smoked salmon platter presentation { click for How to Assemble am epic Smoked Salmon Platter recipe }

green shakshuka with chard kale zucchini { click for GREEN SHAKSHUKA with CHARD, KALE, and ZUCCHINI recipe }


Seeking inspiration in different ways these days. Since we can’t go outside and explore nature and farmers markets and whatever else, I’m looking toward books and art. This is a recipe from Impressionist artist Claude Monet. Yes, that Monet who painted the water lilies and all that, who was, apparently, quite the culinist.

Recipe first, my notes, resources, and suggestions follow.

SMOKED SALMON GOAT CHEESE SPREAD from CLAUDE MONET [recipe]

recipe by Impressionist Claude Monet, as encouraged to make and share by auction house Christie’s

INGREDIENTS

1½ cups fresh goat cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons half & half
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon peel
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ pound Norwegian smoked salmon slices, roughly chopped
1 baguette, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS

Place goat cheese, half & half, chives, thyme, lemon peel, and salt in a medium bowl.

Using a wooden spoon, mix well. Add salmon and fold in.

Transfer to a serving bowl, place on a platter, and surround with baguette slices.

Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

NOTES and RESOURCES

  • Goat Cheese. Fresh goat cheese is called “chevre.” If you can’t find goat cheese, use cream cheese, or even a thick, strained yogurt. The flavor will be different, but the vibe will be the same.
  • Half & Half. This is half milk, half cream. Use whatever milk or cream you have to thin the goat cheese to a consistency that makes it spreadable.
  • Chives and Thyme. I substituted scallions for the chives because that’s what I had on hand. You can also use dried herbs for the spread, just use about half the amount, and try to make the spread a little in advance so the herbs have some time to rehydrate.
  • Smoked salmon. Norwegian smoked salmon is the cold-smoked, shiny, slippery salmon you usually see served very thinly sliced. You can use any smoked salmon, cold-smoked, hot-smoked, “lox”-style; I had a filet of hot-smoked salmon, which is drier, and flakes into larger pieces. Hot-smoked salmon is my preference for dips and spreads.
  • Use whatever bread, somewhat sturdy crackers, vegetables you have to dip or spread. I always love cucumbers, snaps peas, and large slices of radish to use in place of crackers or bread. The crackers in the photo are these.
  • Drink Pairing. Sparkling wine is a perfect match to the salt of the smoked salmon, and the effervescence will cut through the richness of the goat cheese. Cava (Spanish), Prosecco (Italian), and of course my fav fav fav, Champagne.
pickled vegetables in jars

Like some relationships, there is nothing you can actively do to really fuck up Pickled Onions. You set it up, and you just let it happen naturally. If it works, it works.

If it doesn’t work, it still worked. You’ll see.

I make these Pickled Onions and put them on just about everything. They are perfect on tacos, avocado toast, eggs, whatever. I also eat them straight out of the jar. Use the same brine to pickle anything else: carrots, radish…see notes below for more suggestions.

PERFECT PICKLED ONIONS [recipe]

makes however much you cut and julienne, though this recipe as it’s printed makes enough brine for a one-quart jar of Pickled Onions

INGREDIENTS

1 red onion, cut length-wise, aka longitudinally, aka pole-to-pole, and sliced into ¼-inch wide strips

for the Vinegar Pickling Brine:

1 cup water, piping hot (from the tap if you trust your tap water, or filtered/bottled water that’s microwaved or boiled and slightly cooled)
1/3 – ½ cup rice vinegar (use less vinegar if you use less/no sugar, more vinegar if you plan to add sugar)
0-3 tablespoons sugar (depending on your tolerance for sweet)
2 teaspoons kosher salt

DIRECTIONS

Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until sugar dissolves.

Pack sliced red onions into glass jars. Pour the warm brine over the red onions and allow to cool slightly with the lid off. Cover and refrigerate.

After 1 day, the Pickled Onions will be good. After two days, the Pickled Onions will be perfect. They’ll keep for weeks after that.

NOTES on INGREDIENTS

  • Red Onions. I use organic red onions, but you can actually use any kind of onion, yellow, white, or even sweet. They will taste a little different, and they definitely won’t have the same bright pink color.
  • Slicing Onions. There are more than one way to skin a cat, but there is only ONE WAY to slice an onion for Perfect Pickled Onions, and that is length-wise, aka longitudinally. I could defend my entire thesis on cutting onions here, but I don’t want to impress your pants off, so let me just say that you should trust me on this.
  • Rice Vinegar. I use this organic rice vinegar. You can use any vinegar that suits your taste, even citrus juice. Just do not use straight-up white distilled vinegar. I have used this apple cider vinegar, this red wine vinegar, and this Champagne vinegar. They all render slightly different tastes, and they all taste great. Red wine vinegar creates the most dramatic color for pickled red onions.
  • Sugar. Pickling brine recipes range in sugar amounts from none to almost half the brine. I have made pickled onions with a lot of sugar and don’t get me wrong, the pickled onions taste SO GOOD, but it’s almost too good from all that added sugar. And remember, onions already have some natural sweetness to them. I now make my Perfect Pickled Onions with ZERO SUGAR.
  • Salt. I have a very large box of Kosher salt, which I use for cooking. If you only have table salt, start with half the amount in the recipe, since table salt tastes saltier than kosher salt. Taste the brine and add more from there.
  • Other Vegetables. You can absolutely use this exact same brine to pickle other vegetables. I have pickled: julienned carrots, julienned daikon radish, whole baby carrots, baby squash, beets, chard stems, and of course, cucumbers.

do chua, daikon radish and carrot pickles

TOOLS and EQUIPMENT

  • Glass Jars. I bought a 12 pack of 1-pint wide-mouth glass mason jars. The wide-mouth is key because 1) they’re easier to fill with onions or whatever else you’re putting in your glass jars and 2) they are MUCH easier to wash. You can and should, as I did in the photo of the pickled carrots and daikon radish, use any re-cycled clean, sanitized jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Lids for Mason Jars. Get rid of the two-piece metal lids that come with the jars. They are trash, will rust, and are super annoying to keep together. Buy the plastic lids, which are cheap and just so much easier to handle. You can find the lids in different colors if you’re into color coordinating, or you can even buy cute wooden lids.

bbest of the best banana bread

Of all the banana bread recipes I’ve tested, tried, tweaked, tried again, and finally posted, THIS banana bread recipe is the best of the best because it’s the simplest.

Sure, there are recipes that turn out a banana bread that’s as rich and tender as cake. Of course there are recipes for banana bread that are filled with chocolate chunks or other fruit or, god forbid, nuts. And obviously, there are very specific banana bread recipes for whatever diet lifestyle you’re on, whether that’s keto, paleo, vegan.

But those luxuries are not really what we need right now.

What we need whilst in quarantine during a global pandemic, is a banana bread that we can throw together in a bowl when we have neither the mental energy to follow overly specific measurements like “1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons flour” (seriously?), nor special, non-pantry-staple ingredients like sour cream, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, not even regular old milk because what single, childless woman keeps fresh milk in the fridge? 

This is THE banana bread recipe for the times, with suggestions for ingredient substitutions and additions.

best of the best banana bread

BEST of the BEST BANANA BREAD [recipe]

makes 1 loaf, which serves 1 to 10, depending on how you’re quaratined

INGREDIENTS

5 very ripe bananas + (optional) 1 ripe banana for topping
½ cup neutral oil (or melted butter)
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
2 tablespoons coarse raw sugar for topping (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the baked loaf from the pan for cooling.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash bananas with a fork until smooth. Whisk in oil, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk all-purpose flour, baking soda, Kosher salt, and cinnamon together.

Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. If you’re adding chocolate chips or chunks, fold them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice optional 6th banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange banana slices on top on either side of loaf. If you’re using the sugar topping, sprinkle over top of loaf and sliced bananas.

Bake banana bread until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Baking time can vary anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes depending on your oven; mine took 65 minutes.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

Bread, tightly wrapped in plastic will keep for a few days. You can also slice the loaf and freeze.

ripe bananas for banana bread

INGREDIENT RESOURCES and SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Bananas. Use bananas that are so ripe, they are teetering on the edge of fermenting in their blackened peels into wine. This recipe calls for five bananas, most recipes call for three. If you only have three, make the banana bread anyway, just up the sugar by a ¼ cup to make up for the sweetness of the bananas.
  • Oil. I use olive oil, which has a distinctive scent, so use olive oil if you like that. This is the every day olive oil brand I use. You can literally use ANY oil for this bread, with the understanding that the bread will smell and taste like that oil. Neutral oils like canola and grapeseed oils are standard. You can use avocado oil, which is more neutral than some other oils, but also pretty expensive, and melted coconut oil. Softened/melted butter is a fantastic choice if you have it, but in my kitchen, butter is limited and I prefer to save it for recipes that require the very specific properties of butter, e.g. chocolate chip cookies
  • Brown Sugar. If you don’t have brown sugar, use white granulated sugar. You can also use honey or maple syrup. Honey is sweeter than regular sugar, so decrease the amount by about ¼ cup (4 tablespoons), and you might want to increase the amount of flour by the same amount to account for the liquid. Maple syrup is about as sweet as sugar, so substitute one-for-one with sugar here. Because it is also a liquid, just add about 2 tablespoons of extra flour to balance the added liquid. The texture of the banana bread will be slightly different with either of these substitutions and of course, will have a fragrance of either honey or maple syrup, which is definitely a very good thing.
  • Vanilla Extract. You can’t really substitute the flavor of vanilla, but you can substitute the vibe with rum or brandy, or even maple syrup. You can also sub in or even add up to a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. You didn’t know vanilla is a vibe? Now you do.
  • Flour. Banana bread recipes are generally pretty forgiving so you can use any flour you have, including gluten-free flour mixes, other grain flours like oat flour, bean and nut flours, with the understanding that the texture of the bread can (and will) be very different. If you have some regular wheat flour and are just trying to conserve it, use some of it with the alternative flours to “help” them. The only thing I’d stay away from is any kind of pre-made mix like pancake mix, which has other ingredients like sugar, leavers, and oils, which will be hard to account for in the rest of the Banana Bread recipe.
  • Baking Powder/Baking Soda. This is a substitution that you have to think about because the two ingredients are not completely interchangeable without changes to other ingredients in the Banana Bread recipe. If you have baking soda, proceed as directed. If you only have baking powder, use 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

ADDITIONAL NOTES and RESOURCES

  • Other Spices. If you like the flavor of ginger and/or nutmeg and already have them, add up to 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and/or 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg with the dry (flour) ingredients. Just know that adding ginger and nutmeg start to take the banana bread toward holiday pumpkin spice bread territory.
  • Loaf Pan. I use an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan, which is just ever so slightly smaller than the oft-called-for 9×5-inch loaf pan. I like the smaller size because the banana bread baked up taller. If you use a larger loaf pan, your banana bread will just be a little shorter, and will probably require less baking time, so start checking on the bread for done-ness on the earlier side, 50 minutes. If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can bake this in muffin cups. You will have more batter than a 12-cup muffin pan, so just bake it twice, and make sure to check for done-ness at 25 minutes!

best of the best banana bread, slice

More Bananas

green goddess grilled cheese sandwich
Supposedly, Green Goddess, an invention of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the 1930s, is a salad dressing.

The reality is, Green Goddess is a state of mind.

After (re)discovering Green Goddess several years ago, we’ve been obsessed with the bright, fresh combination of green herbs, garlic, and lemon that make up the dressing, and have been inspired to add it to just about everything, to the point that we even took Green Goddess and herbs and rolled them up in rice paper to make Summer Rolls. Spring rolls. Grain bowls. Zucchini noodle pasta.

Sandwiches.

Specifically, a grilled cheese sandwich.

We made a fresh herb pesto with the standard Green Goddess herbs, plus a sneaky handful of kale, and now keep this Green Goddess Pesto as a staple in our refrigerator. We spread the pesto onto slices of La Brea Bakery‘s Whole Grain Gluten-free Bread, added Monterey Jack cheese, feta cheese for some tang, baby spinach for added greens, and of course, this wouldn’t be The Delicious Life if there weren’t avocado.

Make this Green Goddess Grilled Cheese. Hell, make any grilled cheese because April is National Grilled Cheese Month, so we have almost two more weeks to celebrate.

And if you happen to live in Los Angeles, go to the La Brea Bakery Café on Thursday nights during the month of April for their world-reknown weekly Grilled Cheese Nights. I went last week; check out my mini-review for deets.

greengoddessgrilledcheese_pan
green goddess grilled cheese sandwich

Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich {recipe}

We have been making versions of Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for years now, and have made them on many different types of bread — everything from basic white sandwich bread to super whole grain-y, seed-y rustic loaves.

This go ’round, we used La Brea Bakery’s Multi-Grain Gluten-free Sandwich Bread, not because we can’t eat gluten, but because the bread makes a pretty great grilled cheese sandwich.

For resources and recipe notes, see list at bottom of this recipe.

Ingredients

For each sandwich:

2 slices bread
2-3 tablespoons Green Goddess Herb Pesto {recipe}
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
handful fresh baby spinach
¼ avocado, sliced
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil for cooking
butter, if you’re so inclined

Directions

For each sandwich:

Spread about 1 tablespoon of Green Goddess Herb Pesto onto each slice of bread. The pesto is strong, so if you’re sensitive to garlic or the slightly bitter taste of fresh kale, go light on the pesto.

On one slice of bread, add ¼ cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese, baby spinach, sliced avocado, crumbled feta cheese, dashes of salt and pepper, the remaining ¼ cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese, then top it with second slice of bread. Press together gently.

Heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil  in a frying pan over medium low heat. If you want to use butter, add it to the oil and let it melt.

Add the sandwich to the oil and cook until bread is golden brown, about three minutes. Press down on the sandwich lightly, then flip the sandwich over and cook until second side is golden brown, another three minutes.

Remove Grilled Cheese Sandwich to plate, let cool, cut into halves, and serve. Hot sauce and little pickled things like onions, cherry peppers, or other hot peppers alongside the sandwich are great!

RECIPE RESOURCES and NOTES

  • La Brea Bakery bread is available in most major supermarkets and even Costco!
  • Monterey Jack cheese is by Tillamook, available in regular grocery stores
  • feta cheese from Bristol Farms
  • avocados from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, available at Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmers’ Markets
  • any and all other produce, organic, from local farmers’ markets or Whole Foods Market

green goddess grilled cheese sandwich
This post is sponsored by our friends at La Brea Bakery.

Jacques Torres Three Day NY Times Chocolate Chip CookiesThere is nothing particularly special about the ingredients in this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. All chocolate chip cookies are some ratio of flour, brown and/or white sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate. However, what sets this chocolate chip cookie apart, what makes this chocolate chip cookie the BEST, is “the rest,” as in allowing the cookie dough to rest in the refrigerator for up to three full days before baking. { click for THREE-DAY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES recipe }