Monday, July 19, 2010

Broccoli Boring? Never!

Let's be real. We all know there are tons of broccoli haters out there. And there may be even more people who are like me: not a broccoli hater, but not a broccoli lover either. For us, broccoli is, well you know, blah. But once again, thanks to Ina, it doesn't have to be.

If you've ever watched The Barefoot Contessa, you know that Ina could probably make fish eyeballs look like the most delicious thing on Earth. Okay, that may be a tall order, but she would get you thinking about trying it. So when I saw her make her delicious Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli, I knew if I didn't like this dish, I would never find anything else to make broccoli taste amazing. As suspected, this recipe delivers.

This broccoli dish has entered our vegetable rotation for good. It is easy, and it takes a bland vegetable and makes it one that you can't stop eating. Trust me, I've caught myself shoveling this broccoli into my mouth like it was going out of style. Then I've laughed at the notion that broccoli would ever be the type of food one would shovel into their mouth. Try it for yourself...


  • 4 to 5 pounds broccoli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets.

Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot. 6 servings.

My Recipe Notes:

  • The first time I didn't have pine nuts, so I made it without. I've made it several times since then with pine nuts, and while the taste difference isn't Earth-shattering, texture freaks like me will realize that pine nuts included are the way to go for a great crunch against the soft broccoli.
  • The garlic burned the first time I did this. Now I am very careful to make sure that my garlic chips lay on top of the broccoli, and not on the baking sheet. I set the timer for the lower time-20 min. Check a little bit before that just to make sure. I've had perfect, golden garlic chips ever since.
  • My husband and I half the recipe for just the two of us, but I hate measuring , so really I just eyeball everything. This combination of flavors is not ruined by not having exact amounts. A little of this, a little of that, makes it taste just great!
  • Fresh lemon juice and zest is crucial. It takes this from being a good dish to an amazingly bright- flavored dish. Don't skip or skimp!
The Glamour Shot (It's actually not much to look at, but don't let that fool you!):

I'm ready for my closeup Mr. De Mille...

Be careful with this one all my chic chefs! This could be the first time you have people fighting over the broccoli at dinner (I'm not opposed to throwin' elbows. Just sayin').

Glamourous Clothing? Yes Please!

The lovely Roxy at Effortless Anthropologie is hosting a wonderful giveaway for a $250 gift card to Anthropologie. Cue the heavenly ray of sunlight and chorus of angels. Check it out for a chance to win. Roxy does a lot for the Anthro community, so if you are an Anthro lover like me, you need to check out her blog!

Friday, July 9, 2010

One Bengal, Many Spices: A Love Story

Well, there's my cat Cavalli. Isn't it great that even my pets are foodies? She's quite an interesting creature in many ways. One way in particular is her love for spices and fresh herbs. I'm wondering if anyone else's cat has this same trait.

I will admit that Cavalli is a recreational catnip user, so I'm sure it has something to do with that, but she is seriously in love with our cooking herbs and spices. When we have them out on the counter, and we happen to look away, you will soon hear the sound of spice containers being knocked down. She loves to rub her face all over the bottles, to the point where you feel a little uncomfortable watching such an intimate scene. It's that intense. I find that Chili Powder in particular is her spice of choice. Out of the fresh herbs, thyme seems to be her biggest weakness. I wonder how many other cats out there have a secret (or not so secret) love affair with herbs and spices.

On a side note, we discovered that Gusteau is not without his secret crushes. For him, it's fresh corn on the cob. He is known to be a beggar, but he usually doesn't ever bother us while we're cooking. But last weekend, while Chris was husking corn over the sink for grilling, he went nuts. Gusti sat behind him and cried, growled and grunted. He couldn't take his eyes off the corn. Weird. It's the only food he's ever done that with.

What about your pets? Do they have a food love that dare not speak its name?

Cute and Practical

Don't you love catalog days?! The other day, some of my favorite catalogs all came on the same day: Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, CB2, and yes, even Anthropologie. The mail gods have smiled upon me! I spotted a couple great finds that would come in handy for any chef/eater.

From Crate and Barrel, I loved the Sprout Serving Collection with its quirky retro pattern. I always find that I am lacking when it comes to serving pieces, so I'm always looking for more. These would fit perfectly with my kitchen colors as well. A serving bowl, platter and trivet are available. The Cucina dishtowel also continues the fun vibe of the pattern, and brings some cheeriness into the kitchen.

ut Serving Collection

Cucina Dishtowels

From Williams-Sonoma, I spied their Artichoke Jute Market Tote. At a sale price of $9.99 it was a steal and super cute, but alas, they were sold out. Not that I needed it anyways, because I already own the regular version of the tote. I will say that even though you can't get the artichoke pattern, I absolutely love my Jute Market Tote. It is very large, and perfect for trips to the Farmer's Market (even when you accidentally leave it in the car, and you don't realize until you're at the first booth like last weekend. Who would do that?), or when I need to carry a bunch of stuff to work. You can even get yours personalized with a monogram. I have used mine a ton, and at $19 for my plain one, I have definitely gotten my money's worth.


Monday, July 5, 2010

What's for Dinner?

Oh that dreaded question. We were faced with it once again this evening. Where we live, temperatures in the summer frequently reach 100 degrees or more. As you can imagine, it's hard to get excited about a complicated, heavy meal. Today we needed a light and quick meal, so as usual, I got some inspiration by exploring Food Network recipes. Ina has never let me down, so I typically look to her ideas first.

What caught my eye was her Provencal Tomatoes. Juicy summer tomatoes stuffed with fresh breadcrumbs and herbs. The verdict: a new favorite in our household. This recipe was light, full of flavor, and incredibly easy! I have always thought that stuffed dishes seem more involved and complicated for some reason. With my husband's help, our prep time was only about ten minutes and we were ready to bake. Even the baking time was quick! Fifteen minutes and dinner was ready. This is a great way to enjoy some fresh tomatoes from your local farmer's market, and something you can throw together, even after a long day at work.

Here's the drill:


  • 6 ripe tomatoes (2 1/2 to 3-inches in diameter)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (2 scallions)
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • Good olive oil


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the cores from the tomatoes, removing as little as possible. Cut

them in half crosswise and, with your fingers, remove the seeds and juice. Place the tomato halves in a baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, scallions, basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the tomato halves generously with salt and pepper. With your hands, fill the cavities and cover the tops of the tomatoes with the bread crumb mixture. Bake the tomatoes for 15 minutes, or until they're tender. Sprinkle with the cheese, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 seconds more. Serve hot or at room temperature.

My Recipe Notes:

  • I sprinkled a little Fleur de Sel on top after these came out of the oven for extra flavor.
  • The cheese was not quite brown enough after the baking time, so we popped them under the broiler for a couple minutes.
  • Some reviewers mentioned the breadcrumbs were dry (most likely store-bought breadcrumbs were used), but I followed directions and made fresh breadcrumbs in the food processor. I did not find it dry at all.
  • Fresh herbs are a must.
  • We made this our main course, and this fed two of us perfectly (we had smaller tomatoes). As a side dish, this would easily feed four. We paired this dish with a small pesto focaccia that we love from our farmer's market (made by Beckmann's Bakery in Santa Cruz).
  • It states on the Food Network site that Ina's recipe was inspired by Julia Child. Ina Garten and Julia Child? How can you go wrong with that?
The before:

The after:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life's Simple Pleasures

As someone with a very hectic and stressful job, it is easy to forget to enjoy the small moments that brighten your day. I've become more cognizant of these moments in recent years, and many of them have come from my new-found love for cooking: the bright colors of fresh produce,the aroma of garlic in the air, how a homemade stew warms you to your core on a cold day.

Then, there are other moments that make you happy. For me, walking Gusti on the trail behind our house gives me time for quiet contemplation. Taking a deep breath as the perfect breeze cools my face is exhilarating. It makes me feel like I can conquer the world. There is no better feeling.

Despite the fact that I love and crave glamour in my life, I have come to realize that sometimes it can be found in the most unexpected places. Here is my little piece of glamour today that brought a smile to my face...

A lone sunflower on the walking trail...

What are your simple pleasures?