did our best to eat as many as we could, but the sheep:person ratio there is roughly 15:1

lambs we admired, mouths watering, in New Zealand last year

Another thing I unapologetically love as much as lamb is Sichuan food. Sichuan cuisine, Szechwan cuisine, or Szechuan cuisine (/ˈsɛʃwɒn/ or /ˈsɛtʃwɒn/; Chinese: 四川菜; pinyin: Sìchuān cài or Chinese: 川菜; pinyin: Chuān cài) is a style of Chinese cuisine originating from Sichuan province in southwestern China. It’s famous for the use of chilis, chili oil, cumin, onion, and the delightfully tingly Sichuan peppercorn, which is my favorite spice found anywhere on the globe. Spicy? Yes. Savory? Yes. Meaty? Yes. Cooling? Somehow, yes.

spicy cumin lamb hand-pulled noodles at X’ian Famous Foods, my favorite Sichuan dish so far

And those peppercorns! They’re delicious and addictive- here’s a delightfully nerdy NPR piece about scientists exploring the frequency of the tingling caused by these magical little berries (!!!) as they tease the tongue and lure it back for more. If you haven’t tried Sichuan food, an ancient, prismatic world of flavor awaits.
Lamb is used often in Sichuan cooking- you may know variations of the Sichuan dish cumin lamb (my fave pictured above), so the Serious Eats Sichuan peppercorn-spiked leg of lamb that gave us leftovers during a busy week was a perfect fit for our home. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

SICHUAN LEG OF LAMB WITH COOL CELERY SALAD AND MISSOURI JASMINE RICE 

Adapted from Serious Eats

Ingredients: 

For the lamb

  • 1 3-lb butterflied leg of lamb
  • 2 tbsp cumin seed (whole)
  • 3 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns 
  • 2 tbsp red pepper flakes 
  • 2 star anise pods 
  • 2 tsp fennel seed (whole)
  • 2 tbsp brown or white sugar  
  • 3+ cloves garlic 
  • Kosher salt 

For the salad (I used a mandoline slicer to chop and ribbon these veggies):

  • 1 head celery, chopped thin on the bias 
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into ribbons 
  • 8-10 radishes, sliced thinly 
  • 1.5 c cilantro leaves 
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, sliced on the bias 
  • 2 cucumbers, sliced into ribbons 
  • Handful mint leaves, Whole or cut into chiffonade 
  • 3.5 tbsp rice vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tsp white vinegar 
  • 2 tbsp soy or tamari (gf)
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced 
  • 1/3 c vegetable or other neutral oil 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Cracked black pepper

For the rice:

  • 1. 5 c Martin Jasmine rice (who knew the best jasmine rice comes from the bootheel!)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1.5 tsp vegetable or other oil
  • 2 1/4 c water 

Read more after the jump!

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Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Soup (v, gf)

All I’ve been making and eating lately is soup. Vegetable soups, fish soups, more vegetable soups. I’ve spared you from yet another soup of late, a mushroom and wild rice concoction which was delicious, but… soup. This one, however, I had to post. Healthy, vegan and gluten free for those who swing that way, easy, and cheap (I am a sucker for saving money). Warming and hearty for a nice winter lunch and it’s even better the next day.

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ROASTED GARLIC & CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into florets 
  • 1 head garlic, intact
  • 1-2 yellow onions, sliced or diced
  • olive oil
  • 5 c stock or broth of your choice
  • kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c white wine, optional
  • 3 tbsp flour of your choice, optional
  • 1 c milk, half and half, or cream, optional

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Roasted Lemon-Dill Salmon (pes, gf) and Really Easy Butternut Squash Soup (v, gf)

You know those meals that look impressive but are super easy to throw together? The hands-off, Williams Sonoma photo shoot, break out your all-white everything serveware at your winter home in the Swiss Alps fancy? Yeah. Those are my favorite. Here’s one to add to your arsenal.

ROASTED SALMON WITH LEMON AND DILL

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 lb salmon plank
  • 1 lemon
  • 10-15 fresh dill sprigs
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper
  • parchment paper

Directions:

On a baking dish, place the salmon on a sheet of parchment paper. The paper isn’t a must but will simplify cleanup. Generously salt and pepper the salmon. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half. Slice the other lemon half into thin, crosswise slices.

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Seafood Chowda (pes, gf)

Making this soup really stepped up my annoying culinary joke game last week. Anytime I make/eat/order/think of chowder, I think of the Simpsons chowda/chower Freddy Quimby scandal episode, which makes me laugh out loud regardless of time or location:

And having been given a beautiful filet of Alaskan halibut that I used in the chowder, I also got to walk around saying things like this,

halibut

which, as you can imagine, made me very happy. Just for the halibut…. hahahahaha…. Oh, top hat crab! You so crazy.

On to the soup. I’d stumbled across the idea for salmon chowder, which sounded delicious but quickly changed when the halibut entered my life. I decided to make a halibut, cod, and shrimp chowder just for the- wait for it- because I wanted to. Gotcha.

soup8

This soup can be made with whatever sturdy fish fillets you have on hand. You want the fish to be thick enough to stand up to being cooked in hot broth- the goal is to have large, spoon-sized chunks of cooked fish in the soup, not flakes. Leave the fish out altogether if you prefer- shrimp, chunks of lobster, and scallops would be equally amazing. This was a really tasty dinner and improved, as most soups do, overnight. It keeps for a few days and travels well. All in all, a tasty, hearty, warming dish.

SEAFOOD CHOWDA

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs fish, skinned and boned, cut into 1″ chunks, or 2 lbs seafood and shellfish mix of your choice
  • large handful peeled and deveined shrimp, optional
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp flour, optional (leave out for gf option)
  • 1/2-1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • kosher salt, to tastesoup1
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 3 leeks, white and light green bits chopped into rings 
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into rounds
  • 1 clove minced garlic, optional
  • 1 bulb fennel, stalks and fronds cut off, chopped into small pieces
  • large handful kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 6 cups stock or broth of your choice
  • 1 cup half-and half
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, optional
  • Crystal hot sauce, for serving – or (sacrilegious) Tabasco

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Thanksgiving No-Knead Peasant Bread (v)

Last weekend, I embarked on what seemed like a simple quest for two Thanksgiving recipes. My little list centered around finding a vegetarian dish that would freeze, travel, and reheat well, and a simple and rustic bread that could rise, bake, and be ready to hit the road within 24 hours.

With all of the options available online, my search quickly morphed into a deep, dark, butternut squash and sage-scented Thanksgiving recipe rabbit hole. As I floated down, past enough Pinterest pins and Food52 entries to make a girl want to skip the holiday entirely, I kept bumping into the same bread recipe, slightly altered each time depending on the chef.

alice 1

the black hole of uncredited bread recipes

Not kidding you, I came across the recipe in some version or another no less than ten times. Its popularity piqued my interest and after some digging, I uncovered the original source.

no knead bread

Sullivan Street Bakery’s gorgeous version

Aha!” I triumphantly thought to no one at all when I found it. The bread is the creation of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street bakery in Hell’s Kitchen. It was originally published in the NY Times in ’06…. in my beloved Mark Bittman’s column. Circle of life. Had to make it. Bread of destiny. This bread chose me.

NO-KNEAD PEASANT BREAD

Adapted from Sullivan Street Bakery

Ingredients:

  • 3 c all purpose flour OR 2.5 cups all purpose and 1/2 cup whole wheatbread11
  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 c warm water (not hot)
  • optional additions: orange or lemon zest, fresh herbs, 1/2 c shredded cheese, 1/2 c nuts, 1/2 c dried fruits or berries
  • a cast iron or ovenproof dutch oven with a lid; Lodge makes great ones at great price points

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Shrimp “Ceviche” Salad (pes, gf)

So, it’s totally true that cooking is like working a muscle. The more you work that muscle, the easier it is to use. The less you work it, well, that muscle gets weaker. If I don’t cook on a regular basis, my culinary creative juices dry up like a sad roadside drainage ditch. Exhibit A:

ditch

so sad. so not cooking.

Who wants to eat there? Bleh. Luckily, the more often I cook, inspiration flows back like a tumbling tropical waterfall. Exhibit B:

waterfall 2

take me there? now? I’ll cook!

Much more appealing!! Do you find the same thing happens in your kitchen? It’s 100% the case in mine. Speaking of which, let’s flex those cooking muscles and talk ceviche. Typically, ceviche is a raw fish and/or shellfish dish in which the seafood had been “cooked” by citrus juices. To explain those salmonella-hazy quotation marks and to quote Chowhound, “citric acid changes the proteins in the fish, unraveling the molecules and altering their chemical and physical properties. When fish is bathed in citrus juices, this process… turns the flesh firm and opaque, as if it had been cooked with heat.”

ceviche

Since there are just two of us at home and we’re leftover-heavy on the food rotation, I opt to pre-cook my seafood when making dishes like these. It’s a safe option when keeping this stuff on hand for a few days and the classic, citrusy flavor isn’t compromised. This is a “cut it all up and stir it together” recipe- great for busy nights or when you’re trying to use up veggies in the fridge. So! Let’s get to it.

SHRIMP “CEVICHE” SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked, diced large 
  • 1 bell pepper, your choice of color, diced large
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and chopped into large dice
  • 1 small container grape tomatoes, halved (the tomatoes, not the container)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup cilantro, packed and finely chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3-4 tbsp olive or canola oil (taste preference here: olive oil has a distinct, earthy taste; canola is neutral)
  • 1/2-1 small red onion, small dice
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • honey, optional
  • optional spices, such as chili powder, cumin, oregano
  • spinach or salad green of your choice

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Brown & Wild Rice with Caremelized Onions, Creminis, and Greens (gf, v)

What a whirlwind this winter has been! Geez! Work, school, weddings, visits with family and friends, freezing cold weather, sweaty hot weather vacation, back to work and school. And somehow it is March! And 60 degrees in Missouri, which is very, very welcome and much appreciated… but I still can’t figure out where February and January went. Do you know? They must have blown by me in a wintry blur.

rice 10

50 shades of plane

Throughout the Jan-Feb blur I sustained myself on sad  things like Foods Sold By Panera Bread, cereal, canned beans and frozen brown rice, kimchi and pickles delivered fork-to-mouth from the jar, and frozen Ghirardelli chocolate. YUM. My poor husband was left to fend for himself (shout out to the Whole Foods hot bar). I managed to cook a couple of times in February; here’s a recipe I chose for a day when my body was screaming at me for much-needed veggies and grains already, woman! Put down the chocolate!

rice 8

BROWN  WILD RICE WITH CAREMELIZED ONIONS, CREMINIS, AND GREENS 

Ingredients:FullSizeRender (1)

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1/3 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 2/3 cup water or stock
  • 1 tsp veggie base or bullion if using water
  • 1 tbsp butter (omit for vegan recipe)rice 1
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly into rings or half moons
  • 1 carton cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  •  a few sprigs thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 3+ garlic cloves, chopped
  • half bag spinach leaves
  • a few handsful broccoli, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Simple Roasted Eggplant Spread (gf, v)

Hello! Happy New Year! And brr. Is it cold where you are? It’s cold cold in St. Louis. To combat the low temps and up oureggplant 3 veggie intake après holiday indulgence, I whipped up this roasted spread to nosh on last night. This spread-slash-dip can be slathered onto hunks of crusty bread, dipped with crackers (we used wholesome and hearty  Mary’s Gone Cracker), spread on a sandwich, dolloped onto soups, tossed with olive oil on pasta or rice, and so on. Great stuff to have around on cold, winter nights and snowbound days.

eggplant 1The roasted peppers and onion give a big flavor kick; you’ll find the spread hard to put down, which is a great thing when it comes to vegetables, amiright? It was all I could do to not eat the whole batch in one sitting. I enjoyed it hot out of the oven, chilled the next day with lunch, on a baked potato the next day, and at room temp as a dip- all delicious and the room temp option makes this wonderful picnic and party fare.  Oscar party fare, perhaps? ‘Tis [almost] the season!

SIMPLE ROASTED EGGPLANT SPREAD

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, top discarded
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • minced garlic cloves, to taste (at least 3), or a tablespoon already-roasted garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher alt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/3 tbsp tomato paste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400. Cut the eggplant, red peppers, and red onion into large, 1-inch dice. In a large bowl, toss the veggies with the raw minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Turn out onto a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Your kitchen will smell freaking amazing.

imageWhen 45 minutes are up, add the veggie mix, tomato paste, and pre-roasted garlic, if using, to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until pretty well combined. You want to leave this with some texture, so don’t completely purée it.

The dip was my pre-workout snack before a girl’s night preview of Core3, a new fitness option in St. Louis. Terribly, terribly fun stuff. Core3 blends TRX, RealRyder indoor cycling (the bikes that move laterally), and Surfset indoor surfing. Yes, indoor surfing! My arms, legs, and abs all felt it today and I’m pretty sure I smiled throughout the entire workout. I highly recommend trying Core3- another exhilarating way to beat the bitter winter temps. #cowabunga

January, schmanuary

January, schmanuary