Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Know anyone who isn't the biggest fan of vegetables? Well, here's a sure-fire way to get them to eat their veggies - bury them under a fluffy, eggy soufflé mixture and call it a pudding. Not that I would ever try such manipulative tactics with anyone in my household, but my husband did love this dish. Just sayin'.

Coconut cream comes in a can and is a thicker, more concentrated version of coconut milk. If you can't find it or you're not a fan of coconut milk, try it with whole milk or heavy cream. I haven't tested the recipe using those substitutes, but you should get a relatively similar result. 

Savory Leek and Coconut Milk Pudding

Serves 4 - 6 as a side dish

Preheat oven to 375

1 16 oz bag of cleaned, sliced leeks (or 2-3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and thoroughly rinsed) 

1 bunch spinach, thick stems removed

4 eggs

1 cup coconut cream

1 tbsp butter

3 sprigs tarragon

1 sprig thyme

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Heat a large pan over medium heat and melt the butter in the pan. Make sure the leeks are thawed if frozen and drained well, then add them to the pan. Sauté until soft and beginning to brown. Add the spinach to the pan and cook just until wilted. Remove from the heat and set aside. 

Beat the eggs with the coconut cream. Remove the tarragon and thyme leaves from their stems and roughly chop. Add the chopped herbs to the egg mixture along with the salt and nutmeg. Mix until just combined.

Butter or spray a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer the leek and spinach mixture to the dish and pour the egg mixture over. Bake for 25 minutes until slightly browned and just set in the center. 

Omelette Aux Fines Herbes

When the Easter Bunny (aka my friend Caitlyn) brings you fresh eggs from the chickens she and her family keep in their backyard, you make omelettes. And, if you're a culinary school grad trained in classic French cooking, you make Omellete Aux Fines Herbes.

The French way of making omelettes is a far cry from what you'll find at a typical American diner. They are delicate, completely colorless (meaning no brown marks from a hot pan) and if they're filled, it's a dusting of ingredients, not a mountain of filling that prevents the omelette from being rolled (the traditional way of serving them).

The standard diner omelette does little for me, but a delicate, rolled omelette with a slightly runny curd is the definition of satisfaction.

The folds in a chef's hat are meant to represent the many varied ways he or she can prepare eggs. Master this omelette and you're well on your way to grasping the fundamentals.

Here are the keys:

1. Low and slow - be patient with your eggs. High heat is the enemy of a tender, colorless omelette.

2. Nonstick - I use stainless steel pans 99% of the time, but when it comes to working with eggs, use nonstick. It's what they were made for.

3. Fat is your friend - you don't have to use a lot, but the pan should be slicked with fat. Since the temperature stays low, butter and coconut oil are great options.

4. Move and then don't - after you add your eggs to the pan, use a spatula to move the curd around occasionally for the first minute or so and then stop. Let the eggs set for the remaining cooking time.

5. Undercook - the best omelettes have an ever-so-slightly runny curd on the inside. Once you roll the omelette the interior curd will continue to cook from the carryover cooking so trust me and pull it off the heat before it's completely finished.

The step-by-step recipe and image tutorial should get you started, but as with all things in the kitchen, practice makes perfect. Try it a few times and you'll get the hang of it. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Omelette Aux Fines Herbes

Serves 1

2 eggs

2 tsp butter or coconut oil

2 tbsp mixed, chopped herbs (traditionally parsley, tarragon, chervil and chives)

Kosher salt

Preheat a nonstick pan over medium-low heat.

Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk until no white streaks remain. Add a pinch of salt or more to taste and stir.

Melt the cooking fat in the pan and add the eggs. Use a rubber spatula to stir the eggs as they cook, pushing the cooked egg off the bottom of the pan and allowing uncooked egg to fill in the space (as in the image below).  Stir in this manner for the first two minutes of cooking, then tilt the pan from side to side to make sure the base of the pan is fully covered and let the mixture cook, undisturbed until almost set (see note above about undercooking).

Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle most of the herbs down the middle of the omelette.

Use the spatula to fold a third of the omelette over the center.

Then continue to roll the omelette onto a plate. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and a touch of salt and serve. 

5 Secrets for Perfectly Seared Salmon

Learning how to properly cook protein is one of the most crucial and beneficial steps to becoming a better cook. Once you master the fundamentals, there are countless ways you can experiment with ingredients and flavor to update a recipe. 

I usually opt for a quick stovetop searing, followed by a few minutes in the oven to cook individual servings of protein. It's the way I was taught in culinary school and the default method we used in the restaurant. However, I like to keep salmon on the rare side so starting and finishing on the stovetop makes sense.

My barometers for a perfectly cooked piece of salmon are a golden, crispy crust, sufficient salt, a rare center and no white albumin on the surface of the salmon. 

Here are my five secrets to achieving that perfectly seared, rare piece of salmon:

1. Use a large pan - when cooking multiple pieces of fish, make sure you're using a large enough pan. If you crowd the fish, they will steam instead of sear and you will never achieve a crust. Also, use stainless steel, not nonstick. 

2. Cooking fat - be sure you're using a fat appropriate for high temperature cooking. For health reasons vegetable oils should be avoided and anything with a low smoke point is out too. I'm currently cooking with ghee from pasture-raised cows. Its high smoke point and nutrition profile make it an ideal option. Please note that regular butter is not an acceptable substitute. The milk solids in butter will burn if the pan gets too hot. 

3. Pan temperature - you want the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface, but not too hot that the fish cooks too quickly. Have you ever noticed a white chalky substance on your salmon? That's called albumin - it's a protein and when it's overheated and loses its moisture, it gets pushed to the surface. It's harmless, but not the most appetizing and it can be avoided. On my stove, that perfect temperature is right around a medium flame. On yours it may be higher. If the pan starts smoking when you add the cooking fat, it's a sure sign the pan is too hot.

4. Leave the fish alone - remember when I mentioned getting the pan hot enough to create a nonstick surface? If your pan is heated to an appropriate temperature (medium to medium-high) and you have enough fat in the pan, the protein will stick to the pan at first and then release once your beautiful, golden crust has formed. Be patient and resist the temptation to jam your spatula under the fish to force it to release. It's worth the wait.

5. Undercook rather than overcook - the worst atrocities I have witnessed in the kitchen have always included a dried out, overcooked piece of protein. In the restaurant we used to call well-done meat, "why bother?" By cooking the crap out of a tender piece of meat or fish you lose every wonderful nuance. Texture and flavor? Ruined. Unless you're cooking for the elderly, children or someone with a compromised immune system (the times when food safety is a major concern) err on the side of underdone rather than overdone. Remember, there's always a little bit of carryover cooking as food continues to cook even after it's removed from heat. 

Now, take these tips, try the recipe below and let me know how your salmon turns out. 

Perfect Seared Salmon

Serves 6

1 1/2 to 2 pounds center cut salmon filet

1 tbsp pasture-raised ghee, more as needed

Kosher salt

Let the salmon sit on the counter for 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Slice the salmon into six even portions, taking care to make the thinner pieces larger so each portion size is about the same amount of salmon.

Heat a large pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the ghee to the pan, salt the salmon liberally with Kosher salt and place presentation-side (not skin-side) down in the pan. Do not crowd the salmon. If your pan is not large enough, cook the salmon in two batches adding more ghee to the pan as needed.

Don't disturb the salmon until a crust has formed. You will know this has happened when the meat releases from the pan and can be flipped without having to force your spatula between the fish and the pan. Flip the salmon and continue cooking skin-side down until salmon is done, about 4 to 6 minutes more, though it could be longer depending on the thickness to f the salmon piece and pan temperature.

Remove from the pan and let sit for a few minutes before serving. Serve with Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta


Pumpkin Seed Pesto and Zucchini Pasta

Pesto is one of those dishes that heralds the start of warmer days and the short march into summer. It's a traditional pairing with tomatoes - the quintessential summer produce - and I used to make gallons of it when I grew basil in my old garden.

I've updated the traditional recipe by replacing the main ingredients with watercress and pumpkin seeds. Watercress is one of the most nutrient-dense greens available. It can, however end up tasting a little grassy. If you can, get the young leaves (pictured below) as opposed to the thick overgrown stems. Either way, I counter the grassiness by adding in some of the traditional basil.

I don't put garlic in my pesto (I know, the horror). Raw garlic gives my husband headaches and frankly, it does something horrible to my breath - way beyond the normal garlic breath one would expect. This is a new development for me and one that's very disappointing as I love garlic. Feel free to add it in if you must have it, but I don't think it's necessary here. 

I serve this pesto with zucchini noodles. If you don't have a spiralizer, you can also try this julienne peeler. It won't give you the same noodles, but it will give you zucchini threads and for a lot less money. 

Pumpkin Seed Pesto

1 bunch watercress, stems removed

1 cup loosely packed basil leaves

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (shelled; also known as kernels)

1/4 cup walnut oil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

Squeeze of lemon juice

Place all the ingredients aside from the walnut oil in a cuisinart and pulse until combined, scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil and process until combined.

Serve with zucchini pasta, as a dip for crudités or any other way you would use regular pesto. 


Chia Porridge Breakfast Pot

Morning food needs to be easy food. Somewhere between meditation and showering I try to find the time to throw together a quick breakfast for my husband and I. His is always the same - sausage, eggs and maybe some sliced avocado. The only variety comes in whether the eggs are scrambled or fried and whether he gets a sprinkling of aged white cheddar on the scrambled eggs.

I need more variety. The tricky part is that variety takes creativity and time - two things I'm running very short on most mornings. My only hope for a good breakfast is to make things in advance.

More often than not I have some sort of overnight oat (also known as Muesli) in the fridge and if I'm really on top of things on Sunday afternoon (my usual prep time), I will have made some protein pancake batter to keep on hand as well. Lately, to make the overnight oats a little more interesting, I've been experimenting with different chia puddings and porridges. This beet version is one of my more successful concoctions and not only makes mornings interesting, but also a lot more colorful.

For this breakfast pot I've layered the oats and chia porridge with fresh kiwi and strawberries. Get creative and try some yogurt and nuts, or honey and granola thrown in the mix. With the oats and chia porridge made in advance, all that's left is to slice some fruit and throw everything together.

Note, these recipes make much more than you will need for one serving. I keep these in the fridge and use them to layer a number of breakfasts throughout the week.

Basic Overnight Oats*

3/4 cup rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

Place all ingredients in a mason jar with a lid. Secure the lid and shake to ensure the ingredients are combined. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

*If you like more protein in the morning, mix in a scoop of protein powder and add more almond milk to thin out the mixture as needed.

Beet Chia Porridge

1/2 banana (I use frozen)

1 small beet, peeled

1 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 dropper full of liquid stevia

1/4 cup chia seeds

Place the banana, beet, almond milk and stevia in a blender and blend until completely combined. Pour beet mixture into a bowl and stir in chia seeds. Mix well. Cover and leave in the fridge until ready to use.

Chia Porridge Breakfast Pots

To make the pots, alternate layers of porridge and oats with fresh fruit, nuts, granola or yogurt.

Griddled Cabbage

We're less than a week away from St. Patrick's Day. I must say, I'm not a big St. Patrick's Day celebrator. I don't make a habit of wearing green and I haven't found that much is missing from my life as a result.

That being said, I'm always game for a good culinary tradition and if cabbage and corned beef are on your radar for next week, try this updated take on green cabbage. Somewhere between a salad and a side dish, this griddled cabbage is served with a pungent mustard dressing - delicious and strong enough to stand up to the cabbage flavor.

Does grilling cabbage seem to strange? Chop up a raw head of cabbage and toss with the dressing - equally delicious and no extra work.

Griddled Cabbage

Serves 6

1/2 cup walnut oil

2 tbsp dijon mustard

2 tbsp champagne vinegar

1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

Cracked black pepper to taste

1 large green cabbage, sliced into six wedges

1/4 bunch of chives, sliced thin

Place the first six ingredients (through pepper) in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, secure the lid and shake vigorously until combined. Set aside.

Set a large pan over high heat and preheat. Add just a touch of ghee or other cooking oil appropriate for high heat cooking and place the cabbage wedges in the pan. Sear until browned in a few spots, one to two minutes, flip and repeat on the other side. You don't want to cook the cabbage, just sear the outside to add some flavor.

Alternately, you can brown the cabbage directly on the burner as you would a bell pepper when removing the skin or, for even more flavor, use a grill.

Set the cabbage wedges on a serving platter, sprinkle with chopped chives and drizzle with dressing.