Category Archives: Entrees

A Fire Within

Hello, hello again, to whoever is reading.

I’m still not sure what to do with this little old space I created some six years ago. When I initially started this blog, I didn’t set out to profit from it. I didn’t troll other blogs and leave 50+ comments a day, in hopes to accrue a reader base. I didn’t track analytics, or try to form brand partnerships, and I didn’t advertise on social media channels. I didn’t blog every week, or even every month. I didn’t even get my own domain. I suppose I should have done some of these things, because I don’t know that I have much of a reader base (not trying, and blogging so infrequently won’t get you one), and my site is pretty darn dated. But I guess you should know that I started this blog for me. Just so I could have a little space on the inter web where I could share my thoughts and get to writing again. And I’m still not interested, nor am I really able, at this juncture in my life, to strive for a for-profit blog.

So much has changed over the years, and I find it harder and harder to come back here, and I don’t really like that. The majority of the work I do is centered upon helping other people with their food blogs. I write a lot of cute, punchy bits — which, don’t get me wrong, I love — but sometimes I miss writing for myself. After all, the women who inspired me to start this blog in the first place, the women whose writing was so beautiful, so full of imagery, and their blogs so basic, so minimalistic — are the types of writers I myself aspire to be. I remember first reading Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, back in ’07, and it sparked a fire within me. That woman can write, so effortlessly it seems. Same with Luisa Weiss, and her blog The Wednesday ChefI just finished reading her food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen, and literally each page was so beautiful, so simply honest and elegant, that I savored each word from cover to cover, dreading the day I’d have to put it down. When I read both of Molly’s books, I felt the same way, especially in reading A Homemade Life — a book I hold close to my heart. These women and their words continue to inspire me. I consider them to be pioneers of the food blog world, and thankfully they are both still at it, their blogs still refreshingly the same — bell and whistle-free.

In doing the kind of work I’ve been doing, I find it harder to carve out the time for my own blog. I kind of feel like it’s been on life support for the past couple of years. For so long, I kept wrestling with whether or not to sustain it. Things have gotten stale. I wanted to give the site a face lift like four years ago. I wanted to blog more regularly. Even fairly recently, I thought I was finished, and that if I were going to start blogging again, it would have to be a clean slate. New everything. But I just couldn’t seem, still can’t seem, to pull the plug. So I’ve decided (for now), that those excuses aren’t good enough, and shouldn’t hold me back from having this outlet when I feel like I need it. I’d still like to give this blog a face lift, I’d still like to blog more regularly (as in once a week, rather than once or twice a year). I still have things to say. I’d still like to share recipes, like the one I’m going to share with you today.

I’ve never been a good “clean out the fridge” sort of cook. Oh how I’d like to be, especially considering I hate waste (especially wasted food). My mom is this sort of cook, and I’m trying to be. The other day, I needed to rustle some things up for lunch. I bought a butternut squash, with the intention of roasting it and making a warm salad of Tuscan kale, dried cranberries, goat cheese and pine nuts, like I did many times last year. But I forgot the pine nuts and the cranberries. I remembered I had some wild rice in the fridge, some leftover thyme and orange-scented goat cheese and some maple-cider vinaigrette that I’d recently made in the fridge. The wild rice had some stray remnants of caramelized shallots and plump tart dried cherries in it, from a salad I’d made even further back. So I massaged some torn kale in the vinaigrette, spooned the warm wild rice and butternut squash overtop, and added some dollops of orange-thyme goat cheese I had leftover. I also had some leftover roasted sticky pecans (with agave and Chinese Five Spice) that I added in the mix. This salad ended up being even better than the one I made last year. It sounds complex, but was really easy since I already had most of these things made. It’s colorful, citrusy, vaguely spicy and exotic and comforting (surprising for a salad). It’s a good salad to eat this time of year.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries, Kale and Goat Cheese | hayleygolightly.wordpress.com

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries, Kale, and Goat Cheese

Makes 1 salad

  • Roughly 2 cups of torn dinosaur/tuscan/lacinato kale (or more, if you’d like)
  • About 2 Tablespoons maple-cider vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup of cooked wild rice (I like to cook mine with chicken stock)
  • 1/8 cup of dried tart cherries (I like to plump mine up in a little bit of boiling water, with a dash of red wine vinegar)
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (you will have some left over)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Goat Cheese, softened, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (depending on how citrusy you’d like the goat cheese to be)
  • salt & pepper
  • Chinese Five Spice Agave Roasted Pecans (I found that there was quite a bit of excess liquid, so I think you could probably get by with using just shy of 1/4 cup of agave, if not less). I also add some freshly ground black pepper.

Maple-Cider Vinaigrette (adapted from My Recipes)

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I just do this to taste, you may want to add a bit more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (”)
  • 2-3 sprinkles of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sprinkles of cayenne

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl, until well emulsified. You will have plenty of vinaigrette left over, and it should keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.

For the Goat Cheese:

With a spoon or spatula, stir in the fresh thyme and orange zest, along with a sprinkle of salt and some pepper to taste.

For the Salad:

Preheat your oven to 400. In a bowl, toss your cubed butternut squash with a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 Tablespoons or so), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for about 25-30 minutes, turning a couple times throughout. The squash should be tender, but not mushy. With your hands or with tongs, massage the kale with the vinaigrette for about 3-5 minutes. The kale should turn a darker green and soften up a bit. Spoon the wild rice, 1/2 cup of butternut squash and the cherries on top. Add however many pecans you like (I do about 8), and dollop some goat cheese on top.

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Bluegrass and Bourbon

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We just returned from a week long road tripping adventure to Asheville and Kentucky, where we visited my grandparents, who live outside of Lexington. We gorged ourselves with southern food, toured Woodford Reserve (I may have eaten four bourbon balls), and spent a day in Louisville—what a quirky little city. We went vintage shopping on Bardstown Road, marveled over the classy Brown Hotel and drove through the scenic Cherokee Park (designed by Frederick Olmsted, who also designed Prospect Park and the similarities were uncanny!) We stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Apple Bourbon Bread at this adorable coffee shop called Please and Thank You, and also had beers in a former church, called The Holy Grale! I’m wishing we could have eaten there because the menu looked amazing (particularly the poutine with roasted corn, jalapeños, cheese curds and duck gravy). Next time around I’d also love to visit Milkwood and Hillbilly Tea and catch a show at The Actors Theatre of Louisville.

As luck has it, I only have a month before my next little adventure. I’ll be reunited with my city…and in the fall! I’ll fly up to New York for a couple days and then take the train into Carmel, to spend my second Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. I’m so looking forward to all of it. I’ve been reminiscing about my time in New York last fall, and thinking of where I was and what I was doing. This month last year, I was going out for Oktoberfest at Radegast, with Louisa, calling every candy shop and purveyor in town, requesting samples for our Halloween candy feature, going to the Serial Killers Haunted House with Molly, and stocking up and freaking out over the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy. Time flies.

Wedding planning is progressing and we met our pint-sized photographer Casey, for pints at The Federal in Durham the other day, and she is so cute and kind and genuinely excited to be a part of our wedding. Check out some of her and her husband Matt’s beautiful work here. I am loving how this process is unfolding.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s pretty much what I have in rotation on my playlist:

  • These Days – Jackson Browne
  • Off He Goes – Pearl Jam
  • Firstborn – J. Tillman
  • We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten
  • The Pharaohs- Neko Case
  • Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
  • Lakehouse- Of Monsters and Men
  • My Unusual Friend – The Fruit Bats

and this sweet little gem

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The arrival of fall brings forth a hankering for what I like to call “hibernation food,” you know, warming comfort food, one-pot meals that can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon. Hibernation food is best consumed while wearing socks and sitting on your couch, watching Downton Abbey. It pairs excellently with red wine. Yesterday’s dreary weather  begged for homemade creamy tomato soup  with grilled cheeses and apple salad. And cookies. This afternoon during a beautiful jog, I was thinking about food (as I often do while jogging), and deliberating over what to cook for tonight’s dinner. It needed to be relatively quick because Jay had to leave for rehearsal and I wanted him to be able to eat before he left, which meant I had two hours to grocery shop and make it happen. Since Sundays mean roast chickens are on sale at Whole Foods, I picked one up and made a casserole with some beautiful broccoli I got from Farlow Farm, at the Curb Market. I added some mushrooms that were about to go bad, and some leeks, because leeks are awesome. This simple casserole definitely met the hibernation food criteria. I highly suggest you make some.

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Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Thyme  makes 6-8 servings

  • About 4 cups of rotisserie chicken (I used all of the white meat from one) *save the carcass to make chicken stock!
  • 1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (cook in chicken stock if you can)
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, with green parts removed and discarded; sliced into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic or 3-4 small cloves
  • 1-2 TBS of fresh thyme (I just eyeball this and you can do it to taste)
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (use homemade if possible)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken (I just do this by hand) and place in a large bowl. In a medium skillet, add olive oil and leeks and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Preheat the oven to 450. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock, half and half, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 10 minutes or so. You want the liquid mixture to thicken and reduce a little.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Add the rice, broccoli, and the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the chicken and add 1/2 cup of parmesan. Toss with a large spoon or spatula until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan, and some more thyme leaves. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and place under a broiler until the top is golden brown (about 5 minutes). Put on something comfy and eat.

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The next best thing

One of the most thrilling aspects of wedding planning is honeymoon research. I’ve spent countless hours, scouring Airbnb, Tripadvisor, and my new favorite, Fathomaway. I daydream about lounging in a hammock on a pristine beach in Tulum, armed with a good book and a Michelada, eating fish tacos to my heart’s content, or gazing out at the Mediterranean from an infinity pool, on the top of a cliff in Santorini. I can almost feel the coarse back of the elephant I long to ride through the rice paddies of Ubud. Who knows where we will go yet, but we’re sure having  a time just shopping around.

Lately I’ve been enamored with the possibility of Tulum, but for the longest time I was set on Greece and it’s still big on the radar. Naturally, all of these idyllic images of Greece have left me craving Greek food. We found a Middle-Eastern chicken kebab recipe from Once Upon a Chef, which employs a stellar marinade that delivers a cacophony of flavors. I think the Greek Yogurt is what really makes it. The recipe calls for marinating the chicken for eight hours-overnight, but we just marinated it for two hours and it was unbelievably full of flavor. The night we were cooking, I called Jay from the grocery, asking him if he could take the lead on cooking the bulguhur (which neither of us had ever made before). I failed to mention we’d be using it for tabouli and he ended up making the bulghur pilaf recipe on the back of the box. When I got home and saw him toasting the grain in a skillet with butter and onion, and was like, “What are you doooooing?! This is for tabouli!” Luckily, it was a happy accident because I thought it was just divine, especially with some greek salad  and a glass of rosé.

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Chicken, Zucchini and Onion Kebabs with Bulghur Pilaf and Greek Salad

Serves 2 hungry people.

  • Chicken, zucchini and onion kebabs (recipe below)
  • about 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/2 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled feta
  • *olives and pepperoncini peppers optional
  • Greek vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • Bulghur Pilaf (recipe below)

Greek Vinaigrette

  • 1 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • about 8 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, split

Combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil and whisk to combine. While whisking, gradually add the olive oil. Leave the garlic clove in the vinaigrette for about 10-15 minutes, just long enough to infuse the vinaigrette. (Depending on how big your salad is, you may or may not use all of the vinaigrette at once). Toss with the romaine, tomatoes, cucumber, feta (and olives and/or pepperoncini if you like).

Bulghur Pilaf (slightly adapted from the back of the Hodgson Mill box)

  • 1 cup bulghur
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade, it makes a HUGE difference)!

Melt the butter in a skillet, over medium heat and add the onions. Sauté until the onions have browned. Add the bulgur and toast until golden, for about 5-10 min. Add the chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 min.

Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Makes 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup plain, Greek yogurt (we used Fage, which is my favorite, in 0% but 2% would work just fine if not better)
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cumin (it calls for 1/4 tsp but we’re not big on cumin, so we scaled way back)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1/2 tsp + a heaping 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs), trimmed of any extra fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 zucchini, cut into wedges
  • 1 yellow or sweet onion, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, spices, zest, juice, and garlic and whisk until everything is incorporated. Thread the chicken onto metal skewers, alternating with the onion and zucchini. Don’t cram the skewers (about 4 of them will do). Put the kebabs on a baking sheet lined with foil and spoon/brush the marinade over the skewers, thoroughly, so that all of the chunks are covered. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to overnight if desired.

Prepare your grill (we use charcoal). If using gas, preheat the grill to medium-high heat and be sure to grease the grates with vegetable oil. Turn the skewers occasionally, to ensure even cooking. Depending on what kind of grill you have and the heat, this should take anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes or so. We like a little char on everything. Transfer the skewers to a platter and serve with Greek Salad and tabouli or bulghur pilaf.

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Pieces

Right now:  Blogging from a beautifully naturally lit bedroom on a sunny blue Sunday morning, listening to the breathy, ethereal lullabies of Gregory Alan Isakov – my newfound musical obsession.  Just ate:  Homemade skillet potatoes with caramelized onions, garlic and truffle salt with an over-easy egg on top, a piece of bacon and a half of a homemade maple cake doughnut.  We made doughnuts yesterday!  I finally got to try out my new doughnut puncher and now I can cross “make doughnuts” off my long list of cooking and baking endeavors to conquer!

Addicted to:  Parks and Rec, Vintage mary janes, These cookies (the best ever, I’m convinced), making ricotta and my new iphone.

Trying to learn:  to play Adele’s “Someone Like You” on the piano!  Also, how to flip an egg, make art out of recycled glass bottles and budgeting.

Latest Adventure:  A weekend escape to Wrightsville Beach & Wilmington!  While we were there, we made an appearance at a baby’s first birthday party.  This is the second first birthday we’ve been to in a little over a month and let me just say, I don’t know what is up with these babies and their daintiness!  Their parents had to force feed them their cake with their fingers and they still scrunched up their noses!  This picture here is proof that my love affair with cake began at a very early age.  I threw dainty out the window and made that birthday cake my business!

Recent cooking and baking escapades:

A few weekends ago, my dear friend Donna and I made lemon ricotta pancakes with berries.  Each bite was a fluffy pillow of sunlight.  They were creamy, slightly zesty, tart and warm.  I made them with homemade ricotta which I’ve already made twice now.  I really love this recipe too because it’s simple, foolproof and I feel like lemon juice is a better acid to use than vinegar or buttermilk.  The first batch of ricotta I tried to make came from a different recipe, calling for buttermilk and I just couldn’t get curds and I ended up having to pitch the entire batch (which was a lot)!  So after following Smitten Kitchen’s guidelines and ending up with the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted, I vowed to never buy it from the store again.  Seriously, there is an undeniable difference – homemade ricotta is richer, creamier and more flavorful.  Plus, it’ s so easy to make and the store-bought stuff has this odd distinctive taste that I don’t like.  It amazes me what cream, milk and lemon juice can create.  I’ve never been all that interested in science but I swear the science in cooking and baking never ceases to amaze me.

Tomato soup and gruyere and white cheddar grilled cheese may not cure the common cold but I like to think it sure does help.

Homemade Pho may not cure the common cold but it will warm your soul and clear your nasal passages better than a Nettipot.  Truth.  Consume with a box of tissues at reach.

At this point it would just be cruel of me to not give you a recipe for these seductive shrimp tacos and sweet potatoes & black beans with lime and chili pepper.

Cornmeal Shrimp Tacos with Chili Lime Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans  heavily adapted from here and here.

Taco Ingredients (makes about 4 tacos):

  • 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 large egg white, beaten
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 small flour tortillas (or corn if you prefer)
  • Avocado slices
  • Purple Cabbage, chopped into shreds
  • Minced, seeded  jalapeño (optional)
  • Adobo crema:  1 cup sour cream (I use light) & 6 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (from a can), chopped.  Stir together until well combined – it should be a light orangeish color.  (If you prefer extra heat, you can use more peppers).
Chili Lime Sweet Potatoes & Black Beans:
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and red chili flakes to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place peeled and diced sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet.  Top with olive oil, salt and chili flakes, and lime juice.  Toss together until all of the potato chunks are coated.  Place in the oven to bake until softened through and toasted brown.  This usually takes about 40 minutes.   Remove the cookie sheet once or twice during baking to toss the potato chunks around.  This will ensure that the cubes cook evenly.  Remove from the oven and let stand when cooked through.
For the Tacos:
  1. In a shallow bowl, toss the shrimp with the egg white. In a second shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat.
  2. Heat the remaining ½ cup of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry the shrimp until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side.   Drain on a couple folded paper towels.
  3. Heat both sides of the tortillas in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray, over medium heat (just a few minutes per side).
  4. Assemble the tacos:  Place 2-3 shrimp in the center of each tortilla, top with cabbage and avocado slices,  jalapeño and drizzle with adobo crema.  Serve with chili lime sweet potatoes & black beans.

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