Hearts on Hearts Salad, and a chat about making creamy dressings


So I’m aware this is kind of a non-recipe recipe. You guys aren’t morons, you know how to assemble a salad. So rather than give you a play by play on how I sliced the cherry tomatoes in half, I’m going to talk about the one interesting part of this dish–the cool, tangy, vegetal, creamy yet super healthy and guilt-free dressing I made for this salad by blending up a couple of jars of hearts of palm with Greek yogurt.

Wait, what?!

Greek yogurt is great, but would be bland AF as a salad dressing without a little help from its friends. This works out perfectly with hearts of palm, a delicious but strange (and expensive!) little veggie that I never can seem to get enough of. By turning it into a creamy dressing, you get a hit of heart of palm flavor in ever single bite of your salad.

Here’s my general formula for making a greek yogurt sauce:

Greek Yogurt + Veggies + Pop of Flavor + Oil + Acid

Here are some examples:

Greek Yogurt + Jalapenos + Cilantro + Olive Oil + Lime Juice

Greek Yogurt + Roasted Red Peppers + Garlic + Avocado Oil + Red Wine Vinegar

Greek Yogurt + Roasted Shallots + Roasted Garlic + Olive Oil + Lemon Juice

Greek Yogurt + Sun Dried Tomatoes + Shallots + Walnut Oil + Balsamic Vinegar

Greek Yogurt + Mandarin Oranges and/or Pineapple + Honey + Coconut Butter + Yuzu (imagine that on fruit salad or cinnamon pita chips!)

Greek Yogurt + that yummy leftover green sofrito we made the other day + Olive Oil + Lime Juice

On all these bad boys, its important to TASTE after you blend. At that point, you’ll know how much salt and pepper it needs, and how much water or liquid you should splash in to thin it out and make it the right texture. (Or, hell you could leave it thick and use it as a chip or veggie dip instead).

You’ll Need:

  • 2 cans of hearts of palm
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (regular, 2%, or fat free are all fine)
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes (if you don’t have a microplane, seriously wtf you’re a grown ass adult. Just kidding. Just the juice is totally cool).
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Romaine lettuce, whole (hearts and leafy greens)
  • Bacon
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced pepperocini or banana peppers

Method

  1. We’re going to start by crisping up the bacon, since that step will take the longest. Take the entire mass of bacon out of the vacuum pack and slice into 1/2 inch strips, crosswise. Throw it in a skillet on MEDIUM LOW heat, and SLOWLY render out the fat until its all brown and crunchy AF, stirring every few minutes and using a wooden spoon to break up the stacked bacon pieces. This is going to take awhile, 20-25 minutes to do it right. You’re going to look at it 10-12 minutes in and panic because it will look more like Canadian bacon (gross) than delicious deep rosey brown crunchy stuff we all know and love. But trust ya girl Chelsea, this is the guaranteed way to get it completely rendered, crispy, and perfect.
  2. While the bacon is frying, making the dressing. Open up the cans of the hearts of palm (reserving the liquid) and roughly chop each piece into 2 or 3 pieces. Go ahead and snag a few bites, hearts of palm make delicious snacks–basically log-shaped artichokes! Toss them all in the blender, then add the Greek yogurt, the lime zest, the lime juice, 4-5 good glugs of olive oil, a pinch of salt, several grinds of pepper, and a small splash of the reserved heart of palm liquid from the cans (for extra hearty palmy flavor). Give it a good blend, and after about a minute, stop the blender to scrape down the sides and taste. From there, use your senses to see whether it needs more salt, pepper, or liquid to thin it out. Blend until smooth, pour in a couple mason jars, and chill in the fridge until you’re ready. This dressing will keep for a week or so, and tastes awesome on anything…more on that later.
  3. Chop up a head of romaine. I’m the waste not want not type, so I used everything from the leafy greens to the very end of the heart. Plus it gives your salad lots of color and textural contrast. Measure out however much lettuce you’ll need in a bowl, and throw the rest in a plastic bag to use later.
  4. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. You can figure this one out yourself.
  5. The bacon should be about done! Turn off the stove and use a slotted spoon to scoop the bacon out of the sizzling oil, onto a stack of paper towels to drain. Let the bacon fat cool for about 20 minutes, then pour it into a mason jar and throw in the fridge or freezer to use at a later time. You definitely don’t want to waste that flavor goldmine. If you have extra bacon bits, they keep well in the fridge too. They won’t be as snappy, but will still taste awesome.
  6. Sprinkle the bacon, tomatoes, and peppers on top of the lettuce and drizzle it with the heart of palm dressing. The tangy and spicy peppers play off the fresh and mild romaine, the salty bacon compliments the sweet tomatoes, and the heart of palm dressing brightens the whole thing.

Remix this dish: make this a complete meal by adding grilled or rotisserie chicken! The heart of palm dressing is super versatile—use it in place of sour cream on tacos, use as a dressing in potato or pasta salad, drizzle over gazpacho or any warm veggie puree soup as a garnish, use as a sauce on grilled meats and fish. The bacon fat is great for making vinaigrettes, for sauteing veggies, or while searing meats for braises.


Quick Mole Chicken with Poblano Rice


The same trip to Chicago that I visited Girl and the Goat, we also ate lunch at Frontera Grill. I’ve been a huge fan of Rick Bayless from seeing him on Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. He’s one of the most genial guys in the business and treats Mexican culture and cuisine with such a reverence. I ordered his chicken mole enchiladas, completely cleaned my plate, and they haven’t left my mind since.

Mole is a rich Mexican sauce, usually flavored with chiles, spices, seeds, fruit, and chocolate. I am for real. It sounds strange, but the spicy, sweet, and bitter notes come together in a thick dark sauce that just sings. Authentic mole is no joke–I’m talking 36 hours and 40 ingredients kind of tough. I was pretty stoked to find a well, completely bastardized version in the Chopped cookbook, made from pantry staples like peanut butter, soy sauce, cocoa powder, and chili powder. Somehow the peanut butter mimics the rich and complex sweetness you’d get from traditional sesame seeds and dried fruits normally used, and the soy sauce give the sauce a hit of umami flavor. It’s nowhere near the version an Abuelita would make, but my modifications made a tasty approximation, especially when compared to the freaky motor oil concoctions sold in jars at the grocery store.

The poblano rice is visually stunning and will keep well for several days. Save time and upcycle what’s in your fridge by using a rotisserie or leftover grilled chicken.

You’ll Need:

For the Poblano Rice

  • 1 cup or basmati, jasmine, or any long-grain white rice
  • 3 poblano peppers
  • One bunch of cilantro
  • A shallot or half of a small onion
  • A clove of garlic (hell, use the pre-chopped stuff in a jar, whatever)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Like wedges for garnish

For the Chicken Mole

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (or save a step and use whatever chicken is leftover in your fridge)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of Chili powder (ancho is preferred but regular is fine)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Chinese 5 Spice (can sub for cinnamon instead)
  • A clove of garlic, minced (or use a small scoop of the jarred version, it’s cool)
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • A heaping teaspoon of cocoa powder
  • Several big shakes of soy sauce
  • A big dash of sugar
  • A couple big squeezes of honey (optional)
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. First we’re going to prep the poblanos. The peppers have a thick skin that tastes best when charred and removed (treat Hatch chiles the same way). Turn the oven up on a high broil, coat the poblanos in olive oil, set in a foil-lined roasting pan, then place directly under the broiler until they’re blistered and black, 8-10 minutes. Flip the poblanos over and broil the other side until they’re good and charred. Let the poblanos sit on you kitchen counter until they’re cool enough to handle, 10-15 minutes.
  2. While the poblanos cook, start the chicken. Toss in kosher salt and a dash of th Chinese 5 Spice and chili powder,  then sear in a skillet with a little oil over medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and set to the side on a plate (they won’t be cooked through yet). Don’t wipe out your skillet, those leftover browned bits of chicken are a flavor goldmine! Obvi, skip this step if you’re using leftover chicken.
  3. Toss a little more oil into your skillet, and over medium heat, toast the 1 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1/2 a tablespoon of Chinese 5 Spice, and minced garlic, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 a cup of water and use your spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Whisk in the peanut butter, cocoa powder, soy sauce, sugar, and a dash of kosher salt, and let bubble and thicken over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. THIS IS IMPORTANT: you must taste the sauce at this point and use your spidey senses to figure out what it needs to make it taste balanced and delicious. Needs more spice? Add more chili powder or some cayenne. Lacking in flavor? Add more kosher salt. Mine was a little thin and I couldn’t taste the sweetness, so I drizzled in honey and it made it perfect. If you’re cooking fresh chicken, add them and any accumulated juices back to the skillet and coat in the sauce. Turn on low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Back to the poblanos. Use your hands to gently peel the skin off the peppers and remove the bulk of the seeds. Throw them in the carafe of a blender, along with a clove of garlic, a peeled shallot, and a dash of kosher salt. Chop off the stem base from the bundle of cilantro and toss into the blender as well, then blend until smooth (scrape down the sides of  the blender if you need to). You’ve now got yourself some bangin’ green soffrito! Pour half into a jar to store in the fridge and use later (we’ll get to that) and set the other half aside to use in the rice.
  5. Pour a couple teaspoons of olive oil and the rice into a small saucepan and turn to medium heat. Stir the dry rice constantly, toasting it but watching to make sure it doesn’t scorch. You’re done when the rice turns opaque white, about 2-3 minute in. Toasting the rice gives it a toothsome texture and helps keep the granules separated, not sticky. This technique is what makes a rice pilaf a pilaf–it’s not just “rice with stuff in it” as that poor girl on Food Network Star believed. Once the rice is good n’ toasty, pour in 1 1/2 cups of water, a big dash of salt, and the rest of the poblano soffrito. Turn to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Cut the heat and let it steam covered for another 5-10 minutes. Remove the lid and stir, so the poblano soffrito is well incorporated.
  6. Put the rice and chicken on a plate, and enjoy! Garnish with lime wedges and sour cream.

Remix The Dish: the next day I tossed some chopped chicken up with the leftover mole sauce, rolled them up in corn tortillas, and baked on 375 degrees for 20 minutes. BOOM insta enchiladas. The soffrito is great to have in the fridge as well–stir into eggs before scrambling, whiz in the blender with some Greek yogurt and a splash of water for a tasty sauce/salad dressing, mix with sour cream as a dip, or spoon over goat/cream cheese and spread over bread.

  

Girl and the Goat Roasted Cauliflower, and a little chat about flavors

I had the pleasure of visiting Girl and The Goat one week after the chef/owner Stephanie Izard won Iron Chef Gauntlet. That’s right, the first person to win Top Chef and become an Iron Chef is a woman, and her food is just as stunning as you’d expect.

We went family style and tried everything from goat belly to escargot ravioli to “pig face” to the most delicious shishitos I’ve ever tasted, covered in a crunchy layer of sesame and parmesan cheese. Stephanie is ballsy AF and understands how flavors work together.

When it comes to cooking on the fly, the most valuable skill you can possess is understanding what each component brings to the party. Knowing what an ingredient is supposed to accomplish empowers you to substitute with what you have at hand. Here are the flavor profiles we’re looking at in this dish:

Roasted Cauliflower = earthy, vegetal, soft

Parmesean = salty, umami, rich

Mint = fresh

Roasted Nuts = crunch

Pepperocini = acid, brightness, heat

Next time you take a bite of a dish with several components, think about how they all play off each other–how the sweet meat of a burger plays against a soft and buttery bun, crunchy lettuce, and tangy pickles, or how funky blue cheese works with fresh iceberg, salty bacon, and sweet tomatoes. A great plate combines several different flavors and textures, and this week I challenge you to contemplate this as you eat.

You’ll Need

  • A head of cauliflower (or be lazy and buy one pre-cut from the salad section, no judgement here)
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • A handful of mint, chopped (can sub flat-leaf parsley or any leafy green herb)
  • 1/4 cup of roasted almonds (can sub whatever you have in the house–walnuts, pistachios, or even peanuts would accomplish the same thing. Stephanie used roasted pine nuts! Seeds or even crushed croutons work too)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup of shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (pecorino, manchego, or and hard and flavorful cheese would work fine)
  • Pepperocini rings (banana peppers, peppadews, jalapenos, or any spicy pickled pepper would work great)

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Break the cauliflower down into 1-2 inch chunks. If you’ve never cut up a cauliflower before, I promise it’s way less scary then you’d think. They’re significantly softer than a spaghetti squash or even a cabbage, so no need to say your hail marys or feel like your fingers are living on borrowed time. I like to slice the thing into 4 big pieces then gently separate the florets from the leaves and thick center, using my hands or a small knife. The leaves and stem are edible (and delicious), but that’s for another post.
  2. Toss the cauliflower with about a couple good glugs of olive oil and a few big pinches of salt. Place on a baking sheet (cut side down for maximum browning) and roast until tender, 20-25 minutes. TIP CITY: when roasting veggies, in addition to tossing in olive oil, I also like to hit the baking pan with some Pam spray, as well as spritz the tops of the veg with it before popping it in the oven. Oil promotes browning, and browning = flavortown.
  3. While the veg roasts, rough chop the nuts and the mint. Have some ziploc baggies handy for the leftovers–the nuts and mint would taste awesome tossed with berries, sprinkled over a salad, or mashed into some goat or cream cheese.
  4. Remove cauliflower and toss in a serving bowl with the parmesan. Taste for seasoning, and add more cheese or a little more salt if necessary. (If your nuts are salted, keep this in mind! Nothing shuts down a party like too much seasoning). Sprinkle the mint and nuts on top. Finish by garnishing with the pepperocini.

Remix The Dish: try this cauliflower with peppadews and manchego cheese for a Spanish take, or use basil or cilantro, peanuts, pickled jalapeño, and omit the cheese for a Thai spin.

Look Mom, I Made A Blog!

chelseatulsa

Don’t act like you didn’t all see this coming from a mile away.

After years of fashion writing, a long stint as a columnist on a obscure, local, social blog, and a long-ass hiatus, ya girl Chelsea is back at it and ready to start writing again, this time about my one true love: my cavapoopoo Scoutman. Just kidding. I’m here to talk about food. I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who was just trying to being nice but unintentionally gave me an overinflated perception of my cooking ability and encouraged me to start this thing.

Now, I’m aware that blogging is generally nerdy AF and that you’re all probably taking screenshots and laughing your faces off in group text threads right now. Not going to lie, I would be doing the same thing. I included that ridiculous header photo for a reason. It’s cool though, I got over myself a long time ago. Everyone’s entitled to a hobby–you might like to sell beauty products or play rec soccer or paint pictures, I like to cook and write.

Granted, we all know I rock a desk job and haven’t been to culinary school or even worked in a restaurant. Everything I know, I learned through practice, reading books and websites, or from watching hours of Food Network and Top Chef. I’d be eliminated the first round on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or Masterchef Kids. But by everyday home cook standards, I definitely know what I’m doing, and would love to teach my friends and acquaintances some practical tips.

Because I’ve watched The Next Food Network Star for years, I’m aware that when dealing with something as universal as food, it’s important to have a distinctive point of view that makes your food and storytelling unique. After several minutes of consideration, here’s a breakdown of my culinary credo:

  • Nose to tail, root to leaf, tupperware to table. Food waste is something that bothers me to my core. I’ll spare you my hippie ideologies, and instead come at it from the practical cost-saving perks of adopting this outlook. There is a way to eat on a budget without sentencing yourself to the same dang casserole for a week straight. I’ll do my best to include ways to “remix” my all of my recipes and ingredients, and show ways to up-cycle food and make other delicious things to eat. Not only will you save cash, but you’ll save time and get your creative juices flowing to boot. I could wax poetic about honoring our resources, respecting ingredients, and my other crunchy spiritual thoughts, but that’s another post.
  • Learn not follow. Just as assembling an Ikea console doesn’t make you a brilliant woodworker, following an exact recipe doesn’t make you a good cook. It makes you good at obeying instructions. I’m going to give you a lot of approximates, talk about methods and skills, and hopefully teach you how to solve problems you may encounter. I’ll talk about what ingredients are optional, and which ones you can sub out for whatever’s in your fridge. Working with what you have saves money and makes you a better home cook. Hopefully, over time this will give you the skill set and confidence to go “off the book” and invent your own meals.
  • Eat your damn veggies. I know this is super judgy of me, but one of my biggest pet peeves are grown adults who won’t eat vegetables. You don’t have to like or even love them, but I have trouble relating to people who don’t at minimum tolerate veggies, if only just for sake of convenience. My husband Alex used to be one of those people. After nearly three years of ignoring his complaints, one day while eating a bowl of Sicilian chicken soup, he looked at me and proclaimed “wow, you get full so much faster if you don’t dodge the carrots and onions.” Who would have thought, right?
  • Enjoy the butter, okay? Or cheese. Or drizzle some olive oil. Or the kosher salt. You’re going to be way more satisfied eating flavorful food than you would be eating mountains of bland rabbit food. I’m obviously not a healthcare professional. Of course my philosophy doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found that I actually end up eating less by not depriving myself of the things that make food taste good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kinda Paul Dean glutton. I make an effort to incorporate healthy substitutions, but ya know I’m also comfortable with my body’s perpetual and realistic softness. Also, I’m a bit distrustful of the processes uses to make things “fat free” or “fortified” or even “decaffinated.” Which leads me to my next rule…
  • Shop the perimeter. I’m a simple girl. I don’t pretend to know if organic fruit or grass-fed beef is worth it. There are TONS of practical benefits of genetically modified produce, but I’m open to the possibility that they could cause some negative freakonomic effects down the line. Plus, to be honest it’s not worth it to me right now to blow a bunch of money on free-range chickens from Whole Foods. (Plus the sheer volume of food that Alex consumes in a day is just astonishing). It’s common knowledge that the less processed foods you eat the better, as fresh food retains more nutrients. The way I keep myself on that path is by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, and filling up my cart with perishable ingredients.

Let’s be real here. I’ve got a full time job, I try to fit in a workout everyday, I have a robust social life, and I dedicate at least two hours a night to watching Netflix. I’ve also got a husband, two dogs, a cat, a garden, and a big kid house to take care of. This is just a creative outlet and an fun way to document recipes (and maybe teach some friends a little bit about food). I’m not going to optimize my photo dimensions for Pinterest. I don’t have a DSLR camera, so all of the photos here will be taken with my iPhone and video will be cut on Snapchat. *Maybe* you’ll get an occasional Instagram filter.  My content will probably be a little sporadic…I mean, I do have TV shows to binge and stuff. I’ll probably write these posts on my iPhone in the 15 minutes after dinner that it takes Alex to throw tennis balls and tire out the doggos, so ya know give me a break.

In exchange for my less than dazzling images and prose, I will promise you guys few things: I’ll never have a stupid long rambling intro before I get to the dang recipe. I’ll never use the word “wanderlust.” The very nature of talking about food is pretentious in itself, but I’ll try to keep it in check. I won’t write in the cliche “little ol’ me” meet-cute romantic comedy ingenue voice that every other Mommy-blogger adopts. I’ll do my best to stay away from humble-braggy lifestyle porn because those people are just the worst.

Let’s all just be cool, hang out, laugh at the bizarro things I find entertaining, and talk about food, k?

xoxo, Chelsea