Detox: Sesame-Crusted Tofu with Nuoc Cham

tofu bite

When my paleo friends arrived at my doorstep carrying a Dean and Deluca bag, I suspected my fears about my non-paleo olives were for naught. And when they were as eager to open the bag as Ben and I, my suspicions were confirmed. With it still being pre-2013, we all had one last hurrah with the spoils, snacking on Vahlrona chocolate brownies and an assortment of cookies the size of frisbees for a good day and a half.

It was awesome, but when New Year’s Day arrived, I, as many of you can relate I am sure, was ready to detox. I made a grocery list. Wrote out some resolutions. Ate tofu. Watched Happy. Cried a lot. Wrote out a few more resolutions. Went to sleep, for the first time in a long time not feeling stuffed, early. And woke up, for the first time in a long time, feeling like a million bucks.

About this time of year every year, I go on a little tofu binge. I know, I know. I can hear you barking. There are lots of ways — moderation, namely — to eat healthy without taking extreme measures. But, and I’m not just saying this, I have two tofu recipes in my repertoire, one of which I’ve already shared with you and could genuinely eat nearly every day, both of which I would serve to company without apology. Continue Reading →

02. January 2013 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Asian, Entrees, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads, Vegetarian | 66 comments

Super Easy Marinated Olives

marinated olives with orange, garlic and fennel seeds

Today I find myself awaiting the arrival of a few dear friends, and for the first time in a long time, I feel very unprepared. You see, they’ve all gone paleo, and as a result, my usual tricks just won’t fly. I’ve stashed away the biscotti; eaten all of the cheeses; frozen all of the bread.

While my friends have assured me they are all on holiday-paleo hiatus, I can’t help but want to have some treats for them. We’re having chicken drumsticks for dinner — I’m pretty sure that’s what cavemen ate? — and I have some nuts to get us through the early dinner hours, so we certainly won’t starve. I also, without doing any research, made a batch of marinated olives, which I have since learned die-hard paleos don’t even eat. Oops. I hope my friends were being sincere about their paleo-hiatus statuses. Continue Reading →

29. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Hors d'oeuvres, Vegetarian | 11 comments

Gingerbread Biscotti And A Few Favorite Holiday Recipes

gingerbread biscotti in jar

Biscotti lovers seem to fall into two camps: those who view dipping as essential and those who view dipping as optional. As you can see from the photo above, I fall into the dipping-is-optional camp. I like my biscotti with a chewy center (a texture achieved by butter, which dipping-biscotti recipes generally do not call for) and a crisp crust, and I like them on the larger, meatier size — I want to eat one (not ten) and feel satisfied.

While I am partial to classic almond biscotti, these gingerbread biscotti are a treat this time of year. This recipe is just a variation of my favorite recipe with molasses replacing some of the sugar and the addition of traditional gingerbread spices: ginger, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. With coffee or tea, a latte or hot cocoa, this dunking-is-optional treat will put anyone in the holiday spirit. Continue Reading →

22. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Cheese, Cookies, Desserts, Must Have Recipes, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads | 12 comments

Baked Eggs

baked eggs with gruyère and herbs

For Sunday morning breakfast I made baked eggs, a dish traditionally reserved in my family for one occasion and one occasion only: Christmas morning. Preparing the eggs down here in Virginia felt odd as I’ve never made them outside of my mother’s Connecticut kitchen, and eating them felt odd, too, because instantly it felt like Christmas morning, and I thus expected to see my sister sitting across from me harmonizing with the Messiah and my brother a few seats down strumming along on his guitar.

Alas, neither of these characters was present and having not inherited a single musical gene, Ben and I tucked into our herb-and-gruyère-topped baked eggs in silence, spooning the perfectly runny yolks over toasted bread, enjoying an unprecedented Christmas morning dress rehearsal. Continue Reading →

16. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Eggs | 22 comments

Chez Panisse Almond Torte

Chez Panisse Almond Torte

Some of you know my sister Lindsey. Some of you have only read about her here and thus only know about her penchant for crust-based dishes — pies and quiches in particular — and her love for Peeps and leftovers.

Let me tell you a little bit more. Lindsey, while a wonderful cook, doesn’t quite share the enthusiasm for cooking that many of the women in my family do. She doesn’t go to bed with a full belly dreaming about what she might cook up tomorrow morning nor does she subscribe to a single cooking magazine; to her, nothing could be more boring than a tv program on cooking and a discussion about recipes might send her straight into another room; and she has been known on more than one occasion to exclaim, “Why does everything have to be such a production?!” Continue Reading →

14. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Desserts, Fall, Must Have Recipes, Olallie Cafe recipes | 39 comments

Baked Fontina

baked fontina with herbs and garlic

I am all for buying two or three wedges of nice cheeses, plopping them on a cutting board, surrounding them with grapes and nuts and maybe something exotic like quince membrillo, and crossing “make-hors d’oeuvres” off my to-do list.

But every so often it’s nice to present something a teensy more special, more awe-inspiring, more spectacularly delicious. This baked fontina is the favorite party trick of my aunt — not the one that introduced me to salsa di parmigiano, the other one. She serves this bubbling fontina-herb-and-garlic-filled cast-iron skillet just as instructed with lots of crusty bread and swears that not a morsel ever remains. Because it is quite decadent, her other offerings consist of crispy kale chips and radishes with sea salt. My aunties are just full of good ideas. Continue Reading →

10. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Cheese, Hors d'oeuvres, Vegetarian | 28 comments

Salsa di Parmigiano; Homemade Advent Calendar, for next year perhaps

salsa di Parmigiano and grilled bread

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with two of my aunts in northern Virginia. Over the course of seven hours, we found a reason to use this sauce — salsa di Parmigiano — three times. For our lunch, we spread it onto French bread and made paninis filled with artichoke hearts, golden cherry tomatoes, and fontina cheese; for the children’s dinner, we tossed it with pasta; for our meze-style dinner, we spooned it onto grilled bread, which we ate all evening along with some olives, feta, and various other treats. It was a delicious spread, but this dipping sauce received the most attention by everyone who joined the party.

This is a nice little sauce to know. Made mostly in the food processor, it comes together in less than ten minutes and makes enough to last you for weeks. Apparently, at Michael Chiarello’s Bottega, every table receives a bowl of the sauce along with crispy bread before the main courses arrive. Sounds heavenly. Continue Reading →

05. December 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Appetizers, Cheese, craft, Fall, Hors d'oeuvres, Sauces, dressings, jams & spreads, Vegetarian | 28 comments

Orange-and-Ricotta Pound Cake & A Few Gift Ideas

orange-ricotta loaf

As five of us celebrated a quiet Thanksgiving down here in Virginia, the rest of my family journeyed north to Vermont to the shores of Lake Champlain for a wild gathering with my aunt and uncle. Upon returning, my mother gave me the full report: Of course, the turkey, which she had prepared, was over-cooked, gross and inedible but roasted Jerusalem artichokes saved the occasion as well as an orange-and-ricotta pound cake that her sister prepared twice during their five-day visit. Continue Reading →

30. November 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, craft, Desserts, Fair Trade, Fall, Gifts | 43 comments

$150 Gift Certificate Giveaway from Minted

Selection of Minted Food-Related Journals

I received my first minted card in the mail three years ago just before Christmas. Upon opening it, I remember holding the card in my hands, rubbing my fingers over its thick paper stock, staring in awe at the quality of the printing, flipping it over to inspect the details and finally propping it up on my desk to admire the design. I have been in love with the company ever since — I look forward to the unveiling of their holiday photo card collection every fall — but what I most love about the company is how it operates: every product sold on the site is the result of a design challenge entered by a community of independent designers living all over the world. Continue Reading →

27. November 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Gifts | 245 comments

Green Olive, Walnut & Pomegranate Salad; Thanksgiving Day Recap

green olive, walnut and pomegranate salad

Tired of cooking? Me too. But I have one more teensy tiny recipe to share with you before I disappear into I-don’t-feel-like-cooking-anything mode. And it’s a good one. You HAVE to make this. Not immediately, but soon and definitely before the end of the year, because nothing will look more festive on your holiday table and nothing will taste more restorative in the season of endless feasting.

The recipe comes from the book Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf, which my aunt introduced to the family last winter when she served this stunning salad at a dinner party. The myriad textures and sweet-salty-hot dressing make this salad irresistible. Continue Reading →

24. November 2012 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Salads, Salsa, Side dishes, Vegetarian | 23 comments

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