Shakshuka (Eggs Poached in Spicy Harissa Tomato Sauce)

shakshuka

I rushed home from work on Wednesday evening to make this dish. I got to my apartment by 6 PM, and thought I’d have plenty of time to make it and photograph it in natural light. But with the strange cloudy weather and incoming fog, there was barely any light left by the time I started cooking. 

I raced to get this dish on the table. Luckily for me, it took under 15 minutes, start to finish.

shakshuka

Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish, with particularly popular twists found in Turkey, North Africa, and Eastern Europe. Traditionally, shakshuka is made of a base of onions, fresh peppers, and tomatoes, stewed and simmered into a sauce. Poached eggs are nestled on top. 

This version is a little simpler to make, and it’s my own take on a much-loved dish. I like the spicy peppery kick of harissa, and the extra depth of flavor from the tomato paste. Green onions replace regular ones for flavor and simplicity– they’re milder, but they also function as both base and garnish. 

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Mushroom & Greens Potstickers

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the HillsIt’s hard to believe that I haven’t written anything on this blog in a month…Especially when I went through phases when I’d write twice a week, then at least once a week. Lately I’ve been busy with school and travel and teaching and work, and I haven’t had as much time to cook up new things in the kitchen.

Luckily these potstickers are just the ticket during busy times. They’re customizable. They take a while to mix, fill, and fold. But once the hard work is done, they’re quick to cook… And you can cook them from frozen. 

Mushroom & Greens Potstickers | Kitchen in the Hills

The mushroom & greens filling is savory, a little spicy, but very light. Potstickers cook up with crisp bottoms and delicately soft tops. The filling cooks down in volume, and the mushrooms and cabbage release their liquid to make a sort-of broth. 

I like making these potstickers with kale instead of napa cabbage for flavor. (Cabbage just happened to be what was in my fridge.) If you’re going for something more substantial, I’d recommend filling these with sautéed mushrooms and onions. I’ve even made a cooked minced mushroom and nut filling that worked exceptionally well, and made these a lot heartier. 

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Restaurant-Style Thin Crust Pizza

Thin Crust Pizza

Just about anyone will tell you that you can make perfectly good pizza at home. Go to the store, pick up some pizza dough, roll it out into a big circle, throw on some toppings. Then stick it in the oven for, Oh, I don’t know, 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees?

But those of us who really know pizza? Who love it? We know that just isn’t true. You might be able to make a pizza-like object by following those instructions. But real pizza, it is not. 

Thin Crust Margherita Pizza

Good pizza takes time, dedication, and a tremendous amount of skill. We’re talking New York- or Neapolitan-style pies with maybe little riffs to turn them into something special. Pies that never stray too far from tradition. And pies that most definitely, always have perfectly crisp, slightly blackened crusts. Topped, but not too heavily. Tomato sauce that is bright-tart but also smooth and rich. Melty cheese, slightly bubbly and browned in places. 

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

I’m always looking for interesting ways to add whole grains to my diet, and for filling dishes that feature raw vegetables. I love make-ahead meals for their ease and simplicity. And light lunches I can eat straight out of my fridge are the absolute best. I’ve been cooking big batches of grains lately, adding them to different meals throughout the week. When I finally realized that I could make tabbouleh with quinoa, I knew it would make it into my regular lunch rotation.

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern herb salad, traditionally made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and cooked bulgur wheat, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. This version goes a little lighter on the herbs, skips the mint, adds in cucumber, and replaces bulgur with quinoa. Perhaps inauthentic, but delicious nonetheless. It’s still a parsley-heavy grain salad, and makes for a light summertime meal. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s hard for me to say “no” to any meal that involves fresh, bright summer vegetables. 

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One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans & Peas

One-Pot Spring Pasta with Asparagus, Fava Beans, and Peas

I’m currently contemplating a big blog change, because fonts and colors and layouts are important. I’m also doing a project on instagram that involves launching an online handmade store in 100 days. I’m trying to make things and read things and figure out what all of my little projects and hobbies add up to. And all the while, I’m reading 800-page novels and writing papers and taking exams for classes that will be over in a month.

Sure, I constantly have stuff to do, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’m learning so much. I’m learning about the brain and the body, about our strange culture, about the ways that we speak to each other now. I’m learning how to write well and clearly. Most of all, I’m learning that it takes guts and time to make things, and put them out there in the world.

Nothing you ever write or paint or photograph is 100% perfect. Sometimes you have to let it go, say “this is it,” and release your work. Sometimes people will criticize you, or they won’t like what you’re doing. And sometimes you won’t hear a response at all, because nobody will see the thing that you spent hours making. But sometimes, your work will resonate with someone. They will love what you’ve created.

And that feels like winning the lottery. I honestly think that moment of connection is why anyone doing any kind of creative work keeps going. I know it’s why I do.

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Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

 Sorry not sorry.

That’s really all I can say about this sandwich. 

Crispy, buttery goodness. Gooey filling. Delicious vegetal bitterness, first from the baby swiss cheese, then from the hand ground spinach-almond-olive oil pesto. And just the right amount of salt. 

This sandwich is not a health food. 

I recently caught myself saying to a friend, “Most of the things I cook are pretty healthy. Well, except for the stuff I make for the blog, of course.” And while I regretted for a moment that this blog wasn’t a space exclusively for healthy food— an instagram-perfect fruit salad or the kind of kale and quinoa dishes that are good for your heart— I quickly got over it.

It’s ridiculous to believe that we can live off grilled cheese alone (impossible, I’ve tried it), and of course the healthier the food the better for our bodies. Ninety percent of my diet is not this. It’s mostly whole grains and veggies and proteins. But I also believe that food should also be celebrated— celebratory, lavish, extravagant, unapologetic, and just crazy at times.

Not all the time. But sometimes.

Look at this:

Baby Swiss Grilled Cheese with Spinach Almond Pesto

It is so over-the-top. 

This sandwich begins with pesto, hand ground for one in a mortar and pestle. You could certainly double or triple the recipe and make it in a small food processor.

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Jalapeño Cheddar Mac and Cheese

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese | Kitchen in the Hills

Do you remember the blue-and-yellow box? The Kraft one, the one that your parents opened up to make your favorite dinner— mac and cheese, of course. A pile of skinny macaroni and a packet of yellow cheesy powder.

That was one of my favorite dinners. A rare meal in our home, where every meal was prepared lovingly from scratch by my mom.

It was Kraft that taught me to love mac and cheese, but it was only after I tried a from-scratch recipe that I realized how good the stuff could be.

Jalapeño Mac and Cheese | Kitchen in the Hills

This, my friends, is real mac and cheese. It starts with a béchamel sauce and some large elbow macaroni. A good helping of cheese goes in the pot. A couple of roasted and diced jalapeños get thrown in. Everything is stirred together and placed under the broiler until browned. Crispy panko breadcrumb are toasted in a sauté pan until perfectly golden, and sprinkled on top just before serving.

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta | Kitchen in the Hills

Call this the last of the transition meals. We’re officially several days into fall now, but I still have some late-summer vegetables hanging around my fridge. I suppose you do, too? I turned the last of my eggplant and tomatoes into this plate of pasta, a dish warm and hearty enough to fill your belly on a chilly night. I suggest you do the same. If you’re living in a warmer clime (say, in California) these vegetables will be available to you a bit longer.

This is your basic garlic and oil pasta— aglia et olio— topped with seasoned roasted vegetables. It’s incredibly simple to make, but absolutely delicious. Roasting the tomatoes sweetens them and concentrates their flavor. The eggplant turns silky smooth in the oven. Toss the veggies with the garlic pasta, add some parsley and salt, and you have a great meal.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Pasta | Kitchen in the Hills

Don’t be afraid of roasting tomatoes! I know I was the first time I tried it— I was afraid they would release their juices, and cook into a watery mess. That didn’t happen, at all. Instead, roasting tomatoes evaporates off some of their liquid and intensifies their flavor. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get a little caramelization by the time your pan comes out of the oven.

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Summer Vegetable Tart

corn, leek and pasilla pepper tart

Was this supposed to be a healthy recipe blog? Did I tell you that? Did I say it? I’m sorry, that must have been a mistake.* I would be making and eating these tarts daily if I wasn’t afraid of running out of butter halfway into the recipe.

This puff pastry tart celebrates the freshest summer vegetables. I chose leeks, sweet corn, and pasilla peppers, but you could use just about any vegetable that’s at the market this time of year. Paper-thin slices of eggplant and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil. Rounds of zucchini and yellow squash. Roasted bell peppers of all colors. Blanched potato slices with rosemary and butter.

corn, leek and pasilla pepper tart

To me, these tarts are all about keeping things simple and elegant. They’re easy enough to make, but they’re something you’d be proud to pull out of your home oven. They celebrate summer produce. Sweet corn, leeks, and smoky-spicy pasilla peppers are salted, cooked down, and caramelized in a pan, and spread over a homemade, all-butter puff pastry crust.

Yes, the puff pastry is homemade. But it’s a “rough puff,” made with a shortcut method that rules out most of the tedium and difficulty of making pastry. Because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to make a full-on authentic puff pastry from scratch. I’ll take this version— no torn pastry dough and butter messes, no hours-long process of chilling and rolling and chilling again, but still absolutely delicious.

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Mushroom Fried Black Rice

mushroom fried black rice

A week or so in, it finally feels like this blog has a home on the internet. Having your own domain, good hosting and a theme you like are such simple details, but they make the biggest difference. And while everything isn’t a hundred percent perfect yet, it’s approaching what I wanted it to be when I first set out to start a food blog back in February. It’s super satisfying to see it all come together.

This is also my very first recipe using ZipList— a feature that I’ve wanted to add for a long time, but just now got around to. Having ZipList means you’ll be able to view, print, and save recipes from this blog more easily. It also does all sorts of neat things for the blog, like making sure images of a recipe pop up in Google searches.

mushroom fried black rice, in bowls

This particular recipe makes a great weeknight meal. It’s relatively easy to pull together, but the black rice makes it special. Black rice is like brown rice— the grain with the hull left on. But in this case, the hull is black, not brown. This rice is packed with antioxidants and anthocyanins, those very same good-for-you molecules that make blueberries blue and blackberries black. Just like brown rice, this rice contains plenty of fiber. What I love about it, aside from the deep color and major health benefits, is the way that it tastes.  Black rice has a distinctive taste and appearance of its own, but also picks up other flavors well. I’ve bought it in the bulk section of our local grocery store, and recently picked up a bag from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find black rice at a store near you, wild rice would make a good substitute. 

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