Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

The first week we lived in our new apartment was basically indoor camping. We had running water, of course, and an air mattress–but I’d have given anything for a hammock.

Having moved a million times before, I packed a little kitchen kit in the car so we’d be able to cook (and eat) before the moving truck arrived with the rest of our stuff. My kit contained plates, bowls, silverware, glasses, coffee mugs, a mixing bowl, a frying pan, a saucepan, a paring knife, a chef’s knife, a bread knife, a spatula, a wooden spoon, a whisk, a can opener, and measuring cups and spoons. We were relatively well-equipped, but cooking anything complicated was out of the question.

So we happy campers needed simple but nourishing meals. And since my natural instinct upon moving to California was to EAT ALL THE AVOCADOS, a lot of our meals consisted of avocado toast. Or, as I’m calling it here, smashed avocado tartines with chile-garlic oil. Ooh la la. It may seem simple, but avocados from the farmer’s market (still warm from the sun) mashed with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and then piled high on a slice of fresh bread from the bakery down the street was pretty much the best thing ever after a long journey across the country. Even if I had to eat it while sitting on the floor. Everything tastes better when you’re camping, right?

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

Smashed Avocado Tartines with Chile-Garlic Oil

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, skins removed and smashed
  • 4-6 slices ciabatta or other crusty bread
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a small saucepan combine oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. Heat on medium-high for about 3-5 minutes, or until pepper and garlic starts sizzling. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about five minutes. Watch the garlic carefully during this step so it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat, strain out garlic and pepper, and set oil aside to cool for at least five minutes.

Slice the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Add the lime juice and 2 tsp. of the chile-garlic oil. Stir the mixture with a fork, gently smashing the avocado until it’s creamy but still has some chunks remaining. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Brush slices of bread with chile-garlic oil and grill until toasted– either on an actual grill, a grill pan on the stove, or simply a frying pan. Top the toasted bread with even amounts of the avocado mixture. Drizzle with additional chile-garlic oil and sprinkle with more red pepper flakes, if desired.

Serves 2-3.

Source: Smells Like Home

Note: The remaining oil can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for a few weeks. Bring to room temperature before using.

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Smooth and Creamy Hummus

I first tried this hummus recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook a few months ago, and it was delicious. Then I remembered seeing Smitten Kitchen‘s quirky take on the recipe, which involved peeling the skin off each chickpea to achieve a super creamy consistency.

Say what? Sure, it seemed slightly crazy, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time shelling pistachios or trying (with much angst) to remove hazelnut skins for homemade nutella. (So sorry to disappoint you; that recipe is still in the works.) So popping the skins off a few chickpeas didn’t seem like that big a deal. And truly, it wasn’t. It took about 10 minutes, and the only side effect was that my fingers felt a little starchy at the end.

So if you’re crunched for time, this recipe is just fine with the chickpea skins included. But if you have a few more minutes, try removing them. The results are truly worth it. As Gabe told me between bites this afternoon, “This hummus is unbe-(expletive)-lievable.” That good.

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (from one 15-oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. kosher flake salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • garnishes (optional): pine nuts, olive oil, dried sumac or paprika

Rinse and drain chickpeas. Carefully remove the skins by holding a chickpea between your thumb, index, and middle fingers and gently squeezing until the skin pops off. Discard skins.

Place chickpeas in a food processor and blend for about one minute. Scrape down the sides and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Blend again until well combined. Slowly add the water and puree until very smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice (I added an additional 2 tsp.) and/or salt as needed.

Let stand for about 30 minutes and then serve, or refrigerate if you’re not going to serve right away. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sumac or paprika. If using pine nuts as garnish, first sauté them in a bit of unsalted butter until lightly browned. Serve hummus with pita, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or whatever you like!

Source: Slightly adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, via Smitten Kitchen.

Flatbread with Egg, Parmesan, and Arugula

I’m in the middle of kind of a weird food week. Gabe and I are back from a weekend of camping, but we only have a few days at home before jetting off to California for his brother’s wedding. So aside from one glorious meal of homemade pesto featuring the first crop of my miraculously growing basil plant (wahoo!), we’ve been eating sandwiches and takeout.

Meal planning can feel like just one more chore sometimes, but I know I’m so much calmer, healthier, and less impoverished-feeling when I know exactly what we’ll be eating everyday and don’t have to depend on a nearby restaurant. Last week was a pretty successful week in that regard, and I kicked it off with this fun and unusual flatbread. I mixed the dough up before heading off to work, so it rose in the fridge all day and was ready for toppings come dinner time. It’s amazing what a little advance planning can do.

Flatbread with egg, parmesan, and arugula

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Flatbread with Egg, Parmesan, and Arugula

Dough

  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water (110° F)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour

Toppings

  • olive oil
  • cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup roasted or grilled red pepper slices
  • 8 large eggs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups baby arugula

Make the dough: In large bowl, stir together yeast and warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Stir in olive oil, salt, and flour until dough comes together. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 minutes or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, place in a warm location, and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes. Punch down dough, cover, and refrigerate at least 6-8 hours or overnight.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about an hour. Preheat oven to 450° F. Prepare two cookie sheets by lightly greasing with olive oil and sprinkling with cornmeal. Divide dough in half and roll each section into an oval about 7×13 inches. Place each oval of dough on a cookie sheet.

Lightly brush dough with olive oil. Top with shredded parmesan and red peppers. Bake flatbreads for 8 minutes. Remove from oven. One at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl, and then slide the egg out of the bowl onto the flatbread, until each flatbread has four evenly spaced eggs. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Return flatbreads to oven and bake until eggs reach desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 Tbs. olive oil with vinegar in a large bowl. Toss arugula with dressing until well-coated, and then top the baked flatbreads with the arugula. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

Source: Slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well.

Chilled Spring Pea and Mint Soup

Sometimes I feel there’s this imaginary divide in my brain between “regular” cooking and “fancy” cooking. Regular cooking is the sort of throw-it-together meal that happens on a busy weeknight, like sandwiches or quesadillas, while fancy cooking involves an extensive ingredient list or a dish that I would be more likely to order at a restaurant than make myself. For whatever reason, chilled soup always seemed to be fancy cooking for me. Do people actually make cold soup, or is it just something to be served in tiny little cups as an amuse bouche at the beginning of a rather expensive meal?

Surprise! It turns out chilled soups are nothing more than regular soups with an ice bath thrown in for fun. I made this lovely, fragrant pea soup this week and served it for dinner with a homemade baguette and ricotta cheese. It was a quick and easy meal that certainly felt special. Plus, we dined al fresco, which is “fancy cooking” for outside on the balcony in the late evening sun.

Chilled spring pea and mint soup

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Chilled Spring Pea and Mint Soup

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen peas
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Stir in peas and sauté for 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in mint leaves, then blend using an immersion blender until smooth. (You can also use a regular blender, just do it in batches.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour soup into a bowl over an ice bath and cool, stirring occasionally. Finish chilling soup in the refrigerator, then serve.

Serves 6.

Source: Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends.

Nutrition facts (per serving): 130 calories, 4.9 g fat, 17.1 g carbs, 4.2 g fiber, 4.5 g protein.

Sea Salt and Black Pepper Crackers

When I was little, my sisters and I would spend all summer playing outside. We’d roam through the woods, splash in the creek, and frolic in our tree fort. So much play to get in each day meant we couldn’t possibly come inside for lunch.

One of my funniest memories has to be when this dutiful big sister decided to pack the most desirable of kid lunches for her younger sibs: lunchables. But our (very wise) mother didn’t let us buy them too often, so I improvised. I filled three plastic containers with little squares of cheese, sliced summer sausage, crackers, and a handful of m&m’s. And then I labeled each one with a riff on our names: Kristable, Brynnable, and Erinable.

Yeah, weirdo alert.

I smiled at this memory last week while making homemade crackers. As I pulled the crispy little squares from the oven, I had a sudden desire to eat cheese and sausage and go running to a swing set. With sea salt and cracked black pepper, these crackers are a bit more sophisticated than the ones of my childhood, but that doesn’t mean I have to be. :)

Sea salt and black pepper crackers

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Sea Salt and Black Pepper Crackers

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. cold, unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup milk

Note: This dough also comes together quickly in a food processor if you don’t want to mix by hand.

Preheat oven to 450° F. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and a small dash of salt and pepper. Grate the butter into the bowl using a small cheese grater. Gradually stir in milk. When dough comes together, knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 5-6 minutes. Let dough rest for 15 mins before rolling.

Roll out half of the dough very thinly (1/16 inch if possible) onto an inverted nonstick cookie sheet. Score lightly with a fork and cut into squares using a pastry or pizza cutter. Sprinkle with sea salt and more black pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes or until brown, removing the outer crackers if they start to brown too quickly. Let cool on the pan for a couple minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with second half of dough.

Makes approximately 100 crackers.

Source: Slightly adapted from Lemons and Anchovies.

Nutrition facts (per 10 crackers): 125 calories, 2.9 g fat, 21.2 g carbs, 0.7 g fiber, 3.3 g protein.

Super Bowl Recap

A couple weekends ago we had friends over to watch football, cheer on Beyonce, critique advertisements, and eat chicken wings. (The most American of gatherings.) I like to get guests involved by hosting potluck-style parties, but I always make sure to whip up several dishes of my own. Wouldn’t want to be caught without any food at all!

For some whimsical decor, I made a table runner by plunking down a roll of chalkboard Contact paper and drawing 10-yard lines on it with chalk. (Note: The paper needs to be prepped first by lightly coloring the whole thing with chalk and then wiping it off. Gives me the heeby-jeebies just thinking about all those squeaky chalk noises, but there’s nothing I won’t do for my guests.)

Super Bowl Party | Lingonberry Jam

Besides hanging out with awesome friends and giggling at that Oreo commercial, these cupcakes were my favorite part of the party. For the toppers, I made a half-batch of chocolate cut-out cookies and decorated them to look like footballs using royal icing. I don’t actually own a football-shaped cookie cutter, so I improvised. Pastry wheel to the rescue!

Super Bowl Party | Lingonberry Jam

Then I made chocolate cupcakes and decorated them with buttercream frosting dyed green, piping on the grass with a Wilton 233 tip. This was my first time piping grass, and I couldn’t get over the cuteness. (Picture me perched on a stool at the kitchen island just giggling.) Carefully pushing the football cookies into the center of the cupcakes completed the ensemble, and there were plenty of leftover cookies to boot.

Once the most important part of the menu was finalized, it was just a matter of cooking up some fun snack foods. Gabe made brats and hamburgers shortly after halftime, and even though we were all stuffed, we couldn’t pass them up. It was the Super Bowl!

Thanks to friends for bringing calico beans, peanut butter cookies, chips ‘n’ dip, and other goodies. And beer, of course. Here’s a recap of the recipes I used:

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Super Bowl Party Foods

Crockpot Barbecue Chicken Wings

I finally broke down. After months of careful persuasion, I agreed to allow a crockpot into my kitchen. And I am happyyyyyyyy.

I’m one of those anti-clutter people, and even though I love cooking, an overabundance of appliances on my kitchen counters makes me cringe. So Gabe’s desire for a crockpot had to wait until I had the storage space. And our move to Minneapolis made that possible.

The first thing I cooked using my new baby was a big batch of chicken wings. And since football playoffs are in full swing right now, I thought I’d share the recipe. The hardest part (besides slicing them apart… eek) is refraining from lifting the lid during the first two hours of cooking time. They just smell that good.

Anyway, the moral of this story is that I’m in the market for more awesome crockpot recipes. Send ’em my way!

Crockpot Barbecue Chicken Wings | Lingonberry Jam

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 Crockpot Barbecue Chicken Wings

  • 2 lbs. chicken wings
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tsp. hot sauce

Preheat broiler. Slice off wing tips and discard, then slice each wing at the joint to make two separate pieces. (Don’t freak out. It requires some muscle.) Place chicken wings on a foil-lined broiler pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and broil 4 inches from heat for 10 minutes. Carefully turn wings over, sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and broil for an additional 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

Meanwhile, whisk together barbecue sauce, honey, mustard, worcestershire, and hot sauce in the crockpot. Add chicken wings to the pot and ladle sauce over the top.

Cover and cook over low heat for 4 to 5 hours, or high heat for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Don’t lift the lid during the first two hours of cooking so the crockpot can reach the correct temperature. Switch the crockpot to the warm setting and serve.

Makes 14-20, depending on the size of the wings.

Source: Adapted from Moms With Crockpots.

Nutrition facts (per piece): 55 calories, 0.9 g fat, 6.2 g carbs, 0.2 g fiber, 4.1 g protein.